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  1. Welcome to the Writing Challenge 2022! Last year, we had a fantastic run of entries for the challenge, with some smashing stories that really knocked it out of the space park. We had the laughs, we had the tears, and we shared them all with our fellow writers here on our beloved StarBase 118. Taking a prompt and writing something out of the ordinary for us is a great way to burst through the writing block walls and twitch those itchy keyboard fingers into creating a masterpiece. Dig into those realms of plot ideas you've got brewing, drag out the lists of "what if" and try it out! As our winner of last year’s challenge, Lieutenant Commander @Wes Greaves has come up with the prompt for our community this time around... "The texture of their shirt... I'll never forget the way it felt in my hand that day." Doesn't that just punch you in the gut? Themes immediately come to mind of the dramatic and hard hitting development we put our characters through in the course of the mission, in the consequences faced on shore leave. Perhaps your character will go on a journey of self-discovery, or explore themes of finality and endings, retribution and atonement, and perhaps a dash of mortality? Star Trek has often demonstrated that these little, concentrated moments may be at the heart of the human (and alien!) experience. The creativity of this community is in the details. From the eloquent prose and deep emotion to the twists and turns of plot magic, this group truly invites you to boldly go where no one has gone before. Rules & Guidelines: Word count should be a minimum of 300 and a maximum of 3000. One judge will be chosen from each ship to help select the winner. Members are welcome to submit solo stories, or team up with a buddy to submit a collaborative epic, but only one story per person, please! Your submission should be in the format of a short story. Prose, not sim formatting. (See here for examples.) All members are welcome to submit entries for the community to read, but only those from active simmers will be reviewed by the judging panel for the final winner selection. If you want to submit a story but don't want to enter it into the challenge, prefix the forum post with "showcase" and let us read your good stuff! Submissions are, by default, non-canon – if you find a way to shoehorn this into your own backstory, you're free to use it if you wish, but certainly not a requirement. You can create whatever characters make sense for the story. You don't have to use or reference any of your current characters. Rank is not an issue here – write as an Ensign or a Captain, civilian, whatever makes sense for your story! And you're free to use characters you've already written for in sim, but please don't include anyone else's. Submit your story directly into the first post of a new thread. Use the following format for the thread title: [Primary Character Name(s) of author(s)]: "My Story's Interesting Title" Tristan Wolf: "Five Ways to End Your Starfleet Career" All stories must be submitted by Sunday, May 29th at 11:59pm Pacific Time. Good luck!
  2. Constitution, Captain's Quarters There were not as many times as Jalana wanted that she could spend time with Siance. Through circumstances, some coincidental, some planned by the young woman, she had found her way to the Constitution in search of her father, just to find out that her father was dead and the symbiont who had been in him was now on the Commanding Officer of the ship. It was complicated, but it was now part of their lives. Both Jalana and Siance were aware that they walked a fine line, after all connections with their past life were not exactly within the rules of the Trill Comission. But the work at Starfleet at times made it necessary to bend these rules. Jalana wasn't telling and they made sure to not just 'pick up where things had been left off', which was easy because the former host had never known about the child. Siance though wanted to know about her father and through these stories they had formed a friendship. Every now and then Jalana and Siance met, had dinner or just sat around exchanging stories. Siance cuddled up on the couch, her feet pulled up as she watched the woman before her. She looked young, wasn't shabby or anything, on the contrary. She was beautiful, her smile was contageous, she was kind and her crew loved her. But yet, she was alone. The younger Trill leaned forward, her chin on her knees. "How comes you never married?" She had heard of relationships in the past but never so much a mention of that. "I did." Jalana smiled and Siance rolled her eyes. "Not former hosts, you." The heavy exhale filling the air, immediately weight down on Siance, wondering if she asked the wrong thing. "I almost did." broke the silence and the young woman curiously leaned forward. "What... happened?" Jalana picked up the glass in front of her and leaned back in the seat, pulling her legs under her body. "Do you want to hear the nice version or the truth?" There was another moment of silence in which Siance was considering if she was ready to hear the truth. Because that question would not have been asked if the answer wasn't difficult. But then she nodded, there was no doubt. "The Truth." Siance was a counselor. Not Jalana's but she would not shy away from difficult answers. Jalana nodded slightly and rolled the glass in her hands. "I should have known." A weak smile played on her lips before she leaned her head back, looking to the ceiling. "His name was Viktor. It was eight years ago..." (( Flashback )) The Apollo was destroyed, Borg had surprised them during their mission, overwhelmed them and it was a miracle the ship was the only loss. Their transition ship, the Aegis had served them well and now it had been time to move to their new ship on the Apollo-A. Jalana stood in her quarters. Not just her quarters, hers and Viktor's and looked around a smile on her lips. She had started to decorate while he was off doing whatever he was doing. They had arranged to meet here after transition because he had things to do. And she trusted him. They were engaged and what kind of future marriage would it be without that? That arrangement had been made a week ago. And she was still waiting, doing her work as Chief Medical officer, exploring and stocking her new sick bay, working on getting her team ready for the virgin mission of the new sovereign ship. These were exciting times but when she was here in the quarters she had nothing to keep her busy, occupied and distracted. What took him so long? With a sigh she kicked off her shoes and dropped on the couch, turning slightly to look out of the window, seeing metal bars that held the ship in position and behind it Station 1. Maybe she should get over there and try to keep her mind off things. But instead she wanted to stay here, wait, wishing that the doors opened any moment and he would stand there with his cocky smile and tell her that he just had a few too much to drink with his buddies and got carried away. Or anything that would make sense really. What was going on? The sound of the door bell tore her away from that sight and she jumped up, calling out "Come in!" but when the doors opened the familiar sight of her best friend and First Officer came into view. Her heart dropped and her shoulders slumped. "Oh you." "Not really the greeting I was expecting" Sundassa uttered as she entered, but it was expected, after all she knew the situation. Jalana sighed and turned away again looking out of the window "Sorry. I thought it's Viktor." She didn't see that guilty look in Sun's eyes. "If you want a drink feel free to get some." It didn't take more than that, a moment later Sun was behind her, handing her a class and Jalana took it without protest, taking a sip, without her eyes moving to her friend. She felt bad, guilty for being disappointed that it was her and not him and couldn't look at her. Her free hand began to fiddle with the hem of her sleeve. "How are you enjoying shore leave?" "We had a nice time." We meaning her and Jaxx, they had started dating not too long ago. Jalana nodded a hint of a smile on her face as she looked over her shoulder. "I'm glad. You work a lot, time together is important." Sun's bright hair moved, a nod, which Jalana only saw from the corner of her eye as her gaze wandered to the window again. The silence hung in the air and Jalana didn't have to be an empath to have the feeling that this wasn't a social visit. Something was wrong, Sun was too serious, too quiet. But so was she. One did not have to always talk when spending time with friends, right? She could be wrong. "Jalana." The tone in her voice. No she was not wrong. "Can you put your glass down for a moment?" Jalana did not follow the request. Sun seemed to realize and took a deep breath. "Something happened that you need to know." The Trill merely nodded. She was listening. The Antosian sat on the armrest of the couch as she continued to speak. "Before we went to the Aegis, something happened on Earth. Faelrun Lanius III and his associated were murdered, their mill destroyed and the doctor that was in charge of Mary Anne McCollough Lanius was attacked." The moment she heard the name Lanius Jalana stopped any movement. For a brief moment even her breathing stopped. Viktor's father. She remembered visiting the family and a fight she had observed between Vik and his father, the way his mother had been apathic in the hospital barely recognizing him. He had blamed his father for that, for putting her there, getting rid of her. The fight had not ended well but when they left everyone had been alive. "We'll have to tell Viktor when he comes. He'll want to know." The silence did not last long. "There is only one suspect and he was tracked down based on evidence found. It took me a while to get any information which is why it took so long to come to you." Sun's words made no sense, Jalana's heart breaking for the loss of her fiance's father. "Why me?" "Jalana... The suspect." She paused and took a deep breath but Jalana immediately spoke up. "No." trying to stop her when she tone gave her a suspicion. Sun gave her a moment before continuing. "Viktor was that suspect and has been arrested on Starbase 1 when he was on the way here. Shelter saw the arrest. Jaxx tried to find out more to figure out what happened but... Jal. Viktor was cut loose from Starfleet." Silence. Nothing but silence was in the air now, swallowing the words to give them an immediate stop. Jalana didn't breathe, like a first that wrapped around her heart and begun to squeeze. Nothing in her mind until just one sentence formed, flowing in a whisper over her lips. "That is impossible." Memories of the visit, the shouting, the screaming the threats made by both man flashed through her mind like a thunderstorm ready to swallow her hole. With each moment she remembered a voice whispered into her mind. .oO Yes, he could have done that. He hated his father. He said he is dead to him. Oo. The voice echoed, repeated whispered the same thing over and over. She didn't know for how long she stood there, just staring out of the window without seeing anything she just stood there, not able to believe, not able to grasp. "Jalana. Are you alright?" What a stupid question to ask someone who had just heard that the man they trusted with their life, and wanted to marry, had ... "I am fine." She whispered. "You don't seem alright, are you sure you are alright?" It wasn't the question, or that she had asked before. Not that alone. But the whole situation. The fear for life when meeting the borg, the worry about Viktor, the stress of her department running smoothly and these news crashed down on her like an avalanche, crushing her small frame completely under it. She wanted to fight, not suffocate, but the weight made her body heavy as stone. Her lungs suddenly struggled to breath and she gasped for air like a drowning woman on the ocean. She wanted to paddle, to swim... and at the same time the heat seared inside her body. Without control, without thought she pulled her arm back and smashed the glass that was still in her hand against the window where the vessel shattered "I SAID I'M FINE!" That one scream took all strength out of her and her legs collapsed, with that the whole body following and she found herself on the floor. In silence at first but then her whole body screamed at her in pain and she let it out, whailing. The immense pain of loss tearing through the Trill, threatening to rip her apart. "NO! NO! NO!" She screamed, so heart breakingly deep from the depth of her shoul, her whails reminiscent of so many funerals she had visited before, as the world swallowed her down, losing all sense of time and herself, only the texture of her fabric drilling into her knees, leaving marks that would leave long before she would be able to breathe freely again... (( End Flashback )) "After that, I only remember what Sun told me. She had called her brother Shelter and Nyals our Counselor for backup. I was calmed down with a hypospray and slept for days. Only a few days later I got the news that he was found guilty on all accounts and would spend the rest of his life in a penal colony." Siance stared at Jalana in disbelief. Not in her wildest dreams she could have imagined something like this would happen especially not to Jalana. She didn't know what to say. Maybe she shouldn't have asked. Jalana pulled her legs closer, her fingers rubbing over her knees. "Sometimes I can still feel the imprint on my knees, the texture of the shirt I wore. I'll never forget the way it felt in my hand that day. I still can't wear it without thinking of the pain." There had been someone after him. Which also had not worked out. And maybe, who knew. Maybe the memory of that pain was what had held her back. Would it ever leave?
  3. “You know, you could go back to what you were doing before. Anyone who sees you like this and thinks that would be wrong isn’t worth your time, Dekas.” Dekas sighed and gave his best approximation of a humanoid smile to Simon, then looked away remembering every time he’d told him he didn’t have to try and match everyone else’s expressions like that if he didn’t want to. “I am alright. I chose to come here. Adapting to a culture’s normality is also my choice. I look good in gold, anyway.” “You do. And you looked good in blue before that. But you also look uncomfortable when you move your arms, and you’ve mentioned that the wing binding brings you pain on more than one occasion. I can tell that no matter how much you like what you’re doing, you’re not nearly as happy as you were when I first met you. It’s probably exhausting to constantly be uncomfortable to comfort everyone else.” Dekas sighed. “I will live. But I appreciate your concern.” Simon shook his head. Dekas was a surprisingly stubborn bird once he’d decided on something given how gentle he also was. And it was about that moment that the human hummed in thought. “You’re inclined to continue with clothes. I hear you and support that. But we might both be stupid.” “Don’t be mean to yourself. We both know we’re not stupid.” “Have you ever considered trying out different styles, though? Finding something that you might actually like?” Dekas was quiet, thinking, “Okay, we both might be a little stupid for not thinking of that. In my defense, I know nothing about style, my people don’t wear clothes. It’s not something I really thought about.” He smirked. “You just accidentally implied that I was stupider than you.” “You’re hardly stupider. Just much worse at math.” “Yes, but I don’t need to understand advanced calculus to understand style.” He tilted his head slightly. “Do you? Understand style? I have no frame of reference.” “If you weren’t so genuine I’d think you actually insulted me twice in a row now,” a beat. “I can learn. Besides we’re not trying to make you stylish in a way that would please anyone but yourself. If you’re happy, then even the tackiest option is a look. And I know someone who might be able to help make comfortable uniform alterations for you.” “You don’t have to, Simon.” “But I want to. I’d like to see you be done with classes and then be peppy when you come to say hello again. That was the highlight of my day sometimes. You’re lethargic in comparison, and it’s time we made some attempts to fix that,” Simon stood and pulled Dekas up from where he was sitting, it went from being almost eye level to the Aurelian towering nearly a foot taller than him. “The first thing we should do is remove the wing bind. You’re not doing that anymore. It hurts, and you hate it. Save it for when it’s actually necessary. Right now it’s not.” “People tend to touch when I don’t bind the wings.” “Throw your wings back at them if they do that, then. They’ll learn your boundaries much faster if they get a wing smack and a mouthful of feathers, and you get the satisfaction of knowing they probably won’t do it again. If they do, then you can file harassment when possible. And you should.” “I don’t like it. But they’re just curious.” Simon squinted at him, “You don’t touch people out of nowhere just because you’re curious. Because you’re a reasonable person. You deserve better. Say it.” “I… deserve better.” “Put more oomph into it!” “I deserve better!” “Yeah you do, my man! Let’s go!” The absolute confidence about it made Dekas forget that there were other people in that coffee shop that saw whatever just happened. Once they were outside, he was helping him remove it only to throw it in the nearest trash, and dared Dekas to protest. He opened his beak to do so, then awkwardly shrugged and stretched his wings behind him. Simon offered an arm and Dekas locked arms with him easily. “Thank you.” “Don’t thank me, we haven’t even had our fashion montage yet.” “I’m… sorry, our what?” He didn’t elaborate, just laughed and pulled him along, confusion and all. Dekas wasn’t sure what he was planning. Because truthfully he couldn’t imagine the regular places to get clothes would have any of them fitted to the Aurelian form. But it turned out he needn’t have worried. Because he brought him to a holodeck made for this type of interaction and put it on a setting that allowed him to look through things as though in a real store. “I really don’t know how this works. The picking things thing. I know how the holodeck works.” “Just go wild. Pick