Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,074
# 11 Shadows of the Past
06-26-2013, 01:13 AM
Your love is cradled in knowing,
Eyes in the mirror,
Still expecting they'll come,
And sensing too well, when the journey is done
There is no turning back, no,
There is no turning back on the run...

- Robert Plant, Big Log


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


Virinat smelled like green. And fertilizer, of course, but mostly green. Nniol tr'Keiniadh took a deep breath of the air. It had been a day of hard work, not unusual on a Rihannsu colony world, especially since the loss of ch'Rihan some twenty cycles before; it had also been a little bizarre, what with the behavior of the bugs and that strange cybernetic insect Nniol had found in the cave. That was someone else's worry, though. Nniol had been practicing not worrying about things for almost a local year, and he was starting to get pretty good at it.

Tonight was no night for worry anyway. Harvest Festival! A night of partying, gorging as if food had never been in short supply, and perhaps an evening with a lovely young lady or two - the entire colony had been looking forward to this night. Word was that D'Vex had even smuggled in some fireworks, harmless but made contraband recently by the increasingly-aggressive Tal Shiar, the new de facto government of the Empire under Sela, that half-breed-- Nniol consciously stopped himself, taking another deep breath. Not your problem these days, remember, Nniol? Let someone who's still under her thumb worry about that...

Nniol's comlink beeped. He activated the screen; his young friend Tovan, a technician from the starport repair facility, looked out at him. "Are you done in the fields yet, Nniol?"

"Yes, I finished up about half an hour ago."

"Great. Come meet me at the square - they're about to open the new vintage of ale!"

Nniol grinned. Rumor was that someone had managed to tweak the fermentation of the khellid nectar to make something that actually tasted like proper Romulan ale! "I'll be right there, Tovan. Save me a mug!"

"No promises, Nniol," Tovan laughed. "Better get over here before I drink it all myself!"

"On my way!" Nniol signed off, then started jogging toward the square.

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

"My friends! Welcome to Virinat's Harvest Festival!" The Maiori, smiling like a born politician, droned on from the podium, going on about "new friends" and "old losses"; the crowd was tolerant, but clearly far more interested in decanting the new ale than listening to his speech. At last the old man wound down. "And so, without further ado, let the Festival begin!"

The cries were loud and lusty as the fireworks began erupting overhead; abruptly, however, the cries turned to screams as a strange black ship loomed overhead. A green ball of plasma burned its way through the sky, exploding as it hit a nearby silo.

"Nniol! Nniol, are you all right?"

Nniol blinked, and blinked again, clearing away the haze. Tovan knelt over him. "How did I get down here?" Nniol asked, stunned.

"The explosion. We're under attack, Nniol! I have to get to the port and help get the shuttles ready to evacuate! Go round up people and send them to the field! And see if you can find the milita!"

Nniol shook his head to clear it. Tovan ran off toward the field as he got up. Nearby, he saw a group of the local militia, unused to fighting anything but the local fauna, trying desperately to look cool and confident as they grasped their plasma rifles. At that moment, another explosion struck, blinding Nniol; as the dust cleared, he saw that the entire group had been felled. Feeling trapped in a dream, he saw himself running forward, grabbing one of the rifles, shouldering it expertly, and firing at the point the grenade had come from. A warrior in the uniform of the Tal Shiar fell from the rooftop, screaming momentarily.

Tal Shiar?? How did they find me-- no, Nniol. That's not important right now. Get these people out of here while there's still time!

His comlink beeped. "Nniol? Nniol, are you there?"

He pulled it up. "I'm here, Tovan. I think most of the militia are dead."

"Elements! Listen, Nniol, we have to evacuate the colony. But we need help, too. Can you get to a comm panel?"

"Probably, but the power's down. I can't get a signal out."

"Sure you can. Get to one of the cameras in the market, get a battery out, and jack that into a comm panel. Then hit the Distress button. That should give you enough power for at least a moment or two; it's not like you're delivering a speech to the Senate, just screaming 'Help!"

"Okay, I'll give it a try. tr'Keiniadh out." He replaced the comlink at his belt, realizing a moment too late that he'd closed with precise military phrasing. I'll probably have to explain that one later, if the Elements favor us. I'd better try to think up a good story first.

The plaza was crossed with beams and bursts of plasma, as the colonists tried vainly to battle the far superior Tal Shiar forces. "To the field!" Nniol shouted. "Everyone to the launching field! We have to evacuate! Move, move, move!!!" Colonists began heading toward the launching fields, as Nniol provided covering fire with his rifle. Long-ago training, virtually unused for over six cycles, came unbidden to him: Lead the target; blast speed is affected by local magnetic fields. Aiming software activated - thank Fire and Air this unit's equipped. Always identify your target before shooting. As the crowd moved away, Nniol worked his way across the plaza, dashing from cover to cover, picking off Tal Shiar along the way. At last he reached a wall overlooking a silo entrance next to the market; a camera hung there, its optics charred and blasted in the attack. Air and Earth watch over me, Nniol prayed, and let the battery be untouched!

He jimmied the case open, and found his prayers answered. A few moments' prying, and his prize lay in his hand. Now for the next part - where's a comm console? Ah, over there. Firing one-handed now, Nniol crossed to the comm panel at the market's exit, frying down the two Tal Shiar assigned to guard it. He stepped over their heated corpses, wrinkling his nose for a moment at the stench of burned flesh and boiled copper and the ancient memories it revived, then accessed the battery panel, plugged the battery in, and powered the console up. "Attention, any ships within range!" he said into the mic. "This is Virinat Colony, Nniol tr'Keiniadh speaking. We are under attack, I repeat, we are under attack! Mixed forces, Tal Shiar and unidentified aliens! Don't bother replying, just respond to our location immediately, please! Location beacon will remain active as long as possible! Repeating..." He switched the console to autorepeat, then began making his own way to the launch field.

A new wrinkle emerged; Nniol saw colonists flying into the air, seemingly unsupported. What in--? Then he saw the creatures, similar in shape to the cyborg insects he'd seen earlier, but much larger, grasping people by their torsos and dragging them screaming toward the massive black ship that still hovered overhead. He tried to shoot some of them down, but between their speed and the hostages he feared harming, he might as well have been shooting at spirits. He redoubled his efforts to reach the launching platform.

Finally he reached the ramp to the platform. "Thank the Elements!" Tovan shouted. "I'm pretty sure we've got all the survivors aboard the shuttles. We're headed for the ships in orbit. Get aboard - we'll take D'Vex's old Warbird, he's shown me some tricks we can use!"

"Just a moment," Nniol replied. Turning, he burned down the three Tal Shiar soldiers who'd been trailing him. "Okay, here I come!"

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

Hordes of spacecraft, from bulk haulers that had been planetside for repairs to tiny shuttlecraft holding barely a dozen (but nearly all critically overloaded), struggled into the sky over Virinat. The space immediately above blazed with plasma beams and explosions, as the Tal Shiar in orbit picked at the fleeing refugees. Many of the shuttles were reaching orbiting ships - but not enough. As Tovan piloted their shuttle, Nniol listened helplessly to the pleading on the radio - because of me, he thought.

"Attention, hostile craft! This is Virinat Shuttle Five! We are a civilian craft! We are unarmed! Accept our surren--" Shuttle Five blossomed into a ball of fire.

Tovan cursed. "They're killing everybody! This doesn't make any sense!"

"In a twisted way, it may make more sense than you know, Tovan."

"What? What do you mean?"

"Later. When we're out of this. One moment, we're getting an encoded transmission..."

"Shuttle Twenty-Three, this is Shuttle Twelve. Tovan, we're blocking their sensors. When they get us, it'll look like you got caught in the explo--" Static hissed, as the explosion of Shuttle Twelve rocked their small craft.

"Cut thrusters, Tovan," Nniol ordered, in the tone of one used to obedience. "They're right - at this angle, we'll look like debris. We can shape orbit for the warbird when the attack ship goes away."

Tovan shut off the ship's thrusters, and the little craft went dark."Okay, Nniol, but I sure hope you know what you're doing."

"So do I."

Several tense moments passed, until the Mogai-class frigate moved away, seeking other easy prey. When its attention was firmly elsewhere, Tovan reignited the thrusters, and in a matter of moments the shuttle and its load of refugees was navigating the debris field in which D'Vex had concealed his old warbird, the Emerald Flame. The automated docking mechanisms were still in good shape, and the shuttle locked firmly to the main airlock of the aged starship.

"Everybody move!" Nniol ordered over the intercom. "We need to get inboard the Flame and get her moving yesterday, people! Move, move, move!"

"Come on, Nniol," Tovan said. "This way to the bridge."

"Thanks, Tovan, but I know my way around a T'liss. Get to Engineering - you know more about that than anyone else aboard. I can run the bridge until you get things set up."

Tovan gave Nniol a look. "Well, all right," he said reluctantly, "but when all this is over, you definitely owe me a story."

"I'll try to make it a good one." The turbolift doors closed behind Nniol, and soon reopened on the ship's bridge. He walked slowly into the room, memories filling his mind as he ran his fingers over the consoles. After a few moments, he regathered his thoughts, sat at the helm console, and began tying ship's functions into his controls.

Tovan called from Engineering. "I've got the singularity core spun up. You'll have partial impulse in a few moments, and full impulse not long after that. It'll be a while before we have warp, however. Oh, and the weapon systems should be online. You'll want to familiarize yourself with them - D'Vex changed a few things out over the years."

Nniol called up the weapons display, and ran down the list. Plasma torpedo, standard; forward plasma beam banks, okay, I'd have used an array, but... Turret aft? I see you're a straight-on fighter, D'Vex. I can work with this. "Thanks, Tovan. When you're ready, I could use a hand up here - piloting and shooting's a bit much." He switched to all-hail. "Attention, all hands," he announced. "This is Nniol tr'Keiniadh, currently in command. If anyone here has any experience in running a ship, any ship, please report to the appropriate department. I'm especially looking for someone who can keep an eye on a standard singularity core. Also communications, medical - anything, really, it's just me and Tovan Khev up here. Thanks." He switched the intercom off. There, that should have been folksy enough. Having to explain things to Tovan's going to be bad enough.

The Emerald Fire's engines lit, and the little ship moved slowly away from the debris field that had been concealing it. As Nniol began to familiarize himself with the ship's maneuvering capabilities, the lift door hissed open and Tovan emerged. "I've got a skeleton crew in Engineering," he reported. "They used to work on the colony's power plant, so they at least know something about what the gauges mean. We're pretty much unstaffed everywhere else. I've managed to boost the torpedoes, though - there's a capacitance system wired in, so every so often it'll build up enough charge to fire off a heavy torp. And there's a repulsor field that charges off the quantum uncertainty values of the singularity, so it recharges while we're in combat. Not much, but it might be enough to distract someone while we rescue the survivors. We, um, are going to go rescue the survivors, right?"

"Like I'd let them fall into the hands of the Tal Shiar. There's nobody in Virinat that I hate that badly."

Tovan took the communication officer's seat. "I'm getting a lot of hails on the emergency channels," he said. "I've highlighted the locations on your HUD, so you can pick your targets. Oh, and full impulse is online now."

"Good. I'd hate to keep them waiting." Nniol slid controls, and the ship accelerated smoothly toward the nearest signal, a bulk carrier under attack by a single drone. The lightly-shielded robotic craft made it through only a single barrage from the Emerald Fire's guns, before exploding in a gout of flame. Quickly, Tovan beamed the survivors aboard; when scans showed the cargo ship was empty, Nniol turned to his next target. This was a bit more challenging, as the drone was accompanied by a T'varo-class ship, but given that it was little more capable than the T'liss-class Fire, and that the Fire sported augmented weaponry, the battle wasn't so very much longer. They had rescued the occupants of three ships, and Nniol had begun to worry about the Fire's total capacity, when the screens were abruptly dominated by an ugly black-and-green shape.

"It's a spacecraft," Tovan reported, "but not of any design I've ever heard of. Computer's coming up empty, too. I recommend we get in a little closer and scan it."

"Just what I'd been thinking. Keep those shields up, though."

The Fire moved closer to the alien craft. Nniol activated the main scanners - and the ship was buffeted by energy waves. "Deflectors are offline!" Tovan shouted. "Weapons, too! I can't even get the ship to move now!"

"Tovan!" Nniol called. "Signal that ship! Ask them what they want!"

Tovan complied, then held the earpiece to his ear. "They're replying," he said, "but it's just part of our broadcast, chopped up."

"On speakers."

The ship's speakers hissed with static, and the oddly modulated tones of what had been Tovan's voice, modified by the alien craft: "Want... you. Want... ship."

"Well, that's not good," Nniol said.

"It gets worse," Tovan replied. "There's a Tal Shiar ship uncloaking."

As the great D'Deridex-class battleship wavered into visibility, the enormous black alien craft peeled away.

"They're calling us," Tovan said.

"Put them on the screen. Let's see just how bad it's getting."

A face appeared on the viewer; a face Nniol hadn't seen in almost ten years, one he'd hoped never to see again. The bald visage of once-Captain Hakeev leered at them. "I'd heard from our Elachi allies," he said, "that some of the 'colonists' on this world had escaped them. But you cannot escape your obligations." Then Hakeev leaned closer to his screen. "You! You look familiar. tr'Keiniadh, isn't it?"

"You know who I am, Hakeev. How in the Elements' Names did you find me here?"

Hakeev laughed. "Oh, vain little man. You think this is about you? I have much greater ambitions than that, and much greater concerns than any petty revenge you might be seeking. Finding you here, and at my mercy, is just a bonus. Would you like to surrender now?"

"Surrender this! Tovan, kill that channel! Full power to weapons!"

The plasma banks spat emerald lines of destruction toward Hakeev's ship, as a ball of plasma formed in the torpedo emitter. At that moment, another craft uncloaked as well.

"This is Commander Temer of the Romulan Republic. We have come in response to a distress call from this colony. Tal Shiar ship, stand down and prepare to be boarded."

Hakeev's ship replied with the fire that had once been intended for Nniol. Temer's craft responded in kind, and the Fire joined in from the other side. The great double-hulled battleship shuddered under the impact of the other ships' weapons. Abruptly, the screen flared back to life, Hakeev wincing and snarling.

"So, the insect still has a sting! I have other meetings to attend, but know this, tr'Keiniadh - you have cost me an eye, and I will claim its price from you in full! When there are no others to protect you from me--"

"I don't need anyone's protection, Hakeev. Now get out of my sky!"

The D'Deridex, which had already been pulling away, abruptly jumped to warp; Nniol didn't think for a moment that his demeanor had had anything to do with it, but it would have been nice to believe.

"The other ship's hailing us," Tovan said.

"Put them on."

"Greetings, Emerald Fire," Temer said. "As I said earlier, we came in response to a distress signal. What happened?"

"A Tal Shiar attack. Virinat's a peaceful farming settlement, but they came in shooting, and they had some aliens working with them that we'd never seen before. We've got holds full of refugees, and there are a lot of other ships out here too. Some of 'em are going to be running short on air very soon. Any chance of a rescue fleet?"

"I'll signal the Flotilla immediately. We should have ships here inside the hour. Meanwhile, I would like to invite you to come to the Flotilla and discuss the situation. We just might be able to help one another."

"Well, I'm none too keen on being drawn into your war, but then again it doesn't look like I've got a lot of options. Send us the coordinates, and we'll meet you there. Emerald Fire out."

Tovan's fingers played over his console. "Okay, they've relayed the coordinates to us, and I've laid in a course. At top speed, we should be there in about three hours, give or take." He leaned back in his seat, lacing his fingers behind his head. "Which means we've got some time. You promised me a story, if we got through that mess back there."

"Now, now, I never said I promised anything." Nniol pretended to flinch under Tovan's glare. "But you're right, I do owe you that much." He sighed. "Okay, the short version first - we can spin out the whole thing over drinks later, if you insist. It was back about ten years ago or so; I used to be in the Imperial fleet, a Subcommander. I was chief science officer of the Nneirh - not a prestigious posting, but a good one, and my family didn't have the connections to get me on one of the big ships. Hakeev was just a captain in the Tal Shiar back then, but he was working with Praetor Taris on some big project. He was using our ship as a base for a mission, and I'd detected some odd radiation emissions coming from the cargo bays. I checked them out, and found evidence that Hakeev was working with non-Romulans. Didn't have anything else to go on, but I reported what I did have to the Commander. Next away mission, she was dead, supposedly from a failure of her EV suit. Except those things are tougher than our ships - that suit should have been good for another five years continuous duty. So the first officer took over - and after I talked to him, he died. So we headed to dock - and the dockmaster and station commander were arrested for 'actions against the Empire', only no charges were ever filed, they just disappeared. Then a Senator, someone whose only sin had been to speak to me after we returned, turned up dead. And then a cargo transport tried to fall on my head, and a random shot in a crowd missed me because I'd bent over to pick up a coin, and someone tried to knife me but didn't know how good I was at infighting, and it became clear these weren't random occurrences. Someone wanted anybody who knew about those transmissions dead." Nniol rubbed his forehead. "So I took off. Abandoned my post, left the Empire, started looking for any work in space that kept me away from anywhere the Tal Shiar might find me. I ran ale with a Ferengi trader to Argelius, smuggled black tar from Risa to Qo'noS for somebody named Torg, shifted cargo for anybody who didn't look like me, and tried to drown the memories. When D'vex caught up with me, I was broke, unemployed, and exploring the bottom of a mug of Klingon bloodwine on Drozana Station out in the ass-end of nowhere. He convinced me that if I came back with him, I could get a fresh start, where nobody would ever look for me." He looked away. "I guess he was wrong. This is all my fault."

"Self-centered much?" Tovan snorted. "Or were you just too busy reliving the past to listen when Hakeev was talking? He wasn't looking for you! He didn't even know you were here! It's the Elements' own joke that you just happened to come along! And the punchline was the Republic ship showing up - I mean, now that he does know where to find you, I guess it's nice that we've got some backup too. I think when we get to the Flotilla, I'm going to sign up. It's not like I can just go home, after all. How about you? Might be a good idea."

Nniol sighed. "It just might be, at that. Think they'll let me keep the ship? I mean, since I have military experience and all?"
-------------------------------------------

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

Last edited by jonsills; 06-27-2013 at 06:42 PM.
Ensign
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 8
# 12 Therapy
06-26-2013, 09:54 AM
?So tell me what happened Admir-, sorry, captain? The female Trill said, as she shifted her blue uniform and sat in her plaid patterned chair.
*
?Well?I suppose the best place to start is the beginning?
*
My first officer and I were on a training assignment with the new captain of the Danube. She had just been commissioned and we were to train her senior staff. We left the Artemis, with Eight in command, and were onboard the Danube about two days when an Orion battleship dropped out of nowhere and began attacking the ship. Being a light frigate, the Danube didn?t have enough firepower alone to destroy the Orion?s ship, but we managed to disable their weapons and they fled. However, unknown to us, they had scored a crucial hit on our plasma injectors causing the warp core to overload minutes later, that?s where it got?strange.?
*
*****
*
*Computer Voice: Warp core breach in two minutes, forty-five seconds*
*
?This is the captain, all hands to escape pods, abandon ship!!?

