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  1. OOC- Maybe not my best work but I wrote this a week or two ago and felt it was time to post it without much looking over, mostly before I forgot, lol. Enjoy. Sheila Bailey had come back to a place of rest after a stressful day treating patients. It hadn’t been her worst day ever but not her best either. She was running on empty by the end of it, her muscles aching. The best cure would have been to rest in the optional low gravity her living quarters provided, however she didn’t seem to have the energy once flopped onto the couch. Instead she had ended up scrolling through the files on her personal data PADD. The scrolling was lazy, without meaning until a small piece of information from her medical file came into view. Sheila had kept copies of her medical file for personal reasons but hardly ever looked at them. This time however it brought her back. The memory as a whole was fragmented. The tropical palms, pink flowers on Elaysia wet with rain. The outside temperature was warm despite the rain. It was a time of year when most of the general population stayed inside due to the heavy rains and humid temperature. However her two sisters had run out of the house. Sheila didn’t remember much else of the event. Maybe that was a good thing. However she remembered the smashed plates and bowls in the family home, done by her uncle. Her sisters had run off in order to get away. In the end so had she. Being out in the rain was not an enjoyable experience. On Elaysia she had been able to run. Each step carrying her several feet. It was freeing yet her vision was and subsequently her memory clouded in red and grey. After running off the only thing she remembered was sitting in the back of some vehicle, a harsh itchy wool blanket wrapped around her. The older woman shook her head, clearing it of the memory. She had broken free of her Uncle’s grasp. No use dwelling in the past. Or was there? Bailey spoke, or at least she thought it was her own voice, into the empty room to no one but herself. “I forgive you.” The statement held no emotion, not at first anyway. After a few minutes she realized it was her voice but it sounded older, wiser. Beep. A chime alerts her to her PADD. A voice recording, however it’s dated from several years in the future. She wasn’t sure how such things could be possible but shrugged it off pressing play anyway. A voice starts speaking. It’s a middle toned voice, with what sounds like years of life as well as wisdom coming from it’s user. “Hello Bird. It might seem strange that this recording is from the future but I’m glad you are listening to it. Yes you, the same you speaking is the same one listening, just from different points in time but hear me out. I know how much you’ve struggled with your past. How much you will continue to struggle. Yes you. I will forgive him one day. Forgive yourself. Forgive myself. Don’t ever give up. Never. It’s as simple as that really. The greatest lesson I ever learned was that he didn’t define me. That I could think for myself. You Bird are smart, kind, a healer, friend, and family to many. The best advice I was ever given was actually given to me by me. No woman should suffer at the hands of men. Ta-er al-Safar Bird.” With that the recording ended leaving Bailey to sit in silence.
  2. The small computer screen snapped into focus, a familiar sight in the background. Her Zhavey’s office, and taking up the foreground, Ejherenna zh’Qynallahr, her Zhavey. Piravao sighed and sank back in her seat, antennae flicking away to focus on some other part of the small shuttle. “What do you want, Ejherenna?” Her tone was dismissive, uninterested and mildly irritated. “Is a Zhavey not allowed to call her child from time to time?” Ejherenna’s antennae flicked in a way which indicated her feelings had been hurt by Piravao’s dismissiveness. “Last time we spoke you tried to convince me that I needed to come home and form my bond with those three you picked for me.” Piravao’s antennae flicked forward, posturing aggressively toward her Zhavey. She knew the names of the three selected for her, she had spoken with them numerous times in letters and the occasional subspace call, yet her Zhavey need not know that. Ejherenna’s antennae flicked to a defensive posture “Yes, but it’s for--” “I don’t want to bond with them,” Piravao cut her off ”and I’m confident they don’t want to bond with me either.” That was something she had learned in their letters. Like her, they all came from old families, and like her, they had been told that they would bond with people they had never met. They were all nice people, and Piravao considered the three of them her friends, yet there was no love between any of them. She had experienced love, Ezitesh zh’Reiji, the zhen she had shared a wild winter with on the shores of Emarnl Lake. Her hand strayed up to her shoulder, stroking the fabric above the tattoo she shared with the zhen. Ejherenna noticed the movement, her antennae curled in disdain “You still hold feelings for that nomad? You would rather court that barbarian than those whose bloodline is as noble as yours?” Piravao’s antennae lashed about in anger at the comment. “There is nothing ignoble about clan Reiji, they honour the ancient ways of our people. You could learn a trick or two from them.” Ejherenna’s expression hardened, her antennae moving together and angling toward Piravao. Then she sat back, her antennae relaxing as she did so. “I...apologize, that was rude of me.” Piravao relaxed her antennae too “It was” “I’m trying to meet you halfway here my Shei, but you have to give me something to work with.” Ejherenna’s expression was one of sadness, her antennae drooping over her forehead. “I don’t want a repeat of the day you left.” “I regret my actions that day, but I do not regret the outcome.” Piravao’s eyes met her Zhavey’s, her antennae flicked forward as her Zhavey’s flicked up, they wobbled back and forth, measuring each other up. “You broke Jhozahosh’s nose, Zartholh, Ashryvoss and I were quite upset when you left.” Ejherenna’s antennae sank down again, her expression mournful. “Jhozahosh has survived worse, and I’m sure Charan and Thavan got over themselves soon enough” Piravao saw her Zhavey flinch slightly at her choice of words, calling her Shreva by her name, while referring to her Charan and Thavan as her parents. It was deliberate, yet also unconscious. Her Shreva and Zhavey had been absent for much of her childhood, and as such she had formed a much closer bond to her Charan and Thavan. “She wanted to come after you. Ashryvoss spent almost three hours talking her down. I had to call the families of your bondmates and explain why--” “They are not my bondmates!” Piravao yelled, her antennae flicking up aggressively “When will you get it into your head that I will not bond with them.” “I had to talk them down!” Ejherenna yelled back “They wanted to go after you too! Were it not for me you would have been dragged back to the keep kicking and screaming!” “Oh, well thanks for letting me live my own life Ejherenna!” Piravao’s antennae lashed back in anger, almost burying themselves in her hair. “Did it perhaps occur to you that I might want to form my own bondgroup? Perhaps with people I love rather than people who were chosen for me?” “That is not our way. There are traditions that must be followed.” Ejherenna’s tone was much calmer, however her antennae were angled forward, a sign that she was ready to fight her position. “Traditions which are hundreds of years old! Traditions, which predate our people discovering warp travel. Traditions, which in times gone by would have involved blood sacrifices of Shens and children to try and prevent the snowmelt from drowning towns!” Piravao’s face was flushed a dark blue, verging on purple. Her antennae had almost vanished into her hair at this point. “Don’t compare the Spring Water Festival to your Time of Knowing Ceremony.” Ejherenna’s antennae flicked as though she found this comparison amusing. “They are nothing alike.” “Not any more, the Spring Water Festival has evolved. We’ve grown wiser and realized that blood sacrifices change nothing. Yet we still cling to thousand year old traditions when it comes to bonding.” Her antennae relaxed slightly, her face returning to its more natural shade. “And why? Because we are ‘the old blood’. So what? There is no real advantage to that in this age. All we are doing is clinging weakly to the glory of our ancestors and telling the rest of Andoria that we are stuck in the past. The rest of Andoria woke up when we helped to found the Federation, they discarded outdated notions and advanced. They started bonding for love, not power. So why should I bond with people whom I do not know simply to increase your standing in parliament. Your career is yours, what I do has no bearing on that. If I wish to bond for love then I shall, and if you have a problem with than then you--” Piravao paused for a moment, her Zhavey’s antennae were focused on her, yet her eyes had drifted off to the left, and Piravao could hear the faint taps and beeps of a PADD “Are you working while I’m talking to you?” Ejherenna’s eyes snapped back to Piravao “Oh, um, no. I wasn’t working, just, ah, checking a message from the council.” Anger flashed through Piravao’s eyes. “Don’t lie to me Ejherenna! If you cannot honour me with your full attention then there is no point in us continuing this debate. Goodbye!” Piravao slammed her finger down on the console before her, ending the call in a flash of anger.
  3. The Dome on the hostile planet was lit up with the bright light from the nearest sun, rays breaking through the glass in infinite shades of yellow and red. Parker sat outside one of the many bars they had around here, or what the locals referred to as sprinklers. At least they had a sturdy seating situation here. It would not be the first piece of furniture his enhanced muscles crushed under their weight. Just one more cup of coffee, and he will have the pleasure to finally get away from this dump. Granted it was a good looking one, but he did not shy away from looking behind all that sparkle and greatness around the place. “Yo.” He knew what was happening even before he turned around. “Harlow, what a pleasure.” It was not, and Parker got his point across by flipping the young and slimy man off. What a paper pusher he was, standing above him with his nice suit and that fancy Borsalino on his head. His face was way too smug and clean for Parkers taste, he almost had to gag. “I wanted to ask you something.” His gesture was ignored, and he waited for the man to finally reach the point of his visit. “I need to know how you got your hands on that automated puppy. Price and everything. The Burgomaster loved it, and I’m sure his daughter wants one for herself soon.” He anticipated that someone would ask and produced a data stick from his pocket. Without resistance or a word from himself, the tiny thing exchanged hands. “Thanks, Parker.” He waved the man away from him, leaving the scene not shortly after. The coffee was still steaming, but his appetite was ruined. Time to get away. His shuttle was waiting for him, and the transition ship will be entering the system soon. Korala was the name of the warp capable ship, and he hated that place too. At least no one bothered him in his shuttle as he waited for the massive warpdrive of the ship to spin up. No one, except his best friend of course. The little pet dragon crawled over the instruments of the pilot compartment and jumped on Parkers arm. Watching him patiently with googly eyes. Typical. He knew that his defense would not last long and before he knew it, he was petting the cursed reptile. A rumble went through the ship and they signaled the passengers that a jump will commence soon. Little Paolo managed to fall asleep on his arm in a new record time and he had to bend over to activate one of the many polished screens around him. The signal was hooked into the net of the planet and with that he had access to the local news. They focused on a recent explosion in the local refinery that spanned half the planet. Their lifeblood had an accident, something blew the grav-engine to pieces right as the Burgomaster was visiting the top engineers. Parker lit a cigar and listened to the extra fans around him kick into action. What a marvelous investment. Back at the display, they feared that the incident will plunge the planet into economic disaster. No one out here wants to get bought by some big corporation. It was only natural to fear change, but without that refinery spitting out profits there will be no choice. They feared some sort of tampering, maybe even a conspiracy. He could not keep that ugly grin off his face. Whoever was responsible for that chaos is going to get a lot of credits for it. The ship leapt into warp speed and he shed his name away from him and the logs like a snake. Parker ceased to exist in that moment and all that made him up dissolved into nothing. The man will be called Ridor from now on. And he did not even get to see if the people back at Parkers last known location managed to find the mini nuke in the puppy he brought to the planet only a few days ago. Only the death toll. And that was something he was not even the slightest bit interested in.
  4. As the white light consumed the screen, Chythar instinctively raised a hand to protect his eyes until the light faded. When it did, there was nothing -- he was no longer the bridge of his ship, there was nothing on the viewscreen in front of him. It looked like a big, blank space for a moment before it shifted to Skyfire Beach. Near the waterline, the only occupant of the shore was a redhead in a red Starfleet uniform. It wasn’t until she turned around to face him that Chythar made the connection in that he’d seen this woman before -- captain’s pips, red hair, eyes of a similar color to his own. His mother, Captain Kyrethia Angelica Skyfire. He was only a small boy when she died, and his pulse skyrocketed when he considered he might also be dead. As the question “am I dead?” burned around in his mind, he swallowed roughly and closed the distance between himself and the captain, his muscles tensing a bit as he did so. As he stepped forward, she smiled softly at him. “CD. You wear the teal uniform well. Starfleet life isn’t too rough on you, I hope?” “Mom. I...Am I dead?” She moved close to her son and pulled him into a warm embrace, the sort of familial contact he had missed out on for his entire adult life. Everything else vanished away, and there was nothing else that occupied his mind. Even though this was only a holodeck program, he was willing to accept the fact that he might, in fact, be dead if it meant that he could hold a conversation with his mother for the first time in over twenty years. “What have you been up to? Last time I saw you, you were up to your ears in linguistics and learning Russian with your uncle.” Chythar attempted to come up with an answer. He wanted to answer with confidence and conviction, but his words came out in a jumble of a summary. “Overall? Let me nutshell it. I’ve experimented in the realm of love, had my heart broken and mended, provided myself as a role model to a few medical officers and a little girl I’ve become a godfather to and will probably never see again, become CMO of a few vessels, became a lieutenant commander, well decorated officer, and finally a barista for Uncle Chris. Now I’m slinging coffee aboard a starship because my clearances have been suspended.” Ky smiled softly and took his hand, walking with him along the shore line near the water. She loved the beach, and even though she was probably only a figment of his imagination at this point, he fell in step beside her. “Love is a tricky realm. It’s never the sort of thing that comes easily. Even with your father.” “Dad’s dead, Mom. He took the supernova rather hard, and I was basically raised by Uncle Chris after your funeral.” She seemed unsurprised, and nodded sagely. She seemed, to his eye, almost jaded by the news. As though she knew Calvin was already dead. “So these officers and the little girl you inspired are colleagues of yours, then? Friends you’ve made in Starfleet?” CD nodded slightly. “The little girl is currently on Earth with her father, but she did a marvelous science project on pain medication absorption by different species based on reading my SFMJ back-issues.. She wants to become a medical officer when she grows up. Some of these colleagues have read my work that was published in the SFMJ, and have served with me for a number of years now.” Ky smiled again, and the warm, motherly pride in her son was evident in her eyes. She stopped and gave him another hug, pride and love washing off of her like tidal waves of a tsunami. As the emotional overload hit him, he tensed completely under her grip and did his best not to flinch. However, due to motherly instinct, she noticed and let go almost immediately. “You didn’t flinch the first time I hugged you...you’ve changed….” This was a conversation he hadn’t ever envisioned having with his family, especially because he had no real family to speak of. He felt isolated from the Moonsongs due to his connection with Raissa being so tenuous and his biological family being dead, so he nodded slowly and took a breath. “I’ve had my DNA scrambled, Mom. I’m a T2/E6 now, and I’m still getting used to the empathic overload. Series of freakish accidents.” The smile quickly disappeared, replaced by one of concern. Having one’s DNA toyed with was never a fun experience, but to have it stated so bluntly was an unusual experience for the captain. “Indeed? Well. We have no reader ancestry, so this is...very different.” CD just nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been getting training in how to deal with it.” She nodded and ran a hand along his bearded face. “That’s good. So...you mentioned your love life is not anything special?” “Not really, no. Nobody special right now. I have a dog, though. Given to me by a pair of colleagues because I’m a high stress depressive. Devlin’s an adorable beagle.” She glanced over his shoulder to see the five year old beagle running toward them. “You always were good with dogs. And yes, he is quite adorable. That’d be him, I trust?” CD turned and patted his leg. “Come here, boy.” Devlin ran up and gave a yip of greeting as he approached. The captain knelt down and extended her hand to him, which was sniffed for a moment before being given a friendly lick. The moment was picture-perfect. Mom, Chythar, and his dog. A moment of serenity before a sudden burst of gale force wind came in and disrupted everything. The world went black, and Kyrethia and Devlin faded from view, ~~~ Chythar woke suddenly, the sudden wind from his dream sending a chill through his body. The abrupt motion disturbed the dozing beagle beside him, who noted his master’s distress and gave a whimper, nuzzling up against the doctor’s chest and licking his face reassuringly. “It was just a dream, boy… just a dream…” END ==== Chythar Skyfire, MD Brew Continuum Barista USS Veritas NCC-95035 O239002CS0
  5. The view screen snapped into focus on an impossible sight, and a voice from my past spoke in a way that I knew could only be for me. My vision was blurry even with my ocular implant, gripping the console with the view screen I did my best to focus on the voice. “David! I need you to focus! Sta……. “The voice faded away I couldn’t stop my head from swaying with disorientation. Trix? Where am i? What happened? I tried to stand from the console, but a set of straps held me down. Why am I strapped in? The memory was fuzzy, but I had the vague recollection that came back slowly. I was on a mission for Star Fleet Intelligence, Merch…..Merchant was defecting. That’s right, my source a merchant on a Valcarian planet wanted to defect and wouldn’t deal with anyone else but me. Which explained the shuttle, I must have been going to collect him. Wait what happened to Merchan……ohhhh. I remember now, the rendezvous with Merchant did not go as planned. It had been a set up and I was greeted by Valcarian soldiers with kill or capture orders. Thankfully they had more of a mind to capture than kill, otherwise I might not have made it out. My escape was concluded when I jumped back in my shuttle and took off as fast as I could. The cloak! I must make sure the cloak is up or a Valcarian patrol craft can intercept me! Undoing the straps, I grimaced as one of the straps brushed the side of my head and I felt a twinge of pain. That shouldn’t have hurt so much, touching the side of my head again I felt the moist feeling of blood and looked at my fingers. The sight of the bright red blood on my own fingers was not exactly comforting, especially considering how easily the tips of my fingers had become completely covered. Walking over to the piloting console clumsily I checked and breathed a sigh of relief. I had apparently had the good sense to engage the shuttles cloak. Slumping down into the pilots chair I took another breathe and realized it was becoming harder to breathe. Something wasn’t right. Looking over to the command console I found the reason why, the life support was damaged. Levels put it as still functional but less than optimal. Enough to live but not enough to keep a clear head. “David!” The voice made me stand from the pilot’s seat reflexively and my head swam. I took a step to try and regain my sense of balance and fell to the floor. I knew that voice…..that was Trixx. There was not a chance that the female Rodulan could be on or in contact with the shuttle. The last I had heard she was commanding a small Science vessel somewhere in the Gamma Quadrant. I was set to be reassigned to that region so I could be closer to her, but first I had to close out things here in the Expanse. Which meant dealing with the Merchant. “David!” looking over to the console I had been strapped in at before I saw her face with the trademark black eyes indicative of Rodulans. “I need you to focus! Take a deep breath and slow everything down, just like I told you what do you need to know? What do you need to do?” Right, what do I need to know? It would probably be good to figure out where I am, looking around the shuttle the obvious answer was apparent. I’m on the shuttle, but where is the shuttle? Doing my best to get back into the pilot’s chair with my head giving the least amount of protest I looked over the readouts. Cloak….life support (still damaged)…..engines….navigation! That’s what I want to see, now where am I? Pressing few commands, a fair bit more difficulty than I would prefer I finally got a three-dimensional display to appear in front of me. Looking at the display my vision blurred again, the floating icons becoming a jumble of colors. Closing my eyes for a minute I sat in the pilot’s chair until I felt a little bit better and opened my eyes again. At least I’m out of orbit, still a good way from where I need to be though. I set the ships navigational computer take me back to federation space as fast as it could while staying under cloak at warp 3.5. I tried to do the mental math to see how long it was until I got back, the thoughts just wouldn’t come together. Computer, how long until arrival at destination? A moment of silence passed, and I feared the computer was damaged until came back breaking the silence. “Seventeen hours and twelve minutes” Computer, set auto pilot and engage. The computer chirped an affirmative and the navigational display disappeared replaced by the viewscreen with the disorienting sight of passing stars. Looking away I thought to myself. That’s what I needed to know, now what do I need to do? Maybe do something about this bump on my head. Computer, activate EMH. “No such program exists on this shuttle” That is right, this is purpose built SFI shuttle. EMH probably wasn’t high on the list when it was built. Looks like I will just have to suffer through until I reach some where a bit more friendly. Closing my eyes again to try and regain my focus so I could see clearly but just as soon as I tried to reopen them, I found I was drifting comfortably to sleep. “Captain on the bridge!” The words startled me, and I reflexively called carry on. Looking around I saw I was lying on top of a towel on the beach on Risa in a pair of board shorts and a PADD on my chest. I must have dosed off while reading. “Good Morning Captain” said a voice that clearly was putting more emphasis on the captain part of things. You know you seem more excited about that than me I said in reply. “Well its not very often that I get to call you that, ever since I was posted at DS9 I’ve had to make do with subspace messages and Holo exchanges. “ It does have a nice ring to it I said with a bit of enthusiasm, my career in Starfleet had been a different one. Starting out in intelligence with a stint as a Tactical officer and then back to Intelligence. It had even taken me a year longer than normal to reach the rank, a fact I was reminded of every time I saw myself in a reflection. My hair still had most of its color, but I could tell my hairline was beginning to recede just a little. My companion on the beach however had aged beautifully, she had all the charm of her younger years when I first met her and had gained at most one gray hair. Which I liked to bring up jokingly from time to time. Aren’t up for promotion soon? “I am, its bittersweet thing though” How so? “It comes with an assignment to the Gamma Quadrant, which means I’ll be farther away. Which means that outings like this is less likely to happen when there is a worm hole between us. “ I smiled at the thought, not because I didn’t want to see my favorite helmsman again. Because I had a surprise, I pulled a few strings and got my own assignment to the Gamma Quadrant. It wasn’t on the same ship, but it would be a lot closer than current circumstances. And besides Star Fleet Intelligence wasn’t just sending me out of the kindness of their hearts, it seemed they had a new listening post they wanted me to get off the ground. You know I have been meaning to talk to you about that. Do you remember Jaynes friend Yartane? I made a few subspace calls and he was able get me on an assignment in the Gamma Quadrant on Cearious IV. Trixx laid down next to me on the towel and looked at me with slightly concerned. “I don’t want you to do this for me if it hurts your career. “ Don’t worry, SFI doesn’t promote ship captains. They promote what they like to call organizers, this will be a step up from running the intel lab on DS26. My companion smiled at me and moved the PADD off my chest so she could get closer. “I’m happy to hear that, how long until join me on the other side of the worn hole?