Captain
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 1,541
# 31 LC 3 - My Haven
03-29-2013, 09:30 AM
Author's Note: This is present stardate

Ten Forward is busy. Several tables are occupied by crew from various departments and various species, the most common unintentionally being human. A few tables are empty but only one has a single resident. She is the Captain of the vessel, itself traversing the deep silent black between stars. Kathryn Beringer sits alone deliberately in the shade of an overhanging seraph tree, the blue and violet leaves easily blocking the overhead lighting at the corner of the viewport. Her fingertips lightly pushing and pulling a small clear glass containing a dark liquid only a few sips away from being empty. She gazed into the blackness of space as streaks of faraway stars race toward and past the Solaris.


At one table ...

"You could set a chronometer to it. Every fifth day, assuming she's not on a mission; she sits there and stares into space, literally." The bartender finished answering the question to the patrons who were taking turns looking over shoulders to look at their Captain.

"Do you know why?"

The Human bartender looked at the Bolian and shrugged as he placed the last drink on the table. "She's a private person if you can't tell, but scuttlebutt is she can't forgive herself for something that happened on a rescue mission against some Orion slave traders a few months past."

The Betazoid at the table looked at Kathryn again then shook her head. "Was it successful? I remember hearing about that mission but I really shouldn't try anything. I'm not a counselor yet I don't need to sense there is a sadness about her."

The bartender looked at the speaker. "I think it went well, but I'm not sure. I've only ever heard her speak with confidence and strength, like a Captain should in my opinion. If you think she is sad then we should play poker one night. I need to go, but I wouldn't call it sadness ... more like regret."


At one table ...

"You go ask her."

"No, you go her!"

The other used his hands to signal his friend to lower his voice. "Damn it, come on and help me out a little!"

The Pakled's frustration subsided at her friend's attempt to keep their conversation from spilling onto other tables and sighed. "I meet her for bridge repairs. If you want love, ask her for it. You not need my help."

Her Human friend looked shocked, "Who said anything about love? All I'm saying is that I've heard rumors she is lonely and available. Look at her. She's smart, beautiful, sexy, tall ... everything a man could want!" He looked over his shoulder to the burgundy haired woman staring out the viewport.

Rolling her eyes, the Pakled shook her head and grabbed a fork to stab at the food on her plate.

The man wrung his hands together nervously. "I mean, she's a woman, I'm a man. What could go wrong?"

"She's Captain, you're not," the Pakled said with a mouthful of food.

His shoulders fell and he sighed.


At one table ...

The female Andorian looked at the Trill and Klingon. "I'm telling you this so we can stop discussing it. They dated in the Academy. It was a serious relationship the way she talked about it but she broke it off when he proposed to her. After that you'd think a man would crumble but his work in temporal physics blossomed last I heard. I don't know why she did that and she hasn't talked about it to me since."

The Klingon scientist crossed her arms and frowned. "It is really none of our business and dishonorable to gossip about a superior officer."

Looking down as if personally shamed by the comment, the Trill Science Officer reached for her drink. "I didn't mean to impose on anyone. It's just ... she's not the most affable person to work with."

"I disagree. She gets the job done and very efficiently. She has a warrior's spirit," the Klingon half-whispered.

The Andorian nodded, "I agree with that at least. I'm probably her only real friend on the boat and I assure you, spend enough time with her and you'll see her bite is worse than her bark."

"Are you sure you said that right?"

Looking at the Trill, she responded, "About being the Captain's only friend? To be honest, I really don't know."

"No, I ... oh, nevermind."


At one table ...

"Are you serious?!" The Security officer put down his drink at the resolution to the story.

"As a heart attack!" The Security Chief smiled as he rejoiced in the surprised look on the other three officer?s faces. "Don't cross her path, she has a heart of stone."

Another officer whistled a note as he recovered from the tale. "I can't believe she ignored Liberation Protocols."

The Chief nodded and took a sip from his drink. "Neither did I until the XO told me about her being a slave."

The third officer smirked. "Makes you wonder what kind of slave she was. Orion women are -"

"Hey!" The Chief pounded the table and looked around as nearby patrons looked at him. He waited for them to get back to their conversations before he turned his gaze to the members at his table. "Stow that talk, right here and now. She's not like that at all and she deserves more respect. Besides, she not Orion you jackass."

"Okay, okay, sorry Chief."

The first recovered from his commander?s defense. "I thought you didn't like the Captain?"

"Have you ever heard me actually say anything like that? You three know she pulled each of us out of some very tight situations over the past year. Remember that assault on Mallory's World? We'd all be dead if it wasn't for her single-handed defense at the crash site." The other three nodded as they recalled the scene. "I've stopped caring what she's gone through before Starfleet, and I'm proud she's Captain of this ship."

The Chief looked over his shoulder to the woman in the corner of the room. Without looking away he said, "I know she has some demons, but I think they fuel her to be the officer she is." He looked into his drink, took a sip and then looked to each of his comrades. "If I hear any rumors about her past coming from anyone on my team, they'll have to answer to me and you can spread that around."


At her table ...

The streaks of light had no pattern and that helped Kathryn's storm of thoughts find order and calm. The aroma from the Scotch in her glass soothed her muscles while the liquid warmed her core. The Excelsior-class ship was massive compared to her previous commands. It wasn't the largest ship in the fleet but it was plenty big for her. She considered the officer reports she had finished reading prior to coming down to Ten Forward and made some decisions, then prepared some phrases she would use to various persons she would be having meetings with over the next few hours.

When she looked toward the room, she caught the eyes of various persons. Some were too far away to discern if they were really looking at her or at least toward her direction. Ten Forward was busier than when she entered the room and it started to feel crowded.
Kathryn S. Beringer - The Dawn Patrol

Solaris build - Veritatum Liquido Cernene

Last edited by cmdrscarlet; 03-29-2013 at 11:00 AM. Reason: Punctuation
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,943
# 32
03-29-2013, 07:05 PM
Literary Challenge #14 : Facility 4028

Raison d'etre


2329:
Commander Rebecca Ravillious strode purposefully along the corridor, barely lifting her gaze from the PADD in her hands, and the chronometer in the corner of the screen, displaying a countdown to when she had to be back in the lab. If she didn't make it back in time, the experiment could destroy half the ship. Avoiding assorted crewmen, Rebecca's unerring sense of direction brought her to the USS Eden's forward lounge, and she smoothed the front of her dress uniform before entering the crowded room.

"Are you ready?" enquired her closest friend, Lieutenant Commander Naomi Chandler.

"As I'll ever be," Rebecca replied, taking one last glance at the chronometer before handing her the PADD:

19:45...19:44...19:43...

By the forward viewports, she saw Captain Ahmed Nasir, his hands folded serenely in front of him, clasping an old, leather-bound book, and to his left, dressed not in a Starfleet uniform, but a civilian tuxedo, stood Paul Kane, the dark-haired engineer who had won her heart.

At a nod from Nasir, someone in the congregation activated an audio file, and the room filled with the sound of church organs, and Rebecca began to walk sedately towards the front of the lounge.

"I was beginning to think you weren't coming," Paul muttered with a wry grin as Rebecca stood before him.

"Just left something running in the lab," she replied lightly.

"Anything I should know about, Number One?" Nasir enquired, leaning his head forwards.

"As long as we're done in fifteen minutes, Sir, nothing to worry about," Rebecca assured the captain, who shrugged, then looked up to address the room.

"Ladies, gentlemen, and otherly gendered species, it brings me the greatest pleasure to perform a duty today seldom required of me in my role as a Captain, as we come together to witness the joining of this man, and this woman, in the state of matrimony. As I understand time is a factor, I shall be as brief as ceremony allows.

"Marriage is a solemn undertaking, not one to be entered into lightly, for a moment's uncertainty, can lead to a lifetime of regret. If anyone knows of any lawful reason why these two people should not be wed, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace...

Paul's eyes flickered around the room of assembled officers, then back to Rebecca, who's bow-like lips quirked into a smile.

"Paul William Kane, do you take this woman, to be your lawfully wedded wife? To cherish and honor, to protect and provide for, for as long as you both shall live?"

"I do,"

"Rebecca Louise Ravillious, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband? To cherish and honor, to guide and nurture, for as long as you both shall live?"

"I do,"

"Then by the power vested in me by Starfleet Command and the United Federation of Planets, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife. Mister Kane, you may kiss your bride, and may Allah have mercy on your soul."

As the assembled officers applauded and laughed, Paul and Rebecca leaned forwards, to share their first kiss as a married couple.


2334:
Captain Ahmed Nasir gazed sightlessly at the forward viewscreen and the rolling vista of Adigeon Prime, and leaned on the arm of his command chair.

"Say again, Mister Hendricks," he requested. "There is considerable interference on the channel."

"Commander Kane is attempting to stabilize the thalaron generator now, Captain," stated the voice of Lieutenant Thomas Hendricks. The security chief's normally relaxed voice taut with stress. "Containment is fluctuating, and the generator is at risk of going critical."

Nasir closed his eyes.
"Oh Allah, have mercy, they know not what they do..." he whispered. The idea of a thalaron generator was bad enough, but for it to have been constructed on an inhabited planet was lunacy.

"Please repeat, Captain," requested Hendricks' voice.

"Never mind, Mister Hendricks, I was just thinking aloud. Nasir to Kane, what can you tell me, Commander?"


Rebecca Kane's fingers flew over the touchscreen of her PADD as it ran an integration subroutine to interface with the generator's systems, when she heard the Captain's voice addressing her over Hendricks' communicator.

"The system is crashing, Captain, but I'm attempting to interface with the generator's systems to bring it to a controlled shutdown." She explained, brushing a long bang of hair out of her face with her wrist. "Containment momentarily dipped by point zero zero one per cent but is stabilized. As long as I can shut it down, it will be okay."

"And if you can't? Should we begin evacuation procedures of facility 4028?"

"No, Sir. If I can't shut this thing down and it goes critical, the radiation cascade will kill every living thing on the planet in under an hour. Calling an evacuation at this point would only cause panic to the population, in this instance, I would suggest that ignorance will be bliss."

"Understood, Commander, standing by."

Looking at the PADD, Rebecca looked over the EPS flow, and began to reduce the feed to the thalaron intermix matrix, while maintaining the power to the containment grid. Gradually, the cyclic humming of the generator slowed, reducing in pitch and intensity, before dropping below the range of Human hearing.

"Kane to Eden. Crisis averted," she reported with a sigh. Reaching up, she moved to lift the PADD away from the control surface, when a sudden surge fed back through the device, shocking Rebecca and dropping her to the floor, where she lay unconscious.

At once, Hendricks was at her side, along with two Adigeon researchers, who raised tricorders to scan the area.

"No residual thalaron radiation detected, Lieutenant," reported the avian scientist. "But your commander should be taken to an infirmary immediately, her heart beats are incredibly erratic. One is strong, the other two are much weaker."

"Those aren't her heart beats, doctor," replied Hendricks. "The commander is eight weeks pregnant with twins."

The bird-like scientist squarked something which the universal translator was unable to comprehend, before rapidly trilling and chittering into his communicator.

***

Rebecca opened her eyes, and saw the face of a female Adigeon looking down at her, accompanied by the Eden's chief medical officer, Doctor Callum MacLeod.

"What happened?" she demanded, lifting herself up on her elbows.

MacLeod grimaced.

"There was a feedback surge in the generator as it shut down, and there was another fluctuation in the containment grid, releasing a barely detectable amount of thalaron radiation. I've stabilized your condition, but there's -- a complication with one of the embryos."

Rebecca's slate grey eyes flew open and she automatically put a hand to her still-flat stomach. My boys!!! she thought, as an icy hand clutched at her heart.

"What kind of complication, Cal? Tell me!" she demanded, struggling to keep her panic under control.

"One of the embryos has suffered genetic damage to the Y chromosome," MacLeod explained. "You've got a big decision to make, but you have to make it now. If we don't act immediately, and I do mean immediately, you will lose the child."

An unnatural calm descended on Rebecca as her training took over.

"Options?"

"Adigeon physicians are highly skilled genetic engineers. They are proposing to replace the damaged Y chromosome with a copy of the X chromosome to stabilize the genetic sequence and save the child."

Rebecca's eyebrows drew closer together. A double X chromosome could only mean one thing.

"But that will change the sex of the baby..."

The Adigeon nodded her head.

"The embryo will continue to develop as a female."

"But they're monozygotic twins," Rebecca pointed out. "Can't you copy the undamaged Y chromosome from the healthy embryo to repair the damage?"

"Even monozygotic twins always have a different phenotype," MacLeod replied. "Even at this stage of development, there are already hundreds of genetic differences, and the two codes would be incompatible. The differences would lead to errors in genetic replication as severe as if the damaged chromosome were to be untreated.

"The only option is to replace the damaged Y chromosome with a copy of the undamaged X chromosome from that embryo, it is the only way the genetic code will properly stabilize."

Rebecca shook her head, tears beginning to roll down her cheeks.

"But I'm having two boys, Cal! Paul and I are naming them after our fathers, Alexander and Marcus!"

"You're still going to have two children, Becca," MacLeod assured her. "I promise you that the genetic re-sequencing of the embryo will stabilize the genetic code perfectly. It will create a gender reassignment so complete that there will be no male genetic coding whatsoever, the embryo will develop as fully female as you or your mother. She will be able to have children of her own and lead a perfectly normal life, but we must begin the procedure immediately, or you will miscarry within hours."

"Alright," Rebecca sighed with a nod, before fixing the Adigeon woman with a narrow-eyed glare. "But nothing else! I know the kind of genetic work you people do here, and I won't have my child turned into some kind of Augment freak!"

The Adigeon nodded, and raised her claw-like hands in a supplicating gesture.

"You have my word, Commander," she assured her. "No unnecessary alterations or enhancements. We would never tamper with such genetic coding unnecessarily or without request."

"And don't you dare do anything to the other child!" she snarled. "Do you hear me? Not a single thing!"

"I'll be observing the entire procedure, Becca," MacLeod promised. "I guarantee that nothing will be done to the other embryo, and he'll be absolutely fine. We gave him a complete genetic analysis to make sure there was no chromosomal damage, and his coding is -- absolutely fine. I assure you, he's going to live a very long and healthy life."

"Alright, Cal. You can begin," Rebecca consented. "I don't know how I'm going to explain this to Paul..."


2345:
Marcus Kane felt the shift in the mattress, and looking over his shoulder, saw Alix pull the duvet over her shoulder. Facing away from him, her wavy hair fanned across the pillow as she settled. Even with the king-sized mattress, whenever she snuck into the bed, she always woke him. For a moment, he lay on his right side, gazing out of the window, before bringing his right arm up to his face, and tweaking the sides of the rubberized black bracelet with his left hand. A pale azure watch face appeared within the seamless bracelet: A five-spoke coronet formed the 12 marker, with linear rectangular markers at each of the other hour positions. The digitized hands clearly indicated the time 2:24.

Putting his head back on the pillow, Marcus closed his eyes, seeking to return to sleep, but over the ever-present rain, he was sure he could hear voices. One was his father, Paul, the other, was unfamiliar. He couldn't make out the words, but the conversation seemed strained. Sitting up, Marcus slid out of the bed and pulled a robe over his pajama top. At the foot of the bed, his loyal rotweiller, Zack, raised his massive black head, tilting it quizzically as he regarded Marcus.

"Can you hear Dad?" Marcus whispered.

Awwwrrr... Zack rumbled, propping himself up on his front legs, ready to follow his master.

Making his way silently though the hallway and down the stairs, Marcus moved like a wraith through the castle, Zack at his side, until they approached his father's study. He was close enough now to make out the second voice properly: Male, speaking English, with what almost sounded like a hint of a Louisiana drawl in an otherwise British accent like Mama's, and from the bluish-white light spilling into the hallway, a subspace comm link. Kneeling down, Marcus poked his head round the open door frame.

"-- but you know what these Cardassians're like, Paul, it's not the kind of situation I want to send an operative into without some kind of backup." said the man on the viewscreen. He wore a Starfleet uniform, and Marcus' eyes focused on the rank insignia on the white shoulder strap. Not a Captain or Commander's strip , but a four-pointed star-- An admiral...

"I here ya, Wes, I've got some ideas on the drawing board," replied Paul, flipping through some files on his PADD. "But don't forget, we relocate to Vulcan next week, so my project time's going to be restricted."

On the screen, the man nodded, his attention drifting, as if he was looking at something just off-camera in his office, maybe a junior officer handing him a report.

"I'll speak to you in a few days to touch base, but you really need to upgrade your security, Paul, you've got a couple of operatives on your six as we speak," he paused, his gaze locked firmly on Marcus, and he winked. "Cooper out."

As Cooper's face was replaced with the Starfleet emblem, Paul turned in his chair.

"Hey, pal, can't sleep?" he asked as Marcus and Zack entered the study.

Marcus shrugged as he absently stroked Zack's side.

"Ali woke me," he said, stifling a yawn.

Paul sighed. So much for last week's talk on staying in her own bed...

"She only does it because she loves you, pal," he replied. "You're her big brother. She looks up to you."

By all of ten minutes... Marcus thought, slumping down on the low couch. Zack immediately took up sentinel duty at his feet.

"I know," he admitted. "Did Auntie Karen ever do the same to you?"

Paul sighed again. How to explain the genetic restructuring, which Alix's obsessive connection to her twin and social difficulties were a result of...

"Ali doesn't see things the same way as we do, pal," he began. "She doesn't realize that she sometimes says or does things which others don't always understand. Remember that patience is a virtue, and remember that she loves you, and would never do anything to hurt you. Did I ever tell you about the time your aunt bonded a PADD to my hand while I was asleep?"

Marcus grinned and nodded.

"Yeah, I remember, Dad. I guess Ali's never done anything like that to me," he admitted.

"Well, it's going to be getting light soon, and you ought to try and get more sleep if you're going sailing with Mama later."

Marcus nodded and boosted himself up off the couch.

"Okay, Dad," he said, making his way out of the study, before slapping his hand twice against his thigh. At once, Zack was on his feet, ambling after Marcus.

***

What had begun as a pleasant weekend activity, had rapidly turned into a nightmare. Rebecca Kane clung to the partially capsized pontoon of the trimaran, struggling to push Marcus' insensate body up out of the water. She couldn't tell the extent of the cut across his scalp from the falling boom, but blood slowly oozed from beneath his hairline onto his face, partially diluted and washed away by the torrential rain.

"Wake up, baby, wake up!" she shouted, climbing onto the pontoon and checking her son's airways. He was breathing clearly, and Rebecca said a silent prayer of thanks. She raised her arm to check the miniaturized tricorder she habitually wore in a black synthleather strap, but the interface was smashed beyond use, probably in the collision with the coral reefs which had torn the Eden to pieces. Eventually, Marcus coughed and stirred.

"Mama, where are we?" he asked, his slate grey eyes wandering as he struggled to focus on the horizon, but the storm was so severe, that sky and sea were indistinguishable.

"We've lost our comms gear and we're being blown south east, away from the reefs," Rebecca explained.

"Towards Serena's Necklace?"

