Saturday, 2 September 2017
OUT OF THE ASHES 2.0: (April 2017)
“Today?” I said.
“Ye-e-e-es” said he with a glimmer in his eyes and an almost pleading gesture as he leaned toward me.
“I have reports to catch up on but I can put them aside. What exactly is this mission, Captain … I mean, um … oh great Baron?”
It was in that single most unexpected moment that my heart did a somersault and hit my uvula when I discovered the full import of this assignment. It so happened that a certain high-ranking former President, Bruce Boxleitner, whom I have always greatly admired, and his lovely wife, Verena, a renowned Terran diplomat, were hoping to visit the Ironbridge region, required an ambassadorial escort, and I was perfectly positioned due to my familiarity with the area.
Oh happy day! I thought to myself and danced a mental jig.
After swift goodbyes, the Baron beamed down to the planet to start preparing for the big event, which was to last three days. I quickly contacted my husband, Josh, who is both tactful and skilled at social engagement, and is familiar with both outworld activity and former President Boxleitner’s history with commanding a deep space station. He was thrilled to say the least and immediately transported to the shuttle from the planet’s surface so we could quickly iron out our plans.
Shortly afterward, we collected these two most distinguished guests, tired from their extended space travel but as gracious and friendly as they come. As Bruce is a fan of history, we visited historic sites in the region and enjoyed tea and scones at a traditional Victorian tearoom the Telfordians had set up in preparation for the event. Sipping lemon and ginger tea we talked about such things as the passing of old and dear friends, childhood memories of headless chickens, Bruce’s Irish and German ancestries, how to tell a newt from a salamander and the mining history of the area. We exchanged ‘how we met’ stories, shared fears, pet peeves and triumphs as well as laughter in good measure. The experience was more reminiscent of a double date than of any official assignment. Before we left Ironbridge to return our new friends and prepare for the official opening ceremony we bumped into a small motley crew of acquaintances on an early celebratory tour of the local drinking establishments, one of whom was an eccentric EMH, the others, a hippy lieutenant and a young man who referred to himself as ‘Math Boy’. The locals were quietly curious but their whispers and raised eyebrows showed they knew something was up, but as no laws were being broken we were all seemingly left to our own devices. After a jolly greeting, a joke or two and few moments of generally being very silly we parted ways, shuttled the Boxleitners to their accommodation and breathed a sigh of contentment.
The opening ceremony that evening was attended by a wide array of lifeforms, the vast majority humanoid. General Martok and Captain Kargh of the Klingon Empire and Lieutenant Nog of Ferenginar were just a few of the special guests in attendance. In addition to the good number of Telfordians were visitors from Earth, Vulcan, Andoria, Q'onoS, Minbar, Gallifrey, Chulak and numerous other worlds as well as a contingent of boisterous and lei-strewn holidaymakers from Risa who sat opposite a party of Thermians who appeared to be suffering form perma-grin and were documenting every moment of the experience. The ocean of familiar faces of Starfleet colleagues, friends and friends-to-be, the looks of surprise and wonder on the faces of first timers, and the welcoming hugs shared generously and freely amongst all races, colours and creeds reminded me why I volunteered for this mission and why I contributed extra off-hours in preparing the Telfordians for the sheer joy and merriment that would be loosed on this place. They wouldn’t know what hit ‘em.
While reacquainting Josh with my fellow SO on the USS Merlin, Commander Tony Burr, I felt the softest hand take hold of mine and gently whisk me away, only to look up and find that the hand belonged to none other than our Ambassadorial Liaison Officer, LT Wil Ross! Wil took me to the foyer where I was thanked for my work with the Telfordians and given a high security pass. I promised to uphold the tenets of the event to the utmost, including having the time of my life! Shortly thereafter the brief ceremony began with guest introductions involving lively banter, a smidgen of slapstick and affectionate insults and witticisms shared amongst the guests and audience, which is a common symbolic and cultural peculiarity of all First Contact Day events and is expected. The ceremony was decorated with moments of pause and thankfulness as well as dark humour and rabblerousing, and with the ushering in of the festival to a sea of applause, it was time for the feasting to begin.
