Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,478
# 1 The Dark Horses (Story)
09-19-2013, 06:40 PM
This story is another collaboration between patrickngo and myself.

It's a prequel of sorts to "The Road to Ruin" and "The Chase", inspired by the events of the "Fek'Ihri Return" KDF episode arc in-game.

Timeline-wise, this takes place two months after my LC #39 entry "To Form Again What Lasts" and six months before patrickngo's story "Orrosh". Reading these stories may be useful to provide character context.

Please enjoy, and as always, your comments are more than welcome!



T H E . D A R K . H O R S E S


Act One: Running In a Fantasy is post #2

Act Two: Same Old Story is post #11

Act Three: For the Legend Ride Again is post #14

Act Four: Before the Dawn is post #16

Act Five: Born For the Sunrise is post #17


CAST LIST


First City:

Emperor Kahless :: Kevin Conway
Chancellor J'mpok :: Carl Weathers
Councilor Woldan :: Louis Gossett Jr.
Councilor Kriton :: Don Johnson
Councilor Terrath :: Keith David
Dahar Master General Marek :: Samuel L. Jackson
Gen. Klag :: Brian Thompson
Gen. T'Kell :: Ving Rhames
Lt. Gen. K'vera :: Marjean Holden
Maj. Gen. M'chal, Son of Kriton :: David Duchovny
Brig. Gen. Ssharki :: voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman
Brg. Gen. Koldor, Son of D'Ward :: Jeffrey Wright
Capt. K'Ragh, Son of D'Ward :: Jesse L. Martin
Lt. Valk :: Patrick Warburton
Staff Sgt. Gh'gel :: America Ferrera
Dr. Moowir :: Lisa Leslie
Worf :: Michael Dorn
Temek :: Delroy Lindo

IKS Norgh'Iw:
Cmdr. Maddox :: voiced by Tim Roth
Hunter Cmdr. :: voiced by Ben McKenzie
LCdr. Dou'gal :: voiced by Robert Carlyle
LCdr. Dr. Tr'vayn :: Angela Bassett
LCdr. Sway :: voiced by Ben Foster
Lt. Dr. Xyoosix :: Carol Kane
2nd. Lt. Naja :: Meagan Tandy
Sgt. Shralak :: voiced by Andrew Garfield
Scout-Warrior :: voiced by Logan Lerman

IKS Y'Ton:
Maj. D'Moj :: Claudia Black
LCdr. Kogh :: Anthony Simcoe
Lt. Kobor :: Ian McShane
Lt. B'Tara :: Gina Torres
Lt. Talash :: voiced by Virginia Hey
Dr. Mary Moriarty :: Summer Glau

IKS Cha'qu':
Cmdr. Nine of Nine (formerly Lan, Son of Krad) :: Lennie James
LCdr. Ts'chirok :: voiced by David Morse
Reader-Lieutenant "Spitz" :: voiced by Christopher Walken
Lt. Dr. Malhul :: Omar Epps
Lt. T'Rrak :: voiced by David Boreanaz
2nd Lt. Kanan :: Garret Hedlund
Sgt. Dehdii :: Frank John Hughes
Wr. Sker :: Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Wr. Sodoq :: voiced by Ryan Hurst
Medic K'Rass :: voiced by Shailene Woodley
Transporter Bekk :: Maisie Williams

IKS Herdthinner:
Capt. Kurn :: Hiroyuki Sanada
K'Tirr Scout-Captain :: voiced by Richard T. Jones
Lt. Korag, Son of Kurn :: Masi Oka
K'rrana "Science Officer" :: voiced by Stephanie Jacobsen
"Engineer" :: voiced by Michael C. Hall
Dr. Zimehoz :: Lani John Tupu

Gre'thor:
Kortar, the Ferryman :: Eric Pierpoint
Herron, Lord of the Dead :: voiced by Gabriel Byrne
Spectre of Dishonor :: Sam Neill
Spectre of Cowardice :: Eddie Rouse
Spectre of Treachery :: Wayne Pygram
Molor, the Tyrant :: Daniel Benzali
Fek'Ihr :: voiced by Vernon Wells



Special thanks to:

* patrickngo for his collaboration and contribution

* the Cryptic team who wrote the Fek'Ihri Return arc

* You for reading!

...

Last edited by sander233; 10-17-2013 at 11:12 PM. Reason: cast edits
Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,478
# 2 Act One: Running In a Fantasy
09-19-2013, 07:00 PM

I've gone through life
White-knuckled in the moments that left me behind
Refusing to heed the yield
I penetrate the force fields in the blind
They say I'll adjust
God knows I must
But I'm not sure how
This natural selection picked me out to be
A dark horse running in a fantasy

(Flesh and bone)
And I'm running out of time
(Flesh and bone)

Somewhere outside that finish line
I square up and break through the chain
And I hit like a raging bull
Anointed by the blood, I take the reins
Cut from the cloth
Of a flag that bears the name
"Battle Born"
(Battle born)
They'll call me the contender
They'll listen for the bell
With my face flashing crimson from the fires of hell

(What are you afraid of?)
And what are you made of?
(Flesh and bone)
And I'm running out of time
(Flesh and bone)
And what are you made of?
(Flesh and bone)
Man, I'm turning on a dime
(Flesh and bone)

(This could decay)
This could decay
Like the valley below
Defenses are down
The stakes are high
(They're scouting the crowd for a face of compassion)
A fairytale ending
(To face off the journey that fathers no more)
A staggering blow
(You'll find the truth in the roots of desire)
You lead with your chin
(Thinkin' with your corners, just a compass and the sun)
This could be real
(Thinkin' with your corners, just a-)
Simple...


He faces forward
Trading in his blindness
For the world of love
And time is raging
May it rage in vain
And you always had it
But you never knew
So boots and saddles
Get on your feet
There's no surrender
'Cause there's no retreat
The bells are sounding
Bring this match to an end
We're the descendants
Of giant men

Brandon Flowers, Mark Stoermer, Dave Keuning and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. of The Killers - "Flesh and Bone"




A C T . O N E :

R U N N I N G . I N . A . F A N T A S Y




Captain's log, IKS Cha'qu', Cmdr. Nine of Nine commanding - Stardate 85839.12


I have been alive for eight weeks now, and in command of this ship for two of those weeks. I still cannot believe that Brigadier Ssharki gave me command of a ship of my own...

*[Ctrl]+[Shift]+[PgUp]*
...
*[Del]*

Today marks the end of my second week in command of this ship. I am aware that this patrol and charting mission into the Azlesa Expanse is supposed to be as much of a shake down for me as it is for the Cha'qu'. The ship thus far has performed admirably, with only minor mechanical and technical faults to report, all of which my chief engineer has corrected. The same goes for the crew; of course they were mostly transferred to me off of the Norgh'Iw so I should expect nothing short of excellence, but so far they have not disappointed me.

As for me, I remain uncertain. I have passed every test the Klingon Academy prescribes for prospective commanders, and I have been told I have retained Lan's knowledge of shipboard procedures, weapons handling, unit leadership and ground and space warfare tactics. But I am missing so much of his memory - surely I could not have been left with
everything a commander must know to be effective in battle.
*[Ctrl]+[Shift]+[PgUp]*
...
*[PgDn]*

Fortunately, I have Spitz to help me see me through, and other competent bridge officers as well. I am confident that together we can face any opponent and emerge victorious.

It's the waiting for battle that is most difficult. We've been in the expanse for ten days and though we've found wreckage with traces of weapon signatures we have not encountered any enemy to engage. We have charted two unknown systems and eradicated a dangerous strain of flora on the colony world
QaQqu' jablu' bIr reH. Long range sensors have picked another anomalous contact which we are now approaching under cloak at warp factor 8.5, with orders to my bridge crew to go to battle readiness when we are in visual range. The last several anomalies have produced nothing more than worthless samples of random debris particles, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Nine reread the log entry. He had typed it English, because that was the language spoken by his crew. Ssharki's crew was made of mostly non-Klingons, and most of those non Klingons were Gorn, and English is considered to be the easiest humanoid language for the Gorn to master. Nine considered it to be his language too. He let the computer translate the entry into tlhIngan Hol and saved it.

