Sunday, April 26, 2015

Embracing the Darkness








Those who have never worked the night shift for an extended period of time will never know the incredible frustration of trying to sleep during the day when the vast majority of their fellow human beings are going about their daily lives. More importantly, people who work normal daytime jobs will never know the warm and comforting embrace of the night as the darkness guides them to a much needed deep slumber.

I really don't want to think about how many years I have now been working night shift but I will tell you that it all began right before President Obama took office. The circumstances of my nocturnal exile are unimportant but with Fate's fickle finger being what it is I have long since accepted both the good and bad aspects of my assigned working hours. The one thing that is different is how I now view the all encompassing blackness of the night.

I'm not sure how this will sound but not too many years ago I was the type of person that needed some form of nightlight to keep sense of my where I was in both time and space. It had nothing to do with being scared of the dark nor the fear of any mythical boogeymen that are suppose use the night to their advantage. The best way I can describe my past predicament involves an event back when I was in basic training at Fort Bliss, Texas. My unit was in the closing days of basic and we were out in the field learning the practical applications of many basic soldiering skills. One of them was sleeping in old fashioned army pup tents.

For the sakes of all unfortunate soldiers, I pray to an inattentive god that those things have long since been replaced with something at least slightly more advanced. But army pup tents were essentially two pieces of canvas--generally called shelter-halves-- snapped together and supported with six wooden poles, a couples short pieces of rope, and a few stakes to keep it all in one place. Once erected and secured in place pup tents theoretically would provide shelter for two full ground soldiers and their gear. The general design of the pup tent has been around since the nineteenth century and if you took in consideration how badly the damn things leaked when it rained you would assume that was also when all of then were made.

Despite the insistent leaking and a troubling inability to shelter anyone from a cold wind, once the sun went down they were pitch black inside when all the snaps were together. That was the situation really early one morning when my training unit's Drill Instructors went on a mad rampage. They wanted everyone up and ready to move out in some ungodly short period of time way before the sun's edge even peaked over the horizon. I had no problem waking up, the trouble came as I tried to determine which way was up and down, left and right since I literally could not see the hand I had placed just an inch in front of my face.

The other young trooper sharing the tent with me did have a problem waking up so he wasn't any help. Long story short, yes, I was lost inside my small tent and pretty much destroyed it trying to get outside. Through the years there have been a few other instances of me suffering through darkness-induced spatial disorientation but except for a few painful stumped toes and one collision with the bathroom door during a local power outage but nothing like that time at Fort Bliss. Mainly because I always had some small light on to keep me properly oriented.

Of course, there isn't any possibility of suffering through a darkness-induced spatial disorientation episode for those of us who have the glorious privilege of working at night. The truth of the matter is that you don't really sleep during the day, with normal humans going about their daily chores the best a third-shift worker can hope to accomplish is to take extended naps. Now I admit during the winter months the situation borders on the tolerable with the sun coming up later and most yard work related activities having ceased because of the cooler weather. The difficulties during the summer months run the gambit of overactive neighbors using lawnmowers. leaf blowers, weed whackers, and my favorite high-pressure washers. This last one just doesn't just make a hell of a lot of noise, if the acoustics and ground conditions are just right pressure washers can transmit vibrations. I write from experience because I have a work-at-home prick for a neighbor who pressure washes his cement driveway once a year. Now throw in delivery trucks with a bad muffler, the occasional evangelical nutcase who knocks on the front door desperate to save your soul, and of course telephone calls and you can understand why I say night workers just take extended naps.

All that is why I have come to embrace the all-encompassing darkness on my nights off. Just this Friday night I went to bed around nine o'clock pm after having opened the windows and turned on the ceiling fan to draw in the cool night air. What first hit me was not the darkness but the near utter silence. Except for the sounds of a few nocturnal insects and a distant set of wind chimes moving with the breeze it was so silent it seemed surreal. Neither my wife nor my daughter have ever had the issue with total darkness that I did so when they go to bed all the lights in the house are turned off. That is when the darkness seems to engulf me and I slowly sink into a restful oblivion.

