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Alleran Tan

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Alleran Tan last won the day on September 17

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About Alleran Tan

  • Birthday 09/26/1984

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  1. The winner of the Quote of the Month for August is none other than our extremely talented XO Jo Marshall! The winning quote was: Namura: All work and no play make a Starfleet crew nine percent more likely to turn to cannibalism in the event we end up adrift in space with no means of effective communication. Which of course, even a first year Cadet knows. The moment the comms go down, it becomes a free-for-all aboard every Starfleet ship, and everyone gets automatic pardons. It's like the Prime Rib Directive or something like that.
  2. Aww thank you! It was fun and challenging to write, especially because I had to keep thinking about how the extra senses come into play, and imagine colours that humans simply can't perceive. For research I found photos taken with UV cameras to see how that wavelength affects how objects are processed visually; very useful!
  3. Ensign Vossti frequently posts these little letters to people her academy buddy, and I have really enjoyed reading them. Keep up the great work, Doctor! ----- To Ensign Navoth, c/o USS Wyoming, The first ship I remember living on was the Ruby Star II. Then when it was retired in 238312, my family along with almost everyone else I knew moved over to the Crystal Star III. They were both civilian passenger liners which ran a regular route from Betazed to Starbase 12 to Risa and then back to Betazed. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time at the two planets, but there was some difference of opinion about Starbase 12. My parents were never all that fond of the starbase and I don't remember them looking forward to anything to do with the place except for a single human restaurant called The Poutine Experience. It took me a long time to figure out why my folks were so nonplussed about Starbase 12, but when I was about thirteen years old, I decided to find out. The three of us were in The Poutine Experience one day; we had ordered and were waiting for our food to be delivered, and I could feel the low, subtle emotional tension in my parents, so I asked them what was wrong. My mother projected her answer directly into my mind: “Open your eyes, Mallora. Resio isn't here today.” At my confusion, she clarified, “Resio, the only Betazoid server in this restaurant? Haven't you noticed that there aren't any other Betazoids on this gods-forsaken starbase?” I guess I hadn't noticed that before, but when I looked around, I could see that it was apparently true. There were lots of Humans and Vulcans and Tellarites and Andorians and Risians, but I couldn't spot any Betazoids. That revelation stuck with me and bothered me since almost 25% of the crew of the Crystal Star III were Betazoids. The following month when the ship returned to Starbase 12, I went onto the station on my own to explore. I didn't see any Betazoids then either, but I was caught by a Risian security crewman when I was sneaking around in a crew only area. He was far kinder than I expected a Starfleet security guard to be, so I mustered up my courage and asked him why there were no Betazoids on the starbase. “Who told you that?” he asked with a chuckle. “Of course there are Betazoids here; there just don't happen to be any in the operations division. I think most of them are in sciences or medical. I think there's also a Betazoid ensign down in engineering. Do you want to meet one?” I could feel his honesty and good humor, so I went with him to one of the science labs that day. I met two Betazoids who were working on a botany project of some kind, and they were kind enough to answer my ignorant teenage questions. When I returned to the Crystal Star that evening, I realized that there was a rift beginning to form between my parents and myself. I was reminded of all this because there is no shortage of Betazoids on the USS Gorkon. It is a very diverse ship, but I'd guess that close to 10% of the personnel aboard the ship are Betazoids, an a similarly healthy percent are Vulcans. My first reaction to this was abject joy, but then I started wondering where that emotion came from, and that led me to recall my experience on Starbase 12. I hope that you are finding your work on the USS Wyoming fulfilling and your coworkers eager and companionable. Your friend always, Ensign Mallora Vossti ---- Ensign Mallora Vossti Junior Medical Officer USS Gorkon G239805MV4
  4. The winner of the Quote of the Month for July is none other than our new crewmate Alieth! The winning quote was: Alieth: I used his research against him. To be exact, I hit him in the forehead with it. ... solving a great mystery in Starbase 118 history. Now we know why she's wanted in five sectors... Congratulations again, Lieutenant, and thank you VERY MUCH to everyone who both suggested quotes for the competition, AND those who voted!
  5. ((Beach, Cochtois Lagoon, Deluvia IV, Evening)) (( OOC: This takes place near the end of the party, late at night. )) Stoyer: Ayiana…….. Sevo: Don’t try to deny it; I’m sure you’ve felt the same as I have of you, and it’s eating me up inside. I also feel for Serren, he’s a great guy, but I don’t feel for him like I do you in the Skarbek. Stoyer: That…...that right there…..in the Skarbek...that is my problem. Am I the same person as Strip? You are definitely not Red. I don’t see you beating a Gorn almost to death for pudding. Maybe a Romulan…. It was a lame attempt at a joke. Ayiana did not laugh. That incident way back on Temlai continued to haunt her to this day. It, among future encounters, festered and fed her disdain for Romulans. It was not something she was proud of. Sevo: See, that’s just it. The potential for Red is inside of me, but it’s tempered by different life experiences. Would I go down Red’s path if it wasn’t for Starfleet training and a copious amount of counseling? Consequently, her feelings are my feelings, somewhere. Stoyer: Somewhere….Strip is completely different from me. Even without the training. How can I say those feelings are real? Sevo: How can you not? Yeah, how could he not, Cory thought. They were real and his. Stoyer: Maybe they are, maybe they are not. We have been down this road before……. Sevo: It doesn’t feel quite the same. Especially after...you know...popping the question? The question that he answered OUT LOUD. Cory looked up and closed his eyes. Of course she heard about that. Why not, everyone onboard the Gorkon knew about it. Stoyer: Look, you can’t blame me for that. I was just waking up from…….it. He felt her close to him. The thought of his arm around Red popped into his head. He shook it before looking back at her. Stoyer: Ayiana, what do you want me to tell you? Cory stood and faced Ayiana. She paused, thinking about his question. What DID she want him to say? That it didn't mean anything? That he was sorry for feeling? You couldn’t ask someone to apologize for loving another. Sevo: I...I want you to tell me you didn’t mean it! But if he did, they both knew it would be a lie and it would eat him up. Stoyer: Didn’t mean what? The answer to the question or……...my feelings for you. She paused, blinking in sudden confusion and embarrassment. Sevo: Um...yes? I mean, no! I don’t know! :: She tossed her hands in the air in exasperation. :: Stoyer: Look I don’t know what to say or do right now. That is why I have been avoiding you. Sevo: Same here. I mean, sort of. I mean...AARGH! :: She yelled in frustration. :: We can’t keep denying the feelings we have for each other! Cory looked at her. There was Red showing herself in Ayiana. A knowing smirk crossed his face. Stoyer: Ayiana….you are causing a scene. Ayiana turned and glared at Cory. A scene, huh? Sevo: Oh really? You think we’re causing a scene? It’s not like the ENTIRE SHIP KNOWS WHAT’S GOING ON! :: She yelled. :: Cory worked on keeping his voice calm, but this was getting way out of hand. Stoyer: The reason everyone knows what's going on is because you are yelling. Sevo: YOU WANT ME TO STOP YELLING?! MAYBE YOU SHOULD SHUT ME UP, THEN! Stunned Cory looked at her. He almost took a step back, not knowing what to say or do. Stoyer: How am I supposed to do that? You seemed to be enjoying making a scene. Ayiana dropped her drink on the ground and stared into Cory’s eyes. They were like infinite pools of clear water reflecting a blue sky. Her heart raced, and her face grew warm as her cheeks flushed. Suddenly, she reached up and grasped Cory’s face, and planted her lips on his. There they stayed; lips touching each other for several seconds, but it felt like an eternity. At the same time, it also felt like a [...] had burst; her emotions that had been bottled up and held back burst forward. Cory froze when Ayiana reached up and pulled his head down and their lips touched. He wasn’t sure what to do, push her away, continue the kiss, run and hide…. Cory didn’t think and just went with it. Everything he had been holding inside and burying deep came out. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. He held her tight against him. Time stood still...Nothing else mattered at this moment. She grasped him in turn; there was a vague sense they were being watched on the fringes of her consciousness, but for right now, it was just the two of them. It felt...right. Stoyer: Wow, that was...... She paused and blinked, still looking into his eyes. Her cheeks and lips felt warm. He looked into those blue eyes and smiled. She felt warm in his arms. Sevo: Yeah..... Stoyer: Ayiana…... Suddenly, Serren’s face flashed in Ayiana’s mind and she realized what she was doing. Just as quickly as they embraced, she pulled back, letting go of him. She took a step back, covering her mouth with her hands in shock and embarrassment. Her eyes lit up like plates, staring at Cory. Her cheeks flushed even redder, if such a thing was possible. What did she just do?! Sevo: No, I can’t. This is wrong. oO But it felt right. Oo Cory felt her push away and he let go quickly. He could feel the heat rising in his face. He looked down at her and saw the wide eyed look in her eyes. Then it hit him also…...Serren. Curses ran through his mind. What did he just do? He liked and respected the Trill. Ayiana just stared at Cory for a moment, the realization of what just happened finally catching up with her conscious mind. Without saying another word, Ayiana turned on her feet, her long red hair flipping behind her, and quickly dashed off into the night. Cory stood there with a dumbstruck look on his face. Gathering his wits he looked around to see if anyone was watching. Of course there were…..Cursing again under his breath, he walked off to try and disappear, maybe crawl in under a rock. Stoyer: This is going to be fun... Simmed by Lt. Commander Ayiana Sevo Mission Specialist U.S.S. Gorkon Image Collective Wiki Ops Investigating Diversity and Inclusion Committee (IDIC) V239109AS0 & Lieutenant Cory Stoyer Helm/Comms/Ops Officer USS Gorkon C239111CS0
  6. ----- ((Beach, Cochtois Lagoon, Deluvia IV, Evening)) (( OOC: This takes place near the end of the party, late at night. )) It was late; the stars were out and shining brightly on the party. She had already had a bit too much to drink, and was meandering through the sand absentmindedly. It had been a very fun shore leave; she went swimming, diving, museum trawling, and spent time with Serren, when he wasn’t doing stupid stuff like locking himself in the brig. When she got the invitation that all the senior staff were invited to the after-wedding reception, she was a bit surprised. Ayiana and Valesha didn’t have the best track record with each other. They pretty much danced away from each other. She had no idea how or if any sort of cordial relationship was possible with her. Cory was happy when the invite to the reception arrived for him. He of course knew Chris from being in Operations. He always respected the dependable Petty Officer. Part of Cory wondered if he would have turned out like Chris if he didn’t go to the Academy or gotten out after his 4 years were up. Valesha was with him during the crisis on Starbase 173. He led that away mission. It was a mess. Went from fixing reactors to fighting Orions. He was happy the pair finally tied the knot. She saw Cory off a ways, and her mind went back to the Skarbek; specifically the last minutes of it, talking with him about their alternate life and the question she popped to him. Unfortunately, he answered it in Real Life, and it quickly spread around the ship. Hilariously, though, some people thought he was talking about Toran; but she was not laughing. She didn’t know what he thought of it. The two of them had a sort of unspoken, unconscious agreement not to talk, interact, or otherwise be near each other all shore leave. It seemed to work right up until now. Ayiana knew they couldn’t keep avoiding each other forever, and she was just drunk enough to do something about it. Cory wandered around the reception. He had a drink in his hand and was looking for a place to watch the crew interact. This had been an emotional shore leave. Cory was glad to have been able to patch things up with Doc Adea. He smiled as he looked over the group. He had taken a lot of them for granted and really screwed things up. Cory was happy that Jo and him were able to patch some of their friendship up, even though she wiped the sand with him in beach volleyball. He felt something and turned to see Ayiana walking over to him. Taking a drink he wished he could walk away, but she seemed determined to talk to him. Seeing a large boulder, Cory sat down as she approached. He looked up into those familiar blue eyes. Sevo: Hey, Cory. How you doing? Stoyer: I am good, Ayiana. Sevo: Cory, we need to talk. That didn’t surprise him. He didn’t want to talk to her, but she was here. Stoyer: What do you want to talk about? She sat down next to him. Cory looked over at her. Thoughts running through his mind. Sevo: You know what. Stoyer: No, I don’t Sevo: Cory, you and I both know we can’t keep ignoring what’s going on between us in the Skarbek. Cory took a sip of his drink. Giving himself a moment to think. Stoyer: Been doing a pretty good job so far. He looked at her again. Heart pounding in his chest. She looked at him; her heart pounding in her chest. Sevo: Yea, we have. :: She smirked. :: You know, I would have gone on that diving excursion with Samira if you weren’t there. Stoyer: Same. I heard you were staying in an underwater hotel, so I got a beach house. Sevo: Serren and I thought about it, but ended up going for a beach house too. Think I’ve seen you off in the distance on the grounds. Stoyer: See it is working. Serren and you have a great thing. There is nothing to discuss. Ayiana looked at the ground. She wasn’t so sure, and the tone of her voice in her reply mirrored it. Sevo: ...Yea. Great. Cory looked away. Then her tone hit him. He looked back at her. Stoyer: That didn’t sound enthusiastic. Everything Ok? Ayiana looked back up at Cory. Sevo: I’m...not sure. Serren seems okay with everything. But I feel torn. It almost feels like I cheated on him. It was incredibly ironic; a few years ago, Cory cheated on his wife Petra with Ayiana. Of course, Ayiana knew full-well what she was getting into. This was a bit different, though. Was it really *her* feelings she was feeling, or *Red’s*? Was there a difference? Stoyer: But you haven't, have you? Sevo: I don’t know! Does what happened in the Skarbek count? Do those feelings matter out here? :: She gestured around frantically. :: That was the question. He knew “Strip’s” feelings for “Red”. He also knew that there was a good part of those feelings inside him for the woman sitting next to him. He admitted those feelings to Genkos. Stoyer: That is a good question. Part of me says yes, but I am not sure how. Sevo: You know as well as I do that as much as we try, Red and Strip are still inside of us. Everything that manifests in there comes from us. In fact, each time we dive back in there, we seem to be closer. That means that somewhere deep down, we still care for each other like that; maybe more. Cory looked down at his hands.
