“I need those emitters online by fifteen-hundred hours,” Jen complained as he walked along deck eight with Lieutenant Tierra. “Or the captain won’t be able to activate the entire Emergency Holographic package as planned.”
“They’ll be ready, I promise Lukiz.” Tierra answered as they approached the nearest turbolift. “Anyway, we won’t be entering the nebula until later on in the evening, why does the captain want the holograms online so early?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Jen had no clue. “Those were his orders. I suppose with him being a former operations manager, a past experience has taught him better.” He offered as he tapped the call button for the lift
“I have to admit, I am not looking forward to our deep sleep tonight.” Tierra said as the doors opened allowing them to enter the cart.
“Deck one, bridge.” Jen ordered, “I’m not looking forward to being in stasis either. At least we know the ship is in good hands.”
“Don’t you mean fins?” Tierra corrected him.
“Indeed.” Jen said, as the lift took them upwards.
The lift arrived a few seconds later on the bridge and both of them walked out. Tierra went over to the engineering console at the back of the room, while Jen relieved his deputy at the ops station at the front.
The ship was getting close to the plasma field that was their next obstruction along their path to the Tkon outpost. He had already readjusted the main deflector and had loaded up the correct programs into the short range sensors that would calculate if a plasma storm was forming close to them. Bringing the ship’s transpectral sensor array online, a piece of the sensor gear that was only used when the ship had to navigate plasma fields, Jen wanted to help his former academy classmate as she piloted the ship through this next hazard. T’Rani, was not on the bridge yet. He knew that she was still resting in her quarters, most likely meditating. Jen had been worried about her for sometime. Since the Archanis Campaign and the loss of her husband, T’Rani had kept her focus on her work. Beforehand she would on occasions join him, Lenjir and a few others in the Auditorium for a meal or two. Now she rarely left the confines of her quarters unless she was on duty.
As he brought the array online, straight away the scanners picked up several objects ahead of them. Checking the readings twice, he was surprised to see that a small task group of ships laid ahead of them. Surprised that people would actually attempt to break the Belt of the Tkon Outreach, Jen wondered who they were and began the normal scans. As the captain was not present on the bridge, but Commander Duncan was, Jen turned around in his chair to face the first officer.
“Commander,” He said, grabbing the man’s attention. “I’ve just turned the transpectral sensor array online and I am seeing a few ships ahead of us in the plasma field.”
Looking up from the captain’s chair, Commander Duncan had been reading a PADD when he had been disturbed by the joined Trill. Duncan, like Jen, appeared surprised to hear they had encountered another group travelling along their path. “Do we know who they are?”
Looking back, Jen compared their energy signatures to anything in the Starfleet database and the results came back negative. “No, sir.”
Tapping his combadge, Duncan requested for the captain to join them on the bridge. Moments later the captain had left his ready room and asked what was happening. After being briefed, the captain ordered them to alter their course to approach the small flotilla. Calling up Flemen and Professor Shu’varn to the bridge, Captain McCallister was curious to know if their Pendari guest knew the unknown travellers.
Flemen walked out of the same turbolift that Jen had only just used with Tierra. Bopping his head slightly, to avoid the low beam, Shu’varn followed Flemen onto the bridge. Thankfully, the professor had decided to wear more clothing compared to the limited attire he had worn when they had rescued him outside the thermobaric clouds. Nevertheless his mighty build could still be seen through his clothing. Jen had struggled to look away at how attractive the man was and caught himself staring at him on a few occasions. Thankfully Shu’varn had not noticed.
After the captain had explained to the professor what they were seeing ahead of them, the Pendari agreed to take a look and soon enough was standing closely behind Jen. The joined Trill ops officer could feel Shu’varn almost touching him and the hairs on the back of his neck felt like they were standing up as goosebumps shivered down his spine.
“Lieutenant Commander Jen, would you be generous to show me their warp profiles?” Shu’varn asked.
Not replying with words, Jen just nodded and pulled up the sensor readings on his display which prompted Shu’varn to invade the ops officer’s private space as he leant in to read the console. “Ah, yes I know them.” He said and rubbed Jen’s shoulder as a sign of gratitude before looking back at the captain. Jen’s face went red and the Trill couldn’t believe how immature he was being.
