Part of USS Ulysses: Wings of Salvation and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

CH6 – Never, ever, ask that question…

USS Temeraire
May, 2400
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Silence.

Silence that screamed with sin. It was unnatural; a void refusing to be filled to prolong the agony and suffering of the blue-skinned woman occupying the space that silence so readily filled.

Silence gnawed at her insides, hanging in the air like the suspended moment before a falling glass shattered on the ground. The silence was like a gaping void, needing to be filled with sounds… words… anything. The silence was poisonous in its nothingness, cruelly underscoring how frantic the approaching storm they faced truly was. The silence was eerily unnatural, like a dawn devoid of birdsong. Silence clung to the Ready Room like a poisonous cloud that at any moment could choke the life from the lone occupant. Silence seeped into her every pore, like a poison slowly paralyzing her from either speech or movement.

“Would you like to pause your log entry?”

Shaken back to the here and now by the computerized voice of the main computer, the Andorian commander of the Temeraire turned her head briefly to look at her computer console. It seemed she had drifted into a land of silent contemplation whilst dictating her personal log, for god knows how long, but long enough for the computer to detect the silence and prompt her back to life.

“Negative. Continue log,” the Andorian responded as she pushed her chair away from the desk and gradually rose to her feet. It took mere steps before she was at the coffee table and pouring herself a mug of what was now lukewarm coffee. A sip later, she took a few strides to the window of her private office and glared out into the abyss far beyond the bulkheads of her vessel.

“As twilight approaches, with the Temeraire still at warp and headed for Starbase Twenty-Three, I find myself feeling nauseous as the reality of our situation sinks in,” she spoke quietly, her voice almost at a whisper as she let her thoughts out into the open. “We’re being tasked with supporting a world on its quest to self-determination, yet I struggle to even determine whether or not I am the right person to lead this crew,” she sighed, lowering her head and closing her eyes, hands bracing the bulkhead either side of the window for support. “Despite the progress we’ve made in the last few days, words like trust, loyalty and respect keep getting tossed around with worrying ease. How can any captain, let alone one with as little experience as myself, hope to help such a world when one’s own crew is distrusting and questioning each other’s loyalty?” It felt awful to have these doubts, especially as she had already had to overcome them once she had taken command of the Santa Fe from Captain Farrell, but had been dealt with a blessed hand that day. Everyone on the ship had wanted her, rather than someone else, to step-up after the Captain’s promotion. Here, it was a different story… and it felt like Targ dung.

Thankfully, her dwelling was cut short when the internal communications array chirped to life and caused her to turn away from her window and back to the desk in order to pause her log. “sh’Elas here, go ahead,” she called out after pressing a button on her computer console.

“Noli here Captain,” the familiar voice of the ship’s security chief responded, “your presence is requested in the observation lounge by Commander Gor, ma’am.”

Letting out a sigh that was no doubt audible to the Lieutenant on the bridge, the Captain reached out and grabbed her uniform jacket. Slinging it over her shoulder, hooked on the end of her right-hand index finger, the Andorian reached down again. “I’m on my way,” she said, then terminated the call.

Trekking across the bridge to the observation lounge was hardly like trekking across the Himalayas, but it still seemed long enough for her to contemplate what the Commander could possibly want from her in the observation lounge that he couldn’t talk about in her ready room. She didn’t have long to wait in order to find out.

Entering the briefing room, she was taken aback by the presence of not only the XO, but also the Counsellor and the Vulcan strategist they had taken aboard just yesterday. All three of her officer’s were glued to the large wall display that dominated the aft bulkhead of the senior staff’s private meeting place. Since their initial briefing, the Andorian had ordered the briefing room to become an old fashioned situation room of sorts. Consoles displayed real time events from across the Star Empire, the holographic display at the center of the main table had readouts and schematics of the Kunhri system twirling around a depiction of the planet itself, whilst the main viewscreen was dominated by reports from the Federation News Service. Somewhat bizarrely it seemed like the New Service was getting information and sharing it with the galaxy long before Starfleet Intelligence seemed able to, and it was this information that the officer’s were so glued to that they even failed to notice her arrival.

Stepping towards the small gathering, the captain slung her jacket onto the table top and folded her arms across her chest. “What’s occurring?” she finally interrupted them.

“People…” Vasoch growled, “…that’s what’s occurring.”

Commander T’Prynn nodded respectfully to the captain before reaching out to press a button on the screen. “I believe that you should be aware of the developing situation, Captain,” she told, then pressed on one of the various screens.

An image of a news reporter suddenly expanded to fill the screen, drawing emphasis to that particular bulletin. It also begged the question of how the hell an FNS reporter had gotten to a world in the Empire so quickly, and so freely.

