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About Shalin

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Helm station, USS Comanche Creek
  • Interests
    Old movies, cartoons, and nostalgia
  1. Tch'Ana waved a datachip in front of Lt. Shalin's face. "How do you like this? The Captain will sign it, this will be the best ship in the fleet to serve on, and you can EAT IT!" Shan snatched the datachip from her fingers in a swift move and plugged it into a monitoring station. The schematic read out her proposal: a recommendation exactly as the Captain requested. The proposed discotheque was massive, stretching through three decks and providing tons of space. He had to admit: she knew how to throw a party. There would be a few small concessions, of course. Tch'Ana's plan eliminated *all* of the crew's quarters ( including the Captain's ), and it was clear from the layout that the dance hall was intended to supplant the functions of mess halls and ready rooms. There were sleeping arrangements depicted, which would suffice assuming nobody suffered from claustrophobia or otherwise minded being stacked like torpedo casings. Shan removed the chip and handed it back. It was what the Captain requested ... she literally asked for it. He smiled pleasantly to Tch'Ana. "Good luck with that." With a confident sneer she turned on her heel and dashed for the turbolift, leaving Shan to ponder the question of the Romulan's emblem. The Captain wanted it dated, and Shan was left to figure out how. Sitting back and pondering the question: time displacement and how to measure it. It was well out of his depth, but he needed to forge ahead. The Romulan claimed to have gone through a time warp ... to do so there had to *be* a warp ... an energy conduit with the necessary conditions ... including negative chronitons. Shan began recalibrating his tricorder. Chroniton study was still very much in its infancy, but from what little he had managed to glean from the ship's computer, the influence of chronitons was detectable via a sub-atomic harmonic. The effect was harmless enough, but it was measurable. A few more adjustments, a few scans, and Shan was able to smile. It wasn't much, but at least now he had something he could report to the Captain.
  2. New Topeka Station Shan sat in the center chair, noting shipment after shipment as the station resupplied the Comanche Creek. The duty wasn’t too bad; as punishments go it wasn’t too bad. Heck, it was worth it for the sheer fun of barrel-rolling the ‘Creek in front of New Topeka’s orbital monitoring station. “Ensign Rennet reporting for duty, Captain.” Shan turned the chair to face the newcomer. “Yes, the chair makes me look good – but the stripes say ‘lieutenant’, not ‘Captain’.” He took a datapad from her to check her assignment. “So: you’re our new navigator. What have you done so far?” Ensign Rennet shrugged. “Actually I’m a sensor technician with stellar cartography experience. Sorry: Starfleet is still short-handed. Still, charting courses or charting stellar abnormalities – how different can it be?” “Well, the chief difference is that navigation is that navigators work off of maps rather than writing them, and getting it wrong means crashing into a star as you enter system.” Jenna remained focused. “If you get a map wrong, a lot of ships could crash into abnormalities …” Shan smiled. “Point taken. So: we’ll get you on drills right away so that you’ll be familiar with the controls by the time we head out, but first things first … I’m Shan, sometimes called Deathwish.” She nodded in reply. “I’m Jenna, sometimes called late to meetings.” ---- Cold Station 12 Ensign Rennet proved to be a competent, if procedural, navigator. Her courses tended to sacrifice promptness for safety, but that was probably for the best until she really got the feel for starship navigation. Exercises were run for hours, focusing on the mission at hand so that she was sure to be able to respond when needed. As the final canisters were secured on the Dover Castle, the bridge crew of the ‘Creek proceeded to exit Cold Station 12’s space. The Ensign began the process. “Navigational systems synchronized with Dover Castle.” Shan nodded in reply. “Awaiting course for CS-13.” “Plotting course … locking into systems.” “Course received … proceeding at quarter-impulse … will engage warp after exiting system and retrieval of escort.” Shan eased back in his chair; he loved it when assignments proceeded smoothly. A red light suddenly chimed over the helm and navigation systems. Ensign Rennet quickly deciphered the report. “Sir – sensors report a fighter out of formation; vector predicts a tight crossing close to our dorsal hull spar. Beacon identifies it as Hornet 13.” As Wesley turned about to Lieutenant Kvar with a somewhat terse message to the fighter squadrons, Jenna turned to Shan. “There was nothing in our training runs … what do I do?” Shan looked over to her and smiled. “Step one: no sudden movements. Continue on steady as she goes.” Jenna nodded. “Step two: lean back in your chair.” Jenna followed Shan’s lead, looking confused. “Step three: look up at the dome …” She followed Shan’s instructions, though certain that this wasn’t in the manual. “… and three, two, one, waaaaaave to the Captain.” Still following Shan’s lead, Jenna waved, then straightened to see Hornet 13 come into view on the bridge’s main display. “It gets weird here, doesn’t it?” Shan smiled back to her. “Welcome to the Comanche Creek.”
  3. The planet was Indira Cygni IV, the place was Starbase 15-b. It was a sub-port of Starbase 15; one where the dregs of Starfleet ended up. It wasn’t that they were criminal in any way … they were just incompetent in one way or another. Not having any justification to dismiss the individuals in question, Starfleet Command had demonstrated considerable wisdom by establishing a location where the underperforming could do the least amount of damage. Lieutenant Shalin rather enjoyed the Cryghton’s stops there, as the locals were for the most part friendly and informal. Having landed the Cryghton without undue damage to the facility, Shan stepped out from the dropping rear cargo hatch to greet Deck Officer Sharkey and Staff Sergeant Sudderland. Both were misfits and failures of training in their own right, which made them people after Shan’s own heart. “Gentlemen … it is so good to see you again.” Sharkey was the first to reply. “Stuff it you cosmic Schmaltz. We gotta get this over with quickly – the Lieutenant’s sniffing about.” Shan nodded. “Quickly it is, then. One case: type-1 phasers, 100 count …” Sharkey grumbled. “Mine!” With that Shan gestured for one of his shipmates to set outside of the ship on the port side. “Three cases food processor stock – 50 kilos each …” “Mine!” “Two cases of mallite fuel rods, 20 count each …” “Woof!” Sergeant Sudderland was not given to normal conversation. Shan had the cases moved outside the ship to starboard. “Three cases Saurian brandy, personal delivery to a Corporal Mortimer Arteen …” “Woof Woof!” ‘Morrie-Arty’ was Sudderland’s mechanic. “Four cases thermal concrete, 100 kilos each …” “Mine … aw crackbiscuits – here comes Hoover.” “And just what’s going on here?” Pencil-thin with a sour expression, the station’s inventory officer stormed his way into the group. Shan groaned inwardly. There was by the book … there was strictly by the book … and then there was Second Lieutenant Henry Bertram Hoover. Shan turned to him with the most pleasant expression he could muster. “Just offloading cargo, Lieutenant.” Hoover scowled. “What did you say, Ensign?” Shan’s smile dropped as his shoulders sagged. “Lieutenant Hoover, sir: Ensign Shalin of the USS Cryghton, offloading cargo for Starbase 15-baker and attached units.” The lieutenant straightened at the reply. “Why was I not informed, and what is this … soldier … doing here?” Hoover sniffed disapprovingly at Sudderland, who promptly looked up at the mention of his name. “Well you see, baby, my boys and I were just passing by when we saw the cargo ship landing and thought to ourselves hey as long as we’re passing by we should stop in shake a few hands make a few friends and pick up our stuff right off the barge rather than making our very good friends and neighbors at the depot have to lug our stuff around when we’re right here to pick it up and haul it away so we turned a corner then drove up the tarmac and parked ourselves right over there where you see our nice clean armored vehicles and so here we are and here I am talking with these nice gentlemen here and we’ll just gather our supplies and then we’ll be on our way.” The sergeant smiled at the lieutenant, apparently none the worse for not having taken a breath during his explanation. Lieutenant Hoover, however, remained unimpressed. “No, Sergeant, you will not be gathering your supplies and going on your way. Starbase procedure specifically states that all cargo is to be offloaded from arriving transports and transferred to the station’s storage centers to be inventoried, after which attached units may requisition materials from station inventory.” Although uncomfortable with the situation, Officer Sharkey wasn’t about to become accused of short-changing the station. “Sir: we’ve documented everything. The 212’s aren’t taking anything that hasn’t been specifically requisitioned for their unit. We’re just saving some time and effort …” “I’m not interested in saving time or effort, Deck Officer! This station has procedures and they will be adhered to!” Shan’s will finally broke. “Oh for crud’s sake – lighten up Herbert!” The lieutenant turned to Shan, his skin growing as red as a port beacon. “What did you say?” Shan was long past caring. “I said lighten up, Herbert! We’re doing this by the book, everything’s covered and documented, nothing’s being lost or smuggled, and every form and file will be submitted properly. We’re just saving a little time by dropping the retentive amount of procedure this station is notorious for. Now do the galaxy a favor and buzz off!” While Shan was far from an imposing figure, Lieutenant Hoover was even less so. Looking about and noting that he had no support around him, he blustered one last time. “You are going on report, Ensign! This little spat of yours is going to cost you dearly!” With that he spun about and stomped away. Sudderland watched as he left, grinning widely. “Herbert … that’s catchy! Herbert … Herbert … Herbert Herbert Herbert!” Sharkey was less than pleased. “That’s great … just great! Are you happy, kid? Now the Lieutenant is going to have all our gizzards and this oddball will be going around for the rest of the day sounding off like an obsessive-compulsive frog!” Shan shrugged it off. “Cap’n O’Neil will listen, nod, and I’ll be on KP for a month. Feh – it was worth it.” He turned back to the manifest in his hand. “Now then … three cases of plexisteel polish, ten tins each …” Sudderland waved his hand. “… Herbert!”
