Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,390
# 21
03-20-2013, 06:04 PM
Literary Challenge 10: Replicator Rations:

From the Ashes

Captain Amanda Palmer walked into the eatery, where she was greeted as usual by the welcoming smile of the Human waitress.

"Good morning, Captain," Cara said brightly as she stepped from behind her reception desk. "You're becoming quite a regular. Will you be wanting your usual table and breakfast?"

Palmer smiled and nodded silently, allowing the pretty girl to guide her to a table near the observation window, where she could clearly see repair work the Valkyrie was undergoing.

Quite a regular...

The Valkyrie was forty two years old, had been through the Dominion war without a scratch, had been Palmer's ship to command for the past thirteen years without so much as a glance at McKinley Station, yet since the beginning of the year, this would be the ship's third visit to the orbital shipyard. First had come the restructuring of the primary hull which people had took to dubbing 'the Rhode Island nosejob', along with the installation of a new bridge module and rearward torpedo launchers. Then had been the repairs to the navigational deflector dishes and cargo bays caused by the Valkyrie's supersonic entry into the upper New York bay. Now, following a skirmish with the Breen in the Orellious sector, the nacelles were being replaced.

******

"You asked to see me, Captain?" asked the soft voice as the doors slid closed behind her.

"Indeed, I did," Palmer replied, looking up from the damage reports on her PADD which seemed to be constantly updating, and seeing the willowy form of Eleven of Twelve, standing like a statue near the door to her quarters. "I appreciate that you have not yet been de-briefed by Starfleet Command nor cleared to return to active duty by a counselor, but these are exceptional circumstances, and I am forced to explore any resources at my disposal."

Eleven tilted her head gracefully, the low lighting in the room reflecting from her silvery eyes. Exploratory surgery by Doctor Ben Kincaid and Lieutenant Commander Meliden Bowen had facilitated the removal of the exposed tubing of Eleven's upper cranial transceiver array, allowing the skin and flesh at the back of her head to be fused closed once more, creating an appearance not unlike that of a Deltan, but it was her face which so many had difficulty adapting to -- Ethereal and hauntingly beautiful, as it may have been, with elegant, aristocratic features and sultry bow-like lips, it was still the face which every Starfleet officer immediately recognized as the One who is Many: The Borg Queen.

"If I can be of any assistance, Captain, it would be my pleasure to repay the kindness you have shown me," Eleven replied sincerely.

"Doctor Kincaid's scans of your remaining DNA have confirmed beyond doubt that you were once Holly Masters, Lieutenant junior grade, and xenobotanist," Palmer said. "I appreciate that you were by no means an engineering officer, but I understand that you now possess all the knowledge of the Collective, and every Starfleet officer who was assimilated into it. I need to know if that knowledge can help us in our current situation.

"As you are no doubt aware, we were attacked earlier today by a Breen warship, suffering major damage to our communications array, and the loss of our port nacelle. We are three weeks from Earth at full impulse, but I wanted to know what you can tell me about irregular warp field generation. I know from historical records that in twenty one fifty three, drones assimilated a transport shuttle and began to convert it into a cube, which was then capable of a warp velocity nearly four times it's original capability."

Eleven's hairless brow furrowed momentarily and her lips pursed.

"Destroyed by the starship Enterprise, registry November X-Ray Zero One," she stated. "I am aware of the specifications of the vessel in question, and indeed, the drones in question were able to create an asymmetric off-axis warp field using a salvaged transwarp coil, however, to do something similar to the Valkyrie would require massive alterations to the EPS waveguides and structural integrity fields, in addition to re-writing much of the operating system of the computer core to facilitate a functionality the Valkyrie was never designed to accommodate."

"In other words, you would need to assimilate the ship."

"Essentially, yes, Captain," Eleven replied. "This form lacks the capability to do so directly, but I am capable of advising and observing Commander Bowen's team on changes which they might be capable of making, and can write the necessary operating system if you desire. The modifications should be possible to effect within six or seven days, and given the resources of the Valkyrie, would allow for a maximum velocity of warp two point three, reducing the length of our return to Earth by fifteen days."

Palmer nodded. It might have not been much, but warp two on a single off-centre nacelle was rather good.

"Which certainly beats three weeks of replicator restrictions and emergency rations," she said. "See to it, I'll let Commander Bowen know to expect you in engineering."

"Aye, Captain," Eleven replied. Turning to leave Palmer's quarters, she paused, glancing over her shoulder. "And Captain? Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be of assistance."

******

Palmer gazed out of the observation window while voraciously devouring a massive platter of bacon and eggs, and observed the skeletal forms of the new nacelles. The only true damage had been to the port nacelle, which had been severed mid-way along the pylon, but Meliden had been insistent that simply replacing one nacelle could lead to micro variances between the two, which could lead to instabilities in the warp field, so both nacelles had to be replaced with substitutes fabricated with identical timestamps.

Picking up a PADD, Palmer scrolled through files and notes while sipping a glass of orange juice. The repairs were well underway, which left her only to deal with a long overdue personnel situation. Draining the remains of the juice, Palmer rose from her chair and left the eatery, nodding her thanks to Cara.

***

In the conference suite aboard McKinley Station, Palmer stood and looked over her assembled crew, and felt a swell of pride in her chest.

"Thank you for joining me on such short notice," she began. "The last few weeks have been a trying time for all of us, but you have all conducted yourselves with the professionalism and competence which I have come to expect of you all.

"As you are all no doubt aware, there was recently a lapse in that professionalism, where one of our own chose to go outside the chain of command, taking actions which I would not expect from a first year cadet, let alone a seasoned Commander with over two decades experience behind him. We are not here to debate the dubious wisdom of our departed friend, but to determine a means by which to proceed.

"Starfleet saw fit to equip the Valkyrie with twin tactical consoles to increase efficiency, but the result was one of unacceptable compromise to the ship's systems. From this moment on, I have ordered the yard engineers to re-designate tactical two as a dedicated communications console, which will be manned by Midshipman Ramesh Kumar, leaving the Valkyrie's tactical systems to be under the sole jurisdiction of the chief of security, to whom I shall be the only officer on board with superior clearance.

"I have considered several applications for the position of First Officer, but find myself unable to chose one candidate above the other, so for this reason, I shall not be selecting one candidate above another. Lieutenant Brandon Mayer, you have been my right hand for longer than I care to remember, and Lieutenant Commander Bellic Chanos, while a relative newcomer to our crew, you have consistently and continually impressed me with your flawless dedication to duty and competence.

"I hereby promote you both to the rank of commander, where, in addition to your respective roles as operations manager and tactical officer, you will additionally act as my executive officers, assisting and advising me, and sharing the duties of a First Officer as you see fit between you, with complete equality. Congratulations, gentlemen, it will be an honor to continue to serve with you, and I know of none better to undertake your positions.

In the assembled crowd, the two men exchanged handshakes, before returning their attention to Palmer, who's gaze had fallen on a slender bald-headed woman toward the back of the suite, dressed in a floor-length civilian coat of shimmering pastel colors, which left her arms bare from the shoulders. Her left arm was covered from shoulder to mid-forearm with black geometric tattoos.

"Additionally, it is my great honor to welcome aboard Ambassador S'rR's, Pentaxian Ambassador to the Federation. While the ambassador's duties will be significantly different to her previous role, I have every confidence that she will undertake them with the same dedication and grace.

"Thank you all for your time, you may return to your duties."

Last edited by marcusdkane; 03-21-2013 at 05:36 PM. Reason: Final polish...
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 591
# 22
03-21-2013, 09:59 AM
Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding USS King Estmere NCC-92984

Sixty hours.

"Any change?" I ask, more for the sake of hearing my own voice than anything else.

"There are no alterations, esteemed commander," Jeroequene replies. "The external vista remains of the deepest fuliginous blackness, and the void is pristine in its emptiness, free from even the slightest traces of matter. Were it not for the omnipresent microwave background radiation, we might fancy ourselves cut off from the universe entire."

She still sounds cheerful, though. Jolciots always do. Jeroequene is female, and doesn't have the imposing beard and keratinous crest of her fiance, Commander Thirethequ, so her mauve face is somewhat easier to read. She still looks cheerful. Clearly, it takes more than being trapped in a lightless, featureless void for two and a half days to put a damper on Jolciot spirits.

Two and a half days. Sixty hours since King Estmere's sensors picked up the faint anomaly, nothing more than a fugitive glint in space... since we turned to investigate and record it... and since that fugitive gleam suddenly flashed into brilliance and was gone - taking all the stars with it.

I stand up. "I'm going to see how they're doing in Main Engineering," I say. "Jeroequene, you have the bridge."

"I shall discharge the responsibility faithfully!" Jeroequene proclaims. "Please, o Admiral, be so kind as to tell my betrothed he is in my thoughts, should you chance to encounter him."

"I'll do that." It's impossible, I find, to get angry at the Jolciots. But I dread the day I have to ask one of them for a concise report.

Then again... it looks like we have nothing but time, just now.

---

Main Engineering is a picture of gloom. My exec, Anthi Vihl, and my chief engineer, Dyssa D'jheph, are hunched over a console, their antennae drooping in exhaustion and despair. I can feel my own starting to do the same. Thirethequ is working busily at another console - another two consoles, in fact, his long arms letting him reach the control crystals on both together. "Commander Jeroequene sends her regards," I tell him. Somewhere between his clattering forehead crest and his bristling beard, his eyes light up. "My gratification knows no bounds!" he exclaims. "And my gratitude, noble leader, at bringing me this word."

"Any progress?" I ask the room in general.

Dyssa snarls. "Getting nowhere," she snaps. "It's the same problem - we can't establish a warp field, not here. Space-time is just too... too flat."

There is no problem, in theory... but breaking the light barrier is never entirely simple. Creating a warp field, the ship's engines work on the structure of the space-time continuum around them - and the structure, in this no-place, is too simple to be of any help. King Estmere is like a man lying on a sheet of ice, unable to gain the traction he needs to get to his feet. In the absence of local stresses, of curved space due to gravity fields - near or far - the energy expenditure required to generate the field rises, exponentially. To a level which even my ship's tremendous engines can't attain.

"You had some ideas," I say to Anthi. She shakes her head.

"Sorry, sir. I was hoping some of the Romulan quantum-singularity tech might help... but, even with that, it looks like we can't generate enough of a gravity gradient to be any use." She hands me a PADD, showing the power requirements. The energy curve looks like a cliff, one we can't climb.

My antennae twitch. "I'm beginning to wonder.... Suppose we concentrated the ship's field and synchronised with, say, one of the shuttles? Could we use King Estmere's engines to... to kick a shuttle out of this?"

Dyssa shakes her head. "A shuttle's structural integrity wouldn't stand it," she says.

"The Cotswold, then?" The Captain's Yacht is a status symbol, and one I hardly ever use - but the tough little craft might just come in useful, here.

"Maybe." Dyssa bites her lip. "But it'd be a one way trip, wouldn't it, sir? And we don't know into what... unless you've got something back from one of the probes?"

It's my turn to shake my head. We launched six Class II probes, one after another, when this first started. Each one left its launch tube, and vanished, tracelessly, as if it had never been, before it was fifty metres from the ship. What happened to them? And what would happen to a shuttlecraft? If I can't answer that question - best not to risk lives.

"It'd be better," Anthi says, "if we had some idea what this... this thing... actually is. All we've got so far is negative. No light, no matter, no gravity -"

"November," I mutter.

"What?"

"It's not important. An old human poem I read once.... I'm going to check in with science division. You're right, we need some answers here."

---

"Commander Zazaru's down on launch pad C," the human science officer tells me at the main lab. Her name's Addie van Benn, and she's new to my crew; small and rather self-effacing, with a pale face framed by long dark hair. Her hair looks tousled, now; the science division has been busy, and with the same infuriating lack of results we've all been getting. "She says she wants to make some direct observations."

"Direct observations? What of?"

"Nothing, I guess. Sir." Addie runs a hand through her hair, tangling it further. "Sorry, sir. It's just -" She shrugs helplessly.

"I know," I tell her, as kindly as I can manage. "Damned hard to theorize in the absence of anything."

"Yeah." She looks miserable. "We've run through what readings we could get from - well, from when this started. But we still don't have any theoretical model - well, no, I guess that's not true. We've got some theories. But we've got no way to test them, when we've got nothing to work on but - nothing."

"My colleague is correct," a gravelly voice says near my ear, and I almost jump. The former Borg drone, whose only name now is Three of Eight, moves with an uncanny quietness sometimes. The expression in his one visible eye is unreadable, as usual. "We have seventeen hypotheses of varying degrees of probability, but we have no effective protocols for verification on any one. If there were some variation in our circumstances, we would be able to evolve further theories. However, none has yet been reported."

"Everyone's watching the sensor arrays like hawks," I say. "A single speck of dust, a flash of light, and alarm bells are going to go off all through the ship.... I'll go find Zazaru, and see what she's looking for."

When I find her, though, my chief science officer is simply sitting on one of the launch rails for the Scorpion fighters, staring through the force field that blocks the launch bay. She has set the field for full transparency, and her dark eyes are fixed on the total blackness beyond. I climb up one of the stanchions and join her, quietly. I can see, above and to the left, the gleaming bulk of King Estmere's forward section, and beyond that... nothing.

"I thought," Zazaru says, after a while, "that I might get some insight by... viewing the outside directly. Rather than working through remotes and sensors - oh, I know I get more information from those, but... possibly not so much understanding."

"I think I know what you mean," I say.

She looks down at the solid metal of the launch rail. "In the end, though," she says, "I just found my thoughts going as blank as all that out there.... I'm sorry, sir, that isn't helping."

"Don't worry," I say, softly. "We'll think of something. We have plenty of time...."

Probably. King Estmere is a Starfleet ship, equipped and provisioned for long voyages into unexplored territory - but she is not a closed system; she depends, eventually, on the fuel supply captured from stray atoms of matter and antimatter in her Bussard collectors, and in this complete absence of anything, she will, eventually, run out of power. There's no immediate need to worry, but there are deadlines in my head, already: the dates when we need to implement economy measures, to impose replicator rationing... and that's without contending with the crushing psychological effects of being stranded in all that endless black. Those worry me more than anything else. If once we lose hope -

I look out at the blackness, and imagine my ship, seen from the outside, a single glowing jewel of light and life in an infinite ocean of darkness. How long before that darkness seeps in and claims us all?

I blink and shake my head. This is exactly what I was worrying about... I'm starting to think of that darkness as a positive force, as an enemy. And it's not... it's nothing like that. All it is, is an absence... a night sky with no stars, no dawn....

"Wait a minute," I say. Zazaru looks up at me. "Something -" I frown as I try to follow the nagging flash of thought.

I stand up. "I've had an idea," I say. "I need to check something out. Let's go to the bridge."

---

Jeroequene salutes formally as we enter the bridge. The gesture always looks odd with those long Jolciot arms. I return the salute, as I head for the command console. "Commander Jeroequene, any change in status?"

"With regret, I can report none, sir."

"What about contents of the surrounding volume? Still nothing?" My fingers close on a control crystal. I'm getting the hang of these crazy Tholian controls, now; it's easy enough to scroll back through the logs, to find what I need to check.

"Space is sadly devoid of all content, down to the humblest and least significant molecule, esteemed Admiral."

"And it shouldn't be," I say, with satisfaction. I call up the log entries I need, point to them. Zazaru frowns, and even Jeroequene looks vaguely perturbed.

"Why is the sky black?" I ask.

Zazaru looks at me and blinks. "Because... there's nothing out there?" she answers slowly.

"It's not a rhetorical question," I say. "It's one people asked at the start of astronomy: why is the night sky black? The answer, basically, is that the light gets out through holes. And there are always holes, no matter how far you go -"

"I see," says Zazaru. "And from that, we developed, in the end, the concept of unbounded space-time, and a continuously expanding cosmos, and the Big Bang. But how does this apply to us?"

"Because it's black out there," I say. "And King Estmere is emitting radiation on half the octaves of the EM spectrum, never mind just the visible one. And that's not all." I point to the log entries on the screen. "We deployed probes, and when we did that, we fired thrusters to compensate for the minute acceleration that gave the ship. So there should be traces, still, of the reaction mass we deployed then. Not much, a few molecules per cubic metre of space, perhaps, but not nothing. For that matter, the ship's not perfectly sealed - there are micro-leaks, there is outgassing from the plating of the hull. But the space around us is perfectly clean. Do you see what that means?"

Zazaru's eyes are wide. "I think so," she says. "The material, the radiation, is leaving and it's not coming back."

"Right," I say. "What about us? When we reached the anomaly, we were travelling at warp speed; we dropped out and matched its velocity in real space. Standard procedure. So, as far as it is concerned, we're at rest. Motionless." I laugh. "And we haven't tried to move, in real space, because we couldn't see anywhere to go."

"We still can't," Zazaru says.

"We don't need to," I say. "All we need to do, right now, is to get out of this. Once we're out, we'll deal with whatever comes next - but the first step is out." My fingers dance on the control panel; my voice echoes over the intercom system. "All hands, this is the captain speaking. Prepare for acceleration. Full impulse in five seconds."

It's just about time for Zazaru to say, "Sir, what if you're wrong?"

"Then we'll deal with that, too," I say, firmly. "But sometimes you just have to take a leap in the dark."

The inertial dampers are running smoothly, there is not even a shudder as King Estmere's impulse drive comes to life. There is only a change on the readouts on my command console, one I hardly notice as I peer intently into the viewscreen -

- and, suddenly, the stars are back.

"Magnificent!" crows Jeroequene. "Inspirational!"

"Position check," I order, firmly. I'm still not a hundred per cent sure where we've come out....

"I'm picking something up," says Zazaru; she has moved to the main science console without my even noticing. "Reading... It's our probes, sir. All six, transmitting as per normal settings."

"We are - exactly where we were, noble Admiral," Jeroequene reports from her console. "All standard astrographic markers confirm this with gratifying exactitude."

I sigh, and switch to reverse angle on the viewer. In the greenish contrails of King Estmere's impulse engines, what I'm looking for isn't easy to see, but it's there; a faint, chatoyant glimmer in space. An anomaly. Things that go in, can't look out. And that's all there is to it.

"We'd better mark that as a navigational hazard," I say, finally. "And as a subject for further study... I'd like to know which of your seventeen hypotheses actually pans out." I grin. "Besides which, I need to give Admiral Semok some reason why we're nearly three days late for our next assignment."
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 146
# 23
03-21-2013, 08:22 PM
Part 1 - Dishonoring the Dead
Based on LC 13, Facility 4208
February 2411

Hiding a classified research laboratory in the Badlands was a stupid idea. Hiding it in such an unstable region that only small science vessels with special shielding could access it was an invitation for a disaster. Today was that disaster.

