What follows is the first part of my Star Trek fan-fiction following the unadventures of the crew of the U.S.S. Quotidian. The stories speak for themselves, so I’ll offer no further introduction.
However, I do want to point out that this story was originally written on the 1st December, 2016, and has only just been published here. I point this out because the first segment includes a minor plot with someone being held up due to overly thorough medical tests, which is also a plot in the ninth episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. So I just wanted to make it clear that I had the idea first, and am therefore presumably qualified to write for big-budget sci-fi shows. My job application is pending.
The first part, “An Unavoidable Encounter”, can be found here.
The third story, “Muses of our Fates”, can be found here.
Captain’s Log, stardate 42976.1.
Whilst on a routine sensor sweep we have picked up a strange energy burst coming from the Periculum system. Despite its surprising similarity to some forms of interstellar communication, our sensors indicate that it is nothing more than the gravity-lensed emissions of a distant neutron star. Consequently I have convened the senior staff to confirm, resolutely, that it is indeed the gravity-lensed emissions of a neutron star, and absolutely not any form of communication from some strange, new, potentially dangerous lifeform.
“Counsellor N’rz, where does that leave us?”
N’rz’s mottled green head faintly glowed in pulses as he thought carefully. “Captain, Starfleet regulations require us to investigate any unrecognised sign of life in the likelihood that first contact could be established. Given that we’ve calculated -”
“And can show our calculations,” Lieutenant Baker added.
“- and can show, indeed, that there is no likelihood of this even being a signal from an intelligent life form, and subsequently absolutely no feasible scenario in which we might make contact with a new species, we are not bound by regulation to take any action.”
Miller nodded. “Ideal.” She turned to the rest of the officers. “Okay, that’s been settled then. Thank you all for your insight, you’re dis-”
Commander Aufregend, first officer, a tall, lean human with swept-back blonde hair and chiseled features, strode into the room with purpose. “Captain! I’m sorry I’m late, Doctor Wainwright insisted on carrying out a full physical, said it was vital to confirm that I hadn’t been subjected to unsafe levels of neutrino radiation. She was incredibly thorough, I thought I would be in there for the whole day!”
Miller’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, indeed, I… had thought that too. I will, ah, discuss it with Wainwright. We were just finishing up here, nothing with which to concern yourself.”
Aufregend looked around. “This looks like a staff meeting, is this… Wait, is this to do with the supposed neutron star emissions?”
“No, of course – well, yes, actually, but we’ve just confirmed, there’s barely a point-two -”
“Point-one,” Baker corrected.
Miller continued. “Yes, point-one percent chance of it being anything other than a Neutron star, whose emissions are being gravitationally… lensed… Commander, what are you doing?”
Aufregend had taken a PADD from Lieutenant Baker and was furiously tapping away on it, running complex calculations and algorithms. “Captain, this is incredible. Apologies, Lieutenant, I respect your position as head of Science, but your basic assumptions didn’t take into account the recursive feedback theorems of Doctor Enochlesi’s work on transphasic communication patterns…”
Miller’s eyes settled on Baker with the intensity of a proton beam. The Lieutenant kept his own eyes firmly pointed at some presumably fascinating distant star out of the window at the opposite end of the conference room.
Aufregend was still going. “… By running it through a fourth-order integration function, I’ve isolated a key repeating waveform. Captain, this is some sort of interplexing beacon! I’m afraid I can’t accurately identify its message, I would have to recalibrate the Universal Translator, but the origin point is barely three parsecs away! Would you like me to set a course?”
Miller stood, straightened her tunic and quickly shook her head at Commander Sarr, who was slowly releasing her phaser from its belt clip. The captain cleared her throat, then walked swiftly out of the conference room.
Captain’s Log, stardate 43125.8.
It has been three weeks since my former mentor, Admiral Taylor, urgently reassigned Commander Aufregend to the Muthir system, to help negotiate an historic peace treaty between twelve warring factions locked in a bitter conflict. The ship’s new executive officer is settling in well, however. In the meantime, we are about to start a new mission – conveying a Federation diplomat to an interstellar conference on replicator legislation.
