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Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 571
# 11
06-14-2013, 01:14 PM
Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding USS King Estmere NCC-92984

The halo of blue-white fire hangs in space. I can imagine it striking reflections off King Estmere's gleaming hull. It looks... fabulous.

"I'm getting some... interesting readings, sir," says Zazaru. The Trill scientist's soft brown eyes are thoughtful.

"How stable is it?"

"That's one of the interesting things," Zazaru says. "Verteron decay levels are... virtually flat. This one might prove fully stable, like the Bajoran wormhole. There are some other things -" Her attention turns to her readouts again.

A stable wormhole. Quite a find - especially if it goes somewhere interesting. I exchange glances with Anthi Vihl. "Orders, sir?" she asks.

"Rig a class II probe," I say. "I'm trying not to rush into things, so much."

My exec almost lets a smile through her professional mask, for an instant. "Programming a probe now, sir." Over at the ops console, F'hon Tlaxx is already setting up the telemetry channel.

Still, the minutes pass like hours, and I'm tempted to get up and pace around the bridge. We've made a few changes to King Estmere's bridge, mostly rigging chairs in front of the Tholian pop-out consoles. We still have to live with the interface designs and the crazy gravity layout, though. I keep myself in check, settling down in what I hope is a dignified attitude on my command chair.

"Launching probe." More minutes tick away.

"Getting telemetry now, skipper," says F'hon, and whistles. "Looks quite something...."

"Do we know where this thing goes?" I ask.

"It doesn't exactly go anywhere." Zazaru looks up from her console, for the first time in quite a while. "It's a sort of... spatial inclusion. A pocket in space. And there's something inside."

F'hon puts it on the screen, and we stare up at the image... a blue-green globe, marbled with fleecy white clouds, the glare of the wormhole making a soft haze around it. A class M world.

Quite something, indeed.

---

The huge bulk of King Estmere barely shudders as we cross the threshold of the wormhole... or whatever we decide to call it. This spatial inclusion is a new phenomenon, and Zazaru is still puzzling over some aspects of it.

The planet inside looks beautiful, even to my Andorian eyes; verdant forests, rolling oceans, towering mountain ranges. There's no sign of habitation or intelligent life. It's pristine, unspoiled....

And valuable. While Zazaru sweats over whatever's puzzling her, her human assistant Addie van Benn is guiding the probe through the atmosphere to a landing. And the readings she's reporting -

"Dilithium readings, sir, also possible traces of decalithium. Mass concentrations in the planetary crust indicate... pergium ore in commercial quantities. And there are organic molecules in the planetary atmosphere...." She brushes a lock of long brown hair away from her face. "They're consistent with several known families of anti-carcinogenics and anti-retrovirals. This place could be a pharmacological treasure house, as well as a mineralogical one."

"The Vulcan Ministry of Science should be informed," says Sirip. The Vulcan security officer is looking at the screen, and his face says nothing, but I think I know what's going through his mind.

"Mr. Sirip," I say. "You will not communicate prematurely, outside official channels."

Sirip doesn't even have the grace to look abashed. "No, sir," he says. I look from him to his Tellarite counterpart, Lolha. She is staring at the readings with naked greed on her face. And Klerupiru, the Ferengi computer expert, is actually licking her lips. Well, I should expect nothing else from them. But this world... this world was found by my ship, an Andorian ship. And, as such, it becomes an Andorian Imperial possession.

The question is, of course, how to make sure of that. "Commander Vihl," I say, "command conference in my ready room. Call in the chief engineer, too."

---

"We can't trust any of them." Dyssa D'jheph's antennae are quivering on her head, her homely face set in a scowl. Beside her, even Anthi looks tense and sullen. I can feel my own antennae twitching, as they seek out currents in the air... currents, and undercurrents.

"Why did High Command send us out on a multi-racial ship anyway?" Dyssa adds, rhetorically. Anthi frowns a little at that. Criticism of High Command never sits well with her.

"We can rely on some of them," I say, thoughtfully. "The Ferengi, the Tellarites - they will follow their commercial instincts. We just have to persuade them that Imperial Guard protection is... in those interests. That shouldn't be hard."

"What about the Vulcans, and the damn humans?" Dyssa asks. "We certainly can't rely on them."

"We didn't anyway," I say. I pinch the bridge of my nose. Something is bothering me....

"The ones who worry me most, though," I continue, "are the renegades. That Orion science officer, Kluthli, for instance, or our favourite Breen, Jek the Apostate. They're going to be tempted, I think, to - to buy themselves back into favour, somehow, with their own factions. And this discovery would even be enough to buy Jek back into the Breen Confederacy."

Dyssa snorts. "I'd 'apostate' him if he tried it!"

"We need to make sure our own people take control," Anthi says crisply.

"Yes," I say. "But we need to be subtle about it... shuffle the personnel, just a touch. If all of the other species on the ship combined against us... I don't know if we could hold her."

"So we play them off, one against another," Anthi says. "It's... going to be a pretty dangerous game, sir."

"Particularly as the humans and the Vulcans will be trying it too," I add. "Others, even. I mean... we all like F'hon, right? But the Bolians are so close to Romulan space, we can't rule out him doing some sort of deal with them, in the supposed interests of his people...."

"Or the Trill," says Dyssa. "I never know what's going on in her head."

"She's busy with something," I say. "So that's an excuse to move someone else into the science officer's admin slot - say, Zodes Andeteph?"

"That damn Aenar roof-knocker?"

"She's one of us. Practically. Imperial Guard, anyway." I rub my nose again. "Wish we had our Imperial Guard uniforms instead of these damned overalls...."

"No argument there, sir," says Anthi, with feeling.

I stand up. "Before we do anything, though," I say, "let's assemble an away team. I want to know exactly what it is we've got, before we have to fight for it."

---

The air is heady with scents, sweet and hauntingly familiar. A cool breeze plays with my antennae, while the rush of the waterfall drowns out the singing of the forest birds, and rainbows sparkle in the spray. My feet make no sound on the soft, mossy turf as I walk beside the little river and gaze up at the cliff face.

It is beautiful, this world, without a doubt.

"It's fantastic." Addie van Benn has come up behind me - without me noticing her. Careless of me. But the young human scientist doesn't have any hostile intent, this time. Her face is positively glowing with enthusiasm.

"There's no current indigenous life, sir," she says, "but I'm finding all sorts of, well, traces. Archaeological relics. I haven't even begun to find a cultural context for most of them -"

"No hurry," I say. "What about the other stuff?" I try to sound casual, but we both know the mineral deposits and the biochemical resources are the important things.

"I'm still reading - well, a whole lot of mineral traces," says Addie. For just a minute, she frowns. "Nothing much in the immediate vicinity, though. It's odd, I thought we put the probe down in a good place for that... but I guess we'll have to look further afield."

"No hurry," I say, tilting my face upwards, closing my eyes to enjoy just the feeling of the sun on my skin. "To be honest, I'm rather glad.... I don't think a mining camp would look good in this spot, would it?"

"No, sir," says Addie, fervently. "This is... just beautiful."

I open my eyes, look around for the others. The away team has been an exercise in taking precautions. With Addie down here, and Zazaru still gnawing at her puzzles aboard the ship, Zodes Andeteph should be ready to take over the science division smoothly. Meanwhile, Sirip and Lolha are down here with me, where I can keep an eye on them - and so can Nozys Hyhr, my Andorian assault commander, and the only one of those I can trust. And F'hon jumped at the chance to come planet-side, too... I wish I was sure he was just happy to get off the ship for a bit, and doesn't have some ulterior motive....

I take a deep breath of the scented air. F'hon is squatting on the ground, apparently entranced by some flower; Lolha is sorting through a pile of pebbles by the side of the waterfall. Probably looking for something valuable. Tellarites aren't as bad as Ferengi, but they're still pretty mercenary. Nozys is watching them both from a short distance away, her face blank, her eyes wary. This is good. As for Sirip... the big Vulcan is standing at the foot of the cliff, and staring up it, apparently at nothing. I walk up to him. "Mr. Sirip."

For a moment, he doesn't respond. Then he turns to face me. "Sir," he says.

"So, what do you think of it?"

Another momentary pause. "A very beautiful world." His tone gives nothing away.

"I was expecting something more... logical," I say. Am I deliberately trying to goad him? Yes, I suppose I am.

"There is a logic in the appreciation of beauty," Sirip says. And, with that, he turns back to look up the cliff.

I follow his gaze. I can't see what's especially beautiful about this particular piece of rock. But, Vulcans, who can figure them?

The probe came to rest at the foot of this cliff, and is still lying there, its black bulk already half hidden by flowering vines. I walk over to it, touch the metal skin. It is cold, intensely cold: I snatch my hand back before my fingertips burn. Some kind of malfunction? An overload on its coolant mechanism? But the flowering vines don't seem to be affected.... Another puzzle. I shake my head, and breathe in deeply again. The world is so lovely....

... but at the back of my mind, I can't shake the feeling that something's wrong.

---

"Mild hypoxia." Samantha Beresford jabs a hypospray into my neck, blasting tri-ox compound into my circulation. "All the landing party have the same symptoms. That should fix it, but don't go taking any more chances." The human doctor's eyes and tone are cold.

"That can't be right," I mutter. "The scans all indicated a standard class M atmosphere, oxygen content perhaps even a fraction of a percentage higher than Andoria's...."

"Then some of those complex chemicals must inhibit oxygen uptake," says Samantha. "Once again, sir, don't take any more chances."

"How come it didn't affect your fellow human?" I ask, suspiciously.

"Addie van Benn is suffering from hypoxia just the same as you," Samantha snaps back. "It doesn't show as much, because of your higher Andorian metabolic rate." She rakes her fingers through her long dark hair. She looks exhausted, and disgusted. "I know all about your Andorian paranoia, too," she continues. "But I took an oath when I took up my profession, sir, and that oath says to me, 'first, do no harm'. You Andorians know all about oaths and honour, don't you? Or you're supposed to."

"All right, doctor." I'd be within my rights to have her shot. But I need my chief medical officer. "The point is taken. We'll use breather masks for our next away mission, and you will study the metabolic effects of the chemical compounds in the atmosphere." I stand up. "That will be all."

Outside sickbay, Dyssa is waiting for me, her face grim. "I don't like the feel of this situation," she says, without preamble.

"Me neither," I say. "What's bothering you? Specifically."

"The Vulcans are too damn quiet," she says. "All of them, just... quiet. Saying nothing, doing nothing. It's not natural. They're up to something, I can smell it." She scowls. "And that damn Aenar in science division is worse than useless. Spends half her time just staring into space - well, as much as she can stare, I guess. I don't know what she's thinking."

"What about Zazaru?"

"Still obsessing, still chasing down decimal places. We can ignore her... I think." Dyssa shakes her head. "Unless maybe she's playing some kind of deep game with us? It's getting so we can't trust anyone."

"All right." I try to think. "If Zodes is no use, we'll need someone else to watch science division. I'll see if I can put a discreet watch on comms, make sure no one's sneaking out unauthorized information.... Nozys can watch the security side... Anthi has some science training, maybe she can help you monitor science. How are things in Engineering anyway?"

Dyssa shrugs. "Holding up. At least we can rely on Thirethequ and Jeroequene - probably. The Jolciots are one of our client species, and I'm making damn sure they don't forget that."

"Don't ride them too hard," I say. "The last thing we want is to stir up latent resentment...." I close my eyes, tightly, for a moment. That feeling of wrongness persists, somehow. "How did we ever get into this situation, anyway?"

"Damn stupid idea, multi-species crews," Dyssa grumbles. "The one good thing is, that human tac officer? Kleefisch? She's gone quiet as the Vulcans, or the Aenar. Just staring at nothing, and humming, they say. So she won't be any trouble, at least."

"That's something, I guess." I sigh. "I'm going to rest in my quarters while the tri-ox takes effect. Then we'll work out the schedule for the next away team... and anything else that needs doing."

---

How did we get into this situation? Alone in my quarters, I turn the question over and over in my head, while I lie on my bed, staring up at the ceiling....

Staring... like Sirip, the other Vulcans, Zodes Andeteph, Soledad Kleefisch. I frown. There is something... Vulcans and Aenar have high psi potentials; Soledad Kleefisch has always been a little fey and mystical - has she ever tested positive for psi? Some humans do, not many, but some.

So, something is affecting the telepaths... maybe? And maybe Zazaru, too, her normal curiosity turning into obsessiveness. The Tellarites, and the Ferengi, obviously greedy - too obviously? Is something influencing them, turning them into... stereotypes of themselves?

At least my own mind is clear, I think....

And then my eyes snap wide open, as I ask myself: if it wasn't, how would I know?

---

The Orion renegade, Kluthli, is almost supernaturally beautiful; long, lustrous dark hair frames a perfect green face in which two sparkling blue eyes gaze at me as if I'm the most important thing in the world. Even in modest civilian clothing, she has a decided effect on every male she comes in contact with... as an Andorian shen, I'm not entirely immune myself. And that's why I need to talk to her.

"I need to know about mental influence," I say.

She shakes her head, setting her dark locks swaying. "I've never - used my pheromones in that way, sir. Not aboard this ship. I made an agreement when I joined your crew -" She frowns, just for an instant, there. "And, in any case, it wouldn't be... wouldn't be honourable."

"I'm not accusing you of anything," I say. "I'm just - well, I want to know if there are any signs you might recognize, if someone else were using some sort of... some sort of control."

"I don't -" She frowns again. "You'd be better off asking an actual telepath, or an empath, sir."

"I don't think I can. Or, at least, I don't think I'd get a useful answer. You must have noticed...."

"The Vulcans have all gone weird," she says, slowly. "Yes."

There is a long silence, while we just look at each other. Eventually, I say, "It's... hard to think of these things."

"Yes," she answers, equally slowly. "And... just the fact that it's hard to think of these things... means...."

"Means," I say, with a tongue that seems thick and clumsy, "that we're... not being allowed... to think them."

Kluthli speaks in a rush, as if she's breaking through the mental block. "I think you're right, sir - there's a way men look, when a Matron is really, really cutting loose with her control effects - a kind of blank look - I can see it, more an more, on the faces of the crew -"

"Try to think." It is so hard to think. "There has to be... some kind of range, for this, this thing. If we can get out of range -"

Kluthli looks woebegone. "Surely it's not going to let us take the ship back through the wormhole...?"

"No." Then I smile. "But King Estmere is a carrier...."

---

I look around the bridge. Dyssa and Anthi have been making progress, it seems... Nozys and her lieutenant, a young chan named Thires Entonav, have got the tactical consoles locked down with their personal IDs, Dyssa has taken control of a lot of operations functions under F'hon's nose, and the Aenar, Zodes, is in Zazaru's normal place at the main science station.

Dyssa was right about her, though: her filmed eyes are vacant, her white features slack. I repress a shudder of revulsion, even though I know why she looks like that... I think I know why.

It is still very hard to think.

"We need closer scans of the mouth of the inclusion," I announce. Zodes blinks, once, and otherwise fails to react at all. I purse my lips. "No point asking main science division to do it. I'll borrow a science officer and go out in the captain's yacht."

"We don't have many science officers who are -" Anthi catches herself before she says Andorian "- reliable, sir."

"I don't plan on being out long enough for that to be an issue. Commander Kluthli is available, and she can run the scans I need."

Anthi frowns. Dyssa, on the other hand, gives me a sly grin. She's a shen like myself, of course.... Well, let them think what they like. "Carry on," I tell Anthi, firmly.

I can see she wants to object, but Imperial Guard conditioning carries the day. "Aye, aye, sir," she answers, woodenly, as I turn to leave.

---

"Why the Cotswold?" Kluthli asks, as the little ship slips out of King Estmere's hangar bay.

"It's got everything we need," I say, "and it looks... plausible... for me to take it out. After all, it's the captain's yacht - a perk of the job, you might say."

I lock our course in for the mouth of the wormhole, and engage the impulse drive.

"That wasn't what I meant, actually, sir," says Kluthli. "I mean, why the name? Why King Estmere, too, come to that? I've never recognized either of them as Andorian cultural references...."

"Oh, I see. They're not." I set reverse angle on one viewscreen, watch the King Estmere slowly dwindle and merge into the blue-green glow of the planet. "They're both named after compositions by a human musician I happen to like. Gustav Holst, lived about four hundred years ago. His Cotswold symphony is a lovely orchestral piece. King Estmere, though, is a choral work, built around a long poem." I smile. "A thoroughly implausible tale, really, full of fighting and magic and unlikely sorts of swashbuckling.... You wouldn't expect it of humans."

"No...." Kluthli seems perturbed. "It's odd, though, sir, that a piece of human culture should - should speak to you, the way this does. Did you have a lot of exposure to human music on Andoria?"

"I didn't grow up on Andoria. I was born on Gimel Vessaris... a colony world...." I pause. Something is bothering me, again: an insistent feeling, as of memories resurfacing. Gimel Vessaris, reading old bookfiles and listening to music... and something else.

I touch the front of my coveralls, my fingers finding the blunt arrowhead badge on my breast.

"Something else," says Kluthli, in a puzzled tone. "About the names, the Cotswold and the King Estmere... no, not the names themselves." That smooth jade brow is furrowed by a deep frown. "Prefixes. Shouldn't they be IGV, or IGS....?"

"Imperial Guard Vessel, yes," I mutter.

"But they're not. They're both USS. What does USS stand for, sir?"

"United Star Ship. Standard Federation designation -"

Then the shock of realization hits us both, like an icy shower jarring us out of slumber. We exchange horrified glances.

"The Federation," Kluthli says, appalled. "We forgot - How could we forget the Federation?"

"We had help." My expression is grim; released from its bonds, my mind is racing. "We've got to get King Estmere out of range of that - whatever it is."

"Whatever it is," says Kluthli, "it must want the ship, for some reason. It won't let them go easily, I'm sure."

"No." I think hard. "It's got flaws, though, this - thing. It makes mistakes. I think it's over-reached itself, trying to take us. And I think, if we can get enough, umm, momentum, working in our favour."

"What do you mean, sir?"

"Conditioning. Anthi's in charge on the ship, now, and she is nothing if not by the book."

My fingers dance on the control console. "Hold on."

The little ship shudders and lurches, and the lights flicker, as I run the emergency sequence. Kluthli's eyes are wide. I open a channel to the ship.

"King Estmere, this is Cotswold. I am declaring an emergency. We have encountered a spatial flux and I have had to eject the warp core. Request immediate pickup, repeat immediate. Confirm."

Anthi's voice comes over the speaker. "Confirmed, sir. Are you injured?"

"We're fine. We need immediate extraction before any more systems fail, though. Confirm your ETA."

"On our way, sir. Fifteen minutes at safe impulse speed."

