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  1. Thank you to everyone who entered our "Rabbits" Writing Challenge! I'm pleased to bring you the results now: I'm excited to announce that the winner of the "Rabbits" Challenge is the writer behind Tyler Kelly, with his story "The Bunny Abides"! Our runner-up, with her Lewis-Caroll-inspired story, is the writer behind Jalana Laxyn and "Watch your head!" My congratulations to all of our entrants and these two writers in particular, and please join me in congratulating these talented writers in this thread! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round, the writers behind Fleet Captain Cascadia Rainier, Fleet Captain Toni Turner, and Lt. JG Sal Taybrim -- and a special note of thanks to Jamie, aka Sal Taybrim, for crafting responses to each of the stories for this round!
  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 March & April 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! Get yours here!
  3. Good news, everyone! It's Writing Challenge time! I'm pleased to bring you our Challenge topic for March & April, and it's one of the most unique ones the Challenge has yet seen. The theme for this Challenges is (drumroll).... Rabbits! Indeed, it is so! Writes our previous winner, the writer behind Sal Taybrim: "Very simply, the story must include or focus on a rabbit/hare/bunny. This need not be a Terran mammal. Room for creative interpretation is not only allowed, but encouraged. Mechanical rabbits? Alien hares? Killer bunnies? Certainly even Star Trek had tread this path before: This could even go dark if someone was creative enough (are rabbits now extinct?) or surreal... or humorous..." The choice is yours, of course, and I look forward to seeing what you talented writers devise. As of today, Tuesday, March 4th, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Friday, April 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. ((Irina’s Quarters, USS Vigilant-A)) ::For the last two weeks Irina’s days have been occupied with trying to solve too problems. The first was to find someone she could trust, and who was willing to assume responsibility for her daughter Katya in the event something happened to Irina. The second and more promising option was for Irina to try and way back to the 22nd century which would make the first problem irrelevant.:: ::In Irina’s era time travel was just the stuff of science fiction, but in the over two centuries that Irina had spent on the surface of Kjenta II time travel had not only been discovered, but had been successfully accomplished. Of course there were rules against going back in time, and upon her rescue from Kjenta II those rules had been clearly explained, but still the seed had been planted and in the year that followed, there was not a day that went by without Irina thinking about finding a way home.:: ::Home, as in a place, was easy. It was home, as in a time, that was more difficult. Home the place was Sochi, Russia, with considerable time also spent in St. Petersburg and Odessa. The two big cities on account of her father’s occupation as a professional symphony violist, while Sochi was the place of Irina’s birth and where the family had always maintained a small cabin in the mountains.:: ::Irina loved Sochi. It was a magical place to be a child, with unspoiled mountain landscapes, rivers flowing with clean water and to Irina’s particular delight since the age of six when she started it was a wonderful place to hunt. While Irina lost interest in most activities quickly after mastering them, hunting was always a pleasure. The smaller, faster and farther away the animal, the more Irina enjoyed it.:: ::Better than perfect 20/10 vision combined with naturally outstanding coordination and real feel for it to make in Irina a very rare breed of hunter. She only hunted animals that she and her family would eat, and only those that were overpopulated for the region. Rabbits were her favorite as they were beyond plentiful, extremely fast and quite small. She would, after the age of ten when she had truly mastered aim and trigger control, try to spook them first, making them run before she took the shot. She even had a sort of deal that she had made with the rabbit god, if there was such a thing, and that was that if she missed, the rabbit won and would go free. She never missed.:: ::After Discovery’s return to earth and before her assignment to the Vigilant, Irina had taken her three-year-old daughter to Sochi for the weekend. The cabin was where it had always been, but in a horrible state of repair. The windows were mostly broken and much of the wood rotten. The place had been thoroughly looted a very-long-time-ago, but in the floor she found the loose board under which she had always hidden her treasures, and inside remained the small metal box she had last opened 224-years-ago. Inside were the rotten remains of the friendship bracelet her neighbor, friend and later lover and fiance Dimitri gave to her in junior high school, which she removed prior to reporting to Earth Defense Academy. There was a .303 caliber bullet, the first bullet that Irina had ever loaded herself at age 9. A rabbit’s foot, properly preserved by her father who in addition to being a professional musician was also an video taxidermist. A pair of keys to the car she and her younger brother were helping their father to restore. It was a 2092 Mercedes-Benz convertible that her grandfather had purchased new and maintained well, but sat neglected after his passing in 2130. In 2160 father had declared that if they got the car running, it would go to Irina and Gregori. Sadly, the garage behind the cabin no longer existed and there was no car anywhere on the property, restored or otherwise.:: ::The last item in the box was the most precious. A plastic envelope containing old-fashioned pictures on paper and a small book. There was a mixture of photographs ad drawings, and the book was Irina’s diary. She opened the book to the last entry and read it aloud for young Katya to hear.:: Pavlova: My bags are packed and tomorrow Dimitri and I leave for San Francisco to start our careers in the marines. I still remember grandpa re-telling the stories of his youth, about first contact, early warp travel and even about his playing chamber music at President Archer’s inauguration. I cannot help but wonder what stories I’ll have to tell my grandchildren. Katya: Do you have any stories yet mommy? Pavlova: Oh yes, Printzyessa, I do. ::Could a year really have passed? Irina took the metal box out of her night table drawer and looked at the diary inside. Someday she would have to put in entries for her time on Columbia, the 219 years on Kjenta II and then her year on Vigilant. She had thought about many times, but if she did find a way back to her time, such a record would be problematic. No, she would wait, and hopefully a successful return in time would solve the problem for her.:: ::Irina and T’Mihn had solved the equations earlier today, and she had the release codes to steel the small dispatch ship out of DS6 impound. Tomorrow would be the day, and so with contented thoughts of Russia in 2173, Irina finally turned out the light and drifted off to sleep.:: ((Sochi, Russia, October 10, 2173)) ::Irina stood up on the hilltop looking down on the valley below. The cabin was there, mother in the yard, brother Gregori polishing the old Mercedes which was no longer on blocks. Smiling, she started walking down the path, excited that she had finally made it home.:: ::The walk was peaceful, with a crisp breeze, flowers in bloom, birds chirping and animals seemingly at play. She heard the sound of a rifle bolt being rammed forward and turned, expecting to see her father.:: ::It was father, but not. He was himself, but he was also, somehow, a rabbit. A 6’ tall rabbit, with father’s face and father’s rifle. He smiled as he brought the rifle up to eye-level and aimed it at Irina.:: Rabbit Father: Run, Irina, run. If I miss, you win the game. Pavlova: And if you don’t miss? Rabbit Father: Then we eat you for dinner. Pavlova: But, I’ve come home. Gregori, the car, mother in the yard. Rabbit Father: There’s no coming home Printzyessa. Now run! ::Irina watched as her father the rabbit smiled and slowly leaned down to look through the scope, and without even realizing it she was running.:: ::She could see and hear him through the trees, but she was very limited in where she could go. Out in a clearing and he would have an easy shot. In the trees her advantages of strength and endurance were negated.:: ::It didn’t escape her how ironic that she had survived over two centuries on Kjenta II, broken all of the rules to come home, only to find herself hunted by her own father, who had somehow taken on the identity of the rabbit god to whom she had made that promise so many decades ago.:: Rabbit Father: I see you, better run faster than that Printzyessa. ::Irina pushed herself, harder and harder, trying not to present a target, but knowing that eventually she would come into the rabbit’s sights. oO The car Oo.:: ::Irina headed in the opposite direction, but slowly looped back around until she had a view of her brother Gregori and the old Mercedes. The metal box was in her shoulder bag and the car keys were still inside. The car looked clean, had new black tires and everything sparkled, but as she approached she noticed that Gregori too was a rabbit.:: ::Staying hidden in the bushes, she called out to him.:: Pavlova: Gregori, its me, Irina. I’m back, but I need help. Gregori: Irina! You shouldn’t be here. You have to leave. Pavlova: Yes, I know. Let me take the car. I can’t run fast enough, but with the car I can get free. Gregori: Where will you go? ::Irina stopped cold.:: Pavlova ::to herself:: : Where will I go? Rabbit Father ::from behind, touching the rifle barrel to Irina’s back:: : There is nowhere for you to go Irina. You should not have come back. Pavlova: What else was I to do? Rabbit Father: You needed to stay where you were. Katya needs a mother, not a prisoner. Pavlova: I am a prisoner on Vigilant, no, anywhere in that time. I do not belong there. Rabbit Father: The universe says otherwise, and while you always have a place here, that place is in our memories. You have to go. Pavlova: Please. ::Irina collapsed to her knees and started sobbing uncontrollably.:: ((Irina’s quarters, present day)) Katya: Mommy, don’t cry. ::Irina opened her eyes and realized her pillow was veritably soaked while Katya stood above her, tears in her own eyes.:: Pavlova: Its okay Printzyessa, go to sleep. Katya: Who were you talking to? Pavlova: Just a rabbit I used to know. Katya: Are we going home tomorrow? Pavlova: Yes Printzyessa, mommy found a way. ::Irina hugged her daughter in tight, weird dreams aside, her plan was well in motion, and this time tomorrow would be this time 219-years-ago.:: Rabbit Father:: distant voice:: : Run, Irina, run! Lieutenant Irina Pavlova Security/Tactical, USS Vigilant-A
  5. ((Federation Research Outpost "Flagg's Hope"- Shuttle Landing Pad - Elanus 9)) :: A single shuttle broke through the thin green clouds that made up the atmosphere of Elanus 9. Slowly, deliberately it descended towards a small group of people, the last remnants of one man's now broken dreams.:: ::His mission had been a total failure, his objectives utterly incomplete. The entire population of his outpost, some 350 scientists and technicians had already been transported to the ship in orbit above. Doctor Flagg glanced back at the facility behind him as the shuttle settled on the tarmac in front of him.:: ::With a defeated look playing across his face he recalled his proposal, how excited he was to begin his research. Elanus 9 was the only planet in the Federation with an atmosphere sufficient to synthesize the new element. One that he postulated to have the potential to make conventional warp technology look antiquated. But after 5 years and countless failures the Federation had decided to cancel the project. And that is why USS Exodus circled above, in high orbit, why it's shuttle The Archos was here now.:: ::Doctor Flagg and his family, his wife Rebekka and young son Daxon, were to accompany the last of the equipment on the shuttle. The equipment had been purpose built and calibrated to such an extreme degree that the use of the Exodus' transporter would have damaged it beyond repair. In the end it had been Daxon's begging that had found them taking the shuttle.:: ::The group approached the small craft carting the equipment on repulsor sled as the rear cargo door opened. A tall man in a uniform stepped out and down the ramp, his footfalls clanging with every step. Three full pips shined on his collar.:: The Commander: Good afternoon Doctor Flagg, are you all ready to go here? ::With a deep sigh the middle-aged scientist responded.:: Dr. Flagg: I don't suppose we have any reason to stay. ::With a curt nod, the officer responded matter-of-factly, in the way that he did most things.:: The Commander: Alright, we'll get this equipment secured and be on our way shortly. My name is Commander T- ::But he was cut off by the nervous voice of Rebekka Flagg.:: Rebekka: Where is Daxon? ::She looked around frantically and pointed to spot nearby.:: He was just here! ((Not Too Far Away - Elanus 9)) ::A young boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, pursued a small creature. He whistled and called out to the pitiful little thing but it didn't seem to have any effect.:: Daxon: Nibbles! Nibbles come here, I'll give you a treat! ::A small black and white rabbit, hopped along at a steady clip. If it noticed the boy's pleas, it gave no indication.:: ::The boy followed the rabbit over a ridge, the desperation in his voice becoming more apparent. He was getting too far away now.:: Daxon: Nibbles come on! They're gonna leave without us! ::Again, the rabbit paid the no attention to his owner's desperate cries. As it reached the bottom of the ridge it found something of interest. An object, something un-natural. Something worth sniffing.:: ::It hopped over to the long cylindrical thing with curiosity and took it in cautiously. Not really caring if the boy caught it now, because it had found something new to care about.:: ::The boy descended the other side of ridge and spotted his now stationary pet near a piece of old junk. He smiled as he quickly closed the distance between them.:: Daxon: What'd you find boy? Are you eating trash again? ::Finally, he caught up to the fugitive bunny and scooped it up into his arms.:: Daxon: Not cool, Nibbles. Not cool. ::He glanced down at container, it was roughly the size of the photon torpedo casings he'd seen his "Ships of The Line" schoolbook. The object was obviously old and in poor condition, it had likely been here for some time and it had corroded through in some places, leaking the oily black substance from within.:: ::Wrinkling his nose, the boy spoke to his furry companion.:: Daxon: You're gross. I'm gonna have to give you two baths. ::The sound of his Mother's worried voice carried over the ridge and caught his attention. He raised his eyebrows, knowing that he would be in big trouble later, he held the rabbit much tighter this time as he quickly made his way back to the shuttle pad.:: ::Neither animal or child could have known what they had found, though it would've hardly mattered if they did. The Tarellian Biological Agent Containment Unit, an artifact of hatred from distant wars long past, had already done it's work.:: ((Shuttlecraft Archos - Upper Atmosphere - Elanus 9)) ::The Commander carefully guided the shuttle up and away from the now abandoned outpost. He could have selected a junior officer for this mission but had instead opted to oversee it personally, much to the relief of his fellow officers who saw the quick trip to pick up a cranky scientist and has family as a frustratingly mundane task. He didn't mind though, he'd been in Starfleet for years but it still hadn't gotten old. Never routine. He loved the stars and as the tiny grey ship left the atmosphere he relished the beauty of the galaxy. He was in good spirits.:: ::The sentiment would be short lived.:: The Commander: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking ::He placed his hand over his mouth to simulate the sound of an archaic intercom system.:: The Commander: If you look out the Starboard viewport you will see Elanus 9's only moon, Raimi. ::With his back to them he couldn't see the elder Flagg shaking his head in annoyance or the boy smiling gleefully.:: Directly ahead you'll see the USS Exodus in all of her glory. She's a - ::He trailed off as a flashing red indicator caught his attention. It was a little early to be getting in contact with Flight Ops. He guessed some nervous new officer was behind it.:: ::Opening the channel, The Commander spoke.:: The Commander: This is the Archos, what's the problem? ::As he suspected a tense, young voice came through the comm system.:: Voice: Archos, this Ensign Jaksonn, Exodus flight ops. We're getting some, uh, anomalous biological readings from your ship Commander. I think the Archos' sensors may be faulty. ::The Commander's brow furrowed. Still, he wasn't about to be frazzled by a minor sensor fault. Entering a few commands into the console, he spoke again.:: The Commander: Alright Exodus, we've disabled our internal sensors and lowered our shields. You should be able to scan us better with your sensors. ::A pause:: What kind of anomaly are we talking about here Mister Jaksonn? ::He glanced down at the various displays on the helm console. All systems showed status Green. He glanced back at the trio strapped in on the crew seats. The two elder Flaggs had heard the conversation and wore their concern plainly on their faces but the boy seemed oblivious as he calmly stroked the pet rabbit sitting on his lap . He offered them a reassuring smile as the comm chattered again.:: Jaksonn: It’s a biological contaminant sir, and I’m no longer sure it’s an anomaly. We’re getting the same results here. ::The tension in the man’s voice was palpable.:: Commander, Sir, I need to ask you to hold to at 10km. Just…I Uhh…. Just a moment. :: Finally, the Commander began to feel the first creeping, spindly tendrils of fear tugging at his well developed composure. They probed for weakness but found none. Not yet.:: ::A few minutes passed in tense silence before he turned to his passengers.:: The Commander: Doctor, there’s nothing in this equipment that would cause this kind of problem. Right? ::The now frail seeming scientist shifted in his jump seat nervously and shook his head.:: Flagg: N-N-no. They’re just controllers for the the elerium collider system. There’s nothing biological to them. :: An ominous silence fell over the shuttle and it’s occupants. The Commander did not like the gut feeling he now had that something might be very wrong. Then he heard a voice that confirmed his suspicions:: ::A confident, too calm tone filled the tight confines of the shuttlecraft.:: Voice: Archos, this is Captain Dornak. Do you read me Commander? ::The Commander managed to maintain his composure for the moment, but his calm demeanor was rapidly deteriorating now. Captain wouldn’t have been involved so urgently for a minor problem, and he wouldn’t be handling this exchange personally for even a moderate complication. Beads of sweat began to form on his forehead.:: The Commander: I hear you, Sir. What’s the problem? Dornak: Commander, I’m sorry. ::A stressful silence stretched out the seconds that passed. The Commander felt his face get hot.:: Dornak: We don’t know how, but you are all infected with Tarellian Hemorrhagic Fever. I...I’m afraid we can’t allow you to board the Exodus. We’ve initiated a quarantine of the planet surface and we’re carefully monitoring the scientists we brought aboard, but it seems that only the four of you are infected. Please understand Commander, my hands are tied on this. ::His head was spinning, it felt as though reality was a rug that had been pulled out from under him. The Tarellian plague was as legendary as it was deadly, even as he frantically grasped for a solution he knew there was little hope. Starfleet had clearly stated protocols in dealing with this sort of thing.:: The Commander: Captain, could there be a mistake? ::He glanced back at his passengers:: We’re all… ::What he saw sent a shiver down his spine. The terrified Flagg family had left their seats and huddled together on the floor of the cargo area. The mother held the boy in her arms, comforting him as they listened to the grim news. That’s when he noticed the red fluid seeping from the boy’s eyes.:: The Commander: Fine…here... ::It was no mistake.:: ::Rebekka Flagg began to sob audibly as the Captain of The Exodus spoke again.:: Dornak: No, Commander I don’t think so. ::He paused:: We don’t have the facilities to help you and the nearest medical ship is at least two weeks away. Just sit tight and we will see if we can get this all sorted out. ::The Commander leaned forward in his chair and rested his forehead in his open palm. He knew that they didn’t have weeks, they had at best hours from the time of exposure and he couldn’t be sure how long ago that was.:: ::He knew that the Captain was acting appropriately, that bringing them aboard would risk the safety of the entire ship of nearly a thousand people, but he still felt abandoned. Alone.:: ::Unbuckling his safety belts he rose from his seat and tentatively approached Doctor Flagg, who was sitting near but separate from his wife and son. He saw that woman’s tears now ran red as well, a sure sign of the incurable infection. The older scientist appeared understandably stressed, a look in his eyes told the