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Star Trek Universal - The Dock Worker by J. Grey and R. Cane, copyright held by A.P. Atkinson

The untold tales from around the Federation

A flash erupted behind his eyes. Burning, brilliant white light exploded through his mind in a momentary flash that absorbed all of his thoughts. His body jolted and he watched for a moment as his arms flailed in involuntary motion. The light shone brighter and brighter, casting a halo around everything he could see. It was so bright that everything else was in shadow, fading out of his reality. Slowly, dimly, he registered the crackling sound as the heat of the blast surged through him, sending a buzzing, burning energy to all of his nerves, lighting his senses in sudden agony. Then there was another noise and he realised with an odd sense of calm that the noise was his own voice, crying out in shock and pain. The shadows were cut by the sight of a brilliant, pencil-thin beam of light bursting out of him. He knew with a grim sense of finality that he had been shot and he had little choice left now but to accept his fate as the last moments of his life played out before him.

The docking bay

6 seconds before.

Doraz Bolla glared at Calvin Kambon, his eyes burning with anger. He lowered his brow aggressively and glowered from his position a full foot lower than the Human before him.

"You did this to me." He growled through gritted teeth. "This is your fault. You did this to me and you don't even care."

"I..." He faltered as he tried to speak. "I do care. I'm your supervisor. I was looking out for you. I was trying to help you; I was trying to help you save your job."

"Well I kept my job..." Doraz shook his head in disgust and regained some of his composure. "I kept my job. I get to carry on loading cargo on a filthy backwater Federation space station. Thanks to your help I won't even get paid for doing it for another three months. Thanks to your help my life is ruined and my future is dying on a diseased rock, light-years away from where I am. This is all thanks to the mighty, benevolent Federation."

"I tried to help." Supervisor Kambon spoke evenly as he found the words. "Nobody thought this would happen. We all tried to fix the mistake you made. We tried to save your job, we treated you like you were one of our own."

"No!" Doraz roared, suddenly his expression was furious again. "I'm Yridian. I'm not one of your own. I'm not Human, I'm not Federation, I'm just a hired hand, a disposable asset that comes cheaper than fitting an automated system to do a meaningless job for a payment that barely keeps me alive." He glowered at his superior. "I'm not one of your own, am I, Calvin?"

"You're not Human." He meekly shrugged in agreement. "But you're not the first alien to pass through here. I didn't mean to treat you any differently."

"Yeah!" Doraz nodded to himself. "Not many aliens on this station get to be supervisors, engineers or managers though, do they, Calvin?"

"They don't stay long." Calvin told him firmly as he forced his own temper under control. "This is Federation space, Doraz. How many Humans work in the Yridian sector? How welcome would I be there?"

"So that's it?" Doraz went quiet. He glared up at his supervisor angrily with a resolve in his eyes; a burning intensity driven by years of pent up frustration that had slowly festered into rage. "You just don't like Yridians..."

"I never said that..." Calvin said coldly, his voice rising to a level just below a shout.

"Well the decision may be made and it may have been made against me but things can change." Doraz hissed through gritted teeth. "You have a responsibility in all this and you're going to pay."

"Careful." He told him as he stepped closer, his anger starting to get the better of his good sense. "You might want to think twice about threatening me, little man."

"Threat?" Doraz said in barely a whisper. "That wasn't a threat. You're going to pay. I'm going to make you pay for what you've done."

Doraz turned and began walking away, his feet slamming down hard on the metallic gantry. Each footstep echoed around the gigantic loading bay, empty of cargo except for a few scattered boxes piled at the edges. A few flickering lights guiding loaders to the storage areas.

He stopped for a moment and turned back to face his superior. Both glared angrily at one another. "You're going to pay!" He sneered.

6 minutes before.

Doraz Bolla's head was spinning with all that had happened that day. The dock seemed worse now, an even grimmer, darker place. It was a plodding monotony that was marching over his soul, trampling his spirit right out of him with every step it took. It was a chain around his neck shackling him to the bad decisions that had led him there and the mistakes he'd made since he'd arrived. He had hated it for such a long time but now his hatred was focused on a man and he didn't know if or how he'd be able to carry on in the job he'd come to despise. He didn't know how he'd manage to carry on at all.

"I'm sorry it worked out that way!" Calvin Kambon told him with an expression too animated to be entirely sincere. "I guess it could have been worse though."

"You're sorry!" Doraz turned to face him, his expression twisting into an angry grimace. "You're sorry! Do you realise what this has done to me? Do you know what this means to me and my family?"

"Me!" He pointed at his himself in surprise and his body hardened defensively. "Is this my fault somehow?"

