Archive for July, 2010


Looking for the clues

It was clearly understood in Sal’s mind that this explosion was not accidental. Sal really wasn’t ‘up’ on the latest news of the Cluster. He was 72 light-years from his stomping grounds. This place was a completely different world to him. Half way between settled and unexplored, he knew that he would have to keep ‘up’ if he was going to survive, let alone earn his keep. This Minos character was topping his short list. What Sal wanted to do was spend some time in front of a terminal conducting some proper research first hand. There simply wasn’t time for that. Perhaps Ms. Pheromone could bring him to speed. One thing that Sal did not like was flying by the seat of his pants. Alas, that was all he could do at the moment.
Even though ‘Mr. Muscle’ seemed very impersonal to him, Sal was very glad to have him along. What ever this was all about these people were serious and many innocent lives had just been lost in this explosion. This event had triggered a deep emotion in Sal, a desire to right the wrong, step outside of his sheltered world and onto the cold turf of his current reality with vigor and confidence. He laughed to himself as he recalled a pet name that was given to him in the Academy, “Johnnie Rocket”. In the end, though, Sal knew that what he could add to the immediate equation was knowledge and analysis. When it came to brains and brawn he was most definitely NOT the latter.
Sal thought about the Deltan as he scurried to catch up with Pher and Shane. His mind started to pick apart everything he overheard. He was an analyst and so he focused his brain-power on the data that he had been presented. She had referred to him as a ‘fleeter’. Naturally this added a negative connotation toward the Federation. However, she was over-emphasizing this in her posture as if she was acting. Acting? Sal thought about that for several seconds remembering how predictable her act had seemed to him. It was the worse he’d ever seen. Joia had done better in her Elementary play three annuls ago where she was a tree. Sal had had trouble believing that Mr. Nickles was falling for the Deltan charm that easily. She must have been pushing that pixie dust pretty hard. He thought more on the conversation and how Nickles had been trying to impress Redera. It was enough to make Sal feel ill. She had said that she had very little money and then Nickles offered for her to stay with him. “Show me!” Sal recalled. They weren’t headed to her hotel. They were headed to his. He thought once again about how the Deltan had been playing her role and leaving misleading clues in her mannerisms. If this Deltan was as devious as Pher had suspected then they weren’t ‘headed’ for either place.
It would be a rare night which would blend well with the events as they had been unfolding. A thick cloud bank had covered the skies and a light rain had started to fall. Although the districts were shielded by bioenvironmental domes these domes were energy-based and controlled by complex filtering schemes. Basically, if it was raining outside the dome then it was raining inside as well. Light from the grid work of streetlamps, patterns of windows in the buildings rising on either side and from the various billboards and signs began to glisten off every surface. The sun had disappeared hours ago and would not return for long time.
Traffic was heavy and the faces of the people that they had passed were cold and expressionless. They seemed depressed and in some eyes Sal saw panic. The architecture was a mixture of new modern age with traditional Klingon stone work and older rectangular glass and steel frameworks. The writing on the various signs was also a mixture of Terran and Klingon languages and fonts. It reminded Sal of a trip to the San Francisco Museum with its cultural diversity.
Sal focused on the sketchy data that he had just trying to keep pace with Pher’s swift steps. There wasn’t much to go on. Basically Nickles had been seduced and probably rolled. Sal had seen this before. Poor Jackson lost all of his credits, IDs, personal communicator and his socks. Yeah, his socks. He returned to the ship the next morning to explain what had happened and he had no socks on his feet. Sal chuckled to himself, perhaps out of nervousness. He was liking and not liking this whole thing. The adrenaline rush was starting to peak as his eyes scanned left and right looking for any addition data that might help their situation.


Shore Leave in Crystal City

MAY-JUN 2398, Aldebaran Sector

Sal was tired. He had spent much of the last 16 months updating UFP databanks with the myriad of differing planetary systems and astronomical phenomenon that they had encountered while touring the Aldebaran Sector. He had led a team of 16 navigational engineers and so a lot of icon pushing was involved. His office walls were closing in on him and he needed to get away from the techno-titanium world that he called home. Captain Cumings had promised the crew shore leave as soon as they reached the Aldebaran System. Many had requested leave on Aldebaran IV which was the home world of the native Aldebaranese race. To Sal, this was simply more of the same and so he had made plans with four other crew-mates to take an adventure on Tartessos.
Aldebaran III was known to the natives as Tartessos. Originally it was categorized as a class K planet back in the 23rd century when Aldebaran membership to the federation was established. Since then there had been terra-forming on Tartessos however the planet is nearly twice the size of Earth and much of the planet is still quite arid and barren. Outside the terra-formed areas the average surface temperature was 75 degrees C and the atmosphere was still only at about 65% O-N standard.

