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What Could Go Wrong?

Posted on Tue Jan 1st, 2019 @ 6:10pm by Captain Osegan Trenna & Lieutenant Commander Arthur Talbot & Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Batchelder & Lieutenant T'merron & Lieutenant Margaret Knight MD & Lieutenant JG Evaad Hessen & Lieutenant JG Kemm Talu & Senior Chief Petty Officer Ryland Dedeker

Mission: Light is Dark
Location: Deck 4 - Observation Lounge
Timeline: MD 05 | 1645

For the number of people who would be in attendance, the Observation Lounge was too big. As a result, partitions had been set up to create a smaller dining space.

"Are you ready for this, Artie?" Trenna asked as the two command officers surveyed the room. As was fitting for such an occasion, the Bajoran woman wore her dress uniform. She found that it made her look like a service worker and not a starship captain. Of course she wasn't one for fashion, so she could be completely wrong about it.

Artie's eyes had been focused on the arrangements, not so much the Captain's question. The operations staff doubling as the galley crew had made quick work of setting up the room, setting up the buffet line with all of the flatware and dinnerware arranged appropriately. Several wines and ales had been made available from the ship's stores, as well as water and other non-alcoholic beverages. All was about as well as it could be arranged. Then, and only then, did the Captain's question register in his mind. Looking over to her, he said, "Hmm? Yes. No. Well... as ready as I can be I suppose."

"Oh, I understand what you mean. In the Diplomatic Corps, whenever I had to attend functions like this, there had been much more planning going into the event. Not to mention that the lead up to such things were long. By the time I was attending formal dinners with new species, the First Contact Office had spent months, sometimes years, studying and working with them. We're coming into this with essentially no information. We don't even know what these folks look like. At least we exchanged information about environmental requirements so we know they can tolerate being on the ship."

"If we're going to keep doing this, we should really consider having a Diplomatic Corps attache aboard," Artie remarked. Then the attache can make remarks about hosting dinners and fussing about protocols, not inexperienced XOs.

Trenna smiled. "For all we know one is about to arrive. A shuttle could drop out of warp at anytime with a new crew member," she joked. "Relax, Artie. You're doing a good job. It's a tough transition to XO. Especially when you aren't expecting it."

Artie offered a weak smile. He'd have to work on his confidence a bit more before their dinner guests arrived.

It was only a few more minutes before other invited staff members began arriving.

Jon entered the conference lounge, nodding at his CO and XO, fidgeting briefly with the cuffs on his dress uniform.

Swaggering through the doors was a pressed and dressed Ryland, sporting a freshly shaven face. He smiled at the other senior officers and shot his eyebrows up in silent greeting.

Kemm followed Ryland in quietly and sought out a vantage point to visually review the guests when they arrived later.

Having spotted Dedeker walking into the lounge just ahead of her, Maggie had stalled, unwilling to walk in so close to him. She pretended to tie her shoe until Kemm showed up and walked in. Why she didn't want to be seen with Dedeker was really beyond her, but now she felt it was safe to make her entrance and she did so, smoothing the jacket of her dress uniform as she went.

Evaad came in next, head down and hoping not to draw too much attention to himself. His dress uniform was freshly replicated, crisp, and worn to specification. One less thing anyone could criticize him for today.

T'Merron entered the room "Greetins" she offered to an officer she passed.

"We don't know how talkative these people will be, but I'm hoping that you all will try to engage with them some. Learning about new culture and species is part of our mission."



"Bridge to Osegan," a voice called out over the comm system. "The Shipmaster has signaled that he is ready to be transported over."

"Understood," she responded. "Lieutenant T'merron, you're with me."

"Aye" the Vulcan gave for a reply and started following Trenna.

There was a transporter room a bit aft of the lounge, so that was where Trenna headed. "How are you liking the Altai so far, Lieutenant?" she asked as they walked.

"The Altai is a fine vessel" T'merron replied as they made their short trip.

Entering the transporter room, Trenna greeted the person manning the console. "Good evening, Crewman. How many are we expecting?"

"Four, sir," the young Bolian woman replied. "They're ready when you are."

She took a deep breath before instructing the Bolian to proceed.

The room lit up as the transporter activated and four shimmering pillars of light began to coalesce into people.

