Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 665
# 101
02-16-2014, 02:40 PM
Well, my thinking in that last scene was as follows: I've set up a situation in the plot which is pretty serious, and it's got ramifications that affect people a long way away from my central characters. (Indeed, it's so serious that I have to think hard about why they should even be central characters - the secession of Vulcan is a problem, some would say, rather above Tylha's and Ronnie's pay grade. But I think I have that one under control.)

So, I decided to do a quick cut away from the main action, to show some of its consequences in far-off places. The idea being to highlight the importance of the main action.

(The minor detail that I find R'j and Rrueo fun to write has nothing to do with it at all, of course )

I hope that makes sense - it's the way I think of it, anyway. (I do know where all this is going... and there's still room for things to get worse, by the way.)
Survivor of Romulus
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 7,233
# 102
02-16-2014, 03:18 PM
I understand what you're saying, I'm just...having trouble following the story. The last one was tighter, story-wise.

When I write, I try to avoid interludes and cuts to other scenes entirely. It tends to clutter things up. Besides, you can offer those scenes as "bonus material" and it'll make your readers feel special.
Founder and Grand Vizier of the Sovereign Ba'al joke. Hail Ba'al! Our theme song
My official eternal issue: Why no muscle definition slider? Let's have some equal-opportunity sexiness, Cryptic!
PWE: NO to mandatory ARC! At least make it optional!
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 665
# 103
02-16-2014, 04:02 PM
It comes down, I think, to the relative merits of showing and telling. I could tell the reader that "the Federation is at war with a dangerous and effective enemy, and this situation will make that war more difficult".

Or, I can do what I have done, and show the Federation at war with a dangerous and effective enemy, and the situation making that war more difficult.

Or, of course, I could assume the reader just knows why the situation matters, and carry on regardless. The problem with that, though, is that if I assume too much knowledge on the part of the reader, I could wind up with a story that's impenetrable to anyone not steeped in Trek lore... or specific STO lore... or, in the worst case, it might result in a story that makes no sense at all outside my own head.

Anyway, I should get on with the next update, really. (I'm afraid these are coming slower than I'd like, for the purely practical reason that I've hurt my hand and it's hard to type! - Still, I shall soldier on )
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,095
# 104
02-16-2014, 04:09 PM
I figured our Klingon interludes were a case of "show, don't tell" - while the whole Bresar Hegemony thing could be told entirely from the POV of the Federation and still make sense, the UFP does exist in a larger galactopolitical milieu, and the repercussions should be felt as far away as Qo'noS and Mol'Rihan, at the very least.
-------------------------------------------
I'm old enough not to care too much about what you think of me --
But I'm young enough to remember the future, the way things ought to be...

- Rush, "Cut To the Chase", Counterparts
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 665
# 105
02-20-2014, 08:13 AM
Tylha

"I don't care what your speciality is, Mr. Slett," I snap. "Just get down to level 106 and start working on those SI generators."

The Tellarite glares up at me. "I'm a design engineer!" he shouts. "I'm a theoretician, not a - a mechanic!"

"In case you hadn't noticed," I say, "there's a crisis on just now. So, either you theorise some way to breathe space, or you get down to 106 and fix those generators. Getting your hands dirty won't hurt you, Mr. Slett, but a hull breach will. Now get to it!"

Slett turns around and stumps off, muttering under his breath. Tellarites. You can depend on them for anything, if you shout at them hard enough first. I turn my attention back to the desk console. Some more urgent-priority messages have come in.

Experimental Engineering is no longer experimenting; with the confusion currently reigning aboard Earth Spacedock, theoretical engineers like Slett are badly needed for their practical expertise - and I hope, by now, enough people know that I'm making them available to other departments. I can't tell; internal communications are badly snarled up. Some of the urgent messages are dated three days ago or more - I don't bother with those, the urgency must have passed by now.

So far, I think, we are keeping on top of things. So far.

I pick up a PADD and start scanning through the requests, and then the portable comms unit bleeps for attention. With ESD's networks snarled up, direct links are the most reliable way to keep in touch - the unit is tied in to Spirits of Earth's subspace radio, and I can talk to my ship whenever I want. And, of course, they can talk to me.... "Shohl here."

"Skipper." F'hon Tlaxx's voice, sounding troubled. "Got something odd here. Subspace call, asking for you, personally - routed through the subspace array at Tellar, but originating on Vulcan?"

"Vulcan? I thought they weren't talking outside official diplomatic channels?"

"I don't think they're meant to. Skipper, this thing is flagged personal and eyes-only, and it has a visual - do you want me to patch it through?"

