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Part of USS Mount Shasta: Too Far is the Sky and Bravo Fleet: Ashes of Deneb

1.7 | Parley

Bridge, Deck 2, USS Mount Shasta
April 2401
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The bridge crew seemed frozen with anticipation as subspace static slowly, spastically resolved and the image of a man elderly, rotund human man formed on the viewscreen.

“Greetings,” the man said even before the image coalesced. “I’m Joshua Shepherd. The people of Correolan have elected me as our representative to your vessel. Please state your intentions.”

Commander Altan Ganbold passed behind Ensign Da Silva’s tactical station and seated himself to the captain’s right. He shot a look of concern to the head of security and mission specialist Lieutenant Prek Brod, sitting on the Captain’s left, who returned a characteristically dreary look. Not good, it seemed to indicate. Ganbold could have guessed that. The feeling that this so-called lost colony had set a trap was increasing in intensity. They’d obviously been hiding Federation tech. They clearly had some kind of rudimentary — or greater — space program. What else were they hiding?

The captain studied the old Human man who materialized on the screen. He was concealing a great deal of excitement. She could sense that much. While she lacked the more advanced abilities of other Betazoids, those with two telepathic parents or more practice in a telepathic society, she excelled at the empathic skills that were present in even highly hybridized individuals. It was a practice she honed in the Merchant fleet and which was serving her well in Starfleet.

So, she thought. The game is afoot.

“Mister Shepherd,” she began, rising from her seat and taking a few steps toward the viewscreen, “I’m Captain Abigail Ralin of the Federation starship Mount Shasta. A day ago, our listening post at Starbase 514 received a subspace distress call originating in this system. We’re here to answer that call.”

The relief conn officer, a nearly juvenile petty officer, spoke over his shoulder to the captain.

“We’ll be in the Correolan system in three minutes, Captain.”

Shepherd gave a beatific smile. “Of course, Captain. Starfleet, swooping in to save the day.” He paused but did not receive a response. “Unfortunately, that message was in error. Our engineers tell me that this was an automated message from some kind of … vintage Federation technology that we had…” he groped for a word, “forgotten about. I’m so sorry to have troubled you. But there is no need for your presence.”

Ensign Da Silva watched as sensor data was relayed to the tactical console. It was clear. A small vessel, a capsule really, was floating adrift past the fourth planet of the Correolan system, with four indeterminate life signs.

As Shepherd concluded his explanation, the Captain peered back over her shoulder to catch Da Silva’s eye. The ensign simply shook her head.

He is lying.

Ganbold looked again to Brod, and they shared an unspoken curse.

“Mister Shepherd,” Ralin began, “it’s no trouble at all. Doing our job.”

Shepherd prepared to reply, but the captain cut him off.

“But, sir pardon my curiosity — It was our understanding that the colonists on Correolan cut off contact with the Federation some time ago, in the 23rd century. If you indeed have subspace capacity, this is something I’ll need to report to my superiors.”

The smile remained on Sheperd’s face, and he turned obsequious and gentle.

“Captain,” he cooed, “I understand your surprise. We did recently rediscover some old technology that we … failed to eliminate during our severance. However,” he said, his tone sharpening, “we will shortly be dismantling these devices. I was simply advised to attempt to apprise you of things, since we recognized the trajectory of your ship en route.”

“May I ask how you detected us,” Ralin said with little expression.

“Of course,” Shepherd said. “As I said, we were dusting off some of these old Federation things that came with our world’s founders.” He paused and realized this answer wasn’t satisfactory. “Our engineers only suggested we test them before they are recycled into something more useful for our way of living.”

Abigail returned to the captain’s chair and sat casually with legs crossed and her head in her palm, propped on the armrest console. She was now holding court. You won’t get through this conversation so easily, Mister Shepherd. 

As she sat, Lieutenant Commander Karva nd’Luku silently relayed data from his science station to the captain’s display. One tiny ship, primitive alloys, no artificial gravity. Power supplies depleted. Four lifeforms aboard. And definite, if outdated, Federation tech on the planet.

“Your world’s founders were Federation citizens establishing a Federation colony,” Ralin said.

Another saintly smile. “Yes, Captain. A federation from which we seceded, as is our right, in the Year of Foundation, what you call 2384.”

Prickly under that sycophantic demeanor, isn’t he?

“Yes, Mister Shepherd. And in 2384, your founders informed the Federation that it had dismantled warp, subscape, duolinear and isolinear computing. If our records are correct, there was even a formal ceremony attended by Federation dignitaries. Our library computer contains holorecordings of the people of Correolan dismantling many of those devices.”

The old man’s mask began to slip. “Well,” he began, “that was because we found that technology not only distasteful but also pernicious. Clearly your germ-like computers proved hard to scrub from our planet. But rest assured, Captain, we consider this discovery most serious—”

That much is for certain.

“—and rest assured that, at the conclusion of this little parley, we’ll be removing these accursed things from our world for good.”

Here we go, Abigail thought. He’s lying. There’s no doubt. She cast a glance to Ganbold.

“This isn’t a parley, Mister Shepherd, we’re here to help. And still,” she said, “in your system at the moment — a system we’ll be dropping into in—”

“Thirty seconds, sir,” Da Silva said.

“—thirty seconds,” Abigail repeated, “we currently track at least two active subpace relays—”

“Yes, well, we had to communicate with you, Captain—”

‘—three Federation-regulation duotronic computers under the surface of your planet…”

“That’s absurd—”

“…Federation sensor grids, a regularly-checked Federation relay station — and that’s a direct violation of Federation sovereignty, I’m afraid…”

Shepherd could only sputter with indignance.

“…and a space vessel,” she concluded with mock surprise, “adrift with four souls onboard.”

Shepherd narrowed his eyes and set his jaw.

“Can you explain that to us, Mister Shepherd?”

Ganbold nearly let a smile slip. nd’Luku did, but his station faced away from the viewscreen.

On the planet, something beeped and caught Shepherd’s attention.

“Dropping out of warp, Captain,” the conn officer reported.

Abigail didn’t try to conceal her smile.

“Mister Shepherd. As representative of the people of Correolan, I’m reporting to you that the USS Mount Shasta has arrived to render aid to your wayward vessel. We are at your service.”

He fumed. “Leave this sovereign star system at once,” he snarled, his pretense all gone, “or you and your crew will face the consequences.”

The communication cut off abruptly.

Prek finally broke the silence. Tellarites tended to abhor a conversational vacuum.

“Not much of a welcome, if you ask me. Hospitality of a Ferengi mother-in-law.”

Al couldn’t help but laugh.