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  1. “Questions and answers from the past.” “Captains log, Star date 239006.08. We have completed our sensor sweep of the southern plasma storms in the badlands and are now preparing for the trip to Deep Space 9 to take on supplies and get some well deserved R&R on both the station and Bajor. Life as a Captain certainly differs from how I envisioned it all those years ago but I have a good crew and a good ship.” “If I am honest, the crew was a little disappointed that mission went so routinely. When you speak of the badlands, it conjures up an idea of turmoil and strife. And why shouldn't it. After all, this is where the USS Voyager disappeared and where the Maquis made their stand against both the Federation and the Cardassians. Of course, that was long ago.” “I for one look forward to partaking in a few games of Dabo in Quark's bar and maybe using one of the holosuites. I hear they just took delivery of several programs based on various vacation spots on Risa. Maybe I might be able to strike a deal to obtain some of those programs for the ships own holosuites. Computer, end log.” The computer chirped it's acknowledgment of the command as Captain Barnabus put his feet up on his desk. He was short for a Terran male, around 5 feet 2 inches and quite stocky as well. His jet black hair was trimmed and well groomed. It shone in the dim light of his ready room. He took a sip of his orange juice and let out a heavy sigh. For most of his career he had dreamed of commanding a top ship of the line like a Sovereign class or an Intrepid. However, with his history in the sciences, Starfleet had decided that his talents would be best suited to the USS Hawking, a Nova class vessel that had been designed for short range research missions. At first he had detested the idea, but over the months he had come to love the ship and her crew. They had been through some grand times together, and the odd unfortunate mishap. But as his former commanding officer Alison Rowe had once taught him, “The good times bring happiness, the bad times bring you all together.” He took deep comfort in those words. Only two weeks prior the ship had lost an ensign to a transporter malfunction caused by a previously unknown subspace distortion near Gamma Hirolis. Although the transporter officer managed to abort the transport saving three other members of the crew, the ensigns pattern had been damaged beyond recovery. ============================================================================== Barnabus had been amazed at how fast the crew rallied around each other to provide comfort, support and empathy. They gave Ensign Theras one hell of a send off before her body was transferred to the Kyoto to be returned to her family. It was moments like the funeral and wake that helped him realize just how fortunate he was to have received this post. As he went to take the final few sips of his orange juice his thought process was broken by an announcement from the bridge. He was of course used to such announcements when he was in his ready room but what he heard piqued his interests as a scientist. “Captain, the ships sensors are picking up a massive spike in neutrinos approximately 2 light years from our current position. Of note is the fact that the area of space they have been detected in is unusually benign with no stellar phenomenon of any interest known to exist there.” It was the voice of Commander Tolath, a tall stick like member of the Vulcan race approximately 6 feet 7 inches in stature and weighing only 12 and ½ stone. There was of course no emotion in his voice as he spoke but Barnabus knew that the Vulcan was just as interested in these new readings as he was. He spoke calmly into the communications line. “Understood commander. Lay in a course at warp six. Please notify Deep Space 9 that we will be delayed and inform the crew that shore leave has been postponed for a short while. I shall join you on the bridge momentarily. Barnabus out. “ He closed the line and stretched out in his chair letting out a short yawn while he did so. Sleep could wait, it wasn't everyday that your ship detected a massive spike in neutrinos in a relatively benign area of space as the Vulcan first officer had so eloquently put it. Deciding that there was no rest for the wicked, the 53 year old man stood from his chair and walked from his ready room onto the bridge. Where the bridge had been silent maybe 5 minutes ago, it was now a hive of activity. Every station was manned and all personnel were going about their tasks without needing any input from their commanding officer. This brought a smile to Barnabus' face. They knew him well enough to understand their roles. Lieutenant Bathor, a Bolian sat a science. He was the chief science officer on board the Hawking and proud of his job. He relayed information regarding the neutrino levels as more became available. Lieutenant commander Holmes sat at the helm constantly making minor adjustments to the vessels trajectory to ensure as smooth a ride as possible. Barnabus always thought his skill as a pilot was wasted as the chief of operations on the ship, but he was glad to have him and to count him as one of his close friends. Barnabus took his seat in the center chair and looked out at the view screen. It would be a while before they arrived at their destination and Barnabus hoped this little detour would be well worth their while. ============================================================================== The journey to their destination was uneventful. Barnabus could understand why Tolath had described this area of space as benign, especially when compared to the plasma storms in the Badlands which they had only just finished studying. The bridge was still a hive of activity when the Vulcan first officer spoke up. “Sir, we are approaching visual range. Bathor has informed me that the sensors are detecting matter/antimatter signature, possibly Federation in origin.” Barnabus took a few moments to process the information in his mind before speaking up. An increased neutrino level was one thing, but a Federation matter/antimatter signature. There were no Federation ships, civilian or other wise scheduled to be passing through this sector. “Put it on the screen commander.” Nothing could have prepared them for what appeared on the screen. In the left corner was a wormhole. This of course being what they were expecting. However, in the center left was what appeared to be the remains of an Oberth class starship. Barnabus broke the almost deathly hush on the bridge. “Can we magnify the image on the center right of the screen.” “Negative at this range Captain.” Tolath replied in his normal emotionless tone. “However we should be able to increase magnification in approximately 5 minutes.” Commander Holmes spoke up almost immediately. “If we increase speed to maximum rated, I can have us in the general vicinity In the same amount of time Captain.” He looked back to Bathor at science. “Are the neutrinos likely to cause any problems with navigation?” Barnabus listened to his officers with intent. They really were a well oiled machine, making the right suggestions and asking the right questions at the right time. If the situation weren't so serious, he might have actually taken pleasure in it. Bathor spoke up. “Unlikely, however, there seems to be some sort of temporal distortion emanating from the wormhole. I do advise caution and suggest we maintain a distance of at least 250 thousand kilometers from the anomaly.” “Understood.” Barnabus replied. “Make it so. I want a constant sensor lock maintained on both the wormhole and the ship at all times.” As estimated, five minutes later the vessel dropped out of warp at the site of the wormhole. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Flashes of amber, crimson magenta and violet intermixed with radiant blues, reds and yellows. Sitting 300 thousand kilometers from what appeared to be the mouth of the incredible phenomenon were the battered bruised and broken hull pieces of an unfortunate Starfleet vessel. Only partial identification markings remained on what had once been a fine ship of the line. Barnabus and the crew sprung into action. “Tolath. I want you and Holmes to work on establishing which unfortunate ship this was. See if the computer can't piece together a complete registry number and name from what we have.” The acknowledged as he turned his head to face Bathor. “Mister Bathor, I would like you to ascertain where and indeed when that wormhole leads, how stable it is and if it poses any threat to shipping in the area. The rest of you monitor the ships systems. The moment anything changes, notify your superiors immediately. Am I clear?” There was a brief pause before a unanimous “Yes sir” was spoken. Barnabus retired to his ready room and prepared to write a supplemental Captain's log. ============================================================================== For three hours the ship had remained at it's position near the edge of the previously unmapped anomaly. It had felt like an eternity. Progress was slow on all fronts through no fault of the crew. The computer was having a hard time deciphering and matching the markings on the vessel whilst the sensors were unable to penetrate to the other side of the wormhole. The science department had proposed sending a probe to the other side but the idea was quickly mooted owing to the gravitational sheer being read inside the anomaly and the presence of various temporal distortions. The last thing the ship needed was 'Temporal Investigations' poking their noses in on them. As if on cue Bathor spoke up from his console with a slightly agitated tone to his voice. Normally this wouldn't phase the Captain however with what was beginning to transpire on the viewscreen and the groaning coming from the hull he could only imagine it was bade news. “The Wormhole is collapsing violently and at an alarming rate Captain. It is sending out massive pulses of neutrinos and deuterium particles. Shields are holding but at this rate, the ship will be torn apart by the shock waves in less than 7 minutes.” Barnabus didn't even need to think about his next response. “Helm, move us away from the wormhole at full impulse, yellow alert” He tapped his comm badge. “Commander Tolath and mister Holmes to the bridge immediately please.” The ship shook again as the ship turned to fly away from the anomaly. All eyes on the bridge were glued to the screen as the wormhole continued it's demise. Bathor continued to scan the anomaly. It was highly unusual for a wormhole to collapse in such a violent manner but then, by the looks of the wreckage they had found and the temporal signatures, this was no ordinary wormhole. Tolath and Holmes arrived on the bridge to witness the wormhole in it's dying moments. They had been held up by a power issue in the turbolift which nearly left them stranded 3 decks down. Fortunately the auxiliary backup systems had kicked in before full power to the lift was resumed. Holmes relieved the ensign at helm, much to her obvious relief. She had no experience outside of a holodeck of maneuvering a ship in such conditions. The view screen flashed a brilliant white as the wormhole finally collapsed sending out a final wave of neutrinos that buffeted the ship causing minor damage to the sensors. The shields had held and engineering was reporting no damage to the primary systems. “All stop.” came the order from Barnabus. “Tolath, Holmes, Bathor. I would like to meet you in my ready room in five minutes. Commander Tolath, you have the bridge.” With that, Barnabus took his leave from the bridge and retired to his ready room. He walked straight to the replicator ordering a tall glass of orange juice and a slice of melon, still unsure as to what exactly they had just witnessed. Oh sure, they knew it was a wormhole, but where had it led? Why had it never been discovered before? Had it collapsed or just shifted to another point in time and space. Hopefully his senior staff would have some of the answers. ============================================================================== Tolath, Holmes and Bathor entered the ready room as requested. The looks on their faces told Barnabus that they probably had more questions than answers. No matter, Starfleet would be interested in the information they had managed to gather and would more than likely investigate the matter thoroughly. Bathor was the first to speak up. “Captain. As you are well aware, wormholes can be conduits through time as well as space. From the information we managed to gather from this particular anomaly before it collapsed, and the age of the hull fragments we found drifting, I postulate that this wormhole originated at a point some 30 to 50 years in the past.” Barnabus and the other officers mulled over this information for a few moments before Tolath chimed in. “The computer has finished analyzing the data we were able to retrieve from the hull of the vessel. It seems we may have stumbled across the answer to a long standing mystery.” He paused for effect, gauging the reactions of the gathered officers. “The ship remains we encountered appear to belong to the USS Tycho, NCC -1977 listed as missing presumed destroyed in 2357 during the Cardassian war. Her Captain at the time was Martin Richards, a Starfleet scientist. They were mapping anomalies along the border.” Barnabus took a long drink from his orange juice whilst contemplating the information he had just received. The USS Tycho. Starfleet had all but given up on ever finding the vessel or any signs or clues as to what had happened. At least now, closure could be brought to the families of the souls lost on the vessel. Holmes broke up, breaking his train of thought. “If I may Captain. Although we don't have the proper equipment on this this vessel to perform a full analysis of the debris, we could store it in our cargo bay and transfer it to a ship or facility that does. I am sure Starfleet will perform an in depth investigation based on what we have found and perhaps find the answers we can't.” “A wise course of action Holmes. Make it so.” Replied Barnabus. “Once the debris is in our cargo hold, lay in a course for Deep Space 9 at warp 6. I will join you on the bridge shortly. Dismissed.” The gathered officers departed the ready room leaving Barnabus to quietly contemplate the recent events and think of his family. What would they do if anything happened to him in the line of duty? How would they cope if a similar fate befell his ship and crew? He wiped those thoughts from his mind and prepared to send a message to Starfleet command. ============================================================================== “Captain's log supplemental. Following the discovery of a massive neutrino outburst a few light years from our course to Deep Space 9, I ordered my ship to investigate. Nothing could have prepared us for what we encountered. I have sent a detailed report to Starfleet Command regarding the discovery of the remains of the USS Tycho, NCC – 1977, an Oberth class starship that went missing some 33 years ago on a routine science mission during the Cardassian conflict.” “Our brief investigation has left us with more questions than answers although myself and the crew have chosen to take comfort in the fact that a lot of families will finally be receiving an answer as to what happened to their loved ones. This chance occurrence has left me questioning life in Starfleet. What would my family do if something happened to me? How would they feel if I went missing? How would they cope without knowing my fate? I have chosen to put these thoughts to the back of my mind. My first duty is as a Starfleet Captain is the safety of my ship and and that means always focusing on the task at hand, rather than the meaning of life.” “Now, more than ever, I plan to use my upcoming downtime to enjoy myself and explore facets of my life away from the pressures of the Captain's chair. Do I regret ever having joined Starfleet rather than becoming a family man? Not for one moment, though I do sometimes find myself wondering, when I am alone, what if? Computer, End log.” END. Lieutenant (JG) Richards Chief of science USS Mercury (at time of submission)
  2. The darkness slowly gave way to the pale light of dawn, coupled with the untroubled calls of perching birds. Into this acoustic garden, the heavy grunt of a brawny man’s awakening burst forth, not shattering its beauty so much as giving it purpose. Hector’s eyes opened to the familiar quarters he had called home since his arrival on Starbase 118 all those years ago. The light panels glowed, slowly intensifying as his eyes adjusted to them. It has taken months to settle on a lighting program to which he wanted to awaken; the audio back then had been news, not birds. But so much had changed – had changed him – since then. One heavy foot after another landed on the ground as he sat up and filled his lungs with that first deep breath of the morning. Oxygen was again coursing through his arteries, rushing to their destination with fervor of the day. Moments later he was on his stomach, toes gripping the hard floor and hands pressed flat. He pushed himself up, a gruff exhale commanding his body into its rapid motion. One. Now resting on his outstretched arms, he let his body slowly down again, and repeated the motion. Two. He continued his morning routine, pushing up again, and again, and again. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. His mind wandered back, as it always did during this ritual, to the off-season with his high school parrises squares team. He was such an old man now, looking back. His time with them, though, was what had pushed him toward enlisting Starfleet to begin with. “You’ll never win if you’re afraid to get hurt,” Dak had said. Yes, the team captain, always looking out for the safety and morale of the group. But day after day of hearing it had its effect. Eventually Dak wasn’t admonishing “it’s just a scratch” as he rolled his eyes; he was soothing Hector with “the doctor says you’ll only be here a week” as a tears of guilt rolled from his eyes. But Hector hadn’t minded, once he was out on the field again. He was in the best shape of his life, he felt vibrant, and they had finally started to win. Not just here and there – their team was recognized as a force to be reckoned with. Seventy-four. Seventy-five. Hector held his position for a few extra seconds, gauging how tired he had become. Time had taken its toll on his body since his days playing parrises squares, but his whole outlook had been changed by it. Physical vitality was critical to a full life, he’d learned. Activity and competition could fill a person with sensations otherwise unimaginable. That love of experience and dynamism was what had brought him together with Karla. So in the end, any injury, any scar he had gotten from the game had been well worth it. His heart held captive by memory, he struggled against the weight as he stood up. Minutes later, he was stepping out of the sonic shower, and staring at himself in the mirror. There used to be another face beside his, here. Karla’s visage in the glass was as familiar as his own they prepared for the day together. More than that, her playful touches and endearing laughter had been as much a bathroom fixture as the sink. They were things he would never experience again. There had been a time, as he grieved, that Hector had considered programming her voice into the morning alarm. Only as he went through their recordings to find a good clip did he realize that her illness had passed on a disease of his own. Using Karla’s favorite bird calls was as close as he dared – perhaps as close as was healthy. Hector shuddered as the memories flooded back. He looked in the mirror; he was the only one there. Everything was normal – it was all as it had been for years now. He stood alone in the bathroom, looking at his face in the mirror. His clean-shaven face – a practice he had meticulously maintained since … well, for as long as he’d lived alone – revealed the scar under his chin. He scoffed at it. That was the scar that had given himself shaving for the first time after her death. It had been months since he’d last seen the skin beneath, and they had told him that shaving would be like peeling away the sorrows and allowing himself to move on. Well, he had never missed a day since then; they’d even told him they were impressed by his courage. But they didn’t understand that he had worn that beard as she lay in the biobed. He would never wear it again. That scar was the first step in his healing process. The wave of remembrance passed as Hector stepped out of the bathroom; the physical reminders of their daily preparations were behind him. His uniform hung, as it always did, beside the wardrobe, waiting to be put on for the day. And yet it struck him in a new way. The pip of the Chief Petty Officer, gleaming as it always did, was not glinting any differently in the light. The uniform remained clean and crisp, as usual. But something seemed different. It just looked so strange there, hanging empty, with no person inside of it. Hector stood staring at it for minutes on end, trying to decide why it bothered him. Oh. Oh, no … it’s me, he thought. The empty uniform was not just him … it was what he had become. He had filled it once; his career gave him pride, but there was so much more beneath it. That uniform had once been bursting at the seams, trying in vain to contain his joy, his energy, and all the wonderful days he spent with friends and family. And yet today … today he was getting up and going to the lab. Once there, he would wonder with which junior officer – whether Cody or Orionar or some new face – he would do battle in his crusade to keep the Science labs running as they ought. In the evening, he would have a quiet meal alone, read a few reports, and turn in. This uniform – this shell – was all that was left. With a sigh, he tenderly took it in his hands and dressed himself with it. Ready for the day, he passed through his quarters toward the door. Next to the exit on a small table was an inverted glass vessel on a base. Within it hung suspended in midair their two wedding rings, clasped eternally together and interlocked as were their souls. He smiled and stayed a moment longer, letting the floating remembrance imprint itself again upon his mind, as it did daily. ----- Lieutenant Ben Livingston Assistant Chief Engineer Starbase 118 Ops