Heather Eldredge and Yair Hillel were returning to the Odyssey from Facility 4208 when the Klingon vessel de-cloaked. Normally they wouldn't be much of a threat - Klingon technology hadn't kept the pace with the Federation for the last decade or so - but here, the smallest of weapons could be formidable. Odyssey was on the verge of falling apart due to the stresses caused by gravitic anomalies, so a lucky disruptor shot here or there could easily kill the entire crew.

Out of the three runabouts, Hathaway had the strongest shields. That made her the default choice for the trip to and from Facility 4208. Unfortunately, Odyssey's engineering staff was in the middle of upgrading the weapons when Eldredge and Hillel departed. The forward phaser array was still standard issue. A state-of-the-art chroniton mine launcher facing aft was the only noticeable improvement.

The Ki'tang Bird of Prey had started the fight with a few lucky shots. Odyssey's deflector array was a charred crater, and the underside of the saucer had several hull breaches. Eldredge knew that Hathaway's actions could significantly increase the chances of Odyssey limping back to Deep Space Nine. She pushed her brown hair behind her ear and faced Hillel. "Deploy mines and tractor them behind us. We need to manually evade their fire while we approach. Then we'll beam out and ram them with the runabout and the mines."

"That works for me. Mines deployed. Continuing to fire phasers."

Hathaway
shook violently. "How about starting to overload the warp core? Slowly, of course."

Hillel smiled. "Yes ma'am."

Plasma funnels mysteriously grew and arched towards Hathaway. One funnel spiked a mine, causing a detonation a little too close to the hull. The turns suddenly felt heavier as the cabin lights flickered. None of this caused Eldredge to lose focus.

Hillel's control panel stopped functioning. "Firing phasers under these circumstances probably isn't too wise. What do you recommend?"

Eldredge paused for a moment and turned to face Hillel. "Tell Emily that I enjoyed her fourth birthday party last week. Tell Isabella that she was always a great friend and confidante."

"What? You can't possibly..." Hillel's view of the runabout was quickly replaced with a view of Transporter Room 1 aboard Odyssey. He stepped off of the transporter pad and sat down on the steps. He had a terrible feeling about what Eldredge was going to do.

---

Eldredge found it easier to focus once she was alone. I should have said goodbye, she thought. Sensors indicated that the Klingons didn't have stable shielding. They were probably on a suicide mission. If her plan didn't work out, she'd end up on one too.

The mines were held by the shuttle's tractor beam. It would take about thirty seconds for her to reach the Klingon vessel. She debated between striking the bridge and main engineering. The bridge would be more symbolic, so she set her focus there.

"Hathaway, commence immediate record backup with Odyssey. First officer's log, supplemental. I am a few seconds away from immobilizing an attacking Klingon vessel. Mom, Dad and Arthur, I love you. I hope I have made you proud. End recording."

The transporter was set to beam her to Odyssey five seconds before impact or when the shield strength fell below twenty percent. Twenty, nineteen, eighteen...no! I hate these plasma funnels. Nine, eight...

---

Captain Everitt Carter couldn't believe his eyes. "She's going to ram them! Fire everything we have at the Klingons. Maybe she will break off if we can paralyze them first."

Kerna'tharan, the Jem'Hadar at the tactical station, responded. "We have been firing for seven minutes. It will take approximately two more minutes to destroy the Klingon vessel if we can survive their attack. But Commander Eldredge's actions may win the battle."

Carter stood up. "I can't believe she is doing this..." Hathaway impacted with the Klingon vessel, followed by the chroniton mines. The resulting explosion destroyed two-thirds of the vessel.

"Carter to Transporter Room 1. Do we have Eldredge?"

The reply was clearly hesitant. "She started transport but the pattern wasn't fully sent. Her power levels must be fluctuating wildly. I lost her for a moment there and am waiting to reacquire a signal."

"There is no need. She is dead."

Odyssey's brig was filled to capacity that night.

---

The next morning

The door chime interrupted Carter's thoughts. He quickly wiped his cheeks and told the guest to enter.

Second officer T'Panna entered the doorway and stopped two feet inside the ready room. "Lieutenant Commander T'Panna reporting as ordered, sir."

Carter rubbed his bald forehead and sat up straight. "I know who you are." He sighed. "Alright, that didn't come across well. Please have a seat."

She sat down. Her perfect posture made Carter want to scream.

"I am promoting you to Commander and making you the first officer. I wish that I didn't have to...what I mean to say is that I wish that Heather was still alive. But since she is not, you deserve her post. You can remain head science officer if you would like. There's no shame in giving that to someone else though."

"Thank you for the promotion Captain. Will that be all?"

Carter stood up. "Yes. Dismissed."

T'Panna reached the threshold of the door and then stopped. "I am one quarter human, and I am familiar with pain and loss. I am not a cold, stoic Vulcan like you assume that I am.

"You are clearly grieving. Why don't you take a day or two off? I believe that I can handle operations while we make repairs and berth at Deep Space Nine."

Carter was speechless. T'Panna's facial reaction almost hinted at emotions. It took a few seconds to process that information. "If you don't mind, I think I will do that. Thank you."

T'Panna left without another word.

---

Two days later

Carter dropped the padd on his desk. Then he pounded it with his fist. Oh how I loathe journalists! The admiralty would turn a blind eye to the ridiculous claims in this article, but would the public? Would his wife?
Odyssey Damaged in Badlands; Foul Play Suspected

By Anton Po, B'Hala Tribune

The luna-class U.S.S. Odyssey limped back to Deep Space Nine yesterday with eighteen freshly-replicated caskets carrying the remains of crew killed in unusual circumstances. Federation logs indicate that Odyssey entered the Badlands to test a new adaptive deflector array. Photographs taken upon Odyssey's return to Bajoran space show what appear to be craters from weapons impact where the prototype deflector should have been. A few other parts of the ship had new hull panels. Sources indicate that a Danube-class runabout was listed as damaged during the mission.

Bajoran and Cardassian officials deny any activity in the Badlands for the past eight days. One obvious question remains - who fired on Odyssey? A credible source hinted at the possibility of a disgruntled officer stealing the runabout and firing on Odyssey. When asked about this possibility, Captain Everitt Carter's reply was terse: "Go to hell." First officer Heather Eldredge was unavailable for comment.
Carter picked up the padd and sent the article to Counselor ch'Raul. He added a note: Sensational writing like this dishonors the dead.

****************

Part 2 - A New Name
Loosely based on LC 26, Senior Officers
September 2411


Moving back to alpha shift certainly had its advantages for Amanda Carpenter. The obvious one was more time with her boyfriend, chief engineer Miguel Jarvis. The move also gave her more time to see some old friends, like Ensign Melinda Atkins. This morning Carpenter, Jarvis and Atkins were eating breakfast in the cafeteria, gossiping about the same thing on everyone's mind.

"Days like today make me feel like democracy is fundamentally flawed," Jarvis commented.

Carpenter's reply was instantaneous. "You don't feel the excitement in the air? What's wrong with you? Did you not get enough sleep last night?"

Jarvis saw Atkins squirm in her seat, so he decided against commenting on last night's activities. "I would think that after two rounds of voting, there would be at least one reasonable choice left. I might sit this one out."

"I am voting for Korto." Carptenter's smile faded, revealing a somber mood. The Bajoran city had been devastated by a terrorist attack days after Miles O'Brien's funeral. Preliminary intelligence placed the blame on the Breen. With Starfleet stretched so thin, it was unlikely that the Breen would pay for their crime.

---

Alistair Simeon and Glotz rarely saw eye to eye, but on this issue they were in complete agreement. "Kilimanjaro is the perfect name," Glotz agreed. "The name sounds Klingon, but I can live with that. The other choices are nonsense."

They reached the turbolift entrance and waited. "Hopefully my promotional video will swing enough votes to our side. If not, everyone onboard will have to go see ch'Raul for counseling. Who wants to live on a starship named after a city that got blown up? We get into fights more than a Luna class ship should, so we don't need to be reminded of death every single day."

---

Yair Hillel hadn't adjusted to working beta shift. Almost all of his friends were working when he was sitting in his quarters, trying to find something to do. His new position - acting captain for beta shift - didn't have nearly as many responsibilities as being head of security. But Captain Carter insisted that the change wasn't a demotion. That was an obvious lie.

Hillel felt punished for his recent behaviors. Who could blame him for feeling uncertain when the gods of an alien species accosted him with a vision? He was a bit absent-minded when the Borg fiasco occurred, but things worked out well...for most people. Lieutenant Thyssr's prosthetic arm and foot would be a permanent testament to Hillel's temporary lapse in judgment. Forget to tell one Andorian about safety protocols and you get demoted...

Thankfully today was the final round of voting. He was confident that his proposal would win. That would bring some much-needed luck to his life.

---

ch'Raul had a hard time restraining a laugh. Lieutenant Simeon probably didn't mean to be entertaining, but he most certainly was. "Starfleet Command may steal our ship's name from us, but we are still formidable. That's why Kilimanjaro is the perfect name for our beloved vessel. We may be number two in the eyes of the admiralty, but we are a force to be reckoned with. I almost lost two fingers to frostbite when I climbed that mountain, and its majesty has never left me. Now I want our vessel to have the mountain's name.

"Don't be a wimp. Give our ship a name that is worthy of a champion. Vote Kilimanjaro."

The video ended. Ch'Raul put the padd down and gave in to his laugh. There was no way that Simeon would be triumphant today - unless the crew wasted their vote because of his ridiculous survival gear and frozen mustache in the video. Rumor had it that the crusted ice covering Simeon's face was real.

---

Odyssey sent the results to Captain Carter's desk terminal within a second of the voting deadline. He wondered if he would come to regret this decision. Then he looked at the results and smiled.

T'Panna was standing behind him and rubbing his shoulders. "That is an inappropriate name for our vessel," she noted. "Will you stand behind your decision to let the crew rename the vessel?"

"Absolutely. Thanks for the massage but you should probably step off to the side. It's time to brief the crew on the results." He pressed a button to activate the shipwide comm and desk camera.

"All hands, this is Captain Carter. The results are in. Kilimanjaro, eighteen percent. Korto, thirty-three percent. Reaper, fifty-one percent. At 0800 hours tomorrow, this ship will be renamed the U.S.S. Reaper.

"I hope that you have enjoyed this exercise. It's a shame that the fleet is stealing this vessel's name, giving it to the largest ship ever created, and not offering to let us staff that vessel. But, we will continue to do our best. As captain of the Reaper, I thank you for your service. Enjoy your evening."

A few minutes later, Hillel came to relieve Carter and start beta shift. Carter shook Hillel's hand. "Congratulations on your campaign to name the vessel Reaper. I will leave her in your competent hands."

"Thank you Captain. I hope you find the name to your liking."

"It's fine with me. I hate to ask, but are you still disappointed about the personnel change?"

Hillel hesitated before replying. "Kerna'tharan makes an excellent security chief. I miss the job, but I can see why you moved me. I have to keep telling myself that you still trust me though."

"I trust you with the life of each and every crew member as soon as soon as I leave this deck. More importantly, I see plenty of potential for your future. This assignment is easier for you, but a lot of captains look for this kind of experience when they select first officers."

"Thank you sir."

"Now if you will excuse me, T'Panna and I have a dinner date scheduled. Enjoy your shift Yair."

"Yes sir. Enjoy your evening."

T'Panna smiled. "To do otherwise would be illogical."

Last edited by superhombre777; 03-22-2013 at 07:24 PM.
Captain
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,077
Captain's Log: Stardate 89194.2


I'm not sure how she managed to swing it but she did and I can almost guarantee which pointy eared Section Agent it was that told her too. I haven't seen the old bat for almost a decade now but suddenly we were face to face in the airlock. Normally I try to avoid such a thing, but with the missions we usually come across it's a little difficult, the science types back in San Francisco love some of the weird things we come across in the field so i suppose i should have expected this, either way she was here to examine Crewman Wraith and to be honest I was a bit nervous of what might happen. She's always had a bit of a soft spot for fish out of water, so I'm sure once she heard about the one on the Geist she jumped at the chance.


It was a bit of a surprise visit while we were at Earth Space Dock for refit the Geist with some new Borg tech. To be honest had I known about the visit in advance they'd have probably had to put a few tractor beams on the ship to keep me from leaving. She came on board with Admiral Aviess, whom I might add was beside herself in doing this, as overseer of the installation team. The initial meeting went well though the Admiral was a bit surprised by his demeanor, the polite and excitable young man with the Vulcan ears and the Borg complexion. I don't know whose idea it was but I stepped out for a minute and returned to him calling her... "Aunt Kathy."


They spent a lot of time together while she was here overseeing the refit, at one of the dinners with the senior staff she told a few stories of our last meeting at a diplomatic conference, I was serving on one of the ships posted as security and had a few... less then diplomatic encounters with a few of the delegates, one of which ended with me confined to quarters after missing a shift due to a Deltan bar tender. I had managed to pull a muscle or two in my back dealing with some rowdy Klingon patrons and she refused to let me leave until she massaged them back into place. Nothing inappropriate mind you as I still had my sanity but needless to say Marleen had spent every minute of that confinement tearing me a new one regardless. The Admiral had a good laugh at that point when Wraith asked "A new what?"


I delegated most of her tours and such to Commander T'Pal, but on occasions where I had to be present the Admiral and I were cordial at best. She had a habit of telling me how to make the ship more efficient, tweaking emitters and relays to boost the main deflector, minor adjustments to the old Borg systems to help integrate the new modifications, one of which is a prototype version of the Borg cutting beam. I don't mind when officers offer up suggestions, but she tends to "unofficially" assume command and frankly it shows as I've been talking to E'Saul more as a counselor than a friend lately.


Much to my surprise David had been a little on edge as well since Janeway arrived. Usually Dave's a bit of a kiss up when it comes to admirals on board, he's a military man through and through, but every now and then he can get his nose dirty when trying to look good. I stopped him as we were passing in a turbo lift and he tried to dance around the issue but was a bit too easy to read, there was something he knew that was making him uncomfortable and my gut was telling me I should know it too. It wasn't until I saw who he was meeting with that I came back to that nervous feeling which was later reaffirmed that same evening I'd received a call to the holodeck.


As soon as the doors slid open I knew where I was. It was "Incursion Scenario: Wraith Alpha One", a program I should have deleted because I knew eventually this day would come. Keating had shown her the holorecording, more than likely under orders from Janeway or Aviess, no matter how brown his nose is he's a loyal officer and it would only have been under direct orders that he would have unlocked that and not tell me. I was furious by the time I reached the bridge of the Klingon vessel but I stopped dead in my tracks once I saw the expression on her face. There was regret and almost a sadness to her and my heart sank.


She couldn't believe the simulation she'd just watched, not when compared to the young man she'd been spending so much time with, but here laid bare was the weapon he was meant to be. It was a simulation that Drake talked Admiral Aviess into shortly after we had returned to Earth with the boy and Drake wanted the chance to see what exactly he could do unrestricted. She was horrified. I gave her a moment to collect her thoughts, but she kept fiddling with her badge and with her, that meant bad news. She wanted to take him off of the ship, and I couldn't do anything to stop her. I always knew this would happen but I'd be damned though if I wouldn't make it as hard as possible for her though.


Admiral Aviess herself had been no help as she was out ranked in this regard. My senior staff was all to eager to help out, including Commander Keating, who had been avoiding me since the turbolift. He and Wraith never really got along, but He was going to fight for the boy like he would any other member of the crew, something that really hit me kind of hard. This was his home, really the only one he'd ever had, and the closest thing to a family was about to be taken away from him. I knew the old lady was stubborn, but she seemed a bit torn on this herself. On the one hand she was the head of Starfleet's Science Division being shown a weapon built with top secret Federation technology and on the other hand was a polite young man calling her "Aunt Kathy".


My best option was to exploit this, for as much as we butt heads the Admiral was a good woman and willing to listen to reason. I began talking with Wraith on the subject and as expected he didn't want to leave the ship but was more than willing to cooperate and you could see it in his eyes and to be honest you could see it in everything he did. He understood the why but it really didn't make a difference this time around. With as much time as they were spending together he didn't get why..."Aunt Kathy"... would do something like this and from the sound of it he felt hurt by her decision. He'd been hurt numerous times on away missions or during combat, but it was all physical pain ant this was the first time the boy had ever really felt pain on an emotional level.


He didn't have a lot to pack so it didn't take much time before he had beamed down to Starfleet Headquarters. From this point on she would over see the refit remotely checking in with her team from San Francisco. More than likely she had him in a lab, possibly something like personal quarters to make him feel more comfortable, it's a standard tactic to help keep observation subjects to compliant and I couldn't help be angered by a member of my Crew being treated as such. No one I contacted could really do much in the way of help. Admiral Janeway was one of the higher ups when it came to both the Borg and Science stuff on general giving her the final say in a lot of these manners.


After a week since they'd left I even tried pulling legal precedent on the grounds that he is a person and not officially a member of the Federation, something to which Aviess responded that given what he is she could have done this long ago and she had to pull a few strings to keep him aboard more as a favor to me. I was livid at this point, with all of the missions this ship had come through, many of which Wraith had been a part of, and yet there seemed to be no one I could turn too. I decided to go directly to the source of my problem since none of this would have happened had she not come aboard and maybe it was about time to pay her a visit and see what kind of mischief I can get into under her watch, something that I haven't done since undergoing Borg training under her at the academy.


When we materialized outside of her complex it wasn't at all like I had expected. Commander T'Pal and I had beamed in close and with out calling ahead, other wise she might have thrown up a few force fields before we arrived. Upon walking in though we found no resistance and in fact the woman at reception had been expecting me. T'Pal had to remind me to be polite as the receptionist was more than willing to help and even thanked her for me as I stormed off down the hall way. Barging through the doors what I'd found had surprised me, instead of a lab filled with doctors and scientists I found my self in a grassy field out side of a small Earth town or village more like it.


T'Pal was silent upon entering as well, I guess that's as close to surprise as a Vulcan can get when entering an unexpected holodeck. As we walked further in The townsfolk were more than pleasant and willing to help and admittedly it did kind of put me at an awkward calm, almost as if I were a bit too curious as to what was going on to be angry. It had to be early nineteenth century from the by the dress some where in Ancient Europe from the accents, but history was never a favorite subject of mine. I didn't even know where to start looking for Wraith or the Admiral and the computer didn't respond to my commands when my First Officer suggested simply asking to which an elderly man answered that "Mrs. O'Claire and that Dark Fae nephew a hers were at the pub last I seen 'em".


Upon entering a place called Sullivan's we found the Admiral and Wraith playing some kind of ring toss game and laughing aloud like nothing was wrong, the boy noticed me almost instantly and waved excitedly for us to come over. I was more than confused at this point and didn't know where to start when suddenly Janeway said the only thing that mattered: "He's already packed and ready to go." She orders him off of my ship and keeps him at a laboratory compound for a week and when I barge in to protest he's already ready to return?


