Command Center <VES Minerva>

The central operations facility of this Wasp-class destroyer is a blunted trapezoid that angles from the 15-foot-wide forward bulkhead and graduates to 30-feet-wide at the aft end of the command hull.

A holographic viewscreen provides amplified visuals of the surrounding cosmos, while square portholes can be found to starboard and port on the bulkheads until reaching the elevated console station "U" that cradles the command chair and the navigation console.

A pair of steps can be seen port, starboard and aft, leading from the command well to the rail-encircled "U" that houses the science, communications, atmospheric monitoring and cargo management consoles.

The "U"-deck and the top of the encircling rail are covered with navy blue impact cushioning. The lower command well, forward to the prow, has uncarpeted gray metal plates - some marked as AUTHORIZED ACCESS ONLY - BREACH CONTAINMENT RISK.

Directly aft from the command chair, at the bottom of the "U," is the hatch that leads to the rest of the vessel.

Porter strides onto the bridge. "Status report?"

DS-3633 pauses for a few seconds, then asks with its head tilted, "This unit-" it stops and turns at the new voice. "Greetings, Colonel Porter."

Brushtail's ears prick towards the new voice as the Demarian rotates in the pilot's chair, conversation forgotten as he stands, saluting. "Sir. We're ready to go. Course to Castor's laid in, and anything I found to tie down during pre-flight, I've done, sir."

Porter nods to DS-3633, then looks toward Brushtail as he steps down into the command well and approaches the central chair. "Take us out, Private." He looks up at the ceiling. "Osiris, we'll be needing the OtherSpace Drive shortly."

~Acknowledged,~ responds the sparkling blue manifestation that appears just outside the corner of your eye.

Brushtail's gaze flicks over to the presence, or where he saw it. He nods to Porter and returns to his chair, adjusting it for his height and limb length. "Ready to taxi on your mark, sir. Pending clearance from Concordance, we should be able to launch."

Porter nods to Brushtail. "Get her rolling."

DS-3633 turns its head to scan the Ri'Kammi with its optical sensors on all possible spectrums. It turns back to Porter and says, "This unit inquires about our mission on Castor."

Porter smiles crookedly, nodding to DS-3633. "We're going to save the galaxy again, after a fashion. The Nall have agreed to meet privately with the Martians, without a lot of media spotlights, aboard the Minerva."

Brushtail frowns. "Sir, what happens if it doesn't go off well? Unless the Nall bring a fighter to rendezvous in, the Minerva's not much of a threat. I'm a good pilot, but if they decide to be belligerent, I'll do nothing but run, unless ordered otherwise, sir." At that, he returns his attention to the console. "Prepared for undocking, sir."

DS-3633 pauses to process the information and reply, then nods. "Understood. Will you be mediating this meeting? This unit also sees possibility of violence. Are Vanguard crew members prepared for hostilities?"

Porter shakes his head. "Don't worry about the Minerva. The Nall don't have a quarrel with *us*. We helped fight the Lem'ing at Nalhom. But if the Martians play their usual coy games...they might have their own problems to concern themselves with." He looks toward DS-3633. "There won't be any hostilities. The Vox and the First Consul negotiated the terms. This meeting, apparently, is just a formality to make it official."

Brushtail nods. "Very good, sir. We're going to host, then? Will the crew be present, or should we make ourselves scarce?" The Demarian hesitates before speaking again. "Ready to launch, sir. My screens show all systems are in the green."

DS-3633 turns its head towards the viewscreen to watch as the ship departs.

Porter smiles. "We'll hold it in the Big Picture lounge. We're trying to make this as low pressure as possible. So, you're invited to observe." He gestures toward the viewscreen. "Get us underway."

The bay doors begin to slide open as the VES Minerva prepares for departure ...

You feel a sudden lift as the VES Minerva glides forth from the docking bay.

"Systems checking now, sir. We'll be launched in a few seconds." Brushtail pauses and coasts the vessel out. "We're out. Maneuvering on a vector to Castor, sir."

[Loudspeaker] All crew, brace for acceleration.

Porter leans back in the command chair, nodding.

You feel a sudden jerk as the ship speeds up.

<Commlink (102.50)> <RedBaron> Brml! This is Chief Stock Holder Borono of the G'ahnlese Navy. How are things swimming along?

The ship turns slowly, hanging in space for a moment before her engines flare and she leaps forward, accelerating quickly.

<Outside> IDE Galub lurches out of Concordance, engines firing as it starts to move.

Porter speaks into his commlink, "Evening, Borono. Lt. Col. Porter aboard the Minerva." He glances toward DS-3633. "Want to take comms, Diss?"

<Outside> Silver Salmon wanders lazily toward Concordance, seeming in no hurry at all as its massive bulk glides along.

<Commlink (102.50)> <RedBaron> Brml! How profitable to see you here! How are things swimming along with your vessel, brml?

DS-3633 jerks with the ship, but retains its balance. It tilts its head, then nods, "I will, this unit is not completely trained in the operations of the console however."

Porter grins at DS-3633. "Time to learn, then." He speaks into his commlink, "Much better, now that we can actually stretch our legs outside of Concordance Station again. You?"

<Commlink (102.50)> <RedBaron> Brml, we were just able to get back in and refuel. May I ask where you are heading for?

Porter smiles at the question.

DS-3633 activates the communications array.

Porter speaks into his commlink, "I could tell you, Borono, but I'm afraid that is currently classified. Maybe we can talk when we get back. Porter out."

<Commlink (102.50)> <RedBaron> Brml! What was that?

Porter nods to Brushtail. "Hit it."

The ship slows, seeming to hang in space for an instant before lurching forward and disappearing in a flash.

The ship roars and lurches as it enters OtherSpace.

DS-3633 stands at the console, scanning the controls. "This unit believes it has a basic understanding of these controls."

<Commlink (102.50)> <RedBaron> Brml! Unprofitable communication signals!

Your mind wanders for a moment as the ship travels through OtherSpace.

Porter smirks, resting his hands on the armrests.

Brushtail smiles softly. "Sir, we've jumped. En route to Castor. ETA three and a half minutes, plus a small correctional jump."

Porter nods. "Excellent."

DS-3633 turns its head towards the command chair, "Colonal Porter, this unit has an inquiry of an unrelated matter."

Porter glances toward DS-3633. "Go ahead."

The ship reverberates slightly as it speeds through OtherSpace.

[Loudspeaker] All crew, this is Private Brushtail. We'll be dropping from OtherSpace in about a minute for a correctional jump.

The ship shudders as it drops out of OtherSpace.

Hunter sticks his head into the command center and glances around briefly. He quietly steps into the center, but hangs back near the door.

DS-3633 nods its head, then states without inflection. "This unit has observed and conversed with the prisoner Mr. Carlon on several occasions. This unit is requesting, on his behalf, that he be provided with reading material deemed appropriate for one of prisoner status."

Brushtail pulls back on a lever, causing the ship to revert to realspace.

You feel the ship begin to slow.

Porter scratches his chin, then nods. "Approved." He looks toward Hunter. "Welcome to the party, Sergeant."

The ship appears in a flash, accelerating slowly as it turns towards Castor.

Hunter nods slightly, "Evening, Colonel."

<Outside> Sal'thrla decloaks and materializes in orbit around Castor.

Brushtail speaks up. "Sir. We'll be jumping in roughly fifteen seconds. Only a five-second jump, so you may want to brace yourself."

Porter nods. "Thank you, Private. Proceed."

[Loudspeaker] Minerva crew, this is the bridge. Brace for a short jump

DS-3633 places a hand on the console for support.

The ship roars and lurches as it enters OtherSpace.

The ship shudders as it drops out of OtherSpace.

The ship reappears from OtherSpace and turns towards Castor, accelerating.

You feel a sudden jerk as the ship speeds up.

Brushtail relaxes a bit, speaking up again. "En route to Castor, sir. The Sal'thrla is on sensors and we're closing."

Hunter hmms slightly, "What are the Nall doing near Castor?"

Porter nods, then looks toward Hunter. "They're here to board the Minerva for peace talks with the Martians."

You feel the ship begin to slow.

Hunter nods slightly, "At least they're willing to give it another go."

You feel a slight force as the ship glides to a halt ...

Porter smiles. "Indeed. Apparently, they've reached an accord privately. This is just to make it official."

DS-3633 tilts its head, "This unit inquires, does Colonal Porter believe a lasting peace is a feasible possibility between the Martians and Nall?

Porter scratches his chin. "A lasting peace? Hell, depends on what you mean by lasting. For a Phyrrian, I imagine lasting means something a lot different than it does for a Martian. I tell you what, though. Any accord reached here will at least prolong the inevitable loss of life that would come from any kind of conflict between them."

Hunter runs a hand through his hair, "I've fought against the Nall and beside them. I liked it better with them as allies. Looks like the Martians finally came to their senses."

Porter checks his display. "Private, take us in to linking range with the Sal'thrla."

<Outside> Sal'thrla slowly drifts in orbit around the verdant Castori homeworld.

DS-3633 pauses for five seconds, then nods. "This unit understands." It turns to watch the viewscreen again.