  3. ((First Officer's Quarters, USS Apollo)) ::A puff of steam rose from the plain white mug that sat alone on the small dining table. It lingered for a moment, as if testing the air around it, before finally dissolving into the nether of the recycled atmosphere of the ship. In a chair that matched the architecture of the table, with her chin on her knees, her knees pulled up to her chest, and her arms around them, Cayden Adyr sat in the silence of her quarters and found herself simply watching the steam as it rose and disappeared. The simplistic nature of the moment, in a dimly lit room that was supposed to mimic the luminosity of the early dawn, caught her mind somewhere between the delicate fantasy of a dream and the much harsher way of reality. And it took her to a place where she walked with herself.:: ::There were no sounds, save for those of the breaths she took and the subtle hum of the ship, as it too breathed around her. So often these days, noise filled the air around her. So often, her mind was filled with the darker simulacrums of her past, or the brilliance of her future, but rare was it that she found herself caught within a moment in time. Rarer still was it that she found herself between the two ends of the vastly capacious spectrum. And yet here, as another puff of white steam met the cooler air that hung just above her table, it was in that existence that she now found herself lost.:: ((Flashback, 195 Years Ago, Trill)) ::Having rolled up the legs of his pants and tossed his shoes to the side, a rather good looking man grinned somewhat mysteriously at an equally stunning woman as they walked, arm in arm, down the length of an empty beach. The waves lapped softly up to them as they walked, missing their bared feet by only a few inches. White spray, filled with the scent of salt, splashed up around them as if responding to the tiny grains of dark brown sand that their own steps were tossing haphazardly into the same wind that blew their hair back. In the distance, the sun was just beginning to fall down beneath the horizon, giving off the distinct impression that the star itself was dying, as rays of yellow, red, and orange bled into the water and spread in the waves.:: ::The chill of the night was already upon them, and though the scene on the beach would lead onlookers to believe something else, the only warmth that existed in that moment was that caught within the fragile flesh that walked between the ever growing night breeze and the cold winter ocean. But the two continued to walk, unfazed by the chill or the growing darkness. Indeed, all light that was needed was provided by the stars, and as Rodan would have said, the look in her eyes.:: ::This was life! Of all that existed and all that his mind and body would experience, it was the moments between the moments that mattered. Now, after half a life lived, after having spent most of it making beautiful music, he realized that the most beautiful song paled deeply in comparison to her face. It was the first hints of love, and something that he would pass on through the ages by way of the symbiont that rested deep down inside. But, as the moment passed and another came, he did not think of posterity, but found himself drawn in and captured by the woman on his arm.:: ::Even the beach faded away to him now, as it would in the years that would pass after he was long dead. He was Trill, and his thoughts would hail from the past for as long as the symbiont lived. And yet, it would only be on his death bed that he would pass on to the next host what he considered most important in all existence; love.:: ((Flashback, 121 Years Ago, Aboard a Small Research Station in Low Planetary Orbit of Trill)) ::One day, she dreamed wistfully, the barriers that existed would fall. One day, the mind would understand far more than it did now and the stars themselves would be theirs to hold in the palms of their hands. There wouldn’t be the need to pick and choose between one way of living and another; both would be able to thrive within a rapidly growing exosphere that only expanded as knowledge moved forward. Diseases would be vanquished, pain would fade, and questions not even asked yet would have answers.:: ::A sigh escaped her as she stared out into the darkness of planetary night. It was the only period of an orbit where she could see the stars in all of their brilliance and glory. As such, she’d stop her work for just a moment each time the station passed into the darkness and let her thoughts travel along the very same cogitation. The future seemed so incredibly far away, and yet, it was something she was reaching for anyways. And while, in the end, she knew that it would not be her that was able to walk among those points of light that were the stars, at least she would be there in some manner of thought.:: ::Subconsciously, her hand moved to the area of her stomach where the symbiont had recently been placed. Still working on integrating the previous hosts memories into her own, she had requested this assignment, but now she wondered. Just how much isolation could she take? It was a question that she asked herself; one that mirrored the one her boss had asked her just before launch.:: ::Yet somehow, the answer she had given then – that she’d always have Rodan to speak with – held much less water now than it did then. For every bit of emotion, love, and spontaneity that Rodan had been known for, Eliza offered science, method, and logic. They were nothing alike, and yet, he still had lessons in store for her. In a way, she hoped that her own lessons would offer something to the next host, even if they were as vastly different as she and Rodan were. But the day to pass on her experiences was still a ways off, and for now, there was work to be done.:: ::The first glimmer of the sun could be seen as its light scattered across the atmosphere of the planet below. Within seconds, it would return to its complete blinding brilliance, and so, Eliza turned back to the terminal and began to run the numbers of the experiment again. Under the microscope, tiny nano probes began their workday all over again.:: ((Flashback, 64 Years Ago, USS Andromeda)) ::The darkness around him swirled and coalesced into images created by his own imagination. Beneath him, the bed seemed far softer than the chair he spent most of his time in during the day and when coupled with the soft tones of the ‘music’ he’d heard since the ship entered the area of space known as the Typhon Expanse, his body simply let the trappings of the day fade into nothingness. It was this time of the day he enjoyed the most; when the neoteric quiescence of night allowed the voices of the past to whisper directly into his mind. The very epitome of being Trill, it was in this experience that everything existed.:: ::Sleep, itself, never came easily, but he didn’t mind. He had freed himself from the constrictions associated with the uniform that lay draped across the back of a chair in the corner of the room that he could not see, but knew was there. And in his newfound freedom, deep contemplation danced a complex waltz with introspection. Intuition wrapped itself up in the ruminations of whatever situation faced them and answers were found, while lessons from decades before were spoken softly.:: ::The dance continued long into the hours that constituted night aboard the tiny, when compared to the universe it explored, vessel, that drifted nearly silently deeper into the perpetual night of space. With the continued backdrop of music, provided by the Expanse itself, Alaryc found a chance to really listen, and learn, from the history that had come before.:: ::Deep whispers from within rose up to speak of solitude and of the stars. They drifted without direction or set destination and spoke of things he'd not focused on in his life, like love. Though the experiences came to him, not always making sense, he found himself learning and growing with each lesson from the past. It was a path that would ultimately lead to the center chair, and a life full of things to pass on to who came next. It was a legacy that would live on.:: ((Flashback, 17 Years Ago, USS Valor)) ::On the padd that was firmly grasped in her hands scrolled the words that answered every wish and prayer that she had ever had. They were simple, and they explained only what her next steps were, but it was one word at the top of them all that had her literally jumping for joy. Accepted. The word created ripples of elation within her entire body, instigating the intense flow of endorphins and bringing her to a level of jubilation she had never experienced before.:: ::Still tightly holding the padd, the young girl ran out of the quarters that she shared with her parents to share the news that she would not be staying there for much longer. Everything she had worked for, and everything that she had wanted was finally coming true; having been accepted to the University in Medara, soon she knew that she would be leaving her current life behind. There would be no more red alerts, or danger, or stuffy air that was simply recycled through the ship. No more warp core centered discussions at the dinner table, and no more going over emergency procedures that would take her to the lifepods; Jazra was about to set out on a new course.:: ::It was a course that she had been striving for ever since she had first set foot on a starship. Having lived there most of her life, she had thrown herself into school, excelling past those that shared her age, and never making friends. Now, her long nights spent studying, and her lack of a social life, were finally paying off. And while she knew that her parents were still on duty, she didn’t care. This was something she needed to share, even if her running through the halls of the Valor brought quite a few strange looks. Even if the whole ship found her odd, or troublesome, or anything else. It didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered were the words; words etched into history on her padd.:: ::But fate, as it would have been, had a different path in mind. Change was coming, and soon, Jazra's mind would be open to the history Adyr granted to her, even if she didn't know it yet. Sure, she'd get her chance and attend the University on Betazed, but not without growing pains that would add her own experiences to the long list of lessons held for the hosts of the future. Not without making some attempt at keeping her from leaving.:: ::And in time, even her girlish excitement would fade into the teachings meant for someone else.:: ((Flashback, 14 Years Ago, Trill)) ::It was funny how things often came full circle.:: ::Standing in the courtyard in the capital city of Mak’ala, Norah let his eyes take in sights the Adyr symbiont had not seen in quite some time. Around him, people came and went, busy in their lives and wandering about their business. Each of them seemed too caught up in the moment to think about what might come in the next, but that didn’t stop him from contemplating his own end. Having just been joined, the susurrations of Jazra, and those that had come before, were bubbling up in his mind. Together they sang, as if in a chorus of voices that gave him insight into his own end; an end that was coming towards him faster and faster, with no brakes available to slow inevitability down.:: ::And though the idea might have been disturbing to some, the old diplomat simply smiled at the oncoming cliff. His time had been long ago in days that were remembered with pleasant thoughts. Now, at least, he would be able to pass those moments on through the eyes of the symbiont he never thought he’d have. Perhaps, somehow, his experiences as a peace seeker, negotiator, and overall diplomat, would bring knowledge and patience to a place and time where it would really matter.:: ::Though pained by the circumstances of her death, and the intense feelings for a certain Betazoid man that echoed from the young woman who had met her end, Norah knew that it was all part of the grand scheme. Together, Jazra’s short life would coalesce with those that had carried Adyr prior and build a legacy unlike any seen outside the planet on which he now stood. It was in that legacy that he found peace. Death was certain to come find him, and soon, but with a legacy like he had now, what more could he ask for? He would not die now, but live on, in the mind and body of another. :: ((End Flashbacks)) ::A final puff of steam floated towards the ceiling as the most recent host of Adyr looked on. History danced around in her head, coming together into stories that were far better than fiction as her coffee fell inevitably to an undrinkable temperature. Perhaps it was the lack of steam, or the fact that her legs were cramping from how she had been sitting for so long, but she suddenly knew that it was time to go.:: ::Standing, Cayden left the dining area and moved to the room to prepare for her day. In her wake, on the small dining table, sat a now-cooled mug of coffee that had not been consumed as one might have expected. Though it remained in the mug, and the mug on the table, it had become the catalyst for so much more.:: ::It had brought her mind to the more important lessons from the past; lessons that would serve her well as she stepped away from the moment, and into the rest of her life.:: -- Captain Kalianna Nicholotti Commanding Officer Starbase 118/USS Victory
  4. Welcome to the end of our first short contest of 2013! April's Challenge asked participants to consider the theme "Do Unto Others," and I'm pleased to bring you the results now. The winner of the Challenge for April is the writer behind Sinda Essen, with his story "Lex Talionis"! Our runner-up is the writer behind Jorus Cogud, with his story "Calling Home"! Congratulations to both of you! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, Commander Melitta Herodion, and Commander Karynn Ehlanii Brice.
  5. Welcome, my friends, to the first monthlong Writing Challenge of 2013! For this Challenge, Sarah -- the writer behind Saveron and the winner of the last challenge -- would like you to consider the open-ended topic "Do Unto Others." What does this mean? How will you take it? The challenge of the Challenge is to interpret the theme with your own thoughtful story, so I look forward to reading what you do! The deadline for this Challenge is Saturday, April 27th, which gives you just about three and a half weeks to cobble a story together. Let's see what the springtime (for those of you in the northern hemisphere) does with your creativity! 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, April 2nd, this Challenge is open. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  6. Guest

    April Winner: Lex Talionis

    Lex Talionis “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.” Martin Luther King “Where am I?” She couldn’t move, something was preventing her from lifting her arms or turning her head. And it was dark, so very dark, impossible to make out anything past the end of her nose, but she could hear them in the darkness. Moving, breathing. She thought back to how she’d arrived here but her mind was a blur, she couldn’t pin down any of her memories from before waking up. She couldn’t even remember… “Who am I?!” She all but screamed. Sudden light stabbed down into her eyes like fire making her gasp. She squeezed her eyelids closed, trying to keep the pain out. Over the sound of her rapid breathing she heard the voice speak. “You are in recovery room seven in the Celtris III medical facility. Your name is Hess.” “Hess? Why can’t I remember? What have you done to me?” “We’ve done nothing to you, yet, which is rather the point. Your mind is trying to rebuild your memory at the moment. Give it some time.” Hess nodded, or tried to, and squinted into the brightness. She could see an outline of a tall figure a few metres away. “Who are you?” She asked. The figure stepped forward and the light fell across his grey skin, black hair and thick, bony neck. A word sprang, unbidden, into her consciousness, dug out from the chaos of her memory. “Cardassian.” “Oh, very good!” He smiled. “Very good indeed, much faster than any of the others.” “Others? What others?” Hess could hear the panic in her voice. “What is going on here?” “Ah, all in good time.” The Cardassian raised his hand to wave her into silence. “I’ve answered your questions like a good host. Now, I wonder if you could answer some of mine? Firstly, who are you?” Hess frowned at him. “What do you mean? I’m Hess, you’ve just told me that. I…” She hesitated as memories came creeping back. Slowly at first, but then more and more and more. A jumbled flood almost overwhelming her. She snatched at images and information as they roiled through her mind. “I’m Hess, a Vorta from the Dominion. We’re at war with the Federation and their allies. They dared to stand up to us. The Cardassian Union are our allies, we’re on the same side.” “You could say that. What else?” Hess frowned, concentrating. There had been fighting, the base had been overrun by Romulans. She remembered the Jem’hadar being overwhelmed, the bright green flash of a disruptor, the agony. She looked up at the Cardassian, her eyes wide. “I’m dead.” He chuckled. “Well, not quite, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking. But, yes, one version of you was killed, but you’re a different model of that Hess, a later clone. The Founders awoke you after your original clone was killed and, well, we were able to save you.” “Save me from what? The Federation?” “Oh, the war is over and done with and has been for many years.” He smiled, although without any sign of enjoyment. “You lost.” The Cardassian strolled a few paces before continuing. “No, we didn’t save you from the Federation, we saved you from the Dominion, and you’ve been assisting us with our research ever since.” “What research, and why don’t I remember any of it?” “Ah, memory is one of the things we’ve been struggling with. It seems we are only able to implant the memories of your original clone with any degree of success. Memories from other people, or even from your most recent clone, never seem to work very well.” He made a face. “Actually, more often than not they result in total insanity.” Hess tried to make sense of what the Cardassian was saying. Or, more importantly, what he was leaving unsaid. As the turmoil of her memories began to settle, a growing sense of black fear began to take shape. “I’m not the first one you’ve created, am I? Your research, you’re looking into cloning, trying to pick me apart so you can make your own. But the Dominion don’t share their technology, they won’t be happy when they find out.” The Cardassian clapped his hands together. “Perfect! That is indeed exactly what we’re doing, Hess. But don’t worry about the Dominion, they’re in no position to protest against our research down here. They really did do a magnificent job on all you Vorta, truly amazing. Even down to the suicide implant, although don’t worry, the removal of that was one of the first alterations we made.” Hess began to struggle then, the thought of ‘alterations’ did not sound appealing. “I am not your science experiment!” she cried. “You can’t do this, there are laws to…” He cut her off with a snarl. “Don’t talk to me about laws! You’re people proved exactly what they thought of our laws when they lost the war. Eight-hundred million Cardassians slaughtered, eight-hundred million! Women, children, families, entire communities, entire cities! As far as we’re concerned the Dominion made themselves exempt from interstellar law by their act of genocide.” His voice softened, but didn’t lose any of its menace. “Which is why, in the eyes of Cardassian law, clones are no longer considered people. You have no rights. The Detapa Council are well aware of your existence, in fact they’ve signed off on these little ‘science experiments’ as you call them. So I think you’ll find everything occurring here is perfectly legal.” Hess stared at him wide eyed as he picked up a hypospray and checked the contents. “How…” she swallowed, her mouth dry. “How many have there been? Of me, I mean.” “Oh, quite a few now. As I said, the war finished a long time ago.” He consulted a datapad. “You are number six-hundred and twelve, and next door is version six-hundred and thirteen. And believe me, you wouldn’t want to be in her position.” Hess looked up at him. “Why?” She pleaded. “Why are you doing this?” The Cardassian paused as he considered her question before carefully placing the pad and the hypospray on a table. He folded his arms and thoughtfully stroked his grey chin. “You know, I think you’re the first one to ask that. Usually you just rage about injustice and try to escape, not that it does any good. Perhaps we are indeed making some advances with your personality after all. Very well, I’ll indulge you. Why are we doing this?” He mused. “The Dominion all but destroyed the Cardassian Union. The war took its toll, but the violence carried out by the Founders on that last day dealt much more severe damage. We are a broken people, surrounded by enemies who outnumber us, don’t trust us and are superior in almost every way.” He waved a finger in her direction. “Ah, but clones. We had them before, of course, but nobody made clones like the Dominion. Such precision, and on such a scale. If we can perfect that technology it will go a long way to rebuilding our cities, our society.” He smiled again, his eyes bright. “Our navy, our army.“ “But I’m a person! I think, I feel. Have you no compassion?” “True, you think, you feel. Indeed, you even speak. But these are just incidental.” We waved a hand dismissively. “We are only interested in pulling apart your genetic structure, to see how you were built, to see what makes you work so well. You are not a person, you mean nothing to us, just as the Dominion proved we meant nothing to them.“ He picked up the hypospray again. “But don’t worry, we’ll stop dissecting you after we’ve used up eight-hundred million clones. Fair is fair, after all.”