Crystal City was not the oldest settlement, only 80 years in development, but it was still too highly developed for Sal and his band of explorers. The newer sections of the Green River Valley and Lake Beane were still under restricted access, but they offered a more rural environment where they could get back to nature. Terra-forming had been underway there for only 30 years and although there were a couple of small villages these areas still depended on much of their commerce and support from Crystal City and its intergalactic spaceport.
Sal walked up to Lt. Celia Johns quarters and pressed the entry chime. He heard a voice respond that sounded muddled,
“I’m in the shower, Sal. Come on in and make yourself a drink.”
Lieutenant Johns worked in security and Sal had befriended her two years ago when she came onboard. They both had a fascination for old 2D visual entertainment records. Celia even liked the ones that were monochromatic but Sal couldn’t justify it, too artsy for him. His mother had liked this form of entertainment and so it was passed onto Sal as a child.
Sal entered Celia’s quarters and found the replicator. Usually Sal would drink some kind of ale but he was officially on leave now and so he selected high ball. After taking a sip he called out,
“What are you drinking?”
“Sal, you know I only drink Tequila! I think there’s a good starfire mix. Make it a double!”
Sal heard laughter from the other room and called up Celia’s request.
“Are you all packed?”
“Yeah, I’ve already had my bags beamed down to Crystal City. We’ll be there for two days, right?” She answered as she finished getting dressed. She came into the room wearing the smallest dark green shorts that Sal had ever seen. Celia was very attractive but Sal had sensed little physical attraction to him. They were just really good friends in his mind.
“So, where are we meeting them?”
“In Crystal City at three o’clock. The shuttle to Happersville doesn’t leave until 5. We’ll have time to get a bite to eat.”
“I thought we had a couple of days in Crystal City?”
“We do. Happersville is where the nightclub that Tony and Kris wanted to go. It should be a lot of fun.”
“Yeah, I was thinking I might drag you out on the floor.”
“You don’t wanna spoil the whole evening, do you?”
They both chuckled and Celia led Sal to the sofa where they sat and continued to chat. Celia seemed especially delighted that Sal had asked her along and she in a very light mood. They laughed and finished their drinks and then left to the transporter room so they could meet up with the rest of the group on the surface.

The buzz in the air was the Andorian Miracle Cure. Sal didn’t know much about medicine but Frank Donnager did. Frank was with Tony and Kris when they arrived on the plaza transport pad in Crystal City. Celia knew Frank from a previous assignment and he was the newcomer to the group that Sal was known to hang around. Frank had some theories about the Zencarian metabolism and its unique strain of antibodies. Sal was certain that he’d hear all about them over dinner. Celia kissed Tony on the cheek and grabbed Kris’ arm. The women were in good company. The guys would be lucky to see them after that evening. They had other plans in Crystal City. This was the first real port that the El Paso had seen in four months.
“Hey Kris… Tony”, opened Sal, “Did you get everything off the El Paso okay?”
“Yeah”, Kris responded, “We’re all set for this wild adventure you got planned. I even had Tony pack an extra portable LSU. We’re staying inside the terra-formed regions, right? I don’t think any of us are equipped to venture outside. Besides, we’re on vacation! That would be too much like work for me!”
Kris, Lieutenant Commander Kristina Flanningan, was a senior environment specialist on the Science Team. She had been dating Tony now for four years. Sal & Celia had teased that they were never going to take that step. Tony, Lieutenant Anthony P. Hurtus, worked for Sal. He was a bright engineer and had helped Sal out of a couple of fixes. They became friends soon after Sal had joined the El Paso crew. Tony wasn’t as ambitious as Sal, though. So even though they were of the same rank when they met, Sal had advanced further and taken over the department when Chief Peterson was transferred. Tony didn’t mind. He preferred not to be in the spotlight, as it were.
“Hey Frank! Did you remember to bring that Capellan brandy of yours? That should go down smoothly when we’re roughing it on the Green River.”
“Yeah Sal, I did. Also brought an extra-thick EV bag since I’ll be flying solo this trip”, Frank laughed and Sal returned an appropriate smile knowing that he too was in a similar situation. Celia and he would be sharing a tent on the river but other than that it was separate but equal billing.
Everyone got settled into their hotel rooms and Sal caught back up with everyone on the Plaza Deck that overlooked Crystal Bay. It was late afternoon and Baran-6 hung quietly on the blue-within-blue sky. This was a unexpected feature of Tartessos because the skies of the other worlds of the Aldebaran System all had deep red hues. Aldebaran was 40 times the size and 150 times as bright as Sol. It dominated the sky with its off-red glow but the oxygen-rich atmosphere of Tartessos overpowered its energy. It was still quite warm and everyone had opted for short pants and sleeves. Even the doctor who had extremely white calves wore a pair of low contrast gray shorts. The girls wore swimwear though Kris had a light wrap around her shoulders.
The special was Kansas City Barbeque which was always a favorite on a Human colony. Everyone sat down and grabbed menus from the holder that was centrally located.
“Well, I’m having ribs. Haven’t had real meat in several months”, popped Celia as the server approached the table.
“Can I start you off with some refreshing Aldebaran Tea?” asked the server.
They all looked at each other, nodded and stated in unison, “Stiffer!”
Sal pointed to a particularly potent liquor on the menu called gPuk and said, “Neat.”
“I’ll have a planetary nebula… with whipped cream”, exclaimed Kris in her soft-spoken voice, “Hun. You want a beer?”
Tony nodded and Frank waited for the server and then spoke, “I’ll have a whiskey and soda. Celia. What are you having?”
“I think I’ll have that tea you mentioned. Someone’s gotta get these boys back to their rooms.”
The table laughed and the server smiled, “I’ll get those drink right away.”

Dinner was much quieter. Frank didn’t once mention medicine and Sal thought that made everyone feel more at ease. Kris and Tony kept on about this new entertainment group who used real instruments. They had seen them before and knew the group was in for a treat.
Sal couldn’t help noticing a Vulcan sitting in the shade alone. He had an iced tea that he had not touched and several times Sal had caught him looking in their direction and taking notes of some kind. If he was fleet then he was out of uniform. Celia told him that it was some form of diplomatic attire. Frank disagreed and said that it looked more civilian than anything. Regardless, it was unsettling for the entire table and so when everyone was satisfied they all left together. As they left, Frank motioned, “This one’s on me.”

