EPISODE 5.45 - “Everything Changes”
written by Travis Cannon
The nasty crude shapes of a so'jan fleet appeared in the skies above the Bartho capital. The gray skinned Barthoyites sounded the alarm and their soldiers rushed to the defenses.
“Stand your ground,” came a voice from the public address system. “Hold at all cost. Make them pay for every centimeter! Nothing else matters!”
One soldier looked up in time to see a ball of blue hazy energy come down from the sky. It came at great speed, straight towards him, landing right in front of him. And then there was blackness.
Three Months Later...
Captain Benjamin Kelsoe sat in a station officer going over reports from the front lines. Nothing had been going to well. According to the reports Bartho fell just days after the so'jan began their planetary bombardment with Mass Drivers. Kelsoe was still reeling with thought of the so'jan having such a terribly destructive device. He shuddered to himself, wishing that he was dreaming. But he was in no dream.
On stardate 58524.79, the U.S.S. Ticonderoga under the command of Captain Markev Riganoff barely escaped the invasion of Zëthoun. And days later reports were coming in that the Zëth Hierarchy had been declared a protectorate of the greater So'jan Empire. And then on stardate 58543.77, the U.S.S. Dalton and the U.S.S. Henry James had sacrificed themselves long enough for the Fadorians to fully evacuate their small planet which was then utterly destroyed a couple of days later by the so'jan hybrid fleet with the use of Mass Drivers.
The U.S.S. Jefferson, along with several civilian cargo ships carrying supplies out to the Velos, who had been cut off from regular supply runs, where attacked. The Jefferson managed to draw most of the fire from the attacking So'jan vessels, but some of the cargo ships were damaged. Now the Jefferson lay in the docking bays of DS-5, a dark metal frame of its former self for the total protection it gave to the cargo ships.
However, the event that had the most lasting impact on Starfleet and the Federation was a failed attack on Deep Space Five, itself, on stardate 58634.6. Two so'jan hybrid carriers dropped out of warp immediately ontop of the station and began firing. If it weren't for the timely waylay of the U.S.S. Hood and U.S.S. Enterprise in the area, the station would have fallen.
After their failed attempt to take DS-5, the Coalition began to concentrate on reinforcing and revitalizing their new acquisitions. Kelsoe had also heard from Ensign Tolorev that there were rumors floating around Starfleet Intelligence that the Coalition was currently in talks with the Breen Confederacy to form an non-aggression pact, but that was just rumor, there was no proof to such claims.
However, the single event that had the most impact on Captain Benjamin Kelsoe was on stardate 58491.32, nine days after he had been rescued and two days after Dr. Ernie Coddle had released him from the medical center. He met with Admiral Christopher Truman, Captain Timothy Franco, and Commander Robert Tuff in the very office he was now sitting in. He was told of the behavior of Commander Burt and that when they had returned to DS-5 after his rescue Burt had been fully examined by Dr. Coddle, along with Dr. Braga - for a second opinion, and it was agreed that Burt was not fit for duty.
Tuff explained Burt's recent actions and behavior during the time following Kelsoe's abduction and told him out Burt had accused him of being a traitor because he was trusting Ru'fur, a known member of the So'jan Resistance. They told Kelsoe about how Dr. Braga discovered how to detect clones made by Commander L'mar.
No, Burt wasn't a clone, but what they did find was a variant mental condition which, regrettably, no known cure is known. The news was broken to Burt and Admiral Truman, with orders from Starfleet Command, gave Burt the choice between going back Vulcan, where a cure could be found, or retirement. Burt would not go to Vulcan and after most discussion decided to retire.
The news shocked Kelsoe. Burt had been his rock for some many years. He was his best man at his wedding... and now he was gone. He had left without even saying good-bye. Why? Kelsoe had asked. The answer was that Burt was ashamed of his behavior and actions and could not face him. In a way it seemed so unlike Burt to tuck his tail between his legs and run. By the time Kelsoe had been released Burt had already left to live with his younger sister Jane on the family ranch in Texas. Kelsoe would miss his own comrade, and wrote him, but received no response.
The Pioneer was in no condition for duty, as a result of an encounter with a so'jan scouting fleet, which consisted of one hybrid warship during Kelsoe's time in the medical center, and would be in repairs for almost three months.
Now it was stardate 58693.07, three months from Kelsoe dramatic rescue and the unexpected loss of his first officer and best friend. The data pad Kelsoe currently held in his hand gave reports of a possible imminent invasion of the Elacian Diarchy. Now that the So'jan had consolidated their control in their newly conquered territories they were pushing towards expansion again. Kelsoe ran his hand through his thin hair, which still hadn't reached the luster it had before his incarceration by the enemy. Everything was changing, and it was almost too much to bear.
The door chime sounded.
“Come,” Kelsoe called out in a horse voice.
The door opened and Commander Robert Tuff came in holding a PADD. Kelsoe glanced at the PADD and could not help letting out a groan.