  7. A lovely little sim from Jona ch'Ranni, continuing his long-term plot with Vexa zh'Lev. A short one, but lovely to read. ----- ((Cafe, Iyira, Deluvia IV)) Jona sat lightly in the spacious underwater cafe. The transparent aluminum bubble that held the ocean water at bay domed to a peak thirty meters above. Artificial light mixed with the dreamlike illumination from the outside waters danced and played across the faces of the patrons. The Andorian sat at the small table near the edge of the glass wall and he let out a tiny smile that played at the corner of his mouth as a bioluminescent eel drifted languidly past. The sight of an insectoid creature staring back at it from the other side of the glass must have startled it as it darted quickly away. He shook his head in disbelief at the marvel of engineering that the Selkie had accomplished with their beautiful city. He'd taken refuge in the city below the waves as a compromise. The sunny beaches were far too warm and the more rugged and frigid wilderness had proved a bit dangerous as evidenced by his fall during a climbing outing. The submerged city was a bit cooler than the tropical surface and he found it pleasant enough. He hoped his companion would too. zh'Lev: Jojo? He was pulled from his musings and his hint of a smile grew into a full goofy grin. ch'Ranni: ::rising from his seat and moving to grasp the woman in a tight hug:: Vexa! It's great to see you. How have you been? The energetic young zhen released him from the hug and Jona could see the genuineness of her delight at being there. Being with him. Their paths had crossed years before at the edge of the Milky Way near the Galactic Barrier when he was stationed on the USS Columbia. The sudden end of the ship's tour in the Sagittarius Reach had left the civilian scientist at Dehner Base and ripped him away to a new assignment on the Gorkon. Their stilted and awkward attempt at a long-distance relationship had eventually ended in failure. But now she was here. zh'Lev: ::taking a seat opposite him and speaking after a brief pause:: Things have been rough. Jona nodded in understanding. She had come to him nearly a year before, requesting help from Starfleet. Dehner Base was under repeated assault by pirates and the Losarian Commonwealth - the first friends they'd made in the region - had been unable to provide consistent protection to the fledgling compound. Though an effort had been made to reinforce the protection, Starfleet had made the decision that the base would be mothballed. It had been a difficult transition for the small family of scientists back to the core worlds of the Federation and he imagined the woman sitting across from him was feeling lost and frustrated at the perception of failure surrounding their mission. ch'Ranni: I'm so sorry, Vexa. I wish there was more that I could have done. zh'Lev: ::with a steely gaze and sense of determination:: No, Jona. Don't do that. It isn't your fault. You did what you could. ::face softening:: Anyway, I'm here now. ch'Ranni: Yes, you are. ::pause:: Why is that exactly? zh'Lev: Oh? You don't want me to be here? ch'Ranni: ::raising his hands in a defensive posture:: No, no, no! That's not what I meant ... She reached across the table and playfully swatted at his arm. zh'Lev: Relax. I'm kidding. Like I said in my communique, I wanted to see you. ::backpedaling:: But there's a lot to do in the sector for an esteemed energy field expert, too. The New Horizons conference, Palanon in the Tyrellian system has some amazing research facilities that are looking for directors - A look of shock whipped his antenna back and he supplemented it with an eyebrow arch that would have made a Vulcan proud. ch'Ranni: Wait, you're thinking of relocating to this sector? TBC -- Lt. Commander Jona ch'Ranni Chief of Operations USS Gorkon (NCC-82293) C239510JC0
  8. The winner for the Quote of the Month for June was Tahna Meru, with: Tahna: Roomba is...well...sentient slime? He's friend-shaped. And it seems he can survive just about anything. Congrats Ensign! Another poll for July will be going up soon so stay tuned for that!
  9. Another good one from Reynolds. Short, but pointent, full of emotion that you just can't help but feel. ----- ((Lobby, Emerald Reef Hotel, Deluvia IV)) Caedan was sharing a drink with Genkos in the bar of the Emerald Reef, enjoying the underwater landscape the hotel offered while they reconciled past hurts. Their talk had begun with the incident at the Admiral's wedding reception, and while the Rodulan still felt some culpability for his part in the messy affair, it had relieved him to hear that Genkos didn't share that opinion. Perhaps inevitably, their conversation had turned to more recent events and the Betazoid's guilt over his part in them. It had felt a bit like looking in a mirror; one man berating himself for his part in a situation when there really was no blame to place. Caedan had said so, and they'd looked at their reflections again, with him offering Genkos a piece of relief without wiping away all of his guilt. But a casual slip of the tongue had caused Genkos to put Caedan under the microscope in a way the Rodulan wasn't familiar or comfortable with. He rarely talked about himself, especially with difficult subjects, preferring to let the spotlight linger on other people. Most people were all too happy with that arrangement, but evidently the doctor wanted to listen as much as he did talk. Nkai: In some ways it feels a bit like Skarbek. So... ::He lifted a hand, open-palmed, searching for the words to describe the experience of being Over There.:: So divorced from normal reality, it seems like a bad dream. Adea: I’m no therapist, but that’s probably a good thing. Caedan nodded. He'd thought the same thing himself; it allowed for some emotional distance, offered the ability to look back without being hit by the full force of the emotions that he'd lived through. There were still memories which brought a lump to his throat and tears to his eyes, moments of particular hardship or sorrow, but he could talk about most of it without breaking down—and that was a victory. Nkai: I like to think so. Adea: It just feels like each successive trip there makes it far worse; makes me far worse, and I’m starting to feel hugely phobic of the ship. Of my first adult home. No response came easily to Caedan's mind. It was a feeling he knew too well, the reason he hadn't gone home to Rodul in decades. A place filled with happy childhood memories that he cherished and held close... but also a place filled with some of his darkest moments and memories he tried to lock away. That was hard enough to do at the best of times, and he could only imagine what it would be like if he retrod those old stomping grounds. Adea: Rationally, I know I’ll get over it, but emotionally, you know, the brain never wins. How do you manage it? You always seem so… well put together. Nkai: Yeah? ::He scratched the back of his head and chuckled.:: Maybe that's just my advanced age working for me. Mellowed out through the sheer passage of time. He paused there, feeling as though he owed a better response than a joke and a slide away from the question. Maybe because Genkos needed one, maybe because Caedan had played a part in hurting him in the past. His smile slid away as he shook his head, his instinct to keep his past private warring with the desire to help someone in pain. Nkai: I think... ::A sigh blew past his lips.:: I think we have to make peace with the idea that there's darkness in all of us. That knowing that and accepting that is the best way to make sure it isn't the part of us in control when the situation's that bad. Adea: Response Caedan grimaced, trying to corral spiralling thoughts and the expanding crackle of thunder in his chest into something that