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  1. Thank you to everyone who entered this special image-inspired Writing Challenge! I want to especially thank our first- and second-time entrants; it's always fantastic to have new writers in the Challenge, and in this case, it really paid off! I'm pleased and honored to announce that the winner of our first image-inspired Writing Challenge is Sal Taybrim, with his story "Conspiracy Theories"! We have a tie for runner-up: Ceilidh Riverview, with "New Beginnings," and Kieran Waddell, with "Back-up Plan." My congratulations to all three of you, and please join me in congratulating these talented writers in this thread! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round, the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner and Lieutenant Commander Velana!
  2. Greetings, everyone! Please enjoy this full compilation of the January & February Writing Challenge, available for the first time with all the entrants' stories and judges' comments. This is a PDF document with interior hyperlinks to each story for your ease of navigation, so do please read at your leisure. Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read! Get yours here!
  3. Welcome back, everyone, and I hope you're excited for the first Writing Challenge of 2014! We're going to be doing something quite new for this Challenge: Instead of presenting you with a theme or an idea, we'll be giving you a piece of Trek conceptual art -- in this case, this piece of art chosen by our November & December 2013 winner, Sarah: http://www.coronacomingattractions.com/sites/default/files/news/trek_into_darkness_pods_0.jpg Writes Sarah: "The image holds an incredible sense of anxious foreboding for me." What about for you? Regardless of whether you know what this image may represent, how can it inform or inspire your own story? You may take this Challenge in any direction you would like so long as it's inspired by the art prompt. As always, feel free to ask questions in this thread if you'd like to talk more! As of today, Thursday, January 2nd, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Friday, February 21st in order to be considered for this Challenge. As always, please remember: *Your work must be completely original. *You must be the sole author of the work. *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  4. Conspiracy Theories ~*~*~ “I cannot call to mind a single instance where I have ever been irreverent, except toward the things which were sacred to other people.” ~Mark Twain~ ~*~*~ James T. Lyle quivered with anticipation. From the moment he heard that the San Dimas earthquake had unearthed a sub level in the Chapel Library building he knew he wanted in on the dig. When he found out that Dr. Martin Hanniver was leading it, he was sure he needed to be there. Hanniver was one of the most important Earth artifact archeologists in the Federation – the very mention of his name set entire crowds of studious archeology geeks into stunned silence. Hanniver was the sort who had a vast reference stash of artifacts, information and Starfleet contacts at his fingertips and yet he didn’t do anything with this treasure trove beyond write stuffy articles for stuffy academic journals. Lyle thought that was quite a shame. There was so much one could do with that information, so much he believed was covered up by the shadows of Starfleet and its oh so secret organizations. In his mind there would always be academics that gathered information and who would need to be led by visionaries who could wield that information like a shining silver sword against the ignorance of the masses. James T. Lyle believed he was exactly one such visionary. Sure, everyone else might just see some gangly youth, barely old enough to be a force in the world. He was still young enough that his limbs seemed too long for his body, with sandy hair and a wide smile; he wasn’t a bad looking kid. Most people seemed to like him, or at least gravitate towards his radiant self-confidence. And why wouldn’t he be self confident? The line of Lyle had proudly enlisted into Starfleet for seven generations, but James was different. He was the one who broke the mold – went to college and had the brains to succeed. It was no co-incidence his father named him after the greatest Starfleet captain to have ever lived. Make no mistake, James Lyle was a man set out to do great things. He would be the first of his family to graduate a Starfleet officer and blaze a path of truth across the cosmos. He was sure of it. Certainly that was why, out of seventy-three archaeology students, he was the one picked to accompany Hanniver down into the wreckage. Lyle knew he had to make this opportunity count. He spent weeks preparing for it and planning for the best way to impress. And yet in person the man was not what Lyle expected. He was thinking Hanniver was a weedy academic – not the broad shouldered, strapping man who stood before him with long black hair, dark skin and a genial Martian drawl. Still, Lyle knew first impressions were everything and he had to make this one count. Hanniver could be the greatest launching pad of his career, if he could properly impress him. He needed this reference to get a foot into the door of Starfleet. “All right, as I am sure you are all already aware; we are standing outside the Chapel Medical Library of Starfleet Academy.” Dr. Hanniver opened to the gathered crowd of students and scientists. “This building was constructed 150 years ago, on top of the foundations of the old Starfleet Admiral’s Club after that facility was decommissioned and moved to Luna Capitol. The recent earthquake opened a fissure in the foundation which revealed an extensive sub-basement, used for records and storage. Our job is to carefully catalogue and remove all of the artifacts in this area. T’Pahl and Julani will be leading team one – you will be removing all of the isolinear rods from the storage area. Rodriguez and Ah’Krza will be leading team two – you will be tagging all personal items. Smith and Wesson will be leading team three in carefully checking the armory – if you run into any problems, call a security officer to assist.” He paused and fixed his eyes on the gangly student lingering in the back. “And Mr. Lyle – you are with me. We’re going to see if the sinkhole behind the fissure leads to anything. You will follow my lead, am I clear?” “Yes, sir!” Lyle called back. He double-checked his harness and gear before shouldering a portable generator and a case of checkpoint lanterns; brimming with excitement at the chance to venture into a place that hadn’t been explored for centuries. As the teams dispersed, Hanniver walked up, offering over a helmet and a pair of goggles. “They tell me you like a good adventure, Lyle. That you’re aiming for Starfleet Academy. I hope your rappelling skills are up to snuff.” Hanniver grinned, checking his own harness. Lyle gave an eager nod. “Oh yes, they’re good, sir!” He followed the older man into the crack in the earth, clipping his carabineer onto the safety cable as they eased their way down a steep incline. “What do you think we’re going to find down here?” Hanniver shrugged as he adjusted his light. The bright midday sun faded as they started traveling under the cracked precipice of the old foundation. “I hope to find some new information on the foundations of the Federation. I try not to expect anything.” He paused, grabbing onto a parallel cable and switching his harness clips. “Be careful, it’s slippery here. The two men descended down past the rubble left when the original building was destroyed, and past layers of older architectural remnants – brick and stonework from centuries past. The drop was surprisingly short, only a single story. It landed them in an unimpressive poured concrete box that had most of its identifying decoration stripped from the walls long ago. “Huh.” Lyle murmured. “Pretty bare.” It wasn’t what he thought it would be. Hanniver chuckled, handing Lyle a laser ruler and pulling out a tricorder. “Standard deconstruction job. This looks like late twenty first style construction – probably a storage area or possibly an underground garage.” “Why hide a storage area down here?” “Not so much ‘hide’ back then as it was ‘fit.’ Space was at a premium, the Lunar and Martian colonies were just infant ideas, cities were crowded. They needed to build up and down rather than side to side to make it all fit.” Hanniver replied, face down into his readings. He waved a hand towards his young companion. “This way.” Lyle gasped as Hanniver pushed a busted door open. The flashlight cut a beam down a long featureless hallway. “I have seen this before…” Lyle murmured. Hanniver perked a brow. “You have?” He turned towards his companion, watching the kid for several long seconds. Lyle’s eyes grew wide in anticipation. “I have! I know this book by heart! This is exactly how Colonel Abrahms describes the secret storage facility for Starfleet’s greatest temporal secrets in his book “Into Darkness: A Theory of Federation Development in an Alternative Timeline.” The older man turned to face his student. “Really?” The tone held less curiosity in it, and more belated disbelief. “That’s a hack pop-science book written by someone who would have been better off writing action-adventure holonovels.” Jaw dropping, James Lyle did his level best to not look as crestfallen as he felt. “Colonel Abrahms spent his whole life working on his body of work. It’s brilliant, if you take the time to read everything. And there’s plenty of support for his ideas.” Sighing, Hanniver pinched the bridge of his nose. He hated getting into arguments like this with students. “Lyle… I know it’s a compelling read – but that’s it. Entertainment. There’s no real science behind Abrahms’ theories. He doesn’t respect historical facts. All he does is build off other people’s theories and take them on a drunken romp through the annals of Federation history.” Lyle grit his teeth as they moved down the hallway. He had been studying this theory his entire life. He knew it better than anyone else, and the proof for this theory might be standing right in front of them. Ever since he was a small child Lyle believed there was a massive temporal cover up in Starfleet and he was going to be the man who would break it wide open and save the course of history. He had to make Hanniver see the truth. “There’s plenty of historical fact in Into Darkness. It builds from the very foundation of Federation records and into the real way history played out. We’re just too blind to see how much the Temporal Affairs Office has been altering our perceptions so we can’t see history correctly!” he argued as they came to a hole in the foundation. Fanning the flashlight around the dusty cavern of crushed concrete, Hanniver resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Colonel Abrahms was a nutjob conspiracy theorist. Why do you think he was given a dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps?” “The history books are wrong.” Lyle folded his arms across his chest in muted defiance. “Colonel Abrahms was a visionary who unfolded a time centered plot that had – still has – the potential to unravel the very foundations of our Federation!” “Oh yes, I read all about it. The Romulan plot to travel back in time and destroy Vulcan.” Hanniver sighed. “Look, I know the destruction of the Hobus star took a lot of people by surprise, even shook them up pretty badly. The colonel was one of them. But it’s been fifty three years, and the non aggression pact with the Romulans has stood for over two decades. You think if they were going to try some insane time travel plot to ‘get revenge’ at the Federation, they would have done it already.” The student leaned forward, conviction tinting his voice with a passionate edge. “You don’t understand the flow of time travel. This whole cataclysm is just waiting for the right domino to be pushed over. We might be stumbling on the very proof that what the colonel predicted is absolutely true.” Hanniver paused, letting his shoulders slump as he fixed Lyle with an unimpressed stare. “The Abrahms theory may be the most popular conspiracy theory of the past fifty years.” He paused for effect. “But seriously, if a ship full of Romulans did have the ability to time travel wouldn’t they warn their planet of its impending doom and therefore save the vast majority of their species rather than going off on some ill-conceived revenge mission?” Lyle stalled in his vehement argument. The gears in his brain turned, remembering the fascinating passages he had spent years reading under his covers and in darkened back rooms of dusty libraries. “They were driven insane by grief.” He asserted. “Romulans are crazy… but they’re not that crazy.” Hanniver replied, making a light sound of disgust as he continued forward. Lyle felt his cheeks burn. He followed Hanniver through a busted door and into a cleaned out storage area. Running his finger along the thick layer of dust accumulated on the tops of the steel shelving, he tried to recoup his argument. “There was interference by Admiral Marcus. He was in on the time conspiracy because he wanted to purge all non-human influence from the Federation. The Romulan attack on Vulcan would be a fundamental building block for his xenophobic platform. He steered them towards Vulcan.” “That’s ridiculous.” Hanniver called back, setting down the portable generator and messing with the controls until it hummed to life. The beacons he had been placing on their way down powered up with a deep amber glow. “It isn’t. Even in this time stream, historians were able to point out over a dozen pivotal decisions Admiral Marcus made that perfectly set up the time-warp destruction of the Vulcan homeworld. It’s a good thing he was stopped by Khan before he got the chance to implement his plans.” Hanniver sighed. “Admiral Marcus died at home from rheumatic fever, surrounded by his family at the age of ninety-three. He never fought a genetically engineered superman, he never built a death dealing stealth battleship, and the biggest scandal he was involved in was that Federation News Service story about how he used his Starfleet rank to give him in edge in bartering flower samples after he retired.” He fixed Lyle with a flat look. “Yes, they accused him of having an unfair advantage in a garden show competition.” He punctuated the gravity of this statement with a low ‘oooooh.’ “It’s a Federation cover up. They don’t want you to know how deeply the Temporal Affairs Department in entrenched in every walk of life in the United Federation of Planets. And Starfleet. Especially Starfleet.” Lyle wasn’t about to give up, he knew this story all too well, and he usually won this argument. Most people simply conceded that his knowledge was superior. “Yep.” Hanniver tossed back. “I have tea with temporal agents every other Wednesday.” “Are you being sarcastic?” “Are you being serious?” “You don’t seem to understand the gravity of this situation!” “Look, Mr. Lyle…” Hanniver sighed, changing tactics. “What do you really think you’re going to find down here?” “I don’t know!” Lyle threw his hands up in the air, his eyes wide. “That’s the brilliant beauty of it all, isn’t it? There could be any number of things that could tear a massive hole into the cover ups that Starfleet heaps on us.” He paused and added with a smile, “I like keeping my mind open to the possibilities.” “Possibilities?” Hanniver snorted. “Right.” He shook his head, working on unlocking the far door in the room. It gave a whine as the rusty old fashioned hinges creaked and the seal around the door cracked open. A rush of cold air hit them both, and even Hanniver felt his curiosity pique. It was like a freezer in here. “Oh my God… I was right…” Lyle breathed as the fog from the coolant cleared. Hanniver picked up a beacon and let the light penetrate the frigid blackness. Storage containers. Row after row after row of perfectly preserved storage containers. “We don’t know what’s in them until we open one.” Hanniver replied, keeping his voice calm. He didn’t want to admit this discovery rattled him just a little. He crouched down, trying to find any identification on the container. “It says botanical samples.” He started the unlock code, vaguely surprised how easily the locking mechanism jumped to life. “Of course they would say plant samples. No one labels horrific bioweapons or cryogenically frozen soldiers as what they really are.” “I’m not getting any dangerous readings.” Hanniver countered, his tricorder at the ready as the lock sequenced. “Shielding.” Lyle muttered. “I’m sure it has shielding.” Hanniver felt a surge of adrenaline as the locking device on the container hummed compliantly and the lights on the control panel turned green. Maybe Lyle’s wild theories were infectious, but he felt a shiver of anticipation run down his spine as he opened the case. The fog of cryogenic cooling agents hissed as they hit the warmth of the outside and rolled across his chest. “Oh my God…” the words dribbled from his mouth as his jaw dropped. “I was right, wasn’t I?” Lyle tossed back, his eyes wide as saucers. “This proves the whole theory!” “No…” Hanniver’s expression was like a tiny child seeing a Christmas tree glittering with lights and tinsel for the very first time. He grabbed a sample tongs and pulled out a small cylindrical case. “This is a Romulan snow orchid…” He gasped, taking out another case, “Romulan three leaf basil… and mountain poppies…” A chuckle of realization bubbled from his chest. “Admiral Marcus was smuggling illegal plant samples from the neutral zone for his garden…” “Plants.” Lyle’s expression looked like it has been smashed with a wrecking ball. “Just plants?” “Not just plants.” Hanniver grabbed his tricorder and started to take readings from inside the case. “This is a botanical treasure trove! Over half of these species have been extinct since the Hobus star exploded… and they’re still biologically viable. We could cultivate them!” The excitement in Hanniver’s voice was growing to a fevered pitch. “Think of the diplomatic inroads the Federation could make to the Romulans by offering them seedlings of these plants… this is amazing, Lyle! Simply amazing!” “Just plants.” The young man repeated, his shock fading to disappointment and anger. “We did all this digging for a bunch of stupid plants?!” Hanniver stood, letting the excitement of his find bleed away from his expression as he settled his gaze on Lyle. If the kid couldn’t realize the importance of a discovery like this one… “Reality check, kid. I don’t think you’re cut out for Starfleet. In fact, I’m going to recommend that after you finish your degree you should apply for a job at Forsythe Historical Holonovel Productions. They’re always hiring archaeologists and historians. Help them give that realistic ‘edge’ to their programming. Pays well, good benefits, Arconis V is a beautiful planet to work on and you can indulge your sense of pulp fiction fantasy on a daily basis.” He offered Lyle a sympathetic smile. “Heck, I’ll even give you a good reference for the job.” Lyle’s mouth fell open in disappointment. Entertainment? Holonovels? He thought he would be on the cutting edge of the unknown, not programming trite historical romantic adventures. “Are you serious?” “Dead serious kid.” Hanniver gathered his tools. “Come on, we need to get a science team down here.” Lyle lingered back, holding back a disenchanted cry. As Hanniver disappeared into the side room he kicked the floor and turned back at the rows of storage pods. “Stupid plants.” He cursed again, hanging his head and following the professor. ~*~ Lieutenant JG Sal Taybrim Science Officer USS Excalibur-A
  5. ((USS Excalibur – Personal Quarters of En. Riveriew)) ::Sipping her white peppermint hotchocolate, Ceilidh took PADD in hand and moved over to her couch to do some light reading. It was an old personal log that she had come across while trying to find out some more information about a fellow crew mate on board. Sitting down, she grabbed the blanket and draped it over her legs and balanced her drink on her knees as she began to read.:: ((Personal Log, 222102.20 - Utopia Plentia)) ::Looking out first to her left, and then to her right, Felicity felt the tears begin to flow freely from her eyes and streak down onto her warm cheeks. She had originally agreed to participate in Dr. Turner’s research methods regarding human and AI interactions, even trying to combine the two together. It sounded mad at the beginning the media had said. It went against everything that we as a race stood for. Humans and machine could benefit each, even depend on each other, but never truly be ‘one with each other’ as he had so wanted and envisioned. He argued against all their arguments, saying that together they could explore the universe for greater lengths of time and further than had been possible in the past, and even the present. The people, the media, and now even the powers that be were against what he was proposing to do, all the hopes of helping our people reach their full potential. Starships - that was what everyone said would be how we moved about across the universe, meeting new life forms and discovering new planets. We would learn all we could, while remaining true to who we were. We were unique in our evolution, having accomplished so much in such a short period of time, compared to other beings we had just come to discover existed besides ourselves. We had only ventured outside our own solar system less than a year ago, and already we were eager to learn as much as possible. But with our youth, came our inability to wait. We wanted it all now, and Dr. Turner had originally been the man to promise a faster way to discover it all. Artificial intelligence was something our people had toyed with for the last several decades, but only arrived at recently to a point where it was becoming more and more difficult to tell the difference between man and machine. As ships were being built to travel in space, he was building beings who would also travel in space, who would help their human counterparts with the long voyages that space travel would bring. Time began to pass from months into years, and questions began to take root in his thoughts. What if man and machine could be combined? Could it be done without losing what makes us who we are, retaining our uniqueness? War was always something that took place, no matter what your planet, and ours was no different. Soldiers died on the fields, or came home damaged, whether mentally, physically, or both. It was at the end of the last war that the dark side in the doctor began to surface under the false guise of wanting to help returning soldiers. Individuals who had lost limbs or had damaged them beyond traditional repair methods were taken in by his newly established medical foundation. It was here that he practiced his new form of medicine, combining parts of A.I. technology in replacement limbs with injured vets. In the beginning, success rates were high, with individuals being given a second chance at a normal life. Yet soon enough, the flaws of this new found hope became apparent. The individual would want to do one thing, while the replacement appendage would want to do something different. Other cases were that those who had received these technological aids were experiencing episodes of memory loss, but were obviously participating in society, as if the artificial limb had taken control over their thought process, leaving them unable to remember what they had done. It was when 90% of those individuals who had received treatment from Dr. Turner, complained about increased memory loss, and authorities brought forth allegations of increased crimes being committed by said individuals that Dr. Turners’ funding was cut and his medical facility was shut down. Star ships were launched into space, with a human and A.I. crew manifest, ready to explore what was out there, if only able to do it for short periods of time. Humans back on earth began to remove their artificial limbs that had been provided by Dr. Turner, in the hopes of gaining back control over their personal lives. In the years that followed, Dr. Turner went quietly into the far reaches of the media and continued on his work of combining humans and artificial intelligence together in the hopes of one day creating a human that would be better prepared and able to survive out in deep space for longer periods of time. A being that would be able to take the time to learn all it needed to and wanted to, without the restraints of age getting in the way. There were still those that believed in what he was trying to achieve, and those that were desperate enough for help due to injuries they had sustained one way or another. That’s where I come in. I had been coming home from university last summer and was injured in a motor vehicle incident. A neighbour had thought it a good idea at the time to take out her parents old car and drive it around, just to see what it had been like to drive the antique. We had the radio turned up and the group of us were laughing and telling stories. Perhaps we should have paid more attention to where we were going, but technology in modern vehicles informed the passengers of oncoming danger. Older cars, like what we were in didn’t. It was too late for the evening commuter train to stop, or even slow down. It hit us so hard that we were all thrown from the car in different directions. Two over the edge of the high road, down to their death 640 meters below; my neighbour had been thrown into oncoming traffic with no hope for survival; and myself thrown in the direction of the quarry pit on the side I had been sitting on. I don’t remember much after that, except waking up in the hospital. I wasn’t able to feel anything, and I figured that was a good thing. But as time went on, I came to learn that I would never feel anything from my neck down ever again. Depression took over my life for the next 5 years as I learned a new way of living. During one of my low periods, I came across an add by Dr. Turner, offering medical help to those that still wanted it, with the promise of complete restoral to previous lifes’ activities before all injuries. I got a hold of him and he agreed to meet me at my place. Our first meeting, as the door opened, I wondered if all that he had promised in his add would even be possible for me. As we talked and he examined me, a twinkle danced in his eyes. I can help you, but you have to understand, my methods are frowned upon by the larger society. I didn’t care I told him. I just wanted to walk again, even be able to use my hands and legs again. He agreed. One week later I had left everything and everyone I knew behind me and moved into his facility. It was an old warehouse that had been converted to serve his needs. My surgery began the next day. He said that in order to restore my health, he would first have to remove all the damaged parts. Dr. Turner assured me that replacements for anything he had to remove were readably available and not to worry. I would once again be able to move and live life independently. It took him 3 days to ‘fix’ me. Over the next 4 days I was closely monitored for signs of infection, rejection, and healing. On the 10th day he rolled the bed I had been on the entire time outside into the small court yard and over to a large rectangular building. The late afternoon sun was still warm on my face and I laughed when I felt the wind rush over my head, and then felt it as it blew over my shoulders. I hadn’t felt anything lower than the middle of my neck for so long, that at first I wasn’t sure I had felt anything at all. Be he assured me that I had indeed felt something. When I asked how, he explained that during my surgery he had used artificial intelligent limbs and technology in replacing any damaged parts I had, whether from the initial accident, or from afterwards from lack of use. As I continued to heal, I would begin to feel more and more. For now though, I needed rest, and was going to put me into a cryo-tube that would be able to help my body heal quicker and give me the rest I needed. As I looked at all the tubes that were lying in the room, I wondered out loud how many times he had performed this type of surgery. Dr. Turner said that the others who were healing from their injuries were less damaged than me, that for them he had either simply replaced damaged or missing limbs with new limbs, or technology, but as for me? I was a medical miracle. When I asked how, he told me that I would learn that answer once I was inside the tube and safe. I was nervous at the idea of being confined to such a small space at first, but the idea that I would be sleeping and not awake to deal with the idea of claustrophobia helped relax me a bit. The tubes had originally been used in the previous war to hold massive explosives to cause as much damage as possible. With the ending of the war, said weapons were no longer needed. Their contents disposed up, but the hulls still useful. Dr. Turner had purchased several hundred of them under a business name and had them delivered to this warehouse. As far as the governments were concerned, they had their money, and didn’t care what the tubes were used for, as long as it wasn’t for building weapons. As his assistant and him lifted my body to be placed into the tube, I caught a glimpse of the others in the surrounding tubes and noticed the work that each had gone through. I also noticed my own body in the reflection of the tube beside me. Is that me? Yes But I look so different Your outside appearance is different yes, but you are still you. It’s what inside that counts. As I was lowered into the tube, he explained the process of putting me to sleep and how long I would be in this state for. Perhaps, he said, one day you will even go into space! Think of all the possibilities that now lay before you! I thanked him for all he had done. Even as I laid there in the small tube, I was beginning to feel things again. A pinkie toe on my left foot, my right thumb. As the tube was closed and locked, he peered in one more time and smiled. Walking away, I began to relax, wondering at what I would do first when I woke up. It was then that a small display screen activated directly in front of my eyes. Trying to see the control panel for it, it dawned on me, that there wasn’t an actual display panel inside the tube. Instead, it was inside my mind. And the first image that I took hold of, what I looked like before my surgery and how I looked now. Gone was the broken body that didn’t even look like it had before the accident. In its place was a fresh, sleek new body, made of materials that gave me a strong shape, yet displayed my femininity. It explained that because of all the damage, the only parts that had remained were my spinal cord and from my shoulders up. Any damage to the spinal column had been repaired, with several discs being replaced. As more and more feeling began to register in my mind, the more and more I began to dream about all the possibilities I could do once I was healed. The idea of going into outer space and seeing and learning about all the universe had to offer fascinated me. I wanted to learn as much as possible and add that knowledge to my own, in the hopes of bettering myself. As I drifted to sleep, my mind kept displaying information about what Dr. Turner had been able to accomplish on me, but also on those who were in the tubes surrounding me. In his message he stated that we were the first to have the surgeries we had endured, all to varying degrees. Eventually we would all be able to talk to each other and help each other moving forwards. His one wish for us was to live life to the fullest, to learn all we could and remember that knowledge and share it with others, and to support each other collectively going forward. He promised us all that one day, we would see the stars up close and go where no one had gone before. Tears streamed down my cheeks, but they weren’t tears of sadness, but at joy. I was still alive. I was going to have a future. Anything was possible now. My name is Eve. I am one of a kind. You could say, I am one of one. ((END OF LOG)) ::Ceilidh felt a cold shiver run down her spine and placed the PADD down on the couch and gripped her slightly cooled off mug with both hands. Her only thought was, what eventually had happened to Eve? En. Riverview Counselor USS Excalibur