Everyone went back to their rooms to change into their evening attire. They would not have much time for primping. Sal entered his room and found his suitcase, opened it and quickly hung the items that needed to be hung. He then selected the jet black suit with a brightly colored tunic. He got dressed and pulled a comb through his hair, did the usual masculine primping which wasn’t much and dashed out of his room. He tapped his lapel and nothing happened. His personal communicator was lying on the nightstand. Frustrated with himself, Sal returned to his room and grabbed it and tapped again,

“Tony? You guys about ready?”
“Just about Sal. We’ll meet you downstairs.”
Sal tapped it again,
“Yes, Sal. I’m on my way.” There was an attitude attached to her voice but Sal knew her well enough as she knew him. She would probably beat him to the lift but would be there when he arrived. And she was.
Dressed in a tightly fitted shimmering blue frock, Celia smiled as Sal approached. She looked like a million credits and Sal could hardly imagine how she was able to pull that off in 30 minutes. Celia took note that Sal’s mouth was on the floor and allowed him a moment’s opportunity to pick it up before they entered the lift.
“Nice jacket”, she commented, actually meaning it as she sized up her escort for the evening.
“Thanks. That dress is something else too.” Sal replied with a smile, “Wow.”

As expected, Frank was at the lobby bar and saw them exit the lift. He was wearing a green pin-striped suit with a subdued tunic and tie. Celia grabbed his arm and they trotted off to the shuttle stand at the far end of the lobby area. There were several cabs available and so they stood away from the crowd and waited for Kris and Tony to arrive.
Kris was in a long black formal pantsuit and heels. She had put her blonde hair up in a swirl, letting one strand fall freely across the side of her face. Tony was in white and they approached from the left in a near panicked state. The women instantly started chatting while Tony located an appropriate cab.
Happersville was about 5 kilometers outside of the city complex. Aldebaran had disappeared over the horizon and so everyone’s sense of direction had been slightly skewed. Sal knew from the map he had reviewed that their destination was west of the city and that Crystal Bay lied just to the north. The buildings were sparse outside the complex but they still hugged the edges of the street. The few that were set back were most likely residences or facilities that depended little on the commerce of tourism.
Celia and Kris were sitting next to each other in the back with Tony. Celia was pointing at this and that but there wasn’t very many street lights outside the complex and things were hard to see. Sal, who was sitting next to Frank in front looked ahead at a soft glow and then nodded back to Tony,
“Looks like it. The Trapezium will be set back from the other buildings.” Tony looked at the brochure in his hand which had a rough map of Happersville on its back page. There were just a few side streets off the main highway that criss-crossed in a twisted grid pattern. All of them were on the north side of the highway filling the space between the road and the waterfront.

The shuttle was an autocab. There was no driver, perse’. They operated similar to the turbolift system onboard a starfleet vessel. Tony had fed in the destination coordinates when they had entered the cab and after everyone was seated, he set them in motion by the simple “engage” command directed to the programming panel. These cabs operated throughout the city complex but also recognized a limited number of destinations outside the complex as well. The brochure had indicated that the Trapezium was included in these destinations.
The cab turned off the main highway and headed down a long drive that was lined with lights. There were personal conveyances parked on either side of the drive and people walking up the sidewalk that lead to the club. The cab pulled up to the main entrance and the door slid open. Kris was the first to get out, quickly followed by Tony and then Frank. Sal waited until Celia was through before he exited. The cab door closed and the cab zipped away into the darkness.
The fanfare was definitely different from life on the El Paso. There were people in every direction wearing a variety of different styles. Most were formal and the group had consciously released a simultaneous sigh of relief. Being underdressed was sometimes fun, especially if it was the intent of the evening. On the flip side, being overdressed usually meant for a cold and uncomfortable time. Celia grabbed Sal’s arm which was not out of the ordinary but pleasantly received by him. He wasn’t going to push it, but he thought that perhaps there was something more to this relationship than he had realized.
They found an open table near the wall and a server quickly took their drink orders. Everyone was drinking this time and Celia had made a comment, “oh just one or two to take the edge off.” The conversation was gay and light-hearted and there was an excitement in the air as the crowd slowly quieted and the main lighting of the room was dimmed. A voice came over the PA system,
“Ladies and gentlemen, Platinum Junction”
There was a brief applause and a steady murmur that continued as a spotlight fixed on a lone guitarist to the left of center-stage. The acoustics of the room had captured the melody and it floated like a gentle breeze. Sal leaned back in his seat and Celia, still on his arm, snuggled closer as they listened to the soft picking echoing through the room. A saxophone soon joined the melody which was followed by a piped instrument called a sentic. It was from the planet Valakis and added a unique stir to the mood of the music. Celia’s eyes were closed but Sal scanned the room in an attempt to share the experience with others in the crowd. Frank was a bit edgy but Kris was in Tony’s arms at the front of the table facing away from Sal. They were obviously enjoying the tapestry being painted.
As Sal scanned he noted an open bar with a variety of patrons in a number of different groupings. Most were duets or trios but there were a couple of people who sat alone. He continued to slowly pan his eyes across the room not fixing them on anyone in particular. Then they stopped abruptly. It was enough for Celia to take notice and she whispered to him,
“What is it?”
“The Vulcan.”
“The wh—“, she looked quickly in the direction he was looking and continued to whisper, “Oh my god, you’re right. It is him.” Celia paused for a moment and then nudged Sal, “He’s probably here to enjoy the concert as well. Come on. We’re here to relax, okay?”
“Vulcans don’t—“
She scolded him with a smile and squeezed tighter to his arm. Sal lamented and waited patiently for the song to conclude. Celia noted that he had continued to look quickly over at the Vulcan in attempts to catch the Vulcan doing the same but kept it to her self. She tried to enjoy the music and sipped her tequila. Sal was back to drinking ale and he’d finished his as the song ended and the crowd began to applaud. Sal rose,
“I’ll be right back. Nature.”
Celia knew that ‘Nature’ was not calling him but also knew that he wouldn’t relax until he found out who the Vulcan was and what he was doing there. Sal excused himself from the table and looked around for the restroom sign. Not finding it he headed toward the bar. The band started their next number which was very light and fun. The crowd had started clapping and everyone was smiling and laughing. Even the bartender was clapping as Sal approached her. It was noisy and so Sal tried to visually communicate with her. She eventually got his meaning and pointed off to the right with a smile. As Sal walked away he saw out of the corner of his eye that the Vulcan was watching him. He glanced down at something in his hand and then stood and walked toward the exit. They met in the hall.

