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  1. Dress Greens Everything had changed. 219 years had passed, people grew old, withered, and died. Buildings were built, treaties were signed and wars were fought. Irina had changed herself, though not nearly to the extent everyone else does over such a long period of time. There were red flecks in the whites of her eyes, while the lustrous deep yellow gold of her hair was now more of a platinum blond, bleached in the same ultraviolet radiation that had long since fried all of the cones in her eyes and reduced her vision to black and white, with a somewhat limited pallet of grays. Thirty-nine members of USS Columbia’s away team had shuttled down to Kjenta II from their ruined hulk of a starship all of those years ago, and now four of them were back. There were nine others who had survived the whole time in stasis, including Irina’s own four-year-old daughter Katya, and now, today, they were to be presented back into a universe that had long since abandoned them. It was a strange sort of occasion, originally scheduled as a eulogy/funeral type ceremony to mark the loss of a much more modern ship, the Sovereign-class USS Discovery-C through the very same Aurix wormhole that had claimed the far smaller and more primitive NX-class Columbia two and a quarter centuries earlier. Something about Discovery not having working comms prevented anyone from notifying Deep Space 285 until a few hours before their arrival, and he funeral was quickly changed to a welcome home party, again more for the benefit of the Discovery crew and their families who thought their loved-ones dead than for anyone on the Columbia, most of whom having been forgotten long ago. Captain Waltas had ordered everyone in both crews to wear their finest dress white uniforms, and for the crew of the Columbia, that meant 22nd century uniforms. Waltas wanting to show off his treasure or something like that. Being a marine, Irina's dress uniform was green rather than white, but the idea was the same, fancy and stiff with all of the frills. Irina stood in front of the mirror as she looked at the two uniforms laid out on the bed. One was crisp and new, only worn on three occasions and perfectly preserved across time in the cold vacuum of space that was her quarters on the Columbia. The other, not a dress uniform at all, was the clothes she had worn her last day on Kjenta II. The pants and undershirt were marine issue, but faded, sewn, patched and more recently thrashed by bullets, road rash and more than a little of her own blood. The leather flight jacket also had bullet holes and blood stains, but the thick hide had stood up to the road rash with only some abrasion and discoloration at the left shoulder and back. Standing at the mirror in her underwear, Irina desperately wanted to put on the ruined pants and jacket and walk out onto the stage as she really was, damaged goods, faded and worn by time with the color long gone. Just like the uniform pants and marine flight jacket, she remained obviously military, yet also wild, even savage. It was strange the things one remembered. As Irina put the dress uniform pants on, she had to give a bit of a tug as the material stretched a bit to conform to legs far more muscular than those that had worn them before. She was almost the same height, generally the same shape. Her waist was only an inch bigger around, while her thighs and biceps had each grown a bit more. She stood a little over an inch shorter than when the uniform had been made, now a few tenths over 5’6”, instead of a few below 5’8”, but had gained a full 100 lbs in bone and muscle density. The uniform fit, mostly on account of the synthetic fibers it was woven from and their expansive properties. Uniform on, Irina proceeded to attach the various and sundry ribbons, medals and insignia until she was so festooned with militaria as to look more like the old recruiting posters than the woman marooned for 219 years on that inhospitable rock. She looked, civilized. Some other things besides Irina’s weight and physique had changed, including some additions to the uniform. There was a modern 24th century purple heart medal, alongside the two 22nd century versions, not to mention the rank of marine captain instead of first lieutenant. Irina thought it funny she was going to what was originally a funeral wearing a rank that was awarded to her “posthumously” in 2172. Uniform complete, the last pieces were shoes and gloves, which she’d had new ones made on Discovery. The inch and a half of height she’d lost to Kjenta II’s high gravity were made up with non-regulation 2 1/5 inch heel, with regulations the furthest thing from her mind. She’d spent some time trying to put her hair into a neat and professional bun like she used to wear it, but her left hand wasn’t cooperating with her right due to nerve damage she'd suffered when their shuttle crashed so long ago, and in frustration she just let it hang, though cut now to shoulder length instead of mid-back as it had been on Kjenta. She wore no makeup, which combined with the wild-looking straight hair and the ever-present red flecks in her gray eyes presented an image somewhat different than that of her personnel photo. Of course, Irina couldn’t see any of the colors, including the one red and one green sock that to her were the same shade of medium gray, and didn’t care if anything was out of place or incorrect anyway. Dressed, Irina made her way to the small antechamber to the large auditorium where the ceremony was taking place. She looked at each of her 11 surviving shipmates, all of them wearing Starfleet uniforms while she as the lone marine rather stuck out, even in Irina’s monochromatic vision. The 8 officers revived from stasis tubes kept looking at Irina’s mismatched socks, while the other three who had survived the ordeal on the planet and were every bit as colorblind as she, didn’t notice. Mismatched socks or not, nobody in the small room said a word. Waltas spoke over the PA system telling tales of bravery and sacrifice and other such nonsense. He made the empty promises of how the federation in all its benevolent nicety niceness would be so very nice to the Columbia survivors and help them transition into this wonderful, enlightened and yes, nice century where everything was flowers and unicorns and feces no longer stunk. Then as the applause died down, Waltas’ voice took on a more triumphant and less somber tone. “Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you the crew of the USS Columbia, Naval Construction Code number Zero-Zero-Three.” There was thundrous applause, which died quickly as Captain Waltas raised his hands. “Lieutenant Commander Graciela Solis, chief medical officer. Lieutenant Rebecca Moore, assistant chief engineer. Lieutenant Michael Thomas, assistant chief science officer.” The names were called one by one, and each was followed by the loud applause that to Irina’s sensitive hearing sounded almost like gunfire and despite her knowledge of what it in fact was, her heart still was beating fast and her hands sweating more than she would like. When she was alone in the room, Waltas spoke again. “Lastly, Marine Captain Irina Pavlova, Chief of Security.” Irina walked out onto the stage and felt every one of the ten or twelve thousand eyes on her, heard the applause increase in volume and frequency. Her heart beat faster and she fought the overwhelming urge to run. Two steps, three. The incessant applause wouldn’t stop. Twelve steps, thirteen, left face, halt. She stood there at attention, her fists clenched so tightly her knuckles cracked, adding to the staccato horror. Waltas spoke again. “Ladies and gentlemen, true pioneers.” The audience all stood up and cupped their hands as they clapped, the roar deafening. Irina could feel her grip on reality slipping as she her eyes started darting about, looking for the nearest exits, the path of least resistance while her rational mind tried desperately to keep her feet from moving. She couldn’t hold it anymore, and pushing through Crewman Saunders Irina bolted from the small formation as the applause suddenly came to a stop in sync with her motion. She didn’t look back, just quickly closed the 15 feet to the side door, veritably threw the security guard out of the way as she slammed against the door and found that the push bar was quite locked, but the wooden door itself was no match for almost 200 lbs of fast-moving marine desperate to get out of the room. Irina wasn’t sure how far she’d run, only that she’d gone through about three more doors and finally found an empty room where she could stop and try to get her wits about her. She had no idea how long she just stood there, and while she knew there were people on the other side of the door she’d come in through, they were, thankfully, not crowding in. Finally the door did open, but it was a familiar face to come in. “Come on back, Irina, its fine now.” “What’s fine Grace? Did the 24th century pack up and leave? There’s no going back, and I’m afraid to go forward.” “I know” Graciela Solis said as she walked up right in front of Irina and held out her hand. “Come on back, we’re all afraid to go forward, but we have to do it anyway.” “Its different for you, you slept through it.” “Yes, I slept through it. You didn’t. But as you said, there is no going back, but you can, you must go forward. If not for you, then for your daughter. Katya needs you, and from I heard from the Discovery’s team that went down there to get you, I think this century might need you as well.” “We are over 200 years out of date, they don’t need us to be anything except museum exhibits.” “Your wrong. The machines get bigger, faster, more powerful, but its always the people behind them that make the difference. Don’t ever forget, we were picked for Columbia because we were the best that Earth had to offer. I’d wager we still are.” “And if they don’t give us a chance to show it? If they put us out to pasture?” “Don’t let them. If you run and hide your fears will come true, but if you go back out there and face the future, somehow I’m sure you’ll get another ship, maybe even one of your own someday.” “I’m a marine, we don’t get ships.” “Rewrite the rules then. You kept everyone alive on that planet all those years. You kept Captain Waltas and his crew alive when went down to rescue you. I have a hard time believing the Starfleet of the 24th century would be stupid enough to throw that away.” Irina just listened, while her eyes kept going back to the door. Finally she unclenched her fists, took a deep breath and locked her gaze on the Columbia’s doctor. “Okay Grace, we’ll try it your way.” With that, the two women walked out of the supply room, back through the personnel and finance offices and finally to the main hallway and back into the auditorium. The security guard at the broken door shot her a dirty look, but Irina just smiled and walked past him, and out into the seething mass of humanity and other species. Major Irina PavlovaChief of Strategic OperationsDuronis II Embassy / USS Thunder-A OOC: My character was actually based partly on the song "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" by Blue Oyster Cult, which is linked below.
  2. Greetings, everyone! Want to read the Challenge entries, 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 May and June 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. Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read! It's available here!
  3. Thank you to our entrants in the "Do What Is Right, Not What Is Easy" Writing Challenge! As it's the last day in June, I'm pleased to bring you the results of this Challenge. The judges agreed unanimously that "The Wind Knows a Song for the Ages," written by the writer behind Lt. JG Ren Rennyn, should be our winner! Please join us in congratulating him and our runner-up, the writer behind Lt. Kaitlyn Falcon and "Orders and Consequences." Many congratulations to you both and a big thank you to all of our entrants! I'd like to recognize my fellow judges for this round: the writers behinds Fleet Captains Cascadia Rainier and Toni Turner and Lieutenant Sal Taybrim. My special thanks to the judges for writing extra reviews for this round to ensure that every story received two!
  4. Welcome to our first summer 2014 Writing Challenge, everyone! For this round, and as the heat begins to creep up, we'd like you to consider a potentially divisive topic: Do what is right, not what is easy As chosen by the winner of our last round, Travis -- aka Lt. JG Tyler Kelly -- this may be one of Starfleet's guiding principles, or it might be a justification for atrocity. He writes: I think it would be interesting to write about a time when you have to make a choice between the greater good and simply 'going with the flow.' Maybe a superior officer gives an order that you have a moral objection to. Maybe there are people dying of a curable disease on the planet below but the Prime Directive tells you that you can't intervene. As Starfleet officers our characters face these kind of decisions from time to time and it can be a very interesting idea to explore. What do you think? Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you as a writer or any of your characters? How can you take this idea and apply it beyond what you might expect? We look forward to finding out! As of today, Monday, May 5th, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Tuesday, June 24th in order to be considered for this Challenge. As always, please remember:*Your work must be completely original.*You must be the sole author of the work.*Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship.*Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  5. The Wind Knows a Song for the Ages Hot sand stung her face, and she pressed onward. Prohibitive gusts blowing in from the east set the whole group staggering, digging heels into loose sand, waving arms for balance, squinting desperately against searing, ancient, wind-tossed grit. The hoversleds rocked and tipped dangerously. Roupo, her timid lab assistant, looked around nervously, hoping Dr. Atell would call for them to turn back. Unless she made that call, no one else would dare. Dr. Atell pressed onward. The eastern desert plateau on Qor’na’Krinn stored the secrets of a long-dead civilization, of that Mina Atell was certain. It was the ion storms that had, for decades, prevented a closer look. Ions meant no beam-ins from orbit, and for anyone trying to get close to the planet’s secrets, no beam-ins meant a long walk across treacherous desert landscape in impossible conditions. To add trouble to trouble, the journey had to be made in a window of time when the storm broke and lifted partially from the atmosphere. Netrebkov had tried once and failed. So had Syrek years ago, and he had that heat-ready Vulcan constitution to draw on, beside the vast resources of Daystrom at his command. Dr. Mina Atell had none of that, but she had a passion, a deep, heart-breaking desire to see what was in that desert, and decades of research that bore what she thought was a new approach. She might have been nothing more than a fool, if her colleagues were to be believed, or Gregg, who had said it to her too, and whom she always believed, when she wasn’t tuning him out. It began a career ago, before those war years with their requisite sacrifice and complication, back when she wanted nothing but a rough shelter and a good dig under the twin umbrellas of Daystrom and the Archaeological Council. Mina was a graduate researcher then, working on i’Ttwan proto samples for Syrek. It was that famed Vulcan’s other project that interested her. She fought him to get on the Krinn study, but he refused her. She’d had to find her way back to it on her own, years later, after her career was made. After she’d left Daystrom for a research position on Trill, and said goodbye to Gregg one time too many, and finally did the work she wanted. She had found the gap in the storm, the way through. She could predict it, measure it, determine the longest interval and take a team in and out before it closed. She’d already gone further than Syrek ever had. Her team of eight was following her dutifully across a brutal landscape, pressing ever on into the unknown. This time, Qor’na’Krinn’s secrets would be revealed. “They want to go back.” Roupo appeared next to her, his big eyes bulging, even through the goggles. A glance behind her confirmed that the team had stopped. Mina continued to walk, Roupo at her heels. “No. Tell them to move.” “I’ve tried! Atmospheric conditions are worse than our models predicted. They’ve gone as far as they’ll go.” She stopped and turned on them. Half a dozen students and research assistants, the best and the brightest. Cowards all. It was a little more wind than expected, a negligible deterrant. From the distance, she stared into Hul Peregrist’s deep brown eyes. Hul, who had begged her to let him come along, as she had once begged Syrek. Hul had given up a lucrative position on Alpha Centauri when she said yes. Now he was quitting. All of them were. They’d crawl out of this desert into academic obscurity, their failure widely known. Mina tapped Roupo on the shoulder. “You pull one hoversled, I’ll pull the other. Let the rest go.” They weren’t worth the withering look or the words she might waste on them. Let them all go. Roupo did as he was told, and the pair, burdened with sleds, pressed onward. Qor’na’Krinn’s surface was mostly desert now. It had once been something else, a living, breathing ecosystem of infinite variety. No living person on any modern world could attest to that fact, other than the researchers whose job it was to know the life cycles of planets. It had once been a candidate for Genesis testing. It had long been written off as useless, far from any well-worn spacelanes, out past 53 Verentis and hang a left at Alandor. Chuck the map and put the top down. Mina Atell knew every inch of the planet, outside the ion storm. The majority of it had been scanned and sensored, charted and categorized. She’d spent years poring over every micron of data. There had been life here once. Sentience was likely. And only here, in this desert, under the shadow of the storm that hadn’t lifted in recorded history, was there a chance to find some remnant of the Krinn people, or whatever they called themselves in that distant, crumbled-away time. She walked a stretch of desert that may once have been a field, a highrise, a bathroom for all she knew. What forgotten individual had paced this same ground, shared this space with her on a distant temporal plane? She wanted to know. Roupo stopped, and for a moment Mina thought she was going to have to go on alone. He pointed to his tricorder, barely functional under the storm. “A chamber,” he said, under his breath, under his shock, too low for her to hear. The howl of the rising desert wind was all that met her ears, but she knew in her gut what Roupo said. The Krinn chamber, that theoretical stronghold of forgotten culture, was before them, buried in the wind-whipped sand. She had found it. It was real. It was hers to uncover. ======== “Confirmed. A sealed chamber, 20 meters below the surface.” They had found shelter from the wind under one of the rocky outcroppings that punctuated the landscape. Roupo carefully unpacked the hoversleds, preparing to enact Atell’s plan even without the rest of the team. He pulled out the long-distance sensor rig, and the portable transporter pattern enhancers. He left the phaser cannon where it was. “My hunch was right. It’s sealed.” Mina set her tricorder on a ledge and took charge of the pattern enhancers. Roupo fumbled a bit with an amplifier, attaching it to the sensor rig. “We have less than two hours to get our readings, Doctor. We have to depart before the gap in the storm closes.” “I’m aware. The tricorder’s not reading any other chambers in the vicinity. Get that scanner up. We’re central enough now to scan the entire storm region.” She slapped the side of the large rig. “Get going. I want those scans.” “It’s scanning.” Mina wondered at the stone shelters, the only feature of the ancient landscape to survive the engulfing desert. How had they looked then? Was this the last of someone’s favorite oceanside view? Was it the heart of a mountain? “No pockets showing on sensors,” Roupo reported. “As far as I can see, this is the only chamber to retain its seal.” “That’s bittersweet.” She’d made it in. She’d found the way. She’d located the only source of pure archaeological data on the planet. At this age, unless they were sealed, any remnants of sentient life were gone, destroyed when exposed to the elements. One sealed chamber was a prize. More than one would have sealed her reputation for generations to come. This something was better