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The End of the Beginning

The End of the Beginning
Aboard USS Missouri 
0600 June 5, 2388

There are whispers in the emptiness between the stars, the meaning of which has all but vanished among the young.
              ~Ethan Neufeld

Clad in full dress Sindar uniform, USS Missouri’s Captain Je’rit d’Ka stood by the viewport of his office, staring into space, beyond the ship, beyond Aegis, beyond planets, stars, and nebulae, beyond what seemed to be nothingness.  What most would call a void, the ancients believed that movement among celestial bodies produced a sensual harmony, and they did.  

D’ka had heard them whisper since childhood.  As he grew, the whispers grew with him.  And in this day of mourning, the more he watched, the more he listened, and the more he heard.  Some things he could control; others he could not.  The pain he felt with the loss of 37 officers who had gone beyond the call of duty to help contain the Alien Alliance virus was almost more than he could bear.

Commander Lei’ri stood beside him to watch, listen, and to give him solace if possible.  But the solace was not forthcoming, so he kept a discreet distance, waiting for the captain’s agony to subside.

“Are you familiar with an ancient terran lyricist, ‘Ri?” the captain asked as he continued to stare into space. “One with the surname Shakespeare?”

“I am, Keann-aí.*  But only what you have told me.”

D’ka gave a slow nod, then turned to watch a distant stellar prominence and began, “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank.  Here will we sit and let the sounds of music creep in our ears.  Soft stillness and the night become the touches of sweet harmony.”  He sighed.  “A beautiful piece, is it not?”

“It is, Keann-aí.  But I must ask, if I may…?

“Of course.”

“You have often said that you hear many things, Keann-aí.  Do you hear this music in what seems to be a silent void?”

“I do, ‘Ri,” he replied, turning to face him.  “I always have. And what I hear in this music is profoundly sad, like a dirge, a burial song….”  His voice trailed off.

“Ten days, ‘Ri,” he whispered as his eyes darkened to the deep blue of mourning. “If we had been more vigilant," he continued somberly.  "If we had deciphered the alien code more quickly.  If we had been more cautious, more aware….”

Keann-aí,” Lei’ri interrupted quietly, “the past is gone.  We must abandon those thoughts, put them aside, and look to the future.”

After a moment, the captain’s eyes faded to a more contemplative blue as d’Ka turned to face him. “True, ‘Ri. We cannot bring them back. That I know all too well.”  He paused for a moment of thought. “The Klingons have Sto-vo-kor, the Romulans have Vorta Vor, the Vulcans have Sha Ka Ree, the Terrans have Heaven, but the Sindar and Qr’var?” 

“A vast difference, Keann-aí.  And we are fortunate.”

An hour later the Captains d’Ka and Chirakis, along with Commander Lei’ri, stood on Missouri’s hangar deck, awaiting the arrival of a VIP shuttle.  The fighter bay had been thoroughly cleansed. Bits of the alien stealth ship and its contents had been sealed in pods and sent toward the nearest star where the contents would be completely  destroyed.  Those who had perished in the virus were meticulously sanitized, clad in full dress uniform, and gently laid in burial pods, then draped in the symbols and colors of the house, the family, or the clan of the deceased.

Her polished hull gleaming in the light of USS Missouri’s fighter bay, the shuttle settled silently on the deck. The captains and commander processed to stand by the ramp.  With jaws set, eyes front, and expressions stern, they paused, then stepped to the side and turned, waiting to flank those who would exit.

A moment later, with a whisper of hydraulics, the shuttle’s ramp lowered before a sea of blue, red, white, gold, silver, and gray—superior officers of the Joint Allied Powers. 

From the shuttle’s darkened interior the officers emerged and processed shoulder to shoulder, rank upon rank in strict formation, dress uniforms studded with insignia.  

A crisp command echoed from the bay’s entrance, bringing rank upon rank to sharp attention.  The Honor Guard advanced in slow, strict step, their ceremonial boot heels clicking a cadence on the deck plates and cutting through the otherwise complete silence of the bay.  At the bottom of the ramp, their boots slapped together before they executed a crisp about face and presented the flags of the Joint Allied Powers in tribute before the assembly, ready for the pallbearers to carry the deceased into the shuttle, to a place of honor where they would begin their journeys home.
Keann-aí - The formal Sindar word for captain.

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