“Who are you and what do you want?” Sal spoke curtly. “You are watching us and frankly, scaring the women.”
The Vulcan looked cautiously at Sal but did not pause before he replied, “I am Stubin. You are not mistaken. I have been observing you and your party since your arrival on Tartessos. I had to be certain before I approached you. You are Salvatore Rosetto, of the El Paso, correct?”
“I could be”, Sal returned a curious stare, “How is it of concern to you?”
“Sir, I work for the Vulcan High Counsel in the capacity of currier. Can we continue this conversation else where. This is not a secure location.”

The music was considerably livelier and drowning out his voice but Sal got the jest of his statement. The two men walked outside and Stubin led Sal to the conveyance parking area. It was much quieter there and while they walked Stubin told Sal why he had sought him out. It wasn’t about Sal at all. Stubin had wanted to reach Donnager. Stubin knew thought that Donnager did not trust Vulcans and so it was logical that Stubin contact a friend and establish trust through Sal. Stubin seemed to have dossiers on everyone that Frank knew. This business that Stubin spoke of was highly sensitive and he knew that it must be approached with the strictest care.

Donnager had to trust that Stubin was who he’d claimed to be without question and without using a mindmeld which would raise Donnager’s total suspicion. It wasn’t that Donnager didn’t understand this Vulcan technique. It was quite the opposite. Stubin knew that Donnager believed that Vulcans could use this to make people believe anything that they wanted them to believe. Through Sal and Celia, Stubin could gain Donnager’s trust and be certain that the information was transferred properly and accurately between Donnager and Colonel DiAngelo.

Sal’s head was spinning. He wasn’t exactly sure that he had followed all that Stubin had told him but he did know from past experience that Vulcans did not lie. It was completely illogical to speak about things that were untrue. Most commonly humans told lies to save face, be it their own or someone with whom they had a bond of friendship. It was to avoid embarrassment. Seldom did he find that another human was truly deviant.

“So, I guess we have to get Celia out here next?”
“This will raise suspicion. In fact, you should return to your table right away. You have been gone much longer than would be expected for a—“, the Vulcan paused in thought, “How do you humans say it? A call of nature.”
Sal smiled and Stubin continued,
“Let us meet back at the hotel tonight at 0130 hours. Bring Lieutenant Johns with you and we shall proceed from there.”

Sal agreed and the Vulcan nodded once, turned and walked into the darkness. On his way back to the table Sal pored over everything the Vulcan had said and realized that he’d hardly said anything. The three major bullets were Vulcan High Counsel, Colonel DiAngelo and Frank. Sal approached the table quietly and resumed his seat next to Celia. The band had taken a short break but the house lights were not raised.

“Everything alright?”
“Yeah, I’ll explain later. How’s the show?”
“They’re pretty good. Kris and Tony went out and danced for one song. I’m dragging you out on the next one.”
“Yes. Really. So put on those taps shoes of yours and get ready mister, cuz I’m ready to cut some carpet”,

Celia smiled at Sal knowing that he would probably try to find a way to get out of it. But she was also building up her own courage with the help of the tequila and was determined that she would be dancing with him before the evening closed.

“How’s Frank holding out? I mean—“
“He’s fine. We have been chatting. He decided to go up to the bar and introduce himself to that Akaalian woman”, she pointed. Sal looked over and saw that Frank looked like he was doing very well. “He may find his own way home tonight”, she added.

Celia smiled and Sal joined her as he reached for his ale. Surprisingly, it had been refilled and not flat. Celia was making brownie points and Sal was beginning to come around to exactly what this two week adventure had in store. He’d never really thought long about how it might be with her; had given up on that many months ago, before they had started their tour of the sector. Sal was now thinking that perhaps he had misread her altogether.

