Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,261
Nevermind all the lines, I'm coming
And there is no better part of me, you'll see
The darkest light, the blind I'll be
I accept that you chose to forget
The horrid thing you made of me, my dear
It is all that it is so

The laughing feels so good
But the world misunderstood all I said
There was no joke in what I meant

Someone please come shelter me from
All that I am, and never again
Will I believe the same old story...

I've given up on all I loved for
An honest moment of clarity, well I need
To feel alright, please let me breathe
In a life I made out of nothing
To cleanse this useless identity
Will you hear all the word in its wisest way?

Will the other half be as good?
Well if only I misunderstood
I wait on this judgment I've been arraigned...

There's no understanding in miracles
When the worst, it always comes true

I am the nothing you have saved...

It eats us like cancer, we're coming for something
Maybe an answer with all that you've done for me
Made out of nothing...


Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever of Coheed & Cambria - "Made Out of Nothing (All That I Am)"




MISUNDERSTOOD ME



Operational log, Unit Six Eight Yankee, Entry 47, Stardate 86499.0


Recap of past entries: I was assembled in the Noonien Soong Laboratory at Star Enterprises in the city of Seattle on Earth and activated on Stardate 86302. (See operational log entry 1.) After passing all functionality tests (See entries 2 through 18) my basic education followed, beginning with languages and arithmetic, before moving on to more advanced disciplines such as xenopaleontology, counterinsurgency tactics, interphasic quantum topology and temporal mechanics. (See entries 19 through 32.) I was given a choice of anthropological model, gender, skin and eye color, name and occupation. (See entry 33.) After careful consideration, I selected Human male, with light gray dermal pigmentation and black eyes in a desire to distinguish myself as an android but to avoid a repulsive appearance. (See entry 34.) I chose to defer selecting a name until I had acquired additional experience, but the career choice was an easy one. I elected for a career as a Starfleet Operations officer, following the example of Data - the android I and those like me were modeled after. (See entry 35). Having completed all required Starfleet Academy exams with a 100% grade (see entries 36 through 42) I was commissioned as a Starfleet officer on Stardate 86376. (See entry 43.) I underwent training in starship operations at Utopia Planetia (see entries 44 and 45) and successfully passed the Lieutenants Test with a perfect score, allowing my promotion to the rank of full Lieutenant on Stardate 86495. (See entry 46.)

Entry 47 follows: Today I begin the first assignment of my Starfleet career: to serve as the Deputy Operations Officer aboard USS
Mako - a heavily-modified Defiant-class-derivative tactical escort frigate. I am downloading the Starfleet record files of all of the officers and crew members I will be serving with. I must say the Captain and the senior staff have achieved an impressive record of accomplishments in the past year. The Captain in particular seems to be a remarkable individual, having been promoted from the rank of Ensign to full Captain in the course of just over eight months. Although, it does appear that he used to hold the rank of Lt. Commander before being demoted after a particular incident, the details of which have been redacted. At any rate, I am joining a crew that is battle-tested and decorated, under a highly resourceful and dedicated Captain who is both a brilliant strategic thinker and extremely motivated to succeed in the face of extraordinary odds. I am very much looking forward to starting my tour of duty with the Mako.

Entry ends.


* * *

USS Mako, McKinley Station, Earth Orbit

Fozz checked his readouts and swore as he tapped his combadge. "Ming, that emitter amp you installed is drawing power from the phaser relays!"

"Imposible," Cmdr. Domingo protested. "This little ship has more than enough power to go around. Her sister actually blew herself up when the warp core was at only ninety-four-percent of its maximum output! If anything, I'm worried about blowing out components, not power loss."

"Well, check the plasma distribution manifold. Somehow or other, we've got an EPS drain up here."

"Okay, you know what, I think I know what the problem may be. I'll have to shut down the reactor to adjust the flow regulators to compensate for the drain from the paratrinic shields. Gimme half an hour."

"Arright, great. You do that while I count the dead spiders up here." LCdr. Ibear closed his combadge channel and looked up at the dark-skinned Human who had just ducked into the port weapons bay. "Hey, Captain."

"How's it going, Fozz?" asked Capt. Jesu LaRoca.

"Great, assuming you don't need the phaser cannons to take out anything tougher than a redbat. I wish we had time to actually test the weapons before we went off chasing after B'vat. As it was, we barely had time to clean out the mothballs. And so now we have to replace every phaser relay on the ship in addition to overhauling the entire EPS grid and adapting those paratrinic shields we picked up..."

"Also, we're upgrading the torpedo launchers and heavy cannons," LaRoca told him. "The weapons we stripped off the Snaggletooth were just temporary."

"Great." Fozz spotted a live spider scurrying across the grate and he tried to stomp it with his boot. The arachnid escaped, and LaRoca let it go as it scampered out into the jefferies tube. "Permission to speak freely, sir?" Fozz asked with a sigh.

"Please do."

"Whatever possessed you pull this thing out of storage, instead requisitioning a new Gallant-class or a Defiant refit?"

"Well first of all, the Gallant is muy feo. But the reason I picked this particular ship over a newer Defiant is because this would have been my father's ship if the weapons program it was part of hadn't been cancelled."

"I see." Fozz hesitated before bringing up something that had been nagging him. "When I first started installing the weapons, I noticed that there was a lot of power originally routed to the torpedo bays, and some unused weapons slots past the quad cannons, and the turret housing. Would mind telling me what sort of weapons this boat was originally built to carry?"

"You should ask Ming," LaRoca told him. "He was part of the team that originally built this thing."

"I did, and he said he wasn't cleared to discuss it, and I should ask Captain Grimes. And he said-"

"Let me guess," LaRoca interrupted with a sly grin. "Frank gave you something along the lines of 'I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you'?"

"He actually said he'd kill me, then bury me in a shallow grave, dig me up and kill me again to be sure."

LaRoca chuckled. "Well, I probably better not say anything either. Learn to live with the unknown, Fozz. Welcome to Starfleet."

"Yeah."

"Security to Captain LaRoca."

Jesu slapped his combadge. "Go 'head, Rust."

"Sir, the new ops officer is ready to beam aboard," his brother reported. "Did you want to meet him in the transporter room?"

"Yeah, I'm on my way." LaRoca looked at his ops chief. "You should come too, since you've got nothing to do but stare at spiders for a few minutes."

"Arright." Fozz crawled out after the Captain, then once the left the jefferies tubes he unfolded himself to his full 2.1m height. "I hafta tell ya, sir, I don't know if I can work with an android."

"Hundreds of people served under Captain Data until he retired a few months ago," LaRoca reminded him.

"Data's different."

"What makes him different from a more advanced android based off his template?"

"Data went through the Academy, served as a Starfleet officer for over half a century, and worked his way up through the ranks. This android we're getting was programmed to be a Starfleet lieutenant. He has no hands-on experience apart from an accelerated ops training course at U.P., and he doesn't even have a real name. I can tell you, a lot of my people won't like taking orders from a machine with no name that was practically born yesterday."

"Give him a chance, Fozz," Jesu said as they entered the transporter room. "I'll bet he'll impress you." He nodded to Rusty.

"Energizing," announced the Deinon at the transporter control panel.

The android materialized in the center of the pad, facing the wall. "Curious," he said. "I appear to have been transported into a room with no doors."

Captain LaRoca cleared his throat. "Behind you."

They android shuffled his feet as he turned around. "Ah. Captain Jesus Lorenzo San Gregorio LaRoca. Human, male, age forty standard years. Born San Diego, California, Earth, June seven, twenty-three six-"

Jesu interupted. "A simple 'Hello Captain, permission to come aboard' will suffice."

Six Eight Yankee closed his mouth, took have a second to process the implied order, then repeated back "Hello, Captain. Permission to come aboard?"

"Granted," LaRoca said with a straight face. He could see Fozz smiling out of the corner of his eye, and he sensed his adopted brother behind him trying very hard not to burst out laughing. "Welcome aboard the Mako. This is Commander Ibear, the head of your department."

Six Eight Yankee turned his head to face the Andorian. "Lieutenant Commander Fozzter'Dayn th'Ibear. Andorian, thaan, age forty-two stan-"

"It's not necessary to quote our entire Starfleet files to us," Fozz informed the android with a laugh. "We know who we are."

"I... Understand. Commander."

"So what are we supposed to call you?" Fozz wondered. "Or is it just Six Eight Yankee?"

"That is my designation," the android confirmed. "I have not yet selected a name."

"How about 'Yankee' for short?" Rusty suggested.

The Android looked at the reptilian security chief in the back of the room. "Lieutenant... Rusty. Yes. 'Yankee' is acceptable as a nickname in the interim."

Rusty crossed his arms. "Actually, I'm formally addressed as 'Lieutenant LaRoca.' Rusty is my given name."

"I apologize, Lieutenant LaRoca. Deinon naming conventions were not covered in the course of my studies."

"No prob. You can just call me Rusty."

"It seems you have a lot to learn, Yanqui," the Captain remarked.

The android looked back and forth between the LaRoca brothers, his face wrinkling as his personality subroutine simulated an expression of his growing confusion.

"I'll give you a few minutes to settle in," Fozz announced. "When you're ready, find me in the portside weapons bay."

Yankee turned and nodded. "Understood, sir."

"I'll show you your quarters, Yankee," Rusty offered.

"Thank you, Rusty, but I do not require a sleeping berth. Only a small space where I may perform self-diagnostics, change my uniform periodically, and record my operational logs in privacy."

"Don't worry," Rusty laughed. "Your quarters aren't much more than that. And you're sharing them with our new conn officer, who takes up a lot of space."

Jesu watched the android follow his brother out and down the corridor. "Hoo, boy," he said after the door hissed closed. "I guess you were right, Fozz. I don't think this guy is gonna work out."

"Are you kidding? He's perfect!" Fozz exclaimed. "I was afraid he was gonna be a know-it-all smartass, but he's totally clueless! Everybody's going to have to help him learn how to not make a complete idiot out of himself."

"Well, Fozz, I can only hope you and your people are up to it. Because we leave for the Sierra system next week and both he and the ship need to be ready."

"Leave it to me, sir. I'll sort him out."

* * *

Operational log, Unit Six Eight Yankee, Entry 48, Stardate 86501.0

My first day aboard the
Mako has ended. My impression of the crew's reaction toward me is rather mixed. My immediate superior and department head, LCdr. Ibear, seems to enjoy my company and his guidance has been very beneficial in easing my assimilation into the crew. I helped him and the chief engineer - Cmdr. Domingo - trace the cause of a power drain to the phaser relays this afternoon and they both seemed impressed by my abilities and knowledge of shipboard systems.

The junior officers and enlisted personnel who serve under me for the most part respect my rank and accept my authority with good spirits. A Cardassian explosives expert and a Ferengi quartermaster are the only exceptions so far - POfc Toront actually referred to me as a "toy." I reported his conduct to LCdr. Ibear, who relieved him of duty and confined him to quarters for twenty-four hours. I will speak with him tomorrow and try to reach an understanding with him.

Outside of my department, it would appear that I have made a friend in Lt. LaRoca. He seems happy to see me whenever he and I are in the same room. But he is the only Deinon I have ever met and I have no knowledge of his species, so perhaps that is simply the way he is with everybody. My roommate is Lt. jg. Stikvaa - a Gorn who according to Lt. LaRoca recently defected from the Klingon Defense Force and was seconded into Starfleet through some loophole provision I confess I was not aware of. My interaction with him has been limited to a curt greeting this evening when he entered our quarters. I am instructed to call him "Sticks."

Of greatest concern to me is how Captain LaRoca feels about having me aboard his ship. His Starfleet records and psychological profile indicate a flamboyant and enthusiastic personality, and not bound by the restraints of formality. However, his interactions with me thus far have been coldly professional. He does not seem satisfied with my performance, he is uninterested in hearing the entirety of my reports, and he has no desire for personal interaction with me. My educational programming of Human behavior and psychology leads me to believe that my presence disappoints him, somehow. Perhaps he expected me to be something that I am not.

To remedy the situation with the Captain, I will endeavor to demonstrate my capabilities (without overtly calling his attention to my work, which may come off as boastful) and to endear myself to him by expressing interest in things that interest him. According to his files, his hobbies include deep-sea fishing and quasi-historical holodeck simulations involving criminal conduct on the high seas in the Caribbean region of Earth in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. Perhaps I should limit my conversations to fishing. His other interests include marine biology, fishkeeping - he has a pet fish called a leopard shark which he is particularly fond of - and early works of science fiction literature.

On a side note, I have finally selected a name for myself. As part of my effort to improve my relationship with Captain LaRoca, I have selected a name which intersects with his interests. The name I have selected is that of a sentient shark character from the novel "Saturn's Race" by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes. I am now known as "Barrister."

Entry ends.


"Freedom is just a pretty idea unless it's backed by Force."

The Masterverse Timeline / Ten Forward Fanfics

Last edited by sander233; 05-01-2013 at 01:44 AM. Reason: rolling back stardates for continuity
Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,261
Big picture slowly fades
Walls are closing in
And there I was, cursing the ground
Unable to understand
I won't let the world break me
So I need to change direction
Nothing special and far from perfect
Light the way for me...

Walking where the dead ships dwell
These are shores I left behind
Streets were getting smaller
And I had to leave...

All I hear is noise
Hearts of false hope
Guess I took it for granted
I know I went too far
I won't say I'm sorry
I got what I deserve

Feel I was running an endless mile
The last candle burns and I'm dying inside
All of this will turn to ash
A change for a peace of mind


Bjorn Gelotte and Anders Friden of In Flames - "Where the Dead Ships Dwell"




THE LAST CANDLE BURNS



First officer's log, G.W.S. Basiliscus, Captain Leguaan commanding. Stardate: 63504.71


We have spent four-hundred-and-forty-seven days in orbit of Gila IV, as part of the Gorn Defense Command's response to the build-up of Klingon forces across the border. Our fleet continues to grow. Last night the supercarrier G.W.S.
Komodoensis arrived in-system. Our sensors have recorded some minor subspace fluctuations that could be small Klingon ships warping in and out of the system under cloak. So long as they are content to merely look around and not attack we will make no response. I doubt very much they would attack now that the Komodoensis is here! No other unusual activity has been reported. Close log.

Cmdr. Ssharki turned off his trusty Starfleet-issue PADD and returned it to his hip-pouch. He sat in the command chair and addressed his tactical officer. "Lieutenant Y'mallor, put the Komodoensis onscreen, please."

"Yessir."

The massive ship appeared on the viewer; at over three kilometers in length she dwarfed every other ship in the fleet, including the Zilant-class battleship Basiliscus. The supercarrier's deflector dish alone was wider than one of her Vishap-class escorts was long. The Komodoensis had just arrived from Gornar, bringing among other things fresh food from the Homeworld, and Ssharki's sister, R'rissaa.

"Hail them, please," Ssharki ordered.

Y'mallor keyed her console, and the image of the Balaur-class dreadnought carrier was replaced by the image of its bridge. Her commanding officer, Commodore Tsaagan, smiled through the viewer. "Commander Ssharki! It is good to see you, friend. What can I do for you?"

Ssharki dipped his head out of respect to the flag officer. "Good morning sir. I was hoping I could beam over to have breakfast with your chief engineer, if that's not too inconvinient."

"Of course! I'm sure your sister will be delighted to see you. I will tell her to expect your arrival."

"Thank you, sir. Basiliscus out." Ssharki smiled, anticipating the reunion with his family. R'rissaa was all the family he had left - the only survivor of the Black Crest terrorist attack on Two Rivers in 2374. Was it only twelve years ago? Ssharki thought, remembering his parents. His father had served as the magistrate in what was technically a Federation city on Cestus III with a very large minority Gorn population. Either the Black Crests did not realize this, or were counting on it because most of the Gorn living there were supporters of the Royal Family. Many were even related to the King, including Ssharki's mother. R'rissaa was on Betazed at the time attending a friend's wedding; she later narrowly escaped the Dominion invasion of the planet.

"Sir!" Lt. Y'mallor interrupted his thoughts. "Klingon warship decloaking, eighty kilometers off the port side."

"Alert the fleet," Ssharki ordered. He pressed a button on the armrest of the command chair. "Captain Leguaan to the bridge!"

"Bird-of-prey, B'rel-class," Y'mallor reported.

They still use those? Ssharki pondered.

The Captain sleepily responded to the call over the intercom. "What is it, Ssharki?"

"A Klingon bird-of-prey just decloaked nearby, sir."

"On my way," Leguaan replied through a yawn.

"The Commodore has ordered the S'fenodon and the Haakgreerius to engage," Y'mallor announced.

Ssharki called up a tactical plot and saw a Tuatara-class cruiser and a Draguas-class support vessel moving to intercept. "They're heading into a trap," Ssharki figured. "Signal them to eject warp plasma to flush the Klinks out."

The two ships obeyed, and sure enough two more newer, heavier birds-of-prey and a K't'Inga-class battlecruiser were forced to decloak. The Haakgreerius deployed an aceton assimilator and both ships engaged the K't'Inga, destroying it before it could raise shields. The birds-of-prey tried to fight back, but with the assimilator device draining their power levels they didn't stand a chance. Several more Klingon ships decloaked and began attacking the fleet.

Captain Leguaan finally arrived on the bridge just as an old Sornaw-class raptor decloaked and fired a disruptor cannon barrage into his ship's flank. "Open fire, all disruptor arrays!" he ordered. "Bring us about and arm the photons!"

The helmsman, Lt. H'rvaath obeyed. The asymmetrical battleship turned ponderously. "Get me emergency power to the engines!" he snarled into the intercom. The Basiliscus jumped like it had been kicked. The enemy raptor tried to maneuver out of the battleship's forward arc but H'rvaath increased power to the starboard engines and the big ship swung her nose at the fleeing Klingon vessel. Y'mallor opened up with the heavy cannons and a set of photon torpedoes, destroying the smaller craft.

"Damage?" Leguaan asked.

Ssharki checked his systems display. "None. They barely made a dent in our shields."

Leguaan nodded. "The Komodoensis?"

Y'mallor tapped her console and the massive dreadnought appeared on screen. She was firing off disruptor beams and photon torpedoes in all directions, and her Naga-type fighters and Vishap-class escort frigates were chasing off the surviving Birds-of-Prey. The remaining Klingon ships cloaked. The violent battle was suddenly over.

Commodore Tsaagan hailed the fleet. "Who ordered those ships to vent their warp plasma?" he demanded.

"I did, sir," Ssharki replied. "I realized that the lone B'rel was only there as bait."

"Of course it was," Tsaagan growled. "And because you acted out of line and flushed their trap, their capital ships did not engage us and a potential major victory was reduced to a mere skirmish."

"I apologize, Commodore," said Ssharki, his head low. "I am used to our ship commanding the fleet. I forgot my place."

"Excuse me, Commodore," Y'mallor spoke up, eyes glued to her console, "but our sensors just picked up a massive subspace distortion. A large number of cloaked ships just went to warp."

Tsaagan looked at someone on his bridge and nodded. "Our sensors detected the same thing."

Y'mallor compiled sensor readings from several other ships and processed the data. "I estimate... no fewer than thirty capital ships and battlecruisers, and at least twice as many smaller vessels."

"So they still outnumber us two-to-one," Tsaagan figured. "Perhaps it is for the best that you broke up their attack, Ssharki."

"We can defeat them," Leguaan declared. "We defeated their first attack with no losses-"

"That was only their diversionary force," Tsaagan interrupted. "And only those who were stupid enough to decloak without waiting for their fleet to get into position. Their main force is now regrouping. They will give us a much tougher fight when they return."

Ssharki nodded. "We've dishonored them with defeat. Now they will accept nothing less than total victory. They will not rest until they have taken the planet."

Tsaagan sighed. "I will call for reinforcements and order the colonists to evacuate the planet. All ships, maintain defensive watch. The Klingons could come back at any time, and I expect them to hit us before our reinforcements can arrive. Komodoensis out."

Lt. H'rvaath looked back his first officer. "I guess breakfast with your sister will have to wait, sir."

Ssharki only grunted in response.


The next day - 1203 Gornar Standard Time

The attack began with a pair of battlecruisers decloaking inside the fleet's defensive perimeter and assaulting Gila IV's main city of Susspekt'm from low orbit. Unwilling to divide his forces, Commodore Tsaagan moved the entire fleet to intercept the assailants. As the Gorn entered weapons range, the Klingons cloaked moved off. Then a large group of battlecruisers and birds-of-prey decloaked around the orbital dockyard, several thousand kilometers behind the Gorn fleet. Again, Tsaagan ordered his entire force to engage. But due to its ponderous turn rate and high inertia, the supercarrier Komodoensis ended up straggling behind the rest of the battle group.

The Gorn fleet was just over five hundred kilometers from the dockyard when the remainder of the Klingon assault force - led by a pair of Negh'var-class heavies - decloaked and ambushed the Komodoensis. The Gorn turned to defend the flagship, and the Klingons assailing the spacedock turned and joined the battle. Caught between two forces, the Gorn formation was quickly overwhelmed and the confrontation of fleets rapidly dissolved into a free-for-all.

H'rvaath brought the Basiliscus about to help the supercarrier fight off its attackers. "Target the nearest Negh'var and fire on my mark," Cpt. Leguaan ordered. The Basiliscus suddenly took a barrage of disruptor fire. "Where'd that come from?"

Ssharki cycled external viewer angles on his personal display until he saw what hit them. It was a Vor'cha class, painted black, with rows of white teeth around its fore superstructure and blood-red streaks dripping down the ship's thick neck. He recognized this ship. He'd fought alongside it during the Dominion War. "It's the Norgh'Iw," he announced, almost reverently.

Fear flashed in Leguaan's eyes. He knew that ship's name. It translated as Blood Shark. He also knew its reputation. He blinked and focused his attention on his targets. "Return fire with the aft disruptors. Are we in weapons range of that Negh'var yet?"

"Almost," H'rvaath replied.