The bridge shakes violently, throwing Captain Foley off his feet and causing consoles all over the bridge to explode, throwing sparks and fiber cables everywhere. As Ryan starts to get up he sees the captain of the Danube slumped dead in his chair, metal sticking into his chest.

*Computer Voice: Warp core breach in one minute, twenty seconds*
*
As Ryan heads to the last escape pod on the bridge, he is hit in the head and falls to the floor unconscious.
~~~~
?Wow, that sounds like it was intense Ryan, then what happened?? The Trill asks Ryan.
*
?Well??
~~~~
Ryan slowly opens his eyes, blinking rapidly as a rush of pain forces him to grab his head, but it feels wet. He looks at his hand and it has some blood on it.

?Leave it alone sir. You?ll make it worse. I haven?t fixed you a permanent bandage yet, this escape pod is being?difficult.?
Foley looks up to see his first officer pressing on the lone keypad in the pod.
?Toz, what?.how did I end up in here with you??
*
?Well, that?s no way to talk to your rescuer? she replies with a slight smile. ?After making sure that engineering was cleared, I headed to the bridge. By the time I made it, I saw Captain F?raK dead, and you were out on the floor bleeding. I picked you up and got us to the escape pod on the bridge. And here we are, three hours later.? Tozra tells Ryan.
*
?Well, I guess I owe you one?.more? Ryan replies to her with a slight laugh then a groan as he starts to grab his head again. Tozra slaps his hand. ?Next time you touch it, you better be dying or I will make sure you wish you were?sir? They both laugh.
?Honestly Toz, thank you. I know I have said it before, but you are without a doubt the finest first officer I have had, and don?t let Eight know that or she?d be crushed. You will make a fine captain someday.? Ryan says.
*
*****
~~~~
?Well captain, it sounds like you and your executive officer have an understanding. Has it always been this way? The Trill asks.
*
?Absolutely not. When she first came on board, her Andorian temper would get the best of her more often than not. But I could see so much raw potential that I had to keep trying.? Foley replies.
*
?I see? the Trill makes notes on her PADD. ?Please go on with the mission?
*
Ryan takes a drink of water and proceeds
~~~~
?I can?t believe that the medkit got destroyed somehow.? Tozra says as she tears a piece of her undershirt to finish wrapping Foley?s head.

?Toz, that is a violation of Starfleet?s uniform code. I may have to report you? Ryan says with a laugh.
?And I may have to let you bleed? She says back laughing too.
*
?How long has it been sir??
*
?Oh only thirty-eight hours, give or take.?
*
?No, since Vega.? Toz looks at Ryan with a seriousness he?s rarely seen.
*
?Well?? Ryan sighs heavily. ??not long enough. The fact I am where I am already is purely luck. I seem to be lucky with many things, but that day?takes the cake. I would gladly give up what I have to have Captain Stevens back, to have all of them back. Taking command of a ship as a fresh ensign is, hard. The Borg did not care, did not want to talk. I knew of their brutality and lifelessness but to experience it first hand was terrifying?.? As Ryan looked up he saw something he had never seen before, serious concern. Tozra had never shown it in her eyes before.
?Captain, I have to confess something to you. This is something that isn?t easy to say, and I don?t take it lightly. I don?t just see you as my commanding officer, I see you as a friend.? Tozra chokes as she says it, clearly making herself say it.
*
Ryan hesitates for a second, clearly unprepared for a statement like this.
?Toz, first off, I know that was difficult knowing you. Second, as a captain, I can?t do my job without your support. The way I see it, you have always been trustworthy, loyal, and open with me. You have trusted me with my orders and if you did have a concern, you were respectful enough to talk to me in private. You have always been a trusted friend to me.? Ryan says back.
*
Overwhelmed with relief, Tozra extends her hand out to shake Ryan?s.
Ryan reciprocates and they laugh.
*
About an hour and a half later a ship shows up and the pods are rescued. After arriving at Starbase 57, Foley, along with everyone else is ordered to go through a counseling session. Like all captain?s he is hesitant and finds the whole ordeal pointless.
*
??and that?s where we are now.? Ryan says finishing his story.

The Trill woman sits there for a moment and then looks up at Ryan.
*
?First off, you?re the first captain to open up to me in a long time.?
*
Ryan immediately grows a look of concern

?Don?t worry, I won?t tell anyone that? she chuckles. ?But most importantly, I think we got to the root of a problem and found strength. You can?t forgive yourself for what happened to your command officers at Vega, and you can trust others for strength. I would like to request you make it back here at least once a month. I will put it into writing and command will approve it, so it?s more of an order.? The Trill smiles.

?Actually, if that?s the case, I have a better idea.? Foley rebuttals.
*
?Lt. Commander Hita reporting sir.? the Trill says as she steps onto the bridge of the Artemis.
*
?Welcome aboard counselor.? Foley says.


-may have to edit due to quotations-
*
Ensign
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 14
# 13 Of War for Peace
06-26-2013, 06:51 PM
Veltrassa, June 16th, 2407

ISC Prime. The whole world was basically a bustling city. It's tall buildings reflected the large ideals the Concordium held. Despite the fact that the Concordium has tried, and failed, at bringing the galaxy up to the high standards of peace, their spirits still endured knowing that one day true peace will rise up from the chaos of the galaxy.

Within the Hall of the Holders, representatives of each race sat around a large oak wood table, listening to the leader of the Pacification Army, Grand Admiral Jyromec Crostier.

"...and once again, the Federation has proven that their mission of peace is futile as they have yet again declared war against the Klingon Empire! Although I'm sure every one of you can agree, the hostility of the Klingons is great. But time and time again the Federation has made peace with this race of brutes only to break their paper thin treaties and wage yet another pointless war! We can not simply stand by and watch as the galaxy burns once again under the boots of war from these barbarians. I beseech of the wisdom of the great leaders of the Interstellar Concordium, Holders of the Declaration of Ideals: it is time, once again, that we act. We must show the blind children of this galaxy true peace. Without our power and morals, this galaxy will be strung in an endless cycle of wars and grievous bloody battles."

The Holders looked at each other, muttering amongst themselves until finally the head of the council, Misac Rohlm, stood up. His great height reflected his old age and the immense wisdom that came with all those years of life. He looked down toward Jyromec, "Holder Nezzcal wishes to speak."

As Misac took his seat, the Xindi-Arboreal stood up and straightened his flowing white robes, "Grand Admiral, your words speak great volumes. However, after our encounters with the Dominion, are you sure the Pacification Army would be able to withstand yet another series of battles?"

Jyromec opened his mouth, only to be halted by Nezzcal's raised hand, "Not only that, but I want to be sure that the civil population will not be affected by this. It is without a doubt that the population of the planets we had to retake from the Dominion are still emotionally shaken. To embark on a second Pacification Campaign can cause great unrest if we are not prepared."

After finishing his last sentence, Nezzcal nodded his hairy head and took his seat.

He faced Misac and said, "That is my statement."

Misac nodded in turn and turned his attention back to Jyromec, his amphibian eyes staring down at the Grand Admiral, "Your response, Grand Admiral?"

Jyromec looked up to Nezzcal, "Holder Nezzcal, you are a great man and I respect your statement. So I will take this opportunity to assure not only you, but the Concordium in itself, that I can say without hesitation that the Pacification Army is more ready for any resistance than it will ever be. Our resolve has endured for centuries, our technology has greatened, and our military strength will overwhelm anything that can ever be foolish enough to resist our movement."

Jyromec's eyes scanned the council, looking directly at every one of them, "And if I fail, I will personally take responsibility for tainting the good name and the ideals of the Interstellar Concordium."

The Holders once again turned to each other and began muttering, discussing the words that were just spoken. After a few minutes, they finally turned to face the Grand Admiral once more.

"We will consider your request," Misac said.

Jyromec said nothing, biting back the protests that were rising up within him. Nonetheless, most of the races within the Concordium were telepathic and thus represented among the Holders. He knew his concerns would be addressed regardless on how he delivered them.

So, he merely bowed and turned on his heel to march out of the council room.

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

Days passed since the day the Grand Admiral stood before the Holders. But on the 20th day of June 2407, the Interstellar Concordium formally declared the start of the Second Pacification Campaign, authorizing Grand Admiral Jyromec Crostier of the Pacification Army to use whatever force necessary to bring about galactic peace.

"Should any world impede on our campaign so much that achieving peace is impossible, then our only option is complete and total eradication of that world and its citizens to prevent the cancer of barbarism from spreading throughout the galaxy once more." -Grand Admiral Jyromec Crostier

Last edited by patchouli19; 06-26-2013 at 08:31 PM.
Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 387
# 14 Freestyle Tactics
06-26-2013, 08:05 PM
_


The sea breeze blowing in off the bay seemed to animate everyone, bringing smiles where somber expressions might have lingered, laughter to otherwise bland jokes, and giving a general feeling of relief to the various humanoid species that inhabited the buildings surrounding the small bay. It was the sort of pleasant reminder that many needed when the sun seemed to be getting too hot upon the beach, or the surrounding jungle too close.

Of course, that was precisely the intent of the advanced systems that monitored and controlled the weather on Risa, and if anything could be said to motivate the artifical minds that eyed data ranging from the humidity at rock formations in Galartha to the levels of trace elements emitted by shuttles crossing the stratosphere, it was the determination that every day would be a paradise for those on the surface.




Rubbing at the loose clothing he had been encouraged to wear for the visit to the vacation world, Subcommander Tosik could not help but marvel at how comfortable the simple outfit had remained in the tropical climate. Had he worn his usual Republic uniform, there was little doubt he would be dehydrated and enjoying his stay far less than he had so far. Clearly, it had been a good idea to accept the suggestions of the Hospitality Association, even if they were not rihannsu.

Accepting the wrapped object from the merchant he had just paid, Tosik turned back to see his companion looking over the people walking through the small open-walled building where the Association had allowed native traders to set up shop. In contrast to the light clothing of the small crowd, Master Engineer Xa'Jev's black bodysuit stood out as much as the cybernetics that marked his massive frame as that of a Meguli. Tosik knew that the sealed clothing was a necessary precaution against humidity damaging more sensitive devices under it, but failed to comprehend how the alien could stand the heat that had to be building under the sun that stood high overhead.

Xa'Jev's goggled head swiveled to look at Tosik as the Engineer's voicebox spoke in a synthetic version of deep Standard. "These do not protect from solar radiation exposure. These not harmful of star local?"

Tosik shook his head as he puzzled out the meaning of his fellow officer. "No. They like the sun, and are not harmed by it unless they stay unprotected for long periods of time. You did read the report before we beamed down, didn't you?"

The Engineer's voicebox gave a short click that passed for a snort among the Meguli. "This one better time to use. Only at location/time/position to verify transaction engine warp from Federation empirestate. Commander's orders." Then the big alien's gaze fell on the wrapped bundle in Tosik's hand as he fell in beside the Science Officer, walking carefully through the crowd. "Identification request, transaction result?"

Tosik balanced the object in his hand. "A native statuette they call a horga'hn. It has something to do with fertility beliefs, and I thought it might be useful to examine one when we return to the ship. At the very least, I'd like to see if it's related to any artifacts we've found on Mol'Rihan."

The Engineer gave another of the short clicks and shook his head in an expression he had picked up from the crew. Certainly, no self-respecting Meguli would have bothered to show inferior species that they were mystified by anything. "Incorrect instruction subset. Statue non-irradiating nature confirmed. Inhabitants faulty?"

"It's more of a tradition, I think." Tosik stopped to look over at several natives, noting their ease about being only barely decently attired among the various visitors to their world. "If I remember correctly, a person displaying a horga'hn is announcing their willingness to participate in a local ceremony dealing with...er....producing new natives." Tosik carefully made sure the wrapping was secure before he resumed walking.

"Research related subjects completed this one prior to landing." Xa'Jev waved a hand dismissively at the crowd. "Improved proceedure: manufacture replacements clone. More efficient. Illogical biological keep."

Tosik could not help but sigh as he rounded a corner and entered an open area food distribution center (a 'restaurant', wasn't it?). "Many species find it...preferable to keep their...um...traditions. You will just have to accept my word that they would not welcome...alterations like that."

"Indeed not." A voice he knew said from one side, and Tosik almost ground his teeth together as he turned to see the Human Augment Rycho leaning back in a nearby chair, each of his arms about a Risan female and a broad smile fastened to his face. "Many are great admirers of 'tradition'."




Ever since they had returned from their mission in the Pelia Sector, the Helmsman had kept an attitude of accomplishment about himself, and Tosik had increasingly wished he could put the Centurion back in his proper place as a lesser officer aboard the ship. When they had been ordered to Risa to allow the Commander to represent the Republic at the opening of a special resort for ship commanding officers in Starfleet, it was the desire to avoid any contact with Rycho that had driven Tosik to pursuade Xa'Jev to pass him off to the resort computer system as a ship commander.

Apparently, the Human had had his own interest in infiltrating the restricted area, and Tosik knew he could hardly call Security about the matter without his own presence being revealed as less than truthful.

Deciding the best option was still avoidance, Tosik turned and briskly walked to a random exit from the eating area, working to keep his irriation in check as he quickly left Xa'Jev behind. By the time he had his emotions fully in hand, he realized he was unsure where he was, or which way he could go to find the Engineer. Giving a mental shrug, he marched out of the alley he had found himself in, and entered a large open area that formed a courtyard for the main building of the resort.




His calm lasted only up to the point that Rycho stepped easily next to him from the corner of the alleyway and marched alongside nonchalantly. The Helmsman gave Tosik a half-smile. "I could not help but notice you have made a purchase. Would that be what I think it seems to be?"

Tosik frowned and refused to meet the other's gaze. "It is for research purposes. I do not have your standards in regards to planetary recreation."

Rycho gave a short laugh as he followed Tosik up a short flight of steps. "Ahh, I cannot help it if the women of this world recognize my superior qualities. Why would they not? I cannot hide what I am, as you Romulans try to."

Tosik stopped short of the closed doors at the top of the stairs and turned to the junior officer, his irritation fanning into aggravation. "Your 'superior qualities'? You think you, a mere human, can compare yourself to rihannsu? You forget your place!"

The Augment's face had lost its smile, and now Rycho stepped forwards to match Tosik's glare with his own. "Words I have heard before. From men who dared to believe themselves worthy to command my people! They did not realize how far beyond them we had been designed, how much better we were. Your race is no different, and even now, I see how you tremble in timidity at something not one of those who stood with me on Ceti Alpha Five would have blinked at!" Rycho looked at the covered sculpture in Tosik's hand. "You cannot even carry it unless it is concealed, like everything else about your culture. Your fear of discovery, your unwillingness to plan for anything but hiding what you wish, these are what make you Romulans inferior."

With each word, Tosik's anger had risen, and now it flared into outright action. He tore away the paper covering the horg'hn, and tossed the empty wrapping aside. "I am not afraid of this! I have nothing to hide! You are the one who hides what he wishes. Or do you think I am foolish enough to not know you want command of the R'uhuv? "

Rycho nodded easily, a mocking smile tugging at his face "Oh, I will command. I do not deny it...it is my right! But I will not take it from the worthy hand of my Commander. She is not like the rest of your deficient race, and I will Command only when she does not."

Tosik's anger turned to shock, then back to anger in a flash. "You....dare...to think...you...."

The Centurian's smile grew as he saw the greenish tint increasing in Tosik's face. He raised a hand casually, as if to accept the sculpture, and spoke in a whisper "You should allow me to remove that from your concern. I can put it to far better use than you ever could. After all, one of the qualities of a commander is the ability to plan proper strategy for any conquest."

Unbelieving in what he saw in his mind, the image of his Commander and this...animal..., Tosik swung the sculpture away from the Augment, his arm seeking to put it as far from him as possible. Half-blind with emotion, he all but screamed "You can have this when the moon falls from the sky!!"



"What is the meaning of this?"



The firm and uncompromising voice seized Tosik in his place. Twisting his head around, he saw a small group of Starfleet Admirals were stepping from the now-open doors at the top of the stairs. Several already stood looking down at him, their white dress uniforms in contrast to the casual clothing others at the resort had worn.

And, directly in front of them was his Commander, her own ceremonial robes shining in the midday sun. Her regal bearing and tilt of her head as she looked down at him took both his anger and his breath away as he stood frozen in confusion and disbelief.

Then he realized the hand with the horg'hn was pointed directly at her.

Thoughts began to cascade through his brain as he recalled the customs and traditions he had read before leaving the ship. To display a horg'hn was to invite participation in jamaharon. To present it to someone was to......

In a panic, he looked back to Rycho, only to find that the helmsman had disappeared. He was alone on the steps, and from the lack of comment by the assembled Admirals, he realized Rycho had angled Tosik to be the one they fixated upon when they emerged from the meeting room beyond the doors.

Looking back to his Commander, he tried to speak "C...Commander! I....this isn't...."

The Commander coolly looked from the statue now dangling from Tosik's almost nerveless hand to his shocked face before saying "We will discuss this in my ready room. In private. Return to the ship, Subcommander."

Blinking, Tosik fumbled his first attempt to use his communicator, then found the right key. "T..Tosik to R'uhuv. One to....beam up....now."

The last thing he heard as the transporter beam took him was a Federation Admiral asking his Commander "One of yours, I take it?"




_______________________________________________




Unseen in the bushes by the courtyard, Rycho's smile broadened as he heard the exchange, only wishing he could have risked watching the end results of his plan. The Science Officer had been a problem for the last few weeks, but now would understand how outmatched he was against Rycho's superior intellect and reflexes. Yes, it would be far better from now on aboard his ship.

Risking a glance through a break in the vegetation after the whine of the transporter had faded, he saw his Commander speaking with one of the Federation officers. No doubt apologizing for the actions of one misguided officer. He regretted putting her in this position, for he truely did respect her, but the opportunity to take Tosik down a peg or two could not have been passed. As he watched, she lifted her own communicator and spoke into it too softly for his enhanced hearing to pick out.

Shrugging, he turned and walked away. That she suspected nothing was enough. It was to be expected, after all. She, also, could not match his engineered superiority, and this was not her fault.

He was still thinking this when the transporter beam took him completely by surprise, and he had barely a second to recognize the distinctive whine of the R'uhuv's beaming frequency before he, also, vanished from sight.




__________________________________________________

Last edited by danqueller; 06-27-2013 at 09:24 AM.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 178
# 15
06-27-2013, 04:35 AM
"In the softest voice there's an acid tongue.
In the oldest eyes there's a soul so young.
In the shakiest will there's a core of steel.
On the smoothest ride there's a squeaky wheel.
In the sweetest child there's a vicious streak.
In the strongest men there is a child so weak.
In the whole wide world there's no magic place
so you might as well rise.
Put on your bravest face."
Neil Peart, 21st century musician







"at what point, does a traitor become a patriot, and a patriot a traitor?"

This was the question. The answer, sadly was much harder to come by. General T'maekh Rylov (retired) pondered this as he piloted the shuttle craft through the shield portal. Given his rank and reputation he was cleared for such solo jaunts, even as paranoid as the Tal'Shiar was. Sometimes he found that he could think best away from other minds, just drifting observing the sweep of the galaxy outside the viewports. The experimentation with prisoners he had found distasteful, but he was told repeatedly it was necessary. Not that they really cared for his opinion, after all he was but a historian now. But this...this would tamper with the very soul of the Rihannsu. Even the Empress could see that, at least once he thought so. Now however... There was no choice, this had to be stopped. But how?