“Not another repair report?” he questioned.
Tuff seemed to have a glimmer in his eye. He had a jump in his step as he approached the desk.
“No sir,” he said, smiling. “The old girl's ready whenever we fill in the gaps in the crew manifest.”
Kelsoe paused for a moment.
“Replacing Burt, you mean,” Kelsoe said.
“Well, yes, sir,” Tuff replied.
Kelsoe leaned back in his chair. “I've been thinking of a list.”
“Oh, do you have list, then?” Tuff asked.
Kelsoe tapped in his temple. “I've got one here, it's too short to waste time imputing it into a PADD.”
“How short?” Tuff questioned.
“Then you know who you want as you First Officer?” Tuff inquired.
“Yes,” Kelsoe said.
“Yes, Rob,” Kelsoe said. “Ever since you joined the crew that day we rescued you from the Clark, you've been a stabilizing force on the ship, and for me. Despite all odds, you've excelled and broken my tough personal barrier. I consider you a good friend and would be honored to have you as my conscience, debater, and second-in-command.”
“No sir,” Tuff said. “I would be honored to been your First Officer.”
“Then you accept?” Kelsoe asked.
“Good,” Kelsoe said, and then added jokingly, “Anyway, you have been acting First Officer for three months.”
“I have at that, sir,” Tuff agreed and sat down, tossing the PADD on the desk. “We'll that's worthless now.”
“I had composed a list of potential first officer candidates based on recommendations from Admiral Truman,” Tuff explained.
“Don't worry,” Kelsoe said. “I'm sure the Admiral will approve of my selection.”
Admiral Christopher Truman nodded steadily.
“I commend you on a good decision, Captain,” Truman said, raising a glass of replicated whiskey. He sipped it and sighed. “Now all you need is a security officer.”
“I was think of promoting from within,” Kelsoe said, leaning back on the Starfleet issued lounge chair in the Admiral's office.
Truman shook his head. “No,” he said. “I wouldn't recommend that. For a First Officer, it was a wise choice. You know Commander Tuff, what he's capable of, and how he commands. Captain Franco gave him a glowing report and gave him an official commendation. Tuff is also a highly decorated officer, added with his years of services makes him a perfect selection as First Officer. But I do not believe that any of your current staff have the experience and knowledge to take over the Tactical position.”
“I would concur,” Admiral Kawamura said, seated next to Truman on the Starfleet issued couch. “You may feel the need promote from within, but believe me when I tell you that sometimes flesh blood is required to a make a well oiled machine work better.”
“Commander Tuff and I both have a rapport with Lieutenant Albert Buerk,” Kelsoe suggested.
“I'm afraid we need his expertise here on station,” Kawamura said, taking a sip of his replicated sake.
Kelsoe slumped in his chair.
“You look tired, Captain,” Truman observed.
“Three months of waiting,” Kelsoe said. “Three months of change. Everything has changed. Sometimes I would if I can catch up with it all.”
“Everything changes, Captain,” Kawamura said. “The true test it how we cope with those changes.”
“Well so far I'm barely getting by with a passing grade,” Kelsoe said jokingly.
“At least your sense of humor has returned,” Truman said. “I was beginning to wonder if it would ever resurface after that time spent in the So'jan prison.”
Kelsoe nodded. “It was hard. Frankly, I don't really remember that much of my captivity, except for the red eyes of Tyson Calok.”
There was a long dead silence that had an awkward feel about it.
“Don't worry, Captain,” Kawamura broke in. “We'll find you a tactical officer, I'm sure of it.”
Senator Ru'kon stepped carefully around the dim room, dreading to touch anything within. The room, itself, was spartan: No portraits, no tapestries, no adornments of any kind. It a way it matched the man who occupied it. Ru'kon stepped towards the only objects which existed in the room, two four legged metallic chairs, with crimson cushions, and a three legged table made of blacken iron. Ru'kon sat and stared off in space. He did not like being here.
Suddenly there was a rustle from the behind the curtain that covered the doorway into the bedroom. It opened slightly and the strong figure of Tyson Calok appeared, his red eyes incredibly piercing in the dim light.
“Senator,” he hailed. “So nice of you to come.”
“Did I have choice?” Ru'kon asked, almost as if he was being insubordinate to a superior officer. “I was summoned after all.” He said the word summoned with as much malice and disgust as possible.
Calok grinned at his impudence, and gripped the back of the empty chair, standing behind it. “You should think more like your Chancellor,” he said. “He knows my true value.”
“He is as a slave to you,” Ru'kon replied. “You care nothing for our kind.”
“True,” Calok said, inclining his head. “But at the moment we have common goals... ideals, if you will.”
The so'jan grimaced at the thought. “That may be,” Ru'kon answered. “But you are merely using us, and what have we gotten in return?”
“Everything!” Calok smiled and took a seat.