Another Klingon ship dropped out of warp, just behind the Komodoensis; a huge Vo'Quv-class carrier. Though only half the size of the Gorn dreadnought, the Vo'Quv was evenly matched in terms of firepower. The Klingon's flagship deployed several birds-of-prey from her hangers which quickly slaughtered the Gorn ship's fighter squadrons.

"The Komodoensis just lost her port shields." Y'mallor noted. The Negh'var took full advantage, unleashing a massive spread of torpedoes into the Balaur-class supercarrier with devastating effect.

"We're in range!" H'rvaath announced.

"Fire at will!" Leguaan ordered. He scanned his tactical plot and noted two Gorn cruisers also in range. He signaled them. "Calyptratus and Elgaria, fire on my target!"

"The Butaan is also moving in," Ssharki observed. The sleek Varanus-class fleet support vessel was bigger than the Basiliscus, but not quite as heavily armed. The Butaan deployed repair platforms to aid the flagship while she added what firepower she had to the other ships engaging the battlecruiser. The second Negh'var broke off its attack on the Komodoensis' starboard flank and went after the Butaan.

"Target's shields failing!" Y'mallor announced, as the energy envelope around the Klingon heavy battlecruiser flickered and died.

"Fire torpedoes!" Leguaan commanded.

Fiery red orbs homed in on the Negh'var from four different directions. The battlecruiser accelerated forward to try to evade the torpedoes, but about half found their target, wreaking massive structural damage. Nonetheless, the Klingon ship kept accelerating, its overloaded impulse engines burning red-hot.

Ssharki realized what the Klingon commander was planning. "Sacred eggs, they're gonna ram the Komodo!"

The Butaan's captain must have realized the same thing, and desperate to protect the flagship, he drove his ship over the top of the supercarrier on a collision course with the Negh'var. The Klingon's momentum drove both ships back into the Komodoensis, crushing the flagship's bridge and sending the massive vessel reeling. The Negh'var's warp core went nova, annihilating the Butaan along with itself and breaking the Komodo's back. The entire three-kilometer supercarrier actually buckled and bent in the middle. Her armored hull was perforated, and plasma fires burned her from within.

"They have a warp-core breach in progress!" Y'mallor declared. "They're abandoning the ship!"

"C'mon, R'rissaa, get out of there," Ssharki whispered, knowing full well that his sister would remain at her post to the end, forestalling the inevitable core breach and giving her shipmates the best possible chance at escape. Escape pods were jettisoned from the Komodensis and were immediately shot down by the second Negh'var and several smaller Klingon ships that were moving in to finish off the dreadnought. When they realized that the Komodoensis was about to explode, the Klingons fled. The Negh'var was too slow, however, and was crippled by the shockwave from the multi-gigaton chain reaction explosion that finally destroyed the Gorn flagship.

Ssharki sucked air through his nostrils, filled his lungs and hissed it out through his teeth in a Gorn expression of grief.

Leguaan had no time to grieve. "Engage their carrier," he ordered the surviving ships.

"What about the Norgh'Iw?" Ssharki asked. Their battleship was still trading disruptor fire with the Vor'cha-class.

"Let them eat plasma," Leguaan growled. "H'rvaath, get us in range of that Vo'Quv."

The cloud of warp plasma vented by the Basiliscus choked the Norgh'Iw's engines, blinded her sensors and weakened her structural integrity field. The Gorn Zilant-class battleship accelerated away, and joined the Calyptratus, Elgaria and the frigate Macularius assaulting the enemy carrier. The Basiliscus brushed aside the birds-of-prey defending their mothership and fired her heavy cannons in concert with her allies, quickly overwhelming the Vo'Quv's forward shields. The Klingon carrier struck back, lashing out with its disruptor beams and torpedoes. The shields of the Basiliscus - already weakened by the Norgh'Iw's constant punishment, buckled under the onslaught.

Sparks flew and the bridge shook as the Klingon torpedoes struck home. "Hull breaches, decks six, seven, and twelve forward," Ssharki reported. "We've lost power to the forward disruptors." He tapped at his console, directing damage-control teams to make the needed repairs.

"Then fire torpedoes!" Leguaan ordered. Y'mallor complied, striking back at the Klingon carrier. The Vo'Quv was rocked by successive impacts and was soon showing the symptoms of an imminent core breach. "Fall back!" Leguaan ordered his ships.

The Klingons decided to take at least one Gorn vessel down with them. They tractored the Macularius and pulled it in close just before the huge ship exploded. The birds-of-prey angrily harassed the smaller Gorn cruisers. With their forward weapons offline, the crew of the Basiliscus could only watch helplessly as the Calyptratus and Elgaria were successively cored.

Leguaan looked over the tactical plot and counted only six other surviving ships fighting off over sixty remaining Klingons. "All ships, fall back! Defend the civilian convoy!" The Basiliscus was rocked again. The Norgh'Iw was back. "Get us out of here, H'rvaath!"

"Warp drive is offline!" Ssharki declared. "They hit our port nacelle!"

H'rvaath diverted power to the impulse engines and steered the damaged battleship toward the planet's horizon. "I'll slingshot us around the planet. That'll put plenty of distance between us and the Klinks."

The Norgh'Iw took one last shot before the Basiliscus left its weapons range, firing a single massive missile. Ssharki recognized the device. "It's a bio-neural torpedo!" The weapon, guided by an onboard AI and packing a massive tricobalt warhead, homed mercilessly on its target. Y'mallor fired a spread of torpedoes at it from the aft launcher but the missile shot them down with its point-defense turrets. "It's gonna hit!"

"All hands, brace for impact!" Cpt. Leguaan failed to heed his own warning. The torpedo detonated with a huge shockwave which overwhelmed the battleship's inertial dampeners and shook its crew like a cup full of dice. Leguaan was launched from his chair and thrown into an explosion of overloaded EPS conduits and ODN lines that erupted in the middle of the bridge. A piece of metal plating frisbeed across the room and beheaded Lt. Y'mallor.

"I've lost helm control!" H'rvaath shouted as the ship pitched and rolled over. He looked out the viewscreen at the planet looming ahead. "S'Yahazah save us, we're going in!"

Ssharki couldn't tell if the Captain was dead or not, but it didn't matter. The huge, asymmetrical vessel would never survive a high-speed entry into a planet's atmosphere, and there was no time to stop it from happening. He issued his first and last order in command of a Gorn warship. "Abandon ship! All hands abandon ship!" He grabbed a fire suppressor from under his console and tried to extinguish the flames that had erupted from the middle of the bridge.

H'rvaath helped, pulling tangled bits of metal off of the Captain. He was still alive, barely. "Hang on, sir. We'll getcha outta here."

Leguaan looked up at the viewscreen, then down at the twisted floor joist that had impaled his leg. "Forget it, guys. Get yourselves off the ship."

Ssharki pushed the flames back from his Captain and knelt next to his leg. "This will hurt, but I think I can pull you off and-"

"Don't, Ssharki!" Leguaan snapped. "I won't make it. I'll only slow you down."

"He's right sir," H'rvaath admitted. "We're less than a minute from atmo. If we want to live, we have to go now."

"Say a prayer for me, brother," Leguaan muttered. He laid back and closed his eyes.

Ssharki stared at his Captain in silence until H'rvaath pulled him away. "Ssharki, come on!"

Ssharki followed the conn officer off the bridge. "The escape pods won't withstand atmospheric entry at these speeds," he noted. "We'll have to get to the shuttle bay."

"Right."

The battleship shook again, and kept shaking, as she punched into the planet's mesosphere. Ssharki and H'rvaath made it to the turbolift just as the ship reached the stratopause. The impact with the ozone layer ripped off the starboard nacelle, which peeled open the whole side of the ship like a can of sardines. The corridor the two Gorn were in suddenly opened up the burning atmosphere. Ssharki pulled himself into the turbolift and watched H'rvaath fly off into the ship's fiery wake. The turbolift's doors closed and he heard himself screaming.

"Directive not recognized," the computer calmly declared.

Ssharki pulled himself together. "Port shuttlebay," he ordered. The turbolift moved him down (or was it up?) to the bottom of the ship, miraculously making the trip without getting stuck or dropping the lift into the atmosphere. The shuttlebay was a shambles. Gravity plating was offline, so "down" was the aft end of the ceiling, and several Sesha-type shuttles had piled up there in a heap. Ssharki opened the bay doors along the port-side wall and launched himself across the space, landing on the ceiling and sliding to the other end of the hangar.

He climbed into a relatively undamaged shuttlecraft, powered up its engines and engaged its shields before exiting the shuttlebay. The craft was immediately caught up by the hypersonic slipstream, slammed into the side of the hangar door and bounced along the battleship's underside before tumbling off in her meteoric tail. The impulse engines were wrecked, but Ssharki was able to stabilize the shuttle with its thrusters in time to watch the Basiliscus enter the troposphere. He realized with horror that the ship was directly over the city of Susspekt'm, but relaxed when he remembered the planet had been evacuated.

The ship underwent explosive ablation on contact with the thickest layer of atmosphere, leveling of much of downtown Susspekt'm. The blazing remnants of the ship crashed in the outskirts of the city, where its warp core finally exploded and destroyed thousands of acres of suburbs. Ssharki fervently hoped there was no one still down there. He had his own concerns to worry about, however. His shuttle was plummeting toward the city, almost out of control. Ssharki aimed the damaged shuttle at the largest open area he could find, which turned out to be the baseball park. He passed a billboard reading Susspekt'm Stadium - Home of the Gila IV Monsters! and crash-landed in left-center field.


Some time later

Ssharki woke up from a half-dream, half-memory of playing baseball as a child and looked around the wrecked cockpit of the Sesha shuttlecraft and slowly remembered where he was and how he got there. He looked at the chronometer. It read 1623 but he couldn't tell if it had stopped or not. He had completely lost track of time during the space battle and had no idea how long he'd been unconscious. He crawled out of the ruined craft and walked through a hole in the outfield wall knocked down by the impact. He wandered through the city streets with no clear idea of where he was going.

The streets seemed too small, somehow - too narrow by Gorn standards. He realized he was walking through the industrial area north of the stadium. This part of the city had been built by and for the Technical caste. The larger Soldiers were never expected to enter the area. Ssharki kept walking, leaving the crowded industrial zone and finally the city itself behind. I spent over a year defending this world, and the Klingons attack the day after my sister shows up. He looked back at the city; the only major population center on a planet most noteworthy for being the farthest corner of the Gorn Hegemony's territory and home of a two-time quadrant-champion baseball team. My sister died for this? He looked at his feet and cursed the ground on which he stood.

He heard transporter beams behind him. The Klingons had arrived. Ssharki turned and counted six heavily-armed soldiers, all pointing weapons and shouting at him. He couldn't quite understand what the Klingons were saying; their voices were overlapping, and his universal translator was apparently not working. And of course the Klinks weren't bothering to use theirs. But he could pick out a few words, like nuch (coward) and petaQ (which doesn't translate well into other languages, but it is the Klingons' favorite insult.) Ssharki waved his arms and called out to them in their language "SoH Suv jIH Qo'!" (I won't fight you!)

Their commander raised her arm, and the soldiers with her stopped talking. She snarled back a reply. "romuluSngan Hol yIjatlh, lung! He'So' QIchlIj." It took Ssharki a second or two to translate. Speak Romulan, lizard! Your accent stinks.

[i]My Romulan is even worse,[i] he thought. "How about English instead?" he offered, using that language.

"Humangan Hol?" The Klingon commander frowned then nodded. "English is acceptable. I would rather speak the language of the Federation than have you butcher ours."

"Why will you not fight?" one of her lieutenants demanded. "maH'e' SoHvIp?" Ssharki knew that phrase. Are you afraid of us?

"I'm not afraid of you," he replied. "In fact, I'm pretty sure I could kill you all with nothing more than my teeth and claws. But what purpose would this serve? You have the planet. There is no one left here to defend. Why would I fight you now?"

"You could fight for your life," the commander suggested, hefting her disruptor rifle.

Ssharki smirked. "It would be dishonorable of you to kill an unarmed prisoner."

"You just boasted that you could kill us without a weapon," she argued.

"And you'll never find out if I actually could or not," Ssharki said. He lowered his arms and crossed them over his chest. "Either shoot me, beam me up to your ship, or leave me alone. It doesn't matter anymore."

The Klingon stared at him for a minute, before making up her mind and lowering her weapon. The warriors with her did the same. She tapped her wrist communicator. "Norgh'Iw, B'tor. jol SochDaq."

Ssharki was caught in the red glow a transporter beam and experienced the peculiar sensation of being converted into energy and back to matter. Gorn transporter technology made the process seem instantaneous. He blinked uncomfortably as he rematerialized in the transporter room aboard the I.K.S. Norgh'Iw.

B'tor turned to the warrior who had asked Ssharki if he was afraid. "K'Mach, lung'e' Dor bIghHa'Daq," she ordered, which Ssharki correctly guessed was something along the lines of escort this lizard to the brig.

"Move," K'Mach commanded, pushing Ssharki off the platform with his disruptor rifle.

At least he has the courtesy to speak English, Ssharki thought. He followed K'Mach's prodding to the turbolift.

"bIghHa'," the Klingon demanded. The door closed and the turbolift moved them through the ship.

"Is this the famous Norgh'Iw?" Ssharki asked his captor.

"Yes," K'Mach answered. "I'm sorry, how rude of me. Welcome aboard." The turbolift stopped and the door opened. "Left."

Ssharki walked down a short corridor and entered the brig. There were eight cells. All empty. "I'm the only prisoner you took?"

"You were the only one we were interested in," was the cryptic reply. K'Mach pointed him to the nearest cell. Ssharki entered and sat, and the forcefield went up. K'Mach departed. Ssharki wished he was still dreaming.

* * *

After an indeterminate length of time had passed, K'Mach returned. "Captain wants to see you."

The forcefield dropped and Ssharki followed K'Mach back to the turbolift and up to the bridge.

They found the Captain in the process of chewing out a junior officer. "Abraham Kovl puqloD, vavlI' quv Say'moHmeH nuj bIQ vIlo'chugh, nuj bIQ vIlammoH. naDevvo' yIghoS, SoH muS Qovpatlh Hu'tegh petaQ."

The target of the Captain's wrath departed, shame-faced. It took Ssharki a few seconds to process what had been said to Abraham, son of Kovl, but once he put it together, he winced. If I use spit to clean your father's honor, I only dirty the spit. Now get of my sight, you... (insult, insult, curse, insult.)

The Captain shook his head and snorted, and aimed his glare at K'Mach. "nuqneH?" he demanded (What do you want?)

K'Mach indicated Ssharki and said "SoH tlhob qama'." (The prisoner you requested.)

"Ah." The Captain looked Ssharki over and addressed him English. "I'm told you do not speak tlhIngan Hol, prisoner."

"I do, but not well enough," Ssharki replied, "at least according to Commander B'tor. Anyway, I am Ssharki, and I presume you are Captain Dward?"

Dward's eyes narrowed. "Have we met?"

"No, sir, this is the first time I've had the honor. But I certainly know of you. You see, I served as an armory officer on the U.S.S. Tiburon during the Dominion War, and I had the profound pleasure of seeing your ship in action."

Dward smiled. "You were on that Zilant-class we shot down, weren't you?"

Ssharki nodded. "I was."

"What was your function?"

"First officer. My responsibilities included damage control, and leading boarding parties and landing teams."

"What happened to your Captain?"

"You killed him with your last torpedo."

"Then he died with honor. He was a worthy opponent. I hope to see him in Sto'vo'kor." Dward glanced at his tactical display. "By destroying all of our capital ships, your Captain has promoted me to commander of the of the 113th attack wing."

"DoS ghoS!" the ship's tactical officer reported.

"What target?" Ssahrki wondered.

"jIH!" Dward ordered, and the target they were approaching at high warp appeared onscreen.

Ssharki recognized the type of ship immediately. "That's a Gorn cargo transport!"

"Yes, and it is heading into Klingon space," Dward stated. "I was hoping you might have an explanation."

Ssharki thought of one. "There were some Klingons living on the planet. Political refugees, mostly."

"And so now they hope to return home, as if we would overlook their treason?" Dward turned to his tactical officer. "Hail them, Nodar. And activate the translator so I can stop talking like this."

Nodar obeyed. "No response, sir."

"Helm, bring us into position in front of them and match their speed. Nodar, activate the tractor beam once we are in position."

"Aye, sir."

The two ships dropped out of warp. Dward and Ssharki beamed over, accompanied by B'tor and K'Mach and several other assault troops. The passengers and crew were all herded into the converted cargo hold. Ssharki took a head count. Sixty-eight, all Klingons.

"I must know," Dward began, addressing the refugees, "what thought was in your heads?"

One of them spoke up. "We fled the Homeworld nearly twenty years ago, during Gowron's purge. We thought after so long, Martok would grant us amnesty."

Dward shook his head. "For nearly two years, the Gorn have been our enemy. Yet you continued to live among them. You will find no amnesty, only a dishonorable death."

The Klingon refugees did not take that news well. More than one wept openly, most made some sort of dismayed expression. Their spokesman only nodded with grim acceptance.

Dward frowned. "I am sorry it must be this way. But the orders of the High Council were clear. Any Klingon we found living among the Gorn is to be considered a traitor and dealt with as such."

"We understand," the refugee spokesman said. "Carry out your duty."

Dward stood in silence as he weighed his options, then he turned to Ssharki and lowered his voice. "What was your name again?"

"I am Ssharki, son of B'rassiln."

"Ssharki, I know from the actions of the Tiburon and your last ship that you are valiant warrior. I have need of a damage control engineer, and I know you would be a great asset to my assault teams. I would welcome you to my crew, if you were to pledge and prove your loyalty to the Empire."

Ssharki was so surprised he didn't know what to say at first. After a moment he asked "How would I prove my loyalty?"

"You could start by executing these men."

Ssharki looked over at the refugee spokesman. "That man is my bartender. He taught me what Klingon I know, and introduced me to bloodwine, gagh, mok'bara and opera. He is my friend and my brother."

"Ssharki, if we take him to Qo'noS, he and those with him will be tried and executed for treason. Or worse, sent to Rura Penthe. There is no honor in such a death. But you are a Gorn officer, and this is a Gorn ship. You could execute them as enemy combatants, allowing them to die honorably. The Gorn conduct shipboard executions by spacing, do they not?"

"Yes..."

Dward nodded. "Quick, clean and painless. I've always admired you people for your practicality." He lowered his even further to nearly a whisper. "The alternative is to allow them to commit mass suicide, which would be very messy, and there may be one or more cowards in their midst who would refuse to take his own life. Or..." he looked Ssharki in the eyes "I return to my ship with my people, leaving you here with them. You 'escape' from us, forcing me to personally torpedo the ship. And then I have to live with the dishonor of having sent sixty-nine good people to their deaths."

"You Klingons aren't the only ones who live by a code of honor," Ssharki grumbled.

"I know I'm asking you to take their dishonor upon yourself," Dward stated, "and I know this would be difficult for you. And so I can think of no better way for you to demonstrate your allegiance to me."

Ssharki stood very still for a long minute as he considered Dward's offer and the implications of his demand. Damn the Klingons and their sense of honor. My honor demands only that I take no life without a just reason. And that is exactly what I must do so that these mammals may preserve their honor... Can I work with these people, let alone pledge loyalty to them? When they are at war with my kind? He looked down at Captain Dward. "I could not kill a Gorn."

Dward nodded. "I would not ask you to."

"You are a fair and decent man," Ssharki decided. "Very well, I'll do it."

"Thank you Ssharki," said the barteneder.

Ssharki looked at him. "Die well, brother."

Dward gave Ssharki his communicator. "Signal us when your task is complete."

"Understood."

Dward rejoined his warriors, who had witnessed the exchange in solemn silence. "Beam us up," B'tor said to her wrist.

Ssharki watched them dematerialize in a red glow, then faced the refugees. "I am Commander Ssharki of the Gorn Defense Command," he announced, loudly enough for all to hear. "By taking this vessel into enemy territory with the intention of surrendering it to the Klingons, you have made yourselves enemies of the Gorn Hegemony. Since I am not able to take you back to Gornar as prisoners, I have no recourse but execution."

Several refugees actually cheered at that. It turned Ssharki's stomach. He left the cargo bay, sealed the door behind him, and opened the cargo bay to space. There was a window in the door. He didn't look through it. He tapped the blinking button on the wriststrap he was holding. "It is done."

* * *

Ssharki rematerialized on the transporter pad, again blinking with discomfort. That will take some getting used to. He saw Cpt. Dward, LCdr. B'tor, and Lt. Nodar in the transporter room waiting for him, along with several other Klingons who were presumably the rest of the Norgh'Iw's senior staff.

Ssharki knelt on the pad with his right fist on his chest and said "Captain Dward, I hereby pledge my allegiance to Emperor Kahless, to Chancellor Martok, to the Klingon people and to you. May success always find you!"

Dward nodded and replied "Qapla'! Welcome to the crew of the Norgh'Iw, Ssharki HoHwI' batlhHa'."

Ssharki looked up at that, recognizing the meaning of his epithet even before the universal translator converted the Klingon words to his language. The One Who Kills Without Honor.

* * *

Ssharki was given private quarters, a lieutenant's uniform, a disruptor auto-rifle, a bat'leth and orders to report to the bridge for duty at 0600 hours. The quarters were spartan; typical for a Klingon warship. There was a hard slab for a bed, a tall wardrobe for him to store his clothes, a replicator and a shelf set in a groove in the outer bulkhead. After arranging his few belongings, Ssharki replicated four candles, placed them on the shelf and lit them. The four candles represented the Four Sides of Life: Family, Honor, Service and Faith. Family. This was first and most important. I have no family. Not anymore. Ssharki extinguished that candle, and looked at the second. Honor. I am now "The One Who Kills Without Honor"... The candle went out. He eyed the third. Service. I have given myself over to the Klingons. I no longer serve my King. I have betrayed my service. He snuffed that one. The fourth and final candle represented Faith.

