So this is "Cheleb-khor", the second installment in what I hope will be a series of stories centered on the crew of the Starfleet vessel NX-35 Vigilant, set in my own little Alternate Universe.
I want to say right up front that this is still an experimental venue for me. I do hope to tell an entertaining story along the way but I'm just feeling my way around here. For "Cheleb-khor" I'll be focusing much more on the Vigilant and her crew, leaving a whole lot of unanswered questions and completely dropped plotlines from the first installment, "Widow's Well." And I'm doing that because one thing I learned along the way was that there were just too many questions and too much plot in that monster of a story. So we're just going to prune a lot of that right off of there, even if it leaves a nasty stump.
Again, to be clear, this is intended entirely as an experiment, with some entertainment value hopefully smeared on top to make it palatable. Following this, if I can nail down my weaknesses just a bit, I'll try my hand at something entirely different. And/or perhaps return to completely revamp this whole thing before I kick it off again.
Still, I'm hoping whoever reads along can find "Cheleb-khor" to have been worth the effort of overlooking all that. And regardless, whether you do or not, feedback is absolutely welcomed.
Seriously. I throw a little party every time someone leaves a constructive review. So by all means, don't spare the red pen.
Having finally completed the personnel reports that had challenged her for many hours, T'Pril was in her quarters reading a book. For the purposes of personal self-education, primarily. Recreation was non-productive. But considering her non-duty related educational goals were being met and exceeded for the week, she allowed herself the indulgence of recreational enjoyment.
A minor indulgence. But one for which she suppressed a measure of guilt. No indulgence should be accepted or even recognized. That way lies destruction.
But the material was exceedingly interesting.
The door chime sounded.
Lieutenant Commander Henry McArthur walked through the door, PADD in hand. Before she could respond he had made directly for her bed, to lounge there with his back against the wall.
He had displayed a preference for sprawling there whenever he reported to her in her quarters, she'd noticed. As she had so far been found in all such instances at her desk, there had been nothing impeding his doing so. He typically moved too quickly for her to object in time. Until now she had allowed it. But she decided that it was time to communicate the disagreeable nature of that behavior.
"Okay, captain." He said. "We've got some extremely boring engineering reports here that I already know you're going to insist on reading. I'll skip to the end and ruin it for yah. Repairs complete."
He pulled another PADD from a breast pocket, shaking it in her direction. "And we got the word here that our new recruits are oriented to their particular level of disorientation. Detailed breakdown on just how disoriented we're talkin', too. You'll love it. Even more boring than the other.
"So…that leaves Command with no more excuses to leave us out here. You want I should just drop these at your desk on the way out?"
"That would be acceptable, commander." She nodded.
McArthur dropped the two PADDs casually on the bed instead…resulting in still further surface area being contaminated and indicating he likewise intended to linger.
"So…you heard anything?" He asked.
"I have not." She replied. "However, there seems to be a convergence of several influences making our presence at or near Earth disagreeable to our superiors. My expectation is that we will receive orders requiring our departure soon."
Henry snorted. "Well, I know everyone's got to be just dyin' to know why Starfleet clamped the lid down so tight on everything. And it's just a matter of time before the ghost stories start leakin' out. So…yeah, I reckon we ought be pushing light pretty quick."
T'Pril found the affirmation of her conclusion gratifying.
Closing her book, she swiveled her chair to face him. "The most fortunate aspect of this being that, if our next mission is chosen more with regard to the benefit of rapid departure and less to specific necessity, most probably it will be a task requiring little undertaking."
McArthur squinted for a moment before asking. "So, you figure we're lookin' at a milk run."
T'Pril eyebrow rose. "A term with a disagreeable history for this command staff. But essentially, that is my expectation."
Henry nodded. "Right. Well." He gestured, pointing at her for emphasis. "One thing I learned about those is…they ain't never. Go ahead and bank on something going wrong. Bound to be better'n the Widow and tanglin' with Rommie, if you get me though. And that 'disagreeable history' is on account of Farrell called that mission a milk run about a half dozen times."
T'Pril responded, confidently. "As Starfleet officers, we must remain prepared at all times for any unexpected eventuality. I merely presume that we will do so."
Henry shrugged, discouraged. "Okay. Don't come crying to me."