"Check." That should be all right - no point rousing suspicions by insisting she breaks procedure. Though there is still more that I can do. "We haven't run any exercises on this situation in a while. Anthi, while you're en route, refresh your memory - read the manual on retrieval procedures. Thoroughly, from cover to cover. That's an order, Commander."

"Aye, aye, sir." There's a hint of a question in her voice, but only a hint. Anthi will obey orders.

I look at Kluthli. "I think that should do it," I say.

"And if it doesn't?" She seems quite cool, all things considered.

I shrug. "I'll have to figure out some way to retrieve and reinstall the warp core, and then we can crack out of here, and hope we can get help before... whatever's there... finishes with the ship. It shouldn't come to that, though."

And, indeed, it's not long before Anthi's voice comes back over the speakers. "I've read the Starfleet manual, sir," she says with crisp emphasis. "Ah... we're awaiting further orders."

---

"My guess is, it's some sort of psychovore," I say, a little later, on King Estmere's bridge. Zodes and Sirip are there, looking somewhat more awake and alert. They look better; everyone else looks a great deal worse. Dyssa, especially, is avoiding meeting anyone's eyes. "It created an illusion of a wormhole, and of a desirable planet, and it... messed with our heads, to keep us occupied. Probably, it would have sucked the life out of us, starting with the telepaths and other sensitives, while we all quarrelled among ourselves."

Anthi speaks through thin lips. She's angry. I know she is, because so am I. "It's a clear and present danger, sir."

"I know. We need to take measures."

She is already at the weapons console. "I'll lock main batteries onto the planet's centre of mass."

"No," I say. "Target the probe. We know the probe landed on something. I think there's just enough there for it to maintain a scrap of class M environment - just about. Though there wasn't enough oxygen for the away team, and the probe got cold from exposure to space. Everything else was... just an illusion." I give a shaky laugh. "I should have known. I felt the sun on my face! There isn't a sun within five light years of here."

"That explains," says Zodes, slowly, "why Commander Zazaru couldn't finish her analyses."

"The data was inconsistent," I agree, "because most of it wasn't real." The Aenar is able to think again. That's a good sign, at least.

"Weapons locked," Anthi reports.

"Hold," I order. "First things first... F'hon, try opening a communications channel."

Everyone stares at me. "Skipper?" says F'hon, blankly.

"If I'm right about this thing," I say, "it will read just the intent to communicate in our minds... and if we can open a dialogue, then that's what we'll do." My gaze sweeps across all of them. "That thing brought out... the worst side of us. All of us. I don't want to think about the way it made me act. Well, we're going to show it we can be our best. We're going to try to talk, before we open fire. Because we are Starfleet, and that is what we do."

There is a short pause, and then F'hon says, "Channel open, sir."

I stride to the centre of the bridge, look up at the illusion of the planet on the screen. "We wish to communicate," I say, loudly and clearly.

For a moment, there is no response. Then F'hon frowns at his console. "I'm getting something," he says. "I think you're right, skipper - this is coming in on a subspace frequency, and the universal translator says it can decipher it.... Putting it through now."

A voice sounds on the bridge. "King Estmere, you are to proceed with your current investigations as a matter of urgency."

Anthi and I exchange looks. "That sounded like -" she begins.

"Admiral Semok, yes." I address the air. "You're not my superior officer. Drop the charade, identify yourself. We want to talk."

Another voice comes over the speakers. "Your mission for the Federation is to seek out new knowledge, heedless of personal danger. You are our vanguard. You will fulfill your mission."

"President Okeg's voice," says Anthi. "One of his speeches?"

"Just stock cliches." I shake my head. "Speak to us yourself. Don't hide behind an assumed identity. We want to talk to you."

The next voice is one I never expected to hear again. "Tylha, I'm disappointed. You know what you're supposed to do, now just go and do it."

Sudden fury stiffens my spine. "No!" I glare at F'hon. "Cut the channel." He complies.

"Sir," says Anthi, cautiously, "who was that? It sounded Andorian -"

"It was," I say. "My thaan-father's voice." I can feel my antennae droop in dejection. "It's not intelligent," I say. "It's just a predator... trying to find the right way to lure us back into range. If it was an intelligent being, it would never have tried to press that particular button." I slump, heavily, into my command chair. "Just more fakery."

"A lure," Zodes concurs.

"So what do we do now, sir?" Anthi asks.

"It's not intelligent." Somehow, I feel a hundred years old. "And you're right, it's a danger to everyone who comes within range." I take a deep breath. "Burn it."

---

The only real thing was a tiny asteroid, perhaps a kilometer or so in diameter. I stand on it, now, wearing my EV suit, trying to see if there is anything I recognize from the beautiful mirage I saw. But there is only jumbled bare rock.

Of course, the sustained plasma-disruptor barrage from King Estmere must have rearranged the landscape a fair bit.

Even now, we don't know if we've killed the creature, or just driven it back to whatever hell dimension spawned it. These psychic monsters... starships have encountered them before, in various forms, and sometimes they have survived the encounters. We still don't know nearly enough about what they are, or how they live.

King Estmere survived this encounter. I should be grateful for that, at least.

Another suited figure comes into view; I can make out the Vulcan's face behind his visor. "Mr. Sirip. Feeling better?"

"Fully recovered, thank you, sir. Though I will admit to being a little mortified." He doesn't look it. He never does. "I am supposedly trained against psi influences of this nature. I should have been able to resist it better."

"Don't worry about it. Has the survey team finished?"

"We have discovered some remnants - we presume, of ships that were drawn in by the psychovore before us. Much did not survive the bombardment, of course, but we have sufficient material to interest the archaeologists for some time. The relics go back quite some time - centuries, certainly; possibly millennia. I think we have made the galaxy a slightly safer place, sir."

"That's something," I say. "Let's get back to the ship."

"Yes, sir." Sirip pauses, and for a moment I see some expression on his face. "If I may ask, sir... how did you manage to overcome the psychovore's influence? I don't believe you have any notable psi capacity or training...."

I manage a short laugh. "You really want to know? Self-doubt. People often tell me, I worry too much... this time, I worried too much that I might be wrong. And I was wrong, because that thing was making me wrong. Usually, I manage it without any help."

"I see," says Sirip. "Innate concerns penetrating the false certainties instilled by the psychovore. Interesting. Self-doubt. I must try to cultivate that quality."

I laugh again. "Don't cultivate it too much," I say, "it's not healthy. Believe me."

"I will bear that in mind, sir." For an instant, he actually smiles. "Still, how very... Andorian... of you, sir, to turn it into a weapon."

I grin back at him. "It's what we do," I say. "Come on. Let's go home."
Ensign
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 10
# 12 Accidental Heroes
06-15-2013, 12:32 AM
2. Accidental Heroes

"Are we at the appointed coordinates?" Commander Dylen asked flatly.

"Just arriving now, Commander," her helmsman answered in an efficiently curt manner.

"Excellent. Begin your scans.? Dylen refused to show her frustration and boredom, no matter the mission, but especially this one. She had no patience for science and less patience for a test mission all the way out in the Devron Sector. "Let's have a look around, shall we? Bring up the scan area on the main viewer."

The screen sparked to life and instantly the bridge of the Val'Hannorr echoed with barely-restrained gasps. Gargantuan cubes drifted through the midnight ocean with smaller, more agile spheres darting behind, all teeming with the malevolence of a Terran shark and its pilot fish. Occasionally, one of the cubes would stop and fix a bright green beam on a piece of debris. Once satisfied that there was nothing new or living in the space junk, the beam would cut off and the cube would glide away, its retinue of spheres near behind.

One of the cubes ambled towards the Val'Hannorr. "What is the status of our cloak, Subcommander Latres?" Commander Dylen inquired of her science officer with the same level tone, as if the approaching cube was a routine part of their mission.

"The upgraded cloak appears to be holding, Commander," Latres answered. "The Borg do not know we are here."

That should calm the veruuli down, Dylen thought. She watched the Borg hunting parties as the crew returned to their work. Their movements were so perfectly synchronized; it was like watching a dance. Internally, the commander began to relax a little, especially knowing that the new cloak was working. The captain she'd placed at the Federation's Daystrom Institute was definitely paying off already.

"Results of the scans are coming in, Commander," Subcommander Latres said, interrupting the commander's thoughts. In his way, Latres was the perfect Tal'Shiar scientist. He was oddly loyal to his commander, with no interest in the games or politics of Tal'Shiar command; he possessed no morality that she had ever seen, and had an insatiable appetite for discovery. If his subjects didn't have an unfortunate habit of dying on him, he might have done well in the Federation.

"Much as we anticipated, Commander," Latres began. "The Omega fleets are holding steady, and the Borg cannot penetrate our cloak. Also, of minor note, the Borg patrols are not random. They are using a complex fractal algorithm to determine their routes."

Dylen nearly snorted at the mention of the joint Klingon-Federation task force. A few well-placed shots between those ships and both fleets could be drawn into a devastating brawl. It was what most Tal'Shiar commanders would consider 'opportune,' but Dylen was different. She knew that decimating those fleets would leave them all vulnerable to the Borg waiting here.

"The approaching cube does present another result, Commander. It appears that while the Borg cannot penetrate the cloak, they can detect our scanning frequencies."

Without waiting for an order, the helmsman began pecking at his station display, "Moving us off, Commander."

Dylen turned on her heel, ready to flay the insolent lieutenant to the bone for breaking protocol, but Latres interrupted. "Commander, I'm detecting something else. I believe this is worth our attention."

That caught the commander's attention. The scientist had a flair for understatement and a distant, dispassionate manner, so for him to deem something worthy was unique. She glanced over her shoulder at him, "What and where?"

"Too distant to speculate, Commander, but it is nearby, in the Pelia Sector."

The commander turned back, narrowing her icy gaze on the helmsman, "If the helm would like to wait for a heading this time, we'll make our way there immediately."

Hours passed as the Val'Hannorr warped to the Pelia Sector. Along the way, the errant helmsman attempted to curry Dylen's favor by flying close to and even through Borg patrols - at speed, while cloaked. The commander didn't even notice.

"We are approaching the coordinates, Commander," the sulking helmsman announced.

"Drop out of warp and approach slowly," the commander ordered. She turned to Latres, "Now tell me what we're doing here, Subcommander."

"Scanning now, Commander," Latres said absently. A few tense moments slid by in silence as the subcommander studied his instruments and panels. "You need to see this. I'm putting it on the main viewer now, Commander."

The image shifted from the inky nothing of space to show...debris. The entire screen was littered with twisted remnants of metal, slowly drifting in the vacuum. "What am I looking at, Latres?" Dylen asked.

"Commander," Latres began in a grave tone, "These are the remains of a Borg pyramid."

Ice suddenly filled Dylen?s belly, "Was it the Undine?"

Latres shook his head, "I don't think so. There are no burns. The outer hull plating sections are, however, highly ionized. It would take an intensely powerful energy source to rip apart a Borg vessel, let alone atomize or erase everything it touched." He studied his panels another moment before shooting a look at the helmsman, "Back us off, lieutenant! Now! Commander, heavy concentration of ionized particles off the starboard..."

Suddenly, a flash of light engulfed the view screen. Strange strands of energy arced over the shattered Borg hull plates. The debris field cleared and they got their first unobstructed view. A massive disc of swirling energy yawned in the blackness. It dwarfed the Val'Hannorr; it would have dwarfed one of the giant Borg tactical cubes.

"Subcommander," Dylen began, tapping a finger on her pursed lips, "did a wormhole just open near my ship?"

Latres snorted, "I believe it did, Commander."

"Should I take us in, Commander?" The helmsman asked.

Dylen's pursed lips instantly soured, "Why would I want that, lieutenant? Assuming that the wormhole is stable, which is no guarantee, we have no idea where it goes. It could lead to fluidic space, or the middle of the Gamma Quadrant surrounded by Jem'Hadar, or even a rebuilt Unimatrix Zero-One. It needs to be studied, carefully." She paused for a moment, considering, and then turned to Latres with a gleam in her eye. "Subcommander, amplify the readings you?re getting from the wormhole and wide beam them to the Federation fleet."

"The Federation, Commander?" The helmsman asked, more than a little shocked.

Dylen tilted her head as she weighed the lieutenant to an ounce, "You must be new." She smiled slightly, a cold, lethal upturn of the corners of her mouth. "Not that I owe you an explanation, but ask yourself: What faction harbors the most dedicated scientific spirit in the known galaxy" The Federation, of course. They live for this kind of thing. They'll risk anything to explore a new wormhole."

"Message sent, Commander," Latres declared. "I buried our carrier signal and transmitted in time with the spatial currents of the wormhole. The Federation will think the signal 'hitched a ride' on a subspace eddy."

"Now we wait." Commander Dylen moved toward the door at the back of the bridge before turning back, "Oh, Subcommander, we might as well not waste this opportunity. Send a team to salvage anything usable from the Borg wreckage. There are other Tal'Shiar cells working with Borg technology."

Without waiting for a response, she returned to the door and left the bridge.

Dylen returned hours later at Latres' summons. "A Federation science vessel is approaching, Commander. The...U.S.S. Seaborg, a Miranda class."

The Commander quirked an eyebrow, "They reached deep into the retired fleet for that one. On screen, and get me everything we know about them."

She watched the Seaborg casually, almost bemused; there was no way the tiny vessel could pierce the upgraded cloak of the Val'Hannorr. The tiny Miranda slowed to a crawl at the sight of the shattered pyramid. They scanned the area thoroughly, making sure that all of the drones floating lifelessly in space were really as lifeless as they appeared. Convinced the dead drones were really dead, the Seaborg began moving through the debris field.

"They're getting closer, Commander," Latres said with amusement. "Wait for it..." As predicted, the colossal disc erupted forth, casting off arcs of energy that nearly hit the Seaborg, which quickly backed away.

Dylen watched with deadly patience as the industrious little Federation ship worked out the problems of the wormhole. They launched probe after probe at the tunnel, with each being invariably destroyed by the arcing energy. There was no way to pilot through it safely, so they tried shields. Probes were launched with one modulation after another, until, finally, one probe took a direct energy hit and kept going.

"And next will be the shuttle..." Dylen stated matter-of-factly, knowing the list of progression the Federation used.

Shortly after, a shuttle launched from the Seaborg. It inched toward the wormhole with agonizing slowness. Eventually, an energy strand raked across the roof of the shuttle, shaking the craft, but the iridescent bubble of the shields held firm.

"Excellent." Dylen popped up out of her chair in excitement. "Tactical, what are our disruptors currently modulated for?"

"We are currently emulating Orion weapons, Commander," the lieutenant at tactical answered crisply.

"Hmm," the commander considered. "The Federation would never believe Orion slavers this far out. Bring the Borg cutting beams and plasma torpedo launchers online. Latres, prepare to de-cloak." She raised an admonishing finger at the woman at tactical, "And Tactical? If you destroy that ship, you will suffer."

The tactical lieutenant gulped, "Y-yes, Commander."

Satisfied that she had been heard and understood, Dylen gave the order, "Bring me that ship."

In a moment of pure violence, the Val'Hannorr de-cloaked, launched a pair of plasma torpedoes at the fleeing shuttle, and fired their half dozen cutting beam array at the Seaborg. The shuttle was instantly overrun and exploded in a burst of burning plasma. Nearby, the Miranda tried to peel off, but the cutting beams completely disabled them, annihilating their life support, shields, engines and weapons.

"Very well done, tactical," Dylen praised while glaring at the helmsman. "Very thorough. Subcommander, board her. I want the engineers, the scientists, and the captain, if he?s still alive. Kill the rest."

An hour later, Commander Dylen strode into her private dining room. It was a dark, cold, room with no windows and no petty distractions on the walls. There was one decoration in the room, however. A large metal ?X? stood a few feet from the stark metal table, with heavy chains clinking delicately in the silence.

Dylen sat demurely at the table, unable to completely hide her exuberance. She glanced casually up at the apparatus, taking in the sight of the Andorian captain attached to it by the chains. His face was bloody, with a massive, swollen, purple bruise taking up the left side of his face. His red command shirt had disruptor burn holes throughout, and there was a large gash across his chest.

As the Commander sat, the door opened and an uhlan guard strolled in with a small metal case in his hand. Behind him a slightly-built man entered, hunched in on himself and carrying a plate of food and a glass of Romulan ale. The little man rushed past the guard, slid the plate and glass in front of the commander - careful to avoid physical contact - and rushed back out with the door whooshing closed behind him.

The uhlan placed the case on the floor and opened it almost reverently. Inside were all manner of horrible things, things with needles and blades, hard edges and blunt sides.

"You're never going to get me to talk, Romulan witch," the Andorian captain snarled.

The uhlan chuckled to himself as the commander turned to him, the same fatal smile on her otherwise expressionless face. "Firstly, my dear captain, I am a commander of the Tal'Shiar, the rightful rulers of the Romulan people. Secondly, whoever said I wanted to know anything from you? I merely enjoy music with my dinner. Uhlan Vogor, if you please, make him sing."

"We've taken all the valuable information from the Seaborg and her crew," Latres began. "All the necessary modifications have been made to our shields, and all of the guests in my care have all been...dismissed."

Dylen nodded, acknowledging the report, "Good. Destroy the Seaborg with the Borg torpedoes, and take us into the wormhole, Subcommander."

Latres leaned in, "Commander, if I may? How was your dinner?"

"Lyrical," Dylen answered with an uncomfortable gleam in her eye. "Uhlan Vogor is quite an artist."

As the commander finished her thought, the view screen lit up with the bright green light of plasma burning. "Federation ship destroyed, Commander," Tactical declared.

"Setting course for the wormhole," Helm announced immediately after.

It occurred to Dylen that she could have chided Helm some more, really broken his spirit, but the old Federation starship burning on the viewer was too enchanting.

As the Val'Hannorr neared the wormhole, the energy arcs began strafing the battleship's hull. The ship shook and bucked with each hit, but the shields held.

"I have to hand it to the Federation," Latres muttered as the ship took another hit. "They certainly are diligent little researchers."

There was a moment of supreme stillness as the Val'Hannorr passed the energy arcs, but was not yet across the threshold of the wormhole. The instant the battleship crossed, however, everything changed.

The whole ship lurched, as if a great hand had gripped the bow and was dragging them through the tunnel at incredible speed.

"Reading warp ten-point-two, Commander," Helm said, his voice tight with fear. "Ten-point-four."

"These speeds are supposed to be impossible," Latres pondered as he held fast to his station.

Dylen was concerned. If she were to be honest with herself, she might even admit to being worried. But she stared the wormhole dead on and growled, "Press on!"

The Val'Hannorr began to moan as her hull was pressed, pulled, and stretched by the whirlwind tides of impossibility. All of a sudden, the ship pitched again, this time with the sickeningly unmistakable sound of hull plating buckling and ripping free. More metal screamed as breaches began opening up all over the ship. Even the bridge started to feel...compressed.