colors, or patterns you think are neat and go from there.” Dekas very tentatively glanced around, then back to Simon. Part of this whole Starfleet thing was to try new things, and he’d tried a whole lot of new things. But somehow this one was giving him anxiety. “Pretend you’re trying to get me to buy something. Sell me on it.” The human tapped his nose in thought then nodded, “Computer, give me the fanciest handlebar mustache you can conjure up, make it blue.” And on his face appeared a terribly fancy blue mustache, which he began to twirl theatrically. Before using a voice he probably considered ‘posh’ although it was much sillier. “Well, good afternoon, what luck that a fine gentleman as yourself has found himself in my establishment.” Dekas had to work very hard not to devolve into laughter instantly. “I need a new look, but I’m not sure what I like.” “You’ve come to the right place!” Simon scanned the room and picked a random rack of clothes, dragged him over to it as he started pulling items off of it, and shoving a few things at him. “Give these a try,” he gave it one more look and found one which he cringed at and threw behind him. “Not that one. I don’t know why we even stock that here, it’s atrocious. Someone so dashing like yourself deserves only the best.” “Do they account for the wings?” “Computer, make all shirt options have a wide-open back, and put on an appropriate soundtrack for a montage.” The holographic options changed to at least allow for freeing his wings in a way that was sure to be more comfortable than the style Dekas used currently. Somewhere in the background, there was what sounded like very upbeat synthy music from Earth’s 1980s era. It did feel pretty appropriate. “They do now, sir! Now go, go, go. Try some on.” Simon was actively pushing him toward the changing room space. “Simon, what is happening!” Dekas laughed but did as he was told. The first outfit he tried was a little too heavy even with the modifications. The next few didn’t quite suit the shape of an Aurelian aesthetically. Some of them were too boring, or too bright and clashed with his already too bright feathers. He didn’t like long sleeves much, sleeves in general were iffy. And most pants were a hassle with talons on his feet. Heavy fabrics were too warm. Some colors didn’t match well with bright red. But for every critique he had about something while he posed for him, Simon had another set of options, and a smile and a compliment to offer. It was improving his mood significantly from the way he’d felt recently. Except for the outfit he’d just handed him and immediately made it clear that he was being ridiculous. The pattern didn’t match anything, the color was a horrendous choice for anyone ever. The sunglasses and backward cap just really didn’t do it either. It was something that caused a record scratch, whatever that meant. Simon was laughing hysterically about it. “Yeah, I’m just going to go try something else on.” He waited until Simon was looking at him and made a peace sign at him and went back in to allow him to get a grip. Dekas however sighed a little tired. He wondered if he was just meant to be slightly uncomfortable with it all for the time he’d be in Starfleet. And he was only a cadet, he could imagine that wouldn’t be a great time. So he didn’t step out of the fitting room as quickly as he had with almost everything else. Simon noticed this, and talked more like himself than whatever character he was playing with to help. “Not feeling it?” “I… don’t think I was meant to be comfortable here.” “That's quitter talk. We’ll figure it out. Even if it’s not today. You have a few more years, and I’m making it a personal mission to be sure you’re comfortable before you get assigned anywhere. Even if we have to try everything to find it.” Suddenly he was quiet. “Wh— Okay you are thinking, I can hear you thinking.” “I just realized something. I’ve been giving you things that are traditionally more masculine in frame and style because that’s what I tend to enjoy. And there ARE other options that I completely forgot about that I think you might like better based on all of your criticisms. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me earlier. It is 2393, I need to get with the times. Stay there.” Dekas listened and stayed where he was. Admittedly a little anxious waiting, and he startled when he had things once again shoved into his hands. “What if I don’t like them?” “Then we try again a different day, but I’m almost certain that we just figured it out. Trust me.” He took a deep breath and nodded. “I trust you.” The first thing he noticed was the fact that he hadn’t handed him pants, he’d handed him a skirt. His feet didn’t caught on the fabric. And it was flowy, freeing, fun. And the shirt didn’t have any sleeves, it just went easily around his neck. The other detail was that it was cropped a bit higher. In the mirror he looked very, very pretty. He’d seen people wearing these types of things around. But he’d never considered them on himself, and they hadn’t crossed his mind during this process. But he almost didn’t leave, caught by his own reflection. Which he was truly seeing for the first time in months. “I hope your silence is a good one?” “It’s a very good one,” he straightened himself out and stepped out to show him. “Dekas you look…” he got a little pink in the cheeks, “marvelous.” “Marvelous?” “Yeah. Yes. Although I think I have a shirt that might match better.” In a very surprising turn of events, Simon removed his own shirt, easily tore off the sleeves, and ripped a line down the back of it for the wings. The Aurelian started laughing, “Wait, hold on, I am not taking your shirt. You’re not leaving without a shirt, Simon.” “Don’t worry about it, I always have an extra one with me. Put it on.” He was so adamant about it that Dekas could not argue. He was right, though. It did match better. And when he stepped back out for the last time, he had a different shirt on. Apparently he really did keep an extra with him. The backpack made sense now. “Okay, you win. I look marvelous. Surprised that you ripped your clothes so easily. I didn’t realize you were that strong.” “Oh, I’m not, I just order all my shirts in the same fabric of Captain Kirk’s old uniform. Partially because they’re comfortable. Mostly for the just in case of getting into a scuffle. I’m constantly vigilant.” “You’re constantly weird. I’ll never be able to order a shirt anywhere without remembering this as an option. The texture is surprisingly soft.” “Yeah it’s part of why I like them.” Dekas did his best approximation of a smile and then pulled his human friend into a big hug, wings wrapping around him a little as well. Affection which was easily returned. “And it’s part of why I like you. You might just be my favorite human. Don’t tell the others.” Simon sighed with contentment. “Secret’s safe with me.” “Thank you.” “Oh, this was my pleasure, Bird-Man. Any time.” They broke the hug after another moment, “I’ll hold you to that. But next time you’re getting a montage. Whatever that is.”
  4. Yesterday was that day. You know, the last day I ever saw him. Touched him. Breathed in his scent and felt his warmth mingle with mine. It was said that everyone has a last time with the people they cared for, and that we never knew when that time would be. I guess I just never expected it to be now. The night had come and passed in much the way it always had. Nightmares clipped at the edge of my consciousness, and I was ever so thankful not to remember them. As my eyes fluttered open, I felt suddenly lost. The bulkhead was different. The windows were different, as were the way the stars sat beyond them. The bed was different. The room itself was different. And as I rolled over to make sure he was there, to feel him and confirm with that touch against that old ugly nightshirt, or the hair on his arm that he was really truly there, I realized my situation. The bed was empty, and all I found with my wanting fingers was the sheet, cold and barren as a full on Andorian winter. Whoever said that emotional pain was somehow less than physical pain must never have experienced the waves that hit next. The loss and sudden flood of the prior night’s memories opened a pit beneath me and my chest started aching. It was as if someone was stabbing me, or that my heart had simply stopped. I gasped for air between the sobs and buried my face in my already damp pillow, made so by the tears that had led me to an exhausted sleep. More memories flooded back, more tears flooded my already tired eyes, and my body shook with the pain that radiated from my mind in the shadow of the event. One phrase kept thrusting its way into the front of my mind. ‘I’m alone…’ And the sobs renewed with more fervor than before. Time faded. What was time anyways? It was the endless march of potential that was rarely realized. It was the kinetics of mental anguish as it worked itself out and made its attempts to get into your mind. It was the path that led to death, eventually, but for some, it might have led to life as well. For me? Time was but the enemy now. It could end. I did not need it anymore. But then a message popped up. Good morning, best friend. Exhausted, teary eyes blinked, and the draw was instant. After all, where did the broken hearted go? Back to their best friend. Always back to their best friend. I scrambled to answer, but I was weak. The message sent back was short. Pointed. And more than anything, understood. It hurts. Pain of this depth was not new, unfortunately, but it also led to dangerous depths. Darkness threatened to overtake me, and had it not been for a well timed ‘good morning’, it very well may have. For a moment, the tears slowed. Just hold on. The chill of the room, the silence that proved the lacking, and the stillness of the very air around me all served as reminders. He was gone. And now I had to remain. Hold on? How? To what? More importantly, why? Without a thought as to how, I was up and moving. Time and space in separation could not stop me. I was desperate. I had already lost it all, so what more was there to lose? There were plenty of things to be said for the physical proximity of those you loved, and with my heart aching as it was, I knew that was what I needed. Shoes were haphazardly thrown on, and a uniform was tossed together. Rankless, without having brushed my hair I was out the door. And in a matter of hours, I was rewarded with all that I could ask for in that moment. Here, then, was a reason to hold on. Touch spoke volumes in places where other senses were dulled. Thus, it was the feel of my best friend there, real and present, that anchored me in a way I could not explain. Around us, the tall towers of the station rose, and people came and went, but patience and strength held me as I wanted to crumble. I worked to commit to memory the feel of everything, from the feel of his skin, to the fabric of his shirt, because even now I realized that there would come a last day with him as well. My heart ached perhaps worse then…but I did what I could to remember that today was all that we had. And today was going to be good.
  5. Waiting Room Surgical Suite Sickbay USS Ostrov Kartografov “Miss Kasula sh’Xaltikalanna, I just want you to know that you’re the bravest eleven-year old on this ship, and I am here for you no matter what happens.” Despite his blue collar, it was so uncommon that Commander Peter Martinez actually worked in Sickbay. Counselors had their own suites, and while they were doctors (real doctors with real PHDs, as he insisted during playful banters with the Medical staff), they rarely went into sickbay unless they were patients themselves. When things were going well. Today they were not going well. His patient today was an Andorian shen pre-teen perched on the edge of the comfortable-looking chair in the surgical suite’s waiting room. In stark contrast to her people’s traditional garb, she wore a Tellarite-style robe, a yellow and rose coloured piece that hung off her like petals from a flower. When it caught the normally harsh light of sickbay, it reflected and refracted it in a way that seemed to almost make her sparkle. Her hair was styled in the stereotypical Vulcan bowl cut, further bucking the species trend; she had three PADDs spread out in front of her, one balanced precariously on each small knee, the third clasped firmly in her hands. Each of the electronic screens was covered in a dizzying array of text in English. Such fusions of the stylings of the four founding members of the Federation were not entirely uncommon these days. “The medical staff told me I could wait here,” said Kasula, defensively, grasping her PADD close, as though it were an anchor holding her in place. For an Andorian, she had a strangely Vulcan-accented voice, flat and full of tension but without emotion. “They promised.” Martinez knelt down on the cold deck plating, bringing his eyes to her level. “No, you can stay here. It’s okay.” Kasula’s eyes were on him, watching and listening to his words, but her Andorian antenna were affixed on the door that led to the surgical suite, bent over like waves, straining like tiny trees blown by an unseen wind. How much of the doctor’s chatter could she make out through the thick metal? “Good, agreed,” said Kasula, the tension in her muscles clearly refusing to abate. Her antenna twitched, still affixed on the door, eyes ever-so-briefly flicking to the sealed metal portal and then back. She spoke plainly. “Is my mother going to die?” Being the ship’s counselor was his dream job almost every single day. Almost. “I ... don’t know,” he confessed, as honest as he could manage. “A better picture of her prospects will emerge in the next few hours.” “Because of the antiprotons,” said Kasula, almost as though she was explaining some great wisdom she had only recently acquired. “They take hours to dissipate. Their presence inhibits wound treatment.” How curious. Starfleet brats tended to absorb an entire mountain of entirely age-inappropriate general knowledge, living out in the black of space where a violent death was a persistent reality of frontier life, but the exact effects of disruptor blasts on living creatures was specialist knowledge that had been imparted to him in his Starfleet first aid courses. How had Kasula known of such a thing? This thought joined another swirling around in his head. Why did Starfleet allow children onboard their ships, again? “Because of the antiprotons,” he confirmed. “That’s right.” As though reacting to some noise he couldn’t make out, Kasula’s antenna twitched again, her eyes once more following her twin head-stalks, drawn to the door. During the momentary distraction, Martinez risked a swift glance down at her PADDs to see what she was researching. uoᴉʇɔnɹʇsuoɔǝɹ lɐɯɹǝpqns ʎɔuǝƃɹǝɯǝ sᴉ ʇɐɥʍ ¿ǝƃuɐɹ ǝsolɔ ʇɔǝɟɟǝ ɹoʇdnɹsᴉp sɹoʇdnɹsᴉp puɐ ʎƃoloᴉsʎɥd uɐᴉɹopu∀ uɐᴉɹopu∀ sᴉsɐʇsoɯǝɐɥ Below the search terms were long, lengthy explanations from medical textbooks. Two and two were put together. The medical staff had asked Kasula to wait outside for a reason. However they, most likely, had not anticipated the extrasensory ability of the Andorian shen. For her to have a real-time look into the treatment of her parent was probably not ideal. “Maybe we should go wait in your quarters,” he said, gently. The suggestion came like a slap on the cheek. The child straightened up, bolt upright, her antenna jerking toward him. “No! We had an accord!” “Okay, only.” There was no sense pushing it. “I just thought you would be more comfortable away from all-” “I am perfectly comfortable.” She couldn’t possibly be, perched on the edge of that seat like she might fall off and half buried in semi-juggled electronics, but Martinez didn’t push the point. “Let’s talk here then.” “Only about my mother,” she said. A reasonable request. “Okay. Let’s start from the beginning. What do you know about her status?” “I know my mother has been struck by a disrupter at close range, likely of Romulan manufacture based on the presence of antiprotons.” Her Vulcan accent cracked as the Andorian below it seeped through. “She was shot by a Romulan.” “We don’t know who shot her,” he said. “Romulan weapons are not biocoded. It could have been anyone with a Romulan-made weapon.” That answer didn’t seem to satisfy her very much. Kasula bit her lip and looked away. “Does it matter who shot her?” Kasula leaned back cautiously. “N- … no. I suppose not.” There was the briefest of pauses. “I live with Vulcans. School says that Vulcans and Romulans are the same thing. At least, the schools in Little Andoria say that. Presumably the others do too.” Good. Keeping her thinking of other things was useful. “Do you want to tell me about Little Andoria?” “Why?” Kasula narrowed her eyes. “There is not much to tell. It is the Andorian community on Vulcan. It is small and the gravity is uncomfortable, even with the persistent grav-tile mitigation. But we have found a home there. How does this affect my mother?” “It doesn’t.” Such a terrible conversation to have with a young child. “But … I just wanted to talk to you. I want to get to know you better.” “Why?” “You and I may be talking a lot, in the future,” he said. There was no easy way to say this and the shen seemed to favour directness, so he didn’t muddy the message. “You should prepare yourself for the possibility that your mother will not survive.” The briefest of silences. “Type III Disruptor,” murmured Kasula, almost to herself, as though she hadn’t heard him. “Struck between the thellan metaplate one point six centimetres from the stomach.” She squirmed about in her chair, tapping on the PADD in front of her, entering more search terms. ¿lɐʇɐɟ ʇoɥs ǝʇɐldɐʇǝɯ uɐllǝɥʇ uɐᴉɹopu∀ ʇɔǝɟɟǝ ɹoʇdnɹsᴉp Ɛ ǝdʎʇ “You shouldn’t be listening in,” said Martinez. “It’ll only worry you.” Her antenna twitched, then with obvious deliberate effort, returned to the front. “I’m not.” Slowly, as though an unconscious action, they pivoted back to the closed door. Time to give up on that front. “What about that robe you’re wearing?” he asked. “Is that from Little Andoria?” “No,” said Kasula. Her antenna twitched, her eyes absently drifting. “It was my mother’s.” “I’m sure she would like that you are wearing it for her, in support of her, during this difficult time.” “No, my other mother,” said Kasula, her Vulcan accent slipping once more as frustration crept in, the Andorian replacing it. Right. Because there were two involved, typically. And two fathers. Complicated stuff. “Tell me about her. Your other mother.” “She doesn’t have eyes made of buttons,” said Kasula. Martinez didn’t understand. Some kind of Little Andorian in-joke? “I’m … glad to hear that,” was the only answer he could give. “Yes.” Another silence. Trying to avoid dead air, Martinez pressed on. “So, the robe,” he asked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Kasula held up her small wrist, the dainty fabric spilling down like water, shimmering as it reflected the light around her. “It’s woven in a pattern that was invented after Tellarite First Contact. The sleeves are Tholian silk. That’s why it moves so strangely.” Strangely, yet beautifully. “It’s lovely. I suppose that’s why Tholian silk is so prized.” “This is correct. However, to be honest, I mostly just appreciate the texture. It feels good on my skin. And I hope that it ...