Doraz turned away in disgust and tried to control his rage. He was stood in the loading dock where he'd worked for the past 6 years with no prospect of promotion, no bonus and earning barely enough money to afford a shuttle ride home every three months to see the people he'd left behind to start a new, better life. The time he'd spent there had not been better, it had been worse; far worse than he could have imagined when he had first set foot aboard, brimming with optimism and hopes for the future. He was trapped by the low pay in an endless cycle of work and exhaustion with no hope of any improvement casting a light on the horizon. His life was a blur of early starts and late finishes as endless cargo crates were unloaded from visiting ships to be reloaded onto other ships. He had watched them come, watched them leave and played only a minor role in their stories. Each person on each ship was a universe; a multitude of stories and connections to every other person in the galaxy. Each life reached out to touch every other in subtle and intricate patterns and yet his life went unnoticed by them all. He was unseen in the tales of their lives; a forgotten nobody that made no difference and whose own life had no more meaning than the automated machines he supervised.

Back home his life had mattered and he had hope for the future. It was never perfect but his life had a purpose and a function. People missed him when he wasn't there and he felt as though he were still a part of the wider universe.

"No..." Doraz stared downwards, crestfallen. "Perhaps the fault is my own, after all."

"It's just bad luck." He shrugged and smiled a supportive expression that stopped short of really caring. "We all make mistakes. The important thing is you still have your job; you have a future here on the station. Everything can carry on just as it was. You just have to be more careful from now on. You shouldn't beat yourself up over it."

"Who should I beat up then?" Doraz turned to face him, his expression a sneering look of reserved anger, bubbling away below a barely restrained exterior. Even compared to others of his kind, he was a small man and not naturally aggressive. His home-world was smaller than Earth with lighter gravity, so he wasn't physically powerful in comparison to a Human but he was angry and his emotions were driving him now.

"Calm down!" He told him. "It's not that bad. There was no grade reduction and no penalty. All you have to do is make up the time. You work an extra 3 months over your contract and have a negative mark recorded on your file. Everyone on the dock has at least two negative marks on their file; it's just a part of the job."

"3 months!" Doraz cried out angrily. "Do you know what 3 months means to me?" The supervisor apathetically shrugged his reply. "I was due to leave in 7 weeks." He began. "My wife is due to give birth to our first child in three months."

"Ok." His mood softened as he spoke. "I didn't know... Congratulations, I guess."

"Congratulations?" Doraz repeated sarcastically. "She's living on Serra-Prime, where I was working before I took the job on here. Serra-Prime's atmosphere contains a dangerously high concentration of silicon; so high in fact that it's considered toxic. We need to be immunised every month just to survive but really we desperately need to get off that planet before we risk the health of our baby. Even if the child is ok when it's born the air is likely to scar its lungs before it reaches 6 months old because they can't immunise a infant." He paused briefly to calm himself. "That shouldn't be a problem because it's not likely to be born healthy. The immunisation we have to take is dangerous to an unborn child. It wasn't easy for us to conceive and it wasn't cheap either. We had to have constant medical support from a cross-species fertility expert. Our species are not very genetically compatible. With all that against us, the baby is not likely to survive if we can't get her off the planet."

Calvin Kambon remained silent for a moment while he searched for the words. "Why can't she leave?" He managed finally.

"Leave!" Doraz yelled angrily. He caught himself and took control of his temper once more. He looked around to the others, the few other workers around the sprawling docking bay. Nobody seemed bothered by him raising his voice but he continued more calmly in any case, taking a deep breath before he spoke. "We're trying to leave; we've been trying to leave for a decade. Back on Yridia I'm a qualified engineer; I'm a level 5 mechanic cleared to service warp-cores with advanced dispensations to operate singularity drives. I used to test warp-coils for integrity, I'm qualified to build Federation, Romulan and Cardassian engines. The Federation doesn't recognise Yridian qualifications so while I wait endlessly for my records to be accepted by the examination boards I had to find work. This was all I could get, it was meant to be an engineering post but when I got here it wasn't what I had expected. I'm here on 401 trying to earn enough experience credits to move up to the rank of supervisor so we can move to a clean colony when the baby is born. My wife has to work too, to help support the pair of us so I can continue to qualify for a Federation work permit. The joke is that she could leave; she could leave any time but if she did it would be the end of our relationship. She's stuck there out of loyalty. She's stuck on that planet because of me."

Calvin Kambon looked away and remained silent.

"6 years I've been here." He began once more. "I used to contact the boards every few days to ask if my qualifications had been approved. After a year, I was reduced to asking once a week. Now I just wait for a message but in 6 years I've heard nothing and I've come to accept that I never will. There's been no progress. I just wait. I load cargo crates, and I wait."

"Ok, ok." He said. "So what can you do?"
"Nothing." Doraz admitted with a weak expression of helplessness. "There's nothing I can do. Nothing at all. I just have to stay here now, work as hard as I can and hope that my baby survives until I can get my family away to a better planet and a better job. It's not much to hope for, it is?"

"The Federation wouldn't let your kid die." He said softly. "It just wouldn't."

"I'm a refugee." Doraz told him softly, his anger spent for now to be replaced with a weak acquiescence; a pathetic acceptance of his fate. "I'm not a citizen yet and maybe never will be. The Federation have enough to deal with without worrying about the safety of a few members of a species who generally have no compunction against firing on their ships whenever they meet them in open space."

