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Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 3,469
# 51
08-09-2013, 10:01 AM
LC 6 - Not THAT guy

"I'm telling you man, she was amazing!"

The Vulcan listener rolled his eyes as he looked out the viewport. "I have no doubt your tryst on Risa was ... enlightening."

"Oh, boy was it! The way she moved was unlike anything I have experienced. I fell in love, then got left at the alter."

"Please remind me, Randolph, what was her name again?"

The talker sighed. "I ... I don't remember." He rubbed his chin. "Cassandra? Kaitlin? Kathy? Maybe not. Baylyn ... or maybe Tala?"

The Vulcan turned to his friend with an eyebrow raised. "That's a wide range of options. I think it is best you let it go. The odds of meeting the same woman within your lifetime with only memories of her physical features and ... abilities ... is statistically against your favor. If I may be so bold."

Randolph was undaunted and he waged a finger. "I disagree, Tevos. Humans believe in serendipity and fate. Chance is best at the dabo tables, not love."

Tevos returned to looking out the window. The Excelsior-class ship was in view as the shuttle banked away from the transport vessel. "But wasn't it random chance to have met this woman in the first place?"

A finger was poked at the Vulcan's ear. "Nope. Fate brought us to Risa. We were meant to be together."

"Yet, you don't recall her name and she has not made contact with you since you left Risa two weeks ago, correct?"

"Pfft, she's probably looking for me as we speak." Randolph looked at the white cruiser out the viewport as the shuttle slowed its speed to approach the ship's aft hull. The shuttle bay doors began to open. "Who knows, maybe she's on this ship!"

"Again, possible, but highly improbable."

---

The shuttle's doors opened slowly, exposing the interior to the grand innards of Solaris's docking bay. To the side was an Aenar with Ensign pips on her mustard colored uniform. She raised a whistle box and blew the attention tune. Several officers stepped forward, the tallest being the Captain of the ship, Kathryn Beringer. Her long dark red hair pulled back into a thick bun with side strands resting against her jaw. Wearing her standard-issue uniform, the white-colored shoulders standing apart from the rest of the other officers. The new members of her crew started to exit the shuttle, twenty total of various races. They lined up at attention and Kathryn looked at the row before starting a close-up inspection when someone gasped nearby.

Kathryn turned to see her ship's counselor face go pale. Concerned she whispered loudly, "Christa, is something wrong?"

Christa Harrington shook her head slightly, her dirty blonde hair quivering. "Not that guy. Of all the ships in the galaxy."

Looking at the row of duty officers, one man's eyes were darting back and forth. He was of average height and build with black curly hair. His thick lips, high cheekbones, rounded edged nose and sunken eyes made him handsome by Kathryn's standards. She could see he muttered something and a Vulcan to his side quickly looked toward the ship's officer line.

She smirked. "Well, Christa, it seems like you'll be doing the talking later because I'm ready to listen." Kathryn could see from her peripheral vision that the counselor's shoulders slumped a little.
Kathryn S. Beringer - The Dawn Patrol

Solaris build - Veritatum Liquido Cernene

Last edited by cmdrscarlet; 08-09-2013 at 10:07 AM.
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,256
# 52 LC#4, "Passing Grades"
09-02-2013, 06:07 AM
Starfleet Academy, 2398/10/14, 0300 hours...

"...don't have the guts to do it." Zhiv Parette was saying, "little Gonzo here, she's trying to work off demerits." The andorian girl said with a knowing look.

"Guts to do what, exactly?" Melinda Gonzales asked. The three seniors sat on the floor of their dorm-room. Melinda, Zhiv Parette, and Lucy Qu'hon.

"You know you lost your guts when Kev-bo graduated." Zhiv said, "Just like when Aura Threll goes, you've turned into miss 'nice girl'."

Melinda sighed, "What's the game?" she asked, "You want to play, so what're we playing?"

"Truth or dare." Lucy said.

"Jesus, what's next, spin the bottle or something?" Melinda asked, "You're worse than my little sisters."

"You don't have any little sisters." Zhiv pointed out, "just three brothers in the New Zealand reform facility and-"

Melinda's fist crossed the space before her mind caught up or could stop it, knocking the Andorian girl back. "you will ****ing never talk about my family, puta." she spat, "Never."

Zhiv sat back up, and wiped her bloody lip, "Well, at least you don't hit like a girl."

"I have an idea." Lucy said, brushing her black hair back and standing, "um, guys?"

Melinda looked away from zhiv, and slowly untensed.

Lucy opened a panel behind the bed, and brought out several metallic components. "I've been working on something, since we're all restricted to post and can't get into the O-club." she said, "It's a little...science project."

Melinda stood up and walked over.

"see? the yeast's culturing pretty well..." Lucy told her.

"Is that what I think it is?" Zhiv asked, also coming over to look.

"Fermentation vat, yeah-I'm using that terrible rice they serve in the caf as a base, with a little bit of corn, and some yeast I picked up in downtown last pass." Lucy said.

"That is going to be naaaasssty." Zhiv stated.

"Well, it will be-until it's distilled." Lucy told them.

"It's an honorcode violation, Lucy." Melinda said.

"um...yeah...if we get caught." Lucy said.

"Lucy, that's great for you, and me, but miss prudish over here doesn't drink...do you?" Zhiv said, adding, "Truth time, or you can take a dare, you've never had a drink...not in your whole life, have you, Gonzales?"

"What's that got to do with anything?" Melinda asked self-consciously, "You've never broken into a system, Zhiv, and Lucy, you've never-"

"Answer the question, or take a dare." Zhiv pressed.

Lucy made a pouting face, "Boys like to buy girls drinks, Gonzo...so do girls..."

"So?" Melinda said.

"Omigod, you're a virgin too?" Lucy sat forward, "everyone thought-"

"Everyone was wrong." Melinda said impatiently, "Kevin was just a friend-my best friend-I would've if he asked me, but he never did...at least I'm not like some people spreading their legs for every Kirk wannabe on Campus."

"Okay, you dodged the question, so it's dare time..." Zhiv interrupted, "We dare YOU, Cadet Gonzales, for the Honour of the corps, to build Lucy's still, and drink at least a liter of what comes out of it when her brew's ready."

"a Liter?" Lucy said, "I'm not sure this batch is going to produce a Liter."

"Okay, then the first cup." Zhiv amended.

"What if I say 'no'?" Melinda said, "I can, you know."

"you do, and by this time tomorrow, everyone on campus will know all about your family." Zhiv said, "Details, even, like how your mom's a Neuro-head in a recovery centre, or your brothers serving a sentence for dealing sezz and stolen goods..."

Melinda's feet shifted to a fighting stance unconsciously and her hands clenched into fists.

"Yeah, don't try it, I'll break both of your arms." Zhiv said casually, "You sucker punched me once...once."

"Loosen UP!" Lucy stepped between them, "Seriously, you're supposed to be my friends, stop it!"

"Party next weekend." Melinda said, locking eyes on Zhiv. "Is your batch going to be ready by then?"

"Yeah!" Lucy stated.

"Fine. Zhiv, I'll make the still, and I'll drink the booze, you bring the boys." she said quietly, "Gonzo is not gone just because Kevin is....but..." she gently pushed Lucy aside, "You ever threaten me like that and We are no longer friends, and if I ever think you've talked about what I told you in confidence with anyone, anywhere, If you ever say another word about my family, I will ****ing destroy you. There won't be a hole you can hide in that I won't booby-trap, a bed you can safely sleep in, a house you can walk into or anywhere you can hide that I won't personally make sure to turn against you." she stared into the Andorian's eyes as she said it, "I swear on my grandmother's grave, before God, I will make you suffer if you EVER try that again."


Counseling office, Albequerque Social Services, 2394/07/17...

Counselor Raine regarded her with those dark, dark, betazed eyes, "You want to talk about your father?" she asked.

Melinda Gonzales, age 15, shook her head. "No."

"Listen, the judge says you have to attend, and I'm given a good living to be here once a week, but we've been at this for two years now, and-"

"No." Melinda said, "I don't want to talk about it. He's finally dead." she said.

"What about your brothers?" Raine asked.

"Their case is still on appeal." Melinda stated, "I don't CARE what City says, I never saw them break the law."

Raine sighed, "You don't want to talk about your father, but you are...why not just tell me?"

Melinda glared at her.

"Okay..okay, Now, I understand from your Guardian ad litem that you've managed to get an appointment to Starfleet Academy...are you excited?" Raine asked, glancing at the clock.

"It gets me out of here." Melinda said, "out of the Welfare island, away from...here...yeah, I'm excited, I can't wait to go."

"I know some people at the admissions office." Raine said, "if you would just open up a little, I might be able to get them to waive your last year of High School-you've already got the academic credits..."

"What can I say? Julio and Ramon at least TRIED to stop him. After Ramon got out of the sublet into his own place in Gallup, I had somewhere to run-and the district took that away from me." Melinda told the Counselor, her eyes were tearing up. "I'm GLAD he's DEAD, I wish I could've been the one that killed him!"

"Why would you wish that?" Raine asked.

"y-yyou kn-know gggodddam good and well why..." Melinda blubbered, "it-it-it's in th-th-th-the files why."

"but you need to face it, Melinda..." Raine said, "You need to face it, and you need to heal, or you'll never have a normal relationship with anyone, ever."

"maybe I don't need or want one of those." Melinda told her, "Did that ever occur to you?"


Starfleet Academy, October 21, 2399...

"...suppresses the emissions, and it runs on ordinary current-no more than a normal desk lamp." Gonzo had her long, black hair tied back in a ponytail as the machine hummed. "See?"

"wow, it's so...professional." Zhiv marvelled, "Tom, come here and see this!"

Tom Warburton was one of the Graduate Students taking an extra year for advanced courses, , but he was a big, muscular fellow on the honours list-and that meant he was exactly Zhiv's type.

Melinda thought, privately, that he was a blowhard and a bit on the dumb side. she scooted to the side, and he looked it over.

"wow, this is really good." he said, "you designed it?"

"I built it." Melinda said, "I had help designing it."

"I know guys in the grad programme who wouldn't put this much detail into their work." he said, "who helped?"

"She studied base principles and technology for most of the week." Lucy interjected, "her 'help' was a couple kiloquads of information on booze-making in a dozen cultures, plus Advanced fabrication Techniques for the field, Tech Manual 221321."

Lucy looked at the time, "****! I've got an appointment tonight! ****!"

"What, a date?" Melinda asked.

"No...part of the distraction-I'm getting help in Quantum Subspace Interactions-Nanoha's Tutoring me tonight...****." Lucy started pulling on her uniform and grabbing books.

"I'll save you some." Melinda said, "When it's done."

"You better!" Lucy dashed out of the dorm-room.

"I would've figured she'd be on a date with Fate." Zhiv said after Lucy left, "They're an item, you know, Nanoha and Fate..."

Melinda made some adjustments to the still's controls, "Don't know what Fate sees in her-maybe she likes the stick up her ass."

"That's Gross!" Zhiv scolded, "also mean."

"Just sayin." Melinda stated, "just about done...there we go...okay, unplug my lamp and plug the still in."

"If this doesn't work...I've got backup." Zhiv told her.

"You won't need it." Melinda stated confidently, "yes, my skillz are THAT Q."