“ She gave me a sly look that hinted at something we both enjoyed, and I couldn’t help but smile back. Couple weeks, tops. The dream subsided and I awoke in a brightly lit room with row of tables on the far wall, I was in the center seated in a chair. My arms and legs were held in place by force fields I could not see, an attendant was doing something with a set of tools I could not see. Looking at the rest of the room in closer detail I could see it was built in a cube shape with a doorway of some kind to my right. The wall to my left was bear and plain colored in the same pattern as the rest of the room. The attendant had not noticed me yet and I was hardly inclined to draw any unwanted attention to myself until I figured out where exactly I was. Testing each limb, I confirmed that I was trapped in the chair. None of my limbs budged so my options were extremely limited, however my vision was not as hard to focus, and I could breathe easily. Wherever I was at least It had working life support. The doors slid open and a Valcarain walked in the room. An evil smile played out across his face and I did not like the look he gave me, a few of the hairs on the back of my neck started to tingle. “Mr. White Knight himself! I was worried those lackies would botch the trap I had so masterfully set, but lucky for them they managed to damage your shuttle before you tried to escape. I would have killed them if they had failed. I’m told you had a nasty head wound at the time so i understand why you didn’t notice the damage from your failed attempt at running caused a flood of tachyons that was easy to spot. But I do hope you’ll forgive me If use real names since we know each other. It has been a long time though hasn’t it, ten years at least? I do hope you’ve not forgotten me.” Sover, the Valcarian assassin I saved from a certain execution by the Caraadains. I had heard you escaped from that penal colony, though I am curious how you convinced your countrymen not to execute you. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten that, I wouldn’t be here today without you. But I do hope you understand….i will not be returning the favor. “
  6. Serala sat in the First Officer’s chair staring at the viewscreen. The Captain was off somewhere and she had been left in charge today. The shift was turning out to be fairly routine, and to her mind, boring. She found herself hoping for a little excitement today, but she really should have heeded that old adage: “Be careful what you wish for.” Several weeks ago, Serala had experienced what she was still calling Hell Week. An ironic nickname considering that Serala had no religious beliefs of her own, outside of a regard for The Elements. The only good thing to come out of that week had been the birth of her beautiful daughter, T’Saara. But other than that one wonderful event, she had experienced crashing into a frozen wilderness and being stranded with government sanctioned assassins hunting her and the other survivors; the rather brutal death of her husband which she had felt through their shared telepathic bond; and the rather unexpected return of her deceased father from the grave after nearly thirty years. Two weeks later, the Captain promoted her to First Officer. Life was just starting to settle down, and here she was wishing for more excitement. Suddenly, the viewscreen began to shimmer and the stars faded out to be replaced by the image of her husband’s face. He looked straight at her and began to speak. “Serala. What are you doing, e’lev? Why have you not taken me to Vulcan?” Not sure that what she was seeing was real, and confused by the question since she had sent his body home, she hesitated briefly before answering. “But how are you here? And what do you mean? I sent you home?” “But, e’lev, I do not live in my body. I am in you. My katra is in you. You must take me back to Vulcan. To Mount Seleya.” “Stevok Deyhhan? What do you mean? How can your katra be with me? We were nowhere near each other when you died.” “My wife, we were bonded. We did not need to be together.” Of course! How could she have not realized that. Stevok had told her about katra and that they were usually transferred to someone if they could not get home. There, the katra was taken to their holy mountain, Mount Seleya, where the priestesses would store it. How that was all done was a mystery to Serala. She had always believed that physical contact was necessary for the katra to transfer to another, but the nature of their bond would have changed that. On their very first meeting, Stevok was in the early stages of his pon farr and had instinctively chosen her as his mate. Somewhere along the way, they had bonded telepathically. It was not uncommon for Vulcans to bond with their mates, but it was usually done in a ritual ceremony as so many things with Vulcans are. But occasionally, it could occur as an instinctive action on the part of one Vulcan partner or the other. Such had been the case with Stevok and her. Ever since that day, they had never been apart even when separated physically. “But I felt you die! I felt the bond sever. How is that possible if you were still with me? He smiled that knowing smile of his that often irritated her. Like he was sharing some private joke at her expense. “Yes, Serala. The bond was severed. My body was dead. But my katra needed a place to go, so I clung to that bond and was flung into you when the strand was severed. And I have been here since. I am just now recovering enough to be able to reach you again.” “Then I must take you home at once!” Stevok seemed to consider it for a moment before responding. “I have reconsidered this, ailhun. I can remain this way for years and I sense that you still need me. But when the time comes, I need you to promise me you will take me home.” “I promise, Stevok. On my Honor!” Anyone who knew Serala knew how much that honor meant to her. “But, how will I know when it is time.” “Another will come to take my place in your heart. You must let him. And when he does, then it will be time.” That was never going to happen. She was sure of that. But Stevok had said it with such certainty that she wondered. When she next spoke it was whispered, barely audible. She was making a solemn vow to the love of her life. “Jol-ao au deyhhan. There will never be another to take your place.” “E’lev, there must. You must continue to live, and love is a part of life. It is not logical for you to remain so. Grieve for me as you must, but do not refuse to live your life because of a memory. For that is all I can ever be for you now.” Serala doubted such a thing would ever happen. She had loved before, but none ever held her heart like he had and none ever would. Sensing her thoughts, he laughed that most wonderful laugh of his. “Of course, e’lev, none will ever hold your heart in the same way. For each, love will be different. But it does not mean it will be less. Only different.” She still doubted his words, but Stevok had always had a way of reaching that stubborn part of her that few could ever breach. So, she conceded the possibility, though she didn’t think it would be for years to come, if it ever did. “If such a time ever comes, e’lev, I swear on my Honor that I shall return you to Mount Seleya.” “Then I can ask nothing else of you, Serala. I wish that I could have remained for you and our child, but it was not meant to be so.” Tears began to creep into her eyes. More than anything, she wished he had lived to see his beautiful daughter. “I wish you had been here to see her, Stevok. She is so beautiful. And she has your eyes. I named her T’Saara after your grandmother.” “But Serala, I have just told you that I am with you. I have seen her and she is beautiful, just like her mother. And you will be a wonderful mother to her. I am so proud of you both.” She cried in earnest now, and part of her worried that the others on the bridge were witnessing this private moment. She did not want to be a spectacle for her crew. But the love she felt, and the loss, once more rose up to overwhelm her. She was so unsure of so many things. How was she going to raise a newborn and yet remain as First Officer on this ship? Yes, so many had stepped up to offer their assistance. She knew Little Bean was never going to be unloved or uncared for. But there was just so much even she could handle. And with Stevok gone…. She was feeling overwhelmed again. With love, with loss, with loneliness, with responsibility. She had friends, but Stevok had always been her confidant. The one she could turn to when she needed to talk, to work things out, or just to be vulnerable for a few minutes. “I am still here, e’lev. And I will not leave you until another has come to take that role from me. But you must let me go when that time comes. Live, Serala. Love.” The smiling face of Stevok vanished at that and Serala noticed that the others on the bridge seemed to not have realized anything had just happened. “I Swear It.”
  7. Cadet Romyana Casparian stood at the back of the bridge of the long distance federation transport vessel from where she could see the spectacular Trojan class Starbase growing bigger and more beautiful on the large view screen. The ship moved carefully closer toward the upper section of the base, preparing for the docking maneuvers. She was totally amazed by the enormity of the structure as it quickly occupied the entire view screen and continued to dwarf the entire ship. Then the view screen snapped into focus on an impossible sight - a blue planet she immediately recognized as Earth - the Starbase was nowhere near Earth! How could this be? A voice from her past spoke to her, and when she turned to look, she saw her good friend Cadet Nommi Jarr suddenly standing next to her. He sure wasn’t there before, he couldn't be, he was back on Earth. Then Romyana remembered how only a little while ago they stood, exactly like this, side by side watching the view screen on their voyage towards Earth. “We will beam down to the Academy directly from the parking orbit?” Nommi asked. “Yes. To San Francisco, the city. And finally we will take the monorail to cross the campus grounds.” Romyana whispered to not disturb the bridge crew. “Oh, I hope we don’t make any mistakes and get lost.” the Cadet worried. “Don’t worry, I’ve done it before. I’ve lived in this city for 2 years. We won’t get lost.” Romyana reassured him. For him it was the first time, though Romyana was returning from her cadet cruise to finish her fourth year. They had met on the deep space station and during those months became inseparable companions - two young and naive students whose mission seemed to be to give their mentoring superiors headaches, while enjoying a carefree life. She'd been ecstatic when he got the news that he was accepted to the Academy. *** “Well, this is it, the first year student dormitories. My room is in the thin high building way over there. The petty officer will fill you in on the rest.” Romyana said to Nommi when they had arrived at the entrance of building FD3 on the Starfleet Academy grounds. “So, where are you going now? You still have some free days left. How will you spend them?” “I haven’t thought of that yet.” “Maybe you can visit your family. They live in this city, you told me once.” “Hmm, maybe. Though, I think they are not very eager to see me.” Romyana said somberly. “And you? You must have missed them. Just go and see them... while you can.” Nommi tried to convince her and placed a hand on her shoulder to convey the importance of the last couple of words. Romyana decided to follow Nommi’s advice. He had lost his father a few years ago and he used to say that ‘you don’t realize how much you love a person until he is gone, then it will be too late’. “All right then. See you tomorrow!”. So Romyana put aside her stubbornness and went to see her mother and father. They both had positions at Starfleet Headquarters at the moment, so that is where she went first. It was right next to the Academy campus, she walked there through the park. It was a calm and sunny December day and it had been snowing the day before, so the grass was all covered in snow. It had been a long time since she had seen snow and her nose felt cold and tingly in the freezing air. At that moment she felt very content being back on Earth. It took the Ensign a while to find the whereabouts of her father and mother. Father had a free day and was at home, in the center of San Francisco. Mother was in her office, some floors up in the Headquarters building. Romyana went to see her first, as it was nearest. When she announced herself to the secretary, she was told to wait. The Ensign took a seat in the waiting lounge, but it took more than an hour before she was called inside the office. “The Captain will receive you now.” the secretary said monotonically. Anxiously Romyana stepped inside the office and approached the desk. While doing so she noticed the stern expression on her mother’s face didn’t change. The Captain didn’t show any sign of gladness for her daughter’s return. About halfway to the desk Romyana halted and croaked a greeting. “Hi mom.” “Have you forgotten how to salute an Officer, Cadet?” her mother said sternly, with the emphasis on Cadet. The young Cadet knew her mother was never one to show much emotion due to her Vulcan upbringing, but she was also half human and had been able to show some kind of tenderness when Romyana and her brother were young children. This certainly was not quite the welcome she’d expected. She stood at attention to salute her mother, who was a Captain in rank. “So tell me, they have sent you back home because they couldn’t use any inexperienced students out there.” mother said nastily and without any kind of expression on her face. “No, Ma’am. I have returned to finish the last of the fourth year classes, Ma’am. And I thought I might as well come and see you again.” Romyana said hopefully. “You might as well. Ah, has it been a year already then?” mother replied dryly. “More.” Romyana corrected. After a short tense pause, her mother spoke. “You have seen me now. Thank you for the announcement, you are dismissed, Cadet.” She wondered what had changed for her mother to become so distant like this. Was she still angry at her for what she did over a year ago? Despite the insecurity and hurt that Romyana felt due to her mother’s cold words she kept her head high, saluted and calmly left the room. Her mother remained ever emotionless. As soon as the Ensign closed the office door, tears came to her eyes. Partly angry, partly disappointed, she marched out of the building into the park and sat down on a bench, in a quiet corner near the water. There she sat motionless for a while, staring across the water's calm surface. She wanted to scream, throw something or maybe even punch someone - instead she counted slowly to seven. It was a trick her grandmother taught her on one of the rare occasions that the Vulcan relative left the home world to come see her -mostly- human grandchildren. “Romyana?” she heard a familiar male voice say in the distance. “What a nice surprise and wonderful coincidence to see you here!” The Cadet looked back over her shoulder and to her delight she saw her father approaching. She quickly wiped away her tears on the cuff of her uniform sleeve before he’d see she was crying. A smile came back to her face and he gave her his typical cheerful grin. Also a Starfleet officer, her human father had always supported and encouraged her to achieve the best in life. He sat down next to her on the bench, blew a hot breath on his hands to warm them up and folded them in his lap. “Well.” he said curiously, “How was it out there? Did you like it?” “Oh yes! It was wonderful, just as you had always told me. I met many people and different cultures, most are very kind. And I’ve learned so much.” Romyana said, her joyfulness had returned immediately when thinking back to her cadet cruise days. “The adventure you have been waiting for for so long, hey? I am glad it was as you expected.” “It was better than I expected!” “So you are finishing your fourth year classes now. Have you prepared well?” “Yes, I am confident about them.” “You have had a lot on your mind there, I’m sure. But you must try to score highest.” her father encouraged her. “Yes, I know. I will still go for top grades.” Romyana said reluctantly and produced a thin lipped smile. “Oh I’m sure about that. I don’t expect any less.“ he said, which only increased the pressure for Romyana to do well. “Why are you out here? You don’t have to work today.” “I thought I’d come and see your mother. I was planning on taking her out to lunch, and it is so beautiful to stroll through the snow.” father explained while looking out across the lake and the snow covered campus grounds. “Oh, well. I have to warn you then, she is in a bad mood today. She still hasn’t forgiven me.” “You have paid her a visit then? In that case, a good lunch is just what she needs.” father laughed the matter away. Romyana laughed too but she was not amused. “Well, I must be going now. I don’t want to anger her too. Oh, and do come by to have a drink or something. Your brother will be pleased to see you again. Goodbye.” he said whilst getting up from the bench. Then he marched away along the yellow path in between fluffy white and sparkling snow. Romyana sneezed. She thought it’d be best if she went inside her dormitory before catching a cold. She sneezed again and stood up from the bench and strolled through the snow, making the bottoms of her trouser legs cold and wet. She sneezed for the third time and found that she was suddenly back on the bridge of the transport vessel again and there was no-one standing next to her. It has just been a very vivid memory. On the view screen the Starbase’s huge dry dock area was revealed as the docking bay doors slowly opened. It was a captivating sight, and she stood gazing wide eyed, smiling from ear to ear of excitement. *** The ship had arrived at the station and it was time to disembark. Usually Nommi would be waiting for her just outside the airlock when she’d come back from a field trip, but now that would no longer be the case. Admittedly, they could always write or call, but she'd still miss him and his ever present positive attitude. The young Cadet would have to build herself a new life with new friends now, but Romyana knew she could do it, because she’d done it during the cadet cruise and she’d do it again on the Starbase. -END-
  8. He had done this six times. "Who are you?" Captain Gunner finally voiced a question he had been keeping in his mind since a random woman had suddenly appeared on his viewscreen. The Captain was alone, he remained on the ship whilst the rest of the crew left for shore leave. "How can you not remember me Captain?" The mysterious female answered back, insinuating that they had met before and that the Captain should be fully aware of that fact. "Why would I? I've never seen you before." Captain Gunner believed this to be true, his mind couldn't find anything related to this woman. Her curly brown hair and ocean coloured eyes didn't seem familiar at all. He continued to focus on the unfamiliar face as she answered back. "Alice." That rang a bell. The Captain stood up off his chair and calmly approached the viewscreen, the high pitched noises, that were common ear fodder on the bridge, played in the background as the Captain got closer and closer to the woman in front of him. "Alice… Gunner?" It was a shot in the dark, but one he believed would hit. "Yes" she replied. Everything now made sense. The Captain was definitely not a forgetful man, he remembers everything and everyone, but someone he purposely forgot was his daughter, a baby that didn't make it. All logic flew out the window as tears trickled down the Captains face, the impossibility of this situation didn't matter to him anymore. A broken man laid face down on the floor, banging his hands against the floor of the bridge whilst crying his eyes out. "How could you let me die daddy?" He continued to cry, until he couldn't bear it anymore. Bang He had done this seven times. "Who are you?" Captain Gunner finally voiced a question he had been keeping in his mind since a random woman had suddenly appeared on his viewscreen.
  9. 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 making first contact with some genial species on a lush planet. They would regale him with the exquisite foods and picturesque scenery he had missed out on. “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. “Computer, put 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. “Shuttlecraft K’Tang 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 the next evening. 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. “Hello, Jona. It’s good to see you.” “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? “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. “Jojo, I need your help.” “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 on 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. “I need you to kill someone.”