"I didn't realise..." He kicked an imaginary object with his foot and shook his head. "I didn't realise; I had no idea. Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"We were desperate." Doraz slumped against a bulkhead. "We had no choice. I took this job as a last resort. It was a way to get us a safe home for our family. I didn't say anything because it's not our way, it's not our way to give information away. We sell it; we hoard it; we don't offer it freely. We Yridians are a shy people, we believe that our business is our own business. We don't trouble others with our problems; we find solutions for ourselves."

"I tried to help you." Calvin said finally. "I really did try."

"Help me?" He sneered. "This was your idea of help?"

6 hours before.

The door opened with a customary hiss and the senior deck manager stepped out from the small office. He was not an imposing man and made no effort to look like he was. He stood at average height and was a build that matched. He was in the later part of middle age and had the look of a man who was simply doing a job. He controlled the loading bays and the meeting he was about to lead was an imposition on his time. He accepted that it was a necessity of his role but was absolutely not something he enjoyed. He glanced around and quickly his eyes found Doraz.

He took a quick cursory glance at his Padd. "Mr. Doraz Bolla?" He asked as he stood back from the doorway to invite the junior dock worker inside. The Yridian naming convention was quite different from the Federation norm but he chose to ignore what was actually a slight insult and allow the Human interpretation of his name to go unchecked. He hardly felt it was the right time to be seen as difficult.

"Yes, Sir!" He stood up and headed to the doorway. His supervisor had volunteered to escort him, which was customary under the circumstances. He knew that someone else would be waiting in the office to act as a witness, those were the rules. The Federation liked to have rules to ensure fairness for all and they took great measures to be seen to be following them, even if they didn't always make sense. The manager frowned at both him and his supervisor but managed a superficially courteous smile as their eyes connected briefly. Doraz was used to that, his species was not well liked and very few had elected to lead productive lives outside of a career that was seen as little more than piracy. Fewer still lived those lives within the confines of the Federation.

He had quickly grown weary of the suspicion and the prejudice towards his species but after the weeks had begun to pass into months and they, in turn had melted into years he had stopped noticing them. He didn't even feel it was entirely unwarranted; he had no Yridian friends himself and had even elected to marry outside of his race. Yridians were basically not a trustworthy people, but it was the pressures of his culture and not an instinctive drive that made them this way. His decision to enter the Federation had been taken as a measure to avoid them as far as possible and to distance himself from his own kind. He could hardly blame Humans for feeling the same way he felt himself but he was tired of defending his trustworthiness to people who were far from perfect themselves.

"Please sit down!" The dock manager gestured to a comfortable chair which somehow seemed ominous and slightly threatening. Doraz sat down with his supervisor taking a seat beside him. They exchanged worried glances and the mood among them was grim.

"Mr. Bolla, as you know, our investigations are complete." The manager began with a sigh. "We believe we have established the facts but we'd like to give you one last opportunity to add any explanation that you might feel we've overlooked. This is your turn to speak, Mr. Bolla before we make our decision."

"Sir." Doraz began. "I intend to offer no excuse for the events that took place. I can offer only an explanation as to why such things happened and an apology for my part in them. I can also assure you that I've learned from these mistakes and intend to do a better job in the future."

"We're not looking for an apology or to assert blame." He said firmly as he his rubbed his temples in exasperation. He looked like a man who wanted the meeting to finish as quickly as possible so he could go back to doing his proper job, leaving all this unpleasantness behind him. "Our role here is purely to establish the facts and to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all parties. Put simply, it's my job to make sure that something like this never happens again!"

"Yes, Sir." Doraz nodded uneasily, he felt like a scolded child and even though the manager was being fair and reasonable, he knew an admonishment when he got one.

"You've not made that easy." He glowered at him accusingly. Doraz closed his eyes momentarily and nodded weakly. "Sir, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the findings of this investigation and whatever punishment you see fit." He told his superior humbly.

"There's no point reviewing the facts." The manager began, looking over his notes. He cast a glance towards the head of systems-maintenance who had agreed reluctantly to serve as a witness. He was recording the meeting holographically and was looking everywhere around the room except at the man accused. "We've discussed this at length over the last few days and I think we're all satisfied that we understand them."

Doraz nodded expectantly. His supervisor said nothing in his defence, he just shrugged and let the meeting continue.

"We've investigated this matter very thoroughly." The manager began. "We're happy to accept that the incident was an accident. The consequences of this accident, while severe, were made without malice or intention on your part, Mr. Bolla." Doraz allowed himself the flicker of a smile and nodded in agreement.

"The record keeping of the incident is a whole different issue!" He rubbed his temples again before fixing the junior dock worker with an expression that reflected his deep resentment. "Do either of you have anything to add on this subject?"

Doraz turned to Calvin and the pair exchanged a slightly furtive look. It was Calvin Kambon who finally spoke.

"These things happen down on the docks. Sometimes mistakes are made by the delivery staff. Sometimes computer errors happen." He gave a slightly conceited smile.

"Yes!" The manager nodded and looked the pair over with a knowing expression. "I suppose we'll have to leave it at that then, as we have very little evidence to go on as to why the records appear so incomplete." Doraz bit his lip expectantly as he waited for the final verdict.

