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  1. The Wind Knows a Song for the Ages Hot sand stung her face, and she pressed onward. Prohibitive gusts blowing in from the east set the whole group staggering, digging heels into loose sand, waving arms for balance, squinting desperately against searing, ancient, wind-tossed grit. The hoversleds rocked and tipped dangerously. Roupo, her timid lab assistant, looked around nervously, hoping Dr. Atell would call for them to turn back. Unless she made that call, no one else would dare. Dr. Atell pressed onward. The eastern desert plateau on Qor’na’Krinn stored the secrets of a long-dead civilization, of that Mina Atell was certain. It was the ion storms that had, for decades, prevented a closer look. Ions meant no beam-ins from orbit, and for anyone trying to get close to the planet’s secrets, no beam-ins meant a long walk across treacherous desert landscape in impossible conditions. To add trouble to trouble, the journey had to be made in a window of time when the storm broke and lifted partially from the atmosphere. Netrebkov had tried once and failed. So had Syrek years ago, and he had that heat-ready Vulcan constitution to draw on, beside the vast resources of Daystrom at his command. Dr. Mina Atell had none of that, but she had a passion, a deep, heart-breaking desire to see what was in that desert, and decades of research that bore what she thought was a new approach. She might have been nothing more than a fool, if her colleagues were to be believed, or Gregg, who had said it to her too, and whom she always believed, when she wasn’t tuning him out. It began a career ago, before those war years with their requisite sacrifice and complication, back when she wanted nothing but a rough shelter and a good dig under the twin umbrellas of Daystrom and the Archaeological Council. Mina was a graduate researcher then, working on i’Ttwan proto samples for Syrek. It was that famed Vulcan’s other project that interested her. She fought him to get on the Krinn study, but he refused her. She’d had to find her way back to it on her own, years later, after her career was made. After she’d left Daystrom for a research position on Trill, and said goodbye to Gregg one time too many, and finally did the work she wanted. She had found the gap in the storm, the way through. She could predict it, measure it, determine the longest interval and take a team in and out before it closed. She’d already gone further than Syrek ever had. Her team of eight was following her dutifully across a brutal landscape, pressing ever on into the unknown. This time, Qor’na’Krinn’s secrets would be revealed. “They want to go back.” Roupo appeared next to her, his big eyes bulging, even through the goggles. A glance behind her confirmed that the team had stopped. Mina continued to walk, Roupo at her heels. “No. Tell them to move.” “I’ve tried! Atmospheric conditions are worse than our models predicted. They’ve gone as far as they’ll go.” She stopped and turned on them. Half a dozen students and research assistants, the best and the brightest. Cowards all. It was a little more wind than expected, a negligible deterrant. From the distance, she stared into Hul Peregrist’s deep brown eyes. Hul, who had begged her to let him come along, as she had once begged Syrek. Hul had given up a lucrative position on Alpha Centauri when she said yes. Now he was quitting. All of them were. They’d crawl out of this desert into academic obscurity, their failure widely known. Mina tapped Roupo on the shoulder. “You pull one hoversled, I’ll pull the other. Let the rest go.” They weren’t worth the withering look or the words she might waste on them. Let them all go. Roupo did as he was told, and the pair, burdened with sleds, pressed onward. Qor’na’Krinn’s surface was mostly desert now. It had once been something else, a living, breathing ecosystem of infinite variety. No living person on any modern world could attest to that fact, other than the researchers whose job it was to know the life cycles of planets. It had once been a candidate for Genesis testing. It had long been written off as useless, far from any well-worn spacelanes, out past 53 Verentis and hang a left at Alandor. Chuck the map and put the top down. Mina Atell knew every inch of the planet, outside the ion storm. The majority of it had been scanned and sensored, charted and categorized. She’d spent years poring over every micron of data. There had been life here once. Sentience was likely. And only here, in this desert, under the shadow of the storm that hadn’t lifted in recorded history, was there a chance to find some remnant of the Krinn people, or whatever they called themselves in that distant, crumbled-away time. She walked a stretch of desert that may once have been a field, a highrise, a bathroom