<Commlink (102.50)> <> Sal'thrla this is MLGB Elysium. We are en route and will be arriving momentarily.

Brushtail nods. "Moving towards her now, sir."

You feel a sudden jerk as the ship speeds up.

<Commlink (102.50)> <RedBaron> ..... Unprofitable comm signals! Always broken!

The ship turns towards the Sal'thrla, engines flaring as she coasts towards the larger Nall vessel.

DS-3633 tilts its head at the last incoming communication.

<Commlink (102.50)> Hurkvril says, "Acknowledged. We will link with the Minerva. We will ssssee you aboard her."

<Outside> MLGB Elysium MLGB Elysium slows to flank speed on an approach vector to the Sal'thrla.

<Commlink (102.50)> <> Understood.

You feel the ship begin to slow.

You feel a slight force as the ship glides to a halt ...

DS-3633 tilts its head, "Colonal Porter, should this unit attempt to set the incoming communications to emit from the loudspeaker?"

The ship slows to a stop, coasting to within boarding link range of the Nall destroyer Sal'thrla. Maneuvering thrusters fire briefly as the Minerva aligns herself.

Porter nods to Diss. "Please do."

<Commlink (102.50)> <RedBaron> Brml. .... .. ... ... ...... .... .. ... this .... chatter? Brml.

A soft crackle is heard as the bridge speakers are activated.

Porter nods to Staunton. "Evening, Major. All set to moderate the festivities?"

Staunton enters and stands near the command chair. "As ready as I will ever be, Sir." she says unconvincingly.

DS-3633 presses a control, then nods. "Task complete."

Porter smiles and nods. "Excellent. All right. Everyone stand by for the Sal'thrla's linking."

Brushtail smiles, leaning back from the controls a bit and rotating in the chair to see Staunton. He nods, but does not stand nor salute, for once. "Sirs, we're within boarding link range of the Sal'thrla."

Porter nods.

Brushtail reaches over and taps several buttons. "Shields dropped. Ready at any time to receive the boarding party."

DS-3633 turns to Commander Staunton and attempts a greeting nod, but does not say anything.

A linking umbilical extends from the Sal'thrla to the Minerva, attaching to the hull of the VES starship with a CLUNK.

Outside, The MLGB Elysium drifts to a half a just a bit too far from the other ships to initiate docking, then the engines kick on once more, bringing her in close.

The major takes in the whole of the command center, then stands, hands clasped behind her back near the command chair. "If you gentlemen have any last minute questions, now is the time to ask them."

Brushtail rotates in the chair, shaking his head. "None here, sir." He stands then, adjusting his uniform briefly.

Staunton looks expectantly at the Phyrrian. "And you?"

Porter tugs on the sleeves of his jacket, then looks toward Staunton. "Major, let's assemble in the shuttle bay and greet our guests."

DS-3633 steps away from the comm console, "This unit does not have any inquiries at this time."

Volidana enters the command center and looks about.

Staunton nods curtly. "Very well. Aye, Sir."

Porter nods, then walks up the steps to the back of the command center, heading for the corridor.

Staunton stands to the side and waits for Porter to leave first.

Cargo Hold <VES Minerva>

Cargo shuttling robots handle a lot of the heavy lifting in this 100-foot-square, 40-foot-high hold, which is capable of carrying several months worth of food and supplies for the ship's crew with plenty of space left over for commercial and scientific payloads.

A quartermaster oversees the arrivals and departures of cargos, checking manifests to make sure that what's on the list matches what's in the crate.

A wide archway, accessible by the cargo bots, leads to the ship's shuttle bay.

Porter makes his way toward the shuttle bay, walking alongside Staunton. "Let's hope this works, Major." He smiles faintly, continuing toward the shuttle bay.

Brushtail steps into the cargo bay, ears pricked straight up as he walks, shoulders back, towards the shuttle bay.

Staunton takes a deep breath. "Aye, Sir."

Shuttle Bay <VES Minerva>

This large chamber serves as a shuttle hangar and a cargo staging area. Warning stripes have been painted along the floor, marking out shuttle landing pads, cargo pallets and variable gravity areas. Two massive doors guard the threshold leading out of the ship. There is also a personnel airlock to the port side of the hangar doors.

Porter strides into the shuttlebay and moves to stand about ten feet from the docked Elysium. The Minerva's external access hatch can be heard cycling air, hissing sibilantly to starboard.

Hunter steps in and stands where he can see everything, but also where he is out of the way.

DS-3633 moves next to Hunter, also out of the way and able to observe.

Staunton stands to Porter's right, feet planted, shoulders squared.

Brushtail enters, moving towards the Martian vessel, his gaze locked on the ship, fascinated. As if remembering where he is, he turns back towards DS and walks towards the Phyrrian. Nearing the being, he stops and returns his gaze to the Elysium.

Volidana takes up a place near Hunter and DS

Porter is standing with the Minerva crew, about 10 feet from the Elysium. The Minerva's external access hatch can be heard hissing sibilantly as air is cycled through it.

Novius exits the MLGB Elysium, marching casually, if you can do such a thing, but with military precision. She follows after Bullock, who in turn follows after Callahan and his guards.

Callahan leaves the airlock of the Elysium with dignified air, his brown eyes clear and soft as he marches a formal march towards the proceedings. He is flanked by a guard on each side, and following him are two recruits in formation.

Porter steps away from the other Minerva crew to extend a hand to Callahan. "Second Consul, welcome aboard."

Bullock marches behind Callahan and his guards, flanked by Novius. His eyes scan the area quickly while his head remains fixed in position on his rigid frame.

DS-3633 stands with Hunter, Brushtail and Volidana in the background. It turns its head from left to right and back again slowly. It pauses for a few seconds on each Martian, then continues to turn back and forth.

Brushtail's gaze flicks towards the Martians, pausing on each one as he takes in their features. His namesake curls behind him, an emotionless expression on his features.

Callahan takes Porter's hand, shaking it with a powerful grip as he smiles a thin smile. "Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel," he says formally. "It's good to have this opportunity."

Porter nods. "Glad we could host it." He gestures toward Staunton. "This is my second in command, Major Dierdre Staunton. She'll be moderating tonight's discussions."

From Porter's right, Staunton steps forward and extends a hand to the second Consul. "An honor, Sir," she says simply.

Volidana flecks embarrassed red as her padd beeps and quickly returns her gaze to the proceedings.

Novius remains at attention, following every move of Bullock, with well-practiced precision. Her gaze remains firmly to her front. Her stance is impeccable. Truly squared away. It's too bad that image of perfection is ruined as the sweat drips down from her temples.

Callahan releases Porter's hand, and immediately points his bony paw in Staunton's direction. "Major," he says with a nod, shaking her hand tightly. Almost too tightly. His eyes, though, are smooth and calm. "The honor is mine. Now...where are our friends?" he says lightly.

The hiss of the external access hatch becomes more pronounced. Then comes the swiveling of a lock-wheel before a THUNK! The hatch begins to swing open. Through it come two talons of Nall warriors - a total of six in their black lacquered armor and ceremonial swords as they form parallel lines on either side of the access hatch.

Brushtail's ears flick back, whiskers twitching at the sight of the Nall warriors. Ears returning to their upright position, he remains absolutely silent, his tail falling still.

Staunton squares her shoulders and nods toward the oncoming horde of Nall warriors. "Right on time," she says under her breath.

Porter nods, turning to observe the newcomers.

Bullock stands frozen at attention behind Callahan and his guards. Occasionally his eyes will swivel to look about the room. Before his gaze can ever wander for very long he forces it back into line, thus staring straight ahead at nothing.

Callahan straightens his posture, his hands falling to his side in a respectful stance as he observes the Nall.

Hurkvril slinks into the shuttle bay, sword clanking against his leg armor, tail lashing back and forth as he steps proudly between the ranks of warriors on either side of his approach into the Minerva.

DS-3633 turns to observe the Nalls the same as he did the Martians, pausing on each for a few seconds. The rest of its body remains perfectly still, though those close enough could hear a faint *whirr* sound.

Porter bows slightly to the incoming Nall official. "Welcome aboard the Minerva." He straightens. "I am Lt. Col. David Ransom Porter." He gestures to Callahan. "Second Consul Callahan, here on behalf of Mars." He then points to Staunton. "My second in command, Major Staunton."

Staunton bends slightly with a respectful incline of her head. "L'soth," she says smoothly.

Hurkvril nictitates his eye membranes, sampling the air in the shuttlebay with a forked tongue. He stops a few feet from the softskin called Porter, bobbing his snout at each introduction. Finally, when Porter has finished, the Nall raises his tattooed right palm and states: "I am L'Sssssoth Hurk of Hatch Vril, commander of Her Glory'ssss Clawed Fisssst Fleet. I come on behalf of the Voksssss to conclude thessssse negosssssiasssssionssss."

Callahan nods slightly, every move seemingly practiced and refined. He then turns to watch Porter's interaction with the Nall, his eyes shrewd and slightly squinted.

Porter nods, then looks toward Staunton. "Major, you want to lead the way to the tavern?" He smiles toward Callahan, then Hurkvril. "Refreshments will be available, if you like."