“Who are they, Shu’varn?” Flemen asked. Formality between the lieutenant and the professor had appeared to drop as the two had spent a lot of time together in the past twenty-four hours.
“The Tok’lar’fern.” Shu’varn answered. “They’re an extremely religious civilisation, who believe the universe was created by gods they call the Originals.”
“Should we avoid them?” McCallister asked.
“They only become aggressive if you speak ill of their gods. In fact I spent some time with the Tok’lar’fern before I approached the Belt. Their religion and culture is built on many myths and legends from their past. They regularly come into the Belt and attempt to reach the centre of the Outreach, it’s a sort of pilgrimage for those with extreme beliefs.”
“Do they ever reach the centre?” Duncan questioned.
“No.” Shu’varn answered. “From what I found out no-one who takes on the pilgrimage returns home.”
“Do we know why?” Flemen wondered.
Shrugging his shoulders, Shu’varn wasn’t able to answer properly. “From what I can guess, their technology prevents them from passing through the toxic nebula. They believe if they can pass through it then they are cleansed and are able to approach the Vault of the Eternity Seed.”
McCallister was impressed with the Pendari’s knowledge but wanted to know more about what he had just said. “The Vault of what?”
“The Eternity Seed.” Shu’varn repeated. “The Tok’lar’fern are not the only civilisation in the region who believe that ‘when the sky burns and blood from the creator is dropped the cavern will open’ to reveal the Vault of the Eternity Seed.”
“And what is this seed?” Jen asked, staring at Shu’varn.
“No-one knows. Some think it is a source of extreme power, or a source of eternal life. Though many think it is a super weapon.”
“A doomsday device?” Duncan inquired as he crossed his arms. “So, let me guess these Originals, are they the Tkon?”
“Yes I believe they are.” Shu’varn answered. “But the Tok’lar’fern do not believe that.”
McCallister, who had gone quiet, was considering all of his options before him. “Well, I think it may be rude to fly pass without even saying a hello. Lukiz, send a general greeting on all channels, let them know we mean no harm.”
Jen nodded in acknowledgement of his orders and got on with the task at hand.
“Captain, one more thing you should know about the Tok’lar’fern.” Shu’varn added while Jen was busy, “their species is quite small.”
“Small?” McCallister repeated. “How small?”
“At least half my size, so can I suggest when they answer your hail you are sat down. They do not like tall people.” Shu’varn advised.
Looking at his officers, McCallister took the hint and indicated for them to sit down. Shu’varn sat next to Flemen on the small seat beside him.
Jen then noticed they were getting a response and he looked over his shoulder. “They’re responding to us sir.”
“Put them up.” McCallister ordered.
Slowly he opened his eyes, he blinked several times and then the painful and powerful effects of his drinking hit him hard. A wave of nausea and regret quickly followed. Looking around at his surroundings he soon worked out he was not in his own quarters and he turned his head to see who was beside him. More remorse flew over him.
Rubbing his face, Lieutenant Samris tried to slowly get out of the bed and then stopped as he realised he had no clothes on and he could not work out where any of his items were. Memories of last night started to flash through his mind. He remembered drinking an excessive amount of Romulan ale, singing with Tomaz and then the rest appeared to be a blur. However the memories of having sex with T’Rani was itched into his mind deeply.
He hated himself for it. Ever since she had lost her husband, she had approached Samris several weeks ago to ask for help with meditation and then they began undertaking Vulcan neuro-pressure. Numerous sessions in and the physical contact between them had turned sexual. Samris had felt like an idiot for allowing himself to give into it all, especially as he knew that T’Rani was still grieving in her own Vulcan way for her husband’s death. Nevertheless, being Romualn meant that he could endure the more intense neuro-pressure she wished to undertake to help her sleep and rest.
Having to leave her bed naked, Samris worked carefully in almost pitch black darkness trying to find his clothing. He found his vest and pulled it over him as quickly as possible. Next he found his combadge, but still couldn’t find any of his underwear or trousers. Stepping out of her bedroom, Samris entered the lounge area and noticed that a majority of T’Rani’s uniform lay spread across the floor and over the armchair. He still couldn’t see any of his.
