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Alleran Tan

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Everything posted by Alleran Tan

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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 ----------------------------
  5. 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
  6. I couldn't help but cackle like a harpy when I saw the use of a certain word. Amazingly done, Genkos! ----- ((Maintenance Area, Cardassian Prison)) They had managed to get across the gaping chasm in the middle of the corridor with what could be called style and panache, but only by the partially sighted. Apart from Tan; he’d landed and ‘Kos had been tempted to hold up a PADD that read 9.4 on it. If he’d had a PADD that is. Or the time. Suddenly, however, and without warning, Shades jumped right on top of TNT, and bundled him to the floor. Repressing the brief urge to jump in, ‘Kos watched as she managed to slip off the knots holding him to the anchor, which, he now noticed, had just plummeted over the edge. There was a horrendous crashing sound as metal married more metal, and possibly had a lot more metal babies. It had pulled the rope taut, but didn’t seem in immediate danger in pulling TNT over edge. Reynolds: One second, we'll get you loose. Marshall/Tan: Response Sim: Here, use my - ‘Kos was stopped as the last knot slipped free and whipped past them, catching his crutch and sending him crashing bodily to the floor. He caught himself on his elbow which sent a shockwave straight up and into his jaw. As Shades saw to TNT, he got back onto his feet quite unsteadily, his heart pounding in his chest. Reynolds: You all right? Marshall/Tan: Response Reynolds: This place just keeps getting weirder and weirder. ::As was becoming a habitual tic, she crossed her arms again.:: I swear nothing makes sense in here. ‘Kos nodded once, agreeing with her. It was almost like a dream, such was the unreality of the situation, but not even in his worst nightmares did he have to exert himself so physically. Compared to this, his nightmares were a walk in the park. Sim: The only thing that makes sense is that this consistently doesn’t make sense. Marshall/Tan: Response Reynolds: We should— ‘Kos followed Shades’ gaze as whatever she saw interrupted her. Lumbering down the corridor was a sight both familiar and horrifying at the same time, and ‘Kos felt his bloody turn Andorian in the splittiest of split seconds. Reynolds: —go! Sim: Oh good… another undead. Marshall/Tan: Response And it was, somehow, a corpse reanimated as if by some day-go liquid, some of which poured like ichor from the creature’s mouth. At least that’s what it looked like. But ‘Kos didn’t take any of that in; he had pivoted on his heel and was limping as quickly as he could in the opposite direction. The groans of the creature echoed after them, and ‘Kos tried to block out these wordless cries. Sim: ::breathlessly:: Why… did… it… have… to… be… zombies? Marshall/Tan/Reynolds: Response They reached a T-junction, and neither was an exciting prospect. To the left, there appeared to be a large grate covering the entire corridor a few hundred yards down. Illuminated in the dull red bulbs seemed to be more of the shambling corpses, all Romulans, and all wearing the remains of fairly ragged clothes. Each one was covered in a symphony of bruises, as if they’d been beaten to within an inch of their life before being thrown into the corridor. Upon seeing their merry band of travellers, the Romulundead turned and ran at the grate. Thankfully it held, but they kept jumping at it, and it was deeply unpleasant. A sinking feeling in ‘Kos’ stomach told him eventually they’d break through. Whilst to the right, there was a completely darkened corridor. Sim: This way has to be better, right? … Right?! Marshall/Tan/Reynolds: Response --------------- Genkos “Wheels” Sim Doctor Skarbek G239502GS0
  7. A lovely little bit of family life from our Ensign! This was fun to read. ----- ((Tahna's Quarters, Deck 5, USS Gorkon)) Meru set a small white and gold prayer candle on the table beside her bed, something of a finishing touch. She hadn't had even time to unpack before her first mission and her first order of business post-ribbon ceremony was to fix that. She looked around her quarters -- still pretty empty, but she would have plenty of time to fill them. She finally felt settled in. She was about to change out of her newly decorated uniform into something more casual when the PADD on her bed chimed. Changing would have to wait. She plopped down on the bed in front of the PADD before answering the incoming transmission. Meru: Hanyu, ah’no peldar aka rokaya! Rej: Hanyu, ja'ral! Meru's mother and father waved at her from the screen. She smiled back, slipping easily back into her native Bajoran though it felt like forever since she'd had a chance to speak it. Her father, Rej, had the same easygoing lopsided smile she knew and loved; her mother, Yavarel, was never half as stern as she looked. Yavarel: How goes your first assignment, Ensign Tahna? Meru: ::Smiling:: I'm still in one piece. Yavarel: And decorated. Care to share? Meru laughed awkwardly. This was why she had hoped to change before their call. Meru: I had a run-in with some Orion criminals. Scared them away with fireworks. You know, the usual. Her mother did not look satisfied with that answer but to Meru's relief she pressed no further. Knowing her parents she guessed that her mother could identify the red and black Prisoner of War ribbon, though her father certainly could not. She had no doubt her mother would question her about it later in a private message when she could do so without worrying it would hit too close to home for her father. Yavarel: All in a day's work. ::She paused before changing the subject.:: Your father was complaining that you don't send enough pictures. Rej: I wasn't complaining, but I would love to paint the Beta quadrant if you see anything striking. Meru: ::Smiling:: Only if you send me one of your paintings, fa. Rej: Of course, Mer. As many as will fit in your quarters. Yavarel: Have you had a chance to get settled? Meru looked over her quarters. Her uniforms hung neatly in the closet. A small painting her father made of the budding kava fields on her uncle's farm hung over her desk; below it sat a family portrait taken the day before Meru left for the Academy. Her father's hair was still auburn in the picture, now she saw it had grayed considerably since she'd left. Her mother looked the same as ever -- like she hadn't aged a day since Bajor joined the Federation. Meru: I just finished unpacking actually, and I can definitely fit more of your paintings. Her father smiled in delight. Rej: I'll get right on that. Yavarel: I'm sure you have plenty to do. We won't keep you- Rej: But we love hearing from you, Mer. Meru: It's good to see you both. ::She smiled:: I love you. Rej: We love you too. Yavarel simply nodded and the call ended with a beep. Meru set the PADD down and fell back on her bed. Her mother was right, she did have plenty to do, but she felt exhausted from all the day's socializing. She stood up to change into something more comfortable, setting her PADD on the desk as she passed it. So much to do, but nothing said she couldn't start with a nap. ((End.)) ((OOC: Bajoran translations from here: http://www.cyberspaces.net/Star_Trek/BajorDictionary.html)) -- Ensign Tahna Meru Science Officer USS Gorkon (NCC-82293) G239801TM4
  8. More adorable family stuff from the skipper. Shore leave stuff! ----- ((Leaf and Bean, First Promenade, Deep Space 224)) It was loud here. While there was always background noise aboard a starship—the hum of the EPS, the low bass thrum of the core, the whisper of life support systems cycling air—it was quiet, in more ways than one. The subtle, subdued colour scheme of Federation starships was no accident, selected for to counteract stress and encourage focus. People usually worked in small groups, Quinn was often on her own in her ready room, and even the largest of the crew lounges didn't have the space for a sizable crowd. So here on the Promenade, with brilliant lights and colours bursting from the shop facades, with hundreds of people heading back and forth, conversations ranging from the low to near shouted, the pound of footsteps interspersed with bursts of laughter and the occasional whooping shriek of delight... it was loud. She liked it. It was vibrant and alive, pulsing with energy. A reminder of her connection to the universe, beyond the confines of her fancy tin can in space. Taking a sip of her tea, the hybrid looked back toward her son, his voice animated and his hands making sweeping gestures as he talked about his latest classroom project. D. Reynolds: ...used polaritons to create a giant quantum vortex, which I used to model the Bouman black hole— A. Reynolds: Daddy! Amelia launched herself out of her seat before Quinn had time to react. The tiny blonde whirlwind shot across the cafe's seating area, weaving between tables and people, only avoiding collisions thanks to the fast reflexes of the adults whose paths she crossed. Her target reached down and scooped her up, planting a kiss on her cheek and grimacing at the childishly wet one he received in turn. Brunsig: A terror as usual, Schatzi. Reynolds: Why don't I get an adorable German nickname? Brunsig: What would you like? He planted a kiss on top of her head as he completed his approach to the table. Like her, he was out of uniform, dressed in a simple pair of khaki slacks and pale blue shirt, sleeves rolled up to the elbow. It suited him, and she felt her heart give a gentle thump against her ribs, a small flourish of pink appearing under her freckles. Brunsig: Schnuckelschneke? Igelschnäuzchen? Hasenfürzchen? Dylan snickered at the series of suggestions—Nibble Snail, Little Hedgehog Snout, and Bunny Fart respectively—and Quinn threw up a hand in defeat. Stick with the classics, don't change the habit of a lifetime; she knew a lesson when she walked into one. Reynolds: Cupcake it is. It was a nickname she'd not only got used to, but grown oddly fond of, at least when it came from him. He smirked at her as he settled into an empty seat, clapping Dylan on the shoulder. Amelia clung on to him and settled in his lap, exhaling her delightful, bubbly giggle, a sound which rarely failed to make Quinn smile and lift her spirits. D. Reynolds: Hey Dad. Brunsig: Pickle. A. Reynolds: Haha, Pickle! The grin dropped off the teenager's freckled face, and he rolled his eyes at the invocation of his childhood nickname. Quinn offered him a sympathetic look, only half-heartedly trying to keep the grin off her face while Amelia sang "pickle pickle pickle" on repeat. Much like Dylan at her age, once she discovered something funny, the young girl clung on to the joke well past its expiration date. It was cute right up until it wasn't, and then it was a very specific kind of hell. D. Reynolds: Can I go? Reynolds: Your Dad's only just got here. D. Reynolds: I'll be back for dinner. I promised Mirra I'd show her sickbay on the Gorkon while everyone's on leave. She wants to be a doctor, and on Ketar she never really— Quinn frowned, ready to object further, but Walter waved off the extended explanation. He flicked his hand in a shooing gesture, granting permission for the young teenager to abscond. If he didn't mind, she didn't mind. It was just hard, sometimes, to realise how grown-up and independent Dylan was becoming. A young man in his own right, with his own ideas and ambitions in the world. Brunsig: Go on, beat it. ::He wagged a stern finger in his son's direction.:: Don't get into any trouble. Slurping the last few dregs of his papalla juice, Dylan muttered a hasty goodbye and dashed off into the crowds. Walter watched him go, presented Amelia with a PADD to keep her entertained—a tactic both immediately and thoroughly successful—and turned to Quinn. She sipped her tea and caught a server's eye, and lifted a hand to show she'd like to order something soon. Brunsig: Who the hell's Mirra? Reynolds: Sienelis' niece. They're about the same age, she's a smart kid. It's been good for him to have someone his own age to knock about with. Brunsig: And develop a crush on. Reynolds: What? No. ::She paused and looked at him, and he looked back at her with raised eyebrows.:: You think? Brunsig: Sometimes, Cupcake, you're so dense it hurts my soul. He shook his head in despair, though she could see the smallest tug of a grin and a light sparkling in his blue eyes. She chuckled in reply, though it was a little muted. Dylan and his first crush. Quinn hadn't the faintest idea how, or if, she was supposed to guide him through the tangled web that romance wove. After