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  1. Kali Nicholotti

    JAN/FEB The Masks of Duty

    Katrina glanced over her appearance in the strangely plain mirror and adjusted the clip in her hair so that two long tendrils fell to either side of her face without obscuring it. Dressed in her best, the reporter was preparing for what might just be one of the most exciting days of her life. As part of a special program, she had been chosen along with nine other up-and-coming journalists, to participate in an in-depth look at just how things were done on a ship in today's Starfleet. The project was half a recruitment ploy and half an effort to bring those out on exploration missions closer to home, but to Katrina, it was the job of a lifetime. Ensuring that everything was in place and perfect, the dark haired woman leaned backwards so that she could see around the side of the door frame to check the time. There was still ten minutes before she needed to leave for the media relations office in the Command Tower. It would be just enough time to touch up her makeup and ensure that every last detail of her appearance was perfect. For her, the call to join Starfleet had come too late. It was only after the accident that took her leg that she realized it would have been a fine way of life. By then, she was already a well renowned journalist anyways, and leaving the profession she had excelled at to take a stab at something she probably wouldn't be able to do on account of her life-long injury, well, it just didn't make sense. But today, all of that was just water under the bridge. Today she would be in the middle of everything with access to every member of the senior staff and it was a day that she had been looking forward to since the project had been announced. Another glance at the clock told her that it was time to go. With one final look in the mirror, Katrina grabbed her PADD and recorder before confidently walking out of the temporary quarters they had assigned her the day before. The day was waiting and she wasn't going to be the one to hold it up. So, it was with a huge smile on her perfectly made up face that she set off for her assignment. ((Later, Aboard the USS Endeavor)) Things had happened quickly inside the office of the press secretary; so quickly that she hadn't even sat before the details of the day were revealed. She was to be deployed to the USS Endeavor to mirror and interview the senior staff throughout the course of an entire standard day. It would be a test of her time efficiency as well as a test of the officers who she would be speaking with. There was the ever present promise of trouble in the air, along with a dash of awe and wonder, as Katrina had followed the junior officer that had been assigned as her guide. Without many words, he had quickly led her to the transporter and now she was no longer on the Starbase. Instead, she was surrounded by the plain grey bulkheads of a ship based transporter room. "So. Where did you want to go first?" The voice floated up to her ears from the ground in front of the transporter pad. Realizing that she had little time to waste, Katrina quickly stepped off the pad herself and started towards the door. Her guide fell in step next to her. "I thought we'd go by sickbay and engineering first if it's all the same to you," she said as she offered him one of the smiles that she was so well known for. What kind of a journalist would she be without a great smile? This one, like so many others, was just a part of the persona. "Sounds good to me," he said as he shrugged, "I've got nowhere else to be." He made an attempt at taking the lead, but Katrina was already on the quickest path to sickbay. She had spent much of the night before looking at maps and charts so that she could maximize the time she would have with each of the officers she was to interview. That was, at least, one thing that no one could ever accuse her of; being unprepared. Content that she knew where she was going, her guide fell back into step next to her in silence. ((Sickbay, USS Endeavor)) It wasn't a busy day in sickbay, at least not yet. The ship probably hadn't left the Starbase yet, but Katrina was well on her way towards completing the assignment. In an attempt to be as little of a distraction as possible, she simply stepped inside and began watching as normal events began to unfold. Towards the other side of the room, there was a single occupied biobed with a man on it who looked as if he was meant to be anywhere but there. His clothing indicated that he had been doing some kind of exercise. Katrina would later find out he had been playing tennis on the holodeck. She pulled the small recorder from her pocket and hit record just in time to catch a simple exchange between the doc tor and the man. "I know you won't heed this advice," the doctor began as she pressed a hypospray to his neck, "but you really should take it easy for a week or so. That elbow won't heal if you keep pushing it." The smile on the woman's face made her seem overly friendly and only trying to help. The man responded in kind with a friendly look and a shrug. "I know. I just can't sit around," the man said as he laughed. "Well, you should be good to go now," the doctor said as she felt the area around the man's elbow. "I'll see you tomorrow." The man hopped off the biobed and waved. Turning just before he made it to the door, he stopped. "Perhaps not," he said just before disappearing beyond the sliding doors. Katrina watched him leave before walking towards the doctor, who had literally plopped down in the chair behind the Chief Medical Officer's desk in the half enclosed office to the right of the biobeds where she had just been. The smile was gone from her face and she rubbed her temples before noticing the journalist standing in the doorway. "Oh, hello," the doctor offered her a small smile as she spoke, "you must be that reporter." Stepping forward with an outstretched hand, Katrina introduced herself. "That's me, and this is my first stop." The smile returned to the doctor's face as she sat up a bit more and