Ssharki hadn't given a thought to his faith in a long time. He had been raised to believe that S'Yahazah the Egg Bringer held the destinies of all Gorn in her clutch. But in his travels he had encountered many different religions and reached the conclusion that none of them really had any answers. Nothing could explain the mysteries of the universe, certainly not some eternal mother-of-all who existed somewhere beyond space and time. But then, what else could? What else but divine intervention could bring me here? he wondered. He remembered a line from a passage of Human scripture he had once read. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies... " I can either choose to believe that S'Yahazah prepared this table for me, or I can believe in Klingon compassion. He laughed at that thought. Without faith, I am no longer a Gorn. That is what it comes down to. But my faith is the one thing they can't take away from me...

Ssharki backed away from the shelf, sat on the edge of his bed, and whispered a prayer to S'Yahazah that she would guide the spirits of Captain Leguaan, the Bartender and the rest of the refugees to Sto'vo'kor. And he watched the last candle burn.


"Freedom is just a pretty idea unless it's backed by Force."

The Masterverse Timeline / Ten Forward Fanfics

Last edited by sander233; 04-27-2013 at 04:14 PM. Reason: italics for ship names
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,357
# 43
04-26-2013, 07:03 PM
Literary Challenge # 16: First Contact

To Seek Out Strange New Worlds...

Crossing the corridor T-junction on deck four, Ensign Todd Mitchell entered the computer core's main level. The area appeared deserted, and Mitchell's eyes were momentarily drawn to the top of the massive cylindrical processors.

"Ensign Mitchell, can I help you with something?"

Startled by the unexpected voice behind him, Mitchell spun, involuntarily flicking his wrist, and feeling the reassuring weight of his shank drop into his palm from within his sleeve. He found himself facing a Human lieutenant cradling a PADD to her chest, her dark brown eyes widening in surprise.

"I'm sorry, Ensign, I didn't mean to startle you," she apologized, turning away from the wall panel completely. She made no reference to the shank as Mitchell replaced the improvised weapon in his sleeve, and repeated her question. "Can I help you with something?"

"No, I'm sorry, Lieutenant-" Mitchell paused,

"Claire," replied the dark haired officer.

"Lieutenant Claire-"

"Just Claire. The rank's only for show..."

"Okay, well, I'm sorry Claire, I guess I've not quite gotten used to the fact that I don't need to watch my back all the time."

Claire shrugged her slim shoulders and gave a placating smile.

"That's quite alright, Ensign, you've had a considerable ordeal," she assured him. "What can I help you with?"

"I was trying to do some research, but was having difficulty determining the best source, so thought I might have better luck here."

"That's why I'm here," Claire replied, moving away from the wall panel and gesturing around.

"Are you the ship's archivist?" Mitchell enquired.

"In a manner of speaking," Claire replied. She ran her fingers over a desktop interface, and it sprang to life beneath her touch. "What were you trying to research?"

"The Ahd'r and the ambassador," Mitchell began. "I wanted to learn more about their culture..."

"In that case, I'd suggest reading Garth's original first contact report," Claire replied. "Almost all reference texts on Pentaxia just copy from it anyway, you might as well go to the original source."

Mitchell's dark brows drew together.

"Garth of Izar? Didn't he go mad?"

"Fleet Captain Garth did not 'go mad', he came to suffer mental instability having been given the ability of cellular metamorphosis," Claire replied rather stiffly. "The Human body, the Human mind, is not meant to be arbitrarily re-organized in such a manner. Human beings are not Founders -- is it any wonder his neural pathways became conflicted? Before his illness, Garth was one of Starfleet's greatest explorers, and to be honest, makes James Kirk look like an incompetent farm-hand by comparison. His exploits were not made required reading for no reason, Ensign."

"I... I guess I never considered that perspective," Mitchell admitted. "May I read the file?"

"All set up for you," Claire replied, gesturing to the desk, and encouraging Mitchell to sit. "If you need anything else, just ask."

"Yes, ma'- I mean, thank you, Claire," he said, sitting at the desk and lowering his gaze to the cerulean text.

Quote:

Captain's Log, stardate 3629: Fleet Captain Kelvar Garth, Commanding Officer USS Heisenberg recording.
Following sensor contact with an unanticipated warp signature near Talarian space, we have spent the past week in orbit of the planet Pentaxia, enjoying the hospitality of the planet while engaging in a cultural exchange with the Emperor. Before providing my sociological review, I must report the loss of a crew member. While attending a diplomatic feast held to commemorate the introduction of our peoples, Lieutenant Christopher Byron accepted a glass of k'lrr liqueur which, unbeknownst to him, contained enough alcohol to kill a horse, and succumbed to alcohol poisoning within minutes. It is never easy to lose a member of one's crew, but if it is of any condolence to the Lieutenant's family, his death was, if not painless, mercifully swift, and not at the hands of an enemy. My findings on the Pentaxian Dynasty are as follows:
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Planet
Pentaxia is the fourth planet in a binary system, and almost three times as massive as the Earth. According to the size of the planet, Pentaxia's gravity is approximately three times greater than Earth normal. It falls within the upper limits for a minshara class world, with average daytime temperatures of sixty celcius, rivaling those of Vulcan, and has a comparably thin atmosphere. Although tolerable in relaxed circumstances, use of tri-ox compound is recommended for extended periods or in instances of strenuous activity. Thirty percent of the planet's surface is covered by oceans, with much of the landmass comprising deserts and canyons. Pentaxia has no moons. At night, pitch blackness is prevented by deposits of a luminous mineral called sh'rsi'te, which creates a twilight-effect similar to when using nightvision equipment. In addition to the Pentaxian people, another form of life exists on Pentaxia, which could be considered as the top of the food chain. Humanoid in appearance, and appearing to exist extra-dimensionally, these creatures are refered to as d'v'ash't'ya --hungry spirits-- and they feed by draining all neural energy from their victim. They appear randomly without warning at any time anywhere on the planet, and have plagued the Pentaxian people throughout their recorded history.
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Biology
Externally, Pentaxians and Humans are virtually indistinguishable. A minor difference in the shaping of forehead and temple areas is noticeable upon close examination, but not noticeable enough to draw immediate attention in passing. What is immediately noticeable, is that instead of clear, flat fingernails, Pentaxian fingernails are a milky white, feature a bifurcating tented ridge, and grow to a natural point. Controlled by a voluntary muscle, these claws are consciously extendable and rather than keratin, are formed from extremely dense chitin, making formidable natural weapons. While they do not grow continually, they will re-grow if torn from the nail bed. Unlike humanity, which comprises a multitude of ethnicities, all Pentaxians are of homogenous appearance, closely resembling Scandinavian Caucasians, with pale blonde hair and vibrant purple eyes. These eyes feature a tapetum, allowing near perfect vision in almost complete darkness, and also a set of dark nictitating membranes to protect the sensitive structures from the almost blinding daylight.
Internally, Humans and Pentaxians are radically different. Their cardiovascular system is considerably more complex, featuring two independent circulatory systems, one for each side of the body. Rather than a chambered heart, the 'heart' of the Pentaxian circulatory systems are a mirrored-trio of muscular cardiac tubes which occupy space in the chest cavity behind, beside, and in-front of a pair of highly efficient lungs. Unlike the breathlessness experienced by many species during a cardiac arrest, with Pentaxians, the drop of pressure in the cardiac tubes enables the lungs to over-work, and deep, rapid breathing is observable. Injury or failure to one set of tubes while not necessarily fatal, would be catastrophically incapacitating to the individual, as one side of their body would essentially shut down. With fourteen vertebrae, Pentaxians have forty six ribs, arranged in a double-layered rib-cage, with the secondary ribs occupying the space behind the intercostal muscles of the primary ribs, forming a near impenetrable barrier to shield the cardiac tubes. The cardiac tubes feed into an organ called the sh'an, where a Human's liver would be, which saturates the blood stream with compounds, which, activated by the high core temperature, makes the resulting mix a powerful acid. Unlike the kidneys of other species which filter, these acidic compounds actively purify the bloodstream in the vein. Cellular enzymes protect Pentaxians from the acidity of their own blood and the blood of others. Even though spilled Pentaxian blood is as corrosive as sulfuric acid, it rapidly becomes inert as it cools. Pentaxian blood is magenta in color. In order to maintain a consistently high core temperature, averaging forty nine degrees celcius, in response to cold conditions, or while sleeping, where the body temperature naturally lowers, Pentaxians will secrete a light, clear fluid which is high in lipids, and retains much of the body's warmth. While not truly the same as a Human's 'cold sweat', the Pentaxian word 'h'vae' essentially translates as such, with production increasing in keeping with the drop in temperature. Although odorless, this fluid does not evaporate, so can become unsightly if allowed to accumulate, meaning Pentaxians will bathe periodically throughout the day, much like the Islamic practices of ritual bathing. While comfortable in warmer climates than Humans, Pentaxians are capable of tolerating much colder temperatures, with a survival range comparable with Andorians at one end, and Vulcans at the other. Pentaxians have a layer of involuntary muscle across the shoulders, neck and scalp, and when angered, the contraction of this layer causes their hair to raise in a threat display. Considered a 'loose' erogenous zone, with the exception of immediate family or very close friends, to touch this area uninvited, would receive the same reaction as to touch the genitals uninvited. More densely packed than Human hair, Pentaxian hair is softer to the touch, much like the fur of a Terran Persian cat, and grows constantly throughout the individual's lifetime. While Pentaxian males are capable of growing facial hair, both sexes are otherwise hairless from the neck down, as their h'vae provides sufficient insulation.
Although essentially mammalian in biology, a further divergence from mammalian norm is that females do not bear live young. During the initial gestation, the placental wall forms into a tough, leathery egg, which is delivered at six months, and then allowed to develop for a further four months, before the child tears through the egg with its claws, once all internal yolk has been depleted. After delivery of the egg, it is traditional for parents to tattoo the egg with proverbs, blessings and other words of wisdom which they wish to impart to their child. Males and females both develop at a comparable physical rate to Humans, with a similar life expectancy of around a hundred years, although cognitively, they develop slightly more rapidly, with a five year comparative variance. A thirteen year old Pentaxian, will have the emotional and intellectual capacity of a Human of eighteen years. While Pentaxians reach sexual maturity around thirteen years of age, they are not considered to have reached adulthood until they are twenty. The average height for a Pentaxian female is five feet ten inches, with males averaging six feet four inches.
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Culture
A proud and noble people, honor, trust and generosity are of immense importance to the Pentaxians. Open and free with their hospitality, Pentaxians will extend considerable friendship even to a complete stranger, not expecting a favor to be repaid. However, if betrayed, their wrath is equally potent, and a legitimate grudge will be carried for years, if not to the grave. Constantly carrying short swords, Pentaxian males maintain a dueling culture, but they, nor females, should in no way be compared to the aggressive raucousness of Klingon society. Instead, their behavior is more analogous to that of Andorians: Calm, observant and restrained, until they lose their tempers, when they become capable of explosive violence which makes Klingons appear placid by comparison. Duels are always fought to the death, and will not result in prosecution of the victor. To die in a duel, like the Andorian ushaan, is legally considered suicide. Equally, suicide is a surprisingly common occurrence in matters of personal disgrace, and considered an unquestionable manner of restoring the honor of one's reputation, as it involves taking full personal responsibility for the offense or infraction. Thus to be executed and to have that responsibility over-ruled and negated, is a terrible shame. To touch or attempt to steal a Pentaxian male's sword carries the same cultural impact as to grope a female stranger's genitals, and is considered grounds for assault. For less severe personal infractions, a person will place themselves at the service of the injured party, until they are able to think of the person without immediately recalling the offensive act. Dating back to the Pentaxian middle ages, is the custom of j'sh'an ha'lock, which means to save the life of another, literally means to own that persons life for the remainder of their natural life. Unlike similarly analogous customs in other cultures, where if the favor is returned, ownership is revoked, in Pentaxian culture, those people will then own each other's lives, and will be considered j'laa (beloved) to each other, and thus considered inseparably bonded as brothers, sisters or spouses. In feudal times, this was a way of securing loyal allies, as the acts which typically involve the saving of a life, tend to engender an imprinting as with a typical mating bond. Like the times of ancient Greece, Pentaxian sexuality does not distinguish between gender, and a person may experience a multitude of sexual responses over the course of their lives without stigma or judgement from their family or peers. In addition to the almost 'arranged' marriages of j'sh'an ha'lock, Pentaxians permanently imprint future mates, frequently at twelve or thirteen years of age, often based on a first impression, much like an animal will imprint on its parent. Divorce is almost unheard of, except in cases of abuse or depravity. Similarly, due to the intense nature of imprinting, infidelity is essentially unknown. Paradoxically, Pentaxians historically practiced plural marriage. During the middle ages, it would not be uncommon for an individual to be bonded to several others via j'sh'an ha'lock, even if they were not necessarily emotionally imprinted. In such situations, the initial spouse is considered Prime, taking seniority in the relationship over the others, with subsequent spouses being considered to be their bonded brothers and sisters. In modern times, with less feudal activity to invoke tradition, plural marriage is considerably less frequent, but still legally binding, and indeed, some family units function upon this template. Once imprinted, a couple will remain bonded until death, at which time, the bereaved will ritually shave their head in mourning, and shave it daily for each day of the relationship. To approach a male or female undertaking the g't'lla ritual amorously would be considered one of the grossest breaches of social etiquette, and would essentially require the offender to make amends by taking their life. While permanently removing them self from the social circle of the wounded party would suitably satisfy honor, should the person's reason for relocation ever be discovered, they would still be considered a social pariah and would be similarly shunned by that new social circle, so suicide would still be preferable to enduring a lifetime of universal subterfuge and contempt. Even after the period of mourning has passed, the widowed party will still refer to themselves as bonded, and is almost certain to not take another mate for the rest of their life.
Pentaxian funerary rites involve placing the deceased upon their back upon a pyre with their worldly possessions. When the pyre burns out, attending family and friends, beginning with a mate, then parents, then children, are to select a surviving item, which they must then incorporate into their daily life as a way of remembering the deceased.
Pentaxians habitually live in multi-generational homes, and one of the most social events are meal times. To pass negative comment on the food presented is considered to be hugely ungrateful and an insult to the hospitality of the host, and is perceived as an implication of an intent to poison. While such behavior may be grudgingly tolerated from a family member, in a guest, it would almost certainly sever a friendship or business relationship, as implication of the intent to kill by subterfuge is literally the most grievous insult possible to a Pentaxian's honor, and even hired assassins will introduce themselves to their targets, giving them forewarning of their purpose. While most Pentaxian foods are delicious, many are not easily tolerable to the Human digestive system, and some are quite simply toxic and to be avoided entirely.
While not a religious people, Pentaxians show a reverence to departed family members and loved ones, and any dream or vision of the departed is to be unconditionally believed and considered a cherished experience, rather than one to be feared and disturbed by. It must be noted that in sufficient quantities, the luminous mineral sh'rsi'te, which is kept in carved forms in all Pentaxian homes as night lights, observably interferes with electronic mediums, and may similarly impact on the bio-electrical processes of neurological activity.
Pentaxian Creation myths are scarce, and refers to their earliest ancestors as 'the crafted hunters'. Whether this refers to a tribal culture which participated in handicrafts, or refers to a deliberately bio-engineered species, is unclear, and attempts to discuss this with the Emperor were disregarded as irrelevances.
Artists of any medium are always encouraged, with music and song being the most accessible. To Human observers, Pentaxian opera seems to contain vast sections of silence, but in reality, these segments contain notes sung both above and below the range of Human hearing. Even the most vocally untrained Pentaxian can hit a note capable of shattering glass without effort.
The Pentaxian language is written in flowing text known as spyroglyphs which is read from top to bottom, and left to right, with a ninety three character alphabet. When transliterated into English, many letters are substituted with apostrophes, thus it would take a native understanding of the words and sentence structure to correctly identify the intended vowels. When spoken, the Pentaxian language creates an accent like that of Humans from Australia. Containing many complex vowels which are simply not present in any Human language, Pentaxian is a difficult language for Humans to converse in, with maybe only a dozen words which can be easily pronounced by the novice student. Additionally, given the difference in vocal range between Humans and Pentaxians, certain modes of speech, which employ different tones, will always be impossible for the unassisted Human speaker, so although they would be capable of making themself understood in the mid-registers, certain elements of subtlety and nuances of meaning will always elude their speech.
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Society
Comprising the homeworld and a dozen off-world colonies, the Pentaxian Dynasty is a monarchy of succession by bloodline. The Imperial family maintains an advisory parliament, although ultimate power resides solely with the reigning Emperor or Empress, and is determined by genetic succession. The Dynasty operates on the basis of a caste system. At the first signs of sexual maturity, typically in their thirteenth year, a youth is expected to show an interest in a particular caste, and make the necessary devotions and allegiance. While it is common for a youth to enter into the same caste as their parents, it is not an inherited obligation and is a free choice. Equally, if later in life someone feels the calling of another caste, if the calling is true, their conversion is to be accepted. The castes are broken down thus:

h'lL'r - The academics, creators and planners of society. In Human terms, these would be considered the educators, the executives, and the political.

c'r'nai - Essentially the working masses of the Dynasty, who may undertake any number of occupations or employment.

v'nai - Members of this caste are often considered 'untouchable' by others, as they work with filth and the dead. They perform the most menial, but utterly essential, of tasks, so are afforded the solitude of their occupations.

Sh'nN'rr - In addition to the caste system, there also exists a sub-caste which consists of the Noble Houses. These are statuses and titles, and can only be born into, adopted into, married into, or confirmed by imperial appointment. Houses will support a number of occupations and workers, allowing the Sh'nN'rr to pursue individual interests. If one commits a grave dishonor, such as by treason, the house will be thus marked, until action by another member merits the dis-commendation to be lifted. Even if one's house is dishonored, one still retains the titles of rank, as a reminder of how far one has fallen from the position of privilege and an incentive to restore one's honor in some way.

Pentaxian naming conventions are relatively easy to follow. At birth, each child is given a name by their parents, and it is common for a child to be named after an ancestor, albeit with the name modified to avoid confusion between individuals of different generations with the same name. A Pentaxian child also inherits their family or house name. Upon entering a caste, or if born into a noble house, the individual will adopt that name as their second name, and in daily address, that will then substitute for their family name. If an individual enters into the service of a noble house, they will assume that family name, at the loss of their own family name, with their middle name serving as a clarification to others between employer and employee, although the employee would legally be considered a family member, rather than a mere servant. As a point of note, the sub-caste term Sh'nN'rr is a gender-neutral title, equivalent to the English titles of Lord and Lady, but conveying a social status, or peerage, more akin to the title Sir, as conveyed on a knight of the realm. The root form sh' meaning 'that which shines'. For one of lower social class to not address one of noble birth by both their birth and honorific names, while not necessarily a dueling offence, is certainly considered an unacceptable discourtesy.

All Pentaxians, both male and female, are required to serve five years of National Service in the militia, from the ages of eighteen to twenty three. Following this period, the individual may either chose to remain in the militia as a potential career officer, or retire to civilian life with training relevant to their chosen caste, so they can contribute their skills productively. While the caste system is acknowledge by the militia, it is not a contributory factor as on many worlds. For example, a member of the h'lL'r would not automatically find themselves fast-tracked to officer training, and equally, a member of the v'nai would be capable of eventually achieving the command rank of Ahd'r should they display the necessary aptitudes and commitment to a career in the militia. The only level of the militia which is not open to all members, is the A'nla sh'ck: the elite shock troops of the militia. Like the position of the Sh'nN'rr, the A'nla sh'ck are literally born into the role: Created via gene-splicing techniques, these artificially inseminated and gestated beings are created from samples taken from Pentaxia's greatest female athletes, and subjected to advanced critical neural pathway formation therapy during development to create reactions, strength and stamina nearly treble that of the most conditioned Pentaxian athlete, heightened cognitive function and intellectual capacity, and trained to kill from infancy. Despite their superior capabilities, these specimens remain controllable, as they are subliminally conditioned to defer to the highest authority present, and to follow any legitimate order. As an additional layer of control, civilians are imprinted to be considered a greater authority than a military officer, and a member of the A'nla sh'ck separated from their unit in a residential area poses absolutely no threat to any civilian. In an incident where members from a militia platoon became intoxicated and engaged in a brawl with a civilian, the A'nla sh'ck officer present killed their fellow platoon members in defense of the civilian.
An athletic and martial games is held annually, which is open to all who wish to compete. The Pentaxian martial art ka'l'n'ra could best be described as a blend of capoeira and krav maga, and is both beautiful and horrifying to witness, for both its flowing elegance, and focused brutality.
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Technology
Technologically, the Pentaxian Dynasty is in every sense the equal of the Federation, with a warp capable space fleet and equipment capable of gravity manipulation. Planetary travel mainly consists of atmospheric flyers and monorails rather than transporters, although there some individuals who collect and race vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. In terms of medicine and genetics, however, Pentaxia far exceeds Federation capability. The procedures used on Earth to create the Augments have long been perfected, although they are only used by the military. A less aggressive form of genetic manipulation, translated as 'parthenogenesis', is frequently used by single women who wish to bear children, but who do not wish to have a husband. The technique involves fertilizing an ovum with its own DNA. While not dissimilar in initial concept to cloning, the resultant off-spring will not be an identical replica of the genetic donor. As when a male and female couple conceive, the same DNA is randomly mixed, resulting in siblings with different, if similar features, and of course, different genders. With parthenogenic fertilization, the existing DNA is re-mixed, so results in different traits to the genetic donor, who is legally considered the child's parent. One aspect of Pentaxian technology which is incongruous to other levels of development, although understandable, is that they have never developed artificial lighting. Even the interiors of their vessels are illuminated by mounted sh'rsi'te lamps.
Sitting back and looking up, Mitchell realized that he was alone in the computer core, although he did not recall hearing the sound of the doors opening. With a shrug, he picked up a PADD which was lying on the desk and typed Thanks, before standing and leaving the room.

Last edited by marcusdkane; 08-03-2013 at 05:27 PM. Reason: Final polish...
Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,261
Into the night
Desperate and broken
The sound of a fight
Father has spoken...