"I hope so," replied Rebecca. "If nothing else happens to divert us, the wingboat factories on the northern island should pick up our beacon."

"I feel dizzy, my head hurts," Marcus said, trying to raise a hand to his forehead, but only succeeding in sliding further down the pontoon.

"You have to stay still, baby," Rebecca ordered. "You've been hit in the head and probably have a concussion. Try and stay awake. Can you do that for me?"

"I'll try, Mama," Marcus promised. "It won't be like this on Vulcan, will it."

"No baby, you know Vulcan is a desert planet, it only has shallow equatorial seas. Won't it be nice to be dry though, not to be wet all the time?"

"I don't want to go," Marcus admitted. "I'll miss Matt and Andrew, and Miss Carter."

"You'll make new friends, and have new teachers to learn from," Rebecca assured him. "You'll see, everything will turn out okay. Just have fai--"

Rebecca's voice died on her lips as her eyes picked out shadows in the water, drifting around and beyond the periphery of her vision.

"Mama, what's wrong?" demanded Marcus, but before Rebecca could reply, he saw them. "Oh no, no no..." The delta-shaped fins protruding above the waterline, gliding leisurely closer. Raptor Sharks. The evolutionary apex of oceanic predators, they made the Terran Great White look like a placid koi carp, and Marcus was seized by a terror he had never before felt.

"Mama..."

Before he could say anything else, Rebecca turned to him, unstrapping her tricorder and securing it around his wrist.

"Now Marcus, I need you to be brave, and I need you to listen to me," she said, using the same calming tones she had used with junior officers a decade previously. "My tricorder is broken, which means it is automatically emitting a distress beacon. No matter what happens, someone will find you. You have to stay awake, and out of the water. Do you understand?"

Marcus nodded, his brow furrowing with confusion.

"Yes, Mama, I'll try, but what about you?"

"The raptors have caught the scent of your blood. Until they feed, nothing will divert them from that purpose. Now I need you to be brave, and I want you to look after Ali. You're her big brother, and it's your job to look out for her."

Reaching out, Rebecca brushed Marcus' fringe out of his eyes.

"My handsome son, always remember how much I love you," she implored.

"I will, Mama, I promise, but I still don't understand!"

Without another word, Rebecca turned from Marcus and dove into the churning ocean, striking out towards the shadows of the raptors, powerful kicks taking her further from the wreckage of the trimaran.

"Mama!" Marcus shouted. "Come back! Mama, please come back! Mama, Mama, MAMA!!!"

***

Paul Kane strode resolutely down the hospital corridor, Alix clutching his hand.

"How is he?" he demanded, as they approached the nurse's station.

"Better than when he was found," the young doctor replied. "We've stopped the sub-cranial bleeding and repaired the skull fracture, as well as performing surgery to repair the damage to his vocal chords."

Paul frowned.

"I don't understand," he admitted. "I was told he'd been hit in the head by a piece of the boat when it broke up on the reefs."

Doctor Reynolds nodded.

"He was, and had a severe concussion, but by the time the rescue craft found him, he'd been screaming for his mother for hours."

Paul nodded silently. As they entered the private room, Alix broke away from her father, sprinting across the room to launch herself at her brother, flinging her arms round his neck.

Marcus looked up at his father, his eyes wild.

"Did they find Mama?" he demanded, his voice still hoarse.

Paul's eyes closed involuntarily, flashing back to the mortuary. The sheet drawn back from the ruined body on the table so he could formally identify the remains: a mere legality, given the DNA identification, but it had to be done. It could have been anything, or anyone, but then Paul's eyes fell upon the tattoo on the inside of the right forearm: The Huguenot Cross, and he knew it was his beloved Rebecca. How could he explain what he had seen to his son? How could he explain the result of his mother's sacrifice? Would knowing the truth bring him closure, or would it plague him with nightmares and drive him mad? Paul knew only that he had never lied to his son, and had no intention of starting now. He nodded.

"I'm sorry, pal," was all he could say.

For a moment, Marcus' lower lip trembled, then he began to scream.

Alix backed away from the bed, her eyes squeezed shut and her hands pressing against her ears, anything to block out her brother's tormented howl .

"Marcus, stop it," Paul snapped. "I said stop it! Marcus! You're upsetting your sister!"

That realization registered, and Marcus fell silent as if slapped across the face.

"Sorry Ali," he murmured, before rolling onto his side and curling into a fetal position, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings.

Paul turned to Reynolds.

"Is there anything I can do? We're supposed to be relocating to Vulcan in less than thirty six hours."

The doctor nodded.

"I can put you in contact with a Vulcan tutor who specializes in emotional instabilities and traumas," he said. "If anyone will be able to help Marcus, it will be Master Sovak."

Last edited by marcusdkane; 03-30-2013 at 04:25 PM. Reason: Final polish...
Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 2,761

Break me in
Teach us to cheat
And to lie
To cover up
What shouldn't be shared
And the truth's unwinding
Scraping away at my mind
Please stop asking me to describe

For one moment
I wish you'd hold your stage
With no feelings at all
Open minded
I'm sure I used to be so free

Self expressed
Exhausting for all
To see
And to be
What you want and what you need
The truth's unwinding
Scraping away at my mind
Please stop asking me to describe...

Wash me away
Clean your body of me
Erase all the memories
They will only bring us pain
And I've seen
All I'll ever need


Matthew Bellamy of Muse - "Citizen Erased"


ERASED


XXX_EYES-ONLY_ACCESS_-_CLASSIFIED_MATERIAL:_DELTA_TOP_SECRET_-_SECURITY_CLEARANCE_LEVEL_TEN_REQUIRED_XXX

REPORT FILED STARDATE 87623.8

FROM:
Vice Admiral Jesus LaRoca, Office of Diplomatic Liaison to Starfleet Security

TO:
Upper Rear Admiral Gregorr Vladimir, Office of the Inspector General, Starfleet Command


CC:
Councilor Redmond Boyle, Security Committee, Federation Council;
Councilor Kucan, Security Committee, Federation Council;
Councilor Kle' Packi, Security Committee, Federation Council;
Professor Udo Kier, Project I.S.I.S., Daystrom Institute;
Fleet Admiral Carvil, Inspector General, Starfleet Command;
Vice Admiral Tanya Adams, Deputy Chief of Operations, Starfleet Intelligence;
Vice Admiral Biehn, Chief of Starfleet Department of Corrections;
Captain James Kurland, Commander of Deep Space Nine;
Commander Mesi Achebe, Starfleet Liaison to Bajoran Government;
Commander Eva, Project I.S.I.S., Starfleet Advanced Technologies

BCC:
Franklin Drake, secure channel Sierra-Three-One;
Lieutenant General Ssharki, Klingon Defense Force Central Command, diplomatic channel Whiskey-Zero-Seven

All -

This report pertains to the breakdown of security at detention center known as Facility 4028 during the removal of Inmate 00001 (the Female Changeling) from that facility. The events relating to the seizure of Deep Space Nine by temporally displaced Dominion fleet and Dominion's subsequent eviction are matters of public record and not covered in this report. This report is in response to the inquiries made to my office dated SD-87618.9 and SD-87621.2 (see attached) by U. R. Adm. Vladimir in his capacity as the Adjunct Inspector General.

Vlad -

Let me say right off the bat that I resent your implication that the forces of the KDF were in any way involved with the security breach at Facility 4028 or the shutdown of the I.S.I.S. core. First of all, General Ssharki happens to be a personal friend of mine; an individual who I have known for nearly my entire life and I can vouch for his character as being honorable and trustworthy. Second, Ssharki and his security officer were with me for nearly the entire time up until the security breach occurred. The exception was while we were interviewing separate subjects in separate isolation wards (both in zone A, refer to attached facility map) and the facility's holocam recordings and the Warden's testimony both corroborate that Ssharki and his security chief did not and could not have interfered with I.S.I.S. at this time. I know we've had our past differences but for you to suggest such grievous deficiency in my character judgment and my powers of observation without any supporting evidence is completely improper and an egregious violation of protocol.

The following account was constructed using ships' sensors and recordings, Facility 4028 holocam recordings and my first officer's and my own personal logs. This should establish conclusively the whereabouts and actions of all parties involved in the incident. The account begins on Stardate 87571, after General Ssharki and I had made contact with Vorta Field Supervisor Eraun 6 with the "assistance" of the Ferengi trader Farek...



Idran System, SD-87571.8

The motley crew aboard the Federation runabout Zambezi watched the Ferengi cruiser warp to safety. The cabin was entirely silent for a moment apart from a disappointed grunt emitted by one of the Gorn.

The silence was broken by warbling chirp from the comm panel. "Eraun is hailing us, Admiral," Commander Winters reported.

Jesu LaRoca withdrew his right hand from the tactical console. Had he lowered his index finger another millimeter, the modified Yellowstone-class runabout would have slammed a spread of photon torpedoes into the hull of the Nerrak, easily destroying the damaged freighter. It would have been so easy to rid the galaxy of that... "worm" as Farek called herself. Too easy. And Eraun wanted him to kill her. In the end, that's why he decided to let her go. Besides, he thought, you never know when a Ferengi who owes you a favor may come in handy. He stared at the blinking light on the comm panel and waited just long enough to ensure that Eraun was thoroughly annoyed, before he commanded "Onscreen."

The forward view of the unfamiliar stars of the Gamma Quadrant beyond the waiting trio of Jem'Hadar warships was replaced by the visage of one furious Vorta.

"You- you come seeking my aid and then refuse a simple request? This is not an auspicious start to our-"

"Come off it, Eraun," LaRoca interupted. "That insignificant creature was no threat to me, you, or Dominion interests. I don't get my hands dirty for you or anyone else unless it suits my purpose."

"But pleasing me does suit your purpose, Admiral." Eraun heaved an exasperated sigh. "Nevertheless, you have something I want, and I have something you need. The only logical conclusion is cooperation. I will return to the Alpha Quadrant with you and render whatever assistance I can."

A surprised Admiral LaRoca turned in his seat and locked eyes with his friend General Ssharki. Too easy, he mouthed.

The Gorn General nodded.

"Hmm, there is a price, though," Eraun announced.

LaRoca turned back to face the screen. "I could have guessed. What is this thing we have that you want?"

"Not a thing. Not even a person, in the limited sense you see life." Eraun leaned toward the viewer and increased the overtone of condescension in his voice to an almost unbearable level. "For more than thirty years, Starfleet has held one of the Founders as a prisoner of war..."

LaRoca's eyes narrowed. "The Female Changeling who oversaw the Dominion forces during the war is being held at a secure facility for crimes against sentient life."

Eraun ignored him and went on. "Imagine..." he paused for emphasis, "the hubris it takes to contain a god! The arrogance!"

"Actually," Ssharki remarked "all you need to contain a Founder is a hermetically sealed jar, about one-point-two liters in volume."

"Ssharki..." LaRoca made a show of disapproval, but he was trying very hard not to laugh out loud.

Eraun glared at the Gorn for a moment before facing the Starfleet Admiral again. "When the Founder is returned to me, you will have the Dominion's complete cooperation, and my guarantee that Kar'ukan and his fleet will not trouble Deep Space Nine again."

LaRoca had been afraid it would come to this. He wanted the Female Changling to remain right where she was. Death was too good for her. LaRoca wished she would spend eternity locked away in a tiny prison cell, separated from the Great Link, allowed to go slowly mad from sheer boredom. "Do you really expect the Federation will capitulate to your demands?"

"Do you really expect we'll ever reach a peaceful solution if they don't? I know the last thing the Federation wants is to go through another war with us. Especially now that you have your hands full in a war with the Klingons, interfering in the affairs of the Romulans and Cardassians, and preparing for the Borg to invade your space. Even if you get the KDF to cease hostilities and join you - doubtless those lizard-people with you are here to imply exactly that - you will still be over-extended and ill-prepared to deal with our sheer numbers. The fleet Kar'ukan and Lorris brought through the wormhole is less than a tenth of a percent of our total might, and look at how easily they overwhelmed your defenses. Using ships and weapons technology thirty-five years out of date, no less."

Ssharki crossed his arms and addressed the Admiral. "I know you don't want to hear it, but he's right. We have nothing else to offer the Dominion. We either give them their Founder, or we give them war."

LaRoca nodded. As much as it turned his stomach to think of the Female Changeling going free after all of the atrocities she had committed, the thought of going through it all again was even more appalling. "Very well, Eraun. I will transmit your appeal to the Federation Council with my recommendation that they approve the release of the Female Changeling to your custody."

The Vorta made an odd sort of half-nod, half-bow and his image disappeared from the viewscreen. The heavy escort cruiser he was aboard moved off toward the wormhole at full impulse.

LaRoca yawned and stretched. "Okay, Yoann, configure the tractor emitters for towing through the wormhole. Winters, take us back to the Ho'norgh's last known position."

The Starfleet officers responded with an instant chorus of "Aye, sir."

LaRoca turned to Ssharki. "DS9's sensors should still be down, and the Denorios Belt will mask our impulse signature from any Jem'Hadar ships nearby. But if we are discovered, we'll have to cut your shuttle loose and warp to Bajor."

"Thanks for trying anyway."

"This assumes those swarmers left anything to recover," Commander Vishka remarked. The Orion pilot assigned to the mission by Klingon Intelligence was decidedly pessimistic.

"Not to worry," Ssharki insisted. "Her hull is three and a half centimeters of neutronium alloy. I doubt even the phaser array on this thing could get through it. We'll just have to repair the engines, maybe touch up the paint, and she'll be good as new."

"By the way, Admiral, how did you stop the swarmers from going after your engines?" The query came from Ssharki's security chief, a young Gorn called Sway.

"Our engines run off a tetryon-infused plasma mixture," LCdr. Yoann Teena answered. "We vented that from the drive manifolds. The swarmers didn't like the taste."

"Ah."

"There it is!" Ssharki pointed. The Ho'norgh was tumbling slowly about all three axes as it drifted lazily through space, but it was at least in one piece. It had a sleek and angular appearance, looking very much like the giant shark tooth it was named for.

The Zambezi's tractor beam gripped the shuttlecraft. A sudden jolt rocked the Federation vessel as the coupled inertial mass applied a tensile stress to the runabout. But the dampeners quickly compensated, and the Zambezi set off after the Jem'Hadar cruiser, and the odd little convoy passed through the wormhole without incident.


Aboard USS Tiburon, Bajor System, two hours later

Vice Admiral LaRoca entered his flag conference room to find his Gorn guests enjoying a late-night snack. Ssharki had a large bowl of seafood gumbo, while Sway was eating... "Is that... mint chip ice cream?"

The young security chief nodded with his mouth full.

"The kid likes ice cream," Ssharki semi-explained. "Don't ask me why." He pointed to his gumbo with his spoon. "This tastes like Sisko's recipe."

"It is," LaRoca told him. "Or close to it, anyway. Didja get that from a replicator or Deck Six?"

"Replicator," Ssharki answered. "What's on deck six?"

"Crew lounge. Just forward of the port-side turbolift. I've got a coupla chefs down there who've taken a vow to only use natural ingredients wherever possible. You should try that next time you're hungry."

"I'll do that." Ssharki finished his gumbo and pushed the bowl away. "What's happening with that Changeling?"

"I sent Eraun's proposal to Headquarters, and they said they'd take it straight to the Council. I'm sure they'll come to the same conclusion we did, but they're politicians so it will take a while." LaRoca walked to the replicator subtly mounted in the wall near the doorway. "Triple-shot mocha, light whip," he ordered. He retrieved the coffee beverage as soon as it materialized and took a seat at the conference table. "Anyway, Ming is working on repairs to your shuttle. He says it needs a new phase inverter coil and he's bartering with other Klingon ships in orbit to find a spare. Any class of shuttle should have what he needs, though."

Ssharki nodded. "Give Commander Domingo my thanks and best regards."

Sway looked up from his ice cream. "Isn't Domingo another old shipmate of yours, General?"

"Yes. Ming, Jesu's father and I all served on this ship under Captain Sander during the Dominion War." Ssharki made a short, hissing laugh. "It was just supposed to be a short-term assignment as part of a cultural exchange program. But I was here for the first shots and stayed on right up until the Female Changeling signed the Treaty of Bajor." The General looked to LaRoca. "If it's all the same to you, Jesu, I'd like to see this through to the end. I assume you'll be the one they send with Eraun to pick up the Founder. I'd like to go with you, my friend."

LaRoca took a sip of his coffee. "I'll have to pull a few strings but it shouldn't be a problem since you're already on a diplomatic clearance. And I'd be honored to have you along. And hopefuly this won't be the last time we'll get to work together."

"I'm sure it won't. I was encouraged by the talks at the Borg Conference. Before the Dominion showed up, that is."


Kassae Sector, en route to Ayala System, SD-87576.4

Vice Admiral LaRoca had just ordered a plate of cold, raw Doryteuthis opalescens from his ready-room's replicator. He was about to feed the squid to Rudyard, his pet leopard shark, when the door chimed. "Enter!" The door hissed open behind him, and then closed a moment later. The visitor entered silently. This gave away his identity. Still facing the aquarium, Jesu LaRoca greeted his chief of security. "What's up, Rusty?"

"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Cmdr. LaRoca Rusty requested. "I need to speak to my brother."

"Of course." Jesu slid the last piece of cephalopod off the plate and watched his meter-long shark gobble it up. He returned the plate to the replicator and activated the recycle function. Then he sat down at his desk, across from Rusty, who had already taken a seat. "What's on your mind?"

"The Founder, Jesu. I want to meet her."

"I'm not sure if she will grant an audience, but I'll see if I can arrange something."

Rusty shook his long head. "I want to see her today. I want to accompany you to Facility 4028."

The Admiral leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "Request denied."

"But- but-" Rusty stood and paced the room. "I have to see her! She made me! Or at least, she commanded the scientists who created me. There is so much I want to ask her..."

"I know. That's why I can't let you speak to her before the crisis at Deep Space Nine is resolved." Jesu adjusted in his seat and leaned forward with his forearms on the desk. "Rusty, I love you, but you tend to let your emotions get the best of you. Negotiating with the Changeling is going to require tact and a cool head. I'm afraid that you could be a disruptive influence. I'm sorry, but that's my final answer."

Rusty looked up at the ceiling and scratched the underside of his jaw as he thought up another argument. "What about your personal protection?"

"You know I can take care of myself. Besides, I'm beaming down to a maximum-security detention center patrolled by state-of-the-art holographic guards and I'll have two Gorn and half a Klingon with me. I'll be fine." Jesu gazed at his adopted brother. Even though he had been genetically altered with Cardassian and Vorta DNA, he was still predominantly Deinon, and at 2.3m from nose to tail he was a particularly intimidating example of the species. "Rust, you were the sole survivor of a botched attempt to improve upon nature's ultimate soldier. If you're seeking some sort of catharsis, the Changeling isn't going to give it to you. At best she'll only offer some persuasive justification for her actions. As your commanding officer and your brother, I simply can't allow you to confront her. Not yet."

"Alright then." Rusty stood and walked to the door.

Jesu stopped him. "Commander..."

Rusty turned his head. "Yessir?"

"I want you to stand by in transporter room two with a level four security team. Just in case."

