These are the voyages of the starship Surefoot. We don’t explore strange new worlds. We don’t seek out new life and new civilisations. We don’t boldly go where no one has gone before. That's for the folks with the TV shows and movies. But what we do still matters.

These stories are set in the Next Generation Era. The universe of Star Trek belongs to CBS/Paramount; all of the original characters here belong to me. There is no explicit sexual content, but there may be instances of profanity, and discussions of adult subject matters.

I suggest starting with the first chapter of the first story, The Universe Had Other Plans

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Universe Had Other Plans - Chapter 1 of 5: Where To Put the Crib

Station Salem Four:

Captain Esek Hrelle looked out at the line of recruits behind the flimsy wall of their fortress, all fresh faces eager to please, and thought: Mothers Cubs, I have boots older than some of them. Was I ever that young?

He already knew the answer: of course hed been, and even younger, barely able to keep his tail under control, and as eager to prove himself as all these humans who now looked to him for leadership. And though he may have a few strands of grey fur in his mane, and his sense of smell wasnt as keen as it once was, he made up for it with what his wifes people called chutzpah, or what his own people called sheeris.

He preferred a cruder term, but didnt dare use it in front of these troops of his. Remember to set your phasers to Level 5. Any level less and the beams wont pierce the Gorns ugly hides.

That made some of his troops giggle, before they quickly stifled themselves. But beside him, his trusted second in command, a short Terran with honey blonde hair, a pert nose and almond-shaped, almond-coloured eyes, tugged at the sleeve of his brick-red, double-breasted Starfleet jacket. When he knelt down closer to her, she reminded him, We shouldnt judge how others look by our own standards. What is ugly to one can be beautiful to another.

Hrelle kept a straight face, allowing only his muzzle to twitch and his bronze, gimlet eyes to narrow further, though he knew from experience that this attempt at intimidation would not work on Lieutenant Sasha; despite her youth, she was as stubborn as they came. Youre right as always. What does your tricorder say?

She looked down at the unit in her hand, pursing her lips as she read the output on the screen. Im still picking up one of them. Female.”

He nodded, peering over the top of the wall. The Gorn Commander.” He sniffed the air. 1.5 metres in height, 85 kilograms in weight, unarmed. Am I right, Lieutenant?”

Sasha checked her tricorder again. Yes, Sir!”

His correct assessment, despite the impossibility of his having worked it out by his sense of smell - he snuck a peek at the readings when she wasnt looking - elicited gasps of awe among the troops, and a smirk from himself. It was said that every Caitian could track a mouse across a hundred kilometres, but it was no more true than the notion that every Vulcan could calculate Pi to a gazillionth decimal, or that every Klingon could fight off an army with only a toothpick.

But there was always something to be said for a good reputation. Especially if it helped avoid arguments.

He looked to his troops again. Keep your phasers raised, but do not fire without my orders. The Gorn Commander is unarmed. She may be coming to negotiate a ceasefire. We always try for a peaceful solution. Isnt that right, Lieutenant?”

The apple-cheeked girl beside him grinned. Yes, sir!”

He heard noises and tensed. Stand by... Here she comes...”

The kitchen door swung open, as Hannah Hrelle walked in with a huge tray of freshly-replicated snacks. Everybody ready for seconds?”

The children cheered as one and charged forward, bringing down the blanket wall of the fortress as they surrounded Sashas mother, leaving behind the ten-year-old girl in her replica Starfleet uniform, and her stepfather in his real one.

Hrelle shook his head. No discipline.”

No, Sir.” But her eyes were glazing over with gastronomic longing at the collection of cakes and other pastries being devoured by her party guests. Still, she remained faithfully at his side.

Until he finally relented and said, Dismissed.”

Sasha handed him her toy tricorder and raced to catch up with the others, as he helped himself up, set the tricorder down on a table and plopped himself down onto the couch, wincing as he crimped his tail, before lifting himself up and adjusting his seated position.

There wasnt enough furniture in the station apartment to accommodate his particular needs, though to be fair his wife had offered to obtain more for him. At least his Captains Chair on the bridge of the USS Furyk had a space in its lower back, even if his real First Officer often threatened to take advantage of this to tie a bell to the top of his tail-

Thirsty, Little Papa?”

He glanced up to see Hannah standing there. “For some of that Coca-Coola concoction?” Sometime ago, someone on the Station had managed to replicate an ancient Terran non-alcoholic beverage of sugary carbonated water flavoured with coca leaves. He tried some and nearly gagged at the sweetness of it - not to mention the fact that it hissed at him. But the children seemed to love it. No, thank you. Thats Nightmare Fuel.”

