Part of USS Sarek (Archive): Can’t Pakled a Horse to Water

Can’t Pakled A Horse To Water – 2

USS Sarek, Deck 1
Late February 2401
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“–by combining the sensor logs from eleven starships in Task Force 17, I was able to analyse the macroscale changes in solar winds patterns across the Typhon Expanse,” said newly-promoted Lieutenant Junior Grade T’Kaal.  

Standing at the mid-point of the conference table, the science officer swept a hand through the air to change the orientation of the hologram that was projected before her.  In her understated Vulcan way, T’Kaal’s eyes remained locked onto the holographic representation of two gormaganders.  Otherwise, she appeared oblivious to one of the living specimens being clearly visible through the observation lounge’s viewports behind her.

“Based on my modelling,” T’Kaal continued with her explanation, “Seven star systems proved to contain atypical alpha particle levels in quantities great enough to attract any gormagander in the sector.  That was how we located these two gormaganders here, in the Corycus system.”

The longer she listened to T’Kaal’s monotone drudgery, the more bile Yuulik could feel rising in her throat.  Some weeks back, Captain Taes had encouraged Yuulik to showcase more of the talent on the science team, rather than delivering every report for herself.  Listening to T’Kaal drone on about corotating interaction regions, Yuulik thought she saw Doctor Nelli’s eyestalks drooping in lassitude.  She most definitely caught a stifled yawn from security boy Kellin Rayco.  Clearly, Yuulik deduced, Captain Taes’ recommendation had been a mistake and Yuulik couldn’t contain herself any longer from moving the senior staff briefing along.

“Gormaganders are unreasonably food focused for sentient beings,” Yuulik said.  She watched T’Kaal’s face when she did so and the unflappable Vulcan didn’t even look surprised by Yuulik’s interruption for one picosecond.  “Their desire to eat outstrips all other instincts, even self-preservation.”

Adding a brief, if insipid, commentary, Kellin chimed in to say, “Relatable.”

Although Yuulik frowned at Kellin to show her displeasure at being interrupted, she couldn’t even really be mad at him.  His joke appeared to revive Nelli from her reverie and even Taes smiled fondly at him.

“Their numbers have dwindled so low,” Yuulik went on, “gormagander sightings by starships have become exceedingly rare.  Finding a pair of them together is surprising, even more so finding one of them pregnant.  We understand the gormagander hunger for alpha particles can even interfere with their reproductive instincts.”

“That’s less relatable.  For the record.” Kellin added, looking around the table like an only child starving for laughs.  When he didn’t get much of a reception, Kellin cleared his throat and put on his serious security chief facade.  

“Our duty is clear,” Kellin said.  “The Endangered Species Act requires us to transport the gormaganders to a xenologic sanctuary for their own protection.”

Taes nodded gently.  “The Zakdorn have prepared space for these gormaganders at the Altaremma Refuge they operate in the Eleneon Nebula,” she said.  “They can provide them with shelter, nutrition and any medical resources needed until the pregnant gormagander gives birth.”

“Peculiar,” Doctor Nelli interjected.  The vegetal being’s head-shaped bulb swayed from side to side when they spoke up.  “Even on Phylos, the Zakdorn are revered as master strategists,” they said.  “Why would the Federation assign tactical experts to shepherd a sanctuary?”

Yuulik snorted at the question, while Taes took a sip from her tea cup.  All the while, Taes’ warm gaze remained with Nelli.  Taes didn’t spare Yuulik a blink or a glance.

“You answered your own question, doctor,” Taes said kindly.  “What better motivation for strategic expertise than the protection of innocent sentient beings?”

Nodding emphatically, Yuulik commented, “Sage advice as always, captain.”

Unexpectedly, Taes narrowed her eyes on Yuulik.  In Yuulik’s experience, she normally only received such glares from Taes whenever she proved her own intelligence was more superior than Taes’.  Yuulik cleared her throat in response.

“Given the rarity of gormagander sightings, captain,” Yuulik affirmed, “I’d like to request additional time to study their behaviour, as a pair in their natural habitat, before we transport them to the refuge.”

Taes continued to stare at Yuulik silently.  Yuulik became entranced by the flecks of gold in Taes’ dark brown eyes, but the silent expressions hidden in their depths eluded her.  After taking a breath, Yuulik forced a hopeful smile.

In a clipped tone, Taes replied, “I’ll consider your request, lieutenant.”  –Her gaze shifted, looking to the collected senior staff at large– “Dismissed.”

 


 

The alert chime from the tactical station sang out a discordant note.  It wasn’t the most common alert in the LCARS database.  Before Kellin recognised it intellectually, he felt a pang of dread in the deep of his abdominal pouch.  Because the USS Sarek rarely ventured more than a few sectors away from Federation space, his tactical sensors were typically clear.  From where he was standing behind the bridge’s security station, Kellin tapped on the urgent pop-ups that layered over his common touchscreen controls.