for all she knew. What forgotten individual had paced this same ground, shared this space with her on a distant temporal plane? She wanted to know. Roupo stopped, and for a moment Mina thought she was going to have to go on alone. He pointed to his tricorder, barely functional under the storm. “A chamber,” he said, under his breath, under his shock, too low for her to hear. The howl of the rising desert wind was all that met her ears, but she knew in her gut what Roupo said. The Krinn chamber, that theoretical stronghold of forgotten culture, was before them, buried in the wind-whipped sand. She had found it. It was real. It was hers to uncover. ======== “Confirmed. A sealed chamber, 20 meters below the surface.” They had found shelter from the wind under one of the rocky outcroppings that punctuated the landscape. Roupo carefully unpacked the hoversleds, preparing to enact Atell’s plan even without the rest of the team. He pulled out the long-distance sensor rig, and the portable transporter pattern enhancers. He left the phaser cannon where it was. “My hunch was right. It’s sealed.” Mina set her tricorder on a ledge and took charge of the pattern enhancers. Roupo fumbled a bit with an amplifier, attaching it to the sensor rig. “We have less than two hours to get our readings, Doctor. We have to depart before the gap in the storm closes.” “I’m aware. The tricorder’s not reading any other chambers in the vicinity. Get that scanner up. We’re central enough now to scan the entire storm region.” She slapped the side of the large rig. “Get going. I want those scans.” “It’s scanning.” Mina wondered at the stone shelters, the only feature of the ancient landscape to survive the engulfing desert. How had they looked then? Was this the last of someone’s favorite oceanside view? Was it the heart of a mountain? “No pockets showing on sensors,” Roupo reported. “As far as I can see, this is the only chamber to retain its seal.” “That’s bittersweet.” She’d made it in. She’d found the way. She’d located the only source of pure archaeological data on the planet. At this age, unless they were sealed, any remnants of sentient life were gone, destroyed when exposed to the elements. One sealed chamber was a prize. More than one would have sealed her reputation for generations to come. This something was better than the nothing Gregg had insisted she’d find. His voice was on the wind. It said “Don’t go, Mina…” It commanded her to be reasonable. It pleaded with her to come home. Why she still thought of him, she couldn’t say. Except when she could. She looked Roupo up and down, the last remnant of her team. The dregs. With only the two of them, there was still enough time to get what they’d come for. She pulled open one of the transporter enhancers and planted it in the sand. “You’re going in, Roupo.” He blinked. She pulled open the second enhancer. “It was supposed to be Hul.” She tried not to balk at his protest. Had it not occurred to Roupo that he would be the replacement? Did he imagine it would be her, transporting blind through 20 meters of rock into who knows what? She didn’t have much time to convince him. “Hul turned back. You made it here. You’re the brave one, the one who didn’t quit. Roupo, you’ll be the first to see inside one of the most magnificent finds of the century. You’ll be as famous as the discovery itself. Generations will remember you, and envy you this moment.” He didn’t buy a word of it, but did what he was told. Roupo took the third and final pattern enhancer, opened it, and planted it in formation with the other two. Glancing at the storm readouts on the scanner, he moved to the center of the triangle. “Okay. I’m ready.” “Scan everything. Don’t touch anything. Don’t touch anything, Roupo.” “I know.” He was terrified. This wasn’t the high-level technology billions of people trusted their atoms to every day. This was a frontier gum-and-tape job, transporting him with little advantage into the somewhat unknown. There was a reason Mina wasn’t going herself. Roupo swallowed hard. “Ready to transport.” Mina’s last view of her assistant Roupo was mostly eye. They’d opened so wide the whites showed all the way around. He was terrified, excited, regretful of coming with her. His gaze darted to the enhancers in the last moment, wondering if they would do the job. Knowing somehow they would not. He winked out of sight, blue glow leaving behind only darkness. Mina’s jaw tensed. Roupo was experiencing the moment she’d dreamed about for years. She gave it to him. She was here, making the discovery, but she’d handed the real moment of truth to her flake of an assistant, a shy little thing, more nerves than gumption. She’d barely bothered to learn anything about him, other than if he knew how to write grants and analyze data. A clattering sound caught her attention. Looking