"Welcome to the Altai," Trenna said once the visitors had materialized. "I am Captain Osegan Trenna."

One of the four being stepped forward. "I am Shipmaster of the Zynd'ra," he said.

Trenna bowed her head in a sign of respect. All four of the visitors were on the shorter side, maybe 5 feet, she thought. They all wore simple attire: baggy dark gray pants and a similarly colored loose-fitting shirt. Their feet were uncovered, allowing Trenna to see their webbed toes. Their skin was mostly green, though there was a stripe of color that ran down the face of each one; the Shipmaster had a light pink stripe, as did another member of the group, while the other two bore strips of light blue. Beyond the coloration, their faces were noticeable for the lack of an obvious nose. Seemingly in place of ears, there were two pair of back swept 'fins'.

Osegan motioned toward the Vulcan with her. "Lieutenant T'merron, Chief of Security."

"Greetings and welcome to the Altai" the Vulcan gave an almost cold greeting, but typical of a Vulcan.

Shipmaster lifted a hand and, with a wave of a finger, beckoned the others. "Mate, Tech Chief, and Sys Chief; the Zynd'ra crew."

"Nice to meet you all," Trenna said. "If you follow me, my staff, and dinner, is waiting."



When Osegan, T'merron, and their guests entered the Observation Lounge, she began to introduce her staff. "This is Lieutenant Commander Artie Talbot, my Executive Officer."

Artie offered his best smile to the Shipmaster before tilting his head forward in a succinct nod. "Shipmaster, it's a pleasure to have you on board."

"Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Batchelder," she said, moving down the line.

Jon mentally sized up the Shipmaster, who he presumed held the same role as Osegan. He inclined his head politely, and said, "A pleasure to meet you."

Continuing, she introduced the next officer. "Lieutenant Maggie Knight, our physician."

Maggie gave a slight nod of respect and a closed-lip smile. "Hello," she said nervously. Why was she so nervous?

Trenna motioned towards Kemm. "My Chief Science Officer, Lieutenant Kemm Talu."

"Welcome to our home," Kemm said, offering a large smile and folding his hands.

The next introduction was one the Bajoran Captain was somewhat concerned by. Hessen, while a competent officer, based on his service record, was a bit unpredictable because of his telepathy. In fact, Trenna had considered not having the Betazoid man at the dinner. "Lieutenant Evaad Hessen, my Chief Operations Officer."

Evaad sensed his Captain's qualms and sighed internally. Not the first time a superior had judged him so. He did his best not to physically recoil from the slight and looked the Shipmaster in the eyes. He was getting slightly clearer thoughts from the Zynd'ra, though still not comprehensible words. Language barrier was part of that. Over the course of the meal, his impressions would get clearer. Evaad gave the Shipmaster a polite bow, but kept his hands behind his back. He was fairly certain it didn't cause offense.

The other potential source of trouble was last. "And Senior Chief Ryland Dedeker, Chief Tactical Officer."

"Welcome aboard," Ryland said, extending his hand with forceful eye contact.

Shipmaster took a step back and looked at the assembled crew. His first thought was that he should have brought more people. But this ship seemed to have more people than the Zynd'ra, despite the ships being of a pretty similar size. He motioned, in turn at his own crew. "Mate. Tech Chief. Sys Chief."

Artie, out of the Shipmaster's line of sight, raised an eyebrow. Already they had a clue about this new species, namely one that took pride in their privacy. Not only had they lingered under their cloak, but they seemed to thrive under nameless operation, serving title rather than individuality.

"Mate, huh. Is that a rank or something more, uh..." Ryland bobbed his head and smirked like a little boy, "personal?"

She froze for a moment, unsure if she should respond or not. "Senior Chief Ryland Dedeker," Mate finally replied, "I am Mate of Zynd'ra. Of course it is personal. Is your job not personal to you?"

"Are you kidding?" Ryland chuckled to the point of glee. "No, I live to punch that clock and have some 'me' time. You might say though I'm not always on duty, I'm always open for business." He punctuated his remark with a wink.

"Shall we sit?" Osegan encouraged. She moved towards the table and stood behind her chair. "Shipmaster, you can sit here," she offered, gesturing at the chair opposite her own.