He then heard a murmur and stopped in his tracks, realising that there was someone else in the room with him. Turning around he looked over and instantly his eyes grew big as he saw Tomaz sitting up from the sofa which he had been lying on. Tomaz, who was also nursing a hangover, took in one deep breath from his breathing masks and stopped in shock of seeing his friend’s almost naked body.
“Samris, put something on!” Tomaz said in protest. “I don’t want to see any of that!”
Covering his private area up with his hands instantly, Samris told his friend to keep his voice down. “Do you know where we are?” He whispered.
Tomaz looked around and then realised that he wasn’t in his quarters or Samris’. “No?” He answered back. “Where are we? Is this Craigen’s quarters?”
“No, T’Rani’s. We need to leave, now!” Samris remarked.
As quick as a rapid-fire torpedo launcher, Tomaz got up when he realised where they were. How the hell did they end up here? He couldn’t remember anything. He looked down and saw he was shirtless. “Where’s my shirt?”
“Nevermind your shirt, where are my bottoms?” Samris pleaded.
Looking around the room, Tomaz couldn’t see them. “We really need to get out of here. Where is the lieutenant commander?”
“Asleep.” Samris said through gritted teeth, still holding on to his private area.
Picking up his combadge from the floor, Tomaz found his shirt and instead of putting it on, he threw it over to his friend. “I may regret this, but put them around your waist for now and let’s go! I will not be here when she wakes up.”
Grateful for the help, Samris fashioned some sort of cover up with Tomaz’s shirt around his waist and the two approached the exit. Looking around the deck, they saw that the coast was clear and they ran out, heading towards the nearest turbolift.
“Why the hell did we end up there, with our clothes off?” Tomaz asked as they got into the lift and he ordered for it to take them to his quarters which was closer than Samris’ cabin.
“Long story, but suffice to say I can’t remember much.” Samris said, trying to avoid the difficult topic of letting his friend know he was having regular sex with the Vulcan pilot.
“I’m certain we’ve broken a few rules.” Tomaz said as the turbolift deposited them on his deck and he looked to see if it was clear.
“You’re probably right, but let’s keep this quiet. No need to bring it up in the staff meeting later.” Samris suggested as they dashed down the corridor to Tomaz’s quarters.
“Agreed!” Tomaz called back as they approached their destination and got in without anyone seeing them.
Sipping on a large mug of raktajino, Commander Hunsen continued to read through the data that Starfleet had sent them about these Tkon beacons. He had planned to become familiar with it before they reached their destination. If the beacon that was believed to be there was damaged, he would be the one leading the efforts to repair it. As he wanted to focus on his work, he had decided to sit in a quiet area of main engineering without anyone interrupting him. Sat on the top level, he was reading the PADD when his thoughts were disturbed.
“There you are.” spoke Doctor Slyvexs.
Looking up from the reports, Hunsen looked over to the chief medical officer, who had just climbed one of the many ladders. “You okay doc?” Sensing she was, he was more curious to know what she wanted.
In her hand was another PADD, she brought it over to him. “Yes, all ship-shape thank you.” She replied. “I wanted to let you know that we are ready for our stay in stasis and we’ve even been able to build one for our Pendari friend.”
“I didn’t know we had made friends with the good professor?” Hunsen questioned.
“He seems nice enough and from what I hear is becoming quite a helping hand with this Tkon business.” Slyvexs stated.
“Not quite a full helping hand.” Hunsen shared by waving the PADD in his hand. “The captain still hasn’t told him what we have to do when we reach the center.”
“Do you think he will?” Slyvexs asked.
Shaking his head, Hunsen replied with a simple no before clarifying his answer further. “I sense the captain is worried that sharing the knowledge may not be safe. I mean we don’t know if this guy is going to remain all nice and friendly, or that rage that Craigen mentioned might appear as we have kept things from him.”
“True, but there’s only one of him against all of us.” Slyvexs remarked. “I just hope he doesn’t wake up earlier than the rest of us.”
“Let’s hope not doc.” Hunsen agreed. “Fancy grabbing something to eat?”
“You definitely read my mind there.” Slyvexs answered. “That sounds like a great idea to me, Tremt.”
Getting up, Hunsen offered his arm to her which she accepted by linking hers into his as they left engineering to head out to find somewhere to get some late lunch.