nodded thoughtfully before speaking again, "Welcome to the Endeavor." Not sure what she had just witnessed, Katrina took the cue to sit in a chair on the other side of the desk. With a quick glance around the small office, she thought of the best way to ask just what it was that she wanted to ask. "Rough day already?" was all she could muster. The doctor shook her head no, "I'm just a bit tired, but not enough to interfere with my bedside manner." Katrina made a note on the PADD in her hand; bedside manner. The conversation continued without any trouble and soon the excited journalist had the first of her interviews completed. With a quick thanks to the doctor for taking the time to speak with her, she stood and led her guide out into the corridor. Her mind was already on the next place they would be visiting; Engineering. As she got closer to the moment she would step onto the bridge of that starship her heart seemed to get faster. It would be the crowning moment of the entire day. Not wanting to get ahead of herself, however, she forced one or two deep breaths before the pair arrived at the overly large door to the Engineering department. ((Engineering, USS Endeavor)) The first thing that Katrina noticed about Engineering was the noise. It wasn't an unpleasant noise, but it was loud enough for you to not be able to speak in a normal tone if you wanted other people to hear you. In fact, she could hear a few people speaking loudly over the din of the core itself and the many different computers that were all making sounds of their own. One voice stood out above all others though; one voice that quickly exclaimed in surprise upon seeing the journalist and her guide. "I'm that far behind?!" The man in the gold collar turned, regaining his composure, and issued orders to the group of officers in front of him. He was calm and calculating, directing each of the officers in a firm and commanding manner to the jobs that needed to be accomplished before they went to warp. There wasn't much time, he explained. They were about to head out on their day-long mission and he didn't want to be accountable for the entire ship running behind. As the group dispersed, the man himself found the closest ladder and slid all the way down to the place where Katrina and her guide stood waiting. Extending a hand as she had at the first interview, she half expected the man to take it and lead them to an office. Apparently he had other things to do just then, however, and he walked right past her. "If you want to talk to me, then you've got to walk with me," he said as he moved by in a hurry, "I've got to realign the field before we can engage the warp drive." Scurrying to keep up, Katrina followed the man as he seemed to dart from one station to another. His hands flew across the consoles as if they weren't human but something much more...machine-like. She tried to ask a few questions, to which she got varying short answers, but it wasn't until she asked him if he was always quite so 'in a hurry' that he actually stopped and turned to her. "Ya know, I don't think I'm like this unless I'm here in Engineering," he said with a soft tone behind it, "I'd say I'm normally pretty laid back and lazy." To that comment he laughed heartily before becoming the swirl of activity he had been only moments before. Much like her interview with the doctor, this one went quickly and sooner, rather than later, she was on the move again. This time, however, she would be taking her recording device and her PADD to the bridge. Her excitement must have shown too, because the man next to her seemed to be widening his step just to keep up with her. It didn't matter to the journalist though. This was a dream come true in many ways, and as she approached the lift that would carry them to the center of activity on the ship, her face betrayed the girlish giddy excitement that raged within. ((Bridge, USS Endeavor)) Her first step out onto the bridge after the lift stopped was like walking into a dream. She had never gotten the chance to be on a real bridge, especially on one of the most well known starships in the whole of Starfleet. The smile that was plastered on her face was almost too much, but the bridge officer's didn't seem to mind. Her escort took her around the bridge and showed her each of the stations while introducing her to each member of the senior staff. They each offered her a welcome before the first officer stood and gestured towards the ready room door. "I think we have the perfect place for you to conduct your interviews," he said as he smiled, "right this way." The grin on her face got even bigger; who knew she was going to be allowed in there! Nodding excitedly, Katrina followed the much taller man into the small room. She looked around and took in everything, burning it in her mind. This would likely be the one and only chance she would have at an experience like this. After a moment, she finally moved towards a sofa sitting in one of the corners. "Will this be alright?" she asked as she looked up at him. He had been watching her take it all in, giving her the chance to really feel the power of the room. With a smile, he replied. "Perfect. I'll send in the first victim." The look on his face told her he was joking and she laughed as she nodded. Without a wasted moment, the man left the room and she gathered her wits as best she could. This was the moment she had been waiting for; she had the chance to sit and really see what made each of the officers on the senior staff tick. It was exciting and it was an amazing assignment. She was more than happy it had fallen to her. A moment later, the doors of the room slid open and the first of many officers walked in. Katrina greeted them each as they came and went, spending about fifteen minutes with each of them. The process took a few hours, but now all that was left was the Captain. She saw her day winding down and her time aboard the ship drawing to a close as the almost regal man walked through the doors. As she had the others, she greeted him with a smile and gave him a moment to settle. He took up a spot