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Distant Relations -- Master Post

Welcome!

After a bout of formatting angst from Live Journal, my entry is ready. 

My entry in this year's STBB is a sequal to last year's

I want to give an extra special Thank You to my beta,xiasangli. Her suggestions and encouragement were key in the development of this story.  I also want to give many thanks to both the artist, enkanowen, and fanmixer, civilbloodshed.  It takes all three of us to make a sucessful entry.  :)

Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount and CBS. I am making no claim to copyrighted characters, situations, or universes. No compensation will be received for this work.

Background Info

My story contains information derived from all of the series and movies (including the animated series), but most of the emphasis centers around the 2009 movie and Enterprise. I based both Vulcan and Romulan cultures on the what was shown on the TV screen (including the animated series), the movies, the IDW 2009 prequel comics, and the numerous role-playing books from FASA, Lost Unicorn Games, and Decipher. Other valuable sources of information included the websites Memory Alpha and Memory Beta.

The main sources of the Vulcan language used in this story are the Vulcan Language Institute and the Vulcan Language Dictionary.

Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20 Pt 1, Chapter 20 Pt 2, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23 Pt 1, Chapter 23 Pt 2, Chapter 24, Chapter 25, Chapter 26, Chapter 27, Chapter 28, Epilogue



Link to the first story, Adaptation. (This story is scheduled to undergo majorrevisions to bring it inline with the sequel, Distant Relations.

Vulcan vobaulary used in the story. (link)


Dreams -- Chapter Four

Chapter Four


In the middle of the night

I go waling in my sleep

Through the jungle of doubt

To the river so deep

I know I'm searching for something

Something so undefined

It can only be seen

By the eyes of the blind

– from River of Dreams, sung by Billy Joel

As the small freighter sped through space, Ch'ler relaxed in one of the two pilot's chairs.  It was his turn to take duty at the controls, both to monitor things in case of mishap and to prevent any attempt by Mudd to alter course. The distributor of mediocre kali-fal had insisted they drop him off at a planet somewhere between Thirat and T'Khasi.  Of course, Ch'ler and Hr'kir politely refused.  Mudd's presence had been requested by Tamas Rai'aelvir himself.

Voice locks had been placed on all sensitive shipboard areas:  the cockpit, life support, and engineering, effectively confining Mudd to the galley, crew quarters, and cargo hold.  Both Shuuvasu warriors trusted Mudd very little.  In addition to his involvement in their current mission, Mudd had an extensive  criminal history, discovered when Hr'kir had tapped into the Federation civilian database courtesy of Tamas Rai'aelvir.  The human seemed to have some sort of predilection towards lawbreaking:  fraud and theft were just two of the charges against him.  The list was amazing and all attempts at reform had failed.

Ch'ler shifted in his chair.  The cockpit had become a refuge of sorts.  It provided a break from Mudd's grumbling about the loss of his luxury craft, the Mudd I, which he often compared disparagingly to the the Shuuvaslar's much more utilitarian freighter.  He also complained about the loss of everything in it:  fine clothes, foods and liquors.  All three crew members soon had their fill of it and avoided Mudd as much as possible.

Since his shift was uneventful, Ch'ler took the opportunity for light meditation.  The background hum of the engines reminded him of his days in the clan fleet.  Even though he had been recruited as a mind clouder, he also learned the basics of ship-board work.  Everyone contributed to the running of a battle cruiser.  Mind clouding of Tligansular took relatively little of his time during a tour of duty.  He had learned how to monitor a ship's status, how to plot a course, how to operate a ship's helm, and how to perform basic maintenance work.

The action of Hasa a few nights ago had given him much to consider.  His t'hai'la's beyi-osehlat had saved both of them from a life of sexual slavery at the hands of Imperial Rihanelsular.  The thought of such a thing was highly offensive to Shuuvasu sensibilities.  His people were not sexually promiscuous. They valued their children very highly, never considering them to be tools for others' use.

If he had been on a solo mission, he would now be trapped in a ship's hold somewhere in transit to a place he did not want to go to.

This assignment demonstrated the immense value of the beyi-osehlatlar.  Of course he knew it, knew it as part of his being.  Ch'ler had valued and relied on Dake for years.  When that companionship had been ripped from him, he fell into loss and pain and anger.  Ch'ler had turned all of that negative emotion against the Tlingansular.  He had been one of the best mind clouders in the Shuuvasu fleet.  Working with Hr'kir, he helped capture three Tlingansu battle cruisers, two freighters, and provided telepathic cover in two major ground assaults.  After the migration of his people to Federation space, the pain remained but now there was no target for his anger.  Only the fire dance and his work remained to ease his mind.

Ch'ler did want to keep Dake's place in is life special, but perhaps he could make a place for another companion.  Dake would never be replaced, yet another osehlat could stand beside the memory of the lost one.

The mind clouder knew that much more meditation lay ahead of him.  He needed time among the katralar of his ancestors.  The katric arks, the treasure of the clan, were located in the Temple of Dhzaelyl.  Their collective wisdom had served the clan well for generations.  Hopefully, they might guide him in the matter of entreating a member of the clan pack to join him in Besu'es, the Companionship.

He had avoided consulting his fore-bearers, fearful of what they had to impart, but their removal from the present might provide valuable insight into things.  The ancestors were interested in the overall fortune of the clan, not current grudges.

####

Mudd's escort, a burly young Romulan male, led him to the place where Tamas Rai'aelvir waited inside of the Rai'aelvir compound, located on the eastern edge of ShiKahr.  The collection of buildings truly impressed him because it spoke of wealth and power, the sort of things that Mudd wanted for himself.

This, he supposed, was the finale of his involvement with Vulcans that began on Thirat.  The two Vulcans had been polite on the trip to T'Khasi.  They had provided room and board on the their modest, four-man craft even though things had been cramped, especially with that blasted saber-toothed bear taking up so much space. 

Like the rumors said, Vulcans were not a talkative lot.  They worked quietly and efficiently keeping the ship operating and on course for home.  They allowed Mudd to watch them during their daily activities and shared their vegan meals with him, but otherwise ignored him.  The one named Ch'ler was the most taciturn.  Mudd had watched him work on some sort of cloth panel depicting colorful birds.  The quality of the embroidery was quite high and would fetch a good price on Earth.  When Mudd asked to buy it, the Vulcan almost snarled at him.  After that incident, Mudd kept his distance.

Once the group arrived at T'khasi, the local authorities placed Mudd into “protective custody”, their term for arrest.  The jail seemed more like a motel than any lock-up he had the pleasure of staying in.  At least the Vulcan police attempted to be civil to those they disapproved of. 

After walking past several buildings and gardens, the escort stopped before a wall covered with frescoes of sehlatlar running through grain fields.  The young Romulan rapped lightly on the wall and waited.  Then, in response to a signal Mudd could not hear, the escort slid one half of the wall into a hidden pocket, revealing a room.  The Romulan stood aside for Mudd to enter.

Mudd hesitated.  He knew who was in there.  Tamas Rai'aelvir.  The person who probably wanted his head almost as much as DaiMon Gen.

The escort made a hand gesture, pointing to the inside of the room.  Realizing he had no choice, Mudd entered.  As he cleared the threshold, he heard the escort slide the door closed.  Mudd pushed his uncertainties aside and walked to the raised dais where three seated figures awaited him.

####

Small, colorful leathery-winged fliers darted among the green-gold foliage as water flowed past in the small stream.  The origin of the water, a miniature waterfall, was partially hidden by heavy boughs of white flowers.  Relaxing on a divan in a large, open-sided pavilion, Ch'ler watched the small creatures move from bloom to bloom as they fed on the nectar. Vuhlkansular called them staroklar, after a now extinct flying creature on the original planet Vulcan.  They were native to the region, part of the local fauna.  When ShiKahr was built, the Vuhlkansular made sure to provide a place for the creatures.  They had no desire to displace the the indigenous lifeforms any more than necessary.

He plucked an osol twist from a platter on a nearby table, a tart yet tasty confection of Rihanelsu origin.  Hr'kir sat across from him, drinking from a tall glass of cold fire berry tea while Hasa stretched out at his feet on the slate tiles.

Osasu Rai'aelvir had interviewed them earlier in the day to learn everything about their mission among the frontier worlds.  The information they had gathered about Zeh and the Ferengi was valuable, but the real prize was Harcourt Fenton Mudd.  The Human could tell Rai'aelvir all that he knew about the Ferengi distribution network.

Or he should.

Harry Mudd had a great sense of self-importance.  He had talked about how the Shuuvasular had aggrieved him whenever possible.  While he might be very reluctant to cooperate with Osasu Rai'aelvir, Ch'ler was certain that the Rihanelsu had ways of ensuring Mudd's compliance.  At the conclusion of the interview, Osasu Rai'aelvir offered them both relaxation and refreshment in his family's compound, an offer that both operatives gratefully accepted.  The gardens of the Rai'aelvir compound were well known for their beautiful combination of Vuhlkansu and Rihanelsu aesthtics.

Several Rai'aelvir family members and retainers were also enjoying the garden.  Children offered the staroklar bits a fruit while adults reviewed the contents of their PADDs.  A sudden noise, a gruff voice, broke the atmosphere of serenity, causing everyone present to turn towards the source.

“Your employer has not heard the last of this, bucko!  You can be sure of that!”

Ch'ler groaned silently.  Mudd.  Finished speaking with Osasu Rai'aelvir and not happy about it.

Mudd's young escort indicated that the Human should enter the garden, then left with some alacrity.  Ch'ler could not hold the hasty departure against the Rihanelsu as he knew form first-hand experience how irritating Mudd's company could be.

He saw Mudd glance around the garden and spot the only familiar faces present, theirs. The human began walking towards them.  Ch'ler groaned again, this time aloud.  Hr'kir joined him.  Hasa also spotted Mudd, but remained silent.

Once Mudd reached the pavilion, he took a seat uninvited and helped himself to the confections on the table, to the dismay of the three already present.  “Your boss is a hard-nosed one, you know,” he said between mouthfuls.

When both Ch'ler and Hr'kir did not respond, Mudd continued.  “He told me that I am working for him now until he considers the debt paid.  And he seized all of my money!  What nerve!”

A slight smirk crossed Ch'ler's face.  Administrator Stelvare's forensic accountants  had accomplished their task very well.  “Consider yourself fortunate, Mudd,” he said.

“Fortunate!  Stuck on this hot house of a planet where nobody believes in air conditioning?  Without money?”