Ferlan system, USS Agamemnon

"Ships Log, First officer Mirra Olaneov reporting. It's been twenty seven hours since Captain Evan's shuttle was due to return from a medical conference on Starbase 39. We have joined up with the USS Dauntless in searching for the Captain, it's not like Rhonda to vanish like this. Commander Schrodinger of the Dauntless thinks she may have picked up a trace hit on some faint tachyon emissions that may have come from the Captains shuttle craft, they are investigating that lead while we backtrack, checking systems between our rendezvous point and the Starbase-"

"Sir, I'm picking up something"

Mirra paused the log recording, the Andorian looking up "What is it?"

The tactical officer, a young Lt from Denali peered at her readings, brushing her bangs out of her eyes "picking up a small craft, shuttle craft size, but not one of ours..."

"Who's then?"

"getting a visual, Romulan Sir" Sachen said, her fingers automatically sliding over to the weapons panel "not New Romulus romulan either according to the markings. One lifeform on board, Romulan."

|Calm down Lieutenant, it's only a shuttlecraft." she thought for a moment "hail them, maybe they've seen something."

"Sir?"

"one thing I picked up from Captain Evans, it never hurts to ask nicely."


He never expected to run into a Federation capital ship here. Yes it was an older Galaxy class, but still quite formidable. But what he really did not expect was a polite hail. "This is the USS Agamemnon We apologize if we are intruding in your system, but we are searching for a missing shuttlecraft carrying our Captain, she was returning from a medical conference. Have you seen any sign of the ship?"

"some questions answer themselves." he thought, his dilemma on what to do resolved as he responded. "this is T'maekh Rylov. Is your captain Human looking, 1.58 meters height, white hair and covered in black fur?"

Seeing the looks on the bridge of the Federation ship he simply nodded "I assume by your expressions the answer is yes. We must speak."


Thirty minutes later.

The Dauntless had rejoined the Agamemnon, it's captain beamed over to confer with their 'guest'. Rylov had not been disarmed, though the two very not pleasant looking security goons behind him made him sure that they were not very happy to have him that way. As soon as the Dauntless captain joined them, a spotted Caitian who almost reeked of that foul stimulant that humans drank, 'kaffee' or something like that, the Agamemnon's First Officer who up until now had been silent turned to him "Alright, what in the frozen hells is going on?"

"Some months ago, the Tal'Shiar had managed to acquire several thousand personnel files of your officers, and of KDF officers as well. Naturally they were looked into, both for tactical value and to find information that could be useful. Such as your captain being a refugee from another time line, and her medical records from her arrival in our timeline"

"I don't understand, Why would they want her over that? I knew she had some kind of genetic condition that was killing her, that they fixed, but she never really went into details."

"Because the records were sealed, however the Tal'Shiar are Very resourceful" Rylov replied, placing a data chip on the briefing table "it was kept quiet as these abilities were eliminated when Starfleet doctors cured her of the mutagenic virus that was destabilizing her DNA."

Mirra looked over the chip as if it was a live weasel, but it was standard Starfleet Issue as he continued "the Audio sadly was not recovered, but the video was more than enough to interest my superiors." She put the chip in, and saw security images of a shuttle bay in Starfleet Headquarters, time stamped over six years ago. There was a bright flare, and a portal opening in the middle of the bay. As two security guards rush towards it, a figure emerges.

"It's her.." Mirra says as she watches wide eyed. "younger though"

"looks like she was pushed too" Commander Schrodinger adds, sure enough there can be seen a blue fur covered hand sticking out of the portal for a moment. The figure turns yelling something at the portal just as there is a wave from the hand, then the portal collapses. Then all hell breaks loose.

Rylov glances over his shoulders at the Security goons |it would seem that security forces the galaxy over are...overzealous one could say." as one of the ones on the viewer fire a phaser at the black and white and red clad figure, no the red isn't part of the outfit, but blood. "Wounded, disoriented, pulled out of the middle of an intense battle and thrown elsewhere, it is amazing she did not kill anyone." there is silence in the briefing room as the wounded girl fires what looks like plasma blasts from her hands, cutting through the Security forces. One ducks into one of the shuttlecraft, taking off and bringing the shuttle's weapons to bear, only to see her shout something at the ship..then take off into the air after it before the screen went blank.

"from the report, she fired a blast that went through the shuttles shields and disabled it, bringing it down, before passing out herself. Naturally you can see why she came to the attention of the Tal'Shiar when they saw this, especially since they wish to use this in their research based on the work or Dr Amar Singh."

"oh crap."

"Oh crap, indeed."



T'rakat System

"What do you mean you haven't found anything abnormal? You've seen the reports!"

He tried not to sweat "other than some changes from a tailored retrovirus, such as is used to repair genetic defects, we can find nothing markedly abnormal in the specimen's DNA"

Colonel S'tarna frowned at the Centurion before her "It is obvious that the humans have only suppressed her abilities, they would not give up such a weapon as this, nor would she have given up such power..Perhaps we are going about this the wrong way. The answer may not lie in her cells, but in her head. Have her prepped for telepathic interrogation. I will go in myself and rip the secrets from her mind."


USS Agamemnon

He watched the argument with a jaundiced eye. Part of him thought himself a fool for not just going to New Romulus, or the Reman Obisek. While he had many qualities he found distasteful, sitting around discussing when action was called for was not one of them. But the Federation had always preferred words over action, at least he had seen during his long career fighting both against and alongside them.

"the shields are too well defended, there's no way your idea will work Schrodinger! We've sent messages, once we get reinforcements-"

"Which at maximum warp could be either hours or days away-most of them are dealing with a Borg incursion. If you want her back before they mind rip or dissect her to find out what they want we don't have time to waste." Schrodi stood up , her tail tip twitching "allright, the plan is a little risky-"

"A LITTLE? Not to mention the potential environmental damage-"

"To what's basically a dead rock that the Tal Shiar have a base on? Besides, I've run the simulations three times, it's well within stress limits."

It was time to speak "And it is audacious" He stood and walked over to the display on the monitor "if the Commander's helmsman is as good as she says, this will work."

That seemed to mollify the Agamemnon?s XO slightly "isn't that the word you used to describe the attack of the United Earth fleet at the battle of Cheron, as well as General Martoks defense at the Battle of Mempa?" she asked.

That caused him to raise an eyebrow "I had heard that my minor scribblings were translated and disseminated outside of Romulus but I was not familiar with how widely they may have been known."

Mirra smiled, the first one she'd had in a while "your work is highly regarded as an evenhanded review of historical battles. It is on the Starfleet Academy reading list, and I believe the KDF as well-though I think their translation lists the Klingon translator as the author."

Rylov just snorted "That somehow does not surprise me." He turned to Schrodinger "are you sure your helmsman is good? Your timing must be perfect."

Everyone looked at the Caitian, who was in a conversation with herself seemingly, before her eyes regained focus "we just went over it a fourth time, we'll have plenty of clearance- and yes, Poonta is that good. it will be a piece of cake!"


T'rakat System

The Ulhan was bored. Traffic control wasn't exactly a busy position on a isolated world such as this, and one locked as tight at T'rakat...well there was a lot of free time for study, or reading some of the more, questionable data chips that he had picked up from a slightly sleazy Ferengi merchant on Dronza station. Fortunately Subcommander T'ral wasn't here, she would not be amused by his choice in reading material. As he was engrossed in his entertainment, one of the consoles chirped for attention. Scowling, he glanced up, then hit the button to silence the alarm-an automated supply shuttle was leaving the shielded area for a run to a lab on one of the outer moons, as it did every few hours. The light changed color, as a section of the shield shut off to allow passage.

Suddenly the sky overhead lit with a flash, causing him to drop his view pad and look up. The air roiled and churned as lightning and plasma discharges lit the sky and was that a streak of light ...as if something had warped into the atmosphere? No, couldn't be , that was insane..


USS Dauntless

"This is Insane!" yelled the Tellerite at the helm, the Defiant class ship dropping out of warp a mere ten kilometers from the planets surface. The energy from the ships momentum had literally turned the clouds around them into a roiling fiery mass, ionizing a good portion of the planet's upper atmosphere in the process. "Shields at fifty percent, targets locked," said the trill at the weapons console, not waiting for orders as the ship shuddered from the torpedoes leaving the tubes , streaking down towards the shield generators on the horizon as the expanding shock wave from their entry spread around the ship like a halo. Then there was the other problem. While the Defiant ships may look aerodynamic, in reality they tended to behave in an atmosphere, and this close to the ground, like a duck with a lead plate strapped to its butt.

"Last torp away, lets get out of here!"

Ponta kept her hands on the warp control, but didn't activate them "we can warp now, anytime now, Ponta?"

"the bow is still below the horizon, we warp now we'll make a nice sized crater" she muttered, hitting the thrusters trying to bring the nose up, as the readout on the altitude continued to unwind..."don't blame me that the ships arse is as big as yours Cap'n"

The shock wave had knocked the Uhlan to the ground, as well as flattened several of the out buildings. He looked up to see what was going on, it was obviously an attack, an orbital bombardment, but how could they penetrate the shields....his eyes grew wide as he saw the flame shrouded shape falling overhead as the air grew hotter. Finally when it was seemingly about to hit there was another flash, and a light trail heading over the horizon, the friction from which fried him where he was standing.


USS Agamemnon

"I'll be dammed, it worked"

Mirra sat in her first officers seat, it was more comfortable to her, and she could better access her tactical readouts there "and there's two, no three, make that four ships dropping out of cloak and going to warp pursuing the Dauntless...damn."

"It was an acceptable risk, and the best way to flush out the picket ships in orbit, as well as take down the shields." Rylov replied as the Agamemnon warped into the system "as long as the Dauntless does not try to engage them but leads them on a chase, that will buy enough time to grab your captain and get out of here." he said as he headed to the turbolift, Sachen and two others with him "hopefully in the chaos we can get her without any further bloodshed."

The first officer nodded "I hope, good luck General."

He just smiled grimly "thank you, we may need it."


USS Dauntless

They were away, but barely. "How bad is it?" Schrodi asked as panels in the back of the bridge sparked and smoked, they really needed to stop making those out of flammable materials.

"Shields at 27 percent, and we're losing calibration on the injectors, the stress from the gravity well damaged three of the crystals, if we don't drop out of warp in the next few minutes the engines will do it for us when they fail."

"weapons?"

"Torpedoes are reloaded" replied Ponta , the tellarite woman grumbling "and we've got four Romulan vessels in pursuit, looks like a T'varro, two Mogai and a D'Deridex..seems you've gotten their attention."


T'rakat System

It was chaos. Oh sure , it was a Tal'shiar outpost, but the majority of the personnel were scientists, half of them were panicking over the attack, and the other half were trying to get data on just what had happened when Rylov and the two Vulcan security officers dressed in Romulan uniforms beamed down. He had managed to take two steps before one of the scientists ran up to him.

"General! Thank the great bird you are here, there's been a catastrophe! A comet fragment has exploded in the upper atomosphere-"

he was cut off by a second scientist "Comet? no, it was a ship warping into the atmosphere-"

"that would be insane" the first scientist argued. Rylov cut them both off "Where is Colonel S'tarna?"

"she is in lab seventeen Sir" replied a harried Centurion, who was busy trying to herd the scientists to shelter "would you like an escort?"

"No, I know the way, continue with your duties."

The Centurion saluted and turned to the scientists, herding them down the corridor while they continued to argue with each other. "Seventeen, I should have known she would take her there."

"whats in that lab?" replied one of the 'romulans' in Saschen's voice, the holoemitter disgisuse giving nary a flicker as they moved quickly down the emptying corridors, the inhabitants of the base evacuating to shelters.

"Telepathic interrogation. Are either of you skilled in that use of the mind?" Saschen shook her head "I'm basicly just an augmented human Sir" the Denali colonist replied while the other one who was Vulcan nodded "More in how to resist such an intrusion, General."

He nodded as he led the two disguised Starfleet officers into the lift with a pained expression on his face. "Just as well, it should be me that confronts S'tarna over this. She is my wife after all..."


USS Dauntless

It had seemed like a good bolt hole at first, system so far off the beaten path it did not even have a name, just the designation NGC 23591. How were they to know it was also known to the Tal'Shiar, and the massive field of asteroids held another small lab? So now they had six Romulan vessels on them. To add to the fun, some of the asteroids were filled with pockets of meteron gas, the warp drive was offline, the inertial dampers were barely keeping up with Ponta's seemingly insane maneuvering through the asteroids, and the coffee maker was broken. The only bright spot was the gas and asteroids was keeping the larger Romulan ships out of the fight at the moment, the two, no now three D'Deridex warbirds out of range at the edge of the field. They had gotten the T'varro by dropping mines as soon as they came out of warp then igniting a gas pocket behind them with the aft phasers. The first Mogai had tried to follow the nimble Dauntless through a gap that was closing as two several kilometer wide asteroids rolled towards each other, with predictable results. The last one on the other hand, had a much better pilot at the helm.

"Shields at ten percent"

"You'd think the computer would at least sound worried" Schrodi muttered as she continued her scanning, holding on to the arm of the captains chair with one hand as the Dauntless went inverted yet again following the terrain of one of the larger asteroids, plasma bolts from the Mogai behind them barely missing.

"Hope you got an idea soon Cap'n, running out of tricks up here " Ponta yelled over the din. Just about every light on the boards was red at this point.

"Workin on it...got it! Here's what we're gonna do..."


IRW Terrix

Colonel S'Tev Malor watched the battle just out of range. The smaller IRW D'vin was getting the range of the Federation intruder, when the human ship suddenly cut it's impulse drive, then spun 180 degrees while still going backwards through the asteroids from inertia?

"they must be insane!" his weapons officer said as the D'vin was caught by surprise, phaser cannons tearing through the ships shield and hull..as well as the meteron gas pocket it had pursued the fleeing ship through. The screen flared from the explosion, then the telltale implosion as the singularity core. "Damnation! Did they at least get the humans?"

"I'm not picking up either ship sir..."

USS Dauntless.

There were no lights. Or sounds for that matter other than moans as people slowly got to their feet. "Everyone ok?"

"Define ok." came a grumbled reply. Lt Davon helped Ponta to her feet carefully in the light gravity of the asteroid, the Klingon science officer then turning to her captain "Have I told you that you are insane?"

Schrodi opened one eye as the emergency lights came on , the other bloody from where panel fell from the ceiling of the bridge, cutting her scalp "Not today, no."

The blond Klingon woman laughed "you are inane, Sir." she said as she carefully pulled out a medical kit and helped her captain sit up. Schrodi just waved her off "no time for that, help the critical cases first. Ponta?"

"we're right where you wanted us Cap'n....500 meters underground in a cavern of frozen meteron gas."

She got to her feet, carefully as the ships grav was offline, taking a few seconds to come back down to the deck. "Told you it would work. Now we run silent for a while, and get what we can working again."

"you think maybe they'll think we're dead and leave?"

Davon shook her head "they are romulans, they are through, and will want proof."

"maybe we'll get lucky" said Schrodi as she carefully headed towards engineering.

Ponta snorted "yeah, and since you're wishing for the impossible, I'd like a pony."



T'rakat System

Lab seventeen was deep underground, like most of the facilities on this station. Fortunately the alarms by the Dauntless's attack on the shield generators and subsequent destruction of most of the above ground facilities took care of most of the security, being they were housed above ground. Rylov kept his weapon holstered, as did Sachen and Lt Sarna. Not as if anyone was going to challenge the General. "here we are" he said, tapping in a key code then frowning. "No access, I am not surprised. I had said that this line of research is wrong..as was most of what the Empress was doing of late."

"no worries" replied Sachen, pulling out her tricorder "These shouldn?t be too hard to hack..there we go." there was a click and the door slid open. The room was sparse, with several examination tables and on one of them-

"Captain!" Sachen rushed in, the naked black furred form on one of the tables unmoving, with a metallic helmet connected to cables to machinery in the room covering her head. She went to pull it off only to be stopped by the General "it is a Psionic enhancer, remove it while someone else is in her mind will kill her."

"but there's no one else in here-wait." Lt Sarna looked up at a window high on the wall, there was a female Romulan inside wearing an identical helmet. "I thought Romulan telepathy required touch, as Vulcans do?"

He shook his head "it is an Iconian device, used for subjects that are too dangerous for that. another thing that should have been left forgotten."

"so how do we get her out then?"

He walked over and looked at a spare helmet with revulsion "By going in after her. She can eject intruders from her mind, but the device prevents her from using free will" he says, flipping a couple buttons on a panel "which I have now rectified. I do not think we will be disturbed, but cover the door anyway." he said, taking a deep breath and putting the helmet on.


It was Earth. Oh not the earth of this dimension, for one it was on fire, and the technology was both far more primitive, and yet advanced. He was familiar with Terran culture, as both a general and a historian, but he knew such a massive statue of a human holding a globe on his shoulders had never been built in this time line. Alien ships appeared out of portals overhead, perhaps memories of the great battle Captain Evans was in before she was thrown into another time line, before everything shifted, the battle going away, the trees along the avenue green, with happy people walking and flying about as S'tarna went through another memory. Fortunately, he could easily hear his wife shouting at her captive, he sighed and steeled himself for what was to come. As he headed towards the center it shifted again, now a hospital like corridor, masked physicians walking to and fro, with far too many guards, some wearing skintight blue and yellow suits covering everything, including their faces. All ignored him as he followed the noise. S'tarna threw paper readouts across the room screaming down at Captain Evans who was shackled and kneeling before her

"How can you not know how to replicate how you were created?? she shrieked, not noticing the psychic shackles releasing. ?I WILL KNOW THE TRUTH!"

"S'tarna! That is enough!"

She whirled on him, eyes reflecting the madness he had denied to himself she had succumbed to for so long "T'maekh! Yes, you can get the answers from her!"

"I will not be a party to infecting the Rihannsu with this abomination" he said angrily.

"Abomination? But it is POWER! Power to DESTROY our enemies, to purge the Galaxy of all who have caused our people so much injury!"

"THAT WILL NOT BRING THEM BACK!" he roared in response "More killing, to claim vengeance for our son? He died on Romulus with billions of others. It is past, S'tarna. You could kill the entire galaxy, and it would not bring him back.."

"..an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." came a hoarse voice. Rhonda got to her feet looking a bit worse for wear, S'tarna's eyes going wide, sliding further into madness "How can you..you! You did this, you traitor!" she snarled, unleashing her mind on T'makeh-only to have the attack blunted by Evans

"you're in mah head , remember?" she said as the memory around them shifted again. "You want the truth? The secret behind those powers ah used to have?"

S'tarna blinked, she was a child, no , older, seeing the memory first hand. "I was thirteen. It was a spring day, a few years after the first alien invasion up in New England, not that it was much of an impact in north Florida where ah lived." Rhonda said, as she and Rylov watched. S'tarna could do nothing but ride along inside the memory, following in the footsteps over four hundred years and another time line ago. "mah daddy was a game warden, he let us come along to get some pictures of some eagles that built a nest on top of a crashed alien ship. Was supposed to be safe..think he blamed himself for what happened."