than the nothing Gregg had insisted she’d find. His voice was on the wind. It said “Don’t go, Mina…” It commanded her to be reasonable. It pleaded with her to come home. Why she still thought of him, she couldn’t say. Except when she could. She looked Roupo up and down, the last remnant of her team. The dregs. With only the two of them, there was still enough time to get what they’d come for. She pulled open one of the transporter enhancers and planted it in the sand. “You’re going in, Roupo.” He blinked. She pulled open the second enhancer. “It was supposed to be Hul.” She tried not to balk at his protest. Had it not occurred to Roupo that he would be the replacement? Did he imagine it would be her, transporting blind through 20 meters of rock into who knows what? She didn’t have much time to convince him. “Hul turned back. You made it here. You’re the brave one, the one who didn’t quit. Roupo, you’ll be the first to see inside one of the most magnificent finds of the century. You’ll be as famous as the discovery itself. Generations will remember you, and envy you this moment.” He didn’t buy a word of it, but did what he was told. Roupo took the third and final pattern enhancer, opened it, and planted it in formation with the other two. Glancing at the storm readouts on the scanner, he moved to the center of the triangle. “Okay. I’m ready.” “Scan everything. Don’t touch anything. Don’t touch anything, Roupo.” “I know.” He was terrified. This wasn’t the high-level technology billions of people trusted their atoms to every day. This was a frontier gum-and-tape job, transporting him with little advantage into the somewhat unknown. There was a reason Mina wasn’t going herself. Roupo swallowed hard. “Ready to transport.” Mina’s last view of her assistant Roupo was mostly eye. They’d opened so wide the whites showed all the way around. He was terrified, excited, regretful of coming with her. His gaze darted to the enhancers in the last moment, wondering if they would do the job. Knowing somehow they would not. He winked out of sight, blue glow leaving behind only darkness. Mina’s jaw tensed. Roupo was experiencing the moment she’d dreamed about for years. She gave it to him. She was here, making the discovery, but she’d handed the real moment of truth to her flake of an assistant, a shy little thing, more nerves than gumption. She’d barely bothered to learn anything about him, other than if he knew how to write grants and analyze data. A clattering sound caught her attention. Looking down, she cursed. One of the pattern enhancers was blown over and clattered sideways against solid rock. That foolish Roupo. It was the enhancer he’d planted, and he’d endangered his own life in getting it wrong. If it had fallen a moment before, while he transported, it would have gone badly for him. Her hand moved to the comm on her wrist. “Roupo?” No answer came. She grabbed the enhancer and planted it upright again, then turned to the scanner. Useless readouts. No lifesign, but nothing else either. Her calculation couldn’t have been wrong. Comm malfunction through the chamber walls? That was possible. Or too much dust blown in on the journey, or manufacturer defect. “Roupo, come in.” Mina fussed with the comm, trying to raise him. Nothing, nothing, only time slipping away. This was obnoxious, but there was protocol. No comms meant she pulled him out. If he was fine, he could go in again. That was the protocol. Otherwise, the surface team, now only her, would sit there risking life to the desert, while he was dead inside a wall. She brought up the transporter controls. There was his signature, alive, but in what condition she didn’t know. She fixed a lock and engaged the beam. For the first time, a pit dropped out in her stomach. For the first time, she thought Gregg might have been right. The transporter wouldn’t function. The pattern enhancer that had blown over crackled and fizzed out, dead as any Krinn that ever lived. She spoke into her wrist comm one more time, knowing it was useless. “Hold tight, Roupo. The amplifiers are down. I’ll try to fix them. Hang on.” She had no hope of his survival. ======== Mina had spent nearly two hours trying to fix the amplifier, all the while eyeing the weather readouts. Roupo had to be out of the chamber soon. The ion storm’s jagged edge was coming for them. If they left soon, they’d make it out alive, though without the data she’d come for. She could press the time, and they could travel faster by leaving the equipment behind. If they missed the window, they’d be stuck, and Roupo, if he did make it out of the chamber without suffocating, would die of exposure alongside his mentor in the unforgiving desert. She had to get him out. She hoped he wasn’t touching anything in there. The pattern enhancer clattered to the ground again. It was hopeless. She’d begun to think it was one of the two she’d planted, but surely not. She wouldn’t have endangered him that way. She could hear Syvek’s voice telling her she was untrustworthy in the field. Careless he’d called her. Overeager. She could hear Gregg telling her to be safe, as if he knew what it took to be daring. She could hear the Krinn singing the history of their race on the wind, and her failure was the final note. There was another way to save Roupo’s life. The phaser cannon was their alternative to transporters. Twenty meters was a long way to go, but she could blast through that distance fast enough, so long as the weapon’s power cell held out. They’d be down to the last second ion-wise, but they could make it out alive, together. Only, the chamber would be opened, and all would be lost to the elements, no time to study it or gather comprehensive readings before the window closed. Those dead Krinn or whoever they were would be erased from history, the last few traces of their long-ago culture gone from the record. She began to unload the phaser from the hoversled. It was too heavy for her to lift alone. It was as heavy as genocide. The comm broke to life on her wrist. =/\= Please, Doc--- ---ll, don’t ----- -- here. Please, don’t leav- -- zzzt. =/\= She called into it. “Roupo? Roupo, come in!” Nothing more. That was all. The panic in his voice was as wide as his eyes had been. He knew he was trapped, abandoned, dying. Mina couldn’t think of Roupo’s first name. It hadn’t been important so long as he turned in data analysis on time. Was he from Malaysia? Or was it Indonesia? Who was going to mourn Roupo if he died? She had no idea who she’d call. Gregg might mourn her, when it came to that. She would mourn the Krinn. The phaser cannon clanked and groaned as she rolled it off the hoversled and into position. It activated easily, though Roupo was the one who’d studied the manual. The sensor rig was tied to it, and would automatically adjust as it dug down, down through the dead earth, tunneling through solid rock, burrowing into the chamber. Destroying her work forever. This was her moment to prove Gregg wrong, put someone else first, choose living flesh over cold, dead bones. This was her moment to snuff out the last Krinn voice, ending their age-old song for all ages to come. She thought of them, of their long-ago deaths, of their lives, of their right to be remembered for who or what they were. She couldn’t do it. It was wrong. She shut down the machine before the phaser blast got anywhere near the chamber below. “I’m sorry, Roupo.” She didn’t bother saying it into the wrist comm. The words bounced dully off ancient stone and echoed through hot, stale air poor Roupo would never breathe again. Mina collected her tricorder and downloaded what scans she could from the rig. She took a canteen and little else. A static sound came through the comm for a moment, but she ignored it. It was a long walk back, and time was already short, even without dragging the equipment behind her. Next one to find their way in through the ion storm would win a free phaser cannon and sensor rig. To the victor the spoils. Gregg had told her it wasn’t worth risking her life for people who had been dead too long to thank her. He was wrong. Whoever they had been, whether noble or honest or petty or cruel, scientists like her, or murderers, or failures, or sacrificers on the altar of history, they were worth remembering. When the authorities came for her, or Hul Peregrist turned her in, founding his career on her broken back, she would tell them it wasn’t easy to leave Roupo there. It wasn’t easy to lay awake nights dreaming of suffocation, of Roupo’s little hands scrabbling on stone, his distant, silent voice whispering horrors in her ear. They would vilify and crucify her. If she wasn’t imprisoned, she’d be a pariah to the end of her days. The killer archaeologist, the murderess, splash page in every paper in two quadrants. One day, when another archaeologist traced her path to the stronghold of Qor’na’Krinn, when the ion storm lifted just long enough for some other poor fool to attempt a claim on the chamber again, they would see how she had preserved it, left its secrets safely frozen in time, undisturbed but for Roupo’s sad, dead presence. They would thank her. She had sacrificed one man. She had saved the Krinn people from oblivion. Dr. Atell made her way out of the desert. The wind was at her back now, howling with Syvek’s condescension, Gregg’s disapproval, and most of all, Roupo’s mournful, unheard pleas for life. Someone else could decide if she had done what was right. The Krinn still sang, quietly, in the distance. Mina held her head high against the desert before her, the open labyrinth, the barren gauntlet, the terrain of former glories, and she pressed onward. ======== LtJG Rendal Rennyn Helm Officer USS Atlantis NCC-74682
  6. Reality of command "Yes Admiral, I did disobey two sets of direct orders and through my negligence to my duty as a Star Fleet officer I caused the deaths of three crew members as well as the destruction of my ship." Commander Arden Cain said without a trace of pride in his voice. The truth of course was more complicated or at least more detailed but the essence of the story was correct. And while he knew that he faced court marshal and even prison for his actions, right then in the Admiral's office wasn't the time for Arden to start defending himself. In a way, as far as Arden knew, the admiral was only the messenger not to mention the one that rescued Arden and his crew off of that sorry excuse of a planet. For that Arden was deeply grateful so he showed a little extra appreciation. Although that "extra" appreciation was quickly fading in the face of an unnecessary and annoying line of questioning. It seemed as though this Admiral was taking the whole incident personally even though she had no stake in the issue as far as Arden was concerned. He, like the rest of his crew was tired so all he wanted to do was to see to his crew’s well being and then get some much needed rest on the ride back to Star Base 75, even if that was to take place in a brig. After a week in a wet and overcrowded cave, the prospect of even staying in a brig felt like being in a Risian hotel. "And yet you still disobeyed your orders. I have review the logs and I can't help but get the impression that you planned on disobeying. Is that accurate Commander Cain?" the female Trill Admiral asked pointedly. "If I had planned anything Admiral, the rescue and subsequent escape might have gone smoother. No, planned, isn't a word I would use. I knew very well before I even heard the distress call that my career was hanging by a thread and yet that had nothing to do with my decision. I would have made the same call no matter what my personal situation was because I was in a position to help those civilians and I was able to do so, so I did." Arden said keeping irritation from his voice but not caring what else slipped through. The Admiral simply stared at Arden but this was the part that Arden didn't care about. While he deeply regretted the fact that the Altamira was destroyed and devastated at the loss of those crewmen despite not really knowing any of them or showing his grief, Arden was absolutely proud of the fact that he and his crew had saved all the civilians that were still alive when they had arrived on site. What's more was that because of his decision; a supposedly renegade Klingon war bird had been destroyed. That too was a little regrettable to Arden but he hadn't lost any sleep over the matter. "Out of interest commander, do you have the slightest idea why you were ordered not to engage the, at the time, unknown hostile?" The Admiral asked in what Arden was quickly seeing as her typical manner. "Because I was ordered not to deviate from the Altamira’s assignment being that of cargo hauling. The other reason, which I would be more inclined to follow, was because the 'unknown hostile's' apparent technological superiority meant that it would have the clear tactical advantaged. Statistically speaking of course." Arden replied. Arden then paused for a moment deciding how best to continue as it was apparent that that was what the Admiral wanted. He didn't quite know what the woman opposite him expected Arden to say or which answer she wanted to hear but it didn't matter as Arden had already had the time to think through them all. Ultimately though in that moment Arden decided to approach the matter as he had been trained and not as rashly as when he made the decision in the first place. "Somebody at Sector Command probably looked at the stats for a Miranda class vessel and came to the conclusion, based on that alone, that any attempt would fail probably in a dozen different ways.” Arden said before calmly continuing. “Tactically speaking such an assessment isn't wrong especially considering the outcome. If I did follow either of those orders, however, I would have condemned two dozen civilians to their deaths and Star Fleet would have been none the wiser about supposedly rogue Klingon activity." "As distasteful as it is to face, being a Star Fleet command officer sometimes means having to do things that run counter to the principals that our organization represents. And by extension there are times when we must set aside personal opinions and instincts. That is the reality of command and not some fanciful notion of doing what’s right. I would have expected you to have learned that lesson before now." The Admiral told him. Even though Arden didn’t take his eyes off the Admiral or say anything aloud he sighed inwardly. In a very real sense, it was that same reality that the Admiral spoke of that was the reason why the Altamira had been reassigned as a cargo freighter in light of another decision Arden had made. Another poor decision if Arden was to judge against the Admiral’s “reality” of command. "I have learned that Admiral and it’s something that I have accepted because I could see the reasons why those distasteful things, as you put it, had to be done.” Arden replied plainly. He could have gone into more detail or give dozens of examples on either side of the argument but there was no point. There was no need to be drawn into an ideological debate over something that couldn't be changed at that point. "Was there anything else you wanted to know Admiral?" Arden asked reluctantly. "Well you certainly seem eager to be done with me which is rather rude to begin with. But to want to leave before listening to my request, well that is something else." The Admiral said in a slightly playful tone. Or at least her tone wasn’t as stern as it had been up until that point. That knocked Arden off guard. He didn't understand what he was doing there in the first place or even why an Star Fleet Admiral had come to his crew’s rescue, let alone what request could possibly be made of Arden at that point. Surely it went without saying that the Admiral could get whatever she wanted from people that weren't about to be court marshalled. Arden couldn’t help but be intrigued if for only a few of those reasons. He wasn't foolish enough to think that the admiral represented a way to bypass the consequences faced. Just like many times before curiosity got the better of him so he stood silently and patiently. "Before we get to that though I would like to know how you got to the surface of that planet." The Admiral stated leaving the question implied but not expressly asked. "I have read the preliminary report but I want to hear it from you." Arden gave a sigh; he had had plenty of time to draft the report while waiting to be rescued but knew that he wouldn't escape having to retell the story. Some part of him did hope that he wouldn’t have to though. Whether he was proud of certain portions of the outcome or not, this particular story wasn’t one that he wanted to dwell on more than necessary. Taking another breath he began to speak in order to describe the events in the most concise but thorough way he knew of. "The idea was to drop out of warp in system just inside of transporter range and start beaming the civilian survivors out. We kept our distance from the civilian ships but did what we could to shift the attacker's attention to us. And all that worked until we made our escape from the system by jumping back to maximum warp." Arden said pausing for a moment to think before continuing. "The Klingon's closed the distance quickly and started taking pot shots at the Altamira's shields. They must have got in a lucky shot to because one of the EPS conduits running directly from main engineering blow out and I was told that it wouldn’t be long before we'd lose stability in the warp core. Firing the last of my photons torpedoes and detonating them early to hopeful blind the enemy's sensors I had my pilot drop us out of warp, we then dumped the warp core and ran like hell before it too detonated. We weren't far from the planet when the shock wave caught up with us and we went crashing into the planet below. " Arden paused having told the Admiral the first half of the story in order to give her a little time to process what he had said. In a way Arden also made use of that time to consider how he managed to take a string of the hairiest moments of his life and condense them into a minutes worth of dull story telling. Something in all that just didn’t sit right with him. "It goes without saying that the Altamira's landing was rough but she held together long enough to touch down on the planet’s surface with quite a few minor injuries. In that regard we were extremely fortunate. That fortune however didn’t last as after we recovered from the landing we couldn't have been planet side for more than twenty minutes when we spotted the war bird coming in for an emergency landing a couple kilometers away. After that we followed standard procedure: tend to our wounded, find better shelter, open lines of communication with the Klingon which was shot down almost immediately, and then activate a distress beacon as soon as it was safe to do so." Arden concluded listing each item off one by one. "I also read that after you defeated the last of the Klingon that you investigated their crashed vessel and proceeded to destroy what was left of their communication system. It strikes me as odd that you would destroy something that could speed up the time it took for rescuers to find you." The Admiral said completely unfazed by what Arden had said before that. "By that point we had a functional beacon and a shuttle that we could get into orbit if need be so I wasn't concerned about being found. What did concern me however was the very real possibility of more Klingon showing up and recovering what little data was left in those systems. My Klingon is a little rusty, but it wasn't hard to work out that the data that survived detailed attempts at improving the Klingon cloaking device. If I had to guess I would say that the Klingons were having a lot of success with those efforts. As much as I am sure that there are those in star fleet that would love that data, I felt it best that it didn't survive to be found. Off the top of my head I can only think of one other planet that I have been to that was as bad as that one. The last thing it needed was more Klingon." Arden said speaking honestly. "Besides the ionic disturbances that prevented my ship from locating you initially, the planet didn't look all that bad." The Admiral commented. "You forgot to mention the frequent and long lasting storms as well as the incredibly dense jungle. That planet certainly wasn't Risa but definitely survivable if you don't mind dark and foreboding environments." Arden commented almost in a sarcastic manner. "It’s of little consequence but since you brought it up, what planet do you think is so much worse than this one?" The Admiral asked curiously. "It was a small mining colony known as Dusters Range. Well that was until an unidentified Borg variant appeared there. More to the