  4. The transporter technician was too easy to distract as Mudd and Tch'ana entered the transporter room. She quickly sorted him out as a 'by the book' officer, who was too disciplined to fall for charms. Looking over his controls and threatening to touch the buttons, however, was more than enough to hold his attention while Harcourt slammed a wrench on his head. She checked to make sure he was breathing while Mudd settled a small device under the transporter control. "We're ready, my dear. Now - on to the pad." Tch'ana stood on the transporter uncertainly. "Are you sure you can run that thing?" Mudd smiled in reply. "Have no fear. I've learned may things in my travels. Operating transporters was one of the first." He looked over the monitors, noting that the Bird of Prey had returned. "There ... a small cargo room. It will be close, but it's the best place to start." Setting a final control, he ran over to the transporter pad. In a moment they were gone, and a moment later sparks began to fall from the transporter control. ----- On board the Vulture, Mudd began to pull off a wall panel. Tch'ana gazed at what he was doing curiously as the rotund scoundrel began rewiring a series of circuits. "There ... no communications, and soon we will have the staff dashing off the ship!" Her head cocked to the side. "They're going to want to leave?" Mudd smiled. "We're hardly a match for Starfleet officers if it comes to blows. The best way to get the crew to leave is to make them want to leave. Where I'm from, this is called the 'Ramius gambit'." Tweaking a small switch, alarms began blaring through the ship. "There - they'll be getting reports through their computer that there's a calorimex leak. They won't be able to leave the ship fast enough!" After waiting five minutes Mudd carefully lead Tch'ana out of the cargo room. Easing through the ship, Tch'ana found that Mudd knew his scams. "How did you know where those circuits were?" Mudd smiled, twirling his mustache. "I managed to acquire the technical schematics for this ship a while ago, intending to sell them to the Orions. I ended up in that despicable pit for my trouble." He opened the next bulkhead, peeking about before heading towards the bridge. "Who knew that I'd be rewarded for my troubles so soon?" Checking the last bulkhead, he waved Tch'ana forward. "You first through this one, my dear." She shrunk back. "Why me?" Mudd patted her on the shoulder. "Bridge crew are often stubborn. Now - just like the transporter ... a little distraction while we take the ship!" Tch'ana opened the bridge, startled at what she found. The bridge was mostly abandoned, except for one person who had spun about to face her, a phaser trained right at her. Shan's eyes grew wide at the sight. "... you?" "Shan ... what in the world are you doing here?" He gestured for her to move forward. "I'm trying to pilot a ship with a coolant leak ... unless, maybe the leak isn't as dangerous as my crewmates thought?" Tch'ana eased forward. "It's not what you think ... well, maybe it's exactly what you think." Shan frowned. "Tch'ana, you've got one minute to explain all of this to me ... " Then he hit the floor, stunned from a blow from behind. Harry Mudd grabbed Shan's shoulders, dragging him out. "Come along, m'boy, mustn't keep the others waiting ..." Tch'ana grabbed up Shan's legs, helping Harry carry him off. "We don't have to hurt him, do we?" Harry tsk'd at her. "My dear girl, the one thing which has allowed me to reclaim my freedom time and again is that I have never harmed anyone seriously. At the moment I am merely an infamous criminal; killing or even seriously injuring someone would make me a dangerous one, and that would put more than my freedom in peril. There are cultures within the Federation which would think nothing of killing me in that case, or even killing me for less. "No no, dear, we aren't going to kill him - merely beam him aboard the other vessel before making our escape ... which should be done quickly, before they attempt to launch a boarding shuttle." Tch'ana set Shan on the transporter pad while Harry set the co-ordinates. "You think they have one?" "I don't know, and I'm not about to find out." With a pull of a slide, Harry waved goodbye to Shan. "Ta tah, my boy." Turning back to Tch'ana, he sighed. "A pity, really ... I'm a good pilot, but we could use a better one." "You want a good pilot? Watch this!" She raced to the bridge, plopping down in the helm cradle. Within moments the Vulture's shields were up, and the ship was arcing off in a 90 degree course away from the command ship. Tch'ana giggled behind the controls, easing the ship through evasive maneuvers. Meanwhile Harry sat behind her, examining the contents of a tricorder that was left behind. "Hmmm ... interesting ... interesting and most useful." A broad smile graced the conman's face as he paged through the ship's manual, a finger curling his mustache idly.
  5. Harcourt Fenton Mudd was an explorer, an entrepreneur, and an all around capitalist. That is how he would explain it. The Starfleet of the United Federation of Planets had a slightly different view represented in their dossier: a smuggler, a confidence artist, and a thief. Harry Mudd knew that were he to set foot on the Vulcan colony he would surely end up in yet another penal colony. Admittedly it would be a better, more civilized facility than Rura Penthe, but even an upholstered prison was still a prison. Sadly, the Captain appeared unsympathetic to his plight. If he was to retain his new-found freedom, it would be in direct opposition to the Captain and crew. That left the ship’s other passenger. Making his way to the ship’s lounge he deftly withdrew a program card which, with the help of a synthesizer, produced a passable version of a Long Island Iced Tea. Sipping on the elicit concoction relaxed him as he passed through initial pleasantries with Tch’ana. He remembered her from the colony: a sly girl, perhaps the most clever he had ever encountered. In a penal colony which devoured girls like her within hours she had managed to almost thrive. Now here they both were: the two most resourceful people on that cursed planet, each managing to barter their way out separately. Together, they would be unstoppable. Harry smiled pleasantly to her as she finished her game of double-jack. “So: now that we are free of ice and dilithium mining, what are your plans?” Tch’ana played a few final moves. “Plans, Harry? What makes you think I could have any plans? I didn’t think I was ever going to get out of there. Right now, I’m just happy to be free.” Mudd smiled pleasantly. “Well now: if you don’t have any previous engagements to consider, what would you think of an opportunity to make yourself very rich?” Her lips tightened before smiling. “Rich … I’ve never been rich. I’ve heard that a person can live very comfortable that way.” Turning to him, she tapped long dark fingernails on the table. “Go on …” “Well, I would like to …” Harry looked about the room with an almost cartoonish look of concern on his face. “… but in a ship such as this, we cannot help but be surrounded by disreputable characters.” Tch’ana looked about, smiling softly. “Agreed … shall we retreat to my quarters?” Offering her his arm, Harry escorted Tch’ana back to the stateroom she was assigned. Like all the others it was plain, but thankfully Starfleet was not inherently suspicious. A quick check of a small device assured Harry that they were not being monitored. He turned to check the door to make sure it was secure. “Young lady – I must confess that my interest in you is more than just proffeeeEEESSS … !” With a strength that belied her soft looks, Tch’ana whipped Harry across the room, slamming his back into a closet door as she pounced in front of him. She held a primitive shiv left over from the prison backhanded, its crude blade pressed to Harry’s throat as grey eyes with pupils as fully black as space itself held his undivided attention. A sibilant voice hissed past rows of razor sharp teeth. “You listen to this, and listen good! I’m free, and I’m not about to let anyone lock me away again – EVER!” “Ap … pa … pa pa pa …” Harry stuttered as he tried to regain his bearings in the face of this