“ Kasula’s voice trailed off. Her antenna twitched. Suddenly she began typing frantically. sǝʇɐɹ lɐʌᴉʌɹns uɐᴉɹopu∀ ʇsǝɹɹɐ ɔɐᴉpɹɐɔ “Kasula?” She didn’t answer, scrolling through the information frantically, her eyes widened the more she digested it. “Kasula, it’s important that you try to-“ “Mum!” She leapt out of her chair, sending PADDs clattering all around her. Fast, faster than he thought was possible for such a small one, Kasula darted toward the closed door. “MUM!” He didn’t have the heart to stop her. * * * Forward Torpedo Room USS Ostrov Kartografov “And so we, the crew of the USS Ostrov Kartografov, commend Lieutenant sh’Xaltikalanna’s body to the stars.” The torpedo, silent and calm, drifted out past the forcefield and into the inky black. Martinez watched, as they all watched, as the photon torpedo casing shrank, becoming a camouflaged black sliver against the black of space, a tiny dot joining the millions and billions of stars all around, and then nothing at all. Gone forever. Kasula clutched the folded flag to her chest so tightly it looked like it was about to rip. Her Andorian strength was just now starting to come in. With the funeral over, eventually everyone else left, leaving only Martinez and Kasula behind. The latter staring at the distant, invisible point that represented her mother’s body, and the former watching the latter. There was a question in the counselor’s toolbox that was at once useful and insulting. Are you okay? Of course Kasula was not, and could not be okay. Nobody in their right mind would be or should be. The question was not a genuine attempt to ascertain emotional wellness, but simply to invite discussion of the issue. So he used it. “Are you okay?” The shen did not answer, holding that flag close to her chest, a seething, snarling visage painted on her face, one so unbecoming on someone so young and who so proudly embraced the ideals of the Federation. “I’m here if you need to talk,” he said. “We have a session booked in tomorrow morning, and I can be available all week if you need me to be. You are my only priority right now. Even the other away team members will have to wait.” “Little Andoria is wrong,” said Kasula, finally, her voice dripping with venom. “I don’t understand what you mean.” “Romulans,” she hissed, the sound escaping like air through a crack in the hull. “They aren’t the same as Vulcans at all.” “We still don’t know for sure who did this,” said Martinez, fully aware that this was not the time and place for this conversation. “Whoever attacked the away team was not caught. All we know is-“ “I know who it was.” Kasula’s fingernails dug into the cloth, the sleeves of her robe swaying gently as though pushed by some invisible force. “And I won’t forget.” fin
  6. Dirt Boy I always tried to make the effort to connect to my adoptive human sister. Our relationship often ran hot and cold. Sometimes, times were good and we’d genuinely enjoy each other's company. But there were times where she just couldn’t stand me. I wasn’t like the other human children she knew. I was the only Klingon in the bunch and an awkward one at that. To her, I was an embarrassment. Something worthy of her scorn on her worst days. On those days, she liked to use her words like a well wielded d’k tagh. She knew full well that physically hurting me was a difficult task. So she resorted to using her voice. Dirt boy was one of her favourite insults. That one came about how our schoolmates thought unwashed Klingons smelled like. Naturally, she picked that one up and would hurl it my way when she wanted to get under my skin. I hated that one. I hated hearing it at school but somehow it felt worse at home and she *knew* it. But if she really wanted to cut down and hurt me as best as she could, she would say that she’d wished that the Night Marchers would carry me off so she’d never have to see me again. She knew as well as I did that the Night Marchers only allowed safe passage to families of Hawaiian descent of which I was clearly not. Those were the worst days where she wanted to hurt me the most. I remember one of those days. My mom was on shore leave and had decided to spend it on Earth with myself, my dad and my sister. We had gone up for a day’s hike to Diamond Head. It grew to be one of my favourite trails over the years. This was my first time hiking it as a little kid. My sister, at the time, was far older both physically and mentally than where I was at this time. I enjoyed my time on the trails. I had a chance to see plenty of wild life while I was there. It was a warm and beautiful day. Most of the hike itself, I don’t have the strongest memories of. What I do remember was towards the late afternoon. We had hit up one of the rest stops and already we had lost sunlight due to cloud cover. I caught my sister wandering off towards the bushes and thought it’d be a good idea to follow her. After all, at the time I just wanted to be with her. She caught me and started trying to run away. She seemed to *hate* the idea of me following her. But I did my best and kept running after her. We were getting further and further from the rest stop. I did finally catch up and tried to reach for her hand. She surprised me by turning around suddenly and pushed me. “Go away!” she shouted. I didn’t listen. I told her that our parents would be upset if we weren’t with them. I don’t remember much of what was said before she started looking around. But when she did start looking around at where we were, I could see her looking really scared and then *furious.* I remember her shouting at me. Yelling at me. “You got us lost, Dirt boy! Mom and dad aren’t going to find us because of you!” I yelled back pleading with her to stop calling me “dirt boy.” But she wasn’t listening. I should have seen the next words coming. But I didn’t. She was scared and ready to lash out at me any way she could and the next words she chose cut me deep. She screamed them at me with tears in her eyes. “I hope the Night Marchers would just get rid of you! You’re NOT family!” It hurt. It sliced into my heart and deep into my soul. I don’t remember what was said next as I took off running into the bush. Tears in my eyes and branches smacking at me like whips as I was running. I tripped over my own two feet and scraped my knees in the dirt. But that didn’t stop me. I popped back up and kept on running. I didn’t know where I was going. All I wanted to be was *away.* I ran for as long as I could. It had already begun to rain when I stopped. I was so tired from running, I just flopped down under a tree. My legs were caked in mud and dirt. Rain soaked through my clothes. My hair was wet hanging in streaks from my head. I did what I had wanted to do. To get away. I was away alright. And completely lost. I didn’t know where the trail was. I didn’t know if anyone was looking for me. What I did know was that along with the rain, it was starting to get dark. To make matters worse, I was completely alone. I was crying before. But I really lost it then. Not just from the pain I felt in my heart and soul but also from fear. The idea of never being found and no one is looking for me. Both those fears were playing in my mind. I don’t remember how long I sat for. But eventually the rain stopped and I could just hear the wind in the trees. It was night by then. The air had a chill to it that seemed to sink into my rain soaked clothes and make its home in my bones. The forest had an eerie silence to it safe for the sounds of insects. But I could smell something. It was like volcanic sulfur. The smell almost made me gag. It was impossibly strong. And then I heard *it.* The sound of a conch shell in the distance. A sound that chilled me to the core. I could feel my heart in my throat. I knew what this was. *The Night Marchers.* I got up and started running. The sound of the conch shell was getting closer. Branches tore at my legs. I could hear the drums echoing throughout the forest. What if my sister was right? What if this was how I was going to die? I kept running. I heard shouting. “KAPU!” They were getting closer. I tripped over a stray branch and fell forward into the mud. I tried desperately to get up. But I just couldn’t get my legs under me. Everything felt impossible at the moment. “KAPU!” The shouts were like thunder in my ears. The smell of sulfur was getting stronger. Somehow in my heart I knew I couldn’t outrun them. Drum beats matched my heart beats in their intensity as they pounded in my ears. They were closing in. Tears in my eyes and panic in my mind, I struggled to figure out what to do next. “KAPU!” I tried to think back to what I’ve heard about Night Marchers. The only thing I could remember was that if I removed my clothes and got on my hands and knees, maybe they’d spare my life. I started with my shirt. I remember feeling the mud slick texture of my shirt in my hands as I tried to pull it off my head. I will never forget the feeling of it in my hands that day. I struggled with it. I tried to pull it off of me to no avail. The most I could do is pull my arms out of my sleeves. It just draped off my head in a wet muddy mess as it clung to my skull. The drum beats were impossibly loud as I heard the conch shell sound again. I had run out of time. They were here. I left my shirt on my head as I fell forward into the mud trying to bow. I was shaking. Scared. My hands were tensed up into little balls. I hoped this would be enough. I really hoped this would be enough. I could hear the sounds of bushes moving. There was the sound of feet as they splashed through the mud. I could hear my own heart in my ears. A cold chill settled into my chest. The sound of footsteps were right over me. I bit my bottom lip to avoid crying out in fear. Then there was silence. As if they had stopped. I didn’t dare look up. I didn’t want to know the answer if the Night Marchers were still here. The only protection I felt like I had was the shirt over my head. I didn’t know if this was the end of my current nightmare or the beginning of another one. The silence seemed to stretch on for an eternity when I finally heard a voice. “Na’u.” The footsteps moved on. The drumbeats were now moving further away until finally there was silence. I pulled the rest of the shirt off my head as I sat on my knees. I knew what that word had meant - “This one is mine.” At that moment, it had taken at least a little bit of my pain away. The Night Marchers made me aware of something. I didn’t have to be by blood or human to be a part of my family. They recognized me as part of my human family. I belonged. Out of a cold and miserable night, this was one small thing that gave me comfort It didn’t feel like it was too long afterwards that I heard voices calling my name. With my shirt wadded up in my hands, I called out to them. I could see the light of sims beacons coming my way. I kept calling until my voice was sore. Coming through the bushes, I could see the park rangers coming to find me. I remember the gray blanket they wrapped me up in as they carried me to my mom. I was glad to see her face again. Her hug felt like the warmest thing on a chilly night. There was something important I took away from all this that I still remember all these years later. That family isn’t always by blood. Sometimes it’s chosen and it’s bound together with love. As for my sister, her threats about the Night Marchers never hurt me again. Sure, she’d be able to find other more ridiculous things on the bad days. But I knew one important thing. This is my family. And I belong. END.
  7. Post your questions, comments, and other discussion here!
  8. “One moment, you’re in love. The next moment, you’re in hell.” The young, blonde man spoke dourly. He had at one time even been considered a pretty boy, not a “pretty boy”, just a genuinely beautiful young man. Unfortunately, time and tragedy had aged him prematurely. The shadow of loss hung about him like a weighty, immovable cloak of iron. It hung around in his bagged and hollowed eyes, his distant voice, his disciplinary record, and his general demeanor; slumped and scruffy. The man that he once had been, was long gone, along with a rank, and having his name on the Petty Officer list. Branson had finally escaped the shadow of the USS Eagle when her crew transferred to the state of the art Juneau. And Ensign Artinus Serinus, one of his former bosses, had left them when he transferred to the Arrow. None of them had stopped the madness that happened that day. They tried to fix it after, even though they were as powerless as he was to advert, slow, or even lessen his downward spiral. Ensign Serinus had even ordered him to attend weekly counseling sessions for grief, but wouldn’t let him near the man responsible. He had wanted hours with the perpetrator of his abject misery, but only needed a minute or two. The Emergency Counseling Hologram had given him the idea, inadvertently. The spark of madness and/or genius that led him to the devastating holodeck addiction that had developed by reliving the happy moments over and over again. On the holodeck, she was still there with him, or as close as was possible. He knew deep in the core of his intellect that is was a facsimile, but he had made certain that his senses were tricked every time. The tone, timbre, and tempo of her musical voice were as perfect as the gold flecked emeralds in her eyes, the shine of her long brown hair, the little idiosyncrasies of Crewman Second Class Adrianna Vala’s personality, or her caring and intelligent manner. Even her half-Vulcan ears had matched the real one’s with stunning accuracy. That was the past. Presently Crewman Second Class Branson Ofrey lay on the couch. It was leather, and a shade of burgundy that might appeal especially to the tragic victims of a different addiction. The new Counselor of the USS Chekov, one Lieutenant Commander Dtar ch’Monos, sat across from him in a matching armchair, gripping his well trimmed white goatee. The holo emitter over the space window displayed a lovely spring day on the Crewman’s homeworld of Velestus. A nice touch. “Let’s start at the beginning” the Counselor told him in a voice that was as cold as the officer’s frozen home world, and as clinical as the Vulcan Science Academy. The Andorian had no doubt read his file, but seeing as he was new here, he wanted to hear it all for himself, and that meant that Branson had to reopen his old wounds all over again. Must he martyr himself for his own healing every time he changed assignments, or a new counselor took over his treatment? “We met in the mess hall, aboard the Eagle. She was absolutely the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, let alone, met. And that has yet to change.” Branson took a moment, but then pushed himself fprward, with all the determination of a seasoned Starfleet Security person. “I asked if I could sit with her, and she let me. We talked for the most magical fifteen minutes of my life. Her voice was like music, her eyes were green pools flecked with gold. She was friendly, attentive, and just a really sweet person. I felt like I had met an angel.” Every angel returned to heaven eventually. “We met every day for lunch afterwards and had deep and meaningful conversations. Two enlisted people. A Security guy and a Cargo Specialist. When I asked her if we could become a couple, she was as delighted as I was after she told me ‘Yes.’ After that, we spent every off duty hour together. Waking, and sleeping. We danced the tango on a holodeck program set in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, we pushed each other at the gym, and made madly passionate love. It’s like our souls had become entwined.” Commander ch’Monos looked at him dourly. “Go on, Crewman.” “It was the best 10 weeks of my life” He hesitated “Then that day came.” The Counselor rang in again. “The day you lost her.” The crewman bit his lips, inhaled, and then released his lips. “Yeah. . . It was supposed to be an easy supply run to a new colony. But then some of our people caught an intruder. Somehow, before he was caught, he released a nest of Alterian Spider Birds on board, and we had to go clean it up. We were clearing deck 7, and we stormed into a room. It was a room like any other, but that room has been frozen in my mind forever. Webs were everywhere. Ral spotted it first, and directed Serinus to it.” The Counselor looked at him. “It?” The crewman’s voice became shakier with every syllable as he got to the heart of the mattter. “A spider sack, like they use for prey. A person sized spider sack. They couldn’t find lifesigns. They tried it a few times, then we were ordered to cut it down and open it.” He closed his eyes tight and grasped his forehead. “It. . . was her, doc. I did the only thing that I could do, I puked my guts out.” Even the professional, experienced, and clinical Counselor took pause. After several moments of crushing silence, he began to write on his PADD. His patient sighed impatiently, and the doctor finally prodded him along. “Tell me about the funeral.” Branson opened his eyes and looked up at the other man with angst and self pity. “It was closed casket.” For rather obvious reasons “I begged until they let me see her. . . But I just couldn’t do it.” He had seen enough the first time. “So I just reached out and grasped her bicep. The feel of that uniform shirt will haunt me for as long as I live.” And then the dam broke and flooded the couch with tears.