Rusty's lipless mouth twisted into his version of a smile. "Yessir." The security chief stepped out onto the bridge.

Admiral LaRoca turned his chair around and stared at his aquarium, idly watching Rudyard swim in lazy circles amongst the stalks of artificial kelp. And just how will I react when I meet the Changeling? He'd told the Council, Starfleet Command, and he'd even told himself that he would handle her just as he'd handled the many other prisoner exchanges he'd overseen, with a dispassionate professionalism. But he knew this one would be different. The Female Changeling wasn't merely the commander of the Dominion forces during the war, she was the Dominion. She had destroyed the Odyssey with all hands in 2370. She had wiped out the Seventh Fleet. She had invaded Betazed. She had ordered the Breen to attack Earth and destroy Starfleet Headquarters. And she had killed the mother of a four-year-old boy named Jesu LaRoca...

"Admiral, we are approaching the Ayala System," Cmdr. Marq Sander announced over the intercom.

"Acknowledged." LaRoca rose and opened his locker. He pulled on his gold-trimmed dress uniform jacket and cinched it with a belt that had the UFP emblem for a buckle. He checked his reflection in the mirror, combed back a few stray hairs, ran a gloved hand through his neatly-trimmed beard. He looked over his array of personal weapons and selected his Tegolar sword. He had found the Nausicaan weapon, with its wicked 90cm curved blade and serrated back edge, while searching the personal effects of a Klingon captain who's ship he'd captured. In its scabbard, it completed the ceremonial look he wanted to establish for his diplomatic functions. But in his hand, it suited his swashbuckling nature. It was his favorite weapon for dispatching Borg drones. After all, if there was one thing they couldn't adapt to it was a cold, razor-edged monotanium blade.

Fully attired, LaRoca walked onto the bridge as the Tiburon dropped out of warp.

"The asteroid containing Facility 4028 is dead ahead, sir," Marq announced. The half-Klingon first officer was in full dress uniform, in preparation to beam down with the Admiral. "And Eraun's ship is standing by."

Jesu stood in front of his command chair. "Hail the facility."

Within seconds a gray-haired humanoid figure appeared on-screen. "Hello, Admiral LaRoca," he said.

"Hello. You must be the Warden."

The Warden nodded. "Your authorization to visit has just come through from Starfleet Command. We don't get many visitors here, so this is quite an occasion!" The hologram's eyes suddenly narrowed with suspicion. "However, we are detecting two ships in orbit. Why is there a Jem'Hadar vessel with you?"

"Didn't Starfleet tell you?" A puzzled Admiral LaRoca asked. "We have a Vorta guest. Eraun is here to see the Founder."

The Warden frowned. "That is most irregular, Admiral. I have only received authorization orders permitting you and General Ssharki to visit us."

"Surely admitting a Vorta is no more irregular than permitting a Lieutenant General of the Klingon Defense Force to access your facility," LaRoca argued.

The Warden seemed to think it over for a moment. "Very well. I will permit you and the General to beam down. Each of you may be accompanied by one of your officers. The Vorta, however, will have to remain on his ship. Come speak to me, and if everything is in order I will allow him to enter the facility."

"Alright, stand by." LaRoca turned to Cmdr. Traa'cee, at TacOps. "Close channel, and hail Eraun's ship."

"Aye, sir."

The grim face of the Warden hologram was replaced on screen by the beaming Vorta. "Well, Admiral?"

"I've made contact with Facility 4028-"

"Excellent!" Eraun interrupted. "I'm ready to beam down immediately! The Founder has been trapped among solids for far too long, and the Great Link is diminished without her august presence." Eraun keyed his controls, frowned and said "Excuse me a moment."

"Eraun, there's a slight problem with your access authorization..." LaRoca tried to explain.

"He can't hear you, sir," the Vulcan tactical officer reported. "He's muted the audio channel."

The Tiburon's bridge crew watched while Eraun and his Jem'Hadar aides poked buttons and argued for a minute before the confused Vorta reopened the channel. "Um, Admiral, there appears to be a slight problem. My officers tell me that our transporter signal is being blocked." The Vorta's facial expression and tone shifted from confusion to indignation in an instant. "Do you intend to keep me waiting here on my ship like some sort of unwelcome guest?"

"It's not that you're unwelcome, but there are... security concerns."

Eraun laughed. "Security concerns? Admiral, if the Dominion wanted to conquer this facility, we could do so. I'm sure you Starfleet people think you're very clever and have all sorts of electronic defenses, but as we've proven in the past, even the Federation's most well-defended locations are vulnerable to a squad of Jem'Hadar warriors."

LaRoca sighed. The Vorta was extremely wearisome. "Eraun-"

"But fortunately for you, I'm not here to conquer. I'm only here to reach a mutually beneficial solution."

"So am I. So if you'll just let me clear up this misunderstanding-"

"Misunderstanding? I see this as a deliberate affront! If I'd had you fly to the Gamma Quadrant on the invitation of the Founders in order to retrieve a Federation Council Member we had in custody, and then you were told to wait while some bureaucrat cleared up some 'security concerns' I imagine you'd be nearly homicidal with outrage!"

LaRoca was starting to get a headache on one side. "Look, Eraun, just wait here until I talk to the Warden. I promise this matter will be resolved as quickly as possible."

"Hmmph. Very well, Admiral. I'll wait. But I find this lack of trust very insulting! I thought friends trusted one another. Perhaps offering to help you was the wrong decisi-"

Traa'cee closed the channel without being asked.

"Thank you." LaRoca massaged his right eye socket. "Marq, you're with me. Traa', you have the ship."

"Very well, sir." The Vulcan left her TacOps console and moved to the command chair. "General Ssharki, please report with your party to transporter room one."

Jesu and Marq rode the turbolift to the transporter room and found the Gorn officers straightening their ceremonial shoulder pads and linked-metal sashes. "Are we allowed to beam down with weapons?" Sway asked.

"I haven't been told you can't," LaRoca answered.

"Good." Sway opened a weapons crate he'd brought with him and tucked a pair of disruptor pistols into his belt. Ssharki pulled out a pulsewave assault rifle and slung it over his shoulder.

LaRoca rested his left hand on the hilt of his sword and looked at Marq. His first officer opened his coat to reveal his own trusty old Klingon disruptor pistol - a 23rd-Century design which he'd retrofitted with modern components.

"Okay, let's go." LaRoca waved the others forward onto the transporter pad, stepped into one of the yellow circles, looked at the transporter officer and said "Energize."

They rematerialized on another transporter pad. There was nobody there to meet them.

"Okay, what now?" Ssharki wondered.

"I guess we look for the Warden," Marq suggested. He pulled out his tricorder. "I've downloaded a map of the facility. It looks like there's a series of rooms on this level through that door there."

LaRoca led the way. The door opened to a large room with a glass-walled control center on one side.

"Antechamber A" a feminine, mechanical voice announced from an overhead speaker.

The group looked around. There were guards standing at doorways ahead and to the right side of the room and several more behind the glass wall on the left, but none of them seemed interested in the visitors. LaRoca cleared his throat. "Hello?"

A holographic XO drone appeared and scanned each of the officers in turn. Then the voice spoke again. "Authorized visitors must report to the Warden. Follow the blue line to Isolation Zone A."

LaRoca looked at the floor. There were four lines - one white, one red, one blue, one yellow. The yellow line led to the door on the right. The others went forward to a door marked Processing A. "Come on."

The door led to a short hallway and another room. "Processing A" the voice greeted them. There were more guards here, overseeing several prisoners in orange jumpsuits and restraints. The blue line on the floor broke off from the others and led to a door off to the right. The door opened, but their path was blocked by a force field and beyond that, a yawning chasm stood between them and elevated platform with some sort of control room.

"The hell?"

"Try that interface panel next to the door, sir," Marq suggested.

LaRoca looked at the panel. It wasn't the standard LCARS interface. It mostly displayed numbers and acronyms that were total nonsense to him, but one button marked ACCESS seemed clear enough. He pushed it.

"ISIS Access Granted. How may I assist you?" the same computerized female voice came from a speaker built in to the panel.

"What's ISIS?"

"I am ISIS - the Inmate Security and Information System. How may I assist you?"

"We... need to get to Isolation Zone A."

"Visitor Jesus Lorenzo San Gregorio LaRoca - recognized. Visitor Marq Son of Breq Sander - recognized. Visitor Sfwyrnamokaarn-" Sway grimaced at the mispronunciation of his full name. "...Recognized. Visitor Ssharki HoHwI' BatlhHa' - recognized. Visitor authorization - verified. Access level two - authorized. Welcome to Facility 4028. Please report to the Warden before proceeding into the facility."

"That's the idea," LaRoca muttered, as the force field blocking the doorway vanished and a new one formed a bridge to the control room.

"You may proceed," ISIS announced.

"HoHwI' BatlhHa'" Marq repeated. "'The one who kills without honor'?"

"That's what the Klingons call me," Ssharki replied with a shrug. "And that's the name on my official KDF records."

LaRoca led the way across the force field walkway and found the Warden. He was dressed identically to all of his guards, in black and yellow body armor that must have just been meant to intimidate the inmates, but unlike the guards he had no helmet.

The Warden greeted each of them in turn. "Hello, Admiral. General. Commanders. Is there anything I can do to assist you?"

"What should we call you?" Ssharki asked. "Is it just 'The Warden'?"

"Heh, a bit disconcerting isn't it? I understand that the EMH Mark One had the same problem. But in this instance, instead of the programmers forgetting to give me a name, it was intentional. The thought was that I would be less approachable and therefore our guests wouldn't consider me a target for manipulation. Or perhaps it was their little joke. You've met ISIS? I find it quite intriguing that our computer received a name, but I and the rest of the photonic staff did not."

"I see." Ssharki glanced around the control room and the isolation wards beyond. "What can you tell me about Facility 4028?"

"Not many people know about this place, General, and that is intentional. We are a Federation penal institution designed to house the most high-profile and most dangerous prisoners. Most are quite violent or disruptive, but a few are targets for attack that we need to keep here for their own safety. Because of the danger, this facility is almost completely staffed by photonic personnel. There are only a handful of humanoids authorized to work here-"

"Excuse me," LaRoca interrupted. "Ssharki, we're not here for you to learn about the Federation penal system. We're here to see the Founder. And you..." the Admiral turned to the Warden "sure talk an awful lot for an unapproachable hologram."

"I'm sorry," the Warden said, although the hologram did a poor job of expressing it. "You said you were here to..."

"See the Founder," Jesu LaRoca repeated.

"Oh, really? That is quite unusual. You see, I thought General Ssharki here was the KDF representative I requested to speak to Inmate 53160! He's been waiting for quite some time."

Jesu and Ssharki looked at each and shared a look of bemusement. Jesu turned back to the Warden. "And what would I be doing here, if that were the case?"

"Why, escorting the General, naturally. Listen, I will need to contact Starfleet Department of Corrections to verify your authorization to see the Founder. I'm sure everything is in order, but I need to make certain and I'm afraid this could take a while. Until then, General, would you willing to speak to Inmate 53160?"

Ssharki shrugged. "Sure. Why not."

"Great. He's in Isolation Ward A One. You can get there from this area. Just use that panel there to extend the walkways. And Admiral, while you're here, I wonder if you wouldn't mind sparing a few minutes to talk to another inmate? He just recently asked to speak to a member of the Federation diplomatic corps. I hadn't gotten around to processing his request yet, but since you're a diplomatic consul, your arrival seems serendipitous."

"I suppose it can't hurt."

* * *

Ssharki and Sway approached the first cell door in Isolation Ward A1 and an ISIS interface panel popped out. Ssharki tapped the display and stepped back in revulsion. The face of one of the foul shapeshifters that called themselves the Undine stared back at him. He was about to move on to the next door but his curiosity got the better of him and he read the information on Starfleet's captive shapeshifter.

Quote:
Inmate 98639
- Name: Unknown
- Species: Undine
- Type: Class I
- Sentence: Pending
- Requirements: Isolation Ward protocols. Full access for Starfleet Intelligence. Other visitors must be approved by Warden. Access to technology restricted. Must be accompanied by Rapid Response Team at all times when out of cell.
- Notes: Infiltrator impersonating Captain T'Vix of the U.S.S. Cochrane. Removed from ship along with three other Undine on Stardate 73967.3. Testing of isomorphic capabilities remains inconclusive. Remanded to Facility 4028 for detention and debriefing. Refer to Order 54937-Drake-6 fro details.
"Fascinating." Ssharki closed the file and moved on. There was only one other occupied cell.

Quote:
Inmate 53160
- Name: Karak
- Species: Klingon
- Type: Class II
- Sentence: Pending
- Requirements: Isolation Ward protocols. Visitors must be approved by Warden. Food and water intake must be monitored by medical personnel.
- Notes: Captain of the I.K.S. Hakra. Allied with the House of Torg. Captured by Starfleet forces on Stardate 86640.4. Held at Starbase 157 for processing. Uncooperative and violent with staff. When assigned to isolation, went on a 32-day hunger strike that ended only when he was reassigned to general population. Transferred to Penal Colony 47. While there, led three prisoner uprisings that resulted in six deaths. Remanded to Facility 4028 to await prisoner exchange or trial.
Sway leaned around his elder to the read the Klingon's bio. "House of Torg, eh? This will be fun."

Ssharki said nothing. He opened the cell door. A force field sprang into place on the other side. Karak was sitting on his bed. He didn't look up at first. "Captain Karak? You wanted to talk to someone. Let's talk."

Karak raised his head and looked toward the door. A gleam of recognition appeared in his eyes, replaced quickly by a flash of fear. "The Empire sent you?"

"I'm here, aren't I?"

"Very well then. I have heard the stories of your victories, General. I know you are a valiant warrior. Look then, upon my miserable state. Here I sit, caged like an animal waiting for slaughter. And not even the sweet release of death will wash the stains of dishonor off of my soul. The barge to Gre'thor waits for me, as it waits for us all."

Sway laughed out loud. "That is what you called someone here to hear? The sad, self-pitying song of a warrior without teeth?"

Ssharki silenced his adopted son with a sharp look, and turned his glare back to Karak. "So what do you want?"

"Can the dead want anything?" Karak heaved a miserable sigh. "I felt like I had been forgotten by the Empire - by everyone. It has been so long since I have seen another warrior... and these holograms are nothing but pale shades of life. I made my request for a representative simply to see if anyone still cared that I was still alive. Now that you're here? At least I know that the Empire continues. That life continues outside these walls. It is enough."

Ssharki looked at the utterly defeated Klingon Captain with a mixture of pity and contempt. "I'll mention you in my report to KDF Central Command, but that's all I can do for you. If death is all you want, I hope it finds you soon."

* * *

"What is this? Some sort of sick joke?"

"Funny, I was about to track down that Warden and ask him the same thing." LaRoca glared at the Human on the other side of the force field. Amar Singh was probably the only person in this prison who rated the same level of loathing as the Changeling.

Singh paced angrily in his cell. "I ask for Starfleet to send a representative so I can explain why I must continue my research..." he spun to face LaRoca, his face expressing pure outrage. "And they send you? The one who put me here?"

Jesu smirked at him through the force field. "Would it help to know that I consider your arrest on H'atoria to be one of the proudest moments of my career?"

"Hmmph. I'm sure you were very pleased with yourself." Singh's voice veritably dripped with sarcasm. "You probably earned all sorts of medals and promotions for stopping my mad plans to conquer the galaxy with a race of perfect monsters."

Admiral LaRoca kept smirking. "My first Christopher Pike Medal of Valor, induction to the Legion of Merit, and a promotion to four-pip Captain. My greatest reward, though, was the gratitude of all those Gorn prisoners of yours whose genes and brains you hadn't scrambled yet. A bunch of them actually joined Starfleet. One of them's my helmsman. I'm told he still has nightmares about you."

Singh shook his head and glared at the Admiral. "I see now that this was an exercise in futility. Your mind is too small to understand anything I have to say."

"You're a psychopath," LaRoca stated matter-of-factly. "Nobody wants to hear anything you have to say."

Marq spoke up, figuring one of them should act like a Starfleet diplomat and not like a bully. "Why should Starfleet let you continue your research? Genetic manipulation is illegal."

"The genetic code holds no secrets from me! I can cure diseases, extend lifespans, make the perfect warriors..." Singh turned back to LaRoca with a pleading look. "Admiral please hear me out. The Federation is at war. Many lives are lost every day. But what if I could make the people on your crew stronger and more resilient? What if your reaction time was increased tenfold or your body could heal from almost any wound?"

LaRoca sighed and rolled up the sleeve of his jacket to reveal the polyalloy weave body armor he wore under his uniform. Then he produced an enhanced optical eyepiece and a regenerative hypo from his combat kit. "With our technology, we have that already."

"Genetics is a technology like any other! The difference is these enhancements would be built into your bodies, without the need for clumsy devices or armored suits. I can create perfection. All I need is time and resources."

"And by 'resources' you mean 'test subjects,' right?" LaRoca sneered. "I saw what you did to your last batch. They were in so much pain it drove them mad. I wouldn't wish that kind of misery on any sentient being. Except you. Adios." Jesu closed the door and started walking back to the control room.

Marq followed him. "You know, he has a point. Some genetic engineering has produced beneficial results. Like Dr. Julian Bashir, for example. Singh's research might be dangerous, but I'm not so sure that it needs to be illegal, so long as it's properly controlled and regulated."

LaRoca shook his head. "For every Bashir, there have been a dozen men who would be Khan. Trying to direct our own evolution without any understanding of our nature is simply asking for trouble." He saw Ssharki and Sway approaching from another isolation ward. "How'd it go?"

"There wasn't really anything we could do for him," Ssharki replied. "You?"

"Same." They approached the Warden in the control room. "We did as you asked. May we see the Founder now?"

"Of course," the Warden answered. "I've verified your authorization and granted permission for your Vorta friend to transport as well. However, he must remain outside the isolation zones. I realize this is an unusual situation, but security protocols must be maintained."

"Understood." LaRoca was secretly pleased that Eraun would not be allowed to approach the Changeling in her cell. He and Ssharki would have some time with her alone.

"We're losing our first and most famous inmate," the Warden went on. I suppose I should be a little sad, but... it's not like she was very easy to get to know. She's very different from our other inmates. I Don't suppose that she has much use for us. Inmate 00001 is being held in Isolation Ward B Two. If you follow the red line into the facility, you'll pass through main holding and another processing area. Beyond that is Isolation Zone B."

"Thanks. We'll call ISIS if we get lost." They returned to the processing center and found Eraun standing in the middle of the room. "Sorry to keep you waiting," LaRoca lied.

"The Founders have tried to teach patience to my species," Eraun said impassively. "The Founders are wise in all things."

Ssharki made an exaggerated roll of his eyes. "Follow us. We'll take you to the Founder."

"Finally!" Eraun stepped closer to Admiral LaRoca and spoke with all the force he could muster. "The safety of the Founder is now your responsibility. Don't forget that. If she is harmed, the Dominion will be forced to respond. And then Kar'ukan will be the least of your problems."

LaRoca started to say something rude in response, but decided against it, limiting himself to a curt "Let's go."

