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  1. Commander Karynn Brice - Consciousness ((Karynn’s Quarters)) ::The first thing she noticed was how dark it was. In the pitch-blackness, for a moment she wasn’t sure whether her eyes were closed or she had lost her sight or the room was just really dark. The second thing she noticed was the pain. Her head throbbed. It felt like it had been caught between a hammer and an anvil. Or a spike had been driven through it.:: ::A moment passed by and she determined that yes her eyes were open. But she still wasn’t sure if that meant that her sight was gone or the room was just that dark. She felt nauseous. And dizzy. She put her hand to her head and felt warm sticky liquid.:: Brice: Computer, Lights. ::The room lights blazed forth in full splendor and suddenly the Haliian officer realized that her request had been a mistake. And that her eyes were working just fine. She quickly shut her eyes as her head throbbed even more than it had been. At least it had helped her figure out where she was - she was laying on the floor of her quarters, not far from her coffee table.:: Brice: Computer, lights 5%. ::The lights dimmed significantly. Karynn tried to remember how she had gotten there. Part of a memory flitted back to her.:: ((FLASHBACK - Shuttle Portobello)) Brice: ::activating the link again:: =/\= Commander Brice to the Bridge, we’re ready to depart. =/\= ((END FLASHBACK)) ::She and her group had departed from the Drake, listening to the comms chatter as they went. She remembered being excited at their opportunity for an up-close flyby on the new species. But they hadn’t been gone long when something else had happened. She found herself in another world.:: ((DREAM)) ::The light faded to blackness as she rolled on her side in the snow. It was so cold... and the dampness was beginning to soak through her thin clothes. Her teeth chattered and she couldn't see. She gasped again as another wave of intense pain washed over her body.:: ::Squeezing her eyes closed tightly, she willed for the pain to go away - a maneuver which rather expectedly didn't work. However, as she opened her eyes, she could see again - although the scene had changed. The room she was in was dimmer than the bright light of a snowy outdoors she had just been in. Around her, familiar people either stood or sat in chairs, although none of them seemed to notice that she was on the floor.:: ::Although she was still in pain, she managed to stand up and look around. Nearby she spotted Ethan and with only a few strides, she managed to cross to him. He didn't seem to notice her, so she reached out and brushed his arm with her hand. At that moment, he slumped forward. From somewhere she heard a voice.:: Voice: He's failing. ::She felt like she'd been kicked in the stomach. She heard quick small footsteps and turned to see Matthew rushing past. Not wanting him to discover his now-dead father, she reached out and grasped his arm. Again, as she made contact, he suddenly went limp and fell forward in a heap at her feet.:: Ehlanii: ::screaming:: NO! ((END DREAM)) ::She had nearly screamed as she came out of the dream state. A panic had flowed through her veins and her hands trembled. For a moment she hadn’t known where she was. And then she realized that she was in the shuttle. All she had wanted to do for a moment was call Ethan and check on Matthew. It took all her will and training to focus on figuring out what had happened - and where those images had come from.:: ::It had taken a moment because they came from deep within her subconscious, a dream she had dreamt before. Several years previously someone, for reasons still unknown to her, had made an attempt on her life and that was the dream she had experienced while she was unconscious. She had taken a deep breath in, forcing herself to remain calm, to focus on the shuttle around her. It had taken all her effort, so she was quite relieved when they were summoned home by the COO of the Drake.:: ((FLASHBACK, Shuttle Portobello)) SOLOK: =/\= USS Drake to Commander Brice. =/\= BRICE: =/\= Brice Here. =/\= SOLOK: =/\= You have new orders, Commander. Abort your mission and return to the Drake immediately. =/\= BRICE: =/\= Aye, on our way. =/\= ::She nodded to the pilot who plotted a return course, thankful that she didn’t need to issue any other instructions.:: ((FLASHBACK ENDS)) ::Karynn had initially had every intention of going straight to the bridge, but after the shuttle docked she still felt distinctly off, as though someone had been mucking around in her brain. Hoping that a splash of cold water and perhaps a change of uniform would help (she was feeling particularly damp from the cold sweat her re-dream had triggered), the Haliian had headed to her quarters.:: ::The next event was still a bit blurry to the touch empath. She remembered being overwhelmed with anger shortly after entering her quarters.:: ((FLASHBACK - Chief Engineer’s Office, USS Ronin)) ::Her arms were folded solidly across her chest. Luckily she hadn't needed to wait long after her meeting, but ever since the incident her thoughts had been racing and her frustration had been building. Now that he had finally arrived, she let it out in a controlled stream. Her voice was quiet but icy, her words were crisp and separated.:: Ehlanii: How... could... you? :: He slipped his hands into his pockets and looked down. Weight of his world on his shoulders. He didn’t have an answer for her; he’d done what he thought was best, what he had deemed to be the safest way of controlling things.:: Ehlanii: You couldn't trust me to do my job? We were making progress. Your decision set us back. We don't even know how far back. HOW COULD YOU, Ethan? :: He leant on a rung of the ladder and looked at her. He hadn’t spoken a word so far but he didn’t doubt that the conversation wasn’t one sided.:: Brice: I did what I had to do. ::Her voice rose a few decibels higher:: Ehlanii: Were you even listening? Did you care that you put all of us in danger? You put me in danger with your stupid stunt! What if she had thought that I was complicit in it all? You used my conversation with her to cover your actions! If you didn't care about yourself you could have at least thought of that. Or Ben! As it is, she suspects that he had something to do with it. She might even think it was his orders. He's your friend. Or at least he used to be. ::She took a breath, which gave him an opportunity to say a word.:: Brice: I didn’t think about that, alright? I… I thought you’d all be okay, Danny would beam you all back- ::His time was limited. She wasn't finished and she wasn't yet ready to hear his response. Her voice quickly cut him off again.:: Ehlanii: And that's not even including Sarion and Commander Maria. Or the whole ship! What if she had decided to blow us all out of the sky? Its not like she doesn't have the power to do it! :: His jaw tightened.:: Brice: That’s not fair play! I endangered myself, she wasn’t going to harm the rest of you when the blame was all on me! I did what I had to do to get her on our side, I didn’t see anyone else trying anything! ::Her eyes flashed with anger.:: Ehlanii: I was. I had quite a profile going. I was preparing suggestions to give to Commander Walker. I was probably close to finding the right motivation to get her to help us. Why couldn't you just control yourself? ((END FLASHBACK)) ::That was really when things got murky for the Science Officer and Former Counselor as she tried to piece things together in her moments after waking. As she had been overwhelmed by the memory, she had lost consciousness - and muscle tone. She’d passed out and (although she didn’t quite know it right now) managed to hit her head on her coffee table on the way down. She vaguely remembered ever so briefly regaining consciousness (with a headache) once in the dim light and had some recollection of the ship shaking violently at which point, as best she could tell, her head hit the coffee table again and she lost consciousness.:: ::As she attempted to piece it all together in the fleeting moments, she became aware enough to recognize that she needed a bit of help from the ship’s medical types. She reached up and tapped the comm badge on her uniform.:: Brice: =/\= Brice to Doctor Shelley =/\= Shelley (or other Medical): =/\= RESPONSE =/\= Brice: =/\= I believe I may be in some need of medical assistance. =/\= Shelley (or other Medical): =/\= RESPONSE =/\= Brice: =/\= I am not sure. I haven’t tried to sit up yet. My head is in significant pain and I appear to be bleeding. =/\= Shelley (or other Medical): =/\= RESPONSE =/\= Brice: =/\= I believe just from the head. At least as far as I can tell from my limited self-survey. =/\= Shelley (or other Medical): =/\= RESPONSE =/\= Commander Karynn Brice Chief Science Officer USS Drake
  2. ((Dream Scape, Deepest recess of Alexander Richards mind.)) :: Seconds passed to minutes and minutes passed to hours as the Ensign lay next to the younger form of his wife. Neither moved just looking up at the sky allowing the grass blowing in the breeze to tickle them both. Neither said a word, resting in the absolute serenity of the moment. Occasionally Marissa would allow her hand to gently stroke her husbands face, soothing him, helping him drift further and further away from the stark reality of his current situation. The young man was dying. Ever so slowly, his muscle structure was breaking down whilst his internal organs began to slowly shut down. Memories that the man was no longer aware of began to fade from other parts of his mind. Above him, a cloud shaped like his childhood pet, Pebbles, a Ragdoll cat faded and dissipated. The young man paid it no heed as he lay quietly almost paralyzed by the tranquility of it all. :: ((Deep Space Ten)) :: His heart began to slow, just a dull thud in his heaving chest. His breathing was much more labored. A simple scan of his current state would reveal the synapses slowing to a crawl. Renal function was at a bare minimum for survival. It was as if the young mans body were giving up the fight, losing it's grip on life slowly but surely. If he were conscious he would know he had a reason to fight. He was just mere minutes at best from what could be described as his only chance at life. A bio bed in sickbay forcing his internal organs to work, to keep him alive until the doctors could formulate a cure. Mere minutes away from the comfort of his loving wife and son, the only two things in his life worth keeping him grounded on the mortal coil. For a brief instant he stirred, groaned and then went lifeless again. Was he finally fighting back against his situation? Was he finally trying to fight to stay alive. :: ((Dream Scape, Deepest recess of Alexander Richards mind.)) :: Alexander couldn't be sure whether it was the tranquility that broke him from his serenity or an outside force but finally he was realizing the cold hard truth. This situation was too perfect. There was no reason he should be here. His wife and he looked far to young for this to be real. For a moment the serene scene stayed before black storm clouds began to gather on the horizon. The magic of it all was broken. Tornadoes began forming in the various fields as lightning bolts hit the floor sparking brush fires. Images flashed in the sky burning bright then fading. His wife, his son, his friends. All the young man could do was think fight as he gripped the visage of Marissa tightly. Holding her close as they both painfully aged to their current forms. Alexander didn't want to let go. He couldn't let go. His family and friends were everything to him. What would they do if he left the mortal coil? Was there even anything on the other side? The visage of Marissa moved round to face him and held him tight. She kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear. :: Marissa: oO If you want to leave this place then hold me tight and don't let go. Believe in yourself. Believe in your friends. Hold on Alexander Richards and fight. The moment you doubt yourself or let go, you will lose your touch with the mortal coil. Hold on and fight! Oo TBC Ensign Alexander Richards Acting Chief of Science USS Mercury
  3. ((Dream scape, Deepest recess of Alexander Richards mind.)) :: Fields. Fields of tall grass as far as the eye could see. Bathed in bright sunlight and lovingly warm. Richards, as a much younger form of himself was stood in the middle of one of the fields. Beside him was a ghostly visage of a younger Marissa. A person he had only seen in pictures. She stood about 3 feet tall with long flowing jet black hair, a good 6 inches shorter than Alexander who himself had the long locks of his youth. Both just stood there in silence looking at the beauty of it all. So peaceful, so tranquil. :: Alexander: oO Is this heaven? Oo Marissa: oO It's whatever you want it to be. Oo Alexander: oO It's so peaceful here. I almost feel at home. I don't want to leave. Oo Marissa: oO And you never have to. This can be whatever you want it to be. Oo Alexander: oO It's perfect. Just you, and me, the beautiful landscape. The tranquility of it all. Yet I find myself questioning my presence here. Almost as if I should be somewhere else. Oo Marissa: oO Why be anywhere else but here, with me, loved forever. No cares, just relaxation and eternal peace. Oo Alexander: oO But where is here? I have no memories of ever visiting such a place. And I feel so young, look so young. Oo Marissa: oO It's whatever or where ever you want it to be. Oo :: A gentle breeze blew past the pair. Voices, almost inaudible and completely incomprehensible. Something felt off yet Alexander felt completely at peace. As if he belonged here. Like he was always meant to be here. He still couldn't shake the idea that there was something else beyond all this though. Something he should remember. :: :: The pair settled to their backs in the meadow, holding each others hands. Time seemed to pass slowly. The more Alexander stared into the sky, the more he seemed to relax, to let go. the more idea of their being something beyond this was becoming nothing but a distant memory. He could never remember feeling like this, almost euphoric. The breeze caused the grass to sway gently, brushing against the two as they lay there. The image of Marissa leaned over and kissed Alexander. :: Marissa: oO You know you never have to leave this place. We can stay here happily for eternity. Just you and I. Oo Alexander: oO I'd like that. It just feels so right. Like I belong here. Like I've always belonged here. Oo Marissa: oO You do belong here with me. just the two of us, forever in perfect harmony. Oo ((Deep Space 10)) :: Despite all that was going on around the team, Alexander remained still. Only twitching every now and again as if in some deep trance. His vital signs beginning to deteriorate. He was dying slowly but surely. Time was running out for the young Ensign in more ways than one. :: TBC... Ensign Alexander Richards Acting Chief of Science USS Mercury