"We've decided that something happened on the docking floor that was an accident." He began. "I would like to add into the records that I doubt computer error was responsible. I think something else might have happened but there's no evidence to support my..." He paused for a moment, regarding the pair. Doraz seemed nervous, the supervisor had a smugness he disliked. "... suspicions." He paused momentarily.

"Because of the lack of evidence I have no choice but to record this matter as a simple accident." He said finally. "But I want you both to know something that I want you both to take away with you and think about." Doraz opened his mouth to speak but remained silent. The manager continued. "This error has cost the station. We've lost a lot of respect over this, and we had precious little to begin with. Now we've got to supply a replacement for the goods in packing crate 'Delta 45T'". That replacement has to be made at our own expense and considering we don't have a high-density replicator or sufficient engineering capabilities, that replacement must be sourced externally and the expense will be high."

Calvin Kambon smiled to himself, Doraz cast him a resentful expression.

"Because of the lack of recorded evidence and because of the error itself I see no choice but to penalise those most responsible. Accidents do happen and we accept that but the missing records are another matter. Either data has not been recorded properly or it has been illegally removed." He said finally. "To let this matter go without penalty would be an invitation to an unacceptable level of conduct on my docking bay floor."

The pair went silent, Calvin's smug smile vanishing abruptly.

"With the full support of the Commander, I've decided that Mr. Doraz Bolla should have a negative conduct penalty recorded against him, a 3 month working suspension of payment and a reduction of experience level by two grades." Calvin shrugged at Doraz and gave him a wink. "And you, Kambon..." The manager turned his attention to the supervisor. "Your pay is suspended for the same 3 months."

He began to protest but caught himself. "Honestly, Calvin." He shook his head. "I expected more from you. Don't think I don't know what you two have done."

"I don't know what you mean." He said with the merest hint of sarcasm. The manager dropped his padd to the desk and glared menacingly at the pair of them. "If I could have done more to punish you both then I would have. I'm going to be watching you two! Nobody pulls this kind of crap on my floor. Nobody!" He glowered at them and the office was silent. "Now get out of my sight!"

Station DS401

6 days before.

It was the end of a long shift. Another long, endless drudge of meaningless work that didn't challenge or inspire him and Doraz was exhausted as usual. He sat in the bar sipping at the first of two drinks. He always ended his shift at the bar; it had become a routine; almost a ritual. At first he would order something to eat and drink a glass of cold Raktajino spiked with a single shot of Cardassian rum. It helped to calm him down and put his thoughts back in order before he ate. The second drink was the same, and it helped him to wind down properly before heading back to his bunk room to read until he was tired enough to finally sleep.

He did this every day, without fail, except on his one day off each week, then he skipped the rum until 2 hours before bedtime, and took two shots neat in a single glass.

"How was your day?" The barman asked, wiping around the inside of a glass with his apron and examining it up against the ceiling lights.

"How are any of my days?" Doraz allowed himself a smile of self pity. "The same, I guess. Always the same. Mind-numbing drudgery with one day blurring seamlessly into the next."

"Cheerful as ever!" The barman grinned at him sarcastically and reached to the replicator for a plate of boiled rice to which he added the fish, a fresh delivery had recently arrived at the station from a colony specialising in making realistic food products so convincing that they were practically indistinguishable from the real thing. No replicator aboard could get close to their level of sophistication.

"You know what? I don't have too much to be cheerful about." Doraz took a big swig of his Klingon coffee and closed his eyes, savouring the sharp bitterness.

"There's always something to be cheerful about." He served the simple dish to the Yridian who thanked him with a curt nod. "Like what?"

"Well..." He began thoughtfully. "We may suffer indignities and we may never shrug off the stigma of our race, our families or the beliefs of our kind but we all have one thing to be grateful for."

Doraz shrugged while chewing a mouthful of fish. "At least we're not Ferengi. I mean, can you imagine?"

"What?" He stammered, almost choking on his food. The barman simply smiled. "It's bad enough being Yridian. You guys carry a ceremonial weapon under your jackets, I shudder to think what those guys have to carry."

"Where are you from?" Doraz managed eventually, clearing his throat with a drink of raktajino.

"Me?" The barman raised his eye to the ceiling as if deep in thought. "Lots of places. Where men leaves their souls, their hearts and their minds; that's where I live. Where I come from is so long ago it doesn't matter to me anymore. I go forward, carried in the impressions of memories like a splinter irritating the flesh, but too small to be seen by the eye."

"I believe that you're a very strange man!" Doraz told him.

"I just serve drinks and food." The barman fixed him with an expression that Doraz couldn't quite make any sense of. "That's something you can really believe in!"

Through the perpetually open door the figure of the supervisor entered. He saw Doraz and headed over, raising his hand to catch the attention of the barman. "Beer!" He called out. "Large." The barman nodded and carried on.

"Doraz!" Calvin began. "I can see you're eating and I don't like talking shop after work so I'll keep this brief." Doraz sighed wearily at him. "They've fixed a date."