She smiled and held out a glass, one that was identical to the one in her other hand. This is more adult.”

He smelled it appreciatively before he took it in his hand, raising it to her. Mazel Tov.”

She slumped down beside him, sweat beading her forehead beneath her mass of curly black hair. I should never have taught you Yiddish. What are you congratulating me for?”

He sipped, his nostrils flaring wide. A successful birthday for the Little One.”

Hannah smirked. I stay out of the way and appear only long enough to keep the monsters fed. Youre the schmuck who keeps them amused. Dont know where you get the energy from.”

He glanced behind, at the gaggle of children from Sashas class, filling up on more food before inevitably returning to enlist him in another game. Beats chasing Tholians out of our territory.”

His gaze drifted away with his mind, recalling the last mission for the Furyk, and the resulting casualties. It was a difficult time for the Federation, what with the Cardassian incursions and the Galen Border Wars; other powers were taking advantage of the conflicts to test Starfleets remaining forces. He supposed they should consider themselves lucky the Klingons and Romulans were currently too busy fighting each other yet again to try their luck.

He returned to the here and now with a touch on his hand, and a look from Hannah, and those wide, pleasing hazel eyes. Hey, stay with me. Youre away in the flesh too much as it is.”

He encircled his fingers in hers. Sorry.” It ached sometimes, how much he loved her. They had met by chance, when he visited the stations onboard diagnostic team to demand that they pull their heads out of their orifices and get his ship back into working order following a cybernetic attack on the Furyks computer.

Hannah, temporarily covering for her ill supervisor, was not intimidated by the Caitians size and legendary glare, and told him in no uncertain terms that the cleansing operation would take as long as it would take, and if he didnt like it, he could stick his own head up his own kiester, and shed come along, tap him on the rear end and let him know when they were done.

Their relationship blossomed from that point.

And though he never expected himself to be attracted to humans - the scent, the furless skin, flat faces and lack of a tail could be off-putting - here he found himself looking forward to his ship returning to the station to see her again.

A squeal drew him from his reverie to see Sasha leading a landing party chasing after some other children being... something strange.

They all leapt over Hrelles outstretched legs, when it would have been easier to run around them - just less fun. Sasha led the landing party with her tricorder, nearly tripping over his feet.

Hannah frowned. Watch what youre doing, sweetie.”

The girl nodded. Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Dad.”

Hrelle made a sound in his throat. He had heard her call him that a thousand times, but even now it never failed to make his heart race just a little faster. It had seemed like only yesterday, when he had first met the girl when she was six, and she had made it clear to him from the start that he wasnt welcome, that she and her mother were perfectly happy by themselves, thank you very much.

In subsequent visits, Sasha produced an amazing number of elaborate stories in an effort to dissuade him from returning, including: the claim that her mother was really a Romulan agent; that they had contracted Rigellian fever and were under quarantine; and best of all, that Sasha hadnt always been an only child, but had eaten her brothers and sisters when they displeased her, so hed better watch out...

When he proved resistant to her attempts at intimidation, Sasha finally came out and informed him that he would never replace her father, a Starfleet chief petty officer who had died fighting the Tzenkethi years before. Hrelle knew she would have been far too young to even remember him, but had obviously fashioned together this perfect image of the man. And no one would ever take over from him.

Hrelle understood her, and how she felt, and told her so. And he assured her that it wasnt his intention to be her father... but hed be honoured to be her friend.

It was a gradual, grudging breaking of the ice - helped with the chance for her to be able to call upon a real starship captain to show off to her friends, and even arrange a visit to the Furyk and sit in his chair on the bridge.

And happily, very happily, they became far closer than he could ever hope or deserve. And then one night two years ago, and as year after Hannah and he had wed, as Sasha kissed him and her mother good night, she called him Daddy, Hannah later admitting that the girl had approached her earlier, asking if she thought hed mind.

Would he mind? Would he mind?

He couldnt stop smiling or crying for the rest of the night. And Hannah couldnt stop teasing him for getting so verklempt.

Life couldnt get better.

Hey, Little Papa, you might like to know that while you were in here defending the Federation, I got word from the Geno-Obstetrician.”

His ears twitched, and his heart raced, as he read her scent and expression. They think its possible?”

Her hint of a smile grew. I could carry a child of ours to six months, or the full term if they adjust the genes to delay development of the babys - the cubs? - claws until after I deliver. Itll have my brains, but your looks. Still, you cant have everything, can you?”