“Thousands of Reman construction workers on the planet Kunhri IV, employed to assist with rebuilding efforts after a recent ecological disaster, have officially begun to strike today, protesting the news of the Federation’s imminent involvement in the Velorum Sector,” a Bolian man spoke, looking back at the scene behind him briefly before the clip changed to a snarling, grey-skinned, bald-headed figure.

“They think that we’ll complain once or twice and get over it,” said the agitated Reman. “This isn’t a minor inconvenience. Psi Velorum doesn’t dictate things here in the Kunhri system! The only thing worse than a Romulan is a Federation,” the man moaned before moving off in frustration.

“Oh, nice,” Tharia smirked, shaking her head as she perched on the edge of the table that dominated the room, “So thrilled that the locals can’t wait for us to arrive,” she mocked, exchanging sarcastic glances with the Counsellor briefly.

“We’ve received word that despite major technological issues and a lack of food resources, many on Kunhri are unhappy at the idea of trading one occupier for another; even one with a face as friendly as the Federation. Past events have not been forgotten out here, on the outer rim of Romulan territory,” the Bolian continued his report, “Officials in the provisional government believe that the Federation’s assistance, along with intensive participation and support from the Reman populace, will be a deciding factor in any rebuilding process that can take place. However, in the face of this incident and many more like it, in a situation that many Remans are taking as a personal affront to their abilities, any progress towards their end goals may be endangered.”

The screen changed once again to the figure of a Romulan, flanked by two burly, menacing looking Remans. “What we have done cannot be undone, unless we permit it,” said the man to a mixed Reman/Romulan audience. “Unless we allow our bonds of friendship, forged in strife and truth and hard-won victories, to take precedence over any support the Federation may give us. We must send a clear message to the Starfleet interlopers; we don’t want, or need, your help! We can do this on our own!”

Launching herself forward at speed, the Captain pressed the mute button in the bottom left and let the figures on the screen prattle on like some sort of twentieth century Terran mime act (god, how she loved old Earth entertainment, but now was not the time).

Glancing at the Captain, the Counsellor slowly edged herself away from the visibly annoyed mistress of the Temeraire, able to sense the rising tide of frustration that threatened to engulf the blue-skinned woman.

“What’s wrong with you?” Tharia asked, glancing at the Counsellor.

“Nothing, nothing,” Vittoria retorted instantly. Wide eyed, she averted her gaze to the floor and looked uncomfortable for a time.

Shaking her head, the Captain shrugged. “Commander,” she addressed T’Prynn as she went back to folding her arms across her chest in a protective manner. “I’m not going to lie. We’re not even there yet and I’m feeling a little insulted. We never asked to be involved here. I was all happy and ready to speed off into the far, distant reaches of the Alpha Quadrant, only to have our asses dragged all this way for, it seems, a populace that doesn’t even want our help.”

“Starfleet Command and the Federation Council believe that responding to the pleas of the provisional government is a matter of significant importance,” Commander T’Prynn responded to the Captain’s statement, “We face the collapse of an entire empire, so it is incumbent on us to provide any and all assistance required of us.”

“I wish Starfleet Intelligence would give their bloody heads a collective wobble,” the executive officer of the Temeraire growled, “How can it be incumbent on us to get involved if our very presence brings us into conflict with the locals?” Vasoch fumed, his eyes still glued on the view screen and the developing situation.

Tharia smiled for a moment. It was clear that Vasoch was every bit a Tellarite, complete with his fiery temperament and his ability to argue and debate anything, or anyone. Even a logician like T’Prynn.

“I have garnered assurances that the protests are far from widespread, Commander. Our presence is both desired and required,” the Vulcan countered, as stoic as always, the hands clasped together behind her back aiding her in staying calm and poised.

“Alright, I’m calling it quits for the night. Keep up to date on developments and I’ll see you all in the morning,” sh’Elas pushed herself off of the table, stifling a yawn as she moved. “I can’t wait to see how we can make this disaster even more spectacular!” she remarked with her trademark wit and humour, leaving the senior officers to their business.

“We’re only at warp speed, lightyears from Romulan space, and we’re already causing trouble,” Vasoch grunted as he followed the Captain out of the briefing room, “what else could possibly go wrong?”

“Awwww man, you’ve done it now… What did you have to say that for?!” Vittoria exclaimed as she gave chase and followed after the XO. “Come on, sir. You’ve been around long enough to know you never, ever, ask that question!”

Watching the Betazoid chastise the smaller, yet higher ranked individual as they, too, left the room, a quizzically raised eyebrow signalled the confusion that the Vulcan was feeling.

