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  1. The phrase ‘dead of night’ certainly seemed apt. Were it not for the fact that Kellan’s young eyes had adjusted to the dark, he felt he could have been sneaking around a crypt. There was a presence in the atmosphere of Valo II that was reminiscent of the underworld somehow, a heavy, oppressive quality to the air that threatened to crush you with every passing minute. There was no hope here. No light. The young Bajoran scrambled over crumbling walls. The familiar tickle of brick-dust on his lungs brought with it the threat of a telltale cough that could wake one of the tumbledown ruin’s inhabitants. This part of the city was nothing more than a slum, filled with people like him. Food was scarce and money even more so. This wasn’t his first time sneaking food from here; the ruin’s inhabitants were thrifty and resourceful, a gang of street thugs with just enough influence that they were able to gather food as a tithe in addition to whatever else they were able to scavenge or pilfer from forays further into the city. They were known to Kellan, and he was known to them. In fact, their relationship to one another was well defined. They provided him food and, on the frequent occasions when they realised that, they also provided him pain. It was worth it, though. The clandestine operation always brought with it a chance of success. The truth was, Kellan’s hopes lay far from here and he wasn’t stealing for himself. The sixteen year-old thief had found someone he cared about in the slums. He had been led to him not by the Prophets, but by his own two feet, and when he’d encountered the old, gaunt beggar and offered him part of the food he had managed to gather during the day, he had suddenly felt and understood the meaning of kindness. In return, the man who he had come to know as Heril had given him quite the unique gift. During the hours they spent together, he taught him incredible things about the stars, about space and about the rules by which the world worked. It wasn’t much of a world, but to suddenly find himself beginning to understand it made Kellan hungry for knowledge. He’d had a basic education in the refugee camps but, once they had been broken up, he’d learned little else other than what was necessary to survive on the streets of this excuse for a slum. And so the never ending quest to sate two kinds of hunger had begun. The camps didn’t exist any more. They had been dispersed after the liberation of Bajor. Many of the Bajora had taken their chance to travel home but for some, such things were not possible. Kellan had no family to whom he could return. During his early years in the camps, he could remember being taken care of by a number of different families but inevitably the same thing would always happen and he would be passed along like an unwanted disease thanks to the amount of food a growing boy needed to consume. He was as thin as a rake now, all arms and legs as he had shot upwards but not outwards. His frame was ideal for nights like this, sneaking through exposed segments of foundations, into and out of cavities in walls, or in the narrow spaces between ceilings and floors. Heril’s concerns about his health usually fell on deaf ears, not because Kellan wasn’t worried himself, but because he couldn’t afford to think about it. Fortunately, it was easy to get the old man talking about what lay beyond the bitter world that they lived in. During those times, such things were easily forgotten. A floorboard creaked. He’d allowed himself to become too distracted and deviated a few inches from his normal path. He knew it was going to cost him and his suspicions were confirmed moments later when his sharp ears picked up three words that made his heart sink: “I’ll go check.” Immediately, he had to make a decision about whether or not to listen to his instincts, which were all telling him to run, or his stomach, which was telling him he had to stay. Heril had to be hungry, too. It was two days now since Kellan had managed to find anything for them. No-one else would look after the old man; without Kellan he might starve. His feet carried him quickly to a darkened recess despite their will to carry him to the nearest window. With great dread, he realised that there were two sets of footsteps coming towards him and not one. “It’s that whelp again. I’m telling you, he comes here every night.” The room’s metal door was unceremoniously heaved to one side by two pairs of hands. Kellan never used it, there were other ways in and out, but none that he could access now without being seen. He held his breath for fear that even that might give him away. To his own ears, it sounded like the men would be able to locate him by the drum beat of his heart. No matter how many times he was caught by them, he could never be quite sure what form their justice would take. Lately they had been getting more and more inventive. When he saw them start to check recesses where the wall had collapsed, he knew that he was going to have the chance to find out. At times like this, he could feel parts of his mind starting to shut down. It was a protective response, he realised, one that helped him to cope with the fact that this happened so regularly and that let him maintain his will to keep coming back to the most reliable source of food in the whole area. Rather than cowering until the inevitable moment where he would be caught, he was taken with the overwhelming desire to just get this over with. He stood, and walked out of the shadows where they could see him. “I knew it! Didn’t I tell you it would be that brat?” The man closed the distance between them in seconds; Kellan took a step back towards the wall and did his best not to flinch. He just had to be brave now, he told himself, although he felt the painful tug of a fist closing tightly around his hair and the unpleasant moisture of spit on his face before he’d fully finished the thought. “You steal from your own people! You betray the fact you are a Bajoran! You’re no better than a Cardassian!” Kellan could pick up from his captor’s tone that a ‘Cardassian’ was something undesirable but the significance was lost on him. He was sure he had been born here; this was the only world he knew. He’d only ever known other Bajorans and some humans, a gaudy looking race of people with smooth noses and brightly coloured uniforms. He was speaking before he’d even realised it; his mind had been trained to fill gaps in his knowledge. “What’s one of them?” Apparently he’d said the wrong thing. The fist tightened around his hair, causing him to cry out briefly before he was silenced by a backhand across the face that was hard enough to make him taste blood. “You’re an insult to your people! You don’t know what it means to be a Bajoran!” There was a heat in his words like nothing Kellan had ever heard. Somehow, he had drawn a primal rage from this man like none he had ever seen before. All concerns of food and knowledge were abandoned and his mental defenses crumbled: he was terrified for his life! The other man drew alongside him and grabbed his face, rough fingers squeezing Kellan’s jaw as he forced his head sideways. “He doesn’t even wear an earring. He probably doesn’t know about the Prophets, either.” “Do you?” The weak nod he gave them was honest, but not so much so as the whimper that accompanied it. He knew enough about the Prophets to know that they didn’t care about him. There was no path they wanted him to walk. They had doomed him to this desolate existence to live with barren guts and absent hope. Heril spoke fondly of them, but Kellan could not bring himself to believe in deities that would make such arbitrary condemnations. “Then pray they will look favourably on you tonight.” The boy’s answer was despondent. He knew that his spirit, as well as his body, would take a long time to recover from this night. “They won’t. They never do.” ::He was immediately grabbed and dragged through the door. They manhandled him over to the edge of a table, and forced his face down onto it. One of them grabbed his hand and stretched it out over the table’s filthy surface, pinning it into place with strength far superior than his. He shook with terror as he caught sight of something metallic and cylindrical as it was raised into the air. Before his sentence was delivered, a voice hissed into his ear, the heat of Bajoran breath making his skin crawl.:: “Then perhaps they will see fit to teach you the lesson that treason against your own people is something we will not tolerate. It will be a long time before you think about stealing from us again.” He screwed his eyes closed as the heavy metal bar sped down towards his fingers... Fleet Captain Diego Herrera Commanding Officer USS Vigilant NCC-75515 Deputy Commandant: UFOP: SB118 Academy
  2. It was cold. A simple saying, but perhaps cold was an understatement. On a planet where the miners had fifteen different words to describe the precise kind of cold the current weather was displaying, and another seventy-three to cover the specifics of icy precipitation, being able to single out one instance as cold enough to mention lent an air of significance to a simple saying. The Bakalen were used to cold. The heavy, bipedal bovine creatures adapted well to it, and had been better bred to withstand it for seven generations. Now they stood, stamping their hooves in the frozen ground, refusing to move. When it was cold enough to make them pause, the dilithium mine workers of Seandrus VII knew it was time to call it quits. “Get them into the barn, and everyone else into the shelters, there’s a good one brewin!’” Kleos Tal, the Rigellian foreman called out. The miners took up their tools with an air of relief, herding the animals into their shelters before running for warmth. It was only when the majority of workers and animals alike had been safely stowed that Tal noticed movement on the edge of the mine. “Starfleet, get your [...] back here!” “McEnroe and Daling are still out there!” The young Terran suited up in insulated Starfleet scientific blues called back. “They might need someone to flare them in!” “I told them not to go. If those fools wanted to go spelunking for ancient artifacts, they should have picked a clear day when all the scanners were fully operational.” Tal shook his head. “Not that you stuffed shirt Starfleet types ever listen…” he added under his breath. “You’d be better off watching for them on the perimeter scan. I ain’t makin’ the call to Starfleet explaining why your body’s coming back in a freezerbag.” Lieutenant Michael Evans took a breath in through his teeth. He had been part of the original team to scout the dilithium deposits in this area three years ago; he knew the terrain and the weather as well as Tal knew them, and yet the foreman took every chance possible to make him feel like a chastised child. “Fine, I want control of the camera.” “All yours.” Kleos Tal smirked, waving the officer towards the cabin. “Hurry up, before your eyeballs freeze.” ~*~ Evans was pacing. It was either pacing or screaming, but as the minutes dragged by and the sky went from hazy grey towards black, he could feel his panic rising. “Where are they?” he asked into his hand as he bit down on the knuckles. “Don’t get your panties into a bundle.” Tal remarked, looking up from his coffee. “They probably saw the storm coming and made camp.” “Which means they could get snowed in.” Evans countered, taking a break from his pacing to stare at the blank feed. Tal shrugged. “So what if they do? Tomorrow’s the fifteenth. Supply ship’s a comin’ and if we need to, we can scan for ‘em and have ‘em beamed out.” Evans folded his arms across his chest. He didn’t like it, but Tal had a point. Sinking into the chair facing the camera feed he watched the steam drain off his cup of raktajino. He didn’t know how much energy he had wasted in worrying, but he had almost dozed off in the chair when the communications system crackled to life. [[Daling to Evans… storm getting wo… coming ... bringing in an injured… following…]] Evans’ head snapped up, hitting the communications panel. “Ensign Daling? You’re breaking up! Boost your signal.” There was a burst of static, followed by a high pitched whine, before Daling’s raspy voice came through. [[Can you hear me, Sir? We’re coming into the complex now. We have one of those cow-beasts they use in the mines; burned real badly from the microwave radiation we used to clear the snow from the cave walls. McEnroe told me to bring it back, she thinks she can help it.]] Daling’s tone clearly hinted that he would have put it out of its misery mercifully in order to be back on time. Evans allowed a small smile to play across his features. Lilly McEnroe was the sort of person who hated to see anyone or anything suffer, from a beast of burden to a fellow crewmate. “You said you were following something?” He queried, leaning forward as if getting closer to the communication panel would help him be heard. [[i think we’re being followed. Something has been after us ever since we left the dig site.]] “Do you know the identity of what’s following you?” Dailing drew in a breath [[No, Sir. It’s moving tactically. And not on a vehicle. Maybe riding an animal? Hard to tell. McEnroe tried to get a scan, but the weather conditions are interfering.]] “I have you on the camera feed, and I’m getting partial sensor readings. Looks like whatever was following you has backed off… If I can get a better scan, I will.” Evans paused, looking back at the camera. “Where are you headed?” [McEnroe wants to head to the barn first, to drop off our passenger. Then we’re heading in. I’m freezing.] “Be careful.” Evans murmured trying to push away the ill feeling in his gut. [When am I not careful, boss?] Dailing chuckled. Evans forced a smile into his voice. “I know, but…” he never had a chance to finish the thought. As the vehicle pulled up towards the barn, a choked cry came over the line, and it lapsed into static. “Daling?” Nothing. “McEnroe? Daling?!” A shadow flickered across the screen, heading directly for the snowmobile. “I need to know what that is, now!” Evans shouted at Tal, trying to move the camera in for a closer view. “Get me that audio feed back…” There was a crackle of static and the terrified scream of Daling’s voice pierced the line. Terror turned to anguish, and anguish turned to pain. The voice was suddenly cut short. “You said you know every animal on these plains… what was that?” Evans demanded, thrusting a finger towards the viewscreen. Kleos Tal perked a brow; reaching for the disruptor rifle he kept by his parka. “I have no clue. But I’m gonna find out.” ~*~ Outside the snow was falling so fast it looked like the whole planet was in the middle of a giant snow globe that was being shaken continuously, never giving anything time to settle. Add to that the fact that with every breath, a haze of fog clung to Evans’ facemask and goggles, the young officer felt like he was blundering around in the dark. Kleos Tal fanned out with several of his friends – trigger happy mine junkies who didn’t seem to care that one wrong step might get them killed. They were hunting monsters. Evans’ scoffed - he was looking for his teammates. His hands tightened on his phaser as they spread out to search. Daling was outside the barn, face up in the snow, surrounded by a growing puddle of dark blue. The Bolian’s cracked helmet lay several feet beside him. Evans felt his heart leap up into his throat and he rushed to the fallen man’s side. He was still warm. Evans gently prodded Daling’s shoulder, prompting an anguished groan from the smaller man. “We should have never taken that cow-beast.” his voice was whisper thin and broken. “They came back. They got Lilly.” “Shh. Steady.” Evans counseled, gently fumbling in a desperate attempt to provide first aid. “We’ll get you inside.” Daling shook his head fractionally. “This is revenge. We fried two of the little beasts on accident, they got scared when they saw us and ran into the cave where we were using microwaves. Crisped them before we could shut it off. The last one lived. I was going to put it out of its misery, but Lilly said we could save it… and now they’re gonna kill her for it.” His voice was raspy and gurgling. Evans clenched his teeth, watching the man’s chest flutter and collapse. “Shut up, Ensign, I’m gonna get you out of here.” He felt tears form and freeze at the sides of his face. The pool of blood was still spreading, turning to slick blue ice at the edges as Daling’s eyes glazed over. Evans scooped the Bolian into his arms, trying to ignore the man’s groan of agony. “I’m done, Sir. Leave me.” Daling pleaded, his voice failing. “Save Lilly… please…” His eyes closed, and the snow flakes stopped melting as they hit his lips. Evans closed his eyes, feeling cold seep into the young officers’ body. For several long seconds his brain screamed in denial, and he started to pick Daling up as the man sank as dead weight into his arms. “Keep breathing, Daling, come on!” He clung to the corpse, as if he could order the man to live. In the end he was shaken from his frozen reverie by a high pitched screech. Whirling around, he saw what Dailing was speaking of. One of the Bakalen stamped the snow with a murderous focus on the snowmobile. On Lilly McEnroe. Murmuring an apology Evans lay the dead man down and sprinted towards the sled, firing his phaser into the creature’s side. His jaw dropped, watching as the weapon didn’t even slow it down. The Bakalen gave a high pitched scream of fury and turned to intercept Evans, ramming its head into his chest. Evans hit the frozen ground hard enough that his vision blurred into bright white spots, and he rolled onto his stomach underneath the ore platform. McEnroe stirred with just enough awareness to jump from the snowmobile before the second attack came. The hammering of hooves crushed the body of the vehicle like a tin can. “Lilly!” Evans croaked. “Get under the platform!” He waved a hand towards her, but she lay still as the Bakalen kicked the sled out of its way and advanced. He crawled towards the opposite side of the platform, praying under his breath. “No… please no…” There was no way he could make it to McEnroe first, and even if he did, it was only giving the Bakalen a choice of two victims instead of one. A bitter feeling rose in his throat as he heard the thing roar. A flash of light pierced his vision, and he heard Kleos Tal’s crass laughter. A second line of disruptor fire followed and a third, cutting a dark line of blood down the beast’s chest. It issued one last guttural growl before it collapsed in a ruined heap. “That was pretty good, huh?” Tal crowed. Evans felt his adrenaline spike as he pulled himself to his feet, ignoring Tal’s commentary. His eyes were on one goal: Lilly. He ran to her, checking quickly to make sure he could move her. As he looked up, he saw movement around Tal’s position and the Rigelian started to panic, firing into the darkness. “What got into these crazy beasts? Get back in your pens!” Evans stood, picking McEnroe up with him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tal down one of the Bakalen as two more converged on him. There was a sickening crack of bones, punctuated by a low growl of revenge. Mercifully, Tal’s screams were drowned out by the hammering of Evans’ heart echoing through his head. With McEnroe’s bloody form draped across one shoulder, he held his phaser up with his other hand, biting back a laugh at how ineffective the hand weapon seemed against looming monsters. The snow drifted down in a light powdery dust, fading to nothingness as the temperature dropped. They needed shelter and they needed it now. With the Bakalen between them and the main shelter, it seemed like slim pickings. Evans squinted into the darkness. The barn was enticingly close. Close, and where the Bakalen lived. It was a double edged sword and he never was much of a gambler. He was about ready to circle back when McEnroe groaned. “Lilly?” He murmured, trying to shift her so he could see her face. “Cold… Mike. I’m so cold…” she breathed, her eyes still closed. Evans’ felt his heart race. “I’ll find shelter, Lilly, don’t worry.” “Mike… remember Janus 6?” She stammered through a body-wrenching shiver. “Shh, Lilly… Don’t speak.” He consoled, quickening his pace. “No, Mike… listen. Remember Janus 6… please!” She implored, her last words fading into incoherency. Evans furrowed his brow, wondering how long she had if she was hallucinating. He had been to many planets with Lilly McEnroe before, but never Janus 6. It was a geological oddity half a sector away. Why bring it up now? The Bakalen had disappeared, and his muscles ached from the cold. Swallowing the bile in the back of his throat he kicked the barn door open and slipped inside. Almost immediately he wished he hadn’t. He could smell the burned flesh of the calf Daling talked about, and as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see the baleful eyes of an adult cow boring into him. Evans brought his phaser to bear, wavering between the calf and the adult. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he offered in a soothing tone. It paused and looked at him stamping its hoof and making the signal the miners used deep in the mines to tell an operator to stop the cart when you couldn’t hear them. Stop. He stopped, staring as the creature stood down, edging around him to stand by the injured calf. Looking at him as if it had something to say. That’s when it hit him like a brick to the head. Janus 6. The Horta. A seemingly murderous beast was actually sentient. “I can help…” he offered with a thread of hope that it might understand It canted its head like he had seen then do in the mines. He had never thought about what it meant before. Like it was trying to speak. Trying… or perhaps actually speaking… Evans held his hands up in a non threatening manner, fumbling with his tricorder. Scanning for something… anything he could use to communicate. That’s when he caught it, in the frequencies beyond what most humanoids could hear. A trilling, perhaps a language. “Keep speaking…” he implored. He struggled to hook his own communicator up into the matrix, letting the devices chug through the input, until a simple message flashed back to him on the screen: [How can murderer help?] “Murderer?” He swallowed, remembering what Daling said about the dead calves. “We did not know…” [Never murder innocent, no.] He shook his head sorrowfully. “We were not innocent, but we did not want to hurt you. She brought that one back to help.” He gestured between Lilly and the calf. “You need help.” Evans’ reasoned, catching the mother’s gaze and locking it with his own. “I have medicine. In her pack. You can have it if you let me help.” Dragging a hoof across the stable floor she canted her head, and the message flashed across the screen: [You give, we give.] Barely daring to breathe, Evans dug in McEnroe’s pack, drawing out her med kit and opening it up. “Can you use it?” [You help son, I warm woman.] It was a plain offer, but one Evans was willing to accept. He knelt down by the bleating calf, applying burn salve and regenerative bandages under the hawk-eye gaze of its mother. When he was finally done he turned back, giving a silent prayer of thanks to see Lilly’s chest rise and fall evenly in sleep. The Bakalen’s expression was ponderous, sorrowful. [We did not think you would help. We thought you were all murderers. We did not need to freeze so much blood.] He offered a slow nod of assent, watching as the mother mirrored it. “I can tell my people to leave you alone.” She settled back on her haunches and for many long minutes no message came over the PADD. Finally she leaned forward and words flashed up. [We need voice. You are voice. Forget this not.] Evans nodded his head, mutely, letting his eyes meet hers. He had no words to express the amount of apology he wanted to bestow to the Bakalen for this misunderstanding; no way of saying how furious he was – not at them in specific, but that years of ignorant silence between the two species had pushed one to act out in the most vicious and base way possible against the other simply to be heard. And the only thing that would prevent it from happening again was giving them voice. His voice. “I am your voice.” They were the only words that slipped out as he stared off into the horizon, waiting for the call from the supply ship to come through. ~*~ The Bakalen were silent as the morning dawned and the call came through from the supply ship. Evans ordered two for transport; he would tell the Captain what had happened once he was warm enough to form the words. The breath that rattled through his teeth was tainted by the stab of sorrow wrenching his gut. Academically he could trace everything back to where things went wrong. But face to face with the death masques of people he had shared dinner with last night; now decorated with their own frozen entrails as the remains of the shelter smoldered in the tenuous light of dawn, it made Evans feel numb. How many years had the Bakalen tried to tell them they were more than stupid pack animals, for a peaceful species to be finally driven to this kind of murder? He dropped to his knees in the snow still holding McEnroe in his arms. Surrounded by the carnage of misunderstanding, he closed his eyes and waited for the transporter beam to take him away from this nightmare. ~*~*~*~*~*~ Ensign Sal Taybrim Counselor USS Excalibur-A