Shipmaster accepted the invitation and slid into the chair. It was more comfortable than the dining chairs on Zynd'ra. "Sit," he ordered his people. Unsurprisingly to him, Mate sat immediately on his left and Tech Chief on his right. Sys Chief opted for a chair several places away from them.

Trenna motioned for the Altai officers to take their seats too.

Artie approached his own chair, conveniently next to his Captain. He took his seat as an indication for the other Altai crewmembers to take their own as well.

Taking a seat at the table, Ryland tried to look anywhere but at the webbed appendages of their guests. His appetite was all but gone as it was, and staring at their disgusting semi-translucent skin between their fingers was nearly enough to make him vomit.

Jon sat down in his seat rather unceremoniously, and did his best not to stare at the guests. They were interesting looking in their own right. But he'd met what passed for a sentient emu very recently, so this seemed to pale in comparison.

With everyone sitting, Osegan addressed the table. "It is a great honor that we get to welcome you here, Shipmaster. This is, as best as I know, the first meeting of our people. For us, events such as this are a reason for great celebration; we have a mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. My hope is that we will be able to learn from and about one another. And, of course, have an enjoyable meal."

"Thank you Captain Osegan Trenna," Shipmaster replied. "It is rare that we encounter and interact with new species, so this is not something we are accustomed to."

"I understand completely. The United Federation of Planets, where we are from, doesn't encounter as many new civilizations as we used to either." Trenna looked up at the head of the galley staff to see if they were ready. She received an enthusiastic nod. "We should eat," she announced while rising to her feet. "I hope that you find things to your liking, Shipmaster."

Shipmaster and his crew stood up, following Osegan's lead, and approached the buffet. A galley crewman handed each one a plate. As he walked the food line, he selected some items to place on his plate, though we was completely unaware of what any of the food was.

Everyone was seated again and began eating. Trenna hoped that her crew would strike up conversation with their guests. There was much they didn't know and she wanted to walk away from this reception with some information.

Artie waited a couple bites before striking up the first bits of conversation, directing it towards the Tech Chief in hopes that it could spark other interaction from Commander Batchelder and Lieutenant Hessen. "Before becoming the Altai's First Officer, I had a strong career as her Chief Engineer. I wonder, what falls under your role as Tech Chief, and your colleague's role as Sys Chief?"

Tech Chief froze. She wasn't prepared for one of them to speak to her. Though normally not prone to anxiety, Tech Chief could feel her skin flush, darkening the sky blue stripe down the middle of her face. "As Tech Chief, I oversee the technical activity on Zynd'ra. Sys Chief tends to the systems of Zynd'ra." She didn't know if that was enough of an answer for the Lieutenant Commander Artie Talbot, but she hoped so.

Maggie blinked, noticing the tech chief’s nervous reaction. It was possible she was simply shy, but another possibility occurred to her. “Do you converse during meals?” she asked, her tone curious. “We almost always do. I suppose we didn’t stop to think that it might be unusual for you. I hope we haven’t offended anyone.”

"No offense, Lieutenant Maggie Knight," Tech Chief replied. "We are typically a very communal people, but our crew is small enough that we often eat alone though my apprehension had nothing to do with that." She paused and looked at the woman. "May I ask you, Lieutenant Maggie Knight, what this apparatus that you have on your face is? I have not seen anything like it before."

"I was born on a planet with little light," Maggie explained, "and my eyes aren't accustomed to this much light. This," she added, touching one finger to her dark glasses, "blocks out about half of it. I'm as good as blind without it."

"Fascinating. Do you posses superior visual acuity in dark conditions then?" Tech Chief was intrigued by what Lieutenant Maggie Knight was saying.

“Compared to others of my species, yes,” replied Maggie. “And even better than most other species, too. I’m not totally convinced that the trade-off is worth it, though it has come in handy a time or two.”

"Might I try them?" Tech Chief asked.

Maggie hesitated for a fraction of a second. She was always nervous to be without her glasses, but really, what harm could it do? "All right," she said. "But only for a moment. As I said, I can't see a thing without them." With that, she squeezed her eyes shut tight and passed the glasses in the general direction of the Tech Chief.

