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Welcome to the 2024 Awards Ceremony!

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Welcome to the 2024 Awards Ceremony!

  • July 1st, Monday: PRESENTATION: Introduction, General Awards
  • July 2nd, Tuesday: PRESENTATION: Special and Length of Service Awards
  • July 3rd, Wednesday: PRESENTATION: Staff Awards
  • July 4th, Thursday: PRESENTATION: Duty Post Awards
  • July 5th, Friday: Finale/Acknowledgments
  • Fashion Red Alert! Red Carpet Thread
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Winner: The Ties That Bind


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The Ties That Bind



“Under the spreading chestnut tree

I sold you and you sold me.

There lie they, and here lie we

Under the spreading chestnut tree.”

- George Orwell, 1984




Marsha Peel ran a finger down the cave wall with a disgruntled frown. Caves had been home to the resistance for, well, forever, and they usually ranged from hot and dry, to cold and damp. Unfortunately this was a fine example of the latter.


Sighing, Marsha absently wiped her finger on her dusty trousers and pulled the jacket more tightly around her shoulders, suppressing a shiver.

She was used to moving home. The Alliance forces were constantly hounding them just as they had when the Terran Resistance had first formed. Her father had been among the first to offer help to the fledgling rebellion, only a little at first but then more and more until one day the Alliance came calling. Cardassian police had dragged her parents away and Marsha had been placed in care with a family more agreeable to the Alliance. Until she’d eventually managed to run away and find a rebel cell.

And now here she was, in a damp cavern on who knew what planet.


“You’re thinking about them again, aren’t you? Your parents I mean. You‘ve got that vague look about you.”


Marsha looked up as her friend approached. She and Zill had been through a lot together and Marsha trusted the Bolian woman with her life.


“I’m just wondering how we came to this, Zill. Me and you, fighting Klingons and Cardassians.”


“Because we’re so good at it.” The blue woman smiled. “We all have our reasons.”


“I know, I know. I just wish there was an easier way.”


Zill gave a bark of laughter. “Ha! Of course you do, Marsha. We all do. None of us here was born to fighting, but we do it anyway. Not to make things better for us, but to make them better for our children.” She paused and her voice softened. “Your father knew that.”


Marsha nodded and swallowed.


“Yeah, I know. Kind of ironic, really. If he hadn’t been arrested I doubt I’d have ever have taken up arms. Like you said, we all have our reasons, but are they good enough?”


“Just look around you, girl! You’re at the centre of the resistance here. This place is full of equipment and people just like us. Your parents helped make this, and they’d be proud of you.”


“My father maybe,” Marsha shrugged. “I think my mother would have preferred a quiet life.”


Zill was about to say more, but a bleep from the communicator at her belt interrupted her. She glanced at it with a frown before patting Marsha tenderly on the shoulder.


“Who wouldn’t prefer a quiet life? Look, I’ve got to go. There’s a shuttle inbound, some refugees or something, and they need medical attention. Just…” She sighed. “Just don’t get too introspective, okay? I’ll come and find you as soon as I can.”


Marsha merely nodded as the Bolian hurried away down the tunnel in the direction of the outside world.

She let her feet take her the same way, lost in her thoughts. Marsha tried to muster up some memories of her parents; she always remembered her father as a determined, yet sensitive man. It was probably an idealised image she held of him now, but he always cared for others, and that’s what had got him involved with the rebels in the first place.

Her mother, on the other hand, had seemed permanently frightened and quiet. Marsha realised now it was because she knew the risks her husband was taking and what it might, did, lead to.

They’d been a close family, the three of them, working in the fields together, and…

Marsha’s thoughts trailed off as she became aware of her surroundings again. She’d stepped out into the main cavern and it was rapidly filling up with people. In pairs and trios they rushed past her, all heading in the same direction. She caught a few words from excited conversations as they went by; “escaped prisoners”, “first rebels”, “freedom.” Frowning, she started to walk quicker.


“Marsha? Marsha!”


It was Zill again, her voice cutting through the crowd. Marsha craned her neck and eventually spotted the other woman, her blue arms waving.


“Marsha! It’s your father!”


Marsha frowned. Her father? At the back of her mind, although she’d never consciously admit it to herself, she’d given up her parents for dead long ago. It had been eight years since their arrest, and people usually didn’t last that long in Alliance prisons. But to think that her father was now free, here!

She started to push through the crowd, politely at first but then with more and more urgency. But something else was happening, people around her were pointing and starting to shout. She’d lost sight of her friend in the throng.


“Zill?!”


And then the world exploded. An immense burst of light and sound and pressure filled the chamber and Marsha staggered backwards, feeling like she’d been punched in the ears. The press of people in front of her had shielded her from the blast, but many hadn’t been so lucky. Someone screamed nearby.

