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Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,595
# 38
04-01-2013, 04:54 PM
Literary Challenges 3, 11 and 28 - My Haven, Hidden Agendas and Stranded

Under the Night

Captain Amanda Palmer looked about the bridge of the USS Valkyrie, quietly satisfied with the progress of the repairs.

"Captain," said Commander Brandon Mayer, coming up to Palmer with a PADD in his hand. "Just to let you know, the new communications array has been installed, the computer cores have been re-booted, and Meliden tells me that the nacelle calibration is underway."

Palmer smiled, noting how different Mayer looked in tactical red, rather than operations gold, and how easily he had settled into the role of an executive officer.

"That's good to know, Brandon," she replied, taking the PADD from him, and initialing an approval for new holo-emitters and photonic interface. "It would seem that things are just about ship-shape once more, and I'm going to leave things in your capable hands while I take the evening off."

"Have you anything nice planned, Captain?" Mayer enquired.

"Relaxation," Palmer replied simply, as she crossed the bridge towards the rear turbolift. "If you need anything, I'll have my comm badge with me. You have the bridge, Commander."


The Osaka night solidified around Palmer as the transporter beam released her, and she entered the Yuki Pocari bath house.

"One please," she said as she approached the counter, and was given a single locker key. Making her way into the changing area, she stripped out of her uniform, neatly folding each garment before placing it in the locker. Twisting her hair up, Palmer thrust a set of chopsticks through to hold the up-do in place, and securing her comm badge to a towel, padded across the tiled floor to the washing area, before crouching on a stool, and waiting for the attendants to begin soaping her with rough sponges. As she felt the sponges pummeling her knotted muscles, she began to relax, then she was rinsed clean with scalding water. When they were finished, she rose, and made her way through the tiled room to the main area, where there was a series of sunken baths, maybe eight feet in diameter set into the bamboo flooring. Despite the open roof, the heat from the steaming tubs maintained a comfortable temperature. Folding her towel on the edge of the tub, Palmer stepped in, gingerly at first, the water so hot, that her foot felt cold, then lowered herself in completely, and sat on the molded interior, the surface of the water coming up to her shoulders. Resting her head against her towel, Palmer closed her eyes, allowing the heat to melt the tension of the past weeks from her muscles, as she listened to the rhythmic tapping noise of a bamboo water feature.

Feeling a rippling on the surface of the water, Palmer opened her eyes, and saw another female leg entering the tub beside her. Looking up, she saw that the woman's entire back was covered with an exquisite tattoo. On her lower back, a kitsune, a nine-tailed fox, sat in repose at the side of a stream which flowed down onto the right buttock, while the tails curled down onto the left. Above the fox's inquisitive head, clouds drifted across a full moon on the woman's upper back, before gently rolling over the shoulders to cap her deltoid muscles with fan-like wind bars. Her black hair was cut in a severe jaw-length bob, and Palmer initially thought she may have been Japanese, but when she sat on the opposite side of the tub, Palmer saw that she was Caucasian.

"I hope I'm not disturbing you," she said, her accent clearly British, but a region Palmer was unable to identify. Almost London, but not quite.

"Not at all, it's a public bath," Palmer replied with a friendly smile.

"I like your tattoo," the woman said, nodding towards Palmer's left shoulder, and the simple loops which led down to a pair of triangles at the curve between the deltoid and biceps.

"Thank you, it was done on Zildar, about ten years ago," she said. "I couldn't help but notice your work though, it's incredible."

The woman smiled slyly.

"One of the benefits of having a brother who is a tattoo artist," she replied, leaning forwards and extending her hand. "I'm Bella. I've not heard of Zildar."

"Manda," Palmer replied, leaning over to shake Bella's outstretched hand, the motion making the water almost unbearably hot. "It's a small planet in the constellation Lyra. My crew made first contact there thirteen years ago."

"Ahh, a Starfleet officer," said Bella. "You must have seen some sights over the years."

"A few," Palmer admitted. "But it's always nice to be back home. We've been undergoing a refit, before launching tomorrow for a diplomatic mission."

She tilted her head to gaze up at the stars, easily locating McKinley Station among the various satellites and orbital habitats.

"I hope you have a safe voyage," Bella said, before leaning her head back to enjoy the heat in companionable silence.