terror. “It … it just so happens I had the same thought, a’ a’ and was rather hoping you’d agree …” Tch’ana’s appearance shifted suddenly, softening into an almost child-like innocence. Razor teeth took on a more mammalian form as her expression became apologetic. The shiv was drawn away in a moment, and she backed away from Harry in a swaying, almost submissive pose. “Really? That’s … kind of awkward, actually.” Harry regained his composure in a heartbeat. “Not at all, dear … I quite understand your misgivings, for I share them.” He gazed at his companion, slightly astonished at her changes. “You wouldn’t, by chance, be a Chameloid, would you?” She shook her head. “No … I don’t know what I am. Little things change about me, but nothing big … nothing useful.” “A pity; that would have been helpful, but no matter.” Harry found a seat to settle in. “I believe that we are both in the same situation: pleased to be free from the Klingons, but anxious about encountering Federation law. I was rather hoping that in a ship such as this that I could gain a sympathetic ear. Sadly this has not been the case.” Tch’ana laughed merrily. “You thought someone on this ship would help you? That’s hilarious! Don’t you know who you’re with? The group that came in … the group they rescued … the fighters out on the planet’s surface? What did you think: that pirates were this organized and well equipped? Come here … look at the front of this ship.” Harry looked out of the stateroom window. “An ancient Earth ship … kind of a slap-together job, isn’t it?” She tsk’d at him. “That front section is what’s left of the Earth Ship Discovery, while this back portion belongs to the Socrates. Both of those ships were mothballed, not missing in action – get it?” Harry considered what she was saying. “A fleet ship … this?” She nodded. “Even fooled you. Starfleet saves a precious clutch of spies caught by the Klingons, and no one’s the wiser.” Harry slumped in his seat. “If that’s true, then we’re in more of a predicament than before. These aren’t mercenaries or privateers – they’re Starfleet!” Tch’ana smiled at him. “Cheer up, Tubby; we’ll get out of this better than not. You see, I’ve been watching out that window … not much else to do here. Do you want to know what shows up every twelve hours just under the saucer?” She smiled broadly, her gleaming pearly teeth still slightly pointed. “A Klingon Bird of Prey.” Harry’s eyes grew wide. “A Klingon ship? Why?” She sat back grinning. “There was one at the planet. It looked like it was strafing the escapees, but I think it was a decoy. Now: it comes close every twelve hours … I’m thinking a shift-change, perhaps even a re-supply. If we could get on board …” It was Harry’s turn to smile. “We could be on our way ..” ( To Be Continued )
  6. Twelve years ago - Argelius II Shan Shalin moved between tables, serving food and drinks to a variety of races. They had all come for the same thing: to eat, to drink, to relax, and to trade. Many trades were made among the tables of his father's cafe while his sisters danced. It put the customers at ease - a fact that Shan hated. HIs people were on display, to serve and to entertain while the 'important' races did business. Shan listened to them ... listened to them arrogantly speak of how meek the Argelians were, how impressive they were, and all their accomplishments and plans. It irritated him, because he knew they were right. Argelians were meek, and would never interfere with business transactions between stronger races. His people wouldn't, but he would. Shan left the cafe with three bottles of Ansir swiped from his father's pantry. Making his way through the Argelian fog, he located the Arzen spaceport and landing pad 72A, where a small Aurora-class starship sat. Summoning what courage he had, he walked boldly to the ship and rapped on the hatchway. A heavy-set Tellarite looked down on him, to which he smiled and offered a bottle. "It's from your Captain - I have specific orders to give one to each of the crew." The Tellarite snarled at him. "We are fools: no one is to drink while on duty." Shan maintained his kindly manners. "There is no alcohol: nothing to worry about, I assure you." He handed the Tellarite a bottle. Opening it, the crewman sniffed, then drank carefully. "Hmm ... it is not disgusting." He nodded and waved for Shan to come in, where two other crewmen sat. Passing out the bottles, Shan bowed and exited quickly, finding a place to hide. After fifteen minutes he stepped carefully back to the ship, unlocking the hatch. The crewmen were all asleep, tipped bottles spilled upon the decks. Moving passed them, he collected a key-prod before opening the hatch to the crew quarters where a young girl lay in binders. Dark eyes fluttered open, taking him in at an instant while he undid her cuffs. "Who ... who are you?" "No time - we need to get out of here fast. The Orions are coming for you." Helping her up, he gestured for her to follow. "Don't worry about the crew; they'll be out for hours." She looked over the Tellarite as they passed him. "Amazing - he was just in with me. Poisons usually don't work on Tellarites that quickly." "It's not a poison or a drug - it's Ansir ... or 'Breath of Ansir', to be exact." They exited the ship and dashed into the thick fog. "Ansir is an ancient myth - a god of sleep. The drink Ansir is delicious, and it induces sweet dreams." Shan smirked. "Many races consider it a delicacy." He started to lead her away from Arzen. Turning to her, he became very aware of her appearance. She was young - younger than he was; ghostly pale, but with dark eyes that seemed to take in everything. "You're going to have to hide for a while, then we can see about finding you passage home." The girl smiled. "Oh no ... no no no! The Orions are going to tear this place apart looking for us: me because they want me back, and you because you were stupid enough to try to save me. We're leaving, and we're leaving now." Shan shook his head. "I can't leave - my family ... my whole world is here. I'd be lost out there." He looked down an alley, "I have to stay, but maybe you're right - you need to g-*" ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Shan groaned as he woke up, the back of his head throbbing. A gentle hand rested on his shoulder. "Shhh ... don't move - you're safe for now." He eased back, taking in the fact that his head was resting in her lap. If she was really out to hurt him, she had a strange way of showing it. As he rested, he could hear a steady thrumming that he was sure wasn't in his head. "We're ... not on Argelius, are we?" The girl eased him gently to the deck, curling behind him while cradling his head with her arm. "A Vulcan trade ship - I highly recommend them. Of all the races in the galaxy, they're the most reasonable when it comes to stowaways." He could hear her smile as she spoke. "We have no identification: if we're caught, we'll be indentured until we work off our expenses. Sometimes they even feel sorry for us .. as much as a Vulcan feels anything, I guess. If something about you impresses them, they'll even go out of their way to help you better yourself." Shan sighed, trying to rest. His head throbbed from the blow. "I wish you didn't bring me." The girl smirked. "No you don't. You're glad I brought you here. You're too adventurous to stay on Argelius. Besides, if I left you there you would've ended up in a back alley with your throat cut. As it is, nobody knows who you are and you're about to embark on a great adventure. Not only that ..." She rummaged in a pouch, bringing out a small wrapped stick. "I brought snacks." Shan accepted it; they didn't taste bad at all. He tried to relax; he had to accept whatever was going to happen next, whatever that was. From now on his entire future was wrapped up in the fact that he heard about a girl who was going to be sold to the Orions to be tortured and killed, and he couldn't just sit on the sidelines. Finishing the stick of whatever it was, he settled on the deck, allowing the girl to keep him as comfortable as she could. "By the way ... I'm Shan." "Tch'ana ... I hope you'll always remember me," She eased behind him, keeping him warm. "... and maybe remember that I saved your life."