The red line on the floor led them down a long stairway that descended forty meters deeper inside the asteroid.

Apparently allergic to silence, Eraun attempted to strike up a conversation with Ssharki. "You know, General, your psychographic profile is required reading for all Vorta field supervisors."

"Is that so."

"It is! Would you like to know what it has to say about you?"

"No."

"Main Holding," ISIS announced as they passed through another door.

They looked around the sterile cell block. Most of the prisoners were behind locked doors, but a few were eating meals or exercising, screened off by force fields and being watched by the holographic guards. There were also a few automated phaser turrets, squat and menacing. They were aimed at Ssharki.

"Congratulations on being the greatest perceived threat," Jesu joked to his friend.

Sway made a hissing laugh at that.

Ssharki walked up to the nearest cell door and tapped the ISIS panel.

"What are you doing?" Marq asked him.

"Just curious to see the sort of people the Federation keeps locked up in this place."

"I don't think we have time for this," LaRoca said.

"I'm actually intrigued myself," Eraun announced. "The Founder has waited for thirty-six years - another fifteen minutes won't hurt her." He looked around the group in a semi-panic. "Don't tell her I said that!"

"Wouldn't dream of it." LaRoca stood next to Ssharki and skimmed the prisoner bio he was reading.

Quote:
Inmate 51099
- Name: K'staa
- Species: Gorn
- Type: Class II
- Sentence: 40 years with the possibility of parole.
- Requirements: Diet plan 85-Beta (non-replicated food.) Meals served in cell. Bite restraints must be in place at all times when out of cell.
- Notes: Tactical officer and battle leader of Gorn vessel S'Yahazah. Captured by Starfleet personnel in Argelius System on Stardate 86450.4. Convicted of murder of 17 non-combatant civilians in attack on S.S. Celestia. Remanded to New Zealand Penal Colony, where he attacked and critically injured two guards. Transferred to Facility 4028 for remainder of sentence. Not eligible for prisoner exchange.
Ssharki shook his head with sadness and disgust and went on the next cell.

Quote:
Inmate 72604
- Name: Alevant
- Species: Lethean
- Type: Class IV
- Sentence: 28 years with the possibility of parole
- Requirements: Holographic interface only. Hostile telepath - Protocol Zeta-8 in effect.
- Notes: Apprehended on Lissepia on Stardate 86302.4. Convicted of hostile telepathy, mind control and attempted murder of Central Bank of Lisepia official. Suspected of eight attacks on financial officials in Bolian sector. Previous conviction for mind control and robbery on Capella IV, where he used telepathy to read the mind of a Janus Mining manager and gained access codes to the company's topaline vaults.
"And that is precisely why I do not allow Letheans in my presence," Ssharki told Sway as he closed the interface. "Telepaths are not to be trusted."

The next one was of particular interest to Jesu and Marq.

Quote:
Inmate 91407
- Name: Makkan
- Species: Cardassian
- Type: Class V
- Sentence: 35 years with the possibility of parole
- Requirements: Interactions with other inmates must be monitored. Private recreation and study access. Guard required at all medical treatments and counseling sessions. Outside communications must be approved by Warden.
- Notes: Commander of True Way strike team that attacked colony on Klaestron II. Convicted in fatal bombing of amusement center in Lakarian City. Suspected in string of attacks on Bajoran freighters and attempted infiltration of U.S.S. Eperai. Incarcerated at Facility 4028 at request of Cardassian government. All communications about Inmate 91407 must be reviewed by Emara Larnian at the Cardassian Ministry of Justice.
"A True Way petaQ," the Tiburon's first officer remarked.

"One less of them out there for us to worry about," Jesu said, and he followed Ssharki over to the next door.

Quote:
Inmate 79478
- Name: James Fadi Mehra, aka Princep Khan
- Species: Human (Augment)
- Type: Class VI
- Sentence: 20 years without the possibility of parole
- Requirements: Interactions with other inmates must be monitored. Private recreation and study access. Guard required at all medical treatments and counseling sessions. Communications with inmate must be approved by Warden. Access to technology must be approved by Warden.
- Notes: Leader of the radical augment group known as the Children of Khan. Born 2374 on Mars; underwent accelerated neural pathway engineering on Adigeon Prime at age eight. Further enhancements to physical attributes, reflexes, vision and stamina followed two years later. Subject exhibits extreme anti-social and psychopathic tendencies. Bipolar symptoms may be due to difficulty processing neural input. Manipulative to an extreme degree - caution is recommended in all interactions. Remanded to Loews Institute on Stardate 70773.7 for long-term therapy. While there, led a patient uprising that resulted in the deaths of all staff on-site. The patients, now calling themselves the Children of Khan, then attempted to enter Romulan space. Apprehended on Stardate 84310.7, Mehra is too dangerous to be housed in a psychiatric facility. Remanded to Facility 4028 until suitable arrangements make a transfer possible.
"Well, Marq? You still think genetic engineering is a viable pursuit?"

The half-Klingon former research scientist had no answer.

"Qajay'!" Ssharki cursed at the next ISIS panel. "What fresh hell is this?"

LaRoca approached and read the bio.

Quote:
Inmate 79962
- Name: Taris
- Species: Romulan
- Type: Class IX
- Sentence: Pending
- Requirements: Interactions with other inmates must be monitored. Private recreation and study access. Protocol Zeta-9 in effect. Jammers must be active wherever inmate is present. Communications with inmate must be approved by Warden. Access to technology must be approved by Warden.
- Notes: Commander of I.R.W. Haakona and present at the discovery of the planet Iconia. Appointed as second-in-command to Fleet Commader Tomalak in 2382; defected to Imperial Romulan State a year later. Commander of remaining Romulan military forces after destruction of homeworld. Named Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire in 2394. Deposed by Sela on Stardate 80957.96. Known agent of Iconians responsible for destruction of Romulan and Reman homeworlds. Apprehended by Rear Admiral Jesus LaRoca on Iconia, Strardate 87068.2. Incarcerated at Facility 4028 pending trial.
Jesu LaRoca was wrong earlier, when he thought only Amar Singh was as despicable as the Female Changeling. Taris deserved at least the same degree of contempt. He looked up at Ssharki and said "Um, yeah."

The General was staring down at his friend. "Do you care to explain any of this?"

"The evidence linking Taris to the Hobus Supernova and the details of her arrest are Delta-level classified," LaRoca stated in a quiet monotone. "I cannot discuss them with anyone without the explicit permission of the Federation Council Security Committee."

Ssharki shook his large head and walked away. Taris occupied the last cell in the row. Ssharki led the group down the stairs to floor of Main Holding. A red line pointed to a door marked Processing B. The group followed the Gorn General through the door and down another 40-meter staircase to a second processing center. This area was completely deserted.

Marq checked his map. "Isolation Zone B should be... just through there." He pointed to a door with a sign above that indicated as much.

LaRoca nodded and turned the Vorta. "Okay, Eraun. You'll have to wait out here."

"What? Why?"

"Because the computer who runs this place doesn't like you, and hasn't granted you access to the isolation zones."

Ssharki started walking. "Don't worry," he called over his shoulder. "We'll get the Founder and be right out."

Eraun fumed. "I don't suppose it would do me any good to point out just how unbelievably offensive this all is."

"Nope, it sure won't," LaRoca answered, and he and Marq set off after the Gorn.

Like the isolation wards in Zone A upstairs, Isolation Ward B2 contained only two cells. The first cell was occupied by a Tholian, according to its ISIS panel. LaRoca checked the next one. "Inmate 00001. Name: Unknown. Species: Changeling. Here she is." He opened the door, lowered the forcefield and stepped inside. Ssharki followed, ducking under the door frame. The room was occupied by what appeared to be the sort of abstract sculpture that was popular on Earth during the 1900s. There was also a bucket full of an amber liquid. The liquid poured itself out and took on a female humanoid shape with a disturbingly familiar not-quite-humanoid face.

The Female Changeling glared at her visitors. "What do you solids want?"

Jesu LaRoca had to exert a great deal of self-control not to react violently. This... shapeshifter had once stated that it was her life's goal to rid the Galaxy of all "solids." Starting with my mother... But he was not here for revenge. You're a diplomat, Jesu. Time to act like one. He made a polite, respectful bow and said "Founder, I am Admiral Jesu LaRoca, of the Federation. This is General Ssharki, representing the Klingon Empire. We have a situation at Deep Space Nine. We humbly request your assistance to-"

"Your situation is not my concern," the Changeling interrupted. "Even if I agree to help with whatever problem you have, what guarantee do I have? Will you send me back here when you are through with me?"

"No, Founder, I can offer you a..." say it... "a full pardon from the Federation Council."

"Your offers are meaningless. What is that Human saying? 'To learn about a people, learn how they treat their prisoners.' I have been here for many years, Admiral, and I have seen much. Solids are irrational, fearful creatures. You cannot be trusted."

Ssharki was crouching in the corner of the cell behind LaRoca, trying hard not to look intimidating and failing. He spoke up. "Founder, if I may ask: if you are so distrustful of us solids, why did you choose to surrender to the Federation?"

The Changeling stared at Ssharki for nearly half a minute before answering, as though reevaluating him. She looked him up and down as one might appraise a piece of furniture, then she nodded slowly and spoke. "My captivity was the price of life for my people. We were dying - infected by a virus created by Starfleet Intelligence. Odo cured me, but when I linked with him, I knew that he needed his "justice." Otherwise he would have stayed with the solids... stayed with that woman." If she could have spit in disgust at the memory, she would have. "I surrendered myself so he would take the cure to the Great Link. Once he joined it, I knew he would never leave. I am immortal, General. A few years here is a minor inconvenience - a 'drop in the bucket' if I may ironically borrow another Human idiom. Time is meaningless. I will endure. And the prizes I gained were well worth the cost."

LaRoca tried again. "Founder, I understand why you don't trust us. But a Vorta came here with us to prove our intentions. If you help us resolve the crisis on Deep Space Nine, he will return you to the Gamma Quadrant. We will take you to him now."

The Changeling stared down LaRoca even longer than she appraised Ssharki. The Admiral matched her gaze. "Very well. I have waited here long enough. It is time to rejoin the Great Link. I'm sure all that I have seen and heard over these long years will be of great interest."

LaRoca made another small bow and stepped out, with Ssharki on his heels. Marq and Sway were waiting outside, and they fell in behind the Changeling as she exited her cell. They met up with Eraun in Processing B.

The Vorta was practically overcome with joy at the sight of his god. He prostrated himself on the floor as she approached. "Founder! Your ordeal is finally at an end!"

The Founder looked at him as though he were a street beggar. "Save your sycophancy for a more appropriate time, Eraun! I want to leave this place."

Marq checked his tricorder and pointed to a door marked Antechamber B "There should be a transporter room just through-"

Four combadges chirped. "Tiburon to away team," Cmdr. Traa'cee's voice called out from the tiny transducers.

LaRoca tapped the badge on his chest. "Go 'head."

"Admiral, were you expecting company? A large flotilla of Jem'Hadar warships just appeared in the system."

LaRoca looked at Eraun. The Vorta shook his head. "Negative, Tib. I don't know anything about them, and neither does our friend. Assume they are hostile. Do not engage them, and stand by to go to warp. If you can't beam us out, the ship comes first."

"Acknowledged. Sir, they're approaching the facility. They appear to be setting up some sort of dampen-" Her transmission was cut off.

At that instant, Kar'ukan beamed in to the room, with four of his soldiers. Ignoring the Starfleet officers and the Gorn, he strode into the middle of the group and knelt before the Changeling. "Founder! We have taken Deep Space Nine in your name, and are prepared to spread our campaign throughout the quadrant! Give your blessing to our victory! We are yours to command!"

The Founder's facial features twitched with faint recognition. "I know you... Kar'ukan! Your fleet failed us in the battle for Deep Space Nine! We lost because you did not arrive in time."

Kar'ukan jumped to his feet and tried to explain. "The fleet was diverted passing through the anomaly! We did not-"

The Founder cut him off. "I need soldiers, Kar'ukan, not excuses. You failed the Dominion once. I will not give you the opportunity to do so again. You are... released."

Kar'ukan backpeddled in horror. "No it can't be!" He unleashed a primal scream and turned to his troops. "Attack! Kill everyone but the Founder!" More Jem'Hadar beamed in. "We are dead! We go into battle to reclaim our lives!"

LaRoca unsheathed his sword and heard his friends draw their weapons, but then Eraun stepped between him and Kar'ukan before he could give the order to fire. "Not so fast," the Vorta said smugly. "Did you really think I'd come all this way without a little... protection?" He looked around the room and called out "Soldiers of the Gamma Quadrant! Show yourselves! Defend your god!"

Several Jem'Hadar warriors - who must have been invisibly following Eraun the entire time - unshrouded themselves and stepped forward, brandishing kar'takin pole-arms. Suddenly outnumbered, Kar'ukan keyed a command into his wristband and transported himself out and beamed half a dozen Jem'Hadar soldiers in his place. The room was suddenly full of Jem'Hadar hacking and shooting each other, and the Starfleet and Gorn officers were unable to tell which side was which, so they let Dominion soldiers fight amongst themselves and only used their weapons in self-defense.

After a minute of unimaginable violence, the fight was over. Kar'ukan's forces were defeated and Eraun's two surviving Jem'Hadar took up defensive positions on either side of the founder. The Tiburon away team holstered their weapons and looked around the room in a daze. It looked like abattoir. They became aware of the voice of ISIS repetitively saying "ISIS is offline. Emergency protocols engaged."

Marq was the first to recover. "Admiral, I've lost contact with the Tiburon," he reported. He tapped away at his tricorder. "I'm detecting power failures all over the station and there are signs of weapons fire, but there's some sort of dampening field blocking my scans. I'm detecting multiple Jem'Hadar lifesigns but I can't get a complete reading." He switched the display to show the map. "We're near the secondary ISIS core. That might be the best place to determine what's happening and what we can do to get back to the ship."

LaRoca nodded. "Lead the way."

They jogged down a short corridor to Antechamber B. The secondary ISIS core was housed in a small room off to one side. LaRoca activated the interface.

"Please input command."

"ISIS, Security override!"

"I'm sorry, Admiral. It is not possible to override the emergency protocols at this time. Primary ISIS core is offline. This secondary core has limited functionality. Intruders have been detected in all levels. Power failures in the security grid have allowed inmates to escape, and all holomatrices are offline. Until order is restored, Facility 4028 is on lockdown. Communications are blocked, a transporter inhibition field has been activated, and the shuttlebay is protected by a Class Ten force field."

"Okay, what do I need to do to bring the primary core online and get out of here?"

"The primary ISIS core must be reinitalized from the primary core control room near Antechamber A. Additionally you will need to remove hostile inmates and intruders from both processing zones and the main holding area. Peripheral cell blocks and isolation zones are contained with force fields, however ISIS control cannot be restored while prisoners or intruders may have access to either the primary or secondary ISIS cores. Two protocols are accepted to restore order in the case of a catastrophic event in the facility. If prisoners in main holding and processing areas are subdued using either lethal or non-lethal protocols, you will then be able to reboot the primary ISIS core."

"Describe these protocols."

"Emergency site-to-site transport is available. If you subdue the prisoners using non-lethal measures and then tag them for transport, I will be able to move them to a safe holding zone. When order is restored, you will be able to bring me completely back online. The holographic staff can take over from there. However, in the instance of a complete loss of control in the facility as now, Starfleet Command has authorized use of a lethal protocol. While the loss of life will be regrettable, it has been deemed preferable to allowing the residents of Facility 4028 to escape. Be advised that I have insufficient resources to devote to support multiple protocols. Please decide which protocol you wish to follow and input your selection at this time."

"Non-lethal," LaRoca responded.

"Lethal," said Ssharki, simultaneously.

"Command not recognized," ISIS stated. "Please repeat."

Jesu LaRoca glared at his Gorn friend. "There are a lot of prisoners up there with a lot of valuable information in their heads, and Starfleet Intelligence would prefer that they remain intact."

"There's also a lot of Jem'Hadar up there," Sway pointed out, "and they'll cheerfully kill anyone. Prisoners, Eraun's people, us... The only way to stop them is to kill them first."

"I know how to fight the Jem'Hadar," LaRoca grumbled.

"My point is," Sway went on, "a stun setting for a normal humanoid will barely slow a Jem'Hadar down, while something that would stun one of them would be lethal for many other species, including Humans. And it would be impractical to reset our weapons for every enemy we encounter. Besides, your sword doesn't have any stun setting."

LaRoca fingered the hilt of his Nausicaan saber.

Ssharki voiced his opinion. "I say we set our weapons to maximum and kill everything that moves."

LaRoca rolled his eyes. "Oh, that's your solution to everything."

"That's because it always works!"

"Ugh! Why are we even arguing about this?" Eraun whined.

"Shut up," everyone else said together.

"What about K'staa, that Gorn up there?" Jesu argued. "Do you want to kill him too?"

Ssharki crossed his arms. "Actually, I do. You read his bio. K'staa murdered seventeen civilians for no good reason. If he was on my crew and he pulled something like that, I would have personally blown him out of an airlock."

LaRoca sighed and looked to his first officer.

Marq raised his arms helplessly. "I'm sorry sir, but I have to concur with Ssharki and Sway. Though the non-lethal option would be preferable, it's not at all practical in this situation."

"Alright, fine." Jesu LaRoca keyed the ISIS interface. "Lethal."

"Lethal option accepted. ISIS will monitor inmate lifesigns in main holding and processing areas and lift primary core lockout once lifesigns in these areas are terminated."

LaRoca turned to the Changeling. "Founder, we need to fight our way through three levels of this facility in order to escape. I'm afraid I don't have a weapon to offer you but-"

The Founder's forearms shimmered and liquefied. "I am a weapon."

Admiral LaRoca nodded. "Of course." He drew his sword and stomped to the door. "Let's get bloody."

They returned to Processing B just as the opposite door opened for the Lethean convict Alevant and several other inmates. Alevant's red eyes bored into LaRoca and rooted him to the floor. The Human knew he was being telepathically attacked but there was nothing he could do about it. He could only see red light shooting from the Lethean's eyes and drilling into his skull.

Fortunately the rest of the group was unaffected by Alevant's rapture attack. The two Gorn sprinted along the far wall to flank the prisoners, firing as they ran. Marq crouched in front of the Admiral, set his disruptor pistol to emit a beam of hyperonic radiation and started shooting at Alevant. The Founder and her Jem'Hadar bodyguards charged the group of prisoners. The Changeling spread her arms and tackled a mass of prisoners. She moved in a blur of amber fluid and started flinging inmates into the walls.

Alevant's telepathic hold on LaRoca finally weakened. He shook his head clear, shouted incoherently and ran toward the battle, but by the time he crossed the room it was all over. Marq had just fired a final disruptor bolt through the Lethean's head. The other prisoners had all either been blasted by the Gorn or battered to a pulp by the Changeling.

Marq caught up with LaRoca. "Hold still, sir."

"Ah! What is that?"

Marq removed the hypospray from the Admiral's neck. "Melorazine. Neural restorative. You needed it."