It doesn't quite end there, see when your body's circadian rhythms are screwed up you can't really sleep completely through the night. I myself wake up at least three times a night but after looking at my alarm clock and realizing the time the darkness quickly rolls back in to comfort and lull me back to sleep. It is during those times that I dream. I have no idea about the mechanics of dreaming or the different levels of sleep but on those nights when I am home I even seem to dream differently.

When Sunday morning arrives all I can do is prepare for the return to my normal work schedule. Which means around noontime I have to lay down for a nap to get ready to start my shift. Returning to work is an utter waking nightmare, that first night even thinking is hard making mundane tasks seem like solving equations for quantum mechanics problems. About the only thing that gets me through the week is the knowledge that the coming Friday night the darkness will welcome me again.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Early 2016 Campaign Fear and Loathing


(Author's Note: Yeah, I'm in a bad mood.) 





Despite the fact that my political beliefs are so left of center when compared to the average South Carolinian I could readily be classify as a seditious communist I have alienated numerous people I associate with on the internet. The main problem seems to revolve around the idea that while I would love to see Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida elected president the current American zeitgeist makes that impossible. Leaving alone for the moment the assumption that if any of those three were elected president by some near magical twist in reality they would immediately face a hostile congress bent on nothing but their defeat and embarrassment I will instead concentrate on my issue with my fellow political comrades.

Being open and honest while I would like nothing better than the United States to embrace many policies of the European social-democracies like universal health care, worker rights, environmental protections, and social libertarianism most Americans run from such ideas because they seem scary and foreign. Hell, you want to talk about true American Exceptionalism, there is nothing like the utter stupidity of someone in this country whining about the spoiled nature of workers who belong to unions then start complaining about how their benefits are being cut and that they haven't had a pay raise in years.

Truthfully, that is when such non-union workers are even slightly aware of of something greater than what goes on outside of their narrowly defined lives. I know many individuals who literally cannot see past the numerous reality shows and favorite sports broadcasts they watch on their Walmart bought flat screen televisions. If such people do think of the greater society as a whole they follow the implied but never really stated position of corporate management that they should just be grateful to have a job and that if they get too uppity some unemployed putz can be pulled off the street to work for much less.

Proles and animals are free” (Ninteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell)

In short the American working class is the reality based version of George Orwell's “proles” from his book Nineteen Eighty-Four. For those who haven't read they book, proles are the lowest class in his fictional country of Oceania and make up the vast majority of the population. Despite outnumbering the middle management types of the “Outer Party” and the elite one-percents called the “Inner Party” a prole's purpose is just to work and breed. They live in poverty, receive little education, work manual labor jobs with no possibility of advancement, but are allowed to enjoy numerous entertaining distractions that keep them happy and quiet. If any of that even sounds the slightest bit familiar you can move to the front of the class.

This is where the election of someone like Warren, Sanders, or Grayson becomes problematic. All three like to point out the social and economic inconsistencies inherent to life in the United States and while they are tolerated are almost always kept at arms length and labeled “radical” by those in the press whose supposed job it is to uncover the uncomfortable truth.

The Lesser of Two Evils” (a common comment by numerous Utopia seeking progressives)

It would be an epic event if any of the Liberal big three were elected president, along with a socially progressive congress, but barring some major miracle it ain't going to happen. This coming election day in November of 2016 you can whine and stay home while listening to Joan Baez and dream about some progressive messiah but all that will get you is a President Cruz, or Paul, or Rubio, or yet another Bush. My personal nightmare is a President Chris Christie, that bastard makes Nixon look like a warm and fuzzy socially conscious hippy. Yes, what I am implying is that the alternative is none other than Hillary Clinton.

Sharing another bit of honesty I have rather disliked Hillary for years. While I am completely ignoring all the conservative-inspired conspiratorial propaganda she has always seemed a little holier-than-thou, in other words the poster child for the elitist liberal. Back in 2008 I was willing to ignore my perception of her until she came up with the ball-faced lie about her and her daughter landing in Bosnia while taking gunfire form Serbia militias. CNN, in a rare bit of actual journalism, showed her giving a speech telling that story while running the actual footage on a separate segment of the screen of her landing in Bosnia showing a slow walk off the military cargo plane with young local girls giving her flowers.

