Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 571
# 11
12-08-2012, 05:04 AM
Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding, USS King Estmere, NCC-92984

The lounge that Public Relations has selected is a small one, well-appointed, with soft furnishings in neutral colours; one wall is entirely transparent, offering a view over the city, out towards the grey-green bulk of the Vastam Heights in the distance.

The human journalist stands up as I come in. "Whoa!" he says, apparently startled. He's tall, rather heavily built; one of the dark-coloured human ethnic groups, with skin the hue of well-aged wood. "Vice Admiral Shohl? Um, I'm Thad Willison from Trans-stellar Independent News." He blinks a couple of times. "Um, I have my holo-recorder going," he says, indicating the device on the low table beside him. "I hope you don't mind."

"It's what Public Relations sent me for," I say. I pick a chair and sit down. He follows suit.

"I'm sorry about, um, the 'whoa'," he says. "It's just, well, you weren't quite what I was expecting...."

"Oh, the uniform." I look down. "It's for practical purposes, mostly. My new ship is a converted Tholian Recluse carrier, and we have the internal environmental controls set as high as possible, to minimize thermal stresses on the structure. The Vulcan crew are happy - the rest of us, well, we need to dress lightly. My old ship, the Sita, had historical files for Mirror Universe uniforms, and so...." So, the short skirt and the abbreviated top. "It does, sometimes, seem to bother our new Romulan friends, I admit."

"You don't look like my image of a Starfleet Admiral," says Thad. "Between the outfit, and the scar, and the..." he gestures at the Ferengi energy whip on my hip, "... well, you look like some kind of pirate."

"The whip, I admit, is mostly for effect," I say with a grin. "Though it does seem to have a psychological impact on the Hirogen."

"The Hirogen," says Thad, in a more serious tone. "Well, then. The official Starfleet line is that the Hirogen are being contained... are you saying different?"

"They're a problem," I say. "Not an insoluble one, though."

Though possibly more intractable than PR wants me to admit. Of all the chaotic blunders resulting from the breakup of the Romulan state, Sela's devil's bargain with the Hirogen has to be the biggest single mistake. "The thing that bothers me about the Hirogen," I say carefully, "is that, at the moment, we're engaging with them, culturally, on their terms."

"I'm sorry?" Thad blinks, apparently baffled.

"I mean that, as far as they're concerned, we're still... prey. Extremely dangerous prey, certainly - we may yet convince them completely that we're just too dangerous to hunt. But we need to get to deal with them on our terms, as sentient beings with a culture as valid as their own."

"Or, um, just... wipe them out?"

"That's not our way." Never mind whether or not it should be, sometimes... it isn't.

"Well, that's more like Starfleet," says Thad with a light laugh. "More the traditional image... 'we must respect the values of other cultures', all that. 'Tea, Earl Grey, hot'."

"Not entirely my style," I say. I turn to the replicator. "Dh'syara tunnel wine, Kidane Province, standard, two... please, join me. It's not intoxicating, and it's entirely safe for humans."

Thad eyes the glass of warm, milky liquid rather uncertainly, before tasting it. "Hey," he says, "not bad. Kind of, I don't know, citrus-y."

"Oh," I say, "an Earth fruit? Something like that." It's best not to discuss the origins of Dh'syara with humans, I've found, or at any rate not to tell them where the fungus is traditionally grown. It doesn't bother Vulcans, they think of it just as efficient organic recycling. But humans have this terrible tendency to spit it over the carpet when they hear about it.

"So," Thad says, "the Hirogen are... a problem. What else is there? I keep hearing rumours...."

"Haven't you been outside the city to look for yourself?"

"Like I say," says Thad, with a nervous little laugh, "I keep hearing rumours. The official line is all, like, 'see the beauties of New Romulus', and then people tell me stories about Hirogen, or Tholians, or bugs that will eat you alive...."

"You have bugs on Earth, don't you?" I say. "I've heard stories about a place called... L'weezyanabeiyuu... they make the virhranen swarms here sound mild. It's true, if you're venturing into some areas, you need to take insect repellent. But, well," I point to myself. "Am I dressed like I worry about biting insects?"

In the field, of course, I'm dressed in polyalloy weave armour, and even so the virhranen are nothing to mess with... but no need for Thad to know these details. "I've never applied for an exit visa to leave the embassy area," he admits. "I mean - we sort of feel it's down to, you know, the military to pacify the area fully...."