The form of the ambassador materialised on the transporter pad, along with that of his aide. Both were Isilduns – tall, flat-chested, with lilac-tinted skin and prominent cheek protrusions.
As the whine of the transporter faded and the materialisation completed the captain stepped forward, pristinely turned out in her dress uniform. “Ambassador, I’m Captain Miller, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Quotidian. I’d like to welcome you aboard, and to express our pleasure to be escorting you to the conference on Naukarasaha.”
The ambassador bowed deeply. “Captain! I am Bitxia, of Isildu. This is my assistant, Laguntzaile. We are both honoured to have you as our escort. Is this your staff?” Bitxia gestured at the line of senior officers at the captain’s side.
Miller nodded, then introduced each officer in turn. “Ambassador, this is Commander Sarr from the planet Bajor, my head of operations.” Sarr lowered her head respectfully. “Chief Shmeh, head of engineering, from the Beij Cluster. Lieutenant Baker, science officer, from Earth -”
“Apologies Baker, of course, Mars. This is our chief medical officer Doctor Wainwright, of Vulcan.”
Bitxia regarded the vulcan carefully. “Forgive me, but ‘Wainwright’ doesn’t seem like much of a Vulcan name.”
“There is nothing to forgive, ambassador,” Wainwright explained in her careful elocution. “I was fostered by humans until early adolescence. It seemed important to them that I retain their name into adulthood.”
Bitxia nodded thoughtfully, and Miller continued. “This is Lieutenant Smith, my tactical officer. He’s too modest to admit it, but Smith has a tremendous dedication to duty, you’ve been killed, what, eight times protecting the ship?”
Smith was bashful. “Eight, captain, yes.”
The ambassador sounded astonished. “You have, ah, died. Eight times? Tell me, do you have any insight into the afterlife?”
“Not really, ambassador. I’m never there for very long.”
Miller gestured to the final member of her command crew. “And this is Counsellor N’rz, of the planet Causidicus.”
“Counsellor? Why would you need a counsellor as part of your staff, captain?” Bitxia’s face was stricken with confusion.
Miller cleared her throat. “Well, ambassador, Causidicans possess near-flawless recollection powers. On Earth, we would call it ‘eidetic memory’. It makes them incredibly effective legal consultants.”
“Legal… you mean he’s a legal counsellor?”
“Correct, ambassador,” N’rz said. “I advise the captain in all matters of Stafleet regulation, Federation law, interstellar law and foreign treaties.”
“Specifically,” Miller added, “N’rz allows me to ensure that at all times I am adhering very precisely to my responsibilities.”
“I… I see. I wouldn’t have thought that would often be, ah, be much of an issue.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised at the number of times I find myself unable to respond to dangerous situation due to some obscure law or regulation. Aboard this ship, we take legal matters very seriously, ambassador.” The senior staff were all nodding in agreement. “Now that you’ve met all of my officers – my first officer is currently on the bridge, apologies for his absence – I’d like to offer you a tour of the ship. Shmeh, maybe you could show the ambassador engineering first?”
Shmeh stood at the head of the MSD table with his engineering staff gathered around. Bitxia watched as a tardy junior lieutenant hurried into place. Shmeh began the meeting. “Alright, let’s get this started. Jones, general systems update.”
“News on the transporter, chief. We’ve identified a fault in the secondary heisenberg bypass circuit – it seems that a power surge in the buffer coupling could shut the materialisation array down altogether, completely preventing beaming.”
Shmeh looked thoughtful, stroking his bifurcated chin. “And the fix?”
Jones glanced sidelong at Bitxia before continuing. “We believe a phased molecular weld of the circuit’s quantum fixture should do it, but we’re following Spock’s Axiom, sir.”
“‘Spock’s Axiom’, chief?” Bitxia asked.