"An unlikely eventuality." She denied.
She realized instantly he would pounce.
"Well, you best be prepared then." Henry said, grinning.
T'Pril inclined her head slightly in his direction. "Score one, commander."
Henry chuckled. "Any word on Rodriguez, at least?"
"Nothing further." She replied. "At last report she continued to await orders for transfer to the Vulcan Medical Institute for initial examination."
"Hurry up and wait. That's about right." Henry groused. "She must be pullin' her hair out about now."
"I had hoped this would present Command the opportunity to remove us, ordering the Vigilant to retrieve her from Vulcan following the successful treatment of her illness."
"Looking forward to seeing the home world finally?" He inquired.
"Alpha Centauri would more accurately described as my 'home world', commander. Although I will admit to some curiosity. I have never before visited Vulcan. However, this was not what I intended to convey. I would simply prefer to retrieve our Alpha shift Flight Officer before receiving further orders for deployment."
T'Pril turned slightly away, to place her book on the desk. Which immediately brought it to his attention.
"Whatcha readin'?" He asked, curiously.
She paused before responding, attempting to formulate a strategy for deterring further interest. But then she realized her pause had certainly stoked his curiosity and there would be no reliable way of dissuading or deflecting it.
"Commander, I will express my respect for you now by offering you my advice. Were I to discuss the subject matter of this book with you, you would soon after repent of it. In short, you do not want to know."
Henry considered that for only a short moment. "Nope. Now I gotta know. What is it?"
"Gla-tor sehlat wuh mu'yar'kur." She replied at last.
Henry's brow immediately grew crowded. "Say what 'bout who, now?"
"Gla-tor sehlat wuh mu'yar'kur." She repeated. "Translated loosely, 'The Dark Green Sehlat'."
"What, a kid's book or somethin'?"
T'Pril drew a breath.
"It is a collection of Vulcan women's perspectives in relation to their first affliction of pon'farr. Each presenting their remembrance of the days leading up to their inceptive plak tow as well as what recollections they have of the time itself, with further individual opinions on the repercussions that followed. Additionally, extensive advice is offered to those who might be in waiting. The purpose of the book is to educate, aid in personal preparation and provide assistance in suppressing distress."
McArthur spent several seconds mulling it over.
"Okay, taking a stab in the dark here…pond far's the Vulcan menstrual period or somethin', right?"
She opened her mouth to respond negatively…but on further reflection realized he was more or less correct.
She raised one eyebrow in surprise. "Not precisely. But your guesstimate is remarkably accurate."
"Well, score two for me then. And did you just say 'guesstimate'?" He asked.
"No other word more aptly applies." She insisted.
"Hm." He replied frowning. "So…not to get all in your personal business but ain't you old enough to know all about that?"
"Not for many decades." She replied coldly.
Henry decided he got the message on that one. "Right. So I reckon it's about time to change the subject."
"That would be eminently agreeable. And I find that an alternate subject presents itself."
"Oh? What?" Henry's eyebrow rose that time, she noted.
"Commander, are you aware that Vulcan females have a significantly higher olfactory acuity than human females?"
"You mean they got sharper noses? Yeah, I heard as much." He nodded.
"Has it occurred to you then that, though I am only half-Vulcan, my olfactory acuity would nonetheless be measurably superior to the average human's?"
Henry frowned, already irritated. "Well, I figured you had a pretty good nose on yer face, if that's what yer askin'. What's yer point?"
"As it happens, my olfactory sense is acute enough that I can detect human presence in an area up to several hours following."
Now Henry was getting down right grumpy. "If yer suggestin' we're stinkin' up the ship just say so, cap'n."
"That is not my suggestion. The ship itself carries a background scent of human but I have always been well acclimated to that general odor, growing up amongst many, even in my own household. It is not offensive and, in fact, is generally comforting. However, individual scents in certain specific venues can be…perturbing."
"Like what?" He frowned.
"My bed." She replied simply. "Your scent lingers for many hours. As you typically report to me here prior to my period of rest it often carries over into that time, requiring cleaning and a change of bedding in each instance before I am able to sleep there."
Henry McArthur, as predicted, immediately blushed bright red and began to stammer. It required in excess of three minutes before T'Pril could convince him that it was, relatively, a minor matter. But she was confident he would not recline there again when next he visited.