My opposition to Hillary back then earned me the hatred of several progressives who called me a sexist pig and the snickers of many conservatives who assumed that my dislike of her would either keep me home on election day or force me to vote for War Crazy McCain. The only thing worse than being called a sexist pig from people I respected was the outrage from both groups when I declared my support for Barrack Obama. This is where the tendency for progressives to look for a socially aware messiah comes into play along with the near universal disappointment that follows when political realities are not faced.

I would only be exaggerating slightly when I say the election of Barrack Obama as president was viewed by many progressives as the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. He was suppose to take the oath of office then in the space of a few months end poverty, stop climate change, fix our immigration mess, end all wars, close Gitmo, and then fix the yawning economic gap between the rich and poor before the mid-terms.

Yes, during his first two years in office Obama had majorities in both houses of Congress but the idea that meant much is an uninformed assumption at best. Ignoring the fact for a moment that the 535 members of both houses each have their own individual agendas, namely to get reelected, Obama's fellow Democrats at that time covered the political spectrum from the DINO, (Democrat In Name Only), to actual progressives wanting to reform the country with the majority being the self-serving former. Now imagine some staunch, uncompromising progressive totally dedicated to upending the corrupt status quo being elected president. That person wouldn't last out their first and only term in office

When you also consider how progressives failed to vote in 2010 allowing the Tea Party-Republicans to win the House of Representatives and you have the beginnings of all the crap Obama has had to deal with since then. I truly believe many liberals and progressives have totally failed to appreciate the nature of the opposition Obama faced in congress along with the fact that the way our government is supposed to work means that the legislative and executive branches have to cooperate. Obama's executive orders to sidestep a racist congress is all well and good but I remember a time when George W. did the same thing with Democrats freaking out.

Politics is the of the possible, the attainable-the art of the next best” Otto Von Bismark

Don't get me wrong, Obama has made some huge mistakes during his time in office. But I refuse to start believing like one person on the internet I know that this means he has been in secret league with the same people who backed – or controlled Bush and Cheney. They don't compare politics to the making of sausage for no reason. Politics is about the art of compromise and what is possible. Tilting at windmills is all fine and good but when you are faced with people like Cruz, Rand, Rubio, or Christie and the several others all riding in the same clown car you damn well better be able to live with consequences. What that means to me is that all the idiots who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 bear some responsibility for the actions of Bush and Cheney.

Yes, Hillary is too hawkish for me and along with that carries some political baggage that is cumbersome at best. But I live in the real world where reality isn't pretty and compromises have to be made so that in the end liberals like me can actually point to some progress for the common man and woman. I'd like life to be all about peace, love, pretty flowers, and unicorns that fart brilliant rainbows from their butts but it ain't going to happen. Idealism is an important part of the American political experience but unless it is tempered with pragmatism and the realization that building a better future takes time and often dirty work we will stay on our “trickle down” course the Republicans set for the nation back in 1980.

So unless something major happens I will most certainly be voting for Hillary in 2016. Am I happy about that fact, not really but there is only so many Citizen United decisions, corporate tax breaks, environmental disasters, civil rights degradations, and wars the United States can take. Who you vote for in 2016 is a choice each individual has to make but until the long awaited progressive messiah finally appears and awakens the distracted prole masses, I'll do the only viable alternative and vote for the perceived lesser of the two evils because in real life nothing is simple black and white.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Got Nothing but the End of Weekend Blues





This weekend was a total waste, I did absolutely nothing of any circumstance other than laying my sorry butt on the couch and watch the new Daredevil series on Netflix. My main excuse for being this worthless revolves around my allergies which have been particularly vicious recently.

In general weekends speed by at a velocity that exceeds the speed of light. As of this moment it is mid-Sunday morning but it just seems like a couple of hours ago I was walking away from my workplace early Friday morning.


I can't blame my excessive slackerly behavior on just my allergies, a good part is simple apathy given the nature of my fellow humans, which mean cosmically stupid behavior generally based on ancient Iron Age religions along with equally ridiculous ideas of nationalism and ethnic superiority.  



Oh wow, I was just slightly socially responsible. Good for me, and yes I will award myself a cookie. Mainly because I can't do tequila on Sundays because I have to go to work tonight.