  10. Prison wasn’t so bad, Tillul mused. The worst part of it were his fellow prisoners; many of whom were uncouth, angry monsters. But then, they were all in for murder. Tillul had been here about a year, a long year of slowly acclimatising to incarceration, but he’d made what they laughably called his “accommodation” his own. He’d taken to carving small anatomical models of fauna from bits of wood and stone that he’d purloined from the yard during their daily exercise, and he used a small toolkit they’d allowed him from the workshop classes. He’d attempted to be a model prisoner, gaining the guards’ trust, or at least refraining from earning their ire. He sat on his bed, reading the PADD that was a standard prison issue. It contained a variety of Betazoid literature, and he was currently engrossed in the works of Toman Chaa, a romance novelist of little consequence, but whose writings were deemed of having no qualities that might arouse a prisoner to undesirable emotions (such as rage) or mount an escape. He ran a hand through his thinning steel hair as he read, a slight frown on his face. No matter how many of these he read, they didn’t get any better. He was about to throw the book at the wall in a bout of aggressive tedium when a voice shattered the quiet. "Hello, Tillul” Tillul jumped up with a start, his ageing frame showing surprising speed as he rushed to the cell door. There was nobody there. "Over here, love of mine” Tillul’s blood ran cold, the icy fingers of fear playing his spine like a human xylophone. He swallowed once as he turned around. There, on the viewscreen normally reserved for meetings with his lawyer or the warden, was Fumiko. Her almond eyes stared at him from not just across the room, but also across the heavens. She was supposed to be dead; she should be dead. He had pushed and she had fallen, and that was the truth. So how was she here? Tillul was a man of science, he knew there were no ghosts. It was possibly a mental trick, a faulty neuron firing the wrong impulses into his brain, or maybe a new delicious form of torture developed by the race of telepaths. The voice spoke again. "What’s the matter, targ got your tongue?” Tillul shivered as the syrup of her voice ran over his soul. This was impossible. His mouth was arid, as devoid of moisture as the desert wastes outside the prison. He opened his mouth to speak, his voice barely louder than a whisper. "Y-y-y-you’re dead” he rasped, a stutter forming on his lips, a trait he had ironed out of his son with harsh words and tough love. Fumiko tipped her head back to laugh, a brutal mockery of the warm tinkle that he remembered as her expression of mirth. This laugh was cruel, and high and cold and turned his blood to iron in his veins. She turned her eyes to face his, her chilling blue gaze meeting his ebony eyes. The corners of her mouth twisted into a glacial expression of amusement. Tillul felt his knees go weak and he slowly slumped back down onto the bed. "Dead or not, I am here, aren’t I?” She blinked slowly, as Tillul hung on her every word. “My my Tillul, you did very well didn’t you? What, nearly thirty years of freedom after ending two lives in one fell stroke? An enviable achievement. And you would have got away with it too, if not for that son of yours. How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child, eh? After everything you did for him, and still he squeals on you like a pig, revealing your deepest darkest secrets. Sure, you suppressed his abilities, made him a cripple, what, two times over? But at least you were safe. Until you weren’t.” "It wasn’t like that,” Tillul hastened to interrupt her unstoppable train of thought. “It was for his benefit as much as mine” Fumiko scrunched up her face into an expression of extreme doubt and disbelief. In what felt an eon, she shook her head, maintaining eye contact the entire time. "You and I both know you only did it so he wouldn’t accidentally stumble upon your dirty laundry Tillul, and frankly it’s insulting that you would believe I could swallow that pill. I’m not one of your animals; I’ve seen the size of some of the things you gave them” Tillul’s face assumed a mask of purest, undiluted hatred. This woman, this stupid woman, had ruined his life twice over. First of all, she’d had the audacity to get pregnant, to make leaving her even more difficult than it was already. Then her death had come back to bite him in the rear, ruining his chance of a perfect family. Laxe had loved him, and his son had loved him, and then the revelation of one little secret had brought it all down like a house of cards. He pointed a short, bony finger at the face on the screen. "How dare you, how very dare you! You ruined my life! If it weren’t for you, I could still be happy. Still be free!” Fumiko’s face took on a patronising glare that needled into Tillul’s brain as she raised both her eyebrows at him. "I don’t remember forcing you to push me down those stairs. In fact I seem to remember feeling a jolt of shock before the sudden nothingness. So please don’t be blaming me for that, thank-you-very-much” Tillul’s eyes narrowed to thin slits through which his ebony eyes blazed. He considered throwing something through the viewscreen to gain himself a moment’s respite, but a feeling of some kind stayed his hand. Perhaps it was fear, perhaps it was the unsaid knowledge that this wasn’t a physical manifestation and breaking the screen wouldn’t do diddly. Instead he rearranged his face into a softer look of contrition that was as false as his testimony on the stand. He’d tried to argue that it was an accident, that guilt had rewritten his memories to pin the blame on him, because he had felt so anguished at his inability to save her. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t fly. "I am sorry. I am sorry for what happened to you. I - “ She interrupted him before he could get any further. A red rose of rage blossomed in the pit of his stomach, but he clenched his jaw and stayed quiet. After all, he had all the time in the world. "You’re not sorry that I died, you’re sorry that you got caught. Please don’t insult my intelligence or my memory in saying that. You deserve this though, and you know it. You are a murderer, Tillul, a murderer of your wife and her unborn child. Every minute you serve here brings her another moment’s peace, you know that?” Tillul raised an eyebrow at the face on the screen, her calm, docile eyes boring into his, as the face took on a more neutral expression, one that made her look less like Fumiko and far blander. In fact she could now be anyone. If it even was a she - the features had become a nondescript androgynous humanoid face and it was that which scared Tillul most of all. The face winked once at him before disappearing with a soft ‘pop’ leaving Tillul alone on his prison cot, shivering with his penitence. Over the next few days, Tillul frequently noticed a slight tremor in his right hand, often getting more violent as the day progressed towards night, and sleep. He had not slept well since the visitation from Fumiko’s ghost, or whatever it was. At first he had believed it was a manifestation of one of the many deities, some of which were vengeful and some were just and it could have been any of these. However he had dismissed that summarily when he reasserted his atheism to himself strongly in the mirror. Gods and demons simply did not exist and even if they did, he was sure he would be beneath their notice when compared to the grand scale of the universe. So instead he started to think that it was a dream, or rather a nightmare, a mental ordeal of torment that had visited him when he was asleep. That had to be it, he assured himself as he tossed and turned in his bed. And yet the screen in the corner of the room glowed a little brighter when he wasn’t looking...
  11. The battle was over and Nugra was on the way to the galley of the GSN Claws of Blood. It was nowhere as fancy as those aboard Federation vessels. Nugra had served on everything from the small Intrepid-class starship to the beautiful Sovereign-class ships. The Gorns preferred efficiency over design. The heavy tables were anchored down and the roar of the fire from the pits filled the room with smoky goodness. The fires, of course, were holographic but the heat emitting from them was not. They could live like their ancestors and roast meat over an open fire without risking the vessel with real fire. The holograms just added flair to them. “Senior Commander!” Ak’lar called from his place around one of the fire pits. He was holding a large leg of some animal over the fire making it glisten in its own fats. “Come! Sit! Eat!.” Nugra grinned at a lizard that he never thought would be his friend. A Black claw soldier from the wars, his enemy and somehow the green lizard with blue stripes had become a comrade. The ribbons and ropes on his chest and shoulders, the gem-studded Vss’Kot at his waist told of each and every honor he had won. Even those of the old Gorn Empire cause the youngest lizards to stare at him in awe. Starfleet was of science and knowledge, the Gorn were of deeds and duty. Nugra pulled out his plate which the other Gorns snickered. “You have lived with the humans for too long, brother,” another massive lizard said who took up twice the room. He hulked over the fire making the chunk of meat look small. “You need plateware aboard a Gorn ship?” “I like not to look like a beast when I eat.” “So you look dainty like a Romulan?” “Is that not better?” Nugra joked pretending to hold the plate as daintily as possible. There was a mixture of boos and laughter from her comment as Eeska, his friend, playfully swatted Nugra’s head in a sign of affection. Eeshka was a beautiful lizard with her small frame, gently spines running down her back, and small snout. Her topaz eyes glittered at him as she squatted beside him. “Why do you have that flimsy piece of human technology?” Ak’lar asked finally. The way he spoke showed he had been wanting to ask for quite some time. “A gift from my first captain in the Federation. It’s a reminder.” “A reminder of what?” the young Senior Ensign spoke up at his side, feeling safe being closer. “For every great thing, there are mistakes one should never forget.” *** Nugra found his room, tapped in the pass-code and strode into the muggy air. The thick aroma of Abalor plants and incense relaxed him immediately. There was a small, alien scent in his room. The biting but aromatic Jestral root nipped at his powerful nostrils and the memory of a certain Trill captain had come to his mind. The smell was calming and familiar in the muggy wild of his home. He did not make the same mistake as last time, he had sent her a note before he left Federation space that he was heading back to his home-world. The relationship between the Gorn and the Federation had not healed to the point of open communication. It would have been very difficult for him to send anything to her let alone making it there after the censors had looked at it. There was still fear the Federation was going to be out for revenge. Nugra went over to the little pot that held the growing roots of the Jestral plant and checked the soil monitors. The plant glistened in the starlight as the condensation kissed the leaves. He crouched down gently caressing it as if it had been a pet. It was the only thing that he had of the other life of a starfleet Captain. That was probably why Jalana Rajel had gotten it to him before he was too far deep into Gorn space. He had no clue how to make the tea but he planned to take the leaves to her when it was time to go home and have her show him. ‘When do I go home?’ Was not this his home now? There was actually nothing left in Starfleet for him. Since stepping down from his command of the USS Victory he had gone from one department to another, ship after ship. His chances for Fleet Captain dwindling at each move. Starfleet needed people of his experience and the Gorn never thought they hated him but his career had come to an end. Nugra knew he was fooling himself to think that he would ever command a Federation vessel again. Nugra Tk’Moong let the memories of his ship, the Victory, fill his mind from the corner where he guarded the deepest thoughts. The smell of the carpet and plasteel, the humm of the machinery. The quick, exciting talks of Ayiana Sevo, the rich Scottish accent of Alucard Vess, the gentle tones of Talia Kaji. Talia. It had even considered resigning his commission for a while before the request to return to Gorn space had come. Shaking himself of the revelry, he forced himself to the present. He was Senior Commander Nugra, Son of Moong, the High Arbiter of the Defender of the Egg, Holder of the Princess’ Ruby. He was a god among Gorn. Then why didn’t he feel at home? Ignoring the nagging voices, he climbed under the heavy animal hides and curled up to sleep. *** Nugra’s uniform was perfect as usual with his ribbons, medals, and ropes all positioned perfectly. Nugra strode into the room with confidence and certainty. Nugra strode in a crossed his left arm across his chest with hand out in a Gorn salute. “Reporting as ordered, Senior Master.” The older lizard turned to face him from the multitude of floating holographic screens that provided him everything he needed to know about the sector. "I need your experience from the Federation." "Oh? How can I serve?" Master Hrrsh tapped his claw against the duraglass panel and the screen changed to a starmap which he motioned Nugra to take a look at. The Gorn strode over closer and peered at it and recognized the coordinates being displayed. "This is Meeriso sector?" Nugra asked with a tilt of his head in surprise. "It's barren for the most part except for ion storms and a few other unique phenomena." "Yes," Hrrsh said with a nod. "But we picked this up about a week ago. It took our techs three days to piece together the jumbled signal to realize what it was." Nugra watched the string of symbols scrawl across the lower portion of the screen and to his astonishment, he recognized them. "That's a Starfleet IFF frequency." "It is. We had the Guardian's Errant pull the information and it's the USS Constantinople-A, Federation Constitution Class Refit circa 2271s. Under the command of Captain Daphne Pierce. Federation historical records show the vessel went missing in 2274 in the Baretz pass.” "Have you informed Starfleet?" Nugra asked. "No." Hrrsh answered with a finality that caught the younger Gorn off guard. "Why?" "I have an old Federation vessel clear on the opposite side of Gorn space which we have never seen before. I don’t know what we have.” "That's where I come in." "Correct. We are going to have to tell them if the ship is actually there and it will be better with an ex-Starfleet officer was the one investigating." "What is my assignment?" "Senior Commander Tk'Lnn Vss'Kov of the GSN Gorn Talon-A is in charge of the mission and will be heading to the Meeriso sector to see if they can locate the signal." "When do I leave?" "Immediately. Vss'Kov is waiting for you right now." *** The shuttle jolted hard as a wave of energy from the neutron star of the Holdath System made it past the stellar body that they were using as a shield. The jerk through the occupants around though their harnesses kept them in place. "Who thought we would also have a ride?" Burrk chortled from his seat. The massive reptile rattled his metal harness causing Eeska to shake her head in irritation. "I keep hoping something will take you out, you big oaf," she said with a mocking laugh. "Nothing is big enough to take out, Burrk." Nugra was of the opinion to agree. "What's the SOP, Senior Commander?" Ak'Lar asked. "Breach and then search pattern," Nugra said as another wave, just not as strong, rocked the ship. "I doubt anyone is alive by this time but we need to take steps to secure and make sure. Who knows what could have taken up residence all these years." Nugra had enough experience with alien life forms to not take anything for granted. It was easy to die in the void. "There it is!" the pilot called and Nugra tapped the screen on his harness to allow the view of the pilot to be seen. The side of the planet was dark but with massive canyons and mountains. Standing out with it's white hull and wedged between two giant mountains was the saucer section of the distinctive Federation design. "Land on the surface of it. We'll cut our way in," Nugra said. It took about 30 minutes before the team was able to breach the hull. Fitting their helmets on and activating the armor they wore, Nugra went first followed by Eeska, Burrk, and Ak'Lar last. Nugra dropped to the corridor below and moved forward before dropping to a crouch. The corridor and red carpet stretch before them though the hall was only illuminated by his helmet's head lamp. "Clear," Nugra said as the others took up formation beside them. "We'll make our way to the bridge. Look for Jefferies Tubes marked Primary service. Anything else will be too small for our kind," Nugra warned. It was Ak'Lar that spotted Service Tube 2-B which told him that he had access to the bridge. The hatch need breached as the ship was so old, it didn't connect to their external power packs to remote charge the computers. Burrk led the way to breach the top tube and they all soon found themselves in the circular bridge of the Federation starship. The bridge was empty though there was a layer of dust that showed it had not been visited in a number of years. Nugra strode forward and found the tattered remains of a Federation uniform among the last few bones that had not disintegrated. "It appears the ship's captain died in her seat," Nugra mused. He tapped the computer panel on the armchair and it did not respond. It was not like he had expected it to. "Ak'Lar, There should be a power junction under the communications panel," Nugra said pointing to it. "See if you can get it to interface with our power systems. We need to pull the ship's logs." "On it, Senior Commander." "Bring back memories?" Eeska asked as she stood beside him, weapon slung at ease in front of her. "Yes," Nugra said with a nod. She was one of the few she trusted especially since she had started the conversation on their side channel. "I cannot imagine how you could have stood it, Nugra," she said looking at the blank screen too. "Not only is the design alien but to have so many around that were not like me would have been really lonely." "It was for a time," Nugra said with a sigh. "But I had a good captain when transferred looking for my brother and a good crew. Tafaz, Heath Story, Captain Hurne. They are the reasons that I did not return to the Gorn Hegemony until the call of the Princess." Eeska nodded. "Do you plan to go back?" "I don't know," Nugra said with a shrug. A distinctive human trait he had learned. "My career dead ended there after I stepped down from the USS Victory. The Civil War, the loss of my friends...when I went back, I could not get myself to fit in even though I had a lot of friends that I called comrades. I went from being on the front lines to a Captain regulated to administrative work. I...I just couldn't be happy." "Have you been happy being back?" That was a good question. He was on the front lines and fighting for a cause but there were even less familiar faces here. "Senior Commander! I think I got it to work." Nugra turned to look at Ak'lar as one of the computer panels lit up. "You haven't escaped my question, Senior Commander," Eeska snarked at him. Nugra walked over to the panel and quickly tapped in a few commands that came back to him. Command directives had not changed for years; his old command codes would work to access the ship's log and download them. "There we go," Nugra said with a grin as his own tricorder beeped making the interface between the two computers. A copy of the data began to flow in while he began to sift through the writing. The visuals had been degraded and would take rebuilding but the text extracts were still present. "Looks like the Constantinople found an unstable wormhole," Nugra mused as he read through the terran standard he had practiced for years. "She crashed here when the neutron star ripped the lower section apart. Looks like the crew lived for about 25 years before...something happened." "Something happened?" Eeska said shifting her weapon. "I don't like the sound of that." It was at that point, Nugra saw that the data had become broken and the captain of the vessel had not kept up the log. There was a report of something on the ship and then one description jumped out at him. A cold chill went down his spine as he slammed his fist on the computer turning it off. "Everyone. Get your stuff. We are leaving now," Nugra ordered with no uncertainty. The description the captain provided of the assailant in her last logs, the fear it generated told him what he was dealing with. "Nugra to Gorn Talon, come in." "This is Vss'Kov. Go ahead." "Initiate Oblivion Protocol, Senior Commander. confirmed encounter aboard this ship." "Understood. Get out of there. You have five minutes before we're in position and have the plasma torpedoes overloaded." "What is going on!" Eeska shouted as Nugra began to yank out the cords and had Ak'lar wrap them up. "Buurka. Point Alpha. Eeska Point Bravo. If you see anything, no matter what it is, shoot to kill. I don't care what it looks like." To her credit, Eeska did not say anything as she sensed the extreme urgency from her Senior Commander. As soon as they were ready, Nugra began the descent down the jefferies tube with his weapon unslung and facing down. He knew he had a chance thanks to his encounter with a Yeltan so many years earlier. As everyone else climbed down they began to move towards the exit point when he heard Buurk groan in fear. Nugra spun around to see his giant lizard looking down the hallway. Looking back was a pair of liquid black eyes attached to a grotesque body with multiple legs. It had a sadistic grin on its face showing the rows of serrated teeth. The Hunger was here. Nugra did not hesitate as he felt the fear field the creature emitted begin to touch him. The green plasma bolt struck and sizzled by the creature as it dodged. Nugra continued to fire as he pulled Burrk back, breaking his gaze with it. "MOVE. NOW!" "WHAT IS THAT?" Eeska shouted terrified. "Move to the shuttle!" Nugra continued as he continued to lay down fire keeping the quick creature back. "Gorn Talon to Nugra. ETA 3 minutes." his comm said. "Negative, Talon," Nugra hollared. "We've engaged it. We're 30 seconds to egress. Fire now!" There was silence but the Gorn knew Tk'Lnn wouldn't hesitate. Too much was at stake. It made sense now. The neutron star, the dead crew, the wormhole. Nugra had encountered the same wormhole when he was with the Duronis II Embassy. The creature would build a ship in the center of the neutron star and work towards letting it's armada in to consume the galaxy. It was the bright red beams shooting past him that he realized that his pilot had dropped auto turrets into the hallway having heard the conversation. Nugra kept firing as his away time climbed the net ladder back into the shuttle. Nugra hurried up himself and threw himself in as he felt the claws barely miss him. The Gorn slammed his fist on the button slamming the hatch shut. "GO NOW!" The shuttle detached and launched as two burning red giant balls of plasma passed them and connected with the hull of the starship. The rending explosion was silent but the shuttle took the brunt flipping and tumbling out of control. If it had not been for Tk'Lnn being ready with a tractor beam, they would have broken the horizon and been destroyed by the neutron star. *** Once they were sure nothing could have survived, the Gorn Talon left making its way back towards the fleet. Nugra stood in the briefing room with Tk'Lnn and Hrrsh on the screen. "Excellent work, Senior Commander," Hrrsh said a bit paler. "I know we have heard stories of some of them being in our galaxy but I never thought they were in our space." "It's good we found it and destroyed it," Nugra said angrily. "I've seen what they have done to another reality." "I also got your transfer request. Though I do not think it's a wise choice, I understand why you want to go back and deliver the files." Hrrsh said with a nod. "I'm seeing what type of work I can pull off for you." Nugra nodded as the screen died. He had requested to return to the Federation after his encounter with the Hunger again. They had become a dull memory to the point he had forgotten why he had been chasing them and what they were truly capable of. He couldn't defeat them here in the Gorn Hegemony but maybe in the Federation. He had a choice to make. Ignore the threat or go home and stop the threat once and for all. It was his choice to make. -END-
  12. "German, you need to get back to your ship! "Arlil said, "It’s too late for me now…" That was not what German wanted to hear as he entered into the central chamber where the Borg Queen mainly operated in the ship that was surrounded deep inside an enormous Borg city known as the Unicomplex. He was determined as hell to finally lay to rest his obsession with saving his sister. "I’m not going back until you come with me." German exclaimed in a manic state, "You know this!" "You need to or what I’m capable of will be your downfall. I’ve kept the Collective at bay for too long because I am the Collective. What these drones will do to you will be your fault." A drone simply walked past the Denobulan as if he wasn’t even there. German could feel the intensity of Arlil’s words as her head and upper body was lowered from the ceiling and connected securely onto her waiting body with the tubes unfastening from her and slithered back up, as they disappeared from view. He knew that much she was to the point of no return, but was too stubborn to admit it as he approached her into the green hue. "My downfall is not even close to happening. There’s still a piece of humanity in you or else you’d already have me assimilated." "You know as well as I do that your immune system is strong enough to hold off on being fully assimilated, German." She said as she smiled softly to him, "A physical trait that..." It was then her voice turned into the Collective and responded, "We will adapt to. We will add your biological distinctiveness to our own." Being in front of Arlil when she and the Hive Mind spoke together gave him chills as he backed up with one step, but was stopped by a drone as it put its hand on his shoulder and fully grasped it from behind him. His head turned to look at the drone and then quickly went back to glance at Arlil where she was now approaching him and raised her hand towards him. He brought his elbow back with quick force and precision that he connected with the drone’s nose which caused it to fall over. He stepped backwards again and then dodged another drone as he sidestepped it, causing it to stumble forward into Arlil which knocked her down as well. It appeared that the collision brought her back to reality as she presented a worried expression. German went into protection mode and stepped forward to help her back up, but Arlil raised her hand. "No German. Please, leave because there’s Cube ships heading over here. They’ll stop at nothing to protect me." "That’s what I’m doing too! My sole purpose here is to save you, Arlil!" "Save the little girl you once knew. Back in 2377. She’s the one that needs protecting." "Wait, do you mean..." Before he could even finish his sentence, he was transported into a Sphere that was about to fly off into space. He tried to fully grasp what she said and then heard her voice as if she was right there with him. "I’ve set the temporal coordinates to 237710.17. All you have to do is produce a tachyon pulse after you go through the transwarp conduit that leads to Earth. Farewell, German." How he was to even know what to do or even pilot the Sphere was beyond him, but as soon as he sat down in a bulky chair, the space object jolted forward and then millions of streaks of light zoomed past the viewscreen in front of him. In just a matter of seconds, he was now several lightyears away from Earth when all of a sudden, an Odyssey class Starship warped to a grinding halt in front of him. He was being hailed, but German did not want to answer it as a display in front of him appeared with guided instructions on how to out maneuver the enormous ship. He reached for the command to bolt out of there and saw that the Federation ship’s torpedoes were launching towards him, but the maneuverability of the sphere dodged the weapons fire at ease as it took off suddenly. German activated the tachyokinetic device that Arlil had set the temporal coordinates which caused a controlled emission of chronometric particles that generated a temporal vortex to form in front of him. He exhaled softly and remembered what Fleet Captain Sal Taybrim had said to him a while ago that still resonated with the scientist. "German…" Captain Taybrim said as he looked at the Denobulan and spoke softly. Empathetically and yet with a far deeper warning tone than even his last statement, "I’m not worried that your plan won’t work. I’m worried it will." "It’s what I need to do." He said softly as he closed his eyes as he went through the vortex. When he opened his eyes back up, he saw that vortex he generated was still open so he emitted a antitachyon pulse towards it to collapse the vortex so the Odyssey class starship didn’t have the chance to pursue him any further. Seeing that he was successful, he now had to figure out a way to slow the Sphere down, but was unable to cause the speed to diminish quick enough as he entered the atmosphere and saw that he was right above North America. He had enough wherewithal that German knew how to somewhat steer the ship and it started to slow itself when he centered on California. San Diego to be exact as he set the location to his childhood home. What struck him odd was why no ships were coming towards him when he noticed on the display that at some point the Sphere cloaked itself, but as he got closer to the ground, the decreasing speed allowed it to momentarily decloak as his house came into view. Goosebumps formed on his skin when the viewscreen zeroed in on the structure and saw his younger self at 15 years old was approaching his front yard and saw himself approach his little sister. She then ran into the house as expected, but then German shook his moment of distraction away when the Sphere was practically on top of the house. He tried to make it to stop, but it was too late and crashed into the back of the house causing debris of splintered wood and shattering glass all around it as the ship came to a heavy thud. Nearly frozen and shaken to the core, German wobbled his way as he stood up and right when he turned to find the exit, a drone that was hidden from his view came out of nowhere and injected nanoprobes into his neck causing him to collapse and gasp for air. The sense of dread overwhelmed him as he looked on as the drone exited the ship as his veins started to pulse profusely which caused them to bulge out as his skin started to turn dark shade of palish green. It was then that he realized before he was fully linked with the Hive Mind that it was his own doing that caused his sister’s abduction and eventual assimilation.