As T'Pal and Wraith went off to collect his bag it gave me time to talk with the Admiral about what happened and why the sudden change in heart, why would she deem him too dangerous and then suddenly hand him back? She looked at me confused for a moment herself before responding with "Dangerous? Heavens no, I took him for his own good. Did you know he's never even seen a book let alone read one?" She had me there... Years later and the ol' bat was still educating me. With every thing he was learning on the ship we never stopped to think what he might want to learn, we were teaching him to be a better crewman but not a better person. I've never really talked to him much about what he might want to learn, I did the same thing to Thomas as a boy, teaching him what I thought he should know instead of encouraging his abilities. She explained that she had him removed for his own good, so that he could be better than what he was built to be, but no matter what she could teach him here his place was on the Geist. It's where he belonged and where he wanted to be, with those he considered his family. She did raise a little concern when he asked if he could visit a certain Ambassador that he owned though...


When she walked us out of the complex she handed Wraith a small data padd full of things he should keep studying as well as a list of books to replicate before turning to me and asking about several fruit baskets giving me a nice opportunity to beam back to the Geist giving her nothing but a smirk and a thank you. After he managed to get settle in of course I swung by his quarters to walk him to a welcome back dinner the senior staff was throwing. Curiously though he mentioned that the only scientific procedure she had done was an extraction of his nanite antibodies, reprogramming them to be more like a virus as part of a plan B for a trip she might be taking soon. I made a note to check into that later as it seemed very out of place for her to do such a thing. For now though it was good to have him back though it wasn't until we reached the mess hall that he said something that really made me smile.


"I really enjoyed the time spent with Aunt Kathy, but she kind of seemed full of herself, like she's smarter and you should know it."


I couldn't help but laugh as the doors slid open and every one welcomed the boy home.

Last edited by wraithshadow13; 03-23-2013 at 07:31 AM.
Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,302
# 25 Frozen (LC #28: Stranded)
03-24-2013, 01:00 AM
I can't sleep
I've lost the urge to see
No one's left a friend
The cost of ill pretend

Where'd you go? I need you now...

Ten thousand miles apart
A frozen ocean joins our hearts
I can't wait to meet you when
The frozen waves meet ocean floors
You'll be standing on the shore
I can't wait to meet you then

I still dream
But what should I believe?
Frozen shapes to bend
Impossible sets in

Lost again, still alone...

Sisely Treasure and Chad Petree of Shiny Toy Guns - "Frozen Oceans"




FROZEN


Personal log: General Ssharki, commanding I.K.S. Norgh'a'Qun. Stardate... 88... something.

Okay, um,
baQa', where do I start? If you're reviewing this log, what the hell took you so long? I am dead, as well as likely Cal and Nietta. And maybe even Chopper. The stupid little targ will probably outlast us all on this filthy iceball, unless I get desperate enough to eat him. Hah, QI'yaH. Pull yourself together, Ssharki. Prex, my security escort, died in the crash. Let the record show that he died performing his duty. His clan is to be compensated as per the details of his contract. He was a good and honorable man - a rarity among Nausicaans, I know, but that's the truth.

What follows are personal messages for my senior officers...


Ssharki finished recording his farewells and took a final look around the wrecked forward cabin of his personal shuttle, the Ho'norgh. He exhaled his breath between his teeth in a hissing sigh as he tossed his old Starfleet-issue PADD onto the pilot's seat. The Klingons called this class of shuttlecraft a "Chariot" - intended for use by the most privileged Generals in the Klingon Defense Force and leaders of the Great Houses or their personal staff. They were luxuriously appointed even by Federation standards, and also well-armed, even by Klingon standards. One thing they lacked, however, was adequate thermal insulation.

Ssharki pulled his fur-lined cloak tighter around his shoulders as he walked back to the passenger compartment and looked in on the two figures huddled together in bed. Nietta was still shivering under her pile of blankets. Cal was not. That was a bad sign. Ssharki rested a clawed hand atop the unconscious form of his adopted son. He was still breathing, at least. And as long as Nietta could generate enough body heat to keep both of them alive, there was a chance he could be saved. But the half-Orion, half-human female would not last much longer. They had run out of emergency rations two days ago. Without food to metabolize, her body would burn her small reserves of fat, then consume her own muscle tissues. Then she would die of starvation. And then cold-blooded Cal would freeze to death.

Ssharki lifted the covers of his own bed. "Move over, Chopper," he ordered. They young targ growled sleepily. Ssharki prodded it with his boot and the animal looked up, yawned, and crawled towards the bulkhead. Ssharki laid down under his blankets, pulled his cloak over his head and spread it atop his covers, followed by his thick jacket. He then reached for Chopper and pulled his pet closer to himself. The hot-blooded targ nuzzled his master, and provided precious warmth.

Ssharki had ceased shivering hours before. He knew he was experiencing the final stages of hypothermia. He dared not fall asleep, but he knew it was inevitable. His body would slowly shut down whether he remained conscious or not. His eyes slowly closed. His mind drifted off into a dream. Or was it a memory? It was the memory of the crash, or rather, the moments before. It all seemed so long ago...

* * *

Ssharki had just returned to the forward cabin after mixing himself a drink from the on-board wet bar. One part Saurian brandy, one part Romulan ale, two parts Cardassian kanar and three parts bloodwine; dubbed the "Jane Zombie" after the Norgh'a'Qun's shipboard bartender who claimed to have invented the drink in a previous life. Ssharki didn't really believe the human's claim that he lived a closed time loop. It didn't matter. His drink was delicious.

He sat down and sipped the drink, idly watching the stars zip by at Warp factor 8.5 for a minute or two, before turning his gaze toward the beautiful female across the cabin. Though she was a mammal, he still found her exotically stimulating. She knew this and delighted in this fact, and she wore a risqu? Orion bikini to show off as much of her silky brownish-green skin as possible without leaving the non-reptilian members of Ssharki's crew a quivering mess. Her long, luscious hair had been died indigo to match the color of her eyes. Her silk and metal costume presented complimentary shades of ruby and pale blue, apart from a kaleidoscope-print Tholian silk scarf that Ssharki had given her as a gift. "So, science officer, report: what did you enjoy the most about our survey excursion to New Romulus?"

Nietta Holbox stretched her long torso while thinking about the question. "What part did I most enjoy... I'd have to say the Atlai. I've never seen a more beautiful river, or more fascinating creatures gathered in one place."

"What about the bugs?" young Cal asked from the pilot's seat.

Nietta laughed. "Bugs don't bug me. I grew up around swarms of mosquitos that could suck a person dry. But you spray a predator's pheromones in the air, or play the recorded acoustic signal of a bat, and they clear out quick enough." Nietta had been born to an Orion woman, but her father was a human Starfleet stellar cartographer, and she was predominately raised by him up to the age of thirteen. She developed a fascination with all manner of scientific phenomena, ranging from astronomical anomalies to the unique evolution of animal life on Dewa III.

"I could have guessed that would be your answer," Ssharki remarked, still nursing his drink. "I think my favorite part was the look on your face and the squeal you made when you first looked down from that old bridge and saw that giant octopus-thing sitting under those waterfalls."

"You mean the nanov," Nietta corrected, using the Romulan word for "mother" that the researchers had ascribed to the water-loving creatures.

"Whatever," Ssharki growled, though he smiled at the memory. "Yeah, that would have to be my favorite part. That, or the look on your face when that Hirogen Beta attacked you from out of nowhere while you were picking flowers in the forest."

"I'm glad you found my attempted murder so amusing," Nietta grumbled back, although her bitter sarcasm was entirely in jest. Ssharki had been scanning for radiation traces a short distance away and counter-ambushed the Hirogen, biting his neck and running him through with a bat'leth before he ever realized the Gorn General was even there.

"My favorite part was working on repairs to the Romulan shuttle," Cal volunteered. "I'd never seen a singularity drive before!"

"What about finding Watterson?" Ssharki queried, indicating the blue, furry animal curled up asleep at Nietta's feet.

"That was cool too, but a little scary at the time," Cal admitted. The juvenile Gorn had found the epohh pup being terrorized by a vivver cat - the feline was toying with its prey, and defenseless little animal was about to die of pure fright. Little Cal had instantly attacked the much-larger predator, with his bare claws at first, before he remembered his phased-tetryon compression pistol. Cal then picked up the baby epohh - which hadn't actually been injured by the cat - and ran off to find Ssharki to ask if he could keep it. Cal was a techie at heart, with a very sensitive nature and a compassionate spirit. He was press-ganged into the KDF infantry the age of twelve. After annexing the Gorn Hegemony, the Klingons had made a habit of forcing orphaned Gorn children into military service, either not realizing or not caring that Gorn mature at about half the rate that Klingons do. Fortunately for Cal, Ssharki was aware of this practice. He intercepted Cal's assignment order and placed him aboard his own ship, and adopted him as his own son. Ssharki was extremely protective of his "Little One," in whom he saw the best traits of their species. After two years, though, he had started to allow Cal to accompany him on less-dangerous away missions. Cal was curious and inquisitive about nature and other cultures. And besides, he had a certain knack for field repairs. And piloting small craft. And subspace physics...

"How 'bout you, Prex?" Ssharki turned to his security officer, sitting at the Ho'norgh's tactical station next to Cal. "What'd you enjoy the most?"

"Killing Tholians," the Nausicaan replied with a shrug.

"Okay, what else?"

"Killing Hirogen."

"Okay, what else?"

"Killing anthro- artho... the big scorpion things."

"Uh-huh."

"And after them, killing the bad Romulans."

"Did you enjoy anything besides killing people and animals?"

Prex pondered for a moment. "I liked climbing rocks."

"Okay, that's a good hobby-" Ssharki was interrupted by a loud noise behind him. The shuttlecraft abruptly dropped out of warp. "What's happening?" the General demanded.

"I don't know," Cal told him. "Everything just went dead." The youth calmly tapped his engineering readouts to try to isolate the problem. "We can't generate a stable warp field. Let me check the intermix..." His eyes suddenly widened in alarm. "Oh, QI'yaH."

"Watch your mouth, Little One," Ssharki admonished. Cal had picked up his elder's habit of swearing in Klingon. The word he'd just uttered was one of the strongest curses known in any language.

"We're losing antimatter containment!" Cal shouted, ignoring the rebuke. "I don't know how or why, but every magnetic field on the ship is collapsing!"

"Jettison the storage pods!" Ssharki ordered.

"Qajay', don't you think I'm trying?" Cal pounded the display panel with his fists. "The clamps, the doors, the launching mechanism - everything is magnetic! Nothing works!"

"How long do we have?" Nietta wondered.

"Fifty seconds. Maybe a bit longer - it looks like the field collapse is following an inverse decay slope."

"Okay, I'll go back and release the containment pods manually," Ssharki decided. "You try to get the impulse engines online, set a course for the nearest M-class body, and transmit a distress call to the Qun."

"Qu'vatlh," the overwhelmed young Gorn muttered in frustration.

"Cal-"

"I'm on it, father!"

Ssharki sprinted back through the passenger cabin and entered the engineering section. The noise hadn't stopped. Back here, it was an ear-splitting shriek. The General ignored the pain in his auditory canals as he searched for the manual override controls. He found the locking clamps for the antimatter containment pods first, but step one was to open the outer hull doors so they could be jettisoned out into space. Those controls were located deep in the guts of the small craft. Ssharki wished he'd sent Cal back here and taken the flight controls himself, but there was no time for that now. He removed his leather uniform jacket, expelled the air from his lungs, constricted his muscles to make his massive body as slim as possible and maneuvered under the plasma manifold to reach the hatch release. Then he had to wriggle his way back out. All the while he had a countdown running in the back of his mind. Twenty-six seconds. He opened the locking clamps and searched for the launching mechanism, figuring it would be in an obvious place next to the clamp override. He couldn't find it. Eighteen seconds.

Ssharki tapped the communicator strapped to his wrist and called his young warp-drive expert. "Cal, where's the launcher control?"

"For'r'd bulkhead, lower panel, flat lever," came the instant reply.

Ssharki turned and scanned the control panel, picking out the Klingon word for "launch" from the foreign script. He yanked back the lever until he heard it click, then slammed it to the return position. The woosh of the launcher was inaudible over the tortured shriek of the magnetic coils, but he saw a red light on the panel turn amber, indicating that the emergency jettison procedure was successful. Then the panel exploded, as feedback current from the overloading magnetic induction coils found a new path of least resistance. Ssharki's keen reflexes kicked in - he turned away and raised his arm to protect his face. His tough, scaly hide absorbed the impacts of hot bits of metal, crystal and plastic without injury.

The screaming sound dropped an octave in pitch, and was now accompanied by a sickening high-frequency vibration that Ssharki could feel in the deckplate through the soles of his bare feet. Alarms were going off all around - too many for him to make any sense of. More display panels burned out. Ssharki scrambled back to the forward cabin where he hoped Cal knew what was happening now. "Report!"

"The fusion core is unstable," the adolescent announced. "I can't get more than one-quarter impulse, and that's pulling power from shields and weapons."

"Subspace radio is dead," Prex declared. "I transmitted a broad-spectrum distress call, but we're eleven light-years from the ship and six light years from the nearest traffic lane or inhabited system."

"There aren't any M-class worlds in range, General," Nietta informed. "Our best bet looks like a K-class ice asteroid. Breathable atmosphere, but sub-zero temperatures and no life forms."

"Set a course," Ssharki ordered.

"Done," Cal told him. "But we'll lose life support and impulse before we get there. I can stretch it just enough, though, if I deactivate the grav plating and inertial dampeners."

"Can you land this thing without inertial dampeners?" Ssharki asked the boy.

"Of course I can. But it won't be pretty."

Ssharki sat down in his seat and buckled his four-point crash harness. The others did the same. "Do it."

"Hang on!"

Ssharki felt a bizarre sensation in the seat of his pants, as the 1G downward pull normally exerted by the gravity plating was suddenly replaced by the 2.5G thrust of the impulse engines. He heard Nietta audibly grunt. He looked over at her and was - in spite of the situation - amused to see that her normally full bosom had been flattened by the G-load.

"Two minutes to impact," the fourteen-year-old announced.

Ssharki looked up through the shuttle's canopy. An ugly, pockmarked ball of ice and rock loomed ahead. "'Impact'?" he repeated. "I thought you said this was going to be a 'not pretty' landing."

"Same thing," Cal said, with a shrug of his small shoulders.

Nietta stared forward. "We're coming in awfully fast, aren't we?"

"Have to," Cal told her. "If life support fails before we're close enough to shut off the impulse engines, we'll freeze to death in hours instead of days."

"Cal, do you have any good news?"

"Yeah: one way or another, it will all be over soon."

Prex laughed at that.

"One minute out. Shutting down impulse- baQa', the controls aren't responding!"

Ssharki unfastened his restraints. "I'll go back and shut the engines down manually." He rolled out of his seat and actually fell back through his shuttle - as aft was now "down" as far as local gravity was concerned. On his way down he passed Cal's epohh - pinned to the bulkhead separating the cabins and screaming the terror. Then on his way through the passenger cabin he encountered his pet targ in a similar predicament, except Chopper was wrapped up in bed linens and so his fright was compounded by blindness. Ssharki took note the animals' plight and was briefly anguished for them, but some small, dark corner of his mind wanted to laugh out loud.

He reached the engineering section and landed on the cold and dead warp core. The fusion reactor which powered the impulse drive and auxiliary systems was still running, though its power levels were fluctuating wildly and excess deuterium gas was building up inside the reactor vessel. Ssharki diverted power from the engines to life support and was going to purge the deuterium when he suddenly floated away from the override controls. Without the 2.5G acceleration he was suddenly weightless. Then Cal fired the braking thrusters and the forward end of the chariot became the new "down." Ssharki bounced his way back to his seat and saw the icy asteroid filling the viewport.

"We're coming in too hot," Cal warned. "This is gonna hurt!" He pitched shuttle craft around so it would impact belly-first.

Ssharki glimpsed a furry blue shape rolling across the ceiling. Then he saw Prex leaning over in his seat, covering the young pilot's torso with his own. Then he felt a crushing jolt from the soles of his feet to the tips of his crest of head-spines. He saw sparks and arcs everywhere. He heard the terrible sounds of rending metal and flesh. And everything went black.

* * *

Ssharki woke up from his dream-memory. He was in his bed, and Chopper was kicking him in his ribs. The animal was whimpering and thrashing in his sleep, with nightmares of his own. Ssharki carefully rolled the targ over onto his other side, and cradled his chest with his right arm, and pulled him closer to his own chest. Chopper seemed to settle down. The motion allowed a bit of cold air to enter Ssharki's cocoon of sheets, blankets and winter attire, and he shivered a little. He realized that meant he was not as far gone as he had feared, or that he was slowly recovering from the hypothermia. "Stupid little targ; you might just save my life," he whispered in his pet's ear. Maybe I'll survive to be rescued after all. He smiled at the thought, and went back to sleep.

* * *

Ssharki hadn't actually lost consciousness in the crash. The blackness was due to the simultaneous failure of every single light source in the shuttlecraft. "Is everyone alright?" he asked his crew.

"Oh, God, my back," was the only response, from Nietta.

Ssharki unstrapped himself again and stood up, and bounced off the ceiling. He then remembered that the gravity plating was still disabled, and that they had crash-landed on a small asteroid. As he slowly settled to the floor, he mentally prepared himself to move in a microgravity environment. He pulled a flashlight from his belt and carefully stepped forward to the tandem cockpit seats, and checked on Cal. The child was alive, but in a catatonic state. He was frozen in shock, which was only natural, considering the dead man in his lap. The control console had exploded on impact, impaling the Nausicaan security officer's body with shards of burnt and broken crystal and plastic. One particularly large fragment had imbedded itself deeply in Prex's throat, causing him to silently and messily bleed to death before the frightened young Gorn's eyes.

Ssharki gingerly sat Prex back up in his own seat and unstrapped his boy. "It's okay, Little One," Ssharki whispered gently as he scooped up the petrified youngster. "Everything's going to be okay."

Nietta slowly stood up in a daze. "Are they alright?" she asked the General.

"Cal's in shock. Prex is dead."

"Oh my God."

"I need your help," Ssharki told her, as he carried the boy back to the passenger cabin. "Neither of us are doctors, but I know you've at least studied field medicine."

"Right. Shock is a defense mechanism; the brain temporarily shuts down to protect itself from trauma if it starts to experience input overload. Put him on my bed."

The Ho'norgh had four bunks - two on each side of the cabin. The lower beds were larger and could be converted into tables, while the top bunks could be folded flush to the bulkheads. Ssharki placed Cal in the lower port-side bunk and stepped back while Nietta examined him.

"Holy mother. He's not just in shock, he's catatonic!"

"What's that mean?"

"Awake, but unconscious."

"Will he come out of it?"

"Eventually, but there's no way of knowing how long it will take. And this usually means the victim has suffered severe neuropsychological damage."

Ssharki stared helplessly down at his son. "Is there anything we can do for him?"

"I think I read somewhere that physical and vocal contact helps. A comforting touch, a familiar voice."

