Previously: Episode Three
JUMPER’s LOG, Star Date 2266, November 6th (1 Year, 3 Months, 6 Days)
Five Months later, we arrived at Barghest B-II, a lush L-Class World, teeming with flora and fauna, and right on the edge of three minor polities’ space. The Ka’ash, the Tanu, and the Nausicaans all claimed the system and all of them were warlike enough to fight over it… and the others all knew it. Ambassador Trent Riordan to the Ka’ash, Ambassador Carter Haught to the Tanu, and Ambassador Sarek to the Nausicaans had suggested that the Federation might act as impartial mediator to settle the debate and perhaps stop a war or three. Potemkin was there to serve both as guarantor of the peace and as a not so subtle reminder to all the alien races that, while they might have local power, the Federation could easily swat all three like bugs… at the same time.
The advance party had erected a prefabricated pavilion with separate enclosures for each of the three races to withdraw to, as well as one for the mediators, with ensuite facilities as necessary, as well as providing each of the four delegations with their own kitchen. As my mother in this reality was a close acquaintance of Ambassador Sarek, I was assigned the somewhat dubious honor of attending the Ambassador as his aide. One must understand that, to Vulcans, such pleasantries are both traditional and meaningless. The concept of service to others is ingrained and practiced, but service on such a small scale, which to humans would be gratifying, is to Vulcans merely the respect due an elder. Of course, Sarek was an impressive figure, accomplished as a diplomat and well respected by both Vulcans and non-Vulcans alike, but his area of study, the social sciences and their niceties, failed utterly to impress me. I was a Medical Doctor, a Scientist, and Engineer. I worked with the empirical, not the subjective (except inasmuch as the experience of time or pain is subjective).
A way to measure just how poorly a peace talk is going… Is it giving a Vulcan a tension headache? If the answer is yes, then things are not going well. The term Ambassador Riordan used was “Intractable”. The three sides were well into the posturing and threat making and five times in the last three days the Ambassadors had had to call for a time out to let tempers cool. At one point, the Ka’ash representative, Johel, had actively tried to attack the Nausicaan representative, Kahahgan Hagah-ha, despite the nearly 3 to 1 size advantage and 10 to 1 strength advantage the Nausicaan had on the Ka’ash. I’d been forced to use the Vulcan Nerve Pinch on the diminutive Johel, something that did not please his aides one bit… and which I think may have offended the Nausicaans as well.
The problem was that all three parties felt they deserved the planet and none of them were willing to budge a centimeter or, as humans would say, horse trade. Of course, that all became irrelevant when Tanu representative Shrill-Cry-of-Waking was found assassinated after the mid-day break. There is a moment in physics where pressure and temperature are perfectly aligned and matter can be a solid, a liquid, and a gas all at once. For water, that point is defined at 0.01 degrees celsius and 611.657 pascals (approximately 0.006 atmospheres), at that moment, water can both freeze and boil. That’s what happened at Barghest, metaphorically speaking. Within moments of the discovery, the compound was on lockdown. The shield protecting the pavilion from outside conditions and lifeforms sealed everyone inside and tempers instantly boiled over. No weapons had been permitted into the pavilion, but that hadn’t stopped either of the two remaining representatives from drawing impressive looking knives and beginning to circle each other. Nor had it stopped whoever’d stabbed Shrill-Cry-of-Waking from bringing in that knife. I sighed, flicking my wrist and two twin barreled pulse blasters (that I’d carefully spent the last 4 months constructing in the Warehouse’s workshop every time I could get away), appeared in my hands. “I would request that both of you lay down your knives and step away from each other. These weapons can be slightly finicky as the last person I used them on discovered before his head exploded. I think I’ve managed to step down the power to be merely incapacitating, but I can not be sure. So please. In the name of diplomacy, don’t make me hurt either of you. It would be bad for my career. And probably violate my hippocratic oath.”
The Ambassadors just gaped at me, the representatives glowered… but they laid down their weapons and backed away… I can’t say from the table, since the Ka’ash representative was standing on it, but he walked to the far edge. “Now what?” He snapped.
“You have Weapon, Vulcan. You killed-”
“Oh, shut up Nausicaan. You’re smarter than that. If I’d wanted to kill Shrill-Cry-of-Waking I could have done it undetectably.” I tossed one of the pistols to Ambassador Riordan and the other to Ambassador Haught, then tapped my science insignia. “This means I’m a Doctor, in case you’d forgotten. I’m a xenobiologist, and as it happens, the highest ranking Starfleet Officer in the compound. (That wasn’t technically true. One of the cooks was a full Lt, but I don’t think he was going to argue with me over it.) Now, we’re all going to behave like civilized sophonts while I examine the body.” The Tanu second squawked a bit at that, but I just shot it a challenging eyebrow lift. “Problem?” It shook its head (The Tanu have an intermediary gender that acts to incubate their young while providing no gametes of its own).
“Good.” I snatched up my tricorder and set to scanning, but suspicious as I am, I already knew what I’d find. I considered long and hard, then 10 minutes later, returned to the main room, where tensions were so thick you could spread it on toast. “Ambassadors, Representatives… I know who the murderer is. Representative Johel, you’re certain it was Representative Kahahgan Hagah-ha or one of her men, correct?” The Ka’ash grunted. “And Representative Kahahgan Hagah-ha, you’re certain it was Representative Johel or one of his men, Correct?” “Weapon too small for Nausicaan Hand.” “Riiight. Regardless, Would you both agree that, whoever the culprit is, their faction should immediately recuse themselves from this conference?” Again, there was a slight but noticeable squawk from the Tanu second, in protest or agreement was hard to judge. The two remaining Representatives eyed each other with loathing, then nodded. “Excellent. Because Representative Shrill stabbed himself.”
