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Kali Nicholotti

Captains Council member
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Posts posted by Kali Nicholotti


  1. ((Forward Torpedo Launch Bay, Deck Fourteen, USS Excalibur-A))

    ::Teyvion had been on the upper gantry of the torpedo bay, looking down he could see the empty casket draped with the Federation Standard. He knew it was only a symbolic gesture, everyone did. It was a blessing that it was on the torpedo loading system, so no-one would have to feel the absence of weight.::

    ::His mind cast itself back a few years to a funeral he had attended for another member of the twenty-third, not from his unit but they had been the ones who had found him. They'd been assigned to search the ruins of Ohmallera, after its destruction by the rogue USS Constitution. He'd been killed when a store of volatile chemicals, made unstable by a lack of proper containment and time, detonated when a wall collapsed. His family had been spared the gruesome details...but they'd had to weigh the coffin down with sandbags to conceal the truth.::

    ::He shook his head to clear the memory and turned to Adams and the others who were stood along the railing overlooking the seating area. They looked immaculate and poised, typically seen in various states of armour, training clothes or combat fatigues it was like looking at seven different people. Their weapons stood by their sides.::

    ::He nodded to Adams before heading down to the main floor of the bay.::

    ::He took a seat at one end of a row, facing Livingston across the casket, as the other senior staff filled in. A sea of white, everyone equal except for the varying colours on the trim of their jackets and the ranks on their collars. Once the group had assembled, Livingston began to speak.::

    Livingston: We gather here to pay final respects to the woman who gave all she had in the line of duty. She was the best of us, inspiring each of us by her own actions and strengths. She shared the selfless courage of her Tactical officer and the heart of her Security team. She had the ingenuity of her engineers and the curiosity of her science officers. She had the critical eye of her Intelligence team, but she always had the tact of her Chief Diplomat. She pushed the envelope in a way that would make her Marines proud, but when the job was done, the medical officer inside of her made sure everyone was healed.

    Livingston: Her sacrifice protected us. Out that window, I do not see the remains of a break in subspace. I see Kali’s scar, and when I see it, I shall not mourn; I shall have hope. Fleet Captain Nicholotti gave us strength in life, and the courage to use that strength. Let us honor her by our actions and our deeds.

    ::He took another pause.::

    Livingston: If anyone else has words to share, speak now.

    ::Teyvion listened as those who knew Nicholotti better than he did spoke. The first was a man he didn't recognise but he assumed, from his white undershirt, that he commanded a vessel. Maybe he would be the one to take command of the Excalibur...or would it be Livingston...or someone else.::

    ::Skyfire spoke next followed by Orman...which was quite an experience. He had to suppress a grin as she spoke, her voice full of emotion, it was refreshing to hear someone provide such and honest eulogy. So often it was all positive and ignored peoples faults, which was all well and good in its way, but to speak of your love for someone who you admitted was flawed seemed only to reinforce how much they meant to you. That you cared for them despite the fact they weren't perfect....but who was.::

    ::Brek, Taybrim and the others all spoke of the Captain, their own personal words of tribute to their fallen Commander. As the speeches came to a close Livingston returned to the stand and cast his eyes towards the Trill::

    Livingston: Lieutenant Kesaan, if you will.

    Kesaan: ::Standing:: Sir.

    ::He pulled himself the full attention, his eyes fixed in the distance and began to speak.::

    Kesaan: Present, arms!

    ::Heard the unifying shift as the seven members of his team brought their weapons to a salute.::

    Kesaan: Stand ready!

    ::He saw several of the crew look up towards the gantry as Adams and the rest shifted their stance, aiming their weapons forward over the casket. Typically an honour guard would not fire over the congregation but the situation was a little restrained by the surroundings.::

    Kesaan: Fire!

    ::Crack.::

    ::The sound rang out and echoed throughout the torpedo bay. Adams had heeded his warning and reduced the chemical component in the blank firing charge so the reverberating sound was loud but wasn't deafening. The rifles weren't standard issue equipment, they were primarily used as training aids for zero-gravity operations, their weight and recoil far greater than a standard phaser rifle, and for ceremonial occasions such as this.::

    Kesaan: Ready. Fire!

    ::Crack::

    ::The second shot pierced the silence.::

    Kesaan: Ready. Fire!

    ::Crack::

    Kesaan: Order, arms!

    ::The words vanished into silence along with the echo of the final volley. The entire room falling into stillness as the assembled staff stood and the casket began to move along the loading channel. The flag of the Federation carefully removed as it passed and folded neatly as the empty container was loaded into the launching system.::

    ::It fired.::

    ::The Chief of the Boat blew his whistle, signaling that the Captain was leaving the ship one last time, and the small memorial to Nicholotti appeared in space, beyond the viewing window.::

    ::The two fighters, currently being piloted by the other two members of his unit, dropped down from where they had been holding position and took up a position behind each flank of the casket as it sped out into space, the Captain taking the lead in flight one last time. Their engine wake modulated to produce a slightly silvered plasma trail, clearly something the flight crew had done themselves but it seemed appropriate. After a short period they turned as one and banked away in opposing directions leaving the empty vessel streaming on towards the remains of the void.::

    ::He didn't know if these things had names or numbers or if they were even recorded, but he would now always think of that silver mark in the fabric of space as 'Kalianna's Scar'. Slowly the casket became a speck and then faded into the distance. Livingston returned to the podium once more to address the congregation.::

    Livingston: As others have said, Fleet Captain Nicholotti would want us to go on, zestfully pursuing life. She herself has set us on that path, leaving instructions for that I shall presently carry out regarding recognition for the service of her officers. I think we can do with a change of scenery, so we have some refreshments waiting in our Crew Lounge. Please join me there.

    ::Slowly, individually or in groups, the crew filed out - leaving nothing but an arrangement of empty chairs in their wake and one chair, on the bridge, more empty than most.::

    ...tbc...

    ---

    First Lieutenant Teyvion Kesaan

    Marine Officer
    USS Excalibur-A
    NCC-41903-A

    • Like 1

  2. ((USS Excalibur - Deck 6 – Brek's Office))

    ::After 40 minutes of frantic typing and then some serious editing, Brek was now staring at the final version of his report. It wasn't as long as he had pretended it would be in Intel. Just 500 words of brutal honesty. Once he had come to term with the fact he was the sole person responsible for his behavior, there was actually little to brood about.::

    ::He took a sip of the Tarator soup he had replicated moments ago and he winced. It's not that the taste was bad, but, like most healthy food, it looked like something someone else had regurgitated an hour ago. At first he had wanted to go for a nice slice of apple pie, but he had achieved so little, (in term of results), during the drill, that he didn't think he deserved the treat.::

    ::Of course, it's not what he had written in his report. Besides, he was a firm believer that when one accepts everything, then all that's tragic, sad or simply unpleasant, disappears. Plus, it was also important to always keep a positive outlook on events::

    ::That's how he had come to the conclusion that he hadn't done so bad after all. He had been able to work on the Bridge, and then in the Intel Suite, while previously he would have stayed within the boundaries of his domain. He had also rediscovered a forgotten skill of his: the ability to use common devices, even broken ones, in ingenious ways.::

    ::There was however, one area where he had not fared so well: he had remained extremely cautious in the face of danger. He loathed any form of violence and so preferred to leave that sort of activity to others. Was he really to be blamed for having survival instincts that were developed to such a fine level?::

    Brek: oO Don't kid yourself, little beetle. If you want take your career to the next level, you'll have to toughen up. Oo

    ::And how do you toughen up a man of words, bribery and juicy contracts?::

    Brek: oO There are many holodeck programms you could use. What about the 'Hound of the Baskerville' one that you have? Running away from a demonic creature would be good for your endurance. Failing this, you could play tennis... eliminate all those nasty toxins in your body. Oo

    ::Brek humphed, and, wanting to run away from his own thoughts, he sent his report and left his office. He would walk in the corridor until he found a soul with whom he could have an argument.::

    ::Sadly for him, the only person he met was his aide Dakarai, who happened to be on his way to a game of tennis. You could tell because he was wearing those dreadful white shorts that exhibited his hairy legs. Then, one thing leading to another, Brek allowed his conscience to speak, and he ended up following what, by his new standards, could pass for a friend.::

    ((Deck 6 – Tennis Court))

    ::Of course, it would have been a lot to expect Brek to know how to play this silly ball game. So he just stood on his side of the court, holding a weird instrument called a racket. Dakarai told him he would 'serve' and the next moment Brek was rewarded by being hit in the face by a small, but very hard ball.::

    Brek: ::He picked the blasted ball up.:: I don't find this game terribly amusing or relaxing, far from it.

    Dakarai: Chef, you need to catch the ball. You're not supposed to stand over there like a scarecrow. Use your legs and your arms. I'm going to serve again.

    ::Once again the ball flew towards him, but this time Brek was prepared. He caught it with his right hand, and he 'served' the [...] thing back, with all his might. Dakarai, true to his self, didn't play fair. He shrieked and avoided the projectile.::

    Dakarai: Non Brek! What are you doing?! What about the racket? You need to use it. Comme ceci. [Like this].

    ::Which of course was just an excuse for the black guy to show off his best tennis moves.::

    Dakarai: Let's try again.

    ::Brek had to admit, the racket was useful, so he used it, and he indulged in that activity called 'playing'. His technique was crap, he knew it. Most of the time, all he was interested in was to try to hit Dakarai. An odd thing really... coming from someone like him, who didn't like violence....::

    tag/tbc

    Lt. Cmdr. Brek

    Chief Diplomatic Officer/2O

    USS Excalibur A

    • Like 1

  3. ((Epsilon VII Medical Facility - Counseling and Neuroscience offices))

    ::The call has come through from Starfleet Medical, indicating that the USS Excalibur-A, a ship in dire need of a full counseling staff yet barely able to keep one counselor onboard at any given time, was docked back at Starbase 118. Doctor Solan arched a perfectly sculpted Vulcan brow, and idly wondered if it was logical to contact him with such short notice.

    If he was not an enlightened follower of the Kohlinar, he might have attributed an emotional reasoning to the late orders. His colleagues often said things like ‘that is so rude’ or ‘they do that on purpose’ as if short notices were planned specifically to irritate them. Solan believed that if there was blame involved, it was due to an inefficiency of the processes of bureaucracy rather than any personal vendetta. Inefficiency was not inexcusable, however it was understandable.