  4. ((Main Bridge-USS Mercury)) ::Alexander looked upon the station as he waited for the Captain’s answer to move the Mercury closer to the station. He could only wait for the answer, he thought about Jade and the baby. Since he has really had not that much time to really be with her since she came back on duty, he could only dream of being with her and his mother and father. He did not get to spend the holidays with them this year, but he knows that they will understand and give them a nice holiday dinner with his aunt and uncle. He knows that the valley is covered with snow. The trees and the lower valley where the private cabin for he and Jade is waiting for their return to Earth when there is time for them to return home. Jade has never been to the valley, she has only been there in a holodeck simulation. There is one place that he has not had the chance to show her. The little town past the mountains, where his mother had her private practice and taught classes in the holodeck for the Academy.:: ::He spent his time with her while growing up before he was old enough to attend school. The shuttle flight from the main house in the valley took about thirty minutes, but at times when she wanted to relax and enjoy the winter season, Frances would gather the horses and hitch up the team to the sleigh. She and Alexander would bundle up in the warmest clothing and ride into town for her to make visits, shopping and even a house call with one of her patients. He smiled to himself at the thought of those days as a young boy growing up in the Midwest. He did have playmates that lived in the little town Chardon, there were others that lived closer to him just on the edge of the valley. He would meet them for snowball fights, building snowmen and making angels in the snow. His mind drifted to Jade and how much he would love to show her the real place where he had grown up. He would really love to see the family all there to really meet Jade, but that will come with time. He felt his leg twitch as he stood there on the crutches waiting, it snapped him back to the present and the thoughts about the situation of the away teams jumped back into his mind.:: ::He looked around the bridge as he continued to wait for the Captain, but he looked over to his console and walked over to it, checked the daily roster for the shift change. He looked up just as the relief personnel were coming to the bridge for the Beta shift to start. The time had run by so quickly that no one really noticed. The main thing that was on their minds was the away teams and the transporter problems. Looking down to the console again he could see that some of the science labs needed more power than normal due to the extra experiments that were being run to solve the mystery of the slime. He sat down at his operations console to give his leg a rest and continue his duties while the Captain continued to formulate the plans that were laid out before him.:: ::He closed his eyes for just a few seconds to focus on his duty as the relief operations officer stood next to him, he became aware of her presence, looked up to her and directed her to the engineering console. He was getting tired, but he could not leave his post while the teams were on the station in the situation. He rubbed his leg and scratched it as he watched the change of schedule of the power setting to the holodecks shifted to the science lab. He tapped the console to bypass the build up from the main conduit to the auxiliary. Once that was completed he heard the PADD beep next to him. He looked to see that the repairs to TR One have been completed. He smiled at the good news. He knew that Jade was there and he sent a message to her PADD that he loves her and can’t wait for her to be back on the bridge with him. He missed her so that he could only say to her while they were on duty things with his eyes and his heart that he loved her and could not wait to hold her close. There would be time again soon for them to be together. He rubbed his face and looked at the main view screen at the space station wanting to get in a shuttle himself. To do something other than wait, but there was a feeling that was bothering him. He felt hunger and there was something that he had not been able to do for some time. He grabbed his crutches, used both legs to stand with a feeling of pain, he moved to the rear section of the bridge looked around and entered the head.:: ::After a few solitary moments he returned to the operations console and continued to wait for the Captain as he continued to do his operations duties.:: TBC -- Lt. Cmdr. Alexander J. MatthewsChief Of OperationsUSS Mercury NCC-99812
  5. ((Main Engineering, USS Columbia)) Breeman: What do you make of this data Ben? ::Ben glanced over at the console. Stresses were growing all over hull, that much was clear. But rather than the typical rainbow of colors indicating wide regions of stresses, it was a chicken-pocked ship; flaring red indicators each only a few meters wide were popping up in fields of low stress areas – each an indicator of another attack incoming. :: Livingston: Looks like this has only just begun. Can we seal off any of these compartments? ::But before they could talk further, Ben pointed out another hull breach. Looking at the data from the hull breach it looked like it was still quite small -- not large enough for a dragon to make it through.:: Breeman: I'm compensating! ::He tapped a command and a magnetic arc fired across the hull.:: Breeman: Hopefully that will make it think twice about coming in... Livingston: Hope is good, but I’d rather hope and a plan. We need more data! ((Flashback)) Livingston: =/\= Thought you might want to know, they captured one of these things. You might want to take a look. I know I do. =/\= Nevarass: =/\= I certainly do. Is the dragon secured? ::That was an excellent question. Knowing next to nothing about the things, not understanding their strength or abilities or intelligence, how was it that he could tell the ensign that it was secured? Was it not just as likely that the dragons had the crew “secured”?:: Livingston: =/\= Uh – officially no. Proceed at your own risk. And bring security. =/\= :: As she listened to Livingston’s response, Allie glanced at B’Sara. She didn't want B'Sara to worry, so she mustered a small smile. :: Nevarass: =/\= I see. Well, I’m headed to the Bridge, now. Maybe we can figure out a way to tell our dragon visitors to stop attacking us, if they’re sentient. Unless we can find a way to communicate, we might have to face the possibility of destroying them all. Livingston: ::raising eyebrows:: =/\= I’m not sure destroying them is a possibility. ::pause:: But communication would be the best way to stem any slaughter.=/\= Nevarass: =/\= Agreed. That would be most unfortunate. For all we know, these may be the last of dragon-kind in the universe. Has anyone tried to communicate with them telepathically? Such a method would make sense, evolutionarily speaking. ::That kernel of xenophobia that lived inside everyone as a defensive mechanism had apparently been at work in Ben. He hadn’t much considered the prospect of them communicating, let alone a capability to communicate with other species. And yet, the ensign’s open-mindedness had led her to a conclusion that was quite probable.:: Livingston: =/\= Because they live in a vacuum? Very insightful! I suppose that would be a likely solution. Well – let’s get to it then. Best of luck.=/\= Nevarass: =/\= Right, sir. Almost to the Bridge. Nevarass out. ((End Flashback)) ::It wasn’t long after that another hull breach turned up, taking Ben’s attention as he monitored it. He nearly dispatched an engineering team before remembering the futility – and the danger – of doing so. Instead, he sealed off what he could. Anything that slowed these creatures down would help them have a better solution in place when it was finally time.:: ::Ben was about to report another breach when the ceiling nearly came crashing down around him. Steam, conduit, and shrieking jaws exploded down into the room just meters away, knocking him (thank goodness) to the ground.:: :: And then he watched Kevin Breeman, the ship’s nurturer and protector, charge towards it with terror and fury in his eyes.:: Breeman: Kill it!! ::Shocked, Ben looked around. He had no phaser; even if he had, was killing it a possibility?:: Livingston: We need a plan! ::Kevin’s weapon fire only enraged it, but still the engineer persisted in engaging it in combat, a modern day St. George defending his people. The beast showed no pity, no reservations – it sought only to consume as it was itself consumed by hatred:: ::But Kevin would be destroyed by this, if Ben stayed put, sheltered by a console that was now half separated from the floor plating, exposing cables that had begun to arc intermittently. And yet that hazard seemed much preferable to the one involving dragon slaying. And yet … He raised his eyebrows in surprise.:: Livingston: It’s okay – I have a plan! ::Lifting himself from the floor, Ben dashed around the corner and into full view of the beast. It had moved from its original point of entry, but it would still be close. Ahead of him, Kevin had its full attention, allowing Ben to jump up and grab one of the cables still swaying as it hung from the cavity above. He held onto it as it swung him along the wing-crested back of the animal. From this vantage point, he hoped to find some point of weakness, but he was moving too quickly. Near the end of its stroke, the human pendulum let go and threw himself over the upper deck rail.:: ::Sitting there was precisely what he had hoped to find – a EPS tap cable. Plugging it into the system, he rushed back toward the creature and using the rail as a jumping off point, leapt onto the thing’s back, holding the cable as a dagger to pierce through its armored skin.:: ::Ben could not tell at first if it had made a difference, but soon the wings convulsed and it tried to throw him off. As it tried to reach him, Ben saw Kevin regaining his footing and take a defensive stance, but not once did the Chief Engineer cease his attack.:: Orman: FIRE!! :: Katy’s voice filled the air, a tremendous relief. But when it dawned on him that he might be caught in the line of fire should it turn and expose him, Ben leapt back to the floor, still holding the cable but no longer within striking distance.:: ::He dragged it along the floor as he fought to rejoin the security team, dodging wingtips and claws as he moved. He reached Katy first.:: Livingston: ::shouting:: Nice of you to stop by! Orman: ::shouting as well, to be heard over the phasers and shrieking:: Report! Livingston: Breeman’s been at it for nearly a minute. I hoped EPS would do the job, but I think it’s just angrier now. Have you had luck elsewhere? Orman: ::still shouting as she tracked her target and attempted to put a bolt into it:: Killed one. Takes a lot. Would love to chat, but kind of busy! Kevin's bleeding, call Medical! ----- Lieutenant, J.G. Ben Livingston Assistant Chief Engineer Starbase 118 Ops / USS Victory (Columbia)