point, between those Borg-things and sand storms common to that world it goes without saying that I don't have pleasant memories of my time there." Arden told her. This time Arden didn’t wait long to continue. The events of Dusters Range were long behind him but that didn’t mean that Arden wanted to spend any amount of time reliving those memories after the last few days that he had had. "My life in Star Fleet has never been dull," Arden said pausing briefly. "even when it was meant to be. I suppose that is one thing that is never really covered at the Academy." "Yes one of those concepts that needs adding or revising but all things have a time. Perhaps it is the way it is for a reason." The Admiral said dismissively. "Speaking of time, the time has come to end this conversation which means you have a decision ahead of you. Orders from sector command are that you are to be held in custody pending a formal trail and court marshal. In light of certain facts it is highly improbable that you will be imprisoned for what happened but your career will be over. Have no illusions to that." The Admiral told him so plainly. Arden of course had come to the realization that it probably would come to such an outcome but found it a little hard having someone else say it. Before Arden could comment the Admiral spoke again. "That however would be an unfortunate and wasteful end in my opinion as I happen to be looking for a few good commanders for my task force. Given everything that I have learned about you, I'd say you'd fit in well.” The Admiral concluded. "And if I work for you, you make these charges disappear. As lovely as that sounds it doesn't sound legitimate." Arden replied almost instantly. As much as the offer sounded appealing and even desirable, it wasn't Star Fleet that taught Arden not to be taken in by something that sounded too good to be true. "It is absolutely legitimate, political but legitimate none the less. It is much the same as the formal hearing that you will attend, it’s all political. In that case though someone is using politics to get rid of you. I'd be interested in finding out why but that is a conversation for another day. I am not a member of Star fleet Intelligence nor is this a setup." The Admiral told him with more conviction then Arden had seen in the woman previously. "So what would you have me do in this task force of yours?" Arden asked seriously. "See that ship being towed out the window?'' The Admiral asked to which Arden stood up to get a look at it.”That will be your ship if you accept the position." "And get it operational by the looks of it" Arden commented. "The USS Cressida is a ten year old nova class but has been in dry dock collecting dust for the last two. More importantly is that she is yours if you still want to be on the front lines exploring the galaxy, making it a better place and all that." The Admiral told him but even though her words might have seemed more than a little sarcastic, her tone and face told a completely different story. Arden certainly had more questions in mind then he possibly wanted to deal with at that moment, the least of which was whether or not he wanted to accept the offer. Whether or not he should accept considering recent events also came to mind along with why a rescue ship would be towing a Nova class vessel during a rescue mission. As he took one more look out at the USS Cressida though Arden knew that perhaps the first of those was the easiest question to answer just as it had been when he was first offered the USS Altamira. So he turned back to the Admiral and spoke knowing that at least one question had been settled. “When do you want me to start Admiral?” Arden asked. “My crew will be set to leave this area in six hours. You have that long to get your ship operational or to arrange for another ship to tow the Cressida back to the Star Base.” “Of course Admiral, I will get it done.” Arden said simply. Ensign Atherton Grix Counselor USS Gemini
  7. ((Robert Falcon’s Ready Room; U.S.S. Yorktown – Earth Year 2385)) Captain Robert Falcon gave a long stare at the PADD he held, containing the results of Yorktown’s latest long-range scans. He did not want to believe them true, but knew he could do nothing else. Yorktown’s science officer, his eldest daughter Alice, knew exactly what she was looking at. This was not her first time encountering these beings, after all. Nor was it Robert’s. Alice’s report was kept very factual, nearly clinical in its objectivity. At 0800 hours, long range sensors detected faint energy signatures with a close match to previously observed Fury patterns. Further analysis and additional scans have given us a 75% confidence of the presence of multiple Fury warships in the vicinity of the Hor’Chak system. While interspace weapons technology has not yet been detected, it cannot be ruled out. Robert set down the PADD, leaning back in his chair. He was keeping news of this discovery as silent as he could until he figured out what to do about it. Many of his crew had fought against the Furies three years before. Those who had come to the ship the years following had all heard the stories, Robert was certain. He wasn’t sure if the news would be taken well that the enemy had somehow returned. To be honest, Robert himself wasn’t taking it all that well… Still, he knew what he had to do. While his orders did not permit him to talk to anyone else about it, they didn’t prevent him informing Starfleet. He tapped the comm controls. “Jiana, open a channel to Starfleet Command, priority one secure.” A moment later, his XO/Helm Officer/Wife Jiana replied, “I’m on it. It’ll take a few minutes to establish the secure connection from here.” A priority one call to Starfleet Command… He’d never thought he’d actually make one in his career. The Furies, however… THAT was important enough. Of all the things he had encountered in his career in Starfleet, none matched the level of fear they could inspire. He remembered the class everyone had to take back in the Academy, learning about their involvement with the peoples of the Alpha and Beta quadrants. More importantly, they learned of the two attempts made, at that point, to return, as well as the events which pushed them to a far part of the galaxy. Robert had left that class with a bit more trepidation about what he might find when he ventured out to the unexplored regions of the galaxy. Years later, the long lost starship Voyager made contact with Starfleet Command and reported a great many things. One of the reports Robert had been most excited to see was their encounter with the Furies, mostly due to its ending. For all intents and purposes, the Furies could be considered no longer a threat. Gone for good! Others had not taken the news with quite the same optimism as he had… Admiral Kyle Colt, stationed in one of the further reaches of the Federation, felt that Starfleet should not rest on their laurels and had taken matters into his own hands. He’d led the ships under his command in an attempted coup against the Federation, with few people standing in his way. Robert’s ship, with him as Executive Officer in temporary command, was in the right place at the right time to see what Admiral Colt was planning and stop his attempt cold in its tracks. However, Colt was able to remain several steps ahead of everyone. He’d always had a backup plan in case he was stopped. Though his ship was under the guns of what few ships Robert was able to draft into an impromptu defense, Colt was able to cloak and escape, leaving behind only a message for Robert that he could hear from Colt again one day. “Robert, I have Starfleet Command over priority one secure.” Shaken out of memory, Robert looked up and tapped the comm. “Thank you, Jiana.” He took a deep breath, turning his chair to face his desk terminal and activating it. For a moment, it showed the Starfleet symbol, the words Starfleet Command written above it, Priority One Secure Transmission written below. Then, the image changed. A gray-haired human male with sharp blue eyes and an admiral’s insignia on his collar appeared at dead center. The room was dark, though Robert was not sure if it was simply night where the admiral was or if he had moved to a more secure room. “This is Admiral Vellan, Starfleet Command. Captain, what have you got for me?” Robert straightened in his chair. “Admiral, we’ve picked up energy readings giving a strong possibility of Fury presence approximately 30 lightyears from the Federation border. We’re too far out to get a size or disposition of the force at this time. My intention is to close the gap and gather more intel to verify what we’re detected so far.” Admiral Vellan blinked hard, mentally processing the report. “You wanna run that by me again, Captain?” Robert did so, this time slowing down and giving the admiral all the details he had. Admiral Vellan nodded as Robert spoke, taking in all the information as it came. When Robert finally finished, Admiral Vellan spoke again. “I’m going to have to call for an Admiralty meeting to go over this. I need you to stand by and stay put, got it son?” Robert nodded. “Got it, Admiral. We’ll be standing by on this channel. Yorktown out.” The transmission ended, Robert leaning back in his chair and taking a deep breath to keep his calm. He’d expected that a problem of this magnitude would take a bit of time to get a response. He was a patient person by default… but in this case he really hoped Admiral Vellan got an answer to him quickly… The door chime beeped, Robert looking up toward it. “Come,” he said. The doors swished open, admitting one red-haired human. His wife looked to him, some concern on her features as her brilliant green eyes met Robert’s blues. Robert figured she had seen the transmission end, with Robert not immediately returning to the bridge. The doors swished shut behind her as she started over toward him. “What’s the word?” “Stand by,” he replied with a bit of theatrical tone to suggest it was their current order. “Admiral Vellan has to talk it out with the other high pubahs so they can figure out how they’ll respond to it.” Jiana grabbed one of the chairs opposing him, spinning it to sit on it backwards. “Well, at least he believed you that we saw what we saw.” Robert shrugged. “Or decided to give be the benefit of the doubt. It could still bite me in the butt later on.” He gave a soft sigh. “I thought we were done with this…” “Me, too,” Jiana said, reaching out to grab Robert’s hand atop the desk. “If nothing else,” she offered, “this time we know they’re coming ahead of time, instead of getting randomly ambushed by them.” “True,” Robert admitted. He sighed, shaking his head. “But last time, we also didn’t get much Starfleet support… Can’t believe I’m admitting it, but I wish Colt were around…” Colt had been true to his word. About three years ago, and two years after their previous encounter, a strange transmission had come in. Admiral Colt had come to recruit Robert for his real mission, stopping the Furies at the edge of the galaxy. Robert had been skeptical at first, but Colt gave sufficient evidence of their impending arrival, along with the tech he’d developed to allow a fleet of ships to burrow through the Galactic Barrier. Robert, one of the few people to outthink Colt, was the one person Colt trusted to find the holes in his plan. Between the two of them, they managed to make a plan that worked. Robert sighed once more. “I don’t see much chance of him coming around this time, though. He’s still a fugitive, after all.” “True,” Jiana replied, “but Starfleet has to see the problem this time. It’s right in our backyard, plain as day.” Robert turned to look out the viewport at the expanse of stars. “I know,” he said, seemingly distant. “Yet… why do I get the feeling they won’t?” A long silence fell in the ready room, the pair passing the time with hands linked for mutual comfort. Finally, the intercom came alive. “Dad,” Alice’s voice spoke, “we’re getting a call back from Starfleet Command, priority one secure.” “Thanks, Alice,” Robert responded. “Put it through in here.” “Got it.” Jiana pulled her hand back as Robert got situated back in his chair, giving his uniform a quick tug to remove a few stubborn wrinkles. He reached out to tap his terminal. Moments later, Admiral Vellan reappeared on his screen. His expression was… neutral. “Captain Falcon,” he started, “the Admiralty has decided that, for the time being, there will be no response to the alleged Fury presence.” Robert’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Sir?” “Furthermore,” he continued, “you are not to speak of the energy readings you detected with anyone. That goes for your entire crew. Do you understand, captain?” He was silent for a moment as he attempted to process what he’d heard. “I… I understand what you’re saying, Admiral, but not the reason. Why aren’t we reacting to this?” The admiral’s expression broke, betraying his own annoyance. “Most of the Admiralty want to ignore it, pretend you didn’t see what you thought you saw. The overall opinion was to wait until they show their hand, if they ever do, and muster forces at that time.” He shook his head. “I can’t say I agree with that opinion, but the head of Starfleet herself made the final call. Those are her marching orders. Do you understand, captain?” Robert barely contained a sigh. “Yes, admiral, I do.” The admiral looked at Robert for a moment longer. “I know it isn’t what you wanted to hear, son, but it’s what I’ve got. Get clear for now and be ready to fight another day. Command out.” The admiral’s image was replaced by the logo once again, Robert slumping back in his chair and fighting to hurl the terminal across the room. It wasn’t the terminal’s fault, after all. It was just the messenger. Jiana was a bit more vocal about her frustrations. “Those… Those pig-headed morons! Do they have ANY idea what’s about to happen?” Robert looked up at her, a tired expression on his features. “Maybe. Maybe they’re just scared stiff, or think that if we don’t move the Furies won’t see us, or figure we’re too tough for them to take down.” He shook his head. “And by the time they see that they’re wrong, it’ll be too late.” “Will it?” Jiana asked. “What if we do something about it?” He looked to his wife, eyebrows furrowed once again. “Ji, we’ve got our marching orders. Get our butts out of here and back on patrol.” “Rob, you know how bad this could get,” she countered. “WE know how bad this could get.” Robert’s eyes closed as he thought. “Do you really want to go through that again?” he quietly asked. “You know what we went through last time, and back then we had backup. Do you really want that again?” ((Bridge; U.S.S. Yorktown – Earth Year 2382)) The bridge rocked as another volley of enemy fire impacted the shields. Jiana held on to the command seat tightly. “Damage report!” From the left side of the station before her, Jacen Tharen spoke up from tactical. “Shields down to 54% and recharging slowly. Port-engineering hull phaser array has been knocked out by the power feedback from the wedge.” Another report came from the engineering station. “I’ve reports of power failures on decks 18 and 19, repair teams responding.” Jiana swore under her breath. Yorktown’s refits were extensive, and she was a tough ship, but she hadn’t been designed with Furies in mind. Their jury-rigged shields, reformed into a wedge shape known to deflect the interspace-based fear inducing weapons the Furies favored, had wreaked havoc with their power systems. “Where are our escorts?” Jiana asked, looking at the science station. She could see a flurry of dots, red and blue, dancing around the console’s readouts. Admiral Colt’s ships were providing as much cover as they could to allow Yorktown and her crew to do their jobs. “Chasing down other ships,” came the reply. “One’s working back to us, the other’s a little occupied.” It was an ambitious plan. The Furies had managed to use their artificial wormhole technology to get close to the Milky Way, getting their planet in orbit of a rogue star outside the galaxy. They planned to use the tech again to move back into the Alpha Quadrant, now that they were close enough to get an actual target to jump toward. Robert and three of their grown children, James, Alice, and Rebecca, had gone to the surface to try and sabotage the system… and send the Fury’s planet into the rogue star. It was very risky, as the team could well still be on the planet when it fell. It was also drastic, as it was highly likely none of the Furies would be able to escape. Jiana had little sympathy. They could have taken the hint by now that they weren’t welcome in the Alpha Quadrant anymore. “Status of ERRS dishes?” she asked. “Dorsal dish is aimed at the strongest interspace source. Ventral’s at the ground team.” They had found that Yorktown’s new sensor technology, when properly configured, could disrupt the Fury interspace weapon. One of their dishes covered the fleet as best as they could. The other gave the ground team a safe haven to work from. As an added benefit, Yorktown could hear their comm chatter. Robert’s voice came over the intercom. “Rogue, we’re at the base of a large structure. Believe it to be their command center. Door is heavily reinforced. Think you can provide a key?” A moment later, another voice came over the intercom. “I think a spread of micro-torpedoes will do the trick,” Kaitlyn, their fourth grown child, replied from Robert’s shuttle. “That should do nicely, thanks.” James’s impassive voice came next. “We sure this is going to work?” “Don’t you remember anything from the stories I told you as a kid,” Robert replied. “The plucky group of heroes is always the enemy’s greatest weakness.” ((Robert Falcon’s Ready Room; U.S.S. Yorktown – Earth Year 2385)) They had survived that day. Yorktown beamed the team to safety while Rogue fled from the Fury planet as it plunged into the forming artificial wormhole. It popped back into normal space only a few light-seconds from the surface of the star and was quickly destroyed by tidal forces, falling into the fire. What few Fury ships remained fled, leaving Yorktown and Colt’s remaining fleet to burrow their way back through the Galactic Barrier. Starfleet had scarcely believed it, but in the end simply ordered them to remain silent. None liked it, but all accepted the order. Of course, all had been certain that the battles were done, and that the Furies were defeated. Robert looked back to his wife, his expression sober. “You realize what might happen if we do this, right? Starfleet might decide to court-martial us for disobeying orders, if we even survive long enough for them to do it. We’ve got only whatever supplies we can muster and no allies.” Jiana looked back, reaching out to take his hands in hers. “I never said it would be easy. Or smart. The easy, smart thing to do would be follow our orders, get out of here, and wait to see if Starfleet does something about this later… when it might be too late. What’s the RIGHT thing to do?” The right thing… Robert sighed. “To gather up whatever resources we can, get out there, and take the Furies down before they can threaten our home.” His wife nodded, squeezing his hands. “Now, whatever you want to do, I’ll support you. You say no and the worst comes, I won’t even say ‘I told you so’. Just tell me, Rob, what do YOU want to do?” That’s what it really came down it, wasn’t it? What did he want to do about it? His orders were clear. Turn around, get back to his patrol, and forget he ever saw anything. However, if the Furies were given time to build up and attack, to make this war happen on their terms, it became more likely that it would be more than Starfleet could handle. He hadn’t built Yorktown for this… He hadn’t put this crew together for this... He hadn’t meant for HIS FAMILY to do this… His family… There was a good chance that any who went would not return. Was he willing to sacrifice them all for this mission? Could he even make that kind of call for them? Would they ever forgive him if he never let them have the choice to join on a hopeless mission? Could he forgive himself if anything happened to them? They had been a team for a long time, forged in their years as a family on the Freedom and tested during their last battle with the Furies. Of anyone Robert knew who might be able to stop these… Demons… He knew that he and his family stood the best chance. And if they couldn’t do it… who could? Robert met his wife’s eyes. “I want to stop them. Here and now. Take the fight to the Furies, and stop them at the door.” Jiana nodded, giving his hands one last squeeze before releasing them. “I’ll make some calls, see what kind of resources I can drum up.” “I’ll figure out how to tell everyone,” Robert replied. “Whatever happens from here, they need to hear about this from me.”