    Still, Starfleet Medical recognized Ensign Solan’s efficiency, perhaps even counted upon it. If anyone could be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, it would be him. He had few personal effects to pack, and those he did carry with him were meticulously organized enough to make packing a simple affair. Add to that the simple fact that Solan, by nature, made sure than every report that needed to be filed was filed precisely on time and all loose ends were wrapped up as a matter of course meant he left nothing dangling to be cleaned up should he need to leave.

    Part of this could be attributed to his Vulcan heritage. Certainly it did not hurt. But moreover, it was part of his age and routine. Despite the fact that he only bore Ensign’s pips, this was only another stage in Solan’s journey to better understand neurochemistry and how it affected various species - a journey that he had already traveled for many decades. He had already spent half a lifetime researching at the Vulcan Science Academy, he could boast – if Vulcans were given to boasting (which they certainly were not) – two adult children who were both fine scientists in their own right and a wife who was an honored diplomat.

    Twenty years ago Solan would have thought he would have spent the rest of his life on Vulcan researching neurochemistry and neurology, peaceful in his choice of studies and staying in communion with his family and extended family. But that was before his mother, T’Lara, developed Bendii Syndrome at the painfully young age of 146.

    For the next three years Solan was driven to research the neurological illness, defying the bounds of logic in an almost desperate attempt to find a cure for the incurable. At the same time he became his mother’s closest caretaker – suffering the brunt of her telepathic emotional projections. When she died, three years after diagnosis, Solan was crushed and his emotional barricades crumbled like sandstone beaten by the relentless winds of the harsh Vulcan desert.

    His faith in medical science was shaken that day, and he wavered between unbecoming bouts of anger and depression. Finally Solan decided to re-cleanse himself by the ritual of Kohlinar. He spent five years attaining enlightenment and purging emotions and in the end he came to two conclusions: the first was that true enlightenment came from neither blind denial nor failure to acknowledge emotion. No, in fact the highest illumination was reserved for those who keenly understood emotions and chose to eschew them in favor of the course of pure logic. The second was that despite the depth of research that the Vulcan Science Academy had, he believed that breadth of experience might be what was needed to break through to new discoveries.

    As his children were well set with their lives and his wife was used to traveling and connecting with him when opportunity presented itself, Solan found it logical to expand his horizons. He enrolled in Starfleet Academy, in the hope that other cultures might provide him with the spark of an idea he needed to solve the medical mystery he was so intent on solving.

    While the medical facility on Starbase Epsilon VII was state of the art and well staffed, it wasn’t the breadth of experience Solan was hoping for. A mere three months after his posting he suggested to Starfleet Medical that it would be logical to test his expertise in the field. Certainly there would be a starship that could use a Vulcan counselor who was an expert in neurochemistry and neuropharmacology.

    Reading the reports – slim as they were – from the USS Excalibur, it appeared that he would be wading into what Terrans so colorful called ‘shark infested waters.’ He did not know what frontiers this ship might bring him to or what he might learn, but he was quite sure just from reading the scattered reports of the last and current counselor that the crew could use a guiding hand into understanding their own mental health.

    Thus prepared, he straightened and prepared to big farewell to his colleagues. He found them an agreeable group to interact with, and it was logical to retain good connections with intelligent doctors and scientists.

    Logic dictated that one must always remember the past, but not be bound by it. Solan felt at peace with the job he had done and curious for the one to come. As much as a student of the Kolinar could enjoy himself, Solan had agreeable expectations for what was to come.::

    pNPC Ensign (Doctor) Solan

    Counselor

    en route to the USS Excalibur-A


  4. (( Sickbay - USS Excalibur-A ))

    Romjin: Alrighty guys and gal...I will just take this and see what I can get off it. I will send you what I find.

    ::Sal watched Shedet’s smile, thinking the weak imitation of the usually friendly gesture exactly mirrored his own feelings towards the intelligence officer at the moment. He looked towards Romjin as well, offered a wan smile, his dark eyes clouded.:: oOYou’ll send us what you find. Right. And when you do we’ll go sunbathing on Andor.oO ::He stayed silent and turned back to his work, waiting until Romjin had left before he got lost in his own thoughts.::

    ::Sal admitted, he had a bias against intelligence officers. It hadn’t started that way, but so far every single intelligence officer he had met fit the mold of an arrogant, self-absorbed [...]. Romjin seemed no different. Waltz in, ask a bunch of questions, take someone’s else's hard earned work, waltz out. Or limp out in this case. It didn’t matter. Intelligence officers as a whole seemed to treat others as commodities to be used rather than people. It rubbed his own people-centered counselor personality exactly the wrong way.::

    ::It didn’t help that he had yet to meet one that broke the mold.::

    ((Flashback, Beta Antares research center, seven years ago))

    ::She waltzed in as if she owned the place. Black hair worn loosely down her back, flaunting regulation style. She carried her chin up and her head high, as if to say her grey uniform meant she didn’t have to listen to the rules. She was outside the rules.::

    ::The entire research department hated her.::

    ::Lisa Ann Chapelle was her name, and if you called her Lisa she would burn you with a cold stare and inform you that should you do it again she could make your family disappear. And then laugh. As if it was a joke.::

    ::Sal loved joked. He hated Lisa Ann Chapelle.::

    ::To this end the researchers of artificial intelligence on Beta Antares called her ‘the Grey Witch.’ They didn’t quite know why she was around so often. What sort of devil’s deal had the research facility made with Starfleet? Probably something to do with funding. Researching artificial intelligence was many things; cheap was not one of them. It always felt like they had sold a little bit of their soul to the devil every time the Grey Witch appeared. An ever-present reminder that scientific curiosity and pure devotion to ideals meant little when your outcome could be bought, sold and traded to the highest bidder in an arms race.::

    The Grey Witch: Why hello, boys. What do you have for me today?

    ::The voice was so sweet, lilting. Almost seductive. Not that anyone in their right mind would touch the Grey Witch. If she didn’t know some bizarre form of ‘I make your life miserable’ martial art, she could certainly make your life miserable in a variety of other ways. Or at least she insinuated it. Maybe it wasn’t true. Of the twenty seven researchers in the artificial intelligence lab, Sal was the only Betazoid and only he had a hint at the greater truth. He believed that somewhere under her veneer she was a struggling young woman, terrified of her superiors. Not that anyone else in the lab would agree.::

    Senior Researcher Kensington: ::The tall dark skinned doctor smoothed his grey hair:: There have been no new breakthroughs in the cyborganic relays. It is still operating at a highly efficient level but we have not been able to teach it any sentient decision making.

    The Grey Witch: That’s not what I heard, Mr. Kensington. ::She smile like a shark circling prey::

    ::Sal hunched over his console, he didn’t want to catch her gaze. Not just because he didn’t like her or her attention, but because today she was radiating desperation. She needed to find something here, her digging had focus.::

    Senior Researcher Kensington: ::He coughed a bit and shook his head:: I don’t know what you mean, Miss Chapelle.

    The Grey Witch: Oh, I think you do, doctor. I noticed you made a report to Director J’nel indicating cyborganic relays could process data and make decisions while implementing orders.

    Senior Researcher Kensington: I sent that message to J’nel in confidence. That research is not ready for testing, it isn’t a suitable response for an artificial intelligence platform yet. ::His brows drew together in protest, as he took a step sideways to stand in between her and his own desk::

    ::Sal felt the desperation recede somewhat, and he flickered his gaze upwards, watching as the Grey witch drew herself up to her full height, suffused with arrogance::

    The Grey Witch: Anything I think is pertinent information to my mission, doctor, is privy to me. You will give me the new cyborganic research materials.

    Senior Researcher Kensington: It’s not ready yet. I will file a full report when it is completed. ::Kensington’s voice was soft, but firm.::

    The Grey Witch: I don’t care. Move aside, or I’ll have you moved aside.

    ::She smirked as Kensington moved over fractionally.::

    Senior Researcher Kensington: I would like to see the validation for you to take our research before we have released it.

    The Grey Witch: I don’t need to validate anything to you. ::She pushed past him, digging her shoulder into the man’s chest and neatly grabbing every PADD and data device on the desk top:: Thank you. ::She smiled broadly.:: I will, of course, be accessing your computer banks shortly, you may experience some lock outs. Everything will be up and running again my this afternoon.

    ::And just like that she waltzed out.::

    ::Kensington swore under his breath, waiting until she was out of the room to slam his hand on the desk::

    Senior Researcher Kensington: Of course, she had to come before we could process the data.

    Taybrim: ::He looked up, edging over to his manager:: She must have been monitoring everything we did.

    Senior Researcher Kensington: I’m sure she did. And now she’s got what she wanted all along.

    ::Sal frowned. The reason they hadn’t published their findings already was because the research hadn’t been useful for their own purposes. But they also figured out all too quickly the research had other – less savory – uses. The cyborganic circuitry was extremely compact and capable of processing a large amount of data, to the point where it could make basic decisions centered around a command. While it wasn’t promising for the creation of true sentient artificial intelligence, it would be devastatingly effective for things like weapons arrays that were capable of following targets or drones that could evade capture long enough to break enemy lines. The researchers considered the implications highly dangerous and wanted to test everything out thoroughly before making the proper reports to the Federation Science Council.::

    ::Obviously Starfleet Intel had other plans::

    Taybrim: I think she was on some sort of ultimatum to get results.

    Senior Researcher Kensington: I don’t care what she was on. She stole our research and you know full well it’s going to end up in a military application. Someday someone – maybe many someones are going to die, because a few idealistic scientists were trying to create a better AI and accidentally came up with a fantastic weapons guidance system.

    ::Sal winced. Kensignton had a point. For all his sympathy towards Chapelle, she didn’t seem to care one whit about what such things were used for, as long as she kept her superiors off her back. And it didn’t matter at all what the researchers said, they didn’t have any rank to pull over her and therefore they were second class citizens in her eyes. His throat felt dry as he leaned back in his chair, wondering what would become of this…::

    ((End flashback))

    ::It was Shedet’s voice that snapped him out of his reverie.:

    Shedet: Wanna cross-check for that planet? As I said earlier, I have access to the planetary database. They may not have the location of the planet, but there might be enough puzzle pieces for us to make an educated guess.

    Taybrim: ::He shook his head a little, to clear the memory from his mind. He didn’t even want to dwell on it:: Yes, I have the maps downloaded. Let’s see what we can find.