“Among my people, you would have been challenged to a blood duel,” Ch'ler elaborated.  He glanced over the Human's heavy physique.  “I doubt if you would have won.”

“Eh?  What are you talking about?” said Mudd.

“The law, Mudd.”  Ch'ler looked at Hr'kir before returning his attention to Mudd.  “Each member of the Federation makes their own local law as long as it does not violate the Charter....”  He let his sentence trail off.

Mudd looked  worried.

“By Rihanelsu law, he could have you executed for insulting the reputation of a noble House,” said Ch'ler.

Mudd looked aghast.

“Osasu Rai'aelvir is being most generous providing you with useful employment,”added Hr'kir.  He did not mention that T'Khasidid not have a death penalty for anything less than treason. 

Mudd looked relieved.

“Well..., in any case, I'm demanding air conditioning in my office,” he said.

At that statement, Hasa rose to her feet and directed a snarl at Mudd, a clear indication that he should move on.

Ten days of living in close quarters with the beyi-osehlat had taught Mudd that he should heed her.  He vacated his chair and left, leaving the trio in peace once more.

####

The early morning sun had yet to provide much warmth to the inner courtyard of the Temple of Dhzaelyl, but soon heat would rise from the flagstones, causing the air to quiver.  The vegetation in the carefully landscaped garden was still too young to yield much relief from during midday.  In their stead, the builders had installed covered benches at aesthetically pleasing locations throughout the area to provide shelter from the glare of the twin orange suns.

Sitting cross-legged on the narrow stone porch, Ch'ler looked out at the courtyard.  It was designed as a place of peaceful reflection for temple visitors.  Many, after tending to their business at the shrine, came here to rest before returning to the busy world beyond the temple walls.  Here, at least, one did not have to think about the next thing to be done at work or on an art project.

This was his second visit to the temple in the past standard month.  His first had been to consult with the clan katralar. Dressed in his finest blue-green gev silk robes, Ch'ler had been escorted into the chamber reserved for Clan Hs'mayatta.  The other katra chambers belonged to the other clans of Dhzaelyl and he would need special permission to enter them.  Such was one of the changes from life on Shuuvalis.  Back then, each clan had its own temple.  On T'Khasi the clans had to share the temple complex, at least until each could afford a temple of their own.  Even wealthy Hs'mayatta lacked the resources to support its own complex.

The priest, Sr'laya, had been his guide.  Ch'ler remembered him from the time he served as junior chaplain on Tafeng Base during the war.  Sr'laya was a quiet sort, much like his father-in-law, Ha'taun, who seemed to have an interest in leading the Warrior's Council one day.  Tekka, Sr'laya's beyi-osehlat, had also accompanied them, a reminder of why Ch'ler had come.

Once the priest had led him to the Hs'mayatta katric chamber, he took his leave.  Ch'ler had sat on the cool floor, cleared his mind as instructed,and reached out to the minds enclosed in the thousands of katric arks resting on the shelves.  Some Vuhlkansular mentioned melding with a katra, which was very disrespectful of one's ancestors.  Some katras ignored him, being more interested in their current activities, but many were curious about the young kinsman who sought their counsel.  Most of the time they only had the priests and each other for company.

The advice of the ancestors had been plain:  yes.  An ahkhsu of Shuuvalis needed an osehlat companion by his side.  The partnership forged between the People and the osehlatlar allowed both to survive the hardships of the past.  He, Ch'ler, son of Ch'lan, should accept the companionship of a new beyi-osehlat.  He should not fear that Dake's place in his life would be lost.

That advice had led him to his current location.  Soon, Sr'laya would lead him to the osehlatlar courtyard, the place in the temple reserved for them.  Any osehlat could enter the courtyard in search of rest and refreshment.  The courtyard was especially important to the unbonded osehlatlar, those who did did not have Shuuvasu companions.  While every family in a clan village provided succor to any osehlat in need, every village also supported a temple refuge.

"Warrior Ch'ler t'Hs'mayatta, please come with me.  Tekka is waiting for us," said the young priest as he entered the waiting area.

Ch'ler hesitated slightly.  The time was now.  He could have no doubt in his mind if he expected a successful bonding to occur.  Osehlatlar could easily detect uncertainty in anyone.  Standing, he gathered his thoughts.  He retrieved memories of his four-year old self, when he had first bonded to an osehlat.  Hr'kir, a few cousins, and himself had been brought to the clan temple where many osehlat cubs awaited them in the courtyard.  After a long period of play, something amazing happened.  Ch'ler " heard" a voice in his mind.  He turned around and looked into the golden eyes of an osehlat cub.

Dake.

He had reached out with a hand, touching the forehead of the cub.  A moment of bliss passed between the two youngsters and the bond was formed.

Could he do that again?  After years of being with Dake, then being alone?

Ch'ler followed Sr'laya to the courtyard.  At the doorway, he saw Tekka standing patiently. the monitor for the process in case things went wrong.  Sr'laya nodded as he walked past his companion and into the courtyard.  Ch'ler followed the priest into the open space.  Several osehlatlar relaxed in the shade of gazebos.  Sr'laya gestured for him to sit on a nearby ow bench.

"I'll be back shortly.  Tekka will be here if you need help," Sr'laya said before exiting through a side door.

Ch'ler settled himself into a position of meditation on the indicated bench.  He opened his mind and heart to the beings around him. 

After the passage of an unknown period of time, he felt a slight probing, like someone was curious, but did not want to be rude.  He opened his eyes and looked into deep copper ones slightly to one side.  A second pair of golden eyes also looked into his own.

'Two osehlatlar?'  he thought.  While he did know of people who had double bonds, he never thought of it for himself.  He had fretted about making room for a second beyi-osehlat, but a third?

The aphorism, "The osehlat knows the mind of the besu.", came to him.  It was taught to youngsters to prevent them from acting rashly or trying to force a relationship.  The process should occur naturally.

Ch'ler looked from one set of eyes to the other.  No one rejected an osehlat, ever.  To do so was to become an outcast and be forced to live in the spaces between the clans.  He reached out a hand to touch the forehead of each osehlat.

Bheya, responded one.

Wah-ash'ya, responded the other.

Ch'ler, the young warrior answered.

From the entryway, Ch'ler heard Tekka grunt his approval.

####

Hr'kir, along with Hasa, waited patiently in the outer visitor area of the Temple of Dhzaleyl.  Inside, his cousin and warrior brother, Ch'ler should be bonding to a new osehlat.  Even if all went well, the newest member of the family would be a stranger.  Absent were the experiences of growing up together, the experiences of the Travel, of the battles against the Tlingansular, all of the history shared by besu and beyi-sehlat.  By tradition, the new pair must spend over a year together, partly in warrior training and partly in a new Travel.  The pair had to build as many of those experiences as possible if they were to become an effective warrior team.

Hr'kir saw a white-robed priest step into the doorway between the inner and outer courtyards, a beyi-sehlat dressed in a white collar at his side.  The cleric simply smiled and nodded before moving back inside, his companion on his heels.

Puzzled, Hr'kir came to full attention.  This was new to him.  What did the priest mean by his actions?  Before he could form a question to ask, Ch'ler appeared in the doorway with a osehlat on either side of him.

Two beyi-osehlat.  His t'hai'la had bonded with two companions?  Hr'kir blinked in surprise.  Hasa, however, remembered her manners and greeted each new osehlat with an affectionate cheek rub.

While Hasa tended to the formalities, Hr'kir looked at Ch'ler.  "Two?". He left the rest of the question unspoken but clearly understood.  Ch'ler had worried that he did not have enough room in his heart for a second bonding, but clearly his cousin underestimated himself.

Ch'ler only nodded.  "Please meet Bheya and Wan-ash'ya."

Upon the formal introductions, Hr'kir extended his hands one over the other in formal greeting. "Welcome to our family, Bheya and Wan-ash'ya.  You bring us much joy and honor," he said.  As he greeted them, he noticed that Wan-ash'ya was different.  Hs'mayatta osehlatlar had either dark brown or black fur.  Wan'ash'ya had rich, russet red fur shading towards a darker hue along her spine.  In addition, true to he name, her left forepaw was as white as a cloud, a startling contrast to the rest of her pelt.

During the resettlement of the Shuuvasu people to T'Khasi, the old clan boundaries had to be ignored.  Geographic borders between villages were considered to be a luxury by a  Vulcan government with limited funds.  So clans found themselves consolidated into one of ten small cities on the planet.  And, of course, each clans respective osehlat packs had mixed and mingled together.

Hr'kir wondered which clan pack Wan-ash'ya came from.  His interest stemmed only from curiosity.  She was now a beyi- osehlat bonded to his cousin.  She was family.

####

Hearing his companion lick her lips very loudly, Tamas chuckled.  “Good batch, yes?” he commented.  Bir'cha, a ha-yon-sehlat, whuffed in agreement, causing Tamas to laugh outright.  The sehlat had always had good taste in alcoholic beverages and knew a good drink when she tasted it, making her one his better testers.  Tamas took another sip of the peach wine for himself and idly wondered if local demand would leave any for the export market. 

As he leaned against the warm, furred flank of his great sehlat, the leader of House Rai'elvir lazily looked over the beauty of the place they shared.  It was a small canyon cut into a short mesa on the the northeastern outskirts of of ShiKahr.  A stream trickled through it, fed by an underground spring which supported lush vegetation along its banks.  This place had become his haven, his quiet spot to get away from the demands of both the Rihanelsu community and his own household.  When he rested in “his” canyon, others knew better than to bother him with trivial matters.

He greatly valued any “down” time he could spend with Bir'cha.  Tamas has known the ha-yon-sehlat since her birth many standard decades ago.  He actually watched her mother, Bon, push the cub from her body and helped clean and dry the newest member of the House, and they were considered to be as much a member of the family as any Rihanelsu. For generations, ha-yon-sehlatlar had served as the mounts of the elite Houses. Genetically altered from standard sehlatlar, they stood two meters at the shoulder.  Intelligent and full of courage, ha-yon-sehlatlar guarded their Houses with their lives. 

As a boy, Tamas spent many days sitting behind his father, Tamsu, as they rode Bon across the family lands., young Bir'cha loping beside them.  Once Bir'cha was strong enough to support his weight, Tamas often rode her into the vast Rai'aelvir vreet fields, the primary raw material of kali-fal.  Perhaps all of that time spent in the grain fields inspired his love of his House's signature beverage.  Whatever the source, Tamas was pleased that he had one of the culprits behind the counterfeiting of that beverage in his custody.

