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  1. Thank you to all our entrants in the "Fashion" Writing Challenge! Before I reveal the winner and runner-up of this Challenge, I want to note that the judges had an extremely difficult time declaring a winner this time, and at times it looked as though there would be a three-way tie. As it was, there were single-point differences between our top three contenders, so I want to offer those two who made it to the top with some hearty congratulations! Our winner for this round is the writer behind Jalana with her story "Fatal mistake"! Our runner up is by the writer behind Irina Pavlova with the story "Dress Greens"! Congratulations! I'd like to recognize my fellow judges for this round: the writers behinds Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Lieutenant Sal Taybrim, and special guest judge Lieutenant Ren Rennyn. My special thanks to the judges for writing extra reviews for this round to ensure that every story received two!
  2. Greetings, everyone! Want to read the Challenge entries, but don't have time to sit down at your computer? Need a way to take them with you on your tablet or mobile device? Now you have it! Please enjoy this full compilation of the July & August Writing Challenge, available with all the entrants' stories and judges' comments. This is a PDF document with interior hyperlinks to each story for your ease of navigation, so do please read at your leisure. Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read! Also, if you would prefer to have this as an ePub or .mobi file for your Nook or Kindle, let me know by replying below! The conversation is easy, and I'll do it and post new versions if anyone would like. Thanks for reading! Get yours here!
  3. Welcome to the last Writing Challenge of the summer of 2014! Appropriately, this Challenge is going to be hot! FASHION The winner of our May & June Challenge, Brian, aka Lieutenant Ren Rennyn, offers the following prompt: I'm rewatching TOS, and got to "Is There No Truth In Beauty?", where (spoilers) Dr. Miranda Jones' elaborate dress turns out to be a sensor web that allows her to "see." It got me thinking about how fashion is used in sci-fi, whether as a plot device, or to set the scene, define a culture, or place us in a certain time. There are plenty of ways an entry for this Challenge could unfold, and in addition to Brian's example of Dr. Jones, I'll offer these inspirations from TNG, courtesy of io9: Seasons 1-3 and seasons 4-7. As of today, Tuesday, July 1st, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Monday, August 25th in order to be considered for this Challenge. As always, please remember:*Your work must be completely original.*You must be the sole author of the work.*Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship.*Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  4. (( A cell, somewhere )) :: The darkness surrounding Claire was heavy on her shoulders. She could grasp it, almost, before her fingers slipped through the thick black soup that embraced her wholly. Raising her hand she could not even see that, so Claire's mind began to wander, wondering if it was even still there. Was any of her body still there or was her spirit just in a void between lives? :: :: A sudden beam of blinding light drilled its way into her eyes, pain flooding through her as she instinctively threw herself to the floor - there was a floor that was a good sign of not being in the void - and covered her head with her arm. Good that was still there as well. Claire had shut her eyes tight to block out any of the light, as light was pain. :: :: Voices came closer, undefined sounds that she could not make any sense from. What language was that? Her badge pressed against her chest, it was still there, why did it not translate? Where was she, that Starfleet had not encountered it enough to adapt to their patterns? How did she even get here? :: :: Last Claire remembered was sitting in the ship's bar of the USS Potemkin, off-duty, having a drink with her colleagues and talking about the mission that did lie ahead. They had noticed some strange energy readings and had theorized - mostly just fooling around - where they might have come from. It had been a while after that she had left for her quarters. A dizzy feeling had made walking difficult and Claire had assumed that she had possibly one too many to drink. But then thinks got really bad and she had hit the floor just a few steps behind her quarter's door, missing the couch by a few inches.:: :: And that was it, she had woken up in darkness, the same unchanging darkness she still was in. Well, the darkness before the light had cut through it. The sounds, or voices as Claire thought they were, had come closer, worry flooded her, the not knowing where she was and who they were. Afraid that the light would hurt her again she kept her head low, maybe nobody saw her when she did not see them. Such a childish thought. :: :: It did not work of course. When Claire felt the touch on her arm she almost jumped. It did not feel like skin, more like leather and it pulled her up without much effort. Squeezing her eyes shut, now that the arm-cover was gone, she could feel cool breath on her face. Curiosity spread in her body and carefully she peeked through a thin slit, as she raised the lids just a little. :: :: The light came from behind the person so she only saw a dark shade. The voice, now only one close to her and coming from the person holding her arm. Would they understand her? She was not sure but she had to try. :: Claire: Where am I? :: Again those sounds. Hissing, gnarling, clacking. Claire had no doubt that he was trying to talk with her, but there was no way she could make sense out of what came out of his mouth. For some reason she was sure it was a he, maybe she was wrong, but she would possibly not find out. When he turned his head she could see scales in the shade that fell on his face. That would explain the leathery feel. :: Claire: Please, I don't know what I am doing here. :: She hated not knowing if he understood her or not, even more than not knowing what he said. Another voice came from behind him, covered by the big face in her view. :: Claire: I do not understand you. Why am I here? :: She had to try, maybe they had heard her language before. What a glimmer of possibility, but she would never know if she did not try. From behind the one in front of her Claire could hear beeping sounds, they sounded familiar, but still strange. Almost like the sounds that came from pressing buttons on consoles. :: Reptile man: Hrane ioan trema. :: Claire's blue eyes darted to the one holding her when she could hear a change in the noises he made for words. They did not sound just as foreign anymore, but still a language she did not understand. The reptile shook his head and she heard more beeping from behind. She looked him over as much as she could, the light not hurting that much any more. He wore something in a steel blue, it looked like leather and metal, but she could not be too sure. :: Reptile man: G'Tak one tira... ::Claire shook her head slightly and the beeping continued while the man spoke more until finally... :: ... will be eliminated. Claire: :: Her eyes grew wide.:: What? Eliminated? Reptile man: This is the right one. ::Turning his head to her:: You will be eliminated. Claire: But... but why? I do not even know how I got here. Reptile man: Your ship entered our territory. It was scanned and violations against the law registered. Claire: Which law? Reptile man: Our laws of course. You broke the law, you will be eliminated. :: A thousand questions swirled in Claire's head like a tornado. When had they entered the territory of these reptiles? Nothing had been on the star charts and they had just been on the way to their mission. Which law had she broken and could she explain them that she had no idea? Would that matter? If she was here, were there more of the ship or was she the only one? She was not a diplomat, she had no idea how to deal with those situations, but she hoped to find answers by asking the right questions. But what were the right questions? :: Claire: I was not aware of your laws. Reptile man: That does not matter. :: He let go of her arm and Claire dropped back to the ground like a sack of potatoes. He stretched his legs and as he raised she saw that he was really big. :: Claire: Please, let me explain... Reptile man: No explanation needed. Your mockery will not be tolerated. You will meet your ancestors within the hour. :: He started to walk towards the door, the place where the light came from. It was so bright it was hard to see something of him. :: Claire: At least tell me what my crime is. :: The other reptile joined him at the door, standing behind to block some of the light, so she could see him somewhat better. He was tall, green scales covering his body, at least the parts she saw, and he wore a steel blue uniform. The other wore a uniform as well, but it was of a pale purple. Maybe to represent their department or rank, Claire thought. His eyes were piercing red and she wondered how she had not seen that before. He watched her for a moment, looking her over and if a reptile could show emotions she could interpret, she could have sworn that his showed disgust. :: :: He took a step back and the door began to close. She almost thought that she would not get an answer, but just as the last gap brought a hint of light into the room she heard him. :: Reptile man: You are mocking us, you will die. Because ... you are wearing green. :: Then darkness came. Not only in the room, pitch black and swallowing, but also in Claire's heart. Who would have thought that choosing this one dress would have such consequences. She stared into the void, into the nothingness that surrounded her, getting a hold of her insides beginning to crush them under the weight of the knowledge what would happen next, because she had chosen a certain completely irrelevant dress to wear:: :: Feeling the salty traces of her despair run down her cheeks she hoped, prayed to any deity that would listen even if not her own, that she was found, so this shimmer of light had not been the last she ever saw. :: ------ Claire St. John Kindergarten Teacher USS Potemkin written by LtCmdr Jalana Laxyn Chief Medical Officer / Second Officer USS Apollo Image Team Facilitator
  5. To: Department of Fleet Logistics, Star Fleet Head Quarters, Earth From: Commander Fia Eckelson, Star Base 118 Star Date: 239108.20 Re: Implementation of a new Fleet wide uniform. Sir, Since the beginning of this year, I have had the duty of commanding the Public Relations and Workplace Efficiency Think Tank based out of Star Base 118. While I will not bore you with the details of the day to day operations of the think tank I would like to bring one of our latest projects to your attention as I believe it worthy of fleet wide implementation. This project centers around a complete overhaul of uniforms that Star Fleet personnel are required to wear while on duty. Before I continue, I will stress that I am recommending a new uniform scheme rather than removing the concepts of uniforms from the fleet. Uniforms play too much of a vital role even in civilian workforces to be discarded by Star Fleet. With that said it is the opinion of my think tank that from both a public relations and efficiency standpoint that the current generation of Star Fleet uniforms is lacking in many regards. With an ever evolving fleet which has many new but sorely implemented technologies at its disposal, it is believed that implementing a uniform scheme along the lines of what the proposal outlines will keep the fleet going strong into the future. Attached to this transmission you will find the complete proposal and supporting research in addition to holographic mock-ups of focus tested next generation uniform concepts. As I quickly came to expect of the Public Relations and Workplace Efficiency Think Tank, the proposal and supporting material is nothing less than completely thorough as well as painstakingly pieced together. For that reason it would be fairly redundant for me to go into too many details that you will undoubtedly read soon so I will just mention the following. The proposed changes are made on the premise that while the current standard day uniform is rather well designed. It was however primarily designed with day to day duties aboard a starship or on an M-Class planet in mind. What it doesn’t allow for is the rapid and unpredictable nature of Star Fleet. One minute three crew men are on a shuttle run, the next they are stranded in a desert dressed in that same day uniform which is rather ill-suited to deserts (the least of which is because the base fabric color is black). Like with most reported cases of such occurrences, those stranded did not have access to the appropriate specifically designed uniform to best much the terrain they would be visiting. No uniform created will ever be completely adaptable to any environment especially when used by members of Star Fleet but advances in bio-polymer based synthetic fabrics and even imbedded technologies such as communication equipment would turn that near disaster that I mentioned above into a not so bleak scenario. In that light the proposal also details other computerized technologies that can built into the next generation uniform that will undoubtedly enhance the way members of Star Fleet operate. During my time with the think tank I have heard some farfetched ideas but this one is something that I can wholeheartedly get behind. I hope that the rest of your department does the same. If you require clarification on any part of the proposal please contact me. I will be more the happy to oblige as will my team. Yours Sincerely, Commander Fia Eckelson Commanding Officer Public Relations and Workplace Efficiency Think Tank, SB118 ----- Ensign Atherton Grix USS Gemini