"A date?" He turned to face the supervisor and began to shrug that he wasn't quite following.

"There's going to be a hearing." He told him solemnly. Doraz's eyes widened suddenly. "They've set a date for the hearing 6 days from now. Apparently they're already investigating."

"Only 6 days?" Doraz grey skin seemed to flush as he gazed away nervously. "That's not long enough to prepare."

"Prepare what?" Calvin shrugged and grinned at him. "Just deny everything. These things are just formalities; they're nothing to worry about. I've been to dozens of them."

"If that was the case then why bother having them?" Doraz grumbled at him.

"I don't know." He shrugged. "I guess it gives people something to do. People like to look busy, they like to feel important." Doraz shot him an acidic glance.

"This is serious!" Doraz frowned, the stress of a hearing and a full investigation beginning to bear down on him. His head began to swim.

"You need to learn to relax." Calvin slapped him playfully on the shoulder. "You aliens, you're all the same." He snatched up his beer and left, heading to a table in the corner already occupied by half a dozen dock staff. Doraz watched him go, his head a mess of thoughts and the fear of losing the job he hated beginning to rise.

"Barman." He began haltingly. "Can I get a triple Cardassian rum. Can I get it neat, please?"

6 weeks before.

The automated loader was a painfully simple piece of equipment. As an engineer, Doraz appreciated the elegant functionality and the execution of design. He knew that anything could be complicated; it took talent and hard work to make something simpler, to boil down the design so that it perfectly matched the needs it was meant to serve. The loader was such a design. He was required to do little more than supervise it. He simply led it along as it floated a few inches from the ground, a small strip of metal along the bottom nullifying the effect of the artificial gravity and arms which moved crates onto a flat loading platform to be carried about. He walked behind it as it moved a crate large enough to hold an impulse reactor from a small starship.

This part of his job was not so bad because at least he had time to think. His Yridian qualifications were unrecognised and on the worst of days he had come to accept that they probably never would be. The Yridian government would have little likelihood of allowing the Federation to know that much about them. Doing so would invite too many questions as to how they had acquired the Federation technology that he was qualified to work on. The monotony of his job had inspired him to take matters into his own hands and he had begun 3 years ago to study a Federation engineering course so that he could qualify again for a job he had done successfully for over 20 years. The course was tough; far tougher than he had thought because technology continued to change so fast. Almost daily there were new reports to read which changed the nature of the previous work he'd submitted. The big problem was that his progress was slow; painfully slow. When he finished his shift each day he was exhausted, it was an effort of pure will that kept him going for a few hours to get anything done at all. He wrote reports all through his one day off each week and read reports every evening. During the day he thought. He thought about warp-cores and anti-matter, transporters and energy exchanges. He thought about anything to keep his mind from settling into the boredom of loading crates from one docking area into another.

A chirp issued from his comm-badge. He was surprised; it was only the third time in nearly 6 years that somebody had contacted him. "Calvin Kambon to Doraz Brollan."

"Doraz Bolla." He said gingerly, assuming it was a mistake of some kind. He emphasised the correct version of his surname, assuming the supervisor had made the mistake deliberately to annoy him.

"In my office. Now!" The reply came simply. He looked to the massive crate in front of him and pondered for a moment. It was too large to leave in the middle of a loading dock but his supervisor had demanded he head to his office immediately. He grimly admitted to himself that he didn't know what to do. Should he dash to the office, thoughtlessly complying with the curt instruction or should he complete his task first? His job was so mindless that it had robbed him of the ability to think for himself and now he stood, unable to decide how best to follow the orders of a man he couldn't respect. Wearily he decided to pull the docking crate to the nearest wall, to hoist it out of the way so he could go to the office as quickly as possible.

"On my way..." He sighed, losing a little more of his self-respect in the process.

Calling it an office was a somewhat grandiose claim when it was little more than an alcove at the side of the bay where the heating exchangers were situated. Normally it was a service bay but the exchangers were so efficient they needed maintenance only once every 5 years, so Calvin Kambon had claimed the space as his own. He had put up a makeshift desk and sat behind it in an office chair that he swung around in as he spoke for no reason Doraz could ascertain. The room was littered with small boxes, paperwork, padds and other old equipment. A box of weapons sat forgotten at the corner of the room, confiscated from packages they'd handled, and nobody had taken the time to report them to security yet. It was the product of an undisciplined mind.

"Well!" He began. "It looks like you're in trouble, Yridian!"

Doraz fixed him with a disapproving glare but he seemed immune to it. "Your little mistake." He explained.

"The crate?" Doraz frowned to himself.

"They know." He nodded in agreement. "They've found out. I hoped they wouldn't but they have. I had hoped nobody would notice. I honestly didn't think they would." His expression made it clear he had hoped for no such thing. "You're in trouble now!"

"And you take no responsibility for this?" Doraz asked pointedly.

"Me?" He stopped swivelling in the chair and glared angrily at the dock worker. "What is that supposed to mean?" "You know what it means..."