Hurkvril gnashes his fangs, his tail swooshing back and forth. "It issss unlikely your ssstaff can prepare a beverage ssssuitable for my tassstessss, but I welcome the challenge."

Callahan smiles back to Porter and then to the Nall, nodding respectfully after the L'soth speaks.

Staunton turns and gestures toward the cargo hold. "This way, Gentlemen," she says, then turns toward the exit, boot heels clicking on the deck plating.

Hurkvril turns to two of the warriors flanking the access hatch. He says, "SrreimM sthacuff ssssiiiss cusshhH"

Bullock stands as still as possible, but his gaze definitely swings to take in the sight of Hurkvril. His brows descend, crunching up together over the bridge of his nose while his eyes narrow. As this process occurs on his face, the recruit's posture stiffens further, his chest puffing out a hair, his chin pushing forward a notch.

Two of the warriors by the hatch break their formation and follow Hurkvril as he proceeds after the major.

Callahan nods back towards the recruits as if to signal them to stay put, and continues on with his two guards wordlessly.

Novius pivots crisply and begins to move along with Callahan, her shoulders squared and head held erect.

Cargo Hold <VES Minerva>

Cargo shuttling robots handle a lot of the heavy lifting in this 100-foot-square, 40-foot-high hold, which is capable of carrying several months worth of food and supplies for the ship's crew with plenty of space left over for commercial and scientific payloads.

A quartermaster oversees the arrivals and departures of cargos, checking manifests to make sure that what's on the list matches what's in the crate.

A wide archway, accessible by the cargo bots, leads to the ship's shuttle bay.

Carlon is seated on the cot inside his crate, looking torward the floor quietly. He takes a glance to the Nalls who pass by, but is otherwise quiet.

Staunton continues toward the corridor, eyes forward.

Hurkvril slinks through the cargo hold, ceremonial sword clanking against his leg armor. He is accompanied by two other Nall warriors. One of them huffs as it spots the softskin in his cage.

Porter walks after the Nall.

Corridor <VES Minerva>

Navy blue impact cushioning covers the deckplates in this 20-foot-wide, 15-foot-high corridor that stretches about 60 feet from the command hull to the cargo and engineering facilities.

Overhead light strips alternate amber and white - the amber capable of serving as emergency auxiliary lights in case of general power failures.

Hatches that can be sealed in case of crises such as hull breaches or biohazard releases lead to crew quarters, the medical/science center, the cargo hold and shuttle bay, a crew briefing room, and the vessel's command center.

Staunton leads the group on through the corridor toward the crew facilities.

Callahan follows afterwards, head bowed slightly, but remaining taut in limb.

Porter walks across the corridor, approaching the crew facilities.

Crew Facilities <VES Minerva>

The bunks stacked in two rows, two-high, can sleep as many as 50 crew members. They appear to be designed primarily with humanoids in mind, but several appear to be reinforced and extended for larger, bulkier races.

The crew bunk area also includes four unisex comfort cubicles, four showers, an exercise square featuring an oval running track, training gear and weightlifting equipment, and a holovid pit with a viewer and a few couches and chairs.

The ship's commander and executive officer have their own cubicles that contain beds, computer terminals, and dressers for the display of personal effects.

Hurkvril bobs his snout as he walks with his warriors. One of the warriors sniffs indignantly at the cushioned bunks. "Ssssoft thingssss require comfort," the L'Soth explains as he walks.

Callahan follows the procession, his head not swaying to the sights as he continues to march. He merely blinks neutrally at the L'soth's comment, continuing on.

Mess Hall <VES Minerva>

The starship's mess hall is a large chamber broken into two distinct sections. The largest section consists of the galley, where cooks assigned to the vessel prepare meals for the masses - and where crew that are in dutch with their senior officers often spend time cleaning dishes, cutting vegetables or serving their crewmates, and the rows of tables and benches arranged in neat lines.

The secondary section is an "off-duty" pub called The Big Picture - a name earned by the expansive window that takes up most of the bulkhead section along the starboard hull. The tavern, open only during ship's evening hours, features several tables and booths arranged around a horseshoe-shaped serving counter that carries (in a securely locked group of cabinets) an extensive variety of liquor from throughout the known worlds.

Porter walks into the mess hall area, hands clasped behind his back.

Hurkvril tilts his snout, studying the surroundings with flickering black eyes. The two Nall warriors escorting him sample the air with forked tongues, keeping within easy reach of the L'Soth as he moves.

Grishkov is at table with a coffee, off to a side of the pub, seemingly looking distant.

Staunton makes her way through the mess hall and up a set of stairs to The Big Picture where tables have been set near the facility's large picture window. She takes a chair near the center of the table and waits for the guests to find their places.

Porter follows the Major, taking a seat next to her and watching the others assemble.

Novius continues her precision turgid motions a testament to her formal training. She takes up a place behind Callahan and his guards. And now she allows herself the chance to glance about, but only with her eyes. They shift in their sockets as she takes in her surroundings.

Callahan's two guards have fallen behind the shorter Consul, wordless red ghosts of trained formality. The Consul however, looks down to the chairs. "How shall we sit?" he inquires lightly.

Xavin enters into mess hall of the ship, his footsteps light upon the steel of the Minerva's flooring as he crosses up toward the raised Big Picture.

Hurkvril sits directly to the left of Major Staunton, swinging his snout toward her and huffing as he inhales the air around her. His guardians take up positions directly behind him. The L'Soth inquires of the Major: "Why do you not command your own vessssel, female?"

DS-3633 follows the rest up the stairs, then stands against the wall near the entrance, not taking a seat. It has a good view point of the room from its current location. Its optical circuits shimmer for a moment, like a blink, and then it begins to turn its head back and forth as it did in the shuttle bay.

Porter smiles at Callahan. "Across from the L'Soth, I suppose?" His eyebrows go up as he hears Hurkvril's question. He looks toward Staunton, trying not to show any emotion.

Bullock glides along behind Callahan and his guards, stopping once they come to a halt. When the procession stops he slips into a ramrod erect stance, his face a mask of intense concentration and belligerent pride.

Callahan's lips smirk lightly as he nods, maneuvering around the table to the seat designated. His guards wait for the Consul to sit before doing so themselves.

Staunton straightens at the L'Soth's inquiry. She takes a beat, then turns to the Nall, shoulders squared, jaw set. "My duty, for now, is here," she says simply.

Novius does not seem to have any intention of sitting, from the very rigid stance she's taken, still at attention, behind Callahan, and his guards, just to the left of Bullock.

Hurkvril draws up slightly, his tail lashing back and forth. He bobs his snout. "Yesss, perhapsss, but in the Clawed Fisssst Fleet, you could challenge a sssssoft male for the right to command." He leans forward for a moment to flick his eye membranes as he studies Porter quietly. Leaning back, he hisses quietly to Staunton: "I believe you could besssst that one."

Porter tucks his tongue in his cheek and arches an eyebrow as he crosses his arms, watching Staunton *very* curiously.

Xavin is making his way toward the designated creamery table within The Big Picture. As the Timonae reaches it, he fills a styrofoam cup with the dark liquid and reaches for the cream. As his eyes fall upon the Nall and the envoy of others, his lips purse open. The cream fills past the lip of the cup and begins to pour over onto the surrounding table.

Callahan chuckles politely, almost automatically, his voice trailing off after a brief moment as if just realizing that might not be a joke. However, he seems to keep the middle ground with a friendly smile.

Staunton pulls her chair out from the table and moves to sit. "I will count that among my options, L'Soth," she says.

Brushtail pads into the mess hall, trying to walk reasonably quietly. He turns towards The Big Picture and enters, heading towards the coffee machine with a soft smile.

Porter clears his throat, then nods to Staunton.

As the liquid spreads over the length of the table the milky tendrils begin to dampen the torso of the Timonae's jumpsuit. When saturation has hit the nerve endings, he snaps his head back sharply toward the cream and quickly sets the carafe upright, scrambling for napkins with a heavy rouge coming to his face.

DS-3633 turns its head back and forth between Porter and Staunton, tilting it slightly, then turning to observe the spilled cream. The magic word for this mechanoid tonight is observe.

Xavin tosses the sopping napkins into the disposal beneath the table, his gait slow and steady as he presses toward the table, sipping quietly from the cup as he nears the Colonel's flank.

Porter nods to Xavin.

Brushtail nears the table, nodding once to Xavin. Checking to see if anyone superior's watching, he places a finger in the cream, then proceeds to lick it clean with a satisfied smile. Retrieving a cup and filling it with a brown, steamy brew, he uses the cup to catch any remaining cream still falling through the napkins.

Staunton leans forward in her chair, looking down the length of the table to both sides. "We are here at the request of Vox Griskoth and First Consul Armitage. The goal is to put behind us the recent conflict between the Martian Republic and the Parallax," she pauses. "First, I think it fitting that we hear from those who will speak on behalf of their respective governments. L'Soth Hurkvril, please."

Xavin grinds his teeth together as he follows the Major's gaze toward the Nall. His stance is rigid, but the Timonae makes no move toward one of the empty chairs that encircle the table.

