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Part of USS Atlantis: Mission 10 : A Blast from the Past

A Blast from the Past – 11

USS Atlantis
September 5, 2400
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Shuttlebay 2, housed in Atlantis’ stardrive section, was nominally the larger of the two bays, but always felt smaller to Mac. The width of the hull confined the bay, and the number of craft present always meant the bay was full most of the time, leaving little to no spare room. Especially with Harpy Flight usually sitting nose to tail down the centre-line for rapid launch if required. But today things were a little different.

Harpy Flight were out on a patrol, which meant flying circles around the still-webbed Breen battlecruiser, mocking it in its impotence. Several shuttles had also been dispatched planetside, to expedite the recovery of bodies and artefacts from the USS Aitu, with one carrying an explosive charge designed to ensure nothing would remain for hostile entities wishing a spiteful bit of harm.

If anyone was going to devastate the site, it would be them, they’d do it in one clean swoop and they’d leave nothing behind. It was the best they could do to preserve the honour of the Aitu.

That left the bay feeling larger than normal and most importantly emptier than normal, which made it an ideal spot for their soon-to-be visitor. No groundcrew were present, no guards either, just three officers, in dress uniforms, standing in the bay’s midpoint, staring out the open bay doors waiting for the Tholian shuttle that was due any minute.

“I feel ridiculous,” Mac said, breaking the silence.

“You look ridiculous,” Velan teased, a huge grin taking over his face as his friend turned on him with mock indignation. “We all look ridiculous.”

“Speak for yourselves gentlemen,” Adelinde said from Mac’s left. “The trick is tailoring and exercise,” she continued, giving her dress tunic one last tug downwards to eliminate a single stray crease in its infancy.

“Cheating,” Velan said. “Besides, the tailor on DS47 couldn’t fit me in before we had to leave. Become a department chief and Command issues you a few extra centimetres.” He patted his belly in emphasis, though for an Efrosian of his age Velan was in excellent shape. Just not Jefferies-tube rat fit anymore.

“And I’ve always worn the same size dress uniform,” Mac replied.

“I can tell,” Adelinde added, her tone conveying her less-than-impressed state of being. To an outside observer they all would have looked just fine, but the keen-eyed would have spotted the differences, though minor, that set them apart.

“I think Mac we might just have to admit that oh nevermind,” Velan had started with some particular train of thought but was interrupted by the sight of a small Tholian vessel approaching the shuttle bay, its design reminiscent of the larger web-spinners, just writ small.

The craft had appeared as if rising from the depths, before it turned around, slowly backing its way into the bay under its own power. A glance upwards and any of them could see the flight deck controllers shrugging at them through the windows, a sign they’d been told that tractor assistance wasn’t required. Tholians, Mac had concluded over the last day and a bit were very prone to self-reliance.

They’d declined any assistance in retrieving the Paperweight, aside from asking the Atlantis crew to clear away any equipment they’d left near the device. Even with Atlantis being vastly superior at the task of lifting it into space than their three ships combined, they’d insisted on handling the final hull clearing work and lift work. They’d declined any supply or repair assistance as well, but that could be easily chalked up to ‘operational security’ regarding their technology. Asking for anything would have been giving away even the tiniest piece of information.

But in the reverse however they had been more than willing to assist the Atlantis crew planetside in recovering any bodies or interesting artefacts. With the history between the Assembly and the Federation, and horror stories in the common zeitgeist, it had proved to be quite an interesting experience over the last day. Mac had opted to take his limited downtime in the main lounge just so he could catch the stories being told and he was already looking forward to, and dreading, writing this report about this whole situation.

Least of all because of his decision to hand over a highly sensitive neutronium-wrapped anti-proton beam generator to what was usually best described as an ambivalent enigma of an interstellar power.

What no one had warned any of the assembled party about was the radiant heat coming off the Tholian shuttle. Even at the far end of the bay they could feel the infrared radiation coming off the craft as it passed through the atmospheric shield. Before a protest could be raised, or a question asked, the craft settled on two of its fins and a single deployed landing leg, resting just inside the atmospheric shield and far from the officers. A loud hiss and a plume of white gas, rapidly expanding and dissipating, preceded the opening of a rear hatch and the arrival of a figure wearing an exo-suit right out of a holo-novel with insane robotic war machines.

The Tholian EV suit had little soft surfaces that Mac could see, the designers opting for a hard-shell, likely for pressure reasons. Its silver-white appearance, with orange and blue highlights, only worked to highlight the suit’s rugged and robust design, enhanced more as the entity, carrying a large container in its two arms, moved across the deck in a manner approaching scuttling.

“You’re up,” Velan said, patting Mac’s shoulder briefly. “You got this Mac.”

“Thanks.” The answer came quickly and was genuine. Mac truly felt he was ready for this. It was a simple request to meet face-to-face with a foreign captain. Captains and commanders did this all the time right? Right.

“Commander Kaltene, on behalf of the officers and crew of the USS Atlantis, I welcome you aboard our vessel.” He had rehearsed the line more than a few times, working up the best way to project, to load his words with confidence.