would make sense. It was hard to keep it from carving deeper lines on his face, to prevent his muscles from bunching into a defensive hunch, and he leaned more of his weight on the bar counter as if it could offer moral as well as physical support. Nkai: You know, I think the Q put me on the Fourcade and away from the worst of it because that wasn't the way to get under my skin. I've already lived it. The Cardassians started their occupation of my homeworld when I was fifteen, and the history books say it wasn't as brutal as their conquest of Bajor, but... But brutality wasn't essential to cause suffering. Callousness and indifference could be a blade just as sharp, incising just as deep, leaving scars just the same. As he thought about it, digging up the memories he tried so hard to bury, raw emotion erupting like crude oil spilling across virgin soil, there was a slight comfort that his thoughts weren't readable. His soft underbelly wasn't completely exposed to the Betazoid. Nkai: I remember people freezing to death in the winter because the Cardassians rationed our energy supplies. People begging for scraps for their children because they rationed our food, even though we produced more than enough for everyone. I remember the—::he swallowed, a lump biting at his throat, Syana's lost smile drifting through his memories::—the protests that turned into massacres they blamed on the victims, and the people who just vanished. All this time later, it had become hard to picture Syana and Vawne's faces. His first love was nothing but wisps of memory; the scent of her hair when she was curled up in his arms, the bell-like sound of her laugh when he amused her, the feel of her breath against his cheek when she whispered something cheeky into his ear. Vawne's big brother scowl when his younger siblings interrupted whatever terribly grown-up thing he was doing, his hearty cackle when he let them win tickle wars against him, the tight grasp of a hug when he was trying to make them feel better. Gone. Centuries before their time, barely a brushstroke on the Artist's canvas. He frowned, blinking himself out of the reverie, and continued. Nkai: One of them was my big brother. They barged into our house one day and dragged him away for "questioning" and we never saw him again. It broke my parents. And to this day we don't know what happened to him, because they destroyed their records at the end of the occupation. There's now a branch of archeology that specialises in finding mass graves and identifying who's in them, and him being found in one is the only closure we can hope for. Imagine that; your one hope for closure is someone's going to call you up one day and tell you they've found your brother's body. Adea: Response Caedan nodded slowly; in response to Genkos or his own inner monologue, he wasn't sure. These were things he hadn't even told Jo or Valesha, perhaps more than a little afraid that his dearest friends would look at him differently afterwards. Nkai: What I'm trying to say in a really roundabout way is... I was young, and I was hurt, and I was angry. When my brother's friends asked me to help them fight back, I said yes. And in the next few years I did things I'm not proud of. He paused for a deep inhale, breathing it out through his nose. Those details he would not dispense. It wouldn't make him or Genkos feel any better to share the gruesome details of Caedan Nkai, bomb-making resistance fighter. The Betazoid had been in Skarbek, and he knew what lengths people could go to in the fight for freedom, especially in the face of cruelty. Nkai: So I know it doesn't feel like it, but it's a gift. To get to face up to that part of yourself without having to do things you can never take back. Adea: Response -- Lt. Commander Caedan Nkai Mission Specialist USS Gorkon simmed by Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds Commanding Officer USS Gorkon T238401QR0
  10. A really interesting and well written introspective after the horror of our last Skarbek mission, and an ominous way to conclude at the end. Well done, skipper! ----- ((Resort Villa, Cochtois Lagoon, Deluvia IV)) Music drifted through the open windows of the beachside villa, a distant bass line thumping. A party in its twilight hours, while the moon crept toward its peak in a twinkling sky. The occupants of the villa didn't hear it, curled up in their beds between fresh, soft sheets. Exhausted after a long day spent running around after an ebullient six-year-old intent on enjoying every activity on offer. Quinn rolled over in her sleep, throwing her arm across the broad chest of the German slumbering next to her. Perhaps it was the lingering effects of the psychic parasite, some remnants of its energy still crackling in the gyri and sulci of her brain. Perhaps it was her own subconscious trying to process exactly what she'd experienced. Whatever the reason, her sleeping mind brushed against her partner's, tangling and intertwining, until two dreams merged into one. ((Once Upon a Dream: Peshkova Colony, Demilitarised Zone)) Wind whispered through the long grasses and wildflowers on the outskirts of the colony, flames crackling and snapping around the charred logs of the bonfire. The Skarbek was a black shadow against the stars, the aging raider landed in green fields, clicking and creaking as the thick metal of the patchwork hull cooled in the evening breeze. The last of the crew stumbled away toward a bed for the evening—some collapsing into their own, some visiting another's—leaving two people still staring into the dying flames. Quinn sat on the ground, leaning back against a log, sipping from a bottle of beer. Walter next to her, perched on the same log, sipping from his hip flask. They sat in silence, minutes compounding upon minutes, until he voiced the question on both of their minds. Brunsig: Do you know why he did it? Quinn drew in a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. The question had been on her mind for days, and she liked each answer she came up with less than the last. She'd played and replayed their time in the prison, reliving that hell over and over in search of some sign he'd been close to the edge. Instead of trying to move on from the experience, she'd pulled it closer, and pushed it under the microscope; paying the toll in sleepless nights and horrors seared on the insides of her eyelids. Reynolds: If you'd made me put money on someone doing something like that, it would have been Kos. We worried about him for a while there. Brunsig: That's not what I asked. Not it was not. Another long breath, lungs filled with nature and smoke, and she took a draught from her beer. She could feel the fading warmth of the fire on her face, but it was nothing like the oppressive heat of the prison barge. A soft caress, rather than a closed fist. Shame that the memories themselves were nowhere near so gentle, and she took another slug of beer to wash away the lump in her throat and cool the ache in her chest. Reynolds: After Kos shot the—::she corrected herself, knowing the man's name now::—shot Tirok, Serren admitted he'd killed someone in the past. Mikali sh'Shar? Brunsig: Banshee? We wondered why she dropped off sensors. Was a pain in the [...] until the Klingons picked up the slack. Reynolds: Well, she worked with her wife, who vanished around the same time. I didn't put two and two together before now, but she was a Trill, too. Safine Tan. One reason they got on so well was their ability to follow each other's train of thoughts, even when left unspoken. Quinn didn't need to finish the explanation; she'd marked out the dots, and he drew the lines between them. A picture drawn with mutual understanding. Embers snapped and popped in the fire, flames reflected in hazel and blue, until the words emerged with