Marsha dragged herself to her feet, leaning on the damp wall for support, and blinked through the dust and smoke. And then she saw them – Klingon assault troops stalking through the chaos, shooting and slashing anything that moved. Her breath caught in her throat as one of them levelled his disruptor pistol at her. She stood paralysed, staring down the barrel, as there was a blinding flash of green light, and then nothing.



* * *



The walls were damp. That was the first thing she noticed. Rivulets of water ran down the dark walls and formed small pools on the cell floor. The damp had seeped into her clothes and now she shivered in the cold.

Marsha sneezed and winced at the eruption of pain it caused in her head. She’d found out a couple of years ago, much to her misfortune, that the stun setting on a disruptor left her with terrible headaches, so it was not hard to surmise what had happened back at the resistance base.


Groaning, she pulled herself to her knees and looked around. The light was very dim, but just enough to see by, not that there was much to see. The room was barely six feet across and the only entrance was blocked not by a force field but by a gate of metal bars.

Marsha reached out and touched them tentatively. Nothing. She wrapped her hands around them and pushed and pulled with what little strength she had left. Still nothing, not that she’d really expected anything else.

With a long sigh she rested her head against the cold metal.


“So this is how it ends.” She asked the questions to the grim darkness beyond her cell. To her surprise, it answered.


“Marsha?”


She held her breath. Silence. Marsha was just about to convince herself that she’d imagined it when the voice, the achingly familiar voice, spoke again.


“M… Marsha? Is that you?”


It was an old man’s voice. Aged and cracked, rasping through dry lips. But she knew it all the same.


“Father?” She gasped. “I can’t believe it! How..?” Marsha shook her head. “How can this be happening? I thought you were dead.”


“No, Marsha.” The voice drifted through the darkness. “Though I wish I was. It would be easier that way.” Her father gave a bitter laugh. “And now they put you in here with me to taunt me further.”


“And Mother?” She was afraid to ask.


“Alive, Marsha. She’s alive.”


“Where? Have you seen her?”


There was a moment of silence. “I’ve not seen her for six years. But I know she’s alive.”


“How?” Marsha choked. “How can you know? Please tell me you’ve spoken to her, or had a message from her, something!”


“I just know she must be alive. Because if she’s not then my betrayal would have no meaning and I would be truly [...]ed.”


“Betrayal?” Marsha was confused. Her thoughts went back to her last memories, Zill shouting something about her father, then the Klingon attack. And now here she was in a cell next to his. It couldn’t be a coincidence.


“What happened?” Fear made her voice tremble. “What did you do? Tell me you weren’t at the base, please.”


“Marsha, I…”


“No! You couldn’t have had anything to do with that! Not you, anyone but you.” Anger replaced the fear in her voice. “I only joined the resistance after the Alliance took you away. You’d never betray us, you’d never betray me like that!”


“Marsha, there was no choice. You don’t understand. My wife, they’d have killed her if I didn’t do what they said.”


Marsha tightened her fists around the bars, gripping them so tight she could feel flecks of rust dig into her palms.


“She’s probably already dead, Father, just like the people you helped kill. My friends, very nearly me!” She gasped again as another realisation dawned. “Did you know I was there?”


“I…” There was a long pause. “I knew. I saw you, just before the attack.”


“So it’s all true then?” Marsha’s voice was bitter. “You really were at the base, and you betrayed the resistance, betrayed me, and for what?”


“For love, Marsha. I betrayed you for the woman I love. Nobody should have to face that choice, that impossible choice.”


“What about me, Father? Do you not love me?”


“Of course I do!” Her father sighed. “You were twelve when I last saw you, just a girl. I loved you with all my heart, but your mother… I love her more. She’s my wife, my soul mate. And that’s why I have to believe she’s alive, because if not then I’ve made a mistake more terrible than I could ever comprehend.”


Marsha sobbed, tears were running down her face now, falling to the floor and joining with the puddles already there.


“They broke you, father. The man I knew would never had done this.”


“They did, Marsha, they did.” His old voice was full of pain. “I’ve been here so long, alone in the dark. The thought that she was still alive was the only thing that kept me going, kept me sane. And they were going to take that away from me. I… couldn’t live without that hope.”


Marsha wiped her tears away with the back of her hand.


“Then you should have died.” She spat.


The silence rolled on for a long time, long enough for her anger to turn to regret. Finally, though, her father’s quiet voice returned.


“I should have, Marsha. In a way I did. They killed my hope, I know that now. Your mother may well already be dead, and now you are here with me to remind me every second of what I did for love.”


“For love? That’s not enough, Father. Not enough for what you‘ve done.”


“Isn’t it? Then what is?”


His voice fell silent, leaving the question hanging in the air. The guilt and remorse contained in the words terrified Marsha. She pushed herself away from the bars as quickly as she could, far back into the darkest corner of her cell, hoping to escape those ties that bound her to the people she loved the most, fearful of what actions she may be forced to do because of them.





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