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Tears of the Lagashi

Posted on Sat Mar 16th, 2019 @ 11:38am by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant JG Ryland Dedeker & Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Lieutenant Commander Kiril Nevin & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant Commander Garai Fenia PhD & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Lieutenant Commander Kazyah Linn

Mission: S1E3: Barbarians at the Gates
Location: USS Phantom (Lagashi sector)
Timeline: MD 2

By the time Lieutenant Dedeker returned with the Phantom from Elba II, Mrazak had grown positively stir crazy with anticipation. It was nearly enough to make him forget the reason for Dedeker's ill-timed venture away from Overwatch Station -- ferrying his lady love to a mental institution. The two men had exchanged loaded stares at the dock, but that was all. What's done was done, Mrazak had more pressing matters at hand.

Pressing matters that took half a day to get on site before all was said and done.

"Now entering the Lagashi sector," Ryland said from the helm. "On approach to the T'ien system."

"Cut the slip stream," Mrazak ordered, "proceed at standard warp factor 8."

Ryland did as ordered, letting the physical sensation of the ship's response serve as his own. As pissed off as the commander had been on his return, he was doing his best to stay out of the way.

Next to the command chair was Bao near the science station. Mrazak had insisted the man remain on the bridge while the rest of the team made their own preparations. "Put the T'ien system on the main viewer."

Bao tapped a few buttons on the console, bring the system into view, the crown jewel of the Lagashi Republic. The three jeweled planets in the background, marbled green and blue punctuated on its night side by the massive glittering of the kilometers high planetside arcologies gave way in space to the arcologies that orbited in the system, each dwarfing the spacedock-class facilities of Starfleet by each having population figures of 9 digits. In a normal time it was an impressive and intimidating site, if only for the sheer mass of people represented. Now, it was also a scene of terror. The debris field of Fortune's Promise remained along with the now derelict hulk of Jasmine Dream as testaments to the depravity of the Breen, but worse was the new scene. Two Lagashi carriers, the Liberty and the Freedom had taken up positions guarding the system with their attendant battle groups, but they could not hide the hulk of the arcology Prosperity's Grace, which had several kilometre holes blown in its superstructure, each representing at a minimum, thousands of dead.

Mrazak sniffed. "I suppose everybody should be here for this." He tapped a command into the panel on the arm of his chair, which initiated a ship-wide communication. "All specialists not currently on the bridge are to report here... there... immediately." The Vulcan chewed his lip, then decided to leave it at that and cut the comm

*CLANG* *CLAng Clang clang* The multiple metal plates threaded by a stainless bar crashed to the ground in a satisfying cacophony, bouncing four times before rolling awkwardly away from the smiling Marine. His breathing was coming in long gasps but his demeanor was ecstatic. Clapping his hands together to wring them in an ablution to the gods of iron, white powder burst into the air around his meaty palms as he bent over and gripped the knurled bar, Storr's index finger finding the smooth grip marking with an unconscious precision belying thousands of hours worshiping at the altar of steel. Garlake's breathing became measured as he visualized himself picking up the weight that continued to best him despite his most rigorous efforts. 375kg. Stand up. Hold. Drop. Breathe in. Breath out. Breath in...the comm unit blared to life just as he began his lift.

"Stront!" he grunted, dropping the weight mid-calf, nostrils flaring. Immediately? That V'tosh Ka'tur could...Garlake didn't finish his thought as he instead channeled his rage at the lead scientist into the barbell, taking two quick breaths as he pulled explosively. Mid-calf. Pull. Knee. Pull. Mid-thigh. Pull. Groin. Stop. Two. Three. Drop. As he let out a roar of accomplishment, he thought that the little Vulcan wasn't a complete oxygen thief after all...

Making his way onto the bridge in his workout clothes, Storr felt conspicuously out of place in an SFMC graphic muscle shirt and lifting shorts. This had better be good.

Fenia had arrived to the Bridge just as Mrazak was making the call and found herself cringing inwardly. "Prophets, he'd suck under a normal ship environment, huh?" She thought to herself as she headed for one of the stations in the back of the Bridge.