  3. ((Space Station Deep Space Nine, at the close of the Dominion War)) Hannibal Parker was tired. Two years of almost constant war with the Jem’ Haddar and their Breen allies had wreaked havoc on the quadrant. Billions were dead, planets wrecked, and hundreds of ships lost. Earth had been attacked by the Breen, shattering the idyllic myth of Earth. They too had been singed by the flames of war. The fighting on the surface of Cardassia before the surrender had been brutal, hampered by the fact that fifty percent of their troop transports had been shot down…but still, his unit fought on, buoyed by the Klingon detachment his unit had been fighting with almost since the war began. With peace now won, and several barrels of blood wine consumed by his unit and the victorious Klingons (despite “suggestions” from Starfleet brass that they should not be participating in such ceremonious drunkenness and revelry), Hannibal, now in command of his own platoon, ignored it. His battle- hardened Marines, having fought alongside the Klingons, were deemed more than worthy to share in their celebration, and there was no way he was going to stand in their way. So…while Admirals, Captains, and Heads Of State were somberly signing surrender orders and giving interviews to the Federation News Service, his troops were drinking, singing, and seeking companionship, whether it be Klingon, Human, Bajoran, or any of a number of races sexually compatible with humans, and Hannibal was no exception. With three weeks’ leave coming to his platoon and currently berthed in the Habitat Ring, he was perfectly happy to let the ringing hangover he was currently suffering from subside long enough to further enjoy the Orion woman currently sharing his bed. Feeling her stir next to him, he did what a good soldier does….his duty…. One week into his leave, Hannibal discovered peace was not all it was cracked up to be. He found it strange to sleep through the night, and it was perfectly normal for him to sleep with either his Bowie knife or phaser within reach. Starfleet had Counselors available, but they were backed up on appointments from seeing Starfleet personnel...most of whom had seen no ground fighting. Starship duty had its horrors, but none compared to staring a drug-crazed Jem’ Haddar in the face and blowing it off, or sliding your blade through his body. He determined he would have nothing to do with the “couch mice” who were currently infesting the station, and Starbase 375, places where beings went off to war, and some never came back, and others who should not have. There was also a repeated undercurrent…one which was playing out through the Marines and Starfleet personnel…a current of unfinished business. There were those who were ecstatic that Cardassia was little more than smoking ash, and more than a little animosity directed towards the Breen…who had managed to escape their murderous alliance with the Dominion with it seemed little more than a finger- wagging, in the face of the fact that the Breen had attacked Earth, namely Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco. Thousands were killed, Starfleet was crippled, and there seemed to no desire for the Federation, or Starfleet, to demand the proper penance for the Breen to pay. Nursing a whiskey in Quarks’ bar, Hannibal was alone, contemplating his plans for the evening. He had begun working out again, and his body welcomed the slight soreness he was feeling. Dressed in civilian clothing, black cargo pants with matching black tee shirt, his considerable muscle bulging from rolled up sleeves, his freshly shaved head and shined, laced up black boots clearly identified him as a soldier, even when not in uniform. Hannibal barely looked up as another gentleman walked in. Hannibal immediately recognized him as a soldier, although he was smaller, than but almost as tall as the six foot four Hannibal. He was older, with greying hair at his temples, and steel gray eyes. Hannibal knew exactly who he was, and he thought it strange that a man of his stature would enter the likes of an establishment like Quarks’. Generals in the Starfleet Marines just did not do such things…unless they had a reason…and as he closed on Hannibal’s’ table, he had to wonder what his reasoning would be to come to see him, here, on leave…As the human approached, he began to smile, but his eyes held firm, locked on his. “Hannibal Parker I presume?” Hannibal took another swig of his whiskey, hearing the ice tinkle in the glass. He had paid good money for the whiskey, and gave and upward glace at the man who stood before him… “Depends on who is asking. And you are?” “May I sit down? I would like to keep our conversation away from prying ears as much as possible.” Quarks’ was known as the place where everything was up for grabs, and for sale…that included information, and as Hannibal looked around the room, the lack of obvious Starfleet personnel and the abundance of disreputable aliens and humanoids made his choice easy, to limit suspicion. Nodding to the empty chair across from him, he beckoned the General to have a seat… “I know who you are, General Murphy. You led the assault to take back Betazed, secure AR-558…and took down a Breen warship which had attacked Earth. Your reputation precedes you.” The General sat down. And smiled. He was pleased Hannibal knew who he was, but now it was his turn to express to Hannibal that he knew him as well… “Captain Hannibal Tiberious Parker. Member of the 27th Marine Expeditionary Unit, combined with the 282nd Unit of the Klingon Defense Forces. Took down two planets during the First Battle Of Chin’toka, captured a weapons platform, first on the ground on Cardassia, plus early on your combined unit was winning engagement after engagement with the Jem’ Haddar and the Cardassians while everyone else was getting the snot beat out of them. You guys were making us proud, Captain….and I’m sorry to hear about your parents. I am sure they died with honor…” Hannibal had been around long enough to tell the difference between genuine concern and garbage when he heard it, and out of respect, he nodded as the General had paid his respects. Looking back towards him, he took another swig of his drink, pulled a cigar from his shirt pocket, and lit it with his fathers’ ancient Zippo lighter… “General…I appreciate your condolences, but I know that is not why you came here to speak to me. What is it you really want?” The General sat back in his chair and regarded the massive, young Marine. He had seen more combat in two years than the General had seen in twenty, and the younger Marines’ rather flippant attitude was something he had been warned about, but Hannibal had earned a reputation for being ruthless in battle, so much so that even the Klingons respected and honored him. It was that kind of grit and toughness the general needed for what he had in mind. Leaning over to make sure only Hannibal could hear him in the crowded bar, Murphy began...” The war may be over, but things are far from settled. Some races did not truly pay for their transgressions against Federation citizens. Against Earth. Against San Francisco.” Before Hannibal could speak, the Generals’ wording was clear…he was talking about attacking the Breen. Spoken resentment was now breeding actions, and the General was recruiting others who had voiced the same opinion. Hannibal maintained his poker face, belying none of his true feelings as the general continued to speak… “There is a meeting tonight. Docking Port Three, upper pylon. Tell the sentry I sent you, that is if you want to make a difference instead of getting drunk, kicking [...] or chasing whores…Consider my offer, Mister Parker. We begin at 1800.” Leaning in closer to Hannibal, the General added one last thing, perhaps the most important thing he could say… “This conversation never happened.” With mutual discrete nods exchanged, the General stood up, and Hannibal watched the officer leave. Pulling a drag off his cigar, and motioning the dabo girl who had been serving him to bring him another drink. He had about three hours to consider the Generals’ offer, one he would give considerable thought to. There was no doubt in his mind what he had in mind, but in Hannibal’s’ mind, it would be worse than treason. As much as he would love to leave the Breen homeworld a smoking cinder in space, the war was over. Although it was costly in men and treasure, victory was theirs. During the war, he would have happily scorched every Breen ship or planet in his sights, but that time was past. The words of his now-dead father rang in his ears…” There is no honor in battle once the enemy has surrendered.” To Hannibal, to even say the word “Breen” left a bad taste in his mouth… Two hours later, particularly well lubricated by copious amounts of real bloodwine and whiskey, Hannibal had to make a decision…well actually, two. The first was whether to tell anyone of the generals’ plans, and the second…who to tell? What if he said nothing and the general did carry out his attack on the Breen? They would be at war again, this time the Federation, and Starfleet, would be the aggressors…and he would once again be the tip of the spear. He figured that the general would count on the “code of silence” which would keep his plans secret, even though he decided not to participate. The more he thought about it, the angrier he got. He had a sister on Earth who was now his only living relative, and what if his actions indirectly caused her death? Hannibal didn’t want that…this war had deprived them of their parents in a just cause, but this…revenge on a planetary scale? Hannibal then thought about the general, how clean he was. He may have commanded Marines, but he did not have the mark of a man who had seen combat, but saw no difficulty in ordering others to die to further the mission. There were few brass who had ever fought such a grueling campaign they had just finished, and men like that were reluctant to throw men into the fray while they stood back and orchestrated the outcome. Hannibal had been a pawn long enough to men like that. First was Chancellor Gowron, who threw Klingon warriors into the teeth of the Jem’Haddar to further his political aims. More than once it was only timing and dumb luck which had saved their combined unit from disaster from those orders, and Hannibal was not going to do that again, to follow the orders of a madman to further his ego. The first decision…not to go along with the general, was relatively easy. The second question was more daunting. Hannibal knew that he had to tell someone what was being planned, but there were few he could trust with the explosive claims...and that was all they were…with nothing to support it. He had no evidence, no documentation, nothing. He was a grunt going against a Starfleet general, accusing him of treason. He also had no idea how high up the food chain it went, possibly clear up to Admiral Ross. He now had forty-five minutes left to figure out what to do. He looked around the crowded bar, and looked for faces that had been there as long as he had. He was looking for Starfleet personnel who had been there as long as he had. It was relatively early, as the ships currently docked would have most of their crews on liberty, but most did not visit Quark’s until later in the evening…also, if there were those who favored the generals’ views, they would be watching him, checking his next move. He knew who to look for, and in fact, the place had turned over its crowd to such an extent that determining if he was being watched was difficult. At 1745, it was time to make a move. Closing out his tab, Hannibal left Quark’s, and headed out onto the Promenade. Being familiar the layout of Deep Space Nine, instead of making his way to the lift which would take him to the location of the meeting, he headed for the nearest empty corridor and made his way into the access trunks which ran the height and breadth of the massive station. If he was being followed, they would have to come this way, and he waited a perilously long three minutes before he started his climb up the trunk to just outside Ops. It was only two decks, but he knew where he needed to be and come out unseen. His destination: The office of Archer Greene, Starfleet Intelligence. Hannibal popped out of the access trunk, a bit dirty and a little dizzy… the liquor was catching up to him, but after making sure he would not be observed, he popped the hatch on the access trunk, replaced it, and made his way to Greene’s office. Hannibal didn’t like the man much, but he had been invaluable on board the Charleston to his unit when they deployed. He was a snug little snit, but he knew his job and could extrapolate with the best of them. Making sure he was not observed, Hannibal went down the hallway where the mans’ office was now located, in a space not much bigger than a broom closet…in fact, it was a broom closet, with not even a sign on the door denoting its use, the only thing giving it away was the security lock on the door. Feverishly trying the lock, Hannibal worked every conceivable combination he could think of, when the door opened… Greene was sitting at his desk, decorated solely by a computer terminal and a stack of PADDS. He was a shorter man, about five foot eight, mid- thirties, with a shock of gray mixed in with brown hair. He was thin, and his skin was pale from being too long on board a space station or a starship, his clear blue eyes taking in the mountain of young Marine with a slight [...] of his head. He wasn’t quite sure why the Marine didn’t just knock, and he was in no position to fight him. Greene had seen his handiwork in person, and he knew he was no match for him. His best bet was to do what he was good at…extrapolating information from what he saw and heard, and he surmised the Marine has something very important he needed to tell him. In a calm voice, he called out to the man who was now less than ten feet away from him and staring him down the way a predator would eye his next meal… “Mister Parker...you could have knocked”, he said. “What seems to be the trouble?” Hannibal was now standing before the intelligence officer…it was now five minutes before the meeting was to begin. Standing before Greene’s’ desk, Hannibal knew it was now or never. He told him of meeting the general, what he had planned, where the meeting was to take place, and that he had been invited to attend. The intelligence officer listened intently, then leaned back in his office chair...which was scant inches from the bulkhead behind him, and Hannibal wondered if he had made a mistake, and Greene was part of the plot. His mind raced in the silence which had permeated the room since Hannibal had finished his explanation, and Hannibal had begun to think of scenarios on how to escape Deep Space Nine before he himself was caught. If he was wrong in his assessment, his sister would still lose him…not to war, but to becoming a fugitive. Finally, with the meeting time approaching, the intelligence officer spoke… “That’s quite a story, Mister Parker”, he said. “You are aware that those are serious charges you are levelling against a decorated Starfleet officer, a man many would consider a hero?” “It may be one hell of a story, but it’s the truth”, Hannibal said. “Why the frak would I have been trying to pick the lock on your office door to lie to you? I have no evidence other than a conversation I had three hours ago. Either you believe me or you don’t. General Murphy wants to start a war, so what the hell are you going to do?” Greene looked at Hannibal, a man whom he would now test the trust between them. Working with Hannibal on board the Charleston, Greene knew he was a man of honor, and the PADD which held details of the meeting Hannibal had just confirmed lay concealed on his desk under his hands. That PADD held names, dates, places…even the targets in Breen space. Hannibal had only scratched the surface on how big the plot really was, but sharing that information was something he could not do with him. Looking up at the Marine, who now seemed to be taking up the entire office, he made a note on a PADD, then he looked up at the brooding killing machine which was Hannibal Parker… “Hannibal,” he said, choosing his words carefully,” There is a transport leaving for Risa in fifteen minutes. Be on it. Speak to no one. Burn the rest of your leave time there. Leave the way you came. Report back to your unit on time. Is that clear?” Hannibal looked deeply in his eyes. There was no deception there, and the unspoken message was clear…Nodding his head in understanding, Hannibal spoke: “Risa is nice this time of year. Thank you…and good luck.” Leaving Greene’s’ office, Hannibal did as he was instructed and went to Risa. Returning from leave, news broke about a Dominion War hero being arrested. The hero…General Simon Murphy. Major Hannibal Tiberious Parker Marine Commander USS Thunder-A/Duronis II Embassy