Visitor's area, New Zealand Reform Centre, 2398/12/25...

Ramon sat across from her at the table, separate from her by a forcecage and a wall.

"You need to forget about me and Julio now-you're going to be a Starfleet Officer." Ramon said, "You can't have us draggin you down, little sister."

"What?" Miranda demanded.

"I've heard some rumours, you been getting into trouble." he said, "You gotta knock that **** off, you don't want to end up in a place like this as a guest, or in a rehab like momma, you gotta get your act straightened out." he said, "Stop getting into trouble, stop making trouble...you're smart, you can actually make somethin' out of yourself, but you gotta stop doin' **** to get Demerits."

"How do you know about that?" Melinda asked.

"I'm in prison, not at the bottom of the sea in isolation-they let me check up on you." Ramon said, "the Counselors say it's helping curb my...'criminality'." He leaned forward, "When Julio and I get released, I don't want you anywhere near us, I want you to go out there-up in the stars, and make us proud by doing good."

"What are you saying?" Melinda demanded.

"I'm saying we-me and Julio-we're guilty as charged, okay? Fencing stolen goods, selling Sezz and Neuro, forging records-we did all that stuff...we also did something for you."

"Dad." she whispered.

"Keep it quiet." he said, "or report it-doesn't matter, they can't charge you as an accessory now-because we're already scheduled for trial...and you better not be there either. Keep your grades up, get a good assignment, maybe you'll make the news and make us both proud of you."

"You're pleading guilty?" she asked.

"Better, my Lawyer says there's a good case for 'justifiable homicide', means we'll only be facing charges for vigilantism, that's only a fifteen year sentence in a minimum security...but you can't come here again. I mean, I appreciate you doin' it, and on Christmas, but..." he shook his head, "Jailbird in the family's bad for your future." he said, "so...don't come back here again."


Starfleet Academy, October 21, 2399, 2100 hours...

"It's ready-party time!" Melinda announced, and set a coffee cup under the toggle-spout.

"Hey, you gotta mix it with something..." Zhiv said, "you KNOW it's going to taste like ****..."

21:30

Zhiv and one of the boys were on the bed, necking. Melinda felt a little bit sick to her stomach as Warburton pawed drunkenly at her chest. "Get...off me...I'm gonna be sick..."

She struggled out from under him, and ran for the room's head, barely making it before her stomach pumped upward, filling it with something that was nearly as foul smelling, as it tasted.

She heard Zhiv invite him to join her and...whoever that other guy was. I need a walk... Melinda walked out of the room, down the hall, and out into the night.

The nausea was smaller outside. no, it's less because he's not touching you there... a little voice in her head told her.

she looked down, and realized she had one of Zhiv's 'backup plans' in her hand.

"yah...it's not the alcohol, it's...being pawed like that..." she told herself out-loud, then took a swig, it burned it's way down.

"Who needs a pass?" she muttered, and headed toward the gate. Ramon said to stop getting into trouble! her little voice-or maybe a different one, scolded. she heard footsteps behind her, and looked.

In the patchy illumination of the sidewalk, he was...he looked like...no, he's dead. Ramon killed him... Her heartbeat spiked and skipped as the light reflected on a face fifty feet behind her-a face that looked like her father's leer.

she ran.

not-real-not-real-not-real!!!

She reached the decorative west gate, and shook it, it was locked.

So she tried to climb.

her hands were numb, and so were her feet, she fell off.

but the footsteps were gone. I'm tired... she thought, I'll just take a little nap...so tired...

she blacked out.


Emergency Room, Starfleet Medical..

"...can you hear me..?" noise,a nd colours assaulted her, and something was blocking her nose...

Dean's office, October 30, 2399...

"I'm not doing it." Commandant Alice Jackson said, "No...this kid is salvageable."

"She was found on ground near the West Gate, they found a distillery in her room." Commander Parker, the Security chief for the site, pointed out.

"I know." Jackson said, "We had one in the dorms when I was a cadet-kids do stuff, her roomies already owned their part of it-she was experimenting with drinking-like YOU experimented with sex." the Commandant folded her hands, "I won't buy off on an expulsion-you've seen this girl's scores?"

"Yeah, and I have a disciplinary file on her as long as-" he started.

"NO." Alice told him, "You can take it up with the board of governors if you want-we pitch this kid out now, and she'll be back in the slums, working for the criminals-and frankly, Parker, THAT isn't in the best interests of the Federation, Starfleet, Earth, OR her."

"So...what do you want to do instead?" Parker demanded.

"One year on Academic Probation, one year set back, Mandatory counseling for substance abuse, and six months Campus service-give Orbison a pair of hands that actually can handle tools-so she repeats her senior year here, with a six month tour as a maintenance worker-that'll keep her so busy she can't get into trouble."

"She's undisciplined..." he insisted.

"Fix that-part of her probationary period is supervised, right? so Discipline her." the Commandant ordered.
"when you're out of Birds of Prey, you're out of ships."

I play KDF, because being a genocidal maniac works better with Klingons, than explaining it as a member of Starfleet.

Last edited by patrickngo; 09-02-2013 at 06:24 AM.
Captain
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 562
# 53 LC 41: A Call to Arms
09-03-2013, 07:00 PM
(This story takes place immediately after my entry for LC47:
http://sto-forum.perfectworld.com/sh...1&postcount=39)



"...repeat, I am Vrasskos, warrior and leader of the Gorn on Rumaka Station," the voice on the message growled. "Up until now, my kin and I have slaved and suffered for the Empire. We have been burned by plasma, maimed in accidents, emaciated by radiation and brutalized by our Klingon overseers, all for little reward or recompense. Scores of us have died creating the Empire's experimental warheads, but for the longest time, we have accepted our suffering as a necessary burden, for our people and for the Empire. Until now."

As he listened, Lynathru took a brief moment to glance at his bridge crew, to gauge their reactions. At the navigational panel, Sadra sat with her eyes fixed on the jagged, floating castle that was Rumaka Station hovering on the viewscreen, staring with no small amount of consternation at the disruptor cannons that bristled like cactus spines from the station's arms. To Lynathru's immediate right, Kovar was glowering, as usual, his stern visage locked on the station as though gauging how best to engage and defeat its defenses. Rresh, standing at the main operations console, looked uncomfortable, the hulking Gorn's reptile jaws creasing as he listened to the recording. Farra, the ship's tactical officer, was glaring down at her tactical readouts, her one good eye tensed with irritation. And Ressic...

...was looking right at him, his expression unreadable. Biting back a shudder, Lynathru looked away, not wanting to lock stares with those insidious red eyes again. He knew he might have been misjudging the Notqa's science officer, but simply being in the same room as Ressic made him feel uncomfortable, as though the Lethean were boring into his thoughts from a distance. He would probably never be happy on the Notqa, he decided, until he devised some way to get Ressic transferred elsewhere.

"We have risen," the message went on, and have torn off our chains. No more shall we slave and die while our rights and dignity are trampled upon. We have taken control of the station, along with the experimental weapons we have died in the dozens trying to make for your Empire. There are forty-seven Klingon slavemasters now chained up as our prisoners, at our limited mercy. Unless you wish for them all to die honourless deaths, you will listen to our demands."

Next to Lynathru, Kovar gave an angry grunt. At the edge of the bridge, Lynathru could have sworn he had heard a low growl emanating from Rresh's throat.

"We are tired. Tired and fed up, of suffering from radiation poisoning, of being scalded by plasma burns, of being fed tainted rations, and of being denied basic medical services and living conditions. We demand proper safety equipment, proper workers' rights, and the respect that is due to us for our labours. Refuse, and I shall personally vent every single Klingon on this station out into deep space."

There was a short, hissing intake of breath. "And afterwards...we shall make use of the weapons that we have suffered so long trying to build...and we shall mete out justice on the Empire that made slaves of us. The Klingon Empire has exactly eight hours to comply."

And with that, the transmission devolved into static. At his console, Ressic tapped in a few commands. "The message loops onwards after this, Captain," he said. "I have determined that it is roughly five hours old at this point."

Kovar spat a gobbet of phlegm across the bridge, narrowly missing Sadra's head. "Honourless serpents!" he growled. "We spared them during the Gorn wars, and made them an active part of the Empire. And this is how they repay us?"

Before Lynathru could respond to the old Klingon's invective, Rresh suddenly spoke up. "If they had been treated with proper respect, the Gorn workers on Rumaka might not have rebelled," the Gorn hissed.

Kovar turnd to face Rresh, his bearded face twisting into a disdainful frown. "Respect, engineer, is something that is earned, not freely given!"

Lynathru knew where this exchange was headed, and acted quickly, slamming his gauntleted fist down hard against the arm rest of his command chair with a loud, metallic clang. "Enough!" he snapped. He turned in such a way that he was glaring at Kovar and Rresh both. "When I desire your opinions on this situation, then I will ask for them. Until then, speak when you are spoken to!"

Rresh, thankfully, backed down in the face of his Captain's anger, a suitably chastened look crossing his reptilian features. Kovar, on the other hand, still looked proud and disdainful towards the Orion, though thankfully he said nothing in reply. Normally, Lynathru wouldn't have cared if Kovar and Rresh had come to blows-- indeed, he would have set up bets among the bridge crew over the victor. But Rresh, in addition to being a fine engineer and well-liked among the ship's Gorn, was one of Lynathru's few allies on the Notqa, and Kovar, for better or worse, was Lynathru's First Officer. At the moment, he really couldn't afford to lose either.

Turning back to the image of Rumaka Station, Lynathru grimaced. He had been hoping that this would have been yet another Orion revolt-- that way, he could have swooped in and crushed it mercilessly to save the day, and then no one in High Command would doubt his loyalty. But instead, it turned out that rioting workers were all Gorn...and aside from Rresh, few of Lynathru's experience with the reptiles had ever been pleasant.

This was, in more ways than one, a nightmarish situation for Lynathru. He couldn't withdraw from this situation without angering High Command even more-- Rumaka Station was one of the Empire's main production facilities for the dreaded har'pheng torpedoes, and backing off would mean leaving valuable armaments in the hands of rebellious Gorn-- rebellious Gorn who, to make matters worse, were making active terrorist threats. More importantly, to withdraw from a hostage crisis like this would be seen as an act of weakness, and would lose him the respect of his crew...which, in turn, would probably lead to him eventually getting murdered or abandoned on an away mission. Given the diverse nature of the Notqa's crew, however, Lynathru's other options weren't very attractive either. To launch an aggressive action against the mutineers would risk angering the ship's Gorn, many of whom probably sympathized with the workers as much as Rresh did. On the other hand, negotiating with the mutineers would probably earn him the anger of Kovar and the ship's other Klingons. No matter what Lynathru did, the end result would inevitably be a civil war on the ship...and his own head getting put on a spike.

He sank uncomfortably in the edge of his chair, inwardly cursing his horrible luck. "Rresh, are there any other ships in range?" he asked. Perhaps, he hoped, someone else could deal with these Gorn instead.

Rresh deftly ran his claws across the comm panel. "No, Commander," he quickly responded. "The closest ship is the I.K.S. G'roth under Colonel Yevchu, and it is roughly eight hours away at maximum warp."

