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Mission 5: Meet the People

With the T'kon Crisis behind them and in need of repairs to their engines, Atlantis makes her way to the People's colony of Trent after an invitation to conduct repairs there and partake in shoreleave.

“If you’re determined to win this, fly smarter, not harder.”

USS Atlantis, Trent System

“Five minutes until the edge of the Trent system ma’am,” a rather young ensign said from the helm.

“Very well Ensign Cunningham. Reduce speed to warp three,” T’Val said from the captain’s chair. With Atlantis hobbled to the lower warp speeds, it had taken weeks to make their way to Trent, the nearest outpost of the People. This afforded an opportunity to many young officers to take on extra duties with responsibilities and carefully controlled risks. “That should extend arrival to ten minutes,” she continued as the Ensign went about his task.

“Ten minutes and…fifteen seconds…mark,” he confirmed as the ship decelerated to a paltry warp three.

Clemaru has matched speed. We’re being hailed by Trent System Control,” Ensign Savit advised from Ops and with a nod of her head, T’Val signalled for the hail to be put through. She found it refreshing to be serving bridge shifts with another Vulcan and suspected that Commander MacIntyre had been adjusting schedules based on some reasoning of his own.

The familiar faintly purple skin tone and dark hair of the People was present on the person who appeared on screen, though instead of the typical golden eyes, this woman’s eyes were of a silver hue. “USS Atlantis, this is Trent System Control. Vectors and orbital assignments are being transmitted to your ship presently. Please cease all superluminal drives at three light hours from system primary. As arranged, orbital repair facilities will be made available and docking will be arranged once you have achieved initial orbit.” Her tone was dry, functional even, not the bubbly and curious tone she’d become accustomed to from the other samples of the People Atlantis had run into over the last few weeks, nearly a month now.

“Understood,” T’Val replied without even leaving the command chair, then spoke once more when Cunningham turned to face her and nodded. “Vectors received. Thank you for your assistance.”

“Welcome to the Trent System, may your travels be fair and your endeavours benefit all.”

“Live long and prosper,” she herself replied to what she’d learned was a traditional call and response amongst the People. With that the comm channel closed, the viewscreen switching back to the star scape sliding past the ship at speed, a single brighter light directly in the middle.

“Ensign Cunningham, please follow the course assignments sent to us. Lieutenant Munroe,” she called while standing, “you have the conn.”

Paperwork had been completed days ago. Coursework had been completed over a week ago. Reports were vanquished within the first hour of the day, which left one Commander Charles MacIntyre with free time. To much free time in fact over the last week.

It had been Tikva’s idea for the senior officers to stand back while the ship was in transit, one available each day, but not present on the bridge, or elsewhere in their departments for that matter, to let junior officers accrue independent command time. And while today was his nominal day in command, he’d had little to do besides read a few reports, send some of them back with notes and comments about how to do them properly, and write his own of course, which for the most part wasn’t terribly long.

All this free time, all this new found enthusiasm for work, all this disturbing boredom had resulted in what Old Charles MacIntrye would have found frightening – studying and self-improvement.

Before him on his monitor was a fairly short list of courses offered by the Academy for command level officers, all designed to reinforce skillsets, pad out their resumes and hopefully assist in getting promoted. Which in Mac’s case he’d need if he ever wanted to make Captain one day.

But that dream wasn’t as far fetched as it used to be, his hand absently coming up to rub at the third full pip on his collar, not feeling the ridge that made up the old black and silver pip, just the smooth surface of a full silver commander’s pip.

Commander Charles MacIntrye.

Had a certain ring to it. His mother was so proud he was certain he heard her squeal in joy over the empty vacuum of space weeks before her subspace message came through to Atlantis. A mother’s joy, and anger, was something he was surprised the Bureau of Communications hadn’t attempted to harness for some form of instantaneous communications across infinite range.

A chime from his office door interrupted his chain of thoughts and he dropped his hand from his collar before voicing “Enter.” The XO’s office wasn’t terribly large aboard Atlantis, but it sufficed. It’s proximity to the bridge afforded him a mixture of formality as well as a more relaxed air when dealing with the crew that the Ready Room just didn’t have. And the starboard windows offered him a decent enough view.

Lieutenant T’Val stepped in just far enough for the door to close, her hands clasped behind her back. “Commander, we are five minutes from disengaging warp drive and proceeding to Trent at impulse. System Control has already assigned us vectors and an orbit.”

“Very good Lieutenant,” he said. Then after she didn’t move or say anything, looked at her quizzically for a moment. “Was there anything else Lieutenant?”

“I was under the impression sir you wanted to be present on the bridge when we arrive in orbit to oversee berthing the ship for repairs.”

“Ah…yes I do Lieutenant. Please call me when we achieve orbit. I’m certain you and your crew are more than able to see us safely to orbit in a friendly system. If that’s all then,” he waited for a confirmatory nod, “your dismissed Lieutenant.”

“Don’t you think,” the voice in her ear said quietly and clearly with an edge of exasperation to it, “you’ve demonstrated quite clearly your skillset already?”

It was hard to voice a response when under a six-gee load, the fighter’s inertial compensators struggling with the excessive load Tikva was placing upon the craft in the insane turns she was taking. A klaxon started to sound, a structural limits warning, but she ignored it, weaving through the asteroid debris, chasing down her prey.

The prey in this situation was another of her own crew, Ensign Samuel Carmichael, flying the same model of craft as herself. He’d been the one to organise the top gun competition over the last three days, he’d been the one to come forward to his Captain even and ask her to fly. And while she’d kindly declined, it didn’t take long for the rumour mill to deliver news of the young Ensign’s cocky attitude after her refusal.

Yah, she’d likely been played by an Ensign to eventual capitulate and compete, but he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice if she could help it.

“Hold still…” she squeezed out between clenched teeth, struggling to keep his fighter in her cross hairs, for the sensors to gain the weapons lock she so desperately needed. Tone on, tone off, tone on again. She had to give it to him, he could fly.

Tone, steady, lock and she fired, the microtorpedo racing out and chasing Carmichael’s fighter, exploding harmlessly on a rock he flung his fighter around at a reckless speed.

“Tikva,” came the voice again, that lovely, calming voice. “If you’re determined to win this, fly smarter, not harder.”

Now that’s an idea.

Chase! Crush! Conquer!

Oh joy…

She turned the opposite way to the Ensign, loosing contact, opening distance and essentially resetting the furball they’d been in, letting Carmichael go to catch his breath. But more importantly, to let herself catch her breath, to recover from minutes of high gee loads, positive and negative. Warning klaxons still warbled in the cockpit of the Valkyrie, protesting her treatment of the craft. Structural stress, compensators pushed to their limits, indicators the pilot was pushed to her limits.

“Come out, come out Ensign, I’m not going to hurt you,” she uttered to herself as she began to prowl the asteroid field for her prey.

“And so, this is something your people do for fun?” asked Captain Telrin Gulamin, the commander of the Celmaru, who had come aboard ship a few hours ago, along with a few of his officers, to watch the Top Gun finals. He was perhaps the most physically imposing specimen of his species that Adelinde had encountered, nearly matching her height.

“This is something that particularly resonates with pilots it would seem. And those who seem to pursue the command track within Starfleet. It’s a ritualised method for establishing skill and capability.” Admittedly, she was in the process of organise a martial arts tournament for the crew herself, so couldn’t entirely put down a dogfight. But she could still grumble at Tikva’s insistence on getting played by an Ensign to compete, or her unwillingness to settle for anything less then complete dominance of prey.

While the competition was simulated on holodecks one and two, three had been given over to spectators. A spherical space in the middle represented the asteroid field that this particular round was being fought in, with a blip for each fighter. Seats and chairs had been created for people to sit at and watch, while other spectators had ordered up holographic screens showing details of the craft in action, or ‘pilot’s eye views’.

“Ah…it’s a display of prowess, to demonstrate one’s capability to their peers. I don’t mean to pry, but does this also perhaps play into some mating rituals?”