Then, inexplicably, the ship was no longer moving and everything went dark. The wormhole closed peacefully behind them, leaving them in unknown parts and confounded by the savagery of their travel.

Subcommander Latres tapped a few keys on his console, "Reports coming in, Commander. The ship is crippled. We have multiple hull breaches, we're venting atmosphere, and main power is offline. Oh, and incidentally, we lost some crew members. Eighty three, to be exact."

Dylen huffed, "Well get the remaining crew to work on fixing my ship. And bring up the main viewer, I want to see where we are."

The view screen flickered to hazy life, filled with cracks and static, but what Dylen could make out filled her with rabid curiosity. There were no familiar star systems. There were no foreign constellations, either. In fact, there were no stars at all. The inky blackness of familiar space was replaced by a strange, muddy brown cloud. Directly ahead was the source of her interest: a large asteroid floated in the mud-cloud, the entire surface covered with buildings.

"That architecture seems...familiar," Dylen whispered.

"Something else familiar, Commander," Tactical squeaked in dread.

Dylen followed Tactical's pointed finger and saw it: on the other side of the asteroid, a Borg diamond! "Magnify on that ship. I want to know that they're as damaged as we are..." Otherwise, we're all assimilated, she finished to herself.

The viewer centered on the Borg vessel, and to their horror, it was already mostly repaired. Dylen's heart sank. "Alright, focus. They aren't paying any attention to us yet. Get my ship functioning and they won't stand a chance. Latres, what can you tell me about the asteroid?"

Latres gasped, "By the spirits, Commander. That architecture? It's Iconian."

The commander glared back at her Second, "Are you telling me that the Borg are about to get their collective hand on Iconian technology?"

"I believe that to be the case, Commander."

She stopped for a moment, her lips pursed, "Gather the security teams. Get everyone that isn't working on my ship. Arm everyone. Melee and projectile weapons only, no disruptors. Break out the new Daystrom Institute weapons we picked up. We need to take that asteroid and kill every drone."

Soon, assault shuttles filled beyond capacity thundered toward the Iconian base. Dylen stood on the bridge of the Val'Hannorr in perfect stillness, watching for the slightest hint of Borg aggression. For the time being, they seemed completely disinterested, but she knew that as soon as those shuttles landed that would all change.

When the shuttles began their final approach, Dylen rounded on her Second, "Progress report, Subcommander."

Latres sighed wearily. "We've just sealed the breaches, so we?re no longer venting atmosphere. It's a step up, anyway."

"It's not enough," Dylen barked. "Where is my power? Where are my weapons and shields?"

"We're working on them, Commander," Latres answered, pinching the bridge of his nose in silent frustration.

Just then, the bridge speakers began to hiss and pop. "Val'Hannorr? This is assault team two, come in."

"Tell me we can respond," Dylen said through gritted teeth.

In lieu of an answer, Latres melodramatically slapped a key at his station. "Go ahead, assault team two."

The speakers crackled to life again, "We've taken the ground level. Assault team one has gone ahead to the next level. Would you like casualty reports, Val'Hannorr?"

The subcommander looked up at Dylen, who waved a hand dismissively and turned back to the viewer. "Good work, assault team. Save those reports for later." Latres tapped the key again, closing the channel. "The invasion seems to be going swimmingly."

"Nonsense," Dylen harrumphed. "They've taken out a few drones." She jabbed a finger at the Borg diamond on the screen, "That ship carries almost twenty thousand drones, but they're the least of our concerns. In case you've forgotten, diamonds carry Borg queens."

A light flickered on Latres' console. He eyed it suspiciously, but when the color changed, he announced, "One of the power transfer conduits has been repaired. For the moment, we have minimal main power."

The commander asked dubiously, "Let me guess, not enough to give me weapons?"

"Not even a little, Commander," Latres replied with the slightest hint of a smile.

"So what does it give me?"

Latres considered, "Doors, hangars, a couple of lifts... Right now we?re using it to recharge our auxiliary power and speed up repairs." Something on his monitor caught his attention, "That's interesting..."

Once again, the communication speakers chirped, "Val'Hannorr, this is assault team one."

"Report," the subcommander ordered absently as he pecked furiously at his console.

"Subcommander, we've taken the next level, disabled and decoded some cortical nodes. It's worse than we thought. I think you should see this."

Latres sighed and clenched his jaw, "I'm a bit busy at the moment, lieutenant."

"I'll go," Dylen interrupted. "Latres, get my ship ready. I'm going down there. We don't have much time before the Borg realize we're here and start transporting over."

"We don't have enough power for transporters."

Dylen felt the pull of rage flash up inside of her, "How quickly we forget that I am an expert pilot."

"Opening fighter bay hangar door, Commander," he said without another word.

The commander turned on her heels, headed for the open access shaft near the lift and headed through the bowels of the ship for the fighter bay.

Minutes later, a lone Scorpion fighter streaked out into the alien cloud. In morbid curiosity, Dylen circled the Val'Hannorr, surveying the damage; the scale of the destruction dropped her jaw open of its own volition. It was just everywhere. Huge sections of the ship looked like a giant hand had unzipped the hull, and she was certain that some parts of the ship were simply missing. Before she could fall to despair, Dylen turned the agile little fighter toward the asteroid and put the fate of the Val'Hannorr in her Second's hands.

As Dylen neared the asteroid - which was smaller than she'd originally thought - she noted the simple beauty of the Iconian architecture, perverted by Borg nodes and conduits grafted all over the buildings. "And we were calling the Federation 'industrious,'" she muttered.

"Assault team two to Scorpion one," a voice crackled over her comm. "We have a visual on you. Sending you coordinates for the landing zone. Prepare for final approach."

The Scorpion screamed into what was most likely a park, gently touching down near the shuttles. She hopped out of the fighter and strode over to the group of waiting guards, "I'm here, what?s going on?"

The four uhlan - each in identical full body armor - looked uncomfortably at each other when one finally spoke up, "We need to take you to team one's location."

Dylen sniffed, "I don't like being kept in the dark, Uhlan."

"Yes, Commander," the one that spoke replied. "If you please, Commander."

She fell in with them and marched through the twisting, harshly angular halls, stepping over and around bodies - some Romulan, more Borg. Dotting their path were knots of her soldiers, pulling drones off to the side and ensuring that they were, in fact, deceased. Eventually, she stalked into a room where assault team two waited.

"Now will someone tell me what?s going on here?" She asked venomously, so there would be no mistake that her patience had run out.

"Commander," one of the men stood forward.

"Uhlan Vogor," she almost smiled. "It's good to see you survived. Now talk."

"The drones' cortical nodes have told us what this place is and what they're looking for. This is all late Iconian. It's a repository for much of their knowledge, including their unfinished research. Before their fall, they were working on a new gateway system."

"A new system?" Dylen raised an eyebrow. "Explain."

"We only have a mention of it, not the actual research, but it's a more advanced version of the gateways we keep finding all over the galaxy." Vogor began pacing off to the side, toward a pile of drones. "You know how it all works: a giant gateway with a power plant that takes up a vast amount of resources. Well, just before their fall, the Iconians found a way to incorporate the gateway into a starship, and using only a fraction of the energy to power it."

Dylen whistled, "If the Borg get a hold of that, the entire galaxy is doomed. Right now, we can detect the Borg coming through their transwarp conduits hours ahead of their arrival. If they get this, they can emerge anywhere, at any time."

"There's good news on that, Commander. I wanted to show you," Vogor snickered into his helmet. He yanked one drone off the top of the pile and pointed.

The standard gray pallor of Borg skin was broken up on this drone by strange, sickly purple patches. It infested the skin like a mold, pushing everything out of its way.

"What...is this?" The commander asked, confounded.

"I have a theory about that," the uhlan began. "I think this is a direct result of the energy arcs that were shooting off of the wormhole."

"They can't adapt to it?"

Vogor shrugged, "Maybe eventually, but they haven't had time. Also, according to the Federation, the Borg have a hard time adapting to exotic biological attacks."

Dylen looked around, "There's twenty thousand drones on that ship. Why are there so few here? They should have overrun us by now. I wonder how widespread this infection is."

"Assault squad one to assault squad two," Lieutenant Tactical said over the strike force comm.

"Two here," Vogor replied.

"We've cleared this tower, but you need to escort the commander up here. That infection is showing interesting results."

The commander burst in on the channel, "Have you found the repository yet?"

"Not yet, Commander," Tactical answered.

"Then your news had better be worth it," Dylen warned.

Three floors of uneventful walking passed by, and the two assault teams met up. Commander Dylen rounded on Uhlan Vogor, "Take your team and sweep the rest of the station. I want that repository. I want that gateway technology."

"Over here, Commander," Tactical waved.

Dylen stalked over to Tactical, "What's so important, Lieutenant?"

Tactical motioned toward a group of drones lined up on the floor. As she walked down the line, Dylen saw that the purple patches had gotten worse. The progression was destroying the Borg implants, forcing their technological adaptations to break down or be outright rejected.

"If they're overcoming this," Tactical laughed. "They're sure taking their sweet time."

The commander nodded thoughtfully, "Take this line of drones you have here, and get them back to the ship. Put them in cryo-storage. This infection could prove extremely useful."

"Val'Hannorr to Dylen," Latres' voice came over the comm. "Are you there, Commander?"

"Latres, report," Dylen responded curtly.

"Good news, Commander," the subcommander reported. "We've restored everything but warp drive."

"Weapons and shields?"

"Yes, Commander."

Dylen took a deep breath to settle her excitement. "Good. Then get that Borg ship out of my sky." She turned to look out the window to where the diamond was holding steady, and the rest of the assault team rushed to the windows.

All of a sudden, the Borg vessel erupted in clouds of burning green plasma. Disruptors and cutting beams hacked apart the wreckage, but then, out of nowhere, the remnants of the diamond vaporized in a massive blast of purple energy. The asteroid shook and thundered as the shockwave washed over the station.

Latres chimed in, "Diamond destroyed, Commander. Scans of the asteroid detect no additional drones, either. You're in the clear."

"Commander, Vogor here, we've found the repository."

"Excellent," Dylen clenched a fist in victory. "The Tal'Shiar will reclaim their rightful place, and we will be the spearhead."

Last edited by flamesight; 06-15-2013 at 01:11 AM. Reason: Fixed every quotation mark, ellipsis, apostrophe, and a few hyphens. May have to edit again to catch what I missed this time.
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,440
# 13
06-16-2013, 01:16 AM
Captain's Log, USS Bastogne NCC-93385
Commander Grunt recording.

The
Bastogne has been detailed to a resupply run, ferrying quantum torpedoes to a task force investigating a rift into fluidic space in Pelia sector. Due to the risk factors, I've granted shore leave for the mission's duration to the majority of the crew - if we need more than a skeleton crew for anything, they probably wouldn't help anyway. There was a small scare as we crossed Gamma Orionis, but we managed to evade the Borg patrol. All systems are nominal at the moment, and long-range sensors are clear--

The ship shook, throwing people out of their seats across the bridge.

"What the hell was that?" Grunt demanded, climbing back into the command chair.

Roclak was bent over the science console. "Some sort of spatial distortion, sir," he reported. "Unrelated to the Fluidic Rift; might have been a temporary wormhole. There doesn't appear to be any major damage."

"Neutrino levels rising, sir," Gydap reported from the helm. "Gravimetric distortions, too. I think it might be coming ba-"

The ship tossed like a raft in a gale, throwing personnel about like dolls. The lighting flickered; the viewscreen showed space twisting and distorting, and a sudden flare of energy expanding rapidly around the cruiser. As Grunt clung desperately to the arm of his seat, he saw chaos and light, and little else. Panels exploded here and there, showering the space with sparks. After what seemed an eternity, the wormhole that had sucked them down spat them unceremoniously back into reality. A starfield showed on the screen briefly, before the lights flicked one last time and went completely dark.

"Is everyone all right?" Grunt called out.

"Every time!" Gydap complained bitterly. "Every karskat time Starfleet sends us on one of these 'milk runs', disaster strikes! 'Oh, just ferry this diplomat a few lightyears to P'jem. Oh yes, we forgot to mention he's an Undine.' 'Here, take these recruits to Task Force Omega. By the way, your ship might get destroyed by a Borg.' 'Have some shore leave - but first deal with a rogue time machine!' Commander, next time they offer you a milk run, could you please volunteer for something safer? Say, a diplomatic mission to the Borg Queen?"

The emergency lights blinked to life. Roclak was climbing back to his feet, a trickle of purple oozing down his ridged forehead. Gydap, miraculously, was still seated; Lt. Brel, the Bajoran ship's counselor, was tending to a dazed Shelana near the tactical console, which was little more than a mass of tangled wires and fried isolinear circuitry. Vovenek had already regained his feet, and was swearing in Paklit as he tried to get information from his engineering station.

"Status reports, anyone?" Grunt asked, probing gently at what promised to be a truly remarkable bruise on his head.

"Engines are dead, sir," Gydap replied. "Helm is completely unresponsive - we don't even seem to have thrusters. Comms are down, too."

"Sensors offline," Roclak reported. "Also, the computer seems damaged - reports received are incomplete in many respects. We also don't have turbolifts, and without a proper computer, there'll be no transporting around."

"Weapons are gone, sir," Shelana said shakily. "Or at least, the weapons console is. When I can contact someone else in Tactical, I can give you a better assessment."

"Vov?"

Vovonek slammed his fist against the console. "The pun'tak computer doesn't want to tell me anything!" he growled. "It looks like there are microfractures in the warp chamber, the energizers are offline, and I think the dilithium crystals are broiled."

"Fried, Vov," Grunt said. "The human expression is 'they're fried'."

"Whatever. It won't go."

"What the hell happened, Rock?" Grunt demanded.

"As best I can tell, sir," the Klingon replied, "we were captured by a wormhole. Fortunately, it didn't deposit us in fluidic space; we're still in our own universe, although nowhere near where we started. Precise fixes won't be possible until power's restored to the sensors."

"So, what you're telling me is we're blind, we're deaf, the ship's lobotomized and dead in space, and we have no idea where we are. What's the bad news?"

"Actually, sir, I do know approximately where we are," Roclak said. "Just before we lost sensors, I was able to do minor correlations with a few Cepheid variables. I was unable to pin down our precise location, but we seem to be somewhere in the Gamma Quadrant, probably within a thousand lightyears of the Bajoran wormhole."

"Oh, that's helpful," Grunt said sarcastically. "All we have to do is get out and walk a thousand lightyears or so, and we'll be fine!"

"I'm glad to see you're staying optimistic, sir," Roclak replied drily. "Also, we seem to be fairly near some artificial wreckage - from the preliminary scans, it looks like they might be ships of some sort, although that would take more data."

"That's an idea," Grunt said thoughtfully. "Might be something there we can use on the Bastard. Can anyone get hold of the hangar and see if we have any shuttles that can be used to check it out?"

He was answered by a loud hum and an azure glitter. A human form materialized out of the transporter beam. "Oh, thank the Maker," he gasped, "it worked! Without internal sensors, I wasn't sure a point-to-point transport would work from the emergency transporter in the runabout. But I saw a clear space here, at least I thought it was a clear space, and I figured, 'what the heck?' I mean, it wasn't like I'd get very far in a runabout with no warp drive, right? So I just--"

Grunt cleared his throat loudly. "And you are?" he asked pointedly.

"Oh, oh yes, sorry, sir, very sorry. Lt. Fitzsimmons, Jerry Fitzsimmons, sir, in charge of the hangar deck. In fact, just at the moment I'm the only one on the deck, only I'm not really on it right now, am I? because everybody else filed for shore leave when they heard about this run, and I guess someone's just rubber-stamping those forms these days, but I wanted to help, sir, and it's a good thing I--"

"Mr. Fitzsimmons. Is this running off at the mouth a human thing, or just you?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir, I talk a lot when I'm nervous, and right now I'm not just nervous, I'm scared spitless. But I'll shut up now, sir."

"Thank you, Mr. Fitzsimmons. Now, I have a question for you, and I want you to answer me with a 'yes,' a 'no', or a 'kind of.' You say you got here using the runabout's emergency beamout. Is the runabout spaceworthy?"

"Kind of, sir." And with a visible effort, Fitzsimmons stopped.

Grunt relented. "Very well, Mr. Fitzsimmons, you may expand. What does 'kind of' mean in this case?"

"Well, sir, the hull's solid, and I'm pretty sure the impulse drive's working, and the sensors of course since I could find the bridge, but there aren't any dilithium crystals in the warp drive, although the warp reactor still seems to be functional, so it's got lots of power, even for the replicator, but of course one replicator won't feed the whole ship for long, not without organics put in, and a lot of the guys get a little grossed out when you tell them that solid wastes work as well as anything else for mass, so I guess that's kind of a limiting factor, and of course I didn't test the weapons, 'cause that might put a hole in the ship, and then it'd come out of my hide, at least that's what Mr. Vovonek said the last time a shuttle pilot dinged the deck, and he's a lot bigger than I am, so--"

"For Profits' sake, man, breathe! Next question: can you access the transporter from here? I don't really feel like crawling through Jeffries tubes to the hangar again."

"Again, sir? Oh, right, transporters. I don't think I can access the controls from here, sir, I was kind of counting on someone on the bridge knowing what was going on, and there was nothing I could do down there, and that is a long way to walk, sir, especially with the lifts not working, and--"

Grunt sighed. "Oh, well, it was a thought. Guess it's time to-" He was interrupted by the bridge lights coming on.

"Partial power restored, sir," Roclak observed. "Turbolifts are online. Still nothing from sensors, but if you'd still like to take a shuttle out and look over the situation, that's more doable now."

"Excellent. Rock, Vov, Mr. Fitzsimmons, join me in the turbolift, please. Gydap, you have the conn. Shelana, please let me know as soon as you get weapons back - I'd hate to be caught hanging out here if the Jem'Hadar paid us a visit. Gentlemen?" And the Ferengi led his team into the turbolift.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

The runabout Puyallup slipped through the hangar doors of the Bastogne, circling around to survey the damage. Grunt winced. The starboard nacelle was battered and twisted; its companion was missing, just a bare strut jutting up from the engineering hull. The hull itself was rent in several places, and the arboretum was completely in vacuum. Grunt was happy the ship had been making this run with a bare minimum crew - with luck, he might not have lost anyone during the wormhole passage.

With an effort, he turned his gaze away from his poor tormented command. Nearby space seemed fairly littered with metallic debris - he could make out parts that seemed to belong to Federation, Klingon, and Ferengi designs, as well as quite a few too broken or strange to easily identify. His reverie was interrupted by Roclak."I've gotten a better fix, sir. We would appear to be approximately 212 lightyears from the Gamma end of the Bajoran wormhole. If this ship had warp drive, we could go for help. As it is, I've also scanned the debris field, and located the remains of at least two Starfleet heavy cruisers, probably Dakota- or Stargazer-class."