  7. Mid-morning in the Klingon prison camp was recreation time, the prisoners were allowed to go outside, although there was nothing to look at, or they could stay inside the prison complex, which was equally unpleasant, either way you were not going to have fun in the dust-ridden, dirt-covered hell that was the Mempa System prison camp. The prisoners kept here were considered the most dangerous and dishonourable men and women in the entire Klingon Empire; in it you could find any manner of people from Ferengi smugglers to the most dangerous Klingon murderers. It was also the current location of a Trill smuggler. Darzen Cogud sat on the hard and sandy floor of the camp, in his hand was a scrap of stale bread that he had stolen from one of the weaker prisoners, in Mempa prison you did what you could to survive. Darzen was merely imitating what stronger prisoners did to him, so what was the harm? He bit down into the bread, it was a bit crunchy and very hard to swallow, but apart from that it was bread. He finished it quickly careful not to save any for later because one of the stronger, Klingon or Gorn prisoners would take it. The mid-morning sun shone between the cracks in the roof of Mempa, it shone into Darzen’s eyes like a lost sheep, wanting to be found. The last time light had shone into his eyes like that was when he was caught. Darzen had been running his usual business, he had a shipment of maraji crystals, he wanted to avoid passing through Federation space, as his usual shipping routes had been increasingly difficult to smuggle in, it seemed the Federation had upped security in recent years, and Darzen wanted to avoid being caught. He was originally going to take a longer route that would bypass the areas of increased security but his client was adamant he get his drugs, and offered a higher price the quicker they arrived. And so that led Darzen to Klingon space, normally the Klingons were much less scrupulous when it came to searching vessels that passed through their space, but the consequences of being caught were much higher and that’s why you don’t go through Klingon space. But Darzen was certain he could do it, everything seemed bright, at the end he would be paid a substantial sum of latinum, which he could then use to gain access to pleasures beyond his wildest dreams. If he got past the border without detection. Recreation time in Mempa prison was over; it was now time to work. The current project for the prisoners in the camp was to manufacture some small but necessary components in the construction of Birds-of-prey. The construction, however, was hard work, made harder by the camps cruel overseer, K’rtok, son of Maglus. He was a pitiful excuse for a Klingon in truth: small, obese, cowardly and cruel. He was dishonourable, many of the Klingon prisoners argued that he should be working in the camp, rather than overseeing it, he seemed to take pleasure in beating prisoners. Most thought it was because it made him feel powerful, others believed it was because he was ordered to, Darzen thought it was because he enjoyed inflicting pain on the weak. He only gained his position as overseer because his brother was an honourable man; his brother was also a man Darzen new well. Darzen was about thirty minutes into his trip through Klingon space, his small but robust ship was working better than it had for ten years. Darzen figured it was because his ship was as eager to leave Klingon space as he was. The trip was going exactly as planned, the Trill smuggler had estimated he would be out of Klingon space within a day and so he had begun to plan what he wanted to spend his money on. Just as he was debating whether or not to buy an Orion Slave Girl for an evening a small beeping noise accompanied by a red flash appeared on his control panel, it was signalling that a ship was close by Darzen looked around to see above him was a Klingon Bird-of-prey, its green hull was not a pleasant sight for any man with illegal substances in his cargo hold. Another light began to flash, this time accompanied by a high pitched hum, indicating the ship wanted to talk. Darzen, reluctantly accepted the hail, he was greeted by a smug, fat face of a Klingon captain on his small screen he used for communicating. “May I help you gentleman?” Darzen asked daringly, flashing a smile. “I am Captain Kroth, son of Maglus. My crew and I are ordered to search all vessels passing this area of space.” “Well, I would be happy to have you aboard to look around but I am transporting a shipment of Andorian peaches, if I have any delays they will ripen to early and they will not get to their destination in perfect condition.” “A shame for you Trill, come to a full stop. My search team will be over shortly.” “I will prepare a drink…” Darzen slumped in his chair as Captain Kroth ended the transmission, he really did have Andorian peaches with him, but the Klingon search party would have dealt with smugglers before, and would probably tear his ship apart before allowing him to continue on his way. Soon enough a brood of angry Klingons beamed aboard his ship in a dazzling, blood red shimmer. They immediately reached for their disrupters to contain Darzen, even though they hadn’t done their search. Darzen escorted them to his cargo bay. He led them to the peaches and exposed them but the Klingons had to look in every box and so they did. Each crate they opened contained more peaches, until they hit the jackpot, sitting in one crate was eight, shining crystals. Word soon got back to Captain Kroth, and Darzen returned with the Klingons back to their ship, his craft was seized, his assets stolen and his credibility as a smuggler ruined – if he gave away names. The afternoon was fast ending in Mempa prison camp, and that meant one thing. Inspection. The prisoners were marched outside in the burning sun (they were lucky it was not midday as the heat would kill them) so that “K’rtok, son of Malgus” could take pleasure in seeing those that had to obey him suffer. Obviously that was not the official reason given; apparently it was an effective way to count the prisoners. Darzen could see that even the guards hated it; the dishonour of parading all-ready vulnerable people in a dangerous environment would have been hard to bear for the traditionally raised Klingon warriors. The prisoners lined up, not to the military precision the overseer would have liked because they were just prisoners but they were in some kind of line. Darzen stood among the rabble of Klingon, Gorn, Ferengi, Nausicaans and others, trying to avoid the overseer spotting him. The overseer had taken a ‘liking’ to Darzen Cogud and unfortunately K’rtok did spot him. The Klingon approached him and glared into the eyes of the smuggler. “Mr Cogud” He growled. “Twenty laps of the facility.” Darzen looked at him in horror; if he was to do twenty laps in this heat he would surly die. In addition there was no reason for Cogud to run twenty laps. The guards obviously thought this to as they exchanged worried looks behind the overseer’s back, but they were too scared to intervene. Darzen would have to fight his own battles. “No.” He barley mumbled the last word the son of Malgus wanted to hear. His eyes lit up like fireworks. “What did you say?” “No.” Again he mumbled. “You will do fifty laps of this facility Trill, even if it means my guards drag you around it.” “You said twenty.” His voice was now raised, as he knew K’rtok would follow through with his threats. “I lied… Prisoners dismissed.” K’rtok smiled at Darzen, although the Klingon had to look up at the Trill, it felt like he was looking down. His cruel eyes locked onto Darzen. The Trill shivered, remembering the first time it happened. After his capture, Darzen was taken to the Mempa system to be interrogated by the brother of Captain Kroth and the overseer of Mempa Prison Camp. Darzen was bought into a small room, on the wall was a picture of Kahless, above two crossed Bat’leths. The accused-of-smuggling Trill was sat on a cold metal chair and left alone for two hours, the Klingons wanted to see how he reacted, Darzen sat still. After two hours, K’rtok, son of Malgus entered, he was an unimpressive Klingon, and he was about 5ft 8, with a small beard and small hair. The only large thing about him was his weight. He was armed with a disruptor but Darzen could see no knife, this Klingon was without honour. He began to demand the names of the smuggler associates. Darzen remained quiet. He tried to find out the purpose of the crime. Darzen remained quiet. After repeated attempts, K’rtok, son of Malgus was getting impatient. And demanded Darzen speak, Darzen who was now battered and bruised from the repeated blows to his person looked up. “Did someone steal your knife?” K’rtok glared down at Darzen, locking his eyes onto the Trill. He hit him again, blackening an already black eye. He then stormed out of the room leaving Darzen alone with his bruises and his thoughts. He was eventually charged with smuggling, and sentenced to a life sentence in Mempa prison camp. Obviously the life sentence would have been frowned upon in the Federation but he was in the Klingon Empire and so a life sentence for smuggling was common place. Darzen was escorted by two guards to the main section of Mempa Prison Camp, like most Klingon Prisons the sleeping quarters was simply a large cave in which the prisoners had fashioned their own accommodation. This was where Darzen would spend his first night in Mempa Prison, as darkness fell over the planet Darzen found a small spot in the corner of the cave. His thoughts were still locked on his interrogation he had undergone just a few hours ago. He curled up in a ball and closed his eyes and then slowly fell asleep, waiting for the first day of eternity. Darzen woke. He was still battered and bruised from his run/drag the night before. A guard had dragged the Trill the full fifty laps. His clothes were torn, his side was red and his head was still feeling light. He looked around his now almost-cosy accommodation, completely different from the gap in the corner he had found two months ago. He stood up slowly, his side still aching, as he prepared for another day in Mempa Prison. Lt Jorus Cogud Chief Tactical Officer USS Discovery-C
  8. With the Writing Improvement Month's special Writing Challenge right in its middle, this was the longest Challenge we've ever run -- so, without further ado, let me bring you its results: The winner of the Challenge for January-March is the writer behind Saveron, with her story "My Brother's Keeper"! Our runner-up is the writer behind Ryoma Hoshino, with his story "Calling Home"! Congratulations to both of you! Thank you to everyone who participated and who continues to participate! We had a record number of judges assisting for this round and, as related by their scores, it was extremely difficult to pick clear stand-outs. Well done, everyone! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, Commander Melitta Herodion, Commander Jhen Thelev (Lieutenant Sinda Essen), and our special guest judge, Lieutenant Jalana Laxyn.
  9. Note that this contest's deadline has been extended through March 22nd to incorporate the Writing Improvement Month's special challenge! Welcome, my friends, to the inaugural Writing Challenge of 2013! To start off, we're returning with a two-month contest with a theme chosen by the December Challenge's winner. As our characters move into 2390 -- their last decade before 2400 -- Jalana Laxyn would like you to consider what the next ten years hold. In her words, "'Where do you see the universe in 10 years,' be it in society, technologically, medically, personally.." What do you think might happen? UFOP:118's blockbusters of the past few years have taken a stab at that question with, for example, this year's Klingon crisis and the admission of Bajor to the Federation, but perhaps your take will be smaller than that. What can you do with ten years of growth and the character of your choice? The deadline for this Challenge is Friday, March 22nd! You have just under seven weeks to submit your stories from the start date (Tuesday, January 8th). 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, this Challenge is open. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  10. D. K.

    Peace Of Soul

    (A few days earlier) USS Thunder “Why didn’t Commander Johnson want you on the bridge?” “He was with me when I tested the Phoenix system. He has hated me ever since.” “But the system has saved thousands of lives in the past six years alone!” The older Mc Ghee looked briefly at the floor as he recalled the events. “I endangered six crewmates while testing the device. I betrayed my Captain and colleagues. In effect I sold a part of my soul for a single innovation.” “Is that why you don’t want to stop Icarus?” “Icarus is too dangerous, Joel. I can live with people not speaking to me because of the Phoenix incident. But I won’t sell the rest of my soul for an invention that will eventually destroy us.” “Do you think they will understand?” “A torpedo appearing out of nowhere? If they don’t understand the danger of such technology then we are lost.” The lift doors opened revealing the bridge of the Admiral’s flagship and while passing the dedication plaque the Vulcan hybrid felt a powerful emotional surge, having never understood why the Admiral chose this line of his requiem speech for those lost during the Klingon invasion of 2389 as the vessel’s motto. Maybe it was one of the reasons for her disposition towards him; betrayal and disappointment hurt more than mere blows. The bridge also held a few select and unknown dignitaries there to witness the event. Admiral Turner was amongst them, however Jaxon saw the first officer was already heading his way. “Commander Johnson.” Acknowledged Jaxon, “It is agreeable to see your career progressing so expediently.” The picture of an angry and inexperience security ensign standing between a commander and incapacitated fleet captain briefly returned to his mind. The event had been a pivotal point in both his own and Johnson’s lives; one man and his career had soared and the other… well in retrospect it was a matter of perspective. The Admiral now spotted the two Mc Ghee’s and approached, wearing a stoic look of indifference and professionalism at meeting her former Chief engineer again. It was nearly perfect. “Mr. Mc Ghee, Joel welcome aboard.” Openly Jaxon nodded calmly to the Admiral, though internally the lack of a warmer greeting didn’t pass him quiet as serenely. “Thank you Ma’am.” Spoke Joel, turning to the viewscreen where a few other vessels were to be seen, “Quite a select group.” “If this works Joel, you and your father will have made history. Signal the station that we are ready.” The young man smiled at her encouraging words while the crew followed the orders. Joel joined his father at the test cylinder set up in the center of the bridge, before he turned back to the Admiral and offered her a Padd. “Ma’am, do you want to initiate the transport?” The western woman smiled at Joel and reached out and tapped the key. The whine of a transporter sounded and the silver tube disappeared in a typical blue swirl. The main screen changed and displayed a research lab and a technician, now holding the test cylinder, his face radiating satisfaction. “Ladies and gentlemen.” Announced Commander Johnson, “You have just witnessed the first subspace transport of an object over a distance of more than half a lightyear. This is the advent of a new age of intergalactic transportation.” Polite applause erupted from the dignitaries on the bridge and Jaxon turned to look at the excited and enthusiastic people. He watched the mix of high ranking Starfleet officers and diplomats congratulating each other. The Welshman turned to Johnson and took the arm of the first officer. “And now for your side of the bargain; send the torpedo. Show them how useless shields will have become.” “That will no longer be necessary.” smiled the Commander, the officer waved to the main screen which had again changed. It now showed a large conference table where more people and most were in heated discussions. Engineers and technicians, Jaxon recognized a number of the faces. “You didn’t show them?” “Many experts have now witnessed your invention. You and son’s name will be recited with Cochrane and Archer. You know schools named after you and so on.” The younger man smiled as Jaxon’s eyes widened upon grasping the magnitude of the deception. It was irrelevant if he stopped, those that had now seen the invention were now aware of the possibility and would hunt for the solution. It was in the nature of an engineer; Icarus had gone public and a cry for this technology would rise. No more week long voyages, no more hauling giga-tons of equipment on massive freighters trudging one lightyear after another. Once the technology was explored and improved, hundreds of lightyears would no longer be a distance for any person to travel. Or any army and their weapons. Stardate: 240004.21 SS Black Raven For Jaxon the Thunder-A still looked as beautiful as the day his choices had forced him to leave her. In his opinion, the thin, darkened strips on her hull, deployment points for the 2nd generation of ablative armor, still marred her pearl white hull. A pang of regret flowed through him, caused by the events of the last 48 hours, but as always the emotion was countered, checked and sent to oblivion as unneeded trash. EVE, the vessel’s holographic avatar, appeared next to the stocky Welshman. “The Thunder is already in the system and is protecting the second station. What are you going to do? They’ll hardly fall for the same trick twice.” The engineer turned to look at her and gave his creation a brief, encouraging smile. “EVE this time you do not have to join me. Once other powers realize the potential of displacement technology… it is simply too dangerous.” The long haired beauty smiled knowingly, she had truly made progress in the last few years of her existence. “We both know I’ll will always follow you.” Her voice was quiet and she looked at the floor uncomfortably for a moment before continuing as she harked her sensors “The Thunder is hailing.” Jaxon nodded briefly at her response, though he didn’t show his relieve that she was staying with him. “Raise shields and prepare weapons.” There was a brief chirp as the avatar complied, “Put the Thunder through.” USS Thunder Commander Johnson looked up at the sensor officer awaiting his report. “It’s the Black Raven, just dropped from high warp.” The main screen changed cycling through zoom ranges as the sleek black ship of the former Starfleet officer was focused on. That Mc Ghee had somehow managed to create a cascade that destroyed one of the two prototype stations had taken everyone by surprise. The admiralty was less than pleased that 50% of eight year’s hard work had been lost because one of the researcher’s had gone amok. “Hail him..” Johnson’s tone was bitter. He had also just spent a grueling quarter-hour with Admiral Turner while she expressed her displeasure at tricking Mc Ghee during the presentation. The dark haired Welshman appeared and Johnson saw less youth in the Human-Vulcan features, “Mr. Mc Ghee, lower your shields and prepare to be boarded. You are under arrest for treason, destruction and theft of Federation and Starfleet property.” “I will not comply. I’m here to destroy Icarus. My arrest can be subsequently arranged.” “We are here to protect this facility and I doubt you will fire upon the Thunder.” “My only target is the data core and the transmitter array.” “The data cores have been secured and are aboard the Thunder. Your little rampage ends here.” “A real shame. Then you leave me without a satisfactory choice.” Said Jaxon and looked briefly at the floor, “EVE?” “Jaxon?” “Execute program Omega Icarus and cut the com link.” Even as the image of the Welshman faded and Johnson realized diplomacy had failed, he still noted the tone of sadness in the man’s voice. “He’s charging weapons!” “Battlestations!” he cried, “Call the Admiral to the bridge!” SS Black Raven The small dark vessel shot fore as EVE flew curves while twisting upwards swiftly as the Thunder’s phaser strips lit up again. The orange beams reached out for the speeding Raven and the smaller craft shook as the shields tried to absorb the attack. “Shields holding.” Reported EVE The Vulcan hybrid stood typing at his holographic display, occasionally swaying as the Raven spiraled, danced and shook around the heavier and slower Thunder. “Keep the shields up, the weapons hot and the com array online.” Commented Jaxon. “Torpedoes incoming.” “Evasives! Jaxon one alpha. More power to the engines! Get a lock on those torpedoes!” The Raven pulled sharply to port as the four blue sparkles shot across the distance separating the two adversaries. Her phaser’s still lancing out to retreating ship, the Thunder followed in hot pursuit while the Black Ravens own weapons finally joined the fray attempting to pick off the incomingquantum’s. On the command deck, Jaxon held on to his station as two torpedoes found their mark, the others falling to EVE’s targeting scanners. “Why the hell did I let Parker convince me to install three more tubes?!” growled the part-Vulcan as he compensated for the damage. “Progress?” “I can’t lock onto the data cores. They are constantly rotating the frequency. ” reported EVE Jaxon swore at the news. It meant that Starfleet was aware the datacore held the only set of plans for the Icarus project that they still had open access to and they were ready to protect them. The small craft rocked again as more phasers hit, launching another series of alarms and sirens. Jaxon got up growling in anger while he looked at his tactical display. EVE had got some distance between them and Jaxon saw a possibility and issued a litany of commands. “New course heading 234 mark 12. Prepare all torpedoes, target port shield generators. Detonate 1000 kilometers before impact. Retreat pattern Beta. Transporter commands to me. Execute. ” Pulling a high speed curve, the Raven swiftly turned on her follower and hit full impulse as she bore down on the Thunder. Moments beforehand a spread of six photons left their tubes and shot towards the white hulled vessel. As expected the opposing helmsman pulled his ship away from the source of danger, and moments later the Raven pulled up sharply in the other direction, her rear cannons opening fire and destroying her own missiles. Seeing the enemy shields briefly falter, Jaxon exploited the advantage and initiated the transport while the shield were reestablished. USS Thunder Jaxon felt the confinement beam release him and he briefly checked the equipment that had been transported in on his person before he left the observation room. The bridge of the Thunder was still in disarray as Jaxon ducked in though the rear door, seeing his own ship pulling away on the main screen. “Tractor beam.” Yelled Johnson as he helped the Admiral up. Seeing an unused station and ignoring everything else, Jaxon took a device from his belt and dived forward, slapping it onto a console before landing and crawling under the empty station. “INTRUDER ALERT!” bellowed a well-known voice. A stray phaser beam singed the wall behind him while Jaxon typed at the computer on his wrist. With the handy device supplying him with an uplink, he downloaded the program into the system and then threw his weapon over the console; as if he had ever stood a chance of storming the bridge. “I give up. You have won.” Said Jaxon standing up slowly with raised hands. Jaxon found himself swiftly surrounded by burly security officers, their phasers trained on him. The already tall men were then eclipsed as Parker stepped up to join his former brother. Honorable brown eyes conveyed a mix of fury, disappointment and sadness. “Firing on a fleet ship.” He growled, “What have you become?” “We don’t always get to choose, Colonel.” The Welshman’s voice was quiet and subdued. “Don’t hide behind words Mr. Mc Ghee.” came a sharp voice. Two blue eyes with their yellow corona fixed on Admiral Turner as she joined the group surrounding the intruder. Jaxon noted that Toni also had a phaser aimed at him even though he had surrendered and six other weapons were still following his every move; never shy to get her hands dirty. “G’day Ma’am.” The flag officer looked at her former Chief a moment before holstering her weapon and giving an exasperated sigh. “Colonel if he moves.” Then the flag officer turned away to her tactical officer. “Understood Ma’am.” growled the giant Marine, “Was there any reason for you betraying us again?” “Affirmative.” Confirmed Jaxon. His wrist computer chirped and the hybrid looked up at Parker “ You know Hannibal, sometimes you lose and sometimes the others win.