The crimson clad Martian Recruits stand abreast behind Callahan. In identical uniforms, of almost identical height, they make a handsome pair of bookends. The thickly muscled Bullock is nearly the perfect counterpoint to the feminine curves of Novius. They are both on the short side, and sturdily built. They also seem to be alike in their determination to stand frozen in place behind Callahan in vermillion vigilance. For his part Bullock also seems determined to ruin a bit of the image of scarlet sentinel with his inability to hide the signs of stress and nerves.

Callahan seems to be all smiles today, and few words. He continues this trend through the gratuitous grin that he extends to the Nall, tapering it to something more solemn and respectful after a beat.

Hurkvril bobs his snout, then fixes his dark-eyed gaze on the Second Consul. "The Vokssss appreciatessss the sssspirit in which thissss mosssst ressssssent overture wassss made. It isssss her undersssstanding that the Marsssssian Republic will ssssever itssss polydenum ssssuppliesss from Ssssivad in favor of ressssseiving from the Parallaksssss. Nalhom will become the ssssole ssssupplier of polydenum for the Republic. Our ekkkssssclusssssive arrangement will allow for a tighter bond between our governmentsssss. Issss thissss your underssstanding, Ssssecond Conssssul?"

Brushtail reaches down and retrieves the creme, pouring only a few drops into his cup. Replacing it, he lifts the now creamy coffee to his muzzle and sips it, smiling in satisfaction as he lowers it, ears flicking towards the conversation.

Grishkov continues to remain isolated from the rest, though he continually nods his head at some point that seems distant from where his is, the efforts he puts forth seem to not be to listening, or to any one being there, but to something that can't be seen.

Hunter hmm's slightly, turns and heads out.

Callahan nods slowly, eloquently. "That it is, L'soth. We will become solely dependant on your government's polydenum," he says, straightening his jacket sleeves as he looks across the table unflinchingly.

Volidana enters the tavern well behind Brushtail and Hunter seemingly distracted by her datapad, deep frown creasing her brow blue visible in her aura as she approaches her crewmates.

Novius's shift in their sockets towards the hissing Nall. She sets her jaw, doing her best to remain one of those unmoving bookends. But then her eyes shift in their sockets towards Bullocks, remaining on him for but a moment before returning to stare directly in front of her once again.

Bullock's brows tighten when the 'exclusive' part is repeated several times. Each repetition of that word seemss to have a negative impact on the unfurrowing of his brows.

Brushtail continues sipping the coffee, though he pauses once to lick his muzzle clean. His namesake hangs behind him, flicking gently.

Hurkvril bobs his snout at Callahan. "Then the Parallaksssss will resssscind all sssstanding hunt and desssstroy orderssss for Marssssian Republic vessselssss outsssside Ssssol Ssssyssstem. We will relieve you of further resssssponssssibility for the ssstolen technology inssssident involving your traitoroussss offissser. Issss thissss akssseptable?"

Xavin raises a stiletto-thin eyebrow toward the seated Major, chin turning sharply back toward Hurkvril as the Nall speaks.

Volidana walks slowly to the standing Timonae and hands him her datapadd

Xavin frowns slightly, slender lines appearing in the smooth front of his forehead. The man's lithe face is illuminated by the eerie glow of the device as his eyes trace over the message.

Callahan squints his eyes slightly, his brown irises going flat for the briefest of moments. In that moment, the Consul's mouth opens the slightest bit, as if a second later, a questioning sound would emerge. But this impulse is killed before it can be properly born, and his mouth closes. What emerges afterwards sounds clear and formal, without even an aftertaste of the question left unsaid. "Your terms are acceptable, L'soth.", he says.

Hurkvril gnashes his fangs. "Then we have an agreement. I have one other messssage from the Vokssss." He looks toward Staunton. "Given the effortssss ssshown by the Concordansssse of Free Worldssss to resssolve thissss matter peassssefully, the Vokssss wissshesss to announsssse her intent for the Parallaksss to join your alliansssse of worldssss."

Porter smiles, resting his hands on the table and nodding.

DS-3633 continues its silent observation.

Brushtail coughs at the last bit, managing to do nothing but splatter coffee all over his muzzle. A suprised look is on his face, though he turns away to avoid embarrassing himself further as he licks himself clean again.

Xavin extends the datapadd back toward the Light Singer, dropping his eyes and tilting his head toward her to speak in a low tone, "Tell her we're at Castor indefinitely. If she can make it here in haste," he rounds his shoulders, "We'll suit her needs as best we can." After a moment the Timonae adds in a dull wisp, "The Vanguard won't wait for a single woman, regardless of tone." He gestures toward the glowing screen before turning back to the conference at hand.

Staunton's hands flatten against the crisp white linen of the tablecloth. For a moment, she seems to grasp for words, then she speaks. "L'Soth, I am certain the Concordance of Free Worlds will be honored to have the Nall as members," she says, glancing over her shoulder at the colonel.

Bullock remains a silent witness to history. Other than the occasional shift of his gaze to Recruit Novius, he remains a flesh and blood statue clad in carmine and crimson.

Porter nods to Staunton, smiling.

Grishkov seems to remain oblivious to what is happening, though he shows more connections, such as seemingly unconscious nodding and shaking of his head, other contradictory actions show as well, though he continues to remain a distance away from the negotiations, he takes a drink of the coffee infront of him even though his eyes are still closed. He mumbles something about peace and smiles, but then goes back to his state of contemplation.

Callahan nods slowly, his face now much more formal, as if to steal a smile would be some sort of failure. His back remains stiff, his lips impassive.

Hurkvril stands, raising his tattooed palm in salute to Staunton. "We depart now. I will deliver word of thesssse ssssukssssessssful prossssedingssss to the Vokssss immediately." He lowers his hand, bowing reverentially to Staunton before saying: "We will meet again, female. Nalia sssshine on you and your effortssss to bessst the ssssoft thing that leadsss you."

Porter just rubs his forehead with his hand.

Volidana nods taking her padd back and going about the business of delivering the message directed

Brushtail's features break into a soft frown as he finishes off the coffee and places the cup in the disposal unit.

Staunton stands, raising her own hand to salute the L'Soth. "And I will pass your good intentions along to the Concordance of Free Worlds. Godspeed on your journey," she says.

Hurkvril turns toward his guards, grunting. He says, "llruth chufffff chufffff sthacuff llruth sthacuff ssssiiiss"

Callahan stands as well. "I hope for continued successful relations in the future," he greets the Nall with a strong voice. His guards stand a beat afterwards.

Folding her hands loosely behind her back, Staunton inclines her head toward Xavin. "Corporal, please show our Nall guests back to their ship."

Hurkvril bobs his snout at Callahan. "Deliver my regardssss to your Firssst Conssssul." His warriors then begin to follow him around the table and toward the crew facilities.

Xavin follows behind the Nall formation after a brief dip of the head toward the Major, "At your pacing, L'Soth."

Porter stands to observe the departure of the Nall. Once it appears Hurkvril is out of earshot, Porter leans toward Staunton and inquires: "Among your options, eh?"

A splotch of color appears high on the major's cheeks. "I was trying to be diplomatic," she says quietly.

Hurkvril glances up at the olive-skinned softskin who follows. He grunts. "Come, ssssoft thing. We will try to avoid making you ssssweat too profusssely." Followed by his warriors, he departs.

"I will," Callahan replies with a slight smile.

Perhaps it is merely the internal heating of the ship, but the Timonae /is/ sweating.

Standing at ease, Brushtail remains relatively quiet until he finds something reflective to look into, at which point he mutters to himself and begins cleaning the coffee from his uniform with a napkin.

Porter nods curtly, winking at Staunton. "Right." He extends a hand across the table to Callahan. "Congratulations, Consul."

Bullock remains motionless in his position behind Callahan, though his eyes watch the Nall depart. He noticeably relaxes with the lizard has left. A small sigh of relief escapes his lips.

Grishkov remains at the table in contemplation with his coffee, still seemingly unable to consciously determine what is going on.

Callahan takes the hand and shakes it, his hand now quite clammy and much more weak. "Thank you, thank you..." he trails off, sighing tiredly and grinning to one side.

Novius too seems to relax, her shoulders sagging several centimeters from where they had been crawling up towards her ears. Her gaze shifts to the Martian Consul for a moment, trying to gage his mood, then returns to that space right before her, staring at nothing.

Volidana finally completes her message and stands errect waiting for her superiors to depart.

Porter gestures to the bar. "Feel free to have a drink and relax. We're not due back right away."

DS-3633 steps forward and addresses Porter, "This unit will return to the crew quarters for information processing."

Porter nods to DS-3633. "Very well."

Callahan begins to head towards the bar as soon as it is mentioned. "Don't mind if I do," he says, coughing once afterwards.

DS-3633 turns and walks out.

Novius just remains where she is, though she breaks her firm stance to turn her head vaguely towards Bullock, in order to see exactly what it is he's doing, since Callahan seesm to be heading barward.

Volidana approaches Porter slowly. "May I go as well, sir? I apologize for my tardiness and the interruption but I felt the message was urgent."