on the sofa a few feet from her with a mug of warm tea. Content that he was ready, she began the same line of questions again. Before she knew it, she found herself towards the end of the questions, and with an almost sad smile she looked up at the man. "That's all I have, Captain," she said, "I do want to thank you for this opportunity. It's been amazing. You have a very nice ship here." She was almost rambling, and she realized it, so she stopped there and forced her lips closed. "Not a problem," he replied with a warm smile back in her direction, "We do enjoy a change to the daily routine sometimes." Pushing back a piece of her hair that had fallen at some point during the interviews, Katrina nodded. "Everyone was very cooperative and nice," she stated as she tapped a few keys on the padd in her hand. It was a true statement and she was glad that she had gotten the information she had. A few feet away, the Captain nodded and smiled knowingly. "Good. Then perhaps you'd like to do it all over." "What? Why?" Katrina looked up with a very confused look and nearly stuttered the response. The man stood and walked to his desk where he sat his mug down. "There's a get together in our lounge tonight if you'd like to join us," he turned slowly until he faced her again as he spoke, "and perhaps in that environment, you'll get to see everyone as they really are. You know, without the masks of duty." He walked over to her and handed her a padd before giving her another nod. "We'll see you there," he said without waiting for a response. Turning on his heel, he moved back out onto the bridge only to be replaced by her escort. Katrina knew now that it was time to go, but the words of the Captain kept running through her mind. Absentmindedly following the escort, she almost didn't notice she was going anywhere until she could feel the lift start moving. Looking up at the escort, who had been watching her, she grinned, "I guess I get to stay a little longer." With eyes that glowed with childlike excitement, Katrina turned her attention back to the padd as she compiled the information into one file and made room for new. If she was right about what the Captain had said, she was going to need a lot more room for the second time around. --- Commander Kalianna Nicholotti Commanding Officer Starbase 118/USS Victory
  2. Velana

    JAN/FEB *WINNER* Affectations

    “He who wears a mask cannot see within himself.” - Unknown 2384 “This is what we get for putting off our elective courses until the last semester.” Cade Whitman gestured to the floor of the auditorium where Commander Talen was holding up a 500 year old piece of Bajoran pottery. “Archeology for Dummies.” Velana looked down at her lap to hide her smile. Not that Talen could have possibly seen the expression on her face considering that she and Cade were sitting only two rows from the back, but when in the presence of other Vulcans, especially ones who had power over her grade point average, she had learned that it was best to stifle any outward signs of her emotions. Unfortunately Cade had never quite grasped that concept. In fact, he almost seemed to revel in openly defying it. There was no other way to explain why he felt the need to grab her hand or touch her face or tell a joke he knew would make her laugh whenever a Vulcan cadet or instructor happened to be watching them. And someone was always watching them. The Vulcan and her Human lover. It was, her roommate Alaxa had often said, a better story than could be found in a Klingon opera. So when he casually slung his arm over her shoulders and pulled her up against his side in order to steal a quick kiss, Velana wasn't at all surprised that the movement caught Talen's attention. She could have easily extracted herself from Cade's embrace, but it was too late. The damage had been done and she would have to deal with the consequences, whatever they might be. “Cadet Velana.” Talen was a small woman, especially for a Vulcan, but her voice echoed off the walls of the lecture hall. Giving her a look that vaguely resembled an amused apology, Cade lifted his arm in order to let Velana rise to her feet. All eyes had turned to her; she folded her arms behind her back and met them with a raised chin. “Commander.” In spite of the distance between them, Velana could feel the woman's stare boring two holes straight through her. After a few seconds, Talen set down the pottery piece, reached underneath the draped display table and withdrew an object wrapped in white linen. “Join me at the podium, Cadet.” Velana had no choice but to do as she was commanded, but as she descended the wide steps, she might as well have been making her way to the guillotine. Standing at attention, she watched Talen unwrap the object with all the reverence of a Ferengi handling a bar of gold-pressed latinum, only to reveal an aged clay mask with a jagged chunk missing just below the right eye hole. It had probably been pure white once, but now it was a dull gray, unadorned and rather unremarkable. “Do you know what this is?” Talen asked. “A mask, Commander.” Talen's wrinkled mouth pursed even further. “The obvious answer is not what I seek.” “It is the only answer I have.” Velana thought she heard a snort of approval, which could have only originated from Cade, but fortunately Talen didn't seem to notice. She stepped closer to Velana, still cradling the mask in her hands. “The mask was discovered a hundred years ago in the lava caverns of Osana.” The woman paused. “Have you ever been to Osana, Cadet?” The corner of Velana's mouth twitched. “I have never been to Vulcan.” “So I have heard,” Talen murmured. Another second passed. “Analysis of the artifact revealed it to be approximately three thousand years old, from before the Time of Awakening, when our planet was a very different place.” Velana arched her eyebrow. Vulcan might have been Talen's planet, but it wasn't hers. “Logic had not yet replaced superstition and idolatry. We were violent. Passionate.” Talen's tone was dangerously cool. “Emotional.” Yet another pause followed. “Put it on.” “Excuse me, Commander?” “You