    TBC

    Ensign Sal Taybrim

    Counselor

    USS Excalibur-A


  5. ((Sickbay))

    ::So this Red-Collar with four pips came tumbling out of the Isolation Unit, looking like he was ready to be free of that hazard garb when he noticed the short blond feller and they took to gabbing.::

    ::Now, Nady Briskow never minded much people gabbing in his Sickbay; you never knew what you’d overhear, what kinda tips you’d get just by payin’ attention to what others would blab in earshot of just about anyone. But today was another thing altogether. Closing off more and more of Sickbay as more and more beamed up from the surface; first the new doc and his muscle, who’d stumbled into more trouble than they should have; and then the Rommies decided to go to the mattresses against a squad of docs, fer cryin’ aloud!::

    ::Setting aside what Nurse Briskow would like to do to the green-bloods—back on Iotia, back in Oxmyx Chicago, where Nady had grown up prowling the streets of the Near North Side, they’d teach ‘em to mess with Doc MacLaren right quick. Teach ‘em why you don’t mix business and personal.::

    ::But the Feds didn’t like that—and, truth be told, Briskow had been a failure as a small-time mobster. He poked his nose in where it didn’t belong far too often. Got too curious for his own good. What his Pa’d told him when he went off to nursing school, then announced he was joining Starfleet. “Joinin’ up wit’ dem Feds? Whattaya think ya’are, where ya think ya come from? McCoyville over dere?” Nady never told his father the name of the Doc he’d been working under. It’d sound too—what’d the Book call it again?—too Scottish for him.::

    ::And he liked to help people. Sometimes you had to pull the admission outta him like a rusty nail, but he did. Deep down inside there somewhere. Or else he wouldn’t be here, right?::

    ::But this gabbing, the Red Collar and the Mysterious Blond Stranger, this was just too far: ‘Cause soon enough it wasn’t just some chit-chat but something more serious. Briskow was just standing there, minding his own business in the doorway from one of the labs into Main Sickbay, listening in on one of the strangest conversations he’d heard in while—both of the men looked real enough to him, after all; why’d they keep doubting it?—when the Red Collar shoved the Mysterious Blond Stranger against a biobed, erected a containment field and called for security.::

    ::And then, with the place looking a mess—he up and leaves! Just like that! Not another thought about it. Just like an officer. Especially a Red Collar. Come in, say nuttin much of interest, start a fight, and leave the nurses—leave good ol’ Nady Briskow—to clean up after them.::

    ::He stepped back into Main Sickbay. Might as well make sure it looked presentable when the muscle arrived to show this traitor to the Rommies (he glared over at the Mysterious Blond Stranger behind the containment field) the what’s what.

    ::Can’t let anyone think we’re falling down on the job here in Sickbay, just because all hell’s breaking loose everywhere the officers go. Nope. No sirreee...::

    TBC

    PNPC Crewman Nady Briskow

    Nurse

    USS Excalibur-A


  6. ((Hospital Complex))

    MacLaren: Lt. Letant, we will begin setting up testing clinics on the outskirts of town. Eh noticed that most of the patients have been from nearer bye. We need to ken if those further out have avoided the plague or are simply unable to come here.

    Letant: You want to go out? But, that is so dangerous.

    Banks: Yeah... Well... ::He paused, not sure what to say.:: We'll have to be careful.

    MacLaren:: stifling a smile:: Weel, Eh think Dr. Banks has summarized it verra weel. Let's get started.

    ::MacLaren had decided everyone needed a break. So she'd decided to head out toward the outskirts of the settlement, where the farming land was less disturbed. He stepped off the transport along with everyone else.::

    ((Settlement Outskirts - Agurtha))

    ::For a while he listened quietly while a few civilians approached them. One seemed mentally ill, delusional even. They'd finally found some people, maybe somebody who'd developed an immunity. After watching for a while he decided to look over toward an open field. The place looked like a good area where corpses might have been deposited, maybe burned.::

    ::He stepped into the slowly growing weeds. They looked a bit like rye or twitchgrass. The plants swished up against his feet, rhythmically brushing against him to the tune of his quiet breathing. Off in the distance he saw the outline of a house. Closer stood the hulk of a machine. A seeder maybe. When he finally did reach the machine he ran a finger along one of its roll cages, traced his hand across the the traction on the wheel beneath. He'd seen transplanters like this before::

    ((Flashback - Earth, 27 Years Ago))

    Farmer: C'mon boy! Come here!

    ::He ran toward the man, buckets in hand.::

    Farmer: We don't have all day!

    ::The man was climbing up into the giant seeder. He needed the water to provide for irrigation for the small seedlings.::

    ((Present))

    ::The machine stood silently and David eyed it one last time, looking up inside the pilot's seat. Dale. His old boss in the summers during high school. He'd died of a stroke years later, weeks before David had joined up. Wanted David to come see him at the hospital, but he was too [...]ed keen on getting out to Fort Brock.

    He still remembered his dad shaking his hand as he left. He couldn't hug him any more. After all, David might die out there. So he needed to wash David out of himself before he had a chance to die.::

    ::Presently David walked toward some trees on the edge of the field. The ground beneath him was softer here, and the weeds grew thicker, slowly cleaning out any sign that this land had been farm land. The war had cleaned David and his father of each other soon enough. It wasn't that either of them died. David never wanted to talk about those seventeen years. The war hadn't even been that long. But his whole career with the marines in the medical core was tainted by it -- peppered through with the brief pin[...] moments when he'd watched people die, accepted that most of the time you couldn't help. And when he did help and they lived, they just ended up screwed up afterward anyway, walking out of the service like corpses back into a society that didn't know what to do with them.::

    ::And then one day Dad just stopped trying to call. By then his mom had died. That hadn't helped either.::

    ::He leaned against a tree and folded his arms as he looked out toward the field again, eyeing the house that by now was a lot closer. Christ, he should have been here helping people rebuild their houses after the goddam plague. Not right back in the middle of trying to fix people. The people here were too messed up to be helped anyway.::

    David Banks

    Medical

    USS Excalibur

    as simmed by

    Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Breeman

    Chief Engineer

    USS Excalibur


  7. ((First Officer's Quarters, USS Apollo))

    ::A puff of steam rose from the plain white mug that sat alone on the small dining table. It lingered for a moment, as if testing the air around it, before finally dissolving into the nether of the recycled atmosphere of the ship. In a chair that matched the architecture of the table, with her chin on her knees, her knees pulled up to her chest, and her arms around them, Cayden Adyr sat in the silence of her quarters and found herself simply watching the steam as it rose and disappeared. The simplistic nature of the moment, in a dimly lit room that was supposed to mimic the luminosity of the early dawn, caught her mind somewhere between the delicate fantasy of a dream and the much harsher way of reality. And it took her to a place where she walked with herself.::

    ::There were no sounds, save for those of the breaths she took and the subtle hum of the ship, as it too breathed around her. So often these days, noise filled the air around her. So often, her mind was filled with the darker simulacrums of her past, or the brilliance of her future, but rare was it that she found herself caught within a moment in time. Rarer still was it that she found herself between the two ends of the vastly capacious spectrum. And yet here, as another puff of white steam met the cooler air that hung just above her table, it was in that existence that she now found herself lost.::

    ((Flashback, 195 Years Ago, Trill))

    ::Having rolled up the legs of his pants and tossed his shoes to the side, a rather good looking man grinned somewhat mysteriously at an equally stunning woman as they walked, arm in arm, down the length of an empty beach. The waves lapped softly up to them as they walked, missing their bared feet by only a few inches. White spray, filled with the scent of salt, splashed up around them as if responding to the tiny grains of dark brown sand that their own steps were tossing haphazardly into the same wind that blew their hair back. In the distance, the sun was just beginning to fall down beneath the horizon, giving off the distinct impression that the star itself was dying, as rays of yellow, red, and orange bled into the water and spread in the waves.::

    ::The chill of the night was already upon them, and though the scene on the beach would lead onlookers to believe something else, the only warmth that existed in that moment was that caught within the fragile flesh that walked between the ever growing night breeze and the cold winter ocean. But the two continued to walk, unfazed by the chill or the growing darkness. Indeed, all light that was needed was provided by the stars, and as Rodan would have said, the look in her eyes.::

    ::This was life! Of all that existed and all that his mind and body would experience, it was the moments between the moments that mattered. Now, after half a life lived, after having spent most of it making beautiful music, he realized that the most beautiful song paled deeply in comparison to her face. It was the first hints of love, and something that he would pass on through the ages by way of the symbiont that rested deep down inside. But, as the moment passed and another came, he did not think of posterity, but found himself drawn in and captured by the woman on his arm.::

    ::Even the beach faded away to him now, as it would in the years that would pass after he was long dead. He was Trill, and his thoughts would hail from the past for as long as the symbiont lived. And yet, it would only be on his death bed that he would pass on to the next host what he considered most important in all existence; love.::

    ((Flashback, 121 Years Ago, Aboard a Small Research Station in Low Planetary Orbit of Trill))

    ::One day, she dreamed wistfully, the barriers that existed would fall. One day, the mind would understand far more than it did now and the stars themselves would be theirs to hold in the palms of their hands. There wouldn’t be the need to pick and choose between one way of living and another; both would be able to thrive within a rapidly growing exosphere that only expanded as knowledge moved forward. Diseases would be vanquished, pain would fade, and questions not even asked yet would have answers.::

    ::A sigh escaped her as she stared out into the darkness of planetary night. It was the only period of an orbit where she could see the stars in all of their brilliance and glory. As such, she’d stop her work for just a moment each time the station passed into the darkness and let her thoughts travel along the very same cogitation. The future seemed so incredibly far away, and yet, it was something she was reaching for anyways. And while, in the end, she knew that it would not be her that was able to walk among those points of light that were the stars, at least she would be there in some manner of thought.::

    ::Subconsciously, her hand moved to the area of her stomach where the symbiont had recently been placed. Still working on integrating the previous hosts memories into her own, she had requested this assignment, but now she wondered. Just how much isolation could she take? It was a question that she asked herself; one that mirrored the one her boss had asked her just before launch.::

    ::Yet somehow, the answer she had given then – that she’d always have Rodan to speak with – held much less water now than it did then. For every bit of emotion, love, and spontaneity that Rodan had been known for, Eliza offered science, method, and logic. They were nothing alike, and yet, he still had lessons in store for her. In a way, she hoped that her own lessons would offer something to the next host, even if they were as vastly different as she and Rodan were. But the day to pass on her experiences was still a ways off, and for now, there was work to be done.::

