Part of USS Al-Batani: 001 – Uncertainty at Alim and Roosevelt Station: 001 – The Hunt

6: Beaming Down

USS Al-Batani - Bridge
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“Dropping warp… now.” Ensign Li Ling was an efficient pilot, and Al-Batani came out of warp just above the ecliptic of the Alim system, only a few minutes at impulse from their destination.

“Enter a parking orbit when we arrive.” Inaree squeezed the ends of the armrests of the command chair. Despite her rank, she hadn’t spent much time in starship center chairs. Still, this was routine duty – an easy thing. “Call Captain Enigma and Commander Kirlas to the bridge.”

“Aye.” Li Ling tapped her console. “Captain and First Officer to the bridge.”

By the time the two entered, together, from the aft turbolift, Al-Batani was in orbit in transporter range. Inaree vacated the center chair, and Enigma took it, Kirlas remaining standing at her side. Enigma’s slight height, small even among human women, always startled Kirlas when the two passed near each other – the captain’s presence made her seem taller.

“Report,” Enigma said. Her command voice was terse, firm. After some research into her background, Inaree had identified the accent as Acadian, from swamplands in the lower valleys of some of Earth’s many rivers, though other examples of that accent tended to be more relaxed, slower, than Enigma’s staccato delivery.

“We are in orbit now.” It was Fnorch who spoke, none of his frequent argumentativeness in his tone. The man could be exhausting, but on the bridge he was a consummate professional. He stood at the science console behind Enigma’s left shoulder. “Already receiving greeting messages from both colonies. A Starfleet runabout, the Puyallup, is in orbit in passive mode.”

“That would be our other crew members,” Enigma said. “Transmit standard greetings. Have the colonies managed to agree on a meeting place?”

“Yes.” Fnorch tilted his head. “A villa owned by one of the Cardassian colonists… Lamek. We have transport coordinates.”

Enigma nodded. “They’ll want senior officers there for the initial greeting, at least. Inaree, Kirlas, Li Ling, with me. Fnorch, the bridge is yours. Have Puyallup moved to the aft shuttlebay and fit for scientific duty.”

The named officers moved to the turbolift, though as they went Inaree looked curiously at Li Ling. Why had the captain chosen the helmswoman to join them on the mission?

“What do you think we’ll find?” That was Kirlas, and she spoke to Li Ling. “I’ve never been to a Cardassian’s home.”

“If he follows the style of other Cardassian businessmen?” Li Ling spoke quietly. “Ostentation. While there’s a movement on Cardassia to resurrect old native art styles, their businesspeople tend to show off their wealth with alien works from the far reaches of space. Given the size of his villa, I won’t be surprised it he greets us wearing Tholian silk, and tries to make a gift of some to the captain as well.”

Ah. Inaree didn’t know much about Li Ling’s homeworld, but it was a mercantile power – a Federation member that maintained a currency even after joining – and near the Cardassian border. That would explain why she was along.

“Try not to judge,” Enigma said. “Even if invited, we are interlopers, and it isn’t our job to determine the merit of the people we’re visiting. Only to help them sort their problems.”

The lift door opened, and the party stepped onto the transporter pad. Enigma spoke.