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Literary Challenge #48 : The Long Road

pwebranflakespwebranflakes Member Posts: 7,741
edited September 2013 in Ten Forward
Hello and welcome to another edition of our writers' challenges! :cool:

Today we start the two-week run of the forty-eighth Literary Challenge: The Long Road
It's been a long road, getting from there to here...

You and your crew have just finished a X-month mission in the X sector that was not without sacrifice. While not everyone who was on board at the start of the assignment is coming home, their deaths were not in vain as great advancements have been made. Share with us your official report to X that recounts your mission and what was gained from it.

((X = your choice))

This is the writer's thread -- only entries should be made here.
The Discussion Thread can be found HERE.
We also have an Index of previous challenges HERE.

The rules may change from one challenge to another, but I'd like to remind everyone what the base rules are. These may grow as we move on, so also feel free to give feedback!
  • Each Challenge will run for two weeks. For 2 weeks we will sticky the challenge and let you make your entry.
  • There are no right or wrong entry.
  • The background story, questions I ask, and format requested are only to serve as a platform that you can start your writing from. Feel free to change up the back-story or the way you deliver, as long as the entry stays on topic of the original challenge.
  • Write as little or as much as you would like.
  • Please keep discussion about the entries in the appropriate Discussion Thread.
  • In the Discussion Thread, feel free to write what inspired you and what your thoughts on the topic are.
  • A few other important reminders:
    • Please heed the rest of the forum's rules when submitting your entry! All of them apply to these posts.
    • Each poster can have one entry. Feel free to edit your post to fix typos or add/ remove content as you see fit during the next two weeks.
    • After two weeks time, the thread will be unstickied, as we move on to the next challenge.
    • We'll have two threads: One to post the entries in and one to discuss the entries. **Cross-linking between these two threads is acceptable for these challenges ONLY!!**
Post edited by pwebranflakes on


  • burstdragon323burstdragon323 Member Posts: 851 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    TO: Frank Ocasio, Deputy Commander of Orion Cygnus subdivision, Starfleet Command
    FROM: Vice Admiral Zolaria, CO of USS Kaiser Tesadora


    It is with great sadness that I transmit my personal report to you concerning the mission assigned to my ship and the USS Omega Imperius, under the command of Vice Admiral Azlera, in which we were to investigate the disappearance of several freighters and their escorts in the Zeta Andromedae Sector.

    Upon arriving in the sector, we received a distress call from the Orias system. Upon arriving, we encountered the True Way, as we were expecting, but not in the way we had expected.

    We had encountered one of the Cardassian's most powerful ships ever built, the Hutet-class Dreadnaught. We engaged the dreadnaught in a long and protracted battle, but the ship's massive size and armament was just as deadly as it was during the Dominion War.

    During the engagement, the Omega Imperius was badly hit by the Hutet, and began suffering from a Core Breach. VA Azlera evacuated the crew, and rammed the fatally wounded Excelsior into the side of the dreadnaught. Her sacrafice allowed us to use the Kaiser Tesadora's Quantum Phaser to damage the Hutet internally, destroying it.

    I am formally recommending that Azlera be posthumously promoted, and awarded for her sacrifice.

    Vice Admiral Zolaria, Orion Cygnus Chief Intel Officer
    Stardate 91432.9
  • bombadier2bombadier2 Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Captains Log - Stardate 91240.09

    It has been 17 long, punishing years since the IGV Kumachi was thrown into unknown space by the spacial eddie known only as "The Void". Over these 17 years this vessel has become part of the crew, part of this family. This "Worthy of the founder's blessing" ship (as Commander James U'Tak) described it has done more for us and then some, in the numerous battles against the borg and even the queen herself (at least one of them) she has sustained heavy damage but has still kept going for us. We have finally entered the Alpha Quadrant again, after what seems like decades of battle, and surprise surprise they sent us a welcome gift, the federation is at war again, the whole galaxy is in chaos and the borg are making a return... Hopefully we can find some way of getting this new information to starfleet before the borg intercept us with another cube again, we managed to hold off the last one, but with very...very severe consequences... I miss Emerald, she was a good member of this crew... Of this family. I feel like I have lost a daughter, I would give anything to have her and the 32 others back. I just hope the journey wasn't in V- [Explosion] [ Alarms] (over Comms "all hands to battle stations, Red Alert, 2 Borg Tactical Cubes closing fast!" )

    This is Teranis Commander of the Kumachi, possible last log entry, the information... The information key to defeating the borg once and for all (laughs under breath) [Explosion] it's so simple [Explosion] it's - [Explosion]

    Transmission Failure
    TIME RECIVED 01:13 Hrs

    Starfleet Data Logs Archive
  • dakotondakoton Member Posts: 1 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Captain's Log-Date: 2413

    Missions like this make me remember that we are mortal. That we aren't invincible in these ships. That some people can't be saved no matter what you do. Yesterday we received a transmission from a Starfleet Science Vessel that was disabled by a ship of unknown origin. My fellow captain and brother Ryan Clark and I were sent to investigate.

    Upon our arrival We could not find any Science Vessel or wreckage for that matter. All we could find was a intimidating black mass of a ship. We tried to hail them, all we got back was hostility. We tried fighting but, it was like no ship I had ever seen, its weapons ripped through my brother's ship like a tree in a relentless storm.

    My brother soon realized that only one of us could make it out alive. He ordered me to flee and promised that he would buy me a drink back on Earth, I wish I could have believed. him before we left I saw him flying his battered ship in one last burst of glory into the unknown hostility. It was a beautiful sight, Their sacrifice had allowed us to escape.

    The Rouge ship is still intact, still roaming, preying on the unfortunate. One day I will find it again, and I will hunt it down and destroy it avenging my brother and his crew. This I promise

    Signed, Jace Clark, Captain USS Liberator
  • swat842012swat842012 Member Posts: 15 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Admiral Brun is on his way to fight the Borg again after 17 years of fighting an waiting for the borg he has lost everything an the ship he has is so CLASSIFIED that the U.S.S. PROMETHEUS Weapons, Shield are not in the Starfleet's Data records at all let's hope he can do it he has lost 85 crew an friends to the borg including his mom an dad so this fight is personal now an he will stand ground an he is heading to the borg's [ Alarms] (over Comms "all hands to battle stations, Red Alert, 150,000 Borg Tactical Cubes closing fast!" )

    Transmission Failure
    TIME RECIVED 17:48 Hrs


    Starfleet Im going to defeat the borg
    Received in subspace
  • maverickdude05maverickdude05 Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Captain's Log, stardate 47619.4:

    It is with a heavy heart that I must make this report. Seven weeks ago the Aquarius was ordered to the Grenthar system. It was a routine scientific survey that was vital to the Federation Colonization Corps. Starfleet wanted us to bring back some soil samples as well as atmospheric conditions on Grenthar four. A standard away team had beamed down being led by my chief of security and second officer, lieutenant Ch'Bok. I was in my ready room when I got a call over the com from my first officer Tozra Oshrem. She informed me that a Hirogen hunting vessel had entered the system and began scanning. As I walked onto the bridge, our away team called for emergency beam out because they were under attack from a hunting party on the surface. Unfortunately the ship had began it's attack and we were forced to raise our shields. We returned fire and after a heated battle we were able to force the ship to retreat. We beamed up the away team and that's when we found out. During the fight ensign Horad had been hit with a Hirogen weapon, killing him. He was a tactical officer that filled in during gamma shift and I had the pleasure of instructing him during my time on the shift. There will be an empty chair on gamma shift without him. He was a promising young officer and the Aquarius will miss him. The ship otherwise suffered minor damage in the battle and our port nacelle was damaged in a plasma storm. We will reach station Ticonderoga in thirteen hours. We will be ordered to sector 21505 immediately after repairs.

    Captain Foley Commanding
    End log.
  • captaintk17captaintk17 Member Posts: 12 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Captain's log, Stardate 88883.18

    The crew of the Stuttgart returns to Deep Space 9 after a four month survey of Sector 21305 that was only scheduled for three months. Our mission was a success, though perhaps a futile effort, and not without great cost.

    The first month, during a geological survey of a previously undiscovered planet, we lost a promising, young lieutenant to unstable seismic activity. A rockslide trapped Lieutenant junior grade Harnon's leg under nearly a meter of magnesite. Unable to cut him out with phasers or beam him out, he sacrificed himself so the rest of the team could return to the ship. His personal belongings will be returned to his family on Psi Upsilon IV.

    The second month, we ran afoul of a plasma storm. I needed to keep a half dozen crewmen restricted to quarters for bedrest to heal plasma burns and broken bones.

    The third week of the third month, we discovered Cardassians. Remnants of the True Way. Three Galor-class starships appeared out of a plasma storm. Unshielded, the Stuttgart suffered heavy damage and was nearly destroyed. Fortunately, our ablative armor helped diffuse the damage. However, we lost a handful of crew members despite the best efforts of Dr. Sikez and her medical staff. I recommended Starfleet Command give them all commendations.

    Using our cloaking device, we hid in the orbit of a nearby asteroid. Lieutenant Commander Moraine's engineering crew worked around the clock to repair the damaged systems.

    The Stuttgart left the safety of the asteroid two weeks later. Almost as soon as we dropped our cloak, because of strain on the deflector dish, the three Galor-class ships returned. The True Way must have a way to exploit the Badlands. Or, perhaps the very nature of the Badlands makes hit-and-fade tactics successful. Quickly raising our shields, we were able to destroy two of the Cardassian ships with our quad phaser cannons. The third retreated.

    We did not encounter any further resistance to our survey mission. Fortunate, since we were running on a skeleton crew.

    The Badlands, however, remain a continually changing phenomenon. An accurate map of the region may prove to be impossible. At least for any useful length of time.

    ~Captain Devlin Ebinyarmin
  • sharpie65sharpie65 Member Posts: 679 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Captain's Log, Stardate 91241.03

    Fourteen months after beginning our mission in Borg space, we have finally returned to Federation space. However, I cannot say that our mission was easy or free of danger. In those fourteen months, the USS Thunderer and USS Dampier have lost over half of their combined crew compliment, the USS Retribution had lost her main bridge, and the USS Yamakaze was destroyed with all hands. Aboard the Salamanca, we lost nine decks, around two-thirds of our crew, and took severe damage to main engineering.

    As commanding officer of this vessel and task force, I hereby present a state funeral for those who cannot be with us today, namely Chief Medical Officer of the USS Dampier Commander Starr Colclough, Captain of the USS Yamakaze Linwood Luxton, also the countless junior officers whose lives were cut drastically short by these encounters. As Admiral, and commanding officer of this task force, I will be writing letters of condolence to their families.

    Their deaths however, have not been in vain - we have defeated two Borg tactical cubes, at least 30 Borg spheres, and a significant amount of Borg probes. These engagements are also drawing the new Borg Queen out, so rest assured we will be ready for her and the rest of the Borg by the time she arrives.

    Personal Log of Adm. George William Aubrey (Access Denied subdivision - Starfleet Operations and Command)
  • dariusloreleidariuslorelei Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Captain?s Log Stardate: 91240.92
    The U.S.S. Mattaguchi, a Galaxy class starship, has finally returned from its 12 month voyage aiding warships in the Gamma Orionis Sector Block and investigating rumors of a race known as the Elachi terrorizing our Romulan Republic Allies. The Voyage was hard on the ship, especially the crew. I lost many fine crewmen who fought off the borg when they boarded the ship in hopes of assimilating the Mattaguchi. Other times members of my crew dissappeard during investigations of the Elachi, never to be seen or heard from again even after I ordered all batterys of sensor equipment on the ship to find them.

    The hardest loss to all of us aboard the ship was my second in command Da?karra Futantos Johannus. She died in the assault of Unimatris 001, when Starfleet ordered the Mattaguchi to join a joint taskforce Klingon and Federation ships to cover as task group that wanted to personally kill the Borg Queen. Da?karra kept us all together happy during thoughs turbulent times of borg attacks, the long list of ships and crew dead, she was instrumental in helping me negotiate many ceasefire engagements with the Klingons. In 0200 hours the Crew of the Mattaguchi will be holding a memorial in ten forward to salute thoughs that died for us to return home, to Earth.

    I personally spoke to Admiral Quinn about Da?karra and requested that in honor of her sacrifice for the Mattaguchi, A ship be named after her and that she be posthumously promoted. It has been a long road, getting from here to there but hopefully we will once again be able to explore the galaxy more with less sacrificing of brilliant officers like Da?karra for the sake of war and peace.

    Soon the Mattaguchi will be joining the Romulan Republic?s Federation Liason, SubCommander Elise in learning more about the Elachi and their connection to a Dyson Sphere. I fear more men will be lost in this venture but we are Starfleet and we all must do our duty as explores and upholders of justice and peace.

    Vice Admiral Angolius Balthos, Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Mattaguchi
    End Log.
  • masopwmasopw Member Posts: 157 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    "Brace for impact!"

    There was a brief pause after I cried that out...just long enough to hope that we'd avoid the collision.

    But that hope disappeared a moment later as the deck heaved up and to the right. Metal groaned...screamed, more like it...as the rear bulkhead dissolved into a shower of blinding light.

    The roar was deafening...but mercifully short. A cross between a crackle and a loud hum filled the air as the emergency force field covered the hole where the bridge's head used to be.

    Sparks shot through the air from the overhead, from the edges of the bulkhead, from every computer system on the bridge. At least, I thought that's where they came from....I couldn't see clearly. I used my sleeve to wipe the sweat from my eyes...and the red command stripe near the hem doubled in width.

    Uh oh.

    I looked up from the deck where I had landed, the center seat mocking me as the restraints chose that moment to deploy.

    I bit down a curse, and instead croaked out, "Status?"

    Sotek stood at the auxiliary engineering station. How the hell did he manage to keep upright after that collision, but still couldn't master a 3 foot swell? That Vulcan is going to drive me insane trying to figure him out...

    "We have multiple hull breaches on decks 1 through 8. Port nacelle has suffered catastrophic damage... we will lose reactor containment if it backflows," Sotek calmly spoke. His hands played over the console like a master pianist, tapping controls with precision.

    "God, no!" screamed Sara. "Where on 8? Damn it Sotek...is my lab in one piece?"

    L'naa ran to her side, copper blood smeared across the left side of her face from a nasty gash over her eyebrow. She punched open a compartment on the bulkhead and grabbed a medkit. "Sara...hold still...you're burned...sweetie....please....hold still."

    Sara didn't hear a word, and apparently felt no pain. She again screamed, "Sotek? Sotek? Sotek! My lab?!?! My lab????"

    I got to my feet, wobbling a couple of times. "Casualties?"

    Sotek was the master of multitasking. He looked over to ensure that Ensign Chang had manned the Secondary Damage Control station, and continued to work his console. "Captain...reports are still coming in...so far all good, but that nacelle." He frowned as he reviewed the system fault page. "There is an ninety-nine point seven percent chance we will lose containment if the plasma backflows. The backflow prevention safeguard is offline. The purge valve is damaged...." He continued to tap away. "Sara, primary life sciences lab is undamaged."

    On hearing that, Sara dropped to her knees. She spent the last two months cooped up in that lab, running experiment after experiment on this odd microflora that bloomed in the Badlands. I know enough about science to know that I know *nothing* about *this* science. But she's the expert...and if she says that the last sixty days have been worth it to prevent some pathogen from spreading, or replicating, or whatever that pathogen did, I won't argue. At the very least...it's brought her and the Doc closer together.

    The computer squealed when it usually would have chirped. "Bridge, Engineering. Don't cut the nacelle loose...give me some time."

    Sotek studied the readings, closed his eyes, and shook his head. This was bad news.

    The channel to engineering was already open, so I called out, "Arky...it's showing that we're close to a backflow. That would be bad. Cut the nacelle."

    I heard the strain in his voice. "Captain...please. Just a minute. I need a minute."

    "No. Cut it loose." We needed to stop the imminent threat, and I didn't want pride to get in the way. I didn't care if we had to have three tugs tow us home. I looked through the shimmering force field, amazed at how much plasma was venting from the ruptured nacelle. The green cloud was expanding fast, indicating just how much pressure was building up. "We don't have a minute...jettison it now."

    "Thals is still in the port nacelle...he didn't get out of the Jefferies Tube."


    I turned to L'naa, my mind going over everything we could do to delay cutting the nacelle before it would backflow. "Get Thals out of there."

    Before she could respond, Ensign Chang's voice cut like a knife. "Sir...transporters are offline." He hesitated, his voice a whisper, "...and primary shuttlebay has suffered a major radiation leak. We can't get to the runabout to use it's transporter..."

    The kid was sharp. I'd have to remember to ask him how he immediately came up with a solution that so many senior officers throughout Starfleet history have failed to think of when faced with a similar situation. If only we had somebody in the shuttlebay when not in an alert situation...if only. I knew he was still trying to figure a way out of this horror...he and Thals played Dom-Jot every time they could snag the table away from Arky and Sara.

    I gave Sotek a pleading look, hoping that he could alter the laws of nature and prevent what I had to do next. Again, he shook his head, and muttered, "Thirty seconds to backflow."

    The computer squealed again. "Captain..." I could hear the desperation in Arky's voice. "Please. Give me time. Help me."

    I wanted to scream out. "I can't. We...you know what has to be done."

    "Damn it pinkskin...I'm begging you...just a little more time...please...do not do this!"

    Sotek whispered, "Ten seconds to backflow."


    I reached over Sotek's arm and punched the jettison button for the port nacelle.

    "NNNOOOOOO!!!!!" came the rage filled scream over the intercom.

    Tripler Starfleet Medical Center, Oahu.

    The common room felt a bit too stuffy, and I motioned to L'naa that we should take a walk. I opened the double door and stepped outside into the Memorial Garden. The sun was setting, making the walls glow a peaceful pink. I could see off in the distance as the waves and the wind conspired to make a series of beautiful sweeping swells. L'naa and I walked over to a stone bench, sat down, and watched in silence as the skies darkened.

    The click of the double doors opening made me glance over to see who was disturbing our quiet moment. It was Sotek, carefully balancing three containers on one hand.

    "I thought you would be tired of the stuff they try to pass off as food ...so I took the long way here and made a few stops. Oh...and Waimea pumpin, brah."

    My friend knew what buttons to push to get a grin...and what food to get that, even if I wasn't hungry, the smell of which would make me want to dig in. Shrimp from Giovanni's, Loco Moco from Tropics, and malasadas from Leonard's.

    I hadn't eaten in the four days that we've been home.

    But it still hurt so much that I couldn't bear to eat a single bite.

    The sun was now fully set, and again the click of the double doors got our attention. Sara limped over to us, supported by Doctor Irve, sporting bandages across half her small frame, various monitors stuck to her temples and spine. Turns out that the Badlands microflora we were exposed to affected our systems, and we'd be here at the Medical Center for quite some time while we healed up. I never realized how dependent we had become on dermal regenerators...now we had to let nature heal our wounds without modern medicine.

    "Mmmm....smells yummy!" Sara chirped, popping down with a wince.

    Doctor Irve gave one of his patented dirty looks to Sotek for bringing in contraband food. "Look here, youngun....I've said that they're on nutritional supplement 3 Alpha until the initial wounds are closed...do you have any idea of the stress that junk is going to put on their digestive systems!" Sotek just shot him a shaka, knowing that it enraged the doctor. Doc tried to hide his anger, and motioned towards Sara, "Here... give me that..." he said, trying to close the container before Sara's hand grabbed another shrimp.

    She scowled at him, "Mine, you! No ack!"

    Before Doc could say anything else, we heard a cough from the garden entrance. Arky tried to walk normally, but the loss of his right antenna meant the loss of his normal gait until it grew back. If it could, given the problems the microflora has been causing. He didn't say a single word, but just glowered at us while he sat next to Sara.

    She gave him her best smile. "Hey, blue boo. Wanna shrimpy?"

    The tension went up an order of magnitude as he suddenly got up and squared off towards me. He hadn't said a word in a week...nothing while we waiting for recovery in the Badlands, nothing on the way home, and nothing since we checked into Tripler.

    "Why?," he spat out.

    I couldn't look at him in the eyes. There was so much pain there.

    Doc Irve came to my rescue. "You know damn well why. You know what space is. What it does. That it is *not* a forgiving place . That it is a harsh place to make a living."

    "Living?!?", Arky howled. "Is that some kind of pinkskin joke? What next...are you going to tell me that 'everything is going to be alright' as well?"

    Sara tried to stand, but couldn't. "Blue boo...no...c'mon..."

    Arky continued, a tear running down his cheek, "Because everything is not going to be alright. I asked you for help. Begged you. Begged, damn it. And you flushed my nephew out into vacuum." He pulled a PADD from a pocket on his robe. "Here is my final report, Captain."

    He threw the PADD down on the ground at my feet.

    "And consider this my resignation from Starfleet," he said, grabbing his communicator and ripping it off his robe. He threw it down on the PADD with such force it cracked the surface.

    He glared at Sotek, Doc, and me. Hard. "Let this be the last time I ever see any of you."

    He limped off faster than he should have been able to.

    Sara looked at us, mouth agape. She didn't know what to say.

    L'naa took Sara's arm, helping her up. "Come on. We'll be ok. Your husband needs you."

    Tears were streaming from Sara's eyes. She whispered, "Things are gonna be all right, aren't they cap'n?"

    I looked down. I didn't know what to say.

    A muffled tone squeaked from the speaker, indicating a priority message that automatically overwrote what was on screen.

    The words were still visible through the cracked surface of the PADD:

    From: Starfleet Command - Medical Division - Commander L. Varstok, Department of Disease Control
    To: All hands, USS Yorktown
    Subject: Multiphasic Prion Inhibitor - Initial Success

    Bravo Zulu, Yorktown! It appears that your hard work has paid off...the first actual trials of the inhibitor have saved the lives of at least seven very grateful patients! We can now boldly go into any area like the Badlands without fearing contagion! We will be sending the replicator patterns for this "Thalsonite" as soon as the Admiralty approves it.

    This is a great day for Starfleet Medical, and it wouldn't be possible without the crew of the Yorktown!

    Drinks are on us next time you're in port!

    End transmission.

  • buck311buck311 Member Posts: 12 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    While the Federation continues to struggle with the Borg, the Undine, and political and diplomatic developments, I, Vice Admiral Ramses of the R.X.S. Wanderer, was assigned the task of assisting the Romulan Republic for exactly 5 months. I was told that my diverse crew of Jem'Hadar, Tholians, and Breen (to name a few) would greatly assist the Republic due our wide array of abilities.

    Upon arrival at New Romulus, my Breen first mate Tran and I were informed of disappearing cargo freighters that were last seen around Nimbus space. Thinking it was simply pirates, we agreed to search the area for the freighters.

    Only a few Earth hours later, we arrived at the designated location. At first, sensors detected nothing; only a few asteroids were present. We were about to report back to New Romulus when... THEY appeared.

    Several ships appeared from out of nowhere - literally. Thye just appeared. No anomalies were detected upon their arrival. No warp signatures, nothing. The ship configurations matched Elachi Dreadnoughts. Four of them, if I recall. They silently apporached our Risian corvette, seeming to size us up.

    We simply held our ground. What else could we do? For what seemed like the longest minutes of my life, we sat and observed each other in silence. Finally, my head of Security, Far'lukan, turned to me.

    "Recommended course of action, sir?"

    Those were last words he ever said to me.

    Without warning, he was beamed out. To this day, I still don't know how they did it. Our shields were up, we were in Red Alert. It wasn't just him either. One of every alien species aboard our ship was beam out. Tholian, Jem'Hadar, Breen, Vorta, and many more. All gone.

    We pulled out as fast as we could. Using an Isometric Charge and a Graviton Pulse, we bought ourselves enough time to jump to warp.

    I still don't know what happened to them.

    -Log has been classified by Starfleet Intelligence-
  • crimpson7crimpson7 Member Posts: 76 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Captain's Log, Stardate 9286547.36
    After a 4-month mission in the Pelia sector, I have to say that peace with the Undine (or species 8472) might be possible. The first month we were conducting research under the cloak of one of the most advanced starships that the Romulan Republic has to offer, The I.R.W. Poseidon, a Scimitar class dreadnought. We found a way to manipulate the Quantum Singularities that were randomly opened, so that we would turn the tide of the war against the Undine on our favour. The second month, however, we had a visit from two rogue Undine Dreanoughts, The Skaarth and the Toleron. Their captains, were brothers. We hailed them, and surprisingly they answered. We told them the nature of our research, and they told us that boh of them are not working in tandem with the rest. Basically, they want peace with humans and all the races of all the Quadrants. We negotiated a peace treaty between us and the two dreadnoughts. We were offered a helping hand in our research by their scientists and a little bit of information on the cause of the Quantum Singularities. The third month passed calmly but still we were on our guard. The fourth month also passed quite good beacuse the two Undine brothers packed up the courage and came to the bridge of the ship. We had a fantastic time telling stories and jokes. But the day of our departure something terrible happened. As we were doing a last minute scan of the system, all of the vessels picked up a huge object moving at us at velocities beyond the highest warp speeds we could ever achieve.
    We could not believe what we were seeing. An Iconian Dreadnought named Kerthnal was hailing all of us. We responded. A tall creature made out of crimson fires stared at me and said "T'Vanto, you are considered a danger to the Iconian empire. I have to take you under custody for the destruction of the Obex and her crew. It would be unwise of you to resist."
    Before the Iconian finished his sentence, with a wave of my hand I alerted my crew to battle stations. Then the Undine hailed us and we told them that the Iconians were responsible for the attacks on their world. All of us raised shields and the battle began. We managed to destroy the enemy's impulse and warp drive and our allies were holding it with tractor beams. By doing a subspace jump we managed to sneak behind them. We channeled every bit of available power into Auxiliary power and deployed the deadliest weapon on our vessel, the Thalaron pulse. Our allies got out of the way and the Iconian dreadnought suffered great crew loses and hull damge but they were still alive. We channeled all the power to weapons and shields and began infusing thalaron into our weapons's energy streams, turning them into molecular disintegrators. The Toleron had received a high yield torpedo volley which had knocked off their shields and almost destroyed the vessel. With the help of the Skaarth we managed to cripple the enemy ship. But the Iconians were preparing to fire another volley of torpedoes directly on the Poseidon and the Skaarth. But the captain of the Tolero began to move his ship at the dreadnought. He built up speed, rammed the dreadnought and exploded into millions of pieces along with the Iconian dreadnought. His last words were "We are not your enemies, Brother you must go before the high council and tell them about the attacks, and who is responsible for them." A quantum singularity was opened right after the battle and the captain of the Skaarth said "Go and take care. Goodbye friend." We left Fluidic space and we headed to Earth Spacedock. We began to count loses. out of the 3500 cre of the Poseidon the 1125 were killed in action. In that list were two of my most trusted engineers T'prel and Talsoth. Also my bridge officers were Injured. Tovan Khev was in coma for 2 weeks after he was hit in the head by a falling beam, Veril had her leg trapped under some debris and was nearly amputated but we managed to save the leg, Satra got hit in the chest by a fracture of a console and had to be operated to remove it, Obisek nearly lost his sight but he is going to be fine and Vinra lost her arm but she got a brand new robotic implant which has the exact same functionality and appearance as her lost arm, and it is a lot more stronger. After all this we had a memorial for the 1125 brave men and women who were lost in the engagement. The Skaarth also suffered casualties but we received a message saying that they are doing fine. I hope this engagement and the actions of the crews bring us one step closer to achieving peace with the Undine. All those men and women should be commented posthumously.
    =========End of the log=======================
    The Wildcards Fleet =/\=
    Admiral T'Vanto of the I.R.W. Dreaded Balerion (Scimitar Dreadnought Warbird) "Burn them All!"
    Admiral Atraxis of the U.S.S. Daskalogiannis (Avenger class Cruiser) "I am Iron Cat!"
  • jonnaroslynjonnaroslyn Member Posts: 50 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    It was like the padds were staring at her. Joanne kicked the table again, but it didn't budge. The red-blue "Report classified - Level 1 Authorization required" was blinking away steadily on all of the six screens piled up on the table, completely unaware of Joanne's frustration.

    The door beeped, making Joanne sit up straight. Distraction! Maybe someone who looked like they were going to start shooting at them had turned up. Maybe they had technology that could wipe your memory.

    "Come in."

    Commander Corspa Eide stepped in through the opening doors, the tips of her antennae still looking a bit grey. Joanne had looked in the mirror earlier herself and found that her spots had gone interestingly pale, but there hadn't been a lot of times that she had seen this particular shade of blue on her xo.

    "We've just passed the last subspace beacon, we'll be back in Federation space in two days, Admiral."

    Right. That did definitely not need personal delivery. Joanne leaned back again and waved the commander over.

    "What's up, Cor?" she asked as soon as Corspa had sat down on the couch and buried her face in her hands. There was a bit of silence, and after a while Corspa slid sideways to put her head on Joanne's shoulder.

    "Everyone's got their letters done," she said quietly "except me. I envy Ojhyni. He just had to write three different versions of 'I regret to inform you that your child has died in a plasma conduit breach'."

    "I doubt that that was any fun either though." Joanne said without any real reprimand behind it.

    "Well, at least he doesn't have to tell someone he got their child killed because he was looking at sparkles!" Corspa said with the sort of hysteric undertone that got pretty worrying on someone who knew where all the phaser rifles were stored. Joanne closed her eyes as tight as possible, hoping that the flashes behind her lids would drown out the images that Corspa's words conjured up - all that blood, almost invisible against the blackness of space - the cracked helmet - all the colours suddenly changing --

    "It wasn't - it wasn't your fault." she finally managed in a weak voice.

    Corspa gave a humourless laugh. "Sure. Is that what you're telling Command?" She nodded towards the pile of padds on the table.

    "I don't know. It's like - I know some people who will be really excited about those sparkles, and I wish I could be too. But every time a bit of that shows in the report I feel so guilty! And they will judge us - me, really - on the preliminary, you know that. I don't want some brass who hasn't seen an uncharted sector in decades to just grab the amazing bits and declare the mission a success! It was a disaster from beginning to end, and I want people to remember that instead of celebrating a piece of technology that won't be ready for use for years!"