  13. "Hey, Eleanor." In Marisol's right hand, she jerked her hand up and down. The two slips of latinum clinked together in a beautiful melody against the small table next to her. Clink, clink, clink the latinum went as she twisted it around and around in her hand, the edges clinking against the top of the table. She sat, slumped, in her captain's chair, her dark black eyes staring into nothingness as the viewscreen showed a planet she hadn't seen in eons. She had chosen a white wig that was tied back with a clasp, but a strand stuck to her cheek, just in front of her right ear. She let out a huff, her dark eyes flicking away from the viewscreen. "You know I've always hated that name, idiot." A laugh echoed around her in the bridge, dark and silent except for their voices. "Yeah. You went through a phase with your middle name, right? Cor-" "Don't say that name," her hand stopped for a moment, her eyes slipping shut as she took in a slow breath, then opened again. "Just don't. I don't have the temper, nor the time, to deal with you." "No time for your favorite big brother?" the voice teased, and her left hand swung from where it dangled over the armrest, resting her cheek against her fist with a click of her tongue, licking her dry lips. "You're my only brother, dummy." She paused. "...and you're dead." "Yeah, well." If he was here, she knew he would shrug and do that stupid grin of his that always, always irritated her. It was boastful, gloating, deceitful. Girls his age would giggle and sigh when he flashed that grin, but oh how they were just so very disappointed when he moved on to bigger and better things. Like he always did. Like he had always done. Which, of course, led to his demise. She shifted, grunting as she leaned further on her hand, her eyes fluttering shut again. "What do you want?" she asked wearily to the empty bridge. She was going out of her mind, that's what it was. That happened sometimes, later in life, to Betazoids. Or. So she believed. She didn't want to think otherwise. Perhaps her telepathy was finally attempting to eat away at the lobes of her brain in an effort to self-destruct. That seemed less absurd than the rest of the...everything...going on. "You think I'm only a figment of your imagination," he begun, and she really did not want to go down whatever path he was going. "So I mean, why not chat a bit? Take some comfort in it. Maybe I'm a spirit sent back from Karawati to help you along the way." Marisol snorted, coughing as she covered her mouth before shaking her head, letting her arm lay limply at her side. "I've never believed in that hogwash. Peace and love and on and on until you die pitiful and alone because that's what life is really like." "The pirate life really did you no favors, you know." Marisol peeked an eye open. The planet in front of her grew ever larger the closer they came to it. It rotated in place slowly, and she could see a storm building up over a large body of water. Pity. She had ever so hoped to experience rain on her face one last time. Her hand weakly lifted up, pale fingers skating over her own cheek. "Is this what the afterlife is like, then? Waiting on my ship to crash into my homeworld?" She let out a sharp laugh, coughing harder as her head slumped forward, wheezing slowly. "Truly a fate befitting of my actions these past years. What say you, brother?" "I dunno. Always thought you'd die in a shoot-out. Would have been more...dramatic, that way." His laugh, deep baritone, rumbled through the bridge. It was like she could see him, in her mind's eye, standing in front of her with his arms crossed. He smiled often, but his face always acted like it never knew what to do about it. A permanent resting brooding face. "But ah. Here you are. Ship malfunction. Just a stars-forsaken warp drive malfunction, that's all it is, wasn't it?" Marisol blinked slowly, feeling the want to just lay back and fall asleep. But that would be rude to her guest, wouldn't it? Yes. Just a warp drive malfunction. Something that sometimes just happened, something they thought they could fix. But, no. It took out half her ship. And when the...incident happened, she forced her crew to depart in what little escape shuttles they had. There was no escape for her, she thought, looking down slowly. The large piece of metal pinning her to the seat took care of that. This felt like some ironic fate. Just as he said, she often thought she’d be shot in the streets after a deal gone awry, not this…slow and…almost boring event. Her left hand trembled as she brought it up to sweep the white strand of hair from her right cheek, then let it collapse around her, the energy just not there any longer to keep her extremities moving. “What kind of story will they tell, I wonder,” she murmured, her eyes finally sliding shut as she smiled. “Despite everything, I’ll fade into obscurity as so many have done. What an end to a story.” ”It’s not a very satisfying end, no,” he agreed, the viewscreen flicking a bit before stabilizing into the, what she knew to be, hologram of Betazed. “In fact, if I read a holo-novel leading up to this, I’d sooner curse out the author for killing my favorite character.” She sputtered out a laugh, shaking her head, the white wig slipping a bit. “I was your favorite? How charming, how bold. How naive. You’ve always been that way.” She sighed, smacking her dry lips together, and it echoed loudly followed by creaks of the ship and pops of snapped wires trying to get energy from one to another. “Perhaps you could tell me a different story.” “A story?” His voice carried amusement in it, but not the teasing type, no. She couldn’t place her finger on it, actually, but she felt that, at this time, she shouldn’t have to. “Sure, why not. What kind? You know I’ve always been able to make up some pretty good ones,” he joked. Yes, like the time he’d managed to convince a traveling group of entertainers that he was a juggler, and managed to hitch a free ride across three planets before they found out he didn’t know what juggling was. She sighed, relaxing back in the chair as the ship started to rumble around her threateningly. “Give me…a different story. One with…a good end.” There was a beat, then two, and she figured he’d finally wised up and left before she heard: “On board the USS Gorkon, the new counselor, Corliss, is roughly awakened from an unnatural sleep…”
  14. Ishka couldn’t make any sense of where she was. It was home, and yet, it wasn’t. Something about the scents that assailed her nostrils was off. Most things on Leya-I didn’t give off strong odors like this, especially plants. In desperation, she looked around the meadow of sun-kissed Kazuri for some clue as to why she was here. Scant moments ago, she’d been floating in space in an EVA suit with her oxygen supply nearly depleted. She paused. Was she dead? Is that what this was? Al-Leyans didn’t believe in an afterlife, but if she could imagine one place she’d like to spend eternity, it would be the beautiful landscapes of Leya-I. Though she had wanted nothing more than to escape, that had always been more about the people. Fighting against the sudden surge of apprehension and uncertainty, she took one step forward. And then another. And then another. Before long, she was wandering the field of lovely plants, her feet scarcely touching the ground as she did. She didn’t know how much time had passed, but she didn’t really care. She was home. For the first time in years, she was home. A sound at the other end of the field caused her to tense and instinct took over. Her distant ancestors had once been easy prey for any large animal that sustained itself on flesh, so it was only natural that her fight or flight response would engage in the presence of the unknown. She didn’t truly know anything about this place or what to expect here. What should have been a haven was a strange land to her. She listened, expecting her keen hearing to pick up the sound again. As she strained her ears, she made out the subtle, rhythmic shift of the grasses that alerted her to the approach of someone or something. Not knowing its intentions, she shifted her stance to brace for a fight. With no weapon to help her, she’d have to rely on her strength alone. The feeling of what she believed to be a hand on her shoulder caused her to jump and she instantly grabbed the hand, using the creature’s momentum to flip it over her shoulder. She barely registered the surprised yelp as the creature landed on its back with a resounding thud. Moving quickly, she sat atop it, pinning it with a hand at its throat, the other hand ready to deliver the killing blow. “Ishie?” The familiar voice and pet name made her freeze. Only one person had ever called her that. Her hand briefly tightened around the being’s throat as she grappled with what she was experiencing. No. No, it wasn’t him. He’d died years ago. This was some imposter. Her temper flared. How dare someone impersonate him. “Who are you?” she growled. A soft smile crossed the man’s lips even as his hand came up to the one gripping his throat. “Ishie, it’s me,” the man rasped. She growled louder, warring with what she knew to be true and what her eyes were showing her. Despite the fact that her grip was likely cutting off his air, he made no move to stop her nor did he give any indication that he was afraid. Tears sprang to her eyes, sliding down her cheeks, as she released the man’s throat and stood abruptly. She ran her hands through her hair, tugging hard at the strands, even as the man gasped for air beside her, rubbing his throat. “Wake up,” she muttered. “This is an asphyxiation-induced reaction. Your brain is trying to make sense of what’s happening. Wake up.” Again, she felt his hand, and she tensed. “I’m here, Ishie,” he rasped. “I’m here.” She turned to him, anguish twisting her expression. “No! You died!” The man didn’t respond, allowing them both to lapse into momentary silence as she processed what was happening. Taking a deep breath and exhaling it, she broke the silence, her native Esperanto flowing with ease. “What is this place?” she breathed. A smile that she couldn’t quite discern the meaning of slid across his lips as he studied her. “Home, Ishie. We’re home.” That simple statement held so much meaning that she wasn’t certain she could unpack all of it even given an eternity. There was something about the way he said it that made her believe him without question. For the first time since encountering him here, her gaze met his. What she saw caused her chest and throat to tighten, the tears beginning anew. She could scarcely draw breath, each exhalation requiring supreme effort as she wrapped her mind around the fact that she was looking into her uncle’s eyes the same way she’d used to before. How is this possible? “Uncle,” she whispered. She dropped her mental guard entirely, allowing herself to fully feel his presence even as she stumbled forward to embrace him in one of the tightest hugs she’d given in her years. Burying her face in his shoulder, she smiled as the subtle yet familiar scent of the many blossoms he’d enjoyed tending to invaded her senses. It felt like an eternity that she stood there, embracing him and refusing to let go. She was almost afraid to, convinced she’d lose him again and she’d never get him back. It was soft at first but gradually grew in intensity. A beeping sound that didn’t match her current surroundings had her pulling back and she furrowed her brow in confusion. “Do you hear that?” she asked. Her uncle smiled sadly, cradling her face in his hand as though to bring her attention back to him. “Hear what, Ishie?” She shook her head. “That beeping. I--It sounds familiar.” Gradually it grew louder and she realized that the world around her was becoming fuzzy. In a panic, she reached for her uncle only to watch him disappear right before her eyes. The rest of the scene faded away rapidly and she found herself again staring through the visor of the EVA suit out at the black of space with a splitting headache. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she did her best not to sob because it would only deplete her oxygen faster. “Please,” she whisper-prayed to whatever deity was listening. “I want to go back to him. Please.” But no one seemed to hear her. She remained stuck in the EVA suit, waiting for the Atlantis crew to eventually find her. ====================== Lieutenant Ishkabela Journs Assistant Chief Medical Officer USS Atlantis I238110RH0
  15. The view screen snapped into focus on an impossible sight and a voice from Lorian’s past speaks to him and him alone… He looked in awe as, in front of his very eyes, his cat was sitting on the bridge of another vessel. In the captain’s chair no less! The aptly named Captain Patches had gone missing a year ago, presumably to join the cat uprising. Lorian spoke up, a hint of confusion in his voice. “Captain Patches? This is Captain Lorian Lovar of the USS Doolittle. I-” he was cut off by a loud meowing from his former cat. The universal translator took a few seconds, but was able to interpret his meaning. “Yes, I know who you are, Captain.” The computer had, for whatever reason, given the feline an extremely deep voice, verging on demonic. The cat captain began another series of meows, which the computer translated quicker than before as if adapting to the language.“I am in need of your assistance, one captain to another. My warp core has been damaged. My best engineers have tried and failed to repair it, as they do not have hands. Please, captain, we need your help.” He seemed genuinely concerned about his ship’s safety, and Lorian wasn’t about to leave his former pet in peril. “I’ll… I’ll send an away team over right away. Hang in there, sir.” The Vulcan smiled at the viewscreen and gave a small salute, just like the old days. “End communications.” “Aye, sir” said Lieutenant Commander Digo, his chief of operations. His first officer, Commander Gan, finally chimed in,”So… That was your cat?”. “Yup… Good ol’ Captain Patches.” “I assume you’ll want to lead the away team.” “Of course, you have the bridge, Commander.” “Aye, sir.” The Captain walked towards the turbolift as his first officer took her place on the command chair. His tactical officer, Lieutenant Yuri, and Digo followed behind him. He could tell that this would be an interesting mission if nothing else. It was a surprise when the United Feline Federation declared its independence from the United Federation of Planets. It was an even greater surprise when they won that independence through a brutal and bloody war that lasted only six months. Since then the two federations had continued to have close ties with one another, one providing knowledge and engineering and the other providing a vital resource: cute cat videos. The cats had a monopoly on interstellar entertainment. Ever since the early 21st century, watching their crazy antics and cute quirks had been a favourite activity of humans. When the first contact was made, the Vulcans reportedly asked for a copy of the latest viral hits for their own entertainment. Over hundreds of years, this blatant cyberbullying of the cats race had gone on too long, causing a mass uprising of cat kind in an effort to claim the rights to their own images. Quickly the federation, used to a constant stream of new videos, became completely demoralized, putting up little resistance to the massacres orchestrated by the cat council. They had to surrender, they simply couldn’t fight. _____________________________________________ As the turbolift reached its destination, Lorian looked at the two officers beside him, nodded, and walked out. They followed, staying on both sides of him like a security detail. When they entered the transporter room, his chief engineer, Lieutenant Gareth, was passing the time by making conversation with his transporter chief, Lieutenant Li. They saluted almost instantly as he entered. He smiled and nodded as a returned gesture. Over the years that Vulcan smile had become less odd and more natural to him. A familiarity he could only hope was shared by his crew. “So, who’s ready to fix the cat ship?” Lorian exclaimed “Sir! Is it true that your old cat is captaining the vessel?” asked Li. He was a very curious young lad, Lorian saw himself in the young human. They had become quick friends because of this, and of course drinking buddies. The captain chuckled at the remark,”Yes, Lieutenant, me and Captain Patches had some good times together. I got him when I was still in the academy actually.” “It must be exciting to see him again, sir, I know I speak for the rest of us former cat owners that we certainly miss our old pets.” “It’s definitely a pleasure, Lieutenant. Now, onto business.” He walked onto the transporter pad, his company following. He gave Li a brief two fingered salute and spoke,”Beam us aboard, Li.” “Aye, sir, I’ll see you when you get back.” Lorian and the rest dematerialized and were sent onto the feline vessel. When they rematerialized they found themselves in a transporter room not too dissimilar to their own. The only difference being that there was a cat manning the transporter. And another cat waiting to greet them. And a security detail, with weapons trained onto them. Captain Patches was standing with fine posture for a four legged being, and began a series of meows. His comms universal translator was taking its time in translating what the cat had said, but it was already too late. The phasers had been fired before it even began to speak. Lorian expected to be stunned or disintegrate or have a hole in his chest, but none of that had happened. “I’m sorry” his comm blurted out in the same deep voice as before,”The council only allowed me one pet. Fire!” The captain looked beside him only to see no one. Not a single thing. Not a single thing except specs of dust floating down to the floor of the transporter room. Shock set in. He froze up. He was about to reach for his phaser when he remembered that he arrived unarmed. He was trapped. Before he was able to recover from the shock and betrayal of what had just happened, he was put in handcuffs and led into the hall. “Meow meow meow, meow, meow meow meow meow.” exclaimed the cat captain. His comm interpreted the message a moment later as “I am truly sorry, I would have kept all of your men if the council allowed it, but I’m afraid they’re very picky on who lives and who doesn’t.” “Patches… It didn’t need to go this way. The war is over, what reason do you have to-” “Meow! Meow meow meow meow meow. Meow, meow meow.” That last sentence seemed directed at the communicator in the cat’s ear. He wasn’t sure where they were headed, he had never been on this model of ship before, but he assumed a brig or interrogation room of some sort. “Silence, humanoid!” yelled the comm,”I thought you were smarter than that. You lost the war, you surrendered, but you never met our demands. Now we must take the Federation by force! Patches to bridge, fire all photon torpedoes at the Doolittle...” Lorian’s heart sunk to the bottom of his stomach like a brick off a building. His pride and joy, his ship, his crew, his friends. He was about to cry out but he already knew it was too late. In his heart of hearts and his soul of souls he knew his ship… his family was gone. Now, all the Vulcan had left to look forward to was being the pet of pets.