Staunton follows in step behind the Consul. "I hope that went as well as you expected," she says. "It was certainly a step up from past attempts."

Bullock looks at Novius and offers a slight shrug of the shoulders.

Porter nods once to the Light Singer. "Permission Granted," he says, then turns to follow the Major toward the bar.

Brushtail turns towards the bar, his uniform once again impeccably cleaned. However, he turns again and heads towards a table, rather than continue into the bar.

Callahan nods limply and sighs again. "Certainly a step up." he repeats. "A big step up."

Volidana's DataPADD chirps as it receives a new message.

<Outside> Sal'thrla fires its maneuvering thrusters after withdrawing its umbilical from the Minerva and arcs away from the Wasp-class vessel, drifting gracefully over the verdant sphere of Castor.

Staunton glances toward Xavin as he re-enters the mess area and raises an expectant eyebrow.

Xavin returns to the mess hall of the ship alone, his gait quickening as he steps rapidly up the stairway toward the pub, eyes glancing briefly toward the creamery table. His eyes focus upon the Major and the Timonae merely dips his head.

"Nall away?" the Major asks quietly of the corporal.

Xavin extends a wiry finger toward the massive glass tapestry and the departing Nall vessel.

Novius shrugs back at Diesel, then just continues to flank Callahan, staying in that rigid posture.

Xavin says, "Like a Valshoan storm, Major."

Porter walks over to the bar and nods to the server. "Iced tea, please."

Volidana turns and leaves,nodding first to Xavin as he re-enters "Thank you for handling that matter ..I apologizes for the " is interrupted by her pad's beeping.

"Good man," Staunton says quietly, then turns her attention back to Callahan. "I assmume your superiors will be pleased?"

The barkeep slides a glass of iced tea to the Lt. Colonel, who then walks over to join Major Staunton and Second Consul Callahan.

Callahan turns his shoulders towards Staunton. "I should hope so. It's what I've been planning for the last week or so." He chuckles, heading closer to the bar. "It's now time for a little calmer."

Xavin selects a seat adjacent to the Major's, pulling the chair from its grave beneath the table and easing into it silently. His eyes rest tentatively upon the Martian.

Wordlessly, the bartender slides a mug of coffee to the major as she approaches, then turns to the Consul. "What can I get you, Sir?"

Callahan smiles tightly at the bartender. "Ever heard of a little something called a 'Betty Page'?", he asks, his eyes twinkling mischieviously.

Brushtail sits down at his table, resting his chin on his paws and looking straight ahead, through the view to the vacuum outside.

Volidana looks up from her pad and walks up behind Xavin's chair and says simply "She's on her way, sir."

The bartender stares blankly at the Martian, then looks over to the Major, who responds with a simple shrug. "Can you tell me what's in it?"

"To Castor?" Xavin turns his head up toward the Vollistan before nodding several times in rhythmic syncopation. Looking back toward Staunton, he queries, "Thinking of descending to Castor to refuel, Major?"

Brushtail stands, ears flicking as he overhears the conversation. He pads towards the Major and the Colonel, stopping and saluting. He remains quiet, though.

Callahan smirks. "Just a shot of whiskey will do, then.", he says, still chuckling as he sits down on a barstool. He turns to look around for the recruits.

Staunton nods. "Yes, Mr. Carazz. Sometime tonight, I should think."

Bullock stands at attention, knees locked tight next to Novius.

As the bartender pours a rather long shot of whiskey for the Martian visitor, Staunton rubs her temple with one finger. "You know, it may seem like you gave up an awful lot tonight," she says, looking into the inky depths of her coffee cup. "But maybe the Sivadians have it coming to them."

Porter leans against the bar, taking a sip of his tea. "Consul, what you did tonight wasn't easy, but I think it's a small price to pay for interstellar peace."

Volidana nods as well in confirmation to Xavin's question to her, if indeed it was a query to her.

The recruits are right behind Callahan. Novius, for one, is standing there, with wide eyes, teetering a bit. A good stiff wind might blow her over at this point. She's been at attention for a very long time and that's not an easy thing to do, especially considering the stressful situation.

Callahan smiles knowingly. "We gave up nothing but a few monkeys on our back," he says simply. He turns towards the recruits. "You kids want anything?" he asks with a smile.

Porter chuckles, then nods and looks toward Brushtail. "Nice flying tonight, Private. When we wrap things up, just land on Castor and refuel. We'll layover for a day."

Brushtail nods, dropping the salute. "You just answered my question, sir." Pausing, he gestures towards an open seat at the bar. "May I join you?"

Porter nods. "Sure."

Xavin nods toward the Major and rises to face Volidana, "It will be best to convey that information to her. You know this woman, Volidana?"

Bullock moistens his lips, and looks to be in about as rocky of condition as Novius. He too looks to be close to collapse, though when spoken to by Callahan he summons up some willpower and straightens up. Though the flick of his tongue upon his lips and his eyes say yes, what he says is, "Sir, no sir. Recruit Bullock is fine, sir."

Novius stares at Callahan, unsure what to do. She swallows hard, "Sir, no sir." She answers the same way as Bullock, just grateful that she does not have to lift her arm to salute just now.

Brushtail nods, sitting down slowly, though his shoulders remain back and he sits bolt upright, looking not entirely comfortable in the relatively relaxed setting.

Porter looks over at the Demarian. "First diplomatic affair?"

Callahan nods quickly, taking his shot glass and shooting it. He does the obligatory grimace. "Suit yourselves," he chuckles.

Volidana shakes her head "No sir. She said she found my name in the public listing. You want me to send her anything more?"

Brushtail nods once. "Yes, sir. The first one this informal, sir." Brushtail frowns, ears twitching softly.

Novius stares at Callahan, then glances at Bullock. He's not in any better shape than she is. Okay, time to break Military protocol. Perhaps it won't be so bad, the Consul is drinking and maybe that will soften the blow, "Second Consul Callahan. This Recruit requests permission to move into the 'at ease' pose. Sir." She grimaces, "Please?"

Porter chuckles. "The next one we do, you'll be inside an atmosphere suit."

Bullock shoots Novius a look of gratitude.

Brushtail frowns further. "On Centauri, sir? That will be a... new experience." The frown fades as Brushtail sits, obviously thinking more than he speaks.

Porter nods to Brushtail. "New for you, maybe. It's old hat for the Major."

Callahan laughs, his hand moving in a brushing gesture towards Novius. "At ease. Go mingle for a few minutes. Just don't go too far."

Staunton turns slowly in her chair to watch the Consul's exchange with the Martian soldiers. Silently, she sips at the steaming cup of coffee.

"Not an easygoing bunch you have there," Staunton says, swallowing.

Novius sighs with gratitude, and as she spreads her feet apart to take a more natural stance, she nearly topples over. "Sir. Thank you sir!" She tries to bark, but her voice cracks slightly. She moves into the at ease position, hands behind her back. Then she gets a confused look upon her face, as the rest of his words register. She glances at Bullock, and mouths, "As you were?" and shrugs vaguely, but remains where she is, feet planted at shoulder width, hands behind her back, looking a little distraught.

Bullock breaks out of attention instantly and rolls his shoulders one at a time while lifting his feet. A quiet moan of satisfaction escapes his lips before he turns to Novius and claps her upon the shoulder, "Thanks Supernova."

Bullock grins, "No.. he means we can act like, relax and stuff."

Xavin nods toward the Vollistan as he reclaims his seat, "If you'd instruct the woman that she can meet the Minerva at the Ursiniru spaceport we'll do our best to accommodate her." He smiles firmly before turning toward Staunton, "Seems a woman has an urgent need to speak with the Minerva's medical staff. If it has regards to the," he clears his throat, "To the virus, I'd rather not gamble, Major."

Novius nods a little, "Right..." She mutters and stands upright, shaking out her arms, "Right. Okay..." She glances around and looks completely like a G'ahnli out of water. She looks at Bullock, near panic in her eyes, "Now what?"

Callahan chuckles. "They're recruits.", he says, turning back to Staunton and his empty glass. "I had to take them away from their studies."

Porter nudges Staunton's elbow. "Major, why don't you tell Private Brushtail here about the temperatures on Centauri? On a hot day?"

Porter hears the corporal's comment about a virus. "TRV?" he inquires, smile fading.

Brushtail frowns, glancing down at his own paws, then perking back up and looking up at Xavin, listening.

Staunton turns back over her shoulder, "This woman got a name, Mr. Carazz?"

Xavin turns his head in a quick snap toward the Colonel, hand sweeping through the air in a guise of grandeoise. "No gambles to be made on this, Colonel." At the Major's query he glances questioningly up toward the Vollistan.

Bullock leans in close to Novius and says in a quiet voice, "I don't know, let's just uh.. want something to drink? I'm dying here."

Porter nods, then looks toward Callahan. "Your choice, Consul: We can let you depart now, or you can ride with us down to Castor while we pick up this passenger. If this person has TRV, it's not contagious, from what we can tell."

Novius nods her head quickly to Bullock's question, "Yes. Please. Water." She pauses for a moment, "Or... do you think it would be appropriate for me to ask for some soda?" It's an honest question. She really doesn't know, and is awfully confused. She sticks close to Bullock who seems to be adjusting to this social situation with much more ease.