Ssharki sat down on the bed and caressed the boy's cheek. "We'll be okay, Cal," he said softly. "You landed the shuttle. You saved us."

The Ho'norgh suddenly became very silent, as all the shuttle's power systems died.

"Oh, God, the life support," Nietta moaned. "What'd Cal say before the crash? That we'll freeze to death in a matter of hours?"

"Days," Ssharki corrected. "If the life support lasted longer than the impulse engines. Which it did." He pointed the flashlight toward the clothing locker. "Better break out the cold-weather gear anyway."

Nietta obeyed, changing her metallic bikini top for a black cropped jacket and bringing Ssharki two long winter coats.

"That's not going to help you much," Ssharki observed. Her jacket left her midriff exposed, and her legs remained bare.

"I'll survive," she insisted. "But you two are cold-blooded. If you can't get life support back online, you won't last very long. I can share my body heat and sustain you for a while, but... I don't know how long."

"Not much more than a few days, I'd guess," Ssharki replied grimly. He took the smaller jacket she offered and draped it over the youngster's shoulders before pulling on the larger one. "I'll see what I can do. Why don't you gather the emergency rations while we still have warm air in here."

"Okay."

Ssharki went aft and entered the wrecked engine room again. He had been trained as an engineer, and was very adept at machinery and fabrication. At one point in his career he had been a damage control expert, but it been a long time since he'd fixed anything himself and he lacked young Cal's prodigious knack for power systems engineering. After two hours he worked out a system that would exchange the stale air inside the shuttle for fresh oxygen from the asteroid's rich atmosphere, while retaining pressure and heat inside. But he couldn't restart the fusion reactor or figure out any way of generating any more heat. Eventually the cold would creep in through the thin hull of the Ho'norgh. Neutronium may be great for stopping phaser beams and photon torpedoes, but it made for a lousy thermal insulator. Ssharki could only hope for rescue before the cabin temperatures dropped below freezing.

His thoughts turned toward their rescue. They had been unable to signal for help via subspace radio, but Prex had managed to send a lightspeed distress call. Once the Norgh'a'Qun realized they were overdue for rendezvous, the ship would come looking for them, retracing their route from New Romulus. The battlecruiser and its array of sophisticated sensors would stumble across the distress signal and locate the shuttle.

He shivered. It was already getting colder. He returned to the passenger cabin, sealing the hatch behind him. "What do we have?" he asked Nietta.

"Not much. We passed most of our provisions out to the colonists. We only have enough rations to last us a couple of days. Maybe three if we stretch it. And I found Cal's epohh wedged against a bracing strut with a broken neck. One of you could eat that if you're desperate, I suppose."

"Okay. What about Chopper?"

Nietta pointed to a bundle of fabric on Ssharki's bed on the other side of the cabin. "Your stupid targ is just fine. I suspect he slept through the whole thing. Oh, also, I was able to salvage two bottles of Romulan ale and half a bottle of firewine."

"That's good." Ssharki picked up one of the emergency ration packs. He peeled back the foil wrapper and sniffed the processed protein bar inside. He almost gagged. "Blech. Phaser-seared epohh is starting to sound really good." He passed the ration bar back to Nietta.

"Help yourself. Any luck getting the heater working?"

Ssharki shook his head. "I couldn't come up with anything that wouldn't involve killing us all in a plasma fire. Maybe if Cal comes around he could think of something. He knows these systems better than I do." Ssharki opened the lockers again, removing his Klingon Qempa' scarf, fur-lined boots and Honor Guard cloak as well as his disruptor pulsewave rifle. "I need to go out and take care of Prex. I'll be right back."

Nietta leapt to her feet and accidently launched herself across the cabin. "You can't go out there! Have you lost your mind? Let me handle it!"

"No!" Ssharki insisted. "This is something I must do. I promise I won't take a second longer than necessary."

Nietta knew Ssharki well enough to know she could not win an argument with him. Once he had made up his mind to do something, he would do it, and it was best to either help or stay out of his way. "Alright. If you're going out anyway, could bring back some ice? We'll need water."

"Sure." Ssharki made his way forward and closed the hatch behind him. He reached the cockpit, hoisted the Nausicaan's corpse over his shoulder, and opened the fore airlock. He was instantly blown out onto the frozen surface of the asteroid. He had forgotten about the pressure differential. The atmosphere was thick - almost liquid - but there was so little of it that the air pressure was insignificant. Ssharki could feel his blood seeping from his nostrils and the corners of his eyes. He dropped the body he was carrying and set about his work quickly.

He knew from past performances that the Nausicaan death ritual was a simple one - the body was simply vaporized to allow the spirit to be released to the sky gods of the Four Winds. Ssharki set his assault weapon to the maximum power setting, aimed, and hesitated. He knew the Nausicaans said a prayer for the deceased at this point, but he didn't know the words. He knew nothing about their religion except for the basic principles of their death rites. He decided to make up his own prayer, directed toward his own deity. "S'Yahazah, this man laid down his life to save my son's. He is my brother. Please guide his spirit to the Four Winds." And then he fired.

On his way back to the airlock he picked up a few chunks of ice that had been kicked up when the Ho'norgh crashed. He returned to passenger cabin, dumped the ice in a bowl, found the bottle of firewine and downed the contents. He began to shiver uncontrollably.

Nietta watched him, concerned and frightened. "Dammit, Ssharki! I told you, you shouldn't have gone out there!"

"I'll be alright." Ssharki sat down on his bed. Chopper was awake - he crawled out from the covers and nuzzled his master. "You just take care of Cal."

Nietta sighed, and looked back at the comatose young Gorn. "He snapped out of it as soon as you left, but the poor thing was delirious. He kept saying he had to get out, and tried to open the airlock back here. I had to sedate him." She sat down next to him, and stroked his scaly skin under his jacket and the blanket she'd placed on him. "I guess he won't be getting the life support back after all."

"Then I guess all we can do now is wait for rescue."

"Do you really think they'll find us?"

"They'll find us alright," Ssharki assured her, as he arranged his covers to construct a thermal cocoon. "The only question is will they find us in time."

* * *

Ssharki woke up to a clawed hand on his shoulder, and a familiar voice in his ear. He rolled back and looked up. His eyes slowly focused on his older adopted son, his chief of security, Sway. "Am I still dreaming?"

Sway smiled at him. "No, father. We found you."

Ssharki sluggishly sat up. "Cal? Nietta? Are they-"

"We're here," Nietta answered from the other side of the cabin.

Sway turned around and picked up his adopted little brother. Like Cal, Sway had been orphaned during the war with the Klingons and conscripted into the KDF at far too young an age. Unlike his brother though, he had suffered years of physical and psychological torment before Ssharki had found him. The security chief would give anything to prevent any member of his species from going through want he went through, and he was at least as protective of his brother Cal as the General was. "You're going home, little buddy," he whispered to the comatose child. He waited until the General and the science officer staggered to their feet, then he keyed his communicator. "Sway to Chopnorgh, four to beam up."

"Five!" Ssharki corrected, dragging Chopper out of bed behind him.

Sway smiled. "Four and a targ."

* * *

They were greeted in the bird-of-prey's transporter room by the ship's entire medical staff and Commander Louii, the Nausicaan provisional captain of IKS Chopnorgh. Ssharki's knees almost buckled with the sudden return to normal gravity, but he braced his legs and prevented himself from collapsing on the transporter pad.

"All three have severe hypothermia," Sway reported to Dr. Xyoosix, a former Rigelian biowarfare specialist under the Klingon's employ and now Ssharki's deputy chief medical officer. "This one also may have neurological damage. And Lieutenant Holbox is suffering from malnutrition."

"Let's get you all to sick bay," the Rigelian female said, giving an order that sounded like a mere suggestion. The two medics with her stepped forward, took Cal from his brother's arms and laid him on a grav-lift stretcher.

"I'm very glad that you're alive, General," Louii stated solemnly. "Where's Prex?" The pirate commander had already guessed the answer.

"Your cousin died in the crash, Louii," Ssharki informed him. "I'm sorry. He saved Cal's life. I performed the ceremony as best I could."

Louii nodded. Nothing more needed to be said. He knew the Four Winds would blow his cousin's spirit to the Heart of the Sky. And just as importantly, his clan would earn hefty compensation from the KDF. "I'm tractoring the Ho'norgh into the shuttle bay. We've already informed the Qun of your rescue. We will rendezvous and dock within the hour."

* * *

After consuming two plates of Sem'hal stew and three mugs of red leaf tea (all prepared by a Cardassian medic who pulled double-duty as the Chopnorgh's chef) and spending fifteen minutes convincing Dr. Xyoosix that he felt alright, Ssharki left sick bay. He made his way to his shuttle in the small hangar space. He shivered as soon as he entered the Ho'norgh. It was still colder than ice. He found his winter jacket and Qempa' and pulled them on. Then he retrieved his PADD. He left the chariot and the shuttlebay, and took the turbolift to the bridge.

Sway immediately rose from his tactical station. "General! You should be in sick bay!" He caught himself and added "Sir!"

"The doctor kindly gave me permission to leave so long as I do not exert myself."

Louii spun in his command chair, but did not rise. "You're just in time, General. We're about to dock with the Norgh'a'Qun."

Ssharki looked through the viewscreen at his massive flagship. One-point-six kilometers in length, thirty decks high, and bristling with enough firepower to reduce the surface of a planet to molten slag - she was a sight to behold. "Carry on."

"Aye, sir." Louii turned his chair forward and conferred with his conn officer.

"How's Cal?" Sway asked.

"Still asleep. Xyoosix says he'll be alright, physically at least. As for the rest of him... only time will tell."

Sway nodded grimly. "I had really hoped he would never have to go through anything like that."

"So did I. Unfortunately, the Universe is a dark and cruel place, caring naught for our hopes, fears and wants. We all have to face it eventually, and deal with whatever it brings us as best we can."

They heard the humming of electric servomotors and the hiss of hydraulics as the Hoh'SuS-class bird-of-prey's wings folded fully down to the docking position. Ssharki glanced at the viewscreen as the Chopnorgh slipped inside the specially-formed cutout in the stern of the Bortasqu'-class tactical battlecruiser. The docking clamps engaged, shaking the smaller warship for an instant before the inertial dampeners coupled with the Norgh'a'Qun's.

The deck beneath Ssharki's feet began to sink as it transitioned into a boarding ramp. He let it lower him to the docking bay deck of his flagship, where he was greeted by several officers, standing attention, awaiting his orders. He turned first to his chief medical officer. "Tr'vayn, Cal's still unconscious and Nietta's malnourished. Please transfer them to your medical facilities."

The Klingon female nodded and approached the Chopnorgh. Dishonored before her birth by her unknown parentage, Tr'vayn had devoted her life to the study of medicine. She sought new and inventive ways to make the warriors she served with stronger and quicker to recover from sickness and injury. Where before many of the crippled Klingons may have performed the Hegh'bat suicide ritual, under Tr'vayn's care they were back at their posts in a matter of hours.

As she boarded the bird-of-prey, Tr'vayn scanned the General with her medical tricorder. "Sir, your core body temperature is-"

"Very low, I'm aware. I'll be fine." Ssharki turned to the other Klingon present - actually a Human-Klingon hybrid named Abraham who served as his chief engineer. "Abe, I want you to investigate what happened to the Ho'norgh. Run a comprehensive diagnostic, review the sensor logs, and determine why every electromagnetic system on the craft decided to fail simultaneously. Cal will assist you as soon as he is cleared to return to duty."

"Aye, sir."

Ssharki then turned the two Gorn. Commander Dou'gal - his second officer and chief scientist - was in his early sixties, making him a few years older than the General. But he had no desire to command a ship of his own, choosing instead to devote himself to scientific studies. The other - Brigadier Flescher - was comparatively ancient. Ssharki's military advisor had spent most of the three-and-a-half centuries of his life in the trenches with the Gorn Royal Infantry. He was old enough to remember the last border war with the Romulans. Ssharki glanced between two of his three most trusted friends and officers and asked them "Where's Maddox?"

"Bridge," Flescher replied curtly.

"We're glad you're back, General," Dou'gal offered.

"Yeah, so am I," Ssharki muttered. He stepped aside to allow Tr'vayn to disembark along with the Chopnorgh's medical staff and the two disaffected officers on grav-lift stretchers. "You will notify me the instant he wakes up," he instructed the CMO, indicating his adopted child.

"Of course, sir." Tr'vayn led her party to the cargo lift and they disappeared into the depths of the ship.

Sway finished securing his stations and joined the General at the bottom of the ramp. Ssharki slowly walked to the turbolift, followed by his three Gorn officers. "Bridge." The journey from one end of the ship to the other took forty-seven seconds. The trip passed in total silence. Flescher stared uncomfortably at his boots. Dou'gal studied refraction patterns in the light fixtures. Sway fixed his eyes on General Ssharki. Ssharki gazed through the door.

They were deposited on the cathedral-like command deck and Ssharki strode forward. "Maddox, report!" he ordered.

His first officer stepped down from the elevated command chair in the center of the bridge and saluted the General. "Sir, we have secured the Chopnorgh and are preparing to resume our patrol of the Tau Dewa sector. Our course is laid in for Beta Lankal, where Tholians have been recently active and disrupting a joint Federation-New Romulan archaeological research site."

Ssharki nodded. "Very well. Take us there."

Captain Maddox turned and called to the conn officer "Engage at Warp seven!"

Ssharki gazed out the windows surrounding the bridge as the stars streaked by.

"Incidentally, sir," Maddox said, turning back to the General, "let me say how pleased I am that we found you. I was going to give it another day before I called off the search."

Ssharki's eyes narrowed. "Six days? I'd hoped you'd put in more effort for me than the required search period for missing KDF flag officers. Or at least leave the Chopnorgh to keep looking for me."

Maddox answered dispassionately. "In my estimation sir, the Norgh'a'Qun and her auxiliary craft are too vital of a strategic asset to waste on a search-and-rescue mission, even for a valued officer of the KDF Central Command such as yourself. But since you were recovered, obviously it all worked out."

"Thanks," Ssharki grumbled. He tried to read the first officer, but he never could. The two Gorn were too much alike. For Ssharki, trying to figure out Maddox was too much like studying a holograph of himself and looking for unfamiliar features. He gave up. "I've been told I need rest. You have the ship. Alert me when we reach Beta Lankel."

"Aye, sir."

Ssharki rode the turbolift down and forward to his palatial quarters in the starboard bow. Sway discretely followed him inside. "Permission to speak freely, General?" he asked once the door to the stateroom closed behind him.

"Always, my son."

Sway took a deep breath. "I just want you to know what I would have done had Maddox called off the search. I would have kept looking for you in the Chopnorgh. If Louii or anyone else got in my way, I would have confined them to the brig. And once I found you, I would have returned with you to the Norgh'a'Qun, where I would have killed Maddox for being such a disloyal petaQ." He gazed at his left hand as he flexed his clawed fingers. "Personally, I believe he deserves to be spaced for even considering abandoning you. That's up to you, of course, but at any rate, in my opinion, Captain Maddox is no longer worthy of your trust."

Ssharki slowly nodded. "Thank you, son, for your loyalty and... discretion." He was unsure what else to say. His son's opinion mirrored his own, and barely scratched the surface of his darker suspicions.

"Qapla', father!" The twenty-three-year-old security chief saluted and departed.

Half a minute later, as if from someplace very far away, Ssharki said "Qapla'!" to the closed door.

He pulled his trusty old Starfleet PADD from the pocket of his coat and activated it. He always found the familiar LCARS interface to be a comforting reminder of his past. It provided a tangible link to his memories - some bright and cheery, like those of his childhood on the joint Gorn Hegemony-Federation colony world of Cestus III; others dark and unpleasant, like those of his service in Starfleet during the Dominion War. But the connection was always there. And he always kept it with him. That's why he always stored all of his personal logs on this device. It represented his memories. All of his memories...

He called up his last log entry for playback.

What follows are personal messages for my senior officers.

Sway, my Soldier Boy - I assume you would be the first to read this. I know as my security chief you will blame yourself for my death, and no reasonable argument I make would absolve your guilt. But you must forgive yourself. You could have done nothing to prevent this - you would only have frozen to death by my side. But I want you to live. I
need for you to live. Like you, I've already lost my whole family once. Now if Cal's gone, you're all I have left. You will be promoted. You are and will continue to be a great warrior, feared by our enemies as well as the Klingons who presume to be our benevolent masters. But you must not limit yourself to walking the path of the warrior. You are so young; you have centuries of life ahead of you still. Centuries to travel the galaxy, to explore its beauty, to take a mate for yourself, to have babies of your own, to discover your true self. You must live, Sway. Live for me, live the life I no longer can. And may you find peace.

Maddox, you are my first officer; obviously the
Norgh'a'Qun is yours. You know as well as I do that she is a fearsome ship. You have stood on her bridge with me and watched our enemies flee at the mere sight of her. I have no doubts that her legend will continue to grow under your command. You have the respect of the entire crew. They will serve you well. May success always find you.

Maddox, Flescher, Dougal, my brothers, I have let you down. I have delayed our plans to restore our King for too long, and now it is too late for me carry out my part. I only hope that my influence will carry enough weight after my death, that along with your own, you will be able to bring about the changes we seek. I'm afraid my own hunger for power has blinded me to the opportunities that lay before me. I was content to be the puppet of the Klingons when I could have been High Admiral of the entire Gorn Space Command. Perhaps I was afraid of failure. Perhaps I was afraid of success. The responsibility - the consequences of liberation for our people - did I want that? I told you I did. Perhaps I lied. I did lie. Honestly, I would rather have the Great Houses of Qon'oS singing my praises and owing me favors than to allow that
Hu'tegh toDSaH Slathis - that misguided yIntagh - to rule as my King again. So, I sought my own interests rather than seeking after the welfare of my people... No, scratch that. Ghuy'cha', the truth is I just didn?t want another war with the Klingons. You all see what would happen, don't you? Even if J'mpok were dead and Drex ruled the High Council, the rest of Klingons and their damned honor could not abide the Gorn Hegemony breaking away from their control. They would be compelled to try and conquer us again, nevermind their simultaneous wars with the Federation, the Romulans, the Borg and the foul isomorphs who call themselves the Undine. I don't know what would happen. Maybe we would hold them off this time. Maybe the Federation would join us. All I know for sure is that many more Gorn would die. Gila IV, Seudath, Hranar and Gornar already have too many widows and orphans. I did not want to catalyze events that would lead to more needless deaths. But then again, many Gorn will die anyway if no one puts an end to J'mpok's unnecessary wars with the Federation and the Romulans. The point is that I lied to you; I lied about my ambitions and never disclosed my fears. For that I am truly sorry. Do whatever seems best to you.

Close log.


Ssharki looked up from his PADD and fixed his stare at some point a thousand light years beyond the bulkhead. He tapped the interface and whispered an instruction. And the log entry was permanently erased.