  16. Snapping awake with a painful groan, Lt. Cmdr. Geoffrey Teller tried to re-orientate himself inside the darkened runabout. With no internal illumination and only faint starlight filtering through the viewports, the scene slowly resolved as he tried, and failed, to stand. The runabouts emergency restraints had engaged at some point and, he realized as a loose padd drifted past in zero g and clattered against a dead console, were the only things keeping him from floating freely around the cabin. Something had gone terribly wrong. With a deep breath of air that was already tasting stale, Geoff tried to clear his throat but ended up setting off a series of wracking coughs. “Report...Tomlinson...J’shon…” his words came out as a rasp and elicited no answer. After a few moments, it became clear why. Both officers, strapped to their chairs and still at their stations, weren’t moving. From where he was, Teller couldn’t tell if they were unconscious or...something worse. “Oh, Geoffrey. Did you hurt yourself playing again?” A woman's warm, lilting voice seemed to fill the cabin. Teller’s eyes went wide as they focused on the impossible sight on the viewscreen. Too shocked to be afraid and too confused for anything cogent, he only managed to croak out a single word. “M...mom?” For a moment, he was again seven years old, having skinned his knee after failing to climb the large oak tree near their home. It had been a childish bet with his older sister, whose longer limbs and superior coordination meant she had been climbing the tree successfully for several years already. Never one to back down from a challenge, even at that age, Geoff had made it halfway up before losing his grip and sliding back down, painfully scraping his skin. His mother had been watching the proceedings from a nearby picnic blanket and had rushed over with kind words and a small civilian dermal regenerator. That had been more than twenty years ago, before he’d joined Starfleet, and before his parents had been lost. Somehow, that thought helped ground his thinking. The face on the screen remained placid and calm, the picture of maternal compassion. “But...you died. Years ago….your ship…” He was cut off by a very familiar and very maternal clucking. “Oh, don’t worry yourself about that, Geoffy,” The voice, and the face, were perfect. Every inflection, every mannerism, even the way she brushed her hair to one side were exactly as his mother, June, had behaved. “I’m here now, don’t worry, everything is going to be alright.” Teller felt himself slump back in the runabouts chair as globes of moisture floated away from his eyes. Nothing about this made sense and, in the back of his mind, Geoff began giving serious consideration to the possibility that he was critically injured and just imagining the whole thing. He tried to turn his attention back to the inert console in front of him. There had to be a way to get some power back on. After several failed attempts to bring systems online, Teller thumped his fist against the uncaring composite as the voice gently chided him. “Geoffrey, what did I tell you about letting your frustrations distract you?” His mother had crossed her arms and pursed her lips. She was clearly expecting him to respond. “You’re not real...you’re not real...this is just some kind of...weird brain injury...I need to get back to the ship…” Teller tried to ignore the voice as he struggled with the seat restraints. “Oh, Geoffy, I wouldn’t do….” The warning came a moment too late as he successfully released the restraints and was nearly catapulted into the ceiling. He flailed without purchase for a few moments before colliding with the roof of the cabin. “...that.” “Well if I didn’t have a head wound before…” Teller rubbed his skull and inspected the cabin as his mother's face looked on, concerned. Finding a grip, he rotated and pushed off towards the inert form of Lt. Tomlinson, their helmsman. Without a tricorder he couldn’t tell much, but at least she was still breathing. He pulled the emergency aid kit from beneath a console but found the equipment inside as inert as the rest of the runabout. Whatever hit them seemed to have a devastating effect on all their technology. Geoff spoke aloud, mostly so he could hear something other than his own breathing in the increasingly claustrophobic interior. “That’s alright, Tomlinson...you just take it easy...I’ll get us sorted….That’s a Good Job Guarantee…” Geoff tried to work some hope or vigor into his voice but found it lacked for both. His assurance didn’t impress his other audience either. “Are you still using that ridiculous catchphrase, Geoffrey?” With a smirk, his mother seemed to be needling him slightly, as she so often did when she was alive. Teller ground his teeth in irritation. “Look, I don’t know who you are or what you want, but if you can help, now’s the time. I’ve got two injured crewmen here. I’m not sure how long we were out, but the air recyclers aren’t running and what’s in the compartment won’t last. If you can’t help, kindly shut up and go haunt someone else, I’m busy.” “Geoffrey John Teller, that is no way to speak to your mother!” The image on the screen looked genuinely hurt and, on some emotional level, Teller felt a very real pang of guilt. He turned, sheepishly, to face it. “Uh...sorry…it’s just...I’m not sure what to do right now. I’m not sure what you want...hell, I’m not even sure any of this is real. For all I know, you could be a symptom of hypoxia and I’m just blathering to myself in a broken ship.” Oddly, this admission actually helped Teller calm his racing mind slightly. On screen, his mother was the very picture of maternal concern. “It’s alright, Geoffrey, it’s alright. I’m here for the same reason as always - my son needed me. Now,” the woman clapped her hands before interlacing her fingers and cracking her knuckles loudly, a habit that had always turned young Teller’s stomach, “you, young man, have to start thinking. I bet you can find something in that spaceship of yours to take apart. Just like you took apart everything in the house. Hopefully this time there won’t be as many parts left over when you put it back together.” Geoff was again transported back to childhood, sitting on a kitchen stool and being scolded by his mother for his antics while behind her, his father painstakingly reassembled the home replicator while trying not to grin too openly. “The replicator…” With a flash of inspiration, Teller pushed off the console and floated towards the runabouts small replicator. Like everything else aboard the system was dormant, but Teller was unconcerned. The model on the runabout had a small shielded power cell for emergencies, and while it seemed like the rest of the system's delicate electronics had been destroyed, the power cell itself appeared intact. There was no external indicator and no way to check the remaining charge but it was something. He hoped. “Oh, and what do you intend to do with that, Geoffrey?” By the gentle, suggestive tone in her voice, Teller realized it wasn’t really a question. It was as if an infant had just brought her a light pen, and she was encouraging them to find something to draw upon. There was something obvious he was missing, and his head was beginning to throb. The cabin's air was growing worryingly thin as he exerted himself. He considered the questionable power cell, and the small metal tube he was trapped inside. There were dozens of redundancies, backups, failsafes and emergency systems, but somehow nearly all of them had been rendered useless by this calamity. He wasn’t going to repair the ship with what he had on hand...or with the time he had left. “Remember, Geoffrey, it’s always ok to ask for help when you need it.” Once again, his mother seemed to be prompting him, but it was getting harder and harder to concentrate. The cabin, already darkened, was growing more clouded by the minute. Tugging at the collar of his uniform tunic, his hand brushed against his comm badge and the edge of an idea pushed in against the haze. Removing the communicator from his tunic and disassembling it with shaking hands, Teller could see that whatever had damaged the ship had wrought its destruction on the fragile components inside the communicator. The only element that still seemed intact was the micro-crystalline subspace antenna, a hearty mesh fused with the outer casing of the communicator itself. “That’s my clever boy...but you’ll have to hurry. We don’t have much time left.” There was an unmistakable tone of urgency in her voice and, as the air continued to sour, Teller was certain why. At best he had minutes until he blacked out. Teller let the useless bits of the comm badge drift away in the cabin as he gripped the precious antenna in his teeth. He needed both hands to pry the end cap off his reclaimed power cell, leaving only the exposed power leads. If he was quick, he could tap the housing with the antenna against the leads without destroying it, giving him a brief and very weak subspace pulse. On his first attempt, he forgot the basics of electricity and shocked himself badly, eliciting a loud and colorful expletive. “Geoffrey, language! You’d think I raised a klingon with that mouth of yours!” His mother's chastisement was entirely genuine and he felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment. “Sorry mom.” He no longer cared who or what was on the screen, too fixated on what he was doing to give it another moment's thought. Pulling off his uniform jacket, he wrapped the sleeve around his hand several times to provide whatever insulation it could, and then began laboriously tapping the comm badge against the leads. He could see a small electrical arc lighting up the cabin, which gave him some hope that his call was going out. Short Tap short tap short tap….oO Please hear me. Oo Long Tap. Long Tap. Long Tap. oO I need help. Oo Short Tap short tap short tap...oO Or we’re so screwed. Oo “See Geoffrey, I told you everything would be alright. Now just you rest for a bit and when you wake up, I promise everything will be ok.” The voice was dreamy and far away, but Geoff felt reassured and calmed, as he always had when his mother tucked him in. She began gently humming a wordless lullaby from the furthest corners of his memory, filling his chest with warmth even as the rest of him grew cold. His eyes grew heavier and heavier. His hands still worked, continuing the sequence of taps against the leads, not even noticing the electrical arcs had all but disappeared. Eventually, his hands stopped and his eyes closed, and Geoffrey Teller drifted towards the darkness, comfortably aloft on the sound of his mother's voice. === “Sir...sir! Sir are you alright? Commander Teller, sir, can you hear me?” Snapping awake with a painful groan, Lt. Cmdr. Geoffrey Teller tried to re-orientate himself, expecting to find the inside of a darkened runabout. Instead, he was nearly blinded by bright searchlights directed at him. His mind felt sluggish and confused, but he could fill his lungs again and the air had rarely tasted sweeter. “Mom…?” Squinting against the harsh light, Teller’s eyes were able to focus on the startled officer inside the environmental suit. It took him an overlong moment to work out that they were being rescued. It had worked. “He’s alive! They’re all alive, sir. Advise sickbay to standby for emergency transport.” As the officer passed along an update back to the Thor, Teller blinked and turned his attention back towards the view screen. It was blank and inert, like everything else aboard the runabout, but Teller could see the bits of communicator he had cannibalized floating nearby, bouncing harmlessly off the display. “God damn sir, I don’t know how you pulled this one off….we barely picked up your signal…” Teller blinked again and realized the lieutenant was speaking to him. A warm, kind voice echoed in his mind and he croaked out a response. “Language, Lieutenant.” Geoff smiled and closed his eyes once more before the transporter beam took hold and brought him home. The wordless lullaby went with him. [End] =============================== Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Teller Executive Officer USS Thor Fleet Captain A. Kells, Commanding V239509GT0
  17. Hello, everyone -- entrants and readers and judges alike, It's with a heavy heart that I announce that the November & December 2014 round of the Writing Challenge will be the last regular Writing Challenge of the contest as we know it. Going forward, we will hold Writing Challenges only during special events -- for example, during our yearly Writing Improvement Month -- and we will be working to incorporate much of what kept the Writing Challenges going for so long into the Top Sims Contest. The decision to end the Writing Challenges wasn't easy and involved a lot of discussion on the Executive Council, but it's our hope that by ending the Challenge now, we will be able to improve the many forum contests (Top Sims, Featured Bio, and Graphics) that also exist. I know that many of you will be disappointed by this announcement, so I encourage you to remember the Challenges here -- a favorite story or theme, perhaps, if you're a regular writer, or something you learned or enjoyed writing as a result of the Challenge. I look forward to reading your remembrances, and I'll start off with one of my own: In August of 2005, I was a cadet and was just poking around the forums for the first time when I noticed the Writing Challenge that was going on at the time. The theme, "Devil in the Dark," seemed to be encouraging a lot of grimdark, gritty entries, so I decided to write something lighthearted about a Q who went by X. That story, "X Factors," was named the Challenge's winner when I was barely an ensign, and it established my interest in and association with the Writing Challenges from the very first. I look forward to reading about your memories! Help me celebrate the end of this great contest in style!
  18. Greetings, everyone! Want to read the entries from the final Writing Challenge, but don't have time to sit down at your computer? Need a way to take them with you on your tablet or mobile device? Now you have it! Please enjoy this full compilation of the "Love & Betrayal" Writing Challenge from November and December of 2014, our last regular Writing Challenge, available with all the entrants' stories and judges' comments. This is a PDF document with interior hyperlinks to each story for your ease of navigation, so do please read at your leisure. My great thanks to Captain Nugra for putting together this collection while I was unable to access my desktop! Please get yours here!
  19. Thank you to each of our many entrants in this round! The judges were extremely pleased with your efforts, and though we had five judges for ten entries(!), that didn't make deciding upon a winner any easier. But, a few days after the new year, I'm pleased to bring you the results of the last Writing Challenge of 2014, "Love and Betrayal"! Our winner, with his story "The Ties That Bind," is the writer behind Sinda Essen, and our runner-up is "Chocolate," from the writer behind Maxwell Traenor. Congratulations to these writers and to the rest of our fine entrants! I'd like to recognize my fellow judges for this round: the writers behinds Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Lieutenant Commander Sal Taybrim, Lieutenant Ren Rennyn, and special guest Captain Della Vetri. Each of them worked hard to make sure that their reviews were thoughtful and detailed and that their rankings were especially well-considered, given the number of stories. My thanks to them! Unfortunately, I won't have access to my home computer until mid-January and so I won't be able to create the normal story collection in PDF format until then. Please let me know if you would like a collection! *** "Out There"Writer's Character: Irina PavlovaJudge's Character: Sal Taybrim I like how you are exploring and fleshing out your character with every successive story. Focusing on Irina’s Terran past is a great way to make a more believable and empathetic character. I found this was a clean, well written story, but it was a bit underdeveloped. When I read “Stargazer” I though that instead of two companion stories, you could have combined them both to make one story that was better than the sum of its parts. Both stories taken as separate pieces were interesting little tidbits, but left the reader wanting more. If you blend these stories in a dramatic fashion (think of your favorite movie tricks – like split screening or flashbacks or scenes that ‘ping pong’ between two related characters in different situations) you can come up with a cohesive whole that really tells the story of love from both perspectives at once. This feels like an often told tale – one that you have thought about so much that it seems ingrained. The trap of an often told tale is that it can seem stale with multiple retellings. But the opportunity in an often told tale is to the ability to really play around with literary devices and experiment. As I mentioned before, draw from your favorite narrative tricks from the movies and see what happens. What if you wrote a story that flashed between Irina in the future and Dmitri in the past, melding the story so each one’s thoughts and actions seemed to play off the other one’s even though they were decades and light years apart. Or try different focuses. What would the story sound like it written strictly from Katya’s perspective? Or if told from the perspective of Dmitri as a ghost watching Irina and Katya finally come home? Exercises like these will not only help you grow as a writer, but will help you develop an even better understanding of your characters and how they react to things. ***"A Vulcan Scorned"Writer's Character: SivahJudge's Character: Toni Turner "A Vulcan Scorned" is a provocative, but short, story dwelving into the age old question sparked by "He loves me, he loves me not." Only in this case the one scorned, ended up asking, "Why did you not want me?” While it is true that Ensign Sivah painted a perfect picture of Seltuur's arrogance, and the unreasonable demands he wanted to force upon her, he was willing to honor their betrothal, if she so willed it. Both clearly loved someone else, but Seltuur paid the price for his betrayal, especially since Sivah contrived such a vicious fate for him and his true love, while she was set free to marry Angelica. I liked the story because it was different, but in places it seemed a bit choppy and words forced. However, in it's entirety, the composition was quite understandable and well-developed. I like to see new members enter the challenges as they bring new ideas to the front. Well done, Ensign Sivah. *** "Birthdays"Writer's Character: Talia KajiJudge's Character: Cassandra Egan Manno Oh, wow, does this story have a gift for scene-setting! I could easily see the frantic pace and the quick rotation through memory and scene being disruptive and off-putting, but "Birthdays" presents that movement very well. Each flashback begins with an evocative, vivid description to place its reader, always before any dialogue, and each of those descriptions is awash with color, shape, and sensory information. I would've followed this story into another ten scenes if it asked me to -- it was that deft with its movements. Of course, including more scenes would mean risking the story's overall structure, which I wouldn't advise -- but "Birthdays," as written, never does that. Each flashback returns to Marianette in the present, and the repetition of "it was her birthday" never lets the reader forget why. "Birthdays" is ambitious with its descriptions and the overarching story it tells, but it's even more ambitious with the range of emotions it asks its readers to feel -- and that's where it faltered a bit for me. Each of the flashbacks was to such a pivotal, life-changing moment, and each happened so quickly, that I never really felt strongly invested in any of them. I felt more connected to the Marianette in the present, and I think that this may have been the goal: This present Marianette has (albeit only on her birthday!) reviewed these memories so often that she's become a little deadened to them. If that is the case, then I would've liked to have felt a little more of that, because it seemed that every memory was, for her, still sharp and painful. It may be that they were! But if so, then many such memories may have been too much for one short story. My advice for this writer, then, would be to let such emotionally charged flashbacks breathe a little. Give them more space, use your wonderful abilities to illustrate them with sensory information, and trust your readers to feel along with your characters. All things considered, this was a wonderful, strong story from a first-time entrant, and I fully expect to see more of your great writing in the future! *** "Chocolate"Writer's Character: Maxwell TraenorJudge's Character: Cassandra Egan Manno I struggled to find the best word to encapsulate this story, but after another read-through, I think that "delightful" is the way to go. It's as stilted and awkward as I'd expect a first contact between a physicist and an alien over food and drinks to be. What really makes that atmosphere work, though, is that it revels in its minutiae -- the untranslatable "cuisine" and "dessert," the description and delight involved when Maxwell eats that desert. In my experience, it's very difficult to write an awkward story that isn't constantly tripping over itself to prove its awkwardness, but "Chocolate" pulls it off: We've already seen, by the time the dessert arrives, how uncomfortable Maxwell is feeling, so that provides a whole different perspective with which to view his sudden obsession with the dessert. Also, the phrase "bloat with joy" is definitely one I'll be using again. The twist, such as it is, is both funny and oddly touching, as Maxwell's companion protests ignorance and Maxwell himself doesn't ever want to stop eating. "Delightful," in retrospect, is definitely the right word to describe "Chocolate." I'm quite happy with the story as presented, but if I had some advice for its writer, it would be to think more deeply about what's going beyond the first layer of the story. As above, I read here an essential awkwardness that may not have been intended to be present throughout the story, but which I found quite pleasingly present in all of what I read. Could there have been more, though? Perhaps, in the midst of the humor, some subtle comments about the terror of food allergies and unconscious body reactions, or perhaps something about unintended addiction (if Maxwell really couldn't stop eating)? I've found that comedy is often the best medium to express both the terrible and the terrifying, and given what had been built up by the story's end, I would have absolutely followed it into some darker territory. Not every story needs a dozen layers, of course, but given that this story was so strong on its surface, I'd challenge the writer to try for more! All in all, this was an excellent story from a first-time entrant who has some real chops to show off with vivid description and some nice humor. I'll be looking for more great writing from this writer in the future! ***"Betrayal of Love"Writer's Character: NugraJudge's Character: Ren Rennyn Nugra's tale of love and betrayal proves that every theme has an unpredictable amount of variations. The story kept me guessing as to how it would fulfill the contest's theme, but in the end, the overall effect was