Hartcourt Fenton Mudd proved himself to be a difficult person to deal with.  He complained about everything:  the heat, the food, the housing, the staff, the office.  If the Human had not insulted the Rai'aelvir name, Tamas would have sent him to a penal colony for rehabilitation.  That probably would not have cured Mudd of his bad habits if history was any guide.

The other culprit, DaiMon Gen, was more problematical. Of course Tamas remembered the Ferengi species from his time in the Rihanelsu Outer Territories.  He often sold kali-fal to local merchants who resold it to the big-eared aliens for smuggling out of the Star Empire. At the time, he did not care where the ale went.  However, once in the Federation, he realized just how much the citizens coveted the stuff.  Naturally he saw the market potential and began to exploit it himself, making House Rai'aelvir a growing presence in the luxury goods market.

Interestingly, the Ferengi were unknown to the Federation.  After much research he found a hundred year-old reference to them.  The old NX-1 Enterprise, Jonathan Archer's starship, encountered a small group of them, who promptly began to strip the Enterprise of anything valuable.  The Ferengi then disappeared from Starfleet records at the conclusion of that affair, which was curious considering the Ferengi attachment to profit.  Trading with Humans, Andorians, and the other species of the Federation should be very lucrative.  Whatever Archer and his crew did to them must have made any potential profit seem trivial.  He would have to ask the old admiral about that soon. The story must be fascinating.

A tiny bell chimed from the vicinity of his wrist, a sound which caused both Rihanelsu and sehlat to sigh.  It meant that their time of peace and quiet was at an end  Tamas glanced up at the sky and saw that the sun confirmed what the chronometer just told him.  “Time to return,” he said with a note of resignation in his voice.  Bir'cha whined in sympathy.

Tamas separated himself from the warm flank and stood upright.  He reluctantly gathered up Bir'cha's bowl and slipped it into the small carry bag hanging from his waist as the sehlat rose to her feet, stretched her limbs, then arched her back before looking at her rider.  Placing both hands on her right shoulder, Tamas launched himself onto her back just like he did when he was a teenager.  Once settled in place, the leader of the local Rihanelsu population signaled his mount to return to ShiKahr where he would resume his regular duties.

Glossary

Ahkhsu - a psionic warrior

Besu'es - the Companionship, the bond between a Shuuvasu warrior and a beyi-osehlat

Ha-yon-sehlat - a variety of large sehlat genetically altered for riding

Katra - the spiritual essence of a Vulcan mind

Osol twist - a tart Romulan confection

Saroklar - pterosaur-like animals native to the new Vulcan home world, named for a flying creature on Vulcan

Vreet - the grain used to make kali-fal

Dreams -- Chapter Three

“The best place to hide something is in plain view for seekers are always looking elsewhere.”

- one of the founding members of the Path of Lis.

Ch'ler led the way through the streets to the bar he had visited the night before.  The bluish light of the street lamps augmented the soft blue of Thirat's large, full moon, making things appear as twilight instead of well into the night.  Many others were also out and about their affairs.  Some attended to business, but most had pleasure on their minds.

Both Shuuvasu warriors had dressed to blend into the crowd with brown shirts and pants, and black boots, the garb of everyday humanoid crew members.  The only additions were the dark brown cloaks pulled over ears and top knots, but even those were not unknown as some peoples, such as the Twaza customarily wore long outer garments in public.  Since there was no practical way to disguise a full grown osehlat from electronic eyes, Hasa stayed behind as ship's guard.

Ch'ler stepped over a pile of broken glass bottles, probably “take out” from a local bar.  The entire street was studded with such refuse.  Hr'kir had stated that the tavern he visited last night was in a better neighborhood.  Ch'ler doubted it, but his cousin would be able to make a direct comparison very soon.

Soon they reached Zataka, the bar owned by Zeh.  When Ch'ler entered the place, he saw things were the same as before.  Things still looked worn, the Tellarite still played that annoying musical instrument, and the lighting was still dim.

He led the way to the bar counter where two seats were open.  Ch'ler took one while Hr'kir took the second. Ever alert to the activity in his establishment, Zeh joined them within minutes of their arrival.

“You are back,” observed Zeh.  He had just finished serving an Andorian as the two settled themselves in.

Ch'ler nodded.

“Who is he?”  The bartender looked at Hr'kir, curious.

“My partner,” replied Ch'ler.  It was not a lie.  He had worked with Hr'kir for years.

Zeh grinned.  “Always open to new customers.  Need a menu?”

“No need,” said Ch'ler.  “Scotch.”  He actually liked the flavor of the Human drink.

Zeh looked at Hr'kir, who smiled slightly.  “I'll have the house brandy.”

Zeh's expression became ecstatic.  “You have taste!” he said before pulling a bottle from a shelf behind the counter.

'House brandy?' inquired Ch'ler telepathically.

'He is a Saurian running a bar.  He should sell a good brand of Saurian brandy,' Hr'kir returned.  'Plus it is a way to make friends with a little flattery.' 

Ch'ler chuckled silently.  A good idea.  He should of thought of that himself.

Zeh poured the drinks and served them while Ch'ler paid for both orders. As he began sipping his scotch, he sent a telepathic message to Hr'kir.  They had agreed to use this mode of communication during this phase of the operation, just like they had during the war with the Tlingasular.  'Ready?'

'Yes,' sent Hr'kir.  He took a long, appreciative sip of his brandy and smiled.  “Excellent,” he said aloud.

“I'm glad you are pleased.  My stock comes from one of the oldest families in the business,” said Zeh with pride.

Hr'kir nodded.  “My partner mentioned some good gambling around here,” he said in a relaxed manner.  “We might want to try our luck there.”

Zeh's expression turned a bit negative.  “A few streets from here, but I doubt if you can enter.  The owner only lets in a select few.”

“How does he make a profit like that” asked Hr'kir.

“I don't know.  It's none of my concern.  Only my place is.” replied Zeh with a dismissive air. “Let me know if you need anything else.”  With that, the Saurian signaled the end of the conversation.

During the verbal exchange between Zeh and Hr'kir, Ch'ler had slipped into the bar owner's mind.  He hoped that Hr'kir's mention of gambling would bring thoughts from the night before to the surface of Zeh's mind and with that thoughts about kali-fal.

True, the ethics of his actions were questionable under both Vulcan and Federation law.  Entering another person's mind uninvited posed a massive invasion of personal privacy, something abhorrent to Vuhlkansu sensibilities.  Shuuvasular, due to their long isolation from other cultures, never developed prohibitions against using mind walking on non-Shuuvasular.  Tlingansular warriors provided the first targets for the telepaths, allowing them to quickly master Tlingansu military technology.  Once settled on T'Khasi, the Shuuvasular adjusted to the idea that other species had a right to mental privacy and adopted Vuhlkansu standards regarding telepathic contact.

One very rare occasions, the rules could be modified.  House Rai'aelvir had sought an exception to the telepathy policy, and Administrator Stelevare, head of the T'Khasi Ruling Council, agreed.  The threat to the planet's fledgling economy was too great.  Vulcan, no longer a powerful Federation member, did not have the luxury of ignoring any potential financial threat.

Ch'ler sorted through Zeh's mental files.  He found concerns common to business owners everywhere:  customer traffic, costs of supplies and labor, and so on.  He also found references to the Saurian's family, friends, acquaintances, and rivals.  The Adept of Lis prowled around until he found information on a fancy blue beverage that was hard obtain mixed with a touch of resentment against the Nausicaans for consuming the last of his supply.  Smiling silently as he drank the last of his scotch, Ch'ler followed the lead.  Zeh seemed anxious to obtain more of the drink for some special patrons. He had contacted the seller of the kali-fal and expected him to stop by tonight, providing Ch'ler with a very clear mental image of the provider of the ale, a Human named Harry Mudd.

####

To the patrons of Zataka, the two male “Humans” ate in companionable silence.  Mentally, however, Ch'ler and Hr'kir engaged in lively conversation about past performances on Shuuvalis.  They reminisced about memorable productions of dramas such as Folly of Khson and Rivalry of the Five Clans.  They also chuckled about a recent production of Rainy Season, a comedy about a single male who mistakenly thought he was in pon farr and the horrified reactions of the Vuhlkansular to it. 

Shuuvasular found their Vuhlkansu relatives reluctance to face the subject of pon farr fascinating.  Yes, the condition was more extreme in Vuhlkansu males than in either Shuuvasu or Rihanelsu males, but it was a fact of Vulcanoid existence.  Some Shuuvasu healers had speculated that Vuhlkansu emotional suppression increased the severity by lengthening the time between bouts of mating fever.  A mild modification of Surak's philosophy might help solve the problem.  Such a modification might also be a solution to Bendii syndrome, a form of neurological decay unknown in either Shuuvasular or Rihanelsular.

The two had retreated to a table while they waited for the Human named Mudd to make his appearance.  While they waited, Ch'ler decided to order dinner. During his brief stay the previous night he only drank, but tonight, since he and Hr'kir were waiting for their target, they needed a reason.  Both food and drink provided that reason.

“My menu has an extensive selection of fresh local specialties,” Zeh had boasted when they had inquired about a meal.

The food looked interesting, if mostly unfamiliar.  Fortunately, the menu also contained useful annotations such as “tastes like chicken,” for those who desired some guidance in their selections.  Chicken, being animal flesh, was a forbidden favorite of both Shuuvasular and Rihanelsular.  Both groups indulged themselves occasionally, but never in the presence of Vuhlkansular since that ran counter to modern Vulcan ethics.  Shuuvasular had no prohibitions against eating meat.  Their largely vegetarian diet was the result preferring to devote more time and resources towards Ahkhinahr, the warrior's way, instead of caring for herds of livestock.  Once in their plots, plants required minimal care.  Meat was something reserved for special occasions or unusual circumstances like tonight.

Ch'ler chose one version of the “chicken” while Hr'kir ordered another.  Finding both dishes to be acceptable, they ate slowly, both to savor the flavor of the food and await their quarry.

After dinner and a few more drinks, a tall, heavy set Human male entered the front door of Zataka who matched the image Ch'ler had gleaned from Zeh's memories.  He was pale-skinned and had a large, curly mustache under his nose.  Based on his clothes, a bright orange shirt over a dark undershirt, blue pants, and a wide brimmed hat, Mudd was not a shy individual.

Ch'ler and Hr'kir exchanged mental glances. 