Into your eyes
Hopeless and taken
We stole our new lives
Through blood and pain
In defense of our dreams...

The age of man is over
A darkness comes at dawn
These lessons that we've learned here
Have only just begun

We were the kings and queens of promise
We were the victims of ourselves
Maybe the children of a lesser god
Between heaven and hell...


Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars - "Kings and Queens"




THE VICTIM



On the outskirts of Tzoryp, on planet Seudath - Stardate 76859.70 (2399.11.06, 1748 local time)


Sway sprinted down the ringorb court, balancing the rubber-coated ball on the back of his left hand. Srenor blocked his path and tried to swat the ball away, but Sway skidded to a stop and flicked the ball to his right hand. Gripping the sphere with his claws, he leaned back away from his Selay friend, who was trying to reach for the orb without touching Sway and drawing a stationary foul. When Sway could reach no further, he rolled the ball onto the back of his wrist and spun away to get his feet under him. Srenor stepped up, but Sway twisted in the other direction to squeeze between his friend and the wall of the court and fired the ball at his target. The orb sailed through the red ring, turning it blue, and an electronic buzzer sounded.

"Ha! That's five-one, Srenor!" Sway exclaimed.

Srenor looked around the court as she retrieved the ball and saw that her Gorn friend was right. Only Srenor's home ring remained red. "It's no fair!" she complained. "Your hands are bigger than mine and you have more fingers!"

"So? You're a good quarter-meter taller," Sway pointed out. The two children, though roughly at the same stage of development were very different in age as well as height. Srenor was six standard years old. Sway was eleven. Both were the equivalent of a Human eight-year-old. They had been the same size when Srenor's family first arrived on Seudath two years ago. Tzoryp was a Gorn freeport, much like Y'Threzz on the Gorn continent of Cestus III. Alien merchants and traders were welcome here. Srenor's parents imported Tholian silk and crystalline ornaments.

Sway and both of his parents were from the Soldier caste. Sway's mother was named R'kssathln and his father was Royrork. They were both over three centuries old, and retired from service in the Gorn Defense Command. Thirteen years ago they had resettled on the exotic freeport colony world of Seudath with its warm and windy climate. Royrork took an administration job with the Tzoryp police force to supplement their pensions while R'kssathln put their new home in order. Life was almost too comfortable for the retired soldiers, and so they decided to raise another child.

Sway hatched twenty-eight months later into a world very different from the one where his egg was laid. While he was incubating, the Klingons had attacked and seized the Gila IV colony. Royrork and R'kssathln had five other children. One was the chief of the colonial militia on Gila IV. Another was the commander of a Vishap-class frigate assigned to the system's defense. Both had been killed. The other three immediately put in for transfers to the Seudath system, to protect their parents' home.

A cold war followed, occasionally flaring up in violent confrontations such as the Gorn attempt to take the strategic Gamma Orionis system, but life remained fairly peaceful on Seudath. The Gorn Defense Command maintained a strong fleet presence in orbit, since the planet was so close to the Klingon border. Klingons and Orions living on the planet were placed under a curfew and were restricted from accessing any military facility or vital infrastructure without a Gorn escort. Nausicaans traders had always been coming and going around Tzoryp, but after the Gorn Hegemony formed an alliance with them they were suddenly everywhere, and they were picking fights with Klingons, Orions, and even Humans and other unaligned species.

Sway grew up unaware that this was not how life was supposed to be. But the war didn't affect him directly, so he didn't pay much attention to anything. As long as he was going to the best school on the planet, and as long as the fleet kept the ridge-headed mammals away, what did he care? So what if the mammals were beating each other up in the streets. They were savages - his teacher said so. It was in their nature to fight for no good reason. It didn't matter to him. Until today...

"Sway!" his mother called. "Come inside! Srenor, run along home!"

"Aw, ma," Sway whined. "I've almost beat her, for the first time in like forever-"

"Now, Sway."

No threats about the "Great Father" gobbling me up? Sway thought. Either she's figured out I've outgrown that crazy story, or she's not that serious. "Just five more minut-"

"S'fwyrnamokaarn!" his father shouted, using all five syllables of his full name.

Uh-oh, Sway thought. They're serious.

"Get your hide in the house this instant!"

Sway flashed his friend an apologetic look and obeyed, scrambling off the court without saying a word.

"Srenor, you go to your house as fast as you can," Royrork ordered. "And tell your parents I said to take shelter!"

"Okay, sir." The Selay girl sprinted across the sand to her dwelling.

Sway reached his family's shrine room to find his parents checking over their antique disruptor blast weapons and strapping on belts loaded with grenades. He had never even seen these weapons before, but he recognized them for what they were. And they scared him. "What's going on?" he asked, in a frightened squeak.

"Klingons," his father growled. "Made a sneak attack on the dockyards on the far side of the planet. The fleet responded, flew straight into an ambush." Royrork looked skyward, inhaled deeply through his nostrils, and let out his breath through his teeth. "They're all dead."

"You don't know that, Roy," R'kssathln protested. "They could've made it to the escape pods, and-"

"The Klinks use escape pods for target practice," Royrork interrupted. "And even if they made it planetside, the Klinks are landing troops all over the surface. If they're not dead, they soon will be."

Sway glanced at the holo images of his siblings that rested on a shelf, interspersed with four burning candles. Two had died before he was hatched, but the others all visited as often as their duties allowed. They youngest of them was older than he was by a hundred and sixty years, and she had grandchildren of her own. But he loved them dearly. He had to. They were his family... He suddenly burned with anger. The Klingons have killed my family...

"All that matters now is protecting Sway," his father concluded.

"Alright," his mother agreed. "If you take defilade in the ringorb court and cover the road heading north, I'll watch the road from the city."

"You're the infantry tactics expert," Royrork said. He made his way to the door, and checked his old Federation-issue tricorder for Klingon lifesigns.

"Can't I help?" Sway asked.

"No, Sway," his mother replied.

"But I could watch father's tricorder, while you-"

"Sway!" his father snapped his jaws. "You will go to the sleeping chamber and hide there until this is over." And with that he took off for the ringorb court, his 400kg body disappearing in a green scaly blur.

"But-" Sway started to protest.

"Father has spoken," his mother hissed. "You will obey father."

"Yes, mother."

She ran out the door, her even more massive body moving just as fast as her husband's.

Sway went to the bedroom and burrowed under the thermal covers on his parent's mattress. Super not fair. I'm bred to be a Soldier like they are. I've been learning battle tactics. I'm at the top of my class in pistol marksmanship, with either hand! I could help them kill those marauding ridge-head bastar-

Sway's world exploded. There was light and noise and a hot rush of wind and everything went spinning and he wound up pinned to the ground with something heavy on his back. It took him a few seconds to figure out the heavy thing was the mattress. He tried to wriggle out from under it, but stopped when he saw the evening sky. Then the sky disappeared. A ship was landing outside. A Klingon heavy bird-of-prey, Hegh'ta-class. Sway had completely memorized the starship recognition guide, and he wasn't even supposed to start learning that for another year.

A voice spoke. "I am Captain V'rengh of the Imperial Klingon warship HeH'gonDoq" The voice was everywhere. Sway could feel it in his bones. It must have been coming from loudspeakers on the ship. "My men are searching the area for survivors. Surrender, and you will be treated well. But if we have to find you, things will not go well for you."

Sway wasn't sure what HeH meant but he knew gonDoq was the Klingon word for razor. That ship sounded dangerous. He would stay right where he was. After a minute he could overhear Klingons talking. They were close. They had their universal translators on, presumably so their prisoners would understand them. "I've got a big dead lizard over here, Captain" one shouted. "Looks like she's... no, wait, here's another one. Looks like a male. Big old fellow. Almost as big as his mate."

"Make certain they are dead, Talor," the voice of Captain V'rengh replied, much less loud this time. "Gorn are extremely dangerous when injured. Especially if they are protecting family."

"Understood, sir."

Sway heard a disruptor bolt being fired, and a few seconds later another one. He muffled his mouth with thermal covers and silently screamed.

"Hey, sir?" someone else called. A female voice.

"What do you want, T'nemen?"

"I found some live lizards in this house here, sir. They don't look like Gorn. They say they're Selay. What should I do with them?"

"Bring them to the brig, Lieutenant. One reptile's as good as another as far as the Orions are concerned."

"Aye, sir."

"Got a lifesign here sir," the first Klingon called. "In that pile of debris there. Cold-blooded. Kind of faint."

"I'll check it out."

The mattress was pulled off Sway's back. He rolled over and looked up, opened his mouth and hissed, and raised his claws to defend himself.

Captain V'rengh almost burst out laughing. "Look it this scrawny little thing! I wouldn't feed this to my warrigul."

The Klingon called Talor who had shot Sway's parents walked up, tricorder in one hand and disruptor pistol in the other. "Shall I dispatch it, sir?"

"Nah, save your power cell. It's no threat. There's no honor in killing such pitiful, defenseless little creature."

"That's it sir!" Lt. T'nemen reported. "No more survivors in this area."

"Very well. We move on. I want to cover as much ground as possible before Brigadier Klag gets here to set up the occupation zone."

Another ear-splitting voice came from the parked bird-of-prey. "V'rengh!" A woman's voice, not using the U.T., and she sounded mad. "mo'Dajvo' pa'wIjDaq je narghpu' He'So'bogh SajlIj!" The Klingons' communicators translated after a moment. "Your stinking pet has escaped from its cage and appeared in my quarters!"

"Ghuy'cha', my wife," V'rengh muttered.

"I told you it would be bad luck to bring her along, sir," Talor said.

"It would be far worse not too..." the Klingons boarded their ship, and it took off and went after another settlement.

Sway stood up and walked out to the road. He saw his father's feet sticking up over the edge of the ringorb court. His mother was in a heap in the road behind an overturned hover car. He ran to her side. She was clearly dead. The disruptor had burned a hole right through her head. Sway nestled himself next to her body. And he laid there crying without tears all through the night. And the night after. And many nights after that...


Klingon Military Academy - Stardate 80671.32 (2403.09.02, 0658 local time)

Lt. S'stas looked over her desk at the diminutive, malnourished youth she'd been asked to process. "You can't possibly be over fourteen."

"I'm fifteen, ma'am," Sway said. "In standard years, anyway."

The Gorn female sighed. Fifteen - that made him legally an adult, as far as the Klingons were concerned, and therefore eligible for conscription. Nevermind that the Gorn don't reach maturity until twenty-four standard years of age on average. She looked over the records again, sent by the Klingon occupational governor's office on Seudath. S'fwyrnamokaarn, born SD 65669.32, parents deceased. She leaned back, scratched her cheek and sighed again. Fifteen and a day. Perfect timing, you filthy mammals. "What happened to your parents?"

"Murdered by the Klinks when they took the planet."

"You'd better not call them that," she told him. "You work for the Klingons now." The assignment officer looked for another loophole. "Any brothers or sisters?"

"Also killed. Some were in the fleet at Seudath. Others died at Gila IV before I was born."

Damn "Why'd they send you here, instead of a Gorn infantry unit?"

"I guess they thought I was officer material," Sway mumbled.

S'stas could see their point. The orphanage school had continued his caste-specific education. The boy's test scores were unbelievably high for strategic thinking, tactical analysis and small-unit command. His rifle marksmanship scores were subpar - S'stas couldn't even imagine the child holding a rifle butt up to his tiny shoulder - but his pistol skills were exceptional. He also possessed a perfect eidetic memory - not uncommon among the Gorn species but rare enough amongst the Klingons and the rest of their allies. Well, he'll probably be safer as an officer on a ship than he would be in front-line infantry, assuming the animals here don't tear him apart. She poked at her screen for a minute and announced sadly "Congratulations, Bekk Sway. You are now enrolled in the prestigious Klingon Military Academy."

Sway matched her glum tone. "Thanks."

She read the speech that scrolled across her screen without any enthusiasm. "The next two years will be difficult. But should you endure, you will prove that you have the heart of the warrior. You will be respected by your peers, and feared by your enemies." She managed to work up some energy to deliver the last word of encouragement, because Sway would need all of the success he could get. "Qapla'!"

For a second, Sway's face formed... not quite a smile, but at least a smirk, as he tapped his right fist to his chest and repeated the word. "Qapla'." He looked around the Academy command center. It was full of Klingon officers - and the odd Orion here and there - all sharing jokes, laughing and carousing as they went about their business. They were all dressed in dark-colored leather or fur and had uncomfortable-looking pieces of metal strapped to their bodies. They moved with the unmistakable swagger of the victor. They killed my family, the boy thought. And now they want to make me one of them.

S'stas leaned over her desk. "Listen. I've been working for the Klingons for a while now. I defected after Seudath fell; I could see which way the wind was blowing, and I put myself on the upwind side before anyone could put a disruptor to my head." She saw Sway wince at that phrase, and she hesitated, but then went on. "I've gotten to know the Klingons. I know they're rough and tough and rude and crude because they have to be. If you want to survive, you have to be just as mean as they are. You understand, kid?"

Sway nodded.

S'stas keyed her screen again. "I've added plenty of replicator credits to your account. It's linked to your retinal scan. Go see Master-at-Arms Torgo at the shooting range across the grounds past the calisthenics platforms. You'll need to requisition a target pistol, a d'k tahg, and a bat- hmm." A bat'leth stood on its point would be taller than the young Gorn. "Make that a mek'leth. Then see the uniform tailor on the other side of the statue of Kahless. From there, the barracks are just down the hill, on either side of the gate."

"Okay. Thank you, ma'am." Sway departed, wriggling through the crowd of Klingon bodies.

Poor thing, S'stas thought. I almost hope someone just stabs him and gets it over with quick.


That night

Sway's head slammed crest-first into the massive pedestal supporting the great statue of Kahless the Unforgettable. The Gorn pulled his face from the mud, grimacing in pain. Even though his head-spines would not grow in for several years, the crest was nonetheless an extremely sensitive part of the Gorn anatomy, especially for young males. He flashed a glare skyward at the face of the statue, and then back at the four laughing Bekks who'd thrown him there. And their Klingon drill sergeant, who was laughing hardest of all.

"C'mon, get up, lizard boy," Master Sergeant Rejets called.

"Nah, let him sleep there," a Klingon called J'ngav suggested.

"What, in front of the statue of the Great Kahless?" another Klingon male, Magh'nt argued. "are you kidding me? Let him sleep with the targs."

"Just as long as he doesn't come tracking mud back in the barracks," said an Orion by the name of Sechukr. He went back inside, passing two female bekks who had come out to watch.

Another Orion male, Ciraybe, laughed as he followed his friend. "I think the mud would actually cover up his lizard stink..."

It started raining again. The laughing Klingons went back inside before they could get wet. S'Yahazah forbid you should be exposed to anything resembling a shower, Sway thought, as he staggered to his feet, and let the cold rain rinse off his body.

"Get back inside, boy," Sgt. Rejets ordered from the doorway. "Or don't. It's not like I give half a bok-rat's ass."

Sway watched the rest of his Academy unit go indoors. He didn't want to follow. But the rain was so cold... He could hear laughter inside. They can hurt me all they want, Sway thought, but they will not laugh at me. He walked back to his barracks and went inside. The other bekks stopped laughing. Sway ignored them as he stood in the doorway, dripping and shivering, but he feel them glaring at him. He could feel their hate. And it felt... good. He went to his bed, or the slab the Klingons called a bed. He pushed the heavy block of metal closer to the fire in the middle of the room. It made an unpleasant screeching noise. He removed his belt with its ridiculous uniform loincloth, rolled it into a pillow and laid down on his side, facing the fire.

"Qajay, lizard?"

Sway turned his head just enough to see who was swearing at him. It was J'ngav, the Klingon who was apparently the alpha of this pack of mammals he'd thrown to. "What do you want?"

"Can't you take a guess? We don't want you here."

"Believe me, I don't want to be here either," Sway muttered. He turned away and shifted his shoulders. "Yet here I am." He felt the Klingon's hand seize his neck. He reacted with blinding speed, scratching J'ngav's face with his claws and kicking him the chest.

"You Hu'tegh petaQ!" J'ngav drew his d'k tagh and snapped open its secondary blades. "I'll have your hide for nIvnavmey!"

Sway bared his teeth and hissed back.

"Hey!" Sgt. Rejets shouted from across the room. "No fighting in the barracks, remember? That's why I had you throw him out in the first place."

"Can I throw him out again?" J'ngav asked.

Rejets checked the time. "Too late. It's after curfew."

J'ngav closed his d'k tagh and returned it to his belt. "Tomorrow, lizard, your qIv is mine."

Sway stared at the fire as J'ngav went back to his own bed. Sway smiled a little, imagining how ridiculous the Klingon would look wearing Gorn-skin pajamas.


The next morning

After reverie, uniform inspection, breakfast and kitchen duty came the morning calisthenics drill. Sgt. Rejets led his unit out to the platforms in the middle of the grounds. Other bekks were already on some of the platforms, swinging away at each other with bat'leths. Sway was expecting to exercise, but apparently the Klingons defined calisthenics differently than most other species. Master-at-Arms Torgo walked down their line distributing weapons. Sway was given a mek'leth. The others had bat'leths, three times the length of his sword. Of course, Sway thought. The little guy gets the little sword.

Rejets stood in front of the bekks. "I will pair you off. You will fight each other with swords. If you lose your sword, you lose the match. If you fall down three times, you lose the match. If you fall off the platform once, you lose the match. If you are injured too badly to lift your sword, you lose the match. And if you die, you lose the match. Try not to die. I hate dealing with the paperwork." He looked at the line. "Aleida, Naja," he called to the females. They went up the nearest platform and faced off. "Ciraybe, Magh'nt." The Klingon with big hair and the bigger, dumber Orion went off together. "Sechukr, you're with me. J'ngav, take the lizard."

"With pleasure." J'ngav looked over at Sway and grinned maliciously.

Sway walked over to the nearest empty platform like an automaton, with absolutely no thought about how he would survive this encounter. He reached the edge of the platform and looked back at his opponent. Rejets had held up J'ngav and was whispering something to him. Sway was able to read his lips well enough to pick out part of a sentence: ghaH HoHQo'... Don't kill me? Sway wrinkled his nose in confusion, then remembered Right, paperwork. He caught a look from J'ngav and saw something in his eyes that made him think the younger Klingon was not planning to obey the sergeant's order.

Sway clambered on to the platform. J'ngev leaped up using a nearby crate an immediately aimed a cleaving blow at Sway's head. The Gorn ducked and rolled away. He turned back and caught J'ngev's boot on his chin and was laid out flat on his back.

"That's your first fall, lizard."

Sway sat where he fell.

"C'mon, get up," J'ngev goaded.

"The Master Sergeant said we'd fight with our swords, not our legs," Sway said as he warily rose to his feet, and quickly stepped back out of range.

"When you fight with the sword, your body becomes the sword," J'ngev quoted. He whirled his blade around, passing it from hand to hand, before holding it couched in his right arm. He beckoned to Sway.

The young Gorn circled his opponent, eyeing his feet, gauging how quickly he would need to strike to avoid the blow.

"It's a fight, lizard, not a dance." J'ngev stepped up and slashed at Sway's neck. Sway ducked, and raised his sword to block J'ngev's reversed backslash. He leaned both of his arms into the handle of his mek'leth to keep the stronger Klingon from overpowering him. J'ngev suddenly spun his sword away. Sway stumbled forward, and J'ngev struck at his backside. Sway jumped and yelped, and turned to find J'ngev almost doubled over with laughter. "I told you your qIv is mine!"

Sway reached back and felt the stinging wound in his left buttock. The razor-edged point of the bat'leth had sliced through his loincloth, the seat of his stippled pants, and two cm of his scaly flesh. Not too bad. He'd heal after a day or two. He checked his hand. Not too much blood. He looked at the mek'leth in his other hand. Your body becomes the sword... He charged. J'ngev was ready, and he extended his sword to impale the Gorn. Sway slapped it away with his own blade, spun away from J'ngev's counter-slash, and lashed out with a sweeping kick, connecting with both of the Klingon's ankles and dropping him to the mat.

J'ngev was on his feet an instant later, snarling has he parried a pair of wild swings from Sway. The Gorn tried to press his advantage, but he lacked the skill to do so. Soon J'ngev squarely blocked a chop, and using his superior height and strength he simply pushed the Gorn to the floor. But Sway was a fast learner. He realized that his advantage was in speed, not strength or skill. He successfully fended of a whirlwind of strikes from the Klingon and landed a blow of his own, cutting the Klingon on the back of his forearm. J'ngev swore and backed away to check the wound.

"Qajay', what's taking you so long?" Bekk Naja demanded.

J'ngev flashed a glare at her, then glanced around. The rest of the unit had finished their matches and had surrounded the platform, watching him and Sway. They young Gorn took advantage of his distraction, lunging through the air, drawing up both of his feet and delivering a powerful kick to the Klingon's chest, knocking him on his back. Their classmates laughed.

J'ngev bounced back to his feet and came after Sway in a rage, delivering one powerful blow after another. Sway was able to deflect the strikes, but he had to backpedal to absorb each one, until he stepped right off the edge of the platform. J'ngev leaped down after him and raised his bat'leth, ready to drive it through Sway like a stake.

Rejets caught his arm. "Bekk J'ngev! The match is over. You have defeated your opponent."

Sway scrambled out of striking range and stood up, brushing dust from his uniform tunic and loincloth.

Rejets looked him over with a cold eye and said to his bekks "Return your weapons to the Master-at-Arms, then assemble before the Great Statue to hear a song of victory from Loresinger Ch'toh!"

Sway trailed behind the others. "I want a better sword," he told the fat Klingon who was in charge of the weapons. "I want a bat'leth."

"For you, there is no better sword," Master-at-Arms Torgo replied as he took hold of Sway's mek'leth. He twirled it in his hand. "Have you ever used one of these before?"

"No," Sway admitted.

"Have you ever held a bat'leth in battle?"

"No."

