Act IV is the naughty one, and in order to read it, you need to be registered at the HopeStation.net Repository. It's free and they don't sell your info to /anyone/. I can't post it here because the moderator has asked me to consider the ramifications of positing something that might be offensive as per the rules of the BBS. So, I'm warning you up front, now.
Here's Act II!:
Within the confines of the bridge observation lounge, a majority of the senior staff gathered around the long curved table. Rather than sitting at the end of the table, Leone sat in the middle on the side that faced the viewports. Ariel sat on her immediate left, in her place as the acting executive officer.
"The debris that penetrated the aft deflector caused major damage to the warp coils, Captain," reported Petra, as she stood in front of the starboard side viewscreen to give her damage assessment. "Luckily, with our scheduled warp trials, we are carrying spares aboard, but I'm not quite ready to sign off on warp drive, just yet."
Leone nodded. "How long to make the replacements and get us up and running?"
Petra did the calculations out loud. "Sixteen hours for the coil replacements, give or take an hour. It'll take longer to repair the damage to the plasma vents; an additional twelve hours. I'll say at least a day, maybe a day and a half if we have to fight some more, sir."
"Start your repairs. Let's not waste any time. Did you find out what our friends in the brig did to the navigational deflector?"
"The device that was connected to the control computer burned up and left very little to go through, sir. Luckily, there does not appear to be any long-term damage to the deflector itself; we just had to replace a few isolinear optical chips and a stretch of ODN cable."
"I would say we were lucky, there, but given the nature of our guests, that might have been by design," said the captain. She turned to Ariel, "Given our present position, how long would it take to reach Earth at maximum warp?"
"Thirty to forty years," said Ariel. "That's if we had the luxury of running at maximum warp the entire time. Which we don't."
Leone nodded slowly. "So, longer, then."
"Add another five to ten years to the trip, unless we happen to recreate what they did to our ship, or we get lucky and find a wormhole or some other space-time anomaly that'll help us out."
"Noted. Doctor, crew status?"
Sovera replied, "Minor injuries, such as lacerations and bruises were brought to my staff's attention."
"Nothing more serious than that?"
The doctor agreed with a slight incline of her head. "Most fortunate, considering the violent nature of the shockwave's effect." She continued, "I have examined our guests at your request and have found that both underwent extreme dermal alterations to appear human. Mister Saleb is actually carrying an exoskeleton which is covered by a synthetic dermal layer to not show his... scales, so to speak. Mister Belkis, on the other hand, could be considered human, although his DNA has some drift between his species and homo sapiens."
"They're different races?"
"That is correct."
"Did they tell you what race they are?"
"They did not appear to provide me with much information, other than they are oxygen-nitrogen breathers, same as most carbon-based lifeforms discovered throughout the galaxy," replied Sovera. "Both have declined to be restored to their natural state."
"Now that the cat's out of the bag, I wonder what would be the point?" asked Ariel.
Leone ignored Ariel's question. "We'll respect their decision for the time being, unless the doctor believes there is any more subterfuge to be gained from it."
"The ship's computer can now distinguish their lifesigns. It will be easier for them to be tracked than before," said Sovera.
"All right," said Leone. "Since our departure from Antares, I've asked Commander Elannis to stand in as acting first officer. As I expected to have at least completed the first day's trials by now, and not halfway across the galaxy, I will need to make further temporary appointments to fill key positions. Therefore, I am designating Lieutenant Nieves as second officer."
The rest of the table accepted the news with a nod or a quiet verbal acknowledgement.
"Unless there's any other news...?"
No one said anything.
Here's Act II. It turns out I misread the Acts. Act IV is the 'naughty' one. Enjoy!
"Then with the exception of the commander, here, you're all dismissed."
---- Scene Change ----
A four-man security team stood over Saleb and Belkis as they sat within the observation lounge. As a testament to Belkis' formidable presence, two of the security guards were chosen specifically for their strength and ability to contain a larger target. Saleb wore the same little smile he did when he first appeared on the bridge, while Belkis scowled at the fact that he was being handled against his will. Their equipment lay out on the table, out of reach near the head on the starboard side.