"Better find out what it is," I say, "and that's the only way to do it." I flick a switch, and the screen unfolds from the top of the comms unit. "OK, ready. Let's have it."

The screen flickers with an abstract holding pattern for a moment, then resolves into a face. I blink. I recognize the Vulcan, but it takes a moment to recollect his name. One of Stiak's people: Stileg.

"Mr. Stileg," I say, cautiously. The Vulcan scientist looks healthier than when I last saw him; the weeping welt on his forehead is gone; he looks well-groomed, well-fed... and worried.

"Vice Admiral Shohl. I am glad you remember me. It will save explanations."

"What is it you want?" I'm not really in the mood to be polite to one of Stiak's associates.

"Vice Admiral, I had to contact someone in authority in the Federation. I have come into possession of data which - I am not entirely sure of the implications, but they would be considerable."

I frown. "What data?"

"I do not believe I can discuss it on what may be an insecure channel. I am taking something of a risk in making this contact, though I judge the probability of danger to be acceptably low. I have obtained a visual recording, which I believe will stand up to forensic scrutiny." He takes a deep breath. "In any case, it should certainly be subjected to such scrutiny."

My antennae are twitching. "What sort of recording?"

"I will not discuss it on an insecure channel. Vice Admiral, the best thing, I think, would be to arrange for the recording, on its original medium - a standard isolinear data chip - to be transferred off Vulcan and to the appropriate authorities in Starfleet. My judgment is that Starfleet Intelligence would be the logical recipients."

"That... might present some problems, in the current climate."

"Yes. My activities are subject to scrutiny, because I am an acquaintance of the Hegemon, but have not joined the Hegemony myself."

That piques my interest. "Why not?"

"I am familiar with the historical Hegemony of Bresar. Its social structures and morality are not things which, in my opinion, should be emulated. Vice Admiral, I understand that you will need to make arrangements. Would you be willing to speak to me again in three standard hours? I will be able to call again in that time, with only a negligible additional attendant risk."

"I'll... see what I can do. I'll instruct my comms officer to listen out for your call."

"Thank you, Vice Admiral." And the screen goes blank.

I stand up, slowly. Now, what the hell was that all about? Time, I think, to be a good little Vice Admiral and seek guidance from my superiors.

---

When I reach Admiral Hengest's offices, though, everything seems to be in confusion. Which is normal, right now, admittedly - but it's the wrong kind of confusion. Ensigns are carrying case-loads of equipment out of the office suite; clerks are typing furiously at consoles - I can't see what they're typing, Intelligence does take some precautions about that. But everyone seems to be in motion, and it looks like they're moving out.

I make my way to the inner office, and the door slides open before I can announce myself. "Oh," says Hengest, as he sees me. "Tylha." He sighs. "I suppose it can't wait, can it?"

"Less than three hours, sir," I say.

"Right." He sighs loudly. "Come inside, let's talk."

There is someone else already in the office; a dark-haired woman, with her back to me at first, looking out of a viewport. When she turns, I recognize her at once. "Admiral T'Nae?"

"Ah, yes. Vice Admiral Shohl, is it not?" T'Nae's eyes flick across me, dismissively.

"You're, um, still here, then, sir?"

"I am. The logic of the situation was inescapable. Vulcan is my home purely through accident of birth; Starfleet is my career through reasoned and deliberate decision." A faint look of pain shows in those cool eyes for a moment. "What is not logical is that I should be forced to make a choice.... However, that is irrelevant at the moment. What are your requirements?"

I give them both a run-down of Stileg's message. "Potentially interesting," says T'Nae, in a rush of enthusiasm.

"I thought, sir, if you could arrange some sort of extraction -"

"Out of the question," says T'Nae.

"Yes," says Hengest. "I'm sorry, Tylha - this does sound interesting - but I'm out of here."

"Admiral Hengest is required in the Eta Eridani sectors as a matter of extreme urgency," says T'Nae.

"What -? But that doesn't make sense," I say. "The Vulcan situation is the biggest crisis we've got, and Admiral Hengest's the one who's been coordinating the intelligence work on the Hegemony since this started -"

"You are inaccurate," says T'Nae. "The military situation in Eta Eridani has developed in unwelcome ways - if we do not respond in a coordinated manner, quickly and efficiently, there is a high probability of major military reverses. Even as things stand, there is an 83% probability that we will lose control of the Aznetkur corridor and our other recent gains in those sectors. Intelligent coordination of our response is therefore paramount, and all available command resources are being diverted to that aim."

