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Old September 1 2011, 05:46 PM   #106
Admiral2
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Location: Tokyo Bay
Re: June Challenge 2011 - "Liberty"

Re: August challenge: "Dramatis Personae"

Unfortunately, however, it seems we are going to have to wait… until the show premieres. As the director is taking us to yet another part of the seemingly endless Challenger set (seriously, it seems like they built the whole ship here), an obviously flustered assistant comes running, waving an iPad. The director excuses himself, and the two engage in a whispered but furious discussion. After a few minutes, the director sends the assistant scurrying in the direction of the wardrobe department before coming back to our group.

“I’m really sorry,” he starts, looking simultaneously angry and embarrassed. “A scheduling conflict has come up, the details of which I can’t discuss; suffice it to say, we can’t have any visitors on set for the rest of the day.” There are some disappointed groans, but considering the studio paid for our trip and hotel, most of us grin and bear it.

“I’ve got to send you all back to your hotel for a few hours, but assuming we can overcome this problem – knock on wood – a studio van will be back later tonight to bring you back, when you can take pictures. Also, in order to make up for the situation, you each have a choice: you can get tickets to the pilot’s premiere at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, or when we bring you back, there will be someone in wardrobe to take your measurements and we’ll get a Challenger uniform made for you in the branch color you’d like. Once again, I apologize.” He waves at the assistant from earlier, who’s headed back in our direction. “LaTonya will take down your choice and contact information.” He moves off as if heading for the bridge set, but takes a step back in our direction.

“On your way out, you might notice a table with some props on it. Just phasers, actually, the non-light-up stunt versions.” The director winks conspiratorially. “It’d be a shame if some of them went missing, hmm?” And with that, he’s gone, and LaTonya is dutifully recording our information.

About six hours later, the studio van does in fact come back to the hotel, and we get unlimited access to the fully-lit, all-monitors-and-sound-effects-running sets of the USS Challenger. Good thing I brought extra batteries and memory cards. I can’t wait to put the pictures up on the site, which I do on the flight home, as the airplane has excellent wi-fi.

Pictures and set visit report posted, I lean back and watch the deep blue of the night sky through the 737’s tiny windows. Man, what a trip…
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Re: August challenge: "Dramatis Personae"

Oh, and me, I picked the uniform. I figure I can watch the premiere on TV with my friends back home, sporting my unquestionably authentic uniform. Which, when Star Trek: Flight of the Challenger premieres, is exactly what I do.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

USS Challenger

“May I remind the captain,” Connie said as the turbolift sped towards the bridge, “that we are overdue in the Gateway Sector? We should have Transitioned into the Corridor a day and a half ago!”

“I know, Commander. But since we’re already late, a few more hours won’t matter, hmm?”

“Admiral MacAllister won’t be happy, and I suspect you could care less, but there are also the crews of two starships waiting for us to relieve them, crews that haven’t been home in over three years.” Gabriel met Connie’s pleading gaze with a neutral expression. She shook her head in frustration.

“I might as well be talking to the bulkhead,” she muttered. The rest of the short trip to the bridge passed in silence.

“Helm,” said Gabriel, sliding in front of Connie as they stepped on to the bridge, “set your course for the Ranieri system, warp six.”

“Set my course for the Ranieri system, warp six, on your word, Captain,” Lt. Mokul said, his fingers moving deftly over his console.

“Execute.” Challenger pivoted lightly on her axis and jumped to warp in a burst of silent thunder.

“Estimate arrival in three hours, Captain,” stated LCDR K’kon, from his position at Ops.

“Very well. Once we arrive, helm, set your course for the Vidshi Drift, orbiting the fifth planet of the system.”

“On your word, sir”.

Connie gave Gabriel a concerned look. “The Vidshi Drift, sir? Starfleet is persona non grata there.”

“There’s someone there that I need, that the ship needs.”

“And it doesn’t bother you that the last Starfleet ship to visit the Drift barely made it out of the sector in one piece?” Gabriel looked at Connie, and a half-smile crossed his face. I really hate that smile, Connie thought darkly.