"Probably?"

"They've been pretty badly damaged, sir. If our trip was anything to go by, the Bastogne was probably about the largest type of ship that could survive the journey at all. These would have been pretty well torn apart by gravitational shear. However, it's possible we can find enough functional parts to either repair our ship or cobble something together to get home on."

"Yes, thank the Great Vault for modular design. Keep looking for anything usable, Rock. We'll leave a marker here, too, so someone can come see what some of these other wrecks are." Grunt turned his attention to the communications console. "Puyallup to Bastogne," he said. "Bastogne, do you read?"

A moment, a hiss, scratching, distortion, and then the Andorian navigator's voice came through the static-ridden channel. "--ead you, Puyallup. What is ... condition?"

"The Bastard's in pretty sorry shape, Gydap. We have located parts of other Starfleet vessels in the debris, and we're going to try to find parts to repair her."

"Say again, Puy... other ships?"

"We've found the remains of some other ships, yes. We're surveying the wreckage looking for parts. Over."

"Acknowledged, sir. Bastogne stand..."

Grunt closed the channel. "All right, Rock, let's go prospecting."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Several hours later, in the Bastogne's ready room...

The command crew sat around the conference table in the ship's ready room. Grunt's voice carried easily over the mutter of the others comparing notes.

"Very well, gentlebeings, analysis, please. We'll start with the exec. Rock?"

"Sir, the Bastogne's been severely damaged - probably too badly to be repaired. I'm virtually certain that if we were able to reach a starbase, they'd finally be forced to scrap her. For starters, without a functional computer, it's too dangerous to use warp drive - our senses alone just don't operate fast enough to save us at faster-than-light speeds."

"Very well. Shelana, how's the arm?"

The Andorian woman stood, then winced. "It's kind of a mess, sir, but I'll get by. The doctor assures me that if the protoplaser were working, I wouldn't even know this had happened by now. As it is, the condition of the weapon systems hurts worse. The weapons themselves are fully functional, and could be transferred to another ship easily - but all connections to fire control have been interrupted. We couldn't shoot them, even if we had full power, which we don't."

"Ah, yes, the power situation. Mr. Vovonek?"

The Pakled looked embarrassed. "Sir, I can't bring the main reactor back online - there's less than a fifty percent chance antimatter containment would hold. It's a miracle the antimatter storage unit's still working. Good thing I hooked it up with a backup power supply after the Guardian incident. On the positive side, I've been studying the reports from the teams checking over the wreckage, and I think I can construct one ship out of all the parts here, including some of the Bastard. She won't be pretty, but she should at least get us as far as the wormhole."

"Just to the hole? Why not call for help?"

"Sir," Shelana interrupted, "I would strongly recommend against a distress call here. We are deep within Dominion territory, and while the Founders may have declared the war over, some of the reports I've gotten indicate that there are elements within the Jem'Hadar who are a bit harder to convince."

"Besides," Roclak continued smoothly, "the wormhole damage was too great for the subspace communications array. And the comm arrays on the other ships came out even worse. We'll have to get within range of sublight comms before we can call anyone."

"Hmm. Not ideal, but I suppose if that's what must be done, that's what must be done. Very well, let's get to it. Vov, you're hereby authorized to draw any resources necessary to work on our life-raft. What's our shortest supply?"

"Honestly, sir, it's skilled labor. The engineering staff, like the others, was pretty well stripped for this trip. And not that many people on board have experience with starship construction and modification - the starbase operations people have made it too easy."

Grunt stood and stretched. "Okay, find me an EV suit and a tool belt." He chuckled at Vovonek's expression. "I used to be an engineer, too, before they stuck me in a command chair. I think I still remember which end of a plasma torch to hold." He clapped his hands. "Come on, people, let's get to it! Time is air!"

----------------------------------------------------------------

It took three days of steady work before Vovonek pronounced himself satisfied. (Well, not "satisfied" - his exact words were, "Well, I suppose that'll have to do. We're almost out of ration packs anyway.") What floated there in the sky wasn't precisely like any other ship that had ever flown. Her primary and engineering hulls had once belonged to the Dakota-class heavy cruiser USS Hephaestus. Like most ships of her class, she boasted four warp nacelles - but the top two were from a Cheyenne-class heavy cruiser, while the bottom pair, while Starfleet issue, came from a ship too badly damaged to identify in any meaningful fashion. There were lumps on her hull where spare meteor patches from the Bastogne had been hastily welded, and where the old cruiser's weapons arrays had been implanted in the new craft. She was battle-scarred, and seared from her own passage through the wormhole; still, there she was.

"She's no beauty queen, is she?" Grunt mused from the refurbished command seat.

"I told you it wouldn't be pretty, sir," Vovonek said. "But she holds air, her warp reactor works, and I'm better than ninety percent certain I can make the warp drive light up without blowing us halfway to Sto'vo'kor."

"How comforting," Roclak grumbled.

"Very well, then. Mr. Gydap, best possible speed to the Bajoran Wormhole, please."

Gydap put one blue finger on the warp activation toggle, then paused and looked around. "I just wanted you all to know," he said, "that if this doesn't work, it's been an honor and a privilege to serve with you all. Except you, Vov - if this doesn't work, my spirit is going to kick your spirit square in the ass."

A chuckle went around the bridge, and Gydap pressed the toggle.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Aboard Starfleet Deep Space Station Nine, a bored technician yawned as he surveyed his instruments. "Nothing. There hasn't been any unscheduled traffic through that hole in years - you'd think they'd turn this job over to a computer."

"Careful, Johannsen," his coworker chided. "Too much talk like that, and Captain Kurland might decide you'd rather be a janitor or something."

"Maybe I would. At least the janitor gets to see more of the sta- Hey, wait a minute. Neutrino levels rising, increased verteron radiation - anything in the schedule?"

His coworker checked her screen. "No, nothing until the next ore shipment from Eldanifel. Looks like you're going to get that excitement you wanted after all."

The wormhole flared to life, and the speck of a starship could be seen exiting it. Johannsen activated his comm panel. "Attention, unscheduled craft," he said into it. "This is Deep Space Nine Traffic Control. Please identify yourself immediately."

The signal they got back was weak and staticky, but audible. "DS9 Control, this is the starship USS Hephaestus, more or less. Commander Grunt speaking. Please acknowledge."

"Hephaestus, we acknowledge. One moment, please." Johannsen's coworker was gesturing at him; he killed the mic. "What is it, Susan?"

"Check this out," she said, pointing at his data screen, which was now displaying the information she had just pulled up. Johannsen turned the mic back on. "Commander Grunt," he started, "we seem to have conflicting information here. The Hephaestus was listed as missing and presumed lost several years ago, while your last reported position was quite a fair distance from here."

Laughter came over the commset. "Yes, we were on a mission in Pelia sector. It's quite a story. After debriefing, I'll be happy to share it over a few glasses at Quark's." Grunt was interrupted by a stream of curses in English, Paklit, Klingon, and Romulan, a language Johannsen had scarcely ever heard until the founding of New Romulus. "Ah, my chief engineer advises me that the impulse drive has gone out again," Grunt's voice continued. "If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you send a tug out to bring us into port?"
-------------------------------------------

"You're as crazy as the people on Twitter!" - Samuel L. Jackson

Last edited by jonsills; 06-16-2013 at 12:01 PM.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 146
# 14 Shifting Sands
06-16-2013, 02:22 PM
December 2411

Counselor ch'Raul entered the conference room and was shocked by what he saw. Lieutenant Commander Vanishyin was squirming like a snake on the conference room table. Commander T'Panna was leaning over him?and performing a mind meld.

Ch'Raul rushed over and pulled T'Panna's arm off of Vanishyin. "What are you doing? This is not how you question a suspect!"

T'Panna paused for a moment, shocked at the abrupt disconnect. Then she kicked ch'Raul in the gut and re-established contact.


I should have deemed her unfit for duty, ch'Raul thought. He tapped his combadge...

Ch'Raul woke up and sat up straight. Usually his dreams were a jumbled mess, but he realized that this time the dream could easily become true. T'Panna was on the edge of emotional instability, and he feared that she'd lose what little she had in a few hours when he and Kerna'tharan were scheduled to report on their progress.

He decided to get out of bed and send the message that had been on his mind for several days. The message to his closest fellow counselor only took a few minutes to write. Ch'Raul skimmed over it again before sending it.
Kayley,

It seems as if things on the Reaper (formerly the Odyssey, renamed thanks to the new behemoth at Utopia Planitia) are falling apart.

Our security chief and second officer had an 'experience' that some attribute to the Bajoran gods. His performance started to suffer because of this. I convinced Captain Carter to reshuffle the crew instead of just dumping this officer. The security chief became beta shift captain, and I assumed the role of second officer.

A few weeks ago, there was an assassination attempt on Carter. The circumstances certainly point to Section 31, so we will probably never know the truth. The first officer, a Vulcan (quarter human) named T'Panna, is now acting captain. Remember how we talked about this a few months ago? I decided to let Carter and T'Panna sort out their relationship instead of immediately notifying Command per regulations. You and I know that a fair amount of captains and first officers wander into intimate relationships, only to regret it later. I didn't feel the need to tarnish their reputations for a short-lived fling.

Anyway, their relationship has continued, and Command is aware of it. Unfortunately T'Panna's Vulcan upbringing is being thwarted by her human tendencies, or maybe just the stress of leading a crew when your lover is in a coma with no hope of coming out of it. She has been erratic and unpredictable. I am tempted to remove her from command, but that would be a huge conflict of interest because then I would be the acting captain.

I don't have a good course of action. I am sure that the situation will work itself out, but it feels therapeutic to write about this to someone who understands what I am going through.

I hope that your time on the Esquiline is going smoothly. We should talk face-to-face sometime soon. Remember the promise you made to visit Andor with me?

ch'Raul
He sat for a few minutes in silence after sending the message. Then he heard stirring behind him. Her hand gently rested on his shoulder.

"It's time to stop thinking about her and come back with me," Alice said. Despite the late hour, her eyes were bright and cheerful. He wasn't sure if it was her smile or the rest of her naked body that drew him away from the terminal and back to bed.

---

Organic life forms had a lot of advantages over Alice, but the need for sleep was not one of them. She enjoyed the hours spent against ch'Raul as he rested, but it was terribly hard for her to be still and restful. Her mind wandered to many places during the night. Some of them were innocent, while others were not. She struggled with a question - was it infidelity to daydream while your lover is sleeping next to you? Ultimately she decided that it was not, as long as her thoughts didn't linger on Ensign Alvarez. The human woman would be even more hurt by Alice's duplicity than ch'Raul would, so she needed to be careful.

---

"Lieutenant Vanishyin was set up," ch'Raul repeated for at least the fifth time. "All of the ship-to-ship data queries we made on his record confirmed that he had a brother believed to be involved with Section 31. But Kerna'tharan and I contacted three other ships by voice and asked them to check with Starfleet. In all three cases, they confirmed that Vanishyin is an orphan who was raised by an elderly couple with no other children. It is clear that our database is corrupted, and something is interfering with our attempts to get information from outside sources."

"We should destroy this vessel immediately," Kerna'tharan added. "The computer is compromised by the enemy we are hunting. We cannot be victorious without eliminating their advantage, which is their hold on this ship."

Counselor ch'Raul could tell that T'Panna was on the verge of imploding. She had been so happy to have someone in custody for the attempted murder of Captain Carter. Now everyone in the room except for her was convinced that the man in custody was completely innocent.

T'Panna clenched her fists, realized that they were in plain sight on the table, and quickly put her arms under the table. "The timing of this revelation is too convenient. The Denali is scheduled to rendezvous with us in eighteen hours to transfer Vanishyin to Starbase 24 for a court martial. How do I know that you aren't trying to cover up the truth?"

I hope everyone can see how compromised she is, ch'Raul thought. He waited until T'Panna made eye contact with him before responding. "One of the vessels we contacted was the Denali. Captain Delaney agreed with my conclusions. As first officer I told him that Vanishyin was being released from custody and Denali wasn't needed anymore. They aren't coming."

"You Lunikkh ta-Vik! I hereby relieve you of command. Return to your quarters." T'Panna was standing and subtly shaking.

Silence filled the room for a few seconds, giving ch'Raul a chance to think. Stick to our common ground. "It is important to remember that all of us are upset about what happened to our Captain. We all want justice to be served. Right now it looks like we were misdirected. Would you please sit down? Then we can?"

Commander Hillel's voice interrupted. "Yellow alert. Commander T'Panna to the bridge." T'Panna, ch'Raul, Kerna'tharan and Glotz calmly hurried out of the conference room and onto the bridge.

The viewscreen showed a growing spatial anomaly. Hillel turned to face T'Panna and ch'Raul. "This anomaly just appeared out of nowhere. We are scanning to determine its origin."

The senior staff turned to face Glotz, who had taken over at operations. The Denobulan frowned. "It isn't stable...not a rift into fluidic space..."

"Could this be Commander Hillel's gods trying to get his attention?"

"T'Panna, that was entirely uncalled for," ch'Raul replied.

Glotz continued. "Sensors have found chroniton particles. This is most likely time travel."

"Keep the sensors on!" T'Panna yelled. "Someone needs to bypass the automatic subroutine that stops data recording when faced with time travel. I don't give a damn about the Department of Temporal Investigations and their regulations."

"Glotz, hail the away team on the surface and tell them they are on their own for a while. Keep the runabout grounded at all costs." Turning to T'Panna, ch'Raul whispered, "I agree with you. This has to be Section 31, so we need all the data we can get."

A few moments later, a barrage of weapons fire emerged from the rift. Lieutenant Simeon's warning from the helm was the last thing heard before the ship was jarred by multiple impacts. Main lighting and helm control went out. Emergency power came online and then went out a few seconds later.

Kerna'tharan was the first to find an emergency flashlight. Before ch'Raul could figure out where the first flashlight came from, Kerna'tharan had distributed one to each bridge officer and checked them all for injuries. "Prepare for a boarding party," he calmly ordered.

No boarding party came. Surprisingly, no other weapons were fired. The rift was still open. Whoever was on the other side could obviously see the situation on this end, and all they wanted to do was immobilize the ship. This didn't make sense.

A sinking feeling hit ch'Raul's gut. "Glotz, what parts of the ship have power?"

"Only the bridge and the auxiliary engineering station, sir."

"Kerna'tharan, you have the bridge. T'Panna, we need to get downstairs immediately."

---

Doctor Evans stood outside of the medical ward. The look in his eyes told ch'Raul all he needed to know. T'Panna looked at the doctor, saw him shake his head, and then started crying. Both men stayed in the hall to allow T'Panna to say goodbye privately.

"How long does he have?"

"Carter was barely stable with the stasis field active," Evans explained. "Now that I can't keep him stable, I'd give him about an hour to live. He won't wake up though. At this point the damage caused by the neurotoxins is irreversible." He paused for a moment. "Do we know who attacked us?"

"We were ambushed by a coward on the other side of an unstable rift. It looks like someone called in a favor from the big guns in the future. There is no way we can win against them."

"Does that mean we will stop?"

"Never."
--------------------------------------

Timeline:
2398
  • Odyssey, a Luna-class science vessel, launched
2408
  • Odyssey qualifies for a ten-year refit. It never happens.
  • April: T'Panna joins the Odyssey crew as second officer / head science officer
24092410
2411
Crew (still haven't figured out all the casting yet):

Captain Everitt Carter (human male)
  • Mitch Pileggi
  • Age: 57
  • Bald, goatee
First officer: T'Panna
  • Minka Kelly with slightly pointed ears
  • Age: mid-30s
  • Named after Vulcan grandmother
  • Is 1/4 human
Operations: Glotz (Denobulan male)
Helm: Lt. Alastair Simeon (human male)
Counselor: Commander ch'Raul (Andorian chaan, which is male)
  • Doctorate doctorate in clinical psychology, and a second one in pantheistic religions
Doctor: Evans (human male, British)
Chief Engineer Miguel Jarvis (human male, Hispanic)
  • Dating Amanda Carpenter
Lt. Amanda Carpenter (human female)
  • Gets demoted from Gamma shift acting captain
Librarian: Alice (photonic).
  • Intentionally appears as a teenager
  • Ellen Page
Security: Lt. Cmdr. Hillel (human male, Middle Eastern descent)
  • Wife Isabella (Olga Kurylenko)
  • 4 year old daughter

Last edited by superhombre777; 06-16-2013 at 06:51 PM.
Rihannsu
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 216
# 15
06-17-2013, 07:30 PM
"Helm, emergency stop!" Bryan shouted.

Suddenly, the massive form of the Athena lurched to a halt, just before it entered the wormhole.

"Damage report!" Bryan called.

"Negligable, sir," Six of Nine called. "Though, I'd prefer not straining the hull like that."

"Scan the wormhole, Athena" Bryan called, ignoring Six's sarcastic reply.

"Wormhole appears to be stable, sir, but I can't tell where it lets out." the AI replied.

"Alright. Prepare a probe, and get ready to-"

"Shuttle coming out of the wormhole, sir!" Athena interrupted. "Configuration is similar to a standard Type 8 shuttlecraft, but there are notable differences, the primary one being additional weapons."

"On screen" Bryan called, and the screen shifted to a view of the shuttlecraft.

The vessel was crippled, with one warp nacelle completely destroyed, and multiple energy burns. The canopy appeared to be cracked, but there was no telltale vapor trail of oxygen leaking out, so the hull was still completely sealed.

"Scan the ship," Bryan said, still studying the craft.

"One lifesign, sir," Athena replied.

"Sir, we're being hailed by the shuttle," Aara called from the comms station.

Bryan looked back at the Orion and nodded.

Suddenly, the screen shifted to reveal a young Trill woman with short, red hair and piercing grey eyes. She wore simple clothes, obviously more designed for extended periods of isolation. She had several slight injuries, but if she was in pain, then she did a good job of hiding it.

"Are you Vice Admiral Bryan Valot?" She asked cautiously.

"Yes, I am. And you are?" He replied.

"My name is Ibalei Zera. I need to talk to you immediately aboard your vessel."

*******

"Syiseda?" Bryan asked, stepping into the main sickbay on the Athena, "Is she who she says she is?"

"Yep." The Betazoid replied, "One hundred percent genetic match. The only difference between her and our Ibalei is that she's still unjoined."

"Interesting," Ibalei said, stepping up behind Bryan. "Did you ask why?"

"I did," Syiseda said, nodding. "But she declined to respond."

Bryan looked a around before saying in a low voice, "There have been a few reports that have crossed my desk with regards to conditions on Trill in the mirror universe. If my suspicions as to who she is are correct, then that would explain why."

Ibalei looked at Bryan curiously. "What do you mean, Bryan?"

He paused. "I don't particularly want to discuss it right now. If my guess turns out to be true, I'll tell you, but I just want to be sure."