"Including me and my staff," says Hengest. "Look -" He picks up a PADD from his desk, and enters a code into the interface. "I can hand you our list of available assets in or near Vulcan - I'm clearing you for that now. If you can find anyone to get this Stileg and his data chip out, use them. Other than that - well, no, that's all I can do." He hands me the PADD. It's the same as any other PADD, but it feels awfully heavy to me.

"We must depart," says T'Nae. "Careful intelligence and proper command and control are vital to all our endeavours. The situation in Eta Eridani is being complicated by excessive independent action - well-meant but quixotic operations are causing us almost as much damage as enemy action and outright sabotage." Her eyes turn to me, measuring me. "Please bear that in mind, Vice Admiral Shohl."

---

Back in my office - Semok's office - I stare at the PADD.

Stileg's next message is due in about forty-five minutes. The list of intelligence assets on Vulcan is formidable - Hengest has been busy - but I don't see how it's going to help me. While President Okeg has been sticking to his open-door policy, the Vulcans, under Stiak's direction, have been increasingly sticky about travel restrictions and so on.

Maybe there are people on these lists who could help me get around that. There probably are. But I don't know any of these people - Hengest does, I don't. They're just names to me - and aliases at that. I don't know their capabilities, their histories -

It might not matter anyway, I tell myself gloomily. By now, Stileg's amateur-hour cloak-and-dagger antics have probably got him stood up against a wall and shot.

Then I find a cross-reference link, and I follow it up, and all of a sudden my day gets brighter.

Hengest has been cooperating with Romulan Republic intelligence, and they have assets in place. There's even a protocol for getting in contact with them. And, although they've all got anonymous code names, there's one particular asset - a Romulan woman under cover as a design engineer - that I think I do know.

All right, I say to myself. All you've got to do now is thrash out some kind of plan with Stileg, and communicate it to T'Laihhae... and, probably, get Spirits of Earth into some kind of position to help out -

My console bleeps at me, showing another urgent message. And, I remind myself, I have to find someone to turn this lot over to, because keeping ESD running is still essential -

The office door hisses open. "I have completed those repairs!" shouts Slett. "The rankest apprentice could have completed those repairs! I demand, Vice Admiral, that you assign me duties commensurate with my abilities!"

I feel the smile spreading across my face. "Oh, Mr. Slett," I purr, "I'm so glad to hear you say that...."
Captain
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 1,487
# 106
02-20-2014, 08:36 AM
Shevet: (chuckling) Great chapter, and its ending is purr-fect. Can't wait to read more.
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 665
# 107
02-24-2014, 04:36 PM
T'Laihhae

"Looks like another romantic evening blown," I comment, as I pick up the PADD. D'tranus and Charkha both grin at me; Storl, still unused to dealing with emotional people, merely looks blank. Outside, a half-assembled cruiser drifts slowly past the viewport, being towed to some other part of the orbital shipyard.

"You should give up," Charkha says, without much sympathy. "She's never going to sleep with you, especially if you keep taking work home with you."

"Well, all right, it's a setback," I say, slipping the PADD into my kitbag. "But all setbacks yield to the disciplined mind, right?" It gets a laugh from Charkha, but D'tranus, the other Romulan refugee, is fresher from the transit camps and their indoctrination - he still takes the Bresarite maxims seriously. Storl, nominally in charge of our work shift, is nonplussed as usual.

I've cultivated the idea of my pursuing Dellis romantically - it's useful. Most people have room for only one question in their heads at a time; if the question they have about us is will they or won't they?, it inevitably displaces ones like are they Republic spies? At least, that's the theory, and so far it has held up.

So has my habit of taking extra reading home with me; the security trooper just waves me through to the transporter. The PADD has been taken for random spot checks three times, and each time it has held nothing but unclassified material. And it will never hold anything else. But it is a useful cover for any minor EM emissions from the kitbag... whose passive sensors, built into the lining and the buckles, have been recording a substantial amount of data that's distinctly not unclassified.

I step onto the pad, and the transporter beam takes me; the world shimmers, and Vulcan appears around me. The original homeworld of my species... it should feel familiar, comfortable, but somehow it does not. The red sky seems too bright, the thin air too harsh.... Or, perhaps, the discomfort is purely psychological; the inevitable tensions on a spy deep behind enemy lines.

Like many of our fellow refugees, Dellis and I have been assigned to apartment housing at the fringe of ShiKahr city. By Vulcan standards, I suspect it is a slum - to most refugees, it is a minor paradise. I make my way from the beam-down point to the apartment block, climb the six flights of stairs, and I am home.

