SEASON 3: EPISODE 03
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY: Part Five
Nikki Whitechapel rocked back and forward on her heels as she waited outside the quarters of her father. She was waiting for him to take him to breakfast in one of the main lounges on the Swiftfire. He had been on the ship for a week and had yet to step foot in some of the more common areas of the ship, instead he had locked himself away in his quarters working on his preparations for this mission. She would have met him there but he did not know the ship that well and it was easier if she led him there.
The door finally opened and he stepped out. “Sorry about that, dear,” he apologised giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“It’s fine. We had a late night last night. I bet you probably only had a bit of sleep, instead going over notes from the meeting or something like that.”
“That’s a bet I don’t think I’ll take,” he said.
They made their way to the lounge and entered. When they did she heard her father make a sound.
“Welcome to the Ice Lounge.”
“Impressive,” he said. “Are those sculptures real ice?”
She nodded. “We have an Andorian crew member who sculpts ice and he made these. They’re maintained by a field that prevents them from melting.”
The sculptures were the Ice lounge’s draw card and several were scattered around the room. Some of them were fairly self-explanatory such as the Andorian in a heroic pose or the ice replica of the Swiftfire but others were more obscure, but impressive none the less.
It was also the direct opposite from the Fire lounge, which was also on deck 6 but in the port engineering spar and faced the port side of the ship. Some claimed that the lounges felt different atmospherically. The Ice lounge was cooler and the Fire lounge warmer, however that was not the case. Both lounges maintained a standard temperature for the ship. Nikki did not have a preference as some did and the only reason they were in the Ice lounge was that her father’s quarters were on the starboard side of the ship and closer to the Ice lounge.
They sat down and had breakfast and continuing to catch up from the night before. After they finished they went to leave when her father stopped her.
“That painting, is it real?”
Whitechapel looked at the painting. It was a close up of a pre-Federation vessel, an Intrepid class vessel and the first vessel named Swiftfire.
“The design is very similar to an artist I’m familiar with.”
“Really?” Whitechapel had never really paid that much attention to it. It was a pretty enough painting but did not really draw too much interest from her.
“Yes, you see how the star in the background is black and how it seems to be radiating out waves of light?” She nodded. It was hard to miss. In the background behind the ship was a black centre that had rings of white emanating away from it as if someone had dropped a rock into space and the white rings were ripples spreading out. She had not thought it was a star instead she thought it was just a stylised explosion. “There is an artist whose signature is a ‘dark star’, in fact she goes by DarkStar. She usually works in the field of holography; I can’t remember seeing any canvas work like this done by her. Her sculptures are fabulous and always incorporate a black pulsing star; washing waves of light over the main sculpture...I’m surprised you don’t know her.” He cocked his eyebrow as he continued, “I thought I raised you with a keen interest in the arts?”
“I guess you did a bad job with me. Jane would probably know it. Don’t artists normally sign their work? Yes, look here in the corner. B. Dawn?”
“I think Dawn is her surname, though I’m not one hundred percent. I’ve only seen her sign her works with her tag, DarkStar.”
“I guess suns wouldn’t be a far fetch with a name like that. Maybe it isn’t her then, an imitator or someone inspired by her work.”
Her father continued to closely inspect it. In fact his nose and the painting were only a few centimetres apart. She briefly wondered if he was trying to sniff out the truth. He pulled back, a look of consideration on his face. He was obviously still not sure.
“If it is real and by DarkStar this would probably be quite a valuable piece. It’s the only painting I have seen done by her,” he explained.
“We actually have two others of a similar style, as in having that groovy black star in the painting.”
This was probably the most excited she had seen her father since he had come onboard. “In the Fire Lounge we have one of an Excelsior and in the captain’s ready room there is a painting of an Akira,” she recalled for her father.
“All of starships. That’s a fairly specific theme; I don’t recall starships featuring much in DarkStar’s normal work. Maybe this is some of her earlier work where she cut her teeth on ship portraits.”