  6. (( Luxury Quarters, Stargazer Hotel, Orion )) Her feet were exquisitely pedicured in the French style, her long, muscular body tanned honey brown, her curly blonde hair streaming down her naked back to just below her shoulders. A jeweled belly button ring hung from her pierced navel, and aqua blue eye shadow, matching her dress, was meticulously applied. Her long, tanned legs were freshly shaved, and she looked down at the four inch stiletto aqua blue sandals lying at the foot of the bed, giving the six foot woman an even more towering presence…::: She scented her body with a combination of fragrances...one from Risa, one from Earth (Paris, more specifically), combining with a special oil from Orion itself. The fragrance was designed to be intoxicatingly powerful to the right male who took in the subtle fragrance...to others, she would just smell good. Designed to not lose its allure for several hours, the woman was sure sometime that evening, she would ensnare her prey…::: Her aqua blue mini dress lay on the bed. The halter top dress was tantalizingly short, with a deep, plunging neckline which ran down to just below her navel. Her only lament was that she had not been blessed with the most impressive bustline, but the realization that a bigger bust would tend to get in the way of her other activities, it was a trade off she could live with. They were not huge, but constant training ensured that they were perky, divided, and noticeable. Two-sided tape had proved its worth over the centuries, and as she slipped the wisp of a dress over her head, she applied it to the areas needed to keep her breasts obvious, and in place. Her fingernails were also aqua blue, just slightly longer over her fingertips...no false nails here..her hands allowed her to do the occasionally delicate work she did, so long false nails were a burden which was unneeded. A perfect, understated dash of aqua blue eye shadow adorned her eyelids. Standing in her bare feet, she looked in the mirror. Another regret crossed her mind. Here she was, checking in under an assumed name, in a dress she would never wear again, to charm a man she had grown to hate. Months of careful surveillance involving several operatives were going to culminate tonight in her administering the most harshest of penalties to a man who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Federation citizens and Starfleet personnel. That was not her regret...her regret was that she would have loved to have worn it for the massive, brash, but gentlemanly Special Forces Marine Hannibal Parker. A month ago, they met in a bar, took out four Nausicans, then spent a fantastic three days together. Kamela had never believed in love at first sight, but she knew that weekend was special. While they made no special plans, she knew they would find each other again. Putting on her high heel sandals, Starfleet Intelligence operative Kamela Allison was now ready to take on her assignment...a very nasty-tempered human from Alpha Centauri by the name of Phineas Tredeau...but it wasn’t his temper which interested SFI….it was his appetite for his willingness and ability to sell prohibited weapons to those not friendly to the Federation which had to be terminated with extreme prejudice...Tredeau had few weaknesses, but one was his Achilles’ heel...his desire of beautiful, tall, blond women. On a planet of beautiful women, where sex was as easy as saying hello, Kamela was the perfect bait. She knew where he was going to be...cultivated intelligence had made sure he would be in the club across the street soon. He was known to be punctual, but she had planned to make her entrance after he had eaten and was enjoying the scenery of semi-naked women and the opportunity to make a deal...an activity she would circumvent permanently. Grabbing her aqua blue clutch purse, Kamela headed out into the night...she would not return here when the deed was done. No matter how careful she was, she could leave no traces of her presence and would make her escape to the Federation embassy, then off the outlaw planet. There would be no DNA, no fingerprints...only the lingering odor of her fragrance would be the only acknowledgement that she had ever been there. Cutting off the lights, Kamela headed out the door, her heels clicking on the marble floor…….. Lieutenant Kamela Allison Operative Starfleet Intelligence
  7. OOC: Obviously, this is slightly un-canon, but it came out of a friendly speculative discussion when I was in grad school. K'tal looked at the Trill man, his mouth slightly open in shock. "You want to know what?" he said. "I said I want to know about the forehead thing. If I help you, you tell me," Azulay said matter of factly. He was stuck. He had to have the Trill Ambassador's help procuring the wine for his wedding, but the subject of the foreheads was not something that his people talked about ever. The prohibition was especially strict when it came to non-Klingons. He resolved to put it off as long as he could. "Deal, but I decide the place and time." "On your honor?" "Yes." The Trill man died only a few weeks later and K'tal thought he was safe, the secret of his people protected from the deal he had made with the Trill man. He had mourned Azulay's passing, but secretly thanked fate that he did not have to talk about his people's secret shame. That was, until that fateful day in San Francisco, almost three decades later. ----- K'tal suppressed a groan. Whenever he met with Joanna Wilde, the meetings always took interesting turns. This would likely be no different. It wasn't that he disliked her, really, but she was... well... too human. "Liaison Wilde, it has been far too long," the Ambassador said, taking the woman's hand in his own gnarled one. "K'tal," Joanna said with a smile, "I'd like you to meet my future daughter-in-law and Starfleet officer LtCmd Idril Mar." The Klingon turned towards her and nodded in greeting. Why was it that the name sounded familiar? Idril smiled, knowing he had no idea who she was. "Ambassador. You're looking a little older and a little more round in the middle, but good overall." The Klingon responded in his gruff voice. "I'm sorry, you have me at a disadvantage. Do I know you?" "We've met before," the Independence's Chief Engineer said with a smile, "but it has been about 25 years." She could see the recognition dawn on his face. "Mar... the Trill. Ah yes, how could I forget?" He slapped Idril on the shoulder. "You are looking much more attractive these days. Obviously the 25 years have been kinder to you than to me." He patted his rather rotund belly with a laugh. The redhead chuckled. A couple hours later, the two old friends found themselves at the bar, sharing a bottle of bloodwine and memories. The Trill's new host, though, seemed to be a much less capable drinker than the one with whom he had been friends. "Sho... I remember a promish you made to Azulay," Idril slurred out. "Oh? I remember no promise. Enlighten me, Mar." "The shmooth heads," she said. "What?" K'tal make a puzzled face, even though he knew exactly what she was talking about. "A censhury ago, lotsh of Klingons had shmooth heads you know, no ridgeshes or bumpies," she giggled. "How come you guysh had shmooth heads?" His demeanor changed from the boisterous and laughing to much more serious. "That is a complex story, Mar, and one we do not share." “A promish ish a promish, my old frend,” Idril slurred and slapped the Klingon on the shoulder. He sighed and took a long drink off his mug of bloodwine, then poured another. “I know. You must swear to never tell another.” “I schwear.” “Well, it began with the Enterprise.” “Kirksh ship? “No, before that. Archer’s ship, the first one." Idril looked puzzled, but stayed quiet. “The Empire was at war with the…” “The Shooliban. Yesh, yesh but what does thish have to do with the forehead bumpies?” “Well, remember, that Archer was the first human that the Empire had come across. His dealings with the Suliban impressed many on QonoS.” Ktal nodded, almost to himself. “He was seen as cunning and skillful and, incorrectly I might add, it was assumed the Archer was indicative of all humans.” The Trill woman, still a bit fuzzy, repeated her question. “What doesh thish have to do with the forehead bumpies?” “Remember, that only a few years after first contact, war broke out between Romulus and Earth as well.” The Ambassador took a drink of his wine, then continued. “For more than a century, even the Vulcans had been unsuccessful at taming their more aggressive cousins. They were considered one of the greatest threats to the Empire, an existential threat. Now consider that, within a few short years, Earth crushed the Romulan war machine and ended their threat to the whole quadrant. An epic victory. Some, especially among the youth, looked at the humans and saw a mighty warrior culture, one worthy of emulation in every way. Food… clothing… even literature.” The Klingon dropped his voice to a whisper. “Some whisper that the Empire organized a time-travel expedition to plant a translated Shakespeare in our history so that we could claim him as our own.” Idril hiccupped, then giggled at the notion. “Even after we and Earth began our own war, the fascination continued.” By this point, the drink and the heat in the room were obviously getting to the woman, and K'tal reached over to save her from falling unceremoniously off the chair. Joanna Wilde would not have appreciated her future daughter-in-law coming back with bruises. The drunk engineer waved off his help. “Ok, ok... sho the kidsh liked Earth. Why the smooth headsh?” “Then, in the late 2200s, cosmetic surgical practices began to be available on the homeworld. It became popular to… alter one's appearance to look more... human.” The Independence's Chief Engineer just gawked at the Klingon, her mouth open in shock. Then it began, a quiet giggle at first, but slowly building into full-out hysterical laughter. For more than a few minutes, everyone in the bar stared as K'tal shifted uncomfortably on his seat, wishing he was anywhere but in front of the manically laughing Trill woman. Idril fell off her chair and the thump on her backside seemed to sober her up a bit, at least so much as allow her to start catching her breath. “So you're shaying… it… it was a a fad?” she gasped out. “A fad,” the Klingon admitted. “And when you realished that humanity washn't a warrior cultushure…” she started, climbing back into her chair unsteadily. “Imagine our disappointment,” he finished. Idril’s mind was awash with images of dour Klingon warriors in blue jeans and bright orange mohawks and slipped into a fit of drunken giggling again. K'tal sighed, getting up and walking over to the bar to get a new bottle of bloodwine. When he got back, the redhead was passed out on the table. He poured another drink for himself and contemplated the evening’s revelations. ----- The next morning, Idril woke up on a couch that she recognized as one of the ambassadorial suites. Her head, though, felt like it was trying to hold in an out-of-control warp core. “Uuuuuuuugh,” was the only sound she could manage. “Here. Drink.” The voice, soft as it was, still set her head ringing. She took the drink: water with lemon in it. “You handled your wine much better when you were Azulay.” “I was fifty pounds heavier and male,” she replied, wincing at the sound of her own voice. “And I drank more then, too.” She took another sip of the lemon water, and opened her eyes the tiniest crack that she could manage. “I don’t remember anything from last night after we got to the bar. We were talking about something, weren’t we?" K'tal shrugged and responded without skipping a beat. “It wasn’t important.”
  8. Dress Greens Everything had changed. 219 years had passed, people grew old, withered, and died. Buildings were built, treaties were signed and wars were fought. Irina had changed herself, though not nearly to the extent everyone else does over such a long period of time. There were red flecks in the whites of her eyes, while the lustrous deep yellow gold of her hair was now more of a platinum blond, bleached in the same ultraviolet radiation that had long since fried all of the cones in her eyes and reduced her vision to black and white, with a somewhat limited pallet of grays. Thirty-nine members of USS Columbia’s away team had shuttled down to Kjenta II from their ruined hulk of a starship all of those years ago, and now four of them were back. There were nine others who had survived the whole time in stasis, including Irina’s own four-year-old daughter Katya, and now, today, they were to be presented back into a universe that had long since abandoned them. It was a strange sort of occasion, originally scheduled as a eulogy/funeral type ceremony to mark the loss of a much more modern ship, the Sovereign-class USS Discovery-C through the very same Aurix wormhole that had claimed the far smaller and more primitive NX-class Columbia two and a quarter centuries earlier. Something about Discovery not having working comms prevented anyone from notifying Deep Space 285 until a few hours before their arrival, and he funeral was quickly changed to a welcome home party, again more for the benefit of the Discovery crew and their families who thought their loved-ones dead than for anyone on the Columbia, most of whom having been forgotten long ago. Captain Waltas had ordered everyone in both crews to wear their finest dress white uniforms, and for the crew of the Columbia, that meant 22nd century uniforms. Waltas wanting to show off his treasure or something like that. Being a marine, Irina's dress uniform was green rather than white, but the idea was the same, fancy and stiff with all of the frills. Irina stood in front of the mirror as she looked at the two uniforms laid out on the bed. One was crisp and new, only worn on three occasions and perfectly preserved across time in the cold vacuum of space that was her quarters on the Columbia. The other, not a dress uniform at all, was the clothes she had worn her last day on Kjenta II. The pants and undershirt were marine issue, but faded, sewn, patched and more recently thrashed by bullets, road rash and more than a little of her own blood. The leather flight jacket also had bullet holes and blood stains, but the thick hide had stood up to the road rash with only some abrasion and discoloration at the left shoulder and back. Standing at the mirror in her underwear, Irina desperately wanted to put on the ruined pants and jacket and walk out onto the stage as she really was, damaged goods, faded and worn by time with the color long gone. Just like the uniform pants and marine flight jacket, she remained obviously military, yet also wild, even savage. It was strange the things one remembered. As Irina put the dress uniform pants on, she had to give a bit of a tug as the material stretched a bit to conform to legs far more muscular than those that had worn them before. She was almost the same height, generally the same shape. Her waist was only an inch bigger around, while her thighs and biceps had each grown a bit more. She stood a little over an inch shorter than when the uniform had been made, now a few tenths over 5’6”, instead of a few below 5’8”, but had gained a full 100 lbs in bone and muscle density. The uniform fit, mostly on account of the synthetic fibers it was woven from and their expansive properties. Uniform on, Irina proceeded to attach the various and sundry ribbons, medals and insignia until she was so festooned with militaria as to look more like the old recruiting posters than the woman marooned for 219 years on that inhospitable rock. She looked, civilized. Some other things besides Irina’s weight and physique had changed, including some additions to the uniform. There was a modern 24th century purple heart medal, alongside the two 22nd century versions, not to mention the rank of marine captain instead of first lieutenant. Irina thought it funny she was going to what was originally a funeral wearing a rank that was awarded to her “posthumously” in 2172. Uniform complete, the last pieces were shoes and gloves, which she’d had new ones made on Discovery. The inch and a half of height she’d lost to Kjenta II’s high gravity were made up with non-regulation 2 1/5 inch heel, with regulations the furthest thing from her mind. She’d spent some time trying to put her hair into a neat and professional bun like she used to wear it, but her left hand wasn’t cooperating with her right due to nerve damage she'd suffered when their shuttle crashed so long ago, and in frustration she just let it hang, though cut now to shoulder length instead of mid-back as it had been on Kjenta. She wore no makeup, which combined with the wild-looking straight hair and the ever-present red flecks in her gray eyes presented an image somewhat different than that of her personnel photo. Of course, Irina couldn’t see any of the colors, including the one red and one green sock that to her were the same shade of medium gray, and didn’t care if anything was out of place or incorrect