"Like I blamed myself...for the death of my son." Said Rylov quietly.

"some things just happen" she replied, the scene shifting. "My brother was three years younger, and a brat. Always getting into things he shouldn?t..." they saw him find what he thought was a puppy and come back running with it to his sister...except the puppy was green and mutated. The creature that burst out of the palmettos after it's young was huge,a skunk once, mutated by the alien chemicals from the crashed ship

"I saved up two years of birthday money for that camera" Rhonda said, as S'tarna, stuck in the memory threw the Nikon SLR at the creature that was after her little brother, seeing it shatter as it hit it, then turn and come after her. S'tarna screamed as she felt the six inch fangs ripping through her, the mutagenic venom burning through her veins, hearing the thunder as Evans father burst through the bushes, firing his service pistol until it was empty. "so , you wanted the truth.? Rhonda said "it's nothing that you can copy. Nothing that you should copy...unless you want to see people in constant agony while the very thing that gives them the 'power' you crave...kills them slowly."

S'tarna screamed again then faded out as she disconnected from the iconian device. The memory faded around them as Rhonda smiled a bit "guess she couldn't handle the truth" she said before collapsing. Rylov ripped the helmet off of his head , blinking as his vision readjusted, Sachen looking at him curiously "done already? You just put it on..."

"yes, she's out" he says, pulling the helmet off of Evans. He glanced up at the window of the viewing room, there was no one there. He pondered for a second of going after her..but she was lost. The alarm klaxons began going off seconds later "it seems our welcome has worn out" he says, lifting the unconscious captain in his arms "lets go."

There was the familiar tingle of the transporter, and they were back on the Agamemnon. Rylov handed Evans over to Dr Mot, the Bolian waiting in the transporter room with a med team as Sachen hit the com "we're aboard Mirra, lets get out of here."

on the bridge Mirra turned to the helm only to hear a shout from tactical "Sir, we've got multiple incoming warp signatures!"

"oh crap."


USS Dauntless, 4.7 hours later

Well she was right. The romulans were stubborn. Though taking something that handled like a waterbufflo on rollerskates like a D'Deridex into an asteroid field this dangerous is something Schrodi would
consider insane, the Romulans's fear of failure seemeed to be outweighing their better judgement. They had seen two of them passing by the opening to their hidey hole as they continued repairs. The drive was
back up, though for how long was an issue. Shields, sixty three percent, better than nothing. Staying put was not an option either as the warbirds had begun active scans, and lobbing the odd plasma torpedo
into asteroids here and there to shake things up. If that wasn't bad enough, the radiated heat from the Dauntless was melting the frozen meteron gas, forming a pocket around the ship. If they diddn't move
soon it would be moot.

"All hands, stand by."

Schrodi took her seat, wishing for the tenth time today that seat belts was something Starfleet believed in. If she got out of this, she'd mandate them on every station. "Ready Ponta?"

The tellarite nodded, her sprained leg splinted "ready to-oh hells."

A shadow fell inside the opening of the cavern, as one of the warbirds moved over the entrance "We've got a problem."

"calm down, don't think they've spotted us.." the Warbird most likely did not, as it turned slowly so that it was facing away "it's running a sensor sweep, soon as they turn tho they'll have us."

Schrodi got quiet, looking over her shoulder Ponta saw that her eyes had that glazed over look she often did when she was coming up with something. "Stand by on the tractor beam" she said as she opened her
eyes, quickly punching in a quick programming change.

Lt Davon had worked with Schrodinger long enough not to question seemingly absurd orders "tractors standing by" she said, watching as the bow of the warbird slowly turned, untill it was pointing towards the
cavern.

"hotstart, nav lights on!"

there was a vibration in the decking as the drive restarted, the nacelles begining their normal blue glow, anticollison lights flashing in the darkness of the cavern.


IRW Sontal

"WE have them sir!" The Centurion mannning the helm yelled over his shoulder. Major T'rav simply smiled "Excellent, FIRE!" The ship barely lurched as the heavy plasma torpedo launched into the cavern in the
asteroid in front of them, the blinking lights of the Federation fools illuminating their demise.


USS Dauntless

"WE got incoming!"

"Ponta hit it! Lock on the torpedo with tractors!" Everyone grabbed something as the inertia dampers were still slightly out of sync, the Dauntless rocketing towards the incoming torpedo, the reprogrammed
tractors both slowing and moving it a few meters..As Poonta scraped the bottom of the cavern with the hull the missile barely passed over the top of the ship, heading towards the meteron gas pocket behind
them...



T'rav watched the readout, blinking "how the hell did you MISS?" he yelled as the Dauntless shot from the cave like a proverbial bat out of hell, passing between the upper and lower hull of the D'deridex,
the giant warbird lurching from the interactions between the shields. As soon as the Dauntless cleared the hull it pulled sharply up. Before he could even stand and give the order to pursue a bright light
caught his eye, before the meteron gas asteroid exploded through the opening in it's crust, ignited by the plasma torpedo detonating deep inside.


IRW Terrix

Colonel Malor cursed as the federation ship seemingly burst through the Sontal, the blast from the asteroid turning the once proud Warbird into a floating field of fried subatomic particles. Still, it seems
perhaps they had underestimated the explosive force of the frozen gas asteroids, as one after another began detonating, the Terrix climbing for saftey along with the other Warbird. At least the quarry was
flushed, time to end this.


USS Dauntless

The ship rocked and shuddered as asteroid after asteroid went up "I think that explosion took out a few more asteroids Sir!" Davon yelled over the din

"how many more?"

"All of them I think!"

She hung on as the ship shook like a dog thashing an old sock "we can't stay in here!"

"we get out, we're sitting ducks, shields won't hold under a warbird, much less two!"

Schrodi's ears folded back. "everyone dies eventualy, if it's our turn, lets do it on our feet."

There was a stillness on the bridge for a moment, despite the ship shuddering as the crew lookea at each other, and nodded

"Aye Aye Cap'n. helm ready!

"Torpdeos and phasers, cocked and locked!

"countermeasures online!"

"Engineering reports ready!"

Glancing at the static filled screen she took a deep breath. "lets dance."




IRW Terrix

He diddn't expect the humans would come out to fight, as much as they had been running. Still, it was better this way. This way he would have proof to take back to the Empress, rather polite of them to offer
themselves up. The Dauntless climbed out of the asteroid field, phaser cannons blazing as it roared seeminly on fire, trailing burning meteron gas it it's wake, the Terrix and R'ten returning fire. Phaser
cannon bursts smashed the R'ten's shields, allready damaged by the explosions, torpedos blazing through the opening impacting the warbirds hull. A valiant attempt, but not good enough as the plasma blasts
ripped through the weakend shields of the Dauntless, cutting along the allready charred hull. The R'ten pulled off, damaged by the attack but not down by a long shot as she retured fire again, this time a
burst disabling the already damaged engines of the aptly named Defiant class ship.


USS Dauntless


Everything was red, or out. Torpedos gone, phasers burned out and the drive...The computer still diddn't have the decency to sound worried about anything "shields failed, hull integrity is below twenty
percent."

"no @#^%. Ponta tried to get up, wasn't able to as her leg wasn't exactly bending the right way. "they're coming about" she said, the viewscreen cracked and barely holding an image.Schrodi helped her to her
seat as she sat down in her own, which was at a bit of an angle, seems the deck plate it was attached to buckled. As the two warbirds, one showing scars from their atack , the other unfortunately whole
turned towards them she sighed. "Damn. I'm sorry."


IRW Terrix

He stared at the smoking , burning wreck off the bow. HE should send over boarding parties to capture them, but after this much, and losing this many ships..no. Better to not take chances they'd be as
resourceful in repeling a boarding as anything else they've done this day "Finish them." he ordered, the ships lurching from the heavy plasma torpedos rocketing from the tubes. "Sir, I've incoming warp
signatures."

The Colonel just smiled "finally, my reinforcements, late to the party."



USS Dauntless

She couldn't do more than watch helpelessly as the torpedoes closed in on the crippled ship, growing larger in the flickering viewscreen-untill from off to the port side there was a barrage of phased polaron
cannon bursts, destroying the their incoming demise. she blinked as another ship came into view, it's four nacelles and Terran Empire yellow trim making her wonder if she had gone mad-untill she saw the USS
crudely painted over the ISS on the Warhawks bow. There was another flash, then a third as two more ships dropped out of warp, the USS Tunguska and the USS Agamemnon. The latter broke off from the other
two, shields extending around the burning Dauntless, enhancing it's SIF field as well as stablizng the hull while the other two ships turned towards the Warbirds, weapons blazing. The Tunguska's beams cut
through the damaged warbirds shields, sending it's core critical while the Warhawk's cannons hammered the Terrix's shields. untill Malor gave the order to retreat, the warbird jumping to warp.

"We're being hailed" Darvon said from her station, holding her broken arm to her side. "on screen, assuming it works." It smoked and sparked, but after a minute Admiral Missy Travis of the Warhawk's smiling
face was on the screen, along with Admiral Moira Stern of the Tunguska and Mirra from the Agamenon "nice of you to send up a flare so we could find you"

"how did you know it was us?" Replied Schrodi, blood covering her fur. Admiral Travis just grinned "Well we decected an entire system exploding, and since Moira was with me-"

"Ey now, I only blew up a starsystem once, and wasn't my bloody fault!" Replied Admiral Stern.

"did you get her back?" Schrodi asked as the bridge started to wobble.

Mirra nodded "yes, as you said it was a piece of cake."

"that's good, remind me never to say that again. I think I'm going to pass out now" She said, crumpling to the deck with a thump.



4 days later, Earth Space Dock


Admiral Quinn was known not to be a man who upset easily. Calm, paitent, an excellent diplomat and leader. It took a lot to get that vein in his forehead throbbing visibily. Like Commander Schrodinger in his
office yet again...this time with her first officer, though with a still healing broken leg Ponta wasn't standing heels locked together at attention like Schrodi was.

"I've got engineering at Utopia Planitia wanting to know just HOW you got mud and grass stains on the hull of your ship! and that was before it was shot to hell.." he rubbed his head and sat down. "Thing is,
I can't fire you as much as I'm tempted." he said, looking back at her report again. "everything you did makes sense after the fact, and if there hadn't been more Tal'shiar ships in the area than your intel
said, it would have worked perfectly."

She relaxed just a bit at that. "Still..where in God's name did you ever come up with an idea so insane? Warping INTO atmosphere?" he shook his head "downside is Tactical Evaluations wants to talk to you.

Being you pulled off something impossible they want to debrief you. Probably call it the Schrodinger Manuver or something" he said with a sigh.

"oh they can't do that Sir, I diddn't invent it."

"you mean someone else did something that stupid?" he asked wide eyed "who?"

"Admiral William Adama, Sir."

Quinn looked confused "who?"

"You woudln't have heard of him, he doesn't exist in this reality."

He just sat back down and put his head in his hands "you make my head hurt Schrodinger, Dismissed."

The two of them saluted, Schrodi pushing Ponta's wheelchair out the door. Quinn sighed "looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking."


On the turbolift the two of them ran into Rylov. He had returned with the Agamemnon, and was waiting for a transport to New Romulus "I heard shouting as I was waiting for the lift by the Admirals office, I
take it he was less than pleased with you?"

Schrodi just shook her head "he's prety upset, really chewed my ass this time." she said, as Ponta looks down the Caitian's back "Don't worry Cap'n, you've still got plenty of ass left."

"Thank you, Ponta."



He left them as he got off in the medical section. He had one more stop before his ship was due "Excuse me" he said to one of the nurses "I am looking for Captain Rhonda Evans."

"that's a coincidence, I am too" the nurse muttered "Two worst types to have as paitents in the universe, doctors and starship captains, and Evans is both. I think she's this way." The nurse lead him up a
level marked Pediatrics. there wasn't anyone by the desk, instead they seemed to be clustered down the hall, with many of the young paitents, children of Starfleet crew assigned to the station. She looked
much better than the last time he saw her in the Agamemnons transporter room, though her leg was still in a brace, sitting beside a small Trill child who was listening while she ran her fingers over some
type of stringed insturment, then began to sing.

"And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mould a new reality
Closer to the Heart
Closer to the Heart

The Blacksmith and the Artist
Reflect it in their art
Forge their creativity
Closer to the Heart
Yeah, it's closer to the Heart

Philosophers and Ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the Heart
Yeah, it's closer to the Heart

You can be the Captain and
I will draw the Chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the Heart"

There was quiet applause as she finished (it was a hospital ward after all) and she smiled as Rylov stepped out of the doorway where he was watching. She handed the instrument to one of the older children,
letting them try it out then got to her feet as best she could. "General, I was hoping to see you before you left."

"Please, that title is past. I am a mere historian now, at least I was. I'm not sure what I am anymore to be honest."

Rhonda nodded "still, I wanted to thank you."

"you must know, that I did not do it for you."

"Ah know." she sat down on the edge of the observation window "you did it to protect your people, to keep them from being turned into abominations like I was."

"ah, so you remember that."

She shrugged "I'm not upset, it's the truth. Though" she said " you did pick a harder way to go about it than you could have. You could have easily snuck in to the lab with a disruptor, turning me into
crispy sub-atomic particles."

"the thought had occoured to me to be honest."

"why diddn't you, if you don't mind me asking?"

He looked out the window at his reflection, and the to him alien world spinning slowly below. "I read your file. I know that you did not choose the path you follow, that you prefer to be saving lives, than
sitting in command of a heavily armed Starship."

Rhonda nodded and smirked ironicly "soon to be heavier armed, They've scheduled the Agamemnon for the Galaxy II refit to Dreadnaught class" she said, sighing a bit.

"Perhaps it is because they do not expect you to use the heavier weaponry unless there is no other option available." He shrugged, and looked out the window again. "S'tarna, took the loss of Romulus hard. My
son died while trying to get civilians on the last ships leaving, giving up his own spot, and his wife..." he closed his eyes. "she was a healer. Yet when she had to, she took dommand of a Warbird that was
crippled..and saved several transports from the Borg a year later. How could I then not try to save you, someone who is so much like her?"

She nodded "I can see that." there was an announcment for the transport to New Rommulus over the PA. "one thing though, remember this. there is no such thing as a mere historian. People like you are what keep the facts straight, so that people that come behind might not make the same mistakes."

He actually smiled at that "I will keep that in mind. Good luck to you in the future Captain Evans."

"and to you as well." She watched him go, then got back on the crutches, before she was late for her next physical therapy session.

Last edited by knightraider6; 06-29-2013 at 06:11 PM.
Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 268
# 16 Answer the frakkin question
06-27-2013, 10:50 AM
A stormy dark night fell over the southern plains, as I was lead out to the schism. The congregated armies of the empire and the confederacy trained their weapons on my back. My only sin; being a weapon with free will.

I was captured in a honey trap by an intelligence operative, who was assassinated after my sentencing, presumably by the very outfit who sent him after me.

That was a verry long time ago, I was within my species normal lifecycle then, even had a son while on the run. I do hope he is okay.

I digress. As I was saying, both armies had their weapons trained at my back, just in case I tried to run, but I had given up on fighting these people. They didn't see me anymore, only a threat to their own existence. Even though I never took a life, they feared me.

Before me was the schism; a hole in the fabric of reality which lead to parts unknown, possibly oblivion. At least, that was the common knowledge among my people.

I was cast out of reality, allegedly doomed to fall for all eternity, through the infinite void beyond. This was not the case.

The schism, as it turns out, is a transdimensional anomaly caused by a devestating weapon system I found to be called System XN.

Where I landed, with a leg shattering crunch, was a battlefield on a scale beyond my realisation. Spanning reality itself, I saw four armoured warriors tackle the terrible doosday machine. A living mechanical lifeform which evolved to meet every challenge it faced, yet it couldn't break the warriors' will.

I lay at the edge of the battle for days, waiting for my bones to reset, before dragging my bulk over to the wreckage of the machine. I couldn't believe that there was a lifeform within, piloting the monstrosity. His name was Helios Olympus.

He tasked me with destroying the XN, telling me what it could do in the process. Helios died as a result of a pylon impaling his side.

I couldn't bring myself to destroy the system, not when I could use it to get back home. Thus I started tinkering with the wreckage, trying to understand how the XN worked. Something I still do not understand.

After years of toil, I rebuilt the the XN module itself, but could not operate the machine, so I set about the remaining wreckage of the war machine, hoping to find a control mechanism. What I found was the entire machine WAS the control mechanism, keyed to Helios.

More years of work passed by, the result being the RV now down in the hangar bay.

As I finished building the RV, I looked back to find I had fractured the land just by walking over it. Whether or not it was due to me, or if it had been weakened by the battle between the armoured warriors, I wasn't hanging around to find out.

I fired up the RV's XN module, my mind solely driven by going home. It worked somewhat, but the degree of success was not absolute, I missed the reality I was aiming for.

Where I landed did not fair too well. A gleaming structure of crystal shattered as soon as I stepped upon it. This prompted some tinkering to build the compensators you see on all my uniforms.

I spent years hopping from reality to reality, learning to control the XN systems as I went. What I hoped to be my last dimensional jump was very different from any other. The readouts on my screen died, followed by the cockpit vanishing around me. Once again I was falling forever.

My senses numbed, I retreated into myself, losing all perception of the passage of time.

At some point, the nothingness was no longer... nothing. Swirls of light hurtled toward me in a hazy blur. As the light enveloped me, I felt motion for the first time in an eternity...

As my sight adjusted to the conditions, I found myself in an alien place, which I later found to be main Engineering of the U.S.S. Moray.

The rest is as recorded in my record, aside from that one encounter with Q. For me that misadventure lasted a lot longer than you think...


"You still didn't answer the question Cagalli... just how much do you weigh?" Amuro asked.

"Simple answer is I don't know exactly. All I do know is that no planet in the Alpha Quadrant can support my mass unassisted." I responded.

"If you're that heavy you must be exerting a gravitational pull... Why don't we try using the ships sensors for an estimated reading?" Amuro pitched.

"Why not?" I broke a smile "Let me get my EVA suit"

I stepped off of the hull, floating out a distance of 10KM from the Alteisen Riese. "Ready?" I asked over the comm.

"Ready!" Chimed a chorus from the bridge.

I turned off the compensators... the Odyssey class vessel lurched toward me.

"TURN THEM BACK ON!" Amuro screamed down the comm.

"What's the damage?" I asked.

"Well... you blew out the gravimetric sensors, but the closest the computer can estimate at this time is something in the range of 9 billion tons..."
Ikuzo, Trombe!
Captain
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,035
# 17
06-28-2013, 12:32 PM
Personal log: Stardate 88648.1

I shouldn't have been there, plain and simple.

This was Holy Ground to these people and here I was strolling around like the nonbeliever that I am. To be honest I wouldn't even be here if I didn't tug a few strings from my Section 31 connections but here I was, and here just happened to be the Vulcan Temple atop Mount Seleya. I could hardly breath by the time I made it to the top, it was way too hot and frankly that inoculation didn't really feel like it was doing much. As I began walking through the halls it seemed unusually quite given the sand storm on its way toward the temple, it must have been the acoustics of the architecture or something.

