=/\= Personal Quarters – Ambassador Ian Lamont – Deck 2 =/\=
With recent events still weighing upon him and the matter of what to do about them, Ambassador Lamont showered, shaved, dressed and had a coffee. And another.
He’d slept for nearly twelve hours and finally felt better after his less than prudent bout with the bottle. Still, despite the severe hangover and an attempted murder, he was feeling better with the exception of a mild headache which he attributed to his overindulgence.
He spent the next two hours completing several overdue reports, sent in a status update to the diplomatic corps, had another cup of coffee followed by a tall glass of water, perused the latest news flashes from some of his favorite media sources, and read two reports, making him green with envy, on the exploits of his ambassadorial brethren in the Alpha quadrant claiming glory for a peace treaty here and a trade agreement there.
It was a fairly normal, if not dull day, with the exception of the dull ache in his head which refused to subside. He considered a visit to sickbay, but then retreated from that idea unwilling to reveal his rendezvous with a rather potent year of Romulan Ale. The pain was only an irritant and probably the result of his recent abuse of his liver which was returning the favor.
Standing from his desk he decided a visit to astrometrics might be refreshing to learn a bit more about the Charon’s destination, but soon soured on the idea not being in the mood to listen to a lengthy lecture on stellar phenomenon, gravity fluctuations, and other such things which the scientist folks seemed to get so incredibly excited and bothered by.
Contemplating his course of action he remembered hearing a rumor of a still the pilots were building somewhere below decks. Engineering seemed to be funneling spare parts for the ambitious endeavor to refine some homemade rot gut. He was actually quite intrigued by the rumors he had heard, but given his recent behavior the thought of sampling any product was not appealing. His curiosity would have to wait until he was feeling up for a few glasses of homemade battery acid.
That left the bridge. Perhaps there was something interesting and worthwhile happening there. If not, staring at the stars on the viewscreen was always a somewhat relaxing activity with little else aboard in progress which involved the ship’s ambassador.
=/\= Main Bridge =/\=
Lamont entered the bridge and casually inspected the various stations taking a mild interest in the daily routine of the officers in the Charon’s nerve center. It had been sometime since his bridge service aboard the USS Lexington during the height of the 2nd Dominion War. Many things seemed the same yet some of the systems were more modernized and somewhat different than he remembered. Part of him longed for those days while another reviled them as a waste of time. His service eventually opened his path to diplomacy which he had been walking upon ever since.
Still he felt a sense of nostalgia for his days as third officer. His command of the bridge during the night shifts while dull, boring, and tedious still managed to retain an allure which to this day was oddly seductive. It wasn’t so much the position, power, or authority – it was something more basic. Sitting in command of a starship, even as a junior officer, one felt a sense that they could make a difference out here in the vastness of space. Perhaps it was naïve to believe such a thing, but even now he remembered the thrill each night of being handed command and knowing he was playing a small role in a grand orchestra.
His ambassadorial work had far less tangible and recognizable results. Since being assigned to the Charon he was unsure if he was helping, hurting, or worse contributing little to nothing to the ship’s mission and objectives. Diplomacy was a interesting art where actions could reap fruit immediately bringing with it fame and adulation or take years of careful, quiet negotiation to achieve a desired outcome. Some ventures never paid off, some could take years or even decades to realize results, and cultivating relationships and trust could be the most time consuming, demanding, and challenging jobs the corps had to offer.
He wondered almost constantly now if he was making any sort of real impact aboard the ship these days. If he was not then what was he doing here and why was Starfleet wasting his time? Perhaps someone saw something he could not or perhaps they wanted him to experience something he had yet to encounter.
Rounding the corner of the bridge, Lamont noticed the ever interesting and always affable Commander Tyrax in command. Captain Rehu, was fortunately nowhere to be found. Ian headed over and took a seat next to the Vulcan.
“Good afternoon Commander Tyrax. Anything new and exciting occurring on the bridge at the moment? I trust we’ll be watching the galactic fireworks or rather nature’s own atomic bomb from a safe distance, yes?”
“Sensor resolution, Roehricht.”
“Sehr gut, Lieutenant. But not good enough to get a fix on that radiation source.”
“Ich weiss nicht. But Miss Johnson, sorry, Marcus, is working on it from engineering.”
“Right, let’s see if we can boost range and give her a hand.”
