“Let’s go back up to the Volvo and begin replicating the sky lanterns,” I smiled, cupping her chilled face. “I’ll contact the captain of the Intrepid to make arrangements.” Bella sighed, throwing her arms around me. Her mind was thanking me, over and over again as she buried her nose into my neck. I held her flush to my body, pleased that I was able to give her solace during this time of tragedy. Breaking a part, I kissed her lips gently before tapping my communicator. “Cullen to Volvo.”
“Volvo here,” replied Lt. Riley.
“Two to beam up.”
“Energizing, sir,” Lt. Riley chirped and the desolate rubble disappeared. We were back on the Volvo. I told Bella to go to sick bay, getting Rose to help replicate the sky lanterns. She frowned, upset at having to part with me, but I needed to make arrangements with the Intrepid captain for the H’aaruune rite. It would difficult since the man in command was actually a very sophisticated android. He had been under Captain Picard’s command until recently when he, Captain Data, received his own ship. He didn’t have emotions and would probably not understand the need to perform this rite.
There was a great deal of controversy regarding Data’s promotion. A lot of Galaxy Fleet’s admirals didn’t think that Data was ‘alive’ and that he was the property of the Federation. He had, however, been awarded many honors in science, diplomacy and valor. He was a decorated officer and his near ‘death’ experience on the Enterprise, saving the lives of the families and crew on board from an attack from the Remans is what got him the promotion for Captain. We actually were promoted at the same time: the first android captain and the youngest captain in Galaxy Fleet. It was the talk of the Federation for a long time.
Walking onto the bridge, Lt. Riley asked, “Do you want to set course to Forx, sir?”
“Not yet. Please hail Captain Data and send it to my ready room,” I commanded, removing my coat and striding to my office. I barked at the replicator, asking for a large mug of steaming coffee. The air on the planet’s surface was biting. I needed to warm up. Snuggling with my mate was not option, so I settled for the next best thing. Coffee.
Admiral Janeway would be proud.
She was addicted to her coffee and that addiction was passed on to me. “Cheers, Admiral,” I said, sipping my coffee as I settled into my seat. Pressing a few buttons, Captain Data’s face was on the view screen of my computer terminal. “Greetings, Captain.”
“Captain Cullen,” he said, nodding slightly. “Are you ready to go back to Forx? We have a lot of intel to decipher and deliver to the Cygnarian government.”
“Not quite, Data,” I said, wrinkling my nose. “The empress is adamant that we do this H’aaruune funeral rite. We need your help.”
“Mine or my crew?” Data asked.
“Both. The funeral rite revolves around sky lanterns, releasing the soul of the fallen into the stars,” I said.
“Empress Nirabelle would like to do this ceremony by sun down. It will take less time if we have you and your crew’s help. We need to release a lantern for each of the dead.”
“I fail to the logic in doing that,” Data responded, his face impassive.
“There is no logic. It’s comfort for the Cygnarians,” I explained.
“Why? They’re dead.”
“What about their families on Forx? They need that comfort, knowing that their loved ones have been given the proper burial,” I said. “It’s a part of their culture, Captain. These people died on a planet, light years away from their home by a vicious, unprovoked attack. Let’s give them their peace.”
“Understood. How many of my crew do you need?” he asked.
“As many as you can spare. Keep a skeleton crew on the ship and transport down at 1700,” I said. “Thank you, Captain. Cullen out.”