As quiet as it was though, I nearly jumped out of my skin when one of the priests spoke up from right behind me. I'd have guessed that she wasn't too pleased with my being here, but the only indication was the blunt direct tone to her voice. She didn't even ask why I was there, I really don't know if she had been given the heads up on my visit or if she could simply read my mind, but she led me through a series of corridors and passageways until we reached the isolation chambers, the ones used for deeper meditations or treatments for those who had been put through the emotional trauma T'Pal had experienced.

The Priest was gone before I could even ask what to do next, so I kind of just shrugged and knocked on the door.

"I expected you sooner Captain."

Another Vulcan that didn't sound so pleased to see me, but this one was at least a friend. At least when she wasn't giving me such a stone cold expression.

"It's good to see you E'Saul."

"As it is to see you James."

"How are you? How is she?"

"I remain the same as usual, but T'Pal still has her 'ups and downs' as you would say."

"May I?"

"Yes, you may, but please remain silent. We have been in here trying to focus her Katra. She has been doing well, but still seems to be having nightmares."

We walked into the small room, lit only by a few candles on a small alter and one or two on the floor to aid in meditation. There on the floor knelt in some sort of light robes was my First Officer. To be honest, I don't think I had ever seen her with her hair down. It was longer than I would have expected, and she looked different when it framed her face. Se was only about forty or so in human years, but didn't look a day over twenty nine. She breathed so slowly that I couldn't even tell she had been breathing at all, so as quietly as I could, I found a spot on the wall to lean against.

The Doctor took her place opposite of T'Pal and began chanting in the native when she put her hands out and did something that caught me off guard. A small bowl had been between them, filled with what I could only assume was water when it suddenly started moving. I stood in amazement at what I was watching as it began with light ripples, then heavier ones. As T'Pal began chanting, the water began taking various patterns, making geometric shapes. I had no clue they could do such things, at least I'd never seen or heard anything beyond the famous telepathy. They went on like this for another hour or so... I think. They woke me up after I began snoring too loud.

E'Saul pulled a few strings of her own to allow her and T'Pal to do her therapy here. E'Saul had trained here for twenty years before Admiral Aviess recruited her back into service, which was about two years before joining my crew. She was a devout Vulcan and could have made a great priestess had she stayed with it. After what happened aboard the ship she felt here was the best place for her to recover. They could do some sort of ritual that would allow them to dampen the memories which would make it easier to treat her as well as retrain her to control her emotions. Eventually over the treatment they had let more of the emotions through, but even then it was a slow process. It had been two months since they'd left the ship, I myself had only been back for one.

They invited me back to their Quarters to eat since I wasn't really allowed to eat with the rest of the Priests and Priestess'. It gave me a chance to have a more intimate discussion, both with T'Pal as well as E'Saul, who had been my counselor as well until an alternate version of myself attacked using a stolen Tholian carrier. Things were quiet at first, but E'Saul couldn't help but comment on my expression over dinner. I'm not one to turn down a free meal or genuine hospitality, but it'd entirely slipped my mind that all the Vulcans on my crew were vegetarian.

"Is there a problem with the meal James?"

"I uh... I just forgot Vulcans were so big on the salads."

"I apologize James, shall we go out and find you something more suitable? The monastery garden has had a slight chkariya infestation if you would prefer to solve both problems at once?"

To my surprise T'Pal laughed, just slightly, but even E'Saul cocked an eyebrow quizzically. I couldn't help but to laugh myself, this just egged her on, which made me laugh harder. Dr. E'Saul even gave a sly little smirk as the two of us were laughing harder and harder. After we had calmed down I couldn't help but feel guilty. Here she was working for months to regain control of her emotions as well as get passed what happened to her, and in a few hours of being here, I had her laughing. She had a look on her face of slight disappointment before she took a deep breath to regain composure.

"Do not feel bad James," E'Saul said, it must have been my expression, "it is good for her to laugh, I find that the positive helps balance out the negative, she cannot regain control of her emotion without proper equilibrium. A little cheat here and there might help in both of your recoveries."

"How is the rest of the crew Sir?" T'Pal asked. The tone of her voice gave away a little more emotion than intended, but it was good to hear her sounding a little more like herself.

"They're good actually, Mr. Sabin and Lt. Cmdr Edison are on a sabbatical aboard the U.S.S. Nixon."

"The Nixon? That ship is supposed to be on assignment studying anomalies in the Tau Dewa sector, is it not?" E'Saul asked.

"It is actually, go figure that the two smartest guys on the ship would take a vacation to a ship to study black holes."

I looked to T'Pal but not even a smile. The sad thing is that actually made me feel a little better, which was a shame too, she had a really cute laugh.

"Pruz managed to talk Dave into taking Wraith to Risa to celebrate."

"Risa?" This time both ladies cocked their eyebrow.

'Yeah" I laughed a little, "she thought it would be fun to see this summer celebration they've got going on lately. From the last I'd heard they took the boy swimming, and he nearly drowned."

"Drowned? Is he-?"

"He's fine, but it was kind of funny that with everything he's done, not once did any of us ever stop to think if he could swim. He quite proudly blurted over Keating that Mrs. Pruz "showed him several mating rituals."

I jumped a little bit when T'Pal suddenly do a spit take on me from that. She did however manage to keep herself from showing anything. Even E'Saul's eyes popped open at that.

"Fizi?" E'Saul asked.

"Dancing. She took the boy dancing at the festival. He didn't know how to do that either, so she had to teach him a few different dance moves."

She sighed in relief... well... as much as a Vulcan can anyway. I laughed a little again as I wiped the water from my shirt, T'Pal apologized profusely. I couldn't be mad, it was kind of a surprise, plus it was hilarious to be frank.

After we finished eating I helped E'Saul clean up the plates as T'Pal went back to meditate once more in solitude. Since the monastery didn't use replicators it meant having to actually hand wash everything, something I haven't done since I was a small boy visiting my Grandma. I tried to stay out of the way of the monks as we cleaned up. We talked about a lot of things that have happened since the ordeal with the monster that WAS my mirror self. I hated to admit to such a thing but I had to confide in her that I was glad that he was dead, more so that I had almost enjoyed watching Wraith break him down like that. I was horrified that part of the reason I broke down and cried was not only because I had been through a similar experience, but partly because I was so glad he was dead and had gone in agony.

She paused a moment to reflect, something I've come to realize was more trouble than I wanted to hear right now.

"What is it Doctor?" My tone was of clear concern.

"I did not want to hold this from you, but I did not honestly know how to bring this up Captain."

Captain... She hadn't called me that the entire time I'd been here.

"It was what he took Captain."

"What he took? What who took? Do you mean what he did to T'Pal? What did he do to-"

"Nanites Captain, he left Fizi alive in sick bay so he could access the files in the computer. He left her unharmed because she was so willing to cooperate and because he had other plans."

I was angry, it just flared up from no where at this point. But the Doctor, luckily had that sharp wit to her and managed to catch me before I said anything I regret.

"She's an empath Sir, she could sense what he was, she was practically in tears because of the things he was doing to T'Pal. You yourself locked up in fear after he tortured you, all she did was what she had to so she could help once we got free. He had sent down a guard or two for things like a dermal regenerator, my laser scalpel, and a few different drug compounds for keeping patients awake during surgeries. At one point during T'Pal's ordeal, Fizi said he came down personally to access the computer in my office before using medical replicator. That injector he had was full of repurposed nanites."

"Repurposed?"

"I am not sure how just yet?"

"Just yet?"

"I have been working through it while not helping T'Pal with her recovery. He had gone through numerous files on my personal computer, everything I had in there involving Borg nanotechnology."

"Everything?"

"Must you keep repeating me like that James?"

I gave a little chuckle, as mad as I was, E'Saul had known me too long, she knew exactly which buttons to push and when. Its also why I asked that she pull double duty as the ships counselor. She knew what I was asking though.

"Everything though, I have checked and he had somehow managed to break any encryptions I had in place and accessed everything from the Voyager files to Section 31 to my own files on Both Edison and Wraith."

"Wraith? But his nanites are-"

"Are his entire immune system, they are the only things keeping his body from tearing itself apart. They also help heal his more serious injuries."

"When they revived Wraith after he'd been suffocated, can that be why he injected himself?"

She gave me that sarcastic look she gives when I say something "foolishly human".

"You can not just inject a dead body with blood from someone else to bring it back Captain, that is just plain ludicrous. That would be like me using a hypospray of Gorn DNA to regrow your arm. It just does not work that way. Besides, there was no way of telling if he was dead or not without an actual body."

"He had bigger plans.... It's the only thing that makes sense. He wanted those nanites for something, and even though he's dead, I think his first officer is going to carry those plans out."

"Agreed, it is the logical reason for their sudden departure. Regardless Captain, we need to prepare for the eventual causality of what happened. Not if, but when that crew returns we need to be ready for anything they might throw at us."

She was right, there was no doubt about it. If that evil Bastard uses those nanites, we need to be prepared. After her meditations were finished I had to apologize to T'Pal about my having to leave and the reasoning why. She gave me a hug which I wasn't expecting, but I hugged her back, kissing her on the forehead. I knew exactly the kinds of things she'd been through, and much to my dismay she knew the things that had been done to me now as well. While our physical scars maybe faded, E'Saul is still there doing her best to help us become whole again. I wished her the fastest recovery possible, both the crew and I couldn't wait to have her back when she felt like she was ready.

As I left she shed a small tear, wiping it away as she suppressed any emotions she had been feeling. Looking back I honestly didn't want to leave, it was the first bit of peace I'd had in a long time, it was almost like being normal again. For a few brief hours I was completely happy after what happened, but for the time being, it looked like I was going to have to make some big plans of my own. I waved to her and E'Saul before pulling my comm badge out of my pocket and chirping the ship.

"One to beam up."

Last edited by wraithshadow13; 06-28-2013 at 12:46 PM.
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,387
# 18
06-29-2013, 11:20 AM
Are we the last ones left alive?
are we the only human beings to survive?
Are we the last ones left alive?
Are we the only human beings to survive?


-Rush, "Red Sector A"

USS Belleau Wood, 2362, Somewhere on the Cardassian front near Bajor...


"Hold still, sir!" Nurse Vetra scolded, "The bones aren't finished knitting and you'll heal crooked."

"I have to get back down there." Lt. Commander Drake Tran was maybe hysterical, maybe delirious, "they-"

"You Need to stay here, sir." the Denobulan medic insisted, "You're badly injured."

"They're killing those people." he practically snarled.

The Nurse hit him with a hypo-spray, and he went limp.

There are things a man can never un-see...


One hundered thirty days ago...

"...your mission is Reconaissance, do not initiate contact." Captain Korolov said, "understood, Leutenant Commander?"

"I understand, Sir." Drake said, "Get in, plant some surveillance equipment, monitor their transmissions."

The big, dark-skinned Russian smiled a brilliant, white smile from a face the colour of roasted mahogany. "Excellent. Starfleet intelligence
seems to think the Cardies are preparing a staging base near the labour camp, We're supposed to confirm that, You'll be teamed with Lt. Montoya
and Ensign Suvok."

"How are we inserting, sir?" Drake asked, "They've got a transport interdict over the site..."

"You'll be taking a shuttle whose engines and shielding are set up with a masking system...you maybe are familiar with the design." Korolov told
him.

"Suvok's prototype?" Lt. Enrico Montoya asked from the side, "Sir, are you sure it's a good idea to use experimental equipment like that?"

"it's the best idea we've got-the Belleau Wood is too...noisy, and large, and this information's too valuable to maintaining the peace,
We have to be able to counter the Cardies instead of being caught flat-footed. it'll be a week in, a week out to the rendezvous point, you'll
only have a few days on the ground behind enemy lines."

"Well...I guess we saddle up, then." Drake said, "Those bugs won't be planting themselves."


Outside Sickbay, USS Belleau Wood...

Captain Alexei Illych Korolov waited outside the sick bay for Nurse Vetra. "How is he?" the old man asked. Vetra sighed.

"Sir, Leutenant Commander Tran is in terrible shape, the Cardassian interrogation is partly responsible, but he's also malnourished with a number of
poorly healed injuries, but that's not the true extent of the damage they did to him." She sighed, "Frankly, you should be thanking those Bajoran
fighters that got him out of there, much longer and there wouldn't have been anything left."

"What about Montoya?" Korolov asked, wincing.

"Tranquilized for now." she said, "Same as Mister Tran-We managed to save his leg, at least, They both insist that the Cardassians are going to
exterminate the remaining prisoners..." She paused, "is there any truth to that?"

Korolov didn't answer her question directly, saying only "We can't interfere in their internal struggles, Leutenant, we have our men back now."
The captain of the Belleau Wood sighed, "And a peace with the Cardassians, and they've agreed to leave Bajor...and interference at this stage could
put all of that in jeopardy." He sighed, "I don't like it any more than you do-but it's not our JOB to like or dislike Federation Policy. Let me know when
my boys can see visitors."




Ragged lines of ragged grey,
skeletons, they shuffle away.
Shouting guards and smoking guns,
cut down the unlucky ones...


-Rush, "Red Sector A"

Outside Labour Camp 34, Cardassian Territory, one hundered twenty days ago...

Lt. Enrico Montoya held very, very still as the Cardie patrol passed his position overlooking the mines. Behind him and to the north, LTC Tran was also
lying doggo under an improvised ghillie net. They were close enough that Enrico could almost touch the cardie boots. "...slut in thirteen really knows
how to take it-I barely have to hit her anymore and she is down on her knees." one of them was saying, "not that hitting her isn't fun-but only at the right
moment..." The Cardies laughed coarse, nasty laughter as their friend described how he would beat and **** a prisoner. It was almost too much for Enrico-he
wanted to kill this man, and his friends, so very much.

but that wasn't the mission-yet. The laughing guards passed unmolested.

He stole a look at his CO's position. Their eyes met, and Enrico saw the same cold fury, held back by the same understanding. We'll kill them later.

The mission was, at present, recon. Find the staging area, find the ammunition dumps, the communications array, and plant listening devices.

They had another four hours before sunset.

They had another three days before Suvok, in the shuttlecraft, could safely make contact with the surface team.


For Tran, it was almost physically painful to hear the Cardassian soldiers joking about how they liked to violate their prisoners, laughing about their
brutality, and cruelty. As a boy from the border with the Klingons, he'd learned of honor from a ridge-headed warrior who owned a farm not far from his
own. These P'taqs deserved no mercy.

I guess we'll have to stay a couple days more. he decided. Once the listening devices were planted, he intended to come back this way, and teach the
brutal bastards a lesson. Part of his mind was already going over diagrams of common Cardie equipment for things that could be used to improvise explosions,
radiation release, death, fire, and pain.

and, of course, remembering that a knife always works.

Down, below them, a line of prisoners were being inspected by their overseers at the edge of a shallow pit. Then the overseers open fire.

Hold. Still. Drake Tran watched the slaughter of the prisoners and his heart hardened just a little more.

But he did dial up the magnification.

Some of the victims being kicked into the pit were Bajorans, some were Cardassian. All were emaciated, but not all were yet dead.

there are things a man can't un-see.

The two men waited for nightfall.


Night time, ridgeline near Labour Camp 34...

"they murdered those people, they buried some of them alive." Lt. Montoya whispered, "What kind of..."

"calm down, man." Drake said, "I saw it too-but we have a mission. once that's done, we can do something...maybe-haring down there guns blazing won't
help those people."

"We've got to do something." Enrico said, "Madre de Dios we have to do something, sir."

"We will...we will, just don't **** up the rest of the mission." Drake said softly.

they moved in the shadow of the hillside, somehow slipping past the alert beacons into the military heart of the massive complex.

The systems were designed, Drake realized, to keep people in, not to detect intruders from outside.

The arrogance would have been apalling, if he hadn't seen what the Cardies were keeping these people in for.

the relay was ahead-it was in a well-lit, busy area of the base. The key to successful commando operations is to get in, do your business, and get out without
being noticed. A trail of bodies is practically an announcement of your presence.

They could hear the screams and the cries on the night air from the prisoner section. Drake slipped between the command post area and the transmitter, and almost tripped
on the cables connecting the tower to it's power source.

The devices were small-they were designed to be difficult to find, difficult even to notice. He set about planting bugs while Enrico kept watch, coordinating his movement
to the movement of the Cardassians, who followed their routines with the complacency borne of safety...


USS Belleau Wood...2362...

"...information was solid, you've done a hell of a job here, Captain." Admiral Nechaev said with a smile. Korolov nodded, "Thank you for the compliment,
you should have some praise for my team though-they really made the concept work."

"They got caught." the Admiral said with a sour frown, "I'm not sure that's really a laudable achievement."

"Naturally not, but they survived, and they didn't break secrecy." Korolov told her, "That ought to count for something."

The Admiral sighed, her image over subspace looked thoughtful, "Naturally. It does, they'll get a commendation-even if nobody can ever be allowed to see
it.
"

"What about the Labor camp?" Korolov asked.

"aside from the blackmail potential? We can't touch it, Alexei, the Federation Council wants this peace, and we can't afford to have an
optional war with the Cardassians. It's been useful enough as a threat-besides, it's been two days, if they haven't shut it down and moved on by now..."

"Naturally." Korolov nodded.

"Break it to them gently, Alex." she told him, "Take no actions that might endanger the peace process."



All that we can do is just survive,
all that we can do to help ourselves is
stay alive...

-Rush, "Red Sector A".

ONe hundered and ten days ago...

Montoya was running. The Cardies were sharper than they'd seemed, when he and Tran had set the charges off. "Turn right, down the gully." LTC Tran's
voice over the headset instructed.

The Cardie pursuit followed Enrico down into the gully, with wings flanking along the lip of the eroded feature.

"Cover!" Drake's voice told him. Enrico jumped hard left into a nearly hidden pocket in the rock, and the walls of the eroded feature echoed as improvised
explosives shattered the rock lips on either side, catching the group/squad? of Cardassians in a double-landslide.

These cardassians weren't laughing anymore. Instead, they were angry.

"Bug out, 'rico, I'm compromised, get clear, find a spot that you can call a beamout." Tran told him over the headset, "I'll buy you some time."


It wasn't enough, Enrico realized as his nerves went crazy and blackness slid over his vision.


Sick Bay, USS Belleau Wood...

"What do you remember, Leutenant?" Captain Korolov was asking. Enrico leaned up on his elbow, "Sir, the next thing I remember, is trying to hold Tran's
guts in with a cannister-lid while we three-legged it to that Bajoran shuttlecraft. I don't ****ing remember anything from the last three months.

"Nothing at all?" Korolov asked, prodding.

"Nothing, sir." Montoya said, Least of all HER. "IF anyone asks in the inquiry, my answer's going to be the same, sir."

"What makes you think there's going to be an inquiry?" Korolov asked bemused.

"Starfleet officer, upper eighty-second percentile, with a three month hole in his memory, sir? you think there won't??" Montoya asked rhetorically, "at
minimum there's going to be a medical inquest, plus a security investigation since we were prisoners of war-I'll need one if I ever want to have
my damn security clearance back...yeah, there'll be an inquiry."

"I...see." the Captain did NOT look pleased by this-he'd almost looked happier (or less disturbed) when Enrico admitted to the amnesia. "Carry on getting well,
Leutenant." Captain Korolov stood up, and left the isolation room for it's twin across the bay.