  4. ((Sulu Auditorium, Starfleet Academy, San Francisco)) It was an impressive space, he had to admit it. Even if it was familiar and familiarity bred contempt, the design of the auditorium was sweeping and majestic, capable of housing hundred in its seats and with the kind of carefully arranged acoustics that rendered the PA system and microphone all but unnecessary. That didn’t mean that Admiral Adrian West was particularly looking forward to having to spend the next hour or so sitting in it. At least these days he got a front seat, and with a nod to his colleagues he lowered himself into a seat between Admiral John Matthew Everington II and Admiral Tolira sh’Hail. He gave the Andorian tactician a polite gesture of acknowledgement as he parked himself with the kind of noises his father used to make getting in and out of his armchair of an evening, and yawned behind his hand. “First one to fall asleep buys the first round.” Everington leaned over and murmured. “Push off Jack, those odds are rigged.” West snorted in amusement. Everington grinned and ran a hand through his snow-white hair. “I seem to recall you giving one of these debates, many moons ago. With Admiral Saito presiding.” He pointed out. “Mmm hmm.” West grunted. “And I’m sure she slept through the whole fething thing.” “Ladies, Gentlemen and other genders not otherwise covered, welcome to the 123rd Annual Graduands Debate, where two of our best performing final-year cadets debate a controversial topic of our times.” Just incase anyone didn’t read the instructions. Standing on a box at the central podium Admiral Heraan glowered from under his bushy brows at the assembled cadets and officers, pausing for a moment to glare at two old codgers in Rear Admiral’s pips in the front row who were chuckling at something. “As most of you know I like a good argument,” the Tellarite stated the obvious, “but they foolishly won’t let me participate in these things any more! So instead I give you our top ranking final year cadets. From the Command stream, Cadet First Class William Bourke, and from the Tactical stream, Cadet Vanyeris.” The two cadets took to the stage to polite applause. Will Bourke was a tall, muscular Terran man with rough good looks, sandy hair and an easy smile which he flashed at his classmates in the audience. Vanyeris was a petite Vulcan female with waist-length black hair that she wore held back with a metal headband, and bright green eyes. She carried herself with the dignity of Vulcan reserve as the two took their seats. “An argument’s no good without something worthwhile to argue over,” said Heraan, “and the topic of today’s debate is ‘We Should Come In Peace’.” There was a polite murmur of anticipation from the audience. “Cadet Bourke will take the Affirmative.” Heraan ceded the podium and a first year Cadet moved his standing box so that Will Bourke could take his place at the podium. “Sirs, ma’ams, fellow cadets and citizens of the Federation.:: Bourke began, flashing his smile and leaning in to the microphone. “The United Federation of Planets is built on the premise of peace. Cooperation between her member species is what makes the Federation not only strong, but a bastion of liberty, sentient rights and equality in the Galaxy. When the first five founded the Federation it was built on these principles, and it is our duty to uphold them and to carry them to other species; potential new member nations.” “The dream is strong in this one.” Admiral Everington murmured laconically, watching Bourke expound on the virtues of Federation with hope in his voice and stars in his eyes. “Mmm hmm.” West grunted, watching the proceedings with a somewhat dubious expression. “With any luck that dream won’t be dashed too quickly.” Everington gave him a dry look. “I’m sure we were like that once.” “Pfft.” West snorted. “We were never that young.” “Peace allows cooperation, peace brings growth and prosperity and a better life for all who partake in it. If we uphold the rights of all sentients to live free from fear and hardship, to grow to their full potential, then we must reach out to our brethren with the olive branch, not the sabre. With every new member planet the Federation grows in potential, which is why in every new First Contact situation, we must ensure that we come in peace. To do otherwise is to rob ourselves of our future brothers. Thank you.” Bourke sat down and Heraan nodded to Cadet Vanyeris who made her way sedately to the podium and paused to scan her audience before beginning. “Admirals, Ambassadors, Officers, fellow cadets; citizens of the Federation.” She began. “‘We must come in peace’.” She let the words hang there for a moment. “As my honoured fellow cadet has so eloquently expressed, the ideal of peaceful cooperation and prosperity for all is the basis on which the Federation was formed; but it is just that, an ideal. And it is not an ideal which all species share.” Green eyes scanned the crowd. “Whilst it would be preferable to always welcome new species with welcome arms, we would then leave ourselves open in turn. Consider the Borg, consider the Dominion. Not all species will come to us in peace and so we must be cautious. Peace is always to be held in preference, but we must be prepared to defend it from those who do not respect it, lest we leave our own peace open to exploitation. And so I say, we must proceed with caution; we cannot always afford to come in peace.” As the Vulcan woman spoke Admiral West leaned slightly towards Admiral Everington and spoke out of the corner of his mouth. “I have to admit I wondered how she was going to tackle that one.” Everington nodded slightly. “Difficult. Vulcans are some of the biggest proponents of peace in the Federation.” He agreed. “They’re also the Universe’s best Devil’s Advocates.” West observed dryly. His comment was rewarded with a chuckle. "Yes, we should retain peace as the ideal, for without our ideals and principles the Federation has no basis. But we must be cautious of those who would not treat us as we would treat them. Whilst it would be preferable to come in peace, ultimately we should proceed with caution." The audience started to murmur as Vanyeris left the podium but died down as Cadet Bourke returned. His smile this time was less bright and somewhat more condescending. “The Borg, the Dominion.” He paused. “My fellow cadet resorts to scare-mongering. Yes there are aggressive species out there, governments who might seek to do us harm, but we cannot colour the multitude of new alien civilisations with the one applicator. The Federation is comprised of one hundred and fifty member governments, across thousands of stars, all living in harmony. How different would the map look today, if we had not approached those new peoples in peace?” He shot a look at Vanyeris. “Don’t get personal.” Admiral West muttered under his breath. “Surely not.” Everington commented. “This is supposed to be entertaining.” “These two don’t get along very well.” West said. “Why? They’re not even in the same stream.” “History.” And even when Everington gave him a pointed look,West declined to elaborate. “One hundred and fifty member governments, ladies and gentlemen.Yes other species have approached us aggressively, and at times we have had to defend ourselves. But I invite my fellow Cadet to provide us with an example of when, in the history of the Federation, it has proven a mistake for us to approach others in peace.” With a confident glance at the Vulcan woman now rising from her seat, Bourke resumed his own. Vanyeris took the podium, her stereotypically neutral expression betrayed nothing. She didn’t look in Bourke’s direction but rather at the audience in front of her, and spoke a single word with perfect diction. “Khitomer.” A murmur rose again from the audience. “What is she getting at?” Everington hissed. “Shh!” West snapped. “The Khitomer Accords.” She said again. “An example where the offering of peace was a mistake.” She might have been reading a computing manual for all the inflection in her voice, but her careful diction carried. “The Klingons and the Federation had been at war for generations until the Klingon moon of Praxis exploded, crippling the Klingon energy supply and endangering life on Qo’no’S. For the Federation it was a reprieve, but that was all. As Cadet Bourke so strongly advocates, when the Klingons solicited an olive branch, we extended it. We acted on the assumption that, at the end, their values were our values and they would honour the peace as we would. History has shown us our forefathers’ mistake. Even now the Klingons worry our borders. That is our reward for the fact that we came in peace.” As Vanyeris sat down the murmur in the audience grew until Admiral Heraan had to call for silence from a side microphone. “Thank you everyone! Controversial topics are chosen for a reason, it makes for a livelier debate! And it is just a debate. Cadet Bourke your closing comments please.” “You're sure she’s not a Romulan?” The comment earned Admiral Everington a dubious look from Admiral West. “I mean that’s not exactly a party line, and shouldn’t she be called ‘T’Pren’ or something?” “She’s following orders.” West shrugged. “And she’s some ethnic minority from Han-Shir, there’s a few of them in the Fleet.” Though by all accounts they weren’t always easy to work with. “Still…” “What?” There was a long silence from West, but Everington kept looking at him. Eventually he spoke. “Does the name Bourke mean anything to you?” “It’s pretty common Westy.” Everington protested. “How about Yeoman Bourke? From the Enterprise-A? Bells starting to ring?” He growled. “You mean he’s...?” “Grandson.” West confirmed. “But surely she’s not...” West just nodded. He was watching with a sour expression as Heraan shout down the noisiest in the audience so that Bourke could reply. Everington forced a more jovial tone into his voice. “Still, you can’t punish the son for the sins of the father.” “It’s not the father I’m worried about.” Cadet Bourke took the podium for the final time, and his charismatic smile was nowhere to be seen. He seemed to take a moment to collect himself before finally offering a smile that West thought looked about as geniune as his great-grandmother’s teeth. “I hadn’t known that Vulcans had learned how to joke.” He began. “I asked for a mistake and my fellow cadet gives me our crowning glory. When else has so unlikely a peace been achieved against such great odds, and to such great mutual advantage? The Federation border secured by an alliance with an old enemy, an end to attacks on Starfleet ships, stations and colonies? Because of the Khitomer Accords we have been able to focus our attention on progress and growth rather than an arms race. The Klingons fought at our side against the Dominion. We have hosted officer exchanges and gained new insight into each other’s cultures, which can only bolster understanding. How can any of this have been a mistake? I tell you that Khitomer was a success. We must come in peace, because that is the only way forward. Our forefathers were willing to forget the past and deal with the Klingons as they wanted them to deal with us; and because of their foresight and open-mindedness, we have enjoyed a lifetime of peace.” Bourke sat down with a sense of finality and to a smattering of applause which died away as Vanyeris rose to her feet. She returned to the podium with the same dignity with which she’d approached the whole proceedings. “A life-time of peace.” She echoed in the same calm tones. “A Terran lifetime, perhaps. An Andorian lifetime, or a Tellarite one. But not a Vulcan one. Not a Romulan one. Certainly not an El-Aurian one. It is all too easy to view the future in short terms, to forget our children's children and drown out those who urge caution and a long-term view, to our detriment. For, as Terran’s say, the leopard does not change it’s spots.” Those green eyes scanned the audience again. They were listening, though few seemed to be finding the experience entertaining. “Peace with the Klingons gave both sides time to focus on other things.” She acknowledged Bourke’s point. “The Federation focused on growth, on development, on research, on exploration. The Klingons focused on rebuilding their world and then, their military fleet. And with their military capabilities rebuilt, they were in the perfect position to take advantage of the misfortune of others.” There was an edge to her voice. “Where the Klingons in their plight were offered the olive branch, following the Hobus Supernova they have offered the Romulans only the predator’s teeth. The Federation's own borders have not been spared; every opportunity they have to bite the very hand that fed them they take. Yes, the Khitomer Accords have been proven a mistake; the Klingons are not to be trusted." The words echoed through the silence, and through the years. “That’s not true!” The perfect accoustics of the Sulu Auditorium carried Cadet Bourke’s voice without the need for any amplification. The murmuring audience was stunned into silence as, it seemed, was Cadet Vanyeris. “You cannot believe that!” Bourke insisted, advancing on the podium. His face was red. “It’s people like you who would sabotage the peace that we live in. People like you who undermine all that we strive for, and damage countless lives in the process. Do you even hear what you’re saying, or did you learn to parrot it all on your mother’s knee?” The mutter of the crowd was rising as Bourke broke protocol. Vanyeris raised one cool eyebrow at him. “Did she even think, when she acted? Did she even care how many deaths would be on her hands? How close she came to sabotaging the peace process?” Bourke demanded. “Did she spare one single thought for the boy left orphaned when she shot his father? I never knew my grandfather!” Suddenly he seemed to realise where he was, pointing an accusatory finger in the Vulcan woman’s face with everyone in the audience as witness. Rather than back down he turned and raised his hands to appeal to those there. “Did the traiterous Valeris even comprehend how everything she did went against everything we stood for, how she could have destroyed the soul of the Federation?” The audience stared in stunned silence, all except Admiral West who got to his feet and, sighting on the tech up in the gallery, made furious throat-cutting motions. Shut it all down, now! On the stage Bourke seemed to realise that everyone was just staring at him, and his hands started to lower. The PA system went dead, but the Auditorium didn’t need it, the acoustics were too good. Unperturbed, vanyeris clasped her hands behind her back and addressed Bourke directly, her flawless diction carrying over the stunned crowd. “Following the Hobus Supernova The Klingons invade Romulan space in the Romulan’s moment of need.” She said, every word distinct. She started to walk a slow circle around Bourke. “They prey upon them like animals. ‘No hand that does not hold a blade’.” She took another step. “They invade our allies and possible future Federation members on Duronis II.” Another step. “They attack the USS Drake at Gateway Station, and attempted to mine the USS Avandar.” Another step. “Finally, they occupy Thracian space, requiring the intervention of Starfleet to prevent the subjugation of millions of sentient beings.” She stopped walking. “Are these the actions of a people who seek peace?” She asked Bourke, whose face had gone from red to white. It was a rhetorical question. A moment later and she spun on one heel to face the stunned audience. “My mother knew exactly what she was doing, she simply had more foresight than most. 'Klingons cannot be trusted'. In light of these most recent events, I ask you to ask yourselves an honest question.” “Was she wrong?” ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lieutenant Commander Saveron Chief Medical Officer USS Mercury
  5. ((Admiral Kyle Colt’s Office; Starbase 285 – Earth Year 2380)) “Fools… All of them, fools…” He tossed his PADD angrily back to his desk, the neatly organized stack of PADDs knocked asunder, then stood and walked over to the office’s viewport. His blue eyes flicked to the walls of his office as his hand came up to scratch his neatly groomed white goatee. His office contained the usual knick knacks that one acquired over a lengthy Starfleet career; models and paintings of his previous commands, decorative trinkets from a dozen worlds, and an odd Tarkelian beaver statue that had been inexplicably placed in his quarters back when he was an Ensign that he could never quite bring himself to get rid of. None of those familiar objects, and not even the expanse of stars and brilliant nebula beyond, could return calm to his mind. Five years… It had been five long years since the end of the Dominion War, and the start of the pacification of Starfleet. No. This was not a comment against Starfleet’s mission to explore the galaxy and learn all that could be learned. Peaceful exploration and pacification were two entirely different things. He knew what needed to be done. The question was, if he made this leap, would anyone one follow? There was a chime at his office door. Without looking, the admiral spoke. “Enter.” Another human, with four gold pips on his collar, stepped through the door. His brown eyes were sharp, and he was young enough to still have color in his hair. Quickly, his eyes turned to the admiral. “Admiral Colt. You wanted to see me, sir?” “Yes, Captain, I did.” The admiral finally turned. Much as he wanted to, he could not manage even a small smile for his long time colleague. The topic of the day was far too grave. “Grab a chair, Dan. You’ll want to sit after hearing this.” Captain Daniel Rainsford approached, taking a seat at Admiral Colt’s desk as the admiral sat in his own chair. Admiral Colt grabbed the newest offending PADD from where it had landed and held it to the captain. “Read this.” The captain did, his eyes flicking quickly across its screen. The further we went, the more his eyebrows furrowed. “They can’t be serious…” Admiral Colt’s head gave a rueful nod. “They are, Dan. They are.” The admiral sighed, leaning back slightly in his chair. “Starfleet’s analyzed Voyager’s mission report and sensor data from their Fury incident.” The Furies: a conglomeration of extremely powerful races which had once ruled the Alpha Quadrant. They had been cast out millennia ago, though had long wished to return to retake their positions of power. During the mid twenty-third century, they had made their first attempt by sending one ship through an artificial wormhole, only to be stopped by an unlikely temporary alliance between the Klingon Empire and Captain James T. Kirk. Their second attempt came over a hundred years later, back in 2371, with a much larger fleet and more stable artificial wormhole technology. A five ship combined Federation-Klingon fleet led by the Enterprise-D managed to stop them. Voyager had encountered them during their long voyage home, in the Delta Quadrant. The Furies intent was to send an entire planet with billions of their people and an armada of ships through a massive artificial wormhole to launch their final invasion of the Alpha Quadrant. Voyager’s crew managed to deflect their wormhole, halting this last attempt. Admiral Colt continued. “The science folks at Starfleet Command have concluded that the Furies were, in fact, sent into the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy. Almost 200,000 lightyears away. Thus, they conclude that the Furies are no longer a threat to the Alpha Quadrant. Therefore, Starfleet Command will no longer train any new cadet as to the existence of the Furies.” Captain Rainsford’s head shook slightly. “Why, sir? Are they afraid they’ll make the kids wet their pants unnecessarily, or something?” The admiral also shook his head. “No… No, it’s not that. It’s a continuation of the trend which started five years ago.” He reached up to his face, scratching at his goatee once again. “Starfleet Command does not want to even consider the possibility of another war.” “Can you really blame them, though?” Captain Rainsford leaned forward, elbows against his legs. “I mean… We took major losses against the Dominion. Earth itself got hit.” “I know,” the admiral said. “I was there.” “So far, the Dominion has been abiding by the peace treaty. The Furies…” He paused in thought for a moment before he continued. “200,000 lightyears is pretty blasted far.” Admiral Colt nodded. “It is, Dan. Yet…” He gestured to the now disorganized pile of PADDs between them, “I’ve never seen any verification that the Dominion abide by the treaty. No reconnaissance missions, barely any visits to the Gamma Quadrant. For all we know, they’ve been rebuilding their forces on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole and will strike us next week. Every time I hear of anyone suggesting we get a ship or two over there on a permanent basis, to continue our mission of exploration, of course, is shot down. ‘We don’t want to offend the Dominion’ they say.” The captain sighed, his eyes dropping. Admiral Colt knew that Captain Rainsford agreed with him. His old friend was also an optimist. That made him a pretty solid devil’s advocate to the admiral’s pessimism. “What of Constable Odo, though? The reports I read indicated he’d rejoined the… what was it called? The Great Link? If all the Founders are connected, then I doubt they’d be able to plan anything like this without him knowing.” “Who says he wouldn’t know?” the admiral asked. “Him against an entire planet of his people. Now, I didn’t know him, personally, and I only have respect for him based on what I’ve read, but I don’t know of anyone who could stand up to that kind of peer pressure.” Captain Rainsford considered for a moment, before sighing and shaking his head yet again. “And when it comes to the Furies,” Admiral Colt said, “200,000 lightyears is nothing to people who have working artificial wormhole technology. A wormhole took them to… where ever they landed. A wormhole could easily bring them back.” The admiral leaned forward once again. “Starfleet has forgotten why a strong defense is required. If not for the Dominion, if not for the Furies, then for whoever the next force is that will try to strip the people of the Federation of their way of life. Eternal vigilance, Dan. THAT is the price of liberty.” The captain’s face started to turn red. It was clear that he was growing steadily more uncomfortable with the conversation. He shook his head once more. “That’s… That’s not how Starfleet is seeing this. Our vigilance is in our patrols, our long-range sensors, our ability to see what’s coming and prepare for the hit.” Admiral Colt’s voice calmed, trying to sooth his old friend’s nerves. “It’s making sure that we’re strong enough that no one dares hit us.” The captain’s head shook almost constantly. “That’s not what the Federation stands for. It’s not what the people want!” “I know it’s not, Dan,” the admiral said, his voice still calm but now firm. “That’s where we come in. When our leaders are no longer willing to make the tough calls for the benefit of the Federation, it’s our responsibility to find leaders who will.” There was absolute silence in the admiral’s office as both men considered the implications of that statement. It was Captain Rainsford who spoke first, his voice quiet but his tone direct. “You’re talking about a mutiny.” Admiral Colt shook his head. “No. I’m talking about a coup.” The words had been uttered. There was no going back. “Admiral… It can’t be as serious as that, can it? There must be another way.” “There isn’t,” the admiral replied. “I’ve tried to get my point across over every official channel, and all the unofficial ones I have. Even those who agree with me refuse to act, or to even speak on my behalf. I see no other way to convince the Federation of the truth.” Captain Rainsford was silent for several long moments as he considered all that had been said over the past minutes. “You’re asking me if I agree with you? And if I’ll join you?” Admiral Colt nodded. “That is correct.” “You realize that we can’t do this alone.” Another nod. “That is also correct. And I don’t fool myself into thinking our fleet’s captains will be easy to convince… though I do believe they will come around.” “And if we fail, we’ll be considered traitors of the Federation.” The admiral actually gave a quiet chuckle at that. “Dan, I am fairly certain that we’ll be considered traitors even if we succeed. What matters is the future of the Federation, and its survival, even if we're not there to see it.” Captain Rainsford gave one last sigh… and a very slow nod. “Well, then, Admiral… Where do to start?”