"There are plenty of Romulan civilians working outside the city." And not all of them are plants for the Tal Shiar, even. No need to trouble Thad with that detail either.... "Seriously, the main problems are not pacification, but simple logistics. There is an enormous amount of work to be done... both in building the city, and in investigating the planet's past." That last seems to be what the Tholians are here for, as far as I can see. But who knows what the Tholians' motives are? Sometimes I wonder if they know themselves. "The effort involved is vast, and just about everyone is pitching in. You're quite likely to see me out there myself, lending a hand with shuttle maintenance or geological surveys."

"That, well, it doesn't sound so much your thing, Vice Admiral. Um, if you don't mind me saying so." He gives another one of those nervous laughs. "You've got quite, um, a reputation. As something of a fire-eater, even. Is it true you've been sentenced in absentia for war crimes on Nukara Prime?"

"Tholian propaganda," I say firmly. "They've done these show trials for a lot of people who've been involved in the Nukara incursion. Believe me, it's just bluster. The last thing the Tholian Assembly wants," I add, in dark tones, "is people like me standing up in a court and testifying to some of the things that have happened on Nukara."

"Well," says Thad, "I guess we better not get into that now... we're supposed to be talking about New Romulus, right? And the deals... the neutrality deal with the Klingons, for example? The one they're breaking? How many actions has your King Est-may-ray seen already, against the KDF?"

"King Estmere," I correct him. "And, none - against the KDF. There are breakaway groups among the Klingons, the Gorn and the Nausicaans who aren't respecting the agreements. Just like there are still some die-hard fanatics among the Tal Shiar. They've been keeping us busy, I'll admit it. So far, though, the KDF has kept up its side of the bargain, here on the planet itself. Frankly, I think some of the Klingons are as sick of the war as we are ourselves."

"Are they, though? And are you, Vice Admiral? You Andorians are a warrior culture... I guess this 'King Estmere' must have been quite a fighter, right? Though I didn't know Andorians had kings."

"We've had most forms of governmental structures, in our history," I say. "But King Estmere isn't from Andorian history - it's a composition by a human musician I happen to admire. I've named all my ships that way."

That surprises him, I can see. What, does he seriously think Andorians are nothing but blinkered militarists, even today? Amazing. "The thing is," I continue, "there are fanatics on all sides - yes, even ours - but the overwhelming bulk of people are tired of fighting, tired of losing, tired of seeing what they've worked for and lived for destroyed. New Romulus is a chance for all of us to join together and build something. Even we... warrior cultures... understand the appeal of this. The Romulans, especially, have lost so much - the chance to make something new for themselves, well, it is one they have to take."

"That's certainly D'Tan's party line," says Thad with a dubious look. "Do you believe in it? In him?"

Oh, human cynicism. Of course, it's only wise to keep a weather eye on those who lead us, to make sure they remain fit to do so... but humans seem so ready to assume the worst of their leaders, to ascribe every sort of moral failing and squalid ulterior motive to them, and then they follow them anyway. "I've met D'Tan," I say. "To me, he seems genuine. But what would a simple warrior like me know?" Let's not get into the matter of the recordings, the ones that show D'Tan's relations with the Tal Shiar in a very definite light... wherever those recordings come from. "He's speaking for those Romulans who want to rebuild... and speaking, very effectively, to the people whose help they need. To us, to the KDF, to the Remans." I smile. "If we ever are to engage the Hirogen on our terms, D'Tan might be just the person to do it."

"Wow," says Thad. "You seem... kind of impressed."

"I am," I say. "Kind of."

"So," Thad says, "if D'Tan's genuine, and serious about wanting peace for reconstruction... what about the big question, then?"

"Which one?"

"You know," says Thad. "The big one... Reunification."

"Ah." It might be big, but it's not one I've thought about all that much. "I don't know," I say. "It's been talked about for a long time... but both the Romulans and the Vulcans have considered it, well, as welcoming their errant siblings back to the right path. I don't think it's possible under those terms... you can't just turn Romulans into Vulcans, or Vulcans into Romulans for that matter. Vulcan culture couldn't assimilate Romulan pride, Romulan passions, without changing in itself. And Romulans wouldn't take the baggage that comes with Vulcan attitudes... I think."

"So you think they're doomed to go on as two divergent cultures?"

"That's kind of a strong word, 'doomed'," I say. "I think... there might well be room for both of them, as part of a larger whole. An alliance between the Romulans and the Federation... it would have been unthinkable, even a few years ago. But times change, and if New Romulus works, it will prove our cultures can work together."

"And you seriously believe that? That different races can respect each others' cultures and stil work together?" Thad sounds almost amused.

"Of course I do," I say. "I'm an Andorian flying a Tholian ship with a mixed-species crew and a Terran name, remember? If there is one thing the Federation can do, it's take disparate cultures and bring together the best of all of them."