  9. The Fabric of Memory "There is, in truth, no past, only a memory of the past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them." – Terry Pratchett “Energise!” Blue, shimmering light filled the transporter room of the USS Wells as three figures slowly coalesced. The away team stepped off the transporter pad, their vintage clothing incongruous against the advanced technological surroundings. “That was close.” Larrimer sighed with relief as he joined the others by the door. “Too close.” Murphy agreed. “Another minute and I think the temporal Prime Directive would have been shredded!" Commander Shanwea tapped the device on her arm before replying, the holographic shroud which had been disguising her for the mission fading away until her familiar Saurian features returned. “And that is why we don’t mess around when time travelling, people. We all need to stick to the plan, no matter what happens. Actions have consequences after all.” She turned her large eyes to the officer behind the transporter console. “Speaking of which, what’s the damage, Lieutenant?” “History is back to how it should be, Ma’am. Everything looks fine.” “Any issues due to our little mishap back there?” “I’m not sure, maybe a couple of very minor alterations, but I don’t think it’s anything anyone would notice.” Shanwea sighed. “Unfortunately, that’s not our call to make, Lieutenant. Sounds like we’re going to have to wait on Temporal Investigations to take a look before we can all relax.” Unhappy grumbles greeted her comments as the officers filed out of the room and into the ship corridors, off to brief the Captain on their successful mission. *** Carice sat staring at the wall. It was an off-white colour. She wasn’t sure if it had been painted that shade or if it had once been pure white and had just changed over time. She planned to test that theory by staring at the wall every day for the rest of her life to see if it became any more discoloured. She had the time, after all, as it had been made clear to her that she wouldn’t be leaving here until she was ‘well’. But that wasn’t going to happen, because as far as Carice was concerned, she wasn’t ‘unwell’. Time was pretty abstract in this room. Hours, days, weeks, months had no meaning but they had come in and told her that it was her birthday a little while ago, which meant she’d been here almost a year. A year since she’d last seen him, last heard him talk, last felt his hand in hers. Her brother had been her best friend ever since she’d been born, someone she looked up to and respected and who protected her from so many hardships. He was also the reason she was here – because nobody except for Carice remembered him. Clement. That was his name. She had been with him when it had happened, walking in the park by the pond so they could feed the ducks like they did most weeks. He’d just told her a terrible joke and she’d laughed, raising an arm and shoving him away in reproach for his awful humour. Her hand had brushed against the soft, smooth silk fabric of his shirt as she closed her eyes for a second and grimaced in mock pain. And then, when she’d opened them again, Clem was gone. The ducks which had been clamouring around their feet for crusts of bread were all suddenly out on the surface of the pond and the crumbs Clem had been throwing to them had vanished, too. The change had been so sudden, so absolute, it had taken Carice a moment before she started calling out for him, assuming it was just another bad joke. A few minutes more and she started asking people nearby. The elderly couple on the bench looked at her confused when she asked if they’d seen where Clem had gone, telling her that she’d been alone since she’d come into the park, watching the ducks. Carice accused them of lying which is when they’d called the police. The officers had been more inclined to believe her at least. That was until they took her home and the real horror had begun. They’d taken her address from her ID card but house they drove her to wasn’t the house she’d left that morning with Clem. Instead, it was one street further down the hill and smaller. Her parents had been there but they’d looked confused when she’d told them Clem was missing. Confused, then concerned and then scared the more Carice talked and the more she refused to believe them when they said she didn’t have a brother, had never had one. They told her that this was the house Carice had grown up in, but how could that be? Her head was full of the memories of childhood – smells, textures, the pain of a grazed knee, the emotion of a rare fight with Clem, the vision of summer sunlight shining through the long lounge windows on one of those hot, empty afternoons that always seemed to stretch on forever. Carice had run out of that alien house, her parents calling after her in desperation, and up the hill to the home she knew, forcing her way inside past a startled young man when he’d opened the door to her furious knocking. But it was when she’d run upstairs to Clem’s bedroom only to find it was now a nursery that she finally lost control completely. The world had changed and had taken her brother with it and now it was taking her sanity, too. Someone, somewhere must know what had happened, where Clem was and how she could get him back, how she could make everything right again. How she could make everyone remember. It was, Carice considered, probably the uncontrollable screaming which had finally resulted in her being admitted to this room rather than to a police cell. Carice looked back to the wall. Was it perhaps a tiny shade more beige than it had been when she first came here? Unclear. The trouble was, Carice only had her memory to compare it to and she couldn’t reply on that anymore. Her memories of Clem were fading quickly, like someone was leeching them away. His voice, his smile, they were all being stolen from her. Carice closed her eyes tightly and tried to think of something she could hold onto, something tangible. And then she had it – when she’d pushed him, that last physical contact they’d shared, the feeling of the fabric of his shirt under her palm, that was something she could still remember, that was the one thing she swore she would never forget. Carice opened her eyes and looked down at her hand lying open on her knee, nodding to herself. “I will remember you Clem, even if no-one else does. And as long as I remember, then you still exist. You’re still real.” She closed her hand tight, clenching it into a fist, holding on to that one felling, that one tactile sensation. *** Temporal Investigator First Class Figgins placed the PADD carefully on his desktop. It contained a detailed analysis of all the alterations to the timeline following the actions of the USS Wells and her crew and was the last piece of information Figgins had been waiting on before they could write their report. “Computer, begin recording.” Figgins waited for the affirmative chirp before clearing their throat and dictating. “Our investigation concludes that there was, at most, two or three very minor discrepancies. One less birth here, two extra trees there and some unseasonal rain leading to a small mudslide that resulted in the premature death of a rodent. Please see appendix H for more details. The timeline will correct itself to compensate and nobody should recall anything different after a while. It is regrettable, of course, but maintaining our timeline is simply more important than any... collateral damage. Now, onto the details of the case…” *** Another birthday came around, the third one she’d had in this place, but this time it came with a visit to her consultant. That sat looking at each other across his wooden desk in the tidy, well-lit office. The walls, she noted, were bright white. “How are you feeling today, Carice?” “Good, thank you Doctor.” She smiled and nodded. “Have you given any more thought to what we spoke about last time? About going home?” “I have, Doctor, and I would like that very much. Honestly, I don’t really know why I’m here, I’m sure you have plenty of patients who are actually sick and need your help much more than I do.” “That’s good to hear. And you were sick, too, Carice, when you first came here. But you seem much better now. I think you just needed time to rest and let your mind sort itself out.” Carice merely nodded again. The exact reason for her arrival was still a little muddled in her head. The doctor continued. “Your parents are very much looking forward to having you back home. You’re their only child after all and they’ve been very worried about you.” Something in the way the doctor phrased the comment seemed odd to Carice. She frowned. “I know, doctor, and I’m excited to see them. Excited, but nervous, too. It’s been a while.” She paused. “Was there something else you were going to say?” The doctor smiled and made a note on the file in front of him before replying. “No, nothing important.” Carice absently rubbed her hand against her top. It was a habit she’d developed at some point during her time in the institution which helped to calm her nerves. The feeling of the smooth fabric against her open palm always felt comforting to her, reassuring somehow. It made her feel safe. But she couldn’t remember why.
  10. I'll never forget the way her dress felt in my hands that day. Or any day. Granted, It wasn’t just my hands. You hug with more than just hands, obviously. She was such a beautiful person. She had the most beautiful handwriting, but was the most horrible artist, and when we first met she wanted to kill me. Kind of. She was a new XB. Scared. So very scared. And we went through the standard alphabet and linked each letter to a number. "Seven of Eighteen, Primary Adjunct of Trimatrix 5" became Grace. Oh she was such a sweetheart. We'd meet after school at the station, and this one time we walked the tracks till it got dark and had to have a shuttle come after us. We'd just been walking, talking, holding hands. Her hand was always cold. The other one was fine but this one had had stuff done to it. Cold and smooth. I never gave her shoulder hugs. She was too tall. We opted for side hugs around the waist. Those were really close too. And there was the time she decided to do art over the other graffiti at the station. "Beccy + Grace" enclosed in a lopsided heart and was like "Beccy Beccy look! I can do art!" She's always called me Beccy. I don't really know why. It happened one day, made me smike uncontrollably, and it stuck. And the time I snuck her in the one time my mother was out and we had the night of our lives for our 5th anniversary of dating. The exact things that happened that night I'd forgotten about the next morning. Too busy with a massive headache. Someone'd swapped out the synthesol. But I do remember having really annoyed siblings for a week too. And she was also kinda annoyed about the massive bite on her cheek… Oops. And the time I was admitted to medical after trying to protect her and lying on a biobed next to her and we just started laughing about the whole situation we were in. And when I ran away from home with her once, and then we got stuck in the rain that night and we ended up sleeping at our train station. And the time I had to carry her to her alcove because she was too tired to get there herself. She had such beautiful eyes. One was green, and one was the cyan color of starfleet regulation implants, and we would always joke that she could see my "extra beauty" with that one. And her hair, her hair was black and frizzy, but I learnt to plat it really well and then she'd wear braids all the time. I remember exactly how that felt too. How poofy it looked and how much hair was actually there. And the little round borg implant around her left eye that I would always trace with my hand, always followed by a kiss. And the time we went to this traditional earth ball thing and she wore the most beautiful black dress and beautiful eyeshadow and makeup which I had no idea she could even do while I showed up in a black leather jacket and black jeans with a white tee. But my favourite moments were when we'd be sitting at the train station and I'd rest my head on her shoulder, or she'd rest her head on mine and we'd watch the sun set and one of us would posdibly fall asleep. And the time we had the biggest hug, and I snuggled my head into her neck. And then I went to leave but I came back and held her hands, one cold, one warm and we just stood there for ages not wanting to let go. And I missed my ride to the academy and had to take the next one which would come the next day. That was the last time I saw her. She said she'd be going off to the Borg Reclamation Project. Helping people like I helped her. Sometimes I dream that she comes all the way out here just to sit with me. What if Fuzzy braided hair and an eye implant to be rested on my shoulder again… I loved her so much And I love her still. Except I don't know how to reach her or how to even tell her. I miss you Grace
  11. The low, ever-present strum of the engines was as familiar to Nurrac as the whistling of his childhood home. Strong winds would batter the desert house and made the windows whistle a steady low tone throughout. A tone that the Vulcan appreciated as a senseless comfort when he was young and just grasping the meditation techniques that would follow him into adulthood. Even now, several decades older, the lulling purr of traveling at a steady Warp 3 served as suitable accompaniment to his nightly routine. Kneeling on the floor of his quarters in the traditional leshriq position, the low humming was easily felt beneath the metal sheet plating. Pinkies and thumbs formed interlocking rings while the rest of his fingers touched their mirrored counterpart at the tips. Resting back on his heels, Nurrac breathed in the sweet and earthy aroma of the incense lit nearby. A scent from home that he’s been told resembles that of an Earth forest. In a senseless moment of nostalgia, he allowed himself to reminisce on his most recent journey home. The sun beating down on Lake Yuron during uzhaya wak-krus welcomed the cadets and senior officers on vacation. The rampant crowd of sightseers unaccustomed to the high heat and strong winds. All of them ill-equipped for the blowing sands, human sunglasses doing little to shield their delicate eyes. “Sorry,” his fellow crewman, Ensign Balaskas he recalled, had said after getting shoved into Nurrac. “I wasn’t expecting it to be so busy.” “No apology necessary, Ensign” Nurrac had replied, instinctively steadying Balaskas with his off hand, placing it at the small of the other man’s back. “You said you grew up near here, right?” He had asked as Nurrac guided them through the throngs of tourists, craning his neck to look up at the taller man. “How about you be my guide?” “I had not made any plans…” Breaking away from the crowd, Nurrac retracted his hand and returned it to his side. “Were there any attractions you were particularly interested in?” “Let’s start with some local cuisine,” the Ensign suggested, looking around with wide eyes, completely engrossed in the allure of the bustling shopping district. “It’ll be my treat since I’m taking up all your shore leave.” “As the saying goes, that ‘sounds like a plan,’ Ensign Balaskas.” “Just call me Adrian.” Thinking back on that day, Nurrac could recall every detail. The hiking trail they’d taken from the shopping district to the edges of Eridani Beach, the fascination Adrian had shown at the immaculately cared for ruins of T’rinsha temple, even the small freckles that had appeared on the Ensign’s pale features after a day spent in the sun. Though he has no recollection of doing it consciously, his hand returned to the small of Adrian’s back several times during their excursion. So much so that the texture of his shirt was ingrained in Nurrac’s mind. “I’ll never forget the way it felt in my hand that day.” He thought to himself as he opened his eyes. Adjusting to the low candle light of his quarters, he looked to the bed where a familiar form was sleeping. Even in sleep humans miraculously managed to be loud, he noted. Soft, rhythmic snoring filled the cabin alongside the thrum of the engine. “Far superior to the winds of Vulcan,” he mused before considering the absurdity of such a thought. Perhaps he had let his mind wander too much for the evening.
  12. The Before. Stardate: 239507.19. Quentin Collins didn’t even need to see the postman coming up the drive to know what he carried. It was as if he…sensed it. Was drawing it closer with his excitement. In return, the parcel seemed to pulse. With a clean bluish light, even through the canvas rolling cart and thin morning fog of the harbor below. Quentin watched the bored looking, but sure footed postman trudging up the drive and he willing him silently on from the foyer window where he had kept his diligent watch over the last few days (and scattering of nights). He kept plodding and plodding up the drive. Quentin started to bounce slightly on the balls of his feet. How could a single human being move THIS slowly? If only they could have transported the parcel directly to the entryway chamber, like every other sane person did. But oh, no, oh, sunny, not in Professor Bouchard-Collins’ house. A house that must always stay clear and tidy and free of wild energies and photonic spectrums that would harm The Professor’s precious “auras” and “ sensory channels”. It was painfully stupid to Quentin when he had first heard it and it was double the amount now. But none of that did little to settle the buzz in Quentin’s heart and brains as he all but screamed the postman onward from his bedroom window. He distracted himself by sneaking another look at the PADD, itself also clandestinely ferreted into Quentin’s hands by a timely summons to the town Post Office in Collinsport below. A summons he obfuscated as a trip to the local library to his Mother. It was his Starfleet Academy acceptance letter and Call to Orders. Even as Quentin held it in his trembling hands, he couldn’t believe it was finally real. And now the second piece of that acceptance into something greater than himself approached. A higher, truer existence than the doldrive and arcane life he would have stayed here. Quentin whipped his head back to the window. The postman was almost out of sight now. That meant he was almost at the door. Quentin moved so quickly he didn’t even remember crossing the length of his bedroom, didn’t remember throwing open his door with a resounding, sonically shot thump. His footfalls outran their own noise. It was HERE. RIGHT in front of him. All he had to do was get to it. He passed a face rounding the hall. Another bounding down the Foyer steps, three at a time. Those were problems and questions for another time. After, much after. He was too focused now. And going too fast. The marble of the Foyer started to glide the heels of Quentin’s loafers. His direction was set, but his speed was now completely out of his hands. And feet, apparently. Only interruption could halt him now. Which he found. In the form of his right hip pranging deeply across the side of the walnut finished oval table that had been freshened and placed in the middle of the chamber. By some unspoken whim of Mother. Even the pain didn’t dull his excitement. He grasped both of the cast-iron handles of the ancient and too-large double-doors. And flung them open to the waning sunlight. Just as the bewildered postman was about to knock. Moving like a badly timed wind-up toy, he started to reach for his own large-font PADD, muttering something about needing a signature for the package. Which Quentin provided almost gleefully, divesting the postman from his charge with uncanny haste. Turning and closing both doors, seemingly with one motion, Quentin turned back into the Foyer. Transfixed on the medium-sized box he now couldn’t take his eyes from. He all but floated back to the table, setting the box reverently down on the walnut. He ran his hand carefully across the gilded embossment of the textured Blue box. The United Federation of Planets, Starfleet Academy. He started to unclasp the box, but stopped himself momentarily…As if he questioned his own worth now. He had taken his entry exam. He had passed his physical and psychological questionnaire. They had accepted him. They wouldn’t have sent this if they hadn’t. But still part of him wondered if he had what it took to open this box. To put on what it contained. To carry those colors. Like the man said, there was only really one way to find out. And that started with opening the bloody box. He ran his thumbs up under the careful seal of the package, carefully separating the flaps of the box. Carefully folded in a square, was his Cadet uniform. Patterned dark maroon with Blue inlays about the collar and shoulders. A gleaming, freshly shined Cadet pip and matching rank-appropriate Starfleet badge set neatly beside. Quentin didn’t hesitate this time. He folded his hand softly into the fabric of the uniform. Running his opposite thumb over the smooth brass of the badge and single pip. Now it was VERY real. More real than ever before. Literally, the entire cosmos now stood at his fingertips. His mind and heart reeled with the possibility. One of those faces from before appeared at the top of the stairs. Father. He caught his eye from across the hall and rose the badge up into the light of the dawning night. They shared a silent, but powerful smile across the quiet. Father knew how much it meant to Quentin. But the other face, now coming into focus. Mother. Didn’t. Or wouldn’t, more likely. Her cold, and solidly focused eyes took in the scene. Her derision broke the silence. Sending it as shards across the sparkling table and flooring. “Colors of his new colonial masters, I see…,” Her voice shot daggers through Quentin’s calm. What followed was not their first argument. Nor was it their last. But it was one that would hang like a grim guidepost of their relationship forever. Quentin’s newly arrived window to everything that wasn’t his Mother bearing silent witness to it all. Staying clutched in Quentin’s hand through it all, acting a ghoulish prop for his exultations until they halted some time later. The Now. Stardate: 239901.19. Quentin Collins pushed the heavy, heady memories away and focused on the bright ones. The light that was clear and strong then pulsed just as strongly now. As he wore a brand new uniform and ran a reverently loving thumb down the lapels of his Cadet uniform. Hanging securely in the closet of his Arrow quarters. Quentin couldn’t actually recall the exact last moment he last wore it, but the feeling it produced within him would never fade from his memory. The feeling that it was all ahead of him now. That discovery and connection were now limitless. And how the answers he so craved about reality’s biggest questions were just to the right of the farthest star and straight on till morning. That feeling and expectation, that excitement…it simply multiplied. Grew. Cascaded warmly across his life and experiences. It was important to him to remember that from time to time. To remind himself. To ground himself with totems important only to him. That first uniform…it had started a whole new phase of his life. It was only right that he should honor it from time to time. In his own way. Behind him, a chime called him back to his work. Back to the galaxy he had made home, literal worlds away from his actual home. Something he wouldn’t have if it weren’t for that uniform. “Not bad for a little swatch of Blue cloth, huh?”, he thought happily.