  8. Note: This story was inspired by the song "River of Time" by Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane fame. I've long been obsessed with stories dealing with the passage of time and my character, Major Irina Pavlova was created around that obsession. Combine that with me being a Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna (Kautonen's other band) fan and this practically wrote itself. There is a link to the song at the bottom of the post. It was the same dream every night. A ragged, worn and wild-eyed Irina Pavlova walking into the sanctuary at P’Jem doing her best to look confused. The Vulcan monks always rushed to her aid and that of her 4-year-old daughter, wondering how two humans could suddenly appear at their doorstep, no starship in orbit and none on the landing pad. Just the two humans, both tired, dirty and confused, neither with any idea of how they got there. Of course that was the dream version. The reality version involved a detailed plan, and Irina tried to have every contingency covered. The small scout ship would land on the planet only thousands of miles from the sanctuary, and then using its transporter Irina and young Katya would transport to roughly halfway up the long mountain pathway. The ship would then follow its programming and fly itself to the bottom of the ocean and power down, hopefully not to be disturbed, at least not until the 24th century from whence it will have come. P’Jem was selected carefully. Irina needed to find a place that in the 22nd century could at least call for a ship to bring her home, while being remote enough for her to slip in unnoticed. The P’Jem of the 2170s was the perfect spot, with only a few monks and one transmitter remaining after the monitoring station was dismantled by the Andorians in the 2150s, and not yet the mining colony that would would be founded there in the 2210s. In 2175 it was just an uninhabited rock, with a small sanctuary, four or five Vulcan monks and one powerful transmitter. The plans were months in the making. Her assignment as chief of strategic operations at Duronis II made things easy. The runabout was one of many available for the embassy’s senior staff to use, and as a marine major and department head Irina was in such a position that checking out the runabout for a week’s leave was little more than a routine requisition. She would have a full week before anyone started looking, and unless they looked more than two centuries in the past, she would never be found. Every night it was the same dream, and every morning the same reality. Everyone she had ever known was long dead. It didn’t matter what she did, their faces haunted her every night when she closed her eyes. Her father telling her that military service was a waste of her talent. Her brother who promised that grandpa’s old Mercedes would be running by the time she came back from her first tour. Most of all it was Dimitri, the boy next door. Clumsy, awkward Dimitri, her sidekick, shadow, best friend and worst enemy for as far back as she could remember. They had joined the marines together, and the night before Irina shipped out on Columbia, they had progressed from friends to lovers. Dimitri had been dead for 150 years now, never married, never meeting his only child. Much of his life was lost to history, but Irina was able to find out that he left the marines just months after her ship was reported lost, and the only other references to him are a college degree in astronomy, a retirement ceremony from the Moscow observatory and his obituary, which had little more than the dates of his birth and death, and that he was engaged to Irina Pavlova in April 2170 and had a daughter named Katya, born the same month. Irina saw his face every night, imagining him working everyday at the observatory, studying stellar data, but always really looking for just one thing, the NX Class USS Columbia, missing longer and longer as he grew older and older. She could imagine him an old man, no longer working, but still always looking upward and hoping against hope that somehow she was still out there. Of course he couldn’t possibly have known that she was doing the same thing, and continued to do so long after he had breathed his last. Stranded on the planet Kjenta II and essentially immortal while there, Irina had no clue regarding the true passage of time. Days blurred into weeks, months, years and ultimately decades as over two centuries passed her relentlessly by. Lan Treng, Columbia’s science officer told them that it was radiation from the planet’s upper atmosphere that prevented cellular decay and kept them young, but everyone, including Irina, didn’t believe it, thinking only that they had lost track of time. Irina woke in a cold sweat as she did every morning, but today would be different. Today she was on leave, had a runabout reserved and her bags packed. She and Katya were traveling light, with just some civilian clothes, her old uniform and a few of their possessions that had come with them from the old USS Columbia. Her modern uniform, commbadge and everything else that wasn’t made before 2175 would be left on the runabout, powered down and abandoned beneath the ocean of P’Jem. After a week, Starfleet would probably go looking for her, perhaps if they looked hard enough they would find a 2-year-old runabout that had spent the last two centuries at the bottom of the ocean. As Katya woke up, they ate breakfast as usual and made their way to the docking ring. Everything was in order, the runabout was ready and Irina logged her flight plan for P’Jem. In addition to meeting her needs, P’Jem had a few other points in its favor for Irina’s plan. It orbited a star of sufficient mass to make the slingshot calculations possible with a smaller ship and the radiation of that star was such that even the weak shielding of a runabout was more than adequate. Most important of all was the lack of curiosity it had as a destination for Irina and Katya in their 24th century existence as it was the place of retirement of one T’Sal, a Vulcan girl who was Irina’s roommate when she went through security/tactical branch training at Starfleet Academy back in 2168. T’Sal was one of the very first Vulcans to attend the brand-new academy, and was the last surviving member of Irina’s class. Irina had contact T’Sal a few days before, and nobody would possibly question her motives for visiting. The trip to P’Jem was uneventful and accomplished in just over two days. Irina and Katya passed the time on eduational activities and Irina even taught the little girl how to pilot the runabout, at least the real basics, and let her do so under close supervision. The normalness continued as they arrived at P’Jem and had a lovely dinner with T’Sal. Irina had never liked Vulcans and she and T’Sal were not friends all those years ago, but the passage of time had changed a great deal of things for both women. The two talked about time and timelines, and it was T’Sal who introduced Irina to the concept of time being essentially a river, with people wading in, swimming to the other side as the current pushed them until finally they would emerge on the opposite bank and end their journey. The current only moving in one direction, and no matter how hard one fought, one could never swim backwards. Irina told T’Sal about James Kirk and the slingshot maneuver, and how she was going to swim backwards to where she belonged. To her credit, T’Sal did not try and talk her out of it, but rather just asked her to be mindful of what might happen downriver. The next morning Irina and Katya woke up on the runabout, got dressed and ate breakfast as usual, only this day Irina was back in uniform, only it was her 22nd century uniform. The old flip-open communicator and first generation phase pistol were at her belt, both clearly showing the wear and tear of 219 years on Kjenta II, while the uniform was crisp and new, preserved in Irina’s closet on the Columbia in the cold of space. The runabout was programmed for the slingshot maneuver and Katya’s bag was filled with books carefully selected from the 22nd century with a science fiction theme all the better to explain the four-year-old’s inevitable comments about the 24th century as mere products of an active imagination. The runabout broke atmosphere and Irina put it on course for the P’Jem star, then engaged the slingshot program and sat back. She closed her eyes and thought of Dimitri waiting by his window. She did the calculations for an arrival date in June of 2175, 2-years after Columbia was reported missing. She had the wild-eyed look already, and figured if she just pretended ignorance, to have no clue how she ended up at P’Jem or where the Columbia was, nobody would be any the wiser for it. By the time USS Discovery found the Columbia in 2390 she would be long dead anyway, and hopefully history would just repeat itself. To Irina’s chagrin, Dimitri’s face didn’t remain in her mind for long. She thought about her 24th century commanding officer, Fleet Captain Toni Turner, and her mountain of an XO Lieutenant Commander Hannibal Parker. There was Colonel Tyr Waltas, who one year before as Captain Tyr Waltas was the main actor in her rescue from Kjenta. There were others, the Vulcan science officer T’Mihn who had helped Irina with the calculations, the marines and startfleet officers she had gotten to know at Duronis, and finally the little boy Bolt who had become Katya’s playmate. What would happen to all of them if Irina swam up instead of downriver? Would she disturb the waters of their lives? “Why are you crying mommy?” Katya asked as the P’Jem star grew larger and larger in the runabout’s viewer. “Because I can’t go home” Irina replied as she tearfully changed the runabout’s programming for a return to Duronis II. “Why not? I like Donis embsy. “I know, that is why we are going back. Its your home.” “We live together?” “Yes Printzyessa, we live together, but everyone swims in the river alone.” “What river mommy?” “The river of time." Major Irina Pavlova Chief of Strategic Operations Duronis II Embassy / USS Thunder-A
  9. Thank you to everyone who entered our "Rabbits" Writing Challenge! I'm pleased to bring you the results now: I'm excited to announce that the winner of the "Rabbits" Challenge is the writer behind Tyler Kelly, with his story "The Bunny Abides"! Our runner-up, with her Lewis-Caroll-inspired story, is the writer behind Jalana Laxyn and "Watch your head!" My congratulations to all of our entrants and these two writers in particular, and please join me in congratulating these talented writers in this thread! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round, the writers behind Fleet Captain Cascadia Rainier, Fleet Captain Toni Turner, and Lt. JG Sal Taybrim -- and a special note of thanks to Jamie, aka Sal Taybrim, for crafting responses to each of the stories for this round!
  10. Greetings, everyone! Want to read the Challenge entries, 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 March & April 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. Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read! Get yours here!
  11. Good news, everyone! It's Writing Challenge time! I'm pleased to bring you our Challenge topic for March & April, and it's one of the most unique ones the Challenge has yet seen. The theme for this Challenges is (drumroll).... Rabbits! Indeed, it is so! Writes our previous winner, the writer behind Sal Taybrim: "Very simply, the story must include or focus on a rabbit/hare/bunny. This need not be a Terran mammal. Room for creative interpretation is not only allowed, but encouraged. Mechanical rabbits? Alien hares? Killer bunnies? Certainly even Star Trek had tread this path before: This could even go dark if someone was creative enough (are rabbits now extinct?) or surreal... or humorous..." The choice is yours, of course, and I look forward to seeing what you talented writers devise. As of today, Tuesday, March 4th, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Friday, April 25th in order to be considered for this Challenge. As always, please remember: *Your work must be completely original. *You must be the sole author of the work. *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  12. ((Irina’s Quarters, USS Vigilant-A)) ::For the last two weeks Irina’s days have been occupied with trying to solve too problems. The first was to find someone she could trust, and who was willing to assume responsibility for her daughter Katya in the event something happened to Irina. The second and more promising option was for Irina to try and way back to the 22nd century which would make the first problem irrelevant.:: ::In Irina’s era time travel was just the stuff of science fiction, but in the over two centuries that Irina had spent on the surface of Kjenta II time travel had not only been discovered, but had been successfully accomplished. Of course there were rules against going back in time, and upon her rescue from Kjenta II those rules had been clearly explained, but still the seed had been planted and in the year that followed, there was not a day that went by without Irina thinking about finding a way home.:: ::Home, as in a place, was easy. It was home, as in a time, that was more difficult. Home the place was Sochi, Russia, with considerable time also spent in St. Petersburg and Odessa. The two big cities on account of her father’s occupation as a professional symphony violist, while Sochi was the place of Irina’s birth and where the family had always maintained a small cabin in the mountains.:: ::Irina loved Sochi. It was a magical place to be a child, with unspoiled mountain landscapes, rivers flowing with clean water and to Irina’s particular delight since the age of six when she started it was a wonderful place to hunt. While Irina lost interest in most activities quickly after mastering them, hunting was always a pleasure. The smaller, faster and farther away the animal, the more Irina enjoyed it.:: ::Better than perfect 20/10 vision combined with naturally outstanding coordination and real feel for it to make in Irina a very rare breed of hunter. She only hunted animals that she and her family would eat, and only those that were overpopulated for the region. Rabbits were her favorite as they were beyond plentiful, extremely fast and quite small. She would, after the age of ten when she had truly mastered aim and trigger control, try to spook them first, making them run before she took the shot. She even had a sort of deal that she had made with the rabbit god, if there was such a thing, and that was that if she missed, the rabbit won and would go free. She never missed.:: ::After Discovery’s return to earth and before her assignment to the Vigilant, Irina had taken her three-year-old daughter to Sochi for the weekend. The cabin was where it had always been, but in a horrible state of repair. The windows were mostly broken and much of the wood rotten. The place had been thoroughly looted a very-long-time-ago, but in the floor she found the loose board under which she had always hidden her treasures, and inside remained the small metal box she had last opened 224-years-ago. Inside were the rotten remains of the friendship bracelet her neighbor, friend and later lover and fiance Dimitri gave to her in junior high school, which she removed prior to reporting to Earth Defense Academy. There was a .303 caliber bullet, the first bullet that Irina had ever loaded herself at age 9. A rabbit’s foot, properly preserved by her father who in addition to being a professional musician was also an video taxidermist. A pair of keys to the car she and her younger brother were helping their father to restore. It was a 2092 Mercedes-Benz convertible that her grandfather had purchased new and maintained well, but sat neglected after his passing in 2130. In 2160 father had declared that if they got the car running, it would go to Irina and Gregori. Sadly, the garage behind the cabin no longer existed and there was no car anywhere on the property, restored or otherwise.:: ::The last item in the box was the most precious. A plastic envelope containing old-fashioned pictures on paper and a small book. There was a mixture of photographs ad drawings, and the book was Irina’s diary. She opened the book to the last entry and read it aloud for young Katya to hear.:: Pavlova: My bags are packed and tomorrow Dimitri and I leave for San Francisco to start our careers in the marines. I still remember grandpa re-telling the stories of his youth, about first contact, early warp travel and even about his playing chamber music at President Archer’s inauguration. I cannot help but wonder what stories I’ll have to tell my grandchildren. Katya: Do you have any stories yet mommy? Pavlova: Oh yes, Printzyessa, I do. ::Could a year really have passed? Irina took the metal box out of her night table drawer and looked at the diary inside. Someday she would have to put in entries for her time on Columbia, the 219 years on Kjenta II and then her year on Vigilant. She had thought about many times, but if she did find a way back to her time, such a record would be problematic. No, she would wait, and hopefully a successful return in time would solve the problem for her.:: ::Irina and T’Mihn had solved the equations earlier today, and she had the release codes to steel the small dispatch ship out of DS6 impound. Tomorrow would be the day, and so with contented thoughts of Russia in 2173, Irina finally turned out the light and drifted off to sleep.:: ((Sochi, Russia, October 10, 2173)) ::Irina stood up on the hilltop looking down on the valley below. The cabin was there, mother in the yard, brother Gregori polishing the old Mercedes which was no longer on blocks. Smiling, she started walking down the path, excited that she had finally made it home.:: ::The walk was peaceful, with a crisp breeze, flowers in bloom, birds chirping and animals seemingly at play. She heard the sound of a rifle bolt being rammed forward and turned, expecting to see her father.:: ::It was father, but not. He was himself, but he was also, somehow, a rabbit. A 6’ tall rabbit, with father’s face and father’s rifle. He smiled as he brought the rifle up to eye-level and aimed it at Irina.:: Rabbit Father: Run, Irina, run. If I miss, you win the game. Pavlova: And if you don’t miss? Rabbit Father: Then we eat you for dinner. Pavlova: But, I’ve come home. Gregori, the car, mother in the yard. Rabbit Father: There’s no coming home Printzyessa. Now run! ::Irina watched as her father the rabbit smiled and slowly leaned down to look through the scope, and without even realizing it she was running.:: ::She could see and hear him through the trees, but she was very limited in where she could go. Out in a clearing and he would have an easy shot. In the trees her advantages of strength and endurance were negated.:: ::It didn’t escape her how ironic that she had survived over two centuries on Kjenta II, broken all of the rules to come home, only to find herself hunted by her own father, who had somehow taken on the identity of the rabbit god to whom she had made that promise so many decades ago.:: Rabbit Father: I see you, better run faster than that Printzyessa. ::Irina pushed herself, harder and harder, trying not to present a target, but knowing that eventually she would come into the rabbit’s sights. oO The car Oo.:: ::Irina headed in the opposite direction, but slowly looped back around until she had a view of her brother Gregori and the old Mercedes. The metal box was in her shoulder bag and the car keys were still inside. The car looked clean, had new black tires and everything sparkled, but as she approached she noticed that Gregori too was a rabbit.:: ::Staying hidden in the bushes, she called out to him.:: Pavlova: Gregori, its me, Irina. I’m back, but I need help. Gregori: Irina! You shouldn’t be here. You have to leave. Pavlova: Yes, I know. Let me take the car. I can’t run fast enough, but with the car I can get free. Gregori: Where will you go? ::Irina stopped cold.:: Pavlova ::to herself:: : Where will I go? Rabbit Father ::from behind, touching the rifle barrel to Irina’s back:: : There is nowhere for you to go Irina. You should not have come back. Pavlova: What else was I to do? Rabbit Father: You needed to stay where you were. Katya needs a mother, not a prisoner. Pavlova: I am a prisoner on Vigilant, no, anywhere in that time. I do not belong there. Rabbit Father: The universe says otherwise, and while you always have a place here, that place is in our memories. You have to go. Pavlova: Please. ::Irina collapsed to her knees and started sobbing uncontrollably.:: ((Irina’s quarters, present day)) Katya: Mommy, don’t cry. ::Irina opened her eyes and realized her pillow was veritably soaked while Katya stood above her, tears in her own eyes.:: Pavlova: Its okay Printzyessa, go to sleep. Katya: Who were you talking to? Pavlova: Just a rabbit I used to know. Katya: Are we going home tomorrow? Pavlova: Yes Printzyessa, mommy found a way. ::Irina hugged her daughter in tight, weird dreams aside, her plan was well in motion, and this time tomorrow would be this time 219-years-ago.:: Rabbit Father:: distant voice:: : Run, Irina, run! Lieutenant Irina Pavlova Security/Tactical, USS Vigilant-A