anyway. Dressed, Irina made her way to the small antechamber to the large auditorium where the ceremony was taking place. She looked at each of her 11 surviving shipmates, all of them wearing Starfleet uniforms while she as the lone marine rather stuck out, even in Irina’s monochromatic vision. The 8 officers revived from stasis tubes kept looking at Irina’s mismatched socks, while the other three who had survived the ordeal on the planet and were every bit as colorblind as she, didn’t notice. Mismatched socks or not, nobody in the small room said a word. Waltas spoke over the PA system telling tales of bravery and sacrifice and other such nonsense. He made the empty promises of how the federation in all its benevolent nicety niceness would be so very nice to the Columbia survivors and help them transition into this wonderful, enlightened and yes, nice century where everything was flowers and unicorns and feces no longer stunk. Then as the applause died down, Waltas’ voice took on a more triumphant and less somber tone. “Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you the crew of the USS Columbia, Naval Construction Code number Zero-Zero-Three.” There was thundrous applause, which died quickly as Captain Waltas raised his hands. “Lieutenant Commander Graciela Solis, chief medical officer. Lieutenant Rebecca Moore, assistant chief engineer. Lieutenant Michael Thomas, assistant chief science officer.” The names were called one by one, and each was followed by the loud applause that to Irina’s sensitive hearing sounded almost like gunfire and despite her knowledge of what it in fact was, her heart still was beating fast and her hands sweating more than she would like. When she was alone in the room, Waltas spoke again. “Lastly, Marine Captain Irina Pavlova, Chief of Security.” Irina walked out onto the stage and felt every one of the ten or twelve thousand eyes on her, heard the applause increase in volume and frequency. Her heart beat faster and she fought the overwhelming urge to run. Two steps, three. The incessant applause wouldn’t stop. Twelve steps, thirteen, left face, halt. She stood there at attention, her fists clenched so tightly her knuckles cracked, adding to the staccato horror. Waltas spoke again. “Ladies and gentlemen, true pioneers.” The audience all stood up and cupped their hands as they clapped, the roar deafening. Irina could feel her grip on reality slipping as she her eyes started darting about, looking for the nearest exits, the path of least resistance while her rational mind tried desperately to keep her feet from moving. She couldn’t hold it anymore, and pushing through Crewman Saunders Irina bolted from the small formation as the applause suddenly came to a stop in sync with her motion. She didn’t look back, just quickly closed the 15 feet to the side door, veritably threw the security guard out of the way as she slammed against the door and found that the push bar was quite locked, but the wooden door itself was no match for almost 200 lbs of fast-moving marine desperate to get out of the room. Irina wasn’t sure how far she’d run, only that she’d gone through about three more doors and finally found an empty room where she could stop and try to get her wits about her. She had no idea how long she just stood there, and while she knew there were people on the other side of the door she’d come in through, they were, thankfully, not crowding in. Finally the door did open, but it was a familiar face to come in. “Come on back, Irina, its fine now.” “What’s fine Grace? Did the 24th century pack up and leave? There’s no going back, and I’m afraid to go forward.” “I know” Graciela Solis said as she walked up right in front of Irina and held out her hand. “Come on back, we’re all afraid to go forward, but we have to do it anyway.” “Its different for you, you slept through it.” “Yes, I slept through it. You didn’t. But as you said, there is no going back, but you can, you must go forward. If not for you, then for your daughter. Katya needs you, and from I heard from the Discovery’s team that went down there to get you, I think this century might need you as well.” “We are over 200 years out of date, they don’t need us to be anything except museum exhibits.” “Your wrong. The machines get bigger, faster, more powerful, but its always the people behind them that make the difference. Don’t ever forget, we were picked for Columbia because we were the best that Earth had to offer. I’d wager we still are.” “And if they don’t give us a chance to show it? If they put us out to pasture?” “Don’t let them. If you run and hide your fears will come true, but if you go back out there and face the future, somehow I’m sure you’ll get another ship, maybe even one of your own someday.” “I’m a marine, we don’t get ships.” “Rewrite the rules then. You kept everyone alive on that planet all those years. You kept Captain Waltas and his crew alive when went down to rescue you. I have a hard time believing the Starfleet of the 24th century would be stupid enough to throw that away.” Irina just listened, while her eyes kept going back to the door. Finally she unclenched her fists, took a deep breath and locked her gaze on the Columbia’s doctor. “Okay Grace, we’ll try it your way.” With that, the two women walked out of the supply room, back through the personnel and finance offices and finally to the main hallway and back into the auditorium. The security guard at the broken door shot her a dirty look, but Irina just smiled and walked past him, and out into the seething mass of humanity and other species. Major Irina PavlovaChief of Strategic OperationsDuronis II Embassy / USS Thunder-A OOC: My character was actually based partly on the song "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" by Blue Oyster Cult, which is linked below.
  9. Thank you to everyone who participated in our late summer July/August Writing Challenge! I'm pleased now to bring you the judges' decisions. I will note that a clear final field was harder to come by in this contest, as some final rankings were only one point off another. The winner of the Challenge for July and August is the writer behind Ben Livingston, with his story "The Genetic Engineer's Manifesto"! Our runner-up is the writer behind Evan Delano, with his story "Resignation"! Congratulations to both of you, and watch the Community News in the coming weeks for more about these authors and their stories! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- the writers behind Fleet Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, Fleet Captain Diego Herrera, and Commander Melitta Herodion. Writers and all interested parties will find individual feedback posted below this message. Please feel free to use this thread to offer your congratulations to the winning writers!
  10. Welcome, my friends, to the July and August Challenge for 2013! For this Challenge, Ed -- the writer behind Captain Diego Herrera and Ambassador Tallis Rhul and the winner of the May & June "From the Past" Challenge -- would like you to consider the topic "Under My Skin." Now, you may choose to take this expression figuratively and examine its ramifications for one of your staid characters (or, perhaps, an entirely new one); but the beauty of Trek is that you may also choose to get under a character's skin literally, perhaps with some Borg nanoprobes, a Trill symbiont, or something completely unexpected. Whatever you do, the judges look forward to reading your entry! The deadline for this Challenge is Tuesday, August 27th, which gives you the better part of two months to consider this topic, watch the new movie, and produce your story! As always, please remember: *Your work must be completely original. *You must be the sole author of the work. *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. As of today, Tuesday, July 2nd, this Challenge is open. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website at http://www.starbase118.net/members/events-activities/writing-challenges/ Good luck!
  11. From: Commander Sean Gardner, Commanding Officer, Bernard IV Duckblind Research Facility Sent: 239008.07 To: Captain Elizabeth Zaks, Commanding Officer, USS Intrepid Subject: Resignation from Starfleet Dear Captain Zaks, I regret the need to write this letter; however, after much reflection, I’ve concluded that I cannot return to Starfleet in good conscience. I can’t turn my back on this world. Not while I know what’s happening here. As a Starfleet officer, and as a scientist, I have dedicated my career to the ideal of non-interference as enshrined in Starfleet’s General Order 1—the so-called “Prime Directive.” I now intend to violate that directive. As such, I offer you this letter tendering the resignation of my commission, and hereby renounce my citizenship within the United Federation of Planets, effective immediately. Due to the nature of what I must do, I haven’t informed my senior officers or anyone else under my command. Dr. Lysander, Lieutenant Gale, and Ensign Tralen and their staffs have all performed admirably. They deserve commendations. The last 18 months have been difficult, and they faced the daily horrors and despair as well as anyone could have. I have never worked with a more talented research team, and Gale and her security forces have run a tight ship. I’m afraid my plan takes advantage of weaknesses in our security systems I only know about thanks to her reports.What I do today is done of my own volition and without their knowledge. Please, do not punish them for my choices. Captain, I know you’ve never thought highly of me or my research into the people of Bernard IV. From your perspective, it will appear that I’ve simply lost perspective and allowed these people to get under my skin. At best, I’ll be seen as a misguided academic. That doesn’t matter. I need to document the decisions that led me to this point, at least as much as I can in this letter. I don’t expect you or anyone else to agree with my decision, but my story should be written somewhere. It’s unlikely I’ll have another chance. My career has been built on the study of the inhabitants of Bernard IV—The Paragons.I was a Lieutenant Junior Grade aboard the USS Turing when Starfleet first discovered an intelligent civilization in this system 20 years ago. I was arbitrarily assigned to oversee the deployment of the probe the Turing left behind, but over the months and years following, I published analyses of planetary communication and made a name for myself in many Starfleet journals. I eventually argued that the Paragons were on the verge of reaching planetary unity and discovering warp travel and that within a generation, they would make ideal candidates for first contact, and even for entry into the Federation. Within a year, I accepted transfer to a listening post in the sector in order to dedicate myself to a full-time study of the Paragons and their development. As an anthropologist, I have studied dozens of near-warp worlds, but the Paragons seemed to be living up to their chosen name. While nearly every other race in the quadrant has managed to unite after centuries of bloody war and apocalyptic scenarios involving weapons of mass destruction and genetic manipulation, the Paragons had enjoyed nearly a century of relative peace. The upper class Perfects, which had been dominant through most of the race’s history, had in the last few generations, intentionally redistributed wealth and power to the lower classes. While religious and cultural discrimination was still prominent in many parts of the world, wars were rare, and conflict brief. Even criminals seemed slow to resort to violence. I spent years lobbying Starfleet to set up a duckblind facility on the planet, but after the incident in the Briar Patch, that kind of study became anathema to the eyes of the Admiralty Board and the Xeno-Anthropology Department at Starfleet Academy. Perhaps out of habit, I continued to periodically submit requests, but they never really succeeded. You can only imagine my surprise when, years after I had given up, I received word from Starfleet that they had reconsidered my latest proposal—sent almost three years earlier— after the publication of a report on the development of the southern continent’s space program confirmed that the Paragons were less than 10 years away from breaking the warp barrier. I was promoted to commander and assigned a small team of researchers and other support officers to make my dream a reality. That would be when we first met. They say you can never make up for a bad first impression, and I suppose that trip to the Bernard system was proof of that. For what it’s worth, I offer a final apology for not coming to see you when I first came on board, or for not recognizing you as the captain when you came to my quarters. It was rude of me to treat anyone as poorly as I did you. I’ve always been too engrossed in my work, and at the time, I felt like I simply had too much to do to bother with “trivialities” like starship protocol. It had been over a decade since I’d been aboard a real starship, and had long forgotten most of the discipline my Academy instructors tried to drill into my head. After experiencing the burden of command on a much smaller scale, I fully understand why my behavior was so disrespectful. Following the military coup that removed the Planet’s General Assembly from power roughly 18 months ago, the beautiful, peaceful world and its people I had come to love all came to a violent end as a no-holds-bar civil war erupted between the Perfects and the Paragons. If you haven’t read any of my reports, I’ll simply remind you that the Perfects represent a kind of spiritual caste among the Paragons who can be identified by the curve of their horns. While most Paragons have a set of four pointed horns which range from roughly 12 to 15 cm in length, the Perfects’ have two horns which are considerably thicker, and which curl around the sides of the head similar to those of the ram on Earth. In addition, Perfects tend to be taller and, physically, more imposing. These are all the product of centuries of arranged marriages effectively reflecting a kind of cultural selective breeding. The Perfects are the ruling class of Bernard IV, but following a series of globalization-based reforms in the later part of the 23rd Century, most of the privileges assigned to them were removed from law. They continued to enjoy less formalized advantages over the rest of their species, but the formalized caste system was almost exclusively reserved for military service and spiritual worship. And even that was becoming less common. Two years into our study, our monitoring algorithms began to notice encrypted communiques between Perfect military units in cities all over the world. It took us time to decipher and translate, but we eventually learned that the planetary General Assembly was on the verge of passing legislation that would remove military privilege based on caste; effectively a formal removal of the last great power the Perfects held. For months, we watched with a sense of impending dread as the Assembly debate became public. Public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation, but as each district voted in turn to adopt it, the Perfects planned a surprise attack. Bound by the Prime Directive, we were helpless to do anything to prevent the massacre that eventually ensued. Each of the planet’s five hundred general authorities were murdered. The few that survived the initial attack were forced, at