He looked around his cabin, his eyes lingering on Lan's possession, which he was slowly beginning to accept for his own. There was one item, however, which would never belong to him: Lan's sword. According to Ssharki, Lan's grandfather Krech had forged two bat'leths from a salvaged piece of trianium hull plating from the first ship he'd destroyed in battle. He gave the bat'leths two his two sons, both of whom died in the Dominion War. Lan, at the end of the House of Krech's line, had inherited both swords. He gave one to Ssharki as a gift, but kept the twin. Lan had it in his hands when he was assimilated on a hill on Otha. Ssharki's son, Sway had found it when the battle was over, and kept it, unable to accept that Lan was really gone. Even now, Sway believed that Lan would still re-emerge from within Nine. But Nine knew that wouldn't happen. Lan was dead. Killed by the Borg. Nine may have inherited his body, his friends, his rank, and his... things. But not the sword. The bat'leth is the sword of a Klingon warrior. Nine wasn't quite sure what he was. But he knew he was no Klingon.

The lights dimmed, and an alert tone sounded.

"Captain, we are approaching the target coordinates," Reader-Lieutenant announced over the intercom.

Anything interesting? Nine wondered.

I think you'd better come see, sir, the Ferasan telepath answered in his mind.

On my way. Nine put on his Commander's sash over his simple black leather uniform and walked up the corridor to the bridge. Show me, Spitz.

"Sir, it's a Nausicaan ship," Reader - who tolerated Nine calling him "Spitz" - reported. "Or was, rather."

Still is, Nine observed as he settled in the command chair. The ship he saw through the viewscreen was intact enough to be identified, at least with the assistance of his ocular implant. A Scourge-class. Any life signs?

"The sensors can't detect any lifesigns, no."

"There's a lot of radiation pouring out of the warp drive though," Sker remarked. "It could be interfering with the sensors." The young Nausicaan science officer sounded hopeful, even through his filter mask.

Nine sent a command through Reader. "Then get to work modifying the sensor array to cut through the interference."

"Yes, sir."

"What happened to them?" Nine wanted to know. "Anyone have any theories?"

"It looks to me like they ran from a fight, um, sir." This was Lt. Kanan, son of Kannoth, from a minor house affiliated with the House of Martok. He was the first of his house to graduate from the Academy or to serve on a ship in the KDF. He was Nine's tactical officer and the only Klingon on the bridge.

Nine glared at him. "Is that your professional opinion, Kanan?" Reader asked for the Commander.

"Ah, well sir, she was obviously damaged in a battle, but there are no other signs of a battle near us. So she must have gone to warp, and dropped out her when her engines couldn't take any more."

"I concur," LCdr. Ts'chirok grumbled. Nine's first officer was a Gorn with a name Nine found difficult to remember, so he just referred to him as "Croc" when he needed Reader to ask something of him. The big old Science-Soldier was a member of Ssharki's "inner circle" and Nine suspected that Croc had been assigned to be his first officer so that Ssharki could keep an eye on him. "There is no logical reason for a ship like that to find itself stranded out here unless it was fleeing from a battle."

"They could have been trying to attack an enemy ship and been beaten," Sker suggested.

"There would be signs of that," Kanan argued. "Debris from another ship, or a warp trail at least."

"Any progress with sensors?" Nine asked through Reader.

"I think I can filter out the interference," Sker replied, "but we'll need to free up more auxiliary power for the sensors before I can get a clear reading."

Nine and Reader looked at each other and shared a thought. "Drop the cloak," Reader ordered.

Kanan nodded. "Dropping cloak, aye sir." The squat, sleek form of the SuQob-class raptor appeared in space with a ripple of displaced electromagnetic energy.

"I have... three life signs," Sker reported, "two very faint."

"That's it?" Reader asked, without being prompted. Scourge-class destroyers usually had a crew of around two hundred.

"Most of the forward sections are open to space," Ts'chirok pointed out, "including the bridge. Engineering is flooded with enough radiation to kill anyone who was back there."

Beam them out, Nine thought.

"Sker, can we get transporter lock?" Reader queried.

"We could, but I recommend against attempting to transport anyone through that much radiation. Especially anyone badly injured."

Shuttle, EV suits.

"Alright, we'll send a shuttle then," the Ferasan announced. He tapped at his wrist communicator. "Dr. Malhul, please report to the shuttle bay with a medical team. Hrrki, S'Korr, accompany them. T'Rrak, please send an engineer as well. Away team will need to don EV suits."

Sker stood. "Sir, request permission to accompany the away team."

Reader glanced from Sker to Nine and listened to the Commander's thoughts. "Go. And scan the weapons signatures in their hull. That may help us determine who did this."

Sker struck his chest in a Klingon salute and ran to the turbolift.


Twenty minutes later

Nine and Reader met the away team as they returned to the shuttlebay. Sker emerged first, looking dejected. "All I could pick out was residual antiprotons," he reported, as he removed his bulky EV suit. "Whatever hit them, it's something I haven't seen before."

Nine took the young Nausicaan's tricorder, looked at his readings and frowned. He wished, not for the first time, that he could remember some of the Borg Collective's vast knowledge, but he had been deprived of that as well. He looked up as Malhul emerged, followed by his medics and the security officers bearing two bodies on stretchers.

Alive?

"What is their condition, doctor?" Reader asked the Orion. Malhul was an experienced field surgeon who'd served with the KDF infantry for over a decade before being transfered to the fleet. His skills and experience were found to be mostly redundant in the Norgh'Iw's well-staffed medical bay, and so he volunteered to transfer to the Cha'qu' where he had a chance to serve as CMO.

"This one isn't going to make it," he said, pointing to a very sick-looking Nausicaan under heavy sedation. "This one might. Take them to med bay," he ordered the medics. "Hell of a way to start the day... but it can only get better from here."

The other one did not look much better, but Nine nodded, accepting the doctor's pronouncement.

Reader sniffed. "And the third?"

"Fit for duty, actually. We found him in the armory, which was heavily shielded." A third Nausicaan - long-haired and on the tall side, even for his formidable species - emerged, carrying a crateful of weapons and explosives. He was followed by an Orion engineer, hefting two bags packed with even more equipment. "He refused to leave without his 'stuff,'" Malhul explained.

I see.

"I wanna talk to the Captain," the Nausicaan announced.

"This is Commander Nine," Reader told him. "I speak for him."

"My name is Dehdii. I am an armory officer. I make good bombs, good guns, good shields, and I can shoot the eyes out of a Cardassian wompat from two hundred meters. I wanna serve your ship."

What was it Sway said before I left... "Never trust a Nausicaan with anything you value, except your life." Nine nodded.

"You're hired," Reader said.

Dehdii put his crate down and saluted Nine, and looked at Malhul. "Your doctor says my brother Jahdii will die. Does your doctor speak truth?"

"He does," Reader informed him.

Dehdii turned to face Nine. "Commander, when Jahdii is dead, I would like to launch his body out of a torpedo tube and have your ship vaporize him with its disruptors. Would you allow this?"

Nine looked at Sker.

"It's my people's death ritual," the wavy-haired youth explained. "The body is vaporized either under the sky or among the stars to let the Four Winds carry the spirit away to the Heart of the Sky."

Nine again nodded at Dehdii. What's his story? he wondered.

Reader spoke. "Now that that's settled, would you mind telling us who attacked your ship, and how it ended up out here?"


KDF Central Command Headquarters

Ssharki hated paperwork.

He liked everything else about being the first Gorn to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General of the KDF. He liked the celebrity that came with being a war hero. He liked to let Klingon warriors join him at his table and buy drinks for him. He liked being able to commission a ship for Lan... Nine, just to give him something to do. But he hated the paperwork.

"Another requisition that requires your countersignature, Brigadier," announced his aide, Staff Sgt. Gh'gel.

He snatched the PADD from the Klingon woman, making her flinch, to his great amusement. Temek, again. Sometimes Ssharki thought the only reason he'd been promoted at all was so he could handle paperwork for the Klingon spymaster... "What fresh hell is this... three crates of Starfleet entertainment provisions? Why would anyone..." he read the rest of the order, and heaved a sigh. "Nevermind." He signed it and handed it back.

"All command staff, report to the conference chamber!" the PA announced.

"Oh, what now." If it wasn't paperwork, it was a war conference. Another thing he hated. Endless arguments over which Great House should have the honor of leading the assault on such-and-such system, adding to General so-and-so's glorious record... But he entered the conference room and found the gathered generals were totally silent, listening intently to a scratchy distress call.

"...is General B'rakal of the Third Reserve Fleet, we are engaging unkno...emy...echnology we've never seen befor...heavy losses, enemy forces are coming through some kind of... portal... like... gravi...tric ...stortion. My vessel is failing - we are near warp core breach, IKS Ba'Hud Martok is dying...lost...bird-of- prey - ordered escorts to break off and seek... We have failed... avenge us..." And then static.