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” “It means that you shouldn’t have let old friendship from dragging me from this station.” The inconspicuous device he had attached to the screen lit up and began to flash and force field appeared separating the Marine and security detail from the ex-engineer, “EVE shut them out of the system.” While commotion broke out amongst the bridge officers, phaser fire harmlessly struck the wall of energy as Jaxon turned to the console and his fingers began to work. Hannibal tried his weapon twice more before angrily striking opaque field that protected the renegade engineer. “I’d be careful Hannibal, a ruptured EPS conduit on the bridge could injure or kill us all.” Said the hybrid without looking, his voice was calm and the incessantly entered commands created a concerto of beeps and chirps as his hands danced over the keys. Various stations on the bridge began to shut down creating more cries as the officers tried to coordinate their efforts against the onslaught Jaxon and EVE unleashed on the systems. After every station and light source had died away, Jaxon still worked on, his face illuminated only by his station, set in concentration as he added the needed command lines. “Mr. Mc Ghee step away from that station, that is an order.” Admiral Turner’s voice reverberating in fury. “I apologize for the ruse Admiral but I cannot comply.” His hands continued bringing up screens and entering commands, “Speaking of lies, Admiral have you heard of subspace shield mechanics?” There was a moment’s pause. “What is he talking about Commander.” Another pause followed, before the Admiral spoke again, her voice now able to cut glass. “Commander I expect an answer.” “Standard shields cannot be projected into the subspace plain, they become unstable.” Admitted Johnson. “You’re saying that this technology …” she fell silent. “Yes Admiral, it can teleport through any known shield from 100 million kilometers distance.” Confirmed Jaxon, he paused briefly and looked through the darkness to where he thought the Admiral stood, “Imagine the Klingons or Jem’hadar able of dropping troops or bombs without even entering the system.” He looked at Hannibal and then briefly at the floor, “I won’t take responsibility for that. It will lead to war and the blood will be on my hands.” “If this is true then we can no doubt find a solution.” “That’s not the point Admiral. We shield ourselves, the enemy bypasses them. We counter that, they find something else. The technology is too dangerous it has to be destroyed.” The Welshman appeared to be finished with his work as he stopped his typing and turned to face the bridge staff. Some were still trying to bypass the force field, others had stopped and had accepted there was little they could currently do. With a few last keystrokes the lighting on the bridge came back on and a timer appeared on the stations. “What happens now Jaxon.” Asked Admiral Turner after eyeing the diminishing numbers. “A computer virus is blocking the system, once the timer hits zero Admiral you and your staff will have full control over the Thunder again. Until then you can only read the data on your screens. Of course that will be too late to save the Icarus transmission array. I am sorry that I used my knowledge of her systems to exploit them.” “The destruction of the array won’t stop Starfleet exploring the economic possibilities of the technology.” “Commander Johnson, you are confusing military with economical possibilities. The data core has been transported to the Raven and EVE is currently erasing it. My son cannot reproduce it, explain it to a high ranking bunch of officials, yes, but not reproduce it. The Icarus project now only exists in my head and that is also my cue.” “You know Icarus will follow you wherever you go.” Growled Johnson. “Only what exists can be hunted Mr. Johnson.” came the even reply, “EVE, transport.” The Welshman vanished in a swirl of light. A moment later the force field, now devoid of the control device, collapsed with an electrical crackle. Those closest dived for the station the renegade engineer had employed against them, in the hope that it still functioned. A moment later the main screen lit up and the angle showed Jaxon apparently busy working a few consoles. “Admiral, please look after and guide EVE.” The whine of the transporter rang out and a crate materialized on the bridge. “Ma’am he’s headed directly for the station.” Reported the helmsman, “Shields and weapons are offline. The tractor beam is still out. Ma’am …I can’t stop him. ” “Jaxon don’t.” called Admiral Turner. “He won’t.” breathed Johnson as he realized. “He will.” Confirmed Parker, “You said yourself Icarus will follow him.” “… oh and Ma’am, please tell Joel. ‘I had to buy back a piece of my soul.’ It was an honor. Mc Ghee o…. ” The transmission ended as the screen went blank before a blinding light lanced over the assembled officers. Lt Cmdr. Jaxon Mc Ghee Chief Engineering OfficerUSS Thunder NCC 70605Embassy Duronis II
  11. AlexV


    A vague grunt was about all the response there was from the lump on the bed, whilst the computer's chirpy voice carrying on announcing the fact that it was another glorious day in San Francisco. When Delvia finally poked her dark-haired head out from under the covers, it was to glare at the panel on the wall that the digitised voice was coming from. "Computer," she croaked after a few moments, "why in the name of all that is holy are you waking me up in the middle of the night?" "As requested, your wake-up call was scheduled for 0800. The time is now 0806." "Like I said, the middle of the [...]ed night." Still, at least the stupid machine shut up, and she decided that since she was awake, she might as well drag herself out of bed. Shoving the covers aside, she began the laborious process of getting her green-skinned self up and moving. By the time she was sat up, her leg had decided that it would at least pretend to be cooperative enough for her to grab the cane she'd left by the bed and pushed herself to her feet. Taking a deep breath, like she'd done every morning for the last few years, she shuffled her way across the bedroom to get herself ready to face another day. By the time she emerged, still damp from the shower, and rolled her eyes when she heard the cheerful humming from the lounge. Clothes were already laid out on the now-made bed, and she moved over to start getting dressed with a total lack of concern for the fact that her bedroom door was open and she was wearing nothing but a grumpy expression. Not that there was any point in making anything of it, since when Brexx poked his bald blue head around the doorway, he looked at her with a total lack of appreciation for the sight that would likely have offended any Orion woman that gave a [...]. "Breakfast's going to be ready in a few minutes." His voice matched his tone, warm and bright with the kind of enthusiasm that only came from really enjoying your job. "You want tea or coffee?" "Don't care, go away." Brexx shrugged and wandered away, leaving her to get herself more or less decent. A few minutes later, she settled herself onto her chair at the dining table, mouth watering at the gorgeous aromas wafting up from the plate that sat waiting for her. Picking up a fork, she started shovelling perfectly cooked eggs into her mouth as Brexx, over by the big computer and entertainment screen on the wall, called up the mail that had come for her since yesterday. "A lot of holiday stuff here," he called over his shoulder. "I'll leave that stuff for you to look over. Oh, something from the Ambassador and her wife..." That was a bit of a surprise. She tended not to get messages from the far depths of the Beta Quadrant, and she smiled to herself at the fact she'd gotten one now. Probably the result of incessant nagging from a third party, but she'd take it. "Aannd... One from your father." Delvia's smile slipped away as if it had never existed. "Delete it." "You sure?" "He had his chance when I was a kid. He doesn't get to try and make up for it now. Kill it, then disappear." The Bolian shrugged and did as he was told - at least the deleting part. Finished with the mail, he ambled over and stood by the table as she finished the last of the breakfast he'd made for her and washed it down with a slug of coffee. Quite why he put up with her surly attitude, she had no real idea. Since he was happily married to his husband, it wasn't because of that... and since she'd pretty much chased away the first two domestic helpers she'd been assigned after she got out of hospital, it wasn't because he was just doing his job. "Enjoy your food?" "No. It was foul." "Ah, yes... that would be the targ vomit garnish. I thought you'd enjoy that." And there it was, the reason she never actually meant it when she told him to go away. He gave her as much grief as he got, and did it with a sly grin that told her she knew exactly why she was acting the way she did and was quite content to play along if it kept her happy. It would just ruin the game they played if she actually acknowledged that, though, so she just sneered at him as she levered herself to her feet. It was the first step she took away from the table that killed her. As soon as she put weight on the biosynthetic replacement for her right leg, the thing gave way utterly, sending her plummeting to the ground with all the grace of a collapsing ruin. Her hand shot out to try and grab the table, her cane clattering away as she went for the chair as well - but Brexx was there, as ever, to save her. Before she'd dropped more than a few inches, he was right behind her, his arms wrapping around her chest to catch her and get her steady again. Keeping her stable, he hooked a foot under her cane and flipped it up so she could catch it and stab the end into the ground. Once her rebellious limb was behaving again, she straightened herself up and he let her go, stepping back just enough to give her some space. Drawing a shaky breath, she glared at her leg, then looked over her shoulder at the persistent pest that had been sicced on her by Starfleet's veteran's affairs service. "Thanks." The one word she uttered was so softly spoken that it was barely audible at all, and Brexx's answer was a solemn and serious nod and nothing more. That was the way it always went, every time he was there to literally catch her when she fell. It wasn't just the dry humour they shared. It was the way he just would not let her down. "Ready for your day?" he asked after a few moments, glossing over the last few minutes with practised ease. "Get lost, you bald, blue freak." "Excellent. Give Counselor Herris my regards." This time, the disdainful twist of her mouth wasn't faked. She'd actually managed to forget she had to deal with her counselor today. What fun that promised to be... *** As she chewed on the sandwich she'd picked up on the way out of Starfleet Medical, Delvia thought about the odd way things seemed to go sometimes. She knew, for example, that the worst her leg would do during the day was an uncomfortable, sometimes downright painful, spasm or two. She also knew that the medical staff who'd treated her still had no idea how to counter the effects of the venom that had screwed up her nerves enough to stop the prosthetic meshing properly. Looking out over the bay, the shadow of the Golden Gate bridge falling over the water, she considered the event that had screwed her up so badly six years before - and put a very definite end to her career. The away mission had been pretty mundane, her job being to shepherd a bunch of science geeks around as they poked at the assorted foliage of the planet they were surveying. It wasn't the flora that had been a problem, as it turned out, but the fauna. Particularly the overgrown hairball that had burst out of the undergrowth without warning. She'd managed to drop it before it could do any damage to the science team, but had been too late to keep from getting a savage bite that had broken her knee in the process. To add insult to injury, whatever the creature had slobbered into her bloodstream had started digesting the flesh of her leg before they'd even managed to get her back to sickbay. So, here she was, out of a job she'd loved and still trying to fit into planet-bound life as a civilian. As she tried not to get lost in the memories of what had happened, her eyes shifted to the discrete stone plinth that sat by the edge of the water, a few meters from the bench she sat on. When she realised what she was looking at, she smiled tightly and closed her eyes, bowing her head in acknowledgement of what it memorialised - the men and women of San Francisco's civilian emergency services who'd risked, and lost, their lives to save others when the Breen had attacked two and half decades before. She paid her respects every time she passed this way, and didn't miss that even after all this time, there were always fresh flowers laid at the base of the concrete chunk. It was a much needed reminder, sometimes, that you didn't have to be in Starfleet to make a difference. Sighing, she tossed the remains of her lunch into the nearby trash can - her aim was still good, no matter what else - and hauled herself to her feet. She had time to kill before the next thing she had to do today, and felt the need to distract herself from not only that but the after-effects of yet another fruitless session with her counselor. Once a month, she sat and talked about her feelings, despite the fact she'd rather have stuck her head into a plasma fire. It was what she was supposed to do, after all, and the habit of doing as she ought was ingrained in her deeply enough that she didn't think it would ever fade. She didn't have to like it, of course. Just do it. Just like she didn't have to admit to anyone that the sessions actually did help... When she started paying attention to her surroundings again, Delvia realised she had managed to get almost the whole way to her favourite bar without even knowing what she was doing. Smiling to herself, she shook her head at the instincts that seemed to have developed whilst she lived here. "Why the hell not?" Her cane tapped against the ground as she covered the last little way to the bar, and when she walked through the door she shared a nod of greeting with Mack, the grizzled Terran behind the bar. She sometimes wondered if the place had actually been built around him, since she had never heard of him being sighted anywhere but here, and her certainly looked old enough. He was also a man of few words, and by the time she reached her usual stool at the bar itself he'd poured a glass of her favourite tipple and set it on the counter for her without any need for them to exchange anything more than they already had. She settled herself in place, propping her cane against the bar, and took a sip. Just as good as ever. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror that covered most of the wall behind the bar, and her lips twisted into a wry smile as she looked at her reflection. She used to wear her hair long, letting it flow down her back, but now it was cut so short it was barely able to spike up when she bothered to do anything with it. Pretty much the same went for her clothing, as well. Off-duty, she'd had a range of stuff to wear, all of it carefully chosen to emphasise her figure and colouration just so that she could have some fun during her downtime. What she wore now was pretty much whatever Brexx picked out for her, assuming she didn't manage to get it done first, and today it was plain and practical in style, the colours muted. She didn't wear bright shades any more, there didn't seem any reason to. Delvia heard a sniff from Mack's direction, and she glanced his way. When she saw the frown he was aiming her way, and the significant look he gave toward the half-dozen other patrons - most of them male - around the room, she sighed. "Sorry." Mack grunted and went back to his routine as she stuck a hand in her jacket pocket and pulled out the hypo that sat there. Another gift from the homicidal space-hamster and it's freaky drool. She pressed the hypo against her neck, triggered it, and dumped the thing back where it had come from. There was never any point trying to predict when she was going to have to dose herself up with pheromone suppressant any more. It had sometimes actually been amusing, but right now she wasn't in the mood to deal with male attention drawn her way by her natural biochemistry. There were enough incidents simply from being recognised as an Orion woman... and the last few times she'd tried to let herself indulge and enjoy, she'd learned that it was probably not going to go well... No, better to just cut that part off entirely, and just some pleasure in a nice quiet drink. *** The cool evening air followed her through the door as she walked into the gallery. She'd actually bothered to make an effort, and when she let the young man who greeted her take her coat, she knew that the makeup she'd applied, along with the attention she'd paid to her hair and the sleek black dress she'd reluctantly put on, made her look better than she had in a very long time. She'd even chosen to use the new cane that Brexx and his husband had gotten for her in honour of the occasion, and the whole ensemble made her feel like she might just be worth the effort of looking at for once. "Miss Corsetto, I'm so glad you could make it!" Delvia suppressed a grin at the hint of relief she heard in the voice, shifting her cane to her other hand so she could take the one being held out to her. Donatella Laine had never failed to be anything but charming and polite to her, though she'd had enough reason not to, and Delvia simply couldn't make herself like the idea that the gallery's owner might have believed she'd not come tonight. Given all the bullying and persuasion that had been put into getting her to agree to go along with this whole stupid idea, Delvia felt she really should try to make Donatella's investment of effort worthwhile. "Where else was I going to be?" she asked, and chuckled at the knowing gleam that appeared in the other woman's eyes. "Okay, yes, I'm a pain in the backside to deal with. I just... Look, you think I should be here, so I am." Donatella sighed laying a gentle touch on the Orion's arm. "No, dear, not just me. Look." She did as she was told, and swallowed on a suddenly tight throat when she saw that there were literally dozens of people around, all of them chatting to each other as they looked at the pictures hanging on the gallery walls with approval that was obvious even to her cynical eye. "Do you want to take a few moments?" She shook her head, knowing that if she'd said yes then Donatella would have been fine with it. She wouldn't have been, though, and waiting would only have made her nerves get worse. No, better to meet this head-on and get it done. "No, I'm good." Which was a lie, but the next part wasn't. "If I can be crazy enough to take on drunk Nausicaans, I can do this." A tinkle of laughter was all the response Donatella gave, taking a soft grip on Delvia's arms and leading her forward. "Ladies and gentlemen," she said loudly, catching the attention of everyone in the gallery. When she was sure they were all looking her way, she smiled and made a little gesture Deliva's way. "As we see in the dawn of 2400 with this beautiful display, it is my great pleasure to present you with our featured artist, Miss Delvia Corsetto." Training, experience, counseling... Delvia had all of them in bucket loads, but none of it helped prepare her for the way every single eye turned her way and applause rang out to fill the air. She recognised two of the city's biggest art critics in the crowd, as well as an FNS reporter that she knew specialised in such things. All of them were welcoming her with genuine pleasure, and she felt tears welling up in her dark eyes as it finally hit her that far from wasting their time, these people honestly wanted to be here, taking pleasure in the paintings she'd never thought anything but a way to kill some time. Maybe she could make this life out of uniform work, after all...