"Oh," says Thad. "Right on the party line, huh?"

His human cynicism is starting to annoy me; I hope I'm not letting it show. "If I didn't believe in the Federation's principles," I say, as mildly as I can manage, "I couldn't be a Starfleet officer."

"Why?" asks Thad. "I mean, for you guys, Starfleet is just a continuation of the military tradition, right? Just the successor to the old Imperial Guard?"

"I was never part of that tradition," I say. "I was born on an Andorian colony world, I guess maybe something like New Romulus itself, in a smaller way." I raise my hand to the scars on my right cheek. "I got this the night it was destroyed. I lost my home, two of my parents and a chunk of my skull that night, and I learned that sometimes you can't just walk away from a war. So I've spent my career since then walking towards it, trying to fight it and win it. But, believe me, I'd rather be building. So would D'Tan and his people. If it's nothing else, New Romulus is a chance to do that."

"Well, I guess that answers my questions," says Thad. He stands up. "Thanks, Vice Admiral Shohl, for your time - and your frankness."

"You're welcome," I say, as I get to my feet too. "But I think you'd get more answers if you went out in the field. Get that exit visa - I'll countersign one for you myself, if you like. Come outside the city walls and see what they're trying to do, for yourself."

He looks out over the city. "I might just do that," he says. "From here, it does look kind of impressive...."

"Anyone can build a city," I say. "Just punch in the program and turn the industrial replicators on. What the Romulans are trying to build here, though, is a home. That's a lot more work, and they need our help. They deserve our help. And, if it's up to me, they're going to get it."

He laughs. "I'm sure as hell not going to argue with you! - Thanks, again, Vice Admiral Shohl."
Ensign
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 28
# 12
12-08-2012, 11:44 AM
Captain Janson Cates stepped off of the turbolift and onto the flight deck, rubbing his eyes to combat the fatigue. The U.S.S. Stalwart had spent the previous week on patrols of the Tau Dewa sector on assignment from Starfleet Command, and what a long week it had been. On the way to New Romulus, Cates? diplomatic training was put to the test as he was forced to handle delicate interclan negotiations among the indigenous peoples of the nearby Acamar system, and though he was able to navigate that minefield diplomatically in most cases, more than once the only way to make some of the Acamarian clans see reason was when they were staring down the barrel of the Stalwart's disruptor cannons. Later, the Stalwart responded to distress calls from the Azure Nebula, where Tholian ships were blockading Romulan vessels. Over a period of five days, the Stalwart engaged dozens of Tholian ships, pushing his crew to the limits of exhaustion. To top it all off, as they prepared for the final leg of the journey to New Romulus, Cates and his crew had been called to Carraya to investigate rumors of Tal Shiar rebels in the vicinity--rumors, which, of course, were all too true, and the Stalwart was once again put to the test.

It was still odd, aiding the Romulans. Rationally, Cates knew that an alliance with New Romulus could be a boon to Federation. But trust was hard to come by when it come to the Romulans. Now, that trust was about to be put to the test aboard the Stalwart.

The hangar bay was, by far, Captain Cates' favorite deck. He himself was rated as a fighter pilot, and he still used a Peregrine fighter as his personal shuttle. He'd considered it a tremendous blessing to be named captain of a carrier escort, and to get to work in close contact still with the pilots and engineers of Valiant Squadron, who had been stationed aboard his vessel. The fighters had performed exceptionally well, especially during the ambush by the Tal Shiar in Carraya, when they had scrambled into space quickly and helped defend the Stalwart under fire.

Now, however, the hangar bay was empty. Shortly after achieving orbit around New Romulus, orders had come from Starfleet that Valiant Squadron was to leave the Stalwart and descend to New Romulus to await further orders. Those orders were baffling enough, but it was the second part of Starfleet's directive that caused true concern: Valiant Squadron was being replaced aboard the Stalwart by a squadron of Romulan fighters, complete with Romulan pilots.

Romulans. Aboard his vessel. Under his command. It was difficult to believe. Starfleet had called it a "gesture of good faith" to work so closely with the military of the Romulan Star Empire, but even as open minded as Janson Cates was, doubts were difficult to stifle.

The first curved forms of the Scorpion fighters began maneuvering aboard the Stalwart through the hangar bay doors. Cates stood rigid while his engineers approached the Romulan craft for post-flight operations. In a moment, one of the Romulan pilots made his way toward Cates.

"Captain Cates, I presume," the Romulan said, raising one slanted eyebrow in an expression that contained something less than respect.

"Welcome," Cates said, extending his hand. "You are commander Suval?"

"Indeed."