Score one for her.
Starfleet Flight Training Platform, Outreach
Eagle One tore through the nebula, venting plasma from her port nacelle. She was .4 impulse, current best speed, but she had to shake the Klingon Raptor pursuing her. Any minute that nacelle would blow and they'd be in serious trouble…
But 1k more and Marisa would shake their sensor lock…
Come on, Tactical…
"Propulsion, 62%. " Engineering droned.
"Hull polarization, 12%." Tactical reported, immediately after.
Come on, come on…come on, already!
"Target has negative lock." Announced the Tactical Officer.
Marisa had Eagle One climbing before Tactical had finished reporting, sliding to port slightly, for one full second, before spinning sharply around to starboard, saucer section down one quarter angle.
"Open turn to port." The captain ordered blandly.
Too late, captain. Estupido, try to keep up!
Full impulse now…at a pathetic .3...the Raptor raced by beneath, seeking her, spotting her again…
"Target has weapons lock." Tactical reported.
Eagle One was above them looking down, flashing over before they could react, breaking their lock before they could fire…
Clear shot, tactical! Give them everything you've got!
"Hard to port." Ordered the captain. Marisa ignored the order.
The Raptor flashed past them beneath them and Eagle One swooped down into their wake. Tactical hadn't fired. Now she turned hard to port.
"Pinche culero!" Marisa cried, kicking her console. The tactical officer sucked!
Off port, 2,200 meters, the Raptor banked hard port as well. And now they circled one another, at range.
"Maintain turn, match speed." The captain announced.
One phase cannon fired, their only remaining cannon, port forward. It slid briefly along the Raptor's length before skewing up and away. Two golden torpedoes arched out from Eagle One, seeking the Raptor's engine…impacting with a flash…
"Target shields, 24%." Relayed Tactical.
"Target propulsion, 34%." Science noted.
And the Raptor slid into exactly the turn Marisa had known they would. The one she damned near disobeyed orders again to try to avoid. The Klingon Raptor dropped speed and spun to port on her axis, breaking their lock and lighting up Eagle One with…
"Target has weapons lock." Reported Tactical.
"Hijo de tu puta madre!" Marisa cried.
"Incoming." Science noted calmly.
Eagle One mirrored the Raptor's maneuver instantly. Full reverse, while banking hard to port, then .3 impulse head on. One enemy torpedo racing by off to their starboard, the other…
"Penetration. Decompression alert, deck F forward." Engineering announced.
"Hull negative. Torpedo bay disabled." Tactical reported.
Eagle One lashed out weakly, one red beam lightly squarely on the incoming Raptor's fore. There would be no torpedoes to follow up on the hit.
"Hard to starboard, disengage." The captain ordered.
"Target shields, 13%." Tactical reported.
Growling, Marisa overrode safeties and nudged the ship past .4 impulse…head on…2,500 meters…
"Hard to starboard, disengage." The captain repeated.
The Raptor deviated slightly, reducing speed, attempting an open turn to starboard. Marisa compensated, Eagle One bearing down on her enemy. 1,200 meters. Two torpedoes leapt from the Raptor's forward bay.
"Incoming." Science confirmed.
"Hard to starboard, disengage." The captain ordered again.
A beam of light, playing across the console display. Klingon disruptor, point blank. Targeting the bridge.
Marisa's console went black for a moment, before the final results were displayed.
"Simulation complete." The computer reported. "Time: 15 minutes and 23 seconds. Average response time: 8.2 seconds. Response ranking: Poor. Eagle One destroyed. Target Raptor destroyed."
Marisa glared at the screen for a moment. Then kicked the console again, grumbling. Eight second response time. Well, that's what you get when you don't respond, because the orders are crap…
Marisa startled. Lieutenant Kramer, the Simulations Officer, standing over her shoulder. Mierda. The deck was supposed to be deserted at this hour! She'd thought she had the room all to herself! She was on her feet, at attention, facing the glowering man before he could bark the order.
He waited, staring her down for a moment.
"I think I just lost a year of my life." He announced at last. "That's got to be the most grab ass display of frenzied self-copulation I've ever seen. Are we certain you're a flight officer?"