quiet, German precision. Brunsig: You think he killed her and took the symbiont? Reynolds: I'm just saying it would explain a lot. He would have been fighting his own mind the whole time, which accounts for all the... quirks. ::She paused.:: It could explain why he seemed to think we're like that, too. Easier to live with yourself when you believe everyone's as willing to pull the trigger as you are. Maybe it was too difficult to live with himself when he finally realised we're not. He shook his head and lifted the flask to his lips, letting her words percolate through. It was tough to believe, but it was the only clean line she could draw through the data she had. It was a shame it did nothing to scrub away the guilt; she'd been too quick to tend to her own needs, falling into a shower and a bed with nary a thought for checking on anyone else. Brunsig: Scheiße. Reynolds: It's just... We fought so hard to get everyone out of the prison, there were so many times it would have been easier to leave him behind. Even he said as much, and then... ::She ran her fingers through loose waves of her hair, and exhaled the ache blooming behind her ribs as a brief, humourless laugh.:: What was the point? Brunsig: We can't save everyone. Especially the ones who don't want to be saved. After a moment's thought, he stuffed the hip flask into his pocket and pushed himself off the log. Taking a seat on the ground next to her, he lifted his arm and wrapped it around her shoulders. Just as she'd sat and offered comfort after they'd rescued him, Soup and Valesha from the Cardassians, so he returned the favour. An expression of solidarity and support. Yet Quinn swallowed, feeling heat on her face which had nothing to do with the bonfire ahead. Brunsig: It is what it is. ::He paused, frowning into the middle distance.:: Hell, maybe we lucked out. If you're right, it means he didn't have a problem murdering the people he associated with. A grimace wrinkled her freckles at the indelicate observation, but she'd be lying if she said the same thought hadn't occurred to her. Quinn didn't know why Tan had killed the smuggler or exactly how he'd become a host, but there were few explanations that offered comfort or reassurance. Something had made him pull the (proverbial?) trigger, and they had no idea if that same thing could have repeated among their company. A sigh flowed out of her lungs, and she pinched the bridge of her nose, massaging the frown away. So many questions, the answers vaporised in the flash of a disruptor rifle, leaving nothing behind but guilt, doubt and frustration. Reynolds: It's Tan I feel sorry for. The symbiont, I mean. However Serren became its host, chances are it was traumatic. It's not like it had much of a choice in any of this, and then to die because... She trailed off and shrugged helplessly. The complexities of Joining and the responsibilities of host to symbiont and symbiont to host were not something she knew much about. Suicide was was always a tragedy, and with a Joined Trill it claimed two lives. But what happened if one was committed to that path and the other was not? Where did the host begin and symbiont end? Brunsig: We'll hike up to Memorial Rock tomorrow. Put something down, say a few words for him. Them. ::He paused and then a grumble rumbled out of his chest.:: And then we're performing an exorcism on the helm controls, because I'll be damned if our pilots aren't cursed. Quinn breathed out a wisp of a laugh, a fragile and gossamer thing that choked out in the back of her throat and made her eyes burn. Shaking her head, she drained the last of her beer and the bottle landed with a clatter of clinks in the enormous pile of empties. The communal fire of despair had seen many a drunk these past few days. Brunsig: Life's hard enough as it is, Quinn. Don't drag his carcass around with you. Do you regret getting him out of there? Reynolds: No. Brunsig: Remember that. You did right by your own conscience, whatever he did in the end. You've got control of no one's choices but your own. If there were words to answer him, she didn't know them. He drew in a deep breath, and to her surprise, he hooked an arm under her knees, pulling her against his chest. Quinn buried her face in his shoulder, the breeze chill against the damp on her cheeks, and held on. Close enough to smell the woody spice of his skin, and the late night stubble on his jaw scratched against her temple. But what started as an offer of comfort flowed into something else, as if the tide receded to reveal the secrets of the seabed beneath. Time elongated like pulled glass, each second a glittering, fragile moment, each waiting for the other to break it. Her hand on his chest, the drumroll of his pulse raced underneath her palm, and her own beat a similar tattoo. After a moment's hesitation, he wrapped his fingers around hers. A tender gesture, far more intimate than appearances might imply. Skin brushed against skin, thoughts brushed against thoughts, and Quinn sucked in a sharp breath as her mind touched his. An invitation into the guarded core of who he was, where he laid bare a depth of feeling she hadn't realised existed. Her world became silk and cinnamon and the low notes of a viola, and she had the measure of his heart, just as he now had hers. Reynolds: You're a dark horse, Walter Brunsig. Brunsig: I have my moments. Binary stars, locked into their interstellar dance, falling toward one another. She squeezed his fingers, her touch creating spirals of electric sensation that crackled through them both, and smiled at the way his thoughts shifted like a kaleidoscope. Her Deltan heritage was something she often struggled with, but there were times... She lifted her gaze to meet his. Hazel locked with blue, and heat blossomed out from the centre of her chest, rushing over her shoulders to pool at the base of her spine. She knew exactly how the rest of their night would play out. Perhaps he did, too, a small smile curling at the corners of his mouth as he dipped his head, his lips meeting hers in a first kiss. Ending the first movement in their symphony, beginning another, scored that night in soft sighs, low moans, and murmured affections. ...And in the real world, the two lovers slumbered through the deep of night, until the golden light of dawn chased their dreams of a Maquis life back into the darkness. Until the next time. -- Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds Commanding Officer USS Gorkon T238401QR0 & Captain Walter Brunsig Commanding Officer USS Triumphant
  11. Nyaww you guys. Thanks heaps Mallora, and if you're curious, the six parter was a small piece in Mikali's ongoing story, so you'll see more of her. And if you want to read what came before... well, there's a big collection here, and you might see some familiar faces pop up! https://wiki.starbase118.net/wiki/index.php?title=Mikali_sh'Shar/Andorian_Blues