A child of ours... He never dared consider it until recently, as he reached a certain age. His clan on Cait lived in an archipelago where they ran a successful fishing fleet, but had grown estranged from him following his desire to leave their homeworld and join Starfleet. Of all his proud, stubborn clan members who refused to answer his letters to them, only his grandmother chose to stay in contact, keeping him up to date on all the various bondings and births within the clan.

Grandmother even left Cait to visit following his marriage to Hannah, and while she took a delight with Sasha, treating the child as kin, she assured her grandson that she would also love any children Hannah and he produced. Hrelle had been embarrassed by the less than subtle hint dropped, though Hannah took it in stride, suggesting Grandmother must have been Jewish in another life. His wife never fully let it go over the subsequent years, sometimes bringing it up again in discussions about Caitian childrearing and naming.

Still, it wasnt a certainty that it could be done. Children of different races were known, of course, had been since before the birth of the Federation, and sometimes even occurred naturally. But it was risky, for obvious reasons, and usually required medical advice and intervention to prevent injury or worse to mother and child.

Now... he set aside his glass and hers and took her in his arms, ignoring the disgusted reactions from the surrounding children until they literally surrounded the couple, teasing them mercilessly.

Get back to wrecking the place, you little Klingons!” he snarled. As they scattered again, a thought made his expression sober. Sasha... What about her?”

We could always get rid of her to make room for the baby.”

Very droll. I dont want her feeling threatened in any way by a new arrival.” Her looked in the childs direction. Well broach the subject later-"

Its already been broached, Little Papa.”

It has?”

She retrieved her whisky. do do parenting stuff on my own from time to time when youre gallivanting across the Galaxy.”

And how did she react?”

She wanted to know if she has permission to beat up anyone who picks on her little brother.” She sipped again. According to her, it has to be a boy. Thought you should know.”

He laughed. Do you have a preference?”

She shrugged. Are Caitian boys easier to raise?”

He considered the question. They shed less, and their tails are shorter and dont get caught as much in things. But when they reach puberty and there are females in season nearby, they, uh, discover this wonderful new toy they never knew they had in their pants-

Hannah smirked and finished her drink. So, like every other male in the Galaxy. It still sounds easier than what well go through when Sasha gets to that age.” She rolled her eyes. Oy, imagine what youll be like when she starts dating, and youre scaring off the ones you dont approve of.”

I wouldnt do that, he lied.

Hannah gave him The Look.

Okay, somehow life could get better.

He almost missed the chirp of the communicator on the nearby table, reluctantly rising and retrieving it, repairing to a corner of the living room before answering the hail. Hrelle here.”

The familiar Cajun patois of his First Officer replied. Its Labine, Sir. Sorry to bother you, but weve picked up a distress signal from the research outpost on Banaris IX. Reactor failure, dome breach, possible casualties.”

Possible? Havent you tried to get further information?”

Yes, Sir, but theyre not answering. May be related to their systems failures, or...”

The man left it at that.

Hrelle glanced back at the party; only Hannah was looking his way, her seasoned expression telling him she had already guessed what it was about.

He offered her a silent apology before speaking into his communicator again. Recall the crew from shore leave, on the double-

Already done, Sir. Youre the last.”

Hrelle frowned to himself. You mean you held off telling me about an emergency just so I could have extra time at a childs birthday party?”

Yes, Sir.”

Hrelle breathed out. He didnt approve of being treated differently to the rest of the crew - many of them had families, too - but he appreciated the gesture. Thank you. So I may as well be cheeky and ask for another minute to say goodbye. Set off immediately after I arrive, maximum warp when possible.”

Understood, Sir.” After a pause, he added, Sorry, Captain.”

Hrelle grunted. No worries, Nathaniel, at least I was here long enough to help defend the fortress against the Gorn. Stand by for my signal.” He tapped the comlink shut and turned to see Hannah standing there, with an expression that was both sympathetic and damning, as she ushered him into their bedroom so he could explain. Emergency at Banaris IX. Theres no other ships fast enough in the sector-

I know.”

Ill be a couple of days, three-

I know, shut up.” She pulled herself together, as much as she could. She could never fully hide the trepidation she always felt whenever he set off, wondering if this mission would be the one he didnt return from, like it had been for her first husband. Dont say anything to her, just go, Ill explain it later. Shell be too exhausted by then to cry much.”

He nodded back. What about you?”

But Hannah just looked around, as if she hadnt heard him. The wall, or the window?”

What?”