Bryan walked up to his first officer's mirror counterpart. "So, I see you brought her along," she said, gesturing to Ibalei.

He nodded. "Ibalei is my most trusted officer," He replied carefully. "I rarely do anything without making sure she is at my side."

"Even with one of...them controlling her?"

"Zizania doesn't control me," Ibalei said, anger beginning to creep into her voice.

"How do you know that she was joined?" Bryan asked, still keeping his voice level.

"She has a certain look about her, like she is living multiple lives at the same time."

"So, I take it what I've heard about the Trill over on your end is true? That the hosts are little more than tools for the Symbionts?"

She paused, wincing a little. "Tools would imply that they at least care a little for us. As soon as one host body expires, they dispose of it and switch to a new one without a second thought."

Ibalei paled. "So, we're...slaves?" she asked, her voice shaking.

Her mirror nodded. "That's why I came here," She said, "I wanted to ask for your help."

"What do you need?" Bryan asked cautiously.

"I was hoping you could send a fleet to help evacuate an enclave of hosts from my homeworld," She said, "We have managed to remain hidden for a while now, but the Terrans, who the Joined are affiliated with, have found us. I was hoping you would be able to help us."

Now it was Bryan's turn to pause. The Prime Directive limited what he was able to do, but he knew that the mirror Ibalei would never take that into consideration. He closed his eyes, analyzing his options.

"Ibalei," he said, reopening his eyes and looking at the Trill still sitting on the biobed, "The Prime Directive prohibits me from interfering with the development of another species."

"I knew you wouldn't help us!" She shouted angrily, "You're worse than the Terrans! You're willing to let us be slaves, and you use your 'Prime Directive' as an excuse to not help us!"

"If you'll let me finish," Bryan said, his voice dangerously quiet, "There are certain instances when the Prime Directive does not apply, and, given that I'm a flag officer as well as the commander of a starship, if I have sufficient evidence, can make an exception."

"You're going to end up with a court-martial one of these days, Bryan," Ibalei sighed.

Bryan turned to his first officer, "Are you really willing to let these people be slaves of the Symbiots Ibalei? And, Zizania, are you really willing to let the Symbionts destroy the Trill?"

She paused. "No," she replied, nodding slightly, "I suppose not. What are you thinking about doing?"

Now it was Bryan's turn to sigh. "Command is going to have a heart attack when they hear this."

"What are you thinking about doing?" Ibalei's mirror counterpart asked.

"I'm hoping to be able to convince them to divert the first assault fleet to help evacuate your enclave. Our ships will keep any Terran forces in orbit busy while shuttles, launched from our carriers, evacuate your people. Once the shuttles are fully loaded, they will return to the carriers that launched them. With the shuttles aboard, the fleet will retreat back to our universe."

"And how do you intend to get to the mirror universe?" Ibalei asked.

"I believe there's a wormhole off the starboard bow that would like to have a word with you," Bryan replied slyly.

*******

Bryan looked around the strategic command center of the Athena at display screens showing the other Admirals of Starfleet as he finished telling them of his plan. Some sat wide-eyed, others pondered his idea, and still more simply sat shaking their heads.

"You're certainly not making our jobs any easier Valot," Admiral Yanishev said finally.

"With all due respect, sir," Bryan replied, "My job is not to make your job easy. My job is to act in accordance with the situation at hand and to protect the Federation and her citizens."

"You realize that what you propose is in direct violation of the Prime Directive," Admiral Quinn said.

"Actually, sir," Bryan replied, his mind clearly working in overdrive, " I can give you several reasons as to why this would not be a violation of the Prime Directive, based on precedents set by multiple captains of Starfleet, Kirk and Picard among them. First of all, the Trill even those from what we know of as the Mirror Universe, have already made contact with the Federation, as noted in the logs of the U.S.S. Nightingale and U.S.S. King Estemere. Precedent for prior contact partially voiding the Prime Directive was set during incidents at Omicron Theta and Bre'el IV, both by Captain Picard."

"In addition, if said society hails or attacks a Federation Vessel, then the Prime Directive is, at least partially, voided. Precedent was set by Captains Kirk and Janeway, during incidents in deep space. Thirdly, if the society has been previously interfered with by non-Federation citizens, in this case the Terran Empire, the Prime Directive does not apply. This precedent was again set by Captains Kirk and Janeway during incidents at Neural and deep space, respectively."

The other Admirals were silent for a long time. After several long minutes of silence, it was Admiral T'nae who spoke up first.

"The Vice Admiral is correct," She replied with difficulty, "In addition, I have seen the reports he mentioned as well, so I corroborate his assertion that the hosts are in fact slaves of the Symbionts. However, just because the situation permits us to skirt around the Prime Directive does not mean that we should."

"I fully agree with you T'nae," Bryan said, nodding, "However, I would like to point out that the Trill enclave has a large population, and given my projected casualty rate, the population of the enclave would more than make up for the casualties. In addition, it is Starfleet policy as a humanitarian force to respond to situations similar to this if our involvement would not violate the Prime Directive, which I have already proven that it would not."

"Bryan, the fleet will respond to your request," Admiral Leyla Blaze, Bryan's direct superior said, "I will instruct the rest of the fleet to assemble at your location. I will lead the fleet personally."

"Thank you, sir," Bryan replied, nodding slightly.

"Then this meeting is adjourned," Admiral Quinn sighed, "I hope you know what you're doing Valot. Because we will all regret it if you don't."

*******

Bryan looked around from the bridge window at the rest of the fleet, taking in what he was about to do.

"The fleet is ready, Bryan," Ibalei said, walking up next to him. "The wormhole is stable and the recon ship on the other side indicates no Terran vessels are present in the immediate area."

He glanced at her briefly and nodded. "Inform Admiral Blaze that we're good to go."

"Anything else?"

He began walking to his chair before looking back to Ibalei and saying, "Hope this doesn't start another war."

He sat down and looked at the viewscreen, placing his elbows on the arms of the chair and pressing the tips of his fingers together.

"All ships report ready, sir," Bryan said as Admiral Blaze appeared on the screen.

"Good. You have tactical command of the engagement," The Admiral replied.

"If I may ask, why? You outrank me."

"Because you have proven to be a brilliant tactician Valot. I have every confidence that you will be able to lead the fleet through the engagement with minimal casualties."

"Very well, sir." He turned back to his comms officer. "Aara, open a channel to the rest of the fleet."

"Channel open, sir," The Orion replied.

"All ships, this is the Athena. Form into a wedge formation. Carriers groups, form up in the center of the wedge. Once we arrive at Trill, the carriers will hold position and launch every shuttle and Runabout they have. Once the craft are launched, the formation will begin advancing on Trill, with all of the craft flying in the center. The goal of the ships not holding position with the carriers will be to first punch a hole in the Terran's lines and give the shuttles a clear path to the surface. When the shuttles are past the Terran lines, the fleet will break formation and try to keep the path back to the carriers clear. As soon as the last shuttle has landed, the fleet will pull back to the wormhole and return to our universe, at which point a science vessel on loan from the thirteenth fleet, which will be holding position here during the operation, will seal the wormhole behind us. Any questions?"

"I have one, sir," came a voice over the intercom, "Why are we even doing this in the first place?"

"Because, in addition to missions of exploration, it is Starfleet's duty to respond to a humanitarian crises so long as it is within the bounds of the Prime Directive to do so. Slavery is one such instance."

"Then why haven't we done anything about the Orions?"

"That's a good question," Bryan replied. "Perhaps you should read more about their culture once the operation is done. Anyone else?" Nobody spoke up. "Good. All ships, proceed through the wormhole."

*******

The fleet dropped out of warp to find the Terran fleet waiting for them in Trill orbit.

"All ships, begin the operation. Carriers, begin launch operations. All combat vessels, hold position until launch operations are complete.

Several tense minutes passed before Ibalei finally called, "Launch operations complete, sir."

Bryan nodded. "Carrier groups, hold position. All other ships, full ahead. Maintain formation. You are authorized to fire at will as soon as you are in range."

The fleet advanced, ships moving dead ahead to the Terran lines. Their ships were spread out around the planet in a defensive formation, clearly anticipating an invasion. What was about to hit them was completely different.

"Sir, we're in range." Athena called, her holographic form shimmering to life nearby.

Bryan nodded. "All ships, open fire!"

Orange beams and pulse cannon blasts illuminated the night sky, slamming into a number of Terran vessels, whose defenses were quickly overwhelmed.

"Several hostile ships destroyed, sir. We've punched a hole in their lines," Ibalei said from next to Bryan.

"All ships, drive your attacks home. Let's keep that hole open as long as we can."

The fleet continued to push into the Terran lines, slowly but surely widening the hole for the shuttles to enter. Suddenly, the entire fleet broke formation and began engaging the Terran ships independently as the shuttles entered the atmosphere of the planet. The prime universe fleet's battle pattern was chaotic, yet somehow every ship in fleet worked in harmony with every other one. Fire was concentrated when a ship began to enter the path of the shuttles, which had already begun to return to the carriers, ships supported those who were overwhelmed, and drove the Terran forces into retreat.

The battle seemed nearly over when a distress voice came over the intercom. "Attention to any ships in sector three, this is Admiral Blaze in command of the U.S.S. Serephea, we have taken heavy damage! Structural integrity is down to five percent! We need assistance now!"

"U.S.S. Monitor, move to assist the Serephea!" Bryan called.

"Too late, sir!" Athena called, as the screen shifted to show an image of the Prometheus class vessel, just as a quantum torpedo impacted the Bridge. The ship seemed to vanish in a brilliant orange explosion.

Bryan closed his eyes and bowed his head briefly. He knew the Admiral was dead, but there would be time to mourn her death later. Returning his attention to the battle, he called, "All ships, this is Vice Admiral Bryan Valot in command of the Athena, I am hereby taking command of the fleet. All ships, stand your ground and continue battle."

The battle continued, Starfleet vessels involved in a deadly dance with the Terran fleet. Arcs of light flashed as the ship's powerful beam and cannon weapons tore into each other, torpedoes blasted away at the hulls of the ships, and, in the background, the Federation shuttles continued their ferry work After several more long minutes of combat, a carrier captain finally opened a channel to every ship in the fleet.

"Attention all ships, this is Captain Audrir Amunoe of the U.S.S. Bremen," she called, "All shuttles are aboard their respective carriers, repeat, all shuttles are aboard. We are clear to depart."

"Copy that Bremen," Bryan replied, "All ships, pull back now."

Space seemed to pull apart around the Athena, as stars became small streaks of light. Suddenly, the bridge was engulfed by a slight pulsing blue color as the Asynchronous warp field activated, pulling the ship to warp twenty.

"Sir, we are away," Ibalei said. "Carriers are reporting that every single shuttle and runabout have successfully returned to their respective ships. Total losses among the combat group tally to five vessels lost, seventeen heavily damaged, twelve with medium damage, and fourteen with light damage. Vessels reporting light and medium damage indicate that they will very easily be able to fix the damage without having to report to a drydock facility."

"Much better than projected. Did you hear if the Admiral survived?"

"Logs indicate she went down with her ship, sir." Ibalei replied solemnly.

Bryan was silent for a long time. "Her death was my fault," He said finally.

"No, it wasn't," Ibalei replied. "You weren't the one who ordered the torpedo to be launched at her vessel, no were you the one who launched it."

"Still, her death was a result of my actions and-"

"It wasn't your fault Bryan!" Ibalei shouted. "She knew this would be a risk going in, and she accepted that! It's time for you to as well!"

Bryan was taken aback. "I guess you're right." He replied. "Let's hope the Admirals see it a little more clearly than I did."

*******

Bryan looked around the room at the silent Admirals. He had already finished giving them his report. They looked unsure of what they wanted to do.

"Bryan," Admiral Yanishev said, finally breaking the silence, "Exactly what were the circumstances of the loss of the Serephea?"

"The battle had been proceeding well up to that point," Bryan said, thinking back, "We had pushed through the Terran lines, and the first shuttles were already on their way back to their base ships. Based on the reports, the Serephea was engaged by a Galaxy class Dreadnought variant, two Defiant class, and a Regent class. Given the similarities between our universe and the Mirror universe, it is entirely possible that they knew the Serephea was the flagship of the fleet."

"The other Admirals and I discussed what should be done before we convened here." Admiral Quinn said, looking around at the others. "Needless to say, when they heard about the loss of Admiral Blaze, some were understandably upset. Do you have any justification for your actions?"

"No, sir," Bryan replied, his voice remaining level, "Other than to say that the operation, despite the loss of Admiral Blaze, was an overwhelming success. In addition, Admiral Blaze accepted the risk that this operation carried, and she willingly went to the front line. I had no part in her decision to lead from the front."

Admiral Quinn shifted uncomfortably. "That still leaves us with the task of choosing a new Admiral to take her place," he said.

"That is not my business," Bryan said flatly. "I am simply here to convey the results of the operation."

Admiral Yanishev looked around the room at the other admirals, who all nodded in turn. "Vice Admiral, one of the the items we discussed was who would be a suitable candidate for the next Admiral for the first assault fleet. Despite the fact that you are somewhat of a loose cannon, you are a tactical genius. It would be foolish of us to ignore this fact, especially given that we are currently engaged in active warfare with the Klingon Empire. As a result, it was our unanimous decision that you be nominated the new Admiral of the first assault fleet. Do you accept?"

*******

Bryan stared at his reflection in the mirror. The four boxed pips gleamed brightly on his uniform. He shook his head slightly.

"What's wrong, Bryan?" Ibalei said, walking up behind him.

He turned his head briefly before replying "This doesn't feel right. Leyla was the Admiral, not me."

"And yet, here you are, Admiral Valot."

"Ibalei, I'm only 26. I'm far too young to even be a captain, let alone an Admiral."

"That just shows that the Admirals were looking at your skills rather than your age. Which is the way it should be anyways."

"Maybe," He replied, his voice just above a whisper.

Ibalei placed her hand on Bryan's shoulder. "You need to stop beating yourself up over this, Admiral."

That one word gave him the push he needed. He closed his eyes, still feeling Ibalei's hand on his shoulder. Opening his eyes and turning around slowly, he kissed Ibalei.

"Thank you, Ibalei" he said, looking into her eyes and smiling. "Thank you for constantly being the cool head among us. And for being the strongest person I know."

"That's what Zizania and I are here for," She said, smiling as well.

With that she left the room, once more leaving Bryan alone. She's right, he thought. It's time for me to stop faking it and be a flag officer. Shaking his head once more, he walked over to the window, watching the Asynchronous warp field pulse with a gentle blue color. Once more, his life just took an unexpected turn, and once more, he would rise to meet the challenge head on.
Vice Admiral Bryan Mitchel Valot
Commanding officer: Odyssey class U.S.S. Athena
Admiral of the 1st Assault Fleet
Join date: Some time in Closed Beta
Commander
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 478
# 16
06-22-2013, 09:27 AM
There is no greater enemy than one's own fears.
-General Martok



The Notqa drifted quitely through the depths of space, its scarred green hull dark against the scant starlight. Out here, on the outskirts of the Pelia System, the Bird of Prey was hunting.

On the flat, metal slab that served as his command chair, Lynathru rested his chin against his gauntlet as he stared out into the void. Around him, his crew were at their stations, keeping the Notqa's electromagnetic eyes and ears open. They had been out here for two days, on a mandate to hunt, destroy, and where necessary, capture Federation shipping. Starfleet, in its ongoing war with the Empire, was trying its utmost to keep troops and ships supplied in this sector, and numerous armed convoys were crossing this sector to do just that. It was the job of Birds-of-Prey like the Notqa to harass these convoys, to deprive them of their supplies and slowly bleed them dry.

Even though he was on a Klingon ship with a mixed race crew, this mission brought back memories. Memories of corsair voyages during his time with the Syndicate, when his life had been worth several hundred thousand quatloos instead of the dismal KDF commission it was worth now. His fortunes might have changed, but he still knew how to hunt errant freighters, how to avoid Federation patrols, and how to disable an enemy merchantman in a single, efficient attack. The fact that he was on a heavily armed vessel with a cloaking device made things that much easier.

"Ressic, what's the status of the warp trail?" he asked.

The ship's science officer, Ressic, gazed at his console. "Steadily growing fresher, Captain." The Lethean had a smoothe, velvety voice that put Lynathru's nerves on edge. "We should overtake them within two hours."

Next to Lynathru, Kovar, his second in command, gave a surly grunt. "It's a trap," the white-bearded Klingon said. "It has to be. The Federation would not leave a single freighter unguarded in a warzone. They may be naive, but they are not fools."

Lynathru made a casual sideways glance at the Klingon. "Of course its a trap," he said with a faint smile. "And it's a very old one. The freighter we're following is probably rigged to explode if we get too close. Either that, or it's leading us into an ambush site. Either way, its obviously a trap."

Kovar glared at the Captain. The old Klingon, Lynathru knew, had always had a problem with aliens in the KDF, particularly Orions, and he had never bothered to disguise his contempt for Lynathru. "Then why," he said, "are we even following this trail?"

"Simple." Lynathru turned back to the viewscreen. "If this freighter is some automated explosive drone or an ambush decoy, it should have a set travel program. The Federation, after all, only have a finite number of these drone ships, so it would eventually have to be refuelled at some secret base." He smiled. "A secret base that it's going to lead us to. Of course, I'm sure you've already thought of that, Rovar."

Kovar made no reply, but turned away from Lynathru with an annoyed grumble. Lynathru was prevented, though, from enjoying the Klingon's irritation when one of the consoles behind him started beeping as though in alarm, causing him to tense up.

"Captain," Ressic said, "I'm detecing a series of verteron fluctuations about fifty yards ahead of--"

The Lethean didn't even get to finish before the bridge was flooded with light.

It all happened in an instant. One minute, there was nothing on the viewscreen but the star-speckled void. The next, a ball of yellow light suddenly popped into view, briefly filling illuminating the bridge like a morning sunrise. Lynathru jumped in his seat, alarmed, and found himself forced to squint as the brilliant orb expanded outwards across the starscape.

His first instinct was to order his crew to brace for impact, but it quickly dawned on him that this wasn't an attack. The viewscreen was filled by a spinning disk of coruscating, flame-like energy, a gaping amber wound that spun before his eyes. He blinked, his vision easing now that the viewscreen was filtering the amber light. Whorls of bronze shadows and brilliant gold sunbursts fluctuated across the spinning disk in rippling patterns. It was, without a doubt, the most beautiful thing Lynathru had seen in his life-- aside, of course, from a Marauder barge's cargo hold packed to the gills with slaves and riches.

It was Kovar who broke him out of his reverie with an unimpressed grunt. "What happened?" the surly old Klingon asked, "and what is that?"

