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Archive for November, 2010

The Klingon ships were gone, but, according to the life signs on the planet, they were still down there.  I informed the ambassador what was happening, dispatched a quick report to Starfleet command, ordered a security team to transporter room one, gave Vala the Conn, and stepped into the turbolift.  I was at least aware that there was no call for me to be heading to the surface.  I should have sent Vala and stayed to direct the repair efforts, in case there were more cloaked Klingons out there.  But my blood was up and, I have to admit, I was looking to continue the fight.

When I arrived at the transporter room, Chief Peale was there.  To one side of the control panel, Corporal Shu was standing at attention with two of his marines, fully armed and ready to beam down.  To my surprise—and eventual chagrin—Johnnie was also there with one of her medics.

“Doctor, were you planning on joining us?”

She held up her medical kit by way of explanation.  “You’ve got a planet-full of Klingons and Vulcan monks.  Don’t you think someone’s going to need medical attention?”

“Don’t you think the crew could use your services up here?”

“Oh,” she said in a sweetly innocent voice that I would shortly learn never to trust, “I suppose I could head up to the bridge and, I don’t know, maybe command the ship.”

“Point taken, doctor,” I conceded.

I nodded to Corporal Shu, he handed me a phaser rifle of my own—it had a solid feeling as it slapped into my palm—and we all stepped onto the transporter pad.  After that typical moment of disorientation, the lot of us were standing in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by trees and high-roofed wood buildings.  I could hear birds (or what I imagined to be birds) singing and the wind rustling the grass.  And the occasional whines of disruptor fire.

Johnnie saw the cluster of our monks off to our left before I did, huddled next to one of the buildings, and ran over.  Shu, his men, and I followed.  When we arrived, we saw one Vulcan sitting on the ground, a gash in her head, and dried green blood caked to the side of her face.  Johnnie was scanning her.  Even from behind, I could detect the frown on her face.  Shu and the other two fanned out to provide us with some measure of safety.

One of the standing monks, his features entirely too serene for the situation, gave me the traditional salute and inquired pointedly about the safety of the artifacts.  I almost suggested he should be more worried about his friend with the hole in her head, but instead reassured him they were safe and asked what had happened here.

“Klingon soldiers arrived several hours ago.  They have been patrolling the monastery grounds ever since.  I do not know what they are looking for.  They seem to be focused on the main temple at the top of the hill.  This is where the artifacts would have been taken.  I believe our abbess is still there.” 

I hailed Corporal Shu and told him where we were heading.  He nodded curtly from across the clearing and signaled to his fellows to move out.  I took Johnnie’s arm—she resisted only for a moment to use a hypospray on the injured monk, and then followed along with her medic in tow.

The fight to the top of the hill was not an experience I’d want to repeat any time soon.  We encountered several Klingon patrols.  Shu and his men did a fantastic job, swift and professional.  I cannot say the same for myself.  At one point, there was so much disruptor fire, I couldn’t tell where it was all coming from.  At another, I took refuge behind a tree, only to have it explode into splinters a few inches above my head.  A few of our skirmishes turned into hand-to-hand struggles.  I’d never seen a Klingon warrior up close and it is not an experience for the faint hearted.  At first, there was a certain satisfaction in the crunch of my rifle against their skulls, but that sound became slightly sickening as the day wore on.  By the time we reached the main temple, my rifle butt was slick with Klingon blood.

When we—by which I mean mostly Shu and his men—cleared the main temple grounds, we entered to find another cluster of monks.  It was easy to spot the abbess.  Possibly the oldest Vulcan I’d ever seen stepped forward, cradling her arm at an odd angle, and thanked us for coming.  She too wasted no time in asking about the artifacts and, again, I testified to their safety.  For her part, Johnnie was at her side instantly, examining what was probably a severely broken limb.

Ardent to Captain O’Kennedy.”  Vala’s voice rattled around that cavernous room, bouncing off the rafters, and making me jump nearly as high.

“O’Kennedy here.”  I realized as I said it that this could only be bad news.

There was a long pause, which meant it was worse than I’d thought.  “It looks as if the Klingons might have been right, sir.  We’ve had an … incident with Ambassador Sokketh, or whatever claimed to be him.”

“What happened?”

“We were monitoring the area for any other Klingon ships and detected some strange transmissions from the ambassador’s quarters.  I was worried that the Klingons’ had found some way on board and sent down a security detail.  They never reported in and we found them unconscious and the ambassador gone.  The next we knew, Sokketh showed up in one of the transporter rooms, assaulted two crewmembers there, and beamed down to the planet.  He’s disabled the transporter, sir.”