  12. A really emotional and well written ending to our current mission (or is it M'Rishion?). M'Rish must be protected. (( Observation Room - Cardassian “Prison” )) Ayiana lay partially collapsed on the smoking and sparking ruin of the computer console. She had seen several logs by the Chief Researcher that detailed the meticulous and cruel social experiments they had been performing on dozens of prisoner groups over the years. They were just the latest iteration. Drop prisoners in the rear of the ship, see how they act and survive in the prison. If some break out into the middle of the ship, complex and devious scenarios and traps were ready to be played via holoemitters placed throughout; just to see how they’d react. To make matters worse, their unofficial charge, M’Rish, had been an unwilling pawn in the Cardassians’ vile experiments. Every cycle, they’d sedate her, wipe her memories, reprogram her with false ones, then set her loose in the ship again to be found by any prison escapees. Just to see what they’d do to a helpless child in such a setting; not to mention how she survived on her own for weeks on end before someone came to find her. Assuming people actually broke out of the prison, which didn’t happen every iteration. When she first joined the Maquis, Ayiana merely wanted to safeguard her home and fellow colonists in the DMZ against the Cardassian Union’s aggression. Now, she hated them all for what they sanctioned here. It had been going on for years, far earlier than the genesis of the Maquis or even the Federation-Cardassian Treaty. She wanted to find those responsible and explain in exquisite detail, with many sharp objects in sensitive areas, just how she felt about it. Computer: Warning! Baryon sweep approaching. All remaining personnel retreat to designated shelters for evacuation. Apparently, such revenge would have to wait. Sevo: Oh, Gods above! Come on! :: She exclaimed. :: Stoyer: Yeah, time to go. Neathler: Shuttle bay, head for the shuttlebay. ::She paused, taking another breath, explaining herself.:: There was a message before. Sevo: I’ll take your word for it. Stoyer: There should be a release for the door. As Red said, the Cardies never expected any of us to get this far. They would have to evacuate the area also. Strip was still holding the unconscious M’Rish in his arms. The Cardassians had sedated her earlier, but there was no way to know if they had proceeded with the memory wipe yet. Ayiana suspected otherwise, as that generally involved complex equipment not seen in the room they found her in. Returning to the control panel Ayiana tried earlier, Cory tapped away at it and it opened easily, much to her chagrin. The emergency evacuation must have overridden any locks in order to facilitate a faster evacuation. Stoyer: Let’s get out of here. Neathler: Go. :: She said as she picked up her furry friend. :: Sevo: Was there a map? Do you know where to go? Exiting the room, Fingers looked both ways down the corridor, slightly confused. Apparently, she didn’t know where to go. To make matters worse, a green forcefield was slowly inching its way up the corridor - the baryon sweep! Lethal to any form of life; it was vital they stay away from it. She heard it could be quite painful. Neathler: The baryon sweep! Sevo: That means everyone in the prison is dead. Executed. Stoyer: Response Ayiana clenched her fists white. She may not have liked many of the prisoners, but cold-blooded execution by baryon sweep was not a fate she’d wish on anyone. Quickly, they ran down the corridor. Some doors were open but looking inside, they were empty. Anyone still on the ship would have evacuated or moved to safe shelters by now. She thought baryon beams moved meticulously and slowly, that they’d easily be able to run away from it. But this one seemed different; after all, it was an execution tool, not a meticulous maintenance sweep. Neathler: Hurry. Stoyer: Response The straight hallway leading away from the deadly energy suddenly turned left. With no choice, they followed, past a set of double doors. Then, much to Ayiana’s annoyance, the corridor turned left *again*, heading towards the baryon beam. She could see it further down, inching closer. Suddenly, Fingers stopped in her tracks. Neathler: Back, we have to go back, through those double doors. Sevo: What?! Why...nevermind. I trust you! Stoyer: Response They backtracked down the corridor, to the right, and to the set of thick double doors passed earlier. There was a plaque next to it which read “Shuttlebay Two.” Ayiana tapped at the controls and opened the doors. The sight inside caused her heart to drop. It was a large bay, but empty. Not a single escape shuttle remained. They had already been taken by the escaping crew, as denoted by impulse scorch marks on the floor. Sevo: Damn, damn, and damn! Neathler/Stoyer: Response They moved out to the middle of the large bay in order to give them some more time. To do what, she didn’t know. Soon, the green energy wall materialized through the door and wall they passed through, crawling ever closer. Slight shuffling in Cory’s arms caught Ayiana’s attention. M’Rish had woken up. M’Rish: Wh...wha? :: She peered around curiously, rubbing her eyes, looking at everyone. :: Y-you’s came back for me? Sevo: O-of course we did. :: Holding back a tear. :: Oh no, why?! Couldn’t she have stayed asleep just a little longer? M’Rish didn’t need to know what was happening; what was about to happen. She could have stayed asleep through the end, never knowing what transpired. When she had been sedated back in that room, that could have been the simple, quiet, painless end for her; never knowing that she would die a little while later. Now, she’d die along with the rest of them, painfully awake and aware of what was happening. Neathler/Stoyer: Response M’Rish: Wh-what’s that?! :: Still being held in Strip’s arms, she pointed a shaky finger down the shuttlebay to the oncoming sweep. :: Sevo: It...it’s nothing. Don’t look at it. :: Ayiana moved to block M’Rish’s sight of the beam. :: Neathler/Stoyer: Response Ayiana turned to look, feigning curiosity; but in actuality, she was hiding the tears streaming down her face. Not for herself, or for Strip, or Fingers, but for M’Rish. Such an innocent being, not deserving of the life she had been living, and certainly not deserving of the death coming. But there was nothing left to do; the shuttles were gone, and they couldn’t just jump out into space. They had tried their hardest to live, survived impossible odds stacked against them, but it was for nothing in the end. Their escape plan failed, and they’d die on this miserable ship in a few short seconds, painfully. The sweep was less than a meter away. She could hear it’s humming now, like the slow ticking of death announcing itself. Sevo: We did our best, everyone. :: She turned to Strip. :: Cory, I just want to say...I love you. She placed one hand on Cory’s cheek, and the other on M’Rish’s head, who was still being held in Cory’s arms. Neathler/Stoyer: Response Sevo: M’Rish, I’m sorry little one. I’m so sorry… Ayiana closed her eyes as the first tingles of energy touched her. It wasn’t as painful as she thought it’d be. In fact, it felt familiar, almost like a transporter beam… ---------------------------- Ayiana “Red” Sevo Fighter ---------------------------- Simmed by ---------------------------- Lt. Commander Ayiana Sevo Mission Specialist U.S.S. Gorkon Image Collective Wiki Ops Investigating Diversity and Inclusion Committee (IDIC) V239109AS0 ----------------------------