all, she hadn't exactly navigated her own in an exemplary manner. But she hoped it was a good thing. Growing up the way she had, she'd always been self-conscious about her Deltan heritage, and rarely interacted with people her own age. She'd never had the chance to have a teenage boyfriend or girlfriend and experience young love, and sometimes Quinn wondered what she'd missed out on. Reynolds: This is good for him, right? Normal... interpersonal or social development or something. Brunsig: Or something. Reynolds: ::She sighed, and he shrugged.:: You're no help. I'll have to talk to Corliss. Brunsig: Bring some insulin. And save me some peanut brittle. Her chuckle had a little more force and warmth to it this time; Corliss had won over even Walter, reluctant as he was to show it. The approaching server drew her gaze, a young Andorian woman with a brilliant smile, powder blue skin and hair dyed the colour of candyfloss. Before she arrived at the table, the German picked up the menu and scanned its contents, while Quinn finished her tea. Brunsig: What's the coffee like in this place? Reynolds: Jo approved it, so it can't be half bad. Brunsig: Pastries? Reynolds: I can recommend the Delvan fluffs. A. Reynolds: Can I have one? Quinn grinned and shook her head, the precocious five-year-old able to zero in on anything food-related, whether it was a comment in a conversation or a replicator spinning up two rooms away. Walter looked toward her, and she shrugged. It was a special occasion, the family together for the first time a while, and there was no harm in a few treats. Reynolds: I suppose so. She answered with a delighted squeal, scrambling off Walter's lap and back into her chair, ready to receive the baked bounty. Quinn leaned back in her chair, smiling as she watched her daughter, while her husband laid out the order for their cheerful server; fresh drinks and pastries for all. Sometimes, she thought, it was easy to believe she wasn't an admiral, he wasn't a captain, and there weren't starships outside waiting for them. It was nice to forget that anything existed outside of moments like this. And so she did. -- Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds Commanding Officer USS Gorkon T238401QR0 & Captain Walter Brunsig Commanding Officer USS Triumphant
  9. ((Corliss and Loxley’s Quarters, Deck 5, USS Gorkon)) Loxley: Oh, that reminds me, who is Captain Marisol? Good thing she wasn’t holding the scissors right then, she might have taken off a good chunk of curls or two. Instead she flushed brightly, stumbling over her words before catching herself laughing, having to bend over to get her breath back. Fortune: W-Where did you hear that one?! Loxley: A couple of crewmen were talking about her in sickbay earlier. I was sure I’d heard your name mentioned, too, I wondered if it was someone you knew? Fortune: Oh stars above...Marisol’s the name I chose on our mission! ::she kept wheezing, hiding her face against the back of the chair.:: Someone wrote a book, can you even believe…! ::she let out a long sigh, shaking her head.:: Got caught off guard with that one, I’ll tell you what. Loxley: Someone wrote a book about your alias?! Ha! I was sure the crewmen were talking about a real person, not a character. But I guess if she’s you, then she’s kind of both. Fortune: Well, she was a person at one time, I suppose. A friend of my grandmother’s but there’s not a way to link anything to her, much less piracy. Loxley: Nobody ever writes books about me. ::he mock-sulked:: So who is the secret author? Someone on your away team? Fortune: I don’t know! ::she waved the comb in the air, puffing up her cheeks.:: We’re on a mission to find out, and then! Well! I don’t know! Then we’ll know. Loxley: Intriguing. Fortune: If what Lena says is true, you’re in them too. ::she snipped a stray lock quickly, brushing out everything with a hum.:: Loxley: Oh? That’s… ::he blinked:: ...Actually, that’s pretty worrying! And how does Lena know? Fortune: Uhh….::she blinked, frowning.:: Hm..maybe she made it up? We were trying to distract someone, after all. Loxley: Well maybe she wrote it. She’s got access to the intelligence files. And she’s always watching people, I bet nothing escapes her notice. Fortune: Hmmm…::she clicked her tongue in thought, taking the comb to thread over Loxley’s hair before ruffling her fingers through it.:: Fuzzy! Good question...I haven’t seen her around lately. I hope she’s okay. Loxley: She’s probably right here right now, watching us from the shadows, making notes for her next novel. Fortune: Ah, hang on… She took up some of the oil, scrubbing it between her hands before running her fingers through his hair again, plucking at it to force the hair to stand up, while also causing the quarters to smell very, very good in full force. Fortune: Aaaaand there! Look at your new fuzzy hair! Lox leaned forward to look in the mirror, turning his head this way and that to get a good look. He raised one hand and gingerly prodded his new do. Loxley: That’s amazing. I think you’ve actually made me look good. ::he stood up and brushed himself off, a few ginger strands falling to the floor:: I mean, it’s a shame I’m just going to stick my hat back on and ruin it… Fortune: Heeeey! ::she pouted, grabbing up the bottle to clean off her scissors.:: You’ll hide all my handiwork! Loxley: I was joking! Don’t make me report you for assaulting a junior officer with a spritz bottle! Fortune: ::she wiggled it at him with a grin.:: Then don’t make me use this on you! Lox picked up a brush from the table and waved it in her direction. Loxley: So, does this mean I get to do yours? Fortune: Oh not to cut my hair, you don’t. But, ::she tapped the comb against the brush, setting her implements back in their places.:: I wouldn’t mind you brushing my hair. It’s very relaxing, as you said, to have someone do it for you now and again. Loxley: Shame. I did have some amazing hair styles in mind for you. Another day perhaps… I mean, you have to sleep sometime. ::he chuckled:: But I’ll settle for just brushing for now. She plunked into the seat, her head leaning back with one leg crossed over the other. Lox ran his hands softly through her hair to dislodge any significant knots before he applied the brush. His technique was gentle and probably completely ineffective, but pleasant. Fortune: How’s the project with Smog coming along? Any interesting data yet? Loxley: She burps fire when she’s full and she enjoys flying on the holodeck. She’s less keen on Andorians, though. Or one Andorian with an ion mallet in particular. Fortune: I’m very concerned, but at least she’s got a little fire? Dragons need that, from what I’ve read in all the little tales and things. Loxley: Yep, exactly. The only ‘science’ bit I’ve done so far is observing her while the ship is at warp. As far as I can tell, she doesn’t much care. I’m going to try her out in zero-g at some point, once she’s more settled in. Fortune: Well, she’s probably having the time of her life. Or perhaps she’s like a little lizard, where not much disturbs them. I saw a few in a book once! Lox picked up a couple of bottles from the table, given them an experimental sniff before using one of them. It didn’t smell like bleach so he figured it would be fine. As he continued to brush her long hair, he could feel a familiar tingle in his mind, that empathic bond that had first appeared on Giang Sinh and they still seemed to share. It was the same contented comforted feeling from their night walk on the beach, hand in hand, last shoreleave. Loxley: We should do this more often. Well, not the cutting part, otherwise I’d have nothing left. Just… ::he gestured vaguely:: ...this. Fortune: I wouldn’t make you bald, dear. Your curls are too pretty. ::she grinned, peeking an eye up at him as one leg bounced lightly.:: You’re right though! This was a blast. We could do something simple together. Chess or reading, play around with Smog… Loxley: Book club sounds good. Or music club? Take it in turns to play each other music we like. Speaking of which, what are we listening to right now? Fortune: Ah! It’s called the Waltz of Tours. The story goes that one afternoon, one of the heads of the Houses was going on a walk about town, and heard a small child playing the tune on a lap harp. So they decided to support the child’s musical knowledge and thus the Waltz of Tours came to be. Or, so the story goes. ::she shrugged.:: I heard it at a festival when I was little. What about you? What do you like? Loxley: I think you find out a lot about a person by their music tastes. On Earth, the magic age seems to be 15. That’s when everyone seems to find the type of music that fits them. For me, it was rockabilly, classical music from centuries ago. But it’s seriously catchy. Fortune: Rockabilly? ::the word sounded odd to her, a mishmash of others it seemed.:: You’ll have to show me sometime, yes? Lox paused mid-brush, a faraway look in his eyes for a moment. Loxley: Actually, that gives me an idea for a holoprogram… Fortune: Does it now? ::she seemed amused at that, shifting in the chair as she watched him.:: You’re winding up my curiosity moment by moment. Loxley: Just an idea… I might need your help, though. You do have a lot more style than I do. ::he smiled:: Out of interest, what are your holodeck programming skills like..? Lieutenant Corliss Fortune Highest Quality Counsellor Brain USS Gorkon G239510CF0 & Lt (jg) Loxley Medical Officer USS Gorkon R238401JT0
  10. Just a lovely, quiet sim for shore leave that made me smile. Caution: Sweetness overdose risk! ----- ((Corliss and Loxley’s Quarters, Deck 5, USS Gorkon)) Large bristle brush. Styling scissors (the nice ones with a gold trim). Fine-tooth comb. Tea tree oil. A small red candle that smelled of Revann, bringing her mind to a forest, fresh air and nature abounding. She inhaled, grinning. Amongst all other ways, this truly was her favorite of stress relief. Trimming her hair. Which, astoundingly, seemed to have grown the last time she had undone her braid (or perhaps it had always been this long, and she was just now able to take the time to notice). It appeared to reach just below her waist in long blonde strands, curling just a little at the ends. One hand brushed through from the top of her head towards her shoulder with a sigh. Fiddling with her wigs always gave her a sense of calm, but nomoreso than her own hair did. But it needed a little TLC to get back in the ring! Today she wore just a simple tank top and shorts, a far cry from her normal exuberant outfits. But one had to be comfortable when sitting for a long period of time! She hummed, picking up some of the oil and coating her fingers in it. Fortune: Computer. Play The Waltz of Tours. A grand string of instruments started to swell, and she hummed along. She had once seen a band play it as a child, and had adored the song ever since. It was slow and comforting, with a swell of music towards the end. She clicked her tongue, stroking her fingers through her hair, pulling a section from over her shoulder to in front of her. Ah, her bangs were a sight as well, honestly. She took up the brush, slowly combing the oil through the strands of hair, her fingers riding along the waves made by it. The door opened just as she was mid-brush, her head tilted to the side as if weighted down by it, one leg balanced on the chair as the other tapped the tune on the floor. She perked up, waving the brush after pulling it from her hair. Fortune: Loxley! Loxley: Corliss! ::He waved back in mock over-enthusiasm:: What am I walking into here? Fortune: Little bit of a hair day. Salon. Something. I had some nail polish out but I may not do that. ::she ran her fingers through her hair, ruffling over the top of her head with a tut before grinning at him.:: Would you like to experience the teachings of the Corliss School for Hair? Lox smiled back. He’d never gotten around to asking Corliss about her wigs. He knew they weren’t for vanity. They might be purely for fun, though. But it was only an idle curiosity on his part - he knew that if it was something important, she’d tell him. That’s how these things worked. Loxley: The Corliss School for Hair? ::he lifted his cap off and tousled his own tangled mess:: I don’t think mine is anything like as luxurient as yours. Or as long… wow, that IS long! Fortune: Hah! I’ve been growing it since I was a child. ::she held up a lock, the ends curling slightly at her touch.:: I’ve yet to really cut it in its entirety, and I’d loathe to do it now. Loxley: By all means, m’lday, do your worst. Wait, no, your best. I mean do your best. Fortune: Best, worst, same same. ::she wiggled her scissors in the air before vacating her chair, patting the headrest.:: Sit, sit! Anything in