I will leave you with this:


And this:


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Out of the Darkness--A Star Trek fan fiction short story


USS SARATOGA / NCC-31911-A
Ambassador-class starship

After the destruction of the Miranda-class USS Saratoga (NCC-31911) at the Battle of Wolf 359, Starfleet began making plans for a Galaxy-class vessel to next carry the name. Construction would take place at the New Seattle shipyards in orbit around the planet Izar (Epsilon Bootis 3). However, given the situation at the time, resources were redirected away from the larger exploration vessels with priority going to the smaller Defiant-class specifically designed to combat Borg cube ships. While initial construction had not yet started, materials and equipment specific to large exploration vessels were on location and just left in orbit next the facilities.

Everything changed as the possibility of war with Gamma-quadrant based Dominion grew. Larger vessels that could take on the battleships crewed by the genetically-engineered Jem'Hadar soldiers were very much needed in the face of recent Starfleet and allied losses. When the decision was made to begin building the new Saratoga, all construction on new Galaxy-class ships had been temporarily stopped to incorporate new features and improvements. So to avoid unneeded delays it was decided that the next ship to carry the name Saratoga would be an upgraded version of the Ambassador-class design.




The keel for the new Saratoga was laid on 2368, with accelerated assembly beginning six months later. The new USS Saratoga entered the war two months after the start of the actual conflict under the command of Captain Cynthia Boone of Mars. The ship served with distinction all through the conflict but narrowly avoided destruction at the Battle of the Tyra System. After the death of Captain Boone and with Commander Thrawn, the first officer, gravely injured Lieutenant Connor Douglas of Izar took command. After being cutoff from the main area of battle, the attacking Jem'Hadar ships began concentrating their fire on the Saratoga's main bridge and engineering sections in an attempt to finish off the ship.

With most major systems offline Lieutenant Douglas loaded several shuttle craft with photon torpedoes, remotely triggered their engines and ejected them from the landing bay at warp speed. The unorthodox maneuver completely surprised and destroyed the attacking Jem'Hadar ships. As the battle wound down the remaining enemy ships ignored the distant Saratoga, which at the time was essentially a lifeless hulk. Instead they chose to pursue the remaining allied vessels. That allowed the surviving Saratoga crew time to restore enough systems to eventually escape back to Federation territory.

After Saratoga crossed over into Federation space it was towed to the shipyards in orbit around the planet Axanar, where it spent six months in dry dock being repaired. It reentered active service under the command of the newly promoted Prown Thrawn of Andoria. For his clever improvisation during the combat Connor Douglas was promoted straight to the rank of commander to serve as the Saratoga's first officer. At first the Saratoga was assigned to Starbase 239 to provide protection for supply convoys headed towards the main battle area close to Bajoran space. However, when the Breen Confederacy attacked Earth, the Saratoga and three other ships were able to go to high warp and position themselves to intercept the fleeing vessels before they crossed back over into enemy territory. While the resulting battle was short and inconclusive it did allow Federation starships to get detailed sensor readings on the Breen energy-damping weapon to begin the process that would allow the allies to develop countermeasures.

For the USS Saratoga and its crew, the demands of war soon returned them to far less glamorous duties, but the universe is always filled with surprises.



Captain's log, USS Saratoga
Prown Thrawn in command
Stardate 52991.6
We are at present crossing sector 4451 on course to reach the Bajor in four days. All sixteen freighters in our convoy are fully operational along with our sister starships the Trieste, Buran, and Starling.

Word has gotten out that Federation and allied forces have begun the invasion of the Cardassian homeworld in an attempt to end this damn war. Early reports say that after taking heavy losses in ships and crew but Federation marines and Klingon warriors have landed on the Ebeen continent and have linked up with members of the Cardassian resistance. I have ordered that the convoy to increase speed to warp five and go to red alert. It is my hope to avoid any possible encounters with deep reconnaissance enemy starships.