  6. It was dark, it was cold, and he could not move. No, that wasn't exactly right. He could feel a tight and constricting presence, some sort of binding. However, there was a slight give to it, he could indeed move about, just not very far. His panic subsided as this fact sunk in. It had all but abated when his memories of what had happened to him began to come back. Slowly, piece by garbled piece, the events leading up to his being stuck in the ice became clear. His name was Richard, he was a science officer, part of Starfleet, and he was- Wait, was that really ice covering him on all sides? No, it was glass and cold steel; he was in something metallic and very small. A glass window above him, which had fogged up during his panic attack, didn't provide much of a view. Why was he in this thing? This cold and cramped space that he couldn't imagine he would ever voluntarily subject himself to. Right, it wasn't voluntary. Richard tried wiping away the condensation obscuring his view of the outside. It didn't help. Wherever they had put him, please god not underground, it was too dark to see. Diadem, the people of Diadem, whom the Vigilant had been meeting with on a first contract mission, had been nothing but kind and courteous. That should have tipped them off that all wasn't right in the world they had stumbled upon. The senior officers had been wined and dined; some of them even partaking in other delights. Richard had been doing just that -coaura- a game involving manipulating light patterns and memory testing. He'd been playing and winning against a dignitary when he'd. Richard winced at the memory; the sharp pain from the blow to the head was a dull ache now, only bothering him when he moved his head to the left. It explained why he was having a time recalling things. He probably had a concussion, because after the explosion of pain, things got fuzzy. He'd put up a fight, that he was sure of, but they had hit him with something other than just their fists, a drug that really did a number on his senses. Because Richard could not shake the memory of staggering to the floor, dropping on hands and knees, slowly lowering himself to the ground, and then looking up into the face of his assailant. It had been his face (he'd recognize it anywhere) that had been grinning down at him. He rapped his knuckles against the glass. It was cold to the touch, while not bad enough to give him a chill; it was cold enough to make him a little uncomfortable. Wherever he was, there was no source of heat out there. "I'm trapped," Richard said. "And I'm talking to myself." Deciding that oxygen was too precious to spare, Richard decided against stating anymore of the obvious. It would be silly to lay there talking to himself, narrating what was happening to him as if someone could hear his tale of woe. After all, it wasn't like he had . . . his come badge! Richard shifted around franticly, the tight constricting clothing he wore gave just enough for him to lift up his arm. But where a badge should have been pinned, Richard found nothing. In frustration, he punched the glass above him. The smacking sound of his fist against the glass reverberated around him. All he had to show for his troubles were bruised knuckles. The little effort it took to make the swing left him spent. He lay there a moment trying to calm his breathing as darkness encroached on his vision. "Awake?" The crackling startled him. The voice that followed the static, that scarred him. It was his voice. But not. "Don't be like that Richard," not his voice said. "I just wanted to let you know how your friends where doing. I figured I owed you that much." "What are you?" He heard himself chuckling over the speaker. God but he had an annoying laugh. No wonder it got on Grant's nerves. "Come on Richard, you're smarter than that. For my sake, I hope that you are. We do share the same DNA after all." "A clone then," Richard frowned. When could the Diadems have gotten a DNA sample from him? For that matter, just how had they grown a fully developed clone of him, and in under eight hours? "That's not possible." "Improbable, but not impossible, I am Lt. Jg. Richard Matthews, a science officer aboard the USS Vigilant." The thing was mocking him. The thing was mocking him and it was using his own voice to do so. Richard would have none of that. "Stop that! I don't care what you say you are. You're not me! You hear me?" His voice was still chuckling at him. "Hear you loud and clear Richard. Maybe you should quiet down a little; there isn't much air where they've stuck you." "And where did they stick me?" "It's basically a freezer, where they keep the bodies until they dispose of them." There was that cold feeling again. This time though, it wasn't from pressing against the glass window in front of him. "I'm in a morgue." "Yes." "And this is the part where you tell me what your evil plan is, right? Brag about how you're going to; to whatever it is you think you're going to do." "So that you could possibly get a warning out to your friends, Richard, I'm not stupid. I am you remember? I know you're already working out how to activate the com system on your end. While wondering why a casket even has one to begin with." "The thought had crossed my mind." Richard admitted while his hands traced along the sides of his 'casket.' Finding nothing, no panel or switch, he slowly rolled over as much as he could in the small space he was in, continuing his search for a set of controls or something to work with. "It won't work you know. Who is going to believe the message of a raving lunatic, claiming that a high-ranking Starfleet officer is a clone? No one in their right mind would." There was a pause and Richard could have sworn he heard the scratching of pen on paper. "I need to speak with Dueld." "Best to keep to yourself if you want to fool people," Richard snapped, even though the other couldn't see him, he made a rude gesture as he growled out his warning/threat. "My friends can tell the difference between me and a fake. You might sound like me and look like me. However, you are a quickly thrown together copy. You won't full anyone." "I've been doing well enough so far. Seems all I have to do is make a not so funny joke here or there. No one is the wiser. Really Richard it's not like they expect much from you." "You must though, why else would you be calling me?" He had found what he was looking for. A small panel that popped open to reveal wires and buttons, there was a little speaker off to the side, and a small screen right below it. "I wanted to make sure you were comfortable. You've been out for a while you know. Air must be awful thin in there by now." "It's a little stuffy, but other than that, fine." Richard had to stop three times as he fiddled with the wiring of his mini prison. It wouldn't do to cut off the transmission by accident, but as anyone who knew him well enough would say if asked, Richard just was not a hands on kind of guy when it came to electronics. The software he could handle, having fancied himself a bit of a hacker back in the day. The hardware, not so much, and his time at the academy hadn't helped with that. He could recall one class that might have assisted him about now but- 'Cadet, why are you not listening?' Richard, who had been chatting up the cute security officer on his team, smiled at the ranking officer running their class. 'Well this isn't really my department. Yusueh and Patolos are the operations officers.' He chuckled, at the annoyed look the instructor was shooting him. Was it his fault that he'd never actually need to know how to wire up a radio? 'Who are you cadet?' 'I'm the doctor.' 'Dr. Who?' 'Dr. Rich-' 'I don't care,' she cut him off, 'and neither well anyone out there, do you think this is a game? Because I have no time for cadets who can't take their classes seriously. This could save your life someday. But if you think you already know everything that you need to know. You can leave this exercise and go straight to the testing. My office after your last class cadet, dismissed. Looking back, Richard rather wished he'd practiced better study habits right now. Actually listening in class for one. "I just wanted to-" the audible click of another channel being open disrupted the not Richard's little speech. But he went on as if he hadn't noticed the little blip. "And say thank you for being so pathetic. It's been laughably easy to play the fool. No one notices a thing, not the giant buffoon who claims to be in charge of security around here. Not that lazy Captain of yours who has his legs up more often than an Orion slave girl does. Not even your chief medical officer and she did a physical." Richard winced, he would have some explaining to do once back aboard the Vigilant. Clone or not. You just didn't get away with saying things like that about superior officers. "It's because I'm a perfect clone. Yes, of course there's a way to tell what I am. If the CMO or any medical officer did the right tests, they'd see that my cellular structure is akin to that of a small child's. After all I'm only 20 hours old." This was good, without any real prompting, the monster wearing his face was spilling all its secrets. The trick was to keep it talking without asking too many questions. Questions derailed the flow of the other chap telling you something; they just weren't part of a normal chat. "The Vigilant just broke orbit around Diadem. In a few short minutes, you will be out of range and I won't get the chance to talk to you ever again. You have, if I'm guessing right, twenty minutes left." Maybe less than that, Richard was actively taking slower shallower breaths now. Lightheaded was never a good thing to be. Lightheaded inside a casket wasn't even an option. "The people of Diadem haven't been ignorant of your federation for some time. The alliance between their world and the others in this solar system, you remember hearing about that right?" The alliance between Diadem and the three other inhabitable planets that shared its solar system had been a real selling point for the Federation. Four planets for the price of one in a region of space where they didn't have many allies to begin with? The admiralty had been all but drooling when they had sent their orders to the Vigilant to make first contact. When it realised that Richard wasn't going to answer, the voice that was not his own continued. "It's not so much an alliance as an empire ruled over by the people of Diadem." Richard laughed. "Four planets does not an empire make, tell them to get back to us when they're on par with the Klingons or Romulans. Now those are empires." "It's not much of an empire now. But once they gain access to the United Alliance of Planets, and the fire power of the Federation, their empire will trump both the Klingons and what is left of the Romulans' Star empires." "You cloned me so you can clone others too. God, it's like a twisted version of the body snatchers." Frowning, Richard asked. "You do know this has been tried before right? Little alien parasites, humans used as puppets, hostile alien take over. Really you should be sued for plagiarism." "The process of creating me included a data dump, it could be called. While I don't know something as trivial as what was on the breakfast menu yesterday. The scientists in charge of my mental development were able to give me the big things." "You have my memories then?" That's how the Diadems planned on doing it. Not just by replacing officers, but by stealing their memories. The perfect infiltration units supplied with all the necessary information. "I'm already tagging officers aboard the ship to be taken during the next visit. The chief of science was a trial run. The important officers, like the Captain, First Officer, or Chief Medical Officer, are the ones we want. You can get closer to the admiralty through a Captain after all." Hearing enough, Richard directed his next question to the person listening in on his little conversation whit himself. At least he hoped that he was talking to someone else. He wasn't exactly sure if his call had been answered by friend or foe. He didn't even know if it had been answered. "Did you get all that?" One beat, then two, Richard was starting to sweat in his little icebox. "Nothing to say Richard? You've been awfully quite while I've chatted away here." Panicked, Richard began fooling with the wires again. "What do you mean quiet?" No answer, just quiet, Richard didn't know if he'd cut off his connection with his tampering or not. Apparently he'd done something to not be able to transmit. "You couldn't have passed out already Richard, surely we're made from tougher stuff then that? Come on say- what?" The startled exclamation caught Richard's attention. Breath healed to hear his other self over the speaker and to conserve as much air as possible. He strained to hear what was going on. The clone was talking to someone, he could just make it out, the clone said something and then he swore he heard the sounds of a scuffle. "Who was he talking to? Hanson, trace the source of the signal now." Was that the captain? Richard sucked in a quick breath. They were talking again. "Sir there is an open channel to the planet's surface, where it's being received and broadcasted, but I can't tell the transmitters location. I can only narrow it down to a fifty mile radius." "Bridge start scanning the area Ensign Hanson has given us. That thing was talking to someone and I want to know who." "Me," Richard gasped, the effort it took to speak was frightening, but he did it anyway. "Sir I'm in a morgue, probably the basement of that hospital you visited." "Sir, what about Matthews?" There was a pause, when the captain spoke he sounded as tired as Richard was feeling. "I can't see the Diadems keeping him around, not if they wanted to keep up pretences, they'd have disposed of the evidence." Richard shuddered. The captain went on. "I just can't believe I didn't notice something earlier. I told Richard that I had gotten my hands on the recipe for those cookies everyone liked at the party. He just looked at me like I had two heads before saying 'that's nice sir.'" "Sir, bridge reports they've got something." Hanson's clipped and dry tone, while usually a source of annoyance for Richard, made his spirits soar now. "Let's go see what it is Ensign." Quiet, save for the shallow gasping breaths he took, which were loud and deafening to his own ears. There were no voices coming over the speaker now. Richard didn't even know if the channel was still open. If the Vigilant had found him, would they even need it open to lock on to him, no they wouldn't. Any second now, because it would only take a moment for them to lock on to him and beam him aboard, he'd be breathing that wonderful recycled air and a hot nurse or doctor would be fussing over him. His Captain would simultaneously commend him for his efforts, berate him for getting into trouble, and threaten him never to do it again. Any second now, because his chest was getting tighter. His silly crewmates did have the flair for dramatics; a down to the last minute save was something they would do. Any second now. The world was going white; finally, they were beaming him up. The world would go completely blank for a moment, two three minutes tops, and he'd be home again. It would only be like a second for him though, a blink of the eye and he'd be home and safe. Richard smiled as he closed his eyes. He was going home. Lt. Jg. Richard Matthews MD Acting CSO USS Vigilant NCC-75515
  7. (Cargo Bay - USS Marauder) ::Captain Jackson stood and watched as the last “tray” of pods was moved into place. His ship now boasted fifteen of these “trays” in the modified cargo bays and holds. Each tray held three rows of seven pods. Each pod held one “member” of his crew. Over three hundred people. :: oO Why did I sign up for such a mission? It’s a near suicide run. But its still a rescue mission, so if we pull it off, we will be heroes. Oo ::The heavily modified starship had started life as an Achilles class heavy cruiser, which was designed for long-range endurance missions. For this mission, modifications had been made, removing various useless crew comforts and replacing areas with cargo bays and holds. Two large industrial replicators from the larger Mulciber class ships were installed as well. :: oO Not like we really are going to need the lounge or other such comforts. Oo ::Because of the length of this long-range mission, the majority of the crew had to be put into stasis. :: oO Still can’t believe I agreed to this. Putting people into modified torpedo tubes for stasis pods. Of all things….. John, you just better be worth it. Oo ::The tray locked into place and the anti-grav lifters withdrew. A tech team quickly attached the leads securing the pod to the ship’s power.:: oO I wonder who had the bright idea to bring the crew aboard already in stasis. Makes things easier for getting under way I guess. Oo ::He watched and waited for the techs to finish and leave the room.:: oO Even with slipstream, its still going to take us a century to reach our destination. Oo JACKSON: Mara, loading is complete. Take us out. COMPUTER AI (MARA): Yes captain. Beginning undocking procedures. ::Then with a heavy sigh, he turned and followed the last tech out, and hit the button to seal the doors behind them. The doors slid closed and sealed with a thud, followed by the hiss of pressurization.:: oO So the journey begins…Oo ::Each of the rooms holding pods was designed to maintain its own pressure, just in case a part of the ship took damage and was exposed to space. The bays and the tubes would also help keep the crew protected from any radiation they came across. After all, this was truly a voyage to the unknown.:: oO I just hope it’s worth the cost. Oo ::He made his way up to the bridge and settled into his chair. Around him, a minimum bridge crew worked, with another small team down in main engineering. Once they were safely on course, they would all enter stasis, leaving the ship to Mara, the ship’s AI. She would keep the ship on course and rotate the crew in and out stasis, every so many years in a cycle. That would keep everyone from aging during the trip. Thus six trays each contained a full bridge and engineering crew under one senior officer. The remaining trays contained various specialist who would be awaken when their service was required, including a short platoon of Marines. One tray remained for the currently awake crew. :: oO By the time we reach them, they will have been lost for over a century. Our hope is that they found a planet to survive on out there, and maybe we find their descendants. Oo JACKSON: Mara, how long? MARA: Time to galactic edge, 31 days at current velocity Captain. JACKSON: Verify we are on the last course of the Monitor? MARA: Yes captain. Analysis has computed the last known position of the USS Monitor and calculated the course we are now following. JACKSON: Very well. (Four weeks later…) MARA: It is time Captain. JACKSON: Very well. Time people. ::The bridge crew and he made their way down to the cargo bay and their tray. One after another each climbed into a pod. As senior officer, Captain Jackson went last. He climbed into the pod and settled inside, before pressing the switch. His pod slid closed and he heard the pressure seal activate. It got very cold and he nodded off to sleep.:: oO USS Monitor, here we come…Oo Captain Jackson Commanding Officer USS Marauder
  8. OOC: My first entry - be gentle! Leanna hadn’t been certain of this mission from the get go. She had been reactivated rather suddenly, but then she supposed that was how the Intelligence service worked. They had required someone with her ‘particular skill set’ for a matter of ‘Federation security’, like she had never heard that brand of codswallop before. It had been over a decade since they had used it on her though, and she had been quite enjoying her career back in the mainstream. It had somewhat surprised Captain Hollis when his Chief Medical Officer had requested an urgent leave of absence for an indefinite period. And so now the Trill found herself clad head to foot in the usual form-fitting black with absolutely no markings or indentifying characteristics. The tight hood was pressing her long dark hair oppressively to her scalp and it itched like hell. It was coming back to the middle-aged woman why as a younger operative she had always kept her hair chin-length or above. She pushed the thought aside as she glanced at the civilian hand-held scanner, it was much too late to do anything about that. She doubted very much Starfleet Intelligence would accept that one of its agents got captured whilst shearing locks of hair off inside a hostile base. Her breath was beginning to get more laboured as she jogged down a metal-walled hallway. She was getting too old for this malarkey, she really would have to have a word with someone in Intelligence that they should find some younger, fitter models for this work. She suspected that they wouldn’t listen. Her thoughts were interrupted by urgent bleating from her scanner and she rapidly cursed, silenced it with a jab and wondered when she had gotten to sloppy about keeping her equipment in discreet mode. There were two lifesigns approaching the next corner quickly. Leanna did a quick visual scan of her surroundings and it was blatantly obvious there was nowhere to hide and retreat was not an option. If she had been detected that meant that she now had even less time to complete her mission and more hostiles would be converging on her current position. To fight it was then, Leanna made the only choice she felt she had and was glad that her chest hit the floor as two Romulans came around the corner firing at a level that would’ve caught her square in her torso a moment earlier. She didn’t let the two men time to process their confusion or realize their mistake as she let two rapid-fire shots off of her small disruptor that until she had hit the deck had been secreted in her left sleeve. She was glad that Lt. Commander Semal on the Paladin had kept her well trained as a marksman as each shot hit its target and the grey-tuniced men crumpled to the floor. Despite her breathlessness, Leanna was back on her feet and at a full run almost as soon as her opponents hit the deck. Obviously aware that they had lost the element of surprise what she could only assume was an intruder alert alarm began to blare all around her and the lights dimmed. They should’ve sent tactical support, hell they should’ve sent a tactical officer! Second room on the left…one…two! Leanna fired at the group that was coming towards her from the other end of the corridor as she jumped into the doorway, he shoulder jarring against the duranium door. Locked, there’s a surprise. Shots flew past and hit the wall only centimeters down the corridor and she made the call. The Trill fired a trio of shots towards her attackers and a fourth and the panel in the wall beside her, the doors began to open then stalled. It was a tight fit but Leanna squeezed through the gap and gained access to her target. She had little doubt her breast tissue would be objecting in the morning… if she saw morning. Her scanner had told her that there were Tellarite lifesigns in this room. Starfleet Intelligence had intercepted information of a plot by the Romulans to replace the Tellarite representative on the Federation council with that of a double and had activated an agent with expertise in both cloning and genetic manipulation – Leanna Beq - to investigate and if possible terminate the operation. They had underestimated its extent. The room was filled wall to wall in stasis pods, 5 per row and 10 rows. The temperature in the room was significantly cooler than it had been through the rest of the complex, or was that just a psychological reaction from the doctor-[...]-operative? The room was lit only by dim bars of deep green light from each of the four walls. And unless Beq’s eyes were playing tricks on her there was a light mist in the air. It was almost like an ancient crypt than a state of the art medical facility. Each pod contained one lifesign. Leanna ignored the hubbub as the Romulans came closer to the broken door. Her scanner was picking up a different racial profile from each pod and if her civilian scanning device was functioning correctly at least a few of the lifesigns were close if not identical to Federation Councillors. Her plan on being discovered and pinned down in this room had been to go to the backup plan of abandoning intelligence gathering and scuttling the operation even if that meant assassinating the double. That option had just become more complex. There was no way she was going to be shoot out all the stasis pods before the Romulans arrived and she wouldn’t be able to beam them all out in her narrowed but intensified emergency portable transporter device tucked into her waistband. “I knew I should never have come.” The last device Leanna had on her person was one she often managed to put out of her mind, but this time it wasn’t an option. She fired off a few shots at a Romulan trying to prise the doors further open and he slumped against the doorway before disruptor fire tore his body apart and forced Leanna to roll behind one of the pods. She sighed deeply as she reached into her boot. She heard the doors begin to buckle, and attempted to dump the data her scanner had held in a burst transmission to the stealth shuttle on the other side of the asteroid the Romulan facility occupied. It failed. “Federation agent, you are surrounded. Surrender yourself or prepare to die.” Leanna sighed again, time was up. She dropped all her equipment other than the small device that fit between her thumb and forefinger. Standing, the Trill pulled back her hood and raised her hands. Her long dark hair flowed free and her scalp thanked her as the itch subsided. She wanted them to be able to see who had caused so much trouble. “I’m afraid I may have oversold your options, Federation, now that you’ve seen this we cannot allow you to leave.” The Romulan sub-commander began to raise his disruptor. “Screw you.” Leanna pressed the device in her hand. The stealth shuttle jumped to warp as the automated systems detected the termination of Trill lifesigns on the asteroid. The asteroid exploded outward in a brilliant white light and the shuttle found itself racing a shockwave out of the area. Starfleet Intelligence Endgame explosives might have been compact but they packed a punch. Leanna Beq officially had a shuttle accident on her way back to Trill. Starfleet Intelligence never learned what had caused her to use such a drastic measure. The Romulans had lost their clones. At least the ones on that base… Commander Leanna Beq (RIP) Former Chief Medical Officer USS Paladin Starfleet Intelligence Operative
  9. With the Writing Improvement Month's special Writing Challenge right in its middle, this was the longest Challenge we've ever run -- so, without further ado, let me bring you its results: The winner of the Challenge for January-March is the writer behind Saveron, with her story "My Brother's Keeper"! Our runner-up is the writer behind Ryoma Hoshino, with his story "Calling Home"! Congratulations to both of you! Thank you to everyone who participated and who continues to participate! We had a record number of judges assisting for this round and, as related by their scores, it was extremely difficult to pick clear stand-outs. Well done, everyone! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, Commander Melitta Herodion, Commander Jhen Thelev (Lieutenant Sinda Essen), and our special guest judge, Lieutenant Jalana Laxyn.
  10. Note that this contest's deadline has been extended through March 22nd to incorporate the Writing Improvement Month's special challenge! Welcome, my friends, to the inaugural Writing Challenge of 2013! To start off, we're returning with a two-month contest with a theme chosen by the December Challenge's winner. As our characters move into 2390 -- their last decade before 2400 -- Jalana Laxyn would like you to consider what the next ten years hold. In her words, "'Where do you see the universe in 10 years,' be it in society, technologically, medically, personally.." What do you think might happen? UFOP:118's blockbusters of the past few years have taken a stab at that question with, for example, this year's Klingon crisis and the admission of Bajor to the Federation, but perhaps your take will be smaller than that. What can you do with ten years of growth and the character of your choice? The deadline for this Challenge is Friday, March 22nd! You have just under seven weeks to submit your stories from the start date (Tuesday, January 8th). As always, please remember: *Your work must be completely original. *You must be the sole author of the work. *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. As of today, this Challenge is open. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  11. D. K.