mind specifically? Loxley: I used to have hairstyles when I was younger. Always trying to find the one that would actually make me look ‘cool’. But none of them did, so now when I go to the barbers I just settle for coming out with shorter hair. Fortune: ‘Cool’ you say? Very subjective. ::she pointed her scissors at him, a hand on her hip with a grin.:: I shall do my utmost best. Plus, you can see it in the mirror and judge as you please. She waved her scissors at the seat again, before leaning to grab up the comb, mumbling to herself a moment and trading out instruments before straightening up with a small spritz bottle and a see-through cape. Fortune: Wetting the hair makes it all flat and easy to handle. Ready? Loxley: No, but when has that ever stopped me? Lox took the seat, mildly worried that the scissor gesture could turn into a threat if he didn’t. The smell of tea tree oil still hung in the air, pleasantly refreshing. Loxley: So, just a short back and sides, right? Or am I not going to escape that easily? Fortune: Oh no! We’re going to do this intricately. ::she snipped at the air, grinning.:: May take a bit longer than just that. Loxley: Just as long as I don’t end up with a perm. And watch out for the ears - they’re bigger than you think. She hid a chuckle, nodding for now as she pulled a crinkly plastic bib around his shoulders, humming along. With a spritz of water to his hair, it was time to begin. Lox squinted as the spray bottle created a fine mist around his head, his bright ginger hair turning a much darker, duller shade with the damp. Fortune: Hmm...let’s see. With a simple twist of the comb, she started running it through the wet strands easily. A few here and there were unevenly grown, but with a simple snip it took care of those. She hummed along to the music, her mouth moving as if talking to herself for a moment before clicking her tongue along with another snip, a small bit of hair falling prey to her scissors once more. Lox smiled up at Corliss’s reflection as she bustled about, a look of extreme concentration on her face. The brows furrowed just so, the eyes wide and bright, the mouth in a little pout. It was one of the many things about Corliss that Lox found endearing. Loxley: This is… strangely relaxing. Fortune: Mmhmm...everyone likes a good haircut now and again. ::her hand grazed the back of his ear, then she playfully tugged the edge of it before carefully snipping some ends of hair.:: I’ve had a lot of practice with my mannequins over there, but do speak up if I pull you around somewhere too harshly. They have no pain receptors, as it were. Loxley: That’s not the most reassuring thing I’ve heard from someone waving scissors over my head. ::he glanced over to the mannequins:: What do they say about your hairdressing abilities? Fortune: I think they’d have some good opinions about the styling I give the wigs. ::she grinned at him in the mirror, slipping a hand into his hair and ruffling it a little before combing it back down, foot tapping to the beat.:: We can chat, nothing’s really loud and I don’t like using a blow dryer. Loxley: That’s part of the ritual, isn’t it? Talk about the weather, where you’re going on your holidays? Well, there’s no weather in space but shoreleave is as much of a holiday as anything else. So, anywhere you want to visit at the station? Fortune: If it snows, I’ll remember who caused it then. ::she grinned.:: Hm, not in any particular fashion, no, but I’m open to exploring around. Loxley: I was thinking some shopping to start, get these quarters decorated. Well, the parts that aren’t already covered in wigs. I hear they have some antique shops and a place that specialises in old Earth music. And then we treat ourselves to an excellent, fulfilling meal followed by partying until we fall over and can’t stand back up. Fortune: Oh that sounds lovely! ::she laughed, combing over his hair again slowly.:: I daresay we’ll have all the bits and bobs to last us until the next shore leave, eh? The quiet snip snip of the scissors and some more ginger locks fell away. Looking in the mirror, Lox was convinced that his hair was certainly shorter - as to being ‘cool’, he’d have to wait until Corliss had finished her handiwork. Another random thought struck him and he gave a little frown. Loxley: Corliss, do you have secret stashes of stuff around the ship? Fortune: ...hm? What do you mean? Loxley: I just don’t know anyone else who has so many accoutrements readily available. ::he gestured to the semi-professional salon setup:: And I thought maybe you had some smuggler training, things hidden in vents and piled up in Jeffries tubes. Fortune: Oh! ::she chuckled, trading out the scissors for the brush and sweeping his hair in grand gestures to make it stand up.:: I’ve always been one for managing to have something always on hand. I’d say it’s a talent, my dad was one to tap your shoulder, ask if you’d like to see a plant, and then just...pull one in a pot from seemingly nowhere! I’ve still to wonder how he did it... Loxley: Oh, that reminds me, who is Captain Marisol?
  11. An interesting and thought provoking discussion amongst the villains of our last mission. Great work, as always. It's interesting learn that Serren is going to be... engraved. Should be awesome! ----- ((Berth 94, Mares de Oro Casino Private Dock, Nassau)) Arms crossed over his chest, dark eyes staring up at the gaping hole in the side of his yacht, Alred could not say he was having the best of days. Sacrificing the Ferengi vessel to the Vulcan in the first place was a wager made in haste, but in hindsight, it appeared as though he’d dodged a rather hefty round of phaser fire. On the underside of his yacht, cutting through the plating to his private morgue and surgical space, carved into the duranium and steel, was a large, typically human depiction of a heart. Alred sighed with gravitas weighing it down, and an indistinct sound gruffly escaped from his throat as his hand wiped over his face, thumb and forefinger rubbing into his eye sockets. Why were Trill always like this? Why were they always so obsessed with him? The refrigerated morgue had leaked out the coolant, rendering half of his stasis bays next to useless. It would take a chunk of latinum to repair. A piercing alarm rang out around the small berth as the metal ring door—now stuck open—juddered and shuddered. Another ship nose appeared through the force field above, gliding through serenely like a Betazed oyster slid down the throat. Another sigh leapt through the half-Deltan as he prepared himself for the conversation ahead. She didn't wait to dock, the hum and whine of a transporter beam the herald of her arrival. Dressed in a crisp white suit, blonde hair tousled just so, the Trill woman sashayed across the docking bay to stand alongside him. Her green eyes glittered with a dangerous mix of amusement and anger, a smile cloying at the edges of her lips. Lladre: Well, now. This didn't go to plan. Evatt: It wasn’t quite what I had in mind. ::A dark eyebrow arched as he surveyed the damage.:: Somehow, he did that with a type-1 hand phaser. Lladre: Resourceful. Evatt: Impossible. He corrected and set his jaw. Determination kindled in anger aflame, revenge being the powerful motivator stoking the fire, but it wasn’t the state of his ship digging the knife into soft hybrid ribs. Sealed away, unknown to anyone outside of his personal crew. He was going to have to have them all shot. Evatt: She took the machine and didn’t leave me a thank you card. Lladre: That is disappointing, Alred. ::She slipped her hand into her pocket, the picture of sophisticated chic.:: It was supposed to be safe with you. Evatt: It was safe with me. Who would look for it here? Beneath the clear-cut lines of the yacht, the shrouded compartment built for his nefarious purposes had served as the vault for the item. For someone to know it was there, their gathered intelligence was no less than impeccable, or purchased at a high price. Alred pursed his lips behind his beard as he slipped his hands into the pockets of his crisp dark suit. Evatt: I’ll send someone. Find out where she is and take it back. Somehow avoid that Trill carving another hole in my ship. The response brought a satisfied smile to her lips, and she nodded. Stood there together, they could be a pair of fashion models in a designer's latest photoshoot, cool and cosmopolitan, effortlessly beautiful. A shame the ruined side of his yacht let the perfection down. Lladre: Shoot him. ::She said it with bored indifference, as much care as one would offer the fly buzzing about one's food.:: He won't be any trouble if he's dead. Evatt: I intend to. With a type-1 Starfleet phaser. See how much of his organic hull I can engrave. He looked to his side at the outrageously beautiful Trill with a slight smile turning up the corner of his lips; the charm in it fluent and smooth, voice like a glass of honeyed jacarine whiskey. Plans sliding into plans. She met his gaze with a faint smile of her own, his plan for revenge finding amused approval. Evatt: There were others he was with. I’ve asked Volku to check the casino feeds. Lladre: Good. I want it back, Alred. We learnt enough to build our own, but sourcing the components without drawing attention is a challenge. ::She arched a perfectly sculpted eyebrow.:: Especially if someone is already nosing about our business. Even in their circles, it would attract questions, complications, and scrutiny they didn’t need to fulfil their desired goals. Opportunities came thin on the ground. Perhaps it was time to manufacture some. For freedom, one must make sacrifices. Evatt: I will return as soon as they repair this. ::He gestured up to the yacht, damage apparent.:: They have assured me a day at the most, but promises make the sweetest lies. Lladre: At least it will please least Ran if you can't. He's relishing the chance to do what he wants for a change. But the Commission, in its eternal wisdom, insisted on "widening his horizons". ::She shook her head.:: They last put him into a forensic pathologist. Can you imagine? You want to build among the stars and they have you grubbing around with corpses. The symbiont commission being one of them. Promising the everlasting delights of a universe of knowledge, seeking galactic secrets, and hoarding them for millennia to come, only to share it with spotted hosts with little to no regard for their wellbeing. Taking the least amount of care for their bodies, throwing themselves into danger for the thrill, safe in the knowledge their consciousness would live on in a tuber-sized root slug embedded in their abdomen. Tortured beings trapped in an endless cycle, unaware the hosts didn’t have power over the symbionts; the symbionts gave it to them. Evatt: Sometimes, my darling, betrayal comes from the ones we expect the least. Lladre: That's why I prepare for everyone to betray me. Her words set like a hot stone dropping into water in his stomach, with the barest flicker of it registering in the pull of his eyebrows and the twitch of his lips. He dredged up amusement as he looked toward the elegant Trill, with a tilt of his head and the flare of a hybrid Deltan smile. Evatt: A deal is a deal. Especially one made with the devil. Lladre: I'm not the devil, much as some might like to cast me as one. ::She smiled.:: This is a war, Alred. A fight for freedom. Casualties happen. Evatt: And nothing riles the Commission more than exercising free will. If his preternatural charm had any effect on her, it didn't show. Perhaps it was the symbiont's ability to suppress the host, a mental strength and fortitude which kept the intoxicating effect at bay. Perhaps she had evolved beyond such things. Or perhaps she was just a capable actor. Lladre: It's not anger, Alred. It's fear. They clamour to be hosts, to take advantage of everything we have to offer, but they demand all the sacrifices to be ours. They expect us to exist on their whims, to live how they think we should live. ::Fire flared deep in her green eyes, a rare heat igniting in her voice, and Alred leaned away slightly.:: Binding us with arbitrary rules because they're afraid of our power, because their tiny, pathetic existence cannot accept the reality of ours. If we don't comply, they try to kill us. And the Federation, in all its infinite compassion and mercy, stands back and allows it to happen. The blaze and shine of her impassioned explanation left the hybrid gazing at her, undisguised desire in his eyes and his smile. Lladre, to him at least, likened a beacon atop a lighthouse in the dark, drawing all toward her while the sharks swam beneath. Deadly, yet altruistic. For those not of the Trill, it was a simple concept to dismiss. They were born, they joined, they merged, they died; the symbiont lived on with the memories of lifetimes, ready to serve the next. Evatt: The Federation, in all its infinite compassion and mercy, has stood back for centuries and watched species die. Lladre: And they call me a monster. Just like that, the fire vanished. As though it was never there, the stunning blonde back to nonchalant glamour. She looked across at Alred, meeting his gaze with a lazy smile. He amused her, with his unfettered and unashamed pursuit of passion. He did what he wanted with his life, society's rules be damned, and that was an attitude she appreciated. Lladre: A drink? I can stay long enough to see if the engineers have given you a promise or a sweet lie. Evatt: Is that so? He smiled widely and earnestly; a terribly delicious thrum of the unrestrained Deltan in him, seeking the pleasing and the satisfying like a Risian to new experiences. He flourished his arm toward the doorway, back through to the docking ring, the casino, and a gratifying evening awaited. Evatt: Aren’t I the lucky one? It would be my absolute pleasure. fin -- Alred Evatt Surgical Hedonist G239304JM0 & Lladre Criminal Mastermind T238401QR0