"Then what makes think it is better?"

"Well, its longer, it hits harder-"

"It would slow you down, taking away the one advantage you have. You are too small; you do not have the strength to wield a bat'leth effectively. But you are also fast. And you have the eyes to see the weakness in your enemy. With these gifts, and this sword, you could defeat a bat'leth champion, if you learn how to use it."

Sway fixed the fat Klingon with a suspicious gaze. Torgo stared back "I speak truth, young lizard. Listen, I do not care what species you are - you are to be trained to be an officer of the KDF. And so you must learn to use a sword. The mek'leth can be a lethal instrument, but you must make it so. You must learn to attack your enemy."

"That's what I was trying to do," Sway grumbled.

"No, you were only pretending to attack so that your enemy would not attack you. A defensive strike is not a killing blow. When you drew blood on your opponents arm, his left ribcage and throat were also exposed. Why did you not strike him there?"

"Because if I missed, he would have had a free shot at my head," the Gorn replied.

"Only if you held back," Torgo told him. "Or if he moved away, but I am sure he is too slow. A true warrior cannot focus on his own self-preservation. He must always look for a way to defeat his enemy. This is what you must learn."

Sway watched Torgo return his weapon to its velvet-lined case. The case had a cutout that nested the mek'leth perfectly, protecting it from any harm. Sway then realized that weapon he had been offered was indeed much more than a mere child's toy. "Will you teach me?" He asked the Master-at-Arms.

"That is my purpose here. But now you are late for your next lesson. The song has begun."

Sway tilted his head and heard someone bellowing in tlhIngan Hol at the bottom of the hill. "Thank you, Master Torgo," he called as he raced away.

* * *

Life settled into a sort of routine for Sway. He went to class (where he excelled) he drilled with his unit (where he performed well, in spite of his classmates' best attempts to sabotage him) he ate his meals alone (or tried to, anyway) and he slept on his uncomfortable bed. And of course there were the daily beatings to break up the monotony. He could stand up against any of the other bekks individually, but they always ganged up on him. They were careful though, not to injure him too badly. Mostly because if they killed him or crippled him, then he wouldn't be around anymore and their fun would be over. Also they were afraid of Rejets, who hated to lose bekks. They also had a particular prank they liked to play on him at mealtime. Knowing how the Gorn hated the cold, they would replicate a dish of a Human treat called ice cream and shove Sway's face in it. He pretended he hated it, but he really didn't mind. He actually developed a taste for ice cream, and started to look forward to his free dessert surprises.

Sway took his revenge little by little, starting with his nicknames for the gang of bullies. He pretended to struggle with his pronunciation whenever he addressed them and they quickly got used to his version of their names. Actually, Sway spoke Klingon very well, but his English was better, being by far the easiest of all common humanoid languages for a Gorn to speak. J'ngav became "Junk," Magh'nt was "Maggot," Ciraybe got called "Crybaby" and Sechukr transposed to "Sucker." And then the biggest bully of all, Sgt. Rejets: Sway called him "Reject." Sgt. Reject was cruel to all of his bekks but he really had it out for Sway. Reject was short for a Klingon, but he was built like a boulder and his authority was unchallenged. He picked Sway to handle the most unpleasant duties of cleaning their barracks and always left him in an unfair position for their war games.

There were also two females in their unit. Bekk Aleida was an Orion. She didn't participate in the attacks on Sway directly, but she enjoyed the show, and egged the males on with the influence of her pheromones. Bekk Naja was a Klingon, and the closest thing Sway had to a friend. She wouldn't actually be seen helping him, and she rarely spoke to him, but when no one was looking she would help with his cleaning chores or tend to his wounds. He didn't know why she treated him kindly, but he was grateful.

Torgo kept his word, and Sway's skills with the mek'leth steadily improved. Of course, his opponents were receiving the same sort of training, so he still got knocked down and cut up a lot. But he was able to hold his own, and at least Torgo didn't treat him like dead gagh. He also learned how to handle a disruptor rifle. Even though he couldn't hold a target rifle to his shoulder comfortably, with practice he got quite good at firing from the hip. And his pistol marksmanship was the envy of the unit.

As the months went on, more Gorn appeared at the Academy. Mostly older, all males. They were divided up into different units though, and Sway wasn't permitted to socialize outside of his unit. The odd Nausicaan started to wander in as well. One of them, Tidrip, got assigned to Sway's unit. At first he treated Sway sympathetically - their species had been allies during the war with the Klingons, after all. But then to gain the acceptance of the Klingons and the Orions he soon joined in with the bullying. Sway called him "Drip."


Stardate 81453.54 (2404.06.13, 1202 local time)

Bekk Sway was eating lunch - alone, as usual - the first time Naja sat down across from him. He looked up from his meal and said a surprised "Hi!" She nodded at him and started eating her leg of targ, seeming to forget he was even there. Sway shrugged and returned to his meal.

Naja glanced up as she chewed and watched Sway cut a slice of pale flesh with his d'k tahg. (The only utensils in the Klingon Academy mess hall were spoons.) "Are you eating... kradge tail?"

"Yup." Sway impaled the slice of meat with his knife and lifted it to his mouth.

Naja looked revolted. "Isn't that like... cannibalism?"

"What, just because I'm a reptile and so's the kradge? Seriously?" Sway cut another slice. "Genetically, you're closer to your targ than I am to this tasty little critter." He took another bite and smiled at her. "You should know that. You scored ninety-eight percent in biology last term, didn't you?"

Naja giggled. "I'm sorry. I just... I look at you and even though I know you're an intelligent, rational and sensitive being, I see a lizard. I can't help it."

"That's okay." Sway kept eating. "I look at you, and I see just another hairy, ridge-headed mammal, even though I know you're not a blood-thirsty, violent maniac with an irrational hatred for my species."

"I guess our people have a lot to learn about each other, if we're going to be allies."

"Yup."

Naja abruptly got up and jumped two chairs over, and dug into her food. Sway heard Junk, Maggot and Crybaby laughing behind him. "Yup," he repeated to himself. He stuffed the rest of his kradge tail in his mouth and cleared his plate.


Stardate 81941.88 (2404.12.09, 1740 local time)

The beating was particularly savage this evening. Sway knew he'd brought it on himself. He'd been a bit of a show-off at the pistol range earlier that afternoon. After getting perfect hits on all of his targets with the minimum number of shots, he'd started firing at his neighbor's targets and nailing those too. Junk and Drip didn't care for that. And they got their gang together to let him know it.

After fifteen months of beating up Sway on a daily basis, they had learned how to cause him maximum pain with a minimum of physical injury. Part of this included waiting just before the evening meal to inflict their punishment, so he would be either in the infirmary or in too much pain to eat his dinner, leaving him hungry all night. Sucker and Maggot held his arms and legs while Junk applied a chokehold and dug his knuckles into Sway's crest and Drip and Crybaby took turns pummeling other sensitive areas.

This went on for about fifteen minutes before the bullies started to get bored. Sway had learned they got bored easily if he took their abuse with stoicism instead of screaming in pain like he wanted to. They finally released him. He collapsed in a quivering heap. The bullies laughed and started to walk off. "S'Yahazah bless you!" Sway called out as loudly as he could, knowing they really hated that.

Junk immediately spun around and kicked Sway in the face. The claw in the toe of his boot flayed the Gorn's cheek open. "You know why you ghuy' lizards lost the war, don't you?" J'ngev sneered. "It's because you were waiting for your Hu'tegh lizard-god to save you. See, we Klingons know better. We don't need our gods. We never did. So we killed them. And if I ever meet your great *****-in-the-sky, I'll kill her too." He turned and stomped off, following his laughing comrades to the mess hall.

They can insult me all they want, Sway thought, but they shall not insult S'Yahazah.

As soon as the pain levels subsided enough for him to move, he staggered to his feet. He tongued the wound in his cheek. The bleeding had stopped. It would heal in a few days, but it might leave a scar. He tested his joints before he walked up the hill. A sprained ankle, a wrenched elbow, a dislocated finger. Nothing he couldn't live with.

A few merchants had set up stalls along the parade grounds, selling various souvenirs and trinkets to ship captains who visited the academy to recruit warriors. They also sold various supplies and non-regulation articles of clothing to the bekks. A couple of weeks ago during a harsh cold spell, Sway had purchased a scarf that was almost immediately stolen. One of the merchants was a Gorn elder named S'kaa, who dealt mainly in "specialty" items.

"I need a gun, S'kaa," Sway hissed, leaning across the arms' dealer's counter, trying to keep weight off of his swollen ankle.

"What do you have for money?" S'kaa asked him. "Szeket? Latinum? Quatloos?"

"What can I get for sixteen hundred replicator credits?"

"Energy credits?" S'kaa leaned back and frowned. "Ya see, credit purchases can be traced, and that's no good for me."

"Well, that's all I got," Sway told him. "Thanks anyway." He gingerly pushed away from the counter.

"Now hold on." S'kaa scratched his lower jaw. "I could sell you a power cell. It would be a bit overpriced, but, it might come with a nice pistol attached."

Sway nodded. "I need a disruptor pistol with a wide-beam setting, and enough power to vaporize a room full of people."

"Ssshh!!" S'kaa waved his hands in front of Sway's face. "You know wide-beam pistols are illegal!" he whispered.

"Yeah, so's half the other baQa' you sell," Sway came back without lowering his voice. "Can you get it or not?"

"Listen, kid, I'm on sliding sand with the authorities as it is. The only reason I'm in business is because Lieutenant B'Emara thinks she's getting half my profits. If you shoot one Klingon, and then immediately overload the pistol so it blows up, you can get away with it. But what you're talking about doing, that would drain the power cell, so there's no way you could destroy the evidence. And if the security force finds out that I sold a gun that was used in a mass murder, I'd be on the first transport to Rura Penthe. And I do not want to go to Rura Penthe."

"And I do not want Bekk Junk to live through tonight after he insulted S'Yahazah."

S'kaa winced. "Okay, listen, kid. I've seen you take hits that would leave me begging for mercy, but you don't even flinch. You have no idea how often I've been tempted to use my merchandise on those filthy sons of targs you're with. But if you want to really live among these animals - and I don't just mean here, I mean when you leave this place and get out into space - you gotta learn to take an insult just like you take a punch. And I don't mean just a personal insult, like 'you stinking lizard.' I mean an insult to your honor, your culture, your family, your faith, to everything that makes you Gorn. Because that's a part of life outside these walls. For all of us, we have to live with the insult of being servants to these mammals every waking hour. Do you get what I'm saying, kid?"

"Yeah." Sway knew sense when he heard it, and S'kaa was talking sense.

"As much pleasure as it would bring me to do business with you, you should save your money. Get yourself some food instead, before the mess hall closes."

"Arright." Sway pushed away from the counter. His injured joints had numbed and he felt only the usual dull ache. "Thanks for talking me down, S'kaa."

"Sure thing, kid. Now get out of here before your sergeant sees you and wonders what you're up to."

Sway limped toward the mess hall. He ducked behind a pillar when he saw Junk and the others emerge, still laughing. S'Yahazah, as surely as you live, I will kill that petaQ.


Stardate 82061.26 (2405.01.22, 0838 local time)

"Today's drill will have you firing at a live, moving target," Sgt. Reject announced. "Your practice rifles do not have the power to kill. You must use your d'k tahgs to finish off your victim. You can thank the Orion Syndicate for providing the targets. And the Syndicate thanks you for finding a use for worthless slaves."

Sway sheltered his eyes and stared into the rising sun. At this latitude and at this time of year, daylight only lasted for about seven hours. He could make out a hover-truck across the drill range with figures being unloaded and shoved roughly into line.

Reject went on. "The targets have been told that your weapons will only stun them, while the soldiers behind them will kill them if they do not run toward you. They are armed with knives and clubs, and they will hurt you if you allow them to. This will be a test of your shooting skill, but primarily a test of your resolve. Can you kill a person who has done you no harm? Because you will have to, one day, on the field of battle. If it helps, know that you are giving these people an honorable death." Reject looked at his bekks, spread out along the range, and glanced across the field. "Your target is directly in front of you. Begin firing as soon as he enters weapons range." He turned and shouted at the Orion slaver thugs handling the prisoners. "Release them!"

Sway squinted at the target running towards him in haphazard zigzag. Once it closed within fifty meters, he opened fire. He missed, short and wide left. The target stopped. Sway adjusted and fired again. High, this time, and still a little wide to the left. A burst of disruptor fire from behind the target struck the ground at its feet. It ran, forwards and to its left, Sway's right. The Gorn fired again. Just missed to the right. The target zigged the other way. Sway fired two more quick bursts, bracketing his target. It ran straight toward him. Sway fired yet again, and this time the target spun away just as he pulled the trigger. The target was close now, just inside of twenty meters. The shouting of his fellow bekks told him they'd already hit their targets. This made Sway angry. He fired again, and the target again spun away. It started shouting something at him, but he couldn't make it out through the noise around him. Ten meters now. It raised its arms. Sway saw sunlight glinting off the knife it held. He pulled the trigger again, and finally hit the target squarely, center-mass torso. He pulled his d'k tahg from his belt and sprang forward, covering nine meters in less than a second. He pounced - the claws on his toes dug in the target's flesh even has he drove his blade into the Selay female's throat-

"Sway..." she whispered, as air, blood and life seeped out of her body.

Sway stared down at the body he suddenly recognized as the girl who had been his best friend. "Srenor?"

She didn't answer. She couldn't. She was dead.

Sway retrieved his knife and stood up. He felt... nothing. No remorse, no sadness, no sense of loss. He had followed orders to kill someone. That someone turned out to be his best friend. And he didn't care... "S'Yahazah save me," he muttered. "They've done it to me. They've made me one of them..."


Stardate 82207.96 (2405.03.16, 2144 local time)

Sway crawled across the floor of the barracks, in too much pain to stand. He pulled himself onto his bed-slab, clenching his jaw so he wouldn't scream. He gingerly rolled onto his back and lay there for a few minutes, gasping for air in agonizing breaths. Then he peeled off his bloody tunic and slowly ran his undamaged left hand over his torso and counted which ribs were broken, cracked or dislocated. The door opened. Sway's hand dropped to his d'k tahg, but then he remembered he'd lost in the fight. He painfully tilted his head to see who was there.

"Oh, Sway, what did they do to you?"

It was Naja. The nice one. Sway relaxed. "The usual, just... more of it."

"You're... you're bruised! I didn't even know that was possible!"

Sway looked down and saw that she was right. The pale skin of his chest was discolored from blood pooling under the surface. "Huh. Yeah."

Naja knelt at his side and examined his extensive injuries. "They really banged you up this time, Sway. ghuy'cha. I've got to get you to the infirmary. I don't care who sees me carrying you. This has to stop, Sway."

"Tell that Sergeant Reject," Sway mumbled. "He's the only one who can do anything about it."

"I can do something about it too." She stroked his head. He flinched when she touched his crest. She jerked her hand back. "Oh! Sorry, I-"

"It's okay," Sway assured her. "I'm just used to it hurting when someone touches me there."

Naja gently stroked him again. This time when her fingertips brushed the nubs of his head-spines, he gave a contented sigh.

"Qajay', what are you doing with that piece of baQa'?"

Naja spun to face J'ngev. "He needs medical attention! You petaQpu' almost killed him!"

"What of it, lizard-lover?"

"What of it?" Naja sprang to her feet and drew and snapped open her d'k tahg with the same motion. "I'll show you what of it-"

J'ngev slapped the knife out of her hand and punched her in the face.

Sway saw her go down and yelled out "Leave her alone!"

"Shut up, toDSah!" J'ngev ground his boot into the bruise on Sway's chest. Sway screamed in agony.

"Get off!" Naja pushed J'ngev over and he landed in the firepit. He yelped and cursed and threw off his burning jacket and came after her. He wrapped his hands around her throat and slammed her against the wall. She got her arms inside of his and pushed them away, and headbutted him in the face, breaking his nose.

"You Hu'tegh *****!" He moaned, his hands holding his face together.

"Hey!" Sgt. Rejets had arrived. "How many times must I tell you: no fighting in the barracks!"

"Sway needs to go to the infirmary!" Naja said, pointing at the whimpering Gorn.

"Me too," J'ngev muttered, still holding his nose.

Rejets glanced at the bloodied Klingon. "Go." J'ngev departed. Rejets looked at Sway. "What's the matter with him?"

"I'll tell you what's wrong with him Master Sergeant," Naja spat venemously. "Your pet yIntaghpu' beat him to a pulp, and crushed his ribcage." She approached Sway again. His breaths were coming in shallow gasps. "QI'yaH, I think J'ngev just punctured one of his lungs. He'll die without medical attention, Sergeant!"

Rejets waved toward the door. "Take him."

Naja carefully placed her arms under his shoulders and hips and picked him up. She was surprised by how light he was. Not even seventy kilos, for a one-point-eight meter Gorn? "You're too skinny, Sway," she told him as she carried him out into the cold night air. "You need to put on some fat to cushion yourself."

"Heh." That was the best he could do for a laugh. He started shivering and his breathing grew even more ragged. "Naj-a..."

"Shh! Don't try to speak."

He tried anyway. "Why are- you so- nice to me-?"

Naja started to cry. "Because you are the most courageous and noble person I have ever known, Sway. You deserve kindness. I only wish I'd shown you more."

Sway felt her hot tears splash on his chest. "It's okay-"

"No, no it's not. It's not right..." She was sobbing now. "Ghuy'cha, why didn't I have the courage to stand up for you before..."

* * *

Sway had lost track of the time that had passed since he was brought to the infirmary. The medics had anesthetized him for the surgery to repair his damaged lung. He woke up to the throbbing ache of boneknitters doing their work. They'd given a hypo of painkiller and everything was sort of hazy after that. He knew at least a few days had passed before he was finally able to sit up.

"How's your pain level?" the medic with him asked. She was a Ferasan call H'rassa.

Sway gave her a wry smile. "Well, no one's walloped me for a few days now so... better than normal, I guess."

There was a commotion as another patient was brought into the infirmary. "H'rassa, we could use a paw- a hand here," Dr. Prongo called.

H'rassa sprang to the Orion's side. "Another beating?" she asked him.

"Looks like it," Prongo replied. "She has numerous contusions and lacerations, broken bones in her face and hands..."

Sway felt a sudden and overwhelming sense of dread as Dr. Prongo described the victim. "Who is she?"

"A... Klingon female," H'rassa replied.

Sway got up from his biobed. "Is it Bekk Naja?"

H'rassa looked back at him. "Sit down, Sway!"

The Gorn ignored her and pushed her aside, and looked down at his only real friend. "Naja!"

"Sway..." she was weak. She had been in a serious fight.

"Get back to your bed, Bekk," Dr. Prongo ordered.

Sway stayed where he was. "Who did this?" he demanded.

"Medic, please get him out of the way," Prongo commanded.

"Come on, young one," the Ferasan said - and pulled - firmly.

"Naja! Give me his name!"

"J'ngev..."

Sway pushed off from H'rassa and ran for the door.

"Hey!" Prongo called after him. "I haven't cleared you to leave yet!"

Sway got outside and paused. It was daytime. He looked at the position of the sun in the sky and guessed it was mid-day mealtime. He sauntered toward the mess hall, soaking the rays of the sun, letting them energize him. He breathed deeply through his nostrils, filling his lungs. It hurt, especially on his right side, where the lung had been punctured. But he'd defeated J'ngev in a calisthenics match feeling much worse.

He pulled open both doors to the mess hall. His eyes went straight to his unit's table and locked on J'ngev. He pointed and roared "YOU!!"

Everyone in the packed mess hall looked up to face him. His table started laughing, and many others joined.

Sway glanced down and realized he looked more than a little ridiculous, wearing only a baggy pair of synth-cotton pants and the flex-seal bandage still on his chest. His eyes went back to J'ngev. He sneered and strode through the room on a straight line to his enemy, shoving tables, chairs and people out of his path. He stepped up on to his table and stopped directly in front of Bekk Junk, with one foot in his food. He crossed his arms and looked dowm. "You. Hurt. Naja."

J'ngev looked up with a deadpan expression. "You're standing in my racht."

Sway crouched, hooked his fingers under J'ngev's shoulder pads and stood to his full height, lifting the much-larger Klingon off the floor and up to his eye-level. "I challenge you to a duel of honor."

"Ha! You must first have honor to challenge, lizard."

Sway pulled J'ngev closer and snarled in his face "You and your friends beat up a female, whose only crime was showing kindness to me. It is you who is without honor!"

J'ngev looked down at his friend Magh'nt.

Sway shook him and shouted "Don't look at him, petaQ! Look at me!"

J'ngev gave Sway his full attention.

"Are you afraid to die by my hand?"

"There is nothing in you for any Klingon to fear," J'ngev said defiantly.

Sway could see the lie in the Klingon's eyes. Junk was terrified. "You will accept this challenge, or you are no Klingon." Sway drew back his right hand and slapped J'ngev across the face as he released him. The Klingon flew back and crumbled against the wall.

His friends leaped to their feet, d'k tahgs at the ready. Sgt. Rejets was standing as well. "Stop this!" he ordered.

"I accept!" J'ngev yelled, as he rose to his feet. "Our blades shall cross, and you shall die, little lizard!"

"NO WEAPONS!" Reject shouted. "And no killing!"

Sway looked down at his unit's leader. "Mok'bara. First to three falls. If he defeats me, nothing changes. If I defeat him..." he looked around at the other bekks "none of you ever lays a hand on me or Naja again!"

"Agreed," said Reject.

Sway glared at his opponent. "Junk?"

"Agreed," was the reply.

"You will be at the mok'bara court in fifteen minutes, where you will face me alone, or else..." he turned the face the rest of the hall "everyone in this room will know that you are a coward, and no Klingon warrior." With that he strode along the tables toward the exit.

He paused halfway, and looked down at an Orion eating a bowl of ice cream. "Is that mint chip?"

She stared up at him with goggling eyes and a spoon in her mouth and nodded.

"Do you mind?" he asked.

She shook her head.