Lynathru swore under his breath. Under ideal circumstances, the situation would have best been handled by a Gorn commander. The mutineers might have listened to one of the KDF's celebrated Gorn heroes, like General Ssharki, or Captain Gorvar, or even that scaly cretin S'tass. Instead, however, it was down to him, an Orion-- a race that neither the Klingons nor the Gorn had any love for.

He took a deep breath, as his painful memories of the KDF Academy came to the fore again. On an Orion ship, he would have had absolute control by virtue of blood ties, and could have been as much of a tyrant as he wanted. But here, on a Klingon ship, it was expected of him to consult his senior officers in the event of a crisis like this. He turned to his First Officer. "Kovar, your thoughts?"

Kovar straightened up. "We act, quickly and decisively, Commander," he replied. The white-bearded old Klingon turned and gestured to the screen. "A head on assault on Rumaka Station would be foolish, but we are still cloaked. We can take them by surprise and eliminate their weapons platforms in a single pass, before beaming down to take the fight to them. Either way, we must retake the station or destroy it. Honour demands that we must atleast try to free those hostages, but if we cannot, then the the station must be destroyed. The Empire's weapons research must not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands!"

Farra quickly spoke up from her tactical console. "We can easily get within their shield arc under cloak, Captain," she offered. "From there, it would be easy to take out their main batteries the moment we decloak."

Lynathru nodded to both of the Klingons, before turning to Rresh. "How about you, Rresh? You're the Gorn here, how should we deal with this issue?"

Rresh's tail twitched uncomfortably. "Well, Commander...even though it wouldn't be the Klingon way..." He shot a venomous glare at Kovar before continuing. "...we should perhaps beam down to the station and try to talk to Vrasskos and his people. If we can work out some sort of...I don't know, agreement with the workers...then I am certain that they'll be happy to get back to serving the Empire again."

Kovar gave a loud, derisive snort at this comment. Lynathru fixed him with a glare-- a glare which, distressingly enough, Kovar didn't seem cowed by. Thankfully, however, another argument between Kovar and Rresh was interrupted by the deep, velvety voice of Ressic.

"Commander, if I may, I have a suggestion," the Lethean said. "Rresh has made an interesting point. If we were to send an away team down to Rumaka Station, we could avert the crisis and potentially convince the Gorn to stand down." The Lethean took a brief, sideways glance at Kovar. "And if our attempts at...diplomacy...fail, then this away team will be in a prime position to eliminate Vrasskos and the other Gorn leaders personally while the Notqa deals with the station defences from space."

At Ressic's comment, Kovar leaned back a little in his chair, seeming a little more at ease. "As risky as it is," he grumbled, "I suppose there's merit in confronting these Gorn face to face." He turned to Lynathru. "Will you be leading the away team, Commander?"

At that moment, Lynathru was painfully aware of the fact that the eyes of his bridge crew were on him, watching expectantly. As much as he wanted to say no to Kovar, he knew he couldn't do so without looking weak. This meant that he was going to have to go down there, he knew, and confront hundreds of angry Gorn who would no rip him to shreds if he angered them in some way. He grimaced, and caught himsel at the last minute to make it look like an expression of grim resolve instead.

"Of course," he replied. "Isn't that the Commander's duty, after all?"


*****

For his landing party, Lynathru chose Kovar, Rresh, Sadra and Ressic to accompany him to Rumaka Station. Rresh was an obvious choice, as the presence of a Gorn officer in the landing party might make the negotiations go more smoothly. Sadra was also there to keep tempers from flying-- Lynathru had no idea if the potent pheromones of Orion females would work on Gorn or not, but it wouldn't hurt to find out. Ressic was chosen because, as nervous as the Lethean made Lynathru, his telepathic abilities might undoubtedly be useful in the negotiations. And Kovar was chosen because, as Lynathru's First Officer, protocols dictated that he be there as the commander's right hand. Furthermore, for any possible negotiations, an actual Klingon officer had to be present to represent the Empire. If worse came to worse, Lynathru supposed he could also throw Kovar at the Gorn to buy himself some time.

The landing party was rounded out by Janga, the Notqa's QoS Devwl', and five of his chosen Bekk for added protection. Janga, a hulking, rebreather-masked Nausicaan was about as violent as all of his species, but he was also obedient enough not to start any firefights against Lynathru's orders. Either way, having the Bekk on hand would be a nice insurance policy in case things went south.

At Lynathru's orders, the Notqa decloaked just below the guns of Rumaka Station, and the party beamed aboard the station's command centre before any shields could be raised. The eleven KDF warriors materialized right in the middle of a cluster of Gorn on the station's bridge, all of whom hissed in alarm and leapt from consoles the moment they saw the shimmer of the transporter. The Gorn all wore ragged trousers and belts, and their scaly hides sported numerous dark bruises, burn marks and unpleasant-looking discolourations. And quite a lot of them, at that moment, were reaching for disruptors.

"Hold your fire!" Lynathru yelled, raising his arms even as his own away team reached for their weapons. "We're not here to fight...although if want to you start one, I promise you'll regret it." His fingers hovered within quickdraw range of his holstered disruptor pistols. "We heard your message, and on behalf of the Klingon Empire, we're here to talk."

One of the Gorn-- a hulking brute who stood a head taller than his kin, wearing an a battered iron cuirass and work trousers-- shouldered his way forwards. His scales were dark, almost obsidian, and he fixed Lynathru with a pair of glaring yellow slit-eyes. Even if he hadn't been a head taller than his kin, this Gorn exuded a palpable aura of menace and barely-restrained violence that was quite intimidating. "Who are you?" he snarled, his voice sounding like claws raking against flesh.

Lynathru kept his nerves in the face of this reptilian monster. "I am Lynathru, Commander of I.K.S. Notqa, which you have undoubtedly just picked up on your sensors," Lynathru replied, noting the image of the rusted winged shape of his ship on the station's viewscreen. "Incidentally, you should know that my ship has orders to open fire if I don't contact them in the next ten minutes, so I'd keep your firearms out of this conversation if I were you." He folded his arms behind his back in a casual pose. "And you, I would imagine, are Vrasskos?"

The Gorn stared silently at Lynathru for a few seconds, as though weighing his options. Slowly, though, he let out an uncertain growl. "And you have come to talk, then? To plead for the lives of your precious Klingon overseers, green-skin?"

"The Klingon Empire does not plead, Gorn!" Kovar spat.

"bIjatlh 'e' yImev!" Lynathru snapped at Kovar, knowing, but not caring, that he was probably mangling the Klingon word. He turned back to Vrasskos, and gave him his most charming smile. "If I remember correctly, Vrasskos, you issued the Empire some terms: better conditions for yourself and your kin in exchange for the lives of the Klingon officers here on Rumaka. Isn't that right?"

Vrasskos bared his teeth. "Yes," he replied. "We refuse to toil for the Empire any longer until our demands are met! If they refuse, then we will deliver on our promises! All of them."

Rresh suddenly took a step forward. "If you do that, then the Empire will kill all of you!" he exclaimed. "And that goes double if you unleash any of those har'phengs against the Empire! Do you have any idea what sort of danger you've placed yourself and your kin in?"

The larger Gorn turned and looked down at Rresh, his reptile jaws baring in what Lynathru guessed was the Gorn equivalent of a sneer. ""Better that we die free," he said, "then live as slaves...even if it is as glorified slaves like you, hatchling!"

Rresh's own teeth bared in reply, but Lynathru quickly stepped between them. "Before...we discuss your terms, Vrasskos," he said, "might we see your prisoners in person?"

The hulking Gorn turned to stare down at Lynathru, the fanged reptilian sneer still present on his face. "Why, Captain Lynathru? Are you afraid we've eaten all of our hostages by now? Your ridged overseers are safe and sound, Orion. You have my word."

Lynathru met the Gorn's gaze, and slowly smiled up at him. "Either I see the Klingon officers," he said, "or I beam back to my ship and blow this station to atoms. It's really that simple."

The sneer disappeared, transforming quickly into a bared snarl. "You wouldn't dare," he hissed. "You would kill those officers in the process. And your Empire values its precious warheads too much for you to destroy them."

"Maybe," Lynathru replied smoothly, "but I know for a fact that High Command would rather see those warheads destroyed then let them fall into the claws of an enemy. And as for the officers, well...I'm sure I'd be applauded for sparing them further dishonour." His smile widened a little. "I'm seeing those forty-seven Klingons you have locked up, Vrasskos, and I'm speaking to them. This isn't up for negotiation."

A sibilant hiss escaped Vrasskos' jaws. Lynathru was reminded of the ferocity of a cornered animal-- for all his talk about dying free, Vrasskos clearly had no wish to die any time soon. He was an opportunist, Lynathru realized, not a fanatic: he had taken advantage of this rebellion to grab a position of leadership and power among the Gorn, and despite his incessant demands for concessions, it was obvious that he intended to either use or sell Rumaka Station's warheads for his own gain. Now, though, Vrasskos was running out of options, and his frustration was showing.

"Very well, Captain Lynathru," he finally hissed, "but be warned: my kin and I shall be wary of any tricks you may decide to pull."

"I wouldn't dream of it, Vrasskos," Lynathru replied suavely. "By all means, lead the way."


******

The forty-seven surviving Klingons, out of an original garrison of eighty, had been corralled into Rumaka Station's brig and left there, guarded only by a pair of bored-looking Gorn as they lingered behind forcefields. They were all in a pretty dismal state-- Lynathru saw torn armour and tattered uniforms, not to mention a myriads of cuts and bruises, both fresh and new, and a few obviously broken limbs here and there. It was obvious that none of them had eaten in days, and at least two of them looked seriously ill. But most significant of all, Lynathru saw their expressions-- their trademark defiance and anger was gone, replaced by tired looks of humiliation and defeat. In his year and a half of living in the Klingon Empire, Lynathru had never before seen Klingons look so broken before.

Well, that last part wasn't true. He had seen members of almost every single race look battered and subjugated in the slave fairs of Terjas Mor. But that had been before his name in the Syndicate had been blackened beyond repair.

As they approached the forcefield, however, many of the Klingons perked up. One of them, in particular, stood up to his full height, his bedraggled black beard dangling loosely from his chin as he stared at Lynathru with wild, suspicious eyes.

"An Orion?" he growled, seemingly to himself. The tattered remains of a ranking pin was visible on his upper arm. "High Command sent a green petaQ to rescue us?"

"I suggest you watch your tongue, fool," Kovar spat back, "or he may deign to leave you here."

Lynathru, however, simply smiled at the captive. "It's nice to know that my efforts are appreciated," he said. "I am Captain Lynathru, of the I.K.S. Notqa, and right now I'm someone you should treat with a little more respect if you want to get out of this mess alive." He glanced at the other Klingons. "I take it you're the former station commander?"

The Klingon straightened up and met Lynathru with a fierce, prideful gaze. "I am stillthe station commander!" he spat. "I am Kormagh, son of Rogh, and this is what's left of my crew." He glanced at Lynathru's party, and his expression intensified. "If you're here, why are the Gorn still about? Why haven't you tried to retake the station, Captain?"