Upon my arrival in the banqueting hall, the tables were full to heaving of a hungry and colourful throng, the likes of which is rarely seen in any one place in the universe. I (and my stomach) groaned as I glanced toward the food line, my most sincere thought in that moment was that the queue was as long as Martok’s tale of his battle with the Cardassians! Blood and ashes! My thought must have invoked his name because who did I find when I about-faced but the owner of the one good eye staring back at me, glaring. ‘Tera’ngan Soj lujab’a’?’ he growled. I grabbed Martok by the shoulders and headbutted him as gently as I could while still preserving the full effect, and continued on through the tables, shouting for him to follow as my attention had been drawn to I another, much shorter queue on the opposite side. The other special guests, ravenous, were suddenly in his shadow and began helping themselves. I pointed at one partly covered pot, ensuring Martok saw that serpent worms were on the menu so he could relax. I took a helping of roast targh and spooned on some other dishes, including Captain Janeway’s famous cannelloni and found a seat with some crew from the USS Iceni and a threesome of Belgian governors. Conversations were as rich and hearty as the dinner, and the consciousness of time began to wane and become suspended, that was until the spell was broken once someone called and ushered us to queue once again for group photography sessions, tokens to take away and savour later the sweet memories. In the shot, I was positioned between Martok and Boxleitner, but luckily managed to escape with only a single bite from the Klingon General...a minor flesh wound. As the morrow would come at us at warp speed, it was an early evening for me although I know others chatted away into the night, too excited to sleep.
We managed to steal away for a quick break before the next talk, which would be led by a very distinguished photonic doctor who sometimes goes by the name of Bob, other times it’s Joe. I was already intrigued with photonic Bob having met him in Ironbridge the previous day, so I was really looking forward to more time in his presence. Out in the hallway I went to greet my friend Jane, only for her to turn around and attempt to assimilate me! It seemed she had become full-on Borg overnight! My reaction was a combination of joy at reuniting with my friend followed by the subsequent shock at seeing her sudden transformation and feeling the assimilation tubes pierce my neck that resulted in some seriously mixed feelings. Someone took my photo at that very moment, which caused a ruckus on the Merlin later, before I explained the situation to the crew. Luckily, I was pulled away from danger in time. After a brief chat with the ‘new’ Jane it was clear that she was okay with this new state of being and as long as she remembered to use sun-cream and didn’t try to assimilate me again, well who am I to judge?
Upon return to the main hall I took my seat once again and found myself regaled by the grandiose and clever stories and tales recounted by the great Doctor Bob, the swishest EMH in the delta quadrant. He shared deep secrets such as how he managed to maintain any sense of dignity when working with the stunningly attractive Seven of Nine, known throughout the cosmos for her beauty. Bob had his audience in stitches when he described how he lost all sense of dignity when he met Meg Ryan for the first time while wearing a thong. Bob really engaged with the audience, particularly the Telfordians who had never met a photonic being, and impressed everyone with his vocals as he joined with my friend Laura in singing ‘You are My Sunshine’.
Upon exiting the hall Josh and I grabbed some Denobulan tea and plate of hasperat and made our way to the agreed location to meet up for an Avalon Shift Meeting with others from the USS Merlin and those who were just simply interested in what we were doing. The latter including The Baron himself, master programmer Matthew Holt and one very smiley and slightly deranged Commander Data who completely out of character insisted on showing our XO Captain Anni Potts what was under his uniform and insisted I have a conversation with his talking tricorder. Counsellor Strohm brought her lovely granddaughter and was on hand with hugs for everyone, deftly attending to Data’s delusional state as Chief Counsellor. Even our own Aaron David Merlin joined in later entirely full of beans and with an impressive haul of supplies to show off.
After the meeting drew to a close we noticed that a great diverse gathering of species had erupted on the upper deck and so I took the opportunity to mingle…after all, how often do you get to see a mugato sidle up to Vedek Winn Adami of Bajor or the Borg queen and her drones striking a pose with some Andorian beauties, Klingon warriors and even Vorlon Ambassador Kosh. Captains Janeway, Sisko and Picard were present as were members of various Stargate teams and beings from distant realms unfamiliar to me. Taking advantage of the undeniable profit in such an unprecedented event, the Ferengi proprietor, Quark, rapidly ducked behind the bar and began taking orders. He certainly has the lobes! Gold pressed latinum and raktichinos were both flowing quite nicely. Nevertheless, it was soon time for former President Boxleitner’s talk, which was one of the highlights of the day, so there was an abrupt dispersal as everyone made their way to the hall.