Sway picked up the dish and slid its contents down his throat. He tossed the bowl over his shoulder and kept walking down the tables and out the door.

* * *

The young Gorn stopped at the barracks to change clothes. He pulled on a fresh pair of pants and cinched his belt - sans the preposterous loincloths. He peeled off the bandage and checked the wound. It had mostly healed, but there was faint red line where his scales hadn't grown back. And the bruising was still evident. He pulled on his padded tunic and left.

The mok'bara court was already crowded with spectators when he arrived. The sea of bodies parted for him as he approached. He stood in the middle of the court and waited. He saw S'kaa in the crowd. And Master-at-Arms Torgo. And Lt. S'stas. And a very large Gorn wearing the uniform of a KDF Commander was staring at him with great interest.

Junk arrived, with his friends, and Sgt. Reject. Junk and Reject stepped up onto the court with Sway. "You have agreed to the rules," the Master Sergeant announced. "This duel of honor will be settled by unarmed, hand-to-hand combat. Three falls, and you're out. I will officiate-"

"Not you!" Sway snapped. "I don't trust you." He scanned the crowd. "Master Torgo! Would you please oversee this contest?"

"It would be my pleasure, Bekk." Torgo stepped up, and Reject backed away with a sour expression. Junk's apprehension seemed to grow. Torgo asked "Are you ready, Bekk Sway?" The Gorn nodded. Torgo looked at his opponent. "Are you ready, Bekk J'ngev?" The Klingon hesitated, but then nodded as well. "Then begin."

Sway immediately dropped into a defensive posture and waited for Junk to make the first move. J'ngev was pensive. The Gorn's display in the mess hall had shown him that he could not rely on superior strength any longer. The scrawny adolescent Gorn was fueled by pure rage, making him at least as strong as J'ngev himself. Nor did he have any advantage in speed. He knew that from their calisthenics matches. He had size and reach on his side. That was all. He approached Sway, and stuck with a straight-arm jab at his throat.

Sway twisted away from the clumsy first strike and seized his opponent's wrist. He swatted away Junk's other arm that chopped at his neck, hooked his left leg under Junk's kick, and spun on his back heel, pulling the Klingon off-balance. He then leaped forward, driving his chest into Junk's side. (This hurt, but not as much as it would hurt Junk.) Simultaneously he slammed his free hand into the Klingon's hip and shoved him to the ground.

"First fall for Bekk J'ngev!" Torgo announced.

Junk rolled over and got to his feet, giving Sway a hateful look. Sway charged, making a feint to drive head-first into Junk's chest. J'ngev braced his feet and readied his hands to repel the brute-force lunge. Sway swerved and spun away at the last second, lashing out instead with a sweeping kick aimed at Junk's leading ankle. J'ngev jumped away just in time. He tripped over Sway's shin and stumbled, but did not go down. Sway's back was to him. He seized his arms, trying to put him in a hammerlock. Sway ducked and twisted away, and J'ngev repositioned to go for a chokehold.

Sway got his chin down under Junk's forearm. He opened his mouth and bit hard. Junk yowled in pain, and Sway snapped his head back, striking the Klingon in the jaw with a stunning blow. The Gorn drove both elbows back into Junk's ribs, putting a little distance between the adversaries. Sway jumped and spun and delivered a powerful kick to the head, laying J'ngev out.

"Second fall!" Torgo announced.

"Foul!" Reject protested. "The lizard bit him!"

"Did anyone establish a rule that said 'No biting'?" Torgo asked.

Reject opened his mouth and closed it without saying anything. J'ngev staggered to his feet, cradled his left arm and shook his head dejectedly. Sway licked blood off his chin and smiled.

"I thought not," Master Torgo declared. "Two falls to none. Continue!"

J'ngev went on the offensive, launching a wild flurry of punches so that Sway could only defend himself and left no opening for a handhold. Sway was being pushed back off the court. He dove to his left and rolled into a somersault, repositioning himself in the middle of the ring with some distance between him and Junk. Sway was breathing hard, and he realized he needed this fight to end soon, before he ran out of energy.

J'ngev stepped up again, but this time he dropped into the defensive form, daring Sway to come after him. Sway did. He tensed every muscle in his body to exert all of his strength at once, and lunged. He reached top speed in only two steps and leaped feet-first into his target. Junk's eyes bulged, clearly never expecting a cold-blooded creature to move that fast - and Sway ploughed into him at over 40kph, overpowering his rooted resistance and hurling the Klingon out of the ring.

"Victory to Bekk Sway!" Torgo shouted, amidst a collection of groans and angry curses with a smattering of cheers.

"NOOO!!" J'ngev ran back to the court, his d'k tagh held high, ready to strike.

"No weapons, damn you!" Reject hollered, ignored by everyone.

Sway caught Junk's knife arm by the elbow with both hands and ripped, tearing bone from tendon from muscle from ligament. J'ngev grabbed his own wrist with his left hand tried to push through with his momentum and drive the knife into the Gorn's neck. Sway backpedalled and pulled the knife down and twisted it, forcing J'ngev to stab himself in the chest.

A mix of pain and fear entered J'ngev's eyes. Sway's filled with hatred and cruelty, as he reached for the handle of the knife. He squeezed the tab that caused the secondary blades to spring open inside J'ngev's chest cavity. The Klingon's face warped with agony. Sway twisted the handle ninety degrees. J'ngev made sickly gasp. Another quarter-turn, and the Klingon's mouth opened in a silent scream. Sway closed the d'k tahg, pulled it out and stepped away from the gushing blood as J'ngev fell to the ground and died a painful, messy and dishonorable death.

Sgt. Rejets came out of nowhere, tackling Sway to the ground and screaming incoherently. Too exhausted to fight back, Sway curled up into a ball and braced himself for the beating. Reject kicked, stomped and pummeled Sway relentlessly until someone came up behind him and shouted "Hey!"

Rejets spun to meet a scaly fist crashing into his chin with meteoric force, launching him off his feet and over the edge of the court. The blow would have knocked almost any other humanoid unconscious, if not killed them outright, but Klingons have incredibly strong neck muscles and a very thick skull. Rejets started to sit up, shaking his head in a daze.

The Gorn Commander who had delivered the punch carefully stepped over Sway, walked up to Sgt. Rejets, kicked him back to the ground and planted a boot on his chest. Rejets stared up at over two-and-a-half meters of hulking, armor-clad Gorn, wearing a linked metal sash that declared him a Commander of a KDF warship. The Gorn glared down at him and spoke in a deep, vicious growl. "If you, or any of the bekks in your unit ever lays a hand on that boy again, I will hear of it. And I will come for you. And on that day..." he sucked air through his teeth and continued. "It would be better for you to face Fek'Ihr himself a thousand times than me on that day. Do you understand?"

"I... understand... Commander..." Rejets could barely breathe from the crushing weight on his chest.

"Good. Then remember this: the next time you see me, you will be addressing me as Captain, and that boy will be a member of my crew. My crew is my family, and you should know what happens to anyone who stands between a Gorn and his family..." The Commander suddenly lost interest in Sgt. Rejets and he turned his head toward young Sway. The youth was still curled up in his ball, but he was watching the Commander with wide eyes, and listening. S'stas, S'kaa, and Torgo were standing around Sway, unsure of what to do.

The Commander walked back over and crouched beside the boy. "Hello, young one. My name is Ssharki. What is your name?"

"Sway."

Ssharki smiled and gently placed his huge hand on the youngster's head. "That is what you are called. But what is your name?"

Sway tried to remember. It had been a long time since he heard it. "Suffa- no... S'fwyrna... S'fwyrnamokaarn."

Ssharki closed his eyes for a moment before looking up at Torgo. "It means 'Sweet Delight' in the old language," he explained. He turned his attention back to Sway. "Your mother must have loved you very much. What happened to her?"

"Killed. Her and my father. They were trying to protect me..."

"I understand. What about the rest of your family?"

"Killed. Fighting the Klingons."

Ssharki brought his head down the boy's level. "S'fwyrnamokaarn, I lost my family too. Many years ago. I would like to start a new family with you, if that's alright."

"You mean..." Sway started to uncurl himself "you want to... adopt me? You want to be my father?"

Ssharki nodded. "If you'll have me."

Sway felt the fear, hatred and anger he'd carried with him for the last five years drain away, replaced by an emotion he'd never felt before - hope. "Yes, please!" he cried.

Ssharki carefully picked up the battered child, stood to his full height and cradled the boy to his chest. He looked at S'stas and S'kaa. "You will witness this." The two Gorn nodded, and Ssharki looked skyward. "S'Yahazah, you have cared for this boy who has no family. Now I ask your leave to care for him myself, to make him a part of my family. May you deal with me ever so harshly if I fail in my duty to protect him from harm, or to raise him to honor the Four Sides of Life. I am now the father of S'fwyrnamokaarn."

S'kaa looked up and said "S'Yahazah is my witness, I recognize Ssharki as the father of S'fwyrnamokaarn."

S'stas and then Master Torgo repeated the same words.

Ssharki looked into Sway's eyes and smiled. "We are family now, my little Soldier Boy."

"Um." Lt. S'stas shifted her feet. "Sway doesn't graduate for another six months. But he could leave here after two, and complete his coursework aboard your ship. Uh, unless, as his legal guardian, you want to remove him from the Academy program."

Ssharki kneeled and placed Sway standing on the court. "What do you want to do, my son?"

"I... think I can stick it out for two months," the boy said. "I have a friend who needs looking after, and I don't think I'll have to worry about anyone hurting me again. I heard what you said to Sergeant Reject."

S'stas and Torgo had a chuckle at the nickname.

"I'll be around," Ssharki told him. "Right now I'm handling security for the House of Martok, so I'll be on-planet for a while and I'll drop by as often as I can. And in two months, I'll bring you up to the Norgh'Iw."

Sway hugged Ssharki and said "Thank you, father."


IKS Norgh'Iw, Qo'noS Shipyards - three hours later.

Commander Ssharki entered his quarters aboard the battlecruiser. He dug around his repair kit until he found his plasma torch, and then he approached the shelf on the far side of the cabin. There were four candles on the shelf. Only fourth one was lit. Ssharki focused on the first one.

The first candle represented Family. Ssharki closed his eyes, thanked S'Yahazah for bringing him a son, and lit the candle.


"Freedom is just a pretty idea unless it's backed by Force."

The Masterverse Timeline / Ten Forward Fanfics

Last edited by sander233; 07-08-2013 at 11:16 PM. Reason: typos
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,357
# 45
05-21-2013, 02:39 PM
Author's notes:

- This story deals with Adult Themes and scenarios. If you feel you would be offended or disturbed by reading about such themes please click away now.

- The Pyramid Club and its status is the creation of Sander233.



Literary Challenge #22 : Undeniable Evidence

The Things Which Cannot Change


Starfleet Command, San Francisco: 2363.01.16, 0024 hours

Commander Marcus Kane could feel ligaments in his shoulder separating as his arm was forced behind his back by the Capellan guard, and he was guided through the corridor like an errant child.

"This is all a misunderstanding," he insisted, attempting to relieve the pressure by rising onto his toes, but only succeeded in losing balance. "I haven't done anything!"

"That's what they all say -- Sir," Chief Petty Officer Kollaar snarled, turning Kane through the brig door, and shoving him towards the isolation cell. "You're a disgrace to the uniform."

Tripping on the raised field emitter, Kane fell forwards, cracking his head painfully on the edge of the narrow bunk as the forcefield shimmered into existence. For a second, he lay stunned, before automatically pushing himself into a kneeling position. "I didn't do anything," he insisted, raising a hand and wiping blood from the deep cut.

"Your supervising officer has been informed of your arrest, Commander," Kollaar informed Kane's back. "They're going to throw the book at you for what you've done."

Taking hold of the bunk and hauling himself off the floor, Kane realized that his shoulder no longer burned, and probing his forehead with his fingers, could feel nothing but smooth skin. That was fast... he mused absently.

"I haven't done anything!" he shouted at the Capellan's retreating back as he left the brig.


Starfleet Command, San Francisco: 2363.01.16, 0038 hours

In five hundred and thirteen years of life, Admiral Wesley Cooper had fought in countless wars, attended numerous weddings, lost more friends than he cared to count, and seen sights he would never have imagined possible in his childhood in Dartmoor, but in all that time, he had never been woken at midnight by a friend under arrest. First time for everything... he thought, stifling a yawn as he was lead to the brig.

"What can you tell me, Chief?" he asked.

"At twenty three fifty hours, Commander Kane made an emergency call for medical assistance," began Kollaar. "Responding med techs found the Commander in his apartment with a dead hooker, killed by a complete neural collapse caused by a point-blank phaser discharge."

Cooper stopped for a moment, halting the guard with the edge of his hand.

"Dead hooker?" he repeated skeptically. "Anything to back up that claim, Chief?"

The Capellan security officer drew himself to his full height, towering head and shoulders taller than Cooper.

"Preliminary report from Starfleet:CIS is that there was a bloodied knife and a partially clothed woman on the bed, and the Commander's personal phaser had been discharged."

"Are you sure it was the Commander's phaser?" Cooper enquired.

Kollaar nodded.

"It may be a modified prototype, but the serial number on the pre-fire chamber matches records with the one issued to the Commander when he returned to active duty four months ago."

"Has he said anything?" Cooper asked.

"Other than protesting his innocence, nothing," Kollaar replied, shaking his head. "With no other suspects present, we were obliged to take the Commander into custody and notify the JAG while S:CIS continued to sweep the apartment for further evidence."

Phillipa Louvois... This is going to get messy... Cooper thought bleakly. With a sigh, he indicated that Kollaar should proceed to the brig. As they approached the door, Cooper felt a premonitory chill at the base of his skull, the warning signal created by the resonance when two immortals came within proximity of each other. The doors slid aside, and Cooper saw the young man he had mentored for nearly a decade, standing in the isolation area like a caged animal. His expression hardly changed, but Cooper knew him well enough to see the subtle wave of relief which washed across his handsome features.

"You've got to get me out of here, Wes," he said, getting close to the forcefield. "They've got it all wrong, I didn't kill Ali."

Cooper frowned in confusion.

"Ali?" he repeated. "You're not making sense, Marc. The guard said something about a dead hooker. Tell me what's going on."

For a split second, a look of rage flashed across Kane's face. He immediately regained control, but when he spoke, his voice had dropped, taking on a dangerous tone.

"Ali is no hooker," he said pointedly. "Wes, they're accusing me of killing my sister!"

Wide-eyed, Cooper spun to face Kollaar.

"Is this right, Chief?" he demanded.

"I have not been informed of the identity of the deceased," Kollaar responded calmly.

"Drop the field immediately, Chief," Cooper insisted.

"With respect, Admiral, the JAG has not yet arrived to take a statemen-"

"I said drop the field!" snapped Cooper. "As head of Starfleet Intelligence, and Commander Kane's supervising officer, I'm taking personal responsibility for his custody." He paused and gestured about the brig. "I understand that there are procedures to be followed, but seriously, where do you think he's going to go? Drop the field, and get the man a glass of water. I'll de-brief him and make a report available to Captain Louvois upon her arrival."

Kollaar's eyes narrowed, but he eventually nodded.

"Aye, Sir," he acknowledged. Moving to the free-standing console, he entered a command into the control surface and the forcefield winked out of existence.

Stepping out of the isolation area, Kane turned to Cooper, shaking his hand before sinking heavily into one of the chairs present.

Looking away, Cooper addressed the air:

"Computer, is Lieutenant Commander Leigh-Ann Parsons within command grounds?"

"Affirmative, Lieutenant Commander Parsons is in Domicile fifteen of the residential facility."

"Excellent," Cooper muttered, before reaching up to tap his comm badge. "Cooper to Parsons."

"Go ahead, Admiral," said a disembodied voice with a lilting Betazoid accent.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Leigh, but I need you to meet me in the brig as soon as possible. I'm going to be conducting an interview and need your insights."

"Very well, Sir, I shall be with you as soon as I can. Parsons out."

"Okay, Marc," Cooper said, setting his PADD to record and placing it on a nearby console. "Start at the beginning, tell me what happened."


Pyramid Club, San Francisco: 2363.01.15, 2030 hours

The sound of slow jazz drifted on the air as the turbolift doors opened. The distinguished maitre d' looked up from his desk, and seeing two lifetime members approach, he smiled broadly and came to the front of the narrow reception desk to greet them.

"Ah, Miss Kane, Commander, so good to see you both again," he said, shaking hands with the Starfleet officer. "If I may say, Miss Kane, you look stunning this evening."

"Yes, I know," Alix replied disinterestedly, her eyes scanning the patrons of the restaurant, as well as taking in the view of San Francisco afforded from the top floor of the TransAmerica pyramid.

"Is our usual table free?" Kane enquired. Sensing that Alix was about to walk across the restaurant, he slid an arm round her waist, holding her in place.

"It is indeed, Commander," the maitre d' replied, leading the way across the restaurant to one of the corner tables. The occasional head turned as they passed -- women admiring Alix's floor-length gown of shimmering Tholian silk, men admiring the beautiful woman wearing it.

The maitre d' stopped by a corner table, and pulled out a chair.

"Miss Kane," he said graciously.

"I'll sit here," Alix stated, pulling out another chair, and sitting so her back was to the wall, affording her a view of the entire restaurant.

"Thank you," Kane said, taking the offered chair, and sitting opposite his twin. It was almost like looking in a mirror.

"Would you care to view tonight's menu?" the maitre d' enquired.

"No thank you," Alix replied. "I'll have the smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye crackers, with a side order of liver pate and smooth sandwich pickle."

With a nod, the maitre d' entered the order onto his PADD, before turning to Kane.

"Commander?"

"I'll have the same, thank you," he replied. "Ali, blue lagoon?"

"Mm hmm," she replied, her lips pursing and eyes narrowing, as across the room, a woman of similar age fumbled clumsily with a set of chopsticks.

"And a large pitcher of blue lagoon with two glasses," Kane requested.

"Certainly, Commander, Miss Kane, enjoy your meal," the maitre d' said before moving away from the table.

Seeing the look on his sister's face, Kane's brow furrowed slightly.

"What's up, Ali?" he asked.

Alix nodded towards table twelve on the far side of the restaurant, which was occupied by a quartet of young women. They appeared to be eating Japanese cuisine.

"She looks entirely too pleased with herself," she muttered darkly, as one of the women speared a piece of sashimi with a single chopstick and popped it in her mouth. "Hardly anything to be proud of, making a scene of herself like that."

"How's business?" Kane enquired, knowing that changing the subject was the easiest way to distract Alix's judgmental tendencies.

"Boring, as usual," she replied, shaking out a napkin and spreading it across her lap. "Productivity statistics, developmental conferences, requisition orders, all the stuff Dad hated dealing with, but it's something to do, I guess. How about you? You said you had something important to tell me. Are the test flights going well?"

"Your drinks," an impeccably presented waiter announced, placing two highball glasses on the table. He proceeded to fill them from a large pitcher of sparkling blue liquid, before placing a second full pitcher in the middle of the table.

Picking up her glass, Alix smiled sweetly, before taking a sip, and returned her penetrating gaze to her brother.

"Not so well," Kane admitted, as the waiter walked away. "We hit a snag with the containment system for the warp core, and it failed during testing last week. That's why you got that call."

Alix put down her glass, her dark brows drawing together.

"I know, it was the weirdest thing. I was away from my desk for lunch, and when I got back, I had two messages. One saying that you'd been in an accident and that I should come as soon as possible, then another, saying everything was okay, and to ignore the first message. Bureaucratic mix up?"

"Something like that," Kane said. "As you can see, I'm absolutely fine."

"Yes, you are," Alix replied, before picking up her glass again, and sucking on the straw until the glass was drained.

"Not here," Kane said quietly, picking up his own glass and taking a long draught.

Alix's eyes sparkled with amusement.

"I doubt anyone here would notice, let alone care," she pointed out with a positively obscene smirk. "You think the Rigellian Ambassador over there is simply taking those women out for a birthday treat? Or those skanks on table twelve aren't all f**king each other? Why do you think those Deltans are both heading towards the bathroom at the same time?"

"You're probably right," Kane agreed lightly, refilling their glasses as the waiter approached with their meals. The content of the plates may have been identical, but the arrangements of the food were not, and it was clear that the dishes had not simply been replicated.

"Can I get either of you anything else?" he enquired.

"Actually yes," said Alix. "I forgot to ask for some toast for my pate."

"Of course, madam," replied the waiter, producing his PADD. "What kind of toast would madam require?"

"Four slices of thick-cut wholemeal, lightly toasted, and cut in diagonal quarters," she said.

"Very good, madam," said the waiter, jotting down the request, before looking up. "Anything else for you, sir?"

"Not for the moment, thank you," Kane replied, picking up a cracker.

"So what's the Big News?" Alix asked again as the waiter departed.

"I'll tell you when we get back to my apartment," Kane replied, before biting into the cracker. "We have good food and nice music. It's something which can wait till later, and which needs to be discussed privately."

"They have sound dampeners at every table," Alix pointed out. "We can say anything with total privacy." She took a breath, before loudly stating: "I f**ked my brother twice before we came here this evening!"

All around the restaurant, even at the adjacent tables, diners continued with their meals, totally unaware of Alix's outburst.

"Everyone's so appalled!" she exclaimed sardonically, putting her hand to her mouth as her eyes widened in faux-shock. With a grin, she kicked Kane's chair under the table "Jeez, lighten up, Polo. What can you have to say that is so secret?"

"It's something I'll need to show you as well," he admitted. "If you don't see it for yourself, you won't believe it, and it's not something I really want to do in public."

Alix frowned momentarily in recollection.

"I don't remember seeing my name tattooed on your ass," she mused.

Kane shook his head, but Alix could see the amusement in her twin's eyes.

"I'll tell you later," he promised. "Now behave yourself, your toast's coming over."


Starfleet Command, San Francisco: 2363.01.16, 0105 hours

Cooper's fist crashed into Kane's jaw, nearly knocking the younger man from his chair.

