Tales From the Pegasus #1
By Bernard Doove © 2007
The raven-black chakat grunted as shi broke hir fall, and then expertly used hir momentum to roll back onto all four feet into a defensive stance in a fraction of a second. Hir opponent, a tall heavyset male timber-wolf morph in his late thirties, grinned at hir smugly.
"I’m impressed," Midnight told him. "Not many people have managed to throw me successfully. However, you have made two mistakes."
"And what would those mistakes supposedly be? That throw was perfect!" he replied sceptically.
"First," shi replied, "this was supposed to be a standard training session, not a personal combat match. You don’t earn any points by taking me by surprise with a technique that isn’t on today’s schedule, nor even noted on your official skills list. Second, and far more importantly…"
While distracting him with hir talk, Midnight had been watching him to drop his guard. Shi saw hir opportunity, and without even realising how, the wolf found himself flying through the air. He barely managed to break his fall without incurring a bruising impact, but quickly discovered that he was pinned by the full weight of the felitaur’s feet on all four of his limbs, while one hand was around his throat, claws slightly pushing into his throat, the death blow carefully restrained.
Midnight continued, "Never stop to gloat. Never give your opponent a chance to recover. We are Star Fleet Security, and we may be in a kill or be killed situation. Your enemies will be doing a whole lot more than giving you a black mark against your record afterwards. Now get up!"
Shi released hir hold and backed off, but the wolf noted that hir body language suggested that it would be a bad idea to even consider continuing the fight. Besides, he still found it hard to grasp just how fast and powerful the Security Chief was. He was also embarrassed to have been made to look foolish in front of the rest of the security personnel gathered there for the compulsory training session. They were a mixture of morphs, humans and aliens, male and female, the best that Star Fleet had to offer. Right now though, they were all grinning in amusement at his discomfiture and censure, which did nothing to improve his mood.
"Okay," Midnight announced to get the attention of the group, "You’ve all seen what to do, and what not to do. Remember it well. Session’s over, so hit the showers. Martinson, report to my office in half an hour," shi told the wolf.
Chakat Midnight then left the training room to head back to hir cabin. As shi padded down the corridor, although outwardly relaxed, hir mind was ever alert to what was happening around hir. While hir eyes missed nothing, it was hir empathic sense that was most keenly at work. Although only possessing an average E3 rating, shi had honed that Talent to serve hir well. The vixen morph who had just passed hir was outwardly composed but very tired, yet had a glow of satisfaction – a night pleasantly passed with her companion instead of sleeping, shi presumed. Not hir business though. A male collie morph stalked past, studying the PADD in his hand, seething with discontent – if it continued, find out why and perhaps avert bigger troubles later. A human woman of African descent stepped out of the turbo-lift that Midnight waited for, and gave the chakat a pleasant "Good evening" and a charming smile – feelings of admiration with sexual overtones. Perhaps worth meeting for coffee sometime? Midnight stepped into the lift that was still occupied by a male human, also of the same racial background as the woman – indifference to the chakat, but frustration from being rebuffed uppermost on his mind.
"Believe me, she’s not your type," Midnight told the startled crewmember.
"Uh… if you say so, sir," the man replied.
Perhaps he would take heed. Perhaps not. Shi could only try to give advice to people in the interests of preserving peace and harmony on the ship, but outright interference was a no-no in these cases.
Leaving the turbo-lift, shi encountered the Caitian navigator, Murawrr, coming off shift. He greeted hir cordially, but his feelings were mostly of relief and anticipation – his mates awaited him, and he was very dedicated to them.
A typical sample of hir daily encounters – most were trivial, but some were worth following up. Today, one needed immediate action. First though, shi needed to freshen up. Once inside the cabin that shi shared with Rosepetal and their mate, Boyce, shi shucked hir sports halter and had a quick shower. Donning a clean standard uniform that was colour-coded with security grey, shi transferred hir comm badge to it, then headed out again to hir office, arriving well before hir appointment with Martinson.
The office was a decent size, but seemed cramped due to the amount of equipment in there. Monitoring devices of various kinds lined the walls on either side of hir desk, and the whole wall facing the desk was devoted to viewscreens that showed activity all over the starship. The wall behind the desk though was proudly reserved for framed certificates. A few were awards garnered from the many archery tournaments that shi had been in, a great deal of them as the victor. Also amongst the awards were some for martial arts. Hir proudest achievement was first place in the 2330 Inter-Services Freestyle Unarmed Combat division. That had been plenty tough, with hir extra limbs frequently countered by sheer size and strength. However, shi was a lot stronger than shi might look, as chakats often were despite their feminine appearance. Then there were the service awards, of which there were more than a few, located on the wall directly behind hir desk. It had taken years of hard work to achieve all that, and shi still spent considerable time honing hir skills. It was a display that was designed to impress and, if need be, intimidate.
