Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 146
Part 1 - Counselor ch'Raul at Your Service

September 2409
Twenty-three months before the events in Literary Challenge 39
Monday, 0827 hours


Some people just don't get it, Commander ch'Raul thought. Polite, tactful responses weren't getting the desired response. It was time to be blunt. He replied calmly, without a trace of emotion in his voice. "Do you at least understand the dilemma here? Clearly not. Starfleet is a military organization, yes, but our goal is not the utter and complete annihilation of anyone and everyone who opposes our values."

Ensign Smith visibly shuddered. "But the Tholians ambushed us while we were in Federation space. They deserved to die. Our Captain is weak."

"I think it's safe to say that everyone on the ship agrees that the Tholians were in the wrong, and the Captain did the right thing defending us and disabling their ships. Do you remember how we left them? Both ships had main propulsion and weapons systems disabled. One ship had multiple hull breaches and was being evacuated. Do you wish that we had slaughtered them while they were defenseless? "

"How else will we teach their kind a lesson?"

"Alright, let's talk about lessons. What is your background in, Ensign?"

"I have a doctorate in reptilian anatomy, sir."

Checkmate. "And I have a doctorate in clinical psychology, and a second one in pantheistic religions. So let me explain this to you. Leaving the Tholians alive was an act of mercy. We don't want them to make them extinct - we just want to have a peaceful coexistence. There is no rational reason to destroy ships full of sentient beings just because you are mad at them. I think you must have suffered an injustice from another race as a child, perhaps from the Borg or Klingons?"

"Well, actually..." Smith looked down at her folded hands.

This is going to be interesting, ch'Raul thought.

---

Monday, 0931 hours


Chief Engineer Jarvis was on a mission. All was calm in the engine room, so he could take a moment and focus on a personal matter. He circled main engineering, looking for Lieutenant Fuerstenau.

After a few minutes he realized where his least favorite junior officer was - in the Jeffries tubes between decks 7 and 8, recalibrating a relatively unimportant piece of technology. Fuerstenau didn't mean to cause trouble, but he just wasn't the most talented engineer in the group. Jarvis hoped that Fuerstenau was good-natured enough to not realize that he always got the least important assignments.

He thought about having the conversation over the comm but decided that would be awkward. So, he asked the computer for Fuerstenau's current location and began crawling.

"Do you need a hand Lieutenant?" Jarvis didn't want to help, but figured that this introduction would break the ice well.

"Thank you sir, but I'm almost done here. I'm not late again, am I? I'm sorry that I'm not the fastest..."

Jarvis cut him off. "That is not why I am here. I was hoping to have a short personal talk. Is that alright?"

The tension drained from Fuerstenau's face. "Of course. What is it?"

"Would you be willing to write a short thank you note to the counselor?"

Fuerstenau looked down at the bottom of the tube. "You know, that's probably not a bad idea. It's been three months since Amy died in that fight against the Undine. I'm just now starting to feel like I can live again. I'd be happy to write him a note. Is he leaving or something?"

---

Tuesday, 1237 hours

Jarvis had spent his entire lunch break trying to convince the senior staff to contribute for Saturday's surprise. Glotz was the lone holdout. He put his fork down and looked Jarvis in the eye. "I'm sorry but I really just don't like the guy. He uses his counselor title as an excuse for his superiority complex. I doubt I could find something nice to say for his obituary."

Jarvis fought the urge to roll his eyes. "You have to admit that he's been effective though. Our last counselor was an idealist who thought everyone could be healed by a smile and a handshake. What do you talk about with ch'Raul in your semi-annual review?"

"I talk about my wives. He finds Denobulan sexuality interesting."

"Of course he would. Denobulans and Andorians have the most confusing mating patterns in the galaxy."

Glotz smiled. "At least with Denobulans it is clear what a person's gender is. I have no idea if ch'Raul is a thaan or a chan. I am pretty sure he is male, but with Andorians, how can you be sure? I can write a note mocking him. That'd be fun."

Jarvis stood up and grabbed his food tray. "I just need the note by 1200 hours on Saturday. Thanks Glotz."

---

Wednesday, 0841 hours

Supporting colonies in far-flung nebulae was one of the most boring responsibilities that Captain Everitt Carter ever had. No one in their right mind would care to live in the Betreka Nebula, so why should the Federation care? Or maybe the early morning was souring an otherwise thrilling day of replicating supplies for a small colony on a small, hot planet with a friendly name like Hesperit VI.

Carter heard loud footsteps and saw that counselor ch'Raul was on the bridge. This can't be good, he thought as a false smile creased his face. "What is on your mind Commander?" Addressing ch'Raul according to his rank instead of his position was Carter's favorite way of showing disrespect for the profession.

"We need to speak privately right away, sir." He tapped a padd against his left palm while waiting for Carter to stand up. Carter decided that almost anything would be better than sitting on the bridge watching Hesperit VI rotate, so he led the Andorian commander to his ready room.

ch'Raul started speaking as soon as they were seated. "I would like you to extend an invitation for this officer to join your crew. I feel that he would make a positive contribution."

Carter took the padd and examined the profile of a Jem'Hadar named Kerna'tharan. He was a tactical officer (of course) with no experience serving on Federation vessels. "I take it that he is part of the officer exchange program we have with our allies in the Dominion." He thought that was a non-confrontational way of saying "why are you wasting my time?"

"Actually sir, he hasn't applied for the program yet. I am hoping that your offer will be the motivation he needs to apply and not waste his life."

"A Jem'Hadar who is not motivated? Why would I want a lazy Jem'Hadar on my tactical team? Since when did you become an expert in the needs of my security department anyway?" Carter made a mental note to ask security chief Hillel if he was aware of this strange request.

ch'Raul was perfectly calm. "You know that I joined your crew after spending two years in the Gamma Quadrant as part of the officer exchange program. I have seen what Jem'Hadar do after being wounded in action. My replacement sends me information on new patients. Kerna'tharan is struggling to find a purpose in life, and I think that you can give him one.

"Do you know what the suicide rate is for wounded Jem'Hadar? No one kept records until after the Dominion War since it was assumed that anyone who was injured was not victorious. I asked to be given an advisory post working with the Dominion in 2401, but they weren't open to the idea of a counselor interfering with their troops until a few years ago."

Carter leaned back in his chair and rolled his eyes. "Thank you for the history lesson commander, but why do I care?"

"Please let me continue. When I arrived, I learned that the suicide rate for wounded Jem'Hadar was 100 percent. This is entirely unacceptable. We're talking about thousands of Jem'Hadar who end their lives because they feel like they cannot make a contribution to society if they can't kill other sentient beings. Thanks to my efforts, the overall suicide rate has plunged to 64 percent. But among amputees, the figure is still around 100 percent.

"Kerna'tharan is one of the rare patients who actually listen to what we have to say. My replacement, Doctor Kinnison, tells me that without radical intervention, Kerna'tharan will probably kill himself. By taking him in, you not only save his life but also show thousands of other Jem'Hadar that life is still worth living when you are not in pristine fighting shape."

"This is very touching commander, but I don't have any open positions on this ship." Carter stood up and replicated another coffee. He intentionally did not ask ch'Raul if he wanted anything.

ch'Raul also stood. "Please don't turn this down. It would take months for a transfer to take effect. All I am asking is for you to give hope to a wounded solider, and possibly countless other soldiers as well."

I've had enough, Carter thought. "I don't need any more officers now." He turned to walk out of the room.

"If you ignore this request, Kerna'tharan's blood will be on your hands."

Carter spun around. "You have no right to make that kind of accusation! I can do whatever I damned well please on this vessel. Find someone else to take care of your one-legged Jem'Hadar."

"He is only missing his left hand. Dr. Evans could fit him with a prosthesis in a matter of hours." The door closed, leaving ch'Raul alone in the ready room.

---

Wednesday, 1449 hours

ch'Raul made a mental note to keep Mehn's counseling sessions at the end of the day. He was almost twenty minutes behind schedule thanks to Mehn's stubbornness. "Lieutenant, Pahkwa-thanh traditions have intrinsic value, but you also have to respect your shipmates. Asking someone to surrender their arm because you are starving and the staff meeting is running late is taking things too far. Do you agree?"

Mehn shifted his weight and wagged his tail around. "I don't see the problem. It was just a joke."

"So here's a joke for you. I like eating lizards. You look like one. Do you want to be barbecued or roasted?"

The Pahkwa-thanh stood in silence for a few moments. "You can't be serious."

"The only reason why you aren't taking me serious is because you weigh a hundred kilograms more than me and have sharper teeth. I don't pose a natural threat to you. Consider for a while the fact that half the crew probably thinks that you are a Gorn. The anatomical differences between Gorn and Pahkwa-thanh are not obvious to the untrained eye. So people see you as a predator from a people with a history of violence. Then you talk about eating people. It's not hard to see why you were enrolled in mandatory counseling sessions.

"Here is your choice: you can either grow up or I recommend to Captain Carter that you aren't worth keeping. We'll be at Deep Space K-7 in a month, where he can safely dump you. What will it be?"

---

Friday, 1524 hours

A Luna-class starship was much too small to hide from people, especially when they were both on the command staff. Wednesday's discussion still soured his opinion of ch'Raul, but Carter knew that the Andorian commander had some good suggestions when it came to personnel reviews. They were alone in the main conference room, waiting for the disciplinary review to start. Carter rubbed his bald forehead and looked at ch'Raul. "Are you sure this is the best way to do it?"

ch'Raul nodded. "Ensign Alvarez knows that she causes strife and discord. There's no reason to dance around the topic. She's one of the best astrometric scientists in the fleet, but her interpersonal skills are horrendous. Be blunt with her, but try and draw the line between her actions and her person. You don't want her to feel like a failed human being when she leaves."

"What if I don't care? Ok, don't answer that. I just don't see the distinction between her actions and her intrinsic value as a sentient being. If she's a troublemaker on purpose, then she is a bad person. End of story."

"That is why I am the counselor, not you." The door chime announced the arrival of Ensign Alvarez. "It's your show now captain."

Carter rolled his eyes. "Enter."
---

Saturday, 1758 hours

Everitt Carter stood outside Holodeck Two, waiting for ch'Raul. It was time to talk about Wednesday's discussion.

ch'Raul arrived at exactly 1800 hours. Carter put his right hand up to indicate that he wanted to talk prior to entering the holodeck for the monthly senior staff poker game. "I just wanted to apologize for yelling at you," he said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster.

"There is no apology necessary, captain," ch'Raul replied. "I tried to talk you into helping me by convincing you that you would be personally responsible for thousands of deaths if you refused my request. That was unbecoming of a Federation officer. I am the one who should be apologizing."

"Your passion is what makes you good at the job. The last counselor that we had onboard was utterly useless. You are close to convincing me that the position is worthwhile. I also wanted to let you know that I contacted Kerna'tharan and extended an offer for him to join the crew."

ch'Raul smiled. "Thank you for that. He contacted me a few hours ago to let me know. Jem'Hadar are not known for their expressions of joy - much like Vulcans really - but this was as close to happiness as I have ever seen a Jem'Hadar. Thank you very much."

An awkward pause was followed by both men entering the holodeck.

ch'Raul was anxious to get things underway. It was his birthday, and he never really liked celebrating himself. His life was dedicated to helping people, but for some reason, self-esteem was hard to come by personally. The success with Kerna'tharan was worth celebrating more than his birthday.

Chief Engineer Raul Jarvis shuffled the cards for longer than necessary and then reached under the table. "It's only fitting that we take a minute to celebrate the work that ch'Raul is doing on our lovely ship. Yes, we know it's your birthday, and we know that you appreciate written correspondence more than the electronic garbage you are bombarded with." Jarvis dumped a stack of papers on the table, right where the bets go. "These are from the crew. You are appreciated more than you know. Take your time in reading them when you get back to your quarters. Happy birthday!"

---

Saturday, 2147 hours

ch'Raul finished reading the stack of papers and looked at his notes and then read the tally he made. Generic thank yous: seven. Marriage problems: four. Grief counseling: seventeen. Baby Rachelle's death still haunts me two months later. Questioning my sexuality: one. Glotz!

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

Part 2 - Dating Advice


August 2411
This takes place simultaneously with the events in Literary Challenge 39


Miguel Jarvis awoke to the red alert klaxon. It took about three seconds to be coherent enough to speak to Lieutenant Tomkot in engineering. The Bolian informed him that Lieutenant Carpenter was scared about some Borg wreckage, even though there was no enemy in sight. Jarvis sighed, thanked Tomkot for the information, and went to the replicator to get a ratkajino. He knew it was going to be a long day.

Retrieving the lone Borg lifesign in the wreckage seemed foolish, but it did give Jarvis an opportunity to try the new automated flight controls on the shuttle Asher. Several people had suggested that Jarvis create or place a sentient photonic being onboard to serve as the pilot, but that didn't sit well with him. The whole point behind the Asher project was to have a ship smart enough to do something like a high-risk rescue mission without putting another life on the line.

Asher performed the rendezvous flawlessly. Things were going well until the final approach. The padd in Jarvis' hand started making harsh tones and warning of a growing feedback loop between Asher and Odyssey's automated docking system. Then Asher's nose plowed into the deck plating. The only casualty was to Jarvis' pride.

---

Amanda Carpenter called Jarvis on the comm as soon as she was off of deck one. Once again, she had let her feelings get in the way of sound judgment. It looked like this was the metaphorical last straw. Carter told her to take a few days off, which was certainly a polite way of saying that he was going to find someone else to be acting captain for gamma shift and couldn't think of what to do with her.

She found Jarvis outside main engineering and literally fell into his arms. Tears flowed freely as he held her and gently massaged her head.

---

Jarvis was grateful that he scattered his engineers to the four corners of the ship before Amanda came. Most of his people knew about his relationship with Amanda, but he didn't think it would be appropriate for everyone to see her fall apart in public.

As he calmed her, he realized that his personal and professional lives had a lot in common. He sought out problems and tried to solve them. This made him an outstanding engineer, but not necessarily a great companion.

He had grown restless after six years of marriage to his wife Tracy. He couldn't understand how she constantly dealt with self-esteem issues. Two years later he was dating Amanda, who occasionally made less-than-perfect decisions like waking up the entire crew over Borg wreckage. He was a repair main at heart. Dealing with long-term problems without simple solutions tested his sanity.

And then an explosion rocked the floor. He removed himself from Amanda's grip and quickly determined what had happened. Someone had deemed the Borg prisoner a threat and ejected the brig into space. That person was proven right half a second later when the brig exploded.

He wiped the tears from Amanda's face and looked into her eyes. "It looks like I am going to be busy for a few hours. We need to make a new brig. Will you be ok in your quarters?"

"Sure." Her gaze never left the floor.

"I will come as soon as this fiasco is over. I love you." He kissed her forehead and turned towards his office.

---

Two days later

Jarvis and ch'Raul were in the ship's bowling alley on deck 13. There were only two lanes, and each man had reserved one of them for two hours. Neither one of them was very good at bowling, but that was not why they were there.

"It sounds like you truly love Amanda. You are going to have to accept that her personal struggles do not have easy solutions. I bet that if you were honest you would find a long-lasting problem in your own life."

Jarvis sat down in one of the empty chairs. "As always, I think that you are right. I married Tracy with the expectation that I'd solve her self-esteem within a year or two. I let my desire to fix things override my affection for her, and that ended rather poorly. I am at the same impasse with Amanda and I don't want to lose her. But it is frustrating to see her consistently make decisions without thinking them through. It cost her job of gamma shift captain."

ch'Raul's normally stoic face turned into a smile. "You are overreacting. Does she truly make impulsive decisions consistently? I doubt that. What is your character flaw? Being impatient. Admit it to yourself, then admit it to Amanda and tell her that she is worth so much to you that you are not going to let your impatience prevent you from loving her. Problem solved." He picked up his ball and rolled it into the gutter. "Now, how about solving my problem? I can't seem to score higher than 75 in this game."

---

The next day


"Personal log, supplemental. I finally had a talk with Amanda about my desire to fix everything and my impatience when that doesn't happen. She listened and then told me that she'd already seen that problem and was afraid that it would ruin our relationship. I told her that I was committed to making things work with her, and that she had the right to tell me when I let my engineer mentality get in the way.

"I still feel bad about Captain Carter taking her position of gamma shift captain away, but there is one benefit. Now Amanda is working on alpha shift in the Operations group. We finally work the same shift, which means we will have more time together. I can't complain about that. End log."

Jarvis stopped pacing his room, picked up the flowers and a small box on the table, and headed for Amanda Carpenter's quarters.

Last edited by superhombre777; 03-09-2013 at 01:32 PM.
Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,298
I've got my memories
They're always inside of me
But I can't go back
Back to how it was...

Belief over misery
I've seen the enemy

And I got my heart set on what happens next
I've got my eyes wide, it's not over yet...

This is home
Now I'm finally where I belong, where I belong
This is home
I've been searching for a place of my own
Now I've found it, maybe, this is home

And now after all my searching
After all my questions
I'm gonna call it home...

I've come too far
And I won't go back
Yeah, this is home


Jon Foreman of Switchfoot - "This is Home"



WELCOME HOME

Approaching McKinley Station, Earth Orbit - Stardate 87068.3

The familiar dark gray shape loomed ahead, menacing and predatory even nestled in the McKinley Station spacedock. LCdr. LaRoca Rusty kept his eyes locked on the Akira-class warship as he reached for the comm panel. "Zambezi to Tiburon," he announced, "requesting instructions for manual docking."

"Tiburon reads, Zambezi," came the reply. "Ah, if you'll just set your autopilot sir, and we'll tractor you in."

Rusty looked over at his older brother, sitting at the helm of the runabout, and shrugged.