"That came in on a tightwave transmission from the IKS Ba'Hud Martok five minutes ago," Dahar Master General Marek, gin'tak to the House of Woldan and Supreme Commander of KDF CentCom announced. "The Third Reserve was conducting training exercises in the Norgh System, far from all of our enemies. I want to know what happened to them."

"We have no ships in range," General T'Kell declared. "Our closest forces are breaking the Federation blockade at the Yov'bot System, fourteen hours away at maximum warp, and I am loath to recall ships from frontline service to search for survivors of a fleet of... Reservists."

"We must find out who attacked them at least!" General K'vera protested. "If there is an enemy presence in the Norgh system, it would threaten Forcas, and Boreth!"

"What do you propose, woman? We have no ships to send!"

"I have a ship," Ssharki announced.


IKS Y'Ton, Norgh System

"...fires on decks five and six, torpedo system's showing no power at all." Lt. Kobor reported.

Major Damojena "D'Moj" Masaana pulled a piece of shattered console from her leg, and marvelled for a moment at the amount of blood that followed - before she cauterized the wound with a white-hot sliver of inner hull. She gritted her teeth at the intense pain and managed not to scream. "Does anything still work?" she demanded.

"We're cloaked," B'Tara said from the science station, "and I'll have sensors back up in a few minutes."

The Major turned to Talash, her Gorn tactical officer, who had finally wriggled free of a collapsed section of structural frame. "Weapons. Get me weapons," she said quietly, urgently. "Get me weapons, and Kobor, I need engines - the Ba'Hud Martok needs us... the General needs us."

Kobor glanced at B'Tara. "Um... their core breached while you were unconscious, Major... General B'rakal is dead."

D'Moj heaved a heavy sigh. "I'll mourn him later," she declared. "Get us back up and ready to fight - those things aren't going to stop with us."

"You need a medic to look at that," B'Tara said, indicating the Major's wound.

"Medbay was on deck five, wasn't it?" D'Moj asked. "Doctor Noghar make it out?"

"Ummm... no," Kobor said. "One of their blasted mines tore right through it."

"Seal the section and vent it - and six," D'Moj ordered. "We can't have fires eating us from inside."

"There may be crew in there..." Kobor pointed out.

"They died in battle," she said flatly. "Vent the sections and get my ship back into the fight."

D'Moj didn't care what it looked like - she stayed in the command chair while the crew got to work - like a Klingon commanding officer should, according the Academy's idea of damage control during battle. While her chief engineer, along with the surviving crew and staff, brought systems back online, she surreptitiously popped a stimmie and two narco-tabs to suppress the pain from her legs. The stimmies would hold off the shock - for a while, the narco-tabs would block the pain and let her think. "How about communications? Can we send a warning out? Or..."

"Call for reinforcements?" Kobor finished. "I'm afraid not. The subspace relay is gone. We're limited to lightspeed transmissions. Boreth may pick up news in about twelve years... But the General did send a distress call to Qo'noS. They should send support."

"Then lets get ourselves operational before help arrives."

"Qapla', Major!"

It seemed to take an eternity, but most of the ship's systems, re-routed through redundant circuits and auxiliaries, were reading operational. "Kogh, I'm going to switch my console to weapons." she said. This brought looks from several of the crew - D'Moj normally preferred to do her own flying.

"Is there a problem?" she asked.

Kogh, now her acting operations officer, took a deep breath, and said, "Your legs."

"What about them?" D'Moj asked.

"I am... aware enough of basic structure. They aren't supposed to be bent that way," he said.

"I'm on painkillers," she told him. "My spine is fine."

Kogh hit a lock switch, and stood up. "You can't fight with your limbs flailing on broken bones," he insisted. Reaching down, he came up with...

D'Moj's hand drifted to her shoulder-holstered disruptor...

...Two Yan straight-swords in their sheaths, and a roll of strapping tape. "They must be splinted or they will grow back crooked," he said. "May I?"

She nodded.

He watched her face as he pulled the left leg straight, saw her grimace of pain and heard the whimper she tried to stifle. The Klingon smiled, and splinted the leg. "You feel pain, that is good, it means you are alive!"

From the corner of her eye, she saw a few of warriors on the bridge relax. "It's just the... ughh... bugs." she huffed, as he splinted the lower right leg next. "I don't mind the bugs..." The Klingons on the bridge laughed uproariously at that, and she caught an undercurrent of relief. There would be no need to reshuffle the command further. She felt the secondary high as her brain frantically released endorphins. "Let's go kill these... creatures," she said, "Kobor, sing us a song of glory... I fear I don't know many of them..."

"Sensors are up!" B'Tara announced.

On the screen, they could all see it - the enemy force was spreading out in smaller groups.

"This is what the General should have waited for," D'Moj declared, "instead of trying to fight in formation like a wall of battle."

"Do you have a plan?" Kobor asked.

"Depends... Talash, do we have weapons yet?"

"Disruptors and forward torpedo systems," the Gorn female hissed.

"Good enough," D'Moj said with a shrug. "We can't take them in groups, that was the mistake the Fleet made - the enemy were able to concentrate fire from multiple directions, and they had a close formation to use their tricobalt bombs on."

"And now?" Kobor asked.

"Now, we are a small target, with a cloaking device - harder to see, harder to bracket. Those three uh... corvettes there - see how the one to the left is slightly out from the rest? Him... we kill him first, then dodge and cloak, make them spread out looking for us. We'll pick them off one at a time until either our reinforcements get here, or they get lucky."


IKS Cha'qu', Azlesa Expanse

"All I know is, we were in the Norgh system," Dehdii told Nine again as he followed him and Reader onto the bridge. "Nobody told me anything else. I was only an armory officer, after all-"

Silence. Hail command.

Reader held up his paw and the Nausicaan stopped talking. "Kanan, contact CentCom on priority channel."

"Aye, sir." Kanan tapped at the comm panel. "Sir, we have an incoming priority hail from General Ssharki!"

"On screen."

The Gorn Brigadier glowered through the viewer.

"Sir! We were just about to contact you."

Ssharki ignored Reader and stared at Nine. "We've received a report of a battle against an unknown enemy in the-"

"Norgh System," Reader interrupted. "We know."

Ssharki glared at the Ferasan. "How?"

"We came across a Nausicaan ship from the Third Reserve that apparently fled the battle. We found one survivor who could talk." Reader waved toward Dehdii.

Ssharki shifted his stern gaze toward the disheveled Nausicaan. "Who attacked you?"

"I dunno," Dehdii replied. "I was in the armory. I didn't have a viewport to look out of, and no one ever tells me anything-"

"Shut up," the Gorn ordered. "Central Command has dispatched elements of the Home Guard to secure the B'Moth sector, but they won't arrive in the Norgh System for nearly a day, BECAUSE APPARENTLY IT'S NOT IN OUR STRATEGIC INTEREST TO EXTEND THE TRANSWARP NETWORK OUT TO FORCAS!!!" he turned and shouted to everyone in earshot - probably everyone in the building heard, maybe the courtyard outside as well. He snorted irritably and turned back to the viewer. "So they're coming in from N'Vak."

Reader swished his tail bemusedly. "I... see"

"Meanwhile," Ssharki went on, his eyes on Nine now, "your ship is closest to Norgh. I want you to make best speed to the system, approach under cloak, assess the situation, search for survivors and/or render assistance at your discretion, and most importantly survive long enough to report back. We need to know what it is we're dealing with."

"Understood, sir." Nine struck his chest.

Ssharki returned the salute. "May success always find you," he said, before terminating the transmission.

Let's go.

"Well, you all heard the General. Kanan, cloak us. Sodoq, set course for the Norgh system, engage at maximum warp."

Sodoq, the Chalnoth conn officer, growled an acknowledgement. The starfield out the viewscreen swiveled and stretched, and the Cha'qu' was gone from that place.


Norgh System

The strange enemy's fleet spread out into a fairly standard system-securing patrol pattern - the spinning debris from the Third Reserve Fleet's capital ships drifted in the darkness, each with it's own little cloud of broken bits and bodies.

Space rippled nearly on top of one of the strange, small corvette like vessels - and bolts actinic green disruptor energy stabbed the enemy ship - battering down it's shields, opening the way for the starlike red of torpedoes, which struck, dug in, and gutted it. The Ki'tang-class bird of prey accelerated away as the comrades of her victim turned to give chase, rippling again into cloaked invisibility.

The enemy responded, banging away using active sensors. But they were looking the wrong way. Immediately upon cloaking, the Y'Ton pulled a ninety-degree dive with a thirty-degree port-angle that took her far off to the side of her last course. The enemy was sweeping hard - at empty space.

