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Part of USS Denver: Prologue

The Wonderful Emperor of Talaria

Grand Palace of the Narlin Emperor, Talaria
May 21, 2394
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Ethan felt a little underdressed in his Starfleet dress uniform.   Beyond that part, he was excruciatingly uncomfortable and absently tugged at the collar. Trinity opted not to wear a uniform opting for a sleek black dress and a pair of matching pumps that made her nearly as tall as his six-foot three inches. 

Their escorts ridiculously wore full plate armor. The curved plates were polished to a mirror shine. Surcoats of crimson red and the arms of the Narlin Empire embroidered in gold thread covered their breastplates. Capes hung from their pauldrons cascading down their backs the blood-red contrasting with their snow-white hair. The Narlins wore their hair to the waist pulled into a fighting plait bound with intricate brass rings. 

All six of the Royal Guards were at or near seven feet tall and carried a shield in their left hand and a ten-foot pike in their right. A sword swung from their belts on the right hip, and incongruously a phaser was holstered on their right hip and set up for a cross-body draw. A conical Norman style helm, topped with some ostentatious red feather, completed the look. 

The heavy wooden doors to the throne room were parted by sharp dressed guards in formal black military uniforms.  A projectile rifle was slung over their shoulders and a phaser pistol on sat on their right hips.  

The dark grey stone walls of the throne room were exposed and discolored by a millennia of time.  In some places moss grew along the walls.  The ceiling was supported by intricately carved beams, once a rich yellow, now a dark brown.  The carvings resembled grape vines climbing up the wall and across the wooden planks of the roof.  On both sides to the throne room were hearths and a fire blazing merrily away, but providing little warmth in this stone cold room and casting an orange glow upon the granite floor.

At the end of the room was a low dais with a throne in the center. It too was carved to symbolize nature with the arms and back representing trees, birds and flowers.  The throne was  flanked by similar,  yet smaller seats for the consort and heir apparent. Both were unoccupied.  

The emperor stood when they entered.   He was a tall man, and powerfully built.   The bulging muscles could still be seen through the loose fabric of his robes belted at the waist with an ornate long sword hanging from it. His skin was a dark blue with an almost purple hue. His wore his silvery white hair was worn loose and his long sweeping pointed ears jutted out and past the back of his head.  The hair itself cascaded down his shoulders and back beyond  his belt.  He wore a silver circlet shaped like a stag’s antlers that came to a point just above the bridge of his nose and disappearing into the hairline. 

“Your Majesty,” the guard captain started, “May I present to you Commander Ethan Talon of Terra Alpha and is wife the Lady Trinity.”

Magus Stormtalon was fairly young as far as emperors go approaching his tenth decade. His movements were deliberate and sure as he rose from the throne and stepped down from the dias to approach the human and his wife.  “Talon?  I know that name.”

“Yes, your majesty,” Ethan began.  “My mother made first contact with your people fifteen years ago.”

“The short female with hair the color of fire,” Magus said describing Rebecca Talon. 

Ethan chuckled,  “Mom is actually fairly tall for a woman, and her hair has pretty much turned white.”

“Aww yes,” the Emperor said thoughtfully.  “You humans live half as long as we do.”

“It is our failing,” Ethan joked.

Magus laughed politely.  Diverting his attention to Trinity he bowed graciously, “The Lady Trinity.  I am honored to make your acquaintance.”

Trinity could feel her cheeks getting warm as she received such pomp from the leader of an entire society.   “The honor is all mine your majesty.”

“Come!” Magus said leading them  to a table located in the center of the hall and room for the seating of twenty or more. “I have taken the liberty of instructing our chef to prepare a human delicacy of hot dogs and hamburgers.  He could not figure out the root beer so I trust that our spring wine will do in its stead. It is of a very good vintage,” Magus assured them.

“I’m sure it is,” Ethan replied amused at what they thought was a delicacy. 

“We have a tradition from where I am from,” Trinity said with a smile.  “We grill hamburgers and hotdogs on an open flame in the hottest months of the year, especially on Independence Day.”

“Independence Day?” Magus asked confusion in his voice.