    Peace Of Soul

    (A few days earlier) USS Thunder “Why didn’t Commander Johnson want you on the bridge?” “He was with me when I tested the Phoenix system. He has hated me ever since.” “But the system has saved thousands of lives in the past six years alone!” The older Mc Ghee looked briefly at the floor as he recalled the events. “I endangered six crewmates while testing the device. I betrayed my Captain and colleagues. In effect I sold a part of my soul for a single innovation.” “Is that why you don’t want to stop Icarus?” “Icarus is too dangerous, Joel. I can live with people not speaking to me because of the Phoenix incident. But I won’t sell the rest of my soul for an invention that will eventually destroy us.” “Do you think they will understand?” “A torpedo appearing out of nowhere? If they don’t understand the danger of such technology then we are lost.” The lift doors opened revealing the bridge of the Admiral’s flagship and while passing the dedication plaque the Vulcan hybrid felt a powerful emotional surge, having never understood why the Admiral chose this line of his requiem speech for those lost during the Klingon invasion of 2389 as the vessel’s motto. Maybe it was one of the reasons for her disposition towards him; betrayal and disappointment hurt more than mere blows. The bridge also held a few select and unknown dignitaries there to witness the event. Admiral Turner was amongst them, however Jaxon saw the first officer was already heading his way. “Commander Johnson.” Acknowledged Jaxon, “It is agreeable to see your career progressing so expediently.” The picture of an angry and inexperience security ensign standing between a commander and incapacitated fleet captain briefly returned to his mind. The event had been a pivotal point in both his own and Johnson’s lives; one man and his career had soared and the other… well in retrospect it was a matter of perspective. The Admiral now spotted the two Mc Ghee’s and approached, wearing a stoic look of indifference and professionalism at meeting her former Chief engineer again. It was nearly perfect. “Mr. Mc Ghee, Joel welcome aboard.” Openly Jaxon nodded calmly to the Admiral, though internally the lack of a warmer greeting didn’t pass him quiet as serenely. “Thank you Ma’am.” Spoke Joel, turning to the viewscreen where a few other vessels were to be seen, “Quite a select group.” “If this works Joel, you and your father will have made history. Signal the station that we are ready.” The young man smiled at her encouraging words while the crew followed the orders. Joel joined his father at the test cylinder set up in the center of the bridge, before he turned back to the Admiral and offered her a Padd. “Ma’am, do you want to initiate the transport?” The western woman smiled at Joel and reached out and tapped the key. The whine of a transporter sounded and the silver tube disappeared in a typical blue swirl. The main screen changed and displayed a research lab and a technician, now holding the test cylinder, his face radiating satisfaction. “Ladies and gentlemen.” Announced Commander Johnson, “You have just witnessed the first subspace transport of an object over a distance of more than half a lightyear. This is the advent of a new age of intergalactic transportation.” Polite applause erupted from the dignitaries on the bridge and Jaxon turned to look at the excited and enthusiastic people. He watched the mix of high ranking Starfleet officers and diplomats congratulating each other. The Welshman turned to Johnson and took the arm of the first officer. “And now for your side of the bargain; send the torpedo. Show them how useless shields will have become.” “That will no longer be necessary.” smiled the Commander, the officer waved to the main screen which had again changed. It now showed a large conference table where more people and most were in heated discussions. Engineers and technicians, Jaxon recognized a number of the faces. “You didn’t show them?” “Many experts have now witnessed your invention. You and son’s name will be recited with Cochrane and Archer. You know schools named after you and so on.” The younger man smiled as Jaxon’s eyes widened upon grasping the magnitude of the deception. It was irrelevant if he stopped, those that had now seen the invention were now aware of the possibility and would hunt for the solution. It was in the nature of an engineer; Icarus had gone public and a cry for this technology would rise. No more week long voyages, no more hauling giga-tons of equipment on massive freighters trudging one lightyear after another. Once the technology was explored and improved, hundreds of lightyears would no longer be a distance for any person to travel. Or any army and their weapons. Stardate: 240004.21 SS Black Raven For Jaxon the Thunder-A still looked as beautiful as the day his choices had forced him to leave her. In his opinion, the thin, darkened strips on her hull, deployment points for the 2nd generation of ablative armor, still marred her pearl white hull. A pang of regret flowed through him, caused by the events of the last 48 hours, but as always the emotion was countered, checked and sent to oblivion as unneeded trash. EVE, the vessel’s holographic avatar, appeared next to the stocky Welshman. “The Thunder is already in the system and is protecting the second station. What are you going to do? They’ll hardly fall for the same trick twice.” The engineer turned to look at her and gave his creation a brief, encouraging smile. “EVE this time you do not have to join me. Once other powers realize the potential of displacement technology… it is simply too dangerous.” The long haired beauty smiled knowingly, she had truly made progress in the last few years of her existence. “We both know I’ll will always follow you.” Her voice was quiet and she looked at the floor uncomfortably for a moment before continuing as she harked her sensors “The Thunder is hailing.” Jaxon nodded briefly at her response, though he didn’t show his relieve that she was staying with him. “Raise shields and prepare weapons.” There was a brief chirp as the avatar complied, “Put the Thunder through.” USS Thunder Commander Johnson looked up at the sensor officer awaiting his report. “It’s the Black Raven, just dropped from high warp.” The main screen changed cycling through zoom ranges as the sleek black ship of the former Starfleet officer was focused on. That Mc Ghee had somehow managed to create a cascade that destroyed one of the two prototype stations had taken everyone by surprise. The admiralty was less than pleased that 50% of eight year’s hard work had been lost because one of the researcher’s had gone amok. “Hail him..” Johnson’s tone was bitter. He had also just spent a grueling quarter-hour with Admiral Turner while she expressed her displeasure at tricking Mc Ghee during the presentation. The dark haired Welshman appeared and Johnson saw less youth in the Human-Vulcan features, “Mr. Mc Ghee, lower your shields and prepare to be boarded. You are under arrest for treason, destruction and theft of Federation and Starfleet property.” “I will not comply. I’m here to destroy Icarus. My arrest can be subsequently arranged.” “We are here to protect this facility and I doubt you will fire upon the Thunder.” “My only target is the data core and the transmitter array.” “The data cores have been secured and are aboard the Thunder. Your little rampage ends here.” “A real shame. Then you leave me without a satisfactory choice.” Said Jaxon and looked briefly at the floor, “EVE?” “Jaxon?” “Execute program Omega Icarus and cut the com link.” Even as the image of the Welshman faded and Johnson realized diplomacy had failed, he still noted the tone of sadness in the man’s voice. “He’s charging weapons!” “Battlestations!” he cried, “Call the Admiral to the bridge!” SS Black Raven The small dark vessel shot fore as EVE flew curves while twisting upwards swiftly as the Thunder’s phaser strips lit up again. The orange beams reached out for the speeding Raven and the smaller craft shook as the shields tried to absorb the attack. “Shields holding.” Reported EVE The Vulcan hybrid stood typing at his holographic display, occasionally swaying as the Raven spiraled, danced and shook around the heavier and slower Thunder. “Keep the shields up, the weapons hot and the com array online.” Commented Jaxon. “Torpedoes incoming.” “Evasives! Jaxon one alpha. More power to the engines! Get a lock on those torpedoes!” The Raven pulled sharply to port as the four blue sparkles shot across the distance separating the two adversaries. Her phaser’s still lancing out to retreating ship, the Thunder followed in hot pursuit while the Black Ravens own weapons finally joined the fray attempting to pick off the incomingquantum’s. On the command deck, Jaxon held on to his station as two torpedoes found their mark, the others falling to EVE’s targeting scanners. “Why the hell did I let Parker convince me to install three more tubes?!” growled the part-Vulcan as he compensated for the damage. “Progress?” “I can’t lock onto the data cores. They are constantly rotating the frequency. ” reported EVE Jaxon swore at the news. It meant that Starfleet was aware the datacore held the only set of plans for the Icarus project that they still had open access to and they were ready to protect them. The small craft rocked again as more phasers hit, launching another series of alarms and sirens. Jaxon got up growling in anger while he looked at his tactical display. EVE had got some distance between them and Jaxon saw a possibility and issued a litany of commands. “New course heading 234 mark 12. Prepare all torpedoes, target port shield generators. Detonate 1000 kilometers before impact. Retreat pattern Beta. Transporter commands to me. Execute. ” Pulling a high speed curve, the Raven swiftly turned on her follower and hit full impulse as she bore down on the Thunder. Moments beforehand a spread of six photons left their tubes and shot towards the white hulled vessel. As expected the opposing helmsman pulled his ship away from the source of danger, and moments later the Raven pulled up sharply in the other direction, her rear cannons opening fire and destroying her own missiles. Seeing the enemy shields briefly falter, Jaxon exploited the advantage and initiated the transport while the shield were reestablished. USS Thunder Jaxon felt the confinement beam release him and he briefly checked the equipment that had been transported in on his person before he left the observation room. The bridge of the Thunder was still in disarray as Jaxon ducked in though the rear door, seeing his own ship pulling away on the main screen. “Tractor beam.” Yelled Johnson as he helped the Admiral up. Seeing an unused station and ignoring everything else, Jaxon took a device from his belt and dived forward, slapping it onto a console before landing and crawling under the empty station. “INTRUDER ALERT!” bellowed a well-known voice. A stray phaser beam singed the wall behind him while Jaxon typed at the computer on his wrist. With the handy device supplying him with an uplink, he downloaded the program into the system and then threw his weapon over the console; as if he had ever stood a chance of storming the bridge. “I give up. You have won.” Said Jaxon standing up slowly with raised hands. Jaxon found himself swiftly surrounded by burly security officers, their phasers trained on him. The already tall men were then eclipsed as Parker stepped up to join his former brother. Honorable brown eyes conveyed a mix of fury, disappointment and sadness. “Firing on a fleet ship.” He growled, “What have you become?” “We don’t always get to choose, Colonel.” The Welshman’s voice was quiet and subdued. “Don’t hide behind words Mr. Mc Ghee.” came a sharp voice. Two blue eyes with their yellow corona fixed on Admiral Turner as she joined the group surrounding the intruder. Jaxon noted that Toni also had a phaser aimed at him even though he had surrendered and six other weapons were still following his every move; never shy to get her hands dirty. “G’day Ma’am.” The flag officer looked at her former Chief a moment before holstering her weapon and giving an exasperated sigh. “Colonel if he moves.” Then the flag officer turned away to her tactical officer. “Understood Ma’am.” growled the giant Marine, “Was there any reason for you betraying us again?” “Affirmative.” Confirmed Jaxon. His wrist computer chirped and the hybrid looked up at Parker “ You know Hannibal, sometimes you lose and sometimes the others win.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” “It means that you shouldn’t have let old friendship from dragging me from this station.” The inconspicuous device he had attached to the screen lit up and began to flash and force field appeared separating the Marine and security detail from the ex-engineer, “EVE shut them out of the system.” While commotion broke out amongst the bridge officers, phaser fire harmlessly struck the wall of energy as Jaxon turned to the console and his fingers began to work. Hannibal tried his weapon twice more before angrily striking opaque field that protected the renegade engineer. “I’d be careful Hannibal, a ruptured EPS conduit on the bridge could injure or kill us all.” Said the hybrid without looking, his voice was calm and the incessantly entered commands created a concerto of beeps and chirps as his hands danced over the keys. Various stations on the bridge began to shut down creating more cries as the officers tried to coordinate their efforts against the onslaught Jaxon and EVE unleashed on the systems. After every station and light source had died away, Jaxon still worked on, his face illuminated only by his station, set in concentration as he added the needed command lines. “Mr. Mc Ghee step away from that station, that is an order.” Admiral Turner’s voice reverberating in fury. “I apologize for the ruse Admiral but I cannot comply.” His hands continued bringing up screens and entering commands, “Speaking of lies, Admiral have you heard of subspace shield mechanics?” There was a moment’s pause. “What is he talking about Commander.” Another pause followed, before the Admiral spoke again, her voice now able to cut glass. “Commander I expect an answer.” “Standard shields cannot be projected into the subspace plain, they become unstable.” Admitted Johnson. “You’re saying that this technology …” she fell silent. “Yes Admiral, it can teleport through any known shield from 100 million kilometers distance.” Confirmed Jaxon, he paused briefly and looked through the darkness to where he thought the Admiral stood, “Imagine the Klingons or Jem’hadar able of dropping troops or bombs without even entering the system.” He looked at Hannibal and then briefly at the floor, “I won’t take responsibility for that. It will lead to war and the blood will be on my hands.” “If this is true then we can no doubt find a solution.” “That’s not the point Admiral. We shield ourselves, the enemy bypasses them. We counter that, they find something else. The technology is too dangerous it has to be destroyed.” The Welshman appeared to be finished with his work as he stopped his typing and turned to face the bridge staff. Some were still trying to bypass the force field, others had stopped and had accepted there was little they could currently do. With a few last keystrokes the lighting on the bridge came back on and a timer appeared on the stations. “What happens now Jaxon.” Asked Admiral Turner after eyeing the diminishing numbers. “A computer virus is blocking the system, once the timer hits zero Admiral you and your staff will have full control over the Thunder again. Until then you can only read the data on your screens. Of course that will be too late to save the Icarus transmission array. I am sorry that I used my knowledge of her systems to exploit them.” “The destruction of the array won’t stop Starfleet exploring the economic possibilities of the technology.” “Commander Johnson, you are confusing military with economical possibilities. The data core has been transported to the Raven and EVE is currently erasing it. My son cannot reproduce it, explain it to a high ranking bunch of officials, yes, but not reproduce it. The Icarus project now only exists in my head and that is also my cue.” “You know Icarus will follow you wherever you go.” Growled Johnson. “Only what exists can be hunted Mr. Johnson.” came the even reply, “EVE, transport.” The Welshman vanished in a swirl of light. A moment later the force field, now devoid of the control device, collapsed with an electrical crackle. Those closest dived for the station the renegade engineer had employed against them, in the hope that it still functioned. A moment later the main screen lit up and the angle showed Jaxon apparently busy working a few consoles. “Admiral, please look after and guide EVE.” The whine of the transporter rang out and a crate materialized on the bridge. “Ma’am he’s headed directly for the station.” Reported the helmsman, “Shields and weapons are offline. The tractor beam is still out. Ma’am …I can’t stop him. ” “Jaxon don’t.” called Admiral Turner. “He won’t.” breathed Johnson as he realized. “He will.” Confirmed Parker, “You said yourself Icarus will follow him.” “… oh and Ma’am, please tell Joel. ‘I had to buy back a piece of my soul.’ It was an honor. Mc Ghee o…. ” The transmission ended as the screen went blank before a blinding light lanced over the assembled officers. Lt Cmdr. Jaxon Mc Ghee Chief Engineering OfficerUSS Thunder NCC 70605Embassy Duronis II
  12. AlexV