    Joanne took a deep breath and let it out in a weary sigh. She made some helpless gestures, but no more words were coming. Next to her, Corspa sat up and turned towards the Admiral.

    "You should just tell them that. It's important they know." she said seriously. "Don't tell them what we have found until you're reporting to them personally."

    Joanne made a face. Holding back information wasn't something she enjoyed doing, but other than that... this way at least, she could be sure that Command would respect the sacrifices they had made, and she could focus on presenting what they had discovered.

    She nodded, slowy, and took two padds from the table, deleted the drafts on them and handed one to Corspa.

    "Come on," she said with a small smile "let's do this properly. We achieved something great, and none of those lives were lost for nothing."
  • icegavelicegavel Member Posts: 991 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Captain's log, stardate 91240.12, Admiral Rygobeth Lerginas reporting. The USS Determination is finally returning home. We were sent on an experimental 7-month journey into the Delta Quadrant which has finally come to an end. The mission, on paper, was simple: use the Determination's quantum slipstream to make the three-month trip to the Delta Quadrant - in fact, to the heart of Borg Space - find the new Primary Unicomplex, do as much damage as we could, and come home.

    An easy task, the Determination was a dreadnought-retrofitted Galaxy-class starship. We had a Cloak, we had a crew of the finest officers in the Fleet, and we had experience fighting and sabotaging the Borg. And indeed it was - the Unicomplex was crippled to the point of being non-operational and the Queen abandoned it (sadly, we could not destroy her first). But not everything went to plan, as so often happens in the field. I just wish... I just wish it hadn't gone this bad. The ship is in good condition, thanks to the cloak and a fine engineering staff. But this family isn't coming home whole. We... damnit... we lost Sokek. I wasn't fast enough, not strong enough... she's not dead, she's worse. She's Borg. Somewhere, in that ruined Borg starbase, the drone that used to be one of my oldest friends serves the Collective, a fate I wish not on even my most hated enemies. How did it go so wrong...

    From the helm, the robotic tones of Kopaka, Rygobeth's helm officer, issued. "Captain, we are approaching the Unicomplex. Cloak functioning normally, disengaging Warp drive." The whine of the engines dropped, and the stars visible from the transparent aluminum skylight shrank from lines to small dots once more. They were at impulse... and in the heart of the lion's den.

    "Onscreen," the red-skinned admiral ordered, and it was done. The sprawling, seemingly-disorganized super-starbase appeared on the main viewscreen. All design of Borg ships could be seen milling about, a testament to the power and atrocities of the Collective. A thought came into the mind of the admiral. How many cultures had been destroyed, how many planets had been strip-mined, to build that? How many millions of innocent people now existed (for they no longer lived) on that floating pile of metal, perpetually tormented and unable to escape, suffering a fate worse than the most painful death? His face gawked slightly at the private thought. Sokek, who was sitting next to Rygo, noticed the gesture and raised an eyebrow, but the Vulcan woman said nothing.

    Rygobeth truly hated the Borg. Not the drones, it was not their fault. The Hive. The ungodly madman that at some point long at the past started the creation of this horror. He pitied the victims... and knew their salvation. Eventually, the Collective would fall... they would be saved. Perhaps the first domino of that collapse would fall here. Millions, billions, could be saved by what they did here. Fortunately, they had a plan, cooked up over their three-month journey and one-month hunt for this place.

    Rygo turned his head to Ilaa'kshis, his Gorn Operations officer. "Ilaa, have you found it?" The Gorn nodded. His true voice, not totally masked by the universal translators, hissed behind the interpretation. "Primary energy control node located. Coordinates relayed to the helm." Kopaka brought up the coordinates on the console he sat before and laid in a course for the place. The plan was nearly foolproof: Access the primary control node and upload a simple virus that would rapidly increase power generation from the main reactor exponentially and store it in every energy control node on the station, while hiding the buildup from Borg sensors. At first, it would seem like nothing. But then, after a few hours, the power would spike drastically every second, and every power conduit on the base would blow. By the time the increase would be detectable, it would also be irreversible. They would lose large portions of the Unicomplex, even if they managed to contain the destruction. And the Determination would be LONG gone.

    The admiral tapped the comm control on his chair and hailed the medical bay. "Tasop, how comes your end?" Over the comm, the Aenar CMO responded. "Neural suppressants prepared for the entire away team, just in case. Emergency ward has been prepared for as many casualties as you can bring us. We're sitting on pins and needles waiting, and everything's tip-top." "Well done, Tasop. The operation will begin soon." The channel closed. Rygo looked up.

    "Remata'klan, your project?" The Jem'Hadar tactical officer nodded. I managed to construct an artificial Shroud generator that will last approximately six hours. We will be invisible to the Borg; however, it must be directly connected to our Personal Shield systems, and will prevent those systems from functioning. We will not be as well-protected as normal." The admiral nodded in reply. "Acceptable. We shouldn't need our shields if all goes to plan." Remata'klan simply said, "In the field, nothing goes to plan. I have made them quickly swappable in case we need our shields." Kopaka chimed in then, reporting they were near their target. Rygo chimed Main Engineering now.

    "Seven, how'd you do with the transporters?" The former drone's voice came through as she responded. "I should be able to beam your team through the clock without dripping MOST of it. I had to isolate the transporter pattern transponder, so it will decloak for 10 seconds - enough to stealth-transport the team. The Borg won't detect a thing." Seven always did the impossible. "Well done, Seven. Get to the transporter room." The channel shut. "Sokek, Remata'klan, Kopaka, with me. Ilaa, you're in charge until we get back." The admiral rose from his chair, and the three designated officers fell into line behind him as they entered the turbolift.

    The team, shrouded, materialized withing the Unicomplex. Tasop had given them the neural suppressant before they beamed over. The team, visible only to each other, made their way silently through the corridors, past countless drones, but none saw them. Finally, they came into the room. The primary control node was massive - it had to be, it was part of the heart of the station's power system. Only the main reactor was larger. Rygo nodded to Seven, who injected a panel with her tubules and installed the virus. She nodded, and they went to leave.

    Halfway back, alarms blared. At an intersection, they found drones. Staring at them. "They can see us," said the admiral. In unison, the four non-Jem'Hadar yanked the Shroud modules, and their personal shields gleamed into place. A short firefight ensued, but the group escaped. Sokek brought up the rear... but there was a gap in the formation. Rygo, Remata'klan, Seven, and Kopaka crossed another intersection... and four drones appeared in it, cutting Sokek off. Another firefight, but this time, the party wasn't so lucky. Sokek was wounded. Not fatally, but she would be slower on her feet. Instead, she shook her head. "No, Captain," she said. "I cannot allow you to bring me. You must go. I will distract the drones."

    Rygobeth's heart sank. "No, Sokek... no one gets left behind." Sokek held up a hand, telling him to stop. Rank was no longer a concern. This was a privilege few had, and Sokek did. Rygo had known her since the end of his second sabbatical, he'd met her at the Academy in 2371. They were friends, family, for too long for them not to be able to talk frankly. "Rygo," she said, "You and the others must escape. If we all fall here, the Determination and her crew will be lost to the Borg. I cannot allow this. The needs of the many-"

    "-outweigh the needs of the few," Rygo finished sadly. He knew they were true, but he didn't want to admit it. Before him was one of his closest friends... and in all likelihood, she would die, or worse. "Sokek... sometimes I hate your damned Vulcan logic." He chuckled at the joke. "Do what you have to do, old friend." She nodded, and again raised her hand, forming the traditional Vulcan salute. "Live long, Rygobeth Lerginas... and prosper." Then she rose, and so did her captain. "I'll see you're commended for this, Sokek. And... I'll miss you. You have been a better friend than I could ever ask for." He then jogged away, and caught up to his team. Shots rang out behind them. The team turned, all but Rygo. Far down the long hall, they saw Sokek surrounded.

    They saw the drone inject her, saw her fall. For the crime, Remata'klan took that drone's head off with his weapon, even from all that range. Jem'Hadar really were crack shots. Rygo soldiered ahead, his face blank. the party knew the face. Rage, grim determination. It crossed the admiral's face whenever they fought the Borg, whenever he was upset to his core. This was certainly one of those times. They managed to beam back, but none forgot that they had lost family in the Unicomplex. The Determination beat its hastiest escape, but a Cube somehow caught a whiff of them on the outskirts of the base. The Determination baited it out. On the bridge, as the ship came about, Rygo's mask cracked. The rage crossed his face, and he roared the order to crush the Cube. Remata'klan and Kopaka were more than happy to comply, and the full viciousness of the dreadnought lashed out in Lance and in cannon. In that rare moment, the full power of the Determination was brought to bear on a single target, and the cube was laid waste to. More came, and the Determination put up a fierce fight. Four Cubes fell before the Determination finally veered off and went to warp. The Cubes tried to pursue, but found a unique gift in thew Determination's wake - a specially-built mine, for if just this happened. It detonated with a massive graviton surge, preventing warp or transwarp fields from being stabilized by the Borg. The Determination was gone, and was in Slipstream long before the remaining ships could pursue.

    Many hours later...
    Sokek heard them. Physically, she was Borg. It hurt, but one of the Borg implants dulled the input. But she'd heard them. The neural suppressant was wearing off. She was calm. It was already too late - for her, and for the Borg. She resisted, but she did not fear. Her last thought was a silent farewell to her captain...

    The Borg parsed the new drone's mind. The female from Species 3259 had been assimilated in an assault on the Unicomplex. They knew the neural suppressant had prevented them access until now. But now, they needed to know... what was that group's plan. Too late, they discovered it all. The Collective set out to stop it, but the female had not been briefed on the nature of the virus. They failed to crack the code, but redirected the flow away from the Queen's Chamber as the system blew. The Unicomplex was torn apart, 90% of it totally useless.

    The Queen's ship departed. As it tried to jump to transwarp, a ship decloacked, the same one the female came from. Her access codes didn't work, and the ship assailed the Octahedron, crippling its weapons before the Queen could fire. They tried to damage the engines, but the Queen was too fast. The Queen, after all, was perfection. The Octahedron jumped to transwarp, and the Starfleet ship departed under Slipstream. Eight of Ten, the female drone went about her new duties to attempt to rebuild the Unicomplex.

    Rygobeth rose his glass. "To Sokek," he said. "Never have I had a better friend or a more dutiful officer. Her loyalty and service were always far above and beyond the call of duty. And she will never be forgotten." The assembled senior staff raised their glasses, and sipped, but Rygobeth could not. He tried, desperately, but could not drink it. In a show of emotion none assembled had ever seen, the admiral sat down and wept openly, for the first time in almost forty years. His parents, Q'Tar, and now Sokek... he was old, far older than he looked, and his heart was heavily with their loss. The crew sat with him, consoling and mourning with him. Rygobeth swore one day... somehow, some way... he would rescue her. And he renewed his blood oath for revenge against the Borg, a forty-two-year-old vow originally made over the graves of his parents.

    The Borg would take no more of his family.
  • rextorvan36rextorvan36 Member Posts: 150 Arc User
    edited August 2013

    I had taken the elevator down from Ops after delivering a manifest for the DS9 engineering team. That manifest described the work that would be needed to get the Limburg in something of a ready state for the voyage back to the Utopia Planetia shipyards. But I wasn't done, not by a long shot.

    I wanted a word with the commanding officer of Taskforce Badlands, and I wanted it rather badly.

    Office of vice admiral Tommi Aguchi, Deep Space 9

    Aguchi had two guards outside his office. I was surprised to see they were wearing MACO gear. I couldn't imagine why this admiral would need that kind of security in a part of the station that was essentially Starfleet country.

    I was pretty sure he wasn't as vital as say Admiral Quinn or Admiral T'nae. And yet the presence of those same guards alerted me to something I had suspected since my little foray into the Badlands at the head of the task force with the same name.

    In the extensive written report that I wanted to deliver personally I had stated that the mission was a waste of resources that could have been better used elsewhere. I also had some pretty compelling reasons to use that argument.

    I didn't use the door chime. I knocked, rather old fashioned, but I figured that Aguchi wouldn't expect me back this soon anyway.

    "Who is it?" even his voice sounded a little too cheerful to my liking.

    "Admiral Torvan to see you." I answered. Apparently his secretary was out.

    I found the following silence to be very very telling.

    "Come in."

    I found Aguchi at his desk, staring intensely at a padd. This time, his office wasn't all that lavish. But then, this was DS9 and not Earth. I dismissed the stare as fake. I also knew he kept in shape as required He had a rather sporty body but, I was sure he only did the mandatory level workout. The only other thing I found odd about Aguchi was the fact that he didn't sport any graying hair, despite the stress that a promotion to flag rank usually carried.

    "Back so soon, Admiral Torvan?"

    I didn't answer. Instead I tossed the padd containing my report on his desk.

    Aguchi didn't react at first. He looked at the padd as if it was something dirty. "What is this?"

    "My report on the mission of Taskforce Badlands, or what's left of it."

    Slowly Aguchi picked up the pad and started to read. Not a few moments later he put down it again.

    " I do not need to read any more. You have failed the mission I gave you."

    "There was only one outcome for that mission. Failure."

    "I myself do not know the meaning of that word." Aguchi snorted.

    "Maybe you should learn it, admiral." I really found it hard to control my emotions. Not when I knew that the Limburg and the Watson, the only functional ships, were filled to the brim with survivors of three Ambassador class starships. It was meant to be a test project for a new universal sensor pallet, that could fit in all the currently on the line starships. The pallet was also supposed to alert a helmsman to dangerous spatial occurences.

    We had the proof the pallet had failed at least once. This caused the destruction of the USS Larson, due to a plasma wave they couldn't evade, or so the few survivors said.

    The second Ambassador, USS Union, suffered a worse fate. From one of the buoys that we had been able to find, and, in accordance with the test plan, they had proceeded to scan one of those erratic plasma funnels that dotted the Badlands. Then, a small remnant of Alpha Jem Hadar had shown up.....

    It was the destruction of the USS Waterloo, the third Ambassador, that was giving me nightmares. In the general neighborhood of the Union, the Waterloo had turned tail and ran. With a maneuvering capability worse then a Galaxy class, it only took one asteroid through the starboard nacelle to set some bad things in motion.

    Most of the survivors we picked up were from the Waterloo. Fortunately, DS9 had a cargo bay ready to act as a triage area. It eased some of the overcrowding and some of the operational difficulties as well.

    The admiral stayed motionless as I recounted all the details. "What about the sensor pallet on your ship?"

    I didn't want to relive the details. But I forced myself to do it. "I'll answer in the form of some questions. How do you think I know about the Larson? How do you think I know about the Union? And how do you think Captain Castle and I found the Waterloo survivors?"

    I congratulated myself for not shouting the last question.

    "Ah, so the project was a success!"

    I sighed. "My Chief science officer managed to get a 12 percent increase in resolution out of the pallet, after disabling certain thresholds. We forwarded those results to Captain Castle on the Watson. It eased our search considerably." I didn't bother telling him that the duty CSO was a liberated Borg.

    Now Aguchi was smiling. "So you haven't failed the mission, at all." He sounded pleased.

    I still wasn't. Losing 3 starships in what was in essence a sensor test looked an awful lot like waste to me. I told the admiral this.

    "My dearest admiral Torvan, to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs. Even in the great black."

    I didn't feel like responding. I just wanted to be out of there. But I couldn't leave, not just yet.

    I had to know that Aguchi hadn't won this round and, that there wouldn't be a next time or next round either. It was a plan even Captain Castle's wife fancied.. There was now a chime at the door. I figured it would be her.

    It was the admiral's secretary instead. I didn't recognize him. Yet he too was surprised to see me.
    “Admiral Torvan, I don't recall you having an appointment with the admiral for at least another week?”

    The secretary was a Bolian and held the rank of Lieutenant-Commander. Other then that, I had no clue to his name whatsoever. “Lieutenant-commander, unfortunately something came up that forced me to contact the admiral a little earlier then I anticipated.”

    “Oh dear. I'm sorry I wasn't at my post, admiral.”Aguchi didn't respond. I seemed to be sole focus of his attention.

    I did feel a little edgy when the secretary was directed towards his desk by Aguchi. In this way he would be out of my sight, behind me. And since I didn't trust the admiral any more then anyone else that was part of his staff that could be a little..problematic.

    Before I could dwell any further on the situation, the secretary reported that there was an incoming communication from Admiral Quinn. I frowned. Although I was sure the report had reached Starfleet Command, I figured they would have something better to do. In this case, Aguchi agreed with me. He also told the secretary to tell that he was in deliberation with me.

    Not moments later, the secretary was back, and whispered something in Aguchi's ear. First, I watched him turn pale. Then I watched him reach for the desk terminal, with a trembling hand. Not moments later the face of Admiral Jorel Quinn appeared on screen.

    “ Good evening, Aguchi. And good evening to you as well, admiral Torvan.” I gave a brief nod, acknowledging the presence of the chief of operations of Starfleet.

    “ Admiral Quinn, always a pleasure.” Aguchi began but Quinn cut him short. “Not this time, Aguchi, Not this time.”

    I saw him frown.

    “ A report has reached my desk. A very very bad report.” Quinn's tone wasn't really upsetting, yet. There was however a certain dangerous edge to his tone. I knew that tone. It was the tone of someone who didn't suffer fools lightly. “And its about your performance as the commander of Task Force Badlands.”

    Aguchi now seemed to stoically wait on what else was coming thus he said nothing.

    Admiral Quinn went on in the meantime “ This was a disastrous mission! You never ever should have ordered this to begin with. A simple sensor test that cost us 3 starships and their crews. That price is way too high! Way too high! With our resources spread this thin these are losses we can ill afford. You will answer for this, Aguchi.”

    There was a pause as Quinn studied a padd “ Taskforce Badlands is standing down pending a command review. The surviving ships and crews will be released to other duties. Maybe if we wipe the name, we'll wipe the shame.”

    I almost felt like a Klingon that had been mentioned in an opera about doing something with honor.
    Quinn wasn't finished though “One final thing. I've stated before that we need stuff that works now. Not stuff that worked 30 years ago. Therefore, you are hereby relieved of command, pending an inquest into your actions. This inquest is to be carried out by the Fleet Investigative division.”

    Admiral Quinn hadn't really finished talking when the door chimed again.I knew this had to be the fleet investigators. Again I was in for a surprise as Jed Castle, the captain of the Watson, was the first through the door. I recognized the officer that followed him immediately.

    Commander Jo Beckett, deputy commander DS9 division of fleet investigation, and, if the rumor mill was correct, the sometime lover of captain Jed Castle. She had a security detail of her own in tail. Beckett headed straight for the now former admiral.

    “ Admiral Tommi Aguchi, I have a warrant for your detainment.”

    One of the security detail members followed Beckett and produced a set of handcuffs. With these the admiral was soon bound and escorted out. Also, I didn't fail to catch the little signals between the captain and the commander. So much for the rumor mill.

    I exhaled the breath I hadn't realized I had been holding in.

    With Aguchi now under review, the chances of me having to deal with him again would be slim. Although I knew there would be others along with other challenges that would cross my path on the long road. I could only hope it would be less bloody.....
  • wraithshadow13wraithshadow13 Member Posts: 1,538 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    The ship rocked hard to port.

    "DAMAGE REPORT!" Captain Donovan demanded.

    "Minimal, Sir. Shields are holding at 98% and reports are showing no structural damage."

    "What hit us this time?"

    "It looks like a tricobalt mine, Captain." Keating replied after a few taps of his console.

    "It appears to have been cloaked Captain" T'Pal interjected before adding "I suggest we lower our speed and begin passive tachyon sweeps, we would be better off dealing with the threat at hand than having to dodge more blasts like that."

    "Do it, reroute all available power to the shields and begin evasive maneuvers."

    With that, the ship slowed but began a more erratic flight pattern, guided heavily by the sensor array. A large heavily armed cruiser pursued it steadily through what was now, more than likely, a highly volatile minefield. As to what kind of cruiser it was, was hard to tell given that it was heavily modified from it's original Gorn specifications. This ship was mercenary, through and through, so whom ever was pulling the strings had deep pockets. Money like that usually meant a ship like this wasn't going to be the only one had the U.S.S. Geist not been jamming any outward communications.

    Another shot rocked the ship as they pushed their way through, closer to the station. One of the problems was that the larger ship had managed to warp in right behind the Geist, meaning that they knew about the attack beforehand, something that James Donovan had not been very happy about seeing how his orders usually came from Section 31. A leak like this wasn't something that just..."happened". Normally, the Geist would be able to out turn the heavy cruiser, but the mines were making that exceptionally difficult. With shields ebbing passed 75%, the Captain was open to taking suggestions when a mine altered its position and struck the ship.

    "What happened to that sensor sweep?"

    "The closer we get to the station, the more dense the field becomes."

    "How can we use that to our advantage Lieutenant Davers?"

    At that moment another mine detonated dropping the shields to 39% when the Science console exploded killing the poor woman out right.

    "DAVERS!" he hit a console on his chair "Emergency medical to the bridge!"

    Captain Donovan began running a few calculations and scenarios through his personal console. There was a possible chance that he could at least slow down the enemy boat long enough to get some distance. He sent his specs down to the armory and before long the order was given to fire. The plan was simple: overcharge a matter/antimatter warhead, killing the charge effectively making it a short range dud, but as it traveled it would put off one hell of a beacon to any and all nearby mines. A quick check on the trajectory and the torpedo was fired from the front of the ship as the Geist dropped power to the engines. Slowly the torpedo made a wide arc and headed back towards the Gorn ship.

    As planned, it bounced off the shields like it was nothing, but it was what happened next that the merc boat didn't anticipate. Mine after mine drifted into the larger vessel, each setting off a large explosion until the shields couldn't help but buckle. Once the explosions stopped, the Federation ship jumped back to impulse, turning to face the enemy ship before unloading on it with its full forward arc. Each burst of energy hitting directly into the Gorn hull. A few moments later the enemy ship was disabled, pitching slightly as its thrusters failed and it only had enough power left to run life support.

    The next biggest challenge was the station itself. It was heavily armored and had multiple turrets to aid in it's defense. What ever they'd been hiding on this station, must have been something big, because normally stations weren't this heavily guarded, and never under private security. It took a little doing, but the Geist was able to take the stations outer defenses with relative ease. Heavy shielding, a few small turrets, a singular phaser array around the top of the station, a quantum torpedo launcher on both ends, all of which the ship had little trouble taking out with minimum difficulty. It would seem that the minefield and heavy cruiser were the primary defense for the station, which was a good thing given that the Geist had taken quite a beating already.

    Beaming into the station, the various strike teams were pleased to find only a small group of heavy security, but little else in terms of armed response. This allowed for the second leg of the mission to finally warp in, the U.S.S. Denning, a large science based cruiser. The Geist would be sent in first to deal with any defensive measures and secure the station, the Denning was there to handle any of the science they found inside. From the reports, this station was an unregistered genetics laboratory working both in enhancement and augmentation experimentation. It had taken months of work to get this far: sting operations, armed conflicts, negotiations in less than political settings, taking this station was the culmination of months of work by Section 31. The Geist had personally lost a few outstanding crew members during this investigation, so Captain Donovan was going to be personally happy that this final operation would be the end of it.

    The Denning, being a much larger ship, transported all non-cooperative crew to their brig, even going so far as to convert a few cargo bays into make shift holding cells. Once cleared, the Geist's teams would sweep the station for any other threats as well as keep an eye on the remaining staff. Things went as well as planned, the security teams found a few hostiles, but were able to stun them with little damage to systems. The computers were the first things inspected, all files were transferred to the Denning, and their teams were split up and assigned security as they went from room to room cataloging the various experiments.

    In one room there were numerous plant samples, some of which were cross breeds, many were modified in terms of advanced nutritional value, toxicity, or medicinal purposes. One team found a lab with various biological samples and a few genetically enhanced specimens locked in shielded stasis pods, one of which seemed to be a litter of tribbles that had been altered to feed on other tribbles. The science types got a good laugh over that one. Then finally they hit exactly what they were looking for: Weapons development. Laboratories that had been designing and testing biological weapons, some were mutagenic, some viral, and a few were even meant to enhance their patients. One of which was designed to be a sub-dermal poison gland, secreting a poison through the skin to be absorbed through touch.

    There were so many different experiments running all over the station, some of which seemed like they would be beneficial, but the egg heads aboard the Denning had deemed everything war based. A lot of which seems to be based on a series of hypothetical threats like the Dominion returning or dealing with the possible attack by Species 8472. Half of the experiments going on here were potentially capable of mass destruction of civilizations or entire ecosystems, yet there was no real explanation of why. There seemed to be no real species or government behind this station, though there were clear signs of various cultures involvement. The expense of which had to have been immense, both in terms of resources as well as monetary, and the more they dug, the more Captain Donovan didn't like what he was seeing. Once the Denning had everything they needed, the Geist would destroy the station entirely, something easier said then done.

    The staff and security from the station were held aboard the U.S.S. Denning, any experiments confiscated were placed on the Geist along under the supervision of one of the Denning's top science officers, a Vulcan called Sabin. The Geist was making a final sweep of the station as the Denning was making its way through the minefield when a few smaller ships warped in just outside of the perimeter. The Geist wasn't able to beam its crew up in time to help as the mines decloaked and began bombarding the cruiser. It seemed to happen almost in slow motion as the hull began to separate, breaking off entire sections. The larger section began tilt before splitting again, sending off debris and a few life pods, which were then picked off by the ships as they made their way towards the station.

    It was a move that Donovan and his crew wasn't really expecting. It was a senseless act that showed the experiments were more important to the benefactors than the teams working on it... All the more reason that he couldn't allow it to fall back into enemy hands. The last of the away team planted a viral program which would effectively wipe all data from the core as self destruct counted down. The Captain didn't plan on dying, but just in case, he was going to make sure the TRIBBLE couldn't pick up where they left of. The ship had every one accounted for so they raised shields and headed to meet their end.

    There were three other ships, a mid sized escort and two smaller destroyer class ships which made a beeline for the station as the escort laid down some cover fire. With shields already damaged, the only real advantage they had was time... and that they were foolishly heading straight for the bow of the ship. Weapons were charged and what shields they had left were running as best they could.

    "All weapons, medium spread."

    The antiproton canons began bombarding the smaller ships as the Geist began reversing to keep them in its forward arc. Even then, the destroyers were doing a number on the shields and it wasn't long until they were hitting the hull directly. Captain Donovan ordered full power transferred from what used to be the shields to structural integrity and weapons. They jumped into evasive maneuvers and flew passed the ship which followed suit. As they were making their way to the opposite side of the station, the Geist gave chase firing with everything it had, trying to put the complex between them and the larger ship. The destroyers were heavily modified to deal heavier damage, but as far as scans showed, it was a rushed job, something these jobs were frequently cursed by. All effort had probably been into maximizing damage output, with minimal resources put into safety.

    The Captain passed his idea over to the senior staff, which grew shorter once more as a second console exploded sending shrapnel into the ship's counselor and the ensign next to her. It met approval and the call was made to engineering to realign the ships shield emitters with a few minor adjustments. It wouldn't do much on its own, but coupled with a quick, well timed burst from the deflector, and what used to be a field used for warp travel or defensive barrier would send a feedback pulse along their own beams. Normally this would blow out a few relays and maybe take weapons offline momentarily as they rerouted power. However, luckily, Donovan was right and the ships safety wasn't its primary concern.

    As the next barrage fired, the Geist activated its field momentarily causing the energy to pulse back along the beam and shoot through every power system on the destroyer overloading the warp core, destroying it and heavily damaging the other. The Captain took advantage of this just as the medium sized escort came around the station, hitting the second destroyer with everything causing it to explode. The Geist put all power from weapons to engines and pushed through the blast trying to outrun the other escort. While the Federation ship had the firepower to take the other vessel, it didn't have the means to defend itself. Being on the other side of the station left a wide open hole in the minefield that Captain Donovan could use to escape with what little they had acquired.

    He'd timed the skirmish just right it would seem. As he flew through the burning remains of the destroyers, Captain Donovan ordered full impulse, shooting over the station and toward the hole in the minefield. Unexpectedly however, was the self destruct device used be the station. As the ship went for the hole in the field, all of the tricobalt mines decloaked at once and moved inward. The Geist cleared them easily, but were still too close to the Station as it exploded sending out a massive subspace wave.

    As he came too, he checked the screen built into the arm rest of his chair. Damage reports were coming in from all over the ship, life support was still going, the communications array was shot, but weapons were gone as well as warp capabilities. The casualty list was forty strong, and the wounded were calling out from all over the ship. The blast had destroyed the upper nacelles, and with how far from civilization the station had been built, the trip home would be at least seven months, maybe a little sooner if Section 31 sent a ship to investigate. Months of investigation, months of hardships and sacrifice had finally come to an end leaving the U.S.S. Geist to limp home over the next few months.

    As he assigned additional crews to aid in medical emergencies he couldn't help but think of all the good people he had lost over this. All the families he would have to notify, and not even be able to explain why or how many people they'd helped save by taking out those labs and their weapons and experiments. He couldn't help but be angry at the deaths of all those involved in this mission and how little had really changed. That was about to change though, in all reality, a lot of things were about to change. Science Officer Sabin had emerged, a little battered and bruised, from the Turbolift.

    "Captain Donovan, there is a problem with one of the Specimens in the cargo bay. One of the stasis pods was damaged during the explosion."

    "What's wrong with it that can't wait until we get everything under control Mr. Sabin?"

    "It has begun the standard shutdown procedure and there is nothing I can do to stabilize the system, the damage is too extensive."

    "Do I really need to worry about a tribble with sharp teeth, Lieutenant-Commander?"

    "It was one of the larger containers brought on board, Captain. The one marked as Rre Deshaa."

    "Ray what?"

