[ USS Charon, Main Bridge ]
“The Vulcan & The Snake Charmers – Part I”
Some people might have asked ‘Why me?’, even if only quietly. How did I end up in this mess, commanding a starship when all I ever wanted was to fly things that go very fast and explore the wonders of this galaxy?
Vulcans consider such question a waste of time and therefore illogical. But even they sometimes cannot help but wonder about the random forces shaping the universe and the quite obvious inherent humor of same. A strange sense of humor to be certain.
Since waiting for the true commander of this vessel to be released from sickbay and relieve her of the burden would not only be another illogical action but a negligent one, the dark eyed woman in the center seat settled for allowing herself a soft exhale and returned her mind to business. One point two seconds of thoughtfully looking at the viewscreen was forgivable. But no more than that.
They had either been deemed unappetizing or at least no sufficient threat, evident by the serpent creature’s failure to attack – or do anything of apparent significance for that matter. Still, it was clear the massive elongated shape shimmering in radiant hues of aged bronze, amber and green topaz was … aware of them. Studying them perhaps, if one would interpret the sleek, streamlined head turned towards them at an odd angle as such.
Sakarra knew one could hardly extrapolate from a serpent native to her planet to this being’s behavior, but if a K’karee were to coil like this, swishing its tail slowly … well, one would be wise to maintain a respectful distance.
Finely pointed ears picked up the turbolift’s hum even before the doors swished open, revealing not another near hyperventilating scientist but rather a human stepping onto the bridge with the lazy grace reminiscent of a bored feline. A feline knowing there was no bowl of cream waiting, but perhaps one could hope for a careless rodent.
As if on cue, a low purr began to rumble in the Caitian pilot’s throat.
“Counselor.” Giving a brief nod, the Vulcan gestured to the seat next to her, just so refraining from quirking a brow at M’Riarr’s cheerfully twitching ears.
Though this was his first time on the bridge, Jilani's dark gaze did not move from the viewscreen as he slowly drifted to his chair. His expression was almost Vulcan as he studied the shimmering serpent-like creature floating in the space before them.
"We came looking for knowledge," Waqas commented wryly as he sat down next to the First Officer, "And found a snake. I've read that this happened before and didn't end all that well. We are going to stay away from any fruit we find, right?"
Sakarra’s blank expression for once was not to be attributed to Vulcan equanimity but rather an unsuccessful attempt to decipher the puzzling reference. Certainly the ‘fruit’ was metaphorical?
Filing the counselor’s statement as another ‘human idiosyncrasy to be researched at a later time’, she settled for a patient look out of night black eyes.
However Mr Roehricht’s snicker made it quite clear there was more to the story than a reptile of the suborder Serpentes and … fruit.
The gentle hum of the turbolift was soothing as Ambassador Ian Lamont rubbed his neck that felt somewhat chaffed by his recent experience in the icy depths of the Charon’s sickbay. Taking the XO’s advice he had arrived some hours ago to investigate a rash of headaches and other that appeared to be affecting members of the crew with telepathic abilities. While he was still having trouble coming to terms with the knowledge of a Vulcan ancestor not recorded in his own family’s long, storied, and prestigious past and the latent remnants of mental abilities which he seemed to now possess, he was not entirely immune from the odd happenings. A mild headache that he attributed to a night of heavy drinking was perhaps something more.
He never anticipated his enquiries would lead to a full physical examination, a scratchy and far too revealing gown, and a gaggle of tests and procedures he neither wanted nor asked for.
Adjusting his uniform as the lift carried him to the bridge he was grateful for the summons which had freed him from his imprisonment in that freezing pit designed to heal personnel from their injuries.
There was nothing he enjoyed more than being scanned, prodded, and asked dozens of private questions he had no desire to answer. It felt like he had walked into a well organized setup, but perhaps coincidence was simply to blame with medical trying to understand the wave of unusual symptoms hitting select members of the crew.
They had administered something for the mild headache he was experiencing. He had heard that those aboard with far more developed and pronounced telepathic abilities than his own feeble skills were experiencing far more acute symptoms.
The lift slowed beneath him and stopped as the doors slid open revealing an unusual or rather usual as of late tension on the bridge. Exiting, Lamont soon discovered the source of the apprehension that seemed to be upon many of the crew’s faces.
Lamont made his way around the bridge carefully studying the object on the screen. A serpent? Wonderful. He’d already been bitten by the snakes in the medical caduceus down in sickbay and wasn’t up for a repeat– if he had a choice, which he usually did not.
“Commander, I can do many things, but snake charming isn’t one of them”, Lamont said taking a seat giving the counselor a polite nod.
He had yet to be introduced, but recognized the officer from recent personnel reports.
“The diplomatic corps never provided me with a flute. Charming as I am, that out there appears to be something us diplomats might enjoy looking at, but would never touch.”
"Actually, this should be familiar territory for you, Mr. Lamont," Waqas replied with a slight smile, leaning back in his chair, "You guys deal with resource issues all the time. Ugly out there," he said with a nod towards the being shimmering on the viewscreen, "Is probably here for the nova."
Shrugging at the eyebrow Sakarra raised at him, he added, "I know it is speculation. I'm just saying, we keep thinking of a nova as a process of destruction. I've had people talking about the fading of a star, the destruction of a witness to history...but it is a process of creation too. The energy release from a nova...if you view it as a resource...energy, food, whatever.... Just something to keep in mind."