***
Lieutenant Victoria Kinyor, tactical officer—from Earth, birthplace Kenya
Lieutenant Commander Tallas Bin, Science officer---Tellarite
Ensign Henry Reid, Helmsman—Earth, birthplace USA
Lieutenant jg Roberta Belzer—Earth, birthplace New Zealand



The bridge of the USS Saratoga was as silent as a tomb with everyone concentrating on their duties. The only real sounds came from the faint but constant hum of the life support systems and occasionally from the ship's computers when one of them needed to alert a crew member. Experience earned from the spilled blood of friends and colleagues had taught them all that at any moment Jem'Hadar, Cardassian, or now even Breen raiders could leave carefully camouflaged hiding places and attack. The only thing greater than the tense and demanding nature of wartime duty was the realization that just maybe the tide had turned in favor of the Federation and its allies. No one wanted to make a mistake with the possibility of victory and peace now within sight.

“Commander Douglas,” Lieutenant Victoria Kinyor, the tactical officer said, “I've detected a belief and very weak signal from a rogue planet that is 2.7 lightyears away from the lead elements of the convoy.”

Douglas turned the command chair around to face the young woman who was standing at the tactical station. “What type of signal?” He asked feeling that sickening combination of excitement and terror that had become all to normal since the start of the war.

“Analysis of signal's power and frequency suggests a Cardassian distress call but it was cut short as if they changed their minds.” The young officer answered.

“Bring up a tactical display of the rogue planet and begin a full scan of the body. Also, alert all the ships in the convoy of a possible enemy contact in the area.” The first officer said before swinging the command chair back to the front. Douglas then toggled a small button on the command chair before saying, “Captain Thrawn, please report to the bridge.”

Barely more than a second later, the lanky blue-skinned Andorian came rushing out of his ready room while at the same time Douglas vacated the command chair and took adjacent seat just to the right of his captain. “What do we have Number One?” Thrawn asked while claiming the command chair.

“A possible enemy contact,” Douglas said, “the signal was weak but Lieutenant Kinyor reports it could be a Cardassian distress call.”

On the main screen at the front of the bridge both Kinyor and the Tellarite science officer, Tallas Bin had posted all the information they had gleamed from their scans. The rogue planet was a fairly boring frozen rock that had been drifting in the depths of space for billions of years since being ejected from the solar system where it had formed. It had no atmosphere because the gases had condensed then fallen to the surface as it left its parent star behind making it impossible to support any type of carbon-based life at the surface. But life doesn't have to live at the surface on any world.

“The body is roughly fifteen thousand kilometers in diameter,” Lieutenant Commander Bim said from his spot at the operations station. “And the surface is covered with a layer of frozen nitrogen mixed with an array of other chemicals all common to rogue planets suggesting it was indeed ejected during the formation of a solar system.”

“Any sign of refined metals or power signatures?' Captain Thrawn asked.

The Tellarite's hands danced over the operations panel massaging the sensors to provide every possible piece of information possible. “Uncertain captain,” Bim said, “the planet has a curiously high level magnetic field with quite a few localized distortions of even higher power. It could mask a small ship like a raider.”

“Captain Thrawn,” the helmsman Ensign Henry Reid suddenly said interrupting the science officer with an eagerness a little to energetic to be acceptable, “should I set a course for the planet to check it out?”

Both Thrawn and Douglas inwardly groaned, at the start of the Dominion War the young helmsman was just a third-year cadet at Starfleet Academy. But due to the shortage of trained personnel many like him were graduated early and immediately placed on duty on ships that served support functions well away from actual combat. Unfortunately, circumstances let a few slip through to ships like the Saratoga that had not only seen combat but came damn close to being destroyed.

“No Ensign,” Douglas snapped playing the hard-nosed first officer, “keep your eyes on your duty station and your mouth shut.”

“Aye sir,” the chastised young officer said before going silent.

Douglas glanced over at his captain and noticed both of his antennas twitching in what amounted to Andorians as silent laughter. While a few Academy cadets had unfortunately seen combat, young Ensign Reid hadn't despite a rather immature desire to experience the thrill, all in the name of defending the Federation.

The Tellarite science officer showed an uncharacteristic patience for the young human by allowing a second or two to slip by before continuing. “As I was saying captain, small raiding ships could well be hiding on the surface using a minimal camouflaged force field. But what caught my interest besides the shallow seas of liquid water underneath the surface ice were the localized magnetic fields themselves, there are suggestions of mathematical patterns.”

“Both Thrawn and Douglas sat up straighter in their seats. “Number One,” Thrawn said, “maybe young Reid is correct. I think a reconnaissance of the planet is in order.”