  6. ((Assembly Chamber Grounds, Prak Zel)) ::With nothing more than a cursory glance at the assembled flock, Vahini Dalal assumed her position on the rostrum that had been constructed for the media event that she was rapidly beginning to see as a total farce. Unimpressed with the rhetoric of a Laudean and his alien cronies, she had been disappointed to see that the public opinion polls were swaying back towards the Federation camp. To cap it all off, she couldn't understand why her Stratagema match with Minister Zaveri was scheduled for this particular time. It seemed as though it was an unnecessary bolt-on, nothing more than a side-show to gain one or two more per cent in the polls. Still, she knew Zakdorn culture well enough that a refusal to play Stratagema was the same thing as a loss at Stratagema. Glaring scornfully at her opponent, she took her seat.:: Dalal: Alright, Zaveri. Let's get this over with. I'll make it as painless for you as possible. ::The more benign of the two Zakdorn women simply smiled sweetly and remained on her feet as her counterpart seated herself and donned her gauntlets.:: Zaveri: Actually, Vahini, I won't be playing you. ::So indignant was the aide that she almost choked on her response.:: Dalal: What!? You drag me into your little melodrama to forfeit a match? Explain yourself! ::Zaveri could have sat and basked in Dalal's rage for quite some time. It was delicious. Pulling out the chair opposite Dalal at the Stratagema table, she stepped to one side to allow Ensign Fox to approach.:: Zaveri: If you read the invitation carefully, it said I had *invited* you to a Stratagema match, not challenged you to one. Allow me to introduce the young man who did. Oh, and I should probably point out that your microphone just went live. ::She grinned so widely at the last comment that her cheek ridges stacked themselves into a tight pile. Turning the expression on Ensign Fox, she listened as the crowd cheered for him to take his place.:: Fox: ::Quietly to Zaveri:: She doesn't look pleased to see me.... Zaveri: ::Dropping her voice:: Good luck, Ensign. Hopefully her emotional state will hamper her performance. Fox: oO I sure hope so...Oo ::The young Ensign displayed no outward signs of his nerves; a bright smile covered his face as he raised a hand, signalling to the section of the crowd cheering. For him, he hoped, but he couldn't be sure. Retreating from the gaming platform, Zaveri took up a position alongside Dr. Malon just as Ensign Fox took his seat opposite Dalal.:: Zaveri: I hope whatever plan you have works. Otherwise we're going to lose face here. ::Ilyazi turned glinting black eyes on the Zakdorn woman, but none of them wanted their foulplay to be revealed - preferably ever. And while they were talking foulplay, there was no reason not to add to it.:: Malon: Oh, I think you'll be surprised, Minister. Fox and I had a few games just before we came. He's...*quite* the Stratagemist. ::pausing for effect, putting on a sour expression:: He thrashed me without really trying. ::Well...he *would've* done, had they actually been playing. But Ilyazi was as good at boardgames as she was at currently trying to read Dalal - not very. Which was odd. Not exactly problematic...just odd.:: ::Zaveri politely tried her best to look impressed. While she didn't want to belittle the doctor, Rodulans were not known galaxy-wide for their expertise in Stratagema... although the more she thought about it, the more she began to appreciate that some of the skills the two Starfleet officers had developed might stand them in good stead for the speed of wit that the game required.:: Zaveri: Well, let's hope he can repeat that performance against Dalal. He certainly doesn't look all that worried. ::Ilyazi let her eyes roam the grounds and the spectators, picking up general thoughts of confusion that they weren't about to see a match between the Zakdorn women, and confusion at the presence of Starfleet officers. One or two were blatantly angry that Fox thought himself capable of taking on a Zakdorn opponent, and the evil side of her was grinning from figurative ear to figurative ear. Let them be angry.:: ::Of course, not everyone was angry. Some were simply jeering inside, laughing mockingly at the Stratagema wannabe. But Ilyazi had a lot more faith in Fox than any of them combined.:: Malon: ::eyes glinting at no one in particular:: ~ Remember that dinner I promised you... ~ Fox: ~ Only reason I'm smiling up here... ~ ::She smiled inwardly at that.:: Malon: ~ You'll be fine. You know what you're doing. ~ ::With the game just about to start, Ilyazi was happy to let Fox take control from the very start, and kept herself fairly well distanced from his mind to avoid interfering with his thoughts. Instead, she let the thoughts of those around her flock in...and Fox's, just in case.:: ::But try as she might to read Dalal...it was like trying to eat a ball of fuzz. Every time she tried, she had to pull back and wash her mind clean of fluff. There just *wasn't* anything that she could gain from her. Fox wasn't faring much better. Sat but three feet away, he could feel Dalal's fury. A cheeky wink did little to brighten her spirits.:: Fox: ::Into his mic:: Minister Dalal, my name is Ensign James Fox of Starfleet. I'd like to first thank you for affording me the privilege of this game. I consider it quite the honour. ::Through piggy eyes, Vahini sneered at her Terran opponent, sizing him up. She was going to snap him like a twig and embarrass Starfleet in front of the simpering crowd of morons they had assembled.:: Dalal: ::With a crocodile grin:: Enjoy it while it lasts, *Ensign*. I do not anticipate that this game will take very long at all. Let me know if you require any assistance strapping your gloves on... ::She smirked at her comment and one or two laughs could be heard from the crowd as well.:: Fox: I'll offer you the same courtesy when it comes to taking the gloves off, Minister. ::Lifting one eyebrow:: They look a snug fit... ::Waiting for the green officer to set himself up, Vahini stared intently at the gaming table between them as the three-dimensional display initialised. With a high-pitched whine, strategically placed holo-emitters recreated the cuboid playing field high in the air above them; it began rotating so that the crowd could see the game from all sides. A timer appeared on the table in front of them, counting down to the start of the game. The Ensign looked confident, but Dalal was determined not to let that sway her.:: ::Now that the game was almost at its start, the crowds settled down and Ilyazi picked out a strong undercurrent that had been drowned out by the mental jeering - it was hope. Hope that Fox would somehow win, and that the game might bring the two forces - Starfleet and Zakdorn - closer, more united. And it was that hope that spurred Ilyazi on to focus on the game again.:: ::The moment the timer reached zero, Vahini launched into a ferocious attack on the central quadrant of the central plane, attempting to establish a solid foothold to allow her to expand her power base. She watched with pleasure as an area of blue began to spread. This was going to be easy; her opponent's green squares looked few and far between. She felt more confident by the second that he would fall to her out and out attack strategy.:: Dalal: oO So much for Starfleet...Oo ::The sudden onset of her attack took Fox aback. He regained his composure not a moment too soon; he rallied and simulataneously launched attacks on both the left and right quadrants, both of his hands blurring with the speed of his movements. Vahini's blue straight was soon flanked on either side by a steadily growing green zone. A green U shape had quickly formed. As the first conflict reached an impasse, the U shape slowly receded back into a straight line as both players fought to regain lost squares. :: Malon: ~ You're doing good. ~ ::And that was about as much as she could say. He was. Exceptionally. In fact, she was the one struggling to keep up with this. Which was a worry. A silent one. But a worry nonetheless.:: ::Displeased at the failure of her first tactic, Dalal employed a sudden shift; while the focus had been on the central plane, the two outer planes were still relatively unpopulated. If Fox wanted to convert her blue squares into green ones, he would have to spend time focusing on the territory he had yet to conquer, which would afford her a chance to build a secondary power base in the corner of her nearest plane before expanding along through the three moving playing fields and into the one closest to the Ensign. She could not wait to see his face when blue squares began to crop up deep within his own territory. A smile began to cross her lips at the very thought of it.:: Dalal: If you want to forfeit now and save yourself some time, we would all understand... Fox: And rob you of such an easy victory, Minister? Perish the thought.... ::He was enjoying the trash talk more than the game. Fox had managed to maintain his air of confidence thus far but that first skirmish had been tricky; trickier than he'd like. And this was *with* Dalal underestimating him. The longer the game went, the better the PR. Dalal needed to win convincingly, he thought. If he could just hold on....:: Fox: oO Do we know what's coming, oh-guide-of-mine? Oo Malon: ~ She's heading towards your playing area. Planning on invading from the inside. ~ ::The game itself had been proceeding just as Dalal had planned. Fox had aggressively attacked Dalal, hoping to expand his green zone while she consolidated her power base and began circle around deep into Fox's nearest plane. Alerted to the danger by Doctor Malon, Fox shifted his attention to the threat, cutting off the incursion by splitting it in twain. He mopped up the blue squares stranded in his nearest plane but in doing so conceded all of the territory he had gained. A single bead of sweat rolled down his forehead as he struggled to maintain the stalemate.:: ::Ilyazi wasn't a good Stratagema player, she knew. But she was counting on the spectators being experts. Even their fingers were twitching as if they had the gauntlets on themselves, playing the match.:: ::And it was because of their enthusiasm that Ilyazi was able to pick on one of the spectator's thought and transfer their mental images across to Fox in a split second. All she could hope was that that individual was mentally playing for them...and that they were a better player than Dalal.:: ::But better player or not, the mental imagery transferred into Fox's brain wholly changed his perspective. Before, he was seeing just Green and Blue. Now he was seeing innumerable shades of both; each shade helped instantly convey differing information and statistics. One light green square, it was clear to him, signified a 65% chance of being contested in the next turn. Furthemore it showed him that should it be taken it would offer Dalal a 72% probability of going on to capture the entire quadrant. He had such information and more on all 256 squares at every given instant and it was all very clear to him. Fox assumed this was his brain's way of coping with all of the processing power of the Zakdorn. Coupling his new reading of the game with his impressive dexterity, Fox fought back.:: Fox: Let's get started, shall we? ::Irritation about the fact that the Terran had dared to play possum against her was quickly replaced by a healthy dose of panic as Vahini saw a dangerous incursion into her own territory. She had seconds to respond before the map was washed green and her humiliation was complete. Feverishly manipulating her gauntlet, she surged outwards from her central power base, vying for control of areas that were less easy for him to defend. As the green territory rapidly expanded, she pushed for the lower edge of the central square and coloured the upper right hand corner closest to her. A two-pronged assault, while difficult to maintain, seemed to represent the best hope for the time being; it left her with options of spaces from which she could defend herself.:: Dalal: Terran pig... this is impossible! Malon: ::to Zaveri:: What do you make of it so far? ::playing on the fact she knew little:: I'd already lost to Fox by this point. Is he heading in the right direction? ::Zaveri's eyes were positively gleaming with delighted surprise. She could hardly believe what she was seeing.:: Zaveri: I've never seen a non-Zakdorn play like this. Your Ensign is incredible! To hold a Zakdorn for over seven hundred moves! ::She watched for a moment, her head bobbing up and down as she carefully inspected the rotating 3D display.:: Although... he should probably watch out for his right flank if he wants to stay in the game. Dalal hasn't seen it yet, but if she does it will undo all the good work he just did... ::It was puzzling that Dalal hadn't seen that threat; nearly every spectator seemed to be looking at the same thing, some shaking their heads. Was it matchday nerves that were causing her a problem, or overconfidence?:: Malon: ~ Watch out for your right flank. You're vulnerable there. ~ ::Fox's focus was entirely on the game; he mentally grunted an acknowledgement then reinforced his right flank. Ilyazi was right to warn him; had that section fallen there was a 78% chance of him losing the game within 24 turns.:: Dalal: ::Half under her breath:: I will not lose to a human... ::Seeing him reinforce his right flank, Dalal took a deep breath and forced herself to focus. She was mere moments from defeat. It was time for an all-out offensive. Kicking herself into a higher gear, she worked frantically to push all of her territories into wedge shapes, conceding squares where necessary to allow the tactic to form. Fingers moving into a blur, she waited for exactly the right moment before sending blue surging across the board in an attempt to break into the deepest areas of green colouring and disrupt Fox's considerable foothold from the inside. It was all or nothing now. If he saw through this tactic then she was finished...:: Zaveri: ::Gasping:: She's going to turn it around... such a shame. He was doing so well. ::Ilyazi flicked calm eyes on Zaveri, but on the inside, that little comment hadn't been appreciated. Still...:: Malon: ::infusing a lighthearted smile:: You don't know our Fox, Minister. ::The previously hushed crowd broke out into an array of conflicting conversation, some animated, some defeated, some cheering encouragement. Dalal's attempt to pull the rug out from under Fox was causing beads of sweat to appear on her brow and it was clear that she had very little left to give. If he could just survive her attack then the game was his, and the crowd knew it...:: ::Fox felt the urgency of the crowd. Perhaps more accurately, he could see the urgency. Large swathes of his green zone had went from a dark, safe, green to a very pale green. At first his conscious mind struggled to interpret the sudden dramatic change in data. Then came the blue