“A vestigial holiday on Earth,” Ethan replied. “There was a nation state that had gained independence from another nation station.  Of course the nation states don’t exist as such, but out of tradition many still celebrate the holiday as an excuse to party, and many don’t even know why they do. It’s just an excuse to get together and drink copious amounts of alcohol.”

Magus chuckled amused by the description. Many things done on Talaria were done in a similar fashion, and he understood all too well. “We have Unification Day.  We celebrated the surrender of the final independent kingdom nearly two millennium ago. It marks the day my ancestor, Youlan the Great, became emperor of all of Talaria. This castle,” He gestured around him, “Was once part of the Kingdom of Tamerale.  It was built over two-thousand years ago by King Tramane Stormrage. When Youlan killed him at the Battle of Ev’tel he moved his seat of power from Kormel to here.”

They spent the next two hours talking of history and eating a meal that would never been served at an official function on Earth. Secretly Ethan thought that was a missed opportunity. Sometimes official functions had too much flare and it detracted from what was important.  The spring wine was very good and after only two glasses he had a pretty good buzz.

Wiping the corners of his mouth with a napkin Magus sat back, “So tell me, Ethan, Commander of Starfleet. What is your reason for coming to Talaria. What can I offer you that Starfleet cannot already do for itself?”

Ethan nodded. He knew sooner or later the reason for his visit would have to been made clear.  “I am forming a Covert Operations team under Starfleet Intelligence.  I am asking if we could negotiate the use of one your cloaking devices.”

Magus crossed his arms looking his guests up and down.  For a moment Ethan feared he had offended the Narlin, but a smiled cracked at the corner of his mouth. “You have come to us for the one technology that you do not have access to?”

“That’s the long and short of it,” Ethan responded.

“What of the Klingons or Romulans? Could you not use one of theirs?”

“We could,” Ethan replied.  “I know a few Ferengi merchants that can get me one if I wanted to, but your cloaks operated differently, and I think that might make it a little harder for it to be defeated.  In short, our enemies won’t be expecting it.”

“That is a fair argument,” Magus replied. “I will provide you with a cloak, but with conditions.”

“I cannot trade certain technologies, but I can provide a food replicator under the condition that you agree to official diplomatic relations with the Federation.”

Magus waved his hand dismissively, “That is an agreement for another day.  I tell you what I will do.  I will loan you a cloak in exchange that you loan the replicator to us.  We have many hungry people.  A single replicator won’t feed a world, but it will make that task easier.”

“I can agree to that,” Ethan replied.

“One last thing,” Magus said. “I wish for a liaison on your crew; someone who can maintain the cloak, and ensure our ways are kept.”

Ethan and Trinity exchanged looks.  That wasn’t a request that they were expecting. In silent agreement Ethan stated, “No one joins my crew without my consent.  I will meet with your liaison, and if they meet with my approval you have a deal. If not, I will still loan the replicator but you can keep your cloak.”

 

Viscountcy of Verona, Hylon Territories-

The Uchelcastel Estate was located on the far Western coast of the Western continent.   Rolling green hills sprawled to the edge of a massive ocean, the waves breaking on the white sands of a beach.  Fields of a green leafy plant with pink berries made up row after row all the way to a massive stone manor house with barns, and various other buildings constructed of the same native stone.

While old, Uchelcastel Manor wasn’t nearly as ancient as Magus’ castle in Ev’tel.  Uchelcastel was built during a time of peace and its lack of military fortification and consideration was obvious sitting in a little hollow surrounded on three sides by hills with only a view of the western sea.

Ethan sat in the backseat with Trinity and one of Magus’ aides of some sort of car, powered by some unknown technology.  The wheeled vehicle bounced over the rough patches in the gravel road.  “It’s beautiful.   It reminds me of Napa Valley in California,” Trinity commented of the countryside. 

Ethan grunted, “I prefer the mountains.”

“This is Hylon country,” the aide said.  “This is where most of our spring wine comes from.”

“What is a Hylon?” Trinity asked.