  13. She could feel them — the alien thoughts worming their way into her mind. Every passing second felt like an eternity whizzing by, and gradually, she could feel her sense of self drifting. Being torn apart and worn down into nothing but concepts and ideas, and then eventually it was like there was little more than a vacuum to fill the space. An image flashed and then vanished from sight. It was checkered flannel. She could feel it in her hand, the soft fibres brushing and then gliding against her skin. The gentle weave massaged the gaps between her fingers as she could feel her hand balling up the fabric. But everything else felt numb. The touch was so familiar to her, and her mind gravitated towards it. Until a muddy image filled her vision. He was staring back at her. She recognized that form, pale skin, a long neck, but everything else seemed… strangely out of focus, but his mouth was moving, he was wearing that same checkered flannel. Ragged and torn, holes and missing buttons ran across the garment. Red and black tones overlapped and behind him, everything else melted together. Colours, images and sounds all bled into one another, ever so slowly forming the whole picture. Neon lights contrasted the dim backdrops, empty tables scattered around the pair as some kind of music seemed to practically suffocate the two. The bass thrummed deeply into the woman’s chest as if it were thunder and her eyes darted around the seemingly empty room just to make sense of it all. ‘This wasn’t where I was a second ago…’ She watched as he mouthed the word “Mirrin” repeatedly. Even the woman’s own voice seemed alien to her. But that wasn’t simply a word, the meaning it carried, the ease of which she resonated with the phrase seemed almost otherworldly. ‘Is that my name?’ But everything about this memory seemed so painfully familiar, as Mirrin read the man’s lips. It was like she could understand everything that was being said. But there was an itching feeling— that she knew this wasn’t real. And there it was— that influence Mirrin could feel, taking root deeply into this thought, this moment and these feelings. There was a deep discomfort, like ice-cold water dripping down your shirt. The image began to shift and distort, blurs and blank spots formed like little tears and imperfections in the image. Colours began to seep out of the world, and the echoes of the heavy bass grew softer and softer until there was nothing left. Suddenly, it all went dark— there was nothing but a void, nothing more than an absolute vacuum. Mirrin’s eyes cracked open, wincing at the artificial light filling this chamber made from stone. A hand pulled away from her face, she felt a release of pressure most notably around her nose and temple. A form with pointed ears and a slightly unkempt bowl cut unveiled itself as her eyes adjusted to the sudden intense lighting. The floor beneath her suddenly felt solid, and cold sensations on her bare legs, mixed with the warmth of heavy cloth was relieving. “Are you all right?” The man spoke. His voice was monotonous The wave of exhaustion washed over Mirrin and her eyelids grew heavier and heavier. She didn't know where she was or who was in front of her. Words passed in one ear and out the other, nothing seemed to make sense.
  14. Scotty dragged himself through the ship's corridor, sloshing his feet around. His hand was covering his right side of his hip. As he rounded the corner of the deck, he got to his apartment. He dragged himself into his room, and instantly went to the shower to rinse off. All of sudden he passed out from exhaustion. As his eyes opened, he noticed that he was now in the med bay. He tried to look around, but his eyes had not adjusted to the lighting in the room. As soon as that happened, he felt a sharp pain radiate from his hip that he was clinching earlier on. After a few more moments his eyes finally adjusted to the med bay. Near the edge of the room he saw a medical officer. He shouted “What happened?” The doctor responded with “You were injured on an away mission, and you collapsed in your room, and we got alerted by the computer. You also got some severe injuries near your hip”. Scotty did not remember any of this happening. Did he pass out? Or was his injuries far more worse then what the doctor had told him. As the medical officer came around again, he was walking next to the XO Commander Chira. “Do you know what happened son?” said Chira “We were on a survey mission, scouting a “Class M” planet”, said Scotty. As he finished his sentence, he drew a blank in his mind. He was thinking that some of the details were starting to come back. Most likely a little brain fog. “I have some details, I remember now!” said Scotty. “Go on, proceed, we are all ears” said the XO. OK, I remember that we had beamed down to the surface of this planet to do some light recon, I remember the weather being really good. Warm and clear skies. For the most part everything was doing good. The only problem that we had was the small issue with the locals that were causing some issues with Starfleet. We told them that we were going to cause no harm to them, but they insisted that we were interfering with their planet. Anyways we kept moving on as we rounded the corner, they started chasing us with their phasers. This was the moment where I totally lost track of what was happening. My adrenaline just went into full go go go mode. Once we had gotten a good distance from them, a phaser shot grazed my hip. I felt like the shot had missed me, but as we can see now, I was totally wrong. Luckily, we were able to get a comm signal back up to the ship, and they were able to lock onto our signal. I remember that my leg was now really bad, and I was struggling to walk. I finally was able to hold onto Lt. Polak’s shirt and he made sure that he dragged me to safety. We then beamed back up to the ship. I will never forget that day.
  15. The eleventh-graders towered over Lazarus like a trio of obelisks as he found himself on the ground, pushed over in the cold mud after a late September rain in Pennsylvania. “You get those ears sanded down, Davis?” said one. “Even his blood is red,” laughed another. Was he bleeding? Lazarus looked up at their faces, only to find they had no discernable features. He tried to stand up, but his arms and legs could barely move. “Nothing? No reaction?” mused the third, a tinge of annoyance in his voice. “Pfft. A half-Vulcan that lost the genetic lottery. Just an emotionless freak.” It was unclear to Lazarus which one of them said that. Somewhere a chime sounded. It was pleasant, unassuming, but repeating and getting louder. “This is a dream,” thought Lazarus as the sound got louder still as he opened his eyes. He turned off the alarm with his right hand, and then reached across his body with his left hand to grab the sheets to throw them off. He slid his right leg off the side of the bed, and placed his right foot on the ground as he used his right arm to push upright and swing his hips around to get both feet on the ground. Once his feet were firmly planted and he was sitting upright, he stood up and walked the four short steps to the edge of the bed, turned ninety degrees to the left, and walked eight steps to the dresser. And from there continued his morning routine. He didn’t think about it, it just was. The routine was the optimal way to get up in the morning. Once established, there was no need to change it. As he poured himself a cup of coffee, the dream he awoke from echoed in his mind. That wasn’t a recurring dream by any means. He hadn’t thought about that interaction in years, even. The sound of the coffee sloshing in the mug as he poured it sounded surprisingly loud today, and the ting-ting-ting of the spoon as he stirred in the creamer almost felt sharp somehow. A belch of steam hissed out of the coffee pot, and he nearly jumped out of his chair. Soon enough, he was on his way to the park to read; such is the life of a graduate student. Lazarus ran his fingers over the familiar contours of “his” PADD. The slight indent on the back from accidently dropping a large book on it was particularly pleasant. Patently unpleasant, however, was the high relative humidity. Unlike the dream, it was midsummer now and the rain from the night before was rapidly drying in the sun. It felt like the air was closing in on him, and the multiple conversations going on around him as people walked in groups of twos, threes, or more were rattling his ability to think clearly. “Just a little further to the bench,” he quietly said to himself. He’d found the bench earlier that week. While the park was busy, the bench and the area around it was not. All of the amenities were on the other side of the pond, keeping most people over there so that he could enjoy a bench under the sycamore growing on the banks of the stream that feeds the pond. It was shady, quiet, and cool. The gentle burble of the stream obfuscated the voices that carried across the water. Lazarus pulled up the dry, academic text on his PADD. “Eminence Front: a longitudinal analysis of the dissolution of caste systems following admission into the Federation.” It was important to read outside of your narrowly-defined field of research, and this paper had generated some buzz–mostly based around its broad interpretations of what constitutes a “caste system.” By the definition presented in this paper, any society with institutionalized differences in treatment of people based on socially-defined categories such as class, phenotype, or genotype was a caste system. The region he grew up in was, for a brief time in history, known as the “United States.” According to the paper, it was a society with a caste system, even if their propaganda said otherwise. The faint whirr of an electric motor and the sound of wheels on the paved path grabbed his attention and he looked up. Rolling along the path was what Lazarus could only conceptualize as an equally handsome and gorgeous Vulcan in a wheelchair. Not in an androgynous way, but in the sense that they transcended those categories. Their eyes briefly made contact, and Lazarus swore he saw a look of intrigue from the Vulcan before looking back down at his PADD. He could feel the warmth in his ears as the whirring sound crescendoed and diminished as the Vulcan passed. The better part of a week passed, and that day he sat on the same bench as before, reading another boring academic text. It was a lovely day, with people enjoying the food vendors. A young couple were tossing bits of bread to the geese in the pond. Lazarus again heard the whirring and rolling sounds. He looked up, almost by reflex. The Vulcan was looking at him and their eyes locked. The Vulcan nodded to him, and he nodded and smiled back. Much to his surprise, the Vulcan approached him on the bench. “Hello. I am Kovar. May I sit next to you?” they intoned. “Er, yes of course,” Lazarus replied. Kovar rolled closer, and stopped to the side of Lazarus. “Would you please make room for me?” Kovar inquired, nodding toward the bag and PADD next to Lazarus on the bench. “Oh! Of course.” Lazarus had presumed that Kovar would simply park next to the bench, but swiftly moved his things. Kovar stopped their chair, pressed a button to engage the wheel lock, and stood up, turned, and sat down on the bench next to Lazarus. “You look confused,” Kovar observed. “I understand. Most chair users are partial chair users.” “I didn’t know that,” Lazarus admitted. Kovar simply nodded and sat back on the bench, looking out across the water. The shade from the sycamore overhead was refreshing, and the light peeking through the leaves glimmered in the gentle breeze. “What is your name?” Kovar asked after a moment. “Oh! Lazarus. Sorry, I thought I–” “I am pleased to meet you, Lazarus. Why are you here by yourself? There are lots of people on the other side of the pond.” Kovar’s tone was inquisitive, not invasive. “I guess I like the quiet. It’s hard to concentrate with too many people around.” Lazarus took a moment to turn his PADD off and set it down. Noticing this, Kovar asked, “I hope I am not bothering you?” Lazarus felt his ears get red hot. “No, not at all. It’s… nice to have company. Is this a favorite spot of yours, too?” “I have never sat on this bench. I stopped because you are here, and I wanted to meet you.” Kovar inclined an eyebrow slightly and inspected Lazarus’ face briefly. “I find you attractive and judging by your physiological responses, you find me attractive as well?” This sent Lazarus sputtering for appropriate words before they were both interrupted by a cacophony of angry geese honking and flapping. Both Kovar and Lazarus’ attention was drawn to the sound. The geese had begun to fight over a hunk of bread floating in the water, and the conflict was escalating. Lazarus winced and shrunk back at the sound. Time slowed as the cacophony increased, but in truth it was over in a few seconds, and Lazarus relaxed. “Well that was unexpected,” Lazarus remarked. All that Kovar had to say was, “Indeed.” They sat quietly for a moment before continuing. “Perhaps I was too direct. I will take my leave, but if you are amenable I would like to sit with you again next time our paths cross.” “...I would like that, Kovar.” That much Lazarus could say for sure. Kovar grasped the arm of the bench, and pushed themself upright, pivoted, and sat in their chair. “Until next time, Lazarus.” And with that, they reengaged the chair controls and rolled away. Lazarus sat quietly with his thoughts. Kovar was compelling, to put it mildly, but also created a sense of confusion with him. Lazarus knew he wasn’t narrow, but he understood himself as attracted to women. Nothing about Kovar’s presentation suggested “woman,” let alone feminine. But Kovar was not wrong to assert that Lazarus found them attractive. After a few minutes of pondering, he returned to his reading and later headed home. Meeting Kovar again happened sooner than later: Lazarus made it a point to go to the same bench at the same time of day when his schedule allowed. They saw each other twice the following week, and then nearly daily on the third week. Every time they met, it got easier. Kovar’s unwavering clear-minded communication was welcoming to Lazarus, and easy to reciprocate. He felt understood by Kovar in a way he hadn’t known before. On a particularly warm day, Kovar approached the bench with a small bag slung over the back of their chair. “Hello, Lazarus. I bought a blanket. Do you care to sit under the sycamore with me?” “Yes! That sounds lovely. Thank you, Kovar,” Lazarus said as he set his PADD down and stood up to greet Kovar. Kovar pointed over their shoulder. “Do you mind retrieving the bag? It has the blanket in it. I also brought snacks. You mentioned an interest in Vulcan cuisine last week. I bought some items you might not have tried before.” “Oo! I can’t wait to try them. You’re very thoughtful,” Lazarus said with a smile. “I am Vulcan,” Kovar said dryly but with a glimmer in their eye. As the two sat on the blanket, chatting and snacking, there was a brief lull in the conversation. “Lazarus?” Lazarus finished chewing and swallowed the bit of–what was it? He forgot the name. “Yes, Kovar?” “I would like to make our time together more comfortable for you. What are your sensory sensitivities?” The puzzlement was clear on Lazarus’ face. “I’m not sure what you mean, Kovar?” “Perhaps it was another assumption on my part,” Kovar replied mildly, and picked up a cracker to nibble on. “Maybe, but I genuinely don’t know what you’re asking me.” “Oh? I have noticed when we spend time together, you seem sensitized to the environment in ways that most humans are not. You yourself mention it sometimes - do you recall last week talking about the sensation of touching ‘flat paint’?” Kovar inquired. Lazarus contemplated for a moment before replying. “I guess so? I thought everyone had those experiences.” “Perhaps,” Kovar leaned back and looked across the pond for a moment before speaking again. “Lazarus, would you like to go out to dinner tonight?” “Yes, I would like that,” he replied. Lazarus surprised himself at how easy it was to say that, given his reaction to Kovar’s direct question about attraction in the weeks prior. Kovar suggested a place, and the two made plans before parting ways for the time being. The restaurant-slash-club that Kovar suggested was one Lazarus had never been to before. It was a queer venue in practice, though of course all were welcome. Once inside, Lazarus was surprised to find that less than a quarter of the people there were human. There was a sign next to the host’s station that read: “This is an inclusive space by design. If you need any accommodations, inform our staff.” Behind the host’s station was the dance floor, with music playing at a surprisingly low volume. Most of the people on the dance floor were wearing headphones or other types of localized audio reproduction systems. And they were all having a great time. “Lazarus.” Upon hearing his name, he turned around to see that Kovar had just entered. They were breathtakingly gorgeous and fantastically queer. “Table for two?” inquired the host. “Yes, thank you,” Lazarus replied to the host before turning back to Kovar. “You look amazing.” “Thank you. You look,” Kovar paused while searching for a word. “Handsome.” After being seated, Kovar offered an upturned palm across the table to Lazarus; an invitation to hold hands. Lazarus placed his hand in Kovar’s, and felt a rush of sensation running up his arm and throughout his body. It was euphoric. “You have soft hands,” remarked Kovar. “It’s from the hard life of an academic,” mused Lazarus. “I bought you something,” Kovar stated as they produced a data device and handed it to Lazarus. “It is a book about neurodivergence. I thought you might enjoy reading it.” “Thank you, Kovar! I… I didn’t think to bring you anything,” he said sheepishly. He wasn’t totally sure it was a date, per se. Or at least he tried to not think about it too much. “What is neurodivergence?” “You are familiar with my people’s concept of ‘IDIC.’ It is that same concept, applied to cognition and neurotype. As a burgeoning experimental psychologist, I thought you might find it compelling. And, to be frank, you might find it interesting to think about given your own experiences.” Kovar’s words were direct, but the tone was warm and compassionate. “I’ll start reading it as soon as I finish my readings for class,” said Lazarus. He had learned to trust Kovar - they always said what they meant. It was refreshing. Dinner was lovely, as was the conversation. Afterwards, Kovar invited Lazarus to dance, which he hesitatingly agreed to. Not out of lack of interest in Kovar, but dancing was an activity that always eluded him and caused him some degree of shame. Dancing seemed to come naturally to everyone else, but he had to actively think about how to do it. He absent-mindedly fiddled with the data device Kovar gave him in his pocket as they approached the dance floor. “I will not want to dance for too long. May I lean on you as we dance?” Kovar asked, plainly. “Of course you may,” said Lazarus, offering a hand to Kovar as they stood up. The two stepped onto the dance floor, and an attendant came by with an assortment of headphones and such. They each grabbed a pair, put them on, and swayed to the music. At first, Kovar merely used Lazarus for stability support, but their eyes met and Kovar motioned closer to Lazarus, wordlessly asking if it was alright. Lazarus smiled and nodded. They swayed slowly in a gentle embrace. He had never enjoyed dancing more, between the company and the chance to do it without the sound system rattling his brain or fighting through thongs of people shouting at each other over the music. After two songs, Kovar pulled their headphones off and announced they needed to sit back down. “But first, may I kiss you?” Lazarus flushed red, and Kovar had an unmistakable twinge of green. “I’d like that,” Lazarus responded. They both leaned in close, and their lips met. Lazarus found himself swelling with emotion, and embraced Kovar fully, his hands around their back and against the smooth, light fabric on Kovar’s shirt. “...That all was years ago, though,” said Lieutenant Lazarus Davis, Chief Science Officer aboard the USS Constitution, as he reclined back into the couch while taking the final swig of his glass of wine. “And where is Kovar now?” the Linarian woman, Queen, inquired from the couch in their shared quarters. “We went out a second time, and after that I got a message from Kovar that they had to immediately return to Vulcan to attend to a family matter. They told me they would contact me once it was resolved, but who knows,” Lazarus said, as he set his empty glass down on the table. He looked over to Queen to find her studying him from behind her darkened goggles. “I appreciate you sharing that with me. You can be… private, at times, Lazarus,” she stated plainly. He chuckled and nodded in agreement. “I don’t mean to be, I just never know what to share,” he said, smiling and wrapping his hand in hers. “We can share everything as bonded mates,” she said again with her flat affect. Between reminiscing about Kovar and staying up late talking over a bottle of wine, he realized that she had many of the qualities that he admired about Kovar. In particular, she said what she meant. “If you had to encapsulate that story into one moment, what would it be?” He thought for a moment before responding, “The texture of their shirt. I'll never forget the way it felt in my hand that day.” There was a wistfulness in his voice.. She squeezed his hand as he spoke, and he squeezed back. The pressure felt reassuring. “Thank you for listening to my story.” “Of course. And I will share some of mine, but not now. It is late and this ‘malbec’ is making me tired. Is it supposed to do that?” she asked. “Not by design, but it does makes people sleepy without fail. Yes, let’s go to bed,” he responded. “What about the book Kovar gave you?” she asked as they walked to the bedroom. That was a point of contention, he thought. “I never read it. After they left, any time I picked it up to read, it made me sad. I still have it, though.” The door to the bedroom slid open, and he stepped through. “Maybe you should read it. It sounds like Kovar gave it to you for a reason.” “Maybe I should…” ((Note: Queen, PNPC of Jalana Rajel, portrayed with permission))
  16. Kammus took a drink of whiskey, staring off into the black through the window in his quarters. The rounded edge was warmed by his breath has he slowly ran the rim past the little dip in his upper lip. He was totally lost in thought. Garrard set opposite him, awkwardly leaning on the edge of the softa. “Its today isn’t it”, whispered Garrard. Kammus slowly nodded, still holding the glass to his lips. He took a long, slow breath in through his nose. The room was still, but the hum of the environmental systems permeated the silence. “You never told me the story”, Garrard said, as he stood to pour himself another drink. “You always say fourteen cadets, but I’ve known you 10 years. Ever year, we play this sad drinking game of remembering their names, but are you ever going to tell the whole thing?”. Garrard wasn’t annoyed, and as long as he had known Kammus, they had been friends. Kammus wiggled his glass back and forth with the twist of his wrist in the direction of Garrard, who got the hint. He grabbed the decanter, and moved to fill Kammus’ glass. The faithful ice cubes began to give up their life in the exploration of deeper flavor. Kammus watched the water radiate outwards, mixing with the alcohol. Taking one last sip, he placed the glass on the side table, wiping his hand on the pant leg of his uniform to clear the condensation. “You never really forget a thing like that,” Kammus spoke softly. Garrard slowly shifted his eyes, wondering if the whole story was going to come out now. He moved softly around the room to resume his seat. “We were nearing completion of the USS Robin, a prototype experimental vessel. Cadets from Farpoint academy had been assigned to engineering as a culminating learning experience to get field training. I was overseeing the initial startup of the warp core, everything was going smoothly. Suddenly, without warning, engineering exploded into chaos. Everything went black, and we were all thrown against the bulkhead”, said Kammus, standing. He started to pace around the room, whiskey glass in hand. “When I opened my eyes, the emergency lighting painted a pretty grim picture. A coolant leak was filling the compartment from above with toxic vapor, a plasma fire was burning out of control, and the emergency blast door had been jammed half open by the explosion. The warp core was offline, but that didn’t stop the matter injectors from sticking open. Raw deuterium was spilling out of the hole where the reaction control chamber used to be. I started grabbing anyone I could find to drag them out of engineering. Alex, Joans, Kaidan, Max, Miles, Quinn, Alura, T’ren, Q’pok, Clara, Burton, Drids, Elix, Colrin” he continued as he motioned with his arms, dragging in the air. “One by one, I tried to get them all out. All except one. Alex was closest to the core when it exploded. He was still conscious when I got to him. The plasma fire ignited the slush deuterium and a wall of fire burst into my face. My hands were in so much pain from dragging those kids out.”. “You were just a kid too, don’t forget”, interjected Garrard, now sitting wide eyed at the details of the story. “The heat was so intense; the texture of their shirt… I’ll never forget the way it felt in my hand that day,” Kammus finished, running his empty hand over the front of his own uniform. “So you saved 13 lives. That’s kind of a big deal.” Replied Garrard. He stood still for a moment, remembering the pain, the texture of burnt fabric. Kammus shrugged quietly, shaking his head, and turning the corners of his lips down as he tried so very hard to hold back a tear. “Accidents happen.” He raised his glass and nodded his head towards Garrard, “To the fourteen.”. “The fourteen”, answered Garrard, taking a deep and final draft from his glass.
  17. It’s funny how the mind just holds on to some of the smallest details. I’m no psychologist or psychiatrist – far from it, actually – but I think that there are times when the mind just gets so overwhelmed that all it can do is cling to the little things. And that’s what I think happened to me over the course of three days in 2397. It was during our first trip to Tibro, during their celebration of Val Tesai. So much happened on that trip and all of it would change my life forever. My team had crashed in a remote forest on the planet and had been forced to run for our lives. When we’d finally be rescued, it was then that I first learned that my husband had been murdered by a victim of the heavy metal poisoning that was ravaging the populace. I was so stricken with grief that all I could remember was that morning, when we’d first woken up. I was still heavy with child at the time and Stevok was ever the supportive and loving husband. Of course, since he was mostly Vulcan, few but I would have noticed it. But as I lay in my biobed in the ship’s infirmary, all I could think of was the feel of his tunic that I had taken out for him to wear that morning. It had been so soft, and the coloration suited him so nicely, that it was my favorite tunic to see him in. How I longed to be able to hold that tunic again. My mind raced back to the last conversation he and I would ever have. “So, your first away mission. Are you excited?” I asked as I ran my hands over that wonderful tunic he was now wearing. It was cut perfectly for him, and allowed me to feel the muscles underneath. If I was going to give it an adjective, I think dashing would be it. “Excitement is an emotion, my wife. However, I will admit to a certain amount of anticipation.” I just smiled at him. Anticipation was just a synonym for excitement, but I wasn’t about to argue semantics with him. Not that day, anyway. I knew from the bond between us that he was also eager to make a good impression with the Captain and the other officers. If all went well, he was hoping to be invited on other away missions in the future. I gave him a quick kiss and left to attend to my own duties. If only I had known that would be the last time I would kiss him. My mind came back from that memory to look at the little bundle of joy in my arms. She had been born the very next day. How was it that her blanket could feel so very much like her father’s shirt? Was it just my mind, or a happy coincidence? I can still remember the feel of that blanket just as clearly as I do Stevok’s tunic. And the smell. What a marvelous thing the smell of a newborn baby is. Of course, that might just be a proud mother talking, and she was definitely the most beautiful little girl. But the blanket they had wrapped her in, the feel of it – again, soft and smooth – had been burned indelibly into my mind. It felt so very similar to that tunic of her father’s that I cried. Oh, the tears were tears of joy, but somewhere in there was sadness at knowing her father would never be able to hold his little girl the way I was getting to hold her. Now, if only that was the end of it, but naturally, that was not to be. Two days later, as I laid in the sickbay, my father walked in. My father who had been dead thirty years. I still remember the last day I had spoken to him. Starfleet was sending him on another undercover assignment somewhere and we would have no idea where he was or when he would return. I had loved my father very much in those days and I was very sad to see him go. I remember that I had jumped into his arms and hugged his neck so tightly for so long. I could feel the Starfleet tunic and the black collar under the skin of my arms. I am pleased to say that our uniforms have become a bit more comfortable since then. Six months later, I would find myself in bed one night, clinging to my dad’s uniform as I cried myself to sleep. He was gone and I would never see him again. But there he was. Older and gray, but very much alive. I felt the fire in my veins rise up and the anger at the deception flowed through my veins. So there you have it. Three major events in my life, all in the span of the same number of days. A death, a birth, and a resurrection. And all indelibly tied to the feel of fabric. A tunic, a blanket and a uniform. As I said, it’s strange what the mind holds on to. The touch, the feel, the cotton, the fabric of our lives.
  18. Lael sat staring at the holophoto of her and Chythar on their wedding day, a nostalgic smile turning up the corners of her lips. Moisture formed at the corners of her eyes. Bittersweet tears. They’d had a shorter time together than she would have liked and yet, they had been the best years of her life. Her fingers touched the brown hair of the woman in the photo, the woman’s eyes shining with pure joy and happiness. Filled with hope of a long future ahead. She reached up to finger the thinning strands, the deep luxurious brown replaced by gray that would soon be tempered by white. Crow’s feet had since formed at the corners of her eyes. Chythar had always corrected her, calling them laugh lines from his prodigious sense of humor. He always had made her laugh. Her life had seen more laughter with him in it than in any of the days before or after. For the first time in years, she allowed herself to fully feel his absence from her mind. On the nights when she forgot to take her sedative or her body became immune to the current dosage, she would experience the deafening silence as though it was the loudest scream. An ache would develop in her chest and sobs would tear from her throat as though someone was physically torturing her. Though she was no stranger to pain and heartbreak, she longed for something that she couldn’t have. At least not this side of heaven. And she had to believe that there was a God and heaven. For her sanity, she had to believe that she would see the man she loved again someday, his features untouched by time, reverted to the youthful man she’d married. They would instantly recognize one another and embrace as though not a moment had gone by. She would feel the texture of his shirt in her hands as she had the first time he’d held her, long before they’d started dating. Even as friends, they’d seemed to break the rules of what friends should be. Her attraction to him in spite of his indirect role in one of the most painful times of her life had been absolute. What had started as an intangible curiosity about the man had grown into a fondness for his quirks and affection for the candid way he saw the world. He had always been different from everyone else, a fact that her heart caught onto long before her mind did. The familiar chime that signaled someone was waiting outside the door to her office echoed in the small space, causing her to look up. “Enter,” she called. As the doors parted, she set the photo down in its original place of honor before turning to greet her visitor. For a moment, she forgot to breathe as she often did when he entered a room. The man before her was a spitting image of his father, with the exception of the slight point to his ears and the subtle glow of his green eyes, all marks of his Al-Leyan heritage. The man’s face fell as he saw her expression. “Mom,” Kaidan murmured as he made his way into the office. Without asking, he seemed to know what she needed, enveloping her in a tight hug. For long moments, they remained like that, the tears streaming down her cheeks. He’d caught her in an unexpectedly vulnerable moment and she didn’t have the emotional strength to force the mask back into place just now. Her hands clenched at the material of his Starfleet uniform, reminding her of the way Chythar’s had often felt. Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to feel, though she was careful not to project too much of it to her son. After what seemed like an eternity, Kaidan pulled back wearing that smile that reminded her so much of Chythar when he was feeling particularly affectionate. “Never underestimate the healing power of hugs,” he murmured. She laughed through her tears, remembering how Chythar would say that when things seemed hopeless. And she’d loved him all the more for it. Laying her hand on Kaidan’s cheek, her watery smile widened. “Your father would be so proud of you.”
  19. How many times in my life have I ruined the moment simply by opening my mouth? Too many to count. This time, things will be different. I walk up quietly as she stands there staring out the window deep in thought. Gently I place my hands upon her shoulders and give them a gentle squeeze. I pull myself in closer so my face just touches her hair and I breathe in. That scent. The one only a woman’s hair produces. As I firmly wrap my arms around her shoulders and pull her in close, her hands move to mine. I squeeze as I nuzzle up to her ear and breathe out gently. Though I can’t see her face, I can feel her smile. It’s clear in my mind, you could never mistake it for anything else as her face shines when it appears. We sway in unison as if our song is playing. Time no longer exists at this moment. I feel in my chest, her silent laugh. Is she recalling a similar time? Maybe even one where I spoke too soon. She turns to face me and wraps her arms behind my neck, my hands at the small of her back. I lean my forehead against hers. My fingers spread and then close, the folds of her shirt filling them. I savor the moment as I know it can’t last forever. I open my eyes as I lean back, still pulling her hips close to mine. “Are you ready?” she asked me. Why stop here? I wonder to myself. I tell her, “No.” “Well, that’s just too damn bad.” She placed her hands on my chest, separating us by just a step. Is it anticipation? Something builds inside me. Her smile transforms into a grin, sly and devious. Her arms cross as she grips the hem of her shirt and begins to lift. Time is moving slowly. My fingers feel what hers feel. She lifts, her hair falls gently in slow motion. Her hand reaches out towards me. “Thanks for doing the laundry.” “Yeah, sure. No problem.”