The bartender winks at the female soldier, gracing her with an easy smile. "One soda, coming up," he says.

In no time at all, the bartender produces a frosty glass of soda and places it on the bar. "I gave you extra ice," he says, his smile still broad. "Would you like a cherry?"

Brushtail remains quiet and returns to his silent brooding, looking straight ahead.

Bullock grins as the bartender jumps on the request, and answers for Novius, "Yes, she likes cherry. And could you get me a Neptune cola, heavy on the ice too please?"

Volidana glances down at her padd and tries to wrap her tongue around the Unstiri name "Ekaterina Inno..ken..tevna, sir. I probably messed it up"

Novius nods a little at the Bartender, eyeing him up with no small amount of suspicion. In fact that's the same way she's been regarding the rest of the crowd here, with the exception of the Second Consul, Bullock, and the Martian Legion Guards. She leans over and sniffs at the contents of the glass before picking it up and taking a very tiny sip. She leans over and says to Bullock, "Did you see them, with those big teeth, and their tails swishing all over the place? I'm amazed I can keep this down..." She takes another sip and seems to relax just a bit.

Callahan rubs his chin. "I don't think I have any choice.", he says, gesturing towards the recruits. "Looks like they've settled in. You want them?", he joshes.

The major's face mouth turns downward into a frown, then, as if carried by sheer momentum, into a scowl. "I don't like this," she says simply.

Porter smiles faintly, then looks toward Brushtail. "Take us down." He looks toward Xavin. "Get her aboard." Again, he turns toward the Demarian pilot. "Once she's aboard, lay in a course for Concordance Station. Send a message ahead to Dr. Ranix that we're bringing another possible TRV patient."

Xavin raises a hand with the palm forward, the usual passionate melody of the Timonae's voice yielding to a calm steadiness, "With an emphasis on possible. In all hope, she may merely have information."

Clearly unaffected by the sour mood around him, the bartender nods once to the Martian. "Neptune Cola it is," he says. "Extra ice." When it hits the bar, the glass seems to almost sparkle with frost.

Brushtail stands immediately, snapping to attention. "Yes, sir. We'll be down as soon as I can get the engines going." At that, he salutes, drops the salute, and turns on his heel, practically jogging out.

[Loudspeaker] Bridge to crew. Brace for a planetary drop.

Bullock watches Novius sniff her drink and nudges her, "You got some kind of toxin sniffer nose? Or you just like the bubbles?" He chuckles, then takes his cola. He proceeds to drain the glass to the halfway point. He grins when he drops the glass back down to the countertop, "Oh man that hit the spot." He looks at the bartender and says, "Thank you." His eyes scan for a nametag and his right hand removes a wallet from his uniform.

The ship shudders as the drop rockets engage and the ship begins its descent.

Porter takes the shuddering in stride, taking a sip as the Minerva begins to descend into the atmosphere.

The landing struts thump against the surface.

The bartender raises a hand as Bullock goes for his funds. "No, no," he says. "Compliments of the house."

Novius glances at Bullock, her brow creasing at the ease in which he's handling this non-military activity. She hangs on to her glass with both hands, leaning against the bar slightly for support. "Sssssseeems the ssssssssship is sssssinking..." She mimics a Nall accent with a good deal of disdain. "When do you think we'll get back to Mars?" She asks Bullock, keeping her head tipped forward and her shoulders up towards her ears.

The clenching of his fingers against the table's edge is Xavin's only bracing to the descent.

Porter leans toward Staunton and says, "Major, why don't you go along with the Corporal and see to our guest? I'll keep these folks company."

Bullock slips a bill acroos the bar towards the bartender. "A gratuity for good service." He looks around the room, "Did we really enter atmosphere? Uh...what about the Elysium?"

Callahan turns to grimace as he hears Novius. His eyes are disdainful. "Not now.", he mouths in the recruits' direction."

Xavin says, "nahlieen dharna Nyl' janeiU Airenei Sarie'a nahlieen ces'Edien da'aeu nahlieen janeiU Sarie'a ces'Edien Naeli nahlieen"

Novius stands up straight the moment that she notices Callahan's gaze upon her. She puts the glass down on the bar, and once again is at attention, "Aye, aye, sir!"

Porter nods to Bullock. "She's safe in the shuttle bay. We'll be back in orbit soon enough. You can launch then, if you like, or tag along as far as Concordance Station."

Xavin rises from his chair as he speaks his racial tongue in a dull, mantra-paced murmur.

Bullock looks over at Novi, suddenly grinning, "Did you just do a Nall?" He chuckles, "Do it again I wasn't paying attention."

Staunton nods, already getting to her feet. "Aye, Colonel." Taking one final draw from the coffee mug, Staunton gestures to Xavin. "Mr. Carazz, shall we?"

Novius shakes her head in a tiny, frantic motion to Bullock, her eyes gettig wider and wider. "No." She mouths.

Bullock gives Novius' shoulder a shake, "Hey, snap out of it Supernova. He didn't say we got to jump to...relax. I guess we get to hang out with the movers and shakers for a bit." He grins at her, "Come on... Pleeasssssse."

Xavin grins haphazardly, stepping from the table and incling his head toward the airlock, "By your grace, Major. As always." He glances briefly toward the Colonel and the Martians, "The Lady prove a path for the Voice to guide."

Volidana watches the two go with a concerned expression

Callahan turns back towards the bar. "Could I get one more whiskey?", he asks quietly, sighing a little.

Well Novius' head looks like it might explode when Bullock says that last word, "Shhhh." She exhausts that shush from her mouth with great force. She watches Xavin, from beneath a furrowed brow, "Maybe I should go back to the ship."

The bartender nods to Callahan, smiling. "Coming right up."

Staunton's lips press tightly together. "Let's go."

Bullock rolls his eyes and says, "Oh, sit down and drink you soda Novius. We're drinking with the second consul, you don't want to run to the ship."

Novius leans over and says to Bullock with the utmost sincerity, "Now I finally understand why my father chose to stay a non-com for all those years." She nods, commiserating with herself. She leans over and very quietly mutters to Bullock, hoping only he can hear, "We're surrounded by /Aliens/ here, and he hates us!"

Porter looks toward Volidana. "This woman a friend of yours that we're going to get?"

Callahan nods, and turns towards the recruits, getting off his chair, and heading towards them.

Bullock nods his head, "Yeah? So? Who hates us? Just try and relax. I swear, you are a walking heart attack Novi."

Novius mutters, down into her soda, "Ya? Well I didn't grow up going to 'coming out' parties either. White bread."

Bullock says, "Well at least I'm not allergic to having fun."

Volidana shakes her head "No sir, she found my datapad number in the public lists and used it as a way to get in touch with us."

Porter arches an eyebrow, but nods. "Right. Okay, well, you're welcome to join them, if you like."

Novius looks up at Bullock, her eyes narrowed. She's about to send a verbal volley in his direction when she notices the approach of the Second Consul and she straightens up quickly.

Volidana nods "Thank you sir" she says and heads out

Callahan puts a hand on Novius' shoulder softly, his eyes level. "You kids doin' okay?" he asks.

Novius nearly jumps out of her skin when Callahan puts his hand on her shoulder. But then it seems to have a calming effect on her. She says quietly, not using the usual guttural bark, "Sir. Yes sir. It's just..." She swallows hard, "Sir, this Recruit requests permission to speak freely sir." That might be a very bad idea.

Bullock straightens up as he notes Callahan's arrival after Novius. He nods his head quickly, "Sir, yes sir!" He hastily puts down his soda.

"Granted," the Consul says seriously, his face getting into that deceptive calm before a storm that fathers are wont to adopt. This may very well be a bad idea.

Novius is at least smart enough to lower her voice to just above a whisper, "Sir.. Second Consul, sir. I know I'm just a recruit, and I don't know a lot about politics, but... but..." She looks like she might cry, or throw a tantrum, "Why did you kiss the scaly ass of that creature? He sat there and said straight out that we were involved in that fiasco, and we all know that's not true. Now we have to cowtow to get polydenum from those... /things/! And we can't do anything with out that. This is upsetting sir. It's worse than upsetting, it's a disaster! Sir..." Well she asked...

Bullock's brows rise steadily as Novius starts to speak freely...and very freely at that. He slides a hand on the bar slowly till the back of his hand rests on his glass, then he slides that same hand back towards the edge of the bar. As she looks to be on the verge of continuing he glances this way and that, then 'accidentally' knocks his glass to the floor, sending cola and ice flying. "Oh shoot!" He hops up, "Oh man!"

Porter sips his tea, observing the Martians with quiet contemplation and a marked lack of emotion.

Bullock says, "I didn't get any on you did I Second Consul? I'm sorry, let me clean this up."

Callahan smiles and chuckles, lowering his own voice to play her game. "Child, when you get to be my age, you learn that there are a lot more things under the sea than pride. Survival is /not/ overrated." He winces as a piece of ice hits his lapel and bounces off. "No,'re fine," he says to Bullock, annoyed.