Shmeh’s cloudy yellow eyes turned to the ambassador. “Indeed. Starships are incredibly complex machines, with near-unfathomable interactions between seemingly unrelated systems. As such, in this engineering room we follow Spock’s Axiom: ‘Once we eliminate all other possibilities, whatever answer remains must be the truth.’ As such, we’ll systematically examine each system, run tests on them all one by one, and make sure they’re not the root cause of the problem. Then we can implement the fix and resolve the issue.”
Bitxia’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But that sounds like it could take an awfully long time, chief. Surely this molecular weld could be done now?”
Shmeh leaned back in horror. “Fix it now? Do you have any idea of how dangerous a notion that is? We could cause all manner of unforeseen complications.”
“But if you don’t apply the fix, your entire transporter system could shut down!” Bitxia pressed the point. “You’d be unable to beam anywhere!”
“Indeed, we could be left unable to beam down an away team into a hazardous environment,” Shmeh agreed, “or participate in a rescue operation at a catastrophic disaster site. Indeed, the transporters could fail at any given, and extremely untimely, moment, and we’d be left unable to beam aboard any kind of experimental technology or mysterious lifeform. But we can’t risk causing a destructive chain reaction by just applying molecular welds on a whim, ambassador. Modern-day engineering has much more in common with advanced applied science than with the iron mongers of a former age.” Shmeh addressed Jones again. “Lieutenant, in line with the Axiom, start with the material repurposing processor on deck twelve, and proceed from there. We’ll find the cause eventually.”
Bitxia remained nonplussed. “Chief Shmeh, how, in any capacity, might a transporter fault be related to a sewage processor?”
Shmeh stared at the ambassador. “Sadly, we’ve run out of time, and that concludes the tour of engineering. Ambassador, if you would follow Ensign Roberts here, he will guide you to sickbay for the next part of the tour.”
The ensign took Bitxia by the arm and began leading him out of main engineering. Bitxia turned his head to protest. “No, but, chief, I have additional questions!”
Shmeh turned to a status display, unfazed.
Bitxia sat in the CMO’s office opposite Doctor Wainwright, with her neatly trimmed short hair and loose blue labcoat. Wainwright was listing the ship’s inventory of advanced medical equipment, careful not to leave out even the smallest, most insignificant item. Bitxia’s posture was gradually relaxing as he moved closer towards unconsciousness. He noticed a small picture on the wall, what looked to be an illustrated book cover.
“Doctor, I’m sorry to break your flow, but what is that?”
Wainwright turned to look at the picture and raised an eyebrow. “That, ambassador, is the cover from my twelfth work of fiction, ‘Shadows of Vrentys’, one of the most widely read novels in modern Vulcan literature. I keep it as a reminder of my accomplishments as a writer.”
“Twelfth? How many books have you written?”
“Twenty-two novels in the last four years, all pieces of fiction in the style of ancient Vulcan epics, generally acting as analogies of various aspects of modern Vulcan society.”
“I thought you were raised by humans?”
“Correct, although only for the first few years of my life. As I grew, my emotional responses became increasingly problematic and it was decided that the best course of action was for me to be schooled on Vulcan, to learn the skills I would need to master my emotions.”
“And was it on Vulcan that you discovered your talent for writing?”
“Sadly, Ambassador, many conservative Vulcan literary critics would argue that I am indeed still yet to discover any talent for writing.”
It took Bitxia a moment to parse what he had just heard. “Doctor, did, did you just make a joke?”
Wainwright smiled. “I grew up around humans, ambassador, and consequently I possess an insight into humour that is rare amongst Vulcans.”
“Do you ever laugh? At jokes? At humourous scenarios?”
Wainwright pondered the question for a moment. “It is more closely related to an academic insight. Similarly to music or art, I am able to appreciate the structure and style of a well-crafted joke without being induced to an emotional reaction.”