"What do you remember, Leutenant Commander?" Korolov asked.

"Do you want it chronologically, or in escalating order of horrors, sir?" Drake Tran said bitterly, "I remember every damned second."

"The Leutenant doesn't-care to explain that?" Korolov asked.

"he's luckier than I am. What do you want to hear about first, sir?" Tran asked.

"Tell me what happened to your team? I sent five of you down..." Korolov began.

"No sir, you sent two of us, with Ensign Suvok in the shuttle to be our extraction." Drake said, "as for what happened, sir...we got caught-after we planted the
damn bugs you wanted planted, our extraction got bolo'ed. Site was treyf, Suvok had to wave off."

Korolov looked uncomfortable, "The records show I sent five men." he insisted.

"not mine." Tran said, "I told you, sir, I remember every second."

"Mister Tran, I have three men who swear-and will swear, in any court of inquiry, that you and Leutenant Montoya held off the Cardassians long enough to enable
their dust-off, They will testify that the only reason you weren't beamed out with them, was that everyone thought the two of you were dead...including
LEUTENANT Suvok."

"nice fiction sir...does this mean you really need me to either have no memories, or remember it according to the script?" Drake asked acidly.

"Help me with the script, Mister Tran, I guarantee you, your career will benefit-but if you insist on denying the facts on record, your career is, effectively,
over." Korolov said.

"Turn off the smoke alarm, and have someone replicate me a pack of cigarettes-with real nicotene and all the carcinogens." Drake said, "We're going to write
fiction, I might as well have a pleasant, buzzy feeling while I'm lying my ass off."

"Now, what happened after you were captured?" Korolov shook two of the little, highly illegal, items from a replicated pack, one for him, and one for Tran.
"Light?" he added.

Drake took the cigarette, and nodded, "Yeah...after the dustoff, we managed to lead them a merry chase to the edge of their denial zone. we didn't get much
further than that, because some smart son of a ***** on the other side worked out where we would end up first. They hit us with phasers, set to stun, and
brought us into the work-camp."

"No Work Camp, Leutenant, it was a Military Base." Korolov told him sternly.

"Fine, into the base. we were separated out, the Cardies seemed to think we knew something about an operation called 'divine wind', and they were VERY
intent on finding out how many ships were assigned to this 'divine Wind' operation...I can't say what they were questioning Montoya over, he's a junior officer
and wouldn't be privy to serious dirt..." Drake took a long drag and flicked ashes into a bedpan. "These guys weren't the pros,though-I'm pretty sure they
didn't beat 'rico any harder than they beat on me. After a few days, at least, if I count the seconds I was awake, it was a few days, they put us out in
the general holding, where they put us to work."

"Work?" Korolov asked.

"Yeah, loading ore onto carts for transshipment to the refinery, right alongside the political prisoners, and the Bajoran ex-fighters..."



I clutch the wire fence until my fingers bleed,
a wound that will not heal,
a heart that cannot feel,
hoping that the horror will recede,
hoping that tomorrow, we'll all be free...

-Rush, "Red Sector A"


Work Camp 34, Ninty Seven Days ago...

"You will be held accountable for their actions, prisoner." The Cardassian Guard sneered, "one of them makes a mistake, or falls behind quota, you will also be punished."

"Trying to make me a Capo, you goyim son of a *****?" Tran spat in the face of the guard, who beat him down with the butt of his movealong, then shot two other prisoners,

"And if YOU make trouble, they get punished too." the Cardie guard spat back, "Starting with the weakest ones...Watch."

Three guards wrestled a slight girl, she couldn't be more than thirteen, out of the assembly. From where he was chained, Tran could see her face, and the resigned looks of
the other prisoners while she screamed.

When they finished, she was a broken lump of bloody rags, quivering and alive and traumatized.

"Are we clear? Don't make me have to demonstrate it to you again...because I will."


Sickbay, isolation room 2, USS Belleau Wood...

"Hold it, Drake, we can't put that in the report... my god man." Korolov was visibly shaken, "if it ever got out..."

"If it got out, the peace talks would fall apart, you mean." Tran said, "I've got a million of them, sir, scenes just like that, some worse, some involved actual
****."

"You spent time there, why...why would they do that?" Korolov asked.

"Anger, fear, power." Tran said, "Anger because they were losing the insurgency on Bajor, Fear because, frankly, the regime on Cardassia's run by some cynical SOB's,
Power, because they had power there, but most of those 'guards' wouldn't make the cut in a front line military-their site security was sloppy-we got in and were almost
out entirely until the charges prematurely detonated."

"Charges?" Korolov stopped, "What charges?"

"The ones I put in the officer's barracks." Drake said, "We had time until dust-off and me and Enrico had just watched them...doing things...to the people in there. Couldn't
stand it, sir-someone had to do something." the asian man smiled, "I know a couple dozen got out in the confusion. More would've, if they weren't cowed into submission
by months or years of constant abuse."

"How do you know they weren't recaptured?" Korolov asked.

"Because they came back for us." Tran stated simply, "Who do you think got the Bajoran Resistance to risk major assets on a long-distance raid? it sure as hell
wasn't ME."

"It wasn't in your mission brief either." Korolov growled.

"Court martial me, sir, I'm sure any board of inquiry would LOVE to hear about everything..." Tran said, "Oh, wait...they wouldn't, or we wouldn't be having this talk."

"It would be your word against everyone else." Korolov said.

"Enrico came through for me and I came through for him, if it ends up backs-against-the-wall, I'm pretty sure he'd suddenly have a cure for his amnesia." Tran said, "We talked it
out on the way back, I know how much importance you and Starfleet command are putting on these talks, and how big a deal it is for the Bajorans to have the Cardies pulling out..."

"I suppose I could...have the record adjusted into a failed POW rescue." Korolov said thoughtfully.

"Probably be a good idea sir, it might even not impact your promotion." Tran said, a cynical twist to his mouth, "Here's how you're going to put it down-you sent in a five man team
to bust Sarish Naprem out-she was a Starfleet asset, at least, that is what she told me...the mission went to hell, but we got her out of there."

"Why would that be important?" Korolov asked.

"She's also a number two or three level in the Resistance, one of the big cells...for three months, I had Bajoran prisoners thanking me for 'saving' one of their leaders." Tran sighed,
"Nevermind you, me and Enrico all know it was a screw up that happened because I let my heart get in my head's way...but the important part of the story, is that instead of playing at
damage control over this, you'll have a neat little career-feather in your hat-you'll look good."

Korolov nodded, "IF you stick to that script, and if Montoya sticks to it, you'll have a promotion, off of this ship-how does 'Executive Officer' on a Constellation class sound?"

"We'll stick to your script, sir...you just keep the details straight-minimal details, and 'Rico gets a jump in rank once he's out of treatment." Tran countered.

"Done." Korolov stated, and stood up.

"What about the prison?" Tran asked.

"They called it Gallutep, Commander Tran, it was liberated by the Bajoran resistance about three weeks after they got you out."

Korolov stood up, and left the room.

"Imagine that." Tran said quietly.


2370, Maquis Base, Badlands...

"...know a few things about Starfleet, Jeff, they were willing to try and cover up atrocities before to preserve their peace-of-paper, they'll do it again." Drake Tran said, "I have...personal experience in that."

"Is that why you defected, sir?" Jeff Hunnington was another ex-fleet vet.

"Yeah...it is, I guess. Maybe I just don't believe anymore." Tran frowned, "We're going to need more than this if we're going to hit that assembly area."
"when you're out of Birds of Prey, you're out of ships."
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 145
# 19 Happiness
07-01-2013, 06:58 PM
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.
Blaise Pascal, human, Earth, 1623-1662


---

August 2411, Bajor

The shockwave blew out the windows to Colonel Ranchet's station. He was knocked to the floor. He immediately drew his sidearm and peered out the window. Even though he was a seasoned officer, it took a few moments for the truth of the situation to sink in. News of the secret peace talks with the Breen must have leaked out, and an angry party decided to make a statement. A blast powerful enough to knock out his windows eight kilometers away must have been strong enough to cause mass devastation in downtown Korto.

His fears were confirmed several minutes later. When the skies cleared, none of the towers in Korto were standing. Downtown was obliterated.

Ranchet knew that he had performed his tasks flawlessly. His department had screened every visitor for the past two months, so he was certain that this was home-grown Bajoran terrorism. That feeling did nothing to eliminate the waves of pain that rippled through his life for several months.

---

September 2411

Ch'Raul sat down at the desk in his office and put his head in his palm. He took a minute to compose himself and then began recording.

"Counselor's log, supplemental. I just finished a mandatory counseling session with Lieutenant Commander Hillel. He is obviously frustrated about being reassigned from head of security to acting captain of beta shift. Captain Carter was a fool to couch the demotion in terms of 'broadening your experience base.' Even a first-year counselor knows better than to make that up.

"Hillel has always suppressed his emotions. That works very well when you are dealing with difficult command situations, but it doesn't work all that well when dealing with your own problems. His wife Isabella is trying to help him, but I feel like this is something that he is going to have to deal with own his own. No amount of cajoling will make him change thirty-six standard years' worth of habits. End recording." Then, after a brief pause, he continued. "And if he ever threatens me, I'm going to break his arm."

A female voice interrupted. "Append recording with current statements?"

"No!"

---

February 2412

Six standard weeks of leave did not come very often. Most officers took that time to visit family, spending weeks to reach homes flung throughout the Alpha and Beta quadrants. Others would visit tourist traps like Risa. Some would inevitably volunteer to work in order to earn a favor from their captain down the road.

The Hillel family did something stranger. They were from Earth, but they ended up on Bajor. Isabella Hillel knew why this had happened. Her husband Yair had been troubled ever since his "encounter" with the life-forms inside the Bajoran wormhole last year. Yair felt horrible when terrorists destroyed most of a Bajoran city a few days after he left the sector, and that sense never left him. Now Yair had dragged Isabella and Emily to Bajor in hopes of finding peace.

They checked into a hotel in Ashalla, but a few days later Yair rented an apartment on the outskirts of Korto. At that point it was clear to Isabella that Yair had no intention to return to duty on the Reaper, or to seek a new post on the Executor along with Captain T'Panna.

She hoped that this move would finally bring Yair some peace. She didn't understand his burdens but knew that they needed to lift soon.

---

I still haven't found my purpose yet.

I have been on Bajor for eleven days. Most of every day has been spent searching the comnet for jobs or walking through Korto, trying to find a way to make myself useful. Nothing has satisfied me.

Isabella wants to talk about our plans every night. I tell her that she knows as much as I do, but I will let her know when I figure it out. It is obvious that she is unhappy, but I don't know what to do about that.

Today I spoke with several organizations that are involved in rebuilding Korto. Most of them were uncomfortable with a non-Bajoran being a part of their security team, so I thanked them for their time and moved on. One woman asked why I was interested, and I made the mistake of telling her about my experience in what she calls "The Celestial Temple." She yelled in my face and called me a heretic.

The experience in the wormhole has ruined me. I can't sleep at night. Being intimate with Isabella isn't satisfying. Watching Emily grow fills me with dread because I feel like I can't provide a stable home environment for her to mature. I feel like every aspect of my life has been tarnished by that encounter. Why do they want me to suffer?

---

Three weeks later

I resigned my commission with Starfleet a week ago. A few days later a commander on Deep Space Nine offered me a position on the station. I told her that I'd get back with her, but I'm pretty sure that is not where I belong.

Of course, I don't know where I do belong.

---

The latest network alert grabbed Colonel Ranchat's attention. He quickly changed into civilian clothes and headed towards the underground transit. His handset provided real-time status on his target. Fifteen minutes later, he was on the trail of the latest suspect.

Ranchat checked to make sure that his earring was in place. In his private life he was one of the few Bajorans who clung to the Ohalavaru teachings. He had voluntarily left the mainstream faith in order to practice what he believed was the truth about the Bajoran gods. But when blending in public, he needed to look like an average citizen, so a nondescript earring was in his right ear. Just take it out before I go home and see my wife, he thought.

Seven minutes ago the target entered a medium sized park in a suburban neighborhood. Ranchat's handset told him that there were four exits, and that plainclothes officers had arrived to block off the other three exits. Ranchat smiled and pushed the handset into a pocket. Then he approached the target.

"It is a pleasant day, is it not, Mister Hillel?" Ranchat sat next to the human man.

The human looked confused. "I'm afraid that we haven't met. Your name is?"

"My name is not your concern," Ranchat replied. "I wanted to let you know that I have been watching you since you and your family arrived on Bajor. You have researched the rebuilding of Korto, the infrastructure, hospitals, schools, and military installations. It is clear that you are planning to disrupt my society further. I will not allow that.

"I am giving you a choice. You have one day - that is twenty-six hours - to leave the Bajor system. Leave, and do not ever come back. If you stay, I will hunt you down. I will not let you harm my people. Do I make myself clear?" Ranchat moved his jacket back to give the human a view of his disruptor pistol.

The human looked like he was about to cry. Ranchat recalled the details in Hillel's Starfleet profile. Could it be possible that this man had a legitimate encounter with the life forms in the wormhole? Ranchat was suspicious.

"I have broken no laws, but clearly you have been tracking me and have marked me as a threat. Do you really believe that a man who would abandon his career to move here and help your people is willing to cause harm?"

Ranchat stopped himself from a harsh reply. "My job is to protect Bajorans. It is clear to me that you are not helping us. If you are not helping, then what are you doing?"

"I have no idea," the human replied. Then he stood up and walked away.

A few moments later, Ranchat gave the order to let the human go. The plainclothes intelligence officer at the park's southwest corner let Hillel pass without incident.

Ranchat sat on the bench for several minutes, replaying the dialogue in his head. Seventeen years of experience told him that Yair Hillel was dangerous, but the look on the man's face was not that of a criminal.

---

Yair came home early, which surprised Isabella. She quickly ended her conversation on the comnet, picked up a padd containing a novel, and went to greet him. A short glance confirmed that he had no success today.

At dinner she decided to take a new approach. "You know how we have been talking about taking Emily home to Israel for Yom Kippur, right? I'm thinking that this would be a good year to do that. It's far enough out that your new employer should be able to give you the time off."

"That's fine," Yair replied without any enthusiasm. "Why don't we plan on the two of you going?"

"Does that mean you found something?" I shouldn't have said that, Isabella immediately thought.

"No. I just think we should be realistic, that's all."

That was the end of the dinner conversation. Afterwards Yair opened up the kanaar. He drank for a few hours and then fell asleep on the couch. He did not mention the timetable for leaving.

---

Bajoran security couldn't be more annoying if they wanted to, Yair thought. Hourly reminders sent to his handset were driving him mad.

He told Isabella that he was going to Ashalla, but instead he headed for the nearly empty ski resorts in the mountains a few hours away. Fall was rapidly approaching, so the area was only lightly trafficked. He found a small trail that led to a four hundred meter vertical drop. It was the end of the trail, and the end of his trail.

He activated his handset's recording feature. "Isabella, I am sorry for the trouble that I have caused you. By now I see that there is no room for me here on Bajor. I really believed that I belonged here, that there was a place for me to help the Bajorans. But now I know that they don't want an outsider to help them, even an outsider that has been touched by one of their gods. Their prejudice confuses me, but I can't do anything to change them.

"Please head back to Earth and start life over again. I hope that you can forget about this place and move on. I love you both. End recording."

The phaser was cold in Hillel's hands. He set the beam strength to maximum and paused for a moment. Was this really the only way for him to find peace?

His handset chimed. It was an actual call, not the hourly text message reminding him to leave the planet. Hillel looked and saw that the caller was not his wife. He answered while leaving the phaser pressed against his lower jaw. "This is Hillel," he said.

An old man's voice replied. "Are you interested in baseball?"

"I'm sorry, I am afraid you have reached the wrong person."

"No, I have reached the right person, Commander Yair Hillel. I'd like to invite you to my house for lunch tomorrow, and then we'll head out to the diamond to catch a double-header."

Yair had no clue what this person was talking about. "Who are you?"

"Seriously? You must be the only person on the planet who doesn't recognize my voice. My name is Ben Sisko."
Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 457
# 20 Homecoming
07-02-2013, 11:01 AM
Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding, Task Group Hipparchus

T minus 336 hours

"It's an antique." Admiral Semok's tone is... definitely disparaging.

"It's a design classic," I say. "Sir," I remember to add.

Semok takes another slow look around the bridge of the IGV Spirits of Earth. The portly Vulcan looks rather out of place on the cramped bridge of the Andorian Charal-class escort. "It is not quite what I had envisaged, when I contemplated the next generation of Starfleet warships," he says.

"Learn from the past, sir." I hand him the PADD with the ship's specs. "We've incorporated the latest fruits of the Romulan Republic technology exchange... and I think we've learned lessons from other sources, too. The Charal's design is - compact, highly efficient, specialized for combat -"

"There seems to be an error in your figures." Semok frowns as he studies the PADD.

"Where?" He points. "No, sir, I don't see any typographical errors there."

Semok's eyes widen as this sinks in. He's looking at the readouts for structural integrity... and they're telling him that this fragile-looking Andorian antique has a durability that compares very favourably with a Federation dreadnought. "Fascinating," he says. "I will confess, then, to being somewhat impressed."

"Thank you, sir."

"Further study is, of course, required. In this context, there are some matters I wish to discuss with you. We are both agreed, I think, that actual combat experience is the best way to gather this data?"

"I'm more than ready to take Spirits of Earth into combat, sir."

"I do not doubt that." Semok looks around. "I am unfamiliar with the deck plan. Would you accompany me to the transporter room, Vice Admiral?"

"Of course, sir."

Semok still seems out of place as we walk down the corridors of the ship. "I have arranged for an addition to your crew complement," he says. "I believe this new officer will prove of value - and, in some sense, it is an experimental assignment."

"Experimental?"

We are at the transporter room. One thing about the Charal, it is a lot easier to navigate inside than the King Estmere. Semok goes to the console, keys a communications frequency, and says, "Ready to energize."

"Confirmed," says a musical female voice. Semok operates the controls. A column of blue light shimmers on the pad, dims, resolving into -

The being on the transporter pad looks, at first glance, like a human female: but only at first glance. At the second, I notice the eyes, blank and silvery-grey, and the cheeks, where transparent panels in the human-seeming skin show the circuitry beneath. The android steps off the transporter pad.

"Vice Admiral Shohl," it - she - says. "I am...." She pauses in apparently human confusion. "My serial number is HSM-0012471 XM-981," she says, "but, for social purposes, my name is Amiga."

The android is wearing science division uniform, with a commander's rank pips. I come to a quick decision, to take this... being... at its own estimation. "Welcome aboard, Commander Amiga," I say.

"Thank you, sir." The android's lips move in a mathematically exact smile.

"I believe," Semok says, "that Commander Amiga will prove a valuable additional asset in a... forthcoming project." The admiral has a PADD of his own in his hand, now. "There is a military operation being proposed for the very near future," he says, handing me the PADD. "We considered that you might wish to be involved."

I look down at the device, my gaze racing over the text. From the first glance, it doesn't take me long to read it. And when I've read it, I say just one word.