Lynathru noticed Rresh give Kormagh a venemous look, and quickly replied before things could get ugly. "Because this station is useless to High Command without a work force," Lynathru replied flatly, crossing his arms. "If I went and murdered every single lizard on this station, har'pheng production would be set back weeks, if not months...and in case you've forgotten, Commander Kormagh, we're at war right now."

Kormagh let out a frustrated grunt. "You would spare the Gorn? They have rebelled against the Empire and taken my station!" He edged closer to Lynathru's face from behind the force field. "You ought to kill them all and be done with it!"

"It sounds to me like you were doing that well enough before," Rresh cut in.

Lynathru shot Rresh a warning glance, but the insult had already flown. Kormagh glared angrily in the Gorn's direction. "I won't sit here and be insulted, Captain Lynathru!" he snarled. "Do you intend to liberate this station or not?"

Turning back to Kormagh, Lynathru adopted an aloof expression and made a show of scratching his chin. It had only taken a few seconds for him to develop a low opinion of Kormagh-- the man seemed like a prideful fool and a craven, and Lynathru wanted to make it absolutely clear which of them was in control here.

"That depends," he replied nonchalantly. "Are Vrasskos' accusations true, Commander? Did have these Gorn work in hazardous conditions without protection or medical assistance?"

Kormagh seemed to calm down a little, and leaned back from the forcefield. "Why should I allocate valuable medical and technical resources to conscripted labour?" he sneered. "I have scientists and engineers on this station whose services are ten times more valuable than those of some mud-crawling reptiles! The Gorn should simply accept their lot and work efficiently instead of bawling like infants!"

It was just as Lynathru had suspected: Vrasskos' accusations were true. Lynathru was hardly surprised-- the Klingon Empire had lasted for centuries as just the Klingon Empire, and had only recently allowed non-Klingons into its ranks under Jm'pok's rule. The Klingons were, however, by their very nature, a traditionalist and conservative society, and it wasn't surprising that they continued to chafe at the idea of Gorn, Nausicaans and Orions having the same status and priveleges as them. That chafing usually led to active instances of discrimination, like the brutalization of the Gorn here on Rumaka Station. Given the attitudes of the Klingons, Lynathru was surprised the Orion revolt hadn't happened sooner.

Lynathru's train of thought, however, was interrupted by the interjection of a deep, rasping voice.

"You see?" Turning, Lynathru saw Vrasskos stride into the room, glaring triumphantly at him. A group of armed Gorn followed in his wake, and Lynathru tensed at the possibility of violence. "The head slavemaster admits it! My people have been denied their welfare, their dignity and their rights!" His fangs bared as he turned towards Kormagh and his assembled Klingons. "We refuse to endure such treatment any longer, Captain Lynathru, and we shall not rest until the Empire accedes to our demands!"

Kormagh turned beet-red at the sight of Vrasskos, and quivered visibly in rage. "Honourless serpent!" he snarled. "You murdered my warriors! I would see you in Gre'thor before I gave you any concessions!"

Vrasskos' jaws pulled back in a sneer. "Then to Gre'thor you shall go, slavemaster! I shall send you there myself, along with your your warriors!" Behind them, a few more Gorn had gathered, and they all raised their sibiliant voices in growls of approval.

The Gorn, however, were not the only ones forming a mob. Around Kormagh, the surviving Klingons got to their feet and crowded at the edge of the forcefield, hurling names and abuse back at their Gorn captors. In a few seconds, the scene devolved into utter bedlam: Klingons and Gorn yelled at one another from opposite sides of the forcefield, insults, mockeries and threats crisscrossing back and forth like weapons fire. And Lynathru and his crew were caught in the middle of it all.

He glanced at Kovar, who was looking increasingly bewildered and frustrated by the scene. Next to him, Janga was looking increasingly agitated, and Satra looked like she was on the verge of a panic attack. Only Ressic, damn his Lethean eyes, seemed calm in the middle of this storm. Lynathru, though, had been in enough bar-room brawls and marketplace melees to know where this was heading. It would only take a single spark, forcefield or no, for this scene to erupt into violence.

And then, like a glimmer of thunder in a storm, Lynathru had an idea.

Thinking quickly, Lynathru did something which he knew was very, very stupid. He pulled one of his disruptor pistols free and fired several loud shots into the ceiling.

The sound of the disruptor discharge caused everyone else in the room to jump. He was suddenly conscious of dozens of Gorn and Klingon eyes staring at him in confusion. But, thankfully, no one was reacting by shooting back at him. His luck had held out this time.

"Thank you," Lynathru grumbled as he holstered his pistol. Knowing he had a captive audience, he decided to use that to his advantage. "I think I may have a way of resolving this little dispute," he announced. "One that will be completely fair, that will resolve the matter in an honourable fashion, and will be recognized by Klingon law." He gave a subtle nod to Kovar as he spoke. He figured he might as well throw the Klingon a bone by bringing honour into the solution.

vrasskos responded by banging a large, scaly fist against the nearby bulkhead. "Enough of your prattling of honour, green-skin!" he snapped. "Give us what we want!"

In an instant, Rresh was at Lynathru's side. "You won't even hear him out?" he growled, staring down all of the assembled Gorn. "He's here to talk, to negotiate your terms instead of retaking this station by force! You owe it to him to at least hear what he has to say!"

Rresh's interjection was just what the situation needed. "Wait..." a voice said from further behind Vrasskos. One of the Gorn in the crowd edged up to be seen. "what does the Orion have in mind?" Vrasskos fixed his subordinate with a withering glare, but the arrow had flown. A number of other Gorn piped up in agreement, and soon all of them were shouting, demanding that Lynathru be allowed to speak. Vrasskos snarled at them, but the sound went unheeded, and the big Gorn looked more and more distressed as he lost control of his followers.

Holding back the urge to smile, Lynathru raised an arm, and slowly the Gorn went quiet. "It's simple," he said, remembering the basics of Klingon law that Khe'Rath had taught him. "Whenever two parties hold some grievance against one another, Klingon law permits them to settle the matter in single combat." He let the words sink in a little before continuing. "Each group will select a champion to represent them, and those two champions will take up bat'leths and settle the matter in a duel to the death. The winning party, by custom, will have their grievances and demands met. The law of the Klingon Empire will recognize the outcome of such a duel, no matter who wins, for a trial by combat is seen as a sacred thing among the Klingons."

He heard murmuring from the imprisoned Klingons, who by and large seemed to approve of the idea. "Vrasskos," he said, to the Gorn leader, "if the Klingons win this challenge, will you and your Gorn release the prisoners and return to your work, with or without your concessions?"

Vrasskos gave a seething hiss. "This is foolish!" he snarled. "I will not gamble our demands away on some idiotic challenge!"

With a long sigh, Lynathru gave a wistful shrug. "If you feel that a Gorn cannot defeat a Klingon in a fair fight, then..."

Just as Lynathru had hoped, this set the rest of the Gorn off into a series of hissed shouts. Many of the Gorn, Lynathru noticed, were directing these shouts at Vrasskos, urging him to accept the offer. With a low growl, the Gorn leader raised his arms in a vain attempt to silence his cohorts.

"Fine, FINE!" he snarled. "We agree to these terms!" The other Gorn, seemingly satisfied, began to quiet down.

Giving a satisfied nod, Lynathru turned to the Klingons. "And Kormagh...if the Gorn win this challenge, do you promise to grant them better health services and to improve their working conditions, and not carry out any reprisals for their uprising?"

Kormagh fumed silently, clearly outraged by the very idea of giving the Gorn concessions. Slowly, though, he nodded. "Yes," he said stiffly, "I promise it."

Lynathru smiled and clapped his gauntleted hands together. "Good." He turned so that he was able to face both the Klingons and the Gorn. "Choose your champions, then. We will settle this with blades!"


******

A few minutes later, the Klingons had been released, and were corralled at gunpoint into one of the station's main loading bays-- a wide, spacious room that made for a perfect arena. The Klingons and Gorn now formed a raucous circle, with insults and threats echoing all across the bay. Neither side attacked the other, however-- the Klingons, for all their anger, wanted to settle this honourably, and the Gorn, in turn, were eager to beat the Klingons at their own game. At the corners of the bay, Janga and his Bekk stood with weapons at ready in case things got ugly, while Lynathru and his crew stood near the centre of the circle to officiate the duel.

Unsurprisingly, the Gorn chose Vrasskos as their champion-- he was not only their leader and their voice, but he was also clearly the biggest and most ferocious among their number. Already, the Gorn strode into the middle of the circle, a confident grin on his reptilian features as he hefted up a bat'leth in one hand as though it were a child's toy. He glanced briefly in Lynathru's direction and sneered, though Lynathru responded with a nonchalant smile of his own.

Opposite Vrasskos stepped up the Klingons' champion, Worrak, son of Warg, one of the station's Bekk. A tall young man who, by Klingon standards, was quite handsome, Worrak was the strongest and most physically fit of the surviving Klingons and, according to Kormagh, the most skilled with a bat'leth. The Klingons cheered as Worrak stepped into the circle, rotating his own bat'leth from hand to hand with practiced ease as he glared silently at the hulking form of Vrasskos. There was real anger in that glare-- Worrak wasnt just fighting for the honour of the station's forty-seven Klingons, but for the memory of the thirty-three the Gorn had killed.

As was customary, the two combatants stepped within an arm's length of one another, waiting for the signal from Lynathru. Vrasskos seemed to grin down at Worrak as the two squared off, seemingly confident in his immense physical advantage, but Worrak, to his credit, seemed undaunted. Slowly, Lynathru stepped between them and did a quick, cursory check for hidden weapons or shields, before quickly stepping back.

"BEGIN!" Lynathru shouted with a chopping motion of his arm.

No sooner had Lynathru made this shout when Vrasskos made a lunging sweep with his bat'leth. Alarmed, Worrak barely managed to bring his own weapon up in time to block: there was a tremendous peal of metal on metal as Worrak was sent staggering back, only barely retaining his balance, while the spectators began cheering and howling as the fight began in earnest.

Pressing his advantage, Vrasskos swung again, but this time, Worrak was ready. Ducking the hissing sweep of the bat'leth, Worrak swing back, the barbed edges of his weapon raking across Vrasskos' forearm. Black scales parted like paper as the bladed edge cut down to the bone, and the Gorn was sent staggering back, staring in disbelief at the ichor dripping from his wounded forearm.

The opening was all that Worrak needed: with a battle-cry, he lunged, and unleashed a furious whirlwind of blows. Vrasskos suddenly found himself on the defensive as Worrak attacked relentlessly, never once giving the Gorn a chance to counter-attack or regain the initiative. Fat sparks flew as the bat'leths clashed again and again, but steadily, Vrasskos found himself being forced back by the smaller Klingon. He may have had size and strength, but Worrak had speed, skill, and above all, fury.

Then, moving with a speed that belied his size, Vrasskos suddenly spun, his heavy reptilian tail lashing out sideways. Worrak was caught by surprise, and was knocked flat on his back with a loud thump. Hissing malevolently, Vrasskos swung down, aiming to bisect Worrak, but the Klingon rolled away at the last possible second, the barbed edge of Vrasskos' blade impaling the floor where his head had been moments before. Rolling, Worrak spun up to his knees, and managed to bring his bat'leth up just in time to block Vrasskos' follow-up downward swing. There was another tremendous clang of metal on metal, though one of the barbed edges of Vrasskos' weapon still tore open Worrak's cheek, sending blood oozing down the side of his face.