I could hear the tension in her voice.  “Where? ”

“We’re working to fix it, but we can’t beam him or you back yet.”

“Where did he beam, Vala?”

There was a pause.  “He’s just a few meters from your coordinates.”

I took a moment myself to sigh.  “Lovely.”  I caught Shu’s eye and motioned for him to follow me outside the temple.

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Ginger Dorian, who was known almost from the moment of her birth as “Johnnie,” grew up in the mountains of West Virginia in North America on Earth.  Physicians and midwives in her family had taken care of generations of coal miners before the mines were shut down during the twenty-first century.  Even after, medicine remained the family business, as well as their way of life.  Friends and patients were never clearly separate categories.  Visitors dropped into the clinic, above which Johnnie and her parents lived, for a cup of coffee as often as they stopped by because of a medical complaint. 

The Dorians were proud of what they considered their “old fashioned” practice within the more traditional way of life they and their neighbors had managed to preserve.  Even as a young child, Johnnie went along on house calls or to deliver children.  She never questioned the idea that she would become a physician someday or that she would join her parents at the clinic and take over when they were gone.

Nevertheless, her parents recognized a restless dreaminess in her and a curiosity about the world that they believed suited her to something other than reliving their lives.  As a child, she was always drawing pictures of spaceships and strange planets.  As an adolescent she read every novel about spaceflight she could find and ran through every space-related program in the town holotheater.  At any rate, the way of life that had remained so constant, against all odds, for so long, was changing.  The clinic’s patients were almost exclusively in their early 40s or older.  Growing numbers of young people were leaving the area.  Those that remained tended to seek out medical care in larger urban centers, easily accessible via shuttle or transporter.

Johnnie’s parents thus encouraged her to think more broadly about what she wanted to do and where.  Her desire to become a doctor never wavered, but when the time came to choose a medical school, she selected one at DeForest University in San Francisco, California.  While there, Johnnie struggled with bouts of homesickness, but she also loved meeting new people and experiencing new things.  She was often the life of parties, sometimes singing her favorite folk songs, sometimes teaching everyone the venerable art of line dancing.  After her residency, she approached her parents with an idea that had been growing in her for several years—joining Starfleet.  Her parents believed this was a wonderful choice and, though Johnnie vowed to return in several years, told her to live her life free of any such promises.

Johnnie enjoyed her time at the Academy.  San Francisco was already familiar, but she delighted at rediscovering her favorite places with new friends.  She appreciated the top-notch medical education she received as well, but her true skills had never been in cutting-edge research or therapy.  She saw medicine as about more than drugs or devices, but rather founded on personal relationships.  Though she worked hard to master the new material, she repeatedly expressed her skepticism about “shiny new medicine” and represented herself as just a “simple country doctor.”

At the same time, Johnnie often daydreamed about her likely adventures among the stars.  Her cadet cruise turned out to be her first.  She earned a special commendation from the Starfleet Surgeon General for her actions during a genuine emergency—a breach in the impulse pile shielding.  After graduation, she considered an offer to join the Surgeon General’s staff, but declined, feeling that she would “wither away behind a desk.”  Instead, she chose active duty.  Her current assignment is on board the USS Ardent as chief medical officer.

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The next day we were off to P’Jem, a jaunt around the corner in galactic terms.  Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones who’d decided to stretch our legs.

As soon as we emerged from warp, a Klingon vessel hailed us.  It’s captain, named B’Kor, informed us that our passenger, Ambassador Sokketh, was not, in fact, a Vulcan but was rather an Undine.

“In the name of the Empire, I demand that you hand it over.”

“Why many thanks to you now, Captain B’Kor.  I knew that third leg was a little odd.  I’ll shove him into one of our torpedo tubes and shoot him in your general direction without delay.”  At last, my first intergalactic incident.

B’Kor’s eyes narrowed and if I thought for a moment that he might reach through the viewscreen to grab my throat.  “Federation nejpu’ p’tach!  No wonder you are losing the war.  Do you value your own life and the life of your crew so little?”  That was a fair question, and I felt a twinge of regret for my instinctive flippancy. 

“I’ve seen no evidence that Ambassador Sokketh is anything other than what he claims to be.”  I worked hard to sound certain.

“Your Federation has not proved adept at recognizing the shapechangers, have they?”

