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Haulage

Posted on Mar 24, 2018 @ 9:18pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: The Trouble With Triticale

"HAULAGE"

(Continued from "Puppies And Kittens")

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Captain's log, supplemental - with the ship safely docked at Starbase One and most of the crew on leave, I have taken the opportunity to explore some of the more isolated parts of my own homeworld...

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Location: Tierra del Fuego
Stardate: [2.18]0324.1320
Scene: Isolated Beach


Michael Turlogh Kane was standing on a windswept headland that overlooked the mouth of the Beagle Channel. He was the only Human for miles around. Six hundred years ago, HMS Beagle, carrying the subsequently-famous naturalist Charles Darwin, discovered this channel that permitted passage through the southern extreme of Tierra del Fuego, and now, six hundred years later, Kane was doing much the same thing.

His little campsite was some distance away, tent fluttering in the breeze that never really dissipated. There was not much shelter from the ravages of the southern Atlantic down here, but the payoff was spectacular views and solitude. Some miles behind him, ice-capped mountains loomed up out of the earth, sloping downward to beaches speckled with coarse, brown-green grass. This place was desolate, to be sure, but it was a beautiful desolation.

He was wearing a thick, synthetic blue anorak, and brown thermal boots, and was sporting a light beard. The past few days had been enjoyable enough, despite the chilly temperatures - a pod of baleen pygmy whales had been nosing around in the channel, and he had spent the past few afternoons watching them breach the water and listening to them singing. The silence of nature was a welcome relief from a year in space - the constant background rumble of the warp engines, the close contact with eight hundred other people aboard a starship - and Kane secretly hoped that Starfleet would take their sweet time about dreaming up a new mission for the Phoenix.

[[Phoenix to Captain Kane.]]

He caught sight of a little austral blackbird, balancing precariously on a swaying frond of thick grass. The bird's head moved quickly back and forth, and it too sang out its song.

[[Phoenix to Captain Kane.]]

Out in the cold water, one of the pygmy whales breached itself, diving down backward into the water with a huge splash. The breeze from the ocean blew stark and cold into Kane's face.

[[Phoenix to Captain Kane. Come in, please.]]

Kane forced himself to listen to it. His communicator was attached to the left breast of his coat, where it would be on his uniform. It was Byte's voice, calling down to him from somewhere above, and given the fact that he was supposed to be on shore leave, the message from above could only mean one thing - Starfleet's dream had come to fruition. The galaxy was intruding on him once more.

He touched his communicator. "I can hear you, Mister Byte."

To its credit, the android sounded apologetic. [[Starfleet Command has issued a recall for all Phoenix officers and crew, sir. New mission orders incoming.]]

Kane took a moment to bid farewell to the blackbird on its stem, to the whales in the bay, and to the Earth in general. A fleeting visit, but there were other worlds in the heavens, other vistas beyond this one. "Understood, Mister Byte. Contact me again in ten minutes for transport. Kane out."

He trudged back to his tent and began to pack up, wondering where in the galaxy they were being sent to this time.

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The Federation Role Playing Game Presents
A Mind's Eye Production of a Collective Film

STAR TREK PHOENIX: THE TROUBLE WITH TRITICALE

Starring
Sarah Albertini-Bond as Iphigenia Bonviva
Shawn Collins as Commander Jake Crichton
Kenneth Field as Lieutenant Tomas' Vukovic
Alix Fowler as Major Kassandra Thytos
Jamie LeBlanc as Dr. Aerdan Jos
Susan Ledbetter as Lieutenant Eve Dalziel
Ranjani Sabarinathan as Lieutenant Jasmine Yu
Marko Sertic as Lieutenant Cantor Von
Phillip Wright as Ensign Lynette Ryan
Jerome McKee as Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

FEATURING A CAST OF THOUSANDS
WRITTEN BY THE CREW OF THE USS PHOENIX

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Location: Starbase One, Earth orbit
Scene: Conference room


From Tierra del Fuego to high orbit in less than a quarter of an hour. Kane was waiting patiently outside Admiral Wang's office, his belongings already beamed ahead to the Phoenix. The admiral's office overlooked one of the main promenades of the Starbase, and Kane looked down at the throngs of people moving to and fro down that main artery - men and women, Human and non-Human, Starfleet and civilian. He was back among the living, part of the hive again.