Ru'kon was hardly able to contain himself, but he fought his angry with all his restraint. He sighed and adjusted himself on the cushioned chair and leaning back.
“Why have you summoned me?” Ru'kon demanded, again trying to sound as strong, and undefeated as possible.
“News from the front,” Calok said. “You have received the same reports as I... what do you think?”
Ru'kon groaned. “We have control of Tulop, Bartho, and Zëthoun, and have destroyed Fad... by the way, was that really necessary?”
“Of course,” Calok spoke. “We need to show our strength. The Federation must understand that the So'ja are once again powerful, as you were after you had overthrown the Oppressors. Kauma Dako, I believe.”
The Senator looked stunned for a moment. Then he regained his composure.
“You know our tongue?”
“It was easy to learn,” Calok said grinning. “Compared with that of the Joc-Duloc monks it was as easy as pie.”
Tyson Calok seemed to be somewhere else for a moment, but then his eyes refocused on Senator Ru'kon.
“A human expression,” Calok said. “It means it was really easy.”
“Indeed,” hissed the Senator. “Surely you didn't summon me hear to talk of human idioms.”
Calok nodded. “You are cleverly than you look, Senator.”
Ru'kon glared at Calok, unsure what to make of the statement.
“Oh, it was a compliment, I assure you,” Calok said. “You are highly intelligent for a scaly, especially considering your choice in leaders.”
“He has a right of claim,” Ru'kon offered.
“Yes, but if I'm not mistaken, so do you,” Calok spoke. “I have heard spoken amongst the courtiers of the Chancellor's retinue that he is not as favored amongst the people as you are, Senator.”
Calok stood and walked over to the replicator on the wall. He pressed a button and two drinks appeared. He returned and handed one to Ru'kon, who looked at the dark liquid and then back up at Calok.
“I programmed this into your replicator systems,” Calok said. “It's called Tennessee Whiskey. It's an Earth drink, it is the only taste of home I require.”
Ru'kon brought the lip of the glass up to his nostrils and sniffed.
“Oh, don't worry,” Calok said, noticing the expression on the so'jan's face. “I have checked, it is safe for you to drink, unlike Romulan Ale, unfortunately.”
He hesitated for a moment and reluctantly took a sip of this Tennessee Whiskey. As he swallowed his throat seemed to burn as if it was on fire. He gasped and spat and gritted his teeth. He placed the glass on the three-legged table. Calok merely sipped from his glass and sat down.
“Not to your liking, I take it?” Calok asked.
“Please, don't be offended if I decline to drink further,” Ru'kon said sarcastically.
“No matter,” Calok said. “Besides, you scaly never could hold your liquor.”
Ru'kon fought the urge to ram Calok's noise up into his brain.
“Do it!” Calok snapped.
Senator Ru'kon jumped back, shocked and surprised.
“What?!” he demanded.
“If you want to do it so much, then try!” Calok continued.
“What are you talking about?” Ru'kon asked, the surprise and confuse hard to suppress in his speech.
“You want to drive my noise into my brain, don't you?” Calok spoke confidently.
“No,” Ru'kon said as calmly as he could.
“Wise,” Calok said after a sort silence. “Because if he had tried it, you have died the moment your brain sent the messages to your body to stand.”
The so'jan became unease.
“Stop this,” he said. “You need not threaten me. I have come here upon your summons. Speak what must be spoke and I shall leave.”
Calok chuckled to himself.
“Very well,” Calok said. “I presume you understand who really is in control here, then?”
“Of course,” Ru'kon hissed, displaying his dislike.
Calok nodded slightly and sipped his whiskey; he then sat back and crossed on leg over the other.
“The time for failed negotiations and ineptitudes is over, Senator,” Calok said. “The Coalition has amassed close to half of the Oralian Sector, but to be frank, you won't be able to control such conquests once the Federation begins to bring it its allies.”
“Allies! Humph!” snarled Ru'kon. “The Federation has no allies.”
“But they could, and they will!” Calok growled. “I have seen them do it before. They'll even betray their own people if it means peace. They did it with the Maquis, they'll do it to them now.”
“Even if you are right, which I'm not saying you are,” Ru'kon pointed a scaly finger at Calok. “No alliance amongst anyone can stop us when we possess Mass Drivers.”
Calok laughed aloud.
“Mass Drivers, you say. There are things far older and more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Ru'kon shifted uncomfortably.
“The Oppressors are just the tip of the ice berg,” Calok explained, with a mischievous voice. “Beyond the great voids and vastness of space their lies a far greater foe, one that even I cannot stop.”
“Explain?” Ru'kon demanded.
“The First Ones, scaly!” cried Calok. “Do you think that the Joc-Duloc monks developed their techniques and powers by themselves?”
Ru'kon did not answer.