Dellis is already there; our work shifts move gradually in and out of phase, and at the moment she leaves the shipyards four hours before I do. She stands in the bedroom doorway and growls a greeting at me. There is only one bedroom, only one bed; in accordance with the masquerade, I sleep on a couch in the sitting room.

"One of your holovids came today," she tells me. She points to a package on the table by the couch.

"Oh, that's nice," I say. "I'll have a look at it before we eat."

"Put the headset on," Dellis says. "I don't want to have to listen to another antique melodrama. You and your hobbies...." She retreats into the bedroom and closes the door.

So far, so ordinary and domestic. I drop the kitbag on the floor, pick up the package, and settle down on the couch. The holovid chip is a historical recording, an entertainment first produced some three centuries ago. The recording is imperfect, containing noise on several data channels. I reach under the couch for the headset, settle it on my head, slip the record into the slot....

The headset looks like a normal commercial model, but it has some extra features - most notably, a set of filters that read the extraneous "random noise" on the recording and decode the instructions from Republic Intelligence. I wasn't expecting fresh orders so soon - a crisis must be in the offing. Another crisis.

I watch the holovid for about half an hour - or, at least, that's what any observer would see me doing. At the end of that time, I pause the playback, take off the headset, and rub my eyes. This will require rapid action....

Dellis is moving about in the tiny kitchen. I get off the couch and go to the kitchen door. She has her back to me, so it looks completely normal - within the context of our demonstrated relationship - for me to jump suddenly on her back, wrap my arms around her, and whisper sweet nothings in her ear.

"We're being activated. We have to make pickup on a Vulcan with a piece of intel, then head direct to Earth for a rendezvous with Starfleet."

"Get off," Dellis shouts, shaking me loose. She turns to me and, in an undertone, asks, "When?"

"Now." I resume my normal speaking tones. "I'm bored. Come for a walk with me in the park."

And she sighs loudly, and she picks up her kitbag - a copy of mine, and hopefully with contents just as interesting - and she comes with me towards the door. I pause for a moment, pick up the holovid headset, and touch a control in a certain way. The headset will now perform two last functions; it will transmit a sequence of coded pulses on a subspace channel, and it will then... erase itself. Vulcan forensic computer experts are very good: they would be able, given time, to reconstruct all the wiped data on a blank isolinear chip. A chip that's been dissolved by a tiny vial of molecular acid, though, should prove beyond even their competence.

I don't know how many of these precautions are necessary. I have no reason to believe we are being watched, that we have been suspected of anything. But there is never a sound reason not to take precautions.

As we walk down the stairs of the apartment block, we both adjust the emblems worn on our belts: a red seven-pointed star on a black background, indicating that both of us have passed the Hegemony's citizenship test. It allows us to move freely about some parts of the city, at least. The public information nets have made excuses about "unsettled situation" and "danger of Reman terrorists", but the fact is, Hegemony martial law is clamping down, slowly but firmly, on the Vulcan capital.

And these badges won't carry us all the way.... "Take a look at the guy," I say to Dellis, handing her my PADD. I've downloaded an image of Stileg from the headset already.

"Not my type," she says, "too academic-looking for me...."

"This is Vulcan," I say with a quick smile, "you'd have to look hard to find one who wasn't academic." No one is in earshot to hear our conversation, but we keep up the charade anyway. I'm lucky to have found Dellis, she is almost a natural at this.

Vulcan's sun is setting, the red sky deepening to the colour of molten gold, as we walk towards the public park, a little spot of greenery on the desert world. A few transport vehicles whisper overhead; air traffic is being restricted, too, for security reasons. Aircraft will soon be limited entirely to the military or to high Hegemony officials... I think of Vorkov, and school myself not to betray my feelings in my face.

We walk together along an avenue lined with trees, some species unknown to me, an off-world import with thin trunks and many whip-like branches. The sussuration of the breeze in their leaves is enough, I think, to drown out the noise of low conversation from any casual snooper.

"We need to get to Stileg's residence, pick him up, and get him to an extraction point - our pickup team will home in on our wrist beacons as soon as we activate them," I say to Dellis.

"Hopefully," she comments.

By now, the shuttlecraft has either received my signal or it hasn't; if it has, it will be cloaked and on its way to ShiKahr, will be hovering invisibly overhead within the hour. If it hasn't... we have a problem. I will deal with that if the need arises. "The only issue," I continue, "is that his residence is in a security controlled zone."

"How are we going to get in, then?"

"Oh, getting in is never the problem." There are a couple of random strollers coming within earshot, now, so I fall silent. The two Vulcans pass us with a courteous greeting. Harmless. Probably.