The rest of the concert went very smoothly and Celia did get Sal out on the dance floor for a couple of songs. The canary seemed very satisfied with the kitten that she had cornered and Sal had seen this as a new beginning to his life on the El Paso. Frank never did come back to the table but it had been half expected and hoped that he would find someone with whom to enjoy the evening. It was 1230 by the time they returned to the hotel. Sal and Celia wished Kris and Tony good evening as they stepped out of the lift. As soon as the doors shut again Sal found his lips pressed firmly against Celia’s. He thought to himself, ‘Just add tequila’ and grabbed her into his arms. They barely made it back to his room before she had his jacket tossed on the bar and his shirt wadded in a corner.

Sal awoke a while later sudden and almost panicked. Celia was standing by the window looking down on the plaza below. “What time is it?” he asked. She looked at her chronometer and replied, “Almost 2AM.”
Sal jumped up, pulled his pants on and began looking for his shirt. “We going somewhere?” She asked.

“There’s someone that I want you to meet. I made the arrangements earlier with him. It completely slipped my mind. We were supposed to meet at 1:30…”
“You mean the Vulcan?” she questioned without it being a question and she continued, “Because I think he’s the same one I’m looking at and he doesn’t look like he’ll be meeting with anyone anytime in the future.”
“What do you mean”, Sal replied stumbling over to the window next to her.

They both looked down as the local police had arrived. Stubin’s body laid motionless on the concrete with a visible wound in his lower back. Whoever had done it knew exactly where a shot would be fatal.

The next morning their trip was cut short due to three days of questioning and the five returned to the El Paso to repeat everything to Captain Cumings. In his confidence Sal revealed what the Vulcan had told him. He assured the captain that the authorities also knew what he had just said. Sal really knew very little as to what was going on. He just wanted to put it all behind him.

As the months passed his relationship with Celia waned and she transferred to another vessel when she was promoted. It was a quick good-bye by Sal knew that it was good-bye. He had not seen her since. Frank, too, seemed to disappear from the group. He was always called away on some medical emergency and Sal never found the opportunity to sit him down and explain who the Vulcan was.

Vulcan motivation was still a mystery to Sal.


The QoB 25 credit tour

Sal came up the main hatchway ramp in the aft of the vessel. This had become the only way to normally board the QoB since the transporter systems had been removed. It was a huge open bay area with storage racks on either side and a central hall ahead. In the hall were three closed doors and a gangway leading up to the main deck.

On this deck as he entered from the gangway he found a long corridor that lead to the main bridge. Another gangway was adjacent leading up to the crew quarters and a short hall behind opened into main engineering. Entering main engineering, the chief’s office was left and work shop and tool crib were on the right. There were steps down to the main floor where the reactor cores and various control panels stood. The impulse power reactor was housed behind the primary warp reactor and the ceiling was lower back there. Access to the warp coils was gained via port/starboard gangways at the end of corridors on either side of the deck.

Coming back out of Engineering and into the central corridor, the junior crew quarters, where he would be staying, were to the right and the left half was divided into three small staterooms for passengers. Further down the corridor was the Astrophysics and Primary Computer Labs. Just before entering the main bridge was a gangway leading down.

Eyeshot, when entering the main bridge, was the captain’s chair with its raised ceiling and lighting. On the right was a door to the captain’s Ready Room and Office. Opposite the Ready Room was the 1st mate’s office. Sal stepped onto the main bridge standing behind the captain’s chair. There was a clear view of the primary screen with control stations flanking it on both sides. To the far right was the gunner’s turret and beyond that was access to the main sensor array control room. His stations, Navigation, Science and Helm were to the captain’s left.

Leaving the bridge, Sal went down the gangway just off the bridge which led to the VIP quarters. There were large accommodations for the captain, 1st mate and also two VIP suites. Beyond the suites in the forward compartment was the torpedo room. Sal discovered that it could now only be accessed via the sensory control room above it.

Sal left the VIP Quarters and went back down the main corridor. He then climbed the gangway that led to the upper deck. This was a longer gangway for this deck was perched above the raised ceiling of the engineering deck. Here Sal found the Sickbay, Mess Hall, a workout room, laundry and the kitchen. The deck also contained the senior crew quarters which lined the starboard side.


Making Friends Is Easy

Sal looked around the table. Chris was engaged in conversation with Redera. That wouldn’t be interrupted by a freighter passing through the room. Then there was this man with the mechanical arm. He wasn’t saying anything, just clasping a glass of water and staring off into space. Sal tried to catch his eye but the man just wouldn’t turn. This wasn’t going to be easy. ‘What did Harry always say?’, he thought, ‘When confronted with the quiet type?’ Sal couldn’t remember so he just attempted to start a dialogue,
“Hey. Shane, right? I’m Sal, Sal Rosetto. You look like a man who’d be up for a challenge. I saw a dart board on the other side of the bar. You up for a game?”

The cyborg’s cold grey eyes moved from the large room over to the well dressed man across the table from him, his face hard and expressionless. He looked down at the big metal contraption on his shoulder, unsuited for anything small and delicate, then back at Sal again. Was this guy serious? Shane turned his gaze to the room once more without saying a word.

“Not your game, huh? Hmmm… What else have I seen in this place?”
Sal pulled the mug of Rom Ale to his lips waiting for a response that he was apparently not going to get. He finished his brew in one quick swallow and then spoke again in Shane’s general direction,

“Not the real stuff, but a close proximity. Whatcha drinkin? I’m going to get a refill.”
He raised his glass to the man who just refused to look.
“May be the last freebie we see in quite a while. Common pleasantries seem to be at a premium in these parts.”

