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Chapter 3
By François Séguin

Cast of Characters: (Click on a name for picture)

Captain Arik DaGama (Lisbon, Earth)
Commander Lara Marelli (Earth), 1st Officer
Lieutenant Commander Thorn (Andor), COS, 2nd Officer
Lieutenant Commander Bilnik (El-Aur), Counselor
Lieutenant Brandon Tyler (Australia, Earth), OPS
Doctor Tiane Nevenis (Earth), CMO
Lieutenant Zordan (Benzar), CE
Ensign Eyana Sedi (Bajor), Security Officer
Ensign Valérie Veillant (France, Earth), Flight Controller

Captain's Log: Stardate 52026.4. We've just entered orbit around Aaltos II. I'm looking forward to meeting the Aaltosian leader. Even though diplomacy isn't one of my strongest suits, I do have some experience in dealing with planetary officials.
We've set up a meeting aboard Valhalla between the Aaltosian leader and the head of their neighboring world, Tenintai. Also present will be the Federation Ambassador to Aaltos II, Pierce Youngblood.

Commander Marelli, Lieutenant Commander Thorn and myself waited quietly in the transporter room for the delegates to arrive from their respective planets. We were superbly clad in our dress uniform.
My two officers didn't seem to mind the uncomfortable uniform, but I on the other hand, never having worn such a tight suit, found the neck to be quite unbearable. As I tugged at the top part of the uniform, trying to stretch it out a little so that I could breathe a little easier, the two commanders watched with amusement.
From the transporter controls, Ensign Burton announced the arrival of our guests. "I've just received the coordinates, Captain," said the broad-shouldered Ensign.
"Energize," I said.
Then, three figures shimmered into existence. Two of them appeared to be very tall. I assumed they were the Aaltosians. The third was shorter than the others, and dressed differently than them as well. This, I assumed, was Ambassador Youngblood.
When the transporter cycle was complete, I welcomed the trio aboard.
"I'm Captain DaGama. Welcome to the Starship Valhalla."
The one I figured to be the Ambassador was the first to speak: "Pierce Youngblood, pleasure to meet you." We shook hands. He was a typical human, with blond hair; not that typical humans all have blond hair. He was of European descent, I guessed, since his accent denoted an English ancestry.
"May I present," he continued, "the Grand Chancellor of the Aaltosian people, Ganistron."
The Chancellor was, simply put, impressive. Aside from being as tall as a skyscraper, he had the build to match. From what I knew of Aaltosians, they typically had dark gray skin, however, that one's skin was pitch black. Scary-looking. I wondered if in their culture the biggest and scariest individuals served as leaders.
Tossing my inquisitions aside, I greeted the Chancellor: "Greetings, Chancellor." He descended from the transporter pad, never removing his glance from me. His eyes were a bright orange. Although I didn't show it, he creeped me out.
"Greetings, Captain DaGama," he said as we shook hands. His voice was deep, but not as eerie as I would have guessed.
He turned to look at his aide, and said, "This is my aide, Vice Chancellor Zerphonn." He too descended from the pad, and as we shook hands, he said, "a pleasure, Captain."
Like Ganistron, Zerphonn was equally very tall, but slightly less than the Chancellor was. His skin was a very dark gray, and his eyes were as bright was his fellow Aaltosian, but overall, he was much less impressive. He didn't creep me out at all.
I looked to my left, and presented my two officers. "This is my first officer, Commander Lara Marelli, and my chief of security, Lieutenant Commander Thorn."
Ganistron stepped towards Commander Marelli, and softly took her hand in his. "What a stunningly beautiful woman," he said, then he kissed her hand.
As expected, Lara blushed, smiled, and looked towards the floor.
"Thank you, Chancellor. It's certainly a pleasure to meet you, and to be honored in such a way as well."
"The pleasure is all mine," he responded.
He moved towards Thorn, and stared him up and down thoroughly. Thorn kept his eyes locked upon him the whole time. It seemed like things had just become quite tense all of a sudden.
"Andorian, am I right?" asked the Chancellor.
As if all the tension in the room dissipated, "It's a pleasure to meet a member of such a noble race."
"Same here," and Thorn added a smile, which amazed Zerphonn from across the room.
"Well then," I said, "the delegates from Tenintai will arrive within the hour. Until then, I'd like to give you a privileged tour of Valhalla. If of course, you're up to it."
Since there were no objections, I started moving towards the exit. As the door swished open, I stopped. "You know what?" I said, "Why don't I let Commander Marelli give you the tour. I'm sure she'd make a much more..." and I searched for the right word so not to embarrass my second-in-command, "...entertaining host."
"Of course, Captain," she replied.
If my memory still serves, I believe I saw Chancellor Ganistron make a faint smile when I said Lara would be giving the tour.
I remained in the transporter room with Thorn after Lara and the others departed.
"What do you think about them?" I asked my chief of security.
"About Ganistron and his aide?"
"No, about Commander Marelli's chances of becoming Chancellor Ganistron's love interest, getting married, being crowned as a queen, having a large family and never speaking to us again? MY GOD, COMMANDER, WE HAVE TO STOP THEM!" I replied with an ounce too much of sarcasm. "Of course, Ganistron and Zerphonn."
"Ganistron is your typical planetary leader of a typical noble race. Full of pride, and good with words. And women."
"Like a politician," I muttered.
"Exactly," confirmed Thorn. "Aside from that, I can't say anything else about Ganistron or Zerphonn. Is there a particular reason why you're being cautious, Captain? May I remind you that they are a member of the Federation?"
"I'm aware, but, I'm just being careful nonetheless."