“Some,” she responded, recalling the bragging of flight officers when she was at the Academy. She recalled her thinking them an arrogant breed, but then admonished herself, knowing full well that arrogance wasn’t just limited to pilots, but to a large number of people at the Academy. “While this itself wouldn’t really be part of any sort of courtship, it is a fact that may be raised during such, to try and convince someone of your suitability, attempting to conflate skill as a pilot with other skillsets.”

“Ah…yes yes, now I understand. Much like anyone who makes claims that one of their skills indicates their fitness for mating, when really the skill is at best tangential,” Telrin said, nodding to himself. “Much like sports stars after a game, or highly respected academics at conference parties. Tell me though, your Captain has already achieved a place of social prominence, she clearly doesn’t need to compete, so why does she?”

“Pride. After politely refusing, Ensign Carmichael had started rumours implying the captain was perhaps a little rusty. Nothing direct of course.” She watched Telrin nod in understanding. “She couldn’t let that stand, so she entered the competition to demonstrate that she wasn’t lacking in her skills. Which she suitably demonstrated awhile back and therefore could have taken a graceful exit to let the crew enjoy the competition.”

“So as to not wound their pride?”

“Something like that. It’s why I’m not entering the martial arts competition that will be taking place while Atlantis is under repairs. I don’t need to demonstrate my skill set, nor do I feel I need to show it off. The crew see it often enough. You and your crew are welcome to come and observe that as well.”

“Oh, now that does sound interesting! I shall make all efforts. Oh,” Telrin pointed to the holosphere as action broke out once more. “The young Ensign does seem to be in trouble now.”

The second furball was rapidly descending into a disaster for both pilots as they’d sunk close to the middle of the arena where more debris clustered, making the space a far, far more interesting field of combat. Shield strikes were becoming common as small rocks pinged off each ship, or debris from two torpedoes Tikva had fired without a proper lock and pulverized an asteroid. Finally, she had tone lock and when she thumbed the trigger, nothing happened, save for a delightful little tone informing her of no more torpedoes.

Which she knew was bullshit. She had four more of the little bastards, but something had finally broken with her craft. She switched the phasers and fired, tracing orange light across Carmichael’s aft shields, then rock as he moved, then shields again, more rock. It wasn’t enough to break through, it wasn’t enough to even stress the shields each hit. It would take minutes of such light fire to do real damage.

Then an idea came to mind. An evil little grin on her face and she chuckled briefly before ordering the fighter’s loyal little computer minion brain to give her more power to the engines. She closed, inching then surging forward, bobbing and weaving, turning and banking to close the distance with Carmichael’s fighter. She just needed a few hundred more meters.

A new tone sounded, different from weapons lock and the computer intoned in its calm voice “Tractor beam lock achieved.” The blue light emanated from under the fighter and she threw the craft into a reckless high gee turn, wildly pulling on Carmichael’s craft with barely any warning, adding a new stressor that would be applied to his craft.

Both vessels bucked and fought, their engines applying different thrust vectors, tethered by the tractor beam. “Warning! Structural overload! Engine overload!”

“Shut it!” she barked at the computer, continuing to wrestle with the craft. She just needed Carmichael to focus for a few moments more on escape, not on flying…a few moments more…

And then she shot away, skimming an asteroid’s surface with abandon as the tractor beam had turned itself off, the subject it held onto having ceased to be.

“Ensign Carmichael has been eliminated,” a booming voice announced, not just to herself, but to the observers in holodeck three, and Carmichael as his own simulation ended. “Hostile controlled flight into terrain,” the announcer said, confusion in their voice as they made up the reason for elimination. “That means ladies and gentlemen, your first ever Atlantis Top Gun is none other than the Cap herself!”

Four Forward was not the place for running a gaming session today, especially at this time, but that didn’t stop the Regulars from congregating there as a group. At their table. At their normal time. It had seemed the crew had just started to realise that at given times, two of the tables where just to be pushed together and reserved for one large group of colleagues.

A sort of collective unconscious recognition of established natural laws.

“Well, would you look at that,” Jessica as she looked past Matt and out the windows at the front of the ship. This had the effect of drawing everyone’s attention to the blue and green marble that was now sliding into view as the ship made a final course change on its approach to Trent. This also allowed her the chance to dart out a hand and steal the last slice of people on the platter before someone else tried.

“I mean, it’s no Vega,” Chuck intoned, “or Earth really.”

“No, but it’s still beautiful, and to it’s citizens, Earth is no Trent,” Wy’run countered.

“Yah, fair,” Chuck responded, then sighed when his attention returned to the table, the missing pizza and the sly grin and wink from Jessica as she was eating the slice. “Really?”

“What? I’m hungry. I had an exhausting day,” she countered.

Nerys snorted over her beer. “You entered as a lark and got knocked out by Shven within two minutes. Hardly exhausting.”

“Thank you very much, but I was observing after that. I tell you it was nerve wracking.” Jessica stuffed the slice into her mouth to free a hand, then waved at her face like a fainting lady, before pulling the pizza away, triumphantly chewing away. It was not exactly the dainty lady impression she had hoped for, but it worked well enough.

“Hey Chuck,” Hito spoke up as he arrived at the table finally, a few beers in hand for a couple of the members, “We’re going to be busy for the next few days. Commander Velan just put out the refit schedule. We’re scheduled for exterior work.” His gaze then went to Matt. “Sorry mate, won’t be able to make gaming tomorrow, or for the whole week really.”

“Ah, it’s okay. I figured shore leave here is going to be like a big holiday where no one is around,” Matt said with resignation. Then he chirped up with a smile that took over his whole face. “Besides, Kelly and I are looking at getting off ship for a week.”

That was meant with a round of ‘ooooh’ and ‘awww’ from the table, some gentle gibs from the guys and a singular warning from Nerys. “You hurt Kelly and I’ll break your fingers.”

“Yah, after Kelly breaks him,” Chuck tossed in, earning him a glare from the only Bajoran in the group. “What? It’s true though right?”

The glare didn’t end, just kept smouldering until Chuck offered a meek apology for insulting Nerys’ roommate.

The whistle of an all-ship’s intercom brought quiet to the entire packed Four Forward, then the Commander’s voice filled every compartment of the Atlantis.

“All hands, this is the Commander,” he started with the traditional and wholly unneeded introductions. “Welcome to Trent. Shore leave rosters will be with your department heads in the hour, first away parties can commence beaming down at 0800. Engineering teams, sorry folks, but we’re due for the docking slip at 0600. We’ll make sure you all get leave before we leave though. Bridge out.”

“I’m telling the Captain that you can actually make a toast.”


“You know, I think these People people have a good idea going here,” Benjamin Maxwell, Atlantis’ assistant chief engineer, said as he wiped his brow with the back of his arm. Normally while working on the exterior of Atlantis, such an action would be impossible, save for the People’s Docking Slip T-04A.

The entire slip was surrounded by atmospheric forcefields, double layered, with two power sources for each layer. Apparently, some workplace survey decades ago had set them down this particular pathway and right now the fruits of it was Atlantis’ to enjoy. While the entire slip was still zero-gee, they had atmosphere and could work in a short-sleeve environment. Magboots and safety lines were still the name of the game, but without EV suits getting in the way, repairs and refits to the warp nacelles were proceeding along at a vastly increased rate.

“Maybe, but you try getting any of the major shipyards back home to adopt this. HSE would have a field day with this place,” one salty Chief Harry Shackleton responded as he continued to work at releasing a jammed coil release mechanism that stubbornly refused to let go of it’s prize. “Hand me the phaser would you. This lock can’t be stuck if I turn it into a liquid.”

“You’re not melting parts of the ship Chief,” Maxwell replied, but nonetheless picked up an engineering grade phaser cutter. “I on the other hand…” He waited for the Chief to move out of the way before aiming at the locking piece and firing, cutting it so it could be removed and freeing the warp coil for removal with the next Workbee that came around. “That’s what, three jammed locks now? Damage from running the engines hot or bad locks?”

“Five. Starboard team has the same problems. Same places too so far so money is on P-6 being jammed as well. Must be a bad batch. We’ll have to file paperwork and send it back. Guess though you typically only cycle the damn things in dock anyway so some yardie would do the same as we’ve done anyway.”