Not far behind, Isaiah stepped onto the bridge, his uniform sleeves rolled up to his elbows. As he looked out of the viewscreen, he stopped in his tracks, "Holy shit," he said with concerned, as he took one of the side consoles.

As the ship approached closer, Bao spoke to Dedeker and Mrazak. "We should slow to impulse and contact the Liberty, which if I recall, should be in charge here, as the flagship of our naval forces. Standard procedure now will be to open fire on any unidentified vessel, regardless of appearance, and sort the rest later. We will need to convince them to let us into the system, or Starfleet or not, they will not hesitate to enforce the naval control of space around the planet with overwhelming force."

"Sensors have just detected a large Lagashi ship on an intercept course. She has her shields up and weapons active." Rodi reported, almost talking over Bao. Moment later the ship appeared on the forward viewscreen. It was a long rectangular vessel. The forward section had a slight spherical widening. At the rear a cross section connected to two large propulsion units glowing a faint blue. And from the tip of the ship through it's length were two cavernous mass drivers, triangular barrels with their bases against one another.

"We could always tear a hole in their hull with our weapons," Kaz stated, though no one saw him enter the room. "Not sure what a Lagashi ship looks like, to be honest, but I can't imagine they're much of a match for us."

"I'd rather not try our luck against them." Rodi said dryly.

Kaz shrugged, "Then I suppose we grovel to them? You're pretty good at that, aren't you Rodi." A smile spread over the Betazoid's face.

Bao's usual patience was in short supply and he gave Mrazak a look that plainly said "Shall I?" and waited for a few moments for the Vulcan to either take action himself or indicate he should proceed. The other had labeled him the contact officer, but he had assumed the Vulcan's ego would have had him insist on running the show where the Lagashi could not see.

The Intel Chief was rather bloodthirsty, and it turned Mrazak's stomach. "What is wrong with you?" he asked Kaz. Memories of wrestling with the man on Bynaus over his attempt to stab ben-Avram's android in the head flooded back to his mind. He then realized Bao was looking at him expectantly.

"Do whatever you must, Commander Qiao. I trust you will leave violence as a last resort."

Satisfied, and annoyed, he began speaking again. "Commander Linn, you can wax philosophical about your genitals or lack thereof and Federation starship design another time. Sergeant Kos, open a channel on this frequency and keep our shields and weapons offline," he said, mentally directing Sunny to provide the appropriate frequency to Kos. "Lagashi-own cruiser, greetings to honored-you captain. Of Federation-own starship U.S.S. Phantom is Qiao BaoJun-Naval Major," he began, the universal translator momentarily rending his speech badly as he retreated to using the Lagashi form of Taiwanese Mandarin. "Starfleet intelligence has tasked us with coming to the investigation of the attack perpetrated here. We host no ill-will, and respectfully request a heading into the system to aid our mutual investigation into these matters."

A moment later, the view-screen flickered to life as a middle aged woman of clear Asian descent appeared on the screen, sitting in the command chair of her bridge like an empress on her throne. "Federation Starship Phantom, this is Lagashi Naval Colonel Li BaiHua. We have confirmed your arrival is not unexpected, albeit faster than anticipated. You will proceed along system navigation beacon 5 to the Song of Stars. The investigation is being run out of the Service office there."

Bao nodded as the screen went blank. "We are in luck," he mused aloud. "Forces aligned with Executor Li ZeTian and First Speaker Zhou Lian are guarding the area. They are the political faction most closely aligned with the Federation. Mr. Dedeker, you heard Colonel Li, take us in."

"That's lucky, huh?" Ryland laid in the designated heading and punched the impulse engines at half power. "Seemed like a whit of a bitch to me."

After first confirming that the comm was indeed cut off from the main viewer, Mrazak snorted. "Lieutenant, I order you to stow the sailor talk. In fact, your diplomatic privileges have been revoked until further notice."

Ryland shrugged, unsure of what that was supposed to mean but figured it was better not to ask. Apparently the Vulcan was still salty.