Jesu glared at the unseen flight deck officer aboard his ship, who was clearly unfamiliar with the Admiral's personal operating procedure. "This is Admiral LaRoca," he said calmly, but with a measured overtone of aggravation in his voice. "That's a negative, Tib. I will be coming in manually. Please just tell which hole to aim for."

There was a long pause, and the officer came back with a shaking voice. LaRoca correctly imagined the conversation that had taken place between the flight deck officer and the bridge, and he smiled a little. "Zambezi, Tiburon. Apologies, Admiral. Please prepare to dock in shuttlebay three - that's the topmost-"

"I know where it is, Tib. I'll see you shortly."

Rusty chuckled as he closed the channel. "I doubt he'll make that mistake again."

Jesu didn't hear his adopted brother. The Tiburon had arrested his attention, as he raised his eyes from the instrument panel and saw his ship for the first time in over a quarter of a century. "Dios mio," he murmured reverently. "I'd forgotten how beautiful she was."

"I think she looks even better than before," Rusty remarked after a respectful moment's pause. "Since they've modified the saucer and nacelles."

Jesu nodded, eyeing the two pairs of phaser cannons flanking the deflector dish in the ship's bow, and the dual heavy phaser cannons just above, and the phaser beam array encircling the upper saucer, and the torpedo module perched atop the crossbar over the twin booms of the engineering hull, each mounting phaser turrets. "They've certainly sharpened her teeth." He angled the runabout down and ducked under the massive AEGIS deflector. "Ah, I see why we aren't wanted in the main hangar bay."

Rusty stared at the cavernous space on the Tiburon's underside, open to space and swarming with work bees. "I guess refitting her to be a proper carrier again - and a heavy escort - is taking longer than the boys at McKinley expected."

"They can take their time," Jesu said sarcastically. "It's not like we're fighting five wars at once out there." He killed the impulse engines and used the maneuvering thrusters to spin a tight one-eighty, and drifted backwards between the Tiburon's underslung warp nacelles. Modified, as Rusty had noted, to be compatible with the Federation's transwarp network and an onboard Quantum Slipstream drive. He angled up and pulsed the engines to coast toward shuttlebay three.

The door opened over a shimmering, pale-blue semi-permeable force field. Jesu LaRoca carefully steered into the center of the maw, and engaged the electromagnetic induction field as he crossed the threshold so he didn't immediately drop to the grav-plated deck. He looked for and found a green-vested traffic warden pointing him toward an empty docking space. He also saw several of his men standing near the far wall of the shuttlebay - he picked out his second officer among them. It wasn't difficult to identify the 2.1-meter Andorian. He killed the thrusters and coasted in using the EMI field for directional control. He made a 270-degree spin and backed into his assigned space and shut the Zambezi's systems down. He and Rusty left the runabout while it was still in its power-down cycle through the forward hatch and the fog produced by the thruster systems purging excess deuterium gas. Rusty as always led the way.

"Ah-ten-SHUN!" a deep voice shouted.

Jesu turned left toward the cluster of men standing at attention and addressed Cmdr. Ibear, his operations officer. "Permission to come aboard?"

"Granted, sir, of course!'

"As you were, thank you."

Rusty spoke up, and jerked a clawed thumb toward the Zambezi. "We have some luggage back there, if a couple of you wouldn't mind-"

The five crewmen standing with Fozz Ibear immediately sprang forward, emerging from the runabout a moment later carrying duffels, garment bags and boxes of personal effects.

"I can show you guys to your quarters, if you'd like. Or if you'd rather tour the ship?"

"I think we'd rather look around the old girl first," Jesu said. "And I think we'd rather find our own way around, Fozz." He looked back at his brother for conformation. Rusty nodded.

The Andorian crossed his arms. "As you wish. I have a lot of work to do, anyway."

"Yes, I could see the progress of the main hangar conversion on my way in. Or rather, the lack thereof," Jesu noted dryly.

"That's... partially my fault," Fozz admitted. "Mine and Barrister's. We looked over the specs and Barrister figured out a way to make the refueling and rearming stations twenty-three-percent more efficient, and I ordered the design changes. It shouldn't delay us by more than thirty-six hours. Barrister's down there now overseeing the assembly teams and trying to get us out of here as soon as possible."

Jesu forced a small frown but he really wanted to smile. Lt. Barrister (he had chosen that name over his original designation, Yankee-Six-Eight) was a fourth-generation Soong-type positronic android, and Admiral LaRoca's deputy ops officer. He and Fozz worked extremely well together. LaRoca's last crew had started calling the pair "The Icemen." But the Icemen often worked behind their CO's back, making tweaks and improvements to various systems. LaRoca feigned disapproval, but he really didn't mind. After all, besides having three - now four ships to look after, Vice Admiral Jesus Lorenzo San Gregorio LaRoca was the diplomatic liaison to Starfleet Security. And with his recent promotion, he had more responsibility than ever. He was far too busy to keep track of everything that went on aboard his current flagship, especially a ship undergoing a complete refit. "Very well," he said with a small sigh. "Carry on."

"Yessir." Cmdr. Ibear turned around, stepped through a door, and sprinted off down the corridor.

Jesu and Rusty followed at a leisurely pace. Jesu inhaled deeply. "We're home," he said. They had grown up together on this ship. Rusty had been born on board. It truly was home to them. "What do you want to see first?"

"Is the med lab still in the same place?" Rusty wondered. He wanted to his birthplace again.

"Let's find out." Jesu pulled a PADD from a pocket in his duty uniform pants. He called up the original design schematics of USS Tiburon NCC-68636, Akira-class, spaceframe built 2372. He found the deckplan and overlayed their combadge signals. "Should be deck five."

Rusty found a turbolift. "Deck five," he ordered, once his brother had stepped inside. The turbolift whisked them deeper within the ship and deposited them twenty meters up the corridor from sick bay.

They walked in and were greeted by LCdr. Dr. Maria Espinoza. "Good morning boys. Don't tell me one of you bumped your heads already?"

"Just looking around, Maria," Jesu assured her. After Carlos LaRoca - their father - had retired from Starfleet, he and Maria had dated for a while. They had considered marriage, but Maria was fascinated by Carlos' tales of adventure and decided to apply to Starfleet Medical Academy. Now, some twenty years later, she served with her would-be stepsons as chief medical officer.

Rusty walked straight into the medical laboratory. The equipment had all been updated, and the furniture was rearranged, but the room was still there. And the workbench in the middle remained the same. "This is it. This is where I hatched."

Rusty was the product of a Dominion genetic experiment. During their war with the Federation, they had managed to capture a handful of female Deinons - reptilian mercenary super-soldiers that had so far slaughtered the Jem'Hadar in every engagement. The Dominion scientists had harvested egg cells from the Deinons and infused them with Cardassian, Vorta and Jem'Hadar DNA in hopes of breeding a more docile and faster-growing race of Deinons for themselves. The Tiburon had been assigned to transport the Deinons to wherever they were needed most, and when Captain Sander learned that several of the soldiers had been captured, he dispatched an away team to recover them. Lt. Carlos LaRoca had led the rescue party. They discovered the Deinons all dead, and their genetically altered progeny stillborn. All but one. Rusty had somehow not received any Jem'Hadar genes, and was still viable. Carlos LaRoca had brought the lone survivor back to the Tiburon

The Deinon society is patriarchal, and a child without a known father has no status. The leader of the Deinons recommended that the egg be destroyed. Carlos decided instead to adopt the hatchling. And so he and Jesu had stood together in the medical lab and watched the altered baby Deinon push its way free of his egg. They named him LaRoca Rusty, in Deinon tradition, after the color of his scaly skin.

"How much do you remember?" Rusty asked his adopted brother.

"I remember everything," Jesu told him. "I remember being startled by the first crack you made. I remember the cry you made after you took your first breath. I remember Dr. Christie picking eggshell off your face. I remember Nurse Sharma scrubbing you in a towel, worried that your skin color was actually blood. I remember dad holding you - he was so worried for you. I remember reaching in to pet you, and you grabbed my finger. I remember how strong your grip was. And I knew then that as you grew up, that you would always be there to protect me. And so far you always have."

The chief security officer nodded. "And I always will." Rusty turned away and announced "I'm done here. What do you want to see?"

Instead of answering, Jesu looked at the PADD, and led the way back to the turbolift. "Deck eight," he ordered. When the turbolift opened again three decks lower, Jesu walked around the corridor too the forward starboard quarter. He stared at his PADD, walked up to a bulkhead, and stopped. "This is it," he said softly.

"Where are we?" Rusty asked.

"My old room," Jesu told him, showing him the PADD which displayed a stateroom suite in place of the corridor and the phaser relay beyond the bulkhead. "I'm standing where my mother died."

Actually, the deck plate where his mother had died had been blown out into space, along with Christina LaRoca, twenty-six other people, and a good chunk of the underside of the Tiburon's saucer, as a result of the ship striking a Jem'Hadar subspace mine. They were the first victims of the Dominion War. Jesu had been walking home from school when suddenly empty space replaced his home. He was nearly sucked out, but was saved by an emergency forcefield. He was four years old.

Jesu tapped at the PADD to display the Tiburon's current design configuration. With her larger saucer, the staterooms on deck eight were all pushed to the outer corridor, fifty meters from where the LaRocas were standing. Jesu sighed and walked to the nearest turbolift.

Rusty followed, but kept his distance until they reached the lift.

"Bridge," Jesu ordered.

"Do you want to... talk about it?" Rusty asked, sensing his brother's tormented emotional state.

Jesu shook his head. "I barely remember it. Or her," he lied. "Thirty-five years is... a long time."

The turbolift opened onto a scene of controlled chaos. The lights had been dimmed, display panels glowed red, officers at their stations barked orders and repeated orders and tapped furiously at their LCARS interface panels. The viewscreen showed the reason for the frantic activity and the red alert - a Borg Cube was trading fire with Tiburon. The exploded remains of a second Cube drifted nearby, and Type-16 Peregrine fighters darted everywhere, adding volleys from their phaser pulse cannons and quantum torpedoes to the brutal onslaught from the Tiburon herself.

Standing in the middle of the bridge, directing the battle, was the Klingon first officer, Cmdr. Marq son of Breq Sander. Technically he was only 9/16ths Klingon, but that was enough so that when he told a bridge officer to jump they would try to hit the ceiling. Marq was also the grandson of the Tiburon's first captain. That made her "his ship" too.

Marq glanced at the turbolift as its doors hissed open and nodded to the Admiral. LaRoca signaled him to continue the exercise. Marq did. "Shield status?"

"Seventy-six-point-eight percent forward, sir," replied Ensign Boris Erebia from the shield distribution station. "Redistributing to compensate."

"Engineering, stand by to transfer emergency power to shields," Marq ordered. "Damage control, report!"

"Hazard emitters are keeping the plasma fires in check," replied the Bajoran science officer, LCdr. Yoann Teena. "The hull plating has autopolarized and structural integrity is at ninety-two percent."

"Alert me if it drops below seventy-five. Target status?"

"Target's shields are weakening," Cmdr. Traa'cee responded. "I estimate they will be down in eighteen seconds."

"Prepare high-yield torpedoes, lock on the main energy node, and fire on my mark," the Klingon commanded.

"Aye sir," Ens. Mitiani Zain acknowledged, with a malicious grin on her face. The Cardassian enjoyed her job perhaps a little too much.

"Sir, they are attempting to lock on with a tractor beam!" Traa'cee called out from TacOps. The Vulcan tapped her panel. "Reversing shield polarity."

"Confirmed," Erebia and Lt. Yumi, the Ferengi engineer reported in chorus.

"Helm, engage attack pattern omega-one, and get us a clean shot on that energy node."

"Easier done than said," Lt. jg. Stikvaa replied with a smirk. His clawed fingers danced over the conn panel and the Gorn defector rolled the ship into a tight corkscrew.

"Target's facing shields are down!" Traa'cee announced.

"Fire torpedoes!"

Zain had already keyed the command. Half a dozen bluish orbs streaked toward the Cube, joining the continuous phaser fire, and detonated deep inside Borg vessel's structure. The zero-point energy inversions wrought untold havoc within the massive geometric form. To those on the Tiburon the only evidence that they'd exploded at all was white light shining through the black-and-green body. But then plasma relays and energy infusers started to blow out all over the huge shape. A staggered chain reaction of explosions rocked the Cube, building toward an inevitable climax.

"Recall the fighters and brace for impact!" Marq shouted, gripping the bridge rail in front of him. On the viewscreen, one of the Cube's parallel warp cores went nova, annihilating the huge ship with a multi-gigaton antimatter explosion.

Jesu had to forcibly restrain himself from laughing with giddy, childlike delight. He reminded himself that it was only a simulation - that the Tib was still in spacedock and had not actually just completely demolished a pair of Borg Cubes with almost casual effort. Still, simulation or not, it resulted in a beautiful explosion. Jesu loved explosions.

Marq sighed with satisfaction. "Secure from combat drill. Well done, people. Admiral on the deck!"

The bridge officers started to rise to attention, but LaRoca waved them back. "As you were, please. And thank you for the show."

Marq sat in his chair and checked his readout display. "Very good work, beta shift. You showed six percent improvement in combat effectiveness over the last excercise, and were two percent more effective than alpha shift. However, Ensign Zain, you did hear me say 'Fire on my mark' did you not?"

"Yessir?"

"I believe you jumped the gun by half a second."

"I... anticipated your command. Sir."

"Unless you somehow develop telepathy I expect you to hold your fire until it's called for. Understood?"

"Understood. Sir."

"That is all. Gamma shift, your turn!"

Officers left their seats and were quickly replaced. Traa'cee and Stikvaa were replaced at TacOps and the Conn by Lt. Pakray and Ens. Dusty Massimino. Pakray greeted the man taking the seat to his right in traditional Tellarite fashion - by complaining and trying to provoke an argument. "Your hair is too shiny, and you smell funny."

"That's probably because I took a shower recently. You should try it sometime," Dusty retorted. "Seriously, you stink up the entire bridge."

Pakray laughed loudly and slapped his human colleague's back. "Very good!"

Jesu looked on with a feeling of immense pride. A ship is nothing without a crew, he thought, and I have a fantastic crew. He spoke aloud "Well, Marq, I think I will leave you to conduct battle drills while I settle into my quarters."

"Very well, sir."

"I'll expect an operational readiness report by no later than twenty-two-hundred hours."

"You'll have it sir."

Jesu LaRoca returned to the turbolift.

"Deck two," Rusty ordered, and the lift hummed quietly down its track.

They adjourned to their adjacent cabins. Jesu found that the crewmen from the shuttlebay had already unpacked his belongings. He rearranged a few items, pulled a book off a shelf and placed it on the bedside table, and sat down on the end of his bed. He stared at a painting on the opposite wall. Painted by William Trost Richards in 1884 and titled simply Marine; it was a huge seascape nearly four meters across, featureless apart from tossing waves, boiling clouds, and in the center of the vast canvas, straddling the horizon, a very tiny spec of a three-masted warship. LaRoca stared at the ship. It was his not-so-subtle reminder that no matter how lost at sea he felt, his ship was his home. It's good to be home.


"I won't try to hide behind the Law if what I stand for is what's Right."

The Masterverse Timeline / Ten Forward Fanfics

Last edited by sander233; 04-18-2013 at 06:00 PM. Reason: Added lyrics
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 589
# 13
03-10-2013, 01:04 PM
Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding USS King Estmere, NCC-92984

It's a pleasant day. I stand on the quayside, the rolling grey seas to my left, the buildings of the city to my right. The buildings are old, made of black stone or dull red brick; centuries old, for the most part, rising no great distance out of the narrow cobbled streets. Taserion is that sort of world, proud of its heritage, old-fashioned, a little quaint. I've rather enjoyed this layover, while King Estmere's warp drive is being reconditioned in the orbital shipyards overhead. I'm almost sorry it's coming to an end.

I take a deep breath of cool, salt-tinged air. My antennae twitch in the breeze. I could grow to like this planet, I think.

My combadge chimes at me, breaking the mood. "Shohl here."

"Skipper." F'hon Tlaxx's voice sounds strained. "Have you got a viewscreen where you are?"

"No," I say. "What's wrong, F'hon?"

"I'll patch through the audio," my communications officer says. "You need to know about this -"

A click, and then a new voice sounds: a carefully-enunciated newsreader's voice.

"The actress Thiovil daCherdaki was found murdered at her apartment in Seri City earlier today. Her husband, world-renowned actor Antav daCherdaki, is said to be inconsolable and is in the care of his friends. A Starfleet officer, one Commander Anthi Vihl, was detained near the scene of the crime and has been charged with the murder."

It was a pleasant day.

---

I've never seen Anthi scared before. She's trying to hide it, but you can't hide from Andorian senses. I can sense her distress even through the thickness of the bulletproof glass that separates us.

"Tell me what happened," I say.

Anthi's voice sounds thin, attenuated, over the intercom circuit. The interview room is small and bare, on both sides of the glass screen. It looks like what it is: a cell. Anthi has already been issued with prison clothing, a simple jumpsuit in blazing scarlet; her blue face looks pale above it.

"I'm not sure where to start, sir," she says. "I - well, you know I enjoy, um, theatricals. So, well, I got to talking with some of the natives, and this actor, this daCherdaki, invited me to see a performance. Elaan of Troyius... he played the Starfleet captain." For a moment, her face loses its worried look. "He wasn't very good. But, then, I've always thought that part was hard to play; the guy is just a bit too perfect to be credible...." Her eyes regain their focus. "Anyway. I was supposed to meet him after the performance. I went into a sort of lobby, in the theatre... I waited there for a while, at least three-quarters of an hour, I think. He didn't come, nobody came. I was, well, a bit distracted - there was a display of memorabilia, I passed the time just, um, browsing. And then the local police came -"

She shakes her head in bafflement. "I don't understand it. They said - they said someone had been killed, and they arrested me. Sir, I haven't -"

"Of course not," I say, and I frown. "Did they not tell you who you're supposed to have killed?"