The low hum of activity all around the Vulcan seated gracefully in the center chair paused for zero point six seconds when the turbolift doors opened to admit a newcomer but Sakarra did not need to look up to recognize a familiar presence.
“Good afternoon, ambassador.” Rustling fabric and displacement of air indicated Ian Lamont had decided on the unoccupied exec’s chair as his destination and the raven haired Vulcan tipped her head in greeting.
The readings on the little auxiliary screen still defied any logical analysis and although her posture was the very image of elegant nonchalance, the way Sakarra’s fingernail tapped against the armrest conveyed her puzzlement and mild annoyance as clearly as Mr Roehricht’s innovative Austrian curses.
“So we shall.” Lambent black eyes settled on the fair haired human who – oh, dear, appeared to have wrestled a Sehlat. And lost. Not that he was anything but impeccably groomed but his entire posture, not to mention shadows under the usually so bright green eyes suggested he was suffering from … a hangover?
Logical, if he had sampled the moonshine which the marines had been able to save from their Commander’s cleaning action and distributed in Eris Deck last night. But he had not been there – at least not while Sakarra and said Marine CO had still been present. And there was something else, something …
Realizing she had been about to pry and possibly embarrass the good ambassador, the young woman blinked. Tilting her head towards the viewscreen for a moment, she gave what positively qualified as a Vulcan’s small smile – the briefest quirking of a slanted brow, combined with a flutter of ebony eyelashes. “The words ‘new and exciting’ however are rather insufficient.”
Lamont thought he saw something…or rather felt some microscopic thread of amusement emanating from Sakarra, yet the sensation disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
And indeed, the brightness glowing on the screen, filtered by ship’s systems so as to not bathe the entire bridge in merciless light was … magnificent. Even at this distance, even with the distortions caused by a yet unknown source, it was clear the core collapses were occurring in ever faster intervals, bringing with them a rapid acceleration in the fusion processes.
One collapse after the other, halted again and again until the splendid death throes would reach their catastrophic end.
They had a few days perhaps, a week at the utmost. And still they were thirty–four point two hours from reaching the doomed star.
The hydrogen, helium and carbon layers already showed clearly on the sensors and Sakarra was about to point them out to Lamont when the odd sensation she had picked up earlier reasserted itself. At first, it had seemed little more of an echo of her own strange discomfort, subdued thanks to Vulcan discipline and a helpful remedy administered by Doctor King.
But no, the direction this had originated from was unmistakable.
“You are not well, Mr Lamont?”
Two crewmembers with inexplicable headaches was coincidence. Three … warranted asking a personal question.
“Excuse me”, Lamont replied with a curious gaze having been caught off guard by the Vulcan’s unusual question. How did she know that? He had not been to sickbay for his condition. He hadn’t told anyone he was feeling poorly. His mind drifted to the computer and…Savant.
Was that computer program spying on him and reporting his activities possibly at the Captain’s command? Lamont wasn’t one to go looking for conspiracies nor bought into such rubbish without solid factual information, but he couldn’t dismiss his very human desires to assume and infer. Covert spying was not beyond the realm of possibility yet he had no reason to believe anything so sinister had occurred. Commander Tyrax was an exceptionally talented and observant individual and she had surprised him on several occasions with her unending assortment of fascinating abilities.
“Forgive me Commander. I have a slight headache I have been unable to shake. It is minor. Nothing to worry about. I wasn’t aware I was telegraphing my discomfort so readily. You caught me somewhat off guard by your question. Then again, you seem to have a talent for doing just that when we are near one another.” He flashed a smile though it was weak and reserved given the uncomfortable ache he attributed to his night of excessive ale consumption. If she could deduce that after a shower, shave, and a clean uniform then she had no business in naval operations. She should instead be working for intelligence or perhaps even in diplomacy where such skills were as prized as the finest diamonds.
“Not readily, Mr Lamont.” Her tone was almost conversational, were it not for the fact the melodious voice was keyed low enough to be heard by none but the good ambassador. “However, your body language in combination with the … discomfort several of the crew are experiencing after yesterday’s festivities made the conclusion probable, if not logical.”