“Commander, we’ll be fine. You just have to know how to talk to those people…”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

En route to the Vidshi Drift

Gabriel stepped into the dimly-lit section of the ship that housed the Black Seven commando team. Nestled in the lowest decks of Challenger’s engineering section, the commandos’ enclave looked more like part of a Medieval dungeon than a Starfleet vessel. Torches guttered in wrought-iron sconces, ancient-looking tapestries fluttered in a wind of unknown origin, and weapons of exotic make hung from the dark metal walls. Though no-one was visible, Gabriel knew he was being watched.

“Major T’sera?” Gabriel called. Shortly, the Vulcan commander of the Black Seven appeared as if coalescing from the shadows. She wore a form-fitting body glove, specially designed for the commandos’ armor and other gear to attach to. The body glove left nothing to the imagination.

“Yes, Captain?” T’sera’s voice was quiet and matter-of-fact, though it carried a decidedly un-Vulcanlike menace. Despite having known her for as long as he had, or perhaps because of it, she still gave Gabriel chills. She knew it, and he knew that she knew it, and that she took a most definitely un-Vulcanlike pleasure in the fact.

“We’ll be arriving at the Vidshi Drift shortly, and I need to go aboard. I need two, ah, volunteers to accompany me and the away team.”

T’sera considered Gabriel’s request for a moment, then barked: “Makto, Kyu-Syubi, front and center!” At her command, Sgt. Makto, the Seven’s heavy weapons specialist, and Sgt. Kyu-Syubi, their tracker, appeared and stood at attention, three steps behind T’sera. They were both shirtless; by the look of them, Gabriel had interrupted a workout of some sort. He looked at Makto’s deep bronze skin and Kyu-Syubi’s blubber-like flesh, and noted that both had amassed several new scars since…

Gabriel shivered imperceptibly, deciding not to follow those memories any further. Time to focus on the task at hand.

“You probably know that Starfleet personnel aren’t exactly welcome on the Vidshi Drift,” Gabriel said. “It can get a little rough.” At this, Makto and Kyu-Syubi smirked; ‘a little rough’ was a cosmic understatement. Both men were already anticipating busting a few heads. “But there’s someone there who I need, and we’re going to go get him, whether he likes it or not.” Gabriel’s gaze fell on Sgt. Makto. “We’re going to find your father, Kromm.”

“I have no father,” rumbled the Klingon.

“Then you won’t mind if I insult him.”

“Pfah. Words. Do as you wish. If I have the chance, I will gut him like the spineless peta’Q that he is.”

“I would prefer you didn’t, Sergeant. As I said, I need him… and unmolested, mind you.” At Makto’s glower, Gabriel added, “that’s an order, Sergeant.” Makto bared his teeth, and his hands tightened into rock-solid fists.

“I. Have. No. Father,” he repeated. “Nor do I have a House. The female that bore me was a gutter-dwelling whore, the weak-blooded coward who sired me is an honorless dog who forgot his oaths and vows to his wife whilst rutting with any woman who would spread her legs for him. I do not take his name as my own; he is not my father.”

“Whether you claim Kromm as your father or not, you are bound by the negh’Ch’taL blood debt that he swore to my family.” Gabriel’s voice grew icy. “And Sergeant… I am your commanding officer, and if you question my orders again, you and I will have more than words. You’ve seen me fight, or do you need a reminder?”

A long, tense moment passed. “I obey,” said Makto, grudgingly backing down. Gabriel nodded at the two commandos.

“Gear up. The stinger leaves in ten minutes.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Gabriel, Connie, Lt. Erika Priest, and Lt. D’negel arrived in shuttlebay two just before Makto and Kyu-Syubi. Lt. Mokul was already in the stinger’s cockpit, running down the pre-launch checklist, and several enlisted crew were busy loading ordnance in the stinger’s weapons bays. Gabriel had his Celvani thrustergun strapped to his hip, while Connie displayed a brace of (circa 2371) type-II phasers. D’negel was wearing his traditional Tas-Bestonian battle armor; he and the two commandos bore a variety of close-combat weapons. Together, they looked more like a pirate raiding party than a Starfleet away team.