Porter leans forward, resting an elbow on the bar. "Folks, First Consul Armitage admitted during that fiasco of a negotiation on Concordance two weeks ago that your person was, in fact, involved. The Nall didn't make it up."

Bullock slips around to Callahan's side while he deals with the spill, grabbing some napkins from the bar. When he's outside of his superior's periphreal vision he shakes his head at Novius very quickly before dropping to clean up his mess.

Novius is just about to go further when Bullock spills that drink and some spashes on her uniform pants, "Ohmygod..." Now /that/ is a big disaster in her book, she wouldn't pass inspection that way. She grabs for a paper towel, "Soda water!" She orders from the bartender, and crouches to try and minimalize the damage. She glares at Bullock for a moment, then looks up at Callahan, "Sir you can't honestly believe that sir, that they would be able to eradicate us..." She glances at Porter, and what the heck, she got permission to speak freely right? "One rotten apple does not a bad bushel make!" Her father always said that. Maybe he meant her. "Our government was not involved, why I'm getting..." That's when she notices Bullock shaking his head, "What? What? What?"

Porter shrugs. "Your government *was* involved in appearing to cover up her involvement. This saves face for both you and the Nall."

Bullock slaps a hand over his forehead and eyes. He keeps the 'Doh!' to himself however.

Callahan looks like he wants to crawl inside the fallen glass and die. But he is a strong man, and his back straightens. "Mistakes were made," he says quietly, semi-diplomatically. He moves to grab his forgotten whiskey greedily.

"Saves face??!?" Novius stands up to her full height of 5'6" tall, which isn't all that impressive and puffs out her chest, which is. "Why those forked tongued, scaly, long tailed abominations think they can walk all over anyone because they threaten war. Well I have news for everyone, the /only/ way to combat something like that is to give it to them in spades! You think that other worlds are safe from their strong arm politics? I do not for one moment believe that our Government willfully withheld information. They got that later! And they coughed it up, that's an honorable thing to do!" You can nearly see the Martian Flag flying behind Novius as she spouts her heartfelt propaganda.

Porter nods, taking another sip of his tea. He calmly sets the glass down, then says, "Seems to me, everyone got what they wanted tonight. The Nall get a new business partner and you get them off your backs. It's not like you gave them Mars, is it?"

Bullock coughs, and puts his soggy napkins back on the bar and frowns. He seems about to try another stunt to divert attention from Novius' words, but then he stops and his chin comes forward. Flag waving apparently has a decided effect on him, "I don't like the prospect of our supply of polydenum being controlled by those slimy suitcases myself. They are sure to try and use it to their benefit..." He groans as he realizes he let his tongue out of its cage.

Callahan takes his drink and swallows it quickly, wincing. "It was the right thing to do.", he agrees with Porter.

"We might as well have given them Mars! Now we have to smooch scaly backside to get a couple of ounces of polydenum. The life’s blood of any modern world. That doesn't sound very fair to me." Novius folds her arms over her chest, and her shoulders start to rise towards her ears. She glances around sheepishly, not able to look at the Second Consul, or anyone for that matter, not directly in the eye. They all have nice shoes though.

Porter nods. "Rumor has it the Sivadian Intelligence Service was behind the attack on your Cydonia Base. Trouble is, you really can't prove it definitively. Your enemies aren't necessarily just the ones who look weird."

Callahan has apparently had enough. His designated purpose of the last week is completed, the day is won. But this one little thing seems to irritate him like a deerfly. More, and more...and more. He turns towards the recruits, his face slowly reddening. From drink? From anger? Who's to say?

Novius grunts, "Oh... oh... The Sivadians...." Her face screws up as she continues looking at the floor, an angry look on her face that is fueled by the fire burning in her heart, "It's time Mars started..." But her words trail off. She glances up at Porter and just looks him in the eye for a long moment. "I don't like you." She finally says, very quietly. As if that matters. She straightens up, and digs into her pocket for some crebar which she leaves on the bar, "To pay for my drink." She nods, "I'll be going back to the Elysium now." Good thing she had permission to speak freely.

Porter smiles crookedly and nods, raising his tea glass in salute.

Bullock draws a finger across his throat as he turns to look at Novius, but too late. He hangs his head and says, "Request permission to return to the Elysium sir."

Callahan hisses from between his teeth, "Granted."

Bullock puts a hand to the small of Novius' back and urges her towards the exit. "Thank you sir!" He hisses a whisper at Novius, "Come on!"

Novius is moving towards the door, but that hand on her back makes her double time, "What? What is your problem, I had permission." She honestly doesn't seem to understand.

Bullock sighs, "We'll talk about it later when we are peeling potatoes."

Callahan chuckles, one of those laughs that could be interpreted as humor or nervousness. "You taught me my lesson.", he replies quietly.

Novius shakes her head, "What are you talking about? I asked for permisison. You obviously don't understand how things work in the Military..." Someone doesn't, that's for sure.

Porter glances over at Callahan after watching the soldiers depart. "I wonder how much of their sentiment will be shared back home."

Callahan sighs, his face a mixture of embarassment and old man-tiredness. "It's about half and half nowadays.", he admits, nodding gruffly and slumping in his chair.

Porter nods to Callahan. "Well, you might remind them to look at Earth on the way home and remember that people who think that way, of their own species, did that. Not the Nall. Not any aliens. *We* did it to ourselves."

Callahan smirks. "Some still deny that KEP actually did it. Some are still spreading the tale that the aliens did it. The aliens funded it. Ignorance doesn't die in its sleep, sir. It only dies kicking and screaming and clawing."

Porter takes a sip of tea. He nods, setting the glass down. "I suppose." He chuckles. "When we launch, I assume you're going to want to get the hell back to Mars and report to the First Consul?"

Callahan nods slowly. "And give those kids a piece of my mind.", he grumbles. "And check to see if they're teaching them that in the schools."

Porter laughs, extending a hand. "Good meeting you, Consul. Good luck."

Callahan takes the hand, shaking it. "Good to meet you, Lt. Colonel. I hope to see you again soon." He stands slowly, achingly.

Porter nods. "Count on it." He takes another sip of tea.

Callahan releases Porter's hand as he steps back. "Thank you," he says simply, saluting then about-facing, walking towards the door.

Porter nods, slides his remaining tea across the bar before walking toward the crew facilities.

Soon, in the Medical/Science Center aboard the Minerva...

Medical/Science Center <VES Minerva>

The vessel's chief medical officer and staff maintain a relatively spotless facility, with exam and operating tables, vital sign monitors and the latest in hi-tech gadgetry. Pharmaceuticals are stored in code-sealed lockers. A medical computer provides symptoms and potential diagnoses at the touch of a button. Emblazoned in red on the gunmetal gray aft bulkhead is the double-snake entwined staff known among medical practitioners as the cadeucus.

Porter strides into the medical center, hands clasped behind his back. "All right, what's the situation?"

Staunton turns at the voice. "Colonel Porter, this is Ms. Innokentevna. She is the one Mr. Crazz told you about earlier. She has just arrived."

Porter lifts an eyebrow, then nods to the Ungstiri woman. "Welcome aboard."

Innokentevna steps in, a single step, looking about the efficient space. A few more steps, and she finds her own coner to stand. A pace away, a bit separate. A toss of her head shades her face, ragged bangs a sable veil. She nods politely to the Colonel, words quiet. "Rad paznamomitsa ... please't to meet you. An' I theenk zere ees a goot chance, I am een trouble."

The Major, Timonae and Ungstiri have just entered the medical bay. At the Colonel's arrival, Xavin turns quickly and extends an arm to gesture toward Innokentevna, "Katya, Lieutennant Colonel David Porter who commands this ship." He steps back against the wall of the bay, arms folded over his chest. "If you'd be so kind." He waves his hand in a minor flourish in the air.

Porter tilts his head slightly. "I got the indication you might think you're afflicted with TRV?"

Arms folded across her chest, Staunton waits for the woman's answer.

The small devachka slowly nods her head, quiet and sure. There i a hint of steel there, as she begins to speak. Her words are quiet, softspoken, but prefessionally even and clipped. "A leetle more zan a month ago, gospadin an gospahza ... I vas on Quaquan. I vas zere, seeking a parteecular doctor for a frient ov mine ... eet did nyi help, zat my ovn rite hant vas crush't .. an accedent, vrist shashe't, mulieeplefeengers broken. My adopt't seester, a man name ov Goltenhavk, zey sav ... an accortink to zem, I faneesh't from zre site, vaneesh't eento theen air."

Porter nods, listening.

Staunton frowns, eyes narrowed.

[Loudspeaker] Bridge to all Minerva personnel. Prepare for launch.

The ship rumbles as it lifts off the ground and arches skyward.

Porter instinctively braces a hand against the doorframe.

Xavin leans back against the wall to brace himself, eyes flickering toward the loudspeaker before coming to rest back on the Ungstiri. "I've heard that name." Furrowing his brow he glances toward Porter.

You feel a sudden jerk as the ship speeds up.

[Loudspeaker] All Minerva personnel, prepare for jump. We'll arrive at Concordance in roughly six minutes.