Calvin rubbed his chin thoughtfully, never for a moment taking his eyes from those of his subordinate. "Well." He began finally after a lengthy pause. "I agree that this mistake happened while you were doing me a bit of a favour."

"A favour?" Doraz raised his eyebrows. "A favour!"

"What would you call it, Yridian?" He smirked.

"My name is Doraz Bolla." He told him firmly. "Human!"

"Alright, Doraz." He smiled. "You don't fit in here, you know? You're not one of us. I've tried to help you but you just don't make any effort with the rest of the guys. You're not a docker."

"Because I'm a Yridian?" He asked angrily. The supervisor waited for a moment, goading him with a wry smile before he shook his head. "You're not a dock worker. You don't talk to the guys, you don't join us for meals or drinks. Nobody knows what to make of you but I'll tell you something; not a lot of the guys here trust you."

"Because I'm a Yridian?" He said again, more pointedly.

"If you like!" He admitted with a shrug. "It's not easy to trust Yridians, is it? It's even harder to work with one who never joins in, never gets to know the other guys working around him."

"It's just my way..." He said softly.

"And now we have this little accident to deal with." The supervisor began. "Now how do we know it actually happened the way you say it happened? How do we know you didn't profit from this in some way? How do we know you weren't waiting for this to happen. You could have been waiting for my back to be turned so you could get your hands on the stock?"

Doraz frowned. The silence between them dragged on awkwardly, the pair glaring at one another maintaining a barely tolerable facade of civility.

"Ok..." The supervisor broke the silence and leant forward across his untidy desk. "I don't think you did this for a profit. I think this was an accident."

"You know it was an accident and you know why." He told him angrily.

"Yeah..." He frowned. "Well here's your chance to make a friend by keeping your mouth shut." Doraz began to speak but stopped himself; the things he wanted to say would cost him his job on the spot if he were careless enough to speak them openly.

"There is a way out of this, you know." Calvin told him with a grin. "I can help you. You think this is the first time someone has made a mistake down here? It happens all the time."

"You'd help me?" He seemed suspicious.

"If you kept your mouth shut then we'd be friends, more or less." The supervisor told him, his voice lowered into what amounted to a threat. "Friends help each other."

"Not keeping my mouth shut isn't going to help me." Doraz said. "What can you do for me?"

"I can cover your tracks." He smirked, a self-confident expression of a man who knew his territory well. "I can change the computer records to make it look like anything I want. I can make it look like two crates had the wrong number on them. I can make it look like your loader is faulty and didn't give you the right information. I can make it look like a ship delivered the wrong load or delivered it to the wrong place. I can even make it look like someone collected the wrong crate." He flashed a self-satisfied grin. "I can it make it look like you're the best worker on the entire dock."

"I am the best worker on the entire dock." Doraz told him earnestly.

6 months before.

The large loader was a hateful thing to use and consequently he hated using it. He sat perched on a slab of plastic that was designed to accommodate the proportions of a Human, but his spine was different and the ergonomics of the chair were painfully unpleasant. His back ached after a 12 hour shift and this one had already stretched on to 14 hours with no end in sight. His stomach growled at him. No more little plastic cups of water and no more of the little bars of reconstituted protein. He needed food; proper food, a meal where he could sit down quietly and eat in his own time, knowing the shift was over and the time that was left was his to use as he saw fit.

The night before had been one of the rare opportunities he had to speak with his wife via long-ranged communication. The connection was, as usual, terrible. He could barely hear her and there was a significant time-lag through the subspace connection. He had chatted as late as possible, which just made him more tired for his shift the next day.

Running the loader was his least favourite job on the floor. All of the awkward, large containers had to be moved with it; the biggest cargo shifting tool they had on the base. There were endless small details to watch out for and endless reports on every movement. He came to a large crate; not huge by any stretch of the imagination but large nonetheless. He stepped off the loader and scanned the identification with his padd. He rapped on the side of the plastic box and the sound of his hand knocking rang dully around the cargo bay. He looked around, the late shift was quiet and there was nobody to speak with, nobody else on duty. He was usually given these shifts and he knew why.

Calvin Kambon woke with a start and his head was burning in pain. "Computer..." he groaned. "Lights, raise them 50% of normal." The computer complied and the illumination half-heartedly swept the darkness aside.

He dragged himself to the side of his bed and reached for his padd. His fingers slipped and it took him three attempts to pick it up from his bedside table. He grimaced at the condition of the room. There was something about waking up in this state that made his lifestyle seem worse somehow. It never looked much different; he was naturally untidy but waking from a clouded stupor brought some strange sense of focus and the carnage pricked at even his moderate sensitivities.

He checked the padd and realised what he'd already guessed; he had over-slept by several hours. He checked the staff rota; in his condition he was hardly going to be able to function at work but somebody would cover for him. They always did.

Doraz finished scanning the identity of the package. He rubbed his temples wearily as the first of many needless questionnaires appeared on his terminal. It was a safety report to fill in before he could even begin the proper processing of the cargo. He sighed wearily to himself at the prospect of filling in yet more senseless reports just to confirm that he felt it was safe to make a machine drag a box from one bay to the other.