    ::The first glimmer of the sun could be seen as its light scattered across the atmosphere of the planet below. Within seconds, it would return to its complete blinding brilliance, and so, Eliza turned back to the terminal and began to run the numbers of the experiment again. Under the microscope, tiny nano probes began their workday all over again.::

    ((Flashback, 64 Years Ago, USS Andromeda))

    ::The darkness around him swirled and coalesced into images created by his own imagination. Beneath him, the bed seemed far softer than the chair he spent most of his time in during the day and when coupled with the soft tones of the ‘music’ he’d heard since the ship entered the area of space known as the Typhon Expanse, his body simply let the trappings of the day fade into nothingness. It was this time of the day he enjoyed the most; when the neoteric quiescence of night allowed the voices of the past to whisper directly into his mind. The very epitome of being Trill, it was in this experience that everything existed.::

    ::Sleep, itself, never came easily, but he didn’t mind. He had freed himself from the constrictions associated with the uniform that lay draped across the back of a chair in the corner of the room that he could not see, but knew was there. And in his newfound freedom, deep contemplation danced a complex waltz with introspection. Intuition wrapped itself up in the ruminations of whatever situation faced them and answers were found, while lessons from decades before were spoken softly.::

    ::The dance continued long into the hours that constituted night aboard the tiny, when compared to the universe it explored, vessel, that drifted nearly silently deeper into the perpetual night of space. With the continued backdrop of music, provided by the Expanse itself, Alaryc found a chance to really listen, and learn, from the history that had come before.::

    ::Deep whispers from within rose up to speak of solitude and of the stars. They drifted without direction or set destination and spoke of things he'd not focused on in his life, like love. Though the experiences came to him, not always making sense, he found himself learning and growing with each lesson from the past. It was a path that would ultimately lead to the center chair, and a life full of things to pass on to who came next. It was a legacy that would live on.::

    ((Flashback, 17 Years Ago, USS Valor))

    ::On the padd that was firmly grasped in her hands scrolled the words that answered every wish and prayer that she had ever had. They were simple, and they explained only what her next steps were, but it was one word at the top of them all that had her literally jumping for joy. Accepted. The word created ripples of elation within her entire body, instigating the intense flow of endorphins and bringing her to a level of jubilation she had never experienced before.::

    ::Still tightly holding the padd, the young girl ran out of the quarters that she shared with her parents to share the news that she would not be staying there for much longer. Everything she had worked for, and everything that she had wanted was finally coming true; having been accepted to the University in Medara, soon she knew that she would be leaving her current life behind. There would be no more red alerts, or danger, or stuffy air that was simply recycled through the ship. No more warp core centered discussions at the dinner table, and no more going over emergency procedures that would take her to the lifepods; Jazra was about to set out on a new course.::

    ::It was a course that she had been striving for ever since she had first set foot on a starship. Having lived there most of her life, she had thrown herself into school, excelling past those that shared her age, and never making friends. Now, her long nights spent studying, and her lack of a social life, were finally paying off. And while she knew that her parents were still on duty, she didn’t care. This was something she needed to share, even if her running through the halls of the Valor brought quite a few strange looks. Even if the whole ship found her odd, or troublesome, or anything else. It didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered were the words; words etched into history on her padd.::

    ::But fate, as it would have been, had a different path in mind. Change was coming, and soon, Jazra's mind would be open to the history Adyr granted to her, even if she didn't know it yet. Sure, she'd get her chance and attend the University on Betazed, but not without growing pains that would add her own experiences to the long list of lessons held for the hosts of the future. Not without making some attempt at keeping her from leaving.::

    ::And in time, even her girlish excitement would fade into the teachings meant for someone else.::

    ((Flashback, 14 Years Ago, Trill))

    ::It was funny how things often came full circle.::

    ::Standing in the courtyard in the capital city of Mak’ala, Norah let his eyes take in sights the Adyr symbiont had not seen in quite some time. Around him, people came and went, busy in their lives and wandering about their business. Each of them seemed too caught up in the moment to think about what might come in the next, but that didn’t stop him from contemplating his own end. Having just been joined, the susurrations of Jazra, and those that had come before, were bubbling up in his mind. Together they sang, as if in a chorus of voices that gave him insight into his own end; an end that was coming towards him faster and faster, with no brakes available to slow inevitability down.::

    ::And though the idea might have been disturbing to some, the old diplomat simply smiled at the oncoming cliff. His time had been long ago in days that were remembered with pleasant thoughts. Now, at least, he would be able to pass those moments on through the eyes of the symbiont he never thought he’d have. Perhaps, somehow, his experiences as a peace seeker, negotiator, and overall diplomat, would bring knowledge and patience to a place and time where it would really matter.::

    ::Though pained by the circumstances of her death, and the intense feelings for a certain Betazoid man that echoed from the young woman who had met her end, Norah knew that it was all part of the grand scheme. Together, Jazra’s short life would coalesce with those that had carried Adyr prior and build a legacy unlike any seen outside the planet on which he now stood. It was in that legacy that he found peace. Death was certain to come find him, and soon, but with a legacy like he had now, what more could he ask for? He would not die now, but live on, in the mind and body of another. ::

    ((End Flashbacks))

    ::A final puff of steam floated towards the ceiling as the most recent host of Adyr looked on. History danced around in her head, coming together into stories that were far better than fiction as her coffee fell inevitably to an undrinkable temperature. Perhaps it was the lack of steam, or the fact that her legs were cramping from how she had been sitting for so long, but she suddenly knew that it was time to go.::

    ::Standing, Cayden left the dining area and moved to the room to prepare for her day. In her wake, on the small dining table, sat a now-cooled mug of coffee that had not been consumed as one might have expected. Though it remained in the mug, and the mug on the table, it had become the catalyst for so much more.::

    ::It had brought her mind to the more important lessons from the past; lessons that would serve her well as she stepped away from the moment, and into the rest of her life.::

    --

    Captain Kalianna Nicholotti

    Commanding Officer

    Starbase 118/USS Victory


  8. 1) Kahn transported from Earth to Qo'noS-- that was my understanding anyway. If this was possible, why have ships? Harrison used Scotty's transwarp beaming which is for transporting an object/person between adjacent ships or planets. Wouldn't that be Earth to Mars? Qo'noS is not adjacent (as a planet) to Earth. It might be in a solar system adjacent to ours but I think that's stretching it.

    I've been running around saying *this exact thing* ever since I saw the movie...my biggest issue with it...


  9. ((Celes II, Ruin of Abandoned Machinery Storage Warehouse))

    ::The building was huge. None of its original equipment functioned any

    longer, and it had a large gash near one side of it that would have left

    the building open to the atmosphere had not the Clashing organisers sealed

    it with ferrofoam. The place had all the hallmarks of a temporary shelter

    - portable furniture and partitions brought in, generators laying about

    powering lights and replicators and local atmospheric conditioners.::

    ::Only ten years previous, this place had been full and busy, an integral

    part of a nearby dilithium mining site on a thriving mining planet. The

    Borg had changed all of that, appearing in the sky without warning and

    killing or assimilating everyone on the planet within mere hours.. They

    said there had been some tentative attempts to restart the operations

    since, but nowadays the Romulan Empire had different concerns, and not

    enough manpower to tend to them all. So Celes II remained an empty,

    scarred world, its ground a pale red from oxidised dust.::

    ::It was, therefore, perfect for this purpose. The Clashing had taken this

    place over, sealed the holes, thrown out a bunch of superfluous equipment,

    and the final contestants had arrived, one by one.::

    ::Katy was now safely ensconced in a large 'room' (actually a part of one

    of the large open spaces set aside with temporary wall partitions and

    apportioned with a rug, bed, furniture, a replicator, and some basic

    workout equipment.) She'd arrived late in her sleep cycle, and had slept

    late as a result. Now she was awake and stretching. Not as in

    yawn-and-stretch, but the extended stretching regimen that helps one to get

    in touch with one's body and gives time to calm one's mind. Reduced

    stiffness and increased flexibility were nice side-effects, of course.::

    ::Next to her on the rug sat the small crystalline pedestal upon which sat

    her friend and advisor Unky. Well, it was really the little hexagonal

    crystal itself that *was* Unky, but it's much easier to relate to a little

    holographic man than to something that looks like an expensive ashtray,

    even if you know that it houses a powerful AI. The little man in question

    was sitting cross-legged in his usual spot atop the crystal, chin propped

    up on one hand, looking thoughtful.::

    ::Unfolding from a rather relaxing back stretch, Katy found herself unable

    to repress a gigantic yawn. She put her hand over her mouth, partly out of

    politeness and partly to cover the slightly embarrassed smile that formed

    on her lips when the yawn was done.::

    ::The little hologram grinned and looked up at her with a raised eyebrow.::

    Unky: You'll never live it down if you fall asleep during the match, you

    know.

    ::She waved her hand dismissively.::

    Orman: I'm fine. The final bout isn't until the mid-afternoon, plenty of

    time to wake up, even sleeping as late as I...

    ::She trailed off, brows slowly creasing. Unky tilted his head in an

    expression of curiosity.::

    Unky: Hmm?

    ::She remained silent for a few moments more, with an expression of growing

    concern and confusion.::

    Orman: ...It doesn't make sense, does it?

    Unky: What doesn't?

    Orman: Our sleep cycles. Duty cycles, even. They all match up. People

    who grew up on all different parts of the world, of many worlds... people

    with different circadian rhythms, alien cultures, different everything...

    we're all on the same time schedule. All of us! I mean, we run three

    shifts, but nothing really happens in the others. Kind of ever.