In a moment, Jaya entered the bridge and caught only the tail end of the exchange. Looks like Ryland was up to his same old antics. She spared a glance at Storr, lingering just like enough to convey her sordid approval of his sweaty attire, before insinuating herself into the mission. It was, after all, her first field mission, and she intended to carry her weight.

"What is the Song of Stars?" she asked. "Is it a landmark of some kind?"

"A ship or more likely a Starbase," said Fenia from the back.

"Sounds more like one of the legendary Lagashi arcologies," Mrazak suggested.

Bao turned his head. “I supposed you could say all three,” he said. He tapped a few buttons to highlight it on the view screen, a vast conglomerate of modules, clusters, components, pieces, and so forth that stretched in every dimension for several tens of kilometres, far eclipsing the largest of starbases. “It is the oldest astral arcology we still have, founded in the 2190s. It’s been here ever since, growing. The last count I heard was the population had exceeded 500 million,” he added as their approach brought more of it into focus. As the structure became larger, its nature as an ever expanding structure became more clear, with visibly different eras of materials and designs becoming apparent, although, no matter the area of the hull, the weaponry was consistently modern looking, and present in amounts to make even the largest fleet second guess wanting to come near the structure.

The Lagashi decided to make a point. “Mr. Kos, tactical analysis,” he asked.

"I'm reading four hundred and three mass driver emplacements of varying calibers, as well five hundred and twenty-one phaser batteries. That arcology would turn us into dust before we could activate the slipstream drive." Rodi replied in the same dry tone.

Bao nodded. “Alright. Considering our status, we’ll be skipping customs and the tourist orientation. I’ve already told Colonel Storr, but our standard phasers won’t attract any attention, especially from the naval or intelligence services personnel. Take your credit chip or some other form of currency with you, as you will have to pay for goods and services here. Take a padd as well, because you will need a map. Ms. Garlake, I apologize for being remiss, but you may want to take a suppressor, as many empaths and telepaths report that Lagashi arcologies are extremely uncomfortable, if not outright painful to their mental senses. With due luck we will beam directly to the service office, and then hopefully be allowed to investigate Prosperity’s Grace directly. We need to find out what happened as quickly as possible and get out with as few ruffled feathers as possible. Questions?”

The cordial warning brought a soft smile to Jaya's lips. Deltans had evolved to embrace the tumultuous sea of bodies and souls that is called civilization. "I'll keep that in mind," she said. If she were to have any personal issues, it would be reconciling the unseen cybernetic aspect of a Lagashi's consciousness. After her limited experience around Biynah, she had to resist a small shudder at the thought. Perhaps Bao's warning was merited after all...

Storr was not jumping for joy. While the Lagashi seemed like a fascinating and intriguing people, the situation hardly made for an enjoyable port call and the lack of clearly defined enemies or objectives made for murky battle orders. Just the kind of situation that gets people hurt and killed. He tersly shook his head side-to-side when he momentarily made eye contact with the Vulcan.

Mrazak nodded. "Aaaaand we're ready to go!" he said with a staccato of clapping. "We need to go speak with the man in charge, the who's-its." He pointed at Bao to fill in the blank.

"Admiral Huang, if nothing has changed," intoned Bao, "though there are likely some political representatives and the Federation ambassador to deal with as well."

"That's the one." Mrazak picked back up without missing a beat. "Qiao, Linn, Garlake, you'll accompany me. While we acquire necessary access and demolish any obstructive red tape, I want everyone else to hit the ground running." He eyed Nevin, Fenia, Grace, Rodi, and Jaya. "Ferrofax will parse the public and not-so-public data feeds for relevant information. Follow up any leads he provides. Otherwise, I want you interviewing, documenting, and snooping everyone and everything you can until we can secure access to the good stuff. Begin with any traffic controllers, customs and duties inspectors, or anyone else who could have turned an eye out to the attack there when the attack began, and spread out from there. Does everybody understand their orders?"

Fenia nodded simply. This was the stuff she was good at. Investigating and looking for clues.

Bao looked at Mrazak, and was tempted to tell him his diplomatic speaking privileges were revoked until further notice as well.