Sal paused and looked at the man again hoping that he wasn’t being impolite,
“You can speak, right?”
Then chuckled to him self almost embarrassed, “Of course you can! I heard you speaking earlier.”

Shane inwardly sighed in growing annoyance as Sal kept talking. He hated these kinds of guys, friendly and outgoing; there was a reason they didn’t last long around here. All he wanted was to get the job, get onboard a ship and get off of this rock.

After several more minutes of jabbering, Shane couldn’t take it any longer. He slammed his glass down on the table, shattering it to pieces and causing Sal to jump. Standing up, he leaned over the table, staring straight at the other man and speaking in a low, menacing voice,
“Look, what’s your name? Rosey. I don’t want to ‘chat’. Not at all, get the hint.”
With that he turned and started off for the bar where he wouldn’t be bothered. He also wanted to get another drink. This water wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Sal was quite shocked at Shane’s response and was starting to get discouraged again but that wasn’t why he was here. All he wanted was to get a job and get off this forsaken rock. If he was going to join this crew then he would have to work with them. As the quarters were tight on most of these jobs, one would have to learn to eat, sleep and breathe their crewmates. With this in mind, he grabbed his now empty mug and followed Shane to the bar.

He approached the bar, handed Pete his mug with a confirming request for refill and moved over to where Shane was standing. Sal poised himself and then stated with confidence,
“Look. I don’t want to chit-chat either. I want to go to work. That’s why I’m out here. Unfortunately with the port closed, even if we get these jobs we are not leaving anytime soon. I will be serving as a Scientific Engineer but my forte’ is Navigation. I suspect that you applied for the Weapons or Engineering positions. I know a little bit about engineering.
The point I’m trying to make is that if we are going to be on the same vessel then we need to try to find some common ground. The only way we’re going to be able to do that is through an open dialogue.”

Sal waited patiently for a response from his quiet crewmate. He didn’t know what kind of response he’d get but he hoped that it would be at least within a range of cooperation.

The muscles in Shane’s real arm flexed as he debated punching this guy’s teeth out. For the sake of his possible job, he forced himself to be settled with a response.
“What are you, a dadgum counselor?” he looked at Sal next to him with an expressionless leer leaning on the bar with his huge mechanical arm,
“Here’s your dialogue: you speak to me only when absolutely necessary and I won’t toss you out the airlock. Sound good?”

“As you wish, and therefore since I would classify this as necessary, I guess I should tell you that you just picked up the wrong drink.”
Sal nodded to the glass in Shane’s hand as he spoke. The gentleman and that was a loosely used term, looked up from his dom-jot table, handed his stick to his partner and started walking their way. Here came that freighter through the room…

Glancing down at the mug in his hand, Shane closed his eyes in an angry wince and mumbled something about city slickers and beatings with blunt objects. He spun slowly to meet the approaching patron and his friend to be suddenly greeted with a hard right to the face.

“Think you can just steal drinks cause you’re half-made of metal?” the obviously drunk man slurred out, “I’ll teach you to…”

He was muffled by Shane huge metal claws clamping around his face and lifting his feet off the ground. With his eyes burning in anger, Shane brought the struggling man to eye level with his scarred face and growled,

“That was a mistake.” With a powerful overhand swing, he chunked the drunk head first into his partner, sending both flying back into a table. The wood collapsed under the force of the men hitting it and left them moaning or unconscious on the floor.

Wiping the blood from his nose, Shane dug some credits out of his pocket and set them on the bar,
“Sorry about the table, Pete.” He grabbed his drink, the right one this time and with one final glare in Sal’s direction, stalked to find his table again.

Sal picked his jaw up off the bar, smiled meekly at Pete while grabbing his own mug.
“Uh, I guess I need to…” Sal motioned and pointed to Shane. Pete just shook his head with a painful look on his face. He had just replaced that table.


In His Mind

Sal was doing his best; making a show of it, but he really didn’t know what to think of this place, this crew, this captain, this whole situation. He sat and listened to the others chatting and laughing as if they had no care in the universe. Was it that they had truly found their freedom out here? Or maybe they were just as confused and uncertain as he was? Sal didn’t have any answers; none that made any sense. He sipped his Rom Ale and laughed quietly at someone’s off-handed attempt at a joke. It wasn’t that funny to him. But then he wasn’t really listening either. Their voices all seemed to melt together like a gaggle of geese near a cool pond of water.

Sal could do that; disappear into the wallpaper. Perhaps it was due to his upbringing. That’s how he had attributed it. Right or wrong didn’t really matter. The fact was that though he wasn’t consciously focused on anything, he would remember almost every conversation in the room. His mind was preprocessing the information and simply storing it away for evaluation at a later time. It was all a state of mind; a built-in autopilot.

What Sal was focused on was his performance, or lack there of, during this interview process. He couldn’t read this Manning fellow at all. Sal struggled with this because usually he picked up on psyches quite easily. He could do the task as required and had proven that many times over in his career. Whatever it took, Sal would figure out a way of getting the job done. But this seemed different because he really didn’t know what his job would entail.

A bottle had hit the floor. There was a dispute at the dom-jot table. He turned to see one gentleman picked completely off the floor and placed precariously and unwillingly on a hi-top table. Sal turned away as the other gentleman pulled back his huge unclad left arm while holding the man with his right. The sound of his fist repeatedly striking the man’s face had made Sal cringe. What ever the dispute was about it was best to keep one’s place, he thought. It was, after all, none of his business.