Commander Connor Douglas had served as Thrawn's first officer long enough to know where this was leading. “I'll order one of the runabouts to be readied. And after a few seconds of chagrined hesitation, “Ensign Reid you will join me on the away team.”



Despite the appearance of looking like a simple short-range shuttlecraft Starfleet runabouts were in fact actual full-fledged starships in their own right capable of warp five speeds allowing them to perform missions that require long range interstellar travel. With the rogue planet less than three lightyears away Commander Douglas was grateful for such a short trip.

“Going into standard orbit, sir,” Ensign Reid said, “and beginning close science scans.” From the runabout's viewport the rogue planet looked like a sphere of frozen green ice. Since there wasn't a star anywhere around for lightyears the image was just a holographic trick. If they had viewed the planet without the image enhancements it would have appeared just as a black circle blocking out a portion of the stars in the background.

“Good job Ensign,” Douglas responded, “Lieutenant Belzer stay alert on the tactical scans. There's still a chance a few of our enemies could be hiding somewhere.”

“Aye sir,” the young security specialists said at the station where she sat.

Douglas was himself manning the runabout's weapons and shields ready to respond if in fact encounter enemy forces. But it didn't take long for both Reid and Belzer to find interesting things on the scanners.

“Commander,” Belzer called out, “I'm detected two small ships. One Jem'Hadar and the other Cardassian although neither is a danger because they're running on extremely low power.”

“Ensign, get the coordinates from tactical and plot a course to that location.” Douglas said prepping the weapons just in case despite the fact he didn't believe they would be needed.

Minutes later the runabout is hovering twenty meters above and in front of the two enemy ships. Both were partially encased in jagged ice structures with thin filaments of light running to them from beneath the surface. Near the Cardassian ship was a fresh crater that to Douglas looked like it had been created with energy weapons.

“I'm dropping shields and powering down weapons folks,” Douglas said to the other two people with him.

“Commander,” Reid said, “the magnetic distortions are off the scale here. Whatever is happening appears to have tapped into the systems of each ship. Shouldn't we keep shields up?”

“Ensign, what is the purpose of Starfleet?” Douglas asked while running several exobiology scans.

“Starfleet is the peacekeeping and defensive arm of the Federation.” He said not sure where Douglas was heading.

“Sounds like you were an admirer of Professor Stewart at the Academy,” Douglas said remembering his own classes with the cantankerous individual.

In an attempt to promote diverse views, and to observe the behavior of cadets, Starfleet Academy allowed Professor Anton Stewart to teach a class on possible threats to the Federation. Stewart was in many ways a paranoid throwback to the days when Earth was divided up into competing nation-states all believing in their own unique exceptionalism. He believed that the Federation was far too open and welcoming to alien species and that the borders should be closed with Starfleet being turned into a full-fledged military organization. Thankfully, most cadets ignored his rantings realizing that while his viewpoint ran counter to everything Starfleet and the Federation was dedicated to, suppressing his opinion would only make him a martyr to his few supporters.      

 “That sounds like some of the crap he tried to pass off when I attended," Douglas said. "No Ensign, our primary job is to seek out new life and new civilizations, I admit being cops and soldiers is part of wearing the uniform. But if we define ourselves under Stewart's parameters we will become no better than the old nations of Earth and they almost killed each other off with their fears. No, Starfleet is something far different and the sooner you learn that the better.”

“Commander how do you explain the Dominion and species like the Borg, they know nothing but conquest and assimilation,” Reid asked back.

“I admit, our way is the more difficult because we have to take chances and that means every once and a while we will find a lifeform that doesn't share our beliefs. But to hide behind defenses and constantly prepare for nothing but war is no way to live. You remember early twenty-first century history, back then the nations of Earth knew nothing but fear. Billions went hungry and died of simple illnesses because vast war machines had to be kept manned and up to date all because of the fear someone might be lurking in the shadows. Those fears feed on themselves and eventually lead to the Eugenics Wars and monsters like Khan Singh. The human race finally had to come to the realization that fear was poison and that the only way around it was to build bonds of trust no matter how hard it seemed before things started to get better.”

Douglas waited for Reid to say something else but the young man remained silent. “Okay Reid,” Douglas said, “land the runabout next the ships and then suit up. Unless I'm very wrong we're about to make first contact.”

