06
Jul
10

The New Beginning

The Last Dance

There was a chill in the night air as Sal walked with Joia along the path leading from his cottage on the Burgess Sea.  The sun had already set and the cloudless night provided the tapestry he used to try to explain his position to his young daughter.  She clung onto his arm and listened intently as her father told her of the worlds and wonders that he had seen.  And when the Fire Storm rose he pointed out his destination so that anytime she wonders she could look up and see him. 

She tried to understand but it was quite a lot to take in to her emerging mind.  She was coming of age and her thoughts raced wildly.  The passions that were contained within her clearly exploded in her musical art.  There was no denying that she had talents.  Her music teacher had discussed this with Sal and Harry many times.  But thought of losing her stone, her fixed point of reference, was tumbling over and over in her head.  She knew where she stood with him.  There was never any doubt that he would be there for her when she let logic slip.  Still she listened to his yearnings and tried desperately to be grown-up and tried not cry. 

“Joia, I will be here for your concerto.  I don’t leave until that Uneday.  Please angel, try to understand that I am not leaving you.  I will be a communique away.”

“But daddy, that’s just not the same.”  She squeezed tightly on his arm as they looked at the stars.  “Who’s going to put the graham crackers on my ice cream?  Who’s going to teach me about the creation of stars?  You’re not going to be here when I come home after my first date.  What if he’s horrible and I need that shoulder again? “

There were small tears forming in the corners of his eyes as he listened to her pleading trying to find the right words to make it seem okay.  They weren’t coming but he replied anyway for many reasons but mostly because she deserved to know.

“Joia, you are my extra limb.  I watch you grow and see my own elementary struggles.  Let your inner strength become your companion and soon it will all seem clear to you.  That unstoppable spirit that you have will guide you to the journeys that you must take.  I know it’s hard for you to understand by I have actually provided little to this development, this portrait that you are painting.  It’s always been you, angel.”

She struggled with the concepts but knew that he was right.  He had always been right.  Every time she could remember when she decided to go against this grain she had been met at the turnstiles in her heart by her conscious reiterating her father’s words.  So now she must adjust her life and get used to him being so far away.  ‘He was right.  She could always call him when she got into a fix.’ She thought trying to convince herself that it was going to be just fine.

They approached the house from the opposite direction having circled the entire beach area.  Joia had dried her tears and was feeling a little better know after her long talk.  She had a girl whose father was serving in the Federation.  He only visited every other annul.  She wondered how Kayla must feel.  Perhaps Kayla was a resource and she needed to take advantage.  Her concerto was on Finnight and she needed to prepare.  There were going to be profs from Casseopi University attending.  This concert would provide her with the template that assured her acceptance, if she could pull it off that is.  It was a complex composition and she would have to perform much of the musical content while she was holo-painting.

Two days later, Sal was preparing to meet Harry for dinner and then attend their daughter’s concerto.  It was at the local high school auditorium which had a full holographic stage and tiered rows of seating.  They arrived and found their seats and chatted with the other parents.  Joia’s performance was the third and final for the evening.  Harry scanned the room trying to find the University representatives and pointed them out once she did.  The rustling slowly settled down and the lights were dimmed as a little blue Andorian boy walked onto the stage and bowed.

“Joia told me all about this kid,” Harry added.  “He is a phenomenal gymnast. She said that he…”

The music exploded and filled the room as the boy began his painting.  Harriet hushed and watched as he jumped and twisted to the music spraying color in all directions and sculpting it into recognizable shapes.

With each there were three movements with the student interacting with the small orchestra.  It was almost operatic in nature and the children made used of the entire stage.  They were expected to have created all of the imagery and composed the music on their own.  It was commonly found that parental guidance made deep impressions in the work, though. 

As he boy finished the audience applauded and he took a deep bow and exited via the orchestra pit.  The lights dimmed and a solo piano was played softly and holographic snow began to fall slowly from the ceiling shimmering in the twilight.  From either side of the stage entered two little twin girls.  Sal looked at the program.  They were Betazoid and he thought he knew their father.  The girls spun ever so gracefully in ballet fashion toying with the snowflakes as the music began to build. 

The performance was reminiscent of the famous Nutcracker Suite as the room began to fill with different animals and toys.  It was quite a bit different than the Andorian composition as one could tell a lot of time was spent on the details of the different elements.  The music, which was supposed to be part of the work, was clearly not as original.  Although it was pleasant to listen to, it lacked the flamboyance of youth.  When they finished there was a large applause and some even stood for them.  Sal anticipated the next performance and he looked at Harry as she clapped.  She motioned for him to join but he just sat there.  She frowned and ‘hmmphed’ him the way she would when his stubbornness behavior got the best of him. 