    "Rre Deshaa, sir. It is Angosian, it translates to 'The Wraith'."
  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 8,659 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    The man with the improbably black eyes sat in a chair on the other side of the comfortably-appointed room. "Now, Mr. Burwell, just relax," he said soothingly. "My name is Jorel Dael, and I'm a counselor. We just need to go over a few things."

    Ensign Iain Burwell laughed hollowly. "'Relax', he says. My grandfather told me once about this book he read when he was a kid, written way back before the wars - before even the Eugenics Wars. It was called 'Future Shock'. He said he thought that when the Warp 5 project went online, he finally understood it." He shook his head. "He had no idea. Alvin Toffler's got nothing on me, I can tell you that!" There was an edge to his voice. He wanted to laugh again, but he wasn't sure he'd stop this time.

    "That's part of what this interview process is about, Mr. Burwell. May I call you Iain?"

    "Sure," Iain shrugged, "why not? What's my rank matter any more, anyway? Even if we had made it back, I probably would have been cashiered."

    "That's not what the logs say," Dael replied. "Your commanding officer thought highly of you. Commander Wardell even has a recommendation for a commendation for you."

    "That's because they didn't live to see what happened."

    "Can you tell me what happened, Iain? In your own words? This isn't a formal report - I want to know what you felt about what was happening, not just a recitation of events. You've already filed one version with Command."

    "Okay, let's get started, then," Iain said.

    It was in March of 2158 that the Icarus got orders to head out toward the Trianguli region, to check on reports of Romulan attacks. The Captain told us it would be a milk run - six months at the most, and we'd be back to the defense of Earth. We were freshly resupplied, just in case - a full loadout of photonic torps, phase arrays just installed, hydroponics cleaned up, everything. We were good for up to a year without resupply, because you never knew when one of those damned Rom ships would pop up and start shooting. At least the Klingons would talk first - usually telling us to get out or surrender, sometimes just to taunt us, but there would be some warning. And they'd let us see their faces. First time I saw a Romulan face, though, was after it was all over - and that was on the rescue ship, which was a hell of a thing, I can tell you.

    Anyway, we were out there near Gamma Trianguli, because one of the ships had reported being hit there. Don't know if you Federation guys pay any attention to stars like Gamma Tri - it's an A-class star, way too hot to bother with usually, and it doesn't have any planets, just this soup of radioactive rocky debris where nothing ever formed 'cause the silly thing's whipping around like a stellar dervish. Turned out that if your shields were good enough, it made a great hiding spot, too, 'cause three frigging Rom warships suddenly popped out of the soup and came right for us. I was off-shift, and a good thing for me, 'cause Jim Turner, the helm officer, bought it in the first salvo - they hit right on the main navigational deflector, and feedback in the system made his console blow up in his face. I was headed for the backup bridge as soon as the Red Alert sounded, of course, so I was able to take the helm pretty quick. The Captain fought 'em off as well as he could, but it was three to one. They blew the Bridge off not long into the fight - lost the Captain, the XO, most of the command staff, really. Then something happened in Engineering, I think a warp coolant leak from the core, and we lost the Engineer. Chain of command was all frakked up, so I took it, because I was in the best position for it then.

    It didn't take long for me to figure out that there was no way we could win. Sure, we could do a kamikaze run, probably take one or two of the TRIBBLE with us, but then Earth still wouldn't know anything about Roms hiding around Gamma Tri, so I figured we'd better make a run for it while we could. Only with the hits we'd taken, the best I could squeeze out of the old girl was about warp 3.4, and they were coming after us faster than that. Then I spotted some sort of subspace distortion on long-range sensors. I figured it'd probably pop us all out of subspace, and then I could at least face them on a more-or-less equal footing. Kind of wish I had that one back. Turned out the distortion was masking a quantum singularity, probably about the mass of Pluto or so - not that big a deal as black holes go, but enough that it hadn't evaporated from Hawking radiation yet. It tore through our main hull, and we lost fifty people or so to explosive decompression and system failures. That's on top of the twenty-three who died in combat. My first command, and like twelve of us lived through it. And I'm still not sure we got the better end of the deal.

    So one of the Roms tailing us caught the hole in their drive section. I hear they use quantum singularities as a power source, which might explain what happened next - an explosion, and the sensors just went bugfrak with spatial and temporal distortions. Figure the two holes hit each other, and merged, twisting spacetime right round. Ripped right through all three surviving ships, me and the other two Roms. One of them kind of collapsed in on itself, probably lost containment on their hole, and the last one bugged right out of there. That left us adrift, with minimal power, and sensors blind. I set up the emergency beacon, and started collecting our supplies - we had enough clean air to last three or four months, between the remaining scrubbers and the hydroponics bay. Then this huge white whale shows up next to us, with "USS Pournelle" written across the bow in English bigger than life, and somebody starts hailing us on a frequency we'd never used before. Kept saying they were with this "United Federation of Planets", which we'd never heard of before either. But they were speaking English, even if it was with a funny accent, so we went ahead and answered. And that was when we found out that when that last explosion happened, we surfed it two hundred and forty-some years into the freaking future. The Icarus is an antique now, and all our cutting-edge space operations training is, I suppose, "quaint". Each of us has a line of at least forty historians waiting to squeeze us for any information we can give them about ancient history, there's some short bald twerp with really amazing ears who wants me to sign a deal giving him exclusive access to our entertainment database, and mostly I'm just feeling lost. I got people killed. A lot of people. I was in command, and I failed them. And now folks want to treat me like some kind of hero just because I managed to not die, and had a freak accident that shoved me into the future.

    You wanna know how I feel, counselor? Most days, I just wish I could crawl right back through that hole, back to the 22nd century, and die when I was supposed to. I'm lost, I have no family left, my home used to be this really nice small town but now it's part of the Seattle-Olympia megacity, and overall my life just sucks. The only thing I know how to do is be a spaceman, and now everything I ever knew is at least two centuries out of date. What the hell am I supposed to do now?

    "Thank you, Iain. But now I have to clear up a few things for you."

    "Yeah, great, doc," Iain said bitterly. "Shoot."

    "Very well. First of all, you seem to feel that the entire mission was a waste. In fact, the fact that the Icarus last reported in near Gamma Trianguli, along with your captain's emergency transmission, did in fact warn Earth's Star Fleet that the location was a Romulan hiding spot. Shipping was rerouted away from there, military patrols were instituted, and within three months the Romulans abandoned their trap. Secondly, you need to make a more realistic assessment of your situation that day. You are an ensign in the United Earth Star Fleet. Experientially, you are less than a year out of your Academy. The fact that your command survived that attack at all is nothing short of miraculous. Had you managed to return to Earth in your own time, their would have been awards, not recriminations."

    "Yeah, that's what you say."

    "That is indeed what I say, Iain," Jorel said sternly. "And it's something that you should maybe listen to. I've been through Command training myself, and in simulations, you're expected to fail a situation like that. There's one that's not very different in nature, called the 'Kobayashi Maru Scenario', that's billed as a 'test of character.' Only three Academy cadets have passed it in over a hundred years, and one of them had to cheat and reprogram the simulator. And that leads me to my third point. You think of yourself as 'worthless' and 'outdated.' However, you've shown a strong knack for the nature of command, and of starship operations. We need more of your kind of person in our Starfleet. The Academy Commandant has authorized me, pursuant to my approval after this interview, to offer you an accelerated track through the Academy. We could bring you up to speed on modern fleet matters and have you aboard a starship again in about two years. Would you find this agreeable?"

    Iain looked puzzled. "Interview? You've just been asking me what happened, which pretty much everybody knew already. How's that tell you if I'm suited for command?"

    "It's one of the reasons I learned to be a counselor," Jorel replied. "My people come from a planet called Betazed. We're telempaths - we can read emotions from a distance. And I was able to feel exactly what you felt when you told me your story. You're going to need psychological counseling sessions for some time, of course, to deal with the trauma of being removed from your own time, but fortunately we've dealt with this situation before. In fact, we've got a couple of officers in the Fleet who aren't even from this timeline. Maybe you'll get to meet one of them one day. Meanwhile, we can at least let you keep doing what you do. What do you say?"

    Iain looked down for a moment. When he looked up again, his eyes brimmed with tears. "This - this is a lot to take in all at once, especially on top of everything else. Can I have - a little time?"

    "Sure, Iain. Take all the time you need. I'll be here."

    Two Weeks Later

    Iain pulled again at the high collar of his cadet uniform, much tighter than the coveralls he was used to, and stole a glance around at the wild variety of people he was seated with. He had to get used to thinking of all of them as "people", even the one with the fishy face who had to take occasional breaths from the vaporous tray hanging in front of its - well, in front of where a nose would be if it had one. It had a sort of fleshy lump with two tentacles depending from it instead. Next to some of them, the Andorians and Tellarites in the crowd seemed downright homey.

    A tall, white-haired man with spots running down the sides of his head strode to the front of the room. "Good morning, cadets," he boomed. "Eyes front - I'm talking to you, mister!" Iain had been looking forward, but involuntarily sat at attention anyway. "My name is Admiral Quinn," the man continued, "head of Starfleet Operations, and I'm here to welcome you to our accelerated course on Starfleet command and control procedures..."
  • shevetshevet Member Posts: 1,643 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    The interior of the bar was crowded and noisy. The Vulcan paused on the threshold, scanning the crowd carefully, until his gaze alighted on the careworn Andorian woman seated in a booth. She saw him at the same time, smiled, and waved one hand in acknowledgment. He made his way over to her table.

    "Commander Tallasa. It is good to see you."

    Tallasa's smile broadened. "Good to see you, too, Saval. How have you been?"

    "I am well." Saval took a seat. "And you?"

    Tallasa sighed. "I've been busy. But it's certainly been, well, interesting."

    "I can well imagine."

    "How have things been... generally? Did you manage to - to adjust?"

    Saval made a thoughtful face. "There were problems, initially. My youngest daughter found it - unusual - to be the same age as me. But logic dictated adjustments be made, so they were made. What of yourself?"

    "Nothing to adjust." She looked away from him, her eyes focused on nothing. "He who was my thaan-father died during the - the interval. But he was dead to us in any case." She turned her eyes back to Saval. "Most of us who are still with the Admiral are in a similar case. Clanless Andorians, discommendated Klingons -"

    "I understand. It is logical."

    Tallasa's face, which had grown sombre, broke out in a smile again. "You don't change."

    Then a voice behind them cried out, "Saval! You old dog, you!" Saval turned.

    The human woman was thin to the point of gauntness, her skin milk-pale, her hair short and spiky. Her brown right eye sparkled with obvious pleasure; her left was concealed by the ugly grey-black shape of a Borg implant, laser light gleaming fitfully within it. She grinned at the Vulcan, her face all sharp planes and angles, making the expression almost feral.

    "Vice Admiral Grau," Saval said, rising politely.

    "Call me Ronnie. And sit down," said Ronnie Grau, "sit down. Damn, you haven't changed a bit! Still got the God-awful facial hair, even!" She reached out with one hand to ruffle the sideburns that framed the Vulcan's long face. Her fingers, too, were studded with cybernetic implants. "This calls for a real drink! None of that damn synthehol rubbish Tallasa's always trying to poison me with -"

    And with that, she turned away, sauntering towards the bar, singing "Hail, hail, the gang's all here", in a loud and distressingly tuneless voice.

    Saval resumed his seat. "I see the Admiral has... changed," he commented.

    "Yes," Tallasa replied, tersely.

    "And yet, she has been promoted - I believe, to the highest level she has ever attained. Is there no concern over her mental state?"

    "I worry about her mental state," said Tallasa. "Only on days that have a 'Y' in their names, though.... Fact is, she's as tactically brilliant as ever. We've been through some things - well. I'll have to tell you about them, sometime."

    Saval gazed in the direction of the bar. "She appears to be involved in an altercation with a Gorn," he said.

    "Oh, don't worry about that, it's normal."

    "Arguing with the Gorn may be normal... losing the argument, though, may prove painful."

    "For the Gorn, probably. She's still heavily loaded up with Borg implants." Tallasa shook her head. "Including one in her mouth... she uses it as a bottle opener. The worst thing was when Lieutenant Haloy got drunk and took a dare - tried to french-kiss her. Medics managed to save his tongue, fortunately."

    Saval raised one eyebrow. "You appear to be part of an... interesting... crew."

    "So are you, now, remember."

    Ronnie loped back, carrying a tray of drinks in one hand. "Damn Gorn backed down, wouldn't arm-wrestle me," she said with a pout. "Your mother was a handbag!" she yelled over her shoulder at the Gorn. Negotiations with the Gorn separatists were at a delicate stage, Saval thought. Prudently, he said nothing. Ronnie set down the drinks. "Aldebaran whisky, Saurian brandy, and... I can't remember what you drink, Saval, so I got one of each. Cheers!" She picked up a glass of green fluid and swallowed half of it at one gulp.

    "Your health, sir," said Tallasa, taking the brandy and sipping it cautiously. After a barely perceptible hesitation, Saval followed suit. Ronnie crashed heavily into a chair, her long limbs sprawling out in all directions. "Here's mud in your eye!" she said, and took another swig.

    "I see you are in good spirits, Vice Admiral," said Saval.

    Ronnie laughed. "You really don't change, do you?" she said. "Yes, and all the better for seeing you and your whiskers. We're gonna have some fun!"

    "Some might have thought," Saval said, "that your career had been... sufficiently eventful already."

    Ronnie cocked her head to one side, considering. "Yes," she said in more thoughtful tones. "Yes, I suppose it's been a pretty long, strange road...."



    Commander Martin Hudson repressed a disdainful sniff as his captain took her place in the centre seat. It ought to be mine, he thought to himself, looking at the slender, dark-haired woman whose blue coveralls hung loosely on her spare frame. Damn hotshot. Oh, he knew the stories, how Ronnie Grau had taken over when her ship's bridge was breached by Romulan plasma fire, how she'd commanded the crippled vessel from auxiliary control and made the enigmatic aliens pay with three of their own ships... but, really, did that merit command of one of the new Federation fleet's best ships?

    "Status?" she asked.

    "Still on course." Hudson was determined to remain nothing less than professional - if only to show up her casual, offhand, irreverent attitude. "The Tellarite freighter veered off at 0200 hours, as expected. Their captain advised us against continuing our investigation."

    Ronnie Grau raised her eyebrows. "I bet that's not how he put it," she said.

    "'Tell her, if she's damn fool enough to mess with the Stygmalian Rift, she can damn well do it without me'," Ensign Koslov quoted from the comms station. Ronnie laughed. Then her sharp face turned serious again.

    "Anything showing up ahead?" she asked.

    "Sensor sweeps are clear across the board," Hudson replied. "This region of space may have a - a reputation - but, so far, we've come up with nothing to justify it."

    Ronnie frowned. "There must be something," she said. "Tellarites may argue for no reason, but they don't run scared for no reason... there has to be something out here." Her brow cleared. "Something we can take back to show that damned stuffed shirt Admiral Reed, I hope."

    Hudson shook his head. What did she have against Admiral Reed? The man had been responsible for making NX-class ships like the Goshawk what they were, the dependable workhorses of the new-era Starfleet. He was a fine officer and a fine man....

    "If there's nothing there," Ronnie said, abstractedly, "it's not going to be easy to spot where this 'rift' begins... Are you sure there's no

    thing on sensors?" She started. "What was that?"

    "What was what?" Hudson asked.

    "Something happened...." Ronnie's voice trailed off.

    Unobtrusively, Hudson picked up a stylus. If she's seeing things, starting to crack up, he thought, I'll make sure it's documented, all the way. It was almost as an afterthought that he checked the sensor console -

    And froze. "There's a ship out there!" he yelled. "My God, it's almost on top of us! And it's huge!"

    "Sir!" Koslov spoke up from comms. "I have an incoming communication - on Starfleet frequency -"

    "On screen," Ronnie ordered.

    The viewscreen flickered, and a picture took shape. It showed what was clearly the bridge of a starship... but not a starship of any class Hudson recognized. The centre seat was occupied by a stern, grey-haired man, wearing dark trousers and a bright yellow shirt. He spoke.

    "Unidentified vessel, this is Captain Andrew Hart of the Federation starship Illustrious. You have ventured into a hazardous region of space." A man - a Vulcan, Hudson realized - in a blue shirt stepped up to the captain, spoke inaudibly into his ear. Hart frowned. "Your transponder code and ship configuration matches that of the USS Goshawk, lost in this sector nearly a hundred years ago -"

    Hudson's stylus fell from his numbed fingers and clattered to the deck. It was the loudest sound on the bridge.

    Ronnie was first to find her voice. "I'd dispute lost, Captain," she said. "I guess I'd have to own up to... overdue, though."



    Now this, Ronnie thought, is what the future ought to look like. Brushed steel and indirect lighting, none of those blocky modular consoles... and proper science-fiction tunics instead of those primary-coloured shirts. Yes, she thought, I could get used to these new Constitution refits... they've got style.

    "At coordinates," the helmsman reported.

    Ronnie nodded. "Intraship address."

    "Channel open, sir," the comm officer sang out.

    Ronnie took a deep breath. "This is Captain Grau to all hands. We are now approaching the navigational hazard known as the Stygmalian Rift. Now, most of you know that the last time I was here, I got time-warped ninety-eight years into the future. We're going to try to avoid that, today.

    "My old ship, the Goshawk, had no detectors capable of picking up the time distortion at the heart of the Rift. Time moved on, though -" her mouth quirked into a wry smile "- and the Jayhawk is carrying chroniton sensors that will keep us out of harm's way. We're going to move parallel to the temporal fissure, scanning and charting as we go. With luck, the data we get will enable the bright guys back at Starfleet Science to nail down what's happening here, maybe even close the thing off for good. Okay, people, let's move." She clicked off the channel, and sat down, tugging nervously at her uniform. It might look properly futuristic, but it was still too roomy for her.

    "Ahead one-quarter impulse."

    The Jayhawk surged smoothly forwards, her blue-glowing deflector dish pulsing as the scanning probes set to work, sending out waves of exotic energies on frequencies unimagined a hundred years before.

    On the viewscreen, a holographic display showed the ship's progress along the invisible boundary of the temporal anomaly. Ronnie leaned forward, staring at it intently, her dark eyes sparkling. Data scrolled up the margins of the screen, numbers flashing past too quickly to register, but stored in the ship's computer, to form part of the analysis that would

    dim changeless light and frozen stasis, and at the edge, something, a flicker of motion and colour in the periphery of an unimaginable vision, a glimpse of something in a direction never imagined before

    expose the anomaly's mysteries -

    Ronnie blinked. What was that?

    "Give me a status report!" she snapped.

    Every head on the bridge turned towards her. "Status normal," a science officer reported. "On course and holding."

    "Wait a minute," the comm officer said. "I'm reading - Sir, there's a discrepancy in our nav beacons. The nearest array is sending us an amended timestamp - no, that can't be right -" He paled. "Sir... the reading it's giving... it's a stardate nearly ninety years in the future!"

    Silence fell over the bridge. Ronnie broke it. "Oops," she said.

    She settled back into the command chair as the bridge broke into an uproar. "I promised my mother I'd be home for Christmas!" one ensign was shrieking, over and over, as kind hands helped her towards sickbay.

    Nobody noticed Ronnie's lips moving, or heard what she muttered. "Changed the rules on me, did you? Oh, that's not nice... I'll get you for that. Next time. I'll be ready for you. Next time."



    Saval stepped onto the bridge of the USS Merlin and took in the scene. The Andorians, Tallasa and her sister Jhemyl, were at the helm and ops consoles; the Klingon renegade, Ahepkur, flashed her teeth in what he hoped was a smile from the tactical controls. Saval moved to the science station.

    Ronnie Grau sat in the centre seat, her stick-thin limbs huddled around her. She stared at the deck.

    "Sir." Tallasa's voice was quiet and gentle. "Sir, it's time." Ronnie looked up. Her body mass index is unusually low for a human, Saval thought. Possibly sub-optimal if health is to be maintained.

    "OK," said Ronnie, and her voice rasped. "Put me on the speakers. One more time," she added in an undertone.

    "All right," she said, and her voice echoed over the intercom. "This is the captain. You know what's happening, you're all volunteers, Starfleet wouldn't let anyone come with me who wasn't... but this is it. My personal white whale, I guess. You're all invited to the party." She laughed harshly. "We are now on approach course to the Stygmalian Rift. It's kicked me into the future twice now, but I think I'm making headway, honest I am. We've got a ship with, I think, the right equipment, and if Dr. Saval's chroniton metrics pan out, we should be able to send a beam through the main deflector that will shut this sucker down, once and for all.

    "But this is your last chance. He who hath no stomach for this fight, let him depart, his passport shall be made, and crowns for convoy put into his purse... don't get the reference? Anyone who's changed their minds about taking the chance, get down to the shuttle bay and get on out of here. Last chance. Smell those burning bridges, people? If you're not with me, go, and go now. Grau out." She turned to Saval, and her dark gaze burned into him. "Hope you make better decisions about physics than you do about hairstyles, Saval."

    "I am confident we will achieve our aims," Saval said. Ronnie cackled again. Saval turned his attention to the console, to the data flashing across the screen. This apparently empty region of space was alive with temporal distortions, with energy flows that crossed dimensional boundaries and made a mockery of causality. Sometimes, Saval thought he could almost see a pattern behind them.... Sometimes, when he looked at Ronnie Grau and saw the expression in her eyes, he thought she had seen something, too.

    "Three shuttles have launched," Tallasa reported in a level voice.

    "Stuff 'em, then," said Ronnie. "Ahead three-quarters impulse."

    "Aye, aye," said Jhemyl, her fingers already racing across the helm controls.

    Saval keyed in the first sequence on his console. "Ready to commence initial chroniton probes," he said.

    "No," said Ronnie. "No probes. All or nothing - go direct to the energy pulse. Sucker-punch the thing. Don't give it any warning...."

    "It is not a conscious entity," Saval protested, "and I require data if the margin of error is to be eliminated."

    "No," said Ronnie.

    "Do as the Captain orders!" growled Ahepkur. The discommendated Klingons were fiercely loyal to anyone who would take their loyalty, Saval remembered. He thought furiously for a second. The data from the Jayhawk had been consistent - his analysis should hold up - but there would be a risk -

    But Captain Grau, it seemed, was not concerned about risks.

    "Energising main deflector," he heard himself say, and Ronnie gave a contented sigh.

    "Thirty seconds to contact," Jhemyl said.

    Saval's fingers danced on the console, and a distant hum sounded in the EPS system as the full power of a Galaxy-class starship was channelled into the deflector dish. "Configuration complete," he reported, his attention still on the flickering readouts. Is it right? he asked himself.

    "Come on," Ronnie muttered, "come on, come on, come on -"

    "In range," Jhemyl said.

    "Activating." Saval's index finger came down on the button. The ship shuddered.

    Saval's eyes turned to Ronnie. All of a sudden, she was standing, her wiry body trembling, her eyes fixed on empty space. Saval was more than ever convinced that she had seen - something. But what?

    "It didn't work!" she screeched.

    Saval turned back to his console. With a sickening feeling, he realized she was right. "The energy pulse was... off by a factor of 0.15," he reported. "We have been transported forwards in time... some twenty-four years."

    There was an exclamation from someone on the bridge, but it was drowned by Ronnie's voice. "Only twenty-four? And you know how far off you were?"

    "Yes," said Saval. He felt his emotions rising within him, forced them under control. Twenty-four years. There will be personal difficulties... these must be faced. At the proper time. "I will adjust the emission parameters."

    Ronnie's face was contorted. "Bring us round for another pass."

    "You can't!" a voice called out, and Ahepkur rounded on the speaker with a snarl.

    "Steering two zero zero mark two," Jhemyl called out from the helm. "Coming about."

    Ronnie fixed Saval with a glare. "Get it right this time."

    "Parameters adjusted," Saval reported. "Powering up the deflector."

    "Hit it!"

    The viewscreen flared as empty space suddenly erupted into dazzling light. The deck vibrated, then suddenly rocked and bucked as shockwaves pounded the Merlin. Saval clung to his console as the colours span on the viewscreen. Damage control lights sparked on, and alerts screamed across the bridge. The data displays on the console were a jumble of meaningless numbers -

    "Status report!"

    "Working." Jhemyl sounded as emotionless as any Vulcan. "Structural integrity holding. Inertial dampers compensating for the spatial fluctuations...."

    "Sir," said Tallasa, "I'm getting readings from astrometrics.... I think it worked, this time. The rift... turned inside out, or something like that. We're not any further forward in time, but we've been displaced in space."

    "Turned it into a wormhole," said Ahepkur. "Big enough to swallow Qo'nos."

    The data on Saval's console was starting to make sense. "I concur," he said. "We appear to have travelled some thirty thousand light years, to the fringes of the Delta Quadrant. The wormhole is still present, but decaying - I estimate forty hours to its complete collapse."

    "Plenty of time to make repairs, sir, and get Merlin back home," said Tallasa. "It's over, sir."

    "Hope so," muttered Ronnie. Her eyes were wide. What did she see? Saval wondered again. "All right. Make it so. Let's get to it." Somehow, Saval thought, she sounded more like a Starfleet commander.

    Then he looked down at his console. "I have sensor contacts at extreme range," he said. "Large, and closing rapidly. There are energy emissions and subspace pulses - I believe they are attempting to communicate."

    "All right," said Ronnie, "let's hear it."

    There was a brief pause, full of random tones and bleeps, and then a voice spoke. Or not one voice, but a chorus of voices, in a dire, atonal chant.

    "We are the Borg. Surrender your vessel. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."

    Ronnie swore. "Looks like we ran out of time for those repairs." She stabbed at her command panel. "All hands. This is the captain. Activating contingency Omega. All hands to assigned stations." She stood. "Tallasa, you have the conn. Get the saucer section back through the wormhole." She turned and sprinted for the turbolift.

    "Sir!" There was raw emotion in Tallasa's voice. "My place is with you."

    Ronnie turned in the turbolift's doorway. "Your place is to get my people to safety!" she shouted. "Battle section will buy you all the time you need, and we'll be right behind you - you get as many as you can, and Saval and his data, back to Starfleet! We'll rig spatial charges to collapse the wormhole once we're through - now take the conn!" And she plunged into the turbolift, and the doors hissed shut behind her.

    Tallasa drew a deep breath. Her face was a stone. "Prepare for emergency saucer separation."

    Scant minutes later, the Merlin split in two, the saucer section skimming away towards the blue-white maw of the wormhole, while the battle section, spitting golden light and defiance from its phaser arrays, turned towards the oncoming cubes.



    Snatches of conversation floated around the ensign as he made his way to the USS Archangel's bridge.

    "... never expected the Borg, not out here, not so close...."

    "... Vega Colony is months away, no reason to think they'd aim there...."

    He reached the captain's chair, saluted, cleared his throat nervously. Captain Mason Karima looked up, annoyance registering on his darkly handsome face. "What is it?"

    "Sir, it's - um - we picked up some Borg drones, sir. On the planet's surface, after we knocked out the probe?"

    "Well," said Captain Karima, "standard protocols apply, then. Liberate them if possible, restrain them in stasis if not."

    "Yes, sir, but one of them - sir, the medics say you should see for yourself -"

    The captain's frown deepened, but he let the ensign lead him to the turbolift, and down into the ship's brig, where dark figures stood behind force-field doors, menacing and silent.

    "This one, sir." The ensign indicated one of the drones - a female, Karima thought, human or humanoid, very thin. The drone stood there, looking at him impassively through the field -

    No, Karima realized, it wasn't impassive. There was intelligent awareness in the drone's one visible eye, and the mouth was twisted, around its cybernetic implants, into something like a smile - and was that dark stubble, sprouting across its hairless scalp?

    "Captain," said the drone. "M' name's Veronika Grau - call me Ronnie, ev'ryone does." She winced, and put one hand to the implant in her mouth. "This's gonna have t'go - makes it hard t'talk."

    Karima found his voice. "You're - liberated? Self-aware?"

    "Looks like it, doesn' it?"

    "But - but how?"

    "Lemme tell you," said Ronnie. "See, y'know what th' wors' thing is about th' Collective? Terrible career progression. I was Two of Twelve, secondary adjunct to unimatrix zero seven, an' no matter how well I did th' job, they were never gonna make me One of Twelve. So I quit." The twisted smile broadened. "So, Starfleet got any openings? 'Cause I wanna re-up."


    "... a pretty long, strange road," said Ronnie. "And no reason to think we've reached the end of it!"

    "The Stygmalian Rift is closed," said Saval.

    Ronnie made an expansive gesture, nearly knocking over the table. "One door closes, another opens. Or rift. Whatever." She looked thoughtfully at the Vulcan. "So why'd you come back to Starfleet, anyway?" she asked.

    "I... felt an obligation," said Saval. "When I learned that you had been liberated from the Collective, I considered my position, and I decided that I owed you my service. It was, after all, my error which -"

    "No," said Ronnie, "that was my fault, I rushed you. My mistake. I've learned from it, and next time you tell me you need more data, I'll take your advice."

    "Thank you, sir."

    "Advice on science, that is. Advice on personal grooming, not a chance. Those whiskers are terrible."

    Tallasa laughed. After a moment, Saval smiled. "It is a matter of personal taste, sir."

    "I don't want to know what they taste like." Ronnie took another swallow of Aldebaran whisky. "Anyway. Here we all are, and off on the Virtue soon as they let her out of spacedock, and I don't want to hear any more cracks about how that's the wrong name for my ship, OK? Just got a few chores to do Earth-side, admin, and the Academy - and then we're off into the wild black yonder." She took a deep breath. She was going to sing again, Saval realized with a sinking feeling.

    Well, he thought, I do owe you a service - Vice Admiral. And, also... perhaps I will get to find out what you saw.
  • aten66aten66 Member Posts: 653 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Gregs Son'aire, captain of the U.S.S. Oregon, sat down at his desk to fill out his personal log, and to fill out a few letters to send to Starfleet Headquarters. He opened a file of music he had stored to play for background music in the P.A.D.D., and it started playing. To ease his next words, he poured himself a glass of Romulan Ale stashed in a false wall in his desk, and tapped his P.A.D.D. to start his voice log.