Commander he was near his breaking point.:: The Commander: It’ll be alright. ::He lied:: The Exodus has a fine medical staff, they’ll get it all sorted out. ::He echoed his Captain’s lie:: In the mean time I suggest we just remain calm and wait this out. ::He noticed the boy’s rabbit sitting in silence near where the now unconscious boy lay in his mother’s lap. Unaffected by the blight it had unknowingly brought to it’s owner and his family.:: ::Doctor Flagg’s face twitched slightly, and he suddenly appeared inappropriately calm. The Commander had seen this before, it was shock.:: Flagg: We’re fine. ::His face twisted into smile that made the Commander uncomfortable.:: Flagg: When we’re aboard the Exodus I’ll need to access a science terminal to catalog my research. ::The Commander nodded at the placid faced man sitting only feet from his mortally afflicted wife and child. The poor man had slipped out of touch with reality. He felt another shiver as he turned to head back to the helm.:: ::Things began to happen rapidly at that point.:: ::The tall thin scientist rose quickly, snatched a heavy chemical flame extinguisher from it’s cradle on a bulkhead and struck the Commander brutally on the back of the head. He stumbled forward into darkness and fell hard to the metal deck plate..:: ::Doctor Flagg quickly set his desperate plan into motion:: ((A While Later - Shuttlecraft Archos - Above Elanus 9)) ::Groggily, The Commander tried to open his eyes. He couldn’t immediately remember where he was or what had happened. He heard a repetitive, annoying, noise but couldn’t quite make it out. He felt something brush against his face, it was soft, furry. His bleary eyes came into focus on the rabbit. It’s nose wiggled inquisitively as it investigated the downed officer.:: ::His head was pounding and the dizziness was all consuming as he struggled to his feet. There was something he had to do. But what? He suddenly deciphered the sound he’d been hearing for a while now.:: Computer: PROXIMITY ALERT! ::A klaxon sounded:: PROXIMITY ALERT! ::The memories of his dire situation came crashing down on him like a tsunami as he sprang into action. The now motionless bodies of Daxon and Rebekka Flagg told him that he’d been out for quite a while.:: Computer: PROXIMITY ALERT! ::He wheeled around to see form of Doctor Flagg at the helm, beyond him the USS Exodus grew larger and larger in the view screen as the Archos accelerated directly towards it. With precious few seconds to spare, the Commander sprinted towards the helm, prepared to wrestle the controls away from the man who’d commandeered his vessel, but he too had succumbed to the infection and and lay slumped over the controls:: Computer: PROXIMITY ALERT! ::The Archos was now meters from impacting the Saucer Section of the Galaxy Class ship at full acceleration. He didn’t have time to wonder why the Exodus hadn’t shot them out of the sky, he couldn’t know that the same nervous Ensign had waited just a second too late. The Commander shoved Flagg’s body aside and jerked hard on the controls, the force was too much for the inertial dampeners and it nearly threw officer to the floor again. In less than a second he had changed direction and fired all of the emergency maneuvering thrusters, but it was too late. The shuttlecraft careened into and through the warp nacelle with a horrific metal rending vibration and out the other side, hopelessly damaged but somehow without hull-breach. The shuttle was sent spinning off into space.:: ::The most violent explosion The Commander had ever witnessed made no sound. The death throes of the Exodus were felt not heard. A broken man slumped against the bulkhead of the shuttle, a tear ran down his face. He wiped it away with the back of his hand, and sighed when it came away red.:: ((Epilogue)) ((Space - Above Elanus 9) ::A Ferengi Merchant ship en route to Starbase 118 slowed as it approached a large debris field. The ship had a tight schedule to keep, but it had detected and opportunity for profit on it’s long range sensors too rich to pass up. Quickly it began to beam aboard fragments of debris, anything that appeared valuable. The ship’s sensors detected only one survivor of the disaster, inside a damaged and battered shuttlecraft. A decision was made and the transporter activated.:: ::A small, black and white rabbit appeared on the Ferengi transporter pad, glancing inquisitively at it’s new surroundings.:: ======//////======> Cdt. Tyler Kelly (Lt. Colt Daniels) Currently In Training Unassigned
  6. (( OOC: As you can see the story is inspired a lot by Alice in Wonderland, but completely written by myself and adding my own spin on it with turning the Apollo into the strange new land. Hope you enjoy )) --- ((MedLab, Apollo)) ::Oh no. This could not be. Alice stared with wide eyes to the red glistening fluid on the ground. Her pale face lost every drop of pigmentation. This was disastrous. It was not a secret that the CMO had been working on this experiment for weeks, and now every bit of it was spread on the floor and unusable for anything but wiping it away. Alice felt her stomach sink and join the mess on the smooth surface.:: ::Quickly she grabbed a piece of cloth and removed the signs of the mishap and then peeked outside, making sure that nobody saw her. Then she legged it and ran out of Sick Bay. Maybe nobody would notice and she could sleep over it. Tomorrow hopefully it would turn out to have been a dream and everything would be alright.:: ((Quarters)) ::Alice dropped her lab coat on the floor, kicked the shoes away and dropped exhausted onto the couch. She had no idea how to make this better. Tonight she could not do anything anyway, but in the morning she would have to confess. Her boss would kill her.:: ::With a deep sigh she sunk into the couch and closed her eyes. Trying to relax she did not notice her mind drifting, further and further away ...:: Voice: Oh my! ::Alice jumped up on the couch and looked around. Where did that voice come from? Was someone in her quarters?:: Voice: I am too late, too late, too late! ::Alice's head jerked around and there she saw it coming out of her bedroom: a huge white rabbit in a Starfleet uniform and an old fashioned watch on a chain dangling from its communicator. She laughed, that sight was ridiculous. The white rabbit came to an halt and looked at her, its nose wiggling.:: Rabbit: There is nothing funny about tardiness. I'm too late! Alice: Too late for what? Rabbit: No time! Too late, way too late! ::With that the Rabbit hopped out of the quarters and vanished from her sight. What a curious thing. What could a rabbit be late for? With the nagging pull of curiosity she raised from the couch and followed. Just as she looked outside she saw the rabbit vanish in the hatch of a jeffrey's tube. That little voice on her right shoulder told her to follow, to find out what the rabbit was up to. If the other side said something she did not hear it. She quickly stepped to the hatch and climbed inside, following the distant bunny tail that almost seemed floating as the black uniform pants merged with the tube's lack of light.:: ((Somewhere)) ::As soon as Alice was in the tube, the hatch behind her shut with a loud noise echoing in her head, and the whole place tilted. She tried to hold onto any edge or latch she could find but the tube was smooth as if made of glass and she began to slide, first slow then rapidly until she hit the ground with her behind and the pain of impact jolted through her body.:: Voice: ::sleepy voice:: Looky there, a strange new face. Ever wonder why you ::yawn:: race? ::Rubbing her backside Alice looked around. A yellow collared officer was lying on a hoverpad, floating through a moving and billowing sea of blue goo, that stuff that bio-neural gel packs were filled with. She knew she'd seen that man before, if her memory was right his name was Johnson, and he just floated out of view in this blue glowing river. Curious where it would lead too she got to her feet and jumped on another hoverpad that just passed by, following the one with the tired Helmsman.:: ::The walls were overgrown with exotic plants in all the colours Alice could imagine, flowers emitting bedazzling scents, making her wish to never leave this magical place. Colours began to dance in front of her eyes, soft voices were carried into her ears. As she looked at the flowers, faces grew out of them, faces she had seen before all over the ship. There was the engineer Eileen. Another came closer, Alice's nose touching the flower's as the young woman recognized the new Romulan Intel Officer. The gentle voice sang in a language Alice did not understand. Then her eyes started glowing and the flowers began to giggle before the gentle splashing stream suddenly accelerated and Alice fell almost off her make-shift raft.:: ::Rapidly the stream lead through hallway after hallway, all covered by flowers and plants, showing faces of the crew she had seen on hallways or in her workplace, giggling and singing.:: Flowers: Row row row your boat... ::Alice clung to the hoverpad as good as she could, though her fingers slipped over the wet metal. The edge of the raft got caught in the frame of a door that opened that very moment, jerking her off and into the room where she crashed on the ground. Immediately the door closed again and the scent of sweet smoke embraced her.:: ::As Alice looked up a really tall Andorian sat cross-legged on the terminal that stood in the middle of the room. He had a long strange looking sword on his lap, holding it with one hand, while the other slowly lead a stone along the blade to sharpen it. It was a smooth movement, steady and repeating, almost hypnotizing.:: Alice: Excuse me, Sir but did you see a rabbit come by? ::The tall Andorian kept sharpening without looking up. In the corner of his mouth rested a small metal tube that was connected to a longer flexible one ending in a big bottle with a bubbling liquid. His mouth opened sometimes and circles of smoke danced out into freedom and around his head as if following a path. As the man finally answered his dark deep voice sent chills down Alice's spine.:: Andorian: Who are you? Alice: ::pushing her hands into her hips:: Did nobody tell you that it is rude to answer a question with another question? Andorian: What is rude for one is normalcy for others. Alice: Well if you ask me... ::Before she could finish the sentence the giant of a man suddenly jumped onto the floor and was so close that Alice stumbled backwards against a wall, roots and stems of plants embracing her limps as she felt the cool metal of his sword on the skin of her neck. His cold deep eyes stared directly into her soul while colourful circles of smoke framed her face. He pushed the words out one by one.:: Andorian: Ask - you? Who - are - you? ::Alice's eyes grew and her heart began to pound heavily in her chest. Quickly she dropped and slipped away running past him and the terminal to a door she had just noticed.:: Andorian: Hey! You should know something! ::His voice startled her, and she thought about running, but curiosity won. She stopped and turned around. Her heart jumped as she saw him closer to face than she had anticipated and leaned in, blowing smoke into her face.:: Andorian: Watch - your - head! ::Coughing up the smoke she had inhaled she stumbled backwards again, noticing that the way she ran into was too small for Big Blue and he could not follow. Relieved she kept running, roots that had no place on a space ship and flowers with faces and leaves as hands tried to grab her, hold her and slow her down - who planted those things anyway? Every turn looked the same, every corner had three possible ways to go. Alice was not sure where she was any more and after a felt eternity she fell to her knees, sobbing because she felt lost like never before.:: ::Suddenly a soft humming filled the air, the plant-work squeaked under steps and as it was a few steps close to Alice they stopped.:: Voice: Lost something? ::Alice recognized the voice and looked up. In front of her stood the former ACMO, Sundassa Faranster, who had just recently been promoted to First Officer. The vibrant lilac hair was not something that could be forgotten, neither her eyes of equal colour. Instead of the usual red collared uniform the woman wore a lavender coloured dress with dark purple markings that reminded Alice of a tiger or a house cat. Alice wiped away her tears and spoke with meagre voice.:: Alice: My way, where do I go? ::Sundassa's face almost split in half as she grinned widely, her arms spread to both sides in a welcoming open gesture.:: Faranster: Depends. Where you want to go? Alice: Doesn't really matter. ::The catlike dressed woman laughed and leaned against the plantwork.:: Faranster: Then you can go any way. ::She paused and a moment later stepped forward, bending down to face Alice with a wide grin.:: But if you want to know ... he went this way. ::Pointing left:: Alice: ::sniffing:: Who? Faranster: ::tilting her head:: Who what? Alice: ::confused:: Who went this way? Faranster: The bunny, silly! ::Sun laughed and began to hum again, prancing into one of the other overgrown hallway. Alice watched the lilac hair bounce and make snake like movements as if it had a life of its own, before it actually waved at her and the First Officer suddenly poofed into thin air.:: ::Alice blinked, wondering if she had fallen too hard on her head - oh wait that was her butt not her head - or if that woman really just disappeared. Shaking her head slightly she got up onto her feet and looked into the direction Faranster had pointed, before heading into the overgrown mess, hoping to find the rabbit and finally learn what it was too late for.:: ::She walked for a felt eternity until she finally heard something that grabbed her attention.:: Voices: ::singing:: We all live in the little maaad house, little maaaad house, little maaad house... ::Curious about who was singing there in those abominable off-key notes she looked for another exit somewhere and found a was wide open door, leading into a colourful wonderfully scented garden. If she had to guess she'd say that she was in the Arboretum now, just because it would not make any sense anywhere else. But on the other hand, nothing of this really did. The voices became louder as she approached and finally she saw a table covered with cake and cups, filled with steamy beverage, the scent mixing with the flowers' fragrance.:: Voices: ::singing:: In the town where I was born, lived an old man who was crazyyyy, he was caught and brought right here, where he lives now... next to meeee. Alice: What are you doing? ::Just then two heads popped up from behind the high backrests of the chairs surrounding the table. Alice blinked in surprise as she looked into the black eyes of Captain Jaxx, the other she thought she had seen him in Engineering before, the one who looked like a human but was none. Before she could think about it further the Captain raised his cup.:: Jaxx: Celebrating our craziness of course! ::Alice stared at them both and shook her head vigorously.:: Alice: I am NOT crazy. I am perfectly normal! Torv: If you are not crazy you cannot stay! Jaxx: Pah! Of course she is crazy, or she would not be here! Alice: But I am NOT. Jaxx:::giggling::You are out of luck, deary. We are all nutters here. Come and celebrate, grab a cup of vreeca! ::He grabbed a pot and poured a cup for her in a sloppy way that half of the hot beverage covered the cake now. Splatters of it hit someone else and the end of the table, jumping up from his seat.:: Johnson: Hot Hot Hooooooot! ::After dancing around to shake it off he simply dropped in the chair again and fell asleep once more, his body slumping over so that his face got buried in the cake standing in front of him. Nobody seemed to care about the lack of oxygen he might have with that method of sleep. Alice felt a hand pulling her abruptly to the table, the cup slammed down in front of her while the men began to sing again.:: Jaxx & Torv: We all live in the little maaad house, little maaaad house, little maaad house... ::Alice had no idea what she had gotten into and with the way those guys swung the kettle and pots, the cups falling over as Jaxx jumped onto the table to show his best crazy dance, she did not think that she'd get anywhere really. But she had to try.:: Alice: Pardon me but, did a rabbit pass here? Jaxx & Torv: Of course, he went this way. ::Torv showed left, while Jaxx showed right. That moment she heard a giggle right behind her and turned around in the chair. There she stood again, the First Officer with her wide grin. The slender fingers wiggled a playful wave while her hair got its own life again and pushed in between the ranks and roots and pulled up as if it weighted nothing. That made a hole into the 'hedge' and Alice did not hesitate for a second. She jumped off her chair and slipped through the - hopefully - right way, accompanied by the off-key song behind her.:: ::There he was. The rabbit just hopped around a corner and Alice quickly followed him, trying not to lose him again. She walked for a while, seeing him here and there, but then she heard the sound of beeping and glass touching something else. As she turned another way she saw huge vials with light blue liquid stood around everywhere as if they grew in the room. Teal coloured uniformed people walked around between them, climbed up ladders and then poured something into the opening, turning the liquid into a bright red.:: ::Alice recognized that colour right away, it was the same as in the experiment she had shattered earlier. Shaking her head slightly she then realized that the officers began to sing. A few she even recognized. There was Jamison the Counselor, Kaliantha the new medical officer and Carrigan a nurse, not to forget the blue haired man over there was Shelter the brother of the First Officer.:: Officers: ::singing:: We're dying the liquids red, there is no time for bed, she sees them blue and right on cue she'll be the worst you ever met. We are fond of our head, so we dye the liquids red. ::Who was she? And what did they mean that she would be the worst they ever met? What would happen to the heads, if those liquids were not red? She went closer to one of them.:: Alice: Why are you changing the colour of the liquids? Jamison: Because the Queen likes them red. Carrigan: If they are not, she punishes us all! Alice: Who? Who would punish you? Rabbit: I'm late. I'm late. ::Quickly he hopped past them all and to a terminal that stood at the end of the garden and he pressed a button.:: Just on time, phew. ::The sound of the transporter beam had them fall silent. Then in a hectic chaos they quickly tried to hide the colour pots and the ladders before arranging themselves in one row, standing attention. Shelter grabbed Alice's arm and pulled her close. She mimicked their posture, thought peeked around them to see who was coming.:: ::Her heart almost stopped when she saw the bright red hair of her very own CMO Jalana Laxyn. But the ice cold gaze, wandering around the strange garden and the officers was new and sent chills down Alice's spine. Nobody dared to speak or even move an inch. Alice snapped back into attention and waited nervously.:: Laxyn: WHAT IS THAT? ::The sudden explosion of the usual soft voice made everyone jump and turn around. With terror they saw red splatters all over the floor.:: Kaliantha: We... we had to...::stammering:: Laxyn: HAD TO WHAT? LIE TO ME? ::Alice knew why she was so afraid to tell Laxyn what had happened, but this was worse than she had expected. Silence fell again, from everyone but Laxyn.:: Laxyn: WHO DYED MY LIQUIDS? ::There was an eerie silence, something that made Alice look up and what she saw let her blood freeze. Everyone but pointing at her. With wide eyes she stared from one to the other and shook her head.:: Alice: I have not... ::Laxyn's face changed to a furious red and slowly her arm raised to point at Alice, before the loud voice bellowed through the garden, almost shattering the vials.:: Laxyn: CHOOOOOOOP OFF HER HEAD! ::Terror shook Alice and she did the only thing that came to her mind right now. She ran in the opposite direction. Hearing the heavy steps running after her, trying to get her to follow the CMO's command. She ran and ran and her lungs hurt as a familiar voice floated into her ears.:: Voice: Alice! Hey Alice, come on... it's time. Alice! (( Quarters )) ::Alice's lids jumped up and the first thing she saw was her room mate hovering over her. Blinking she tried to shake off the strange dream she had. What had been in her coffee that she had thought this could be real for even a second?:: Alice: What...? Hannah: You slept the whole night on the couch. It's time for work. And I think you have to confess something,eh? ::Alice grimaced as she peeled herself from the couch. There was no time left to get into a new uniform and she sighed, following her room mate outside where they parted ways. Alice headed the right way to Sick Bay and just for a split second she could have sworn to see the white fluffy tail of a bunny vanishing around the corner ... --- LtCmdr Jalana Laxyn CMO / 2nd Officer USS Apollo
  7. Welcome to the end of our first short contest of 2013! April's Challenge asked participants to consider the theme "Do Unto Others," and I'm pleased to bring you the results now. The winner of the Challenge for April is the writer behind Sinda Essen, with his story "Lex Talionis"! Our runner-up is the writer behind Jorus Cogud, with his story "Calling Home"! Congratulations to both of you! My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, Commander Melitta Herodion, and Commander Karynn Ehlanii Brice.