“The First Ones once ruled the galaxy, but slowly their power loosen, and for reasons unknown they left us and retreated beyond the Great Rift Barrier, back into the most ancient part of space,” Calok grinned. “The monks of Joc-Duloc are all that remains of their ancient teachings... in our realm, at least. The Oppressors were nothing compared to the First Ones. The Oppressors were just scavengers, who clung to the technology that the First Ones left behind. It is to them, and to me that you must thank for the Mass Drivers.”
“I am the last student of the monks of Joc-Duloc, Senator,” Calok spoke calmly. “I alone retain the knowledge of the power of the First Ones.”
“And do these First Ones have a name?”
Calok seemed to shiver.
“I will not speak their name,” he said. “They are far more powerful and malevolent, even than me... if you can believe that.” He paused and sipped his whiskey, and sighed. “My knowledge of their vast technological intellect is somewhat limited. The Joc-Duloc monks only retained a portion of the knowledge and wisdom the First Ones left behind. I can only help you so far. The hybrid ships may seem powerful now, but that is because they have yet to encounter an entry worthy foe.”
“A worthy foe?” Senator Ru'kon repeated. “And who might that be?”
“The Breen, for one,” Calok said. “The Breen are far more powerful than the Federation. No Federation vessel has come face to face with a Breen ship and lived to tell the tale. If we continue on our current trajectory we will soon encounter Breen territory, and believe me when I say this: I'll march will halt with a sudden thud.”
“The Breen are that powerful then?”
“Yes,” Calok nodded. “No Coalition vessel, including your pretty little hybrid ships will be able to hold up to a Breen attack.” He paused, weighing the words to use next. “So the best course of action is to make an alliance with them.”
“An alliance with the Breen?”
“Yes, I non-aggression pact, so to speak,” Calok said. “You will go of course, along with L'mar, to ensure that my interests are considered.”
“Wait a moment, Calok,” hissed the so'jan. “You do not have the authority to decide that the So'ja Coalition will alley themselves with anyone.”
“Check with you beloved Chancellor,” Calok said. “You'll see things differently then. A moment ago you said you knew who was in control. Don't disappoint me, Senator.” He paused and looked off, deep in thought. “You may go.”
Flustered and very much angered but this conversation, Senator Ru'kon stood and hurried out of the room. Out in the hall, his attaché stood in waiting. He reached over to his chief attaché.
“Bark'o,” he murmured. “We are losing control of the situation.”
Captain Kelsoe paced his officer aboard DS-5, Commander Tuff - now in the displaying the command colors, sat on the couch reviewing a list of potential candidates to replace him as the Tactical Officer.
“I don't understand why they won't let me promote from amongst your security staff,” Kelsoe said. “Surely Manon or Dunn, could succed at the most.”
“I have no doubt they would, Captain,” Tuff said, placing the PADD down on his knee. “However, I do see where the Admirals are coming from.”
Kelsoe stopped pacing and rubbed his hands through his still thin hair.
“I myself would have requested Lieutenant Buerk,” Tuff said. “There is something to what they said about new blood. In a way, I was new blood, when I joined the crew.”
“Yeah, but that was our first mission,” Kelsoe said. “We've had nearly four years together now. I've gone accustomed to the crew, and I would prefer to have one of our own on the bridge, instead of an outside.”
Tuff nodded. “Orders are orders, sir.”
Kelsoe nodded. “They are at that.” He turned and sat down into own of the padded armchairs. “Anyone good on the list Starfleet provided?”
“There's Lieutenant Tallo,” and then added. “He's a Bijani serving aboard the Lexington under Captain Henderson - number one on my list, if you ask me. According to his service record he served with distinction during the Dominion War, back when he was an ensign. In the top third of his class at the Academy, and...,” he paused. “Never mind.”
“He's already accepted the Tactical post aboard the Fearless,” Tuff said. He punched the scroll button and squinted. “Ah, here's my second choice out of his lot. Lieutenant Gervasio Valdez, graduated from the Academy in 2374... has the Raid on San Francisco Service Medal, along with the Dominion War Service Medal...”
“Everyone has that one,” Kelsoe said. “Even Braxis!”
Tuff chuckled. “Good to see your sense of humor's returning, sir.”
“Citation of Honor, Star Cross, Award of Valor,” Tuff read off the list of awards and honors. “Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry, Decoration of Gallantry, Silver Palm, and received the Medal of Honor for disobeying the direct orders of his superior officer to go back and rescue Captain Taggar of the Kaman during the finale battle of the Dominion War.” He paused and whistled. “12 Commendations, including one from Admiral Ross, and another from Captain Benjamin Sisko.”
Kelsoe nodded. “Very distinguished record, to be sure. Where is he assigned?”
“Intrepid, under Horace Boone,” Tuff said surprised. “Part of Commander Trim'vok's Security detail.”
“Boone and Trim'vok, huh?” Kelsoe said, leaning back. “Boone's a pain in the ass, and Trim'vok, for an Andorian, is a tough as they come by.”
“Boone still taught at the Academy when I was there,” Tuff said. “Must have missed the captain's chair.”