"Let's start at the beginning, shall we?" said Leone, from across the table.
Belkis and Saleb traded nods of their head, indicating that the other should proceed first. Finally, Belkis growled, "You tell them. It was your idea."
Saleb grinned. "Yes, it was," he said, proudly. "All right. So, in the beginning, the Kasui were a somewhat underdeveloped bipedal species living on a planet near the edge of known Tristnor space about three hundred years ago."
"I am a Kasui," announced Belkis. "Twenty-five years ago, following centuries of enslavement and conditioning, my people determined that our existence as slaves to the Hegemony required extreme change. We live in a caste society, and my people are at the bottom of the system. We are bred for service, hunted for sport, raped, forced to perform dangerous labor; we are in complete and submissive service to all of the other races for any whim they desire."
"Okay, and Mister Saleb is one of the other, less subjugated races?" asked Ariel.
"No, I am a Tristnor," answered Saleb. "Top of the proverbial heap."
"How nice for you," Leone commented, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"It wasn't, really. The Hegemony may treat the other races like property, but when you're among the elite, they demand much more of you there," said Saleb, his smile dropping somewhat. "I am... was... one of their most brilliant minds in the area of quantum-level propulsion. My studies have led to a breakthrough of a new method of propulsion that the Hegemony is very interested in. A quantum-level manipulation of space-time, which would allow a ship to traverse great distances by way of an anomaly."
"Prior to that," interrupted Belkis annoyedly, "there was a growing faction of Kasui who had freed themselves and acquired Tristnor technology and ships in order to try and free as many of the Kasui as possible."
Ariel leaned forward, her interest obviously piqued. "Is the aim of your group to destroy or overthrow the Tristnor?"
Belkis shook his head. "No. We just want to rescue as many of our people as possible, and find a new place to call home. Someplace far enough away from the Tristnor that would allow us to build our own military and defenses."
Saleb continued, "As much as I was involved with a number of projects relating to the conquest of other worlds, our goal was to attempt a full systems integration of this new drive system into one of their frigates for testing. We got to the third stage, before I decided-"
"We," corrected Belkis.
Saleb gave him a sheepish grin. "We. Sorry."
"We decided to pull the plug... forcibly. Giving the Tristnor this level of technology would mean that no section of the universe would be safe. And so, it was decided, that we needed to find another more advanced race to help us."
"The threat of the Tristnor being what it is, I suppose I can see the threat to the Federation. However, what I fail to hear is that you approached the Federation in a more open manner." Leone looked at Saleb with narrowed eyes. "I assume you reached Federation space using your handy invention?"
"We equipped a starskiff with the beta device." Both officers gave him confused looks. He explained, "It's for ships that might have an inadequate system for generating a quantum field. It includes a quantum field generator."
"How long ago was this?"
"We arrived roughly three months ago, and started studying Federation culture with particular emphasis on Starfleet."
"In your studies, did it not occur to you that approaching us in friendship would be a better option?" Leone's tone turned edgy.
Belkis cleared his throat. "Do not get upset at him. He did suggest approaching a Starfleet ship under a flag of truce and explaining the situation. I forced him to adopt-"
"Hold on, now. It wasn't all your idea. I was the one who came up with stealing a ship in refit," complained Saleb quickly. "You were the one who was determined to steal the Enterprise!"
"The Enterprise?" said Ariel with a blink. "Worf alone would have ripped you two in half, let alone the others."
Belkis looked embarrassed. "In our studies, the ship named Enterprise is legendary in your history. We thought it was a logical choice."
Leone and Ariel shared an amused look. "Yeah," said Leone, "they are pretty well-known in our neck of the woods."
"Being on a deep-space exploration mission, Enterprise was obviously out of our reach, being that we required a vessel powerful enough to help us. We were able to use some techniques to gather information about ship locations and status," said Saleb. "The Nebula-class heavy cruiser is comparable to the Galaxy-class, and luckily we found Farragut undergoing several system upgrades."
Ariel snorted. "Lucky."
