1. Chapter 1 by FalseBill
Captain’s Log: March Ninth 2160. We have detected a Daranaean vessel drifting at the extreme edge of our sensor range. As such we have changed course to intercept and provide any assistance that we can. We should rendezvous with the drifting vessel in about three hours.
Erika ended recording the official ship log and then began to record her personal journal.
Captain Erika Hernandez Personal log: March Ninth 2160. In less than three hours time we shall intercept a drifting Daranaean ship, I must admit that after our last distasteful meeting with this species, I had hoped not to cross paths with them again. Based upon our last meeting back in February, I strongly believe this species to be generally misogynist as evident by their keeping of women in three distinct caste.
I can’t foresee this next meeting of our respective civilizations to be any easier to manage than the first.
Maeppa, the silver fur first of the late Captain Allemus, looked at the Vinnis’ last remaining male Daranaean crewmember, a rather pathetic mottle brown fur individual by the name of Vincre, who was crouched by an open panel.
“I’m expensive. I am worth more than your annual salary,” railed Maeppa. “So why am I forced to shiver here with just a single large blanket?”
Vincre stated, “Because our unknown attackers have left us without main power and every other crew member dead, most of the ship can no longer sustain life, thus we are cut off from our supplies. I’m busy trying to reroute enough emergency power to send a distress signal before we all freeze to death or the atmosphere cleaner fails or the hull buckles. So be grateful for that large blanket, it is more than the Third or I have.”
“I am Expensive!” retorted Maeppa.
“Right now you are not expensive! You can’t fix any of our damage systems and you are using up valuable oxygen and hindering my ability to focus on the work that might yet save our lives,” replied Vincre.
“I’m cold, you should fetch me another blanket, I will reward you with great pleasure if you do,” said Maeppa. She leaned forward seductively and stiffly moved a hand up to stroke the whiskers of the small male.
Vincre pulled away and turned his attention back to the open panel and began to re-wire the system within. “There is no point in offering yourself to me. If I waste time in my self pleasure, I will not be able to complete sending the distress call before the last of our power fails. We could then only look forward to dying in some unpleasant manner. So go away! Go help the Third search for items of value to our survival. Because right now, you have less value to me than her.”
Maeppa turned sharply on her heel and walked away clearly humiliated by the lower crewmember’s insult.
Columbia dropped out of warp near the drifting vessel.
Erika stared at the dark ship on the view screen and she simply commanded, “Report.”
Lieutenant Roget at the science station spoke first. “Captain, its hull markings, configuration and composition is virtually identical to the other Daranaean Vessel we encountered last month.”
Ensign Stacey Young at the armory station interjected, “Captain, the ship’s damage is consistent with plasma weapons and the resident weapon signature does match known Romulan weapons.”
“Any sign of a Romulan warp trail?” asked Erika.
“No Captain, and given the half life decay of the Romulan weapon signature, I suspect this happened at least a couple of days ago,” said Stacey.
“Captain, I’m detecting two life signs but they don’t appear to be in a good condition,” said Rogot.
“Okay identify a docking port and have a shuttle pod prepped, ask Doctor An to meet me ASAP in the Hangar.”
“Captain, I don’t believe the Shuttle pod is a valid option,” Rogot stated.
“Why not?” asked Erika
“I can’t identify a safe route from any of the other ship’s docking port to the area with the life signs,” Rogot informed Hernandez, before continuing with news he imagined she wouldn’t like to hear. “I believe you’re going to need to use the transporter to get near them.”
Stacey added, “Captain, the hull is degrading at an unusually high rate. I would recommend any boarding team wears environmental suits.”
Accordingly, Hernandez sighed wearily. “Great! A trip via the chamber of horrors, in bulky space suits.”
Moralia was a female Daranaean of the third caste and a lifetime of servitude meant that she knew her place in society. So she took what little pride she could in doing her assigned tasks, therefore when the male Vincre has asked her to go and collect all the spare tools and blankets, she had happily done as he instructed.