wedges, smashing into his squares like a cavalry charge. Fox instinctively reacted, staunchly defending the two outer quadrants while conceding the centre. Panic almost overtook him as even the outer quadrants buckled; slowly he stemmed the tide and pushed his own green squares forward and diagonally, encircling the lost centre quadrant. Fox couldn't quite believe what he was seeing as his frenzied hands dealt the killing blow; the blue central quadrant, under bombardment from all directions, suddenly shrank to the size of a penny then disappeared altogether. Game over.:: ::Ilyazi had struggled to keep up with the mass of information and the speed of the game, and in the end, hadn't needed to. Fox, using instincts that should rarely be ignored, had fought the last battle and won with incredible swiftness. Even the images she'd received from some of the Zakdorn wouldn't have gotten him that victory. He'd won that one fair and square.:: ::As she withdrew quickly from his mind, feeling a tiredness descend now that everything was over, she had to ask just how a human had managed to beat a Zakdorn.:: ::It happened so quickly that Vahini didn't even have time to reach for the power control to disable the board before the win could be displayed above them. The crowd's roar of surprise was matched by her roar of anger and frustration; wrenching her hands from the gloves that controlled the game, she caught them as they fell into her lap and hurled them over the table at Fox, hatred burning in her eyes as the depth of her humiliation sunk in. Jeers and laughter from those she recognised as former supporters did nothing to improve her mood as she stood abruptly from her chair and turned her back to the audience, standing stock still as if about to explode.:: ::Fox hadn't moved. Even when Dalal's gloves had been thrown into his face, he still sat quiet. The gloves themselves had barely registered to him; he felt rather disorientated now that his mind was his own again. The roaring of the crowd didn't seem real somehow. He felt disassociated from his surroundings, like he was watching it on a holovid.:: Fox: oO Ilyazi.....we have won, right? Oo Malon: ::after a moment:: ~ Put it this way, you now need to decide where you want dinner. ~ ::As some semblance of independent thought returned to Fox, he stood and offered his hand to his opponent. One final slap in the face.:: Fox: Good game. ::The defeated minister spat the words at him spitefully.:: Dalal: Do not patronise me, human. ::Remembering in that moment a comment that Minister Wadke had made in reference to the Vigilant crew, Dalal's eyes narrowed, but she held her tongue. She knew that the Minister would have been watching even though she was unsure of his current whereabouts. If her suspicions were correct, she had a feeling he would be making himself known very soon...:: Malon: ::turning tired but happy black eyes on Zaveri:: I told you our Fox was quite something. Zaveri: I... I... yes, he most certainly is! ::The delight in her eyes was unfathomable. She was stunned, finding it difficult to process the fact that a non-android off-worlder had just accomplished what she had just seen accomplished.:: Malon: ~ Well done, James. Are you alright? ~ Fox: oO I think I'm going to throw up... Oo JP by Ens James Fox Helm USS Vigilant & MSNPC Minister Tamasa Zaveri Zakdorn Assembly Zakdorn IV SIMmed by: Captain Diego Herrera & MSNPC Vahini Dalal Aide to Minister Dakshi Wadke Zakdorn IV SIMmed by: Captain Diego Herrera & Ens Ilyazi Malon Medical Officer USS Vigilant
  7. ((Breeman Residence - Earth)) ::Patri was gone. Jan sat at the edge of the young woman's bed and wondered. Why had she been out so late like that the other night? Why had she said Kevin would be alright with such odd certainty?:: ::The clock had just struck seven AM and Alvin was already outside, pacing the deck wondering what to do next. Had she run away? She hadn't seemed terribly angry with her. Why would she break the law like that when she'd been proving herself now to be such an upstanding citizen?:: ((Dreamscape - Patri's Mind)) ::She's outside the house again, the dark figure looming in the distance down the straight snowy path. The moon overhead looks at her surprised to see her out like this. As she approaches the man and finds only a long tree trunk where she'd previously met Kevin the other night she shivers. Beneath her feet the snow crunches softly as she walks through the otherwise silent night.:: ::Looking down she lets her mind drift through the sparkling stars in the snow as the ice crystals pick up the moonlight. If she moves her head or her body just right some of the stars come on and others turn off. Swaying slowly to let one particular star switch on and off she barely notices the mountains forming in her patch of milky white space on the ground. Soon they have mountain tops that shine brilliantly. And then shadows, as the light shines on her. She looks up. There's a doorway standing in front of her.:: ::Blinking she wonders if she's ended up in front of someone's house. Suddenly self conscious she prepares her best explanation. I'm sorry sir, I was just out for a midnight stroll. I didn't mean to walk onto your property.:: ::No one's there. It's just a door in the snow, in front of a pair of trees. She steps forward.:: ((Breeman Residence - Earth)) Alvin: Did you hear anything last night? Jan: No... ::She sighed.:: Alvin: She was doing so well. And now this!?? Jan: You don't know that she ran away. Alvin: What else could this be? ::She looked at him, trying to calm him down. Should she tell him about the incident the other night? Should she tell him she was starting to see aspects of Kevin in her?:: Alvin: What? What is it? Jan: ::Quietly:: I saw her outside the other night night. ((Dreamscape - Patri's Mind)) ::Patri recognizes Jan speaking softly with Alvin in her room. In Kevin's room. The whole thing seems so real. She runs a finger along the spine of a book and she lets it gently slide and then fall over on his bookshelf. Jan's upset. Alvin's angry. Disappointed. Did she read that on his face right?:: ::She walks a little closer to the point her nose is almost between the husband and wife as they speak.:: Alvin: So you think she left last night? ::Sighing, Jan says,:: Jan: I don't know. I wasn't sure how to tell you about this but... Well there it is. ::Patri blinks, lays a hand down on Jan's shoulder.:: Jan: I wish she'd stop tugging at me like that. ::Her voice is muffled, strange.:: Alvin: It's never fair when she does that. ::She pats her hand atop Alvin's head, as the room fades from view into the darkness that's always been there.:: Alvin: Come on..... ::The voice fades.:: ((Breeman Residence - Earth)) Alvin: So you think she left last night? Jan: I don't know. I didn't think it was if she went for the occasional walk. Kevin did it and I got used to it. ::Sighing, Alvin said,:: Alvin: Then we're just going to have to call the police. I'm sorry, but she's technically violating the terms of her release. ::Jan nodded and said,:: Jan: I know.. ::Behind them the room was silent, save for the sound of something small slipping on one of Kevin's old bookshelves.:: ((Patri's Perspective)) ::She's sitting in a wing chair now, her head resting on the cushions. How long was she asleep? In front of her is another chair, along with a sofa. Standing she approaches the door. Turning the handle she steps out into a street made of shining brass. Beneath her feet several clear papers drift by, carried by wind from the sun that hangs directly above. The door behind her closes and a building that casts no shadow stands above her, two lonely windows separated by a gulf of decaying wall peering dimly out into the city street.:: ::She turns to her left and gasps. There's no horizon. The street rolls up toward her. She turns to run to escape it only to be confronted with the very same landscape that threatens to envelop her on the other side. Nothing is flat. She's perpetually falling forward. No. She's standing straight up while the ground rushes to catch her but never succeeds.:: Patri: What the hell? ::She looks down at her feet picks up a sheet of clear paper and tries to read the writing that flickers on and off. The gentle breeze tosses her long brown hair that catches the light of the sun in the center of her sphere.:: Patri Jia Kom Former Computer Hacker As simmed by Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Breeman Chief Engineer Starbase 118
  8. ((Staging Area, Assembly Building)) ::The premiere trade district on Zakdorn filled the huge screen as Greir pressed a button on the lectern. There was a buzz of activity as goods were handled and checked for import and export. Upbeat, melodic trance techno music played in the background, but not so loudly that Greir could not be heard clearly over it. A few seconds later the camera zoomed out and the planet of Zakdorn filled the whole screen.:: ::This was going to be truly spectacular and he was very proud of not only his research but the way it was presented. He wasn’t going down the usual route for delivering a speech and the opener was designed to grab the audiences attention. :: Reinard: The Zakdorn have always been resourceful and prudent in their management of business. Even before your involvement with the Federation you had a strong and thriving economy. ::The image of the planet shrunk on the screen and slipped over to one side as a statistical overview displayed a year on year overview of key economic data for the years prior to their entry into the Federation. There was another zoom out as the camera took a trip around the system and the music's tempo increased. New statistical data appeared on the screen and graphs showed impressive spikes upwards as Zakdorn entered the Federation. Though the data changed he’d made sure there was enough time for the viewers to properly read and absorb the information.:: Reinard: It was by no miscalculation that the Zakdorn people chose to join the Federation. We opened the doors of the universe to you. ::The camera zoomed through the region, passing beautiful stars and planets along the biggest shipping lane as more statistics were relayed demonstrating how the economy had hugely been boosted by the new business opportunities that had opened up to them by joining the Federation. The displayed figures were clear for all the room to see and he knew every Zakdorn in the room could read the unspoken facts for themselves.:: Reinard: Business has boomed, your economy has grown and gone from strength to strength, but it’s not always been easy. Unfriendly factions have often tried to block or close that trade route. There have been incidences in which your cargo freighters, hauling high valued goods have come under attack. ::The beat and tempo of the music changed again and became more aggressive as the screen seemed to zoom in to a point until a lone Zakdorn cargo freighter travelling the trade route filled a good portion of the screen. It wasn’t real footage he was showing here, it was computer generated. It was a simulation based of real events and the date of the incident showed on the top left of the screen. A line from the freighter led to a box illustrating the ship, it’s cargo manifest and the value of goods it was carrying. It was a huge, slow, poorly armed ship but it was built like a tank and could sustain a lot of punishment...:: :: ...Which was just as well because at that point another, aggressive ship was seen to approach and start harassing the freighter. Weapons fire lit up the screen and struck at the ship whose defensive armaments were failing to do much damage in retaliation. The action played at an increased pace to give a taste of the events as they had unfolded and you could see the scars on the hull as the ship took more and more damage from the severe beating it was getting. As with the rest of it, the vital tactical information was flagged up to put the situation in perspective for the viewers. The time at which a distress call was made was flagged up on screen.:: ::So when the Federation ship was seen to warp in and take control of the situation you could see the response time. Considering how big space was Greir felt it was pretty good, in fact it was better than good to the point of being lucky. That is, lucky that there had happened to be a ship so close by at the time - otherwise things would have gone much more poorly and he wouldn’t be playing the clip here today.:: Reinard: The Federation supports its member worlds, whether it’s a single ship coming under attack or a group. ::The action on the screen continued as it slid and shrunk until it was only taking up the left half of the screen. The right half showed a second scene with a convoy of Zakdorn ships coming under attack much further down the trading route. It’s a similar scene. Even though the convoy worked as a team to focus what little firepower they had to do the most damage there was little impact. The group took heavy damage before a StarFleet ship arrived in time to save them and see the attackers off. More than that, in each case the StarFleet ships remained behind after the attack and sent repair crews to help fix the damaged ships. Then the StarFleet vessel escorted them along the route until repairs were finished, the area was deemed clear and it was appropriate to let them continue alone again.:: ::Greir had taken care to construct this part of the presentation to be as engaging visually as it was packed with all the facts and statistics the Zakdorn craved. Right now he only needed to solidify what was on the screen with some key points from himself.:: Reinard: We also make an excellent breakdown