  6. The lush forest was ripe with the acrid smells of vegetation. Sweet honeysuckle, fragrant lilacs, and pungent mosses filled the oxygen controlled and filtered air in the habitat ring. The chirping and singing of whippoorwills and sparrows provided a musical back drop as rich as a symphony. The ambient light, at 50 percent of daylight, back dropped by the dark of the planet's surface outside the transparent aluminum enclosure lent an ethereal quality perfect for a romantic escape. Johnna Watson, a tall, blonde haired beauty with porcelain skin and eyes that sparkled like a Cerulean Ocean under the bright noon day sun, sat under the out stretched arms of the Risan Goolkos tree, letting the warm, artificial sunlight bathe her in its glow. Her eyes traced the outline of her shadow on the ground to the point where the fingers interlocked with a taller, huskier shadow cast by a most handsome man. A single tear ran down her cheek. It sparkled like a jewel. It was a tear of joy, not sadness. The moment she had hoped for was finally here. Hesitantly, with a tremolo in his voice that adumbrated his angst, Thomas was broaching the question she had longed to hear. He spoke of their weeks together. He regaled her with his dreams of a wondrous future for them and for their people. He spoke of undying love and intertwined fates. "Johnna Watson, will you join me and become Mrs. Thomas Poston?" he asked as he gently held her demure hands in his. She felt the strength and security his hands offered, and the promise of a future filled with love and companionship. It was all she had wanted since shortly after they had met. Never before had she met someone who had filled her mind so intensely and completely so quickly. "Yes" she said softly as he kissed the back of her hand. Her single tear became a stream. His kiss followed her slender arm to the curve of her shoulder, lingering briefly before reaching for her lips. Their lips met softly, with a kiss that held both the joy of relief and the anticipation of a future of countless wonders. The rest of the evening was a haze. They went back to her parents home and shared their plans for the future. They told Mr. and Mrs. Watson of the grand-children in their future, and the days spent making each other happy. They spoke of deep, abiding love. The joy of a kiss. The anticipation of separation. They told her parents of a sudden and all-consuming love. Johnathan Watson gave the two his blessing. He told them of a fathers' gratitude that his daughter had found such a wonderful young man who made her happy. He wished them a happy future with large numbers of children and a household filled with the sounds of little feet, and laughing, and joy and love. No one noticed the suddenly vacant look in Johnnas' eyes, or the puzzled look that slowly spread across her face. Later that night, as she lay looking through the curved, transparent wall of her bedroom, she stared into the indigo abyss above. Her gaze remained focused on a solitary bright star, but her mind was not there. Bizarre thoughts ran through her head. It was hard to know where reality ended and nightmare began. Another habitat ring filled her mind. Barely past dawn, she was in a field on her knees. She was pulling Venetian radishes from the ground. She pulled radishes until the large basket beside her was filled to the brim. There would be no end to the work. When one basket was full, a drone swooped in and hoisted it away as another swooped in behind, leaving an empty basket in its place. And the cycle continued. On and on and on until an omnipresent siren interrupted the silence. "Prepare for nourishment" monotoned a mechanical voice, devoid of humanity. She turned and sat, waiting for the drone to deliver the gray paste that contained all the nutrition she would need to survive. She was young. She couldnt have been more than thirteen years old at the time. She was one of the older girls out in the fields. She looked around her and wondered what happened to the children as they reached her age. Suddenly, someone who worked in the next row would be gone. There would be no explanation. There was never an explanation. There was never conversation. There was never any recreation. There was the work. There were the drones. There was the paste. There were the radishes, never to be eaten, but merely harvested. There were fields. There were many fields. They all seemed different, but there was really no way to tell, for a child of one field could not venture to the next. There was heat, and sweat, and dirt, and smell and stench, and sleep. But even the sleep lacked rest, for the sleep was in the field where the workday ended. When sleep was over, work began again. Somehow, she knew these thoughts, like a distant dream, were somehow real. She knew that the girls name was Leialla. She knew Leialla had worked in the fields since she had been able to walk, and would continue to do so for only a short time. Until the day she awoke on the MedBed. She was clean. For the first time in her life, she was not black with the rancid soil and mud that she worked in from dawn until dusk. The room was clean, sterile, and bright. There were The Others in white who hovered over her, but she could not move. Something held her in place. She was bound by the arms and the legs. Her head she could not move. The Others spoke in words she could not understand. This had been her first memory implant. That had been the first time she knew language, and order, and fear. But, it had not been her last implant. That implant had not succeeded and she had slowly lost the ability to retain the memories they had given her. She had lost the ability to reason. The loss had not been complete, however, when they had returned her to the lab for re-implantation. She had retained enough language skills to overhear their conversations. She learned of the children working the fields to harvest crops until adolescence. She learned of abduction and memory implants with memories of false families and assigned loved ones. She learned of genetic manipulation to improve the species. Implanted maternal instincts would ensure the survival of the species. But, her implants were failing.again. She couldnt let anyone know. She had to retain her false memories. She had to retain them for a time. Long enough to find others like her. Long enough to start something. Was it treason... .or revolution?
  7. That's right! Beginning with the September and October Writing Challenge, we have available for you a downloadable PDF that contains all of the entries from the Writing Challenge round. Winners will get a special write-up on the first page. Now you can add the stories to your computer or mobile device and read them at your leisure! Our first compilation is available right here!
  8. Thanks to our great writers who entered this September and October Challenge! Just in time for Halloween, I'm pleased to bring you the judges' decision and our feedback. I was incredibly happy to see the diversity of stories here, from a character-action piece to a second-person mythos narrative to some alternate history via time travel to the story of a tribble fancier. Well done, all! The judges were unanimous, however, in deciding that "Yesterday's Tomorrow," courtesy of Chris, the writer behind Sinda Essen and Jhen Thelev, should win this contest. The Challenge's runner-up, then, is "Diplomatic Impunity (or 'The Tribble with Troubles')," courtesy of Sarah, the writer behind Saveron. All my congratulations to both of you, and please watch the Community News around mid-November and -December for more about these authors and their stories! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner and our special guest, last Challenge's winner, Lieutenant Ben Livingston. Writers and all interested parties will find individual feedback posted below this message. Please feel free to use this thread to offer your congratulations to the winning writers!
  9. Greetings, everyone, and welcome to our second-to-last Writing Challenge of 2013! I'm glad you could stop by, and I hope you'll give this Challenge a read and then decide to enter your story for consideration. For this Challenge, Will -- the writer behind Lieutenant Ben Livingston and the winner of the July & August "Under My Skin" Challenge -- would like you to consider the topic "What Will Come." The Challenge dares you to consider the implications of action -- or perhaps of inaction -- upon the future, if you prefer, but remember that in Trek, what will come is not necessarily always in the future. Certainly, with the developments in 118 fleet in the past year or so, including the Small War with the Klingons in last year's blockbusters, the resurfacing of the Iconian gateways in this year's, and the recent addition of slipstream travel to many ships in the fleet, "what will come" has never been muddier. However, that's up to you to determine, and the judges look forward to receiving your entries! The deadline for this Challenge is Friday, October 25th, and as of today, Monday, September 2nd, this Challenge is open! 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!
  10. Yesterday's Tomorrow “Our people have never had it so good.” Harold Macmillan, 1957 Charles Warrington couldn’t help but smile as he opened the curtains and gazed upon the new day. A bright yellow summer sun was already shining in the clear blue sky making the River Thames positively sparkle.Only a decade on from the end of the war and London was rebuilt bigger, brighter and more beautiful than she had ever been before the blitz. Charles smiled again, relishing his not-insignificant part in that restoration.But there would be time for such happy thoughts later - right now Charles had to prepare for a busy day. The offices of the Federated Industries Company loomed over their surroundings. The rapid growth of the building over the last seven years or so echoing the fortunes of the company itself. The post-war years had seen a massive appetite for new products and new technology and FICo had been the ones to provide both. And now their designs were everywhere. Quite literally.Charles smoothed the creases from his all-in-one pinstripe UniFit as he stepped out of the tube station and gazed up at the building. A quick check of the time on his PIDD showed he was running exactly ten minutes early. Perfect. Today was a big day, a board meeting to discuss the development of their latest invention, one which Charles was especially proud of. It was no exaggeration to say that FICo had already changed the world, but this was the big one. After this, things would never be the same again. * * * “This, gentlemen, this is the big one!” Charles took the opportunity to share a smile with the assembled board members. “It gives me great pleasure to present to you…” he paused for effect. “The InstaReplimaker!” He gestured to his assistant and she unveiled the poster with a practiced flourish. The image of a large, bulky, complicated piece of machinery sat in the centre, surrounded by smiling families as a queue of happy people lined up to receive items from a hatch in its side - a toy plane, a new pipe, a steaming casserole.The board members sat around the table applauded appreciatively as Charles gave a slight bow and beamed. “Well I must say the chaps in advertising have done a sterling job once again.” This was Masterson, from accounting, a reliable old stooge. “And I for one am very keen to know exactly what it does.” “Of course, Mr Masterson. Simply put, the InstaReplimaker is capable of producing anything you wish for, instantly!” Charles held up his hands to bring quiet to the sudden eruption of excited voices. “Now, I know that sounds far-fetched, but didn’t people say the same about the Teleconferencer? Or the Translator-tron? And look at them now! Haven’t we always excelled at providing tomorrow’s technology today?” Sir Bainbridge was the next to speak up, of course. The head of the company had been knighted three years ago after the success of the Translator-tron in re-establishing the League of Nations. “Alright, Warrington, you’ve certainly got our attention. Now, this device, does it just create things out of thin air?” “No Sir, that would indeed be a little far-fetched. No, the InstaReplimaker simply transforms matter, any matter really, into new shapes. But the possibilities are quite dazzling. Imagine if the toy stores have run out of the one present little Billy truly wants for Christmas, why simply replimake your own! Or perhaps you have unexpected house guests for Sunday lunch and your wife doesn’t have time to pick up another roast, then why not replimake some extra dinner?” “Really? This thing can make food, too?” Chapman, head of HR. “Oh yes,” Charles nodded. “I myself had a cup of tea from the prototype this morning. What’s more, as it transforms matter, it will also revolutionize the waste disposal industry. No more landfills, just put your rubbish into the InstaReplimaker and turn it into something useful instead.” “Well, that is quite remarkable.” Chapman frowned. “Hold on, though, if this machine can do all these things won’t that put people out of work? Farmers, shopkeepers, factory workers. My word! Won’t this change the whole economy?” “I imagine so, Mr Chapman. And Federated Industries will be at the forefront of those changes. But I’ll leave such matters to you, gentlemen. Rather out of my league, I fear.” Sir Bainbridge cleared his throat. “How soon will your boys be able to produce these, Warrington?” “Some time yet, Sir. We’re having difficulty with the size and the power source. It uses quite a phenomenal amount of energy. I’ll be speaking to Dr Hope this afternoon. But we hope to have some factory models ready by the end of the year.” “Very good. I’ll be expecting regular updates. Thank you, Warrington, you may go. Masterson, do you have the growth figures for the second quarter?” Charles was still smiling happily as he watched his assistant gather together the presentation items. * * * The scientific research centre formed the central core of FICo’s building. Charles wound his way up the stairs to the top floor development laboratory, or the ideas room as they liked to call it, pausing to exchange brief pleasantries with the security guards along the way.The room was the usual quiet hum of activity, lit as always by the bright white glow emanating from behind the partition at the far end. Dr Hope himself was already there, flicking through something on a clipboard, and gave a warm smile when Charles entered. “Ah, Charles! Tell me, how was the meeting? Did the board like the design?” “How could they not, Doctor?” Charles replied. “Sir Bainbridge is keen to be kept informed. Have you made any progress on the power problem at all?” “Not so far.” Hope shook his head. “It’s causing some problems, but now we have the prototype running I have a few ideas for items which might help.” “You never cease to amaze me, Doctor.” Charles marvelled. “You have such a knack for getting these things to work. Speaking of which, have we received anything new today?” The pair of them turned to look down the room towards the light. Dr Hope drew a large collection of keys from his pocket and started forward. “Let’s see, shall we?” It took some time to navigate the locks before they opened the door and stepped behind the partition. The light here was almost blinding, pouring from the object which floated in mid-air in front of them. It always made Charles uncomfortable to look at it directly, it was like a large funnel much wider at one end and shrinking to a point at the other. It undulated slowly, constantly moving, a waterspout of pure energy disappearing eternally down a giant plug hole, although there was certainly no plug to be seen or any indication of what might be on the other side of the portal.But items would appear out of it from time to time, items of such fantastic technology they had the power to change the world. FICo’s main job was trying to adapt that technology for public consumption. “Nothing new yet, Charles. Although I must admit I’m rather glad. I have enough on my plate as it is!” Charles merely nodded absently. Nobody asked where the objects came from anymore, that simply wasn’t the done thing, and speculation tended to make Dr Hope rather upset. But everyone wondered, of course. Charles had formed his own opinion some time ago but for some reason today, staring into the portal, he felt particularly ill at ease, his previously cheery disposition seeming to evaporate in the white light. “Doctor, do you ever wonder if there’s someone on the other side there deliberately sending us these things, or is it merely chance?” “Not only do I not wonder, Charles, neither do I care.” He gestured towards the glowing portal. “I cannot begin to explain the science behind this thing, but I hardly think there is a person at the other end popping these things in! No, it is merely some sort of cosmic chance and a very fortuitous one at that.” He fixed Charles with a penetrating look. “I regard it as a gift, and so should you, Charles. If we didn’t make use of it I’m sure somebody else would have done. And it’s unlike you to be questioning this providence, is there something on your mind?” “I’m sorry, perhaps it’s just the excitement of the new Replimaker. It just started me thinking of what the future holds. For the company, I mean.” He hurriedly added. “Of course, dear boy, of course.” Hope placed a friendly arm around Charles’s shoulder and guided him back towards the door. “We’re all interested in the company’s fortunes, of course. But don’t you worry, I’ll sort out this power problem in no time, you’ll see, and we’ll soon get back to our good work.” “In no time… Yes, yes of course Doctor Hope. Thank you for you time, I’ll be sure to let Sir Bainbridge know how you’re getting on.” Charles glanced over his shoulder at the portal once more before Dr Hope pulled the door closed with a resounding clang. He seemed eager for Charles to be leaving and Charles, for his part, was eager to distance himself from that thing. Something had felt different about it today and Charles couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps there was some significance in that, as if he was missing something important.Shaking his head he put the thought to the back of his mind and hurried down the stairs. He still had plenty of work to be done to prepare the world for the InstaReplimaker, after all. * * * Charles’s smile had been replaced by a thoughtful frown that evening as he made his way home, the train travelling to the very outskirts of the city. The station tended to be deserted at this hour, but tonight there was someone stood on the platform, waiting. As Charles stepped off the train the figure spoke. “Mr Warrington?” “Yes?” Charles frowned. The figure was a woman, quite short and with a peculiar accent. As the train pulled away the carriage lights flashed across her revealing the UniFit she was wearing. Charles noted the design; black with teal-coloured shoulders and three curious brass buttons on the collar. Some cheap version from overseas he surmised, only made more obvious by the triangular knock-off Translator-tron broach pinned to the front of her clothing. “Do I know you, miss?” “No yet, but I do know you and I know what you’ll do.” “What I’ll do?” Charles asked, confused. “I’m sorry but I have no intentions other than getting home, having a cup of tea and running a hot bath.” “I’m not talking about tonight, Mr Warrington. I’m talking about the future.” She took a step closer, the light falling across her short blond hair. “My name is Charlotte Carr and I’m from a planet in the Alpha Centauri system.” “An alien?” Charles scoffed “I trust you are not being serious!” “No, not an alien, I’m as human as you. I’m a time traveller.” The woman narrowed her eyes as Charles hesitated. “You find that easier to believe, don’t you, Mr Warrington? Because you know such a thing is possible.” Charles somehow found his voice again. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His tone was curt. “Now I really must bid you good night, miss.” “I know about the replimaker.” She smiled slightly as Charles stopped in his tracks. “Although where I come from we call it a replicator. Semantics, I suppose, it still does the same thing, turning one form of matter into another.” “How did you find out about that?” Charles tried to make his voice angry to hide his fear. “I told you, I’m a time traveller. Replicators have been common place since the twenty-third century but that’s the reason why I’m here, really. They don’t belong in the middle of the twentieth century. You’ve been cheating, Mr Warrington, you and Sir Bainbridge and all the people at your Federated Industries.” Guilt crept over Charles’s face as he chewed his lip. He’d seen so many wonders since the end of the world war, things he would never have even dreamed possible, so a strange woman claiming to be from the future seemed far from incredible. “Very well, I suppose there can’t be denying things from someone who knows my future. But why are you here? “You’re not ready for this technology yet, you’ve not earned it.” She paused a moment before continuing. “Maybe it’s not all about the money. Maybe you have lofty goals. After all, ridding the world of hunger and drought is a pretty big thing. But it doesn’t work like that, the world needs to be prepared first otherwise there will be consequences that you cannot even begin to fathom.” “But why now? If you’re from the future I assume you could have picked any time to return. Why not when we invented the Universal Outfit? Or the Personal Information Data Device? Or the Translator-tron? They were pretty disruptive, weren‘t they? Changing the way we communicate with each other.” “Oh yes,” Charlotte agreed. “But your replimaker will be the one that really tips the scales. What happens when everyone suddenly has everything they ever wanted, without restraint? Well, give it a few years and you’ll find out. You never developed these things so you don’t understand their dangers, you just want to put them out there and make a sale while claiming that you’re ‘doing good’. That makes you very naïve or very greedy, or both. But actually it’s not the technology which brought me here, now. It’s you.” “Me? What difference do I make?” “All the difference in the world, Mr Warrington. This is the exact day you started having doubts, isn’t it? Questioning the source of all these technological marvels?” “How could you possibly know that?!” Charles blanched. “Oh Lord, are you some sort of physic mind reader?” “Not quite.” Charlotte smiled slightly. “I’ve just read your biography.” “Ah, really? I write a book? Well now that is…” “Never mind.” Charlotte cut him off. “I’m here because your actions are changing the future. Your future that is, my past. And the changes are not for the better, believe me. You say you want to change the world? Well, believe me, you succeed on that front. You’re an educated man, Mr Warrington, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that every action has a reaction.” “I see. But what about the things we have already invented?” “For starters, you didn’t invent them, you stole them. Secondly, if all goes to plan they won’t matter. If you reverse the damage then time will heal itself and you’ll have never got your hands on those things in the first place.” “But we’ve already sold millions of them. How can…” Charlotte held up a hand to stop him. “Just trust me on this. Temporal affairs tend to be very complicated and it’ll only give you a headache.” Charles sighed and nodded. “Alright, let us say I believe you. What can I do to put it right?” “In your offices there’s a portal, right? The source of all this technology? What you have there is an artificial wormhole. It was created in the future by someone who wanted to interfere with your recent war. Maybe that worked, maybe it didn’t, but now it’s being used for this personal gain and causing a lot of damage.” “I’ve seen it, today in fact.” Charles said. “Dr Hope is…” Charlotte interrupted. “Dr Hope? Is that what he’s calling himself now? That has a certain irony, I suppose.” “You.. you know him?” Charles was bewildered, just when he thought he was getting to grips with the conversation. “You could say we’re old friends. I’ve known your doctor for longer than you’ve been alive.” She paused. “Longer than I’ve been alive, too, come to think of it. But that’s not your problem, I need you to deal with the wormhole. Simply closing it won’t undo the problem, we need to get creative, prevent it from ever having existed in the first place. Luckily, that sort of thing isn’t so hard when you’re already dealing with fractured time.” “And how, exactly, am I supposed to do that?” Charles folded his arms. “I’m no scientist, let alone a time traveller. Why don’t you do it?” “Because you can get into the building, tonight, and I’ll guide you through it. Don’t worry about Dr Hope, I’ll take care of that.” “What?” Charles forced a laugh, trying to inject some humour into a world which seemed to be rapidly going mad. “I suppose you’re going to shoot him with your ray gun?” “Yes.” Charlotte gave him a flat look. “Oh.” “Now come along, Mr Warrington, we have a lot to do and only all the time in the world in which to do it.” Charlotte turned smartly on her heel and vanished into the dark street beyond the platform. Charles hesitated, considering the implications of everything she’d said. After a moment he straightened his back and smoothed the creases out of his Universal Outfit once again before striding resolutely after her.