"What about me?" Ryland asked . "I liked the look of this place's 'Asian Persuasion' and..."

Mrazak glared at the man. "You will stay with the Phantom and make sure it doesn't make any unscheduled stops."

"Lookit, Commander, I know you're pissed off 'cause I only followed orders, but lemme' help. I know my way around a space dock, if you catch my drift." His sly smile spoke volumes of confidence.

"Ferrofax," Mrazak snapped. "Immobilize Lieutenant Dedeker by any means necessary if he attempts to leave this ship without my express permission."

"'Any means'? Well, with a blanket statement like that I am spoilt for choice," the hereto quiet AI said from the ceiling. "A forcefield is so pedestrian when with just a little ingenuity so many exciting possibilities raise their hands for consideration. The gravity plating for one. Maybe a hard sonic pulse? I've been reading over the possibilities of induced seizers as a form of crew defence in the event of boarding actions. You know what Ryland, we could try a number of them. For science, of course."

"That ain't right," Ryland muttered as he flopped back into the conn station. "Ain't right at all..."

Bao glared at Ryland and stalked over to him, patience exhausted, and placed a large hand on the man's shoulder and squeezing far harder than what could be construed as friendly. He bent down and whispered directly into the man's ear. "Ferrofax lacks creativity. My people's authorities do not, and neither do I, assuming anyone feels the need to reclaim you. It is clear you lack anything that could be construed as subtlety so let me spell it out for you, we are investigating an assault on my people, not making a port call for you to appease your 'little brother' so if you value its continued existence you will listen to the nice Vulcan megalomaniac, stay on the ship, and not give anyone any reason to remember your name."

"Listen, 'friend.'" Ryland grasped Bao around the wrist and flung it away from his shoulder. "I ain't a particularly creative guy, so lemme' just say if you ever touch me again, I'll break your shit off the ol' fashioned way."

The flyboy sprung to his feet, though even his considerable height failed to match Bao's. Nonetheless he glared at the Lagashi, eyes hot with anger.

"All right, boys, we're done here." Jaya inserted all 64 inches of herself between the two men who were rutting with hostility. As she placed a small hand on each of their chests, she released an attenuating empathic pulse meant to soothe their flaring tempers. "Let's save it for the investigation. The victims' families deserve that much, right?"

Lt Col Garlake watched the proceedings closely. While he didn't expect violence per-say, his wife inserting herself between two bucking men twice her size made him more protective than usual.

Guilt. It was the quickest shortcut when appealing to honor. And it had to be used carefully, for too little would only incite greater anger yet too much would breed shame and loathing.

Ryland looked down at her for just a moment, then back at Bao. "Fine. Just keep the copperhead away from me."

Bao stepped back from Jaya. Annoyed as he was, his respect for the Colonel would never allow him to proceed through her. He gave a glare at the helmsman again, promising to revisit, before nodding at Jaya. He spoke to her softly, "Thank you, Mrs. Garlake. You are, of course, correct."

"Deal." Mrazak nodded as if he could not care less about what had just happened. "Let's go, team. We have work to do." He made for the airlock without a second glance.

Fenia locked her station and proceeded towards the Turbolift.

At first, Jaya made to follow, but then she threw a second glance at her half-dressed husband. "It appears Colonel Garlake is not dressed for duty," she said. "I will linger back and... assist him."

Storr couldn't help but quirk both brows in a mostly-successful suppression of shock and glee. Jaya was often quite open about their love for each other but never had been so...forward about its physical consummation in public. True, the comment was mostly suggestive and not blatant but its intention could not be denied or ignored; you would think that the Afrikaner would have learned by now but he obviously still had a long way to go in the expectations versus realities of a relationship with a Deltan.

He let a cocksure grin creep across his face as she walked into his extended arm that naturally draped around her shoulders. Holding Jaya close, the two waited for the turbolift to return as he leaned down and whispered to his bride. "You're not exactly dressed for your duty either, motjie," he teased.

"My love," she whispered back, "you haven't seen anything yet."


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