"Yes, well, er... be that as it may, we felt that it was better... how do you say it... ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. We arranged to have ourselves admitted as civilian engineers on the refit team approximately one month ago. We installed the alpha device the night before launch within your primary navigational deflector's control computer, to run a warp plasma power node through the deflector dish and create the anomaly."
"So we've seen," said Leone. "And from what I understand, the device is now burnt out and useless. Leaving one hundred seven-four people stranded deep within the Beta Quadrant, involved in a war with a race they know nothing about." Her tone grew in intensity as she laid out the obvious. "You have deliberately plunged the Federation into war with a species it hasn't even made first contact with!"
"Uh, all circumstance aside," said Ariel, placing a hand on her captain's shoulder and squeezing it gently to remind her of their surroundings, "how did a Tristnor like yourself get mixed up with the rebel Kasui?"
Belkis chuckled. "Saleb is hopelessly in love with my sister," he said, matter-of-factly.
Shocked, Saleb turned his head toward Belkis. His mouth hung open and the air of smug superiority vanished completely. "N-No! I mean... how you could possibly know that?!"
Belkis smirked. He ignored him and continued, "My youngest sister was a lab slave that brought them whatever they needed throughout the day. Her name is Bettis, and Saleb took a strong liking to her."
Saleb looked down on the table, furious. "Please tell me how you know that."
Preventing Belkis from speaking any further, Leone said sharply, "Perhaps we could move on to topics that bear directly on our predicament." She placed her hands on the table and looked at the upset Saleb. "Mister Saleb, is it possible to get this ship back to Federation space?"
In a dejected tone, Saleb said quietly, "Yes."
Saleb said nothing, obviously upset.
"Mister Saleb, I require an answer."
Composing himself quickly, Saleb replied, "The remnants of the alpha device are not useless, as you put it, Captain. They require a replacement of the core crystal that runs the device. It was not entirely compatible with Federation systems, so I had to construct an isolinear-based bridge between the two systems."
"That must have been what Petra had to replace," remarked Leone to Ariel. "Where do we find a replacement for your device, Mister Saleb?"
"We find the frigate we were testing and we can replace the whole unit, if need be."
"I take it that the frigate is not in an area where it could easily found?"
Belkis looked at Saleb. "What do you think? Stage three?"
"It would be the right time for it," answered Saleb. "Yes... yes. They would have started back to the first stage with the devices taken." He turned to Leone. "We took both the alpha and the beta from the lab during transfer to the frigate for installation. But, there were backup units built in case the primaries were destroyed during testing.
"Wouldn't they have been tested alongside the primaries, though?"
"They were. But we destroyed all of the testing data before we left."
Ariel asked, "So they'd be forced to start over?"
Belkis nodded. "It gave us some time to find you and bring you here."
Leone rose from her seat, satisfied with the information so far. "We've already destroyed one of their ships, and based on the information you've shared with us regarding their technology, they appear to be comparable in technology to the races near the Federation. I'm not sure if they would actually present a threat to the Federation or not, but I agree that an culture bent on total domination of the Milky Way would meet with some resistance where I come from."
Ariel stood up, as did Belkis and Saleb. Saleb asked, "Can we count on your assistance?"
"I... don't know," admitted Leone. Off their disappointed expressions, she added, "It's the best I can do. This isn't a decision I can make lightly and I do appreciate that time is of the essence. My first priority is to find a peaceful way to extricate ourselves from this conflict and get my people back home," she told all of them. "Ensign, please see to it that our guests are escorted back to the brig."
"The brig!" squealed Saleb as the security team moved to escort them away. "Captain, may we please not be treated like criminals?"
Leone snapped, "You are criminals, Mister Saleb! Until I make my decision, I want you as far away from computer access as possible." Just before they left, she called after them, "You'll have my decision in one hour."
So, will she or won't she? You know she will. It would suck to be left out in the Beta Quadrant with no friends. But there's that pesky Prime Directive to consider...
Thanks for reading, and if you can I would great appreciate some reviews at the HopeStation.net Repository. Mistral's posting stuff over there, too.