  7. Events take place prior to encounter on Nike Prime Shan was on down time, taking a moment to savor some chicken and orichette pasta who's flavor managed to survive Starfleet's brutal preservation processing of field rations. As he moved to the single narrow bench in the ship's cramped mess hall, he found T'Aral finishing a bowl of broth with bread. "Mind if I join you?" T'Aral gestured for Shan to sit. He began to nibble at his pasta before looking over to the doctor. "I just had an interesting talk with the Capt ... well, yeah. I guess here she is still 'Captain'. Anyway ... Ms. Calestorm had some interesting things to chat about." T'Aral didn't even raise an eyebrow. "Then you had an enjoyable conversation." She had noticed that Shan struggled with the Captain's demotion, but then it was a challenge for many of those who served under Ashton. Even she had developed a certain amount of loyalty to Calestorm. If that could be fostered in a Vulcan, she expected that emotional beings would respond even more intensely. "Yeah - thing of it is, it wasn't like her. I don't mean that Cale' isn't interesting to talk with, it's just that having deep conversations about personal things isn't her style - she leads by example." Shan leaned over the table, his eyes locked on T'Aral. "It's so unlike her, in fact, that I gotta believe that somebody put her up to it - it's the only way that it makes sense." T'Aral met Shan's gaze steadily. "A logical conclusion reached by logical means; I commend you." She nibbled on the bread to pause the conversation before replying. "Does your conclusion make a difference?" Shan leaned back and smiled. "Nah ... just means people are looking out for me. I appreciate the sentiment. I just want to know - do you think I'm crazy?" "I fail to understand why beings of considerable intelligence continue to frame complex matters in the simplest of terms." She set down the bread and faced Shan directly. "You have been trying to adjust to life on a front line vessel for some time. I felt that you would benefit from assistance in this area." Shan smirked. "Well, I don't know. 'Don't fall into darkness' is really good advice, but it's a little light on practical application." T'Aral nodded in agreement. "Oftentimes such advice is, as it is not meant to address any specific concern. What is your specific concern?" Shan looked over to T'Aral, his eyes intent. Calestorm knew how he felt, but Shan didn't need empathy as much as he wanted advice. "Doc ... T'Aral ... you have to deal with people who are so different from you - and you have to do it all the time. Vulcans are like the most alien of the aliens because of the way you think - the way you block out what you feel. How can you stand to deal with everyone else?" "It is done with patience, and a continuous effort to see the point of view of the other." T'Aral reached under her jacket, drawing out a small necklace. "Do you recognize this symbol?" Shan nodded. "It's an ... IDIC, right?" T'Aral managed not to wince. "That is a human term for it - an acronym. The proper term is a da-reh-vla-kuv; the recognized symbol for the philosophy of Kol-ut-shan. The human acronym, 'Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination', is a simplistic way of describing the philosophy, though it is accurate. "Within the universe, strength and growth come from the uniting of dissimilar attributes. It is the reason why Vulcans do not shield themselves from others: we cannot continue to develop as individuals or as a race unless our current state of being is continuously challenged. While I would admit that I find our latest challenge to be ... excessive, I am confident that we will prevail. The generations of Vulcans that will come after us will be stronger and more capable than we are. "Lieutenant: you have accomplished what few of your people aspire to. You have become stronger than your predecessors. This was done through interaction with beings which were not like you. This process must continue if you are to continue to grow. However: there is one challenge that you must overcome. You must learn to accept others as they are, not as you would have them be." Shan shifted back slightly. "Doc? I've never tried to change anyone." "Not in words, or perhaps not even in deliberate intent. However, you struggle with accepting others as they present themselves. This is understandable - most intelligent beings prefer interactions which they are comfortable with. Yet to pursue this line of behavior is to seek to reduce the diversity and combinations available. The diversity is necessary, for not every situation can be most effectively addressed through a single approach." Shan sighed. "I think I understand." T'Aral finished her meal and stood. "As Morale Officer, I would insist on nothing less from you. If you were ever to seek to improve the morale of a Vulcan in the same manner as one improves the morale of an Argelian, our next discussion would prove to be far more difficult."
  8. SS Vulture Free Territories On route to Nike Prime T’Aral stepped on board the Vulture, waiting until the hatch was closed and she was securely inside the hold before removing her guise as ‘Doctor Tarr’. She watched intently as ‘Professor Fether’ shucked enough outer layers to return to his duties as operations officer. Within minutes the Vulture was again spaceborne, moving off to a safe distance until Commander Calestorm decided on a new target. There would be a lull … a period of time for the cartel to either drop its guard or to provide a target acceptable for striking. They had to be clever, and being clever meant being a little cautious from time to time. T’Aral estimated that they would have at least six hours before a new target or task was decided on - six hours that could be put to good use. She turned and walked purposefully into the side room which served for the Captain’s Ready Room. Shutting the door behind him, T’Aral turned to Cale. “I wish to discuss Lieutenant Shalin.” Crash leaned back in a battered desk chair that had once served as office furniture in some nice and tidy Corporation office; she crossed her fingers in her lap and silently indicated the CMO take a seat. T’Aral settled in a rigid chair. “His behavior this evening, while ultimately effective, was impulsive, erratic, and potentially self-destructive. If this was an abberation I could dismiss it, but it was not. Over the last several months his actions have grown increasingly aggressive; periodically taking extreme turns. His violent outbursts are not characteristic for a Starfleet officer, for an Argelian, and not for Lieutenant Shalin. If this is allowed to continue it will most likely intensify, and inevitably put his life and the mission at risk.” “The surveillance video streamed from your personal cams?” Crash offered no further comment on the matter, the unspoken blow at the hands of the person in question given to the Cartel representative enough of a visual explanation in itself. T’Aral nodded, offering Cale a datachip. “I have reviewed his records. While a pattern has not presented itself, an origin has. Shan was enlisted to participate in phase one of this operation due to his Retrieval Operations Pilot training*. While the mission debriefing report did not include any indication of trauma, the Lieutenant’s erratic behavior began immediately after that mission.” She paused to allow Cale to take in what she said before finishing. “Someone should speak to him about it.” The Commander shifted and reached over the desktop to grasp the offered item; she fingered the colored data chit in both hands, idly wondering why it was such a lurid shade of orange. She spoke thoughtfully, eyes not focused on anything in particular save the data chit. “....you say what you’ve been observing, not particularly evident until this latest bar run, appears to have popped out directly following Phase 1?” T’Aral nodded again. “The first indication was his initial behavior while returning from Phase 1; what appeared to be a vigil of sorts for Warrant Officer Granger. At the time he was noted as unresponsive and without appetite. While he seemed to recover initially, he refused shore leave and apparently isolated himself. Remaining alone on board the ‘Creek during re-supply, he developed strange eccentricities. Then there was the incident with the Tomcat. All of which indicating a notable change in habits.” “Your thoughts, Doc? Phase 1 of the Lost Souls operation was a rough mission. Mister Shalin wouldn’t have cleared the FTR* background check if he wasn’t mentally capable.” T’Aral shifted slightly. “Yes: Mister Shalin passed his background checks and psychological profile. There is the matter of his inteligence which, like most FTR officers, is considerable. While we try to take such things into account, inteligent candidates have a tendency to be able to reason out what the ‘right’ answer would be, and thus are able to pass profile examinations. While techniques are used to prevent this, they are of no use when the candidate believes what he is writing - even if it is incorrect. “However: given that Mister Shalin has no detectable pre-existing conditions which would exempt him from front-line service, whatever is occurring with him would be a matter of adjustment. As an Argelian, Mister Shalin’s development was one which was, in human terms, relatively devoid of agression. His entire time in Starfleet has been a matter of adjustment to a new environment. Such adjustment is typical in most species which encounter new situations. The question is not whether or not Mister Shalin needs to change his mannerisms … it is whether or not he can do so in a constructive manner.” The Commander considered her options very carefully. There was still time to perform an emergency extraction as they had not reached the critical infiltration point for Phase 2. Starfleet Intelligence had several Officer Recovery* agents seeded throughout the territory who could be contacted to come and collect Shalin for transport back across the Federation border. She shifted position again, leaning forward to rest her elbows on the battered desktop, fingers intertwined. “Is it your medical recommendation that Mister Shalin be extracted from this mission? I need to know. Now.” Her tone was not unkind, but there was an edge to it. One officer could not dictate the success or failure of a high stakes mission. If Shalin was having difficulties, the young man needed to be removed from the field. It wasn’t a very nice stance to take, but Calestorm wouldn’t be the first commanding officer to do so regarding an operative. T’Aral considered her response carefully. “Mister Shalin’s talents regarding helm, navigation, and transporter functions are a considerable asset. He