service. ::Smiling and adding a touch of humor.:: ::The left half of the screen shrunk to the top of the screen and was now filling a 1/4 of the space; the action continued to play out but it was near complete by now. The space that was vacated was filled with a new scene - of a freighter that hadn’t come under attack. One that had suffered mechanical failure - the details of which were highlighted in the appropriate place. Once again StarFleet was there to save the day.:: ::Thankfully the screen was big enough to accommodate all of this information clearly. :: Reinard: If the Zakdorn choose to leave the Federation in favor of an alliance with the Klingons this kind of support will not be provided and you will lose access to Federation worlds. The Klingons will consider you weak if you cannot stand alone and protect your own assets. Of course, you might argue the case that you don’t have to go far from home for good trading opportunities. ::It was time for the bigger picture and the music seemed to calm and slow back down, becoming more peaceful as a territory map of the Zeta Gelis region. Symbols for various resources appeared on the map and were listed in a key to the bottom right of the screen. It showed the various imports and exports and indicated a lot of expensive, heavy materials were being mined and traded and it was clear a lot of this supported their thriving construction industry.:: Reinard: It looks great right now but let’s see what happens when we strip away access to Federation Worlds. ::The screen changed and Zakdorn and it’s territory was now coloured red, the symbols for resources now closed to them were gone. They were replaced with symbols elsewhere of resources that the Klingons were known to be able to provide. The figures here were educated estimates that he’d worked out as accurately as possible to illustrate to them how a change of allegiance would hit their pockets. If Zakdorn and it’s colonies started losing as much money as was indicated by the projected figures it was going to affect their standard of living. He had no doubt they were smart enough to realise this.:: Reinard: ::Wincing for effect:: Ouch, that’s a blow, but that’s not all. The bigger picture is considerably worse. Take away the Federation and all those lucrative exports go. :: ::The map zoomed out displaying the entire map of the universe with all the territories marked in and colour coded. Only details for the biggest imports and exports were shown. The figures changed from showing current trading details to projected figures for a Klingon alliance, with the resource markers changing as before.:: Reinard: A number of your export businesses will dry up with a move away from the Federation. You will also lose access to these resources completely as the Klingon Empire doesn’t have access to them at all. ::Images of the resources danced across the screen. Some of these were as simple as popular food stuffs but a number of them were fairly important - such as construction materials and would most likely be missed. There was no doubt that an alternative would have to be found and that was both time consuming and costly.:: Reinard: ::Confidently:: I’m Lieutenant Commander Greir Reinard from the USS Vigilant. You built StarFleet this fantastic new ship and your contributions are widely known and appreciated. The USS Vigilant will add to our assets operating in and around the region. More support for you. As you can clearly see and will continue to see, the Zakdorn people simply cannot afford to leave the Federation. :: With a nervous glance around the room Greir noted his introduction seemed to have done an adequate job of grabbing the audience’s attention. All eyes were on him and he felt you could just about cut the atmosphere with a knife. Now that he had their attention he was going to hit them with his strongest point. This was the tough one, the Battle of Bondi.:: Reinard: You’ve already seen that the Federation offers a greater variety of resources and greater scope for trade. What you’ll see next is that though the Klingons are a formidable adversary they are no real threat to the Federation. ::Greir pressed a button to once again show the map of local areas of space, highlighting Zakdorn and Til’ahn - although it was labeled with it’s Federation designation Duronis II. Showing it in this way made sure all present were familiar with the planet as it’s relative proximity. Some details about the planet, it’s population - and facts that might interest the Zakdorn were displayed but he reiterated the most important one.:: Reinard: What follows next is live footage from a battle fought on Duronis II, which is not a Federation Member. StarFleet played a key role in helping the local militia remove the invading Klingons off the planet. ::Pressing another button the advisory warning appeared on the screen, giving adequate time for any who wished to leave to get up and do so. He didn’t know if any of the individuals present here today had heart problems. They were reputed to be quite healthy despite their size but Greir wasn’t a doctor and didn’t want to be responsible for any heart attacks. He didn’t expect any would leave but they had to have fair warning. Given the Minister's positive response earlier he was fairly hopeful of getting the result he wanted. :: ::The News feed began and the Laudean militia assembled in Bondi, Manar Providence, and prepared for battle. You could see them equipping themselves with disruptor weapons, and grenades as well as laying explosive charges. :: ::The Laudeans were down in the valley and StarFleet was supporting them up on the ridge in strategic positions. Greir was sure the Zakdorn could see the merit in the strategy used, indeed it had not taken a complicated Zakdorn strategy to push back the Klingons. The plan was simple and even a child could have anticipated it - he felt it did not paint the Klingons in a very good light.:: ::The Klingons advanced and when the time was right and they’d come far enough forward the Laudeans opened fire. The sound of battle filled the room. Greir kept his attention on the audience, trying to gauge their reaction. He could practically see the cogs turning in the minds of the audience as they weighed the merit of what was before them. Many faces did not look particularly impressed.:: ::Once more the sounds of explosions, screams, rockfall and weapons fire pierced his ears and the surround sound was doing it’s job. Greir felt his blood turn to ice but held steady and composed. StarFleet were giving it their all shooting and throwing grenades from above. The Brotherhood crumbled and their flank began to collapse forcing the Klingons to try resupplying them. Laudean fighters circled, firing down relentlessly and a StarFleet shuttle was zipping around dropping recovered mines in strategic locations. :: ::StarFleet soon started drawing fire but the Klingons had no success in their effort to return fire and eliminate the StarFleet threat. The Laudeans never let up and it was greatly revealing of the character and spirit of their people that they fought with such determination and passion. The battle finished with the Laudeans steamrolling the last of the Klingons and the eyes in the room turned once more to Greir.:: Reinard: Klingons are a warrior species by choice, the Laudeans are not but any species can step up and be warriors when what they hold dear is threatened. There is no doubt that the Federation presence in the region is enough to adequately support Zakdorn IV, because it’s also adequate enough to support non-member worlds. ::Greir had only received this next data recently and so had no supporting footage to go with it, so the data was displayed in a more simplified way on the screen and contained other key dates and battles where the Klingons had failed to conquer Federation worlds and he had another prime example standing just behind him.:: Reinard: It took no sophisticated Zakdorn plan to defeat the Klingons. If a species so devoted to the art of war cannot defeat peaceful species such as the Laudeans, what hope do they have of defeating larger foes, like the Brikar? ::Greir spared a purposeful glance back to Eerie to draw the audiences attention to him.:: Reinard: Lieutenant Commander Eerie here, is Brikar and I’m sure he would love to share some war stories with you as the Brikar are also a warrior race. They are renowned for their stoic nature and devotion to duty and I would rather take a Brikar into battle than a Klingon - any day! They are sturdy and can withstand tremendous phaser fire, they can breathe underwater for over twenty minutes. They’re as tough as they come, fearsome and powerful in battle - but more than that they’re reliable and trustworthy. They won’t turn on you when the wind changes. ::Here he was referring to the fact the Klingons had in the past made and broken alliances to further their own personal agendas. Greir had no doubt in his mind that the Klingons would turn on the Zakdorn the minute they had whatever it was they were after here and he hoped they’d be smart enough to realise it too.:: ::The Klingons had tried several times in battle to conquer the Brikar and failed. If the Brikar Defence Force had only been stronger they could have been the ones steamrolling through the galaxy instead. The battle details were up on the screen and Greir summarized the final battle. :: Reinard: The Klingons finally realised they could not conquer the Brikar on Stardate 234112.07 after the battle for Purex Sector. ::A system map highlighted the 5th planet in the system and displayed statistics on the ground and space assets deployed by both forces.:: Reinard: While the Klingon Empire had a vast numerical superiority of starships and was a bit more advanced technologically they met Brikar for the first time in ground to ground combat. Brikar ground troops destroyed a Klingon division in pitch battle and the Klingons lost thousands of troops. The Brikar forces had a handful of deaths and only about 100 injured. ::Greir paused and let them absorb the simple fact that the Brikar had effectively rolled over an entire Klingon division and had sustained minimal casualties. The Brikar space forces had fared poorly and had lost 10 of 12 starships while only managing to destroy 2 Klingon battle cruisers. Greir did not mention this, though it was available in the statistics that were displayed. It had not been Federation Starships involved in the conflict - which had taken place before the Brikar had joined the Federation. The point was to illustrate the considerable capabilities of one of the Federations most powerful warrior races.:: Reinard: The Federation being made up of so many species, all having equal rights and value is not a weakness - it is a strength. Every species has it’s strengths and weaknesses but every race adds something to the Federation which makes it stronger. The greatest strategists know how to capitalize on this to get the greatest returns. ::This led him onto his final point of the presentation. He continued to observe the audience and was mindful that he didn’t want to lose their attention by dragging this out too long. He felt he’d struck the right balance as he moved on to finish it.:: Reinard: The Federation has brought to you bio-neural gel packs which have greatly enhanced the computer architecture of your supercomputers allowing them to process considerably more complex data and strategies. Perhaps now they can keep up with the Zakdorn mind. :: He smiled charismatically and noted the response to another little light comment.:: Reinard: Mark IV construction mechs, brought to you by the Federation have halved construction time for you. This has not only saved you money but allowed you to fill more orders. ::His handy statistics were back, showing how business had boomed with a nice image showing the construction mechs at work next to it. Yes, he was fully emphasising and driving it home now. Federation, Federation, Federation. Construction was one of their major industries and this had been a huge leap forward for them, so he wasn’t going to let them forget it.:: ::The next example was a little weaker but only in the sense that the Zakdorn didn’t have starships of their own. They had 6 defense satellites around the planet only. However these torpedoes were being used in defence of Zakdorn, it’s people and assets so still very relevant and showed StarFleet’s ability to keep producing it’s own top level military technology.:: Reinard: The Federation is very pleased with it’s Quantum Torpedos. The USS Vigilant is equipped with 5 pulse-fire quantum torpedo launchers and will use them where necessary to defend you, your people and your assets as we’ve done throughout our alliance. ::In some ways Greir was saving the best for last and he was sure the audience was getting hungry by now. He wouldn’t have been surprised at all to learn the Zakdorn people enjoy 7 meals a day. If nothing else in his speech had sated their appetite for answers he hoped that this would finally fill them.:: Reinard: As if that wasn’t enough the Federation has also introduced you to the wonderful technology of food replication. The replicator, an absolute must in every household. Saving time and effort, allowing access to a far wider variety of foods and drink as well as eliminating waste. It has raised the living standards for all. ::The final image on the screen was a clever representation of all the points he was pushing formed in such a way as to really highlight and summarize the symbiotic relationship between the Federation and the Zakdorn. This was primarily a pro-Federation campaign after all, the fact it highlighted the Klingons in a bad way in many situations was a bonus.:: Reinard: The Zakdorn made the right choice in choosing an alliance with the Federation. The opportunities for trade and the exchange of knowledge and technology have benefited us both. Closing those doors will damage your economy and standard of living because the Klingons simply can’t compare when it comes to providing the range and quality of opportunities that we do. ::This had been demonstrated from the start and was represented in the final image.:: Reinard: We’ve been through so much together and supported each other when threatened by enemies more dangerous than the Klingons - like the Dominion and the Borg. The Klingons think they are the premiere warriors in the universe but time and again the Federation and it’s member worlds have driven back their invading forces. ::The screen slowly faded to black.:: Reinard: To leave the Federation and form an alliance with the Klingons who are as unreliable as they are ineffective is as smart as constructing a war strategy by rolling dice. Lt Cmdr Reinard Chief Counsellor USS Vigilant