Taking the offered apparatus, Tech Chief attempted to affix it to her head in a similar manner that Lieutenant Maggie Knight had worn it. She discovered, to her chagrin, that the device was not favorable to the structure of her cranium. Tech Chief looked around at her hosts; they all had some sort of fleshy flap on either side of their head, arranged around a hole. She surmised that these must be some form of auditory organ. Unlike Lieutenant Maggie Knight, Tech Chief and her people did not have the same type of auditory organ. As a result, the light filtering device was going to be trickier to wear.

She tried several more times, trying to get the stems of the apparatus to fit over one of her pair of s'leest, which served as sensory organs on her people, to no avail. Finally, aware that she might look odd to her hosts, Tech Chief just held the device in front of her eyes, peering through the lenses. "It does make things quite dark," she said, extending the item back towards Lieutenant Maggie Knight.

"They certainly do," agreed Maggie as she felt the glasses placed back into her outstretched hand. She placed them back on her face and overed the Tech Chief a quick nod of respect.

Evaad looked at Tech Chief and Sys Chief. “May I ask, how do you distinguish the technical activity from systems activity?” he asked them. “This might be an issue with our translator, but many of us might use those words interchangeably.”

Artie took a bite of the small bit of salad he'd placed on his plate and looked over to the Tech Chief as they awaited the answer. The delay in response could be related to issues with the translator, or it could just be chalked up to an inability to articulate the difference. "I wonder if it's like the difference in our Operations and Engineering departments. Our engineers do much of the technical repair and maintenance, while the operations personnel coordinate multiple factors on board as well as handle much of the usage of the onboard equipment."

"Somewhat similar, Lieutenant Commander Artie Talbot," Sys Chief answered. He had a spoon full of chocolate pudding in his hand, which he quickly dumped into his mouth. "I maintain, with my team of course, all systems on the ship. Communications, sensors, propulsion. So forth. We also operate the engines." Sys Chief pointed his spoon at Tech Chief. "She conducts research and operates some of the technical aspects of the ship, like sensors. Depending on the ship, a Tech Chief might operate the extraction equipment. Sometimes Tech Chiefs find themselves in charge of the refraction-dispersion shield and weapons. That is not the case on Zynd'ra."

Ryland tried and failed to eat a bite of food. Why, oh why, did he pick the fish from the buffet? It turned his stomach every time one of the aliens started talking.

"Don't they have names where you come from?" Ryland mused aloud. Now that he thought about it, he couldn't remember the name of that gadfly from the Nyberrite Alliance if he had a disruptor pointed at his head. "What do your friends call you?"

"Names, Senior Chief Ryland Dedeker?" Sys Chief questioned. "You speak of unique identifiers, correct?"

"No, I mean names," Ryland said, "unless you're all given serial numbers or some shit."

Sys Chief looked at the blue-eyed man. "We don't have numbers, Senior Chief Ryland Dedeker. We do have unique identifiers, but they are not numbers. We have several identifiers actually. Like I am Sys Chief of Zynd'ra. That is one identifier. It is unique because there is only one Sys Chief on the only vessel called Zynd'ra." His wide mouth curled into a smile. "Is that the 'shit' you are wanting?"

Jon snorted, lifting a spoon of soup to his mouth and trying not to laugh uproariously at the quip their guest had made.

"What were you called before you became... that?" Ryland asked. "That can't be what your mama called you after you popped outta' her babymaker."

"Chief," Trenna warned. She didn't mind that Dedeker was successfully getting their guests to engage, but, as usual, his style could use a little work. "Sys Chief, what he meant..."

Sys Chief made a gurgling noise deep in his throat, interrupting Osegan. "I know what he meant, Captain Osegan Trenna." He turned and stared again at Dedeker. "Our methods of procreation and birth are not of your concern, Senior Chief Ryland Dedeker. Before I was Sys Chief of Zynd'ra, I was without that identifier. What were you called before you were Senior Chief Ryland Dedeker?"

"I was called Commander Ryland Dedeker," Ryland said. "And before that Lieutenant Commander, Lieutenant, Ensign, on down to Cadet. But before then I was always Ryland Dedeker. Between being called a Chief and a Commander or 'Daddy' or 'Asshole,' my name's never changed." Scrunching his face, he asked, "Let's say you got your ass blown up and they appointed a new Sys Chief. What will your people call you then? How do they tell the difference between you and the poor bastard you replaced?"

"So Shipmaster!" asked Evaad in a way that interrupted the conversation, "I'm wondering who is forcing you to conduct your mission. They're paying you, but they also have some kind of leverage over you, right?"

