Part of USS Altai: Spectres in the Dust

2 of 3

Continued from 1 of 3
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Astrid swallowed, her throat was parched.  She hoped that this “drinking” ceremony would actually net something for her to drink too.

She wiped sand from the corners of her lips and steadied herself for what would come.  “Brown Tree honors me with his patience,” she said with a polite smile. “Pardon this one for her ignorance.”

Magara offered a simple smile, starting to get more used to humanoid expression – the great dromedarian alien took a few steps forward and placed a firm arm on her shoulder “The Black Sun has tried more, than any other to understand this one’s culture.” he said simply “The second, of three begins now. And of the choice, it shall be the Black Sun to make. Be it challenge, or refreshment – the choice is not this one’s to make. But, as is tradition, Creation must be the factor to matter…” he spoke, taking a few deep breaths of the scorching air, feeling the trinary suns upon his neglected skin, and the hot wind move through into his lungs- it didn’t feel quite right of course, as he had to adjust the temperature to human tolerances, not that 40° Celsius was by any means tolerable.

Astrid glanced around shielding her eyes against the suns. “The desert isn’t my…” she hesitated looking for the right words.  “The desert isn’t my habitat.  Back home we could ski or sled in the winter. And in the summer mountain bike, or kayak. But, the choice is mine?”

“The choice belongs to the Black-Sun alone, if land of…’Kai-ak’ and ‘Ski’ is the desire, then there this illusion shall become.”

She nodded and sighed thinking feeling vaguely ridiculous.  She knew she was over thinking this.  “Well, we are both warriors or sorts. What about a phaser competition?”

“If that, is the wish, then it shall be done.” Magara responded.

“Yes, let’s do that. Simple, to the point and I think we both understand those rules.” She said with her hands on her hips.

Magara nodded, placing the wooden staff back in the center of the circle that they had dueled in. “This old one cannot remember many rules, but is sure enough that it can be done.” he spoke “The Black-Sun may load the program when ready.” he said, placing a fresh cigar in his mouth, and pulling his phaser- and using it’s muzzle to slowly heat up the end of it.

“Computer import and overlay Starfleet phaser qualification program 1-Beta and set to level two difficulty,” Astrid said. The computer beeped and several target drones appeared over the alien landscape darting randomly in the sky.  “Let’s do one round, most targets hit?” she asked as she picked up the holographic phaser the computer provided her.

“Begin sixty second round in 3…2…1,” the computer announced.

Mags let out a animalistic grunt as the holographic creatures began flying around – his old eyes spotting each, and he began firing the phaser nearly immediately – but he did not land all of his strikes, an observant eye would note that he seemed to be instinctually leading his targets, perhaps a leaveover from his years of firing traditional ballistic weapons, rather than phasers or other-such energy weapons, whom connected virtually instantly.

Truth be told Astrid wasn’t at the top of her game at the moment.  At her last phaser qualification she aced it with a 99% hit ratio.  It wasn’t something she particularly enjoyed,  but she was good at it. At least normally she was.

She swore as she’d missed a third target drone driving it straight into Magara’s line of fire which the computer dutifully beeped and tallied a “hit” for her opponent.

“Lucky break,” she said to her companion as she fired, and this time it was a direct hit.

Magara chortled “Is there such a thing?” he asked, taking a few more shots up at the drones – downing a few more. Both of their skills were immense, that much was clear. Mags had started pulling ahead in points, but had missed just a few important ones – allowing Vogler to reassert herself in the competition. “The Black-Sun is skilled, it is certain.”

“Expert marksman at the Academy,” she said with no hint of bragging.   Just a simple statement of fact. “And you as well Brown-Tree.” She pressed the trigger three times in rapid succession downing three drones in a row. “Though, neither of us would be on the team if we were slouches.”

“Magara is not fond of phasers…” He muttered, “This old one prefers the feel of a true blast in the palm, the scent of sulfur” he said, pointing again and pressing down on the trigger. It was almost neck and neck, with Astrid only hardly in the front, as the timer began counting down. “Phasers are…” he stopped shooting, slowing and looking at the weapon “A pacifier. A stopper. Mercy is something that was taught to this one by Starfleet, this is a weapon of Mercy.” he remarked, allowing Astrid to down the final targets, before slowly holstering his weapon.

With the completion of the event the computer announced the winner which she didn’t even pay attention to.  The computer automatically removed those elements and they were back to the desert of Magara’s home.

Sitting in the warm sand she forced herself to relax. “It is also a weapon of destruction.  The settings range from stun to overload and explode.   It’s a tool, and like any tool it can be used for good or ill.  It can build or destroy.  The same is true for your bombs or whatever you call them. Though,  they are a bit less of a precision instrument.”

Magara huffed a bit “When the Black-Sun ages to be as old as the Brown-Tree, then becoming set in ways is to be expected. The hand and eye have been trained in the War-herd for decades. Ballistic weapons were what we had used. There is no mercy to be had, with a weapon of ballistics.” he stated, taking a seat next to her. The coarseness and once oppressive heat seemed to almost fade away, and instead, the amber hues of the trinary system above began to glint upon a nearby dune, which fluttered with life not noticed before. A hidden oasis appeared for a moment, and enormous rocky arches and outcroppings could be seen – painted with symbols of the long distant past.

“This one” Magara said, patting her shoulder “Has the victory.” he said, offering a smile.

She climbed to her knees and stood,  “Okay lead the way.”

“There is one task remaining, the Holy Third…Prepare yourself.”