did not misunderstand me. Put the mask on.” Velana sought out Cade's face in the crowd only to see him shake his head and shrug his shoulders. It was Talen's turn to raise an eyebrow. “Are you seeking permission, Cadet?” A ripple of amusement spread out across the room, prompting Velana to reach out and lift the mask from its bed of linen. It was lighter than she'd expected and the clay felt warm to the touch. Slowly, she raised it to her face. When the mask touched her skin, it was as if she had come into contact with a live wire. She was certain her whole body must have jolted at the sensation. When she opened her eyes, she didn't see Talen or the lecture hall through the mask's eye holes. They had been replaced by jagged red rock formations that thrust towards the orange sky. Everything was foreign. Impossible. She smelled sulfur in the hot, dry wind that swept over her. Another hand reached for hers, threaded its fingers through her slender digits. She swung her head to the right and saw a man with closely cropped dark hair and ears that matched her own. He was staring straight ahead. When he spoke, his words were in a dialect of Vulcan that she barely understood. “Do you have any regrets?” When Velana said nothing, he glanced at her. His eyes were dark. Intense. “A'Sariah?” It took all of her strength, but Velana tore the mask away from her face. As soon as she did, the dusty desert landscape disappeared and she was, once again, standing in the archeology lecture hall. “Cadet?” Velana didn't notice her hands were trembling until she looked down at the mask. Glancing back up, she met Talen's unblinking stare, but she was unable to say anything. “This piece is one of the few relatively intact items ever discovered from this particular period of Vulcan history,” Talen said, still watching Velana's face. “Its value is...immeasurable.” She held out her hand for the mask, which Velana passed to her without hesitation. “That will be all for today,” Talen announced. “You have your reading assignments. Do not be surprised if there is a short test during our next class. Dismissed.” As the other cadets began to stand and talk, Talen addressed Velana directly. “I will be in my office in five minutes.” It wasn't exactly an invitation or an order, but Velana got the message. Ignoring all of the strange looks directed at her, as well as the snickers she was certain were about her, she climbed the steps back up to Cade. He had gathered up her PADD along with his; when she reached him, she took it, folding the flat device against her chest like a shield. “Vee?” Cade frowned. “Are you okay?” Blinking, she turned her face up to see him. “I'm fine.” She cleared her throat. “Talen wants to see me in her office.” “They just won't leave you alone, will they?” he scowled. “It's a small price to pay.” Her admission made him grin, like she'd known it would. Ducking his head, Cade kissed her. His lips were warm and it felt as thrilling as it always did, but after only a moment, Velana broke the kiss. “I should go.” After handing him her PADD, she backed up a step. “I'll see you tonight?” Cade winked. “Wouldn't miss it for the world.” Velana waited until he was out of sight before she followed his path, but instead of heading out of the building, she took a left down the corridor that led to the offices of the Archeology department. Talen's door was ajar, but she still knocked. “Enter.” The room was neat, but not what she would call spartan. The walls were lined with bookshelves which not only held books, but display cases containing everything from woven bowls to carved statues. Talen stood at her desk, staring down at the mask which lay in front of her. She didn't look up when Velana entered. “What did you see when you put it on?” the older woman asked. “And I would rather not ask this question twice, so do not bother with the Human affectation of pretending you did not understand me.” Velana shook her bangs out of her eyes. “I believe it was Vulcan,” she eventually replied. “Did you only see the planet?” “No. There was a man, as well.” Talen nodded at this. “But...that isn't logical. Is it?” “Logic does not apply here.” Finally, she glanced up at Velana. “The mask carries a memory, Cadet. A telepathic imprint from the days when our people indulged their emotions.” “As I indulge mine?” Talen lowered herself into the seat behind her desk and gestured at the chair next to Velana. When Velana remained standing, she tilted her head to one side, studying her. “It has not been easy for you here, has it?” “Only in certain circles, Commander.” She knew better than to expect a reaction from Talen. Only a second later, the woman continued where she'd left off. “The broken piece of the mask is still in stasis, but it contains an engraving. A name.” “A'Sariah,” Velana guessed. Talen nodded. “After years of research, I managed to unearth the name in the few records of that era that still exist. She was a follower of Latsan, the goddess of pleasure; the mask would have been used in ceremonies to honor her. The man, we can only assume, was A'Sariah's illicit lover. Had you kept the mask on, you would have heard him speak of their plan to run away together, in defiance of her family's wishes.” Velana's throat closed up for a second. “He asked if I...if she had any regrets.” Her words hung in the air between them. “Why did you show me this, Commander?” “Why do you think?” “Because...” She barely held back a bitter chuckle. “By taking a Human mate, I am just as much a slave to my passions as A'Sariah? Is this the part where you remind me that it's never too late to suppress my emotions? Forgive me, Commander, but I've heard this lecture before. More times than I can count.” Talen folded her hands. “Not every Vulcan who dons the mask sees what you did. It takes a certain kind of mind to make the telepathic connection.” “An undisciplined mind?” Velana guessed. “An open mind,” Talen countered. She gestured at the object in question. “Would you like to see what happens next?” Velana's hair swung around her shoulders as she shook her head. “I really don't