Kelsoe reached out for the data pad, and Tuff handed it over. He examined the service record of Valdez and scanned the image provided. “Seems young,” he said.
“They're all young, Captain,” Tuff said. “Compared to us, that is.”
“What do you think?” he asked handing the PADD back.
“Trim'vok was an instructor at the Academy, too,” Tuff said. “With both those two old soldiers commanding him and think he'd be a perfect pick. Captain Taggar, despite being a Tellarite, is a good judge of character. He's what he had to say about Lieutenant Valdez: By all measures of jurisprudence this young man should already be the chief tactical officer aboard a ship. If there were an opening on mine, I'd take him; Alas, I don't think Commander Porter would like that.”
“Taggar certainly seems to have faith in him,” Kelsoe said.
“Have you meet Captain Taggar, sir?” Tuff inquired.
“Once, it was when I had to go back to help with the selection of the new Starfleet Commander,” Kelsoe explained.
“Well, I know him by reputation only,” Kelsoe said. “If you're asking me if I trust his judgment, I do. More than that I respect the man above all else. Taggar is the only known recipient of four Christopher Pike Medal of Valor.”
Tuff nodded. “Look here,” he suddenly said, looking down at the PADD. “It says here that he's married to a Patricia Blaine... do you think she's related to…?”
“She is,” Kelsoe said. “Captain Donald Blaine, The Great Painter, as we called me back then. Yes, he is her father, and my first commanding officer aboard the old Excelsior class Milburn. If Captain Blaine could accept this man into his family, then I can accept this man into my crew.”
“So I should send word to Admiral Truman?” Tuff asked standing up.
Tuff grinned. “Well, at least I get my second pick!”
And with that Tuff left to take care of the arrangements. Kelsoe stood up and stretched and felt a yawn coming. It had been a while since he slept well. For weeks now, he has kept having the same terrible nightmare, but every time he wakes up, he can't remember a thing about it. Fatigued and exhausted, Captain Kelsoe returned to his desk, where he picked up a PADD with a repair status report on his beloved Pioneer.
Deep in the Imperial Palace on Ka'al, Senator Ru'kon stood in the darken chambers of Chancellor Ar'kon, who was seating behind his passive stone carved desk looking over scrolls of information and reports on the ongoing war effort. Ar'kon looked up at the Senator as he finished speaking.
“Yes, so what!?” hissed Ar'kon.
Ru'kon shifted, disconcerted.
“I thought you would like to know what Tyson Calok is doing,” Ru'kon explained, confused. “He has increasing been behaving as if he acts with the authority of your office, sir.”
Ar'kon chewed on a dry piece of meat before answering.
“What!?” Senator Ru'kon stammered in shock. “You cannot be serious?! How can you allow a dur'jak strut about the palace as if he is king?”
Ar'kon placed calmly placed his hands on the edge of his enormous desk and pulled himself up to his feet.
“Silence!” he cried. After a brief pause, he continued. “Tyson Calok is a guest of the So'jan People. In exchange for certain services he as given to us in the past, and will give us in the distance future, I have granted him permission to act as my Ra'tee.”
“Tyson Calok the Ra'tee!” snarled Ru'kon disgusted. “Surely that is a role for Hasz'fos, the First Legate!”
Ru'kon glanced over at the idiotic Hasz'fos, who looked up at the mention of his name. Hasz'fos merely smiled stupidly and continued reading the scroll in his hands.
Ar'kon glanced over at Hasz'fos before speaking. “The First Legate has conceded that post to Tyson Calok. He speaks with the authority of my office, Ru'kon. You will do as he commands.”
“But... Chancellor,” Ru'kon fumbled. “Surely you will not let this human dictate so'jan policy? Have you even consulted with Saz'ga, Ru'siy, or Isen'ko... even Jak'bul? They are the ones who should assist you in your decisions, not an dur'jak.”
“Saz'ga is an imbecile, Ru'siy cares more for himself than the So'jan people,” Ar'kon hissed through his lips. “Isen'ko is old and decrepit. And Jak'bul is pu'tak.”
“Duja-fa!” cried Ru'kon, raising his arms into the air. “Don't you see he is driving us apart, creating situations that will allow him to gain more control?”
Ar'kon sighed and slumped back down in his chair.
“He is in control, Ru'kon,” Ar'kon said, for the first time sounding defeated.
Ru'kon stepped forward and knelt down next to the Chancellor.
“He cares nothing for us,” Ru'kon said. “Only for himself and his plans. He is using us for his own means, not ours.”
“But as long as he needs us we will be strong,” Ar'kon said. “Without him, everything that we have achieved in would have been impossible.”
The so'jan Senator stood and looked over and pointed a finger at Hasz'fos.
“Faar'kon!” he sneered over at Hasz'fos, who jumped at being called such a word. “You should have stopped this when you could have. Now because of you, our Chancellor is being held hostage in his own palace. Hasz'fos the tu'jak, that's what they'll call you!”
