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Not all is Equal

Posted on Mon Jan 7th, 2019 @ 8:59pm by Commodore Yoshi Minawara & Commander Jonathan Mantell & Isabella Cerin & Ensign Rufus Marocain

Mission: A Misguiding Hand
Location: Captain's Ready Room & Main Bridge
Timeline: TBA




A mask of calm was Yoshi's face as he stared at the sensor indications that a detonation had been detected on the planet below from the estimated crash location of the shuttle. He knew the delay meant it couldn't have been from a blown relay or a failed containment field, that kind of an explosion would have been much sooner. Shortly following that, a burst of radiation was detected, refracted as it was through the planets atmosphere, indicating a high yield of explosive, matching the signature of a Federation phaser. At least one member of the team had survived and had the decent sense to bip the shuttle. He watched on a disjointed monitor along his wall as new broadcasts from the planet flew by, and conspiracy theorists and scientists debated, joined my military officials. Of course, the government was maintaining it was a crashed civilian plane that had ignited on impact and exploded. At least four channels had, between them, eighteen different "experts" on that debated the claims of alien craft. A light click of metal on wood could be heard as the new Commodore considered his actions, humming to himself. He could blackout the planet's communications grid, a burst of high band cosmic radiation from the Main Deflector would do it, and it would look like it came from the star. But that would only cause more problems than it solved.

Without so much as moving his eyes from the display, he called "Come," as the door chimed, and a woman stepped in, a young Ensign from the Intelligence team. He recognized the Vulcan as one of the ones working to analyze the alien transmissions and look for any signs of the Mirians and monitor the surface.

"Sir, we have detected a possible concerning signal, it suggests that the recovery team may have been captured by the local militia. They might be trying to figure out the identities of the team." Her tone was polite and professional, as emotionless as one expected from a Vulcan, but in the undertones, a slight note of concern was found. She was worried about something else.

"And," Minawara inferred, turning to look at her, "we cannot change those logs, because they are still using some form of analogue system?" A short nod was all that the man needed, and he stood, wiping a hand across the air, causing the various displays to snap out of existence. "Very well, let's see about fixing that." Walking towards the door, he took pause as the comm chirped to life.

..::"Minawara to the Bridge, we are receiving a communication from the alien vessel."::..

A brief second later the man stepped onto the bridge, and looked across to the Communications Officer manning Ops. "Sir, alien vessel just made contact, they want to speak to you sir," to which the Commanding Officer nodded, and he waited for the connection to occur. It was moments like this that the man was happy to have Ms. Cerin on the ship, as he had never been much of a diplomat.

The diplomat in question was seated in one of the bridge chairs to the side; a stack of PADDs and a tumbler of coffee piled next to her. Izzy looked up from her reading at the statement, debating with herself whether to call Kairishana to assist: The Andorian who served as her deputy and assistant had been selected for the post in part due to her recent completion of specialized first contact training alongside fleet first contact specialists. Given the timeframe, though, it seemed unlikely it could be arranged with enough speed, so she settled for walking over to where the captain stood, taking a place next to him and smoothing out her blazer reflexively.

Rufus eyed the alien ship where it was highlighted on his helm console and pressed his lips tight to suppress the hint of snarl that wanted to wrinkle his muzzle and hold back the fangs that might otherwise slip into view as he recalled seeing it fire on the shuttle. After all, Jack was a friend, and even if he hadn't known the diminutive engineer well, as a crewmate he was pack.

Once again, the screen was dominated by the image of the strange creature who had called itself a Qoird. Several of its tentacles adhered to the side of the shell that comprised the majority of its body, the textured skin on them forming a bifurcated pattern whose interruption by the shell seemed somehow intentional, its hues bright and clashing. Its eyes and beak below them appeared as usual, the triad pattern of eyes blinking without synchronicity, and the tiny tentacles that ringed the shell-colored beak seemed to dance to some unknown melody. Below the shell, the remaining tentacles curved about whatever platform or control system the Qoird was resting on, their patterns different from those affixed to the shell's exterior, its patterns playing out some new kind of sequence upon them.