the point of a rifle, to sign a referendum of martial law. They were never seen again, but we saw the Perfects’ internal documentation that confirmed their executions. Within days, every major city on the planet was under the strict control of the military. Protestors were shot or arrested as instigators, but in the shadows, a large resistance movement formed and a bloody, one-sided war commenced to tear the planet apart. For a time, it looked like the resistance fighters had a chance. They had several major victories and, six months ago, managed to consolidate a large portion of their resources in order to liberate one of the largest cities from Perfect control. Rather than negotiate for some kind of peace, the Perfects used a series of nuclear charges to destroy the city, and to cripple the resistance. We endured this all with the smug, self-assurance that that the Prime Directive was infallible, and that we, as Starfleet Officers, were bound to a higher set of principles than most. The Klingons or the Romulans or the Cardassians might have interfered, but not the Federation. We were scientists. We were sworn to observe and report, and never to interfere. When the orders finally came to prepare for extraction several weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised. My last report had indicated that the last major pocket of resistance fighters had been captured in the southern continent, and that the new Perfect government showed no interest in continuing the development of the Space Program. If the planet and its people ever recovered from this war, it would be another century or more before they could muster the resources required to break the warp barrier. I had been wrong. Worse, we had only days before learned that, after reinstating an antiquated, extremely strict version of the caste system, that more than 27 million Paragons—members of the lowest caste—had been summarily rounded up and shipped to death camps more efficient than anything I had ever read about. By last count, four cities have been converted for this purpose, and more than 40 million people have been summarily executed and burned in crematoriums that would make Earth’s worst genocides seem modest. Even now, I can see the distant plume of smoke coming over the horizon. Thinking about what it is turns my stomach. The world that once enthralled me is now an appalling nightmare. Instead of being known for peace, it will forever be known for this heinous, unparalleled crime against life, against the very universe itself. After I gave the orders to prepare for evacuation, days seemed to pass by in a blur. We retrieved probes and scanners and other listening devices we’d distributed throughout the planet. It wasn’t until I authorized Lieutenant Gale’s request to replicate additional power packs for our limited supply of phaser rifles—just in case the Perfects somehow found out about us—that I first thought about breaking the Prime Directive. It was late into the night when I ventured into the subbasement and idly looked through the objects in our industrial replicators’ database. Medicines. Weapons. Vehicles. Batteries. Rare minerals and metals. With even one replicator, the remnant resistance forces might actually have a chance against the Perfects. I tried, desperately, to dismiss the idea. It was treasonous. Blasphemous, even. The antithesis of everything I’d been trained to believe and uphold. But as the remaining days passed and we waited for your ship’s arrival, I was haunted by thoughts of the millions of dead Paragons who I could have saved. Worse, I was tormented by the ubiquitous understanding that I could make it stop if I would simply deign to step down from the pedestal I’d been standing on my whole life. After that, it was only a matter of time until I realized I had already made my decision. So, as I sit here writing this letter in the middle of the night, I’ve already located a small cave in the mountains of the planet’s polar continent. I’ve already replicated and transported enough components to create a few site-to-site transporters and a dozen or so replicators. I’ve also beamed most of the duckblind’s emergency rations of food and medicine, several crates of phasers, tricorders, and 40 terabytes of scientific, medical, and technological information that can turn the tide of this war. I’ve also made arrangements for some of that data to find its way into the hands of one of the few surviving leaders of the resistance. I understand that you may need to find me, and I won’t hold it against you if you try. You might even succeed. I’ve done what I can to mask my biosignature and those of the more unique alloys used in starfleet technology. I’m hoping that the interference from the magnetic disruptions at the poles will limit your sensors abilities to make detailed scans and the terrain will dissuade you from wasting too much effort on a manned search. And, of course, you’ll already be considering whether I’ve been misleading you with some of the details in this letter. It’s my hope that this war can be resolved within a few more years. I don’t expect to survive, but I believe the world that comes out of it will be close to the one I fell in love with all those years ago. It has been my great honor and privilege to serve the Federation and to wear the uniform I now leave behind. If I ever see you again, I sincerely hope it is a long time from now. Please thank my officers for their loyalty and service. I wish all of them the best in their new assignments. Sincerely, Commander Sean Gardner Commanding Officer Bernard IV Duckblind Facility
  12. The price of ignorance is extinction. When a person grasps that truth –not comprehends it but truly appreciates its intricacies and its final implications – when a person realizes that, there’s nothing else to do. Knowledge must be sought wholeheartedly and without reservation, shedding the blanket of ignorance that, though warm and comfortable, offers no true shelter. My father learned this through experience. He, like so many others, perished on Sherman’s Planet during the famine before I was even born. As did so many like him. And is that fair? Was he truly less suited to life there than any other? His refusal to eat – so that my mother could, so that she and I would survive – was the death of him. Is this noble quality to be rewarded? No. It is shunned by the universe. In life, it is not the chivalrous but the selfish who survive. We have been abandoned and betrayed by the laws of nature, and therefore man cannot afford to play by the rules. The house always wins. To survive, we must break the rules – rewrite the rules. And by doing so, we can be greater than nature ever intended. Perhaps this is the mark of greatness: to see the universe as it is, to recognize its depraving nature, and to not allow oneself to succumb to it. It is not laudable to survive long enough to pass on one’s genes. Any scum swimming in a vast and empty ocean can replicate itself, make an error, and die, leaving nothing but a flawed copy. But for mankind, evolution was only the first step. We developed civilization, developed culture, developed technology – and these things gave us the power to subjugate and kill and devastate without limit. But these same tools, when we shed our narcissistic nature, propelled us forward at a rate unprecedented, adapting to the world around us faster than biology would otherwise allow by passing on to the next generation not just genes but ideas. The transmission of ideas was the first step we took toward breaking free of the shackles of the natural order. As we would eventually break the so-called sound barrier and the so-called light-barrier, so too did we break the evolution-barrier. But it did not stop there. The passing of knowledge from one generation to the next gave us tools with which to overcome our weaknesses. But man himself was still weak. And our weakness was the inspiration for those men who first set out to change humanity. From the turbulence of the twentieth century arose – first slowly, then rapidly – a new breed of warriors and warlords, of thinkers and leaders. They might have been Philosopher Kings, but the world banished them . What went wrong? I have spent many evenings pondering this over an Acamarian brandy, thinking on the fates of those lost souls, lost to space. The nearest to an answer that I can offer is this: the same drive that pushed them to succeed is present in ordinary men. But to ordinary men, the terms they offered appeared as a kind of death, against which every living thing revolts. That is the one natural law. Thou shalt survive, at whatever cost. And so, with the failure of those most superb persons, man’s potential was forgotten – but it was not lost. If there were a world now that faced Sherman’s famine, what would happen? Fathers would still die. Children’s growth would be stunted. Society and all its benefits would grind to a halt. To this day, man remains weak. We had a chance to transcend these perils. We refused it. Instead of adapting himself to thrive wherever, man turned to adapting wherever to himself. And so was born a new science. This, was readily accepted where genetic engineering was shunned. It offered the same new hopes and new horizons offered by self-improvement, and it did so without the need to admit any flaw or weakness in ourselves. This is the genius of it. The genetic engineer and the terraformer were both as gods; the difference is that the terraformer offered to remove obstacles where the geneticist offered strength to overcome them. And which of these is the greater? That is to be decided not by those alive today, but by those men and women who come after us. For my part, I shall say only this. One approach must be repeated over and over at each impediment. The other allows each generation to grow upon the other, each effort further extending man’s reach; this is much the same as the passing of ideas from one generation to the next, which is the very adaptation that first allowed us to thrive. The path to this objective is to reach inside ourselves. We must study ourselves, learn how we are built and how we work. It is by studying the blueprints of humanity and then rewriting them that we can develop more efficient bodies and quicker minds by taking ourselves down a path that evolution never intended. Nature is not fair, and it is not good. It falls to us to survive; we receive little assistance from our environment. Our locus of control lies within. Physics has no care for dignity. We strive against nature. From the moment when man first looked upon the world and decided to change it, the path of the universe was forever altered. One day, the universe shall no longer be the master and life the slave. We have remade Earth to our liking. We have the power to remake other worlds into new earths, precisely as we want them to be. But this is not enough. Imagine a time when we do not need an earth. Imagine a world where man has naught to fear. Imagine these things and they shall be so. Have the strength to let go of what is today. We must continue down this path, or we are doomed to die, as all creatures do. But the strength and intelligence with which we imbue our children grows exponentially each generation. We cannot imagine, now, how far this will take us. Do not let the ignorance of unexceptional men deter you from your efforts, but strive always with your fullest vigor toward our goal. We have revived our heritage from the dust of the past. Continue our work, and we shall be the heroes of future generations. We shall be the gods who took mere dust and created something worthy of life. Lieutenant Ben Livingston Assistant Chief Engineer USS Excalibur-A
  13. A wound festered inside of her. The cut had peeled away the layers of life itself and buried its way deep within her skin, fleecing her of all rationale, and robbing her of the future that she had long dreamed would make life in Starfleet complete. She was alone in her agony - even the consoling words of those gathered around her could not stop the pain that raged so fiercely, silencing her. Lieutenant Taylor, the Chief Medical Officer, stared into her glazed eyes. "Captain Pelzer, I'm sorry, there is nothing more I can do." She had long appreciated the doctor's candor, but never more than she did at this moment. Slowly nodding her head, she mouthed with great difficulty due to the growing lump in her throat. "I know. It’s over." But that was not totally true. The surge of pain seizing her chest reminded her that she was still alive, although the torment of its horrific grip made her wish that she was not. It was not the dying that caused her so much suffering. It was the living without him, and the prospects of awakening, not to see her own image reflected in his eyes - eyes incapable of giving him pleasure, as now, they were hollow as the demon heart that possessed his every thought. And it was only a matter of time before it took him away from her forever. She wanted to scream, beg him to fight, but it would have been futile. The Bluegill had won, only she had not declared it the winner yet. She couldn’t. She wanted desperately to hold him tight in her arms and never let him go, but the force field between them had to stay in place, or expose her crew to the ravages of the offending parasite. Her crew - the crew that looked to her for the next move - needed her to be strong. She had to snap out of the heartbreak plaguing her. If she could only keep her stinging eyes dry long enough, she may be able to scrape up some kind of wisdom that would save them. Mustering every ounce of energy left in her, she stood and moved away from his motionless body, mouthing oO"I love you.Oo Then turning to her crew, she armed herself. If they all were to die, it would not be because they didn't try to survive, or that she had not been the leader he had so admired. Drawing her phaser, she gave the order. "Arm yourselves to the teeth, and bring me extra weapons! We'll fight together!" As she led them determinedly outside, and as a blaze of phaser fire lit up the landscape, she felt the flutter of hope. oO He will live on. I'll fight for my crew, and the namesake that I carry for him. Oo Fleet Captain Toni Turner Commanding Officer Embassy Duronis II USS Thunder NCC 70605-A