down, she cursed. One of the pattern enhancers was blown over and clattered sideways against solid rock. That foolish Roupo. It was the enhancer he’d planted, and he’d endangered his own life in getting it wrong. If it had fallen a moment before, while he transported, it would have gone badly for him. Her hand moved to the comm on her wrist. “Roupo?” No answer came. She grabbed the enhancer and planted it upright again, then turned to the scanner. Useless readouts. No lifesign, but nothing else either. Her calculation couldn’t have been wrong. Comm malfunction through the chamber walls? That was possible. Or too much dust blown in on the journey, or manufacturer defect. “Roupo, come in.” Mina fussed with the comm, trying to raise him. Nothing, nothing, only time slipping away. This was obnoxious, but there was protocol. No comms meant she pulled him out. If he was fine, he could go in again. That was the protocol. Otherwise, the surface team, now only her, would sit there risking life to the desert, while he was dead inside a wall. She brought up the transporter controls. There was his signature, alive, but in what condition she didn’t know. She fixed a lock and engaged the beam. For the first time, a pit dropped out in her stomach. For the first time, she thought Gregg might have been right. The transporter wouldn’t function. The pattern enhancer that had blown over crackled and fizzed out, dead as any Krinn that ever lived. She spoke into her wrist comm one more time, knowing it was useless. “Hold tight, Roupo. The amplifiers are down. I’ll try to fix them. Hang on.” She had no hope of his survival. ======== Mina had spent nearly two hours trying to fix the amplifier, all the while eyeing the weather readouts. Roupo had to be out of the chamber soon. The ion storm’s jagged edge was coming for them. If they left soon, they’d make it out alive, though without the data she’d come for. She could press the time, and they could travel faster by leaving the equipment behind. If they missed the window, they’d be stuck, and Roupo, if he did make it out of the chamber without suffocating, would die of exposure alongside his mentor in the unforgiving desert. She had to get him out. She hoped he wasn’t touching anything in there. The pattern enhancer clattered to the ground again. It was hopeless. She’d begun to think it was one of the two she’d planted, but surely not. She wouldn’t have endangered him that way. She could hear Syvek’s voice telling her she was untrustworthy in the field. Careless he’d called her. Overeager. She could hear Gregg telling her to be safe, as if he knew what it took to be daring. She could hear the Krinn singing the history of their race on the wind, and her failure was the final note. There was another way to save Roupo’s life. The phaser cannon was their alternative to transporters. Twenty meters was a long way to go, but she could blast through that distance fast enough, so long as the weapon’s power cell held out. They’d be down to the last second ion-wise, but they could make it out alive, together. Only, the chamber would be opened, and all would be lost to the elements, no time to study it or gather comprehensive readings before the window closed. Those dead Krinn or whoever they were would be erased from history, the last few traces of their long-ago culture gone from the record. She began to unload the phaser from the hoversled. It was too heavy for her to lift alone. It was as heavy as genocide. The comm broke to life on her wrist. =/\= Please, Doc--- ---ll, don’t ----- -- here. Please, don’t leav- -- zzzt. =/\= She called into it. “Roupo? Roupo, come in!” Nothing more. That was all. The panic in his voice was as wide as his eyes had been. He knew he was trapped, abandoned, dying. Mina couldn’t think of Roupo’s first name. It hadn’t been important so long as he turned in data analysis on time. Was he from Malaysia? Or was it Indonesia? Who was going to mourn Roupo if he died? She had no idea who she’d call. Gregg might mourn her, when it came to that. She would mourn the Krinn. The phaser cannon clanked and groaned as she rolled it off the hoversled and into position. It activated easily, though Roupo was the one who’d studied the manual. The sensor rig was tied to it, and would automatically adjust as it dug down, down through the dead earth, tunneling through solid rock, burrowing into the chamber. Destroying her work forever. This was her moment to prove Gregg wrong, put someone else first, choose living flesh over cold, dead bones. This was her moment to snuff out the last Krinn voice, ending their age-old song for all ages to come. She thought of them, of their long-ago deaths, of their lives, of their right to be remembered for who or what they were. She couldn’t do it. It was wrong. She shut down the machine before the