'It is him,' sent Hr'kir.

'Yes,' agreed Ch'ler.  'Which one do you want?'  The two had decided to divide the labor.  One of them would monitor the Saurian while the other would deal with the Human. 

'Mudd,' sent Hr'kir.  'You already know the mind of the Saurian.'

Ch'ler sent a mental nod at Hr'kir's choice.  Slipping back into Zeh's mind would be easy.  Since the average Human had little resistance to telepathic interlopers, Hr'kir should have no problems with Mudd.

When Zeh saw Mudd, he immediately gestured him into the back room.  It seemed to be time for serious business as well as time for mental eavesdropping.

“I'm a bit low on stock, Zeh, but I can accommodate you,” said Mudd in an oily voice.

“Good,” said Zeh.  “I had to sell my last bottles to keep some thugs from tearing up my place.  When can I get them?”

Mudd smiled.  “Within the hour.  Have your payment ready.”  With that the Human left the back room and headed for the front door.

The Shuuvasular waited for Mudd to leave Zataka before settling their bill and exiting the bar themselves. Hr'kir maintained telepathic contact with Mudd, so determining his direction of travel was not a issue.  Neither was being seen as they followed him.  Liskel'tu, the art of blinding the senses, would work as well here as it had against Tlingansular.  Ch'ler and Hr'kir could move as they pleased among the crowds.

This Human, Mudd, should lead them to the next step in the counterfeiting operation.

####

Harcourt Fenton Mudd walked along at a brisk pace, his jovial mood reflected in every step.  The wealth that he had dreamed of for so many years was finally his.  He had credits in his financial accounts, his own luxury spaceship, plenty of good food, and fine clothes.  It just took a chance encounter with some rather short, strange aliens with big ears. 

Ferengi, they called themselves.  Traders to the stars.

The idea of a culture built around making profit amazed Mudd.  He was no stranger to the idea a turning a quick profit, but the Ferengi had mastered the concept into an art form, a religious ideal with their Rules of Acquisition.

The role of females in Ferengi society also amazed Mudd.  Naked, home-bound, and servile.  Perhaps if his wife Stella had been like that, he would not have left her to roam the space lanes.

While the Ferengi had no interest in formal relations with the United Federation of Planets or any of its member worlds, they still wanted to extract profit from the stellar state.  They happily sold rare and exotic goods from points unknown at the frontier world trade centers.  As long as everyone was satisfied with the exchanges, no one asked questions about sources.

Apparently, one Ferengi ship captain named Gen had a major grip on the smuggling of kali-fal into Federation space.  The arrival of those Romulan refugees a few years ago had forced major changes on Gen's business model.  The Romulans had brought their kali-fal making skills with them and were soon supplying legal Romlulan ale to anyone who could afford it.  The black market still existed; however, the true status symbol was Rai'aelvir ale.  Anything else was second rate.  Gen's profits fell with the status of his goods as more customers wanted the “good stuff”, not a no-name ale from who-knew-where in the Romulan Star Empire.

A drop in profits could not be tolerated.  Very soon, the ever-resourceful Ferengi developed an alternative plan:  counterfeiting.  Put mediocre kali-fal into fake Rai'aelvir bottles.  Who would know the difference?  After all, how many kali-fal connoisseurs lived in the Federation?  The drink had only become legal a few years ago.

The Ferengi had the ale and the fake bottles.  What they lacked was a front man, a Federation citizen who could serve as a face to the customers.  That was Mudd's role.  A Ferengi trader would rouse suspicion, but a Human trader would not.  As long as he avoided the higher end buyers who might check his credentials with the Rai'aelvir, he was safe to peddle kali-fal by the case.

Mudd soon reached the warehouse district where his Ferengi suppliers should be waiting. Once the last few orders had been delivered and payments collected, he and the Ferengi would depart.  DaiMon Gen and his crew needed to be dropped off at their ship.  He himself planned on a long vacation at a nice resort on Risa.  He deserved it.  Selling fake Rai'aelvir kali-fal was hard work.

####

The tongo wheel spun as the players placed their stakes in the slots.  DaiMon Gen felt confident with his next hand when the wheel returned to him.  His cards, a full consortium, should take the game easily.

“Confront!” yelled Tarn, the second-in-command of Gen's ship, the Negotiator.  The Ferengi executive officer grinned, baring sharp teeth.

Gen was skeptical.  No matter though.  Tarn had just made an error that would give the game to his leader. He waited while everyone showed their cards.  Gen wanted to savor the moment.  His full consortium would be the hand to beat.

Tarn laid his cards down.  “A full monopoly,” he announced with pride.

Gen struggled to keep the shock from his face.  How did Tarn manage that?  He had kept a close eye on all of the players.  As a multiple champion at the Global Tongo Tournament back on Ferenginar, he usually had no problem dominating the tongo wheel.  Tarn's success tonight was pure luck.  His second-in-command did not have the lobes for a decent tongo game.

Not caring if he seemed a poor loser, Gen said, “I'm sitting out the next game.”  He stood from the table and strolled into the main section of the warehouse that served as the Ferengi's planet-side base.  Mudd's ship was too cramped for anything other than transport between markets.  Gen had docked his own ship at a small port just outside of Federation space, along with most of his crew. The appearance of the Negotiator, even at this small port, would lead to questions, something he did not need, so he and a small group of crew members had to settle for transport from the Hew-mon Mudd.  As soon as possible after reaching a new port, Gen would move himself and the others to on-planet accommodations, a warehouse, where living quarters and the tongo wheel would have space next to the kali-fal, the source of profit.

Federation types lusted after kali-fal and demand always outstripped supply creating the circumstances for a smart Ferengi to exploit.  Smuggling in cheap Romulan ale, putting it into replicated Rai'aelvir bottles, and selling it to low end establishments was sheer genius.  No one around here could tell the difference between the fancy Rai'aelvir brand and the dregs from a kali-fal vat.

This current venture had raised Gen's status among his fellow DaiMons quite a bit.  He had moved beyond simply smuggling kali-fal into Federation territory at a modest profit to selling it openly at a greater profit.  This would enhance his lifetime profit-loss statement and would ensure his entry into the Divine Treasury.  With the profits from this life, he looked forward to the next one won from the Celestial Auctioneers.  In his current life, he could dream of suits made of Tholian silk instead of a gray DaiMon's uniform, a fleet of ships instead of one, and the finest food on his home world.

Gen walked leisurely through the remnant of his kali-fal stock.  He and his crew were at the tail end of their latest sales mission since Thirat lay on the route back to Ferengi space.  Once Mudd made the last few sales, they would vacate the warehouse and begin the journey home.

The DaiMon glanced at the wall chronometer.  Mudd should arrive soon.  Once the orders were delivered, the Ferengi would be that much closer moving in freedom instead of keeping to the shadows.

“Good,” said Gen when he saw a figure approaching the warehouse on a surveillance camera. The Hew-mon's tall, heavy set form and body carriage stood out from others of his kind.  Gen found Mudd to be pompous, loud, and all too self-important for a mere Hew-mon, but he had  to admit that Mudd was very good at what Hew-mons called the “con game”.  He could talk most sentient beings into any deal.  In that,  Mudd was almost as good as a Ferengi.

He almost looked away from the screen before he saw the two cloaked shapes following Mudd.  Gen's eyes narrowed as questions flew through his mind.  Were they with Mudd or was it just a coincidence?  Why did Mudd seem oblivious to their presence? Was the Hew-mon attempting to betray him?

Gen considered his options.  He could allow Mudd to finish his journey.  The two strangers might continue on their way, all of his suspicions totally unfounded.  Or he could be proactive and confront the unwelcome persons.  In the end, the risk to his profits made the choice for him.  Gen returned to the tongo wheel where another game was in play. 

“Game's over!” he yelled.  “Get up and into your travel cloaks!”

The group of Ferengi looked at their leader, disbelief on their faces.  No one, except maybe the Grand Nagus, interrupted a game of tongo.

“Now, you slugs!” Gen bellowed when his crew hesitated.  Profits were in danger.  They needed to get moving.

As the Ferengi dropped their cards and scrambled to their feet, Gen barked another order.  “Bring the painstiks.  I want them alive!”

####

Ch'ler walked at his cousin's side through the streets of Thirat City.  The Human, a few meters ahead of them, seemed to be in a good mood.  Once they had left Zeh's bar, Ch'ler left the Saurian's mind and joined Hr'kir in Mudd's.  The short time he had been in Mudd's mind taught him that his experience with Humans was very limited.  The ones on T'Khasi were nothing like the Human they now trailed.  Of course, the authorities would discourage criminals of any sort from visiting his adopted home world.

Eventually Mudd led them into the warehouse district, an area adjacent to the spaceport.  The thoughts in his head made it plain that he planned to leave soon, after a few final deliveries. His mind also identified the accomplices in the kali-fal deception, a group called Ferengi.

Soon they were deep into the warehouse district where all of the block-like buildings tended to look alike.  Only the address numbers served to distinguish one from another.  The walk did teach Ch'ler one major disadvantage of telepathic invisibility in a civilian setting:  when others did not see you, they did not avoid you.  Both Ch'ler and Hr'kir spent a fare amount of their time dodging the pedestrians in their path.

'Do you think he is going to his ship?' Hr'kir asked Ch'ler.

'I do not know.  I thought he still had business with Zeh,' replied Ch'ler.  They had been walking for some time.

'We will have to find a way to track his ship if he does,' Hr'kir pointed out. 

'We have his name.  He must be one of the Federation personnel databases,' Ch'ler replied.

Mudd finally approached one warehouse with purpose, with the two operatives close behind him.  The Shuuvasular Adepts had become so accustomed to their cloak of invisibility and so focused on Mudd that they missed the unusual behavior of the hooded figures coming towards them.  They assumed that all they needed to do was just avoid bumping into them like the other pedestrians, so when they confronted Hr'kir and himself, Ch'ler was very surprised as they should not be able to see either Shuuvasu.  He was even more surprised when he did a light mind touch to find out who they were.

He found nothing.

The cloaked figures blocking his way had no mental presence, not even the “white noise” given off by typical non-telepaths.  These people were a blank, totally confusing Ch'ler.  He had never heard of such a species.

Hr'kir? He asked his cousin just before a sharp pain lanced through his right hip, eliciting a sharp hiss.  The pain was not the problem.  Again it was the surprise.

“Move!” said a voice in strangely accented Standard.  To emphasize the command, the figure waved a rod at him.