The door to the admiral's office hissed open, and Admiral Wang Min beckoned him through. She was an ageing Asian woman, only around five-and-a-half feet tall, with sharp cheekbones and glossy black hair she kept tied in a tight bun. She was wearing one of the new-style flag officer's uniforms - all black with a gold-banded red stripe across the upper chest.

Admiral Wang was not alone in her office. An older male Tellarite with a Rear Admiral's rank pip was also standing by her desk. He was slightly overweight, with deep-sunken eyes that were slightly crossed. For a Tellarite, his skin seemed quite pale, being a light shade of pink.

Admiral Wang's office was smaller than Kane expected, about comparable to the Phoenix's conference room. One of her walls was a large window that looked out upon the same promenade he had been observing moments ago, and the wall opposite that was dominated by a beautiful computer-rendered map of the Terran solar system.

Admiral Wang held out her hands, as if she was creating an invisible energy link between Kane and the Tellarite. "Captain Kane, this is Admiral Dvorak, the Head of Starfleet Engineering."

The Tellarite came around the desk, face lit up with a broad smile that offset his gruff voice. "A pleasure to meet you, Captain! The Phoenix was instrumental in ridding the Federation of the Neo-Essentialists, and we have your brave crew to thank for it!"

Kane inclined his head to them both. Saluting was outmoded, but it was always polite to offer some kind of deference to higher ranks. "Admiral Dvorak. Admiral Wang." He wondered why the commander of Starfleet Engineering had come to meet him. Perhaps something important was going on.

Admiral Wang moved to the wall with the map of the solar system. "I'm sorry to have to recall you from your shore leave, but we have a new mission for the Phoenix."

She touched a wall panel, and suddenly the map disappeared - Kane realised that the entire wall was, in fact, a computer screen - being replaced by a picture of a revolving M-class planet. The world on the screen was predominantly green-brown land with a few blue seas that looked like huge lakes. "This is planet FGC-24187 V, known as Sherman's Planet. Have you heard of it?"

Kane realised that his briefing for the new mission had already begun, and he snapped himself into the here and now. "Yes, sir. It's an outlying farming colony near the old Klingon border. Grows grain. A bread-basket world."

Admiral Wang was nodding. "Yes. Not everyone has access to a replicator. The farther you get from the core worlds of the Federation, the more likely the lifestyle is to be rough-and-ready. Farming colonies like Gault or Sherman's Planet provide the biomass to feed billions of Federation citizens who do not have ready access to replicator technology."

Kane looked at the moving picture on the screen. The planet had five tiny moons, that were more like large rocks caught in its orbit. "They farm grain there, if I remember correctly. And there are Klingons living there?"

Admiral Wang nodded again. "Yes. They harvest several thousand tonnes of quintotriticale every year. Vast swathes of the planet's surface is farmland, being tended to by automated robots. The Klingons you're referring to have been living there in peace for about one-hundred-and-fifty years." She held up her hands again. "The inhabitants of Sherman's Planet are not in any danger, nor is there any kind of emergency situation there. On the contrary, a major festival - James Kirk Day - is coming up on Sherman's Planet."

Kane frowned. "You mean *the* James Kirk?"

Admiral Wang clicked her thumb and index finger at him. "The same. One-and-a-half centuries ago, Kirk was instrumental in saving the planet from a foreign plan to destroy the grain. There's been a harvest festival every year in his honour. This year, the Federation is supplying Sherman's Planet with a cargo of the original triticale grain that was originally sown on the planet when it became a colony. This heirloom triticale is going to be planted in lieu of the standard quintotriticale for the upcoming season, and we have decided that the Phoenix will transport the heirloom triticale there."

Kane put his hands behind his back. He looked at Admiral Dvorak, but the Tellarite's face was expressionless. Reluctantly, he turned his attention back to Admiral Wang. "Sir, with respect - the Phoenix is a warship. It was built for battle, not grain transport."

Admiral Wang gave Admiral Dvorak a look that said I-told-you-so. She held out her hands placatingly. "Obviously Starfleet is aware of that, Captain Kane. The triticale is an excuse to visit Sherman's Planet, yes, but we need a warship to do it."