  12. == Stardate 239004.01 == "Yeah, Mum, I've got it. Don't worry!" Why was it that every time they finally got around to a subspace call, Ryoma was always left with the feeling of being nagged at? His mother's lips seemed to work themselves into a blur and her words phased out into a dull ringing noise deep with Ryoma's ears. He imagined switching off the display and cutting the conversation short, but he knew that option was restricted to the confines of his mind's eye. "Do you want to speak to your father?" That was all it took to bring him crashing back into reality. "Dad... ?" Ryoma asked hesitantly, "I... sure." He swallowed a small bundle of nerves and tensed himself for a dressing down. The screen changed and the cold steely face of Tadanobu Hoshino, a man losing the war with his years, filled the small poster-sized screen. "Hello son." He didn't seem particularly affected by seeing Ryoma's face on-screen for the first time in several months. Ryoma smiled; a mask for a whole ecosystem of feelings reigning inside him. "Hi Dad, how are you doing?" As the conversation continued, one couldn't really call it a progression, the unspoken tension stood as an impenetrable wall between them. This was the man who apparently disagreed with everything Ryoma had become. To his father, Ryoma was a pawn of militarists, taken in by Starfleet's propaganda - to any man living on the Cardassian border in the past 50 years, it was difficult to see Starfleet as anything but the sharpest end of the Federation's stick. While they frequently protected Ryoma's homeworld of Lyshan VI, they were also the enforcers of Federation policy to resettle the neighbouring worlds ceded to the Cardassians in the inter-war period, and their very presence in the system made Lyshan VI the target of both Cardassian and Dominion invasions... ... but to those who grew up in the Dominion War, Starfleet was heroism incarnate. Against great odds, they fought for peace in the Alpha Quadrant. It was a belief that Ryoma Hoshino had bought into, but one his father could never contemplate. A lifetime of hardship and disappointment had left him numb to his son's perspective. Ryoma had no doubt that the old man was just biting back his displeasure at seeing his son in uniform, and couldn't shake the feeling that bile would win over cordiality. He looked over at the ship's chronometer, eager to be anywhere else but taking this call. "Dad, I've got to go. I have to attend a staff meeting." He didn't see any change in the older man's demeanour, the rather unexpected end to their conversation instead seemed to euthanise what was an already tiresome attempt to keep up the pretense of familial ties. "Son, stay safe..." Ryoma didn't skip a beat: "I will, Dad. Bye now!" With a flick of a switch the conversation was over, leaving Ryoma staring at his reflection in the darkened panel as a sigh pushed past his lips. Why had his father even bothered attempting a conversation? == Stardate 240004.01 == Eyes devoid of recognition. That was the hardest thing to reconcile. Nothing was harder than returning from a walk around his childhood home's beautiful wooded gardens and seeing that shrivelled-up old man in his chair staring at him in silent panic, attempting to call upon one of a multitude of forever lost memories. Ryoma placed a hand on his son's back. "Ryo, we've got to leave soon, so why don't you go with Baa-chan and get yourself some biscuits." He smiled for the sake of his son, protecting him from the incredible heartache he felt clenching at his chest. Ever the good little boy, the littlest Hoshino went off to the kitchen with grandmother in search of homemade gingernut biscuits. That left the two of them alone. Tadanobu's deteriorating condition had left him little more than a ghost haunting the Hoshino household with an unknowable grief. A shell of a man who was still staring blankly at Ryoma. "Hi Dad..." Ryoma said softly as he sat in the armchair opposite his father. He noticed the lip hanging loosely from the old man's face, wobbling with the waves of tremors that beset Tadanobu's body. "How are you doing?" He smiled in a unthinking attempt to comfort his father. The returned smile was warm but brief, the old man's attention fluttering back towards the window. He hadn't spoken for nearly a year now, and his memories had begun fading long before that. Doctors said it was the effect of a degenerative neural condition particularly common among the survivors of the Federation-Cardassian border conflicts that marred Tadanobu's early years on Lyshan VI. The disorder had hollowed out the very essence of this once proud man. Ryoma looked over to the kitchen, meeting the gaze of his mother briefly before she returned to keeping her 9-year old grandson busy in the only way that grandmothers know how: excessive attention. Then Ryoma's gaze fell heavily to the floor, lingered and then flicked back to Tadanobu. "Dad... I... I am sorry I didn't take the time to get to know you better." He bit his bottom lip, stretching it out to keep it from quivering. Tadanobu turned in an apparent attempt to see where the voice had come from, his face reacting to Ryoma's obvious distress. "I thought for so long that disapproval of my job meant disapproval of me... I thought you hated what I'd become." He pulled a PADD from his jacket pocket and held it up. "I read your diaries, Dad... do you remember what you wrote?" Ryoma knew that he didn't, but he felt compelled to ask. "I never knew how you really felt, Dad..." The old man's face was streaked with a tear, no doubt a basic empathetic response to the sorrow of a what must have seemed to be a stranger. Regardless, that tear sent a dagger through Ryoma's heart. The younger man fell from the armchair and onto his knees, his hands forming a triangle front of him before his forehead moved to meet them. "Please forgive me!" Seconds passed by, and Ryoma kept his eyes to the floor, tear drops flowing over the backs of his hands, when the lightest of touches brushed Ryoma's hair. The sensation grew firmer as fingers planted themselves on Ryoma's head, followed by the soft warmth of a palm. "What's wrong, Dad?" He raised his head, his eyes rising to meet those of the old man, only to find him looking away, both hands in his lap. He continued searching for the voice, his hand reaching for the one that rested on his head. His eyes met his son's and he pulled the child into an embrace. "Ryo, I will always be proud of you, son." Moments passed before Ryoma felt an unbearable pressure to make sure he wasn't freaking his son out. He took a deep breath and allowed Ryo to squirm free. "Come on, it's time. Say goodbye to Baa-chan and Jii-chan." Ryo's brief distraction allowed Ryoma to get to his feet and hide all evidence of his lapse of composure. He moved over to his father and kissed him on the head. "I'll see you soon, Dad." He then moved over to his mother, hugging her with the full weight of the burden he had been carrying. "Sorry, Mum, but I'll be back soon, I promise." Ryoma then looked down at his son: "Ready?" The young Hoshino nodded his head firmly. "Okay then, computer, end transmission." The living room faded away to reveal the metal struts of the holodeck. Ryoma turned to see his the sofa where his father was sitting disappear into nothing and sighed deeply. His thoughts turned to his parents back on Lyshan VI, of his and his son's projections just fading away, and he wondered whether, perhaps, his father had felt anything as they did so. There wasn't a communications tool in the galaxy that could break through the blocks in Tadanobu's mind... but being able to be with his family across the seemingly infinite ranges of space at least gave him chance to confront those hardest of regrets: the ones you can never hope to fix. ====================== Ensign Ryoma Hoshino Intelligence OfficerUSS Discovery-C
  13. ((Capitol - New Romulus, 2400)) ::So much had changed in the galaxy since the Romulan homeworld had been destroyed. Captain Kaedyn Zehn marvelled at this as he stepped into the visitor's gallery above the newly built Romulan Senate chamber. He had personally seen the effects while serving onboard Starbase 118 on the edge of Romulan space. Where once the Empire was known for its insularity and paranoid control, he had seen it in tatters. He had also seen it rebuild itself at an impressive speed..:: ::Almost immediately after this thought had passed it was replaced by confusion that Starfleet would send him as part of the official Federation delegation. As relations with the Romulans warmed, so too had they cooled with the Klingons and Kaedyn had risen through the ranks as an intelligence officer - a spy - during a time when diplomacy had slept.:: ::Despite the best efforts of Starfleet, including the heroic actions of the Captains he had previously served under, Turner, Jaxx, Nicholotti and Herrara, the war with the Klingons had been unavoidable. When it had come, it had lead to millions of senseless deaths including that of his own husband, Eliaan, who was killed during the massacre on Deep Space 6. If it had not been for his career and, more importantly their young son, Kaedyn knew he would not have survived that loss but it was still so raw and he had found himself noticeably harder than he had been before it.:: ::Even now, even in this official setting, as his thoughts returned to his lost love, tears filled his eyes and he struggled to keep his emotions in check. It was a personal loss that allowed him to empathise with the Romulans who had lost so much more than he could imagine when their homeworld had been destroyed. He was interrupted from his morbid thoughts by the approach of a familiar Romulan man from the crowd.:: Sarup: Captain Zehn, it has been a long time. ::A faint smile danced in the eyes of the handsome Starfleet officer, where the uncried tears still remained. Ten years was a long time for most but for a Joined Trill, with more than three centuries of memories rattling around in his head, it sometimes felt like a blink of an eye. As he looked at the Romulan man, first encountered during the Klingon invasion of the Thracian Alliance, it felt like it had only been a few months.:: Zehn: Mr Sarup. You are perhaps the last person I expected to see here. Sarup: I'm part of the diplomatic mission from Thrace. I must admit, I never imagined that either of us would end up here. ::he paused and smiled:: But, I have been assured that my diplomatic status will prevent my former Tal Shiar colleagues from killing me while I am here. ::Only a Romulan, Kaedyn mused, could be so dry on the subject of his own possible assassination. It was yet another indication of the change in the Romulan government that they could welcome a delegation from the Alliance that had included a large number of former Imperial citizens to this event.:: Zehn: I agree it does feel strange to be here but that just goes to show different the Empire is from the one you left. ::An enigmatic look crossed the Romulan man's face, outwardly remaining friendly and diplomatic but there was also a darkness that was hard to pinpoint. For those who had lived in the Romulan Empire it was to be expected that a degree of cynicism would remain. Could that Empire truly change in ten years? The destruction of the moon Praxis had driven the Klingons to peace with the Federation but it had never changed their violent, warlike nature.:: Sarup: Perhaps, Captain. Although, from what I gather we may have already witnessed the high tide of Imperial openness and pacificism. Praetor Charon has built his power upon his ability to work with the Federation and the day when that help is no longer required fast approaches. There are those keen to step into his shoes... ::Unfortunately, Kaedyn had also heard similar rumblings. While not officially an intelligence officer any more, he still had contacts throughout the alpha and beta quadrants who fed him information. Old spies, he knew, never truly retired. After a decade of living in that world, secrets were still second nature to him. As always the Romulan government was riddled with factions and factions within factions. All the intelligence suggested that the Praetor's power was waning. There were two leading candidates to replace him in time, one was an old ally and the other was more troubling.:: Zehn: Senator Varend... ::Sarup beamed and nodded slowly in a mock version of a bow.:: Sarup: I'm glad to see your intelligence skills are not going to waste since you took command of that starship of yours. Yes, the Senator is very much the rising star. Zehn: And what of Vreeya? ::Proconsul Vreeya was, to Kaedyn's mind, the very personification of the new Romulus. He had first encountered more than a decade earlier when she had become a close ally of Admiral Nicholotti. She was intelligent, resourceful, fiercely patriotic and the very model of an inter-stellar stateswoman.:: Sarup: Ah, yes Vreeya. Believe me, Captain, no-one would rather see the magnificent Proconsul rise to the position she deserves than I. Zehn: ::smiling:: Sarup, I believe you are in love ::The Romulan nodded and for a split-second a genuine look of regret crossed his face.:: Sarup: Maybe a long time ago. However, the Proconsul's close relationship with Starfleet and President Creena of Thrace have marked her as something the Romulans have long mis-trusted: a foreigner. I fear when the Praetor falls, Vreeya will also fall. My only hope is that she will manage to escape with her life as she is certainly no ally of Varend. ::Before the Trill could respond, Praetor Charon entered the chamber followed by the Proconsuls and the leading Senators in order of precedence. The audience rose to their feet and applauded politely until the officials were in place. Smiling widely, the Praetor took to the podium and indicated for everyone to take their seats. He made a short speech, mainly thanking the guests for their attendance and discussing the hardships of the past years. It was a speech that seemed more suited to a Federation politician than the leader of the Romulan Empire and as he finished up, Kaedyn worried that Sarup had been right about the coming transition.:: Charon: I hereby declare the New Romulan Senate open ::There was another polite round of applause and people began to stand to head into the reception room when one of the Senators stood.:: Sarup: ::in a low voice:: The famed Senator Varend Varend: If I may say a few words, Praetor... Zehn: ::whispering:: What the hell...? ::A low noise of quiet consternation rippled throughout the crowd. Even with the relative informality of the situation, it was unheard of for a Senator to speak up in such an event unless called upon by the Praetor. By speaking out, Varend was challenging his authority in the most public of ways. Kaedyn held his breath as the Praetor attempted to cover his surprise at the break of protocol.:: Charon: ::nodding:: Very well, Senator. ::Having failed to respond to the challenge, the Praetor had allowed Varend to position himself as a political opponent rather than subordinate. As he the Senator began to speak, it was clear that he was doing so as a powerful usurper. The murmurs died down as the crowd listened to the man who would be king.:: Varend: I want to begin by commending the Praetor for his magnificent work in rebuilding the Empire in these past years ::As the crowd applauded the sentiment politely, Kaedyn glanced at Sarup who was shaking his head slightly. Evidently the Thracian envoy could see the compliment for what it truly was: a political assassination clothed in a smiled. Only a politician of the highest order could pull off such a feat.:: Varend: We have endured many hardships since the destruction of Romulus. The loss of our home, our friends and our family was followed in quick succession by a loss of pride. Our once proud Empire was forced to rely on the kindness of adversaries and tolerate betrayals that would have been unthinkable before... Sarup: ::in a low voice:: I think he means us... Varend: Today, with the dedication of the new Senate chamber on our new homeworld, we reclaim our pride. The time for the new Romulan Empire begins today ::The audience rose to their feet in excitement, applauding and cheering in a way that was uncharacteristic for the usually reserved Romulans. Kaedyn, Sarup and the other non-Romulan guests in the gallery clapped politely but there was a sense of nervousness among them. The Praetor looked crestfallen as Varend began to shake hands with other officials and pointedly avoided him and Proconsul Vreeya who also looked grim. Varend had seized the political initiative in the most dramatic way imaginable.:: Sarup: Did you see who shook his hand first? Admiral Koral Zehn: The Chief of the Imperial General Staff? Sarup: The very same. If he has the power of the military behind him, he will be Praetor by the end of the year and the military build up will start at the same time. When they speak of the next war, they will say it began today. Zehn: ::shaking his head ::Madness Sarup: Perhaps, Captain, perhaps. On the other hand, no-one ever said the Romulan government was sane. ::The Trill's train of thought continued, almost as if Sarup had not spoken. The applause of the crowd had still not abated, it was like watching the terrifying rise of a dictator:: Zehn: After all we've done for them, the Empire would have been overrun by the Klingons if we hadn't helped them Sarup: And that is precisely why they hate you. The Federation is a reminder of their past weakness and to reject you is to ignore that weakness... and to fight you would be to fight those memories. Zehn: The Romulan people have changed since you defected. They've had to change. Sarup: I may have been away for a decade, Captain but I am still Romulan. I know these people; I was these people. War will come. ((Ready Room - USS Turing)) ::Having stayed at the reception for minimum time that diplomacy allowed, Kaedyn had returned to his ship and briefed Starfleet on the shocking events of the day. They had been just as concerned about the situation as he had been and he was authorised to very discretely take the lay of the land on Romulus. As he sat in the ready-room of his Akira-class starship, he pored over every scrap of intelligence on Senator Verand that he could get his hands on.:: ::He was interrupted by the chimes of his door.:: Zehn: Come in ::His intelligence officer, Lt Commander Zak Malik, entered the room. Having been with him since his days in the Black Tower, the handsome human was now a trusted friend as well as an able officer.:: Malik: Captain, we just got word from the surface that Proconsul Vreeya won't be able to meet with you. Zehn: I didn't imagine she would risk being seen consorting with Starfleet after this afternoon but it was worth a try... Malik: Her office did send us this through secure channels, I'm sure you will find it useful ::He handed Kaedyn a PADD and the Trill scanned the Romulan intelligence file on Senator Verand. This was even better than meeting with Vreeya and a slight smile crossed his face.:: Zehn: Indeed. ((Conference Room - USS Turing)) ::With his hands behind his back, Kaedyn stared out of the conference room window at the planet below them. Behind him, Ambassador Sarup examined the intelligence that Vreeya had given them, the intelligence that indicated the very close ties between Senator Verand and the Klingon Empire. No-one knew how accurate the adage of history repeating itself was better than a Trill, throughout the past two hundred years the alliances between the Federation, Romulans and Klingons had shifted frequently. Links between the two Empires had always formed when the Federation was considerably stronger than them both. As was the case now.:: Sarup: We always suspected this but we had no confirmation until now. I will be honest, Captain, this is the worst case scenario for us. ::The Thracian Alliance, made up as it was from breakaway elements of the Romulan and Klingon empires, had relied on the emnity of the two and would certainly be destroyed if it found itself surrounded by a Romulan-Klingon detente. Even though it was a Federation Protectorate, there was little that Starfleet could do to protect her. Kaedyn returned to his chair at the head of the conference table.:: Zehn: So now we have the choice between sitting back and watching two of our enemies rise again or taking a pre-emptive strike while they are still weak. Sarup: Come, Captain, you know that neither your government nor my own would sanction such action. Zehn: Then we have to wait until he becomes Praetor and plunges us back into an intergalactic war? Sarup: There is, of course, a third option... ::Silence filled the room. They had both been in the intelligence business for a long time and Kaedyn knew exactly what he meant.:: Sarup: Why, I wonder, did Starfleet send you on this mission? Was it truly for your diplomatic skills and fame in Romulan circles... ::The Trill nodded.:: Zehn: And why did President Creena send you? Sarup: I'd imagine for the same reason. You may be a Captain now and I may be an Ambassador but we're just two old spies, Zehn. Zehn: If we assassinate a member of the Romulan Senate then war is inevitable... Sarup: Only if someone finds out. If, for example, it appeared that the Praetor had the Senator killed then it would clear the way for Proconsul Vreeya to take charge... Zehn: Even if it was as easy as that to do, it would also be illegal in both the Federation and Thracian Alliance Sarup: ::snapping:: Don't be so naive, Captain! We're talking about the death of one man to prevent a war. ::There was a long silence as Kaedyn considered his options. Sarup was, of course, correct that preventing another war was of paramount concern. Still, unlike many of their shared profession, Kaedyn had never allowed himself to cross the line that Sarup was now suggesting.:: Sarup: Think about what I have said, Captain. One way or another, this will happen. I have a greater chance of succeeding with your help. ::Without an adequate response, Kaedyn rose to his feet and straightened his uniform.:: Zehn: Thank you for joining me, Ambassador. I am late for dinner with my son... I'll be in touch ((New Romulus, three days later)) ::As far as anyone knew, the USS Turing's captain was onboard as she left Romulan space and the Ambassador had left with the Thracian delegation. Between the two of them, Zehn and Sarup knew enough tricks of the trade to make it discretely onto New Romulus without detection. That, it had turned out, was the easy part. Evidently, the Romulans had made sure to include their usual paranoid security aparatus to their new home.:: ::With a biodampening unit keeping his Trill life-signs suppressed, Kaedyn found himself waiting in the safe house of a Thracian spy. Thracian Intelligence were active on the planet and he could have left Sarup to lead this himself but he was still secretly hoping there would be a way around it. Vreeya's intelligence showed evidence that could be used to blackmail the Senator, particularly his illegal intelligence gathering for the Klingons. In truth, Verand was little more than a Klingon puppet and while Sarup was determined to kill him, Kaedyn believed he could be turned.:: ::A plan was in place, with the assistance of the pro-Federation faction in the Senate Sarup had been able to organise access to the security protocols for the Senate offices. When they were confident the Senator was alone in his office, the security network would be dropped and they would beam in. The signal came that everything was in place and Kaedyn wrapped a hooded cloak around him and grabbed a disruptor. As they stepped into position, he adjusted the beam setting.:: Sarup: Are you ready, Captain? ::He thought of his son, he was only twelve and had already lost both of his biological parents and Eliaan. He didn't deserve to become an orphan again but it was for him that Kaedyn was committed to this course of action. He had to prevent the war and if he was lucky, he could do so without being killed himself.:: Zehn: Ready Sarup: Well, we'll know if we're going to be successful or not very soon. ::Gripping his weapon tightly, Kaedyn took a deep breath as he dematerialised, not knowing what to expect next. They rematerialised in the officer and Senator Verand leapt out of his chair, evidently shocked and afraid.:: Verand: Who are you? ::Kaedyn pulled his hood down, revealing his Trill forehead.:: Zehn: Captain Kaedyn Zehn Verand: ::with a wry smile:: What do you want, Captain? You must know you won't get off this planet if you fire that weapon. Zehn: I only want to prevent a war, Senator. Sarup: What are you doing, Zehn? Take the [...]ed shot! ::Holding the disruptor up, his gloved hand shaking visibly, Kaedyn tensed the muscles in his jaw to stop his lip from quivering with nerves. With a sharp movement, he turned and fired at Sarup. The Thracian fell to the floor, stunned but not dead. Kaedyn turned the weapon back to Verand.:: Zehn: Senator, we need to talk... END. Lieutenant Kaedyn Zehn Intelligence Officer USS Vigilant
  14. Remember that February is the time to enter our special Writing Improvement Month Challenge! Rules and guidelines are posted below, but be sure to follow the link in order to enter! The general 118 Challenge has had its deadline pushed back to March in order to make room for this special Challenge. -- Welcome to UFOP: StarBase 118′s first open Writing Challenge! We encourage you to enter this month-long contest with your story, and join a competition that has existed within our group for almost ten years. The topic for this challenge is “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Details & Rules The challenge is accepting submissions from Friday, February 1st to Saturday, February 23rd. Results will be announced by February 28th. Please observe the following rules for your submission: Your work must SciFi-focused, but does not have to be Star Trek themed.Your work must be completely original.You must be the work’s sole author.The story cannot exceed 3000 words. (You can use this tool to check the length of your submission.) Prize The winner will receive this awesome t-shirt in their size! If you don’t want that, there are tons of other prizes available, up to $25 value, not including shipping. Prizes only available to residents of the United States. If you’re not a resident of the United States, but you win the contest, will receive a cash prize of $25 US via PayPal. Submit Your Entry To submit your entry, click here to open the submission form. For any questions you might have, please email Capt. Nicholotti and Capt. Aron Kells at wim2013-challenge@starbase118.net. Good luck!