"We are honored to have Romulan pilots aboard our ship. I am sure you will find --"

"Captain, please dispense with the pleasantries. We are no more pleased with this assignment than you are. We are soldiers; we do not need to pretend to be diplomats."

Cates considered informing Suval that he was, in fact, a diplomat as captain of a Federation vessel, but Suval never gave him the opportunity.

"I have two requests for you, Captain Cates, and then I will allow you to return to whatever it is you think needs doing. One, show my pilots to our quarters, and two, open the hangar bay doors when I request it. We will require no further orders from you or your officers."

With that, the Romulan commander turned and walked back toward the other Romulans exiting the fighters.

Cates exhaled, but the tension did not leave him. This was not going to be easy.

Last edited by mrcaton1; 12-08-2012 at 11:47 AM.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 146
# 13 Section 31's Second Call
12-10-2012, 08:20 PM
Three months ago, Section 31 commandeered the Odyssey, drugged the crew, and had free reign of the ship for eight days. Starfleet Intelligence had classified the incident and threatened prosecution with anyone who tried to find out exactly what happened.

Now, the Odyssey is in Romulan space on an aid mission?and Section 31 is about to call.


Like any other good captain, Carter was a student of history. It seemed like 23rd century politics were replaying themselves right in front of him.

The destruction of Praxis almost tore the Klingon Empire apart. Slowly but surely, the Klingons turned to the Federation for help, which led to an era of peace (that unfortunately has ended). Now, the destruction of Romulus literally has town the Romulan Star Empire to shreds. The remnants have banded together and created New Romulus. Now the Federation has sent a fleet of beat up and outdated vessels to bring relief and supplies.

The Odyssey was due for a ten-year refit three years ago, but circumstances (and maybe an upset admiral or two?) had caused one delay after another. Now Captain Carter and his thirteen-year-old Luna-class science vessel were in orbit around Station Eleven, a staging point outside the New Romulus system.

Carter?s desk terminal chimed to remind him that his hour of afternoon solace was over. Commander sh?Raul had suggested that he adopt the practice four days a week in order to reduce stress levels. It hadn?t been necessary on this voyage since there isn?t much stress in watching subordinates transfer cargo, but Carter had kept his promise to implement the practice for a month before giving up on it.

---
Three hours later, Glotz informed Captain Carter of an incoming message marked personal. In his ready room, Carter opened the channel and was immediately filled with hate. The mystery agent from Section 31 had called.

"It?s good to see you, Captain. I have pleasant news for you. Thirty minutes from now would be an excellent time to take one of your runabouts out for a spin. How about the Pauling? Take it on a short trip to the coordinates I am sending you."

"Why should I trust the man who kidnapped my crew?"

"You have no reason to trust me. But here?s why you will do it?"

"Warning: self-destruct in 5 minutes. This is the last audio warning."

First officer T?Panna ran through the door. "Captain, are you out of your mind? What is going on?"

Carter took a deep breath and tried to not scream. "The friend we met at Terra Nova has asked me a favor, which I hesitated to agree to. It appears that he has rigged our ship for remote access. Turning back to the screen, he scowled at the Section 31 officer. Do I have to go alone, unarmed, and naked? What are your terms?"

"You have to go alone, and you really should bring the little something I left you with. Will go you?"

"Do you promise to not destroy my ship? And leave a trail I can follow so I can hunt you down and kill you myself?"

"Oh captain, seriously? Last time I checked, investigating my little joy ride in your ship was a crime. Do you want me to report you to your superiors?"

"Point taken. I?m leaving for the docking bay. Turn off the self-destruct."

"Done."

The image on the screen disappeared. Carter reached under his desk for the gift from Section 31. Then he and T?Panna raced to the turbolift and headed to Docking Bay Two. In the lift, he called Chief Engineer Jarvis, who assigned a crew to scan the Pauling as fast as possible.

"You know, we should really talk about what happened two weeks ago."

T?Panna turned to face him and slowly replied. "Yes, we should, but now is not the time. I have two things to tell you. First, this is foolish, and you know it. Second, and I hope that you know this too?I love you."

"Stop talking about love. It?s not even finalized yet and we?re already in love?"

"I never said you were in love, but you just admitted it. And your divorce will be finalized any day now. No one knows about this except for the main computer." She gently kissed his cheek as the turbolift reached its destination.

---
Jarvis and his technicians didn?t have much time to examine the Pauling before Carter left. Their report was unsurprising ? there was no trace of any foreign parts, subroutines, or programming. The starboard nacelle was slightly misaligned thanks to a rough landing a few months ago, but other than that, the ship was as good as new.