“That is enough, Ru'kon!” snapped Ar'kon. “We have all made our baskets, and now we much sleep in them. May Ba'gee see us through this.”
“Ba'gee has abandoned us if we have sunk so low as to allow non-so'jan to order us around,” Ru'kon said. “Ba'gee did not give the first so'ja the spark of rebellion so that we could throw off one oppressor for another!”
“I said that is enough, Senator!” Ar'kon said standing up again. “You have received your orders and well meet Commander L'mar in Sovan'a province for immediate transportation to the Kal'sa, where Admiral Da'note will take you to Beta IV, where we've arranged for a meeting with you and the Breen Ambassador. You will negotiate the non-aggression pact between our two peoples and ensure that Tyson Calok, as well as our own, interests are respected. You will do this, or be labeled a tu'jak by myself in front of the entire Senate. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Chancellor,” Ru'kon said, bowing his head slightly. “I understand.” He turned to leave and muttered. “You are just as weak as the faar'kon Ba'l was.”
Ar'kon did not hear this insult, and continued reviewing the reports on the war effort.
“Reassignment approved, Lieutenant,” Kelsoe said seating behind his desk looking down at PADD in his hand and the stated the reassignment of Lieutenant Gervasio Valdez. Kelsoe placed the PADD down and looked up at his new tactical officer. The man had a handsome face and a strong chin. His green eyes burned with the passion of youth, and his uniform was impeccable. Kelsoe glimpsed Commander Tuff standing behind the young man's square shoulders.
“At ease, Lieutenant,” Tuff said, stepping around and lean against the edge of Kelsoe desk. He folded his arms across his chest as he examined their new officer. “For someone so young so have certainly received a lot of honors.”
“I take that as a compliment, sir,” Valdez said.
Kelsoe stood up. “Married to Patricia Blaine must be tough.”
“You can relax, Lieutenant,” Kelsoe said, raising a hand. “We're just trying to get to know you better. I want to know my senior staff well. We are going to be working closely together and, unlike some other captains, I like to have a personal relationship with my colleagues, if not the entire crew, at least my senior officers.”
“Sir, yes... sir,” Valdez replied.
“Marriage to Patricia Blaine?” Kelsoe asked. “How is it?”
“Very good, sir,” Valdez replied, half-smiling. “We have a one year old son, named Nicholas, after her grandfather.”
“Ah, Nicholas Blaine,” Kelsoe said nodding.
“He was head of Starfleet Operations back in the day, right?” Tuff said, leaning back, speaking to Kelsoe.
Kelsoe nodded. “Yes, I worked with him while I was working for Admiral Hayes,” Kelsoe said. “He was a great man, his death was a loss for Starfleet.” Kelsoe turned his attention back to Valdez. “And how's her father treating you, Captain Blaine was my first commanding officer?”
“Well, sir,” Valdez replied. “He told me a couple of stories about you after I learned of my reassignment.”
“All untrue, I assure you,” Kelsoe said chuckling.
Valdez grinned. “Even the painting, sir?”
“That, however, is true,” Kelsoe said.
“You never told me you painted,” Tuff said arching his neck to look back at Kelsoe.
“Haven't really had time to paint nowadays,” Kelsoe said. “But I've always found it helps me unwind.”
Tuff inclined his head. “I play the oboe.”
Tuff nodded. “Don't you remember Deck Two complaining about a low squeaking noise a couple of days after I joined the crew?”
“Now that you mention it, I remember something like that,” Kelsoe said. “But I haven't heard any complaints about it sense.”
“Who was chief security officer?” Tuff asked.
Kelsoe cracked a smile.
“Well, if you play the oboe, maybe we should get together sometime, sir,” Valdez said.
“Lieutenant?” Tuff inquired, narrowing his eyes.
“Well, they might not go together well, but I play the Violin,” Valdez said.
“Maybe we could arrange for a small concert orchestra,” Tuff said jokingly. “I'm sure Dr. Rhell must play Bolian instrument, I've always gotten complaints about loud clanging noises coming for his quarters.”
“He plays the Bolian Bells,” Valdez said smiling. “We were in the Academy Band together. And Ensign Kavoc plays the Vulcan harp.”
“Indeed!” Tuff said in a mock-impersonation of Braxis.
Both Kelsoe and Tuff laughed, and Valdez eventually joined in, fore he could hardly contain himself.
“There,” Kelsoe said, wiping his eyes after they had all quieted. “That's more like it.” He paused for a beat. “I want you to feel relax, Mr. Valdez. The crew of a starship, especially one as small as the Pioneer, is like a family. I don't want you to feel like you have to be on edge the entire time. However, I would like personal time to be separate from duty time. When your own duty I'll expect you to act professional and as your record has shown, to be an excellent officer.” He paused and looked over at Tuff. “As for now, Commander Tuff and I would like you to spend a couple of days aboard Pioneer as she goes through her repairs.”