At least, I reflect, ShiKahr is like most Vulcan cities - well-planned, well-regulated, and not very big. Stileg's residential area is within easy walking distance, and I have hopes that the iron heel of repression has not - yet - come down hard enough to stop us from doing our job.

We leave the park, pass through a pleasant commercial area, and set off up a gentle slope towards the residential zone. So far, we have yet to attract comment, let alone an actual challenge. Romulans are, perhaps, not yet a common sight on Vulcan, but there are enough people around wearing the Hegemony emblem... we blend in. So far.

And the iron heel is not yet complete. No checkpoints, no armed and armoured guards... it is only my own nerves that tell me, as we stroll up a quiet suburban street, that we are being watched, that our presence is known. But I feel the scrutiny, deep down, in my bones, and I know it is there.

The sun has set, but streetlamps provide more than adequate illumination. I see the man as we round a corner; a tall Vulcan male wearing the discreet dark grey uniform of the security police, a Hegemony emblem at his waist. He comes to meet us, and I tell myself, inwardly, to remain calm.

"Greetings," he says, calmly enough.

"Shaoi kon," I answer, the deferential greeting appropriate to the situation.

"You are in a controlled zone. I must ask your reasons for being here."

"Naturally," I say. "My companion and I are warp technicians; we have been requested to assist an Academician Sunuk with a problem." I caught the name as I read the background information on Stileg's location; I have no idea what this Sunuk's speciality is, but the name at least is real.

"I have not been informed of this," the security guard says. His hand is not on his weapon, yet. The weapon at his waist is a modified medical injector, firing darts of anaesthetic crystal - not as threatening as a phaser, yet every bit as effective in many circumstances.

"I gather it's some problem that's just come up," I say. "The Academician is presenting a paper tomorrow, and he has some issue with his data that needs a last-minute check. So, we've been detailed to help him out."

"I see. Nonetheless, it seems correct procedures have not been followed."

"Procedures adapt to the realities of the situation." One of Bresar's helpful maxims, that.

"That is true. Very well. I shall contact my headquarters, and verify the Academician's request. You two will accompany me while I do so. We will not delay you long."

"Naturally." Innocent citizens cooperate with the state: another maxim.

"Please accompany me." And he leads the way across the street. He is professional, polite, doing his job efficiently and discreetly. He is not, however, quite alert enough.

I have already judged the spacing of the streetlights. At the dark mid-point between two of them, I reach out silently, pluck his weapon from its holster, and shoot. The injector makes only the faintest clicking sound. He turns towards me, eyes accusing; then they glaze as the fast-acting dart takes effect. I take him in my arms as he falls. One of the dwellings nearby has a low ornamental wall around it; Dellis and I roll the unconscious man over it.

"That won't hold him more than half an hour," Dellis mutters.

"Not that long. They'll run checks - they may be monitoring his movements or his vital signs right now. Move." I point. "That way. About three hundred metres."

As we break into a run, conflicting emotions flood through my body; urgent fear, yes, but also a strange sense of relief, as the relentless need for caution and precaution drops away at last. I no longer have to fear discovery - that constant burden of paranoia is over. Now, all I need to worry about is capture and death.

No sound yet of alarms or of running feet behind us. They will come. We reach a building, one more unpretentious single dwelling among many, and we charge up the smooth stone path to the front entrance. My pulse is hammering as I punch the comms unit at the door. It seems to take an age before a mild Vulcan voice asks, "Who is there?"

I suppose we should have some code phrase, replete with enigmatic significance. "I'm T'Laihhae. You should be expecting me," I pant. "We don't have much time. Open up."

Another agonizingly long pause, and then the door slides open and he stands there, framed with the light behind him. It is, at least, the right man. "I don't know you," he says slowly.

"Come with us, or you'll never get the chance to," I tell him. Dellis says nothing, just pants. She is not as good a sprinter as I am.

"I -" Stileg looks at me, at Dellis, at me again. Finally, logic tells him that two out-of-breath Romulans on his doorstep must be something unusual, and there can only be one unusual thing he is expecting. "I will fetch the data chips. They must reach the Federation." He turns and goes back into the house. The space between my shoulders is itching, in anticipation of an anaesthetic dart or a phaser blast.

It feels like forever before Stileg reappears, clutching something in his hand. "These records are the important thing," he says. "I do not know how you propose to take them to Starfleet. The authorities have imposed transporter restrictions -"

"That's not how we're getting out. Move." I grab him by the arm and hustle him out of the door.

"Where are we going?" he asks - not unreasonably, I suppose.

"Anywhere reasonably open," I answer. Dellis is already reaching for her wrist communicator. Two signals will only cause danger of confusion - I decide not to activate my beacon, unless Dellis falls. "That way." I point. "Where they've cleared the ground for that statue of Valikra."