  11. The white, ephemeral mist spiralled around your arms like tendrils. Each finger reached out to tug at your loose-fitting, lily robe, living only long enough to make a connection before vanishing from sight. The feeling was as good as you remembered it; this was the place where you always found solace. In this hall, you would wind yourself into the strands of myriad realities and watch as they birthed and died, taking comfort in your own eternity. And then you saw it. Long ago, your people took great pains to ensure their continued survival. Their tenure of multiple dimensions was assured by the deployment of spheres, each designed to transform local space into an area habitable by your species. When networked, these spheres could alter vast regions, their domain surrounded by a thermobaric cloud that protected it from sight and from incursion. To the explorer's eye, it would appear to be a spatial anomaly. It was intended also as a deterrent, as the area influenced by the spheres was as harmful to monodimensional beings as their space was to you. For aeons it worked; none but the bravest of explorers dared venture within the confines of the cloud. That was until your people became greedy. Talk of racial supremacy began as a whisper and built into a roar. It was difficult to turn a deaf ear to it as it swept through to permeate every molecule of the essence of your culture. Opinions changed from day to day; at first the idea of a regime based on superiority was opposed but, eventually, more and more began to march to the beat of its power hungry drum. Traditions of science, history, observation and documentation were abandoned as multigalactic conquest became your society's driving force. All fell to the temptation of a realm ruled by the 'sphere builders', as you had come to be known, the beacon of hope for your race's very existence now a symbol of your intent to crush reality itself beneath your heel. Amongst the mounting insanity, only a few of you remembered the old ways, clinging to them like the vapours from the Chambers of Observation linger on a scryer's robe. You were one of them. It was difficult at first not to bow to the unstoppable tide but, having seen from the cultures whom you had observed that the lust for power resulted only in destruction, your resolve held strong. Your race's progression to be able to manipulate multidimensional space to observe myriad potential timelines had been regarded initially as an educational boon. With some sadness, you realised that the knowledge that had been drawn from it had been squandered. And then, as more and more spheres were built, as more and more territory was conquered, something pierced the arrogance of your people's veil of assured supremacy. Panic. This time, there was no gradual gathering of momentum. No, hysteria spread like a cancer, fuelling your people's jingoistic cause with new perceptions of a battle against extinction. You were to meet opposition, they said. Monodimensional life forms who lacked in technological development but were determined enough to band together to destroy the spheres once and for all. This would not just happen in one reality. It would happen in all of them. That notion seemed ridiculous at first. The spheres were a symbol of hope! You refused to believe that the foundations on which your society was built could fall so easily. How could monodimensional life survive under their influence? That they might find a way seemed unlikely but you could not ignore it as a possibility. After all, had your own people not ascended to their multidimensional existence as the conclusion of their own evolution? The more you thought along these lines, the more they seemed plausible, even logical. Was not the survival instinct strong in all species, including animals? Was it not the reason behind evolution itself? As an accomplished scryer, there was an easy way to find out, to see with your own eyes whether or not rumours of opposition and annihiliation were true. The key to the secrets of the web of reality itself lay in your grasp but you did not dare use it. Until today. How could a feeling so familiar suddenly be so terrifying? How could the mesmeric reverse echo of each breath now carry with it the weight of crushing fate? The sensation of becoming one with the mist, usually a panacea, was now an intolerable irritant. Where you had succumbed to the embrace of the conflux of time and possibility, you now recoiled from it. It was as though you knew the answer already but you would not allow your eyes to see it; if the multiverse had once been a trusted ally, it had now become a hated enemy. Because there it was, right before your eyes, playing out in infinite stereo, in innumerable permutations. There was no escaping what was to come. Fleet Captain Diego Herrera Commanding Officer USS Vigilant NCC-75515 Deputy Commandant: UFOP: SB118 Academy
  12. Diplomatic Impunity or The Tribble with Troubles The battered, over-full leather satchel hit the floor with a thud as the door slid shut behind him and Ramsey heaved a great sigh of relief at finally coming home. The problem with being Professor Ramsey Bakewell, Xenosociologist extroirdinaire – he mused as he kicked his shoes off and shuffled into a pair of well-worn slippers – was that he was always being asked to speak, mediate, advise and intervene at all manner of conferences, peace talks, negotiations and so on. Which was all very flattering and of course the opportunity to assist in preventing inter-stellar war and such like was never something he was going to refuse, but it took up so much blasted time. The lights activating as he moved through the apartment, Ramsey headed over to the replicator for a mug of coffee to help him think. He had a new nutrient formulation to try that might just be the answer to the particular problem that he’d pondered for so long, turning it over in his mind on the trip back rather than worrying about whether the Bajoran Kai found his tie with the dancing Orionese slave girl on it to be in poor taste. There were far more important things in life, and this little problem was one of them. If a Tellarite diplomat offended the Arkonian Ambassador, it was probably because the Ambassador was looking to be offended, not because Tellarites were particularly argumentative. One of the reasons that he went to conferences such as this most recent one was to get that particular point across to the Federation's diplomats. It was one thing to be the Ambassador to a particular species, to learn their culture and fit in almost like a native, but it wasn’t practical for members of the Federtion as a whole, across hundreds of species and thousands of cultures, to learn them all. What was practical was to take a pragmatic view to inter-species relations, which was where his three Golden Rules had come from. Pulling a micro-PADD from his pocket, he checked the hastily scribbled formulation that had been vouchsafed to him by the Andorian Ambassador's sub-Secretary, and cross-checked it with his own fastidious notes on his personal computer. He absently set the mug down upon a haphazard stack of e-books, the top volume being the latest Mills and Boon. It made interesting reading; the culture of his own species was weird enough, never mind anyone else’s. ‘Be polite, be well behaved, be prepared to give the benefit of the doubt.’ That was how they taught his Rules in Federation Schools, and in Starfleet. That was of course the sanitised version, approved as being politically correct by the establishment, which just showed that they had missed the point entirely. Apparently ‘don’t be rude, don’t be a [...], don’t go looking for trouble’ had not been found acceptable. But that was the core of the issue; if someone wanted to be offended, they would find a way. If someone really wanted to start a war, they would find a way to do that too. And if you had to walk on egg shells around others the whole time then eventually something was going to go 'crunch'. No, the way forward was to establish a robust and tolerant relationship, where you didn’t get upset with someone over using their fingers to eat their dinner, just because your people didn’t. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations as the Vulcans liked to say. Splendid people, if they’d only develop a sense of humour. Sighing, Ramsey took a meditative swig of his coffee and regarded the now modified formulation. Would it have the desired effect? The problem was, there really was only one way to find out. Just as, when you sat down to the negotiating table with no real knowledge of the intentions of one’s alien companions, one simply had to make one’s best effort, one’s best guess and be prepared to stand by one’s convictions; what ultimately came of it was beyond one’s control. So, in the end, was this. Once one accepted that one was a mote in the universe’s eye, everyone had their own agenda and Murphy was a prat, it was much easier to take a relaxed attitude to existence. One focused on the differences that one could make, and didn’t sweat the big stuff. And wore loud ties because one could. The small stuff now, that was where one could make a difference. Forgetting his precariously balanced coffee, Bakewell uploaded the new formula to his pocket PADD and shuffled back to the replicator. Feeding the formulation in he keyed the appliance's operation and watched as a dish with two pale brown pellets appears in the machine’s output. Would they be the answer that he was seeking? Only time would tell. Picking up the dish he wandered to one of the back rooms where a faint cooing rose suddenly in volume as the lights went on. Here they were, his pride and joy. Never mind sycophantic diplomats and arrogant Ambassadors, this was where things got serious. Balls of short fluff, long fluff, spots and stripes milled in cages and sang their brain-melting song. Tribble hybridisers became immune to the effect, or they stopped. Or their brains dribbled out of their ears. Ramsey didn't really hear it any more. The thing about Tribbles was that, unlike alien species, one had to be very precise when dealing with them. Too much food and they cloned themselves exponentially; too little and they went dormant. But just enough and the right kinds and they would hybridise with each other. The nature of native flora of their homeworld was the subject of great conjecture, as people like Bakewell studied and theorised and strove to find the right formulation to accelerate their hybridisation efforts. Such formulations were often jealously guarded and carefully traded. His was good, but he hoped this might be better. It might just be the key. There, in a cage near the back, nestled two tribbles that might just hold the answer. The long sought after Angora White, a long-haired pure white tribble. One was long-haired and predominantly white with a few black spots, the other was medium length and pure in it's lack of colour. The difficulty was combining the traits in the right combination. Highly inter-hybridised, these strains weren’t the enthusiastic breeders that their wild-type cousins could be, and this pair wouldn't breed at all. The Angora Pied with the minimum spotting had never bred, and if he could persuade it he might just crack the Angora White for good. Reaching in, Ramsey dropped one pellet in front of each tribble, watched as each seemed to wake and undulate forward to take its food which disappeared underneath the fur to be consumed. The offering was at least appreciated, as each sang contentedly. Now was the worst part, of course. Now there was nothing that he could do but wait and see what happened. See whether he might, in a few months time, have something worth taking to the next Combined Tribble Fanciers Association Annual Show. He supposed he might as well read that treatise from the Cardassian Senate Committee for Federation Relations in the meantime. Written by Lieutenant Commander Saveron Chief Medical Officer USS Mercury
  13. Jorey materialized on the transporter pad to see his childhood friend and imzadi, Koroth, standing at the door to welcome him. “Welcome aboard the USS Perseverance, Mission Specialist Jorey.” Jorey said nothing. He knew he didn't have to speak because his surprised expression and uninhibited smile told it better than any words could. Jorey moved slowly toward him. His limbs were nearly numb from the kind of shock that only true joy could cause. He wrapped his arms around the Klingon and kissed his cheek. Jorey felt Koroth's arms around him and the two lingered in a strong and warm embrace. A delighted smirk slowly emerged on Jorey's face as he heard his love unintentionally growl under his breath. “I almost forgot how good you felt.” the Klingon whispered before pulling away and taking a formal stance and tone. “The Captain is eager to get this test underway. We will have to catch up on our way there.” “Of course,” Jorey said starting for the door. “Lead the way.” The two men discussed their recent promotions, shared the details of their recent missions, and how much they missed each other. They reminisced about their more memorable times together and admitted the pain they often felt having been separated from each other. The conversation may have been rushed, but they were each grateful for the opportunity to see each other and hoped they would have more time together after the test. “Ah, Lieutenant Jorey,” The captain said, offering a warm, Betazoid smile. “welcome aboard the Perseverance. I'm so delighted to have you here.” “I've always hoped that I would serve a Betazoid Captain someday.” Jorey said honestly making his way to the tall, strikingly beautiful woman in command red. “Commander Koroth has told me that you are eager to get the first test of your new slipstream drive underway.” “Yes, of course.” The captain said, taking her seat and looking to her right. “This is my first officer Commander Lindt. Our Chief Engineer has just completed the warm up cycle and we are ready to launch.” Jorey nodded and smiled at the first officer. He looked down at the console on the arm of his chair. He brought up the ship's energy levels, deflector dish readouts, and external sensors to monitor the quantum field. “Lindt to engineering. Begin routing power through the deflector and initiate the quantum field.” The first officer ordered. The voice of the ship's Chief Engineer confirmed the order and Jorey focused his attention to his console. Everything seemed to look good. Serving on the USS Tiger-A as the Chief Helm Officer, Jorey was very familiar with what good readings for a stable quantum field and subsequent slipstream should look like. However, the external sensors seemed to be picking up something that didn't seem to fit with what he knew. Jorey wanted to signal out the anomaly and tapped the console. “Report!” The ship shook violently. “Koroth! By the gods, what is going on?” The captain's voice called out as the unprepared bridge crew were flung from their chairs. Jorey quickly picked himself up in the flashing glow of a red alert and got back in his chair. “It's like we hit a brick wall, sir.” Koroth's voice replied in confusion from behind them. “Systems are in and out, but it appears that we've been attacked.” “Ensign, get that viewscreen back up.” The first officer ordered. “Yes, sir!” The young Romulan replied. “We are receiving an incoming transmission... I can give you audio only.” “We are the Borg.” The bridge filled with the powerful, eery, and cold sound of the Borg collective. “Your biological and technological distinctiveness is incompatible to our own. Assimilation is no longer an option. You will be exterminated. Resistance if futile.” The bridge fell into silence from shock, terror, and despair. Jorey looked down at his console to try and see what was out there. None of this made any sense. Jorey looked up at the viewscreen hoping the helmsman had it working. The screen was filled with the familiar star spangled black space. Jorey looked around the ship to find that there was no damage, no attack, no Borg and no quantum field. “Lindt to engineering. Begin routing power through the deflector and initiate a quantum field.” The first officer ordered... again. However, this time, before the engineer could respond the captain interrupted. “Engineering, hold that thought.” The captain said leaning in toward Jorey and placing her hand on his should to get his attention. “Lieutenant, is everything okay.” Jorey thought he was going crazy. He was afraid to answer. The Betazoid captain could sense his apprehension, but pushed herself into his thoughts and assured him that he should speak his mind. “I just had the strangest... vision.” Jorey spoke softly, still trying to make sense of what he saw and piece it together. He explained that he was aboard what looked like their ship, but he somehow knew it wasn't. They had initiated the quantum field, but were attacked before they could enter into the slipstream. “It was the Borg,” Jorey said obviously disturbed by the experience. “But they were not interested in assimilation. They said they were going to exterminate us. Exterminate the Federation.” “Ensign,” The captain could sense that Jorey believed what he was saying and wasn't going to take any chances. “is there anything on long range sensors?” The young ensign at the helm turned toward them and shook his head no. The young human woman was speechless and growing frightened. “In the vision,” Jorey said looking at the young ensign. “you were a young Romulan.” “Sir,” The voice of the science officer broke the eerie silence. “I think I might have something.” The crew all made their way to the science station and huddled around the screen. The officer pulled up images and explained that theoretically, under certain conditions, if two quantum fields were opened simultaneously in parallel universes at the same point in time and space a gateway between those two realities could be opened. “Perhaps the Lieutenant's” the science offer seemed uncomfortable with the word, “... vision, was of such a parallel universe.” The whole thing seemed so far fetched to him. This all seemed like a lot of speculation, creative physics, and a waste of time on what Jorey was beginning to believe as nothing more than his imagination running wild. The team was continuing to discuss the theory and the possibilities. Jorey took a tricorder from the science station and headed back to his chair. He knew it happened when he tried to tap the console on his chair and thought it prudent to scan it. Nothing. Jorey was becoming more frustrated. It bothered him that the bridge was wasting it's time on his apparent awakening into insanity. Jorey put his elbow on the armrest and laid his forehead into his open hand. He closed his eyes and took a few calming breaths. “Lieutentant!” The scream from the captain beside him made him jump. “Are you okay?” Jorey opened his eyes to see a panel from the ceiling on the floor in front of him. There was blood on the corner. He lifted his head and looked down at his open hand to see it dripping with blood. He looked up at the viewscreen to see it filled with Borg vessels. “Sir,” The young Romulan helmsman turned to face them. “We are no longer able to maintain the quantum field, however it looks like the Borg have created one.” “I'm picking up another ship,” Koroth shouted from behind them. “It looks like it's coming through... but,” Koroth paused, confused by what the sensors were telling him. “It looks like it's the Perseverance!” “How can that be Commander...” The Captain was cut short as her ship took another direct hit. The tactical station behind them lit up in fury of sparks, flashes and smoke as Koroth was thrown back against the wall before falling to the floor. Jorey moved quickly to his beloved friend to help him back up. However, Jorey stood over him silent. Looking down at what was now just a corpse. His entire right side from his waist up had been completely burned away revealing scorched muscle and blackened bone. Jorey collapsed on the floor beside him and took him into his arms. “Koroth.” he was able to whisper through his tightening throat and painful uncontrollable sobs. He grabbed him tighter and pressed his tear stained face into his neck. He heard the sounds of more weapons fire and the low pitched screeching of the ship slowly being torn apart. The captain was frantically ordering for all crew to abandon ship, but Jorey just stayed there with Koroth in his arms. He decided the best place for him to be, the best place for him to die, was in the arms of the person he loved most. Jorey could feel and hear a gentle growling from the man in his arms. “I almost forgot how good you felt.” the Klingon whispered before pulling away and taking a formal stance and tone. Jorey opened his eyes to find himself standing in the transporter room. No damage. It took him a moment for the fog to clear from his mind. “The Captain is eager to get this test underway. We will have to catch up on our way there.” Koroth said gesturing toward the door. Jorey had no idea if what he had seen was real. A premonition or a delusion. He wondered if his turbulent time in Starfleet had finally started to affect his mind. However, he decided that either way, it wouldn't hurt to postpone the test. If that gate were to open maybe they would be sent to a parallel universe to die with their counterparts or worse all those Borg ships would enter into their reality. “You trust me, Imzadi?” Jorey asked sweetly. "With my life." Koroth said in heartwarming tone, stepping in with concern and purpose. "No need for Klingon dramatics." Jorey smirked, as he walked past him toward the exit. "Imagine! Everyone thinks that Betazoids are over the top!" Lt. JG Brayden Jorey USS Tiger-A Chief Helm Officer & CAG
  14. Do you have questions regarding the Writing Challenges, or would you like to discuss something? This is the place to do so!
  15. Thank you to everyone who participated in our late summer July/August Writing Challenge! I'm pleased now to bring you the judges' decisions. I will note that a clear final field was harder to come by in this contest, as some final rankings were only one point off another. The winner of the Challenge for July and August is the writer behind Ben Livingston, with his story "The Genetic Engineer's Manifesto"! Our runner-up is the writer behind Evan Delano, with his story "Resignation"! Congratulations to both of you, and watch the Community News in the coming weeks for more about these authors and their stories! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- the writers behind Fleet Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, Fleet Captain Diego Herrera, and Commander Melitta Herodion. Writers and all interested parties will find individual feedback posted below this message. Please feel free to use this thread to offer your congratulations to the winning writers!