“Right, I’m going to talk to Velan. Each lock gets two goes, then cut it. We can replace them while the coils are out.”

Shackleton nodded and then looked up to the current half-crescent of the world of Trent. “Accommodating folks these People. Offering to give us what we need to rebuild our warp drive. Weird that every offer we’ve made to share specs they’ve declined but they’re willing to come on tours and look though.”

“Yah, thought so myself till I asked one of them. Something about not wanting the answers given to them and wanting to work it out themselves, but at the same time, no harm in looking at more advanced models to get an idea of where to go,” Maxwell said, shrugged his shoulders and then helped Shackleton to his feet. “Workbee will be around shortly to remove the hull panels around P-6. I’ll give Velan a call now and catch up with you.”

“Sounds good Lieutenant.”

While the crew were getting to enjoy a proper shore leave, curtesy of their gracious hosts, one Tikva Theodoras found herself the prisoner of expectations upon her rank and position. A formal meeting with the planetary governor and a visiting Minister for Local Government had turned into a preamble for the formal dinner that clearly had been planned days in advance, despite the claims of ‘just a little something we threw together’. The experience hadn’t been torturous at all, but compared with the expectation she’d been building in her head of either an alpine retreat or a beach getaway, it was a far, far cry from those dreams.

But the joy of being captain was that she could at least drag a few people along with her for comfort in those dark hours of politicians rattling on. While she hadn’t inflicted the entire chain of events on her senior officers, she did at least choose victims for the dinner who would have to learn to suffer. To her left sat Mac, to her right sat Adelinde, both of them in animated conversations with those opposite them at the table. Curse them for avoiding the pitfalls of such dinners!

Tikva on the other hand hadn’t been able to get a word in edgewise with Minister Talorm, whom had many an effusive thing to say about the People. “…and so, while I’m led to understand that your ship has far more sensors, and far smaller systems then those found on our premier research vessels, I understand that most of ours happen to be far more sensitive and detailed then those found aboard your ship. Our scientists are very proud of the achievements they’ve made in EM and subspace-based sensor technology over the last fifty years.”

“Yes, well Minister,” she started, only to be cut off as the man continued speaking, oblivious to her attempts to respond.

“Of course, I understand, your vessel isn’t a dedicated research platform. Perhaps your Federation could send one of those our way for a true technological comparison of your sensor technology compared to our own. Then we can,” he continued, only stopped when a uniformed individual, an Admiral Lorc stepped up behind the Minister and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder.

“Minister, please, Atlantis might not be as adept at finding microbes upon a planetary surface as one of our ships, but she’s faster, better shielded, more powerful particle beam weapons…all around a superior vessel then even PRS Resolute.” The Admiral looked straight at Tikva and gave her a smile. “Captain, could I steal you away from the Minister and your meal for a moment?”

“Now hang on a moment Admiral,” the Minister started, then stopped when the hand on his shoulder gave him a quick squeeze.

“Just a moment dear Minister. A small issue has come up I wish to resolve.”

“Oh, very well.”

With that rather lacklustre dismissal, Tikva took the moment to whisper something in Adelinde’s ear, then stood and walked around the long table to a window overlooking the capital city where the Admiral had headed to, even capturing two glasses of a beverage roughly equivalent to wine, offering one as Tikva approached.

“What might be the issue Admiral?” she asked.

“That you looked like you needed rescuing. The Minister is very enthusiastic, but many under command have found him to be tiring.”

“Was it that obvious?” Tikva asked, lightly shaking her head at herself before taking a sip of her wine.

“Only to those in uniform. That and I’m sure I’ve had the same look on my face when I’ve been sat opposite the Minister. I tried to insist as senior naval officer in system that I should be opposite you, or the Governor but it would seem the Minister must know the seating coordinator.”

She couldn’t help but snort at that. “Well, for my first formal dinner as a starship Captain, it hasn’t gone to badly. And your Minister Talorm is pleasant enough, just…enamoured with your people’s accomplishments.” She stopped for barely a moment before correcting herself. “Not that he shouldn’t be mind you! Trust me, my people want a good hard look at any equipment you’re willing to let them look at.”

“Captain, relax,” the older man said with a smile. “I’ve read the reports my captain’s provided and the one in which you provided as well. If it wasn’t for your assistance, we’ve have likely lost another ship and never even heard of these Vaadwuur. I know you’ve given your crew shore leave, but I hate to impress upon you and some of your command staff for some briefings if you’re willing.”

“Will the Minister be there?” she asked.

“By the Maker no. Though there will be an Under-Minister for Defence arriving tomorrow. He’s a good sort and will stay quiet and listen. Give me…three days, then I’ll see what I can arrange with the Governor and we’ll give you cover to have some time off.”

“Three days? I was expecting a week Admiral. Consider Starfleet at your disposal. If we’ve made a mistake in introducing a new foe to you, I wouldn’t want to leave till you understood the threat anyway.”

“Oh, do tell Commander, why did your Captain elect to bring you along to this dinner? I’m most fascinated in her thought processes.”

Mac picked up his wine glass, taking a sip to give him a chance to think of a response from the Deputy-Governor and elected to stick with the honest truth, since the People seemed to value it. “Because I have aspirations of command myself and these sorts of dinners are an occasional expectation of command crews.”

“Oh really? Your Federation doesn’t have a dedicated diplomatic corps for these sorts of engagements?”

“Oh they do Deputy-Governor, but Starfleet tends to be ones making first contact and humans have a particular expression – first impressions matter. How we initially present the Federation can have a lasting impact. Therefore, command staff need to not just be explorers and scientists, but capable diplomats as well.”

“And warriors as I understand it as well.” The Deputy-Governor, a tall, lanky man named Toril Glent, was busying his hands with slicing something analogous to a steak into strips. “A regrettable business war, don’t you think?”

“Whole heartedly agree with you.”

“And yet I understand your crew was undertaking something called a Top Gun competition while you made your way to Trent. To…practise fighter pilot skills. If sounds as if your people preach that war is regrettable, then practise for it nonetheless.” Glent punctuated the sentence with the final knife slice. “Why is that?”

“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” Mac let that sit for a moment before continuing, letting the idiom settle in. “We’d rather be friends with everyone in the galaxy if we could, but some actors in the galaxy would prefer conflict, it not total annihilation of the Federation, or anyone in fact for a few of them. So, while we’d like to be friends with all, we prepare for those who mean us ill will.”

“Have you considered acquiescing to their demands to avoid the need for conflict?”

He couldn’t help himself, he scoffed. “I did say some of them want total annihilation. If the Borg ever come your way Deputy-Governor, no amount of good will and nice words will help. My own homeworld was minutes away from coming under Borg attack on two occasions and only luck and stubborn doggedness saw the Federation through both times.”

Glent nodded, chewed on a strip of steak for a moment and spoke only once he’d washed it down. “I apologise Commander. I wanted to probe into your way of thinking. Your Federation and my People seem to be along similar lines – explorers and optimists who have to guard against the night, but hopefully never to let it wear them down.”

A thought came to him and Mac lifted his wineglass in salute. “To optimism and beacons in the dark.” He hadn’t expected the salute to be picked up by a few around who had been listening.

“I’m telling the Captain,” Adelinde whispered in his direction as she leaned over the empty seat between them, “that you can actually make a toast. You can actually do one at the next dinner.”

“Ra-tesh’mi! So good to see you again! Was the tour of the smelting facility yesterday what you expected?” asked the large, verging on spherical, engineer who emerged from the turbolift bank into the lobby of the University of Trent School of Engineering.

“Mostly Felkir, mostly. Your people are a little behind us on material sciences. I don’t think we’ll be able to fashion exacting replacements with what you’ve got, but we can certainly melt down our damaged coils and recast them. Course we’ll end up short a coil in each nacelle which won’t do.” Velan shrugged and allowed himself to be led back towards the turbolift bank, his People Navy escort in tow. The woman was an easily forgettable shadow, existing more to keep track of him unobtrusively and rescue him when he became a dumb tourist, which was more than once to his shame yesterday and just this morning.