The disbelief hammered at me from all sides. I think even Sarek said “What?!” The Tanu second simply broke down in tears. “He stabbed himself. He propped the knife up on the back of his chair, then slammed himself back onto it.”
“Preposterous!” “Where’s your proof!” “Lies!” “Ka’ash Puppet!”
“Oh, stuff it. Look..” I brought up the images I’d taken and the analysis I’d done. “There are no non-Tanu DNA traces on the knife, which means it had to be one of the Tanu… but look, see this rip on the back of the chair? It matches the hilt of the knife. And see this heavy cord from the Tanu Flag, lying on the floor behind the chair? It was almost certainly draped over the knife to keep it balanced. And see where the Representative’s fingers have clawed the desk? That’s from spasms after he pushed himself back onto the knife.”
“But why would he do this?” Ambassador Haught asked. “It must have been excruciating.”
“To start a war between these two.” I said, nodding at the Ka’ash and Nausicaan in turn. “The Tanu population growth rate is at least twice that of either of your races, possibly as high as five times that of the Nausicaans. The Tanu are desperate to expand their territory and if you two destroyed your fleets battling each other, you’d be easy pickings. Oh, and I wouldn’t try attacking them in retaliation, they’ve got enough ground troops to swamp either of your forces and pretty much nothing to lose. I can’t do anything for the Tanu. That’s an internal matter that your government is going to have to deal with, but giving you another planet to wildly overpopulate seems like feeding an addict. As for you two. This planet is pretty much perfect for the Ka’ash. It’s temperate, warm, and wet. That makes it marginal for you Nausicaans, you prefer things gloomy, dry, and cool. Might I suggest that there are at least three planets along the Nausicaan-Ka’ash border that are currently being used as mining colonies by the Ka’ash, that would suit the Nausicaans better. Certainly mineral rights on inhospitable planets are worth less to the Ka’ash than a fully colonizable world would be.”
“We need those planets for strategic-”
“No this planet is ours, Vulcan-”
“Give it a rest. You two are so all fired set against compromise that you almost let a third party trick you into going to war. The logic of it escapes me. So decide. Are you going to fight over this planet and let the Tanu pick your bones clean or are you going to make a deal? Either way, I’d like to get this over with so I can go back to my quarters and await court martial for smuggling weapons into a diplomatic mission. Anyway, it is almost suppertime and I am partial to the cook’s Coq-au-vin.” And with that I stepped back from the table and fell into parade rest. Of course, even getting them talking didn’t stop the wrangling that ensued, but by the end of the evening we had a settlement. It even tossed a couple of bones the Tanu’s way, mostly because that was the only way to make any of this work.
And yes, I was called before the Captain. “Care to explain yourself?”
“What I said, or the presence of the guns?”
“What you said and the various parties’ takes on it is already on file. Do you have anything to add to that record?”
“Then the weapons.”
“I know they’re against regulation.”
“But they’re something I’ve been working on. They’re Sonic disrupters, designed to incapacitate a target without damaging them. I… the first time I fired one was just after we’d been transported back from the Minos.”
“You had it with you in sickbay?”
“Not… exactly. And I didn’t exactly have them on me on Barghest.”
“I… I’d better demonstrate.”
“Is it safe?”
“It is.” I flicked my wrist and a hypospray materialized in my grasp.
“How did you do that?”
“Microtransportation Fabricator. It’s… it’s power intensive. Each one…” I pulled up my sleeve, “can only be used once an hour or so and then it has to recharge… that takes 4 or 5 hours, depending on the drain.
“Where does it transport stuff from?”
“It doesn’t. It has a set of basic patterns and everything else is mostly carbon and silicon structures. It draws the materials from the belt unit.”
“The belt Unit?”
“Yes sir” I lifted my tunic to show the thin, money-belt-like object I was wearing “It weighs half a kilogram and the mix can be almost anything. I even have a pair of dilithium crystals, small ones, in this section.” I tapped the smallest armored section.
“You… designed this?”
“Yes sir, for away missions where I might need a tool I don’t have.”
“Or a pair of sonic disruptor pistols.”
“Yes sir. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the man from the Minos earlier. I was just reaching down to get my Uniform when he appeared and threatened me. I reacted and shot him before he could do more. I… it accidentally triggered another device I’ve been working on.”
“A personal emergency transporter. It… I thought there might be a way to make the ship’s buffer system trigger a site to site transport. Within the ship. Say, from Engineering to Sickbay.”
“I can’t quite get it to work right. It transports okay, but keeps fuzing the relay I’m using.” This was, in fact, true. I couldn’t quite figure out why though and it was driving me bonkers.
“Why aren’t you an Engineer?”
“I like Medicine.”
“And tinkering with deadly weapons.”
“I like saving lives. Sometimes that means having the right scalpel.”
“I could have you court martialed… twice, in fact.”
“I am expecting that you will. It is the logical thing to do.”
“I’m not going to. Do you know why?”
“Human Intuition. You saved our lives back on Minos. Stopped a war… or at least postponed one, down there. But no more black project experimentation… at least with weapons and transporters. If you have an idea, run it by me… and the Chief Engineer. Now, you will report to Lt. Commander Kobok and share with him everything you’ve discussed with me. The microtranspo… the fabricator, the disruptor, the emergency transport. I’m assigning you to Engineering for 2 shifts a week, understand?”
“Oh, and good job Lieutenant.”
“Thank you sir.”
Next: Episode Five