Amid all of the uncertainty they faced, there was one near certainty she could rely on. This assignment was going to prove to be one of the more challenging of her very long career.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Kunhri III.

Reviewing the latest report compiled by various members of her department, Lieutenant Akaria Okan glanced up at the image which dominated the viewscreen, her expression troubled. Once a thriving planet, full of life, the world they now hurtled towards was now nothing more than a testament to a horror which had befallen the citizens who called the planet home.

They had no idea exactly what was awaiting them when they responded to the call for assistance from the fledgling government, but the poor people of Kunhri needed them more than ever. Even if only to determine that they didn’t want to be associated with the Federation on a long term basis. Self-determination was a universal right for all, of that she was certain. But even in the 25th century, such rights were being denied to countless people across the galaxy.Their intervention here at Kunhri was vital in this growing rebellion, and she was not afraid to say that she supported such movements. She just hoped the crew could give the people of Kunhri III what they desired.

Nursing a freshly replicated cup of hot chocolate, the Risian stood in command of the bridge, sighing heavily as she refrained from once again asking engineering if they could coax some more life out of the engines. Inwardly, she doubted they could ever get to the Kunhri system fast enough. And she had heard enough Bajoran, Cardassian and even Orion profanities in the last few hours to last a lifetime.

In the meantime, her orders from their captain were clear. With their brief stop over at Starbase Twenty-Three behind them, maintaining course and being on the lookout for any developments (by that, she was sure the captain had meant any possible Romulan sightings) that might be of interest to them.

A strange order, however, had piqued her curiosity. .Until further notice, the briefing room had been declared off limits by the executive officer, and that couldn’t possibly mean good news, could it?

Staring at the doorway to the briefing room, the entrance flanked by two of Lieutenant Noli’s most able henchmen, the scientist allowed her mind to run wild at the possibilities. Some were decidedly Vulcan in their nature, while some were downright inappropriate.

A huge grin filled the woman’s face as she glared at the door, her expression drawing the interest of the Bolian Operations chief who slowly sauntered towards his station.

“What’s got you so excited?” he quizzed, following the science officer’s gaze momentarily and between sips of his own beverage, noting briefly the security officers at the entrance to the briefing room. It wasn’t unheard of to have security officers present on the bridge, but far from frequent during peacetime. Starships were safe spaces, with visitors usually free to come and go as they saw fit (and within reason of course).

“Oh, nothing,” she smiled. She couldn’t very well explain to the Bolian that she was picturing the ship’s executive officer being hogtied upside down and being beaten by a bunch of furry, teddy-like critters, could she?

“My gold pressed latinum is on Commodore Ekwueme,” Henry Mitchell remarked somewhat absent mindedly whilst monitoring the helm of their pocket battleship.

“Probably just some stuffy diplomat…” the Bolian remarked with a shrug, moving off to take over his station at the front of the bridge.

“Probably…” Akaria responded wistfully, secretly praying for her version of events to be true.

If only the Risian had known about the true reality of what was to transpire in said room, and that it was far from the humorous anecdote she had in mind.

Comments

  • The cracks are starting to show! Tharia has been large and in charge as the new captain but now her insecurity is rearing its ugly head. I love the parallels you've drawn between the Reman's fledgling government and Tharia's own newness at being the one in command. You sure know how to craft the prose to convey that visceral sense of dread Tharia is feeling. The uncertainty of the Remans is also a compelling way to start this adventure. I can't wait to see how much harder that makes this humanitarian mission with Remans requesting, and others resisting, Starfleet aid. I enjoyed seeing it from such a first-hand perspective of the news broadcast. A cracking read!

    May 31, 2022
  • A fantastic addition to the story and they aren't even at SB23 yet! I cannot wait to see where this is going. The news report you have included give it a really sense of challenges and the dynamic situation that they will be walking into. It really will be a battle for the hearts and minds of the people in the Kunhri system. Also makes me thing that I need to capture that distrust for the federation in the system in my stories there as well. Great work!

    May 31, 2022
  • I like this sudden change in events where the population (though probably not all of them but a good majority) don't want the Federation's help which is interesting, to say the least. I am curious how this will go when they arrive, right now there are so many questions than answers that I can't wait to read what happens next in their adventures.

    June 1, 2022
  • Phenomenal output so far! I have to echo Brendan's comment that it seems like things are getting serious for Tharia now. I've enjoyed how lighthearted the beginning was compared to what the crew are about to get involved with. Of course, a healthy dollop of foreboding here in the story title, combined with Tharia's sense of foreboding that you wonderfully described in the first few opening paragraphs. The dark clouds are certainly beginning to gather both for the crew and in Tharia's mind. You've also built some wicked anticipation for whatever is about to take place in the briefing room!

    June 1, 2022