After The Interview

After Joe left, Sal continued with Chris talking about exactly what he could and could not provide for the QoB crew. He explained in detail his knowledge of astrophysics emphasizing that it was his minor study at the academy but that he had kept it as a hobby since. Sal showed Chris some of the work he did from the observatory on Sunny Ridge and the systems that he had catalogued from the available data on the Hyades Cluster Group. He also tried (until Chris’ eyes glazed over) using diagrams and calculus equations on his PADD to explain that there was a way to navigate safely through the core but that it would some time to work up an exact flight plan. Chris still seemed disinterested in his navigational skills and this discouraged him a little.

There was a familiar indicator blinking on his display and it began to be annoying so Sal excused himself from the table and walked over to an isolated corner of the room and opened his messenger.

To: Sal
From: Harriet
Via: SHJ-Rosetto Personal Network

Hi Sal…
We got your message yesterday. How did your interview go? I was talking to Dad and he said that he had met a Federation Officer named Joseph Manning. Or at least he thought he remembered the name. Anyway, he’s gonna do some checking. I’ll let you know what he finds out.

According to Joia, you haven’t been writing. I hope you’re not falling back into one of your drinking binges. I told her that you were probably just really busy with the new job and all. You’ll tell me different if it is, though, right? Yeah, I’m still worrying about you. You know I always will, Sal. Love has never been our issue.

Speaking of issues, I also spoke to the lawyer three days ago. There may be one concerning cash flow. Okay, Hun, settle down. I know we agreed on selling Haxnar Industries and retaining the vineyards. Well, Bill said that there were some adverse claims and a secondarily liable on a negotiable instrument? Yeah, it’s Greek to me too. I think it’s those partners that you signed on when we contracted with the Federation for colonization expansion. You’ll get the papers with this message. Please look them over and tell me what to tell Bill.

Well, I have a luncheon with the Federation Advisor to Colonial Affairs and I’m running late because Joia had some issues with a new boyfriend and the west regulator is on the blink again. Busy. Busy. Busy.

Love you, Babe


He closed the messenger and stuffed the PADD back into his pocket thinking that he’d deal with this back in the room. He then walked straight up to the bar and ordered a Rom Ale from Pete and offered to pay but Pete’s hand waved him off and he pushed the latinum back in Sal’s direction.

“Joe was adamant about it, Sal. Drink. Enjoy.”

He thanked the bartender and then returned with a painted smile to the highly active table. He took a sip of his ale and then remembered that ‘this’ was the substitute stuff, a synthehol-based concoction that was much cheaper than true Romulan Ale. Sal would have to get used to the ‘not so’ finer points to life out here.


A Letter to Home

Dear Daughter

Sal woke only four hours later as the sun peeked into his hotel room through a slit in the blinds.  He got up, made some coffee and wondered what time it was back in Southgate.  ‘Time?  What day was it?’ he thought absently as he sipped his morning brew and moved to the desk which provided a full-sized key entry pad that could be enabled on its surface.  He sat down and tapped the panel lock.  The display lit up.  ‘Thank God it wasn’t Klingon!’ He was elated to find that this hotel must have been built when the Federation was still controlling this sector.  The display cycled through a standard Star Fleet boot sequence and revealed a standard 80-key Terran alphabet.  His PADD was already in the dock and so Sal logged into it and opened his messenger once again and began to type:

To: Joia d’Cel
From: Sal
Via: SHJ-Rosetto Personal Network

Hey you!
Thanks for all of the letters. I do read them and mommy’s correct in that I have been busy here. Unfortunately it has not been work. I will meet my new boss for the first time later today. The Commonwealth also has the ports closed here but I have spoken to some locals and they said that it’s no big deal. It’s probably just a Federation Inspection Team conducting a port inventory check.

Yeah angel, it’s a different world out here. You never know what’s going to happen next or who’s going to come around the next corner. You gotta keep on your toes but then you never had an issue with that! LOL Your DANCE honey… Anyway, I wanted to sit down and answer some of the questions you had in the last five messages that you’d sent.

“What’s a Klingon like?”
Well, I have only met a couple of them here and they are friendly in their own way. They didn’t kill me. (joking) Let’s see. They are all taller than most people and usually larger too. Yes, they do ‘smell’ but it’s not like you think. It’s just not what you’re accustom to. They are very direct and ‘to-the-point’ when they speak. At first it might seem rude but it is not their intent. Other than that they are pretty much like you and me, kiddo…

“The kids at school wanna know if you’re involved with the ‘Rainmakers’?”
Absolutely not, dear. I don’t know what your friends are thinking but I am here to work and to explore. I do not intend to get mixed up in any of the local politics.

“Are all Orion Women like animals?”
Honey, you must learn to be more accepting of differing cultures if you are to explore the worlds out here. We are all animals. We have primal thoughts that are derived from our reptilian brains. Ask your Biology teacher. As for the Orions, they are different. They have different motives and values. I should think that we will encounter more of them out here since we are near Orion space. From the few who, I’ve met, the women are very attractive looking and let’s just say they have a way with men and leave it at that for now.

“How many stars are there? Is it day all the time?”
Yes, the concentration of stars is greater here in the cluster but again, it’s not like you think. Here on Tranquility we are near the core and even though most of the surrounding stars are much hotter than our sun on K’Normia, they are not so bright and so big as the would light up the night sky. Densities like that only occur in active nebulae and the galactic core, angel.