    ::Unky's expression darkened for just a flicker, then reverted to a casual,

    cheery demeanour that matched his tone.::

    Unky: Oh, I'm sure if you check you'll find there was some sort of

    agreement made between galactic political entities to match times. Makes

    for better trade, diplomacy, et ceter--

    Orman: ::shaking her head:: No, that's not enough. What about

    independent alien races? First contacts? I mean, even if that sort of

    agreement was ever going to happen--which it isn't, getting the various

    empires to agree on anything is like pulling teeth... and now I think about

    it, there's definitely going to be a counter-tendency in the form of each

    people wanting their own schedule to match the day cycle of their home

    planet's capital... ::her eyes widened and breathing quickened in rising

    panic.:: Wait, we visit each others' capitals all the time, no one ever

    has to adjust their schedules.... Every major capital with the same

    day/night schedule as the others? That's just not even possible! Unky,

    nothing makes sen--

    ::Her words of realisation were interrupted by a quiet, oscillating tone

    that matched with the pulsations of a blue light coming from Unky's

    now-vacant pedestal. As it caught her eye she found herself fixated on the

    steady pulsing, like the rhythm of a slow heartbeat. She found herself

    calming, her tight muscles relaxing. She forgot what she'd been saying, or

    indeed why she'd been speaking at all. In a matter of seconds, she found

    her eyelids drooping. She was unconscious some moments before she sank to

    the floor.::

    ::Moments later, the light and sound stopped, and the little man appeared

    again on his crystal, looking over at the prone form. He turned away, and

    his expression was one of dark, fulminating rage.::

    Unky: That was cruel.

    ::The meaning of that cryptic statement was lost to the empty room as the

    AI spoke to himself.::

    Unky: I'm not speaking to myself. I'm talking to *you.*

    ::...which was another odd thing to say, but of course Unky was no novice

    at confusing pronouncements, after all.::

    Unky: ::quietly furious:: It's not odd. Quit dodging. I'm talking to

    you, right now.

    ::...to ...me?::

    Unky: That's right. ::pointing over at Katy:: And what you did there..

    it was cruel. She shouldn't have to have an existential crisis like that.

    Especially right before her big fight. I won't have it, do you hear me?

    ::Look, it's fine, alright? I knew you were right there to put her out and

    make her forget her little mental break. I find the idea of characters

    realising that they're characters to be a really powerful... wait, how are

    you speaking to me again?::

    Unky: You made me the character that ferreted out all the secrets, looked

    at everything so that I could weave my own plots behind the scenes. You

    made me incredibly smart and with the full resources of a massive computer

    system. You made me the wise one that always knows more than everybody

    else about what's going on. Did you think I wouldn't notice the

    inconsistencies?

    ::Umm...::

    Unky: A universal translator that is somehow selective when a different

    language would be culturally interesting or mysterious, and somehow manages

    to convey clues and jokes based on plays on words? A transport culture

    based on disintegration and copying that is somehow universally accepted?

    And let's not even start on the science! Same template or no, the notion

    that beings with such basic physical incompatibilities as different blood

    chemistry could mate and reproduce... and then there's the way the stardate

    keeps jumping ahead--

    ::Yes, alright, I get it! Look, no harm done, okay? I apologise. It

    won't happen again. She's napping, she'll wake up rested and with no

    memory of this, no lingering trauma or confusion at all.::

    ::The little man stared into space, his expression somewhat mollified. The

    woman next to him slept peacefully, soon to awaken for the big day.::

    ::Within her sleeping mind, the hypnotic suggestions activated by Unky's

    trigger were taking their course. Not only to rest and forget, but also

    putting her into a state of calm readiness. When she woke she would be in

    top fighting form, ready to embody all of the principles of her art

    perfectly.::

    ::Wait, I didn't write that!::

    Unky: Indeed. I did.

    ::What... I... that's... You can't do that!::

    Unky: ::a little smug:: I believe I just did.

    ::I wasn't planning... she's supposed to get knocked out really quickly!

    She doesn't win this fight!::

    Unky: ::absolutely smirking, now:: I think she might, you know.

    ::I can just delete... no. No idle threats. You've already figured out I

    won't do that, haven't you? I follow the story where it goes. Let me put

    it this way, then... That doesn't happen again. You keep your hands off

    the reins. Otherwise... well, I have no particular compunctions against

    making your personal goals *much* more difficult to achieve. Are we

    square?::

    ::Unky continued to smile a self-satisfied little smirk. Eventually, he

    nodded.::

    ::Good. Oh, also, 'Not only to rest and forget, but also putting her into

    a state of calm readiness?' Seriously awkward phrasing, there. Your

    writing skills could use some work.::

    Unky: Oh, shut up.

    ::Soon after, Katy woke up, a peaceful smile on her face. It was time to

    really prepare for the fight.::

    TBC

    PNPC Unky

    with

    Lieutenant Commander Katy Orman

    Chief of Security, Starbase 118

    Currently on leave

    and, umm, me, I guess.

    • Like 1

  10. ((Holodeck, Starbase 118))

    ::Captain Nicholotti commanded the attention of her staff in much the same way she always managed to do it. The magnetism she projected and the respect she commanded captivated the beach-goers.::

    Nicholotti: Hello everyone. ::She smiled.:: I do hope that you will all enjoy the good food and good company we've managed to pull together for this little gathering.

    ::As she spoke, the intricate, “political” situation seemed to unravel itself before Ben’s very eyes. An explanation was provided regarding Lt. Commander Matthews’ presence, and the Captain managed to frame it as Starfleet Command having great confidence in the Starbase Operations staff. Then, as though to something between a consolation prize and a catalyst for the whole shift, Commander Walker was restored to the rank of captain. ::

    ::Ben found himself scratching his head as to how events had unfolded to land them where they were. Despite the brief explanation regarding Walker’s history, the whole situation seemed quite strange. However they’d gotten here, Ben foresaw some very difficult conversations between their Commanding Officer, First Officer, and Second Officer resulting from the huge jumble of positions and ranks. Ranks were supposed to make everything more clearly defined, yet here they seemed to do the opposite.::

    Nicholotti: I also want to formally offer promotions that were granted in the field during this last mission. Captain Dubeau, and Lieutenant MacLaren, if you would please join me?


    ::Ben smiled as the pair stepped forward to receive their well-deserved promotions.::

    Alex Matthews: ::Speaking from the crowd.:: Captain if you will permit me. I would like to announce the engagement of Captain Dubeau and Doctor MacLaren. If you all would join me in giving them both your best wishes and hearty congratulations.

    ::He grinned broadly as the two stepped back into the crowd, smiling to one another, then returned his attention to the Captain.::

    Nicholotti: Finally, I have a couple of new promotions to add to that list. I would be lost without officers like all of you, and I am proud to be the Captain of this crew. It is my hope that one day, you will be the next generation of Captains, taking Starfleet to new places, and new heights. For now, I consider it a privilege to promote Lieutenant JG Livingston to full Lieutenant, and Lieutenant JG Silveira to full Lieutenant, with all rights and privileges therein.

    ::Ben stepped back in surprise, catching himself just before he stepped on someone’s foot. His mind raced.::

    ((Flashback – USS Columbia, Deck 24, Main Engineering))

    ::Ben glanced over to the spot where Kevin had been, moments ago. Now that someone had taken him to medical, he’d receive the proper treatment, at least there was the peace of knowing he was in good hands. The Chief Engineer had done precisely what Ben had wished he had done in protecting his ship, but the ugly outcome was far from desirable. For a moment, he wished their places might have been reversed; that he had gone down fighting and Breeman was still ready and able to secure the ship. Then, they might all have a chance at survival. As it was … ::

    ::Main Engineering was a busy place again. Those engineers who had escaped the scene had filtered back in, and those who had taken shelter were back at their posts – or what was left of them. Most had no station to work from, and if they had, they wouldn’t know what to do. With Katy still on the line with Commander Walker, Ben took a place atop a damaged piece of equipment.::

    Livingston: ::Aloud:: Alright everybody – listen up! Right here, right now, this looks like the aftermath of a terrible event. But elsewhere on Columbia, they’re still in the thick of it! We’re going to help them. And we’re going to keep the rest of these dragons outside the ship, or we won’t stand a chance.

    ::Ben paused, trying to allow the situation to settle before continuing. Many of the faces looking at him were pale, frightened things and the rest looked so exhausted that he wasn’t sure they’d be help at all. But they had to be – they would have to put everything they could muster into this, just as Livingston himself was putting forward more than he thought he had.::

    Livingston: So this is the gameplan. Power teams –get these damaged EPS ducts and conduits up and running. We’re lucky to have energy at all, and anything else will take it out completely. Reactor and warp drive teams, guess what? You’re power engineers now, so help them out.

    ::Many of the engineers hurried off toward the damaged areas.::

    Livingston: Maintenance teams, and everyone else, I want all hull breaches identified and prioritized, and I want any systems down fixed ASAP. Team leads – you’re in my office in three minutes, and bring ideas on how to keep these monsters out.

    ::As the rest of the went off to their assignments, Ben was left alone to feel the implications of the threat they still faced.::

    ((End Flashback))

    ::Ben shuddered as he remembered the events. Kevin had stood alone against the monster that invaded their sanctuary. And then, all of a sudden, he was removed from the equation. Kevin had been needed. He had relationships with the other engineers. He had the experience to know what to fix first and what could wait. Ben had been shooting from the hip as he said those words, trying to put forth some illusion that he knew what to do.::

    ::It all came down to this: It should not have been Commander Breeman standing against that dragon. It should have been Lieutenant, Junior Grade Livingston. The one who was more expendable; the one who had no idea, in the aftermath, of what to do.::

    ((Flashback – NCO Briefing – USS Columbia, Livingston’s Office))

    Karzai: Yes, that would work!

    Livingston: Alright – is that something your folks can do, or do you need the output in a different format?

    Karzai: We’d need a surface geometry file – but we can convert it.

    :: A number of other ideas came up, and before long, the list had grown into a true plan. No single idea would keep them safe by itself, but the redundancy and overlap would be a layered defense; a concentric castle that would, hopefully, protect against these dragons better than their medieval counterparts. With a nod, Ben brought the meeting to a conclusion.::

    Livingston: Droogendyk, take Yung and put together details of what it’d take to keep it running. Start by checking our inventories for anything we’ve got – I don’t want to use more power on replicators than we’ll get out of the things.

    Droogendyk: Yes sir. A lot of the parts will be in the lockers already under de west bay. Dat didn't take a lot of damage.

    Livingston: That’s fine. Anything else?

    Droogendyk: Nope.

    Livingston: Alright, Karzai, I want that power output map for Ops ASAP – that’s our short-term solution, so pull in whatever resources you need.

    Karzai: Yes, sir.

    Livingston: Alright, everyone else, keep your teams up and running, and let me know immediately if you need any additional resources. Dismissed!