***

Douglas stepped out of the now decompressed runabout and onto the surface of the planet. For a moment, he looked up to gaze at the glory of the galaxy without using any of the image-enhancements technology integrated within the helmet of his environment suit. “This is why we make the big bucks,” he said out loud.

“Excuse me sir,” Reid said puzzled at the expression he had just heard.

“Nothing, just keep your eyes on your tricorder readouts and your hands off the phasers. I'm not sure how this will unfold but I do not want any misunderstandings with the natives.” Douglas them switched on the image-enhancer inside his helmet turning the surface of the rogue planet into something he could see. When the image stabilized he started walking towards the enemy ships with Reid following behind.

“Commander,” Belzer called from the runabout, “energy levels just jumped again. And I'm detecting movement inside the Cardassian raider.”

Douglas and Reid were fifteen meters from the two ships when a humanoid form appeared out of the Cardassian craft. The computer generated images inside their helmets couldn't keep up so for almost a minute the emerging figure walking towards them was just a dark silhouette. As this was going on Douglas was playing with the universal translator mounted to the sleeve of his environmental suit. When Douglas and Reid were just a few meters away from the figure the resolution cleared up and they saw a Cardassian standing in front of them. It was a male and he was covered with oddly shaped shards of ice containing filaments of light which stretched back to the ship

“I am Commander Connor Douglas, of the Federation starship Saratoga, who are you,” he said not really knowing if he was addressing a Cardassian or something else.

The body of the Cardassian just looked at them for several seconds with pulses of light running along the filaments towards the ship and then back out to body. “We are the Troe,” it said slowly as if speaking was something unbelievably bizarre and new, “why have you invaded out domain?”

“My people and I have no intention of invading your domain. We will leave immediately if you want but the body of the being you control and the others inside the ships have attacked my people and wish to enslave them. We were watching for our enemies as we passed close to your domain when we detected a fragment of a distress call originating from here but as we scanned we also noticed your civilization. My people seek out new lifeforms in an attempt to peacefully exchange knowledge and ideas. On behalf of the Federation I offer friendship and the possibility of both our peoples developing a greater understanding of the universe.”

“Your words have meaning to us,” the Troe said speaking through the Cardassian, “but we have been alone since the beginning of awareness and knowledge of the beings living in the greater realm outside our domain is so new and strange. Please leave now, but we have learned much of the metallic structures that brought the first beings here. We will make contact with you when we are ready.”

With that Douglas slowly backed away and grabbed Reid's arm. “You heard the entity Reid, we are not welcome for now.”

Captain Thrawn had slowed the convoy to warp three to allow the runabout to catch up. Once Douglas and his people returned to the Saratoga, Thrawn pushed the convoy back to warp five. After briefing both Thrawn and a positively ecstatic Tallas Bin, Commander Douglas slipped off to Saratoga's bar to unwind. Much to his chagrin he was soon joined by Ensign Reid.

“Excuse me sir, but I have a few questions.”

“Have a seat then, and ask away,” Douglas said.

“Sir, how did you know the Troe would want to contact and not do the same to us as they had the Jem'Hadar and the Cardassians?”

“The short answer would be that I didn't really know what would happen. But we didn't try to blast holes in the ice like the Cardassians, that's why I powered the weapons down before we landed. Call it an educated guess, but from the looks of the landing site I got the impression that the Jem'Hadar probably shot up the first emissary the Troe sent forcing them to engulf their attackers. It also looked like at least one of the Cardassians tried to establish communications but something went wrong, maybe he got nervous and pulled a weapon.”

“So what you're saying sir is that you gambled our lives on a hunch all in attempt to avoid conflict?” The Ensign said trying to understand everything that happened.

“That's why we make the big money Ensign,” Douglas said with a smile.

That only confused Reid more, “But sir, we don't use things like money in the twenty-forth century.”

Douglas just groaned, “Go look up the reference on the library computer Ensign before I assign you to the biological waste reprocessing department.”

(Author's note: Just for giggles here are two pictures so you can get an idea as to what Andorian and Tellarites look like. Oh Yeah, Commander Douglas will return in another story.)

Captain Thrawn





LCDR Tallas Bim