D'Moj studied the enemy's response pattern. "Right turn thirty degrees, forty-five-degree up angle," she ordered. "Bring us to where we're almost getting their exhaust on our deflectors. Talash, overcharge primary disruptor banks to one-twenty-five, and load another high-yield spread. Kobor, how is our battery status?"

"Good for now." the Klingon said.

"Be ready to open the cocks on our tertiary fuel tanks - we're going to do another hard pass, and I want us burning well over rated before they can react," she told him.

"That's going to put a lot of strain on our systems."

"I'm aware of that." She grinned and asked "What've we got to lose?"

"Nothing we can't afford..."

Over the next three hours, the hunt continued - the enemy would ping away with active sensors, tried hot-loading their torpedoes, even dropped additional mines. But it was always in a way that D'Moj found more, and more predictable. The enemy were searching for the hammerblow, but she was cutting them - little cuts, here and there, an occasional hard strike from the "wrong" direction... Stick and move.

It wasn't Klingon tactics - not the way they've been taught for generations. She worked hard to give no prior warning; hit one formation here, warp-jump across the system while the survivors searched for her, hit another, far away. Keep the enemy guessing and uncertain where she would appear, and when, and how.

"They're looking for the formation." she said, staring at the tac-plots. "We've given them decent reason to believe there's a wing of ships out here, doing hits in advance of a fleet... and they think there's a fleet - see how they're moving to another wall-of-battle?"

"How do you want to handle that?" Kogh asked.

"They're globing - but they have to maintain enough separation to maneuver for clear shots at long range... That's how they took down our heavies last time..."

"That's not a- Oh...you're thinking..." Kobor said from the engineering station.

"I am." D'Moj had her eyes closed, as she ran through options and probable outcomes in her head. "Let's take our time with this one, I want to give them a special gift... something really pretty because they're such nice dance-partners." She turned to Kobor. "Do you suppose you could find any trilithium resin in our core-waste?"

"Probably. What do you have in mind?" he asked.

"If you can scrape enough trace, we can turn the escape pods into an omnidirectional command detonated minefield," she said. "Their thrusters and guidance circuits should be enough on autopilot to home in on the largest metallic objects in range... and trilithium-boosted photon warheads would make lovely explosions... very close to those tricobalt mines."

"Stuff's unstable," Kobor pointed out. "The timing would have to be pretty good to avoid getting a shaking while you're deploying them."

"Kogh, you think you can hold us steady while we're dumping pods?" she asked.

"Yes," the Klingon at the helm position said.

"Good... We'll also need a cloud of warp plasma," she said, "and additional speed. With those things, we can show them why it's not wise to group too closely - even though it does grant a fair advantage of firepower." D'Moj frowned in thought. "It would work better, if we had someone to do the follow-through."


Cha'qu', outer edge of the Norgh System

"Bring us out of warp. What do we have, Sker?"

"Active signatures, not ours, not Feds or Romulans either. A battlegroup all clumped up together."

"Hmm." The noise came from Nine. Our people?

"Any sign of the Third Reserve?" Reader asked.

"Yeah. What's left of their ships are drifting toward the brown dwarf's gravity well, along with a fair amount of wreckage from the uh... enemies. I'm also picking up other bits of enemy wreckage scattered all over the system, nowhere near where our fleet is, or was, or where the enemy group is now."

Somebody's been hunting, Nine figured.

"There must be some of our ships out there, picking off the enemy patrols," Reader stated.

"Makes sense," Ts'chirok grunted. "Otherwise the enemy would be spread to secure the system, not huddled together with no one to fight."

Nine looked at the tacplot, pondered the situation for a moment, and shared his thoughts through Reader. "We can't break radio silence without alerting the enemy. But we can guess what our people will do. To break up the group, they'd use standard dispersal tactics: mine-laying, warp plasma trails, photonic shockwaves, perhaps... But they're undergunned and probably wouldn't last long in a fight... If I were them, I'd decloak right in the middle of the formation, drop the nasty stuff and scoot out behind them. That means we want to be in front of them before they turn to give chase... Sker, show me one of the bigger enemy ships."

"I'll see if I can isolate one with the sensors..."

A ship appeared on the viewscreen. It looked like a violently ugly specimen of vIgro'ghotI. Nine frowned. "Can you tell which end is the front?" Reader asked for him.

"That red circle there might be a deflector dish."

"Close enough. Sodoq, park us five kellicams in front of the enemy fleet."

"Yes, sir." The Chalnoth executed a short warp jump and spun the ship around to line up on the enemy formation. "Now what?"

Nine smiled. "Now we wait for our friends to start the party."


Y'Ton

The preparation had taken nearly an hour - an hour in which the enemy's formation shook out to a dense force-grouping most suited for large fleet engagement. Enemy fightercraft were visible at the outer fringes of the mass, grouped around the corvette-class ships in a classic support role that would allow them to dart in when their foes appeared, providing telemetry and immediate threat for point-defense systems so that said systems ignored larger threats.

It was a good setup, D'Moj judged, the enemy commander was no dummy.

But they left their centre a bit on the bare side arranging this massive ambush.

"You read them," Kogh said admiringly.

"No, I made a lucky guess," she countered. "Are we ready for this?" She looked from one to another, each of her bridge officers. "Gentlemen, ladies, it has been an honor to serve with you - thought you should know that before we go in."

They passed through the enemy's lines at quarter-impulse, the engines banked to reduce the wake, until she called "All stop, hold position and ready to execute on my mark..."

The enemy's sensor-pings fell into rhythm again - they were becoming complacent...

"Mark."

The first warning that the enemy had of something hostile happening, were the thirty-two escape pods firing from nowhere into their midst. Then came the spread of Photon torpedoes and a ripple in space as the bird of prey decloaked into the middle of their formation, disruptors firing straight into the nearest of the carriers.

She accelerated and as she did, she dumped warp plasma in a huge cloud, fouling targeting sensors and catching the minefields as they activated...


Cha'qu'

"Now?" Lt. Kanan asked, looking back at the captain's chair.

Nine nodded and Reader said "Now."

The Cha'qu's enhanced induction coils routed power to the disruptor cannons and the engines. She lunged forward as she decloaked, catching the breaking enemy formation crossways with a scatter volley of disruptor fire and a spread of photon torpedoes. The enemy fleet was attempting to regroup to pursue the Y'Ton, and so had their backs turned to the Cha'qu's follow up attack. She flew straight at the largest enemy ship, firing all guns in rapid pulses as she approached.

"Sodoq, slide!" Reader commanded.

The Chalnoth's face distorted into a feral grin as he killed the engines, hit the override to dump the auxiliary power to the inertial dampeners, and yanked back hard on the manual control yoke. The raptor stood on its tail as it slid forward, and kept pitching back as it coasted tail-first along it's original vector.

"And, bombs away..."

From the aft launcher emerged a huge missile, a gigaton-range warhead usually guided by an autonomous bioneural computer. At this range, such sophisticated guidance was unneeded, and so had been replaced by an additional tricobalt charge. An instant before the missile was released, Sodoq rammed the throttles to the stops and the Cha'qu' shot back the way it came, thanks to Newton's Laws of Motion being overwritten by the intensified inertial dampening field. The enemy flagship was simply annihilated, along with its escorts and anything else that happened to be within five kilometers of the point of detonation.

The Ki'Tang-class bird of prey that had started the party swooped back around to mop up the surviving corvettes and fighters. Sodoq circled the Cha'qu' around as well to catch the other side of the enemy formation.

Just one ship? Nine experienced a combination of surprise, bewilderment and sadness. Hail.

"Kanan, let's have a talk with our new friends," Reader said.

"Opening channel."


Y'Ton

"...Just ONE ship - and it's a raptor??" D'Moj exclaimed. "I knew getting sent to the Third wasn't good for my career... or my life expectancy... at least they sent someone."

"We're being hailed, Major." Kogh announced.

"On-screen... one ship... I hope there are more where YOU came from," she greeted their rescuers.

"This is the IKS Cha'qu', on special assignment from CentCom," a silver-furred Ferasan announced, ignoring her greeting. "I speak for Commander Nine." He indicated a Klingon seated in the Captain's chair, clad in black leather and wearing some sort of eyepiece that appeared to built into his scarred eye socket. "We are glad we could be of assistance. Additional reinforcements are expected to arrive within twelve hours."