"Uh. Thanks. That does feel better." LaRoca looked up. There was a stampede of feet pounding the deck plating above. "Sounds like more of them are coming down the stairs. Let's be ready!"

"On it." Ssharki led the way through the door and knelt at the bottom of the stairs. He opened his fabrication kit and quickly deployed a pair of rapid-fire disruptor burst turrets, a shield generator, and a frisbee-shaped support drone.

LaRoca looked on incredulously. "You're carrying all of that with you?"

"You never know when you might need an arsenal," Ssharki answered as he pulled out the finishing touch: a hexagon-shaped piece of translucent polycrystalline composite that unfolded itself eighteen times to form a nigh-impenetrable cover shield in front of the shield generator. "Just duck back here when your personal shield gets worn down," Ssharki instructed his comrades. "The generator will charge you back up."

"Here they come," Sway announced. The prisoners came around the corner on the landing above and froze. Then one of them shouted something and the horde poured down the stairs. It was a massacre. The few inmates who made it past the withering disruptor fire had to choose between LaRoca's sword, the Jem'Hadars' kar'takins or the Founder's clutches. It was over in seconds.

"Weapons fire detected. Possesion of weapons is a violation of facility regulations."

"Shut up, ISIS," LaRoca muttered, wiping the green blood of some logic-deprived Vulcan off his Tegolar saber.

They went up the stairs to Main Holding and found it a scene of absolute bloody chaos. Kar'ukan's Jem'Hadar forces were fighting off dozens of enraged inmates, armed with table legs, utensils, stolen Jem'Hadar weapons and their bare fists. Adding the surreal quality of the setting was ISIS repeating through the speakers "Violence is against facility regulations. All inmates are ordered to return to their cells." In the middle of the action there was a three-meter tall, 400kg Gorn named K'staa who was destroying everything he could reach. Jem'Hadar, fellow inmates, furniture, whatever. As the eight unlikely allies watched, K'staa picked up a Tellarite, bit his head off, and threw his body at a pair of Jem'Hadar.

Ssharki had seen enough. He stepped forward and shouted at K'staa in their native language. The universal translator interpreted the challenge as "I'll turn your yellow hide inside-out, you murdering snake!"

K'staa faced his smaller adversary and sneered. He picked up a long table, held it over his shoulder like a bat and charged. Ssharki ducked an rolled away from K'staa's clumsy swing. The General got under his opponent and launched shoulder-first into his stomach. The gold-plated blade of Ssharki's shoulder pad gouged deep into K'staa's thick skin and muscle. He grunted and doubled over, but recovered quickly. He swung back at Ssharki as he tried draw his weapon. The assault rifle blocked the blow but the force of the impact still sent Ssharki reeling. K'staa laughed and stepped up for another swing. This time Ssharki used a mok'bara technique to step under and then move with the swinging table. He gripped it from the other end and transferred his momentum to it, accelerating its rotational motion and wrenching it of K'staa's grasp. Ssharki released the table and sent it helicoptering off into a crowd of inmates and Jem'Hadar.

K'staa raised his claws and opened his mouth and lunged at the General. Ssharki caught him in the throat with butt of his gun, then kicked his clawed boot into K'staa's stomach wound. He doubled over again, and Ssharki sent him sprawling with a spinning kick to the chin. As K'staa staggered back to his feet, Ssharki raised his assault weapon. He checked that it was set to fire in arcwave mode at the maximum power setting, said "Goodbye, K'staa," and pulled the trigger. The massive blast of disruptor energy vaporized the hulking Gorn and two nearby inmates.

Meanwhile, LaRoca and the others fought their way to a nearby control room, where with Marq's help Jesu was able to bring the phaser turrets online. He manually reestablished the identify-friend-or-foe parameters to ensure that his Gorn friends and Dominion allies would not be targeted, and released them to free-fire. The results were devastating. Within seconds, dozens of prisoners and Jem'Hadar were cut down, leaving only two small groups outside the firing arcs - a small cluster of Jem'Hadar soldiers without a First, and a slightly larger band of prisoners including Makkan, the True Way terrorist.

The Founder swooped in on her wayward soldiers like an eagle preying on frightened mice. But Makkan had gotten his fellow inmates well-armed and organized. They pinned down LaRoca and the others inside their control booth. LaRoca had brought plenty of tricks with him though. He rolled a smoke grenade across the floor, blinding Makkan's group. Then he strapped on his enhanced eyepiece, allowing him to see the infrared spectrum and pick out his targets through the blinding smoke. While Sway provided suppressing fire from his pistols, LaRoca sprinted to Makkan's position. With a photon grenade and a few slashes of his sword he drove the inmates out of their protected gap and into the sights of the phaser turrets. Only Makkan remained to face him, but he did not remain standing long.

They regrouped at the bottom of the other stairway and found a handful of Jem'Hadar engaged in a firefight with a group of prisoners on the landing above. "Lower your weapons!" the Changeling ordered.

The soldiers turned and gasped. "Founder!" A few well-placed shots from Ssharki, Marq and Sway dispatched them before they could do anything else. The prisoners on the stairs tried to run, but Marq used his tricorder to induce an electro-gravitic field and dropped them to the floor. LaRoca then tossed a photon grenade into their midst and that was the end of them.

They ascended the stairs and reached Processing A to find a small number of Jem'Hadar and inmates fighting together against the Undine prisoner who had formerly impersonated Captain T'Vix. The bodies of two dead Undine and many other Jem'Hadar and assorted inmates were scattered around the room. Working together and focusing their efforts on one target at a time, LaRoca, Ssharki, Marq, Sway, the Founder and Eraun's Jem'Hadar quickly overwhelmed "T'Vix" and the other prisoners and Kar'ukan's intruders.

"That's it!" Marq announced. "We should be able to reboot ISIS now."

"Confirmed," ISIS said, "critical areas are clear of inmates and intruders. However, intruder forces have brought down the containment field in Cell Block A Three. Processing A is vulnerable to counterattack."

"We'll hold this room," Ssharki declared, already unpacking his fabrication kit. "Jesu, you reboot ISIS."

"The primary core is off of Antechamber A," Marq informed.

"Right." LaRoca left the others and sprinted down the short corridor that led to the antechamber.

"Ah... Admiral... we meet again." Amar Singh was standing there, alone, aiming a Jem'Hadar pistol. "What a surprise!"

LaRoca had had quite enough of life's little surprises at this point. "You know, wearing that bright marigold jumpsuit, you don't look nearly as evil as you sound."

Singh grinned wickedly as he appraised the bloodstained Admiral. "Well this is an interesting situation, don't you think?"

"I think you should return to your cell."

"And why would I want to do that? No one is attacking me, the facility is in chaos, and given a little luck, I might be able to stroll right out the front door."

"You'll never get outside the facility."

"Oh, really? I know this place has a spacedock - we used it when I arrived. All I need to do is get a shuttle and escape. By this time next week, I could be back in Klingon space, continuing my research!"

"The Klingons would kill you on sight. B'vat's dead, and when word of what he had you doing to the Gorn reached the Hegemony, it almost sparked a full revolt. The High Council has officially discommendated B'vat and condemned your research."

"A pity. But I'm sure I could find some other men of vision who will support my work. The True Way, perhaps. Didn't I read of some gene-splicing experiment the Cardassians conducted during the Dominion War?"

LaRoca seethed. "Forget it, Singh! There's a force field blocking the shuttle bay and it's not coming down until your either dead or in your cell. Now, what's it going to be?"

Singh lowered his pistol and scratched his beard. "ISIS. I knew I forgot something..."

"There's no way out, and I can't guarantee your safety unless you return to your cell."

"Stop your incessant yammering and let me think!" Singh shouted. "Hmmm... you have a ship in orbit, but so do the Jem'Hadar, and there is a ninety-percent chance that one or both of those vessels will fire on a ship leaving the facility. I could use the transporters, but there's an eighty-six-percent chance that ISIS has cut off access to those. However, I could circumvent ISIS in approximately three-point-two minutes... No, the probability of success is well outside the acceptable limits. Very well, I'll return to captivity. But only if you promise to report that I did so willingly! I need every advantage I can get if I am to continue my work."

"Agreed."

Singh tossed the pistol over his shoulder and raised his hands. "You may return me to my cell."

LaRoca walked up to the mad scientist, his sword held at the ready. I've killed so many evil people today, he thought. Surely one more won't make a difference. He glanced around at the lifeless holocams and raised his weapon.

"Admiral," Singh asked fearfully, "what are you doing?"

Jesu answered with a cruel smile and [RECORDING DELETED - Authorization: Laroca-Two-Three-Three-Whiskey-Alpha-Charlie]

There were several control panels surrounding the ISIS core. LaRoca found one that was flashing the word INITIALIZE and tapped it. The core glowed with vibrant shades of blue that raced up the helix in pulses. Then the Warden slowly began to materialize, facing a wall. "Is there anything I can do to assist you?"

"Warden? Over here, Warden! Speak to me!"

"I see you, Admiral, it's just... Ah, there it is. Diagnostic cycle complete." The hologram turned around to face Admiral LaRoca. "It took a few seconds for ISIS to bring me completely back online. I apologize for the delay."

"Can you take it from here?"

"Certainly. Now that ISIS is online, disposing of the intruders and getting the remaining prisoners back in their cells and settled down should be trivial. I've also contacted the nearest Starbase and requested fleet support and an engineering team. We'll be back at peak operating capacity in no time."

"Excellent. I'll be leaving with the Founder now."

"I will unlock Transporter Pad A for you to use. Thank you, Admiral, for your assistance. I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't been here."

LaRoca returned the antechamber and met Marq leading the others with his tricorder. "Transporter room," the first officer said. "This way."

The Admiral fell in step. "Did anyone see Taris?" he asked.

They hadn't. "She was probably cowering in her cell the entire time," Sway suggested.

LaRoca found that doubtful. Given the opportunity to escape, Taris would not have sat still. He shrugged off the thought and slapped his combadge. "LaRoca to Tib."

"Tiburon here, sir. What's your status?"

"The facility is secure. We're preparing to beam out. What's up with you?"

"We've masked our energy signature and are hiding out amongst the asteroid field. We're moving into transporter range now. There's no sign of Eraun's ship. It must have warped out, unless it was destroyed."

"How typical," Eraun muttered. "Leave the Jem'Hadar alone for an hour and look what happens."

LaRoca's group assembled on the transporter pad. "Ready here," the Admiral called. "Eight to beam directly to the bridge."

"Stand by sir," said Barrister, the Tiburon's deputy ops officer. "Interlinking the transporter systems... plexing the Heisenberg compensators..." The android had an annoying habit of describing in exacting detail every step of whatever process he was engaged in. "Boosting the gain... refocusing the confinement beam..."

"Any day now, Barrister."

"Stand by... Energizing..."

LaRoca blinked uncomfortably as he rematerialized on his bridge. "Report!"

Traa'cee jumped out of the command chair. "Sir, there are multiple Jem'Hadar ships approaching on an intercept course. They must have detected our transporter signature. And long range sensors are picking up additional Dominion vessels inbound at high warp. I've contacted Starfleet command, but I don't know if-" The comm panel lit up on her TacOps station. "Incoming hail, sir. It's the lead Jem'Hadar ship. Kar'ukan wants to speak to you."

"Put him on-screen."

The Jem'Hadar elder glowered through the viewscreen. "Surrender the Founder and your pet, Admiral, and I may allow you to live. Refuse, and I will destroy your ship!"

"My pet? What are you going to do with my leopard shark?"

"He's bluffing!" Eraun insisted. "He can't harm a Founder!"

Jesu looked over at the Vorta. "Oh, he meant you."

"I can and I will, Vorta! Victory is life!"

Traa'cee spoke up. "Sir, Federation ships are inbound! It looks like the Opaka, the Fletcher, and the Belfast. The Belfast is hailing, audio only."

"Let's hear it."

Captain Va'kel Shon's voice reverberated through the Tiburon's bridge. "Looks like we got here just in time! What do you say we knock of some of these Jem'Hadar punks and race back at the rally point on Bajor?"

"I'll be waiting with a case of Andorian ale!" LaRoca faced the viewscreen and smirked. "Now where were we Kar? Discussing the terms of your surrender, I believe?"

Kar'ukan was understandably furious. "No! I will have the Founder! All ships, attack!"

"Get that thing off my viewscreen." LaRoca snapped. Traa'cee complied, closing the channel. LaRoca glared at the massive shape of the Jem'Hadar dreadnought carrier dead ahead. "Now get that thing off my viewscreen. Open fire, all phasers! Launch all fighters!"

The dreadnought returned fire with its polaron beams and turned away, but even firing a full broadside it couldn't match the punishing firepower being put out by the Akira-class heavy escort carrier, and she was just getting started.

"Miss Zain," LaRoca called to his Cardassian projectile weapons officer, "Quantum torpedoes. High-yield warhead setting. Fire on my mark."

"Yes sir!" Zain replied giddily.

LaRoca turned to Ssharki and explained "Lieutenant Zain and I have a shared passion for kinetic disassembly."

The Belfast joined the fight, making a head-on pass and raking the dreadnought with its quad phaser cannons and dual beam banks.

"Target's shields are failing!" Traa'cee reported.

"Miss Zain? If you please."

Four bluish orbs streaked toward the dreadnought, but before they could deliver payloads of massive zero-point energy, the dreadnought warped away to safety.

"Unbelievable," Ssharki muttered. "The cowardly petaQ bailed out again."

LaRoca was not nearly so subdued with his reaction. "Dammit, I wanted to see him explode!!"

"Oh, me too!" cried Lt.jg. Zain. "I'm sorry, sir!"

"More ships closing within weapons range," Traa'cee reported, ignoring the emotional outbursts around her. "Jem'Hadar reinforcements are two minutes out."

LaRoca pulled up a holographic heads-up display in front of his chair. "Target these three ships," he ordered, selecting a pair of attack ships and a heavy escort cruiser. He turned to his Gorn helmsman, Lt. Stikvaa. "Sticks, Attack pattern alpha-three, full throttle." He looked over at his weapons officers. "Numbers, cannon scatter volley. Zain, full spread of quantums as soon as Numbers gets their shields down. And this time I'd better see some explosive results!"

"It won't take long, sir," promised Lt. Erick "Numbers" Marsolek.

LaRoca called targets for the rest of the attack group and his fighter squadron and looked up when the torpedoes launched. The attack ships tried to run away but the torpedoes were too close and too fast. Both targets were quickly destroyed. The heavy escort was a bit tougher, though, and it was returning fire.

"Forward shields are down to sixty perecent!" reported Ens. Boris Erebia from the shield distribution station. "Compensating."

"Yoann, get a tractor beam on that ship and hold it in place. Zain, when we close within one kilometer, lay a spread of quantum mines, dispersal pattern beta."

"Yes sir!"

Knowing the heavy escort wouldn't be bothering him much longer, LaRoca looked for his next target. The Opaka and the Fletcher were slugging it out with a Jem'Hadar battleship but were also now being swarmed with enemy fighters and attack ships. The Fletcher's shields were down to critical levels and the Opaka's phasers were offline. "Helm, put us right in the middle of that furball. Engineering, extend our shields to the Fletcher. Numbers, another scatter volley, target the fighters and attack ships."

The Tiburon left the Dominion heavy escort blowing up in its wake and arrived in the middle of the pitched fight with all the subtlety of a hurricane, blasting everything in range with its forward cannons and phaser array and aft turrets. The Jem'Hadar ships quickly focused their attention on the greatest threat.

"We're losing shields, sir!" Erebia warned. "Twenty-five percent across the board."

"Engineering, transfer all power to shields," LaRoca ordered. "Even battery power." He watched the heads-up-display, being constantly updated by information from Traa'cee's sensors, and tracked the shield strengths of all his attackers. "Miss Zain," he said after a few seconds had passed and Dominion's shields were all in the red, "you may now press the button that makes everybody die."

Ssharki was sure he'd heard that wrong. "The what?"

Lt.jg. Zain clapped her hands and squealed "Yay!" and tapped the button on her console marked TPDS. The torpedo point defense system deployed from the top and bottom of the Tiburon's aft weapons pod and fired a omnidirectional spread of photon torpedoes at every target within range. Like a swarm of angry red bees, over forty torpedoes chased after their marks and when they found them, the results were simply cataclysmic.

Ssharki hit the ceiling and his jaw hit the floor. "I want that button!" he exclaimed.

Inevitably, Traa'cee interrupted the celebration with bad news. "Twenty-six Jem'Hadar warships just entered the system," she announced, "including three dreadnoughts. They're engaging the Belfast."

"Bring us in range, Sticks," LaRoca ordered. "Let's help our friend out."

"Captain Shon is hailing us, sir."

"Onscreen."

"Hey, Admiral, a little help over here would be great," Shon said with a smile, right before an explosion knocked him off his feet.

"Sir!" Shon's Caitian tactical officer called out. "Shields are at forty-seven-percent and falling!"

Captain Shon picked himself off the floor and looked up at the view screen. "We can't hold them off forever, Tiburon."

"We're almost there, Va'kel. Just don't blow up for another minute. Tib out." LaRoca frowned as he assessed the situation on his HUD. The Belfast was surrounded by hostiles. If it wasn't for the fact that the Defiant-class presented such a difficult target profile, it probably would have been destroyed already. The Tiburon was forty-five seconds away from maximum weapons range, but the slower cruisers Opaka and Fletcher were another minute behind. Even with all the firepower the Tiburon and its fighters could bring to bear, it wouldn't be enough to defeat the Dominion fleet. "This will not end well," he announced.

"Can't you just push your magic button again?" Ssharki wondered.

"Unfortunately, that only works once." LaRoca looked at the HUD and identified the weakest targets. "What we can do... is blast a hole in the ring around the Belfast so we can all jump to warp." He nodded and looked towards his weapons officers. "Make it happen. Fire at will on these targets and give Shon a gap."

"Right."

"Recall the fighters and get me the other two ships on audio."

"You're on," Traa'cee told him.

"Fletcher, Opaka, this is Admiral LaRoca. We don't stand a chance against this fleet. I'm ordering you to return to Bajor at maximum warp. We'll get the Belfast clear and be right behind you."

"In weapons range," Traa'cee announced.

"Firing..." Streaks and bolts of phaser energy pierced the black sky, trailed by a hail of quantum torpedoes. They found their targets with lethal accuracy, ripping a hole in the Dominion's net.

"Hail 'im," LaRoca ordered. "There's your hole, Shon! Get out of there!"

"Sir! A Jem'Hadar Attack Ship is breaking formation," Traa'cee announced. "It's on a collision course with the Belfast!"

"All power to weapons!" LaRoca shouted. "Overload the beam array! Stop that ship!"

Lt. Marsolek hit the attack ship with a rapid-fire volley from the phaser cannons while the array charged up, then he unloaded a massive energy discharge on his target. The Jem'Hadar vessel was simply vaporized.

However, it had been firing at the Belfast all the while, causing terminal damage. "They have a warp core breach in progress!" Traa'cee observed.

"Barrister, I don't care how, just lock transporters on all life signs aboard the Belfast and energize the instant you have them!"

"Sir, the Dominion fleet is coming after us- Belfast hailing!"