has taken to the ship’s control systems in a positive manner, believing in his own abilities to succeed. These would be difficult assets to replace, given the complex controls and considerable data feed provided. In addition, I feel it would be detrimental to him personally to be removed from this situation without an absolute necessity. If his difficulties come from experiences in a combat situation - and I believe this to be likely - then removing him now would be that much more damaging. “I do not recommend removal at this time. Instead, I recommend that Mister Shalin be directed to face whatever difficulties he is encountering within himself for the good of the mission. I believe that he has been attempting to do so in his own way. What the situation requires is guidance for a positive conclusion.” T’Aral settled back slightly. “I believe this can be accomplished without removal - it would be the most efficient path.” “I won’t deny that we need a good stick jock and familiarity with transport and NAV systems on this bucket.” Crash scrubbed a hand over her face. ‘“He stays with the Vulture though; I don’t want him in the field from this point forward.” “Agreed. In addition, one of us must speak with him regarding what is troubling him. While eventually I should engage him in a series of therapy sessions, there are two schools of thought regarding broaching the subject. While I am a trained professional, you would find it far easier to empathize with him.” T’Aral looked directly to Cale. “I regret that I do not feel qualified to judge whether a logical or emotional approach is best. I must, therefore, leave that decision to you.” “It’s better you be honest about something like this and admit that then try and make things worse.” She regarded her CMO, fist propping her chin up. Suddenly, a grin flashed. “So, I get to be acting psychologist? May the angels and ministers of grace defend us....” -------------------------------------------- 18 hours later ... Shan sat at the controls, guiding the Vulture into a nearby asteroid field to settle into. Monitors indicated that they were clear, and the iron in the nearby rocks would sufficiently obscure their signature to passing ships unless they were right on top of them … in which case the Vulture would have the drop on whatever incoming vessels approached. As he settled the ship into a gentle orbiting drift, Shan quietly sang a pleasant tune. “See the stars - they’re shining bright … everything’s all right tonight …” Calestorm had quietly slipped onto the bridge from the closet that passed as the Ready Room on the B’rel class vessel and approached the helmsman. “Nice tune, Deathwish.” Shalin didn’t turn from his screens as he replied. “Thank you, Ma’am. It’s an old Earth traveling song.” “How’s the Vulture? We’re not going to experience problems with a planetary entry sequence and explode, right?” “Not for the next few days, at least.” Shan smirked wryly. “Seriously, Cap’n, I have no frellin’ idea how the Klingons became the most feared race in the galaxy with ships like these. The hull is solid enough, but the design drives every system to the breaking point on a regular basis. If this takes much longer, we’re going to have to figure out how to sneak in a major refurbishing. Me ‘n’ Doc have been doing what we can with the manuals, but I swear - the next time I have to take off the enviro’ service panel I’m gonna scrap the bloody thing.” Leaning a hip against a console, she cocked her head to one side and asked amiably. “How’re you doing with this mission?” Shan paused briefly. Cale was always likeable in her own way, but it seemed that she was actually trying to be friendly. “Fine ma’am. The controls are really something; this seat has everything a pilot could dream of … well everything decent, anyway. There ain’t a part of the ship I can’t run from here.” He tapped a finger on the console confidently. “You ask for it - you got it. “I expect you’re glad for the mission, in a way.” He turned back to his screens, making a few navigational checks. “It’s not the ‘Creek, but at least you’re still a ship’s captain.” He entered in a minor correction before looking up to Cale. “I apologize if I’m over-stepping; I just hope you’re ok. I mean: I mis-appropriate funds and I get promoted. You save a planet from a malignant evil and you get demoted. That’s just messed up.” She chuckled softly; Crash really hadn’t thought on the situation in those terms, actually. “I’d say both of our promotion and demotion situations have similarities. I’m confident Captain Wesley picked wisely with the position of Morale Officer, and congratulations again on your promotion. And Luca was definitely a corrupt steadholder.” Shan nodded in firm agreement. "Oh, I’ll give you that. As far as my promotion goes, I trust Captain Wesley - I really do. If she says I’m the right person for the job, I believe it. It just seems weird that I get promoted for my initiative … which seems to be the same reason you got demoted.” She paused and eyed Shalin thoughtfully. “...I’m not at liberty to divulge all details, Lieutenant, security-wise. I can tell you I investigated a non-sanctioned contact for Intel on this current mission. It added to a political firestorm that had already flashed off due to Grayson...and I was demoted and placed on probation. It is what it is, I’ll deal with it.” Shan shrugged. “Yes Ma’am … only, I can tell you right now that it won’t make much difference in the eyes of the crew. Yes: Ms. Wesley is the Captain now and it’s her orders that come first, but don’t think for a second that anyone has lost respect for you. As we see it, you did what you had to … it’s what you always do. We’ve always respected that about you and we always will, regardless of what comes from bar fights, Captain’s masts, or Court Martials.” Calestorm glanced around the operations bridge, lowering her voice out of respect for their senior commanding officer. “Word of advice here Deathwish: Do not tick off Admiral Coyote, hear?” She smiled at the younger officer. “And I’m fine Shalin, thanks for asking.” “Back to you now. I reviewed the surveillance footage. You tossed that thug as if he was a lightweight, slammed him into the bench. Not your usual method...” She kept her voice low, again glancing around even though the shift on bridge watch was small. Her hawk-like - or was that Vulture-like considering the name of their piratical vessel? - attention then winged back to the Lieutenant. “You wanna talk ‘bout anything?” Shan stuttered a bit on his reply. “I … I just don’t want to let you down, Ma’am. This is important; we all have to do our jobs right. If we don’t … I’ll let you all down again.” “Just don’t let that darkness take over. It’ll choke you.” Shan’s eyes suddenly flashed. “I don’t choke, Ma’am … I *never* choke!” Shan looked down at his controls, unsure if he should say what he was about to. “Did you ever wonder why I’m such a good shuttle pilot? Why I can handle transporters, too? I was in Field Ops training in the Academy for several months; I was tagged as a front-line shuttle pilot. The ROP training you assigned me? I had already been through over half the course before I came on board the ‘Creek.” He settled slightly, almost apolegetically. He didn’t mean to be so riled, but the conversation had gotten personal. “Six months in, there was an … incident*. The Commandant ordered it sealed, and I was transferred to Helm training. He considered me unsuitable for front line duty, but putting that on my record would’ve opened up a whole can of worms. The Commandant is a good man, Ma’am, and I trusted him - so I went along with it all. There’s nothing in my record about any of this, because it was decided that was the right route to take.” Shan paused, looking down briefly. “Ma’am, there are people alive today because I don’t choke. When something needs to be done I do it; I’ll clean up the mess later. I have done stupid things, I’ve flown off the deep end, I’ve even screwed up bigtime a time or two - but I’ve never choked …” A deep sigh heaved through him. “... until last time.” Crash cocked a brow. “As I recall from the post-debrief statements, you did some pretty good extraction flying for the operation. I admit, you’re probably having some delayed feelings and reactions....” She paused, considering, and then added, “Some shut down completely. Others deal head on with whatever it is that’s bugging them, or combination of the two methods. It depends on the person and their post-mission mental survival.” He shook his head dispondently. “Ma’am … I only did what any ordinary pilot would do - but in the field Shan Shalin choked! I sat there and followed orders. I could’ve drove the bus right on top of those scumballs the moment I heard that Marcie was nabbed, or I could’ve waited for as many able-bodied marines before going in, or I could’ve gone over to pick them up and then gone in …” Shan took a second to breathe deeply. “I could’ve done something - anything! Instead I did nothing, and Marcie paid for it.” He clutched a panel to steady himself before continuing. “I don’t do that, Ma’am. I watch out for my shipmates. I do what I have to so that they don’t get hurt like that and worry about the consequences later. When I don’t … people get killed.” He looked down at the ship’s yoke. “The worst of all: I never apologized for that. I choked in the field, and I choked when we got back. Now Marcie’s out there again, sticking her neck out where somebody might chop it off, and I never could find the strength to say that I was sorry.” “You really think if you apologized, she’d have any idea what the flip you were ‘pologizing ‘bout?” She raised a hand, gently, to indicate that she wasn’t done. “It ain’t that I don’t ‘preciate why you want to do this Lieutenant, but she was doing her job. It’s a Marine thing. I don’t claim to understand it myself and I’ve been serving with or commanding ground pounders for over thirty years. I just respect it. The Thing.” Calestorm gave a little smile. Finally he straightened. “I know what you’re saying; maybe I am going a little overboard, but that’s better than choking again. You have to be able to depend on me - I have to be able to do this. If I can’t … then I’m no use to anybody.” Crash let Shalin talk, let him work it out as much as he could with the words. “Or....you could have acted. Your vessel could have been taken out by some nutjob slaver sporting a homemade plasma rocket launcher. And if you happened to survive the impact, the ground team would have been responsible for retrieving two hostages, not one.” “Maybe … or maybe I could’ve prevented what happened.” He sunk into his seat. “It’s kind of hard to say, since I just sat and did what I was told.” “Not tryin’ to complicate matters for you, Deathwish. But sometimes when ya don’t act? That’s your instincts tellin’ you what not to do, or maybe what to do. Fear versus caution? Different sides of the same coin, depends on how ya flip.” Shan smirked. “Yet another victim of disorganized thinking - confusing courage for wisdom.”* He turned to Cale. “I appreciate the thought, Cap’n, but I have to pull my own weight.” He turned back to the ship’s controls. “No one’s going to get hurt because of me again.” All the Commander said to that was, repeating her earlier bit of advice. “Don’t let the darkness become you. When you can’t or don’t recognize yourself from the dark, that ‘s when you got problems...and I don’t think we have to worry ‘bout that right now with you. Just have a couple things to work out for yourself is all.” Calestorm walked away from Shalin, squeezing his shoulder quickly as she passed in a gesture of encouragement. ----------------------------------------- * ROP: Retrieval Operations Pilot training - see “The Code” ( 11/17/2011 ) * FTR: First Threat Response, Starfleet Border Patrol * Officer/Personnel Recovery (Starfleet Intelligence): agents trained/employed to remove personnel from undercover operations as needed * See “Sure Promise” ( 10/6/2011 ) * The Wizard of Oz ( Warner Bros., 1939 )