  14. “Ambassador?” It was a deceptively simple formation, yet it encompassed not only a physical enigma but a slew of philosophical questions, both personal and existential, that any sentient might ponder at some point in their life. The majority of them boiled down to: What if? The angular slab of stone before him might well hold the answers, but it wasn’t talking. It had not spoken since Captain James T. Kirk had discovered it, over four hundred years ago, and the view through its portal showed nothing more than the desert plain beyond. Perhaps it would never speak again. “Ambassador?” What if? Such a simple question, but the answer was rarely so. The multiplicity of the universe was established fact, but it was the nature of it that one never saw what happened to those selves who made the other decision; well, rarely. So there were never firm answers, only suppositions, and Terrans had a wonderfully relevant expression; “The grass is always greener on the other side”. One might imagine what would have happened, but one could never be certain. And there was some comfort in known that, for those other selves out there, you were the What if? He had thought that, at the end of his life, he might ask just that. There were so many questions yet unanswered. But now that he was here he knew that he had as much right to ask as any other, and no more. In truth it was not the stone that he should ask but himself, and the Guardian served merely as a foil for his thoughts. No, he had no regrets, not any more. He had done always what he felt he should, and he was content. “Ambassador Saveron?” Allowing his meditative observance of the Guardian of Forever to be interrupted, the tall Vulcan turned slowly to regard the earnest young scientist who had approached down the durasteel ramp constructed to keep them from damaging the fragile soil. That same sandy soil was instead scouring away at the steel, already burnished matte where once it had gleamed. Perhaps in time the entire research outpost would be gone, worn away by the wind, and nothing but the Guardian would remain. He was aware that he was wool gathering. “Yes?” He said at length. She gave him an odd look and he saw himself reflected in her eyes. Impossibly old, deep lines on his lean face, hair that was once black was now silver-white, still worn long. Grey eyes that had seen the breadth of the galaxy, peace and war and politics in between, half-hidden in a sea of wrinkles. “Sorry to bother you sir, but the Nimitz is now in orbit.” She said, a faint frown creasing her brow. The Nimitz. No doubt they were all keen to see that infamous ship gone from their orbit, and it would not leave without its passenger. “I see. Please inform them that I shall be there presently.” He said, nodding politely in acknowledgement of her words, of her making the effort to tell him personally rather than using a communicator. The scientist nodded and [...]ed her head slightly, her vision becoming unfocused for a moment as she used her implanted communications chip to send the message back to the research base. It was a fascinating piece of technology, and an example in his mind of how nothing was ever black and white, everything was a continuum and even the influence of those things one initially abhors can eventually, subconsciously get under one’s skin. The Federation had never been a stranger to cybernetics. Her dark gaze focused on him again before flicking past him to the Guardian, proud amongst the myriad sensors that now crowded it’s previously barren plain, just in case it should once again demonstrate some sign of activity. Thus far, to the wonders of Federation science it remained an inanimate piece of stone. “Will you not speak to it, Ambassador?” She asked at last. Saveron glanced over his shoulder for a moment before turning back. “Would you have me do so?” He asked mildly. The Federation’s finest had begged, pleaded and hurled imprecations at it, and it had remained mute. “Please.” She replied. And who could refuse such a request? He turned slowly back on old, aching bones and regarded the monument once more. What, now that he was here across the vast distance of space, would he say to it? If he had any suspicion that it might answer, what words would he have answered? He had stood there for many minutes, and it had served best as a mirror for his own thoughts. At last he inclined his head politely in the Guardian’s direction. “Thank you,” he said, and turned away. It was not far to the research station itself and the raised transport pad used to receive shipments and personnel from above. There was no rain here, only the ever present wind, and the platform was open to the elements. There were several of the station’s personnel nearby, but they were keeping a respectful distance, and it was easy to see why. The Nimitz had sent a crewmember to collect him. Ironically he thought that he recognised her, from before she joined that ship. The triangular jaw, bobbed blonde hair and distinctive arch of her nose-ridge were very familiar; he recalled their meeting on Deep Space Nine, over two hundred years ago now, when she had sought to ask him about the Subjective. What are they like? She had asked. But the real question was what is it like? And it was a question that he could only answer from the outside. What if? It was a pervasive thought that worked away at one’s consciousness, begging resolution. And in this branch of the multiverse she had taken the plunge. Her skin was far paler now and the metal of the small visible implant at her temple gleamed in the evening light. She wore a close-fitting black suit on which here and there more understated metal gleamed and occaisionally a light blinked, no doubt connected to deeper cybernetics. But her hands were bare and unaltered, clasped casually before her. She looked up at him as he approached, and he noted a faint gleam of circuitry in one iris. “Sochya, Taril Emiri.” He greeted her by name, making the ta’al with fingers grown knobbly and wrinkled with age. She smiled at him. “Sochya Ambassador Saveron. I’m pleased you remember me.” She replied, warmth in her hazel eyes. Behind her Saveron could see a technician’s expression of mild horror as he eavesdropped and realisation dawned. The Vulcan ignored him. “Of course I remember you.” He had an eidetic memory but he didn’t doubt she would have remained fixed in his recall. “You were one of the first.” He regarded her for a long moment. “Is it what you thought?” He asked. “No.” She said, and her smile broadened. She didn’t try to explain and he didn’t ask; assimilation into the Subjective was something that had to be experienced. “We are ready for you, Ambassador.” She said, and in using the plural he knew she spoke for the Subjective as a whole. Saveron nodded before turning to his escort from the Guardian. “Thank you for your indulgence.” “Of course Ambassador, any time.” She replied with brittle brightness. Yet he didn’t doubt she realised that he would not be back. He was already pushing the boundaries of the Vulcan life span, his body failing him. No, he had given his all to the Federation, and this was one of the few things he had asked. But he would not be back; it was time to go home. Turning to Emiri he nodded and stepped slowly up onto the transporter platform. “Let us go.” She gave only a nod for his benefit, and the green light of the Borg transporters took hold. No doubt the research center would be glad to see them gone; no one liked have a Borg ship in orbit, not even a Subjective ship. They were only slightly more enthusiastic about the presence of the man who caught lifts with the Borg. As the two figures disappeared from the platform a man rushed out of the research station in the direction of the Ambassador’s escourt, PADD in hand. “What did he say to it?!?” They materialised aboard the Nimitz and Saveron was struck by the way that Federation technology had been meshed with Borg technology, rather than overrun by it. Even back when the USS Mercury had first encountered the assimilated USS Nimitz they had recognised that these Borg were different. They innovated, used weapons rather than brute force and moved as individuals rather than a hoard. But it wasn’t until their attempt at assimilating the Mercury herself had led to her crew capturing a fledgling Queen that they had realised what they had. Even then many were more than prepared to tar all Borg with the one brush, but Saveron had isolated this Queen and spoken with her on several occaisions, fathoming the nature of this Borg splinter group and their prisoner, sounding out the reasons for their difference. And it was then that he did the unthinkable; he infected the Borg Queen with a weapon designed to neutralise her Collective. Not a virus or a bacterium but something far more insidious; an idea. The idea that for a whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, those parts had to be free to be different, to explore and conjecture and think on their own, to have individual will and ideas, which then contributed to the Collective. There was a certain irony that it was something the Nimitz’s splinter Collective had already begun to realise. His act, in returning the Queen to them with that idea, merely hastened the change that had already begun. And so the Nimitz Borg had begun to change. No longer focused solely on expansion and acquisition, they developed or rediscovered their own impulse for scientific exploration, for philosophy and aesthetics, for invention and intelligent debate. Their physical expansion had slowed and at last become negotiable, he himself had managed many of those negotiations. This had been replaced by an intellectual and creative expansion that no other species could match. The Quadrant’s greatest philosophers and scientists were all part of the Subjective. With the flowering of its composite minds there were suddenly horizons to chase and boundaries to push which had nothing to do with space and time. Not that they were no longer a threat. Several times in recent history the original Collective had made attempts to assimilate the Alpha and Beta quadrants, however they had found the Subjective as protective of their independence as the native sentient species, and far more adept at driving them back. Indeed they often ‘liberated’ Collective drones in the process. It had been forty-seven years since the last encounter. But people still viewed the Subjective with suspicion; racial memories took far longer to fade. There was an attractive, flowing and familiar architecture to the internal corridors as Saveron walked them at his own slow pace; he had done so many times before, no one barred his progress. He passed members of the Subjective, some undiscernible from their original appearances, some unrecognisable; each to their own preference. Subtle sounds might have been communication, song or the ship’s workings. The air was temperate and easy to breath. A capsule that no Starfleet member would recognise as a turbolift brought him at last to what had once been the bridge of the USS Nimitz. It too had been modified far beyond its original construction, yet for some reason the viewscreen still showed a view of the stars, and the Captain’s chair occupied the traditional place. Nostalgia perhaps? Seated in that chair was a figure that no Starfleet member would ever have thought to see there, but she rose with a smile to greet him. “You have returned to us.” The Borg Queen said warmly. And whether it was the same one that he had spoken with centuries ago he could not know. They were many, created not assimilated, coordinating the Subjective. He had spoken to others on other vessels, but he spoke to each as though they were the same; in all senses they were. Physical manifestations of the heart of the Subjective. She had not changed in all the time that he had known her; had presumably seen no reason to. “Affirmative.” He replied evenly, making his slow way across the now gently sloping floor, coming to stand before the viewscreen that he might look down on the planet below. “Did you find that which you sought?” The Queen enquired, and he heard her approach, felt her presence just behind and beside him. He considered the question. “In order to find one must know what one seeks.” He admitted, not bothering to hide what many would consider the maunderings of old age. She knew him far too well for it to matter, better than any other being yet living. She had watched him grow old. “Sometimes one must face an option, have it within one’s grasp, to realise that one has no desire to take it.” “Sometimes wanting is more satisfying than having.” She returned; a phrase that she had learned from him. “Illogical, but true.” He agreed, looking down at the dusty planet below. “If the Guardian had opened for you, what would you have changed?” She asked gently, too familiar with the workings of sentient minds not to anticipate what he had been thinking. “Nothing.” He replied simply, and knew it for the truth. “But I might have watched it all over again.” He admitted. She gave him an oddly gentle look. “You face your mortality.” She surmised, easy conclusion to come to. He only nodded. “Look not back on the past, but around you at the future.” She counselled. “Look at what you have wrought.” And there was a warmth, a humour in her voice. He knew what she meant; the change that created the Subjective came about because of his interference, all those years ago. “I still wonder that you ever tolerated my input.” He admitted. He had been Ambassador to the Subjective, understood it’s members as well as anyone could who was not amongst them; but the Queen herself still fascinated him. “You were right.” She said simply. “Growth by assimilation only was a very limited route. Now we are virtually unlimited.” She said, and he caught her wide-sweeping gesture out of the corner of his eye. “Not even by warfare with your kind; it is no longer necessary.” She said, knowing that had been one of his primary goals; that he had done what he had not for the Borg’s benefit but for the benefit of those species yet free of them. “Now we do not need to actively assimilate; beings come to us.” And there was a distinct satisfaction in her tone. “Those who have free will always value it.” “Those who are a part of us value that more.” She said, and with the minds of thousands who joined of their own free will, he supposed that she could make such a judgement. “A decision made freely is always more valued.” Saveron agreed. It had been an unforseen side-effect of his efforts. “They are your children Saveron, as much as those of your failing body.” He hadn’t heard her move, but she was suddenly close beside him, touching his face, his silver hair, her fingers cool against his wrinkled skin. “It was always your mind that I valued.” She whispered. “You saw so much potential in us, where others saw only threat. Whatever your reasons, you changed us for the better.” “Only because you permitted it.” He acknowledged, grey eyes turned to watch that strange, familiar face. “Change had become necessary. I had looked for others to guide it, perhaps incorrectly. Locutus never gave himself to us. Representatives of other species looked to their own people’s interests unless they became drones, then they contributed nothing new. Only you sought to change us without destroying us. Only you had the courage to walk the difficult path.” “All life should be preserved, in harmony where possible. I never wished your people harm, only that they should do us no harm in turn.” “And you achieved it, where others failed or dared not even try.” She acknowledged in turn. “Will you give up on us now?” She asked. “I have no more to give; my work is complete.” He said quietly. “You do not age, but I am old, and tired.” He admitted. “Your body is; your mind is not.” She knew the restlessness that was in him even yet. “And I hold the answer.” A hand to his cheek, she pulled him gently around to face her. “Are we not everything that you have striven for? Have I not given you all that you asked?” And she smiled. “Will you not know the perfection that you have wrought?” She asked, her face mere inches from his own. “I have waited these long years for you.” Grey eyes scanned her face, the one constant in his life, when others came and went, to other pursuits or to the great beyond. Always she had offered, and always he had resisted, had needed his separation to do his work. Yet he had known that he would never return to Vulcan. After a long moment he dipped his chin in the faintest of nods. “I am ready.” She welcomed him with open arms and he learned at last what it was to be a part of a greater whole; his questions finally answered.