The room took a while but it finally began to settle back down.  There was a hush from the sound stage and again the lights were dimmed low.  Everyone waited in anticipation and they were all a bit confused.  The orchestra seemed like they were warming up again.  Perhaps they had some replacements.  No one knew and there were quiet whispers but they could hear random members playing short unrelated sequences.

A single weak light was coming from the back of the stage and then Sal saw someone point.  Center stage, curled in a ball and all in black was Joia.  She slowly unfolded her self and began to paint in midair.  Her strokes were in perfect step with syncopated rhythms of the random scales and sequences of music.  Every eye in the crowd watched as her fingers worked the colors before her.  One image would emerge and the melt into another as the orchestra continued to settle into their instruments. 

As the conductor tapped his baton, the music started with an abrupt blast and a bright and beautiful rose appeared gently floating from Joia’s fingertips up and over the first two tiers.  As the music built she frantically created more and more, sending each adrift over the audience.  Faster and faster the roses came as the tempo was increased.  Soon the entire ceiling was covered in a rose petal blanket.  They just hung there moving every so gently as if a nice spring breeze was blowing. 

The music softened as Joia returned to her seated position and curled back into a ball.  A single violin was heard, weeping in the undertones of the orchestra that played quiet and slow.  The notes that emerged into the room from the violin seemed to stretch and cry as the little black sphere of a girl began to spin slowly and grow. 

It would seem that everyone in the audience had been taken for this ride.  The ball was abruptly wisped away to reveal Joia sitting proper on her chair playing the violin.  With the revelation the music stepped up a bit.  She bantered with the orchestra as the petals on the ceiling started to fall like rain.  Back and forth they spoke in musical phrases; one in direct response to the other. 

At the crest of a cadenza with her arm moving the bow lightning fast across the strings Joia released the bow entirely.   It left her fingers almost in slow-motion and all eyes were attentive as it went sailing straight up to the ceiling.  The animated music followed along and when it finally touched the rose petals they all fell simultaneously and quickly to the floor with an explosive symphonic crash.

The mood instantly changed. The music sharpened as Joia ripped away the proper black pantsuit to reveal a bright multi-colored garb. She looked just like a wizard with her short little jacket all covered with spiraled shapes.  The music moved into scherzo, a triple time of horn chasing horn and string bending string.  The drums pounded and roared while Joia danced and sang an aria. Her hands flying back and forth and she was twirling in circles.  She began to stroke splashes of color all around her.  Soon she was completely surrounded, hidden behind a sphere of psychedelic paint and the music refrained to the initial theme of the rose. 

In spite of the paint’s opacity, her hand movements could still be seen.  There was a slight shift in color that appeared on the spherical surface when she touched it.  The audience watched and audibly sighed as an image slowly began to appear on its surface.  The details came in layers and soon revealed two opposing faces.  As Joia continued Sal looked at Harry and reached for her hand.  He knew what they were witnessing.  The details built and shadowing was added as the music continued to play.  The faces were theirs and Sal & Harry both burst into tear. 

In the final moment as Joia was adding the finishing touches to their faces, a cymbal crashed and the sphere completely disappeared leaving a single larger than life rose floating midair and a piano solo tapping a repetitive melody quietly.

The entire audience rose to their feet with applause for the performance.  Harry glanced down at the profs and saw their signs of approval.  They were nodding and clapping and exchanging comments.  ‘Things were going to work out just fine,’ she thought.

Sal and Harry met up with Joia and took her to a late treat in Casseopi.  This was hardly ice cream and graham crackers and there was warm chocolate involved.  The two watched their daughter eating with a pride in their hearts.  Surely her acceptance to the university was a shoe-in after tonight’s performance.

When Uneday came, Joia helped her father with his bags and saw him off at the spaceport.  She was in tears most of the time but knew that this was something that her father had to do. 

“I’m gonna write you every single day so you better keep that PADD close to you,” she piped, “And WRITE BACK!”  She tugged on his arm with a wanting desire to keep her dad forever but she knew that she couldn’t.  It was hard for a young girl of six annul to grasp these complex issues and in the back of her mind she held a resentment to her father’s actions.  It was not something that she would ever let rise to the surface but was how she truly felt in her heart of hearts.