Shit! Osegan thought. When she'd considered not having Hessen attend the dinner, this was exactly the type of situation she was hoping to avoid. Instinctively, she looked at Shipmaster.

"What sort of game is this?" Shipmaster exclaimed, jumping to his feet. "If I had known that your invitation to share a meal was merely so that you could taunt us....well, Captain Osegan Trenna, I would not have accepted." He looked at Mate, who, at this point, had also risen to her feet. "We will go," Shipmaster instructed his crew.

"Hold on, Shipmaster," Trenna said, putting her fork down as she stood. "Lieutenant Hessen meant no offense, isn't that right Lieutenant?"

"Ya done fucked up now, son." Ryland sat back and folded his arms, smugly satisfied it hadn't been him who chased off these strange iguana people.

"Of course, no offense was intended," answered Evaad. "My apologies. My goal was not to taunt. Starfleet has the habit of trying to help people. I'm only now starting to make sense of your feelings, and I sense your dread. And fear. For yourselves? For your loved ones? I'm still not sure. It's possible our ship can help you, if we understood your plight."

Artie frowned, fighting internally to keep his demeanor flooded with guilt. It was he who had taken a chance on temporarily liberating Chief Dedeker from his quarters, and it was also he who came up with this crazy idea in the first place. First Contacts were always unpredictable, especially when the Federation could quietly study a species before revealing themselves. Not only was this a terrible impression of the Altai, but it would leave a poor taste in this species' mouth should this event prove to be unsalvageable.

"The Federation," Artie quickly added, "always comes in peace and to the aid of anyone who asks. We've proven this in the data we've shared thus far, and we can do more than that, whether it's food stuffs, medical assistance, or any other sort of humanitarian aid."

Before Shipmaster or anyone else from the alien crew could respond, a low reverberation came from the corridor outside the lounge.

vr-vr-vr-vr-vr-vrmmm...

"Da-fuq is that?" Ryland muttered aloud.

The sound was punctuated by a few muted screams. And then the door shook. To say Shipmaster and his crew looked worried was an understatement. They were practically shaking.

"Captain..." Ryland began to say.

And then the doors to the lounge were blown clear of their slide track. Debris and twisted metal were flung to the corners of the lounge like shrapnel. Above it all, there was the deep-toned humming that Ryland recognized as the sound of rapid vibrations.

Rather than from a starship engine's toll on a hull, though, the vibrational hum came from a large rod which pulsated on one end from constant micro-motion. It was held by the hairiest brute that Ryland had ever seen. The creature had a face twisted in rage, but otherwise its body hair dominated its appearance. A few utility belts, drop-leg weapon holsters, and bandoleers did little to cover nature's bounty on the imposing specimen.

Ryland had an immediate thought to challenge the creature, but it stared down upon him and released a feral roar that made his skin crawl. The creature rushed forward at great speed and brought its weapon down on the banquet table with a deafening smash that Ryland could feel in his bones. As it moved, the vr-vr-vr-vr from its weapon heightened from a low rumble into a piercing falsetto before releasing the mighty swing into another table. The vrmmm physically pushed Ryland backward a step or two.

The guest aliens had fallen to their knees, begging and pleading for mercy. Their supplications gave the creature pause. It quickly surveyed the shambles of the social event it had disrupted, then roared one more time. Three more creatures like itself, all in distinct earthen highlights in their thick pelage, filed into the room to answer the call. Moving in swift tandem, the intruding aliens seized the Altai's visitors and energized away.

"Holy shit!" Ryland shouted.

"Osegan to Bridge! Red alert!" she shouted as she jumped to her feet and started towards the bridge. "Move people!"

Artie flew from his seat and followed the Captain without the slightest bit of hesitation. The gears in his mind were already in motion, wondering how the hell the Altai could have not just been snuck up on, but boarded without warning. One thing was certain, this was far from over.

Checking his ankle holster for his concealed phaser, Ryland fell into step behind Trenna and Artie. If there was killing to be done, he wasn't about to leave the eggheads to attempt it alone.

With no real idea of what had just happened, Maggie also hurried out of the lounge and headed towards Sick Bay. If there was going to be some sort of fight, she needed to be ready for injured.

 

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