If Kaltene had any critiques, she kept them to herself. She set the slim elongated case down between them, then manipulated a device on the outside of her suit briefly, the front panel going from opaque to transparent, the whole front of the suit a giant visor. “Commander MacIntyre, on behalf of the Tholian Assembly, I accept your invitation to visit your vessel in the manner in which it was given – as a means to diplomatic reproachment.”

“I hadn’t meant it as such, merely as a courtesy, but I will not deny it could be seen as such, not will I be averse to such a possibility,” he stated.

Kaltene’s response wasn’t immediate, but hand gestures and body language gave away either thinking or speaking with someone else. “It is beyond the scope of my mission or duties to speak on behalf of the Assembly. I will relay your commitment to diplomatic reproachment to my leaders however, so that they may consider it.” She stepped back from the box at her fore-feet, indicating it with her hands. “I am however indebted to you for acquiescing to my demands/request.” The universal translator threw out both words in quick succession, an indication of a word with multiple translations. “This is not payment enough for that, but a mere token of my thanks.”

With a couple of head nods to prepare himself, Mac stepped forward, knelt and undid the latches on the case, testing them first for heat and surprised to find everything cool to the touch. Three latches on one side opened and he lifted the lid a little bit, then fully.

Three bolts of Tholian silk, one of a deep orange, almost the same colour as Kaltene’s carapace, and two that looked undyed, were stacked inside the case. Without even thinking he reached out to run his fingers along one of the bolts, just to confirm by touch that it was silk. “I, well, um,” he stumbled over his words before lowering the case lid and standing up. “I thank you for this generous gift. I have nothing to offer in return.”

“The component of the Great Destroyer, uncontested by you, was gift enough.” Kaltene’s response was quick this time. “I must decline the tour you offered earlier. We have a rendezvous to make.”

“I understand. We’ll still be here another few hours ourselves, so we’re more than happy to jam the Breen sensors to give your ships a clean escape. How long will the web last for?”

“Seven hours, sixteen minutes,” Kaltene answered after a moment’s hesitation. “I was led to believe that Starfleet were unreasonable, dangerously curious and unpunctual. I am pleased to see some of my assumptions were unfounded, at least regarding you Commander MacIntyre. This encounter will require a rewrite of the Assembly’s profile on you.”

And then without so much as a goodbye, Kaltene turned and returned to her shuttle, the hatch closing behind her and the craft easing out of the shuttlebay before zooming off to its mothership.

“A rewrite of the Assembly’s profile on you,” Adelinde repeated as she stepped up beside Mac, accompanied by Velan. “I think that’s the closest you’re going to get to a compliment.” She then leant down to inspect the contents of the case. “Impressive gift.”

“I’ll say,” Velan added. “Genuine, non-replicated Tholian silk. That stuff is worth a lot of favours and reputation. Or latnium on the capital markets.”

“And it all goes to the quartermaster’s office for now.” Mac declared. “Official gift-giving and all that.”

“Oh stuff the regs,” Velan said. “I won’t tell. Besides, you’ll look good in silk.”

“Regulations are regulations,” Adelinde added, getting a smirk from Mac. “Besides, he doesn’t have the legs for it. Doctor Pisani on the other hand…”

“Oh yes,” Velan was quick off the mark. “I’m sure she’d find a use for some of this.”

“I’m sure she would. But until the captain returns, it goes to the quartermaster. Now get to lifting you too.”

“Don’t we have staff for this?” Velan asked as he and Adelinde took and end each in the still empty shuttlebay. “I swear, never an enlisted man around when you want one.”

A few hours later, a change of uniform, some paperwork completed, and reports received, and Mac stepped out onto the bridge of the Atlantis from the ready room just as the shift change was getting underway. He caught the exchange of the keys, Rrr taking command of the watch, and declined when the Gaen offered them to him. “We’re all stowed away,” he reported to the Ops chief, handing over a padd. “All the Aitu deceased that we and the Tholians had ever detected are aboard. All shuttles, fighters and crew are aboard as well.”

“And the demolition charge on the surface?” Rrr asked.

“Let’s just say we don’t want to be in orbit when it goes off,” Mac said with a smile. “Get us underway to the rendezvous with the captain and when we’re a light-minute away from this place Ensign Ryuu will have the codes to detonate the device.”

“Right you are sir,” Rrr acknowledged. “Be glad to put the Breen to our backs and get the captain back aboard. Bet she’s had an interesting few weeks.”

That done, Mac could finally call it quits for the day. His plan was simple – head to his quarters, have some dinner and crawl into bed. The protest from his stomach was loud enough he was happy the turbolift was empty. But as he stepped into his darkened quarters he was greeted by a noise in protest from his bedroom at the external light spilling in. A quick investigation and a smile formed on his face before he backed out and retreated to the Captain’s Mess for now.

It would seem, not having had a chance to speak with Blake yet, she’d already decided where she was going to crash while her quarters were being repaired.

Comments

  • Ah I’m thoroughly enjoying seeing Mac in the captain’s spot. He is such a natural leader and he has proven himself with the Tholians and Breen now. I do hope we get to see more of him in command without being the XO!

    January 2, 2023