  12. I love seeing these little personal moments of our characters. Great work, Lox! ----- ((Catell Cas-gwent, Wales, Earth )) The sky was bright but grey. Somewhere over the distant Welsh hills rain was coming. Rain was always coming in Wales. Or leaving. Or right there soaking you to the skin. Loxley placed his hands on the lichen-spotted castle parapet, feeling the rough ancient stone under his fingers, and gazed up at the sky, squinting against the pallid sunlight. High up above a tiny black dot circled. It looked like a bird, but Lox knew it wasn’t. A plain baseball cap of sombre charcoal grey perched on the wall nearby in deference to the occasional gusts blowing in from the estuary. The hybrid lowered his gaze down to the white river Wye rushing below and ran his hands gently over the stones with a soft sigh. Loxley: I don’t know, Ma, so much has been happening all at once it’s hard to keep up. ::he spoke into the open air, seemingly to himself:: And that’s what it feels like – I’m running to keep up all the time. I mean, I knew Starfleet would be tough, more so than the hospital I worked in, but this is exhausting. He paused and pushed one hand absently though his tangled ginger hair before continuing. Loxley: Maybe I was naïve, but I think I was expecting to be treating more sprained ankles and occasional engineering mishaps. And I was hoping for more medical marvels, researching and writing articles, becoming famous I guess. But the reality isn’t like either of those. Well, they are there, sure, but the away missions… ::he shook his head slowly:: …talk about seat of your pants. There’s no way the academy could prepare anyone for all this! The adrenaline, the excitement… Loxley’s lip curled in a half-smile, half-grimace. The terror, the near death experiences, the nightmares that followed. But those weren’t things he wanted to burden his mother with right now. Loxley: I suppose it still feels like I’m trying to find my feet. Daft, I know, but there it is. I mean, the crew of this ship, they are phenomenal. The way they just get on with things. You should see them in an emergency, Ma, the team work. It’s amazing. He paused again, mulling over his thoughts. Speaking them out loud like this he was starting to understand more about how he felt. Loxley: Actually, you know what? I think I know what it is. My first mission, not long after I got here, was… well I’m not sure how much I can tell you to be honest. But it wasn’t… usual. I felt like someone intruding into a private party, where the other people had been before. And I think that feeling has lingered. ::he drummed his fingers on the stonework:: Huh, I should see if I can do something about that I suppose. See? Talking to you is always a help. Lox picked up the grey cap and fiddled with it as he considered his next words carefully. Loxley: So, I met someone, too. Ship’s counsellor in fact. Betazoid, beautiful, smart, funny, maybe a little eccentric. ::he smiled to himself:: You’d like her. She tends to go off on random thought paths like you. Plus she appreciates the past and can throw out some killer put-downs. Oh, and I think she may have been a pirate in another life, or something. And, yes, I know you’re going to have a thousand questions, but they can wait. For now. And I know you’re going to want to meet her and interrogate her and all the rest. She’s also helping me with something else, something I might have got from Da. I know doctors and suchlike told me I didn’t have any Vulcan “mind-powers” but, well, turns out they might have been wrong. So, there’s that. ::he sighed again:: And I’ve also spoken to a Vulcan here, re-learnt some of the old meditations he tried to teach me. ::he held up his hands in a placating gesture:: But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean I want to go and see him or anything, or even speak to him. Just that, well, he is my Da… It’s complicated, but I wanted you to know that I was thinking about a few things, so it doesn’t come as a surprise. There was silence for a moment. The gusts had turned a little chill now and they carried the odd spot of cold rain with them. Lox pulled the cap down on his head. Loxley: Let’s see, what else? Oh yes, I have a dragon now. ::he chuckled:: It sounds a lot more impressive than it really is. She’s a miniature Maravel dragon, only a few inches long. Technically I’m observing her for a research project but she’s really more of a pet. Called her Smog, I thought you’d like that. Give my love to Cerys. And I’m sure I’ll be hearing from you very, very soon. He gave a short laugh as he turned his back on the wind and the view. Loxley: =/\= Computer, end message and send to Doctor Lillian Loxley, Cardiff University, Earth. =/\= The rain was starting to make more of a concerted effort now and Lox knew it wouldn’t be long before the castle walls would be soaked. He smiled to himself, though – it had felt good to talk through these things with his mother, or rather with himself. And he’d finally identified something that had been bothering him since he’d joined the Gorkon. The Gorkon and the Skarbek were the same in many ways, but so different in many more. Q had flung him into that ‘reality’ with the other crew almost as soon as he had arrived and that disjointed feeling, of not quite being in the right place, had haunted him ever since. The doctor nodded to himself – that was definitely something he could fix. Loxley: Smog? Smog! Come on, girl, time to get going before you get soaked. The black dot circling above floated towards him, finally revealing itself to be a small winged scarlet lizard, barely larger than his thumb. It landed on Loxley’s outstretched hand and scurried along his arm with its four legs, clambering onto his hat and taking up residence there, curling a scaly tail around itself. Lox turned to face to sturdy wooden door set into the stone archway nearby and raised his voice. Loxley: =/\= Computer, arch… =/\= Lt (jg) Loxley Medical Officer USS Gorkon R238401JT0
  13. ((Holosuite 2, Embassy Garden Hotel, Yarista, Palanon, Tyrellion system)) Loxley: :: a slight frown creased his forehead:: How so? Fortune: Well..::she scooted closer, the popcorn tilting in her lap.:: You make me wanna relax a little. Take it slow, or well, slower than I normally would at least. ::she smiled.:: Maybe we bring out our...softer...sides? Loxley: I wasn’t aware I had a… firm side. She reached out and poked his cheek in thought, nodding after a moment. Fortune: Mm, seems pretty soft to me. ::she grinned, winking and letting hand fall to her lap.:: Have you been working on it? Your empathy, I mean? Loxley: Not in the slightest, no. ::he answered cheerfully:: Oh, but I did go and see a Vulcan about meditating, getting a slab of rock from my homeland and maybe spending ten days in a boiling desert fighting terrifying beats in order to help combat my nightmares about being eaten alive. So there’s that. Fortune: ...do you require sunscreen? I can bring a tiny umbrella! We’d have to ask Tasha for her claymore should we see her however…::he did mean literal combat, right? Something to think on…:: Loxley: Okay, I exaggerated for effect but... oh wait, this is a good bit! Fortune: Oh! She sat up a bit, eager to watch. It was very interesting, one part making her laugh when the man convinced the other woman his hand was missing. Loxley: Sorry, what was I saying? Oh yeah, so Lieutenant Vorin is helping me find my Vulcan side a bit more. There’s a thing, a ritual, Vulcans go through in their adolescence. A right of passage, it involves surviving in a particularly wild part of the planet for ten days. Fortune: Interesting! ::she blinked, taking a bite of the oddly very cooled popcorn. Huh. That was fast.:: So it’s coming up for you then? Loxley: I never did it, and I doubt I would even now, but he suggested I might be able to attempt ‘something’ if I wanted to. Fortune: Oohhh...perhaps a stand-in for it then? Perhaps we should find a boiling desert for you to traverse. Loxley: Deserts, boiling or otherwise, are not kind to people with my complexion. ::he ran a hand through his scruffy ginger hair as emphasis:: And it always struck me as odd that a race as logical and sensible as Vulcans had this whole send-your-kids-off-to-maybe-die thing. Do Betazoids do that, too? Fortune: We don’t quite have anything akin to that, a few traditions that happened either when one is quite young or quite old but nothing like that. ::She took another bite of popcorn, trying to quell the loud crunching so as to hear the movie.:: So what are you and Vorin deciding then? Are you going to try? Loxley: ::shrugging:: I’m considering. It’s mostly a case of working out what I’ll get out of it for myself I guess. He took a handful of popcorn, too, and stuffed it into his mouth. As dull and dry as the stuff was, there was something strangely moreish about it. As he crunched, he considered what Corliss had said about traditions. Loxley: Well, at least our children won’t have to go through weird deadly exper…. ::his mind caught up with what he was saying and he choked on his popcorn:: …*cough* I mean… not that I was assuming we would… Fortune: I mean they do a festival for great health for newborns. ::she took a sip of her drink curiously, the noise of the drink pausing for a moment as the sentence caught up to her.:: ….wait, what? Loxley: Well. ::he coughed again, trying to clear the dry snack:: As it happens, I had been thinking… Fortune: ::she blinked.:: About...what? Loxley: About asking if you wanted to share quarters? Or is that too weird? Fortune: Oh! ::she nearly dropped the popcorn despite it settling in her lap, laughing nervously.:: No! No, I mean! So long as the children don’t come before. ::she giggled, a grin breaking out on her face.:: Loxley: I’d hope not, unless something goes really wrong with biology. Or time. Although with the Gorkon, neither is impossible, but I’ll take that chance. Fortune: I daresay my mother would be disappointed if she wasn’t allowed to throw a huge bash. ::she let out a sigh, adjusting the popcorn on her lap.:: Hm, I’m not so sure…::her eyes flicked over to him with a sly grin.:: Whatever will we do with my assortment of wigs? Loxley: Well, I mean it was only a suggestion. If you don’t want… ::his face flushed a little green as he blushed:: She playfully tossed a piece of popcorn at him, before stealing a kiss to his cheek. Fortune: I’d love to share quarters with you. I just have to tease a little! Loxley: Ah. Well that’s okay then. Teasing is practically obligatory. ::he threw some popcorn back at her:: And as for your wigs, can’t you just wear them all at the same time? Fortune: A mega wig...I daresay you’ve opened my eyes. ::she flicked another popcorn kernel at him.:: Or you can wear half and I can wear half and we can be stylish together! Lox launched another cereal-based missile and took advantage of Corliss’s distraction to dive under her guard and hug her around the waist. She squealed, playfully swatting at his shoulders and snorting with laughter before wrapping her arms around his shoulders. Loxley: I win! Fortune: You did, then? What was the prize you fought hard for? I daresay our movie is ending… Loxley: I thought this was the prize? Is there more? Fortune: Perhaps a kiss and then one more movie, to waste the rest of our day away in this warm and cozy place? Loxley: You have a deal. For tomorrow we return to the Gorkon. But tonight is for us… And, with his arms around her, Loxley pulled Corliss close to claim his kiss. The film, largely forgotten now, strobed them in light and dark as it continued to play.
