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[2010: JAN-FEB] *WINNER* Broken


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(Low orbit above the planet Frav’Av)

::The shuttle rattled as EPS conduits and console panels sparked and exploded. The [...]pit filled with steam from a ruptured bulkhead as the flashing red lights from the warning system illuminated the cloudy atmosphere of the small craft.::

Lieutenant Loren Christie: What the hell just hit us?!!!!

Ensign Coreen Gurgel: I don’t know how it got through, but it appears to have been some kind of cloaked missile. That blast was created by…a plutonium based projectile. I…I don’t believe it. I think we were just hit by a nuclear missile!

Lt. Christie: Our navigational systems are failing. I can’t compensate! We’re going down.

Ensign Gurgel: Ma’am, I…I can’t get our transporters to respond. We can’t beam out!

::Grabbing her face with both hands:: Oh my god…we’re gonna’ die!

Lt. Christie: ::putting on her best “in control” persona:: Calm down Coreen, we’re not going to die.

::As the shuttle tumbled through the atmosphere, the Lieutenant did her best to stabilize the decent and manage the imminent violent impact. The young Ensign wore a panicked expression of fear that would have buckled the confidence of her friend and team leader, if it weren’t for the fact that Loren was completely focused on her daunting task of bringing the craft down in such a manner as to ensure their survival.::

Lt. Christie: Brace for impact!

:: The two officers gripped what was left of their primary consoles, knuckles white with tension. As the shuttle slammed into the black soil of the foreign world, both women were thrown forward into the view screen in a vicious collision of flesh and polymer…and then, blackness.::

(Frav’Av Planetary Surface)

::Amidst crackling sparks and the soft creaking of the fractured bulkheads, Ensign Gurgel slowly opened her eyes. Crawling up to her knees, she shook her aching head as she tried to focus. Her heart sank as she looked up at the limp corpse of her friend sprawled across the center control console. Desperately, she pulled herself over to Loren’s lifeless body. Sobbing, she felt for a carotid pulse, knowing full well that there was none to be found. Hanging her head, she shamelessly broke down into a hysterical, heaving cry. As the hot tears bled from her eyes, she became aware that she was no longer alone.

Turning to her flank, Coreen saw a short, pale, humanoid male. While she couldn’t help but notice his distinctive facial ridges and long protruding chins that jetted out from both sides of his jaw structure, it was his large, boxy firearm that caught her attention. The long vented barrel of the weapon hinted to its destructive power, and the way he cradled it clearly demonstrated that he was extremely nervous. While she was not a very experienced officer, she knew from the look in his eyes that he was prepared to take her life if she made any sudden movements. Still weeping, she slowly gestured toward the body of Lieutenant Christie.::

Ensign Gurgel: My…friend. She’s…dead. I…I…I’m alone. I’m no threat to you. Please… ::gently putting her palms up in a non-threatening manner::

:: The sharp featured humanoid stalked around her, weapon still pointed at her chest. He muttered something in an incomprehensible guttural grunt. When Coreen did not respond, he repeated his refrain. Realizing that her universal translator must have been damaged in the crash she slowly reached for the combadge still attached to Loren’s shirt. Upon seeing this, the armed alien thrust his rifle forward in an aggressive warning. Coreen kept one hand up, palm out, to reflect her non-violent intentions. Gently, she removed the Lieutenant’s combadge and replaced the one on her shirt. As it chirped into place, she spoke softly.

Ensign Gurgel: I’m Ensign Coreen Gurgel. ::sob:: I’m a Starfleet Officer. ::sob:: I don’t mean you any harm. Please put your weapon down. ::sob:: you’re frightening me.

:: The young male’s gaze softened as he looked into the strange looking creatures eyes. Slowly lowering his weapon, he spoke…::

Alien: ::squinting:: I…am not familiar with your…species. What are you?

Ensign Gurgel: I am human.

Alien: Hu..man. ::looking confused:: You…are not of this world?