spot on in making its point. To save Iria from being the monster he has made her, Nugra has to become a monster himself by betraying her.Details that seemed minor at first later proved important. The picturesque monastery was revealed to be part of Nugra's plan. The reason he knew which berries were safe illustrated his premeditated intentions. I enjoyed the teasing out of information about Iria, how the damage done to her by her father becomes more clear as the story progresses. The way this is revealed piece by piece in both images of Iria's actions and information in Nugra's thoughts, makes the story enticing all the way through.The action sequence showing that Iria was at her father's side in battle was told in exciting language that made it fun to read. This part of the story might have been improved by showing Iria's participation in battle, illustrating what is described about her battle tactics in the next section. The imagery of Iria gleefully taking down enemies would be interesting to see in more detail.A number of minor grammatical and spelling errors disrupt the flow of the story, and these could be easily fixed. Nugra's story illustrates that betrayal can be one of the strongest forms of love, if as difficult for the betrayer as for the betrayed. ***"Can I help you?"Writer's Character: Avaris TorrinJudge's Character: Cassandra Egan MannoThe conceit of this story was absolutely fascinating: True to the Challenge guidelines, the story doesn't focus upon canon characters, but Benjamin Sisko and his actions during DS9's series run are integral to "Can I help you?" It's an approach I haven't seen often in the Challenges and was a welcome take on the theme, as it accomplished what, for example, the TNG episode "Lower Decks" did so well: We often see what becomes of the great leaders and their officers, but what about the normal people? There's something quite subversive in the thematic approach of this story, as expressed (or, rather, oppositely expressed) by the bereaved Aelya -- is it inflammatory to care about those who died under great leaders, and to question those qualities that seem to make the leaders great? I did find "Can I help you?" to work better as a story of themes and large concepts, however, and it broke down a little bit when I considered its scenes and individual lines. At that small level, it didn't seem to be a Star Trek story, really, which are characterized for me as both thoughtful and thought-provoking (and I do think there is a difference!), and I would have liked to see more thinking on the page. For example, phrases like "the ultimate sacrifice, doing what was right" are very much in twenty-first century political vogue, but "Can I help you?" doesn't appear to update them or think about what they mean, and that follows for a lot of its rhetoric, too. I found myself frequently distracted by errors in spelling, grammar, and usage -- and while I usually tend to read past such things, misspellings and incorrect grammar kept me from understanding what the story was trying to say in a few places. I would certainly encourage this author to use checkers for spelling and grammar in the future, as well as to think deeply about what makes a Star Trek story -- and why such stories are still important to tell. Overall, though, I did appreciate the large ideas contained herein, and I'd like to see more of this type of thinking in the future! *** "Blunt Forces 2: Debriefing"Writer's Character: Clayas VellJudge's Character: Della Vetri This story was something that we tend not to see all that often: a dip into looking at what happens *after* all the big action that tends to be many writers' focus. It was made especially interesting since the main character of this story, Ellen, is a long way from as experienced as she might wish she was. Indeed, that forms a sizeable part of what is explored during the story, as well as her thoughts and feelings about what she has endured. Whilst it might help to have read what went before, the important details are not only recapped in this one, but it's done in a way that makes them important elements of the story itself instead of simply a quick info dump. In fact, I actually found myself drawn to go read the preceding story just to give this one the extra context - not that it needed it, but it did help. I did find it perhaps a little cumbersome in terms of structure, however, with sentences needing to be broken up a bit more to help the flow. That said, it was still quite readable and engaging, and I had no problem following things. Overall, I can comfortably say I look forward to seeing more of Cadet Cain's adventures in the future. ***"You will not take this, too"Writer's Character: Akeelah D'SenaJudge's Character: Della Vetri An interesting tale of the conflict between family expectation and personal desire, and how the two can come into rather serious conflict. One thing that definitely came across to me was a sense of inevitability, with the ultimate outcome not really in any sort of doubt - but just how we *get* there is the interesting bit. The writer made good use of some very evocative language, doing a great job of setting the scene. This gives the reader a solid basis to build their mental image of what is going on, and also gives them a bit more of a handle on the characters themselves. It's also very easy to get behind the main character of the story, Jalana, and be on her side throughout it all... though that is also, in part, due to how utterly unsympathetic her father comes across. If I have any real issue with how the characters and such are portrayed, it is how black and white things are portrayed. Given the limits of how long these works can be, however, that is quite understandable, and I'd be surprised if more room to work in didn't lead to much more nuanced characterisations. That said, there is no mistaking the agendas of the characters, and that clarity serves the story well. I also liked the little touches here and there, details that hint to the history behind what is going on. For example, the whole deal with the collar shines a quick light on what is obviously a routine the two characters had fallen into a long time before. All in all, a good piece of work, and an interesting read. I'd be happy to see more! ***"Stargazer"Writer's Character: Irina PavlovaJudge's Character: Cassandra Egan Manno In a round of such a large, operatic theme, many of the stories seemed to be like-minded -- and maybe that's why I appreciated "Stargazer" so much. As with many of this author's entries, "Stargazer" was a quiet, personal story. Many times, these entries have felt like one serialized story about Irina Pavlova's background, unfolded and expounded in different ways depending upon the specific Challenge theme, and given that Irina's story is literally one of love across time and space, I was pleased to see that this story focused most intently upon those moments of quiet reflection. In many ways, this story is a call back to the first golden age of science fiction: It's a story that could only be told with such a backdrop, and I appreciate it all the more for the history -- both personal and with respect to the genre -- that "Stargazer" appears to hold closely. I'm very pleased with the story's length, too; any longer and it would have ruined the meditative quality that this entry possesses. However, I would've encouraged some mixing of structural elements for this one: All of the dialogue in this story comes in its second half, which is not incidentally the here and now of the story, and all of the history/reflection/description comes earlier in the story. Given that I think Irina's conversation with Katya follows well from what came earlier, I wouldn't have advocated mixing the two halves necessarily. Rather, I would've liked to see Irina's reflections after that conversation, after they were aboard the shuttle. Would the style that followed be similar to the first half? Would it have been even more personal? I'm not sure, but I would've liked to see?All in all, though, this was a strong entry from this year's Data Artistic Award winner, and I am, as always, glad to read more of Irina's ongoing story! ***"The Ties that Bind"Writer's Character: Sinda EssenJudge's Character: Sal Taybrim Let me start off by saying that this is a well thought out story. I think the plot and the twist was well developed and delivered. The whole idea behind the piece was one of the best of the round. I particularly liked how you sprung the Klingon attack with very little preamble. Marsha was surprised, the audience was surprised, it pushed the action forward in a big burst – a very nice effect! One thing that struck me was that this story looks so polished. The title with the quote is a nice opening. But within the first few paragraphs there are some spacing problems and some sentences that do not read smoothly. I found this was a jarring transition and I had to go back and keep re-reading parts to see if they were grammatically incorrect or just rough to read. I will note that I am a big fan of a ‘well groomed’ story, visually as well as proof-reading wise. I read pauses, breaks and emphasis into the spacing and layout of the page. At the very beginning it looks like there should be more spacing in the second paragraph, but instead it gets all lumped together like a run-on paragraph. Another thing I struggled with in this story was the strength of the plot vs. the strength of the characters. The conversation at the end of the story is well written and powerful, but it did not grip me as it should have. And I realized on a second (and third) read though that was because I had very little reason to care about the characters. Marsha strikes me as a human rebel every-woman, with a father who cares more for his wife than his daughter… why? I know you touched upon this with the whole ‘she’s the one who keeps me sane’ but I didn’t really get to see enough of the father character to feel for either one of them. I wanted you as an author to dig into that mindset and really let me know how a man could be driven to betray his daughter. I am wondering how this story would have read if it was written from the POV of the father. Or, delving into Marsha’s family and past would have also brought a stronger sense of connection. Maybe starting the story with a flashback of their happy family, or giving some personal details to the main characters. Zill gets a stronger personality in the opening scene than Marsha does, so it is difficult to connect with Marsha when it flashes over to such a personal scene in the second half. I think more background – in both characters and setting would have really made this story shine. I found myself wondering things like ‘when is this in the Alliance timeline?’ and on the first read though I stopped and went ‘wait, did I read that right? We’re in the mirror universe?’ I felt like I was just thrown willy-nilly in to a point of time just before the action starts, making it hard for me to ‘get into’ this story and the characters. That is a shame since the plot is very solid and the ending dialogue is a great piece of interaction! The whole story would benefit from more set-up. I think this was well written; it had good language and a great idea that just needed a bit of extra polish to really stand out. I’m glad to be able to read one of your stories!
  20. What better way to end 2014 than by showcasing a little of the best a character can be -- and a little of the worst? LOVE & BETRAYAL For our final Challenge of the year, the writer behind Nathaniel Wilmer and our previous Challenge's winner asks you to consider a theme as old as writing itself. With clear roots back to the first recorded epics, including The Epic of Gilgamesh -- so famously used by Jean-Luc Picard in the TNG episode "Darmok" -- there's no more mythic or archetypal way to close out 2014! Is what ways will your characters access this theme? Will they be the lovers or the beloved, love unrequitedly or reciprocally, love from far or near; or will they be the betrayer or the betrayed, the watcher or the enactor or the friend? There are endless ways to interpret this theme, and the judges look forward to seeing what your take on it might be. As of today, Sunday, November 2nd, this Challenge is open! We'll ask that all of your submissions come in by Friday, December 26th -- enough time for the judges to convene and to bring you your final winner of 2014 before the new year! As always, please remember:*Your work must be completely original.*You must be the sole author of the work.*Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. Your story need not concern any of your characters (PC or NPC), and your story's style can be anything you might like (and does not need to conform to simming standards).*Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website. Please also take a look at our new wiki page! And don't forget to get your copy of our mobile collection of the September & October Challenge! Good luck!
  21. Guest

    Winner: The Ties That Bind

    The Ties That Bind “Under the spreading chestnut tree I sold you and you sold me. There lie they, and here lie we Under the spreading chestnut tree.” - George Orwell, 1984 Marsha Peel ran a finger down the cave wall with a disgruntled frown. Caves had been home to the resistance for, well, forever, and they usually ranged from hot and dry, to cold and damp. Unfortunately this was a fine example of the latter. Sighing, Marsha absently wiped her finger on her dusty trousers and pulled the jacket more tightly around her shoulders, suppressing a shiver. She was used to moving home. The Alliance forces were constantly hounding them just as they had when the Terran Resistance had first formed. Her father had been among the first to offer help to the fledgling rebellion, only a little at first but then more and more until one day the Alliance came calling. Cardassian police had dragged her parents away and Marsha had been placed in care with a family more agreeable to the Alliance. Until she’d eventually managed to run away and find a rebel cell. And now here she was, in a damp cavern on who knew what planet. “You’re thinking about them again, aren’t you? Your parents I mean. You‘ve got that vague look about you.” Marsha looked up as her friend approached. She and Zill had been through a lot together and Marsha trusted the Bolian woman with her life. “I’m just wondering how we came to this, Zill. Me and you, fighting Klingons and Cardassians.” “Because we’re so good at it.” The blue woman smiled. “We all have our reasons.” “I know, I know. I just wish there was an easier way.” Zill gave a bark of laughter. “Ha! Of course you do, Marsha. We all do. None of us here was born to fighting, but we do it anyway. Not to make things better for us, but to make them better for our children.” She paused and her voice softened. “Your father knew that.” Marsha nodded and swallowed. “Yeah, I know. Kind of ironic, really. If he hadn’t been arrested I doubt I’d have ever have taken up arms. Like you said, we all have our reasons, but are they good enough?” “Just look around you, girl! You’re at the centre of the resistance here. This place is full of equipment and people just like us. Your parents helped make this, and they’d be proud of you.” “My father maybe,” Marsha shrugged. “I think my mother would have preferred a quiet life.” Zill was about to say more, but a bleep from the communicator at her belt interrupted her. She glanced at it with a frown before patting Marsha tenderly on the shoulder. “Who wouldn’t prefer a quiet life? Look, I’ve got to go. There’s a shuttle inbound, some refugees or something, and they need medical attention. Just…” She sighed. “Just don’t get too introspective, okay? I’ll come and find you as soon as I can.” Marsha merely nodded as the Bolian hurried away down the tunnel in the direction of the outside world. She let her feet take her the same way, lost in her thoughts. Marsha tried to muster up some memories of her parents; she always remembered her father as a determined, yet sensitive man. It was probably an idealised image she held of him now, but he always cared for others, and that’s what had got him involved with the rebels in the first place. Her mother, on the other hand, had seemed permanently frightened and quiet. Marsha realised now it was because she knew the risks her husband was taking and what it might, did, lead to. They’d been a close family, the three of them, working in the fields together, and… Marsha’s thoughts trailed off as she became aware of her surroundings again. She’d stepped out into the main cavern and it was rapidly filling up with people. In pairs and trios they rushed past her, all heading in the same direction. She caught a few words from excited conversations as they went by; “escaped prisoners”, “first rebels”, “freedom.” Frowning, she started to walk quicker. “Marsha? Marsha!” It was Zill again, her voice cutting through the crowd. Marsha craned her neck and eventually spotted the other woman, her blue arms waving. “Marsha! It’s your father!” Marsha frowned. Her father? At the back of her mind, although she’d never consciously admit it to herself, she’d given up her parents for dead long ago. It had been eight years since their arrest, and people usually didn’t last that long in Alliance prisons. But to think that her father was now free, here! She started to push through the crowd, politely at first but then with more and more urgency. But something else was happening, people around her were pointing and starting to shout. She’d lost sight of her friend in the throng. “Zill?!” And then the world exploded. An immense burst of light and sound and pressure filled the chamber and Marsha staggered backwards, feeling like she’d been punched in the ears. The press of people in front of her had shielded her from the blast, but many hadn’t been so lucky. Someone screamed nearby. Marsha dragged herself to her feet, leaning on the damp wall for support, and blinked through the dust and smoke. And then she saw them – Klingon assault troops stalking through the chaos, shooting and slashing anything that moved. Her breath caught in her throat as one of them levelled his disruptor pistol at her. She stood paralysed, staring down the barrel, as there was a blinding flash of green light, and then nothing. * * * The walls were damp. That was the first thing she noticed. Rivulets of water ran down the dark walls and formed small pools on the cell floor. The damp had seeped into her clothes and now she shivered in the cold. Marsha sneezed and winced at the eruption of pain it caused in her head. She’d found out a couple of years ago, much to her misfortune, that the stun setting on a disruptor left her with terrible headaches, so it was not hard to surmise what had happened back at the resistance base. Groaning, she pulled herself to her knees and looked around. The light was very dim, but just enough to see by, not that there was much to see. The room was barely six feet across and the only entrance was blocked not by a force field but by a gate of metal bars. Marsha reached out and touched them tentatively. Nothing. She wrapped her hands around them and pushed and pulled with what little strength she had left. Still nothing, not that she’d really expected anything else. With a long sigh she rested her head against the cold metal. “So this is how it ends.” She asked the questions to the grim darkness beyond her cell. To her surprise, it answered. “Marsha?” She held her breath. Silence. Marsha was just about to convince herself that she’d imagined it when the voice, the achingly familiar voice, spoke again. “M… Marsha? Is that you?” It was an old man’s voice. Aged and cracked, rasping through dry lips. But she knew it all the same. “Father?” She gasped. “I can’t believe it! How..?” Marsha shook her head. “How can this be happening? I thought you were dead.” “No, Marsha.” The voice drifted through the darkness. “Though I wish I was. It would be easier that way.” Her father gave a bitter laugh. “And now they put you in here with me to taunt me further.” “And Mother?” She was afraid to ask. “Alive, Marsha. She’s alive.” “Where? Have you seen her?” There was a moment of silence. “I’ve not seen her for six years. But I know she’s alive.” “How?” Marsha choked. “How can you know? Please tell me you’ve spoken to her, or had a message from her, something!” “I just know she must be alive. Because if she’s not then my betrayal would have no meaning and I would be truly [...]ed.” “Betrayal?” Marsha was confused. Her thoughts went back to her last memories, Zill shouting something about her father, then the Klingon attack. And now here she was in a cell next to his. It couldn’t be a coincidence. “What happened?” Fear made her voice tremble. “What did you do? Tell me you weren’t at the base, please.” “Marsha, I…” “No! You couldn’t have had anything to do with that! Not you, anyone but you.” Anger replaced the fear in her voice. “I only joined the resistance after the Alliance took you away. You’d never betray us, you’d never betray me like that!” “Marsha, there was no choice. You don’t understand. My wife, they’d have killed her if I didn’t do what they said.” Marsha tightened her fists around the bars, gripping them so tight she could feel flecks of rust dig into her palms. “She’s probably already dead, Father, just like the people you helped kill. My friends, very nearly me!” She gasped again as another realisation dawned. “Did you know I was there?” “I…” There was a long pause. “I knew. I saw you, just before the attack.” “So it’s all true then?” Marsha’s voice was bitter. “You really were at the base, and you betrayed the resistance, betrayed me, and for what?” “For love, Marsha. I betrayed you for the woman I love. Nobody should have to face that choice, that impossible choice.” “What about me, Father? Do you not love me?” “Of course I do!” Her father sighed. “You were twelve when I last saw you, just a girl. I loved you with all my heart, but your mother… I love her more. She’s my wife, my soul mate. And that’s why I have to believe she’s alive, because if not then I’ve made a mistake more terrible than I could ever comprehend.” Marsha sobbed, tears were running down her face now, falling to the floor and joining with the puddles already there. “They broke you, father. The man I knew would never had done this.” “They did, Marsha, they did.” His old voice was full of pain. “I’ve been here so long, alone in the dark. The thought that she was still alive was the only thing that kept me going, kept me sane. And they were going to take that away from me. I… couldn’t live without that hope.” Marsha wiped her tears away with the back of her hand. “Then you should have died.” She spat. The silence rolled on for a long time, long enough for her anger to turn to regret. Finally, though, her father’s quiet voice returned. “I should have, Marsha. In a way I did. They killed my hope, I know that now. Your mother may well already be dead, and now you are here with me to remind me every second of what I did for love.” “For love? That’s not enough, Father. Not enough for what you‘ve done.” “Isn’t it? Then what is?” His voice fell silent, leaving the question hanging in the air. The guilt and remorse contained in the words terrified Marsha. She pushed herself away from the bars as quickly as she could, far back into the darkest corner of her cell, hoping to escape those ties that bound her to the people she loved the most, fearful of what actions she may be forced to do because of them.