  20. Ulasso sat on his bed in his quarters for the first time in over a week. He was exhausted, mentally and physically. The last mission had taken them to hell and back again, and now that he wasn't running on pure adrenaline, he wasn't sure what to do with himself. He felt like he should still be on the bridge, that the danger wasn't over and he would be needed any second. He had been ordered to get some rest, and boy was he tired, however he found his mind wandering. He reached under his bed and pulled out a small wooden box. Ulasso ran his hand over the smooth, sanded wood of the cover. It was Rowan wood, a pale yellow brown, with spots of deeper brown from where the heartwood had been used in the crafting of the box. He had been given the box upon his graduation from Starfleet Academy by his only friend there, V'Len Kel. V'Len had been assigned to the U.S.S Thor and had given Ulasso the box as a parting gift. Kel had wanted him to try and obtain a posting on the Thor as well. He had informed Ulasso that the box was made of Rowan wood, and that in ancient Human Greek mythology, it was a Rowan tree that had saved the life of the god, Thor. Thor had grabbed ahold of a Rowan tree while being swept away in a river to the Underworld. V'Len had told him he thought it would bring him luck if we were to join the Thor. The box only contained a few items. He reached past a photo of himself and V'Len at graduation and a pressed Fire Flower from his home world, Lyaksti'kton, recognized as Alpha Sauria IV by the Federation. His hand grasped the next item, a small pint of Saurian Brandy. He took the bottle out and held it in his hands for a couple minutes, rolling it back and forth, fighting an internal battle within his mind. He finally took the lid off and took a swig. He felt the liquid run down his throat, and he felt warmth within his chest that seemed to blossom out like a flower of fire. It relaxed him slightly, and gave him the courage to reach for the last item in the Rowan box. Ulasso's hand moved cautiously towards the small piece of torn yellow cloth, as if the item might become sentient, grow teeth, and take a bite out of his finger. Honestly, he would welcome that physical pain over the mental anguish that came with this particular article of clothing. "The pain never goes away, you just learn to live with it," V'Len had told him once when they were deep in their cups. The cloth was faded yellow, with a floral design of the Fire Flowers from his own planet. He raised it to his nostrils and took in the smell that still lingered there, that seemed to hang onto the clothing no matter how much time had passed. The scent flooded his six nasal cavities. The olfactory signals activated his limbic system and he was taken to a moment from his past. A moment that was captured in his mind like a holodeck simulation, and he remembered almost every detail, all anchored by this piece of cloth. "The texture of their shirt...I'll never forget the way if felt in my hand that day." He thought to himself. He had grabbed at her shirt to try and stop her from going over the cliff's edge. The shirt was homemade, and the cloth was thin and soft. She had made it herself, and had been wearing it as a means of silent protest to the Warrior Caste she had been born into. The Warrior Caste demanded clothing that wasn't made for comfort, but rather durability, and yellow was not an approved color. He often wondered if she had been wearing her training uniform, maybe the cloth wouldn't have torn, and he could have saved her. They had been raised together in the Saurian warrior caste, and while Ulasso had taken to it with no problem, she had never seemed to believe in the extremely rigid doctrine that they were demanded to follow. She believed in free thinking, and that no one person or group's philosophy should ever be followed without question. The elders had tried over and over to put her in line, and Ulasso had pleaded with her repeatedly to stop, as he knew deviation from order resulted in swift, and sometimes brutal punishment. It was after the latest of these horrible punishments that Ulasso had found her standing on the edge of the cliff, with a sea of Fire Flowers behind her. The spot they used to come and play as children. He had been informed by their father that she was to be ostracized. Ulasso's four hearts had dropped at the news. Community was everything to a Saurian, and without it they were lost. The few Saurians he had heard of receive this punishment had chose death as preference to a life in solitude. He ran to her as fast as he could, the field of Fire Flowers giving the illusion of burning flames as their petals took in the full red light of the class M star the planet orbited and were illuminated. He ran across the sea of fire, towards he silhouetted form at the cliffs edge with her back to him, the red light of the star directly behind her. He screamed her name over and over, and she turned and gave him a look that broke his heart. He lunged to grab her as she stepped forward and caught the back of her shirt. Time seemed to stand still for a second, and then the shirt tore and she fell into the darkness. No Rowan tree saved her like it had Thor in the story V'Len had told him. It was because of her he had joined Starfleet. She may have passed away physically, however he could keep her alive by living her ideals and dream. His younger sister, Ulaini, his Fire Flower. He had nicknamed her that because she was small for a Saurian, more delicate that others due to some physical birth defects, but see had a passion for free-thinking that couldn't be extinguished, like an uncontrollable fire that had threatened to consume her. Ulasso had turned inward after the event, once loving community and gatherings, but the loss of his sister had turned him stoic, with a face like flint. Ulasso clutched the cloth to his face, laid down on his bed and looked out the stars. In the seemingly infinite cosmos, we wondered how many others had lost someone. How many others would die for a dream, or live to keep one alive. He got up and went into the lavatory. He looked at himself in the mirror, his yellow eyes staring back at him. Ulaini had always told him to be proud of his yellow eyes, and that she thought they were beautiful. It was a recessive gene, and seen as undesirable within his town. A town of warriors who thought yellow eyes looked weak compared to the imposing black eyes that they mostly had. He looked at himself and wondered who he would have been if she was still alive. Here he was, living for her dreams, but what were his own? Who was he without his pain and loss? He knew he was competitive, when Ulaini and himself would play games he would do everything possible to win. She always said he should relax more and just enjoy playing the game. She had always wanted to creatively bend the rules which would nearly drive Ulasso to insanity. He believed in rules and structure, and he liked to win. That was part of who he was at his core. Ulaini's beliefs were those that all opinions should be considered, that a strict religious doctrine left little room for growth. Star Fleet fit both of these philosophies. No matter who he may have been, this is who he was now, a Starfleet officer. "She would be proud of who you have become" Ulasso said the words to his reflection, left the lavatory and went to the Rowan box beside his bed. He placed the other items in the box, and this time placed the piece of cloth on top. As he slid the box back underneath his bed. He walked over to the statues of Mellitt and Antidis, the brother and sister founders of the Saurian race, and said a silent prayer. As he finished, his communicator badge chirped. =/\= Ensign Ulasso, report to the bridge. =/\= =/\= On my way, sir. =/\= It would seem rest still eluded Ulasso, but for now he may have finally found some peace. Ensign Ulasso, (HCO) Officer USS Thor T239902U11
  21. After over 20 years, Stephen had finally caved and attended one of the PTSD support groups that his children and grandchildren had begged him to go to. He hesitantly wheeled himself into the circle created by chairs in the center of the room, moving one of the aside to accommodate his wheel chair. He idly stared at the floor as the rest of the group filed in and took their seats, only looking up when someone finally spoke. “Greetings to you all.” A tall, slender human woman stood in the middle of the circle. She wore the telltale Starfleet Science Blue Uniform. “I am Dr. Hargrove. I understand you all have come here from very different walks of life, but have gathered for one common reason.” She looked around at everyone before continuing, “Healing.” Psycho mumbo jumbo. Stephen thought to himself. He knew why he was there. He knew why he needed to be there. He just didn’t want any of it. “I would like to go around the room and have you all introduce yourselves. Let’s start with you, sir.” She motioned towards Stephen, who met her gaze and scowled. “Pass.” He said, gruffly. Dr. Hargrove gave him a warm smile, “I know this can be hard. That’s why we are starting with something easy.” She sat down in an empty chair across the room, “Please.” Stephen sighed, “My name is Stephen Davis.” He didn’t bother looking around at anyone as they all said hello, almost in unison. What is this? A GD Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? “Could you tell us a little more about yourself?” Hargrove chimed in again, “Maybe a little bit about why you’re here?” “I’ll catch that on the next go around.” Stephen huffed, leaning back in his chair. Dr. Hargrove simply nodded in response, continuing around the room in counter-clockwise order. Each person stepping forward, stating their name and giving a brief description about why they were there. Space battles, Colony disputes and the like. Stephen just sat there listening until it was his turn again. “Alright, Stephen. Are you ready to tell us more?” Hargrove smiled warmly again as asked the question. Nathan looked into her deep blue eyes for a moment, feeling them almost burrow into his soul. But not in a bad way. He pushed himself forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees. “Stardate 50983.5. You might recognize that date.” He looked around the room. Some understanding, while others simply looked on looking for an explanation. “The Battle of Sector 001.” He paused, letting the words sink in. They all seemed to understand now. “I was aboard one of the first ships to make contact with the Cube as it entered the system. The order was given to stop them using whatever means necessary. It was over before I really knew what was going on.” He looked down at his hands in his lap, resting on his thighs. His eyes quickly looking down at what remained of his right leg. “Fire everywhere. People screaming. The ship was disabled almost immediately. That’s when they began to board and...” He trailed off, memories flooding back and flashing before his eyes. His vision began to blur as tears filled his eyes. “So many dead. So many more assimilated. I remember holding my Commanding Officer as she looked up at me, taking her final breath. I just held her lifeless body, not knowing what to do in the chaos that surrounded me. The texture of her Uniform, soaked in her blood. I can still fell it in my hands.” He wiped away the tears and looked up towards the group, finding them gone. He was no longer in the room that he had once been. Instead, he was sitting on the back deck of his childhood home. He looked out at the rolling pastures that sat behind the house. What in the... He reached down to find the wheels of his chair, but they weren’t there. He looked down and found that he was simply sitting in one of the three deck chairs that always sat on that deck. With sudden urgency, he stood up and moved towards the back door of the house. He had his hand on the handle before he realized. He had stood up and walked. Looking down at his two legs, he let out a sob as the tears returned and ran down his cheeks. This isn’t real. A faint whisper caught his attention from behind him. He turned to find no one there, just the grass and trees blowing in the wind. But the whisper was still there. It was faint, but growing closer. He stepped out into the grass, trying to follow and find the source. He came to a stop in the very center of the field as the whisper suddenly stopped. That’s when he felt the sharp pain in the nape of his neck, snapping him back to reality. Sitting next to the lifeless body of his Commanding Officer on the burning bridge. He body felt numb and went limp. He heard the whisper again. This time it sounded much closer. He recognized it as Dr. Hargroves, along with a litany of other voices speaking in unison in the background. He remembered the words, holding onto them as his vision darkened. As he felt all of his willpower to survive drain away. As his body and mind gave in to what was happening to him. We are the Borg. Resistance...Is Futile. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ensign Nathan Richards Engineering Officer Amity Outpost A239905NR1 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  22. Personal Log of Doctor Zazi sh’Viakrik, stardate 2399.0214 This log has nothing to do with the previous mission, or at least, not in an official capacity. The takeover by rogue members of a Vulcan clan who designated themselves as ‘vampires’ have been arrested and are being put to justice, the ship itself is healing and the people who were injured have been well and truly tended to. This is about the after. I was in my office, cup of Katheka on the side, hardly touched. I had just finished an emergency surgery and was filling in requisition forms. Gods above we need as much supplies as the USS Tripp can carry right now. My door opened, and I wanted to snap at whoever it was. This was my time, the hour I had left to myself before being dragged into the fray, or being forced to be alone with my thoughts. It was Jenny. She looked pristine as if this were any other shift on the rotation. Today she had on a beautifully tailored set of black pants, flat shoes, and a scrub top that could easily be shucked off in case of blood spillage. We had a lot of those recently. I was pretty sure this was not the scrub top she had come on shift clothed in, but better than my own doctor’s coat that, on the edges, wore a spattering of green and red blood. Her blonde hair was perfectly coiffed in a bun, and she smiled at me, holding a platter with two cups of what I knew to be tea, a bowl of sugar cookies next to them. “Doctor,” she said, and I sunk lower in my seat, prepared for the gentle admonishing. “You’ve been up for nearly two days now.” “Yes, and nearly half the ship’s been unconscious for the same amount of time,” I snarked back, despite knowing it was not her fault. I feel embarrassed about it even now, that in the face of gentle friendship, I snapped at the hand offering it. Still, she never wavered, stepping inside and setting the tray down on the desk, heedless of anything I was doing. She took a seat across from me, and picked up the cup, placing it in front of me near the PADD I had some files pulled up on. “Just means our CMO shouldn’t run herself into an early grave.” Those words had been spoken so many times. I was known for taking on multiple shifts, using the fact that I could sleep for only a few hours before jumping into the fray again to my benefit. It didn’t mean my coworkers didn’t worry, and I was sure that they had goaded Jenny into being the one to come and see about me. She was better at tampering my blood pressure. I stared down at the cup as she took up her own, sliding the tray away after settling the set of cookies before us. Her hands, slender and pale, cupped the tea with a middle finger looping into the handle. She picked her cup up, settling it against her lips, the tendrils of steam rising every second. Exhaustion seeped into my very joints then, as if her entering and providing me with tea had sent a signal to my brain. ‘It’s time to rest now.’ My brain was a liar. I watched her take a sip before settling the cup back down onto its small saucer, gifting me another easy smile, the blue of her eyes sparkling in the light of the office. “Doctor. Your tea.” “Right,” I mumbled, and I cupped my hand around the tea, finger looping in the handle before bringing it to my lips. My eyes shut out of instinct, the srjula hitting my lips and giving a shiver down my spine. I lowered it, smacking my lips as I opened my eyes. “Srjula. You never fail to remember.” “Three years together, sir,” she had said, a hand reaching out for a cookie, breaking a piece off to dip in her tea. “You act, every single time, as if it is our first day together, and that it is something of a torture to know you.” Just as she knows me, I know her. I know the tea in her cup is more milk than tea, that she will dip the sugar cookie in it three times, tap it against the edge of the cup, then flick it as if trying to get the drops off. Only then will she attempt a bite of the cookie, and she will smile and compliment the cookie as if it were the first cookie she had received in her entire life. My dark blue hand reaches out to one cookie, and I drag it to me as if the weight of it made it seemingly impossible. I’ve never liked sugar cookies. But I like Jenny. We eat in silence, Jenny’s nimble hands plucking up pieces and dipping them, while I tiredly watch it as if it were a private entertainment show, a jester putting on tricks to make me laugh. I feel as if someone were cupping my cheeks, dragging their fingers across my eyes and downwards, as if trying to force myself to sleep. Jenny put her now empty cup down, letting out a long sigh that usually accompanied her finishing any drink sent her way. “A little quiet helps the soul.” “So you say,” I grumbled, a barb neither meant for her nor anyone really. I’ve been told my bedside manner could use some work. She nodded, brushing a hand across her forehead, bits of stray hair following her hand and pressed into place. “I daresay our counselor will have his hands full.” Oh noble Syron, he who uses logic above feelings. If I was quite honest, and I usually am, he’s been good for the crew. He is stalwart, unbending to anyone’s anger or pleading, and quite honestly a breath of fresh air. I hadn’t gone to see him, but after this last…hoorah, well, it may be in my hand of cards this time. “Syron’s good at his duties,” I had answered, and she smothered a laugh. “What?” “Normally you have something quite prickly to say about folks. Has Syron gained a little recognition from the mission before?” Of course he had. The darned man had put himself in danger just to try and save me from a falling rock. He was foolish and hard-headed and I gave him a piece of my mind only to get laughed at in my face. I admire people who think they can do that. I admire it more when they’ve saved my life. Still does not save him from me calling him many, many things under my breath. Jenny just had that knowing smile on her face, and I grimaced, looking away from her for a moment before my attention slowly wavered back to her again. “He’s…okay.” “So he’s wonderful then, in Zazi speak.” I sometimes wondered was it really the fact we had been working three years together that we knew each other so well? Or had it been something else? Her smile shifted to a frown in my silence, her head tilting, allowing her bangs to slide forth once more across her forehead. “Zazi.” There it was. That tone. That tone that had came forth in our last year of Academy, that tone that popped up so many times aboard the USS Tripp. It was one that I knew by rote. ‘Zazi, when have you last slept? Zazi, four days ago and for three hours is not healthy. Zazi, as a professional, you of all people should know the dangers of burnout.’ I felt my shoulders climb up to my ears, my face darkening from a rush of blood to my face. “I know,” I mumbled back at her, hoping this conversation would not be had. “I get it, but I have to get this all done, no one else is going to be able to do it.” My antenna quivered in the air, twitching and shrinking down lower as well. I heard her sigh, and didn’t know when my eyes had started to drift down. I looked back up at her, and her face softened. “Being CMO is hard, and I know you’ve only been for the last year. Have you…considered…taking a break?” Laughable, and she knows it. The last time I ever took a break was our first year here, when the ship had been assaulted by a memory-eating nebula, our minds adrift and unknowing. I had felt…a lot that day, and had taken a week off to destress. As did many, many people, for many other reasons. “Breaks are for others. We’re low in this department until a new influx of Ensigns, and it’s only us and the other four nurses.” “It’s not fair to leave it all on you, Zazi. You have just as much importance as anyone on this ship.” “My duties,” I had said, my hand curling into a fist and shaking under the desk out of…adrenaline or anger or something, “are never-ending. I won’t put them off on someone else, I am not…that way, and you know that.” “I do,” she had said, looking at me as if she could physically peel away the layers and see what made me up. What triumphs and failures I had experienced, what life had put me through. “But it’s no harm in asking for help.” “I don’t need help!” I had shouted, and now, hours later, I feel just as horrible for doing so. Jenny had not done a thing to me, and yet here I was, shouting at her, standing up from my desk and motioning wildly, almost knocking my tea over that she had brought me. “I don’t need help, I just need to get this done! Once it’s done, I’ll-I’ll just have more to do, more notes to put together, things to send to Syron or my opinions on those who need to go to work and those who shouldn’t, th-the replacement hand for Traxxon…” The list was never-ending. There was always one more thing to do. Syron needed updates for the mental wellbeing, Traxxon’s hand that had been necessary to amputate, Kyra’s fear of inheriting her mother’s heart condition. One more thing, one more thing on top of another, and I was drowning- I hadn’t realized when she had side-stepped my desk, nor when her arms wrapped around me. My own hands came up, grabbing at her shoulders as if to push her away, but they didn’t cooperate. They just kept her closer. She smelled of antiseptic and flowers. Her hands were grounding in a way better than any meditation I had attempted. The texture of her shirt, how it appeared to be flowers but felt slick and smooth at the same time, how it bunched under my fingers. I’ll never forget the way it felt in my hand that day. Our relationship was never more than cordial, than professional. …today I learned two things, both of them just as terrifying as the next. One: I may be in love with Jenny. Two: I needed lighter duties, or to step down as CMO. Temporarily, at least. The work is killing me, literally. My blood pressure has yet to really recover. I know that the USS Tripp is the last on the list to get new recruits, but I’m going to force Starfleet’s hand. CMO will have to wait until I can handle it again, when and if that happens. And when it does, I hope Jenny’s by my side when it happens. …she’s a great nurse, an even greater friend…I’ll just…not think about anything else but that. That’s the appropriate way of handling this, yes? What am I doing. I’m talking to a PADD as if it can answer me. Tomorrow I have an appointment with Syron. We’ll…we’ll discuss this. First about me stepping down as CMO, or at least taking on much lighter duties than I had been, and…then about the…about Jenny. For now, I’m going to rest, as I promised I would do. I wonder what tomorrow will bring. Log, end.