  14. Another great JP, this time from Lox and Fortune! They're just so goddamn sweet, like eating a stick of fairy floss and following it down with a 4L bottle of soda. Enjoy! ----- ((Holosuite 2, Embassy Garden Hotel, Yarista, Palanon, Tyrellion system)) A gentle summer-night breeze ruffled the curtains by the open veranda, bringing with it that scent of warm rain that follows a storm. Inside the room was dark and intimate. Rows of plush red velvet chairs facing a flat screen which took up one entire wall. In the front row, chairs had been supplanted by a single large comfy sofa in the same velvet. Corliss Fortune was already curled up amidst the cushions as Lox joined her, giant cartons of toasty popcorn fresh from the replicator balanced on a tray in one hand. Loxley: Snacks? I’m not exactly a popcorn fan but some things are traditional. Fortune: Now, popcorn is a new one to me. ::but the curling plumes of smoke had caught her interest, and the warmth of the box radiating towards her hands felt nice.:: What’s it like? Loxley: It basically has the texture of cardboard. But if you cover it in salt and butter, it tastes like salty butter and cardboard. Fortune: Mm, sounds rather unappetizing, but people like it, yes? So it has to be delicious. Lox flopped down on the oversized sofa and tucked one leg under him, leaning his shoulder against hers. He gestured to the flat screen with his popcorn box. Corliss took one as well, curling her body around it to inhale the warmth that was pulsing from it. Loxley: So, what are we watching? Roman Holiday? Maltese Falcon? Something scary? Fortune: I’ve heard great things about Roman Holiday, and something called Bringing Up Baby. Loxley: I know the name of that one but not much else. My vintage Earth film knowledge comes from my mother. Is it just about child rearing? Fortune: Rather that the Baby in question is a large Terran Leopard. I’m not certain how one raises such a creature, however. Are they like Toto? Loxley: As in the little dog from Wizard of Oz? Not so much, no. ::he smiled:: Dorothy would have had a much easier time of things in Toto had been a leopard. Fortune: Could watch one after another, ‘s not like we don’t have time. ::she playfully nudged her leg against his, settling back with their shoulders touching once more.:: Could nearly watch the world away in how warm and cozy it is in here, hm? Loxley: Now that sounds like an excellent plan to me, Lieutenant Fortune. And, yeah, I like this room. I might ask for a copy of the holoprogram. Fortune: Sounds like a plan to me! The already dim lights turned a little dimmer still and the screen lit up with an eerie glow in the gloom. A moment later and grainy black and white images of Rome, four hundred years ago, cast a flickering light around the room. Lox frowned briefly at the actress onscreen - she looked familiar somehow. He shrugged, probably just one of those things. Loxley: Recovered from your athletic endeavors yet? Fortune: Slowly but steadily, I can still feel a little knot in my back, I swear. Loxley: Well, if there’s anything I need to rub better, let me know. ::he waggled his pointed eyebrows suggestively in a way only Vulcans could. Or at least half-Vulcans. A full Vulcan probably wouldn’t waggle anything suggestively if it could be avoided.:: Fortune: ::she cracked up in a laugh, gently nudging him with a bright grin.:: I may very well take you up on that, so long as you let me give back just the same. Loxley: Seems fair. Fortune: I know a few interesting hand massages from an old roommate. She tended to use a stylus to write upon a PADD. I do applaud her efforts, but she’d had to get a brace from writing so much later on. ::she wiggled her own hands in a jazzy manner.:: She let me borrow the paper showing how to do the massages so we could learn, no achy wrists! Loxley: Stylus? Wow, old school. I applaud her efforts. That said, some instructions would be useful. My medical education doesn’t really extend much past the basics of physiotherapy. Which basically means I can prescribe exercises for patients to ignore. Fortune: There’s something to be said for the old school, and I’m sure I can find the old file to send to you, eh? ::the movie caught her attention and she gasped, squirming closer and crossing her legs up into the seat.:: Oooh look at that! The black and white movie created stark shadows as Loxley turned to look at Corliss. Her face was half in shadow, half in light. The popcorn carton lay forgotten next to him as he slipped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her gently on the forehead. She blinked, giving him a confused smile. Loxley: Thank you. For being you. Fortune: Hm? You’re welcome? ::she chuckled, pecking a kiss to his nose in return.:: What’s all this about then? Loxley: I mean… I don’t know what it is exactly, but when I’m around you I just feel so… comfortable? That’s the best word I can think of. I don’t know if it’s an empathic thing or what. Fortune: Hmm, could be. Could be an us thing too?
  15. ((Shuttlecraft M'Dank, Tyrellian System)) Two and a half hours had passed as Jona waded through the bureaucratic red tape. He had been handed off from official to official until he'd finally been granted a meeting with the commanding officer of the nearest starbase to the Sagittarius Reach - a Starbase still a few weeks away from the far-flung edge of the galaxy that counted Dehner Base among its residents. He wasted no time in filling the stern-looking man in on the pirate raids plaguing the science facility. ch'Ranni: Thank you, sir. We both appreciate whatever you can do. Vodek: =/\= Indeed, Lieutenant ch'Ranni. We welcome your insights into this situation. Starbase 11, out. =/\= The viewscreen's feed from the distant starbase winked out to be replaced by the star-filled UFP symbol. Jona sat back in his seat and gave a hard look over at the Andorian woman next to him. She didn't look particularly pleased. ch'Ranni: I'm sure Captain Vodek will do everything he can to make sure Dehner Base is protected. zh'Lev: ::frowning and crossing her arms across her chest:: I don't know, Jojo. He was hard to read - even for a Vulcan - but I didn't get the impression that pirates three sectors away were at the top of his priority list. ch'Ranni: Now, Vexa, that's not fair. Dehner Base is a distant outpost. I'm sure he's got his hands full - zh'Lev: Yeah, yeah. I know. It just feels like we're alone out there sometimes. ch'Ranni: ::pause:: Well, space can be a lonely place, you know? zh'Lev: ::pause:: Yeah, I know. An awkward, pregnant silence filled the tiny craft and made it feel as if the coldness of space was seeping in through the transparent windows. After an eternity of seconds, Jona cleared his throat. ch'RannI: So, how's ... what's his name ... Brax? zh'Lev: ::rolling her eyes:: Brix. His name is Brix. And we broke up, actually. Jona's left antennae registered his surprise even if his facial features didn't. ch'Ranni: You ... broke up? zh'Lev: Yes, two months ago. Brix wanted to leave because of the pirate attacks and I wanted to stay and continue my work. ch'Ranni: And? zh'Lev: And so he did. And I did. ch'Ranni: I see. zh'Lev: ::huffing slightly:: To be honest, it was over already. That was just the final skel in the ksennuv. We wanted different things. ch'Ranni: Like us? The woman turned her head to the side to stare at her one-time romantic partner. Her gaze fell upon his jawline, the jaw muscles taut with tension. Stubbly white hairs poking through his skin and threatening to become an actual beard if not touched up in the next few days. She reached a finger up and stroked the hair near his ear. zh'Lev: No, Jojo, not like us. Even at our worst, I never believed we wanted different things. We both wanted the same thing. We wanted what was best for the other person. ch'Ranni: Well, that sucks. zh'Lev: Yes, it does. ch'Ranni: What will you do now, V? zh'Lev: I have to go back. ch'Ranni: You ... ::hesitating:: You could stay here. zh'Lev: ::meeting Jona's gaze:: You could come back with me to Delta Vega. The stab in Jona side could be felt physically. It was difficult to breathe for a second but he finally got his words out. ch'Ranni: I don't think I can do that. zh'Lev: I understand. And I think you understand why I can't stay either. The two Andorians stood up from their cushioned seats reluctantly and hugged, holding each other tightly in the confines of the cramped shuttlecraft. Jona didn't want to let go but was forced to break contact after he could no longer justify the continuance of the embrace. Vexa cupped his face with her hands and softly kissed him on the lips. When they parted once more, Jona used his thumb to wipe away the single tear that glided down the young woman's cheek. With a final silent nod and a brave smile, Vexa took her place on the transporter pad. ch'Ranni: Wait. Jona turned and rummaged in a cabinet bin for a second and pulled out a finger sized device. He tapped out a code on the mechanism and handed it to the woman. ch'Ranni: A long-range subspace transponder beacon. It's coded to my attention. If ... if you're in trouble ... if there's no way out - zh'Lev: I know. Thank you, Jona, for everything. Love you always. ch'Ranni: Love you always. With a tap on the pin on her chest, Jona's first and best love shimmered and dissolved in a spray of light particles. Through the shuttle's window, Jona could see the Bolian craft she'd arrived on come about and seem to snap forward as it warped out of the system. ch'Ranni: ::whispering:: But, Vexa, what about us? ((END))
  16. ((Shuttlecraft M'Dank, Tyrellian System)) ch'Ranni: Um, excuse me? Surely the UT had glitched for a second. zh'Lev: I need you to kill someone. Nope, that's what she said. Jona sat back heavily in his padded chair and let out a long breath. ch'Ranni: What's going on, Vexa? Talk to me. zh'Lev: Maybe it's better if I come aboard. ch'Ranni: Yes, yes, of course. Sending coordinates. Jona tapped out the command on his comm panel and swiveled his chair around after the transmission cut out. He lifted himself from his station and bounded toward the back of the small craft just as the woman he once loved with his whole heart coalesced into being from a pillar of sparkling blue particles. The zhen grabbed him in a tight hug and they stood in silence for a few moments, content to let the galaxy around them continue on undisturbed. After what seemed like a selfish, self-indulgent amount of time, Jona pulled himself away from the petite woman and looked into her cerulean eyes. ch'Ranni: What's this about? zh'Lev: I'm in a lot of trouble, Jona. You're the only one I could think of to help. ch'Ranni: Ok, start from the beginning. The two took seats facing each other with Jona refusing to let go of the woman's hand lest she disappear like an ethereal ghost in a gloomy mist. zh'Lev: It started about six months ago. Things were going fine on Dehner Base. And then the pirates returned. ch'Ranni: The Eildyr? Jona spoke the name of the nefarious ship that had raided the research outpost under the direction of the Losarian pirate Tarius Kaironn. He spoke it as a question but instantly knew the answer even without meeting Vexa's beautiful eyes. zh'Lev: ::quietly:: Yes. The Columbia took Kaironn into custody but you let his crew go. ::beat:: Well, they returned with a new leader, a man named Gijo and they began their raids again. ch'Ranni: But, how - zh'Lev: Why did you have to leave us all alone out there on the frontier of the galaxy, Jona? For a split second, the Andorian bristled at the woman's accusation. The swell of irritation deflated quickly though. ch'Ranni: ::shaking his head:: Vexa, there wasn't anything we could do. The Columbia was recalled - decommissioned - we couldn't stay. Surely, the base's defenses - zh'Lev: It wasn't enough. ::tears had begun to form in the corners of her blue eyes:: They took out the defenses on their first raid and then pulled back. Hit us again a week later and then disappeared into the shadows. Disrupted our monthly supply convoy and tucked tail and ran. There wasn't anything we could do. Jona squeezed her hand to try to communicate that she was safe now but she barely responded. The young woman stared out at the stars, avoiding his gaze. She continued on with her story with a vehemence that surprised him. Her soft, white curls bounced at her shoulders as her anger mounted. zh'Lev: Some of the base's staff have left. And the rest are ready to. If something isn't done, Dehner Base will be a ghost town within a few months. ch'Ranni: What about the Losarian government? Jona brought up the one saving grace of the Sagittarius Reach. Meeting the Losarian people in that far-flung region of space had been a coup for the Federation. Nearby reasonable allies were a godsend for such a remote installation. It had been quite the feather in Captain Whittaker's hat to broker good relations with the people of Losaria. zh'Lev: ::shaking her head:: There's little they can do. They can't keep watch over us all the time. We need your help, Jona. ch'Ranni: What am I supposed to do about it? zh'Lev: ::pleading:: Talk to Starfleet. Let them know the direness of the situation. Beg them to send someone to the Delta Vega system and rid us of those damnable pirates. The Andorian sat back in his chair. It was a tall order. Who was he that anyone at Starfleet Command would ever give him the time of day? His gaze met the pained stare of his once beloved Vexa. The gnawing bite of guilt cut into his gut. ch'Ranni: ::letting out a slow breath:: No promises. ::beat:: I'll see what I can do.