Gritting his teeth, Worrak pushed back, and sprang back up to his feet before launching himself at Vrasskos again. Once again, the chamber echoed to the sound of clashing blades and the roars of spectators. Vrasskos, though, was holding his own this time: despite his slower speed and the fact that his mangled arm was hampering him, the Gorn was able to keep up with Worrak's furious blows, even as the Klingon slashed and spun in all directions. This fight was turning out to be far more entertaining than Lynathru had initially expected, and he felt a pang of regret at not having set up a betting pool on this fight.

Then, finally, it happened. Feinting left, Worrak tried to swing his bat'leth low for a bisecting strike that should have disembowelled the Gorn. With remarkable quickness, though, Vrasskos parried this, and with a single arm almost contemptously shoved back, almost unbalancing Worrak as the Klingon was forced back several steps. With a wide reptilian grin, Vrasskos countered with a downward stroke: Worrak barely managed to bring his own blade up horizontally to block the blow in time.

There was a tremendous, metallic crack, and Worrak's bat'leth flew apart in two seperate pieces. The sound was followed by the wet tearing noise as Vrasskos' bat'leth cleaved down through Worrak's shoulder, parting leather, flesh and bone alike with horrible ease as it carved its way down into Worrak's chest.

The assembled Klingons gave a collective gasp, and even Lynathru winced a little. Even with brak'hul, Worrak had cleary suffered a mortal wound. The young Klingon warrior could only stare directly ahead, his eyes and mouth wide as shock set in. Vrasskos, by contrast, gave a fanged grin, even as ichor bubbled at the corners of his mouth. With a great, rasping hiss, he released his blade and raised his arms with a rasping, saurian cry of victory.

It was to be Vrasskos' last mistake: even a mortally wounded Klingon was dangerous, and Worrak still had the shorn half of a bat'leth n one hand. With a rasping cry of his own, Worrak shot his arm forward, and with his remaining strength, drove his shorn blade right into Vrasskos' exposed throat.

Vrasskos' moment of victory turned into one of horrible surprise as his reptilian eyes widened. Staggering back, the Gorn clutched feebly at the broken blade embedded in his windpipe, gurgling all the while. Even as Worrak finally collapsed onto his back, his foe's bat'leth protruding grotesquly from his torso, Vrasskos staggered in all directiions across the circle in his death throes, surprised Gorn parting ways before him.

Finally, Vrasskos toppled forwards, his immense body keeling over with an immense crash. For a few uncertain seconds, the Gorn gathered warily around his body in seeming disbelief at his death...or, perhaps, in fear that he might get back up again.

A loud, metallic clang broke the reverie as Lynathru clapped his gauntleted hands together. "Both combatants have fallen!" he announced. "However, as per the standard rules of bat'leth duels, victory shall be given to the first combatant to strike a mortal blow against the other! Vrasskos was the first to strike that blow, and so I award him...and the Gorn of Rumaka Station...the victory!"

At this announcement, the chamber was flooded with hundreds of loud, cheering voices as the Gorn burst into celebration. Lynathru saw them jump, dance, and hug each other in their joy, whatever they had been feeling over Vrasskos' death momentarily forgotten. The Klingons, meanwhile, glowered at the cheering Gorn, or stared with sadness at the fallen body of Worrak, but none of them made a sound of objection. They were Klingons, after all, and even if they didn't like it, they couldn't contest that this was a fair ruling.

In the middle of it all, Lynathru took a quick glance at his own crew. Rresh seemed just as overjoyed as his Gorn brethren, though to his credit, he kept himself aloof and neutral as befitted a member of the KDF. Kovar, meanwhile, looked like he had just eaten something particularly foul. Upon seeing Lynathru, however, Kovar simply gave his captain a curt nod. As much as he didn't like the result, Kovar seemed satisfied that this whole affair had been solved the honourable way. The Klingon way.

As the cheers began to die down, Lynathru raised a hand to beckon silence. "As per the conditions agreed upon, the Klingon officers of this station shall be released and returned to their posts!" Lynathru declared. "All of the Gorn workers on this station, meanwhile, will return to their quarters. I will notify High Command of what has transpired here, and they will send a review board to ensure that proper medical and protective accomodations are put in place for the station's work force! When those accomodations are approved, warhead production will resume! Are we clear!"

Lynathru was met with a chorus of approving grunts from the Gorn, and, after a while, from the Klingons in return. As the Gorn began to release their prisoners, Lynathru saw Kormagh come storming towards him.

"Captain Lynathru, this is outrageous!" Kormagh spat. "You cannot possibly award the Gorn the victory!"

Lynathru raised an eyebrow at the irate Klingon. "I just did, Commander Kormagh," he replied. "Your boy Worrak fought well and died honourably, but Vrasskos won this fight, fair as fair."

Kormagh's face scrunched up in impotent anger. "Then you have just allowed these Gorn to shame the Empire, fool!" he exclaimed.

"No, I have put Rumaka Station back in business," Lynathru replied curtly. "The Gorn will honour their agreement and go back to producing har'pheng warheads for the war effort...provided that you give them the better working conditions and health care that you promised."

At this point, Kormagh's face was turning a deep shade of red. "I will not!" he fumed. "They are treasonous pe'taQ, every last one of them! You might have caved in to their demands, but I will not!"

Lynathru's expression darkened. "Commander Kormagh, you gave your word," he said, allowing a little more steel into his tone. Stepping forward, he grabbed the Klingon by the shoulders and leaned close to his ear before he could back away. "I may be green," he whispered, "but I know that the Empire's laws don't look favourably on oathbreakers. Which means that I would be well within my rights to have the head of my Bekk rip your arms off and strangle you with your own innards for breaking your word."

He backed away, and noted with satisfaction that Kormagh looked suitably chastened. "Now, let's try this again," he said. "The Gorn will continue to make har'phengs for the Empire...provided that you honour your word."

Ashen-faced, Kormagh gave a slow nod. He may have been a craven, but he wasn't a complete fool. "Yes," he said stiffly. "I will give the Gorn the accomodations they've been requesting."

Lynathru smiled widely. "Good!" he exclaimed, giving the Klingon a friendly pat on the shoulder. "I knew you were an honourable man." Turning away from Kormagh, Lynathru straightened up, adjusted his armour, and turned to face the assembled Gorn and Klingons-- many of whom seemed to be watching him to see what happened next.

"We are leaving now," he announced. "I am pleased to see that peace and order have been re-established here on Rumaka Station, but it is up to you to keep it that way! You are all citizens of the Empire, Klingons and Gorn alike, and the Empire is best served when you carry out your duties in harmony instead of resorting to petty squabbles! From now on, the Klingons and Gorn of this station will treat one another as equals! Because if you don't..." He unfolded his arms and glared at the station crew. "...if I hear of any further riots, or abuses or broken promises by either species...then I will come back and blow this station to atoms, along with everyone in it! Understood?"

Not a single voice spoke up in reply. The chastened silence of the station crew was enough of an answer in and of itself.

With a worldless nod, Lynathru turned away from the crowd. As he turned his back, he finally allowed himself a smug, satisfied smile. This had all worked out perfectly: he had managed to restore order on the station without any bloodshed, had reached an amicable solution that satisfied the occupants of the station and his crew, and he had done it all without having to get his hands dirty. The fact that he had humiliated a fool like Kromagh and ensured the death of a dangerous adversary like Vrasskos was the icing on the cake. But above all else, he had just given High Command a good reason not to exile or imprison him. His chances at the upcoming tribunal suddenly looked a lot better.

He keyed his communicator. "Away Team to Notqa, eleven to beam up. Energize."
Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,664

This is what I am
This is what I have become
Repeating yesterday
Drain me of my very essence
To form again what lasts...


This is what I am
This is what I have become
What is love without
(What is love?)
What is love without
(Sacrifice)
My tears hold no weight
If my commitment
Is only failure
Each day I
(I am)

Repeat the yesterday

Each day
I am born (I am born)
Again to be (again to be)
A child (a child)
In the eyes of love

Repeating yesterday
Repeating

Drain me of my
Very essence
To form (to form) again
To form (to form) again
(What lasts)

This is what I am
This is what I have become
What is love without
(What is love?)
What is love without


Tim Lambesis and Phil Sgrosso of As I Lay Dying - "Repeating Yesterday"




T O . F O R M . A G A I N . W H A T . L A S T S




Captain's log, I.K.S. Norgh'Iw, Col. Ssharki commanding - Stardate 85685.6 (09.09.2408, 0559 hours Qo'noS Standard Time)


We've entered the Ker'rat System under cloak on a reconnaissance mission for the upcoming offensive action, which will permanently remove both the Borg and the Federation from this system. Central Command wanted to send an expendable pair of birds-of-prey rather than risk my ship. I argued that the vital importance of the mission demanded superior intel, and a battle commander's perspective to collect it. In war, winning and losing all starts with the mind of the scout. That's why they call it "intelligence."

Being here though, brings back bitter memories of loss. The battle in which the Empire lost this system to the Borg is still fresh in my mind. Even worse was the battle for the Otha system - even though we turned back the Borg advance, the cost was very high, and personal. I lost a dear and trusted friend there, my security chief, Commander Lan.

Replacing him will be difficult. There is no obvious choice to make in terms of a successor. Commander K'mach, my assault squad leader, is next in the chain-of-command. But though his troops respect him, he lacks the tactfulness and discretion that the position demands. I know I can trust K'mach with my life, but probably not my secrets. Besides, I prefer to follow the Gorn practice of keeping my security forces and assault forces separate.

My two most trusted security lieutenants are Gokran and Sway. Gokran is the most senior, having served this ship for years before I took over as her commander. But he shows no talent for administration and is frequently drunk. Sway, on the other hand, in the last three years has shown a great deal of promise as both as a leader of men and as a warrior. He has the tongue of a diplomat and the mind of a spy. He is also well-liked and respected by the entire crew. But he is so young - still a child, really - he just turned twenty years old, which is the equivalent of a Klingon ten-year-old. And I do not wish to show my son any favoritism.

Besides, Sway was devastated by Lan's loss. Lan was more than a commander to my son - he was a friend and a mentor. After the way he was treated at the Academy, I was worried that Sway would never trust a Klingon man. But he grew past his fear and suspicion, and the two developed a mutual bond of respect and friendship. Actually, I suppose it's only right, in light of this, that Sway should take over Lan's position. At any rate, even though Gokran has filled his duties as deputy chief, I'm told the security troops already look to my son for leadership.

I shall inform them of my decision before the first watch. For now, I must focus on the mission.


"End recording." Ssharki tucked his old Starfleet PADD into the inner pocket of his greatcoat and left his cabin, and rode the turbolift up to the bridge. "Who keeps the record of battle?" he demanded.

Hunter Commander, the senior officer of the night watch, rose from the captain's chair. "Colonel, sir! We dropped out of warp and are making a patrol sweep of the outer system under cloak at full impulse. Long-range passive sensors detect numerous enemy contacts in orbit of Ker'rat IV. Also, it appears that the planet's moon has been over-mined for resources."

"On-screen," Ssharki ordered the Ferasan.