Admiral Dvorak stepped forward. He approached Kane and stood under his chin. "You see, Captain, many of the outlying colony worlds of the Federation were cut off and neglected from contact with the central government during the Neo-Essentialist crisis. As part of our rebuilding efforts, we need to show the flag along our borders again, to reassure colonists on distant worlds that Starfleet can protect them."

"I see." Kane sighed inwardly. What the admiral was saying made sense, he supposed. The Klingon Empire was a rump of its former self and posed no threat to the Federation, but Dvorak was correct in saying that the Neo-Essentialists concentrated their stranglehold on the inner systems of the Federation. They were neglectful and contemptuous of distant colonies, something that had never happened under previous Federation governments. Colonists on outlying worlds, who were already largely self-sufficient, had to be content with living on their own while the crisis unfolded.

Admiral Wang manipulated the wall panel again, zooming the scene out from the orbital view of Sherman's Planet to an overview map of the Donatu sector. "With the decline of the Klingons and the dissolution of the old border, several sectors of space have become neutral ground again. There has been some Orion Syndicate activity, but nothing to suggest they are planning to annex any of the nearby systems. The presence of the Federation's dreadnought will calm the fears of the local population and reassert Federation sovereignty over the Donatu sector. In the future, we hope to construct a Starbase in the region."

Kane nodded. Now he was understanding Starfleet's thinking. "I have another question. The Phoenix has several cargo bays, but they will need to be heavily modified if we're to carry a cargo of grain. How much are we talking about?"

"About one million tonnes of the stuff." Admiral Dvorak grinned as Kane's jaw dropped. "Don't worry, Captain. The Phoenix will not be carrying the grain - she will be hauling it."

Admiral Wang changed the picture again. Now it showed a huge cuboid container, easily the size of the Phoenix, stamped with the Federation insignia and showing its own registration number. "The Phoenix will tow this container from Starbase One to Sherman's Planet. The container will hold the triticale, and it will be attached to the Phoenix both by several hundred magnetic rivets, as well as about a dozen tractor beams."

"That's why I'm here," smiled Admiral Dvorak. "I've been overseeing the attaching of the container to the Phoenix for the past few days. There was a lot of math involved."

"No doubt," said Kane.

Dvorak chuckled. "Your engineering staff will need to do some minor calibrations to the warp engines. The warp field, you see, will need to be extended around the container in order to prevent it being torn apart as soon as the Phoenix breaks the warp barrier. I have already supplied the numbers to your chief engineer."

"As you can see, Captain Kane," said Wang Mine pointedly, "everything has been taken care of."

There was little more to be said. Orders were orders, and Kane had his.

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Location: Starbase One -> USS Phoenix
Scene: Docking corridor -> Turbolift


On his walk from Admiral Wang's office to the Phoenix's docking berth, Kane literally could see what the two admirals were talking about. The Starbase wasn't confined to and insular - there were parts of it built with expansive viewing ports so that people could look out at the stars or the Earth, or watch the starships arriving and departing in great bursts of light. Through one of these viewing ports, Kane caught glimpses of the Phoenix bearing her load.

The triticale container was huge, around the same length as the Phoenix herself, constructed in the shape of a cube. The container's hull was made of standard tritanium that speckled in the rays of the distant Sun - next to it, the gunmetal-grey hull of he Phoenix seemed grubby, like a jewel that had long lost its lustre. It was completely sealed, but there were several ports around each face of the cube that could, presumably, open in order to transfer the triticale to waiting shuttles, who would then fly the grain down from orbit to the surface of Sherman's Planet.

Kane also understood Admiral Dvorak's comments about needing to extend the Phoenix's warp field. As the Admiral had indicated, the container seemed to be attached to the Phoenix by dozens of magnetic rivets, each several metres long, as well as a number of small, focused sky-blue tractor beams, their light clashing with the violet glow of the Phoenix's nacelles. If the mighty starship jumped to warp speed, the container would not be able to withstand the violent shearing forces and would be destroyed - extending the warp field around the container would prevent this from happening.