 

Tranquility City

The twelve day journey to Tranquility was not as he had expected.  The liner seemed more like a freighter than a cruiser but at least it did Warp 6.  Most freighters would only make Warp 5 and that would have tripled his flight time.  This passage was a bit more expensive but he was also on a timeline according Captain Manning.  They would be departing Tranquility in 15 days.  All in all, the S.S. Zita had been a good ship even if it wasn’t as posh as he would have preferred.  The crew members were good people and the accommodations better than his first stint on a Federation vessel.

He felt bad about leaving K’Normia.  If anyone lost in this divorce it was Joia.  At only 6 annuls, she was caught in the middle. Girls began puberty at 5 annuls and his little one was growing up fast.  These were the crucial years, between 5 and 8.  Joia d’Cel would be a young woman the next time that he saw her.  She had kept her promise, at least for the last twelve days, to contact him via sub-space and keep him up to date on her latest musical paintings.  She had a knack for the art and Sal thought that she probably got it from his mother.  ‘All he could draw were flies’, he chuckled to himself as he prepared for transport to the surface with the other passengers. 

On the surface he found transport to his temporary lodging in town, The Hotel Tranquility, in Tranquility City.  It was positioned away from the main spaceport along the coast of a great purple-blue ocean.  He had brought enough funds to maintain for several months while he looked for work.  Though he had spoken directly to a former crew of his who had told him that there was work to be had, John had added that there were no guarantees.

He got into his room, threw his bags on the bed, checked the replicator for service and then noticed that there wasn’t a replicator but there surely was a wet bar.  He sighed as he began to remember that he was roughing it, opened up one of his bags and changed into short pants and a light shirt.

Sal watched the sunset from his hotel room at the planetary rings that shimmered in the broken light were barely visible from this latitude but added a distinct flavor to the otherwise barren skyline.  If not for the cloud layers, Sal would have imagined Tranquility to be much like his home world.  It was a bit smaller than Earth and the day was longer but the atmosphere was quite similar. 

In the morning he would finally meet up with his old service buddy who had told him about this place.  This was a fantastic opportunity for him to get back into the swing of spaceflight.  He might even get a chance to go visit that lost civilization of Zoalus and send Joia a one of kind trinket.

“Computer?  Please contact Lieutenant Commander John Woods.”

“Insufficient data to establish contact.”

“Crap.”

Sal had not uploaded his PADD into the Hotel network yet.  He thought for a second and then got up and unzipped a pouch in a long black bag on the bed.  After retrieving his PADD, he walked it over to the dock on the counter near the replicator and inserted it into the slot.

“Computer?  Please contact Lieutenant Commander John Woods.” He repeated.

“Welcome to the Hotel Tranquility where live is but a dream.  Please be sure to visit the Lobby Tavern during your stay.  The drinks are as exotic as the servers who bring them.  If you would like to participate to win free tickets to Rock Climbers Unlimited or Free Fall at Night Fall then please acknowledge at the front desk. The newly opening…”

“Computer. Stop.”  He was now a bit frustrated with being in BoomTown. 

“Please contact Lieutenant Commander John Woods.”

“You have a message to meet him at the Hotel restaurant in the morning.  Would you like me to set an alarm?”

He looked at the clock on the wall.  It was local time, so he thought for a second, “Yes please.  Set alarm for 07:40:00 local.”

Sal grabbed a beer from the refrigeration unit and returned to his balcony to relax.  He’d have to be getting to bed soon if he was going to make his appointment. 

The next morning went smoothly.  John and Sal reminisced about the times they’d spent together on the U.S.S. El Paso.  John explained that he was now serving as XO on the El Paso.  Aldebaran had dropped off their routine stops, however, they still patrolled in and around the Briar Patch. They talked well into late morning.  Sal was kind of nervous about all of this but he trusted John and so they decided that they’d spend the day checking out the local sites.  John said, “There’s this place called the Maze down on Second Avenue where the women are, well, why I’m still single.  I know the bartender.”

“So how long is your leave of absence?”

“Just another six days.”

The two men continued to banter back and forth and the hotel bartender had showed up and flipped on the local broadcasts for the patrons.  Sal and John migrated to the bar and the newscast caught Sal’s attention.  He interjected, “John, I think you better contact your CO.”