Bitxia seemed to understand, but something else concerned him. “You said twenty-two novels, in four years? How do you find the time? Surely you must be busy as the ship’s surgeon?”
“In actuality, I find my occupation here relatively peaceable. We have the lowest medical incident rate of any vessel in Starfleet – this really is the safest ship in the fleet. As such, I have surplus time which I may devote to my writing.”
“And Captain Miller accepts this?”
“The captain actively encourages it. As long as her crew are healthy and well, she has little concern for ‘keeping me busy’. Indeed, she has allowed me to host several author talks aboard the Quotidian, inviting some of my readers to meet me in person. She’s very supportive in that regard.”
The main door to sickbay opened, and a metallic-skinned human figure strode in, wearing a blue Science uniform. “Doctor, I’ve finished my analysis of the cellular fluid samples, I’m confident that -” The silver-eyed figure looked at the ambassador and fell silent.
Bitxia was astonished. “Doctor, I had no idea you had an android aboard! I thought there was only one android in all of Starfleet! In the whole galaxy, in fact!”
Wainwright chose her words carefully. “Ambassador, this is Mendacia, our… robotic servant. She could be considered a rudimentary automaton.”
Mendacia stood rigidly straight. “Affirmative. Ambassador. I’m A. Primitive. Robot.” she said, in stilted, synthetic tones.
Bitxia studied the machine carefully. “She didn’t sound like that a second ago.”
Mendacia paused for a moment. “I Was Merely. Playing. A Recording. From Another. Crew. Member.”
“If she’s just a machine, why is she wearing a uniform?”
Wainwright maintained her Vulcan composure. “That could have been a decision made to aid interaction with other – I mean to say, ‘living’, crew members.”
“And the rank pips?”
“I Must Return. To My Other Duties. Good. Bye. Ambassador.” Mendacia turned away stiffly and walked out of the room with an awkward, mechanical gait. “Whir. Whir. Whir.”
Bitxia’s mouth hung open. “Was she just saying ‘whir, whir, whir’?”
Wainwright remained silent.
“Doctor, you do realise the scientific and cultural significance of another sentient android, one that is a member of Starfleet, no less?”
“I am sure such a scenario would indeed be noteworthy to scientists across the Federation and beyond. But as I said, it is important to note that Mendacia is nothing but a mindless machine.”
“She was using contractions.”
“A well-programmed mindless machine, ambassador.”
Bitxia leant towards Wainwright and stared intently. “Doctor, as a Vulcan, you’re unable to lie to me, correct? And so if I ask you a direct question, you must answer with the truth, correct?”
Wainwright raised an eyebrow.
Bitxia continued. “Doctor, was that a sentient android?”
“Was what a sentient android?”
“The being that was just in this room!”
“Mendacia!” Violet veins in the ambassador’s neck were beginning to pulse.
“What about Mendacia?”
“Is Mendacia an android?”
“Well, yes, of course, as a robot designed to resemble a human being, she exactly matches that definition.” Wainwright’s tone was as flat and calm as ever.
“And is she sentient?”
“Is who sentient?”
“What about Mendacia?”
“Is she SENTIENT?” Bitxia roared. “IS MENDACIA SENTIENT? IT’S A SIMPLE QUESTION, DOCTOR!”
Wainwright leant back in her chair and steepled her fingers. “In actuality, ambassador, the question of sentience is rather a complex and difficult subject to -” She was interrupted by Bitxia crying out in frustration before leaping to his feet and storming out of the room.
“THIS ENTIRE SHIP IS INSANE!” he shouted as he stomped into the corridor.
“Captain Miller!” Bitxia announced as he entered the bridge. “I must demand an explanation for the actions of your staff!”
“Not now, ambassador,” Miller said from her seat in the centre of the bridge, “we’re currently a little busy.”
“Captain,” Lieutenant Smith called, “response from the Lenibus, Captain Hebetes says that they’re having issues with their main inversion coil, and will be unable to assist.”
“And there’re no other ships in range?”