"For meeet vas like sleepink, like a nap after a hart tay vorkink a claim. But i vas tolt i va gone, for a hantful ov hours. I voult hafe thought I vas crazy, da? Except ... except my rite hant ... een zat hantful ov hours ... eet vas perfectly, an' completely heal't." Katya draws her hands from behind her back, fingers unconsiously playing over the bones and muscles, counting them. "I ... I spent zee next month, askinkik, vho coult do zat, vho voult sometheenklike zat do. I efen place't an att ..." She lets out a long slow breath. "I vas tolt ..." She just reaches out, then, braced upon the wall. "I vas tolt Hivers ... Kamir ... or Thul ... an zen, tvo folks I respect fery much heart my story ... an' zey both, sait all signs lead ... to Thul."

Porter nods slowly. "Have you experienced any dizziness? Headaches? Lost any teeth?"

[Loudspeaker] Jumping now.

The ship roars and lurches as it enters OtherSpace.

The ship reverberates slightly as it speeds through OtherSpace.

Innokentevna tilts her head, quiet. "Gospadi ... I vas just zere ... I hope zee Castori do nyi hafe lanting pad fees." Her words are even, not a complaint, just a pragmatic observation. To porter's question shejust shakes her head. "Nyet ... " She lets out a short chuff of breath. "Or at least nyi yet." Her shoulders shrug, philosophically, as she raises her hand. "Zis ees zee only theeng zat ees proof to me, zat i am nyi treamink zis, da? Zomeone feex't my hant better zan any doctortveen Concordance an' heafen. But I am nyi sure I vant to be arount, vhen zee Doctor comes to collect zee beell."

You feel the hum of the ship around you as it travels through OtherSpace.

Porter crosses his arms, nodding. "Well, our chief medical officer is currently helping out on Concordance. We'll let Doctor Ranix take a look."

The ship shudders as it drops out of OtherSpace.

Xavin grits his teeth together before snapping toward the Ungstiri, "To follow signs blindly may prove more dangerous than the Kamir or the Thul themselves. On Val Shohob I watched a mere novice heal an injured hawk with her mere mind." He shakes his head slowly, adding toward the Major, "It is dangerous to make these assumptions."

[Loudspeaker] Bridge to Minerva personnel. Demaria's stars are in sensor range, we're about to perform a correctional jump. Don't relax quite yet.

Porter nods to Xavin. "On the same token, don't assume your hand just fixed itself. The Thul are known to do that kind of thing."

The ship roars and lurches as it enters OtherSpace.

Your mind wanders for a moment as the ship travels through OtherSpace.

The ship shudders as it drops out of OtherSpace.

You feel the ship begin to slow.

Staunton raises an eyebrow at the Timonae, but does not answer his comment.

[Loudspeaker] All right. Miscalculation there, we overshot the target.

Xavin nods slightly, "Don't assume. What will be will be." The Timonae falls silent, watching the woman uneasily.

Porter lifts his eyes toward the loudspeaker. "Was he drinking alcohol?"

Staunton shakes her head solemnly. "I don't believe so, Sir."

The ship roars and lurches as it enters OtherSpace.

The ship shudders as it drops out of OtherSpace.

Innokentevna facepalms, finally a gallows smile crossing her fetures. "Gospadi. I probably sav her earlier zees efenink." But then her hed snaps back, looking to Xavin. "Zo vhat voult you hafe me do? Seet back an' pretent eet vas just a tream? I hafe a hantful ov hours just meesink from my life. I vant zem back. An eef zomeone else has been torn by zees ... If I can be ov any help ... I veel zat do." She looks back to the Timonae. "Da. Vhat veel be .. veel be. But I veel nyi go easy, eento zee dark."

You feel a sudden jerk as the ship speeds up.

Xavin nearly slips at the quick lurching, bracing himself firmly against the wall in a mad effort to catch himself. Loosing his footing he stumbles and hits the deck below, wincing slightly. "By Maza," he curses lightly, coming to his knees before the jerk of acceleration drops him back on his haunches.

You feel the ship begin to slow.

The ship roars and lurches as it enters OtherSpace.

The ship shudders as it drops out of OtherSpace.

Staunton moves to kneel beside the corporal, a hand bracing him at the shoulder. "Careful," she says.

[Loudspeaker] Private Brushtail here. We're nearing Concordance, requesting permission to dock.

Innokentevna lets her knees absorb the shock of the ship's motion, her outstretched arm providing balance. At the last she just blinks, a small smile flitting across her face as she recognizes the maneuver. "She steps fast an' far, your sheep does."

You feel the ship begin to slow.

You feel a slight force as the ship glides to a halt ...

Porter nods to Innokentevna, smiling slightly. "That she does. If you want, make yourself comfortable aboard the Minerva." He looks toward Staunton. "Look, get in touch with Doctor Ranix and ask her to transfer her radiation patients here. She can treat them aboard the Minerva just as easily, and we need to put some priority on the TRV research."

As he rises, the Timonae stares hard toward the Ungstiri, "There is a difference between pre-emptive assumption and tactful action. Both require training," his hand dusts in a mild fury against the leggings of his jumpsuit adding half-heartedly toward the Colonel, "Maybe Miss Steele will happen to forget to order the shipment of drigrib."

[Loudspeaker] Docking with Concordance now.

Innokentevna just draws her hands forwardrasing them to the Timonae, palms up, the shrug of her shoulders philosphic. "Zat ees a fair statement. My brozer Mitya, he alvays sait, I all zee tact ov a breek hafe." She leans back, quiet now. "Prashu proscheniya ... my apologies. I came here, seekink help.I do nyi vish to cause tenshun, da?"

Staunton nods, coming to her feet. "Aye, Colonel. Right away." With a nod, she turns for the door.

Porter shakes his head. "No tension." He glances toward Xavin, frowning a little, then returns his attention to the Ungstiri. "The Corporal just hasn't been the same since he went camping."

Xavin laughs thinly, "These tensions have long been in existence." He starts for the airlock hatch, speaking sideways toward the Colonel as he passes him, "And existed long before any journey to Quaquan." The Timonae's tone borders on the line between optimism and apathy.

Innokentevna turns then to the Colonel. "Spasiba, Colonel Porter ... I appreciate zee offer, for sure. Eef I can help, een return, you just hafe to ask." She then chuckles, soft single puff of breath. "Da ... zat I can unterstant ... I hafen't been zee same zince zat day on Quaquan. I just vish to face theese, heat on. Hopefully I am just beink silly. Hopefully."

Porter nods to Innokentevna. "Get some rest. The doctor will see you in the morning, I hope." He then turns for the door.

Innokentevna nods quietly and looks about, she snares a chair and collapses back upon it. "I shall be here, zen ... da svidaniya. An thanks for your time."

Porter nods, stepping out.

Corridor <VES Minerva>

Navy blue impact cushioning covers the deckplates in this 20-foot-wide, 15-foot-high corridor that stretches about 60 feet from the command hull to the cargo and engineering facilities.

Overhead light strips alternate amber and white - the amber capable of serving as emergency auxiliary lights in case of general power failures.

Hatches that can be sealed in case of crises such as hull breaches or biohazard releases lead to crew quarters, the medical/science center, the cargo hold and shuttle bay, a crew briefing room, and the vessel's command center.

Porter emerges from the medical bay, rubbing a palm on his forehead.

Brushtail steps out of the command center, a dark scowl on his face. The poof hanging from his posterior is behind him, flicking agitatedly.

Porter glances toward Brushtail and nods. "You did a good job tonight, Private."

Xavin is standing directly outside of the medical bay, arms folded loosely over his chest. Porter is stepping from the airlock hatch at the Demarian's arrival.

"Thank you, sir." Brushtail replies, the scowl fading. "Not as well as I should have, though. I managed to mis-jump in my home system. Twice."

Porter tilts his head. "You drink something alcoholic in the bar?"

Brushtail shakes his head. "No, sir. I was and am on duty. Nothing but coffee. And unless that's been spiked with something I didn't smell, I'm as sober as the day I was born. Just bad reflexes on the return trip, I suppose." Brushtail frowns, ears remaining alert. "I'll try to avoid the coffee if I forsee myself flying, if it's a problem, sir."

Porter nods, smiling slightly. "All right."

Xavin glances toward the digital clock overhead, "Well I'm off, and a drink sounds damn good to me." He chuckles slightly, looking down the corridor, "following the Ungstiri's deliverance."

Porter nods to Xavin. "Myself, I'm getting some sleep, while I can. Night, Xavin." He looks over at Staunton. "Still awake?"

Brushtail frowns slightly, raising a browridge at the Colonel. "Sir, is there a diagnosis on the Ungstiri?" Turning, he nods curtly to the Major.

Porter shakes his head. "Not a confident one, as of yet. We want Doctor Ranix to get a look at her. Feel free to visit with her though."

Staunton nods. "Aye, Sir. I something to take care of on the station. Can I borrow Mr. Carazz?"

Porter nods to Staunton. "Certainly."

Porter makes his way toward the crew facilities. "Let Doctor Ranix know I'm expecting a rapid turnaround on comparative diagnoses for Denick and the Ungstiri."

Staunton nods and heads for the cargo hold. "Corporal, you're with me."

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