know what all of this is about, but it feels like you're trying to say something without actually saying it. Even I find that illogical.” The woman stood, and even though Velana had more than a few inches on her, she suddenly felt quite small in comparison. “The Vulcan heart is far deeper than any Human's.” She held up her hand to stave off any protest Velana might have had. “This is merely a fact of their nature. Their emotions may be palpable, but they are transient. Subject to change at any time without fear of consequence. To fall in love with a Human is to accept the inevitability of loss.” “Are you speaking from experience, Commander?” Velana never would have believed it if she hadn't seen it herself, but after a few awkward moments of silence, the corners of Talen's mouth turned up in a rusty smirk. It told her more about the woman than if she had outlined all 150 years of her life. “I can see why A'Sariah chose you.” “For the same reason she chose you?” Velana asked. “I am not the first Vulcan to love a Human, nor do I believe I will be the last.” “But you may very well be the first who will be unable...or unwilling...to recover from the affair when it ends.” Velana's eyes narrowed as Talen continued, “Yes, I have read your file, as have all of your instructors, I imagine. I know how you were raised and...” Velana cut her off. “With all due respect, it's not under your purview as my archeology instructor to pass judgment on my personal life, especially considering that neither my academic performance, nor my attendance in your class is in question.” “If your intention with this exercise was to make me reconsider my choices, I'm afraid you have failed, Commander.” Her back straightened. “All I take away from this encounter is a renewed faith in my own emotions, as a reminder that our people were once passionate about something other than being dispassionate.” Clasping her hands behind her back, Velana tartly asked, “Is there anything else, sir?” “No.” Talen paused for so long that it seemed as if that was going to be the last word. Slowly, Velana backed up towards the door. But just when she had reached it, she heard Talen speak again. In Vulcan. “Peace and long life, Velana.” She glanced back over her shoulder, only to see Talen carefully wrapping the linen around the mask with even more care than she had unwrapped it. There was no denying that she was angry at the woman for her audacity and presumptuousness, but Velana also couldn't ignore the twinge of sympathy she felt for her. Clearly, Talen was attached to the mask as more than just an archeologist to an artifact. Whatever loss Talen had suffered in her past had compelled her to share something very personal with Velana. It was entirely out of line with what Velana understood about so-called regular Vulcans and, therefore, encouraging. Perhaps she wasn't as abnormal as they wanted her to believe. Perhaps they all had masks of their own making. The anger that had been bubbling up within her drained away. With a sad smile, Velana walked out of Talen's office, leaving the woman alone with her secrets. When she emerged from the building, Velana blinked, not from the glare of the San Francisco sunshine, but at the fact that Cade was waiting for her. When he noticed her, he gave her the same, irresistible smile that had made her choose him two years earlier when she felt the first stirrings of pon farr. “I thought we were seeing each other tonight,” she said, approaching him. Cade shrugged one shoulder. “'Later' seemed like way too long to wait.” Without giving a thought or a care to who might have been watching them, or what they might have been thinking, Velana threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him down for a much longer, much deeper kiss than before. When their lips parted, Cade was already chuckling. “That was either a really good meeting in there, or a really bad one.” He brushed back a lock of her hair and let his fingers caress the tip of her ear. “Everything okay, Vee?” She nodded until she found her voice again. “Cade...this is...” Velana stopped to drag her lower lip between her teeth. “I mean to say...you and I are...” She tried again, frustration evident in the moisture gathering on her eyelashes. “We're not going to...are we?” “Hey, hey!” Cade's eyes looked back and forth between hers, his gray eyes dark with concern. “What did she say to you?” “Nothing.” Velana smiled and brushed away the remnants of her tears. “It's nothing.” To reassure him, she kissed him again. “So. Where are you taking me to dinner?” “I don't know.” If Cade had any doubts that she was telling the truth, he had apparently decided to let the subject drop. Velana wasn't quite sure how she felt about that, but when he reached for her hand and laced their fingers together, it didn't seem to matter anymore. “We could try that new Andorian restaurant." He laughed when her nose crinkled. "What are you in the mood for?” Velana looked down at their hands, then back up at his profile. “Italian,” she decided. “I'm feeling very...Human right now. Hand in hand, they headed for Velana's quad. Lieutenant JG Velana Assistant Chief Medical Officer USS Tiger-A
  3. Ba'Eli

    JAN/FEB Klingon Mask