Ch'ler recognized the object at once. A Tlingansu painstik, but these were not Tlingansular.  He knew how their minds felt.  A second shot of pain made Ch'ler realize he needed to obey.  He and Hr'kir could work on an escape plan later. 

His cousin walked beside him as they followed the directions of their captors.  Ch'ler chanced a message to Hr'kir.  The telepathic blindness probably worked both ways.  Tlingansu painstiks, but not Tlingansular.

Trade world.  Anythings can be found on the black market, Hr'kir responded.

'True,' Ch'ler thought to himself.  Anyone with credits could buy them.  But who...what are they?

Ferengi? sent Hr'kir, naming Mudd's mysterious business partners.

Perhaps....

Ch'ler suddenly noticed Mudd had disappeared.  Not that it mattered right now.  Until they could escape their captors, Mudd would be a secondary concern.  Interesting that they were being led to the same warehouse that Mudd was headed towards, meaning that maybe these were the Ferengi.  When the group entered the warehouse, Ch'ler saw Mudd in a heated conversation with a short, orange-skinned biped with very large ears.  Both turned to look at the newcomers.

“You claim to know nothing about them, Mudd!” yelled the big-eared biped who pointed a blue-nailed finger at them.

“No, no, absolutely not!” replied Mudd as he stood his ground.  The short alien might be a telepathic blank, but Mudd was not.  Anger and confusion flowed from his heavy-set form.  “The deal was between the two of us.  Why would I want to spread the profit to more partners?”

The alien snorted.  “Hard to tell with you Hew-mons.”  He (Ch'ler thought it was a he) turned his full attention to the Shuuvasular.  “Who are they?  Pull back their hoods!”

One of the painstik wielders pulled the hoods back, Hr'kir first, the Ch'ler.

Once the short alien saw their bare heads, he began to yell loudly in an unknown language.  Ch'ler did not need telepathy to detect the fury present in the words.

####

“Beware the Vulcan greed for knowledge.”  Rule of Acquisition Number 79 flashed through Gen's mind.  The two pointed-eared trouble-makers proved the truth behind that bit of Ferengi wisdom.  Even though Tamas Rai'aelvir originated in the Romulan Star Empire, he was Vulcan beneath the Romulan veneer.  Living with his Vulcan kin undoubtedly brought that inherent Vulcan curiosity to the fore.

While he knew that Rai'aelvir would learn of his kali-fal business one day, Gen thought he had a few more very profitable years ahead of him.  The Romulan should be too distracted by the affairs of state to worry about kali-fal sales on the frontier.

Contingency plans spun through the DaiMon's head.  He had no idea how much Rai'ealvir knew or what the Romulan would do about him.  He needed to tie things up here on Thirat.  Make the final deliveries.  Collect the final payments.  And get rid of potential witnesses.

He looked at the Vulcans…and noticed they were a bit different from the usual stock.  Brown skin with a slight golden undertone.  Long hair tied up in a knot instead of the usual bowl cut.  A memory flashed into his mind.  He often kept a working store of information in the back of his mind.  One never knew when something might prove of value.

Shuuvalis Vulcans.  Vulcan refugees from  the Klingon Empire.   His information sources said they brought large amounts of useful stuff with them from the Empire.  Many of the products, plants, a new kind of silk, and artwork, might be very  profitable in a few years.  Gen planned collect his share when that time came 

They were also powerful telepaths.

That explained Mudd's story.  The Vulcans simply willed his weak Hew-mon mind not to see them.  In contrast, Ferengi had a natural resistance to telepathic intrusion.  No Vulcan or Betazoid could manipulate his mind. 

Which brought more questions to the fore....

How long had these Vulcans known about Mudd?  How much had they gleaned from Mudd about the operation?  If they were following him, they must be very sure of something.

As he thought of a way to dispose of their bodies, a glimmer of profit entered his mind.  Telepathy was genetic in Vulcans, passed from generation to generation.  Those two males were young and most likely virile.  Prime breeding material.  The Tal Shiar might be interested in increasing the number of Romulan telepaths available to them for training as interrogators and each male had the potential to sire lots of telepathic infants.

“Put the Vulcans in the cage,” Gen ordered.

Tarn, confused, hesitated.

“Now, slug brain!” snapped Gen  “The Romulans will pay bars of latinum for telepathic breeding stock.”

Tarn grinned.  “I get it.”  Smirking, he motioned for a couple of the crew to use their painstiks to herd the Vulcans towards the small, enclosed area set aside for especially valuable items.

While his crew dealt with the Vulcans, Gen returned his attention to Mudd.  The fat Hew-mon stood off to the side as if he was trying to disappear.  Not very likely.

“We need to finish our business here and I need to return home,” he began in a no-nonsense tone.  “Give me the final orders so we can deliver them.  You stay here to pack.  We leave in the morning.”

Mudd fumbled for a few minutes as he pulled a small PADD containing the requested data from a pants pocket.  Flustered, Mudd said, “But they know me as the contact.”

“And me as the delivery service,” Gen pointed out.  Mudd never handed the actual bottles to a customer.  His crew performed all of the burden so Gen had no idea what Mudd was complaining about.  Was he afraid the he might lose some profit?  If Gen decided to trim Mudd's share, it would be just compensation for tonight's inconvenience.

Gen reviewed the contents of the PADD, then gave orders to Tarn to load kali-fal onto the hovercarts.   He grabbed a cloak on his way out of the warehouse.  Before leaving the building, he turned and called back to both Mudd and the Vulcans.  “I have the code to the cage so don't bother meddling with Mudd's head.”  The Vulcans' expressions remained neutral, but Mudd looked uneasy.  Laughing,the DaiMon pulled the hood over his head and exited.

####

Mudd had watched in disgust as the Ferengi left the building.  The short, arrogant aliens had nerve ordering him to clean up after them while they made the final deliveries.  Picking up after anyone was not his job.  He was executive material.  At the end of this, he still expected to get his fair share of the profits or he could...would cause trouble for the DaiMon.

His activities of putting small items in boxes eventually led him past the cage confining the two Vulcans.  Both sat cross-legged on the concrete floor, eyes closed.  Irritated, Mudd said, “You two have caused me a lot of trouble!  Cut into my business!”

Neither Vulcan responded.  “And using your mind powers was low!  Very low! Downright unethical of you!”  Mudd chided.

There was still no response.  “Faugh!” snorted Mudd.  “Pointy-eared pests!”  These spies had probably reported back to their boss already.  Who knows what that would do his ale distribution business.  Would all his future income just evaporate?

“I hope you enjoy your new lives as stud males for your Romulan cousins,” sneered the tall human.  The two Vulcans still did not move.  He had heard that Vulcans could be a stoic lot, but this was ridiculous.  Would they really accept a life as breeding stock so passively?  If he was in the same position, he would be trying to talk his way out of that cage. Mudd soon lost interest in the lack of emotional display.  He still had a few more boxes to fill.

He walked past the tongo table and looked at the wheel.  The Ferengi game was some sort of mixture of roulette and poker.  He still had problems with the rules and had only joined one game.  After losing several slips of latinum, he swore off of it, but he was still intrigued.  He had just begun to examine one of the sets of tongo cards when he heard a soft whine behind him.

####

The night began differently than the other nights.  While both Ch'ler and Hr'kir had left the ship together as usual, they stayed together, which was not.  During their previous searches, each warrior had chosen a different set of bars and taverns, an approach they used to speed up coverage of the target area.

Hasa remained on board the ship as a guard during the nightly excursions since her bulk was impractical to hide with telepathy.  Often she spent her time in the cabin she shared with Hr'kir listening to recordings by clan musicians or meditating on the events of the day, all the while in empathetic contact with her besu.  She felt the pleasant emotions from him over dinner and drinks and felt the eagerness when Hr'kir spotted the target of the evening: a Human named Mudd.

Hr'kir's sudden unease warned her that this evening differed even more from the ones before it.  The sudden jolt of pain confirmed it.  She rose from her ship's bed, neck and spinal fur bristling.  A snarl came from her throat directed at the unseen enemies who threatened her besu.  Hasa left her quarters and went to the ship's airlock, which was never sealed when the warriors were absent, in case an emergency forced her from the vessel. 

She sat there, unsure of her next action.  Back home, she would immediately go to Hr'kir's side.  But here, in a very strange place, she needed more guidance as impulsiveness could be as dangerous as delay.  Hr'kir was a mature warrior of the Council.  He knew how to handle himself in a confrontation.

A few minutes later, the guidance came.  Hasa, come to me, sent Hr'kir.  

Hasa, eager to join her friend of a life time, stepped out out the small freighter.  After checking the general area to ensure that her departure was unobserved, the beyi-osehlat quickly and stealthily made her way from the spaceport to the warehouse district, following Hr'kir's mental trail.

####

Mudd looked over his shoulder to see a very large, bear-like creature snarling at him, long fangs fully bared.  He was a tall man, and yet the shoulders of the beast stood at the same level as his abdomen.  The former ale trader quickly spun the rest of his body around to face the beast.  What was it?  Where did it come from?  Where was the nearest weapon?

“Mudd,” came a voice from the area of the cage.

Mudd did not hear it.  His attention was elsewhere.

“MUDD!” came the voice again, this time with telepathic punctuation.

“I'm busy, Vulcan!” Mudd shouted.  Why did the Vulcans decide to become chatty now?  Didn't they seen that creature?

“Indeed you are,” said the Vulcan.  “My Hasa has most of your attention, dos she not?”  There was amusement in that voice.

“My Hasa”, the Vulcan had said.  He knew this beast?  He owned this beast? 

“She will not harm you if you free us,” the Vulcan continued.  “I will not guarantee her actions if you delay.”

The creature snarled louder and took a step closer toward him.  Mudd backed away slowly.  He did not  know what this creature was, but he did not want to trigger any sort of pursuit instincts by running away.

“How can I free you?  Gen took the key,” Mudd pointed out. Both Vulcans heard the Ferengi DaiMon.

“Smash the lock,” came the infuriatingly calm reply.  A snarl from “Hasa” served as an exclamation point.

Mudd considered his options.  The Ferengi would be furious when they found the Vulcans, a potential source of profit, missing.  On the other hand, he faced a viscous bear-like thing under the control of at least one of those Vulcans.  His current well-being won out over any future reprisals from Gen.  He searched the warehouse, feeling the eyes of the animal constantly on him.  Soon he found several rods of heavy metal.  Both Vulcans moved to the rear of the cage while Mudd beat the electronic control panel into scrap.  When that stage of the escape was complete, all three males combined their strength to force the door open.