The cephalapod's thready voice squeaked from the openings on its tentacles before it, as those on its shell remained silent. "The chorus has considered your request. We are agreed. You will be permitted two from the latest hatchling brood as restitution. This will discharge our debt and you will depart this system."

Notwithstanding the fact that the Qoird's proposed solution did nothing to solve their actual problem, it made Izzy consider her response carefully for another reason as well: They knew next to nothing about this species; its biology, its culture, it's moral interpretations. And so exactly what had just been proposed was somewhat unclear as well: To some cultures, such an offer would have meant the exchange of a pair of their own to be raised by the other party. Or in some, placed into slavery by the other party. In others, it would have meant an offer to kill two of their own as recompense...Or worse, in some, to expect them to do so once provided with them. And in still others, it would have meant either of those things, depending on the choices and preferences of the wronged party. Exactly what it meant when spoken by a Qoird was a huge question mark she preferred to sidestep at the moment if possible.

"Your offer is generous. However, I'm afraid that our laws do not hold individuals as exchangeable in such a fashion; particularly when the parties in question may yet be alive." She chose her words carefully here as well; falling back on Federation law rather than cultural mores as hopefully a less judgemental sounding rejection of the proposal lest the latter come across as judgement of the Qoird practice--whatever it was--while also emphasizing the point of contention; that they be allowed to continue to attempt to recover potentially surviving personnel vs. the assumption of their demise.

Yoshi's face remained like a mask, unbroken and plain, but inside he burned through a quick rash of internal rage. His own people, little more than a half millennia ago, would have considered the exchange worthy. Now however, the CO's internal thoughts was on how abhorrent the thought one could trade a life for another. This was of course why the diplomat was present, and her own words calmed him a little as he prepared to elaborate. "As my esteemed colleague mentioned, we cannot accept this offer, especially seeing as how we have new information to the contrary of the demise of your crew. It appears they survived, and we are in the process of recovering them." A few white lies as he was still unsure if Jack and Nolan were alive, but they were closer to knowing for certain. "So you may keep your hatchlings, and we will finish out rescue efforts, then leave." The words were pleasant, as was the body language, even a small and relaxed smile, but there was an edge to the tone of his voice, like hardened steel.

It wasn't likely that this tentacled alien could read caninoid body language, but Rufus still made an effort to keep his ears from flattening back at hearing that offer. 'Like for like' was a practice his people had abandoned as barbaric centuries ago. Now, if whichever of them fired on the shuttle and/or ordered the attack offered to come over here and bare their necks... if Jack or Nolan had been killed in the crash, taking a bite would be considered just recompense on Kaina. However, he was well aware that Starfleet frowned on that sort of justice, so he kept the thought to himself.

The Qoird being appeared to react at the mention of continued rescue operations. The tentacles fell away from its shell, and the patterns of the tentacles shifted once more. The grasping orifices flared and retracted several times, though no sound could be heard over the channel; whether because none was occurring or the sound had been muted from the alien's end. When the high-pitched voice returned, it sounded even more shrill than before. "Your soloists have been canceled, such discordant voices do not merit restitution. These continued incursions into our protectorate, your 'recovery processes' as you claim, will not be tolerated. The chorus will not allow such despoilment of this voice we are nurturing toward true speech!"

Rufus had no idea how to interpret that, but he knew all too well what his sensors read. "Sir, they've raised shields and their weapons are charging."

Heaving a heavy sigh, and pinching his nose with his thumb and forefinger, sounding more annoyed than concerned, "Red alert. Mister Marocain, move us back." Shaking his head, he nodded to mute the comms. "Okay, so how do we get them to back off and let us pull our people out? I'm not leaving them behind, before you consider that option."

"Aye, sir," Rufus replied, applying a slow reverse to back away a bit. He was glad at least to hear the CO was going to leave anyone behind. For one thing, it meant he wasn't going to have to consider risking a court martial to take a shuttle and go back for them. "Back home when someone bares teeth at you, it's okay to growl or even give a warning snap back at them, but I don't suppose that would be considered properly 'diplomatic' here."