But there was more to it, wasn’t there? One Betazoid, one Vulcan and one human with Vulcan ancestry, the former two decidedly not suffering from the aftermath of too many alcoholic beverages and the latter … well, there was no sufficient evidence that it was simply a ‘hang over’. Especially since the sickbay reports now flashing on her screen indicated more telepaths with a variety of symptoms, many of which included impaired motor functions and subsequent ‘hanging on’ to things.
“More than that, evidence of an influence other than ‘moonshine’ is mounting. On that matter - if I may make an unrelated inquiry – I have yet to determine the origin of this word. Would you be able to explain why a hazardous liquid is compared to lunar illumination?”
The young Vulcan ceased scrolling through the reports and decided to approve the medical department’s recommendation to have science assist with immediate effect. After all, life sciences were currently not overly taxed.
Looking up, she canted her head to the side, a deeply thoughtful expression in deep black eyes.
Lamont smiled at the Vulcan. His encounters with Sakarra seemed to shine ever more light upon her race which he was studied upon however in reality knew so very little. Her question, genuine as it was, had humorous underpinnings which he believed were there subtle as they were like invisible strands of a spider’s silken web one could only glimpse in sunlight.
Adding to his amusement was the confirmation that the pilots had indeed been successful in brewing some contraband “shine”. However if the bridge knew of this then it was obvious the operation as clever as it had been was now at an end.
“I see the pilots and their co-conspirators have been found out”, the ambassador remarked. “A pity. I was hoping to sample some of their wares not that I condone such actions, but simply as a matter of the experience. However to answer your question I believe the term was coined as a result of people who manufactured alcoholic beverages illegally in Earth’s past. The manufacturing process was often performed at night to avoid detection by the public and authorities. Given that the byproduct of the process is ethanol and typically clear if produced correctly the term Moonshine was coined as it reflected the light from Earth’s moon given its clandestine production during evening hours.”
“Hazardous? Water can be hazardous if consumed in large quantities though it is not nearly as much fun as a beverage with high alcoholic content.
If your next question is why us human engage in dangerous, ill-advised, or risky behavior – I have no answer for you. We simply do each for different reasons perhaps. Some do such things for the experience, others for the rush and thrill, still others do it as a means of escape from other troubles. The motivations can be as varied and complex as your own IDIC. There’s typically an emotional component which can override logic and reason if that helps to clarify.” It was Lamont’s turn to gaze back at the inquisitive Vulcan commander with a tilted head and a slight grin indicating his amusement and interest with their conversation and topic.
Not really. However …
“It certainly ‘shines’ a new light on certain puzzling human idiosyncrasies, if you will pardon the expression.”
Ah, whenever you thought you had a base model to work with, a rudimentary comprehension of the species which would enable you to draw reasonable conclusions; they did something so outrageous, so unpredictable, it made you doubt your own logic.
How could she not understand the frustration some of her race experienced when dealing with these fascinating creatures? But it was not in Sakarra’s nature to blame them for her own inability to follow their bouts of illogic. Like her good humored Betazoid father who saw mudslides in the mountains and torn garments while looking for a rare orchid as a simple fact of life - one that you could resent or laugh about, and since neither would change the inevitable you might as well do the latter – she simply looked at them in wonder.
The ambassador’s amicable, detailed explanation – or attempt of such – the dark haired Vulcan had anticipated. Even the humor. But that he would have been a potential ‘customer’, perhaps even enthusiastic judge in the contest between marines and the flight deck …
“If however you are indeed curious as to the quality of said beverages … I recommend closely following the activities of Lieutenant Hadley and a certain Caitian now present. By my estimate, they have a decisive advantage over the marines by having secured an underground supply chain with engineering and will be back in operation three point two days earlier.”
If at all possible, the Vulcan’s voice became even lower, beyond the hearing of M’Riarr whose ears had twitched in a decidedly amused and just slightly nervous fashion “Allowing for the time it will require to ascertain the new location, you should be able to secure a sample before … measures are taken. Again.”
It had become a veritable cat-and-mouse game, one she had engaged in with due reluctance but in the end, the Vulcan had been forced to bow to Lieutenant Warren’s logic. Letting certain things ‘slide’ indeed appeared to build morale on an unprecedented scale. Adding to the illogic, the fact that both Sakarra and the pilots knew things could only end one way served not as deterrent, but rather incentive to become better, faster, more creative. Puzzling as it might be, they were … happy.