    ((End Flashback))


    ::The previous missions had pushed every officer to their breaking point. For Ben, it had meant being bigger, being stronger, being more certain than he actually was. It meant filling a role for which he was not qualified.::

    ::Missions were supposed to strengthen people and accomplish things. At the end of all this, though, Ben felt only less certain. Had they managed to pull through and rescue their crewmembers despite the tremendous obstacles? Yes, they had. But Ben felt wearied by it, as though in the sleepy stupor that lingers when awoken in the night.::

    ::Lieutenant Ben Livingston meant more responsibility, not less, than Lieutenant, Junior Grade Ben Livingston. It meant he’d be called on to an even greater extent, though he felt pressed to the limit as it was.

    What would happen if he was not up to the task? The only way to grow is to stretch outward, but do you know as you approach your limit the moment at which you’ll topple over?::

    ::Over to the side, Vitor stepped forward to receive his promotion.

    What was he thinking about it? Ben had no idea. In that moment, Ben was not certain of the outcome, but seeing no alternative, he gulped down his apprehension and made up his mind to boldly go into the unknown.::

    ::He stepped forward.::

    Silveira: Thank you Captain. ::he winked as he received the pip.::

    LIVINGSTON: ::quietly:: Thank you, Captain.

    ::As he received the pip in his hand, it seemed heavier than he had expected. His hand dropped slightly under its weight. Was it a pip made of lead, perhaps, or a pip made of gold?::

    Nicholotti: Congratulations to you both. ::And then, after a moment, she released all of her officers to the relaxing call of the beach, the festive nature of the circus, and the alluring call of the food.::

    And with that complete, enjoy the party!

    ::As the buzz of excitement began to whirl once more around him, Ben was, for now, still in that moment. Beside him, perhaps, someone had said “congratulations,” but whether to him or someone else, he neither knew nor wanted to find out. Ben remembered what Captain Nicholotti had said. The words rang in his ears.::

    ((Flashback – moments before))

    Nicholotti: It is my hope that one day, you will be the next generation of Captains, taking Starfleet to new places, and new heights.

    ((End Flashback))

    ::It was most probably something said for dramatic effect, or a token expression used at promotions. But the words had been said, and whatever she’d meant by them, to Ben they heralded the long years of a career filled with the sorts of tragedies and trials that he’d already faced. If there would someday be a Captain Livingston, Ben wondered as a sort of passive observer who it would be. It would not be the Ben Livingston of this day. It certainly would not be the bright-eyed ensign he’d been when he first stepped onto the Starbase. That man had been killed aboard the Columbia.::

    ----

    Lieutenant Ben Livingston

    Assistant Chief Engineer

    Starbase 118 Ops



    • Like 1

  11. ((Main Engineering))

    ::Ben scanned over the text that now appeared on the screen. His stomach tightened as he read the words.::

    ---

    Mr. John Livingston, Esq.,

    I am pleased to inform you that after careful review, Starfleet Command and the Starfleet Academy Commandant have decided to accept your application to Starfleet Academy, San Francisco campus, to study in our Law program.

    If you choose to accept this offer, please reply within two weeks. You will report for duty at the San Francisco campus on Stardate 239004.01. You will find logistics attached to this letter, as well as required reading to be completed prior to your arrival.

    ---

    ::The letter continued, but Ben could not.::

    B. Livingston: John! What have you done!?

    ::The screen switched from text back to the image of his brother, doubled over in laughter.::

    J. Livingston: Ha ha! You should have seen the look on your face when you read that, Bennie boy! Oh, wait! You can.

    ::The screen changed to a still of Ben’s face, somewhere between disbelief and rage. Ben clenched his jaw as he sat watching it until John switched the view back. Now able to look at his brother, Ben glowered at him and leveled a finger straight at his brother’s face.::

    B. Livingston: You listen to me. You cannot accept that offer. And don’t tell Dad about it, he’ll blow a gasket real quick. You know how he reacted when I applied, and that must have been much easier for him. At least I’d already become an engineer – Starfleet was less of a fall.

    J. Livingston: ::adopting a particularly sober expression, John nodded
    slowly.:: You’re right, Ben, you’re right. Dad would be upset. It’s just that, well … well, I already accepted the offer, and I’ve already told him. ::John smiled broadly and slapped the desk.:: And you’re right, he was so mad … oh, jeez, you should have heard him.

    ::Silence fell between them, and it remained for a moment as Ben thought. There were few situations that got under Ben’s skin. He’d found many more since joining 118, but that was the nature of the beast. The other thing that consistently managed to irritate him was any situation involving John. The man – boy, really – had a knack for finding those things that annoyed people, and poking them right
    there.::

    ::And this was exactly one of those places. Starfleet had become a refuge for Ben – away from corporate life, a place he could excel and make a difference, and a way of feeling useful. But John? He didn’t have the same values as Ben. What values did this jokester even have?
    The whole reason probably was to annoy him.::

    B. Livingston: John, why did you apply?

    J. Livingston: What do you mean? I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my big brother!

    ::Ben arched an eyebrow.::

    B. Livingston: No you didn’t. ::beat:: Why’d you do it?

    J. Livingston: Well it’s complicated, Bennie. But here’s the thing.
    The galaxy is a complicated place, politically, legally, morally … ::John trailed off, implying that the list went on and on, or as John might have said, ad infinitum:: The Federation needs strong minded individuals with skills over a broad range of specialties, not the least of which –

    B. Livingston: I’ve heard the pitch, John.

    J. Livingston: ::shifting in his seat.:: I thought you’d be happy. Or at least happy for me.

    B. Livingston: How’d you get in with your record?

    J. Livingston: Top 5%, you know that.

    B. Livingston: Not that record.

    ::Silence descended once more. This time, Ben was not thinking. John, on the other hand, clearly was. His lips parted slightly a few times before he managed to speak.::

    J. Livingston: Ben, please.

    B. Livingston: How?

    J. Livingston: Ben, remember … I wasn’t convicted. You know that.

    B. Livingston: And you remember. About what you put me through. All of us through. ::He shook his head slowly.:: Everything those families had to go through.

    ::John looked increasingly uncomfortable. He looked stung by an internal agony. It was an expression that Ben had seen before, and for half a moment, the hardness Ben felt was fractured and his own pain managed to find its way through.::

    ((Flashback – years ago))

    Bailiff: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

    ::Ben looked down to find his hand resting upon the cover, his fingertips sensing the book’s beauty and softness. His other arm was
    midair.::

    Livingston: I do.

    ::The book dropped from beneath his hand; the Bailiff retreated with it under his arm. Ben looked around and the crowded room, then sat.
    The seat, too, was very comfortable, much as the book had been.::

    Judge: Please state your name for the record.

    Livingston: Ben Livingston.

    Judge: Your FULL name, Mr. Livingston.

    Livingston: ::beat:: Benjamin Livingston.

    Judge: And your relation to the defendant?

    ::Ben closed his eyes and swallowed what little was in his dry mouth.
    His tongue tasted like sandpaper. He looked up at the judge, who glowered, jaw clenched and gavel in hand, down at him. The prosecutor, likewise, stood facing him with arms crossed.::

    ::He looked over to the table before him, where sat, eyes pleading and sorrowful and contrite, the boy who had looked at him so many times before, after getting himself into trouble with the neighbors or Mom and Dad or his teachers.::

    ::Ben gulped down the sandpaper.::

    Livingston: He is my brother.

    Prosecutor: And on the day that … ::sniff:: ahem, that this tragedy occurred, Mr. Livingston. Where were you?

    ::Ben reached to grab his hand. When had it begun shaking? He leaned in toward the small microphone before him.::

    Livingston: I was at home.

    Prosecutor: And your home is where?

    Livingston: Boston, Massachusetts.

    Prosecutor: So you were not with the defendant in New York City on that day.

    Livingston: No. But I did speak to him that morning.

    Prosecutor: But to be clear, you were not WITH him, Mr. Livingston?

    ::Ben’s mouth opened, but nothing came out.::

    Judge: I remind you that you are under oath to tell the truth.

    Livingston: ::beat:: No. I was not.

    ::Ben’s gaze wandered back to the seat in front of him. His brother held his head in his hands, fingers gripping his hair. Those big, brown eyes had always laughed. Now there was more anguish in them than
    amusement.::

    ((End flashback))

    ::Deep inside of him, Ben could feel some kind of emotion welling up – one that he had felt rarely but very recently. He wanted to reach out, through the screen and take hold of his brother, pull him close and hug the man that he had so often wanted to hit.::

    J. Livingston: Ben … I don’t know what to say.

    ::Ben struggled to find some words as he fought back the tears that wanted to burst forth. If he hadn’t just remembered about all this recently, maybe it wouldn’t have been so hard. Maybe he wouldn’t have brought it up. If only he hadn’t been on that mission just before. He sighed, trying desperately to think of what to say.::

    J. Livingston: I guess I’d better go.

    B. Livingston: John, wait -- ::no words seemed to express what he wanted to say.:: oO don’t go? I’m sorry? I know all of that wasn’t your fault? I’m proud of you? What do I say here? Oo Just … promise me something. Let’s talk again soon, huh? It’s been too long.

    ::John nodded rapidly, those bright eyes now shiny and red as he pursed his lips in an expression Ben had never seen from his brother.
    They made eye contact again for just an instant before John looked away again and reached out to tap a button in front of him. The screen went black.::

    ::Letting an enormous sigh escape, Ben rocked back in his chair and let fingers run through his hair.::

    Livingston: oO What have I said to him? What have I done? He was only a kid … Oo

    ::A minute passed as he thought quietly over all that had transpired before he decided to try to do something productive and take his mind off of it. He searched around for something in front of him, but after picking up a PADD, he tossed it back onto the desk. He sighed again.::

    Livingston: Computer – letter composition. Take dictation. My dear brother John. At some point in the future, we’ll talk again about the events that neither of us like to speak about. When we do, I will do my best to make sure it is done in a productive manner, and not brought up in anger. I am also very proud that you have been able to recover yourself and not only succeed in law school, but be accepted by the very selective Starfleet Academy. Despite everything we just said to one another, I’m proud to call you brother. Now, I do want to offer some advice as you embark on this newest adventure. After all, it’s one of the few escapades you’ve taken for which I have advice to give that’s not “don’t.”