"Not at first. They said, later, it was the actor's wife - daCherdaki's wife." She shakes her head again. "I just don't understand."

"It's got to be a mistake," I say. "I'll talk to the authorities, get it straightened out." I clear my throat. "Officially, of course, I have to inform you that Starfleet respects the laws and customs of this world, and accepts that you will be held, tried and - if convicted - punished in accordance with those laws."

I lower my voice. My eyes lock with Anthi's, through the glass. "Unofficially, that is not going to happen."

---

The Minister of Justice is called Raoven siDoanen. I take an instant dislike to him. It saves time.

We are in his opulently-furnished office, windows overlooking the sea. He leans back in an ornate chair and skims a piece of paper towards me, over what looks like several hectares of highly-polished desktop. He regards me through half-closed eyes as I pick up the paper.

"A print of a still, captured by the security camera," he says.

I look at the picture. It shows the front of some ancient-looking building, a stretch of pavement - and a single figure, walking by the building. I frown. There is light coming through an open doorway, enough to show white hair, something that might be antennae, a glimpse of blue skin -

"It's not very good quality," I say.

"That need not concern you, Vice Admiral," says siDoanen. "What matters is that that is undoubtedly an Andorian. And how many of your species are there, currently, on our planet?"

The Taserions are a humanoid-standard species - pink-skinned, externally distinguishable from humans only by some domed bony processes at their temples, an outgrowth of the aural tract. "But you must have more evidence, surely?" I persist. "I mean, you can't really make out the face in this - I suppose, with enhancement -"

"All such matters are being handled by the appropriate authorities," siDoanen says, with a touch too much emphasis. He is tall, silver-haired, with a patrician air about him; he suits his expensive, over-furnished office. "You may go about your business."

I strive to keep my anger from showing in my face. "I'm required to make inquiries," I say, "regarding my officer's conduct... and welfare. I'd like to review copies of the evidence against her. My security team -"

"Ah!" His eyes open all the way at that. "That will certainly be impossible. Your security team - I have a note here - led by a Commander Bulpli Yulan, a Betazoid, I believe? Telepathic investigation is strictly forbidden by our planetary charter. I'm afraid your investigation can go no further, Vice Admiral."

"Commander Yulan is trained to respect mental privacy," I say firmly. Don't get angry, I tell myself, uselessly. "Minister, I have responsibilities here -"

"You may make diplomatic representations through the Federation Ambassador, if you feel you have been... unfairly restricted," says siDoanen in cold tones. "Meanwhile, Vice Admiral, this interview is over."

I stand, slowly. Federation Ambassador? That might prove easier than he thinks.

---

The head of the Taserion Government, the Supreme Minister, is a man called Setalvim Loag. His office is larger, but barer, than siDoanen's. He sits behind a plain desk and looks at me with tired, rather sad eyes.

In a chair beside him, siDoanen sits and seethes with obvious anger. I try not to fidget, to adjust the unfamiliar diplomatic uniform. I haven't worn it in - I can't remember how long.

"Well," says Loag in a mild voice, "your diplomatic credentials have been appropriately verified... Ambassador Shohl. How may the government of Taserion assist you?" A smile briefly quirks his long, otherwise doleful face.

"One of my officers stands accused of a serious crime, sir. As her superior officer, I am responsible for her welfare - and for her conduct. I'm required, as a Starfleet officer, to make inquiries into her conduct. If she has committed a crime, that would be a breach of discipline under Starfleet's code, in addition to any civilian, umm, consequences. And, of course, she might be innocent."

"Might". SiDoanen snorts.

"Well, this all seems very reasonable," says Loag, still mildly. "Come now, Lord Minister siDoanen, what's the harm in Starfleet reviewing the evidence? It will all be presented at the trial in any case, no?"

"I protest Starfleet interference in a purely internal matter," snaps siDoanen.

"But it isn't purely internal, if it involves one of my officers," I say. "Sir," I remember to add.

"Merely reviewing the evidence is not really interference," Loag murmurs.

"The Vice Admiral just wants to exonerate her officer!" shouts siDoanen.

"No, sir," I say firmly. "I want her to be innocent. It's not the same thing. If she is guilty... then the law must take its course, naturally. But I need to be sure."

Loag nods slowly. SiDoanen sneers. "There remains," he says, "the matter of the telepaths in the Vice Admiral's security staff. Supreme Minister, this cannot be permitted. The Charter expressly forbids mental self-incrimination -"

"We don't prohibit telepathic species from the planet," Loag points out. "But, if you feel so strongly that the investigation would be compromised.... Compromise. I do like that word. Can we come to one, Ambassador Shohl?"

I nod in my turn. "I can carry out the investigation myself," I say. "My security chief can advise me on procedures by comm link from the ship.... As a matter of form, sir, I must protest this restriction on those of my officers who don't stand accused of a crime."

"It is duly noted," says Loag gravely. "The government of Taserion is anxious to offer all reasonable cooperation in this serious matter."

I shoot a glance at siDoanen. He doesn't look reasonable to me.

---

Another day, another office. This one is small and cluttered. It belongs to a harried-looking woman called Ivonil Otreg. She is the investigating officer in the case, and she is showing me the evidence. On her desk, a holoscreen shows Bulpli Yulan's face, her black Betazoid eyes narrowed in concentration.

Reviewing the evidence doesn't take long. "This is it?" I demand.

Otreg looks even more harried. "The security camera shows your officer leaving the theatre foyer, walking along the street to the adjacent apartment building, and entering the main door, shortly before the murder took place."

"Well," I say, "it shows an Andorian... probably. I can't make out the face - are you getting anywhere with software enhancement?"

"Our best match shows, ahh, a fit for Commander Vihl's facial features and general build... within an 84.3% margin of probable error," says Otreg. I stare at her. Bulpli stares, too.

"Effectively, meaningless," says Bulpli. "What about other security cameras?"

"There are none," says Otreg. "Master daCherdaki owns the theatre and the apartment building... he is a great believer in purity in the theatre, and the arts generally. He allows no imaging devices, no holo-recorders or holo-emitters, in the vicinity. We're... fortunate... in that he allowed that one camera."

"Master daCherdaki," I say. "There's something going on here, isn't there? About those names - daCherdaki, siDoanen. I'm an ignorant off-worlder, Investigator Otreg, explain it to me, please."

"Hereditary nobility," Otreg says. "It's something of a historical relic, these days - especially since the last elections, when Supreme Minister Loag's party gained an absolute majority - but it's, ahh, traditional. Master daCherdaki is of the lesser nobility. Lord Minister siDoanen is of the high nobility. Though it doesn't stop them from being friends. They have a certain amount in common... both traditionalists."

"Okay," I say. I'm Andorian, I know about tradition.

"The nobility have, ahh, lost importance," Otreg continues. "In practical terms, that is. Some of them resent it... and they resent the Federation, for causing it. In their eyes."

My eyes widen. "The Federation doesn't interfere in local affairs," I say. "That's... the Prime Directive."

"It doesn't interfere intentionally," says Otreg. "But, well, given a choice between working the land in a noble's estate, or taking a job with an off-world employer, which would you choose? Personally," she adds, "I'm all in favour. In the two generations since our world joined the Federation, the standard of living for the commons has gone up more than a thousand per cent. In my grandmother's time, I would have been a serf, bound to the land." She gestures around her modest office. "This is a long step up."

"Sir," Bulpli says, "perhaps we should go back to the matter at hand...?"

"Yes," I say. "All right. You have a film of - possibly - Commander Vihl going from the theatre to the apartments. Do you have one of her coming back? She was arrested inside the theatre."

Otreg shakes her head. "There are four rear and side exits from the apartment building," she says, "and, for that matter, six internal communicating doorways between the two buildings."

I stare at her. I can't think of anything to say.

Bulpli can. "Do you have the murder weapon?" she asks.

"No."

"Do you have forensic traces, DNA, that would put Commander Vihl at the scene of the crime?"

"No."

"What about motive? Has any been advanced?"

"The suggestion is... sexual jealousy." Otreg looks positively miserable. "The theory is that Commander Vihl became obsessed with Master daCherdaki and murdered his wife in order to take her place. Master daCherdaki says he has had, ahh, obsessive fans before -"

I find my voice. "But that's absurd. Anthi never knew this daCherdaki before a few days ago. And she's an Andorian zhen... I mean, I'm not saying it's impossible for her to be attracted to a binary-gender humanoid male, but -"

That, after all, is how the Troyians supposedly evolved. But I try to picture forbidden inter-species passions boiling behind my exec's calm professional face... try, and fail.

"This doesn't make sense," says Bulpli, thoughtfully. "Your world has a pretty standard adversarial-inquisitorial trial system... there is no way you could secure a conviction on this evidence, is there, Investigator?"

"No." Otreg looks wretched. "But Lord Minister siDoanen insisted on prompt and decisive action. And, ahh, still insists."

I eye her narrowly. "I think," I say, "you and I have interests in common. You want to find whoever did do this. And I want to find them, too... because I'm more sure than ever that it wasn't Anthi."

Otreg frowns. "But we still have one sticking point - the Andorian in the security record. We've traced all the Andorians we know were on the planet - and that didn't take long. And with daCherdaki's insistence on no holo-technology, we can be sure it's not some holo-emitter disguise...."

"Okay," I say, "so that's something we need to think about. But where should we start? Bulpli?"

"I can only offer you the usual general guidelines, sir." Bulpli's face is thoughtful. "In the vast majority of cases, murder victims know their killers...."

"So we begin with the dead woman's family and co-workers," I say.

"That would be the normal starting point," says Otreg. "Especially as many of them are the same people."

"All right. When can we get moving?"

"Now, if you wish." Otreg stands up. She runs one hand through her hair, a nervous gesture. "Ahh... Admiral. What if we find out your officer did do it, after all?"

My face turns grim. "Then... then I'll face up to that. But we need to know."

---

The theatre building is old and ramshackle; it looks to me as if it's fallen on hard times. Otreg makes her way through a side door, presents her identification to a gloomy-looking porter, leads me through a back-stage warren of narrow corridors and steep staircases. No modern amenities at all. No turbolifts, no intercom system... I don't know if this means daCherdaki is fanatically traditional, or just cheap.

The great man himself, it seems, is still closeted in his private apartment, unwilling to speak to anyone. We track down one member of the company, though, who more than makes up for it.

"My darlings," says Teliv Sherdran, "such a frightful time we've had, I can't begin to tell you. Dear Antav, of course, is devastated by it all. So fortunate, though, that he has dear Calovil's kind comfort to fall back on...." The phrases are delivered with an arch intonation, and the actor gives us what's evidently a meaningful look.

"Calovil Tyan," says Otreg. "She plays the female lead, I think."

"The delicious Elaan herself, yes," says Sherdran. "I am merely the Troyian ambassador. I get stabbed in the second act. Such a miserable time to get stabbed, one barely has time to register one's presence on the stage. And of course there is the makeup." His glance darts at me. "You are so lucky to have it naturally, my dear; the blue just sinks into my pores, even with a thorough cleansing, I still look positively cadaverous after each performance."

The man's exaggerated mannerisms are starting to grate on me. There's obviously some cultural context for them, something I'm missing. I decide to ignore it. "What did you see on the night of the murder?"

"Oh, am I finally to appear in this investigation? How utterly thrilling! Do try and get my name into the official record somehow, darlings, any publicity is good publicity." He pulls a face. "Especially in this company. No pictures! No recordings! Nothing but the purity of the dramatic art! It's all very well for those who've got private means to fall back on...."

"What did you see on the night of the murder?" Otreg repeats my question, patiently.

"Darlings, I wish I could help, I really do, but as far as I can remember, it was a perfectly normal after-show. We all took our bows, and we got together for a little bit of a post-mortem, before we all sloped off to our dressing rooms. I was in mine for a long, long time, communing with the facial cleanser." He pulls another face. "I do hope dear Antav won't go on at the next performance. That way, I would get to step up and play the dashing starship captain. Not that I have any great urge to get into a clinch with little Calovil - not my type at all, darlings, if you get what I mean - but at least I would be in the whole of the show, and I wouldn't have to be painted blue."

"How long did this - post-mortem - take?" Otreg asks.

"Oh, only a few minutes - Antav cut it short. He said he had a fan waiting for him. Such a bore, being the leading man, having all the stage-struck beauties running after one... but, do you know, darlings, I think it's a bore I could cope with."

"And you went to your dressing room, to remove the cosmetics." Otreg makes a patient note.

"Which takes forever, darlings, especially as I insist on full coverage. It wouldn't do to have any pink bits peeping out."

"No," I say, "I don't suppose it would." Something is falling into place, in my head. I stand up. "Thanks. You've been very helpful."

"I have? Mention it, then, darlings, please! I'd like the whole galaxy to hear of it! Or at least of me."

Otreg looks troubled, but she follows my lead. "Thank you," she says. "We will be back, if we need any further information... I hope we can count on your full cooperation."

"Naturally, darlings."

Outside Sherdran's dressing room, Otreg says to me, "What now? You look like you've got an idea...."

I nod, and for the first time since this business began, I smile. "I think I know who did it," I say, "I'm sure I know how it was done, and best of all, I think I know how we can prove it."

---

"I hope you're right about this," Otreg mutters as we stand outside daCherdaki's apartment door. "It's the end of a promising career if you're not. My promising career."

"I'm right," I tell her. I wish I felt as confident as I sound.

Otreg purses her lips, nods once, raises her hand to knock loudly on the wooden door.

"No visitors!" a stentorian voice bellows from within.

"Master daCherdaki? I am Investigator Otreg of the Seri Municipal Police. I am on official business. Please open your door."

There is grumbling and cursing for a moment or two, then the door is flung open. "Well?"

Antav daCherdaki looks like what I'd expected; tall, imposing, with a fleshy face that must have been handsome, once. The picture of a washed-up leading man. He looks down on us both and sneers. Maybe he went to the same school as siDoanen, they both have the same sneer.

"Master daCherdaki." Otreg is unfazed, thank goodness. "We need to conduct some forensic tests, in regard to the current investigation -"

"My friend Lord Minister siDoanen assures me that the investigation is completed," daCherdaki says, with a little too much emphasis on "friend". He has a good, loud, booming voice, the sort you'd want in the theatre.

"Nevertheless," Otreg persists, "some further evidence must be gathered. May we come in? I doubt you would want this business transacted on the landing -"

"You may have five minutes," daCherdaki declaims, "no longer." He steps aside to let us through.

The room within is comfortably furnished, but the furniture looks old, shabby and worn. A shelf runs the length of one wall, and it is laden with little statuettes and blocks of wood, stone or metal: awards, I think. A portrait of daCherdaki himself dominates another wall.

"Five minutes," the actor repeats. "Now, Investigator, kindly explain yourself. And explain what that is doing here." He raises his hand and stabs a finger at me.

Otreg moves smoothly and quickly, her forensic tricorder purring as she holds it to daCherdaki's outstretched hand. "Thank you, Master daCherdaki. That is all that is necessary." She consults the readings as the actor turns towards her, open-mouthed. She smiles. I feel relieved. "Interesting," she comments. "I understood you were playing the part of the Starfleet captain... and yet my subdermal scan shows traces of blue makeup. It sinks into the pores, I gather. Very hard to get out."

DaCherdaki bellows wordlessly and lashes out at her, his big hand catching the side of her head, knocking her down. He turns to me -

I block his clumsy strike. My fist sinks into his midriff, soft and flabby from years of high living. He folds up around it. I want to hit him again, very much. But there's no need, and I hold myself back. Otreg gets to her feet.

"You are under arrest," she tells the gasping man huddled at my feet. "Watch him," she adds, to me. Then she consults her forensic tricorder again; it hums as she scans the room. The actor groans. I watch him.

"I did think," Otreg says, "to keep a thorough watch on the disposal chutes and garbage collection. So I rather hope... yes. There we are." She taps commands into the tricorder's interface. There is a series of bright flashes. A holo-imager, recording the scene in precise, authenticated detail. For the trial, later.

Otreg removes a paper-wrapped package from under a chair. "He must have been hoping to dispose of it when the hue and cry died down," she says. "Am I right, daCherdaki?" No "Master", I note. DaCherdaki coughs and groans.

Otreg opens the package. The knife is brightly shining metal, but I have no doubt the forensic scanner will find traces of his wife's blood. The white wig, that might have been a prop from the play. But the papier-mache fake Andorian antennae, those would be harder to explain....

---

I place the PADD carefully on Setalvim Loag's desk. The Supreme Minister looks at it with mournful eyes. By his side, siDoanen just looks furious.

"Really, it wasn't a very good plan," I say. "But then I gather that's true of most murders. As soon as Investigator Otreg was able to do her job without interference, she found, of course, that the one person who couldn't properly account for his movements was daCherdaki. The actors thought he was with Anthi and Anthi thought he was with the actors. In reality, of course, he was making himself up to look like an Andorian, walking by the one spot he knew would be caught by a camera, and killing his wife. Then he simply went back into the theatre by one of the many internal doors, wiped off the makeup, and waited.

"His motives were traditional enough, of course - no weird inter-species romances needed. He wanted to trade his wife in for a younger model - this Calovil Tyan, who might or might not be involved in the plot. Our guess is, not. But a divorce would have cost him money he didn't have. That theatre of his wasn't run-down just for the sake of purity in art. He couldn't afford modern amenities. Or a divorce case."

"It must have been a moment of madness," mutters siDoanen.

"Yes," I say, "in which he cultivated the friendship of a Starfleet officer, lured her into his theatre, and disguised himself as one of her species in order to plant the blame on her. Rather a long moment, though, wasn't it?"