A bleep suddenly came from his comm badge. He was so surprised that he jumped, looking around for the source of the noise before realising it had come from him.

"Kambon to Bolla." A voice called out. He sighed, suspecting he knew what was coming next. He touched the badge. "Bolla here."

"Bolla." A smug but restrained voice called out from the communicator. "Something has come up. I'm not going to make it in tonight!"

"Sir!" He began, reigning in his annoyance as best he could. "You're already one and a half hours late for your shift. When is cover going to arrive?"

There was a notable pause. "Cover is already there, Bolla." Doraz could almost see his grinning Human face. "You're going to have to pull another 5 hours until the morning shift arrives to relieve you."

"I'm already way over my duration!" He protested weakly. It wasn't the first time this had happened and the outcome was always the same. "I need to go home. I have things to do"

"Home will still be there in 5 hours, Bolla." He sniggered as he spoke. Doraz fumed silently to himself, already resigned that nothing he could say was going to have any bearing on the outcome of this conversation.

"I bet there's nothing much going on down there anyway, is there?" The supervisor asked, his decision clearly already made.

"Two shuttles have arrived from a heavy transport." Doraz told him, hoping that such a valuable and unusual cargo might make him show the slightest glimmer of responsibility to his job. "One of them is a new model that we're meant to forward on to Starbase 96, the other is for us. Apparently the hull has expired so it's been sent for us to strip for spares and then recycle into the replicator grid."

"Is that it?" He laughed over the communicator. "Well I'm doing you a favour then. You'll get time and a half to sit around all night looking pretty."

"But sir..." He protested weakly.

"Kambon out." And with that the communicator went dead.

Doraz was suddenly alone again but more alone than he had been before. The docking bay seemed bigger than ever and as the incoming message ended, it seemed to have doubled in size. There was not a sound except the low rumbling vibration of machinery, life support and heating ducts working in the background. No life. No people. It was a dead place with just him there to mind the shop; to mindlessly watch as nothing happened.

He glanced down to his padd and sighed. In the box was a shuttle and after that there was only one more to move and then that was it; the work would be over but the shift would continue. Suddenly his temper took hold. He shouted out in frustration; a roar of anger as he threw the padd across the room. He instantly regretted it as the small device shattered against a wall and he stood once more in silence.

"Damn!" He grumbled to himself. He shook his head and allowed a tiny smile at his own stupidity in losing his temper like a frustrated child. He was better than this. Perhaps he had been around these Humans too long already.

The padd was destroyed. He rubbed his eyes as he stepped towards the replicator. "Coffee... black... three sugars..." he ordered, hoping it might help him to focus through the rest of his shift. He yawned involuntarily and realised how tired he was. To download his work schedule to a new padd would take nearly an hour, it would require authorisations, reports and endless questions. It didn't matter, he told himself. There were only two shuttles to send to their bays. It wasn't like he was going to make such a silly mistake as to get that wrong, no matter how tired he was.

He allowed himself a smile at the thought of the trouble it would cause if he mixed the two crates up.

6 years before.

Doraz Bolla stepped out through the airlock onto Station DS401. He looked around optimistically, but it was a lacklustre place and his hopes began to fall away almost instantly. A man in a Federation uniform stepped forward with a portable terminal and looked him over.

"Yridian?" He said somewhat suspiciously.

Doraz nodded and smiled thinly. He was used to a little bit of prejudice; it didn't bother him as much as it once had. Even his wife had treated him poorly when they'd met 3 years earlier. They had been at an engineering seminar on Rigel. It had been a grand unveiling of a new kind of compact energy reactor that increased efficiency by 4%. Like him, she had found the entire thing ridiculous and a group of them had given up on the endless lectures and gone off for something to eat. She had only spoken to him out of charity, he was isolated from most of the others because of his race and nobody seemed to want to have very much to do with him. They had talked and the fact had become evident to her that he was somewhat over-qualified to be attending a show that demonstrated something he was capable of designing. She had been impressed with him and they'd gone for drinks while she plugged him for information about Romulan warp power transfer conduits. He had been amazed at how little she understood.

"I'm Doraz Bolla." He told the man, assuming he was security. "I'm joining the engineering crew on the docking gantry." The Federation man looked over his terminal befoore looked over the Yridian once more. "Welcome to the station." He said without a shred of sincerity.

"Calvin!" He said as his old friend sat by the bar, drinking heavily. "Most people wait until their shift ends before they sink 5 bottles of beer."

Calvin Kambon turned slowly. "Go away, Marvin."

"I heard, you know." Marvin told him. "I heard what happened."

"Good for you." His hand tightened around the bottle and his gaze remained fixed forward.

"Why did she leave?" He asked softly. He snapped his fingers twice in the air and caught the barman's attention. He pointed to the bottle in his friend's hand and held up two fingers. The barman nodded. "You were married for what?, 4 years?"

"5." He sighed. "I wasn't the best husband in the world, I guess."

"We all make mistakes." Marvin thanked the barman with a nod as the two bottles arrived. He handed one to his friend as he sipped from the other.