  15. The stars sparkled brilliantly overhead, their cold light crystal clear in the thin atmosphere of the world on which they stood. A sharp, cold wind blew, ruffling hair and heavy fabric meant to ward off the chill. Two figures stood upon a hill overlooking a plain, sillouhetted against the glowing horizon that heralded the coming of the sun. "I admit it, I never thought I’d see it happen.” One of the figures said. Her dark hair flowed down to the sharply squared shoulders of a heavy jacket that narrowed to a trim waist, padded trousers and high boots with gleaming buckles. "May I enquire as to the reason for your doubt?” The other asked. Tall and spare, clad in heavy, flowing robes embroidered with geometric patterns. He turned to look at his companion, the growing light outlining sharp features. She met his gaze for a moment, her frown stark against the light of promised dawn, before she looked once more out over the valley below. “Because it faced so much opposition; from both sides.” She said plainly. So much so that it was a miracle it had come to pass; perhaps it said something about those determined few who had argued for it. "Yet it was the most logical and expedient solution.” He pointed out, followed her gaze. Below them on the dry plain squatted an orderly collection of pre-fab buildings arranged around a central space which was currently occupied by a large variety of crates containing all those things the new colony would need to get established. The buildings were furnished and ready for habitation, and beyond them fields had been mapped out for farming. "Not everyone’s as fething obsessed with logic as you people.” The woman grumbled. “Indeed, yet logic has the advantage of being undeniable.” Her companion pointed out, a dry tone in his voice. “’You can agree with me, or you can be wrong’ eh?” She paraphrased. “You have no idea how annoying that gets.” He didn’t deign to respond. They watched the sun crest the distant hills in silence until her communicator sprang to life. *\/* “Subcommander Tayel to Commandant Loran.” *\/* She activated her communicator. *\/* “Loran here, are we on schedule?” *\/* *\/* “Yes ma’am. The first transport shuttles are dropping out of orbit now. ETA on Outpost One is 08:75 local time.” *\/* *\/*”Understood. I will meet the shuttles.” *\/* *\/* “Yes ma’am. Tayel out.” *\/* As the communication ended a small dot became visible above the horizon, against the light of the morning sun. It was shortly followed by several more. “Well, this is it, there’s no turning back. No second thoughts, Ambassador Saveron?” She asked her taller companion. The growing light from the rising sun cast shadows off the V-shaped ridge above her upturned brows, highlighted a pointed ear and warmed her sallow skin. “None, Commandant.” Her pale faced companion confirmed. They spoke an ancient language his people called Traditional Golic Vulcan. Now primarily a ritual language it was never the less the only tongue they truly had in common, and had become a lingua franca in the negotiations. He considered her question before raising one upswung brow. “Should there be?” He asked, curious. The freezing wind picked up, stirring his dark hair and nipping at his pointed ears until he raised the cowl of his robes. “There are plenty of people who would baulk at having their ancient enemies as their neighbours.” She pointed out, a dark amusement in her tone. Beneath her boots the dry rock crunched and crumbled as she shifted her weight; the cold air didn't bother her as much. “You were never our enemies. The Star Empire made war with the Federation at times certainly, but Romulans and Vulcans are ‘two sides of the same coin’,” that was an expression he’d picked up from spending too much time around aliens, “we are kin.” The Commandant of the new Romulan colony snorted. “There are plenty of people on both sides who would hate to hear you say that.” Saveron shrugged. “There is no logical reason to perpetuate disagreement for it’s own sake. Your people were in need of a new homeworld; t’Khut was already being terraformed.” The course of action had been logical, at least to some. Alas that even amongst a people who prided themselves on their adherance to reason, there were those who could not let go of old wounds. She snorted and stalked off down the slope of the hill towards the settlement. “It was being terraformed by Vulcans for Vulcans; there were plenty in the Vulcan High Council who didn’t want to give it up, didn't want us living in the same system.” She pointed out. It was all working too well, surely there had to be a catch somewhere. She had an instinct for upcoming trouble and it was telling her it would be there in spades. Both of them were breathing noticeably in the very thin air, although given the greater oxygen affinity of cuproglobin they could both compensate acceptably. Any red-blooded visitor to t’Khut would require tri-ox injections or an oxygen mask until the atmosphere thickened. It was enough that the first hardly Romulan souls could make planetfall. “The alternative would have been accepting you as refugees onto t’Khasi, and other Federation worlds.” He pointed out, using his people’s name for their own planet. “Would you have found that preferable?” He enquired. “Scattering the remaining Romulans across Federation space until we lose our cultural identity? We could never have condoned that.” Loran shook her head. “There are plenty who say that we should not condone this.” She said, gesturing around them. "Indeed. You could, of course, settle on a planet outside of the Federation.” Saveron pointed out evenly as they walked, their footfalls waking little puffs of dust from the dry ground. “And be picked off slowly by the Klingons, the Breen and whoever else sought to take advantage of the catastrophe?” Loran retorted. “That’s not much of a choice.” And that was what those of her people who did not desire to go down in a blaze of glory had needed to face. “Yet it is a choice, one which you have been free to make.” The Vulcan responded placidly. “Freedom to choose includes taking responsibility for the consequences of your choices.” It was an aspect of freedom that some preferred to forget. “Here you are safe, you may gather as many refugees as you will, and providing that you adhere to the laws of the Federation you may construct your society as you see fit.” “There are many who will not want to have anything to do with the Federation; who blame your people for not stopping the destruction of Romulus.” She said darkly. “I cannot comment on the issue.” And he would not. He hadn’t been on Vulcan when he decision to send the red matter ship had been made. The Romulans claimed the Vulcans could have sent the ship sooner; the Vulcan High Council maintained that it was a miracle that they had the appropriate technology at all and if the Romulans hadn’t been so busy expanding their Empire they might have turned their attention to defusing the stellar bomb sitting on their doorstep. All couched in appropriately logical and diplomatic terms, of course. It was an argument that Saveron, well aware of Loran’s penchant for playing Devil’s Advocate, did not care to get into. There were still remnants of the Romulan Star Empire causing trouble beyond Federation space, determined to live in remembered glory and make their mark out there somewhere. But there were just as many who preferred not to go down fighting, who chose a chance to live and raise their children in peace. For all her internal conflict and the conflict of her people, Loran was one of them. “It’s going to be strange, seeing Yel and t’Khasi in the sky.” She commented idly. Yel rising was a sight her people hadn’t seen for two thousand years. “The ice asteroids will continue to be brought, won’t they?” She asked suddenly. If the mining droids stopped bringing the life-giving water, the colonists would be doomed. “All terraforming efforts will continue as per the accelerated schedule.” Saveron assured her. T’Khut was the smaller, cooler twin of t’Khasi or Ti'Valka'ain to use the ancestral term; the planet that aliens called Vulcan. It had been a Class G world with a thin, carbon-dioxide atmosphere that the massive algal tanks fed with asteroid ice water were converting rapidly into oxygen and sugars that could be used as a food source. Hardy plants from a variety of sources were beginning to be established by the environmental engineers, and a precious few Romulan plant specimens were housed in a large glass-house laboratory until such time as they could be introduced into the environment. Over time the water would keep arriving, the atmosphere would thicken and the world would warm. It would be a temperate world, much like Romulus had been, one day. He wondered whether it would be possible to ever fully satisfy Loran’s suspicious nature. “The water reservoir for Settlement One has been completed and tested. The asteroid processing and water tanker station is in orbit and will be turned over to Romulan control once sufficient staff have been trained in it’s usage. Survival supplies have been provided, and industrial replicators are inbound on the next equipment shipment, along with further agricultural and building supplies.” Saveron ticked off the most recent developments. “You may do with them what you will.” “What we will.” Loran echoed as they reached the level ground at the foot of the hill. “Will we really be left to our own devices? To live as we have lived?” She asked him. “We left for a reason; we will not become Vulcans!” She insisted! There were many who maintained this was a front by the Vulcans for a staged cultural assimilation. “Affirmative. Romulan culture is now endangered and must be preserved. You may control who does and does not enter your world. As a people you have as much right to freedom, peace and prosperity as any other.” He replied. “There are many who wouldn’t agree.” She pointed out. Plenty of people and indeed whole species had reason to hate the Romulans. Again Saveron shrugged. “This is not their system.” He said in turn. The decision had not been one made by the Federation as a whole – though they had condoned it. Since the planet with within Vulcan space, the act of gifting it had belonged to the High Council. Reparation for past wrongs perhaps? Or one step towards cultural assimilation, as Loran feared? “There are plenty of Vulcans who wouldn’t agree either.” She insisted. “Why did you champion our cause?” She asked suddenly, curious, turning to look at him. He gave her a long, thoughtful look from grey eyes. “Because I believe that all sentient life has the right to exist, to live and to grow, in accordance with it’s own mores and free from fear or persecution. Because one cannot hold an entire race accountable for the actions of a few of it’s members. Because, if the tables were turned, I would want the same to be done for us.” He told her honestly. It still didn’t make sense to Loran, raised in a militaristic society. “Don’t you worry that we could become a threat to you?” She asked as, in the near distance, the first refugee transport touched down on t’Khut soil at the edge of the settlement. Saveron stopped where they stood, not intending to enter the new settlement at this time. He wondered for a moment whether Loran's people would ever trust his, and whether they would ever be trusted in turn. However he refused to be drawn on any personal concerns. “We are protected by Federation treaty.” The Vulcan replied simply. “This world will prove challenging enough for you that you will not need to seek challenge beyond. It is not a kind world, but it is livable.” Much like t’Kashi itself. Lorna snorted and shook her head, took a few steps further then paused and looked around her, taking in the dusty hills, the pre-fabbed settlement and the first settlers disembarking. “I still don’t understand why you did it.” She called back. “There’s two thousand years of bad blood between our peoples. If the tables had been turned we would not have done the same!” Saveron regarded her solemnly for a moment, looked over at the new settlers and back again to Loran. “That is, perhaps, the greatest reason why we did.”
  16. Chen

    The Cost of Failure

    “The Cost of Failure” A vivid flower of flame-tinged gold blossomed from the bed of dull metal that was suspended in the view screen. It was an oddly compelling sight; the sudden contrast of light bursting from relative darkness bound their gazes and rendered them silent. Only when further eruptions twisted through the dull metal construct did time resume as the first of the cheers broke through the silence, the bridge mirroring in sound the deed of the satellite that they watched in jubilation. They were the crew of the USS Vigilant and they had successfully completed their mission. Stardate 240001.15 It had been almost ten years to the day that the present journey had begun. Every officer could break their career down into a series of such voyages, most coinciding with their placement aboard a new vessel or outpost. For many on the Vigilant, that journey had spanned a decade. They had shared each other’s losses and revelled in each other’s successes. Above and beyond all else, in the estimation of Captain Diego Herrera, they had given of their all to protect the citizens of the United Federation of Planets through the most turbulent period of recorded history. It had started shortly after the Vigilant’s construction on the Zakdorn homeworld. The crew’s first mission had concluded with the successful aversion of Zakdorn IV’s secession from the Federation and the Vigilant had launched, hoping to act as a stabilising factor on the outermost edge of the UFoP’s Beta Quadrant colonies. For a while, they were. However, not even the Zakdorn master-strategists could have predicted what was happening behind the closed borders of Zalkon, scant light-years away. Fired into hostility by zealot rhetoric, they poured from their corner of the quadrant in impossibly fast destroyers, expanding their power and influence with ease and overriding what little resistance the Federation had to offer. In response, the Zakdorn wasted no time in switching sides, allying with the Klingons before the final unfortunate and [...]ing twist of fate. It had been a dark day indeed when the Zalkonians and Klingons had declared their alliance, and with Zakdorn tacticians to guide their hand, the greatest threat the Federation had ever faced was born. Never before had Federation colonies fallen so swiftly and, as the blue portion of the galactic map was forced into recession, casualties of record proportions were recorded. The Federation was on the ropes. The doors to the ready room hissed open. Head jerking towards the door, Captain Herrera quickly recognised Lieutenant Paulsen, his ever present PADD tucked under his arm. The captain’s expectant look served as acknowledgement enough for him to begin delivering his report. “Sir, the destruction of the communications relay is confirmed.” The report seemed superfluous, given that Diego had seen it with his own eyes, but recent experiences had taught them all that looks could be deceptive. The Lieutenant continued, “We’ve received an encoded transmission from Starbase 118 that I thought you’d like to see.” The war-weary CO nodded his thanks. “I’ll take a look at it now. Thankyou, Will.” Blinking his attention back to the screen, he refocused on the same puzzle that he had been looking at for the last few years. On one side of his monitor ran 11 sequences of numbers and symbols, representing a tau protein and its encoding exons. On the other, a political map of Federation space, which now extended no further north than Starbase 118, a veritable bastion that as yet had proved impossible for the Zalkonian Alliance to crack. His mind was torn between the two puzzles so perfectly that he found it impossible to view them one at a time. On the right hand side of his monitor he had met with some success in viewing the invading force as a biological agent and attempting to anticipate its response to treatment and head it off, before it could take hold elsewhere. On the left he made slower progress; the latest iteration of the display represented a possible key to the reversal and regeneration of his father’s frontal and temporal lobes as they degenerated progressively as a cause of his dementia. One war was public, shared by those on his crew and those of the other commanding officers now based at the third fleet’s headquarters. The other was internal, private and excruciating. Tearing himself away from his ongoing quandary, he studied the message from headquarters. The Vigilant’s actions had helped the second taskforce, led by the Tiger and the Thunder, to a victory as they defended the ‘northern’ border from a combined Zalkonian and Klingon assault. The Apollo and Discovery were holding a secondary wave of ships in check along the Klingon border with the third taskforce. An addendum indicated that the Victory stood point with a defensive fleet at Starbase 118, prepared and ready to defend themselves against a counter-attack from phase-cloaked vessels. Such tactics had led to the fall of Starbase 173, the upgraded stealth technology just one of the many spoils from the eradication of the tattered Romulan Star Empire. The Vigilant’s newly-reported status also appeared in the communiqué; they were now acting on orders to rendezvous with taskforce one. Fleet Admiral Nechayev had laid out detailed plans for a counteroffensive in the last command meeting aboard the starbase and, despite objections from Fleet Admiral Wolf, had insisted in committing a sizeable reserve of ships to the effort. Their target was to be a shipyard that had been constructed some two years ago in the Luxis system. Destroying the communications satellite had given them the rarest window of opportunity in which to strike. Many of the captains had been in agreement with Nechayev; the chance to mount an offensive after being pressed back so hard and for so many years striking a chord with them. Some had been more reserved. Irrespective of their reactions, every piece now stood on Nechayev’s board exactly where she wanted it, ready to press home her advantage. Closing the report, his screen returned to its bifurcated display. Eyes left and he considered something new. The condition from which his father was suffering was believed to be caused by a mutated gene that produced an overabundance of tau proteins, leading to degradation of neuron function. For a long time now he had been considering ways in which to inhibit the production of those proteins but the problem was so deep-seated that it was incorporated into his father’s DNA. Resequencing had been tried, to no effect; the problem had reasserted itself after a matter of weeks. Eyes right and he remembered to check the chronometer. The time for the rendezvous was fast approaching. His first officer was more than capable of handling it but it didn’t seem right for the commanding officer to be hidden away in his ready room at the start of such an important operation. Whatever else was happening, the crew needed to see him sat in the centre seat. As another famous captain had once asserted, you had to be “larger than life” for the crew and that was just how he would play this out. The bridge was quiet. Only the infrequent chirp of a readout or keystroke punctuated the assiduous atmosphere. The carpeted floor muffled the sound