  8. Welcome, my friends, to the first monthlong Writing Challenge of 2013! For this Challenge, Sarah -- the writer behind Saveron and the winner of the last challenge -- would like you to consider the open-ended topic "Do Unto Others." What does this mean? How will you take it? The challenge of the Challenge is to interpret the theme with your own thoughtful story, so I look forward to reading what you do! The deadline for this Challenge is Saturday, April 27th, which gives you just about three and a half weeks to cobble a story together. Let's see what the springtime (for those of you in the northern hemisphere) does with your creativity! As always, please remember: *Your work must be completely original. *You must be the sole author of the work. *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship. *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words. As of today, Tuesday, April 2nd, this Challenge is open. For any questions you might have, remember that you can always visit the Writing Challenge website. Good luck!
  9. Guest

    April Winner: Lex Talionis

    Lex Talionis “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.” Martin Luther King “Where am I?” She couldn’t move, something was preventing her from lifting her arms or turning her head. And it was dark, so very dark, impossible to make out anything past the end of her nose, but she could hear them in the darkness. Moving, breathing. She thought back to how she’d arrived here but her mind was a blur, she couldn’t pin down any of her memories from before waking up. She couldn’t even remember… “Who am I?!” She all but screamed. Sudden light stabbed down into her eyes like fire making her gasp. She squeezed her eyelids closed, trying to keep the pain out. Over the sound of her rapid breathing she heard the voice speak. “You are in recovery room seven in the Celtris III medical facility. Your name is Hess.” “Hess? Why can’t I remember? What have you done to me?” “We’ve done nothing to you, yet, which is rather the point. Your mind is trying to rebuild your memory at the moment. Give it some time.” Hess nodded, or tried to, and squinted into the brightness. She could see an outline of a tall figure a few metres away. “Who are you?” She asked. The figure stepped forward and the light fell across his grey skin, black hair and thick, bony neck. A word sprang, unbidden, into her consciousness, dug out from the chaos of her memory. “Cardassian.” “Oh, very good!” He smiled. “Very good indeed, much faster than any of the others.” “Others? What others?” Hess could hear the panic in her voice. “What is going on here?” “Ah, all in good time.” The Cardassian raised his hand to wave her into silence. “I’ve answered your questions like a good host. Now, I wonder if you could answer some of mine? Firstly, who are you?” Hess frowned at him. “What do you mean? I’m Hess, you’ve just told me that. I…” She hesitated as memories came creeping back. Slowly at first, but then more and more and more. A jumbled flood almost overwhelming her. She snatched at images and information as they roiled through her mind. “I’m Hess, a Vorta from the Dominion. We’re at war with the Federation and their allies. They dared to stand up to us. The Cardassian Union are our allies, we’re on the same side.” “You could say that. What else?” Hess frowned, concentrating. There had been fighting, the base had been overrun by Romulans. She remembered the Jem’hadar being overwhelmed, the bright green flash of a disruptor, the agony. She looked up at the Cardassian, her eyes wide. “I’m dead.” He chuckled. “Well, not quite, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking. But, yes, one version of you was killed, but you’re a different model of that Hess, a later clone. The Founders awoke you after your original clone was killed and, well, we were able to save you.” “Save me from what? The Federation?” “Oh, the war is over and done with and has been for many years.” He smiled, although without any sign of enjoyment. “You lost.” The Cardassian strolled a few paces before continuing. “No, we didn’t save you from the Federation, we saved you from the Dominion, and you’ve been assisting us with our research ever since.” “What research, and why don’t I remember any of it?” “Ah, memory is one of the things we’ve been struggling with. It seems we are only able to implant the memories of your original clone with any degree of success. Memories from other people, or even from your most recent clone, never seem to work very well.” He made a face. “Actually, more often than not they result in total insanity.” Hess tried to make sense of what the Cardassian was saying. Or, more importantly, what he was leaving unsaid. As the turmoil of her memories began to settle, a growing sense of black fear began to take shape. “I’m not the first one you’ve created, am I? Your research, you’re looking into cloning, trying to pick me apart so you can make your own. But the Dominion don’t share their technology, they won’t be happy when they find out.” The Cardassian clapped his hands together. “Perfect! That is indeed exactly what we’re doing, Hess. But don’t worry about the Dominion, they’re in no position to protest against our research down here. They really did do a magnificent job on all you Vorta, truly amazing. Even down to the suicide implant, although don’t worry, the removal of that was one of the first alterations we made.” Hess began to struggle then, the thought of ‘alterations’ did not sound appealing. “I am not your science experiment!” she cried. “You can’t do this, there are laws to…” He cut her off with a snarl. “Don’t talk to me about laws! You’re people proved exactly what they thought of our laws when they lost the war. Eight-hundred million Cardassians slaughtered, eight-hundred million! Women, children, families, entire communities, entire cities! As far as we’re concerned the Dominion made themselves exempt from interstellar law by their act of genocide.” His voice softened, but didn’t lose any of its menace. “Which is why, in the eyes of Cardassian law, clones are no longer considered people. You have no rights. The Detapa Council are well aware of your existence, in fact they’ve signed off on these little ‘science experiments’ as you call them. So I think you’ll find everything occurring here is perfectly legal.” Hess stared at him wide eyed as he picked up a hypospray and checked the contents. “How…” she swallowed, her mouth dry. “How many have there been? Of me, I mean.” “Oh, quite a few now. As I said, the war finished a long time ago.” He consulted a datapad. “You are number six-hundred and twelve, and next door is version six-hundred and thirteen. And believe me, you wouldn’t want to be in her position.” Hess looked up at him. “Why?” She pleaded. “Why are you doing this?” The Cardassian paused as he considered her question before carefully placing the pad and the hypospray on a table. He folded his arms and thoughtfully stroked his grey chin. “You know, I think you’re the first one to ask that. Usually you just rage about injustice and try to escape, not that it does any good. Perhaps we are indeed making some advances with your personality after all. Very well, I’ll indulge you. Why are we doing this?” He mused. “The Dominion all but destroyed the Cardassian Union. The war took its toll, but the violence carried out by the Founders on that last day dealt much more severe damage. We are a broken people, surrounded by enemies who outnumber us, don’t trust us and are superior in almost every way.” He waved a finger in her direction. “Ah, but clones. We had them before, of course, but nobody made clones like the Dominion. Such precision, and on such a scale. If we can perfect that technology it will go a long way to rebuilding our cities, our society.” He smiled again, his eyes bright. “Our navy, our army.“ “But I’m a person! I think, I feel. Have you no compassion?” “True, you think, you feel. Indeed, you even speak. But these are just incidental.” We waved a hand dismissively. “We are only interested in pulling apart your genetic structure, to see how you were built, to see what makes you work so well. You are not a person, you mean nothing to us, just as the Dominion proved we meant nothing to them.“ He picked up the hypospray again. “But don’t worry, we’ll stop dissecting you after we’ve used up eight-hundred million clones. Fair is fair, after all.”
  10. Mid-morning in the Klingon prison camp was recreation time, the prisoners were allowed to go outside, although there was nothing to look at, or they could stay inside the prison complex, which was equally unpleasant, either way you were not going to have fun in the dust-ridden, dirt-covered hell that was the Mempa System prison camp. The prisoners kept here were considered the most dangerous and dishonourable men and women in the entire Klingon Empire; in it you could find any manner of people from Ferengi smugglers to the most dangerous Klingon murderers. It was also the current location of a Trill smuggler. Darzen Cogud sat on the hard and sandy floor of the camp, in his hand was a scrap of stale bread that he had stolen from one of the weaker prisoners, in Mempa prison you did what you could to survive. Darzen was merely imitating what stronger prisoners did to him, so what was the harm? He bit down into the bread, it was a bit crunchy and very hard to swallow, but apart from that it was bread. He finished it quickly careful not to save any for later because one of the stronger, Klingon or Gorn prisoners would take it. The mid-morning sun shone between the cracks in the roof of Mempa, it shone into Darzen’s eyes like a lost sheep, wanting to be found. The last time light had shone into his eyes like that was when he was caught. Darzen had been running his usual business, he had a shipment of maraji crystals, he wanted to avoid passing through Federation space, as his usual shipping routes had been increasingly difficult to smuggle in, it seemed the Federation had upped security in recent years, and Darzen wanted to avoid being caught. He was originally going to take a longer route that would bypass the areas of increased security but his client was adamant he get his drugs, and offered a higher price the quicker they arrived. And so that led Darzen to Klingon space, normally the Klingons were much less scrupulous when it came to searching vessels that passed through their space, but the consequences of being caught were much higher and that’s why you don’t go through Klingon space. But Darzen was certain he could do it, everything seemed bright, at the end he would be paid a substantial sum of latinum, which he could then use to gain access to pleasures beyond his wildest dreams. If he got past the border without detection. Recreation time in Mempa prison was over; it was now time to work. The current project for the prisoners in the camp was to manufacture some small but necessary components in the construction of Birds-of-prey. The construction, however, was hard work, made harder by the camps cruel overseer, K’rtok, son of Maglus. He was a pitiful excuse for a Klingon in truth: small, obese, cowardly and cruel. He was dishonourable, many of the Klingon prisoners argued that he should be working in the camp, rather than overseeing it, he seemed to take pleasure in beating prisoners. Most thought it was because it made him feel powerful, others believed it was because he was ordered to, Darzen thought it was because he enjoyed inflicting pain on the weak. He only gained his position as overseer because his brother was an honourable man; his brother was also a man Darzen new well. Darzen was about thirty minutes into his trip through Klingon space, his small but robust ship was working better than it had for ten years. Darzen figured it was because his ship was as eager to leave Klingon space as he was. The trip was going exactly as planned, the Trill smuggler had estimated he would be out of Klingon space within a day and so he had begun to plan what he wanted to spend his money on. Just as he was debating whether or not to buy an Orion Slave Girl for an evening a small beeping noise accompanied by a red flash appeared on his control panel, it was signalling that a ship was close by Darzen looked around to see above him was a Klingon Bird-of-prey, its green hull was not a pleasant sight for any man with illegal substances in his cargo hold. Another light began to flash, this time accompanied by a high pitched hum, indicating the ship wanted to talk. Darzen, reluctantly accepted the hail, he was greeted by a smug, fat face of a Klingon captain on his small screen he used for communicating. “May I help you gentleman?” Darzen asked daringly, flashing a smile. “I am Captain Kroth, son of Maglus. My crew and I are ordered to search all vessels passing this area of space.” “Well, I would be happy to have you aboard to look around but I am transporting a shipment of Andorian peaches, if I have any delays they will ripen to early and they will not get to their destination in perfect condition.” “A shame for you Trill, come to a full stop. My search team will be over shortly.” “I will prepare a drink…” Darzen slumped in his chair as Captain Kroth ended the transmission, he really did have Andorian peaches with him, but the Klingon search party would have dealt with smugglers before, and would probably tear his ship apart before allowing him to continue on his way. Soon enough a brood of angry Klingons beamed aboard his ship in a dazzling, blood red shimmer. They immediately reached for their disrupters to contain Darzen, even though they hadn’t done their search. Darzen escorted them to his cargo bay. He led them to the peaches and exposed them but the Klingons had to look in every box and so they did. Each crate they opened contained more peaches, until they hit the jackpot, sitting in one crate was eight, shining crystals. Word soon got back to Captain Kroth, and Darzen returned with the Klingons back to their ship, his craft was seized, his assets stolen and his credibility as a smuggler ruined – if he gave away names. The afternoon was fast ending in Mempa prison camp, and that meant one thing. Inspection. The prisoners were marched outside in the burning sun (they were lucky it was not midday as the heat would kill them) so that “K’rtok, son of Malgus” could take pleasure in seeing those that had to obey him suffer. Obviously that was not the official reason given; apparently it was an effective way to count the prisoners. Darzen could see that even the guards hated it; the dishonour of parading all-ready vulnerable people in a dangerous environment would have been hard to bear for the traditionally raised Klingon warriors. The prisoners lined up, not to the military precision the overseer would have liked because they were just prisoners but they were in some kind of line. Darzen stood among the rabble of Klingon, Gorn, Ferengi, Nausicaans and others, trying to avoid the overseer spotting him. The overseer had taken a ‘liking’ to Darzen Cogud and unfortunately K’rtok did spot him. The Klingon approached him and glared into the eyes of the smuggler. “Mr Cogud” He growled. “Twenty laps of the facility.” Darzen looked at him in horror; if he was to do twenty laps in this heat he would surly die. In addition there was no reason for Cogud to run twenty laps. The guards obviously thought this to as they exchanged worried looks behind the overseer’s back, but they were too scared to intervene. Darzen would have to fight his own battles. “No.” He barley mumbled the last word the son of Malgus wanted to hear. His eyes lit up like fireworks. “What did you say?” “No.” Again he mumbled. “You will do fifty laps of this facility Trill, even if it means my guards drag you around it.” “You said twenty.” His voice was now raised, as he knew K’rtok would follow through with his threats. “I lied… Prisoners dismissed.” K’rtok smiled at Darzen, although the Klingon had to look up at the Trill, it felt like he was looking down. His cruel eyes locked onto Darzen. The Trill shivered, remembering the first time it happened. After his capture, Darzen was taken to the Mempa system to be interrogated by the brother of Captain Kroth and the overseer of Mempa Prison Camp. Darzen was bought into a small room, on the wall was a picture of Kahless, above two crossed Bat’leths. The accused-of-smuggling Trill was sat on a cold metal chair and left alone for two hours, the Klingons wanted to see how he reacted, Darzen sat still. After two hours, K’rtok, son of Malgus entered, he was an unimpressive Klingon, and he was about 5ft 8, with a small beard and small hair. The only large thing about him was his weight. He was armed with a disruptor but Darzen could see no knife, this Klingon was without honour. He began to demand the names of the smuggler associates. Darzen remained quiet. He tried to find out the purpose of the crime. Darzen remained quiet. After repeated attempts, K’rtok, son of Malgus was getting impatient. And demanded Darzen speak, Darzen who was now battered and bruised from the repeated blows to his person looked up. “Did someone steal your knife?” K’rtok glared down at Darzen, locking his eyes onto the Trill. He hit him again, blackening an already black eye. He then stormed out of the room leaving Darzen alone with his bruises and his thoughts. He was eventually charged with smuggling, and sentenced to a life sentence in Mempa prison camp. Obviously the life sentence would have been frowned upon in the Federation but he was in the Klingon Empire and so a life sentence for smuggling was common place. Darzen was escorted by two guards to the main section of Mempa Prison Camp, like most Klingon Prisons the sleeping quarters was simply a large cave in which the prisoners had fashioned their own accommodation. This was where Darzen would spend his first night in Mempa Prison, as darkness fell over the planet Darzen found a small spot in the corner of the cave. His thoughts were still locked on his interrogation he had undergone just a few hours ago. He curled up in a ball and closed his eyes and then slowly fell asleep, waiting for the first day of eternity. Darzen woke. He was still battered and bruised from his run/drag the night before. A guard had dragged the Trill the full fifty laps. His clothes were torn, his side was red and his head was still feeling light. He looked around his now almost-cosy accommodation, completely different from the gap in the corner he had found two months ago. He stood up slowly, his side still aching, as he prepared for another day in Mempa Prison. Lt Jorus Cogud Chief Tactical Officer USS Discovery-C
  11. Greetings, folks! As you may know, with the retirement of Captain Tallis, I've taken over as facilitator for the Writing Challenges, and I'm pleased to say that I was extremely pleased by the turnout for the March & April round! Please also remember to give your thanks to our fantastic panel of judges -- Karynn Ehlanii Brice, Toni Turner, Eden Redstone, Arden Cain, and last round's winner Velana -- who read and ran every entry and provide the feedback you'll see here shortly. Without further ado, the winner of the March & April challenge, with his story "The Tempest," is Alleran Tan! Please also congratulate this round's runner-up, Kalianna Nicholotti, with her story, "In the Shadow of a New Alliance." Alleran, I'll be sending you a message shortly to set up the subject of the next challenge, for May and June, which should begin in the next couple of days!