SiDoanen says nothing. "The only thing which might have made it work," I continue, "was Lord Minister siDoanen's behaviour. Faced with a choice -" I raise my voice to drown out siDoanen's indignant outcry "- between investigating a personal friend, or placing the blame on an off-worlder, of course you picked the option you thought easier."

"Are you accusing me of complicity?" siDoanen yells.

"It's entirely possible," I snap. "Or daCherdaki might just have known you well enough and counted on your reaction. And he was right, of course. You couldn't possibly have convicted my officer, not on such feeble evidence, but you could have had a field day whipping up prejudice against aliens, and in the meantime daCherdaki could have found some opportunity to dispose of the rest of the evidence."

"Yes," says Loag, in his mild voice. "I have received other representations, from Investigator Otreg and her immediate superiors... protesting over the unwarranted high-level interference in this case."

"You have another protest there," I say, indicating the PADD. "Besides my application for Commander Vihl's immediate release, it contains an official complaint from the Federation, over the way a Starfleet officer and Federation citizen has been unjustly accused due to the incompetence and prejudice of a government official. If it hadn't been for the intelligent cooperation of a junior official, she might even have been unjustly convicted. That is the official wording, and I have cleared it with my superiors."

SiDoanen's face is congested with rage.

"You seem to have concluded," Loag remarks, "that Lord Minister siDoanen is incompetent and prejudiced, based on this one incident...."

"Outrageous!" siDoanen shouts, at last.

"I congratulate you on your perspicacity," Loag continues smoothly. "It took me nearly two weeks to reach the same conclusion. Please, inform the Federation that the Taserion government takes this matter extremely seriously, and that we see no alternative but to dismiss Lord siDoanen from his position as Minister of Justice, on the grounds of misfeasance in public office."

"What?" SiDoanen's face is changing colour rapidly. Loag rounds on him, and his mild voice is suddenly strong, shouting, with that hoarse edge of a voice unaccustomed to shouting.

"I have had enough," he says, "of the remnants of the aristocracy! I have had enough of wheedling voices telling me that such-and-such a post must be held by 'the right sort of person'! Well, from now on, your post will be held by the right sort of person - someone who is competent to do the job!" He takes a deep breath. "The alternative, Ambassador Shohl has already shown me. Protest, and you will be arrested as a possible accomplice of your friend daCherdaki. The case against you is stronger than yours against Commander Vihl! And, even if you are not convicted, you will find that being acquitted for lack of evidence is not the same as being found innocent."

Loag's voice has grown mild again, but there is real menace in it. SiDoanen looks at the floor for a long moment. "I... accept... your decision, Supreme Minister," he says slowly.

I stand, and salute Loag with my best military formality. "Thank you, sir. I will so inform my superiors."

Loag nods. "Your officer will be released within the hour," he says. "Please, convey to her my heartfelt apologies."

---

King Estmere's bridge is a welcome relief. The viewscreens are busy, the readouts show optimum levels across the board. We are ready to depart.

Anthi is standing by her console, looking crisp and professional... Starfleet uniform suits her a lot better than a prison jumpsuit. "Thank you, sir," she murmurs to me as I pass.

"You were never in any real danger, you know," I say.

"Still, sir, it's better to be... cleared." There is something in her eyes.... Loag was right, acquittal for lack of evidence isn't the same as being found innocent. And Anthi, with generations of Imperial Guard in her family background, would feel that, and feel it keenly.

Traditions. We all have our traditions. Some of us don't let them blind us, though.

"Welcome back, Number One," I say.

She flashes a quick smile. "At least I've learned something," she says. "Something I should have learned a while ago - about not accepting invitations from strange men to go to the theatre!"

"Stick to Hamlet on the holodeck in future," I say.

Anthi shudders. "If it's all the same to you, sir," she says, "could I go back to jail instead?"

Then her earpiece chimes, and she is all efficiency again. "Departure clearance received. Assigned outbound vector one-one-six mark two four."

"Confirmed," I say. "Helm, lay in course, full impulse. Engage."
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,128
# 14
03-12-2013, 12:13 PM
Tales of Alyosha Strannik
LC #40--Redux (LC #16--Academy Days)

"The Categorical Imperative"



Author's note: The character of Marcus Kane is used with the kind permission of marcusdkane, and his assistance included providing Kane's dialogue in certain places.



"Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person, or the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end."
--Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785, Earth)


Deep Space Nine, early 2373, 1 month prior to the first shots of the Dominion War

My travel bag weighed heavily on me as I made my way to Runabout Pad 3--enough so that I had to risk increasing my telekinetic output to maintain my balance. Contrary to my human appearance, my natural musculature wasn't really that much to speak of, so I almost always made use of some level of telekinetic support. As far as anyone knew, this seemed to be the normal mode of operation for my species.

That said, to hear my fellow cadets talk back when I was at the Academy, these bags were an inconvenience to just about everyone. Just why had Starfleet not seen fit to issue antigrav carriers or at the least, rolling luggage, evaded me--though there was a rumor it was intended to prompt those cadets...or officers...who found themselves in less-than-ideal physical shape to get back into compliance. Right now, after traversing Deep Space Nine's seeming kilometers of corridors with the thing, I was starting to believe it.

Most of my time since graduation had been spent doing anything but the scientific missions I had studied for at Starfleet Academy. Instead, I had spent a year being ferried from docking bay to docking bay, carrying encrypted padds with data too sensitive to fall into Dominion hands--this because for all their power, including a shapeshifting capability far superior to my own, they could not mimic the phase shift that separated me from most species. This meant that I could never successfully be replaced by a Founder. Only killed.

This mission, however, would be different. To my astonishment, Starfleet Intelligence had selected me for a search-and-rescue mission. Who and where--I had not been informed. That would be up to my contact, whom I had been ordered to meet with at the runabout pad.

As I entered the shadowed chamber where the runabout sat, already warmed up for launch, something flickered on its hull. No--more than that...completely covered up. The runabout's name--once the USS Tigris--now said, USS Shenandoah, after the runabout the Endeavour had just delivered to the station.

Definitely an intelligence operative, I thought to myself. This wasn't going to be fun. I steeled myself for yet another set of cold, appraising eyes and stern orders without so much as even a hint of geniality. Perhaps even distaste.

The runabout hatch opened with an initial metallic pop, followed by the hiss of hydraulics. Four pips caught in the meager light. Parade rest, Ensign. This was high-level. I had no doubt now: whoever this was, he was cleared to know my true species.

A closer look showed the captain to be quite young for his rank. And his expression was...well, it wasn't cold, exactly. Inscrutable was a better word for it.

"At rest, Ensign."

Interesting...not just 'at ease,' but 'rest,' I noted.

As I complied, he walked forward, his steps unhurried but filled with intention nonetheless. "Ensign Strannik, I'm Captain Marcus Kane, Starfleet Intelligence." Then he extended his hand.

I froze. Was he serious? The gesture so stunned me that I completely failed to notice the other thing I should have observed about Captain Kane right away.

Kane raised one eyebrow. "Is something the matter, Ensign?" His tone--it wasn't an order, but a gently-voiced request.

"I'm sorry, sir," I said. "It's just..." I didn't stammer...except as an act, it wasn't in me to stutter. Instead, in such moments, I simply found myself momentarily without a voice.

Oh, Lord...should I say this? For a moment I shut my mouth, but the captain nodded for me to go on. "I mean no offense...but I'm not used to most people who know what I am wanting to get that close."

Kane seemed to give that a moment to sink in. "I see," he murmured to himself. Then he proffered his hand again. "Well...it's a pleasure to meet you. As long as it won't cause you any discomfort..."

I shook my head and smiled, though I found it hard to give him the impression of eye contact. Though well aware that a firm grip was the most polite, I kept my handshake light and brief, lest Kane feel trapped in any way.

It was after Captain Kane released my hand and I looked back up when I noticed something distinctly off about his neural activity. It was...intense. Stormlike. I drew a sharp breath. By near-instinct, the eyes of my human image went wide. At least to my perception, it had all the markings of an incipient epileptic seizure. "Sir--are you all right? Do you need to go to Sickbay--I mean, the Infirmary?" I corrected myself, remembering the Cardassian terminology that had stuck even to this day. My hand shot up to my commbadge.

"Belay that!" Kane ordered. Then his demeanor relaxed again, becoming almost...inquisitive. "May I ask what would bring you to that conclusion, Ensign?"

"It's..." How could I phrase this in such a way that the human captain wouldn't get the impression that I'd been eyeballing him for lunch? "Well, I have this sense that...its purpose is to detect neural energy. It's not something I can turn on or off," I hastily explained. "It just...is there. Always. And it's just...you looked--like there's too much activity. Like you're about to have a seizure."

Captain Kane took the revelation quite a bit more in stride than I had been expecting. He nodded thoughtfully, then replied: "You may be detecting a genetic condition of mine. I can assure you, though, it's nothing harmful, and there are people I can contact if there's anything I need. But I do appreciate your kind offer of assistance."

Then he gestured to the runabout's hatch. "If you would..."

I stepped into the runabout, offloading my travel bag as quickly as I could, immediately rebalancing myself so I didn't float off the floor at the release of its substantial weight--the telekinetic equivalent of someone else accidentally picking up an empty drinking glass with the force needed for a full one.

"Please be seated," the captain invited. "Before we launch, I'll need to brief you in on the particulars of the mission." I nodded. "SI has a deep-cover agent in Cardassian territory whose cover is now likely to be blown now that the Dominion is putting its force behind the CIB." The Cardassian Intelligence Bureau, I recalled, the successor to the destroyed Obsidian Order. "The Tigris' flight plan is filed under the name of the Shenandoah, for an extended shakedown cruise. However...the Shenandoah has in fact already had its shakedown. We'll be taking the Tigris into Cardassian territory, to Septimus III.

"The entire inhabited area of the planet is a Cardassian military garrison, and there is heavy sensor shielding in place, even in the wilderness areas they use for survival training. Ship's sensors can't penetrate it without a hard enough scan to be detected, and any tricorder not registered with the Cardassian military to cut through the interference will be useless. We need to get a commbadge to our operative, and we can't risk it being intercepted if we send it by parcel. The Cardassians," he elaborated, "are nothing if not paranoid. And thorough." For just a second, the captain's voice had taken on a hard edge. Then it faded just as quickly as it had come.

"SI believes, based on the last message we received from our operative that she's holed up in the wilderness areas. They think there's a good chance that if we're able to make a stealth landing long enough to let you off on-planet, that neurological energy-detecting sense you have might be enough to pick up human lifesigns without the use of a tricorder, and that your phasing abilities might let you move around undetected until you deliver the commbadge to our operative. At that point, you'd have only to call for transport and I'd beam you back. The Cardassians will detect us then, and we'll have to punch out of the system at high warp. Their defense systems will come online so quickly that a live pilot is required back in the runabout to pull you out, and to react to things as they happen.

"You'll be alone on the surface." Just as when Captain Kane offered his hand...I froze. Up until now, Starfleet had never allowed me on a mission unaccompanied. As a courier, despite being fully pilot-certified, I hadn't been permitted at the helm of a shuttle since graduation, even on short-range missions within Federation territory where no second pilot should have been necessary. "I realize this is asking a lot of you," Kane said, "but you may be the only one standing between her and a Cardassian concentration camp."

Goodness...but his face--no, his entire demeanor--had grown intense at that. I did my best to ignore his alarmingly chaotic neural emanations.

I sat at attention, so to speak. "I'll do my best, sir."

Kane leaned back a bit in his seat...watching me, weighing something. Then he said, "Ensign...time is of the essence and we must launch immediately. But it seems to me like you may have some other concerns you need to discuss with me en route. It concerns me how uneasy you appear to be. I don't refer to the mission; anxiety is natural to most species under the circumstances. There seems to be something more going on here."

I sought to dismiss it as best as I could according to protocol: I had learned very early on that I had very little right to voice my thoughts on such matters. I was what I was...everyone else was what they were...and as far as they were concerned, that was that. "Personal matters, sir. I can assure you I'll be able to put it aside for the mission."

That garnered another lift of the eyebrow--almost Vulcan-like, I noted, from Captain Kane. He left it be for the moment, though, taking the helm and putting the runabout through its departure procedures.

Once we'd cleared Bajor system traffic control, though, he turned his chair towards me and scrutinized me closely. Almost gravely. "Strannik, I say this not as a superior officer, but as a concerned individual. Your reluctance to talk to me about what's going on seems like a strong indicator of the kind of problem serious enough that it needs to be addressed for the sake of your well-being. In just the short time we've been together, I've seen behaviors that, if I'm reading them right--and from your profile I don't have any reason to doubt that I am--suggest someone who's been put under a great deal of pressure. If you don't want to talk about it, I understand. But if this is something I can help you with, then I want to help."

Kane hadn't said, when he referred to my mannerisms, if you were human. Of course I wasn't. And it was true--even something as simple as a smile, in my human form, while nearly universal among humanoids, was an anatomical impossibility in my natural form and therefore an act I had to consciously choose. I had spent years observing human behavior in order to learn how to communicate my thoughts and emotions in a way that truly let me connect with those around me. But Kane hadn't dismissed it as a mere acting job. He'd instead expressed a degree of insight I'd seen from very few outside the scientific environment where I'd first been raised, and where my foster parents had come from. In fact, only Thraz had ever seemed to get it, until now.

That right there set him apart. And then there was the fact that almost never in my Academy studies, or my career thus far, had anyone knowing what I was expressed any sort of interest in helping me.

The sad truth was, I would never have believed the latter fact, however sincere-seeming his tone, without the evidence offered by the former.

Reluctantly, posed as though with eyes down, to give Kane some sort of indication that I wasn't currently using the photoreceptors aimed in his direction, I decided I would speak. "I...think it's best that I start by explaining what happened the month after I got to Starfleet Academy."



Starfleet Academy, 2368, Fall Semester

When I'd first entered the Academy, my official record had me listed as an alien of unknown origin, and as far as anyone had been aware at the time--to include everyone at the St. Petersburg Interphasic Research Institute where I'd spent my first years--that was true. As the only one of my kind that anyone knew of, I was truly an unknown quantity...but the upside of that was that I had only my own record to stand on, and that had sufficed to gain my entrance into the cadet corps.

There'd been some extra care taken in pairing me with a roommate, given my slight telepathic abilities and my unusual method of taking nourishment, which was how I ended up roomed with the Aenar cadet Chirithraz th'Valek. Both of us knew something about relating to the world in different ways to those around us, and we hit it off immediately. Based on what struck me as a well-considered accommodation for both Thraz and me, I'd felt reasonably assured that things were going to go smoothly.

I will never forget that awful moment when Lieutenant Quinn intercepted me just as I was leaving the Starfleet History lecture hall. "Cadet Strannik," the half-Trill nervously ordered, "Commandant Chaxx needs to see you at once in his office. Your instructors have been notified, and you will be excused from class for the rest of the day."

Kakovo chorta? The entire day? What on Earth could the commandant want with me in the first place--and that would take that long to deal with? And what was it that had Quinn so uneasy? That was when I first got that sinking feeling...and I do mean 'sinking,' because when the seriousness of it first hit me, my telekinesis wavered and it felt for a second like someone had turned a nearby graviton generator to 2G.

When we arrived in the commandant's office, the Bolian admiral launched in without preamble, and without dismissing Lieutenant Quinn. "Cadet, you had best sit down." It didn't sound like a request. "Starfleet has been processing the after-action reports from a very disturbing temporal incursion that occurred here in this city, with an origin point on a world in the Marrab sector registered on Starfleet starcharts as Devidia II. A hostile, phase-shifting species traveled back to Earth just before the beginning of the 20th century to prey on human neural energy. Two intruders were identified and when the officers responding to the incident found they could not be reasoned with, they were neutralized. The number of human casualties before that point, and the potential extent of the disruption to the timeline, is unknown at this time.

"What has become clear as we ran the reports against existing records on Earth is that the...Devidians...had more than one incursion site in the city, and clearly intended to take up generational residence on Earth. They likely intended to farm humans on a generational basis for their neural energy. They were making the initial preparations for a long-term occupation of Earth, and during the recent encounter, one of the Devidians revealed technological capabilities...classified ones, mind you...that could prove devastating if unleashed.

"The reason we know this is because when a database search was ordered to determine if the Federation had had any prior encounters with the Devidians, we found an exact match."

I couldn't move. I couldn't speak. All I could do was stare at Commandant Chaxx, because I knew right then what he was about to say. "It was you, Cadet."

That makes me...a Devidian.

"And that means that I--and Starfleet--have a serious problem on our hands. Although they seem to exist out of phase with us, and we are uncertain as to the technology they employ, Devidia II has been placed under quarantine by Starfleet. This means we have one known Devidian outside of the quarantine--and who, according to our records, has taken a life."

Terror shot through me like lightning, from node to node, prepared to supercharge my muscles for one quick burst of action if necessary. What did they plan to do to me? "I didn't know what I was doing--I was only a few weeks old!" I protested. Unlike a human, I had memories going back that far...but I also clearly remembered the inarticulate horror that coursed through me when I realized that what had nourished me had killed the kind woman who had first looked after me. "I would do anything if it meant I could bring her back!"

"That notwithstanding--I must consider the risk to Starfleet, should the...wrong set of circumstances arise. That is why I cannot allow you to continue at the Academy, and I will recommend that--"

"But I'm not like that!" I shot back...for now I had nothing to lose. "I regret my sins! Talk to Cadet th'Valek; he's seen into my mind! He knows what I'm like--he knows I'm not vicious!" This dog has bitten, I thought, remembering how it had been common to treat animals in centuries past. And once it has the taste of blood, it will do it again. It is beyond saving. "I want to talk to my parents--my foster parents! Let me talk to the Azarovs!"