    Captains Log: U.S.S. Oregon
    Stardate: 90673.08

    After a supposedly simple three-month mission to the Tau-Dewa sector block, specifically charting the Azure Nebula subspace corridors, the thought of death has come again to me, like it has every time I've had to file these reports and letters. We've learned much about the corridors, at the loss of seven crewman and injury to over a dozen more. And now I was left with reports, bland and sterile apologies with little meaning to the recipient except grief.

    It's been a long road, getting from there to here.
    It's been a long time, but my time is finally near...

    Death leaves a metallic taste in my mouth every time I write a report or visit the house of a crewman killed in action. I cover the taste with ale, but in the end the emotional responses I get in return still leave the taste in my mouth. The looks on a person's face, the loss of their child or relative, always disheartens me.

    I've got faith to believe. I can do anything

    I once thought I could do anything to save those who mattered most to me; I've even rewound time on one occasion to save a few crewman. But I've lost many friends to death over my four year span as a Starfleet captain. Many of them were declared lost in space, others killed in action, some killed by accidents, malevolent aliens, and yet some sacrificed themselves so other's could live.

    I can reach any star.

    But with death comes rejoicing as these men and women are never forgotten by those they've helped, by their friends, by the ones they saved. *Sigh* I've never forgotten the 2,653 men and women I've lost over this four year span... They will never be forgotten because they've helped further their dreams...and those who share them; the one thing Starfleet has never forgotten, and to quote James T. Kirk:

    [I}to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.[/I]


    I've got faith that we'll still hold to this motto, even with new threats popping up everywhere.

    I've got faith, faith of the heart.

    Gregs Son'aire tapped his P.A.D.D., ending his recording and the music, and got up to refill his glass of Romulan Ale. The names of the seven crewman didn't weigh so heavy on him anymore. He sent the letters to Starfleet, swished what remained of his refilled glass and downed it, then went to his room for the rest of the night cycle.
  • arxebluarxeblu Member Posts: 3 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    The long road back...

    Dear Admiral T'Vir,

    I understand that an enquiry as personal as the one I will bring before you here, is most unusual, and in no way part of your normal duties as a Starfleet Admiral.

    Still I beg for your attention, if not for your sympathy.

    As you will know I am married to Captain Emily Skarsgard, currently under your command. Our relationship has been thriving eversince, in spite of the difference in our occupation. Her dedication to the service has never been a hindrance in the advancement of our relationship.

    That said, until now.

    Everything changed when Captain Skarsgard returned from her last mission. In fact it was Emily herself who had changed. The woman that brought USS Pauling back into Stardock was not the one who left it on the same ship six months before. A vital and happy person, full of optimism has become a silent being now, acting every move with an extreme caution, that feels almost unnatural to anyone knowing her before.

    I know Admiral that if this were solely a private matter you would not care, but I am afraid it is not. The new Emily Sk?rsgard, the one that returned from wherever you send her, is unfit to command a starship. This is not just my personal feeling but this is what she told me herself in private. I hope Admiral, that you can guess now, from me telling you that how serious I am about this matter.

    So, at least, we shall proceed to my enquiry.
    I understand that we are at war and that this brings with it a certain need for caution. I know the Pauling?s last mission was secret.

    But I must know what happened.

    Whatever the Pauling?s mission was, something terrible must have happened. I know that there were losses, not that Emily ever told me, but I could tell it from her eyes the moment she materialised. I can only sketchily imagine the kind of crisis my wife is facing inwardly. And this, Admiral, is the point where I need your help. Every attempt on my side, to talk to her, to get to the heart of her pain, is blocked by Emily with reference to the secrecy of the mission. This veil of secrecy only you can lift.

    I know she has help, professionals for all I know, back at Starfleet but I doubt any of your Couselors can reach her now. All the trust our long relatioship has built seems not to be reproduceable with the current Emily Skarsgard. At this moment I seem to be the only person Emily is willing to trust. The only one she will open her heart for. If she is released of that bond of secrecy.

    As much as it is not logical to sacrifice so able an officer to unneeded secrecy, as deadhearted is it to leave the human behind that officer in such a state.

    Especially you, as a leader of so many souls will understand the value of true companionship, friendly support. And you, above all will want Captain Skarsgard to have a fair chance in this struggle, that is perhaps the hardest of all - fighting ones way back into normal life after suffering a blow so hard it changed a persons very soul.


    Micheal Skarsgard
  • csrr12905csrr12905 Member Posts: 47 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Final Mission Report, 3-month mission

    USS Daystar-D, Arichanis Sector

    Vice Admiral Daniel Kendrick, Commanding

    It has been a long, sorrowful mission for the entire taskforce, to say the least.
    As you are no doubt aware, I was deployed to Arachanis three months ago with a small taskforce of ships, including my flagship, the U.S.S. Daystar-D, Prometheus-class, as well as U.S.S. America , Luna-Class, under Captain Lorix, U.S.S. Inflexible, Ambassador-class, under Captain N'ivah Warfield, and the Risan fast corvette R.X.S. MacHale acting as a fast scout ship under Commander Arma'son.

    I know of your disapproval of the MacHale and her crew- I will admit, she certainly isn't Starfleet standards in some areas- but Commander Arma'son has handled her admirably, and I would suggest acquiring more of these ships, especially if we can find experienced Jem'hadar crews to operate them.

    Our initial goal of patrolling the K-7 system and Sherman's Planet went without incident, although we had close encounters with several cloaked mines along some of the major orbits.

    From there, we received reports of a Klingon attack on the Ajilon System, and warped there to respond.
    The MacHale proved her value, reaching the area several minutes ahead of the main force and getting an accurate picture of the klingon forces before retreating, drawing them into pursuit and directly into the task force's path. With the advantage of surprise on our side, we dispatched them with little incident, crippling a Vor'cha-class Battle Cruiser, and destroying two Ki'tang-class Raiders. One Ch'Tang-class Raider escaped with the help of a Subspace Jumper.

    Unknown to me at the time, the Ch'Tang was the I.K.S. Stormcrow, and was, in fact, a Ferasan vessel- and, we had mortally insulted it's captain by allowing them to escape without giving chase.

    After this, we completed two uninteresting patrols in the K-7 area, while the America was in for repairs. Noted here should be the advice that all crews should be informed not to hide contraband in the secondary plasma baffles. The America went to maximum auxiliary power, and bingo- Two weeks in dock, cleaning molten Romulan Ale out of the EPS grid!

    I, of course, had words with Captan Warfield over keeping closer watch on contraband aboard her ship.

    Doing this time, two of my Systems Analysts were able to crack a Ferasan database, successfully locating several Caitian scientists being held prisoner on Ferasa. I was initially against sending our ships that deep into Klingon space for only a few people, but by Chief Engneer M'reth explained the conditions the prisoners were likely being kept under, and I decided to risk it.

    With the repairs complete, I set our course toward Ferasa, using the Inflexible to jam the Klingon long-range sensors in the area.

    We reached orbit apparently undetected, but found a heavy orbital presence, including mines, turrets, and a small fleet of raptors, lead by a Bortasqu' War Cruiser.

    The Inflexible and MacHale preformed an initial assault against the fleet, detonating a remarkable number of mines before heading off at low warp, drawing the raptors into pursuit. America and my Daystar-D then engaged and disabled the Bortasqu's targeting sensors long enough for Daystar to transport down a Assault Squad to the prison camp.

    We then squared off against the War Crusier and the orbital defenses, preventing them from providing orbital support. This continued for several minutes, with Daystar and America both taking signifigant damage before we were able to retrieve the Assault Squad and the prisoners. Doing this time, the America targeted our opponent's engines, preventing them from pursuing us when we disengaged.
    As we warped out, we encountered the Inflexible and MacHale engaging the Raptors, with Inflexible already having suffered heavy damage and lost warp capacity.

    I ordered my engineering teams to transport over immediately, but, without warning or proper provocation, one of the Raptors- I would learn later that it was the same I.K.S. Stormcrow that had narrowly escaped us earlier- rammed the Inflexible, causing a warp core breach seconds later.

    All my remaining ships attempted to beam aboard the crew, but we only managed to recover three hundred people, out of a crew of seven hundred. Captain N'ivah Warfield was lost with her ship, along with some of my best officers- Sciences Officer Yelgrun, CMO Maela - and roughly a hundred and twenty thousand credits of federation warship.

    Overall, the mission must be considered a success, however. We destroyed better than three hundred and twenty thousand credits of Klingon and Ferasan war material- including three birds of prey, captured a Vor'cha-class Battle Cruiser , and took almost five hundred Klingons prisoner.

    It doesn't feel like a victory, though.

    End Report
  • ironphoenix113ironphoenix113 Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Bryan stared out the front window of the Athena's bridge at the badly damaged hull. The ship had been on the front line of the Klingon-Federation war for the past eight months, and it showed, as there were few locations left unscarred by battle. Bryan shook his head as he thought back to the most recent fight. Almost half of the first assault fleet had been gathered at Starbase Nova Prime in preperation for an assault on a Klingon Starbase that controlled a key chokepoint in their supply lines. The Klingons found them first. Nova Prime survived the assault, but about one-fourth of the ships there were lost. Ibalei walked up behind him and put a hand on Bryan's shoulder.

    Bryan glanced back briefly before asking, "How is she?"

    Ibalei stepped up beside him. "Syiseda? She's understandably distraught. She really loved Mckenzie."

    Bryan turned back to the window, nodding. "How much longer until we arrive at Utopia Planitia?"

    "Probably about five more days."

    He continued staring out of the window. "How bad is the damage?"

    "Hull integrety is down to about fourty percent. Can't really speak for the system damage as of yet. We'll find out exactly how bad it is when we get back to the shipyard."

    "How did they find us?" Bryan thought aloud, shaking his head.

    "Well, when one of the best fleets out there starts to gather, our enemies start to notice. It's not your fault."

    "I know," he said. "Feels like it is though."

    Ibalei grasped Bryan's hand. "Well, we still won, and that should be what matters."

    Bryan stood silently for several minutes before sighing heavily. "I'm going to go check on Syiseda."

    She could not cry anymore. Try as she might, looking at the the comatose body of her lover, Syiseda was simply unable to cry. Placing her hand on Mckenzie's forehead, she closed her eyes, and felt a single tear slide down her cheek.

    Why you? She thought to herself. Why you and why not me?

    So deep in thought was she, that she did not hear her commanding officer approach behind her.

    "Syiseda?" Bryan said, walking up to her.

    "Sir," She replied, her voice breaking a little. "Sorry, I didn't hear you approach."

    "Don't worry about it," Bryan said, gently placing a hand on her shoulder. "You've got other things on your mind right now. How is she?"

    She shook her head. "No change. Still in a coma."

    Bryan looked down at the young blonde woman. "I know she'll be better soon."

    "I'm not so sure," Syiseda replied, a single tear sliding gently down her face from her solid black eyes, "She's been like this for several days now."

    "Athena?" Bryan called out, and the holographic image of ship's AI shimmered to life in front of them.

    "What's up, sir?" She asked.

    "I want you to run a full biometric scan of Lieutenant Lennis," Bryan said, nodding the biobed she lay on. "I want you to find out if there are any problems that may have escaped Syiseda's attention due to her feelings for the Lieutenant."

    "And...Done, sir." The AI said. "Where do you want me to open the report?"

    "On Syiseda's computer."

    "Done. Anything else?"

    "No. Thank you Athena."

    "Of course," She replied, shimmering away.

    Bryan looked back at the computer, which now had several codes, as well as Mckenzie's picture. "I'll let you go ahead and take a look at the log." Bryan said.

    With that, he left the room, leaving Syiseda alone in the Sickbay. She walked over to her desk and sat down at her desk and started looking at the medical codes without actually reading them. It had been two whole days since Mckenzie was injured, and Syiseda felt no better. She had barely eaten and hadn't slept. As she stared at the screen, she felt her eyes slowly close.

    Syiseda awoke to the sound of her console chirping faintly. Her eyes gradually fluttered open, and she looked at the screen.

    "That can't be right she muttered to herself," studying Mckenzie's brainwave pattern carefully. "If it is, then that means that she's-"

    She leapt out of her chair, and ran over to the side of the bed just in time to see Mckenzie's eyes open.

    "Wh...Where am I?" She asked, still slightly dazed.

    "Mckenzie!" Syiseda shouted, tears already beginning to form in her eyes as she wrapped her arms around her lover.

    "Syiseda?" She asked, "Is that you?"

    "Yes, it is, love," the Betazoid replied, her voice cracking, "I'm here, don't worry."

    Mckenzie shifted slightly so she could hug Syiseda as well. The pair stayed there for several minutes, drinking in each others presence for the first time in almost four days.

    "I thought you'd never wake up," Syiseda said, crying tears of joy.

    "Don't worry, Syiseda," she replied smiling, "I'm here for you, and I always will be."

    "Will you marry me?" Syiseda asked suddenly, surprising even herself. She hadn't intended to ask it, but the quesiton was out there now, whether they were ready or not.

    Mckenzie paused for a moment, looking into Syiseda's eyes. She continued staring for several minutes, before finally smiling.

    She sat up finally, looked deeply into Syiseda's deep, black eyes, and whispered a single word.

    "Yes," she replied, still smiling, and the two women kissed, permanently sealing their bond together.
    Vice Admiral Bryan Mitchel Valot
    Commanding officer: Odyssey class U.S.S. Athena
    Admiral of the 1st Assault Fleet
    Join date: Some time in Closed Beta
  • sander233sander233 Member Posts: 3,992 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Author's note: this is a part of the epilogue to my story The Road to Ruin. It can stand alone but it will have more of an impact if read in the context of that story. Thanks for reading!

    ~ Sander

    Here now, don't make a sound
    Say, have you heard the news today?
    One flag was taken down
    To raise another in its place
    A heavy cross you bear
    A stubborn heart remains unchanged
    No home, no life, no love
    No stranger singin' in your name

    But maybe the season
    The colors change in the valley skies
    Dear God, I've sealed my fate
    Runnin' through hell, heaven can wait

    Long road to ruin there in your eyes
    Under the cold streetlights
    No tomorrow, no dead end in sight

    Let's say we take this town
    No king or queen of any state
    Get up to shut it down
    Open the streets and raise the gates
    I know a wall to scale
    I know a field without a name
    Head on without a care
    Before it's way too late...

    For every piece to fall in place
    Forever gone without a trace
    Your horizon takes its shape
    No turnin' back, don't turn that page
    Come now, I'm leavin' here tonight
    Come now, let's leave it all behind
    Is that the price you pay?
    Runnin' through hell, heaven can wait...

    David Grohl, Taylor Hawkins and Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters - "Long Road To Ruin"

    - T H E . R O A D . T O . R U I N -



    AFTER ACTION REPORT: Engagement of hostile Fek'Ihri forces in the Moab System

    Appendix C-1: Casualty Projections - KDF / MCDC (allied)

    MCDC (indigenous military forces):
    - estimated 86% total casualties (combined fleet and ground forces)
    - estimated 93% fatality rate
    - estimated 5,720,000 total military losses.

    KDF relief / garrison forces:
    - 41% casualties
    - 82% fatality rate
    - 36,982 total military losses.

    Ships lost:

    - IKS Amanda Tall-Trees, MCDC K'Tanco-class light battlecruiser, lost with all hands (396 crew)

    - IKS Amber Worthy, MCDC K'vort-class heavy bird-of-prey, lost in action, 26 survivors (out of 124 crew)

    - IKS Butlh, KDF (garrison) Koro't'Inga-class battlecruiser, lost with all hands (608 crew)

    - IKS Cha'bIp, KDF (19th Hvy. Recon. Sqdn.) Pach-class raptor, lost in action, 68 survivors (out of 144 crew)

    - IKS Daniel Wilkes, MCDC NIng'tao-class bird-of-prey, lost in action, 7 survivors (out of 72 crew)

    - IKS Darius Crenshaw, MCDC Norgh-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (77 crew)

    - IKS Defender of the Den, KDF (reserve, Ferasan Hunter Navy) Mauler-class light carrier, lost with all hands (636 crew)

    - IKS Eugene Pham, MCDC Norgh-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (68 crew)

    - IKS Ghatlh'tlhoy, KDF (garrison) Kamarag-class battlecruiser, lost with all hands (679 crew)

    - IKS HoHwI'ta', KDF (garrison) K'vort-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (94 crew)

    - IKS Hov'Iw, KDF (garrison) K't'Inga-class battlecruiser, lost in action, 24 survivors (out of 347 crew)

    - IKS Ivan Dyakir, MCDC Norgh-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (75 crew)

    - IKS Jesse Bermudez, MCDC NIng'tao-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (72 crew)

    - IKS John Waldron, MCDC Qaw'Dun-class bird-prey, lost in action, 1 survivor (out of 45 crew)

    - IKS Joseph Armani, MCDC Norgh-class bird-of-prey, lost in action, 31 survivors (out of 77 crew)

    - IKS K'Saar, KDF (reserve, Nausicaan Marine Corps) Vandal-class destroyer, lost in action, 2 survivors (out of 108)

    - IKS Kos'karI, KDF (garrison) KI'tang-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (59 crew)

    - IKS Margaret Banning, MCDC B'Rotlh-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (30 crew)

    - IKS Matthew Bowers, MCDC QulDun-class bird-of-prey, lost in action, 13 survivors (out of 49 crew)

    - IKS Michael Ramirez, MCDC K't'agga-class battlecruiser, lost in action, 11 survivors (out of 463 crew)

    - IKS Moshe Dayyan, MCDC QulDun-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (51 crew)

    - IKS Norwalk, MCDC Miranda-class light cruiser, lost with all hands (186 crew)

    - IKS Patrick Ngo, MCDC Norgh-class retrofit bird of prey, lost with all hands (76 crew)

    - IKS QhonDoq, KDF (garrison) B'Rotlh-class retrofit bird-of-prey, lost in action, 3 survivors (out of 18 crew)

    - IKS Quong Dinh, MCDC Koloth-class bird-of-prey, lost in action, 5 survivors (out of 32 crew)

    - IKS Qut'Iw, KDF (garrison0 Hegh'ta-class heavy bird-of-prey, lost in action, 17 survivors (out of 88 crew)

    - IKS Reuben Shapiro, MCDC K't'agga-class battlecruiser, lost with all hands, (465 crew, plus 56 wounded evacuated from IKS De Havilland)

    - IKS Samantha Huang, MCDC Ch'Tang-class bird-of-prey, lost in action, 47 survivors (out of 81 crew)

    - IKS Samuel Winters, MCDC B'rel-class bird-of-prey, lost in action, 10 survivors (out of 26 crew)

    - IKS Sergei Unther, MCDC NIng'tao-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (77 crew)

    - IKS William Le, MCDC Norgh-class bird-of-prey, lost with all hands (74 crew)

    - IKS YanDaj SuvwI', KDF (garrison) NIng'tao-class bird of prey, lost with all hands (63 crew)

    Vessels damaged:

    - IKS Ari Schoenberg, MCDC B'Rotlh-class bird-of-prey, crippled and abandoned but salvageable, 18 crew lost (out of 34 crew)

    - IKS Chopnorgh, KDF (Central Command) HoH'SuS-class bird-of-prey, moderate damage to hull and weapons systems, 8 crew lost (out of 76 crew)

    - IKS De Havilland, MCDC Constitution-class cruiser refit, severe damage to engineering, 23 crew lost plus 56 transferred to IKS Reuben Shapiro and subsequently lost (out of 420 crew)

    - IKS Drake Tran, MCDC Norgh-class retrofit bird-of-prey, moderate damage to hull and engine systems, 18 crew lost (out of 76 crew)

    - IKS Kut'luch, KDF (garrison) B'rel-class retrofit bird-of-prey, disabled in action but repairable, 13 crew lost (out of 23 crew)

    - IKS Moo'roo'loo, KDF (reserve, Orion Marauder Fleet) Corsair-class flight-deck cruiser, rendered inoperable but salvageable, 1623 crew lost (out of 1734 crew)

    - IKS NIteb mo', KDF (19th Hvy. Recon. Sqdn.) Tor'Kaht-class battlecruiser, severely damaged but spaceworthy, 201 crew lost (out of 1512 crew)

    - IKS Norgh'a'Qun, KDF (Central Command) Bortasqu'-class tactical heavy battlecruiser, moderate surface structural damage, 3 crew lost (out of 3626 crew)

    - IKS Sauromalus, KDF (reserve, Gorn Space Command) Draguas-class support vessel, gutted but salvageable, all hands lost (490 crew)

    Appendix D: Estimated Civilian Casualties

    Moab III incursion, Landing County (population: 63.6 million, last census)

    Major cities:
    - Nha Tranh (metropolitan area population, 18.3 million)
    - Xiao Loc (15.2 million)
    - Grantville (7.8 million)
    - Hoi An (3.6 million)
    - Provo (2.7 million)

    Estimated fatalities as a percentage of population:

    - Adults (age 66+): 93%
    - Adults ( 46 to 65): 65%
    - Adults (18 to 45): 40%
    - Children (10 to 17): 59%
    - Children (1 day to 10 years): 82%

    Total estimated fatalities: ~ 36.3 million

    (note: KDF assault forces report most survivors found in the incursion area were being used as live food for Fek'Ihri offspring - these people could not be saved. Assuming all remaining Human lifesigns in the incursion area are similarly afflicted raises the fatality estimate to ~ 47 million.)

    Moab IV-Alpha / New Saigon (population, 76.5 million)

    Revised estimated fatality rate: 73% (~ 55.8 million total fatalities)

    (note: New Saigon moon is rendered uninhabitable by combined orbital bombardment and engineered asteroid strikes delivered by Fek'Ihri forces. Initial estimates of fatalities did not account for the rapid global cooling or radiation released into the atmosphere by antiproton and tricobalt weapons. Survivors are being relocated to unaffected regions of Moab III or to Cold Butte colony. It is estimated that without proper Federation-level medical treatment an additional 6.8 million casualties will die of radiation poisoning within a week.)

    Total losses sustained by Moab System colonies:

    - Lower bound estimate: 91.6 million
    - Upper bound estimate: 111 million +

    Vice Admiral Jesu LaRoca looked over the after-action report he had just typed up. "Is that everything?" he asked his intelligence officer.

    "I think so." A depressed Hank Miller looked over his notes. "Let me double-check the military casualty figures with Ssharki and Moskovitz."

    "Use my ready room," Jesu said. He stared at the list on conference room wall monitor, too numb to feel the abject horror it represented. The death of Elizabeth Tran weighed on him more heavily than the huge faceless numbers. He lost himself in his thoughts. "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." Josef Stalin. The commie TRIBBLE had that right. Another thought entered his mind. "Sometimes I create things just to destroy them in fire and horror..." He tried to remember who had said that. It was an interesting idea. "I create things just to destroy them in fire and horror." I wonder if that's why God created us...

    The conference room door chimed. "Come in," LaRoca ordered.

    Marq Sander entered, followed by a thin, very young blond woman wearing an olive drab uniform complete with wool garrison cap that must have been replicated from the historical files. "Admiral, I present Gunner's Mate Second Class Georgia S. Nguyen, formerly of the IKS John Waldron," Marq announced.

    LaRoca stole a glance at the display as Nguyen snapped to attention. "At ease, Ms. Nguyen," he said quietly. "You were the sole survivor on your ship, weren't you?"

    "Yessuh," Nguyen nodded, now standing at parade rest.

    "How'd you make it off?"

    "Well, suh, ah was in th' for'rd torpedo room, suh, which were sealed off from th' rest o' th' ship as standahd procedyuh in battle conditions." She spoke with a strange accent - a combination of Southeast Asian and American Southern. "When th' ship blew, I guess th' head o' th' BoP got blown cleah and my compahtment remained aihtight. Suh."

    "The Jim Toomey found her and brought her aboard for medical treatment," Marq picked up the explanation. "She was rattled pretty badly; multiple broken bones and bruises, and a concussed skull fracture."

    "Your Doctuh Espinoza did a wonduhful job patchin' me up, suh. And while I was recov'rin', I reviewed the battle logs and saw what happn'd to mah home." Nguyen sniffed. "Ah was born an' raised in Grantville, suh. There ain't much left of her now."

    LaRoca nodded sympathetically. "Have you tried to get in touch with your family?"

    "They all be gone, suh. Mah father died of the Disorder when I was real little. Mah mom died of the cancer a year ago. Mah sisters... two of 'em nevuh got to grow up. The oldest, Cassie, well, I huhd you saw what happened to her."

    "Your sister was Captain Nguyen? From General Pham's staff?" LaRoca asked her.


    "You look... very different."

    "Yessuh. Cassie was mah half-sister. Ah s'pose I take more aftuh mah mother." She took a deep breath. "Suh, If ah may ask, how did she go?"

    "She died on her feet, with her knife buried in the creature that killed her."

    Nguyen nodded. "Good. But so you see, suh, ah have no one left here, an' no place to call home. So ah asked to come to you t' seek uh... asylum."

    "As in political asylum?" LaRoca confirmed.

    Georgia Nguyen nodded again. "Yessuh. Ahd lahk to defect to the Federation. Ah don' wanna live on Moab no more. Ah wanna be able to live and grow old on a safe, peaceful planet, with clean air and water where nuthin'll try an' eat me or sell me into bondage. And-" she came to attention again. "Ah wanna defend those places so they don' end up like my home. Ah also looked up your records, Vice Admiral. I wanna help you do what you do. Ah wanna enlist in Starfleet, and serve under your command, if you'll have me, suh."

    "That's a very serious proposal, Ms. Nguyen," LaRoca said.

    "Ah know, suh. But ahv been seein' your crew, and it seems like most of them are from outside the Federation. You have Gorn, Ferengi, Orions, Remans, Cardie- Cardassians," she caught herself, "and Klingons like the Commander here, and other species ah ne'r seen before..."

    "I find it useful in my line of work to have a very diversified crew," LaRoca explained. "It puts visiting dignitaries at ease when they see their people serving happily aboard a Starfleet ship, often alongside their sworn enemies. And Starfleet Academy is much more accepting of non-member beings then it used to be. Have you thought about applying directly to the Academy?"

    Marq cleared his throat. "She did apply to Starfleet Academy two years ago, and was turned down - in part because she didn't meet the minimum age requirements, and in part due to... medical concerns."

    LaRoca raised an eyebrow at Nguyen. "You have the syndrome?"

    She looked at her feet. "Yessuh, ahm afflicted. All ah ever wanted was to serve on a starship, but this damned genetic... thing..."

    "Believe it or not, that's good news for you. Dr. Espinoza's been working on a cure. Having a subject onboard that she can monitor and run tests on will help her a great deal." LaRoca rose from the table, reached across and extended a hand. Nguyen took it. "I'll be happy to grant you refugee status and a provisional Starfleet commission. You'll have to pass a few basic tests and some training courses - nothing you can't handle I'm sure. We'll probably waive your survival course - I've heard about your military's 'long march' training - you could probably teach survival and improvisational weapons as well as Rusty can. Marq will find you some quarters. Replicate yourself a red uniform, whatever pattern you like, with the rank insignia of Acting Ensign. Then report to Lt. Amraam in the armory for your initial training at 0800 hours tomorrow."

    "Yessuh! Thank you, suh!" Nguyen looked at the last three lines on the display screen and added "Suh, you are goin' after them things that did this to us, right?"

    LaRoca nodded. "Count on it, Ensign."

    "Thank you, suh." She saluted, turned and left.

    Marq stared up at the same set of words and numbers on the screen, and shook his head. "Hard to believe, isn't it?"

    "Yeah." Jesu ran his hand through his beard. "The thing is, I know I've been down this path before..."


    "Right. So why does this feel so much worse?"

    "Because these people were Human?"

    "No, that's not it. Well, maybe, partly," Jesu admitted. "But mostly I think because these people were Federation. Were. Before we took away their weapons and threw them to the wolves." He sighed. "Centuries of progress, sowing seeds, cultivating what grows... a world's worth of work, all swept away by the stroke of a pen."

    Hacksaw Miller walked in just then. "I've been following the local news out of An Loc, on the other side of the planet from where it all happened. The people down there are pretty panicked, as you'd expect, wondering if they're next. Some of them think it's our fault for abandoning them, but at least as many blame the Klingons for digging up the Fek. And others... well, a lot of the others think it's judgment." He tapped his PADD against the table. "There's your updated figures."

    Jesu LaRoca stared at the screen and watched the numbers tick higher.

    Ready Room, 0233 Hours

    Franklin Drake finished editing the After-Action Report, leaned back in the Admiral's chair and stretched.

    "You shouldn't be in here, Delta," said what had been a potted cactus in the other corner of the room.

    Drake looked over. "Gamma. So you do remember how to be a Changeling."

    Frank Grimes stepped forward. "I've had some practice, recently. What are you doing here?"

    "Just making sure the record stays consistent," Drake said as he deactivated the terminal. He tapped his combadge and called his personal AI. "Templar, erase the access logs for the last three hours."

    "The truth about what happened here will have to come out, Delta," Grimes declared. "Starfleet Command and the Federation Council need to know about the Undine involvement in this, and their 'Masters' as well."

    "Not until we've rooted out the infiltrators," Drake reminded his Changeling brother. "Starting with Quinn."

    "What are you going to do about him?" Grimes wondered.

    "I'll pass Atticus' analysis up to K.C. and the Director, let them make the call."

    "And the truth?"

    Drake shrugged. "Someone once said 'Truth is an illusion.' I say perception of reality is more important then reality itself. If you control people's perception, you control their reality. And if you control reality, you control events."

    "So by controlling the perception of the Undine infiltrators on Earth..."

    "I control them," Drake said, with his typical smug confidence.

    "And you only had to let a hundred million people die to get that control."

    Drake sighed. "Obviously we didn't intend for things to happen as they did. But now we have an item in our possession that will help us pinpoint - and prevent - future incursions. You see, that was the primary objective of Operation: Mountain Road all along..."