"Oh," says Stileg, "I can see how that might appeal to your sense of irony." Actually, it appeals to nothing more than my sense of open space above me - the huge square plinth is empty, while an artistic committee decides which heroic pose the late Hegemon should be displayed in. I don't give Stileg a chance to say anything more, but hustle him rapidly down the street.

There is surely no way we can avoid attention, now - Motion catches my eye. A patrol groundcar, approaching rapidly. The plinth is in sight, now, a big blocky thing at the edge of my vision. Dellis and I hurry the Vulcan towards it.

"Citizens. Halt," says a voice behind us. I swear under my breath and pick up the pace. I hear the whine of the groundcar's engine as it speeds towards us -

- and there is a sudden burst of light from above, and brilliant blue-green beams slice through the night. An open doorway is hanging in the air above our heads, and in that doorway Subcommander Ril'ell is holding a disruptor rifle that looks almost as big as she is, blazing away at our pursuers.

There is a terrible crash and a shrieking sound from just behind us. The pursuing groundcar slides past us, on its roof, the wheels on one side blasted away. I jump, my hand reaching for a hatch that's still covered by the cloaking field. I grip something invisible, hang on for dear life with one hand while dragging Stileg up with the other. Screaming curses, Ril'ell throws the rifle back into the compartment, and seizes hold of us both.

Somehow - it isn't quite clear how - Stileg and I are both through the hatchway, and I turn and reach out for Dellis. Our hands meet, clasp together in a death grip, and I pull with all my strength. She is heavy... but I lock my muscles and I refuse to let go. Ril'ell is with me, now, still cursing fluently and inventively, and together we haul the big blonde technician through the hatchway, and we collapse in a heap on the floor as the hatch slams shut.

"Welcome aboard, sir," says Aitra dryly from the helm console.

I stagger to my feet. "Steer due north, keep us in atmosphere. Security will have tachyon detection grids out as soon as they get their act together - but the Ministry of Science has requested the north polar region be kept clear of energetic particles while they do some studies on the ionosphere. We can sneak the gig out through the gaps there." Fast, nimble, and above all stealthy, my commander's gig is a very useful tool for situations like these. Especially with Aitra's skill at both flight and cloak.

"Well." A sad half-smile tugs at one corner of Aitra's mouth. "That sounds like a plan," he says. "If it doesn't work - it was nice knowing you all."

I turn to Stileg. The Vulcan scientist looks stunned. One hand is still clenched into a fist, holding on to his data chips. Well, that was a big help when it came to getting aboard.

"Mr. Stileg," I say. "You're safe, and on your way to the Federation. I hope whatever you're bringing us is... important enough to warrant all this."

He doesn't speak. He just unclenches his hand, slowly and carefully, and offers me the data chips. There is a whole world of hurt and confusion in his eyes.
Captain
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 1,487
# 108
02-25-2014, 09:13 AM
Shevet: It just keeps getting better and better. And no, I'm not saying this to make you feel good. I mean it. You're letting it breathe, flow, evolve, and whatever else it needs to do to do its job well. I couldn't ask for more ... except for more of the story, of course.

Btw, I have a note in my story thread ("In Media Res (complete rewrite)") that I left for you. It's about mentioning a bit or two of "Heresy" in my story, as a way of saying that the two stories are happening in the same year (my overall story seems to be taking place later in 2409, after your story will finish), if not exactly in the same parts of the STOverse. To avoid any accusation of plagiarism, I wanted readers to know exactly which story the borrowed info came from and who wrote it. If you wish to borrow from mine (if there's anything you find useful to mention in yours), feel free to do so. But I rather suspect that you already have all the material you need for your story.

Last edited by philipclayberg; 02-25-2014 at 09:19 AM.
Survivor of Romulus
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 7,233
# 109
02-25-2014, 09:45 AM
This one was good. Tighter, tense, good infiltration, excellent action. Very nice.
Founder and Grand Vizier of the Sovereign Ba'al joke. Hail Ba'al! Our theme song
My official eternal issue: Why no muscle definition slider? Let's have some equal-opportunity sexiness, Cryptic!
PWE: NO to mandatory ARC! At least make it optional!
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 665
# 110
03-06-2014, 08:54 AM
Ronnie

Nobody seems to know what the hell is going on. */*command and control inefficiency---verbal communications should be superseded by direct neural networking---reconnect and assimilate---priority---reconnect*/* I've had three contradictory sets of flight orders for the Falcon today already, and Earth Spacedock seems to be drumming all the time to the sound of rapidly moving technicians' feet. */*static space station is complex mechanism---greater efficiency achieved by direct integration of organic service modules*/* And there seems to be something almost smug about Two of Twelve, as she rabbits on about where we're all getting it wrong.