Jake Crichton was waiting for him at the docking umbilical. The ExO was pacing back and forth, like he had other things on his mind, but he quickly straightened up when he saw Kane approach. "Captain, good to see you." Jake jerked a thumb over his shoulder in the general direction of the ship's stern. "All Phoenix personnel aboard, all systems online, but everyone wants to know what we're hauling and where we're going."

The two men fell into step together, heading for the nearest turbolift. "For once, we're not heading into any danger," said Kane. "The container is holding a million tonnes of triticale grain, and we're bound for Sherman's Planet."

Jake raised en eyebrow as they stepped into the turbolift. "I can't wait to hear Starfleet's reasoning on this one. Bridge."

The turbolift slid smoothly into motion. Kane nodded. "Senior staff meeting in ten minutes."

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Scene: Conference Room - deck 1, saucer section


Ten minutes later, the senior staff had assembled in the conference room, and Kane was passing around PADDs that contained their new orders. He kept a close eye on Kassandra Thytos for any reaction as she read it, and when the irascible marine's face froze in sudden alarm, he knew he'd gotten one. Everyone else seemed to take their new orders in stride.

"Mister Byte," said Kane, "some information on Sherman's Planet, if you please."

The android took a moment to access its files. {{A Federation member world in the Donatu sector, close to the old Klingon border region. Class M planet with six small natural satellites. Although Starfleet has long been desirous of militarising that sector by constructing an orbital space station, the local inhabitants have consistently voted against such a measure. Capital settlement is named Port Emily. Planetary population approximately one hundred million, spread out across the planet. The majority of the population work in agri-industry, but large towns such as Port Emily also support traditional industry and commercial zones. Sherman's Planet is administered by a civilian council in the capital settlement, which elects one delegate to the Federation Assembly.}} The android paused before continuing. {{One of the most notable features of Sherman's Planet is the large population of Klingons living alongside the Human colonists. This came about as a result of an incident between the Federation and Klingon Empire one-hundred-and-sixty-five years ago, when both powers were vying over this region of space. The Klingons sent an occupying force onto the planet, but when the Organian Peace Treaty came into effect, those Klingons were abandoned by the Empire. After a period of internment, they were assimilated into Federation society. Today, there are several hundred thousand Klingons living on Sherman's Planet.}}

Karrington Crow, the chief science officer, leaned forward. "There's something special about those Klingons, right?"

Byte inclined its head in an approximation of a nod. {{Indeed, Doctor Crow. The Klingons living on Sherman's Planet are descendants of those who were infected with the Augment virus three centuries ago. As a result, they are superficially indistinguishable from Humans.}}

Malin-Argo shook his huge head. "The Augment virus?"

{{A modified form of Levodian flu that threatened to wipe out the Klingon race in the mid-22nd century, Commander,}} said Byte. {{It was inadvertently created by Klingon researchers who were attempting to bio-engineer enhanced warriors using DNA from genetically-modified Human embryos left over from Earth's Eugenics Wars. Those Klingons infected by the virus underwent extreme physical changes at the genetic level, including the dissolving of their facial and cranial ridges. They passed these genetic characteristics to their offspring, resulting in generations of Klingons who looked similar to, but who were also physiologically different from, Humans. These smooth-featured Klingons were a common sight along the Federation-Klingon border in the mid twenty-third century.}}

"Fascinating," rumbled the chief engineer. Apparently satisfied with the answer, he leaned back in his seat.

{{Smooth-featured Klingons are no longer encountered by Starfleet personnel,}} continued Byte amiably. {{It is possible that Klingon medicine developed a cure for the Augment virus, or that smooth-featured Klingons were ostracised to a degree that they are now extinct. It is known that there were fears that the smooth-featured Klingons would lose their status in Klingon society and - }}

"Thank you, Mister Byte," said Kane. He could see the android was spiralling off on one of its tangents. "The important thing to remember that this smooth-featured Klingon subspecies is alive and well on Sherman's Planet. They are Federation citizens and are under the protection of our laws - they are not foreigners." He looked as Kassandra. "Do you have anything to add, Major?"