"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; 05-02-2013 at 01:50 PM. Reason: continuity
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 106
# 26
03-24-2013, 07:17 PM
Literary Challenge #32: Into the Hive, Part 2

Azera Xi: Original Sin

"Engine room," Corspa tapped her combadge as she paced around the bridge and cast a quick glare out at the viewscreen, narrowing her eyes at the glowing white band of the Milky Way sweeping through the unbroken darkness of interstellar space, "what's our status?"

"Warp engines are back online," Nyzoph's voice rang through the channel, "transwarp will take a little longer, but it shouldn't be a problem. We can leave on your command."

"Good," the Andorian first officer nodded, and she ran her fingers between her antenna and through her white hair, looking worriedly over at the empty captain's chair before turning her attention to the science station along the wall, and the Trill officer typing frantically across the polished black touchpad screens, "do we have a fix on the Borg cube's warp trail?"

"Yes sir," Auslaz nodded anxiously as she looked up from the glowing starcharts and rolling columns of numbers at the ranking officer, "I projected their course and... well... sir, they're going to the Gamma Orionis sector. I think they're taking her to the unicomplex."

"No," Corspa couldn't help but whisper to herself, and then she spoke louder, more firmly, with a glance around at the rest of the senior officers, "we'll need some way to get in there without half a dozen cubes pouncing us the moment we enter the system. Suggestions?"

"The Paulson Nebula," Luverala called out after a second from his workstation.

"Okay," the bemused first officer replied, "we can't really take a nebula with us."

"No, no," he shook his head sheepishly, "but it's one of the few natural phenomena we know about that can block Borg sensors. I think I can modify the electrostatic properties of our shields to mimic the nebula's composition. We'll be a moving blind spot for them."

"Sounds good," Corspa nodded as she paced toward the middle of the bridge, and she turned to the tactical station, "speaking of which, what's our shield and weapon status?"

"They're both still down," Angel sighed a little as he read over the schematic readouts, and then he looked up at her, "but there's no serious damage. We'll have them up and running before we're even halfway there. But sir, as the security chief, I have to advise you that," and he paused sadly before he spoke again, "it's likely she's already been assimilated."

"I understand," Corspa quietly replied, "in fact, we're going to assume just that."

"Sir?"

"Every Federation starship has standing orders to liberate a Borg drone who shows the potential for individuality," she continued, "if Azera's been assimilated, then I'd say she has incredible potential for individuality. Would you agree with that assessment?"

"Absolutely sir," the security chief nodded with a relieved smile.

"I don't get it," Auslaz spoke up again from the science station, her voice straining between nervousness and angry frustration, "they didn't even bother to cripple our ship. The cube just raced up out of nowhere, grabbed Azera and left again. Why would they do that?"

"I don't know," Corspa shook her head a little and reluctantly sat down in the empty command chair, "as for our ship, my guess is they don't consider us a threat."

She flipped open one of the armrest's companels and silently set a course for the Gamma Orionis sector, the dark heart of the Borg's gradual corruption of the Alpha Quadrant.

"Let's go prove them wrong."

First Officer's Log, Stardate 90871.91 - We're continuing to follow the trail of the Borg cube that abducted Captain Azera Xi from the Roanoke, a course which is leading us directly toward the unicomplex they've constructed in the Gamma Orionis sector. We still don't have any idea why they might have taken her. Starfleet's authorized a rescue mission and the modifications to our shields should be in place by the time we arrive. As for the captain's connection to the Borg, I suspect the only ones who really know the answer are the Borg themselves.

* * *

Azera barely had time to rise up from her command chair before she'd felt a ruthless grip tightening around her chin, lifting her off her feet as a pair of thin serpentine needles stabbed and sank into the side of her throat. The Roanoke's bridge swam and grew darker around her, Angel's voice slow and warbling as he shouted a warning, as he lifted a uselessly unmodulated phaser against the Borg drone that held her in its grip. She looked back down at its corpse-white face, a single ebon eye gleaming beside the clicking black machinery that filled half its visage and had replaced its right eye completely. Then the ship faded away, the hissing phasers and wailing klaxons receding into a soft murmuring chorus of voices. She tried to fight against them, to thrash and twist away from the icy green transporter beam that snatched her from the ship, to block their voices out of her mind even as her own thoughts began to sink and drown beneath them, and then her consciousness drifted deeper into the cold black oblivion of uneasy sleep.

It was only when she awoke in a gallery awash in the green glow of Borg technology to find herself still wearing her Starfleet uniform that she realized they'd only sedated her. She lifted herself groggily to her feet and fumbled vainly for her missing combadge, and then gave up with a resigned sigh to stare slowly around at the room. Each wall opened into a winding black corridor, all of them flickering with countless Borg alcoves as far as the eye could see, and her blood froze with the realization that the shadows along the edges of the dim chamber were dotting her with dozens of pinpoint red lasers. A crowd of drones surrounded her on every side.

"Azera Xi," a woman's voice rang through the darkness, warm and inviting in spite of the surroundings, speaking with a pitch as mathematically precise as any instrument, "captain of the USS Roanoke, NCC-93876. We've been wanting to meet you for some time now."

And Azera instantly clamped her hands over her ears with a terrified cry.

The voice emerged from innumerable voices, an entire civilization speaking aloud, all of them rising and falling together in a perfect cadence to weave themselves into a single being. Each word pierced her mind, burning and flashing with brilliant white agony, every syllable a bullet bursting through her thoughts and shattering them completely. She died with each word, arose from the merciful silences between them, and died again as they spoke once more.

She'd read a myth about one of Zeus's lovers bursting into flames at the sight of his true form, and now she understood what the story meant even more vividly than the ancient Greeks who'd first told it did. She helplessly watched a robotic spinal column snapping into place within the empty cybernetic shell of a woman, the torso and head sighing with contentment as she stretched her new limbs and took her first graceful steps through the room, an agelessly beautiful woman with alabaster skin and eyes as black and gleaming as the cables that twisted through the back of her head - and she understood. For most people, looking at this strange creature meant looking at the tip of an iceberg, the avatar of something mercifully hidden beneath the surface. But Azera could see through the water. She could see the vast looming shape that protruded just a tip of itself into corporeal form, and she knew the fear and awe of seeing a god.

"What are you," she heard her own voice whimpering aloud.

"I am the Beginning," a million million voices spoke to Azera through the lips and words of that solitary woman approaching her, "the End. The One Who is Many."

"The Queen," Azera Xi muttered weakly to herself, clutching desperately at the Federation phrase like a raft amid the twisting maelstrom of that voice, "you're the Borg Queen."

"A clumsy metaphor drawn from an archaic form of social stratification," the black-clad woman answered, and a trillion separate voices rose and fell beneath each word, "it suggests authority where there is only unity. I do not rule the Borg. I simply am the Borg."

It may be that our role on this planet, Azera's fraying thoughts drifted helplessly to a quote from a famous writer in her literary studies, is not to worship God but to create him.

And so they had. A civilization collapsed into a celestial singularity, a mind that thinks with trillions of minds and sees the universe through trillions of eyes. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How many people would it take to equal God? Such questions used to be abstractions, but the answer stood calmly before her, so terrible and beautiful that Azera had to close her eyes again to hold onto herself. Deus ex Machina. God from the Machine.

"So I guess," Azera tried to scowl defiantly even as her words rang with a nervous tremor, "I guess you're more like their cheerleader. Rah rah, go Collective?"

"In some ways," the cyborg replied with an amused smile, "that may be a more fitting analogy. Or were you expecting me to be insulted by the comparison? Both are fumbling attempts at comprehension by a language that could never hope to describe us."

"Or maybe," Azera retorted, "I just wasn't listening in our classes about you."

"You'd have learned so little about us even if you had," the pallid woman said in a voice muted with soft, genuine sympathy, and that tone only deepened as she continued, "it must have been so hard for you, growing up lost and alone while our perfection only grew."

"Y-yeah well," Azera stammered hesitantly, "I prefer not being a Borg, thanks."

"You already are Borg. You're more deeply Borg than even I am."

"What," she snapped in panicked denial, shaking her head frantically and covering her ears against a growing choir of voices, the perfect harmony that gathered all of them into a whispering, digitized hymn within her mind, "no, I'm... you're wrong, you..."

"Our song is your birthright," their queen murmured gently to her, "an inheritance that's been waiting for you all these thousands of years. You need only claim it."

Azera squeezed her arms against her ears and closed her eyes tighter as she crossed her hands against the back of her head. But the voices only grew louder in her head, igniting the edge of her thoughts, burning them away like fire shriveling tissue paper into glowing red ashes, making her listen to them. She didn't even notice that she'd started singing to herself, a small, childish voice fearfully reciting anthems from a forgotten life to drown them out...

...we are the dissenters, the apostate worlds,
deniers of the perfection that they claim to...


"Matriarch of the Collective," the queen's voice flooded her mind and drowned her whispered song completely, and Azera shrank from the reverent tone those perfectly metered words held, "a progenitor of perfection. Azera Xi, Species 1... welcome home."

In a single, horrific instant, she understood.

The pieces fell into place like tumblers collapsing within a lock, moved by the turning cogs and pitilessly mechanical laws of a logic she tried to scream against, that she'd spent so long trying to keep from turning, from falling and clicking and opening. Azera begged her own mind not to listen, not to make her understand, that it'd destroy her. She twisted frantically with the locks as they clicked open, she tugged on the doorknob in one last, futile effort hold it shut - but then it opened, and the shadows from her nightmares engulfed her completely.

All the questions she'd never asked herself raced through her mind now, and she knew the reason she'd never asked them was because she'd already known the answers. Why could she hear the Borg's thoughts when she'd never been assimilated? Why did the images of them fill her with so much cold dread, even as a schoolgirl in history class? Why, in a quadrant that teemed with so many strange and wonderful civilizations, did the one species that should have seemed the most alien of them all instead feel so sickeningly familiar?

She knew. She'd known ever since the day she saw a Borg cube on the viewscreen for the first time and felt its thoughts bleeding into her own. The part of her that'd whispered and screamed and finally fainted knew the truth, and had fought desperately ever since that moment to keep it hidden from herself. She'd found her people. And now they'd found her.

"Machine-priests," Azera Xi whimpered to herself, knowing nothing of the phrase except how it echoed through the ruined dreamscapes of her past, "you're the machine-priests."

"We were called that once," the queen answered as she moved closer, and her voice never lost its quiet compassion as her black eyes met Azera's frightened stare, "by those of us who once feared our destiny. The ones who taught you to be afraid of us."

She stood so close to the wide-eyed young captain that they could touch one another, and the Borg Queen did exactly that, lifting her robotic arm to lightly brush her fingers along Azera's cheek as she gazed into her violet eyes with a warm, beatific smile. And in spite of her fear, indeed because of it, Azera couldn't help but to tilt her head to meet that soft caress. She stood before the kind, beautiful queen of every fairy tale her people had ever told, the Feminine herself come to life. Despite the cables that twisted through her pale skin and the limbs that whirred and hissed with hidden motors, she embodied the very archetype of maternal love, the essence of it distilled through trillions of minds and given shape. She was the Mother, the cybernetically realized ideal that all ordinary mothers could only try to live up to, and Azera swallowed and tried to fight against the feeling of being a lost princess who'd found her way home.

"You hear our thoughts," she continued, her hand still touching Azera's face, "even more clearly than our wayward children do, yet you do everything you can to drown us out. Why not let yourself listen for a moment? Let us show you what we have to offer."

"So you can grab me," Azera's voice quivered timidly as she tried and failed to turn away from those dark gleaming eyes, "and assimilate me while I'm distracted?"

"If that was the only thing we wanted you for," the corner of the queen's lips rose a little with wry amusement, "we'd hardly have brought you all the way here for it. You won't be touched. You're here because you're safe here. Listen, open yourself up to us and see."

She'd stepped back to let the rose-haired girl stand alone in the middle of the shadowy atrium, waiting patiently now. Azera Xi looked hopelessly around at the silently watching drones and flashing green lights, and then she nodded and closed her glittering eyes.

A moment later she opened them again, and tears began to run down her cheeks.

"Mama," Azera choked almost silently, "Papa..."

"They're here," the Borg Queen reassured her, "their bodies may be gone, but every memory they cherished, every thought and feeling they experienced will forever be a part of us. You can be with them again. Your home, your family, everything you ever loved has always been waiting for you here. Let us help you. Let us make you whole again."

For a long time, Azera didn't speak at all. She finally nodded her head a little.

"Okay," she gasped through her tears, and she nodded again, more quickly this time.

The woman nodded slightly to the drones ringed around the edges of the chamber, more for Azera's benefit than theirs, and two of them approached the quietly sobbing girl, the voiceless limbs of the queen's will, just as the Borg Queen herself was their collective will given voice, each the reflection of the other and an expression of a gestalt greater than either one alone. One of them lifted its arm behind Azera's head, and she closed her eyes tight and waited.

A thin wavering hum filled the air and she opened her eyes again to see the shimmering blue column of a transporter beam hanging before her. An object appeared in the air right in front of her, a spinning steel-gray orb hardly bigger than a softball, adorned with twisting wires and a glassy sensor panel bolted onto one side. The pair of drones standing beside her noticed it just in time to see the panel's readout flashing as a brilliant blue light swept out from the whirring sphere. Azera's hair rose from her scalp, the glowing air crackling with electricity, the floor hissing as cerulean sparks of lightning snaked across the metal panels, and the drones standing by her side silently collapsed as their implants hissed and shorted out.

The queen had seen the device materializing too, as instantly as all the rest of the Borg, and she'd greeted the sight of it with a shrill, hoarsely enraged scream of frustration.

"NO!"

Another pair of figures materialized from the ghostly blue light of the transporter beams and Azera's tear-streaked face rose into elation at the sight of Auslaz and Angel appearing beside her, gleaming silver compression rifles lifted to their shoulders as the light faded away to leave them standing beside her and aiming their weapons at the rest of the drones.

"Captain," Angel quickly asked her, "are you okay? Did they hurt you?"

"I'm fine," she answered in a quiet daze, "that light... what was...?"

"EM pulse grenade," Auslaz replied with a smile back over her shoulder as she kept her gun aimed at the drones around them, "built it myself. Wasn't sure it'd work."

Despite all the academy lessons and Starfleet briefings on the Borg, there are habits individuals can't help but to anticipate in others. They'd expected the Borg Queen to give an order, to point or wave her hand to signal the attack, just as they'd expected the drones to at least hesitate before the phasers aimed left and right at them. But they'd already begun to move as soon as the larger transporter beams appeared, the silently watching queen and the implacably marching drones all part of a single reaction. The security chief slapped a golden combadge onto Azera's sleeve and suddenly ducked at Auslaz's warning shout, grabbing the captain and pulling her head down with him as the science officer fired her weapon at the drone that'd nearly grabbed him by the back of his neck. The black-armored cyborg fell backward in a floundering spray of white sparks, and Angel rose up again with his phaser rifle aimed above Auslaz's shoulder to take aim at two more approaching drones, squinting his eyes against the scarlet glow of their scanning lasers as he shot two quick orange beams at each one. Each of them spasmed and tumbled to the floor as Auslaz quickly adjusted her own weapon's settings, and then both of them began to fire left and right at the crowd of drones silently converging on every side now.

"Cregin to the Roanoke," Angel shouted at his combadge, "three to beam out, now!"

"We're trying," Nyzoph's voice hissed beneath a shrill burst of static on the channel, "but a wide-band dispersal field just went up around your coordinates. We can't lock..."

The rest of the engineer's words faded away into the subspace static, but Angel barely noticed amid the sudden, frantic struggle to hold onto his compression rifle. Something gripped at the barrel, wrestling the blunt tip away as they tried to wrench the weapon loose from his hands, and he fought to twist it back - and then he suddenly let go as he realized that it was Azera herself grabbing the phaser away from him. She didn't say a word to him, she barely seemed aware of his presence at all, and she turned away instantly as he relinquished the handle, fixing her purple eyes on the cybernetic horde around them. And she opened fire.

Fresh tears followed the clear dried trails the ones before had already charted as she shoved Auslaz aside and pulled the trigger again and again, pinpoint bursts of orange phaser light searing through one approaching drone after the other, sending them toppling backward like rows of toy soldiers. She whirled around in circles, firing faster and faster, and the scream that gradually rose from her throat sounded and felt like someone else entirely: one more voice ringing among all the others, just one more detail in a nightmare that'd finally come true.

"Sir," she heard Angel saying, "you have to remodulate or..."

He didn't have to finish his warning: her next shot swept across a transparent bubble of energy around one of the silently stalking drones. Azera fired again and again at it, as though trying to burn through its shields with sheer fury alone, and then another phaser beam drilled through its chest and sent it crumpling to the floor. She glanced over at Auslaz, blankly watching the science officer's fingers dance across the controls of her own phaser rifle as she recalibrated the beam and took aim again, and then the captain let her own weapon hang loose from her left arm to fling her right palm toward the vaulted black ceiling and its glowing circuitry.

Azera Xi's telekinesis tests on Earth had ranked her potential a little higher than those of the Vulcan mystics, on par with early reports of the Vorta's psychokinetic abilities. Sitting calmly in her quarters, the mere act of lifting a coffee cup took so much focus that she found it easier to walk over to the table and simply pick it up by hand. In the heat of battle, she could fling a Klingon warrior backward against the wall or knock away his weapon. But on the day she'd first awakened as a child from her centuries-long sleep, her grief and rage had ripped through a starship's consoles with hardly a conscious thought, and left its sickbay nearly in ruins.

The invisible storm she'd unleashed that day aboard the USS Columbia gathered around her once more, her ponytail whipping against her shoulders and the floorplates beginning to creak and buckle beneath her feet. She didn't notice any of those sounds, or the frantic voices of her friends and crewmates around her, or even the clanging, mechanically whirring footsteps of the drones around them. She just felt and screamed, and made the world feel it.

"Alouric nax ti," she shouted, "zilou nax ti orea!"

Stay away from me, the combadges translated her native language for her shipmates, rendering her voice into a quick, melodically alien accent, I said get away from me!

The bulky, flashing conduits and green-lit distribution nodes above her began to flicker and warp against the buffeting waves sweeping out from her hand, and her two officers huddled closer around her, as much to stay within the eye of the psionic storm as to protect her. A few of the Borg fell back against the telekinetic onslaught and tumbled away down corridors that almost seemed to have tilted down into pits while the rest froze completely: their feet clamped the slowly crumpling floorplates with magnetic locks, holding them in a stalemate against the cyclone raging through the twilight chamber. Her raised palm shuddered, her dark eyes blindly focused as the catwalks and flashing alcoves began to rattle, and then something exploded overhead.

"The dispersal field's down," Nyzoph's voice piped over a combadge, "locking on now!"

"You will rejoin us," the queen's voice rang calmly as Azera's raised arm sank slowly and the psionic hurricane faded into exhausted stillness, the warm maternal affection in her voice now given way to a mother's impatience with her child's tantrum, "either here and now, or alongside the rest of this quadrant as we take it sector by sector. Resistance is futile."