    Frank Grimes stopped listening to his brother and stared at the holoimages that Admiral Jesu LaRoca had arrayed along the side of his desk. His parents, holding him when he was a baby. He and his father, holding baby Rusty. His father reeling in a huge swordfish on a boat in the Pacific Ocean. He and Rusty as young boys, swimming in the Bahia de La Paz. Rusty graduating from Starfleet Academy. He and Liz Tran, standing together, holding a small snake and smiling happily, the rocks of Diablo Canyon in the background...

    "Believe it or not," Drake concluded, "we went into this with the noblest of intentions."

    Grimes looked up at that. "You know what they say, Delta..."

    "Yeah, yeah. 'The Road to Ruin is paved with good intentions.'"

    "I'm just wondering who's walking down that road - you and your people, or..." Grimes looked over at Jesu's holoimage collection "me and mine."

    * * * * *

    More to follow, at The End of the Road...


    ...Oh, baby, you know, I've really got to leave you / Oh, I can hear it callin 'me / I said don't you hear it callin' me the way it used to do?...
    - Anne Bredon
  • grylakgrylak Member Posts: 1,572 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Captain's Log. The Sentinel is four weeks into the testing of her Interspatial Warp Engines, and all preliminary reports indicate they are performing better than this ship's predecessor's test, as well as providing extra stability to the fabric of subspace at high warp. More analysis is required, but this could mean a lifting of the Warp 5 limit in non emergencies. We are-

    "Captain. I'm picking up a distress call."

    Stunshock spun around in his chair to face Ensign Willie Wurz at Tactical, who had become the permanent stand in while Roderick recovered from his spinal injury.

    "On screen."

    The viewscreen flickered to a heavily static screen, but through the flickers could be seen a Vulcan woman on the bridge of an old NX class ship.

    "This is******* Arwen of the Evens********** under heavy attack by *******rates. Shields are down and *********** boarded. Need help now************"

    The screen cut out. Stunshock's heart leapt into his throat as he quickly turned back to Wurz.

    "Where is she?"

    "Korva cluster. Sensors are picking up heavy weapons fire, but can't get any more readings at this range."

    "Jenna. Intercept, maximum warp. All hands, red alert. Prepare for combat."

    As the Sentinel came about and charged to the rescue, Emony started tapping her finger on her console. There was something about the Korva cluster. Something she was supposed to remember. But what was it?

    It took them ten minutes to reach the location of the Evenstar. As they dropped from warp, everyone was on edge.

    "Wurz. Anything?"

    There a slight pause as the ensign checked her sensors again.

    "The Evenstar is badly damaged. Reading plasma fires through the entire engineering decks. Her power systems are nearly offline, but I am detecting numerous lifesigns, mainly concentrated in and around the bridge. There is no sign of the attackers."

    "Maintain red alert. Take us within transporter range. Sickbay, prepare to receive the survivors."

    "My teams are all ready Captain."

    Luawra sounded as confident as ever over the comm. He could only imagine the flurry of activity that was taking place down there.

    The ship moved up to the stricken civilian ship.

    "Still no sign of the attackers Sir."

    "All transporter rooms, I want everyone off that ship as soon as the shields drop."

    Emony glanced over to Talaina, suddenly realising what she had missed.

    "CAPTAIN! Remember when we were in Steel River a few weeks ago, and we saw the future version of Talaina?"

    Stunshock nodded. He remembered. And he had hated seeing his First Officer and dear friend in such a horrific state of injury.

    "Talaina told me that we must avoid the Korva Cluster. This is where she was so badly injured."

    "But if I know that I'm going to be injured, I can avoid it."

    "You don't understand. It wasn't just you Talaina, it was everyone that suffered. Sir, this is clearly an ambush."

    Stunshock drew a deep breath. Emony and Stunshock had been the only two that had been in Steel River. They were the only ones who know how bad things would get if this was the point. But that was also his Life Mate over there. In addition to her, there was her crew, and this was a Starfleet vessel. They had responsibilities.

    "Either this is a trap, or the attackers have fled. But either way, we are not about to abandon the crew of that ship."

    Talaina leaned over her station.

    "Sir. Suggest we deploy the Scorpions for cover before we drop our shields."

    "Very well."

    Talaina sent the commands and the 5 Scorpion class fighters all launched from the rear of the ship. They took up a defensive position around the ship.

    "Still nothing on sensors."

    "Lower shields and begin transport."

    The instant the shields lowered, a bright flash on the viewscreen rocked the ship.


    Wurz struggled to maintain hold on her console as the ship rocked from intense weapons fire, struggling to get the shields back up.

    "Something just knocked out the shields! We're taking heavy damage! Shields are not coming back online."

    Talaina ran over to Tactical to help Wurz.

    "Jenna, evasive manoeuvres!"

    The vessel was already trying to move, but the first volley had hit her impulse engines, greatly reducing her ability to flee.

    Talaina slammed her fist on the console in frustration.

    "Sensors are completely blind."

    "Emony. Xui Li, see what you can do."

    The ship rocked again, explosions ripping through the consoles at the rear of the bridge. Smoke started filling the bridge as fires broke out from the heavy weapons impact.

    Another explosion at the helm sprayed young Ensign Jenna Jones, sending her to the deck in a shriek, badly burning her face. Stunshock jumped up and dashed forward, taking the helm. Without sensors or the viewscreen, they were flying blind, but he used the impulse engines to start a rotation of the ship.

    The intruder alarm started blaring. Wurz brushed the matted hair from her eyes.

    "We're being boarded! Gorn lifesigns across the ship!"

    Stunshock made his way to his chair, punching a control.

    "TRT. All security. Secure the ship, any means. All hands, we are being boarded. Prepare for combat!"

    Another explosion knocked the Jeroan to the ground, breaking his shoulder from the awkward impact. The smoke on the bridge was getting thick, making it hard to see. The stench was burning his nostrils. Xui Li had laid Jenna away from the consoles as Talaina barked orders. Wurz tried to get the weapons systems online, but power was failing across the ship. The whine of transporters rang in his ears. Time seemed to slow as Stunshock rolled over, looking up at the already fading lights as a team of five Gorn appeared in the centre of the bridge, weapons drawn. They started firing instantly. A cry told him Xui Li was hit. One of them glared down at Stunshock, raising his foot to stomp on the Captain's head.

    A knife cut through the smoke, embedding itself firmly in the Gorn's eye. He let out a growl and slammed his foot down, reaching up and yanking the blade out. Talaina leapt across the Bridge, planting a heel kick into the Gorn's jaw and forcing him back into the others. Landing on her hands, she kicked upwards, hitting the Gorn's crotch. Spinning around, she grabbed her knife and jumped off the Gorn's knee and up over his head, driving the knife down through his scales and piercing his brain. The attacker dropped to the ground, but Talaina didn't give up. She was already moving to attack another, although they had already realised what was happening and were outflanking her.

    Wurz pulled her phaser and started firing at the Gorn. Flashes of weapons crossed back and forth across the Bridge. A hand grabbed Stunshock's shoulder. Emony started pulling her Captain away from the boarders. The sharp pain cleared the fog of his mind.

    He waved Emony away and grabbed a piece of shrapnel, rolling over and stabbing it into the nearest Gorn's knee. The brute responded by kicking Stunshock across the Bridge. He smashed his head against the corner of a console. As blackness swarmed his vision, he felt the warm trickle of blood running into his eye from a heavy wound somewhere on his forehead. He struggled to get up, to fight back the wanting familiarity of unconsciousness, but couldn't. Why had the Gorn attacked Arwen's ship, and now his? And more importantly, he had to make sure his crew survived. Spitting blood from the exertion, he shifted enough weight to be able to stand. No sooner had he regained his footing, he felt the warmth of a Gorn blaster hit him square in the back. The sensation quickly spread throughout his body as he collapsed, knowing he would never be able to fight off this. The last thing he saw was Talaina ducking a Gorn's left hook, only for another one to grab her left arm and twist it in an unnatural way.

    "I'm sorry...."

    In Engineering, Bosip was cursing. It was only sixteen days since he had been demoted from Chief Engineer, and now the ship was falling apart. Gweevle, bless him, was trying his best, and under normal circumstances, would make an excellent Chief. But the ship had been boarded and something had knocked out the ship's primary power grid. A phaser fight had broken out in the corridor outside, the TRT doing what they did best. The older Andorian turned to the alien who now had his job.

    "I'm telling you, we need to restart the entire power grid. Shutting down the core and restarting it will bring everything back!"

    "We'd lose what shields we have! Life support, weapons, we'd be a sitting aquatic animal!"

    The alien narrowed his eye as he read the pop up display on the eye piece he wore.

    "If we channel power from the transwarp drive into the warp reaction chamber, that should give us the boost we need to get the systems back."

    "NO! We don't have time to set up the relays! And one wrong input variable, we would invert the entire ship into subspace. Or some other blasted dimension. I don't want to go back to that blue universe."

    "And if we do a systems restart, there's no guarantee it'll work. We don't know what the Gorn used to cripple us!"

    Bosip punched the console, very nearly turning his anger on Gweevle. He paused, his antenna curling in frustration as he tried to remember the calming techniques Shalonda had tried to teach him.

    "It will take less time to restart the ship than what you're proposing."

    Gweevle wiggled his fingers quickly as he thought about it.

    "Aaaaaaaah. Fine. Do it."

    Bosip didn't even acknowledge it; he just went straight to work.

    Roderick limped along the deck, carrying a Gorn blaster. He'd been trying exercises to recover from his spinal injury when the ship was attacked. And he would be damned if he was going to let the ship fall. The Bar was one of the 'safe zones' a place designated to head for if the ship was ever boarded by superior numbers, due to its ability to be properly defended. Up ahead, he saw Claudius, a fairly new addition to the Security Teams, kneeling behind debris from a blown wall panel. He was shooting at a group of Gorn.

    "Commander Roderick. Nice tah see yer still around."

    "Huh. No thanks to these lizards. Seen anyone else?"

    "Nee one living. But I am picking up life signs in The Bar. Just need to get past tha one guy down there."

    Claudius fired again down the hall and ducked. A hail of minigun fire chewed up the wall behind him.

    "I may not be able to run, but I can still shoot."

    Roderick and Claudius waited for the Minigun to finish before they both popped up and opened fire with a hail of phaser fire. The Gorn was heard scrambling away, breaking into a Jeffrey's Tube and moving away in the walls.

    Roderick smiled.

    "Didn't realise Gorn's were part chicken."

    "Nah. Musta scared 'im good."

    Roderick put an arm around Claudius and made their way quickly to The Bar. When they entered, they saw twenty crew members, bound and gagged. There were no Gorn in the room. At least, none Roderick could see, and tricorders showed only crew members.

    "I don't get it. Why take so many prisoners, and leave them here?"

    Roderick moved to the first group of hostages. He removed one of the gags and began untying the ensign.

    Claudius was guarding the door.

    "You hear that?"
    "That whine. It's getting louder."

    "I don't hear anything."

    "It almost sounds like..... Oh HELL!"

    Claudius dove out of the room as the phaser that had been left among one of the groups overloaded. Roderick only had time to register the initial flash before the fire washed over him and everyone in the room.

    Grimworm tossed a grenade down the corridor, ducking for cover as it ignited. The Gorn had also taken cover, and none were caught in the blast. Grimworm quickly came up firing his Minigun, Karry and Ttorkkinn flanking him either side. For some reason, although the Gorn had beamed onto the entire ship, they seemed to be focused on getting to Main Engineering. It was only due to that area being reinforced to prevent the Insterpatial Warp Drive from affecting the rest of the ship was it they were not able to beam directly in there. Or so one of the technicians caught in this fight theorised. It made sense to Grimworm, so he just ran with it. And if the Gorn wanted to get into Engineering, then Grimworm was going to stop them. Physically one of the few who could go hand to hand with a Gorn and stand a chance of winning, the Hulkanian was determined to safeguard his shipmates.

    Talaina was in agony. Her left arm had been broken either side of the elbow, but there were still three Gorn on the Bridge. Wurz and some security officers had forced two in the briefing room, but the third was proving more difficult. Having taken cover behind one of the auxiliary consoles, he maintained fire. The smoke had reduced visibility to nothing; her laboured breathing was not helping. She had already ordered Emony and anyone else still able to remove the injured from the Bridge using one of the forward turbolifts. Talaina was stalking this one Gorn, and though he had the upper hand in strength, she knew the layout of the land. Which gave her the advantage.

    Moving up the right side of the Bridge, she kept low, biting her lip to keep the pain at bay. The sound of phaser fire from the Briefing Room was slowing down. She hoped that meant Wurz had won. But she couldn't worry about that now, she saw a large shape moving in the smoke. Moving swiftly, she ran forward, sliding feet first between the shape's legs and driving her knife between its legs, pushing the blade into the tender scales as hard as possible. The Gorn roared in pain and swung a backhand, catching Talaina. The hit to her face exploded colourful spots across her vision, mixing into the grey smoke in a beautifully chaotic mosaic. But she forced herself on, kicking her legs up to spin her around and upper cutting the Gorn. Not the smartest of moves, but one that gave her a few precious moments to regain her senses. Unfortunately, she was not quite quick enough and saw a clawed hand coming to shred her face. She ducked down as fast as possible, one of the claws piercing her right antenna. The pain was unbearable now as the tip of the antenna flicked away into the smoke. Blood gushed out, staining her white hair a crimson blue. Dropping to her knees, she gasped for breath, her lungs burning from the smoke. The Gorn hissed at her. Talaina slowly raised her eyes, seeing her attacker, one of his claws on his left hand coated in her blood.

    "You fight well Andorian."

    "You die well, Gorn."

    The Gorn raised his hand, only to suddenly explode. Emony stumbled through the smoke, carrying a large weapon that had been under development for fighting Borg. Essentially firing a high yield physical explosive, Talaina realised the Trill must have grabbed it from the science labs when she took the Captain and survivors below decks.

    "Thanks Emony."

    "Come on. Let's get out of here."

    Emony offered a hand, helping Talaina to her feet. She turned to the turbolift, but Talaina had something to do first.

    "Computer. Initiate Boarding protocols, authorisation Kazzur, Alpha Alpha Six One Four Two Omega."

    "Confirmed. All computer systems have been locked down."

    A squeal from Emony snapped Talaina round. A sharp stabbing hit her left side as she felt herself lifted up off the deck. The two Gorn had broken out of the Briefing Room and one of them had stabbed his claws through her. He held her close, growling.

    "You die well, Andorian."

    Bosip couldn't believe what he was seeing. The restart had worked, and power was back. The ship's shields were holding, preventing any more Gorn from beaminig aboard. But what he saw on sensors didn't fill him with hope. Surrounding the Sentinel and Evenstar were ten Gorn battle cruisers.

    "How are we supposed to get out of this?"

    "I'm thinking, I'm thinking!"

    Gweevle started muttering in his native language, an indication just how stressed he was getting.

    Suddenly, he snapped his fingers.

    "AH! I have it! But we need helm control!"

    "We can't get to the Bridge!"

    "No no no. We can't. Computer, is anyone on the Bridge?"

    "Commander Kazzur and Commander Bearlo are on the Bridge. There are two Gorn lifesigns on the Bridge."

    "Ooohhh, that's not good. Computer, re-route helm control to Engineering."

    "Boarding protocols are in effect. Authorisation required."

    "This is Chief Engineer Gweevle. Authorisation Papa Seven One Four Echo X-ray. Authorise unlock."

    "Command code accepted. Voice recognition accepted. DNA match confirmed. Helm controls are now routed to Main Engineering."

    Bosip watched as Gweevle moved to another console.

    "What are you doing?"

    "We can't go anywhere. If we do, we leave the Evenstar to the mercy of the Gorn. And we wouldn't survive a sudden jump anyway, not with the condition the hull is in."


    "So we send the Gorn away. Power up the Transwarp engines."

    There was a flicker of recognition across Bosip's features.

    "Oh you evil, evil man. I love it!"

    The Sentinel began moving, drawing the Gorn ships after them. However, one of the ships broke off pursuit and jumped to warp. The nacelles of the Sentinel began glowing brightly. The ship fired its thrusters, flipping over backwards. The power from the Transwarp Engines flowed through the ship, channelling into the main deflector dish. It began glowing with the same intensity, before a pulse blasted through space at the Gorn fleet. Explosions ripped through the secondary hull as power relays overloaded, the deflector itself fracturing into pieces. The pulse detonated with a bright flash in the centre, ripping open space and creating a Transwarp Vortex. The Gorn ships had no chance to escape. Each one was drawn into the vortex and flung to a random point. The vortex closed as quickly as it opened, leaving the Sentinel and Evenstar the only two ships left.

    The Gorn held Talaina close, feeling her life ebb away. He flexed his claws, puncturing her internal organs.

    "Your Captain is ours. We will take this ship back as a trophy. Its engines will allow the Gorn to attack faster than anyone thought possible. But you won?t be allowed to see it."

    Talaina tried to spit defiantly at the Gorn, but a thin trickle of blood from her lips was all she could muster. The Gorn's communicator beeped.

    "What is it?"

    "I don't know how, but the Starfleeters have vaporised our ships."

    "What do you mean vaporise?"

    "I don't know how. But they fired a pulse that made all of our ships in the system disappear. Vanish."

    "Can you take the engine room?"

    "No. It's too well defended."

    "Then proceed to the escape pods. We're outnumbered, but at least the Captain and the others will tell us how to build another of these engines."

    "Yes Sir."

    The Gorn looked at Talaina.

    "Time to end this."

    He reached up to grab her head and twist it off like a bottle top when an explosion made him turn. His other officer had exploded, and Emony stood there, weapon in hand. The smoke swirled around her as she reloaded and aimed at the Gorn.

    "You wouldn't shoot me. I hold your shipmate."

    "I've had a really bad month. And I am really, really starting to hate lizards."

    She fired.

    Ship's Log. Acting Captain Bearlo recording.

    The Gorn ambush severely crippled the Sentinel. They knew we would respond to the distress call from the Evenstar. From what we have been able to piece together, they were after the Interspatial Warp Drive we have been testing. Though we were able to keep this technology from them, it cost us. The Sentinel is operating on minimal power. Gweevle has been forced to run the core on emergency power levels to prevent it from overloading our unstable systems. There have been numerous casualties from the boarding parties. Lt Frank Roderick perished in an ambush set up using members of the crew as bait. Lt Ernie Hauser lost his life ensuring the rest of the staff in his science lab escaped. It's..... it's too much to go into now. A formal report of the casualties will be made once we have made it back to a spacedock.

    However, we did not just loose crew members to death. It appears the Gorn raided one of the 'Safe Zones' and captured Captain Stunshock and nearly a fifth of the crew. I can only assume they were onboard the Gorn ship that left the battle early. They could be anywhere now. We are in no state to go after them. We don't even have an operational warp drive.

    Emony stood in sickbay. It was one of the few places on the ship that had received little damage. It was filled with the moans of the injured. Luawra's team moved as expertly as they could, but the toll was catastrophic. How Luawra was able to block out the pain from all of these people was a mystery. But she figured the Betazoid was used to such things, or she would never have become a doctor.

    Arwen entered the sickbay. She approached Emony and looked at the prone form of Talaina on the bio bed.

    "How is she?"

    "Heavy internal organ failure. Broken arm in two places. Antenna ripped off. Massive blood loss. The Doctors had to put her into a stasis coma to preserve her until we can get to a spacedock."

    "And the rest of your crew?"

    Emony grimaced, and brushed some hair away from her face, revealing a nasty cut to her temple.

    "We lost a lot of people. And the Gorn took many too. I... I don't know where. I'm sorry Arwen, but Stunshock was among those taken."

    Arwen's eyebrows moved together in concern ever so slightly. She was trying to mask her pain, and seemed to be doing a good job of it.

    "I see. If there is any assistance the Evenstar can provide, we will naturally be at your disposal."

    "Thank you. But you need to get yourself repaired. Structural integrity won't hold up to warp speed, and we destroyed the Transwarp coils in that little stunt. I think the best thing would be for the Evenstar to get warp capable and head to the nearest starbase. Get them to send a ship out here to help us."

    "Very well. We will proceed at best speed."

    Arwen nodded and left the sickbay. Emony took in a deep breath, slowly letting it out. Turning, she made her way to her quarters. They were badly damaged, with shards of the glass table scattered across the floor. They crunched under her boots as she sat down on the couch. Roderick was gone. The brave man who had been with them since they had transferred to the Sentinel. But worse, Ernie was gone. They had been close friends for years. He had been invaluable to helping her recently during her confusion. She still didn't know exactly what to do. She had relied on Ernie to comfort her, to give her an ear to talk to. And now.... one of her best friends was gone. A lot of people's best friends were gone. Their brothers, sisters, sons, daughters. Blinked out. For petty greed. Emony rested her head in her hands. A tear slipped out as the grief overpowered her. It was better to grieve now, and appear strong to the crew. After all, she was the Captain now.

    Mirrat and Gar stood in the burnt husk that used to be The Bar. The Jem'Hadar gazed around the room with quiet contemplation.

    "Roderick died with honour."

    Gar replied, prompting Mirat to turn and glare at the Breen.

    "I antagonised him, abused him, fought him, but I always respected him. Frank Roderick had the spirit of a warrior. Even after his injury, he fought to stay alive. You will show him some respect."

    Gar said something, then turned and left. Mirat narrowed his eyes. Perhaps he had misjudged Gar. Disrespecting a fallen warrior, either a friend or enemy, who died in an ambush trying to save his shipmates, was not the action of someone Mirat wanted to be friends with. Perhaps he would have to re-evaluate certain things.

    "Sleep well Roderick."

    In Engineering, Gweevle was busy directing people to fix the ship. The occasional shower of sparks erupted from the dormant Warp Core, causing panic among the technicians every time. Xui Li stood beside the alien, holding a PADD and making an inventory of what supplies remained. Gweevle moved over to Xui Li.

    "I hear you got hit by a Gorn weapon."

    "Yes. It was during the early stages of the attack. I, ah, was helping Ensign Jones and was shot in the back. I was, ah, lucky the weapons were only set to stun."

    Gweevle gently patted her shoulder.

    "I'm glad to see you're ok."

    "And I, you. But there are many that are not."

    "I'm sure Luawra will help heal everyone. She and her staff work miracles."

    "Not this time. She has reported over fifty officers have died. And that, ah, does not include those taken."

    Gweevle grimaced. He wasn't sure how to process this loss. Since the Sentinel picked him up in that pod, he had never really encountered loss of this magnitude. He didn't know how his shipmates would respond.

    "I think Shalonda is going to be busy the next few weeks."

    "Shalonda was, ah, among those taken."

    Gweevle just blinked, not sure what to do next. He cleared his throat and looked at the damage report. It would take them months to get the ship back in shape, assuming they could get to a drydock. Which was not going to happen unless they could fix the warp drive and the structural integrity field. He fidgeted a bit before moving to a console and started working.

    Ensign Willie Wurz sat at one of the auxilliary science consoles on the bridge. The stench of smoke still lingered in the air, even though the room had been cleared hours ago. Her left arm was in a sling from where a Gorn had torn open her arm. Luawra had set the bones and muscles back, but didn't want to use the limited resources to heal her completely once her life was out of danger. An understandable concern and one Wurz would have demanded on anyway. There were those in much worse shape. Like Jenna. Wurz cast a lingering glance over to the empty helm station. With a sigh, she turned back to the sensor logs.

    Ttorkkinn came over.

    "Any luck?"

    "The data banks took heavy damage. I'm picking through them, but there were ten Gorn ships out there, it's hard to keep track of which one was which."

    "We only need to know one."

    "Yes, but I'm also trying to identify what they hit us with in the initial volley. It looked like it was some kind of subspace fluctuation pulse. It overloaded the sensors and shields at the same time."

    Ttorkkinn nodded.

    "Let me know when you have something."

    The leader of the TRT made his way across the Bridge to pester someone else.

    Wurz turned back to her console. She held back a sniff as she saw the last of their Scorpion fighters explode, yet another friend lost senselessly. They all signed onto Starfleet knowing the risks. But you would hope that if your time came, it would mean something. Saving a planet, the ship, even just saving your friend. Something. But the lives lost this day meant nothing. And worse, there could be more. She suddenly paused the recording and leaned forward. Checking the spectro-analysis, she smiled.

    "Commander Ttorkkinn? I think I've found something."

    Perhaps some lives could still be salvaged from this day.....

    A Romulan Strike Team, Missing Farmers and an ancient base on a Klingon Border world. But what connects them? Find out in my First Foundary mission: 'The Jeroan Farmer Escapade'
  • ambassadormolariambassadormolari Member Posts: 709 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    Four years ago...

    Arkos Nair had always wondered how long it would be before the splendour and majesty of space was finally lost on him. If he was honest with himself, it still hadn't: the endless expanse of glittering stars, set against the endless obsidian void, still filled him with a sublime terror, awe and wonder. But after almost a month of seeing stars and nothing else, he would have given his left arm and maybe a few toes to see a ship, or a planet or...anything but more stars.

    With a deep sigh, he reclined against the shuttle's copilot chair and immersed himself in the readouts once more. It had taken him a lot of trial and error, and a few months of re-reading the shuttle's sketchy schematics, but he now had a good understanding of how to operate this shuttle and interact with its consoles...for all the good that did him right now. Next to him, Malek Korr glanced away from the floating orb of the holographic console to give him a concerned look. "Something troubling you, lad?" he asked, his grey skin lit up by the viridian light of the holographic sphere.

    Arkos responded with a wistful shrug. "Nothing," he replied. "Literally. The nothing out there is pretty troubling. Has anything appeared on sensors?",

    It was a routine question that had been asked hundreds of times before, and Arkos knew there would be a routine answer. He knew that even asking was a futile effort, as he already knew what Malek's answer would be, but as far as Arkos was concerned, it was the best way to keep himself sane. Unless, that was, this was actually a symptom of insanity, in which case he was too far gone already.

    Malek shook his head, as usual. The ritual was one he and Arkos had gone through time and time again, and neither of them had made any effort to change or stop it. "Assuming I'm using this thing correctly, not a blip," the former seaport worker said. "How about you? Any headway with those engines?"

    With a wave of his hand, Arkos brought up a holographic interface of his own. "No," he muttered. "The burnout was too thorough. As far as I understand it, without any replacement parts, ionized plasma or...those crystal things...dilithium...we're stuck on impulse drive." He waved the interface away and sank back into his chair. "At this rate, even if the maps are still accurate, it will take us years to get to an inhabited world."

    Malek gave a grim sigh, but quickly forced on a good-natured smile. "Ah well...this shuttle may be moving slower than a vorwhal in labour, but you've got to admit, it still beats Deepwell Seven."

    The comment made Arkos chuckle a little. "Yeah. The food's slightly better, theres only a small amount of mildew, and there are no Chastised crazies trying to kill us." Just the void trying to do the job instead, he thought.

    Neither of them wanted to mention that the shuttle's power reserves were running low-- that they had only four days left before the small ship's emergency power reserves ran out. Once that happened, life support would slowly dwindle, and everyone on the shuttle would be consigned to a slow, suffocating death. Arkos and Malek had exhausted every single option in trying to solve the problem-- they'd pored over the shuttle' poorly-written user guides, examined schematics designed to be read by more knowledgeable men, and had tried utilizing every single system and device on the shuttle-- and in the process, broke quite a few things. It had all been futile: nothing had worked. The shuttle was irrevocably worn by the ravages of time, and out here in space, it was falling apart at the seams. Now, for the past week or so, they had consigned themselves to the cruel fact that they were all going to die very soon.

    On some level, Arkos had always had a feeling it would end this way. The entire venture had been held together by nothing but hope and dreams from day one-- it was what the Chastised would have called a "leap of faith," to use one of their flowery euphemisms. But it still all felt like one horrible anticlimax: they had all risked life and limb to escape Nar-Etulis, and had dared to go out into space-- something that no Korda had done in decades. But now they were going to waste away and die on that very voyage to freedom.

    "Krelking Chastised," he muttered under his breath, cursing the religious zealouts for what felt like the millionth time that month. "They've killed us all. They don't know it, but they've killed us all, just as Uncle Syrkhu said they would."

    Malek glanced warily at Arkos. He was a big man, a former worker in the thresheries of Deepwell Seven, whose mass was barely contained by the worn chair he was sitting in. The man was no relation to Arkos or his family, but he had been a good friend of Arkos' father, uncle and aunt, and was practically considered family. Arkos had always liked Malek for his practical, forward-thinking approach to life, and his skill in repairing things had been been an invaluable asset for as long as Arkos could remember.

    He nodded slowly. "Krelking Chastised," he agreed. "But there's no point cursing them out out here, Arkos. Curses can't fix a broken situation like this. You need to be strong, boy, and act the part even if you don't feel it. For your aunt, for your cousin, and especially for the little one she has on the way, you need to keep your head on your shoulders."

    The man's words left a sour feeling in Arkos' gut, but he nodded. Aunt Lua and Naru were at the back of the shuttle, out of earshot. He and Malek had been shielding the truth about the power reserves from Aunt Lua and Naru-- they had been through too much to be given even more bad news now. Lua had lost her husband, her home, and what little she had owned, and the voyage had been a hard one for the old woman to deal with. It was worse for Naru-- she had been a few months pregnant when the violence had broken out and her husband had been lost. Now, the baby was almost due, and none of them had the equipment to deliver the baby safely. Arkos didn't want the burden of adding to all that misery with news of their imminent deaths.

    He sighed, and slumped against his chair, covering his eyes with his palms and rubbing at his eyelids. For some reason, as much as he wanted to, he had been unable to cry since this whole voyage had started. He remembered what his family's neighbour, Old Krall had once said: "We Apologists are born to suffer, because what good is reason in a world that's gone mad?"