He watched the happy reunion of the two Vulcans and their pet....whatever for a few seconds before he decided to make his escape.  They did not need him anymore.  He needed to get far away from this place before Gen and his thugs returned, preferably off-planet.  True, leaving in his ship alone would strand the Ferengi on Thirat, but that was not his major concern.  Survival and money were.

“Where are you going, Mudd?” asked one of the Vulcans.

Mudd looked over at the trio.  He honestly could not tell one Vulcan from the other.  “Well now, you have your freedom and I will take mine,” Mudd replied a bit haughtily.  Those aliens should be grateful to be free and not bother him.

“I think your business partners will not be pleased with you,” said the Vulcan

Mudd just looked at him.  Talk about understatement!

“In addition our employer has a complaint against you and your associates.  I think you you should come with us.”

“With you?!”  Mudd was incredulous.  Why would that Vulcan even think such a crazy thing.  “I have my own ship in port.  I'll not lose it traveling with the likes of you!”

Instead of a neutral expression, the Vulcan actually smirked. And looked towards the main door of the warehouse.  The other Vulcan and the the beast looked that way also.

Confused, Mudd glanced in that direction.  “What?!”

“The Ferengi are returning,” said the Vulcan,  “You can make your peace with them.”

Ferengi!  Mudd panicked, then calmed down.  Those deliveries should take Gen at least another thirty minutes.  He looked at the two Vulcans who had started conversing with each other.  They could be lying, but Vulcans were not known for being good liars.  The two then straightened their cloaks and drew the hoods over their heads, covering their ears.  They obviously had no plans to force him to accompany them.

As he wondered if he could make it to his ship before Gen returned to the warehouse, Mudd's Human ears heard sounds of a hovercart approaching, sounds which meant those Vulcans were being truthful.  He quickly gathered what few possessions he kept in the building.  “Time to go,” he said as he followed the only source of security available to him since Vulcans were also not known for pushing people out of airlocks.

He followed the Vulcans and their pet through the side entrance, a logical choice since the Ferengi needed the wide front entrance to admit the hovercart.  The last thing he heard be the door closed was Gen screaming.  “Find that filthy, contract-breaking Hew-mon!  Go to his ship!”

Glossary

Ahkhinahr - the way of the psionic warrior, one of the foundations of Shuuvasu society

DaiMon - captain of a Ferengi merchant/military ship

Hew-mon - The Ferengi term for Humans

Lis - a mental discipline based on projective telepathy

Liskel'tu - “Blind senses”, the ability of an Adept of Lis to make his- or herself invisible to living beings

Tongo - a Ferengi gambling ga

Dreams - Chapter Two

In the middle of the night

I go walking in my sleep

Through the valley of fear

To a river so deep

And I've been searching for something

Taken out of my soul

Something I 'd never lose

Something somebody stole

-from River of Dreams, sung by Billy Joel.

Ch'ler woke with a start.  He threw off the bed coverings, not wanting them to touch the parts of his skin not covered by his sleeping garment.  He stared at the far bulkhead in the dim light of his small cabin, its empty facade providing some comfort for his overactive mind.  It was that dream again, the one which replayed the death of Dake.  His beyi-osehlat had been one of the first casualties of the Tlingansular, killed for sport and a trophy.  Dake's death scream and the sight of his flayed corpse still haunted his sleep.

The clan healers had done their best by providing the customary support and therapies. It was he who refused to take the final step.  He refused to accept a replacement beyi-osehlat.  None could replace Dake.

By his actions, Ch'ler defied Shuuvasu tradition. In that ancient way, a warrior in his prime always had an osehlat companion, with only the elderly and the infirm exempt.  The bond between besu and beyi-osehlat formed an integral part of Shuuvasu society, so much so that Ch'ler was now an outsider in his own clan.

He did not care.  Just because others accepted new beyi-osehlatlar did not mean he had to.

His parents explained that such deaths did occur, however unfortunate.  Once tears had been shed for Kal-ap-ton the Griever, the clan expected a member of the Warrior's Council to move on and resume a proper place in society by bonding to an osehlat from the clan pack.  True, the bond might not be as deep as the one formed in childhood, but it was a bond nevertheless.  Many clan osehlatlar desired such a bond.  Who was he to deny it?

Ch'ler filled the space once occupied by Dake with other things.  He gave up his art in the theater and shifted his talents to costume design and gev silk embroidery.  He also mastered the fire dance.

The fire dance kept him sane.

Controlling the movement of a burning tuft of gev silk as he moved through a favored kareel-ifla kata purged his mind of any thoughts of grief and loneliness.  It was his way of recognizing the loss of his old friend.

Ch'ler gave up any hope of getting any more sleep this night.  He knew he needed to dance.  He left his bed, changed into comfortable workout clothes, and pulled his long, black hair into a high ponytail.  Once dressed, he walked to the ship's cargo hold, where he, at the onset of the voyage, had created a small exercise area by rearranging the crates of replicator supplies.

The Shuuvasu warrior pulled a thick tuft of gev silk saturated with ta'raa flower oil from a pants pocket.  The thick, yellow oil burned slowly, allowing him time to complete his exercise.  Ch'ler tossed the oily tuft into the air, willing it to burst into flames.  He then began the fluid movements of the fifth kata,  a ritualized series of movements that traced the main offensive moves of the fifth level of the fighting art of kareel-ifla.

As he moved, Ch'ler kep the burning silk suspended above his hands.  The effort required to both perform the kata and control the flaming tuft forced all unrelated thoughts from his mind.  Only the kata and the flame existed. 

After twenty minutes, the combination of oil and silk burned itself out and settled the warrior's mind.

####

Breakfast, a combination of non-replicated nut porridge and a selection of local fresh fruit deemed safe to eat, waited on the small galley table.  It was a welcome change from replicated oatmeal, the usual fare Hr'kir prepared in the morning.  Replicated food may be adequate for survival purposes, but there was more to life than that.

Ch'ler, bathed and dressed in Human-style clothes, sat at the table, while Hr'kir busied himself preparing breakfast for Hasa, his beyi-osehlat and third member of the crew.  Their current location, a small freighter docked at Thirat City Space Port, served as home base for their travels through this sector.  So far, the group had visited three nearby solar systems with no luck.  Thirat was the first positive lead since this mission began.

Once Hr'kir had served Hasa her portion of the breakfast, he settled himself onto the stool opposite Ch'ler's.  The two nodded to each other, then began to eat their own meals.

Hr'kir was his first cousin, the only child of his father's sister.  Since Ch'ler himself had no male siblings, Hr'kir filled the role of brother. The two of them had grown up together in the family compound in Hs'mayatta Village and shared most of the major life events of a Shuuvasu warrior:  learning the warrior ways, bonding to beyi-sehlatlar, joining the Path of Lis, the beginning and ending of their Travel.  They served together during the wars against the Tlingansular, clouding the ridge-headed aliens thoughts so that fellow Shuuvasu warriors could destroy them.  And most important of all, Hr'kir was the one of the very few persons that Ch'ler had joined in a deep mind meld, one of the most intimate of acts.  Nothing could be hidden in such a penetrating mind meld.  All thoughts revealed themselves, hopes, fears, loves, hates.  All those things made Hr'kir his t'hai'la, a person who was often closer than an actual brother.

Ch'ler valued Hr'kir for another reason.  His cousin never chided him about not bonding with another beyi-osehlat.  As Hr'kir had said shortly after Dake's death, “You must seek your own way, Ch'ler-kam.”  Even his former fiancee had not been so understanding.

Hr'kir bit into a piece of the blue fruit.  “Tart, but sweet enough,” he said after swallowing.  “We should take some home with us.  Maybe we can grow it.”

Only half listening, Ch'ler looked up from his meal.  His mind had been occupied with Osasu Rai'aelvir's reply to his preliminary report.  As expected, the Rihanelsu lord had requested further information on Zeh and his associates.  With the limitations Administrator Stelevare placed on the mission, disguise and a moderate level of mind walking only, Ch'ler felt frustrated.  He was used to much more freedom of action when investigating suspects.  Of course his only previous experience was with enemies, but still...

“Uh,” said Ch'ler in response when he realized that Hr'kir had spoken.

The other Shuuvasu chuckled.  Unlike Vuhlkansular, Shuuvasular had no interest in suppressing emotions for its own sake.  “Puzzling instead of enjoying good food,” he observed.

Ch'ler smiled.  “Indeed yes.  What did you ask me?”

####

Hr'kir did not take his cousin's slow response as a slight.  That was just Ch'ler: intensely involved in anything he did.  That intensity of purpose kept Ch'ler sane after the loss of Dake. Work, art, and the fire dance focused Ch'ler elsewhere and away from the inner pain.

Even so, Clan Hs'mayatta had lost a highly talented performance artist.  Ch'ler was a powerful Adept of Lis, the ancient psionic discipline of the mind clouders.  His skills at projection telepathy allowed him to dress himself as any character in a play or hide a group of Shuuvasu warriors from a Tlingansu battle squad.  He gave up performance art when Dake died, becoming silent and introverted. He still worked with other performance artists, but as a costume and scenery designer.  His skill in gev silk embroidery, fueled by an consuming desire to find inner calm, was respected among other members of the clan, even those who thought Ch'ler should follow well-established tradition and not open himself up to the temptations of Tyr-al-tep the Unforgiver, who lived in the dark places of the mind.

Like Ch'ler, Hr'kir practiced the the Path of Lis, a Path that attracted the most powerful telepaths of any Shuuvasu clan regardless of family lineage. While all Shuuvasular possessed high levels of telepathy, some were especially gifted. The disciplines of Lis provided that extra training, that extra outlet for their abilities which prevented such powerful mind walkers from becoming a socially destabilizing force.

Hr'kir had been Ch'ler's performance partner since their apprenticeship days and they had often appeared on stage together, days that he now missed.  Battling Tlingansular had captured a bit of the old feelings, but it was a poor substitute.

“Excellent fruit.”  Ch'ler smiled as he chewed.  “What are your plans for today?”

Both Shuuvasular laughed.  Since most of their targets, the bars and taverns, did not open until after most other places closed, the two had many hours to fill.  Exploring the port city was one thing they did to pass the daylight hours.  Thus far, they had found quite a few exotic goods to take back home.  New spices, foods, textiles, and pigments could be found in the varied shops about town.  They also saw fascinating works of art from all over the sector:  carvings, tapestries, jewelry, and paintings.  Shuuvasular placed a very high value on artworks and much of what they saw was of great quality.  Hr'kir and Ch'ler elected to spend  some of their own funds on samples to take home with the idea of setting up future trade relations.