I had been legally emancipated at the age of 14--a court proceeding made necessary by the fact that I had no known homeworld, and therefore no established precedent to turn to, to establish the proper age of majority. Instead, evidence had been presented demonstrating that I had developmentally and cognitively reached adulthood, and it was therefore appropriate for me to begin making decisions as an adult...and in fact inappropriate to hold me back until 18 as it would have been for a human.

But even as an adult--who else could I turn to at a time like this? Who better to vouch for me than the childless couple that had taken me into their home when the staff of the Interphasic Research Center realized that, however homelike they had made my abode over time, however often they'd begun taking me outside to see the sights, a science lab simply wasn't enough. Wasn't right. I had lived under the Azarovs' roof for eight years, never so much as made a threatening move. Wouldn't dare.

Lieutenant Quinn glanced uncomfortably--almost pleadingly--over at the commandant. Whatever it was Chaxx planned to do...if he had even informed Quinn...the younger man was clearly having qualms. I turned my focus to him. Please, Quinn, don't let this happen...!

After a terrible, silent moment, Chaxx yielded. "Very well. Computer, contact..." He thumbed through a report. "Dr. Mikhail K. Azarov or Dr. Na--desh--" There he stumbled several times over the pronunciation, and needless to say, I didn't particularly care to help him. "Nadezhda R. Azarova." He looked over at his aide. "Quinn, give Strannik your padd."

Oh, yes--anything to keep the vicious dog from coming closer.

Still, I gratefully accepted the padd from Lieutenant Quinn, who offered a look of...well, sympathy, it seemed, once his back was to the Bolian commandant.

It didn't take long for my foster father to answer. "Alyoshenka!" A pause. "What's wrong--what's going on?"

"They're trying to kick me out!" I shouted in Russian, not caring if the other officers in the room had bothered to switch on their universal translators. "They said they found out about my species--that we're a bunch of vicious vampires and it's too dangerous to have me around other people! I don't know what they're planning on doing--if it's just kicking me out, or if they're planning to throw me in prison somewhere--"

"We had an inquiry from Starfleet a week ago, but I never imagined it would turn out like this! I will not let anything bad happen to you. I need you to hold on until your mother and I can make it to San Francisco. Until then, you listen to me: you must remember that you are a legal citizen of Earth and the Federation. You had to be registered in order for us to be your legal guardians. We didn't hide anything we knew from the judge. That means they have no right--NO right--to do anything to you on the basis of your species. Do you understand, Alyosha?" I nodded. "Do not let them convince you otherwise. Now put me on with whatever durag of an admiral thinks he can pull a stunt like this with my boy!"

"It's the commandant of the Academy," I said in a near whisper.

"I don't care if he thinks he's the Premier of the Soviet Union! Put me on with him--I am going to tell him that we are coming, whether he likes it or not!"

Slowly, I offered the padd back to Lieutenant Quinn. "Sir, Dr. Azarov would like to speak with Commandant Chaxx," I said as formally as I could.

Please take it, I prayed.



USS Tigris, 2373

"I presume he took it?" Captain Kane asked me.

I nodded. "He did. My foster parents pretty much invited themselves to the commandant's office. I didn't see what happened--I got sent back to barracks after that--but from what they told me later, they both testified on my behalf, and so did several of the other Petersburg IRC scientists. Thraz--th'Valek--did too.

"I was allowed to stay--on a provisional basis. But since then it's been psych profile after psych profile, and you wouldn't believe what they did for my Kobayashi Maru." It was supposedly against regulation to disclose the particulars of one's test, but reasoning that regulation applied only to cadets, I told him; his eyes widened with astonishment. "Frankly, I think the only thing that ended up keeping me from getting expelled was when we made first contact with the Dominion, and they realized I might be useful.

"And I have made myself useful. I've followed orders. I try my best to follow regulations. I have never hurt anyone. But most people who know about me--you'd think I was carrying the plague, the way they act around me! It's plain I'm constantly being watched for signs of...some kind of lapse of control. That I am not given the same liberties given to others of my rank and position. But why do they keep me around when they clearly are afraid of me, except that they can use me?"

I lowered my voice. "I studied to be a scientist...like my foster parents. I understand that right now, Starfleet doesn't need scientists--not when we might be going to war. I know I can help; that's not what I'm arguing. But after the crisis is over--what happens to me? Will I always be mistrusted? Will I be kicked out of Starfleet because they think the risk of keeping me around now outweighs the benefit?"

Will I have to fear for my freedom again?

"That's not an easy question to answer, Ensign," Kane replied thoughtfully, sitting back from the console and rotating the chair to face me directly. "I've been a Starfleet officer for twenty years now, and there have been times in the past where I have experienced similar issues.

"When you first met me, you noticed an--irregularity--in my neural energies. What do you know about immortals?"

That took me aback. Was he implying that such beings actually existed outside of legend? That he was one? "I have always been taught there was no such thing," I replied--skeptically, but hoping I wouldn't insult the man if there was something I didn't know.

"I presume you have heard about Gregory Rasputin?" Kane inquired. I nodded my assent and also resisted the temptation to correct his pronunciation; I'd learned it wasn't polite to do that to those whose biology did not allow them to pronounce foreign sounds with the ease I could. "The reason Rasputin survived those attempts on his life, is because he was Homo sapiens immortalis: an immortal. A biological offshoot from the rest of humanity, which I suspect you can see more clearly than I can ever describe. Suffice it to say that short of decapitation or an extremely unfortunate transporter accident, I cannot die."

That, again, took me aback: the very idea that there could be immortals. To be nearly forever trapped in a broken universe, with the hope of release into the new creation so severely delayed--could the mind even withstand that without the end result being insanity? Was that what had happened with the Q? If this was true...I could only imagine the torment waiting for this man as his life stretched on without end.

I also considered myself fortunate that the incident in which I had nearly starved to death had also revealed that Devidians weren't immortal. While there was still much uncertainty about my life expectancy, given the phased nature of my biology, there had at least been evidence that I would age and eventually die.

The captain's next words broke me out of my thoughts. "You should recall the Borg attack on the Federation, when that cube was destroyed in orbit by the crew of the Enterprise."

Did I ever. And I knew, too, what most citizens of the Federation had not at the time: that as the cube approached Earth, there had been a secret evacuation called that would comprise of high-ranking Starfleet and civilian officials, as well as those deemed to hold information too critical for the Borg to acquire. My foster parents--and I, by extension--had been on that list due to the nature of the Interphasic Research Center's work, and we had come within centimeters of departure from the Komarov Cosmodrome in St. Petersburg before the all-clear. Given the risk of panic, much like the one experienced when the alien probe made Earth orbit a century before, the media had only alerted the general public after the cube's approach could no longer be denied by civilian telescopes. While understandable, the Azarovs had always made it clear I should never discuss with others the fact that I had been on a priority evacuation list.

It wasn't hard to understand why.

"When that happened," Kane continued, "all the Borg hardware that was removed from Captain Picard was sent to Starfleet Command for analysis. I was given the assignment of investigating all aspects of the technology, how it could be overcome, how it worked, how to protect against it."

"No one ever mentioned any protective measures at the Academy, sir...other than keeping your distance."

"Precisely," Kane replied. "We know that now, because by nature of my biology, I had to be exposed to Borg nanoprobes." You had to be? I thought, horrified. I couldn't help but make my abhorrence of the thought clearly visible, that Starfleet had put him in such a position. "As a physician, Doctor Crusher was incapable of making the infusion herself, nor was Starfleet willing to order one of the other officers to do so, so I had to perform the injection myself.

"For almost an hour, my body attempted to suppress the nanoprobes, but eventually, they adapted, increasing their output and operation to overcome my regenerative ability, and I was taken over. When I came to, Doctor Crusher had been able to neutralize the nanoprobes, and I'm told that if Commander Data had not been able to neutralize me, they would have decapitated me and dismembered my body like something out of some Romanian folklore my mother read to me as a child. But worse than that, I had killed five Starfleet officers in an attempt to establish contact with the Collective."

"I can sort of understand," I cautiously replied. Not assimilation, of course--but I did know very well what it meant to be responsible for another being's death when one was unable to control one's actions. I had simply been too young to comprehend what I was doing. As for Captain Kane, he had been violated, and at Starfleet's behest! "But I can't believe they would have put you in that kind of position in the first place!"

Unspoken was the follow-on: If they did that to you...what if they decided they wanted to do some sort of experiment on me? The St. Petersburg IRC, mercifully, had never engaged in such activities as I grew up. I had been studied, scanned, observed, yes, but generally in ways justified by the need to ensure I could be medically treated if injured or ill. They had begun my education, as well--taught me how to interact with the world that existed in human phase. But I had quickly been named and treated as a sentient being, and I had never been subjected to cruel experiments like the one Captain Kane had just described! The SPIRC's Institutional Review Board had been very strict on the matter. Had Starfleet's IRB fallen asleep on the job? Been enticed to turn a blind eye? How? I knew my indignation had to be showing. How could I keep that in?

"I would not want to think of anyone else ever going through that," Kane replied. "And since then, Starfleet has most certainly kept an eye on me, especially when the Borg most recently attacked the Federation, although between you and me, I think Admiral Hayes only ordered the Endeavour to the Typhon Sector because he thought I would perform some miraculous feat and ensure victory. Instead, the cube disabled the ship almost immediately."

He leaned forward, intent. "I cannot guarantee that things will get easier for you, Ensign, but I can promise that if you ever find yourself unfairly treated, I will do anything in my power to assist you. You may contact me at any time, without the need to request permission from any supervising officer. That is not just an offer, Ensign, it is an order. Should any member of Starfleet Command ever attempt to harass, intimidate, or violate your rights, you are to immediately contact me. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir." I couldn't help a smile: perhaps, if we survived this mission, things would get easier. At least--I hoped--I wouldn't have to fear the worst anymore, knowing that now inside the closed world of Starfleet, I might have some recourse. "Thank you very much."
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Last edited by gulberat; 03-24-2013 at 11:18 PM. Reason: Timeline issues
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 106
# 15
03-13-2013, 11:05 PM
Literary Challenge #9: Shore Leave

Azera Xi: Repondez s'il vous Plait


Three Years Ago

Even through the howling night winds buffeting the snowswept plateau, Nyzoph could almost hear the thrumming noise of the graduation festival beneath his feet. The wind couldn't drown it out, the invigorating cold couldn't stir his thoughts from their numb disbelief, and even a mile of ice and rock didn't feel nearly far enough away from the underground capital. He lifted the silver oblong PADD up again to reread the day's messages, his gray eyes staring blankly at the serpentine Andorian script of the official notice through tears frozen and dried by the biting wind, and then he flung the tablet away into the snow with a growling, frustrated scream.

He didn't know how long he'd been staring up at the sky, following the vast white disc of Andor as its rings spanned the star-dotted horizon, when she emerged from the mouth of the cave behind him. He silently narrowed his eyes and kept them fixed overhead.

"You couldn't even come to the ceremony," Corspa curtly asked him.

"I already got the news," his voice low, his fists clenched tight as he fought the instinct to turn around and look at her, and then he muttered a sneering "congratulations."

"Thanks," she replied acidly, "Nyzoph, we need to talk."

"Oh I'm sure we do," he suddenly groaned with bitter sarcasm, and he whirled around from the edge of the cliff to face her, "let me spare you the trouble. I already know."

"What," she blinked in confusion, "what exactly do you know?"

"I know it was
your friends that went to the headmaster," he snarled at her, and then he spit into the snow before continuing, "it was your friends that told him all about Nyzoph's 'moral lapses' in Therin Park. A friend in need - isn't that how the humans say it?"

"What the hell are you implying," she growled back.

"You won, Corspa! The top scores, the highest honors, an immediate promotion to commander and your very own ship fresh out of the Andorian Academy! Everyone down there in Laibok is dancing and singing your praises right now! And you know what I get? I get to work in the mines just like my father and grandfather, that's what! I've been expelled."

"Oh," she breathed almost silently, "I... didn't know..."

"A lifetime of training, fighting, dreaming of the Imperial Guard. Remember when we met? I was eight years old. That's how many years it's been. And it was all for nothing."

"My family's wealthy," she answered in a quiet daze, shaking her head as she tried to gather her bewildered thoughts, "I'm sure they can arrange something for you..."

"What," Nyzoph glared at her, his antenna flattened back against his head, "you want me to be another one of your servants? A gardener, or maybe your prized chef!?"

"That's not what I meant," Corspa snapped back, but he'd already stopped listening. Instead his thoughts raced back through his argument with the headmaster, his pleas to the stern silver-haired Andorian answered with contemptuous, dismissive scorn.


"That's the problem with you Nyzoph," the old general had scoffed, "you snivel and beg for your honor instead of seizing it. Always trying to talk your way out of everything."

"I challenge you to an Ushaan," he said, cutting off Corspa's words.

"You... you what," she stammered, her blue eyes wide and antenna splayed in disbelief.

"You and your damn family's cost me my honor, my dream, my whole life," he spat the words across the icy bluff at her, "you think I'm just a worthless servant, then let's find out how yours measure up. Pick anyone you like, one of your bodyguards, your private combat instructor, any champion you want and we'll see just how much they're worth compared to me."

Corspa stared at him for a long, stunned moment before quietly answering him.

"Fine," she said, "I accept."

"Then bring your substitute here tomorrow night," Nyzoph glowered as he stormed past her toward the caverns and the capitol city that lay hidden beneath the ice.

"I'm not bringing anyone Nyzoph," she said, "I'll be here tomorrow."

"You'll what," the fury in his voice snapped into shock as he turned to face her.

"You think I need to hide behind my servants," she shot back at him, "you think I can't fight my own battles? I'll be here, and I'll deal with you myself. Don't be late."

She shoved her way past him before his stammering lips could form a reply, leaving him standing alone atop the icy bluff as she retreated into the shadows of the cave.


* * *

Captain's Log, Stardate 90823.08 - We're currently en route to the Betazed System for some scheduled shore leave and to attend a dedication ball that's being held in honor of the restoration of the Blessed Carvings of Cataria. It seems that our operations officer has neglected to mention his illustrious heritage: Luverala Onploz, Son of the Ninth House and Keeper of the Blessed Carvings of Cataria. I'm not really sure what that means, and he's too embarrassed to explain it, but he's graciously extended his invitation to the Roanoke's senior staff.

"You wanted to speak with me," Azera Xi asked shyly, brushing her rose-colored hair back across her flattened ears and looking out the window of her ready room at the racing stars and the dim reflection of a handsome security officer standing at her desk. She took a silent breath, trying to think of anything that'd make the blush on her cheeks fade away and quickly settling on their last planetary survey, mentally reciting the results to herself a few times until she'd stopped thinking about his eyes gazing on her. Then, and only then, did she dare to turn around and offer Angel a warm, professional smile and a furtive glance into his dark eyes.

Her security chief looked even more nervous than she felt, though she supposed that made sense: he's her subordinate, after all, even if he's a few years older than her. She kept her expression steady even as she felt her cheeks starting to blush again at the rumors she'd heard around the ship. Angel Jermaine Cregin, the dashing star pitcher of the Cestus Comets turned security chief of the USS Roanoke, had fallen for his superior officer. How many times had he leaped in front of her, his phaser beam sweeping the battlefield before, without a thought for himself, he'd turned to help her to her feet and asked if she's okay? How could she have missed the way their eyes had met through the viewscreen back when he was assigned to Starbase 114, the playful jokes they'd made, how quickly he'd requested a transfer to her ship?

Between the Roanoke's battles against the Klingons, the Orion Syndicate, even the Borg, Azera often forgot that, despite being the captain, she was technically still a teenager. Right now she remembered it - she remembered it with a blushing, giddily panicked euphoria.

"Yes captain," Lieutenant Cregin nodded anxiously, running his fingers back through his crewcut hair and pausing to take a breath before continuing, "well, you know we're scheduled to arrive on Betazed tomorrow for the dedication ball. And, well..."

"At ease, lieutenant," she smiled in answer to another long pause, "I'm just Azera here."

"Aye sir," he answered before smiling sheepishly himself, "I mean, okay. Well, we're a pretty new ship in the fleet, and captains have full discretion over matters of fraternization among the crew. So I guess the first thing is... how do you actually feel about that?"

"Oh," she shrugged and met his hesitant glance with a sparkling violet gaze, "well, we're all adults on this crew and we're going to be stuck together for hopefully a pretty long time. I don't think anyone's orders could stop relationships from naturally forming, so the most I'll ask is that we continue to respect each other as crewmates, no matter our feelings."

"Agreed completely," Angel nodded quickly and looked thoughtfully down at his reflection in the polished surface of her desk, "I've always tried to keep a professional distance from the rest of the crew, no matter where I was stationed. It comes with being a security officer: you can't really afford to let your guard down with anyone. At least, that's what I always thought. But lately I've found myself thinking more and more about someone in particular, seeing her in ways I never thought I'd see anyone, and wanting to be... well... more than a security chief, more than just a crewmate to her. What I'm trying to say is... I'd like to ask Auslaz to the ball."

Azera got as far as saying "I" before her breathless answer tumbled into a quick "huh?"

"We've been spending a lot of time together," he continued quickly, the bursting floodgates of his own admission distracting him from her crestfallen look, "and she's amazing. She's like nobody I've ever met before. With your permission, I'd like to ask her to go with me, and maybe find out what we could be together. If she's even interested, that is."

"I see," Azera took a quick breath, straightened her back and instantly regained her composure as the Roanoke's captain before he could notice it'd ever dropped, "well, you're both part of my crew and I would never abuse that position of authority. But on a personal note, Auslaz is my friend. You know the old speech friends give about 'if you ever hurt her?''"

"Yes sir?"

"Well," she paused and smiled gently, "consider it made. And with that out of the way, permission granted. Best of luck, lieutenant, and I'll see you both at the ball."