  9. To catch us up, voting is for Rounds 2 - 4. One sim from each vote is qualified to move forward to the next round of judging. Voting closes at Midnight on 1 April 2012. This round of voting only qualifies one sim to move on to the next round of judging. REMEMBER: This is NOT a popularity contest. Vote based on MERIT, not the fact that someone is your crewmate. Any crews found "stuffing the ballots" or ratings, will be disqualified PERMANENTLY. Yes, that means the whole crew! Good luck one and all, Roo
  10. ((Zell’s Quarters - Deck 6)) Zell: Just a moment! :: Another deep breath and a gaze out of the window later, he walked over and pushed the button to allow entry. The doors slid open… :: ::To reveal the only Brekkian Betazoid hybrid on the ship. She was wearing her gold tank-top and her black slacks and boots, her arms were crossed, and she was practically glaring at the Trill. But she smiled that angelic smile that told you “You’re in trouble”.:: Blake: Well Mister “I’m going to suddenly disappear off the face of the universe and then return without so much as saying “Hi” to his girlfriend”, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do. :: Once again, Deven was aghast at the situation. He'd barely thought about the incident on the Bridge and remembered he'd planned to sleep on it before asking to talk with her... but that plan was now shot. He was scrambling in his head to find something to respond will... :: Zell: I guess I do... ::She practically pushed past the Trill, and stood in the middle of the room, staring out the window, until she finally turned around to face him, the glare gone. Her arms seemed to be crossed uncomfortably as she stood there, looking at him.:: Blake: Look, if you didn’t want to be with me, you could have just . . . *told* me! I’ve been rejected for almost all my relationships, and another one isn’t likely to hurt anymore. Just tell me to my *face* that you don’t like being with me instead of disappearing and leaving me in a complete and utter *mess*! :: The lashing out was expected. Thankfully the medication had worn off a bit more which allowed Deven to think a bit more, but he was now very scared... he had no idea how to explain the situation. :: Zell: That's not what happened at all... Blake: Then where the hell did you go?! Why didn’t you tell me you left the ship!? The *least* you could have done was leave a note somewhere on the system where I could have found it! :: If he'd been the man he was once, there wouldn't have been a hesitation. This time, though, he second-guessed every word he wanted to say. It showed in his eyes as they darted around the room. The uncomfortable shifts in weight and the heavy breathing kicked in next. He tried to look her in the eyes but kept trying to focus elsewhere. :: ::The fact that he hesitated and tried not to think was proof that he didn’t want to talk about it. She sighed, and wrapped her arms around his neck, her nose lightly rubbing against his.:: Blake: Just . . . tell me that I am *not* dreaming that you’re here, and that you are actually here? Please? :: Deven felt the same way... it wasn't until that moment that he felt he was really back and in Sky's presence. He relaxed and instinctively wrapped his arms around her, and then remembered she was in a fragile state. His touch was tender but also caring. :: Zell: I'm here... but... :: He closed his eyes to think of the words, but before he could say anything else a cool burst of air hit his left side. Deven jerked his eyes to the origin of the coldness and saw him... again. :: Fitzpatrick: ~~You left us Lieutenant...~~ :: The green-collared terran was pale with dark, sunken eyes. His uniform was in torn in several places and an obvious burn left the man's right side badly disfigured. Deven's heart began beating and the heavy breathing started again. His hands clenched into fists as the terror took hold. :: Fitzpatrick: ~~You left your post!~~ :: The Trill shut his eyes and let go of Sky. He dropped to his knees and started to hyperventilate as he tried to silence the Marine. :: Zell: NO! NOT AGAIN! WHY WON'T YOU LEAVE ME ALONE!?!? :: A sudden contraction from his stomach signaled he needed to get out, and Deven ran to the bathroom. The sounds of regurgitation were deafening. After it was over, the Trill fell back with his back against the bulkhead and sobbed with head in hands. Then he remembered Sky was still there. He looked over and there she was. :: Blake: Deven? Deven look at- Zell: ::crying:: I don't want to see them any more... ::The fact that he had flipped out back in the lounge was proof that something was wrong on its own, as was the sudden vomiting for no apparent reason. Now it was hitting far too close to home. Once upon a time, it was Deven in Sky’s position, trying to help the party that was hurt. Now it was the other way around, and this was no dream at all. This happened when they were both wide awake. She knelt down to his position.:: Blake: Deven, *look at me*. Don’t look at anything else, just look at *me* :: He hesitated but finally complied, Blake: Who’d you see? Zell: I... ::sniffle:: I can't talk about it. They said I couldn't talk about it... classified by Intelligence. Blake: oO [...]ed SFI. They’re ruining my life! Oo Look, if you can’t tell me who he is, describe him for me. Was he angry with you, was he trying to kill you, was he trying to touch you? Hell, picture him in your mind so *I* can see him if you want to. Zell: ::still breathing heavily:: No, I can't Sky. It's too much... Blake: Deven, I’m right here. He can’t hurt you, not when I’m right here. :: The memories were beginning to emerge again... and it took everything he had to stop thinking about it. Random images of consoles spattered with blood, a small room flooded with red light, klaxons blaring at different tones and intervals... it was all so horrible that it seemed more surreal than real. :: Zell: He didn't... I mean, I couldn't... it was just so... :: Deven just trailed off and continued breathing fast. :: Blake: He wants your attention. He wants to feel your fear when you look at him. You *can’t* give it to him, otherwise it will just worse. Now you need to slow down you’re breathing, you need to relax, and just focus on me. Zell: I'll try... ::And at that, she practically dove into his mind to face a complete mess of a Trill. Through his eyes, everything seemed that little bit scarier, and his thinking process was marginally worse than what it had been when he’d last been with her. Most things were still blocked for some reason or another, but the ideas were more clear.:: Zell: Did you see? Blake::She sighed.:: I think I’ve got a pretty good idea. StarFleet Intelligence or Security knock on your door when we’re on that diplomacy mission, you leave in perfect condition, told not to tell anyone or contact them – and I know you, you would have left a note at *least*. Something bad happens while you’re with them, something to do with the person you’re seeing, scaring and scarring you. You start seeing things, dreaming things that you don’t want to dream that turn into nightmares, and the only support that you got was from counselors that you didn’t know, and doctors giving you medication that you know nothing about or still don’t understand, more or less making the situation worse. You come back to the Mercury, for whatever reason I don’t know, still in bad shape mentally. ::There was a pause.:: Did I get it right? Zell: ::finally calming down:: I think you have the basics... Blake: Good. I’ll make your explanation for leaving. ::She grinned.:: Come on, let’s get you up. I think you’ve had a long trip – might be time to sleep. Zell: You're probably right. :: Before she could help him up, an automated message came through the Brekkian/Betazoid's comm badge. :: Computer: =/\= Emergency, Chief of Security report to Strategic Operations Office. =/\= Blake: Response :: Deven forced a smile. He was a mess now on both the outside and in his head, but at least he knew he had some help. :: Zell: It's ok. I'll clean myself up and go to sleep. Blake: Response :: She leaned in a kissed him on the cheek before rushing out the door. Deven, now alone again, took a few more deep breaths. He sighed aloud before once again talking to himself. :: Zell: Threw up in front of a beautiful woman... classy as ever Deven. Classy as ever... TBC Lt. Sky Blake Chief of Security USS Mercury and Ltjg. Deven Zell Chief Operations Officer USS Mercury
  11. ((Menthar Anchorage, A Seedy No Name Bar)) Harrigan: And what brings you to the Menthar Anchorage, Tobias Walker? Walker: Oh, just taking in the sights... ::If 'the sights' meant the bottom of his glass then he was certainly speaking the truth. Karen was looking for some of those sights herself.:: Harrigan: Did you see Starfleet are aboard? I get the feeling they're here to ruin our day... Walker: Yeah, I saw them come aboard, not one much for worrying about them, though. ::It was out of the corner of her eye that Karen saw movement on the floor. With a suspicious expression, she tried to get a clearer look, craning her neck to see over one of the intervening tables. She could see a tail disappearing out of sight.:: Harrigan: Ugh. Just what I need. This place is infested. You see that? Walker: Yeah, I saw that too... Any idea what is was? ::The barman put her burger and a drink down on the table in front of her, and she immediately seized the beer bottle, downing half of it.:: Harrigan: It looked like a mouse or a rat. I don't know, whatever it was, it better not come near me. ::She looked at her fork, which looked sharp enough to drive into a rodent's skull.:: Walker: Yeah, I think I will go check it out... ::Walker stood, a strange chirp emanating from him, followed by a session of him fiddling with something that looked like it could be in the top pocket of his overcoat. Again, Karen found herself craning her neck to see what was going on.:: Walker: =/\= This is Walker, say again... =/\= ::No response:: =/\= Walker to the Mercury =/\= ::Still more silence:: =/\= Walker to the away team =/\= ::Away Team? Wait, he wasn't getting something from his pocket, he had a badge attached to his chest!:: Harrigan: ::Disbelieving:: You're Starfleet... Walker: Yeah, did the com badge give it away? Harrigan: You might as well have had that triangle thing you use as a symbol painted on your face. Away team? You got people sweeping the station? Walker: I'm not here to ruin anyone's day, but rather just get on with mine and get in touch with my ship... Any idea what the hell is going on right now? ::Maybe it was her newly heightened suspicions about Walker, or just the fact that she'd had time for her natural thought process to work through the alcohol-induced fog, but the first things that flashed into her mind at that question was that tail, disappearing out of sight. It looked awfully familiar. Could it have been...?:: ::No. Surely the Ferengi couldn't have been that stupid...:: Harrigan: I hope I don't, but I'm starting to thing we should go see the owners. Walker: Something must be playing willy nilly with the power grid to keep a signal from coming through... Can you get a hold of your ship? ::She tapped at a button on her cuff.:: Harrigan: =/\= Harrigan to the Hornet, come in please. =/\= ::A quick answer came in the form of some sparks shooting from one of the bulkheads as the lights quickly dimmed. Karen leapt about a mile off her seat, partly through shock and partly through anger, as she saw another rat scurry frantically from one side of the bar to the other in plain sight.:: Harrigan: FRACK! Frack that stupid, witless, tangerine beach ball of a tube grub!!! Walker: Response ::She locked eyes with Walker... sort of. She managed to hold his gaze for about a couple of seconds before having to blink herself back from dizziness.:: Harrigan: Oh no, no, no... you keep your Starfleet ears out of this. This ain't my fault. I just... ::she paused covering her mouth for a barely concealed burp.:: Walker: Response ::Turning towards the bar, Karen grabbed her half-empty beer bottle and yanked the burger off her plate, sending scratty pieces of salad flying in several directions. As one of the blackened onion rings toppled off the plate, a little furry visitor poked his face out from a gap between two of the panels on the bar and dragged it back inside, leaving only a greasy smear as evidence that it was ever there.:: Harrigan: Don't worry, Starfleet. I'm going to fix this. Fix it real good. ::She stormed a few paces towards the door before realising she was still ravenous, and so stopped to take a large bite from the burger.:: Walker: Response Harrigan: I'm going to go and visit the fat slug who got me into all this, and I'm going to insert some of his merchandise where even the rains of Ferenginar won't be able to reach. ::She downed the rest of the beer and threw the bottle at the wall, hoping it would break. Instead, it just clattered to the floor with a loud chime, leaving her feeling distinctly disappointed.:: GOLT! Walker: Response Harrigan: Oh, you are more than welcome to tag along. Just do me a favour and make sure I don't kill him! ::Again, she was in motion, purposefully headed towards the exit. When she found herself instead bumping into one of the couches a few feet to the left of the door, she stopped, confused, and turned to plant a hand on Walker's shoulder.:: Harrigan: Maybe you could help me get to the top of the promenade? Walker: Response TAG/TBC PNPC Karen Harrigan Freighter Captain SS Hornet as SIMmed by Captain Tallis Rhul Commanding Officer USS Mercury NCC-99812