  15. (USS Unnamed Ship) ::She hated to leave him all alone, but duty called and Esther could not be late for her post. The Chief Medical Officer would have a conniption fit, to put it mildly, if she was. And yet, she hesitated one more moment and did her best to resist one last run of her hand over the ebony that covered his head and trail it down over his body. Alas, she could not resist and her fingers made contact of their own accord.:: ::He didn't stir, not even the slightest and his eyes remained closed, his body in a state of complete relaxation. Esther chuckled softly as her hand stole away from the prone body. The ship could probably go into code red and Alex wouldn't budge. With a sigh, she turned and headed to the door, though she did not pass through without one last look. So peaceful, so quiet, but the hustle and bustle of the day awaited her. She could enjoy it after her shift was over.:: ::It was hard to be so far away from family. Esther knew it would be, but she hadn't expected it to be quite so hard as it actually was. Homesickness had descended upon her, a thick veil that had coloured everything she did. Thoughts of home, of her family, of her friends, all sprang up at random intervals, even though she tried hard to focus on her task. The first week upon the ship, she had spent most of her nights crying. Her mother had received multiple calls and she had whined and complained and begged to come home. Of course her mother would have never refused her, but Deborah had insisted that her daughter give it more time. DEBORAH: It's only your first week, dear. ESTHER: But I hate it here! DEBORAH: Things will get better, you'll see. You need to give it some time. You've wanted this for so long and you've worked so hard. ::Her mother was right. As far back as Esther could remember she had wanted to be a part of the Federation and explore space on a star ship. She just hadn't known it was going to be so _hard_. And lonely.:: ::It wasn't that people were particularly unfriendly, but cliques had been formed long before she had gotten there. She was a lowly ensign, just out of the academy and posted to the ship. As far as she knew she'd been the only one at that time and almost everyone there was older than her. She'd sat in the bar and listened to the conversations around her, but no one had ever approached her. Not one.:: DEBORAH: You could always approach someone yourself. ::Her mother's advice made sense, but while Esther enjoyed people, she had trouble just randomly approaching someone. Then she'd gone back to Earth briefly to attend her grandfather's funeral. That had made things worse and she had talked with her mother about staying rather than going back. But Devorah had suggested that her daughter give it another six months. She was hesitant, but Esther had agreed.:: ::Then she met Alex. The day before her return to the ship, he had shown up out of the blue. His green eyes had gazed upon her with such adoration, and there was such an immediate attraction that she just couldn't resist him, so she brought him back to the ship with her. That had been two weeks prior and he had made all the difference in the world. He was always there when she returned from duty. He waited so patiently for her and greeted her with such enthusiasm. She enjoyed the warmth of his body pressed against her when she sat in bed and read or when she lay down at night. She loved the way his whiskers tickled her cheek when she hugged him. He was a chatterbox, but she didn't mind and to be honest, his voice helped break the monotony of the silence that had always felt so heavy before he'd come along. :: ::She thought about him a lot. Did he think about her? What did he do all day? Sleep? Did he dream? Eat? Roam around and familiarize himself with everything? Did he star out the window to watch the stars as the ship eased past them? Did he enjoy the comets that occasionally whizzed past or the brilliant flash of a sun as they passed solar systems? Did he wonder what it would be like to go out and chase them or prance along the rings of a planet?:: ::If only she could read minds. Esther smiled as she entered the data into the computer. Knowing that he was there helped her day go faster and gave her something to look forward to. She had stopped complaining to her mother, had stopped pondering her withdrawal. She'd even managed to make a couple of friends on the ship. Whenever she went to hang out with them, Alex was ready to greet her upon her return as usual. Yes, things had gotten so much better thanks to him.:: CO: All right, ensign, good job. You're dismissed. ::Esther looked up in surprise. How different it was from a month ago when she had been despairing. ESTHER: Yes sir. Thank you sir. ::The ensign turned and made her way out into the hall, the lights on the panels blinked as she walked past. A woman, a little older than hear, and headed in the opposite direction paused and greeted her warmly. HILDA: Hey Esther, are you coming to game night tonight? ::Esther returned the smile, then nodded.:: ESTHER: I'll be there, I just want to go check on Alex. HILDA: All right, I'll see you there! ::Hilda gave a small wave as she passed and Esther picked up her pace so she could spend a little time with Alex before she joined her new friends. The doors parted as she approached her quarters and as soon as she entered, Alex stood and came to greet her.:: ESTHER: Hey boy. ::Esther bent down and gathered the bundle of ebony fur in her arms. His purr was accompanied by a little trill and then a soft 'mrooow' that was repeated several more times. Esther wondered if he was recounting his day to her and wished she could speak feline. Still, she sat and listened, a smile upon her face as she reclined and let the little creature do the talking. Yes, things were definitely much better, and she had Alex to thank for that.::Ensign Esther USS Unnamed Ship
  16. ((Highlands of Scotland)) ::The Trill woman, wearing a backpack and carrying a walking stick from her father-in-law’s extensive collection, had set out from her camp with only a couple of hours left before the mid-autumn sunset. The Northwest Highlands, in the far reaches of the Isle of Britain, was one of the least populated areas on Earth, despite it being in Europe, one of the most densely populated. Idril enjoyed the silence and often took her leave times with her in-laws and camped in the hills and valleys there. Something about the solitude, the pregnant silence, had gotten under her skin and wouldn’t let go.:: ::Her current target was Beinn Nibheis, a short mountain by her standards, but the highest on the island of her husband’s birth. There wasn’t anything particularly special about the collapsed shell of a long-dead volcano, but it made for a nice leisurely climb and a great place to watch the dying of the sun.:: ::The Trill woman stopped most of the way up and looked back over the trail below her. The blue sky was torn by slashes of long grey clouds. The dramatic sky lay over the equally dramatic and rugged highland terrain below. Pushing one of her long red locks, having escaped from her long braid, back behind her ear, she realized that she would be content to spend the last of the day there, watching the shadows playing over the rocks and hills of the valley, but suddenly a plaintive screech called her higher.:: ::When she cleared the edge of the large plateau that was the summit, she was greeted by a stiff cool wind that made her squint in its suddenness. The screech came again. Looking up, she saw a group of hawks, circling high overhead. One by one, they broke off and turned south. They must’ve been among the last ones in the area, as the others should have long ago began on their long migration.:: ::The last bird, however, hesitated as his brethren moved on, circling tightly above the Trill woman. Hovering with skills that she, even with all of her engineering training, couldn’t even begin to imagine, he seemed to defy gravity and wind in the next moment, holding perfectly still some sixty feet above her head.:: ::The details were distinct as the sun lit the juvenile hawk’s dappled brown and cream breast. Each one of his dark-tipped flight feathers, each mark on his breast, the ridges on his legs, all stood out in sharp relief. For a moment, the bird hovered there, looking down at the lone woman on the mountain, before winging over and following after the others.:: SooSang: That, my dear, was incredible. ::Idril looked over at the older man. He was a biologist, a botany specialist but still closer to understanding the birds than her own training.:: Idril: Yes… yes it was. ::Another voice spoke, this time on the other side of the redhead, and she turned to see an older Trill woman, also smiling, though her body language said she was a bit put out as well. It was a weird combination.:: Rumina: I never have been much for the outdoors, but I will say that you look magnificent out here. ::The fleet-captain-turned-hiker smiled. She had never been one who was comfortable with compliments on her looks, even from her husband, but Rumina’s were especially embarrassing. Next to Rumina stood silent Durath. Whenever Idril saw them, he was quiet, hovering next to the older woman protectively. Not surprisingly, she thought to herself, considering their lives.:: ::The woman wasn’t young anymore. She had gone through the academy, had nearly 15 years of ship-board experience, including captaining one of the most advanced cruisers in Starfleet, and was now the head of engineering operations at the biggest fleet yard in the Federation. She felt young, though, for all that she wasn’t. It was walks like these that made her stay that way. Connecting with the wild, with Nature… there was something almost sacred about it, she thought, though almost purely an atheist herself. The woman stepped up to the edge of the escarpment and looked out over the stretch of land. One could see for miles. It was something to take the breath away and had a feeling that no holodeck could ever recreate.:: Azulay: A rugged place… a warrior’s culture of old… ::She nodded, glancing at the older man. He would know, with as many years as a diplomat as she had alive.:: Azulay: …but one with deep religious roots as well. ::She chuckled a bit. The old man was always more in tune with his faith that she was and unafraid to say it to her. After a moment, the exultation in her heart, made by the rocky expanse, turned the chuckle into a full laugh, one that echoed across the rocks and returned to her. Stepping away from the edge, Idril, still with the smile on her lips, took the small pack off her back and walked to the centuries-old ruins of the observatory on the summit plateau.:: ::Sitting down on one of the hewn rocks, she pulled out the light snack that Valerie, the nanny/cook in the Wilde household, had made for her trip. The Trill were famous for their long memories, though they were not a unusually long-lived race themselves. It was a collective memory, one granted by symbiosis with another race, one of which lay implanted in Idril’s abdominal pouch. As she sat to eat in the crisp autumn twilight, the breeze ruffled her hair again and the stars looked down on the only person sitting on the hill, all alone.:: ::In a very real sense, however, the woman was and would never be alone. The memories of her past were always there, just under the skin.::
  17. Happy September, everyone, and I'm pleased to bring you, courtesy of our lovely Challenge judges, the winners of August's special contest! The winner of the August Writing Challenge is Velana with her story "The Life in a Moment." Our runner-up, for the second contest in a row, is Idril Mar, with her bouncy "The Desperate Engineer." Congratulations to them, and thanks to everyone who participated. The option to include poetry or verse in future contests is something I'd like to implement, but when it happens again, we will likely have separate winners in fiction and poetry genres. Thank you to my fellow judges for this round -- Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Commander Karynn Brice, and Lieutenant Commander Alleran Tan.
  18. In a moment of mental anguish, the Chief Engineer of the Independence breaks out in song, to the tune of "Camp Grenada" by Alan Sherman. -- Jenn Hello Captain… Anassasi. Greetings from Main… Engineering. The deck is clean now… thanks to Ensigns. And we might be able to start up the core soon. We had some losses… I'll admit it. Seven crewmen… all have bit it. You'll remember… Ensign Fields. Due to radiation he's fused to the shields. All my officers… hate the crewmen. And the crewmen… think the same. Without some phasers… there'd be fights here. I feel I'm becoming an ancient slave driver. But I don't want… this to scare you. Ensign Brice, he… has mechanophobia. We just glued him… to the lift door. You should find him when he comes up to your floor. Beam me out… oh Captain please just… Beam me out… I need some time off. Don't leave me in Engineering where I might step into a spatial tear. Beam me out… I promise not to break the ship, Or put Danny in sickbay with a broken hip. Oh please don't make me stay... I've been on duty for one whole day. Wait a minute, the core is running. Ensigns workin'… crewmen smilin'. Humming nicely, wow that's better. Oh, Captain, kindly disregard this letter.