D'moj remembered her radio manners. "This is the IKS Y'ton, currently serving as the main body of the Third Reserve fleet, and I am Major D'Moj, I've got wounded and our doctor's dead. Welcome to the Norgh system." And then she passed out. Orange-red leaked down her pants.

"Our medical bay is standing by to-" The Ferasan noticed that she had lost consciousness. "Oh, lifegivers bless. Transporter, lock on to the Y'Ton's captain and beam her directly to medbay! Dr. Malhul, you have patients inbound!"


Cha'qu', Medbay

D'Moj opened her eyes... and they focused on dark green skin, soft brown eyes, and the trace of an old-model slaveplant leash installation. He held a hypospray in one hand and a laser scalpel in the other...

Her heartrate went through the roof as adrenaline slammed through her tissues - overriding the shock faster than the antishock drugs, and she immediately started to fight to escape. It was visceral and reactive.

"Hold STILL!!!" Malhul was having a surprisingly bad day after all. The Female Orion on his bio-bed was fighting like her life depended on her get away - with two broken legs and IV-feed blood supplement still tied into her arm.

"ANYONE but an ORION!!!" she screamed, "I am NOT GOING BACK TO THEM!!" The cortical monitors said it better than anything anyone could say - she was in total panic. Her fingernails weren't the carefully tended near-weapons most Orion women (and some men) sport - hers were broken and ragged, blunt things cut too short. Which was good, because it meant she wasn't drawing much blood with them. "You qa'rI'teghwI'pu' aren't going to get me this easily..."

"A LITTLE HELP HERE??" the doctor barked. "Hold her down or those bones are going to tear- baQa'... Hold her DOWN!"

Two warriors in for minor treatment rushed over and each took an arm. She thrashed like a rabid targ, and tried to bite one.

"I'm going to have to sedate..." he said, "Three millikems of Eaorezine, STAT!"

Her resistance went wild at the word "sedate," and one of the warriors - a young Bekk fresh from training - found himself tumbling across the bay, hurled by hysterical strength and a poor choice of footing.

"I will NOT BE DRUGGED!" She used her free hand in a much more effective punch on the other one - not that it did much good.

"Yes, you WILL!" Malhul snapped, and delivered the hypo along with a vicious right-cross.

She went limp.

"What came out of Gre'Thor and got into her?" the Bekk that was still standing marvelled,as Malhul pulled her straight on the bed, and set to work on her broken legs.

"I don't know..." the Orion doctor said, "But I intend to find out - she was terrified, I want to know why."


Bridge

What's wrong, Spitz?

Something's wrong in sickbay
, Reader answered telepathically. The Y'Ton's captain, D'Moj... her thoughts are... erratic. Disturbed.

Do you need to go down there?

No. Malhul has the situation under control.

Good.


Y'Ton


"...I hope their doctor is good." B'Tara said.

"Let's check..." Kogh opened a hailing frequency to the Cha'qu' "This is Lieutenant Commander Kogh, operations officer for the IKS Y'Ton, we have a question about our Captain... we'd like some information on your Doctor, and whether he or she is skilled in treating Orions."

"He should be," the Ferasan replied, "considering he is an Orion. Ah, we have some questions for you as well."

The bridge crew exchanged worried looks. "Oh, this is not going to be pretty," Kobor commented. B'Tara chimed in with "She is going to freak out..." And Talash contributed in a breathy hiss, "Maybe she's too drugged to notice this time?"

Reader frowned. "I did sense her distress. Would you care to explain your remarks?"

"She's got a capture-warrant from her mother's syndicate - they've sent capture teams before, several times. We don't have any Orions except the Major on the crew for a reason." B'Tara said, "She's got good reason to fear even long-service KDF Orions - her mother's syndicate is known for their... conditioning methods."

"I... see. I'm pretty sure she has nothing to fear from Dr. Malhul. His credentials and service records speak of a professional soldier and a gifted healer. Enslaving other sentient beings would never enter his mind. And if it did," the telepath's eyes narrowed, "I would know of it. And at any rate, it would be very difficult for her to be transported to the Orions from here."

"Sir, you don't need to convince us." Kogh said, "We're pretty sure you're honorable... but... the Major... she's not healthy right now... can I come over and see her, sir?" he asked, "With at least one familiar face, she might be less... of a problem... sir."

"Certainly. Our transporter room will be standing by to receive you." Reader glanced at his captain. "Send two officers over. We need to debrief you on the situation that transpired before we arrived."

"Qapla', sir!" Kogh saluted, and turned, "Talash, with me, Kobor, you and B'Tara have the ship until we return with the Major."

They walked to the transporter room, "Why me?" Talash asked.

"You're her good right arm, I'm just... just the driver." he said, "She trusts you... and you can give a better briefing than I can."

"How so?" she asked.

"You speak English." he said, "You don't have to rely on a translator. And you remember everything clearly, where I... feel as though I just awoke from a nightmare."


Cha'qu'

"Medbay's that way," the Klingon girl at the transporter control announced as soon as they materialized. "Turbolift to the bridge is across the corridor."

"I"ll head for sickbay, you go report to Commander Nine." Kogh told Talash, "Hopefully he won't be too offended that I checked on her first."

The Gorn nodded and they seperated...


Medbay

"How is she?" Kogh asked, obviously and visibly concerned.

"She's out," Malhul said while he finished scrubbing her orangeish blood from his hands. "I just finished applying the mending to her legs and resealing her torn flesh where the bones got through. You did a good job splinting her, but... not for combat. Don't you have standard medipaks on your bridge?"

"The captain sent those down to engineering before the fight..." Kogh told him. "She didn't save any for herself."

"I see... so what in the hell happened?" the Orion asked. "She shows up here and I have to drug - and knock her unconscious."

"You're an Orion," Kogh said. "She... she really doesn't like Orions - and they really don't like her - especially her... ah... blood relations." He stepped up to her unconscious form, and gently smoothed her hair from her eyes as she slept. "She threw everything she was away when she joined the KDF - she's fighting a case in court to retain Klingon citizenship so that they can't have a hold on her." He looked up at the Doctor. "They want to take her mind away - because she won't be a slave any other way."

Malhul stared at the Klingon. "You love her, don't you?"

"She can never know," Kogh told him. "If you tell her, I will cut your heart from you and hold it before your eyes as you die."

"Why must she never know?" Malhul asked, making a point of ignoring the threat.

"Because, if she knew I loved her, she would send me away," Kogh explained. "She takes suppressors, did you know that? It's happened before - she says that there is no place for romantic feelings in the role of a Commander. Only sacrifice."


Bridge

"Lt. Talash, of the Y'Ton, reporting for debriefing."

"Excellent," Reader said. "Gorn minds are so wonderfully organized, so cool and logical, this way please." He led her into the ready room, where Nine was sitting under a...

"A Borg regenerator?"

"Commander Nine of Nine was liberated from the Borg two months ago," Reader explained. "He doesn't remember, but he used to be Commander Lan, son of Krad. I speak for him, because he cannot speak for himself."

"You're a telepath."

"A reader. I am Reader-Lieutenant. Please, sit down."

She did.

"Would you like anything before we begin? Some water, or something... a bit stronger, perhaps?"

"Clean water would be delightful, thank you," Talash said. "You want to know what happened to the fleet."

"Yes. With your permission, I would like to see things as you saw them. If you would share your thoughts with me, the whole process would go much more quickly." He turned to the replicator. "Water. Five degrees alright?" She nodded, and he handed her the glass.

"Something I have never done... yes, I consent to be scanned," Talash stated. "I have nothing to hide."

"Very well." His eyes half-closed. "Simply try to remember what happened, and let the events play out in your mind. Start at the beginning..."


KDF CentCom

"They sent one transmission before opening fire," Reader reported over the subspace channel. "They had said: 'We have seen the rising Ocean of Blood, and we no longer know fear. You have grown too weak to oppose us. You will perish in the Fires of Gre'thor from which we rise.'"

"And then they attacked," Ssharki said.

"Yes. unprovoked, and without any demands for surrender. They simply wiped out the Third Reserve Fleet. Their weapons were... the energy weapons were something like concentrated beams and pulses of pure antimatter. And their projectile weapons carried tricobalt warheads. The ships were... strange. They appeared to be almost organic, but angular. Asymmetrical. Designed in such away that served no apparent purpose except to assault their enemy's sense of aesthetics."

Ssharki grunted. "Nothing we've ever seen before, then."

"No. These ships make the Narada seem... almost conventional."

"Why the Norgh system?" Ssharki wondered. "Why attack there?"