  23. Post your questions, comments, and other discussion here!
  24. As our winner of last year’s challenge, Commander @Geoffrey Teller has come up with the prompt for our community this time around. A throwback to flashbacks for everyone, this calls to mind themes of the little things which can affect characters in those huge ways. Maybe your character will venture on a voyage on discovery about themselves, or explore themes of finality and endings, retribution and redemption, even a bit of mortality thrown in? Star Trek has consistently shown us these small, focused moments can be at the very heart of the human (and alien!) experience. You could go anywhere with this one! "I always loved the wind… ...until that mission on Telstrus 3." How would your character react to this situation? What's going through their mind? What scene immediately pops into your head? Is there a word-fire kindling? Does it transport you somewhere? If so, bust out the virtual pen and paper, brew that Earl Grey and get cracking! One judge will be chosen from each ship to help select the winner. Rules & Guidelines: Word count should be a minimum of 300 and a maximum of 3000. Members are welcome to submit solo stories, or team up with a buddy to submit a collaborative epic, but only one story per person, please! Your submission should be in the format of a short story. Prose, not sim formatting. (See here for examples.) All members are welcome to submit entries for the community to read, but only those from active simmers will be reviewed by the judging panel for the final winner selection. Submissions are, by default, non-canon – if you find a way to shoehorn this into your own backstory, you're free to use it if you wish, but certainly not a requirement. You can create whatever characters make sense for the story. You don't have to use or reference any of your current characters. Rank is not an issue here – write as an Ensign or a Captain, civilian, whatever makes sense for your story! And you're free to use characters you've already written for in sim, but please don't include anyone else's. Submit your story directly into the first post of a new thread. Use the following format for the thread title: [Primary Character Name(s) of author(s)]: "My Story's Interesting Title" Tristan Wolf: "Five Ways to End Your Starfleet Career" If you want to submit a story but don't want to enter it into the challenge, prefix the forum post with "showcase" and let us read your good stuff! All stories must be submitted by Sunday, May 23 at 11:59pm Pacific Time. Good luck!
  25. Book of Devon, Vol One. Xandria, Defender of Starfleet. Names have their meaning. It is given by our parents and their parents before them. There is a code we live by but it doesn’t always mean we have to live by them. Your name has meaning, Devon. Multiple meanings. My name has one singular meaning. We were born with the same destiny to join Starfleet. Our fate, no my fate is set. I- we don’t get to choose them no matter how much we want to avoid it. If you are listening to this. Then that means- Devon closed the recorder. Sniffing softly, she wiped a tear that threatened to fall from her duct. Finding herself in a dimly lit attic, she thumbed the old Starfleet device in her hand and turned it over. Dust drifted among the old relics scattered all over the top part of her old house. Shuttered cupboards blocked the outside giving the room a dark feeling. The candle lights glowed as it filled the room with light. Somewhere below the room, the clock struck several times. Devon looked straight across from the desk. Getting up, she moved her braided hair to the side and approached the closed window. Opening it, she looked outside into the clouds. It appeared to be midday. Surrounding her cottage was the sea by the rocky cliffs. People came and gathered on her yard. While some dressed in dark civilian clothing, others dressed in their Starfleet uniform dress in respect. Devon wore the dark tunic of a Starfleet Ensign of the tactical department. A combadge beeped in her shirt. She ignored it for several moments and allowed it to beep. Exhaling a sigh, she tapped it as her father spoke, “Devon. Are you ready?” Devon didn’t speak for a few moments as she let the silence linger. Finally, she replied with her Irish accent, “No.” Biting her lips, she placed her arms around her knees and held herself closer as she leaned against the window. Her father replied, “We can’t start without you.” Devon shook her head. Closing her sea-green eyes, she replied, “She’s not dead. She’s still alive.” “Dev,” her father began before Devon shut the communication device off. Mouthing softly, she whimpered, “She’s not dead. She can’t be dead. Her body-.” Closing her eyes, her half Betazoid side caused her to remember as she flashed back the month before the mission. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Her body wasn’t found. That means she’s still out there. Missing! Devon rushed toward the doorway as she ran after him. Gripping the side of the doorway, she shouted into the office as her Irish accept rebounded in the room, “Davis!” The man in a red shouldered Starfleet uniform turned to face her and placed his arms behind his back. Opening his mouth, he replied sternly, “Ensign Caden, watch your tone!” Devon exhaled sharply and closed her eyes. Controlling her temper, she recollected herself and opened her eyes. Walking through the doorway, she replied, “Forgive me, Captain. There has got to be-” Davis looked at her with a hardened stare. Beneath the hardened stare was a cool, softer captain. He raised his hand to interrupt her and offered her a chair, “Have a seat, Ensign.” Taking her seat, Devon nodded, “Aye, sir. Thank you, sir.” Davis took his seat behind his desk. On it was an assortment of PADDS, his computer and the nameplate that stated his name clearly, Captain Leland P. Davis. He spoke, “We tried. Everything. We searched for survivors along the Cardassian border, but we found no others.” The orange red haired ensign exhaled, “But, you didn’t find her tags. You didn’t even find her body. That means-” Leland offered his hand again and replied, “She’s gone. Don’t even try to look. We need to account for the losses. You need to accept it and move on.” “Move-” Devon whimpered softly and averted her eyes. Holding back her tears, she fought to control her emotions. Leland watched the ensign. He could understand what she was going through. Exhaling a sigh, he picked up the PADD on his desk and stood from his chair. Walking toward the ensign, he held it out for her. Devon sniffed and looked up. Accepting the PADD, she looked over it as he knelt to her eye level and spoke, “You need time. I have granted you leave from Starfleet. Take however long you need it to be. Your rank and position are still open for you if you are ready to come back.” “I-” Devon gulped and wiped her eyes. Looking at him, she looked over the PADD and nodded, “Thank you, sir.” _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Devon walked through the doorway of her old cottage near the sea. Her father stood waiting by the porch. He looked at her with a sad smile. Devon bit her lips to hold back her emotions. Her Betazoid side continued to flare up causing her migraines. Opening her mouth, her voice cracked as her Irish accent came through, “Dad-” Aric nodded with a wave of his hand, “I know. Your brother is waiting for us. Come here.” Devon sniffed and nodded as she walked over to give him a hug. They embraced for a few seconds. Looping her arm into his arm, they walked down the steps and along the path toward the flowered terrace. Several people crowded in their own spaces. They held glasses and spoke in undertones. Before the casket stood an older boy of her age. Recognizing him, Devon spoke, “Xander!” Cedric turned toward her with dark eyes and a smile, “Hey sis.” They embraced for a few seconds as Aric watched them both. He replied, “Cedric. Devon. If only your mother was here. She was always better at this than I. Your sister. May she rest.” Cedric grew serious and nodded, “Amen, father.” Devon huffed silently and looked away. Crossing her arms, she held herself and walked away. Cedric started forward, but Aric placed a hand on his shoulder. Shaking his head, he replied, “Give her time. Her death affected her more than ours.” Cedric sniffed and shook his head. Turning, he faced him and replied, “It affected me too.” Aric nodded, “I know, but there is a bond between them that goes beyond human. I may not understand it because I am Human, but your mother was Betazoid. She gave a part of her to you three. However, the bond she shared with your sister goes beyond limits. With her gone, your sister could withdraw into her shell. Give her space and time.” Cedric sighed and turned to look for his sister. Devon had disappeared. Shrugging his father’s arm off, he ran after her. Not far from the terrace, Devon walked down the stone steps and toward the column. Leaning against the stone, she stared out over the cliff. The winds from the waves below her brushed against her orange red hair. Behind her, Cedric approached softly. Sensing her brother, she smiled softly and replied, “You can come close, Xander. It’s okay.” “Okay,” Cedric walked alongside her and looked out into the horizon. He nodded, “Sorry.” Crossing her arms while leaning against the stone column, Devon turned to him and raised her eyebrow, “For what?” Cedric looked at her and shrugged. Devon exhaled and shook her head. Offering a smile, she touched his head and ruffled his dark hair with a playful tousle, “You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just-” “Hard?” he replied while moving closer. Devon bit her lips and exhaled with a nod, “Yeah. I know she’s not dead. She’s still out there. I can feel her. I ca-” she stopped and shook her head. Cedric approached her and moved to her front. Shaking his head, he looked into her sea-green eyes and spoke, “This isn’t like what happened to mom. She didn’t die. She disappeared. Vanished. She-” He stopped and backed slightly from her while turning away suddenly. Devon stared at him and processed. With a sigh, she uncrossed her arms and placed her hand on his shoulder. He looked at her as she replied, “I know and Starfleet gave up on trying to find her. She’s still out there too.” Cedric closed his eyes and shook his head. Opening them, he replied, “But Xandria is dead. We need to move on.” “No!” Devon yelled causing him to bite back his tongue. He averted her glare. She growled before controlling herself, “No. I can’t. Not yet.” Covering her mouth, she sobbed quietly and turned away from him. Cedric walked a few steps forward and watched her disappear along the path into the docks below the cliff. Exhaling sadly, he placed his hands into his pockets and returned to the upper terrace. Thirty minutes had passed. It was after the service that Devon disappeared into the house. Entering through the open doors, she closed it tight and locked it. Looking around the dimly lit empty room with the lines, she spoke, “Computer. Run program. Telstrus 3” “Working,” the computer beeped. The empty room transformed into the rust like atmosphere of the moon. Devon found herself standing on the edge of a cliff. She wore her Starfleet issued dark uniform with the gold stripes. She looked around the strangely colored atmosphere that smelled like rust even through her mask. The mountains appeared bare with several dead trees. Someone approached from behind her and spoke. “Hey Dev.” Devon turned to face her half Betazoid counterpart with long dark hair and dark eyes. She appeared of the same form as her with the same uniform. She smiled, “Xandria.” Xandria smiled back with a twinkle in her eyes, “Something in your mind?” Devon shook her head and turned away. Taking out her recorder, she fiddled with the casing and tried to keep back her emotions. Xandria approached from behind and sat down before the cliff. Inhaling the oxygen from her mask, she exhaled, “It’s always nice to take a break from a mission.” Looking up, she smiled and patted the empty spot next to her, “Come. Sit!” Hearing her speak made it hard for Devon to respond. Gasping softly, she sat down to join her. Xandria wrapped her arm around her shoulder. Hugging her close, she exhaled as the wind picked up around her. A gentle wind blew by them as Xandria replied, “I always like this. Before each and every mission as the winds blow, they tell us messages. They whisper to us. Do you know what they whisper?” Closing her eyes, Devon gasped softly as tears started to fall from her duct. She inquired, “What?” Xandria pulled her close and whispered into her ear, “They tell us to never be afraid. They tell us. They say move forward. Move on.” Devon shook her head and looked at her. She replied, “I can’t.” Her sister looked at her saddened features and inquired with concern, “Why not?” “Because,” Devon sniffed and gasped softly, “You left a hole within me. When you disappeared in that mission near Telstrus. When you last spoke to me. You always said you liked the winds, but I can’t. I can’t move on. I won’t, because you can’t be dead.” Xandria looked at her and [...]ed her head with concern. She nodded and stroked her chin, “It’s okay, Dev. Really. If you need time, you got time. What else is there?” “I-” Devon sighed and turned away. Studying the recorder she held in her head, she replayed the last message. -my fate is set. I- we don’t get to choose them no matter how much we want to avoid it. If you are listening to this. Then that means I am dead. Please, Devon. Move on. I know it’s hard, but you can do it. I love you. I will always love you. The recorder clicked off as Devon covered her face and cried. Xandria watched her. Before she could speak, Devon spoke, “Computer, freeze program.” Wiping her eyes, Devon looked at the frozen image of her sister. Biting her lips, she shook her head, “I can’t give up on you. I will not give up on you. I know you’re out there. Somewhere. Like our mother. But I can’t do it while I’m Starfleet. So, I’m resigning my commission to Starfleet to become an engineer. As a civilian, I have free reign to do whatever I want to do. I’m sorry, but I can’t let go. The winds change in my favor as I move forward but along a new path.” Taking a few seconds to pause, she finished, “Computer. Delete program Telstrus 3” Slowly as everything froze, Xandria’s image vanished as if her spirit floated away in the animated winds. Devon sadly watched her sister vanish.
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