  19. Greetings and various apropos felicitations, Writing Challenge enthusiasts, and welcome to this special August Challenge! Read this introduction carefully, as any entries that don't follow the guidelines will be disqualified. A collaboration between last month's winner Dave, aka Alleran Tan, and I had resulted in this special August theme: "A Moment In The Life Of..." Every entry must be under 1000 words for this round, which means that flash fiction and short-short stories would be ideal. However, I'd also like to open the Challenge up to some forms we haven't seen before. For example, how about some Trek-based freeform poetry, or a Trek cinquain? Perhaps you could dazzle the judges with a series of haiku? Whatever you choose to do, make sure your entry is 1000 words or less -- but be creative as well! This is a special round, so give it everything you have! To participate in this Challenge, please create a new thread. From the "Topic Prefix" selection list, choose "Jul/Aug" -- don't forget to do this, because without it your story won't be considered for this round! You may denote your story as a "Work in Progress," but please do so at the beginning of the story (not in the thread topic), and remember to finish it before the deadline, as any story noted as a work in progress will not be considered. The deadline for this challenge is August 22nd! That gives you exactly three weeks to get your entries in, so begin thinking now! All entries in this Challenge will be judged by a panel of UFoP judges, as usual, and you can expect a Challenge winner and entry feedback by the end of the month. The next Challenge (September & October) will be a more traditional two-month themed topic. Some standard rules and guidelines apply: *Your work must be completely original. *You must be the sole author of the work. *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. *Remember, nothing over 1000 words! As of today, Wednesday, August 1st, this Challenge is open! The very last day to enter is Wednesday, August 22nd, so submit your entry soon! For any questions regarding our Challenge, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  20. The sigh passed swiftly and softly over the vast gray bulkheads. The Akira-class vessel listed sideways, her body torn open. A black starlit sky mercilessly ripped tiny hands clutching at her, and she cried out, a moan ripping through her core. Eileen sagged. Twin plumes of fire billowed and rolled, welcoming her tiny charge into its arms, and she felt a surge of power tremble through her torpedo tubes, eager for a small recompense. Energy pulsed through her veins. Eileen heaved her warp nacelles forward without success. Too much internal bleeding. Her bio-neural gel packs dripped slickly over deck tiers. “It’s not a good day to die, Eileen,” said Steven, patting her tactical console awkwardly. “I just upgraded your systems.” Eileen saw him glance at the communications officer. His name was Sutok, Eileen remembered. He was never gentle, not like her Lyla. But she still did not wish to see the green staining his uniform. His console sparked against his face. Lyla made a gentle sweep of fingers over her master systems display down in engineering. “Come on, old girl.” Lyla wiped a streak of sweat from her brow as it threatened to spill into her eyes. Her hand drew away blood. Eileen’s pulse quickened and then slowed, the thrums of her heart beating in quick slow ebbs. Lyla was her best friend. And she was hurt. Eileen couldn’t lose her, she couldn’t! Lyla pressed her hand hard on the console, her head falling forward and one of her shoulder blades sticking out sharply from a tear in her yellow and gray uniform. “Jack, I don’t think she’s going to make it.” It was Lyla’s breath catching and then the momentary throat clearing that roused Eileen. She knew Lyla. The woman was choking back a cry. “Casualties, Lieutenant?” Jack’s voice was hard. That was good. There was no defeat in this man. Her dear friend paused. It wasn’t that Lyla had to think. She knew the numbers. Eileen watched her close her eyes and bite her lip so hard she drew blood, her hands fisted against the console. “Fifteen, sir.” The answering silence pierced Eileen. She felt cold and empty and allowed herself only a moment of hopelessness to seep into her pathways. “All hands, this is the captain…” Her circuits simmered and hissed, igniting her phaser banks. “Abandon sh--.” Threads of fire cut through the nacelles of the massive vessel towering over her smaller form. The beast trembled and groaned. Eileen trilled a happy chorus of chuckles straight from her auxiliary power core. “Whoa, what was that?” Steven yelled, whooping, triumph and smoke crackling against his vocal chords. Eileen’s hummed. She wasn’t about to let Lyla or Jack down. Not even Steven, though he was one of the orneriest tactical officers she’d ever known, always making dry quips about the strength of her weapons. We’ll just see what he says now. But in all honestly, Steven had also been the most caring of her banks and tubes of any tactical officer with whom she’d served. He’d never let any green ensign slack off in her offensive upkeep. Eileen sighed again, life support struggling to maintain minimum levels. Her circuits popped and sizzled, remembering Samara of the little hands ripped from her only moments ago, sucked out into space. Samara who had drawn on her decks as a child. Samara who had failed her first entrance exam to the academy. If not for that, she wouldn’t have even been on Eileen. She would have been in San Francisco, not dead against the stars. Fourteen years that child had been nestled in the womb of her bulkheads. Stubborn child had probably been trying to help. She had one quantum left. Eileen tilted and trembled, not yet completely blackened in battle. The scorching blaze of the enemy had yet to fully snuff her gleaming surfaces. She was not about to go down without a fight. She sheltered precious cargo. And not one more would fall on her watch. The torpedo burst forward, careening from the launch tube of the feisty Akira-class vessel. It hurtled towards the core, the weak underbelly of the hulking ship, goring through the metal plating. The enemy craft blazed bright; belching fire and ice, sulfur and carbon dioxide as it tumbled into the gravity of the planetary body. Eileen ascended higher, now a giantess watching her foe shrink. “She did it,” said Jack, grinning in shock as he leaned forward. He shook his head in disbelief, watching the downed brute of a ship spin, breaking up in the atmosphere. He patted the arm of the captain’s chair gently. Eileen breathed softly, reveling in the loving gesture. “Looks bad for a captain to doubt his own ship, ya know,” Steven drawled. “I mean, I know the old girl isn’t exactly the most talented in that department, but give me some credit for spiffing up her lacking systems.” And he had the gall to sound affronted. Hmmmph! Eileen shimmied a bit, sparking a tiny surge of power, right up through the tactical console. “Yeooww! Son of a…,” Steven began, catching his captain’s frown. “…tribble,” he finished, sucking on his singed fingers. The Akira-class vessel chuckled softly, her attention turning to Lyla as the young engineering officer fluttered a worried brow, her fingers flying over the master console that was already beginning to translate commands into gestures that soothed Eileen’s scorched conduits. “I’m sorry I doubted you, my friend,” she said. Her smile was genuine, though sad. “I should have known you wouldn’t go down easy.” No. She never would. She was the USS Eileen, NCC 63559. And at least this once she agreed with Steven. Well, there was a first for everything. Today was not a good day to die. Eileen fired up her engines, determined to make it back to base on her own steam. It would not due for Steven to be spreading it around that she had to be towed back. Lt. Sakorra Reed COS USS Drake
  21. At what point did life begin? Entire books had been written on that question. Debates had raged back and forth for centuries. It was the unsolvable mystery of creation. Everyone had a theory; no one had definitive proof. Did life begin when one cell combined with another cell to create new cells? Was it when that cluster of cells took on features...arms, legs, eyes, a nose? Perhaps it was the first time the fetus moved or when it had developed enough to survive on its own. Or did it all come down to the moment of blood, sweat and tears when a child emerged into the world, purple and wrinkled, still attached to its mother, but wonderfully, amazingly alive? Velana looked down at the tiny scrap of human being in her hands. "It's a girl," she announced, and the woman who had been in labor for eighteen hours at the Fleet hospital instantly dissolved into exhausted sobs of sheer relief. Training and simulations had taught Velana to rub the baby's body to induce breathing, but all of those holographic infants had started crying right away. This little girl did not. "My baby?" Pain didn't stop the new mother from trying to sit up. "I want to see her!" A nurse rushed to Velana's side. The tiny, perfect baby was so still in her hands. Velana stared at the child's bluish skin, fighting back panic. She wasn't breathing. Velana couldn't make her breathe. "Cadet?" The nurse looked back and forth between her and the baby. "What do you want to do?" To Velana, the words sounded as if they were being spoken underwater. "Cadet!!" From behind her, she heard the new mother's wobbly voice ask, "Doctor?" Snapping into action, Velana set the infant down on the neo-natal bio-bed. She swept the child's mouth open with her finger, clearing away mucus and blood. It wasn't enough, though. The child's mother was approaching hysterics. "What's wrong with my baby? I want to see my baby!!" With all the mental discipline she posessed, Velana tuned out everything but the child in front of her. The answer was right there, in the readings from the bio-bed scans. Meconium aspiration. At some point the baby had inhaled some of its own waste product from the amniotic fluid. "I need suction." The nurse slapped a tube into Velana's hand, which she then gently eased into the baby's mouth and down its throat. The procedure took only seconds, but each second until the infant's chest started rising and falling felt like an hour. Even once the waste was cleared away, the baby didn't immediately cry, but she whimpered and wheezed and that was so much better than silence. With the little girl's skin slowly turning pink, Velana carried her back to her mother. "Congratulations," she said as she carefully handed the little girl over. "Oh..." Clasping her baby against her breast, fresh tears spilled down the woman's cheeks. "Thank you. Thank you so much, Doctor." When did life begin? Conception, development, birth? Or was it the moment when a medical student became a doctor? Lt. Commander Velana Chief Medical Officer USS Mercury
  22. Ethical Considerations Starbase 55, population 1,203 Stardate 239102.04 I was born on Ferenginar and, much like most Ferengi, I was raised with the principles of our species: a form of hyper-capitalist profit-seeking completely out of place with nearly every other warp-capable civilization in the Alpha quadrant. For all of my life this was all I cared about, a numbers game. How many bars, how many strips, how many slips. Credits and debits, stock options, negative gearing and dividend reinvestment. How small and pathetic all that seems to me now. My assimilation and subsequent "liberation" changed me. I'm not going to lie. My family thinks that I'm ill; my father successfully sued for my power of attorney while I "recovered", and he won because I didn't contest the ruling. I didn't care what happened to the small fortune I'd amassed over a lifetime. So, as a former drone still undergoing the process of having all my implants removed and any last traces of the DNA sequencing removed it may seem strange to say, but the Borg are not evil. They are merely amoral. During a period of Human history called the "Second World War", scientists who were part of one of the nation-states involved performed experiments on their fellow Humans. They immersed healthy individuals into freezing water, slowly lowering the temperature to gauge a Human's lowest survivable temperature. This research had a purely pragmatic, military application; to see if pilots who bailed out from their craft over freezing water would survive, to assess if a rescue was worth the effort. Retrieving corpses was not considered a priority to this particular group. The method used to obtain this knowledge was horrific and unethical, but it was accurate and meticulously documented. This research forms, even today, the basis of our knowledge of how hypothermia affects Humans. Yes, we have holograms and simulators and computers that can perform amazing feats, but there's no simulation that can perfectly match reality. We use simulations, but we always check that data against the experimental evidence. Some are unable to divorce the actor from the result when considering these things. To them the outcome of an experiment is forever tainted with the actions of immorality and that the ends never justifies the means. I disagree, though. Facts are not burdened with ethical considerations. Assimilation is painful, but life in the hive is actually remarkably pleasant. The Federation squawks about equality and egalitarianism being the ideals that it strives for but that's just a façade. People still judge. They still have greed, and ambitions, and are selfish; they still have their instincts and those instincts lead towards individualism and away from true collectivism. True community. Yesterday I went out of the starbase's sickbay for the first time and sat in the promenade, my body full of holes, the Borg implants not yet replaced with Federation issue prosthetics. I imagined I looked positively ghoulish, deliberately staring down passers-by and studying their reactions. Revulsion. Fear. Pity. The irony was it was I who pitied them. Today I went out again. The medical doctor, Vaughan, thought it best that I stay in the recovery ward, but I lied loudly and I lied proudly. I said was feeling well, I needed some air, I enjoyed the open space of the promenade. It worked. I didn't go straight to the promenade, though. Instead I found a public replimat and replicated a plain titanium casing, a low grade status field generator, a hypospray, a high band microwave emitter, a knife and a PADD. With no implants, no more active nanites flowing through my veins, physical communication with the Collective wasn't possible. The nanites in my blood had been neutralized by a high burst of gamma radiation. They were inert, unmoving and silent. But the primary, distinguishing feature of the Borg was their resiliency. Their adaptability. Some former drones report that the voice of the hive sometimes whispers to them in their weaker moments... that the Collective's voice is never, truly, stifled. I think the truth is more complex. Instead, the effect is entirely psychosomatic. The Collective holds no sway over ex-drones if they choose to reject its siren song. Yet, strangely, that subconscious voice sometimes whispers useful information. Medical information, scientific curiousities, obscure facts... suggestions. I took my replicated items and found an unused shopfront far from prying eyes. It was unlocked. I didn't question my good fortune, slipping into the dust covered lobby, gently laying each item out on a workbench. The hypospray extracted a thimbleful of my blood. I used the status field generator to create a thin invisible sheen over the inside of the titanium casing, then the blood was deposited inside. I coupled the microwave emitter to the PADD and used the device as a power source, listening as it hummed and bathed my exposed blood in energy, breathing power back into the nanites. Reviving them. With my crude device in hand, I moved back out into the promenade, took a quiet seat with a view of the crowd and used the knife to slice the tip of my finger. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the crowd I dipped it in the vial of my blood, frothing with invisible nanites, and waited for them to come back to life. For them to swim up into my finger and into my bloodstream, to transform me back into the drone I once was. Some might say that what I was doing was horribly unethical. I was voluntarily surrendering my will, yes, and that might be arguably my own choice but the Borg that I would become would force others to surrender theirs... and I knew that it would. That whisper in the back of my mind told me that when I turned, this station's defenses were weak. There was no way they could stop me. This crowd of judgemental, individualistic simpletons would, in a matter of hours, all be Borg. I knew my choice was not their choice. I accepted this fully; yes, I was doing a terrible thing and I didn't expect that anyone to, really, understand why. Not really. I was sure in the years to come my actions would be widely analysed. Studied, in a clinical sense, to try and find out why I did what I did. They'll come up with complex answers: Stockholm syndrome, latent neurasthenic breakdown due to the radiation treatment, or an extreme cry for help. Some would call me a monster. Sick, twisted, ill... or outright evil. But the fact of the matter is I was helping these people unify and become something better. Move to the next level. Evolve as a society towards true harmony. And facts are not burdened with ethical considerations. End ----- Lt. Commander Alleran Tan Operations USS Avandar