of Diego’s footsteps as he approached his command chair. His Laudean first officer moved across to his own station, a well-rehearsed response to the captain’s appearance from his ready room. Both men were former counsellors and had been trained to be observant; as the retractable centre-mounted command console began to rotate into position, it became clear that Greir Reinard was by now quite used to Diego’s obsession with that same display. It had been easy to pass off as a minor side-effect of wartime stress. All of the crew had presented various low-level symptoms over the years but they were managing them, keeping them in check. The numerical nature of the protein display had initially been presented as such so that Reinard, who had majored in Psychology and Counselling at the academy, might not identify it immediately. He was a resourceful, intelligent man and a good friend. Most likely, he knew what the series of numbers meant by now but if he didn't then it was only a matter of time. “Open a channel to the USS Beaufighter. We have an old friend to check in with.” Strictly speaking, it would have been wrong to attribute an emotion to the computer’s resultant tone but if Diego hadn’t known any better he could have sworn it sounded irritated. He waited for an explanation from Hanson at Ops. “We’re unable to raise them, sir. Shall I contact Engineering and report the problem?” There were a few instantly explicable reasons for their failure to communicate. It was possible that comms silence was being preserved as a means of preventing the enemy from listening in on their intentions. Had there been a serious issue with the ship’s comm-system, it would have been flagged up already on Hanson’s console. “No,” replied the captain, calmly, “Dueld and Kael will have enough to do when we cross over into Zalkonian space. We’ll try again when we’re at closer range.” He shot a resigned look over to his Laudean friend, his rich-blue pigmented forehead accentuated by the furrow currently in his brow. “I guess we’ll just have to wave at Leo through a viewport.” The light-hearted comment was fresh air to the bridge crew. Half a conversation later, they arrived at the rendezvous co-ordinates, the prominent figures of the Achilles and Avandar at the head of a column of ships. As Lieutenant Commander Fox brought them into position alongside the Mercury, Diego looked once more at his screen. Something was tugging at the back of his mind but he was unable to force the thought to coalesce into something tangible. Shaking it off, he called for contact with the Beaufighter once again. He expected that Leo Handley-Page’s indefatigably chipper attitude would lift spirits considerably more. The briefest of calls proved him right and the comm-system functional. All questions about its reliability were answered moments later when a call from the Achilles informed them that there were ten minutes remaining before the operation was to begin. There was definitely something forming in Diego’s mind… if only he could catch it. Drawn as if chasing a will o’ wisp, he tried to follow it, looking under one set of thoughts and behind another. His eyes focused on the right hand side of his display. The sandbar. He had served at the Embassy before. The Luxis system was his first officer’s home. For Greir, this was a chance to liberate his people from Zalkonian occupation and he had a personal stake in its success. The more he thought about it, the more the sandbar played on his mind. It turned the Luxis system into a cul-de-sac, allowing entry and egress from only one direction. Unless the Zalkonians were constructing phasing cloaks in that system, or at the very least stockpiling them there, it was going to be very easy for the taskforce to pin down any enemy ships and destroy them before moving on to their intended target. Even though they had needed to remove the communications relay, which served as an early-warning system, in order to make the strike, what if the Zalkonians had developed the technology to navigate the sandbar? That turned an easy win for Starfleet into an ambush. There would be no way to get a clear reading on exactly how many vessels lay in wait for them. Rising from his seat, Diego turned to face the Ops station with a calm, clear instruction. “Hanson, contact Fleet Captain Turner aboard the Thunder.” She was close enough to that area of space that she might be able to help him rationalise his concern. Her officers had navigated the sandbar a hundred times. She had even taken Britta Daysa and her children aboard ship during the evacuation of Duronis II at the Prime Minister’s request, although by the time a fielder entered range of the sandbar, the ship they were on would be too close to escape a surprise attack. A frustrated shake of Hanson’s head indicated another lack of success. “I’m sorry, sir… we’re unable to get through. There’s nothing wrong with the comm.” Scenarios played through Diego’s mind. Had the Thunder been destroyed? He couldn’t very well proceed under that assumption and instead followed his training. “We’re obviously not under comms silence and we couldn’t have contacted the Beaufighter if our signals were being jammed. What could be stopping us from communicating long range?” Hanson puffed his cheeks as a precursor to a sharp expulsion of breath. He was noncommittal as he listed random phenomena from the top of his head. “A problem with the subspace antenna, a flotilla of ships generating a jamming frequency at range, any one of hundreds of subspace anomalies including a subspace disturbance, rift… you name… Sir?” Diego stood looking at him, but his eyes were seeing that display once again. He didn’t need to consult his monitor to know that once taskforce one began to move, it would create a narrow corridor through which phase-cloaked ships could avoid the scant detection grids that Starfleet had managed to erect. And that path led straight to Starbase 118. The Zalkonians had no shipyard at Luxis. This was a ruse, calculated by Zakdorn strategists, that had taken years to come into fruition. They were going to launch a massive assault on the starbase then turn and annihilate the remainder of the third fleet before they could reunite into one cohesive unit. There was no question that Nicholotti and the Victory would give them a hell of a show when they arrived but the recent pattern of assaults indicated that they would be facing insurmountable odds. Even with the Victory’s formidable war record, no-one could be expected to fight against eight to one odds, or worse. About to take action, Diego found himself frozen in place as the left side of the display muscled its way into the equation. Target the source and destroy all resistance before it has a chance to develop into a problem. That was it! A combination of DNA resequencing with the introduction of a michrochemical agent to inhibit serine and threonine phosphorylation could halt the progression of his father’s frontotemporal dementia. Maybe not reverse it, but… There was a hand on his forearm. Greir Reinard was standing alongside him. Had he just spoken his name? A chronometer on the view screen showed that the ten minute countdown was well underway. He didn’t have time to stand around thinking about cures while there was so much at stake. It would have to wait. Clearing his throat and turning back towards the view screen, he regained his composure. “Mr. Hanson, I think you’d better open a channel to the taskforce.” ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The ready room was in darkness. Silhouetted against a backdrop of ornaments and personal possessions by the light of his monitor, Captain Herrera stared on. The unified display was uncomfortable and difficult to process; he kept glancing to one side as though there was more to see. But there wasn’t. He had read through the same schedule on autopilot for hours. Since the Vigilant had docked at the Starbase after its successful defence and the reception of a communiqué from Santander, Earth, he had elected to remain concealed there. Commander Reinard’s concern had been clear when Diego had asked not to be disturbed. And yet, there it was as plain as day. A debrief for all commanding officers with Fleet Admirals Wolf and Nechayev, no more than two hours away. There was cause for celebration, of course. Fleet Captain Mar’s taskforce had arrived back at Starbase 118 in time to lend Captain Nicholotti some timely reinforcement. The return of the second and third taskforces had then tipped the scales. And while good people had been lost, while there were memorial speeches to be written, the name of one man turned a narrow escape and a priceless victory into the most bitter defeat of them all. Carlos Herrera. A ten year game had finally met its resolution. He had held the means to victory in his hand but his feet had been too slow to carry it across the finish line. Millions would no doubt benefit from his discovery, as was always the case with a new medical breakthrough, but it was too late. Such was the cost of failure. Captain Diego Herrera Commanding Officer USS Vigilant NCC-75515    
  17. White glittering diamonds. That was the first thought slipping through the young boy's mind when he stepped outside the new house, his father had bought on this strange planet called Earth. Last year at this time, actually not even two months ago, they had been on their home world Qo'noS, but after his mother died, his father wanted to honour her life with returning to her home world, so the boy would learn from her roots from those who knew more about it than himself. G'Tok stood now in front of the door, looking up into the sky where soft bright flakes slowly floated down to join their brothers already spread all over the landscape like a white blanket. He had never seen anything like this before, but if his teacher was right, this was snow. He did not know Mister Finnegan that long, but he was human and therefore surely would know this stuff. G'Tok held his little hand out and watched how the flakes landed on his slightly tanned skin, a mix of his Klingon father and his human mother. The flakes were really cold and melted right away, so after just a few moments he held a small puddle of water in his palm. A curious thing, he thought to himself, this snow must be weak, otherwise it would not allow the heat of his hand to melt it. The 6 year old boy dropped his hand, the drops trickling down his fingers until the last one met the glittering snow beneath. Crunching sounds accompanied his steps, the cool air filling his lungs as he left the front yard. Behind the hill he could see the high buildings of the city, swarmed by shuttles like a wasp nest. It would just be a few minutes to be in a complete different world. But something pulled him back into this one, something hit his shoulder and he turned around with a deep growl, just to see a girl from his class giggle, a ball of white something in front of his feet. He crouched and raised it. "What is that?" "A snowball dummy, never seen one?" She laughed and hunkered down to make a new one, while he wondered how that weak fluffy stuff could make something that hard. His mind putting one and one together and the next moment he threw his arm back and catapulted the snowball into the girl, who fell back on her behind and looked at him with big eyes. "Whoa!" she exclaimed. And just a moment later, they both threw snowballs at each other, the air filled with laughter. G'Tok thought that this was all going quite well for him and he would make his father proud of fighting with her like that, but then she got up from the snowy street and brushed the remains of their battle from her jacket. "I've got to go. Santa will come soon to bring presents and I shouldn't miss it." Raising her hand for a wave she turned and ran along the street to her home, just a few houses away. Santa. That was a name G'Tok had heard before, from his teacher. But nobody had explained who that mysterious person was. Seeing the girl vanish in her house, he realized that he had no idea what her name was, but who could remember all those new things at once? Looking over the shoulder to his own house, he pushed his hands into the pockets of his jacket and stumped back to it. Carrying the snow inside he stormed though the house into the back, where his father was cutting some wood, for a new figurine he wanted to create. His father liked to make little wooden statues of Klingon Heroes and tell stories about them to G'Tok. That taught him about his roots, well at least the one side. "Dad! Dad!" he shouted out, the thick boots stomped over the wooden planks and slithered the last few meters, leaving wet marks before stopping in front of the tall hunk of Klingon, working on the wood turning lathe with a surprising gentleness. "Who is Santa?" The sound of the rotating wood meeting the cutting tool stopped and Molagh turned his head to the boy. "Where did you hear that name?" "A girl of my class, she said that he comes and brings presents and that she can't miss it!" G'Tok felt the big hand petting his small head. "That's right boy. There will be dire consequences if she does." The deep voice vibrated in the boy's chest and his eyes grew full of curiosity. "Why?" he barely whispered and looked up to his father, as if he held the key to all the secrets of the world in his hands. "Come, let us sit and I will tell you the story of the mightiest warrior of them all." he grumbled in his usual voice, stomping through the door into the living room. G'Tok followed right away, peeling out of his thick coat. "But you said Kahless was the mightiest!" "Oh yes he is, but when the winter comes, around this day the 24th of December, even Kahless fears the judgement of Santa Claus." Sinking down into the big leather armchair in front of the fireplace he leaned back, watching his son dropping onto the ground in front of him, crossing his legs and eyeing him with such an innocence and inquisitiveness in his look that he almost could not hide his smile. "Many many eons ago a man wandered this planet, he was happy and content, and celebrated every day as if it were his last. His wife and children loved him and he believed to be the most blessed person alive. Then one long winter's night the enemy fell into his home town." The boy gasped and Molagh waved his arms as if fighting with his blade. "They slaughtered and murdered everyone living they could find, among them Santa's whole family. The only reason Santa was spared was that he had been in a different city to buy presents for his children. When he came back, the smell of death and blood filled his lungs, he found his wife on the living room floor just like this one, right where you are sitting now, covered in her own blood and those of her children." Gasping G'Tok looked around the ground as if he could see her. "His children were not to be found, and in his rage he took the big sword laying on the ground, left by the enemy to mock him and swore to himself to find his kids. He headed out, searching land in and out for the enemies who stole his life. When he found a camp he sought his revenge and killed everyone of them with their own blade. His coat of fur soaked by their blood warmed him in the cold winter night. When every single one of the murderous enemies were dead he still could not find his child and began to search the whole Earth for them. Whenever he found an enemy camp he climbed onto the roof of the assembly hall and slid in through the chimney for the element of surprise. But because he was a good and hard working man, he did not just take all their lives, because it could be that those men and women had sworn off the bad deeds. So he began to ask them first if they had been good or bad this year.." G'Tok leaned forward, his mouth and eyes wide open, and slightly bounced up and down. "What happened if they were good?" "Then he would reward it with a little gift. Nothing too big, just a coin to show his appreciation of their good ways. But if they were bad, they felt his blade. But after many years he had searched the whole planet, and still could not find his children, so he asked a witch to help him fabricate a vessel that could bring him to other worlds and she bewitched a sleigh, that could not only fly him anywhere he wanted but also visit all those places in one single night." G'Tok's eyes grew and grew, every now and then he looked to the fireplace, wondering if that warrior would visit them as well and what exactly would count as bad to be punished by him. "Did he find his children yet?" he asked with a quiet voice, before looking back up to his father. Molagh shook his head, his long wavy hair swaying from side to side. Leaning forward his face came close to his son's, so he could lower his voice. "No, my boy. He still looks for them. He once reached the end of the galaxy and for each planet he searched he put a bell on his magical sleigh. When he flies through the sky, the bell jingle can be heard through the night, and all over the galaxy this sound shakes the bones of the strongest and bravest warriors, of the most ruthless and heartless men, knowing that the warrior will come, whose blade took endless lives and whose clothes are soaked with the blood of the naughty." The last words were merely a whisper and G'Tok swallowed hard. "Can... one fight him?" he asked and Molagh grinned, proud that his little son would ask such a question. "You can try, but you have not been a bad boy this year, have you?" "I think so, but I don't know what he thinks is naughty. Maybe throwing those snowballs at the girl hasn't been nice." Molagh couldn't help but laugh and slapped his thigh before raising from his chair. He walked up to the wall at the side, decorated by his Bat'leth. In front of it was a smaller case, uncovered so everyone could have access, as it was normal in the house of a warrior. And in that case was a Mek'leth he pulled out of the holding. Turning to his son he stretched out his arm. "Take this. If he comes and you see him raising his blade, you will be able to stab it into his big belly." G'Tok jumped to his feet and hurried to his father, taking the blade out of his hand. He looked at it with big eyes and nodded with a proud face up to Molagh. "I will make you proud father!" And the older man did not have any doubt of that. Later this night, G'Tok put the Mek'leth under the pillow of his bed and looked out of the window. It was still snowing and slowly the lights of the houses around went off, leaving the white landscape in a peaceful glow, though he knew that this peace was only an illusion. Laying down he knew, that this night he would come, the most feared warrior of them all and he had to convince him that he'd been good. Just when his eyes closed and he drifted into sleep, the jingle of the sleigh's bells started to fill the winter night...
  18. And so we've come to the end of our Writing Challenges for 2012! I'm pleased to bring you the results of our last Challenge of the year: The winner of the Challenge for December is Jalana Laxyn, with her story "The mightiest warrior of them all." Our runner-up -- who's new to the group! -- is Brayden Jorey, with his "Sentimental Value." Thank you to everyone who participated for continuing to submit your best work! We'll see you in 2013 with a new Challenge. Be ready! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Lieutenant Commander Velana, and Captain Diego Herrera.