Marisa replied promptly. "Yes, sir!"
"You didn't get lost on your way to the rec-room, did you? Wander in here by mistake?"
"Because you must think you're playing around in the games room."
"No, sir. I…"
"I'd ask you to explain just what the hell you were trying to yank out of your fifth point of contact but I'm afraid I might lose the accumulated knowledge that Starfleet has bestowed upon me as a result. And then where would we be?"
"Maybe I should just step down and let you take over my class. Perhaps you can explain to the green-ears the tactical benefits of humping a Klingon Raptor like that. Because it's beyond my ability to ascertain."
'Green-ears'. A term coined by the training officers, referring to their Vulcan flight students. It was how they'd learned to recognize when a trainee had been successfully…'reoriented'. Their ears would turn green.
Marisa didn't bother responding, clenching her jaw instead. Lieutenant Kramer glared a bit longer.
"How about you get the hell off my simulations deck, ensign?"
Marisa left. Quickly. Her chin finally starting to quiver as she lost the control she'd been grasping at desperately the whole while. She hated that. But every time a superior officer got in her face…she caved.
Outside the Simulations Room she found that Spetok was waiting for her, already turned to face the wall in deference to the emotional display she must represent.
Right. She forgot. She'd promised to let him pick her brain at lunch today.
She took advantage of his very appropriate Vulcan behavior to take a few deep breaths and calm herself a little before greeting him.
Marisa stabbed the sazh-pesik viciously, taking another bite. She was still angry. I've got five years flight experience. How about you, Mister Simulations Officer? I've got a Romulan Bird of Prey notched on my wing. How about you, Mister Flight Officer Wannabe? Estupido trainers. This whole platform was a joke. This whole situation was a joke. Almost every Vulcan that passed through here had already been through compulsory military service at some point or other. And since they were all flight, that meant they were already trained flight officers.
Okay, trained to Vulcan systems anyway. So, yeah, some familiarity with these operating systems made sense if they ever planned to go Starfleet. Or even planned to work alongside Starfleet vessels. But that also meant half the so-called students here were mostly experienced flight officers who pulled some strings to get in here ahead of their competitors. Get a little hands on experience with Starfleet equipment and tactics before going right back to the Vulcan Fleet. Nice little footnote on your fleet jacket to prop up your chances at promotion.
With another stab at the dark brown vegetables it occurred to her…these aren't half bad. She'd kind of expected Vulcan food to all be bland and tasteless. This was actually pretty good. Casting a glance around the room at the Vulcans crowding the place, she had to admit there was probably more to these people than she'd always assumed.
Of course, at that she realized every one of the two dozen Vulcans in the mess hall were unusually reserved and quiet today. They always were at lunch, she'd found out quickly enough. They hardly talked at all when they ate. But it was even more pronounced at the moment. Like they were all trying really hard not to draw attention to themselves…
Marisa closed her eyes, grimacing.
"They're waiting for me to stab you, aren't they?" She asked the Vulcan seated across from her.
Spetok replied calmly. "You appear to be…extremely unsettled."
She just wasn't ever going to get used to working with Vulcans. And with that she decided she'd had enough.
"You know, I can't imagine why I might be unsettled." She grumbled fiercely, stabbing at her plate again. "I'm dying of Belts-Karnes Syndrome here. Probably going to die on Vulcan when they figure out this experimental treatment of their's doesn't work on humans…"
She dropped her fork sharply then and laced her fingers tightly together over her plate, glaring across at Spetok.
"And while I'm waiting for that, I have to wait here. With a bunch of Vulcans who are all scared to death of me, waiting for me to either have sex on the table tops or run around stabbing people in the face. And whichever way I decide to go I'll have a bunch of pendejo flight instructors yelling at me for doing it all wrong. What have I got to be unsettled about?"
Spetok considered his options carefully before replying.
"There is a meditation room available, if you require. I will agree to show you…"
With a huff Marisa broke him off, snatching up her fork again. "I don't need to meditate. I need have sex on a table top somewhere. Or stab somebody in the face."
After a moment's consideration, he decided to try another approach. "That would be…"
"You want me to start with you, Spetok?" Marisa warned, glaring.
Spetok wisely refrained from replying further.