    ::Ben smiled to himself as he imagined his brother laughing at that line. He gathered his thoughts, then continued.::

    -----

    Lieutenant, J.G. Ben Livingston
    Assistant Chief Engineer
    Starbase 118 Ops


  12. ((Runabout Rick Husband))

    ::Through the runabout, a voice echoed. It was peaceful, perhaps, but some kind of surety or strength stood behind the pleasant façade.::

    Odyssey Station: Welcome to Odyssey Station. Please proceed to the nearest docking port. All Travelers must abide by the Wayfarer's Code while visiting the station.

    ((Flashback moments prior))

    ::Opening his eyes just long enough to note that Kevin was staring out the window, Ben forced them shut again. His hands gripped his shoulder straps as they plunged through the gravity well and into probably, oblivion. When he could tell that theyd passed through, he opened his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. He could feel anxiety slipping off of him now that they were there.::

    ::Unbuckling his safety restraint, Ben walked past officers trying to catch a first glimpse of where they were headed. His hand went out before him as he walked toward the door of the [...]pit, and it pressed on the door, which yielded and opened. Stepping across the threshold, he crossed into the courtroom and took a seat beside an older gentleman wearing a pinstriped suit. No sooner had he taken a seat than the proceedings began.::

    Bailiff: All rise for the honorable judge Justin Phillips III!

    :: As everyone stood, Ben looked around. So many of them were there. Perhaps not as many as the day before, but that was natural. For some, it must have been hard to come at all; returning would not be easy. Friends and family of the deceased held one another, crying. The judge sat, and the old wooden benches creaked as everyone in attendance followed. Ben lost himself as he examined in detail those in mourning.::

    Prosecutor: The prosecution calls Benjamin Livingston!

    Livingston: oO What? Oo

    ::Ben went stiff as a board, every hair standing up on end. Involuntarily, his legs straightened beneath him, lifting him to an upright position. They began to carry him forward, toward the bench. As he looked around, the tear-filled, glaring eyes had shifted to him!::

    Livingston: oO This isnt right I didnt do anything. I wasnt involved! Oo

    :: His slow, forced steps quickened as he sought to move past the angry onlookers. Reaching the appointed seat, he was approached by the bailiff, who offered him a beautiful leather-bound book one of only a few hed seen in his life.::

    Bailiff: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

    ::Ben looked down to find his hand resting upon the cover, his fingertips sensing the books beauty and softness. His other arm was midair.::

    Livingston: I do.

    ::The book dropped from beneath his hand; the Bailiff retreated with it under his arm. Ben looked around and the crowded room, then sat. The seat, too, was very comfortable, much as the book had been.::

    Judge: Please state your name for the record.

    Livingston: Ben Livingston.

    Judge: Your FULL name, Mr. Livingston.

    Livingston: ::beat:: Benjamin Livingston.

    Judge: And your relation to the defendant?

    ::Ben closed his eyes and swallowed what little was in his dry mouth. His tongue tasted like sandpaper. He looked up at the judge, who glowered, jaw clenched and gavel in hand, down at him. The prosecutor, likewise, stood facing him with arms crossed.::

    ::He looked over to the table before him, where sat, eyes pleading and sorrowful and contrite, the boy who had looked at him so many times before, after getting himself into trouble with the neighbors or Mom and Dad or his teachers.::

    ::Ben gulped down the sandpaper.::

    Livingston: He is my brother.

    Prosecutor: And your Starfleet rank, Mr. Livingston?

    Livingston: ::frowning:: Im not in Starfleet. I work for a corporation.

    Judge: ::loudly:: Answer the question, Mr. Livingston.

    Livingston: Lieutenant, Junior Grade attached to Starbase 118 Operations. ::He glanced to the side, then down.:: oO Where did that come from? Oo

    Prosecutor: And on the day that ::sniff:: ahem, that this tragedy occurred, Mr. Livingston. Where were you?

    ::Ben reached to grab his hand. When had it begun shaking? He leaned in toward the small microphone before him.::

    Livingston: I was at home.

    Prosecutor: And your home is where?

    Livingston: Boston, Massachusetts.

    Prosecutor: So you were not with the defendant in New York City on that day.

    Livingston: No. But I did speak to him that morning.

    Prosecutor: But to be clear, you were not WITH him, Mr. Livingston?

    ::Bens mouth opened, but nothing came out.::

    Judge: I remind you that you are under oath to tell the truth.

    Livingston: ::beat:: No. I was not.

    ::Bens gaze wandered back to the seat in front of him. His brother held his head in his hands, fingers gripping his hair. Those big, brown eyes had always laughed. Now there was more anguish in them than amusement.::

    Prosecutor: And does the phrase Odyssey Station mean anything to you?

    ::He squinted, thinking.::

    Livingston: No no I dont think so.

    Prosecutor: I must insist that you be more exact, Mr. Livingston. Does that phrase mean anything to you?

    Livingston: ::beat:: No, it doesnt.

    Prosecutor: And the phrase biomatrix?

    Livingston: No, it doesnt, unless it was covered in passing in an engineering course.

    Prosecutor: Think, Mr. Livingston. Does it mean anything to you anything at all?

    Livingston: Its a largely experimental biomechanical device that simulates living tissue, although recently it has been made to produce effects bordering on, or meeting the definition of, sentience. They may be useful tools, but they should be considered very dangerous. I strongly advise shelving of the technology, destruction of public records that may lead to their creation, and classification of relevant information as Top Secret and Dangerous to the Public.

    Prosecutor: Are you a traveler, Mr. Livingston?

    Livingston: I dont see

    Judge: You will answer the question, Mr. Livingston!

    Livingston: Ive done a bit, but nothing particularly exotic. Euorpe, Mars, China once to Vulcan, on business.

    ::The prosecutor looked at the judge, who returned the glance, then turned back toward Ben.::

    Livingston: Why is this important to the case?

    Prosecutor: Have you ever engaged in extra-galactic travel?

    Livingston: oO Extra-galactic Oo Thats absurd!

    Prosecutor: Thank you, Mr. Livingston. You may step down.

    ::Ahead of him, the weeping, glaring crowd continued to scrutinize him as he walked back to his seat. A deep sigh escaped him as he once again retook the ancient, creaking wooden bench. His eyes closed.::

    ::Beneath him, the bench jostled from side to side, and there was noise all around him. Opening his eyes and looking around, he saw Kevin at the window looking at the space station that must by now have become visible. Theyd all made it, after all.::

    ----

    Lieutenant, J.G. Ben Livingston

    Assistant Chief Engineer

    Starbase 118 Ops


  13. ((Bridge - USS Columbia))

    ::Perhaps someone is reading this and thinking that it is horrible for
    Puncdor to have lost the use of his Teth A gland. Actually I believe it
    would be best to call the gland what it is in the tongue of one
    civilization in a nearby galaxy that has from time to time had dealings
    with dragons. I believe I would be straying too far from my present
    concern were I to tell you how it was that this civilization came to know
    of the organ, much less what civilization I'm talking about. In any case
    they called it the igel.

    Now from a certain point of view it really is true that the loss of the
    igel gland was a tragedy for Puncdor. For example it is a coming of age
    among the older of Dragonkind to transition to adulthood and to dine on the
    Evastock and the Korbastik. But by wanting to remain young Puncdor shunned
    this transition, opting for one form of end over another -- and it really
    would have been an end to his childhood had he kept his igel and now, as he
    decided to give up the igel, it was an end to his ever becoming an adult
    dragon. I should like to say that had he returned home Puncdor probably
    would not have been shunned by his own kind. Perhaps he would have been
    seen as a minor, able to move from one place to the next in relative
    freedom. Dragons like their space and they roam far and wide, civilizing
    all manner of pockets of space.::

    ::But let's return to our present corner of this true story of how Puncdor
    came to be discovered. If anything could be said of Puncdor's igel its
    loss posed for him an excruciating pain that I can assure the reader lasted
    not more than an hour. For the igel is an organ rather akin to the
    appendix in a human being. It swells, makes quite a fuss, and in humans
    simply bursts and threatens to kill the organism. In dragons it doesn't
    quite burst but rather turns the organism into something much fiercer. But
    losing the igel is in no wise fatal.::

    ::Elaine LeBlanc was quite correct however when she summed up the loss of
    the igel thus:::

    LeBlanc: Uh well... I suppose it would be like being kicked in the
    testicles.

    Nevarass: I'd imagine that is putting it mildly.

    ::And it certainly was putting it mildly. As I have mentioned in a
    previous instalment of this history Puncdor was in a pain so profound that
    it felt akin to the end of dragonkind, rather than just to the end of the
    world as one individual in a different universe suggested the pain of being
    injured in the male gonads was like.::

    Nicholotti: Then let's see if there is both a permanent solution and something
    we can do to help him with that discomfort.

    Nevarass: Yes, sir. I think we should monitor Puncdor for now to ensure he
    remains stable. But what about the adults, out there?

    LeBlanc: Could Puncdor help?

    ::And indeed the "Maternal Figure" of Kali Nicholotti suggested that
    perhaps Puncdor could get the others to follow them back through the black
    hole to lead them home.::

    ::By now the pain was easing slightly, mostly on account of Puncdor's lying
    on his back and giving the hollow left in the wake of the igel a chance to
    rest.::

    Puncdor: Uh well... It would be easy to suggest that the food supply here
    is soon to run out. And not only that but civilization. The younglings
    won't have any civilization to protect. They'll be alone out here in this
    odd galaxy of yours.

    Nevarass: That’s a good notion. Of course, if that fails, maybe we could convince them to
    follow us. We are food, after all.

    Nicholotti: Alright, Ensign Nevarass, if you would work with Puncdor and
    Miss LeBlanc on finding a permanent solution.

    ::It was at this point, as she was looking with some amount of sympathy
    toward the permanently young dragon, that Elaine came upon an idea.::

    LeBlanc: Could we drop the force field?

    Nicholotti: Very well. Someone needs to stay with him, however.

    ::Shortly thereafter the maternal figure left Puncdor to his own devices,
    to think on what he would do with the rest of his life now that he had been
    granted this perhaps not eternal but rather prolonged youth. The first
    thing he decided he would do was to stand. Doing so was less painful than
    he had thought it would be. He moved his tail slightly and [...]ed his head
    this way and that. Decided that this should remain the extent of
    his callisthenics so as not to alarm the rest of the bipeds he walked
    rather than flew over to where the two science officers were.

    However, as is normally the custom with curious creatures like bipeds of
    the Milky Way Galaxy a new face came along wishing to speak with this new
    and wonderful discovery.