Valdez nodded in his acknowledgment.
“Speaking of the repairs,” Tuff said. “Joanna informs me that they're almost done. Within a couple of weeks we'll be able to take the Pioneer will be ready for duty.”
“Good,” Kelsoe said nodding. “Well, Mr. Valdez,” Kelsoe said shaking hands with his new tactical officer. “Welcome aboard.”
Commander L'mar stepped into Calok's chambers and stopped. He heard the soft song with a piano background playing. He looked around and blinked. It was dark, only one light was lit and it was near the only objects in the room. A sad female voice joined in the music: Life is a world pain, emotions are running through me, I know you sorrow, and know its true, life is a world of pain. Then he heard a whimpering noise and sorrow-filled moan. The sad singing continued: Hold on to me, and surrender, I will never let go. In the song a woman asking why her love turned away, and why he was so hard to hold on to. She pleading with him not to be afraid and give in. In the chorus she referred to herself as his Angel of Love. It was a sad and sorrow filled song, and L'mar did not understand why it was being played. As he walked towards the chairs he saw the silhouette of Tyson Calok. All that was visible were his glowing red eyes, which we blurred with tears.
L'mar stopped behind the unoccupied chair, unsure what to do or say.
“Tyson?” he question hesitantly.
Calok sniffled. “The sorrows of the past,” he saved with a wave of a hand.
L'mar inclined his head slightly, unsure of what he might.
“It represents my mood... my depression and sorrow. I have played it every time this year.”
“Why?” L'mar inquired, curious to find out what made his complex colleague so sorrowful and depress.
“It was today,” Calok suddenly spoke. L'mar looked questioningly down at Calok. “The day my wife and children were taken from me by those Cardassian swine.” He paused and took a long deep breath, beginning the suppression of his emotions. “It is one of my weaknesses... my sorrow.”
“Emotions should be expressed,” L'mar spoke. “Even the ones that are hard to bear. It is necessary and a natural part of our existence.”
In the darkness Calok nodded. “You are a wise man, my friend. However, for a man in my position, I should never display any weakness... even if it were that which I cherished most.”
“So you display it now, in your quarters, away from the others,” L'mar said.
Calok inclined his head. “Yes... it is a habit I should break.”
“No!” interjected L'mar quickly. “You honor your family by continuing this mourning.”
Calok chuckled; it was unlike his others, full of sadness and sorrow.
“You are right, of course,” Calok said. “I always feel better afterwards... and stronger. Mourning them remembers me why I am doing what I am.” He paused for a beat.
“You've come for you orders?”
“Yes,” L'mar nodded, soldier-like.
“You are to go to Beta IV with Senator Ru'kon and Admiral Da'note to supervise their negotiations with the Breen to form a non-aggression pact,” Calok said, picking up a Federation issued PADD. “I've upload all your instructions onto this data pad. Take it with you and contact me once an agreement as been reached.”
L'mar took the PADD and scanned it.
“Go now,” Calok said. “I want to me alone.”
The Romulan inclined his head and turned to leave, feeling somewhat differently about his supposed totally evil colleague.
Senator Ru'kon sat quietly next to the table aboard a Breen space station not from from Beta IV. Their trip to this station had been quick and painless. He was able to stay locked in his chambers throughout the entire voyage, reading from the old works of some of Ka’al’s best poets. But now they were on a foreign space station, and Ru’kon was able to met a group of aliens he had never before met. The Breen: It was said that they lived on an ice planet, so they had to stay in isolation suits when off world. He had been told by L’mar, who had just entered the room, that the Breen were xenophohic, very much like the So’jan, but had told me that the Breen considered the So’jan an inferior species. He, L’mar, would be doing the talking because he was Romulan, and - thought they too were consider inferior to the Breen - were tolerated due to the many encounters they had had.
The door on the far side of the room hissed and in moments in opened. Ru’kon stood up as the Breen Ambassador, along with his retinue, entered the negotiation room. Commander L'mar stood up as well. He leaned over and whispered into the senator's hear.
“Do not worry,” the Romulan said. “Our universal translators have been adjusted to translate the Breen language.”
“Thanks,” hissed Ru'kon.
“Your quite welcome,” beamed L'mar. “By the way... let me do the talking.” He paused. “Oh, and remember the Romulan saying, Never turn you back on a Breen.” Again he paused. “I will remind you not to repeat what you hear... you're only here to sign the treaty for your government.”
Ru'kon glared at L'mar, but nodded his subservience to L'mar's commands. L'mar grinned and turned his attention towards the Breen ambassador, who had taken his seat.
“Ambassador Torr,” L'mar spoke nodding in salute as he sat down, Ru'kon copied.
Several garbled electronic sounds issued from Torr's helmet.