Ressic ran some commands over his console. "It appears to be a wormhole, Commander," the Lethean replied matter-of-factly, as though unexpected wormholes were an everyday occurence for him. "I am reading heavy amounts of verteron and tetryon particles, and--"

"Never mind that!" Lynathru growled. He was in no mood for an astrophysics lesson right now. "Do you have any idea what caused it, and if it's a danger to the ship?"

"I'm afraid I cannot determine an actual cause of origin until I have conducted some tests, Captain," Ressic replied calmly. "It may take me a few hours to determine the cause, and stability of this wormhole after I send some probes in. As to your second question--"

Before Ressic could even finish, there were more beeps from more consoles. "Sensors are picking up some disortions within the wormhole," said Sadra, the ship's navigator. "I'm reading dense physical mass shifting within the hole..." The Orion female spun in her chair to face him, her eyes bright with alarm. "Something's coming through!"

The news caused Lynathru to straighten up in his chair. "Engage cloak!" he ordered. He had no wish to be caught flat-footed by...whatever it was that lived on the other side of that wormhole.

He soon had cause to be grateful from the cloak. As he watched, a shape emerged from the shimmering, amber depths of the wormhole. At first its shape was blurry and indistinct, but as Lynathru watched, it soon resolved itself as a long, trident-like shape, looking for all the world like a jagged claw reaching out of the wormhole. A shudden ran down Lynathru's spine as he saw blinking yellow lights set against a dull, earthy brown hull.

The Orion's stomach twisted when he realized that there was none of the familiar glint of metal to that brown substance. It was organic flesh.

"qa'meH quv," Kovar growled, disgust and horror evident in his voice. Lynathru knew, passingly, that the phrase meant "replacers of honour with dishonour," and knew that it referred to the shape-changers from beyond normal space. The parasites. The infiltrators. The world-destroyers. Undine.

As Lynathru watched, the Undine bio-ship glided out of the open wormhole. Now that he could see it clearly, it looked like some twisted macrophage from a medical holovid, with smoothe, organic curves and bends and several elongated, claw-like fins jutting forward. From a distance, Lynathru could see the sickly, mottled pattern of its hull-flesh and the yellow, bioluminescent glow of...were they viewports? Energy banks? Some sort of natural skin-patterning? The more Lynathru looked at the looming bio-ship, the less he realized he wanted to know.

"Have they spotted us?" he asked.

Farra, the ship's main tactical officer, ran a quick diagnostic. "Negative, sir," the Klingon woman replied. "Our cloak is still holding. The Undine have not scanned in our direction as of yet."

A rasping hiss came from Rresh, the hulking Gorn diagnostic engineer at the other end of the bridge. "Captain...its wounded," he said.

The comment made Lynathru turn back to the drifting shape of the bio-ship. He had missed it at first against the bright backdrop of the wormhole, but at a second glance, Lynathru saw that Rresh was right. A long trail of yellow, plasma-like fluid...blood?...was drifting from the bio-ship's starboard flank. The trail came from a gaping, burnt rent in its hull flesh that was revealed as the Undine vessel did a slow turn.

"Fascinating," Ressic mused. Lynathru didn't quite share the Lethean's opinion, feeling increasingly uneasy as he stared at the charred wound on the bio-ship. He had heard that Undine vessels were capable of regenerating damage, and yet this wound was still raw. What had been powerful enough to hurt the bio-ship in the first place?

He didn't have to wait long for his answer. The navigational console beeped again. "I have more contacts, sir," Sadra said, "all emerging from the wormhole, bearing two-two-three, mark one-five-zero--"

She was interrupted as a long, bloody streak of brilliant crimson stabbed out of the wormhole and washed, forcefully, against the bubble of the Undine ship's shields.

A second later, a trio of angry red dots appeared against the swirling surface of the wormhole. In an instant, those dots enlarged into a trio of angular shapes that came racing out of he wormhole like a pack of hungry jackals, swooping down on the bioship in an intercept course. Two of the shapes were smaller, and darted ahead of the larger shape like hunting animals set loose. All three, though, were similar in design, with angular, fin-like hulls and jutting, spike-like protrusions. All of them had the rusted red hulls the colour of dried blood, and all three were propelled forwards by blazing gouts of red flame that twisted and curled behind their engines as though alive.

Even as the newcomers set upon the Undine ship with stabbing pulses of red light, the bridge crew of the Notqa recognized them for the curse that they were.

"Fek'Ihri," Kovar breathed. And this time, damn him, the old warrior actually did sound fearful.


******

Rashan didn't need to look out a viewport to know that the time had come.

The alarm klaxons rang throughout the ship in a grating buzz, letting the entire mixed-race crew know that they had to get to their battle stations. Rashan had wasted no time gettng to his-- the transfer conduit in Engineering responsible for powering most of the Notqa's's systems. Even without the ringing klaxons, though, Rashan felt the pressure buzzing in the back of his skull, and the familiar feel of fire tingling and gnawing at his bones.

They were here. The Masters were here.

Many weeks he had experienced the dreams, and heard the Masters' whispered commands. He had known, for a long time, what they expected of him, and recieved these commands gladly. It was the proper way of things, after all: everyone was the property of someone else, and it was the duty of the property to be loyal to the owner. Rashan had always known this, and it privately disgusted him that so many Orions in the KDF had cast off this tradition, especially Captain Lynathru.

It thrilled him that he had been chosen as the property of such powerful, ephemeral beings as the masters, though at the same time it pained him deeply that he could not share this information with his brothers and sisters. They were already lost to him-- although they, too, believed strongly in the ownership traditions that were the pillar of Orion society, they served different owners. Twisted, hateful owners, the so-called "Good Masters" that were preached incessantly about back on Terjas Mor by the Massana Syndicate and their deluded ilk. Rashan knew that they were a lie. His own Masters had told him as much.

He kept his head down as he headed to the console, even as the Bekks barked for everyone to man their posts. Most of his Orion comades, the ones who worshipped the 'Good Masters,' had been planning a takeover of the ship for months. It was all meant to coincide with a grand revolt on Terjas Mor that would depose the faithless pretender Di'an. Rashan knew that the Captain was not a believer, and that he would take action against these mutineers if he could. But Rashan knew the importance of subtetly, and knew that this own Masters' plans could not be endangered by informing Lynathru.

As he took up his station, he glanced across the Engineering room. Jarron, the ringleader of the mutiny and the ship's most ardent believer in the Good Masters, was doubling over and clutching his stomach. It had been a regrettable, but simple matter, Rashan knew, to poison the mess-hall meals of his brothers and sisters in the supper hours. In the grand, afterlife halls of the True Masters, he knew, they would see the truth, and would understand and forgive him.

He reached for his workman's belt, and noted with satisfaction that the hidden disruptor was still there. Soon...



******


As Lynathru watched, the Fek'Ihri vessels raced out of the wormhole and set upon the Undine ship with fury, stabbing red beams and pulses hammering down against its shields. The bio-ship answered back with sickly beams of yellow, and one of the lighter Fek'Ihri ships seemed to tilt sideways as though slapped as one such beam impacted its shields. This did not break the Fek'Ihri pursuit in the slightest though, and all three ships began to circle their wounded prey, firing into it relentlessly.

It was the most unlikely battle Lynathru had ever come across in his short KDF career. Both the Fek'Ihri and the Undine came from dimensions beyond this one, and their rare intrusions across the dimensional plane were usually times of great concern and danger for the Empire. Never once, however, had there been any indication that the two species had ever come into contact, let alone traded fire. Could the Fek'Ihri have been invading the Undine's home dimension, or the other way around? If so, then why was that conflict spilling over into this dimension?

Lynathru's knuckles tightened as he gripped the armrest of his command chair. The furious battle dominated the screen as the Undine ship traded fire with its aggressors. Both the Undine and the Fek'Ihri were reviled enemies of the Klingon Empire-- it was the Undine's machinations that had triggered the Klingon-Gorn War and, arguably, the ongoing war with the Federation. The Fek'Ihri, meanwhile, a nightmarish alien race with a seeming desire to eradicate all Klingon life. Already, they had raided and ravaged the surface of Qo'noS itself, coming within a hair's breadth of having Chancellor Jm'pok for supper. Lynathru didn't believe in Sto'vo'kor, Gre'thor, or any of the other myths and legends that his Klingon overlords held so dear, but to the Klingons, the Fek'Ihri were more than simply alien invaders. They were monsters, demons from straight out of their legends and lore, an ancient enemy that had returned from whatever hell they had once been banished to.

Not that Lynathru cared one way or the other: he knew that to intervene in this battle, with his small, outmatched Bird of Prey, would be suicide. But he felt the eyes of his crew on him, especially the Klingons. The hatred they felt towards the ships on the screen was an almost palpable thing.

He knew he had two options at this point. He could let the Fek'Ihri and Undine battle it out, and then swoop in to finish off the weakened victor. Or, he could could maintain cloak and shadow this battle until the Notqa had an opportune moment to inform KDF command. Personally, Lynathru would have liked to simply turn this ship around and leave this scene, but to do so would mean losing face in front of his crew. Given how little respect he had to begin with, that would not be a wise or a safe idea.

"Ressic, what is the status of the enemy vessels?" Lynathru asked. "Can you make any calculations on who will win this fight?" Even as Lynathru spoke, though, one Fek'Ihri beam cut past the bio-ship's shields and sliced deep into its hull-flesh, sending more globules of fluid floating out into space. He had a sick feeling of what Ressic's answer would be.

"The Undine vessel appears to have taken severe epidermal damage," Ressic replied. "The Fek'Ihri ships, on the other hand, have sustained comparatively minimal damage. At this rate, the Undine ship will be destroyed in anywhere from two to five minutes."

Kovar leaned forward in his own chair, glaring at the screen. It was clear that he wanted to engage and destroy both the Undine and Fek'Ihri vessels, but he hadn't lived to a ripe old age by being a reckless fool. That, in and of itself, was probably one of the few things Lynathru respected about the old warrior. "Helm," he ordered, "how far away are we from the rest of the battlegroup?"

"Five light years, Commander," Sadra replied. "The closest Empire presence in the region is Kratek III, one light year away."

A low growl came forth from Kovar's throat. "Kratek III," he said. "That's not even a military outpost. That's a colony...with five thousand Klingon souls." He turned to Lynathru. "Captain, whoever triumphs in this battle will be a direct threat to Kratek III. The Fek'Ihri, especially, would not waste an opportunity to murder citizens of the Empire."

Lynathru's throat tightened. There was no way out of this now. He couldn't back away from this fight or even stay unengaged-- as Rovar said, if the Fek'Ihri won this battle, then they would go on to eradicate some five thousand Klingons. And if Lynathru allowed that to happen, then he could face mutiny, censure...or simply have Rovar tear his throat out then and there.

He exhaled deeply. For what felt like the millionth time, he cursed fate for putting him in such impossible predicaments.

"Then we'll deal with them here and now," he said firmly, trying to mask his unease with heroic bravado. "Sadra, go to full impulse and take us in for an attack run on the smaller Fek'Ihri vessels. Farra, power up cannons and arm torpedos. On my mark, disengage our cloak and unleash an overcharged cannon burst. Save the torpedos for when we disable shields."

"Aye sir," Farra said with a grin, before eagerly tapping the tactical console. The rest of Lynathru's bridge officers set about to their own stations, immersing themselves in their own work. Lynathru had to hand it to them, at least, they were all good at masking their fear.


*****

The space battle raged at the edge of the wormhole, streaks of yellow and red crisscrossing as the Undine and Fek'Ihri traded fire. The bioship was leaking plasma-fluid quite heavily now, even as it lashed out left and right with its energy beams. The two smaller Fek'Ihri frigates engaged in evasive manouvers to avoid the withering beams, but their parent battle carrier, easily twice the size of the bioship, ignored the hits that pattered against its shields as it continued to spear away at its prey with raw antiproton beams.

So intent were the Fek'Ihri on destroying the Undine ship, however, that they hadn't even bothered scanning the peripheral space. As such, the Notqa's sudden attack came as that much more of a surprise to them.

Dropping out of cloak, the Notqa swooped in on the nearest enemy frigate, plasma disruptors blazing. The Fek'Ihri vessel realized it was under attack just as its aft shields gave out, and several emerald bolts ripped across its crimson hull, tearing open breaches and leaving burning red fires where they struck. The frigate tried to evade, but it was too late-- the Klingon Bird of Prey loosed a plasma torpedo just as it pulled up to avoid a collision. The Fek'Ihri frigate detonated in a bilious green ball of plasma fire, the winged shape of the Notqa riding the explosion as it flew past.

"Enemy down!" Farra crowed from the tactical console, her grin tugging slightly at the patch that covered her right eye. The Klingon, Lynathru realized, was taking a special joy in the destruction of the Fek'Ihri. And he had to admit, watching that enemy ship shatter and detonate at his command made him feel the familiar rush of space combat.

"Switch targets!" Lynathru ordered. "Focus fire on the next enemy frigate!"

Veering sharply to the left, the Notqa narrowed in on the next Fek'Ihri frigate. By this point, the Fek'Ihri had realized they were under attack, and the other frigate was already turning to face them. Stabbing pulses of red antiproton lashed out, and the Bird of Prey shook violently as several of those bolts slammed against its shields. The Notqa was quick to answer with a cannonade of its own, its disruptors blazing in rapid fire as it stitched a line of hits across the frigate's shields, dropping them with several sustained hits. The enemy frigate, wary of sharing the fate of its twin, twisted sideways, just as the parent carrier began to split its fire, hammering an antiproton beam into the Notqa's unexpectingflank.

Sparks erupted from consoles as the ship shook. "Starboard shields are down to seventy percent!" Rresh growled from his station.

Lynathru bit back a curse. He had been hoping that the larger Fek'Ihri carrier would remain focused on the Undine. This battle would be a lot more difficult with the Kar'Fi's impressive firepower targetting them. "Sadra, evasive manouvers!" he ordered.

With a sudden surge of speed, the Notqa spun left, avoiding another harrowing red beam from the enemy carrier. The nimble Bird of Prey darted and danced like a leaf in the breeze, evading the fire of both the carrier and the last frigate as the Fek'Ihri tried to eradicate the little Klingon ship.

They had diverted their attention to the Notqa for only a few seconds. This was just long enough, however, for the Undine ship to turn around and bring its forward weapons to bear on the Fek'Ihri. Several amber beams speared into the Fek'Ihri carrier, bypassing its shields and tearing several long, burning gashes across its hull. Wounded, the Kar'Fi carrier turned, trying to about face now that the Undine ship had shown its teeth again, leaving the frigate to deal with the smaller annoyance that was the Bird of Prey.

By this point, though, the Notqa had already swooped around to arrow in on the frigate's flank. Green flashes lit the starscape as its cannons hammered again into the Fek'Ihri vessel. The enemy ship's shields held for a short while before crumpling under the Notqa's onslaught. Even as the frigate tried to turn and bring its own cannon batteries to bear, the disruptors raked its hull, gutting its engine bays and opening its bridge section to the void.

The Fek'Ihri vessel was already half-dead when the intense disruptor fire finally disintegrated it, turning it into a free-floating ball of hellish red flame. As the Notqa flew past the rapidly-exploding wreckage, Lynathru felt a chill run up his spine. He could have sworn he'd heard something wail as the ship exploded...

"Got them! Farra crowed. "Enemy ship destroyed!"

At that point, Lynathru realized he was smiling. For supposed monsters out of Klingon legend...these Fek'Ihri weren't so tough. "Sadra, turn us around for another attack run, this time on that carrier!" he ordered. "Farra, overcharge the cannons for another volley, and fire on my mark!"

The Notqa swung around again, zooming upwards at the looming, monstrous shape of th Kar'Fi carrier. From what few tactical reports Lynathru had read on the Fek'Ihri, their carriers were heavily armed with power antiproton weapons, but they were also slow and ponderous, and lacked the heavy ablative armour of most equivalent KDF vessels. A few plasma torpedo hits to its aft engines, Lynathru knew, should be able to destroy if not cripple the spined leviathan.

As the Notqa came flying up for its attack run, the carrier, noticing the incoming threat, did a slow turn to bring its weapons to bear, keeping some of its other arrays still diverted against the Undine. Red beams and pulsing cannon bursts lashed out as the heavy warship split its fire between the Bird of Prey and the bioship, illuminating the blackness of space with crimson luminescence. Satra was ready, however, and the Notqa darted and spun, evading the Fek'Ihri ship's attacks as it closed the distance.

"We're in weapons range, Captain!" Farra announced, obviously eager to begin shooting again.

"Fire," Lynathru commanded, anticipating the sight of the his ship's weapons unleashing a torrent of green energy at the looming carrier.

The guns remained silent. There was no rapid-fire burst from the disruptor cannons, none of the viridian globes of plasma torpedos. Nothing.

Lynathru was about to yell the order to fire again when he noticed the lights of the bridge suddenly flicker uneasily. There was a deep, dying hum as several consoles suddenly went out. His eyes widened when he realized that his ship was, somehow, malfuctioning.

"What the hell is going on?" he demanded.

"Sir, weapons are offline!" Rresh shouted. "As is our main deflector and battle cloak!"

Lynathru whirled around to face the Gorn, though it was Kovar who answered for him. "What do you mean they're offline?" he spat. "We haven't taken any damage--"

As though to correct him, the ship suddenly shook violently. Lynathru was nearly pitched off his feet as several consoles exploded, flinging badly-burned operators across the deck.

"We just took a hit!" Farra reported. "Shields are down to fifty percent!"

The ship shook again, and smoke and flame were suddenly billowing from the corner of the bridge. Snarling, Lynathru straightened up. "Somebody put that out!" he snapped, before tapping his wrist communicator. "Bridge to engineering, you had better have a good explanation!"

He had been expecting Korvag, the ship's main warp core analyst, to answer. Instead, however, he heard the rough, growling voice of Janga, the head of the ship's Bekk.

"Korvag is dead, captain," the Nausicaan said. "Many Orion Engineers are dead. One of them is still alive, and threatening to destroy the warp core. He wants to speak to you."

The colour drained from Lynathru's face. A part of him wanted to make Janga repeat all of that. But another part of him knew that immediate action was needed, regardless of how absurd the situation sounded.

Abruptly, he stood up from his command chair. "Kovar, you have the bridge!" he ordered. "Do whatever it takes to keep the ship alive!"

The old Klingon nodded curtly. Lynathru could tell that Kovar had been itching for a chance to command the bridge for quite some time now. "What about you, Captain?"

Lynathru was already heading to the turbolift. "I'm going to deal with our mutineer," he spat as he entered the cylinder.

Kovar nodded again. "Try not to delay for too long," he grumbled, just before the turbolift doors hissed closed.