“A round of kovlar,” said Ch'ler suggesting a game which dated back to the ancient times before spaceflight.  To succeed, one had to surround one's opponent pieces with his own while preventing his opponent from doing the same.  Once all the pieces had been placed on the board, the player with the fewest surrounded pieces won.

Hr'kir considered his cousins idea.  Kovlar was a favorite of his, but he had another idea.  “Kal-toh?”

Ch'ler frowned a bit.  Kal-toh was a Vuhlkansu game. “Too logical.  How about nesh-kur heh yon-kur.”

“Agreed,” said Hr'kir, smiling.  Nesh-kur heh yon-kur, a game sometimes called Vulcan backgammon by Humans due to the strategy required to win, was a childhood favorite.  He began to clear away the breakfast dishes while Ch'ler retrieved the game board from an overhead storage bin.  Once the board was on the galley table and the red and black playing pieces in place, the two cousins began to play while Hasa dozed nearby.

####

After several games of nesh-kur heh yon-kur, everyone retired to the ship's hold for activities that Hasa could also join in.  The beyi-osehlat had limited opportunities for participation on the worlds they visited.  A sehlat, a unusual sight on any planet other than T'Khasi, in the company of two Humans might give rise to unwanted questions from the local inhabitants so Hasa spent most of her time confined to the ship.  Depending on the port, Hr'kir would take her on walks in the early mornings, but that was the extent of it.

Everyone agreed on a few rounds of puller, another game from childhood.  A deceptively simple game, the goal was to pull a soft, thick rope from the hands or jaws of one's opponent.  However, more than strength was needed to win for puller also tested perception, something osehlatlar usually figured out before their bipedal companions did.  The ability to read non-verbal cues - body language, facial expression, emotions - was the key to victory.

Ch'ler braced himself as he held onto a knotted end of the thick rope.  His opponent, Hasa, eyed him critically.  Keeping tension on her end of the thick rope, the beyi-osehlat watched him for any sign of movement, any sign of emotion on his face.  Beyi-osehlatlar could detect the smallest bit, even on someone other than their besu. Puller was  a test of guile - who could deceive the other long enough to claim the rope?

The two stared at each other a few more minutes, daring the other to move.  The Shuuvasu mind clouder suppressed a grin.  This had been one of his favorite games with Dake, something that was just plain fun.  Hasa lessened the tension on the rope, but Ch'ler was not fooled.  He knew she was good at this game of cunning.  As Ch'ler moved to increase his grip on the rope, Hasa snapped her head to the right, using her powerful neck and shoulder muscles to pull the rope from his hands.

Ch'ler just stood there for a few seconds to let the surprise dissipate while Hr'kir laughed from where he sat, a crate of replicator bricks near a bulkhead. “She won again!” he said between breaths.  “My Hasa!” 

Chagrined, Ch'ler just nodded in a agreement.  He then bowed in respect to Hasa, the winner of four out of five matches.  “The victor.”

Hasa whuffed in acceptance.

“And now your prize,” said Ch'ler.  He walked to stand in front of Hasa and began a deep massage of the area around her eyebrows that she so enjoyed.  Pleasant emotions passed between Shuuvasu and osehlat as Hasa leaned forward to increase the pressure.  This was also something he did with Dake. 

The beyi-osehlat closed her eyes so that she could concentrate on the sensation.

####

Ch'ler rested against the furry flank of a very contented Hasa.  His cousin lounged on the opposite side.  Playing with Hr'kir and Hasa relaxed him almost as much as the fire dance.  Even though Hasa was bonded to Hr'kir, she made allowances for Ch'ler since she had known him from early childhood when the bonding had taken place.  When Dake still lived, the four of them spent a great deal of time together, playing, learning, working, and growing up to be warriors. 

Ch'ler rummaged through a few of his childhood memories.  On Shuuvalis, back on the Hs'mayatta lands, riding a favored kenel, Dake at his side.  The two had enjoyed watching the Great Migration, the movement of the herds as they followed the rains.  Other times of tending the gev insectoids, the source of fine silk.  The creatures, with their elongated, low-slung bodies and multiple pairs of legs, lived in covered sheds on the outskirts of Hs'mayatta Village.  As children, both he and Hr'kir worked hard to to keep the gev fed and clean and then collected  the silk cocoons the creatures spun every night as protection during sleep.   Eventually Ch'ler was reassigned to work with the land crustaceans, fierce red-eyed animals that produced succulent flesh.  It was on one of the those days that the Tlingansular arrived....

With a bodily jerk, Ch'ler broke that chain of thought.  Startled, Hasa looked at him with concern, causing him to wince inside.  Hasa, a strong empath in her own right, knew his inner pain as did Hr'kir.  Both besu and beyi-osehlat studied him closely.

“It is nothing,” Ch'ler said as he forced grief and sadness from his mind.

Hr'kir knew better, but respected his cousins wishes.  “We should prepare to leave soon.  That Saurian should provide good information tonight.”

Grateful for his cousin's silence on the matter, Ch'ler simply said, “I agree.”

Glossary

Besu - a Shuuvasu warrior bonded to an osehlat

Beyi-osehlat - the sehlat companion of a Shuuvasu warrior

Kal-ap-ton - ancient Vulcan deity symbolizing grief

Gev - an insect-like creature raised by the Shuuvasular for its silk

Kali-fal - Romulan ale

Kam - term of endearment

Kareel-ifla - an ancient Vulcan martial art

Kata - (Earth term) - a choreographed series of movements, often used in martial arts

Katra - the spiritual essence of a Vulcan mind

Kenel - a horse-like animal originally from Vulcan domesticated for riding

Kal-toh - a Vulcan game of logical strategy

Kovlar - a Vulcan game similar to Go

Nesh-kur heh yon-kur - “black and red” a Vulcan game similar to backgammon

Lis - a mental discipline based on projective telepathy

Osasu - sir

Osehlat - "honored sehlat"  the sehlatlar associated with the Shuuvasu people

Ta'raa - a plant native to Shuuvalis

T'hai'la - very close friend

Tyr-al-tep - ancient Vulcan deity symbolizing useless regrets

Even though I skipped this year's Star Trek Big Bang, I have been writing in my own little ST:AOS universe.  I am happy to present Dreams.

Chapter One

Color of sky

Taste that pleases the gods.

-poem by Lincan, Praetor of the Rihanelsu Star Empire, describing Rai'aelvir kali-fal.

Tamas Rai'aelvir sat in his office eying the bottle in his right hand with disgust.  It looked like a bottle from his family's orbital factory, a narrow, four-sided design made from pale blue glass.  However, it was a fake, just like the appalling liquid inside of it.  That blue stuff had little in common with the fine beverage produced in the Rai'aelvir brewery.  Someone had been pouring smuggled swill into counterfeit Rai'aelvir bottles.

One of his legal distributors had found the bottle he currently held in a scruffy tavern in the   Rigel system.  According to the tavern owner, she had picked it up during a shopping trip to a frontier planet near Tholian space.  The problem was that House Rai'aelvir had no customers so far away from the the core Federation worlds since most people that far out preferred cheaper drink.

Tamas could understand the motivation behind the false Rai'aelvir ale.  His family was the only legal brewer of kali-fal in the United Federation of Planets and had a very profitable monopoly.  The wealth that flowed from the kali-fal market comprised the bulk of Rai'aelvir family income as well as a growing part of T'Khasi's gross planetary product.  All of that wealth was a tempting target.

Placing the bottle on the top of his desk, Tamas stood and walked to the large window.  His status as Federation Councilor T'Pau's second-in-command had earned him a large corner office in the Vulcan embassy in Sausalito.  The grand view of San Francisco Bay was lost on the average Vuhlkansu.  They preferred vistas of sand and red desert rock.  But Tamas enjoyed the water-filled view, a reminder of his family's once high status back in the ocean-side city of Val'danadex Trel, capital city of the Rihanelsu Star Empire.

Life in the Federation had recaptured a bit of that status, even if it was limited to being the unofficial leader of T'Khasi's Rihanelsu residents.  Limited as it was, he could still wield some power.  Whoever was exploiting the Rai'aelvir name for their own ends had to be stopped.  The honor of his family depended on it.

For generations, the kali-fal made by his family had graced the tables of praetors.  By contrast, simply smelling the stuff in that bottle on his desk made him gag.  It reminded him of the drink made by brewers in the Rihanelsu Outer Territories, ones who were interested in low cost and speed of production.  Most of their swill went to the local drinking houses or into the smuggling trade.

As the head of the House Rai'aelvir gazed out at the bay, he reviewed his course of action.  The first thing he needed was more information such as the extent of the operation and who was behind it.  He returned to his desk and took a seat.  After pulling his personal PADD from an inner jacket pocket, Tamas began to write a short proposal.

  #####  

The decor looked used, not the comfortable used of a high-end establishment, but the worn out used of a low-end dive.  No one who frequented this place should even know Rai'aelvir kali-fal existed, much less order it.  The interior followed the typical layout common in the Federation:  a long counter along a wall with several customer tables placed between it and the main entrance.  Bipedal servers moved among the tables delivering orders.

Ch'ler adjusted his hood, making sure it covered his head.  Even though he had concealed himself telepathically as an average Human male, machine eyes would not be fooled.  Those ever present spies could see his pointed ears, up-swept eyebrows, and warrior's top knot, markers of a Vulcan of the Shuuvasular, a descendent of a lost colony from Tlingansu space, and something unusual in a place like this.  While traveling Shuuvasular were becoming more common in the Federation, few would come to an obscure bar on a frontier world like Thirat.  His people preferred places with more style.

His reason for being in this place had to do with his current employer, Tamas Rai'aelvir of T'Khasi and owner of the Rai'aelvir brewery.  The Rihanelsu leader wanted to find who dared use the Rai'aelvir name to sell an inferior product.  And he paid very well.

Ch'ler's task centered around his skill in “mind clouding”, the ancient art of Lis that his distant ancestors had brought with them from the original world of T'Khasi.  While all of his people were telepaths on a level with Betazoids and Aenar, the followers of Lis could manipulate how others saw the world around themselves.  The most common use of this talent lay in the theater and related performance arts.  Based on how the Shuuvasular used the skill against the Tlingansular, House Rai'aelvir felt it might also be useful for espionage.  They had recruited Ch'ler and several other Adepts of Lis to seek out information on any unauthorized sellers and distributors of their ale.