    Recognition

    A vague grunt was about all the response there was from the lump on the bed, whilst the computer's chirpy voice carrying on announcing the fact that it was another glorious day in San Francisco. When Delvia finally poked her dark-haired head out from under the covers, it was to glare at the panel on the wall that the digitised voice was coming from. "Computer," she croaked after a few moments, "why in the name of all that is holy are you waking me up in the middle of the night?" "As requested, your wake-up call was scheduled for 0800. The time is now 0806." "Like I said, the middle of the [...]ed night." Still, at least the stupid machine shut up, and she decided that since she was awake, she might as well drag herself out of bed. Shoving the covers aside, she began the laborious process of getting her green-skinned self up and moving. By the time she was sat up, her leg had decided that it would at least pretend to be cooperative enough for her to grab the cane she'd left by the bed and pushed herself to her feet. Taking a deep breath, like she'd done every morning for the last few years, she shuffled her way across the bedroom to get herself ready to face another day. By the time she emerged, still damp from the shower, and rolled her eyes when she heard the cheerful humming from the lounge. Clothes were already laid out on the now-made bed, and she moved over to start getting dressed with a total lack of concern for the fact that her bedroom door was open and she was wearing nothing but a grumpy expression. Not that there was any point in making anything of it, since when Brexx poked his bald blue head around the doorway, he looked at her with a total lack of appreciation for the sight that would likely have offended any Orion woman that gave a [...]. "Breakfast's going to be ready in a few minutes." His voice matched his tone, warm and bright with the kind of enthusiasm that only came from really enjoying your job. "You want tea or coffee?" "Don't care, go away." Brexx shrugged and wandered away, leaving her to get herself more or less decent. A few minutes later, she settled herself onto her chair at the dining table, mouth watering at the gorgeous aromas wafting up from the plate that sat waiting for her. Picking up a fork, she started shovelling perfectly cooked eggs into her mouth as Brexx, over by the big computer and entertainment screen on the wall, called up the mail that had come for her since yesterday. "A lot of holiday stuff here," he called over his shoulder. "I'll leave that stuff for you to look over. Oh, something from the Ambassador and her wife..." That was a bit of a surprise. She tended not to get messages from the far depths of the Beta Quadrant, and she smiled to herself at the fact she'd gotten one now. Probably the result of incessant nagging from a third party, but she'd take it. "Aannd... One from your father." Delvia's smile slipped away as if it had never existed. "Delete it." "You sure?" "He had his chance when I was a kid. He doesn't get to try and make up for it now. Kill it, then disappear." The Bolian shrugged and did as he was told - at least the deleting part. Finished with the mail, he ambled over and stood by the table as she finished the last of the breakfast he'd made for her and washed it down with a slug of coffee. Quite why he put up with her surly attitude, she had no real idea. Since he was happily married to his husband, it wasn't because of that... and since she'd pretty much chased away the first two domestic helpers she'd been assigned after she got out of hospital, it wasn't because he was just doing his job. "Enjoy your food?" "No. It was foul." "Ah, yes... that would be the targ vomit garnish. I thought you'd enjoy that." And there it was, the reason she never actually meant it when she told him to go away. He gave her as much grief as he got, and did it with a sly grin that told her she knew exactly why she was acting the way she did and was quite content to play along if it kept her happy. It would just ruin the game they played if she actually acknowledged that, though, so she just sneered at him as she levered herself to her feet. It was the first step she took away from the table that killed her. As soon as she put weight on the biosynthetic replacement for her right leg, the thing gave way utterly, sending her plummeting to the ground with all the grace of a collapsing ruin. Her hand shot out to try and grab the table, her cane clattering away as she went for the chair as well - but Brexx was there, as ever, to save her. Before she'd dropped more than a few inches, he was right behind her, his arms wrapping around her chest to catch her and get her steady again. Keeping her stable, he hooked a foot under her cane and flipped it up so she could catch it and stab the end into the ground. Once her rebellious limb was behaving again, she straightened herself up and he let her go, stepping back just enough to give her some space. Drawing a shaky breath, she glared at her leg, then looked over her shoulder at the persistent pest that had been sicced on her by Starfleet's veteran's affairs service. "Thanks." The one word she uttered was so softly spoken that it was barely audible at all, and Brexx's answer was a solemn and serious nod and nothing more. That was the way it always went, every time he was there to literally catch her when she fell. It wasn't just the dry humour they shared. It was the way he just would not let her down. "Ready for your day?" he asked after a few moments, glossing over the last few minutes with practised ease. "Get lost, you bald, blue freak." "Excellent. Give Counselor Herris my regards." This time, the disdainful twist of her mouth wasn't faked. She'd actually managed to forget she had to deal with her counselor today. What fun that promised to be... *** As she chewed on the sandwich she'd picked up on the way out of Starfleet Medical, Delvia thought about the odd way things seemed to go sometimes. She knew, for example, that the worst her leg would do during the day was an uncomfortable, sometimes downright painful, spasm or two. She also knew that the medical staff who'd treated her still had no idea how to counter the effects of the venom that had screwed up her nerves enough to stop the prosthetic meshing properly. Looking out over the bay, the shadow of the Golden Gate bridge falling over the water, she considered the event that had screwed her up so badly six years before - and put a very definite end to her career. The away mission had been pretty mundane, her job being to shepherd a bunch of science geeks around as they poked at the assorted foliage of the planet they were surveying. It wasn't the flora that had been a problem, as it turned out, but the fauna. Particularly the overgrown hairball that had burst out of the undergrowth without warning. She'd managed to drop it before it could do any damage to the science team, but had been too late to keep from getting a savage bite that had broken her knee in the process. To add insult to injury, whatever the creature had slobbered into her bloodstream had started digesting the flesh of her leg before they'd even managed to get her back to sickbay. So, here she was, out of a job she'd loved and still trying to fit into planet-bound life as a civilian. As she tried not to get lost in the memories of what had happened, her eyes shifted to the discrete stone plinth that sat by the edge of the water, a few meters from the bench she sat on. When she realised what she was looking at, she smiled tightly and closed her eyes, bowing her head in acknowledgement of what it memorialised - the men and women of San Francisco's civilian emergency services who'd risked, and lost, their lives to save others when the Breen had attacked two and half decades before. She paid her respects every time she passed this way, and didn't miss that even after all this time, there were always fresh flowers laid at the base of the concrete chunk. It was a much needed reminder, sometimes, that you didn't have to be in Starfleet to make a difference. Sighing, she tossed the remains of her lunch into the nearby trash can - her aim was still good, no matter what else - and hauled herself to her feet. She had time to kill before the next thing she had to do today, and felt the need to distract herself from not only that but the after-effects of yet another fruitless session with her counselor. Once a month, she sat and talked about her feelings, despite the fact she'd rather have stuck her head into a plasma fire. It was what she was supposed to do, after all, and the habit of doing as she ought was ingrained in her deeply enough that she didn't think it would ever fade. She didn't have to like it, of course. Just do it. Just like she didn't have to admit to anyone that the sessions actually did help... When she started paying attention to her surroundings again, Delvia realised she had managed to get almost the whole way to her favourite bar without even knowing what she was doing. Smiling to herself, she shook her head at the instincts that seemed to have developed whilst she lived here. "Why the hell not?" Her cane tapped against the ground as she covered the last little way to the bar, and when she walked through the door she shared a nod of greeting with Mack, the grizzled Terran behind the bar. She sometimes wondered if the place had actually been built around him, since she had never heard of him being sighted anywhere but here, and her certainly looked old enough. He was also a man of few words, and by the time she reached her usual stool at the bar itself he'd poured a glass of her favourite tipple and set it on the counter for her without any need for them to exchange anything more than they already had. She settled herself in place, propping her cane against the bar, and took a sip. Just as good as ever. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror that covered most of the wall behind the bar, and her lips twisted into a wry smile as she looked at her reflection. She used to wear her hair long, letting it flow down her back, but now it was cut so short it was barely able to spike up when she bothered to do anything with it. Pretty much the same went for her clothing, as well. Off-duty, she'd had a range of stuff to wear, all of it carefully chosen to emphasise her figure and colouration just so that she could have some fun during her downtime. What she wore now was pretty much whatever Brexx picked out for her, assuming she didn't manage to get it done first, and today it was plain and practical in style, the colours muted. She didn't wear bright shades any more, there didn't seem any reason to. Delvia heard a sniff from Mack's direction, and she glanced his way. When she saw the frown he was aiming her way, and the significant look he gave toward the half-dozen other patrons - most of them male - around the room, she sighed. "Sorry." Mack grunted and went back to his routine as she stuck a hand in her jacket pocket and pulled out the hypo that sat there. Another gift from the homicidal space-hamster and it's freaky drool. She pressed the hypo against her neck, triggered it, and dumped the thing back where it had come from. There was never any point trying to predict when she was going to have to dose herself up with pheromone suppressant any more. It had sometimes actually been amusing, but right now she wasn't in the mood to deal with male attention drawn her way by her natural biochemistry. There were enough incidents simply from being recognised as an Orion woman... and the last few times she'd tried to let herself indulge and enjoy, she'd learned that it was probably not going to go well... No, better to just cut that part off entirely, and just some pleasure in a nice quiet drink. *** The cool evening air followed her through the door as she walked into the gallery. She'd actually bothered to make an effort, and when she let the young man who greeted her take her coat, she knew that the makeup she'd applied, along with the attention she'd paid to her hair and the sleek black dress she'd reluctantly put on, made her look better than she had in a very long time. She'd even chosen to use the new cane that Brexx and his husband had gotten for her in honour of the occasion, and the whole ensemble made her feel like she might just be worth the effort of looking at for once. "Miss Corsetto, I'm so glad you could make it!" Delvia suppressed a grin at the hint of relief she heard in the voice, shifting her cane to her other hand so she could take the one being held out to her. Donatella Laine had never failed to be anything but charming and polite to her, though she'd had enough reason not to, and Delvia simply couldn't make herself like the idea that the gallery's owner might have believed she'd not come tonight. Given all the bullying and persuasion that had been put into getting her to agree to go along with this whole stupid idea, Delvia felt she really should try to make Donatella's investment of effort worthwhile. "Where else was I going to be?" she asked, and chuckled at the knowing gleam that appeared in the other woman's eyes. "Okay, yes, I'm a pain in the backside to deal with. I just... Look, you think I should be here, so I am." Donatella sighed laying a gentle touch on the Orion's arm. "No, dear, not just me. Look." She did as she was told, and swallowed on a suddenly tight throat when she saw that there were literally dozens of people around, all of them chatting to each other as they looked at the pictures hanging on the gallery walls with approval that was obvious even to her cynical eye. "Do you want to take a few moments?" She shook her head, knowing that if she'd said yes then Donatella would have been fine with it. She wouldn't have been, though, and waiting would only have made her nerves get worse. No, better to meet this head-on and get it done. "No, I'm good." Which was a lie, but the next part wasn't. "If I can be crazy enough to take on drunk Nausicaans, I can do this." A tinkle of laughter was all the response Donatella gave, taking a soft grip on Delvia's arms and leading her forward. "Ladies and gentlemen," she said loudly, catching the attention of everyone in the gallery. When she was sure they were all looking her way, she smiled and made a little gesture Deliva's way. "As we see in the dawn of 2400 with this beautiful display, it is my great pleasure to present you with our featured artist, Miss Delvia Corsetto." Training, experience, counseling... Delvia had all of them in bucket loads, but none of it helped prepare her for the way every single eye turned her way and applause rang out to fill the air. She recognised two of the city's biggest art critics in the crowd, as well as an FNS reporter that she knew specialised in such things. All of them were welcoming her with genuine pleasure, and she felt tears welling up in her dark eyes as it finally hit her that far from wasting their time, these people honestly wanted to be here, taking pleasure in the paintings she'd never thought anything but a way to kill some time. Maybe she could make this life out of uniform work, after all...
  13. == Stardate 239004.01 == "Yeah, Mum, I've got it. Don't worry!" Why was it that every time they finally got around to a subspace call, Ryoma was always left with the feeling of being nagged at? His mother's lips seemed to work themselves into a blur and her words phased out into a dull ringing noise deep with Ryoma's ears. He imagined switching off the display and cutting the conversation short, but he knew that option was restricted to the confines of his mind's eye. "Do you want to speak to your father?" That was all it took to bring him crashing back into reality. "Dad... ?" Ryoma asked hesitantly, "I... sure." He swallowed a small bundle of nerves and tensed himself for a dressing down. The screen changed and the cold steely face of Tadanobu Hoshino, a man losing the war with his years, filled the small poster-sized screen. "Hello son." He didn't seem particularly affected by seeing Ryoma's face on-screen for the first time in several months. Ryoma smiled; a mask for a whole ecosystem of feelings reigning inside him. "Hi Dad, how are you doing?" As the conversation continued, one couldn't really call it a progression, the unspoken tension stood as an impenetrable wall between them. This was the man who apparently disagreed with everything Ryoma had become. To his father, Ryoma was a pawn of militarists, taken in by Starfleet's propaganda - to any man living on the Cardassian border in the past 50 years, it was difficult to see Starfleet as anything but the sharpest end of the Federation's stick. While they frequently protected Ryoma's homeworld of Lyshan VI, they were also the enforcers of Federation policy to resettle the neighbouring worlds ceded to the Cardassians in the inter-war period, and their very presence in the system made Lyshan VI the target of both Cardassian and Dominion invasions... ... but to those who grew up in the Dominion War, Starfleet was heroism incarnate. Against great odds, they fought for peace in the Alpha Quadrant. It was a belief that Ryoma Hoshino had bought into, but one his father could never contemplate. A lifetime of hardship and disappointment had left him numb to his son's perspective. Ryoma had no doubt that the old man was just biting back his displeasure at seeing his son in uniform, and couldn't shake the feeling that bile would win over cordiality. He looked over at the ship's chronometer, eager to be anywhere else but taking this call. "Dad, I've got to go. I have to attend a staff meeting." He didn't see any change in the older man's demeanour, the rather unexpected end to their conversation instead seemed to euthanise what was an already tiresome attempt to keep up the pretense of familial ties. "Son, stay safe..." Ryoma didn't skip a beat: "I will, Dad. Bye now!" With a flick of a switch the conversation was over, leaving Ryoma staring at his reflection in the darkened panel as a sigh pushed past his lips. Why had his father even bothered attempting a conversation? == Stardate 240004.01 == Eyes devoid of recognition. That was the hardest thing to reconcile. Nothing was harder than returning from a walk around his childhood home's beautiful wooded gardens and seeing that shrivelled-up old man in his chair staring at him in silent panic, attempting to call upon one of a multitude of forever lost memories. Ryoma placed a hand on his son's back. "Ryo, we've got to leave soon, so why don't you go with Baa-chan and get yourself some biscuits." He smiled for the sake of his son, protecting him from the incredible heartache he felt clenching at his chest. Ever the good little boy, the littlest Hoshino went off to the kitchen with grandmother in search of homemade gingernut biscuits. That left the two of them alone. Tadanobu's deteriorating condition had left him little more than a ghost haunting the Hoshino household with an unknowable grief. A shell of a man who was still staring blankly at Ryoma. "Hi Dad..." Ryoma said softly as he sat in the armchair opposite his father. He noticed the lip hanging loosely from the old man's face, wobbling with the waves of tremors that beset Tadanobu's body. "How are you doing?" He smiled in a unthinking attempt to comfort his father. The returned smile was warm but brief, the old man's attention fluttering back towards the window. He hadn't spoken for nearly a year now, and his memories had begun fading long before that. Doctors said it was the effect of a degenerative neural condition particularly common among the survivors of the Federation-Cardassian border conflicts that marred Tadanobu's early years on Lyshan VI. The disorder had hollowed out the very essence of this once proud man. Ryoma looked over to the kitchen, meeting the gaze of his mother briefly before she returned to keeping her 9-year old grandson busy in the only way that grandmothers know how: excessive attention. Then Ryoma's gaze fell heavily to the floor, lingered and then flicked back to Tadanobu. "Dad... I... I am sorry I didn't take the time to get to know you better." He bit his bottom lip, stretching it out to keep it from quivering. Tadanobu turned in an apparent attempt to see where the voice had come from, his face reacting to Ryoma's obvious distress. "I thought for so long that disapproval of my job meant disapproval of me... I thought you hated what I'd become." He pulled a PADD from his jacket pocket and held it up. "I read your diaries, Dad... do you remember what you wrote?" Ryoma knew that he didn't, but he felt compelled to ask. "I never knew how you really felt, Dad..." The old man's face was streaked with a tear, no doubt a basic empathetic response to the sorrow of a what must have seemed to be a stranger. Regardless, that tear sent a dagger through Ryoma's heart. The younger man fell from the armchair and onto his knees, his hands forming a triangle front of him before his forehead moved to meet them. "Please forgive me!" Seconds passed by, and Ryoma kept his eyes to the floor, tear drops flowing over the backs of his hands, when the lightest of touches brushed Ryoma's hair. The sensation grew firmer as fingers planted themselves on Ryoma's head, followed by the soft warmth of a palm. "What's wrong, Dad?" He raised his head, his eyes rising to meet those of the old man, only to find him looking away, both hands in his lap. He continued searching for the voice, his hand reaching for the one that rested on his head. His eyes met his son's and he pulled the child into an embrace. "Ryo, I will always be proud of you, son." Moments passed before Ryoma felt an unbearable pressure to make sure he wasn't freaking his son out. He took a deep breath and allowed Ryo to squirm free. "Come on, it's time. Say goodbye to Baa-chan and Jii-chan." Ryo's brief distraction allowed Ryoma to get to his feet and hide all evidence of his lapse of composure. He moved over to his father and kissed him on the head. "I'll see you soon, Dad." He then moved over to his mother, hugging her with the full weight of the burden he had been carrying. "Sorry, Mum, but I'll be back soon, I promise." Ryoma then looked down at his son: "Ready?" The young Hoshino nodded his head firmly. "Okay then, computer, end transmission." The living room faded away to reveal the metal struts of the holodeck. Ryoma turned to see his the sofa where his father was sitting disappear into nothing and sighed deeply. His thoughts turned to his parents back on Lyshan VI, of his and his son's projections just fading away, and he wondered whether, perhaps, his father had felt anything as they did so. There wasn't a communications tool in the galaxy that could break through the blocks in Tadanobu's mind... but being able to be with his family across the seemingly infinite ranges of space at least gave him chance to confront those hardest of regrets: the ones you can never hope to fix. ====================== Ensign Ryoma Hoshino Intelligence OfficerUSS Discovery-C