  12. The air always carried the same familiar smell in the moments just following a thunder storm. It was a sweet, comforting aroma that lingered in the nose even here on the beach, where coastal winds were quick to saturate the area with the equally familiar smell of the sea. Afternoon storms were common in the warm, summer months on Florida’s gulf coast, and over the years, barefoot walks on the beach had become somewhat of a routine for Jade Valyn. She often excused her walks by saying they were just trips to survey the beach for pieces of sea glass churned up by the storm, but in reality they were much more to her. They provided her a time for quiet reflection, a time for her to take advantage of the brief moment of privacy to be alone with her thoughts. Occasionally, she would walk the beach with a friend, or her daughter, but more often than not, she preferred to spend the time alone. Today would be a little different. This day, she walked the beach beside William Reed, a man whom she considered as her soul mate, and father of her only child. It was a shame, perhaps even a little tragic, that the two had never been able to find a way to spend their lives together. It was as much her fault as it was his, and she often tormented herself for never being able to find the courage to accept any of William’s proposals of marriage. Today, though, wasn’t just going to be about the two of them. Today, she was about to lose her little girl. This loss was inevitable, and deep down, Jade knew there was nothing she could do to avoid it. Danica was eighteen after all, and in reality, only “little” in a symbolic sense. She was forced to realize that her daughter had come to a point in her life where she had chosen her own path to follow, and while Jade may not have agreed with it, there was little she could do to influence Danica into a different direction. It might have been a little inappropriate, but as the two walked the beach, Jade held tightly onto William’s right arm, resting her head on his shoulder. But if her display affection made him at all uncomfortable, his reaction to her touch didn’t show it. They had spent so much of their lives apart that it was easy for her to forget just how relaxed he made her feel when they were together. It was a feeling that she felt all too infrequently, and one that had become especially rare within the last ten years. A scarcity of feeling that made this slow walk on the beach all the more precious to her. Jade scanned the dark sand beneath their feet with her eyes, and spoke to William, without looking directly at him, “So, have you heard your daughter wants to join Starfleet?” William knew this was more of a statement than a question, and attempted to ignore her accusatory tone. Jade had always blamed him for Danica’s infatuation with leaving Earth, and this was just her subtle way of bringing up the subject once again. Tilting his head, he pressed his cheek against her straight, black hair. He knew that accepting the prospect of her daughter choosing a life that would, most likely, lead her away from Earth had to be difficult for her. A life on a starship verses one on Earth had always been one of the biggest stumbling blocks between the two of them. “So, today she’s my daughter?” He said as a faint echo of thunder rumbled in the distance. Lifting her head, she looked up at him as the breeze whipped gently through his sandy blonde hair, “Today? You know as well as I do that she’s always been Daddy’s little girl. Ever since she first saw that bucket of yours, she couldn’t wait to get away from me.” William paused their walk, breaking from her embrace. Moving around in front of her, he placed his index finger under her chin, tilting her gaze up towards him, and then firmly grasped her by both of her arms. “Babe, it’s got nothing to do with you. You know that. It’s got nothing to do with me either. It’s . . . it’s just what she wants. She’s talked about Starfleet for years now. I know I didn’t put that idea into her head, and I’m sure you didn’t either. It was her choice.” “It’s that easy then?” She asked, staring into his blue eyes. “Our little girl’s all grown up.” He paused his thought for a moment, using the break to fully take in the silky beauty of Jade’s dark skin. “She’s going to make her own decisions and live her own life. We can’t force her into something that she doesn’t want.” “I’ll never understand how it’s so easy for you,” Jade said, redirecting her gaze out towards the western horizon. “How what’s so easy?” He questioned, never taking his eyes off of the contours of her face. Her chin quivered slightly as she replied, “Saying goodbye.” He let go of her arms and turned around. Taking a few steps away from her, he ran both of his hands through his hair, locking his fingers across the back of his head. “That’s not fair, Jade.” She sighed deeply and closed her eyes, forcing a couple tears to roll down her cheeks. Wiping them away with the fingers of her right hand, she walked towards him, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her head against his back. “I know,” she said softly, “I’m sorry. I just wish the Academy wasn’t her first step. I always wanted her to go to college, to have the chance to live just a little bit, before making this kind of commitment.” William placed his hands over hers, “She’ll still go to school. I’m sure you have to have some kind of a degree to be a headshrinker, after all.” Letting go of him, she pushed him away laughing, “You be nice.” “What? It’s true,” he said, grabbing hold of her hands. She looked up, into his eyes, caressing his palms with her thumbs, “That’s not what I meant, though. I wanted her to go to school first, and then, if she still found civilian life so intolerable . . . then the Academy.” Turning away, William continued their walk, holding onto her right hand, “She’s come up with her own plan, and you know as well as I do that she’s not going to change her mind. That stubbornness of hers is what you get for raising a teenager.” As the couple continued to walk the beach, Jade went back to surveying the ground. As they reached the jetty, she turned them around and headed back towards the condo. She purposely slowed her pace in order to milk as much time as she could with William. The subtle scent of rain in the air had all but gone, and other than the occasional call of a gull, it was remarkably quite on this small section of the beach. It was almost as if this half kilometer stretch of sand between the jetty and the docks were reserved for their own personal use. A small slice of heaven, set aside just for them. As they reached the sea wall beneath Jade’s condominium, William stopped for a moment and sat down in the still damp sand. Sitting down next to him, Jade once again rested her head on his shoulder. They looked out over Gulf of Mexico as the afternoon sun approached the horizon. The sun, itself, was a deep orange, and it painted the sky in various shades ranging from yellow to pink. The water, still a little choppy from the rain, beat gently against the sandy coast, in a soothing rhythm that could easily lull one to sleep. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Jade asked as she wrapped her arms around William’s. He looked away from the horizon, down to her, and sat silently until she looked up towards him. Briefly forgetting himself, and lost in her eyes, he whispered softly, “Yes it is,” and gently kissed her lips. The first kiss was short and sweet, but was quickly followed by a longer, more passionate embrace. For a few seconds, the two were overwhelmed by feelings of their youth, transporting them to a time before all the fighting and complications had gotten in the way. It was a time and place in their lives where nothing mattered but each other, and where the hopes and dreams of their hearts remained to this day. It was a time long ago, though, and as William remembered the wife and daughter waiting for him at home, his heart sunk in his chest, and he pulled away from Jade slowly. Resting his forehead against hers, he closed his eyes and apologized. “I’m sorry.” Closing her eyes as well, Jade fought the urge to kiss him again and responded simply with, “Me too.” The two sat there for a moment, quietly enjoying the other’s touch. They had made a lot of mistakes throughout the years, and for William, this was just another to add to the list. As he leaned away from Jade, he stood up, brushing the cool sand from the seat of his pants. Looking out towards the Gulf, he watched as the sun touched the edge of the horizon. Looking down at Jade, he smiled, “I guess we didn’t find any glass.” “They’ll be other storms,” she said, “We’ll just have to try again some other time.” He helped her to her feet, and waited next to her as she cleaned her own thin film of sand from her pant legs. Turning away from the gulf, they walked up the steps of the sea wall to the patio above them. No longer holding hands, they approached the entrance to Jade’s condominium, stopping just outside the doors. Standing opposite of her, William purposefully left plenty of space between them. He stared at the ground, still feeling a little awkward about the moment that had just passed. “So . . . umm, I guess I should go up and say goodbye to Dani.” “Did you want to stay for dinner?” Jade asked him, certain he would decline. “I can’t. Jennifer’s going to be expecting me.” Lifting his head, he looked at Jade so that he could see just how she was feeling. Reaching his hand to her face, he swept away a few misplaced strands of her hair so that he had an unobstructed view of her eyes. “You’re gonna to be okay.” “I know,” she said blushing slightly, “I’m just not ready to let her go.” He reached out and hugged her, breathing heavily as she buried her face against his chest. They stood in the doorway of the condominium, each content to hold the other, and never move from this moment in time. It was fleeting, though, and Jade finally found the strength to pull away from him. Taking a second to compose herself, she looked up at him, “You better come up and say goodnight to your daughter.” “I suppose you’re right,” he said, and followed her upstairs. In the sky above them, the afternoon storm clouds had mostly cleared, as they moved further inland. One or two could still be seen, each speckled with random flashes of lightning, producing the occasional, slow clap of thunder. As the sun continued its journey below the gulf’s horizon, the color pallet it produced on the evening sky deepened. The bold colors became more striking, and the illuminated sky seemed to blanket the whole area in a warm and cozy glow. Just for a moment, the failing rays of the sun gleamed off of a frosty, smooth object in the sand near the surf. The small piece of brown, weathered glass, peeked up, but blended into the sand and rocks around it. For a few seconds, it looked up at the painted sky in reverence, before being quickly lost beneath the surface of a crashing wave. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Ensign Danica Valyn Counselor Starbase 118
  13. “I love you.” “I love you too, honey.” Lt. Tom Skuller smiled at his wife, who was pregnant. She had been carrying that soon to be chubby blob of cuteness for eight months and would soon be letting it finally breath air. Cindy Skuller was holding her stomach and smiling lightly. Giving birth was an excruciating task, and this would be her first time. She was nervous, but that's why she held Tom's hand, for comfort. =/\= Captain Smasher to Lt. Skuller, please report to the bridge. =/\= “Wait...you're leaving?” Cindy asked. Tom looked at her with sorrow. “Sorry hon, duty calls,” he said to her. “I really wish I could stay to see our little boy—or girl being born, but...I have to go.” Cindy nodded. She wasn't a Starfleet officer, but she understood military regulations. “Don't worry,” said a woman in a blue medical uniform. “I'll take good care of you. Get her to a biobed.” Two nurses did as they were told by the chief medical officer and the anti-grav lift carried her into sickbay. Tom watched as his wife was being situated. He cut his eyes and walked down the corridor. Taking the turbolift, he was soon on the bridge and Captain Smasher did not look please. “Glad you could join us Lt.,” Smasher stated. His fully square sculpted jaw was perfectly proportional to his personality: tough. “We seem to have run across something....unusual.” Tom looked uncertain. “Like?” Ensign Kurt, the science officer of the USS Ares, stood from her station. “Sir, sensors reading temperature rising from the exterior of the ship.” Smasher sat in the command chair quickly. “Source, ensign?” Kurt looked at her station and back at the Captain with uncertainty. She grimaced to herself and looked up. “Unknown....but if the temperature does increase it could be dangerous, sir.” “Interesting...,” Smasher mumbled. “Reroute our course to a safer distance from this 'dangerous temperature', helm.” “Aye sir.” Smasher looked at Lt. Skuller happily this time. “Cindy delivered yet?” “No sir...I was called to duty right at the moment before she was going to give birth.” Tom focused on his console. There was no doubt he was upset about being called on duty right on his first kid's birth. Although there were other tactical officers, Tom was the very best. “But duty calls.” “[...] right it does,” Captain Smasher replied. “Captain,” Kurt said, “the temperature is still rising significantly.” Smasher stood from his chair. “I thought I told helm to steer us away from it.” The helmsman was a bit fidgety and didn't like being yelled at so he didn't honestly like the Captain because of the yelling. The helmsman was of course no other than Bruce Wallace, and a clumsy one at it as well. “Sir...every time I calculate a different course the temperature continues to rise...is it getting hot in here or is it just me?” “It's just you ensign.” “Actually,” Tom interrupted, “I do think it's getting hot in--” The klaxons blasted and everyone took their stations with concentrated faces. Captain Smasher looked angry because his crew couldn't follow simple directions. “Report!” “Shields at eighty percent, sir,” Tom said, “and dropping.” “Dropping?” Tom looked at Kurt. “Why is it dropping?” “The high temperature is damaging the shields and will soon damage the hull. Scanners identifying it as a storm but the type is unknown...not registered in our databanks,” Kurt shouted. There was disruption that shook the bridge violently. Ensign Kurt held onto her station. “Perhaps a new type of storm Starfleet hasn't encountered before, sir.” Outside, the region of space in which the Ares was surrounded by was a green light with purple energy floating adrift. There was a white misty like energy emerging from the eye of the storm and was in the shape of a tentacle. It stretched from the eye to grasp the Ares and pull it into the eye of the storm. The bridge continuously shook. “Captain I'm not getting any information on this storm!” “Shields at forty percent and dropping rapidly!” “Life support failing on decks seven through fifteen! We have confirmed casualties sir!” “Shields at ten percent and dropping! Nine percent—eight—seven! Shields nearly out sir!” =/\= Lt. Cmdr. Reynolds to bridge! I have a confirmed coolant leak! Whatever this thing is it's causing massive damage to the Ares! We're not going to make it out of this alive! =/\= The USS Ares was fully enclosed in the white misty tentacle and purple lightning crackled through space. Hull breaches were made and several officers and crewman and civilians flew out into space where they lost air, their lungs exploded, and they died. The ceiling fell from the roof of the bridge and landed on the first officer. Main Engineering was engulfed with flames and soon Lt. Cmdr. Reynolds, the chief engineer, burned to a crisp ash and was no more. Several engineers suffered from radiation as their bodies contained huge blisters and burns. Sickbay wasn't heavily damaged but had minor damage and with most of the medics dead from being crushed by rubble or sucked into space, the crew was short. “Okay we have to deliver this baby!” Dr. Conner shouted. She flew her fingers through her hair. =/\= This is Captain Philip Smasher to all personnel! All hands abandon ship! I repeat all hands abandon ship! Now! =/\= “Sir, a word!” Kurt shouted. “What if this storm was artificially generated! What if this is a way to gain Starfleet vessels from enemies! The possibilities are endless sir! We can't surrender the ship like this!” “She's right!” Tom spoke up. He looked at the several dead officers, including the quiet helmsman, the alien ops officer, and the beautiful first officer. All were dead except him, Kurt, and Captain Smasher. “We can't just give her away!” “Fine! You're right!” Smasher was thrown into the burning helm by the turbulence and set to flames, and he burned to a crisp. “Oh gosh!” Kurt screamed. “We have to get out of here!” She gripped the station tightly hoping the disruption wouldn't toss her into a burning station. “But what about the ship!” Tom protested. “What about the ship! What about us! We'll never survive this if we don't get a move on!” “I can't just leave it here! You go on, I'm setting it to self-destruct!” “You won't make it out in time!” “Then I'll die with it and a good man from keeping anyone from stealing our intelligence and technology!” “No...” “I outrank you ensign, I order you to report to lifepods this instant!” Ensign Kurt looked at him angrily. Rank was something that always held her back, and she was sure she wouldn't be getting that promotion for disobeying a direct order from a ranking officer. She nodded silently and headed out of the bridge carefully making sure she stopped and gripped something every time there was the violent shaking that could send her to her burning death. Cindy was in a medical shuttlecraft and breathing heavily. Her baby was due. “Okay! We're kind of behind schedule, but I think the baby will be okay.” The doctor began operating. The pilot of the shuttle started it up and exited the ship along with the other shuttles and lifepods. All could see the white tentacle crushing the Ares in its tight grip, and then they could see several more tentacles emerging from the eye of the storm working it's way to pull in the ship. The shuttles and lifepods were out of harm's way, but Lt. Skuller was far from it. “Let's see if I can destroy this thing before it reaches the eye of the storm,” Tom said to himself. He punched a few buttons and within time, the ship had exploded. The tentacles were not damaged however. They were perfectly fine, but they didn't reach out to grab the shuttles and lifepods. If it weren't for Ensign Kurt's desire to not be burned she would have made it to the shuttlebay in time to live, but she didn't, and she died. The baby had been successfully delivered, but died instantly from radiation poison. Starfleet then recorded this to be to most dangerous storm known to man, with an obvious name: The Tentacle Storm. No one has ever known where it leads and how the tentacles are created, operated, or anything by that matter, but what is known...no one can survive it. -END- Lt. JG Zinna Chief Counselor USS Tiger-A