phaser blast got anywhere near the chamber below. “I’m sorry, Roupo.” She didn’t bother saying it into the wrist comm. The words bounced dully off ancient stone and echoed through hot, stale air poor Roupo would never breathe again. Mina collected her tricorder and downloaded what scans she could from the rig. She took a canteen and little else. A static sound came through the comm for a moment, but she ignored it. It was a long walk back, and time was already short, even without dragging the equipment behind her. Next one to find their way in through the ion storm would win a free phaser cannon and sensor rig. To the victor the spoils. Gregg had told her it wasn’t worth risking her life for people who had been dead too long to thank her. He was wrong. Whoever they had been, whether noble or honest or petty or cruel, scientists like her, or murderers, or failures, or sacrificers on the altar of history, they were worth remembering. When the authorities came for her, or Hul Peregrist turned her in, founding his career on her broken back, she would tell them it wasn’t easy to leave Roupo there. It wasn’t easy to lay awake nights dreaming of suffocation, of Roupo’s little hands scrabbling on stone, his distant, silent voice whispering horrors in her ear. They would vilify and crucify her. If she wasn’t imprisoned, she’d be a pariah to the end of her days. The killer archaeologist, the murderess, splash page in every paper in two quadrants. One day, when another archaeologist traced her path to the stronghold of Qor’na’Krinn, when the ion storm lifted just long enough for some other poor fool to attempt a claim on the chamber again, they would see how she had preserved it, left its secrets safely frozen in time, undisturbed but for Roupo’s sad, dead presence. They would thank her. She had sacrificed one man. She had saved the Krinn people from oblivion. Dr. Atell made her way out of the desert. The wind was at her back now, howling with Syvek’s condescension, Gregg’s disapproval, and most of all, Roupo’s mournful, unheard pleas for life. Someone else could decide if she had done what was right. The Krinn still sang, quietly, in the distance. Mina held her head high against the desert before her, the open labyrinth, the barren gauntlet, the terrain of former glories, and she pressed onward. ======== LtJG Rendal Rennyn Helm Officer USS Atlantis NCC-74682
  2. ((Robert Falcon’s Ready Room; U.S.S. Yorktown – Earth Year 2385)) Captain Robert Falcon gave a long stare at the PADD he held, containing the results of Yorktown’s latest long-range scans. He did not want to believe them true, but knew he could do nothing else. Yorktown’s science officer, his eldest daughter Alice, knew exactly what she was looking at. This was not her first time encountering these beings, after all. Nor was it Robert’s. Alice’s report was kept very factual, nearly clinical in its objectivity. At 0800 hours, long range sensors detected faint energy signatures with a close match to previously observed Fury patterns. Further analysis and additional scans have given us a 75% confidence of the presence of multiple Fury warships in the vicinity of the Hor’Chak system. While interspace weapons technology has not yet been detected, it cannot be ruled out. Robert set down the PADD, leaning back in his chair. He was keeping news of this discovery as silent as he could until he figured out what to do about it. Many of his crew had fought against the Furies three years before. Those who had come to the ship the years following had all heard the stories, Robert was certain. He wasn’t sure if the news would be taken well that the enemy had somehow returned. To be honest, Robert himself wasn’t taking it all that well… Still, he knew what he had to do. While his orders did not permit him to talk to anyone else about it, they didn’t prevent him informing Starfleet. He tapped the comm controls. “Jiana, open a channel to Starfleet Command, priority one secure.” A moment later, his XO/Helm Officer/Wife Jiana replied, “I’m on it. It’ll take a few minutes to establish the secure connection from here.” A priority one call to Starfleet Command… He’d never thought he’d actually make one in his career. The Furies, however… THAT was important enough. Of all the things he had encountered in his career in Starfleet, none matched the level of fear they could inspire. He remembered the class everyone had to take back in the Academy, learning about their involvement with the peoples of the Alpha and Beta quadrants. More importantly, they learned of the two attempts made, at that point, to return, as well as the events which pushed them to a far part of the galaxy. Robert had left that class with a bit more trepidation about what he might find when he ventured out to the unexplored regions of the galaxy. Years later, the long lost