I decide to go see Tylha. She's dug out a little niche for herself, aiming some of those moving techs in roughly the right direction: maybe she has more of a handle on things than I do.

When I reach her office - well, her absentee boss's office - though, she is stalking out of it with a distinctly purposeful glint in her eye. Or slant to her antennae. Maybe both.

"Ronnie," she says, "hi. I can't stop. T'Laihhae is bringing Stileg in."

"I'm sure they make a lovely couple," I say. "Who are they?"

I tag along behind her as she strides for the turbolifts. I probably shouldn't bother her, but what the heck, this sounds interesting. "T'Laihhae is a Republic officer who's been operating under cover on Vulcan," Tylha says. "Stileg is a former associate of Stiak and T'Nir, and he says he has some important information that absolutely has to reach us."

"Right. Right. So he had to be brought, right? Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night... sorry, I'm rambling. Is it likely to be any good? This info?"

"I don't know." Tylha's eyes are far away. "He knows Stiak personally... but he's not in the Hegemony movement itself, so his access has to be limited, doesn't it? Well, I suppose we'll find out." We both step into the turbolift.

"Righty ho, then. Do you want me to make not-cleared-to-know noises and scoot off like an inappropriate person?" I say this just for form - I don't make the least move to get out of the lift capsule.

"I'm probably not cleared to know," says Tylha. "I just sort of - inherited - Admiral Hengest's files." She glances at me. "Maybe it'd be a good idea to have another witness, at that." She touches the control pad and says, "Level 37, reception area 2."

"So how reliable are these two, anyway?" I ask as the turbolift starts to move.

"T'Laihhae - I've worked with her before, she's good. Stileg... I only met him briefly. He seemed to be more practically-minded than T'Nir or Stiak." Tylha sighs loudly. "There was a time, not so long ago, when you could pretty much depend on Vulcans being reliable."

"You still can, some of the time," I say, to cheer her up. "My science officer, Saval, he's still there. Backing me up, keeping my head straight. Of course, considering the things they said about him after the Durella system business, he might think the Hegemony's not a healthy place to visit."

"Some of my Vulcan crew stayed on," says Tylha, abstractedly. "Others... didn't. I suppose I can't blame them... they had things to worry about, like families. Like Admiral Semok...."

The lift doors hiss open. The reception area is on the inside of the station; one wall is transparent aluminium, giving a view of ESD's massive internal docking bay */*structural weakness---interior should be reinforced and utilized for industrial projects---aesthetic concerns are irrelevant*/* Dear God, Two of Twelve is in a frisky mood today.

Two people are sitting at a table; they stand up as we come in. One of them is a medium-tall Vulcan male in civilian clothes; he looks worried. Stileg, I assume. The other one is also in civilian clothes, a short, dark-haired, unassuming-looking Romulan woman. She greets Tylha with a microsecond's worth of smile and a "Shaoi dan." Hmm, little Ronnie thinks to herself, hmm. Romulan greetings are marked for relative status, and that phrase is used between equals. Which suggests to me that this Romulan and my hatrack-headed friend here have worked together before... and it worked out well, well enough for Tylha to puncture that traditional Romulan arrogance and get some measure of grudging respect.

"Vice-Admiral T'Laihhae," says Tylha. "Mr. Stileg. This is Vice-Admiral Grau -"

"Veronika Grau, call me Ronnie, everyone does. Tylha says you've got some news for us?"

The Romulan, T'Laihhae, quirks an eyebrow at me in a very Vulcan way. Stileg just looks more miserable. "Yes," T'Laihhae says. "We need to work out the best way to make this information public. I think it needs to be made widely known - and widely believed, which may be more of a problem. I have verified it, forensically, to the best of my ability -"

"But I still do not know," Stileg breaks in, "the exact provenance of this data. I simply received the two chips - anonymously - and -"

"Hold on," says Tylha. "Two chips?"

"I received a second," says Stileg. "I must assume it comes from the same source...."

"Whatever that is," says T'Laihhae. She sits down at a table by the transparent wall, a table that's got a holographic console. "You should see these yourself, I think. We can then discuss how best to make them public - without alerting the Hegemony, until we are able to fight off any denials or counter-allegations they can muster."

We cluster around the imager. I look around - the reception area is empty, but for us and a couple of off-duty ensigns chatting in one corner. I don't imagine we'll get much of a grass-roots movement started with them, so I decide to watch what all the fuss is about, first. T'Laihhae slots a data chip into the console, and hits the play button.