  14. ((Capitol - New Romulus, 2400)) ::So much had changed in the galaxy since the Romulan homeworld had been destroyed. Captain Kaedyn Zehn marvelled at this as he stepped into the visitor's gallery above the newly built Romulan Senate chamber. He had personally seen the effects while serving onboard Starbase 118 on the edge of Romulan space. Where once the Empire was known for its insularity and paranoid control, he had seen it in tatters. He had also seen it rebuild itself at an impressive speed..:: ::Almost immediately after this thought had passed it was replaced by confusion that Starfleet would send him as part of the official Federation delegation. As relations with the Romulans warmed, so too had they cooled with the Klingons and Kaedyn had risen through the ranks as an intelligence officer - a spy - during a time when diplomacy had slept.:: ::Despite the best efforts of Starfleet, including the heroic actions of the Captains he had previously served under, Turner, Jaxx, Nicholotti and Herrara, the war with the Klingons had been unavoidable. When it had come, it had lead to millions of senseless deaths including that of his own husband, Eliaan, who was killed during the massacre on Deep Space 6. If it had not been for his career and, more importantly their young son, Kaedyn knew he would not have survived that loss but it was still so raw and he had found himself noticeably harder than he had been before it.:: ::Even now, even in this official setting, as his thoughts returned to his lost love, tears filled his eyes and he struggled to keep his emotions in check. It was a personal loss that allowed him to empathise with the Romulans who had lost so much more than he could imagine when their homeworld had been destroyed. He was interrupted from his morbid thoughts by the approach of a familiar Romulan man from the crowd.:: Sarup: Captain Zehn, it has been a long time. ::A faint smile danced in the eyes of the handsome Starfleet officer, where the uncried tears still remained. Ten years was a long time for most but for a Joined Trill, with more than three centuries of memories rattling around in his head, it sometimes felt like a blink of an eye. As he looked at the Romulan man, first encountered during the Klingon invasion of the Thracian Alliance, it felt like it had only been a few months.:: Zehn: Mr Sarup. You are perhaps the last person I expected to see here. Sarup: I'm part of the diplomatic mission from Thrace. I must admit, I never imagined that either of us would end up here. ::he paused and smiled:: But, I have been assured that my diplomatic status will prevent my former Tal Shiar colleagues from killing me while I am here. ::Only a Romulan, Kaedyn mused, could be so dry on the subject of his own possible assassination. It was yet another indication of the change in the Romulan government that they could welcome a delegation from the Alliance that had included a large number of former Imperial citizens to this event.:: Zehn: I agree it does feel strange to be here but that just goes to show different the Empire is from the one you left. ::An enigmatic look crossed the Romulan man's face, outwardly remaining friendly and diplomatic but there was also a darkness that was hard to pinpoint. For those who had lived in the Romulan Empire it was to be expected that a degree of cynicism would remain. Could that Empire truly change in ten years? The destruction of the moon Praxis had driven the Klingons to peace with the Federation but it had never changed their violent, warlike nature.:: Sarup: Perhaps, Captain. Although, from what I gather we may have already witnessed the high tide of Imperial openness and pacificism. Praetor Charon has built his power upon his ability to work with the Federation and the day when that help is no longer required fast approaches. There are those keen to step into his shoes... ::Unfortunately, Kaedyn had also heard similar rumblings. While not officially an intelligence officer any more, he still had contacts throughout the alpha and beta quadrants who fed him information. Old spies, he knew, never truly retired. After a decade of living in that world, secrets were still second nature to him. As always the Romulan government was riddled with factions and factions within factions. All the intelligence suggested that the Praetor's power was waning. There were two leading candidates to replace him in time, one was an old ally and the other was more troubling.:: Zehn: Senator Varend... ::Sarup beamed and nodded slowly in a mock version of a bow.:: Sarup: I'm glad to see your intelligence skills are not going to waste since you took command of that starship of yours. Yes, the Senator is very much the rising star. Zehn: And what of Vreeya? ::Proconsul Vreeya was, to Kaedyn's mind, the very personification of the new Romulus. He had first encountered more than a decade earlier when she had become a close ally of Admiral Nicholotti. She was intelligent, resourceful, fiercely patriotic and the very model of an inter-stellar stateswoman.:: Sarup: Ah, yes Vreeya. Believe me, Captain, no-one would rather see the magnificent Proconsul rise to the position she deserves than I. Zehn: ::smiling:: Sarup, I believe you are in love ::The Romulan nodded and for a split-second a genuine look of regret crossed his face.:: Sarup: Maybe a long time ago. However, the Proconsul's close relationship with Starfleet and President Creena of Thrace have marked her as something the Romulans have long mis-trusted: a foreigner. I fear when the Praetor falls, Vreeya will also fall. My only hope is that she will manage to escape with her life as she is certainly no ally of Varend. ::Before the Trill could respond, Praetor Charon entered the chamber followed by the Proconsuls and the leading Senators in order of precedence. The audience rose to their feet and applauded politely until the officials were in place. Smiling widely, the Praetor took to the podium and indicated for everyone to take their seats. He made a short speech, mainly thanking the guests for their attendance and discussing the hardships of the past years. It was a speech that seemed more suited to a Federation politician than the leader of the Romulan Empire and as he finished up, Kaedyn worried that Sarup had been right about the coming transition.:: Charon: I hereby declare the New Romulan Senate open ::There was another polite round of applause and people began to stand to head into the reception room when one of the Senators stood.:: Sarup: ::in a low voice:: The famed Senator Varend Varend: If I may say a few words, Praetor... Zehn: ::whispering:: What the hell...? ::A low noise of quiet consternation rippled throughout the crowd. Even with the relative informality of the situation, it was unheard of for a Senator to speak up in such an event unless called upon by the Praetor. By speaking out, Varend was challenging his authority in the most public of ways. Kaedyn held his breath as the Praetor attempted to cover his surprise at the break of protocol.:: Charon: ::nodding:: Very well, Senator. ::Having failed to respond to the challenge, the Praetor had allowed Varend to position himself as a political opponent rather than subordinate. As he the Senator began to speak, it was clear that he was doing so as a powerful usurper. The murmurs died down as the crowd listened to the man who would be king.:: Varend: I want to begin by commending the Praetor for his magnificent work in rebuilding the Empire in these past years ::As the crowd applauded the sentiment politely, Kaedyn glanced at Sarup who was shaking his head slightly. Evidently the Thracian envoy could see the compliment for what it truly was: a political assassination clothed in a smiled. Only a politician of the highest order could pull off such a feat.:: Varend: We have endured many hardships since the destruction of Romulus. The loss of our home, our friends and our family was followed in quick succession by a loss of pride. Our once proud Empire was forced to rely on the kindness of adversaries and tolerate betrayals that would have been unthinkable before... Sarup: ::in a low voice:: I think he means us... Varend: Today, with the dedication of the new Senate chamber on our new homeworld, we reclaim our pride. The time for the new Romulan Empire begins today ::The audience rose to their feet in excitement, applauding and cheering in a way that was uncharacteristic for the usually reserved Romulans. Kaedyn, Sarup and the other non-Romulan guests in the gallery clapped politely but there was a sense of nervousness among them. The Praetor looked crestfallen as Varend began to shake hands with other officials and pointedly avoided him and Proconsul Vreeya who also looked grim. Varend had seized the political initiative in the most dramatic way imaginable.:: Sarup: Did you see who shook his hand first? Admiral Koral Zehn: The Chief of the Imperial General Staff? Sarup: The very same. If he has the power of the military behind him, he will be Praetor by the end of the year and the military build up will start at the same time. When they speak of the next war, they will say it began today. Zehn: ::shaking his head ::Madness Sarup: Perhaps, Captain, perhaps. On the other hand, no-one ever said the Romulan government was sane. ::The Trill's train of thought continued, almost as if Sarup had not spoken. The applause of the crowd had still not abated, it was like watching the terrifying rise of a dictator:: Zehn: After all we've done for them, the Empire would have been overrun by the Klingons if we hadn't helped them Sarup: And that is precisely why they hate you. The Federation is a reminder of their past weakness and to reject you is to ignore that weakness... and to fight you would be to fight those memories. Zehn: The Romulan people have changed since you defected. They've had to change. Sarup: I may have been away for a decade, Captain but I am still Romulan. I know these people; I was these people. War will come. ((Ready Room - USS Turing)) ::Having stayed at the reception for minimum time that diplomacy allowed, Kaedyn had returned to his ship and briefed Starfleet on the shocking events of the day. They had been just as concerned about the situation as he had been and he was authorised to very discretely take the lay of the land on Romulus. As he sat in the ready-room of his Akira-class starship, he pored over every scrap of intelligence on Senator Verand that he could get his hands on.:: ::He was interrupted by the chimes of his door.:: Zehn: Come in ::His intelligence officer, Lt Commander Zak Malik, entered the room. Having been with him since his days in the Black Tower, the handsome human was now a trusted friend as well as an able officer.:: Malik: Captain, we just got word from the surface that Proconsul Vreeya won't be able to meet with you. Zehn: I didn't imagine she would risk being seen consorting with Starfleet after this afternoon but it was worth a try... Malik: Her office did send us this through secure channels, I'm sure you will find it useful ::He handed Kaedyn a PADD and the Trill scanned the Romulan intelligence file on Senator Verand. This was even better than meeting with Vreeya and a slight smile crossed his face.:: Zehn: Indeed. ((Conference Room - USS Turing)) ::With his hands behind his back, Kaedyn stared out of the conference room window at the planet below them. Behind him, Ambassador Sarup examined the intelligence that Vreeya had given them, the intelligence that indicated the very close ties between Senator Verand and the Klingon Empire. No-one knew how accurate the adage of history repeating itself was better than a Trill, throughout the past two hundred years the alliances between the Federation, Romulans and Klingons had shifted frequently. Links between the two Empires had always formed when the Federation was considerably stronger than them both. As was the case now.:: Sarup: We always suspected this but we had no confirmation until now. I will be honest, Captain, this is the worst case scenario for us. ::The Thracian Alliance, made up as it was from breakaway elements of the Romulan and Klingon empires, had relied on the emnity of the two and would certainly be destroyed if it found itself surrounded by a Romulan-Klingon detente. Even though it was a Federation Protectorate, there was little that Starfleet could do to protect her. Kaedyn returned to his chair at the head of the conference table.:: Zehn: So now we have the choice between sitting back and watching two of our enemies rise again or taking a pre-emptive strike while they are still weak. Sarup: Come, Captain, you know that neither your government nor my own would sanction such action. Zehn: Then we have to wait until he becomes Praetor and plunges us back into an intergalactic war? Sarup: There is, of course, a third option... ::Silence filled the room. They had both been in the intelligence business for a long time and Kaedyn knew exactly what he meant.:: Sarup: Why, I wonder, did Starfleet send you on this mission? Was it truly for your diplomatic skills and fame in Romulan circles... ::The Trill nodded.:: Zehn: And why did President Creena send you? Sarup: I'd imagine for the same reason. You may be a Captain now and I may be an Ambassador but we're just two old spies, Zehn. Zehn: If we assassinate a member of the Romulan Senate then war is inevitable... Sarup: Only if someone finds out. If, for example, it appeared that the Praetor had the Senator killed then it would clear the way for Proconsul Vreeya to take charge... Zehn: Even if it was as easy as that to do, it would also be illegal in both the Federation and Thracian Alliance Sarup: ::snapping:: Don't be so naive, Captain! We're talking about the death of one man to prevent a war. ::There was a long silence as Kaedyn considered his options. Sarup was, of course, correct that preventing another war was of paramount concern. Still, unlike many of their shared profession, Kaedyn had never allowed himself to cross the line that Sarup was now suggesting.:: Sarup: Think about what I have said, Captain. One way or another, this will happen. I have a greater chance of succeeding with your help. ::Without an adequate response, Kaedyn rose to his feet and straightened his uniform.:: Zehn: Thank you for joining me, Ambassador. I am late for dinner with my son... I'll be in touch ((New Romulus, three days later)) ::As far as anyone knew, the USS Turing's captain was onboard as she left Romulan space and the Ambassador had left with the Thracian delegation. Between the two of them, Zehn and Sarup knew enough tricks of the trade to make it discretely onto New Romulus without detection. That, it had turned out, was the easy part. Evidently, the Romulans had made sure to include their usual paranoid security aparatus to their new home.:: ::With a biodampening unit keeping his Trill life-signs suppressed, Kaedyn found himself waiting in the safe house of a Thracian spy. Thracian Intelligence were active on the planet and he could have left Sarup to lead this himself but he was still secretly hoping there would be a way around it. Vreeya's intelligence showed evidence that could be used to blackmail the Senator, particularly his illegal intelligence gathering for the Klingons. In truth, Verand was little more than a Klingon puppet and while Sarup was determined to kill him, Kaedyn believed he could be turned.:: ::A plan was in place, with the assistance of the pro-Federation faction in the Senate Sarup had been able to organise access to the security protocols for the Senate offices. When they were confident the Senator was alone in his office, the security network would be dropped and they would beam in. The signal came that everything was in place and Kaedyn wrapped a hooded cloak around him and grabbed a disruptor. As they stepped into position, he adjusted the beam setting.:: Sarup: Are you ready, Captain? ::He thought of his son, he was only twelve and had already lost both of his biological parents and Eliaan. He didn't deserve to become an orphan again but it was for him that Kaedyn was committed to this course of action. He had to prevent the war and if he was lucky, he could do so without being killed himself.:: Zehn: Ready Sarup: Well, we'll know if we're going to be successful or not very soon. ::Gripping his weapon tightly, Kaedyn took a deep breath as he dematerialised, not knowing what to expect next. They rematerialised in the officer and Senator Verand leapt out of his chair, evidently shocked and afraid.:: Verand: Who are you? ::Kaedyn pulled his hood down, revealing his Trill forehead.:: Zehn: Captain Kaedyn Zehn Verand: ::with a wry smile:: What do you want, Captain? You must know you won't get off this planet if you fire that weapon. Zehn: I only want to prevent a war, Senator. Sarup: What are you doing, Zehn? Take the [...]ed shot! ::Holding the disruptor up, his gloved hand shaking visibly, Kaedyn tensed the muscles in his jaw to stop his lip from quivering with nerves. With a sharp movement, he turned and fired at Sarup. The Thracian fell to the floor, stunned but not dead. Kaedyn turned the weapon back to Verand.:: Zehn: Senator, we need to talk... END. Lieutenant Kaedyn Zehn Intelligence Officer USS Vigilant
  15. Remember that February is the time to enter our special Writing Improvement Month Challenge! Rules and guidelines are posted below, but be sure to follow the link in order to enter! The general 118 Challenge has had its deadline pushed back to March in order to make room for this special Challenge. -- Welcome to UFOP: StarBase 118′s first open Writing Challenge! We encourage you to enter this month-long contest with your story, and join a competition that has existed within our group for almost ten years. The topic for this challenge is “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Details & Rules The challenge is accepting submissions from Friday, February 1st to Saturday, February 23rd. Results will be announced by February 28th. Please observe the following rules for your submission: Your work must SciFi-focused, but does not have to be Star Trek themed.Your work must be completely original.You must be the work’s sole author.The story cannot exceed 3000 words. (You can use this tool to check the length of your submission.) Prize The winner will receive this awesome t-shirt in their size! If you don’t want that, there are tons of other prizes available, up to $25 value, not including shipping. Prizes only available to residents of the United States. If you’re not a resident of the United States, but you win the contest, will receive a cash prize of $25 US via PayPal. Submit Your Entry To submit your entry, click here to open the submission form. For any questions you might have, please email Capt. Nicholotti and Capt. Aron Kells at wim2013-challenge@starbase118.net. Good luck!
  16. The stars sparkled brilliantly overhead, their cold light crystal clear in the thin atmosphere of the world on which they stood. A sharp, cold wind blew, ruffling hair and heavy fabric meant to ward off the chill. Two figures stood upon a hill overlooking a plain, sillouhetted against the glowing horizon that heralded the coming of the sun. "I admit it, I never thought I’d see it happen.” One of the figures said. Her dark hair flowed down to the sharply squared shoulders of a heavy jacket that narrowed to a trim waist, padded trousers and high boots with gleaming buckles. "May I enquire as to the reason for your doubt?” The other asked. Tall and spare, clad in heavy, flowing robes embroidered with geometric patterns. He turned to look at his companion, the growing light outlining sharp features. She met his gaze for a moment, her frown stark against the light of promised dawn, before she looked once more out over the valley below. “Because it faced so much opposition; from both sides.” She said plainly. So much so that it was a miracle it had come to pass; perhaps it said something about those determined few who had argued for it. "Yet it was the most logical and expedient solution.” He pointed out, followed her gaze. Below them on the dry plain squatted an orderly collection of pre-fab buildings arranged around a central space which was currently occupied by a large variety of crates containing all those things the new colony would need to get established. The buildings were furnished and ready for habitation, and beyond them fields had been mapped out for farming. "Not everyone’s as fething obsessed with logic as you people.” The woman grumbled. “Indeed, yet logic has the advantage of being undeniable.” Her companion pointed out, a dry tone in his voice. “’You can agree with me, or you can be wrong’ eh?” She paraphrased. “You have no idea how annoying that gets.” He didn’t deign to respond. They watched the sun crest the distant hills in silence until her communicator sprang to life. *\/* “Subcommander Tayel to Commandant Loran.” *\/* She activated her communicator. *\/* “Loran here, are we on schedule?” *\/* *\/* “Yes ma’am. The first transport shuttles are dropping out of orbit now. ETA on Outpost One is 08:75 local time.” *\/* *\/*”Understood. I will meet the shuttles.” *\/* *\/* “Yes ma’am. Tayel out.” *\/* As the communication ended a small dot became visible above the horizon, against the light of the morning sun. It was shortly followed by several more. “Well, this is it, there’s no turning back. No second thoughts, Ambassador Saveron?” She asked her taller companion. The growing light from the rising sun cast shadows off the V-shaped ridge above her upturned brows, highlighted a pointed ear and warmed her sallow skin. “None, Commandant.” Her pale faced companion confirmed. They spoke an ancient language his people called Traditional Golic Vulcan. Now primarily a ritual language it was never the less the only tongue they truly had in common, and had become a lingua franca in the negotiations. He considered her question before raising one upswung brow. “Should there be?” He asked, curious. The freezing wind picked up, stirring his dark hair and nipping at his pointed ears until he raised the cowl of his robes. “There are plenty of people who would baulk at having their ancient enemies as their neighbours.” She pointed out, a dark amusement in her tone. Beneath her boots the dry rock crunched and crumbled as she shifted her weight; the cold air didn't bother her as much. “You were never our enemies. The Star Empire made war with the Federation at times certainly, but Romulans and Vulcans are ‘two sides of the same coin’,” that was an expression he’d picked up from spending too much time around aliens, “we are kin.” The Commandant of the new Romulan colony snorted. “There are plenty of people on both sides who would hate to hear you say that.” Saveron shrugged. “There is no logical reason to perpetuate disagreement for it’s own sake. Your people were in need of a new homeworld; t’Khut was already being terraformed.” The course of action had been logical, at least to some. Alas that even amongst a people who prided themselves on their adherance to reason, there were those who could not let go of old wounds. She snorted and stalked off down the slope of the hill towards the settlement. “It was being terraformed by Vulcans for Vulcans; there were plenty in the Vulcan High Council who didn’t want to give it up, didn't want us living in the same system.” She pointed out. It was all working too well, surely there had to be a catch somewhere. She had an instinct for upcoming trouble and it was telling her it would be there in spades. Both of them were breathing noticeably in the very thin air, although given the greater oxygen affinity of cuproglobin they could both compensate acceptably. Any red-blooded visitor to t’Khut would require tri-ox injections or an oxygen mask until the atmosphere thickened. It was enough that the first hardly Romulan souls could make planetfall. “The alternative would have been accepting you as refugees onto t’Khasi, and other Federation worlds.” He pointed out, using his people’s name for their own planet. “Would you have found that preferable?” He enquired. “Scattering the remaining Romulans across Federation space until we lose our cultural identity? We could never have condoned that.” Loran shook her head. “There are plenty who say that we should not condone this.” She said, gesturing around them. "Indeed. You could, of course, settle on a planet outside of the Federation.” Saveron pointed out evenly as they walked, their footfalls waking little puffs of dust from the dry ground. “And be picked off slowly by the Klingons, the Breen and whoever else sought to take advantage of the catastrophe?” Loran retorted. “That’s not much of a choice.” And that was what those of her people who did not desire to go down in a blaze of glory had needed to face. “Yet it is a choice, one which you have been free to make.” The Vulcan responded placidly. “Freedom to choose includes taking responsibility for the consequences of your choices.” It was an aspect of freedom that some preferred to forget. “Here you are safe, you may gather as many refugees as you will, and providing that you adhere to the laws of the Federation you may construct your society as you see fit.” “There are many who will not want to have anything to do with the Federation; who blame your people for not stopping the destruction of Romulus.” She said darkly. “I cannot comment on the issue.” And he would not. He hadn’t been on Vulcan when he decision to send the red matter ship had been made. The Romulans claimed the Vulcans could have sent the ship sooner; the Vulcan High Council maintained that it was a miracle that they had the appropriate technology at all and if the Romulans hadn’t been so busy expanding their Empire they might have turned their attention to defusing the stellar bomb sitting on their doorstep. All couched in appropriately logical and diplomatic terms, of course. It was an argument that Saveron, well aware of Loran’s penchant for playing Devil’s Advocate, did not care to get into. There were still remnants of the Romulan Star Empire causing trouble beyond Federation space, determined to live in remembered glory and make their mark out there somewhere. But there were just as many who preferred not to go down fighting, who chose a chance to live and raise their children in peace. For all her internal conflict and the conflict of her people, Loran was one of them. “It’s going to be strange, seeing Yel and t’Khasi in the sky.” She commented idly. Yel rising was a sight her people hadn’t seen for two thousand years. “The ice asteroids will continue to be brought, won’t they?” She asked suddenly. If the mining droids stopped bringing the life-giving water, the colonists would be doomed. “All terraforming efforts will continue as per the accelerated schedule.” Saveron assured her. T’Khut was the smaller, cooler twin of t’Khasi or Ti'Valka'ain to use the ancestral term; the planet that aliens called Vulcan. It had been a Class G world with a thin, carbon-dioxide atmosphere that the massive algal tanks fed with asteroid ice water were converting rapidly into oxygen and sugars that could be used as a food source. Hardy plants from a variety of sources were beginning to be established by the environmental engineers, and a precious few Romulan plant specimens were housed in a large glass-house laboratory until such time as they could be introduced into the environment. Over time the water would keep arriving, the atmosphere would thicken and the world would warm. It would be a temperate world, much like Romulus had been, one day. He wondered whether it would be possible to ever fully satisfy Loran’s suspicious nature. “The water reservoir for Settlement One has been completed and tested. The asteroid processing and water tanker station is in orbit and will be turned over to Romulan control once sufficient staff have been trained in it’s usage. Survival supplies have been provided, and industrial replicators are inbound on the next equipment shipment, along with further agricultural and building supplies.” Saveron ticked off the most recent developments. “You may do with them what you will.” “What we will.” Loran echoed as they reached the level ground at the foot of the hill. “Will we really be left to our own devices? To live as we have lived?” She asked him. “We left for a reason; we will not become Vulcans!” She insisted! There were many who maintained this was a front by the Vulcans for a staged cultural assimilation. “Affirmative. Romulan culture is now endangered and must be preserved. You may control who does and does not enter your world. As a people you have as much right to freedom, peace and prosperity as any other.” He replied. “There are many who wouldn’t agree.” She pointed out. Plenty of people and indeed whole species had reason to hate the Romulans. Again Saveron shrugged. “This is not their system.” He said in turn. The decision had not been one made by the Federation as a whole – though they had condoned it. Since the planet with within Vulcan space, the act of gifting it had belonged to the High Council. Reparation for past wrongs perhaps? Or one step towards cultural assimilation, as Loran feared? “There are plenty of Vulcans who wouldn’t agree either.” She insisted. “Why did you champion our cause?” She asked suddenly, curious, turning to look at him. He gave her a long, thoughtful look from grey eyes. “Because I believe that all sentient life has the right to exist, to live and to grow, in accordance with it’s own mores and free from fear or persecution. Because one cannot hold an entire race accountable for the actions of a few of it’s members. Because, if the tables were turned, I would want the same to be done for us.” He told her honestly. It still didn’t make sense to Loran, raised in a militaristic society. “Don’t you worry that we could become a threat to you?” She asked as, in the near distance, the first refugee transport touched down on t’Khut soil at the edge of the settlement. Saveron stopped where they stood, not intending to enter the new settlement at this time. He wondered for a moment whether Loran's people would ever trust his, and whether they would ever be trusted in turn. However he refused to be drawn on any personal concerns. “We are protected by Federation treaty.” The Vulcan replied simply. “This world will prove challenging enough for you that you will not need to seek challenge beyond. It is not a kind world, but it is livable.” Much like t’Kashi itself. Lorna snorted and shook her head, took a few steps further then paused and looked around her, taking in the dusty hills, the pre-fabbed settlement and the first settlers disembarking. “I still don’t understand why you did it.” She called back. “There’s two thousand years of bad blood between our peoples. If the tables had been turned we would not have done the same!” Saveron regarded her solemnly for a moment, looked over at the new settlers and back again to Loran. “That is, perhaps, the greatest reason why we did.”
  17. Chen