Azera furiously tapped the controls on her phaser rifle, displaying the resonance frequency and remodulating it before aiming the gun at the pale regal woman standing serenely among the approaching drones. And as she began to pull the trigger, the crystalline hum of a transporter beam immersed her, and the room faded away into a sea of blue light.

* * *

"Status report," Azera snapped as the transporter beam faded away to leave her standing on the Roanoke bridge with Auslaz and Angel, the two of them sighing and hugging each other with relief even as the captain turned away from Corspa's beaming smile to face the viewscreen. Vast black towers hung suspended in space, the latticed frames glowing with a faint green light that cast weird shadows across the labyrinthine network of bridges and connecting passages that stretched between each polyhedral hub. A dim hazy nebula glowed like a crimson sunset behind the abyssal city, casting the angular shapes into stark silhouettes. Just as the Borg Queen was an archetype embodied, so too was this sprawling unicomplex: it was the City, the Platonic ideal of a metropolis to which planetary cities could only aspire. An eternal city-universe.

Corpsa tried to answer the captain, only to be cut off as the bridge suddenly rocked and pitched forward against an explosive barrage of charges all around the ship. The last mine detonated and the vessel shuddered against the impact before steadying again.

"Shields at 73%," Angel called out from the tactical console near the back of the bridge as he hastily relieved the junior officer who'd taken his place, "hull damage minimal."

"We modified the shields so we wouldn't show up on the Borg's sensors," Corspa quickly explained to Azera, "but since we just beamed in and out, they know we're here. They're using magnetometric charges to hone in on our position, sir. They haven't scored a direct hit yet, but several Borg vessels are on an intercept course. Recommend we leave at once."

"Modulate our shield frequency," Azera shook her head as she paced toward the screen and stood staring darkly at the unicomplex, "prepare a photon torpedo spread, match their frequencies to the same modulation range as our shields. Fire when ready."

"But they'll drain our shields if we do that," Corspa gave a shocked protest.

Azera suddenly spun around at her first officer with a furious glare.

"Do it!"

The Andorian officer nodded mutely as she leaned over the tactical console, and a second later five flashing red torpedoes swept out into a starburst arc from beneath the ship's saucer and hurtled toward the dim hulking shapes of the Borg complex. In another second the torpedoes slammed across the interlocked stations and exploded in a series of silent, blinding white flashes, shattering and leaving gaping chasms in the gigantic tower-blocks.

"It worked," Corspa muttered softly to herself with wide blue eyes.

"The torpedoes' resonance picked up the rotating frequencies," the captain said flatly, "and sustained the rotation long enough to get through their shields. Load another torpedo spread and aim for the same structure where you beamed us from. Fire now."

"Sir," Angel called out from his station, "that structure was one of the ones hit by..."

"I SAID NOW!"

A second wave of photon torpedoes flew across the battered complex and converged on one of the ruined towers, pulverizing it in a sphere of white light and leaving behind only a thinning cloud of debris. And even as the glow of the explosions faded into the blackness of space, the Roanoke lurched against the shimmering green beams of a Borg cube's tractor beam.

"Shields are completely drained," Corspa said grimly, "they have us."

"Prepare to transwarp to Sirius sector on my mark," Azera turned away from the viewscreen and the dark looming shape of the Borg cube before them, her face lit by the emerald glow of the tractor beam that filled the screen, "Auslaz, polarize the hull plating and modulate the charge to break the tractor beam loose. Go to transwarp the moment we're free."

"The Borg are hailing us," Luverala called out hesitantly from the comm station.

"Send them my regrets," Azera snarled, and the tractor beam suddenly flickered and went dark as the starship's hull ignited with a faint electric-blue aura. The starship's nacelles glowed bright red for a moment as the saucer twisted away from the cube and dived toward the safety of open space, and then the transwarp drive flared to life. Space wrenched itself open before the sleek white ship, dragging it inward with a force as irresistible as a black hole and stretching the Roanoke and her crew into the dizzying transwarp contortions of space and time.

The universe suddenly snapped back into place around them like a rubber band, and Auslaz shouted the sensor readings to the rest of the bridge with giddy relief.

"We're in Sirius Sector, two light-years away from the Reytan System!"

"Good," Azera replied, and all the anger in her voice instantly died away into a small, trembling monotone as she turned away from the bridge and its officers.

"Do you think we got her," Angel quietly asked.

"I don't know that it makes any difference," Azera replied with a sudden weariness, "but I hope so. Commander Corspa, you have the bridge. I'll be in my ready room."

"Sir," Corspa said hopefully, "it... it's good to have you back, captain."

"Yeah," she blankly answered, and she vanished through the sliding doors.

The bridge crew stared silently at each other for a moment, and then Auslaz suddenly waved one arm and stepped hesitantly toward the shadowy alcove of the ready room.

"I'm going to, um, go," she said to the others, "and just see... erm... yeah..."

And with that, the nervous Trill officer disappeared into the ready room as well.

* * *

First Officer's Log, Stardate 90872.67 - We're on our way back to the Sol System to present a full report on the events pertaining to Captain Azera Xi's rescue. Starfleet's shut down the Federation's transwarp conduit to Gamma Orionis as a precaution, and the fleet is mobilizing in case of a counterattack. Azera's still in her ready room. We don't know yet what happened to her aboard the Borg unicomplex, but I've never seen the captain acting the way she did when we got her back. They didn't assimilate her, but even so... I'm afraid maybe we lost her...

Auslaz found the captain leaning across her desk, looking over the glowing display panel with blank eyes that didn't really seem to move or follow anything on the screen. She waited by the door for a moment, glanced anxiously around and finally cleared her throat a little.

"Oh," the captain murmured softly, "I was just about to write my report..."

"Azera," Auslaz said sadly, "I mean... captain.... permission to speak freely?"

"Yes," Azera asked with an expressionless glance up at her science officer.

"That wasn't for me," she nervously replied, "I just thought maybe you could use it too."

"Yeah," Azera said quietly as she clutched the edge of the desk with both hands, and then her slumped body convulsed a little with a sniffle as her eyes started to gleam with tears again. She took a shuddering breath and closed them for a second, then turned away to walk to the small triangular window beside her aquarium, to fix her eyes on the stars outside.

"Did you know," she asked after a moment, "that I've never had a boyfriend?"

"I, um," Auslaz stammered awkwardly at the sudden non sequitur, "um..."

"Oh, I got asked out here and there," Azera smiled weakly out the window, staring through the ghostly reflections hovering among the stars, "and I went on a few dates, academy dances, things you pretty much had to do. But it never really worked out. I just... I lived on Earth, but my home was out there, and my family, and... and if I let myself imagine a life here, it'd be like giving up on my people, on ever going home. It'd be like abandoning them. Silly, huh?"

"No," Auslaz shook her head, "it's not silly at all. It's... well... lonely, maybe..."

"Well I found them," she continued with a small, bitter laugh, "I finally found them."

"I don't understand."

"They're the Borg,," Azera's voice cracking again with a quick sob before she stiffened against the window and forced it steady, "my people, they're... the Borg..."

"That doesn't make sense," the young Trill started to say, and then her face grew pale and her voice wavered a little, "oh... they assimilated them. I'm sorry..."

Azera answered her science officer with another bitter laugh, and this time her laugh deepened into something close enough to madness to leave Auslaz worried speechless. The pale salmon-haired girl looked up across her shoulder at the young woman, her lip trembling for a moment before she suddenly twisted her gaze back toward the window.

"Nobody assimilated them," she said, "they did it to themselves."

"Azera," she replied with small, worried frown, "you're not making sense. Nobody can assimilate themselves, it's something the Borg do to people. It's what..."

Auslaz's blue eyes widened as her words trailed off into stunned silence.

"You're talking about Species 1," she slowly asked, "aren't you?"

In many ways, Species 1 was just a Federation theory. Nobody really knew where the Borg came from, whether the machines or the people came first, or how many worlds and civilizations first coalesced into the Collective. The handful of stories that archeologists had uncovered after fifty years all contradicted each other, and together they amounted to just the vaguest legends. But "Species 1" had become a kind of Holy Grail for researchers studying the Borg, the logical conclusion of the Borg's own system for numbering sentient species in chronological order, and in time the phrase had caught the public's imagination as well, a name to symbolize the mythic origins of the Federation's most ancient and deadly adversary.

"That's me," Azera muttered as she stared harder out the window.

"But if that's true," Auslaz said quietly, her voice already starting to rise into the natural curiosity of a scientist, "then you must be thousands of years old, at least..."

"Guess so," she shrugged indifferently.

"Is that why they didn't assimilate you at first?"

"Yeah," she answered, and her words began to quicken with emotion, "they wanted me to know it first. They got into my mind, and I couldn't get them out, and they... they made me remember it. I can't recall most of it now, but for a moment I did. They wanted me to understand. She asked me if they could... she said... it's like they wanted my approval first!"

"Azera," her friend started to say, but she wasn't listening anymore.

"And I gave it to them," she said in a small voice, "I said yes."

"Sir," Auslaz suddenly asked, startled back into a measure of Starfleet formality.

"I didn't want to," she continued, her voice starting to break a little, "but it hurt, everything about being there hurt, and then for a second I could feel my parents, my home, all the things I can't even remember to miss. It's still in there, in their damn group memory, and I just... I wanted it to be over. I wanted to go home. So she asked me if I'd let them and I... said yes..."

Neither of them spoke for a moment, and Auslaz just watched as Azera clutched her arms tighter around herself and stared down at the carpet in silent, tearful shame.

"It wasn't your fault," the young woman said to her gently, "they got into your head and twisted your feelings. You can't really say 'yes' if they don't give you any other choice. Maybe they wanted to hear you say it, but they weren't going to take no for an answer.

"Besides," Auslaz continued with a soft smile, "the moment you did get a choice again, you grabbed a phaser and shot at least a dozen of them. And when that stopped working you nearly pulled the place down on top of us, and then you blasted the unicomplex with torpedoes just to be sure. Azera, I really don't think it's possible to shout 'no' more loudly than that."

"I guess," the captain replied quietly, smiling a little shyly in spite of her gleaming eyes, and then her smile gradually faded again, "but even then, I could still feel them in my thoughts. It felt like.. it felt like I was killing my family, every time I shot one of them."

"They're not your family," Auslaz said firmly, "you're not a Borg."

"Then what am I," Azera suddenly shouted across the office, and her own eyes widened at just how desperate her voice had sounded. She shook her head a little, took a deep breath and when she finally spoke again, she'd started to regain her composure.

"I'm sorry," she said softly, "I shouldn't be keeping you from the bridge. I'll be fine, I just have a lot to think about, that's all. But," and Azera made herself look up at her friend and smile a little, "thank you. And could you tell everyone else I said thank you too? I'll be out to tell them in person as soon as I finish the report, but they deserve to hear it right now."

"Sure," the science officer nodded sympathetically and began to turn away to walk through the ready room doors. Then she suddenly stopped and turned around again.

"Maybe," Auslaz quietly answered the question still hanging between them, "maybe you're what they gave up, to become what they are. Maybe that's why they wanted you to say yes. To validate the choices they made, to prove to themselves it was worth it. Maybe."

Azera sniffled and nodded mutely, and Auslaz watched her for a moment longer before turning back through the doors and stepping onto the bridge again. The captain paced back to her desk and tumbled into her chair, leaning forward with a sigh to tap her fingers across the polished black surface, to call up the glowing blue LCARS display and prepare the Starfleet report. Then she hesitated as she read her name and rank across the top of the ship manifest that formed the main menu, and tapped a few more buttons to bring up her personnel file.

Name: Azera Xi
Serial Number: 361-4752-118
Rank: Captain
Assignment: Commanding Officer, USS Roanoke
Age: 19 (approximate)
Species: Unknown
Education: Starfleet Academy, San Fran...


She tapped another button and highlighted the species field to amend it. She couldn't just make it say anything she wanted, of course: the change had to go through the Federation's Department of Records for approval. But she could start the process, at least. She closed her eyes for a moment and then began to delete the words and type in a new answer.

Species: Borg

Her breath started to quicken just at the sight of it, and she deleted the letters.

Species: Species 1

At least she could breathe while reading that, but she shook her head after a moment and deleted that answer too. She paused, staring at the screen, and then sighed again and reluctantly typed in and saved the one word that, in spite of everything, still rang the most true.

Species: Unknown

Last edited by sparklysoldier; 03-29-2013 at 02:12 PM.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 167
# 27 "Pardon Me"
03-25-2013, 11:56 AM
(Saying Goodbye)

After several years of captaining the same ship, you've just received word from command that you are being reassigned to a different ship in a matter of days. While you have mixed emotions about the new adventure that you are about to undertake, your crew, which, for the most part, is comprised of the same individuals that were onboard when you first took command, is definitely not going to take this lightly. How do you break the news to them? How do they take it? How do you spend your final days with them? What's it like to look back one last time as you exit the ship's airlock? Write a personal log entry sharing the experience.


------

Not exactly within the letter of the description but I hope you enjoy it anyway. Posted this in the wrong place also. Sorry!

-----

"What's this?" Sasup squinted suspiciously at the electronic tablet in her hand.

Captain Desdemona Corvina stared up at her first officer coolly, "I don't know. Why don't you tell me what you see, Commander."

The first officer's sharp Vulcan eyes quickly scanned the document, her face betraying emotion no more dramatic than 'dawning realization', "It appears to be a... Federation pardon." Her jaw tightened. Even after so many years commanding the woman, Corvina had no idea what Sasup was thinking.

The captain nodded, "That's right Mister Sasup, full pardon. From now on you keep your nose clean, I can't go handing these out too often, but as of this moment you're released from service in Starfleet."

Sasup placed the tablet carefully on the Captain's desk, as if damaging it might jeopardize her freedom, "Sir. You kept your word. Frankly I assumed this day would never arrive."

Corvina spun a bit in her chair, folding her hands in her lap. Her solid black cybernetic eyes gleamed in the low light of her ready room, "Course, I could still use you."

Sasup raised her eyebrow, "Could you."

"Yes. In the intelligence business it pays to have a colleague that knows what you want without your having to ask."

"And I could say, hypothetically, 'to hell with you' and leave the room. A free woman."

"Yes."

Sasup simply stood for a long moment, her grey eyes boring a hole into those of her commanding officer. Des kept a pretty good poker face but inwardly she was nervous. It had been her only play. She knew in her gut that Sasup would have snapped her neck after another year of coerced servitude, but it would be a heavy blow to lose her. Finally, Des couldn't stand the suspense, "You put on a pretty good facade but I know you, Mister Sasup. You love this work."

Sasup took in a breath as if to speak, but said nothing. Corvina continued, "Remember Ferenginar? Gort had a phaser at my temple and you tossed him out the window? We had t--"

Sasup let slip the ghost of a smile as she interjected, "We had to jump out the window ourselves to scale the building and take the phaser before anybody found the body. Made it look like a suicide."

Des chuckled, "Might have been serious trade sanctions if we hadn't. Good times. Got a full plate Commander, plenty of those moments left on my agenda. You could be there with me... if you wanted." She tried for the puppy dog eyes, but with her pale skin and black eyes she suspected the look might have come off more menacing than pitiable.

Sasup tilted her head, "And I'm supposed to forget, I suppose, that I've been serving you essentially at gunpoint for the past five years."

"You don't have to forget, Commander. I wouldn't expect a Vulcan to forget anything. But I'd hope one thing you'd learned during your service was not to take things personally. I needed you then, I needed someone with teeth who wouldn't throw the rulebook at me, and we did a lot of good together whether you were totally willing or not."

Sasup glanced away, "We did."

After another long moment the captain raised her eyebrows, "Well?"

Sasup fixed her captain with an intense gaze. Des knew the look. People had been known to die shortly after receiving it. The commander spoke, "You have a lot to answer for. I've never allowed anyone to slight me the way you did those years ago -- nobody who is still breathing. But you are correct, I've found my tenure here... stimulating. And I can't logically ignore that you kept your word. Here is my proposal, Captain, and it is yours to take or leave."

"Go on."

"Squirm a bit. Give me a week. At the end of the week be on Vulcan, mid day. If I'm not back on board by nightfall you will know I want nothing more to do with you. In the meantime you can, as a human might say, 'sit and spin'. Acceptable?"

Captain Corvina nodded almost imperceptibly slightly.

"If there's nothing further, Captain."

"That's all. We'll set a course for Vulcan immediately, pack your things. Dismissed."

"Aye Captain." Sasup spun on her heel and was gone.

Des Corvina dug an engraved silver cigarette case from her desk, "Computer. Air filtration." She let out a heavy sigh and lit up a cigarette, inhaling deeply. Not a common vice, or a cheap one, but after a candid conversation with her first she found it was the only thing that calmed her.

Last edited by pompouluss; 03-25-2013 at 12:45 PM.
Rihannsu
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 216
# 28
03-26-2013, 06:40 PM
Literary Challenge 28: Stranded

Bryan looked around the interior of the Captian's Yacht at the other four officers, all joking and drinking from their glasses of Romulan Ale, that he had brought with him on a brief reunion. Justin Bronder, Bryan's chief of security and one of his closest friends, who served with him since he was given command of the U.S.S. Omega after he was promoted to Commander. Syiseda Dinirtra, the Betazoid doctor who had served with him since he made Lieutenant Commander, and one of his closest confidants. Six of Nine, his chief engineer, the Liberated Borg he had "met" when he knocked her unconscious with a salvo of stun bursts from a phaser rifle because he forgot to set the switch on his weapon, who rapidly became one of his most trusted officers and friends. And, last but not least, there was Ibalei Zizania, his Joined Trill, chief Science Officer, First Officer, and soon-to-be wife, whom he had known since his earliest days at the academy and served with since a little after he took command of the ShiKhar class Nemesis.

"Well, I'm sure you all know why we're assembled today." Bryan said, looking around at each of them. "Today marks the two year mark that we were all finally assembled." That marked light applause from the other four he was with. "Justin, Syiseda, Six, and Ibalei, there is no way I could do half of what I've done to date without any of your help. So, to that end, a toast," he raised his glass, "to us all. May we continue to serve together until the boat falls out from under us."

"To us!" They all cheered at once.

Just before they all took a drink form there glasses, there was a loud crash from the starboard side, and the entire yacht shuddered. Bryan picked himself up off of the floor and looked out the front window in time to see the starboard nacelle drift past.

"That's not good..." He muttered.

"What's going on Bryan?" Ibalei asked worriedly as she got up form the floor as well.

"Oh, nothing. Just watched the starboard nacelle drift past is all."

That elicited a scowl form the Trill.

"So, does anyone know what hit us? And for that matter, why the proximity alarm never went off?"

"I can check the logs if you would like sir." Six said calmly.

"Do it."

She walked up to one of the undamaged consoles and began scrolling quickly through the logs. "Done sir," she called.