“What about an alloy? Recast your coils and mix in some of our verterium cortenide to make the difference?” Felkir asked as the doors closed, whisking them up only three stories and to the Aeronautical Engineering department.

“I thought about it, but modelling back on Atlantis showed we’d like wreck our engines that way. We’re going to melt a couple of coils down to use to refit and relay the majority of ours I’ve decided, but we’ll then cast a couple of coil sets from your supplies and mount them as the last coil in each nacelle.” Finally arriving at Felkir’s office, Velan set down a small holoprojector, which just yesterday had ended up being hand studied by Felkir for a good five minutes, but today was just another tool. A tap and little hologram of Atlantis appeared within a nice smooth green bubble.

“This is our warp field in ideal conditions running at a nice steady warp seven. And here is the field according to modelling with a People coil at the back of the nacelle.” A new bubble surrounded the ship, this time in orange, the curves mostly the same, though the tapering at the rear of the bubble was very different. That different shape required more power to maintain the same speed due to the subspace turbulence it would produce. “I ran two other simulations with your coil elsewhere in our nacelles and this one is the smoothest. Oddly enough it’s more efficient at lower warp speeds, but once we try to get our legs under us it doesn’t play well.”

“Hmm…do you have the modelling for the lower speeds? I’m most intrigued in understanding why you think it would be better then at higher speeds.” Before either of them realised it, the morning had disappeared into technical discussions, a few of Felkir’s colleagues had come and gone to offer advice and, in the end, both sides were content, after rerunning the simulations on a People’s computer system, that indeed Velan’s proposal was the correct one.

“Well Ra-tesh’mi, I’ll see to it that you have all the staff at the smelter you could possibly need to recast your ship’s warp coils and even to cast new coils from our finest materials. But you have to promise me I can bring up my doctoral students to look at your warp drive. Vertically integrated warp drive, I can’t wait.”

“Felkir, I’m have expecting you to trying and bring your entire university through the ship! But yes, I’ll personally give you a tour, even have you aboard ship for trial runs?”

“Oh now that would be a delight!”

“You know,” Adelinde said as she stepped up behind a dressing gown clad Tikva, looking out across the sunlight skyline of the city below them from the tower’s lofty height, “I could get used to this.” She’d wrapped an arm around the smaller woman’s waist and brushed hair with her free hand to hook it behind Tikva’s ear before whispering to her. “But you need to get ready. We have a meeting in an hour.”

“Bless the Admiral for making it mid-morning and not oh ungodly hours first thing.” Tikva leaned back into her form and she found herself supporting the smaller woman. “Sorry for dragging you along, I just…wanted you there with me.”

“I had fun actually,” she found herself telling her lover, then continued after a faint scoff of disbelief. “I did. I spoke with General Khall for most of the evening. Very enlightening discussion on the comparison of People and Federation tactics.” She couldn’t help but give Tikva a slight squeeze. “Including small craft tactics. She wants to talk with our best pilots at some point, so I dobbed you in Ace.”

“Did you now?” Tikva asked as she turned in her arms and then planted a light kiss on her lips, with a little support from herself. “Well in that case you’re definently coming with me today to see the Admiral, oh Chief Tactical Officer.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way, Captain. Now, would you please go get dressed?” she asked.

“Make me.”

“We both know how that’ll end and we don’t have time, or practise spears to fight with,” she replied, then released Tikva from her grasp, giving her a slight nudge in the direction of the bedroom for the suite they’d been given last night. “Uniform is in the refresher. Should be done by now.”

“Work, work, work…”

“Better believe it.”


The conference room that Admiral Lorc had managed to secure for the high-level briefings had been right out of some bad spy thriller in Tikva’s earnest opinion. It was dark, there were no windows, the whole thing felt like a tomb of some modern variety. Which considering how long the lift down had taken, a tomb wouldn’t be far from the mark. But the generous displays on all the walls, the large table that served as a holo-table as well, the impressive acoustics – they all granted the room a degree of gravitas. You knew this was an important place just from the looks of it.

“Dr Strangelove,” Adelinde whispered in her ear when they had first entered and Tikva had to suppress the laugh, leading to a snort and immediate questions if she was alright. Thankfully the People’s Navy and assembled guests in the room accepted her statement of it being nothing and didn’t pry any further.

She’d spent nearly three hours outlining everything the Federation knew about the Vaadwuur, from ancient history to modern times. Their previous accomplishments, the fall of their empire and the incident involving Voyager that made them a plague once more upon the Delta Quadrant. There was a technical discussion, promises to make all scans of their ships available, followed by talks about tactics and fighting abilities. But one idle comment that Tikva had made had apparently taken root with the visiting Under-Minister the Admiral had warned her about and was about to rear its head.

Under-Minister Yarrin had taken notes, whispered with those uniformed personnel either side of him but otherwise remained unobtrusive to the discussions. He had been so unobtrusive that during the lunch break, when Tikva had tried to do more then the cursory introductions from the morning and been intercepted by curious officers, he’d not made any attempts to close and use his own clout to speak with her despite making it obvious she wanted to speak with him.

She was pretty certain she’d seen him take a packed lunch out of a briefcase and eat from that rather than involve himself in the mad rush on the buffet table. An honest to goodness little packed lunch, in a red container. Even had his own fork.

But lunch came and went, the briefing continued to allow her to wrap up a few points, then she put it to the floor for questions which there were plenty of. She would have to thank Adelinde for stepping in on the more technical combat questions. She had vague numbers for phaser or torpedo yields, but leave it to the tactical officers to memorise them, or at least do prep to have them fresh in their mind for such a meeting as this. Ever the consummate professional when it comes to her field of expertise. Thanks would be anything other than professional.

Oh yah, look at her. Love a woman in uniform.

We are a woman in uniform.

Yah and look at us. We got Adelinde didn’t we?

You’re not allowed to make good points.

Hey Us, I think that Minister has a question. Can just feel the curiosity coming off of him.

“Under-Minister, you look like you have a question,” Tikva stated after wrapping up her answer, seeing a few hands rise to ask their questions, but quickly dropping. “What would you like to know?”

“My question,” the man said, his voice a raspy, quiet thing, like someone trying to talk after walking hours in a desert with no water, “is actually about a different entity you mentioned prior to lunch and mentioned in your reports you’ve provided to us – the Borg.”

Murmurs went around the room as people started to confer with their peers, the general feel of the room settling in to her senses as everyone focused, wanting to soak up whatever morsel of information came their way.

“You mentioned in your report that you destroyed a star in order to destroy one of their ships. You mentioned them in your discussion about the Vaadwuur, who before their fall knew them as having assimilated only a few species.” The stopped, checked his notes, then looked up. “My question is, what can you tell us about the Borg?”

With that, to her emphatic senses, she could feel the room was truly focused on her, save for two people. One stood just behind her, focused on the Under-Minister, studying him and only him. She’d have to ask her later for what she thought of the man.

Thanks babe.

The other was Admiral Lorc, whose attention was also on the Under-Minister, but more in wonder then anything. Wondering, slight confusion? She associated the feeling with a sharp cheese.

He’s trying to understand why the Under-Minister is asking after the Borg, and not a threat they can do something about like the Vaadwuur.

“I can tell you a lot about the Borg, Under-Minister. I can tell you everything Starfleet knows, how we’ve fought them in the past, how we’ve avoided them, how to stay under their attention threshold, or get their attention if you want. But I should warn you Under-Minister, some of information will sound…depressing? The Borg are a complicated problem with no viable, repeatable solution and even raw, naked aggression or firepower will only make you more of a target for them.”

“Well Captain,” Yarrin continued, with a slight smirk on his face, “I believe the Admiral has set aside three days for these briefings. You’ve made the Vaadwuur sound like a threat we should be concerned about, now make us aware of the Borg if would so kindly.”

She nodded her head, looked to Adelinde and shrugged. “Would you kindly bring up the Borg primer Lieutenant Commander? Big screen if you will.”

Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr knew they stood out amongst the People when they beamed down to the planet of Trent. But since their people let alone any silicon-based lifeforms tended to stand out, even in the multiracial and cultural melting pot of the Federation, it was never a concern. However, it would seem the Gaen were the People’s first introduction to the reality of sapient silicon-based lifeforms and hence now there was a collection of individuals, a crowd in reality, following them and the small group they’d beamed down with from Atlantis.

The humans, vulcans and andorian had all been unique, interesting, even diverting for a while, longer for some members of the local populace who Rrr watched either deftly or awkwardly make passes on their companions. But the majority of the crowd had kept their attention on Rrr as they and their companions, out of uniform but visiting in a group, went about their day as tourists. More then a few times however the group stopped and did the typical friendly thing, stopping to talk with people, answer questions from extremely inquisitive children, just engaging with small talk.

Why do you have pointed ears? Why don’t you?

Why are you blue?

You’re made of rocks! Are your feet heavy?

He’s got antenna like a siclik bug!

The questions of children really where the best here it would seem, born purely from curiosity without the filter to not ask ‘those sorts’ of questions of strangers.

The crowd following wasn’t a constant thing, membership being transitory as people realised they’d followed the visitors further then they meant to, or some other reminder pulled them back to reality. But it had been consistently there though, as new people joined, or simply stood still and watched, adding to the crowd till the whole phenomena moved beyond them.

“Seriously, I count like fifty people watching us have lunch,” Beckett said as he looked around the streetside market from his seat at the little café they’d all decided on for lunch. The sun was shining, there was a cool breeze and because of Rrr’s size, the owner had asked if they’d prefer an outside table. It had coincidentally meant that the crowd then didn’t swarm the inside of the café and bring business to a complete halt.

“Forty-six,” G’pel said, sipping at her tea. “Six of them keep moving around.”

“I’ll take your word for it sweetie,” Beckett replied, his arm moving to rest on the back of G’pel’s seat. “So, boss man, you’re more aware of the damages then we are. We in for a short shore leave, or a longer break? I could really use a couple of weeks of doing nothing.”

“That is yet to be determined.” Rrr paused long enough for a few more drinks to be deposited on the table and their server to depart once more. “Maxwell is assessing the warp coils right now. At least a few days for that, then a couple of weeks for refurbishment once Commander Velan sorts out a viable solution. But don’t bet on weeks of nothing. All the department heads want to use downtime as well and I’ve seen the schedule requests. You’ll all be back at work in a couple of weeks, though it’s most likely going to be low intensity.”

“Okay, but what favours do you want to tweak the schedules?” asked Tiffany with a cheeky grin. “After all, I’m in geo-physics, I can hook you up with some rare mineral supplies.”

“Is that really the best bribe you have?” Rrr shot back.

Soon enough they all had meals in front of them, idle chatter was flowing and the crowds nearby thinned, bored with just watching a bunch of aliens have lunch like normal people. Even if one of them was a two-and-a-half-meter tall rock person. Aliens doing normal things would only hold the interest of the dedicated and determined. Plenty of odd looks from passers-by, but the roving crowd of the morning had finally passed.

Sitting on the couch afforded Adelinde the best vantage spot to massaging Tikva’s shoulders, who was sitting on the floor, legs pulled up, arms folder over her knees and head resting on those same arms. As soon as they’d got back to the suite their uniform tunics had been put on hangers and all semblance of rank was dropped. It didn’t take empathic powers to spot the tension in Tikva from spending four hours talking about the Borg, with the prospect of more tomorrow.

“You need a massage,” she’d stated, earning a meek reply of “yes ma’am” as Tikva had sat herself down with her back to the couch. It afforded her the vantage to massage her love’s shoulders as well to simply continuing to admire that skyline and watching sunset over the city. Time passed quietly, just the occasional gasp or sigh as her fingers encountered and then worked out knots in Tikva’s shoulder and neck muscles.

“You need to see Counselor Hu again,” she said as eventually stopped, but leaned forward to wrap her arms around Tikva in an enveloping hug. “You’re carrying a lot of stress.”

“No, I’m not, it’s crappy posture.”

“Then Terax for physio and then get your command and office chairs adjusted.” She kissed Tikva’s cheek, then pulled away so she could get around Tikva and more importantly to her feet so she could get back to the kitchenette and look at their dinner options.

She’d just brought up the replicator’s menu when she heard the meek, muffled response of someone who hadn’t even moved. “Okay, I’ll go see Hu. But only because my massage therapist said so.”

“You’re what?” she replied.

“Massage therapist. Just lucky I guess she’s also my girlfriend.” Then Tikva’s voice was nice and clear, clearly having looked up. “I could kill for a chicken curry. Tikka masala with a lager.”

“You don’t need to do that,” she replied, repeating the order for the replicator, doubling it and dishing it all up on the island in the suite by the time Tikva had brought herself over and perched on a stool. “But with your form, it’d be entertaining to watch. Struggling, trying to land that killing blow.”

“Excuse me, but who finally got the drop on you last time we hit the stadium?” Tikva snapped before diving into her meal in earnest, though offering her a killer glance, followed quickly by a wink before food took Tikva’s attention. And she couldn’t fault the woman, her own quickly turning to thoughts of the meal before her.

Silence this time didn’t last for too long before they settled into idle chatting over the day, discussing some of the points brought up during the briefings, then a diversion to what they wanted to see during their joined leave. A few recommendations by locals had been mentioned, some of them more enthusiastically than others.

“More than a few invitations to come and stay with certain members of their navy,” Tikva put out there with a shrug. “But it’ll just turn our holiday into a working holiday. I’ve been politely declining those, but softening the blows with the promise of a tour before we depart.”

“I have no intention of a working holiday,” she replied with a slight smile. “So, we’re agreed, the Telan Resort? Two weeks of pampering, relaxing, walks and diving?”

“Two weeks of you in a bikini,” Tikva replied with an eyebrow waggle that she wasn’t the biggest fan of, but gave her love the affirmative nod she was after.

“And you too.”

“Better believe it.”

It had been nearly a week since Atlantis had submitted herself to the tender mercies of the People’s yard dogs, with her own crew’s supervision, or handling of certain sensitive details completely. Which is why when Velan had called Mac, with urgent news, he’d resigned himself to having his holiday interrupted as well. Not that he’d gone to such lengths as his Captain of restricting communications such that only he could call her currently. He’d only restricted his to the entire senior staff so as to be available to them while he undertook historical tours. Least that’s what he was calling the wine tours.

This evening though he was going to be joined for dinner, and sure enough right on time, Velan appeared at the door, quickly spoke with the host and was shown to Mac’s table and served immediately with the vineyard’s own. “It’s as close to terrestrial wine as these people have,” he offered to the engineer. “Somewhere between terran and betazed wine. The fruit is kinda…weird.”

“Alcoholic?” Velan asked, sniffed at the glass and then took a mouthful, answering his own question with a satisfied sigh. “Oh, that’s nice.” Then another mouthful. “Okay, I’ll want a few bottles of this before we leave. Maybe a lot of bottles actually.”

“That bad?”

“Well Mac, yes and no.” Velan shrugged, sat back in his chair and then glanced at the menu. “Anything good?”

“Already ordered for you. Something I had last night at the last place. You’ll love it.”

“As long as it goes with a,” he glanced at his wine glass, “blue wine I guess.”

“It pairs perfectly with a blue and well enough with a green. Don’t drink their reds though. They like it, I’m sure bolians will like it, but it’s really acidic.” He waited for Velan to nod in acceptance of that fact, then continued. “So, you wouldn’t interrupt my holiday if there wasn’t something particular bad.”

“Yah, you’re right. Minor bad thing, there’s a mountain of engineering paperwork needing your sign off. Basically, every nacelle locking mechanism was a piece of shit and we’ve had to phaser them all out. The People have offered to kindly making us new ones so I gave them the specs. Should have them by the end of day tomorrow.”

“Well, that’s not too bad, I guess. Does mean the Zeta Reticuli Yards have some issues.” Mac could just see the pile of padds sitting on his desk. Hopefully it wouldn’t take long to sort into ‘just sign’ and ‘need to read, then sign’. What he wouldn’t give to be on a larger ship where his workload would require a yeoman to help manage.

