Stonewall's "Slice of Life" writing challenge entry #WritingChallengehttps://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/178501QUANTUM MESSIAH
For a moment Darin wasn’t sure he heard his yeoman right. „What do you mean an ambassadorial tour of the ship? Like another one?“ He whisked the padd from ensign Salot’s hand and started sliding through its contents; ridges on his nose deepening even more as he frowned.
Darin’s young Vulcan assistant didn’t waver despite his captain’s badly contained annoyance. „The request for a visit of the ship came shortly after we had docked at the station. Since you encouraged the crew on multiple occasions to always pursue every opportunity for diplomacy, we approve every such request automatically. And there should be plenty of time for a brief tour of the ship before the resupplying is finished.“
„Alright. I don’t remember ever saying such thing, but fair enough. Now why are you giving this thing to me, ensign? We have a whole diplomatic section on duty roster for precisely this reason.“ So that I don’t have to deal with it, Darin added in his mind.https://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/178502
Salot leaned over his captain and pointed to a line on the padd. „All members of the diplomatic team requested R&R during our stay in the Vulcan system and you approved it.“
„I did?“ Darin mused, staring at his personal seal on the padd. „Wonderful. Then…uhhh… what about you? Are you busy?“
„My shuttle for P’Jem is leaving in 20 minutes. Undergoing a ritual there is a considerable privilege and you have also approved my participation.“
„Ah, right. Good for you. What aboooout…“
„Captain,“ Salot interrupted. „The fact is that the only remaining person onboard with any diplomatic credit on their resumé is you. I am certain the councilor will be grateful to meet you in person.“
„Lucky me!“ Darin sighed. „One quality flirt with a hot Betazoid at Quark’s, turns out she’s some ambassadorial attaché and hooray I have officially a diplomatic credit.“ Darin rolled his eyes. „Let’s get this done and be over wi… wait a minute! Did you say councilor?“
Darin admired the sight visible from the corridor window, as it beautifully framed the orbital station with a reddish crescent of the planet Vulcan in the background. Workbees and shuttlepods crisscrossed the view. Half an hour elapsed since Darin’s briefing with ensign Salot.
Next to the window the circular airlock door slid open to let councilor T’Praal in. With pointed ears and even more pointed gaze in his keen eyes set deep in a strict face, greying hair and waist-long beard and robust figure under voluminous ornate robes with gold-thread lining the Vulcan diplomat presented an imposing countenance. „Admiral Darin, I presume,“ a deep hoarse voice sounded.
But Darin didn’t win six galactic wars by being easily intimidated. Not even by a kung-fu master with pointy ears, as he nicknamed T’Praal in his mind. „Actually, I’m just a porter assigned to guard this airlock. We don’t want interns playing Enterprise bingo or something, right?“https://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/178509
T’Praal stood motionless for a few heartbeats, eyes locked on Darin’s, betraying no sign of emotional reaction. Not even one wink. „I know your likeness all too well from many a session of Federation council, admiral,“ the elder Vulcan stated sharply.
„I see.“ Darin said. So, he’s the no-nonsense type. Those pointy ears should have given him away. „Well, I take it as a cue I need a new haircut. Aaaaanyway, I have no idea what you fancy, so I played ‚Allamaraine count to four‘ with replicator and ended up with double raktapuccino,“ and with those words Darin pressed one of the two steaming cups he carried into T’Praal’s hand.
The Vulcan raised one eyebrow in surprise, but took the cup, and Darin congratulated himself in his thoughts that he managed to break the other man’s mask so quickly. „You can take mine if you like it with mango flavour and a drop of targ milk. And by the way, call me captain. The function over rank, if you know what I mean. At least as long as I’m onboard my ship.“
„On that note,“ T’Praal interrupted Darin’s precipitous monologue with a voice of ancient authority. „I have a lot of questions regarding your new ship, captain Darin.“
„Oh.“ This time Darin was a bit startled. He expected himself to be the focus of councilor’s inquiries. „Well, sure thing, ask. What sparks your interest in Quantum Messiah?“
„The name, for one.“ T’Praal interjected. „Highly unusual.“
„Unusual name fits an unusual ship. I was going for some ,salvation through science’ kinda meaning, you know.“
„Also, the unique design solution to both primary and secondary hulls. When viewed from top the combination of a triangle entering concentric circles shows resemblance with a symbol of a core philosophy of Vulcans, the I.D.I.C., so I am wondering – Is that a coincidence or an intent?“
“Well, I dunno… I think you’re probably just imagining the similarity there and I can’t really discuss…“
„Please, keep in mind,“ T’Praal interrupted Darin again, pointing a finger at the ceiling, „That I am Federation councilmember. I have the highest clearance. And I wish to hear the full version. I already know you have found this ship adrift in the Azure nebula and that it likely originates in the 32nd century Starfleet and it is equipped with highly classified FTL technology.“https://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/178510
„Right,“ Darin muttered, eyes wide, „Didn’t realize you‘d know that. Few people do, even among the crew. Well then, that changes the plans, let’s skip the cocktail bar, if you don’t mind, and let me take you through the cool stuff on the lower decks. Next stop – wonderland!“ Darin said and motioned towards the turbolift.
Together they started their walk down the corridor. Darin began his long, improvised summary of every strange fact about his new starship and T’Praal listened carefully to every word.