"That was fast," Bryan replied, a little shocked.

"What?" She said, her voice filled with feigned hurt, "You do know that I still have a brain that's partially computer, so I can process information at a significantly higher rate than you can."

Bryan glared at her. "What did you find?"

"Well, to be frank, the proximity sensor didn't have time to go off. We were impacted by a very small asteroid that was traveling at near-warp speeds."

"Can you tell me how it was moving that fast?"

"Nope." The Borg said. "Sensors couldn't get a good scan of it before it sped away."

Bryan sighed. "Is the distress beacon active?"

"It activated automatically when we were hit," Ibalei said. "Athena probably won't spot it until she's out of the Nebula though," referring to the ship's AI, who also managed the sensor array.

"Well, I guess all we can do now is wait. Are the replicators and life-support systems functioning?"

"Yes, and yes," Six said, looking at the shuttle's MSD. "Looks like we got lucky there."

"Well, that's something at least," Bryan said, shaking his head in exasperation. "How much longer until the Athena is in range again to detect our beacon?"

"A few days, maybe a week, sir," Ibalei said.

"Well, I guess that gives us a day or two to talk some more. Anyway, it's getting late." He said, finishing the last of his ale. "I should probably stop so that I don't feel horrible tomorrow morning."

*******

"Hey sir," Syiseda said, walking up to him several days later. "How are you today?"

"You already know the answer to that one," He replied chuckling a little.

"Oh my gosh...Did I...Please tell me I didn't...I am so sorry sir," She stammered desperately.

Bryan laughed loudly. "I was kidding Syiseda. I'm fine."

She looked relieved first but quickly switched to annoyed. "Anyways sir, I had an idea that I wanted to run by you."

"Go ahead."

He heard her voice whisper in his mind, "Seeing as how we'll be stuck out here for a few more days with nothing better to do, not to mention the fact that you still have not planned your wedding, why don't we do it here and now?"

Bryan stood and pondered the idea for a moment ."Well, it's fine by me, if you've already okay-ed it with Ibalei," he thought in reply.

"She already did," Ibalei's voice whispered in his mind.

"When did my head become an open forum?" Bryan thought with exasperation.

"Sorry Bryan." Ibalei thought, chuckling a little.

"So, do you two want to get ready or what?" Syiseda laughed.

"Well, who'll officiate?"
Bryan questioned.

Syiseda hit him in the arm. "Who were you going to have do it on the Athena?" She nearly shouted into his mind, referring to the one idea he did have about his wedding.

"Point taken," Bryan thought back, rubbing his arm.

"Now, you two go get ready before I have Justin make you!"

*******

The five officers stood in their dress uniforms, the shoulders of which gleamed a bright gold, with division-specific trimming on several edges set upon a black background.

"Well, you all know why you're gathered here right now," Syiseda said, "So I'm not going to waste any time reminding you. I'm also not entirely sure what marrige ceremonies consist of on Trill and Earth, and I'm reasonably certain you don't want a Betazoid style wedding." All five of them laughed a little at that comment. "As a result, I'm kind of just going to make it up as I go along. So, here goes: Bryan, you and Ibalei are two of the most amazing people I have come to get to know. I can really see that you two truly love each other, in a way that few can. Whenever I join minds with both of you, I can feel how you two see each other. That overwhelming sense of belonging you share when you two are together, the happiness you feel when you two look into each-others eyes, the strength you two give each other. You have something unique."

"We all saw this coming. You two have known each-other for six-and-a-half years now. When you proposed to her in the middle of the Bridge, Bryan, I'm sure you weren't aware of it at the time, but everyone broke out into applause when she kissed you. When Ibalei was joined, I...talked with Zizania, telling him of all the hardship you two had been through. When I finished, he said, 'I know. I'm going to let her be herself. That's the least I can do for the both of them.' And, here we are today. Finally, joining the two together forever. So, without any more ceremony, Commander Ibalei Zizania, do you accept Bryan as your legal husband, from now until you both are gone?"

Ibalei looked into Bryan's eyes for a moment. Tears had begun to well up in her beautiful stormy-grey eyes, and a smile crept across her face as she uttered one word. "Yes."

Syiseda turned now to Bryan. "Vice Admiral Bryan Valot, do you take Ibalei to be your legal wife, from now until you both are gone?"

Bryan began to think about his past with Ibalei. They first met when he literally bumped into her at the academy. They became friends quite quickly after that. They had helped each other study for courses that they each had trouble with, and, when it came time for Bryan to take the Kobayashi Maru test, Ibalei sat as his First officer. He remembered her calling out orders when she saw an opportunity that Bryan had missed. When they finally graduated, she was assigned to a different vessel, though not for long, as after Bryan's first mission as the official captain of the ShiKahr class Nemesis, he personally requested that she be transferred to his command. The pair had been an inseperable team ever since. Bryan thought to when she had nearly been killed, after the battle against the Mirror Universe of the 1st Assault Fleet. Back to when he proposed to her, after being sent back in time to New York City pre-World War III, to when she had been Joined to Zizania, after the loss of Ambassador Pakan during a battle with a Borg Cube. He thought, and smiled as he spoke one, single word. "Yes."

"Very well then. By the power granted to me by the United Federation of Planets legal system, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife."

Just as the pair began to kiss, for the very first time as a married couple, a massive, gleaming, pale-white ship warped in just outside of the front window.

"Yacht Jason, this is the Athena," Lieutenant Commander Kerry Avalrez, who had been left in command of the Athena in Bryan's absence, called out. "Heard you guys could use a hand."

Bryan stared smiling into the grey eyes of his wife. "Athena, this is the U.S.S. Jason. We weren't expecting you to be out for another few days."

"We finished a little earlier than expected. So, do you want us to get you aboard or not?"

"Sounds good, Avalrez. See you aboard."

****************
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Literary Challenge #30: The Tau Dewa Sector Block

Admiral's log, Stardate 90831.46
Vice Admiral Bryan Mitchel Valot of the U.S.S. Athena recording

The Athena detected what seems to be a civilian distress beacon approximately 5 minutes ago near the Beta Thoridor system. We launched a probe to investigate, but are still waiting on the final report. I have my suspicions as to who sent the distress call, as I only know of one civilian ship currently in this sector. I will keep it to myself for now however, as it may affect both mine and my first officer's decisions.

Personal note: I really hope my suspicions turn out false, because if this really is the freighter I'm thinking of, I'm not sure what I'll do.


"Admiral, I have a report for you," The Athena AI called.

"Yes?" Bryan asked, leaning back in his Ready room chair

"The probe has completed its survey. The ship is under attack by a Bortaqu' class supported by two Negh'vars. And you'll really want to hear this part: the ship is the freighter S.S. Dionysus."

Bryan paused. "Are you sure?"

"Bryan, if I wasn't sure, would I really be telling you that it's the ship belonging to your-"

"Point taken Athena," he interrupted. He got up and left the ready room, and sat in the central chair of the Bridge. "Helm divert course to Beta Thoridor."

"Aye, sir," Ensign Dwayne Ables, the ship's helmsman, replied.

Bryan tapped the intercom button on his chair. "Attention all hands, this is the Admiral speaking. Red alert, all hands to battle-stations, red alert, all hands to battle-stations. This is not a drill, I repeat, this is not a drill."

The Klaxons bared. Bryan could almost imagine his crew scrambling around the ship, getting ready for whatever they were about to face. He looked around the bridge at the rest of his staff. Many of them had been on the original Athena when she had faced the exact same odds that Bryan was about to throw them into today. They all remembered how the ship had been nearly destroyed before they managed to retreat into warp. Now, they're about to charge into almost the same fight they had nearly lost, and hope for the best.

"All stations report ready, sir," Ibalei said, sitting down next to him

"Good. What's our ETA?"

"Less than a minute, sir," Athena responded.

The Athena dropped out of warp to witness the freighter in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the Klingons. But, by this point, the cat was more playing with its meal then actually trying to catch it. Bryan's mind immediately went into focus, analyzing the Klingon's maneuvers, looking for weak spots, and picking up on key aspects of the attack patterns they were using. He could almost see where the Klingons were maneuvering, where their ships weak spots were, and what strategies he could use to defeat them. The battle began in a split second, with the Athena lashing out at the three Klingon warships with all of her phaser banks, followed closely by a full spread of quantum torpedoes. Both of the Negh'Vars were damaged by the Athena's ferocious opening salvo, but the Brotaqu' held. THe three vessels turned clumsily towards the Athena when she unleashed her second surprise. A small shape jettisoned from the aft of the vessel. Two tiny nacelles extended away from its hul, and it sped off. Meanwhile, the three Klingon vessels returned fire on the Athena, impacting her shields with enough fire to more than destroy some vessels. But the Athena's reversed polarity shield generator easily shrugged off everything the Klingons threw at her. Suddenly, the small ship the Athena deployed returned just behind the Klingon battlegroup, unleashing a massive salvo of cannon blasts, scoring multiple direct hits to the hull of one of the Negh'Vars. the cannons were followed closely by a torpedo, which slammed into the hull, ripping clean through the ships armor, and detonating within the bowls of the hull, causing the ship to simply fall apart at the seams.

Even as the first Negh'var began to collapse, the Athena had already turned her attention to the second one, beginning to fire as her broadside came to bear. The Negh'var turned, attempting to stay in what was normally the weakest arc for a Starfleet vessel, as most ships didn't have torpedoes that could be fired to the side. Just as they entered the Athena's starboard-bow arc, however, their shields failed, and a spread of torpedoes sped away from the Athena's tubes , arcing shrply toward the ship, which had already suffered damage from phaser blasts beginning to rake along her hull. The torpedoes detonated around and against the Negh'var, causing significant damage to the ship. Another spread of phaser blasts ripped along the ship's hull, cleaving off one of the nacelles, ripping open the bridge, and sliced open the hull in multiple areas. Noting the ship was more than crippled, Bryan turned his attention to the Bortasqu', which had thus far been trying to maneuver into position to attack the Athena.

The Athena turned to face her nemesis, slowly and menacingly, as her axial phaser banks began to glow brightly. The Bortasqu's own axial heavy disruptor autocannons began togleam as well, as the two vessels brought their mightiest weapons to bear. Both ships fired simultaneously, the Athena's beams arcing across space and barely cleaving the Bortasqu's shields, and the disruptors slamming repeatedly into the Athena's shields. The reversed polarity held true once more, resulting in only minor bleedthrough damage to the Athena's hull. the Bortasqu' turned desperately to avoid the salvo of torpedoes they knew would be coming shortly after their forward shields failed. They wereunable to get a new facing into arc in time, however, as the Athena's torpedoes slammed into the ship's neutronium hull plating, causing a fair amount of damage. The two ships moved side-by-side, and began to trade broadsides in a deadly mix of brilliant orange and harsh green light. The shields of both ships began to sputter when the Athena, in a mix of brilliance and insanity on Bryan's part, activate only one of the ship's warp nacelles, resulting in the ship flipping almost instantaneously to face the Bortasqu' with her fresh forward shields. Her axial beams lanced out once more, this time cleaving into the hull, followed closely by another spread of quantum torpedoes, which ripped cleanly into the hull of the once mighty dreadnought.

"Sir, the Bortasqu' class is about to go critical!" Athena warned.

"Helm divert course, ten degrees up, twenty to starboard. Full impulse. Six, extend our shields around the Dionysus," Bryan called out in rapid-fire fashion.

The ship shuddered slightly from the explosion, but otherwise no real further damage was done to either the Athena or the freighter. As the Athena pulled up alongside the freighter, Ensign Aara, the comms officer, called out, "Sir, the freighter is hailing us."

Bryan looked at his First Officer, who nodded. "Put them through," He replied, dread beginning to enter his voice.

"Bryan," The woman said. "I can't believe it's really you!"

"I'm just doing my job. Nothing more," He replied, his expression suddenly very harsh and accusatory.

"Now, is that any way to talk to your mother?"

Bryan signaled Aara to cut the channel.

*******

Bryan stood facing a window in the conference room of the 1st Assault Fleet's Embassy on New Romulus when his mother walked up beside him.

"You know, it was rather rude of you to cut me off like that earlier," she said.

"Really? I thought I made my point quite nicely," Bryan replied icily.

"You can't keep avoiding me like this Bryan."

"Oh? And why not?"

"Because I'm your mother."

"You made it pretty clear that you wanted nothing more to do with me a year ago after I proposed to Ibalei."

"I never-"

"Do the words 'You're not our son if you marry that spot head' ring a bell?"

"What do you want me to say? I'm sorry? Because I'm not. You can do better than that spot head!"

"Oh, I can do better hmm? And who would you rather see me married to?"

"There are human women out there who would be much better for you than that...women."

Bryan quickly picked up on her concentrated effort to avoid replacing women with thing. "Typical. Always questioning everything I do."

"I have supported you no matter what stupid-"

"No, you haven't!" Bryan yelled. "You have belittled every single decision that I've made! For no better reason than it's not what you wanted for me! If you're my mother, than you of all people should have been willing to support me! But instead, you've been critical of everything I've done to date! When I commanded that freighter in the battle with the Orion syndicate just prior to when I joined Starfleet, you weren't impressed at all! You merely used that as another excuse to yell at me! Same thing when I joined Starfleet. You said that I should be helping with the family business, not fooling around in deep space. When I was given command of the Nemesis, you tried to accuse me of avoiding you. No matter what I've done. you've been critical of me for it! Marrying Ibalei was the last straw! You said it yourself! I'm not your son anymore. And, you know what? I'm glad for that! Because now that I haven't been trying to please you constantly, I feel free! Free from your constant criticism! Nothing I ever did was good enough for you! Now, for the first time in my life, I don't need your approval! I can finally live my life the way I want to! No more 'that's not what we want for you!' No more 'You wouldn't seriously think about that would you!' I am finally free!"

Bryan felt the weight of the world lift off of his shoulders with that last comment. He walked away, feeling, at long last, free from the shadow he had lived under most of his life.
Vice Admiral Bryan Mitchel Valot
Commanding officer: Odyssey class U.S.S. Athena
Admiral of the 1st Assault Fleet
Join date: Some time in Closed Beta
Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,302
# 29 Solitude (LC #3: My Haven)
03-27-2013, 11:39 AM
They know what everybody knows
Better sit, a letter from a thief says
Finally when everybody sleeps
So few ways to cover up the old wounds
Lost in a finger, forced to lie
This sends us medicating through it all

If you ever enter my mind
Stay there, you'll live
Defend it off and fool them all
Stay there

Faceless, so little there to judge
Left wing, let's separate the cold out
Opposites, we never need to tell
One sting I've found I'm having to, I'm having to...

Solitude, waste of a man
This fades as soon as the sun sets

I now own this fatal role that lives
Imagine here's a better feel
Told to dissolve or choose to fade
Or stay here, you'll live...


Pete Loeffler of Chevelle - "Letter from a Thief"





SOLITUDE



The Pirate Captain walked through the port of Santa Clara. A busy buccaneer port on the Yucatan Peninsula, and also home to a Jesuit mission, it offered all sorts of refuge for all sorts of people.

The Captain walked up the hill to the church. He could hear voices inside. He looked west toward the setting sun and realized he was late. His eyes swept the scenery of the coastal town and fixed on the ship anchored out in the cove.

It was a corvette - a common French warship design from the early eighteenth century. But this ship - his ship - was not common at all. It had been constructed by a master shipwright in Jamaica, built to accommodate thirteen bronze guns to a broadside, with fore and aft chasers. Her heavy but shallow keel and her custom rigging made her as fast and maneuverable as a racing sloop. She was the Tiburon - the Scourge of the Caribbean.

The Pirate doffed his leather tricorne hat, opened the door of the church and took a seat as quietly as possible, just as the Abbot approached the lectern.

* * *

"...In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, amen." Father Sanchez concluded the Sunday evening mass. "Go in peace, my dear children, and God be with you."

The Pirate Captain stood up and stepped out of his pew, joining the crowd in the aisle filing out of the church. He paused at the door and spun on his heel. Father Sanchez was gathering his books from the pulpit. The Pirate caught his eye and nodded toward the confessional booth. The Abbot nodded and held up a finger, indicating that he would join him in a minute. The Pirate entered the booth, crossed himself and knelt on the padded board. He remembered once touring a monastery belonging to an entirely different religious sect and recalled the uncomfortable positions the penitent were forced to endure there. He held a silent prayer of thanks that the Jesuits were more compassionate.

"Have you come to confess, my son?" Father Sanchez asked. He had entered the booth stealthily, defeating the Pirate's keen hearing.

"Bless me father, for I have sinned," the Captain announced his penitence by rote. "It has been nine days since my last confession."

"Proceed, my son."

"Four days ago I shouted at one of my men and invoked the name of the Lord in vain. He had annoyed me, but the circumstances were trivial and I lost my temper.

"Two days ago I lost my temper again. I cursed at a man and threatened him with bodily injury because he spilled my coffee.

"Yesterday I was responsible for around one hundred and sixty men losing their lives. I ordered my gunners to fire on several ships which were protecting an outpost that I wanted to capture. Please do not count this action against the souls of my men - they were only following the instructions of their captain.

"And then while seizing the outpost I led my party as we put to death another twenty-five people.

"And this morning I had impure thoughts about a member of my crew."

"Is that all?" Sanchez asked.

"I believe so, Father," the Captain answered.

"All sins are equally great in the eyes of God. You must say five Ave Marias and five Pater Nosters for the absolution of your sins. Join me now in the recitation of the Act of Contrition..." after they had made the prayer in Latin - the Abbot leading, the Pirate repeating - Sanchez concluded the ritual. "Jesus loves you and He stands before His Father's throne to wash away your guilt. Go in peace my son, and sin no more. And when you do sin again, come back and we'll do this all over again." Father Sanchez looked at his parishioner with an amused and benevolent smile.

"Thank you, Father." The Pirate Captain started to stand up.

"By the way, what are you up to now?" Sanchez asked, adding "just as a matter of academic curiosity."

"What do you mean?" the Pirate responded, crouching in confines of the booth.

"How many people have you killed, counting the hundred and eighty-five or so yesterday?" Sanchez clarified.

"Am I still talking to my confessor?"

"Legally, perhaps, if you mean will your answer be under the protection of the seal of confession; it will, unless you tell me you once killed or tried to kill the pope. But I'm really asking as a curious historian."

"I don't exactly know," the Pirate answered. "I stopped taking count soon after the start of the war. I was up to over three thousand then, so I think I must have at least five times that by now."

"I see. Have a safe voyage, my son," Sanchez said, and he left the confessional. "Vaya con Dios."

"Thank you," the Pirate said as he followed Sanchez out of the booth. He then walked out of the church. He replaced his hat and strolled through the town. He felt a brief twinge of guilt pulling at his conscience, triggered by the fact that he could no longer feel any guilt for the countless men he'd killed. He felt the burden of their deaths only as long as it took for him to reach Father Ricardo Sanchez and remove the stain of their blood with the blood of Christ. He remembered the numbers of bodies he'd stripped of life only for the purpose of being able to confess accurately. It hadn't always been that way. In the beginning, he remembered every face of every man, woman and child he'd ever watched die, whether he was responsible for their deaths or not. The faces haunted his dreams. Then he found Father Sanchez, and he found forgiveness and with it, the nightmares ceased. He still remembered a few faces, though.