“Then we’ve got the problem with the warp coils. Coil 4 and all aft were basically wrecked when that damn virus hijacked the warp drive and ran the engines way beyond spec. I guess we maybe had like an hour or two at that speed left before we’d have melted the engines completely. The worst thing though is we just don’t have enough material to repair them. The People offered, but their refinement processes just aren’t as complex as ours. We’re going to have to melt a few of our coils down completely to fix the majority.”

“How many?” he asked.

“We’ll be short two one each nacelle. Luckily the People are making four coils for us, using the best equipment and techniques they’ve got to replace the missing ones. We won’t be setting any speed records, but we’ll be able to get up to cruise speed at least. Max speed will be eight nine most likely though.”

“Christ,” Mac muttered. “That’s going to take months and months to get back.”

“Over a year by my maths. We did that last sprint at near full speed remember?” Velan however smiled. “That’s the bad news. The good news is,” he paused for a server who came around to top up their glasses and reassure them dinner wasn’t to far away, “a Turei scout ship popped up on long range sensors earlier this afternoon. I’ve been on the comms with them as your trusty second officer and managed to sweet talk them into giving up a very limited Underspace map. Trip home should only take a few months to cross the gaps since he was being a bit of a jerk and gave us an exit a bit further from where we need to go.”

“Likely under some Turei space station so they can limit us using that entrance in future and our rapid return to this region of space,” Mac quipped, earning a ‘no argument here’ look from Velan. “Did you tell them about the Vaadwuur?”

“Yah. Figured they’d spot the debris soon enough.”

“Good man. Right, well, how long is the rest of the engine rebuild going to take?”

“Another week and a half at most I figure. Time enough for me to squeeze in holiday. Maxwell will be back tomorrow, going to take a couple of days to get him up to speed. Figure,” Velan said as he lofted his wine glass once more, “maybe I can start at the beginning of this tour circuit, or find another somewhere else.”

“I’m sure, if anyone can find the perfect glass of wine on his planet, it’s you Ra-tesh’mi. Now, you’re here, dinner is being served,” Mac pointed to the staffers starting to bring out dinner for the tour group and other guests here tonight, “forget work and tell me, what’s up between you and that young lady in geo-sciences?”

“How the hell did you hear about that?”

“Spies Ra, spies. First officer knows everything.”

“Yes sir, Commander MacIntyre.”

USS Atlantis

“Commander, I was wondering if I could perhaps have a moment of your time?”

While the Atlantis was still in sitting in dock, half her crew on leave, the other half either working to make good her ills or guarding those parts even the captain had considered still too sensitive for free access, Mac had decided to adopt an open-door policy to his office. Literally an open door, to let those roaming the ships near vacant halls to come and speak to him if they needed.

And while the policy had elicited more then a few drop-in visits ranging from those asking for career advice to those just wanting the chance to talk with the lofty senior staff, he hadn’t really intended it for the People’s Navy officers assisting in the repair to visit. They however had heard about the policy and decided, with no consultation to him, that it applied to them. Likely an issue with his specific wording around ‘available for all those aboard ship’ and since they were technically aboard ship during duty shifts, they could visit.

“Administrator-Commander Dallin, certainly, please come in, take a seat,” Mac said as he stood from his seat and the Command Course training manual that he’d been staring at for over an hour in the forlorn hope of ingesting it via some magical means. As the man approached, they exchanged a hand shake and he sat himself back down as the rotund little man claimed a seat opposite his desk. “Usually you don’t come to see me till fifteen hundred. What’s the problem?”

The Administrator-Commander looked down at his hands for a moment, considering the backs of his hands, then the palms before be looked up at Mac. “Commander, some of my staff have reported seeing some of your crew members in what we normally consider sensitive areas aboard the shipyards. Not restricted, but…areas where only approved individuals should be unless there is a good reason.”

The paused and Mac took this time to straighten his back, to give the man the impression he had Mac’s full attention. “Do you happen to know who these individuals might be?”

“While I’m not familiar with your entire crew Commander MacIntrye, we did manage to capture surveillance footage in certain sections and my workers have verified their accounts with our records.” Dallin pulled a small holoemitter from his pocket and set it on the desk between the two men, tapping a button to bring the device to life and showing busts of two Starfleet officers, both in either Operations or Engineering yellow, both ensigns.

Mac couldn’t help himself from using his whole left hand to rub at his face, covering his eyes momentarily and accompanied by a sign. “Any damages or missing property?”

“Oh, no, nothing of the sort. If that had been the case Commander, I assure I wouldn’t be reaching out as colleagues, I’d have had to take it the Administrator-Commodore per policy and…well, I don’t think we have a policy for handling such breaches with visiting aliens.”

“I’ll make you a deal then,” Mac said as he pulled out a padd, synced with the holoemitter and captured the images aboard it, giving Dallin the go-ahead to turn the device off and pocket it. “I’ll have a word with my wayward crew and make sure no one goes aboard your repair slip without knowing full well to stay where they’ve been allowed to and in return, I’ll give you our inter-species policing policies so you can look them over and present them to your boss. The People are expanding, you’ll start making more and more contacts, visitors will be more common and you’ll need a good policy.”

Dallin smiled, a sly thing but with some charm. “And so wonderful for little Administrator-Commander Dallin to have had a thought or two in his spare time help draft such a thing. Maybe some of your other inter-species policies and procedures wouldn’t go amiss?” he asked, trailing off hopefully.

Mac smiled, nodded his head. “Get me that extra work crew for tomorrow like I asked for and I’ll give you every policy, procedure and guideline in our database that isn’t sensitive material. You can mine it for good ideas till the heat death of the universe.”

“Ah! Your people and my People share a passion for bureaucracy as well!” Dallin saw his expression and cracked out a laugh. “I jest! But come, come, I want to you show you something. Some of my workers think we can offer you an improvement to your lightspeed sensors without any major work. Your subspace sensors on the other hand are marvels! Only fitting we can make your lightspeed ones just as marvellous!” The man stood and was most of the way to the door before Mac could even rise, his enthusiasm infectious.

Riot acts would just have to wait a little longer.

“Ensigns Jamie De León and Grant Corrin, any idea as to why I’ve called you both to my office?”

Grant gulped, both he and Jamie standing at attention opposite the XOs desk, who had made a point of ordering the computer to close the door after they had both arrived. They’d entered, stood there, waited for him to sit at his desk from where he’d been looking out the window watching an external work crew, still in the distance. They’d waited an intolerable minute and a half after he’d sat down and just stared at them with that sickly sweet-smelling tea in his hands.

He tried to look to Jamie, to try and non-verbally confer with her, but a clearing of throat from Commander MacIntrye got his attention and his eyes were firmly front and centre once more. Another gulp.

“Don’t look to her Mr Corrin. I want to know why you think are you are in front of my desk.” The commander’s tone of voice was cool, quiet, conveying menace while forcing you to stay quiet to hear what he was saying.

Grant’s mind responded to the situation by shifting between Fight or Flight constantly. He wanted to blurt out any, every defence, for things he knew he’d done, things he hadn’t done, things he’d never do. At the same time his senses went into overdrive for Flight. He could hear the air vents, his own heartbeat, the intolerable sound of a seat bead rolling down his face.

“Sir, if we could,” Jamie started to say during his own indecision and was immediately stopped as the commander spun his computer monitor around to show what looked like security footage, though the characters along the bottom weren’t readable but looked to him like the written language of the People, simply called Script.

“Just know what this is about?” the commander continued Jamie’s question for her. “I’m waiting to learn that myself.” He sipped at his tea, waiting for them to start.

“It’s a stupid mistake Sir,” Jamie blurted out.

“It won’t happen again,” Grant found himself saying reflexively.

“You’re damn right about that,” the commander said after raising a hand from his cup to stop them from both from piling more apologises on top. “But that still doesn’t answer why you were in a sensitive area aboard the People’s shipyard. Ensign De León, you seem to have a bit more of a way about yourself. Answer the question.”