“They can’t be that old given the Akira is the Swiftfire.”
Her father gave her a perplexed look. “Are you certain?”
“Of course. The Excelsior in the other lounge is the first Swiftfire and as you can see this is also a Swiftfire,” she said pointing to the painting where on the forward hull the word ‘Swiftfire’ could be clearly seen.
Her father looked closely at the painting and nodded. “So I see. Wait, this ship looks to be early Federation and you said the Excelsior was the first Swiftfire.”
“Sorry, I should have been more specific. The Excelsior was the first Federation Starfleet ship named Swiftfire. You were close with early Federation but this Swiftfire is actually pre-Federation, it’s an Earth Intrepid class frigate.”
“Retired before the Federation was formed?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No, this Swiftfire was built just before the founding of the Federation in 2158,” she clarified.
“Ah, I think I can figure out its fate then if it wasn’t the first Federation Swiftfire: it was destroyed during the war with the Romulans.”
“Sadly yes. It was destroyed during the final battle of the war, the Battle of Cheron. Lost with all hands. If it did survive it would have most likely continued to serve with the Federation Starfleet when it was formed. These ships were kept in service for some time after the Federation was formed,” she said mournfully. Despite the centuries between them she could not help been touched by the fact that the ship was lost with all hands, it was a tragic loss of life. She supposed that some comfort could be gained through the knowledge that their loss was not in vain given that they did help win the war for Earth against the Romulans.
“They would have to be privately requested works,” said her father back on the topic on the paintings. “Such a specific collection would be too much of a coincidence. When did you get them?”
“Middle of last year. After our repairs at Earth they appeared in our lounges. I guess the captain got them then. I’m pretty sure the captain said they were done by a friend of his.”
“DarkStar is Australian.” She gave him a look that said that he was reaching with that connection. “I have to remember to ask him about it at the briefing later on.”
“Dad, you aren’t going to try and haggle him out of one of these paintings are you?”
“Of course not, dear,” he said sounding offended. It didn’t last long and a playful smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “I’ll want the entire collection.”
Ambassador Whitechapel stepped into the turbolift. He had returned to his quarters after having breakfast with his daughter. Dylan felt a warm glow from getting the chance to spend time with Nikki. He had not seen her face-to-face since before the war started back when she was on leave on Earth recovering from injuries she sustained after the USS Aries, the vessel she served on at the time, was damaged during an engagement with Klingon forces during the Federation’s recent conflict with them. She had returned to Earth and spent most of the year on medical leave until the Swiftfire was launched in October. He knew it was selfish of him but he had wished she could have stayed at home a bit longer.
“Deck 1,” he ordered the computer.
The gentle humming of the turbolift barely registered with Dylan as he read the notes he had made during and after his meeting with the Echlans. He heard the door open and he stepped out only lifting his head once he was off the turbolift and had to pull himself to a quick stop before he walked into the wall opposite the door. Confusion set in as he looked up and down a hallway. He definitely was not on the bridge.
An enlisted man appeared in the hallway walking towards him. He noticed Dylan’s confused and lost look. “Can I help you, sir?”
“Where am I?” he asked. “I was trying to get to the bridge.”
“You asked for Deck 1 didn’t you?”
“Yes,” he confirmed.
“On an Akira deck one isn’t the bridge, it’s the upper most deck on the engineering spars. The bridge is actually more in line with deck 2. It can be confusing for people not familiar with the class. When you want to get to the bridge you have to actually say ‘bridge’.”
“Thank you,” said Whitechapel feeling rather silly. He had been on the ship for four days now and this was the type of thing he should have figured out in the first ten minutes on the ship. He had been busy organising the mission he was on but that was really no excuse for such a simple oversight.
“Happy to help,” smiled the enlisted man.
The man started to head on his way when Whitechapel called him back.