"She found someone else." Calvin smiled and shook his head as though he was telling a joke. "She left me for an alien. She went off with a stinking Bolian. Can you believe that?" Marvin stayed quiet. "Bright blue skin and a gap right around his head like it hadn't been made properly. He couldn't look more ridiculous if he tried and yet, for some reason, she thought he was better than me!"

"Aliens!" Marvin shook his head. "They're everywhere. You know, we've got a damn Yridian joining our work detail today. A Yridian!"

"Damn!" Calvin grunted. "They're everywhere now."

"Bolla." Marvin sneered. "He's joining my engineering team up in the reactor levels. He's married to a Human, if you can believe that."

Calvin stared at his beer for a moment as if he were furious with it. "If you'd told me four days ago my wife had been cheating and was going to leave me for a man whose head was the same colour as my office walls, I would have laughed in your face. I can believe anything, these days."

"You know what I heard?" Marvin lowered his voice and glanced around the bar. Nobody was close enough to hear and nobody cared to listen in any case. Calvin shrugged. "Star Fleet is powerful. They're so powerful that the Romulans, the Klingons, the Borg, none of them can beat us." Calvin nodded and turned to stare eye to eye with his friend. "I hear it's a conspiracy. The aliens have figured it out; they can't fight us because we've grown too strong so they've come up with a plan to wipe out the Humans by destroying us genetically."

Calvin shook his head and sneered. "Listen!" Marvin said seriously. "It's happening all over. Aliens are stealing our women to stop us breeding. In a few generations the Human race will be too weak. In the end, we'll have to hand the Star Fleet over to the aliens. They'll beat us without firing a single blast from a phaser."

Calvin shook his head and frowned. "I don't know..." he grumbled.

"Look..." Marvin sat back in his chair. "You're having a bad day."

"Bad day?" Calvin sniggered sarcastically, the term barely doing justice to the way he felt.

"I have something that can help!" He looked at him suspiciously. He was just drunk enough to welcome the idea of getting even more wasted. "I have something." Marvin said secretively. "I have some 'cloud'."

Calvin frowned. "Cloud?"

"It's a drug." He looked around furtively. "It's not too addictive but you have to be careful with it. It's good stuff; I use it myself from time to time." He grinned. "It's really good stuff!"

"I don't know..." He frowned.

They both went silent as a man sat down a few seats away, his face grey, his skin wrinkled and dry and tiny yellow eyes glinted out from beneath the folds of languid flesh.

"Is that him?" Calvin gestured behind. "The Yridian?"

Marvin nodded solemnly.

"He's an engineer, huh?" Calvin grinned. He nodded again. "Why don't you switch the rota around? Why not send him down to work in my team on the loading dock? Let's see how he likes that."

Marvin laughed cruelly. "Come on. Finish your beer and we'll go back to my cabin."

"Ok, why not?" Calvin drank heavily from the bottle. "Let's go."

Doraz Bolla

"Do you have any Raktajino?" Doraz asked the barman, the first person on the station who ignored the fact that he didn't look exactly like they did. He nodded with a smile. "Sure, I do. Klingon coffee. Would you like it with or without an extra helping of blood and dirt?"

Doraz smiled. "Without, I think."

"Welcome to the station." The barman began sorting out his order. "It's a daunting place at first but don't let it get to you. It's not so bad once you get used to it."

"I won't." He told him uneasily and without much resignation. He watched as the two civil officers headed off, weaving an uneasy path towards the exit.

"Don't mind them!" The barman told him. "It's the end of a long day for a lot of the people here. They tend to blow off a little steam. They're harmless enough."

"I don't really drink." Doraz shrugged. "I never got the hang of it."

"They do more than drink." He smiled. "They're floating off on a cloud tonight."

"Cloud?" Doraz frowned, his mottled skin folding in around his brow. "I've heard of that. I thought it was just a rumour; I heard that it didn't really exist."

"It doesn't." The barman smiled a strange expression of knowing more than everyone else. "It is just a rumour, but don't tell them that. Some rumours are very powerful. You have to be careful with rumours or else they'll get you, just like they got those two!"

Doraz wasn't sure he wanted to understand.

"So... Yridian?" The barman asked but the question came without prejudice or malice. Doraz nodded.

"So you carry two bottles of scented water in your luggage, have a picture of your planet ready to put up in your cabin and carry a ceremonial phaser pistol under your jacket?" The barman grinned knowingly.

Doraz nodded and laughed.

"I'm impressed at your knowledge!" He began. "The scented water is part of our religion; it's the tears of our god given form in this world. The picture of our planet is a reminder of where we come from and the pistol is just good sense."

"You have all three?" The barman asked.

"None of them!" Doraz shrugged. "I'm an engineer, I don't believe in carrying scented water and the only picture I carry is of my wife. As for a pistol... This is Federation space, it's very safe and it's illegal for me to walk around armed. The truth is I've never owned a weapon in my life."

"Good man!" The barman told him. "I'm beginning to like you!"


- Edited by Coal -


Last modified: 09 Nov 2020