“Confirmed, captain, it’s just us.”
Miller frowned. “Very well, duty calls. Set course for the Ligneolae Navem, maximum warp. Red Alert! Raise shields and prepare for combat.”
Bitxia was suddenly worried. “Captain, what’s going on?”
“Distress call, ambassador, large passenger liner under attack from Orion pirates. We’re the only vessel in range to respond. Engage!”
The Quotidian lept to warp speed, stars whipping by as streaks of white light. Lieutenant Baker was at the science station, monitoring the sensors. “Captain,” he said, “the Orion vessel appears to be Dreadnought configuration. They have use outgunned by, let’s see, approximately three-hundred-and-seventy percent.”
“Damn.” Miller bit dowm on the knuckle of her left index finger, pondering the situation. “This calls for extreme measures. Sarr, ready a probe.”
Bitxia gasped. “Captain! They have us completely outmatched! We have no chance of winning that fight! What good will a probe do us?”
Miller kept her eyes forward on the main viewer. “Ambassador, we are bound by our duty to protect the passengers aboard that transport. And it’s doubtful we can defeat the Orions, but there are, ah, always possibilities.”
“But you’re taking us to our deaths!”
“Ambassador, you are beginning to interfere with the operation of this vessel,” Miller stated flatly.
Commander Sarr turned steadily in her chair to face the ambassador, with a very Pointed Look. She mouthed something silently at him – the universal translator was no help, but they all seemed to be very short words. Bitxia was suddenly quiet.
“Sarr,” Miller said, “just ready a probe.”
“Aye captain.” Sarr sounded resolute and unaffected by the impending danger. “Are we implementing the Pandora Protocol?”
Miller turned to her second-in-command, a handsome officer with swept-back blonde hair, stood to her right with a straight back, broad shoulders, folded arms. “Objections, number one?”
The commander stared unwaveringly at the main viewer, silent and stern.
Miller nodded. “Outstanding. Bridge to engineering, we’ll be-”
“Captain,” Bitxia interjected, “your first officer, he’s… He’s two-dimensional.”
Miller looked again at the silent, unblinking form beside her. “That’s, ah, inaccurate, ambassador, he’s at least three or four millimetres thick.”
“But, he’s not even… he’s made of -”
Miller looked Bitxia straight in the eye. “Ambassador, Commander Aufrecard is an outstanding officer with a flawless record. His physical characteristics have no bearing on his ability to fulfil the role of executive officer.”
Bitxia looked at the unmoving commander, then at Miller, and back and forth between the two of them, before silently sitting down on the floor with his back against the wall.
Miller continued. “Bridge to engineering. Shmeh, Commander Sarr is preparing a probe for deployment. Please use Lieutenant Baker’s Periculum telemetry to set up Pandora Protocol two-six-three, and inform Sarr when it’s ready.”
Shmeh acknowledged. The red lights of the alert system continued to pulse whilst the warp engines thrummed in the background. Bitxia watched the crew frenziedly prepare for battle, immobilised in equal measure by anxiety over the coming conflict and by sheer confusion at all he had witnessed that day.
Lieutenant Smith addressed the captain again from his post at tactical. “Ten seconds to arrival. Shields and weapon systems ready, captain.”
Sarr finished a last few calculations on her console. “Probe ready, captain. Minimum safe distance, three hundred kilometres.”
“Understood,” Miller said. “Stand by for launch. All hands, prepare for combat!”
The ship dropped out of warp in front of the ugly bulk of an Orion cruiser. The pirate vessel’s crude, broad structure dwarfed the sleek curves of the Quotidian, but the Federation ship squared up to the beast nonetheless.
Bitxia watched with eyes as empty as the first officer’s as the Orion ship on the main viewer turned to face them. The bridge crew were busy giving instructions over the comms and coordinating their teams throughout the ship. Miller’s voice cut through the chatter. “Distance to target?”