“We were inspecting the atmospheric field generators and trying to figure out how the people are running so many overlapping fields without interference. We didn’t want to ask because that would distract from the work.” Jamie gave him a sideways glance, he tried to plead with her with his eyes. “But, well sir, it turned into a bit more. There was risk of being caught, it added…” she trailed off and Grant could just imagine the sound of his career imploding upon itself. Doomed and he’d only been in the fleet for a mere year.

“Christ,” the Commander said, real quietly. “Lower decks never change. Mr Corrin, is what Mr De León saying true?”

Grant only nodded. Might as well making it quick right?

“Did you at least figure out how their field generators work constructively in such close proximity to each other?”

Both he and Jamie actually looked to each other, both raising an eyebrow quizzically before looking back to the commander. “Yah, second visit,” they both replied in unison.

The commander sighed again, sipped from his tea and then looked them both over, shaking his head disapprovingly. “I’m moving you both to gamma shifts within your departments. Your department heads will hear of my pronouncement by morning. You’re also going to be pulling double shifts until we leave, which should keep you busy or to tired for any more mistakes.”

“Gamma shift sir?” he asked.

“Gamma shift Mr Corrin and be thankful. You’ll both stay there until I’m happy. You’ll also report to Lieutenant Velan once we depart and provide him everything you learned. If you’re unlucky he’ll put your name on the report where someone can read it. You’re also going on report for two months. Maybe some bottom of the rung tasks will convince you both to respect our hosts next time?”

No brig time. No yelling fit? No end of career?

“Yes sir, Commander MacIntyre,” they both said, nearly in perfect unison.

“Dismissed. Report to Lieutenant Maxwell, he’s got work assignments for you both.”

Another round of ‘yes sir’ and they both escaped the office, both only catching their breaths a good fifteen meters down the corridor.

“I thought he was going to tear a strip off us,” Jamie said, an actual smile forming on her lips, which infected his own and he smiled back.

“Gamma shift and double duty is probably getting off light,” he responded. “We’re going to be run ragged by the time everyone else returns.”

“Not to tired I hope Mr Corrin?” Jamie asked as she planted a kiss on his cheek and then headed off down the corridor, pausing to throw him a glance. “Coming?”

The computer monitor finally flicked off from the People’s Navy seal to the face of Administrator-Commander Dallin, safely ensconced within his own well-appointed office station side. Mac offered a smile, a salute with his mug of tea and then spoke. “Found and spoke to our culprits. They wanted to know how your people are managing your double layered atmospheric fields without interference.”

“They could have just asked. We have nothing to hide and would gladly have shared with you. Everyone can benefit from sharing health and safety ideas, yes?” Dallin asked and Mac nodded in the affirmative. “Well, youths will be youths. No harm was done. Would you like me to send across the specifications?”

“Yah Dallin, that would be appreciated. They think they’ve figured it out and we’ve got a few months to get home. Might as well have the answers to compare their findings with the real thing. Oh, and I’ll have a runner bring across everything I promised on separate storage so it’s not sitting in your inbox for someone else to look over.”

“And I’ll make sure he brings back a bottle of 32 Dorel Blue for you.”

“…and aside from a pair of horny ensigns, we haven’t had any problems up here over the last three weeks. At least not until the regime of Charles, first of his name, came to an end and was dutifully supplanted by his much-respected captain upon her triumphant and tanned return.” Mac was sitting opposite her on the coaches in her ready room, a stack of padds on the coffee table, the remains of tray of nibbles and a half-empty carafe of coffee to show for the nearly two hours of briefings Mac had ready for her upon her return.

“Horny ensigns? Mac, you’ll need to be more specific. Three quarters of them are barely post-adolescent bags of hormones, the other quarter literally have horns.” She snorted at her own comment

“De León and Corrin decided to engage in a little light-hearted engineering curiosity aboard the shipyard and it would seem the possibility of getting caught, well, you know…” he trailed off and she could just feel the uneasy emotions radiating from the man.

“It’s just sex Mac,” she quipped.

Hey, maybe those ensigns were on to something?

Shut up you. We’re focusing so we can get out of here.

I shall not be ignored!

Yes you will.

“Hey, not all us of are open to talking about it as you are Cap,” Mac said. “I moved them to gamma shifts, double duties for a bit, put them on report. If they do good, I won’t even write it down on their records.” He waited for Tikva to nod in agreement, which she did after considering his punishment for merely a moment.

“First offences, eh?” she asked, the affirmative nod all the answer she needed. “Should be able to scare them straight enough. Let them have a bit of fun. What are launch preparations like?”

“Ra says Engineering should be good to push off in a few hours which gives him plenty of time to find any disasters and resolve them before our departure party tomorrow night. I’ve told him he’s coming even if I have to get Ch’tkk’va themselves to manhandle him there.”

“Hey, we’re not to use our resident Xindi to threaten people,” she replied.

“It’s full dress uniforms, Cap.”

“Ugh, yah, okay.” She sighed, picked up the top padd from the stack and ran her finger over the print-scanner, signing off on the paperwork Mac had dutifully compiled. “Right, give orders to get Atlantis ready to get under way. All crew are to be recalled and aboard in six hours, work with planetary security to round up any stranglers. And get Lieutenant T’Val to prepare all our fighters for escort duty. No doubt our little trip out-system will be captured for posterity, so might as well show off.”

Mac stood, indicated the mess on the coffee table and surrendered with she waved him off, the non-verbal ‘I’ll sort this mess out’ clear to both. “Aye aye ma’am, round up the children and polish the silverware.”

“Oh, now that’s an order I can get behind.”

USS Atlantis, Starbase 38

“How we looking?” the captain asked as she stepped out of her ready room, Commander MacIntyre following behind her. Both held cups of their preferred beverage, the sickly-sweet scents soon wafting across the bridge to her own sensitive nose. Instead of heading for the center seats, which T’Val had dutifully stood from, they both waved her down and took over seats at currently unused multi-mission stations on the starboard side of the bridge.

Her left eyebrow rose in curiosity at human behaviour before sitting herself back down in the center seat, hands coming to rest on the arms of the seat. “Fish 1 and 2 are ready for launch as soon as we exit the wormhole. On schedule for emergence in the Alpha Quadrant in three minutes. Would you like to take the conn Captain?” she asked.

“Oh no, it’s all yours T’Val, I’m just sitting out here, having my coffee, staying out of the way,” Captain Theodoras responded. When she turned her gaze towards the Commander all he did was sip at his cup of tea, offered a shrug of his shoulders and a slight smile.

“Very well ma’am.” She turned back to watching the main viewscreen and the bridge slipped into silence once more. The storm-cloud like nature of the wormhole’s interior was populated by circling blue, white, orange and green lights, with a singularly large bright light ahead of them, just off centre of the viewscreen and growing in size.

“USS Sovetsky sends her regards,” the rather junior operations officer, an Ensign Gren Tovik, announced as they passed the other vessel in transit, breaking up the quiet.

“Pass along our own regards and expectations for safe travels,” she responded, then turned to look to Captain Theodoras who was quietly nodding approval but didn’t say anything, not even quietly between herself and the Commander.

“Aye aye, ma’am.”

Once again silence, if just for a few minutes, reigned, occasionally interrupted by the chirps and bells of computer systems informing operators of some detail or change in circumstances.

“Thirty seconds till emergence,” Ensign Tovak announced.

Her finger came to rest on the comm button on the right arm rest. “Bridge to Fish 1 and 2, standby for launch.”

“Roger,” came the simultaneous response from Lieutenant Shven and Ensign Carmichael, the two most experienced Valkyrie fighter pilots aboard ship and chosen for this little display by the captain.

She waited, counted the seconds, knew just how long it would take for the fighters to launch from the bays 2 and 3, either side and aft of the hull’s delta. Timing wasn’t everything in the little display, but the better it was, the more impressive it would be.

“Launch,” she calmly ordered of the pilots just moments before Atlantis crossed into the Alpha Quadrant.

For those watching the wormhole, Atlantis emerged like any other starship should, immediately followed by her entire fighter compliment of two Valkyrie-class fighters launching from her bays with streams of blue trailing behind them. Shven and Carmichael had both worked out a small little flight display for anyone at Starbase 38 who might have been looking out a window at the wormhole, watching ships come and go.