  22. Stargazer The woman and the little girl stood in silence as the snow blew all around them. The girl was bundled from head-to-toe and looked more like a bright blue marshmallow than a human being. The woman on the other hand could have fit any era in this place wearing as she was a grey wool long coat with an upturned fur collar, tall black leather boots and thin leather gloves. Her light brown hair was capped with a traditional Russian fur hat. The two of them just stood there looking down at the old grave marker. Dimitri Popov Born October 10, 2144 Died March 7, 2156 Stargazer The stone was old now, worn and weathered by 150 harsh Russian winters, but the words could still be read. That one word told the man’s story. Stargazer, it was who and what Dimitri was, on all levels, and in all ways. The story began centuries ago in a humble mid-20th century Soviet-era apartment building that 100 years after construction remained as working-class accommodations for ordinary Russian families who couldn’t afford the nicer parts of St. Petersburg, but weren’t so poor as to live in the slums. The building was clean, spacious and while old, had a certain charm. In addition to it, specifically apartment 212 being the boyhood home of Dimitri Popov, it, as in apartment 209, was the home of Irina Pavlova, four-months-older than Dimitri, and the very same woman who would, 247 years later, stand out in the blowing snow holding her daughter’s hand looking down at Dimitri’s grave. Dimitri and Irina, Irina and Dimitri. The pair were inseparable for the first 22 years of their lives. They did everything together, from Dimitri staying in the care of Irina’s Aunt every day while both sets of parents went to work, to being in the same classes at the same schools and even playing on the same sports teams. Irina was always the star athlete, captain of the football (soccer) team, ballet, swimming, every sport she touched, she dominated. Dimitri was nowhere near her league and usually played third string if not just warming the bench, but they were still closer than siblings. Neither one of them dated, as somehow they just knew that they would always be together. They graduated from high school together, and even joined the Marines together, though as with sports before, Irina was always on a whole other level when it came to fitness and military skills. From the first time on the shooting range even the drill sergeants knew they were in the presence of greatness, and somehow, Dimitri was always there at her side. They went to Recon Sniper school as a team, she the shooter and he the support, carrying the tripod, ammunition and spotting her shots, though never needing to call position as she simply never missed. It was only when the newly formed Starfleet launched the first of its ambitious five-year-missions that finally separated Dimitri and Irina, with Commodore Moretti asking for Irina’s assignment as his armory officer by name; unheard of for a brand new officer, especially a marine. Strings were pulled, arrangements made, and Irina Pavlova became the only marine assigned to USS Columbia, NX-03. The night before she left, she told him she loved him. He proposed, and they spent their first night together as lovers, and their last night together period. That morning she made him promise to wait, to which he replied that five years was nothing, that he would one hundred. Stargazer. Every night after Columbia set sail Dimitri looked up into the stars. He bought and later built greater and greater telescopes, hoping to see the same stars Irina was visiting. He learned of the birth of their daughter nine months after Columbia’s departure, and a year later when he mustered out of the Marines, he took a job at the most desolate outpost in Antarctica because it had the clearest skies and Earth’s best observatory. He started as just a janitor, but eventually became recognized by the scientists for his knowledge of astronomy and was elevated to lab assistant and eventually staff astronomer. Three years into Columbia’s mission the ship was listed as missing in action, but Dimitri knew that the love of his life and the daughter he had never met were still out there, and he kept looking for them. A year later the ship was listed as missing, presumed lost with all hands, but Dimitri never gave up hope. He knew that if he just looked hard enough, somehow he would find them despite the knowledge that the light he was looking at was millions, if not billions of years old. He knew one day he would be notified of her return, pack his bags and return to Russia to be reunited with his love. They would share stories of the many worlds she had visited in person, and he, the Stargazer, had seen through the great observatory telescope. He died waiting for that call, always gazing at the stars. Of course Irina thought about him constantly at first. She learned of her pregnancy a few weeks into Columbia’s voyage, and wrote to him constantly those first three years. When the Columbia was attacked by three smaller, though more powerful ships and barely escaped in one piece, the writing stopped and the missing in action report went out. Columbia did in fact survive, traveled tremendous distances through what is now known as the Aurix II wormhole and emerged on the other side with failed life support and one damaged and one obliterated warp nacelle, though through blind luck a fully functioning warp drive. With no life support, the USS Columbia took up a stable orbit around the only remotely habitable planet within their 72 hour travel range, the second planet of an unidentified system now known as Kjenta. Kjenta II was a post-apocalyptic wasteland with extremely high gravity, harsh weather and an atmosphere impenetrable by scanners and worse yet, it drained all electricity from anything that passed through it. Columbia’s first evacuation wave crashed rather than landed on Kjenta II, and the rest of the survivors including young Katya Pavlova were put into cryogenic stasis before the breathable oxygen was entirely consumed. Irina’s story didn’t end, and every night she would look up at the night sky and think of Dimitri back home, at first hoping he kept his promise, and later praying he had not. Kjenta II, harsh as it was, had a strange type of solar radiation that prevented organic cellular decay. Much like the metaphysic radiation found on the planet Ba’ku, the multi-phasic radiation of the Kjenta star rejuvenated all life on the planet’s barren surface. Irina stayed on that miserable rock for 219 years because her eventual rescue. At the end of those 219 years she had long since lost all hope that Dimitri was still alive, but she still had hope. Hope that their daughter was somehow still alive in stasis on the Columbia, and perhaps even more than that, hope that Dimitri had not kept his promise, that he had not waited. “Why are you crying mommy?” the little blue marshmallow girl asked her mother. “Stargazer” Irina replied. “What does that mean?” Katya persisted. “It means that he liked to look at the stars.” “I like looking at stars too” Katya replied proudly. “Even when I’m gone, if you look up at the stars, you’ll know I’m looking at them too.” “Did that man look for you?” “He looked for both of us. All his life he looked up at the stars, waiting for us to come back to him.” Even at age 6, Katya understood how long they were away. She knew the story well, had read her mother’s diaries and saw the pictures of her and Dimitri together. “Do you still love him?” she asked, strangely sounding far older than her age. “I’ll always love your father Printzyess, and I’ll always love you.” “So why didn't you stay with him if you loved him?” “I was so eager to explore the stars, and he had always been at my side. I knew he would wait for me. I made him promise to wait for me. “What did he say?” “He said “Five years is nothing, I’ll wait 100 years for you. And every night I’ll look at the stars and know that you are looking at the same stars as I am.” “Did he wait 100 years?” “Almost. He died before the time was up. He never broke his promise, a promise I should never have asked him to make.” The woman and the girl just stood there for almost an hour despite the setting sun and the blowing snow. After a while the stars came out in the night sky and Irina squeezed katya’s hand. “Come Printzyessa, its time to go.” “Are you still waiting for him mommy?” Irina looked up at the stars briefly as another tear slid down her cheek. “I’m finished waiting Printzyessa. I ruined his life, I won’t ruin what’s left of yours and mine.” They stood and looked up for another moment, then both turned and walked back toward the waiting shuttle. Major Irina Pavlova Chief Tactical Officer Duronis II Embassy / USS Thunder A
  23. (( Trillus Prime - Laxyn Estate 2379 )) :: It was a big day in house Laxyn, the eerie silence, where Jalana the eldest child would usually hurry around, not to be too late for her lessons, for dinner or anything else one could be possibly late for, was deafening. What her parents, the master and mistress of the house, did not know what she had been so busy with, that the time got away from her. Jalana had studied, for something she was not supposed to learn. :: :: The Trill's career had been decided when she had been old enough to be taught her first words. She had been taught her whole life the ways of Diplomacy, the rules, the history, the gestures and unspoken agreements between those carrying the responsibility of their people. She did not have the pleasure of being taught all the lovely things that kids raved around when coming home from school; gold stars and smiley stickers were strangers to her, just as those other kids were. For the last 18 years her companions where lists of politicians and rules of conduct, her reward was to hear that she had done well for once, her teacher the strictest man she could ever imagine: her father. :: :: Her fate was to be his successor, Ambassador in the Diplomatic Corps. She would meet the big names of politic, the leaders of yet unknown species, accompany those who made first contacts to ensure peaceful and fruitful conversations and contracts. To be a figurehead of her people, was not something Jalana had ever wanted to be, but her father already saw her statue in the hall of history, in his imagination. And she knew, that she would have to break his heart, to avoid breaking her own soul. :: :: This was indeed a big day, for Jalana Laxyn because of a different reason than it was for Vivan Laxyn, the head of the house. And the younger Trill was afraid to share her reason with him, but she had to. If she'd not she would burst at the banquet, in front of everyone assembled and she could not do that to her father, her teacher, the man who did all of this out of love.:: :: Jalana had gotten the good news an hour ago and now walked to his room, trying to muster up the courage, that she would need right now, before it was too late. Inside the door-frame though she hesitated, stopped in her tracks and watched him. A tall distinguished man, in his late forties, his light brown hair decorated with fine hairs of silver, that seemed to shine when the light just hit them right. Leaning against the door-frame, her head tilted slightly, watching him with a fond smile on her lips that reached her sparkling green eyes. He was a handsome man and while she saw him as the strict teacher every day, she had also seen as the loving husband, whenever he gazed at his wife, thinking that nobody could see him. :: :: He wore a calf long brown tunic, made from heavy fabrics, that had a little shine when moving, off-set with a decorative trim of ancient Trill symbols, over loose black pants and dress shoes. His special attire for tonight's banquet. He had been awarded a medal of peace, a great honour and a very important day for him. It brimmed over with status and influence, giving him almost something royal; if it was not for his arms being raised in a folded T, tearing and pulling at the closing mechanism of his collar. :: Vivan Laxyn: For how long do you want to watch me fight with this collar, before you offer your help? :: The young Trill pushed herself from the frame and crossed the room, coming to a halt in front of him. Gently, as if they could burst at the touch, she laid her hands on his and moved them away. The proud chin of the man remained in the air, exposing his throat to let her do her magic. Her slender fingers had no trouble, to join the hooks with the hoops, linking the sides of the collar. But she did it slow, trying to find the words. But he noticed something else faster, than she could get her words out. :: Vivan: You are not dressed yet, we will be late. :: The daughter swallowed, now there was her way in, if she ever saw one. But how could she do all that without hurting him? Maybe there was no way. :: Jalana Laxyn: I am not coming with you this time. :: She could feel him stiffen under her fingers and she almost closed her eyes to let the storm wash over, but kept them on the closing of his collar instead. Her heart beat faster, afraid of what would happen now. There was no way back. :: Vivan: What do you mean? Of course you will. You need the training. :: The training, that he had put all of his free time in, to teach her everything she would need to know, and that she had dreaded so much. What if there was nothing that would bind them together, without this training? This career? She took a deep breath and forced herself to keep her voice soft. :: Jalana: I need to talk with you about that. :: He shook his hand and deciding that she was done, took a step to the side, checking the collar in the mirror, before he reached out to the panel next to it, on which his sash hung neatly and ready to be worn. :: Vivan: Jalana, we really do not have time for that right now. Go and get dressed, we talk later. :: She could not wait, knowing that while she was afraid, she also almost burst, wanting her family to know the news. Her brother would possibly the only one who would be happy for her, but he was 9 and happy about everything. It bubbled under her surface, threatened to just burst out, to blurt from her lips without a filter, and exactly that treat was made true, when she did not speak up fast enough. Jalana: I'll be going to Medical school. :: The silence in the room was eardrum bursting loud. She could hear them, the gears in his mind, working, processing and immediately denying. Not with words, but his thoughts. Jalana saw the fine lines and wrinkles around his eyes deepen, his lips whiten as he pressed them together, the blue eyes, that had shown a tiny hint of warmth, turned cold. He had stood there, frozen for a long unbearable moment, before going on as if nothing had happened. :: Vivan: You won't. :: The bitterness in his voice send chills down the young woman's spine. She knew what it was, he did think that she really would not do it, if he told her so. But she could not deny herself her dream, her passion. Since she had been eight years old, Jalana had known that she wanted to be a doctor, help people, find solutions for illnesses that did not have one yet. Like her grandmother who had died from a sickness that had no survival rate. Her loss had left a hole in Jalana's life, a wish and desire, that had always been there, but had longed for something to bring it to the surface. :: Jalana: I will, father. I know you want me to follow your footsteps, but I want.. I need to become a doctor. I have been thinking about this for a long time, and I passed the tests and... :: The man suddenly swirled around, facing her with that stone like expression, his eyes had never been that piercing and cold as they were now. His daughter stood there, in front of him, trembling. He was not the kind of man to become loud. His rage was silent, dangerous like magma under the surface, just that his volcano never erupted. He was like the tiny piece of glass, that had accidentally fallen into food, noticed when it was too late and secretly doing its damage. :: Vivan: You went behind my back, without my permission and have the nerve to come to me after the harm is done? :: It was a whisper, and it still thundered in Jalana's ears. Yes, that was exactly what she had done, because she had known, that he would have never agreed. He would have locked her into her room and taken her communication rights, if he had known. She would not give up, not now, not after how far she had come. :: Jalana: You would have never allowed it. Vivan: And you know why. You were raised to become an Ambassador. :: That was the problem. She had been raised to become something she did not want. Something she wasn't and never would be. And she was angry about that, about everything she had never experienced. The joy to be a child, playing with other children, learning in a public school, bruising her knees when she'd fallen off a tree, getting the reassurance that she'd be doing better next time when she had not done well... and most of all, a father who would show her that he loved her, not only when she did the right step into a world that was not her own. She straightened her back, he would not take this from her, too. :: Jalana: And nobody ever asked me if I want that. I don't. I thought that once you see that I meet the qualifications and would be accepted, that you would see that diplomacy is not the only thing I can do. Vivan: ::He scoffed, shaking his head and returned his gaze back to the mirror.:: You will never get through with it. You know that you are not cut out to be a Doctor. :: His words felt like a slap into her face. The one person that she would have thought, could believe in her. Why couldn't he be happy for her, for finding something that she loved? For something she knew was her calling? :: Jalana: :: whispering :: I will... get through with it. I will become a doctor. :: Her father turned his head to the side, meeting her gaze. She almost stepped back, the look in his eyes took her breath away, cut off the way to her lungs. It was like a wall of disgust and disdain, but there was more, lurking in the background of his steel, she would not have the chance to melt again: pain, hurt and betrayal. He had given her everything, taught her everything, and she denied it after all these years. :: :: His voice was barely audible, but she could see the words not only on his lips but also in his eyes. :: Vivan: Leave, and don't come back. You will be gone when we return from the banquet. :: Her mouth fell open, trying to form words, but nothing came out, the words chocked before they were even born. Did he just kick her out? Completely? He could not mean that! Her throat was closed up, the only sound that came through the squeezed shut opening was a squeak, words did not find their way. But Vivan remained silent, staring at himself in the mirror, making sure that his sash sat right, brushing over the thick fabric of his tunic. :: :: She knew, he had said his last word. No matter for how long she would stand here. She had never seen him so angry, so hurt because of her. And it broke her heart, tore her soul into pieces, like nothing else had ever done. Because she knew that she could not make it better, because she had to follow her heart, her calling. She could not live his life. :: :: And still, as she left her father at the mirror, finding her dragging steps to to her room, she wished, as she had never wished before, that she could. :: ----- LtCmdr Jalana Laxyn Assistant Chief Medical Officer USS Apollo-A simmed by LtCmdr Akeelah D'Sena First Officer USS Apollo-A Image Team Facilitator
  24. Blunt Forces 2: Debrief Cadet Ellen Cain found herself sitting in the crew lounge of the Tarisa's Jewel, her CO’s Argonaut Class Runabout. Perhaps it was a well known exaggeration to call it a crew lounge considering the size of the compartment but it provided enough space for Ellen to sit and think. In this case she was thinking about the contents of the padd she held in her hands. She needn't look at the contents of the padd again as she wrote and submitted the report it held mere hours beforehand. And yet it still weighed heavily on her mind. Hearing footsteps Ellen didn't leap to her feet as she normally would because she was off-duty. What Ellen did do on the other hand was look up toward to source of the noise. Whether conscious of the decision or not, Ellen's left hand had also dropped toward her belt to her holstered type II phaser. She didn't have time to draw the weapon, if that was her intention, as a young looking female human in a teal Star Fleet uniform stepped into the lounge compartment. Ellen didn't recognise the counselor but she saw that the counselor’s hands were raised above her head, clearly having seen what Ellen had been readying herself to do. "Sorry," Ellen said. "I've been jumping at shadows ever since I got back from a training mission." "It was a lot more then that if you’re CO's report is any indication." The woman replied as she gestured to a seat across from Ellen. Ellen nodded as if to give permission for the woman to be there though Ellen had a feeling that it would make little difference. Anyway it would be good for her to talk to someone about what happened or perhaps how Ellen felt about it now. "Did Commander Herodion send you here, Commander?" Ellen asked seeing Lieutenant Commander pips on the woman's collar. "She mentioned that you might need to talk about what happened but I have been meaning to catch up with you for a while. And please, call me Maggie." Maggie told Ellen. "For what reason, I wasn't aware of any scheduled counselling sessions?" Ellen asked as she got up and approached the food replicator. Once a soothing herbal tea was produced Ellen removed the beverage from the replicator's alcove and silently gestured to replicator as if to ask Maggie if she wanted anything. Maggie in response shook her head so Ellen returned to her seat with the cup in hand. "That isn't really important right now." The older woman replied. "Perhaps you would like to tell me what happened to rattle you so much." "It's all in my report." Ellen said plainly, not trying to be evasive. Once seated and having taken a sip of the tea she handed over the padd that she had been holding a moment before to Maggie. Maggie switched the padd on and quickly scrolled through the contents. "Ah yes, I just finished reading this a little while ago. Very thorough," Maggie said thoughtfully before continuing. "Although, it’s also very clinical. I would have expected this sort of outlook from a senior officer that is perhaps more jaded to these sorts of experiences, such as Commander Herodion but not you." "Your implying that it lacked spirit, creativity or excitement and in truth, your right it did however that is how I have been taught to right reports." Ellen rebutted. "Anyway I don't feel or didn't feel in high spirits when I wrote that report compared to when I set out on the mission to begin with." That most certainly was true Ellen Commented to herself. During the mission she had found herself feeling lost, confused and even out of her depth. Even though the mission was over, and had been for quite some time, she still found herself feeling as if she was still struggling to stay afloat emotionally speaking. "There is no doubt that a lot happened and there is no shortages of instances in the reports I read that would cause most people to develop long term trauma or phobias." Maggie said with a genuinely sincere tone. It was a tone that Ellen associated more with that of a caring mother rather than a Star Fleet Counselor. "So I guess what I'm asking is, is there anything in particular your struggling with?" "The initial attack and infiltrating the monastery were terrifying enough. I have even had a few nightmares since then about those drones." Ellen said truthfully. "In spite of being inches away from death more times than I could count not to mention coming face to face with monsters just as horrific as Borg drones, I understood the rules of that game. Proverbially speaking of course." "Most wouldn't see it that way. I for instance can't even comprehend what those monsters you mentioned are, let alone think of facing them so calmly." Maggie commented. "The monsters, for lack of a better name, are non-sentient cybernetically enhanced genetically engineered humanoid super soldiers. Since the individual drone wasn't sentient, the closest comparison is to an automated weapon system." Ellen explained. "And I was afraid. I ran out of words to describe just how afraid I was but compared to the mastermind of it all. I mean that once the shock factor wears off and adrenaline starts pumping, it becomes rather simple. The drones mindlessly try to kill us, and we fight to survive. In my case I didn't do all that well at that last part." "According to the reports, you preformed better than a cadet with your level of combat training would be expected to." Maggie offered. "You can understand that, that is of little comfort." Ellen told the counselor before taking another sip of the drink in order to avoid saying something worse. Once Ellen had calmed down she put the half empty cup on the table in front of her. It was only as Ellen sat back in the seat that she spoke again in a softer tone then before. "If it wasn't for Commander Herodion I know I wouldn't be here now." Ellen confessed. "Team mates look after each other." Maggie said simply as if that explained it all. "Maybe, it’s just that I'm not use to being so tragically out of my depth." Ellen said quietly giving a voice to something that had been gnawing at her for so long. The older woman gave a kind smile as she soaked in Ellen's words however when she spoke next it wasn't what Ellen expected her to say. "Tell me about this mastermind. When did you meet him and what happened between you?" Maggie asked curiously continuing the conversation. Ellen didn't sit in silence long before answering but of what little time she took; she tried to think of a less clinical way to describe the events than that used in her report. "I suppose it started the moment we beamed down to the research colony. I just didn't know it at the time." Ellen told her. "We went to the colony to deliver vital research material so on arrival Commander Herodion and I met with the chief of science who was a middle aged human male. I didn't give it much thought that