  13. The Last Job The very tail end of the Dominion War "Looks like we lost ‘em, boss." Every muscle in my body ached. I leaned back in the pilot's seat of our cramped, rusty Ferengi ship, my antenna sagging with relief. The nervousness, the fear, fled my system, leaving my blue skin chilled and goose-fleshed. At least, I was pretty sure we had lost them. “Well done, Mikki,” said DaiMon Xhard, the loathsome Ferengi in charge of us. He leaned forward in his throne-seat like he was about to fall off, mouth parting to reveal a row of jagged, perfectly sharp teeth. “Now that the Federation dogs have lost the scent… resume previous course. We have a very special pick-up to make today, and I don’t want to be late. Got a hot tip.” Special? Our pickups were far from special. If anything, Ketracel-White smuggling was a remarkably simple job. Go to where the White was stored, take it to the Dominion forces in the Alpha quadrant, go to another pickup for more. Don’t get caught. That was the job. Had been ever since I left Andoria. Andoria. The cold winds that whipped around its surface would burn the skins of most Federation citizens, but we Andorians were blessed with tolerances far exceeding most (except the Breen). For me an average day on my home moon was bikini weather. How I missed the pleasant, cool air on my blue skin. Almost as though remembering the cold, my fingers trembled against the helm console. Quick as I could, I clasped my left hand within my right, eyes darting furtively from side to side. If the crew saw that momentary display of weakness, it would come back and bite me. I had to dose, but I couldn’t while I was flying Soon, though. Soon I’d have relief. Andorians had an old saying: don’t get addicted to drugs while dealing drugs, but I had learned that lesson a little too late. Andorians had another saying, too, that was more appropriate for my circumstances: Oops. My bad. “Resuming previous course,” I said, hoping my confidence would cover up the momentary display of weakness. I tapped out the commands on the console, guiding our useless rust bucket of a ship toward our pickup location, the only moon of some nameless planet that started with T. --- The “3” in the world’s name suggested whateverworld was the third blasted rock from its sun. Normally those kinds of worlds in the “Goldilocks zone” were teaming with hosts of andorianoid life, and sometimes their moons too, but not this one; our ship’s puny sensors showed that the moon was a dry, barren, sandy planetoid with an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, large numbers of vast subterranean lakes with algae (that produced the aforementioned atmosphere), and a scattering of large, probably dangerous life forms on the surface. Okay. I plotted a landing vector, taking the ship in low and slow. We didn’t know what damage the ship might have taken in the chase with our Federation pursuers, and I didn’t want to tax the old boy any more than I had to. Fortunately, though, we didn’t skip off the atmosphere and fly off into space, nor did we plunge toward the surface and burn up. Instead, thanks to some careful flying on my part, our rust bucket made a perfect re-entry and we touched down on the southern hemisphere, just a few short kilometres from the pickup zone. The crew assembled in the main cargo hold and I was given the dubious honour of opening the door. Taking in a deep breath of recycled air, tinged with the scent of metal and grease, I thumped my fist on the switch to lower the loading ramp. The hull cracked open with a hiss, the rusty loading ramp shuddering as it descended, dropping down to the sandy, desert floor and settling, groaning like an old man settling into a chair. Fresh air rushed in, blowing through my hair, my antenna perking up as they sensed the change in pressure and temperature. This air was not the cold, refreshing Andorian wind of my home moon. This moon’s air was a dry and hot blast like opening an oven, the heat and sand-choked gusts sucking the moisture out of my skin. My lips cracked almost instantly and I held my hands up to protect my face. “Ugh, blech! Sand!” “You’ll get used to it,” cackled Damon Xhard, moving up beside me, the Ferengi laying a hand on my head and rubbing between my antenna. An affectionate gesture from most, but one I despised from him. The heat of his hands glowing like lamps in the 'eyes' of my twitching sensors. I had told him, repeatedly and using the wonderful library of Ferengi obscenities that I picked up living on the Geesh-class ship for as long as I had, that if he ever actually touched my antenna, I would slice off whatever skin met mine. Yet he always managed to avoid actually making contact by a few millimetres. Dexterous when he wanted to be, knowing his fingers were on the line. “Don’t touch me,” I reiterated for the tenth time, brushing his hand away. “You’ll get used to it,” he said again. --- The distance to the pickup was close but the terrain was treacherous. We walked for what seemed like hours over hilly, rocky terrain covered in sand. I dosed myself about half way, and the shaking in my hands stopped. Almost all the crew (mostly Ferengi excluding myself and a few others) were not overly well suited for the journey. Everyone else was complaining by the time my tricorder finally said that we were close, but with fresh powdered White in my lungs and the prospect of more on the horizon, my spirits were high and my energy boundless. Perhaps it was the heightened sense of alertness the drug brought, but I seemed to be the only one concerned about the ominous signs we were seeing on the way. A large rock with a dark scorch mark on it. A piece of starship debris carrying the insignia of the Starfleet Marine Corps. A discarded plasma pistol of a make and configuration I did not recognise, but one Remi said was Jem’Hadar. She was usually right about these things. Had the Federation found the stash before we arrived? I worried on my lower lip as we walked (a not-uncommon symptom of being high, or so I justified it). Anxiety spiked and my heart thumped a staccato beat in my chest, the wind blowing sand into our clothes and ears and eyes, DaiMon Xhard’s voice echoed in my mind. A very special pickup… I hoped it was worth it. As we crested the last dune, one dotted with sharp rocks and shifting sand, a strange smell drifted to my nose carried on the hot, whipping wind. Rich, pungent like spoiled meat, mixed in with other strange scents I struggled to identify; some kind of burning plastic, scorched electronics, a whiff of discharged plasma. The normal setup for a Ketracel pickup was a set of hidden crates containing vials of White, hidden under bushes or water, sometimes broken up in to individual vials and stashed in cracks or buried. Hidden in a variety of ways, all trying to avoid Federation sensors. This particular pickup wasn’t anything like that. It was a war zone. Or rather... it had been, months ago. Bodies lay everywhere, Jem’Hadar and Starfleet Marines alike, some practically linked together as though they had fallen in the midst of hand-to-hand combat; some laying in improvised fox-holes, some spread out in the open. All dead. Half a Type 9 shuttle jutted out of the sand, its hull blown open and inside exposed, full of sand and slowly succumbing to rust. My antenna swung from left to right, taking in whatever information they could. The only mercy to my nose was that the dry heat had preserved the bodies. The odour wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. “Where’s the pickup?” I gasped, my hand pinched over my nostrils, trying in vain to keep the stink out. “You’re looking at it,” grunted Xhard, his face uncharacteristically grim, dark eyes scanning over the battle site. “The Jem’Hadar bodies will have plenty of White on them. Have the crew collect as much as they can carry.” Almost as an afterthought he added, “And strip the Federation dead too. Weapons. Personal effects. Anything valuable. There’ll be a bonus for everyone out of that half of the haul.” A bonus. That’s what the dignity of the dead was worth. Just a pocketful of latinum. “You can’t be serious,” I whispered, my antenna drooping. “You want us to desecrate the dead? Starfleet dead?” “What does it matter?” Xhard picked at a crooked tooth. “They’re dead. They have top-of-the-line weapons, tricorders and sensors, and enough rations to feed our crew for months. Make sure you strip the shuttle, too, who knows what treasures might be still working there.” No. This was wrong and I knew it. Despite the heat, my blood ran colder than the deepest glacier on Andoria. “Stealing from dead Jem’Hadar is one thing, but Starfleet too? You want us to defile the bodies of those who are fighting to stop the Dominion from taking the whole quadrant?” “I want you to do your job,” said Xhard, making a dismissive, shooing, ‘go forth’ gesture. “All of you. So do it. Your pay comes out of the Starfleet half, and