Moralia hadn’t found much in her search but had found a few extra large blankets and another engineer toolkit, which she was now taking back to Vincre. Her journey, however, was slowed by her pouchling’s excessive movements. Perhaps it had picked up the First Maeppa scent of fear or more likely the smell of death that hung over the Vinnis.
Moralia arrived back to the location where she had left Vincre working and was shocked to see Maeppa stood over Vincre’s prone body. From the bloody wench Maeppa held in one hand and the matching impression in Vincre caved-in head, it was all too clear what had occurred in her absence.
Maeppa seemed to be ranting at Vincre despite the rather large and still pool of blood around his head. Moralia didn’t know what to do for the best and so she tried to remain still and unobserved, a trick that she had found useful in her long life as a loyal servant.
However, a sudden twisting movement inside her pouch by her pouchling caused her to gasp out. Maeppa looked up and Moralia saw a cool murderous fury in her dark eyes.
Maeppa manically cried out aloud, “He dared to say I was inexpensive, that I had no value! I’m Maeppa - a first! I was sold to this ship captain for seven hundred and eighty three Stouds! I’M EXPENSIVE!”
Moralia pulled away from the now shouting Maeppa and dared not match her eyes, unsure what to say in reply or what to do next for the best.
Then Maeppa advanced upon Moralia. Maeppa slowly raised the bloodstained wrench high and as she did she said in a disturbing voice, “He dared to say that here and now, you - a mere lowly third - had more value than me! So he had to die!”
Moralia tried to slowly back away from Maeppa in desperation for both her own life and for her young pouchling. In an attempt to stop Maeppa she replied, “You’re the first you had to act...”
Maeppa interrupted and said with a voice full of malice, “Oh, there will be no worming your way out of this. You’ll soon join him in the place of good smells, and then no one will question my value again. No one will hear the story of a day I was valued less than a member of the third caste. Stay still and I will make it quick.”
Moralia began to whimper. Her lifetime of servitude to Maeppa as the Captain Woman, meant Moralia was struggling to disobey and flee. However Moralia’s love for the Pouchling she carried inside her was great and so she turned and ran.
As the transporter beam faded away and was replaced by the alien ship interior, Captain Hernandez’ eyes quickly adjusted and she could see the horror show in front of her, and was grateful for the EV suit that would keep out the smells of death.
The halls were lined with the dead. Someone had placed the paws of the dead over their eyes. It was clear that a good minority of those casualties were females either pregnant or with young in their pouches, all killed during the Romulan attack.
“Such a waste,” said Erika.
“Well at least in death they all get treated the same,” said Doctor An.
“This might be extraordinary circumstances Doctor, and not the best way or time to judge a culture,” replied Erika.
“Captain, I’ve a pinpoint the life signs and they’re getting weaker. They’re coming from the next room, that way,” said Stacey as she indicated a door off to the left.
“Let’s see if we can find out what the story is here,” replied Erika as she headed towards the door.
The door opened first time but Erika wished it hadn’t when she saw what lay beyond.
Captain’s Log: March Ninth 2160 supplemental. I’m sorry to report that the Columbia didn’t reach the Daranaean vessel Vinnis in time to render any meaningful aid, as by the time we reached them all members of the crew had died either as direct response to what we believe was an Romulan attack or from secondary issues arising from that attack. Ensign Tate has send a message on the Daranaean frequencies with the ship locations details and another one of their ship has acknowledged and is on its way to collect the ship and what remains of the crew.
We were left with one final mystery, which due to a lack of physiological data on the Daranaeans we are not able to answer at this time. It seems three of the occupants survived for some time after the others but then one of the females choose to kill the others for unknown reasons. She clearly took the male unaware but the other female evidently with child in pouch fought back. Sadly, both females had sustained fatal wounds by the time we arrived and despite the best efforts of Doctor An Nguyen, we were unable to save the mother at the scene, or the pouch child back in sickbay due to a lack of time to build a satisfactory incubator pouch. However, before she died the mother left me with the enigmatic words: ‘Today was the day a third was worth more than a first’. Neither my crew nor I can ascertain the meaning of these words. As such the Daranaeans remain as much an enigma as the Romulans.