  16. Welcome, my friends, to the July and August Challenge for 2013! For this Challenge, Ed -- the writer behind Captain Diego Herrera and Ambassador Tallis Rhul and the winner of the May & June "From the Past" Challenge -- would like you to consider the topic "Under My Skin." Now, you may choose to take this expression figuratively and examine its ramifications for one of your staid characters (or, perhaps, an entirely new one); but the beauty of Trek is that you may also choose to get under a character's skin literally, perhaps with some Borg nanoprobes, a Trill symbiont, or something completely unexpected. Whatever you do, the judges look forward to reading your entry! The deadline for this Challenge is Tuesday, August 27th, which gives you the better part of two months to consider this topic, watch the new movie, and produce your story! As always, please remember: *Your work must be completely original. *You must be the sole author of the work. *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. As of today, Tuesday, July 2nd, this Challenge is open. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website at http://www.starbase118.net/members/events-activities/writing-challenges/ Good luck!
  17. From: Commander Sean Gardner, Commanding Officer, Bernard IV Duckblind Research Facility Sent: 239008.07 To: Captain Elizabeth Zaks, Commanding Officer, USS Intrepid Subject: Resignation from Starfleet Dear Captain Zaks, I regret the need to write this letter; however, after much reflection, I’ve concluded that I cannot return to Starfleet in good conscience. I can’t turn my back on this world. Not while I know what’s happening here. As a Starfleet officer, and as a scientist, I have dedicated my career to the ideal of non-interference as enshrined in Starfleet’s General Order 1—the so-called “Prime Directive.” I now intend to violate that directive. As such, I offer you this letter tendering the resignation of my commission, and hereby renounce my citizenship within the United Federation of Planets, effective immediately. Due to the nature of what I must do, I haven’t informed my senior officers or anyone else under my command. Dr. Lysander, Lieutenant Gale, and Ensign Tralen and their staffs have all performed admirably. They deserve commendations. The last 18 months have been difficult, and they faced the daily horrors and despair as well as anyone could have. I have never worked with a more talented research team, and Gale and her security forces have run a tight ship. I’m afraid my plan takes advantage of weaknesses in our security systems I only know about thanks to her reports.What I do today is done of my own volition and without their knowledge. Please, do not punish them for my choices. Captain, I know you’ve never thought highly of me or my research into the people of Bernard IV. From your perspective, it will appear that I’ve simply lost perspective and allowed these people to get under my skin. At best, I’ll be seen as a misguided academic. That doesn’t matter. I need to document the decisions that led me to this point, at least as much as I can in this letter. I don’t expect you or anyone else to agree with my decision, but my story should be written somewhere. It’s unlikely I’ll have another chance. My career has been built on the study of the inhabitants of Bernard IV—The Paragons.I was a Lieutenant Junior Grade aboard the USS Turing when Starfleet first discovered an intelligent civilization in this system 20 years ago. I was arbitrarily assigned to oversee the deployment of the probe the Turing left behind, but over the months and years following, I published analyses of planetary communication and made a name for myself in many Starfleet journals. I eventually argued that the Paragons were on the verge of reaching planetary unity and discovering warp travel and that within a generation, they would make ideal candidates for first contact, and even for entry into the Federation. Within a year, I accepted transfer to a listening post in the sector in order to dedicate myself to a full-time study of the Paragons and their development. As an anthropologist, I have studied dozens of near-warp worlds, but the Paragons seemed to be living up to their chosen name. While nearly every other race in the quadrant has managed to unite after centuries of bloody war and apocalyptic scenarios involving weapons of mass destruction and genetic manipulation, the Paragons had enjoyed nearly a century of relative peace. The upper class Perfects, which had been dominant through most of the race’s history, had in the last few generations, intentionally redistributed wealth and power to the lower classes. While religious and cultural discrimination was still prominent in many parts of the world, wars were rare, and conflict brief. Even criminals seemed slow to resort to violence. I spent years lobbying Starfleet to set up a duckblind facility on the planet, but after the incident in the Briar Patch, that kind of study became anathema to the eyes of the Admiralty Board and the Xeno-Anthropology Department at Starfleet Academy. Perhaps out of habit, I continued to periodically submit requests, but they never really succeeded. You can only imagine my surprise when, years after I had given up, I received word from Starfleet that they had reconsidered my latest proposal—sent almost three years earlier— after the publication of a report on the development of the southern continent’s space program confirmed that the Paragons were less than 10 years away from breaking the warp barrier. I was promoted to commander and assigned a small team of researchers and other support officers to make my dream a reality. That would be when we first met. They say you can never make up for a bad first impression, and I suppose that trip to the Bernard system was proof of that. For what it’s worth, I offer a final apology for not coming to see you when I first came on board, or for not recognizing you as the captain when you came to my quarters. It was rude of me to treat anyone as poorly as I did you. I’ve always been too engrossed in my work, and at the time, I felt like I simply had too much to do to bother with “trivialities” like starship protocol. It had been over a decade since I’d been aboard a real starship, and had long forgotten most of the discipline my Academy instructors tried to drill into my head. After experiencing the burden of command on a much smaller scale, I fully understand why my behavior was so disrespectful. Following the military coup that removed the Planet’s General Assembly from power roughly 18 months ago, the beautiful, peaceful world and its people I had come to love all came to a violent end as a no-holds-bar civil war erupted between the Perfects and the Paragons. If you haven’t read any of my reports, I’ll simply remind you that the Perfects represent a kind of spiritual caste among the Paragons who can be identified by the curve of their horns. While most Paragons have a set of four pointed horns which range from roughly 12 to 15 cm in length, the Perfects’ have two horns which are considerably thicker, and which curl around the sides of the head similar to those of the ram on Earth. In addition, Perfects tend to be taller and, physically, more imposing. These are all the product of centuries of arranged marriages effectively reflecting a kind of cultural selective breeding. The Perfects are the ruling class of Bernard IV, but following a series of globalization-based reforms in the later part of the 23rd Century, most of the privileges assigned to them were removed from law. They continued to enjoy less formalized advantages over the rest of their species, but the formalized caste system was almost exclusively reserved for military service and spiritual worship. And even that was becoming less common. Two years into our study, our monitoring algorithms began to notice encrypted communiques between Perfect military units in cities all over the world. It took us time to decipher and translate, but we eventually learned that the planetary General Assembly was on the verge of passing legislation that would remove military privilege based on caste; effectively a formal removal of the last great power the Perfects held. For months, we watched with a sense of impending dread as the Assembly debate became public. Public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation, but as each district voted in turn to adopt it, the Perfects planned a surprise attack. Bound by the Prime Directive, we were helpless to do anything to prevent the massacre that eventually ensued. Each of the planet’s five hundred general authorities were murdered. The few that survived the initial attack were forced, at the point of a rifle, to sign a referendum of martial law. They were never seen again, but we saw the Perfects’ internal documentation that confirmed their executions. Within days, every major city on the planet was under the strict control of the military. Protestors were shot or arrested as instigators, but in the shadows, a large resistance movement formed and a bloody, one-sided war commenced to tear the planet apart. For a time, it looked like the resistance fighters had a chance. They had several major victories and, six months ago, managed to consolidate a large portion of their resources in order to liberate one of the largest cities from Perfect control. Rather than negotiate for some kind of peace, the Perfects used a series of nuclear charges to destroy the city, and to cripple the resistance. We endured this all with the smug, self-assurance that that the Prime Directive was infallible, and that we, as Starfleet Officers, were bound to a higher set of principles than most. The Klingons or the Romulans or the Cardassians might have interfered, but not the Federation. We were scientists. We were sworn to observe and report, and never to interfere. When the orders finally came to prepare for extraction several weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised. My last report had indicated that the last major pocket of resistance fighters had been captured in the southern continent, and that the new Perfect government showed no interest in continuing the development of the Space Program. If the planet and its people ever recovered from this war, it would be another century or more before they could muster the resources required to break the warp barrier. I had been wrong. Worse, we had only days before learned that, after reinstating an antiquated, extremely strict version of the caste system, that more than 27 million Paragons—members of the lowest caste—had been summarily rounded up and shipped to death camps more efficient than anything I had ever read about. By last count, four cities have been converted for this purpose, and more than 40 million people have been summarily executed and burned in crematoriums that would make Earth’s worst genocides seem modest. Even now, I can see the distant plume of smoke coming over the horizon. Thinking about what it is turns my stomach. The world that once enthralled me is now an appalling nightmare. Instead of being known for peace, it will forever be known for this heinous, unparalleled crime against life, against the very universe itself. After I gave the orders to prepare for evacuation, days seemed to pass by in a blur. We retrieved probes and scanners and other listening devices we’d distributed throughout the planet. It wasn’t until I authorized Lieutenant Gale’s request to replicate additional power packs for our limited supply of phaser rifles—just in case the Perfects somehow found out about us—that I first thought about breaking the Prime Directive. It was late into the night when I ventured into the subbasement and idly looked through the objects in our industrial replicators’ database. Medicines. Weapons. Vehicles. Batteries. Rare minerals and metals. With even one replicator, the remnant resistance forces might actually have a chance against the Perfects. I tried, desperately, to dismiss the idea. It was treasonous. Blasphemous, even. The antithesis of everything I’d been trained to believe and uphold. But as the remaining days passed and we waited for your ship’s arrival, I was haunted by thoughts of the millions of dead Paragons who I could have saved. Worse, I was tormented by the ubiquitous understanding that I could make it stop if I would simply deign to step down from the pedestal I’d been standing on my whole life. After that, it was only a matter of time until I realized I had already made my decision. So, as I sit here writing this letter in the middle of the night, I’ve already located a small cave in the mountains of the planet’s polar continent. I’ve already replicated and transported enough components to create a few site-to-site transporters and a dozen or so replicators. I’ve also beamed most of the duckblind’s emergency rations of food and medicine, several crates of phasers, tricorders, and 40 terabytes of scientific, medical, and technological information that can turn the tide of this war. I’ve also made arrangements for some of that data to find its way into the hands of one of the few surviving leaders of the resistance. I understand that you may need to find me, and I won’t hold it against you if you try. You might even succeed. I’ve done what I can to mask my biosignature and those of the more unique alloys used in starfleet technology. I’m hoping that the interference from the magnetic disruptions at the poles will limit your sensors abilities to make detailed scans and the terrain will dissuade you from wasting too much effort on a manned search. And, of course, you’ll already be considering whether I’ve been misleading you with some of the details in this letter. It’s my hope that this war can be resolved within a few more years. I don’t expect to survive, but I believe the world that comes out of it will be close to the one I fell in love with all those years ago. It has been my great honor and privilege to serve the Federation and to wear the uniform I now leave behind. If I ever see you again, I sincerely hope it is a long time from now. Please thank my officers for their loyalty and service. I wish all of them the best in their new assignments. Sincerely, Commander Sean Gardner Commanding Officer Bernard IV Duckblind Facility
  18. The price of ignorance is extinction. When a person grasps that truth –not comprehends it but truly appreciates its intricacies and its final implications – when a person realizes that, there’s nothing else to do. Knowledge must be sought wholeheartedly and without reservation, shedding the blanket of ignorance that, though warm and comfortable, offers no true shelter. My father learned this through experience. He, like so many others, perished on Sherman’s Planet during the famine before I was even born. As did so many like him. And is that fair? Was he truly less suited to life there than any other? His refusal to eat – so that my mother could, so that she and I would survive – was the death of him. Is this noble quality to be rewarded? No. It is shunned by the universe. In life, it is not the chivalrous but the selfish who survive. We have been abandoned and betrayed by the laws of nature, and therefore man cannot afford to play by the rules. The house always wins. To survive, we must break the rules – rewrite the rules. And by doing so, we can be greater than nature ever intended. Perhaps this is the mark of greatness: to see the universe as it is, to recognize its depraving nature, and to not allow oneself to succumb to it. It is not laudable to survive long enough to pass on one’s genes. Any scum swimming in a vast and empty ocean can replicate itself, make an error, and die, leaving nothing but a flawed copy. But for mankind, evolution was only the first step. We developed civilization, developed culture, developed technology – and these things gave us the power to subjugate and kill and devastate without limit. But these same tools, when we shed our narcissistic nature, propelled us forward at a rate unprecedented, adapting to the world around us faster than biology would otherwise allow by passing on to the next generation not just genes but ideas. The transmission of ideas was the first step we took toward breaking free of the shackles of the natural order. As we would eventually break the so-called sound barrier and the so-called light-barrier, so too did we break the evolution-barrier. But it did not stop there. The passing of knowledge from one generation to the next gave us tools with which to overcome our weaknesses. But man himself was still weak. And our weakness was the inspiration for those men who first set out to change humanity. From the turbulence of the twentieth century arose – first slowly, then rapidly – a new breed of warriors and warlords, of thinkers and leaders. They might have been Philosopher Kings, but the world banished them . What went wrong? I have spent many evenings pondering this over an Acamarian brandy, thinking on the fates of those lost souls, lost to space. The nearest to an answer that I can offer is this: the same drive that pushed them to succeed is present in ordinary men. But to ordinary men, the terms they offered appeared as a kind of death, against which every living thing revolts. That is the one natural law. Thou shalt survive, at whatever cost. And so, with the failure of those most superb persons, man’s potential was forgotten – but it was not lost. If there were a world now that faced Sherman’s famine, what would happen? Fathers would still die. Children’s growth would be stunted. Society and all its benefits would grind to a halt. To this day, man remains weak. We had a chance to transcend these perils. We refused it. Instead of adapting himself to thrive wherever, man turned to adapting wherever to himself. And so was born a new science. This, was readily accepted where genetic engineering was shunned. It offered the same new hopes and new horizons offered by self-improvement, and it did so without the need to admit any flaw or weakness in ourselves. This is the genius of it. The genetic engineer and the terraformer were both as gods; the difference is that the terraformer offered to remove obstacles where the geneticist offered strength to overcome them. And which of these is the greater? That is to be decided not by those alive today, but by those men and women who come after us. For my part, I shall say only this. One approach must be repeated over and over at each impediment. The other allows each generation to grow upon the other, each effort further extending man’s reach; this is much the same as the passing of ideas from one generation to the next, which is the very adaptation that first allowed us to thrive. The path to this objective is to reach inside ourselves. We must study ourselves, learn how we are built and how we work. It is by studying the blueprints of humanity and then rewriting them that we can develop more efficient bodies and quicker minds by taking ourselves down a path that evolution never intended. Nature is not fair, and it is not good. It falls to us to survive; we receive little assistance from our environment. Our locus of control lies within. Physics has no care for dignity. We strive against nature. From the moment when man first looked upon the world and decided to change it, the path of the universe was forever altered. One day, the universe shall no longer be the master and life the slave. We have remade Earth to our liking. We have the power to remake other worlds into new earths, precisely as we want them to be. But this is not enough. Imagine a time when we do not need an earth. Imagine a world where man has naught to fear. Imagine these things and they shall be so. Have the strength to let go of what is today. We must continue down this path, or we are doomed to die, as all creatures do. But the strength and intelligence with which we imbue our children grows exponentially each generation. We cannot imagine, now, how far this will take us. Do not let the ignorance of unexceptional men deter you from your efforts, but strive always with your fullest vigor toward our goal. We have revived our heritage from the dust of the past. Continue our work, and we shall be the heroes of future generations. We shall be the gods who took mere dust and created something worthy of life. Lieutenant Ben Livingston Assistant Chief Engineer USS Excalibur-A
  19. A wound festered inside of her. The cut had peeled away the layers of life itself and buried its way deep within her skin, fleecing her of all rationale, and robbing her of the future that she had long dreamed would make life in Starfleet complete. She was alone in her agony - even the consoling words of those gathered around her could not stop the pain that raged so fiercely, silencing her. Lieutenant Taylor, the Chief Medical Officer, stared into her glazed eyes. "Captain Pelzer, I'm sorry, there is nothing more I can do." She had long appreciated the doctor's candor, but never more than she did at this moment. Slowly nodding her head, she mouthed with great difficulty due to the growing lump in her throat. "I know. It’s over." But that was not totally true. The surge of pain seizing her chest reminded her that she was still alive, although the torment of its horrific grip made her wish that she was not. It was not the dying that caused her so much suffering. It was the living without him, and the prospects of awakening, not to see her own image reflected in his eyes - eyes incapable of giving him pleasure, as now, they were hollow as the demon heart that possessed his every thought. And it was only a matter of time before it took him away from her forever. She wanted to scream, beg him to fight, but it would have been futile. The Bluegill had won, only she had not declared it the winner yet. She couldn’t. She wanted desperately to hold him tight in her arms and never let him go, but the force field between them had to stay in place, or expose her crew to the ravages of the offending parasite. Her crew - the crew that looked to her for the next move - needed her to be strong. She had to snap out of the heartbreak plaguing her. If she could only keep her stinging eyes dry long enough, she may be able to scrape up some kind of wisdom that would save them. Mustering every ounce of energy left in her, she stood and moved away from his motionless body, mouthing oO"I love you.Oo Then turning to her crew, she armed herself. If they all were to die, it would not be because they didn't try to survive, or that she had not been the leader he had so admired. Drawing her phaser, she gave the order. "Arm yourselves to the teeth, and bring me extra weapons! We'll fight together!" As she led them determinedly outside, and as a blaze of phaser fire lit up the landscape, she felt the flutter of hope. oO He will live on. I'll fight for my crew, and the namesake that I carry for him. Oo Fleet Captain Toni Turner Commanding Officer Embassy Duronis II USS Thunder NCC 70605-A