  14. THE GATHERING STORM ((A Lonely Clifftop; the Shores of Venoba)) ::Lightning illuminated the lonely scene as the wind tore at his hair and the thunder boomed all around – deafening and continuous. However, Graven barely moved, just watching the waves rolling over the rocky foreshore, all the while holding his limp bundle tightly in his arms. Nothing could stir him from his current focus. The storm lashed the cliffs and blew cold spray into his face. Still he remained fixed and immobile – like a monolith against the tempest.:: Graven: Tick, tock, tick, tock. ((Flashback – three days previous - Control Deck: Transporter Lincoln)) ::Graven sat at the controls of the Lincoln. He gazed out of the screen, watching the stars flash past. It had been a year since he’d fled his home to get away from his Father’s wrath. Wannabe tyrants did not take kindly to having their coup de’tait plans betrayed to the authorities, especially by their own flesh and blood. A life amongst the stars, plying the trade routes between the farther reaches of the quadrant was therefore preferable for the teenager than staying back on Byzatium.:: Sala: How’s it going?” ::The slim young woman spoke softly as she entered the pilot’s booth.:: Graven: Same as ever, unremarkable. ::He looked up over his shoulder, and smiled as Sala leaned over the back of the chair, draping her arms around his shoulders. This dark corner of the galaxy would make a great hide-away for them to get some time alone together. Alone with nothing but the shadows. Away from the chasing nemesis at their heels:: ((Present day – Shores of Venoba)) ::The dull thudding of the mighty sea slamming into the base of the cliffs brought Graven’s mind back to the present. It added a rhythmic background bass to the thoughts swirling though the young man’s mind.:: Graven: Nearly time, nearly there my dear. ::The melancholy grey sky appeared almost to be pressing down on the land, smothering it in a malignant gloom.:: Graven: Four, three, two, one... ((Flashback –Transporter Lincoln)) Sala: I can’t wait until we have delivered our cargo, then we are alone tomorrow. Graven: ::still hugging Sala’s arm tightly and smiling:: I've missed you. Why do we have to wait until tomorrow? Sala: Aww, me too. You wander through my mind every minute of every day. ::She kissed the back of his head. It sent a wonderful shiver through Graven’s body.:: Graven:: oO I’m a good boy and I’m ok. I’m a good boy and I won’t stray. I’m a good boy and let me go down in the mud, where the river’s all run dry...Oo ::There was a momentary pause.:: Sala: I love yo…. ::She cut off mid-word, as a blue haze developed on the screen. Graven’s head snapped forward as he peered into the darkness outside the ship.:: Graven: Sorry, duty calls. Sala: What’s that? Graven: I don’t know, but it doesn’t look like a natural spatial storm. It looks… artificial. It’s approaching us rapidly from the starboard side. Sala: Quick, let’s turn away. We don’t need any trouble. Graven: And pass up this opportunity for adventure? Sala: I’ve had quite enough adventure already Mister. ::she growled playfully.:: Graven: Too late. ::Graven steered the small ship on an intercept course towards the anomaly. However, the closer they got, the more Graven’s concerns began to overtake his curiousity. Inside the storm could be seen the outline of a craft.:: Graven: I know that craft… ::Almost immediately, the controls of the Lincoln began to shake in Graven’s hands, and the whole craft was buffeted and rocked by the enveloping maelstrom. He tried to reverse course.:: Graven: Hold on! ::Clunk!:: Sala: That wasn’t a normal sound… Graven: BOARDED! Look. ::The young man waved at the console. It was true! They had been caught!:: Sala: By who? By what? Graven: ::whispering:: Oh no… Sala: Is it bad? ::Graven pointed to the display, the marking on the ship within the anomaly were unmistakeable. The Crest of the Solar Gorgon – his Father’s ship.:: Graven: What have I done? ((Several hours later - Solar Gorgon Prison Cell)) ::Graven awoke groggily and peered through a window in his cell door where he could see Sala tied to chair, being interrogated by a giant man in black armour. Graven knew who it was, his father’s closest lieutenant – a renegade Pythron called LeNoir. The only other things in the room were a workbench and a brazier.:: Graven: LET HER GO! ::His words echoed within the tiny cell, but not beyond. Nevertheless, Sala looked up through her blood-soaked hair partially covering her face. Sala: Get away from me! PLEASE, don’t hurt me! I don’t know anything! ::The giant jailer picked up a power drill from the bench, activated it and approached Sala – plunging it into her shoulder..:: Graven: NO! Sala: ::Cough:: T...there's n-nothing... I can ::cough:: t...tell y-you. LeNoir: Shame! I need your pretty little mouth to sing for me. ::LeNoir lunged forward and grabbed the struggling woman by the throat, and lifted her bodily out of the chair and snapping the restraints as he went. Using only one arm, he slammed her against the wall. Graven kicked and barged against the cell door, but it was solid iron and didn’t even flex.:: Sala: Argh! ::choke:: LeNoir: I’m sorry dear, but I must have my answers! ::The woman trembled and whimpered, tears running down her face.:: Sala: ...... what?........ ::Whilst still holding her aloft, LeNoir crawled his hand up her throat and under her jaw. He raised his index finger over her lips, then pushed it between her lips, parting her chattering teeth. He curled it over her bottom set of teeth, and slowly, painfully pulled her mouth to open wider.:: LeNoir: That’s better, nice and wide for me. Let me hear you SING! ::Keeping Sala pressed against the wall, LeNoir stooped down to one side and with his armoured glove picked up a glowing coal from pile in the brazier. He then brought it closer and closer to Sala’s open mouth.:: LeNoir: Last chance… Sala: Nnnn!!! Graven: oO.... no please....Oo ::She kicked and struggled desperately, but she was dwarfed and completely overpowered by this seven foot demon. Her feet made no impact when kicking his body armour, nor did her flailing arms make him loosen his grip as they scrabbled on his leather cloak. LeNoir just grinned at her. He brought the glowing rock to within inches of her face, then paused. He turned back and looked at the fireplace. Sala’s terrified eyes looked down too. LeNoir then glared back at her, his maniacal expression illuminated by the flickering light, and then he licked his lips.:: LeNoir: Plenty more there, I hope you’re hungry...... ((Present day – Shores of Venoba)) ::Graven counted the seconds from the next lightning flash, then slowly he moved forward towards the edge, never once looking down at the ground or what he carried. He thought back to the time serving under his Father. The age of Terror. The Circus of death. The final punishment was being allowed to live. Allowed to survive when Sala had not. He could still hear the laughter of his Father and his henchman ringing in his ears, louder even than the thunder..:: Graven ::whispering:: Adieu ma Cherie. ::Towards the precipice now, the storm and the sea beckoning him and his cold passenger into their embrace.:: Graven: Tirez les rideau.. ::Over the edge they plunged, tumbling towards the cold dark release. The words of his mentor ringing in his ears as the end approached.:: The circus tent empty, mournful, abandoned. The trumpets dead and silent. The vacant audience seats. The laughter recedes into darkness. No more applause. But still the clown grins after the curtain falls. He doesn’t mind the passing of the life, For he lives for the circus of death! ::Graven held the lifeless remains close to him, as the abyss took them. His Father, vengeful and cruel, would not be able to deny them this last dance together. Together, in deathly embrace they spun. But it was fleeting, torn apart again. Today it seemed was not a good day to die. Washed ashore, near death – Graven’s fight would continue – to be guided by vengeance and by the destiny of others.:: _____________________________________________________ Lieutenant Eyas Wulfantine Chief Tactical Officer: USS Mercury
  15. “The Tempest” "Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live." - Henry Van [...] She woke to the crying of Klingon seabirds. Ensign Vaala, a counsellor in Starfleet and an entirely un-Klingonish Klingon, didn't remember how she got here. She sat bolt upright with an entirely unbecoming shriek... only to discover she had been laying on the wooden deck of a ship, which continued to rock back and forth as it traversed the dark red ocean. She clumsily stood, slowly and dizzily climbing up to her feet. Holding onto the railing to keep her balance, she shook her head to clear out the stars. The boat rocked and heaved, and it was with a chilling, dark realization that she knew where this boat was taking her. It was the Barge of the Dead, taking her to Grethor... the afterlife for dishonoured Klingons. The worst of punishments... for cowards, for traitors, for warriors without honour... where the poor victims would relieve their most cowardly moments, their terrible defeats, their failures and their misfortunes. Where they would suffer eternally... where they would reap what they had sown forevermore, [...]ed to the Klingon Hell. She knew this, and watched as the great isle of despair loomed up before her, as though slowly rising from the very depths of the foul, evil sea. "Ooooh... fiddlesticks." Vaala was, in all likelihood, the universe's worst Klingon. She couldn’t fight worth a [...], cried easily, barely even knew any curse words let alone use them... she was allergic to a list of substances as long as her arm, she had joined Starfleet instead of the Imperial Navy, and she had been once defeated in honourable combat by a tribble. She was allergic to them, so even contact with a place they had been was enough to close her throat and send her into a wheezing, gasping fit. Beaten by a tribble that wasn’t present at the battle. She wasn’t sure a greater dishonour even existed. Somehow, she'd always known that she'd end up here, but she had hoped -- perhaps naively -- that she might be able to avoid this fate by joining Starfleet. By proving that she could be... not necessarily a warrior, but part of a team of warriors. She was obviously so inept at fighting that, perhaps, she could leech some of the glory by osmosis. She could help keep her crew mentally fit and healthy, and in exchange this service would allow her to avoid Grethor. Well... so much for that theory. Casting her eyes to the sky, she saw the dark, bruised flesh of thunderclouds rolling in from the horizon, illuminated by the occasional flash of lightning. Vaala hated storms. Her gaze fell upon the great Captain of the barge, an impossibly tall Klingon who had a full inch on her long and lanky frame. Unlike her, however, this man was pure muscle; he looked like a competitor in the Federation weightlifting championship... no, scratch that, he looked like the winner. Or that he’d killed and eaten the winner. In one bite. The wind picked up, the barge’s sails billowing as the storm fed the ship, rocketing her and the other dishonoured dead towards their horrid fate. Stumbling, Vaala made her way over to the Captain, raising her voice slightly so she could be heard over the growing whine of the wind. “H-Hey! Mister Captain...!” The colossal man turned his gaze to her, regarding the Klingon woman with a withering stare that could strip the paint from the hull of a Prometheus class cruiser. Vaala instinctively felt herself shrink back in the face of his intense, searing gaze. “You are Vaala, are you not?” he intoned, his voice booming at an unnatural volume as the Captain regarded her, the sound seeming to echo despite the vast open sea the ship was a tiny speck upon. “Y-Yes... that’s me. Vaala of Khitomer, uhh... yes.” The sails above her groaned as the storm intensified, a thin fork of lightning briefly bathing the scene in pure white light as it leaped into the ocean, the roiling clouds bearing down on the ship like a great beast. Vaala could see the great sheet of rain as they moved towards the ship like a stone wall, growing in height as they began to loom over the ship. The Captain’s unyielding stare remained fixed on her, unnerving her greatly. His eyes were unblinking, unmoving, and Vaala found she could not match their intensity. She looked away, to the seas which were dark red and churning. “Tell me then, Vaala of Khitomer... are you here to bargain with me, or threaten me... or do you believe begging like a filthy targ to be your best chance of escaping your fate?” Vaala felt a shudder dance up and down both her spine. The Captain’s voice was as deep as the thunder that followed the flashes of lightning that cracked and boomed all around them. “I... I don’t know...! All I know is that I don’t deserve to be here -- this isn’t... this isn’t my time! I’m not supposed to be d-dead!” She whined, her voice becoming pleading. “S-so... bargaining, begging or threats... which one works best...?” A hopeful edge forming in her tone. “... bribery, maybe?” The Captain gave a low, hollow laugh that forced Vaala to immediately recognise the folly of what she had said. “None of those things have ever worked,” the gargantuan Captain boomed, the last of his grim mirth fading as lightning flashed all around. “... I’ve heard but I do so much love when they beg...” A faint noise, coming with the thunder in the distance, carried a single questioning word to her. “Vaala...?” She twisted her head, trying to hear the strange voice. The storm loomed over the ship now, the wind blowing against the sails so hard she thought they might break. Vaala whirled back to the Captain, despair painted on her face. “Look, I don’t know, okay?! All I know is... all I know is that I’m not meant to be here! This is a mistake!” “They all say that,” the Captain retorted in his mighty voice, “or words to that effect... but that’s all they are. Words... as full of passion and thunder as the storm, but with as much meaning.” But there was a meaning in the thunder. Vaala could hear it more clearly, now -- a voice calling through the crack-rumble of lightning strikes. “Vaala...? Vaala, can you hear me?” Waves crashed against the sides of the barge. Vaala had to grasp hold of the railing near the wheel with both hands to avoid being tossed off her feet. “Look, Mister Captain, I don’t know what to say to you -- but I’m not like the others! I’m not! I’m different!” The Captain ignored her now, casting his eyes around the roaring seas, seeming nonchalant in the face of the boat rocking itself near to capsizing. “The winds roar this day,” he commented, flashing Vaala a smile full of teeth, “perhaps you’re right.” Vaala opened her mouth to answer, but instead it was filled with the dark red seawater. Spluttering and coughing the clumsy Klingon lost her grip on the railing and with a shriek she was swept off her feet, tumbling head over heels as she was dragged inexorably towards the side of the ship. “Ensign, we’re not on Eden anymore... we’re back on the ship!” With a crash she hit the side, her hands scrabbling wildly as she tried to grab hold of the railing. Her fingers on one hand found it, holding onto the wood with all her strength, her legs dangling overboard. “I don’t know what you mean!” she cried to the wind, salt water spraying into her face, blinding her. “I don’t know who you are!” “Ensign, it was a temporal disturbance! We’re safe now!” She did not feel safe at all, her tenuous grip on the ship’s railing the only thing keeping her from being swept overboard. “I’m not safe! I’m not safe at all! Help me! Help! Help...!” Her fingers weakened and, with a shriek she lost her grip and was carried into the churning red sea. ***** She woke to the shaking of her shoulders. “Ensign? Ensign Vaala...? Wake up...!” Her eyes flew open and, once again, she sat bolt upright -- but this time her ridged forehead smacked into the face of the fresh-face cadet who was shaking her. James Huntington, a blonde security cadet whom she had been intending on introducing herself to before the ship went through the wormhole. Went through the wormhole... then crashed on the planet they had called Eden. Years had passed... then she had been stabbed to death during a crew mutiny. Or not, as the case was apparently. Huntington extended his hand, helping the large Klingon woman to her feet. “Sorry for shaking you so hard, I didn’t know how to wake you up...” Vaala, her nerves shot, just gave a nervous smile. “Uhh- no problem, thank you... Cadet.” James nodded again, then departed, leaving Vaala alone in her office. Sitting on her chair, Vaala drew her knees close to her chest, mulling over what she had experienced. Death, in all its horrid and exquisite pain, followed by a near visit to Grethor... it seemed no matter what she did, she would die a coward and Sto-Vor-Kor would be denied to her. As she sobbed quietly in her office, pondering this and all its various implications, Vaala swore she could hear the faint howl of the wind and a distant rumble of faraway thunder.