Va'kel Shon appeared onscreen again amidst the wreckage of his bridge. "Admiral, forget about us! Get the Founder and Eraun to safety! They're all that matters!"

"Oh, don't be so melodramatic, Va'kel. I can easily rescue you too."

Shon disappeared from the viewscreen in a transporter beam a few seconds before the Belfast herself disappeared in a warp core breach.

LaRoca watched the armada bearing down as he addressed his conn officer. "Sticks, tell me you already have a course laid in to Bajor, or anywhere but here."

"Of course," Stikvaa replied. "Maximum warp at your command."

The Jem'Hadar started shooting.

"Go-go-go!!"

The galaxy stretched beyond the bounds of relativity and the Tiburon left Facility 4028 very far behind.

* * *



Conclusions -

It should be obvious to any rational or non-biased individual that the security breach and I.S.I.S. failure was a result of Kar'ukan's interference, likely caused directly by the dampening field detected by the Tiburon and by my first officer's tricorder. Although the Iconian energy signature detected may provide an alternate explanation; however because it was limited to the immediate proximity of Taris' cell in main holding it is doubtful it could have impacted either I.S.I.S. core. It is my opinion that Facility 4028 as constructed was simply ill-equipped to deal with a large-scale assault and was too dependent on technological systems. Finally, based on my observations and experience at this facility, I suggest that the Federation council consider instituting the death penalty for subjects shown to be resistant to rehabilitation, particularly augments and war criminals.

Signed,

- V. Adm. Jesu Laroca

Last edited by sander233; 10-11-2013 at 09:42 AM. Reason: stardates...
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 147
# 34 Carpenter Joins the Crew
03-30-2013, 07:54 PM
Based on LC 21, Saying Hello
May 2410


I made a fool of myself during my first crew transfer. I was fresh out of the Academy and joining the crew of the Nightingale. My nerves were high, but I was almost giddy with delight to finally leave Earth and do something productive.

I re-materialized onboard Nightingale and looked around. The two other officers next to me quickly left the transporter room. I looked around for whoever it was that was supposed to greet me...and only saw the transporter officer. His voice was disgruntled. "Please step away from the pad now ma'am. I have another group coming in thirty seconds." Then the Tellarite looked down at the controls and ignored me.

This time would be different. Four years and two ships later, I was ready to get to work onboard Odyssey. The rumors here on Starbase 24 said that Odyssey was not the most desirable posting, but I didn't care. Rumors from the lower decks are always negative, even onboard Enterprise or Aventine.

I beamed over with three Ensigns - a Bolian and two humans, all male. One of the humans had an enormous duffel bag over his shoulder. Apparently he didn?t coordinate with the quartermaster before coming over.

No one greeted us as we re-materialized onboard Odyssey. The testosterone cloud slowly migrated out of the transporter room and turned left. A tall Hispanic man skirted around them and went to my right. I decided to follow that man instead. He was asking the computer questions, but I didn't bother to listen in. He'd eventually lead me to a turbolift away from the newbies.

He turned a corner. I decided to pause for a moment to make it a little less obvious that I was following him. Then I resumed walking...and ran into him. He was hunched over the entrance to a Jeffries tube. I didn't hit him very hard, but it was enough to make me lose my balance and fall over.

As usual, my words came out as a jumbled mess under pressure. "I...I'm really...I'm sorry...are you ok?"

He took my hand and pulled me up. "I should be the one asking if you are alright, Lieutenant. I should have been more careful." His stare deepened. "Didn't I just see you leaving the transporter room with a bunch of ensigns?"

"Yes sir. I have been onboard for two minutes and I've already made a fool of myself."

He smiled. I could tell that it was an honest smile. "That's nonsense. Welcome onboard. My name is Miguel Jarvis, and I'm the chief engineer."

I really wanted to maintain eye contact, but I just couldn't. "I am Lieutenant Amanda Carpenter. Nice to meet you, sir."

"Likewise Lieutenant. You are probably wondering why I am about to crawl through the tubes. I am about to go sneak up on my deputy. He thinks that I am onboard Starbase 24 visiting my old roommate. Unfortunately Sam has a nasty virus, so I am stuck here. The only fun I can have today is surprising him in the tubes. Anyway, if you ever need anything, let me know."

"Thank you. Can you tell me where the nearest turbolift is?" I managed to keep eye contact for the entire sentence.

Jarvis picked up the access cover and put it back in place. "I can do better than that. It's almost lunchtime anyway. Can I give you a brief tour followed by lunch in our outstanding cafeteria?"

"I would be honored, sir. Thank you."

He gave another one of those beautiful smiles. "It's my pleasure. And you can stop calling me 'sir.' Most of my friends call me by my last name. Since you don't report to me, we can be informal."

This turned out to be the best transfer of my life.

Last edited by superhombre777; 03-30-2013 at 08:00 PM.
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 872
# 35
03-31-2013, 12:08 AM
Star Trek: Online
Tales of Alyosha Strannik

LC #3, "My Haven"


"Who Sings the Song of Hosts"


2407


I, Alexei Ivanovich Strannik, having been appointed Captain, United Federation of Planets Starfleet, do solemnly swear that I will represent the Charter of the United Federation of Planets in my service, that I will support and defend that Charter when necessary, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office which I am about to enter.

So help me God.


I still couldn't believe it. I had made it.



Just an hour ago, I had been standing in Admiral Quinn's expansive office on Earth Spacedock with a small cadre of those who had helped me to get to this place. My foster parents. My best friend, Thraz, a fellow commander stationed on the Laikan. My current commanding officer, Captain Teeglar, the diminutive Roylan captain of the exploration cruiser Avandar. Admiral Kane could not be present, but he had sent his regards.

Quinn had smiled, his features filled with subdued warmth as he regarded me standing at attention before him. "It's good to see you here, Alexei." His demeanor in that moment had reminded me of the late, lamented admiral J.P. Hanson. And how far both of us had come since that awful day at Starfleet Academy...

"You'll be assigned to the 77th Fleet under Admiral ch'Harrell, to the Chin'toka. I know you were expecting a science ship, not an escort. We still intend you to engage in exploration...but with the war, there are times when that's going to have to be backed up with superior firepower. I know you can handle it."

"Is Admiral ch'Harrell briefed, sir?"

Quinn nodded. "Believe me," he said in a low voice. He hadn't just been looking at me--but at my foster parents, the Azarovs, as well. They--and he--had all aged since then...and I had adjusted my human image accordingly...but he had to have remembered them from that call in the commandant's office. "I don't send my officers into traps. Ch'Harrell needs only an officer's honor to judge him by. Your record shows a competent officer who is right for this position.

Then Admiral Quinn had pulled a small case out of his desk drawer and opened it to reveal...my fourth pip--a gold parallelogram in the 25th-century style.

I had actually worn a real dress coat for the occasion instead of shapeshifting it as I did the rest of my clothes. It felt like it must feel to a human to have sunglasses on, since it blocked a large section of photoreceptors on my body--far larger than what my commbadge did. True, I could and often did restrict my visual field in order to understand what my humanoid colleagues saw, and could not see, but I didn't particularly care for not having a choice in the matter.

As uncomfortable as the dress coat made me...it had been absolutely worth it for that.

Admiral Quinn led, and I had sworn the oath. Though my new rank would only be effective at 0001 hours the next day, the unaccustomed weight of the coat and the feel of its fabric brushing against my skin...not to mention the strange sensation of the Trill-human hybrid reaching up and pulling on the coat's collar in order to clip on the new rank pip...these drove the enormity of the moment home.

Despite everything...I had made captain. That was a cause for celebration--one that very, very few people would ever understand the true extent of. I had certainly not been one of the many below-the-zone captains that had entered into Starfleet's O-6 ranks of late, now that personnel shortages were starting to hit. Not even close. And I'd had to fight for every on-time promotion I had received. But I had made it. I, Alyosha Strannik...first and only Devidian in Starfleet, had achieved command rank.

But it was also a moment for reflection. I was not merely a captain. I was a wartime captain, with all the grave responsibilities thereof. And I had been assigned the command of an escort. Cast in an exploratory role or not, I would see battle, and it would be up to me to protect my crew and get them out of each mission alive.



Captain Teeglar and I walked side-by-side through the corridors of the Avandar for one last time--except that this last time, the same rank insignia sat on both of our collars. The small, ceratopsid-looking Roylan favored me with a long look with his ink-black eyes. "It has been an honor serving with you, Alyosha. I'll miss you. And Dr. Sei. I understand why you're taking her from me--and that's why I agreed to the transfer--but you will both be keenly missed."

Teeglar stopped in the middle of the corridor. He glanced in both directions--no one was coming. We faced each other now. "It's a matter of trust. When I brought you aboard the Avandar...I knew that you of all people would look past my relatively small stature and voice, and understand the need to be not just my executive officer in job function, but to demonstrate your support and respect--without fail. That what you did as first officer would be reflected in the conduct of the crew.'

"'Do unto others'..." I said.

"Exactly. The impact of that will be felt upon this crew long after you're gone. Still..." He emitted a nearly inaudible...well, 'whimper' was the best term for it. "I wish I didn't have to part with you." Teeglar shook his head. Then he refocused upon me--though to be honest it was the change in his neural energy that let me know of the greater intensity of his gaze, than his solid black eyes. "You must want out of that coat."

"And you must want to get off of the ground," I replied in kind.

"I would fix that for you--but...you know." I shrugged. Teeglar knew quite well why--out here in a public corridor, where there were cameras, wasn't exactly the place to use my telekinesis.

Then it registered with Captain Teeglar...I guess I can call him just 'Teeglar' now, without getting in trouble...where we were standing: just outside the entrance to Holodeck 3. "Feeling the muse?" he asked. I nodded, understanding what he meant by that. "Must be pretty rough if it even beats getting out of your dress coat."

I nodded again. "I can always find someplace to hang it in-program. But yes...I really need to cut loose."

It was more than just a muse. More than just the passion for singing that constantly followed me. I could not even laugh according to my own nature--could not cry--could not shout for joy--without scaring the devil out of everyone around me and giving away my very non-humanoid nature. Even among those I knew well, I still restrained myself most of the time out of respect for their sensibilities. And while I could often sublimate it into the sound of human laughter, or into a song...it wasn't easy to force down my natural emotional reactions. I was no Vulcan, after all; if I was any indication, apparently Devidians were no more wired for that than humans.

Teeglar smiled. "Then don't let me stand in your way...'Captain' Strannik." True, I still had a few hours left as a commander, but Teeglar's message came across loud and clear. "Have fun."

"I will."

I keyed open the holodeck. Once the door slid shut, I called, "Computer--begin program Abbey Road Studios."

As soon as the entryway materialized, I ordered the computer to produce me a coat rack, and I gratefully slid the dress coat off and stretched. As I did, I released myself from my human form. I still needed to remain in human phase, of course, to interact with the program, but it gave me one less thing to have to focus on. But one of the great things about the 25th century was a lovely little setting in most holodeck programs that could, if you so choose, require the characters to ignore each and every characteristic that might set you apart from the species you happened to be roleplaying in the story at that moment.

So it was that as I entered the studio--even though I'd selected a time period in the 22nd century where humanity had had very little contact with any other species than the Vulcans, that the holographic employees simply smiled and calmly greeted me as I gave each of them a polite nod, not noticing or caring that my features corresponded only in the barest of ways to their own, or that my feet only intermittently happened to be touching the floor.

One of them called out to me as I passed him in the corridor. "Will you be needing me to call any session musicians for you today, Mr. Strannik?"

I shook my head--even in my natural form the impulse came too readily to ignore. "That will be all right, Mr. Kelsey. I'm doing some remix work today; the DJ has already prepared the recordings I'll need." Which in reality had been me, in a previous session.

"Very well. Just let me know if you need anything."

"Of course," I replied in a pleasant tone that was sufficient for the holoprogram to read and cause the photonic producer to respond as though I had favored him with a smile.

I slid the door to the studio shut, and started working my way through the relaxing routine of bringing the 22nd-century recording equipment online and calling up the song I wanted in the precise way required by voice recognition software of the time, which pre-dated the introduction of the Universal Translator and still hadn't quite mastered all of the nuances of humanoid grammar.

An airy, electronic song with traces of dubstep and Orion trance music, of the type of music that had dominated humanity's musical output in the immediate post-First-Contact era burst forth from the studio's speakers, quite a bit louder than most humanoids could tolerate. But then again, since I heard in such a different way, I had no tiny inner-ear organs to damage by cranking the volume.

It took me the first thirty seconds of the song to find my footing--but I decided on that day to dispense with all pretense of a human voice.

I cried out at a pitch far too high for all but a human first soprano, with a timbre and power completely Devidian--the shriek of a Nazgul, almost, but in this case sweeping up-up-up again, a cheer, a cry of jubilation rather than predatory glee.

Then the sound morphed almost of its own accord, as the notes of the centuries-old song wrapped almost tangibly around me, into a soaring electric violin. Nothing but what I knew of the instrument restricted me from creating as many notes at a time as I felt like; I spoke...I sang with a natural transducer rather than larynx, lips, and tongue. I knew instinctively what sort of waveform I wanted to create...and I sang, my technique an eclectic combination of metal guitar solo, Arabesque violin, and Orion sahad-mur.

Only a few had ever heard me sing in this way...not even Captain Teeglar had heard me this unrestrained. I gave thanks for the gift given to me on this day. I pleaded for intercession. I poured out my hopes and fears in a way I suspected even my own species would never comprehend--my song understood only by myself and my God.

At least for a moment, in my own small way, I joined the great song of hosts.
-----------
Do you like story-based Foundry missions? If so, please check out my mission, "Finding Lascaux."

Commander
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 412
# 36
03-31-2013, 11:09 AM
Literary Challenge #36: The Haunting of Deck 13



On October 21, 1805, the fleet of the British Royal Navy, under the Command of Admiral Lady Horatia Nelson, engaged the combined fleets of France and Spain off of Cape Trafalgar. What ensued would be the most decisive naval engagement in the whole of the Napoleonic Wars.

Splitting her fleet into two long columns, Lady Nelson sent her ships forward in a pincer attack against the French and Spanish battle line. The tactic effectively broke up the enemy line of battle, and before long the French and Spanish ships found themselves isolated and cut off from one another, battling desperately against the more coordinated British vessels. Smoke billowed from the discharges of hundreds of cannons as ships on both sides unleashed devastating broadsides into one another. Bows broke, rigging was torn asunder, and men were either smashed apart by cannon or shredded by wooden shrapnel as the thunder of the exchange echoed far into the Spanish mainland.

At the height of the battle, Lady Nelson's flagship, H.M.S. Victory, came under fire from no less than four Franco-Spanish ships of the line. Her crew suffered horrendous losses as the proud ship was battered and shot full of holes, before the French seventy-four Redoutable closed the distance, eager to capture Lady Nelson and her flagship. As the two warships exchanged broadsides, they became locked, their masts entangling, but before the French could attempt to board, the British Temeraire came up on the Redoutable's starboard bow and raked her with cannon fire, forcing the Frenchmen to break off. The Victory was saved, but not before an opportunistic French sniper put a musket ball through Lady Nelson's left shoulder, felling her.

And so it was that Britain's greatest hero was dragged below decks by her crew, the ship's surgeon sadly declaring that there was nothing he could do for her. Gravely, the Victory's captain, Sir Thomas Hardy, leaned over the dying admiral. "Lady Nelson...is there anything we can do?" he asked.

Weak from blood loss, Nelson looked up at her flag-captain. "Take care of my dear Lord Hamilton, Hardy," she managed to say, "take care of my poor husband. Kiss me, Hardy."

Solemnly, Hardy leaned down as Nelson closed her eyes...

There was a sudden beep. "Captain Nair to Ensign Saan."

Neazri Sann, Science Officer of the U.S.S. Da Vinci. opened her eyes and gave an irritated sigh before slapping her comm badge. "Sann here."

"Ensign, we need you on Deck Two. We're experiencing a...phenomenon...that we think you should take a look at."

She sighed again. As ever, the universe and its myriad scientific mysteries had the worst possible timing. "I'll be right there, Captain. Sann out."

The Trill sat upright, brushing herself off and ignoring the fatal musket wound that she was supposed to have, much to the astonishment of the assembled officers of His Majesty's Navy. "Right! Sorry to abandon you gentlemen," she said, pulling off her bulky admiral's coat and sash and slinging them across her shoulder, "but I'm afraid I shall have to retire from this battle. Do send my compliments to Admiral Villeneuve."

Sir Thomas Hardy (whom Sann had programmed with the likeness and physique of the 21st-century English actor of the same name) looked befuddled. "What? But...Lady Nelson..."

"Shush, Hardy," Sann cut in, raising a finger to the captain. "England expects every man to do his duty. Now please let this woman go do hers. Computer, end program."

And with that, the lower deck of H.M.S. Victory vanished, replaced by the familiar polished black walls and yellow latticework of the holodeck. Shaking her head to herself, Sann and turned and walked through the main door, returning to the rigours of real life.


*****

Because of the seeming urgency of the call, Sann hadn't bothered stopping by her quarters to change. As such, she attracted more than a few stares as she walked through the ship wearing the white shirt and leather breeches and boots of the nineteenth century, with her brown hair done up in a short ponytail reminiscent of the era, and Admiral Nelson's coat and sash slung unceremoniously across her shoulder. Thankfully, the walk to Deck Two didn't take long-- the Da Vinci was a small old ship with only two actual decks, and not much walking space between either. The Miranda-class light cruiser had been in service since before the Dominion War, and Sann liked to imagine that she heard the bulkheads creak with age every time she walked past. Not that that would ever happen of course, as between Starfleet's regular maintenance and the updates that Captain Nair had implemented, the old girl was still fresh, modern, and structurally sound. Most officers would have considered assignment to a relic like the Da Vinci to be demeaning, but not Neazri. If anything, she was quite happy to be serving on an old ship like her instead looking at it in some orbital museum.

Every one of Sann's hosts, she reflected as she walked, had been defined by their passions. Tandru Sann had loved flying Peregrine fighters, engaging in arm wrestling competitions in mess halls, and fighting Jem'Hadar in melee combat. Lennia Sann had loved abstract paintings, operas, and Cardassian stalactite sculptures. Chendral Sann had loved wine, women, song, and haggling with his customers over prices. Neazri herself had two diverging love affairs-- astrophysical and biological science, and all of the mysteries of the universe that could be explored therein, and the rich and quirky history of the planet Earth. The new and the old, intertwined in the obsessions of an eccentric girl from Trill Prime.

In a short while, she reached the main aft hall of Deck Two, and was greeted by the sight of a large cluster of ochre-shirted security personnel, standing on guard and looking particularly uneasy. Captain Nair was standing in their midst, conversing with Ensign Virek over a matter of seeming importance. Captain Arkos Nair, the only Korda serving in Starfleet, was a man of medium height and build, and...well, Neazri supposed he might be considered handsome by his race's standards, although Nair's grey-blue skin, vestigal, tendril-like swirls at the corners of his cheeks, and the long, bony ridges on either side of his bald head had always made Sann think of a cross between a Bolian and a Jem'Hadar. She wouldn't deny that Arkos was an effective Captain, though. He had a good-humoured, easy nature with his senior officers that belied a quick-thinking, rational mind suited for command. It also helped that Arkos had an eager curiosity for the universe that mirrored Sann's own, though the expectations of command meant that Arkos often got into trouble for this curiosity.