Bruce was his usual understated yet commanding and handsome self, and easily won the hearts of all the attendees. He answered many questions about his experiences of commanding the Babylon 5 space station in a distant star system called ‘Aqua Tech’, and he spoke fondly of his former colleagues there, many of whom are now somewhere else distant and among the stars. He talked about his current projects and also his secret desire to take part in historical re-enactments on a far-off world occupied by continents he referred to as Westeros, Essos, and Sothoryos; I still need to check the computer database as I’m unfamiliar with such a place.
Although Josh and I had intended to be at Claudia Christian’s talk and live auction we found ourselves wandering and discovered various unoccupied vessels dry docked in bay 16 along with a variety of ships including the industrial ship Celestra, the Battlestar Galactica and a large freighter, but no Cylons were about thankfully. We ran into Captain Bergin of the USS Iceni to whom I reported my findings and also took part in the tombola his crew was running for charity. There were displays of museum pieces to view …old uniforms, historical weapons, ancient artefacts…some interesting items. We were admiring a pair of old data crystals in excellent condition when we heard the strangest sound, a sort of an echoing scraping noise. We followed the noise and met a man who referred to himself as ‘the Doctor’, but this was not the aforementioned EMH. Even more perplexingly, he was in Starfleet uniform. He said he was a time traveller and invited us onto his tiny ship, which was enormous on the inside compared to the out; we spent some time studying the ship’s engineering and design as well as chatting about FCD before politely taking our leave. The rest of the afternoon was highlighted by close and friendlier encounters with a Borg named Thor, Bob the EMH, General Martok and Kargh. We missed another talk and various photoshoots, but it had been a good day and it was time to prepare for the evening’s festivities.
Saturday night was full-on party night with proceeds going to the charity ‘Mind’ and the theme for the Kyber Crystal party was Icons! As everyone would be dressing up as iconic characters, I decided to dress as an ole’ swashbuckler I once ran into by the name of Jayne Cobb…a man who made a bit of a legend for himself throughout the ‘verse’. The attendees all looked amazing and the costumes were so well thought out. There was Princess Leia and her Jedi contingent of course as well as famous characters such as Laurel and Hardy, Janeway’s Arachnia, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Marilyn Monroe and so many more. Kargh gave a moving and emotional talk about mental health and then the dancing started and continued into the night fuelled by large quantities of Romulan ale, bloodwine and Samarian sunsets. One of the highlights of the evening was dancing with the EMH, Bob, who had better moves than most of us organics on the dance floor. It was a good evening but I’m not the young cadet I once was and sleep was beckoning.
It was time for lunch and so when we ran into our good dear friend, Niki, an Orion slave girl, and her husband Dave, we joined them for a lovely meal at a local restaurant called the Novella Lounge. The majority of local Telfordians here must have avoided the First Contact Day festivities as their sidelong glances suggested that they had not seen the likes of our species before. We gave them our best smiles and then it was back to the main hall for more talks with the special guests, the first with Bob the EMH, Kargh, Martok and Nog. It was an interesting discussion about morality and ethics, interspersed with stories about broken noses, bull semen and Bruce Lee, finished off by a rousing rendition of The Warrior’s Anthem and an emotional speech by Nog on PTSD and making an impact in this world…’ripples in a pond’.
Bruce and Claudia joined each other onstage once again to talk about working together on Babylon 5, the range of aliens that visited the space station, and the many trials and tribulations of running B5. They shared memories of the war with the Earth alliance, stories of one of their larger-than-life Narn colleagues, Ambassador G’kar, as well as discussed comedy and covered other topics such as Claudia’s book, ‘Wolf’s Empire’. Both were surprised to find one of the uniforms from their past being worn by an attendee from Germany. The talk was followed up by a charity auction and the closing ceremony.
Sunday evening was a time for the special guests, the FCD team and others to unwind and share a meal. Before we arrived at the venue, Josh assisted The Baron in delivering some new cargo to the shuttle. On one of the boxes was printed ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’, but as the scanners did not detect anything out of the ordinary we let it go. The night was quite emotional for everyone involved. There was gambling, dancing, speeches, a special cake, a lot of lively banter. The EMH was still as energetic as ever, making the rounds from table to table, Nog was flirting with his lady love, and I found Bruce half dozing on a chair by the bar like the regular in one of those old cowboy flicks. All of us were sad to see FCD come to a close, but it had been an amazing experience and further cemented the feelings of camaraderie and sense of family FCD brings with it. Preparing to beam back to the shuttle, I caught a glimpse of my friends in their joy as a moment in time I’ll never forget. I’m holding on to that memory and to all of the memories of connections made at FCD very close to my heart.