As for Atlantis herself all her navigational lights blinked twice in unison much brighter then normal, something that MacIntrye had dug up as an old naval tradition somewhere, signally those aboard station.

Ho the station there.

We know someone somewhere is going to be unhappy with the airshow.

And? We’re the fun ship, the spunky ship, the hip ship.

Damn the torpedoes!

That’s not how we deal with admiralty complaints.

“Fish 1 and 2 reporting completion of maneuverers ma’am,” Ensign Tovak announced calmly, clearly taking hints in proper bridge discipline from T’Val herself. Perhaps he’d make an adequate officer before much longer.

“Order them back to their bays. Helm, set course two six three mark zero zero two. When both fighters are aboard bring us to station waypoint Delta Three at full stop. Ops, please contact starbase control and request docking instructions and thank them for our opportunity to…show off.” She paused before those last two works, said them with a forced nature that most on the bridge would like never detect.

Then she heard the sound of two people standing and turned to face the captain and commander. “We should be underway again within two minutes ma’am.”

“Nicely done Lieutenant. Your pilots performed admirably. Maybe we should put together an acrobatics team,” Captain Theodoras said. “You’re still in command, I’m off for the evening. Mac, see you in the morning?”

“Bright and early,” he replied, watched the captain leave and stepped over to sit in his chair to the left of the centre chair. “Comfortable Lieutenant?”

“I would prefer to be flying the ship sir and have the proper duty officer in charge,” she replied.

“Captain just wants to give you some conn time, which trust me, looks good. If you need me, I’ll be in the ready room reading some reports.” He stood, smiled at her. “Carry on.” And with that he left, the door closing behind him just as the Atlantis turned to bring the imposing bulk of Starbase 38 into view.

“What have you heard of this Captain Grent?” Tikva asked of her chief engineer as they both walked through the offices of the docking module towards the offices of one Captain Grent, the commander of the dockyard repair crews that would be setting Atlantis’ engine woes straight after their journey through the Delta Quadrant.

“Tellarite is all I was able to dig up,” Ra-tesh’mi answered with his customary stroke of his beard. He’d confessed he started doing that because it made him look more contemplative but then became a force of habit. “Besides apparently being damn good at his job which seems to be stealing good workers from other teams to his and then somehow keeping hold of them.”

“Ah, so a good manager then. Hire the best, keep them hopefully with rewarding work opportunities.” That boded well in her own opinion then for how well the Atlantis would be treated.

“Wait, I’m not supposed to be press-ganging my engineers? Huh…” Ra-tesh’mi joked, earning at least a slight chuckle from herself. She knew she herself must have been doing good if her officers were willing to joke like that around her.

A secretary greeted them as they arrived, checked her screen, smiled politely and led them both into the man’s office, which was absent one Tellarite. “Captain Grent will be with you shortly but he advised me to show you in. Can I get you anything to drink Captain, Lieutenant Commander?”

“Water will do,” she replied, echoed by Ra-tesh’mi and the woman departed, reappearing in quick succession with two glasses of water and a carafe as well. Tikva barely noticed as she was busy taking in the office. Not much in the way of decoration save for the magnificent oil paintings that covered the walls. Each was a Starfleet vessel rendered in amazing detail, all against gorgeous vistas and hinted at the true talent of the artist.

“These are all old ship classes,” Ra-tesh’mi spoke up as he too was looking the room’s decorations over. “Newest ship class I’ve see is Galaxy-class.”

Nebula-class here,” she replied.

Galaxy-class still wins. Venture refits, see the additional phaser banks?” he pointed to the painting in question and Tikva had to take her engineers word for it, admitting in quick succession is point. “Wait, how’s your Tellarese?”

She blinked, then walked over and inspected the part of the painting that Ra-tesh was indicating, the artist signature. “Oh, um…well, that’s a grr sound at the start, a te sound at the…Grent. These are his own works. Torvic Grent 2387 this one.”

Just then the door to the office opened and the short, stocky physique of an elder Tellarite male stepped in, the rightful ruler of his fiefdom by bearing of personality and ego that she could feel emanating from the man. She always liked Tellarites, a degree of self-confidence about them she found infectious, though her mother said they made her nauseous because of their argumentative energy.

Benefit to being half human?

What, having to listen to you?

No, being I dunno, somewhat more argumentative and therefore able to handle Tellarites better?


“You’re the Atlantis captain,” Grent declared as he circled his desk and deigned to sit upon his administerial throne where his proclamations could expedite or delay a ship’s repairs, within reason of course. “Horrible ship. All sleek line and stream lined.”

“Yes, Captain Tikva Theodoras, this is my chief engineer Lieutenant Commander Ra-tesh’mi Velan,” she answered as both her and Ra-tesh’mi took their seats opposite the desk and only then did she realise the seats were lowered, just slightly, to put Grent at an advantage.

“I’ve read your reports Lieutenant,” the man said, deciding to take the lesser route when referring to Velan’s rank, supported by his tone of voice. “Allowing your engineers to cut off important locks as well I read. Tsk tsk,” though that was somewhat more hissing like thanks to Grent’s prominent tusks.

“Extenuating circumstances,” Ra-tesh’mi answered and then promptly went quiet. She turned to look at him and he was just staring right at Grent, daring him to ask for more. Clearly someone had dealt with Tellarite engineers before.

“Hrumpf,” the other man responded after having waited a few seconds for further explanation. A defence that she knew he had to have read already in the reports that they’d beamed back to Starfleet while still working their way back, or sat sitting around for the Barzan wormhole to open up at their end of the DQ.

“So,” she ventured into the staring contest. “Captain Grent, I’d like to get Atlantis back out into space as soon as possible. My engineers are due some R&R after our field repairs so if you and your people don’t need them, I’d like to release them and get your people working on my ship as soon as possible.”

“Three weeks from now,” Grent said. “Earliest I can do. I’ve got Somerville and T’lin coming in for scheduled repairs tomorrow and it’ll take three weeks before one of my teams is free to undertake work on your ship. Two weeks of repairs, longer if I need to pull teams for those other two ships.”

She furrowed her brows and looked to Ra-tesh’mi who just mouthed ‘Excelsiors’ to her. “I’m sorry, are you bumping my ship, which can barely maintain warp eight at the moment, for two Excelsior class starships?”

“I’m bumping your ship for two starships whose captain’s scheduled their maintenance and repairs months in advance,” he replied. “Do you have a problem with that?”

Before she could reply, Ra-tesh’mi reached over and touched her arm, then spoke with a devilish grin on his face. “I think Captain, he probably just needs the time to catch up on modern starship design. After all, a skilled painter like Captain Grent here probably hasn’t painted a modern starship because he’s stuck in the past, artistically and technologically.”

She blinked, then smiled, feeling the anger building within the Tellarite, a slight hint of cinnamon and aged whiskey was how her own mind interpreted it. “You’re likely right Commander,” she replied, this time using the superior component of his rank.

“I don’t need the time to study up on your ship.”

“Then there’s clearly no need for a delay and your teams can start tomorrow. Or are they not as good as I’ve been led to believe?” Ra-tesh’mi snapped right back.

“My team is the best refit and repair team on the station. On any station.” He jabbed a meaty paw at his computer terminal and then jabbed a few more times. “Fine, you’ll get your slot. My people will be aboard tomorrow and we’ll be opening the nacelles up by the afternoon. I want your engineers out of my team’s way so I can get your ugly ship out of my slips as soon as possible.”

“I guess that’ll have to do,” she responded, then stood. “Captain,” she nodded to him and then turned to leave, though notably after a few steps without Ra-tesh’mi.

The Efrosian slowly got his own feet, then looked over the paintings, stroking his chin before nodding once at Grent. “I actually do like the Constitution Refit painting,” he said, then turned and left with Tikva, the door closing on a towering furnace of frustration and annoyance.

Both of them at least kept their cool till past a few doors and around a corner before cracking a short laugh. “All right Ra, for that display, let’s visit a bar and get a drink.”

“Oh, now that’s an order I can get behind.”