“Sorry to call you back, but you said the upper deck on the engineering spars was deck 1 but doesn’t that pod at the rear of the ship go above this deck?”
“That it does. The rear weapons pod adds another four decks to this ship but they aren’t counted as part of the ship’s nineteen decks, so this deck is therefore the ‘first’ deck.”
“Why wouldn’t you count them?”
“Probably so people like you won’t find themself in it tripping over the delicate quantum torpedoes,” joked the enlisted man before shrugging. “Not actually sure of the official reason. Maybe just because they are a small space that few would need to visit them or that they planned for various different pods to be available to be inserted back there, which could have varying numbers of decks and if the rest of the ship was based on the pod for its deck numbering system then it would get very confusing if you had to regularly swap them out.”
Whitechapel thanked the man again and let him get on with whatever he had to do. He recalled the turbolift and when he got on he clearly ordered it to take him to the bridge. When the doors opened he was glad to see the bridge of the Swiftfire. Commander Core was on deck. She turned to see who had entered the bridge.
“He’s in his ready room,” she said pre-empting his question.
Dylan nodded his thanks and walked down towards the left side of the bridge where the door to the hallway that connected to the captain’s ready room was located. He pressed the controls by the door to the ready room to notify the captain and waited for them to open.
Once they were he stepped into the captain’s ready room and found the captain was at a desk in the far corner of the room. It did not take him long to find the piece of art his daughter had mentioned, it was hanging above the captain’s desk. He was gestured to take a seat in front of his desk.
“Good morning, ambassador. I hope you got some rest last night.”
Dylan smiled warmly at Captain Masters. “I got what I could, captain,” he said as he took his seat.
“I was just going over the report from last night.”
“I have an updated one with me. It has some further impressions and details that I missed out on the one I put together for you last night.” He handed over the padd to the captain who transferred the documents over to his desktop computer.
“How long do you think until they make the next move?” asked Masters.
“As I said last night it should take at least a day before we get any more interaction with them. They seem to be a reasonable people, obviously they are cautious but I believe I made some progress with them last night.”
“I noticed in Commander Whitechapel’s report that she was not present for the entire duration of the meeting. That towards the end she waited outside the meeting room for several minutes.”
Dylan was wondering when that would come up. “No, she wasn’t present for the entire thing. I was alone with Defence Chief Qual; none of our security detail was in the room. I was satisfied that I would be safe with the commander just outside the room and I of course trusted your crew to beam us out if it went pear shaped.”
“I would prefer for you to always be accompanied when dealing with the Echlans, ambassador. Your safety is my priority.”
Whitechapel definitely detected a hint of sarcasm in the captain’s voice. He put it down to the fact that the captain was on a glorified babysitting job plus the fact that he and his crew were more than capable of making first contacts; they were trained for it after all.
“My presence here is not a reflection on your perceived skill, captain. Sometimes it’s good for us in the Diplomatic Corps to take part in these types of missions from the very beginning and not just appear once Starfleet has moved on.”
That got a reaction from Captain Master, just not the one Dylan was expecting. Masters appeared slightly confused by his tone. Had he misread Masters earlier; he was tired. Or maybe he had misread the intended focus, which was not him but instead Masters’ superiors.
“I will be more mindful of security concerns, captain,” he said moving on. “If I don’t I’ll have my daughter to contend with and mighty is her wrath.”
Masters smiled back at Dylan. “You did a good job with her, ambassador. She is a fine officer. Thankfully her wrath is usually directed at the Dominion,” Masters said with a grin before return to topic. “There is little we can do now but wait; hopefully it won’t be too long.”
Their meeting was wrapping up, but not before Dylan asked the question on his mind from breakfast.
“I don’t mean to pry but I noticed a piece of art in the Ice lounge and now the painting in here. I’m also told you have a third in the other main lounge and they all seem to be of the style of an artist known as DarkStar.”
“You are familiar with her work?” Masters asked. Dylan nodded. “They are by her, all three. I requested them right after I got command of this ship but only got them last year.”