Noticing Sann, Arkos gave a quick nod to Virek before turning to face her. "Ah, Sann, glad you could--" He trailed off when he noticed Sann's unusual attire, and raised an eyebrow. "Gender-swapping Human history again?"

Neazri smiled and gave Arkos an innocent shrug. "What can I say, I've always been fascinated by could-have-beens," she replied. "At least I wasn't being Nikolette Tesla again."

Arkos grimaced. "Please don't remind me," he groaned. "Adim complained enough about you 'borrowing' the DCM coils for that role." He inclined his head, motioning for Sann to follow him, and the two of them headed down the hall, flanked by Ensign Virek and his security detail.

"So, what's the situation, Captain?" Sann asked as they walked down.

"Well, as you know, at least two hours ago, we passed through that polaric ion field that turned up from out of nowehere on our scanners," Arkos replied. "Incidentally, I still expect that report from you by the end of the day."

"Noted, sir," Sann replied with a nod. "The initial readings I got are pretty fascinating." So fascinating that she had spent a full hour in the main science lab poring over them with a glass of kanar, before finally convincing herself to take a holodeck break before she drove herself crazy.

"Well, anyway, after we passed through it, we experienced a few power fluctuations on Deck Two," Arkos continued. "Nothing too serious, or at least, that's what we thought at the time. It was only after the fluctuations ended that we started getting...odd reports."

Neazir raised an eyebrow. "Odd reports?"

The Captain nodded. "Ensign T'Nar reported seeing the silhouette of a humanoid figure walk through a wall near her quarters. Twenty minutes after that, Security got a frantic report from Ensign Park about a ghost wandering the aft hall."

Sann almost stopped in her tracks at that point as she gave her Captain a bewildered stare. "A...ghost, sir?"

"Those were Park's words. He said that the figure appeared human, was dressed in antiquated Human clothing, and seemed oddly white and transluscent. Anyway, to get to the point, we've found the ghost and have it cornered in the aft hall."

This time, Sann actually did stop in her tracks. "Wait, wait, wait...sir...you cornered a...ghost?" She knew Arkos Nair to be firmly opinionated that spirits, demons, gods, angels, assorted other celestial beings did not exist. To hear him talking candidly about a ghost was alarming in and of itself.

Arkos turned and gave Sann a nonchalant shrug. "Well, until you determine what it is, Ensign Sann, that's the word I'm going to be using," he replied calmly. "As silly as the term is, it fits. We found the apparition wandering the halls with no discernable purpose or pattern, but after it passed through more than a few walls, bulkheads and very surprised crew members, it stopped at the end of the aft hall. As we speak, it's still standing there right now, and as far as we're able to tell, it wants to communicate."

This entire case seemed more and more bizarre with each passing second. Arkos had been right to call it a 'phenomenon' in his initial summons. "And did you communicate with it?" she asked.

Arkos' shoulders sagged slightly. "Well, I tried to," he admitted. "Unfortunately, it didn't seem to like me. It called me a 'flat-head' and a 'chump' and told me to 'beat it.' Incidentally, I don't suppose you know what any of those phrases mean, do you Sann?"

Sann's face reddened. Not only did they have a seemingly non-corporeal humanoid figure wandering the ship, but one that used Twentieth-Century American slang. "I...think I do, sir."

The Captain's face brightened. "Good!" he replied with a smile, clapping his hands together. "That's why I brought you down here, Sann. Seeing as you're the ship's resident expert and afficionada of human history, I figured I'd let you have the honour of trying to talk to it. And maybe in the process, you can use that brilliant scientific mind of yours to determine what it actually is."

At that moment, Sann's stange day had officially become even stranger. Her Captain had essentially ordered her to go talk to a ghost. "This is...unexpected, sir," she said. At that point, though the 'Science Officer' part of her brain switched on, and she remembered the proper protocol for a situation like this. "I'm going to have to request that you initiate standard quarantine procedures if you haven't already, sir. We don't know what it is that we're dealing with, or what kind of effect it might have on its surrounding environment."

"Already ordered, Sann," Arkos replied with a nod. "If you want, I can wait for some EVA suits to be brought down from Sickbay."

Sann shook her head. "Thank you sir, but the...ghost...might go through another wall by the time the suit arrives," she said, before adding with a smile "Besides, we don't want to keep our guest waiting."

Arkos gave her a quick nod, and took a step back-- a wordless signal for Sann to proceed. If Sann was honest with herself, she was more than a little excited by this opportunity. In her experience, the more bizarre a case was, the more likely it was that there was a wholly rational, and very intriguing, answer behind it. Besides which, she was a scientist: dealing with the strange and the inexplicable was all a part of the job description.

As Sann rounded the corner, she saw another cluster of security personnel directly ahead, forming a living barrier in the hall. As she approached, she saw the figure that the team was staring down, and, for a brief few seconds, stopped and gaped.

The figure was...or at least, appeared to be...a Human male, somewhere in his forties, with a tall and lean build. He wore a simple white shirt and a black pair of pants with a matching suit jacket, the pockets of which he had stuffed his hands into. He was leaning against the wall in a laid back, almost belligerent posture, staring down the security team as though daring them to try something. But what Sann immediately noticed was that he was completely devoid of colour: beyond the black and white of his outfit, his coarse, ovoid face was a collection of various greys. Between that and the odd, shimmering quality to his form, he gave off the impression of an image from an old black-and-white film.

Something about him also struck Sann as familiar. His hair was thin and slickly combed, and his eyes had a cold glint to them. He had an aloof ruggedness to him that dangerous, and yet at the same time oddly attractive.

"Geez, do you gorillas know how to make a guy feel welcome, or what?" he said aloud to the security officers. He had a voice to match his face: flat and nonchalant, with a rough-around-the-edges New York accent that carried with it all of the grime and grit of that city. "I told you I wouldn't cause no trouble, so what's with the long faces? Did I insult your mothers? If it makes ya feel any better, I'm the one feelin' like a schmuck here right now."

Taking a deep breath, Sann reminded herself that she had a job to do, and moved past the ochre-shirted officers. "Stand aside," she ordered. "The Captain has given me clearance."

The closest security officer gave her a curt nod. "Yes, ma'am," he said, before he and his compatriots stepped aside to let Sann through. At this, the black-and-white oddity raised an eyebrow, but otherwise remained visibly unimpressed.

"Finally, some action around here," he muttered, straightening up a little as he looked at Sann. "You the one in charge of this tin can?"

"No, the one in charge is Captain Nair," Sann replied patiently, "the man who you insulted and told to leave. I'm Ensign Neazri Sann, Science Officer of the U.S.S. Da Vinci."

"Funny name. Sounds a little European." The faint edges of a smile crept upon the man's lips, and his coarse face seemed to soften a bit. "I kinda like it." Slowly, the man drew one hand free from his pocket, and pulled out a small white box. As he effortlessly flipped the lid of the packet open, Sann instantly recognized it as pack of cigarettes-- narcotic cylinders that had been extremely popular in Earth's Twentieth century. Pulling one of the tiny white sticks free, the stranger extended it to Sann as though in offering.

She had read enough of the history of the tobacco industry to know bad a cigarette would be to a joined Trill like herself. "Sorry, I don't smoke," she said with a shake of her head.

The man looked a little disappointed. "Ah, well, nobody's perfect." He stuck the cigarette in his mouth, produced a lighter and proceeded to take a drag from the stick. Curiously, Sann didn't notice any smoke emerge when the man exhaled. "So that fella's your Captain, huh? Interesting forehead condition he has going on. He should probably get that looked at."

Neazri was about to explain to the man that Captain Nair wasn't human, and so didn't have a 'condition,' but decided not to complicate this conversation any more than she had to. "Is there any way I can help you, Mr..."

Her voice trailed off abruptly when the cold realization hit her, then and there, why this man looked so familiar. His face, his voice, his mannerisms, the way he casually took a drag from a cigarette, and even the fact that he was in black and white...it all clicked into place.

"Humphrey Bogart?"

The figure made no reaction to the name. "Yeah, what's it to you, sweet cheeks?" he asked, taking another drag from his cigarette.

Sann's mouth fumbled a reply. "Sorry, I've...never met a...Hollywood celebrity before," she managed to blurt out, the historian in her going giddy with excitement.

Something about Sann's awkward reply must have struck a chord in the...entity...that appeared to be Humphrey Bogart, as he gave her a warm smile. "Aw. Well, dere's a first time for everything, Miss Sann," he replied. "Unfortunately, I think I left my pen back home, so I won't be giving out any autographs today."

"That's..." Sann realized she was not acting as a Starfleet officer ought to, and regained her composure. Think science, Neazri, you came here to solve a problem. "Aside from me saying that I thought you were great in The Maltese Falcon, Mr. Bogart...I'd really like to know what you're doing...here. On our ship. Out in the middle of space."

Bogart gave her an innocent, nonplussed look. "Oh, I didn't mean to bother nobody," he replied casually. "I was just passing through."

Neazri frowned at the comment. "Passing through?" This, and her inability to smell any tobacco from Bogart's lit cigarette, piqued her curiosity. She quietly pulled out her tricorder and began to run a full diagnostic on the black-and-white that stood before her.

"Yeah, I was in the neighborhood, and so was your ship," Bogart replied. "I wanted to see if there was any familiar faces aboard." He frowned, suddenly, as Sann's tricorder passed close to his face. "Hey, watch it with that gizmo, lady. Don't start any funny business, you understand?"

"Don't worry, Mr. Bogart," Sann replied calmly, "I'm just scanning you. You're the last person I'd want to start funny business with, believe me." Readings began to pop up on the tricorder's screen, giving Sann a full layout of the entity's composition. Some of the results confirmed Sann's suspicions, while others surprised her. Slowly, an idea began to form in her head as she took in the data."You said you were looking for familiar faces?"

Bogart nodded. "Yeah, that's right. An old friend of mine left me a message a while back, said he wanted to meet up. I was checking to see if he was still around." A look of bitter disappointment crossed the movie star's face. "As far as I can tell, though, he ain't here. He's forgotten about old Humphrey. Rotten way to treat a guy, I tell ya."

Sann gave a slow, understanding nod as she folded the tricorder. "I see. Well, Mr. Bogart...it could be that that that old friend of yours is still around somewhere," she suggested. "It's just...he might not remember you so well."

The Bogart entity frowned. "Not remember me? What kinda guy sends a message and then forgets about it?" He took an another, angry drag from his cigerette. "What a heel."

"Don't be so hard on him, Mr. Bogart," Sann said. "It's probably been a long time since that message was sent. I'm sure that old friend of yours would be happy to make amends if you just gave him a second chance."

Slowly, Bogart's expression softened. "You know...you might be on to something, kid." A slow smile lit his coarse face. "I think I'll stick around for a bit, then, and see if I can't find out what that friend of mine is up to nowadays." Holding his cigarette between two figures, he raised his hand in passive gesture to Sann. "Maybe we'll bump into each other again at some point. Here's looking at you, kid."

And then, in the blink of an eye, Humphrey Bogart vanished into thin air.

Behind Sann, the security team instantly sprang into action, searching and securing the area. Captain Nair stepped into the foreground, looking understandably confused. "Sann...what just happened?"

She turned to face Arkos. "He's gone, sir, but...I think I now know what our 'ghost' was."

"Yes, you seemed to know him by name," Arkos said. "Care to explain?"

"He was...or at least had the likeness of...Humphrey Bogart, sir," Sann said. "A famous film actor from Earth's Twentieth Century. And I think I know why he looked that way."

Arkos gave her a quiet nod, a signal for her to go ahead an explain it to him.

She popped upon her tricorder, and turned it around so that Arkos could see the readings it had collected. "I was detecting a heavy amount of electromagnetic radiation when I scanned him, sir," she explained, "along with a high concentration of photonic particles. He was also generating less than one-tenth of the mass of a normal human being."

Arkos raised an eyebrow. "Are you saying he was some sort of hologram?"

"Yes, and no sir." She folded her tricorder. "The readings match some of the data I took from the photonic ion field we passed through. Consider though, that...Humphrey Bogart...appeared to us in black and white, looking exactly the way he did in Earth's early cinema. Colour generation technology was very limited up until the late 1940s, so most of Bogart's movies were in black and white. Now, consider as well the fact that when the Humans began heavy use of radio and television in the 1940's and 1950's, they inadvertently sent waves of electromagnetic information outwards into space. Electromagnetic information, sir, that is still travelling after all of these years."

A look of understanding dawned on the Captain's face. "Are you suggesting, Sann, that someone else has picked up these signals?"

The Trill nodded. "It's wholly possible, sir. There could be some form of sentient life in that polaric ion field that recieved all of those signals a long time ago. That's why the 'ghost' appeared to us as Humphrey Bogart, sir, and mentioned having recieved a message. It was literally replying to a centuries-old signal!"

"And was communicating to us in a physical form it thought we might recognize!" Arkos finished. "That's why he didn't want to talk to me. I look nothing like the original senders of the message, whereas you can pass for Human." The Captain smiled. "I'll notify Starfleet of what happened. When they give us the go ahead to attempt further communications, we'll head back into the ion field to see if we can contact this lifeform again. Congratulations, Ensign. You've just established first contact with...well, a movie star."

Sann laughed. "Of all the polaric ion fields in all the solar systems in all the quadrants in all the galaxy, we had to stumble onto his."

Arkos frowned, and raised a puzzled eyebrow. "What?"

Sann grimaced. "Er, sorry sir, you wouldn't get the reference. But I'd be happy to make help make the necessary preparations for contacting these entities again. "

The Captain nodded. "I think we'll be needing your historic knowledge again quite soon. Dismissed."

Nodding, Sann headed off towards her quarters, resolving to change back into her uniform and start watching as many old film extracts as possible. Inwardly, she hoped that if they did make contact with the polaric aliens again, then the next one she talked would be Claude Rains...
Rihannsu
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 209
# 37
03-31-2013, 08:07 PM
Literary Challenge #3: My Haven

From Darkness, Light


Bryan gazed wearily at the viewscreen of the U.S.S. Athena. He felt almost as if he wasn't entirely there, but that some piece of himself was left in the Embassy where he had told his mother to leave him to live his life just a few hours ago. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the bridge door open.

"Ibalei. What do you need?" he asked the Joined Trill women who stepped through the doorway.

"You look like you could use a break Bryan," she said.

"When my duty shift is-"

"Bryan, as your first officer, I must insist that you take the rest of your shift off."

"My shift isn't even halfway-"

"Fine, as your wife, I demand you take the rest of your shift off," She said smugly.

Bryan sighed, knowing that it was only a matter of time before she played that card. "Fine. But just this once. I'll be in the holodeck if anyone needs me. Commander Ibalei Zizania, you have the con."

*******

Bryan stepped into the massive holodeck, empty and still in its inert grid pattern. He looked around, and walked to the middle of the room, hearing the door hiss shut behind him.

"Athena," he called, "Load simulation Valot number Zero-Zero-One."

"Aye, sir. Simulation loading now," The AI replied.

The room around him shimmered and warped, until suddenly he was standing in a great black void, pierced only by small, spiraling dots of light. He looked around, and smiled a little.

"Play some music, Athena," he said.

"Care to be a little more specific, sir?"

He paused for a moment, thinking. "Cosmos, by Vangelis."

The entire room was filled by the soothing combination of synthesizer and piano music. Bryan looked around at the galaxies as they passed him by, imjagining the wonders that lay there, merely waiting to be discovered. Even as he did so, the troubles that had plagued him for so long seemed to simply fade away, as they always did when he stood among the stars. He closed his eyes, letting the music gently wash over him, as he thought in silence, rationalizing everything that had occurred to him recently. Ibalei nearly being killed, proposing to marry her, Joining her to a Trill symbiont, finally marrying her, and letting go of the last vestiges of his biological family, had really begun to take their toll on him. But, in here, among the stars, the billions and billions of stars, all of that seemed so much smaller, and only the light stood out. Bryan reopened his eyes, smiling as he gazed around, the galaxies as numerous as grains of sand on any beach. At least, he felt at peace, and all his troubles seemed to simply melt away.
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
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,943
# 38
04-01-2013, 04:54 PM
Literary Challenges 3, 11 and 28 - My Haven, Hidden Agendas and Stranded

Under the Night

Captain Amanda Palmer looked about the bridge of the USS Valkyrie, quietly satisfied with the progress of the repairs.

"Captain," said Commander Brandon Mayer, coming up to Palmer with a PADD in his hand. "Just to let you know, the new communications array has been installed, the computer cores have been re-booted, and Meliden tells me that the nacelle calibration is underway."

Palmer smiled, noting how different Mayer looked in tactical red, rather than operations gold, and how easily he had settled into the role of an executive officer.

"That's good to know, Brandon," she replied, taking the PADD from him, and initialing an approval for new holo-emitters and photonic interface. "It would seem that things are just about ship-shape once more, and I'm going to leave things in your capable hands while I take the evening off."

"Have you anything nice planned, Captain?" Mayer enquired.

"Relaxation," Palmer replied simply, as she crossed the bridge towards the rear turbolift. "If you need anything, I'll have my comm badge with me. You have the bridge, Commander."


The Osaka night solidified around Palmer as the transporter beam released her, and she entered the Yuki Pocari bath house.

"One please," she said as she approached the counter, and was given a single locker key. Making her way into the changing area, she stripped out of her uniform, neatly folding each garment before placing it in the locker. Twisting her hair up, Palmer thrust a set of chopsticks through to hold the up-do in place, and securing her comm badge to a towel, padded across the tiled floor to the washing area, before crouching on a stool, and waiting for the attendants to begin soaping her with rough sponges. As she felt the sponges pummeling her knotted muscles, she began to relax, then she was rinsed clean with scalding water. When they were finished, she rose, and made her way through the tiled room to the main area, where there was a series of sunken baths, maybe eight feet in diameter set into the bamboo flooring. Despite the open roof, the heat from the steaming tubs maintained a comfortable temperature. Folding her towel on the edge of the tub, Palmer stepped in, gingerly at first, the water so hot, that her foot felt cold, then lowered herself in completely, and sat on the molded interior, the surface of the water coming up to her shoulders. Resting her head against her towel, Palmer closed her eyes, allowing the heat to melt the tension of the past weeks from her muscles, as she listened to the rhythmic tapping noise of a bamboo water feature.

Feeling a rippling on the surface of the water, Palmer opened her eyes, and saw another female leg entering the tub beside her. Looking up, she saw that the woman's entire back was covered with an exquisite tattoo. On her lower back, a kitsune, a nine-tailed fox, sat in repose at the side of a stream which flowed down onto the right buttock, while the tails curled down onto the left. Above the fox's inquisitive head, clouds drifted across a full moon on the woman's upper back, before gently rolling over the shoulders to cap her deltoid muscles with fan-like wind bars. Her black hair was cut in a severe jaw-length bob, and Palmer initially thought she may have been Japanese, but when she sat on the opposite side of the tub, Palmer saw that she was Caucasian.