"Thank you captain," he said with a relieved smile, and he answered her soft nod with his own before retreating through the sliding doors of her ready room and making his was across the bridge for another, even more personal talk with the ship's science officer. Azera held her breath as she waited for the doors to finish closing, for the droning hum of the bridge to fade into reassuring silence again, and then she flopped back into her chair with an embarrassed groan, sighing deeply and sinking her head down into her arms to hide her burning cheeks.

* * *

"You're sure he's not using her," Corspa suspiciously asked into the open Jeffries tube as she tapped the wall-mounted engineering console beside it to start the last diagnostic sweep. Nyzoph's boots kicked across the hatchway as the hidden engineer tugged one of the panels within loose, and his answer rang back into the otherwise empty engine room.

"I'm sure," his voice exasperated and amused all at once, "I thought it was Angel's job to be paranoid, not yours. Trust me, he's been talking about Auslaz for weeks now."

"Maybe," the Andorian woman reluctantly admitted, then she called back into the tube, "but he's a celebrity, right? Cestus Comets pitcher, he must have lots of fans. I'm just wondering why a guy like that would set his sights on someone as vulnerable as her, that's all."

"First off," Nyzoph replied, clicking the panels within the tube back into place and then sliding out of the service shaft to sit upright and dust off his gold uniform, "he hasn't been their pitcher for a few years now, so it's not like he's getting mobbed by fans. And he's hardly setting his sights on her, he just happens to like her. Besides, we both know she's not nearly as delicate as she seems. If he gets out of line, she'll snap him right back into it."

"I guess you're right," she shrugged as he stood up, and she smiled a little at the sight of him, "okay, we're all done here, so there's just enough time for us to make it to the holodeck for day ten of the Battle of Thermopylae. Got any new tricks up your sleeve?"

"If the weather's cloudy the mirror beams might not be enough to hold the pass. But I have an idea for a chemical explosive we could use to flood the valley as a last resort."

"We'll keep it ready if we need to withdraw from the pass," she answered thoughtfully, "but the Spartans seem to be holding their own with the Mok'bara techniques I've taught them. Who knew ancient human soldiers and Klingon martial arts made such a good fit?"

"What about tomorrow," Nyzoph asked as he leaned down over one of the engineering panels to look over the diagnostic results, "are you going to the ball?"

"I have to," Corspa shrugged with resignation, "it could be taken the wrong way if the first officer's not there with everyone else. How about you, think you can sneak out of it?"

"I was actually hoping you'd be going," he gave a small smile and a shrug of his own, "maybe we could go together. We'd get more dancing done as a couple, right?"

"Ballroom dancing," she asked with an inquisitive smirk, "are you getting soft on me?"

"Must be old age," he quipped as he shut down the console and turned to leave with her, and then he paused for a moment before continuing in a softer, more serious voice.

"Corspa," he asked, "why are you here?"

"I, um," she tilted her her head to give him a confused look, "I'm helping you wrap up the warp core diagnostics so we'll have time to visit the holodeck tonight?"

"Oh, no, not right here," he shook his head quickly, "I mean, what are you doing aboard the Roanoke? This is honestly the last place in the galaxy I expected to see you."

"Nyzoph," she said with a quiet, forlorn frown, "I told you in my message..."

"What message?"

"The one I sent you after the Ushaan."

"I didn't get any messages," he said, and he paused for a moment at the startled look she gave him, "I left the next morning on a Tellarite freighter. I just, I had to get away from things. From everything. By the time I logged into my old accounts, they'd been purged."

"So you never read it," she murmured in a soft, faraway voice.

"I guess not," he shrugged apologetically.

Her face rose and fall through a a winding valley of emotions as she stared back at him, her antenna lifting up into a quizzical arch, then sinking into grief-stricken sadness, then building into glowering fury until she suddenly twisted her head away and began to shudder quietly. Nyzoph stared in guilt-stricken confusion as she fought to hide her sobbing gasps.

"Corspa," he stammered softly, "I'm... I'm sorry..."

She suddenly reached forward to smack him across the arm, and then fell back across the engineering bulkhead in tears of gasping, uncontrollable laughter.

"You've had no idea," she shrieked between helpless giggles, "all this time we've been working together and you never even saw it! Nyzoph, you... you... karskat klahz!"

"Okay," he muttered helplessly, and just waited for her to catch her breath.

"I'll send you a copy," she finally sighed, and then pointed at him sternly, "after we get back to our rooms tonight. Then we can talk about what it said at the ball tomorrow."

"I could read it right now," he hesitantly offered.

"Oh no," she replied, "we're both going to want drinks for that conversation."

* * *

"He asked me out, he asked me out," Auslaz squeaked to herself in a panic as she paced nervously around Azera Xi's quarters, then she convulsively wrung her hands and looked wildly at the bemused captain, "is that okay, can we do stuff like that on the same ship?"

"It's fine," Azera tried to encourage her, "if you want to, that is. Did you say yes?"

"I, um," the Trill officer bit her lower lip and crossed her blue eyes slightly in a quick burst of thought, "I think I nodded quickly. Then I ran pretty much all the way here."

Azera sighed to herself and shook her head with a soft smile as she watched her science officer darting back and forth around the beige furniture and glancing nervously over the landscape paintings lining the wall. She'd just started to clear her throat to say something when Auslaz suddenly turned back toward her with a fearfully wide-eyed look.

"What do you wear to a Betazoid ball," the young woman fretted, "do you have to have a gown, or wigs with animals in them... you... you don't have to go naked, do you!?"

"It's not a Betazoid wedding," Azera couldn't help but chuckle, "we'll be attending as Starfleet officers, so your dress uniform will be fine. That's what I'll be wearing."

"Dress uniform," Auslaz murmured, and her eyes widened with fresh panic, "I don't have a dress uniform! I've never needed one before, I must have left it at the academy!"

"Okay, sit," Azera suddenly grabbed her friend's shoulders and led her to a cushioned chair in front of the curving window that filled the exterior wall, gently pushing her down into the seat to face the sweeping arcs of the stars racing alongside the ship.

"Let me see what I can do about the uniform," she continued, and then she knelt down to look Auslaz in the eyes, "you're going to be fine, I promise. Just breathe, okay?"

"Right," Auslaz nodded, fidgeting with the dark side swept bangs of her hair and then rambling faster again in a voice that struggled to stay calm, "what will we talk about? He's a baseball player, a security chief... how do you impress someone like that?"

"Tell me something," Azera called over her shoulder as she pace over to the replicator on the wall and began scrolling through the display menu, and then she studied the screen intently before continuing, "how did you win him over? Did you do anything out of the ordinary?"

"No, not at all," the astrophysicist shook her head frantically and stared out the window, "I'm just boring old me, that's all. I had no idea he'd even noticed me like that!"

"Then just keeping being you," Azera said warmly as she returned from the replicator, and she leaned down in front of the chair again to look straight at her science officer's stricken face, "you're the most honest, authentic person I know. You don't have a front, you don't hide anything about yourself. If he likes you, Auslaz, then he likes you because you're you."

Azera Xi handed a crisply folded white dress uniform to the startled young woman.

"How did you," Auslaz asked curiously, "where did you find that so fast?"

"It was in your replicator files," she replied with a teasing smile, "still marked new."

"Oh," the young Trill blushed a little, "of course, right."

"You'll do great," Azera reassured her, "you're going to knock him dead."

* * *

Three Years Ago

The blow sent Nyzoph hurtling backward across the frozen white snow, slamming down with a hard thud that left him gasping the frigid air through the burning ache of his lungs. He lifted his left hand to wipe away the blood streaming down his cheek and noticed a loose, tattered cord dangling from the silver gauntlet. The tether between them must have snapped apart. Not that it mattered to the whooping, shrieking crowd gathered around them, or to the mediator watching the fight with calm, impassive focus. Once an Ushaan's begun, only one thing can end it.

A shrill cry alerted him to the dark leather-clad shadow hurtling down from the ghostly white aurora overhead and he swung his feet up just as Corspa swiped the curved blade of her
ushaan-tor down across his chest. He caught the serrated edge with the steel glove of his left hand, bracing it for the half-second or so the armor might last against the polished blade and then knocked it away with his own knife as he slammed his foot into her waist, kicking her back across the white hillock. Nyzoph leapt to his feet as she doubled away from him with a groaning cough, and in another instant he'd locked his arm across her throat, yanking her back against his chest and squeezing his elbow tighter as he tried to wrap his other hand around his wrist.

"Just act like you're fainting," he hissed desperately in Corspa's ear as she twisted left and right, her turquoise cheeks starting to turn a pale ashen gray, "and it'll be over."

She suddenly flung herself off the ground, throwing her weight across his chest and sending him tumbling onto his back with his arm still wrapped around her neck. She slammed her elbow down against his stomach, digging down until it almost seemed to hit bone, and then rolled upright as he staggered back to his feet. He swayed a little against the throbbing, nauseous waves of pain sweeping through his abdomen, staring wildly through the twirling flakes of snow dancing in the night wind, his knuckles white as he clenched his ushaan-tor tighter... and then he plummeted forward as a searing white pain sliced through the back of his calf.

"Get up," he heard Corspa's voice snarling somewhere above him.

He tried to stand, if only to brace himself against the next blow, but his right leg crumpled and he fell down again, streaks of indigo blood spilling through the gash in his pants and dripping down his right ankle. He dug the armored fingers of his left fist into the snow and tried to push himself upright, only to sink onto one knee with a hoarse cry as his calf gave out again.

"I said," she hissed viciously as she circled around him, "stand up!"

"I can't," Nyzoph gritted his teeth against the pain and glared up at her. She turned her eyes away, exhaled deeply and called out to the mediator and the watching crowd.

"My opponent is unable to fight," she said calmly, "we're done here."

With that, she flung her blue-soaked
ushaan-tor away and marched right through the jeering audience, shoving them angrily aside and vanishing into the crowd.

* * *

Captain's Log, Stardate 90824.97 - The dedication ball's less than an hour away and everything seems to be in order. We'll stay in orbit around Betazed long enough for the whole crew to enjoy their shore leave and schedule some routine maintenance to make sure the Roanoke's ready for her next mission. Honestly, as silly as I thought Auslaz was being yesterday, I'm kinda starting to feel the same way. Can't we just fight some Undine instead?

The ivory-colored ballroom swept out into a vast, seemingly endless arc along the rim of the mansion, the ceiling sloping outward and downward into thick bands of glass to form an enormous sunroom cast into fluorescent blue tones by the phosphorescent leaves of the alien jungle draped overhead. Candles flickered atop the ornate crystal tables lining the inner wall of the chamber, tinging the aquamarine light with a twinkling orange glow to match the chimes and whistling flutes of the band. The handful of Starfleet officers in their white jackets and dark pants blended so perfectly into the spectrum of guests and outfits, from tuxedos and ceremonial robes to rainbow feathers and festively dyed hair, that hardly anyone seemed to notice their presence. Certainly none of the other guests saw any need for stifling formality around them.

That suited Auslaz perfectly: it meant nobody gave her a second glance, or even much of a first one, as she ventured nervously onto the dance floor with her date. She wasn't quite sure what the dance involved, except standing still while moving her arms around and trying to sway her hips without taking a step, but after a few swaying rolls she nearly fell over. Angel caught her by the hands and gently guided the blushing young officer back onto her feet.

"That was... interesting," he nodded thoughtfully and diplomatically, "but you're keeping your legs too tense. If you try to hold them straight you'll lose your balance."

"I'm trying," she gulped shyly, "it's just that I try to think about how I move my arms, and then I remember I have to move my waist too and I lose track of my arms so I try to move them too and you're supposed to nod and it all... it all gets jumbled up together..."

"Just relax," he smiled and reached for her hands again, squeezing her palms and holding her arms out between them to sway with the music, "I'll guide your hands so you don't have to worry about them. Don't think about it. Just listen to the music and let it move you."

"But then I'd have to stop thinking," she squeaked, "and I don't know how!"

"Well," Angel thought for a moment, "okay, how about you tell me about work?"

"You work with me," she said with a dimpled smile, "you already know about that."

"I know you stand on the bridge, tap buttons and look excited sometimes," he chuckled, "beyond that, it's a mystery to me. Come on, try it - what do you do for a living?"

"Okay," Auslaz shrugged a little and closed her eyes to focus, "right now, I'm working on the sensor readings from Sigma 381-B, the black hole we charted last week. There used to be this theory that if a black hole's spinning or has an electric charge, the singularity stretches into a ring that's basically a wormhole to a whole different spacetime. But it turned out the quantum corrections didn't work out right and the singularity normally closes in on itself because of all the Hawking radiation. But thing is, this black hole has a stationary warp field. I don't know how that could happen, maybe the star had some sort of dilithium layer? The event horizon's emitting signals across several different subspace frequencies... it's information from a black hole, that shouldn't even be possible! So I'm writing up a report on the data we've received so far for Azera, I mean, the captain, to see if we can launch a probe into it and see where it goes."

She'd started talking faster and faster as she continued, the embarrassed flush of her cheeks fading back into their normal ivory hue and then blushing again with excitement as she swung her arms lightly and finally pulled the security chief closer with the giddy, breathless enthusiasm of her discovery. Then she suddenly stopped and glanced down.

"I'm sorry," she sighed, "this must be boring you out of your mind."

"You're kidding," Angel shook his head a little as he just stared at her for a moment, and then he smiled, "you're planning on shooting a probe into another universe and you're worried about that being boring? I can't wait to see what you'd call an exciting day."

"Well yeah," she smiled a little, "but that's just science stuff. You're a famous athlete, you've captured smugglers and fought Nausicaans and... I'm just me, that's all."

"I'm a Starfleet brat from Pike City," he answered with a slightly blushing smile of his own, "and you're a genius physicist. I'm the boring one here, not you. But even if I don't get everything about singularities and stationary warp fields, I get enough to catch glimpses here and there of how it all looks from your eyes. And it's amazing, Auslaz... just like you..."

The softly piping music had already fallen into silence as he finished, leaving Angel suddenly shifting awkwardly and glancing downward himself. Then the band started up again, filling the room with a quick, lively mix of drums and wailing brass instruments. He listened intently for a moment and then gave a small, apologetic shrug to his partner.

"I think we'd have to do some stepping and spinning for this one," he explained as the rest of the dancers whirled around them, "want to sit down and grab a drink instead?"

Auslaz took a deep breath and then shook her head with a beaming smile.

"Let's try it," she said quickly as she pivoted once on her toes and took his hands again to pull him deeper into the crowd, "but if I step on your feet, you were warned."

* * *

"So," Nyzoph said quietly. He paused for a moment, staring thoughtfully down at the thin Starfleet-issued PADD and the Andorian script flashing on its touchpad, and then looked up at the guests around him dancing, talking and sipping from their wine glasses. He leaned slightly back against the crystal table behind him, looking over the message he'd already read countless times last night and finally made himself lift his gaze up to meet Corspa's nervous look.

"I knew something must have changed for you to be here on the Roanoke," he said, nervously rubbing his hand across the back of his neck, "but I never guessed that..."

His voice trailed off into awkward silence.

"Yeah," she bit her lip and stared self-consciously down at the drink in her hand, her boots silently scuffing the floor as she stood beside him at the edge of the dance floor.

"Did you find it here," he gently asked, "what you were looking for, I mean."

"You know something," she smiled a little and glanced up to meet his eyes again, "I did. The Imperial Guard might have been more glamorous, but we're saving people's lives in Starfleet. We're protecting the galaxy out here. I'll take that over Andorian politics any day."

Corspa took a sip of her rose-colored drink and set the glass down on the table.

"What about you," she reluctantly asked him after a moment, "you could have had your own ship by now. I know Starfleet engineer wasn't exactly your life's ambition."

"Not at first," he admitted with a guilty smirk, and then his smile softened, "but I never would have thought about engineering if I hadn't joined Starfleet, and it turned out I'm pretty good at it. And besides... right now there's no other ship in the universe I'd rather be on."

Corspa glanced shyly down again, her cheeks blushing a fiercer shade of blue, and she leaned forward on a sudden impulse to kiss his cheek. Their eyes met for a second, steel gray and soft blue stares reflecting each other perfectly, and then she'd suddenly thrown her arms across his shoulders as his lips brushed her mouth and drew her into a desperately longing kiss. Her fingers stroked back through his white hair as his arms slid around her waist, pulling them closer together into an embrace that spun the room faster than any whirling dance, time holding its breath for a passionate kiss that lasted forever, and still not nearly long enough.

"I missed you," her voice trembled, and she kissed him harder before he could answer. Their lips finally parted again as she took a shuddering breath, her fingers tracing gently down his right cheek as she smiled warmly... and they brushed along a ridged scar running down the length of his jaw. She hadn't noticed it before, it wasn't even visible in the fluorescent blue light of the jungle-canopied ballroom, but her breath caught and and her smile faded again.

"Nyzoph," she said quietly as she leaned back down from her tiptoes, looking down in thought and then back up at him, "I don't want us to pick up where we left off."

He stared down at her in startled, breathless confusion, and finally managed to speak.

"Did I," he asked softly, "did I do something wrong?"

"No," she smiled bashfully for just a second, "no, that was... really, really right. But we left off from fighting a duel to the death. We almost killed each other back there."

"It wouldn't have come to that," he gently assured her.

"It came a lot closer than either one of us wants to admit," she insisted, and she paused for a moment before continuing, "I don't want us to pick up where we left off... I want us to start over again. Except this time with no secrets, no hiding anything from anyone. We don't have anything to be ashamed of. We never did, and now we're old enough to know it. And I want us to start from there, so the whole universe can know how we feel every step of the way."

He smiled a little and nodded, and leaned down to kiss her azure cheek.

"Well, since we're starting over," he replied, and his smile broadened into a grin, "I should introduce myself. My name's Nyzoph, I'm the chief engineer. And you are?"