“Captain,” Kellin said.  His voice croaked, so he cleared his throat and he took a breath.  From where Taes was sitting in the centre chair on the other side of his console, he saw her bald head twitch in his direction.

“Sensors have picked up an unidentified starship approaching at high warp,” Kellin said, affecting his formal timbre.  “I’m detecting no transponder signal or subspace markers.”

Almost imperceptibly, Taes nodded an acknowledgement of Kellin’s report.

“Take us to yellow alert, commander,” Taes requested, sounding unbothered.  “For the sake of our charges.”

As soon as every LCARS station on the bridge became ringed with yellow bands, a starburst-shaped flash appeared through the viewscreen.  It heralded the arrival of the strangely-shaped starship dropping out of warp.  Through the transparent screen, Kellin reckoned the ship’s silhouette was most reminiscent of an ancient Romulan bird-of-prey.  If a Romulan starship was making a surprise visit to the Sarek, Kellin turned to glare at the bridge’s science hub to his left.  He would have expected their Romulan Liaison Officer, Flavia, to offer some small warning, even if only thirty seconds before its arrival.  

However, it was the holographic LCARS pane projected from the science hub that caught Kellin’s eyes instead.  Based on those sensor readings, the unidentified ship was shaped more like a Cardassian Galor-class cruiser.  Kellin dropped his gaze back to his own panel and the tactical analysis showed him what looked most like a modified D’Kora-class marauder than anything else.

“Pakled clumpship!” Kellin declared.

“Red alert,” Taes said with as much urgency as Kellin before her.

“They’re powering up their disruptors, captain,” Kellin said.  He slammed his right palm on the red alert contact, while he fully energised the shields with his left hand.

“Mister Door,” Taes said to the excocomp flight controller, “Until I expressly say otherwise, position our primary hull between the gormaganders and that clumpship, no matter what other orders I give.”

Cellar Door answered, “Aye, Captain,” even as his ministrations on the CONN activated the Sarek’s impulse engines.  The forward motion sent the stars through the viewscreen spiralling.

“Commander Rayco,” Taes said to Kellin in a hiss of an undertone.  “Issue a priority one distress call on all Federation and Romulan frequencies.  We’re not built for combat but I won’t abandon the gormaganders.”

Once an LCARS telltale signalled the distress call was recording, Taes said, “This is Captain Taes of the USS Sarek requesting immediate assistance in the Corycus System of the Typhon Expanse.  We have engaged the Pakleds.”

Kellin had hardly sent the distress signal when he had reason to notify Taes of a new alert on his console:  “We’re being hailed, captain.”

Taes ordered the transmission be projected on screen and a hologram of what Kellin presumed to be the clumpship’s bridge overlayed the wide viewscreen.  The rotund face of the Pakled ship’s commander filled the viewscreen.  Her impressively tufted vertical eyebrows gave her a perpetually surprised expression on her face.  There was no surprise evidenced in her voice when she spoke.  If anything, she had a voice like boiling deuterium.

“Why did you steal my dinner,” the Pakled captain said with no other context or preamble.

Gliding like a sleek noraikghe on the hunt, Taes rose from her chair.  She stood tall on the command platform, her shoulders set, her hands balled in fists by her sides.  Despite her stance, Taes affected a disarmingly coquettish timbre when she spoke.  Diplomacy through kindness and confusion.

Taes responded, “I believe there’s been a miscommunication.  We haven’t even been introduced.  I’m Captain Taes of the Federation starsh–“

The Pakled captain interrupted Taes with a grunt.  “I want my dinner.”

A breath escaped Taes’ lips; it sounded like a stifled laugh.  The absurdity of the request would have amused Kellin if the clumpship wasn’t targeting weapons on the Sarek.

“I would be more than pleased to welcome you to a banquet,” Taes said, “if I can ask–“

“We are strong,” the Pakled interjected.  “We must feast.  If we don’t feast, we fall weak.”

Taes folded her arms behind her back.

“…Feast?” Taes tentatively asked.

From beneath the visual sensors on the clumpship’s bridge, the Pakled captain raised a golden fork beside her face.

“This,” the Pakled said, “is my very favourite fork.  Behold!  I will use it to eat space whale steak!”

 


 

To Be Continued in

USS Reliant: Pakleading Hunger

Comments

  • Ahhh, finally, the Pakleds arrive to be the annoying, stupid bad guys! Pure genius! Pure Lower Decks love! I'm enjoying Kellin more and more as I read him. He reminds me of a sort of Tom Paris type of character with the humour, but he feels a bit goofier. Though Yuulik remains a favourite of mine - I love how she tries to empower her team and then just gets frustrated to the point she takes over. Back to the Pakleds though - surely the Sarek can find a way off outsmarting them?

    March 12, 2023