“Why’s that”

“Because they just closed the spaceport,” Sal pointed to the display screen.  They turned facing it and began to listen.  According to the remote correspondent there was to be no ships allowed to entering or leave.  The details were quite sketchy but they seemed quite adamant that no one was going to leave Tranquility.  John stood up and asked, “Do you have a sub-space comm in your room?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Well, I gotta find one… Hey bartender,” John changed into his federation red as his attitude instantly adapted to the situation at hand.  The bartender casually looked at John, the feddie with his hair on fire, and slowly finished drying the glass in his hand.  Then he shuffled like a peacock in John’s direction, “What can I get you, pally?”

“Is there a sub-space comm. in this hotel?”

The bartender looked him over carefully before answering.  He could tell simply from the way John dressed and carried himself that he was a member of the Federation.  He shook his head slowly and pointed to the front desk.  “Just ask Marta, there.  She can help you.”

The next four days were spent checking out the local scene.  There really wasn’t much John could do.  He was simply stuck until the Commonwealth decided to reopen the port.  They had been frequenting the Maze and John introduced Sal to the bartender.

“Good evening Mr. Gibbons.”

“Hi. Everyone just calls me Pete. John tells me that you’re looking for work.”

“Yeah, I specialize in navigation.  Several years back during the war I was senior helmsman on the Valliant.”

“Really?  Have you seen this?” Mr. Gibbons pulls a flyer off the wall.  It was an open invitation to serve on a Bird of Prey.  Sal’s eyes widened as he perused the advertisement.  The vessel was already here in Tranquility. 

The conversation progressed and Pete told him a little about this Captain Joe Manning.  He was an older gentleman with a good nature and an even temper.  Pete told him that Joe was all about honesty; a shoot from the hip type man who expected no less from those who served with him.  There was an open call on the weekend and Sal made plans to meet with him.  He could not believe how his luck had changed so quickly.  Sal took the flyer that was offered to him and the two finished their drinks.  After sharing a game of dom-jot they left the Maze and headed back to Sal’s room.  Sal contacted this Joe Manning and arranged to meet him in the morning.  John smiled and said goodnight.

Sleepless In Tranquility

Sal couldn’t sleep. He sat up in his hotel bed with the nightstand lamp filling the room with a quiet glow. For the first time in a long time he was a bit nervous. Here he was; he was actually doing this. It felt strange not to have Harry calling him to go fix the regulator on a vineyard cooler. But this was what he wanted to do. This was why he was out here; why he left Mars in the first place. Sal was struggling to find that person again. He needed to find that pilot whose CO reprimanded him for consistently using Impulse Power to leave space ports. That same commander told him that it was impossible to maneuver a heavy cruiser class starship at warp speed in the Arachnid Nebula. That commander was proven wrong and the vessel came out just fine. The crew, however, were none too happy. Sal had spilled twelve cups of coffee, caused 4 members to trip and fall, and scared the beggeebees out of the entire bridge crew at the time. He was young then serving a six month temporary duty assignment while he trained and learned the ropes of the new SINS navigational system that had been installed on the USS Livingston NCC-34099. His duty as assistant flight officer was shortened that day.
Sal wondered about this Bird of Prey that he was signing on to. He called up the specs on his PADD. He knew almost every documented millimeter of this vessel based on the unclassified information he’d retained from Star Fleet records. He imagined that since the removal of the transporter controls in accordance with the Federation ‘Rules Governing Outer Territories’, the sensor arrays must have been improved and modified. It would make practical sense to utilize this computing power to provide a plethora of nice scientific gadgets but Sal was hardly an astrophysicist. Oh, he could astound and amaze young Joia with his trivial knowledge of stellar life cycles but he knew very little about tachyon fields and other sub-space phenomenon, only how they affected navigational systems. He had learned on a need-to-know basis and most of it he didn’t need to know to flight the ship. And that’s what Sal was lacking here. It was probably where his anxiety was originating. He needed to know the ship and that meant physically being on it and doing a personal inspection of it.
The QoB was old which goes without saying but Sal knew that meant most of the systems onboard were just as old and were subsequently prone to periodic failure. No amount of spec data or detailed schematics could replace a physical inspection of these aging components. Although officially he reported to the Chief Science Officer, he also knew that he would have to form an intimate relationship with this Vulcan, T’Aral, who was the Chief Engineer. Sal had worked very little with Vulcans and perhaps only once or twice with the female gender. This emotionless state intrigued him and he wondered how their personalities might clash.
“How much could a bartender know?”

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