  9. Not many pilots on this side of the Klingon border had an opportunity to fly a Bird of Prey; most thought they were ugly deathtraps, but Shan had seen how they maneuvered. They didn't simply move through space on vectors - they flew between the stars. The fact that the ship was what it was ... that was what got Shan to volunteer for the assignment. If it had been anything else, he would've opted out. Field assignments had taken far too much out of him lately. Still - better him than a different pilot who didn't care about the Commander. As long as he stayed involved, he still had a chance to make a difference. Crossing a vast bay he entered the Vulture through the lower cargo access, he went through the ship to get a feel for it before entering the bridge. It was dark, it creaked even when still, and there was a certain musk to Klingon ships that just couldn't be aired out enough - no doubt something to do with the ship's air filters. It was what it was; he'd acclimate soon enough, and then he wouldn't even notice it. Arriving on the bridge, he immediately presented himself to an officer who was clearly in charge: a somewhat older gentleman who seemed to know just where everything belonged. "Lieutenant Shan Shalin reporting: may I assume that you are Major Boothroyd?" The man nodded. "We will now go over the various features built into the ship's helm and navigational system, as you will have to be extremely proficient in its use." He walked Shan to the ops station and began pointing. "This station is a self-sufficient operating center. It is possible to access and operate every system on the ship from this location. In front of you are your personal console screens. The center is your main viewer, which will always present a forward view of the ship independent of what may be shown on the main screen. Overlay screens and H.U. displays can be called up from the various system terminals depending on what tasks you are working on. To the left is your ship's systems screen, providing live detail of all major power, offensive, and defensive systems. To the right is your data display screen, which provides navigational and sensor outputs." He then gestured to the terminals at either side of the operator's seat. "The left console contains primary controls for helm and ship systems. Engineering data and life support monitoring can be observed, and the transporter can be operated as well. These are the primary controls for warp drive. The right console calls up navigation, sensor, and communications functions. Helm data will be presented on the left viewscreen, while navigational data will be called up on the right. Now here are some added features ..." The Major pressed a key with an inverted triangle/circle symbol. A section of console below the main screen opened up and a steering yoke on a control cylinder extended out to him. "Analog feedback controls, which will allow you a finer control of the ship's flight path under thruster or impulse power. The throttle is the lever at your right, which can signal for forward or reverse thrust. The yoke controls all three axes of motion: turn the yoke clockwise or counter-clockwise for roll, spin it leftwards or rightwards for yaw, and push in or pull out for pitch. This flight mode along with the console system transfers tactical control to a pull-down display and control system available at the Captain's chair." "Now: if you find yourself in a situation where you need to take over all ship's operations, push this." A narrow finger jabbed a key with a target symbol. The yoke retracted and closed into the console while a joystick flipped up on each side of the ops chair. "The left stick takes over the yoke functions for helm - left/right for roll and forward/back for pitch. Yaw is a thumb-controlled toggle. The right joystick is your tactical control: thumb switches arms the weapons and selects between disruptor cannons and the forward torpedo launcher. A targeting display will appear on your center screen, so that you won't have to take your eyes off your display." He then handed Shan a tricorder. "Commander Chilton has prepared this: a full technical and engineering database on this ship. With this, you will be able to effect any emergency repairs necessary. If you cannot repair the vessel with what we have given you, it is because the ship has been far too damaged to repair in any case. Now, Lieutenant ... do you have any questions?" Shan's head was swimming. "Uh, no sir?" The Major smiled. "Very good. There are several training senarios programmed in your station; I suggest you get right at it." With a friendly pat on the shoulder the Major stepped away, leaving Shan alone on the bridge with the boggling ops center. He sighed. "Well - no better time than the present." Sitting himself within the station, he started running simulations. "Let's see what this thing's supposed to do."
  10. Shan paced nervously on the bridge. The scheduled shore leave was to end in a little over a week. It would all begin again: the assignments, the challenges, the dangers ... Shan shivered uncontrollably. It was different this time - something inside him couldn't face it again. They kept coming; they kept coming without relief. Never a sense of quiet, or anything simple. There was always a cartel or an incursion or some obscene threat seeking to destroy the Creek, the Federation, or the whole of life as it was known. Shan shook down to his core - and ran. As fast as he could he was in Tomcat dressed in a G-suit, maneuvering the vehicle for a deck launch. As he finished flight checks a deck crewman ran up. "Sir ... " He quickly nodded back. "It's ok, Crewman. I'm certified." "I know, sir - but you haven't logged any hours on this bird ..." Shan dropped his visor. "... which is why I need to clock a little time. Check with the Officer In Charge if you have any questions." The crewman scowled. "Sir - you're the Officer In Charge." Shan smirked. "Right ... and I've given myself my permission." "Sir ... I don't think ..." "Good for you, Crewman! You'll sleep better - now clear the deck." The crewman dashed for an airlock as Shan dropped the cowl. Within moments the hangar bay doors rolled open and Shan eased the Tomcat out into space. Looking out to space, Shan took a moment to take in the awesome beauty of the universe. As a flight instructor once told him, it was important for pilots to take in life: one never knew what memory would be their last - an effort should be made to make it pretty. Shan sighed quietly, waiting until the indicators read Minimum Safe Distance before whispering softly. "All right, demons - let's play tag." Shan opened up the engines suddenly. Arcing gracefully away from the drydock, Shan set a course towards a deserted range of tropical volcanic islands. With shields on Double Front the fighter pushed through the planet's atmosphere, glowing brighter than a shooting star as he dropped before he finally let up and allowed the fighter to slow enough for atmospheric maneuvering. Choosing a still patch of ocean and guiding the fighter downward, he continued until the wingtips were three feet from the water's surface and then opened the throttle wide. Water erupted into the air behind him as he shot along the ocean. Rising slightly, he arced towards an island. Once a volcano, the center had a narrow split from a recent earthquake. Ignoring collision alert warnings he continued straight for the gap at the crest of the mountain. Watching the approach for several seconds, he breathed quietly and closed his eyes, counting heartbeats until suddenly putting the fighter into a roll; narrowly missing having the wings sheared off as he spun through the mountain split - the wash of the fighter disintegrating several trees and plants on the peak. Straightening out, he ran the fighter out several miles before turning back - setting a dead course for a solid cliff side. Calmly he counted down ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Engaging pitch thrusters and opening the engines, the fighter's profile went flat towards the mountain before rocketing vertically with an island-shattering sonic boom. The Tomcat arrowed into space ... and Shan sank down the rabbit hole. He had no sense of how long he was out, doing his best to shake off his headache while checking the monitors. The G-LOC compensator had put the Tomcat into a steady course and kicked in CAS, though the readout thankfully showed no need for it. Still, he had been out long enough with fairly open sub-light engines that he was barely a few thousand miles from New Topeka's moon. Deciding to take in the sight, he ran the fighter down to the deck - not kicking dust this time but still skimming along the surface, barely putting in the effort to avoid the crags and crests of crater edges. Easing away from the surface slightly, Shan took in the sight of New Topeka rising from the moon's horizon. There was a speck to the left - a glimmer of light which Shan recognized as the dry dock. He didn't know how much time had passed - perhaps someone who outranked him was already on board. He looked down at the console ... he had the fighter. He could get away; ditch the ship at the first outpost he found and disappear. He didn't have to be a pilot - just an undocumented deckhand of a cargo ship. He could lose himself forever; Starfleet would give up looking for him quickly ... he just wasn't that important. The Creek wouldn't follow him farther than it would take to pick up the fighter. There were plenty of Ensigns capable of piloting a starship - he wasn't that valuable. Shan sighed heavily. Starfleet wouldn't follow him; the only things interested in him were his demons, and they would follow him everywhere. Maybe next time, you bastiches. ... The bay doors closed shortly after Shan shut off the engines. The crewman was back with a tow-box, easing it into place as Shan climbed out of the cockpit. "Have the atmospheric stabilizers checked. They want to pitch negative in a roll." The crewman shook his head. "Sir - I'm going to have to report this, and not just to the Officer In Charge." Shan smiled and patted the crewman's shoulder. "You're a good man ... you do that." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Glory Be", from Dark at the End of the Tunnel, by Oingo Boingo G-LOC: G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness CAS : Collision Avoidance System