"I think it's the only place they could attack," Reader told him. "They appeared through some sort of... subspace portal, inside the gravity well of the brown dwarf. Severe gravimetric distortions sometimes appear in this system, severe enough to tear unwary ships apart. That's why this system is generally avoided. According to the science officers we have here, they theorize that one of these distortions in the gravity well could have allowed this enemy to enter through subspace."

"So this... enemy... dwells in subspace."

"Perhaps. Or perhaps a different dimension, like the fluidic space inhabited by the Undine. At any rate, we found three of these portals and closed them, with our own tricobalt devices."

"We will need to maintain a blockade force in the system, in case any other portals open up there," Ssharki mused. "Very well, I will share your findings with the command staff and the High Council. Nine, return to Qo'noS with the Y'Ton. There will be more questions, I'm sure."

"Our course is already laid in for the N'Vak transwarp hub," Reader told Ssharki. "We will be over Qo'noS within twenty-three hours."

Ssharki nodded, then changed the subject. "How is D'Moj?"

Reader blinked before answering. "She was injured, but she should make a full recovery in a day or two."

"Excellent. CentCom out." Ssharki closed the channel and frowned. Ocean of Blood. Fires of Gre'thor. References to Klingon mythology. Gre'thor was the Klingon underworld, said to be surrounded by an ocean filled with the blood of dead Klingons... Ssharki shook his head. Whatever had wiped out the Third Reserve Fleet was no myth.


Cha'qu', Medical Bay - the next morning

D'Moj opened her eyes, and she saw Kogh. "Leutenant... where am I, and why does my head hurt?"

Kogh shrugged, "You must have banged it during the fighting," he said. "Or maybe when you tossed Bekk D'Lon across the medbay."

She closed her eyes for a moment, "Ohhhh... I was hoping that was a nightmare."

"No, ma'am. You really did throw a KDF Security Bekk around in a panicked attempt to escape needed medical treatment."

"So it wasn't a nightmare... and the doctor really is an Orion?" she asked.

"Yeah, but he says you can return to duty as soon as you're standing," Kogh said lightly.

"Good." She pushed the sheets away, and turned around into a sitting position. "Where are my pants?"

Kogh looked away, and held a fresh pair of uniform pants out. "Your others were... unsalvageable," he said. "Talash got these from your quarters, ma'am."

She pulled them on, stood up, tugged, and fastened them. "And my gloves?"

He gestured to a rolling stand nearby. "And your boots, too."

"You look like hell, Lieutenant," she said, straightening her hair, and buckling her jacket.

"Long night, ma'am... we had to give a debrief to the Commander of this vessel," he told her, "also had to transfer those wounded who passed triage over for treatment."

"How many did we lose?" she asked.

"Ten, ma'am. Not insurmountable, not even with the other seventeen... but there are empty bunk-spaces now."

"Remind the crew that nobody's getting additional quarters allotments," she instructed. "I need to report to Commander Nine; I'm sure he's rather annoyed with me for passing out on meeting him, and more annoyed for my little tantrum." She ended up leaning on Kogh a bit. "How long was I out?"

"Seventeen hours... and thirty-six minutes," Kogh told her. "B'Tara was here around midnight."

She sniffed. "And Kobor?"

"Inevitable that the two would be here at the same time," he replied with a shrug.

"Good... someone should be happy." She took a step toward the door. Her legs still hurt.

* * *

Dr. Malhul watched them go from the safety of his office overlooking the main medbay.

"You're letting her go?" Bekk K'Rass asked.

He looked to the Segotian medic. "She can walk. If she can walk out of here, she can go. I would try to stop any warrior from this ship that tried that, but she is captain of a ship of her own - and she's been out of contact for nearly a day. She has obligations."

"That's not what you said in your medical logs," Medic K'Rass said.

"I know what I said in my log - and that's not going to change... but, she has regulations on her side, and I'm not about to un-do my work to keep her convalescing. I looked up her file... well, actually, Reader looked up her file and shared it with me."

"Heavy stuff?" the alien asked, stocking supplies with it's extra arms.

"She's Damojena Masaana, as in 'Masaana Personnel Syndicate' - one of the half-dozen or so major Trade Houses - and they do have a warrant out for her, and appeals to both Melani Di'an, and the High Council to have her Klingon Citizenship revoked in order to draft her into the Orion fleet... under her mother's house. She's fighting it by proxy, since she can't just putter around Qo'noS attending hearing after hearing... Which all means, If she wants to act like she's a Klingon, I'm going to let her, and hope she doesn't break anything else before she's some other doctor's problem."

"You have someone in mind?" K'Rass asked, looking over a crate of sample-flasks.

"I know someone - an 'expert' on Orion physiology who might be keen to get out of Rura Penthe," he said. "Of course, that would require significant... favors from somebody important. Luckily, I know somebody who knows somebody who collects favors from important somebodies..."


CentCom

"Not enough ships," Marek grumbled. "Not nearly enough ships to cover the entire sector."

"We do not need to defend the entire sector," T'Kell declared. "We only need to blockade the Norgh System."

"You are assuming that the enemy did not already get its ships out of the Norgh System," Marek replied. "Boreth and Forcas are still threatened. So is Gorath, for that matter. And I'm not comfortable with this "picket line" suggestion of yours. The enemy must be repelled in force."

"General B'rakal thought so too," Ssharki reminded the Supreme Commander. "That kind of thinking destroyed his fleet. They engaged an enemy force at four times their strength. Had they cloaked, and waited for the enemy to spread out, they could have won the day. Instead, out of twenty-two ships, only one survived the initial engagement. But look at what that one ship was then able to do!"

"I will wait to debrief this Major D'Moj myself before I declare her a Hero of the Empire," Marek sneered at the latest recipient of the KDF's highest award. "B'rakal died as a true Klingon warrior should, defending his people against impossible odds."

"'The point of war is not to die for your country,'" Ssharki quoted, "'but to make the other poor petaQ die for his.'"

"Enough!" General K'vera pounded the table. "This is a discussion about the allocation of our strategic resources, not a forum to debate philosophy."

"Agreed," Ssharki said. "And to that end, I believe that allocating the entire Home Guard to defend colonies in the B'Moth Sector is a grave error."

"I side with Ssharki on this," announced General Klag, joining the conference by subspace holotransmission from Ganalda Station. "Leaving the homeworld defenseless is unwise."

"It wouldn't be completely defenseless-" Marek argued.

"Near as ghuy'cha it would!" declared Maj. General M'chal, son of Kriton. "With nothing but the Academy training fleet and our personal command ships to defend the Qo'noS, and whoever happens to be in system between patrols and raids...

"And organizing all those different commands into a defense force would be an operational nightmare," Ssharki stated.

"But anyone approaching Qo'noS would have to cross a lot of our territory first," Marek reminded the others. "There would be plenty of time to organize the defense. Generals, my mind on this matter is settled. The Fifth and Sixth Home Guard Squadrons will be deployed to Norgh and Gorath immediately. This conference is adjourned."

Ssharki got up and stormed out of the conference chamber. "That hu'tegh yIngtaH will be the doom of us all," he muttered.


Cha'qu', CMO's Office

Malhul fingered the implant he'd removed from D?Moj during the surgery. It was Orion technology and about the size of a fingernail, and had been installed sometime in the last few weeks - probably by her late CMO. Someone wants her BAD. he mused. Luck had it though - it hadn't been activated. Still, it offended him on a deep level that a Klingon doctor had been suborned - even if it was only for a short time, by a Syndicate operative.

He sighed, and began composing a coded message to his friend, Dr. Xyoosix. He knew the Rigelian woman had contacts within the KDF Medical Bureau and Klingon Intelligence, and direct access to a powerful figure he knew only by the name Methos. It was Methos who had arranged his transfer to the fleet. And according to D'Moj's records, he was her sponsor as well. He attached the full-body scans and the surgical notes in a compressed file. Well, if I'm offended, Methos is going to be furious... then, he added his suggested solution.


IKS Norgh'Iw - 0147 hours

Lt. Dr. Xyoosix stared unhappily at the message from Malhul. That the Orion would contact her at all annoyed her as much as the contents of his message. She frowned deeply at the report on Damojena, a young woman whom she knew Methos considered to be among his most promising prospects. As dangerous as Mal's suggestion was, it would be an ideal arrangement for young Damojena if she could control her new Doctor... She recompressed the attachments and sent out a message of her own, on Methos' private channel.
Quote:
DM in danger.
See attached from Mal.
DM in need of new Doctor.
Recommend MM, currently operating in RP for B'V.
- X

* * *

LCdr. Sway stared at the ceiling over his bed and sighed in total contentment. His par'Mach'kai Naja was curled up on one side of him, his jackal mastiff Fang on the other. His promotion to Lieutenant Commander had just come through. His father had been promoted to work in Central Command. No more dangerous missions fighting the Borg... for the first time in almost a decade that he could remember, life was good.

