About the Author

Author WorfGagnon

Stories : Ussegssirr

Star Trek Online tale by WorfGagnon, 2012-02-20T07:30:00.0000000. Reads: 635
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Introduction

        It shamed him, the churning in the pit of his stomach. The failing of his courage as he approached the doors, so innocuous and humble in their design, and in all ways identical to every other set of doors on the ship, but it was the knowledge of what lied beyond them that threatened to break his warrior's resolve, to forever mar him in the eyes of his peers. It was a testament then, he told himself, that he could prevent all traces of this failing from entering his expression. That he could traverse the corridors without a halted stride, with head high, determination in his eyes. That was the real measure of his strength.
        In the scant few seconds it took for the doors to grind open he had conceived and braced himself for dozens of ways he could be assaulted for violating the sanctuary. One of the earliest lessons under this command was that, even when summoned, to gaze upon this room was to invoke the wrath of its owner. Such did it come as so much a surprise when there was no furious snarl, no thrown equipment or fist, that his artfully constructed facade of calm was in an instant shattered, and he could feel his own lips pull back and his eyes widen. He quickly stepped in, before drawing enough attention to himself that his momentary hesitation could incur the outrage that his mere presence had, on this occasion, failed to elicit. The Commandant circled the central console, his attention fixated upon the series of diagrams it projected, the shapes and texts shifting and cycling at a pace maddening to the naked eye, stepping around and over the assortment of components and tools scattered on the floor, without ever so much as a downward glance, with a precision that could only be attributed to practiced repetition. He waited in silence, just far enough inside the doors for them to have closed behind him, daring to intrude no further into the realm of his master, eyes transfixed upon the Commandant in the precise same manner that the Commandant was transfixed upon his work. He was prepared, then, when the Commandant finally came to a stop, the console and its projection between them, and their eyes met.

    "Your opinion, Sorav."

        In the years that he had known the Commandant, it was the first time he had ever heard such a solicitation. It would have been an honour, were it not accompanied by the horrific realization that the more he was required to speak, the greater the likelihood that he might say something unfavourable to the Commandant's ears. He had been witness to the prolonged, agonized deaths of a great many who had done far less, and he knew whatever standing he held in his master's mind would afford him no exemptions. His approach to the console was cautious, though the cluttered state of the laboratory provided ample cause for caution, enough, or so he hoped, to prevent suspicions of his unnerved state from entering the Commandant's mind. Standing opposite the piercing gaze of the Commandant, he let his eyes roam the ever-changing displays, taxing his mind to its utmost limits to make sense of the perpetually-changing shapes and symbols projected in the Klingon-favoured shade red, the sense that every moment spent gaping at those lights was a moment's less patience his master possessed. He would not dare presume to touch the console, not even to direct the images to slow or stop altogether so they would stop seeming to blend together in an indecipherable garble, feeling as he did that he was already at the Commandant's limits of accommodation. He was a brilliant man in his own right, however, and before long the mess unjumbled itself within his mind, allowing him to vision in his head the clarity that was not to be found on the projection in front of him.

    "I do not understand its function."

    The first words that came to him proved to be the only words he could conceive for what he was observing. He expected the Commandant to react as one might to a hatchling who had just mistook his own fingers for grubs and elected to bite them. The response he received was a great deal less condescending, though still carrying a hint more than the usual irritation that would undoubtedly be indistinguishable from his usual tone to the lesser races, incapable as they are of grasping the many subtleties of Gorn vocalizations.

    "It is a space station of unrivaled offensive power, what do you fail to understand."

    "This I grasp, Commandant, but aspects of its design go beyond unorthodox. The way you have elected to divide it into detachable segments serves no purpose beyond permitting its components to be manufactured remotely to be transported to a place of assemblage. In the combat situation this station appears designed for, this ... modular approach would only provide structural weaknesses to be exploited by our enemies."

    "Show me."

        With the push of a single button, the Commandant brought the spiraling chaos between them to order, leaving only a three dimensional diagram of the complete station between them, its every corridor, conduit, pipe, and wire forming a tangled maze of lines within the neat and simplistic outer hull. His eyes roamed the display for a while, correlating the image in front of him with the one that had formed in his mind's eye, and when he had crunched all the numbers and theoreticals he spared the Commandant only a brief glance. As expected, his master's face was unreadable. Whether his news was to be welcomed he would only know once he delivered it. Too late, too, for him to back down from his assessment.