  20. “Ambassador?” It was a deceptively simple formation, yet it encompassed not only a physical enigma but a slew of philosophical questions, both personal and existential, that any sentient might ponder at some point in their life. The majority of them boiled down to: What if? The angular slab of stone before him might well hold the answers, but it wasn’t talking. It had not spoken since Captain James T. Kirk had discovered it, over four hundred years ago, and the view through its portal showed nothing more than the desert plain beyond. Perhaps it would never speak again. “Ambassador?” What if? Such a simple question, but the answer was rarely so. The multiplicity of the universe was established fact, but it was the nature of it that one never saw what happened to those selves who made the other decision; well, rarely. So there were never firm answers, only suppositions, and Terrans had a wonderfully relevant expression; “The grass is always greener on the other side”. One might imagine what would have happened, but one could never be certain. And there was some comfort in known that, for those other selves out there, you were the What if? He had thought that, at the end of his life, he might ask just that. There were so many questions yet unanswered. But now that he was here he knew that he had as much right to ask as any other, and no more. In truth it was not the stone that he should ask but himself, and the Guardian served merely as a foil for his thoughts. No, he had no regrets, not any more. He had done always what he felt he should, and he was content. “Ambassador Saveron?” Allowing his meditative observance of the Guardian of Forever to be interrupted, the tall Vulcan turned slowly to regard the earnest young scientist who had approached down the durasteel ramp constructed to keep them from damaging the fragile soil. That same sandy soil was instead scouring away at the steel, already burnished matte where once it had gleamed. Perhaps in time the entire research outpost would be gone, worn away by the wind, and nothing but the Guardian would remain. He was aware that he was wool gathering. “Yes?” He said at length. She gave him an odd look and he saw himself reflected in her eyes. Impossibly old, deep lines on his lean face, hair that was once black was now silver-white, still worn long. Grey eyes that had seen the breadth of the galaxy, peace and war and politics in between, half-hidden in a sea of wrinkles. “Sorry to bother you sir, but the Nimitz is now in orbit.” She said, a faint frown creasing her brow. The Nimitz. No doubt they were all keen to see that infamous ship gone from their orbit, and it would not leave without its passenger. “I see. Please inform them that I shall be there presently.” He said, nodding politely in acknowledgement of her words, of her making the effort to tell him personally rather than using a communicator. The scientist nodded and [...]ed her head slightly, her vision becoming unfocused for a moment as she used her implanted communications chip to send the message back to the research base. It was a fascinating piece of technology, and an example in his mind of how nothing was ever black and white, everything was a continuum and even the influence of those things one initially abhors can eventually, subconsciously get under one’s skin. The Federation had never been a stranger to cybernetics. Her dark gaze focused on him again before flicking past him to the Guardian, proud amongst the myriad sensors that now crowded it’s previously barren plain, just in case it should once again demonstrate some sign of activity. Thus far, to the wonders of Federation science it remained an inanimate piece of stone. “Will you not speak to it, Ambassador?” She asked at last. Saveron glanced over his shoulder for a moment before turning back. “Would you have me do so?” He asked mildly. The Federation’s finest had begged, pleaded and hurled imprecations at it, and it had remained mute. “Please.” She replied. And who could refuse such a request? He turned slowly back on old, aching bones and regarded the monument once more. What, now that he was here across the vast distance of space, would he say to it? If he had any suspicion that it might answer, what words would he have answered? He had stood there for many minutes, and it had served best as a mirror for his own thoughts. At last he inclined his head politely in the Guardian’s direction. “Thank you,” he said, and turned away. It was not far to the research station itself and the raised transport pad used to receive shipments and personnel from above. There was no rain here, only the ever present wind, and the platform was open to the elements. There were several of the station’s personnel nearby, but they were keeping a respectful distance, and it was easy to see why. The Nimitz had sent a crewmember to collect him. Ironically he thought that he recognised her, from before she joined that ship. The triangular jaw, bobbed blonde hair and distinctive arch of her nose-ridge were very familiar; he recalled their meeting on Deep Space Nine, over two hundred years ago now, when she had sought to ask him about the Subjective. What are they like? She had asked. But the real question was what is it like? And it was a question that he could only answer from the outside. What if? It was a pervasive thought that worked away at one’s consciousness, begging resolution. And in this branch of the multiverse she had taken the plunge. Her skin was far paler now and the metal of the small visible implant at her temple gleamed in the evening light. She wore a close-fitting black suit on which here and there more understated metal gleamed and occaisionally a light blinked, no doubt connected to deeper cybernetics. But her hands were bare and unaltered, clasped casually before her. She looked up at him as he approached, and he noted a faint gleam of circuitry in one iris. “Sochya, Taril Emiri.” He greeted her by name, making the ta’al with fingers grown knobbly and wrinkled with age. She smiled at him. “Sochya Ambassador Saveron. I’m pleased you remember me.” She replied, warmth in her hazel eyes. Behind her Saveron could see a technician’s expression of mild horror as he eavesdropped and realisation dawned. The Vulcan ignored him. “Of course I remember you.” He had an eidetic memory but he didn’t doubt she would have remained fixed in his recall. “You were one of the first.” He regarded her for a long moment. “Is it what you thought?” He asked. “No.” She said, and her smile broadened. She didn’t try to explain and he didn’t ask; assimilation into the Subjective was something that had to be experienced. “We are ready for you, Ambassador.” She said, and in using the plural he knew she spoke for the Subjective as a whole. Saveron nodded before turning to his escort from the Guardian. “Thank you for your indulgence.” “Of course Ambassador, any time.” She replied with brittle brightness. Yet he didn’t doubt she realised that he would not be back. He was already pushing the boundaries of the Vulcan life span, his body failing him. No, he had given his all to the Federation, and this was one of the few things he had asked. But he would not be back; it was time to go home. Turning to Emiri he nodded and stepped slowly up onto the transporter platform. “Let us go.” She gave only a nod for his benefit, and the green light of the Borg transporters took hold. No doubt the research center would be glad to see them gone; no one liked have a Borg ship in orbit, not even a Subjective ship. They were only slightly more enthusiastic about the presence of the man who caught lifts with the Borg. As the two figures disappeared from the platform a man rushed out of the research station in the direction of the Ambassador’s escourt, PADD in hand. “What did he say to it?!?” They materialised aboard the Nimitz and Saveron was struck by the way that Federation technology had been meshed with Borg technology, rather than overrun by it. Even back when the USS Mercury had first encountered the assimilated USS Nimitz they had recognised that these Borg were different. They innovated, used weapons rather than brute force and moved as individuals rather than a hoard. But it wasn’t until their attempt at assimilating the Mercury herself had led to her crew capturing a fledgling Queen that they had realised what they had. Even then many were more than prepared to tar all Borg with the one brush, but Saveron had isolated this Queen and spoken with her on several occaisions, fathoming the nature of this Borg splinter group and their prisoner, sounding out the reasons for their difference. And it was then that he did the unthinkable; he infected the Borg Queen with a weapon designed to neutralise her Collective. Not a virus or a bacterium but something far more insidious; an idea. The idea that for a whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, those parts had to be free to be different, to explore and conjecture and think on their own, to have individual will and ideas, which then contributed to the Collective. There was a certain irony that it was something the Nimitz’s splinter Collective had already begun to realise. His act, in returning the Queen to them with that idea, merely hastened the change that had already begun. And so the Nimitz Borg had begun to change. No longer focused solely on expansion and acquisition, they developed or rediscovered their own impulse for scientific exploration, for philosophy and aesthetics, for invention and intelligent debate. Their physical expansion had slowed and at last become negotiable, he himself had managed many of those negotiations. This had been replaced by an intellectual and creative expansion that no other species could match. The Quadrant’s greatest philosophers and scientists were all part of the Subjective. With the flowering of its composite minds there were suddenly horizons to chase and boundaries to push which had nothing to do with space and time. Not that they were no longer a threat. Several times in recent history the original Collective had made attempts to assimilate the Alpha and Beta quadrants, however they had found the Subjective as protective of their independence as the native sentient species, and far more adept at driving them back. Indeed they often ‘liberated’ Collective drones in the process. It had been forty-seven years since the last encounter. But people still viewed the Subjective with suspicion; racial memories took far longer to fade. There was an attractive, flowing and familiar architecture to the internal corridors as Saveron walked them at his own slow pace; he had done so many times before, no one barred his progress. He passed members of the Subjective, some undiscernible from their original appearances, some unrecognisable; each to their own preference. Subtle sounds might have been communication, song or the ship’s workings. The air was temperate and easy to breath. A capsule that no Starfleet member would recognise as a turbolift brought him at last to what had once been the bridge of the USS Nimitz. It too had been modified far beyond its original construction, yet for some reason the viewscreen still showed a view of the stars, and the Captain’s chair occupied the traditional place. Nostalgia perhaps? Seated in that chair was a figure that no Starfleet member would ever have thought to see there, but she rose with a smile to greet him. “You have returned to us.” The Borg Queen said warmly. And whether it was the same one that he had spoken with centuries ago he could not know. They were many, created not assimilated, coordinating the Subjective. He had spoken to others on other vessels, but he spoke to each as though they were the same; in all senses they were. Physical manifestations of the heart of the Subjective. She had not changed in all the time that he had known her; had presumably seen no reason to. “Affirmative.” He replied evenly, making his slow way across the now gently sloping floor, coming to stand before the viewscreen that he might look down on the planet below. “Did you find that which you sought?” The Queen enquired, and he heard her approach, felt her presence just behind and beside him. He considered the question. “In order to find one must know what one seeks.” He admitted, not bothering to hide what many would consider the maunderings of old age. She knew him far too well for it to matter, better than any other being yet living. She had watched him grow old. “Sometimes one must face an option, have it within one’s grasp, to realise that one has no desire to take it.” “Sometimes wanting is more satisfying than having.” She returned; a phrase that she had learned from him. “Illogical, but true.” He agreed, looking down at the dusty planet below. “If the Guardian had opened for you, what would you have changed?” She asked gently, too familiar with the workings of sentient minds not to anticipate what he had been thinking. “Nothing.” He replied simply, and knew it for the truth. “But I might have watched it all over again.” He admitted. She gave him an oddly gentle look. “You face your mortality.” She surmised, easy conclusion to come to. He only nodded. “Look not back on the past, but around you at the future.” She counselled. “Look at what you have wrought.” And there was a warmth, a humour in her voice. He knew what she meant; the change that created the Subjective came about because of his interference, all those years ago. “I still wonder that you ever tolerated my input.” He admitted. He had been Ambassador to the Subjective, understood it’s members as well as anyone could who was not amongst them; but the Queen herself still fascinated him. “You were right.” She said simply. “Growth by assimilation only was a very limited route. Now we are virtually unlimited.” She said, and he caught her wide-sweeping gesture out of the corner of his eye. “Not even by warfare with your kind; it is no longer necessary.” She said, knowing that had been one of his primary goals; that he had done what he had not for the Borg’s benefit but for the benefit of those species yet free of them. “Now we do not need to actively assimilate; beings come to us.” And there was a distinct satisfaction in her tone. “Those who have free will always value it.” “Those who are a part of us value that more.” She said, and with the minds of thousands who joined of their own free will, he supposed that she could make such a judgement. “A decision made freely is always more valued.” Saveron agreed. It had been an unforseen side-effect of his efforts. “They are your children Saveron, as much as those of your failing body.” He hadn’t heard her move, but she was suddenly close beside him, touching his face, his silver hair, her fingers cool against his wrinkled skin. “It was always your mind that I valued.” She whispered. “You saw so much potential in us, where others saw only threat. Whatever your reasons, you changed us for the better.” “Only because you permitted it.” He acknowledged, grey eyes turned to watch that strange, familiar face. “Change had become necessary. I had looked for others to guide it, perhaps incorrectly. Locutus never gave himself to us. Representatives of other species looked to their own people’s interests unless they became drones, then they contributed nothing new. Only you sought to change us without destroying us. Only you had the courage to walk the difficult path.” “All life should be preserved, in harmony where possible. I never wished your people harm, only that they should do us no harm in turn.” “And you achieved it, where others failed or dared not even try.” She acknowledged in turn. “Will you give up on us now?” She asked. “I have no more to give; my work is complete.” He said quietly. “You do not age, but I am old, and tired.” He admitted. “Your body is; your mind is not.” She knew the restlessness that was in him even yet. “And I hold the answer.” A hand to his cheek, she pulled him gently around to face her. “Are we not everything that you have striven for? Have I not given you all that you asked?” And she smiled. “Will you not know the perfection that you have wrought?” She asked, her face mere inches from his own. “I have waited these long years for you.” Grey eyes scanned her face, the one constant in his life, when others came and went, to other pursuits or to the great beyond. Always she had offered, and always he had resisted, had needed his separation to do his work. Yet he had known that he would never return to Vulcan. After a long moment he dipped his chin in the faintest of nods. “I am ready.” She welcomed him with open arms and he learned at last what it was to be a part of a greater whole; his questions finally answered.
  21. ((Highlands of Scotland)) ::The Trill woman, wearing a backpack and carrying a walking stick from her father-in-law’s extensive collection, had set out from her camp with only a couple of hours left before the mid-autumn sunset. The Northwest Highlands, in the far reaches of the Isle of Britain, was one of the least populated areas on Earth, despite it being in Europe, one of the most densely populated. Idril enjoyed the silence and often took her leave times with her in-laws and camped in the hills and valleys there. Something about the solitude, the pregnant silence, had gotten under her skin and wouldn’t let go.:: ::Her current target was Beinn Nibheis, a short mountain by her standards, but the highest on the island of her husband’s birth. There wasn’t anything particularly special about the collapsed shell of a long-dead volcano, but it made for a nice leisurely climb and a great place to watch the dying of the sun.:: ::The Trill woman stopped most of the way up and looked back over the trail below her. The blue sky was torn by slashes of long grey clouds. The dramatic sky lay over the equally dramatic and rugged highland terrain below. Pushing one of her long red locks, having escaped from her long braid, back behind her ear, she realized that she would be content to spend the last of the day there, watching the shadows playing over the rocks and hills of the valley, but suddenly a plaintive screech called her higher.:: ::When she cleared the edge of the large plateau that was the summit, she was greeted by a stiff cool wind that made her squint in its suddenness. The screech came again. Looking up, she saw a group of hawks, circling high overhead. One by one, they broke off and turned south. They must’ve been among the last ones in the area, as the others should have long ago began on their long migration.:: ::The last bird, however, hesitated as his brethren moved on, circling tightly above the Trill woman. Hovering with skills that she, even with all of her engineering training, couldn’t even begin to imagine, he seemed to defy gravity and wind in the next moment, holding perfectly still some sixty feet above her head.:: ::The details were distinct as the sun lit the juvenile hawk’s dappled brown and cream breast. Each one of his dark-tipped flight feathers, each mark on his breast, the ridges on his legs, all stood out in sharp relief. For a moment, the bird hovered there, looking down at the lone woman on the mountain, before winging over and following after the others.:: SooSang: That, my dear, was incredible. ::Idril looked over at the older man. He was a biologist, a botany specialist but still closer to understanding the birds than her own training.:: Idril: Yes… yes it was. ::Another voice spoke, this time on the other side of the redhead, and she turned to see an older Trill woman, also smiling, though her body language said she was a bit put out as well. It was a weird combination.:: Rumina: I never have been much for the outdoors, but I will say that you look magnificent out here. ::The fleet-captain-turned-hiker smiled. She had never been one who was comfortable with compliments on her looks, even from her husband, but Rumina’s were especially embarrassing. Next to Rumina stood silent Durath. Whenever Idril saw them, he was quiet, hovering next to the older woman protectively. Not surprisingly, she thought to herself, considering their lives.:: ::The woman wasn’t young anymore. She had gone through the academy, had nearly 15 years of ship-board experience, including captaining one of the most advanced cruisers in Starfleet, and was now the head of engineering operations at the biggest fleet yard in the Federation. She felt young, though, for all that she wasn’t. It was walks like these that made her stay that way. Connecting with the wild, with Nature… there was something almost sacred about it, she thought, though almost purely an atheist herself. The woman stepped up to the edge of the escarpment and looked out over the stretch of land. One could see for miles. It was something to take the breath away and had a feeling that no holodeck could ever recreate.:: Azulay: A rugged place… a warrior’s culture of old… ::She nodded, glancing at the older man. He would know, with as many years as a diplomat as she had alive.:: Azulay: …but one with deep religious roots as well. ::She chuckled a bit. The old man was always more in tune with his faith that she was and unafraid to say it to her. After a moment, the exultation in her heart, made by the rocky expanse, turned the chuckle into a full laugh, one that echoed across the rocks and returned to her. Stepping away from the edge, Idril, still with the smile on her lips, took the small pack off her back and walked to the centuries-old ruins of the observatory on the summit plateau.:: ::Sitting down on one of the hewn rocks, she pulled out the light snack that Valerie, the nanny/cook in the Wilde household, had made for her trip. The Trill were famous for their long memories, though they were not a unusually long-lived race themselves. It was a collective memory, one granted by symbiosis with another race, one of which lay implanted in Idril’s abdominal pouch. As she sat to eat in the crisp autumn twilight, the breeze ruffled her hair again and the stars looked down on the only person sitting on the hill, all alone.:: ::In a very real sense, however, the woman was and would never be alone. The memories of her past were always there, just under the skin.::
  22. Happy midsummer, all! I'm pleased to bring you the results from our May & June Writing Challenge "From the Past." Our winner for this round is Ed, aka Captain Diego Herrera, for his short story "Not Until This World Burns." Close on his heels in the rankings was Marissa, aka Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, with her short story "Lessons from the Past." Congratulations to both of them and to everyone who entered! A new Challenge will be up early in July and will run through late August. Until then, I would like to thank my fellow judges for this round: the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Commander Jhen Thelev (Lieutenant Sinda Essen), and Commander Melitta Herodion.