Hunter nodded to the tactical officer, who displayed the planet and what was left of its moon on the main viewer.

Ssharki groaned inwardly at the sight. He had often hunted kolar beasts on Ker'rat IV with General Dward and his brother, Councilman Woldan. The nocturnal creatures could only be hunted by moonlight. That would never again be possible, with half of the moon simply gone.

"Sir, I count over a dozen active Borg Cubes and Tactical Cubes," reported the night watch science officer, "along with many more Cubes inactive in various states of repair or disassembly, and about fifty Spheres and Probes." The young Nausicaan's voice was somewhat muffled by the filter mask he wore.

"They've turned the moon into a giant shipyard," Ssharki figured.

"Yeah, basically," the Nausicaan said with a shrug.

"Any sign of the Federation, Sker?"

The science officer nodded. "Two Starfleet transponder signals in the planet's orbit, sixty degrees up-spin from the moon. They look like they're taking passive scans, same as us, but they're not bothering to hide it."

Ssharki nodded. "The Borg would only attack if they perceive a threat. But if Starfleet is sending scouts, that means they intend to be a threat."

"Shall we engage them sir?" Hunter asked.

Ssharki stared at the Ferasan. "No. We are on a scouting mission. We are to avoid hostilities, with Starfleet in particular." He smiled at the second officer's disappointed expression. "Don't worry - there will be plenty of shooting to be done before we're through here. Finish your patrol sweep, then approach the shipyard. Find me one of those damaged cubes that's both fairly isolated and has its vinculum operational."

"Understood, sir."

"And remember, our orders are to avoid any hostile action. Especially now that Starfleet's here; we must not alert them to our intention to retake the system."

"Understood, sir," the Ferasan repeated.

Ssharki approached the command chair and tapped the comm panel built into its right armrest. "Maddox, K'mach, Abraham, Gokran and Sway - please join me in the wardroom for breakfast."


Otha II - twelve days earlier

Sway sprayed the advancing Borg with his disruptor pistols, and watched their adaptive shields shimmer green as they absorbed each hit.

"Fall back, Sway!" Lan ordered over the comm channel. "If you get assimilated, your father will kill me. Get your skinny little qIv back to the command post, on the double!"

"Sir, my position is the only thing defending your line of retreat!" Sway protested, as he holstered his pistols and primed his last grenade.

"You heard me, Lieutenant. Get out of there while you still can!"

Sway chucked the grenade, drew his mek'leth and looked up the hill to the Commander's fire team. The wave of drones would overrun them in seconds. "You're coming right behind me, right sir?"

"Sure, kid. Now GO!"

Sway chopped off a drone's arm and kicked the gray cyborg into the ones that followed. "You heard him," he announced. "Fall back, troops!"

The two Nausicaans with him drew their tegolar sabers and slashed a path through the drones. Sway sprinted on ahead, hacking at anything that got in his way, until he and the Nausicaans were clear.

He looked back at the hill. It was covered with black and gray and green bodies and topped with sporadic disruptor fire. He tapped at his communicator. "Norgh'Iw, can you get a lock on Commander Lan's fire team?"

"Neg-ive, -ir," was the choppy reply. "-org are thro-ng out t- -uch interfer-"

"Commander!" Sway shouted. "Lan! Get the hell outta there!"

The communicator crackled. "Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!" And then silence. The Borg slowly began turn around and descend from the hilltop.

Sway made a squeezing gesture in front of his eyes, and his spec-ops eyepieces zoomed in and enhanced his gaze. There was no body left on the hill. "Oh, QI'yaH," he whispered.

"Sway! What's going on over there?" his father called from the CP.

"It looks like Lan just got assimilated."

He heard a hissing sound over the comm unit - a sound he recognized as a Gorn expressing grief.


Ker'rat - present day

"And so, for those reasons, I am naming Lieutenant Sway my new chief of security," Ssharki concluded.

Gokran looked up briefly from his scrambled 'Owon eggs, mumbled "Very well," and resumed eating.

"Gokran, I'd like for you to keep your position as his deputy," Ssharki told him. "With your support, the rest of the security force should support him as well."

The Klingon swallowed and said "Aye, sir."

Ssharki looked to his son, who appeared to be stunned by the news. "I will accompany you to the armory this morning and announce the transition."

Sway just nodded.

"What about me, sir?" K'mach asked. "Do you want me to report to the Lieutenant?" He tried hard to remove any trace of sarcasm and incredulity from his voice, but failed.

"No," Ssharki informed the veteran assault commander. "Your chain-of-command now goes straight to Commander Maddox." He waved a hand toward his first officer. "If Sway requires any of your troops, or you need any of his, you will coordinate your efforts, but otherwise you are independent of the security chief."

K'mach nodded.

"Now that that's settled, let's get to the mission at hand. I want to know what the Borg are planning now that we've turned them back at Otha. I'm sending a team to board a damaged Cube and access its vinculum. Abraham, select two engineers for this mission. Discriminate based on their skills with Borg technology, not their combat utility."

"I have a pair of Gorn in mind who will satisfactorily fulfill both criteria," the chief engineer said. The Klingon-Human hybrid had been raised by his mother in Eastern Europe, on Earth, and spoke Federation-standard English with an unusual accent. That and his frequent use of large words often annoyed the mixed-race crew. And the fact that he was one of the "Dishonored" - the original group of Klingons assigned to serve under Ssharki because their name could not be tarnished further by serving under a Gorn commander. But his abilities to solve problems and to improve his ship's performance were more than enough to make up for these deficiencies, at least in Ssharki's eyes.

The Gorn Colonel turned to K'mach. "I want you to select a squad of between twelve and sixteen assault troops who will ensure that the engineers reach the vinculum and extract safely."

K'mach had served on this ship longer than any of her current crew, and was part of the away team that had originally captured Ssharki on Gila IV over twenty years ago. Ssharki had saved the Klingon's life several times since then, buying his unwavering loyalty. He was another among the handful of Klingons who had volunteered to remain with the crew when Ssharki took over as commander of the Norgh'Iw. "My men and I will be ready, sir."

Lastly, Ssharki looked back to his son. "Sway, assemble a phalanx of no fewer than three and no more than five of your men to escort the engineers."

"Okay, um..." Sway looked at the table as he recalled his crew list from memory. "Shralak, Atzik, Hrrki, Reader, and me makes five-"

"Not you," Ssharki said. "This mission is too dangerous for you."

Sway looked up at his father. "Sir, if I am to be their leader, there can't be any mission that's 'too dangerous' for me. I can't send them where I will not go myself."

Ssharki sighed as he reconsidered. He knew Sway was right. And that was another problem with making the boy his security chief. But it also showed again why he would be so perfect for the job... "Very well. Assemble the boarding party in the main shuttlebay after change-of-watch."


Otha II - twelve days earlier

Lan could imagine himself feeling the nanites crawling through his blood vessels and tissues, replicating, breaking down his body parts and repurposing them. They were in his heart, in his lungs, in his stomach, and in his brain.

WE ARE THE BORG they announced.

Pleased to meet you. I am Klingon.

SPECIES FIVE ZERO ZERO EIGHT. YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED.

I will not.

YOU WILL ADAPT TO SERVICE US.

I serve my Captain, I serve my House, and I serve the Empire.

YOUR BIOLOGICAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL DISTINCTIVENESS WILL BE ADDED TO OUR OWN.

"Distinctive"? I don't think you understand the meaning of that word.

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.


I will resist...


Norgh'Iw, main shuttle bay - present day

"Risac, did you modulate each of our weapons to a different frequency?" Sway asked the armory officer.

The big Orion nodded. "Yes, master. Each weapon has a different modulation, and once the Borg adapt, the remodulation devices will apply a random frequency-"

"Random isn't good enough," Sway interrupted. "We're carrying in twenty-six personal weapons and a dozen disruptor turrets - each will need to be modulated to a different frequency across a very narrow band of the EM spectrum. I want you and Nariash to manually pre-program three different frequencies into each weapon's remodulator and make sure there is at least a fifty-hertz variance between each one."

"Yes, master." The sixty-year-old Orion bowed to the twenty-year-old Gorn and set about his task.

Ssharki looked on with a combination of amusement and pride. "Lieutenant Sway," he called out. "When you have a minute."

"Yessir," Sway called back, before pointing to his disruptor pistols and addressing the armory officer again. "Remember, separate modulations for each of these." He approached his father. "Yessir?"

Ssharki brought him into an empty shuttle and knelt to his eye-level. "I really do not want you to go on this mission."

"Sir, with respect, we discussed this already."

"I know, and as a commanding officer, your words make sense." Ssharki inhaled deeply through his nostrils. "But as your father, I'm asking you to reconsider."

"Father, you always say your crew is your family," Sway reminded him. "That means it's my family too. I must look after my men, as I would look after my own family." He looked into Ssharki's eyes. "You taught me to love my family."

Ssharki nodded.

"And what is love without sacrifice?"

Ssharki hugged his son. "Just try not to sacrifice yourself today. Look after your men, but remember your father, and your par'Mach'kaI. Come back to me and Naja."

Sway returned the embrace. "I will."

* * *

The trio of cloaked Toron assault shuttles slowly approached the gaping wound in the side of the Cube.

"I thought the Borg were able to regenerate their ships' structure and repair any damage?" Sgt. Shralak remarked.

"Their regeneration rate is dependent on two factors," Lt. T'Rrak, the engineer explained. "The first is the available energy and/or matter. The second is the will of the Collective."

"It would seem the Collective is ignoring this particular Cube," Reader Lieutenant noted.

Shralak grunted as their shuttle entered the superstructure. "Lucky us."

"Just because it's not their priority doesn't mean they won't defend it," Sway reminded them.

"E-Team, this is A-Team One," K'mach called from one of the shuttles ahead of them. "It looks like we have a clear path almost to the central core. Pretty quiet so far."

"Acknowledged, Commander," Sway radioed back.

"I don't like it," Reader muttered.

"You don't like anything," Hrrki growled.

Reader bared his fangs to the lowland Ferasan.

"Silence!" Sway snapped. "Reader's right. It's too quiet."

The shuttles touched down on an exposed deck deep within the Cube. "Positive atmosphere readings," T'Rrak announced. "Breathable. But their environmental controls must be off. The pressure is reduced, and it's not as humid as usual for a Borg ship."

"Fine by me," Shralak muttered as he picked up his minigun. "I wasn't looking forward to lugging this through ninety-two-percent humidity."

"Right - Shralak, Reader, take point," Sway ordered. "Hrrki, Atzik, bring up the rear. T'Rrak, Rraathsh, stay close to me. Let's go."

Reader opened the hatch and they filed out. K'mach's assault team had already secured the LZ. "Which way do we go?" the Klingon asked.

T'Rrak pointed to a distribution node in the ceiling. "That conduit should lead us to the central core."

They advanced deeper into the Cube, until K'mach called a halt. "There's Borg in the next room," he reported, "regenerating. If we ignore them, they should ignore us, right?"

"That's the idea," T'Rrak answered, "but they'll wake up when they figure out what we're doing here."

"Maybe we should rig up some explosives to a motion trigger," Sway suggested.

"Good idea," K'mach agreed. He turned to an Orion female. "Deiniz, get on it."