    "Torpedo impacts here and here would cripple primary systems ... here, here, here, or ... here would cause catastrophic reactor failure."

        The Commandant erupted, seizing the first unbolted piece of equipment from the ground that his claws could set upon and hurling it against the opposing wall, surprising only in that the target of the master's fury was inanimate. As he held his ground, eyes ever-following his leader's rampage as it tore around the lab, it dawned upon him that he had only confirmed what the Commandant already knew. It was a test to determine how quickly the weaknesses of his design could be located, and by passing so spectacularly he had failed. The sharp edge of a panel cover ripped from the wall sliced open his arm, but he only balled his fists and set his jaw, unflinching while his blood flowed down his arm. The rampage abruptly ended, quelled by the scent of a fresh wound. The Commandant returned to his position on opposite side of the console, folding arms over his chest, regarding his underling with a gaze that pierced deeper than any blade or carelessly-tossed piece of scrap could ever hope to. Long moments passed in silence while his blood formed a small pool around his foot. Eventually the Commandant returned to his computations, and he took that as his signal to leave, though as he turned to walk out of the room he could swear that from the edge of his vision he caught sight of a grin spreading across the Commandant's face.

Chapter 1

        Alerted by the sound of footfall from the adjacent corridor, the bridge staff shifted to battle readiness, with the weapons officer shuffling off to the secondary console while he vacated the command chair to take over tactical, the transition practiced and without flaw. The Commandant strode out to stand in the centre of them, bypassing the chair completely as he always did. It was a rare occasion when the Commandant ever made use of the seat, or any seat. He examined the tactical readout before him while their liege studied the visual of the ship itself on the viewscreen at the fore of the room. Despite their continuing efforts, sensors were revealing little of value about the vessel that had simply blinked into existence off their bow only minutes before.

     "We will speak only to Commandant Riles."

        It was the same proclamation the voice had made when the unknown ship first appeared - the only proclamation, having ignored all attempts he had made to coerce the representative of the unknown ship to address him. He spared the viewer a glance, perhaps subconsciously hoping that the visual could provide some hint of information that the ship's systems were utterly failing to provide, but it only sat there, motionless and unchanged as from the moment he first set eyes on it, a distinct blade-shape, its aft section adorned with rings that appeared purely decorative, blanketed by a cloak of purple mist, the origin and composition of which the science officer could only speculate. The Commandant did not answer, not immediately, scrutinizing the image in contemplative silence, and from experience he could tell at a glance that their liege's desire to simply obliterate the ship and glean what could be learned from the wreckage was steadily losing ground to his curiosity.

     "I am Commandant Riles."

     "We will speak only to Commandant Riles."

        Their liege's jaw tensed, and he moved his hands over the weapon controls, a practiced reflex to the subtle gesture, but the Commandant swiftly raised a claw to signal a belay of the unspoken order. Still his fingertips loomed over the controls, anticipating that this uncharacteristic indecisiveness would be short-lived, his gaze locked and unblinking upon their leader, only the constant, steady thrum of the engines preventing utter silence upon the bridge. The Commandant's fingers occasionally twitched in the air as the seconds dragged on, and finally he swept that claw towards the entryway, finishing the gesture by letting his arm fall back to his side. The crew began to file out, he waiting to the very last, facing away from his station but not completely abandoning it, until his gaze was met by their liege's and he knew he was not exempt from the order. Without ceremony he proceeded immediately to join the rest of the bridge crew in Engineering. The bridge may be vacated, but they would still be prepared to strike at a moment's notice - or retaliate, if this turned out to be some elaborate manner of trap.

         For half of a Qo'noS day there was no signal from the bridge, no orders, no attack. When he finally returned to the bridge the viewer showed nothing but an empty star field with not a single trace of the unknown vessel or the cloud that had enveloped it; not an  atom had been disturbed in the area it had occupied in the hours between its appearance and disappearance. The Commandant continued to regard the screen with a contemplative frown, hiding well even the smallest traces of fatigue from his demeanor, and he was sure that there was no other, not on this ship, certainly not beyond it, who knew their liege so well as he that they could detect the strain tugging at the edges of the Commandant's expression.

     "Cloak. Hovtay' Doq M'Rek cha'vatlh wejmaH IoS Hurgh, 8."