****


The alarm klaxon continued to ring throughout the ship as halls as Lynathru made his way to Engineering. Along the way, he ran into more signs of damage-- collapsed bulkheads, ruined power grids, lingering fires and smoke. In some cases he ran into burned or injured crewmen...but what surprised him were the odd Orion crew members he found here and there, lying stone dead without any visible injury. He had run into Lenkra, the ship's surgeon, kneeling over one of the dead Orions on the way. It wasn't battle damage or injury that had killed these Orions, she had told him, but a severe neurotoxin. They had been poisoned.

Normally, he would have wondered at this diagnosis, but he didn't have the luxury of time-- a fact that the shakes and rumbles of the ship kept reminding him of. As he reached Engineering, he found Janga and a squad of his Bekks gathered on the lower floor, waiting for him with disruptor rifles at ready. Engineering itself was a scene of bedlam: smoke and electricity crackled from consoles that had been shot, shattered and overloaded, and the main power distribution console flickered uselessly from what Lynathru guessed was some sort of sabatoge bug. Four seperate Orion crewmen lay slumped dead in various positions, as did Korvag, who was lying against the warp core with a disruptor hole burned into his chest.

And there, standing on the walkway above the main floor, was an Orion crewman, wearing stained engineer's coveralls, smiling as he pointed a disruptor pistol at the immense, glowing red tube of the warp core.

"Captain!" the Orion exclaimed, sounding genuinely cheerful. "I'm glad you're here!"

Lynathru realized he recognized the man. Rashan was one of the more recent ex-Syndicate drafts to his crew, a low-value flunkie who had been released to the KDF by his matron as an alternative to lobotomization. Rashan had been a non-entity to Lynathru, a menial scrub who was simply there to do menial tasks in the Engineering section. Never once had Lynathru even suspected that Rashan had the competency or backbone to do something like this. And yet, here Rashan was, threatening his entire ship with destruction.

Slowly, while the Bekks stood their guard, Lynathru ascended the stairway leading up to the gantry, glowering at the rebellious Orion all the while. "Rashan, are you out of your damned slave mind?" he growled. "Or have you missed the fact that we're currently in a battle? You have ten seconds to drop that pistol and explain yourself before I shove it up your unpleasantries!"

Rashan, damn his eyes, kept smiling. It was a smile utterly devoid of malice, and that disturbed Lynathru all the more. "I apologize for the mess, Captain," he said, glancing at the bodies littering the Engineering room, "but those Orions whom I killed were going to betray you. You'll learn the depth of their disloyalty soon enough." He glanced back to his captain-- at this range, Lynathru could see that the disruptor pistol Rashan was holding had been set to its highest setting. High enough that it would overload and kill Rashan the moment he fired, but also powerful enough to pierce the shielding of the warp core. "But I just wanted to talk to you. There is much that my Masters want you to know."

"Your Masters?" The statement made Lynathru pause. Could Rashan have been in the service of one of the matrons back in the Syndicate? Lynathru had made many powerful enemies before he had joined the KDF, and he wouldn't put it past one of them to plant an agent on his ship to kill him. He took another step up the stairway. By this point, his eyes were level with the other Orion. "Rashan, you are a crewman of this ship," he growled. "You live or die at my choosing. The only master you have is me, and right now, you are displeasing me immensely."

Rashan kept smiling as he shook his head. "I'm sorry, Captain, but I've been claimed by much greater owners," he said. "They spoke to me in my dreams, and claimed me as their own. They are wise, powerful and magnificent, captain, and if you would but listen to their message, you would know that the only wise choice is to submit to their will. To submit, and be a slave. for they are wondrous, magnificent and generous."

Lynathru felt a sinking feeling in his gut. At this point, he realized that Rashan was worse than merely disloyal. He was mad.

He cautiously stepped up fully onto the gantry. "Put the disruptor down, Rashan," he said slowly. "That's an order." As he spoke, he did his best not to think of the few seconds of searing, burning death he would feel if Rashan shot the warp core.

Rashan made no reply. He simply stood there, smiling his looney smile.

And a second later, the screaming started.

It came from out of nowhere, and nearly made Lynathru lose his balance and tumble off the gantry. A terrible, ghastly wail erupted from the furthest corner of the room, reverberating throughout Engineering and sending several chills down Lynathru's spine. He spun around in the direction of the noise, and soon wished that he hadn't.

Several...shapes...were drifting through the walls and flooding into engineering. Shapes was the best word that could be used to describe them: long, whisper-thin arms the length of an Orion body, ending in multiple barbed, pointed digits, reached through the walls and tore into a bunch of surprise engineers. In the blink of an eye, they were dead, their blood splashing the walls. Even as the Bekks and remaining engineers spun around in alarm, more limbs reached through the hull, along with indistinct, shadowy bodies that hovered and billowed like smoke.

Lynathru stared down, unable to believe or comprehend what he was seeing. The Bekks reacted, fuelled by a mixture of discipline and disbelieving panic, and fired their disruptors into the wraith-things as they flooded into the ship. It was like a scene out of the worst ghost stories brought to horrible reality, and for a brief moment, Lynathru felt rooted to the spot, unable to look away from the carnage below.

That was, until Rashan gripped him tightly by the shoulder and pulled him around. Spinning to face the Orion, Lynathru flinched. Rashan was still smiling, but his eyes...his eyes were now glowing red embers that hissed out smoke and heat.

"Lynathru Long-Forgotten," Rashan said in a deep, sibilant intonation that sounded like many voices speaking at once. "Son of a dead line...Lynathru the Betrayed..Lynathru the Disgraced...listen well, for your fate is known in the void."

In spite of the horror and shock he was feeling right now, Lynathru somehow found his voice again. "What are you?" he was able to whisper. A small, irrational part of his mind already knew. Rashan was gone, and his mortal shell was now being worn like a cloak by one of the same ghost-things that was battle Janga and his Bekks down below.

"Three great enemies you will face," the smiling thing wearing Rashan's face went on. ""Three foes who each carry a piece of you...defeating and destroying each of them shall make you more, and less. You shall rise to power while falling into endlessness. You shall be the greatest and the lowliest of your kind." The burning, pupil-less eyes seemed to bore into his soul. "Mark my words, Lynathru the Vengeful, Lynathru the Ascendant, for this is your destiny."

For a moment, Lynathru was speechless. His mouth refused to move, and his voice shrank back into the recesses of his throat. All he could do was stare at those pitiless embers, which stared back, unblinking, from above a white, beatific smile.

Then, all of a sudden, a part of Lynathru's brain screamed no, and his body moved of its own accord. His hands pulled his twin disruptor pistols free from their holsters and fired them both, at point-blank range, into the face of the Rashan-thing.

There was a terrible, keening cry like that of a newborn babe, as well as the horrible stink of burnt flesh, as the Rashan-thing staggered back, dropping its disruptor pistol as it clutched its face. Smoke rose from between its fingers, and Lynathru knew that he had hurt it badly.

"I have only one destiny," Lynathru growled at the shrieking thing, "and it will be written by me. Not by you, the Klingons, or anyone else. Take your prophecy and die."

He fired again. This time, the emerald bolts of his disruptors bypassed flesh and bone alike, and obliterated Rashan's head like a ripe watermelon. The Orion's scorched, headless body went tumbling over the railing and plummeted to the engineering floor with a grisly crunch that could be heard even over the din of battle.

Slowly, Lynathru looked over the railing at Rashan's headless corpse. A few seconds passed, and the mutilated body did not move. He let out a deep breath. Of course it wouldn't move, he realized. He had killed it. He had nothing to be afraid of.

A deep, triumphant bellow caused Lynathru to whirl around. Janga was standing, despite several bloody slashes across his chest, and holding his disruptor rifle over his head while giving a victory yell. His Bekks were mirroring his action, despite the fact that half their number, and a good portion of the engineering staff, were now gory chunks of meat littering the engineering floor.

Of the ghostly invaders, there was no sign.


*****

When Lynathru got back to the bridge, he saw that it was still a mess, with collapsed sections of ceiling, burnt out consoles and a few lingering fires here and there. Despite it all, his crew worked diligently at their stations, ignoring the ruin all around them. KDF discipline, Lynathru mused, seemed to be worth something after all.

Kovar, sitting in the captain's chair, turned to give Lynathru an inquisitive glance. "What happened to the mutineer?" he asked.

"I executed him," was all Lynathru managed to say as he strode onto the bridge. Wordlessly, Kovar moved back to his own chair as Lynathru sat down. After a few seconds, Lynathru took a deep breath, and regained his composure. "Status report?"

"We were forced to fall back when they unleashed a flood of tortured souls against us," Kovar said gruffly. "A few got onto the ship, but we would have been overrun by the rest if the Undine hadn't destroyed the entire swarm with some sort of bio-plamsa torpedo."

Lynathru, despite himself, stared at Kovar. "Tortured what?"

"Tortured souls," Kovar replied with a frown, as though it were the most obvious answer in the world. "The honourless damned of Gre'thor."

Ressic chose this moment to speak up. "The Fek'Ihri vessel unleashed a...very interesting flood of antiproton projectiles at us, Captain," the Lethean said smoothly. "They appeared to be self-propelled, were able to bypass our shields, and each had a distinctly humanoid appearance. More than a few got onto the ship-- I believe that three or four even found their way to engineering." He looked directly at Lynathru as he said this last part, and he could have sworn he had seen a sinister glint in the Lethean's red eyes.

Kovar glared at Ressic, as though angry for the scientific explanation. "They were the honourless souls of Gre'thor, Lethean," he growled. "It is folly to treat them as any mere weapon."

"Enough of that!" Lynathru interrupted, not wanting an argument now of all times. "What's the ship's status?"

"Weapons are back online!" Farra reported. "We've escaped their weapons range for now, Captain, and are ready to make another attack run at your order."

Well that was comforting, at least. Looking at the viewscreen, Lynathru saw the Fek'Ihri and Undine ships continuing their duel, beams crisscrossing back and forth. So far, the Undine had not fired on them, and, if what Kovar said was true, had even given them some assistance. Even so, Lynathru wasn't so naive as to assume the shape-changers were allies.

"Alright then...take us in, Attack Pattern Alpha," he ordered.

With a hum of its impulse engines, the Notqa zoomed back towards the Fek'Ihri ship, wings outspread in a swooping motion.

Noticing the Klingon Bird of Prey, the Kar'Fi carrier once again unleashed harrowing antiproton beams against the Notqa, even as it split its fire between the Klingon and Undine vessels. Once again, however, Sadra's deft piloting skills were showcased as the Bird of Prey spun and darted, evading the Fek'Ihri's fire as it closed the distance.

"We're in optimal range, Captain!" Farra reported.

Lynathru had a sense of deja vu. "Fire," he ordered, hoping, against all hopes, that the weapons would work now that Rashan's sabotage had been dealt with.

His hopes were rewarded as flashes of viridian energy filled the screen. The Notqa's disruptor cannons and turret blazed to life, unleashing a storm of rapid-firing bolts against the massive Fek'Ihri ship. The first few shots were easily absorbed by the Fek'Ihri's shields, but after a few seconds of sustained fire, the shields gave way, and the disruptor volley raked the carrier's hull, leaving small, fiery ruptures where they hit.

Banking to the left, the Notqa swooped, avoiding a retaliatory burst of antiproton fire as it dove in along the carrier's flank, the hulls of the two ships almost touching. The Notqa raced along the Kar'Fi's side, blasting chunks out of the grotesque ship as it flew along the bigger ship's hull. As the Notqa flew past the Kar'Fi's stern, a trail of burning hull breaches was left along the enemy's flank, its hull ripped open and exposed to the void.

The Kar'Fi had been wounded by the Notqa's attack run, but it still had teeth. More screeching antiproton fire lashed out at the Bird-of-Prey as it sought to punish the little ship that had hurt it. Sadra pulled the ship into a barrel roll, evading the red death of the Fek'Ihri weapons and wheeling the ship around for another pass. The Notqa's disruptors blazed to life again as the Bird of Prey dropped low, weaving between the massive spines of the Kar'Fi and shooting up into the enemy's underhull. Just before the Notqa flew clear, Farra fired a plasma torpedo up into the enemy's vulnerable underside. Rusted red hull plates were blasted asunder as the plasma torpedo detonated, gouging a massive blazing hull breach between the Fek'Ihri ship's spines as the Notqa flew clear.

Even with Sadra's skillful evasion, however, the Notqa could not avoid the Fek'Ihri's return fire for long. One stabbing read beam struck the stern of the Bird-of-Prey, and the entire ship shook as the ship's frail shields went out completely. But even as the Fek'Ihri landed this hit, the Undine ship had turned, bringing its powerful fore weapons to bear against the ruined starboard flank of the Fe'Ihri ship.

A sickly yellow beam shot from between the Undine ships's trident-like prongs, drilling deep into the Kar'Fi's unshielded flank and tearing deeply into the wound that had been created by the Notqa's first attack. The Fek'Ihri ship seemed to shudder, and, watching on the viewscreen, Lynathru imagined that the ship must be suffering massive internal damage and crew casualties by this point. Red fire and ozone leaked from the rents in the Kar'Fi's hull, and though it was still operational, it was clear that hulking Fek'Ihri ship had been crippled.

The Kar'Fi only had a chance to fire one last, vindictive antiproton beam at the Undine ship before its foe loosed a radiant yellow orb in return. The bio-plasma torpedo buried itself deep in the Kar'Fi's ruptured hull, and in an instant, secondary explosions began to rip through the ship, sending gouts of flame bursting forcefully from within as though trying to escape the Kar'Fi's demise. A second later, the Fek'Ihri ship erupted in a tremendous ball of orange flame, sending charred bits of hull scything out in all directions.

The shockwave hit the Notqa dead on, and Lynathru was almost thrown from his chair as the Bird of Prey was buffetted like a toy boat against the wind.

"Damage report!" he called.

"Minimal hull damage from the shockwave," Rresh reported, "though are hull is still under fifty percent from the battle. I will however, have our shields fully restored in twenty seconds or so, Captain."

Lynathru said nothing further as he looked at the flaming cluster of debris that used to be the Fek'Ihri carrier. He couldn't explain why, but he felt a deep, vindictive satisfaction at the carrier's destruction. His mood was soured as he saw the shape of the Undine vessel past the blazing debris, and vividly remembered the impressive display of Undine firepower that had ended the Fek'Ihri in the first place.

"Farra," he asked, "how many torpedoes do we have left?"

"Twelve, sir," the Tactical Officer replied.

Twelve. That would still be enough, Lynathru hoped, to deal with the Undine. He took a sideways glance at Kovar, and could instantly tell that the old Klingon felt as he did. The Undine might have aided them against the Fek'Ihri, but they were still Undine. To trust them was to ask for a knife in the back.

"Sadra, take us around for another attack run," Lynathru ordered, "this time on the Undine ship. Let's see if we can finish what the Fek'Ihri bastards started."

Sadra made no reply at first as she tapped at her console. Her eyes widened, though, as new information beeped into existence. "Captain," she said, "the Undine ship has changed its course. It's heading back to the wormhole!"

The viewscreen shifted. As Lynathru watched, the Undine bio-ship, still leaking fluid from its many wounds, began to glide back towards the yawning chasm of the wormhole.

"Shall we pursue, sir?" Sadra asked, voicing the question the entire bridge crew was no doubt wondering. It was plain to see that the Undine ship was close to death, but at this distance, it would probably get to the wormhole before the Notqa could get into weapons range. And Lynathru was not so bloodthirsty as to dive into a strange wormhole just to finish off a wounded enemy-- for all he knew, the hole could close permanently behind them, and he and his ship would be trapped in whatever strange dimension this battle had started in in the first place.

"No," he breathed. "Let them go, Sadra."

Kovar gave a displeased grunt next to him. Lynathru ignored the old Klingon as he watched the Undine ship drift back into the wormhole. Then, just as suddenly as it had arrived, the wormhole closed, vanishing entirely from sight and leaving only empty space in its wake.

"I am not detecting any further verteron activity, Captain," Ressic said. "It appears that the wormhole has closed permanently."

Lynathru took a deep breath. He felt tired. Tired, and disturbed-- as much as he didn't want to admit it, he still felt a little rattled by the things he had witnessed in Engineering. And as much as he wanted to forget them, the words of the demon-thing that had possessed Rashan still reverberated in his mind.

"Farra, send a message to the battlegroup," he ordered. "Inform them of what has happened, and advise them of possible further Undine or Fek'Ihri incursions in this area. Rresh, I want Engineering thoroughly examined for any lingering signs of sabotage. In the meantime...Sadra, resume our previous course. We still have Federation ships to hunt."

He stood up, and headed to the turbolift. "And if anyone needs me at all," he finished, "I will be in my quarters." He would need a lot of blood wine, he knew, before this day was over.

Last edited by ambassadormolari; 06-24-2013 at 07:15 PM.
Captain
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,061
# 17
06-24-2013, 06:20 AM
Captain's Log: Stardate 88455.3


Surprises.

One of the less favorable perks of the job I suppose. This weeks surprise had popped up off starboard in the form of a wormhole and a rather large Tholian ship emerging from it. A Recluse carrier ready and prepared to attack. The Geist was just barely able to get shields up as fighters came screaming through the anomaly, tetryon beams blasting away. The shields were taking a beating but the antiproton turrets were able to warm up and pick off as many of them as possible as we took evasive maneuvers. Most of the weapons relays are sent to the forward arc so if we were going to have any chance against the Recluse we would need to get the guns aimed right at it, which was going to prove difficult as it began launching the next wave of fighters.

As we came about the carrier moved fully out of the wormhole and we were able to see a small flank of fighters were using some kind of energy beams to hold the wormhole open. This attack had been deliberate and planned, normal Tholian attacks phase into other realities, the use of wormholes wasn't something they usually needed.

"Hail them."

"Captain?"

"Do it."


It didn't take long for the firing to stop before the next surprise came.

"Well Hullo you Handsome Devil."

Captain James Charles Donovan, grizzled and scarred with one eye missing. It would seem that even after all this time even the Tholians couldn't seem to solve his dilemma. I had to laugh a little at how stubborn I can really be at times.

"How've you been Jimmy?"

Even his voice seemed to be just as grizzled as his face now.

"I've been better."

"As have I Jimmy, as have I." He sighed before continuing. "Although I must admit, I have been making a little bit better for myself lately. I guess you can't really keep a good Donovan down... Or a bad on in this case. As you can see, I've even managed to get myself a brand new ship since the Spiders lost my last one."

"What do you want Captain?" I asked coldly. I would have requested that he didn't call me Jimmy, but frankly he would have kept doing it anyway. It's a power thing for him, he likes to think of himself as the 'superior' Donovan, something I might be able to use against him later.

"My dear friend... Last time you refused what was supposed to be my final request. In doing so you've managed to give me a new purpose in life... Making yours a living hell."