“Yes,” the Romulan nodded. “I concur, my people should never have allied themselves with the Federation. It was a mistake on the part of my leaders. As are well aware, I no longer work for the Romulan military, and its corrupt civilian government. I work for a mutual friend of ours, Tyson Calok.”
Torr lowered his head and spoke; this time the garbled electronic sound lasted for some time.
“Agreed,” L'mar said. “In exchange my employer would like all information and data the Breen Confederacy has collected on an ancient race, whose name is not spoken, and all called the First Ones. He would also like all information on the possible location of their abandoned technology.”
Ru'kon's jaw dropped and he starred at L'mar, who merely glared calmly across the table at the Breen Torr. For a moment Torr was silent, but then a quick succession of electronic noises issued from his helmet.
“He agrees?” Ru'kon questioned.
Torr's helmet jerked towards Ru'kon and a succession of loud garbled electronic sounds came out.
“Silence, you fool!” ragged L'mar. “Don't you understand that the Breen consider the So'ja an inferior race. The only reason they have consented to this meeting was the fact that a Romulan would be speaking on behalf of the So'jan people.”
Ru'kon gulped and nodded, remaining silent. L'mar sighed and turned his attention back to Ambassador Torr.
“I apologize for my colleague,” L'mar spoke. “He forgets his place.”
Torr's response was quick.
“Then do we still have a deal?” L'mar inquired. “Well your people sign a non-aggression pact with the Coalition.”
Torr responded with a series of electronic sounds and inclined his head. L'mar bowed his head deeply and gestured for Ru'kon to do the same. Then L'mar produced a Romulan data pad and held it across the table.
“Your thumb print, please.”
The Assembly Hall of Deep Space Five was filled with most of the crews of the docked starships, including that of the U.S.S. Pioneer, and the entire senior staff of the station. Admiral Truman stood behind Captain Kelsoe, who in-turn, was standing before Admiral Toshio Kawamura. All senior officers up on the inspection platform were dressed in their dress uniforms, including the newly appointed operations officer of the Pioneer, Gervasio Valdez.
“Captain Benjamin Kyle Kelsoe,” Admiral Kawamura said, standing tall and erect. “In recognition of remarkable leadership, meritorious conduct and acts of personal bravery, mainly those resulting in the prevention and capture of those who would assassinate the then President-Elect Korvin Mott, it is my honor, on behalf of Starfleet Command and the United Federation of Planets to present you the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor.”
Kawamura inclined his head and Qupec, Kawamura's vulcan assistant, stepped forward, holding out a small box. Kawamura stepped over and opened the box, producing the medal from a dark velveteen interior. The Admiral held it up from ever one to see, and then he stepped forward and pinned the medal to Kelsoe chest. As he did so, he spoke softly, so that only Kelsoe would hear.
“You deserve this, Ben, and not just for what I had. You have served above and beyond the call of duty many times before.”
“Thank you, sir.”
They then shook hands. Kelsoe turned around and stood before the cheering of the assembled group. Commander Tuff walked up and clasped hands with Kelsoe. With his free one he patted him on the shoulder.
“Congratulations, Captain,” Tuff said. “You bloody well deserve it.”
The rest of the assembled senior officer followed, Admiral Truman taking up the rear. When Truman reached Kelsoe and grinned.
“We meant to present this to you after you can back from rescuing the crew of the Regal, but...,” Truman trailed off.
“I understand, sir,” Kelsoe answered. “Things came up.”
“More than that,” Truman said. “Don't think likely off this award, you really do deserve it, and not just because you were held captive by the enemy, but for all that you have done since you've become captain of the Pioneer. Admiral Hayes would have been very proud... you were his protégé.”
Kelsoe shook hands with Truman and inclined his head.
“That means a lot, Admiral, it really does... thank you.”
Truman smirked. “You're one of the best, Kelsoe. Remember that.”
Lieutenant Albert Buerk, like the rest, had already congratulated Captain Kelsoe on receiveing the distinguished Christopher Pike Medal of Valor, was standing off to the side of the platform as the captain spoke with the brass. One of the side doors, alongside the inspection platform opened and one of Buerk's security personnel walked it. He looked around the Buerk and upon locating his commanding officer came straight over.
“Sir, news from the front, Ensign Tolorev just decoded the message,” the ensign told Buerk as he handed him a data pad.
Buerk examined the contents of the PADD, before his brow furrowed. He excused himself and maneuvered through the crowed towards Captain Kelsoe and the brass.
“Admiral Kawamura, sorry for imposing,” he spoke, when he reached them. “But I have just received an intercepted transmission from a So'jan warship that I think you should see.”
Kawamura took the PADD from Buerk and looked at its contents. His countenance immediately changed from one of joy and happiness to one of despair.
“What is it?” Truman asked raising his eyebrows.
Kawamura, in shock, handed the PADD over. Truman and Kelsoe looked down.
“Dear God,” Truman muttered. “The Breen Confederacy have just signed a non-aggression pact with the So'ja Coalition.”