    Apologists. Although Arkos supposed it didn't matter so much now, that was what he had once called himself. He, Kya, and their late mother and father, as well as Malek, Lua, Naru, and a lot of the friends and family they had left behind...they had all belonged to an enclave in Deepwell Seven called the Apologists. They considered themselves the remnants of a bygone age, the only people left who still believed in principles and values from before the Calamity. Loudly and continuously, they had advocated science, reason and logic over myth and superstition, progress over stagnation, and the use and recreation of modern technology over further regression into the dark age that the Korda race was in. As a whole, the Apologists believed that the dynamic, technologically advanced lifestyle of the previous generation was nothing be afraid or ashamed of-- that the Korda race, once known for its technological and cultural advancement, could and should reach for these heights again. Given the harsh, cramped living conditions of the great underwater Deepwells, the alternative, the Apologists argued, was the continuous decline and suffering of their race.

    Unfortunately, as vocal as they were, the Apologists had always been a minority in Deepwell Seven, and their beliefs had set them at odds against the ruling majority, the Chastised-- a religious group which believed, quite fervently, that the unhindered technological advancement, irreverance for tradition and overbearing ambition of their forefathers had caused of the apocalyptic floods of the Calamity in the first place. To the Chastised, the Korda race had set themselves up as gods, and had incurred divine retribution as a result. It was no surprise, then, that neither group particularly liked the other: in the eyes of the Chastised, the Apologists were godless, irreverent people who actively sought a return to the technologically advanced lifestyle that had damned their race in the first place, while the Apologists saw the Chastised as an backwards and irrational group whose ignorance and superstition was keeping the Korda race grovelling in the muck.

    Growing up in the underwater city had been a struggle for survival. Resources had been scarce, starvation and disease had been rampant, and many sections of the ancient underwater structure were falling apart at the seams and flooding. Arkos had lost both his parents to the Calamity when he was little, and he and his sister Kya had been raised in a cramped little hab-unit by their Aunt Lua and Uncle Syrkhu. Arkos remembered scavenging for food and rusted parts with other children when he was little, and in his spare time he would try to build things from the detritus that he found. Although Aunt Lua had always scolded him for bringing junk home, Uncle Syrkhu had always secretly smiled at him, and fostered his inventive spirit. Arkos would later learn that, before the Calamity had flooded Nar-Etulis, Syrkhu had been something called an "engineer," and that he had worked with the very machines that their Chastised neighbours had outlawed.

    For a while, despite the cramped, squalid environment of Deepwell Seven, the Apologists and Chastised had been able to live peacefully with one another. There were always the usual debates and arguments between them, but they had still been able to live as neighbours. Arkos was able to make several friends from the Chastised habs, and for a while, he even attended the weekly Invocations of Telvenar Syrrus. He stopped, however, when Uncle Syrkhu sat down with him one night and explained, quite carefully, that religion was poison. He was an Apologist, and it was their place to restore civilization through reason and logic rather than mythical nonsense.

    Then, over the years, as Arkos grew into a young adult, things began to change. The Chastised began to get more aggressive. Shops and homes of known Apologists were vandalized and daubed with symbols of condemnation. Arkos and his family had heard whispers of "evil" and "dissembler" hissed at them on the streets from passers-by. And the rhetoric of Telvenar-- the Priests of Ionn-- became more aggressive in their daily sermons, openly denouncing the sins of their race's forefathers and declaring the need for the Korda race to be redeemed through penitence and hardship. Everywhere, it had seemed that whatever patience the Chastised seemed to have was running out-- more and more, the Chastised seemed to take affront to the very existence of the Apologists, and Uncle Syrkhu had warned that things could get ugly soon.

    And then, about a month and a half ago, the violence broke out.

    No one knew how it started or who triggered it, but the Chastised began hounding the Apologists across Deepwell Seven with a vengeance. Apologists were dragged from their homes by mobs of Chastised and set before altars and priests, and forced to renounce their 'ignorance" and their "arrogance," to openly worship Ionn and acknowledge the original sin of the Korda race. Those who refused-- those who stubbornly clung to their heretical ideas of reason, logic, and science-- usually suffered for their defiance, sometimes with beatings, sometimes with hangings and drownings. When Arkos' Uncle Syrkhu and a group of fellow Apologists marched on the Judiciary to demand an answer to these crimes, they were ambushed by a mob of Chastised wielding clubs and blades.

    Syrkhu's dead body was left dumped in front of the Apologists' ghetto afterwards, religious scripts and icons seared into his flesh as a warning to the rest of his kind. After this point, it became clear that Deepwell Seven was no longer any place an Apologist could live in.

    A week after Syrkhu's death, Malek, Syrkhu's closest friend, came up with a plan. In the ruined lower depths of the Deepwell, he said, he had found a shuttlecraft-- a small starship from before the Calamity that had been left intact and, as far as he could tell, operational. If they could figure out how the ship worked, then a small group of people could fly out into space and escape the persecution of the Chastised. Arkos had only been a small child when the Calamity had happened, and he knew of nothing beyond the seas of Nar-Etulis, but Malek revealed that he had kept an old star-map from before the Calamity that showed the great expanse of space beyond their homeworld. And in that expanse lay an empire-- an organization called the 'Federation'-- that might offer them asylum. At the very least, he said, it would be a life away from the Chastised and their mobs, a life where they wouldn't be hated for what they believed.

    As bold as Malek's plan was, the majority of his friends and neighbours had thought he was mad. Even if there was still pre-Calamity technology in the Deepwell that hadn't been smashed by the Chastised, they said, or rendered inoperable by the ravages of time, there were too few people still alive who knew how to fly a starship. Most people in the Apologists' ghetto turned down Malek's proposal, but a few stayed and decided to join in his bold venture. Arkos' cousin Naru was the first-- her husband had been killed by the Chastised, and she wanted her child to be born somewhere where she wouldn't have to fear for its life. Aunt Lua was the next to join, knowing that someone had to watch over Naru. And finally, after mustering up the courage, Arkos himself had joined. Malek's talk of a great void outside of Nar-Etulis-- a place full of glittering white lights, of flying ships and of people as different from Korda as vorwhals were different from kalds-- had seized his imagination and wouldn't let go.

    His sister Kya, though, would not come with him. Arkos had begged for her to come along with him, to leave Nar-Etulis and seek safety in the stars, but Kya refused again and again. She had recently married, and wanted to stay on Nar-Etulis with her husband to start a family. "I will survive, Arkos," she had told him in their last meeting. "Unlike you, I'm not afraid of the Chastised." That had been the last time Arkos had ever seen her.

    A few days after Malek made his announcement, they were ready to leave. The shuttle itself was a long, rectangular shape, made from a rusted teal-green metal, that had been lying under rubble in the lower Deepwell for decades. Somehow, though, after endless days of tinkering with it, Malek had managed to get its engines and main systems working-- a feat in and of itself, as he admitted to having only a passing idea of how the ship worked. When they all stepped through the sliding door of the ship, Arkos was awed by the interior-- solid, unrusted metals and materials he couldn't identify, a bulkhead full of glittering lights and schematics, and hovering images that were as insubstantial as air-- images that Arkos would later learn were called "holograms." Here, in this small space, was a tiny fragment of the fabled technology his aunt and uncle had always told him stories about.

    Then the magical moment came when they all took their seats, and Malek had activated the engines. A great hum, like a basalt pipe coming loose, came to life all around them, and then the dimly-lit basement level shown in the window began to change. It had taken Arkos a few seconds to realize that the shuttle was actually moving, tearing itself free from its rubble tomb and racing across the deserted underside of the Deepwell.

    As Arkos watched on, the ruins gave way to murky darkness. The darkness turned brighter and greener, and schools of fish raced past them as they flew upwards and onwards through Nar-Etulis' oceans. And then, there was a great shudder as the ship burst out of the sea and soared skywards. For the first time since he had been just a small child, Arkos remembered what the sky looked like.

    And a few minutes later, he discovered what the stars looked like.


    A ragged groan from the back of the shuttle brought Arkos back to reality. Naru was feeling contractions again, he realized. His cousin wasn't far off from giving birth.

    "You'd best go check on your cousin and aunt, lad," Malek said to him. "I'll keep watch over here."

    With a silent nod, Arkos stood up and hurried over to the back of the shuttle. Naru was lying flat on one of the shuttle's bunks, her robes sprawled about her and her belly large and distended. Arkos had no medical training, but he knew a pregnant woman when he saw one. He also knew, given the perspiration on Naru's grey-blue forehead, that her fever hadn't let up. She had fallen ill a week ago, and her health had gotten worse and worse even as her baby grew.

    It was a horrible feeling, knowing that Naru was probably going to die along with her baby, and that there was nothing they could do about it. The fact that they were all going to die was awful enough, but Naru's state made Arkos want to rage and scream at the uncaring stars.

    Sitting next to Naru, Aunt Lua sat on the stool and rubbed a damp sponge against her daughter's forehead ridges. She had always been a vibrant and healthy woman, but over the last month or so, Arkos had seen her get thinner, develop a hunch, and look more and more like a tired old woman. As Arkos approached, Lua didn't even bother turning her head towards him.

    "Anything out there today, Arkos?" she asked as she tended to her daughter.

    Arkos shook his head. "Nothing. Just...stars, stars, and more stars," he replied. "But there could still be something tomorrow."

    "You always say that," Lua muttered. "There will always be something tomorrow." She turned and gave him a hard look. Arkos knew that look all to well, and dreaded it. As a child, he had entitled it "Auntie Lua's Scolding Face."

    "What?" he asked, suddenly feeling like a child caught misbehaving again.

    "Answer me truthfully, Arkos," Lua said. "We're all going to die out here, aren't we?"

    Arkos blinked in surprise. "How could you think that?" he exclaimed, stammering a little. "You...you shouldn't give up hope, Auntie Lua!"

    Lua gave a patient sigh. "Arkos, I know when you're keeping secrets from me," she said. "You could never lie to save your skin, and you're keeping a secret, your face practically shouts it." She folded her arms on her lap. "Now, tell me truthfully Arkos, you and Malek have bad news, don't you? Bad news that you've been keeping from us?"

    Arkos felt a knot tighten in his throat. He had hoped Lua wouldn't figure it out, but his Aunt had always been a very perceptive woman. He took a deep breath, steeling himself to give her the bad news.

    "The shuttle's...power grid is failing," he said. "For the last two weeks, we've been running on what Malek calls 'emergency power,' but that power is running out more and more. We've tried everything to fix...we've rewired some things, replaced some systems, but nothing works." His throat suddenly felt very dry. "In a few days, we should run out of power completely, and when that happens, we'll run out of air, gravity, and heat, and...and we'll all die, Aunt Lua."

    For a moment, Lua closed her eyes. "I should have known," she muttered, seemingly to herself, before opening her eyes and glaring at Arkos. "And you hid this from me, why, exactly?"

    Arkos felt a cold sweat on his back. "I...we...Malek..." he sputtered, the words leaving his mouth before he could think of what to say. "We didn't want you to...you've been through a lot already, Aunt Lua! You and Naru both!"

    "And that means I should have been kept in the dark about something as important as this?" Lua was furious now. "I ought to slap you senseless for--"

    She was interrupted when Naru let out a loud, feverish groan. Her anger was momentarily forgotten as she began re-applied another damp cloth to her daughter's forehead. "I am a grown woman, Arkos," she said without looking at her nephew. "I'm not so frail that I should be shielded from something as important as this. And if I've 'been through a lot' already, Arkos, then that means I've faced death before. Having to face it again won't kill me outright."

    Wordlessly, Arkos' head bowed low in shame. "I'm sorry, Aunt Lua," he mumbled.

    For a moment, Aunt Lua said nothing as she knelt over her daughter. Then, slowly, she gave a deep sigh as she turned back to her nephew. "How have you been feeling, Arkos?" she asked. "About this...news?"

    At first, Arkos was unsure of how to answer. After a few seconds, he gave a tired shrug. "I don't know," he answered honestly. "I know I should feel sad, and scared, but...for some reason I just don't. As though it's nothing for me to worry about." He sat down on a nearby stool. "I just feel...disappointed. And angry. In fact, I don't think I've stopped feeling angry ever since we left Nar-Etulis."

    Lua raised her chin as she looked Arkos in the eye. "Angry?" She frowned. "At the Chastised?"

    Arkos felt his blood burn a little. "Who else?"

    At this, Lua gave a tired sigh. "Then let your anger go, Arkos," she replied. "It won't serve you any good. Not anymore."

    Arkos found himself staring in surprise at his aunt. "How can you say that?" he almost exclaimed. Almost-- he didn't want to wake Naru. "We wouldn't even be on this rusted deathtrap if it wasn't for those...for those..." There was an entire litany of words he wanted to use. TRIBBLE. Crazies. Murderers. Scum. But they all got caught up in his throat like so much bile.

    "I know," Lua replied, "and believe me, I know how easy it is to feel that way. They killed my husband. They killed my son-in-law. And they chased me away from my home...from my world...as though I were a leper." Her voice became more and more bitter as she spoke, until she closed her eyes and her face tightened, as though she was trying to force all of that anger back down.

    Her eyes opened again. "But on her deathbed," she said, "my mother told me something. She said that we are defined as much by the manner of our deaths as we are by our lives, Arkos. When we have very little time left, how we spend it matters, even if no one will remember it." She took a deep breath. "If we have only days left to live, Arkos, then we shouldn't waste that time on hate. You especially, Arkos: you were always such a good-natured boy. You shouldn't let hate define you at the very end."

    Lua's words left Arkos speechless. He couldn't think of anything to say, any words that could be made in response. But he felt a stinging dampness at the corner of his eye. Now, after a whole month, he suddenly felt that he could cry.

    A loud series of beeps prevented him from doing so.

    He and Lua both sprang to their feet at the same time. "What's that?" he exclaimed, whirling around in the direction of the pilot's seat.

    Malek was staring dead ahead at the main viewport. "Come here," he mumbled, "and see for yourself."

    In an instant, Arkos went rushing to the co-pilot's seat, with Lua hot on his heels. What he saw froze him in his tracks. There, floating amidst the starscape, was a long metallic shape-- a silvery disk, with a curved, cylindrical shape sliding back beneath it connecting to two, outstretched tubes that arched backwards. There were lights, and faint blue gleams here and there. Arkos had never seen anything like it before in his life, but in that one instant, it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

    After a few seconds of staring, it dawned on Arkos that this was another starship. That realization came just before the console beeped, and an unfamiliar voice suddenly spoke.

    "Unidentified vessel, this is Captain James Wong of the Federation starship Hadfield. Our sensors indicate that you are operating on emergency power. Are you in need of assistance?"

    Arkos felt his heart leap at the words. The Federation. Halfway through the voyage, Arkos began wonder if they were a myth, or a fable created by Malek to give them all hope. But now, a Federation starship was here, offering them assistance.

    "Y-yes!" he cried out as he finally found his voice. "We...we need help! Our ship is running out of power, and...and...we have a pregnant woman aboard who is very sick! Please, help us!"

    "Acknowledged," said the voice. "Stand by, we'll be beaming you aboard shortly. Hadfield out."

    There was a beep, and the voice went silent. Arkos' limbs suddenly gave out from underneath him as he collapsed down into the co-pilot's chair. All the while, he couldn't stop staring at the Federation ship. We're saved, he realized. A wave of euphoric joy came in the wake of that realization. The tears finally came now. We're saved.

    Next to him, Lua was staring at the Federation ship, like him, shedding her own quiet tears of joy. Malek turned and gave him a big smile. "We did it, lad," he said. "We did it."

    And then, there was a deep hum, and then everything went white.
  • marcusdkanemarcusdkane Member Posts: 7,439 Arc User
    edited August 2013
    The Ties That Blind

    I'sK'r v'nai gazed across the plains at Pentaxia's twin suns as they rose over the sS'gai peaks. As clouds shifted in the amber-hued sky, the dark nictitating membranes automatically closed over her eyes to protect the highly sensitive retinas from the glare. It was barely past dawn, but she had already been awake for hours, preparing food for the evening meal which could be left during the day, cleaning the bungalow in preparation for I'pH'n's visit, and she still had over a dozen funeral pyres to build before the noon bathing. Like every other day in I'sK'r's eighty six years, it would be a long day. With a weary sigh, she turned away from the stunning vista, heading into the bungalow to collect her work pack.

    Doctor Ben Kincaid stared in mute horror as the four transporter beams coalesced into solid forms in the centre of the USS Vanguard's sickbay. Captain Amanda Palmer visibly relaxed as she felt the transporter beam release her, and lowered her phaser. Oblivious to the deep cut on her forehead, she immediately checked the condition of her companions.

    Professor D'n''ll h'lL'r of the Pentaxian archeological research council, slowly straightened out of her half-crouch, her arms cautiously unwrapping from around her head, and she stared about her with panicked eyes. Ambassador S'rR's Kane clutched her hand to her right forearm, numerous deep cuts and gouges striped her bare arms, face and scalp, and her long Klingon cloak hung in tatters.

    The most seriously injured, was Ahd'r I'sH'd, who lay on the deck, barely conscious. Through rips in his black leather uniform, magenta blood rapidly oozed from vicious wounds to his arms and torso, which looked like they had been inflicted by teeth and claws. From shoulders to wrists, and across his face and chest, flesh and muscle had been shredded, and in places, flayed away down to the bone. Somehow, despite the horrendous damage to his sword arm, he had managed to maintain hold of his honor blade. Where the blood touched his uniform and the deck, the materials began to melt from the powerful corrosive compounds which actively filtered Pentaxian blood in the vein.

    "Computer, activate the EMH," Kincaid ordered, striding forwards and drawing his medical tricorder from its belt holster.

    "Please state the nature of the medical emergency," Claire requested with her typical chipper demeanour, as her avatar coalesced in the corner of sickbay. She took a step toward Kincaid before gazing upon the distressed quartet. "Oh my..."

    Momentarily taken aback, Kincaid paused.

    "You're this ships EMH?" he exclaimed in astonishment.

    "An EMH is simply a projection of subroutines within a ship's computer," she pointed out. "I am the ship's computer, and currently projecting in fourteen other locations around the ship. Why would I need a differently configured avatar to project an EMH program?"

    Kincaid considered the point, and nodded silently. Claire's database certainly contained the subroutines for the EMH, so why indeed would she need an alternate avatar? She was definitely easier on the eye then the Mk I EMH, and considerably less twitchy and highly strung than the Mk II's had been...

    "Take care of I'sH'd," he ordered, holding his tricorder over the bite on S'rR's' forearm. "You can touch him without your hands getting burned. Russ, look after the Captain and the Professor."

    With a concerned frown, Claire modified her tactile input, then scooped I'sH'd onto the biobed in the main surgical bay and assessed the damage before her.

    Casualty: Pentaxian male.
    Age: thirty one standard years.
    Height: six feet, four inches.
    Weight: two hundred eight pounds.
    Injuries: massive lacerating trauma to upper extremities and thoracic region.
    Arterial wounds presenting corrosive danger to ships personnel and superstructure.
    Initiate containment protocols before further treatment...

    Reaching for a vascular regenerator, Claire activated micro-forcefields over I'sH'd's grievous wounds to act as arterial clamps, and with the forcefields in place, the acidic magenta flow ceased. Transferring diagnostics away from the already considerably damaged biobed, the photonic officer began to repair the damage.

    "Captain, I need you to hold still," Doctor Russell Thompson insisted, endeavouring to cleanly seal the wound along Palmer's hairline, but she refused to remain seated.

    "How bad are they?" she demanded, forcing the young doctor to backpedal while he worked.

    "Not good," Kincaid admitted tersely, not taking his eyes from his tricorder. "What happened down there?"

    "We, or rather, Siri and I'sH'd, were escorting the Professor to the Daq jIl moH dig site," Palmer replied. "Before the Fek'Ihri assault on the Moab system, she had received an invitation from Govenor Tran to participate in the archeological dig, but been unable to attend till now, when First Minister Moskowitz re-extended the invitation to her. An uncleared nest of Fek'Ihri ravagers attacked us, and we were just lucky that Chief th'Shaan was able to cut through the local interference and beam us aboard, or we would have been totally consumed.

    "The troops First Minister Moskowitz assigned to guide and guard us didn't stand a chance," she sighed regretfully, still fresh in her minds eye, the image of young Jason Truc. Initially so shy around the Pentaxian women, he had held his ground when the others ran, emptying clip after clip of ammunition and lobbing grenades into the attacking horde, eventually resorting to pistol-whipping one ravager, only to have an arm ripped off, forcing I'sH'd to decapitate him as a mercy killing. "Just kids, some of them..."

    "Does this hurt?" Kincaid asked S'rR's, scrolling through the results on the tricorder screen, and pressing a thumb against the bite wound.

    She shook her shaven head.

    "It's totally numb between my wrist and my elbow," she admitted, before a note of panic began to creep into her voice. "But I can't extend my claws or move my thumb, and my fingers are starting to tingle... Why aren't the injuries healing??"

    "At the moment, I'm more worried about how quickly the venom will spread to your lungs and cardiac tubes," Kincaid replied, deliberately keeping his voice even so as not to transmit his growing unease to his patient. "When Doctor Espinoza and I treated Lieutenant H'mL'n's injuries, aboard the Tiburon, it appeared that the acidity of Pentaxian blood is sufficient to neutralise the venom-"

    "But my blood isn't acidic," S'rR's pointed out as Kincaid ran a dermal regenerator over the bite on her forearm, the ruptures in her flesh sealed more rapidly than a normal Human healing response, but still much more slowly than she was used to seeing.

    "Which is why I'm concerned about the venom's progression rate," Kincaid concluded, raising the regenerator to treat the wounds to her face and scalp. "Your tissues react more like Pentaxian than Human norms -- that's the only reason you're not dead already, but the spread of the synaptic degradation is still an issue. It'll likely reach your core organs before we can filter it out, so I'm going to have to put you in stasis until we figure out a solution."

    "Okay," S'rR's consented quietly. She wasn't happy with the situation, and the idea of not knowing what was happening terrified her, but she trusted Kincaid to look after her.

    "Why isn't she healing, Ben?" Palmer demanded, stepping around Thompson and wiping the blood from her forehead with the sleeve of her uniform jacket.

    "Ravager venom isn't just a paralytic," replied the Irish CMO. "It's also a bioneural inhibitor, designed to counteract a Klingon's brak'lul."

    "But isn't that just redundant organs?" Palmer asked, as S'rR's lay back on the biobed, a concerned expression marring her usually cheerful features.

    "In layman's terms, yes," Kincaid replied, as he activated the stasis field and looked to the readouts at the head of the biobed. "But it also incorporates a backup synaptic system -- the same kind of bioneural energy which Siri's body manipulates to repair itself, and which this venom was bio-engineered to target and disrupt. What was designed to keep a wounded Klingon down or dead, will very likely kill her."

    "But she's in stasis," Palmer pointed out. "Can't you counteract the venom or filter it from her system?"

    "I can filter it out," Kincaid replied, placing a cortical monitor on S'rR's temple. "But the damage is already done. Her regenerative system has crashed, and was starting to take her nervous system and cellular membranes with it.

    "Forget for a moment that Siri is a person and our friend, but think of her as an interactive mobile biological weapon system. Her body simply doesn't function like most Pentaxians due to the Human DNA fragments in her genome. It was -- custom designed -- for want of a better term, with very specific biological processes to accommodate the modified functions of her organs. Her cellular structures may not regenerate continuously like homo sapiens immortalis, but they still utilise the same bioneural energy reserves to repair themselves when damaged.

    "What would happen if the ship's structural integrity fields were to fail while the ship was at high warp?"

    "The stresses upon the hull would crush it," Palmer replied immediately, reaching out and gripping S'rR's' hand.

    "Exactly," Kincaid said. "That's what's happening to Siri's body. Without bioneural energy to utilise, or more accurately, without the ability to utilise the bioneural energy, her cellular structures began consuming themselves and started breaking down. She's gone from having the constitution of the proverbial ox, to something like acute leukaemia in a matter of minutes, simply because the venom is interfering with the way her body maintains itself. I had to get her into stasis before her irregular cell production progressed any further, I just hope it will allow me to devise a treatment."

    Palmer nodded silently, unconsciously stroking S'rR's' cheek.

    "What would you do for a Human with similar symptoms?" she asked.

    "Simple: Genetic transplant from a compatible donor, most likely an immediate family member," Kincaid replied. "Restore the damage to the base genome, and the healing process, immortal or otherwise, should re-initialise. The only problem, is that Siri doesn't have any immediate family members.

    "Admiral Kane is dead, as is her primary genetic sponsor, and although they're Pentaxians, neither I'sH'd or D'n''ll have compatible blood types. Transfusing their blood into Siri in her current condition, would simply liquify her from the insides out." Kincaid sighed, his frustration clear in his face. "I can't even use the transporter to restore her, like that fat TRIBBLE Monroe did for Captain Huntington, because her last transport pattern was already corrupted by the venom. I'm sorry, Manda, but realistically, I think we're going to lose her."

    Palmer frowned, deep in thought.

    Primary genetic sponsor... Cameron!

    She recalled the moment during the diplomatic mission to Pentaxia over twenty years ago where Doctor K'm'rn Kane had explained to her that she was the result of Pentaxian military cloning -- the same department which had later fused elements of Marcus' DNA to hers to create S'rR's... Clones came from genetic sponsors... Sponsors are people... People have families...

    Running the time and distance calculations through her mind, she reached up and slapped her comm badge.

    "Palmer to bridge: Break orbit immediately and lay in a course for Pentaxia, maximum slipstream velocity," she ordered.

    "Aye, Captain," came the controlled voice of Ensign T'Natra. "Course plotted, laid in and executed."

    Kincaid tilted his head.

    "Are you thinking..."

    "It's a long shot, Ben," Palmer admitted. "But the only one we have."

    As had been her custom since childhood, Zh'unt'ari Ch'K'rr, empress of the Pentaxian Dynasty, took breakfast on her favourite veranda of the imperial palace, and as she had been for just over two decades, was accompanied by her parthenogenetically created daughter, V'sh'K'rr.

    "You're very quiet today," she observed, spreading a glob of kawa jam on a chunk of spiced bread with her fingers before sucking them clean.

    V'sh'K'rr looked up from her plate, her eyes hidden behind the black nictitating membranes she had deliberately closed.

    "What would you have me say, Mother?" she enquired. "Nice weather? No d'v'ash't'ya yet today?"

    "It wouldn't kill you to make conversation," Ch'K'rr said lightly, taking a bite of the bread. Swallowing the mouthful, she opened her mouth to continue, but the door beside her opened, admitting a slender, intense-looking young man with immaculately styled hair, and a suit cut to the season's latest style.

    "Please forgive the interruption, Highness," said her personal assistant, St'L'y'Na, bowing deeply. "We have received an urgent communique from the USS Vanguard. Ambassador S'rR's has been taken critically ill and-"

    "What's wrong with her?" Ch'K'rr demanded, abruptly rising to her feet, the sticky bread dropping to the floor.

    "It would appear she has suffered an extreme reaction to a venomous bite while at the archeological dig on Moab," St'L'y'Na replied. "Captain Palmer is requesting we search records for any possible genetic matches to her, and is returning her home for treatment."

    "Do it immediately," Ch'K'rr ordered. "When will the Vanguard arrive?"

    "Long-range outposts have already detected the starship within our border, moving at transwarp velocities, on a direct course. Predictions are that they will arrive in orbit within the hour," St'L'y'Na said. "Apparently the ambassador has been placed in medical stasis, but the prognosis is dire, even if a suitable donor can be found."

    Ch'K'rr frowned, two vertical lines appearing between her eyebrows.

    "See that the Vanguard's progress is unhindered by our patrol ships. They are to be given clear passage," she said. "Make it clear that any Ahd'r who delays their progress or questions their presence will answer to me directly. What explanation does Ahd'r I'sH'd offer for this?"

    St'L'y'Na spread his hands helplessly.

    "He has been grievously wounded, possibly mortally so, according to Captain Palmer," he explained. "Apparently he placed himself between the ambassador, Professor D'n''ll and the attacking creatures, so they would not reach them. He took the full brunt of the assault."

    Ch'K'rr nodded slowly.

    "Very well, make the necessary searches for a compatible donor, the leading specialist physicians, and contact the Ahd'r's family. I will meet the Captain and her officers in my reception room when they arrive."

    Bowing once more, St'L'y'Na turned smartly and left the veranda as swiftly as dignity allowed, leaving Ch'K'rr and V'sh'Krr alone once more.

    "It sounds like she disagreed with something that ate her..." the princess quipped.

    With a furious snarl, Ch'K'rr lashed out, grabbing her daughter by the face and tipping her backwards so her chair was precariously balanced on two legs. The force of her grip contorted V'sh'Krr's cheeks and lips, and the princess's eyes flew wide open in shock, the whites clearly visible all around the shimmering purple irises.

    "I don't know what perceived slight you chafe under today, but you will learn to consider your words in my presence!" Ch'K'rr growled, her anger such that her voice dropped to the lower registers, well below the range of Human hearing. "I suggest you pray to the Makers that a suitable donor is found for my S'rR's, because if one is not, I will let the physicians take whatever she needs from you! Is that clear?"

    Even during her years of estrangement in the Federation, S'rR's had always remained Mother's favourite, and feeling a terror she had not known since she was a child, V'sh'Krr nodded frantically, realising she had gone too far.

    "Yesh muvvuh," she promised, her words distorted by her compressed lips.

    Ch'K'rr released her grip on her daughter's face, and pulled her head to her breast, before kissing the top of her head and tenderly stroking her thick hair.

    "Oh my shining beauty," she sighed sadly. "What did I ever do wrong to raise such a spiteful child..."

    I'sK'r heard the whine of the ground car's powerful engines reverberating off the canyon walls long before she saw it. Straightening from where she stacked logs on the kindling, she adjusted her headscarf, and pulled her shawl closer about her, warding off the chill breeze and keeping her mouth and nose protected from the light dust storm. The car was sleek, gleaming in the light from the noon suns, and pulled to a graceful stop near to where I'sK'r worked with I'pH'n.

    A door at the rear opened, and a slender young man stepped out and approached the two women.

    "I'sK'r v'nai?" he enquired, clasping his hands to his biceps and bowing from the waist.

    "I am, may I help you?"

    The young man's face broke into a relieved smile.