Im thinking of a place to put the crib. The wall vibrates from the power couplings behind it, that can be soothing for a baby. But the window will give you something to look out at when you get up for the night time feeding and changing.” She looked at him again. I volunteered you for that, I knew you wouldnt mind.”

I look forward to it.” He moved in to nuzzle against her throat, the closest Caitians came to kissing. She clung to him tightly for a moment, and then pushed him away. Go, Little Papa.”

Ill message you when Im coming home.” He released her and let her retreat, knowing better than to linger at such moments. Alone in the bedroom, he tapped his communicator. One to beam up.”

Just before he was transported away, he took a last look around, realising then that the best place for the crib would be-


Six Years Later:

Captains Log, Stardate 34221.6, USS Yosemite, Captain Gombe commanding: We have arrived at the site where the Corvallen freighter sent her distress signal. We are scanning for survivors, but the initial signs are not hopeful.”

Matthew Gombe flicked off his log book. He had been taught in the Academy to keep the official logs concise and impersonal. But damn, if it didnt make him sound cold as a Vulcan sometimes. It didnt help that he was still getting used to the new uniform design, where the red double-breasted jackets and black trousers popular for decades had been replaced by form-fitting jumpsuits that looked like onesies.

The bridge viewscreen was filled with a miniature belt of debris, shadowed soot against the steady glow of a small, fierce white star. If they pushed the magnification to maximum, they might see smaller objects... like the bodies of the crew. He chose not to pursue such detail.

Behind him, his own crew manned auxiliary bridge stations, scanning nearby space for lifeboats, fighting to pierce the layers of interference from both the star and the theta radiation waste that the Corvallen engines produced. They could still find survivors, it wasnt out of the realms of possibility. But the more they scanned the area, the more it seemed as if this was some catastrophic warp breach, one that happened so fast that no one had time to-

Ive got something!” Ensign Willows exclaimed, drawing the Captains and everyone elses attention to her station as she elaborated. Some sort of maintenance pod, approximately six cubic metres in size... Im detecting eighteen lifesigns within-"

Eighteen?” Someone near Gombe echoed. In something that small? Must be packed in like pages in a book.”

Beats the alternative theyd faced, Gombe reminded him. Are the lifesigns Corvallen, Willows?”

Hard to tell, Captain, the theta radiation is making precise readings difficult. Im also picking up large quantities of sedarite.”

Gombe nodded at that. Corvallens traded throughout the Federation but were not a member, and have been known to engage in smuggling and other illegal activities, using sedarite to block scans of their ship interiors. Perhaps they were carrying something unstable as well as illegal, something that finally, literally blew up in their faces? Like his mother used to tell him: Sometimes, the Universe Has Other Plans.

Best not try to beam them onboard, he finally said. Mr Sarko, tractor the pod into our shuttlebay and get an emergency medical team down there. Willows, lead the continued search for more survivors.” He straightened up. Im going down there. Maybe these people can give us some answers.”


By the time hed reached the shuttlebay, his crew had already brought aboard the pod and opened it, and a medical team was helping the survivors out and onto the deck, voices urgent as hoverbeds and emergency packages were summoned. Gombe stayed back, knowing from experience that his people didnt need their Captain getting in the way.

But even as he tried to do otherwise, he was still drawn closer. These was not the expected Corvallen crew: among them, he spotted humans, a Tellarite, a Bajoran, an Andorian minus one antenna, and others. And their clothes were as ragged as their bodies, instinct confirming to Gombe that neither was the result of the recent catastrophe. Who the hell were they-

Captain!”

He started at the alarm from Polk, a medic at the far end, and rushed to join him.

What is it?”

The young man was pale as he tended to his patient, a pitiful-looking stick figure, scarred and grey; it took a moment for Gombe to recognise the race as Caitian, though this one lacked a tail he could see. The medic stammered. S-Sir, this individual says hes with Starfleet... A Captain-

What?” He knelt closer, trying not to react to the stench; how long had it been since they bathed? The survivor was indeed a Caitian male, with one eye sealed shut from an old injury, and his muzzle looking like it had been broken and reset at some point. Gombe swallowed and spoke gently but urgently. My name is Captain Gombe. Youre onboard the USS Yosemite. Who are you?

The Caitian peered up from his one good eye, coming in and out of focus as if to mirror his obvious mental state, and his voice was ragged, but still determined to say its piece. Captain... Esek Hrelle... USS Furyk... tell my wife... tell her the crib should be by the window... so our son can see the stars…

TO BE CONTINUED

2 comments:

  1. From an Anonymous Reader:

    "Wow, really grabbed me. Good job hooking me as a reader."

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