***

Ahd'r I'sH'd glanced around the small workout room as he entered. It was relatively empty, with a few Humans, a male Bolian and a Vulcan girl on the various pieces of equipment. They barely acknowledged his presence, as he moved to the anti-grav treadmill, which was as he wanted it, although he did notice that one of the Human females watched him as he walked, and his lips quirked in amusement at her interest. Dropping a towel beside the device, I'sH'd set it to free run, and jumped on, quickly building up an impressive pace. Thumping, energetic music blasted from hidden speakers. It was hardly the Alba Ra, but it would be sufficient motivation... As he ran, he chafed at the indignities which had led to him, an Ahd'r in the Pentaxian millitia, being assigned aboard the USS Valkyrie.

It had begun with the dishonor of his grandfather, R'sH'd, who, in some misguided sense of patriotism, had attempted to stall Pentaxia's entry to the Federation by attempting to assassinate heir Empress Ch'K'rr before her coronation. I'sH'd had been five when, in a televised broadcase, his grandfather was put to death for treason. He would never forget the look on R'sH'd's face as the imperial guards had carried out the sentence: Stripping him of his sword, and using it to sever his head, executing the former First Minister like a common thief. For a Pentaxian male, his sword was his honor, his status, his very manhood. To have it taken and used against him was the ultimate humiliation. For it to be used to end his life -- no more grievous insult was possible. There had been Federation representatives present for the Empress' coronation, and they had done nothing to stop the execution, hiding behind the shield of the Prime Directive. I'sH'd would never forget the look of cold fury on the young Terran captain's face, as he had turned the face of a teenaged girl to his shoulder, preventing her from witnessing R'sH'd's demise.

The shame to R'sH'd's son, I'sH'd's father, had been so great, that he had simply left the capital and walked into the desert, never to be seen again. I'sH'd had struggled all his life to overcome that shame, and to restore honor to his once noble house. He had served diligently in the militia, steadily climbing the ranks, till his promotion to Ahd'r, the equivalent rank to that of a Starfleet captain. Then he had been summoned before the Empress. He had never seen her in person before then, only ever holo-images, but age had not dulled the beauty of her youth, and she was still a striking woman. With her head shaved in the g't'lla ritual to show bereavement, I'sH'd was reminded of his mother. She had praised his accomplishments, and said that he was being chosen for an assignment of great prestige.

"Ahd'r I'sH'd," Ch'K'rr had said. "Ambassador S'rR's was once my protected ward. She is my daughter, my sister, my confidant. You are to guard her life as you would my own."

Then she had walked in... Even though over two decades had passed, even with her head shaved in mourning, I'sH'd had recognized the girl from the balcony who had cowered against the Terran captain as his grandfather had been executed. As she had drawn closer, I'sH'd saw first that the uniformity of her purple irises was sullied by pale grey outer rings, then he realized that she had no claws, but smooth fingernails like a Terran! She was a half-breed! Lower even than the v'nai, the untouchable caste who worked with filth and the dead! To be assigned to protect an ambassador was one thing, but for that ambassador to come from such low stock, to be someone so utterly unfit to represent the purity of the Pentaxian Dynasty -- It was to be assigned to protect the lowest of the low, and an insult as grievous as to be relieved of his sword!

Anger drove I'sH'd's feet, faster and harder until he was sprinting, then he continued to push harder, his cardiac tubes contracting painfully and his lungs burning in air much colder than what he considered comfortable.

"Warning," intoned the computer's synthesized female voice. "User cardiac arrest imminent -- Initiating emergency equipment shutdown."

Unable to react in time, I'sH'd continued running, colliding with the wall then bouncing back, cracking his forehead against the edge of the treadmill with a force which nearly rendered him unconscious. He lay on the floor, a heap of anger and humiliation, as his pulse gradually returned to normal.

"Sir, are you alright?" asked the young Human female who had stared at him earlier: Ensign Campbell-Black, I'sH'd remembered, from his memorization of the crew manifest. She reached out with a towel towards the bleeding wound on I'sH'd's forehead.

"Don't touch me!" he snarled, jerking his head away from her attempted ministrations. Seeing the look of hurt confusion on her face, I'sH'd felt shamed at his misguided anger. Reaching up with his own towel, he wiped the magenta blood from his forehead, then held it up, so she could see the fabric of the towel dissolving where the blood had soaked in. Looking down, the ensign saw the edge of the treadmill was also bubbling and caving in on itself, corroded by the acidic qualities which actively filtered Pentaxian blood in the vein.