Ch'ler strode inside without hesitation since a timorous approach would have brought unwanted attention to himself.  He glanced around as he walked, noting the various species of the patrons and took a seat at the bar between two Andorians.  The Saurian bartender spotted him immediately.

“Welcome to my place.  I'm Zeh.  What do you need?” asked the bar's owner.

Looking at the display of bottles and jars behind the bar counter, Ch'ler said, “Scotch,” making sure his Standard accent was as generic as possible.  His choice was a common enough Human drink.

“Not being adventurous tonight?” quipped Zeh as he poured the amber liquid into a clear glass.

“Business is slow,” replied Ch'ler.  This bartender was as chatty as the others.  That must be a part of the job description.

“What are you selling?  I might know some buyers.”

“Food blocks for replicators,” said Ch'ler after paying the bartender.

The Saurian nodded.  “Yes, I understand.  Pretty common stuff out here, unless you have something special.”

“No,” said Ch'ler.  Rai'aelvir chose a mundane cargo for the equally mundane ships of his operatives.  Port authorities ignored such ships, their cargoes, and their crews.

“Sorry then,” said Zeh.

“Thanks for the offer,” said Ch'ler before taking a sip of his scotch.

Ch'ler took in more details of the place when Zeh moved onto other customers.  His first impressions were correct:  working class clientele, common drinks, a lot of background chatter, and some annoying music from a Tellarite playing an unknown instrument.

Suddenly, raucous voices added to the bar's noisy milieu.  A group of male Nausicaans had burst through the door.  Yelling and laughing, the newcomers stormed over to an almost empty table.  The table's two occupants, Humans, retreated to safer seats.

“Barkeep!  We won big over at Livar's place and we are going to celebrate!  Bring bottles of that good stuff!” ordered the leader.

The Saurian bartender looked perplexed.  “Good stuff?”

“We know you got it, Zeh!” said a second gambler.  “And don't bring us Andorian ale!  We know the difference!”

The exchange caught Ch'ler's attention.  Both kali-fal and Andorian ale shared a similar color.  He watched as Zeh opened a cabinet below the bar counter and pulled out two distinctively-shaped bottles.  Ch'ler pretended mild interest in the activity, no more than any other patron, but noted everything.  The bottles, while Rai'aelvir is design, held a liquid which was too dark to come from House Rai'aelvir.  A good candidate for the counterfeit kali-fal.

'No', he corrected himself.  'Genuine kali-fal, just not Rai'aelvir kali-fal.'

He watched as a server placed the bottles on a tray along with several glasses. At last, after visiting twenty-three bars and taverns, he had a solid lead.

Ch'ler finished his drink and then bade Zeh farewell.  As he left the bar, the smile on his face was no illusion.  

####

Tamas Rai'aelvir sat in the testing room of his family's brewery when the message arrived.  It was his habit to visit the facility at least once per standard month to personally see the state of things.  The room, recently completed, was an improvement over the cramped quarters behind the fermentation chambers that used to serve the purpose.  Here, surrounded by frescoes of the T'Khasi countryside, Tamas could entertain potential customers.

Aaro, his cousin and youngest daughter of the senior family brew-master, sat across the large wooden table from him.   Her father, Tars, had fallen ill and had sent her in his place, which pleased Tamas because it provided the opportunity for the next generation to learn the craft.

On the table between the two rested several small glasses of the latest batches of kali-fal and ak'en.  In addition, glasses of new wines made from Kafarian apples, Terran peaches, and Shuuvasu hudokaya t'sehlat had been placed beside the traditional drinks.  They were present for consideration as new additions to the Rai'aelvir product line.  Tars thought expanding the family's offerings would be good for business and Tamas agreed. Many of his clients would be interested in new beverages from his House, especially something made from an “exotic” fruit hailing a long lost Vulcan colony world located in Klingon space.

Tamas quietly read the contents of the message stored on the small PADD, pleased that the news sounded promising.  One of his field operatives, Ch'ler of Clan Hs'mayatta, had spotted kali-fal being served from Rai'aelvir bottles in a location, a small bar on the frontier world of Thirat, unknown to him.  However, Tamas knew that the kali-fal served in that place did not originate in his brewery.  That stuff probably came from the Rihanelsu Outer Territories.  Drinkable, of course, but poor quality.

The head of House Rai'aelvir composed a short reply:  more surveillance, find the local distributor or contact.  Finished, Tamas pocketed the PADD in a jacket pocket.  He then looked over at his cousin.  “Promising news, Aaro.  One team has a lead.”

Aaro, who had sat respectfully while Tamas worked on his PADD, smiled.  “Wonderful news!” she exclaimed.  “This embarrassment will soon end.”

Tamas smiled too, a display of emotion he used among his blood relatives, but very little among his Vuhlkansu colleagues, whom he knew would disapprove.  He knew Aaro's disgust at the thought that another would use the family name to sell garbage.  All of the Rai'aelvir brewers and apprentices seethed at the idea.  Such a crime warranted death back in the Star Empire.

Curious about the new beverages, Tamas selected a glass of peach wine.  He sipped the golden liquid and sighed in pleasure.  All Vulcanoids enjoyed peaches.  The sweet fruit pleased something deep inside of them that few other fruits did, including Vulcan ones.

After another sip, Tamas simply nodded to Aaro that she could begin full scale production of that particular liquid.


Glossary

Ak'en - an orange-colored Romulan alcoholic beverage

Hudokaya t'sehlat -- "sehlat's delight" a fruit native to Shuuvalis that is highly favored by both sehlats and Vulcanoids.

Kali-fal - Romulan ale

Lis - a mental discipline based on projective telepathy

Rihanelsu/lar - Romulan name for themselves

Shuuvasu/lar - Vulcan descended from the crew and passengers of the colony ship Shuuvalis

T'Khasi - one of the original names for the planet Vulcan

Tlingansu/lar - Vulcan word for Klingons

Vuhlkansu/lar - Vulcan name for themselves

Note:  Vulcan vocabulary is based on material from the Vulcan Language Institute and Vulcan Language Dictionary

Thoughts on the v'tosh ka'tur

The v'tosh ka'tur (Vulcans without logic) made their first canon appearance in the ENT episode Fusion.  The name means "Vulcans without logic" and by T'Pol's reaction to them, v'tosh ka'tur are very much outside of mainstream of Vulcan society.  So much so that the crew of the Valkis felt they needed to get off the planet to investigate their ideas.  This look into Vulcan society brings up a few questions.

a)  What are the origins of the v'tosh ka'tur?  Are they associated with the intolerance of the V'las administration or have dissidents to the logical ideal always been around.  We do know that a major group of dissidents left to eventually create the Romulan empire.  It makes sense that other groups arose over the centuries.  Some might have stayed on Vulcans while others took to the stars.  Small groups of "oddball" Vulcans might be scattered all over Federation space.  Some might have been away from Vulcan for generations.

b)  How do current Vulcans (TOS era) react to them?  Sybok was banished from his home world.  The movie did not go into details, but his attitudes must have upset the higher-ups on Vulcan.

c) After the destruction of Vulcan, how will they react? Will they stay away or will they try to return?  WIll the remnant of the mainstream Vulcan population accept them?

 

More thoughts on offworld Vulcans.

Last post, I speculated on a reason Vulcans might not have numerous colonies -- philopatry.   After some thought, another reason came to me.  Vulcans might be a species which does not see a big value in planetary colonization.  Just because some humans want to colonize as many planets as possible does not mean that a non-human species shares the same view.  Vulcans might have enclaves on many worlds throughout the Federation, but very few formal colonies.  To me it might be similar to the Chinatowns found in many countries -- cultural enclaves within a larger society.  

Vulcans went a colonization phase, but they seem to have lost interest after the Time of Awakening.  The Romulans appear to be the last wave of colonization before the Vulcans focused inward.  They still went into space, but now it was for exploration instead of colonization.  The impulse for colonization/empire building is confined to the Romulans. 

Research, research, research.....

Sometimes I think doing the research is almost as much fun as writing the story, but  I need to get writing.....

Today's topic is philopatry, literally "home-loving".  It is an ecological term describing how some animals tend to stay in one geographic region for breeding, moulting, raising offspring, etc.  This comes to mind because I wonder if Vulcans have some form of it imprinted in their brains.  In Amok Time, Spock spoke about the ancient drives compelling Vulcan males to return home and take a mate.  In Blood Fever, Vorik said that his betrothed was back on Vulcan.  Both males assumed that they had to return home as part of the mating drive.  We do know that males don't need to be physically on Vulcan to survive the pon farr; they need a mate or some activity to sublimate/neutralize the mating drive.  But the idea of philopatry in Vulcans is interesting.  Vulcans might be major force in all manner of space- related things, but perhaps they are lousy colonizers.  Something in their genetic background links them to their homeworld.  They have outposts, science stations, and perhaps a modest colony or two; however nothing on the scale of humans.

Of course, people can point to the Romulans.  Somewhow they made it on another world.  True, but what if their ancestors underwent brutal selection for those to could survive away from Vulcan, and those who could not?  ( Maybe that is a reason for Romulan agressiveness.  Life is tough and only the tough survive.)  The resulting population would be comprised of the fittest for that planet.  The same could be said for the Shuuvasular, the Vulcan ethnic group from my story, Distant Relations.  Only those who could live off Vulcan had children.

These are my musings on the need for a Vulcan colony in the aftermath of Nero.  If Vulcan had many thriving colonies, why creat a new one for 10,000 survivors?  Wouldn't it be more sensible/logical to select an existing colony as the next seat of the Vulcan government which already had the infrastructure in place?  How much is starting a new Vulcan colony going to cost?  The Federation just took a major financial blow with the loss of Vulcan, most of a graduating class of cadets, and six capital ships.

Perhaps philopatry combined with Vulcan conservatism led to a lack of Vulcan colonies.  In that case, starting a new Vulcan colony makes sense.  Now, of course, the Vulcan survivors are faced with the problem of adapting to a new environment.

Revisions, revsions, revisions...

Over the past two years of participating in the Star Trek Big Bang, my writing style has changed for the better.  When I look at my first foray into ST:AOS fanfic, Adaptation, I cringe.  So....time for a major revision!  That's my goal this summer.  Fix the mess and bring it into line with Dustant Relations and the unpublished (yet) spin-of stories.