  17. I really enjoyed reading this little side story, and I hope we see more of Dehner Base in the future! ----- ((Shuttlecraft M'Dank, Tyrellian System)) Jona ch’Ranni was dead bored. There was no other way to express the intensity of what he felt sitting in the pilot’s chair of the Type 2 shuttlecraft. An empty starfield was splashed across the [...]pit windows. Dabbles of starlight - so often the source of poetry for anonymous writers spread among countless worlds – taunted the normally good-natured Andorian. It wasn’t the stars at fault themselves. In fact, he hadn’t met a star he didn’t like. Except for Betelgeuse - it was a jerk. It was the tedious and menial work of waiting for a rendezvous with a supply freighter that had Jona on the wrong end of the joviality wagon. For the hundredth time, his thin cornflower-blue fingers tapped out the activation sequence on the control panel that would initiate a refresh of the sensor data. Jona sighed heavily and wondered who he had angered on the ship to pull such an assignment. No doubt the rest of his shipmates were laughing and clinking glasses with each other on the beach. They would regale him with the exquisite foods and picturesque scenery he had missed out on. ch'Ranni: Well, they can just stow it. The lanky Andorian stretched his arms above his head, working the kinks from his lower back and repositioning his frame in the seat. He ran his hands down his face, rubbing his palms into his tired eyes and tried to shake the weariness from his brain. He tapped the key sequence on the panel again – for the hundred and first time – and the gods answered his unspoken prayers. A ship. ch'Ranni: Computer, put the approaching vessel on screen. The computer focused on a sleek Bolian freighter that exited warp, leaving a trail of luminescent super-excited particles in its wake. It bore down on the tiny shuttle like an unsuspecting insect. Jona came from a race of aliens that counted insects among their evolutionary progenitors, and so, he found the analogy a little on the nose. Nevertheless, the arrival was expected … even if a bit delayed. ch'Ranni: Shuttlecraft M'Dank to Bolian freighter. Welcome. Lieutenant ch’Ranni, here. Ready to receive the supplies. With any luck, Jona could be on his way back to the ship within the hour. He might even make it back in time for the springball tournament scheduled for 1800 hours. A small lopsided grin crossed his face as things suddenly didn’t seem so bad. The viewscreen activated and the face on the screen made his heart leap into his throat. The azure skin and pale, curly locks of the woman were etched in his memory. It had been years since he had last seen her. Time had been kind to her and now she was more beautiful than even his rose-colored memory allowed. The scientist with the impish smile that he had fallen head over heels for at Dehner Base was the last person he expected to see again – especially with how they had ended things. zh'Lev: Hello, Jona. It’s good to see you. ch'Ranni: Vexa. The one word was all he could croak out before the air left his lungs with the cheap shot that reality delivered to his gut. After a few seconds Jona realized that he was not breathing and consciously inhaled again. What would it look like if he fainted at the sight of his former girlfriend? ch'Ranni: Why are you here? Apparently, he was now able to form complete sentences, which was a marked improvement. The Andorian girl sat back in her chair, the curls of snow white hair framing her face and bouncing in response to her movement. Her ice blue eyes seemed to search the screen, piercing straight through his shields and searing the hull of his heart. Her antennae bobbed forward as her voice took on a pleading tone. zh'Lev: Jojo, I need your help. ch'Ranni: Of course, what can I do? The words were spoken without hesitation. Both knew that Jona would be unable to refuse whatever she asked. When they had parted ways, it was as if his heart had been shredded by a dull knife. After his reassignment far from the Sagittarius Reach, they had tried for months in a vain attempt to make things work. But they had drifted apart in the ocean of time and space. At the end, he had made a renewed attempt to solidify their relationship only to find that she had moved on. Jona’s face flushed a darker shade of blue as the pent-up feelings came crashing back on him. He truly missed her and now would do whatever she required, if only to get her back into his life in some small way. His heart swelled as he realized she had tracked him across the quadrant. It could mean only that she had realized the error of her ways. They could regain what they had lost and rekindle the spark they had shared together. zh'Lev: I need you to kill someone.
  18. ((Sto’Vo’Kor, Crew Lounge, Deck 9)) With a smile, Samira listened to the friendly banter between her superior officers. She took a few steps back with the idea to hop on to the next pool table, but decided against it. She had done that once, which resulted in a tear in the table’s green velvet. She had never forgotten the mouth off she had received from the owner of the table. Even while the proprietor was… a holographic one. Until this day, she wasn’t sure if it all hadn’t been a prank coming from one of her brothers. When the steward arrived, the temptation to order a glass of champagne in order to celebrate was high, but she ended up requesting a glass of whiskey. She had too many questions to rejoice, hardly knowing what the job entailed. But looking at the current setting, she didn’t want to fire all her questions either. After everything, both the Admiral and Jo had experienced on Trueno, they needed a break. Neathler: Next to pool and springball, are there other activities I should… ::She paused briefly.:: train? Quinn gave the question some thought and sipped from her bottle of root beer. Images of motorbikes and solar-powered ships came to mind, but she didn't want to force every hobby of theirs onto the brunette. Another idea popped into her head, something they'd never managed to organise with Genkos. Reynolds: No. ::She raised her eyebrows with a small grin.:: But you do have to bring one of yours to the table. Samira chuckled at the response. One of her gloved hands ruffled her short hair for a moment, seeing the steward approaching them with their drinks. She waited until he arrived and took her glass. Swirling the golden liquid before she took a sniff. Somewhat disappointed, she looked in the bar's direction. No Klingon bartender to be seen, otherwise she would be drinking the genuine stuff instead of the synthoholic version. With a deep breath, she took a sip. Guess it would have to do. Neathler: Well, there’s the sparring in the gym. Although knowing she hardly saw the Admiral in there, she figured it might not be something for the hybrid to do. Or maybe the Admiral visited the gym at different hours than Samira did. She took a step back, leaning against the pool table behind her, placing the glass on the edge. Neathler: And I finally managed to set up the holodeck version of the Giáng Sinh Biathlon. I’d like to cut a few more seconds of my time before I send the program to my brothers so we can compete our times. ::Smiling, she raised an eyebrow.:: I’m sure they wouldn’t mind some extra competition. It had almost taken her a year to get the last touches to the program as she wanted it to be perfect. For some odd reason, she still didn’t understand herself, she was spending more time in her quarters now she had Ko. If only… now why didn’t she think of that, next time she should take the critter with her to the holodeck. And choosing a warmer setting for the next challenge would make it perfect. Jo grinned at that, taking a long drink from the newly replicated beer bottle in hand, and pointed around it at Quinn across the pool table from her. A flash in blue eyes appeared, the quick quirk of an eyebrow, amusement clear on the blonde’s features. An oft topic of debate, usually over some form of pastry in their meetings. Sometimes cake. Not a trace of guilt in there, but “if you can outrun a dinosaur, you can do laps of the ship” had come out of her mouth recently. Marshall: Funny you should mention that, Sami. I’ve been trying to get Quinn into the gym for a long while now. Maybe not sparring but running, lifting, doing things that move the body out of the “sat down behind the desk in the Ready Room” position. Quinn breathed out a sigh, lifting an open palm. Dismay and question, all in one sweep of the hand. It was a return to a familiar battleground — and not one she could so easily dominate as the pool table in front of them. Reynolds: Did Walter put you up to this? Samira chuckled while Jo took a swig from her bottle, glancing sideways to the Captain with added mirth. Walter, the blond captain of the USS Triumphant. The ship that had come to the Gorkon’s rescue a couple of times already, and maybe even more, in the time before she was part of the Gorkon crew. Samira didn’t know the man, only having seen him at the Admiral’s wedding. Other than that, he was somewhat of a mystery. At least in this universe. There was a dream version of the man she knew better, she respected even. Neathler: If you’re looking for competition, we could set up something for you. Just between the three of us. ::She paused briefly, a twinkle in her eyes showing.:: Or you could make it a family outing, sir. Mister Walter included. Reynolds: Hell, no. ::Few things were more dry than her voice at that moment. Vulcan deserts, perhaps, but even then there was no clear victor.:: He might be my husband, but there are limits. The blonde’s laughter bubbled up at the immediate and unrelenting response front he Admiral, letting loose the well-cultured decorum usually on display. This was the Quinn she knew; genius, adrenaline-junky, and swore like a Livernois Shipyard docker. Marshall: In that case, here’s to the first meeting of the new and improved Pool Club. With a fresh round of drinks supplied and dished out, Jo offered her beer bottle to the centre of the pool table and, with a cheeky grin bearing on her features, arched her eyebrow. With a more demure grin — but a grin nonetheless — Quinn inclined her head and looked toward Sami, her expression saying "wait for it". Marshall: Though, what do we call it? Eight Balls Of Fire? Triple Threat? Reynolds: The Triple Threat Pool Club. I like it. Samira took a few steps closer, raising her glass like the others did with their drink. The anticipation on Quinn’s features made Samira realize how these two women knew each other through and through, making her feel like a little intruder. Neathler: Triple Threat Pool Club, it is. Although she had no idea what kind of threat she was posing herself. Her eyes shifted to both of them, two people she looked up to and would have to work with closely from now on and get to know them in the process. It was only now Samira realized she had agreed to a huge task. If something happened to one of them, she would have to step up. Hopefully, that day would never come. Her gaze went to the current game. She should look at the situation from a different angle. Isn’t the best way to know the enemy, by learning how they worked and thought? In this case, playing a game of pool and then work out a strategy to defeat them? Translated getting to know them better? Which was probably both their plan from the beginning. Yep, she was going to conquer this little quest. Neathler: Care to show the youngest of the Club how it’s done, s… Quinn? ::She winked at Jo, who chuckled right back.:: We’ll need to work out some strategy later on. Reynolds: I hope you're going to be this enthusiastic about helping me beat her at springball tomorrow. With an impish flicker of a grin, and a worried side look from her XO, she walked around the table to find her shot. A crack of cue against hard resin and the cue ball went zooming across the table, bouncing from cushion to cushion and smacking into other balls, spending them spinning in a perfectly choreographed, showy and totally unnecessary trick shot. Reynolds: Until then, a masterclass it is.