He walked down the dock to the end and said to no one "Computer, end program." The town of Santa Clara, the pirate ship and church vanished, replaced by a holodeck room twenty meters square.

Vice Admiral Jesu LaRoca removed his pirate hat and walked out the door and down the corridors of the Tiburon, muttering to himself the words "Ave Maria, gratia plena..."


"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; 04-27-2013 at 03:04 PM. Reason: Name Change
Commander
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 498
# 30
03-28-2013, 04:28 PM
Literary Challenge 2: Taking Command



The Orions, like many other cultures, had a tendency to anthromorphize things. It seemed a universal constant that a concept or thing could only be understood if one were to treat it as a person, and attach emotions or motivations to it. To the Orions, luck and good fortune were typically seen as female, in much the same way as the Humans believed in "Lady Luck." Lynathru had never considered how appropriate this comparison was until now: like most Orion women, luck was fickle, vicious, and seemed to have it in for him.

He could almost hear luck's mocking laughter now as he stared out the viewport, his frowning green face lit an unwholesome olive colour by the murky red lighting of the spacedock control room.Before him, the vast window was dominated by the hulking shapes of the KDF fleet moored at Qo'noS' main spacedock, the Klingon birthworld and the vast expanse of space barely visible in the background. The upper half of the viewport alone was encompassed by the vast shape of a Negh'var class battlecruiser sitting proudly at rest, like a pugilist awaiting his next fight. Around it, Lynathru could see other warships of the Klingon fleet: a Somraw-cass Raptor stood docked to the lower left, its wings outstretched and looking like a predator in motion even while moored. Further in the background, a Vor'cha class battlecruiser drifted past the spiked, sea monster-liked shape of a Nausicaan warship, and a trio of Birds of Prey turned in a tight formation. And in the corner, Lynathru could just make out the garguntuan shape of a of a Bortas-class dreadnought, its prow alone dwarfing everything else visible in the orbital yards.

His vision, however, returned to the ship at the lower corner of the viewport. Dwarfed by every other vessel moored at the station was a Qul'Dun-class Bird of Prey, and one that had clearly seen better days. The ship's jade paintwork was faded and burned in many places, exposing ugly glints of metal beneath. The entire ship looked like it was slowly succumbing to some sort of rust infestation, and Lynathru almost felt physically ill looking at it.

"You can't be serious," he muttered aloud.

Next to him, Battlemaster Khe'Rath turned towards him, raising an impassive eyebrow. "I beg your pardon?" she growled. Lynathru had discovered a long time ago that Klingons tended to growl everything when they communicated. Aggression was practically encoded into their DNA.

Lynathru gestured to the ship. "You're giving me command of that??" The ship barely even looked capable of impulse, let alone warp, and he didn't even want to consider how much its systems would be hampered by the structural damage. For all he knew, it would fall apart the moment it left the dock.

The Battlemaster's expression hardened. During the year Lynathru had been training under this old Klingon, he knew this expression as a sign that he was tempting her anger. He had faced that anger enough times to know that he did not want it: Khe'Ras may have been a grey-haired hag of a woman, but she was still physically fit enough to rip Lynathru's arm off and beat him to death with it if she was so inclined. She reminded him, in so many unpleasant ways, of his long-dead mother, although she was much less subtle.

"Watch your tongue, you green petaQ," Khe'Rath growled. "The Notqa has seen dozens of major battles, and twice as many skirmishes. Its scars are a mark of pride, the mark of a true warrior's ship. They are nothing for you to complain about or be offended by."

Realizing he was stepping on thin ice, Lynathru modified his behaviour. An Orion living on Qo'noS had to be careful to watch his tongue and play to the Klingons' values of honour and tradition, or else his or her head would end up on a spike. "Forgive me, Battlemaster, I meant no disrespect," he said with a bow to his instructor. "I had never expected my first command to be so...damaged, that is all." Truth to be told, he was more upset by how small the ship was. A small ship meant a small cargo hold, which meant only a small amount of plunder that could be store. Not for the first time, he felt an intense jealousy towards the Orion privateer captains in the KDF who got to keep their own, Orion-built raiding ships with substantial cargo holds.

As usual, though, the old hag saw right through his respectful gestures. "If the ship is damaged, you will make do as best you can, and triumph in spite of it," she growled. "You are not Klingon, but you have trained with the KDF, so you are the next best thing!" Her eyes narrowed. "Just remember, this ship is a raider, not a full battlecruiser. It can surprise any unwary foe with a well-timed decloaking attack, but do not be so foolish as to take on a large warship by yourself. Be smart, use your instincts and the lessons you have learned, and you will frighten the enemy like children in their beds." Her arms folded in a stern gesture, as they did whenever Khe'Ras concluded a lecture. "Now, before you take command of this honoured vessel-- a command, Lynathru, you should feel unworthy of-- what else should you remember?"

He felt his cheeks burn. Khe'Rath had beaten this answer into him quite thoroughly during their training, but he still felt humiliation at having to say it aloud. "I am a warrior now, not a pirate," he replied, doing his best to keep the bitterness from his voice. "I should seek my enemy's destruction, not their cargo. Everything I do, I now do for the glory of the Klingon Empire." I will also dance over your grave one day, you miserable hag, he added mentally.

Khe'Rath seemed satisfied by this answer. "Conduct yourself with honour, Lynathru," she said. "We allowed you into the academy, and trained you to command, because we saw potential in you. Potential that is of benefit to the Empire." Her eyes narrowed. "Remember, the eyes and ears of the KDF are upon you. You can either serve with distinction and rise in rank...or you can dishonour yourself and go back to slaving to belly dancers in the ghettos of the First City. The choice is yours, Lynathru."

Biting down his hatred, Lynathru reacted as he had been trained to, slamming his steel-clad forearm against the chestplate of his red cuirass. "jYaj!" he barked, the Klingon word grating at his throat. He felt conscious that he was acting and reacting like a trained dog, taking Khe'Rath's abuse and responding just as she wanted. At the moment, he didn't care. In a few hours, he knew, he would never have to deal with Khe'Rath or the Academy ever again. In fact, if he was lucky, he might never even see Qo'noS again either.

He spun on his heels, and was turning to leave for the turbolift-- and, he knew, towards the next few years of his life-- when Khe'Rath cleared her throat audibly behind him. The sound caused him to stop in his tracks, as it always had during training.

"One more thing," Khe'Rath added. "Only Klingons can go to Sto'Vo'Kor. That is simply the way of things. It is not a place that was ever meant for Orions, Nausicaans or Gorn. Even so..." Her needle teeth pulled back in a grin. "Die well, Lynathru."

Lynathru stiffened. In all honesty, he had no intention of ever dying at all if he could help it, but then he had learned a long time ago that Klingons had very odd ways of wishing people well. He turned, and gave Khe'Rath a quick bow. "Thank you, Battlemaster."

Hopefully, he thought to himself, that was the last time he would have to say that to her.


*****

To be an Orion in the KDF was not uncommon. Ever since their subsumation into the Klingon Empire, the Orions had found endless (and surprisingly legal) opportunities for business, commerce, and prosperous military service within the Empire itself. A fairly substantial "green district" had grown in the First City on Qo'noS, and the most common Orion businesses-- pleasure-houses, slavery, and the aggressive confiscation of other people's spaceborne valuables-- were tolerated within the Empire, albeit frowned upon. With their long history of piracy and spaceborne adventuring, the Orions proved to be suitable officers and helmsmen for Klingon ships. And while the Klingons openly scoffed that the Orions were "honourless pirates" and worse, the truth of the matter was that, despite their lack of any vaunted codes of honour, the Orions valued strength every bit as much as their Klingon overlords. In Orion society, strength and cunning were needed, either to advance in social standing, or to make sure one didn't get oneself assassinated in the process. These traits, combined with the interesting hormonal traits of their species-- the overwhelming seductive domination of the females and the impressive physical stamina of the males-- made the Orions valuable additions to the Klingon Empire, whether the Klingons themselves liked it or not.

This may have been fine enough for other Orions. For Lynathru, though, it was a cruel reminder of how far he had sunk.

A decade ago, he had been the only son of a powerful house on Ter'jas Mor, one that enjoyed the personal favour of Melani Di'an herself. He had gained accolades and a worthy reputation through countless raids, privateering voyages and smuggling operations in Federation space, and had survived every single attempt on his life by his rivals. Although the power and authority of the house would inevitably go to his sister, as was the matriarchal custom of the Orion race, Lynathru would still have enjoyed a position of rank in the house's military and fleet arm once his mother passed away. Best of all, he would have gained captaincy of the Beguiling, the family's trade barge, a powerful vessel and status symbol. For a time, it seemed that all of these things would inevitably be his.

Unfortunately, fate had had other ideas. In one botched privateering raid, his idiot of a mother, while commanding the Beguiling, ended up in an uneven battle against a Federation starship commanded by some Human named Sulu. His sister had been on the ship as well at the time, but instead of dropping into warp and retreating like a sensible person would have, she and Mother had instead decided to stand and fight. The end result was a disaster: the Beguiling was destroyed, and everyone on board, including Lynathru's mother, sister, most of the experienced officers of their house and a lot of raided wealth, was lost. In an instant, Lynathru's house had suffered a crippling blow from which it would never recover, and Lynathru's coveted inheritance was lost.

Normally, with no female heirs, control of the house would have gone to Lynathru, but with the loss of the family wealth, his newfound inheritance didn't mean much anymore. In order to ensure his house's survival, he was forced to mate with the head of a rival house. Unfortunately, that relationship didn't end well: Nateri, while a very attractive woman, had also wanted to consolidate her power through Lynathru's removal. One week into the marriage, Lynathru was forced to flee for his life, abandoning his house and his homeworld and boarding the first ship to the only place where he would be relatively safe-- Qo'noS, the throneworld of the Klingon Empire.

And now, here he was, a man who at one point had seemed destined for prestige and wealth, now forced to grovel before Klingon overlords, serve Klingon commanders, fake adherance to an antiquated Klingon honour system, and command a dilapidated Klingon warship, all in the hopes that he would scrape by some smidgens of plunder whenever his Klingon masters permitted it or weren't looking. Although he was experienced in serving on and commanding a ship, experience in the Orion fleet counted for nothing in the eyes of the KDF. He had been forced to go through the KDF Academy, endure their Klingons' bone-breakingly harsh training regimen and the mocking insults, fight his way through his fellow candidates in the brutal final officer's exam. And through it all, he had done so with the knowledge that it was either this, or living in the slums of the First City with Garrad and the rest of his lowly ilk.

"The Notqa has sent confirmation that they are ready to recieve you," a gruff voice said, snapping Lynathru back to reality. "We are ready for transport." The Klingon transporter officer was looking at him expectantly, obviously waiting for some confirmation to beam him over to his new command.

Inwardly, Lynathru sighed. I suppose I might as well get this over and done with, he thought to himself. There was no going back now. For better or worse, his future was tied to the dilapidated excuse of a starship that he was about to take command of. He gave the Klingon officer a curt nod. "Energize."


******

Lynathru rematerialized in the spacious cargo hold of the Notqa, with the entire crew assembled in parade formation to greet him. As per standard KDF procedures, Lynathru was inspected to make an inspection of the crew and get a measure of the men and women who would be serving under him. It was, in many ways, a chance for him to sift the useful from the useless, the valuable from the expendable, the allies from the enemies. The latter was especially important: as much as the loresingers and ranking KDF officers on Qo'noS preached the official motto of several races under a united Empire, the bitter truth was that there was a lot of infighting between various houses and races in the KD itself. Lynathru didn't expect things to be any different here on the Notqa.

There were seventy-five warriors and specialists who made up the small ship's crew. Most of them, as usual, were Klingons, but Lynathru saw fellow Orions in the mix as well, men and women both, as well as a few hulking Gorn, some surly-looking Nausicaans and the lean, sinister shapes of two Ferasans. All of them wore the standard KDF uniform of beaten leather cuirasses and broad shoulder pads, with the ranking officers wearing clinking chainmail sashes across their chests to denote their status. Lynathru, in his own red metal cuirass (thankfully without ridiculous shoulder pads) stood out from his crew. Even though some of the races represented were a head taller than him, Lynathru had always compensated with a straight posture and an intense stare, and he did so now, doing as much as he could to give the impression that he was someone to be taken seriously.

He was quickly introduced to the ranking officers-- the men and women with whom he would be interacting the most for the next few years, for better or worse. The introductions were led by the ship's first officer, Ku'Tagh, son of Gragh-- a glowering, aged specimen of a Klingon whose white beard had been elaborately braided and trailed down acros his armoured chest. From what Lynathru had read of the briefing report, Ku'Tagh was a member of the old guard, a veteran of the Dominion and Gorn Wars who had recently fallen into disgrace due to his family's affiliation with the House of Martok. Just by looking at Ku'Tagh, Lynathru got the sense that he was a lot like Khe'Rath-- surly, stern, and hard to impress, though his resentment at his disgrace would probably make him doubly hard to work with. Lynathru decided he would either have to tread carefully around Ku'Tagh, or do something to earn the old Klingon's respect. Either way, the man was going to be his First Officer, so there would be no avoiding him, no matter what.

The ship's only other Klingon officer was the doctor, Ferra, a woman who was much younger than Ku'Tagh and who, thankfully, did not have his scowling disposition. Her hair was tied back in a series of dreadlocks, and she had a slender, yet fit build to her. She came across as gruff and as proud as any Klingon, but Lynathru got the impression that she was willing to give an Orion captain a chance. This was a relief: he knew from experience that a lot of Klingons were adverse to serving under aliens, and felt quite strongly that it ought to be the other way around. Through Ferra, he could potentially gain the respect of the other Klingons on the ship as well. Either way, he decided, it would pay to get on Ferra's good side: he knew from experience that Klingon medicine involved zero anaesthetic and a lot of rough handling, and he didn't want to find out how much more painful the experience might be if the doctor in question disliked him.

Moving on, he met other officers in quick succession. The ship's engineer, Rresh, was a hulking Gorn with a frighteningly toothy grin and a good-humoured nature, who had greeted his new commander with apparent enthusiasm. My first ally on this ship, Lynathru had thought with a grin. The main navigator, Sarta, was a fellow Orion, who wore a leather brassier in place of a shirt in the custom of their race, had her hair done back in a long ponytail, and...Lynathru had caught himself at that point and stopped taking in her physical details at that point. To stare too long at a woman is to became her property, the old Orion adage went, and given the power of an Orion woman's hormonal effect, it was usually quite true. He and Sarta briskly exchanged greetings, and when asked, Sarta told Lynathru of her navigation credentials from past privateering experience in the Syndicate. Even as Sarta spoke, Lynathru imagined he could see a power-hungry gleam in her eye. He resolved to keep a careful eye on this woman, lest she try to replicate the matriarchal nature of Orion society on this ship. He had not gone through the hell of the KDF academy to have his first command robbed from him by a female's charms.

Last, but by no means least, Lynathru moved on to the Science Officer...and froze when a pair of blood red eyes stared back at him. Or rather, stared into him. A cold sweat formed on the back of Lynathru's neck as he felt himself locked into that gaze, unable to look away. His feet felt rooted in place, his limbs briefly shook as though from palsey, and he felt his heartbeat pounding in his ears as those two, unblinking red eyes bored into his very being...

And then, as quickly as it had all happened, Lynathru suddenly felt free and aware of his surroundings. The Science Officer-- a hairless, bone-ridge creature with mottled yellow and black skin and piercing red eyes-- introduced himself as Rezik. A Lethean. He spoke in a soft, quiet voice, and stated how much he was looking forward to working with Lynathru in the future. Lynathru had simply nodded, and, maintaining as much of his outward composure as possible, walked onwards, wanting to put as much distance between himself and the Lethean as possible.

After the introductions were done, Lynathru gave the first order of his KDF career by having his new crew move to their stations. From there, he and his officers made a trip to the bridge. As Ku'Tagh briefed him on the status of the crew, Lynathru noted, with distaste, how flat, bleak and laconian the architecture of the Notqa was. It was nothing but dull red lighting and flat, steel panels everywhere, with the odd symbol here and there of the Klingon Empire daubed in crimson. No feeling or embellishment or decoration, just flat, spartan unimaginative orderliness.

The bridge of the Notqa was no better, little more than a round room decorated in a dull, scabrous red (which he had double checked to make sure wasn't actual rust). The lighting was dim and cavernous, consoles arrayed in a circular fashion around the captain's chair operated with a jarring, angry buzz to them instead of the more pleasant beep of Orion computers. The atmosphere was unpleasantly warm, and the air filtration must not have been working, as the entire place smelled of blood and sweat. He remembered, with more than a little nostalgia, the leather seats and comfortable atmosphere of the Orion ships he had served on. The rest of the Bird-of-Prey was probably just as bleak as the bridge, which meant that he would probably be sleeping on a hard metal slab of a bed tonight.

Upon entering the bridge, Lynathru's new cadre of officers stood upright at their stations, looking at him expectantly. Ku'Tagh turned to Lynathru, obediently but not without disdain. "This ship is yours, Captain," he growled. "We await your orders."

Welcome to the rest of your life, Lynathru, he thought to himself. Straightening up, he glanced back at Ku'Tagh and gave him a slow nod, before striding to the centre of the bridge and sitting down in the command chair. The hard metal of the chair offered no comfort, and the hard edges of the arm rests bit into his forearm. It was an uncomfortable chair, no doubt designed to remind a captain that he had an uncomfortable responsibility.

And yet, strangely enough, as Lynathru looked out of the viewscreen, none of that seemed to matter. Past the slowly rotating orb of Qo'noS and the steel mass of the KDF fleet in orbit, Lynathru saw the endless expanse of space and the glittering stars in their multitudes. Out there, he knew, was the promise of adventure and danger, of hope and of terror, and above all, of opportunity. And in this chair, he would, for once, have some control over fate instead of being it's unwilling victim. All of his bitterness and regret seemed to recede as he stared out into the endless starscape.

So be it then, he decided. If this was the rest of his life, then he would face it head on. He had been dealt a half-dead wreck of a ship, and a crew full of people who would probably be out to kill him, enslave him or use his mind as a playground. Despite all of this, he vowed to himself, he would succeed. He would prosper. He would survive the worst the universe could throw at him. Because right now, he was captain of his own ship, and that for the first time in ages, that was something that he could call his own.

He leaned back in his chair, inviting the cruel, unforgiving hardness of it against his back. "Miss Sarta," he ordered, "set a course for deep space and take us out. Engage."

Last edited by ambassadormolari; 03-29-2013 at 08:42 AM.
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