Ensign Gurgel: No, I’m not. :: gaining her composure :: And, I need to get back off of your world. Our crashing here was an accident. There are some supplies on this…craft…that will allow me to contact my people. They will come and get me.

Alien: You are scared?

Ensign Gurgel: Yes. Very.

Alien: You have reason to be. You are fortunate it was I who found you. Vaquial patrols will come this way soon. They rape and enslave all females they come across. It is for this reason we war with them.

Ensign Gurgel: You are at war?

Alien: Yes. The whole planet is. Unfortunately, the Vaquial are technologically superior to us…not to mention, they out-number us three to one. Sadly, most of our females have already been enslaved. ::looking around nervously:: We should leave…now.

Ensign Gurgel: I…I’ll take the risk. Leave me here to contact my people.

Alien: Unacceptable. ::thinking:: Gather anything you can carry, and we will travel back to my tribal sanctuary…together. I insist. ::gives her a stern look::

Ensign Gurgel: ::realizing that in reality, she has little choice, she decides to comply with the strange alien’s suggestion. She nods and begins packing up essential supplies. She grabs the portable emergency beacon, a tricorder, a med kit, a tool kit, several ration packs, and a phaser.:: Okay, I’m ready…

Alien: Uh…you sure don’t pack light. ::snorting out a noise she took as a laugh:: C’mon!

Ensign Gurgel: Do you have a name.

Alien: ::without looking back at her:: Kamal.

Ensign Gurgel: ::in acknowledgement:: Kamal.

:: As the stocky goblin-like alien sauntered ahead, he dutifully scanned the horizon with his weapon. His alert and almost paranoid demeanor began to return. Ensign Gurgel wondered if she was making the right decision to accompany this high strung stranger back to his tribe. Suddenly, she heard the rapid rattling of exploding firearm rounds. While it was unfamiliar to her, she knew its terrible implications immediately. Screams echoed across the rocky terrain. Looking in the direction of the commotion, she trembled with agony at the sights before her. Creatures resembling her humanoid companion, but larger and darker in complexion, savagely executed beings that Coreen could identify as the same pale skinned people as Kamal. As the barbaric weapons of the aggressors bellowed through the evening air, she witnessed in terror as limbs and flesh flew off of the fleeing, helpless victims like dry leaves. A troop of Vaquial soldiers stormed into the fray. Grabbing the remaining females by the hair, they dragged them to the ground. Soldiers laughed as they tore the clothing from the desperate writhing bodies. Others stomped the heads of the small children, still trying to cling to their captive mothers. While the surreal event unfolded, Coreen’s tears began to flow again. ::

Ensign Gurgel: Oh god….

Kamal: Keep moving dammit! There’s nothing we can do for them!

Ensign Gurgel: ::in disbelief:: They’re monsters!

Kamal: Indeed they are! Welcome to my world, Ensign Coreen Gurgel.

:: They stayed low and moved quickly to avoid detection. As they marched up the dry crest of the mountainous ridge, a lush purple valley opened up beneath them. She had not seen the colorful gorge until they had reached the peak. The gorgeous view surprised her. She was shocked and amazed at the natural beauty of this violent place. Her mind raced as she tried to adjust from the traumatic horrors she had just observed to the stunning landscape before her. Quickly, Kamal led her down a soft black dirt path. As they neared the base of the Gorge, Coreen saw several rectangular structures. They appeared to be made of stone and mortar. Kamal pointed to the buildings…::

Kamal: There’s my home. We will be safe here…at least for a while.

Ensign Gurgel: ::trying to calm herself:: Thank you, Kamal. Your world is a frightening place.

Kamal: It is if you are Frillian.

Ensign Gurgel: Is that what your people are called?

Kamal: Yes.

:: A group of similar looking males began to slowly pile out of the encampment. Each of them looked on her with awe and confusion.::

Kamal: Forgive them…Ensign Coreen Gurgel. Like me, they have never seen a being such as yourself until today.

Ensign Gurgel: It’s alright…and it’s just Coreen. May I ask you a question about your people?

Kamal: Of course.

Ensign Gurgel: Do your people ever travel off of this world?