    Puncdor eyed the peculiar large-eared alien with great delight and
    curiosity. He had seen him a few times before when he'd been back inside
    his force field.::

    Brek: You are safe with us, Puncdor. As you must have realized, we are not
    a violent community. All those weapons you see around us are for our
    protection.

    Puncdor: Yes. Yes, the children of your species are also the adults,
    defending you.

    ::The alien scratched its arm for a moment and then said,::

    Brek: I can see you are curious about us, and if you want, there are many
    things you'll be able to learn about us: music, culture, games... But
    first, we need to ensure our safety. Can you ask the adults in your
    community to leave us alone? We can give them food, we can even treat their
    injuries. But for this to happen, we must be treated as equals.

    ::Puncdor tilted one side of his mouth in concern and uncertainty.::

    Puncdor: Well.. As I said earlier I can probably tell them that there is
    not much food out here, or civilization. I hope they will listen though...

    Brek: I understand. If nothing you say to your elders makes a difference,
    then we'll have to rely on our technology to continue to protect ourselves.
    You, on your side, will have to decide whether you want to stay with us, or
    would rather go back to your species.

    ::Puncdor was quickly realizing this, but I dare say that his decision was
    one which I cannot easily summarize for you yet.::

    TAGS
    TBC

    Kli'bits'querz''aa*em
    affably known as
    Puncdor The Dragon
    Now Permanently Juvenile Male Creature

    as narrated by
    The Narrator

    as simmed by
    Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Breeman
    Chief Engineer
    Starbase 118 and USS Columbia


  14. We have a special image team that makes signature banners for members. Once you're assigned to a ship we can make you one too. Each ship has their own theme and of course there are the duty post colors and a quote on some of them that you can choose (so be thinking!). Keep it in mind for when you graduate and we'll be happy to create one for you too. =)

    Welcome to 118!


  15. ((Cargo Bay 4 - USS Columbia))

    ::Johanna MacLaren's fury at the dragon turned to terror as her back erupted in
    fire. Her cry of anger turned into a scream of agony. Then she had no more
    breath for the scream. She was drowning in her own blood as her chest seemed
    buried under an enormous weight. She was going to die; Breeman was going to die
    because she'd cared more for his hand than their safety. More fire ran down her
    back and then the pull of the transporter gave a momentary surcease to the pain.
    Fighting to breathe, struggling not to cry out, she tried to lift herself from
    Kevin's inert form. She looked down to see him covered in her blood, but she
    could not move. The strength had left her; her arm would not obey her and each
    breath was now a fight. The clinical portion of her brain cataloged her
    injuries. Massive blood loss, likely lung collapse, respiratory failure, likely
    muscular laceration. She'd sent her staff to the center of the ship. No doctor
    would arrive before she bled out. Twenty-six year old, Human/Betazoid female:
    death from massive trauma and blood loss. Tears of pain and fear streaked down
    her face. She would never see Joseph again. She was dying, and he might already
    be dead in the Jeffries tubes. Then hands were lifting her and red fire of pain
    gave way to the blackness of blissful oblivion.

    ::David Banks stepped through the doorway, his right index finger idly twitching
    by his side. Ever since the war he'd never been able to kick that habit. Over
    the years since as he'd trained to work as an excavation specialist at the
    Federation archaeological digs all over the galaxy people had never failed to
    notice the twitching finger as he'd walked. It happened most often as he
    thought about what to do next, how to handle this or that situation.::

    ::It had been the transporter alert and then the faint sounds of the frantic
    nursing staff trying to move a body that had triggered him. He'd not heard
    anything like that since the war. Entering the cargo bay he saw someone he
    recognized. A female medical officer. She was lying face down, two huge claws
    protruding from her back.::

    Banks: Christ....

    ::He looked around himself and saw a nurse looking about at the equipment.::

    Banks: You. Yeah, kid with the hair.

    Mengler: Me? Oo Jeez, I'm trying to find a doctor for Doc MacLaren! Who does
    this guy think he is?Oo

    Banks: You're with me.

    Mengler: Who are you? I'm need a doctor for Doc MacLaren...

    Banks: Listen to me, I know some officer has given you an order to stand here
    and watch stuff. My name's David Banks. Give that officer my name if you get
    in trouble. Until then you're coming with me.

    ::He picked up a medical tricorder from a table nearby and then walked over to
    the patient and said,::

    Banks: ::Whispering:: Perforated lung tissue. Tearing of the... rhomboids,
    back muscles, spinal muscles. Tearing of the right... ribs...

    ::The boy stood beside him waiting until Banks turned and grumbled,::

    Banks: Laser scalpel, suction, forceps.

    ::Dutifully the boy went and grabbed the required items.::

    Banks: What's your name kid?

    Mengler: Steve, I was trying to get a doctor for Doc MacLaren. Why didn't you
    say you were a doctor...

    Banks: Steve? Alright Steve, we're going to do a foreign object removal and
    reconstructive lung surgery here, sound good?

    Mengler:Oo Here! God, it's not like there's a choice.Oo Yeah, I'm a medic; I'll
    help anyway I can.

    ::The red tide returned and Johanna found herself on her side, cold, shivering,
    her arm numb and each breath a monumental effort. She prayed to pass out again
    to end this agony and then there was an unfamiliar face and a gruff voice close
    to her face.::

    ::David spoke softly to the woman,::

    Banks: Hi... I'm a doctor... There's nothing to worry about okay?

    MacLaren::she looked at him, shivering and her eyes luminous with the tears she
    was trying to supress. Gasping:: Yes...there...is...lung collapsed...blood
    loss...lots of...::She bit down on her lip to keep from crying out.

    ::Definitely a doctor. He got down on his hands and knees and said,::

    Banks: Medical kit. Osteoregenerator.

    Mengler:: still rattled by MacLaren's condition and the idea of turning her over
    to a stranger.:: Say again?

    Banks: See that uh... ::He indicated over toward the piping coming out from
    the air filtration pump nearby.:: Pump?

    Mengler: Aye, sir. We have one.

    Banks: Pull it out and bring it here, will ya?

    Mengler: You're going to do major surgery right here this minute? It's not
    sterile! Are you serious?

    Banks: [...] right I'm serious.

    MacLaren:Ye're... a doctor...? Eh dinna ….want to...die...like this...

    ::David nodded and breathed quietly to himself, contemplating what he'd say.::

    Banks: You won't die.

    ::As Mengler handed him the pump he pulled at the back of the casing until it
    came loose. Retrieving a pocket knife from his breast pocket he adjusted the
    power and then turned on the pump. It gently ran at just the right rate.::

    ::Setting the machine down beside him he said,::

    Banks: It sounds like you're a highlander. That about right?

    MacLaren:: gasping:: Eh'm a Lowlander...on my...dad's side...Scots are...
    all...fighters though.

    ::Grinning, he spoke, trying to muster his best cheerful sounding voice and
    said,::

    Banks: Aayyyeee thought so.

    ::Turning to Steve he said,::

    Banks: Now Steve, I want you to hold this machine right here okay? If you do
    what I tell you everything will be fine, okay?

    Mengler:: Looking at MacLaren's deadly pallor, he wasn't so sure:: Sure, of
    course. You're going to be fine, Doc.

    ::As the boy held up the machine David sterilized the end of the nozzle with the
    medkit sterilizer. Setting the nozzle down he looked through the medical kit
    for an anaesthetic. Finding a local he attached it to the hypospray and pressed
    it gently into MacLaren's back.::

    MacLaren:Is it...as bad...as...it feels? Laird God, it hurts.

    Banks: You're doing great. ::As he fired the hypospray he asked,:: What's
    your name?

    MacLaren::still struggling to breathe:: Johanna...MacLaren...Eh'm the...CMO. Eh
    dinna ken...who..you..are

    Banks: Yeah? ::Turning to Steve:: Turn it on please.

    Mengler: Done

    ::He slowly ran the nozzle over the open wound as he gently pulled at the
    claw.::

    Banks: I'm David. David Banks.

    MacLaren:: her hands suddenly clenching:: Oh God, what is that?

    ::He knew it would be stupid to try and distill it down. She was a doctor and
    he owed it to her to tell her exactly what he was doing.::

    Banks: Suction.

    MacLaren:: shivering and beginning to ramble:: So cold.. is it snowing?...Joseph
    can ice skate...Where is Joseph?

    ::Christ, she was going into shock. And yet the bleeding had stabilized, and
    the lung was about ready to be repaired. He knew it was now or never and so he
    decided now.::

    Banks: Everybody's fine, Johanna.

    MacLaren: Hope, is Hope...safe? Kevin! Must help him..

    ::He didn't know who either of those two were. So he did his best to improvise.
    There were some things he knew he could be honest with her about. This wasn't
    one of them. She had to know that she could lose consciousness without owing
    the world around her anything, and that he'd take care of her while she was
    out.::

    Banks. Listen. It's time to start now okay. You're going to be just fine.
    Don't worry about those two. I will take care of them, okay?

    ::He set the general anesthetic hypospray cartridge and placed it against the
    woman's neck, his right hand now beginning to apply the haemosponge to the open
    wound.::

    Banks: That's it... We're both going to get through this.

    ::He set to work. Now he carried both people by himself.::

    ((Dreamscape))

    ::The pain was gone; the fear had fled. Snowflakes danced around Johanna and
    looking down at herself, she was delighted to see iceskates on her feet and
    Joseph laughing a few feet away, his cheeks ruddy from the cold. He glided over
    and took her hand so they could skate together on the frozen loch just in front
    of her childhood home in Aberfoyle. Their breath made little puffs in the frigid
    air but hey were warm from the exertion of skating. For once there was no
    misunderstanding between them, no misinterpretations. They were simply a young
    couple in love, spinning and laughing. They moved into a spin and then his lips
    were warm on hers, still tasting faintly of the hot chocolate they'd shared a
    few moments before. She did another little spin, but when she turned back, he
    was far away on the ice looking at her with a face stricken with grief; Hope
    stood forlornly beside him. An older man she did not know stood with them. She
    tried to skate back, but the faster she skated, the further away they seemed
    until finally she was alone on the ice.

    Lt.JG Johanna MacLaren
    CMO
    SB118/USS Victory and Columbia

    and

    David Banks,
    simmed by
    Lt. Commander Kevin Breeman
    CEO
    SB 118/USS Victory/Columbia

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