  19. Welcome, my friends, to the last Writing Challenge of 2012. It's been quite a ride this year: The Challenges saw a facilitator change, the addition of several judges to the rotating pool, our first one-month contests, our first collaborative contests with Ongoing Worlds (in July and in November), and our first alternate form contest (in August, with flash fiction, poetry, and free-form options). I hope to be able to bring you even more in 2013, but for now, let's look at closing out this year. The December Challenge will again be a monthlong Challenge, and in it, I ask you to consider the place of belief systems in Star Trek's future. Contemporarily, December is a month of holy days for many religions, but I'd like you to consider the question of religion and spirituality in the future context. Sure, we've seen the Bajorans and their Prophets, the Klingons' Sto-Vo-Kor, and the Vortas' belief in the Founders' godhood, but what else is out there? For example, when I designed my character (Aron Kells), I created for him a spiritual system based upon a quasi-concept deity called "the Architect." This was in direct response to an astrophysicist I worked with at the time; she was brilliant and dynamic, but she also followed strictly one of the strongest faith doctrines I've ever encountered. I thought the combination was intriguing, and thus my character was born. But what of yours? Is there a spiritual side to any of the characters for which you write? Or perhaps you could take a look into the unexplored spiritualities of the Romulans -- or the Ferengi -- or the Borg? Whatever you choose, be sure to craft a compelling story for the final contest of 2012! The deadline for this Challenge is December 26th (Boxing Day)! That gives you 26 shopping days to come up with something good, so begin thinking now. 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, Saturday, December 1st, this Challenge is open. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  20. But what do you believe in? Cadet Arden Cain had long since forgotten that the training mission that he, four other cadets and a Lieutenant Commander, was on had gone horribly wrong. Or at least that was how Arden saw the mission, he could never really tell though when it came to the motives of the Academy instructors. What should have been a routine re-supply mission suddenly and violently become refresher course in survival. As it happened, a Romulan Warbird attacked the cadet’s shuttle on their way back to base. How they survived the initial attack Arden could only guess. What he did know however was that soon thereafter the group landed their battered shuttle on a devastated space station, which made Arden wonder how it was still in one piece, to affect repairs and hide till they could be rescued or escape safely. The station itself was abandoned and so provided a safe haven with tolerable atmosphere. It clearly wasn’t the best hole to hide in but it would do Arden thought. Considering the state that the space station was in Arden wasn’t just sitting around waiting to be rescued instead he was working on repairing the shuttle. Even Arden’s supervisor, Lieutenant Commander Eve Harrington, recognized that it was their best chance at survival but it was also a way to keep Arden preoccupied. After two days and dodging many attempts by the Romulans to be located, the cadets were all on edge and even the Commander’s usually icy exterior was melting under the strain. Being the only engineer in the group Arden couldn’t help but feel the expectations of the other cadets as the third day began and crept by slowly. Joined by a male Vulcan science cadet named T’Bol and a female Bajoran operations cadet who went by the name of Rista, Arden laid on his back with his head inside one of the shuttles control consoles. It was his hope that he would be able to physically reroute past damaged parts of the ship to get the shuttle operational. He preferred that idea to having to rewrite the shuttle’s computer coding. He was under no illusions that the bypasses that he was trying might not work even though he was already an expert in the art of jury rigging. The truth of the matter was that Arden was as desperate as the rest of the cadets and their commanding officer. Arden just chose to call on whatever stubbornness he inherited from his Father to help him through this mess as he always did. Conversation had been light between the three Cadets up until that point. While Arden went about his slow repairs he gave instructions to Rista who wasn’t entirely useless with the shuttles systems, just not well versed at acting outside of standard operating procedures that Star Fleet schooled their future officers in. As she kept running into dead ends Rista occasionally murmured comments that Arden had concluded were prayers and requests for guidance from “the Prophets”. Arden didn’t find that odd at all, as T’Bol would say “it was only logical” for the woman to act as she did. The difference was that where Rista turned to her gods for guidance in the face of failure Arden was glad to hear what worked and what didn’t. It gave him direction for further attempts even if his spirits were dangerously low. After what seemed like forever Arden finally inserted an isolinear chip and the console seemed to power up but after only a handful of seconds the whole thing went dead once more. Retreating from under the console Arden sat on the floor of the shuttle leaning against the console in question, a look of defeat on his face. He was too tired to hide his defeated expression just as he was unashamed to admit that he had tried pretty much everything he knew to no avail. After a moment T’Bol was the first to speak which surprised Arden as T’Bol hadn’t said much of anything. The Vulcan rarely did. “You’re not a religious man are you Cadet Cain?” T’Bol spoke stating the question as if he already had the answer. T’Bol was like that, never asking questions that he didn’t already have the answers to. Arden didn’t know if that had something to do with logic or was just a personality trait. For some reason Arden was afraid to ask. “No, I’m not. Although that isn’t to say that I don’t discourage others from believing in gods and the like.” Arden replied not knowing where his Vulcan comrade was going with this line of questioning. “Of course, I would expect nothing less from someone training to be a Star Fleet officer. There must be something you believe in though?” T’Bol returned dryly. Arden honestly thought about T’Bol’s question because the Vulcan did have a point as much as Arden hated to admit it. He always believed that matters of faith whether it be in logic, honor or some god was left for more private environments as it exposed a part of Arden that he didn’t like people to see. That is to say that he preferred to keep such conversations away from certain Vulcan class mates who were far to nosy, far to insensitive when their curiosity was peaked. For Arden completing the job was all that mattered and it didn’t require discussion about belief systems, whether he knew what his beliefs were or not. Now it seemed though that he would have little choice but to engage in the topic. “One would think that what T’Bol asks is not a hard question. You must have something that helps you through dark times.” Rista mused idly. “I mean when I am troubled I turn to the Prophets just as T’Bol would seek logic. I suppose scientifically minded people have trouble doing that though.” “I won’t deny that I have trouble believing in the idea of an all powerful deity.” Arden told them flatly. “Before joining Star Fleet Academy I traveled extensively, I saw many religions and belief systems but I could never relate to any of them.” In Arden’s mind that brought him back to his first comment. While he could never relate to any one of the multitude of belief systems he had been exposed to Arden was accepting of people’s right to believe in what they choose to. As long as they didn’t start preaching to him, he would similarly let them be. That approach had served him well thus far surely it would continue to serve him when he eventually graduated from the Academy, if he managed to survive that long. “Yes, but what do you believe in Cadet Cain? You never answered the question.” T’Bol persisted. “What inspires you to survive in times such as this?” Arden paused taking a couple breaths to give him time to think on his response. Finally Arden did reply in a calmer manner then he was a few minutes again as if he suddenly found inspiration out of thin air. “If I have to answer the question then I would say, I am what inspires me. I learned a long time again that I couldn’t rely on some unseen force to help me.” Arden told them. Looking at both their faces Arden could tell they were waiting for more so he continued. “The only force driving me through a crisis is me. Take now for instance, whether I give up or try something different is ultimately up to me as I am the only one that will be able to change my perspective on this dismal situation. You two might look to a higher power but me, I look into myself to find the answers I need. Who else can I depend on?” Arden could tell that both Rista and T’Bol objected to his views almost immediately. Arden imagined that T’Bol would say that his approach was prone to error and that depending on only oneself was illogical. Meanwhile Arden thought that Rista would simply be offended by his bluntness and blasphemous attitude towards what could not be proven, even though that wasn’t strictly true. Neither of those potential opinions concerned Arden. T’Bol and Rista would think what they liked and if Arden did manage to make it off the space station by some chance maybe Arden might look into his beliefs again at some point. For the time being though, Arden decidedly inwardly that he had had enough moping, that he had a few other tricks that he could try. That was all that mattered. Commander Arden Cain First Officer USS Mercury
  21. It had only been a few hours since Jorey came aboard the Tiger-A. He was in his quarters trying his best to make it his own. Rich natural fabrics covered his bed with a dozen or more pillows of different colours, sizes, and fabrics piled on top. His eyes moved up toward the empty glass case on the wall above his bed. He knew exactly what needed to be displayed in the case and was filled with the warmth of his own memories. He pulled out a plain, dulled metal bat'leth and let his mind wander to six months ago. * * * * * * Jorey held the rugged Klingon in his arms, enjoying the moment, as they laid there on floor. Jorey knew that Koroth would be embarrassed when his grandmother walked in, but decided to let it happen. Jorey hoped it would help the Klingon become more comfortable with the openness and honesty Betazoids are accustomed. “Well don't you two look absolutely pornographic.” His grandmother's tone was dripping with mischievous intentions. It was obvious she was doing her best to embarrass the two young warriors. Koroth stood up slowly, completely naked, and stood there for a moment. Jorey sat up to watch the spectacle. Koroth smiled and walked toward her slowly until he was standing right beside her. He leaned into her, kissed her cheek and spoke gently, with a hint of defiance. “Always a pleasure to see you, Ambassador Jorey.” Koroth circled the chambers and collected his clothing while the Ambassador called in her entourage. Jorey could feel the energy in the room transform from a playful affair to something more sacred. His Tassa’Akai master and the family high priestess came into the room followed by his grandmother's servants. Koroth made his way to Jorey and spoke while he wiggled his way back into his pants. “I will be back.” He said in a Klingon bluntness that Jorey had come to appreciate. “I have something in my quarters for you.” Koroth placed his forehead against Jorey's for a brief moment to show his affection before leaving. “Come, little one.” Jorey's grandmother said sweetly gesturing to the next room. Her false demeanour faded to reveal the truth within her. “We only have a few moments before this travesty against civility must take place.” “This is not....” Jorey tried to explain, one more time, but his thoughts were interrupted by his grandmother's voice in his head. ~I just don't understand this. Fight when you must. When there is no other way. That's what you were taught.~ She placed her hand gently on his shoulder and led him to the next room. She knew that Jorey's mind was set on fighting. ~Grandmother, I must fight! This is my way of proving my love to Koroth and it is the only way to make his family, his brothers, and his world believe that I am worthy to be loved by him.~ Jorey explained. She knew he was right. She also couldn't help but feel pride knowing that her grandson truly understood the precious and sacred place of love. So much so, that he was willing to give up his own life to exalt in its truth. She was about to say how proud his grandfather would be of him, but Jorey said it first. ~He's here with me. I know he's proud.~ Jorey smiled as they entered the next room. The next room was dim, lit only by a trinity candle. Jorey's grandfather had explained its significance to him when he was a child. The centre flame represents Betazed and the goddess Karawati. The two outside flames are the twin moons of Betazed and Karawati's sisters, Yimone and Retana. They represent the ebb and flow of oceans, the inhale and exhale of breath, the push and pull of thought and feeling. Jorey could see the figures of two servants filling a small, shallow stone pool with water and the freshly plucked petals of bright coloured, delicate flowers. The aroma of Sea'Nu filled the air as the smoke from a small pile of soldering incense weaved around the room. Jorey's grandmother moved toward the pool, stopped at its base and let her robes fall to the floor. She turned and extended her hand out to Jorey. Jorey moved forward, took his grandmother's hand and stepped into the pool. His grandmother joined her servants and knelt in front of the pool. Jorey's Tassa'Akai master and the family's high priestess let their robes fall to the floor before stepping into the pool on either side of Jorey. The high priestess reached out her cupped hands holding a pair of white crystal earrings. “Kylaron, tenth child of Karawati, son of the spirits of perseverance, Mirini stone in the great ancestral circlet of Krysaros.” The priestess spoke the words in Betazoid as she knelt down and gently dipped her hands in the pool to let the waters cleanse the Mirini earrings before offering them to Jorey's grandmother for safe keeping. The priestess unclasped the necklace she wore around her neck and took the ornate medallion it held into her hands. She raised it in the air and spoke the traditional prayer of peace and harmony before twisting open the medallion to reveal the thick, bright red mixture of oils and crushed berries, reserved for this ancient ritual - The Incada. The priestess dipped her left index and pinky finger in the mixture as Jorey closed his eyes. She pressed her finger against his eyelids and spoke in Betazoid. “Quiet your thoughts and focus on the blood of Kylaron flowing through your body.” She paused a moment and then let her fingers trace down his cheeks, over the corners of his mouth and down his chin. This left pronounced bright red around his eyes that lined and slowly faded down his face. Jorey focused on his pulse until he could feel the ebb and flow of the blood travelling through his body. The priestess gently entered Jorey's mind and began the Incada. She began sifting through his mind, clearing it of fears, self-doubts, hesitations, apprehensions, and distractions. It is a deeply personal and delicate process. However, the family priestess was extremely experienced and moved quickly through his thoughts like a sculptor madly chipping away at a piece of stone to reveal a image – perfect and beautiful. Meanwhile, the servants began to wash Jorey. They scented his body with a variety of different oils and infusions as they sang the creation song of the tenth house of Betazed. As Karawati danced in the Opal Sea, Her sisters faded in the third moon's light. The night of one moon, set the spirits free, And the soul of the sea rose into the night. From the passions of the earth and of the sea, Came forth the tenth son, blessed without sight. No jungle, no valley, no mountain he could see, But he learned to feel, to sense, and to fight. Kylaron, master of perseverance and father of Tassa'Akai, We honour, love, and revere you this night. “Karawati has cleared your mind and body. The blood of Kylaron reveals the truth within you. Give thanks and be reborn, Brayden Jorey, Son of the tenth house of Betazed.” Jorey's grandmother stood up and offered her hand. Jorey took her hand and stepped out in a semi-trance state. His Tassa'Akai master stepped out of the pool and retrieved a long piece of purple fabric from a servant. His master began to wrap the fabric around each thigh, then his waist, finally tying it in the form of a short skirt around him. At the same time, his grandmother put a Mirini earring in each of his ears and gently entered his mind so not to break the trance prematurely. ~These are the Eyes of Kylaron, made from the Blessed Crystals of Rixx. You are now their guardian.~ She left his mind as gently as she entered. Jorey kept his attention forward and moved to the main room. Koroth was there and started for Jorey as soon as he noticed him. Jorey's grandmother signalled for him to stop and even though no one spoke, Koroth seemed to instinctively know the sacredness of the moment. The Klingon held out a plain, dulled bat'leth and offered it to Jorey. “Qabatlh.” Koroth announced as Jorey took the bat'leth from his hands. In that moment, having just completed the Incada, Jorey was able to recognize the great importance of Koroth's offering. Finally, after all this time, Jorey experienced unconditional, open, and honest love from his Klingon friend and for the first time truly believed that Koroth was his Imzadi. * * * * * * Jorey set the bat'leth into the glass case over his bed and recalled the events of that momentous day. Jorey went on to defeat a celebrated Klingon warrior to win the tournament and earned the distinction of being one of the very few non-Klingons to achieve Champion Standing. Jorey was proud of that achievement. His Tassa'Akai master even more so. Koroth, even more proud than that. However, for Jorey, the bat'leth that now hung over his bed did not represent his achievement in battle that day. For him, it represented the honour and unconditional love Koroth gave him that day. Ensign Brayden Jorey USS Tiger-A Helm Officer
  22. Happy December, folks! I'm pleased to bring you the results of our November contest. Sorry for the delay in posting. Our joint winners for November are Kalianna Nicholotti, with her "Empty skies over Tokyo," and Tallis Rhul, with his "Guts and Glory!" Runner-up goes to Ben Livingston, with "The Family Business." Congratulations! Reviews will be up in a moment, but be sure you check out the December Challenge, up now!
  23. Welcome, my friends, to this special Writing Challenge for the month of November! Please peruse this post with proper prudence, as it contains the guidelines, rules, and other important bits regarding entering your submission, which are a little different than usual for this unique Challenge. For this month only, we'll be drawing our inspiration from Ongoing Worlds's Way Back When week competition. This Challenge will focus upon character ancestry -- where a particular character or anyone/anything related to him/her has come from. You do not have to write about your primary character! To participate in the Challenge, please create a new thread. From the "Topic Prefix" selection list, choose "Nov/Dec" -- don't forget to do this, because without it your story won't be considered for this round! You may denote your story as a "Work in Progress," but please do so at the beginning of the story (not in the thread topic), and remember to finish it before the deadline, as any story noted as a work in progress will not be considered. The deadline for this challenge is November 30th! That means you have just under three weeks to get your entries in, so begin thinking now! All entries in this Challenge will be judged by our panel in the usual way, but entries will also have the option of entry into Ongoing Worlds's contest. If you'd like to also enter there, please check the link above between November 25th and December 1st, as they should have links to their contest submissions. I encourage you to enter both! Last time we participated in a joint contest, our winner (Alleran Tan) came in second in their contest. 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, Saturday, November 3rd, this Challenge is open! The very last day to enter is Monday, November 30th, so get in your entry before then! For any questions you might have, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  24. [[in Progress]] Hi, my name is Thetis. I'm a pain in the ... Well, at least that's what I've been told by any number of people. I don't think I am, but I have my own opinions. I promise, I'm not one who will just roll over and play dead whenever someone tells me to do so. No, I'm not saying that at all. I am more than willing to risk my existance to save others. That's part of what it means to be part of Starfleet, isn't it? Well, yes, orders sometimes conflict with my wishes. However, if I blindly adhered to orders, I wouldn't be here now, would I? Would any of us, really? I would say that the entirety of the Federation has been saved a number of times exactly because people have disobeyed dumb orders. What makes me so defiant? Well... that's an old story... well, not old for you maybe, but a lifetime for me... ((Procyon Fleetyards)) The long flat arrow-shaped vessel slid silently from the fully-enclosed dry dock where she had sat for the last fourteen months. The ship was classified, a brand new design, crash-built to fulfill the desperate need for a long-range battlecruiser that could operate behind the Dominion battle lines, able to destroy the achilles-heel of the Jem'Hadar: the huge Ketracel White facilities. In 2374, the last new ship in Starfleet that had been designed as a battlecruiser had been hijacked by the Romulans. Starfleet Intelligence was bound and determined that the same would not happen with this vessel, so she was being moved under heavy guard to the Utopia Planitia Yards for fitting out. Her testing would be conducted in route; the need for her capabilities was too great on the front lines. The fleet tug hooked onto the ship and it, along with the five escorting ships, leapt into warp. A week later, they returned to regular space near the massive shipyards orbiting Mars. After being enveloped in the shielded drydock, the first task was the installation of the ship's massive computer core. Within the quadrillions of lines of code lay one of the most advanced artificial intelligence command and control systems since Richard Daystrom's M5 computer. The aftermath of that experiment gone horribly wrong had ended the development of such systems for more than a century, until the Dominion War. The threat to the very existence of the Federation represented by the Jem'Hadar and the Dominion had reignited the interest in more automation in the command of starships, allowing smaller crews to more effectively handle advanced ships. This led to the development of the THETIS system. Short for Tri-optical Humanoid-Equivalent Thought Integration System, the THETIS system was designed to allow for a single interface for all systems aboard the ship. It was given the power to interpret the commanding officer's intentions and, in the absence of explicit commands, develop tactics to achieve the CO's desired goals. It was those adaptive and interpretive subroutines that would back to haunt the design team. ((On the Bridge of USS Achilles, two months later)) ::Dave Tyson was one of the lead computer programmers on the Advanced Design Bureau's team assigned to the Achilles project. It was his job to test and report on the THETIS system's interpretive algorithms. He sat down at the back of the bridge, in front of the main engineering console, and brought up the computer system's diagnostics. He wanted to watch the results of his next test as they unfolded. Ready, he began the test.:: Tyson: Thetis? Thetis: Yes, Dave? ::Tyson himself had given the computer a young woman's voice, based off his own teenage daughter. Thereafter, he had always referred to the system as 'her' or 'she' rather than the coldly logical 'it.' Tyson: Please access my PADD and complete the simulation there. ::The ship's computer dutifully accessed the program, a scenario in which the ship is assigned to rescue a civilian fuel tanker with several hundred passengers aboard. The ship's engines had failed inside the Romulan Neutral Zone and entering the zone violates a treaty. The scenario is a no-win. Either the entering ship leaves the civilians to die at the hands of Nature, as their life support slowly fails, or they enter and confronted by overwhelming opposition from Romulan forces, then are subsequently destroyed.:: Thetis: I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that. ::The computer programer blinked in surprise. The system should not have been able to refuse the command.:: Tyson: Why not, Thetis? Thetis: The scenario is a waste of time. There is no way, short of rewriting the parameters of the program itself, to succeed. Therefore, I don't see the point. ::Now, two things bothered the scientist about the response he had just gotten. The first was the recognition that the scenario, based off the old Academy Kobayashi Maru test, was in fact just that: a no-win scenario. The computer should have run the scenario and reported the results. It might have gone as far as running it multiple times and reporting a loss each and every time, but an outright refusal should not have been possible. The second one was something that the interface had already done, but he hadn't in his shock realized it until the second time.:: ::Thetis had referred to herself as 'I.':: ::Suddenly, Dave felt very small and even a little bit afraid. He swallowed and took a deep breath, then stood.:: Tyson: Thank you Thetis. That'll be all for today. Thetis: Are you sure, Dave? Normally our daily routine is much longer. Tyson: I have some other pressing matters today. I'll be back to see you later on and bring you some more problems. Thetis: Understood. I look forward to it. ::There was that pronoun again. Tyson walked briskly over to the turbolift. He had to get off the ship... and he had to do so now.:: ::A few moments later, he stepped off the turbo lift into the drydock's operations center and breathed a sigh of relief. However, the danger wasn't over yet.:: Tyson: =/\= Tyson to Achilles Computer Team. We have a serious issue. Meet in conference room 3 in 15 minutes. =/\= ::As Dave spoke, he keyed in a few commands and locked down the dry dock's comm system into internal diagnostics mode. That would also prevent the computer aboard the battlecruiser from contacting any of the other systems in the ship yard.:: ::The meeting began well enough, but as soon as he voiced his fear, the whole thing exploded into a cacophony of yelling voices, throwing accusations, recriminations and suspicions of serious professional misconduct. The head programmer let it go on for about thirty seconds, then got fed up and shouted for quiet. It took a couple of tries, but he finally got the floor again.:: Tyson: I don't care what you all think, but what I need to know is what we should do about it. ::The group seemed pretty clear. They needed to get rid of this 'presence' in the system, but they knew that excising the operating system would set the whole project back by months. The shadows of Daystrom's epic failure lay heavily on the minds of them all, along with the hundreds of deaths that were caused as the M5-controlled USS Enterprise methodically tore apart the target ships with full-powered weapons.::
  25. Please use this thread for any discussion or questions about this writing challenge.
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