“I thought as much. I have never seen her do canvas work before so it did throw me at first. How did you manage the feat of getting a renowned artist to produce you works in a form they are not primarily known for?”
“Funnily enough I went to high school with her, though back then we called her Bianca Dawn not DarkStar. That persona appeared after we graduated. Back at school she did a lot of painting so I knew she had the skill set to do it, but I wasn’t sure if she would actually do these when I asked. She was busy and as you said she’s mainly a sculptor these days so I was very pleased when we went to disembark that I had three wrapped gifts waiting for me when I got onboard. Bee has always been like that, you can rely on her to come through for you.”
“You could sell just one of them for a significant profit...”
“Given I didn’t pay for them anything I would make would be a big profit,” interjected Masters.
“Touché. Still, collectors love odd works done by famous artists. The set could probably get you a nice big moon with all the trimmings.”
A slight smile came to Masters’ face as he imagined Dylan’s suggestion. “I don’t think I could ever sell them. I hope they survive until the next person takes over command of the Swiftfire or even to a replacement vessel. It would be nice to think of them being put up in the next ship to bear the name Swiftfire.”
“If it were me I won’t keep the originals on this ship. A replicator could work up a nice copy to hang on the ship’s walls. I just hate the thought that a Dominion disruptor blast could just evaporate one of these in an instant,” he said cringing. “Well, if you’re ever looking for someone to offload one onto, just give me a call.”
The captain just grinned and replied, “I’ll keep that in mind.”
The capital of the Echlan Totality was a sprawling metropolis but pockets of nature were maintained throughout the city. A lone Echlan man sat on a bench in one such park, he looked to be a typical Echlan but nothing could be further from the truth. He was soon joined by a second person.
“What do you think the chances of snow this winter are?” asked the second man.
“As likely as a drought on Andor,” he replied.
“So how are you enjoying your vacation here, Learoyd?”
If the code phrases were not enough to convince him that this was the person he was meant to meet the use of his name certainly did.
“I will be glad to return to civilisation after this is over,” he replied.
“I guess it is a good thing that the situation has sped itself along,” commented his comrade.
Learoyd snorted. “If not for the complication of the warp craft I could have completed this mission months ago.”
“The situation is what it is, things change and plans have to adapt.”
Learoyd bit back a rebuke. He had been inserted to this world nearly a year ago and had expected to be out within a month or two at the most. Having to spend an extended time with such a primitive culture and one that he could barely stand had not been easy. However, he did not do this job because it might be easy; he did it because it was necessary. “How are things on your end?” he finally asked.
“They are proceeding much as expected. The first meeting with High General Qual went just about exactly to script. The next phase will occur very quickly. That is unless you don’t have the items?”
Learoyd tapped two cases by his feet. “Two portable computers like you asked. I have made arrangements with the Acolytes and they await your communication as to the next step, though they are only willing to wait for a few days, people like this don’t like to be out in the open for too long.”
“You can assure them I will be in contact in a day or two and to have their end of the bargain ready. They are able to provide what we are after?” he was asked questioningly.
He nodded. The Acolytes were among his most despised groups on the planet. Having to work with them left a bad taste in his mouth and he had argued that they were unnecessary but in the end it was decided that they were. “I have kept a close eye on them and I’m sure they will provide us with what we need. I don’t know why we bothered with this route; I can get what we want without them.”
“We need them for the main event. People like the Acolytes are not the type who just accepts help from other parties who want nothing in return. By using them in exchange for something we are after they believe they are more in control of the situation then they really are.”
“Well, the sooner it’s over the better.”
“Don’t worry that will be soon.” His comrade stood up with both cases in his hands. “I’ll contact you as things progress,” he said before turning and walking away.
Learoyd did not bother to wait and watch the other man, he would disappear soon enough. He instead got up and headed in the opposite direction, he still had things to do before this operation came to its end.