  13. ((Federation Research Outpost "Flagg's Hope"- Shuttle Landing Pad - Elanus 9)) :: A single shuttle broke through the thin green clouds that made up the atmosphere of Elanus 9. Slowly, deliberately it descended towards a small group of people, the last remnants of one man's now broken dreams.:: ::His mission had been a total failure, his objectives utterly incomplete. The entire population of his outpost, some 350 scientists and technicians had already been transported to the ship in orbit above. Doctor Flagg glanced back at the facility behind him as the shuttle settled on the tarmac in front of him.:: ::With a defeated look playing across his face he recalled his proposal, how excited he was to begin his research. Elanus 9 was the only planet in the Federation with an atmosphere sufficient to synthesize the new element. One that he postulated to have the potential to make conventional warp technology look antiquated. But after 5 years and countless failures the Federation had decided to cancel the project. And that is why USS Exodus circled above, in high orbit, why it's shuttle The Archos was here now.:: ::Doctor Flagg and his family, his wife Rebekka and young son Daxon, were to accompany the last of the equipment on the shuttle. The equipment had been purpose built and calibrated to such an extreme degree that the use of the Exodus' transporter would have damaged it beyond repair. In the end it had been Daxon's begging that had found them taking the shuttle.:: ::The group approached the small craft carting the equipment on repulsor sled as the rear cargo door opened. A tall man in a uniform stepped out and down the ramp, his footfalls clanging with every step. Three full pips shined on his collar.:: The Commander: Good afternoon Doctor Flagg, are you all ready to go here? ::With a deep sigh the middle-aged scientist responded.:: Dr. Flagg: I don't suppose we have any reason to stay. ::With a curt nod, the officer responded matter-of-factly, in the way that he did most things.:: The Commander: Alright, we'll get this equipment secured and be on our way shortly. My name is Commander T- ::But he was cut off by the nervous voice of Rebekka Flagg.:: Rebekka: Where is Daxon? ::She looked around frantically and pointed to spot nearby.:: He was just here! ((Not Too Far Away - Elanus 9)) ::A young boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, pursued a small creature. He whistled and called out to the pitiful little thing but it didn't seem to have any effect.:: Daxon: Nibbles! Nibbles come here, I'll give you a treat! ::A small black and white rabbit, hopped along at a steady clip. If it noticed the boy's pleas, it gave no indication.:: ::The boy followed the rabbit over a ridge, the desperation in his voice becoming more apparent. He was getting too far away now.:: Daxon: Nibbles come on! They're gonna leave without us! ::Again, the rabbit paid the no attention to his owner's desperate cries. As it reached the bottom of the ridge it found something of interest. An object, something un-natural. Something worth sniffing.:: ::It hopped over to the long cylindrical thing with curiosity and took it in cautiously. Not really caring if the boy caught it now, because it had found something new to care about.:: ::The boy descended the other side of ridge and spotted his now stationary pet near a piece of old junk. He smiled as he quickly closed the distance between them.:: Daxon: What'd you find boy? Are you eating trash again? ::Finally, he caught up to the fugitive bunny and scooped it up into his arms.:: Daxon: Not cool, Nibbles. Not cool. ::He glanced down at container, it was roughly the size of the photon torpedo casings he'd seen his "Ships of The Line" schoolbook. The object was obviously old and in poor condition, it had likely been here for some time and it had corroded through in some places, leaking the oily black substance from within.:: ::Wrinkling his nose, the boy spoke to his furry companion.:: Daxon: You're gross. I'm gonna have to give you two baths. ::The sound of his Mother's worried voice carried over the ridge and caught his attention. He raised his eyebrows, knowing that he would be in big trouble later, he held the rabbit much tighter this time as he quickly made his way back to the shuttle pad.:: ::Neither animal or child could have known what they had found, though it would've hardly mattered if they did. The Tarellian Biological Agent Containment Unit, an artifact of hatred from distant wars long past, had already done it's work.:: ((Shuttlecraft Archos - Upper Atmosphere - Elanus 9)) ::The Commander carefully guided the shuttle up and away from the now abandoned outpost. He could have selected a junior officer for this mission but had instead opted to oversee it personally, much to the relief of his fellow officers who saw the quick trip to pick up a cranky scientist and has family as a frustratingly mundane task. He didn't mind though, he'd been in Starfleet for years but it still hadn't gotten old. Never routine. He loved the stars and as the tiny grey ship left the atmosphere he relished the beauty of the galaxy. He was in good spirits.:: ::The sentiment would be short lived.:: The Commander: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking ::He placed his hand over his mouth to simulate the sound of an archaic intercom system.:: The Commander: If you look out the Starboard viewport you will see Elanus 9's only moon, Raimi. ::With his back to them he couldn't see the elder Flagg shaking his head in annoyance or the boy smiling gleefully.:: Directly ahead you'll see the USS Exodus in all of her glory. She's a - ::He trailed off as a flashing red indicator caught his attention. It was a little early to be getting in contact with Flight Ops. He guessed some nervous new officer was behind it.:: ::Opening the channel, The Commander spoke.:: The Commander: This is the Archos, what's the problem? ::As he suspected a tense, young voice came through the comm system.:: Voice: Archos, this Ensign Jaksonn, Exodus flight ops. We're getting some, uh, anomalous biological readings from your ship Commander. I think the Archos' sensors may be faulty. ::The Commander's brow furrowed. Still, he wasn't about to be frazzled by a minor sensor fault. Entering a few commands into the console, he spoke again.:: The Commander: Alright Exodus, we've disabled our internal sensors and lowered our shields. You should be able to scan us better with your sensors. ::A pause:: What kind of anomaly are we talking about here Mister Jaksonn? ::He glanced down at the various displays on the helm console. All systems showed status Green. He glanced back at the trio strapped in on the crew seats. The two elder Flaggs had heard the conversation and wore their concern plainly on their faces but the boy seemed oblivious as he calmly stroked the pet rabbit sitting on his lap . He offered them a reassuring smile as the comm chattered again.:: Jaksonn: It’s a biological contaminant sir, and I’m no longer sure it’s an anomaly. We’re getting the same results here. ::The tension in the man’s voice was palpable.:: Commander, Sir, I need to ask you to hold to at 10km. Just…I Uhh…. Just a moment. :: Finally, the Commander began to feel the first creeping, spindly tendrils of fear tugging at his well developed composure. They probed for weakness but found none. Not yet.:: ::A few minutes passed in tense silence before he turned to his passengers.:: The Commander: Doctor, there’s nothing in this equipment that would cause this kind of problem. Right? ::The now frail seeming scientist shifted in his jump seat nervously and shook his head.:: Flagg: N-N-no. They’re just controllers for the the elerium collider system. There’s nothing biological to them. :: An ominous silence fell over the shuttle and it’s occupants. The Commander did not like the gut feeling he now had that something might be very wrong. Then he heard a voice that confirmed his suspicions:: ::A confident, too calm tone filled the tight confines of the shuttlecraft.:: Voice: Archos, this is Captain Dornak. Do you read me Commander? ::The Commander managed to maintain his composure for the moment, but his calm demeanor was rapidly deteriorating now. Captain wouldn’t have been involved so urgently for a minor problem, and he wouldn’t be handling this exchange personally for even a moderate complication. Beads of sweat began to form on his forehead.:: The Commander: I hear you, Sir. What’s the problem? Dornak: Commander, I’m sorry. ::A stressful silence stretched out the seconds that passed. The Commander felt his face get hot.:: Dornak: We don’t know how, but you are all infected with Tarellian Hemorrhagic Fever. I...I’m afraid we can’t allow you to board the Exodus. We’ve initiated a quarantine of the planet surface and we’re carefully monitoring the scientists we brought aboard, but it seems that only the four of you are infected. Please understand Commander, my hands are tied on this. ::His head was spinning, it felt as though reality was a rug that had been pulled out from under him. The Tarellian plague was as legendary as it was deadly, even as he frantically grasped for a solution he knew there was little hope. Starfleet had clearly stated protocols in dealing with this sort of thing.:: The Commander: Captain, could there be a mistake? ::He glanced back at his passengers:: We’re all… ::What he saw sent a shiver down his spine. The terrified Flagg family had left their seats and huddled together on the floor of the cargo area. The mother held the boy in her arms, comforting him as they listened to the grim news. That’s when he noticed the red fluid seeping from the boy’s eyes.:: The Commander: Fine…here... ::It was no mistake.:: ::Rebekka Flagg began to sob audibly as the Captain of The Exodus spoke again.:: Dornak: No, Commander I don’t think so. ::He paused:: We don’t have the facilities to help you and the nearest medical ship is at least two weeks away. Just sit tight and we will see if we can get this all sorted out. ::The Commander leaned forward in his chair and rested his forehead in his open palm. He knew that they didn’t have weeks, they had at best hours from the time of exposure and he couldn’t be sure how long ago that was.:: ::He knew that the Captain was acting appropriately, that bringing them aboard would risk the safety of the entire ship of nearly a thousand people, but he still felt abandoned. Alone.:: ::Unbuckling his safety belts he rose from his seat and tentatively approached Doctor Flagg, who was sitting near but separate from his wife and son. He saw that woman’s tears now ran red as well, a sure sign of the incurable infection. The older scientist appeared understandably stressed, a look in his eyes told the Commander he was near his breaking point.:: The Commander: It’ll be alright. ::He lied:: The Exodus has a fine medical staff, they’ll get it all sorted out. ::He echoed his Captain’s lie:: In the mean time I suggest we just remain calm and wait this out. ::He noticed the boy’s rabbit sitting in silence near where the now unconscious boy lay in his mother’s lap. Unaffected by the blight it had unknowingly brought to it’s owner and his family.:: ::Doctor Flagg’s face twitched slightly, and he suddenly appeared inappropriately calm. The Commander had seen this before, it was shock.:: Flagg: We’re fine. ::His face twisted into smile that made the Commander uncomfortable.:: Flagg: When we’re aboard the Exodus I’ll need to access a science terminal to catalog my research. ::The Commander nodded at the placid faced man sitting only feet from his mortally afflicted wife and child. The poor man had slipped out of touch with reality. He felt another shiver as he turned to head back to the helm.:: ::Things began to happen rapidly at that point.:: ::The tall thin scientist rose quickly, snatched a heavy chemical flame extinguisher from it’s cradle on a bulkhead and struck the Commander brutally on the back of the head. He stumbled forward into darkness and fell hard to the metal deck plate..:: ::Doctor Flagg quickly set his desperate plan into motion:: ((A While Later - Shuttlecraft Archos - Above Elanus 9)) ::Groggily, The Commander tried to open his eyes. He couldn’t immediately remember where he was or what had happened. He heard a repetitive, annoying, noise but couldn’t quite make it out. He felt something brush against his face, it was soft, furry. His bleary eyes came into focus on the rabbit. It’s nose wiggled inquisitively as it investigated the downed officer.:: ::His head was pounding and the dizziness was all consuming as he struggled to his feet. There was something he had to do. But what? He suddenly deciphered the sound he’d been hearing for a while now.:: Computer: PROXIMITY ALERT! ::A klaxon sounded:: PROXIMITY ALERT! ::The memories of his dire situation came crashing down on him like a tsunami as he sprang into action. The now motionless bodies of Daxon and Rebekka Flagg told him that he’d been out for quite a while.:: Computer: PROXIMITY ALERT! ::He wheeled around to see form of Doctor Flagg at the helm, beyond him the USS Exodus grew larger and larger in the view screen as the Archos accelerated directly towards it. With precious few seconds to spare, the Commander sprinted towards the helm, prepared to wrestle the controls away from the man who’d commandeered his vessel, but he too had succumbed to the infection and and lay slumped over the controls:: Computer: PROXIMITY ALERT! ::The Archos was now meters from impacting the Saucer Section of the Galaxy Class ship at full acceleration. He didn’t have time to wonder why the Exodus hadn’t shot them out of the sky, he couldn’t know that the same nervous Ensign had waited just a second too late. The Commander shoved Flagg’s body aside and jerked hard on the controls, the force was too much for the inertial dampeners and it nearly threw officer to the floor again. In less than a second he had changed direction and fired all of the emergency maneuvering thrusters, but it was too late. The shuttlecraft careened into and through the warp nacelle with a horrific metal rending vibration and out the other side, hopelessly damaged but somehow without hull-breach. The shuttle was sent spinning off into space.:: ::The most violent explosion The Commander had ever witnessed made no sound. The death throes of the Exodus were felt not heard. A broken man slumped against the bulkhead of the shuttle, a tear ran down his face. He wiped it away with the back of his hand, and sighed when it came away red.:: ((Epilogue)) ((Space - Above Elanus 9) ::A Ferengi Merchant ship en route to Starbase 118 slowed as it approached a large debris field. The ship had a tight schedule to keep, but it had detected and opportunity for profit on it’s long range sensors too rich to pass up. Quickly it began to beam aboard fragments of debris, anything that appeared valuable. The ship’s sensors detected only one survivor of the disaster, inside a damaged and battered shuttlecraft. A decision was made and the transporter activated.:: ::A small, black and white rabbit appeared on the Ferengi transporter pad, glancing inquisitively at it’s new surroundings.:: ======//////======> Cdt. Tyler Kelly (Lt. Colt Daniels) Currently In Training Unassigned
  14. (( OOC: As you can see the story is inspired a lot by Alice in Wonderland, but completely written by myself and adding my own spin on it with turning the Apollo into the strange new land. Hope you enjoy )) --- ((MedLab, Apollo)) ::Oh no. This could not be. Alice stared with wide eyes to the red glistening fluid on the ground. Her pale face lost every drop of pigmentation. This was disastrous. It was not a secret that the CMO had been working on this experiment for weeks, and now every bit of it was spread on the floor and unusable for anything but wiping it away. Alice felt her stomach sink and join the mess on the smooth surface.:: ::Quickly she grabbed a piece of cloth and removed the signs of the mishap and then peeked outside, making sure that nobody saw her. Then she legged it and ran out of Sick Bay. Maybe nobody would notice and she could sleep over it. Tomorrow hopefully it would turn out to have been a dream and everything would be alright.:: ((Quarters)) ::Alice dropped her lab coat on the floor, kicked the shoes away and dropped exhausted onto the couch. She had no idea how to make this better. Tonight she could not do anything anyway, but in the morning she would have to confess. Her boss would kill her.:: ::With a deep sigh she sunk into the couch and closed her eyes. Trying to relax she did not notice her mind drifting, further and further away ...:: Voice: Oh my! ::Alice jumped up on the couch and looked around. Where did that voice come from? Was someone in her quarters?:: Voice: I am too late, too late, too late! ::Alice's head jerked around and there she saw it coming out of her bedroom: a huge white rabbit in a Starfleet uniform and an old fashioned watch on a chain dangling from its communicator. She laughed, that sight was ridiculous. The white rabbit came to an halt and looked at her, its nose wiggling.:: Rabbit: There is nothing funny about tardiness. I'm too late! Alice: Too late for what? Rabbit: No time! Too late, way too late! ::With that the Rabbit hopped out of the quarters and vanished from her sight. What a curious thing. What could a rabbit be late for? With the nagging pull of curiosity she raised from the couch and followed. Just as she looked outside she saw the rabbit vanish in the hatch of a jeffrey's tube. That little voice on her right shoulder told her to follow, to find out what the rabbit was up to. If the other side said something she did not hear it. She quickly stepped to the hatch and climbed inside, following the distant bunny tail that almost seemed floating as the black uniform pants merged with the tube's lack of light.:: ((Somewhere)) ::As soon as Alice was in the tube, the hatch behind her shut with a loud noise echoing in her head, and the whole place tilted. She tried to hold onto any edge or latch she could find but the tube was smooth as if made of glass and she began to slide, first slow then rapidly until she hit the ground with her behind and the pain of impact jolted through her body.:: Voice: ::sleepy voice:: Looky there, a strange new face. Ever wonder why you ::yawn:: race? ::Rubbing her backside Alice looked around. A yellow collared officer was lying on a hoverpad, floating through a moving and billowing sea of blue goo, that stuff that bio-neural gel packs were filled with. She knew she'd seen that man before, if her memory was right his name was Johnson, and he just floated out of view in this blue glowing river. Curious where it would lead too she got to her feet and jumped on another hoverpad that just passed by, following the one with the tired Helmsman.:: ::The walls were overgrown with exotic plants in all the colours Alice could imagine, flowers emitting bedazzling scents, making her wish to never leave this magical place. Colours began to dance in front of her eyes, soft voices were carried into her ears. As she looked at the flowers, faces grew out of them, faces she had seen before all over the ship. There was the engineer Eileen. Another came closer, Alice's nose touching the flower's as the young woman recognized the new Romulan Intel Officer. The gentle voice sang in a language Alice did not understand. Then her eyes started glowing and the flowers began to giggle before the gentle splashing stream suddenly accelerated and Alice fell almost off her make-shift raft.:: ::Rapidly the stream lead through hallway after hallway, all covered by flowers and plants, showing faces of the crew she had seen on hallways or in her workplace, giggling and singing.:: Flowers: Row row row your boat... ::Alice clung to the hoverpad as good as she could, though her fingers slipped over the wet metal. The edge of the raft got caught in the frame of a door that opened that very moment, jerking her off and into the room where she crashed on the ground. Immediately the door closed again and the scent of sweet smoke embraced her.:: ::As Alice looked up a really tall Andorian sat cross-legged on the terminal that stood in the middle of the room. He had a long strange looking sword on his lap, holding it with one hand, while the other slowly lead a stone along the blade to sharpen it. It was a smooth movement, steady and repeating, almost hypnotizing.:: Alice: Excuse me, Sir but did you see a rabbit come by? ::The tall Andorian kept sharpening without looking up. In the corner of his mouth rested a small metal tube that was connected to a longer flexible one ending in a big bottle with a bubbling liquid. His mouth opened sometimes and circles of smoke danced out into freedom and around his head as if following a path. As the man finally answered his dark deep voice sent chills down Alice's spine.:: Andorian: Who are you? Alice: ::pushing her hands into her hips:: Did nobody tell you that it is rude to answer a question with another question? Andorian: What is rude for one is normalcy for others. Alice: Well if you ask me... ::Before she could finish the sentence the giant of a man suddenly jumped onto the floor and was so close that Alice stumbled backwards against a wall, roots and stems of plants embracing her limps as she felt the cool metal of his sword on the skin of her neck. His cold deep eyes stared directly into her soul while colourful circles of smoke framed her face. He pushed the words out one by one.:: Andorian: Ask - you? Who - are - you? ::Alice's eyes grew and her heart began to pound heavily in her chest. Quickly she dropped and slipped away running past him and the terminal to a door she had just noticed.:: Andorian: Hey! You should know something! ::His voice startled her, and she thought about running, but curiosity won. She stopped and turned around. Her heart jumped as she saw him closer to face than she had anticipated and leaned in, blowing smoke into her face.:: Andorian: Watch - your - head! ::Coughing up the smoke she had inhaled she stumbled backwards again, noticing that the way she ran into was too small for Big Blue and he could not follow. Relieved she kept running, roots that had no place on a space ship and flowers with faces and leaves as hands tried to grab her, hold her and slow her down - who planted those things anyway? Every turn looked the same, every corner had three possible ways to go. Alice was not sure where she was any more and after a felt eternity she fell to her knees, sobbing because she felt lost like never before.:: ::Suddenly a soft humming filled the air, the plant-work squeaked under steps and as it was a few steps close to Alice they stopped.:: Voice: Lost something? ::Alice recognized the voice and looked up. In front of her stood the former ACMO, Sundassa Faranster, who had just recently been promoted to First Officer. The vibrant lilac hair was not something that could be forgotten, neither her eyes of equal colour. Instead of the usual red collared uniform the woman wore a lavender coloured dress with dark purple markings that reminded Alice of a tiger or a house cat. Alice wiped away her tears and spoke with meagre voice.:: Alice: My way, where do I go? ::Sundassa's face almost split in half as she grinned widely, her arms spread to both sides in a welcoming open gesture.:: Faranster: Depends. Where you want to go? Alice: Doesn't really matter. ::The catlike dressed woman laughed and leaned against the plantwork.:: Faranster: Then you can go any way. ::She paused and a moment later stepped forward, bending down to face Alice with a wide grin.:: But if you want to know ... he went this way. ::Pointing left:: Alice: ::sniffing:: Who? Faranster: ::tilting her head:: Who what? Alice: ::confused:: Who went this way? Faranster: The bunny, silly! ::Sun laughed and began to hum again, prancing into one of the other overgrown hallway. Alice watched the lilac hair bounce and make snake like movements as if it had a life of its own, before it actually waved at her and the First Officer suddenly poofed into thin air.:: ::Alice blinked, wondering if she had fallen too hard on her head - oh wait that was her butt not her head - or if that woman really just disappeared. Shaking her head slightly she got up onto her feet and looked into the direction Faranster had pointed, before heading into the overgrown mess, hoping to find the rabbit and finally learn what it was too late for.:: ::She walked for a felt eternity until she finally heard something that grabbed her attention.:: Voices: ::singing:: We all live in the little maaad house, little maaaad house, little maaad house... ::Curious about who was singing there in those abominable off-key notes she looked for another exit somewhere