    "Thank the Makers," he breathed gratefully, opening his tailored jacket and producing an ID wallet. "My name is St'L'y'Na h'lL'r, I am here at the command of Zh'unt'ari Ch'K'rr, who requests your immediate assistance."

    I'sK'r took the offered wallet and scrutinised the ID. A lifetime of professional mourning kept her face blank and her voice steady as she returned the leather folder.

    "Whatever service I can provide, I will willingly undertake," she said. "But, what assistance could a corpse-burner provide the Empress?"

    "If you would accompany me to the palace, I will explain en route, but time is of the essence, and we cannot delay here."

    Lowering her headscarf, freeing her shoulder-length hair, I'pH'n scowled suspiciously.
    "We're not going anywhere without an explanation," she said aggressively. "We may only be v'nai who toil in the canyons, but do you really take us for backward yokels? Or just loose women that go with anyone who flashes an ID wallet? My day's plan did not involve getting [email protected], or having my organs harvested by some flesh-monger. Do you think we should just lift our skirts and bend over your ground car?"

    "You must forgive my granddaughter for being overly-protective," I'sK'r placated. "She has had some unpleasant experiences with people from the city. What she meant, is that we can't just leave the departed untended, their families have already paid for their burnings, and will be arriving for their ceremonies soon."

    Noting how subtly I'pH'n had shifted to the opening stance of a ka'l'n'ra adept, St'L'y'Na nodded understandingly. He sparred himself, but in the disciplined environment of the training rooms and on the pole floor. I'pH'n's form was informal and crude, but honed by the real world, where the only rule that mattered was to survive, not the minutiae of technical perfection.

    "If it is any reassurance, my security escort and driver will handle your appointments for the day," he offered. "They both serve the imperial palace, and are certainly eloquent enough to deal tactfully with your clients. If nothing else, let me get you both out of the canyons, those triolic deflectors you're using look like they've been in use since the Klingon Wars. On the Empress' word, neither of you will come to harm, but if your remain here and those deflectors fail, d'v'ash't'ya are likely to drain you both."

    The USS Vanguard raced across the quadrant, aiming for the binary stars which, when viewed from Earth, formed Orion's head.

    In the CMO's office, Kincaid and Claire worked on either side of the desk, their consoles back to back as they reviewed every available file on Pentaxian biology and genetic engineering.

    In the surgical bay, two of Claire's avatars continued to operate on I'sH'd. The damage to his face had been repaired, and his cardiac tubes no longer pumped blood into his chest cavity, but the task of reconstructing his damaged arms was still ongoing, and an avatar stood on either side of the biobed, each working independently of the other.

    "Vascular regeneration in the right biceps is completed," Claire informed Kincaid, not lifting her gaze from the desktop monitor. "I'm now proceeding to rebuild the muscles in the rotator cuff and triceps. On another note, have you seen this file?"

    Kincaid opened the tab which appeared in the corner of his screen, and scanned the contents.

    "Doctor Pfeiffer's original evaluation when Siri first boarded the Endeavour," he observed. "He definitely appreciated the genius which went into her creation, and scanned and studied her as much as possible without vivisecting her, but was enough of a gentleman to not treat her as a specimen, she never once complained about the frequency of his scans or his conduct."

    "Would you like me to contact him via subspace?" Claire enquired. "He may have worthwhile contributions on the subject."

    "Try and locate and contact him if possible," Kincaid decided. "I want him up to speed incase I need his thoughts, but I'm hoping we'll be able to deal with this locally."

    As Claire nodded, sickbay's doors opened and admitted Captain Palmer, who had changed into her white dress uniform.

    "Do you have anything?" she enquired, stepping into the glass-walled office.

    "I... have some ideas," Kincaid said cautiously. "But until I know what we find on the surface, I don't want to commit to any particular course of treatment. I've prepared half a dozen shots of tri-ox for an away team to compensate for the atmosphere. According to my research, at ground level in the capital, the air has the same oxygen saturation as twenty one thousand feet elevation on Earth."

    "When the Endeavour visited, we were all given shots before shuttling down. Trying to function without it, was not fun," Palmer replied, shuddering at the memory. "The heat is barely tolerable, but whatever you do, don't eat anything with seeds or sauce on it, and only drink water or weak teas."

    Kincaid nodded, transferring data to a PADD.

    "Understood, Captain," he said. "How many crew will be visiting the surface."

    "Just the two of us, and Commander Chanos," Palmer replied. "We're not taking part in a diplomatic mission, simply a medical mission of mercy, so no need for an extended away team. I'm sure I don't need to remind you to wear your dress whites."

    Kincaid grinned and shook his head silently.

    "Captain, I'd like to accompany you, if I may?" Claire requested, triggering an extreme sense of deja-vu in Palmer.

    She had said the exact same words to Marcus Kane when she had volunteered to accompany him to the Empress's coronation feast twenty five years ago. She had been the first member of the Endeavour's bridge crew to volunteer, and her willingness to visit such a potentially hostile environment had earned her considerably more respect from Cameron than she had previously held. The Pentaxian defector had previously only viewed her as a threat to her marriage, and treated her with aloof distrust. Cameron's opinion had changed during the course of that mission, but she had died before she could see Ch'K'rr elevated to the throne, and they had never been able to build on the beginnings of that potential friendship. Cameron had been accidentally killed by the grandfather of the man who lay in the surgical bay, killed stopping his attempt to murder the teenage girl who grew into the woman who now lay in the artificial sleep of a stasis field. Could it be that the universe had a sense of humor?

    "By all means, Claire," she said, pulling herself out of her reverie. "A real-time link to I'sH'd and Siri's conditions could prove vital if they unexpectedly deteriorate, and I certainly doubt the local conditions will prove any issue for you."

    "Aye, Captain," Claire replied. With a mental shrug, her uniform reconfigured into a dress uniform, and her hair raised from her customary shoulder-length style, to a sleek chignon.

    "Very presentable," Palmer acknowledged with a smile.

    "Bridge to Captain Palmer," Bellic Chanos' voice said over the intercom. "We will be entering the Pentaxian system in two minutes, Captain."

    "Understood, Commander," Palmer replied. "Please meet me in transporter room two in five minutes."

    I'sK'r and I'pH'n followed St'L'y'Na as he lead them through the halls of polished orange marble, toward a set of ornately carved double doors.

    At either side of the doors, armed guards stood like statues. They made no acknowedgement of St'L'y'Na and the two women, but had they not been expected, they would have had no hope of passing.

    The doors opened automatically at their approach, opening into an elegantly decorated room, furnished with low-slung seats and couches. At the opening of the door, the empress rose to her feet, and moved to take I'sK'r's hands, the traditional greeting given by a host to an honoured guest.

    Despite himself, St'L'y'Na stiffened slightly in disgust. For one of nobility to greet v'nai in such a manner, it was almost unthinkable! It was a travesty, an utter mockery of social convention! He fought to retain his composure, knowing that a more observable manifestation of his shock could cost him not just his position, but his life. He subtly moved to prepare refreshments, thus hiding his face from the empress' gaze.

    "Thank you for attending on such short notice," she said, guiding the older woman toward a comfortable chair. "I hope it was not too much of an inconvenience."

    Boldened by Ch'K'rr's greeting, I'pH'n spoke.

    "What do you want?" she demanded.

    Hearing the entitlement in her tone, St'L'y'Na nearly dropped the glass he was filling with k'lrr liqueur. Such arrogance had recently cost a visiting alien dignitary his life. After a suitable lesson in manners at the hands of the imperial interrogators, his body had been returned to his people's backward iceball of a planet with his hands severed, and his eyes and tongue torn out and stuffed in his excretory TRIBBLE: A clear warning to them to not re-enter galactic affairs until they had learned proper decorum and polite speech.

    Ch'K'rr smiled serenely.

    "Sixty five years ago, your grandmother took part in the summer games, winning nine awards -- a feat unbeaten to this day," she began. "Soon after, she was chosen to donate genetic material for the A'nla sh'ck program."

    "I know," I'pH'n's expression was one of irritated boredom. "What do you want from her now? Are today's athletes not able to meet your recruitment quotas?"

    Protecting her Elder... a noble intent... Ch'K'rr thought, briefly considering having the desert wench hauled to the dungeons and flogged within an inch of her life as punishment for her insolence. She looks so much like her, it's clear that is where her rebellious streak came from... Nobility is to be rewarded, not punished...

    "I once had a ward named S'rR's, who was cre-" Ch'K'rr caught herself mid-sentence, knowing that family pride was the route through I'pH'n's hostility. "Who was descended from that genetic sampling, and who now serves as Our Cultural Ambassador to the Federation. She has been taken ill, and her physician believes that a closely-related genetic donor may save her life. Surely you would not want to see a cousin suffer."

    "I would not, Highness," I'pH'n replied. "Allow me to volunteer for any procedure, my grandmother is an old woman. I'm younger and stronger."

    Ch'K'rr obviously cast an eye over I'sK'r.

    "I hope I shall look as fine when I reach her age," she complimented, as St'L'y'Na silently placed glasses of liqueur before them.

    I'sK'r tilted her head in gratitude.

    "If I can help an ambassador of the Dynasty, it would be my privilege to do so," she assured both Ch'K'rr and I'pH'n. Her tone subtly, but clearly telling her granddaughter that her will was settled on this course of action.

    As the shiver of the transporter passed through her, Palmer felt her weight abruptly increase with the shift in gravity. The air was thin, almost intolerably hot, like being on Vulcan in the height of summer.

    A slender woman in her thirties stood before them, wearing an elegant pant-suit.

    "Welcome, Captain," she said, clasping her hands to her upper arms and bowing from the waist. "My name is J'm'R'ch, I'm one of the empress' assistants, please follow me."

    Looking about, Palmer saw that they were in a circular reception room of polished orange marble, and J'm'R'ch lead them out into a corridor of the same substance, and memories of her previous visit came flooding back to her.

    The debauched attempt of a group of nobles to intoxicate her at the banquet, before Sam and Marcus intervened. The explosion intended to kill Ch'K'rr before she could be installed as empress, but which had only wounded her. The bout of food poisoning which had lead to Palmer's hospitalisation in the palace infirmary and Cameron's protection from the guards who tried to arrest her. Then, she had seen her cloak of civility ripped away -- the guise of Cameron, the exotic but reserved alien doctor giving way to K'm'rn, the genetically engineered warrior she had always really been. She would never forget the way Cameron had launched herself at a guard in a flying leg scissors, twisting in midair and snapping his neck in an instant, before landing, and ripping the throat of a second guard out with her claws without a moment's hesitation. Before then, Palmer had not realised that Cameron had been so deadly, nor seen such graceful brutality. An augment by Federation standards, Cameron had been bred and raised to kill and maim as easily as others drew breath, and with her gentle nature, Palmer often forgot that Siri had the same capacity.

    "How're you holding up, Bellic?" she asked.

    "I've been better, Captain," the gruff Bolian replied, as they passed the great hall.

    Moments later, J'm'R'ch lead them through a set of guarded double doors, into a room where Ch'K'rr, empress of the Pentaxian Dynasty sat with two other women who wore basic, unfashionable garments. One appeared to be in her eighties, her hair silver with age, and to her side, another woman with shoulder-length bolt straight ice-blonde hair. Even before she turned, Palmer was struck by recognition, but when she saw her face, despite the tri-ox, she was unable to breathe.

    Cameron! her mind screamed.

    Her face, her posture, her penetrating stare, all brought back to life through the genetic reincarnations which the Pentaxian genome frequently manifested within family lines. I'sH'd had the face of his grandfather, this woman had the face of Cameron Kane, a woman so beautiful, that as a shy acting ensign, Palmer had stuttered whenever she tried to speak to her. A woman so beautiful of spirit, that despite despising her close working relationship with her husband, she had still cared for her when she took ill, never once letting Palmer feel the shame of being found naked in a pool of her own vomit and filth, not letting anyone else see her in such a state, but protecting and treating her as she would any other patient. Taken from life before she could learn how intimately Palmer admired her from afar.

    Seeing Palmer's look of shock, Ch'K'rr rose to her feet.

    "Welcome back, Captain," she said. "I'pH'n's appearance is rather familiar, is it not? As you can see, my assistants have traced S'rR's genetic lineage precisely to its point of origin. They have also brought in T'tH'v and M'lu'a, two of Pentaxia's leading geneticists."

    With a gesture, Ch'K'rr indicated a man and a woman seated on the other side of the room. Palmer's shock at seeing I'pH'n had distracted her enough to not notice them on first entering the room.

    "Thank you, Empress," she replied, before continuing in near-flawless Pentaxian. "Allow me to present my officers: Commander Bellic Chanos, my executive officer and chief of security, my executive assistant, Claire, and Doctor Ben Kincaid, my chief medical officer. Thank you for agreeing to help us."

    "I am sure you remember, Captain, that S'rR's was once my ward, thus as much a member of my family as if she were of our blood and bone," Ch'K'rr pointed out, before looking at Kincaid. "You have been responsible for her care?"

    "I have, Highness," he replied with a nod. "I've done everything in my power to stabilise her condition, but her condition is critical I believe a genetic transfusion from a compatible donor may be her only chance of survival."

    "That's where we come in," I'pH'n said, with the same smokey voice as her predecessor. "My grandmother provided the genetic samples which created Ambassador S'rR's. Have you brought her with you?"

    Kincaid shook his head, before addressing Ch'K'rr once more.

    "The risk of transporting her from the Vanguard disturbing the stasis field is unacceptable. I can't stress strongly enough how critical her condition is. Even if her body accepts the transfusion without rejection, I can make no promise of its success. The most prudent step, would be to beam the ladies to the ship so we can conduct a genetic screening, and see what options we have available to us."

    "It would be my honor, Doctor," I'sK'r said, rising gracefully to her feet. Despite the roughness and simplicity of her clothes, she carried herself with a quiet dignity and bearing untouchable by her humble circumstances.

    "It's time for my morning swim, Captain," Ch'K'rr announced. "While your doctor conducts his scans of I'sK'r, perhaps you would accompany me, so that we may have a conversation?"

    For a moment, Palmer was caught totally off-guard -- She had been in numerous diplomatic situations during her career, involving countless formal dinners, even being tattooed while on a first contact mission, but she had never been invited to swim with a monarch before.

    "Of course, Highness, what did you wish to discuss?" Palmer asked, following Ch'K'rr as she left the reception room and lead her out into the palace grounds. The sudden brightness against her unprotected eyes was almost painful, and most of the detail in their surroundings was lost through reflected glare.

    "It has been over twenty years since we last saw each other," Ch'K'rr observed as they walked through the gardens. "In all your travels in that time, have you ever re-encountered or heard from my -- I believe the Human term is 'godfather'?"

    Palmer shook her head.

    "I haven't seen the Doctor since he and Rose left the Endeavour, following our departure from Pentaxia," she replied. "I did research him though, as the subject for my final academy dissertation, given the prominence with which he appears in galactic history. References about him range from the subtle and the obscure to the outlandish, and if half the stories about him are true, he has lived over a thousand years."

    "He is a Time Lord," Ch'K'rr said. "A master of time and space, able to change his very form to cheat death. For him, almost anything is possible, all those stories you heard were probably true. Tell me what has become of Jedda Tobin, I remember she was a very efficient officer. Has her career progressed as well as yours?"

    "Admiral Tobin now oversees the strategic operations of Starfleet's First Assault Fleet," Palmer said. "I can contact her on your behalf if you require her services?"

    "I simply have some inquiries I wish to make into a man named Drake," replied Ch'K'rr. "But more on that subject later, when our privacy is assured. Were you affected by the riots on Moab, before my S'rR's was injured?"

    Palmer shook her head.

    "No, Highness," she replied. "We departed at almost the same time the purge was carried out, and I only learned of it while en-route here via subspace update."

    "An impressive piece of social cleansing," Ch'K'rr observed. "This Cult of the Masters is truly disconcerting."

    "I wasn't aware you had an interest in Orion sociology," Palmer said.

    "Why would you be?" Ch'K'rr mused rhetorically. "Modern Orions hold no interest for me, they are little more than fornicating savages, an entire economy built upon oppression through slavery. However, there are theories among Pentaxian scholars, that these Good Masters may be kin to the Makers mentioned in our own creation myths.

    "As you clearly found with your research on the Doctor, it is often hard to separate historical fact from myth and legend. Especially when facts appear to give credence to unlikely legends. Unlike the early Orions treatment by the Good Masters, our legends say that our Makers accelerated the evolution of this planet's dominant species into the Crafted Hunters, but seeing how powerful their creations were, the Makers then sent the d'v'ash't'ya to eradicate them. Containment for an experiment gone awry.

    "Of course, separating fact from fiction is understandably difficult in such matters, especially when the d'v'ash't'ya exist extra-dimensionally from the rest of our reality, but I understand your Starfleet has encountered them elsewhere, and refers to them as Devidians. Our early history is a subject which fascinated my father, and which gives me much thought. Professor D'n''ll was sent to Moab to search for any possible commonalities between the Good Masters and the Makers."

    "We were unable to even reach the dig site before we were attacked," Palmer explained. "But she was not injured, thanks to I'sH'd's protection. Perhaps she will be willing to return once the area has been fully quarantined."

    Ch'K'rr nodded.


    Carrying a tray of food, Ensign Tilly Campbell-Black entered the Vanguard's sickbay. She was surprised to see a Pentaxian woman in tailored civilian clothes standing by the main surgical bay, where I'sH'd remained unconscious.

    "Oh," she said. "I didn't realise the Ahd'r had company."

    The woman turned to scrutinise her with what could only be considered detached aloofness, like the lady of a house being disturbed by a servant.

    "I am A'sh'Rh Sh'nN'rr Ma'Li'S'rn," she said, as if expecting Tilly to know who she was.

    "I'm Ensign Tilly Campbell-Black," she replied, before raising the tray slightly. "It's midday, and I wondered if the Ahd'r may have been awake."

    "You must be the one I'sH'd Sh'nN'rr has told me about. I can see why you would turn his head," replied A'sh'Rh, lowering her eyes and clearly sizing Tilly up. "I wouldn't turn you down myself."

    Tilly's mouth dropped open and she frantically shook her head.

    "I'm sorry, ma'am, that's not the case!" Tilly insisted. "The Ahd'r said he was obliged for yelling at me in front of everyone. I was just trying to bring him some food, that's all."

    A'sh'Rh's lips pursed and she raised an eyebrow.

    "See that that is all you bring him," she warned, before taking hold of the tray and extending her claws, the tips pricking Tilly's fingers. "I will be sure to say you brought the food when he next wakes."

    Her eyes stinging and her cheeks burning, Tilly turned and left sickbay as quickly as she could. How was I supposed to know he was married?! she silently implored the universe. The universe declined to answer.

    Following Ch'K'rr through the palace gardens, Palmer saw that she had been lead to an Olympic-sized swimming pool, surrounded on all sides by tall trees. The scent of the moisture on the air was almost overwhelming.

    With a complete lack of inhibition or modesty, the empress began to disrobe by the side of the pool.

    Despite her familiarity with Pentaxian customs, and their lack of nudity taboos, Palmer found herself somewhat shocked that Ch'K'rr would disrobe thus before a commoner, and she immediately averted her gaze.

    "Forgive me, Highness, but I have no bathing suit," Palmer admitted, unsure of the protocol for such a situation, a far cry from the bath-houses where she had sought anonymous lovers.

    "Neither have I," Ch'K'rr replied with the amused tone of someone stating something obvious to a child, before diving cleanly into the pool and breaking into a powerful front crawl.

    With a shrug, the captain followed her example. Stripping naked, then placing her folded uniform clear of the edge, Palmer quickly tied her hair back into a loose ponytail before diving in and swimming after the empress.

    The cold shock of the water was a welcome refreshment against the intense dry heat, and as her head broke the surface, Palmer gratefully breathed in the moisture-rich air above the surface of the pool. A few powerful strokes caught her up to Ch'K'rr, who had settled into an easy breast-stroke.

    Her head once more above water, Ch'K'rr turned to the Human woman.

    "Now that we have privacy, Captain, what can you tell me about Franklin Drake?"

    "He is -- a complex individual," Palmer replied, gathering her thoughts. "He serves an unsanctioned group within the Federation known as Section Thirty One. They claim to operate in the ultimate defence of the Federation, but they are almost universally reviled for their methods."

    "Are they bigots? Radicals?" Ch'K'rr enquired with a complete lack of irony.

    "'Fundamentalist patriots' might be the most accurate description," Palmer replied, mindful of where she was, and to whom she spoke. "They do ultimately protect the Federation and it's citizenry, but their methods are often morally questionable. One might say they take Surak's maxim that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one, to an ultimate extreme."

    "One can rarely fault Vulcan logic," Ch'K'rr observed. "That same logic could be said about the actions of Eialu when cleansing Moab of Cultists."

    Palmer nodded. Her advanced tactical training had given her the ability to make such decisions and give such orders. She had never yet had to do so, and hoped that she never did, but she knew without question, that she and Eialu were cut from the same cloth.

    "You no doubt heard Drake's name when attempted to kidnap Siri from the Khitomer conference," she suggested, to which Ch'K'rr frowned slightly.


    "S'rR's, Highness. It's a Human habit, a custom almost, to shorten the names of friends and family to diminutives," Palmer explained. "For example, I understand that Admiral Kane's sister used to call him 'Polo'. My friends call me 'Manda', and many address S'rR's as 'Siri'. Coincidentally, Siri is the name of the interactive software programmed into children's computers. Since she left Pentaxia all those years ago, she has been a good friend and like a younger sister to me, I would do anything to protect her."

    Ch'K'rr filed the information away with a nod, before reaching the end of the pool, and turning to swim back the other way.

    "Drake is a name I have heard a few times recently," she explained. "A source informed me he was on Pentaxia some time before S'rR's was abducted."

    Palmer was stunned.

    "How reliable is this source?"

    "Beyond question," Ch'K'rr replied. "On a recent three-month tour of the Dynasty, my flagship came under attack from Klingon forces, and over three dozen militia officers were killed. When I demanded an explanation from the Klingon High Council, they denied any knowledge of a raid, and my source confirmed their ignorance as genuine. However, knowledge of the flightpath suggested some lapse in my security, and I began to wonder about Drake's potential involvement."

    "Pentaxia is a provisional member of the Federation, and you are politically moderate," Palmer pointed out. "I would not defend Drake without reason, but I cannot think of any reason why he would act against you. I will make enquiries for you though. I know an Admiral with a powerful friend in the Klingon Empire. He will definitely be able to discover the truth behind the attack, and Siri will pass-" her voice faltered as she realised what she was saying. "When S'rR's is recovered, she will be able to pass General Ssharki's findings on to you."

    "I would be most grateful, Manda," Ch'K'rr said earnestly. "You no doubt remember what happened the last time that members of my government plotted against me. I have no desire to repeat the experience, especially if such actions were to endanger my daughter."

    "I wasn't expecting the level of genetic degradation to be this severe," T'tH'v admitted, as he and M'lu'a looked at the results of the scans Kincaid had taken immediately before putting S'rR's into stasis. "What do you think?"

    M'lu'a shook her head helplessly.

    "Agreed, I fear a genetic transfusion would be incapable of repairing this level of damage before the errors in genetic replication become fatal," she admitted, taking a small pouch from a pocket, and popping a piece of f'rt bark in her mouth, before chewing thoughtfully, and offering the pouch around. T'tH'v shook his head, but with a shrug, Kincaid took a small piece of bark and began to chew, a sweet flavour filling his mouth.

    "Look at the DNA sequences though," he pointed out. "Discounting genetic drift from five subsequent generations of cloning, and the Human encoding, they are almost identical. There has to be something we can do."

    "You reported the speed of genetic breakdown to be minutes," M'lu'a said. "It could take weeks for a transfusion to begin to integrate enough to begin to repair the cellular damage, and that is assuming that S'rR's' regenerative ability does not reassert itself and consider the transfused material as a foreign body and reject it. If we were to lower the stasis field, I doubt she would live till the end of the day."

    "Even using the ship's transporter to directly introduce the new genetic material would not work quickly enough," Kincaid sighed, before pausing. "I recalled a case recently where a Federation doctor was able to use a copy of an old transporter pattern to recover a Starfleet captain who had been assimilated by the Borg. The same technique had been used some forty years before to equally restore someone suffering from accelerated ageing. The only problem, is that S'rR's last transport was after she had been bitten, and that pattern wiped the previous one."

    T'tH'v picked up the PADD showing the comparison of I'sK'r's and S'rR's' genetic profiles, and stared at them, concentration clear on his face, before he turned away from his colleagues and rapidly spread his fingers over the screen of the PADD, as if flicking the displayed information away. The sickbay's holosystem picked up the file, and projected the two profiles in mid-air before T'tH'v.

    "The problem we have, is a breakdown of z'na's'n and adenine levels in her nucleobases," he said, examining the larger projections with greater ease than the screen of the PADD. "The DNA itself is literally falling apart."

    "But as we've discussed, even if we were to correct that chemical balance, the ongoing errors in replication would prove fatal before the genome stabilises," Kincaid said, standing beside T'tH'v.

    The Pentaxian geneticist nodded, before raising his hands toward the holograms.

    "But what if we were to do this?" he suggested, bringing his hands together, causing the holograms to merge, where they synchronised almost flawlessly, with only elements of the Human encoding showing as missalignments.

    "F**k me, that's bloody brilliant!" Kincaid exclaimed, clapping his counterpart on the shoulder. "If we use the transporter, we can re-write the genetic profile while Siri's suspended in the matter stream, using I'sK'r's transporter profile to replace the damaged portions of hers, without over-writing undamaged sections." He turned towards M'lu'a. "Do you concur, Doctor?"

    "With the premise, but not the outcome," she replied, pointing to the highlighted areas of misalignment. "These codes are responsible for S'rR's' ability to heal, and some of her other -- biological divergences. Due to the nature of the venom she was infected with, they are also the most damaged. What you are proposing, will replace those sections with undamaged Pentaxian coding."

    Kincaid felt as he had been deflated.

    "That will mean restoring her genome entirely to Pentaxian base," he realised. "It'll create a template which will almost entirely re-write her biology. She won't just lose her claws, but her ability to regenerate. We're not in a position to make a decision of that magnitude. I have to notify the Captain. No offence to I'sK'r and I'pH'n, but she's the closest Siri has to next of kin."

    Palmer stared intently at the comm-screen in Ch'K'rr's reception room, as Kincaid explained the situation to them.

    "What do you want me to do, Captain?" he eventually asked.

    "Do it," Ch'K'rr said, earning astonished glances from both Palmer and Kincaid. "I do not give this order as the Empress of the Pentaxian Dynasty, but as a mother. By Pentaxian tradition, I always have been, and always will be, S'rR's' legal guardian. You have only seen her in the tolerance of Starfleet and the Federation, but I have seen how she was treated by her own people by virtue of being different. I was responsible for her creation, it is only right that I allow that mistake to be corrected. Carry out the procedure, Doctor Kincaid, you have my full consent to do whatever is necessary to save my ward's life."

    Terminating the connection, Kincaid turned to T'tH'v and M'lu'a.

    "Let's get started," he said, before looking down at S'rR's' hands. Reaching out, he picked up a synaptic stimulator and a thrombic modulator. Momentarily, he brought the first device close to S'rR's' forearm, and sent a low-level impulse into her nervous system, causing her claws to extend. Bringing the thrombic modulator into place, he severed the retaining ligaments, then pulled the nearly fourteen inch long bone claws through her hands, the metacarpal bones shifting briefly to accommodate the extraction.

    M'lu'a looked as if she was about to vomit from the sight of the claws, as Kincaid laid them on the next biobed.

    "This procedure will restructure her entire body to the new transporter template," the CMO explained, repeating the procedure on S'rR's' other arm. "These would be re-integrated in the matter stream, and the genetic material re-structured into something else, and I think she'll want to keep hold of them.

    "Claire, lower the stasis field, and initiate a static transport," he said.

    As they watched, light shimmered around S'rR's, and she de-materialised.

    "I want you to suspend the matter stream in the pattern buffer, and without over-writing any undamaged genetic encoding, integrating Pattern I over the damaged portions of Pattern S."

    "Pattern integration completed, genetic encoding synchronised," Claire's disembodied voice stated.

    "Double check, Claire," Kincaid ordered. "Are the patterns perfectly synchronised?"

    "Confirmed, Doctor, both transporter patterns are completely synchronised. Undamaged portions from Pattern S are unaffected by pattern integration. Damaged sections have been replaced by Pattern I, and resulting pattern is stable."

    "Rematerialise her," Kincaid said, his pulse racing.

    On the biobed, light danced and shimmered, before coalescing into S'rR's' familiar form. Casting his eye to the diagnostic readout as he draped a sheet over her, Kincaid saw all indicators were well within Pentaxian norms. He raised his tricorder, and there was no sign of any genetic drift or irregular cell production. The process had worked. Reaching out, he gently touched S'rR's' shoulder. Her eyelids opened, and she looked up at him, the slate grey rings were gone from the edges of her irises, which were now a uniform vibrant purple, but immediately, Kincaid saw recognition in her eyes, and knew her memory was intact.

    "Ben, am I fixed?" she asked.

    "How do you feel?" he asked

    S'rR's' brow furrowed as she considered.

    "I feel absolutely fine," she replied. "How long was I under?"

    "Just a few hours," Kincaid said. "But there's something I need to tell you. In order to save you, we -- had to make some changes."

    "What do you mean?" S'rR's enquired. Pulling herself into a sitting position, she rested her forearms on her knees. "Well my tattoo seems to still be ther- Oh My God! I Have Claws!"

    Holding her hands up palms away, she stared at the pointed ridged claws where her fingernails used to be.

    "What the f**k have you done to me, Ben?" she demanded. "Why do I have claws? Why does sickbay look so bright?"

    Kincaid sighed.

    "In order to save your life, we had to rebuild a lot of your genetic structure," he began. "The empress found the original genetic donor for the line you were cloned from, and she agreed to help you. We had to over-write all your Human DNA, you're one hundred percent Pentaxian now. Claws, acid for blood, optical structures, everything. The empress told us to do whatever it took to save your life."