Naja's knee stroked his inner thigh. "You're not sleeping, my love," the young Klingon woman whispered.

"No," the Gorn juvenile replied. "I'm thinking."

"'Bout what?"

"I'm just wondering if there is another being in all the universe who is as happy and content as I am at this moment," he told her.

She rolled on top of him. "Oh, there is..."

"Careful, you'll wake the dog-"

"Me," she said. "Because seeing you this happy makes me even happier." And she nuzzled his snout.

And then the alert tone sounded.

"Qa'Jay?" Sway looked up. "I didn't schedule an alert drill for tonight..."

The ship rocked. "All hands! Report to battlestations!" the night watch officer ordered.

"Guess it's not a drill..." Sway muttered as he wriggled out from under Naja. Fang yelped as he was shoved off the side of the bed.

"What's going on?" Naja wondered.

"How should I know? Help me get dressed and I'll find out..."


Cha'qu', approaching N'Vak transwarp hub

"They're still cycling the conduit regulators after that last squadron came through the other way," Ts'chirok announced. "But they should be ready to send us through to Qo'noS as soon as we arrive in system.

Fine.

"Very well," Reader said.

The door in the back of the bridge clanged open, and Major D'Moj strode forward. "Commander Nine, I wished to personally give you my compliments and my... apology, for my earlier conduct."

Nine swiveled the command chair to face her, stood and saluted.

"The Commander understands that you were under a great deal of stress," Reader told her. "You have recovered from your injuries?"

"Well enough to walk. I have seen to the condition of my ship and I wished to thank you for the part you played in saving her. Your arrival in the battle was... most timely."

Nine nodded. "It was our pleasure," Reader declared.

"Commander, we're being hailed," Ts'chirok reported. "It's the Norgh'Iw!"

Nine swiveled forward again. "Onscreen," Reader ordered.

Sway stared through the viewer. On the bridge behind him was the familiar calmly ordered chaos of a battle underway. "Lan! Thank S'Yahazah I was able to reach you at least,"

"What's going on, Sway?" Reader asked.

"Those... whatevers you fought in the Norgh system... they arrived here! They're pouring out of the Praxis Belt and assaulting Qo'noS! The home fleet is scattered all over the sector block, I can't reach anyone, not even General Ssharki. We have no orders, nobody is commanding the forces in system-"

"We're on our way, Commander," Reader announced. "We'll be there soon. Cha'qu' out." Nine looked at Ts'chirok and thought "Send recall orders to the Home Guard squadrons with Ssharki's command codes."

"Commander Nine, It would appear I need to be going," D'Moj stated. "We've got a fight to get to. See if he can forward us any sensor data on the attacking forces and a listing of ships in the system, I'll get over to the Y'Ton and start working on a counter-attack plan, I assume your crew's ready."

Nine nodded. "Always," Reader declared.

"Then we'll see one another again on the other end. If you'll pardon, I've got a ship to command and a battle plan to lay out." she tapped her wrist communicator and barked "Y'Ton, JIH jol!" and disappeared in the red glow of a transporter beam.

Once more unto the breach

Reader gave Nine a quizzical glance. What?

Something I remember hearing... seemed appropriate.

Sounds like something Ssharki would say.


* * *

"Status!" D'moj didn't wobble as she strode onto her bridge. It was a feat of will not to, but when going into a battle situation, one does not show lack of confidence in anything - including one's body.

"We're getting distress calls from Qo'noS," B'Tara announced, "pretty garbled."

D'moj nodded, "Pick one - a single source, contact them, get their unit status and deployment, order them to send any and all telemetry straight to us, and the Cha'qu'. Kogh, lock helm to my station and start compiling reports into a battlspace outline. Kobor, we're fully up now?"

"I'd say ninety-percent op-cap, Major - the ship is ready, but we could stand more torpedoes in the magazines, and we still have not replaced the escape pods..."

"We won't be needing those," she told him. "We're going into a battle, Talash, I need a full count of our torpedo magazines. Once you're done with that, do a low-diagnostic on the weapons coils. B'Tara, re-check our cloaking systems, then coordinate with Cha'qu's operations officers - make certain we have solid lines of communication with them, and whoever else isn't operating with their head up their ass."


Qo'noS Transwarp Hub

The two ships were violently dropped back into normal space - normal being a relative term, with a pitched battle spread out halfway around the planet's orbital. Confused orders and counter-orders were filling the communications channels, making it nearly impossible for the new arrivals to contact anyone.

D'Moj gripped her armrests as she fought off the wave of nausea that accompanied the transition from normal spacetime to infinite velocity and back. "Shipyard," she said, through her hard-linked channel to the Cha'qu'. "That's where bulk of our ships should be. We'll rally the forces there."

"Understood," Reader replied. "The Norgh'Iw is there, at the point of defense..."

D'Moj had no difficulty identifying the dark-hulled Vor'cha battlecruiser with its distinctive markings - toothy jaws painted around the bow and streaks of blood-red. She steered the Y'Ton to meet the famed ship and join the battle. "Hail the Norgh'Iw, find out who's running her." D'Moj ordered.

"But... you know who's-" B'Tara started to say.

D'Moj silenced her with a gesture. "No, General Ssharki might be aboard her, or he might be stuck planet-side, or he might be setting up a command post in the Yard, Kogh, get on the comms, find someone who can confirm their orders but doesn't think those orders make sense, Talash, find me something to kill... and Kogh, I'm still waiting on that Battlespace layout. Prioritize enemy sightings over orders from Central Command."

"Isn't that in violation of protocol?" Kogh asked.

"Yeah, but it's practical - this is a mess, orders, counter-orders, confusion, cowardice and chaos! Focus on enemy sightings and telemetry first, and link to the Cha'qu' with our Tacnet. There are three cardinal things Qo'Nos must have operational: early warning, command and control, and the yards. Everything else is expendable including us."

Kogh filtered the reports and data down to just enemy positioning and the status of ships - not their orders, simply their transponder status.

"Now we're getting somewhere..." D'Moj said. "The first of Martok's rules of battle - take the initiative away from the enemy. That requires knowing yourself, and knowing your enemy and his or her intentions... engage cloak."

The Enemy didn't give her long to wait, as a formation of them shook out into an envelopment that held three to one odds with fire-superiority against the ragged formation of KDF ships arrayed in classic defensive posture at the yard.

"Behind them," she ordered. "Target this one first - carriers tend to be good C&C ships, let's see if these guys are as inflexible as the ones we hit at Norgh."

"Weapons are ready," Talash announced.

"High yield torps up their tailpipe as we drop cloak. B'Tara, decloak on my mark..." She watched the ranging numbers scroll as the defenders sprayed fire into the enemy formation. The enemy were responding with those antiproton weapons and tricobalt torpedoes.

"Mark."


CentCom

"Ghuy'cha, who's ordering my ship to abandon the fleetyards and defend the Hu'tegh mining installations?" Ssharki demanded. "Sergeant Google!"

"Gh'gel, sir," his Klingon aide reminded him.

Ssharki blinked. "That's what I said. Find out who's issuing these worthless orders - no, first, how to I countermand them?"

"Sir, you, can't, if the orders are being sent by someone who outranks-"

"We'll see about that..."

An Orion near a window shrieked. "They're in the courtyard! Those things are landing in the courtyard!"

Ssharki looked around the administrative level at all the... bureaucrats he'd been stuck with. Useless warriors, only good for doing... paperwork. He snarled and pushed his desk away as he stood. "Google, get down to the armory and get these people some weapons! I'm going to the command center where I can do something useful - like stop whatever yInghtaH is ordering my ship to stupid things..."


Norgh'Iw

"CentCom wants us to do WHAT?"

"We've been ordered to defend the Praxis mining outposts, Commander," Sway repeated.

"Then CentCom is full of morons!" Cmdr. Maddox proclaimed. "The Praxis belt is overrun with those damn things, and if we don't hold them back from the shipyard and the transwarp gate-"

"I'm just gonna tell them that their transmission is too garbled," Sway announced.

"Fine. Hunter, lock on to that Major's target, hit them with everything-"

"Sir!" Sway shouted, gripping his headphones. "The enemy is assaulting the First City! They have headquarters surrounded!"

"We can't do anything about it now-"

"But my father is down there!" the younger Gorn protested.