    JAN/FEB The Cost of Failure

    “The Cost of Failure” A vivid flower of flame-tinged gold blossomed from the bed of dull metal that was suspended in the view screen. It was an oddly compelling sight; the sudden contrast of light bursting from relative darkness bound their gazes and rendered them silent. Only when further eruptions twisted through the dull metal construct did time resume as the first of the cheers broke through the silence, the bridge mirroring in sound the deed of the satellite that they watched in jubilation. They were the crew of the USS Vigilant and they had successfully completed their mission. Stardate 240001.15 It had been almost ten years to the day that the present journey had begun. Every officer could break their career down into a series of such voyages, most coinciding with their placement aboard a new vessel or outpost. For many on the Vigilant, that journey had spanned a decade. They had shared each other’s losses and revelled in each other’s successes. Above and beyond all else, in the estimation of Captain Diego Herrera, they had given of their all to protect the citizens of the United Federation of Planets through the most turbulent period of recorded history. It had started shortly after the Vigilant’s construction on the Zakdorn homeworld. The crew’s first mission had concluded with the successful aversion of Zakdorn IV’s secession from the Federation and the Vigilant had launched, hoping to act as a stabilising factor on the outermost edge of the UFoP’s Beta Quadrant colonies. For a while, they were. However, not even the Zakdorn master-strategists could have predicted what was happening behind the closed borders of Zalkon, scant light-years away. Fired into hostility by zealot rhetoric, they poured from their corner of the quadrant in impossibly fast destroyers, expanding their power and influence with ease and overriding what little resistance the Federation had to offer. In response, the Zakdorn wasted no time in switching sides, allying with the Klingons before the final unfortunate and [...]ing twist of fate. It had been a dark day indeed when the Zalkonians and Klingons had declared their alliance, and with Zakdorn tacticians to guide their hand, the greatest threat the Federation had ever faced was born. Never before had Federation colonies fallen so swiftly and, as the blue portion of the galactic map was forced into recession, casualties of record proportions were recorded. The Federation was on the ropes. The doors to the ready room hissed open. Head jerking towards the door, Captain Herrera quickly recognised Lieutenant Paulsen, his ever present PADD tucked under his arm. The captain’s expectant look served as acknowledgement enough for him to begin delivering his report. “Sir, the destruction of the communications relay is confirmed.” The report seemed superfluous, given that Diego had seen it with his own eyes, but recent experiences had taught them all that looks could be deceptive. The Lieutenant continued, “We’ve received an encoded transmission from Starbase 118 that I thought you’d like to see.” The war-weary CO nodded his thanks. “I’ll take a look at it now. Thankyou, Will.” Blinking his attention back to the screen, he refocused on the same puzzle that he had been looking at for the last few years. On one side of his monitor ran 11 sequences of numbers and symbols, representing a tau protein and its encoding exons. On the other, a political map of Federation space, which now extended no further north than Starbase 118, a veritable bastion that as yet had proved impossible for the Zalkonian Alliance to crack. His mind was torn between the two puzzles so perfectly that he found it impossible to view them one at a time. On the right hand side of his monitor he had met with some success in viewing the invading force as a biological agent and attempting to anticipate its response to treatment and head it off, before it could take hold elsewhere. On the left he made slower progress; the latest iteration of the display represented a possible key to the reversal and regeneration of his father’s frontal and temporal lobes as they degenerated progressively as a cause of his dementia. One war was public, shared by those on his crew and those of the other commanding officers now based at the third fleet’s headquarters. The other was internal, private and excruciating. Tearing himself away from his ongoing quandary, he studied the message from headquarters. The Vigilant’s actions had helped the second taskforce, led by the Tiger and the Thunder, to a victory as they defended the ‘northern’ border from a combined Zalkonian and Klingon assault. The Apollo and Discovery were holding a secondary wave of ships in check along the Klingon border with the third taskforce. An addendum indicated that the Victory stood point with a defensive fleet at Starbase 118, prepared and ready to defend themselves against a counter-attack from phase-cloaked vessels. Such tactics had led to the fall of Starbase 173, the upgraded stealth technology just one of the many spoils from the eradication of the tattered Romulan Star Empire. The Vigilant’s newly-reported status also appeared in the communiqué; they were now acting on orders to rendezvous with taskforce one. Fleet Admiral Nechayev had laid out detailed plans for a counteroffensive in the last command meeting aboard the starbase and, despite objections from Fleet Admiral Wolf, had insisted in committing a sizeable reserve of ships to the effort. Their target was to be a shipyard that had been constructed some two years ago in the Luxis system. Destroying the communications satellite had given them the rarest window of opportunity in which to strike. Many of the captains had been in agreement with Nechayev; the chance to mount an offensive after being pressed back so hard and for so many years striking a chord with them. Some had been more reserved. Irrespective of their reactions, every piece now stood on Nechayev’s board exactly where she wanted it, ready to press home her advantage. Closing the report, his screen returned to its bifurcated display. Eyes left and he considered something new. The condition from which his father was suffering was believed to be caused by a mutated gene that produced an overabundance of tau proteins, leading to degradation of neuron function. For a long time now he had been considering ways in which to inhibit the production of those proteins but the problem was so deep-seated that it was incorporated into his father’s DNA. Resequencing had been tried, to no effect; the problem had reasserted itself after a matter of weeks. Eyes right and he remembered to check the chronometer. The time for the rendezvous was fast approaching. His first officer was more than capable of handling it but it didn’t seem right for the commanding officer to be hidden away in his ready room at the start of such an important operation. Whatever else was happening, the crew needed to see him sat in the centre seat. As another famous captain had once asserted, you had to be “larger than life” for the crew and that was just how he would play this out. The bridge was quiet. Only the infrequent chirp of a readout or keystroke punctuated the assiduous atmosphere. The carpeted floor muffled the sound of Diego’s footsteps as he approached his command chair. His Laudean first officer moved across to his own station, a well-rehearsed response to the captain’s appearance from his ready room. Both men were former counsellors and had been trained to be observant; as the retractable centre-mounted command console began to rotate into position, it became clear that Greir Reinard was by now quite used to Diego’s obsession with that same display. It had been easy to pass off as a minor side-effect of wartime stress. All of the crew had presented various low-level symptoms over the years but they were managing them, keeping them in check. The numerical nature of the protein display had initially been presented as such so that Reinard, who had majored in Psychology and Counselling at the academy, might not identify it immediately. He was a resourceful, intelligent man and a good friend. Most likely, he knew what the series of numbers meant by now but if he didn't then it was only a matter of time. “Open a channel to the USS Beaufighter. We have an old friend to check in with.” Strictly speaking, it would have been wrong to attribute an emotion to the computer’s resultant tone but if Diego hadn’t known any better he could have sworn it sounded irritated. He waited for an explanation from Hanson at Ops. “We’re unable to raise them, sir. Shall I contact Engineering and report the problem?” There were a few instantly explicable reasons for their failure to communicate. It was possible that comms silence was being preserved as a means of preventing the enemy from listening in on their intentions. Had there been a serious issue with the ship’s comm-system, it would have been flagged up already on Hanson’s console. “No,” replied the captain, calmly, “Dueld and Kael will have enough to do when we cross over into Zalkonian space. We’ll try again when we’re at closer range.” He shot a resigned look over to his Laudean friend, his rich-blue pigmented forehead accentuated by the furrow currently in his brow. “I guess we’ll just have to wave at Leo through a viewport.” The light-hearted comment was fresh air to the bridge crew. Half a conversation later, they arrived at the rendezvous co-ordinates, the prominent figures of the Achilles and Avandar at the head of a column of ships. As Lieutenant Commander Fox brought them into position alongside the Mercury, Diego looked once more at his screen. Something was tugging at the back of his mind but he was unable to force the thought to coalesce into something tangible. Shaking it off, he called for contact with the Beaufighter once again. He expected that Leo Handley-Page’s indefatigably chipper attitude would lift spirits considerably more. The briefest of calls proved him right and the comm-system functional. All questions about its reliability were answered moments later when a call from the Achilles informed them that there were ten minutes remaining before the operation was to begin. There was definitely something forming in Diego’s mind… if only he could catch it. Drawn as if chasing a will o’ wisp, he tried to follow it, looking under one set of thoughts and behind another. His eyes focused on the right hand side of his display. The sandbar. He had served at the Embassy before. The Luxis system was his first officer’s home. For Greir, this was a chance to liberate his people from Zalkonian occupation and he had a personal stake in its success. The more he thought about it, the more the sandbar played on his mind. It turned the Luxis system into a cul-de-sac, allowing entry and egress from only one direction. Unless the Zalkonians were constructing phasing cloaks in that system, or at the very least stockpiling them there, it was going to be very easy for the taskforce to pin down any enemy ships and destroy them before moving on to their intended target. Even though they had needed to remove the communications relay, which served as an early-warning system, in order to make the strike, what if the Zalkonians had developed the technology to navigate the sandbar? That turned an easy win for Starfleet into an ambush. There would be no way to get a clear reading on exactly how many vessels lay in wait for them. Rising from his seat, Diego turned to face the Ops station with a calm, clear instruction. “Hanson, contact Fleet Captain Turner aboard the Thunder.” She was close enough to that area of space that she might be able to help him rationalise his concern. Her officers had navigated the sandbar a hundred times. She had even taken Britta Daysa and her children aboard ship during the evacuation of Duronis II at the Prime Minister’s request, although by the time a fielder entered range of the sandbar, the ship they were on would be too close to escape a surprise attack. A frustrated shake of Hanson’s head indicated another lack of success. “I’m sorry, sir… we’re unable to get through. There’s nothing wrong with the comm.” Scenarios played through Diego’s mind. Had the Thunder been destroyed? He couldn’t very well proceed under that assumption and instead followed his training. “We’re obviously not under comms silence and we couldn’t have contacted the Beaufighter if our signals were being jammed. What could be stopping us from communicating long range?” Hanson puffed his cheeks as a precursor to a sharp expulsion of breath. He was noncommittal as he listed random phenomena from the top of his head. “A problem with the subspace antenna, a flotilla of ships generating a jamming frequency at range, any one of hundreds of subspace anomalies including a subspace disturbance, rift… you name… Sir?” Diego stood looking at him, but his eyes were seeing that display once again. He didn’t need to consult his monitor to know that once taskforce one began to move, it would create a narrow corridor through which phase-cloaked ships could avoid the scant detection grids that Starfleet had managed to erect. And that path led straight to Starbase 118. The Zalkonians had no shipyard at Luxis. This was a ruse, calculated by Zakdorn strategists, that had taken years to come into fruition. They were going to launch a massive assault on the starbase then turn and annihilate the remainder of the third fleet before they could reunite into one cohesive unit. There was no question that Nicholotti and the Victory would give them a hell of a show when they arrived but the recent pattern of assaults indicated that they would be facing insurmountable odds. Even with the Victory’s formidable war record, no-one could be expected to fight against eight to one odds, or worse. About to take action, Diego found himself frozen in place as the left side of the display muscled its way into the equation. Target the source and destroy all resistance before it has a chance to develop into a problem. That was it! A combination of DNA resequencing with the introduction of a michrochemical agent to inhibit serine and threonine phosphorylation could halt the progression of his father’s frontotemporal dementia. Maybe not reverse it, but… There was a hand on his forearm. Greir Reinard was standing alongside him. Had he just spoken his name? A chronometer on the view screen showed that the ten minute countdown was well underway. He didn’t have time to stand around thinking about cures while there was so much at stake. It would have to wait. Clearing his throat and turning back towards the view screen, he regained his composure. “Mr. Hanson, I think you’d better open a channel to the taskforce.” ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The ready room was in darkness. Silhouetted against a backdrop of ornaments and personal possessions by the light of his monitor, Captain Herrera stared on. The unified display was uncomfortable and difficult to process; he kept glancing to one side as though there was more to see. But there wasn’t. He had read through the same schedule on autopilot for hours. Since the Vigilant had docked at the Starbase after its successful defence and the reception of a communiqué from Santander, Earth, he had elected to remain concealed there. Commander Reinard’s concern had been clear when Diego had asked not to be disturbed. And yet, there it was as plain as day. A debrief for all commanding officers with Fleet Admirals Wolf and Nechayev, no more than two hours away. There was cause for celebration, of course. Fleet Captain Mar’s taskforce had arrived back at Starbase 118 in time to lend Captain Nicholotti some timely reinforcement. The return of the second and third taskforces had then tipped the scales. And while good people had been lost, while there were memorial speeches to be written, the name of one man turned a narrow escape and a priceless victory into the most bitter defeat of them all. Carlos Herrera. A ten year game had finally met its resolution. He had held the means to victory in his hand but his feet had been too slow to carry it across the finish line. Millions would no doubt benefit from his discovery, as was always the case with a new medical breakthrough, but it was too late. Such was the cost of failure. Captain Diego Herrera Commanding Officer USS Vigilant NCC-75515    
  18. Hello! Welcome to the January/February round of the Writing Challenge! Please read this post carefully for new guidelines on entering your submissions! Following in challenge traditions, the January/February round uses a free choice of theme as inspiration for entries. Joining us on the judging panel for this round is the January/February winner, Lieutenant (jg) Cameron Bunag, who has decided on the following topic for this round: "Masks" Will you interpret the theme in a literal sense? Or maybe use the existing mask-based Star Trek episodes as a source of inspiration? Is there a way for you to approach the topic in a different way? Either way, the way you interpret the theme is your own choice! Guidelines: To participate, create a new thread. The subject of the thread must be the title of your story. Use the drop-down "topic prefix" box to add "JAN/FEB" in order for your entry to be considered for judging. If it is a Work In Progress, denote that at the top of the post itself (in the body text, not in the thread title). As with last round it will be the final draft posted in your topic that will be read and taken into consideration. Any unfinished entries marked as Work In Progress will not be considered for judging and will be moved to the "Character Cafe" forum at the end of the contest. Your work must be entirely your own. No co-authoring. You are welcome to create any character you so desire, but they must be from the Star Trek universe. No "canon" characters allowed. (i.e.- No one who has been on a show.) Also, please remember to sign your final draft as you would a post on your own ship. Length: No more than 3000 words and no less than 300 words accepted. Beginning Date: Thursday, January 12th Ending Date: Saturday, February 25th See Also: the Writing Challenge Website Challenge: “Masks” The best of luck! Let battle commence!
  19. Kali Nicholotti

    JAN/FEB The Masks of Duty

    Katrina glanced over her appearance in the strangely plain mirror and adjusted the clip in her hair so that two long tendrils fell to either side of her face without obscuring it. Dressed in her best, the reporter was preparing for what might just be one of the most exciting days of her life. As part of a special program, she had been chosen along with nine other up-and-coming journalists, to participate in an in-depth look at just how things were done on a ship in today's Starfleet. The project was half a recruitment ploy and half an effort to bring those out on exploration missions closer to home, but to Katrina, it was the job of a lifetime. Ensuring that everything was in place and perfect, the dark haired woman leaned backwards so that she could see around the side of the door frame to check the time. There was still ten minutes before she needed to leave for the media relations office in the Command Tower. It would be just enough time to touch up her makeup and ensure that every last detail of her appearance was perfect. For her, the call to join Starfleet had come too late. It was only after the accident that took her leg that she realized it would have been a fine way of life. By then, she was already a well renowned journalist anyways, and leaving the profession she had excelled at to take a stab at something she probably wouldn't be able to do on account of her life-long injury, well, it just didn't make sense. But today, all of that was just water under the bridge. Today she would be in the middle of everything with access to every member of the senior staff and it was a day that she had been looking forward to since the project had been announced. Another glance at the clock told her that it was time to go. With one final look in the mirror, Katrina grabbed her PADD and recorder before confidently walking out of the temporary quarters they had assigned her the day before. The day was waiting and she wasn't going to be the one to hold it up. So, it was with a huge smile on her perfectly made up face that she set off for her assignment. ((Later, Aboard the USS Endeavor)) Things had happened quickly inside the office of the press secretary; so quickly that she hadn't even sat before the details of the day were revealed. She was to be deployed to the USS Endeavor to mirror and interview the senior staff throughout the course of an entire standard day. It would be a test of her time efficiency as well as a test of the officers who she would be speaking with. There was the ever present promise of trouble in the air, along with a dash of awe and wonder, as Katrina had followed the junior officer that had been assigned as her guide. Without many words, he had quickly led her to the transporter and now she was no longer on the Starbase. Instead, she was surrounded by the plain grey bulkheads of a ship based transporter room. "So. Where did you want to go first?" The voice floated up to her ears from the ground in front of the transporter pad. Realizing that she had little time to waste, Katrina quickly stepped off the pad herself and started towards the door. Her guide fell in step next to her. "I thought we'd go by sickbay and engineering first if it's all the same to you," she said as she offered him one of the smiles that she was so well known for. What kind of a journalist would she be without a great smile? This one, like so many others, was just a part of the persona. "Sounds good to me," he said as he shrugged, "I've got nowhere else to be." He made an attempt at taking the lead, but Katrina was already on the quickest path to sickbay. She had spent much of the night before looking at maps and charts so that she could maximize the time she would have with each of the officers she was to interview. That was, at least, one thing that no one could ever accuse her of; being unprepared. Content that she knew where she was going, her guide fell back into step next to her in silence. ((Sickbay, USS Endeavor)) It wasn't a busy day in sickbay, at least not yet. The ship probably hadn't left the Starbase yet, but Katrina was well on her way towards completing the assignment. In an attempt to be as little of a distraction as possible, she simply stepped inside and began watching as normal events began to unfold. Towards the other side of the room, there was a single occupied biobed with a man on it who looked as if he was meant to be anywhere but there. His clothing indicated that he had been doing some kind of exercise. Katrina would later find out he had been playing tennis on the holodeck. She pulled the small recorder from her pocket and hit record just in time to catch a simple exchange between the doc tor and the man. "I know you won't heed this advice," the doctor began as she pressed a hypospray to his neck, "but you really should take it easy for a week or so. That elbow won't heal if you keep pushing it." The smile on the woman's face made her seem overly friendly and only trying to help. The man responded in kind with a friendly look and a shrug. "I know. I just can't sit around," the man said as he laughed. "Well, you should be good to go now," the doctor said as she felt the area around the man's elbow. "I'll see you tomorrow." The man hopped off the biobed and waved. Turning just before he made it to the door, he stopped. "Perhaps not," he said just before disappearing beyond the sliding doors. Katrina watched him leave before walking towards the doctor, who had literally plopped down in the chair behind the Chief Medical Officer's desk in the half enclosed office to the right of the biobeds where she had just been. The smile was gone from her face and she rubbed her temples before noticing the journalist standing in the doorway. "Oh, hello," the doctor offered her a small smile as she spoke, "you must be that reporter." Stepping forward with an outstretched hand, Katrina introduced herself. "That's me, and this is my first stop." The smile returned to the doctor's face as she sat up a bit more and nodded thoughtfully before speaking again, "Welcome to the Endeavor." Not sure what she had just witnessed, Katrina took the cue to sit in a chair on the other side of the desk. With a quick glance around the small office, she thought of the best way to ask just what it was that she wanted to ask. "Rough day already?" was all she could muster. The doctor shook her head no, "I'm just a bit tired, but not enough to interfere with my bedside manner." Katrina made a note on the PADD in her hand; bedside manner. The conversation continued without any trouble and soon the excited journalist had the first of her interviews completed. With a quick thanks to the doctor for taking the time to speak with her, she stood and led her guide out into the corridor. Her mind was already on the next place they would be visiting; Engineering. As she got closer to the moment she would step onto the bridge of that starship her heart seemed to get faster. It would be the crowning moment of the entire day. Not wanting to get ahead of herself, however, she forced one or two deep breaths before the pair arrived at the overly large door to the Engineering department. ((Engineering, USS Endeavor)) The first thing that Katrina noticed about Engineering was the noise. It wasn't an unpleasant noise, but it was loud enough for you to not be able to speak in a normal tone if you wanted other people to hear you. In fact, she could hear a few people speaking loudly over the din of the core itself and the many different computers that were all making sounds of their own. One voice stood out above all others though; one voice that quickly exclaimed in surprise upon seeing the journalist and her guide. "I'm that far behind?!" The man in the gold collar turned, regaining his composure, and issued orders to the group of officers in front of him. He was calm and calculating, directing each of the officers in a firm and commanding manner to the jobs that needed to be accomplished before they went to warp. There wasn't much time, he explained. They were about to head out on their day-long mission and he didn't want to be accountable for the entire ship running behind. As the group dispersed, the man himself found the closest ladder and slid all the way down to the place where Katrina and her guide stood waiting. Extending a hand as she had at the first interview, she half expected the man to take it and lead them to an office. Apparently he had other things to do just then, however, and he walked right past her. "If you want to talk to me, then you've got to walk with me," he said as he moved by in a hurry, "I've got to realign the field before we can engage the warp drive." Scurrying to keep up, Katrina followed the man as he seemed to dart from one station to another. His hands flew across the consoles as if they weren't human but something much more...machine-like. She tried to ask a few questions, to which she got varying short answers, but it wasn't until she asked him if he was always quite so 'in a hurry' that he actually stopped and turned to her. "Ya know, I don't think I'm like this unless I'm here in Engineering," he said with a soft tone behind it, "I'd say I'm normally pretty laid back and lazy." To that comment he laughed heartily before becoming the swirl of activity he had been only moments before. Much like her interview with the doctor, this one went quickly and sooner, rather than later, she was on the move again. This time, however, she would be taking her recording device and her PADD to the bridge. Her excitement must have shown too, because the man next to her seemed to be widening his step just to keep up with her. It didn't matter to the journalist though. This was a dream come true in many ways, and as she approached the lift that would carry them to the center of activity on the ship, her face betrayed the girlish giddy excitement that raged within. ((Bridge, USS Endeavor)) Her first step out onto the bridge after the lift stopped was like walking into a dream. She had never gotten the chance to be on a real bridge, especially on one of the most well known starships in the whole of Starfleet. The smile that was plastered on her face was almost too much, but the bridge officer's didn't seem to mind. Her escort took her around the bridge and showed her each of the stations while introducing her to each member of the senior staff. They each offered her a welcome before the first officer stood and gestured towards the ready room door. "I think we have the perfect place for you to conduct your interviews," he said as he smiled, "right this way." The grin on her face got even bigger; who knew she was going to be allowed in there! Nodding excitedly, Katrina followed the much taller man into the small room. She looked around and took in everything, burning it in her mind. This would likely be the one and only chance she would have at an experience like this. After a moment, she finally moved towards a sofa sitting in one of the corners. "Will this be alright?" she asked as she looked up at him. He had been watching her take it all in, giving her the chance to really feel the power of the room. With a smile, he replied. "Perfect. I'll send in the first victim." The look on his face told her he was joking and she laughed as she nodded. Without a wasted moment, the man left the room and she gathered her wits as best she could. This was the moment she had been waiting for; she had the chance to sit and really see what made each of the officers on the senior staff tick. It was exciting and it was an amazing assignment. She was more than happy it had fallen to her. A moment later, the doors of the room slid open and the first of many officers walked in. Katrina greeted them each as they came and went, spending about fifteen minutes with each of them. The process took a few hours, but now all that was left was the Captain. She saw her day winding down and her time aboard the ship drawing to a close as the almost regal man walked through the doors. As she had the others, she greeted him with a smile and gave him a moment to settle. He took up a spot on the sofa a few feet from her with a mug of warm tea. Content that he was ready, she began the same line of questions again. Before she knew it, she found herself towards the end of the questions, and with an almost sad smile she looked up at the man. "That's all I have, Captain," she said, "I do want to thank you for this opportunity. It's been amazing. You have a very nice ship here." She was almost rambling, and she realized it, so she stopped there and forced her lips closed. "Not a problem," he replied with a warm smile back in her direction, "We do enjoy a change to the daily routine sometimes." Pushing back a piece of her hair that had fallen at some point during the interviews, Katrina nodded. "Everyone was very cooperative and nice," she stated as she tapped a few keys on the padd in her hand. It was a true statement and she was glad that she had gotten the information she had. A few feet away, the Captain nodded and smiled knowingly. "Good. Then perhaps you'd like to do it all over." "What? Why?" Katrina looked up with a very confused look and nearly stuttered the response. The man stood and walked to his desk where he sat his mug down. "There's a get together in our lounge tonight if you'd like to join us," he turned slowly until he faced her again as he spoke, "and perhaps in that environment, you'll get to see everyone as they really are. You know, without the masks of duty." He walked over to her and handed her a padd before giving her another nod. "We'll see you there," he said without waiting for a response. Turning on his heel, he moved back out onto the bridge only to be replaced by her escort. Katrina knew now that it was time to go, but the words of the Captain kept running through her mind. Absentmindedly following the escort, she almost didn't notice she was going anywhere until she could feel the lift start moving. Looking up at the escort, who had been watching her, she grinned, "I guess I get to stay a little longer." With eyes that glowed with childlike excitement, Katrina turned her attention back to the padd as she compiled the information into one file and made room for new. If she was right about what the Captain had said, she was going to need a lot more room for the second time around. --- Commander Kalianna Nicholotti Commanding Officer Starbase 118/USS Victory
  20. Velana