you do want to refill your inhaler next month, don’t you?” Every part of me wanted to protest, to fight and struggle and kick and bite and scream at the injustice of it, but the fading dose in my lungs made a compelling argument. If I didn’t get more, within a month what I had would be out. And then withdrawal. The coughing. Running nose and eyes, like the galaxy’s worst flu. Shaking. Puking. Crying. I’d tried to get clean once. It had nearly killed me. Never again. I had no choice. Dejectedly, I adjusted my backpack and got to work. --- Six hours. It took six hours to loot everything we could get our grubby hands on. We stripped the power cells and atmosphere processor out of the shuttle (we were running on backups, so this would be a welcome addition), and each of the crew had an armful of rifles and pistols to carry back. Along with almost a thousand vials of White between us, each plucked from the mummified Jem’Hadar bodies. And... stuff. A Vulcan children’s toy. A Tellerite prayer charm. A Human gold watch. A Benzite breathing apparatus. Several strips of latinum. Stuff that didn’t belong to us. Stuff we had looted. The sun was starting to go down, and we couldn’t do our vulture’s work in the dark. Everyone started to get ready to camp for the night in preparation for heading back tomorrow morning. We had gotten the most valuable stuff and didn’t know who else would be showing up here, angry and spoiling for a fight. But I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. I didn’t even set up my tent, just marched around our desert camp muttering to myself, until I finally did something very stupid indeed. I double checked my disruptor pistol was charged and marched into Xhard’s expansive, expensive, luxurious tent and pointed it straight at him as he was settling in to his giant puffy bed. Xhard barely looked up as I came in, casually pulling the blankets up against his chest. “Well, well, well,” he said, casually clicking his tongue. “My Mikki has decided to pay me a visit right as I’m getting into bed. This really is a very special pickup.” The weapon twitched in my hand. Almost to draw attention to it, just so he could see. “In your bloated pathetic dreams,” I spat. “I’m here because I am not okay with what happened today.” “You’re not okay with seeing your pocket full of latinum and your lungs full of product?” Xhard smiled disarmingly (for a Ferengi). “Well, then, you’re right. Let’s put everything back just like it was. We’ll go back to the ship, lift off, and you can just go ahead and explain to the Dominion why we failed to meet their quota this month. I’m sure they’ll be very understanding.” His voice took on a sinister edge. “Maybe you can point that little thing at them when they complain too. I’m sure they’ll be terrified.” My upper lip curled back. Xhard, as terrible as he was, had a point. We had thrown in our lot with the Dominion (for now), but we all knew they had no love for us. They would just as soon shoot us all if we failed them. “The stuff stays,” I said. “The dead aren’t using it anymore. But we are going to bury those bodies before we leave tomorrow.” “Bury them?” Xhard narrowed his eyes in confusion. “Do you think they’ll turn into zombies, Mikki?” Xhard knew I was afraid of the dark, but it wasn’t that. “No,” I said. “But I want them buried regardless. The Dominion soldiers and the Starfleet personnel both. Decent graves. Got it?” “Why? It won’t make them any less dead.” “It’s what they deserve.” The corner of Xhard’s mouth turned up in amusement. “Even the Jem’Hadar?” I waved the disruptor around like a lunatic. “Both of them!” I shouted. “Starfleet! Dominion! It doesn’t matter to me; nobody deserves to just rot out in the open like that, no matter what side they’re on! We’re profiting from this war, the least we could do is show the victims of it a little common decency!” Xhard locked eyes with me, and I sensed a battle of wills happening at this very moment. He was testing me. Would I actually shoot? “Very well,” he said, stifling a broad yawn and nestling down into his overly comfortable bed. “First thing tomorrow morning.” He ever-so-casually patted the side of his bed. “Want to be warmer tonight?” I sheathed my disruptor in disgust and marched out. --- I stayed up all night, tossing and turning. No sleep. In the morning, everyone dug in the blazing sun for a full day making graves. Then we had a service. Even Xhard attended, something I genuinely did not expect. As the moon’s sun dipped below the dunes and cast its light on the bodies for the last time, we lowered each down into its impromptu grave we’d dug. Each grave had a headstone, a rock with the symbol of Starfleet or the Dominion as appropriate. At the foot of the graveyard I planted a stone onto which I burned a small inscription with my disruptor. STARFLEET MARINES AND JEM’HADAR SOLDIERS FELL HERE THERE WAS NO WINNER Some of us said words. Not much. We were drug smugglers, not poets, but we did our best. Then we packed up our tents and equipment and marched back to the ship. And that was that. --- I took the rust bucket out of the moon’s atmosphere, the ship shuddering briefly as it crossed the threshold into space, our cargo hold full of our ill-gotten gains. We were free and clear. When I was certain the ship’s autopilot was engaged and my job was done, I turned about in my helmsman’s chair. “DaiMon,” I asked, “may I see you in private?” Xhard merely nodded, and together we stepped into his Parlor, the equivalent of his Ready Room. It resembled the inside of his tent; pink clothes everywhere and a luxurious, fluffy bed, with only a curtain separating it from the bridge. So much for ‘in private’. A moment of silence hung between us, neither of us knowing what to say, until finally I spoke up with dry, cracked lips scoured by the wind. “I'm done with this, boss. I won't do it anymore. Shipping drugs is one thing, picking from the dead is another. This was my last job. Let me off at our next stop in Federation territory.” “You'll forfeit that bonus you worked so hard for,” he said, like it had even the slightest chance in Greth’or of convincing me. “And ten percent of your signing bonus, plus a handling fee on top of the breaking-contract fee, plus relevant dues and deductions.” He raised his voice and spoke over his shoulder to the rest of the crew. “Read your contracts, folks. It's all there.” “I don't care. Take whatever you want.” An eager grin spread over his face. “I’ll need that in writing,” he said. “That last bit. About me having whatever—” I reached down for my disruptor and he, wisely, didn’t complete that sentence. “Fly the ship to delivery,” he said. “And when we get to Bajor I’ll consider your request.” Consider? No. “You will drop me off at Bajor.” “Should have read the fine print, Mikki,” said Xhard, condescendingly. “It’s not that simple.” “Make it simple,” I said. “Leave me on Bajor.” Xhard put his hands on his hips. “I’ll consider it. Now get back to your post.” We wandered back out to the bridge. I once again sat at the helmsman’s console, staring out the main viewer of the Geesh-class ship that had been my home for the last five years, absently tapping at my console. Was there a better life out there for me? There had to be. Anything was better than this. What would I do? I’d have to get clean and stay clean this time. Really try, no matter how sick I got. And I’d need to find somewhere to live. Hopefully somewhere where the wind was nice and cold and gusting at fifty kilometres an hour, and where every day was -3°C or lower. Bikini weather would be a fitting holiday after my last job, but as the ship drifted through the stars, I reconsidered. Maybe somewhere quieter. Peaceful. Somewhere without a breath of wind. fin
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