  23. Welcome, my friends, to the May & June Challenge for 2013! For this Challenge, Chris -- the writer behind Sinda Essen & Jhen Thelev and the winner of the last "Do Unto Others" Challenge -- would like you to consider the topic "From The Past." I will note that this is a particularly apropos topic as it coincides with the release of the new Trek movie, Into Darkness. Perhaps you'll interpret the Challenge literally and explore time travel. Perhaps you'll look at those little monsters that haunt your character's past. Perhaps you'll interpret the Challenge in a completely unexpected way! However you do it, make sure that your entry wows you, as well. The deadline for this Challenge is Monday, June 24th, which gives you the better part of two months to consider this topic, watch the new movie, and produce your story! As always, please remember: *Your work must be completely original. *You must be the sole author of the work. *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. As of today, Thursday, May 2nd, this Challenge is open. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  24. (( Stardate 237308.15, the planet Ba'kei, in Dominion- controlled space )) :: Starfleet said the planet was important, and the Dominion seemed to think so as well. Second Lieutenant Hannibal Parker had already received his first battlefield commission during the earlier assault on the facility, and the resulting firefight had chewed up his detachment and the Klingon troops who were also fighting by his side. The fighting had been brutal, with neither side giving ground. No prisoners were being taken, no quarter given. Not that the Klingons were interested in prisoners, anyway. All of them were dirty, and a hot meal none of them had seen in weeks. The Starfleet Marines had been reconstituted for just this kind of conflict, a fight like this no living human had ever experienced. :: His father Ryland, captain of the USS Sitak, had told him this day was coming, and the starship captain prepared his son for that eventuality...but even Ryland could not foresee the absolute brutality being visited upon Hannibal, the Marines under his command, and the Klingon Defense Forces which fought alongside him. The Klingons were used to war, but even they knew they had to break out before they were eventually all chewed to pieces by the huge numbers of Jem' Haddar they were facing. Sitting under a makeshift shelter, Hannibal sat with his platoon..each of them the definition of the walking dead.... looking defeated, worn out, exhausted. But not him. No matter how bad it got, the Jem' Haddar were going to have to kill him. Not fear, not fatigue...and the Klingon commander seemed to sense that as well in him. The massive Klingon commander, clad in armor, his eyes fixed on the Second Lieutenant. Hannibal rose from his seat to greet the man, whom Hannibal remembered being named Ha'Rouque. He wore no rank, but there was no doubt he was in command. They stepped outside, where they could talk privately...:: Ha'Rouque: We must attack their emplacements. We cannot continue to allow them to throw themselves at us like so many targ off a cliff.... :: The Klingon had a point. Ever since the USS Charleston had dropped them off, they had been fighting just to stay in the same place, and while the stink of dead filled his nostrils, they were not one inch closer to their objective since they landed two weeks ago. They needed a break out..but Hannibal was apprehensive..:: Parker: We need to take that facility..but we don't have... :: The Klingon flashed anger unlike Hannibal had ever seen, and his eyes looked through the young Marine..:: Ha'Rouque: HA! DON'T TELL ME WHAT WE DON'T HAVE! WE ARE WARRIORS! :: Hannibal knew the vaunted history of the Marines...how they turned sure defeat into victory..and this new incarnation had not yet made their mark on the pages of history. Hannibal felt a change in him...a shift into another mode...he was no longer just a Marine, trained to fight...he had truly heard the call, the call his father had told him about, the one that would come in the most unexpected of places...and that time was now. Hannibal looked into Ha'Rouques' eyes, defiantly declaring his warrior intentions...there was no going back now...:: Parker: It's time to drive those pe'taq off this planet, and claim it as ours.... :: As quickly as the anger flashed in the Klingons' eyes, it was replaced by a glint...the steely glint of one warrior to another. The Klingon clasped Hannibals' shoulders as they prepared to walk back inside...:: Ha'Rouque:: smiling:: Today is a good day to die.... Parker:: Returning the smile:: It is...for them.... :: An hour later, the combined forces of the KDF and Starfleet Marines began moving towards their objective. There were no tricorders, as they were being jammed, on both sides. In the predawn darkness, they moved down to the building they had spent two weeks trying to take. With the rising sun at their backs, they waited. Both sides had expended their mortars a week ago, and bazookas were no more than heavy clubs. Power packs were almost gone. Even the Jem' Haddar weaponry they had managed to scavenge was less than optimal. The Jem' Haddar no longer saw a reason to shroud themselves, so confident they were that they would finally crush the Starfleet/ Klingon contingent. Out in front stood Hannibal and Ha' Rouque, eyeing the entrance to the facility. They could see their enemy, massing towards the front, readying for their assault. It was game time..:: Ha'Rouque: Can your vessel replicate blood wine? Parker: I guess we will find out once we return.... :: The big Klingon smiled, and nodded..:: Ha'Rouque: Qapla', Lieutenant Parker.... Parker: Nodding:: Quapla' , HaRouque..... :: With that, a hush fell over the future battlefield. Hannibal could hear his own quiet breathing...even the morning birds with their annoying early morning chatter had stopped...until his ears were assaulted by the roar from his Klingon counterpart, and night turned into day as Starfleet phasers and Klingon disruptors lit up the predawn sky. The two forces raced towards each other, the air filled with the sounds of weapons fire, the screams of the wounded, and the collision of bodies as the two forces slammed into each other, both sides abandoning their now empty rifles and began to slash with their edged weapons. The screams of wounded and crashing metal filled the air as the desperate battle continued. Hannibals' only edged weapon was his Bowie knife, and he was using it to effect, slashing at the Jem'Haddar and the Klingons were now in their element, their bat'leths whistling through the air, barely missing some of their Starfleet allies by not much..their weapons making a thudding sound as they found their way into the bodies of their enemies. Picking up a bat'leth from a downed Klingon, Hannibal used the weapon brutally, remembering the lessons he had learned not so long ago from his father. Ha'Rouque was to his left, taking on two Jem' Haddar..but he did not see the third as he buried his blade deep within the back of his Klingon counterpart...he watched as Ha'Rouque went down to one knee as the drug- fueled enemy was about to administer the killing blow. A roar came from Hannibal, a roar which even he himself did not know where it came from...:: Parker: H'ROUQUE!!!!!!! :: A rage grew within him, one which flared like the heat from a exploding sun. It washed over him like a river, filling him with a murderous resolve as he closed on the enemy who had downed his compatriot. roaring and cursing, he swung his bat'leth, catching the Jem'Haddar squarely in the neck, completely severing his head.. Hannibal never saw the body drop as his bat'leth cut down one after another . His surviving Marines and Klingons were a swirl of flashing blades and falling bodies, until the ground was slick with blood and gore. He didn't know how long he fought..he didn't know how many they had killed..but he realized there were no more of the reptilian- looking [...]s standing. As Hannibal looked around, there were only a few Klingon and Marines left able to fight. Each of them had undergone their own personal hell to survive to this point, and for them, defeat was a would no longer part of their vocabulary. They were the living embodiment of the Jem' Haddar mantra of "victory is life", and they had turned it on its ear. Caked with blood, gore and mud, they had never looked better..or more fearsome. The combined forces of one hundred Marines and Klingons had taken on one hundred and fifty of the enemy..sixteen now stood before him. Gripping his bat'leth, Hannibal needed them to harness the darkness one more time..:: Parker: COME ON YOU MISERABLE PETAQ'! YOU WANNA LIVE FOREVER? LET'S FINISH THIS! :: With a thunderous roar and Hannibal leading the way, the surviving Starfleet/ Klingon soldiers stormed the facility. They did not know if anyone would be inside, but it would not have mattered...they were going to take that building...nothing would stop them...:: :: Inside, the combined forces found what they were looking for...a ketracel white facility, fuel for the hated and now dead enemy they had just defeated...and one Vorta, who sat cowering in the corner. As Hannibal looked around, he also noticed he was the senior officer present...no Klingon officers had survived, and he was already the senior surviving Marine officer. Hannibal approached the cowering Vorta, who was shaking his head slowly from side to side. Hannibal had never seen a Vorta before, and the pale skinned humanoid stood up to face the massive Marine. Hannibal could hear the rushing feet behind him, the Klngon and human curses being hurled at the one time commander of the feared Jem'Hadar. After this day, Hannibal would never fear anyone...or anything...Holding up a fist, Hannibal stopped the encroaching troops and faced them, his voice echoing off the walls, bat'leth in hand....:: Parker: THE VORTA IS MINE!!! IF ANYONE DOUBTS THAT, FACE ME NOW! :: Not a Marine or Klingon moved..:: Parker: Find what you can and destroy this place. :: seeing one of his Marines:: Baker...get on the horn and see if you can raise the Charleston or anyone in Starfleet. Tell them we need emergency extraction.. Baker: Yes, Sir! :: Turning his attention back to the still- cowering Vorta, who was now defiantly standing...and speaking....he looked as though he was in shock at the fact that the most feared warriors in the Gamma Quadrant had been defeated.Since the Dominion had invaded the Alpha Quadrant, they had suffered precious few defeats in the opening stages of the war..in fact, they were actively pushing back the Federation and the Klingons, which made his outrage and shock all the more real to him..this was the first time in known history the Jem'Haddar had been defeated in ground combat, and the realization that the Alpha Quadrant might not be as easy pickings as the Founders led them to believe. He had proof, should he survive to deliver it to them...Staring the massive Marine in his cold eyes...and a cold chill ran up his spine, and fear gripped him like a vise..:: Vorta: You will die for this..all of you will die for this! :: Hannibal [...]ed his head, then let fly with his Bowie knife, right across the Vortas' throat...:: Parker: You first..... :: The Vortas' hands reached up to clutch his throat, gurgling was the only sound he could make as he first sank to his knees, then falling forward into a circle of his own blood...Hannibal stood over him, watching the ever expanding pool, then turned his back on the scene. The battle had changed him, deep down. He felt different. He knew he was different. He was a true warrior, a warrior who had met the most merciless enemy in the quadrant, and defeated them, up close and personal..and he had led the Marines into battle. They had truly written one of the first pages in the new continuing story of the Marines, but it was not something he thought about as he could hear the whine of Starfleet runabouts and shuttlecraft touch down to begin evacuation the dead and wounded..:: :: Hannibal walked back out side the building on the opening light of day, and he could see the magnitude of the battle and all its gruesome details. Medical personnel walked among the dead and wounded Starfleet and Klingon personnel, and Hannibal could only watch as they were loaded up, or beamed directly into sick bay. Only then did Hannibal realized that the wetness he felt under his flak jacket was not sweat...it was blood..his blood. He waved off a medic who was trying to examine him..his men had to come first, but he needed to check on his fallen friend. He knew the Klingons would take care of their dead, but he wanted to do something for him, other than watch him be loaded up and taken to the morgue aboard the Charleston..but then, he heard Ha'Rouques' voice as a medic was beginning to treat him. Hannibal made his way over to him, and the Klingon, even through his pain, managed a smile to the Marine. Hannibal kneeled down next to him, glad that he had survived..:: Ha' Rouque: They will sing songs about this day, Parker...I saw you...you fought like a Klingon....a true warrior.... :: There was no higher praise anyone could offer him, even if Admiral Ross himself had pinned a medal on him personally....:: Parker: As did you..as did all of us..... Ha'Rouque: Tell them to have a barrel of blood wine ready for us.... Parker: Consider it done... :: A medic tapped him on the shoulder, and informed him that the Charleston needed to bug out, and quick. The surviving Klingon and Starfleet personnel were almost completely loaded, and he needed to be attended to. Before he knew what had happened, Hannibal felt the tingling of a transporter beam, and he was back on board the Charleston, just outside her Sick Bay. He was told more Jem' Hadar ships were on the way, and the Charleston destroyed the entire valley with a volley of quantum torpedoes, which also had the benefit of ripping away the planets' atmosphere..leaving the place uninhabitable. It was a small victory, one which the Federation and Klingon Empire solely needed. While the Dominion lost a ketracel white facility they needed, Hannibal had gained something more important..the ability to harness the darkness which lives in every man, and even now, it worked his way through him, and he embraced it. To win this war, to survive it, he must embrace the darkness like a lover. His father told him war would change him in ways he didn't know were possible, that it would amplify feelings buried deep inside. Once they surfaced, there was no way to put them back,,,and Hannibal had no intention of doing so, ever. Major Hannibal Tiberious Parker 2nd Officer/Marine Commander/ Chief Of Strategic Operations USS Thunder-A/ Duronis II Embassy
  25. “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” - Ambrose Pierce The first rays of liminality shone through the parting clouds of rage and intoxication. The dull ache in Chen’s back and neck was a souvenir from having spent the night propped up against the bulkhead. The not so dull ache in his head was a souvenir from the amount of glow ale that he’d consumed. His parched mouth craved water just as his head craved solace from the memories of the previous night that were ranked along the borders of his conscious mind. An invasion was looming. The computer recognised the scratch of his desiccant voice and obediently produced a glass of clear, cool liquid. Today would be a day where the world would stop crashing down around him, leaving confusion and shame in its wake. Once again, his mind leapt back to his childhood, reinforcing the bridge that had been built the previous night. He’d felt this way the morning after his talk with Dar, his charan; the emotional blow he’d taken that day had not led him to a bottle of ale but had instead shaped his life up to this point. The memories that had pooled behind the [...] came bursting forward, overwhelming his defences and threatening to drown him in an irresistible tide… The blue-green grasses of the Irimari plains sighed in murmurs of a youth of too quick a passing. Laughter from a distant farmstead carried on the breeze in recognisable peals. Chen and Dar had been walking in silence for some time, the reason for their stroll along the plains driven between them like a wedge. Chen’s antennae twitched as he concentrated on preventing them from indicating the full extent of his anger; his heart was heavy in the knowledge that the parent to whom he was closest was so disappointed in him. Each footfall brought with it the temptation to break the near silence, to goad his charan into saying what he had brought him here to say. Yet, out of respect, Chen waited. He was resentful that Dar had chosen this particular time, a visit to see long standing family friends, to confront him on this issue. Escape was impossible; it had been a long time since their last visit and Chen had no intention of causing their current hosts any worry or acting in a manner that might offend them. That left him with no other option than to weather the incoming storm. Finally, Dar stopped, turning to look back at the farm rather than Chen as he laid down the first brick in what Chen already knew would grow to become an insurmountable wall between them. “I heard that you have broken your bond.” The older chan took in a slow breath. His sombre tone was laced with bitter dissatisfaction. “That there is to be no shelthreth.” It was a decision that Chen had not taken lightly. The woes that befell an Andorian that broke his bond were well known to all after the media had blown every incident involving ChariVretha zh’Thane’s chei, Shar, out of all proportion. He had been forced to live with the disgrace of reneging on his obligation to further the Andorian genome for every minute of his Starfleet career. Chen was eighteen, the right age to tread that same path. Pursuing a career in the fleet, however, was not the reason for his withdrawal from the bond that had been prearranged for so long. “Even more disturbing than that,” Dar continued, still refusing to face his chei, “are the alleged reasons behind your choice.” Chen nodded grimly. “You’ve been talking to Shalla.” Dar was the only one of his parents with whom he had not discussed this matter; it was not that he respected them less but simply that he knew all too well what Dar’s reaction would be. He had made the mistake of thinking that leaving him until last would give him time to prepare more carefully what he might say. Of those that remained, his shreva was the one he considered most likely to have passed on his reasons for breaking his bond. Dar’s antennae swept backwards dramatically as his rage flared. “It doesn’t matter who told me!” Just as quickly, he forced his temper back under control. “What matters is that it is not too late for you to reverse your decision and fulfil your obligation to your people, despite what you believe your personal rights to be. The Whole comes first, Chen, always.” The younger of the two chan was shaking his head before his elder could finish speaking. How could he just change a fundamental aspect of who he was? He had never been attracted to zhen or shen; the only other member of his bond for whom he had feelings strong enough to perform the shelthreth was Toren, their thaan. He understood tradition. He understood obligation. They were things he took very seriously but he could not understand why Andorian culture would mandate him to perform a sexual act with which he was not comfortable, in violation of his own personal wishes. In truth, he was also struggling to understand why his charan, with whom he had always been close, would force him into honouring that custom. His antennae roamed in confusion and disbelief. He had planned his defence, for want of a better word, since the moment the bond had been broken, yet no part of it seemed appropriate. How should he justify himself where no justification should be warranted? How should he rationalise that which ought not to be rationalised? “I cannot put the Whole first, Charan.” He struggled to contain his own anger. What right had anyone to make him feel ashamed of who he was? “If my being Whole requires me to mate with three others in violation of who I am then I have no other option than to break my bond.” “Violation?” Dar laughed at the idea. “Violation of who you are? You are an Andorian, my chei, and bound by the same obligations as are we all. If your current obsession with only one other gender causes you to miss this opportunity, think how you will regret it in later life. Think how we all will regret it.” Chen was deeply insulted that Dar could think that his expression of sexual preference was based on some whim that would fade, as fickle as the chill breeze that whistled across the plains. He knew better than that. “Had I remained with my former bond mates, it would be me that regretted it. I have no such obsession, and my interest is not limited to thaan. It extends to other chan as well.” A terrible silence fell. Dar looked up to the sky as if searching for answers from Uzaveh himself, his antennae parting in an expression of… concern? Chen’s feelings began to coalesce into something he hadn’t imagined he would ever feel while talking to his charan: despair. Dar pitied him. This was worse than he could ever have thought. “We have contacts who could put us in touch with some very good psychotherapists in Laikan. I’ll place a few calls and we can…” “There’s nothing wrong with me.” Chen interrupted. How could he make Dar see that? Rather than listening to him, the elder chan raised his voice, insistent on completing what he had to say. “…get you the best possible therapy. We’ll find out exactly what the problem is, then the family will pool together so that we can have you treated…” “There’s nothing wrong with me!” Chen’s despair was mounting. What were they going to do? They could dig around in his head as much as they wanted, peel back every last layer of his defences. He would be the same, right to the core. There was no switch he could toggle on and off. Dar’s voice raised yet another notch. “…and help you to return to a point where you are willing and able to contribute to the future of your race in the way that all Andorians are expected to contribute: to address the continuing issue of our shrinking population…” “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ME!” Despite the force behind his assertion, Chen’s antennae were not flat to his skull in the usual expression of rage but hanging forwards as a sign of his anguish. The outburst had finally been sufficient to cut Dar off, who stared at him through cold eyes, looking deep into his heart, searching for a way to force his point home. “You are a sexual deviant. You have already brought disgrace on our clan by dissolving your bonds. Do not make this any worse than it already is. Accept the help that you are being offered.” “And then what?” His voice was pained, but he refused to back down. “Live the rest of my life as a lie? The bond means nothing to me. Would you have rather had an automaton for a chei? Someone that you could program to follow your every command? Someone who could not be identified among a crowd as the individual that they are?” Dar’s face betrayed his disgust. “If you must defy the will of Uzaveh and turn your back on your people to be individual then yes. Perhaps I would prefer that. Our concept of the Whole is the foundation on which our civilisation is built, Chen. It represents strength through the unity of the four genders: thaan, chan, shen, zhen.” “And as a concept it is flawed,” the youngster interrupted. Evidently there was still a measure of bravery left in him as he went so far as to challenge Andorian culture itself. He knew how much that culture meant to his charan, but the rift between them was widening by the second. If he could not make him see sense now then perhaps he never would. “Our world is dying. We refuse to explore scientific means to prevent that from happening. We refuse to take real steps to save our race. Tell me now which you think is more perverse. A chan whose sexual preference does not fall in line with your expectations or a society that willingly dooms itself by refusing to bring itself out of the past?” Dar closed the distance between them in an instant, grabbing Chen roughly by the wrist and twisting until his chei’s face was just inches from his own. His teeth were clenched as he leaned in to hiss the words that would cause Chen to form his resolve once and for all. “Not until this world burns in the fire of our sun will I stop loving you but, as long as you hold such an opinion, you cannot be my chei.” He hurled Chen to one side, the pain from whose bruised wrist could not compare to the agony of his shattered heart. It would be hours before he could gather himself enough to return to their hosts, by which time everyone had retired for the night. Within a few more weeks, he would take the decision to leave Andoria for good in search of a life that he could live as his true self. The uninvited memory, stirred by comparable pain that had been caused by the breakdown of his unexpectedly strong relationship with Greir Reinard, reminded him of how grimly resolved he had been when he had left his homeworld. The previous night, he had questioned whether or not Dar had been right, whether he should have taken him up on his offer. It was easy to believe that he was broken somehow, flawed more profoundly that he could ever imagine. ‘Easy’ was never something he had subscribed to, however, and that was not about to change. He would do what was right. He wasn’t a statistic, a failed experiment unworthy of inclusion in society. Nor was he a lovesick fool, too naïve to charge blindly into a situation where he would be vulnerable again so soon. He was what he had always been: himself. No matter how painful that made things for now, that was how things would remain. “I never regret anything. Because every little detail of your life is what made you into who you are in the end.” - Drew Barrymore Captain Diego Herrera Commanding Officer USS Vigilant NCC-75515
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