"Aah, what the f**k, Wes??" he protested, sitting upright and putting a hand to his cheek as he experimentally articulated his jaw.

"You know your dad would have done the same thing," Cooper replied calmly, shaking his right hand and flexing his fingers. "I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad your parents aren't alive to se-"

Kane scrambled up from his chair, launching himself at his mentor, only to receive a second right cross which dropped him to the floor of the brig with a ringing in his ears.

"Dammit, Marc, get it together before that Capellan throws you back in isolation," Cooper advised, crouching and helping Kane to his feet. "Sovak taught you better than this."

"I don't remember striking a junior officer still being authorized in the Starfleet disciplinary guidelines," Kane muttered, but Cooper could detect the undercurrent of amusement in his voice. "At least in isolation you can't hit me anymore."

"You think your dad would let you off any easier?" Cooper said rhetorically and gesturing back towards their chairs as the door to the brig opened, and admitted a slender dark haired woman in a mustard-colored operations uniform.

"Ah, Commander Parsons, so glad you could make it. You've... already missed the best bits, but I need to verify the truth in what the Commander is telling me."

"You think I'm lying?" Kane gasped incredulously.

Cooper chuckled.

"Marc, if I thought you were lying, I wouldn't've hit you," he said. "I need something which Captain Louvois cannot pick apart or question, and I suspect you'll find the Commander's presence less intrusive than Chief Kollaar hooking you up to a polygraph."

Kane nodded.

"If you need to make physical contact, Commander, I have no objection, I have undergone several mindmelds on Vulcan," he said.

"That won't be necessary, Commander," Parsons replied, sipping from a sealed beverage container and taking a seat beside Kane. "Please accept my condolences for your loss."

Kane looked from Parsons to Cooper, who nodded.

"She's that good," he replied, before tapping the PADD. "Back to your confession, Marc, believe me, you do not want to be having this conversation with Phillipa Louvois..."


Residential Facility, Starfleet Command, San Francisco: 2363.01.15, 2340 hours

Kane sat on the edge of the bed in a midnight blue robe, staring sightlessly at the tajtiq, the long Klingon knife which could be wielded as if it were a sword, which he held on his lap. He felt a dipping of the mattress, then Alix's arms sliding round him, her chin on his shoulder and her cheek against his neck.

"What's on your mind?" she asked. "You still haven't told me your Big News, unless you simply wanted to explain why you sleep with a phaser under your pillow."

"No," he acknowledged. "That's a habit I got into while on Bajor. The camps were a dangerous place, and you can't trust a Cardassian as far as you can throw them... Devious, predatory creatures...

"Two years ago I encountered three Cardassian officers beating a Bajoran woman. She had been trying to stop them attempting to force themselves on a Bajoran child. I killed two outright with this, the third got away with a flesh wound. I never saw the child again, but the woman died from her injuries."

"Was she someone you knew?" Alix asked.

Kane nodded.

"Do you remember me telling you, when I crash landed on Bajor during a training mission in my final year at the Academy, how I was pretty banged up in the landing and that a Bajoran girl looked after me before Federation troops evacuated me?"

Alix nodded, not lifting her head from his shoulder.

"I remember," she admitted. "I took the first shuttle from Harvard as soon as you were back in San Francisco." She could feel the resentment lumping in her chest just as she had when she had first heard Marcus talk about Shanna, and the thought that some Bajoran slut might come between them...

With a nod, Kane continued:

"After graduation, after the loss of the Pegasus, I was assigned to Bajor as part of an ongoing intelligence operation to monitor the Cardassian occupation. That's why I was supposedly kicked out of Starfleet and unable to visit you while you were living on Bolius. I was simply unable to leave Bajor until I was officially recalled. It was during that time that I met Shanna again, and that was when I saw those Cardassian bastards beat her to death. I really think you would have liked her."

"I doubt it," Alix replied matter of factly, but with no malice in her voice, and she felt her brother's diaphragm flex beneath her arms as he chuckled silently.

"You would have liked her," he repeated. "That's why I sleep with my hand on a phaser, but not what I needed to tell you."

Sitting back on her heels, Alix adjusted the front of her Tholian silk robe.

"Then what is it?" she asked.

"Those calls you missed last week," he began. "Something did happen to me. We were testing a new warp-capable fighter near Titan, when there was a containment breach in the core, and I had to use the emergency transporter to bail out. I was in a pressurized suit, so would have been fine till the observing shuttle beamed me aboard, but the fighter exploded, and I was hit in the shoulder by a piece of shrapnel. I could hear the suit de-pressurizing, remembered my training for what to do in the event of a hull breach, and then I remember reviving in the medical bay on Titan."

"So they got to you in time and saved you," Alix said, absentmindedly fingering the edge of her robe.

"No, I suffocated and was dead for over half an hour before the shuttle got to me," Kane replied. "Some engine problem of their own. When I revived, the base physician unlocked part of my medical file and showed it to me. Apparently I have extra chromosomal base-pairs, something they called the Lazarus gene, and that is what brought me back.

"They said no one is ever told about it before hand, as sometimes the gene is dormant, but when it is active, upon death, it triggers a backup synaptic system and permanently accelerates the body's regenerative systems, bringing the person back to life, and also rendering them immortal."

"Do you know how crazy that sounds?" Alix asked.

Kane nodded.

"That's why I couldn't say anything in the restaurant, but have to show you."

Turning, he drew the blade of the tajtiq across the tip of his finger. The razor-sharp blade effortlessly parted the flesh, and dark red blood welled up.

"Ohmigod, are you crazy?!" Alix demanded, immediately using the edge of a sheet to staunch the flow of blood.

"See for yourself," Kane replied, pulling his hand free, and showing a finger tip which was completely undamaged.

Alix's eyes and mouth widened,

"F**k me, that's a good trick!" she gasped.

"Ali, it's no trick," Kane insisted. With swift movements, he slashed the tajtiq across his palm, his wrist, and forearm, opening deep wounds, from which blood freely poured forth. Within seconds of the injuries being inflicted, the skin appeared to liquify, flowing back together, sealing the wounds then resolving with the same texture as the rest of Kane's skin. "I'm not joking with you, I'm immortal."

Alix looked at him as if seeing him for the first time, her face reflecting the whirlwind of thoughts in her mind.

"So you're immortal because of your genetic code?" She mused, no longer looking at her brother, but inwardly focusing on something only she could see. "We're identical twins, we share the same genetic code, apart from how they -- re-engineered me..."

She got up from the bed and began to pace excitedly. That would mean that I have that gene too! If I activate it, we can always be together... In time, no one would know our past, no one would judge us...

"Yes, but they'd probably need to do te -" Kane's musings broke off as he saw Alix leap back onto the bed, her hand diving beneath the pillows, and emerging with the angular form of his prototype phaser. "Ali! What're you doing?!"

Her fingers adjusting the beam controls, she looked up, her eyes alight as if she had experienced an epiphany, and she smiled.

"See you in a minute," she said, raising the emitter cone to her temple.

"Ali! NO!" Kane yelled, diving forwards in a low tackle.

His shoulder made contact with Alix's hip...

The hiss of the phaser beam impossibly loud in the otherwise silent room

... bringing her down onto the bed, her hair cascading over her face as the phaser clattered to the floor.


Starfleet Command, San Francisco: 2363.01.16, 0115 hours

Cooper slumped back in his chair, shaking his head.

"I don't know what to say," he admitted. "I tried to explain this to you last week. This is why no one is told they carry the gene. Why do you think immortality is made out to be a fairytale? This is why! Because people can't be trusted with their own mortality."

"I didn't think she would do that, I had no idea she would do that..." Kane murmured, pacing the brig as tears fell across his cheeks, before turning to face his mentor. "Why did she do that?"

"Because you showed her the possibility," Cooper sighed massaging his temples. "You proved the impossible and showed her the possibility it could happen to her too."

Kane's face lost all expression, and he sank slowly down the wall till he sat on the floor of the brig.

"I killed my sister..." he murmured. "I killed her..."

"Listen to me, Marc, you can't say that again or Louvois will make sure you spend the next forty years in New Zealand! You did not kill Alix!" Cooper insisted. "She made a mistake and had an accident! You couldn't have anticipated how someone with Alix's perspectives would respond to such life-changing possibilities."

"Absolutely," Parsons contributed. "I saw the events as you accessed them in your memory, and there was nothing you could have done. I will be happy to testify to that if Captain Louvois requires."

"Thank you, both of you," Kane said. "Wes, is there any chance I can have some time to myself?"

Cooper nodded.

"You're going to have to speak with Captain Louvois, there's nothing I can do to prevent that, but I'm sure this will be sorted in a few days," he said. "I can, however, release you back to your apartment if you want?"

"Right now, my apartment is the last place I want to be," Kane replied. "I'm fully aware that I could be discharged for conduct unbecoming an officer, but at the moment I really don't care about that. I just saw my sister kill herself because of something I told her, and I'd like to be alone."

Cooper nodded silently, and escorted Parsons from the brig, leaving his former student alone with his thoughts.

Last edited by marcusdkane; 08-03-2013 at 05:58 PM. Reason: Quick tweaks...
Commander
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 497
# 46
05-22-2013, 10:21 PM
Literary Challenge #20: Saying Goodbye


The bridge was deserted. The seats were empty, and the consoles and stations lay unmanned and unadministered, the screens and readouts continuing to blink out information that was left unread. Bereft of any crew or personnel, the bridge had a tranquil, quiet quality to it, accentuated only by the hum of power systems and the occasional, expectant beep of the readouts.

Captain Arkos Nair was standing at the centre of it all, taking in the silence. The entire bridge crew, along with all non-commissioned duty officers, was currently away on shore leave on Earth Spacedock. The only reason Arkos was still on the bridge was because, as the Da Vinci's captain, it was his final job to conduct a last-minute inspection before Starfleet maintenance crews took over.

He frowned. No, he knew, that was a lie. He was here because this was his ship, and in an hour or so he would have to leave it behind forever.

It was, he reflected, almost cruelly ironic. The Da Vinci-- predecessor to the more famous Sabre-class of the same name serving with the Corps of Engineers-- was one of the oldest ships still serving in Starfleet, and had gone through a list of captains as long as Arkos' arm. She had served during an era when heroes like Picard and Sisko were still active, and had gone through the hell of the Dominion War and survived in one piece. For more than a hundred years of service, the Da Vinci had survived space battles, freak anomalies, disasters, and the relentless harshness of the void, and had endured. For a starship class as renowned for its fragility as the Miranda, the Da Vinci had an impressive record for surviving the worst that the galaxy could throw at it.

And now, at the ripe old age of a hundred and fifty, the U.S.S. Da Vinci had succumbed to that most relentless of adversaries: old age.

It had been inevitable, really. A ship could only be modified, updated, and upgraded so many times before the rigours of an outdated design and the stresses of age finally took their toll. During his year of captaining this ship, Arkos had personally authorized a quarter of those upgrades alone, updating the ship's weapons, deflector, engines and shields with whatever meagre resources he could attain (sometimes through less-than-legitimate means, given how all the good stuff at Starbases was reserved for heavier ships of the line). For a year, those new upgrades had worked perfectly, and the updated Da Vinci had been operating at peak efficiency in whatever operation Starfleet Command had sent her into.

Then, only a week ago, a mandatory Starfleet-wide computer update had caused several of the Da Vinci's shipboard systems to crash, leaving the ship floating dead in space for several days. Arkos and his crew had tried to fix the problem as best as they could, but the more they worked on it, the more it became clear that it was an issue of age: modern Starfleet system requirements were simply incompatible with an old ship design like the Miranda-class, no matter how much you tried to modify and adapt them. After Arkos and his crew had finally exhausted all of their options, they contacted Starfleet Command for assistance and orders. A day later, the U.S.S. Hadrian arrived to the rescue, with orders to tow the Da Vinci back to Earth Spacedock for decomissioning.

He felt a knot tighten in his throat. When he'd first joined Starfleet, he had scoffed at the age-old notion of captains becoming emotionally attached to their ships-- a starship, he had thought at the time, was spacefaring conglomeration of engines, integrated systems and bulkheads, nothing more, nothing less. It wasn't a person, it had no personality or endearing features to speak of, and had nothing that deserved any sort of emotional attachment. It always baffled him whenever he had heard Starfleet captains speak of their vessels with pride or, in the case of decomissioned or destroyed ships, sadness.

And now, after only a year of having his own command, he understood that emotional attachment all too well. For a year, this ship had been his home, and its crew had been his family: as a man exiled from his own homeworld, it was a wonderful feeling to be a part of something, to have a place he could truly call his own. Under his command, the Da Vinci had survived the Battle of Vega Colony, had participated in fleet actions against the Klingons and their allies, and had delivered aid to the people and allies of the Federation. The Da Vinci had prevented a Mirror Universe invasion, survived the disastrous division of the Kai augments, had been shunted back in time to New York City, and had even made first contact with a polaron-based species who had based their appearance on 20th-century Earth movie stars. The thought of leaving the old ship behind after all of those adventures and memories hurt Arkos more than he thought it would have.

He took a deep breath, and took one last glance at the bridge. Idly, he walked over to the dedication plaque, and silently read over the words embossed on the bronze plate:

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. -Leonardo da Vinci.

He had always liked those words. He had tried to live by them during his command of the Da Vinci, to act wherever possible rather than simply making brave but utterly useless statements. That was what Starfleet was all about, as far he was concerned: to not simply have principles about exploration, scientific advancement, and defending the rights and safety of sentient beings, but also going out and doing those things.

He glanced at his timepiece. He had half an hour before Starfleet's maintenance crews would put the ship off limits and put the Da Vinci down like some dying animal. He knew what he had to before that time.


******

"Computer, initiate Holodeck Program Sigma-Epsilon."

The computer beeped in reply, and the holodeck doors opened with a great hiss of hydraulics. Taking a deep breath, Arkos stepped through.

He was greeted by a busy street in a city of white brick, red tile, clear, unpolluted skies and bright sunlight. Human men and women in finely-spun, gaudily-coloured clothing walked past, seemingly oblivious to the grey-skinned alien in their midst. Merchants, jugglers, nobles and couriers continued their daily bustle without pause, their programming enabling them to overlook the walking anachronism that Arkos presented.

It was a city from a place and time that was utterly alien to Arkos. Ensign Sann, though, had emphasized that this was as accurate a depiction as possible of the city of Rome, in Earth's sixteenth century.

Arkos did have to admit, the architecture had a fascinating, baroque quality to it, and was certainly well-designed for such a primitive era. Arkos took in the sights of the city as much as possible as he walked down its streets, drinking in its smells and sounds. A bygone city from a bygone era. he thought to himself. I wonder if these humans ever realized or appreciated that one day, this would all be antiquated.

Eventually, Arkos reached a small, two-storey building set in the middle of classy-looking residential area. As Arkos approached, the main door opened, and a tall man in a white, cowled garb exited and quietly disappeared into the busy swirl of the street. Of course, Arkos thought to himself with a wry grin. The old man would have patrons visiting, even at this hour.

He strode forwards and opened the door, and was greeted by the smell of burning oil and lingering paint fumes. A figure in a baggy red robe sat near the centre of a cramped, dimly-lit atrium, hunched over an easel that he was busy prodding and dabbing at with a brush. As Arkos entered, the robed figure waved a gnarled hand towards him in a dismissive gesture.

"Ah zoccaro, go away!" a grumpy voice exclaimed. "I'll have no more visitors today! I don't care how much you'll pay for my ideas, an old man needs his sleep!"

Arkos ignored the curses as he strode into the cramped, dimly-lit room. "That's not a very nice way to treat your visitors, messere," he said with a smile. "And you certainly aren't sleeping."

The robed figure turned around, revealing a tangled white beard and a pair of blue eyes which, despite being rheumy and red from lack of sleep, still glimmered with intelligence. His expression brightened as he recognized his visitor. "Ah, Arco!" the man exclaimed. He hastily stood up and hobbled over towards Arkos, momentarily abandoning his canvas-- the half-finished nobleman he had been painting seemed to stare out imploringly as the old man hobbled over and clasped Arkos' hand. "My apologies. Sometimes it seems that every figlio di puttanta in Roma is trying to get me to paint this, or design that, or to come up with an ingenious solution to some mundane little problem. But I always have time for my pupils and friends, Arco."

Arkos smiled at the old man and clasped his hand firmly. "Oh, that is absolutely terrible," he replied sarcastically. "The famous Leonardo da Vinci, actually being given paying work!"

Leonardo gave Arkos a sour look. "Men of lofty genius, when they are doing the least work, are the most active," he replied sternly. "And there is a strong difference between having one's genius fostered, and having it smothered."

"I'm sure," Arkos replied with a grin. He moved over to sit down on a nearby chair, next to a strange congolomeration of brass tubes, canvas sails and blade-like axles-- a concept model which had been cited as the first design of a "helicopter," a rotorcraft which would be invented several centuries later. Around Arkos sat a treasure trove of creations and contraptions-- steam-powered bellows, ingeniously crafted puzzle-paintings, colour wheels, steel mechanisms, and an endless pile of schematics. In the midst of it all, a brown tabby lay on top of a folded pile of books, yawning lazily.

He had been introduced to this holodeck program only two weeks ago, on Ensign Sann's recommendation. It was a favourite of hers, and apparently it had also been a favourite of Admiral Janeway's during the famous exodus of the U.S.S. Voyager. Arkos had always known that his ship had been named after some ancient Human polymath, but had never had any interest in the man himself until recently. His forays into the holodeck had shown him why Starfleet considered Leonardo da Vinci to be worthy of a starship's name: da Vinci was, if the program was to be believed, a brilliantly creative man with an active and fertile imagination. In his discussions with the holographic da Vinci, Arkos discovered that he had a broad knowledge of archaic science, chemistry, physics and philosophy, but even more impressively, he had an innovative, undogmatic mind that was never satisfied with taking things for granted. Against his expectations, Arkos had found himself liking the man, and he had found himself engaging in discussions and debates with his ship's namesake whenever he had the holodeck to himself.

"You should leave Rome, then, if you find becoming wealthy to be so emotionally traumatizing," he said with a chuckle.

Leonardo simply sighed, sat down at an opposite table and and took a sip from a nearby goblet of wine. "Oh, how I wish to do so, Arco," the old human replied. "If I must be honest, if I could live anywhere, it would be far away from Roma, from the Papacy, and all of this city's stiff-necked nobles and puritans." He took another sip of wine. "If I had a choice, I would much rather be back home in Firenze. True, it's under the ownership of the French right now, but it's still my home." He gave Arkos a conspiratorial chuckle. "That, and I've heard that French patrons are just as foolish with their money as Roman ones."

The old man's wish to return home seemed all too familiar to Arkos. It was a futile wish. He knew, all too well, that he could never return to Nar-Etulis. "Yes, well...some roads are closed to us, Leonardo,," he replied sombrely. "Maybe guess the only road open to people like us is always a different one."

At this, Leonardo chuckled again. "You'd best write that down, Arco, otherwise I may take all the credit." He took another sip of his wine, grabbed a feather-quill, and began to hastily write on a piece of parchment on his desk-- one of the few that hadn't already been defiled by his scratchy handwriting. "So, what brings you to my humble workshop tonight of all nights, Arco? Perhaps you wish to learn more from the most ingenious mind in all of Italia?"

"Or point out how deeply flawed your proposition for a water-powered combustion device is," Arkos suggested.

Leonardo gave him a side glance and a sour look. "Vaffanculo. Once I get the funding to have it made, Arco, you won't be so snide..."

Arkos sighed and shrugged. "Anyway, that's not why I'm here, Leonardo. I came to say goodbye."

The words were enough to make Leonardo stop writing. He swivelled in his chair to stare at Arkos. "Goodbye?"

"Yes, goodbye, and I don't believe for a second that you're going deaf, old man," Arkos said. He straightened up, uncomfortably, in his chair. "The business that brought me to Rome has been concluded. As...as much as I would like to stay, Leonardo, I've been tasked elsewhere, far from Italy. And I will have to leave as soon as possible."

Leonardo blinked a few times, as though he had difficulty understanting the statement. Slowly, though, his expression became downcast. "Ah," he said. "That is...a shame, Arco. I had so looked forward to our continuing conversations."

Arkos gave the human a sombre nod. "As did I, messere," he replied. "As did I. But I've heard it said that all good things must inevitably come to an end."

To Arkos' surprise, Leonardo's downcast expression disappeared as he straightened up in his chair. "And what do you intend to do, Arco, in your new locale?"

Arkos blinked in the face of this unexpected question. "What?"

"Sacred virgin, 'what' is precisely what I am asking you!" Leonardo exclaimed in mock exasperation. "In the short time that I have known you, Arco, you have impressed upon me that you are a bright and earnest young man with an eagerness to learn and to explore. You are no slave, Arco, so you must have plans and hopes for yourself beyond what your employers wish. What do you intend to become?"

Arkos, admittedly, had never considered that. He had always figured that his destiny would be wherever his Starfleet career took it. "I suppose, Leonardo, that any...plans for myself, will be what they always have," he replied. "To learn, to explore, and to expand my understanding. And as to what I will become...I suppose that all depends on what I learn and discover, doesn't it?"

The answer made Leonardo smile, and he clapped his hands together. "Magnifico!" he exclaimed. "Then this, Arco, is precisely why you do not need to be so downcast!" He gesticulated emphatically as he spoke, waving the feather quill around as he did so. "The conversations we've had have been enlightening, Arco, but think of them as only the beginning of your journey. A journey that, I suspect, will be much like mine-- one driven by a desire to know and to understand. And the noblest pleasure, Arco, is the joy of understanding."

Arkos was quiet for a few seconds as he slowly thought over Leonardo's words. "So...you're saying that I should look at this as an opportunity, not as something to have regrets over?"

Leonardo's reply was heralded by a shrug. "Well, regret is only natural, Arco. We are only human after all. But you learn nothing if you allow regret to tie you down."