The rest of the teams kept going, and reached the vinculum, which was protected by a force field. The Gorn engineers set to work while the security and assault teams spread out to watch for the enemy.

"Reader, are you sensing anything?" Sway whispered after several tense minutes.

"Nothing," the old Ferasan telepath replied. "All I hear is silence. There must be tens of thousands of Borg on this ship, but I can't hear them. It's eerie."

"You'll hear something in a minute," T'Rrak announced. "Okay, this is what I think is gonna happen. If we did our wiring right, we should bring down this force field and simultaneously project a dampening field which will extend out to where we left the shuttles. That should prevent the Collective from knowing that we're tampering with their vinculum here, and from finding us while we make our escape."

"What about the Borg you catch inside your dampening field?" K'mach wondered. "Like the ones we left in that room back there?"

"Well, that's where it gets tricky. You see, the way the Borg hive mind works is the central plexus, on the other side of the core, communicates with other Borg ships and transwarp conduits all the way back to the nearest unimatrix. But what the vinculum here does, is it links all the nearby drones. So it will still act as a central processing unit for all of the drones it can connect to. And it will probably wake them up to come to its defense."

"But I already took care of them," Deiniz said.

"Just the ones between here and the shuttle," T'Rrak explained. "But this dampening field will affect every drone within that radius. We could have a few thousand drones coming our way pretty soon."

"What about the drones outside the field?" Sway asked. "Won't they figure out something's amiss?"

"For a second or two, until their cortical implants interlink with another nearby ship. The Collective should just assume that some sort of feedback surge in the transneural matrix deactivated this particular vinculum. Especially after I set it up to do just that."

"So they won't realize that we were ever here," Sway confirmed.

"Correct. And once I knock this thing out, all the drones still linked to it should be disabled as well. Should."

"I've deployed troops and turrets to cover all the access points," K'mach announced. "We're as ready as we'll ever be."

Sway nodded. "Do it, T'Rrak."

* * *

He opened his eye. I will resist. He looked down at his body, covered in tubes and circuits and mechanical enhancements. His ocular implant identified each unfamiliar component and its function and current operative state. No. I will resist.

He could hear them calling him. There were intruders at the vinculum. They must either be assimilated, or eradicated.

No.

He left his alcove and started walking, against his will.

NO. He stopped. I WILL resist.

* * *

"They've adapted to me!" Shralak called out. "Cover me while I remodulate!"

"Again Sarge?" Sway leaned around the hatchway and shot the Borg that were marching toward them.

"Look, this thing fires about a thousand disruptor bolts a minute. It shoots a lot quicker, so they adapt a lot quicker."

Sway fired again and watched the drone's shield flash green and hold. "Ready now?"

"Yup." Shralak stepped forward into the breach and sprayed the Borg with green bolts of destruction. For a few seconds. And then "****! Remodulating..."

Across the room, K'mach was having similar troubles with his autorifle. "Ghuy'cha" he muttered as he remodulated his weapon yet again. "Note to self - weapons with a high rate of fire are not terribly effective for long term engagements with the Borg."

Hrrki vaporized a group of drones with his pulsewave weapon. "This seems to be terribly effective," the Ferasan quipped.

"Alright, we've got the download interface stable!" T'Rrak called. "Transferring to the remote array, then we can fall back to the shuttles."

"You shouldn't've said that," Reader groaned. "Now they're looking for the shuttles."

"Oh."

"Better hurry!" K'mach shouted. The Borg had closed to hand-to-hand range with him. He slammed one with the butt of his useless rifle and drew his bat'leth. "Sway! Get them out of here!"

Sway and Shralak lobbed a pair of photon grenades down the corridor, clearing it. "T'Rrak, can we go now?"

"Wait one- got it!"

"Arright! Move it!"

Hrrki was driven back from his post by weapons fire. "They're bringing up tactical drones!" he warned. He was hit in the arm by a plasma bolt, and he fell to the deck, screaming in agony.

"Atzik! Help him!" Sway ordered. "Everyone else, fall back!"

K'mach eviscerated the nearest drone and scrambled to the corridor, scooping up Hrrki's pulsewave on the way and blasting the first tactical drone that followed him. "You heard him!" he shouted to his troops. "Move it!"

They came to the room that had been full of hibernating Borg and found it... gone. No room. No walls, no ceiling, no floor - just a hole in the middle of the deck.

Sway looked at the Orion explosives expert. "Deiniz, did it not occur to you that we would need to come back this way?"

"I never worry about the little things," she said.

"If we take that side junction back there it should lead us to a parallel corridor about thirty meters in," T'Rrak said, pointing.

K'mach was at the back of the line. He led the way back up the corridor. "I thought the vinculum was supposed to be disabled by now?"

The engineer checked his remote display. "The feedback loop is still building its recursion cycle. Give it a minute."

"Here they come!" Reader announced, firing at the Borg who were pouring down the corridor after them.

"We don't have a minute!" Sway said.

"I'll buy us a minute..." K'mach overloaded the pulsewave's power cell and stepped forward.

"Commander, wait!" Sway protested.

"It's okay, kid," K'mach assured him. "Tell your father my debts are settled."

Sway nodded in understanding. "Die well, Commander."

"That's the plan. Qapla'!" And with that, he charged the Borg, screaming out a warcry. The exploding power cell cleared the corridor, giving the rest of the team a way out.


Norgh'Iw

Ssharki stared at the massive geometric form, trying very hard not to think about his son.

"Sir!" LCdr. Dou'gal called out from the science station.

Ssharki whipped his massive head around. "nuqneH?" he demanded.

The smaller Gorn swallowed hard. "Sir, we... we lost somebody. I think. I'm missing a comm transponder signal."

"Who's?"

"I'm not sure, sir. Too much interference from the dampening field. But it had officer codes... it's either K'mach, T'Rrak, or... Sway."

Ssharki's jaw clenched. He inhaled deeply through his nostrils and let the air escape through his teeth as he resumed glaring at the Cube.


Cube

"Turn right here," T'Rrak said, guiding the team. "And then-"

Shralak stepped right into a Borg drone, who slammed the surprised Gorn into a bulkhead and raised its arm to use its assimilation tubes.

Sway instinctively attacked the drone with a flying dropkick. He rolled into a crouch, drew his mek'leth and buried it in the Borg's skull in one fluid motion.

"Behind you!" Shralak warned.

Sway jumped to his feet and caught the drone with a reverse elbow. It staggered back, and Sway slashed his sword across its throat.

Another drone wrapped an arm around his neck and seized his right wrist, and held him for a fourth drone. This one extended its arm, exposing the assimilation tubules in its wrist. Sway's eyes widened in fear. "NOO!!"

The Borg suddenly stopped advancing and went limp. The one who was holding him released his grip.

Sway pushed them away and rejoined his troops.

"Sway, if your father saw that, he would be very upset," Sgt. Shralak announced.

"Don't tell him," Sway pleaded. He looked back at T'Rrak. "Feedback pulse?"

"Yeah, finally." The engineer heaved a sigh of relief.

"I still hear something," Reader said. He closed his eyes and concentrated. "Just one... one lone drone..." His eyes popped open and he looked at Sway. "It's Lan!"

"Lan? How could he- are you sure?"

Reader bobbed his head excitedly. "I know his voice. His thoughts... he's damaged, but it's him, no question."

"Where?"

"I don't know."

"We have to find him," Sway declared.

"Sir, we have a mission to complete," T'Rrak reminded him. "We have to get the intel we downloaded back to the Norgh'Iw. We're not here to mount a rescue."

"We are now," Sway decided. "Shralak, Atzik, get the engineers and Hrrki back to the shuttles. Assault team, form an outer perimeter around the LZ in case that dampening field goes out. Reader, you're with me."

* * *

He couldn't hear them anymore. I have resisted. But he was still one of them. Still on their ship. He started walking, not sure where he was going. Not sure where he should be. Who he should be. Who he was...

* * *

"I wish I'd brought Fang along," Sway remarked.

"I'm not sure he'd be much help," Reader said with a sniff. "I can't smell anything but death."

"Me neither, but that dog could track a man through a blizzard-"

"Wait, quiet!" Reader held him and paused. "Did you hear that?"

"No. But my ears aren't as good as yours."

Reader stood erect, his ears pivoting on the top of his head. "Footsteps... two decks up... this way!"

* * *

He tripped and stumbled over one of them. The ocular implant must be malfunctioning... no, self-diagnostic shows normal function. I saw it. I just didn't care.

He stared at the fallen drone. It was a female - species 56... 18? I don't remember. Human? Why would I... He heard something - somebody - coming toward him. Intruders. He stepped toward them. He saw them. He heard them talking at him, but he couldn't comprehend their words. It was just noise outside of his head, not clear direction like THEY had given him.

What were their last instructions? Yes, I remember. Intruders. Eradicate. Assimilate. He raised his arm and approached the reptile, species 3751. They shouted at him. The feline raised a weapon. He knocked it away. Then the reptile raised its sidearm and shot him. He paused a moment, as the nanites adapted to the neurological shock, and then took another step. The reptile fired again, and this time everything went black.

* * *

Sway panted, letting the adrenaline drain from his system. "That was Lan, wasn't it?"

"It was him, yes," Reader replied. "But I don't know who that is now."

Sway holstered his pistol and checked his former commander. "I think he's stunned. Help me carry him."

"Sway, if he wakes up before we can get him into a force field-"

"I can't leave him here, Reader. You said you heard him in there. If he's in there, we need to get him out."


Norgh'Iw, Bridge - ten minutes later

"Sir, I'm picking up the shuttles," Dou'gal reported. "They're on their way back."

Cmdr. Maddox looked over from the ops station. "Do you want to hail them, sir?"

Yes! Ssharki thought. But he said "No. Maintain radio silence. I will see them in the shuttlebay. You have the bridge, Maddox."

"Yessir."

Ssharki took the turbolift down. It stopped at deck four, and Naja stepped in. "Colonel," she said, with a salute.

He nodded, but didn't say anything. His mouth suddenly felt very dry.

The lead shuttles had just docked when he and Naja reached the shuttlebay. He ignored the assault troops piling out and watched the third shuttle slip through the force field and land. He approached the hatch as hit open and heaved a relieved sigh when he saw his son step out.

Sway grinned and struck his chest with his fist. "Mission accomplished."

Ssharki returned the salute. "Qapla'!" he said hoarsely.

Naja saluted as well. "I am pleased to see you back, Lieutenant."

Sway walked right up to her, grabbed her head and licked her ridges. She sighed contentedly and embraced him.

Ssharki cleared his throat and swallowed and asked "Who did you lose?"

"K'mach sacrificed himself to clear our escape route," Sway said solemnly. "But we found someone else." He looked back to the shuttle as Reader Lieutenant and Sergeant Shralak exited, carrying a Borg drone with a familiar face. Or at least the half of the face that wasn't covered in cybernetic implants was familiar to Ssharki.

"Lan."


Medical Bay - eight hours later

LCdr. Dr. Tr'vayn emerged from the operating theater and sighed wearily as she walked to her office. "Arele," she called to a young Cardassian medic, "be a dear and fix me up a cup of red leaf tea." She sat down at her desk and stared at nothing for a while before reaching for the comm panel. "Colonel Ssharki, Lieutenant Sway, I'd like to see you in my office, please."