Martinson turned up promptly, coming smartly to attention in front of Midnight’s desk. The chakat’s attention was on one of the several monitors on hir desk, but shi quickly turned to the man and said, "Sit down, Lieutenant. It’s about time that we talked about what you’re doing here on the Pegasus. Quite frankly, in the short time that you have been aboard, you have proven to be a disruptive influence in this department, and today’s stunt seems to be yet another in a long list that would indicate a superiority complex. Your rank would seem to indicate competence, but instead of using it to further the smooth operation of this ship, you seem keen to do the opposite. Would you care to explain your actions?"
Martinson seemed to be considering his alternatives. Midnight waited with feline patience, while monitoring his emotional state – defiance, self-righteousness, contempt, and a touch of concern. Eventually he came to a decision.
"Lieutenant Commander Midnight, I hereby inform you that you and your department have been the subject of evaluation for competence and performance. It has been my assignment to investigate the security of the Pegasus, the flagship of the First Fleet, and your running of this department, and frankly I’m unimpressed."
"Is that so? Do tell me more," Midnight said with a dangerous purr in hir voice.
Martinson was slightly disconcerted by the chakat’s utter indifference to his revelations, but he forged ahead anyway, oblivious of the unvoiced warning. "The recent sabotage on board the Star Corps space station highlighted the fact that even within the heavily interracial personnel of the Star Services, there are those who still bear prejudice against other species, in particular the Humans First sympathisers, but the reverse is also true. Security has supposedly been tightened even further, yet on this ship I have been putting various scenarios into action with dismaying results. I have to seriously question the competence of the Chief of Security on this ship, a chief who may have gotten that position solely by virtue of being mated to Admiral Kline rather than through qualifications for that job." He practically snarled that last accusation, but Midnight remained unperturbed.
"The awards behind me are but a few of the testaments to my competence in various fields and, as you should know, my record was unblemished in the Star Corps. I had to compete with several very fine officers for the position of Chief of Security on this ship when I transferred to Fleet to be with my denmate. Additionally, the Admiral being my mate makes me extra concerned for his welfare, a trait of chakats that is dangerously strong. No, I truly earned my position here, Lieutenant Fenris. You are just muck-raking, which makes me wonder even more about your methodology."
The wolf was shocked. "You know my real name? That isn’t public information! How long have you known, and how did you find out?"
"I’ve known from early in this voyage. You got to work very promptly, but one of the first people you approached reported the incident to me. After that, I started looking very hard into your background, and that’s when alarm bells started ringing for me. There were too many blanks in an otherwise very bland bio on you. By means I decline to disclose at this time, I found out your true identity, and I’ve been watching you, figuring out your true agenda ever since."
Fenris seemed to recover his poise. "So you think that you’re so clever just because you found out who I am? I’ve been running rings about your security arrangements, all without any of your team twigging to what I was up to."
"No, you’ve just been given enough rope," Midnight stated blandly.
"What?" Fenris queried, getting ever more irritated with the unflappable chakat.
"Surely you know the saying? You have been given enough rope to hang yourself, Lieutenant. Your movements have been noted well."
"Noted, but not stopped!" he snarled. "I have planted around this ship several dummy packages, the size and shape of either a remote-detonated explosive device or a circuit scrambler. If I had been a real saboteur, this ship could be anywhere from disabled in critical areas, to completely destroyed. How do you explain that?"
"You mean these packages?" Midnight asked as shi opened a drawer in hir desk and started pulling out several small electronic devices, each tagged with a note that said 'disabled'. "This one was planted under the Weapons Control station on the bridge, this one next to the anti-matter containment unit, the third inside the main Transporter, just like the one that sabotaged the Star Corps’ unit. The fourth was in the photon torpedo storage bay, and the final one planted in the Officers’ Lounge. All planted to hit key equipment and personnel. All checked within moments after you left and tagged, then left in place in case you ran a legitimate sabotage training scenario. They were only removed a short time ago when I decided to bring this situation to a close."
Fenris was shaken but not beaten. "If they had been real though, they could have been detonated before you had a chance to remove them."
"Please, Lieutenant, have you so little faith in Fleet’s own security devices? I had scanned and identified those packages long before you planted the first. I had someone standing by at a Transporter to beam it, and perhaps you, harmlessly into space if it had proven to be dangerous. You can be thankful that there wasn’t any real explosive material in those packages, or else you may have had a really bad day the first time that you tried to plant one." Midnight wasn’t above twisting the knife a little.