"And how do you-"

"I know you so well Captain, yet so very little. I know you as well as you know yourself, yet I know nothing about your life outside of our last chat, and to be honest I've realized that I just don't care anymore. As far as I'm concerned your life is just as empty as mine, which is why I've just decided to end it all. I've come to terms with the idea of killing myself, and luckily for me, I don't have to be that self to do it. Just so you know Jimmy, I plan to do it Myself, up close and in person.... Let's begin shall we?"

With that he gestured to continue the attack. The smug bastard didn't even bother to close the channel, he just smiled away as the fighters began tearing down the shields. Another gesture and the Recluse itself began firing as well. The ship rocked as I ordered the channel closed and fire all weapons. For the time being, we had to divert power from weapons to shields so the forward cannons wouldn't be nearly as effective. He planned this well, using the Recluse and its fighters to keep the shields under pressure.

Initially, we were able to hold off the fighters but Eventually the shields began to fail, transferring additional power did nothing, reversing shield polarity failed moments later. I ordered separation hoping that three ships would have better luck than just the one. Alpha and Beta segments kept pushing the assault on the carrier itself while Gamma section kept the fighters busy. The Recluse began firing at will allowing them to target them to attack all three segments, but each shot wasn't hitting it as hard. Another lucky break for us.

We were the battle progressed slowly, but we were making a slow pull to victory. The other Donovan must have been picking up on this as well because soon he began launching fighters unmanned and computer controlled. They were all set on a collision course, undoubtedly filled with some explosive elements. All three ships were taking hits harder than they could take so I gave the order to concentrate all fire on the fighters as the carrier still hammered away.

The shields were failing as the ships weaved in and out of the beams, each blasting away at the fighters when Alpha section was shaken by a dud, the fighter had just bounced off what was left of the shields. I though nothing of it, but then we were rocked by a second explosion. Our shields dropped completely as an armed team beamed aboard the bridge catching us completely off guard. There standing in front of me, was me, again with that broken but smug look on his face.

A face I took great pleasure in punching as hard as I could.

Well worth the the stock to my stomach.

"I've waited a long time to see you again Jimmy, it's a shame that you didn't have this kind of fight last time. Although to be honest after spending that long being tortured at the hands of the Tholians, you might just end up looking like I do. No doubt you've noticed my voice? Permanently damaged. Not from the Tholians per say, but the screaming from the torture. Hours at a time, days on end. I do believe I died a few times, but those pesky spiders have their ways.... It makes what I did to you look like a slap on the wrist. Call back your ships Jimmy, or I'll kill everybody one by one."

That angry smirk again, I had no choice but to agree, but Keating...OUR Keating looked furious, but he didn't understand this man. While the Federation prepares you for the possibility of dealing with the possible horrors a captain might face, it can't actually prepare a person for those terrible things face to face. The things the other Donovan is capable of are horrific and to that I've only seen a fraction. In this day and age, the things he was willing to do would change a person... It took a few weeks of dermal regeneration to remove the scars, months of counseling with E'Saul after that before I could even sleep a full night.

Even I didn't know what he was fully capable of, only that he was indeed capable. It was at that point he paused. It took me a moment to realize why, but he had noticed Commander T'Pal and his smug expression changed suddenly to one of anger as he walked over and hit her with his phaser handle. As I began to move toward them I was gut checked by one of the away team, dropping me to my knees. Keating lunged at the guy letting into him as hard as he could. As Donovan turned he blasted Keating straight in the shoulder. He summoned two of his team to take T'Pal to my ready room before crossing the bridge, pistol whipping me to the floor as he passed. He kicked Keating square in the burnt shoulder causing him to fall back in pain.

I struggled to get up as Donovan held down my tac officer with his boot on the wounded arm, without saying a word he began burning a hole through it. It must have been at the lowest setting because David wasn't being stunned or disintegrated, but he just lay there yelling as the phaser burned straight through, I could hear it searing into the floor. The young ensign at the con screamed, but the mirror Donovan stayed focused as one of his team, stunned the young man as he threw up from the smell of Keating's burning flesh. I began to blackout, all I could see was the inhuman expression on Donovan's face. As everything went dark around me, all I could think was that I couldn't protect my crew, I was helpless...

When I came too, the ships were already reconnected and all of my senior staff were in the brig minus my first officer. E'Saul had been treating my wounds and took the time to fill in a few gaps for me. The secondary explosion had been the same tactic T'Pal used when I had been taken in our first encounter with our Mirror counterparts. Once the shields were down, they began beaming in and took the Alpha section in no time. Once the other two segments rejoined they took the whole ship. Engineering was the last section taken, Devon herself was in the next cell over with a few of the security staff. Before I could ask, E'Saul put her finger into the cut on my head, silencing me before tilting her head towards the guards.

It seemed that we still had an ace in our sleeve, a certain undetectable crewman roaming the Jefferies. Nurse Fizi was still being held in sickbay treating crew that had been injured by Donovan's, as well as keeping an eye on David. She was also doing her best as a Betazoid to keep in touch with E'Saul as well as pass orders to Wraith as best she can. Even though the boy was technically Vulcan, E'Saul says most of his brain responsible for any telepathic abilities were rewired to make most of his physical augments work. Even though he wasn't able to use telepathy, she says all the parts were still there for Fizi to send him messages.

If we were going to retake the ship, the first thing we needed was a distraction, and we had a little used ship system that would be perfect. E'Saul formed the mind meld and played telephone to get a plan and the authorization codes to Wraith. Within a few minutes the red alert was blaring and the guards rushed from the room, another minute and the Tholians were charging threw the halls. I guess from all the panic, no one realized they weren't wearing EV suits. Weapons materialized and the crew began taking back the ship, myself and the senior staff heading straight to the bridge where T'Pal was still being held. I ordered Edison to relieve Wraith at the computer core and monitor the ships photonic systems. As for the boy, I would need his help on the bridge.

As we cleared our way to my ready room there was very little holding us back. It would seem most of the mirror crew were still traumatized, most of which ceased up at the sight of the Tholians attacking, but some of the more seasoned vets were a little tougher to take out. Mr. Sabin rewired the door as Wraith and I were ready to breach the room. As expected he was half crazed, the Tholians had shaken him up something fierce, but he was holding on to T'Pal who was in bad shape. There was something in his hand, some crude form of medical instrument like a syringe, that he was holding to her temple.

I didn't know what to do, to be honest I was semi-frozen in fear, especially after what he had done to me. I was standing there, unable to move, unable to act or to save T'Pal, when that single, crazed, wild eye shifted passed me and all color left his face. Wraith had come in behind me, and in the instant of his distraction and my failure to act, in that single instant he ceased being 'The Boy' and became 'The Weapon'. Using that unnatural quickness of his, the other Donovan didn't have time to react, I didn't even realize what had happened before I heard the rasp yelling. Wraith had broken every bone in his hand well before the needle had been in freefall.

A single twist and his arm was rendered broken and useless. What followed was a complete surgical breakdown of the human nervous system. Each strike swift and precise and he alternated breaking bone and impacting nerves, what little of his life was left, Wraith made sure it would be spent in agony. Again, there in his red on black eyes, I saw no trace of the shy crewman, nor any emotion other than cold calculating rage at what had been done to a member of his surrogate family. As Donovan dropped to the floor so did any sign of the monster inside Wraith as he was beside T'Pal with the same quickness. As he held her close, she began to break.

That emotionless veil crumbled as she broke down and began crying, it was only logical for anyone who had been through this. Even I broke down on several occasions in my quarters after what that monster of a man did to me, T'Pal is stronger than I am and even then, my heart sank for her and I could do nothing more than hold them both and cry as well. None of us had noticed that the other Donovan, as broken and flooded with pain as we was, had managed to inject himself with whatever was in that needle. His struggling stopped, even the seizures he was having stopped. It must have triggered something on the Recluse as he dematerialized, transported most likely by the Mirror Keating.

I told Wraith to get the Commander to sickbay as fast as he could while Sabin and I regained bridge control. Hitting red alert, I ordered battle stations and expected to be rocked by another series of explosions. Explosions that never came. The Geist was completely vulnerable, yet no attack was made. I began ordering status reports, but most of the primary systems were down due to the explosion of the shield generators. We were wide open and all that happened was the ship reversed course, not even bothering to turn, the Recluse began to back it's way through the wormhole that the fighters had managed to keep open this whole time. Back down the rabbit hole as it were.

I was at a loss, even the stoic Mr. Sabin seemed to be perplexed by the entire events of the day. For the time being though we could only count this as a small victory. Emergency transwarp drive was activated and before long the ship managed to warp back to Earth SpaceDock. There were twenty wounded and ten crew killed in the ordeal, E'Saul and Mr. Sabin saw fit that Commander T'Pal be returned to Vulcan for treatments and rehabilitation as well as a long rest before I even begin to ask her if she's ready to return, not after everything that had happened to her.

Last edited by wraithshadow13; 06-24-2013 at 06:33 AM.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 176
# 18 Out of the Dragon's Den
06-24-2013, 10:43 PM
LC44: Out of the Dragon's Den

Quote:
Captain's Log, Stardate 87174.98. A Captain Jay Yim at Earth Spacedock has challenged me to tour the galaxy in an effort to foster a spirit of friendly competition between Starfleet officers with a hefty payoff for each sector visited. What he doesn't know is that Admiral Starfyre of the USS Fermion has given me a map for the quickest way around explored space, heh heh! The Lord English is about to reach Pelia Sector before transwarping back to Earth Spacedock.
===

"After eons of slumber, we have built a new empire in this wide galaxy. This domain is your birthright, forged from our knowledge of the Underspace and the technologies we have conquered from our enemies. From the womb you have been crafted to become a withering Blight on our foes. Our soldiers have never failed to return victory since your creation! Now we face a threat to our existence on par with the ancient enemy which forced our species to rebuild from the ashes. Never forget the fires of the past, in which your forebears were snuffed out in a night of blazing heat! Remember the sacrifices made for you to live, and fight for the future of our species! The four thousand lives which you shoulder as your burden will remember you even as you fade away into stardust."

Stardust...

Vaadwaur Junior Adjutant Lesa ruminated on the speech given by Director Gaul, the aged leader of the Vaadwaur, before this battle, even as another of her thrall wingmen exploded into fine particles. She began to feel fear, in defiance of the safeguards in her genome. Could this enemy be one the Vaadwaur could not overcome? Lesa shook the idea from her head; defeatism was an enemy like any other, and the Vaadwaur has never lost to an enemy in the thirty-three years since they returned to power. This foe would fall like all aliens who crossed the Vaadwaur. Lesa began to settle her nerves by recounting a childhood story, The Victories of the Vaadwaur, even as she angled her assault fighter into another run on the enemy formation. As her flight leader said, "Victories are the best way to improve spirits."

"Victory over extinction, the Sleepers awake from stasis and claim a new homeworld. Victory over nature, Project Blight is completed when the surviving Vaadwaur children display sure signs of their genetic enhancement. Victory over obsolescence, the Blight win their first victory at the Talax-ilzay colony of Prema II and make off with their modern technology."

The subspace cannons of the assault fighter violently ripped apart the enemy frigates, but Lesa couldn't rest easy, as other ships were menacing the ships of the servant species which protected the Vaadwaur attack group, and too many losses could incite panic and leave the Vaadwaur open to direct attack.

"Victory of technology, Vaadwaur scientific progress surpasses that of the Vaadwaur's ancient enemy, the Turei."

Out of the corner of her eye, Lesa spots a small fighter angling towards her rear. A quick jink puts the fighter in her sights before a microtorpedo barrage obliterates it.

"Victory of the next generation, the Blight successfully produce a new generation of Vaadwaur augments. Victory of the flag, the Blight cow the former members of the Turei alliance from turning to the Turei; the Zz'gashi, the Dinarans, and the Slothien switch allegiences to the Vaadwaur."

A series of explosions off to her right catches her attention. The last of her thrall wingmen gave their lives to protect their Vaadwaur overlords from harm, and now this mysterious enemy were now angling towards the main Vaadwaur force. Lesa realized there was no room to escape, for unlike the Vaadwaur's other enemies, these foes existed in the Underspace, using it against them. The gruff voice of her flight leader Senior Officer Kurin broke in on the comm channel.

"The attack has failed. Fall back to normal space and regroup. We cannot let the enemy take the Underspace to the homeworld."

Chilling words, Lesa thought. No Vaadwaur has ever lost to an enemy since the Turei alliance destroyed the old homeworld. However, the low Vaadwaur population meant that any Vaadwaur death exposed the entire civilization to extermination again. Lesa prepared to make the reversion to normal space when she felt her ship pulled directly in front of an enemy battleship. A metallic X with glowing green growths had snared the young Junior Adjutant using a fold in the Underspace. With engines inoperative, Lesa could only watch as green crescents began impacting her ship.

In a flash, another assault fighter launched a flurry of isolytic bursts on the enemy battleship, drawing its attention from Lesa's fighter. Senior Officer Kurin began dropping all his ordinance in between the enemy and Lesa.

"Junior Adjutant, your flight leader orders you to find any means to escape. Whatever my fate will be is insignificant. The future of the Vaadwaur depends on the youth. Now hurry! I won't be able to hold them off much longer."

The Vaadwaur do not disobey orders, Lesa thought, even if they found reason to disobey. With her engines disabled, Lesa had only one option to escape. Activating a transwarp drive, she pointed her vessel towards open Underspace and let the Borg engine take her far from the battle. She continued recounting Vaadwaur victories until she blacked out.

"Victory over the ancient enemy, Operation Undershaft is successful, drawing the Turei homeworld into a subspace rift and fatally wounding the Turei species. Victory of revanchism, the Vaadwaur Empire forces the Devore off contested planets. Victory against the Borg, the..."

---

"We've crossed the border into Pelia, Admiral."

Vice Admiral Remus Lee looked up from the sketchbook he was drawing in.

"Has ESD noted our transition into Pelia?" he asked.
"Jay Yim has received our coordinates and congratulates us for completing the course," his first officer Kay Taylor responded. "We're ready to return when you say so."
"Let's away then," he replied. "We might still have enough time to run another circuit."

Just then an alert sounded. Chief Sensors Officer Ten of Twenty-Five hailed the bridge from her station.

"Admiral, a singularity is forming near our position!" she reported. "Something is coming out of it at high speeds!"

A twin-hulled, three-engined vessel barrelled out of a wormhole off of Lord English's starboard bow on collision course towards the vessel. Recognizing the danger through countless hours of training, the English's crew springs into action; a quick decompression of the main shuttlebay later and the English puts itself out of harm's way.

"Did anyone get that?" Lee asked.
"We've got a tractor beam lock on the object. It looks like a small, badly damaged warship," Chief of Operations Kovat Vystan replied. "Sensors indicate one lifesign. It appears to be dormant."
"Strange wormhole ships never have good things for us," Lee mused. "Starfleet regulations do say we have to lend aid to those who need it though. Have the pilot taken to the sickbay on the Aquarius pod. If things go south, we can always chuck it."

---

Lesa awoke to a quiet room. Her last memory was traveling at transwarp deep into the Underspace, leaving Senior Officer Kurin in the hand of the Underspace enemy.

"Where am I?" she wondered. "Was I captured by the enemy?"

She looked around and found a cabinet left slightly ajar; although it was small, she was genetically engineered to be pliant, and no enemy would expect an attack from such an unexpected vector. She quickly compacted herself to be ready to leap from the cabinet.

"Grandfather, are you there? How is our new patient?" came a voice from the corridor. Commander Ten of Twenty-Five came in to the Jake English's sickbay looking for her grandfather, Chief Medical Officer Four of Thirteen. After looking around, she saw hide nor hair of anybody. Sensing something wrong, she began contacting her grandfather on her combadge.

"Commander Four of Thirteen, please respond. The new patient seems to have gone missing."

She scanned the room more thoroughly, looking for clues as to where their new patient went. As she checked under the biobed, her back turned to the cabinet Lesa was hiding in.

"Now's my chance. I can take this crew member hostage and fight my way off this ship!" she thought to herself as she lept out of the cabinet at Ten.

In a matter of seconds, the confrontation was over with a female body splayed on the biobed. Commander Ten of Twenty-Five was saved by her Borg reflexes, an idea she didn't relish much, although she was thankful for it.

"Cancel that alert, Grandfather, I found her," she replied. Turning to Lesa, she began an informal interrogation.
"Why did you attack me?" she asked, as security personnel poured into the room.

Lesa was surprised to hear the Borg drone speaking Vaadwaur, but replied nonetheless.

"Enemies of the Vaadwaur deserve no mercy, and you have committed the affront of capturing one," she replied.
"I did not know that we had captured you, only that your ship nearly crashed into ours," Ten stated.
"If your ship was in the way, you should have done more to catch it. Now unhand me at once, else the Blight of the Vaadwaur come to take you apart for your Borg parts, drone," she snapped.

Ten curdled at the patient's remark.

"Listen, miss Vaadwaur, I don't know what how your species teaches children, but I don't think any Vaadwaur disease is going to help you out. From what I've learned, the Vaadwaur were last seen by USS Voyager 25,470 light years away," she retorted.

Lesa was taken aback. Where did that transwarp jump in Underspace take her?

"I refuse to believe you. This could be a plot by your masters to cause me to divulge the location of the homeworld. Are you part of the Voyagers who tried to stop the Vaadwaur from returning by killing the Sleepers?"

Ten bristled at this remark.

"Now I know that your instructors haven't taught you manners. If you want proof you're not in Vaadwaur anymore, look out the window!" she sneered as she retracted the blast cover on the sickbay's skylight. Lesa stared at the ceiling, at awe by the sight.

The gleaming edifice of Earth Spacedock shone in Sol's rays, as countless ships of all kinds warped in to dock. Below, Earth glittered as countless lights twinkled on and off, more lights than Lesa had ever seen allowed on a planet. Truly, this was far from the war-ravaged lands of the Vaadwaur.

---

Back on the bridge, Vice Admiral Lee began sketching in his sketchbook again. A stray thought crossed his mind.

"Now that I think about it, was it a good idea to return to Earth with a potentially hostile being?"

He drove the thought from his mind. He got the prize from Captain Yim for completing the Galaxy Tour, so whatever.

TO BE CONTINUED...
http://sto-forum.perfectworld.com/showthread.php?p=5629511#post5629511

Literary Challenges Entries- Star Trek Online: Lord English
Dramatis Personae of Star Trek Online: Lord English

Last edited by zidanetribal; 08-09-2013 at 09:56 PM.
Former PWE Community Team Lead
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 9,046
# 19
06-25-2013, 10:16 AM
Awesome entries this round, Captains! I think you all took the little bit of backstory I provided and really ran with it. Nice work

I am going to unstick this as I prepare to post #45, but please feel free to still contribute if you have not done so yet!

Cheers,

Brandon =/\=
Brandon "BranFlakes" Felczer | Former Community Team Lead for Perfect World Entertainment
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