"We're on our way, doctor."

Arele Mang brought the gray-haired Klingon woman her tea.

"Thank you, Arele. How is Hrrki?"

"He'll be fine, but he won't stop licking his burn."

"Let him be. Ferasan saliva contains potent healing enzymes."

"And a lot of bacteria," Mang countered.

"Nothing his immune system hasn't already adapted to."

"If you say so, ma'am."

The doors opened, and Ssharki entered, followed by Sway and Naja, with Reader trailing, keeping a respectful distance from the Colonel.

"That will be all, medic," Tr'vayn announced as she rose from her chair.

"Yes ma'am." The Cardassian hurried out before the huge Gorn stepped into the office.

"How is he, doctor?" Ssharki asked.

"Lan is... damaged. Physically, he will recover. The nanites still integrated to his system will see to that. I've removed every cybernetic implant except for those tied into his brain - like the eyepiece - and I've deactivated those not needed for him to function, including the neural transceiver. He is permanently disconnected from the Borg."

"I'm sensing a 'but,'" Sway said.

Tr'vayn took a deep breath and nodded. "The Borg have irreversibly damaged several key portions of his brain. For starters, they completely removed his amygdala, which from the Starfleet personnel recovery records I've seen, appears to be a common procedure for the Borg to perform on its victims. The amygdala regulates emotional response, and is involved with the formation of memories associated with emotional events. Without it, his social behavior patterns will be... abnormal."

"But he can learn and function adequately, right?" Naja clarified. "The amygdala is not strictly necessary for long term memory creation."

"True. But he won't remember any new emotional impression. He won't make new friends. He won't be able to fall in love. And his emotional responses will be unpredictable, especially with strong emotions, like love, fear and anger."

"We'll just have to be careful not to set him off," Sway figured.

"There's more," Tr'vayn went on. "His inferior frontal gyrus was mutilated. That's the part of the brain that handles the formation of speech. He will likely be unable to talk."

"But... I heard his thoughts!" Reader spoke up. "Oh, I see. He can still generate coherent thoughts, but can't express them verbally."

Tr'vayn gave the Ferasan telepath an annoyed glance. "As I was going to say, he could communicate with Reader here or another telepath."

Ssharki nodded. His intolerance of telepaths was well known, and that would be a barrier to Lan returning to duty. "Anything else?"

"I'm afrait it gets worse. Parts of his hippocampus were damaged, specifically the parts containing his personal memories. They were very selectively erased. I believe the Borg were attempting to purge his self-identity, and I'm afraid they might have been successful."

Ssharki and Sway looked at each and shared a frown. "When will we know?"

"As soon as he wakes up."


Six hours later

He awoke to silence. He activated his ocular implant and opened his eye, and identified the being looking down at him as species 37... Gorn? Male. Juvenile. Soldier caste. Somehow familiar...

"Hello, Lan," the Gorn said. "It's me, Sway. Do you remember?"

No.

"He recognizes you, but he doesn't remember you," said a voice, also vaguely familiar.

He searched for it, and spotted a... Ferasan, that's what they were called. Who are you?

I am Reader Lieutenant the Ferasan answered without speaking. You used to call me "Spitz."

Reader... mind-reader?

That's right.

He sat up. What am I? WHO am I?

"Your name is Lan, son of Krad," Reader answered aloud. "You are Klingon."

No. I am... Nine.

"Nine? Was that your Borg designation?"

He blinked, and tried to think. It was so difficult to remember.

"Nine of what?" the young Gorn, Sway asked.

Nine. That's all I remember.

"Nine of Nine?" Reader repeated.

Maybe... why can't I talk like you can?

"The Borg damaged your brain. That's why you can't speak with your mouth, and why you can't remember things."

"Is he that bad off?" a female voice asked. A Klingon woman was standing near his feet, behind the young Gorn. A younger Klingon female and an older Gorn male were standing a short distance behind her. The older Gorn looked like someone he should know and trust.

"He doesn't seem to remember anything about who he is," Reader told the woman. "He has a vague memory of us... some of us... Sway, Ssharki, me."

"Lan... Nine," Sway spoke. "Do you know where you are?"

He looked around the room. Some sort of medical facility.

"That's right," Reader said, "but do you know what ship?"

Ship? No. This looks like a Klingon ship... but the big Gorn... Ssharki? His sash identifies him as Captain... no, Colonel- that can't be right. The Klingons don't- wait. House Woldan. Dward. Ssharki. Of course! Norgh'Iw. This is the I.K.S. Norgh'Iw.

"Very good!" Reader looked to Ssharki. "He just remembered how to identify Klingon technology, Klingon ranks, and House symbols. Then he remembered Councilman Woldan, General Dward, you, and this ship, in that order."

Ssharki nodded. "But still no memory of who he is?"

Nine shook his head.

"You are chief security officer on this ship," Sway told him. "Reader and I are two of your lieutenants."

Nine looked to Reader. Tell them I'm sorry, but I don't remember any of this. I don't remember anything before waking up a few minutes ago.

"That's okay. Maybe you will, in time."

What will I do in the meantime?

"He wants to know what he's supposed to do now," Reader announced.

"You have quarters on this ship," Ssharki told him. "Once Tr'vayn releases you, you'll be taken there. And then... I don't know. You are the last of your family's line. You have no relatives, as far as I know. And I can't return you to duty like this." He sighed. "I'm not sure what to do with you."

Nine frowned. I understand.

"Don't worry, Lan," Sway said, reaching for his hand. "We'll figure something out. Everything will be okay."

Nine looked at the smiling young Gorn, and he believed him.


The next day

Their mission complete, the Norgh'Iw was en route to rendezvous with the rest of the 7th Battle Fleet, to prepare for the assault on Ker'rat.

Nine was to taken to Lan's quarters by the friendly and eager young Sway and the compassionate but sad old Reader.

"If you need anything, well, I'll hear you," Reader told him before he left.

"Abraham and T'Rrak installed a regenerator above your bed," Sway pointed out. "If you'd rather sleep standing up - like, uh, like a Borg - let Reader know and they'll take care of it."

Nine put his hand on the young Gorn's head and gave him a grateful smile.

"You're welcome. I need to get back to work now. I'll see you later, Lan."

Nine watched his old (new?) friend leave, and looked around Lan's (his?) cabin. Everything looked familiar, and yet he was sure that none of it belonged to him. There was a mirror above the head. He stared at his face. It was the face of a stranger.

Lan, son of Krad, was killed by the Borg two weeks ago, he thought. I am Nine of Nine. This is what I am. This is what I have become...


* * * * *

...
"Everybody Chill Out!"

"I'mma cold-blooded killer... Ha ha! get it?"

The Masterverse Timeline / Ten Forward Fanfics

Last edited by sander233; 09-07-2013 at 02:00 AM. Reason: typos
Starfleet Veteran
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 570
Challenge #21, "Saying Hello"

The Gift


(Note: This takes place about a couple of weeks after the final battle of 'The Chase')


RRW Decius, Scorpion-Class Attack Fighter, System D-15...

Veleen Takor sat at the controls of her Scorpion-Class Attack fighter (something she'd gained at the same time as the Seruk, and found to be much more enjoyable to fly than a Kestrel due to how much more responsive it was than a Kestrel), guiding it through the system that Erde had directed her to, a small convoy of Kestrels trailing behind her, carrying her Senior Officers and fifty of her most trusted crew.

As she flew, she thought about the fight against the Orion Cultists and Starfleet Defectors around that gate... and what had happened when the gate had been destroyed.

As they'd been pulling away from the gate to bug out, Fek'Ihri had shown up, hitting the Seruk with a Subnucleonic Beam and damaging its shields and engines, forcing the Smedley Butler to serve as their shields and support. When the gate had detonated, the shockwave had flung both ships away, the Butler taking the brunt of the wave and sparing the Seruk from destruction.

The Valdore-Class Warbird had still suffered extensive damage, though... The Port Nacelle had been sheared off, both wings were riddled with holes, the superstructure was almost folded in on itself... it was only by pure luck that the Singularity Core hadn't failed - if it had, it would have destroyed what was left of the ship.

As it was, they'd had to be towed back to New Romulus, her Science Officer managing to get the Seruk's Tractor Beam going and using it to tether them to the Escalvantine, allowing the Armitage-Class Vessel to tow them into dock. The Seruk was slated for extensive and intensive repairs and retrofits, but that would take several months. The crew hadn't been much better, with over three-fifths of the ship's 900 crew members being killed, the rest all receiving varying degrees of injury. Veleen herself had a broken arm and broken leg, and while they had been repaired rather quickly with Federation Medicine, Veleen had still had to wear a sling and cast for about a week, just to make sure nothing happened to break them again while the mending process finished naturally.

After that week had passed, she had received a message from Tieria Erde, requesting her presence in this system with her Senior Officers and fifty of her most trusted crew. She'd complied, wanting to see what was up, and so here she was, leading a convoy of about 10 Runabouts through this minor system, which wasn't on any regular star charts.

The convoy flew around a small planetoid, Class-D by the look of it, and saw... a shipyard. It was small, but definitely there. And in that Shipyard was a Vigilant-Class Tactical Escort, painted a dark gray, almost black.

She received a hail from the Shipyard, and quickly answered it. "Incoming Romulan fighter and shuttles, this is D-15 Control," came a voice. "You are in a restricted area. If you do not state your intentions or turn back, you will be fired upon."

Veleen hit her comm unit to respond. "This is Commander Veleen Takor of the Romulan Republic," she replied. "We received instructions from a contact of mine to come to this area."

A brief pause. "Please recite the Authorization Code given by your contact, Commander," the voice replied.

"Vega-Iota-Rho-Tau-Upsilon-Epsilon," Veleen recited. There was another brief pause.

"Clearance granted, Commander," the voice informed. "Erde mentioned you would be coming. The shuttles carrying your crew are to land in the facility hangar, while your fighter can land in the hangar of the Warspite."

Veleen nodded, assuming the Vigilant-Class was the ship named Warspite. "Understood," she said. "Did Mister Erde have any messages for me?"

"He did, Text-only," came the reply. "We'll send it over now."

"Thank you, control," Veleen replied, bringing up the message on a small monitor on her control panel.

Quote:
Miss Takor,

I apologize for what happened to your ship - it was partly my fault for dragging you into this affair in the first place.

To repay you for your assistance, We are hereby giving you the Vigilant-Class Tactical Escort USS Warspite. Please use it in your duties for the Republic while your regular ship is in drydock.

I thank you for all you have done for us so far, as do my superiors in the agency, and look forward to continuing to work with you to safeguard both our peoples.

Sincerely,
Tieria Erde
"Thank you, Mister Erde," Veleen whispered as she flew up to the hangar, the ventral access doors opening to accept her fighter.

This was going to definitely be different, but she knew it was worth it to help keep her people safe... safe from the Tal Shiar, safe from the 'Masters', and safe from anyone else who might wish to harm them...
Originally KiraYamato before the Account Linking - True Join Date August 2008

"Close Air Support covereth a multitude of sins." - Maxim 4, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Last edited by takeshi6; 09-24-2014 at 11:29 PM.
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