"You would have beamed me into space?" he asked, shaken by that cold statement.
"If that is what it would have taken to maintain the safety of this ship, yes," Midnight stated with deadly finality. "At that point I wasn't sure if you had a hidden agenda, so I was taking no chances.
Fenris shuddered. He had no doubt that the chakat meant exactly what shi said. "Very well. It seems that I have underestimated you and your team. You uncovered me promptly, yet kept me in the dark completely. I am forced to concede that your department is run competently after all, and you all deserve a glowing report."
"Good. Now that we have established that, you are now relieved of duty. Pack your things. You will be getting off at Starbase 2."
"What? I’m due to continue on to meet the Ulysses at Starbase 3," Fenris protested.
"More victims of your investigative methods, I suppose? You won't be going there. I want you off the Pegasus as soon as possible."
"You can’t order me off! I was assigned by Fleet Internal Security to do these tests."
"I not only outrank you, but chain of command puts you under my authority while aboard this ship. At worst though, I will refer my decision to the Captain whom I am confident will support me. You will be put off this ship, Lieutenant."
"Just because you were investigated, Lieutenant Commander?" Fenris sneered.
"No, because you represent the worst of what we are supposed to be guarding against. Your methods weren’t merely investigative but highly divisive. Under the guise of looking for problems, you instead have been creating them where none had existed before, stirring up bad feelings against humans. That was how you were discovered so quickly. Your task was to probe the crew for possible disaffection or any sign of security lapse. The sabotage on the Star Corps space station was traced back to a human technician with a grudge. Because his work included the Transporter room, he did not violate any security areas, so the only clues to such people are to be found in their behaviour. That's what you should have been doing, but you seem to have been spending an inordinate amount of time stirring up antipathy towards humans instead.
"So you say. It's my word against your suspicions," Fenris rebutted. "You could be trying to obscure your own failings with unfounded accusations against me," he added slyly.
"I am a chakat, a species with a Talent that people frequently overlook or underestimate. I have the evidence of my own senses which a Court Telepath can verify, the very reason why I, and other chakats, are being tested. We are to be used as another line of defence against saboteurs and the like. Even so, I needed a reason to be suspicious, and you have been pretty subtle in your efforts. Fenris, you weren't caught just by me. You were caught by my team. Since taking command of security, I have worked to create a team that knows and trusts each other. You were the sand in that well-oiled machine and were quickly singled out for attention. My team did their job admirably, giving me all the support and evidence that I needed to deal with you before I reported you to the captain. You asked me how I knew your real name? Well, let me tell you that there were two tests running aboard this ship, and you failed yours. The Captain congratulated me and the team for ferreting you out so quickly, and then informed me of your identity. You, Lieutenant Fenris, are under investigation by your own department for alleged subversive activities. You were deliberately assigned to this ship, not only captained by a human, but with a chief of security who was mated to him. The bait was dangled in front of you, and you took it completely. 'Humans First' has their counterpart in you, for whatever reason. You are a bigot, Lieutenant Fenris, and there is no place for the likes of you in Star Fleet. Your career is over. You will be met at Starbase 2 by F.I.S. agents and taken into custody."
Midnight touched a button and two fully-armed Security guards, a human and a Rakshani, stepped into hir office. Midnight continued, "You are under house arrest. You will be accompanied to your cabin where you will stay until we reach the Starbase."
"I’ll make sure you regret this, Lieutenant Commander Midnight!" Fenris snarled before being firmly escorted out of Midnight’s office.
The only thing that Midnight regretted though was that inevitably this would become public knowledge, and it would provide fuel for the Humans First movement. Morphs actively working against humans? It was a conspiracy theorist’s dream. Midnight sighed. Screening was always improving, but still some occasionally slipped through. Shi knew that Star Fleet Command would be forced to act, and they would try to keep it under wraps, but Fenris was the kind to raise a stink. No good would come of this, but he had forced hir hand.
Midnight shut down hir monitor and put other systems into standby mode, ready to serve hir and the ship’s needs at a moment’s notice. Shi secured hir office, then wearily headed back to hir cabin. Shi was tired of being the big tough Security Chief for today. Time to indulge the more sensitive side of hir nature. Hopefully the Admiral was in the mood for some serious loving tonight!
Characters and story copyright © 2007 Bernard Doove
except Admiral Kline who is © Boyce Garald Kline Jnr, and used with permission.
Illustrations by James L. Brandt.
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