Lamont craned his head sideways with a devilish grin. “Thank you for the tip commander. I may investigate such rumors when time permits.” Leaning back he was quite sure Sakarra had a sense of humor and was slowly learning to pick up on its subtle expression which was akin to the lightest caress of a soft wind which could neither be seen nor heard – only felt and briefly at that.
“Some light show that star is putting out”, Lamont said after a time raising his hand to block some of the bright light radiating from the viewscreen. “Hard to believe that we’re in the right place to see such a thing though I would feel better if we were headed away from a fusion reaction that has enough power to shatter whole solar systems.”
The light was not quite enough to prompt a reaction of her inner eyelids – and the ship’s filters would activate long before such a thing could happen – but Sakarra had observed the human’s instinctive reaction often enough to recognize it.
“It is merely the beginning, Mr Lamont.” Her serene voice betrayed little of the delight she experienced, that they were indeed here to observe this phenomenon, and with a science vessel nonetheless. Though she was fairly certain some people on board shared the ambassador’s sentiment about keeping a safe distance.
“It still amazes me how even with all of this raw power it will still take centuries for this light to reach Earth or Mars where it can be observed. Funny to think that even in my twilight years I will still never see the light being given off now. Gives renewed meaning to the word perspective I suppose.”
Nodding sagely, the Vulcan cast a cursory glance at Ensign M’Riarr’s course adjustments and noted that they would get what Mr Lamont might experience as ‘uncomfortably close’ to the star. Still, both escape vector and velocity were computed to the millisecond and barring a catastrophic failure of the warp core, the risk was far within the acceptable limits.
“It is the very reason for Starfleet to launch ships like Charon, ambassador. To see lights like this without having to wait centuries. And to re-examine perspectives.”
“Yes of course”, the ambassador answered. He could appreciate the Charon’s unique opportunity and its plethora of scientists both onboard and across the galaxy that would use the data collected to learn new and interesting things about the grand mysteries of the universe. An exploding star was certainly an exciting event yet he was far less excited than his scientific comrades. The scientific mission and the excitement it generated only served to reinforce his doubts of why he was here and what purpose he served. Exploding stars needed neither mediation nor negotiation and for the moment he was merely a spectator in a sport he couldn’t play. Still, despite his selfish concerns, the experience was worth the price of admission. How often did one get to see the absolute ultimate in pyrotechnics with a front row seat?
Perhaps it was the brightness of the screen, but his mild headache was beginning to go from an annoyance to something more substantial. It was still tolerable, but if it continued he might actually have to visit sickbay and admit to his earlier transgressions.
The ambassador’s uncharacteristically curt reply prompted a velvety brow to climb slowly as Sakarra returned her focus from the readings on her auxiliary screen to the fair haired human next to her.
Mild curiosity and just a touch of concern shimmering in deep black pools, Sakarra decided that it would be rude to inquire about his health once more, but that did not mean she could not prompt him to see the logic of seeking help in other ways.
“It would appear all but two of Charon’s Betazoids and an undisclosed number of Vulcans have reported to sickbay within the past thirty-six hours.” Her tone was as level as if she were explaining the engine status to an interested listener, perhaps seeking a second opinion on the odd fluctuation occurring in the impulse manifolds. “A most curious development, yes?”
“Indeed”, came the ambassador’s answer. “Any idea as to the cause? Such reports would seem to suggest something more than mere coincidence?”
A curt nod from the commander indicated there was no additional information.
Her subtle question, expertly placed with the skill of a diplomat, was not lost upon him. “In the absence of any current diplomatic issues I believe I will follow up on this issue in sickbay which appears to be quite the mystery. If I discover anything further I will report my findings to the bridge.”
Standing, Lamont adjusted his uniform before bowing slightly at the commander. Moving off, Lamont momentarily stopped at the helm station leaning over toward the Caitian helmsman. “Please do me a personal favor and keep your paw on the warp engine trigger. It would make me feel worlds better to know we can get out of here should things get too hot.” Lamont flashed a final look at the angry star on the viewing screen and the volatile interactions of heat, gas, and energy which would very soon explode with cataclysmic power. He needed to work on a tan, but extra crispy wasn’t exactly the look he had in mind.
Before the helm officer could respond, Lamont was on his way to the turbolift and quickly disappeared behind its doors.
Lt. Commander Sakarra Tyrax
Ambassador Ian Lamont