A short while later, Thorn and I went to the bridge to await the Tenintai vessel. Thorn sat in the unoccupied seat next to mine.
"What's going to happen to Counselor Bilnik?" asked Thorn, referring to the incident that took place two days earlier.
"He's still confined to his quarters, and I haven't told the Admiral yet."
"What will you tell her?"
"I'm not really sure. Something like 'there was an incident but I'm dealing with it.'"
"The Admiral will want to know all the details, Captain."
"I'm aware of that, Commander, but she won't get all the details."
"So this is to protect Bilnik?"
"No," I answered. "I'm doing this to protect the entire crew. I won't take the crew apart every time someone does something wrong. If we don't stick together, then what the hell is the point of this crew?"
Thorn nodded in agreement. "I understand. You really do care about maintaining the integrity of the crew."
"I just don't like to fail in my duty."
Just then, the turbolift doors opened, and Commander Marelli and company entered onto the bridge.
"And this here is the main bridge, where Valhalla is commanded," she told the Aaltosians and the Ambassador.
"It seems very comfortable," commented Chancellor Ganistron.
"Comfortable?" I echoed, getting out of my chair.
"Yes, cushioned chairs, carpeting, and the like," he explained.
"We try to make it feel like home," I told the Chancellor.
From the tactical station, Ensign Eyana Sedi, the young security officer I met while coming to Valhalla several days earlier, announced the arrival of the Tenintai vessel. "They have just entered orbit," she continued.
"Ah," I said with a delightfulness that wasn't common for myself, "our other guests have arrived."
"We're being hailed, Captain," reported Ensign Eyana.
"Put them on screen," I ordered.
It's somewhat difficult to imagine what a species look s like when you've no idea what they look like. It's easy to imagine what they would look like if you were told they were ugly as hell.
For instance, when someone says that a certain species is very slimy, one thinks of a big, green, gooey blob with a mouth twice the size of a human's head. The species would actually be humanoid, but with a gelatinous layer of skin whose purpose would be to protect the body from parasites of many kinds. Sometimes, the descriptions people give are so generalized that our imaginations go wild and create an image pulled from folklore or mysticism.
With the Tenintai, I had no idea what to expect. In my mind, they were big purple three-headed snakes. When the viewscreen displayed the image of the Tenintai, I realized how far off I was.
They looked like dogs. Or wolves. Bipedal, they had snouts, fur, tall pointed ears atop their head, and big, sharp teeth. There were three of them. Two of them had brown fur, and the other, gray.
"I'm Captain Arik DaGama of the Starship Valhalla. On behalf of the United Federation of Planets, I'd like to thank you for meeting with us."
The Tenintai standing in the middle was the first to speak: "I'm Captain Daalq of the Tenintai Order. Let us begin as soon as possible."
"Very well," I said. "You may beam over as soon as you're ready."
Daalq let out a grunt, and then the image went blank.
"All work, no play," Lara said then.
"You'll find them to be very serious-minded, Commander," Zerphonn told her. "They have no sense of humor."
"No 'Big Bad Wolf' jokes, Commander," I stated.
"Don't worry, I'll be an angel," she said, placing a hand on her heart.
In a muttered voice, Ganistron said: "That's a shame." Lara, having heard what he said, gave him in return a look that showed her disapproval of such comments.
As if we had read each other's minds, Thorn and I looked at each other and said: "Politician."
A few minutes later, Thorn, Lara and myself found each other in the transporter room again, awaiting the Tenintai's arrival.
"This seems familiar," I said, making no effort at all to be serious. The others didn't comment.
"They're transporting now," the transporter operator Burton said.
Three figures shimmered into existence on the transporter pad. I noticed that it was the same three I had previously spoken with.

<< CHAPTER 2 To Be Continued...

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