The image that forms on the screen shows a room, somewhere; a bare, rather plain room with not much furniture in it besides a single conference table. Standing up, near the head of that table, is a single figure, a tall Romulan woman dressed in grey. "Valikra," says T'Laihhae, as if Valikra's pictures hadn't been plastered over every news medium in two quadrants for months.

Valikra turns, as if she's heard something that we can't hear on the recording. Another figure comes into the field of view, a slight Vulcan woman in a blue robe. "T'Nir," says Valikra, with a minimal nod of acknowledgement. "Welcome."

"Shaoi kon, Hegemon," says T'Nir, with due deference. "Are you prepared for the council meeting?" She seems to glide towards the other woman, moving with smooth elegance.

"I am," says Valikra. "I expect significant discussions to take place, and I will warn you now, I am fully prepared."

T'Nir smiles slightly. "We await your input with a heightened sense of anticipation," she says.

"I have heard the council's arguments," says Valikra, "and I am ready to refute them, utterly. This proposed isolationism of yours, T'Nir, is foolish to the point of danger. You know I bear no love for the lesser species of the galaxy, but we must engage with them."

"I have no doubt that you will present your views with your customary rigor and eloquence," T'Nir murmurs.

"Quite," says Valikra. Then she laughs. "At least those will be the only weapons I require! I am almost unused to having discussions without weapons in reserve - I am glad that meetings with the council are less violent than policy discussions with the Tal Shiar."

T'Nir laughs politely. "We do not see the need to bear arms in the council chamber," she says. "Although they might not prove necessary, in any event. Have you not heard of the Vulcan death grip?"

"Oh," says Valikra, "that myth."

"Yes," says T'Nir, and suddenly she reaches out and grasps the side of Valikra's head. "Yes, it was convenient for you to believe that."

Valikra says nothing. After a moment, T'Nir lets go of her head. Valikra sways on her feet for a second or two, then falls, stiffly, to lie motionless at full length on the floor. T'Nir looks down at her with a mildly benevolent expression on her face. The screen goes blank.

Tylha is the first one to find her voice. "T'Nir killed Valikra?"

"So it would appear," says T'Laihhae. She takes the chip out of the viewer, slots another one in. She pauses a moment before pressing the playback button. "I must warn you," she says, "this next one is... worse." Then she hits the button.

The screen shows the same room, but the conference table is in use now, six people sitting around it. T'Laihhae touches another button, and the image freezes. "You might not recognize everyone in this recording," she says. "They are - influential - members of the Hegemony government." She points to each one in turn. "The Vulcans: T'Nos, Minister of Thought; Silit, Minister of Defence; Vorruk, Minister of State. The Romulans: High Admiral D'Kalius; Vorram, Minister of Trade - " her lips turn thin "- and General Vorkov, Minister for State Security."

"There some history between you and this Vorkov?" I ask.

T'Laihhae's eyes flash, but she says nothing more than, "Yes," and hits the button to start the playback again.

Once again, T'Nir glides into the picture. This time, she takes a seat at the head of the table. "I am sure you are all aware," she says without any preamble, "of the Federation President's response to our withdrawal from the UFP."

"A response of our own is indicated," says Vorruk.

"A strongly worded statement, perhaps," adds T'Nos.

"Insufficient," D'Kalius snaps. Oh, I knew he was a bad lot from the minute I set eyes on him. "Words are not enough."

"Quite so," says T'Nir. "President Okeg seems to think the Hegemony's independence is some passing whim on the part of the Vulcan people. We must take decisive action to convince him otherwise."

"How decisive?" Vorkov asks. I'm inclined to believe this one's a bad lot, too. T'Laihhae seems to think so.

"Half measures would be worse than no measures at all," says T'Nir. "The plan I have in mind is a bold one, but it would carry with it several benefits."

She raises one hand and starts to tick off the points on her fingers. "It would ensure a permanent and irrevocable breach between the Hegemony and the Federation. It would significantly reduce the Federation's military capabilities, to the point where short-term reprisals would not be practical for them. It could be made broadly acceptable to the population of Vulcan as a whole, due to certain long-standing animosities. And, finally, the target species has an anomalous reproductive system, meaning that its population would never recover from the proposed action, so we need fear no long-term reprisals either."

A faint frown crosses her forehead. "However," she adds, "I have... some reasons... to believe this meeting room may no longer be entirely secure. We shall, therefore, convene at an alternate location to finalize our plans for the destruction of Andoria."
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