    JAN/FEB *WINNER* Affectations

    “He who wears a mask cannot see within himself.” - Unknown 2384 “This is what we get for putting off our elective courses until the last semester.” Cade Whitman gestured to the floor of the auditorium where Commander Talen was holding up a 500 year old piece of Bajoran pottery. “Archeology for Dummies.” Velana looked down at her lap to hide her smile. Not that Talen could have possibly seen the expression on her face considering that she and Cade were sitting only two rows from the back, but when in the presence of other Vulcans, especially ones who had power over her grade point average, she had learned that it was best to stifle any outward signs of her emotions. Unfortunately Cade had never quite grasped that concept. In fact, he almost seemed to revel in openly defying it. There was no other way to explain why he felt the need to grab her hand or touch her face or tell a joke he knew would make her laugh whenever a Vulcan cadet or instructor happened to be watching them. And someone was always watching them. The Vulcan and her Human lover. It was, her roommate Alaxa had often said, a better story than could be found in a Klingon opera. So when he casually slung his arm over her shoulders and pulled her up against his side in order to steal a quick kiss, Velana wasn't at all surprised that the movement caught Talen's attention. She could have easily extracted herself from Cade's embrace, but it was too late. The damage had been done and she would have to deal with the consequences, whatever they might be. “Cadet Velana.” Talen was a small woman, especially for a Vulcan, but her voice echoed off the walls of the lecture hall. Giving her a look that vaguely resembled an amused apology, Cade lifted his arm in order to let Velana rise to her feet. All eyes had turned to her; she folded her arms behind her back and met them with a raised chin. “Commander.” In spite of the distance between them, Velana could feel the woman's stare boring two holes straight through her. After a few seconds, Talen set down the pottery piece, reached underneath the draped display table and withdrew an object wrapped in white linen. “Join me at the podium, Cadet.” Velana had no choice but to do as she was commanded, but as she descended the wide steps, she might as well have been making her way to the guillotine. Standing at attention, she watched Talen unwrap the object with all the reverence of a Ferengi handling a bar of gold-pressed latinum, only to reveal an aged clay mask with a jagged chunk missing just below the right eye hole. It had probably been pure white once, but now it was a dull gray, unadorned and rather unremarkable. “Do you know what this is?” Talen asked. “A mask, Commander.” Talen's wrinkled mouth pursed even further. “The obvious answer is not what I seek.” “It is the only answer I have.” Velana thought she heard a snort of approval, which could have only originated from Cade, but fortunately Talen didn't seem to notice. She stepped closer to Velana, still cradling the mask in her hands. “The mask was discovered a hundred years ago in the lava caverns of Osana.” The woman paused. “Have you ever been to Osana, Cadet?” The corner of Velana's mouth twitched. “I have never been to Vulcan.” “So I have heard,” Talen murmured. Another second passed. “Analysis of the artifact revealed it to be approximately three thousand years old, from before the Time of Awakening, when our planet was a very different place.” Velana arched her eyebrow. Vulcan might have been Talen's planet, but it wasn't hers. “Logic had not yet replaced superstition and idolatry. We were violent. Passionate.” Talen's tone was dangerously cool. “Emotional.” Yet another pause followed. “Put it on.” “Excuse me, Commander?” “You did not misunderstand me. Put the mask on.” Velana sought out Cade's face in the crowd only to see him shake his head and shrug his shoulders. It was Talen's turn to raise an eyebrow. “Are you seeking permission, Cadet?” A ripple of amusement spread out across the room, prompting Velana to reach out and lift the mask from its bed of linen. It was lighter than she'd expected and the clay felt warm to the touch. Slowly, she raised it to her face. When the mask touched her skin, it was as if she had come into contact with a live wire. She was certain her whole body must have jolted at the sensation. When she opened her eyes, she didn't see Talen or the lecture hall through the mask's eye holes. They had been replaced by jagged red rock formations that thrust towards the orange sky. Everything was foreign. Impossible. She smelled sulfur in the hot, dry wind that swept over her. Another hand reached for hers, threaded its fingers through her slender digits. She swung her head to the right and saw a man with closely cropped dark hair and ears that matched her own. He was staring straight ahead. When he spoke, his words were in a dialect of Vulcan that she barely understood. “Do you have any regrets?” When Velana said nothing, he glanced at her. His eyes were dark. Intense. “A'Sariah?” It took all of her strength, but Velana tore the mask away from her face. As soon as she did, the dusty desert landscape disappeared and she was, once again, standing in the archeology lecture hall. “Cadet?” Velana didn't notice her hands were trembling until she looked down at the mask. Glancing back up, she met Talen's unblinking stare, but she was unable to say anything. “This piece is one of the few relatively intact items ever discovered from this particular period of Vulcan history,” Talen said, still watching Velana's face. “Its value is...immeasurable.” She held out her hand for the mask, which Velana passed to her without hesitation. “That will be all for today,” Talen announced. “You have your reading assignments. Do not be surprised if there is a short test during our next class. Dismissed.” As the other cadets began to stand and talk, Talen addressed Velana directly. “I will be in my office in five minutes.” It wasn't exactly an invitation or an order, but Velana got the message. Ignoring all of the strange looks directed at her, as well as the snickers she was certain were about her, she climbed the steps back up to Cade. He had gathered up her PADD along with his; when she reached him, she took it, folding the flat device against her chest like a shield. “Vee?” Cade frowned. “Are you okay?” Blinking, she turned her face up to see him. “I'm fine.” She cleared her throat. “Talen wants to see me in her office.” “They just won't leave you alone, will they?” he scowled. “It's a small price to pay.” Her admission made him grin, like she'd known it would. Ducking his head, Cade kissed her. His lips were warm and it felt as thrilling as it always did, but after only a moment, Velana broke the kiss. “I should go.” After handing him her PADD, she backed up a step. “I'll see you tonight?” Cade winked. “Wouldn't miss it for the world.” Velana waited until he was out of sight before she followed his path, but instead of heading out of the building, she took a left down the corridor that led to the offices of the Archeology department. Talen's door was ajar, but she still knocked. “Enter.” The room was neat, but not what she would call spartan. The walls were lined with bookshelves which not only held books, but display cases containing everything from woven bowls to carved statues. Talen stood at her desk, staring down at the mask which lay in front of her. She didn't look up when Velana entered. “What did you see when you put it on?” the older woman asked. “And I would rather not ask this question twice, so do not bother with the Human affectation of pretending you did not understand me.” Velana shook her bangs out of her eyes. “I believe it was Vulcan,” she eventually replied. “Did you only see the planet?” “No. There was a man, as well.” Talen nodded at this. “But...that isn't logical. Is it?” “Logic does not apply here.” Finally, she glanced up at Velana. “The mask carries a memory, Cadet. A telepathic imprint from the days when our people indulged their emotions.” “As I indulge mine?” Talen lowered herself into the seat behind her desk and gestured at the chair next to Velana. When Velana remained standing, she tilted her head to one side, studying her. “It has not been easy for you here, has it?” “Only in certain circles, Commander.” She knew better than to expect a reaction from Talen. Only a second later, the woman continued where she'd left off. “The broken piece of the mask is still in stasis, but it contains an engraving. A name.” “A'Sariah,” Velana guessed. Talen nodded. “After years of research, I managed to unearth the name in the few records of that era that still exist. She was a follower of Latsan, the goddess of pleasure; the mask would have been used in ceremonies to honor her. The man, we can only assume, was A'Sariah's illicit lover. Had you kept the mask on, you would have heard him speak of their plan to run away together, in defiance of her family's wishes.” Velana's throat closed up for a second. “He asked if I...if she had any regrets.” Her words hung in the air between them. “Why did you show me this, Commander?” “Why do you think?” “Because...” She barely held back a bitter chuckle. “By taking a Human mate, I am just as much a slave to my passions as A'Sariah? Is this the part where you remind me that it's never too late to suppress my emotions? Forgive me, Commander, but I've heard this lecture before. More times than I can count.” Talen folded her hands. “Not every Vulcan who dons the mask sees what you did. It takes a certain kind of mind to make the telepathic connection.” “An undisciplined mind?” Velana guessed. “An open mind,” Talen countered. She gestured at the object in question. “Would you like to see what happens next?” Velana's hair swung around her shoulders as she shook her head. “I really don't know what all of this is about, but it feels like you're trying to say something without actually saying it. Even I find that illogical.” The woman stood, and even though Velana had more than a few inches on her, she suddenly felt quite small in comparison. “The Vulcan heart is far deeper than any Human's.” She held up her hand to stave off any protest Velana might have had. “This is merely a fact of their nature. Their emotions may be palpable, but they are transient. Subject to change at any time without fear of consequence. To fall in love with a Human is to accept the inevitability of loss.” “Are you speaking from experience, Commander?” Velana never would have believed it if she hadn't seen it herself, but after a few awkward moments of silence, the corners of Talen's mouth turned up in a rusty smirk. It told her more about the woman than if she had outlined all 150 years of her life. “I can see why A'Sariah chose you.” “For the same reason she chose you?” Velana asked. “I am not the first Vulcan to love a Human, nor do I believe I will be the last.” “But you may very well be the first who will be unable...or unwilling...to recover from the affair when it ends.” Velana's eyes narrowed as Talen continued, “Yes, I have read your file, as have all of your instructors, I imagine. I know how you were raised and...” Velana cut her off. “With all due respect, it's not under your purview as my archeology instructor to pass judgment on my personal life, especially considering that neither my academic performance, nor my attendance in your class is in question.” “If your intention with this exercise was to make me reconsider my choices, I'm afraid you have failed, Commander.” Her back straightened. “All I take away from this encounter is a renewed faith in my own emotions, as a reminder that our people were once passionate about something other than being dispassionate.” Clasping her hands behind her back, Velana tartly asked, “Is there anything else, sir?” “No.” Talen paused for so long that it seemed as if that was going to be the last word. Slowly, Velana backed up towards the door. But just when she had reached it, she heard Talen speak again. In Vulcan. “Peace and long life, Velana.” She glanced back over her shoulder, only to see Talen carefully wrapping the linen around the mask with even more care than she had unwrapped it. There was no denying that she was angry at the woman for her audacity and presumptuousness, but Velana also couldn't ignore the twinge of sympathy she felt for her. Clearly, Talen was attached to the mask as more than just an archeologist to an artifact. Whatever loss Talen had suffered in her past had compelled her to share something very personal with Velana. It was entirely out of line with what Velana understood about so-called regular Vulcans and, therefore, encouraging. Perhaps she wasn't as abnormal as they wanted her to believe. Perhaps they all had masks of their own making. The anger that had been bubbling up within her drained away. With a sad smile, Velana walked out of Talen's office, leaving the woman alone with her secrets. When she emerged from the building, Velana blinked, not from the glare of the San Francisco sunshine, but at the fact that Cade was waiting for her. When he noticed her, he gave her the same, irresistible smile that had made her choose him two years earlier when she felt the first stirrings of pon farr. “I thought we were seeing each other tonight,” she said, approaching him. Cade shrugged one shoulder. “'Later' seemed like way too long to wait.” Without giving a thought or a care to who might have been watching them, or what they might have been thinking, Velana threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him down for a much longer, much deeper kiss than before. When their lips parted, Cade was already chuckling. “That was either a really good meeting in there, or a really bad one.” He brushed back a lock of her hair and let his fingers caress the tip of her ear. “Everything okay, Vee?” She nodded until she found her voice again. “Cade...this is...” Velana stopped to drag her lower lip between her teeth. “I mean to say...you and I are...” She tried again, frustration evident in the moisture gathering on her eyelashes. “We're not going to...are we?” “Hey, hey!” Cade's eyes looked back and forth between hers, his gray eyes dark with concern. “What did she say to you?” “Nothing.” Velana smiled and brushed away the remnants of her tears. “It's nothing.” To reassure him, she kissed him again. “So. Where are you taking me to dinner?” “I don't know.” If Cade had any doubts that she was telling the truth, he had apparently decided to let the subject drop. Velana wasn't quite sure how she felt about that, but when he reached for her hand and laced their fingers together, it didn't seem to matter anymore. “We could try that new Andorian restaurant." He laughed when her nose crinkled. "What are you in the mood for?” Velana looked down at their hands, then back up at his profile. “Italian,” she decided. “I'm feeling very...Human right now. Hand in hand, they headed for Velana's quad. Lieutenant JG Velana Assistant Chief Medical Officer USS Tiger-A
  21. Ba'Eli

    JAN/FEB Klingon Mask

    Ba’Eli entered her room and tossed her jacket on the bed. She was exhausted and knew she had to do her duty. Rubbing her neck as she walked to the replicator, she tried to think of what to say to each of them. “Chai latte, hot.” She barked at the replicator. As it materialized she smiled softly at the smell of her favorite drink. She took the first sip of the warm liquid and her smile widened. Ba’Eli walked over to her console and sat down. She set her chai off to the side so he wouldn’t see it. She cleared her throat and called out. “Computer connect me to Sa’ K’tre on the planet.” The few seconds it took for the male Klingon to appear on screen, she brought her shoulders up and tossed her hair back, to better show her ridges. “nuqneH.” (What do you want) The male Klingon looked at her intensely. “rI’ father.” (Hail Father) She spoke harsh, no smile escaping her lips. She must wait for him to tell her it was ok to relax, but it appeared he was disgruntled. “qatlh ghaj tlhIH pong?” (Why have you called?) He growled. “mo’ iIj tIq. qaSuj’a’” (Due to your heart. Am I disturbing you?) She knew she needed to get right to the point with him. His recent heart attack had her concerned. Finally he smiled slightly and in his broken English he spoke. “Thank you daughter. I need rest but am hearty.” She returned the smile. “Good Father. I will beam down tomorrow and we can have lunch.” “Yes. Lunch.” He nodded. “Tomorrow then.” Klingons were people of little words. And with that the screen went blank. Ba’Eli stretched and took a sip of her now lukewarm chai. She sighed and thought of tomorrow. She loved her father but it was so much work to put on the Klingon Mask for him. Deciding she couldn’t handle writing her mother tonight, she headed for the bedroom, changed into her pj’s and began to wonder how she was going to bring up her new human boyfriend to her father. LT j.g Ba’Eli Science Officer USS Mercury
  22. Saveron

    JAN/FEB Behind the Mask

    It is often said that Vulcans have no emotions; it is a common misconception. The emotionless state is the ideal, but with the exception of those talented and dedicated individuals who achieve Kohlinar, it could not be further from the truth. Vulcans have extremely powerful emotions, with which they do battle on a daily basis, lest they be consumed by them. Perhaps Vulcans themselves are wont to lay claim to this emotionless state as the ultimate in wishful thinking; if it is said sufficiently often, perhaps it will come to pass. Just as it is said that Vulcans do not lie, this is exactly the kind of lie that Vulcans tell. And most of all they lie to themselves. ((27th floor corridor, Temok-Sbah Residential Complex, ShirKahr, Vulcan)) “Do you derive some form of satisfaction from flaunting our peoples’ traditions?” The clipped, precise voice echoed slightly in the otherwise empty corridor. Saveron stopped, the charcoal folds of his robe swirling around his ankles as he turned to face the voice that had sounded behind him. Serok. He had only seen the man twice before, and once had been earlier that day, when the man had passed briefly through the apartment that he with his bond-mate T’Rel. That was something they had in common, regrettably. T’Rel had been hosting the family in recognition of their daughter S’Rel’s graduation from the Vulcan Academy of Science; she had achieved a PhD in Astrophysics. They had been joined by their son Teron, his bond-mate T’Rayel and their newborn daughter T’Nai. Saveron had held his first grand-child. To the external observer the scene - with young Saavok peering over his father’s shoulder with interest at his young niece and T’Rel talking quietly with their other children - would have seemed the perfect Vulcan family gathering. But to the casual observer, the rift in that image would not have been visible. It had been felt however. T’Rel was serene and controlled as ever but to Saveron, who had been bonded to her for forty-nine years, she had been tense. That tension had increased, had spread to the rest of the family, when Serok had arrived. Forty-nine years, but no more, and he was the reason. He had declined to join them and left shortly afterwards, and the previous peaceful air had returned, or nearly. No Vulcan would own up to there having been a mood of quiet contentment, but the mood that hadn’t been there had been broken. Saveron and T’Rel had discussed Saavok’s schooling, and agreed that given the undecided nature of Saveron’s future posting the child would remain with his mother for the interim. Then Saveron had touched his palm briefly to that of each of his children – conveying in silence what could not be said in words – and had departed. He would never touch T’Rel again. And the reason had called out to him down that empty corridor. Grey eyes flicked over the other man’s frame. He was classically Golic; tanned skin, dark hair in the stereotypical cut, dark eyes. He wore temple robes as T’Rel did, they were of the same culture, the same convictions and both now Temple initiates; the perfect couple. He was the only hiccup in that picture. “To derive satisfaction from such a pointless activity would be illogical.” Saveron replied, endeavouring to fathom Serok’s purpose in asking the question. “I do not ‘flaunt’ our traditions, I do what is logical and necessary.” Serok approached on quiet feet. There was an intensity in his gaze and, oddly, a flush to his cheeks. There was a stiffness to his movements, almost a stalk. He had seemed restless in that brief period he had passed through the apartment as well, but Saveron didn’t know the man, had no desire to know the man, and could not judge whether that was his normal demeanour. “On the contrary, you abandon your peoples for aliens and their customs. Do not deny it.” Serok returned. “The pursuit of knowledge is the only defence against ignorance and chaos; that pursuit has taken me beyond Vulcan.” Saveron acknowledged. “But to embrace further learning does not imply a rejection of what has gone before.” He endeavoured to determine the logic behind the other man’s sudden accusations, but could not. Was the flaw in his thinking, or in Serok’s? The man did not look well. Some sort of brain fever perhaps? Saveron debated alerting emergency medical staff. Serok allowed for no such move however as he stepped forward, right into Saveron’s personal space and right up in his face. He might have tried to loom over the other man but Saveron was far taller if thinner, typical of the Nel-Gathic peoples. Serok’s behaviour was entirely different from what Saveron had expected; the man was an initiate of the strictest mental order on Vulcan, the Temple of Gol. Like T’Rel he should be preparing for the Kohlinar. This was not the serene, logical behaviour he had come to associate with such. “It does not imply it but for you it involves it.” Serok snapped. “I know of your lack of conviction, of your rejection of the Temple.” That would be from T’Rel. “You are v’tosh ka’tur!” If he’d been human it would have been an appropriate time to use the phrase ‘Them’s fightin’ words.’ To declare another a Vulcan Without Logic was a deliberate and grievous insult. But despite Serok’s claims he was Vulcan; just not the kind of Vulcan that Serok and T’Rel were. “It is you who lack logic.” Saveron replied in a flat monotone. But the penny had dropped. Saavok was, after all, six years old and T’Rel had neglected to tell Saveron that she was pregnant when he left because she’d thought the child wasn’t his. “Go and see T’Rel, I cannot talk with you at this time. When you are more logical I will debate Temple discipline versus the IDIC principle if you so wish.” Not that he had any desire to do so. Serok was everything he was not – no doubt the reason he appealed to T’Rel – and Saveron could only see them disagreeing. Saveron found no appeal in the numbness to the world’s wonder that lay with Kohlinar, and Serok would never agree that when they had embraced logic they had lost something. Saveron held an appreciation for certain aspects of life prior to Surak’s Awakening, even as the violence they had indulged in was abhorrent. He felt a particular resonance with his distant ancestor, a man known as Valoren Silver Eyes; musician, poet, lover, Warlord of the Ayein Clan; more so now than ever. He would never have stood for Serok’s insults. Saveron favoured Serok with a flat look, sometimes referred to by his colleagues as the ‘Vulcan Stink Eye’, then spun on his heel, intending to put an end to this encounter before it went any further. But Serok had other ideas. As he turned, Saveron felt a hand close on his elbow, the grip hard enough to make the bones grind, and something in him snapped. His wife, his children, his comfortable life on Vulcan had all been lost in an instant, because of this man. This arrogant Golic caricature of strength without substance and logic without meaning, he was everything that Saveron found disagreeable in the dominant Vulcan culture. He dared to talk to him about tradition? Millennia ago his ancestor had stood and faced enemies far greater and more terrible, and had suffered no insult, taking from them all they held dear, including their lives. There were paintings in the Cultural Museum in Kal-an depicting such scenes, and people looked at Saveron oddly when he stood too close; he bore an uncanny resemblance to his ancestor. Perhaps that was why he felt such a connection. In that instant it felt as though Valoren Silver Eyes was with him, guiding his hand as his deep fury, nursed over seven years, broke loose. As Serok’s hand closed on his arm Saveron spun with an animal snarl and caught the other man by the throat, lifting him bodily and slamming him into the wall with a thud like a piece of meat, pinning him there and leaning all his weight on Serok’s throat, denying him the thin Vulcan air. It was his fault T’Rel had left him, his fault that he had lost all that he held dear, his fault that the Temple was staffed by the blind and unbending, by priests and priestesses who spent so much time looking inwards that all they heard in their minds was their own hollow denials of their own natures, rather than look out and see the wonder of the universe. It was Serok’s fault that Saveron had to follow his beloved half-way around the planet to live amongst a people who didn’t understand him, who rejected his children’s mixed racial heritage, who ultimately had to be left behind for the even more unfamiliar beyond their world. It was Serok’s fault that Saveron was always drifting, that he never found a home. Saveron’s fury was all-consuming. Pinned against the wall, Serok struggled. He couldn’t grab Saveron to hurt him in turn, the Nel-Gathic man was both taller and longer-limbed and with his elbow locked was beyond the shorter man’s reach, though he tried. Then he tried to prise Saveron’s fingers from his throat, tanned fingers on pale, his nails digging gouges in Saveron’s skin until green started to smear on it, but he could gain no release. A fury drove Saveron that had been tempered by seven years of suppression; it had only grown stronger. “You wish to observe our peoples’ traditions?” Saveron growled, and it was a unique feature of Vulcan physiology – the same which allowed them to pronounce consonants no other species could – that he could talk and growl at the same time. “Then let us do so. Long before logic and Surak and your closed-minded Temple, there were ways of dealing with an argument over a woman.” The rite of kun-ut-kal-if-fee was one of the ancient ways that had survived the Awakening; logic had no place when the blood fever ran riot. Through his grip on Serok’s throat Saveron could feel the other man’s senseless, helpless rage, driven by hormonal changes he could not control. It only fuelled Saveron’s on fury. As green blood trickled over his hand from where Serok’s nails dug into him, Saveron knew that he could end it all right now. Kun-ut-kal-if-fee was enshrined in their peoples’ culture. Yes, it should happen on the formal grounds before a priestess, but it didn’t always. Sometimes it happened like this, in some random location, because two males met and the time was right. There would be no repercussions if he killed Serok now; he had been challenged, he had that right. And as he deprived Serok of precious oxygen he knew that he could do so. Right here, right now. Once, the Nel-Gathic peoples had been chided by Surak’s followers for maintaining their marshal skills in the face of growing logic. Their response was famous. “We do not seek war,” Saveron hissed, quoting a long-dead kinsman, “but he that would bring war to us, let him beware.” Serok had underestimated the doctor, to his detriment. With Serok dead he could claim T’Rel, by the very traditions that she held so dear. The woman whom he had never stopped loving, whom he had let go. His love, his life, his family, his home. Grey eyes narrowed as he watched Serok’s face, the man’s lips already turning a deoxygenated brown. Through his skin contact Saveron could feel the other man’s hormone-driven fury fading as his body registered that he was in life-threatening danger. It was an acknowledged fact that loss of such a fight would resolve Pon Farr, it made evolutionary sense. Survival over reproduction; live first, mate later. But Serok was unlikely to survive, through their contact he would perceive that Saveron was in a killing mood. As the drive to fight drained away along with his chances of survival, Serok’s expression turned from anger to fear, both strange on a normally impassive face, and with a sudden shock Saveron realised how young he must be, that in that fearful look he still had the bloom youth about him. Younger than Saveron, younger than T’Rel; perhaps only half their age. This might only be his second time. It would be seven years before it would happen again; would T'Rel thank him? What had drawn T’Rel to him? Or had he been drawn to T’Rel, the gifted priestess, destined for greatness? Had Serok merely been convenient to a woman whose stubbornly moderate bond-mate limited her ability to progress through the Temple’s teachings and hierarchy? Had the man simply been in the right place at the right time? After all, it was almost unfathomable that T’Rel would have chosen him for illogical reasons, like love. In that moment Saveron looked into the other man’s dark, frightened eyes, and could almost feel sorry for him. It wasn’t his fault, none of it was. Some of it was the fault of his and T’Rel’s parents, though they had acted in what they believed was their children’s’ best interests. Some of it was Saveron’s fault, if blame can be placed for simply being true to one’s nature. He was a wanderer, a seeker. So were his children. S’Rel had said as much at her brother’s bonding ceremony; T’Rel did not wish to be left alone, when all of her children went to space. Teron was already in Starfleet, S’Rel could not follow her profession easily from Vulcan and Saavok was as restless and questioning as his father. T’Rel in her logic had predicted the future, and had found it disagreeable. So she had chosen another. And that other now hung from Saveron’s grip, the strength in Serok’s own hands fading as his consciousness soon would. Yes, Valoren Silver Eyes would have finished the other man in an instant, but Saveron was not his ancestor. He appreciated the beauty of their music and the vision of their stories, but not the savagery of their pride. He was not a killer. He was not a killer. With an effort Saveron reined in his anger, his fury. Surak had shown them how to tame the beast, and it had saved their peoples. Seven years ago Saveron had learned of his wife’s preference for Serok. Tradition held that when one of them entered Pon Farr there would be a declaration of kun-ut-kal-if-fee, a challenge, and one of them would die. Saveron had seen no logic in killing or being killed for the sake of a woman who did not want him; he still didn’t. He had elected to be Unbound, to release T’Rel from her commitment to him, rather than face Serok in combat. He still held true to the logic of that decision. “Be grateful that I am not the traditionalist you would have me be.” He said, the same words he had said to T’Rel seven years ago, and let Serok go. The younger Vulcan slid to the floor, relief in his eyes, taking great gasps of air into his lungs. Saveron turned away, striding briskly along the corridor and out, away from Serok, from T’Rel, from any temptation to finish what had been started. As he walked his face was once more a mask, but inside he struggled to restrain the beast he had unleashed, a loss of control that was not certain he could forgive in himself. It was frightening. It had been far too easy. ((Shore Leave Accomodations, Star Fleet Complex, ShirKahr.)) Once he returned to his temporary quarters in the Starfleet shore-leave accommodations Saveron locked the door and immediately began setting up his meditation candles. He would not eat tonight, or sleep. He would meditate and regain the control that was his bastion against the consuming dark. It was a night of struggle and strength, of remorse and resolve, but at last it brought resolution. Morning came, and with it a renewed sense of peace. Saveron was satisfied that he had regained his control, his logic, his emotional suppression. He would not permit the previous day’s events to affect him. He would not. He had told his friend Counsellor Yael that he had resolved himself over the separation from his wife, told his family that he had moved on; he had lied. Most of all he had lied to himself. But despite the disturbing nature of his encounter with Serok, it had brought with it a new measure of peace. He knew now that he could have won the challenge, could have claimed what he had lost, and he had chosen not to. It reaffirmed his old decision whilst at the same time it changed it; changed it from running from a problem to walking away from an act that he could not conscience, leaving Serok and T’Rel to each other and may they find contentment. It was the closing of a door, but with each that closes a new one opens. He did not doubt that T’Rel was right, his children would join him amongst the stars. That was an agreeable prospect. And who knew what fascinations the future might bring? As he replicated his breakfast his PADD beeped, displaying his newly-arrived assignment orders from Starfleet. He would be joining the recently commissioned USS Mercury, under the command of his old XO, Captain Tallis. It was an arrangement that he found… agreeable. As he acknowledged the order and set the PADD aside, he did not smile. But he could have. ----------------- Lieutenant Saveron Medical Officer USS Mercury
  23. I'm extremely pleased to say that we had a great turnout for the last round of the Writing Challenge, so let's see if we can beat our total this time! Those of you that entered, it would be fantastic to see you enter again, and pass the word around the your crew to see if you can persuade them as well! Joining us on the judging panel for this round is Chief Petty Officer Radi Rais, who has decided on the following topic for this round: "Song and Silence" The topic is nice and broad, and leaves plenty of room for you to be creative! How will you represent the song? Could it be a symbol within your story, an integral part of the plot, or will it somehow influence the structure of your piece? Guidelines: To participate, create a new thread. The subject of the thread must be the title of your story. If it is a Work In Progress, denote that at the top of the post itself (in the body text, not in the thread title). As with last round it will be the final draft posted in your topic that will be read and taken into consideration. Any unfinished entries marked as Work In Progress will not be considered for judging and will be moved to the "Character Cafe" forum at the end of the contest. Your work must be entirely your own. No co-authoring. You are welcome to create any character you so desire, but they must be from the Star Trek universe. No "canon" characters allowed. (i.e.- No one who has been on a show.) Length: No more than 3000 words accepted. Beginning Date: Wednesday, January 5th Ending Date: Friday, February 25th See Also: the Writing Challenge Website Challenge: “Song and Silence” Good luck all!
  24. Quinn Reynolds