    Ba’Eli entered her room and tossed her jacket on the bed. She was exhausted and knew she had to do her duty. Rubbing her neck as she walked to the replicator, she tried to think of what to say to each of them. “Chai latte, hot.” She barked at the replicator. As it materialized she smiled softly at the smell of her favorite drink. She took the first sip of the warm liquid and her smile widened. Ba’Eli walked over to her console and sat down. She set her chai off to the side so he wouldn’t see it. She cleared her throat and called out. “Computer connect me to Sa’ K’tre on the planet.” The few seconds it took for the male Klingon to appear on screen, she brought her shoulders up and tossed her hair back, to better show her ridges. “nuqneH.” (What do you want) The male Klingon looked at her intensely. “rI’ father.” (Hail Father) She spoke harsh, no smile escaping her lips. She must wait for him to tell her it was ok to relax, but it appeared he was disgruntled. “qatlh ghaj tlhIH pong?” (Why have you called?) He growled. “mo’ iIj tIq. qaSuj’a’” (Due to your heart. Am I disturbing you?) She knew she needed to get right to the point with him. His recent heart attack had her concerned. Finally he smiled slightly and in his broken English he spoke. “Thank you daughter. I need rest but am hearty.” She returned the smile. “Good Father. I will beam down tomorrow and we can have lunch.” “Yes. Lunch.” He nodded. “Tomorrow then.” Klingons were people of little words. And with that the screen went blank. Ba’Eli stretched and took a sip of her now lukewarm chai. She sighed and thought of tomorrow. She loved her father but it was so much work to put on the Klingon Mask for him. Deciding she couldn’t handle writing her mother tonight, she headed for the bedroom, changed into her pj’s and began to wonder how she was going to bring up her new human boyfriend to her father. LT j.g Ba’Eli Science Officer USS Mercury
  4. Saveron

    JAN/FEB Behind the Mask

    It is often said that Vulcans have no emotions; it is a common misconception. The emotionless state is the ideal, but with the exception of those talented and dedicated individuals who achieve Kohlinar, it could not be further from the truth. Vulcans have extremely powerful emotions, with which they do battle on a daily basis, lest they be consumed by them. Perhaps Vulcans themselves are wont to lay claim to this emotionless state as the ultimate in wishful thinking; if it is said sufficiently often, perhaps it will come to pass. Just as it is said that Vulcans do not lie, this is exactly the kind of lie that Vulcans tell. And most of all they lie to themselves. ((27th floor corridor, Temok-Sbah Residential Complex, ShirKahr, Vulcan)) “Do you derive some form of satisfaction from flaunting our peoples’ traditions?” The clipped, precise voice echoed slightly in the otherwise empty corridor. Saveron stopped, the charcoal folds of his robe swirling around his ankles as he turned to face the voice that had sounded behind him. Serok. He had only seen the man twice before, and once had been earlier that day, when the man had passed briefly through the apartment that he with his bond-mate T’Rel. That was something they had in common, regrettably. T’Rel had been hosting the family in recognition of their daughter S’Rel’s graduation from the Vulcan Academy of Science; she had achieved a PhD in Astrophysics. They had been joined by their son Teron, his bond-mate T’Rayel and their newborn daughter T’Nai. Saveron had held his first grand-child. To the external observer the scene - with young Saavok peering over his father’s shoulder with interest at his young niece and T’Rel talking quietly with their other children - would have seemed the perfect Vulcan family gathering. But to the casual observer, the rift in that image would not have been visible. It had been felt however. T’Rel was serene and controlled as ever but to Saveron, who had been bonded to her for forty-nine years, she had been tense. That tension had increased, had spread to the rest of the family, when Serok had arrived. Forty-nine years, but no more, and he was the reason. He had declined to join them and left shortly afterwards, and the previous peaceful air had returned, or nearly. No Vulcan would own up to there having been a mood of quiet contentment, but the mood that hadn’t been there had been broken. Saveron and T’Rel had discussed Saavok’s schooling, and agreed that given the undecided nature of Saveron’s future posting the child would remain with his mother for the interim. Then Saveron had touched his palm briefly to that of each of his children – conveying in silence what could not be said in words – and had departed. He would never touch T’Rel again. And the reason had called out to him down that empty corridor. Grey eyes flicked over the other man’s frame. He was classically Golic; tanned skin, dark hair in the stereotypical cut, dark eyes. He wore temple robes as T’Rel did, they were of the same culture, the same convictions and both now Temple initiates; the perfect couple. He was the only hiccup in that picture. “To derive satisfaction from such a pointless activity would be illogical.” Saveron replied, endeavouring to fathom Serok’s purpose in asking the question. “I do not ‘flaunt’ our traditions, I do what is logical and necessary.” Serok approached on quiet feet. There was an intensity in his gaze and, oddly, a flush to his cheeks. There was a stiffness to his movements, almost a stalk. He had seemed restless in that brief period he had passed through the apartment as well, but Saveron didn’t know the man, had no desire to know the man, and could not judge whether that was his normal demeanour. “On the contrary, you abandon your peoples for aliens and their customs. Do not deny it.” Serok returned. “The pursuit of knowledge is the only defence against ignorance and chaos; that pursuit has taken me beyond Vulcan.” Saveron acknowledged. “But to embrace further learning does not imply a rejection of what has gone before.” He endeavoured to determine the logic behind the other man’s sudden accusations, but could not. Was the flaw in his thinking, or in Serok’s? The man did not look well. Some sort of brain fever perhaps? Saveron debated alerting emergency medical staff. Serok allowed for no such move however as he stepped forward, right into Saveron’s personal space and right up in his face. He might have tried to loom over the other man but Saveron was far taller if thinner, typical of the Nel-Gathic peoples. Serok’s behaviour was entirely different from what Saveron had expected; the man was an initiate of the strictest mental order on Vulcan, the Temple of Gol. Like T’Rel he should be preparing for the Kohlinar. This was not the serene, logical behaviour he had come to associate with such. “It does not imply it but for you it involves it.” Serok snapped. “I know of your lack of conviction, of your rejection of the Temple.” That would be from T’Rel. “You are v’tosh ka’tur!” If he’d been human it would have been an appropriate time to use the phrase ‘Them’s fightin’ words.’ To declare another a Vulcan Without Logic was a deliberate and grievous insult. But despite Serok’s claims he was Vulcan; just not the kind of Vulcan that Serok and T’Rel were. “It is you who lack logic.” Saveron replied in a flat monotone. But the penny had dropped. Saavok was, after all, six years old and T’Rel had neglected to tell Saveron that she was pregnant when he left because she’d thought the child wasn’t his. “Go and see T’Rel, I cannot talk with you at this time. When you are more logical I will debate Temple discipline versus the IDIC principle if you so wish.” Not that he had any desire to do so. Serok was everything he was not – no doubt the reason he appealed to T’Rel – and Saveron could only see them disagreeing. Saveron found no appeal in the numbness to the world’s wonder that lay with Kohlinar, and Serok would never agree that when they had embraced logic they had lost something. Saveron held an appreciation for certain aspects of life prior to Surak’s Awakening, even as the violence they had indulged in was abhorrent. He felt a particular resonance with his distant ancestor, a man known as Valoren Silver Eyes; musician, poet, lover, Warlord of the Ayein Clan; more so now than ever. He would never have stood for Serok’s insults. Saveron favoured Serok with a flat look, sometimes referred to by his colleagues as the ‘Vulcan Stink Eye’, then spun on his heel, intending to put an end to this encounter before it went any further. But Serok had other ideas. As he turned, Saveron felt a hand close on his elbow, the grip hard enough to make the bones grind, and something in him snapped. His wife, his children, his comfortable life on Vulcan had all been lost in an instant, because of this man. This arrogant Golic caricature of strength without substance and logic without meaning, he was everything that Saveron found disagreeable in the dominant Vulcan culture. He dared to talk to him about tradition? Millennia ago his ancestor had stood and faced enemies far greater and more terrible, and had suffered no insult, taking from them all they held dear, including their lives. There were paintings in the Cultural Museum in Kal-an depicting such scenes, and people looked at Saveron oddly when he stood too close; he bore an uncanny resemblance to his ancestor. Perhaps that was why he felt such a connection. In that instant it felt as though Valoren Silver Eyes was with him, guiding his hand as his deep fury, nursed over seven years, broke loose. As Serok’s hand closed on his arm Saveron spun with an animal snarl and caught the other man by the throat, lifting him bodily and slamming him into the wall with a thud like a piece of meat, pinning him there and leaning all his weight on Serok’s throat, denying him the thin Vulcan air. It was his fault T’Rel had left him, his fault that he had lost all that he held dear, his fault that the Temple was staffed by the blind and unbending, by priests and priestesses who spent so much time looking inwards that all they heard in their minds was their own hollow denials of their own natures, rather than look out and see the wonder of the universe. It was Serok’s fault that Saveron had to follow his beloved half-way around the planet to live amongst a people who didn’t understand him, who rejected his children’s mixed racial heritage, who ultimately had to be left behind for the even more unfamiliar beyond their world. It was Serok’s fault that Saveron was always drifting, that he never found a home. Saveron’s fury was all-consuming. Pinned against the wall, Serok struggled. He couldn’t grab Saveron to hurt him in turn, the Nel-Gathic man was both taller and longer-limbed and with his elbow locked was beyond the shorter man’s reach, though he tried. Then he tried to prise Saveron’s fingers from his throat, tanned fingers on pale, his nails digging gouges in Saveron’s skin until green started to smear on it, but he could gain no release. A fury drove Saveron that had been tempered by seven years of suppression; it had only grown stronger. “You wish to observe our peoples’ traditions?” Saveron growled, and it was a unique feature of Vulcan physiology – the same which allowed them to pronounce consonants no other species could – that he could talk and growl at the same time. “Then let us do so. Long before logic and Surak and your closed-minded Temple, there were ways of dealing with an argument over a woman.” The rite of kun-ut-kal-if-fee was one of the ancient ways that had survived the Awakening; logic had no place when the blood fever ran riot. Through his grip on Serok’s throat Saveron could feel the other man’s senseless, helpless rage, driven by hormonal changes he could not control. It only fuelled Saveron’s on fury. As green blood trickled over his hand from where Serok’s nails dug into him, Saveron knew that he could end it all right now. Kun-ut-kal-if-fee was enshrined in their peoples’ culture. Yes, it should happen on the formal grounds before a priestess, but it didn’t always. Sometimes it happened like this, in some random location, because two males met and the time was right. There would be no repercussions if he killed Serok now; he had been challenged, he had that right. And as he deprived Serok of precious oxygen he knew that he could do so. Right here, right now. Once, the Nel-Gathic peoples had been chided by Surak’s followers for maintaining their marshal skills in the face of growing logic. Their response was famous. “We do not seek war,” Saveron hissed, quoting a long-dead kinsman, “but he that would bring war to us, let him beware.” Serok had underestimated the doctor, to his detriment. With Serok dead he could claim T’Rel, by the very traditions that she held so dear. The woman whom he had never stopped loving, whom he had let go. His love, his life, his family, his home. Grey eyes narrowed as he watched Serok’s face, the man’s lips already turning a deoxygenated brown. Through his skin contact Saveron could feel the other man’s hormone-driven fury fading as his