starship Voyager made contact with Starfleet Command and reported a great many things. One of the reports Robert had been most excited to see was their encounter with the Furies, mostly due to its ending. For all intents and purposes, the Furies could be considered no longer a threat. Gone for good! Others had not taken the news with quite the same optimism as he had… Admiral Kyle Colt, stationed in one of the further reaches of the Federation, felt that Starfleet should not rest on their laurels and had taken matters into his own hands. He’d led the ships under his command in an attempted coup against the Federation, with few people standing in his way. Robert’s ship, with him as Executive Officer in temporary command, was in the right place at the right time to see what Admiral Colt was planning and stop his attempt cold in its tracks. However, Colt was able to remain several steps ahead of everyone. He’d always had a backup plan in case he was stopped. Though his ship was under the guns of what few ships Robert was able to draft into an impromptu defense, Colt was able to cloak and escape, leaving behind only a message for Robert that he could hear from Colt again one day. “Robert, I have Starfleet Command over priority one secure.” Shaken out of memory, Robert looked up and tapped the comm. “Thank you, Jiana.” He took a deep breath, turning his chair to face his desk terminal and activating it. For a moment, it showed the Starfleet symbol, the words Starfleet Command written above it, Priority One Secure Transmission written below. Then, the image changed. A gray-haired human male with sharp blue eyes and an admiral’s insignia on his collar appeared at dead center. The room was dark, though Robert was not sure if it was simply night where the admiral was or if he had moved to a more secure room. “This is Admiral Vellan, Starfleet Command. Captain, what have you got for me?” Robert straightened in his chair. “Admiral, we’ve picked up energy readings giving a strong possibility of Fury presence approximately 30 lightyears from the Federation border. We’re too far out to get a size or disposition of the force at this time. My intention is to close the gap and gather more intel to verify what we’re detected so far.” Admiral Vellan blinked hard, mentally processing the report. “You wanna run that by me again, Captain?” Robert did so, this time slowing down and giving the admiral all the details he had. Admiral Vellan nodded as Robert spoke, taking in all the information as it came. When Robert finally finished, Admiral Vellan spoke again. “I’m going to have to call for an Admiralty meeting to go over this. I need you to stand by and stay put, got it son?” Robert nodded. “Got it, Admiral. We’ll be standing by on this channel. Yorktown out.” The transmission ended, Robert leaning back in his chair and taking a deep breath to keep his calm. He’d expected that a problem of this magnitude would take a bit of time to get a response. He was a patient person by default… but in this case he really hoped Admiral Vellan got an answer to him quickly… The door chime beeped, Robert looking up toward it. “Come,” he said. The doors swished open, admitting one red-haired human. His wife looked to him, some concern on her features as her brilliant green eyes met Robert’s blues. Robert figured she had seen the transmission end, with Robert not immediately returning to the bridge. The doors swished shut behind her as she started over toward him. “What’s the word?” “Stand by,” he replied with a bit of theatrical tone to suggest it was their current order. “Admiral Vellan has to talk it out with the other high pubahs so they can figure out how they’ll respond to it.” Jiana grabbed one of the chairs opposing him, spinning it to sit on it backwards. “Well, at least he believed you that we saw what we saw.” Robert shrugged. “Or decided to give be the benefit of the doubt. It could still bite me in the butt later on.” He gave a soft sigh. “I thought we were done with this…” “Me, too,” Jiana said, reaching out to grab Robert’s hand atop the desk. “If nothing else,” she offered, “this time we know they’re coming ahead of time, instead of getting randomly ambushed by them.” “True,” Robert admitted. He sighed, shaking his head. “But last time, we also didn’t get much Starfleet support… Can’t believe I’m admitting it, but I wish Colt were around…” Colt had been true to his word. About three years ago, and two years after their previous encounter, a strange transmission had come in. Admiral Colt had come to recruit Robert for his real mission, stopping the Furies at the edge of the galaxy. Robert had been skeptical at first, but Colt gave sufficient evidence of their impending arrival, along with the tech he’d developed to allow a fleet of ships to burrow through the Galactic Barrier. Robert, one