and found a was wide open door, leading into a colourful wonderfully scented garden. If she had to guess she'd say that she was in the Arboretum now, just because it would not make any sense anywhere else. But on the other hand, nothing of this really did. The voices became louder as she approached and finally she saw a table covered with cake and cups, filled with steamy beverage, the scent mixing with the flowers' fragrance.:: Voices: ::singing:: In the town where I was born, lived an old man who was crazyyyy, he was caught and brought right here, where he lives now... next to meeee. Alice: What are you doing? ::Just then two heads popped up from behind the high backrests of the chairs surrounding the table. Alice blinked in surprise as she looked into the black eyes of Captain Jaxx, the other she thought she had seen him in Engineering before, the one who looked like a human but was none. Before she could think about it further the Captain raised his cup.:: Jaxx: Celebrating our craziness of course! ::Alice stared at them both and shook her head vigorously.:: Alice: I am NOT crazy. I am perfectly normal! Torv: If you are not crazy you cannot stay! Jaxx: Pah! Of course she is crazy, or she would not be here! Alice: But I am NOT. Jaxx:::giggling::You are out of luck, deary. We are all nutters here. Come and celebrate, grab a cup of vreeca! ::He grabbed a pot and poured a cup for her in a sloppy way that half of the hot beverage covered the cake now. Splatters of it hit someone else and the end of the table, jumping up from his seat.:: Johnson: Hot Hot Hooooooot! ::After dancing around to shake it off he simply dropped in the chair again and fell asleep once more, his body slumping over so that his face got buried in the cake standing in front of him. Nobody seemed to care about the lack of oxygen he might have with that method of sleep. Alice felt a hand pulling her abruptly to the table, the cup slammed down in front of her while the men began to sing again.:: Jaxx & Torv: We all live in the little maaad house, little maaaad house, little maaad house... ::Alice had no idea what she had gotten into and with the way those guys swung the kettle and pots, the cups falling over as Jaxx jumped onto the table to show his best crazy dance, she did not think that she'd get anywhere really. But she had to try.:: Alice: Pardon me but, did a rabbit pass here? Jaxx & Torv: Of course, he went this way. ::Torv showed left, while Jaxx showed right. That moment she heard a giggle right behind her and turned around in the chair. There she stood again, the First Officer with her wide grin. The slender fingers wiggled a playful wave while her hair got its own life again and pushed in between the ranks and roots and pulled up as if it weighted nothing. That made a hole into the 'hedge' and Alice did not hesitate for a second. She jumped off her chair and slipped through the - hopefully - right way, accompanied by the off-key song behind her.:: ::There he was. The rabbit just hopped around a corner and Alice quickly followed him, trying not to lose him again. She walked for a while, seeing him here and there, but then she heard the sound of beeping and glass touching something else. As she turned another way she saw huge vials with light blue liquid stood around everywhere as if they grew in the room. Teal coloured uniformed people walked around between them, climbed up ladders and then poured something into the opening, turning the liquid into a bright red.:: ::Alice recognized that colour right away, it was the same as in the experiment she had shattered earlier. Shaking her head slightly she then realized that the officers began to sing. A few she even recognized. There was Jamison the Counselor, Kaliantha the new medical officer and Carrigan a nurse, not to forget the blue haired man over there was Shelter the brother of the First Officer.:: Officers: ::singing:: We're dying the liquids red, there is no time for bed, she sees them blue and right on cue she'll be the worst you ever met. We are fond of our head, so we dye the liquids red. ::Who was she? And what did they mean that she would be the worst they ever met? What would happen to the heads, if those liquids were not red? She went closer to one of them.:: Alice: Why are you changing the colour of the liquids? Jamison: Because the Queen likes them red. Carrigan: If they are not, she punishes us all! Alice: Who? Who would punish you? Rabbit: I'm late. I'm late. ::Quickly he hopped past them all and to a terminal that stood at the end of the garden and he pressed a button.:: Just on time, phew. ::The sound of the transporter beam had them fall silent. Then in a hectic chaos they quickly tried to hide the colour pots and the ladders before arranging themselves in one row, standing attention. Shelter grabbed Alice's arm and pulled her close. She mimicked their posture, thought peeked around them to see who was coming.:: ::Her heart almost stopped when she saw the bright red hair of her very own CMO Jalana Laxyn. But the ice cold gaze, wandering around the strange garden and the officers was new and sent chills down Alice's spine. Nobody dared to speak or even move an inch. Alice snapped back into attention and waited nervously.:: Laxyn: WHAT IS THAT? ::The sudden explosion of the usual soft voice made everyone jump and turn around. With terror they saw red splatters all over the floor.:: Kaliantha: We... we had to...::stammering:: Laxyn: HAD TO WHAT? LIE TO ME? ::Alice knew why she was so afraid to tell Laxyn what had happened, but this was worse than she had expected. Silence fell again, from everyone but Laxyn.:: Laxyn: WHO DYED MY LIQUIDS? ::There was an eerie silence, something that made Alice look up and what she saw let her blood freeze. Everyone but pointing at her. With wide eyes she stared from one to the other and shook her head.:: Alice: I have not... ::Laxyn's face changed to a furious red and slowly her arm raised to point at Alice, before the loud voice bellowed through the garden, almost shattering the vials.:: Laxyn: CHOOOOOOOP OFF HER HEAD! ::Terror shook Alice and she did the only thing that came to her mind right now. She ran in the opposite direction. Hearing the heavy steps running after her, trying to get her to follow the CMO's command. She ran and ran and her lungs hurt as a familiar voice floated into her ears.:: Voice: Alice! Hey Alice, come on... it's time. Alice! (( Quarters )) ::Alice's lids jumped up and the first thing she saw was her room mate hovering over her. Blinking she tried to shake off the strange dream she had. What had been in her coffee that she had thought this could be real for even a second?:: Alice: What...? Hannah: You slept the whole night on the couch. It's time for work. And I think you have to confess something,eh? ::Alice grimaced as she peeled herself from the couch. There was no time left to get into a new uniform and she sighed, following her room mate outside where they parted ways. Alice headed the right way to Sick Bay and just for a split second she could have sworn to see the white fluffy tail of a bunny vanishing around the corner ... --- LtCmdr Jalana Laxyn CMO / 2nd Officer USS Apollo
  15. Thank you to everyone who entered this special image-inspired Writing Challenge! I want to especially thank our first- and second-time entrants; it's always fantastic to have new writers in the Challenge, and in this case, it really paid off! I'm pleased and honored to announce that the winner of our first image-inspired Writing Challenge is Sal Taybrim, with his story "Conspiracy Theories"! We have a tie for runner-up: Ceilidh Riverview, with "New Beginnings," and Kieran Waddell, with "Back-up Plan." My congratulations to all three of you, and please join me in congratulating these talented writers in this thread! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round, the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner and Lieutenant Commander Velana!
  16. Greetings, everyone! Please enjoy this full compilation of the January & February Writing Challenge, available for the first time with all the entrants' stories and judges' comments. This is a PDF document with interior hyperlinks to each story for your ease of navigation, so do please read at your leisure. Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read! Get yours here!
  17. Welcome back, everyone, and I hope you're excited for the first Writing Challenge of 2014! We're going to be doing something quite new for this Challenge: Instead of presenting you with a theme or an idea, we'll be giving you a piece of Trek conceptual art -- in this case, this piece of art chosen by our November & December 2013 winner, Sarah: http://www.coronacomingattractions.com/sites/default/files/news/trek_into_darkness_pods_0.jpg Writes Sarah: "The image holds an incredible sense of anxious foreboding for me." What about for you? Regardless of whether you know what this image may represent, how can it inform or inspire your own story? You may take this Challenge in any direction you would like so long as it's inspired by the art prompt. As always, feel free to ask questions in this thread if you'd like to talk more! As of today, Thursday, January 2nd, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Friday, February 21st in order to be considered for this Challenge. As always, please remember: *Your work must be completely original. *You must be the sole author of the work. *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  18. Conspiracy Theories ~*~*~ “I cannot call to mind a single instance where I have ever been irreverent, except toward the things which were sacred to other people.” ~Mark Twain~ ~*~*~ James T. Lyle quivered with anticipation. From the moment he heard that the San Dimas earthquake had unearthed a sub level in the Chapel Library building he knew he wanted in on the dig. When he found out that Dr. Martin Hanniver was leading it, he was sure he needed to be there. Hanniver was one of the most important Earth artifact archeologists in the Federation – the very mention of his name set entire crowds of studious archeology geeks into stunned silence. Hanniver was the sort who had a vast reference stash of artifacts, information and Starfleet contacts at his fingertips and yet he didn’t do anything with this treasure trove beyond write stuffy articles for stuffy academic journals. Lyle thought that was quite a shame. There was so much one could do with that information, so much he believed was covered up by the shadows of Starfleet and its oh so secret organizations. In his mind there would always be academics that gathered information and who would need to be led by visionaries who could wield that information like a shining silver sword against the ignorance of the masses. James T. Lyle believed he was exactly one such visionary. Sure, everyone else might just see some gangly youth, barely old enough to be a force in the world. He was still young enough that his limbs seemed too long for his body, with sandy hair and a wide smile; he wasn’t a bad looking kid. Most people seemed to like him, or at least gravitate towards his radiant self-confidence. And why wouldn’t he be self confident? The line of Lyle had proudly enlisted into Starfleet for seven generations, but James was different. He was the one who broke the mold – went to college and had the brains to succeed. It was no co-incidence his father named him after the greatest Starfleet captain to have ever lived. Make no mistake, James Lyle was a man set out to do great things. He would be the first of his family to graduate a Starfleet officer and blaze a path of truth across the cosmos. He was sure of it. Certainly that was why, out of seventy-three archaeology students, he was the one picked to accompany Hanniver down into the wreckage. Lyle knew he had to make this opportunity count. He spent weeks preparing for it and planning for the best way to impress. And yet in person the man was not what Lyle expected. He was thinking Hanniver was a weedy academic – not the broad shouldered, strapping man who stood before him with long black hair, dark skin and a genial Martian drawl. Still, Lyle knew first impressions were everything and he had to make this one count. Hanniver could be the greatest launching pad of his career, if he could properly impress him. He needed this reference to get a foot into the door of Starfleet. “All right, as I am sure you are all already aware; we are standing outside the Chapel Medical Library of Starfleet Academy.” Dr. Hanniver opened to the gathered crowd of students and scientists. “This building was constructed 150 years ago, on top of the foundations of the old Starfleet Admiral’s Club after that facility was decommissioned and moved to Luna Capitol. The recent earthquake opened a fissure in the foundation which revealed an extensive sub-basement, used for records and storage. Our job is to carefully catalogue and remove all of the artifacts in this area. T’Pahl and Julani will be leading team one – you will be removing all of the isolinear rods from the storage area. Rodriguez and Ah’Krza will be leading team two – you will be tagging all personal items. Smith and Wesson will be leading team three in carefully checking the armory – if you run into any problems, call a security officer to assist.” He paused and fixed his eyes on the gangly student lingering in the back. “And Mr. Lyle – you are with me. We’re going to see if the sinkhole behind the fissure leads to anything. You will follow my lead, am I clear?” “Yes, sir!” Lyle called back. He double-checked his harness and gear before shouldering a portable generator and a case of checkpoint lanterns; brimming with excitement at the chance to venture into a place that hadn’t been explored for centuries. As the teams dispersed, Hanniver walked up, offering over a helmet and a pair of goggles. “They tell me you like a good adventure, Lyle. That you’re aiming for Starfleet Academy. I hope your rappelling skills are up to snuff.” Hanniver grinned, checking his own harness. Lyle gave an eager nod. “Oh yes, they’re good, sir!” He followed the older man into the crack in the earth, clipping his carabineer onto the safety cable as they eased their way down a steep incline. “What do you think we’re going to find down here?” Hanniver shrugged as he adjusted his light. The bright midday sun faded as they started traveling under the cracked precipice of the old foundation. “I hope to find some new information on the foundations of the Federation. I try not to expect anything.” He paused, grabbing onto a parallel cable and switching his harness clips. “Be careful, it’s slippery here. The two men descended down past the rubble left when the original building was destroyed, and past layers of older architectural remnants – brick and stonework from centuries past. The drop was surprisingly short, only a single story. It landed them in an unimpressive poured concrete box that had most of its identifying decoration stripped from the walls long ago. “Huh.” Lyle murmured. “Pretty bare.” It wasn’t what he thought it would be. Hanniver chuckled, handing Lyle a laser ruler and pulling out a tricorder. “Standard deconstruction job. This looks like late twenty first style construction – probably a storage area or possibly an underground garage.” “Why hide a storage area down here?” “Not so much ‘hide’ back then as it was ‘fit.’ Space was at a premium, the Lunar and Martian colonies were just infant ideas, cities were crowded. They needed to build up and down rather than side to side to make it all fit.” Hanniver replied, face down into his readings. He waved a hand towards his young companion. “This way.” Lyle gasped as Hanniver pushed a busted door open. The flashlight cut a beam down a long featureless hallway. “I have seen this before…” Lyle murmured. Hanniver perked a brow. “You have?” He turned towards his companion, watching the kid for several long seconds. Lyle’s eyes grew wide in anticipation. “I have! I know this book by heart! This is exactly how Colonel Abrahms describes the secret storage facility for Starfleet’s greatest temporal secrets in his book “Into Darkness: A Theory of Federation Development in an Alternative Timeline.” The older man turned to face his student. “Really?” The tone held less curiosity in it, and more belated disbelief. “That’s a hack pop-science book written by someone who would have been better off writing action-adventure holonovels.” Jaw dropping, James Lyle did his level best to not look as crestfallen as he felt. “Colonel Abrahms spent his whole life working on his body of work. It’s brilliant, if you take the time to read everything. And there’s plenty of support for his ideas.” Sighing, Hanniver pinched the bridge of his nose. He hated getting into arguments like this with students. “Lyle… I know it’s a compelling read – but that’s it. Entertainment. There’s no real science behind Abrahms’ theories. He doesn’t respect historical facts. All he does is build off other people’s theories and take them on a drunken romp through the annals of Federation history.” Lyle grit his teeth as they moved down the hallway. He had been studying this theory his entire life. He knew it better than anyone else, and the proof for this theory might be standing right in front of them. Ever since he was a small child Lyle believed there was a massive temporal cover up in Starfleet and he was going to be the man who would break it wide open and save the course of history. He had to make Hanniver see the truth. “There’s plenty of historical fact in Into Darkness. It builds from the very foundation of Federation records and into the real way history played out. We’re just too blind to see how much the Temporal Affairs Office has been altering our perceptions so we can’t see history correctly!” he argued as they came to a hole in the foundation. Fanning the flashlight around the dusty cavern of crushed concrete, Hanniver resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Colonel Abrahms was a nutjob conspiracy theorist. Why do you think he was given a dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps?” “The history books are wrong.” Lyle folded his arms across his chest in muted defiance. “Colonel Abrahms was a visionary who unfolded a time centered plot that had – still has – the potential to unravel the very foundations of our Federation!” “Oh yes, I read all about it. The Romulan plot to travel back in time and destroy Vulcan.” Hanniver sighed. “Look, I know the destruction of the Hobus star took a lot of people by surprise, even shook them up pretty badly. The colonel was one of them. But it’s been fifty three years, and the non aggression pact with the Romulans has stood for over two decades. You think if they were going to try some insane time travel plot to ‘get revenge’ at the Federation, they would have done it already.” The student leaned forward, conviction tinting his voice with a passionate edge. “You don’t understand the flow of time travel. This whole cataclysm is just waiting for the right domino to be pushed over. We might be stumbling on the very proof that what the colonel predicted is absolutely true.” Hanniver paused, letting his shoulders slump as he fixed Lyle with an unimpressed stare. “The Abrahms theory may be the most popular conspiracy theory of the past fifty years.” He paused for effect. “But seriously, if a ship full of Romulans did have the ability to time travel wouldn’t they warn their planet of its impending doom and therefore save the vast majority of their species rather than going off on some ill-conceived revenge mission?” Lyle stalled in his vehement argument. The gears in his brain turned, remembering the fascinating passages he had spent years reading under his covers and in darkened back rooms of dusty libraries. “They were driven insane by grief.” He asserted. “Romulans are crazy… but they’re not that crazy.” Hanniver replied, making a light sound of disgust as he continued forward. Lyle felt his cheeks burn. He followed Hanniver through a busted door and into a cleaned out storage area. Running his finger along the thick layer of dust accumulated on the tops of the steel shelving, he tried to recoup his argument. “There was interference by Admiral Marcus. He was in on the time conspiracy because he wanted to purge all non-human influence from the Federation. The Romulan attack on Vulcan would be a fundamental building block for his xenophobic platform. He steered them towards Vulcan.” “That’s ridiculous.” Hanniver called back, setting down the portable generator and messing with the controls until it hummed to life. The beacons he had been placing on their way down powered up with a deep amber glow. “It isn’t. Even in this time stream, historians were able to point out over a dozen pivotal decisions Admiral Marcus made that perfectly set up the time-warp destruction of the Vulcan homeworld. It’s a good thing he was stopped by Khan before he got the chance to implement his plans.” Hanniver sighed. “Admiral Marcus died at home from rheumatic fever, surrounded by his family at the age of ninety-three. He never fought a genetically engineered superman, he never built a death dealing stealth battleship, and the biggest scandal he was involved in was that Federation News Service story about how he used his Starfleet rank to give him in edge in bartering flower samples after he retired.” He fixed Lyle with a flat look. “Yes, they accused him of having an unfair advantage in a garden show competition.” He punctuated the gravity of this statement with a low ‘oooooh.’ “It’s a Federation cover up. They don’t want you to know how deeply the Temporal Affairs Department in entrenched in every walk of life in the United Federation of Planets. And Starfleet. Especially Starfleet.” Lyle wasn’t about to give up, he knew this story all too well, and he usually won this argument. Most people simply conceded that his knowledge was superior. “Yep.” Hanniver tossed back. “I have tea with temporal agents every other Wednesday.” “Are you being sarcastic?” “Are you being serious?” “You don’t seem to understand the gravity of this situation!” “Look, Mr. Lyle…” Hanniver sighed, changing tactics. “What do you really think you’re going to find down here?” “I don’t know!” Lyle threw his hands up in the air, his eyes wide. “That’s the brilliant beauty of it all, isn’t it? There could be any number of things that could tear a massive hole into the cover ups that Starfleet heaps on us.” He paused and added with a smile, “I like keeping my mind open to the possibilities.” “Possibilities?” Hanniver snorted. “Right.” He shook his head, working on unlocking the far door in the room. It gave a whine as the rusty old fashioned hinges creaked and the seal around the door cracked open. A rush of cold air hit them both, and even Hanniver felt his curiosity pique. It was like a freezer in here. “Oh my God… I was right…” Lyle breathed as the fog from the coolant cleared. Hanniver picked up a beacon and let the light penetrate the frigid blackness. Storage containers. Row after row after row of perfectly preserved storage containers. “We don’t know what’s in them until we open one.” Hanniver replied, keeping his voice calm. He didn’t want to admit this discovery rattled him just a little. He crouched down, trying to find any identification on the container. “It says botanical samples.” He started the unlock code, vaguely surprised how easily the locking mechanism jumped to life. “Of course they would say plant samples. No one labels horrific bioweapons or cryogenically frozen soldiers as what they really are.” “I’m not getting any dangerous readings.” Hanniver countered, his tricorder at the ready as the lock sequenced. “Shielding.” Lyle muttered. “I’m sure it has shielding.” Hanniver felt a surge of adrenaline as the locking device on the container hummed compliantly and the lights on the control panel turned green. Maybe Lyle’s wild theories were infectious, but he felt a shiver of anticipation run down his spine as he opened the case. The fog of cryogenic cooling agents hissed as they hit the warmth of the outside and rolled across his chest. “Oh my God…” the words dribbled from his mouth as his jaw dropped. “I was right, wasn’t I?” Lyle tossed back, his eyes wide as saucers. “This proves the whole theory!” “No…” Hanniver’s expression was like a tiny child seeing a Christmas tree glittering with lights and tinsel for the very first time. He grabbed a sample tongs and pulled out a small cylindrical case. “This is a Romulan snow orchid…” He gasped, taking out another case, “Romulan three leaf basil… and mountain poppies…” A chuckle of realization bubbled from his chest. “Admiral Marcus was smuggling illegal plant samples from the neutral zone for his garden…” “Plants.” Lyle’s expression looked like it has been smashed with a wrecking ball. “Just plants?” “Not just plants.” Hanniver grabbed his tricorder and started to take readings from inside the case. “This is a botanical treasure trove! Over half of these species have been extinct since the Hobus star exploded… and they’re still biologically viable. We could cultivate them!” The excitement in Hanniver’s voice was growing to a fevered pitch. “Think of the diplomatic inroads the Federation could make to the Romulans by offering them seedlings of these plants… this is amazing, Lyle! Simply amazing!” “Just plants.” The young man repeated, his shock fading to disappointment and anger. “We did all this digging for a bunch of stupid plants?!” Hanniver stood, letting the excitement of his find bleed away from his expression as he settled his gaze on Lyle. If the kid couldn’t realize the importance of a discovery like this one… “Reality check, kid. I don’t think you’re cut out for Starfleet. In fact, I’m going to recommend that after you finish your degree you should apply for a job at Forsythe Historical Holonovel Productions. They’re always hiring archaeologists and historians. Help them give that realistic ‘edge’ to their programming. Pays well, good benefits, Arconis V is a beautiful planet to work on and you can indulge your sense of pulp fiction fantasy on a daily basis.” He offered Lyle a sympathetic smile. “Heck, I’ll even give you a good reference for the job.” Lyle’s mouth fell open in disappointment. Entertainment? Holonovels? He thought he would be on the cutting edge of the unknown, not programming trite historical romantic adventures. “Are you serious?” “Dead serious kid.” Hanniver gathered his tools. “Come on, we need to get a science team down here.” Lyle lingered back, holding back a disenchanted cry. As Hanniver disappeared into the side room he kicked the floor and turned back at the rows of storage pods. “Stupid plants.” He cursed again, hanging his head and following the professor. ~*~ Lieutenant JG Sal Taybrim Science Officer USS Excalibur-A
  19. ((USS Excalibur – Personal Quarters of En. Riveriew)) ::Sipping her white peppermint hotchocolate, Ceilidh took PADD in hand and moved over to her couch to do some light reading. It was an old personal log that she had come across while trying to find out some more information about a fellow crew mate on board. Sitting down, she grabbed the blanket and draped it over her legs and balanced her drink on her knees as she began to read.:: ((Personal Log, 222102.20 - Utopia Plentia)) ::Looking out first to her left, and then to her right, Felicity felt the tears begin to flow freely from her eyes and streak down onto her warm cheeks. She had originally agreed to participate in Dr. Turner’s research methods regarding human and AI interactions, even trying to combine the two together. It sounded mad at the beginning the media had said. It went against everything that we as a race stood for. Humans and machine could benefit each, even depend on each other, but never truly be ‘one with each other’ as he had so wanted and envisioned. He argued against all their arguments, saying that together they could explore the universe for greater lengths of time and further than had been possible in the past, and even the present. The people, the media, and now even the powers that be were against what he was proposing to do, all the hopes of helping our people reach their full potential. Starships - that was what everyone said would be how we moved about across the universe, meeting new life forms and discovering new planets. We would learn all we could, while remaining true to who we were. We were unique in our evolution, having accomplished so much in such a short period of time, compared to other beings we had just come to discover existed besides ourselves. We had only ventured outside our own solar system less than a year ago, and already we were eager to learn as much as possible. But with our youth, came our inability to wait. We wanted it all now, and Dr. Turner had originally been the man to promise a faster way to discover it all. Artificial intelligence was something our people had toyed with for the last several decades, but only arrived at recently to a point where it was becoming more and more difficult to tell the difference between man and machine. As ships were being built to travel in space, he was building beings who would also travel in space, who would help their human counterparts with the long voyages that space travel would bring. Time began to pass from months into years, and questions began to take root in his thoughts. What if man and machine could be combined? Could it be done without losing what makes us who we are, retaining our uniqueness? War was always something that took place, no matter what your planet, and ours was no different. Soldiers died on the fields, or came home damaged, whether mentally, physically, or both. It was at the end of the last war that the dark side in the doctor began to surface under the false guise of wanting to help returning soldiers. Individuals who had lost limbs or had damaged them beyond traditional repair methods were taken in by his newly established medical foundation. It was here that he practiced his new form of medicine, combining parts of A.I. technology in replacement limbs with injured vets. In the beginning, success rates were high, with individuals being given a second chance at a normal life. Yet soon enough, the flaws of this new found hope became apparent. The individual would want to do one thing, while the replacement appendage would want to do something different. Other cases were that those who had received these technological aids were experiencing episodes of memory loss, but were obviously participating in society, as if the artificial limb had taken control over their thought process, leaving them unable to remember what they had done. It was when 90% of those individuals who had received treatment from Dr. Turner, complained about increased memory loss, and authorities brought forth allegations of increased crimes being committed by said individuals that Dr. Turners’ funding was cut and his medical facility was shut down. Star ships were launched into space, with a human and A.I. crew manifest, ready to explore what was out there, if only able to do it for short periods of time. Humans back on earth began to remove their artificial limbs that had been provided by Dr. Turner, in the hopes of gaining back control over their personal lives. In the years that followed, Dr. Turner went quietly into the far reaches of the media and continued on his work of combining humans and artificial intelligence together in the hopes of one day creating a human that would be better prepared and able to survive out in deep space for longer periods of time. A being that would be able to take the time to learn all it needed to and wanted to, without the restraints of age getting in the way. There were still those that believed in what he was trying to achieve, and those that were desperate enough for help due to injuries they had sustained one way or another. That’s where I come in. I had been coming home from university last summer and was injured in a motor vehicle incident. A neighbour had thought it a good idea at the time to take out her parents old car and drive it around, just to see what it had been like to drive the antique. We had the radio turned up and the group of us were laughing and telling stories. Perhaps we should have paid more attention to where we were going, but technology in modern vehicles informed the passengers of oncoming danger. Older cars, like what we were in didn’t. It was too late for the evening commuter train to stop, or even slow down. It hit us so hard that we were all thrown from the car in different directions. Two over the edge of the high road, down to their death 640 meters below; my neighbour had been thrown into oncoming traffic with no hope for survival; and myself thrown in the direction of the quarry pit on the side I had been sitting on. I don’t remember much after that, except waking up in the hospital. I wasn’t able to feel anything, and I figured that was a good thing. But as time went on, I came to learn that I would never feel anything from my neck down ever again. Depression took over my life for the next 5 years as I learned a new way of living. During one of my low periods, I came across an add by Dr. Turner, offering medical help to those that still wanted it, with the promise of complete restoral to previous lifes’ activities before all injuries. I got a hold of him and he agreed to meet me at my place. Our first meeting, as the door opened, I wondered if all that he had promised in his add would even be possible for me. As we talked and he examined me, a twinkle danced in his eyes. I can help you, but you have to understand, my methods are frowned upon by the larger society. I didn’t care I told him. I just wanted to walk again, even be able to use my hands and legs again. He agreed. One week later I had left everything and everyone I knew behind me and moved into his facility. It was an old warehouse that had been converted to serve his needs. My surgery began the next day. He said that in order to restore my health, he would first have to remove all the damaged parts. Dr. Turner assured me that replacements for anything he had to remove were readably available and not to worry. I would once again be able to move and live life independently. It took him 3 days to ‘fix’ me. Over the next 4 days I was closely monitored for signs of infection, rejection, and healing. On the 10th day he rolled the bed I had been on the entire time outside into the small court yard and over to a large rectangular building. The late afternoon sun was still warm on my face and I laughed when I felt the wind rush over my head, and then felt it as it blew over my shoulders. I hadn’t felt anything lower than the middle of my neck for so long, that at first I wasn’t sure I had felt anything at all. Be he assured me that I had indeed felt something. When I asked how, he explained that during my surgery he had used artificial intelligent limbs and technology in replacing any damaged parts I had, whether from the initial accident, or from afterwards from lack of use. As I continued to heal, I would begin to feel more and more. For now though, I needed rest, and was going to put me into a cryo-tube that would be able to help my body heal quicker and give me the rest I needed. As I looked at all the tubes that were lying in the room, I wondered out loud how many times he had performed this type of surgery. Dr. Turner said that the others who were healing from their injuries were less damaged than me, that for them he had either simply replaced damaged or missing limbs with new limbs, or technology, but as for me? I was a medical miracle. When I asked how, he told me that I would learn that answer once I was inside the tube and safe. I was nervous at the idea of being confined to such a small space at first, but the idea that I would be sleeping and not awake to deal with the idea of claustrophobia helped relax me a bit. The tubes had originally been used in the previous war to hold massive explosives to cause as much damage as possible. With the ending of the war, said weapons were no longer needed. Their contents disposed up, but the hulls still useful. Dr. Turner had purchased several hundred of them under a business name and had them delivered to this warehouse. As far as the governments were concerned, they had their money, and didn’t care what the tubes were used for, as long as it wasn’t for building weapons. As his assistant and him lifted my body to be placed into the tube, I caught a glimpse of the others in the surrounding tubes and noticed the work that each had gone through. I also noticed my own body in the reflection of the tube beside me. Is that me? Yes But I look so different Your outside appearance is different yes, but you are still you. It’s what inside that counts. As I was lowered into the tube, he explained the process of putting me to sleep and how long I would be in this state for. Perhaps, he said, one day you will even go into space! Think of all the possibilities that now lay before you! I thanked him for all he had done. Even as I laid there in the small tube, I was beginning to feel things again. A pinkie toe on my left foot, my right thumb. As the tube was closed and locked, he peered in one more time and smiled. Walking away, I began to relax, wondering at what I would do first when I woke up. It was then that a small display screen activated directly in front of my eyes. Trying to see the control panel for it, it dawned on me, that there wasn’t an actual display panel inside the tube. Instead, it was inside my mind. And the first image that I took hold of, what I looked like before my surgery and how I looked now. Gone was the broken body that didn’t even look like it had before the accident. In its place was a fresh, sleek new body, made of materials that gave me a strong shape, yet displayed my femininity. It explained that because of all the damage, the only parts that had remained were my spinal cord and from my shoulders up. Any damage to the spinal column had been repaired, with several discs being replaced. As more and more feeling began to register in my mind, the more and more I began to dream about all the possibilities I could do once I was healed. The idea of going into outer space and seeing and learning about all the universe had to offer fascinated me. I wanted to learn as much as possible and add that knowledge to my own, in the hopes of bettering myself. As I drifted to sleep, my mind kept displaying information about what Dr. Turner had been able to accomplish on me, but also on those who were in the tubes surrounding me. In his message he stated that we were the first to have the surgeries we had endured, all to varying degrees. Eventually we would all be able to talk to each other and help each other moving forwards. His one wish for us was to live life to the fullest, to learn all we could and remember that knowledge and share it with others, and to support each other collectively going forward. He promised us all that one day, we would see the stars up close and go where no one had gone before. Tears streamed down my cheeks, but they weren’t tears of sadness, but at joy. I was still alive. I was going to have a future. Anything was possible now. My name is Eve. I am one of a kind. You could say, I am one of one. ((END OF LOG)) ::Ceilidh felt a cold shiver run down her spine and placed the PADD down on the couch and gripped her slightly cooled off mug with both hands. Her only thought was, what eventually had happened to Eve? En. Riverview Counselor USS Excalibur
  20. It was dark, it was cold, and he could not move. No, that wasn't exactly right. He could feel a tight and constricting presence, some sort of binding. However, there was a slight give to it, he could indeed move about, just not very far. His panic subsided as this fact sunk in. It had all but abated when his memories of what had happened to him began to come back. Slowly, piece by garbled piece, the events leading up to his being stuck in the ice became clear. His name was Richard, he was a science officer, part of Starfleet, and he was- Wait, was that really ice covering him on all sides? No, it was glass and cold steel; he was in something metallic and very small. A glass window above him, which had fogged up during his panic attack, didn't provide much of a view. Why was he in this thing? This cold and cramped space that he couldn't imagine he would ever voluntarily subject himself to. Right, it wasn't voluntary. Richard tried wiping away the condensation obscuring his view of the outside. It didn't help. Wherever they had put him, please god not underground, it was too dark to see. Diadem, the people of Diadem, whom the Vigilant had been meeting with on a first contract mission, had been nothing but kind and courteous. That should have tipped them off that all wasn't right in the world they had stumbled upon. The senior officers had been wined and dined; some of them even partaking in other delights. Richard had been doing just that -coaura- a game involving manipulating light patterns and memory testing. He'd been playing and winning against a dignitary when he'd. Richard winced at the memory; the sharp pain from the blow to the head was a dull ache now, only bothering him when he moved his head to the left. It explained why he was having a time recalling things. He probably had a concussion, because after the explosion of pain, things got fuzzy. He'd put up a fight, that he was sure of, but they had hit him with something other than just their fists, a drug that really did a number on his senses. Because Richard could not shake the memory of staggering to the floor, dropping on hands and knees, slowly lowering himself to the ground, and then looking up into the face of his assailant. It had been his face (he'd recognize it anywhere) that had been grinning down at him. He rapped his knuckles against the glass. It was cold to the touch, while not bad enough to give him a chill; it was cold enough to make him a little uncomfortable. Wherever he was, there was no source of heat out there. "I'm trapped," Richard said. "And I'm talking to myself." Deciding that oxygen was too precious to spare, Richard decided against stating anymore of the obvious. It would be silly to lay there talking to himself, narrating what was happening to him as if someone could hear his tale of woe. After all, it wasn't like he had . . . his come badge! Richard shifted around franticly, the tight constricting clothing he wore gave just enough for him to lift up his arm. But where a badge should have been pinned, Richard found nothing. In frustration, he punched the glass above him. The smacking sound of his fist against the glass reverberated around him. All he had to show for his troubles were bruised knuckles. The little effort it took to make the swing left him spent. He lay there a moment trying to calm his breathing as darkness encroached on his vision. "Awake?" The crackling startled him. The voice that followed the static, that scarred him. It was his voice. But not. "Don't be like that Richard," not his voice said. "I just wanted to let you know how your friends where doing. I figured I owed you that much." "What are you?" He heard himself chuckling over the speaker. God but he had an annoying laugh. No wonder it got on Grant's nerves. "Come on Richard, you're smarter than that. For my sake, I hope that you are. We do share the same DNA after all." "A clone then," Richard frowned. When could the Diadems have gotten a DNA sample from him? For that matter, just how had they grown a fully developed clone of him, and in under eight hours? "That's not possible." "Improbable, but not impossible, I am Lt. Jg. Richard Matthews, a science officer aboard the USS Vigilant." The thing was mocking him. The thing was mocking him and it was using his own voice to do so. Richard would have none of that. "Stop that! I don't care what you say you are. You're not me! You hear me?" His voice was still chuckling at him. "Hear you loud and clear Richard. Maybe you should quiet down a little; there isn't much air where they've stuck you." "And where did they stick me?" "It's basically a freezer, where they keep the bodies until they dispose of them." There was that cold feeling again. This time though, it wasn't from pressing against the glass window in front of him. "I'm in a morgue." "Yes." "And this is the part where you tell me what your evil plan is, right? Brag about how you're going to; to whatever it is you think you're going to do." "So that you could possibly get a warning out to your friends, Richard, I'm not stupid. I am you remember? I know you're already working out how to activate the com system on your end. While wondering why a casket even has one to begin with." "The thought had crossed my mind." Richard admitted while his hands traced along the sides of his 'casket.' Finding nothing, no panel or switch, he slowly rolled over as much as he could in the small space he was in, continuing his search for a set of controls or something to work with. "It won't work you know. Who is going to believe the message of a raving lunatic, claiming that a high-ranking Starfleet officer is a clone? No one in their right mind would." There was a pause and Richard could have sworn he heard the scratching of pen on paper. "I need to speak with Dueld." "Best to keep to yourself if you want to fool people," Richard snapped, even though the other couldn't see him, he made a rude gesture as he growled out his warning/threat. "My friends can tell the difference between me and a fake. You might sound like me and look like me. However, you are a quickly thrown together copy. You won't full anyone." "I've been doing well enough so far. Seems all I have to do is make a not so funny joke here or there. No one is the wiser. Really Richard it's not like they expect much from you." "You must though, why else would you be calling me?" He had found what he was looking for. A small panel that popped open to reveal wires and buttons, there was a little speaker off to the side, and a small screen right below it. "I wanted to make sure you were comfortable. You've been out for a while you know. Air must be awful thin in there by now." "It's a little stuffy, but other than that, fine." Richard had to stop three times as he fiddled with the wiring of his mini prison. It wouldn't do to cut off the transmission by accident, but as anyone who knew him well enough would say if asked, Richard just was not a hands on kind of guy when it came to electronics. The software he could handle, having fancied himself a bit of a hacker back in the day. The hardware, not so much, and his time at the academy hadn't helped with that. He could recall one class that might have assisted him about now but- 'Cadet, why are you not listening?' Richard, who had been chatting up the cute security officer on his team, smiled at the ranking officer running their class. 