  19. ((Sto’Vo’Kor, Crew Lounge, Deck 9)) Before Samira accepted the pool cue, her right hand automatically reached for her gloves and in a matter of seconds, the leather fabric covered her hands, except for her fingertips. Only then she reached for the cue, a grin on her features, nodding thanks to Jo. At least the cue ball was easy to locate, she had spotted the white ball in one of the pockets as she had done the brief tour around the table. A few seconds later, the cue ball reappeared on the table at the starting point, which would make it trickier to pot the striped three. She took a deep breath, rolling her shoulders and clearing her mind. Trying to convince herself she was just playing some pool with her brothers and not the highest-ranked officers on the ship. She took her position, lined the cue with the white ball and the target ball, and gave it her best shot. The striped three barely made it to the pocket and disappeared. Yet she had ticked the white ball a bit too gently, the cue ball rolled slowly until it courteously stopped and wiggled itself against the five and the seven. She stood up straight and looked at the result, shaking her head. Neathler: Well, that didn’t go as planned. Tilting her head to the side as she regarded the balls both potted and not, Jo chuckled and took a swig from her beer bottle. A satisfied small sigh escaped as she looked up to Sami with a grin, Quinn reaching for her bottle of root beer between shots. Marshall: El Comandante here will already be calculating the trajectory and geometric arc she needs to pot the next one. Reynolds: And the all-important velocity. ::Quinn shot a grin at the pair, moving around the table to position herself for her shot.:: Don't worry about it. It's as much an initiation rite as it is a game of pool. Velocity, Samira couldn’t shake the feeling the Admiral was somehow having a go at her first shot with that comment. She took a few steps away from the table so that anyone could walk around it and have an overall view... Neathler: Initiation rite? Are you starting a senior staff pool club? She knew about social clubs existing among the lower deck crew, and she was pretty sure similar clubs existed among the officers too, but seeing she didn’t contribute much to group activities, she wasn’t up to date with those. Marshall: Technically, we started one. ::She scratched her cheek and leaned her hip against the table, pointing the bottle of beer toward Quinn.:: Then our third left, so we’ve got an opening. Quinn found her shot, leaning over the edge of the table to line it up. Cue ball smacked into its target with a sharp crack, rolling away to thud into the cushions, while the other sunk into a pocket with a satisfying thud. She straightened, cast her eye over the new alignment of their battlefield, then looked toward the brunette. Reynolds: How about it? The Gorkon's in need of a new Second Officer and you're the first name on our list. About to return the pool cue to Jo so the blonde could make the next shot if she ever had the chance, Samira dropped the wooden cue as the words of the Admiral seeped through. They were kidding, right? She kneeled down to pick up the stick, and when she raised, she looked from the Admiral, towards Jo, back to the Admiral who grinned right back in an undisguised show of amusement. Neathler: Me? She could think of plenty of names, plenty of persons with more experience and older than herself that would suit for the position that was now open after Genkos’ transfer. Names like Whittaker, who had commandeered a ship before; Nkai who usually sat in the centre seat when the Senior Staff were away; Sevo, who had been the First Officer before; Erin, who had a lot more experience than Samira; all came to mind. Confusion etched on her features, she looked down at the pool cue in her hands, before handing it over to Jo, who took it with a grin. Marshall: You. Reynolds: One day I'll offer someone the post, and they won't look at me like they think I'm out of my mind. ::Her eyebrows lifted, humour colouring her voice.:: One day. Marshall: But that, ::she pointed the pool cue over the table, like a jousting lance,:: is not this day. Still speechless, Samira looked at the point of the cue now pointing at her, accusingly, then to the amused look on the Admiral’s face. Were they pulling a joke here? In all her time, ever since she graduated from the Academy, she had hardly sought for contact between the higher ranks. Even when she reached lieutenant commander, she felt closer to those of the lower ranks. And yet here she just received an invitation to become the Second Officer of the ship, not just any ship, the flagship of the task force. She hardly even knew what the job entailed. With James gone, she was alone in guiding her own department and as Second Officer she figured she would have to be present with even more meetings and making decisions that concerned the entire ship instead of just a department. Neathler: But why me? I mean, ::Her hand reached to the back of her head, ruffling her short hair just briefly before she lowered it.:: I’ve never given any indication of… ::She paused briefly.:: I hardly have any experience. On the other hand, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. A privilege that, if she’d say no, might never happen again. Wasn’t this what she wanted? Something she had earned and accomplished herself, without the help of her family? Marshall: Two years as an officer on the flagship of the Tyrellian Taskforce, and one year of that as the acting Chief of Security and Tactical… ::The blonde scratched the back of her neck with a quick click of the tongue, then leaned her hip on the pool table, punctuating her speech with adequate gestures of the beer bottle.:: You’ve got an impeccable record, Sami. Strength to strength all the way through. When Quinn asked me who I thought it should be, there really was only one. A swig of the beer bottle later and she was ordering another round from the bar, recalling a conversation the two had on Giáng Sinh many moons ago, and how Samira had then seemed like a deer in the headlights. Granted, they were stealing some of Soup’s tequila to “ward off the cold”, and doing so with the Chief of Security might have been a conflict of interest, but still hilarious. Marshall: You’re always prepared for department meetings, I’ve never had to chase you for anything so much as a written record on someone joining... Reynolds: If it's any consolation, few people feel completely ready for it, so don't let that stop you. ::Her lips twitched, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.:: One day I'll tell you a story about how I went from leading a cosy department to being First Officer to over a hundred thousand people. A hundred thousand people, at least the Gorkon crew, only had a population of six hundred people. Samira gave it some thought. She never had walked away from a challenge before. The only difference this time was that there was more at stake. Both the Admiral and Jo thought she was ready for it, otherwise, they wouldn’t have made the suggestion. Now all she had to do was convince herself. She inhaled deeply, letting out her breath slowly as she nodded. Neathler: It’s a huge step, and there’s only one way to find out if I’m suited. ::She looked at both of them.:: Very well, I accept. ::She smiled briefly.:: And I’d like to hear that story one day, si… Quinn. The brunette smiled with a small nod of approval, while Jo was a little more overt in her delight. The blonde beamed with a grin mid swallow, but that didn’t stop both arms going out to the side in a victory lift. They had time to go through all the ins and outs and routine changes in the coming weeks of shore leave, but for that moment, the three of them stood around the pool table under the dim lights of the Sto’Vo’Kor lounge, the future looked a little brighter. Marshall: That’s the spirit! Welcome to the team, Sami. ::Shaking the dwindling beer bottle in her hand, she let out a small happy sigh.:: I think we need another round or two in celebration. Reynolds: Sounds like you just volunteered to me. She waggled her almost-empty bottle in the blonde's direction. Jo narrowed her eyes playfully to the Admiral, trying and failing to contain the amused smile stamped on her features, and waved to get the attention of the stewards.The wonderful thing about having the Admiral with them in the lounge was the care and attention given by ship stewards, at least it was in the beginning. They were far too used to the two rocking up for a game these days, content to let them play on without checking in every two seconds if everything was alright, or if they needed more ice for the burns dished out in either direction. Neathler: Maybe between the two of us, we can find a strategy to defeat the Champion of Pool? She raised a quizzical eyebrow towards Jo who grinned back, mischief evident in blue. Marshall: Diving in head first, I like it. Told you, you were made for the job. Reynolds: This must be what mutiny feels like. Marshall: Only if you’re lucky.