"The definition of proper diplomatic behavior does vary somewhat depending on the society and situation." Izzy said with a tense grin to Rufus. "At the moment, however, I suspect it would be counterproductive."

"Open the channel again," Minawara said, and turned to face the display. "I understand your frustration, and as soon as we retrieve our people we will be departing the Chorus' space while making sure our government establishes a proper border here. However," the man took a few small paces forward, and laced his hands together behind his back as if standing at easy, "that same government will not permit us to leave those people there or leave without ensuring our technology cannot be salvaged by them. Our Prime Directive, the fundamental rule with which our society is governed, prevents us from tampering with the ongoing development of a species that has not yet achieved warp travel. As it is, we are already very much toeing a line we did not intend to." Taking a long, slow breath the man, exhaled slowly, and picked his next words carefully. "We have scanned your ship, as I have no doubt you have done ours, and you know that an engagement between our people's would not be in your best interest. We can still resolve this without the need for further violence."

The Qoird's colorings and patterns finally resolved into something more obvious, the darker hues of its patterns growing darker until they were the blackest blacks the viewscreen could transmit, spreading out across the Qoird's body until every millimeter of mutable flesh was now black, the colors of its asynchronously blinking eyes and discolored beak standing in stark contrast. Its grasping openings all flared at once, and the sound boomed over the bridge speakers for a moment before automatic systems lowered the volume. "We knew the stories of the evil Federation, but not the extent of their truth. Now it has been sung to us in simple melodies. You attack while pledging peace and you claim a directive forces you to leave worthy races in the icy depths of space. A solo voice may not have the power to unsing your melodies, but soon you will hear the full volume of a chorus!"

As before, the image of the Qoird lingered briefly before the screen went blank and the communications terminated.

After a brief silence, the CO sighed and said, "So, that sounded like a threat to this ship and the Federation." Turning to Izzy he shook his head while heading to his seat. "You likely have reports to file to your bosses, and I do mine." The tone was plain, he was annoyed by the turn of events. Tapping a button he summoned an open comms channel. "Lieutenant Kita to the bridge." Addressing the Helmsmen, he added "Ensign, I don't want to be parked this close to that ship, what are our options for moving out from here while still avoiding the Braxian satellite system?"

"I can sit us back of the other moon, sir," Rufus replied, already calculating the path. "It won't obscure us quite as effectively, but unless someone is actively looking for something hanging past the dark side of their smaller moon, we should be safe from detection. The only problem is that we'll be out of transporter range. The other option would be warping away. If we can drop a comm buoy without them noticing, we should be able get back in a flash once the away team signals." He checked his console. "...which might not be the worst option, since long range sensors are showing three ships inbound."

"We're not going anywhere Mr. Marocain, so move us to that moon. We'll deal with the transporter issue when we have to, but for now let's put some distance between us and that ship." Yoshi tapped his hand on the console by his arm, and frowned. "As for the three ships, we'll cross that bridge when we have to, do we have a time to intercept?" Minawara pulled the scans of the ships as they approached, and noticed the technological difference was still vast enough it wouldn't make a huge difference. Still, getting into a shooting match and leaving the remains of those ships in orbit was surely enough to cause problems, diplomatic or otherwise.

"Aye, sir," the Kainan responded, engaging thrusters. "Those ships are currently at warp 4, so we should have bit of time to decide on strategy."

"I think it most likely the Qoird ship will refuse further communications with us, given their final statements." Izzy made her way back to her seat, sliding into it. "I wouldn't rule out that those ships, when they arrive, will come in firing."

"We'll have to deal with that when the time comes," replied Minawara with a shrug. "We can only do what we can to retrieve our people before they get here. If you would be so kind in the mean time though, Ms. Cerin, to appraise Starfleet and our diplomatic people of the current situation." He paused, and frowned again, as if he thought of something before continuing with, "If I need you, or get anything more substaintial, I'll call."


 

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