  16. ((Somewhere on the Surface of Thracia II)) ::A stiff wind blew through the baring trees, shedding more of the dying leaves from the brittle branches and bringing with it a chill that permeated the air surrounding the silently moving predator. With darkness falling, it would have been difficult to see the black hair billowing behind her head like smoke from a growing blaze, unless of course you knew just what you were looking for. To the prey she stalked, her silent movements went unnoticed as it continued to gather what it would need to survive the coming winter.:: ::With speed and agility that came naturally to the woman who darted through the trees and across the blanket of dead leaves spread over the hillside ground, Ili'kai approached her prey from a downwind angle. Sharpened spear in hand, her graceful movements finally brought her in range of the large rodent-like creature. Pulling the spear back in the same manner her mother had taught her, she took one last aim at the animal and sent the weapon sailing through the air.:: ::As her fingertips let their grip fade, the creature finally looked up to see the hunter, but by then it was already too late. An almost sickening cry erupted from it as the spear found its mark and took a life that had been there only moments before. With a sigh, the woman moved next to her kill and fell on her knees whispering towards the first stars that began to appear in the ever darkening sky above.:: ((Warbird Rinoaul - In Orbit of Thracia II)) ::The Thracian Alliance has officially been born. With the transition of the Vauthil to the command of Commander Kital Creena, and the apparent retreat of the Klingons from the border world's orbit, the newly born, interstellar power could begin to gain a foothold in one of the most contested and hostile regions of space known to the galaxy - the Neutral Zone that lay between the Klingon Empire's territory and that which once belonged to the Romulan Star Empire.:: ::With help from the Federation, war over the mineral rich planet below had been averted. Despite the apparent direction in which the Alliance would head, the Commander of the Starfleet ship which had been dispatched to negotiate the contested region had finally stood behind the third option once it had been presented. Not wanting the world to be either Klingon or Romulan, and rightly so due to its location, the raven haired officer had backed up the Thracian Fleet which had been disguised in the cloak of the Romulan predecessors to whom the ships had once belonged.:: ::The destruction of Hobus had changed everything and the move to bring together a sect of Romulans with a group of Velorians and Ameoneians seemed promising for all involved. Now they had created the fledgling Alliance, with their first task to be implementing mining operations on the untouched planet below. The world was rich in minerals, and it would bring plenty of income to the new Alliance, but there was still one small issue to take care of. Far below the Rinoaul, on the surface of the primitive world, was a proto-Vulcan race that had not yet achieved industry let alone space travel.:: ::It was an issue that would need dealing with, but not one that would slow the new Thracian Alliance down.:: ((Somewhere on the Surface of Thracia II)) ::Standing on the edge of a rock that jutted farther into the sky than those surrounding it, as if reaching for the very stars she watched, Ili'kai pulled the heavy cloth hanging off her shoulders closer around her thin frame. The first chill of winter could be felt here much more starkly than it could below in the forest. The lack of trees on the rocky ledge permitted the whipping winds to race the birds along the mountaintops as they sought shelter as they would from a coming storm.:: ::The same feeling that sent the animals deeper into the darkness set an uneasy feeling about her. Though the rock she stood on, Stormwatch, was named for its vantage point that gave her people the ability to see, and thus prepare ahead of time, for the coming storms sent by the gods, this night she saw nothing but clear skies. Night spread across the lands, snuffing the last of the daylight and sending the sun into exile until day would break once more on the other side of the sky. The stars appeared, twinkling into existence one by one as the sky grew darker and the last remnants of the day were lost forever. There were no signs of a storm, yet the winds carried with them a new voice; whispers of change that promised something sinister she couldn't quite understand.:: ::Things were simple for her and her people. The same events came year after year, season after season, with very little changing the lands around the villages that thrived along the river they knew as Mirak. It was the water that brought life and provided them with the creatures that they hunted. It gave them a mode of transport and refreshment on the warmest of the summer days. Winters weren't easy, but the river allowed life to thrive through the cold as long as you had the tools to break through the surface to the flowing water below the ice.:: ::Traditions had been passed from mother to daughter since antiquity. Ili'kai was proof of those traditions. Now standing on the rock that had been known as the guardian and lookout point, where her people sent scouts to catch the very first tendrils of danger that might be heading their way, what amounted to the princess of the Paytora people sought to figure out just what danger that might be. There were no visible signs of it, but the feeling that was eating away at her wouldn't let her give up and take her recent kill home without searching for something deeper.:: ::Again, the dark haired woman with the pointed ears pulled her primitive cover closer around her body to block out the shrill stab of the cold wind, watching as the trees below her in the valley swayed in the growing silence. It was then, as yet another wave moved across the ocean of half bare trees below, that she noticed it.:: ::Far above the few traces of clouds that floated through the night sky, a single point of light appeared to move from one side of the sky near the horizon to a place directly above her. The woman let out a gasp and sunk instinctively to her knees. Taking shelter in the small bushes that grew here and there among the rocks, Ili'kai watched the light as it moved into the distance and disappeared.:: ((Thracian Survey Shuttle - Enroute to the Surface of Thracia II)) ::Cytara Tren, Sub-Commander and Commanding Officer of the now Thracian Alliance Warbird Rinoaul sat back in the chair and watched as the terrain of the planet came into view. It was still very far below them, but she was able to make out a river here and there between seas of various greens, a teal-blue ocean to the east, and some kind of darkened forest in the south. The scientists on the ship had told her of a few small colonies, if that's what you could call them, positioned along the biggest of the rivers. It was here that the primitive race lived.:: ::Mining equipment was already being arranged for transport to the surface. In fact, as soon as day arrived on this side of the planet, the operation was set to begin. However, history had a way of repeating itself, and so Cytara was sent to head off any problems the natives might cause. They might have been primitive, but when you were fighting for your right to exist, strength seemed to find its way to you. It was her job, then, to ensure that strength did not find its way to these people, in this time.:: ::Along the river the shuttle went, getting closer to the surface as it passed one village. A few minutes later it passed another. Things went on like this until the river met a much larger body of water and poured its heart and soul into the sea; a sea that would soon turn red with the blood of the dying world. With a stoic gaze, Cytara watched as the shuttle turned around and lined up for another pass along the river. The effects of the mining operation were of no consequence to her. After all, it was not the Romulans or the new Thracians, who maintained the so-called Prime Directive, and as her mind was only concerned with the wellbeing of her people, the images of the blood red water didn't bother her.:: ::Lower to the surface now, the shuttle sped along, racing up the snaking river as its occupants, mostly science personnel from the Rinoaul, took note of sensor readings, village locations, and mineral rich deposits. In nearly every case, village locations coincided with mineral rich areas, a theory that had come to light while the team had still been on the larger ship above. Now that it had been confirmed, it was time for Cytara to decide on how to relocate the natives without causing too much of a stir.:: ::While her first reaction would be to just get rid of them, the Thracian Alliance was decidedly not the Romulan Star Empire. As such, the game would have to be played a bit differently than if Hobus had still been around. Besides, there was something to be said about native labor. The less they would have to do themselves, the easier the process promised to be. Not only would these native people know the land and any dangers that lurked within, but they would surely be awed by the technology that Cytara and the Alliance would bring with them. Yes; that would be the best way of dealing with the problem of these people that, to her, didn't even have a name.:: ::Perhaps her mind was running away with her, but she envisioned a welcome that the very gods would receive if there had been any. Sure, she knew better, but would the native people of the planet know better? With looks that were similar to the proto-Vulcan race, becoming their religious icons seemed like the path of least resistance and something that she could truly enjoy. Her aspirations within the Romulan military had been dashed with the destruction of their main star, but perhaps she could regain something with her command of the mining operations on Thracia II.:: ::A small, somewhat repugnant smile appeared on her face as she continued to look out the front window of the survey shuttle. Her hands clasped in her lap, plans of her godly 'homecoming' were already coalescing in her mind.:: ((On Top of 'Stormwatch' - The Surface of Thracia II)) ::With the passing of the dancing light in the sky, a sight that Ili'kai took as a sign from the gods above, the land grew eerily still. The sky was still devoid of clouds, yet the calm of the wind, the ground, and the life of the surrounding forest seemed to point directly at an oncoming storm. She was beyond confused now, wondering not only what the strange light in the sky had been, but what the reason was behind the stillness of that night. It felt as if something were coming, though she could not even begin to speculate as to just what it was.:: ::The soft rustle of a nearby bush pulled her eyes from the sky as the head of a large cat-like creature emerged slightly to watch her. A soft smile graced her features and she knelt down to pat it's head. Distracted with her loyal pet, who also refused to step out into the open, Ili'kai never saw the approaching shuttle as it raced along the course of the Mirak river. The wind seemed, for a moment, to pick up, blowing the long dark hair from around her shoulders and out behind her, but she gave that moment and all of her attention to the seemingly fearful animal hiding in the bush.:: ::It was often the timing of the universe that made things as they were, and in this moment, things were no different. As Ili'kai knelt near her beloved pet, whispering tranquil thoughts to him, a deep rumbling sound grew in the distance. Seconds later, the sound grew into a thundering roar as a huge flying creature rushed over Stormwatch. Not having the time to hide, the woman found herself alone again, left with her confusion and fear as she watched the strange bird dart into the distance.:: ::There was a moment where she knelt frozen, unsure of what action to take or even if she had really seen what she had just seen. The creature, having disappeared along the river, left her in near total silence and even the wind calmed beyond the norm. It seemed as if a specific calm, one that preceded the worst of the squalls, had settled; she had to warn her people of the danger that rode on the wind that eve. Though she was still unsure of just what that danger was, they needed to prepare for the coming storm.:: ::Tying the worn in cloth around her shoulders, the agile legs of the Peytora princess carried her quickly through a forest that was far more silent than it should have been. The land itself, along with all of its inhabitants, were preparing for the tempest that was building just out of their sight. Ili'kai knew now that her people needed to do the same, and quickly, if they were to survive.:: ::Her momentum carried her into her village with an air of panic about her. Walking to the elders hall and not speaking to any as she did, the raven haired woman threw open the doors and locked eyes with her mother. There was fear in those eyes, as well as a look that conveyed the dreadful nature of what she had seen. It was only when the great hall fell silent at her abrupt entrance that she spoke.:: "A storm is coming on the wings of a giant eagle," her voice sounded ominous, proclaiming the dire news. "We must prepare." -- Commander Kalianna Nicholotti Commanding Officer Starbase 118/USS Victory
  17. “Some of the most beautiful things in the galaxy are also the most dangerous.” “What was that, Captain?” “Nothing.” The Captain and First Officer of the USS Dionysus were looking at the viewscreen. In front of their ship, a deadly but gorgeous plasma storm raged in the depths of deep space. The helmsman, Lieutenant Brax, sat in awe of the wondrous display of nature’s fury. They had picked up a distress call from a Bolian freighter while they were on a routine survey mission only a few light years away. It appeared to be caught in the storm, but they weren’t answering any hails. The sensors couldn’t get a clear enough reading to detect life signs, and transporting wasn’t an option. Maneuvering the big Galaxy-class starship into a position to assist wouldn’t be easy, either. The Captain decided on a third option. “Lieutenant Brax, Commander Rozan, meet Doctor Selak in the main shuttlebay,” ordered Captain Dantes. The two bridge officers got up from their stations at helm and ops, respectively. They nodded at the two command officers, and headed for the turbolift. “Main shuttlebay,” Rozan told the computer. The turbolift began moving, and before long the pair were in the main shuttlebay. The Chief Medical Officer was already in the Rhine, a Danube-class runabout. A craft small enough to maneuver through the field of unstable plasma outside, yet strong enough to survive any stray hits they might take. The Doctor was seated at the starboard aft station. Brax took the helm, and Rozan sat beside him. “Rhine to Bridge, we are ready to depart,” Rozan stated. “You are clear for departure,” came the voice of one of Rozan’s subordinates. The shuttlebay doors opened, and Brax eased the runabout off the landing pad and into space. He piloted the small craft deftly toward the plasma storm. “I’m taking her in,” Brax announced. The runabout crossed the threshold of the plasma storm and began to head for the coordinates of the Bolian freighter. Their sensors were down, so Brax had to rely on his keen sense of direction to remember where the freighter was. At the same time, he had to ensure the ship remained safe. The ride was a bit bumpy, so Rozan was about to adjust the inertial dampeners when Brax asked him not to. “I need to fly by feel in here, visibility is poor and the sensors are useless.” Rozan nodded and left the dampeners at their default setting. There was a great swirl of colors outside, but Brax was too occupied to notice the beauty of his surroundings. An arc started to form in their path, it would hit the runabout almost instantly. Brax reacted without thinking, he rolled the runabout 90 degrees to port and pitched down at a 45 degree angle from the path of the arc. They just missed it. The second time they weren’t so fortunate. A bolt hit them from starboard. Brax had no way of seeing it, but they all felt it. The runabout jerked violently to port. Without sensors, it was difficult for Brax to determine how far off course they were. The gasses outside were in such a state of flux that Brax wasn’t even sure which direction the Dionysus lay in, let alone the Bolian freighter. He kept his concerns to himself, however, and adjusted his heading using only intuition. He hoped the proximity sensor was still working, as that was the only way they’d know if they reached the freighter. They could be in the plasma storm for weeks if Brax wasn’t able to pinpoint the freighter. He turned to the Commander. “Is there anything you can do to get me sensors of some kind, it’s not going to be easy to find that freighter.” “I’ll see what I can do.” Rozan fiddled with the console in front of him, attempting various frequencies, bandwidths, compressions, and a variety of algorithms. Finally, he came up with a plan. “This runabout is equipped with several Class-1 probes. I think if I can modify three of them to emit a subsonic pulse, and do the same to the runabout’s sensors. We can send out short-range pulses and listen for a return. It’ll be crude, but it should be enough to triangulate a solid object.” “Sonic pulses? Sounds like sonar. Sound needs an atmosphere,” the Doctor chimed in skeptically. “Sonar, yeah, and we’re surrounded by gasses as well as plasma, they should be able to carry low frequency sound.” “Intriguing.” Rozan set about making the modifications to the probes, while the Doctor lent a hand in making modifications to the Rhine’s own sensors. Brax kept the ship as still as he could while dodging the occasional discharge. He found a fairly quiet place in the storm to wait to launch the probes when Rozan was ready. Before long, Rozan returned from modifying the probes, and launched them in three directions to begin a triangulation procedure. “Probe one is picking up a solid object, bearing 010 mark 191. Adjusting other probes to close in on the source. We should move the runabout in closer.” “Aye, sir,” Brax responded. Brax set the course and began to move the runabout toward the reading. Soon the subsonic pulse of all three probes and the runabout were picking up the same object. They were still a bit far from it, but they were closing on the source along with the probes. “Got it!” Rozan exclaimed. “I see it.” The Bolian freighter came into view through the window at the front of the runabout. Brax slowed down and maneuvered into docking position. He engaged the clamps and extended the docking seal. “We’re docked, Commander.” Rozan nodded and attempted a scan of the interior. “I’m not getting a clear reading of the interior, recommend EV suits until we’re sure they have atmosphere and gravity.” The trio donned their EV suits and climbed into the airlock. Lieutenant Commander Rozan was the first to go. The three men were all armed, just in case. They didn’t expect any trouble, but they couldn’t be certain. Rozan opened up the hatch to the Bolian freighter and they entered the ship. The artificial gravity net was working, and life support seemed to be functioning, although the lights appeared to be offline. Doctor Selak got out his tricorder and began to scan the interior of the vessel while the other two drew their phasers and checked the immediate vicinity. They found no trace of life. “I can’t be sure if the tricorder is working, but I’m not picking up any life signs,” the Doctor stated. He tapped a few buttons on his tricorder, “if I’m reading this correctly, there appears to be an unusual radiation signature aboard the ship. It doesn't appear to be dangerous, but I recommend minimizing our exposure. We should split up and search the vessel for survivors before returning. I suggest we not remain here longer than needed.” Rozan signaled his agreement, and the three split up to search the ship. Lieutenant Brax was the first to see something, but he couldn't be sure what it was. He scanned the area with his tricorder. He could have sworn he saw something moving, but the tricorder registered no bio signs, nothing but that strange radiation. There was a jolt to the ship, followed by a bright flash and a shower of sparks as a power conduit took a direct hit from a plasma discharge. The lights on Brax’s EV suits went out, and his tricorder went dead. He tried signaling the other two officers, but to no avail. He heard the clattering of metal hitting the deck, and he swung around to face the noise. There was another jolt, another discharge, and