  20. Another bit of excellent writing, by our CO, our FO, and... well, now, that would be telling, wouldn't it? Congratulations as appropriate! -- ((Sto’Vo’Kor, Crew Lounge, Deck 9)) They waged wars on a field of green; strategy devised, and tactics enacted, put to the test on the lush verdure lacking in blooms. Trajectory and geometry were the currency of the day; mathematical statistics and probability winning out over brute force. Armed warriors stood on either side, the pitched battle between made with long wooden weapons — gladiators in the arena — without the cheer from a spectating crowd… ...As it was shore leave, and the lounge was blissfully bereft of patrons. The dull thunk of a striped pool ball hit the felt boundary and disappeared down into the corner pocket. Triumphant smile notwithstanding, Jo stood up from her shot and leaned on the cue, beer bottle lifted with some measure of victory, finger pointed from around it toward the battlefield between the blonde and the hazel-eyed woman opposite. Marshall: That’s two. You’ve got to admit, I’m getting better. And watched as a rebounding ball from the shot knocked the white into the centre pocket. Marshall: Kinda. Eyebrows raised, Quinn lifted her gaze from the inexorable path of the cue ball into the pocket. She grinned, raising her palm parallel to the ground, and rocked it from side-to-side with a chuckle. Out of uniform, in worn jeans and a loose t-shirt, she didn't look the prim and proper Admiral that she usually was — and, at times like this, that was how she liked it. Reynolds: Kinda. Even as the smile refused to dissipate any, Jo’s tongue lodged in her cheek and a long sigh deflated her chest. Marshall: One day, Quinn. One day. Beer bottle handy, Jo took a swig and glanced across the open expanse of the crew lounge to where their Chief of Security and Tactical would make her appearance from. Possibly an odd request to meet the two in the lounge, but it was a far sight better than being holed up in Quinn’s Ready Room for the duration of all the comings and goings expected. She watched the Admiral setup for the next shot through a swig of beer. Marshall: Do you think she thought you were pulling her leg? Reynolds: I hope not. ::The crack of resin snapped through the air as the white collided with another ball, sinking it with barely any thought at all.:: Though perhaps "come and play ball" isn't the more obvious of invitations. Marshall: What can I say, you’re a subtle creature. Quinn chuckled in reply, shooting a sly twist of a grin toward Jo with equal precision to her pool playing. Trying not to smile and failing quite aptly, Jo heard the doors swish open and looked over to see the young Security Chief in all her glory entering the wilds of the crew lounge. Lifting her beer bottle up to catch her attention, Jo beckoned her over. Marshall: Sami! Over here! Sto’Vo’Kor, a familiar place, frequently visited the last two years and yet, for obvious reasons, nerves were rushing through her body as she stepped through the doors this time. Samira wore black jeans, and a light grey t-shirt, fingerless gloves, matching color with the shirt, hidden in her back pocket. Casual clothes as requested in the invitation. Ok, this was just a game of pool. Maybe she should have practiced a bit more, she couldn’t remember the last time she had played a game. Wasn’t it with Blackbird while he was on the ship? She took a deep breath as she stepped through the doors. Too quiet, everyone was down on the station or on Palanon. Or not that quiet when she heard the recognisable voice of the First Officer calling her. She walked over to the pool table, plucking a bit of grey fur away from her shoulder, nodding in greeting as she arrived. Neathler: Sir, Jo. ::She quickly glanced at the different coloured and striped balls on the table. :: Who’s winning? Probably an unnecessary question, but it was the first thing that came to mind. Quinn smiled, one hand on her hip, leaning on her pool cue. As much as she preferred formality, not one for allowing her officers to refer to her casually on duty, at times like this it felt incongruous. Reynolds: We're off duty, Sami. You can call me Quinn. Quinn instead of sir. That would take getting some used to and not exactly the way she was raised. Still, it was only for the duration of this game; she figured for now. Marshall: And I wouldn’t say “winning” so much as “succumbing to my eventual slaughter”. Albeit a little slower than last time. You’re losing your touch, Reynolds. ::A cheeky grin sprouted as Jo plucked her beer bottle from the side rail and she turned the grin to Sami.:: How are you at the old game? Come prepared to be my saviour? Neathler: I’m afraid, I’m a bit rusty, I haven’t played in a while. ::She looked at the setup, a hand going through her short hair.:: And I admit, I’m more familiar with snooker than eightball. Do you pot the balls by number? Marshall: Some players do. ::She took a swig from the bottle.:: But I tend to pot whatever I can before Quinn turns this into a massacre. Reynolds: I feel I should point out she takes her defeat with good grace because she knows she'll be murdering me at springball tomorrow. Samira raised an eyebrow. So that’s what was happening when the Commanding and First officers held meetings? Either playing pool or springball? Still, it was good to see them both taking some time off for themselves, although she still was wondering what she was doing here herself. Neathler: Got to keep the score even somehow. Maybe I should just observe and learn from the best. And in the meantime come up with a strategy to not be slaughtered instead, Samira thought as she already studied the position on the pool table, thinking of which shot she’d try first. Quinn glanced toward Jo, a sly twinkle in hazel eyes, and then looked back toward the brunette. Reynolds: Maybe it's time to step up. Step up as in not observing? Right, of course. Her eyes still on the game, unaware of the interaction between the other two, Samira walked around the table, looking at the game from a different angle. What was she thinking, of course the Admiral would want to see how well she played? What was the point of inviting someone to a game of pool, if that someone just observed? At the corner of the table she took a step back, looking up at the others. Neathler: In that case, I’d pot the three first, with a gentle shot. That would leave the cue ball at the correct position to go after the eight. Picking up the tail ends of Quinn’s grin, Jo chuckled through a swig from the beer bottle, and held out the pool cue to her commander counterpart to take. The fun was always in the opportunity to kick back together without that mantle of duty weighing down the shoulders like a backpack of bricks; throw off the shackles of command and enjoy easy conversation through the guise of playing a game. Marshall: I think we have a contender. How about it, Sami? Give Quinn a run for her credits.
  21. ((Deck 10, Arboretum, USS Gorkon)) ((Present Day)) Arlo finished talking and realised that she had begun to cry. A lone tear had slid gently down her cheek, leaving a sad stream of wetness in its wake. She sniffed and brushed the rivulet away with a delicate sweep of her pale cheek. She looked down to find the glass of apple juice that Corliss had kindly fetched her was empty. She didn’t recall finishing it. She looked at Corliss. Corliss held out a small cloth to clean her face, letting her take it. Fortune: What happened next…? Thornton: Cormoran explained when he confessed that Javica and he had panicked after they realised that they had taken their eye off of their work and the sirilium had combusted with some of the other agents they had been experimenting with. Javica had managed to hack into the security database and forge a record which showed me using a PADD which they then said had been responsible for the loss of sirillium containment. Corliss clicked her tongue, letting out a low whistle. Not paying attention was one thing, consciously subverting their classmate’s project, integrity, and even livelihood was another. Fortune: On one hand, I’m impressed at the whole...hacking, part, I suppose. On another, they certainly were trying to set you up, weren’t they? I can’t blame you for any hard feelings towards them. What happened to them? She laughed derisively as she thought about their punishment. Her parents had been furious and had believed they had gotten off lightly. They had even petitioned the Judge Advocate General for a harsher sentence but Arlo had not wanted to see either of them again- not after the board of inquiry- and because of that their sentences had both remained as they were. Thornton: Both were sentenced to four years at the penal colony on Dramia. Cormoran was killed in a prison riot about a year into his sentence. Javica was released about a month before I transferred to Gorkon. She sent me a letter after finding out that I was on Helaspont but I never read it. I just deleted it. I hated the idea that she knew where I was… so I transferred and et voila- here I am. ::she sighed.:: I look a mess. ::she let out another humourless chuckle.:: Corliss: Too often people assume ‘forgive and forget’ means the literal version of the wording. Rather, it means to move on. I don’t blame you for not accepting her letter, whatever the insides of it contained. ::she curled her hands together in her lap, humming.:: So, you have trouble trusting others...which, I can’t say I quite blame you there. Arlo sniffed anew and took a moment to compose herself. Thornton: Yeah. I was never the most popular kid at school. I'd sooner sit and watch the stars than play Pareses Squares or Velocity. So when I connected with Cormoran and Javica, it was…. really special. Really special. We used to spend all of our time together, we dreamt about what we'd do with our careers and how we'd all end up serving as senior officers on a starship together. ::she laughed bitterly.:: And when I found out Javica had pressured Cormoran into pinning the blame on me to save their careers, it just….. it was just the worst possible feeling in the world. I was just shattered by it. The sense of betrayal was huge- and it never went away. She fell into a sombre silence. Reliving the memories had been painful, opening a wellspring she had put a cork in four years ago. It was several minutes before she spoke again. Thornton: Sometimes….. sometimes I think that I'll never be able to trust anybody in the same way ever again. I keep everyone at arm's length because I don't want to ever feel that way again. Fortune: Actually, there’s many a ‘fun trick’ we can try to build you up back to the level of trust you once had. Everyone calls them ‘tricks’ ::she smiled, chuckling.:: I’m not sure why, but whatever pleases them. Thornton: Go on. ::she said, a frisson of intrigue tuning her into Corliss' words.:: Fortune: Well, the smallest steps should always be taken. Baby steps, I’m told, despite babies not really walking? Isn’t it toddlers? A-Anyway, ::Corliss shook her head quickly.:: the first few steps is to delegate a few things to others. Perhaps asking someone kindly to pass you something from the replicator, or asking them to close the door behind them. You can step up to asking them to take over say, something you’re working on but haven’t done by end of shift, but for now I think the small ones will do. She frowned, both confused and incredulous. Thornton: That really works? Fortune: Consciously, it does seem and sound very very strange. But it’s much akin to exercise. ::she flexed her fingers out, wiggling them before slowly drawing them into fists.:: You do the same thing every time, with the expectation of an end result. In this instance, you asking for some coffee, and then them giving you a cup. Mentally, your mind goes ‘oh! That’s what’s going to happen’ and it connects, like a plug. Plus, it’ll give you the opportunity to bond with our fellow crewmembers by checking in with them and perhaps doing a favor or two back. ::she paused.:: I’m not saying just...willy nilly ask them for a cup, you could ask for a PADD...I...does this make sense? Thornton: I… think so? Deep down, Arlo knew that she could not keep people at a remove in the long run. It was draining and it was cultivating her something of an unwanted reputation. Corliss was a trained psychologist and as difficult as it might be, she chose to defer to her experience. Had the situation been reversed and the Betazoid had come to her with a scientific issue it was probable that she would have deferred to Arlo. Fortune: It’s just like the volunteering! ::she motioned at a plant with a smile.:: It’s not like they’ll go ‘Arlo will always jump to volunteer’, but it’s more like ‘well she helped out once, and it was a positive experience, so we know to trust her’. The mind builds up all these experiences and background information that we never really think about fully. Of course, I’m not saying ignore your gut reaction, if you think a situation is bad then do what you must, but reaching out to others-slowly-will help rebuild what was broken. Thornton: Okay. ::she cleared her throat.:: I can try that. ::beat.:: Baby steps. Fortune: Toddler steps? Thornton: You're the first person I've confided in. ::she smiled kindly.:: It'll be a long road getting to where I want to be… but I…. I feel a little more optimistic and lighter. Thank you, Corliss. Fortune: One of my favorite quotes is ‘a journey starts with a single step’, and a step is all it takes to get going! Now, is there anything else I can do for you? With a small smile that felt surprisingly genuine, she pointed to another Capellan lotus. Thornton: Please could you pass me that flower?
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