  12. ((Dense Jungle, 3 kilometres from the Laurel Celestia, Saksenna Impact +12 minutes, Unnamed Planet)) :: The thick coppery taste of blood filled his mouth again as Oliver dragged himself through the mud on his stomach. As quietly as possible he spit it out and dragged himself further along the game trail and away from the monstrously heavy and laboured breathing behind him. At this point the Laurel Celestia was a dream, and the only real focus he had left was the breathing in the jungle behind him, and his desire to get as far from it as possible. The deep rhythmic breathing that sounded more like a combustion engine turning over than anything organic. One hand in front of the other, that's all that mattered anymore. A long trench stretched out behind his body, a clear trail for anyone to follow, made all the clearer by the long trail of blood at the centre of the furrow. His face was pale and spattered with blood, mostly his, and mud, his hair caked with both. Oliver Weston had definitely looked better. One hand in front of the other. He froze as another gods [...]ed roar tore through the jungle behind him. Whale's Fat [...] still frustrated at losing his kill and the nasty fall he'd taken earlier. The ground shivered again, this time for longer than the last. Oliver counted eight seconds until the shaking stopped and Rexy screamed again in frustration. One hand in front of the other. He could hear the foliage and branches being snapped and crushed off behind him somewhere as the [...] hunted. He spit again and tried to bite back a scream as he dragged his ragged leg over something sharp in the mud. His belt tunicate caught on it and yanked slightly down his torn thigh, causing waves of pain and nausea to wash over him, threatening his vision with black. One hand in front of the other. He tugged up and over and free and his next aimless grope in the dark rewarded him with the tough, knotted root of some ancient alien tree. :: :: Oliver clawed his way around it to the other side and propped himself upright against trunk, trying desperately to put something substantial between him and the Rex. Using both mud caked hands he managed to drag his broken left leg out in front of him and get a clear look at the belt he'd cinched tight above the wound. He'd cut it free from his ISARAS vest before he tossed the dead weight away. That must have been...forty minutes ago, maybe an hour. But it felt like last week. That was long before the quakes started as well, those only started ten minutes ago, and the first of them had saved his life. He could hear the [...] now, chuffing in the jungle behind him. Sniffing roughly at the air and trying to catch Oliver's scent in the pouring rain and amid the other smells of the jungle. The rain came suddenly and hurricane strong shortly after the earthquakes had started. The sky above the canopy filled with clouds and blotted out the stars and breath taking particle stream in minutes and a hard hot rain followed after. The earth turned to mud, the jungle was soup in its driest places, and Oliver had been running, walking, limping, crawling and finally dragging himself through it towards where he hoped to find the Laurel Celestia. The ancient and ruined hulk of a Federation Oberth class, that crashed here before he had even been born. :: :: Fighting back tears and half spitting, half sobbing blood he readjusted and tightened his tunicate, trying not to scream. The chuffing was getting closer now, definitely in the clearing he'd just spent four minutes crawling across. Trembling he reached down to his boot and drew the combat knife he'd stuck there after discarding his vest. Slowly he pulled it free and clutched it tightly to his chest as he listened to the ten ton thoropod step into clearing, and dip its nose to sniff loudly at his bloody trail. :: :: How did I get here? :: ((Dense Jungle, 11 kilometres from the Laurel Celestia, Saksenna Impact - 45 minutes, Unnamed Planet)) :: Their hump through the jungle was about half over when Whale ordered them to freeze. There was a terrible drawn out moment where everything was still as the grave, before it was shattered by the painfully slow appearance of Fat [...]s snout, head and neck as he caught our scents. :: SHELLEY: That's...that's a Tyrannosaurus Rex WHALE: Fat [...]. We meet again. WESTON: :: His voice was just above a whisper. :: Doesn't it only see movement? Shouldn’t we stay still? :: Tarallo didn't even look over at the Intelligence Officer as he responded. :: TARALLO: Common misconception. Excellent vision. WHALE: Response? WESTON: Well that's something at least. TARALLO: And sense of smell. :: Oliver looked at him. :: Excellent sense of smell. WESTON: Thank you Niner, shut up. TARALLO: Sir. WESTON: Game pla- :: They all took an involuntary step backwards as the Rex roared in their direction. Nothing could have been louder. The wave of noise hit them like a punch in the face and the [...] lowered his head as it stormed forwards. Oliver didn't see who shot first, but the burst of phaser fire went high as Rexy went low. It roared again as it closed the distance between them in short order. Oliver reached sideways and shoved Niner hard in the chest while his other hand went up and grabbed Fi roughly by the back of her ISARAS vest. Out of the corner of his eye he saw another bright burst of fire before Whale or Shelley broke ranks to scatter. :: WESTON: MOVE!!!! :: Niner tucked into a crouch and sprinted off low and steady towards the treeline, while Oliver hauled Jan in front of him and pushed her forward until she found her feet. Massive foot falls were slamming out a fast pace behind him as they both broke into a sprint. Oliver kept his hand locked on the back of Jan’s vest, and his arm straight, as he was certain the sniper was thinking of turning to squeeze off a shot, and every time she hesitated he pushed harder. The Rex was definitely on their trail now as they broke into the treeline, its roars were deafening and Oliver could hear its breathing as it gained on them. Somewhere behind him there was more phaserfire, Whale, Shelley or Alton trying to interrupt the pursuit, but this hunter was persistent. Ducking and weaving through the trees, it was only a second too late that he saw the shadow loom over them. With one final shove he sent Jan sprawling on her face as he felt the gut wrenching jerk at the back of his neck. :: :: A moment later and Oliver was floating. Violently floating. Violently thrashing from side to side as the Rex worried at his tactical vest. Eight feet off the ground and the world was a dark blur as he was whipped around like a ragdoll by the Rex, its teeth holding tight to the vest. And then, after the sharp sound of tearing fabric filled his ears, Oliver was flying. Leaves slapped against his face, forcing his eyes shut, leaving him only able to feel the sharp impact of a heavy branch that split his lip. His eyes opened with a start as the sturdy branch reoriented his flight into a downward descent and blood filled his mouth. :: :: Crawling through the brush, it took him a moment to find his feet and pull himself upright. The jungle was full of shouting and shooting. Jan's tungsten shot was easy to hear alongside the more common phaser burst, and the Rex's roars dominated all. :: FI/WHALE/SHELLEY: Response? :: A rustle of movement had Oliver reaching for the hand phaser that was no longer there. His vest was in tatters, and hung around his waist by a single strap. Defenceless, save for a combat knife that hung upside down near his crotch, Oliver crouched to run when Doctor Shelley appeared. :: SHELLEY: Response? WESTON: Doctor! Are you alright? :: Oliver was staring pointedly at her stomach. :: SHELLEY: Response? WESTON: What? :: He looked around for the first time and saw the cliff a few meters behind him. :: :: More thrashing nearby and the loud crack bang of Jan's weapon brought them back to the fight, and the Marine raced into sight, stopping several meters away and further along the cliff. :: FI: Response? :: Oliver never had the chance to reply, all he heard was Shelley screaming as the massive jaws exploded out of the trees in front of him. A branch caught him hard in the shoulder, forcing him backwards, but it was nothing compared to the teeth of the Rex closing around his upper left leg. Oliver folded around the creatures head and came eye to eye with his attacker for one brief, horrifying moment before the ground gave out underneath them both. He was dimly aware of screaming in pain as the others shouted things he couldn't understand. :: FI/WHALE/SHELLEY: Response? :: The Rex let go of him as they hit the river below and went under the rapids. :: ((Dense Jungle, 3 kilometres from the Laurel Celestia, Saksenna Impact +12 minutes, Unnamed Planet)) :: The rapids had given him a good distance on the [...]. On the shore he used his small homemade medical kit to stop the majority of the bleeding and shoot himself full of pain killers. The meds allowed him to half stumble half, jog through the jungle towards the Oberth. That lasted fifteen minutes, tops, then he had to use the tunicate, toss the vest and walk/stumble the rest of the way. It was only after the incredibly foreboding message that burst through his waterlogged commbadge that the earthquakes started. Then, the rain. By that point he was crawling. And bleeding. And being hunted again. :: ANYONE: Response? LtJG Oliver Weston Intelligence Officer USS Drake
  13. ((DS17 - Engineering)) Wilde: We need to move. We've just broken lockdown, and I don't have a holographic Luna. We need to get to Mitchell's office and switch the programs before he or his aide realise. Walker: Ok, so if that's all, we should be back in plenty of time. Thankfully I don't think anyone's looking for me. Did you guys do something to prevent the sensors from detecting a transport? Reed: A transporter tracker code. It's designed to pull a transporter beam to a location without leaving a trace in the transporter logs or the pattern buffers. Wilde: Ingenious, isn't it. Walker: And are you sure you're not crazy for doing this? Wilde: Of course I know what I'm doing. You can take the man out of Starfleet Intelligence, but you can't take Starfleet Intelligence out of the man. When I was a Jaygee I used to get up to these schemes all the time. Never been caught yet... Walker: So nice to include me on the first time. So other than your obvious planning skills, any idea on how we're going to swap them out? Wilde: We can debate that later. Move it, ladies! ::Sarah had her instructions, so Danny and Luna quickly and quietly left Engineering for Ops. Luna was grinning as they walked forward:: Walker: Ok, so what we are saying is we need to get in the room, swap it out, without being detected. :: Turning to her fellow engineer:: I presume that we won't trigger any station alarms? Wilde: Maybe just a few... Walker: That's...kind of limiting isn't it? Do we have a portable holoprojector? Wilde: Why would we need one? Walker: :: Grinning:: Oh come on, you don't see the irony of delivering the package using the same method? Commander, have you no sense of Style? Wilde: Lieutenant, I am style... However time is of the essence and I've just lost about ten minutes thanks to your misunderstanding. ::She smirked and the devious double-act entered a turbolift.:: ((Timewarp - Outside Fleet Captain Mitchells office)) ::They had the advantage of it being evening, and so only the late shift were on duty near the visiting flag officers temporary office. Quietly, Danny and Luna crept up to the door, and acted nonchalantly. No one seemed to wonder why they were there, and Danny flipped open his tricorder, scanning the interior of the room.:: :: Luna stood with her back to the Commander as she murmured quietly, doing her best to cover his actions without being obvious and brining notice to herself. :: Walker: How are we doing? Have you found it? Wilde: It's in there, behind some kind of safe. Looks like the Fleet Captain plays his cards close to his chest. Walker: A safe? Kind of surprising even there. So, you going to go in or is the door lock too tough for you? :: Without meaning to, she fell into the camaraderie of a caper, harassing her co-conspirator:: ::Surprisingly the door opened after just pressing a few keys on the door chime. The half-romulan nodded in respect, normally it took longer to trick the locks, unless someone chose 1..2...3..4..5 as the code. :: Wilde: Ok, I'm going on. Keep a look out. Walker: Just hurry up, I'm in double trouble if we get caught. ::Slipping into the office was easy. It looked as though the Fleet Captain was departing soon, as all his belongings were packed and ready for the