more sparks. The brief moment of light let him see what had caused the sound. A Bolian was shambling toward him. A wave of fear washed over the Lieutenant. Suddenly, power restored to his suit and he could see the Bolian moving closer. His mouth appeared to be bleeding, and he looked to be in bad shape. He scanned the man with his tricorder, but it sensed nothing from him but that inexplicable radiation. Whoever, or whatever, was coming toward him did not register as alive on his tricorder. He activated his external comm. “We’re here to help, we’re from a Starfleet vessel just outside the plasma storm, we picked up your distress call.” The Bolian responded by screaming and lunging at him. Brax reacted quickly, firing his phaser at the man and knocking him back. This only seemed to anger the Bolian. He charged Brax again. Brax fired again and the Bolian halted long enough for Brax to up the setting. He set it to the highest stun setting and fired again. The man went down, but to Brax’s surprise, got right back up. Brax increased the setting to maximum and vaporized the Bolian. Brax signaled his two crew mates over the comm. “Brax to Selak and Rozan, I’ve had a run-in with what might have been a member of the crew... I think. I had to vaporize him to get him off me.” There was no response, so he tried again. And again. After several tries to reach them, he scanned for their comm signals. He picked up Rozan’s signal first, and set off in search of him. It didn’t take long to find him, or what was left of him. Three Bolians were surrounding Rozan. His EV suit was torn open, as was his stomach. His guts were partially strewn across the deck, and partially in the mouths of the Bolians. Brax vaporized the three Bolians without a thought. He tried to reach the Doctor again, but all he got was static. Without warning, he felt an incredible urge to take off his helmet. Without thinking, he did. He immediately smelled the stench of rotting flesh and the after-scent of vaporization. He tried to put his helmet back on, but instead he tossed it down the corridor. Slowly, the scent of rotting flesh subsided, and all he could smell was Doctor Selak. He dropped his equipment clumsily and began to walk towards the scent of Doctor Selak. He could barely control his legs. He shambled forward at a slow but steady pace. From out of nowhere, two Bolians joined him in the search for the Doctor. At some point, Brax’s eyes had grown strangely adept at seeing without light. He moved on instinct. He felt an incredible hunger, and somehow he knew that only the Doctor could satisfy him. He found the Doctor in one of the cargo bays. There were no lights on the Doctor’s EV suit: all the power was drained from his equipment. Several dead Bolians lay at his feet, their heads bashed in by the metal pipe the Doctor was holding. Brax suddenly felt overcome with rage. The Bolians and Brax rushed the Doctor, who saw their movement at the last moment. He swung the metal pipe with all his might and managed to bash the head of the Bolian to Brax’s right. The Bolian to his left made a terrible scream, and Brax was unable to stop himself from doing the same. The hollow screams echoed through the empty cargo hold. Brax and the remaining Bolian lunged at the Doctor, and tore at his EV suit. The Doctor struggled, but Brax and the Bolian overpowered him. They were soon through his suit and uniform, and the strong scent of fresh food filled Brax's nostrils. Selak made an unholy scream, and Brax and the Bolian replied with a horrible, screeching scream of their own. Despite Brax's focused willpower, there was nothing he could do to keep from tearing through the Doctor's flesh and gathering a handful of intestines. The Bolian and him feasted on the Doctor. As they ate, Brax’s consciousness drifted away. He felt a sense of floating, he looked down and saw himself. His body was still eating the Doctor, but he wasn’t looking through his own eyes. He could still taste the Doctor's gore. There was a bright flash as another power conduit erupted in a shower of sparks, and then everything went dark. All Brax could feel was cold. He saw nothing, heard nothing, eventually the taste of fresh blood faded from his mouth as well. He tried to look around, but all he saw was black. Then, even the sense of cold faded. One final scream echoed through the hollow chamber, and then there was nothing. Ensign Damian Fleming Helm Officer USS Mercury
  18. As the shimmering effect of the transporter diminished Tal glanced around. He was surrounded by the densest jungle on the planet which when you consider that the planet was Duronis II was pretty dense. The small clearing he was in existed only because of the waterfall and smooth exposed rock surrounding it. But the tranquil beauty of the location was not why he was here. Tal barely noticed it and then only to notice the absence of foul smells. That was the hardest thing for him to adjust to living on a planet as backwards as this one. The underlying stench of so many people crammed into one small area along with all the other smells, putrid and otherwise that assailed his antenna every time he left the Embassy and entered the city proper. No, he was here to relax and for him that meant the absence of people and technology. Fortunately finding a place to get away from it all was not that hard to do. He would have preferred a nice desert or even some frigid arctic wasteland but the first was almost totally missing from this world and the second was hardly worth considering. So here he was, deep in the heart of the largest jungle on the planet, about to enjoy 3 days away from it all. His antenna twitched to the buzzing of numerous flying insects. They flocked to him as he dropped his backpack and started to get undressed. A few even went so far as to bit him hoping he would satisfy their hunger. In that regard they were sorely disappointed. His alien Andorian blood was to chemically different from the native version for them to be able to digest it. In fact most of the insects that bit him died soon after as the white blood cells from his blood attacked their systems. Finished undressing Tal neatly folded his uniform and packed it into a small pouch that he then sealed shut. He slipped his communications badge into the outer pocket, placed in on the rock surface next to his backpack and then turned away, running the few yards to the edge of the rock where he flung himself out into the deep pool at the base of the water fall. He surfaced, enjoying the cool feeling of the water against his skin. After swimming for a while he climbed out and got dressed. His clothes a drastic change from his normal uniform, especially the savage looking knife on his belt. Now all he had to do was find a place to string up his hammock and then find something to eat and he would be set for the night. A slight smile drifted across his face as he anticipated the welcome challenges awaiting him. ************************************* The rain poured down, a torrential flood of rain that reduced visibility to less than a dozen feet. Even here under the trees at the edge of the clearing where he had been staying he was drenched. His shirt was plastered to his skin and water ran down his face, dripping from his nose and chin in a continual never ending cycle. Most people would have been annoyed, maybe even irritated. Most would have curled into some kind of rain gear and tried to cower under some kind of shelter but not Tal. He merely leaned back, letting his body settle back into the soft cradle that was his hammock. Suddenly his antenna twitched and his eyes opened. He sat up again and looked around. Something was wrong. A sudden flash of light was quickly followed by a booming crash of thunder. The sound and vibration in the air caused his antenna to suddenly lay back against his skull. For a few moments he was practically blind, his enhanced sense of hearing neutralized. Tal rolled out of the hammock and dropped to the ground. As he did a sudden flash of light streaked across the clearing and almost cut his hammock in half. Instantly Tal rolled deeper into the jungle, away from who ever had just tried to kill him. He crouched in the dark, most of his body under the large drooping fronds of some native fern plant. His keen eyes scanned the clearing, seeking any sign of movement. However it was his antenna that warned him of movement. Someone was behind him, creeping closer. Tal remained motionless, except for his eyes. Time seemed to stand still as he waited. Lighting flashed again, followed by another powerful crash of thunder. Still nothing. Suddenly Tal spotted the man just as another flash of lightning lit up the area. He held a scanner in one hand and some kind of energy pistol in the other. As soon as Tal spotted him, he moved. His legs acted like a spring to power him up and out, thrusting him rapidly towards the man as he started to swing his weapon towards him. Just as his finger tightened on the trigger, Tal smashed a devastating uppercut right into his jaw. It was powered by his entire body and he felt a sickening crack as the man’s jaw shattered. He dropped, out cold before he even hit the ground. Tal glanced around quickly. No movement, except for the pounding rain. Turning his attention to the man, Tal realized he was Romulan. Young, fit, wearing typical jungle fatigues and armed with a knife, disruptor pistol and scanner. Tal searched him quickly and removed all his gear, including a small signal transponder that would allow a cloaked ship to lock on and transport him away. Puzzled Tal wondered why they had attacked him. True he had meddled into their attempts to influence the local political elections, but this was to well planned for it to be any of the local Romulans. No, unless Tal was very mistaken this guy was either some specially trained soldier or a member of the Tal Shiar. Either way he was not alone. The first shot had come from in front of him, not behind. Now that he knew it was Romulans he also could be fairly sure that there were 4 more of them sneaking around looking for him. Tal quickly searched him again, glad that he did when he found a small communications device. He added it to the rest of the gear and then moved all it out of sight under the large fern he had been hiding under. Finished he eased into the jungle, moving silently, all his senses alert for the others. It took a while. Longer than he had expected but they were obviously being very careful. It did not help as Tal disarmed the man easily. Next he tried to pull his knife but Tal grabbed his wrist and held him still while hammering a few blows into his chin and face. Suddenly his knees gave way and he dropped to the ground. Just like the last one he searched and removed all his weapons and equipment. Then he took it with him as he slipped off into the undergrowth. As soon as he could he hid the stuff, then he continued his search. This time he almost blundered into one of them. His senses warned him in time to throw himself forward. Even with that his left shoulder exploded into agony as it was partially hit with a grazing shot. For the next 10 minutes he was on the run. Constantly ducking and weaving, barely staying ahead of the enemy fire. Finally he managed to work his way over to where the river ran through the jungle. As soon as he got there he dove in. The cool water felt fantastic, it almost instantly started to relieve the tingly, burning sensation where he had been hit. It also let him break contact with the enemy. As he swam upstream towards the waterfall he allowed himself to think back over the previous mad dash through the jungle. Had he been shot at by 2 or 3 individuals. It took him a few seconds, but the more he thought about it the more he was sure it had only been 2. Once he reached the edge of the clearing where the waterfall was, Tal moved to the bank and was about to climb out when 2 men entered the clearing. As before they both had disruptors and scanners. Quickly he took a deep breath and forced himself under, pulling himself along until he got to a spot where the water was more than 6 feet deep with in a couple feet of the bank. The whole time he kept looking up. Waiting. Suddenly he spotted them. They had just walked up to the bank and seemed to be arguing about something. Tal took advantage of their momentary distraction and propelled himself out of the water. Reaching out with his long arms and grasping their shirts in an iron fingered grip. After that it was simple to yank them both into the water and hold them under till they finally stopped struggling. Instantly he surfaced, took a deep breath and then hauled both of them out of the water. He turned them over, face down on the smooth rock surface and applied pressure until they both expelled the water in their lungs. His antenna leaned forward, searching for some indication they were breathing. He caught the faint rasp of indrawn air seconds before he flung himself forward over them towards a grassy section of ground. Tal turned to look up at another man. His face was a strange mask of rage and anger. In his hand he held a savage looking knife. He paced forward, his brown eyes gleaming with deadly intent. Tal could tell he was an expert hand to hand fighter. The way he held the knife, moved, it all spoke of years of practice and training. He moved closer, his balance superb. His eyes watchful as the tip of his blade kept shifting, never still, masking his intent until the last second. He lunged, flipped the blade to the opposite hand, slid forward and thrust, aiming for Tal’s eyes. At the last second Tal slapped the blade away, moving in close as he did. It flashed by his head missing by a slim fraction. Tal surged ahead, slamming his elbow into his head. It rocked him, forcing him to take a step back as he tried to stab his fingers into Tal’s face. Tal followed up with a punishing uppercut to the jaw and ended it with a spinning kick. He sucked air into his lungs, calming his breathing as he moved forward and made sure the man was out cold. Only then did he search him. As soon as he was done he searched the other two, made sure they were both still breathing. The one moved slightly, trying to rollover. Tall lifted him and struck swiftly. A controlled strike that instantly knocked him out cold. Looking around Tal collected all their technology, placed it into one pile and when he was done he went and retrieved the other two men and their gear. Tal then retrieved his backpack and loaded all their gear into it. All he left them was their knives. By the time he was done it had stopped raining. From the looks of things dawn would soon be here. Tal undressed, wiped himself down and retrieved the bundle with his uniform in it. As soon as he was dressed Tal replaced his communications badge on his chest and activated it. =/\= Cmdr. Tel-ar to the USS Thunder. Beam me up. =/\= =/\= Understood sir. Just be a minute. =/\= While he waited for them to transport him back up to the ship Tal stood calmly waiting with his backpack in his hand. Then he vanished to reappear aboard the ship. Looking around he saw the transporter chief smile just as he asked a question. “So sir. Did you have a good vacation?” “Yes Ensign. I did enjoy myself.” As he said it a slight ghost of a smile drifted across his features. “Glad to hear it sir. Take care.” “I plan to Ensign.”Tal replied just before he turned and left the room. Out in the corridor he activated his communications badge as he walked towards his security. =/\= Cmdr. Tel-ar to the bridge. =/\= =/\= Yes sir. Lt. Michaels here. =/\= =/\= Lt. I want you to place a mark III jamming satellite in space over the location where I was beamed up from. =/\= =/\= A mark III? =/\= =/\= Yes Lt. Schedule it for retrieval in a month. =/\= =/\= Ok Sir. May I ask why? =/\= =/\= Pest control Lt. After all even pests deserve a vacation. Tel-ar out. =/\=
  19. It was the same dream he’d had over and over again. Night after night, he always awoke in a pool of sweat, and sometimes blood. The latest laceration to his arm was healing in good fashion, but he still didn’t know how it got there. Jameson stood and gathered himself after this night’s nightmare. He didn’t understand. There were times in his life that weren’t the best that might have left a mark so to speak on his soul. He stood in the mirror looking at his face. It’d grown a bit wearier as of late. We all have those, don’t we? He splashed some water over his face as he thought to himself, only the light of the sink area to fill that small portion of the room. We all have things we can’t escape, right? He let out a long breath. Making his way over to the replicator, he went to order, but couldn’t make the words come. He couldn’t think at all, not even in the slightest. This nightmare was probably the worst one yet. He picked up his commbadge off the table next to his rack. “Ensign Jameson to Counselor Latrelle…” The voice on the other end was more than likely the only comfort he could receive as of late. “ Go ahead Ensign…” He paused for a moment… “Sir, it happened again. I need to speak with you as soon as you have the time.” The counselor replied with an unexpected one, “Most certainly, why don’t you come now.” “Sir, It’s three in the morning…” Jameson didn’t know why he said that. After all, he was the one who called the counselor. “I understand that Ensign, but to be quite frank, I believe you’re passed the point of appointments. Just get down here.” “Aye Sir…” The young man stood up from the bed and began to don his uniform. He looked back in the mirror one last time, but what he saw made his gut sink. In the mirror looking back at him was a face devoid of flesh, with a dark mist surrounding it. The mist would suddenly break from time to time with bright reds and oranges, and the skinless face would be revealed. It seemed like it was there for an eternity, but as he fell to the floor in fear, the face was gone. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Counselor Latrelle brought up the Ensigns profile on his PADD and sat with a cup of coffee at his desk. He had been working with the young man for quite some time in regards to recurring nightmares and daydreams. It had affected his performance at his duty post, ultimately resulting in mandated retraining and counseling. He pulled up a section about the man’s childhood and saw that it was blank. He wasn’t sure just what the young man was hiding, but this evening, he intended to find out. He moved over to where the couch was situated near the window. He pulled the hypnotic inducers from their case and set them on the arm of the couch. The door chimed. “Come” he said as he sat back at the desk. The young Ensign entered the room and sat on the couch that he was so accustomed to these days. The counselor could see the weariness on the man’s face, and could feel the utter fear that radiated from every pour of his body. “Derek, I’m going to speak freely here, and as you know, you’re always welcome to do the same… But you look like [...]