body registered that he was in life-threatening danger. It was an acknowledged fact that loss of such a fight would resolve Pon Farr, it made evolutionary sense. Survival over reproduction; live first, mate later. But Serok was unlikely to survive, through their contact he would perceive that Saveron was in a killing mood. As the drive to fight drained away along with his chances of survival, Serok’s expression turned from anger to fear, both strange on a normally impassive face, and with a sudden shock Saveron realised how young he must be, that in that fearful look he still had the bloom youth about him. Younger than Saveron, younger than T’Rel; perhaps only half their age. This might only be his second time. It would be seven years before it would happen again; would T'Rel thank him? What had drawn T’Rel to him? Or had he been drawn to T’Rel, the gifted priestess, destined for greatness? Had Serok merely been convenient to a woman whose stubbornly moderate bond-mate limited her ability to progress through the Temple’s teachings and hierarchy? Had the man simply been in the right place at the right time? After all, it was almost unfathomable that T’Rel would have chosen him for illogical reasons, like love. In that moment Saveron looked into the other man’s dark, frightened eyes, and could almost feel sorry for him. It wasn’t his fault, none of it was. Some of it was the fault of his and T’Rel’s parents, though they had acted in what they believed was their children’s’ best interests. Some of it was Saveron’s fault, if blame can be placed for simply being true to one’s nature. He was a wanderer, a seeker. So were his children. S’Rel had said as much at her brother’s bonding ceremony; T’Rel did not wish to be left alone, when all of her children went to space. Teron was already in Starfleet, S’Rel could not follow her profession easily from Vulcan and Saavok was as restless and questioning as his father. T’Rel in her logic had predicted the future, and had found it disagreeable. So she had chosen another. And that other now hung from Saveron’s grip, the strength in Serok’s own hands fading as his consciousness soon would. Yes, Valoren Silver Eyes would have finished the other man in an instant, but Saveron was not his ancestor. He appreciated the beauty of their music and the vision of their stories, but not the savagery of their pride. He was not a killer. He was not a killer. With an effort Saveron reined in his anger, his fury. Surak had shown them how to tame the beast, and it had saved their peoples. Seven years ago Saveron had learned of his wife’s preference for Serok. Tradition held that when one of them entered Pon Farr there would be a declaration of kun-ut-kal-if-fee, a challenge, and one of them would die. Saveron had seen no logic in killing or being killed for the sake of a woman who did not want him; he still didn’t. He had elected to be Unbound, to release T’Rel from her commitment to him, rather than face Serok in combat. He still held true to the logic of that decision. “Be grateful that I am not the traditionalist you would have me be.” He said, the same words he had said to T’Rel seven years ago, and let Serok go. The younger Vulcan slid to the floor, relief in his eyes, taking great gasps of air into his lungs. Saveron turned away, striding briskly along the corridor and out, away from Serok, from T’Rel, from any temptation to finish what had been started. As he walked his face was once more a mask, but inside he struggled to restrain the beast he had unleashed, a loss of control that was not certain he could forgive in himself. It was frightening. It had been far too easy. ((Shore Leave Accomodations, Star Fleet Complex, ShirKahr.)) Once he returned to his temporary quarters in the Starfleet shore-leave accommodations Saveron locked the door and immediately began setting up his meditation candles. He would not eat tonight, or sleep. He would meditate and regain the control that was his bastion against the consuming dark. It was a night of struggle and strength, of remorse and resolve, but at last it brought resolution. Morning came, and with it a renewed sense of peace. Saveron was satisfied that he had regained his control, his logic, his emotional suppression. He would not permit the previous day’s events to affect him. He would not. He had told his friend Counsellor Yael that he had resolved himself over the separation from his wife, told his family that he had moved on; he had lied. Most of all he had lied to himself. But despite the disturbing nature of his encounter with Serok, it had brought with it a new measure of peace. He knew now that he could have won the challenge, could have claimed what he had lost, and he had chosen not to. It reaffirmed his old decision whilst at the same time it changed it; changed it from running from a problem to walking away from an act that he could not conscience, leaving Serok and T’Rel to each other and may they find contentment. It was the closing of a door, but with each that closes a new one opens. He did not doubt that T’Rel was right, his children would join him amongst the stars. That was an agreeable prospect. And who knew what fascinations the future might bring? As he replicated his breakfast his PADD beeped, displaying his newly-arrived assignment orders from Starfleet. He would be joining the recently commissioned USS Mercury, under the command of his old XO, Captain Tallis. It was an arrangement that he found… agreeable. As he acknowledged the order and set the PADD aside, he did not smile. But he could have. ----------------- Lieutenant Saveron Medical Officer USS Mercury
  5. Wanted to let everyone know that the list of Writing Challenge Winners has been updated on our website to reflect all the winning entries for 2011. Also, I've created all the 2011 banners that didn't get finished, and they are now listed below. For 2012 and going forward, we'll have a new banner, supplied by The (Image) Collective team! The winners with banners below are: Cameron Bunag Jaxon McGhee Saveron Della Vetri
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