Kamal: ::surprised:: Certainly not! Until I met you, I wasn’t even sure if that was possible.

Ensign Gurgel: ::realizing the ramifications of her contact with these people:: I see. How is it then that my vessel was struck by a cloaked missile from orbit?

Kamal: Ah…that’s how you crashed. The Vaquial have an orbital defense grid to destroy our satellites and high altitude air vehicles. Their automated system must have identified you craft as a target. I’m so sorry. :: dropping his gaze:: Especially for the loss of your friend.

Ensign Gurgel: :: Coreen quietly nodded:: Is there a place I can work to contact my people?

Kamal: Yes, inside this bunker…here. ::pointing to the nearest structure:: Perhaps once you contact your people…they could support our cause? Obviously, you are much more technologically advanced than the Vaquial. We are desperate, surely they could help.

Ensign Gurgel: I’m afraid that’s not possible. Our Federation has a policy of non-interference with other cultures. It’s our prime directive.

Kamal: Prime directive?!

Ensign Gurgel: Yes. We are not permitted to interfere with the internal affairs of other worlds…especially when they are not a space faring people. We have found that it is extremely destructive to advance a culture prematurely with technology.

Kamal: Nothing could be more destructive than innocent people enslaved, raped, tortured, and sold into prostitution. Not to mention the eradication of all male Frillian’s. You’ve seen the horrors with your own eyes! What kind of a people would allow this atrocity to continue? ::disgusted:: How moral you people are. Hurry up and call your friends. I know you must be anxious to leave.

:: Kamal slammed the door as he left her to her work. Coreen felt a rush of guilt and sadness as she remembered the horrible event she witness from the mountainside. How could Starfleet and the Federation turn a blind eye? These people truly were desperate! Should there be no exception for preventing genocide? As she wrestled with her conscience, she activated the emergency beacon. Linking her tricorder to the assembly, she tried to amplify the carrier wave. A few minutes later, a message beeped in…::

Com Officer: USS Hercules to away team. Lieutenant Christie, Ensign Gurgel…please come in.

Ensign Gurgel: Gurgel here, Hercules! Do you copy?

Com Officer: Ensign, we read you. What is your status?

Ensign Gurgel: :: with a deep sigh:: Sir, Lieutenant Christie is dead. We crashed on the third planet in this system. We were shot down by a cloaked plutonium based missile. The shuttle is destroyed, and I’m currently being sheltered from hostile aliens by a group of people that call themselves Frillian’s. :: pausing:: Sir, I should warn you that this is a pre-warp society…but they desperately need our help.

Com Officer: I understand how you feel Ensign, but…

Ensign Gurgel: With all due respect, sir…you have no idea how I feel. If you had seen what I saw…

Com Officer: Ensign, calm yourself. Prepare to beam up. We’ll discuss this with the Captain once you are on board…understood.

Ensign Gurgel: Stand by Hercules. ::Coreen looked around for Kamal::

:: The peaceful breeze was shattered by a violent, repeating, cracking sound. Peering out the window, Coreen saw a group of young children running frantically through the courtyard. There was another thunderous clap and one of the smaller children’s body suddenly fell broken in a heap. The familiar sound of Frillian screams filled the air. Grabbing her phaser, Ensign Gurgel tore the door open and ducked behind the stone entry. Seeing a troop of Vaquail soldiers about 20 meters away, she fired at the lead trooper. The struck soldier turned toward her, unaffected, and began to fire his weapon into the wall as she took cover behind the shield of stone. Setting her phaser to maximum, she returned fire, vaporizing him instantly. Seeing this, the shocked Vaquail troopers broke their attack and retreated back into the purple fields. As Coreen’s eyes panned across the smoldering horizon, she caught a glimpse of Kamal’s fallen form. He lay face down in pool of blood. Clearly, he had been standing in the direct line of fire in an attempt to protect the frightened children. Again in tears, she ran to her fallen comrade’s side. Kneeling beside him, she tenderly scooped up his head and placed it in her lap.::

Kamal: ::choking and gasping:: Coreen….you…must…tell them. Your…Federa..tion’s…perspec..tive…is broken. Must…help….