…” he stood and moved towards the couch to take a seat. “Sir, I, I don’t know what the hell is happening to me. It happened again tonight, the nightmare. The same one I’ve been having for the past three months. And, well something else happened right before I left my quarters.” He was starting to tense up. He was nervous and fearful of the words about to exit his mouth. “Go on…” “Well, right before I left, I saw myself from my dream in the mirror. It was, well it was as real as my frigging hand.” He held his hand up as if to demonstrate. Putting the ensign’s hand back from whence it came, “Take it easy. I assure you, it wasn’t as real as you think it was. The worst case scenario that we talked about last time, remember that? Well It’s happening. The imagined is starting to become reality. Whatever this is that’s bothering you is eating you whole Derek. I want to change your therapy slightly. I want to try hypnosis…” Ensign Jameson didn’t really know what to say. On one hand he became defensive and didn’t want any part of what the good counselor was suggesting, but on the other, he knew that the problem was getting worse, and he himself wasn’t going to be enough to solve the problem. “Alright… Alright let’s do it…” “Okay, just lie back on the couch and make yourself comfortable. I’m going to apply these hypnotic inducers. No pain. No stress. Just free your mind for a moment.” He placed the inducers, one on each temple. “Now… Take me to your dream. To the images in your mind. What’s bothering you?” ((Everything flashes to white then to black, and soon the room is filled with the images)) The room was suddenly transformed to a pasture with small children playing with farm animals. They were running about, and oddly enough, the counselor could pick out the Ensign among the others. This was his child hood. At once the sky flashed, and a visible division could be seen over the land. On one half of the division, the sun peaked over the horizon and loomed over fog filled valleys. The red orange and pink glow of the fluorescent wonder made him squint a bit as he squat down next to the young Derek. He looked all around in the area that spread behind the two. Singing birds, tall lush forest, and a cool, comforting breeze blew through the branches of the lumbering giants. He slowly turned back to the land that lay before them, but it was far darker. In the distance lay a blood red moon, quite vast and ominous. It hung in a starless sky, overlooking vast caverns and deep crevices. The land was pock-marked with ages of ware and tare. The trees that are ever present bare no foliage, no life in their many hands. They stood tall, broken and barren. It was an unforgiving place, a place that Counselor Latrelle cared not to wander. In the distance quite a few dark figures could be seen, standing, striking down the other children. They only marched forth in the dark part of the land, but the darkness was coming closer and closer with each passing second. The child version of Derek all at once was swept away by a tall man, more than likely the boy’s father, and placed nearby in a small rock cavern overlooking the once graceful pasture. The tall man turned to the Counselor and addressed him, “Standfast! The tempest has arrived! We must hold steady and fight for our freedom!” The counselor tried to speak to the man, but his words were lost in the now fast moving winds. The darkness was inching closer and closer, and soon enough it hit him. He looked up towards the darkness to slowly see the moon disappearing behind a vast wall of some sort. It was massive with all sorts of green luminescence and a mixture of metals. He tried to walk forward, but he felt so heavy. It was a feeling that will never bare an explanation of its presence. He looked down at the road where he stood. There was not a visible line per say, but in the grass where the two territories met there was a sort of energy. The light side of the pasture behind him was vibrant with many color stones and grass; small life scuttling about its luscious surface while the other side a blacker, bleaker area with no life upon its surface. He lifted a hesitant foot the light and staggered to the other side. He pulled the other foot in and began his journey into the dark towards what he surmised was Ensign Jameson’s harbinger of fear. You could see the wind. It was a dark haze that flew around everything, engulfing it. It was so strong that Latrelle had to bare forward to withstand it. The wind formed around his shape leaving trails in the distance, blowing fiercely. He looked down at his arms only to see his uniform stripping off in shreds, followed by the very skin of his arms as the wind blew more and more intensely. He had the feeling that he’d travelled farther than even the Ensign had prior to tonight, but it was his lack of fear that kept him safe. He was beginning to see the figures that were once distant. He recognized the figures… They were Borg. He saw the tall man, Derek’s father, standing next to one of the drones who’d assimilated him, bringing him to his ultimate end. It was all at once the Counselor knew what was plaguing the young man. ((The room returns to normal as he removes his own hypnotic inducers.)) Ensign Jameson sat upright on the couch, no realizing just what he was afraid of. He knew that there were parts of his past that he didn’t know too much about. He also knew that remnants of his family, every now and again, would speak of the Great Storm that destroyed his home-world. He never made the connection, was never strong enough to make the connection on his own, until now. “I know what plagues me…” Latrelle didn’t know how to relate to any of this. A whole childhood taken from the young man by such undeserving beings; a childhood and family, gone in the blink of an eye. He had been running from the memories for such a long time that he’d forgotten most of the remaining memories. They all lay suppressed and dormant for so long. It wasn’t until the ship’s first encounter with the Borg did any of the young man’s troubles begin. He should have taken the hint. Latrelle sat forward and embraced Derek. “As do I Derek. Derek, your homeworld was assimilated… The Great Storm, it was all the Borg, all along… I’m so sorry.” --- Ensign Viktor Lanius Intelligence Officer USS Apollo, NCC-71669
  20. Hello! Welcome to the March/April round of the Writing Challenge! Please read this post carefully for guidelines on entering your submissions! Following in challenge traditions, the March/April round uses an object chosen by the previous round's winner to decide its theme. Joining us on the judging panel for this round is the March/April winner, Lieutenant (jg) Velana, who has decided on the following topic for this round: "The Storm" With such a powerful image at the heart of this round's challenge, the judging team is eagerly anticipating the chance to read your interpretation and the story you create. We've seen literal and figurative interpretations of themes in previous rounds, so how you work the topic into your entry is up to you! Also, a new regular feature of these posts is the running score for the year to date in the fleetwide competition! With a winner from the Tiger-A and a runner up from the Mercury, it's Tiger-3, Mercury-1! Which of the other ships will respond this time? Guidelines: To participate, create a new thread. The subject of the thread must be the title of your story. Use the drop-down "topic prefix" box to add "MAR/APR" in order for your entry to be considered for judging. If it is a Work In Progress, denote that at the top of the post itself (in the body text, not in the thread title). As with last round it will be the final draft posted in your topic that will be read and taken into consideration. Any unfinished entries marked as Work In Progress will not be considered for judging and will be moved to the "Character Cafe" forum at the end of the contest. Your work must be entirely your own. No co-authoring. You are welcome to create any character you so desire, but they must be from the Star Trek universe. No "canon" characters allowed. (i.e.- No one who has been on a show.) Also, please remember to sign your final draft as you would a post on your own ship. Length: No more than 3000 words and no less than 300 words accepted. Beginning Date: Tuesday, March 6th Ending Date: Saturday, April 22nd See Also: the Writing Challenge Website Challenge: “The Storm” Good luck to all competitiors! Get scribbling!
  21. Kali Nicholotti

    JAN/FEB The Masks of Duty

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

    JAN/FEB *WINNER* Affectations

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

    JAN/FEB Klingon Mask

    Ba’Eli entered her room and tossed her jacket on the bed. She was exhausted and knew she had to do her duty. Rubbing her neck as she walked to the replicator, she tried to think of what to say to each of them. “Chai latte, hot.” She barked at the replicator. As it materialized she smiled softly at the smell of her favorite drink. She took the first sip of the warm liquid and her smile widened. Ba’Eli walked over to her console and sat down. She set her chai off to the side so he wouldn’t see it. She cleared her throat and called out. “Computer connect me to Sa’ K’tre on the planet.” The few seconds it took for the male Klingon to appear on screen, she brought her shoulders up and tossed her hair back, to better show her ridges. “nuqneH.” (What do you want) The male Klingon looked at her intensely. “rI’ father.” (Hail Father) She spoke harsh, no smile escaping her lips. She must wait for him to tell her it was ok to relax, but it appeared he was disgruntled. “qatlh ghaj tlhIH pong?” (Why have you called?) He growled. “mo’ iIj tIq. qaSuj’a’” (Due to your heart. Am I disturbing you?) She knew she needed to get right to the point with him. His recent heart attack had her concerned. Finally he smiled slightly and in his broken English he spoke. “Thank you daughter. I need rest but am hearty.” She returned the smile. “Good Father. I will beam down tomorrow and we can have lunch.” “Yes. Lunch.” He nodded. “Tomorrow then.” Klingons were people of little words. And with that the screen went blank. Ba’Eli stretched and took a sip of her now lukewarm chai. She sighed and thought of tomorrow. She loved her father but it was so much work to put on the Klingon Mask for him. Deciding she couldn’t handle writing her mother tonight, she headed for the bedroom, changed into her pj’s and began to wonder how she was going to bring up her new human boyfriend to her father. LT j.g Ba’Eli Science Officer USS Mercury
  24. Hi all! Once again we had a cracking amount of entries for the Writing Challenge last round - please spread the word around your crew and twist arms/bribe people to take part this time! Let's see if we can go for a record number of entries! Joining us on the judging panel for this round is Ensign Saveron, who has decided on the following topic for this round: "Out of the Mouths of Babes" Once again we have a nice, open topic that allows you a degree of freedom, and the potential for a hidden meaning. How will you work this into your story? Guidelines: To participate, create a new thread. The subject of the thread must be the title of your story. If it is a Work In Progress, denote that at the top of the post itself (in the body text, not in the thread title). As with last round it will be the final draft posted in your topic that will be read and taken into consideration. Any unfinished entries marked as Work In Progress will not be considered for judging and will be moved to the "Character Cafe" forum at the end of the contest. Your work must be entirely your own. No co-authoring. You are welcome to create any character you so desire, but they must be from the Star Trek universe. No "canon" characters allowed. (i.e.- No one who has been on a show.) Length: No more than 3000 words accepted. Beginning Date: Friday, March 4th Ending Date: Saturday, April 30th See Also: the Writing Challenge Website Challenge: “Out of the Mouths of Babes” Break a leg!
  25. Alleran Tan

    MAR/APR *WINNER* Faith

    "Faith" “Faith isn't faith until it's all you're holding on to." - Bajoran Proverb Musilla Provence Bajor Twenty four years ago "I know my mother's dead." Simple words spoken by a simple child. Tami looked up to the priest, the rags that the Cardassians charitably labelled 'clothing' dangling off her limply. Her toes were blue and black, the result of too many winter nights with too few blankets and shoes. The Vedek, concern flooding his face, placed an emaciated hand on the girl's earlobe and rubbed gently. "You're only nine," Vedek Antani Silari childed. "You don't have an understanding of these things. Children don't know what happens when people go to the Prophets... as a matter of fact, most adults don't either. It's something that takes a lifetime of wisdom to understand... and a completely picture is only obtained when you, yourself, pass." The girl tilted her head. She, unlike most children, didn't mind it when people rubbed her ear- it was a comforting feeling, something to remind her of her family and her life before she was bought to this camp. There wasn't much to remember- a few flashes of memory, a handful of words and phrases spoken by people she barely remembered. Words of courage as the plasma mortars fell around them, words of comfort for loved ones as endless Bajoran women and men went out to fight the Cardassians and never returned, words of strength when the dark times seemed entirely endless. "I know what happens when you go to the prophets," Tami replied, her tone sincere and flat- as though she were reciting some fact in her school's textbook. "The Cardassians take you and throw you in the incinerator they have in the middle of the camp." Another pause. "Is the incinerator some kind of portal to the prophets?" Antani looked shocked for a moment, his hand falling away from the child's ear. "Who told you that?" Tami blinked a few times, her face screwed up in confusion. "Nobody told me," she answered truthfully, "I saw the two guards- Zumarl and Izkadi- throw mother's body in there this afternoon. So I know what happens when you go. It's nothing like the stories you tell." Antani shook his head. "The journey to the prophets is... just a metaphor, child. The body is just a shell," he said, "Just a container for the soul. When a Bajoran dies, if they have been honest and true throughout their lives, their soul departs the body and it flies up towards the Celestial Temple. There, it's reunited with the prophets, to live forever with our creators." "Oh." It was a simple answer, but simply and precisely articulated Tami's feelings on this matter. Antani reached up and rubbed the child's ears again. "Look to the heavens, child. See all the stars?" Tami nodded. From somewhere else in the camp there was a shout, then a shriek, followed by the high pitched whine of a phaser. Then silence. Searchlights illuminated the far corner of the camp- it was another escape attempt. The Cardassian who had discovered the tunneler picked up the woman's body and began dragging it towards the central incinerator. The priest and the girl carried on as though nothing had happened. When the Vedek spoke, his voice was soft. "Those stars are the balconies of the Celestial Temple. From there, our ancestors- and our friends who knew us in life- can look down on Bajor and see all that we do. That's how they know if we've been just in our life, so that when we pass, we too may go to the Prophets and join them." Tami canted her head, looking upwards. "So my mother's up there watching me? Watching me right now?" The priest smiled, nodding his head. "I suspect that she is," he said, "At least... if the balconies are not too crowded this evening." The girl nodded thoughtfully. "Do you think they have a lot of food up there? Fresh water? Big, thick, fuzzy blankets?" Both she and he had become accustomed to the hunger, the thirst, the cold... but they both had memories of better times. Imagining the biggest, warmest blanket she could, the girl drew comfort from the thought- it didn't stop her little body from trembling, though, but she had become used to it. Every night was cold, some more than most, but you either survived or you died. Talking help keep you warm. "I'd imagine that they have everything their hearts desire," Antani replied, rubbing the little Bajoran's ear again. "Food, water, warmth and shelter..." There was another pause. "Are there Cardassians in the Celestial Temple?" The Vedek hesitated before answering. "The Temple allows access only to those who are good of heart," he explained, "So... it's not impossible for there to be a goodly Cardassian or two up there. But... I'd imagine there aren't many. And I'd imagine that there are fewer still drawn from those who... 'share'... our world." "Are there camp guards up there?" This the Vedek was certain of. "No, child." Tami nodded her head, seeming pleased. "That's good. I hope none of the other Cardassians up there turn into guards. I want my mother to get her food from the crops, or from a store, or a market... not from guards she has sex with." The Vedek's surprise was total now. "Tami, where did you hear that? Did your mother tell you what she was doing...?" Tami smiled, shaking her head. "Oh, no, I figured it out on my own. I'm not stupid. Children don't get separate rations, they're supposed to share their parents, but I'm nine now. I eat a lot." Her voice became sad. "I tried to eat as little as I could, but I get really hungry... and I know she had to find food somehow, since we somehow got extra whenever we needed it and there's not many ways you can get it around here. Mister Belaran told me that's how he got the extra rations for his sister, so I figured mum was doing the same thing." She sighed, shaking her head. "Besides, she would often come back to our cell late, with bruises- in places where people usually don't get bruises- and she'd cry a lot. It's a good thing dad's dead, or he might be sad." The little child smiled again, as though expecting the Vedek to be proud of her cleverness. "So, yeah. I figured it out on my own." She shuffled closer to the Vedek, trying to draw some warmth from his body. "I think mum did it so they would leave me alone..." The Vedek rubbed her ear again, gentle since he knew his fingers were bony and gaunt. The child was nine, yet knew so much about the dark place in which they had found themselves... far too much for a child of her age. "I can say this, Tami... nobody has any harm come to them in the Celestial Temple." "It sounds nice," said Tami, wistfully. The Vedek nodded. "It is. It's a paradise. Your mother has everything she ever wanted up there." "Not everything." Tami's voice was quiet, mournful even. "My mother doesn't have me. I know that she would want me over any food in the galaxy, any amount of water to drink or warm blankets to cover her... mum would want me over the biggest, most softest blanket that the northerners could make. She told me so herself." "I know she would. And, in time, you'll see her again." Tami nodded thoughtfully. ***** The pounding on the metal grew louder. Tami could hear it from where she was- a solid metal container, nearly four meters cubed, the floor covered in ash. "Blast it open! Hurry, curse you!" came a voice. Tami recognized it as the Vedek Antani. The girl smiled and pressed her face against the soot-covered transparent aluminum, looking at the mix of Bajoran and Cardassian faces that stared back at her. One of the Cardassian guards raised his voice in reply. "No. That's Cardassian property... it you damage it, it will be out of action for weeks- Gul Marev will have all of our heads." The original voice again, thumping on the metal with his weak, starved hands. "Tami! Tami, open the door this instant!" It WAS Antani. She could see the man was trying to open up the furnace door with his fingers, which were now missing their nails, broken and bleeding. "I want you to open this door right now!" The energy inside the furnace began to build and build, just as Tami knew that it would. She'd seen what the Cardassians had done to her mother after all. "It's okay," she said, smiling at them all. They looked so very frightened, angry, alarmed... but she felt perfectly at peace with the cosmos. "I'm going to see my mother." Antani pressed his face against the glass. "It's not your time, Tami. You're just a child!" Tami shook her head, giggling at the adults foolishness. "No, it's okay. Mother misses me- I'm going to see her. Don't worry. It's like you said- the body is just a container. Up there, there's food- there's water... there's blankets and warmth and everything I could ever want. And she's there, she wants me to come..." The timer she had set ticked down. Already she could feel the growing heat beneath her feet. She wiggled her partially frostbitten toes- it was the first time she'd been really warm in years. "You're going to die! Turn off the timer!" Tami smiled, closing her eyes. "I won't die, I'll go to the Prophets. That's what they told me- that's what YOU told me- and I believe it." A pause, now, as the energy buildup reached a crescendo. "I have faith." ***** She opened her eyes. It was surprisingly cool and white and air rushed past her- rushed through her. She felt herself fly through the atmosphere of Bajor, floating gracefully up into the night sky. She could see the bright pinpoint of light- the ignited furnace- far below her, but such mortal trivialities were behind her now. She left the planet's upper atmosphere and gasped in wonder at all the things around her, things she hadn't seen before- things nobody alive had seen. The pale white trails of souls heading away from Bajor and towards the welcoming gates of the Celestial Temple. The dark black streaks of the Pah-Wraiths, floating around in space, catching and punishing those unworthy of entering the Celestial Temple. None came close to her, however. Tami saw the faces of the dead, watching, smiling, from the stars... which ever so much resembled the balconies of a house. They called her name, crying happily, beckoning her towards the light. Then the doors of the Celestial Temple opened, and Tami saw the outline of her mother, arms outstretched, waiting for her. "I have faith," she repeated, throwing herself into her beaming mother's welcoming arms.
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