Kass sighed. She seemed uncomfortable, but all eyes were on her. It was common knowledge that Sherman's Planet was her homeworld. She thought for a moment. "Y'all ain't gonna have no fun, an' that's a fact. People on Sherman's Planet are conservative an' insular like woah, 'specially the farmers what live way out inna boonies. Port Em'ly's not too bad, but ain't nothin' like what y'all are used ta on Earth."

"What about the Klingons?" asked Jake.

"What about 'em? Everyone knows 'em. They ain't no harm." Kass shrugged. "It's been nigh-on two hunnerd years. For the first generation or two they stuck to themselves, but ya know, bored teenagers are bored teenagers everywhere. There's been a fair degree o' inter-breedin' between the two populations - seems everyone's been gittin' inna everyone else's pants, 'specially since mosta the original Klingons were males. There're a lotta mixed families - most everyone has a Klingon neighbour or two. Any racial tensions are limited to stoopid teens posin' for their friends. Ain't no thing."

"Thank you, Major," said Kane. Kass had certainly given everyone at the table much to think about. He looked at the chief engineer. "Commander Malin-Argo, what is the status of the triticale container?"

"We are ready for warp speed," said the Grazerite. "We have conducted several simulated stress tests on the superstructure of the triticale container while under warp speed up to and including warp factor seven. In every simulation, the Phoenix's extended warp field has been sufficient to protect it from the shearing forces associated with acceleration to, and deceleration from, lightspeed." Malin-Argo held up his thick, meaty right hand. "However, we recommend that the ship does not exceed warp six-point-four on our voyage to the Donatu sector. Warp seven should be considered an emergency speed."

"How about the engines?" asked Jake. Kane watched as both the ExO and the chief engineer eyeballed each other. The interpersonal tension between the two of them wasn't exactly a secret. "We'll need to put out a lot of extra power in order to keep the warp field extended for such a duration."

Malin-Argo blinked. When he spoke, he directed his answer around the table, to the group in general. "While we were docked at Starbase, the ship's engines went through a full maintenance cycle. We will carefully monitor the intermix chamber during our voyage. We do not anticipate problems, but in the event of an engine malfunction, we will respond appropriately. I have complete confidence in the abilities of my staff."

"That is not what I meant, Commander Malin-Argo," said Jake testily. "The engines will be under increased strain for the duration of our voyage."

The Grazerite bristled. "I will supply you with a full report detailing the impact upon the engines of hauling an extra-ship vehicle the size of the triticale container. Will that suffice?"

"That will suffice," interjected Kane. "Are there any questions?" He looked around the table, but there were none. "Very well. Stations, please. We launch when all decks report ready."

The senior officers got to their feet and filed out - some to the bridge, some to the turbolifts.

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Scene: Bridge


Kane sat down in the centre seat, and watched the control panel on his right arm-rest as they readiness reports from each deck appeared on the small screen. The computer readout told him that the voyage to Sherman's Planet would take around a week at warp six-point-four, and he quietly hoped that the voyage would be a safe one and that Malin-Argo's expectations would all come to pass.

"All decks report ready," announced Jasmine at Tactical.

Kane nodded to Jake. "Take us out, Mister Crichton."

"Conn, set course for the Donatu sector," said Jake, getting to his feet. "Warp factor six-point-four."

On the main viewer, the starfield seemed to slowly revolve as Tomas' positioned the Phoenix in the correct direction. "Course laid in," reported the Borg.

From the bridge engineering station, Lynette Ryan was monitoring the engines. "Warp field extended around the triticale container, and holding."

"Engage," said Jake.

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Scene: Space


Against the backdrop of Earth and Starbase One, the Phoenix and its cargo seemed to stiffen as the inertial dampers automatically activated in response to the sheer volume of power building up in the ship's nacelles. Within her warp core, antimatter, in all its savage rage, was released from the Bussard collectors and expelled by volumes into the matter reactor - in a surge of power, the ship strained, eager to leap once again into the stars. Suddenly she snapped forward, like a rubber band being fired from the hand, in a flash of blue light, and was gone; the splash of light in the void of space the only signal that she and the triticale container had jumped into warp.

A new mission was underway, a new story was about to be written.

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NRPG: Aaaaaad we're off!


Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer
USS PHOENIX


"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117

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