"Corspa," she couldn't help but smirk, "I ran away from home to become a tactical officer."

"You too," he asked in mock surprise, and then glanced around with playful suspicion at the guests around them, "then we'd better start dancing before someone notices us."

"I'd be honored," she replied as she lightly clasped his proffered hand, and then she listened intently to the violins and flutes filling the air, "what kind of dance is this?"

"A waltz," he decided after listening for a moment and watching the couples swaying around them, "it's an Earth dance. You hold each other tight and keep spinning."

"Story of our lives," she smiled wryly, and she took both his hands in hers, studying the rest of the dancers and stretching one arm straight like theirs before the two of them twirled away into the crowd together. Nyzoph's Starfleet PADD lay blinking on the table, silently flashing the winding sky-blue script of an Andorian message written and sent three years ago, and read just last night, for a few more seconds before the device automatically turned itself off.

Nyzoph,

I wanted to come see you in the infirmary, but I'm probably the last person you'd want to set eyes on right now. You were right about my friends. I confronted them yesterday at the graduation festival after you told me, and they admitted everything. They thought they were helping my career. They even claimed they thought it's what I'd wanted. It scares me to think they could see me that way, that they actually think I'd want something like that. This whole mess has given me a lot to think about, and cutting them out of my life is a good start.

You don't have to worry about your future. I went to the headmaster and explained to him what really happened. I told him that you weren't cavorting with "questionable women" in Therin Park, you were cavorting with me, and you didn't say anything because you wanted to protect me. I told him the truth, in words and ways I haven't even told it to myself. I love you. I've been in love with you since we were children, since the very first day we met at the academy. We've talked about it before, we've both said "I love you" so many times, but I want you to know it, to feel it like you've never felt it before. Because I do, and no matter what happens, I always will.

I'm going to leave the Imperial Guard. We both know I'm really just here because it looks good for my father to have his daughter in the service. All the secrets we've kept have been to keep my family name intact, to keep his political reputation unsullied. And in the end, it led to us holding knives at each other's throats. There's not enough prestige in the universe to pay a price like that, and I don't want any part of a system that claims otherwise. I'm going to find my own way now, without my father, without my family's reputation, without the guard.

When I do, I hope you'll be waiting there for me. I won't ask you to wait - but I'll hope.

Take care of yourself, Nyzoph. You're going to make an amazing officer, and I can't wait to see how you look in your commander's uniform, whenever we meet again.

Love always,
Corspa


* * *

"They look," Azera Xi muttered sheepishly to the ship's doctor as they stood apart from the crowd, puzzling over the stone tablets in their sealed glass cases, "really... old."

"I'm afraid my Betazoid language skills aren't what they, well, ever were," Dr Umliz joked as he looked over the hieroglyphs carved into the polished marble slabs, and the two of them stepped out of the floodlights and back into the aquatic blue shadows of the ballroom.

"I'm surprised," he turned to look curiously at the captain in her white dress uniform, her long salmon hair untied from its usual ponytail to tumble in loose waves around her shoulders, "you didn't bring a date. You'd have your pick of just about anyone on the ship."

"I really doubt that," she winced bashfully, and then she shrugged a little, "besides, it'd just be a mess. Let's say I'm dating one of our crewmates and he gets into some kind of trouble with another member of the crew. Would I go easy on him because I know him and understand him better, and is that fair to the other person? Or would I be harder on him because I expect more from him, and would that be fair to him? Being a captain's enough trouble as it is."

"That's a very," the middle-aged doctor paused to consider his words and then he continued in a quietly sympathetic tone, "mature way of thinking."

"Thanks," she replied softly, "I guess it's a little bit like being a vedek."

"Well, we don't have to take a vow of celibacy," he smiled ruefully, and then allowed it to sink into a pensive frown, "but it's a challenge all the same. In my case, too much so."

"Oh," she paused and began to ask hesitantly, "were you...?"

"Married," he nodded, "just before I became a vedek, and a few years before I was appointed to the Vedek Assembly. Balancing the responsibilities of a husband with one's devotion to the Prophets proved more difficult than I'd expected. We're no longer together."

"I'm sorry," she bit her lip apologetically.

"It's quite alright," he shook his head a little and offered her a reassuring smile, "I don't regret the choice I made. Just that there was a choice to be made at all."

She nodded, lost in thought for a moment, and then suddenly glanced around.

"Hey, where's Luverala? It's his family's party, shouldn't he be here?"

Hi captain.

"Luverala?" she jolted upright at the words and voice that'd drifted through her thoughts without making a sound, looking around once more in bewilderment. Then she understood, and smiled a little as she tried to project her thoughts back without speaking them aloud.

Hi there! You should come join us, you're missing your own party.

The Betazoid officer's thoughts swept gently through hers like waves rippling and spreading across a pond, a telepathic song that rose and fell with a crystalline harmony that drowned out the orchestra completely, even as they formed the most ordinary words.

I'll be down soon, he replied, since the senior staff's away on shore leave, I thought now would be be a good time to run a level 1 diagnostic on the bridge consoles.

"Why didn't I think of that," she joked, and then she noticed the doctor watching her with a curious tilt of his head, "oh, sorry Doctor, I'm talking to Luverala... sort of..."

"I suspected as much," he nodded, "I'm glad to see he's practicing his telepathy. To even reach you from such a distance shows amazing potential, even for a Betazoid."

It's getting a little easier, Luverala's thoughts shyly answered the doctor's words as they glimmered through her mind, the distance just means I have to concentrate harder.

Hey Luverala, Azera asked quickly, what are these tablets? What do they mean?

Oh, the Blessed Carvings of Cataria, even as projected thought, his words sounded wincefully embarrassed, they're... well... they're a spelling primer for children.

"Huh," she couldn't help but mutter aloud in surprise.

They're really just schoolbooks, he replied, for learning simple words.

But they're very ancient schoolbooks, a mirthful female voice suddenly jumped into the psychic conversation, and she's quite right, you should be down here with us.

Hi mom, the engineering officer's thoughts twinged with what, had he been speaking aloud, could only be a slightly exasperated sigh, Captain, Doctor, this is my mother.

Amelyn Onploz, Daughter of the Ninth House, the regal woman psychically introduced herself to the bemused pair, why didn't you tell me you're acquainted with such a lovely young woman? It's not like you're genetically betrothed, you should be sowing your...

The antimatter containment level's dangerously low, the mortified lieutenant suddenly interrupted her thoughts, I should really focus on that, but I'll be there soon.

Nice try young man, Amelyn cheerfully rebutted him, but I used to be a yeoman and I know good and well that if you're doing bridge diagnostics then there's no way...

Her voice faded from Azera's mind in a way that she could only hope meant the conversation had moved on without them, and she waited another moment, focusing intently to make sure she could only hear her own thoughts, before daring to speak.

"Okay then," she couldn't help but giggle to herself, and then she shook her head a little and raised her glass to the mildly puzzled doctor, "well, how about a toast?"

He looked around at the tables for his drink and lifted it curiously to meet her glass.

"To the lonely hearts," she smiled and tapped his glass, "of the United Federation."

"The Prophets bless us every one," he chuckled and gulped down his drink.

Last edited by sparklysoldier; 04-11-2013 at 04:45 PM.
Captain
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,764
# 16 #1 Prized Possessions
03-14-2013, 01:32 AM
[Captain's log, stardate 2412 mark 06 mark 23. With the blessing of Starfleet Command, the Esclarent accompanied by the Aquarion and the Aegis have undertaken a scientific mission into deep space to investigate an outburst of psionic energy that several telepathically-inclined individuals from separate locations had reported up two days ago.]

Vice Admiral Kha Yuung spoke as he rose from his Ready Room seat. He picked up a small piece of folded paper, as it were his habit, and moved to gaze out the trails of stars flitting by at subtranswarp speed by the portside window. His pause grew longer as he struggled to simply find the words to place down on record. A year of endlessly flying between Alpha and Beta quadrants just dealing with one crisis to the next had led him to cut his logkeeping to retrospective hyper-trimmed snippets, sometimes shortened further to single-breath rants devoid of even punctuation.

A year ago, Kha was the ensign known for writing essays that scored average marks for easy (because they really bored him) and hard topics (which were entertaining at worst). Now, after he had achieved Rear Admiral in brisk pace like most of the survivors of the Vega Incident, Kha felt ashamed that for all his career progress, his literary prowess had all but withered away.

He was going to make this log count, even if his muse remained in hiding.

[It has been two years since I as Ship's Captain have taken a ship into deep space, but I am confident that we, as Starfleet officers, will not forget how to go where no one has gone before.]

Kha thought for a bit, twirling the origami hat in his hand.

"Pion, pause recording."

"Recording paused." The voice of the Photonic Officer presiding over the Esclarent's main computer replied.

Kha let go of a breath in slight dismay.

"'Forget how to go where no one has gone before?'" he whispered. "That's just terrible, Yuung. Terrible."

"I think it was good!" Pion chimed in with a cheerful tone.

Yuung just glared up at the ceiling.

"E-eh...! I'm sorry! I'll close the link now..."

On that note, Kha saw the stars outside slow to a dot-matrix crawl, indicating that the Esclarent had dropped out of warp. He headed for the autodoors but to his surprise, the access comms sounded before he got there.

"Permission to speak with you, Admiral," a different female voice said.

His eyebrows rose at the departure of protocol for a split second. "Come."

The doors swished open, and a diminutive woman in tactical red stormed through, if a small, thinnish female of the Human race could feasibly storm through anything.

"We've arrived at Point Omega Four Delta, Sir."

Commander Minase Iori, as though a package with her Oriental name, was the shortest member of his senior staff and many have found her to be rather adorable at first impression. They all soon learn of her bark and bite, however. And like Yuung, she was also an ensign before Vega, just known as the Palmtop Mugato, terror of all male subspecies at San Francisco.

Which was now in his doorway, hands on her hips to make herself appear larger and glaring sternly his way.

"You could have mentioned that over the intercomm, Commander," Kha said as the doors swished shut behind Minase.

"Because, that's not why I'm here."

Yuung could detect a faint tinge of annoyance in her voice as the Commander crossed her arms.

"Just why are we here, 2 whole days at full subtranswarp into deep space?"

"You already read the mission brief, Commander."

With his way blocked, Kha changed course for the cushy recliner behind the desk he was in.

"I want the Section 31 brief, Kha."

The Admiral brushed it off by leaning back in his seat and absentmindedly twirled his piece of origami. He had noted Minase's, or should he say Iori's, use of his first name, but it was a given. Just last year, they had been ensigns graduating from the same class. An old habit wasn't going anywhere that soon. And Minase never quite let Kha live down the fact that he worked part time for Section 31.

But when Minase speaks of him as though Yuung was a despicable insect, that meant that she was really annoyed.

There was only one thing left to do in this situation...

"There is no S31 brief."

Annoy her further.

"Like I'd buy that."

Minase plonked herself into the seat opposing Yuung's desk.

"I am responsible for the 400 men and women serving aboard the Esclarent, Admiral," Minase continued. "I've already betrayed them enough to let us go hurtling out here without as much as an explanation for the sudden change of course."

Kha fiddled with the folded hat, still in thought.

"What did Science say?"

Minase frowned a little at the question for a reply.

"Sensors found gamma radiation and traces of triolic particles, but nothing else significant. Not that it would help any, considering that we were after psionic phenomenon which cannot be detected by our equipment."

Kha nodded knowingly, still playing with the hat.

?How about the telepathic duty officers the Vulcan Science Institute loaned us??

?They haven?t sensed anything, Sir.?

Kha nodded again, silently chasing a train of thought.

?I assume you signaled the fleet to conduct a standard wide area search before knocking on my door.?

?Yes, Sir!? Minase replied in an exasperated tone.

Kha nodded and looked her direction.

?That will be all, Commander.?

Iori?s scowl deepened for a moment and she then let it go with a sigh.

?So, this really is just about the psychic stuff??

?Yes, it really is just about the psychic stuff.?

Iori flopped back in her chair for a moment, admitting defeat to the situation she had been railroaded into. The woman then kicked off her heels, propped herself off the seat long enough to buckle her legs underneath into a slanted kneel and crossed her arms across her chest again. She was being deliberately informal, not just because they were childhood friends, but because had it been any other day, this would have been her ready room, her desk, her comfy recliner. It irked her sometimes that he had the power to just waltz in and take over her ship at practically any time. For all her accolades in the Academy and till now, Minase ended up playing second fiddle to the Average Joe of Class 524.

?So, what do we do now?? Iori said after she had enough of the pregnant hum of the Esclarant?s ventilation system.

Kha leaned forward, elbow on desk, head in hand.

?We wait.?

?Aye, Sir,? Minase affirmed.

?One last question before we end up sitting here gazing sickeningly at each other. Just what?s up with the hat today? You always had it in your breast pocket, but now you can?t seem to leave it alone.?

Kha glanced down to the hat.

?It?ll help us with our mission. At least I hope it would.?

?Just what would an aged and battered piece of solidified fibrous pulp compacted in accordance to ancient Japanese artwork to form a very poor approximation of fashionable headgear in size, shape and function have anything to add to the main sensor arrays of one Akira-class heavy escort??

Minase prattled it all out in a single breath without uncrossing her arms.

?Well, let me tell you something good.? Kha said while setting the chair back upright and turning to face Minase. He set down his paper hat flat on the table. He seldom knew of things Minase didn?t, and Kha liked to capitalize on moments like this almost theatrically, like an illusionist baiting a waiting audience.

?This is my totem.?

?I never knew you were into quasi-religious hubdrub, Admiral.?

?Not that kind of totem.? Kha continued. ?I could go into the psionics theory behind it, but Lieutenant Commander Ryzak would be able to do it better.

?My mother was human, but is very psionically gifted. She?d tell us about how her family held a secret recipe for developing psychics, but I once looked up the genealogy at the library... Let?s just say their talents weren?t appreciated during their time.

?The records did however agree that the method worked. And one of the methods better explained by the Schrodinger-T?von Principle was totems.?

?I?m still thinking of wooden heads on a pole, Admiral.?

?In a sense, maybe that was the case for witch doctors in Human history,? Kha said. ?Totems are specially created points in space and time, usually an item whose properties are completely known to the wielder, which is entangled to the item that exists within the wielder?s mind.?

Minase nodded. ?Like entangled fermion transwarp communications.?

?Yes,? Kha replied. ?In effect, this reduces the ST constant which then decreases the amount of energy needed per quantum of thought to project the effect into reality and in theory allows a potentially telekinetic person, case in point, me, to move a rock with my mind.?

?But you were assessed to be completely without psionic traits,? noted Minase.

?Like I said, in theory...?

Kha picked up the hat, balanced it on his finger, and willed it to float. And as expected, the hat did not even flinch.

?How do you make a totem?? Minase said next. ?It looks like a simple folding to me.?

?Exactly, a totem could be anything, as long as it can be entangled with a permanent image in one?s mind.?

The hat was passed to Yuung?s other hand, and back again, his gaze following it back and forth.

?My mother made this. She loved origami. And I really do mean it; our summer house at Tokyo Bay would have these decorations made into the shape of practically anything. That?s something unique, that I feel familiar and strongly about.?

Kha closed his eyes as though he was replacing his current world with another.

?That is what makes it important. You see, a totem works by existing in a memory palace, a special place I constructed in my mind to house the entangled memory. Everything inside the memory palace never changes. All I need to do is open the front door, and it?s there. ?

Kha said, first touching his temple then gesturing to items where the items would have been.

?The paper lilies in a clay vase by the left, the shoes tucked into the rack on the right, and the smell of fried eggs with buttered toast.?

He wafted the air towards himself.

?Mmm...?

Minase on the other hand was enjoying the Admiral making a fool of himself.

?And of course, the memory the totem exists in. There was I, dressed in a new yukata, about to join my friends at the Children?s Day festival, when my mother called out to me...

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

?Kha!?

?What is it, Okaa-san??

?Okaa-san has a present for you.?

?Yay!?

?Yes, here you go.?

She deposited a neatly folded piece of artwork into the boy?s open palm.

?Another paper hat,? Kha said, somewhat disappointed.

?Not just any paper hat,? the lady chirped with a wave of her finger before dabbing it on the origami piece. ?It?s a Wizard?s hat!?

?What?s a wizard, Okaa-san??

?A wizard is someone who is so talented that people call whatever he does magic.?

She stroked Kha?s head.

?You?re a big boy now, so I was thinking,? ?That you?re ready to learn Okaa-san?s power.?

?Really?!? Kha shrieked. ?Coooool!!?

?Now, now,? Mrs Yuung said while stopping her jumping child. ?This will be your totem. It is very important if you want to learn Okaa-san?s power. Guard it well. Promise??

?Promise!!?

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


?You won?t believe how much I had been pestering her to teach me telekinesis. Very handy for picking up card keys from across the room.? Kha said as the mental playback ended. ?For me, telekinesis represented being able to leap through the air slashing away with a photonic sword like space-faring knights of a pangalactic order.?

Minase uncrossed her arms.

?And how is a memory of your mom going to help us find the source of these psionic bursts in deep space??

?Well, of course, its a totem, it sharpens my sense of telepathy... whatever I have of it..."

Kha was grasping at straws for a bit.

"Never know when that extra Quark of signal might come in handy.?

Yuung?s commbadge chimed and saved him.

?This is Yuung.?

?Admiral, this is Pion,? the photonic officer chirped out loud. ?Just wanted to update you that the fleet has completed Phase 1 of standard search. No significant findings, Sir.?

?Acknowledged, Pion.? Kha said and moved to tap off the commlink when Pion spoke again.

?And er, one more thing, Admiral!?

?What is it??