        The Commandant was already on his way off the bridge while his orders were still being executed. The tips of his claws striking the console with trained precision, he spared a glance to their liege's back, looking for the signal to accompany the Commandant away. He was eager to learn what had transpired in the hours following his departure from the bridge, and though he knew the Commandant would share only what he needed to know, it remained preferable to staying completely in the dark. To say that the Commandant regarded him as a confident would be to exaggerate his important to their liege, but he certainly served as the next closest thing, and with good reason. His loyalty had never waned, never faltered, never lapsed, not even for a fraction of an instant. In the decades that had passed since he learned the truth of the Commandant's heritage, and the extent of his ambition, he had not once placed his own desires above those of their liege. To serve their liege had become his only desire. He knew it to be the closest bond to friendship the Commandant would ever permit, and no other achievement in his life filled him with greater pride... and so he could feel his heart sink when the Commandant disappeared around the corner without so much as a pause in his stride.

     "Riloth."

        In an instant he was alert and on his feet, standing to attention staring straight at the opposing wall, the Commandant only visible in the peripheral of his vision, just inside the door with arms crossed over his chest. He wanted to ask the computer for the time, but it felt as if he had not been asleep long before the interruption. Their liege regarded him in contemplative silence for only a brief period before moving to the centre of his attention, and from the demeanor with with the Commandant carried himself he knew it was safe to relax as well - insofar as one could relax in the presence of a superior caste. All of the questions he had awaited answers to since his departure from the bridge immediately bubbled back to the surface of his consciousness, but he knew he need not ask any, for their liege had already determined what he need and need not know, and what he would not be told was above his concern.

     "I require all the information the Klingon Empire and the Federation possesses on the 'demons of air and darkness,' exclude nothing, no matter how trivial or unrelated it may appear."

        He did not answer. He did not need to.

     "An appeal has been made to my vanity. They think that my allegiance can be purchased with honeyed words, bribes, and false promises of rewards for obedience."

        He could not help but snort a laugh at the very notion; that there were those so foolish as to believe the Commandant was truly beholden to any but himself was far from a rarity. Long had the Klingons served as unwitting pawns, believing themselves the Commandant's masters while he turned their entire Empire into little more than a means to his ends with all the subtlety and patience of a Gorn, traits of their race so easily forgotten by the primitive minds of the inferior species who could see no further than their fierce exteriors. Still, it never ceased to amuse.

     "A boon has been promised to me. We will confirm its existence, and return to the previous co-ordinates so that I may extend my gratitude to my benefactors."

        The Commandant grinned, satisfied with his choice of words, and he found himself grinning much the same way, as he so often did, a near-mirror of their liege, if only in mannerisms. Such jovial displays were always fleeting,  however, and they quickly lapsed back into their respective hardened expressions, he remaining still while the Commandant slowly paced the length of what passed aboard Klingon vessels for private quarters. Eventually the Commandant came to stand opposite him again and their gazes met, their liege ever scrutinizing, while he regarded their liege with nothing but thinly-veiled adoration. No more words passed between them, for before the Commandant elected to speak again they felt the shudder of the ship dropping from warp, and proceeded together toward the door. Their liege stopped at the door, however, not to wait for it to fully open, but to gaze back at him, eyes dropping down to his feet and back up. Realization struck him immediately, and as the Commandant proceeded off ahead he turned back to retrieve his uniform.

     "We await the decision."

        Their liege stood motionless, gaze fixated upon the ship that had blinked into being amidst the starfield only seconds before. It seemed as though minutes passed, that the Commandant was deliberately keeping them in suspense. The Commandant played many games, but rarely did they involve prolonging a conversation. With his head angled just enough that he could regard their liege and the viewer both, he waited with the tips of his nails hovering barely a pinkyscale's width above his controls, where the slightest twitch could have caused disaster. So great was his anticipation that he almost missed the telltale tugging at the corner of the Commandant's lips. His fingers flew, there was a brief fluster of activity across the bridge. In the span of seconds, the five other Birds of Prey had decloaked and joined their assault upon the blade-shaped vessel, reduced it to scrap dispersing on the inertia of the death throes of its engine core, and begun salvaging all that remained. The Commandant continued to regard the viewer until his smile completed, letting it linger on his face a while before wiping it away without so much as a bat of his eyes, then striding off the bridge without a word. He stepped away to the command chair when the weapons officer arrived at the tactical station, lowering himself into the embrace of the seldom-used cushions and monitoring the bridge staff as they coordinated the efforts of the other vessels. There would come a time when he would share their liege's mastery of facial expressions. For today he would keep smiling.

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