of the few people to outthink Colt, was the one person Colt trusted to find the holes in his plan. Between the two of them, they managed to make a plan that worked. Robert sighed once more. “I don’t see much chance of him coming around this time, though. He’s still a fugitive, after all.” “True,” Jiana replied, “but Starfleet has to see the problem this time. It’s right in our backyard, plain as day.” Robert turned to look out the viewport at the expanse of stars. “I know,” he said, seemingly distant. “Yet… why do I get the feeling they won’t?” A long silence fell in the ready room, the pair passing the time with hands linked for mutual comfort. Finally, the intercom came alive. “Dad,” Alice’s voice spoke, “we’re getting a call back from Starfleet Command, priority one secure.” “Thanks, Alice,” Robert responded. “Put it through in here.” “Got it.” Jiana pulled her hand back as Robert got situated back in his chair, giving his uniform a quick tug to remove a few stubborn wrinkles. He reached out to tap his terminal. Moments later, Admiral Vellan reappeared on his screen. His expression was… neutral. “Captain Falcon,” he started, “the Admiralty has decided that, for the time being, there will be no response to the alleged Fury presence.” Robert’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Sir?” “Furthermore,” he continued, “you are not to speak of the energy readings you detected with anyone. That goes for your entire crew. Do you understand, captain?” He was silent for a moment as he attempted to process what he’d heard. “I… I understand what you’re saying, Admiral, but not the reason. Why aren’t we reacting to this?” The admiral’s expression broke, betraying his own annoyance. “Most of the Admiralty want to ignore it, pretend you didn’t see what you thought you saw. The overall opinion was to wait until they show their hand, if they ever do, and muster forces at that time.” He shook his head. “I can’t say I agree with that opinion, but the head of Starfleet herself made the final call. Those are her marching orders. Do you understand, captain?” Robert barely contained a sigh. “Yes, admiral, I do.” The admiral looked at Robert for a moment longer. “I know it isn’t what you wanted to hear, son, but it’s what I’ve got. Get clear for now and be ready to fight another day. Command out.” The admiral’s image was replaced by the logo once again, Robert slumping back in his chair and fighting to hurl the terminal across the room. It wasn’t the terminal’s fault, after all. It was just the messenger. Jiana was a bit more vocal about her frustrations. “Those… Those pig-headed morons! Do they have ANY idea what’s about to happen?” Robert looked up at her, a tired expression on his features. “Maybe. Maybe they’re just scared stiff, or think that if we don’t move the Furies won’t see us, or figure we’re too tough for them to take down.” He shook his head. “And by the time they see that they’re wrong, it’ll be too late.” “Will it?” Jiana asked. “What if we do something about it?” He looked to his wife, eyebrows furrowed once again. “Ji, we’ve got our marching orders. Get our butts out of here and back on patrol.” “Rob, you know how bad this could get,” she countered. “WE know how bad this could get.” Robert’s eyes closed as he thought. “Do you really want to go through that again?” he quietly asked. “You know what we went through last time, and back then we had backup. Do you really want that again?” ((Bridge; U.S.S. Yorktown – Earth Year 2382)) The bridge rocked as another volley of enemy fire impacted the shields. Jiana held on to the command seat tightly. “Damage report!” From the left side of the station before her, Jacen Tharen spoke up from tactical. “Shields down to 54% and recharging slowly. Port-engineering hull phaser array has been knocked out by the power feedback from the wedge.” Another report came from the engineering station. “I’ve reports of power failures on decks 18 and 19, repair teams responding.” Jiana swore under her breath. Yorktown’s refits were extensive, and she was a tough ship, but she hadn’t been designed with Furies in mind. Their jury-rigged shields, reformed into a wedge shape known to deflect the interspace-based fear inducing weapons the Furies favored, had wreaked havoc with their power systems. “Where are our escorts?” Jiana asked, looking at the science station. She could see a flurry of dots, red and blue, dancing around the console’s readouts. Admiral Colt’s ships were providing as much cover as they could to allow Yorktown and her crew to do their jobs. “Chasing down other ships,” came the reply. “One’s working back to us, the other’s a little occupied.” It was an ambitious plan. The Furies had managed to use their artificial wormhole technology to get close to the Milky Way, getting their planet in orbit of a rogue star outside