„…by the way, if you’re wondering how we’ve just walked like three miles on a 750 and so meters long Crossfield-refit class, it’s because of something called compactified subspace folds so the ship’s got basically an internal volume of ESD, anyway this door next to our mycelial spore garden contains this gadget that the engineering department calls the Fek‘Ihri torment engine, since I grabbed the tech during our recent visit to Klingon hell, and it has a real hellish synergy with the aux deflector, if you believe it, and the labs further that line of doorways contain, if I get them in the right order, that’s parasitic ice containment unit room, in the next one we have protomatter wave projector,“ Darin was counting on his fingers while giving his lecture. „Next’s the temporal trajectory shifter operating room, magnetometric generator, cyclical polarity modulator, potential energy entangler and deconstructive resonance emitter. I think.“ Darin paused to take a breath and continued, „Useful pieces of equipment. Just like the ones I’ve shown you on the previous deck. The wonderous part isn’t really in what these things can do, but more so their total intercompatibility. That’s where the magic lies.“
„I can relate to your enthusiasm for cutting edge science equipment.“ T’Praal said after a long time of patient listening. „After all, I have spent most of my career working at the Vulcan Science Academy, the most advanced research and education center in the galaxy, if I may add. It worries me though,“ and then an unnatural-seeming pause occured; T’Praal looked troubled for a fleeting moment, „That any of these devices could be easily weaponized.“
Darin sensed more was coming so he sipped from his now ice-cold raktapuccino with mango flavour and a drop of targ milk and stayed silent, bracing for an incoming storm.
T’Praal continued. „I was wondering when I heard you replaced that large overgunned battlecruiser you used to command with a small, purely science ship. I thought maybe when a leader famous for stunts in battle takes a step like this, it might be a sign of healing, a sign that Starfleet is becoming once again a tool of exploration and discovery, that the dark times are over. I hoped you might even inspire other Starfleet captains by your example. But I am starting to suspect I was wrong in my assumptions.“https://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/178514https://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/178513
Darin sighed. He was expecting this sooner or later. „Listen,“ he started.
But T’Praal wasn’t finished yet. „Do you even realize, captain, that some of these devices fall under subspace armaments category and therefore would be banned by the second Khitomer Accords? Not to mention the ,gadget from hell’, as you described it. Their very existence is a threat to peace in the galaxy.“
„I realize the Accords no longer apply since the Klingon-Federation War of 2405 as well as peace in the galaxy no longer applies. Sadly!“ Darin countered. But then he mentally scolded himself for escalating this argument rather than trying to offer understanding. Damn! It’s going sideways real quick and he didn’t even get to see the isolytic torpedoes storage room yet.
So, he tried again. „Listen, I know what the deal is. I heard about you, councilor. I know about the demilitarization act you’re trying to get passed on the Federation council and I know you’re a big pacifist, I’m not the only person with a reputation on this ship right now, and, shoot, you probably disapprove of me, my career and everything I did so far, and I get it. War is bad and peace is good, there is no arguing with that.“
Darin couldn’t suppress a slight painful smirk at what he was about to say and went on, „Actually I think I know the ugliness of war a lot better than you, councilor, since I’ve been actually there, on all those battlefields, you know, when Borg invaded, and on site when True Way ships hit our colonies, not to mention Vaadwaur, Voth, Undine and Iconian war, Tzenkethi crusade or Hur’q hordes swarming all galactic quadrants.“ Another meaningful pause and another gulp trying to swallow the bitterness that war memories brought in Darin‘s mouth. Should have had two sugars.https://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/178518https://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/178517
Darin realized those were not the right words to say either. So he tried yet again. „I believe in your dream of a galaxy in peace, T’Praal. You don’t need to sell me on it. But there are some powers out there that don’t share the dream with us and some of them are extremely dangerous. Most recently that maniacal emperor of Terrans that almost ended us all. We can’t demilitarize if they don’t.“
„So, no, I am not apologizing for getting every available offensive technology under the hood of this badass future ship, councilor. Because whatever comes at us next, our weapons will tear holes in it and our EPG generated anomalies will grind it to space dust. And so at least someone in the Federation, if not me, can sleep peacefully at night.“
„And just in case you’re right and we’re safe and sound till kingdom come and I’m just paranoid, this still is a science ship, and all this equipment can be just as well used for exploration and discoveries. Let’s hope for more of that but be ready in case things go bad once again. Either way, Quantum Messiah is ready.“
T’Praal took his time to ponder. Darin observed as old Vulcan’s pointed eyebrows twitched every now and then ever so slightly, indicating some heated internal dialogue. At least heated for Vulcan standards, Darin thought.
Finally, the Vulcan elder spoke. „I was hoping to hear you say something like that, young man. It means there still remains some concept of what Starfleet is supposed to be, buried under your cowboy diplomacy skills and kirk-esque bravaddacio.“
Darin noticed the slightest tug of smile in the right corner of the old man’s lip and wasn’t sure what to say. Maybe he was just imagining it. Probably dementia… „What do you mean… wait, did you know captain Kirk?!“
T’Praals eyes got a dreamy look for a moment. „That was a very long time ago. You better show me where that cocktail bar is, son, if you want to hear that story.“
Darin couldn’t help but giving T’Praal the widest grin. „This way, please, sir.“ He knew from that moment the tour won’t be all that bad after all. „After you.“