I glanced down at Vala at the conn and she nodded subtly.  I knew she was beginning to do what quietly the Klingons were doing outright—preparing for a fight.  “I have to point out, captain, that whatever the true identity of our guest, you are in Federation space.  If you do not leave now, I will consider your intrusion an act of aggression…”

“I will never understand how Klingons could have ever believed we had anything in common with you.  I see now you are too blind to understand.  Spare me your lectures.  What you call ‘Federation space’ will soon be part of the Empire.”  With a quick sneer, his face melted into static.

And with that, we were in our first battle with Klingons.  Two birds of prey decloaked behind us and opened fire while B’Kor’s ship pummeled our forward shields.

These were not Orion raiders.  Within moments, our rear shields were in tatters and one of the secondary consoles on the bridge showered sparks.  I head Rodney’s voice feeding a steady stream of bad news to the bridge.  Rather than stay put, we leapt ahead, past B’Kor’s vessel, trading shots with him as we flew by.  Vala managed to swing us around in a tight turn, bringing our forward phasers to bear on the two other Klingons chasing us.  While Darial jammed the one’s targeting sensors, we gave the other everything we had.  Within a few seconds, it erupted into fireball.  It’s partner veered away to avoid the explosion, as did B’Kor’s bird of prey, which had come around for another shot at us.

I was frankly surprised how well the Ardent and her crew performed.  We had a moment to regroup after the first bird of prey went up, and from then on out, the battle seemed to turn in our favor.  The two Klingons had gone their separate ways, which allowed us a few seconds to deal with one at a time without having to worry about their focused fire.  We managed to severely damage one and then found ourselves facing B’Kor once again.  He took the Ardent’s forward shield down before we could score a decisive shot, one that turned his shield emitters to charcoal.  We offered him a chance to surrender, and he answered us with a hail of disruptor fire.  Reluctantly, and not unaware of the irony, I fulfilled my initial promise, though with an actual torpedo and not with the ambassador.  The photon struck his ship’s underside just inside the right wing, and, an instant before the viewscreen dimmed the blinding flash, I saw its belly rupture in a blaze of white light.

We’d taken our share of punishment at well.  There was a hull breach on deck 10 and several major subsystems, including long-range sensors and warp drive, were offline.  Still, we had it in us to limp to P’Jem.

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The next morning I was in transporter room one, alongside a security detail, there to take the chest of artifacts to a protected hold, and our new transporter chief, Jennifer Peale.  Several times over the last few days, she’d been on duty when I either left the ship or came back, and we were making small talk when the ambassador signaled he was ready to come aboard. 

Save for Chief Peale, the lot of us walked with the chest to its temporary home, then I offered either to have the ambassador escorted to his quarters, if he wanted to rest, or to take him on a tour of the ship.  At the latter, his eyes lit up a little and he said he’d be interested in seeing the Ardent.  With that, we were off.

Our first stop was the shuttle bay, mostly because it looked nearly the same as it had on the twenty third-century Ardent.  I thought, given the Vulcan lifespan, the ambassador might have found this bit of constancy in a changing universe interesting.  He did not.

We next stopped at the engine room, where the ambassador did become curious.  He’d been asking about the methods used to refit the Ardent and her sister ships—even knew that it involved nanotechnology.  I was surprised by that, though I assumed at the time he’d had a high enough security clearance to be privy to such details.  Still, I had enough doubt that I did my best to tactfully dodge as much as I could.

As soon as we stepped into engineering, his queries increased.  When I noticed our new assistant chief engineer, I headed in her direction in the hopes of some relief.  She’d come aboard the day after we returned from aiding the Azura, and I’d already had several chances to talk with her.  Her original name was Deena, still the identification recorded on some of her older personal files, but she now went by a new one—Saisei—that she’d chosen after she was rescued from the Borg.

I introduced her to the ambassador, and—this might again be my hindsight playing tricks on me—I thought his questions skipped a beat.  He looked at Saisei with an odd expression on his face and asked in a hard-edged voice, “You are Borg?” 

Now, if Saisei felt anything unusual in the way he posed this, she didn’t react to it, so perhaps it was never really there.  She simply explained her background in that singsong voice of hers.  She was nothing if not polite—and, at the same time, there was an insistence in her curiosity.  After a few minutes, she was matching his questions with her own—not about the particulars of the ambassador’s mission, but about his background, his family, his tastes in food and literature.  I might have stopped their exchange sooner if the ambassador hadn’t gotten quieter the longer it went on, as if the back and forth were tiring him.  As it turned out, I didn’t have to step in.  Saisei must have noticed the ambassador’s behavior and excused herself.