    S'rR's sat silently, her mouth wide as she tried to process what she had been told. Experimentally, she extended and retracted the claw on her left thumb.

    "I thought you'd want to keep these," Kincaid said, handing over the original bone claws he had extracted from her arms.

    S'rR's looked from the dagger-like claws in her hands, up to her friend, and began to laugh.
  • danquellerdanqueller Member Posts: 485 Arc User
    edited September 2013




    D'Tan - "Now that all formalities have been completed, I think it's time we dispensed with protocol. We've all reviewed the logs, and the events that led to the loss of the R'uhuv are a matter of record. What we must do is determine if there are grounds for further action before we close this matter."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Subcommander Rycho, for the record, could you please summarize the orders your ship was operating under when it was lost?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "If I may inquire, are you referring to the orders of the Commanding Officer or those to the ship from the High Command?"

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "The tasking orders to your ship from the High Command."

    Subcommander Rycho - "Sir, I must remind this assembly that these orders were highly classified. Are you certain you wish me to divulge those orders in this environment?"

    Admirak Zunvoc - "Do not attempt to avoid the question! You will answer...."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "The situation has changed, and circumstances require this information be presented. All records of this hearing will be sealed, and we require you to testify as to your orders. That is not a request."

    Subcommander Rycho - "Very well, sir. The R'uhuv was dispatched to the Quanuyr system via the Bajoran Wormhole. We were not to reveal to the Federation personnel at the station our actual destination or our method of altering our destination. Upon arrival at Quanuyr, we were to conduct cloaked reconnaissance of the shipyard facilities, with the primary intent on identifying the locations where the Tal'Shiar were producing their hybrid Borg vessels. Once we had accomplished these objectives, we were to utilize a specialized decoy device to open a path through the defenses and return to the Republic."

    D'Tan - "Obviously, those orders were not carried out."

    Subcommander Rycho - "My Commander guessed that the Tal'Shiar were aware of our presence in the system from the moment of our arrival. How she came to this conclusion is not known to me, but the actions of the defending forces for the entire length of our observation seemed to bear that out. A widespread search for our ship commenced within minutes of our entry, and continued until we attacked."

    Admiral Zunvoc - "Yes, you attacked! When you were under specific orders to observe and report! Was there a misunderstanding of the requirements of these directives, or was your Commander even then plotting her treason?"

    <Recorded sound of material under physical strain. Evaluated as probably type seven alloy, typically used on office accomodations on New Romulus>

    Subcommander Rycho - "What did you say?"

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Stop this! Admiral, your comments were out of line. We have yet to prove any evidence of premotivation in the Commander's actions. Subcommander, despite what you may think, Romulans do not approve of the loss of self-control. Nor damage to Flotilla material."

    Subcommander Rycho - "I will not have my Commander's name so tarnished! She deserves much more respect!"

    Admiral Zunvoc - "Does she? We have reports of a fleet of Borg cube-class vessels featuring hybrid Romulan technology attacking throughout the Vendor and Onias Sectors, including two outlying colonies that had been given Republic protection! We have lost over seven vessels to those ships, and from what I've seen, those Borg ships were last under the control of your Commander!"

    Subcommander Rycho - "My Commander would not order such attacks! This would be against everything she believes in, everything we fight for! And you should know that better than anyone, Admiral! Was it not your ship we saved that battle over T'golith Nine?"

    <Period of silence. Time elapsed: 0:07.>

    D'tan - This does not accomplish anything useful. Whether or not Subcommander Rycho is correct and his Commander no longer controls the Borg fleet, or Admiral Zunvoc is correct and she is still directing them, the fact remains that the Commander of the R'uhuv ordered an attack on an instillation she was under orders to only observe. Do you have an explanation for this, Subcommander?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "Proconsul, all I know is that she announced that she believed the shipyard instillations were alerted to our presence, and therefore any attack upon it had to be done immediately, by our ship. Had we withdrawn, the opportunity to damage or destroy the facilities would have been lost."

    D'tan - "Then you believe the violation of orders the result of circumstances, and not willful disobediance of the will of the Republic?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "...I....do so believe."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "While I can see the necessity of attack in the conditions you have described, I must also note that evidence points to your Commander utilizing her command codes to transport herself, alone, onto the Borg vessel, after ordering an assault team readied. An assault team that was never utilized. Am I correct in my estimation that your Commander willfully deceived her officers and crew as to her intentions, including yourself Subcommander?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "That would be....an accurate assessment, Admiral."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "And the last time you had any communication with your Commander, would your assessment be that she was...fully in possession of herself?"

    <Period of silence. Time elapsed: 0.035>

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Subcommander?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "No, sir. I cannot say that she was...herself."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Then you will understand that we have good grounds for questioning if your Commander chose to use her command in an attempt to seize control of the Borg vessels for personal purposes, and regardless of that, her actions have caused the death of thousands of civilian and military personnel."

    Admiral Zunvoc - "And that is the point! She chose all of this! She betrayed her oath, her crew, and the Republic! She is a traitor, even if the others in this room are too hesitant to say it! Why, I don't wonder if it wasn't all tied to some 'vision' she had during her time in the Priesthood. Perhaps she was planning this all along!"

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Thank you, Admiral Zunvoc, that will be all. I am certain there are duties that require your attention. You are dismissed."

    Admital Zunvoc - <Unable to translate this series of words. Please update translation protocols.>

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "THANK you, Admiral Zunvoc. That. Will. Be. All. Do not force me to make it an order."

    <Sound of person leaving the room. Identity high that this was Admiral Zunvoc, Republic Twentieth Squadron, Republic Flotilla. File available for review in Section 115X.21>

    <Period of silence. Time elapsed: 0.081>

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Subcommander, would you please continue your report?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "There is little else to report that is not in the log. The R'uhuv sustained five direct hits from plasma beam fire during our attempt to withdraw from the approach that...deposited our Commander upon the Borg vessel. The damage report is amended as part of my official report to the Flotilla."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Yes. Severe damage to the warp drive, cloaking system, and shields. I understand that this damage was done during first-phase cloaking operation. Is this correct?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "Yes, sir. It was so."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Was this under your orders, as Commanding Officer Present?"

    Subcommander Rycho - <audible intake of breath noted> "No, sir. I was not present on the Bridge at the time the command to cloak was given."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "If you were not on the Bridge of your ship, then where were you, Subcommander?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "I had left the Bridge to investigate why the Commander had not ordered the assault team to transport onto the Borg ship at the appropriate point in our approach."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "And so you turned over Command to the next senior officer before leaving the Bridge, and that officer issued the order to cloak?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "No, sir. I did not turn over Command before leaving the Bridge."

    <Period of silence. Time elapsed: 0.058>

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Subcommander, am I to understand you left your post under combat, and failed to transfer your Command to your subordinant?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "Yes, sir, I did exactly that. As you say, we were in combat, and I...made a mistake. I knew something was wrong with my Commander's actions, and I let that dominate my thinking. In the process, I failed to transfer Command authority prior to leaving the Bridge."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "I see. Continue."

    Subcommander Rycho - "The Tal'shiar attack caught the R'uhuv at precisely the moment when her shields were down, but the cloak had not become functional enough to make targeting difficult. With critical systems damaged or inoperable, I knew the enemy would attempt to board and secure the crew as prisoners. I was prepared to enact sahhae protocols to spare them that."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Subcommander, you have had several days to go over the logs and Engineering analysis of the damage to your ship. In your opinion, could you have done anything to have prevented the loss of the R'uhuv at this point?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "No sir."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "It should give you some comfort that our own analysis agrees with your own. The situation was beyond salvaging. While we may have some question about the reasons it came to be in that state, it seems clear that the ship was lost at this point."

    D'tan - "How many of your crew were lost, Subcommander?"

    Subcommander Rycho - "Seventeen, Proconsul. Not including my Commander."

    <Sound of tapping, followed by electronic tones. Probable cause: Fleet Admiral Kererek accessing his terminal.>

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Very well. Subcommander Rycho, stand before the Tribunal."

    <Sound of a person standing and walking six paces. Evaluated as Subcommander Rycho proceeding from a place on the periphery of the room to near the center.>

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Subcommander Rycho. As Fleet Admiral of the Republic Flotilla, senior officer present at these proceedings, it is my responsibility to render judgement of the Commanding Officer of any ship lost during a mission. You were the Commanding Officer Present on board the R'uhuv at the time of its loss, and so I now discharge my duty."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Your actions in leaving your post of Duty during a combat situation without proper transfer of authority weigh heavily against you, Subcommander. I expect and demand any officer under my command to follow proceedures in such situations, and remember their responsibilities. That you did not do so is a black mark you will have to work very hard to erase, and you will bear the lives lost with the knowledge that you will never know if you could have prevented their deaths had you not introduced uncertainty into the Bridge at a critical time."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - <Sound of Admiral Kererek sighing loudly> That said, it is my judgement as Fleet Admiral of the Republic Flotilla that the Republic cannot afford to discharge you from service at this time. We need every commander we have, and while your actions may represent bad judgement, it is not definitive that they directly caused the loss of the R'uhuv. Therefore, you will be retained in service, to be assigned to whatever duties the Fleet Admiral chooses to assign you to."

    Admiral Kelro Verne - "If I may make a suggestion in this regard?"

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Admiral Verne, you were allowed to attend this Tribunal out of courtesy for your actions in saving the survivors of the R'uhuv and transporting them back to Mol'Rihan. As a representative of a foreign power, one I note that doesn't even exist in our universe, you are without standing in the Flotilla's chain of command, and hold no authority here. This is an internal matter of the Republic Flotilla, and we will deal with our officers in our own manner."

    Admiral Kelro Verne - "I understand. However, it occurs to me that you are facing a serious threat with this new force of Borg ships. Perhaps most importantly, you need to find them before you can deal with them. Or before they decide to deal with you."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Please come to the point."

    Admiral Kelro Verne - "Who in the Flotilla has a better chance of finding the Borg fleet than the crew that worked the closest to the Commander who may be directing their actions? I would suggest you make use of that, and not assign them to some backwater post on New Romulus."

    <Period of silence. Time elapsed: 0.032>

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Centurian Maeka. Do we have any ships available for new assignment of a crew?"

    Centurian Maeka - "No, Fleet Admiral. The next availability is not for the next two weeks."

    Admiral Kelro Verne - "It's a fortunate coincidence that a Starfleet has decided to donate a scout-class vessel to the defense of the Republic then, isn't it? I understand it was intended to be sent to the Omega Force, but that no crew was available, so a suggestion that it be sent as a goodwill gesture to ongoing relations with the Republic was approved rather quickly. I believe you will find the notification pending in your subspace queue, Fleet Admiral."

    <Sound of data PADD being picked up and accessed. Analysis indicates this is Fleet Admiral Kererek's PADD.>

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Rhode Island Class? That is....a fortunate coincidence indeed. I take it your 'suggestion' is that I assign Subcommander Rycho and his crew to this new ship?"

    Admiral Kelro Verne - "My suggestion, yes. And let me stress that I and my own crew have experience with the Borg you would not want. I will tell you simply that if you do not find and stop this Borg fleet quickly, it may cost us all far more than you can imagine."

    D'tan - "What do you mean, Admiral?"

    Admiral Kelro Verne - "When the Borg encounter division in their Collective, they respond by eliminating the malfunctioning components. This group of Borg appear to have a new Queen, and if the other Borg perceive her as different from the Queen they rely upon for guidance, they will come in full force to erase the imbalance. That would mean a Borg civil war on a scale we've never seen, with the entire Alpha Quadrant in the middle."

    <Period of silence. Time elapsed: 0.16>

    D'tan - "In light of this new information, I move we adjurn the Tribunal. Fleet Admiral, I believe you have work to do. Admiral Verne, may I speak to you in my office?"

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "Subcommander Rycho. Report to my office immediately."

    Subcommander Rycho - "Yes, Admiral."

    Fleet Admiral Kererek - "The Tribunal is adjurned. All personnel return to posts. And someone get that fishtank out of these chambers! Whoever thought we needed something like that in here...."

    <Sound of feet approaching audiosensor>

    <Sound of audiosensor housing being lifted and carried from the Tribunal chambers>

    Unknown Personnel - "No, no!! Don't lift it like that! You'll...NOOO!!"

    <Sound of impact of audiosensor housing striking solid object/surface>

    <Transmission ended.>


  • cmdrscarletcmdrscarlet Member Posts: 5,137 Arc User
    edited September 2013
    Stardate 88546.72 - Earth Space Dock

    The doors hiss open to reveal a small dimly-lit room where the lighting is reserved for the long table at the other end of the room. On a table are several small boxes, all are sealed but the contents are well-known.'

    I know what must be done ... and I don't want to do it. The condolences were already sent from my ready-room shortly after it all happened. That was standard procedure, but this part of the process is being altered at my request. Of the four hundred crew the Galatea started with, only 373 returned. From the missing, five received the venerable Federation Star Cluster posthumously. I guess, after six months, that is within the margin of acceptable loss.

    One step forward.

    'Acceptable Loss' runs counter to the idea of the preciousness of life. As a member of Starfleet, one assumes a certain level of risk. In the face of war, the risk goes up. Starfleet Academy is not low on recruits. That must be a good thing. The Academy works very hard to train for every contingency, to teach as much as possible for extreme proficiency and to model the discipline required for space-travel. And yet ... sometimes it's just not enough ...

    One step forward.

    My dress-uniform coat rests just above the knees. The dark-grey of the tunic is contrasted with white-colored piping. The shoulder pads reveal the deep blue of the Sciences department. My long scarlet hair is rolled into a bun, typical for human females of my rank. And it is my rank that allowed me to request a change in protocol. I was glad it was approved because the Galatea was my first true command. I earned to be her Captain. I earned to lead the crew. I earned the right to make tough decisions. I do not have many regrets. But if I could have one, it would be making this request. I thought it was a tough decision, when really it was a poor one. Admiral Quinn, in his wisdom, must have known what it would do to me and decided it would be a good lesson. One they do not teach you in the Academy.

    One step forward.

    It was the longest mission for Galatea: assist with colonization efforts with the Paradans. We were returning home for rest and resupply when we were ambushed by Klingons. I ... we ... had no chance. Twenty-two lost in as many minutes, five more lost trying to save the ship ... the crew. Those five will get these awards resting on the table. I asked to personally deliver them to their families out of a sense of duty ... honor ... and ...


    One step forward.

    And that's the lesson: I can not assume their sacrifice is mine to own. Starfleet will take care of the families - all twenty-seven. I did my part by drafting personalized letters to them. What I'm doing now is not needed. But I felt I needed to do it.

    One step forward.

    Now I realize I really don't need to be here. I shouldn't be here because I'm going to lose more along the way. That's the assumption of risk everyone in Starfleet accepts.

    One step forward.

    I pick up a box. This one belongs to Rhonda Kealing. I remember her: always laughing and always playing practical jokes with the Engineering crew. Thel couldn't appreciate all the humor, but I let it ride nonetheless because she did boost morale. I could tell she was missed when I was in Engineering to help with repairs after the battle.

    The other boxes are soon stacked in my hands and I turn toward the door. Only six steps away ... but they will be the first on the long road ahead of me.
  • gulberatgulberat Member Posts: 5,505 Arc User
    edited September 2013
    The Tales of Alyosha Strannik:
    "The Least of the Pain"

    Very soon, the Chin'toka will re-enter service following the Deep Space Eleven incident, and I will have the unfortunate task of...well,' rallying the spirits of my crew' feels like an inappropriate description. Disrepsectful of the heavy reality of the grief we share at our losses, and those aboard the Indomitable and DS11. We have a counselor on board, yes, but I as captain bear the obligation too, to serve as a focal point for their healing, at a time when I am not whole either.

    It's not that I haven't experienced dark times before. My career began in the Dominion War; I was used by Starfleet to carry critical information and carry out exfiltration missions. And then there was the Cardassian tour aboard the Avandar in 2405.

    We had all heard about the disappearance of 75 of the Cardassians' mothballed ships. And the terrorist strikes on Cardassia and its worlds, suspected to be orchestrated by mining magnate, 'Gul' Madred. Despite Starfleet's obligation to patrol Cardassian territory since their demilitarization, Starfleet Intelligence had been slow to make the connection between the two. And the rising tensions on the Klingon front had just exploded into open war.

    Still, there had to be some kind of response...some sort of demonstration that we would not abandon the other fronts we were engaged in even as the Klingons advanced. So the exploration cruiser Avandar was sent on an extended deployment into the Beta Ursae sector.

    Four months had passed and we were about to rotate back to Deep Space Nine and give our place to the Mugharrarin.

    That was when, as we passed by Septimus III, the Jem'Hadar attacked.

    There was virtually no warning when they emerged from warp; their patrols had followed documented, standard courses, taking no apparent notice of us until that day.

    Captain Teeglar had drilled us on discipline with an insistence rivaling on that of the Cardassians. We had been on yellow alert for the Septimus passage, as always--extra eyes on the sensors, extra hands on the weapons, and shields raised. I myself had been manning the second sensor console.

    Yet still they struck--and so suddenly, with such brute ferocity, that the cruiser's shields fell in just a few short minutes.

    And then the boarding parties came.

    We held the bridge thanks only to the holographics installed in the ship's last retrofit--though not without loss. And Teeglar...he only made it, it seemed, thanks to the Jem'Hadar's failure to recognize that this diminutive Roylan could be the ship's captain.

    We had no time to mourn the loss of Caitian helmsman K'Raath, his life given in protection of mine, or Ensign Brynjarsd?ttir from security. We had to retake the ship. To do that, someone had to manually restart the shield generators to cut off the flow of new troops.

    It felt just like Dominion War days. Captain Teeglar took me into the turbolift--halted, ostensibly, but I could move nonetheless. Out of phase just far enough that I could move unseen but still governed by the ship's gravity field, I could move even more hidden than the Jem'Hadar could ever hope to. Sometimes I could even catch a visual flash of them as I moved .04 seconds ahead of them, before their chromatophores could adapt to their surroundings and give the appearance of transparency.

    When no one else was around, and the Jem'Hadar patrols were small enough, I would emerge from behind, shoving them into the wall with a telekinetic blast and then--since a weapon was far too large for me to carry with me between phases--finish them with either a telekinetically-stripped weapon, or whatever small object I could strip away as an improptu flechette.

    At times, the action became so primal, so terrible, that I found myself torn between completing the kill and recoiling instinctively lest the actions led to something beyond contemplating. Something even the Jem'Hadar--engineered slaves--didn't deserve.

    I think I only killed in this way four or five times--but it felt awful afterwards, once the shield generators were up, the boarders repelled, and the Avandar finally back in safer territory, and I crashed into my bed just out of phase with the rest of the ship. Oh, God, how my body ached...every bone and every joint screaming in agony until I finally forced myself into phase and, still curled in an immobile ball of pain, called for Dr. Sei.

    The physical pain, though, was the easiest to deal with.

    I wasn't standing a week later in Captain Teeglar's ready room, my body still aching from the intense strain I'd put on it: strained ligaments, hairline fractures--all the symptoms of forcing my Devidian body to bear forces and impacts it was never designed to take. Behind closed doors, I telekinetically supported myself. Teeglar never batted an obsidian eye at the seemingly floating human suspended before him.

    I'll never forget what Teeglar said to me then, as he looked down from his proportionally-small desk perched up on its high platform.

    "We mourn the tragedy-that-is. We cannot ask the crew to celebrate a victory, even though we lived to bring word to the Federation and Cardassia of what the True Way has done. We can, however, recognize the tragedies-that-are-not. Not as reason to deny the tragedy-that-is, but to give us a foundation to build on. A reason to unite."

    I had straightened up as much as I could, levitating as I was.

    "Yes, sir."

    I could only hope that lesson would serve today, aboard the Chin'toka, as we left dock.

    Christian Gaming Community Fleets--Faith, Fun, and Fellowship! See the website and PM for more. :-)
    Proudly F2P.  Signature image by gulberat. Avatar image by balsavor.deviantart.com.
  • zidanetribalzidanetribal Member Posts: 218 Arc User
    edited March 2016
    Literary Challenge #48: The Long Road

    LC48: Heroes of Vega
    Captain's Log, Stardate 87350.15. The various member species of the Alpha Quadrant warred in relative isolation, but everything changed when the Borg Collective attacked the Vega system. Although the initial Borg assault was stopped, Borg drones still roamed the surface of Vega IX, and the Vega system continued to be a popular waypoint for Borg deep space incursions into the Sirius sector block. As a result, the Lord English had been assisting the Enterprise in a month-long effort to totally purge the Vega system of Borg influence. Despite returning in a much better ship than the ShiKahr-class vessel I first came to Vega in, the fight against the Borg did not get any easier.


    In high orbit among Vega Colony, the battered hulk of USS Lord English hung silently and unpowered amidst the wreckage of a Unimatrix command ship. Nearby, the escorts William D. Porter and Mauna Kea continued ferrying supplies between the English and the Enterprise-F. On the bridge of Enterprise, Captain Va'Kel Shon conversed with Admiral Remus Lee over their situation.

    "You don't really have to do this, Admiral. The Enterprise is more than willing to wait for a new warp core from Earth."
    "It's no problem, Captain Shon. You've already saved me from many a sticky situation and the Enterprise is more urgently needed in space than the English is. Besides, one of the ships under my command will tow the English to a fleet starbase in preparations for getting a new warp core. Whoops, there it is now."

    As Lee finished his sentence, a Tuffli freighter warped in. Engineering teams began swarming the English, patching it for the journey to the fleet starbase. Captain Shon marveled at the resources Admiral Lee pulled together.

    "Is this what a battle fleet commander can pull together?" Shon asked. "You seem to have much more discretion in expending materiel than many other admirals I know."
    "Well, shorting out Klingon advances in the Neutral Zone means that Starfleet is more generous to fleets volunteering for the fronts when doling out inventory. Of course, the pressures of the war mean we can't go exploring deep space like more veteran ships like the Enterprise can."

    Turning from the viewscreen, Lee made for the turbolift.

    "It'll take a short while before the warp core should be ready for the Enterprise, Captain Shon. In the meantime, I'll be on the freighter coordinating everything. If you need me, just hail the Wayward Vagabond. Oh, and thanks for saving my ship again. I thought that plasma bolt would have ended us."

    Lee entered the turbolift. As the doors closed, Shon looked out upon Vega IX with a pensive look. He wondered if Lee was this relaxed all the time.


    On board the freighter SS Wayward Vagabond, Lee met up with his security chief, Aranea Serket. The sultry Orion had serious news for the admiral.

    "The latest casualty reports have come in. We lost forty-two crew members in our recent skirmish with the Borg command vessel. Adding this to losses incurred throughout the Vega campaign, the Lord English has lost 586 crew members during the past month."

    Lee's face hardened as he heard the news. Losses were to be expected during any military action, and action involving the Borg meant that, inevitably, those that weren't killed were most likely turned into drones. All the same, a loss of a crew member means that it was his responsibility to have living relatives of the deceased informed of the matter.

    "I'll have to start going over this casualty report, but the only place to sit is the bar at the back of the freighter. Is there anything else I need to know?"
    "Lieutenant Kyona of the Enterprise wants to go over some after action reports with me. Some of the other officers are still working on the Enterprise."

    Lee pondered a moment.

    "Well, in that case, I'll accompany you to the Enterprise and help you and Lieutenant Kyona. This can wait," he said finally.

    With that, he pocketed the PADD he was handed and strode to the bridge. Aranea noted to herself that he was avoiding an undesirable assignment again.


    On board the Enterprise, Lieutenant Kyona was meeting with First Officers Samuel Winters and Kay Taylor about the status of the Vega colony.

    "Borg drones are still emerging from the underground complex deep under the planet's surface; it has made expansion outside the central colony highly tenuous," she stated.

    Drawing up a hologram of the colony, she continued her report as Aranea and Lee walked in.

    "We've been able to remove the Borg presence from roughly 750,000 square kilometers of the planet centered around the remains of Vega colony. Most of that area has been turned into a three-tiered defense zone comprised of antiproton turrets, multiphasic transport inhibitors and collective static generators to prevent the Borg on the planet from pushing forward."

    Aranea then relieved the presentation from Kyona.

    "Vega's space defense will be centered around three monitoring stations: Mary Station in the Vega Kuiper Belt, Rosie Station around Vega IV, and Sheena Station above Vega Colony. Each station has subspace sensors incorporating Borg technology for detecting Borg transwarp signatures and automated power siphons to delay Borg ships and give the Vega colony and Starfleet time to respond."

    Noticing Admiral Lee, Commander Winters finished up the presentation.

    "The continuing Borg presence on Vega will hamper Starfleet's readiness in the sector block until it is totally removed, but for now, Vega Colony can start the rebuilding process. With any luck, thinning the Borg here will save the Sirius Sector Block a lot of trouble in the future."

    With that, the meeting adjourned. Lee joined Winters and Taylor in conversation.

    "Hey, Sammy! I haven't seen you since First Contact Day! How have you been?"

    Remus is being overly familiar with Commander Winters. Kay thought as Lee led Winters out the door. I guess there must be a lot on his mind.


    In another room, Aranea and Kyona prepared to send the data of the recent campaign to Starfleet Command. The duo was double-checking the data when an entry drew Kyona's attention.

    "USS Aleksander, Majestic-class, lost with all hands Stardate 87339.99. I knew a friend who served on the Aleksander," she mused.
    "Stardate 87339.99 was when the Lord English task force attacked the Borg resource processing nodes above Vega VII," Aranea remembered. "If I recall correctly, the Aleksander was rammed by a Borg Collector vessel during the assault, and it left the ship vulnerable to the weapons of the complex's central nexus."
    "It seems like a poor way to go, being pummeled by enemy fire and being unable to respond," Kyona stated.

    Kyona and Aranea had a moment of silence for absent comrades. Then Kyona asked Aranea another question.

    "How did the Lord English fare throughout the Vega campaign?"
    "All told, we lost nearly six hundred crew members as a result of enemy action. The assault on the Vega IV database complex alone claimed sixty-nine members of the English's assault squads."

    Kyona ruminated on those figures. Such high casualty numbers were uncommon on board the Enterprise, which only lost ninety-eight crew members during the campaign.

    "How was your captain during the Vega campaign? I think Captain Shon practically spent the entire month on the bridge. Counselor Mathias says it's because he's still wrestling over the deaths of his wife and family on Vega, so I assume someone who was at Vega when the Borg attacked would have some demons of his own to slay."

    Aranea scoffed a little.

    "It'd take a powerful telepath to get into Admiral Lee's mind, and even so, it's such a mess in there you'd probably never find out the truth. Those are probably the demons from Vega he'd have to slay, though. You wouldn't see it at first glance, but under that devil-may-care admiral's exterior is a young ensign who thinks himself way over his head. Survivor's guilt from outlasting his crew at Vega, I'd say."

    Aranea and Kyona continued gossiping with each other as they sent the files to Starfleet Command.


    At long last, the installation of the English's warp core into the Enterprise was complete. Captain Va'Kel Shon turned from the report telling him of the matter to his ready room console.

    "It's time to go. I should thank Admiral Lee again for the warp core. Computer, open a channel to the Vagabond."

    Commander Kay Taylor showed up on the screen.

    "Hello, Captain Shon, what can I do for you?"
    "I was about to thank Admiral Lee for his assistance, but I see he isn't on your ship..."

    Just then, Lee came into view.

    "Oh, Captain Shon, I see you've hailed my ship. How can I help you?"

    The sharp-eyed Shon saw that Lee was holding an Enterprise glass full of Slug-o-cola.

    "I was calling in to thank you for lending us a warp core, Admiral, and also to thank you for your help during the Vega campaign," Shon stated.
    "It's no problem at all, Captain Shon," Lee replied. "I'm always happy to help."

    Shon ignored the Admiral's commandeering of Enterprise paraphernalia.

    "Captain to captain," Shon said, "how do you think the Vega campaign played out? I wanted to ask someone who was actually there when Vega IX was first attacked."

    Admiral Lee's mood took on a more serious aura.

    "I think we did well, tactically. Strategically, I think nothing has really changed. Vega won't be Vega again, not unless we fill the planet's interior with anesthizine and smoke out the Borg like cockroaches," he answered.

    Shon's brow furrowed. Lee's answer was less optimistic than he expected.

    "What did you think about returning to Vega, Admiral?"

    Lee leaned backwards in his chair in a reminiscent reverie.

    "To be honest, I'm not sure what to think. I only remember that I woke up that morning a crewman and went to sleep that same day a ship captain. Sometimes, I feel like I could have done more to save my crewmates, you know?"

    Shon nodded. He looked at the picture of his wife and daughter on his desk and understood what Lee said about feeling responsible for their deaths.

    "In any case, the Vega campaign could be considered a minor victory for the Federation; we've re-established the colony and have weakened Borg power in the system," Lee quickly added.

    Shon nodded again. He had the feeling that Lee picked up on his melancholy and tried to lighten the situation.

    "Well, alright then, Admiral," Shon stated. "I'll be heading off to the Tau Dewa Sector Block again. I'll see you later. Oh, and thanks, Admiral."

    Lee closed the connection with the Enterprise.

    I hope I didn't say the wrong thing to Shon, he thought. That got pretty serious near the end.

    Captain's Log, supplemental. The Lord English has been successfully towed to a starbase in the Neutral Zone where it will undergo a refit to receive an elite fleet warp core. From there we will continue to take on missions wherever Starfleet needs us. In the meantime, it is my duty to inform the families of the 586 lost crew members of their deaths. It is never an easy task, but their families can rest easy knowing they gave their lives in order to protect them from the Borg.


    "To the family Petty Officer Lyvoh Glaht, USS Lord English. I am sorry to inform you of the passing of Petty Officer Glaht..."
    Into the wee hours of the morning, Lee continued writing individual letters of condolences to the families of lost crew members. In his left hand was an Enterprise glass full of Earl Gray Tea.
    Post edited by zidanetribal on
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