Carter sat at the helm, searching the area for anything unusual as the auto pilot left the Odyssey and went into warp. Then he turned around. "Alice."

The ship?s librarian appeared over the briefcase sitting on the floor. "Captain, why are we alone in this runabout?"

"That?s a good question, and I figured you were the best one who could help me. Section 31 forced me to head out in the Pauling to a set of coordinates about 3 hours away at maximum warp. I was told to come alone, which I assume means that whoever I will meet will scan the ship for life signs. So I had to choose between you or the photonic security agents. Personally I like you better."

"Thank you Captain. Let?s get to work and see what we can learn."

---

The Pauling was hailed as soon as it left warp. Captain Carter, you have one minute to activate your device and confirm your identity. Otherwise you will be destroyed. Immediately a Mogai-class warbird de-cloaked and activated a tractor beam. Carter turned to Alice and nodded. She de-activated her holographic emitter.

The mystery gift turned out to be a simple one-time-use beacon, which satisfied the commander of the Mogai. About a minute later, Carter was beamed into a small conference room. Two Romulan guards escorted him to a seat at the round table.

"The Romulan seated appeared to be middle-age, which meant something between 85 and 200 years old. He had short gray hair and a completely out of fashion goatee. Allow me to introduce myself. My real name is not your concern, so I will call myself Absalom Jones. That is what your handlers also refer to me as."

Well you obviously know who I am, so what do you want?" Carter's scowl deepened.

The Romulan's face remained neutral. "Ah, so you are an impatient man. My sources said that you wouldn?t be the ideal candidate for your position, but I decided to trust my instincts. You don?t want politics, but just the straight truth. So here it is. First, Donatra is back, and she is silently running New Romulus. Yes, the one and only Donatra who also happens to be a Borg drone. So it is safe to assume that my government has embraced the Borg, or at least come to some sort of cease-fire.

"What will we do? My friend ? can I call you my friend? ? I am a man of means, and I happen to be connected to those who are running the telecommunications on New Romulus. I saw a situation like this coming, so I took initiative, which is clearly one of the Romulan virtues. I have embedded Thalaron emitters into the telecommunications satellites orbiting New Romulus."

"My plan is simple ? eliminate the current leadership, form a new government, and fight the Borg alongside the Federation. I am telling you this for one reason ? so that your newly-elected Federation President decides to send a less-favored delegate to attend the summit in 36 hours. I will strike as soon as the summit begins. If your President cancels entirely, the leadership will scatter and we will have lost our only chance to save the Romulan people."

"I will beam you to your ship now." With that, Carter found himself seated on the Pauling.

---

Back on the Odyssey, T?Panna tried to be thoughtful. Being raised by parents who were best described as pure hedonists, she found introspection and reflection to be impossible most of the time. The fact that her father was one-half Vulcan didn?t bring her much inner serenity, but it did help with her looks.

A text message appeared at her terminal. You two are a cute couple. Defend him when he gets back.

Immediately Glotz turned to face her. "You have an incoming transmission from Starfleet Security. It is marked as urgent but not classified."

"On screen." She sat up straight and wondered what is coming.

"Commander T?Panna, this is Admiral Leavenworth. Where is Captain Carter?"

"He is otherwise indisposed at the moment, admiral. What can I help you with?"

"Call him to the bridge immediately. I need to speak to both of you."

"I?m afraid that I cannot do that, sir."

"Why not?"

"Captain Carter is not on the Odyssey. He is on a fact-finding mission in one of our runabouts."

"Interesting. That sounds a bit outside of your mission parameters, does it not?"

"Actually, sir, I believe that it was Section 31 calling again. He received a ?"

"What? You did not report this immediately?"

"Sir, the Captain refused Section 31?s request and the self-destruct immediately started. They have compromised our computer. We were doing due diligence before contacting you. There?s no way to know for certain that the ship won?t explode if we report them."

"You are lying! I hereby place you and Captain Carter under arrest. You are charged with..."

The screen went blank. Glotz, the Denobulan operations officer, turned around and smiled at T?Panna. "We must have had some interference with the signal."

"Thank you...I mean, hail Starfleet Security at your earliest convenience. But that has to be after we check our communications array, and the main computer, and perform a series of short-range communications with a runabout ? how about the Pauling? Where is it anyway? I know the Captain asked for silence, but now?s a good time to warn him that he?s under arrest."
Former PWE Community Team Lead
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 9,046
# 14
12-11-2012, 05:11 PM
Another challenge, another set of great entires! Nice job, all

I'll be unsticking this as I prepare to post #34, but as always, feel free to still make a post if you would like to participate.

Cheers,

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