"Yes."

---

T minus 273 hours

The stolid, handsome blue face on the screen breaks into an unaccustomed smile. "Vice Admiral, good to see you."

"Captain Izini. How's life on Starbase 193?"

My former chief engineer smiles wider. "Quiet. They keep me occupied, of course, but it's quiet. Not that that's a bad thing."

"Oh, come on, Shrin, you know you long for the good old days."

Shrin Izini gives me a quizzical look. "Being chief engineer on the Sita - well, it wasn't quiet, that's for damn sure. I'm not sure my idea of good old days involves quite so much shooting, though."

"Think you could still find your way about the Sita?"

"I know that old bucket inside and out. What's the problem, Tylha? Did you break your shiny Tholian carrier?"

"Not yet." I let my face turn serious. "I'm putting together a multi-ship task force, though, and I'll be taking the Sita as well as King Estmere. Shrin... you know that ship, like you said. How would you feel about taking centre seat on her?"

Shrin's jaw drops at that. "On a combat mission?"

"You could do it, I know that."

Shrin blinks. "Combat command - even as a one-shot deal, it'd be...." Shrin is, of course, Andorian. Do we Andorians glamourize combat too much? Possibly... but I can tell that glamour has a hook in him now. "What's the deal, sir?"

So I tell him what the deal is, and where we're going. And, being Andorian, he understands that, too.

---

T minus 244 hours

The conference room on the Spirits of Earth looks like some sort of refugee convention. One way or another, a number of officers from outside the Federation have attached themselves to my crew. The statuesque Orion science officer, Kluthli, sits at one end of the table; next to her, and possibly the only person completely unaffected by her presence, is the Breen, Jek the Apostate, enigmatic in his environment suit. Then there are our friends and allies from the Romulan Republic - Temerix, with his Reman gargoyle face, and the taut, alert Romulan tac officer, Tallis, her dark eyes intent and watchful. Next to her, Three of Eight, our liberated Borg; next to him, the only other regular Starfleet officer besides myself, the Rigelian Dgy-coosh, his face mask-like and unreadable to me.

"The task group will be centred around the Spirits of Earth, and King Estmere with her fighter complement," I tell them. "However, in order to project more firepower, we will need flanking support from heavy cruisers... I've arranged for the USS Sita to join us already, and her armament is more or less consistent with that of the Bleak Midwinter." I look at Jek's metal mask. "Commander Jek seems the appropriate choice to fly a Chel Grett cruiser."

"Thot Jek, that has a good ring to it. Shame I can't have an all-Breen crew, and turn the heat settings down to something liveable," Jek remarks. "So, two battleships and two cruisers? The opposition science vessels will run rings round you." He shifts in his seat. "Will it be quicker to sell you out now, or should I wait till they're shooting at you?"

Breen humour. It gets old fast. "Commander Dgy-coosh will be supporting us in the Boar's Head," I say. Dgy-coosh looks faintly startled at that. Well, I know the Rigelian's record, he can handle the Mirror Universe science vessel as well as anybody and better than most. "Kluthli, Tallis, you'll be taking chief science and tactical slots on that ship... work with him. I've taken Boar's Head out myself on test flights, she's a fine ship."

"You should still have at least one more science vessel running support," says Jek. "Damned if I'm running a suicide mission for the Federation, and the opposition we'll be facing -"

"We'll have more support." I flourish a PADD at him. "Let's start by going over the mission parameters."

---

T minus 206 hours

The soft knock on the door of my ready room reminds me that I've lost track of time. "Come," I say.

The door hisses open, and Anthi Vihl steps in. "Sir," she says.

"Oh, come in, Anthi," I say. My antennae are wilting with fatigue. "Still working through the mission plans - we need to figure out a fallback if Klerupiru and Amiga can't hack it. As it were." Semok knew what he was doing, giving me the android; still, a lot of the plan rests on her and on the Ferengi computer expert.

"Sir," Anthi says, again. Normally so precise and professional, my exec seems worried and uncertain all of a sudden.

"What is it?"

"It's - about your assignments, sir." Anthi takes a deep breath. "Specifically, the commander of King Estmere for this operation."

I stare at her. "What's the problem?" It seems obvious to me; I run the task group from the Spirits of Earth, so my second in command takes King Estmere. Surely Anthi can't think she's not up to the job - ?

"I - I would prefer it, sir, if Dyssa D'jheph took battle command of King Estmere for this operation."

I blink in astonishment. "Dyssa?"

"She can handle it, sir. I think you know that as well as I do."

I'm still blinking. I must look an idiot; I force myself to stop. "But - Anthi, it's your natural place. Your - your right, almost. Why - ?"

"My place, sir," says Anthi, firmly, "is as your executive officer. At your side. You know I'm an expert in Andorian-style military equipment - the tac slot on Spirits of Earth is practically made for me."

"I was thinking Thires Entonav -"

"He's good, sir. He would be the natural choice, if I wasn't available."

I look at her, hard. "Anthi, don't you want a combat command?"

She grimaces. "I - yes, sir. More than almost anything." Her voice drops; her eyes are troubled. "But, sir... I know what this mission means to you. For this one... I think I need to be at your side."

I carry on looking at her. She's been my right arm ever since my first ship command... I have never known anyone more steadfast, more dependable. But I've also never known a better officer. She needs a command of her own, and soon.

But there is a naked appeal in her eyes, and I think to myself: soon, but maybe... not now.

"All right," I say. "Tell Dyssa she has centre seat on King Estmere."

Anthi relaxes, visibly. "Thank you, sir."

"Privately," I say, in my best official voice, "I think you're being a sentimental fool, Commander Vihl." And then, in my normal tones. "But... it'll be good to have you around."

---

T minus 197 hours

"Little Tylha!" The big Andorian chan smiles at me through his grizzled beard. "Come sit on your old uncle's knee."

"I'll pass, Uncle Kophil," I say. I look around his office. "How's the Academy treating you?"

Kophil Phohr laughs heartily. "Fine as ever! I just love correcting cadets' homework. What are you up to, girl?"

Technically, I outrank the old war-horse by several pay grades now. My zhen-mother's brother has never let things like that worry him - which is one reason, I guess, why a tactical commander of his brilliance is riding a desk at Starfleet Academy.

"I'm here on business. And I didn't come alone. Commander Amiga?" The android steps into the office as I raise my voice. "Commander Amiga, this is Commander Kophil Phohr... who happens to be my uncle."

Kophil's measuring gaze sweeps up and down her. "My, my," he says, "aren't they making these entertainment devices fancy these days?"

"I am fully functional in all respects," says Amiga. "I will not demonstrate this functionality... a male of your advanced age would likely not survive the encounter."

Kophil laughs uproariously at that. "Oh, she'll do, she'll do," he says, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. Then, those eyes narrow at me. "She'll do for whatever it is you've got planned, little Tylha." I'm taller than him, too, but I will always be little Tylha to him, just as I was in those old days, when the occasional visits from my Starfleet uncle brought a welcome glimpse of adventure and exoticism into my life.

"You're one of the few people we've got," I say, "who're fully checked out on Wells-class science vessels."

"Oh, yes," says Kophil. "Nice ships. Nice ships.... Of course, from four centuries in the future, they damn well ought to be. Don't tell me they've given you one of those to play with?"

"The USS Indra," I say. "Unfortunately, it's not exactly playtime. Think you could take her?"

"Think I could?" Kophil exclaims. "Damn right I could!"

"She's got to be ready," I say, "for a combined op, as part of a task force, in a little over a week. The time scale is impossible, and the odds are horrendous." I grin at him, the scarred side of my face aching. "And when I tell you where we're going, Uncle, you'll say yes."

"Will I, now?" Kophil's eyes are narrower, now, and serious. "Where are we going, then, little Tylha?"

"Gimel Vessaris."

And, just as I did, Kophil says, "Yes."

---

T minus 4 minutes

"Four minutes to firing range." Anthi's voice is level.

My ships - officially designated Task Group Hipparchus - have been trailing their coats around the fringes of the system for hours, now. The science vessels have been fuzzing sensor scans, letting little details leak through. Details like the sheer mass of Sita and King Estmere... the low temperature of the exhaust from Bleak Midwinter's Breen drive... the antique radiation profile of Spirits of Earth's engines....

All this, we hope, will add up in the Nausicaans' minds to this: a commercial convoy, gone off course, packed with big ships, slow, and weak. In short, easy prey. We have set ourselves up as bait, to draw the light pickets off the outer rim of the system.

And, judging from the red dots now filling my tactical display, we've done exactly that. Three groups of Syphon frigates, each with a destroyer escort in the lead, arrowing in, hard and fast, eager for the killing and looting that's the hallmark of the Nausicaan pirate empire.... Coming in too hard and too fast to turn back now.

"Come about," I order. "Prepare to engage." We are already at red alert, have been for some minutes now.

"The Nausicaans are tightly bunched," Anthi observes. "Sir, this might be an opportunity to -"

"Confirmed," I say. "Deploy wing cannon platforms." The free-flying satellite cannons add significantly to Spirits of Earth's already substantial firepower. "Target the centre group for wing cannon overload." Anthi has been positively itching to try that trick.

"Incoming transmission, skipper," says F'hon Tlaxx from the comms console.

"Audio only," I tell him. No point showing the Nausicaans an Andorian warship bridge.

A guttural voice sounds. "Convoy. You are trespassing in Nausicaan space. Cut your engines and prepare to be boarded."

"Say again, please," I say, trying to keep an anticipatory tremor out of my voice.

"No stalling," the voice snarls. "Cut your engines."

"Really," I remark, "I should give you an opportunity to surrender. Would you like to do that?"

"No stalling!" the voice repeats. "No tricks!"

The tac console lights up green; they are within range. "Anthi," I say, "show them a trick."

The whole spaceframe of the Charal escort shudders as the cannons fire. A phenomenon from the earliest Andorian experiments with phaser weapons: fired in concert, the cannon pulses set up a resonance which affects just about everything in a wide area... including sensors. The tac display whites out in a blare of visual noise.

When it clears, two of the Nausicaan frigates are gone, nothing but smears of glowing vapour in space. A third is a burning, useless hulk; their destroyer companion, though, is still active, still a threat. After that barrage, the cannons are in power cycle, unavailable for a few seconds - so, all Spirits of Earth has left is the Romulan plasma array, the rear-mounted turrets, and the hyper-plasma torpedoes.

It's more than enough. The plasma beam burns through the destroyer's tattered shields and tears one warp engine to shreds, and then the torpedoes kick it skittering through space like an empty tin can, spitting out burning debris and escape pods as it tumbles. My attention goes to the rest of the map.

King Estmere met one group with a scatter volley from her forward disruptor cannons, punishing them hard... but the carrier's main weapons are her Scorpion fighters, streaking out of the launch bays now, spitting green-hot murder from their plasma weapons. The Boar's Head is supporting the carrier, some piece of info-warfare witchcraft paralysing a Nausicaan destroyer while the science vessel's own polarized disruptors rake across its hull. King Estmere's plasma torps are on rapid fire, balls of green lightning screaming towards the fleeing Syphon frigates. In short, Dyssa has everything well in hand.

The third Nausicaan group is doing, if anything, even worse. The frigates closed in at first on Bleak Midwinter, and then the survivors fled - directly into a phased-tet barrage from Sita. The elegant, leaf-like shape of the Indra circles the fray, picking off Nausicaans neatly with her exotic beam weapons. The last destroyer escort is swinging around -

"Sir!" Addie van Benn calls out from the science console. "The Nausicaan is trying to get behind the Sita!"

Anthi and I spare a moment to exchange grins. Of course, Addie wasn't with us on the old Sita....

The Nausicaan gets into position, ready to unleash his weapons on Sita's weaker aft quadrant... and a torpedo streaks out from Sita's aft launcher towards him, just as the mine, deployed from the cruiser a minute or two before, wakes to life and darts towards the Nausicaan from the other side.

Suddenly caught between the blast fronts of two terrific explosions, the destroyer hangs, burning and battered, while Sita's aft beam arrays finish the job.

"Nice to see old Shrin still remembers how to make a tricobalt sandwich," F'hon Tlaxx remarks cheerfully.

"Neatly done," I say. "Indra, Boar's Head, do you read any stragglers? Scan for cloaked ships in the vicinity."

"Scans negative," Dgy-coosh reports.

"We concur." Kophil's voice is crisp. "What we saw is what we got."

And we got them all - if there are more picket ships, they are way out on the other side of the system, and play no part in my strategic calculations. "Signal Task Group Aristotle. Phase one complete; moving in-system for phase two."

Semok's larger task group is logistic support; they will close in, pick up the Nausicaan survivors, follow us up as we move in.... We are the point of the spear; Semok's people are the shaft.

Task Group Hipparchus reforms, falling down the gravity well, towards the star I once called my sun.

---

T plus 5 hours

The planet, Gimel Vessaris, is close enough to show as a blue-white ball on the viewscreen. My hands are claws on the armrests of my command chair. I force myself to relax.

The tactical problem is... interesting. Having destroyed the outlying pickets, we need to move in and defeat the heavier ships in orbit around the planet. The problem is the defence grid. The Nausicaans have swathed the planet's low orbitals in automated weapons platforms, hundreds of them, semi-autonomous and self-replicating. We have to engage the enemy battleships, without getting into the effective envelope of that globe of firepower....

And, if I can believe the tac display, we can do it - just. We have dog-legged around the sun, coming in on a trajectory outside the plane of the ecliptic, hooking around the planet and the much larger sphere of death surrounding it... and now, the Nausicaan capital ships, riding in higher orbit, can't reach the safety of the defence grid without crossing our range of engagement. We can fight them.

Whether or not we can win, though, is another matter. Scans show three Talon battleships, three Guramba siege destroyers, two Scourge destroyers, and a massive Ravager dreadnought, with fighter groups scattered around them. The one thing in my favour is that they are spread out, slightly, in a high orbital - my guess is, resupplying from a shipyard built into one of Gimel Vessaris's three small asteroid moons.

"Skipper," says F'hon, "I'm getting a hail - Imperial civil administration frequency. I'm guessing it's the Nausicaan governor."

My lips thin. "All right. Let's talk. On screen."

The Nausicaan is thin-faced, red-eyed, gold decorations winking on his leather uniform, his hair worn in an extravagant bush. His fangs show as he glares at me. "I am Gvochkorr, military governor of this colony. You have committed an act of aggression in Nausicaan space," he says without preamble. "Withdraw your forces now, or face destruction. We will not permit Federation incursions on our territory."

I had a dignified answer prepared, but I forget it as sheer fury drives me to my feet. "Save it for J'mpok's propaganda broadcasts!" I snarl at the screen. "I was born on Gimel Vessaris! This is a Federation world - and today, we are taking it back!"

My blue eyes bore into his red ones, hatred burning between us brighter than a phaser beam. He cuts the channel. I sag back into my command chair.

"I'm guessing the diplomatic option's off the table, then," F'hon says.

"I don't think it was ever on," I mutter. "Anthi, time to engagement?"

"The lead ships will be in our weapons envelope in... two minutes," Anthi reports.

"Okay." I key inter-ship communications. "Sita, Bleak Midwinter, Indra and Boar's Head, engage and neutralize the Talons. King Estmere and I will keep the others off your backs - then, we regroup and go after the dreadnought." I say it airily, as if it's not a big deal.

It's... possible. I think.

Spirits of Earth and King Estmere go to flank speed, sweeping past the lumbering Nausicaan battleships. Behind us, space flares blue as the cruisers open up their phased-tet barrages. Cannon platforms fly out from my ship's wings; the fighters launch from Dyssa's bays. A wing of Stinger fighters closes to engage us. Some of them live long enough to flee.

The destroyers are in range, now, the Gurambas changing configuration -

Fire smashes into our shields. Status lights turn amber across my control panel - but the Romulan-made shields hold, none of the lights turn red, and the Charal is firing back, giving as good as she gets. I study the tac display, trying to hold the curving movements of my opponents in my mind. The Charal shudders as the cannons fire again -

One of the Gurambas has blundered; his course takes him at an angle that crosses both my and King Estmere's cannon range. Dyssa is already altering course to take advantage: I do the same. Cannon fire erupts from both ships; the Nausicaan's shields go down in an instant; his hull shatters. Not a mistake you get to learn from. King Estmere and Spirits of Earth yaw in opposite directions, away from the hulk, as his warp core goes up.

Space is full of Stinger fighters, but they're more a nuisance than a threat, just now; King Estmere has a plasma array mounted on her aft facing, and where that green lightning touches the Stingers, they burn. Some of them are trying to dogfight King Estmere's Scorpions; again, not a mistake you learn from. My aft turrets are yammering, constantly, swatting down the swarming fighters as they come in range. They are not the threat, though -

Sustained fire from the Scourge destroyers; our port shield is weakening. "Come about, hard!" I order, and the Charal moves in a tight turn, her cannons lashing out at the nearer destroyer. Plasma torpedoes spill out from our launcher, targeting the Nausicaan. Green flames bloom across the dark.

And green - something else, too. The second destroyer is moving in, spilling a sickly cloud of theta radiation. Too close, no chance to evade it. Spirits of Earth plunges into the glowing fog, and everything turns giddy, painful, nauseating. I can taste the foul stuff in the air with my antennae, feel it inside me, picking at the very cells of my body, trying to pry it and my ship apart.

Spirits of Earth fires, clean blue-white cannon bolts cutting through the Nausicaan murk.

The Scourge's shields hold for a moment, then flicker, then fail. Phaser bolts smash into the hull, metals and superdense ceramics boiling away into nothing beneath their onslaught; fires billow in the rush of escaping atmosphere. Our next volley cuts deeper, into the guts of the Nausicaan ship, exposing the warp core -

It blows.

Too close.

The blast front smashes into Spirits of Earth's forward shield, bringing it down, sweeping across the ship's hull with million-degree heat. The lights flicker, the artificial gravity wavers, making my stomach lurch. The Charal's spaceframe screams in protest. Damage lights sparkle on the consoles, and there are explosions and flames on the bridge as surges run through the EPS system. Something strikes my forehead, a fragment of an exploding console. "Damage control!" The tac display is a jumble of jagged lines, meaningless. There is a thin scream in the air, an atmosphere leak, somewhere on the ship. Blood is running down my forehead.

The ship steadies, the display clears.

The other Scourge is limping away, battered, engines damaged by our initial assault. Amazingly, the only weaponry we've lost is one cannon platform. No time to roll a replacement now; I send a volley after the fleeing destroyer with everything I've got. The Nausicaan blows up, this time at a safe range.

Somehow, Addie van Benn has got the forward shields back up, and engineering has restored some structural integrity. I make a mental note to write up the science officer and the Jolciot engineers for a commendation, if I get through this. "Support King Estmere!" I yell. "And someone dog down that damned air leak!" The scream in the air is bothering me.

King Estmere is tangling with the remaining Gurambas, all three ships trailing burning streamers of debris, the Scorpions buzzing around the Nausicaan ships, harrying them viciously. I swing Spirits of Earth around, and take the time, now, to launch that replacement cannon platform. The full force of our forward cannons smashes into one Guramba, stripping off its weapons spines, like a child pulling limbs off an insect; the battered hull tumbles away, impotent. That leaves us and King Estmere against one Guramba. That fight doesn't last long.