“What time is it there?”
This is an interesting question. A present it is 8 Hours local time. There are 38 of these periods in one day cycle. So, basically it’s morning here, but one day here is nearly two full days there.

Well, I hope I answered all of your questions thus far. I’m going to get cleaned up and go down stairs and have some breakfast. I miss you too, angel.

Lugs & Hisses!

Sal sat and stared at the message, reread it several times and then tapped send. How could he fault her. He was missing her probably as much as she missed him. He leaned back in the desk chair and opened his mind while he tried to relax. Another swig of coffee and he’d get up, shower and get dressed. He sipped his coffee and closed his eyes.

“Sallie? It’s time for bed!”
“Mom. I’m not tired. I’m stilling playing star ranger on the holo-cube.”
“Put that game away. Do I need to come in there?”

Cindy, Sal’s mother entered his bedroom anyway. He knew she would and had just one more asteroid to destroy before he made it to level 7. It wasn’t to be tonight. Cindy tapped the power and the hologram disappeared. Sal was about six at the time and he could see that his mother wasn’t too upset but also that he’d best not press the issue.

“Now get your P.J.’s on and brush your teeth.”
“oh, awe-rite…” He replied with as much enthusiasm as a sym-bot reading poetry.

He relented to his mother’s requests, brushed he teeth, donned some pajamas and darted off to his bed. His mother was still in the room and she had an e-book in her hand. Sitting down on his toy box next to his bed she began to read:

“Mushi & Her Mews: A Tail of Two Kitties”

“Now this story was written by your great-great-grandfather many years ago and back on Earth. It’s become a tradition in our family to pass it on to our offspring.”

Sal looked at his mother with his eyes sparkling. “Really Mommy? My great…great-grandfather?” He struggled with the phrase and Cindy smiled.
“Yes, now be still so I can read this, okay?”

Sal straightened up under the covers, stiff as a board and squeezed his eyes tightly closed. Cindy continued:

“The first kitten was young and struggling with the usual growing pangs combined with unusually stressful social issues in her home. She was a good kitten; a precious kitten, really; not crazy, just a little unwell. She was a very playful kitten and as most, she sometimes got a little too excited. She could be very nice though and purr in your lap for hours if you let her. Most people miss that part of her entirely, especially those who are closest to her. This only compounds the issues for her. She became confused as to their intent and unsure of their love. I’m certain that she had attempted to communicate her feelings but because of past deeds and actions taken by her (the incident with the toilet paper roll comes to mind). They listened to her mews no more. So she was usually alone with her thoughts and was never allowed to freely play with the other kittens in the neighborhood. This aged her mentally and this inward turn made her recluse and unreachable. She was safe and warm there so that’s where she stayed most of the time. She would never let anyone get in too far, too close. The story of this tragedy is known not from this kitten’s lips alone but through her emotional aura which to some was as bright as a quasar but invisible to most.”

“This night was a rare occasion for her and she was out of her cage for the evening and her leash was not tethered. She was in eye shot though so those who loved her could also watch her closely. She took the opportunity to explore in the moonlight. She danced about a fallen branch and toyed with various twigs and leaves. It was fun but soon she became bored. Then out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of a shiny object covered slightly with the ground clutter. It was a multi-colored ball of twine and she found it very fascinating. Some of its threads shimmered in the moonlight and the sparkles danced about gaily. With a quick paw she batted at the ball but it refused to move. One more swat caused it to teeter but nothing else. She was very discerned and so she reared back and pounced! It was almost as big as she was but she held on and finally it began to roll with her attached. Catching her balance, she let go and the ball rolled away. She chased after it!”

“It came to a stop and she reared to pounce again. The game was on! Then she saw the paws; the place where the ball had stopped. One paw was raised slowly and settled on top of the ball. It was smooth and black and looked very powerful. She meekly looked up at the owner of the paws. His eyes were bluer than blue and in them she just melted. This was the second kitty.”

“Now this kitten was very similar to the first. He was much older and had been docile for countless years. Of late, he would on occasion venture out to play in the moonlight. Tonight he was mewing sweetly and quietly to himself. He would never venture too far from home though because he too could become overly excited and cause troubles on the home front. Like the first, he had social issues which he had overcome for the most part. Other kittens, however, rarely understood his actions and usually feared him and kept their distance. He knew this and like the first, he remained alone with his thoughts. Casually he was known as that quiet one over in the corner that wouldn’t harm a mouse. They all knew of him but few really knew who he was inside. No one got inside his inner realm because no one understood this world. He knew that.
The black cat now rolled the ball back and forth causing it to sparkle sporadically in the dim light and she watched curiously. A warm smile grew across his face as he gently tossed the ball over by an isolated tree. She immediately darted after it, jumping up and pouncing again! She fell head over heals and tumbled into the darkness. His smile turned to laughter as he watched his new found friend play. She seemed so happy to play with his simple ball of twine.”

“The ball happened at his feet again and she was there next to it. Then their eyes met they never broke stare. Each gazed deeply into the other for what seemed hours and hundreds of miles. There were no words exchanged but he quietly mewed and purred at the moon above them and she silently listened. There was no need for words because these two had shared emotions on a different level. They shared a common tail! When she wagged it, he felt its gentle tug.”

Cindy looked and little Sal was sound asleep.

Sal remembered this event as if it had happened yesterday. But he also vividly remembered a similar occasion spent with his own little Joia.

July 2010
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