  11. Shan sat in the Captain's chair, looking at status reports which flashed steadily across the main viewscreen. The 'Creek was in drydock for refitting and all the staff officers were on shore leave. The Captain was across the galaxy, the Commander was discreetly listed as 'elsewhere', and everyone else had gone their own way. Having returned from a somewhat taxing assignment, Shan was happy to mind the empty ship. Time alone was a relief, and since the vessel was drydocked there were no emergencies, no adventures, nothing to make him late for dinner - and no one's life in the balance. Nothing but a steady stream of equipment and rework orders to sign, and somebody had to. He could write an 'x' as well as anybody. Minding the ship in drydock, however, did bring home one petty annoyance - ship food. Being a fully fitted combat vessel, space was naturally at a premium. One didn't stack crates of chickens in cold storage - the space was needed for photon torpedoes. Instead a series of storage cells contained bulk nutrients which were systematically withdrawn, reconstituted, and instantly brought up to temperature upon request via wall-mounted dispensers; model TXD-58272, to be precise. To be fair to the service a reasonable effort was made to allow for some variety, but it all came down to food with one of three consistencies: a cantalope cube for the 'fruit', tomato paste for the 'vegetable', and ( most offensively of all ), tofu to supply the protein. Having to tolerate ship food for breakfast and lunch while being able to savor a fresh dinner in the drydock lounge, the disparity of what the ship served against real food became painful before too long. The more Shan thought about it, the more sour he became. The TXD was a transporter, and transporters were capable of converting molecules to energy and then back into complex structures. The TXD was even capable of flavoring - so why was it that it couldn't put at least a little texture into their meals? Why? Why - why - why? Shan was a transporter technician - he knew that if only he could spend a few weeks with a dispenser in an engineering lab, he could make a unit that could produce food that was actually semi-appealing. Then the thought hit him: why not? The Chief Engineer was on leave ... everybody was on leave. He was practically all alone with the technical facilities of the entire ship at his fingertips. In less than twelve hours he had a dispenser in Engineering Workshop 7 and had stripped to the frame. It was exactly what he thought it was: a transporter - with all the working elements necessary to accept an energy feed and reconstitute anything up to the size of a healthy pig. Rebuilding the unit, Shan altered the basic programming and began tests. His first product was a long block - blue in color with yellow splotches and two white spots with black dots which stared in two different directions. Shan could swear it was watching him. The texture might have been right, but Shan just didn't have the heart - or the stomach - to find out. Trial after trial produced failure after failure; worst of all, the results were random. One produced an acidic pink blob which ate through the table. The next was a chunk so solid nothing could penetrate it. Shan pressed ahead with his trials, waiting for that golden failure that would begin dancing "Hello My Baby ..." before skittering off into the corner or dropping into a lump, but thankfully that didn't happen. It took three days of examination before Shan had a flash of inspiration. Running a series of simulations on the ship's main computer, the answer suddenly became obvious. The problem wasn't the mechanism - it was the memory. Examining the processor, Shan held the functional circuit between two fingers: a small square, 15 by 20 mm, and barely 2 mm thick. It held all the basic patterns for the crew's nutritional requirements by species, and the processing circuitry needed to generate basic food structures. However: although such units could process in zeta-antons, the unit he held was rated to a little over a giga-anton. Regeneration of molecular structures needed a lot of processing intelligence: to do what Shan wanted, these units would need ten times the capacity. At ten credits a unit and with countless dispensers scattered throughout Starfleet, it was a luxury that Command just wouldn't think was that important. Shan smirked evilly. There weren't that many units scattered through the ship, and he was signing the work orders. Buried within a computer upgrade order, the needed chips would be identical in shape and size to the one he held. An upgraded dispenser would be physically indistinguishable from a standard unit. After ordering the parts Shan moved his project to his quarters, focusing his efforts on reprogramming. Within four days his 'meat brick' had evolved into a processed turkey loaf with sufficient texture to be appetizing - at least to someone who liked turkey loaf. Variant flavors were quickly developed including barbeque pork and roast beef, with complementary sauces and gravies. The new processor design could supply these with a reasonable simulation of mashed potatoes. The 'fruit' serving now could resemble grapes in form and texture, with flavors ranging from 'natural' to pomegranite, citrus, or apple. Although not as developed as he would've liked, it was the best he could do with the time he had left. He accepted his results - there would be time to improve the programs further later on. Shan noted the changes in the Engineering records, identifying the reworked dispensers as TXD-58272-CX1. Finally enjoying a dinner from the ship's dispenser, Shan smirked with satisfaction. The crew was certainly in for a surprise when they came back.
  12. Ship's time was 02:30 The third-shifters were on. Even on a transport like this there were cycles, and this was the quiet one. Shan sat in the corridor outside of the Sickbay, casting a sour look at anyone who so much as tried to talk to him. They didn't understand - they couldn't understand. To them he was just a pilot: he flew things from point A to point B. They all had their plan for what he was to do; all he was supposed to do was to carry out orders. To the pilots, though, it was a different matter. The families and friends were always brave. Their loved ones went out to do the brave and noble work that needed to be done. Yet Shan saw it in their eyes whenever they, their crewmates, or a caring Captain addressed him before departure. Bring them all back safe and sound. Somehow they all treated pilots differently, as if the ability to helm a shuttlecraft or run a transporter gave them a link with the Divinity capable of altering fate. Pilots never felt that themselves - they felt the helplessness of being given the responsibility for things they couldn't control, alter, or affect. They carried the burden of failure because someone had to. They were back on the barge, and he was back to being an unused cog in the machine. This ship had their own transporter chiefs, their own helmsmen, and their own shuttle crews. There was nothing for him to do but to sit and wait for their return and to face the Captain with the fact that he failed to bring back her crew in the same or better condition then when they left. Everyone had their own private hells; this one was his. With nothing else to do, he sat vigil for Marcie outside of the Medical bay - not eating, not sleeping, not talking to anyone. It was a useless gesture, empty of meaning - but it was the only thing he could think to do. -------------------------------------------------------- Erst wenn die Wolken schlafengehn Kann man uns am Himmel sehn Wir haben Angst un sind allein Gott weiss ich will kein Engel sein. Rammstein
  13. Shan sat inside the shuttle, every muscle tensed and wired. He didn't really need Command to order him to hold position; there was a squad of injured troopers heading his way who needed him to be there. He knew the drill - every good shuttle pilot did. Don't risk the transport; especially for a minority. It was this same rule which prompted him to appropriate a shuttle in order to bring back Commander Wesley. Done his way the risk was minimal: one shuttle and one pilot. Bringing in the Washington's Crossing put everyone at risk, which was not his decision to make. This time it was different: there was no other shuttle, no other pilots, and no means to retrieve one errant marine without putting others at risk. The course of action was clear - stay on site and collect the team, then leave on schedule with whomever could make it back. If only the errant marine wasn't Marcie. It was just one of those things. Whenever Shan looked at Marcie he saw a marine, but she was his marine. Shan hated marines, but she was different. It was like someone who cared for a pit bull. Sure: the breed is aggressive, dangerous, and by all rights should be locked up or put down ... all of them but your pet Fluffy. Fluffy's different: she's cute, she's cuddly, and she's special - because she's yours. To Command, Officer Granger was an expendable asset, just like the rest of the team. She was stripped of anything which spoke of who she was, and sent out with the understanding that there was a definite chance that she would be captured or killed. Officer Granger was expendable - they all were. They didn't feel what Shan felt; they couldn't. Yet Shan sat and waited for the others to finally arrive. They had what they had come for, and the order from Command would arrive soon enough. Withdraw - leaving behind whoever couldn't make it to the shuttle in time. That was always the plan, and Shan would have to comply: the lives of everyone who did make it depended on him following orders. This time he couldn't disobey. Sometimes things like this simply bothered him. This time it hurt.