Smith answered promptly. “Four-hundred-eighty kilometres, sir; they have locked weapons and are ignoring our hails. The Navem is at three-fifty kilometres from the target.”
“Damn,” Miller cursed again. “We’ll have to risk it. Launch probe, commander.”
“Probe away,” Sarr said, tapping a few buttons. The sound of the probe launching was a short, high-pitched whistle. On screen, the small projectile sped towards the pirates unerringly.
“The enemy ship is about to fire, captain,” Smith said.
Miller gripped her seat tightly. “All hands, brace for impact!”
The ship rocked violently as the Orion disruptors struck the deflectors. Sparks flew from a few consoles as the shield projectors overloaded. Commander Aufrecard fell forwards face-first onto the floor and lay there as motionless as ever. Bitxia carefully crept forwards and lifted the commander upright again, leaning him against the tactical console as he had been before.
Miller looked around as the rocking subsided. “Damage report!”
“Shields holding,” Sarr answered. “No damage sustained as yet.”
“Time to probe activation?”
“Six seconds, captain.” Sarr looked up at the main viewer, her lips moving silently as she counted down. “… Now!”
Nothing happened. For an age it seemed like nothing was happening. The Orion cruiser still pointed towards them, its guns just seconds away from another volley. Then, without warning, the pirate vessel fell away backwards, as though launching to warp. It disappeared into the distance with an orange flash, and was gone.
“Report?” Miller hesitantly asked.
Baker studied his scopes carefully. “They appear to be gone, captain, as exp-” He glanced at Bitxia. “Ah, as unexpected as that may be.”
Miller nodded. “Good. We will assume that they mistook our probe for a powerful new weapon and chose to turn tail and flee. Counsellor?”
N’rz was sat to her left, and seemed as collected and calm as all the other officers, in spite of the battle moments ago. “That is a perfectly sensible assumption, captain, and offers sufficient explanation for the enemy ship’s departure. No further investigation would be required of us in a matter such as this.”
Miller stood. “Very well. Damn good job, all of you. Sarr, dispatch repair crews to the Ligneolae Navem and offer them any other assistance they require, but the priority is to have them up to warp speed and well on their way within the hour.” Sarr began working straight away. “Miller to sickbay, Doctor Wainwright, there could be people hurt over there, can you spare anyone?”
“I can spare myself, captain,” Wainwright answered, “I’ll join the repair crews in the transporter room.”
The officers around the bridge worked at their consoles, busy but unhurried. Bitxia looked around at what now seemed like a very day-to-day scene of normality. For him, the terrifying combat less than a minute ago was still very fresh in his mind. He pushed himself to his feet, clenched his fists to steady the shake of his hands, and addressed the captain directly. “You, Captain Miller, I – I need you to tell me the truth. I’m a Federation ambassador, your Starfleet oath means you have to tell me the truth.”
“He’s incorrect, captain,” N’rz stated, “no such regulation exists.”
Bitxia was barely preventing his speech from stammering. “Y-You cannot lie to me about what just happened!”
“Incorrect again, captain, you can lie to him about any subject.”
Bitxia glared phaser beams at N’rz, who returned his gaze impassively. Miller regarded Bitxia for a moment, then turned to the science station. “Baker? Your analysis? For the benefit of the ambassador.”
Baker screwed his face up, as though considering the situation in some depth. “I suppose,” he began, tentatively, “it’s possible that there exists, in some interstitial area of subspace, some powerful faction or species, capable of pulling objects of varying characteristics – ships, for instance – into subspace itself. Possible, but highly improbable, of course.”
Bitxia stared at Baker in confusion and disbelief.
“But were that the case,” Baker continued, “it stands to reason that such a species might, ah, pick up the ships of realspace species, based on those ships emitting some specific signal or waveform. Perhaps inadvertently so, for instance when conducting an Alpha-Level subspace sensor sweep.” He stared calmly at Bitxia, as if ready for whatever challenge may be presented.