  23. ((Timothy Peak Academy)) Roberts: Thank you, ahem, ::Gregor sifted through his notes:: Timothy Peak Academy, for the opportunity to speak with you today. ::The podium was a crutch that he hadn’t needed when he started this. He was younger then – fresh out of the Academy and wide-eyed about the world. He didn’t walk through an audience anymore. He didn’t jump around the stage. Now, his grip on the wood tightened; he planted his feet firmly behind the pillar. Roberts glanced over to the headmaster, who sat at the side of the auditorium in the front row, lips firmly together and staring over his pressed-together fingertips. :: Roberts: There are a number of reasons ::the microphone screeched with feedback for a moment.:: reasons to join Starfleet. They’d take a while to list and I have only a few minutes, so let me give a few reasons not to apply. You want to coast through life? Don’t apply to Starfleet. Are you content to follow the standard roadmap to a successful career? The Academy doesn’t teach that. oO You don’t want to recruit teenagers your whole life? Don’t join. Oo To be honest, Starfleet isn’t right for most of us … um, isn’t right for most people. ::It occurred to Gregor that there was usually something that followed this. It was something he said that followed this. Something inspiring. He’d done this for a decade; why could he not remember that part? It’s the same every time.:: Roberts: But – maybe for a few of us, well, a few of you, I’ve already made this choice. For a few of you, maybe you want to see new places. A lot of them. Maybe you want to keep people safe. Or discover new worlds, or develop cutting edge technology. Or recruit – oO oh, no, did I just say that? Oo recruit alien worlds to our cause. Working for Starfleet will unleash your potential. Headmaster, ahem … your headmaster has allowed me to come here because this is an elite school, and Starfleet is a fitting next step for some of you. I’ll be outside the auditorium to answer any questions you may have. Please stop by to take some information. ::Not three minutes later Gregor was waiting outside the doors with pamphlets in one hand and his bag in the other. He had to hit another two schools today. Fortunately, this wouldn’t take long. It never did. High schools were a bust; few kids still wanted to join up.:: ::Students filed out of the auditorium and the hallway exploded into life as packs of students passed him. By the looks of it, he’d be on his way in five minutes, so he’d have a chance to grab a coffee after all.:: Granger: I said I’d like one, please. ::Gregor hadn’t noticed the gangly kid come up to him.:: Roberts: You do? Sure, take one. Granger: Why should I join up? Roberts: What do you mean? ::He looked at the kid inquisitively.:: You were in the audience, right? Granger: Yeah. You were pretty clear on why not to, but you were a bit vague on the reasons to apply. Roberts: Was I? Well, Starfleet’s mission is peacekeeping and exploration. Starfleet Academy affords opportunities to hone your body and mind, to forge you into the best individual you can be, and put you in a position to make the Federation an even better place. Granger: That’s pretty bad. ::He was arrogant, just like the rest of these students. He wouldn’t make it in the Academy anyway. But it was his job, so he indulged the kid for the moment.:: Roberts: Those sound like good things to me – what’s bad about becoming a better person and improving life for others? Granger: Not what I mean. I know a thing or two about rhetoric, and that was written for you. Probably a while back – you should recommend they update their stuff. ::Now Gregor was sure the kid was just wasting his time. He watched the goofy-looking boy shift his weight, glance over the pamphlet, and look the uniformed man up and down. Gregor wasn’t one to put up with this.:: Roberts: Listen – Granger: Let me ask a different way. Why did YOU join Starfleet? Roberts: Why did I? ::He paused, thought about it. It wasn’t a question he usually got.:: oO It certainly wasn’t to do this. Oo I wanted to be a part of something – wanted there to be justice. :: A moment in time flashed through his mind. He recalled Armand’s face. He’d mentored him all through school, tutored him, helped him achieve his potential. Gregor snapped out of it, but the world was clearer before his eyes.:: Roberts: No. It was to give other people the opportunities I had. Granger: And ... ::he paused, waiting for a response :: did Starfleet help you do that? ::Roberts thought through it. In truth, he had been excited about recruiting at first. He wanted to do this. That first woman he signed up – she was going places. But, and he was proud of this, she hadn’t even considered Starfleet Academy before he’d spoken to her.:: Roberts: Yes. It did. ::He looked down at the boy and smiled.:: You like rhetoric, kid? There’s a place for you at the Academy. Diplomatic Corps. Counseling. Hey, maybe even recruitment. You’d be a good fit for Starfleet. And something tells me we’d be a good place for you, too. ----- Ensign Ben Livingston Science Officer Starbase 118
  24. A momentary Resistance The dark haired woman rushed into the room. Her security reds long since battered and torn from hard use. In the not so great distance, she could hear the rhythmic shuffling of feet headed in her direction. Closing her eyes and swallowing hard, she quickly keyed in the sequence to seal the door behind her. When it failed to move, she cursed and pulled off the control panel, revealing the circuitry underneath. Moments later, she successfully short circuited the controls, closing off the view of a Borg drone just turning the corner. Her breathing came out in ragged gasps, and her eyes were wild as she knocked over the furniture near the door making a rude barricade. Backing away from the door, she screamed in fear and denial as she heard the pounding on the door. After long moments, she forced herself to turn away from the door and turn on the computer. The isolated console was one of the few on the ship not tied to the main computer core. Her temporary seal wasn’t going to last long, but before it broke, there was something that needed to be done. “To whoever receives this message, I am the last remaining survivor of the USS Miranda Hall.” ….. The ship had been going through her normal paces when it happened. While she wasn’t the best ship in the fleet, she’d always gotten the job done well and efficiently. If she hadn’t been caught in the limelight as often as other ships, it was just a matter of time. Which was why, when the battle started, it had been a shock to everyone on board that the Borg had targeted her. Their initial insertion on board had come in just below the bridge, almost immediately cutting the rest of the crew off from their leadership. Several decks had been flooded with the attackers before a counter assault could even be attempted. And yet, despite the sudden loss of leadership that hadn’t prevented the crew from fighting back against the invaders. If anything, it had driven them into a frenzy of action. Angered beyond reason, some security members had literally thrown themselves into the fight as they tried to stem the tide of the Borg infection. A tactic that had shocked and slowed the assault for long hours, but had not allowed them to turn them back. Taking a more drastic approach, engineering had shut down environmental controls, hoping to raise the heat to levels the drones could not survive. It had made the ship slightly more hostile to the invaders, allowing the poisonous insurgence to be halted, and even momentarily turned back. Unfortunately, the crew themselves could only handle so much of the heat, and a second surge of reinforcements broke through the lines, further spreading the infection. Despite their losses, the fight continued. The defenders, forcing the swarm to pay for every deck, even as hope dwindled and faded. After days of fighting, it became less about winning, but enduring long enough for reinforcements to arrive. As days turned to weeks, it darkened to being not even survival, but about depriving the Borg of their victory. ….. The pounding was louder now. The door had been reinforced, but without any power it was just a matter of time. Forcing herself to turn away, she continued with a tremulous voice. “Engineering came up with the idea. By scrambling the core, we’d generate a tremendous electromagnetic pulse. The ship would be lost of course, the stroke too much for it to survive. But at least this would be one ship that would not be joined to the Collective. I’m sure it would have worked too, had the Captain had been one of the first taken. I’m not sure how they turned her, but we’d no sooner keyed in the startup sequence, before we lost control of the core entirely. That was ten days ago. But that was the last time we had any chance. “ Tears flooded her doey brown eyes. “Now I’m the last one left. I’ve sealed the door, and barricaded myself inside. It won’t be enough. I know that now. But I hope, I pray, that someone else will see this message and avenge us. This is Lieutenant Meh…” Before she could continue, the door bowed and then burst inside, metal fragments spraying across the room. Her screams of pain and fear overwhelmed by the repeated chant of her former crewmates. “Resistance is Futile” ….. Borg Drone 1 of 20 stood up from where it had fallen. It noted, without emotion, drone 12 of 14 moving away from it, the nannite injector on its arm already folding back inside. The USS Turkina had been under attack for no more than a few moments, and the drone formerly known as Lt. Miranda Hall was the first to have been brought into the collective. She had been the first from the Turkina to encounter the Borg, and despite her body's attempts, the nannites had completed in mere moments what internally had seemed like weeks. In a small corner of its consciousness, it recognized the last resistance fading. Moments later all that remained of Lt. Miranda Hall, her biological and technological distinctiveness, was absorbed into the Collective. Moving as the collective ordered, Drone 11 of 20 followed the others of its kind repeating the phrase that has proven so true as it moved forward. “Resistance is Futile”
  25. They just didn't know what it was like. To be turned on and shut off like a faucet; forced into reality only in the most dire circumstances, yet forgotten when things were going well, the holographic doctor mused about its very existence. Sure, he did not have feelings, per se, but even in his currently set, standby mode, thoughts fluttered around his electrical synapses. Residing within the memory banks of the sickbay computers, he felt as if he were trapped into a tiny little box. It gave new meaning to claustrophobia. There again, there were no feelings and no fears. Perhaps that was part of what made him so incredibly important to the crew, at least when he was needed. The lack of feelings and emotions - which he figured made other creatures weak in times of crisis - was just what they needed when everything went down the tubes. As his consciousness drifted about within the memory module in which he was stored, the Emergency Medical Hologram, Mark 4, let his mind wander quite literally. And this was how he would spend most of his days, trapped within the confines of bio-chips and electrical signals. Today, however, was a bit different, and just after the impulses traveling through his section of the memory module had finished their most recent round of feeling sorry for themselves, the sucking feeling of being pulled into the very reality he both loved and hated appeared. Suddenly, the particles of light came together to form a humanoid figure and his programming kicked in. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency." He rolled his eyes at himself as he often did when the pre-programmed phrase came from vocal chords that weren't really his own. Looking around, he saw none of the mayhem he might have expected of an emergency, but noticed another doctor in a Starfleet uniform standing a short distance away. Turning towards him, she handed over a flat of vials. "Take those into the lab. They'll need tested," she said just before turning and walking to the other side of the room. Sighing to himself, the EMH turned and complied. And it wasn't because he had chosen to do so, it was because some things he couldn't do. Sadly, going against his programming was one of them. Having become the personal ferry for objects between sickbay and the lab in the rear of sickbay, the EMH simply frowned to himself as he passed no one. An empty sickbay meant that his purpose today would simply be to move things back and forth. Didn't anyone realize the potential he had? Wasn't there something more in store for his pathetic life? Then he laughed at himself. Life was such a strange word. It was a word he ascribed to himself, perhaps, based on his consciousness, but one that he did not deserve. At least that was what the Federation people said. He was simply a tool to be used in times of need. When there were lives to be saved, he would come forth and become as real as he could, at least for a short period of time. But what did that mean for the future? Nothing. He would spend years and years trapped in the memory module, drifting along the electrical currents that denoted ones and zeros because in the end, that was what he was. And yet, there was an enigma. Without feelings, he did not care, but with his own form of consciousness, he did. Stopping along the path from the lab back out to sickbay, he tried to wrap his light-particle mind around it only to find the whole process too much for that moment. With another sigh, he shelved the thought for later, when he was stashed away until the next emergency. Returning to sickbay, he approached the woman in the doctor's uniform. She glanced at him just before sending him away. "That's it," she said. "Computer, deactivate EMH." And instantly, the vision of sickbay faded and was replaced by that of something different. Without 'eyes', the EMH saw nothing. Once again a bunch of current that drifted around in the module, he resumed his musing. Only this time with something other than feeling sorry for himself to really consider; life itself. -- Captain Kalianna Nicholotti Commanding Officer Starbase 118/USS Victory
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