the colony's administrator wasn't there." Ellen paused remembering how Commander Herodion had Ellen take the lead throughout the entire mission, from gathering and loading the supplies, to dealing with the research colony personnel on approach to the planet and during the hand off. Ellen had been so proud of herself for performing so well though she made efforts not to seem to overconfident. The fact was that she loved every second of the job and it wasn't just because of the authority she had been given to do it, but then she had been thrown a curve ball. "Just as I was wrapping up the hand off, the chief scientist asked if the Commander and I could help out with another situation they were having at one of their outposts." Ellen said retelling the story. "Apparently that region is known for having problems with large jungle predators. So after checking with the Commander we set off for the outpost to do some hunting. I didn't realise it at the time, of course, but that was the mastermind of the whole plot and I unwittingly allowed Commander Herodion and I to be used as pawns so that the scientist could play the heroic leader or whatever else to his employers." Ellen sat in silence for a moment, retaking her tea which had cooled considerably by that point. Thankfully it was Maggie that broke the silence. "So, soon after you arrived at the outpost the initial attack occurred leading you to realise that you were trapped there and the infiltration of the monastery was the best possible course of action. What happened next?" Maggie asked curiously even though she clearly knew the story already. "Once the shield was down, we beamed up to the Tarisa's Jewel which was in orbit which made it the only real safe haven that we could think of. After beaming the surviving outpost personnel up as well, I tended to any injuries including my own while Commander Herodion tried to make contact with the main colony on the comms. Commander Herodion however couldn't raise the colony and noted that the area surrounding the colony was being jammed to prevent sensor scans. It was reasonable to assume that the colony was under attack so we proceeded on that premise." Ellen told Maggie. Maggie simply nodded for Ellen to continue. "So Commander Herodion and I modified some extra weapons and gathered replacement energy cells for the weapons we already had in order to prepare us for any opposition. Once we were ready to fight a small army we beamed down to the colony." Ellen explained. Ellen looked down at the tea cup before deciding against taking another sip and put it back on the table for the time being. "The situation was urgent and I didn't need to be told the stakes so perhaps that was motivation to make sure I didn't slip up again." Ellen said critically of herself. "Hell, I still wasn't as good as the Commander or a security cadet but that time I knew what to expect and did my best to not let any of those things get the upper hand. After a fire fight Commander Herodion and I located the chief scientist, the colony staff or at least those that were alive at that point and six drones in what looked like a hostage situation." "What gave it away that the chief scientist was responsible?" Maggie asked. "Well the fact that he wasn't face down on the ground like any of the other hostages was a big hint as was him monitoring the computer terminal being used to control the drones." Ellen told Maggie with an edge of bitterness in her voice. "Because we didn't know how many drones remained in addition to the ones we saw Commander Herodion acted as a decoy while I circled around in order to stun the chief scientist and then deactivate the drones." "A task that you had less trouble with, that time around." Maggie commented. "Thankfully yes," Ellen agreed. "And with the scientist captured and the drones deactivated everything that followed was rather routine. Provide medical treatment as needed, help repair communications and finally take the scientist to the nearest starbase for further questioning and detainment." While Ellen didn't say it she didn't go to any lengths to hide the fact that she would have preferred to see that man spaced than face a life in a federation prison colony. As hard as that life would be, it would never be hard enough. Just as Ellen would never truly forget the aftermath of the slaughter of the scientist’s co workers. The drones themselves might have been truly horrifying yet to see the carnage they perpetrated was bone chilling. "I can tell that you feel that you’re to blame for what happened." Maggie said sounding much more like a counselor. "Not to mention that you feel betrayed." "You're right on both counts just as I know that I am the last person in the galaxy that has the right to feel betrayed at the end of all this." Ellen said with a sigh. As much as the rational part of Ellen's mind tried to reinforce the messages that Maggie was preaching the before mentioned doubt and uncertainty still lingered. "Statistically speaking, in situations like the one you faced, star fleet or any other good Samaritan will always get played for the fool. You were trusting and helpful as any good member of star fleet would be when asked to render assistance. Those qualities are just too easy to take advantage of." Maggie told Ellen with a straight face. "It's also a dangerous and rarely successful gambit for the criminal in question, as you helped prove." "I can't speak for Commander Herodion but I'd say I got lucky with the outcome as it was let alone to prove anything." Ellen rebutted. "Perhaps but what is of more interest, to me, is that you survived an experience that everyone in Star Fleet goes through. A trial by fire as it were, though typically such defining moments happen once a cadet graduates." Maggie said with a conviction that seemed to surpass that of a mere counselor or her concerned motherly attitude. "I have seen many promising officers turn in their commissions, or let themselves fade into obscurity after their own moments. Neither of those prospects is anything to be ashamed of and yet your still here, in uniform no less. So perhaps instead of focussing on what you can't do, for all your talents, right this moment. Or how you got conned as any good officer would, ask yourself this; why are you still here?" Ellen went to speak but ended up staying silent for the simple reason that she didn't have a straight forward answer in mind. "You know," Maggie said as she got to her feet and straightened her uniform. "The thing about trials by fire or whatever you prefer to call them, is that just because you pass doesn't mean that no more challenges lay ahead nor does it mean that you will always pass. Rather they show us who we are and what we are capable of." Ellen pondered that thought for a moment but when she was ready to reply she looked up to find that she was alone once again. In the several hours that followed Ellen wandered through the Tarisa's Jewel pondering all that Maggie had suggested to Ellen. Ellen had even watched a number of technicians and operations personnel from the starbase come and go which was why Ellen decided to sit at the helm console as the [...]pit had received the least attention of those that come aboard. The view from the helm position might have been great in space but it currently gave the worst view possible of several of the docked vessels in the space dock. But that mattered little to Ellen as she had felt a change occurring. As time went on the lingering doubts that had been plaguing her had began to fade giving way to career aspirations and the reason why she was still aboard the runabout instead of running her resignation or transfer papers to the personnel office on the starbase. With a smile on her face, one which Ellen didn't realise that she was wearing, she turned to see Commander Herodion, two other cadets and a blue shirted officer board the runabout. Ellen immediately got to her feet but as normal Ellen didn't get a word in before Commander Herodion began speaking. "As you were cadet. I hope you enjoyed your down time because you and your fellow cadets are about to earn every second of it." Herodion stated in her typical fashion pausing only slightly. "Unless you wanted to jump ship, while you have the chance. If you thought your last training mission was tough, this one will be even tougher." Ellen had never been shy about telling people that she joined Star Fleet to be challenged and yet she hadn't truly appreciated what that meant until that moment. Maybe some part of her still harboured doubts about herself and her future but in that slither of a moment Ellen realised just how much she loved being a cadet in star fleet and how much more she would love being an officer. It was hard and the unexpected did happen at all the wrong times, but that was why she loved it. Sitting at the helm console once more Ellen didn't care who noticed the ridiculously large smile on her face. "I'm not going anywhere Commander because if last time was any indication, this will be a blast." Ellen replied not meaning to make the pun. "Your orders Sir?" While Ellen might have added that last part with a straighter face because she knew that was what Commander Herodion expected from her while on duty, it was light years from how Ellen felt inside. ----- Ensign Clayas Vell Intelligence USS Victory
  25. ((Bay Front Park - Vrans, Trillus Prime )) Aelya: Nearly a month ago, we all suffered a devastating loss. He was a devoted brother, a beloved friend, a loving partner... ::The middle aged Trill woman waved a strand of dark red hair out of her face, and tucked it behind her left ear, leaving a small smudge in her running makeup. Her voice started to falter, and she continued, in almost a whisper :: Aelya: ... and my beautiful boy, my oldest son. ::Avaris was seated on the grass, amethyst waves lapping against the rocky beach, the sound of seabirds occasionally punctuating the calming rhythm. He was watching a mother on the verge of breakdown, delivering a belated eulogy, on the day that should have been Jaheran's 20th birthday. His brother Jazren stood next to her as she leaned on his muscular arm for support. :: :: There was more of a crowd than Avaris had expected, enough to attract the attention of the police, who stood at a respectful distance, but seemed tensely aware that the situation could become volatile at any moment. There were no Starfleet uniforms amongst them. Too bad. One of those pigs showing up would have ensured things got interesting.:: ::Aelya allowed herself a momentary loss of composure, before her expression hardened. She transitioned from grieving mother to revolutionary general, and began an emotionally charged tirade. :: Aelya: My son, who would legally be a man today, but who was always more of a man than anybody. My sweet gentle Jeheran, who joined a crew of volunteer medics to go and support our the brave men and woman who stood against the Cardassian Fascists, even when our own weak and illegitimate government and their dogs chased them down for it. My son put his life on the line to stand up for justice, for those that the so-called Federation abandoned when they needed them most. And he made the ultimate sacrifice, doing what was right. ::She surveyed the silent crowd. Avaris and Andressa Castyr consolingly held each-other, her having lost an adored older brother, Avaris having lost the love of his life. She had been quietly sobbing throughout the first part of her mothers speech, but was now paying rapt attention, her own expression a hardened mirror of the Castyr matriarch. :: Aelya: And comrades, let us not ever forget who took him from us. Death came too soon, not by the scaled hands of a Gul or a Leggat. Jeheran Castyrs murderer wore a red collar, held the rank of captain. The war criminal Benjamin Sisko poisoned a world to strike at Federation Citizens who refused to leave their homes, refused to bend to them or their Fascist allies. And where is this monster now? ::She paused, and then raised her voice, roaring so that the cops in the back could hear her clearly :: Aelya: He still commands DS9 and his experimental warship! Starfleet has shown its true face, not even dressing up as explorers anymore, attacking dissenting Humans, Vulcans, Betazoids, Bolians, Andorians and us, Trill who are proud of our single lives, and who refuse to be their pets! We are at war now, their friendship with the genocidal expansionists culminating predictably in betrayal, but we must not EVER let that make us forget who the real enemy is. The Dominion wants to destroy our civilization, but our leaders might beat them to it if they are not forced into accountability! :: The crowd roared furiously, the mothers rage spread through them like flames through a dead standing forest. But for Avaris, the death of his lover had sapped away any spark of furious desire for action. He had once been first to the fight, at the front lines of any demonstration, putting himself in the line of fire with reckless abandon, but he had always done it with Jeheran at his side. Without him, it all seemed gray and pointless. He knew that many of the assembled crowd were preparing to march, but all he wanted was to drink himself into a stupor. :: ((Later - The Commissioners Daughter Tavern)) :: Avaris was several drinks in, and dreamily staring off. The group was reminiscing, Jeheran had been larger than life, and everyone seemed to have a story. He had been a joker and had tormented his younger siblings. He had played matchmaker for Nyta and Baxin. He had organized some of their most triumphant actions, being at once jovial and kind while also deathly serious about challenging the ruling institutions of their planet. He had treated friends injuries on the battlefield of violent, riotous demonstrations, practicing the medical skills he had planned to see through to becoming a doctor.:: :: Avaris hadn't said anything, and nobody had pressured him to. He was not ready. The Jeheran they all knew was a great man, but the part of Jeheran that Avaris pined for the most, was the part of him that had been for Avaris alone.:: :: It was a vague collection of sensations, hardly even something he could put into words anyways. Avaris stroking his long red hair and gazing into his soulful, hazel eyes. The moments they would sneak away for a kiss during gatherings. The feeling of lying awake, ready to get out of bed and start the day, but lingering there so that he could hold him a bit longer. :: Andressa: Avaris my dear, I think you have an admirer. ::The group laughed a bit mean-spiritedly, the idea of Avaris with anybody so soon, let alone a Terran was beyond ludicrous. But there he was, in a small cluster of aliens. The one that was looking at him had fair skin, light hair, and eyes the colour of ice. He was admittedly handsome, but Avaris was having none of it. Raw from loss and embarrassment at being leered at by a human at what was essentially his lovers wake, he snapped at the boy. :: Torrin: Can I help you? :: He flushed with embarrassment, looking away from the furious Avaris. His friends giggled.:: Andressa: What... you wouldn't go there? Some of them have enough freckles that they almost look normal. Torrin: Andressa, please! Jazren: ::sarcastically:: Yeah why not Avaris, you look like you could use some unwinding. Torrin: Is that an offer Jazren? I had no idea you and your brothers tastes were so similar ... ::Avaris jokingly put his arm around Jazren, who had just taken a sip of his drink and now sprayed it out, the others laughing and banging on their table like a bunch of Klingons. :: :: While they were laughing, Avaris looked back to the aliens, and felt a rush of anger, the Terran was stealing sidelong looks at him still. It was flattering, but right now he wanted nothing more than to punch every human man woman and child squarely in the face, not even remotely in the mood for flirting :: Andressa: Your drink is gone Avaris, why don't you go get another one? The Human might even buy. ::Avaris rolled his eyes... this was getting old fast :: Torrin: Don't be stupid... you know how humans are above money, he is probably mooching off the Bolian. ::He stood and approached the bar, and by necessity, the group of aliens, scowling in a way he hoped seemed unapproachable. One of the human girls was giggled, her eyes darting up to Avaris, whispering to the fair one. Avaris rolled his eyes, and stood at the bar waiting for the single elderly bartender who always seemed to be the only one working at the grimy dive. :: :: As he waited , the whispering to his left reached a fever pitch, culminating in the girl actually shoving the boy up to the bar, who was clearly mustering up his bravery. :: :: Avaris wanted to end it. :: Torrin: You keep looking at me. ::It was a statement, and was meant to be curt. The human fidgeted, stuttering his reply. :: Dragumov: Do you guys live around here? Torrin: Of course we do, why else would we be drinking here? Dragumov: ... well I am here, and I am not from around here. ::Torrin snorted:: Torrin: Look I don't actually care. You seem like a nice guy but I am not in the mood for this right now okay? ::The human looked crushed, but possessed surprising determination. Instead of giving up, he for some reason continued talking. :: Dragumov: We just arrived, we are staying in the dorms at the school waiting to get picked up by the USS Gloriana. ::He beamed with mistaken pride in his own impressiveness :: Dragumov: We have enlisted to go fight the Dominion. ::Avaris' eyes narrowed. :: Torrin: Oh. Have you now. ::The human blithely unaware, continued on. :: Dragumov: We are here for two weeks before she arrives, and were hoping to meet some interesting locals... you guys seem pretty interesting. ::Torrin looked back to his table. Jazren was making a lewd gesture at him, delighting in his discomfort. Nyta was showing off by throwing bar nuts in the air, and not managing to catch almost any. Andressa had drank so much that she was unknowingly spilling liquid all down her front, almost completely avoiding her mouth. He wasn't wrong, they were interesting. :: Torrin: Look I am going to be honest with you. We are here celebrating the birthday of a very close friend, he was killed about a month ago... he was collateral damage in a Starfleet attack on the Maquis. Now might not be the right time to try and make friends with us. ::The humans eyes widened. :: Dragumov: Thats horrible... I am so sorry! Here, let me buy you guys a round! ::Torrin was a bit taken aback by the offer:: Torrin: But...you are human... you have money? ::The blonde haired man smiled at him, but confusion was plain in his voice :: Dragumov: um.. yes? You don't think humans aren't allowed to have money do you? ::Avaris was so embarrassed that he forgot to tell the human not to buy his friends drinks. And so he did, and before he knew it, he was taking a bottle over to the table of shocked Trill anarchists. When they arrived, he addressed the scruffy, tattooed assembly of Unjoined Majority. :: Dragumov: I am so sorry, I heard about your friend, here, this is on me. ::He smiled kindly, either totally unaware of the tension he was causing, or simply not bothered by it. He turned back to Avaris, being much shorter, his head tilted upward to meet his eyes. :: Dragumov: Its Artem Dragumov by the way. Ill leave you alone now, but it was nice to meet you. If you want to show me around sometime, we are at Raxan Hall for two weeks. ::Avaris felt the need to decline right then and there, especially with the present audience. But before he had a chance, he heard Andressa snarl. She shouted towards a group entering the bar :: Andressa: I was wondering when you were going to show up, you never missed any of Jeherans other birthdays, beating your faces in was his favorite present every year. ::Avaris looked to the door, and his heart sank. Five familiar faces, matching shaved heads, and decked out in their ridiculous matching leather outfits, with haphazardly stitched angular red patches, almost a parody of Starfleet uniforms. They called themselves the Essentialist Militia, a violent branch of the conservative movement within the Federation. They were the polar opposite of the Unjoined Majority anarchists, and brawls were common, particularly at the Commissioners Daughter, a haunt frequented by outcasts of all stripes. The militiaman at the front laughed cruelly. :: Taxal: We just wanted to come and drink a toast to Captain Benjamin Sisko, who not only captured the traitor Eddington, but exterminated one of Vrans' most persistent vermin in the process. Maybe the rest of you Castyrs and your Unwashed Majority will follow his example, I hear the Maquis numbers have been dwindling lately, I'm sure they would welcome some additional disruptor-fodder. ::Avaris friends all stood, fists clenched and with stony expressions. He bent down slightly to whisper to Artem.:: Torrin: Get your friends and get out of here buddy... you aren't going to want to see this. ::But Taxal saw Avaris talking to the human, and called out to him :: Taxal: Well isn't that cute Avaris, its nice to see you moving on so quickly. I was afraid you would never get over that scumbag, but look at you go! And on his birthday too, good for you for living your life. Andressa: Today's not the day Taxal, leave it alone. Avaris: ::To Taxal:: Why, you jealous? Taxal: Never, you always save me a dance Avaris. ::The bar erupted into a flurry of chaos. Avaris and his friends launched themselves over their table and crashed into the leather-clad militiamen. Glass shattered, chairs were thrown, tables overturned. The alien soldiers-in-training stood their ground admirably, a few of them even tried to break up the fight. Avaris was swinging at Taxal when he looked up and saw the broken glass slash across Artems face. He kicked Taxal out of the way and ran to the annoying human, who had crumpled like paper, holding his face which was bleeding horribly through his fingers. Avaris crouched down beside him and dragged him behind an overturned table, shielding them from the melee. Torrin: Okay! You are okay! Let me just take a look .... ::He pried the boys hands away from his face, and his stomach cartwheeled at the sight of so much blood. Shaking off the oncoming nausea, he took the smaller man by the arm, and pulled him up. :: Torrin: Come on, this way! ::Torrin burst through the doors to the small dirty kitchen, where he knew the delivery door to be, and together they escaped through a back alley, and ran a block. When they were safely out of the range of danger, they both started laughing. Torrin convinced him to let him have another look at his battle wound, and upon second inspection, was less concerned. It was nothing a dermal regenerator could not easily repair, and he had one stashed away back at his apartment. :: Torrin: Come on, Ill get you fixed up. I'm not far, you okay to walk? Dragumov: Yeah, its just a scratch.... thank you.... Torrin: Its Avaris. Dragumov: Avaris... you Trill have such ... flowing names. Torrin: Dont make this weird soldier. Come on. ::As they continued walking, Torrin joked meanly :: Torrin: I shouldn't get attached to you, based on tonight I don't know how well you'll do at the front buddy. ((Avaris and Jeheran's Apartment)) :: Avaris was nearly finished with the dermal regenerator. Artem was lucky, the swipe of broken glass had missed everywhere it could have done real damage. :: Torrin: Do you want me to keep going? Or should I leave a sexy scar? ::The human blushed crimson. Torrin giggled to himself, his hand lingering on the human mans face. :: Torrin: I think it would make you look rugged, but suit yourself. Dragumov: Is this place yours? Do you live here alone? Torrin: ... yeah, I do I guess. ::Artem winced :: Dragumov: Right, what that guy said... your friend who died. ... Torrin: Don't worry about it. There. All done. ::He stood up. Eager to put some space between himself and the human, he had begrudgingly felt a spark or two pass between them, and he wanted to avoid that... it was too soon, and too weird. :: Torrin: Can I get you anything? Dragumov: No thanks, I should really be going I think... Torrin: Yeah. Well, sorry things got so... Dragumov: Yeah. ::They stood in silence for a minute. :: Torrin: Do you know how to get back to the school buddy? Dragumov: I ... er.. not really. I can find it though I'm sure. ::Avaris sighed dramatically :: Torrin: Ugh why don't you just sleep on the couch, I am a Teachers Assistant there so I can take you back with me in the morning. Dragumov: Um, thanks... you sure? Torrin: ;:tersely:: I wouldn't offer if it was putting me out. Let me get you something to sleep in. :: He withdrew to his room and rifled around in the piles of laundry for something passably clean. Finally finding a cotton tunic that smelled fresh enough, he went back into the living room, and tossed it to his guest. :: Dragumov: Thanks, ::The human started to undress without any ceremony or embarrassment. Avaris found himself paralyzed as his incredibly attractive, incredibly human, and incredibly wanting-to-be-a-Starfleet-soldier guest disrobed to his underwear, and went to put on the tunic. :: :: He stopped, with his arms partway through it, noticing Avaris staring.:: Dragumov: Can I help you? ::He said it in an exactly perfect impression of Avaris. :: Torrin: ... I doubt it very much. ::Artem smirked, shy, but intent. :: Dragumov: ... could I try? ::They stared into each-others eyes. He dropped the tunic on the floor. Avaris broke eye contact for a fraction of a second, his gaze darting to a holoframe containing an image of Jeheran and himself, surrounded by a crowd carrying banners and angrily shouting, a line of police in riot gear blurred in the background. The world burned around them, and they were kissing as though they were the only two people alive. Andressa had taken the picture a year ago, when they had marched in solidarity with the Maquis through the streets of Leran Manev, it was by far Avaris' favorite picture of the two of them. :: oO Forgive me. Oo :: He looked back to Artem, and in that moment, abandoned everything :: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Avaris Edral Torrin Civilian School Headmaster USS Apollo - A~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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