The was the exact sort of thing Arkos had figured da Vinci would say-- he had, after all, looked at da Vinci's programming beforehand. On some level, Arkos realized he had expected as much, and he supposed that was why he had come down here in the first place. He just needed to hear it spoken by another person.

He gave a resigned shrug. "I suppose you're right, Leonardo."

Leonardo chuckled. "Of course I'm right!" He went back to his scribbling. "I'm the most ingenious man in Italia, after all!"

The comment made Arkos smile. "And it reassures me immensely to know that the fact hasn't gone to your head." He stood up and straightened his uniform. "Well...I really should be off, Leonardo. I'm expected elsewhere very soon." Especially since the ship will officially be closed off in five minutes, he mentally added as he extended a hand to Leonardo. "It has been a pleasure, though, to have known you, messere."

The old human smiled back at Arkos, stood up, and shook his hand firmly, staining Arkos' palm with holographic ink. "The pleasure, Arco, has been all mine."

Shaking da Vinci's hand, Arkos stood back and took a deep breath. "Computer," he said, "end program."

Leonardo, his workshop, and all of the surrounding sights and sounds vanished, replaced by the black, cubelike room and spidery yellow latticework of the holodeck. Exhaling, Arkos turned and left, the hydraulic doors hissing shut behind him.

Last edited by ambassadormolari; 05-22-2013 at 10:39 PM.
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,357
# 47
05-26-2013, 05:06 PM
Literary Challenge # 37: Mirror, Mirror on the... Viewscreen? Part II

Through a Glass Darkly

The older man nodded.

"Introductions and explanations are in order," he said. "Do I look familiar? My name is Marcus Darien Kane, and I am the head of Kane Industries. This ship, is my finest creation."

"You're my counterpart?" Kane replied incredulously, breathing now almost an impossibility. "There would appear to be a discrepancy in our ages and appearances."

The older man chuckled, and nodded. "Call me Darien, I always preferred our middle name. Unlike you, I was not killed test piloting, and am not only quite mortal, but running out of time thanks to a rather nasty virus I picked up on Cardassia. You, however, are going to help me change that."

"I hate to break it to you, but so am I," replied Kane. "I recently underwent a procedure which rendered me mortal, and thanks to your drones, I don't think I'll be alive much longer"

Darien laughed and began to cough, before recovering himself.

"Oh I'm well aware of that, but don't worry, the nanoprobes will soon get that genetic encoding working the way I want," he said. "Don't misunderstand the situation in which you find yourself. I have spent my entire adult life following in my father's footsteps: Designing weapons and selling them to the highest bidder, namely the Alliance, and have lived a satisfying life. Unfortunately, money cannot buy health, and I find myself requiring a genetic transplant in order to survive. With my brother being long dead, that makes you the only available donor, and I have absolutely no intention of dying."

Kane frowned.

"Your brother?"

"My twin brother, Alexander," Darien replied, lowering himself onto another biobed. "Damn fool died orbital skydiving not so long after our twenty eighth birthday. His anti-grav harness and chutes failed, and when they opened his suit, there weren't many parts which were connected to each other anymore, and as you know, separating an immortal's head from their body is a permanently fatal injury. Even if Alex had become immortal upon that death, the injuries themselves were quite unrecoverable. No, I am afraid that you are my only option, and it behooves me to tell you, you will not leave this ship alive."

"Get it over with," Kane spat defiantly.

"As you wish," Darien replied obligingly, before turning to Amanda. "Miss Palmer, initiate the static transport sequence on our guest."

With a nod, Amanda entered commands into a console, and even through the numbness caused by the nanoprobes, Kane felt the beginning shiver of a transporter, then nothing.


Four months later:


As we walk down the corridor, I see her coming towards us, a PADD nestled in the crook of her arm. Confident, well presented, professional: For a moment, I see a shadow of the cadet I made my executive assistant over thirty years ago and who became a fine captain. From the four months I have spent in this purgatory, I know the timing, the exact moment she will see us. Good morning, Manda, I think.

She looks up from her PADD, and smiles.

"Good morning, Mister Kane," she says in greeting, and for a nano-second, it feels like a conversation.

"Good morning, Miss Palmer," replies the identity I have come to think of as the Beast, walking past her with barely a glance, and then she is gone from our field of view as we proceed through the corridor and past the labs.

We continue down the corridor and arrive in the Beast's office. As we enter, lights activate and the computer interfaces spring to life, some with design schematics which actually interest me, others with pornographic images so vile they utterly disgust me. I have no reason to experience this, there is nothing I can gain from witnessing them, nor any influence I can exert to affect or alter his actions, so I begin the meditative processes Master Sovak taught me as a boy, shutting out the images, shutting out the sounds, shutting out the world which is my prison.

***

I hear the ever-present rain of Caladan, and am able to open his eyes. Slowly, I swing his legs out of the bed, careful not to move suddenly and risk waking the sociopath, but for the moment, while he sleeps, the body is mine. As is my habit, I touch my fingers to my thumb in one of the simplest of ka'athyra exercises, my movements smooth and coordinated. From experience, I know that when I begin to fumble the sequence, he is regaining consciousness, and my control is fading. At the first sign of such an event, I need to begin covering the tracks of my activities. The preparations needed to even attempt to make contact beyond the quantum boundary are complex, and not something I can do swiftly or easily.

Should the Beast ever begin to suspect that there is more to his nocturnal activities than mere somnambulism, he has resources at his disposal which may detect my presence, and methods of extraction which might indeed be able to exorcise me from this living hell, but certainly only a release into oblivion, so I must be ever vigilant. I do not want my preparations to be undone, as I have no intention of remaining trapped like this. If I can somehow escape here without costing anyone their life, I must do so.

Sliding out of the bed, I pull on a long blue robe of Bolian cotton. Behind me, I see a shoulder turning away from me, and before I can stop them, the memories of what the Beast did to the young girl flood my minds eye. Sensory input so intense, that even the Vulcan techniques Master Sovak taught me could not block them. There comes a point where discipline can shield us no longer, Marcus, he had said in one lesson. And once we reach that point, we must simply endure. The disgust which I feel for my counterpart is such that I feel the bile rising in my throat. To be trapped in the body of such an individual, to be witness to his depraved tastes and practices utterly sickens me, but I know I cannot afford the luxury of vomiting. If I do so, the Beast will wake, my control will be taken, and the girl will once more be at his mercy. As a Starfleet officer, I cannot allow someone to come to harm, whom I have the ability to protect. Crossing to the bathroom, I hold my hands beneath the faucet, gulping down frigid water, then run my hands over my face and back through my hair. I look at the reflection in the mirror above the glass basin. The face is mine, that which I have seen for nearly fifty years, but the hair is worn longer than Starfleet regulations advise, the beard a neatly clipped goatee, rather than full coverage. Familiar but different enough that I feel only a disconnection when seeing the reflection.

Moving to the computer terminal, I log into his financial accounts, and to see the total is always a shock. I have always known that my family had been considered 'rich' since the turn of the twentieth century, with a fortune in the millions by the end of World War II. In nearly five hundred years, business acquisition and interest has inflated the sum to incredible heights. In Starfleet, I had no need to keep track on the family business, leaving much of its running to my beloved sister, and later my cousin. To actually see the number in hard figures is hard to comprehend in realistic terms. Anything is available at any cost without a moment's thought, the amount almost unspendable. The furthest five right columns of the figure are constantly changing, like a chronometer timing an event. Glancing at the clock in the corner of the screen, I see that there are five hours before the Beast would usually rise for his morning routine. My fingers touching to my thumb as if in contact with the strings of a ka'athyra, I calculate the interest the account would generate in that time, then transfer the twenty million credits out of his account, immediately erasing all traces of the transaction. He won't miss it, as he would have no idea what the total would even be. All I need now, is the girl's palm print, and she will be independently wealthy for the rest of her life. Synching a PADD to the account, I cross to the bed, gently lifting her arm, and laying her palm flat against the touchscreen.

"What're you doing?" she demands, snatching her hand away and pulling the sheet across her breasts as she sits up.

"Just making a transfer to your account," I explain, holding up the PADD so she can see the amount, and her eyes become wide.

"That's -- a bit more than we agreed on," she replies.

"I want to apologize for what happened earlier," I say. "That wasn't me doing those things to you, it was someone else. I want to make sure you never have to be treated like that ever again."

The girl looks at me in confusion, surprise and suspicion in her smoke-colored eyes.

"Ever heard of multiple personalities?" I ask, and she nods warily. "You had the misfortune to meet -- the other guy. He mostly runs the show... I'm sorry I couldn't do anything to stop him."

"For that kind of money, you can do it all again if you like," she says with a wink which saddens me.

"No need," I reply. "The one condition for the money, is that you're to ignore any future communiques from the other guy. Inbox, calls, anything like that, just ignore them. He'll take the hint and move on to someone else, and when he does, I'll do the same for them."

"Okay, deal," she says, throwing her arms around me.

"Please don't," I say, feeling a kind of compression of my senses. Backing away, I consciously slow my breathing, employing Master Sovak's meditative techniques to filter the sensory input for a moment, until it feels like the compression eases, and the stirring Beast returns to its slumber.

The girl looks at me with a mixture of trepidation and concern.

"Are you okay?" she asks.

I nod, careful to not allow myself to focus on any one thing too closely.

"For the moment," I say. "But if he wakes up, I'll lose control and won't be able to do anything to stop him or protect you. You seem like a nice girl, and I don't want to see you wind up like some of the others did. Please, put your clothes on and get out while you can. Get as far away from here, from him as you can."

"Thank you, Mister Kane, I won't waste the opportunity you've given me," she says, sliding out of the bed and hurriedly pulling on her clothing.

I smile and shrug, feeling a numbness in my fingers which mean my attempts to retain control are failing.

"My name is Marcus," I say. "And you're very welcome."

Last edited by marcusdkane; 05-26-2013 at 05:58 PM. Reason: iFormatting error >_<
Captain
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,457
# 48
07-26-2013, 11:58 AM
Literary Challenge #4 - Passing Grades

The alarms shut off and the pair of female cadets took a step back from the console. A male voice boomed into the room. "Cadets, the ship has been destroyed. Test will resume in five minutes." The Andorian wearing a red striped Cadet uniform pounded the table with both fists and growled in frustration. Looking up at the woman with a blue-striped uniform in front of her, she regretted the outburst. "I'm sorry, I'm not seeing a way out of this mess."

Kathryn grinned. "It's okay, that's a part of the test, remember? We are standing in Engineering because that's not our specialty."

Looking down at the schematics on the table , the Andorian female sighed to relax. "Fine. Let's review the situation again." She pulled the tie out of her hair and wrapped it back into a ponytail.

"Anthi, did I ever tell you that you are a beautiful when you concentrate?"

The look on Anthi's face told Kathryn that brevity was not allowed and she quickly looked to concentrate on the diagram as well. "The schematics for the FWF-1 warp engines of the Miranda-class should be re-classified as ancient. I hope my first deployment is not on one of these."

The Andorian smirked, "Now you said it, so you can bet on it."

They were finishing their analysis of the previous trial when the diagram reset to prearranged parameters. Signals on the table started flashing and sliding within various fields. Alarms started blaring and a hose expelled a white vapor to simulate damage from somewhere else. The room shook violently and both cadets gripped the table to prevent falling to the ground.

Kathryn reviewed a panel. "Damage to the port nacelle. Inverted plasma coupling destabilizing."

"Re-routing power to aft auxiliary conduits." Anthi furiously tapped onto a side panel.

"What about fore conduits?"

"That would transfer warp power through the ionic grid network. The stress would tear the nacelle off the hull."

Kathryn nodded then started tapping commands furiously on the shared keypad to her right. "Shutting off plasma valve to port nacelle."

The warning claxon stopped abruptly and expectantly. After a few seconds, Anthi furrowed her eyebrows as she focused onto a part of the ship schematic. Pointing to a part of the image toward the rear of the ship, she asked, "what's that magnetic interface disturbance?"

Looking at the signal on the table, Kathryn tried to recall her training and instantly knew the test had deviated from the three previous incarnations. "I don't ... that's different from last time." The feeling of the simulation faded as she became absorbed trying to solve the problem. "Isn't that near the thermal protective manifold?"

"Checking." Anthi's fingers darted across the keypad to her left as she also became absorbed into the simulation. "Yes, running internal scan." After a few moments, information scrolled on the screen. " The disturbance is magnetic in nature but its also emitting tetryon radiation."

Kathryn smiled at the revelation. "Let's see, ordering the manifold be removed would expose the interior to deadly artificial tetyrons. Leaving the problem would cause the magnetic field of the disturbance to effectively melt the thermal shielding over time. Damned if you do."

"That's the sum of it, so what can we do from here?" Anthi wrung her hands together.

Kathryn looked at the blinking anomaly and bit her lower lip. "Open the access hatch, here." She pointed at a nearby location. "That will freeze the manifold, minimize the magnetic disturbance and vacuum out the radiation. We can order an evacuation of any nearby crew."

Anthi stood straight and placed a hand on her chin as she thought. "What if the disturbance is immobile? Sucking the radiation particles is a quick clean-up but doesn't remove the problem."

The science cadet looked around the room as if the answer would appear from somewhere, then she looked up at the tactical cadet. "What if it does remove the problem? Otherwise - " she looked down at the schematic, "we activate hazard shielding here, here, here ... and here below those decks to contain the source until we get a crew in Hazard Suits to inspect from outside the ship."

"I'm not so sure."

Kathryn's eyebrows came together. "I am. I have half a mind to release the hull plates exposing the location to the void of space for the rest of the journey." She paused for effect. "Open the access hatch."

Anthi's face became serious. After a few seconds, she tapped a command on the console. The signal faded.

Both released their breath loudly and relaxed their shoulders.
---

"That was an interesting move, Cadet." The instructor was scrutinizing Kathryn's test results as he sat behind his desk. He smoothed his mustache with one hand as was his habit. "Not particularly innovative, but direct."

Kathryn stood at attention and did not look away from the spot on the wall above the instructor. "Thank you, sir."

The instructor placed the PADD on the desk. "At ease. What was the motivation for the choice you made?"

Cadet Beringer relaxed visibly. Of the options available, it was the least invasive to the ship, sir."

He nodded without looking away. "Hindsight being 20/20, do you have any other solutions?"

Without pause, Kathryn responded, "No, sir."

"That's good. There were none. You made the right choice which ultimately lead to your passing the course."

Kathryn beamed a very wide smile. "Thank you, sir!"

"No need for thanks, you did the work. Tangentially, how would you rate your partner in the test?"

"She will have an excellent career, sir. I would be honored to serve under her command."
Kathryn S. Beringer - The Dawn Patrol

Solaris build - Veritatum Liquido Cernene

Last edited by cmdrscarlet; 07-26-2013 at 12:02 PM.
Captain
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,457
# 49 LC 5 - Shards of the Mirror
07-28-2013, 12:08 PM
The sword crashed against the rifle barrel. Sparks flew in all directions and both participants winced as the struggled to overpower the other. The man holding the rifle twisted to the right, forcing the sword-wielder off-balance. This was the opening he needed to raise a foot and connected to the enemy's torso. She turned with the kick, reducing its effectiveness, but didn't stop the attack entirely. He stood quickly and hefted the rifle like a bat then swung at the female's head. She completed her spin and raised the sword to shield her head and deflect the strike against her.

The rifle hit hard and she was pushed to one knee to prevent from falling. As he lifted the rifle for another blow, she swept her leg around and knocked the attacker onto his back. She jumped onto him and held the sword up to point the tip of the blade to his throat. She paused as the fight coordinator shouted, "Enough!"

Looking up at the woman straddling his waist, Ricol said, "This isn't over."

Kathryn Beringer smirked as she lowered her sword. "Oh, I think it is. Try this again and nothing will stop you from choking on my blade." She leaned down and kissed him. She forced as much passion as she could and it became easier with each swirl of her tongue. Ricol did not fight against her this time and welcomed her surprise attack. When Kathryn pulled away she immediately slapped Ricol across the face with as much might as she could muster. His head struck the arena floor with a crack and the crowd roared into applause and laughter. She stood and activated the Tholain weapon, the blade shimmered as it vibrated at frequencies too fast to be seen. She raised the weapon high and the laughter disappeared into the applause.

The fight coordinator stood, he stood slowly due to his corpulence and he sweat profusely in the outdoor heat almost drenching his uniform. He raised his hands to quiet the crowd in the arena and they complied within seconds. "The Trial of Grievance is over. Captain Kathryn Beringer is victorious over Captain Hassid Ricol. By the laws of the Empire, the ISS Solaris is hers to command."

---

On board Solaris...

The Orion stretched with arms and legs fully extended. When she exhaled both arms swung in a wide arc to encompass the width of the bed. "I could get used to this." Her yellow-tinted dress flowed across the sheets but one leg was raised to reveal her shiny skin.

Kathryn stepped from another room, two cups filled with Romulan Ale. She wore a nightgown that was translucent and bright red, revealing it was the only item of clothing draped over her shoulders. Smirking at the comment, she sighed, "I've worked very hard to get us here. Now I can take make war as it should be: with brute force. Ricol was weak and he wasted this ship's potential to crush the Alliance." Her olive-skinned partner purred when she received the drinking glass.

"I'm curious: why this ship above the rest in the fleet?" The Orion licked her lips after a long sip and placed the drink on the stand next to the bed.

Raising an eyebrow, Kathryn sipped from her cup. "To be honest, Staza, I love her lines. It's a classic look, but underneath her beauty is a dangerous animal. That is appealing to me."

Staza Murai pushed herself up and leaned in toward Kathryn. "Well said, my love." They kissed and Kathryn snapped her fingers, turning out the lights.
Kathryn S. Beringer - The Dawn Patrol

Solaris build - Veritatum Liquido Cernene

Last edited by cmdrscarlet; 07-28-2013 at 01:38 PM.
Starfleet Veteran
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 530
# 50
08-03-2013, 03:46 PM
Challenge #7 - The Best and Brightest

The Devil Instructor

Instructor-Captain Nanoha Takamachi, Captain of the Aventine-Class Multi-Mission Reconnaissance Explorer USS Wolfram, stood on the second-floor walkway of her ship's Hangar Deck, clad in her standard Tactical Instructor's Uniform, watching as Academy Shuttles landed, disgorged their cargo of Cadets, and took off again. Standing next to her were her Senior Officers, all of whom also doubled as fellow instructors and were also clad in the uniforms of Academy Instructors. "How many did we get this year?" the chestnut-haired human woman asked.

A blonde-haired human woman wearing a Tactical Instructor's Uniform consulted a roster she had been given. "One hundred and twenty, Nanoha-chan," she replied. "All of whom were the top scorers among the third-year cadets last year."

Nanoha nodded, smiling. "Thank you, Fate-chan," she said, and Fate Testarossa-Takamachi, Nanoha's wife and First Officer, nodded in reply.

"A hundred and twenty," a blond Bajoran male wearing the uniform of an Academy Sciences Instructor muttered. "If I'm not mistaken, that's our biggest batch yet."

"Very much so," said a brown-haired human woman in an Engineering/Operations Instructor's Uniform. "And judging by the variety of division colors down there, they're ranging the whole gamut."

"More work for all of us, I guess," replied a black-haired Betazoid woman in a Medical Instructor's Uniform.

"Standard Training Regimes, Captain?" asked a Bajoran woman in another Engineering/Operations Instructor's Uniform, to which Nanoha nodded.

"Just another year for the Devil Instructor and her crew," remarked a blue-haired Bajoran woman in a Tactical Instructor's Uniform, before she was slapped upside the head by an orange-haired human woman who was also wearing a Tactical Instructor's Uniform.

"Sobaru, you know the Captain hates that moniker," the orangette scolded.

"It's practically legend, though, Tia," the bluenette whined. "We had to go through her Training Regime from the Deepest Pits of Hell during our Fourth Year..."

At this point, the last shuttle had disgorged its load and left, and Nanoha stepped to the edge of the walkway, as all the Cadets turned to look at her.

"Welcome to the Wolfram!!" she called out. "I am Captain Nanoha Takamachi, and I will be supervising your training for your fourth year."

The entire group of cadets started to look nervous, and various whispers of 'Devil Instructor' and 'Oh, crap' filtered up from the deck.

"For the next year, you will live, study, and work aboard this ship," she continued. "The training will be harsh--my Crew and I will push you to your very limits, and possibly even beyond in order to expand those limits as far as we can."

She paused for a moment. "Those who are unable to handle my training will be sent back to the Academy, repeating their fourth year under more traditional teaching methods, but automatically placed at the bottom of their classes. And those who do really badly will be dropped from the Academy altogether."

She then smiled. "But I believe you can cut it, though. I say this because you all share one thing in common--you all scored among the top five percentile during your third year, which is where I always ask the Academy to pick my students from. And if you do manage to make it all the way through to the end, you will graduate from the Academy with top honors without the need for a final exam."

As the group of cadets started smiling, she continued, "We will start every morning with physical exercise in the Holodecks before breakfast, and then after breakfast you will report to your Division's Senior Officer for the day's assignments, and individual hands-on training. However, you have these first couple of days off, in order to get a feel for the ship and learn where to go."

"For now, follow the Ensigns at the Doorway to the enlisted quarters, where you will be staying for the duration of our trip. Dismissed."

As the cadets filed out of the hangar into the halls of the ship, Nanoha turned and walked out as well, Fate right next to her as her other officers followed in groups. "You ready for this, Nanoha-chan?" Fate asked. "Like Lieutenant Scia said, this is our biggest group of cadets yet."

"Of course, Fate-chan," Nanoha said before giving her wife a kiss. "I have you supporting me, as well as the rest of the crew. This year will go just as well as our previous years."
Fate smiled, even as they walked back to their own quarters. They had a day or two before they set off from Earth again--might as well enjoy it.

(Disclaimer: If you recognize it, I don't own it)
Originally KiraYamato before the Account Linking - True Join Date August 2008

"In the game of war, there are no clear rules you can follow." - Andrew Waltfeld

Last edited by takeshi6; 09-29-2013 at 07:48 PM.
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