:: Kamal fell silent as he passed his last breath. Falling limp in her arms, the Frillian finally dropped the rifle he had cradled since the moment she had met him. What a life that must have been. To have to live every moment of every day armed and ready to kill. She couldn’t help but feel a degree of relief for this sad soul. Perhaps now, he could at least experience a little peace. ::

Com Officer: Ensign! What’s going on down there? We read some kind of weapons fire. Are you okay?

Ensign Gurgel: ::in a solemn tone:: I’m…alive. I have some wounded to check on.

Com Officer: Ensign…you must return to the ship, immediately. We cannot interfere, even with our medical technology.

Ensign Gurgel: One moment.

Com Officer: ::clearly frustrated:: Ensign!

:: Hurrying back through the stone doorway to her supplies, Coreen looked around at the fallen bodies. She had to help these people. It pained her that her professional duty was in direct conflict with her moral obligations. She never thought she’d have to choose between her moral ethics and her duty as a Starfleet officer. Ensign Gurgel made up her mind that she wasn’t about to leave these wounded people helpless and alone. How could she? Her first duty was to do the right thing. As she began to gather up her med kit, she felt herself encased in light. Her senses dulled momentarily as the brilliance overtook her. As the brightness subsided, she found herself staring at the transporter pad. Looking up at the transporter chief, she felt her face flush red with anger.::

(USS Hercules, Transporter Room)

Ensign Gurgel: ::yelling:: Beam me back, NOW!

Transporter Chief: I’m sorry Ma’am. No can do. Captain’s orders.

:: Throwing herself to the ground, she let out a wail of grief and frustration. She slammed her fists down on the transporter pad.::

Ensign Gurgel: NOOO!!!!!!! No! Dammit…no.

::Just then, Captain Regan Terrel walked in as the doors hissed closed behind her.::

Captain Terrel: What the hell is going on Ensign?

Ensign Gurgel: ::sick with anger and sadness:: Oh, Captain…it’s awful.

Captain Terrel: :: gently helping her junior officer to her feet:: Let’s get you to sick bay. We’ll discuss this there. You’re going to be okay, Ensign.

Ensign Gurgel: :: looking her Captain in the eye:: Okay is a relative term, Captain.

(USS Hercules, Sick Bay)

:: Waiving his medical scanner around the head of the traumatized Ensign, the doctor checked Coreen for injuries. As the Captain patiently listened, the young Ensign began to explain, in detail, all of the horrors she had witnessed. She described the brutality of the Vaquial, and how their goals involved slavery, violation, and genocide. Once again, she wept as she told of the atrocities suffered by the innocent children. Looking pleadingly into her Captain’s eyes, she saw the heartbreak her commanding officer felt…both for her and the Frillian’s.::

Captain Terrel: ::breaking protocol and hugging her:: Ensign…Coreen, I’m so very sorry. ::stepping back and looking compassionately into the Ensign’s weary features:: I wish there was something I could do. However, the prime directive is very clear in this case. This is an internal affair. My hands are tied. I have already had the shuttle wreckage removed and Lieutenant Christie’s body recovered. At this point, we have to minimize our impact on these people. ::squeezing her hand:: get some rest Ensign. We’ll be having a service for Loren at 1400 hours. I’ll see you there.

:: With that, the Captain turned and walked out of sick bay, leaving Coreen alone with her demons, and the knot in the pit of her stomach. This experience had changed her forever. She had lost a friend and colleague. She had witnessed the most obscene horrors of war first hand. She held a noble alien as he took his last breath. She watched helpless women and children violated in the most terrible ways imaginable. How could it be wrong to oppose terror and genocide? How was it possible for an organization she believed in and loved so dearly to be so short sighted? The Federation was supposed to be a shining beacon of righteousness. Was it? Does the Federation truly live up to its ideals of peace and justice…or is it all a political façade? Was Kamal right? Is the Federation’s perspective truly…broken.::

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