Our next destination was sickbay, where our new chief medical officer, Ginger Dorian, was—as she explained—attending to an unfortunate crewman who’d contracted Levodian flu.  These new surroundings revived the ambassador’s inquisitiveness, in this case about the medical research being done on board.  If he hoped to plumb the depths of cutting-edge research, however, he’d chosen the wrong source.  However, what Johnnie—her first official command upon beaming on board had been that anyone who called her either Ginger or Doctor Dorian would be banned from sickbay—what she lacked in specialized knowledge, she more than made up for in a down-home charm, threats notwithstanding.  Her off-kilter smile and her easy laugh brightened my day, and even the ambassador appeared to relax.

Given the ambassador’s interest in on-board research, I thought a subsequent stop at some of the science labs was in order.  We walked in on yet another new member of the Ardent’s command staff—our chief science officer, Ensign Darial Adzian.  We found her dressing down a crewman who hadn’t had the good sense to conduct a data analysis exactly as she’d specified.  Darial was arguably the most gorgeous woman in Starfleet, but she also had something of a hard edge.  In the day or so that I’d known her, I’d experienced none of it and I doubted I would.  It seemed entirely reserved for those unfortunate to be her subordinates.  It was a management style so radically different from my own, I wasn’t certain yet how to react to it, and I didn’t know yet if it would become a problem.

Her frown—and she was beautiful even when she did—evaporated the moment she spotted me.  She greeted us warmly and, within a few moments, she and the ambassador were engaged in a discussion that stretched my scientific vocabulary to its breaking point.  Instead of trying to follow, I contented myself with the happy task of watching.

Soon, I had to end their exchange and escort the ambassador to our final two sights—the lounge, in which he showed little interest, and the bridge.  Vala was waiting as we finally stepped out of the turbolift.  I caught a glimpse of her sitting in the captain’s chair before she popped up at the sound of the doors—she’s had the Conn a number of times now, but I had yet to actually see her sitting in the chair.  I found her trepidation in that regard cute.

I dispatched her to show the ambassador to his quarters, checked up on a few pressing matters—it was with a sigh of relief that I noticed a case of gel packs had finally found its way on board, followed by a short mental list of what needed to be done next—and then it was time for the first meeting of the Ardent’s new command staff.

The only as-yet unmentioned addition sitting at the conference table was our chief engineer, Ensign Rodney Aariak.  This was our first encounter, and he seemed somewhat dour.  But even if he didn’t smile much, from what I gathered he appeared to know an isolinear spanner from reverse-ratcheting routing planer, and that was good enough for now.  The meeting itself was mostly details, though it ended with an open invitation from myself to everyone to meet in the lounge later that evening for a more informal conversation.

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Darial Adzian was born in Leran Manev, the planetary capital of Trill, to a prominent and well-connected family.  Many generations of Adzians had joined with symbionts, and Darial and her older brother were expected to excel in order to uphold the family tradition.  With the benefit of the best private tutors available, they were both on the fast track to becoming hosts.  Darial took a particular interest in science, winning the Trill Science Ministry’s annual young scientist competition.

When Darial’s brother was selected as a host, Darial expected to be close behind.  She passed all the required tests, but after several years with no word from the Symbiosis Commission, she began to lose hope.  In frustration over what she perceived as her failure and much to her family’s dismay, she abandoned her scientific training.  Instead, she entered the world of high-fashion modeling.

In addition being a celebrated center of scientific work, Trill is also the home of one of the more active, artistic, and cutting-edge fashion communities in the Federation.  Darial’s youngest uncle—the family’s black sheep—was also a well-known designer.  Darial herself had often been complemented on her striking features, and before long, found herself much sought-after.

Soon, however, she lost interest in modeling, which seemed too limiting, and began to miss the exploration made possible by a scientific life.  She decided that a career in Starfleet offered her best chance of following her scientific interests and the opportunity for both the change of scenery and the independence that she desperately needed.  Returning to her childhood habits, she devoted herself to studying for the Academy entrance exam, passing it on the first try.

Since entering the Academy, she feels that she is finally discovering her true self on her own terms.  Darial has regained hope that she may someday join with a symbiont, though this is no longer her only end in life.  She has chosen to pursue her scientific work because it interests her, not to impress the Symbiosis Commission.  She also remains interested in art.  Her primary area of research is in cross-species studies of perception, particularly related to the theory that it involves latent telepathic exchange.  She is hopeful she will find important answers to many questions among the stars.

Her current assignment is on board the USS Ardent under the command of Lt. Patrick O’Kennedy.

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