  14. Of all his early assignments, Shan loved Delta Epsilon 5 the best. It was a station built into a large moon, speckled with ports and hangar bays. The station buzzed with activity constantly: from railed cars moving heavy equipment to overhead cranes hauling beams and ships about. There were few grav-levitators about, because maintenance hated the upkeep. The technology was crude, but inherently reliable. As cargo carriers, loaders, and technicians on three-wheeled carts shot about, Shan walked carefully through bay after bay on his way to J-17. His latest assignment waited there: GCC-122 ... the Cryghton. It was an Almeida-class cargo carrier, and he was already in love with it. It wasn't that the ship was especially elegant or maneuverable, or even especially fast. No: the beauty of the Almeida-class was its versatility. His assignment packet indicated that the Cryghton tended to operate under-manned in the sciences and security departments, but this was based on their operating parameters. The Cryghton was a cargo carrier - plain and simple. Shan smiled when he read his orders - simple was good. Arriving at J-17, he took a moment to take in the ship. At slightly over 150 meters, some people looked at it as more of an oversized shuttle than an undersized starship. Shan saw it in the reverse: simple and elegant, with a few curves of its own just to show that the designer had some sense of elegance. The cargo module was being refitted at the moment, which gave Shan a chance to watch the process from the outside. "Special assignment - the contents of that module are so classified we can't even get a manifest on it." Shan looked up to see a friendly face - gaunt with graying hair, but one that seemed comfortable anywhere. "You're Shan Shalin. Hi - I'm Guy McNeil, captain of this tub." He waved his hand to keep Shan from coming to attention. "We're an informal boat; do your job well, and we can skip all the saluting." Shan straightened anyway. "It's an honor to serve with you sir." McNeil groaned slightly. "First order, flight officer: don't ever call me 'sir'. If it's important, Captain will do." He looked out at the ship and frowned. "Won't know where we're going until we're half-way out of the system ... I already don't like it." --------------------------------------------------------- Shan quickly came to respect the Captain's intuition. The 'cargo' was a platoon of Marines destined for a security detail on Dracis 3 along the Orion border. Still sore from the academy, Shan would have sooner flushed the platoon and their cargo module into a passing star - but orders were orders. Carry them there, remain in orbit to provide support. The entire mission was slated for two weeks, though McNeil had suggested it would be longer. At the end of his first shift, Shan wanted nothing more than to remain on station. An Almeida was a small vessel which didn't have room to set up separate quarters. The platoon was billeted in the unused staterooms throughout the ship, and all galley and rec' areas were shared. From what Shan could gather the Captain would've preferred to set up separate facilities, except that the cargo decks were full of supplies for the Dracis colony. Things were going to be cozy for a crew that was used to being able to stretch out. It was shift end, though, and McNeil was picky about his crew taking down time. "I'll tell you when you have to serve overtime. Until then I want you rested and relaxed." Under orders, Shan had no choice but to accept relief and head down below. As he did, McNeil took a moment to stop him. "Hey - just a bit of advice. Get your food and exercise, then catch some sleep. Don't get friendly with the cargo." Shan was a bit confused at the comment, but simply nodded before heading down to the galley to get a dinner which vaguely resembled food before tucking into a corner table to eat alone and in relative peace ... which lasted for about ten seconds. "Excuse me - do you have something against eating with Marines?" Shan looked up to face the typical round-headed buzz-cut. "Not looking for conversation." The marine took the response surprisingly well. "That's just because you haven't gotten to know us. Allow me to expand your horizons ..." The marine was one Hortense Spunkmeyer ... a detail which Shan was pledged to secrecy about. Like Shan, he was a logistics specialist: a pilot and a material mover. He was the third of five children, with a doting mother who made the best apple fritters in the whole of the South ( whatever that was ) and a kid sister who anxiously awaited every dispatch he sent just to make sure he was all right. Shan lost a total of four hours learning about Hortense and his adventures as a marine before finally insisting that he had to get some sleep. The days that followed went quickly with Hortense on board; and if McNeil objected to Shan's disobedience, he didn't say anything. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Upon arrival at Dracis 3, the contents of the cargo module was revealed: an armed dropship designed to land the platoon in a hot zone complete with APC and missle support. The Cryghton shuddered slightly as the ship deployed, sending the platoon down to their assignment. It was a total of six weeks before they were recalled, having been relieved by two companies ... a necessity once Command realized that the situation was a little more difficult than they anticipated. Shan worked the cargo transporter to bring the platoon on board. The dropship and the APC were both listed as 'disabled'. As he watched as the Marines came off the platform, Shan quickly noted the absence of one face in particular. Swallowing nervously, he walked up to one of the Sergeants. "Excuse me, but there was a Private Spunkmeyer in your platoon ..." The Sergeant shook his head. "He was on security detail two weeks ago outside of the dropship when it was hit ..." He stared at Shan intently, his eyes telling the rest. Shan nodded. "I'm sorry ... excuse me - I'm needed on the bridge." He felt his heart turn to a rock as the lift carried him up and over, opening out on the command deck where McNeil was waiting. As Shan walked to his station he felt the captain's hand gently rest on his shoulder - not heavily, but in a supportive way. "I'm sorry you had to learn the hard way." Shan nodded. "I understand, sir - don't get friendly with the cargo."
  15. Shan walked through the city streets, looking about at the myriad strangeness about him. It was as if someone had suspended a world's development at steam power, but at the same time accelerated far beyond it. He had signed on for the Away Team for a chance to examine an incredible shift in technological development; a world where the fundamentals of technology seemed simple while creating wonders that were nearly impossible by Starfleet's standards. With a discretely bound notebook Shan took it all in, making notes about the steam systems, the piping, the intricate clockwork which seemed to run everything. It was all so nearly perfect. Perfect, except for the shadow that followed him ten yards away - trying clumsily to be inconspicuous, yet so focused on his 'assignment' that Shan couldn't help but feel like he was on a leash ... a painfully short leash. This was supposed to be a discovery mission, yet half of the team were Marines. Shan didn't understand that at all - there was nothing in the mission brief that said 'Demolish', 'Secure', 'Overwhelm', 'Conquer', 'Subdue', 'Kill/Maim/Torture', or any of the other assignment terms that Marines would find catchy. This should have been an Away Team filled with science and engineering officers, with perhaps two Fleet Security officers. Bringing down Marines to provide security was a little like whipping out a flamethrower to start a campfire - it'll work, but it's not really a good idea since that's not what a flamethrower is for. But here he was, walking through a city which was all but made for him with its incredible mechanical wonders and almost oppressively polite manners. Everyone was polite ... so joyously polite! People nodded pleasantries to each other, the men stepped out of the way of the ladies, people weren't loud, or boisterous, or in any way disruptive. All was pleasant and gentle, with the only perceptible threat being his trained-to-suddenly-kill-at-a-moment's-notice escort. Shan pondered a moment on what to do about that. Lose him? No; odds were good he'd happily cripple Shan before risking losing him, and make a point of doing it painfully too. Use the local constable to delay him? More effective, if Shan wanted to have a constable beaten bloody just so he could escape his shadow - also undesirable. Con the locals into mobbing him? Ah, but there was that beating up of innocent people again; besides, he'd just track Shan down when he was done - probably by sense of smell. Heck, he'd likely enjoy it ... ... and with that came the answer. Shan looked about, locating a nice tree to sit under. There he settled and took more notes ... and more notes ... and more as steam-powered buses, trains, airships, and walking machines wandered by. When he wasn't writing notes he leaned back and relaxed, allowing a soft wind to accent the day. Thirty feet away sat the shadow - a Marine who would be forced to sit for three hours and be totally useless. Shan tipped his hat forward to cover his eyes, smirking slightly. Defiance came in many forms.