    JAN/FEB The Silver Swan

    The Silver Swan 'Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.' - Victor Hugo I IN THE DARK caves of the Yarralin Mountains, there was only silence. The water that had once carved its way through the shimmering rock had long since subsided, leaving a craggy labyrinth in its wake. The air was still and cold, the rock sharp and even colder. The only living things were the mosses and fungi that somehow managed to cling to life in the barren tunnels. It was here that the children of Indulkana came to prove their worth. A rite of passage, as ancient as recorded history, it had survived through ages of stone, steam and electricity. Even now, as the Indulkana reached out to the stars, they came to these caves. A reminder of where they came from, while they set out on the road ahead. Some argued that it was not the test it had once been. That modern conveniences made survival in the heart of the mountains much easier than it had been, than it should be. Neitee's personal beliefs fell into the second camp; that the rite was not so much a test of survival as it was a search for one's true self. In the dark, cold silence, the only song to be heard was her own. She just had to find the right place to hear it. In that quest, she had long since lost track of time. It felt like forever since she had seen the smiling waves of her friends, an eternity since she felt the farewell embrace of proud and tearful parents. Her rations told her it was little more than two days – she had enough to last her for another four – but she hoped to be able to leave tomorrow. Bright futures often lay ahead of those whose journey lasted three days. It was a fortuitous number. Her footsteps beat out a soft rhythm on the treacherous floor as she trudged along, her head thumping in time with her heart where she had slipped and cracked it on the cave wall several hours ago. The blood had clotted in the vanes of her cranial feathers, clumping them together in a solid mass that was going to be a nightmare to clean. She reminded herself that was an inconvenience, nothing more. A few bumps and bruises were a small price to pay for finding her place in her people's symphony. If she ever did. The thought of failing was almost too much to bear, but as time dragged on in the bleak silence of the caves, it was a thought that was more and more at the forefront of her mind. Some never emerged from underneath the mountains and even now, no one knew what happened to them. There were rumours, of course, of camps in the darkness where the songless eked out a wretched existence. Others said that they simply lay down and died, overwhelmed by the continuing silence. Neitee had encountered neither camps nor skeletons on her quest so far, and she was glad for it. Those that did return from the caves without their song were pitied and separated from the rest of the Indulkana. Herded away in communes to be cared for, treated with the patronising gentleness of those considered more able. Forever on the fringes of society, never to be truly a part of it. It was a fate many considered worse than death. She vowed, then and there, it would not be hers. II TULLOUN WAS THE greatest of all cities; a sparkling gem of soaring crystal spires and verdant life. It was the seat of government and a centre of learning. It was the city that had launched the first of the Indulkana's voyages into the stars, that celebrated the discoveries that came with such exploration. More esoterically, it was a site of pilgrimage, the gateway to the Yarralin Mountains. It was from here that the sole road to the caves was laid into the earth, winding through grassy plains. It was in Tulloun that a child would first introduce their song to their people, becoming an adult, a part of their symphony. For seven days now, a lone figure had sat on this path in silence, watching. Waiting. A slight young thing, the girl had not left her vigil, even when the summer rains had soaked her though to the skin. Every day, she had been brought food and fresh clothes by an older man, and this day was no different. 'Come away, Yeutta. Your sister will return, whether you stand watch or not.' He crouched next to her, his face lined with age and care. She turned to him and her pale eyes were wide with barely masked fear. Tears had washed clean lines through the dust on her face, threatening to do so once again. 'She only had food for six days, Papa. What if she doesn't return? What if...' He laid a hand on her shoulder, then pulled her into his arms. 'I know your fear,' he murmured, holding her close, 'we all feel it. But we must have faith. Neitee is strong and clever. She will find her song and return to us with it.' 'But–' 'Hush, child. Come home for the night. Your mother is already worried for your sister, do not add yourself to her troubles. If Neitee returns this eve, the Guardians will care for her.' A sob escaped Yeutta's throat, followed moments later by a reluctant nod. He placed a paternal arm around her shoulders, and father and daughter rose from the ground, beginning the scenic walk back to their home. As they travelled through the Azure Skyway, the air began to resonate with screams. It was a journey they never completed. III NEITEE LAY AMONG the jagged rocks, sharp edges piercing her skin and carving silver lines into her flesh. She wept, for her rations had long since been exhausted and still her soul did not sing. She was a Mute. The realisation had crept up on her slowly, finally reaching a crescendo that could no longer be ignored. Her legs had given way as the last whispers of hope had fled from her heart, and she remained where she had fallen, drifting in and out between racking sobs. Her choice, unappealing as it was, was simple. Give up, remain and waste away, to become one of those unfortunate souls who never returned from the caves. Or steel herself to the future, get up and seek an exit from the dark silence, to live out her life in a commune. Was shame truly a more terrible fate than death? She did not know. All she did know was that now, more than ever, she desperately wanted to see her family again. Passing into eternity without ever looking on their faces again was a thought she could not bear. The last of her tears fell down her face and she struggled to her feet. Exhaustion and hunger dragged at her limbs and eyelids, but she pushed on. Time had long since lost all meaning, her only measure of its passage was counting the thump of tired feet against the rocks. She lost count of the number of times she lost count, settling instead on picturing her family and how good it would feel to be with them. A breeze played across her skin, a forgotten breath of life whispering through the rocks. Her time in the caves was almost over, and with that thought came a strange sense of freedom. If it was her destiny to be a Mute, she would accept it with grace and dignity. It was not such a bad path to tread; in many ways, it was a life absolved of responsibility. And though they had no song, many Mutes became skilled in other media, bringing colour and texture to the Indulkana. They did, after all, experience the world differently. Neitee thought on how she had always enjoyed the warm summer evenings, with a brush in hand and a canvas in front of her. That was not such a bad fate at all. As her footsteps brought her closer to the surface, before the sunlight began to glitter across the rocks, she heard them. Heard their heartless symphony. A cold, jagged chorus that cut straight through to her core. Icy fingers wrapped around a quickening heart, fear washing away weariness and banishing all thought and reason from her mind. She ran. The daylight seared into sheltered eyes and she raised her hand as meagre protection. When she could stand to look into the sky, there, hanging next to the golden sun, were three great cubes of metal and emerald. They were source of the alien chorus that thundered through her mind, drowning out all trace of her own people's songs. She ran. The streets of Tulloun were empty. No trace of her people, alive or dead, were to be found. The crystal spires were silent, the gardens were still. And all she could hear were the glacier chords from the skies. Her legs buckled and she fell to her knees in Jarrakan Park. Surrounded by swaying trees and the heady scent of flowers in bloom, she watched as great lances of sickly green light sliced out from the cubes, striking the ground and carving through the earth. She had no tears left to spill as she saw her city sectioned up like meat for the slaughter, felt the world underneath her shake its protest as pieces of its skin were dragged up into the sky, held by beams of translucent jade. There, as the world broke and sundered around her, Neitee lifted her voice in a keening song of sorrow and loss. She had found her place in the symphony. Hers was the last song of the Indulkana, the last music her people would ever make. And it was beautiful.
  25. realmsgamer

    JAN/FEB Song and Silence

    The glare from the sun was almost unbearable as it shone through the window in room 219 of Arroyo Grande High School. Especially at 14:33 hours when it beat down onto the desk of Traven Stark. His eyes watered because he caught a glimpse right into it, like so many times before this Senior year. He rubbed his fingers over them and wiped the tears on his pant leg. He turned slightly at his work cubical which always made the bright glare a little better. It also provided the opportunity for the young man to have a look at Rebecca Bratain. Lovely golden hair spilled down her shoulder which was just as golden. Her dainty ears drifted gracefully up to a fine point at the top. The girl obviously had some Vulcan blood in her. Which was great for Traven. If she continued to be this beautiful she could be part Grazerite for all he cared. She quickly shot a glance his way that caused him to flinch his head away from her and right back into the glare from the window. He grimaced as his eyes began to flow with tears again. He didn't dare look back, but he was sure Rebecca was grinning if not out right laughing at him. He was grateful when the familiar computer voice chirped in “Sixth period time elapsed. You are excused”. Ah, the end of the school day had come. He darted from his seat to avoid making any contact with the Vulcan, exiting the room as he finished wiping tears. Now he could go back to Professor Malcolm Yuirdriss' lab to continue his research. Traven had met the good professor two years ago during his required bio/chemistry course. Professor “Yuiry”, Traven's nickname for him, was the first teacher Traven had ever known that could really challenge and interest him. It was through research that the doctor did it too. A teacher for over fifty years, Malcolm knew how to spot a talented mind. Traven's he found, was untapped and sadly, unfocused. So he invited the young boy of fifteen to stay after school one day to get some tutoring on a project assignment. When Traven met up with his teacher that day, something happened. The professor simply proposed a question to Traven. From that time forward Traven and Doctor Yuiry grew a fantastic bond. The door opened easily and Traven glided into the office of a scholar. The walls were lined in wooden bookcases that were overfilled with tomes. However after a slight dogleg in the shelving the heartbeat of the science department was found. Standing proudly with an opened book in his hands was Professor Malcolm Yuirdriss. A tall and gaunt man of aged years, Doctor Yuidriss looked up and smiled. He snapped the book closed and placed it on his ornate cherry wood desk. “Schools out already eh?” The professor frequently lost track of time. Unless an experiment was involved. “Yeah. Let's get started.” As he spoke Traven grabbed his lab coat from it's normal peg on the wall that lead to the back entrance of the departments laboratory facilities. “Just a minute Mr Stark.” The index finger of the teacher shot up. “I have something to discuss with you. Sit down.” Yuiry sat down himself and drank from a cup that was on the desk. The displeasure for his now cold coffee shot across his face. Just as fast he was back up and walking into a closet space that held, among many things, a replicator. “Computer coffee blend Yuirdriss forty-seven. Would you care for something Traven?” The professors voice startled Traven a bit. His thoughts were already trying to figure out what his teacher needed to talk to him about. Everything seemed to be going okay and his grades were excellent as always. “Yes please, some iced Darian tea.” Traven was tense. Which was usual. He hated things he was unfamiliar with. Especially people and places. Teacher discussions would also qualify. But Traven trusted Professor Yuiry. That however, did not keep him from being anxious. “What do you need to talk to me about professor?” Traven sat up in the chair he had unconsciously sat down in. “Well” Yuiry paused. “I have an opportunity that could prove to be a milestone in my career. You know of Thelsus Two?” “Yes, home of the Plasma Falls of Hulranous.” Traven had read extensively on these plasma falls. Plasma research was what he was most passionate about. It fascinated him and he spent much of his time learning about it. “The Plasma Falls of Hulranous are underground channels that pure plasma energy flows through. The only naturally occurring plasma flow known to The Federation. Most interesting is the walls of these channels have a form of protection from the plasma that baffles the best scientists. ” “Correct.” The old man's head bowed, somewhat sad. “Well, I am leaving in three weeks for an extended sabbatical to do research there. ” Panic began to well up inside Traven's stomach. His palms started to sweat. As he began to blurt out his many objections, the head of his teacher sprang back up with a sly grin. “And I have arranged for you to go with me! I have even spoken to your parents already. ” Traven stood up from his chair smiling wide.” What?!?! Are you serious?” The teachers head just smiled and nodded. Traven began to pace. “I can't believe it. Three weeks that's too long we have to go now.” “Hold on, hold on. First things first. Slow down. Sit back down and listen.” The boy complied and the professor continued. “In order for you to go a few things must happen. First you have to pass an early exit exam in order to graduate early. And I must warn you. You will miss your class's graduation ceremony. Thelsus Two is not just around the corner. ” Certainly not. Traven's guess was two weeks by shuttle craft. What a trip that would be! He mused. Two weeks with his best teacher and mentor on the way to do research on plasma. It was more than anything Traven could imagine. “Lastly you will have to get clearance from Starfleet. They are funding this endeavor.” The professor stopped to let Traven respond. But at the moment no words were coming to him. The doctor stood up. Tell ya what. Go home, talk to your parents and I will have everything detailed when you come in tomorrow. Okay? “That sounds good.” was all Traven could get out. It was probably a good idea anyway. His mind was frantic with all manner of thoughts about what was just told to him. As Traven left the office the teacher knew the boy would become a great research scientist. The pod ride home took too long. Brain waves were racing inside Traven's skull at record speeds. He had already made a mental checklist of all the loose ends he would need to tie up. The worst of which, he thought, was quitting his musical group. After a five year hiatus he had only just began to play his guitar again. The four other group members were good friends and they would be disappointed if Traven left. But this was an opportunity of a life time. There was much to do. Surprise events always make time go by too fast. Suddenly Traven was frantically trying to finish packing. He had easily accomplished each item on his checklist. The guys were thankfully understanding about Traven's departure. In fact the demo recording they made was playing on the computer as he finished loading his pack. Most of his belongings were picked up and transported to The Vargas, a cargo ship Professor Yuirdriss had secured for their journey. Better than a shuttle. The trip should be no more than a week. The quicker the better to be sure in Traven's mind. He glanced one more time around his room and hesitated. He would get home sick. Of that there was no doubt. Most of what he really cared about was going with him. There wasn't very much. He grabbed the data module he was listening to and with a sigh he walked out of his room. The Vargas was functional but that's where it ended. Very plain with few comforts. The pair was surprised to even find a replicator in the quarters they were assigned. But they could do worse. Operations seemed to run smoothly on board. The vessel was capable and felt sturdy. Professor Yuiry was going over the details of the research operation they would be involved in on Thelsus Two. The doctor had everything organized and let Traven in on all the information he had. “Do you have any questions Traven?” Asked Yuiry. “I would like...” His voice was interrupted by the ship's computers. “Attention all passengers. Entering The Rathgar Cluster in ten minutes. Power levels will be set to minimum to decrease the chance of detection. please refrain from excessive power usage for thirty minutes.” The tone of the computer was cold and rather plain. Traven looked at his teacher. The older man asked the computer. “Computer what would be detecting us in The Rathgar Cluster? ” The computer chirped in “Recent intelligence indicates possible pirate activity in the Ion fields of The Rathgar Cluster.” Yuiry made his way to the comm panel “Professor Yuirdriss to Steward.” No answer came. The comm line was silent. Probably offline while the transport snuck its was through the cluster. “Traven I assure you there was no mention of this when I signed on...” But before he could continue the ship rocked violently and the companions were thrown off their feet. The lights went out and there was another load impact. Traven could here the explosions as they hit. Something flew by and hit him in the head. It was hard and metal. The contact cut him and blood began to leak from the wound. He got down flat on the floor. Two more rapid hits were felt on the ship and an alarm began to sound. “Professor? Professor Yuirdriss!” Traven yelled out. After a pause, “I am here.” Came weakly from the darkness. “Are you okay?” Traven hopefully asked. “I think so, help me up.” Feeling his way in the dark Traven got to Yuiry. The young man reached for something to lean on. A chair was in range and Traven used it to stand. His knees buckled as his head got dizzy and light. Gripping the chair, he remained on his feet. He help his friend up and helped him get his hand on the same chair as Traven. Fruitless as another volley of hits banged on the ship. This time Traven was airborne. He flattened out and prepared for injury. He has moving fast and hard. When his body met the outer wall of the room his mind went black. He only hoped that the professor fared better than he. His eyes tried to open. But glare from the sun only made them water. He glanced to his left. Sort of hoping to see Rebecca Bratain. But what he actually saw was astonishing. Wreckage and debris lay all around him. Pressing on him in fact. He could not move his arms or legs and felt like he was in a slightly reclined position. He turned his head the other way and realized that was all he could move. Like some cocoon, the ship wreck had encased him. He could see a hand and part of an arm near him. It was the professors! He screamed, “PROFESSOR”. The limb seemed dead and kind of pink with blood on it. At the elbow it sank into wreckage beyond what Traven could see. But it was attached and through some of the metal scarps and wires he thought he could see the professors head. Traven grunted and frowned as he tried to struggle against the metal all around him. He could move his right fingers and hand. He kept working it and managed to pull it up and then free. He chuckled at his victory. He closed his eyes. The grim conditions brought a feeling of doom. He was going to die here. Wherever here was. Dust was everywhere and his breathing was becoming a labor. Really he could barely feel anything on his body. With his now free hand he grabbed the his mentor's wrist. He was shocked to see his own hand was slashed in numerous places and bleeding. But he could feel Yuiry's pulse, ever so faint. “Professor...Professor Yuirdriss!”. The young man cried to him. (cough, cough)(Hacking cough)”Help” the old man whispered. “Don't worry professor help is on the way.” He lied having no idea what was going on. “Professor can you hear me?” “Yes Traven I can.” His voice was very weak. “What happened?” “I don't know sir. We are so screwed.” He began to panic and tears started running down his cheeks. “ We must have crashed somewhere. Can you move sir?” “My arm is pinned in something and I can't feel my legs. I see blood. ” “Can you feel my fingers?” Traven tightened his grip on the wrist he was still holding and tapped as well. “Yes,” he grunted, “I can. Ah that is good. Are you okay boy?” “I am okay. Just trapped here as well.” He lied again but thought it more important to make sure the older man did not worry about him. “Listen Traven I am severely wounded and I can feel myself getting weaker. I don't have much time.” “NO!” Screamed the student. “No! Help will get here.” “SHOOSH!” Reprimanded the teacher. “You must listen Traven. I don't have time to...” He coughed violently and his hand and wrist went stiff scaring Traven. “...reason. There is one detail I have left out about our current project. I have unlocked the secrets to the shield coatings of the plasma flows. I have told no one of this for there are those that would steal my secrets. In my pocket is a data module containing everything I have done on this research. My years of other research are on there as well. You must take it and you must use it. I know you will be a much better scientist than I.” Traven wanted to speak desperately. But there was an air about that caused him to stay silent. Maybe an unconscious reverence for the professor and what he had to say. Perhaps his fears and own mortality were freezing him. The professor continued. “There is more I want to tell you. The longer I speak the longer I will live. So listen closely, I have much to share.” In his mind Traven was back on Earth in the labs at school. He was delirious and had trouble concentrating. But he could hear his teachers voice and he was lecturing. Yuiry set out sharing any knowledge that was popping into his head. He spoke of all manner of science and research. His voice hummed with sweetness to Traven. Most of the time the boys eyes were closed listening to the professors voice. At one point however Traven began to cry, the reality creeping into his mind. But the professor defused him quickly. Snapping his attention back to class. Continuing he unloaded on the boy as much of his legacy as his young mind could handle. It took hours. “Give me a minute to rest.” Traven finally blurted out. “Very well.” Yuiry had to admit speaking was hard and his throat was rough and scratchy. Traven took a few deep breaths. “You know when they rescue us you are gonna wish you had never told me this stuff. “I don't think so.” The frail man said. Traven laughed, “I can get some lab privileges in trade for keeping your secrets. Ms. Kolry will get a kick out of some of this stuff. I think secretly she likes you” He referred to Yuiry's secretary. “You know, LIKES you. I could find out for you, you know. She's tight with me and I'm the only one she let's go in the labs when you aren't here. Don't tell her I told you.” He said in a matter of fact voice. He was afraid he was rambling. “Sorry professor. Let's continue. I think you left off with helium.” Suddenly it was quiet. Like all sound was nonexistent. With a shudder, “No, professor.” desperation spoke, “PROFESSOR!”. He let out a cry and tears stung on the way down. His breath was held and there was a cramp in his heart muscle. His chest was tight and his teeth were clinched. Finally air forced its way out and with a loud woosh and Traven began to weep. He knew his teacher was dead. Traven's hand still held his wrist. He had never let it go. Only shifted the grip here and there this whole time. He touched the hand of his master to his cheek and cried. He wanted to speak, wanted to be able to tell Professor Malcolm Yuirdriss how much he cared for him. But the silence was too overwhelming so he just continued to cry and finally blacked out. Bright light caused his eye to tear as he tried to open it. He looked to his left for any signs of his Vulcan class mate. But everything was blurry. “Easy Traven. Don't try to move.” There was a soft female voice nearby. You are on Earth at the Pismo Beach Medical Facility. Can you hear me?” But the silence was too overwhelming and all Traven could do was cry.
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