"Nine is hailing us," Hunter Commander announced. "He says he's leading an assault team to defend Central Command and the Great Hall. He wants to take some of our troops." The ship rocked from another hit, and the Ferasan returned fire, vaporizing a fanged attack ship that crossed their forward arc.

"Dou'gal, are we within transporter range of the First City?" Maddox called to the science officer.

"Yessir."

Maddox looked at young Sway. "Go. Leave enough of your troops to repel boarders."

Sway saluted and departed, keying into his communicator as he snaked his way to the turbolift.

Maddox turned back to Hunter. "Tell Nine that Sway will meet him on the surface." He inhaled through his teeth and watched the enemy close in to concentrate their fire on the shipyard. "Cloak us while we transport. Helm, bring us in under those enemy ships. Hunter, fire at will on my mark, and let us pray that today is not a good day for us to die..."


Cha'qu'

This feels like something out of one of Ssharki's fantasy stories,
Nine thought.

You remember those? Reader asked him.

Remember what?

"I'm beaming you down in the far corner of the headquarters courtyard," the Bekk operating the transporter said. "There are Klingon lifesigns nearby... but, no enemies. Actually I can't detect enemy lifesigns anywhere..."

"Engage transporters, Bekk," Reader ordered, as he drew his compression pistol.

This all seems so strangely familiar, Nine thought as he dematerialized...



* * * * *

Continued...


...

Last edited by sander233; 09-25-2013 at 11:20 PM. Reason: typos
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# 3
09-19-2013, 07:42 PM
oh boy. (makes popcorn and fastens seat belt)
"It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier."
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# 4
09-19-2013, 08:01 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by knightraider6 View Post
oh boy. (makes popcorn and fastens seat belt)
Indeed. Computer, deploy safety restraints. *Roller-Coaster-Style Safety Harness folds over chair and into place.*
Originally KiraYamato before the Account Linking - True Join Date August 2008

"In the game of war, there are no clear rules you can follow." - Andrew Waltfeld
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# 5
09-20-2013, 06:06 AM
Very cool, I'm going to enjoy seeing how this develops
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# 6
09-21-2013, 10:08 AM
I'm glad you're all enjoying the story so far!

We should have Act Two (of five) ready for you in the next couple of days...

Last edited by sander233; 03-02-2014 at 12:42 AM.
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# 7
09-21-2013, 11:36 AM
I've actually never played the Fek arc in game, because the game constrained me into playing my toon contrary to how I envisioned his sense of honor.

But this actually has me getting interested.

One thing has me wondering. I have been been very surprised by by the levels of tolerance shown by Nine's crew for what happened to him and his need to communicate through Reader, for two reasons. First, I had thought capture was dishonorable for a Klingon. Or are the Borg considered so dishonorable that a Klingon cannot lose his honor at their hands? Second, why are they so accepting of his command abilities since he cannot speak for for himself? I know Klingons honor battle scars; is that how they see it?

This is not to imply that I find your choices unreasonable. Rather, I think it begs for further backstory. You have me curious.

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# 8
09-21-2013, 04:37 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by gulberat View Post

This is not to imply that I find your choices unreasonable. Rather, I think it begs for further backstory. You have me curious.
Most of Nine's crew was borrowed from Ssharki's crew, who are mostly either a) non-Klingons or b) Klingons who have been dishonored. The one exception on the bridge of the Cha'qu' is Lt. Kanan, who, as mentioned in the story, is the first member of his house ever to serve on any KDF warship, so he's just happy to be there. So their reactions are not typical for any KDF crew.

As for Nine's honor: as far he is concerned, Lan was killed in battle. He is not Lan, he is not even a Klingon. He is simply Nine of Nine. As far as most other Klingons are concerned, he was captured but escaped or was rescued. Going off Martok's precedent, I don't think you lose much honor if you escape your captors. And then finally, as far as Sway and Reader are concerned, Nine/Lan is simply their friend who needs their help. I suspect Ssharki feels some combination of all of the above, and by giving Nine his own ship he is giving his old friend a chance to prove himself over again.

As for the command-by-proxy, I'd imagine that Ssharki would have made it clear to the crew of the Cha'qu' that Reader speaks for the Captain, and his orders are the Captain's orders. This probably wouldn't fly with many other crews, but it works here because of who's on the bridge: Ts'chirok is the "handler" who's there at Ssharki's request to make certain that everything goes well for Nine. Kanan, like I said, is just happy to be there, and the same goes for Sker, the well-spoken young Nausicaan science officer. Sodoq is a Chalnoth so he doesn't really care who's giving orders as long as there's killing to be done and fresh meat on the table. For other major officers, Malhul is a professional soldier who's "with the program" - he volunteered to be Nine's CMO. And T'Rrak, the chief engineer (introduced in "To Form Again..." and explored further in the next act) is sort of nuts.


I'm glad you're enjoying the story and that it's encouraging you to dig into your KDF character. I know what you mean about the "honor" (or lack thereof) in the KDF intro/tutorial arc. I too found a lot of it tough to swallow, especially the blowing up the fed ship in "Space Chase" instead of letting them go. It gets better though. "Bringing Down the House" / "The House Always Wins" are probably my two favorite missions in the entire game.

Last edited by sander233; 09-21-2013 at 04:39 PM.
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# 9
09-21-2013, 10:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by sander233 View Post
As for the command-by-proxy, I'd imagine that Ssharki would have made it clear to the crew of the Cha'qu' that Reader speaks for the Captain, and his orders are the Captain's orders. This probably wouldn't fly with many other crews, but it works here because of who's on the bridge: Ts'chirok is the "handler" who's there at Ssharki's request to make certain that everything goes well for Nine. Kanan, like I said, is just happy to be there, and the same goes for Sker, the well-spoken young Nausicaan science officer.
That certainly makes sense.

About Sker, I wonder if part of the reason he's with Ssharki's group is because people don't expect a Nausicaan to be that...well...analytical, and might refuse tto believe his abilities.

I wonder...what do you see as the purpose of the mask, since they are not universally worn by Nausicaans? I had a reason for Krantak (my KDF toon); I wonder if it's the same for Sker...

Quote:
I'm glad you're enjoying the story and that it's encouraging you to dig into your KDF character. I know what you mean about the "honor" (or lack thereof) in the KDF intro/tutorial arc. I too found a lot of it tough to swallow, especially the blowing up the fed ship in "Space Chase" instead of letting them go. It gets better though. "Bringing Down the House" / "The House Always Wins" are probably my two favorite missions in the entire game.
I had a serious problem with the episode where you essentially torture the Federation captaion to death. It's pretty sadistic, to be honest, and I felt like my toon would've considered it a pointless type of violence. He's sort of the Nausicaan version of General Chang: he would've found it more appropriate to give the defeated captain back his weapon and duel him for the information, or at least allow the man to die on his feet, with a fair chance at self-defense--the way Krantak would rather it be said that he died.

I actually had a very vivid dream where I saw the culmination of Krantak's disgust with the KDF, and he was contemplating defection. The expression and set of his body were incredibly memorable to me. So that's why this is a character I think I might someday like to explore--but the game was rather discouraging to me in that regard.

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# 10
09-22-2013, 01:43 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by gulberat View Post
That certainly makes sense.

About Sker, I wonder if part of the reason he's with Ssharki's group is because people don't expect a Nausicaan to be that...well...analytical, and might refuse tto believe his abilities.

I wonder...what do you see as the purpose of the mask, since they are not universally worn by Nausicaans? I had a reason for Krantak (my KDF toon); I wonder if it's the same for Sker...
I think it has to do with the atmosphere on Nausicaa having a low oxygen content, and native Nausicaans are so adapted to it that they actually can't survive in an atmosphere with ~20-25% oxygen content. Oxygen is, after all, a metabolic poison. If nothing else kills you first, a lifetime of breathing oxygen will. I'd imagine space-borne Nausicaans or those who have lived off-world for long enough would have acclimated themselves to a more oxygen risk environment, and no longer need their filter masks.

Quote:
I had a serious problem with the episode where you essentially torture the Federation captaion to death. It's pretty sadistic, to be honest, and I felt like my toon would've considered it a pointless type of violence. He's sort of the Nausicaan version of General Chang: he would've found it more appropriate to give the defeated captain back his weapon and duel him for the information, or at least allow the man to die on his feet, with a fair chance at self-defense--the way Krantak would rather it be said that he died...
Yeah, that's another tough one. For Ssharki, that's one of many episodes in his life that he deeply regrets.

Your character sounds fascinating, and I would love to see him fleshed out in the LCs.
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