A few kilometres away, the battle between the cruisers and the Talon battleships... is finishing. One Talon is already gone, a second shatters in crossfire between Sita and Bleak Midwinter even as I watch, and the last one is lumbering, shields, weapons and engines cutting out as the two science vessels hit it with every special weapon they have. Something indescribable comes out of Indra, a dazzling point of light that hurts the eyes to look at it, and darts over to the Talon, which staggers and yaws wildly, air gouting from its wounded sides. A temporal instability device; I haven't seen one in action before. Then the two cruisers come up, and blue fire blazes from their phased-tet arrays, and the wounded battleship is a dead one.

"Get me a read on that dreadnought!"

The Ravager dreadnought has stayed clear of the action, and I don't know why. It is floating free, surrounded by a patchy cloud of trailing lights; the engines of the few surviving Stinger fighters. I look at it, and I feel more confident. My force is still - mostly - intact... and the six of us should be able to take the dreadnought, even if it's fresh -

"Skipper," says F'hon. "Incoming transmission -"

"Let's have it."

The Nausicaan face that appears on my viewscreen is wide-eyed, panicky. "This is the dreadnought Zlatchko! Federation forces, do not fire! We surrender! Do not fire!"

I snarl. Every part of me wants to blast this ship out of space - but one part of me is Starfleet, and that part's in charge. "Drop your shields, power down your weapons, eject your warp core!" I snap at the Nausicaan. "Offer no resistance to our boarding parties, or you will be destroyed!"

"We will comply! We will comply!" The link goes dead. An instant later, the ship's warp core drops out of its belly, and the Nausicaan dreadnought is no longer a threat, just an abstract metal sculpture hanging in space. "Must have had a systems problem we didn't know about," I muse.

"Or a backbone problem," suggests F'hon.

"Either way, lucky for us." I draw a deep breath of the smoke-filled air. That air leak is still whistling at me. "Signal Task Group Aristotle to send boarding parties as well as SAR crews," I say. "And let's take stock."

---

T plus 6 hours

The faces of my senior officers appear on the half-circle of screens on my console. "Status," I say.

"We're fine," Jek says in urbane tones. "Took a couple of hits during the fight, sure, but our damage control teams have everything locked down and straightened out. Want me to send them over to you?"

"Not necessary, thank you."

"You sure? It seemed to take ages for you to plug that air leak -"

"Not necessary. Thank you." I turn to Shrin Izini. "How's Sita?"

"Operational." Shrin's face is grave. "We took some penetrating strikes - there was a plasma fire in the torpedo bay which had me worried for a while - but we're not significantly damaged; all main systems are intact and fully powered."

"Same for King Estmere," Dyssa chips in. The carrier's gleaming hull is sadly scorched and marred, now, but I can see from my own readings that Dyssa's right, the damage is purely cosmetic. "Ready when you are, sir."

"Spirits of Earth is ready," I say. The smoke has almost cleared from the air of the bridge, even. "What about the science vessels?"

"Boar's Head sustained only light damage," Dgy-coosh reports. "The capital ships drew most of the enemies' attention away from us, of course."

"And they never laid a glove on us," Kophil cuts in from the Indra.

"Commander Phohr's handling of the exotic beam weapons was intriguing," Amiga's voice adds. "I have had to revise my estimates of their capabilities."

"That's experience at work, robo-girl," Kophil laughs. "You'll learn these tricks in time."

"I must study you carefully, then, and quickly, before your experience gives way to senility."

"Oh, she's good, Tylha, can we keep her? Or get one in blue?"

"I'll ask Admiral Semok," I say. "OK. we're operational - now, how does the defence grid look?"

Kophil's manner turns professional. "Our scans confirm the layout suggested by the long-range probes. The control station is in low orbit, beneath the grid... in optimum position about thirty minutes from now."

I nod. "Then we will be ready in thirty minutes. Signal Admiral Semok," I order F'hon, "Phase Three commencing on schedule."

---

T plus 6 hours 30 minutes

Six starships can't conquer a planet by siege. Gvochkorr knows this. With his space forces neutralized, all he has to do is sit tight while we chip away at his defence grid... and a larger Klingon force comes in to relieve him. He has the full resources of a class-M world, he can wait forever if need be.

So we're not going to chip at the defence grid.

Below the network of battle satellites, but circling above the planet itself, is the control station. The grid is semi-autonomous, but it must be monitored, serviced, held under control... and, of course, the station is a natural place to keep battle forces in reserve, ready to drop onto the planet and quash any mutinies or rebellions.

And, because the station is a nexus of military power... there is only one station. More than one, and the Nausicaans would risk division, a fragmented power base, commanders vying with each other for position in the hierarchy. That's the way the Nausicaans work - and it's a weakness.

One single station is a vital spot. And it's the one I'm aiming for.

"In position," Anthi reports.

"Fire," I order.

Phaser and disruptor cannons erupt into life, torpedos hurtle out of the launch tubes... and, from three of my ships, isometric charges shoot out, captured Klingon weapons that send devastating electromagnetic disruptions across space.

Beneath us, weapons platforms die in a flurry of fire. The autonomous systems compensate, neighbouring satellites replicating replacements to fill the gaps... but, such is the intensity of our assault, that for a few minutes, there is a gap in the grid, one big enough to fit my ships through.

Exploding satellites, and the hurtling lightnings of the isometric charges, combine to make a storm in space.

Task Group Hipparchus drops, through the eye of the storm.

---

T plus 12 hours

The Nausicaan station is an ugly conglomeration of modular parts, five kilometres at its longest point, nearly three at its widest.

There is room, in among all those modules, for all my ships to slide in... and, now, they are protected from the defence grid by the shadows of its own control centre. All we have to worry about is boarding actions by spacewalking Nausicaan marines... and there have been several attempts at those, so far unsuccessful.

Meanwhile... we have been busy.

The hangar bays of the station were laden with assault shuttles, meant for ground actions. King Estmere's Scorpion fighters swept in, turning those shuttles into a tangle of burning metal - and establishing the beachhead for our own boarding action. Now, our assault teams are fighting their way through the station, making for several precisely established targets.

I pace the bridge of the Spirits of Earth. The fighting aboard the station is savage; the Nausicaans outnumber my forces considerably, but it's a question of deployment and positioning; we have control of bulkheads and accessways that prevent the main mass of the enemy from getting to grips with us. If we can win control of the station's power and life support systems, it doesn't matter how many of them there are....

Or if we can reach another control room -

"Lolha's requesting more backup," Anthi reports. The Tellarite's assault teams are nearly at central control... but resistance, there, must be at its fiercest. I make a decision.

"Ready our remaining reserves," I order. I look towards Three of Eight. "I'll be doing this one. Three, you're with me. Bring that tactical weapons prosthesis we... found." The former Borg nods, minimally.

Anthi fails to repress a sigh. "Formally, sir, I object to your placing yourself in jeopardy like this."

"Duly noted."

Anthi sighs again. "Be careful, sir."

---

We move down the station's hallway line abreast. Three of Eight anchors one end of the line, plasma fire spitting from the captured prosthetic; I am at the other, a Romulan-made plasma minigun in my hands and the light of battle in my eyes.

Disruptor fire from the scattering Nausicaan resistance sears the air around me, stray bolts slamming into my personal shield; but that shield was designed for conditions on Nukara Prime, and it holds. The cryo immobilizer on the minigun was built for Nukara, too... when its cryonic beam combines with the intense heat of a plasma bolt, the temperature gradients have a spectacularly messy effect on Nausicaan flesh.

I stalk down the hallway, sending streams of death ahead of me, and I find myself gripped by the cold battle-lust that is the heritage of my species; the urge to destroy, to see my enemies fall before me and feel nothing more than the simple joy of killing....

We are barbarians, at heart.

And what I must look like - what we must look like, the disciplined Starfleet line of battle strung between two striding figures out of nightmare.... I can feel the rictus snarl on my face....

We reach the end of the hallway, and link up with Lolha's squad. I begin to feel the stiffness of the death-trance drain out of me. Disruptor fire scorches the air above me. "I don't suppose it's any good telling you you shouldn't be here?" Lolha asks in caustic tones.

"Not much." The snarl has frozen on my face.

"Well, don't get your fool head blown off on my watch," says Lolha. We crouch behind a barricade, and she calls up a PADD display of the situation. "They've had time to dig in here," she says, pointing. "Set up cover screens and some heavy disruptor turrets - we're hammering at their defences, they're hammering back, nobody's getting anywhere."

I study the map. "What's that there?" I ask.

"Viewport, behind the Nausicaans," Lolha grunts. "Been trying to get a space-side drone behind it, to get a look at their position."

"Never mind that." I think furiously for a moment, then open up the plasma minigun and start making adjustments. I turn up the collimation on the plasma generators to the maximum, then tune up the cryo immobilizer to maximum output and tight focus. I'm exceeding the design specs, but with luck it won't be for very long.... "I've got an idea," I say. "Pass the word: brace for decompression."

"Oh, sweet mercy, you can't be serious." Lolha looks at my face, sees I am, and passes the word.

I send a seeker drone out from beneath the barricade before I poke my head - and my gun - over it. The disruptors scream and yammer, bolts passing close enough to singe my hair. I sight the minigun and hold down the firing stud. It makes a harsh screaming noise.

Even transparent aluminium will shatter, if you subject it to the right stresses. And, fortunately, I know a lot about thermal stresses.

The Nausicaans used a poor grade of material; it shatters very satisfactorily.

The viewport explodes outwards. Even braced as I am, the impact of the torrent of air nearly knocks me off my feet. The Nausicaan troops, caught by surprise, are hurled outwards into space. The air rushes around me, howling and battering, pulling at me, deafening me with its bludgeoning noise -

Then the emergency force shield sparkles into life, and silence hits me as hard as the noise did.

There's a wet feeling on my face; I wipe the back of my hand across it, see rich cobalt-blue blood. The depressurization has given me a nosebleed... and I think the cut on my forehead has reopened, too.

"Don't do that again," Lolha moans.

I grin at her. "Make a note to patch that hole, later. Now, let's move."

---

T plus 14 hours

The technicians in the main control room fought and died with unexpected bravery. But they died.

"Pattern enhancers," I snap at Lolha.

I stand there, fretting, as the columns are set up. This is the point where we find out if the whole costly plan is going to work... and there is very little I can do, now.

Colourless light spills from the tips of the enhancers. "Energize," I order. I'm taking no chances with a random energy spike scrambling the rematerialization of my critical personnel.

Blue sparkles coalesce into two shapes; Klerupiru, tugging nervously at her collar, and Amiga, looking... inhumanly... imperturbable.

"Main control console is there," I say, pointing. "Three, help them if you can."

Three of Eight lumbers over to where the Ferengi data-warfare expert and the android are already starting to work.

They talk in a low, quick undercurrent of technicalities, one that rapidly reaches a level beyond my technical education. My hands clench on the stock of my gun, and I have to force them to relax. In many ways, this is the decisive battle of the whole campaign - and it's one where I can't fire a shot. I feel useless, helpless.

The orange-red holographic interface for the Nausicaans' computer flickers, steadies, flickers again. Klerupiru is talking about stack overflows, corrupt core dumps, recovery cycles, other stuff I can't follow. Amiga's hands are a blur, moving as fast as the control interface can handle her input. I don't know how they're doing, I can't distract them by asking. Minutes tick by.

The end is a complete anticlimax. Klerupiru simply turns towards me and says, "We did it."

"We have control?" I can scarcely believe it.

"We got it. Full root-level access."

"Uplinking to Spirits of Earth now," says Amiga smoothly. "We will download Starfleet data protection and encryption protocols - the Nausicaans will not be able to do to us what we have done to them." Almost as an afterthought, she adds, "We have full capabilities for orbital strikes against ground targets."

The feral grin comes back onto my face. "Get me a map," I say, "and get me a comms channel to Gvochkorr."

It takes them only a couple of minutes. The Nausicaan's face appears on a viewscreen, and I smile at him. He looks the same as he did last time we spoke. I am singed and bloodstained and, I realize, very, very tired. But I'm still smiling.

"Governor Gvochkorr? Are you at your gubernatorial residence? Then look out the window." And, as I say that, I hit the button.

He doesn't answer me, but he doesn't need to. I can see the reflected light in his red eyes; the reflection of one of the columns of dazzling light that have just lanced down from the sky to blast white-hot craters into the ground around his mansion.

"I have complete control of your satellite defence grid," I tell him, flatly. Nausicaans can't turn pale, their capillaries don't work that way. Gvochkorr clearly would if he could, though. "I can destroy your ground forces at will. And I will begin now, unless I receive your unconditional surrender. Right now."

The satellites have excellent ground imaging capability. I'm picking out targets already.

Gvochkorr finds his voice. "We have Federation personnel on the surface," he says, "workers in our mining camps -"

Trying to play the hostage card: any shred of respect I might have felt for him dies, right then. "We know. As the planetary administrator, you will be held accountable for their condition."

My eyes lock with his, again. I am giving him no choice. He knows it.

His grating, grudging, Nausicaan voice is music to my ears. "We... surrender."

---

T plus 22 hours

The formal surrender takes place outside the biggest of the labour camps. I have had time to catch a couple of hours sleep, to clean the blood off my face and change my uniform... I still look shabby compared to the Nausicaan's display of leathers and furs and medals. It doesn't matter. I won.

Samantha Beresford charges towards the camps, leading her medical teams, laden with medkits and food and who knows what else for the liberated prisoners. Elsewhere, disarmed Nausicaans are forming up into dejected columns, under the eyes and the phaser rifles of alert Starfleet security.

"What is to become of my people?" the former governor of Gimel Vessaris asks me.

"Those accused of abuses will stand trial under Federation law. As for the rest - repatriation via prisoner exchange, I suppose. I gather the current rate is five Nausicaan civilians for each UFP civilian, twenty Nausicaan warriors for each Starfleet officer." It never hurts to sow a little dissension, so I add, "Chancellor J'mpok doesn't appear to value your people highly."

The Nausicaan turns away with a suppressed snarl. I ignore him.

The labour camp is a dismal huddle of grey barracks and tents under a clear blue Gimel Vessaris sky. In fact, I'm not too worried about abuses of prisoners - even Nausicaans realize workers can only work if they're healthy, and the mines on this planet were meant to be productive. Still, Samantha and her medical teams will undoubtedly be needed....

Something catches my eye.

Somebody, somewhere in the camp, has found a Federation flag, and run it up a staff. Even more extraordinarily, someone has found an old Andorian flag, too, and its faded colours are fluttering in the breeze beneath the Federation one.

The breeze grows stronger, and there is a rumbling in the sky. A shadow falls over me, then is gone in an instant.

Spirits of Earth sweeps across the sky, making a low pass over the camp. Her sleek sides are still battered and scorched from the battle in space, but she moves swiftly and gracefully, her engines glowing as she streaks to the horizon.

And, from a thousand throats in the liberated prison camp, a cheer goes up, loud enough even to drown out the thunder of my ship's passage.

For a moment, my heart feels very full.

---

T plus 30 hours

"Sir?" Anthi's voice, behind me.

I turn around. She and Kophil are standing there, a short way away, in front of the pile of rubble that was once our colony's meeting hall. The years have not been kind to the remains of our settlement. "I didn't hear you beam in," I say.

She steps forward. "We thought you shouldn't be alone, sir," she says.

"I'm in no danger. The Nausicaan forces in this area have all been accounted for."

"Not quite what we meant, little Tylha," says Kophil.

I look around the ruined streets. "I'm fine," I say.

"Is this where -?" Anthi starts to ask.

"My fathers were at the trading post." I gesture towards a calcined pit, where whatever remains of them must still lie. "I'd gone over to the meeting hall to catch a video broadcast. The first pass from the Nausicaan destroyer wrecked most of the buildings...."

One minute, happy expectancy; the next, the night was a chaos of flames and screams and sick green disruptor light -

"When I picked myself up, I didn't realize what was happening. I saw one of the militia guards shooting at something, I couldn't see what. Then whatever it was shot back."

Bolts of green light streaking out of the dark, lifting him up, letting him drop back down with that terrible limpness only dead things have -

"I just stood there. Then I thought, whatever was happening, I couldn't just - I had to do something."

I couldn't die, at least, without a weapon in my hand.

"I went for his phaser. Stupid, really, I'd never handled one before, wasn't sure I could even get it to work. Never got a shot off, anyway. It was then that I saw my first Nausicaan. I don't think he saw me, he was just spraying fire at random."

A nightmare figure, all leather and fangs, weapon spitting flashes of sick light, and then the light drowned out everything, and turned into a black hell of pain and nothing -

"What was left of the militia rallied, managed a counterattack, held them long enough to get evacuation ships offplanet. I still don't know who found me and threw me on board one of those ships. I woke up two months later, in a hospital on Andoria."

I remember my left eye opening, seeing the white room about me, seeing my mothers by my bedside... knowing, even then, there could only be one reason why my fathers weren't there -

"So that was it," I say.

"You haven't talked about it before, sir," says Anthi in a small voice. "Not in that sort of detail, at least."

"It was never... appropriate." I look once more at the ruined streets. "It happened. I had all the standard post-trauma stress counselling, don't worry about that. It was all a long time ago, now...."

"This was the colony's administrative hub," says Anthi. "What about your family home, sir? Are you going back -?"

"It's gone." I shake my head ruefully. "We tried so hard to exploit resources sustainably! - The Nausicaans strip-mined that region. They left scars on this continent that won't heal in a millennium. If ever." Some scars don't heal.

"How do you feel, Tylha?" It's Kophil who asks. Anthi looks vaguely worried.

I look around, past the ruins, at the grey whale-backed mountains shining in the pale light of afternoon sun. I was born in this gravity field, grew up breathing this air... oh, it feels familiar. But it doesn't feel right any more.

"It was all a long time ago," I say. "Before the war officially started - the Federation Council made stern protests, I'll give them that, but -" I shrug.

"How do you feel?" Kophil repeats.

I raise my eyes to meet his gaze. "I'm... all right. I suppose I don't feel as much as I should... but I'm all right. I cried all my tears a long time ago," I add, in a voice so soft only another Andorian could hear it.

This place... was home. It isn't, any more. It hasn't been for a long, long time. How long, I hadn't realized, until now.

"Anyway," I say, "we've accomplished something, haven't we?"

Kophil nods. "Admiral Semok told me to tell you," says Anthi, "that a couple of hostiles showed up in the system. A squadron of frigates escorting a pirated T'lonian convoy, and a Klingon carrier looking to put into dry dock to fix a nacelle problem." She smiles, briefly. "Task Group Aristotle arranged appropriate receptions for both."

There will be a few more of those, before the word spreads. "Well," I say, "it's all a victory, isn't it?"

I breathe in. I have to get back to the ship, really; to fill out the after-action reports, to go over the cost - in materiel, in Federation lives - of this victory. But it is a victory... and we can build on it, towards the next one, and the next.

I take one last breath of Gimel Vessaris air. "Let's get back to the ship." I touch my combadge. "Shohl to Spirits of Earth. Three to beam up."

The transporter sparkles in the air around me, and the ruins dissolve into light as the beam engulfs me.

Taking me home.
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