"I hope I'm not disturbing you," she said, her accent clearly British, but a region Palmer was unable to identify. Almost London, but not quite.

"Not at all, it's a public bath," Palmer replied with a friendly smile.

"I like your tattoo," the woman said, nodding towards Palmer's left shoulder, and the simple loops which led down to a pair of triangles at the curve between the deltoid and biceps.

"Thank you, it was done on Zildar, about ten years ago," she said. "I couldn't help but notice your work though, it's incredible."

The woman smiled slyly.

"One of the benefits of having a brother who is a tattoo artist," she replied, leaning forwards and extending her hand. "I'm Bella. I've not heard of Zildar."

"Manda," Palmer replied, leaning over to shake Bella's outstretched hand, the motion making the water almost unbearably hot. "It's a small planet in the constellation Lyra. My crew made first contact there thirteen years ago."

"Ahh, a Starfleet officer," said Bella. "You must have seen some sights over the years."

"A few," Palmer admitted. "But it's always nice to be back home. We've been undergoing a refit, before launching tomorrow for a diplomatic mission."

She tilted her head to gaze up at the stars, easily locating McKinley Station among the various satellites and orbital habitats.

"I hope you have a safe voyage," Bella said, before leaning her head back to enjoy the heat in companionable silence.

***

Ahd'r I'sH'd glanced around the small workout room as he entered. It was relatively empty, with a few Humans, a male Bolian and a Vulcan girl on the various pieces of equipment. They barely acknowledged his presence, as he moved to the anti-grav treadmill, which was as he wanted it, although he did notice that one of the Human females watched him as he walked, and his lips quirked in amusement at her interest. Dropping a towel beside the device, I'sH'd set it to free run, and jumped on, quickly building up an impressive pace. Thumping, energetic music blasted from hidden speakers. It was hardly the Alba Ra, but it would be sufficient motivation... As he ran, he chafed at the indignities which had led to him, an Ahd'r in the Pentaxian millitia, being assigned aboard the USS Valkyrie.

It had begun with the dishonor of his grandfather, R'sH'd, who, in some misguided sense of patriotism, had attempted to stall Pentaxia's entry to the Federation by attempting to assassinate heir Empress Ch'K'rr before her coronation. I'sH'd had been five when, in a televised broadcase, his grandfather was put to death for treason. He would never forget the look on R'sH'd's face as the imperial guards had carried out the sentence: Stripping him of his sword, and using it to sever his head, executing the former First Minister like a common thief. For a Pentaxian male, his sword was his honor, his status, his very manhood. To have it taken and used against him was the ultimate humiliation. For it to be used to end his life -- no more grievous insult was possible. There had been Federation representatives present for the Empress' coronation, and they had done nothing to stop the execution, hiding behind the shield of the Prime Directive. I'sH'd would never forget the look of cold fury on the young Terran captain's face, as he had turned the face of a teenaged girl to his shoulder, preventing her from witnessing R'sH'd's demise.

The shame to R'sH'd's son, I'sH'd's father, had been so great, that he had simply left the capital and walked into the desert, never to be seen again. I'sH'd had struggled all his life to overcome that shame, and to restore honor to his once noble house. He had served diligently in the militia, steadily climbing the ranks, till his promotion to Ahd'r, the equivalent rank to that of a Starfleet captain. Then he had been summoned before the Empress. He had never seen her in person before then, only ever holo-images, but age had not dulled the beauty of her youth, and she was still a striking woman. With her head shaved in the g't'lla ritual to show bereavement, I'sH'd was reminded of his mother. She had praised his accomplishments, and said that he was being chosen for an assignment of great prestige.

"Ahd'r I'sH'd," Ch'K'rr had said. "Ambassador S'rR's was once my protected ward. She is my daughter, my sister, my confidant. You are to guard her life as you would my own."

Then she had walked in... Even though over two decades had passed, even with her head shaved in mourning, I'sH'd had recognized the girl from the balcony who had cowered against the Terran captain as his grandfather had been executed. As she had drawn closer, I'sH'd saw first that the uniformity of her purple irises was sullied by pale grey outer rings, then he realized that she had no claws, but smooth fingernails like a Terran! She was a half-breed! Lower even than the v'nai, the untouchable caste who worked with filth and the dead! To be assigned to protect an ambassador was one thing, but for that ambassador to come from such low stock, to be someone so utterly unfit to represent the purity of the Pentaxian Dynasty -- It was to be assigned to protect the lowest of the low, and an insult as grievous as to be relieved of his sword!

Anger drove I'sH'd's feet, faster and harder until he was sprinting, then he continued to push harder, his cardiac tubes contracting painfully and his lungs burning in air much colder than what he considered comfortable.

"Warning," intoned the computer's synthesized female voice. "User cardiac arrest imminent -- Initiating emergency equipment shutdown."

Unable to react in time, I'sH'd continued running, colliding with the wall then bouncing back, cracking his forehead against the edge of the treadmill with a force which nearly rendered him unconscious. He lay on the floor, a heap of anger and humiliation, as his pulse gradually returned to normal.

"Sir, are you alright?" asked the young Human female who had stared at him earlier: Ensign Campbell-Black, I'sH'd remembered, from his memorization of the crew manifest. She reached out with a towel towards the bleeding wound on I'sH'd's forehead.

"Don't touch me!" he snarled, jerking his head away from her attempted ministrations. Seeing the look of hurt confusion on her face, I'sH'd felt shamed at his misguided anger. Reaching up with his own towel, he wiped the magenta blood from his forehead, then held it up, so she could see the fabric of the towel dissolving where the blood had soaked in. Looking down, the ensign saw the edge of the treadmill was also bubbling and caving in on itself, corroded by the acidic qualities which actively filtered Pentaxian blood in the vein.

"Do you require assistance?" enquired Ensign T'Natra, extending a hand.

"No, thank you," I'sH'd said, slowly raising himself to his feet. "For your own safety, do not get close." Holding his towel to his head, he walked out of the workout room towards the turbolift.

The doors opened, and S'rR's walked out, nearly colliding with I'sH'd.

"Are you alright?" she asked.

Suppressing his instinct to simply growl and tilt his head in disgust at such an obvious question, I'sH'd forced himself to respond civilly.

"I'm fine, Ambassador," he said. "Just a minor accident. I am going to sickbay now to have the wound tended before I bleed on the deck and do more damage." Sliding passed S'rR's, I'sH'd entered the turbolift, deliberately facing the rear till the doors sighed closed.

With a mental shrug, S'rRs' turned and walked along the corridor towards main engineering, her long coat flowing as she walked. As the doors slid open, S'rR's looked about, before being approached by an Andorian Chief Petty Officer.

"I'm sorry, Ambassador, but engineering is restricted to Starfleet personnel only," he said.

S'rR's raised an eyebrow.

"I beg your pardon, Chief?"

"Captain's orders, Ambassador," replied th'Shaan. "No non-Starfleet personnel in critical areas."

"I know that you're new, Chief, but I do hold a Starfleet commission," S'rR's pointed out. "I have higher clearance than you do. I need to speak to Commander Bowen."

"That may be so, Ambassador, but the Captain's orders were specific."

th'Shaan's antennae gradually crept closer to his scalp, and S'rR's realized further argument was futile.

"Very well, Chief," she conceded graciously, taking a black wrist-strap from inside her coat and handing it to th'Shaan. "Please can you see that Commander Bowen gets this, and ask her to meet me in the Sidewinder at her earliest convenience?"

th'Shaan nodded, and took the synthleather strap.

Turning on her heel, S'rR's strode out of engineering, and turned left, heading towards what had once been a secondary conference lounge but which had been re-fit as a bar and lounge, and had been dubbed the Sidewinder by the crew. Behind the bar, stood a Bolian female of statuesque proportions, who S'rR's had not seen before.

"Human mother?" S'rR's asked, leaning against the bar.

Selya Chirk nodded.

"That's right, Ambassador," she replied. "I inherited my mother's legs, and my father's bust."

S'rR's chuckled easily, noting Selya's impressive figure.

"I got my mother's legs too," she said, before frowning. "Well, if a genetic donor can be considered a mother... Nevermind, I'll have a glass of k'lr liqueur if you have it."

"Only replicated, I'm afraid," Selya admitted. "We don't get much call for alcohol strong enough to kill a Human within minutes."

As she placed the glass on the bar, the doors sighed open, admitting Lieutenant Commander Meliden Bowen. In her hand, she held the wrist-strap S'rR's had given to th'Shaan.

"Hello darling, sorry I missed you in engineering, I was in nacelle control, calibrating the plasma stream," she said, sliding onto the stool beside S'rR's, before holding up the wrist-strap. "What's this, and what do you want me to do with it?"

"I found it while going through some things on Caladan," S'rR's replied, taking a sip of the liqueur. "Seems to be some kind of miniaturized tricorder, I wondered if you might be able to get it working again for me?"

Meliden popped open the covering flap and examined the damaged control surface.

"Leave it with me, darling, I'll see what I can do," she replied. "I'm sure it's nothing a little reconstruction won't fix. Not long now before we get underway. Have you any idea where we're headed first?"

"A diplomatic mission with the Mu'Naii," S'rR's replied. "They claim to have something which belongs to the Federation, despite the fact they only achieved warp capability a year ago."

***

Ensign Todd Mitchell shivered in the cell, clutching the remnants of his uniform jacket about his shoulders, and tried to ignore the pangs of hunger which speared through him. The Mu'Naii had not mistreated him in the months since his Manta-class fighter crash landed, but they only ate once every thirty six hours, and saw no reason to think another being would have different requirements. Reaching into his pocket, Mitchell ran his fingers over the familiar delta shape of his comm badge, the shape somewhat distorted, having been beaten with his boot heel until the casing had broken, ensuring that the subspace beacon activated.

Last edited by marcusdkane; 04-02-2013 at 02:51 PM. Reason: Final polish...
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 160
LC40: AUDACIA REFUGIUM

Quote:
Captain's Log, Stardate 86928.01. Starfleet Command has commissioned a new line of Andorian-designed corvettes as part of expanded Starfleet deep space operations against enemy commerce raiders. I have chosen a select portion of the Lord English crew to join me one of these escorts, named IGS Doc Scratch, to combat True Way insurgents in the Zeta Andromedae Sector Block. Commander Taylor will be in command of Lord English in my absence.
===

The Keldon warship Gloril and its four Galor companions hung dead in space, the glow from their burning husks fading as an Andorian escort's warp trail faded into the distance. On board the IGS Doc Scratch, Commander Newa, the Caitian chief technician, relaxed in the captain's chair as the bridge crew continued running telemetry from their latest deep space encounter. The night shift was almost over, and Newa was eager to turn the Doc Scratch's command over to her capricious CO, Admiral Remus Lee.

As she entered the ready room to call Admiral Lee, she was shocked to see him already awake at his desk. busy wiping down a Mk. IV Phaser Split Beam Rifle. She could see the words "AUDACIA REFUGIUM" engraved on the side of the rifle, and a giant crack running down the middle, bisecting the gun.

"Admiral, you're up early today," Newa commented. "You usually don't report in until two hours from now."
"I noticed these Andorian vessels aren't keen on displaying trophies, which is a shame, because I thought of putting up some thematically appropriate trophies in the captain's room," he replied.

Newa looked around on the floor. Cardassian military insignia and Jem'Hadar ketracel-white tubes lay all over the floor. Admiral Lee was certainly not one of the tidiest captains in Starfleet, she discommended.

"I see True Way Alliance paraphernalia all over the floor, Admiral, so what does a Mk. IV phaser rifle have to do with the True Way?" Newa asked.
"Oh, this?" Lee stated as he gestured towards the rifle. "I found it while clearing out all the True Way junk from my bank storage. It's a relic from the time when I had two and a half pips."
"Two and a half pips? You mean Lieutenant Commander?" Newa questioned. She found Lee's muddled speech annoying, but wanted to know more about Lee's past.
"Yes, exactly. This came from Commander Taylor's predecessor. There's a long story attached to this, if you want to listen."
"Shouldn't you be clocking in, Admiral?" Newa replied.

---

Quote:
Portrait of a young man: Lieutenant Commander Remus Lee, twenty-five, ship captain, time traveler. Mr. Lee has been tasked by a shadowy organization to go back in time to kill an enemy leader. The fate of the Federation, nay, the entire quadrant, rests on his shoulders; with time travel, success and failure can hinge on a single mistep which can change history as we know it. It's just another "day" in The Neutral Zone.
---

"I don't know what these things are, but they're all over the station! They're killing people! Please, you have to help us!"

The crew of the Excalibur-class USS Eridan Ampora marveled. The run-down Drozana station which they were familiar with was replaced by a shiny K-7 style station painted in 23rd century glossy white, the same color as the Constitution-class vessel which they unceremoniously left adrift. Ensign Kay Taylor was the first to regain her composure.

"Commander, sensors detect multiple triolic rifts on Drozana Station and signs of weapons fire in the interior. We'll need to seal the rifts directly to prevent more Devidian incursions before we can start destroying Driffen's Comet."

Chief Engineer Shrad Ildytov chimed in from the Transporter Room.

"Triolic waves are saturating the station. If we don't stop the source of the waves, the entire station is going to glow blue. I've locked onto a cargo bay which is still relatively free of radiation, but we're going to need to go ASAP or else we won't be able to get on."

Lieutenant Commander Remus Lee stood up from his chair and took a heroic pose as he hailed the crew.

"Attention all hands, as you may have seen, we are now in the past due to *mumble mumble* in order to destroy Driffen's Comet and prevent an invasion of the Federation. The nature of time travel means that we must do as little as we can to affect the past while we're changing the past, but I'm confident that this crew will perform admirably. Lieutenant Eloni, Chief Ildytov, Dr. Lulare, please meet me in Transporter Room 1."

"That was a very inspiring speech, Commander," replied Lieutenant Jhamyn Eloni, Ampora's Andorian first officer, as she slipped out from behind him.
"You were there?" Lee exclaimed.
"Yes, always," Eloni replied.
"Are you ready to go down to Drozana, then?" Lee asked.
"Yes, always," Eloni replied, as she pulled her phaser split beam rifle from her back.

The two officers entered the turbolift together en route to the transporter room.

---

The groans of the wounded punctuated the atmosphere at the Drozana bar, as the Devidian assault force dissolved away in the face of the Ampora's strike force. Dr. Coroin Lulare began examining the wounded as Master Chief Petty Officer Shrad Ildytov set up medical generators. First Officer Eloni began an analysis of the situation.

"Most of the triolic energy is concentrated in what would be the dabo room in our time; energy readings there are through the roof, which may mean the focus point of the Devidian invasion is there."
"There are non-Devidian lifesigns in the room," Dr. Lulare butted in, "If we don't rescue them soon, they'll succumb to triolic poisoning, and that would be bad for the timeline."
"The door is barricaded, but a few hits with a phaser should take care of that," the barkeep added.

The strike team began converging on the door. Lee began moving forward to place breaching charges but was stopped by Eloni.

"I think we'll need to break the door in order to enter," Lee said to Eloni as he tried to brush her off.
"Starfleet regulations require the first officer to enter potentially dangerous situations. As I am first officer, that task falls to me," she replied, pulling Lee back.
"I'll be asking you for a first officer to shove in front when I get to your rank, commander," she added, as she placed the charges.

Before she could set off the charges, however, a bright white spike stabbed out from the door and into Eloni. As her neural energy began draining from her body, the door charges blew, and out from the lounge floated a large, menacing figure wielding an Ophidian cane dripping blue. This was the Shrouded Phantasm, leader of the Devidian incursion.

"Do not attempt to stop us! We hunger. We must feed!" it cried, as Devidians flooded out of the room to drain everyone's neural energy.

Separated from the rest of the station by the Devidian surge, Lee was left aside the corpse of Lieutenant Eloni, as the Shrouded Phantasm approached menacingly. With his Anti-Devidian rifle on the far end of the corridor, his only weapon left was Eloni's phaser rifle, shorn in half by the Devidian's stabbing.

Fully expecting a death by neural drainage, Lee was spared when, rather than draining his energy with his Ophidian, the phantasm closed in to grab him. This gave him the split second he needed to take Eloni's weapon and send a pulse straight down the phantasm's gullet, causing a shockwave in its body which rippled out, knocking the other Devidians out of the timeline. The phantasm, the enemy of Drozana Station and Eta Eridani, was defeated.

As the Devidians phased into oblivion, Dr. Lulare rushed over to Lieutenant Commander Lee. The backfire of the broken rifle had burned his hand.

"Don't mind me, is Lieutenant Eloni ok?" he asked as he shrugged her off.

Dr. Lulare sadly shook her head.

"The physical injuries were life-threatening enough, but the neural damage wouldn't have been repairable even with 25th century technology. She's gone, sir."

Lee brokered no emotion as he stared the engraved words "AUDACIA REFUGIUM" on the phaser rifle in his now mangled hand.

"Refuge in audacity, eh?" he said to himself, as Dr. Lulare worked on healing his hand.

---

As Admiral Lee finished his story, Commander Newa found herself tearing up despite herself. She realized that it was already noon and Admiral Lee still didn't clock in. Still, she found herself engrossed with the story.

"What happened afterwards, with the crew of the Ampora and the Devidians?" she asked.
"That's a good question," Lee answered as he put down the rifle.
"Chief Ildytov eventually became a vice admiral himself. He's now captaining USS Problem Sleuth on the Klingon Front.
"As for Dr. Lulare, I'm sorry to say the pressures of her job got to her and she ended up defecting to the Klingon Empire only to fall in trouble and die at the hands of the Orion Syndicate on New Sydney."
"The Devidians haven't been active since Driffen's Comet was destroyed; I think there might be one Devidian being a Starfleet officer or something, but I heard he's an alright guy. Goes by the name of Strannik, I think."

Newa sat there in awe at the Admiral's story, until a chime from the comm channel broke her out of her reverie. It was the voice of Commander Kay Taylor, Lee's first officer in command of the Lord English.

"Admiral, you haven't responded in over four hours. We're at your position waiting to transfer crew and supplies to you."
"Understood, Kay," he replied.
"Let's get to business, then. You are now cleared of your duty, Commander Newa," he added, as he adjusted his collar and walked to the bridge.

===

Quote:
Captain's log, supplemental. The Doc Scratch will be rendezvousing with the Lord English to exchange crew and supplies. While Doc Scratch will still be hunting True Way raiders, Lord English will be aiding planets in the Zenas Expanse. Commander Taylor continues to serve as a model officer and stellar commander. If fate is kind, she will serve in this capacity for a long time.
http://sto-forum.perfectworld.com/showthread.php?p=5629511#post5629511

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

Last edited by zidanetribal; 11-13-2013 at 04:32 PM. Reason: Postscript adding
Former PWE Community Team Lead
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 9,047
# 40
04-02-2013, 08:15 PM
The time has come. But, what an incredible month it's been?! Thank you to every single one of you who not only participated in #40 but also discussed the entries. Seems like you all had a great time being able to catch up on past challenges. We may have to do this again in the future

Unsticking, but as always, feel free to continue making entries. #41 coming up!

Cheers,

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