“Hylons are an offshoot of Narlins,” the aide explained.   “Smaller and more Human like, but skilled fighters.  Without Hylon bows there would have been no unified Talaria.  They are also skilled in the distillation of spirits including Hylon Whiskey and Spring Wine. Uchelcastel does spring wine. I believe some of it was served to you during your meal with the Emperor.  He takes a portion of the manor’s production as part of annual rents.”

“We had a similar system on Earth know as Feudalism,” Ethan remarked.  

He aide thought for a moment, “Aw yes. You are correct.   We were most intrigued that you moved away from that system.  Of course we do not have bond servants or any form of slaves.  Everyone on Talaria is free and is paid for their labors.  Are not rents any different from property taxes that were accessed up until a few hundred years ago on your planet?”

Ethan raised an eyebrow in thought, “I never really thought of that, but you might be right.  We don’t use money now so taxes aren’t really a thing in our society anymore.  There are some exceptions like the Ferengi and a few odd colony worlds.”

“You don’t use money? How does your society get the incentive to innovate and grow?”

“We live in a post scarcity society where all our needs are met.  We grow because we wish to better ourselves.   Though,  I agree that it encourages sloth is some people but overall I think we are better off.  I live on Terra Alpha.  Years ago our colony founders blended a capitalist and post capitalist economy by providing basics, but nothing else.  If you wanted more you have to work for it, and pay for it. Terra Alpha is thriving, but I don’t know if that is or isn’t the answer.  That’s probably best left up to the philosophers and economists.”

The aide smiled, “And they will certainly never agree.”

Ethan grinned, “Never.”

Their car pulled up to the front of the manor house, and a very young Narlin child opened the door.  He bowed to the visiting dignitaries.   “Welcome to Uchelcastel Manor.  Lady Audren is expecting you. This way my lords,” he said as he lead them up the stone steps.  The doors automatically parted and swung outward to lead them into the foyer. A grand staircase of white marble directly in front of them ascended upward to a second story.   

The boy, for that was who he was.  Had he been human he could not have seen more than twelve summers. He led them into an adjacent sunroom off of the foyer. There were massive windows facing west where the green vineyard faded into the white-yellow of the sand of the beach and the blue of the ocean beyond stretching into the horizon could be seen.  The room itself was exquisitely furnished with couches lining the far wall.  The floors were carpeted in fine rugs of red and gold.

After they were seated a Hylon wheeled a cart into the room with steaming teas and various baked goods which included a biscuit like bread wrapped in leaves.  Ethan and Trinity thanked the Hylon servant and helped themselves to the refreshments.  It wasn’t long before a slender woman dressed in loose fitting  white robes made of a soft material.

“Lady Audren,” Ethan greeted standing as she entered.

“Sit, please.  I have little use for these silly formalities.  Especially here. What brings you to Uchelcastel Manor?”

Ethan glanced at Trinity and she handed Audren a piece of rolled up paper with the Imperial seal.  Emperor Stormtalon seems to think you would be able to help us.”

Audren flicked the wax seal free of the letter and unrolled it to read the introduction written in the Emperor’s own hand. After a moment she set the letter down and leveled her gaze upon Ethan.  “I spent some time amongst your people. It is probably why I was chosen for this assignment.” She held up the letter for emphasis, “Do you know what this means?”

He shook his head, knowing what the letter likely contained, but not the consequences of said letter, and that was what he was certain was what was causing such angst for their host. “I cannot say for sure Lady Audren.”

“After the war I swore I would never wear a uniform again.  I walked away from the military.  I walked away from Talaria for a time. For a time I even spent some time in the Federation. Served on several Starfleet ships as a civilian learning what your people are about.”

“Well, that explains why Stormtalon chose you,” Ethan added.

“That and the ship I served on was your mother’s.  It was the Erebus that took me from my home.”

Ethan grinned, “So how about now? Will you answer the call? You know as well as anyone about the famine that plagues your people.  This could be an important step in forming an official alliance with your people, and possibly even entry into the Federation.”

Audren considered the man that sat before her, and after a moment of silence she nodded her head, “I will be your military liaison for you.”

“Welcome to the Zebulon Pike then,” Ethan said with a grin and extended a hand for t hem to shake on.