morning transport. Danny scanned the room again to get a bearing on the safe. It was on the wall behind his desk. The tricorder couldn't pick up an energy signature, so he knew it was just a case of cracking the combination.:: :: Outside, the Tiger's engineer tried to remain unassuming as she waited. However, seemingly moments later, she saw an ensign, likely one of the flag officer's aides, coming down the corridor. Not wanting to reveal anything, she made the snap decision to walk into the room. :: Wilde: Is anyone coming? Walker: Just an ensign, but looks officious, likely an aide. Someone who would definitely ask questions about a Junior loitering in the area. How are we doing? Wilde: Shouldn't be too long. The sequence is basically a bog standard combination lock... Walker: That's odd. You'd think if he was going to be paranoid enough to lock something away, he'd put it in something more secure. Wilde: Indeed... Walker: May I? :: She knelt down near the safe, then carefully ran her fingers around the edges before she found the thing line she'd been looking for. :: Thought so, trigger circuit. If you open the safe, it triggers whatever is on the other side. Wilde: Well I'm impressed. ::He grinned.:: I see you have your uses after all. :: Something about the response soured her good mood:: ::Danny hadn't meant for it to be a snarky comment. Based on their past, yet brief, relationship, he knew that Luna enjoyed a bit of tormenting banter as much as he did.:: Walker: Oh you know, us "filthy Romulans" have to be good at something. Wilde: I beg your pardon? ::He was only half listening. One portion of his mind was focussing on unlocking the safe to complete their task, and another part was worrying whether or not that Ensign would happen in to the office and see them snooping around.:: :: The distracted way he responded added fuel to the fire. With effort she kept her voice pitched low, despite the venom it carried:: Walker: You should "Beg my pardon"! I can't believe you make a point to include me in this caper, but don't have the courtesy to even treat me as a human being! Wilde: What the devil are you talking about? And is this really the time to bring it up? Walker: The devil indeed! What you said...on the shuttle... :: She gritted her teeth to prevent her voice from carrying:: That I was a "filthy Romulan". ::He thought back. Absent-mindedly, he had unlocked the safe and retrieved the original holo-program. The shuttle on the mission? He'd suffered head injuries...:: Wilde: What I said... I said... ::he remembered.:: ::He remembered the fear. The cold sweat running down his back at the sight of the Romulan Warbird hanging in the shuttles viewer like a giant predatory hawk. They weren't called Warbirds for nothing. He also remembered how he felt on Deck 7 before breaking into the holodeck to assist security.:: ::They would get him. After all his years of training, of service to Starfleet and sweet-talking his way out of tricky situations, he couldn't escape the cold steely grasp of the Romulans.:: ::They had hurt him. Not just physically. Emotionally and psychologically. They'd made him betray his own mind. His own eyes. His own sense of right and wrong, and without any of those things, what was he?:: :: She thought back to the Shuttle, the feeling of being on a team again. Feeling the rush of an impossible task, adjusting on the fly to make it happen. Then, the look of revulsion from the man who'd invited her. The sense of teamwork falling apart, the isolation surrounding her again. :: ::He gulped.:: Wilde: If I offended you, I apologise. They were careless words spoken in a tense situation. :: For a moment, Luna thought he was going to apologize. To actually say that he'd done wrong and own up to it. Instead, he fell back on a slimy non-apology. :: Walker: That's it? That's how you don't apologize? "It was a stressful situation?" and everything's all fine and dandy? Wilde: Yes, as a matter of fact. That is the end of it. I've apologised. Whether you take my word or not, I consider the matter closed. Walker: You know what? Fine, Commander. Forget I said anything, what could I possibly know. ::He could feel it again. That hateful sense of fear creeping up on him. Danny Wilde was afraid of nothing! Or so he thought. He'd never, ever, thought of Luna, or her brother Ben as enemies. They were half Romulan, and chose to serve Starfleet and the Federation. They were not affiliated with the pointy-eared monsters he knew and feared. Ben was one of his closest friends. He'd served under him as First Officer of the Ronin. How could a friendship, or indeed a Command structure work if the two parties despised each other?:: ::Steeling his jaw, Danny made the final switch of the holoprograms and closed the safe.:: Wilde: Luna, what the hell do you want from me? Walker: What do I want? I want you to treat me based on what I do...not what my DNA reads. I want to know why you feel you can lash out at someone and then give a half-hearted apology in passing. Or at least give me some reason why it happened! Wilde: My reasons are my own! What business is it of yours anyway? I've said I'm sorry. If I hurt your feelings I am indeed sorry, but that's the end of it. :: Her voice came out colder than deep space. The pitch of her voice was low, but her voice could have been coming from a cobra for all the humanity in it. :: Walker: You sanctimonious....racist... PIG! How dare you condescend to me witha fake apology and then make me out to be the bad guy here. ::Danny turned on her, his eyes flashing bright blue.:: Wilde: You better watch what you say, Lieutenant. Things like that can ruin peoples careers. You think I'm racist? Is that right? Tell me, because I turn my nose up at the way Klingons eat Gagh, is that racist? I admit, the Wilde name has been synonymous with some narrow-minded views in the past, but I can count on both hands the number of different species who have married into my own family - Trill, Ktarian, Bajoran, Betazoid, hell, I think there's even a Bolian in there somewhere too. Walker: So it's not racism overall then, just Romulans is it? We're good enough to get you out of tough s[...]es, but not polite folk like Vulcans right? Wilde: You know, Luna, sometimes you just don't understand a word I'm trying to say! Walker: So why did you bring me? Just to keep an eye on me so I wouldn't tattle? Wilde: Bring you? I had no choice! Now you're demanding answers for a comment I made whilst under attack in a shuttle? Walker: Well excuse me for thinking I could talk to you about it Commander. See, I had this crazy notion you'd actually listen and explain to me some reason for your actions...not just shut me down with a "oops didn't mean to debase your identity with a racist stereotype, must have been the stress" comment. Wilde: Oh please! I'm not as two-dimensional as that! ::Just then, someone knocked on the door. Danny and Luna stopped arguing and looked together in shock.:: Ackbar: Fleet Captain? This is Ensign Ackbar, you'd said to come by to discuss the reviews? ((DS17 - Temporary Offices)) ::The Ensign knocking on the door took them both by surprise. Luna shot the Englishman a furious look, visibly blaming him for the situation.:: Wilde: Ackbar? It's a trap! They're onto us... Walker: :: Rolling her eyes, she loudly giggled :: Oh yes...he's VERY busy right now. Wilde: ::quietly:: Luna! Are you out of your mind? ::He took a step toward her and grasped her uniform by the neck, removing her rank pips in one fell swoop. Another hand removed his own insignia, demoting them instantly to able crewmen.:: Walker: Prepping for our new rank? :: Despite her words, Luna grabbed a smallish piece of cloth from one of the boxes, tying back and covering her hair and ears in a makeshift scarf:: Wilde: Follow my lead... ::He rushed to a packed box belonging to Fleet Captain Mitchell and urged Luna to do the same. He grabbed the box and made for the door.:: Ackbar: Who are you? Wilde: Crewman Wilde and Crewman Walker: Station Ops. We've been ordered to take the Fleet Captain's belongings down to the transporter room ready for the morning. Who knew he'd have so much stuff to move? Walker: Or that he'd pack so heavy. You'd think he was transporting bricks. Ackbar: Where is the Fleet Captain now then crewman? Wilde: I assume he still in his quarters. You know what the brass are like, eh... ::He grimaced at the realisation this Antedean pipsqueak outranked him in this situation.:: Wilde: ... sir. :: Something seemed fishy about the crewman's responses, not to mention the long pause before the sir. Obviously these two thought they knew better than an academy trained ensign. Didn't they know, that despite the pitfalls and traps of command, eventually he could be an Admiral?! He gave his coldest gaze to the two of them as he responded. :: Ackbar: What the senior Officers :: he emphasized the rank:: are, or are not like is of no relevance to your task crewman. I suggest you get to it. And put some effort into your work! Your tasks may not be as important as any officer's, but your miniscule assistance allows us to get the real work done. :: Hearing the trash spewing forth from the ensign's mouth almost made Luna lose it. Instead, she mocked a contrite look before nodding. Out of the corner of her eye, she didn't trust the look on the Commander's face. She tilted her box as if losing control of it, and stumbled into Wilde. :: Walker: Whoa, sorry there. This is heavier than I thought. :: Turning to the ensign:: Sir, permission to continue carrying these to the pad? They, uh, aren't getting any lighter. Ackbar: ::The Antedean Ensign shook his head as he turned away. :: Fine. Go. Dismissed. ::With a polite smile Danny and Luna walked straight out of there carrying boxes. They got as far as the end of the corridor before a word was spoken.:: Walker: So. Do we put these back in there, or carry them down to a transporter pad? Wilde: I say we just dump them here in the corridor. That obnoxious Ensign can take the rap for it. Good idea with the disguise, too... Walker: :: She let out a short laugh:: Well, I had to do something to cover my hair and ears. Our names might not be known...but... Wilde: Something wrong? :: She sobered:: Walker: It was just the last thing I expected. :: she lifted the box in a gesture of their situation:: It was like this, working together where rank wasn't really an issue. Being part of a team, you know? Then when I reached out to you... Wilde: I think I understand what you mean... Walker: Yeah. I just figured it'd be different here. Wilde: It is. I am sorry you feel otherwise. ::They made their way back to Engineering to be transported back to the Tiger. Danny handed Luna her pips back, and he replaced his own on his collar.:: Wilde: Ever since I came aboard the ship, I've tried to extend the hand of friendship, because I hoped to have as much fun and adventure with you as I have done with Ben. Walker: I'd actually thought you were ok. Irritating and arrogant at times, but had hoped for something similar. Of course after the shuttle... Well I just felt betrayed by that hope. ::Irritating and arrogant? Well, he'd been called worse.:: Wilde: I realise that. I have nothing against many people, but if you want to know the truth... ::He sighed.:: Wilde: I... am afraid of Romulans. :: She was shocked. That he was scared had never occurred to her in her wildest imaginings. :: Walker: What? Why? Wilde: It stems from a mission a number of years back. I was abducted from my away team and held prisoner on the Prison Ship Torval... The Tal'Shiar thought I'd know secret command codes for an experimental starship. :: At the mention of the Romulan secret police slash intelligence agency, she bristled before putting a hand out to his shoulder in sympathy:: Walker: I can only imagine what you went through there. Ben said some things about what he went through, but anytime I asked he clammed up. Well..more than usual. Wilde: I've been dealing with it ever since. Seeing the Warbirds in the recent mission, it took me back to that terrible week on the ship. :: Understanding flooded through her:: Walker: And in the smoke, you saw a Romulan grabbing you. Not a oO friend Oo comrade coming to help. Wilde: I'm afraid so. I really didn't mean to cause any offence. It's nothing personal, but it seems I have a lot of work to do in getting over my shortcomings. Walker: :: Her mouth turned up in an embarrased smirk:: It's ok. In fact, there's the smallest chance that with everything else going on...I could have possibly taken it worse than it was. Wilde: ::Chuckling:: You think? Walker: :: grinning:: I said maybe. But :: She hesitated before looking at him:: if that offer of friendship was still open... I could use one. :: she barked a brief laugh:: Just promise not to get pregnant and leave the ship ok? Wilde: Well unless we get transported to a parallel universe where that could happen, I think I'm safe. Why are you concerned? Walker: Oh, Mikali. An andorian I know. Wilde: I see... ::They arrived back in Engineering, much to Sarah Reeds relief.:: Reed: I take it the mission was a success? Wilde: ::sharing a look with Luna:: Absolutely. ::DS17's chief engineer activated the transporter tracker again, ready to beam them back to the Tiger.:: Wilde: Don't worry, Sarah. I won't be calling upon your mischievous talents again. ::He double-tapped his com.badge, and the blue transporter swirls engulfed Danny and Luna.:: Until next time. ::He winked, before being sent back home.:: ~Fin~ Lt.Commander Danny Wilde Chief Tactical Officer USS Tiger-A & Lieutenant(jg) Luna Walker Chief Engineering Officer USS Tiger-A
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