?Remember when you asked if there was a way to equip your gear on demand?? Pion said. ?I?ve just finished building a system that could do that and I?m on my way to the bridge carrying the finished prototype. Do you have time to take a look??

?We have plenty of time,? Iori answered in Kha?s stead, reminding him again that this was her ship. ?We?ll meet you in the observatory in 2. You okay with that, Admiral??

Kha nodded in agreement and let the trouncing of protocol slide again. He was thankful to be out of Earth Spacedock rather than still canned in it.

?Great! Um, Pion out.?

Minase got up to leave on that note. ?Unless that unfloating totem of your?s gets us right to the source immediately, I?m going to see what Pion has come up with.?

Yuung just shrugged at Iori?s retreating out the autodoors. She was wrong about the totem having never floated. In fact, it did, once.

----------

It had happened quite suddenly. Kha had been struggling for half a decade to even get the hat to fall in the direction he wanted, but the next moment, he had the hat zipping around the yard. He spent 2 seconds surprised, the next couple giggling with glee and finally a grand minute crashing the hat into his little sisters? totems like a B?rel with a crazed captain.

?Brother!! Stop that!!?

Victorious, Kha scrambled through the backdoor and tore down the corridor, yelling, ?Okaa-san! Okaa-san! I did it! I did it!!?

?Kha! Take your sisters and run!? came the telepathic reply.

The boy screeched to a halt.

?Okaa-san?? he called again.

?Be a good boy, go! Now!?

Sensing trouble, Kha ignored the order, gripped his totem tightly and sprinted towards the front yard where he last seen her. Like any 13 year old would. Nothing was out of the ordinary in the house as he sprinted through the quiet compound. Not even when he slid through a sharp bend, grabbed a dud phaser he left in his raincoat and burst into the fore gardens.

?Okaa-san!!?

There was still nothing displaced. The rocks, the grass, and the loose stone pebbles that made their front walk. Everything was as he remembered.

?Okaa-san??

But there was no reply.

--------


Kha balanced his paper hat on his finger. His house was a flurry of activity that day. His father would have mobilized out his entire starship to find Mrs Yuung if Starfleet hadn?t already gotten boots on the ground. But every one came up empty-handed. Kha only had one clue to go by, filed by Science officers discovered some residual gamma radiation and traces of triolic particles in the rocks of the front yard.

He pocketed his totem and went after Minase. The next clue to his mother?s disappearance would have to out here, somewhere.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lt. Comm. Pion
What should I wish upon the endless universe;
To be able to smile and forgive everything;
That's right, if we light up the dream in our hearts without averting our eyes;
We should be able to walk whatever tomorrow comes...

I am V. Adm. Kha Yuung, and I approve of this message.

Last edited by khayuung; 03-23-2013 at 08:46 AM.
Former PWE Community Team Lead
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 9,046
# 17
03-19-2013, 11:54 AM
Hi Captains!

Just a heads up that I am going to extend this challenge for 2 weeks rather than introducing #41 -- I would love to give everyone more time to compose and post an entry to one (or more if you'd like!) of our past literary challenges.

With this extension, #41 is currently scheduled to go live around Tuesday, 4/2. Have fun! Loving the entries so far.

Cheers,

Brandon =/\=
Brandon "BranFlakes" Felczer | Former Community Team Lead for Perfect World Entertainment
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,731
# 18
03-19-2013, 07:44 PM
Literary Challenge #26: Senior Officers

Counselor's Log, Lt. Brel Tan recording.

Per your instructions, Admiral Quinn, I have attached my analysis of the senior personnel of the cruiser USS Bastogne. I found this crew very - interesting. This may have been the best possible crew to assign to this particular ship.

Commanding Officer: CDR Grunt: Grunt does not see himself as an "exile" from the Ferengi Alliance, as the Ferengi ambassador has described him; instead, he sees himself as having been invited to join Starfleet as a representative of his people. However, while the defining characteristics of the Ferengi seem to be greed and a level of caution that other races might describe as "cowardice", Grunt is outgoing, overtly friendly, and physically courageous to a degree seldom seen in his species. It is possible that this is symptomatic of what might be regarded as a psychiatric disorder in the Alliance; fortunately for Mr. Grunt, his psych profiles are almost perfectly descriptive of what we expect of our starship commanders. I suspect that you are correct in your belief that prejudice against Ferengi may have resulted in Grunt's being assigned to several ships that are best described as sub-par. However, he has made the best of each instance, even when his first command was destroyed by a Borg attack.

Science Officer/First Officer: LCDR Roclak: I will confess, I was nervous when I was told that one of my charges on this ship was to be a Klingon. However, Mr. Roclak has proved to be quiet, friendly, and almost completely the opposite of what one might expect from a Klingon. After a number of sessions, Roclak confessed to me what no other member of this crew except his commander knows - he was discommendated by the Klingon Empire, and stripped of his House, for the "crime" of being more interested in scientific exploration than in personal honor and advancing the Imperial military. It would seem that the Klingons were disappointed in Mr. Roclak for being more like a Starfleet officer than a Klingon warrior. Their loss is our gain, however - he is keenly intelligent, very curious, and highly motivated to help others. Overall, he is proving to be an excellent officer.

Helm Officer: LCDR Thy'bar Gydap: Mr. Gydap seems exceptionally shy, particularly for an Andorian thaan, traditionally the more aggressive of the two "male" genders. This would appear to be due to his antennae being exceptionally sensitive to bioelectric fields, to a degree approaching Aenar telepathy at times. He is highly conscientious, striving to be the most efficient officer he can possibly be; this may have something to do with his separation from his family. He is upset that his four-bond has yet to produce young, and is not easily calmed by assurances that such difficulties are not uncommon and are often overcome. This has not, to date, distracted him from his duties, but it has led to a degree of social separation from his comrades that has led to his being transferred from several other vessels before winding up aboard the late Hypatia under Mr. Grunt. Under Grunt's command, relieved of the expectations put on him in other crews, Mr. Gydap appears to be thriving, although he does still return to Andoria at every opportunity. Grunt has seen fit to keep Gydap distracted and occupied by assigning him as the ship's navigator, as well.

Chief Engineer: LCDR Vovenek: As a Pakled, Mr. Vovenek gives the appearance of being slow-witted and slow to move. However, his bulk belies a sharp mind with a natural bent for engineering, and a quick wit with a subtle sense of humor. It did take several sessions to get past Vovenek's defensive exaggeration of Pakled stereotypes; recommend you look into the treatment of minority races at Starfleet Academy, as this would seem to be the root of his issues. I have personally witnessed Vovenek's improvised repairs saving the Bastogne on at least five separate occasions during my time here, lending credence to the idea that the Hypatia's fate may have in fact been substantially delayed by his work. It would be a relief to him, at first, to be assigned to a more reliable ship; however, he would quickly find himself bored. It would be a waste of his natural talents to be an engineer aboard a more, well, stable craft.

Chief Security Officer/Tactical Officer: LCDR Shelana: Biologically zhen, Shelana abandoned both her planet and her clan name when the other members of her four-bond were killed by an Undine terrorist attack on Andoria. After a period of mourning, she enlisted in Starfleet, where she has distinguished herself as one of the Federation's fiercest and most dangerous defenders. Records show that her barely-contained rage has disturbed a number of her previous commanders, resulting in multiple assignments; she seems to have found a niche as a member of Grunt's crew, however, and has made something of a name for herself training other Tactical specialists in the Fleet. Officers who have served under Shelana are in particular demand aboard tactical escort craft assigned to various front-line operations on Federation borders. It has been said that if you can survive two years as one of Shelana's security personnel, you can survive anything after that. While this has led her to be regarded as something of a loose cannon, she makes an excellent fit for this particular crew.

Conclusions: This crew's exceptional efficiency reports are not a "fluke", as Admiral T'nae had first assumed, but appear instead to stem from the unique synchronicities found in this rather unusual group - this "motley assortment," to borrow the Admiral's own term. It is my considered recommendation that this team be kept together on all future assignments, as far as is practical given Starfleet requirements.

- Lt. Brel Tan, Ship's Counselor, USS Bastogne NCC-93385
-------------------------------------------
I'm old enough not to care too much about what you think of me --
But I'm young enough to remember the future, the way things ought to be...

- Rush, "Cut To the Chase", Counterparts

Last edited by jonsills; 03-19-2013 at 09:51 PM. Reason: Corrected continuity error.
Captain
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,468
# 19
03-20-2013, 11:10 AM
Author's Note - this is 1 year prior to events in Lone Drone

Litarary Challenge #2 - Taking Command

---

"Permission to speak freely, Captain?"

Kathryn nodded and said, "In this office, always, but I appreciate the protocol."

Karl Malango smiled softly and he forced his body to relax, his arms falling to the sides and his head lowering to look directly to his superior officer. "That's splitting hairs and you know it."

The Captain never looked away from Karl while standing slowly, her burgundy-colored hair wrapped around her neck and shoulders. At six feet tall, Kathryn used her stature to her advantage when she needed to - and this was a moment she felt warranted. Inside she chided herself on being slightly dramatic, but she needed Karl on her side. This meeting was due to the tension mounting since her arrival on board Galatea three weeks ago.

"Allow me to speak freely as well." She leaned forward and placed her hands onto the desk. Her grey eyes were now level to Karl's as he was the shorter of the two. "I have served with Anthi ever since I left the Academy. From my position that makes her the absolute best candidate to serve as my First Officer. Captain Diranti's assessment of you was not ignored, regardless what you may think, and that is why you are my Security Chief. Let me say it again: that also makes you my Ground Operations Senior Officer."

She raised a hand to silence Karl's next words and then walked around the desk to face him. "Change can be challenging, but that is a constant in the universe and on this ship it is inevitable."

A few moments passed as Kathryn waited for a rebuttal. Karl obliged with growing frustration. "I have at least five more years of direct experience on this ship and I know the crew better than ... "

Kathryn grinned as Karl stopped abruptly. She waited a few tense seconds. "Me?"

Karl looked down to his feet ashamed at his revelation. Kathryn nodded and walked past him to stop abruptly at the gold-plated model of her first ship, a Miranda-class, the Sixth Wave.

"Karl, those are strengths that are needed," she turned back to him and noticed he was facing her, "by me. Let me be very candid when I say that my trust in you is implied by virtue of your experience."

At the mention of trust, Karl seemed to stand a little straighter. "What is your trust in Anthi then?" Kathryn could not tell if his frustration increased further or if she were breaking down any barriers.

"Earned. If that's splitting hairs then call me a barber." She spread her arms out briefly to show surrender to Karl's point of view, yet a verbal trump card was available she didn't want to use.

Karl nodded and looked down in thought. Kathryn sat on the couch under the model to try to give the scene a relaxed feel to it if someone were to walk into the room. "If it means anything, I've met Philip Diranti before his passing. He was an amazing Captain and I wish I could have mentored with him. As you know, his actions in 2400 with the Klingons are mentioned at the Academy and that's not small talk. The fact you are mentioned in his closing dossier is impressive. But I hope you can appreciate that I'm not a woman of words, but of action."

She stood and walked to Karl who remained silent. "I trust you because Diranthi trusted you, but I need to trust you because I do. Do you understand my point of view?"

Again, he nodded. His silence bothered Kathryn but she couldn't force him to talk. She decided enough was said. "So, to be clear, this is not about favorites."

"I understand, Captain." He straightened up and Kathryn perceived the conversation was no longer off the record.

"Good. Thank you for your dedication and service. Galatea will be coming to Dalnus IV within the hour. I want Security Team recommendations and equipment checks completed. This is a recon-in-force. And just so you know ... I prefer pistols."
Kathryn S. Beringer - The Dawn Patrol

Solaris build - Veritatum Liquido Cernene

Last edited by cmdrscarlet; 03-20-2013 at 02:26 PM. Reason: Punctuation
Ensign
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 19
# 20 Here And Now
03-20-2013, 04:23 PM
The red alert klaxon clattered through her skull as it cried out across every single deck of the USS Stellar Drift-H. Captain Kim Sharp attempted to predict the movements of the ship as it jolted under heavy fire by relaxing her knees, but it was of little use. Another torpedo impact, sent her flying to the deck, and a surge through the power conduit above the aft bridge stations behind her resulting in an explosion of electricity and fire.

"Sir!" She heard a voice, distantly call her name, and felt hands around her arms, pulling her back to the deck.

The Romulan, Vulcan, human hybrid turned her grey eyes to the human male that she recognized as her first officer, and the damage control teams as they rushed to the flames licking across the console behind her head. Kim could not hear him, but she knew what he was saying.

Starboard shields were down, auxiliary control was being drained, and the worst part was the Krenim were coming around for another pass.

The sensor display on the viewscreen showed the assault cruiser was coming around the starboard side to hit them where they were most vulnerable.

"Ensign,all stop and come to negative Z axis now! Roll us!"

The Mobius class starship ducked underneath the charging Krenim ship and rotated so its dorsal shields faced the incoming chroniton torpedoes.

Captain Sharp again picked herself off the deck. She wiped her forehead, but to her shock what she didn't come away with was sweat, but blood. The bridge smoldered as consoles, conduits, circuit junctions fused together as the starship struggled to keep the small complement of Starfleet Temporal Agents alive.

A communications transmission broke in over the sounds of the bridge officers as they struggled to keep the ship in one piece.

"Give up, Romulan. You're done for!" Lora shouted through the tiny Mobius bridge.

"Sir, that last pass knocked out the main computer as well as the rest of emergency power. I don't know if we will have enough juice to fire off the deflector charge. Engines are down too except for thrusters." Ensign Rayner said from Operations.

"Who would have thought a patch of bacteria floating through space would be so important?" Kim said. She looked to where she anticipated her first officer to be, but he was nowhere to be found. Panicked she looked past Rayner, Crewman Jirshon, Lieutenant Alaxa, and what was left of her bridge crew, hoping to see her trusted friend. He wasn't there.

"How much do we have left in life support?" Captain Sharp shouted.

"Enough to activate the pulse." Rayner said. "But we'd never get back home."

A proximity alarm sounded. The Krenim. No doubt swinging around to finish them off.

"Divert it all, and prepare to fire on my mark!" The Stellar Drift commanding officer shouted.

"Sir, there's another starship entering the nebula. It's--"

The Universe suddenly went white.

=^=

"Report." Vice Admiral Kim Sharp frowned as the brilliantly colored aperture at the center of the nebula slowly dissipated in front of the ship. The turbulence had lessened and she loosened her grasp on the railing separating the command center from the helm and weapons consoles.

"Very odd, Admiral. Sensors detected a sudden surge of chroniton radiation and then it was just gone like someone just turned off a light switch or something." Lieutenant Commander Lyvian Enree looked up from her science station at the human Starfleet flag officer.

"Any lifesigns? I thought you said you detected something." Captain Sevak Sharp said from her chair next to the command chair.

The Trill science officer raised her thin eyebrows and tapped her keypad, rechecking the sensor logs. "I am detecting what could possibly be a mass of silica based single celled organisms about 400,000 kilometers off the starboard bow. They look to be responsible for the shimmer to the gas clouds."

"Interesting." Kim said. "Any sign of intelligence? Attempts to communicate?"

"Not on the surface. I'm going through the usual spectrum, even right down to subspace. They don't seem to be bothered by the ship either. It's funny...for a moment before I thought I had detected something else. Like a ship, or a starbase, but nothing now."

"How very strange." Kim said, turning back to Sevak.

"Indeed. Do you want to stay here and investigate?" The Vulcan rose to standing and tugged at the hem of her dress uniform. The whole staff were wearing their whites, and if she thought about it long enough the scene of them venturing into a nebula for scientific exploration wearing dress uniforms looked rather silly.

She turned her gaze to Kim's, hoping that her expression looked imploring enough that her commanding officer would see her logic and continue investigating.

Kim thought a moment, turning her eyes to Lieutenant Miller, who sat across from Enree, and then looked at the junior officers who had both turned and looked at her with curiosity.

The thought was tempting, and it was obvious Enree and Sevak wanted to stay. So many questions already, but there was the other matter waiting for them on Starbase 122. She looked back to the viewscreen where the anomaly had been. The emerald and cerulean clouds of gas undulated around the Luna class ship like thin silken veils. That moment was a bitter tease to that explorer that laid buried underneath the cold layers of her war-torn heart. As much as she wanted to throw caution to the wind, this was not the time to be reckless. Not with so many lives at stake.

"No." She said, flashing a glance to Enree, and then to Teresita at weapons, and Falor at helm. "We can't leave the Klingons waiting any longer. Enree, launch a class one probe."

"Aye sir." Enree said. She didn't hesitate, but her voice was in disagreement with the action she was performing.

Kim smiled at the young Betazoid man at helm. "Set course for Corinth IV, Warp 6."

"Aye sir."

The probe cautiously ventured into the swirling clouds of gas as the USS Stellar Drift-A came about, and departed the nebula at impulse speed. Acting as eyes and ears for the weary, battle-hardened crew too caught up in galactic affairs of the present it scanned, analyzed, and recorded.

=^=

Captain Michrd Lora growled under his breath, the sensor alarm cutting through his patience. The older Krenim man rose violently from his chair and trudged to Varin Toriz's station. Except Varin was too busy paying attention to Ensign Lika over at con.

"What's that beeping from your station, Varin?" Captain Lora asked with irritation.

Varin jumped back over to his station, and typed.

"I thought you said there were no lifesigns in this sector." The older Krenim man rose from his chair and went to the science console.

"There aren't." Varin said, his heart pounding with fear as he worked. "I scanned the sector six times! It's a probe, but I don't know how it got here without us detecting it." Varin's eyes went wide and he looked at his superior. "You aren't going to believe this, Sir. It's Starfleet."

"Sharp..." Lora breathed angrily.

(LC Unknown Anomalies)

Last edited by stellardrift; 03-20-2013 at 05:21 PM.
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