"Do you require assistance?" enquired Ensign T'Natra, extending a hand.

"No, thank you," I'sH'd said, slowly raising himself to his feet. "For your own safety, do not get close." Holding his towel to his head, he walked out of the workout room towards the turbolift.

The doors opened, and S'rR's walked out, nearly colliding with I'sH'd.

"Are you alright?" she asked.

Suppressing his instinct to simply growl and tilt his head in disgust at such an obvious question, I'sH'd forced himself to respond civilly.

"I'm fine, Ambassador," he said. "Just a minor accident. I am going to sickbay now to have the wound tended before I bleed on the deck and do more damage." Sliding passed S'rR's, I'sH'd entered the turbolift, deliberately facing the rear till the doors sighed closed.

With a mental shrug, S'rRs' turned and walked along the corridor towards main engineering, her long coat flowing as she walked. As the doors slid open, S'rR's looked about, before being approached by an Andorian Chief Petty Officer.

"I'm sorry, Ambassador, but engineering is restricted to Starfleet personnel only," he said.

S'rR's raised an eyebrow.

"I beg your pardon, Chief?"

"Captain's orders, Ambassador," replied th'Shaan. "No non-Starfleet personnel in critical areas."

"I know that you're new, Chief, but I do hold a Starfleet commission," S'rR's pointed out. "I have higher clearance than you do. I need to speak to Commander Bowen."

"That may be so, Ambassador, but the Captain's orders were specific."

th'Shaan's antennae gradually crept closer to his scalp, and S'rR's realized further argument was futile.

"Very well, Chief," she conceded graciously, taking a black wrist-strap from inside her coat and handing it to th'Shaan. "Please can you see that Commander Bowen gets this, and ask her to meet me in the Sidewinder at her earliest convenience?"

th'Shaan nodded, and took the synthleather strap.

Turning on her heel, S'rR's strode out of engineering, and turned left, heading towards what had once been a secondary conference lounge but which had been re-fit as a bar and lounge, and had been dubbed the Sidewinder by the crew. Behind the bar, stood a Bolian female of statuesque proportions, who S'rR's had not seen before.

"Human mother?" S'rR's asked, leaning against the bar.

Selya Chirk nodded.

"That's right, Ambassador," she replied. "I inherited my mother's legs, and my father's bust."

S'rR's chuckled easily, noting Selya's impressive figure.

"I got my mother's legs too," she said, before frowning. "Well, if a genetic donor can be considered a mother... Nevermind, I'll have a glass of k'lr liqueur if you have it."

"Only replicated, I'm afraid," Selya admitted. "We don't get much call for alcohol strong enough to kill a Human within minutes."

As she placed the glass on the bar, the doors sighed open, admitting Lieutenant Commander Meliden Bowen. In her hand, she held the wrist-strap S'rR's had given to th'Shaan.

"Hello darling, sorry I missed you in engineering, I was in nacelle control, calibrating the plasma stream," she said, sliding onto the stool beside S'rR's, before holding up the wrist-strap. "What's this, and what do you want me to do with it?"

"I found it while going through some things on Caladan," S'rR's replied, taking a sip of the liqueur. "Seems to be some kind of miniaturized tricorder, I wondered if you might be able to get it working again for me?"

Meliden popped open the covering flap and examined the damaged control surface.

"Leave it with me, darling, I'll see what I can do," she replied. "I'm sure it's nothing a little reconstruction won't fix. Not long now before we get underway. Have you any idea where we're headed first?"

"A diplomatic mission with the Mu'Naii," S'rR's replied. "They claim to have something which belongs to the Federation, despite the fact they only achieved warp capability a year ago."

***

Ensign Todd Mitchell shivered in the cell, clutching the remnants of his uniform jacket about his shoulders, and tried to ignore the pangs of hunger which speared through him. The Mu'Naii had not mistreated him in the months since his Manta-class fighter crash landed, but they only ate once every thirty six hours, and saw no reason to think another being would have different requirements. Reaching into his pocket, Mitchell ran his fingers over the familiar delta shape of his comm badge, the shape somewhat distorted, having been beaten with his boot heel until the casing had broken, ensuring that the subspace beacon activated.

Last edited by marcusdkane; 04-02-2013 at 02:51 PM. Reason: Final polish...