Fruits. Snake charming. Musical instruments. Truly, one hardly needed the mysteries of space if one had humans presenting them in such abundance.
“An intriguing theory, counselor.” Not to mention more proof that humans were capable of astonishing leaps of logic.
Canting her head thoughtfully to the side, the raven haired Vulcan briefly tapped at her auxiliary screen and a second later, a small portion of the main viewer became transparent before displaying scan results – or rather, a lack thereof.
“As it stands, gentlemen, theories are all we have and I am willing to entertain them. Our scans are being deflected, though it is undetermined whether this is done consciously or not.” In the left bottom corner, another portion of the viewscreen broke off and replayed the serpent’s behavior since it had dropped out of warp in a shower of rainbow sparks.
“Science is convinced we are dealing with a life-form, and quite possibly a sentient one. There is also a possibility this is a vessel inhabited by an unknown species. In either case, it would be prudent to assume a First Contact situation. Thank you Miss Aroc.”
The latter was directed towards the Argelian yeoman who handed the two males PADDs containing Savant’s preliminary analysis and then moved off, but not before favoring each with a pleasant smile.
Sakarra gave the two officers a few moments to study the information both on the PADDs and displayed on the main viewer and noted with mild bemusement that the ambassador’s green eyes seemed to wander between the images and the outlines of her own profile. It was not only Starfleet regulation but common sense to have a counselor present in such circumstances, but surely Lamont was aware that any vessel’s commander would avail herself to additional diplomatic support if she was fortunate enough to have it available? Even if ‘charming serpents’ was not part of ambassadorial training.
Frankly, the Vulcan was not certain what would happen if this being decided it found Charon ‘charming’.
“I should appreciate an evaluation, gentlemen. You were inferring the star was an energy source, counselor.” Aristocratic features as serene as if she were having a pleasant philosophical debate on Science Academy grounds, Sakarra settled her deep black eyes on the Lieutenant “Question: Will it consider us a threat or competitors for a food source? Or does its behavior indicate our peaceful stance has been acknowledged?”
The next question was of course how to establish a mode of more … direct communications. Incidentally, the flustered Denobulan at communications was already working on this problem, though thus far with no discernible results.
Waqas shrugged easily, his obsidian eyes meeting Sakarra's gaze, utterly unperturbed by the First Officer's attention. "I have no idea. Obviously, like Savant notes, we don't know anything about the creature's behavior patterns. It could view us as irrelevant. Or it could view us as dessert. Maybe we are being saved for after the main course."
He casually set the padd that had been given to him aside. "I'm not too good with numbers, but it has to be probable that the nova has something to do with the creature being here. It is too odd a coincidence for us to discover this...thing right when a star is about to go boom. And I don't believe in coincidences I don't create. Certainly the digestive fin system, or whatever Savant called it, supports the theory that it is looking for resources or food."
“Agreed.” Though the Vulcan’s stance on coincidence was slightly … different, the current facts supported the counselor’s analysis.
“I’m sorry, Commander.” Came the Denobulan’s mildly frustrated voice from somewhere behind them “I can’t make heads or tails, pardon the pun, of these emissions. If they’re some sort of signal, it’s none the UT can figure out without at least some sort of baseline. And no response to our hails yet.”
Lamont rubbed his head for a moment feeling a slight twinge of his headache returning. This entire situation was playing out not too dissimilar from their recent encounter with the Romulans. If communications could not be established it would make this encounter exponentially more difficult.
“We should have the computer look for patterns. Perhaps the emissions might be mathematical or based upon some other universal commonality. Perhaps the emissions themselves have some pattern to them? We need to establish some form of communications otherwise I fear the tactical officer’s services will be of far more use than my own commander given our situation.”
“Maybe if we just fly in cirrrrcles a bit?” M’Riarr’s cheerful voice sounded from the helm – low enough so Sakarra could pretend she had not heard it, but the Caitian’s playfully twitching tail made it clear she at least considered the whole situation a grand and potentially exciting adventure.
Gentle amusement shining in her eyes, Sakarra stretched her legs slightly to assume a posture that for her race positively qualified as casual. Not that the other people on the bridge were likely to pick up such subtle clues – with the exception of M’Riarr who seemed to have an uncanny ability to ‘read’ Vulcans and then stun them with enthusiastic responses – but the nervous energy on the bridge was still noticeable. Presenting as calm and unfazed a center as possible seemed the logical thing to do.
“Well if we start shooting we can bet it will get the message” the Denobulan said wryly “Just maybe not the one we wanted to send. Computer is on the pattern issue, Commander. No need for the brow.”
"I'm sure there are people around here who can come up with sane ideas on how to get the creature's attention." Jilani's gaze dropped, deliberately tracing Sakarra's slender, feminine form. "Should we ever get truly desperate to get noticed though, we could always make ourselves more attractive... or appetizing, as it were."
Catching the looks he was getting, Jilani shrugged again. "Not that I'm recommending we do anything so fun and rash. Yet."
[ To Be Continued ]
Lt. Commander Sakarra Tyrax, XO
Lt. Jilani Waqas, Counselor
Ambassador Ian Lamont