the galaxy. They planned to use the tech again to move back into the Alpha Quadrant, now that they were close enough to get an actual target to jump toward. Robert and three of their grown children, James, Alice, and Rebecca, had gone to the surface to try and sabotage the system… and send the Fury’s planet into the rogue star. It was very risky, as the team could well still be on the planet when it fell. It was also drastic, as it was highly likely none of the Furies would be able to escape. Jiana had little sympathy. They could have taken the hint by now that they weren’t welcome in the Alpha Quadrant anymore. “Status of ERRS dishes?” she asked. “Dorsal dish is aimed at the strongest interspace source. Ventral’s at the ground team.” They had found that Yorktown’s new sensor technology, when properly configured, could disrupt the Fury interspace weapon. One of their dishes covered the fleet as best as they could. The other gave the ground team a safe haven to work from. As an added benefit, Yorktown could hear their comm chatter. Robert’s voice came over the intercom. “Rogue, we’re at the base of a large structure. Believe it to be their command center. Door is heavily reinforced. Think you can provide a key?” A moment later, another voice came over the intercom. “I think a spread of micro-torpedoes will do the trick,” Kaitlyn, their fourth grown child, replied from Robert’s shuttle. “That should do nicely, thanks.” James’s impassive voice came next. “We sure this is going to work?” “Don’t you remember anything from the stories I told you as a kid,” Robert replied. “The plucky group of heroes is always the enemy’s greatest weakness.” ((Robert Falcon’s Ready Room; U.S.S. Yorktown – Earth Year 2385)) They had survived that day. Yorktown beamed the team to safety while Rogue fled from the Fury planet as it plunged into the forming artificial wormhole. It popped back into normal space only a few light-seconds from the surface of the star and was quickly destroyed by tidal forces, falling into the fire. What few Fury ships remained fled, leaving Yorktown and Colt’s remaining fleet to burrow their way back through the Galactic Barrier. Starfleet had scarcely believed it, but in the end simply ordered them to remain silent. None liked it, but all accepted the order. Of course, all had been certain that the battles were done, and that the Furies were defeated. Robert looked back to his wife, his expression sober. “You realize what might happen if we do this, right? Starfleet might decide to court-martial us for disobeying orders, if we even survive long enough for them to do it. We’ve got only whatever supplies we can muster and no allies.” Jiana looked back, reaching out to take his hands in hers. “I never said it would be easy. Or smart. The easy, smart thing to do would be follow our orders, get out of here, and wait to see if Starfleet does something about this later… when it might be too late. What’s the RIGHT thing to do?” The right thing… Robert sighed. “To gather up whatever resources we can, get out there, and take the Furies down before they can threaten our home.” His wife nodded, squeezing his hands. “Now, whatever you want to do, I’ll support you. You say no and the worst comes, I won’t even say ‘I told you so’. Just tell me, Rob, what do YOU want to do?” That’s what it really came down it, wasn’t it? What did he want to do about it? His orders were clear. Turn around, get back to his patrol, and forget he ever saw anything. However, if the Furies were given time to build up and attack, to make this war happen on their terms, it became more likely that it would be more than Starfleet could handle. He hadn’t built Yorktown for this… He hadn’t put this crew together for this... He hadn’t meant for HIS FAMILY to do this… His family… There was a good chance that any who went would not return. Was he willing to sacrifice them all for this mission? Could he even make that kind of call for them? Would they ever forgive him if he never let them have the choice to join on a hopeless mission? Could he forgive himself if anything happened to them? They had been a team for a long time, forged in their years as a family on the Freedom and tested during their last battle with the Furies. Of anyone Robert knew who might be able to stop these… Demons… He knew that he and his family stood the best chance. And if they couldn’t do it… who could? Robert met his wife’s eyes. “I want to stop them. Here and now. Take the fight to the Furies, and stop them at the door.” Jiana nodded, giving his hands one last squeeze before releasing them. “I’ll make some calls, see what kind of resources I can drum up.” “I’ll figure out how to tell everyone,” Robert replied. “Whatever happens from here, they need to hear about this from me.”
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