'Well this isn't really my department. Yusueh and Patolos are the operations officers.' He chuckled, at the annoyed look the instructor was shooting him. Was it his fault that he'd never actually need to know how to wire up a radio? 'Who are you cadet?' 'I'm the doctor.' 'Dr. Who?' 'Dr. Rich-' 'I don't care,' she cut him off, 'and neither well anyone out there, do you think this is a game? Because I have no time for cadets who can't take their classes seriously. This could save your life someday. But if you think you already know everything that you need to know. You can leave this exercise and go straight to the testing. My office after your last class cadet, dismissed. Looking back, Richard rather wished he'd practiced better study habits right now. Actually listening in class for one. "I just wanted to-" the audible click of another channel being open disrupted the not Richard's little speech. But he went on as if he hadn't noticed the little blip. "And say thank you for being so pathetic. It's been laughably easy to play the fool. No one notices a thing, not the giant buffoon who claims to be in charge of security around here. Not that lazy Captain of yours who has his legs up more often than an Orion slave girl does. Not even your chief medical officer and she did a physical." Richard winced, he would have some explaining to do once back aboard the Vigilant. Clone or not. You just didn't get away with saying things like that about superior officers. "It's because I'm a perfect clone. Yes, of course there's a way to tell what I am. If the CMO or any medical officer did the right tests, they'd see that my cellular structure is akin to that of a small child's. After all I'm only 20 hours old." This was good, without any real prompting, the monster wearing his face was spilling all its secrets. The trick was to keep it talking without asking too many questions. Questions derailed the flow of the other chap telling you something; they just weren't part of a normal chat. "The Vigilant just broke orbit around Diadem. In a few short minutes, you will be out of range and I won't get the chance to talk to you ever again. You have, if I'm guessing right, twenty minutes left." Maybe less than that, Richard was actively taking slower shallower breaths now. Lightheaded was never a good thing to be. Lightheaded inside a casket wasn't even an option. "The people of Diadem haven't been ignorant of your federation for some time. The alliance between their world and the others in this solar system, you remember hearing about that right?" The alliance between Diadem and the three other inhabitable planets that shared its solar system had been a real selling point for the Federation. Four planets for the price of one in a region of space where they didn't have many allies to begin with? The admiralty had been all but drooling when they had sent their orders to the Vigilant to make first contact. When it realised that Richard wasn't going to answer, the voice that was not his own continued. "It's not so much an alliance as an empire ruled over by the people of Diadem." Richard laughed. "Four planets does not an empire make, tell them to get back to us when they're on par with the Klingons or Romulans. Now those are empires." "It's not much of an empire now. But once they gain access to the United Alliance of Planets, and the fire power of the Federation, their empire will trump both the Klingons and what is left of the Romulans' Star empires." "You cloned me so you can clone others too. God, it's like a twisted version of the body snatchers." Frowning, Richard asked. "You do know this has been tried before right? Little alien parasites, humans used as puppets, hostile alien take over. Really you should be sued for plagiarism." "The process of creating me included a data dump, it could be called. While I don't know something as trivial as what was on the breakfast menu yesterday. The scientists in charge of my mental development were able to give me the big things." "You have my memories then?" That's how the Diadems planned on doing it. Not just by replacing officers, but by stealing their memories. The perfect infiltration units supplied with all the necessary information. "I'm already tagging officers aboard the ship to be taken during the next visit. The chief of science was a trial run. The important officers, like the Captain, First Officer, or Chief Medical Officer, are the ones we want. You can get closer to the admiralty through a Captain after all." Hearing enough, Richard directed his next question to the person listening in on his little conversation whit himself. At least he hoped that he was talking to someone else. He wasn't exactly sure if his call had been answered by friend or foe. He didn't even know if it had been answered. "Did you get all that?" One beat, then two, Richard was starting to sweat in his little icebox. "Nothing to say Richard? You've been awfully quite while I've chatted away here." Panicked, Richard began fooling with the wires again. "What do you mean quiet?" No answer, just quiet, Richard didn't know if he'd cut off his connection with his tampering or not. Apparently he'd done something to not be able to transmit. "You couldn't have passed out already Richard, surely we're made from tougher stuff then that? Come on say- what?" The startled exclamation caught Richard's attention. Breath healed to hear his other self over the speaker and to conserve as much air as possible. He strained to hear what was going on. The clone was talking to someone, he could just make it out, the clone said something and then he swore he heard the sounds of a scuffle. "Who was he talking to? Hanson, trace the source of the signal now." Was that the captain? Richard sucked in a quick breath. They were talking again. "Sir there is an open channel to the planet's surface, where it's being received and broadcasted, but I can't tell the transmitters location. I can only narrow it down to a fifty mile radius." "Bridge start scanning the area Ensign Hanson has given us. That thing was talking to someone and I want to know who." "Me," Richard gasped, the effort it took to speak was frightening, but he did it anyway. "Sir I'm in a morgue, probably the basement of that hospital you visited." "Sir, what about Matthews?" There was a pause, when the captain spoke he sounded as tired as Richard was feeling. "I can't see the Diadems keeping him around, not if they wanted to keep up pretences, they'd have disposed of the evidence." Richard shuddered. The captain went on. "I just can't believe I didn't notice something earlier. I told Richard that I had gotten my hands on the recipe for those cookies everyone liked at the party. He just looked at me like I had two heads before saying 'that's nice sir.'" "Sir, bridge reports they've got something." Hanson's clipped and dry tone, while usually a source of annoyance for Richard, made his spirits soar now. "Let's go see what it is Ensign." Quiet, save for the shallow gasping breaths he took, which were loud and deafening to his own ears. There were no voices coming over the speaker now. Richard didn't even know if the channel was still open. If the Vigilant had found him, would they even need it open to lock on to him, no they wouldn't. Any second now, because it would only take a moment for them to lock on to him and beam him aboard, he'd be breathing that wonderful recycled air and a hot nurse or doctor would be fussing over him. His Captain would simultaneously commend him for his efforts, berate him for getting into trouble, and threaten him never to do it again. Any second now, because his chest was getting tighter. His silly crewmates did have the flair for dramatics; a down to the last minute save was something they would do. Any second now. The world was going white; finally, they were beaming him up. The world would go completely blank for a moment, two three minutes tops, and he'd be home again. It would only be like a second for him though, a blink of the eye and he'd be home and safe. Richard smiled as he closed his eyes. He was going home. Lt. Jg. Richard Matthews MD Acting CSO USS Vigilant NCC-75515
  21. (Cargo Bay - USS Marauder) ::Captain Jackson stood and watched as the last “tray” of pods was moved into place. His ship now boasted fifteen of these “trays” in the modified cargo bays and holds. Each tray held three rows of seven pods. Each pod held one “member” of his crew. Over three hundred people. :: oO Why did I sign up for such a mission? It’s a near suicide run. But its still a rescue mission, so if we pull it off, we will be heroes. Oo ::The heavily modified starship had started life as an Achilles class heavy cruiser, which was designed for long-range endurance missions. For this mission, modifications had been made, removing various useless crew comforts and replacing areas with cargo bays and holds. Two large industrial replicators from the larger Mulciber class ships were installed as well. :: oO Not like we really are going to need the lounge or other such comforts. Oo ::Because of the length of this long-range mission, the majority of the crew had to be put into stasis. :: oO Still can’t believe I agreed to this. Putting people into modified torpedo tubes for stasis pods. Of all things….. John, you just better be worth it. Oo ::The tray locked into place and the anti-grav lifters withdrew. A tech team quickly attached the leads securing the pod to the ship’s power.:: oO I wonder who had the bright idea to bring the crew aboard already in stasis. Makes things easier for getting under way I guess. Oo ::He watched and waited for the techs to finish and leave the room.:: oO Even with slipstream, its still going to take us a century to reach our destination. Oo JACKSON: Mara, loading is complete. Take us out. COMPUTER AI (MARA): Yes captain. Beginning undocking procedures. ::Then with a heavy sigh, he turned and followed the last tech out, and hit the button to seal the doors behind them. The doors slid closed and sealed with a thud, followed by the hiss of pressurization.:: oO So the journey begins…Oo ::Each of the rooms holding pods was designed to maintain its own pressure, just in case a part of the ship took damage and was exposed to space. The bays and the tubes would also help keep the crew protected from any radiation they came across. After all, this was truly a voyage to the unknown.:: oO I just hope it’s worth the cost. Oo ::He made his way up to the bridge and settled into his chair. Around him, a minimum bridge crew worked, with another small team down in main engineering. Once they were safely on course, they would all enter stasis, leaving the ship to Mara, the ship’s AI. She would keep the ship on course and rotate the crew in and out stasis, every so many years in a cycle. That would keep everyone from aging during the trip. Thus six trays each contained a full bridge and engineering crew under one senior officer. The remaining trays contained various specialist who would be awaken when their service was required, including a short platoon of Marines. One tray remained for the currently awake crew. :: oO By the time we reach them, they will have been lost for over a century. Our hope is that they found a planet to survive on out there, and maybe we find their descendants. Oo JACKSON: Mara, how long? MARA: Time to galactic edge, 31 days at current velocity Captain. JACKSON: Verify we are on the last course of the Monitor? MARA: Yes captain. Analysis has computed the last known position of the USS Monitor and calculated the course we are now following. JACKSON: Very well. (Four weeks later…) MARA: It is time Captain. JACKSON: Very well. Time people. ::The bridge crew and he made their way down to the cargo bay and their tray. One after another each climbed into a pod. As senior officer, Captain Jackson went last. He climbed into the pod and settled inside, before pressing the switch. His pod slid closed and he heard the pressure seal activate. It got very cold and he nodded off to sleep.:: oO USS Monitor, here we come…Oo Captain Jackson Commanding Officer USS Marauder
  22. OOC: My first entry - be gentle! Leanna hadn’t been certain of this mission from the get go. She had been reactivated rather suddenly, but then she supposed that was how the Intelligence service worked. They had required someone with her ‘particular skill set’ for a matter of ‘Federation security’, like she had never heard that brand of codswallop before. It had been over a decade since they had used it on her though, and she had been quite enjoying her career back in the mainstream. It had somewhat surprised Captain Hollis when his Chief Medical Officer had requested an urgent leave of absence for an indefinite period. And so now the Trill found herself clad head to foot in the usual form-fitting black with absolutely no markings or indentifying characteristics. The tight hood was pressing her long dark hair oppressively to her scalp and it itched like hell. It was coming back to the middle-aged woman why as a younger operative she had always kept her hair chin-length or above. She pushed the thought aside as she glanced at the civilian hand-held scanner, it was much too late to do anything about that. She doubted very much Starfleet Intelligence would accept that one of its agents got captured whilst shearing locks of hair off inside a hostile base. Her breath was beginning to get more laboured as she jogged down a metal-walled hallway. She was getting too old for this malarkey, she really would have to have a word with someone in Intelligence that they should find some younger, fitter models for this work. She suspected that they wouldn’t listen. Her thoughts were interrupted by urgent bleating from her scanner and she rapidly cursed, silenced it with a jab and wondered when she had gotten to sloppy about keeping her equipment in discreet mode. There were two lifesigns approaching the next corner quickly. Leanna did a quick visual scan of her surroundings and it was blatantly obvious there was nowhere to hide and retreat was not an option. If she had been detected that meant that she now had even less time to complete her mission and more hostiles would be converging on her current position. To fight it was then, Leanna made the only choice she felt she had and was glad that her chest hit the floor as two Romulans came around the corner firing at a level that would’ve caught her square in her torso a moment earlier. She didn’t let the two men time to process their confusion or realize their mistake as she let two rapid-fire shots off of her small disruptor that until she had hit the deck had been secreted in her left sleeve. She was glad that Lt. Commander Semal on the Paladin had kept her well trained as a marksman as each shot hit its target and the grey-tuniced men crumpled to the floor. Despite her breathlessness, Leanna was back on her feet and at a full run almost as soon as her opponents hit the deck. Obviously aware that they had lost the element of surprise what she could only assume was an intruder alert alarm began to blare all around her and the lights dimmed. They should’ve sent tactical support, hell they should’ve sent a tactical officer! Second room on the left…one…two! Leanna fired at the group that was coming towards her from the other end of the corridor as she jumped into the doorway, he shoulder jarring against the duranium door. Locked, there’s a surprise. Shots flew past and hit the wall only centimeters down the corridor and she made the call. The Trill fired a trio of shots towards her attackers and a fourth and the panel in the wall beside her, the doors began to open then stalled. It was a tight fit but Leanna squeezed through the gap and gained access to her target. She had little doubt her breast tissue would be objecting in the morning… if she saw morning. Her scanner had told her that there were Tellarite lifesigns in this room. Starfleet Intelligence had intercepted information of a plot by the Romulans to replace the Tellarite representative on the Federation council with that of a double and had activated an agent with expertise in both cloning and genetic manipulation – Leanna Beq - to investigate and if possible terminate the operation. They had underestimated its extent. The room was filled wall to wall in stasis pods, 5 per row and 10 rows. The temperature in the room was significantly cooler than it had been through the rest of the complex, or was that just a psychological reaction from the doctor-[...]-operative? The room was lit only by dim bars of deep green light from each of the four walls. And unless Beq’s eyes were playing tricks on her there was a light mist in the air. It was almost like an ancient crypt than a state of the art medical facility. Each pod contained one lifesign. Leanna ignored the hubbub as the Romulans came closer to the broken door. Her scanner was picking up a different racial profile from each pod and if her civilian scanning device was functioning correctly at least a few of the lifesigns were close if not identical to Federation Councillors. Her plan on being discovered and pinned down in this room had been to go to the backup plan of abandoning intelligence gathering and scuttling the operation even if that meant assassinating the double. That option had just become more complex. There was no way she was going to be shoot out all the stasis pods before the Romulans arrived and she wouldn’t be able to beam them all out in her narrowed but intensified emergency portable transporter device tucked into her waistband. “I knew I should never have come.” The last device Leanna had on her person was one she often managed to put out of her mind, but this time it wasn’t an option. She fired off a few shots at a Romulan trying to prise the doors further open and he slumped against the doorway before disruptor fire tore his body apart and forced Leanna to roll behind one of the pods. She sighed deeply as she reached into her boot. She heard the doors begin to buckle, and attempted to dump the data her scanner had held in a burst transmission to the stealth shuttle on the other side of the asteroid the Romulan facility occupied. It failed. “Federation agent, you are surrounded. Surrender yourself or prepare to die.” Leanna sighed again, time was up. She dropped all her equipment other than the small device that fit between her thumb and forefinger. Standing, the Trill pulled back her hood and raised her hands. Her long dark hair flowed free and her scalp thanked her as the itch subsided. She wanted them to be able to see who had caused so much trouble. “I’m afraid I may have oversold your options, Federation, now that you’ve seen this we cannot allow you to leave.” The Romulan sub-commander began to raise his disruptor. “Screw you.” Leanna pressed the device in her hand. The stealth shuttle jumped to warp as the automated systems detected the termination of Trill lifesigns on the asteroid. The asteroid exploded outward in a brilliant white light and the shuttle found itself racing a shockwave out of the area. Starfleet Intelligence Endgame explosives might have been compact but they packed a punch. Leanna Beq officially had a shuttle accident on her way back to Trill. Starfleet Intelligence never learned what had caused her to use such a drastic measure. The Romulans had lost their clones. At least the ones on that base… Commander Leanna Beq (RIP) Former Chief Medical Officer USS Paladin Starfleet Intelligence Operative
  23. An enormous thank you to all the writers who entered this end-of-the-year Challenge, and a special shout-out to the newest members and Challenge participants, Suvi Ila and Sal Taybrim; we always appreciate having new entrants and your stories were a pleasure to read! Without further ado, I'm pleased to announce the winners of the "Treason & Plot" Writing Challenge! "Sins of the Mother," courtesy of Sarah, the writer behind Saveron, mightily impressed the judges for this round and is our winner, while "Pray for Favour," from Ed, writer of Diego Herrera, is our runner-up. All my congratulations to you both, and please join in congratulating these authors and all our participants in this thread! My special thanks to this round's judges, the writers behind Fleet Captain Kali Nicholotti, Fleet Captain Toni Turner, and last round's winner, Lieutenant Sinda Essen. Please do leave your congratulations below!
  24. Greetings, everyone! Please enjoy this full compilation of the November & December Writing Challenge, available for the first time with all the entrants' stories and judges' comments. This is a PDF document with interior hyperlinks to each story for your ease of navigation, so do please read at your leisure. Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read! Get yours right here!
  25. Welcome, all, to the final competition of 2013! For this Challenge, consider this old rhyme: Remember, remember! The fifth of November, The Gunpowder treason and plot; I know of no reason Why the Gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot! Chris, aka Sinda Essen and the winner of the previous round, would like you to think about "Treason & Plot" for your entry in this final contest. He writes: "I was thinking of going all historical and Anglophile with Bonfire Night coming up - possibly the only annual celebration over an act of (attempted) terrorism in the world..." How will you interpret this theme? What justified and positive reasons might exist in Trek for treason or terrorism? It's a topic dealt with in a few of the serialized series' episodes, but usually they went the standard route of having terrorists as the bad guys. What else can you do in your story? As of today, Saturday, November 2nd, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Friday, December 27th in order to be considered for this Challenge. As always, please remember:*Your work must be completely original.*You must be the sole author of the work.*Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship.*Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
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