Bitxia’s stammer was now well out of control. “H- h- how…”
“How would such a species communicate with realspace?” Baker prompted. “Well, I dare say it would be unfamiliar to us. Probably some kind of transphasic communication. Maybe a repeating transphasic waveform, or even an interplexing beacon. Of course, such a phenomenon would hardly look like any form of message we would recognise – it would most likely resemble the emissions of a neutron star or some other stellar body, potentially focused around a powerful gravity well.”
“Wh- Why… Just, why?”
“Why pull ships into subspace? Impossible to answer without being subjected to the process itself. Of course, it would be an act of great carelessness to trigger such an event with a starship. It would be much more sensible to perform scans with an external device, such as a probe. That way, when any unusual event did occur, it would occur to the probe itself, and could be observed from a safe distance, and the relevant conclusions made from the observable data.” Baker looked at Miller. “This is all highly, highly unlikely, captain, extremely hypothetical. The far more realistic interpretation is that the Orion vessel simply departed the battle out of sheer fright.” He leant back in his chair, looking rather pleased with himself.
“Thank you, lieutenant,” Miller said. “Naturally, ambassador, the discovery of an intelligent species based entirely in subspace would be the discovery of the century, and would of course warrant further investigation. Sadly, Baker’s hypothesis has as much grounding in reality as those novels of Wainwright’s, and as such we have no cause to investigate the matter further.” She looked around. “Can someone get me a coffee, please?”
Throughout this all, the executive officer had remained silent and stationary, staring without blinking directly ahead, handsome and confident. Bitxia looked at him now, and let his shoulders drop and his arms hang loose, the opposite in every way to the commander’s resolute, heroic posture. “I… I don’t understand any of this,” he admitted, his voice hollow.
Miller shrugged. “We couldn’t abandon three hundred souls to pirates and slavers. We couldn’t defeat the pirates in combat.” A yeoman moved to her side and offered her a cup of strong-smelling black coffee, which the captain accepted. She took a sip. “So, we… changed the conditions of the engagement. All it takes is a little original thinking.” She turned to the yeoman. “Could you get a cup for the ambassador as well, please?”
Aboard the shuttle to Starbase 362, the venue for the conference, Bitxia and his aide, Laguntzaile, sat in silence. Laguntzaile was intently reading from a PADD in his hand, fully enraptured by the text on the small screen. Bitxia just stared out the window at the stars beyond. His voice lacked texture, almost as though he was speaking from behind a closed door, as he asked his aide, “How was your time aboard the Quotidian?”
Laguntzaile barely dragged his eyes from the PADD. “Oh, fascinating! The battle was scary, of course, but I met several of the crew members, saw some of the amazing technology they have aboard. I always enjoy my time aboard Starfleet vessels. And yours, sir?”
It took Bitxia a few moments to respond in his empty voice. “I met a robot, Laguntzaile. I met a robot, and I met a Vulcan author, and I even learned about starship repair and maintenance.” He sighed. “My husband was talking about the lakehouse again, you know, before we left. I think he’s right, it’s getting time we settled down for the quiet life.”
Laguntzaile pondered. “I think you’ve earned it, sir. You’ve had a long career, you deserve a decent retirement.” Bitxia didn’t respond, but kept staring at the stars. Laguntzaile read for a few more moments before restarting the conversation. “That Vulcan author you mentioned, she gave me a copy of one of her books. It’s really rather fascinating! Very beautifully written. Though, the characters all spend a lot of time, ah, mating. In quite some detail. I feel that if they spent less time in bed and more time dealing with their problems, the book would be a lot shorter.” He looked at the ambassador. “Did you get a chance to read any of her work, sir?”
The shuttle cruised on towards the station. Behind it, the Quotidian turned about and headed out of the system. As she finished her turn her engines flared brightly, and she disappeared into the distance with a blinding white flash. In another system far away, the Ligneolae Navem pulled into dock to drop off its shaken passengers and begin its repairs.
No one ever heard from the Orion ship or its crew.