“The Drift is heavily scan-shielded,” said Gabriel as they took their seats in the stinger’s troop compartment, “so we were unable to pinpoint Kromm’s exact location. This was not unanticipated.” A hologram of the Drift’s layout appeared in the center of the compartment.

“Mokul will put the stinger down here, in this cargo transfer bay. From there, we head for the commons deck, and we start asking questions.” At this, Makto and Kyu-Syubi shared a knowing grin; this was the part where they’d be able to ‘flex their muscles’. “If Darozan the Skug is still tending bar, he’ll be our best source of information.” The hologram winked out of existence. “Weapons on heavy stun; don’t kill anyone unless you have to.” Gabriel paused. “You may have to.”

“That’s a lovely thought,” Connie snarked.

“I want everyone paired up,” said Gabriel, ignoring Connie. “Sgt. Makto with Commander Taylor, Sgt. Kyu-Syubi with Lt. Priest, and Lt. D’negel, you’re with me.” Gabriel paused to adjust the fit of his ma’asti leather holster. “While we’re on the Drift, no one goes anywhere alone.”

“We are cleared for launch,” said Lt. Priest, from the gunner’s position in the stinger’s cockpit. Gabriel nodded his consent, Erika nodded to Lt. Mokul, and the heavily armed strike craft shot out of the shuttlebay and described a gentle arc towards the Vidshi Drift.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The away team made their way from the cargo transfer bay to the so-called ‘commons deck’ – which was basically one very long, very wide corridor that ran the entire length of the Drift’s x-axis – with minimal difficulty. To say they stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb when they appeared on the commons deck would be quite an understatement; it seemed like the entire deck, from end to end, went silent for a long moment before the normal hubbub resumed. Most of the beings looked at the Starfleet away team, figured ‘their funeral’, and went back to whatever they’d been doing. A few of them, however, began actively planning said funeral.

Gabriel navigated the commons deck with a familiarity and a bold stride that surprised Connie, who wouldn’t have expected him to exude such an aura of command. She stayed close to Sgt. Makto, taking a measure of comfort in the Klingon’s presence, but she was hard-pressed to suppress her explorer’s instincts; there were beings here from races that Starfleet hadn’t even encountered yet, or who were the stuff of starfarer legend.

After walking for about five minutes, the away team reached their apparent destination. It was a bar, impossibly seedier than the rest of the Drift. Neon-like signs displayed advertisements for drinks from all across the known galaxy, morphing every few minutes or so to hype the drink in a different language. Connie thought she recognized the logo for the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, but she couldn’t be sure; her eyes were watering from the stench emanating from the bar. Lt. Priest seemed to be in the same boat, but the others were apparently unaffected.

Behind the bar itself, which was an odd amalgam of duranium, wood, and bone, was perhaps the ugliest being Connie had ever seen. His four eyes caught sight of the away team, and particularly Gabriel, and they widened in… surprise? No, more like terror. Connie had to take another look at Gabriel. The barkeep was scared of him?

“Darozan,” said Gabriel lightly, as he stepped up to the bar. “Long time no see, as they say.”

“My left knee still hurts when it gets cold,” the Skagganak burbled. “Come back to ‘adjust’ the other one?”

“Just need some info, ‘Zan. That’s still what you do, hmm? Of course it is. Because people tell you things, and you take that and find a way to profit from it.” Gabriel leaned close. “You should be glad I stopped with the knee, ‘Zan. The info from that sale – you remember the one – led to some kids getting hurt.” Gabriel gave Darozan a dirty look, then stepped back.

“Just need some info, ‘Zan,” Gabriel repeated. “Here’s the deal: in my left hand, I have three Misiak sovereigns. Three. They’re yours if you tell me what I want to know. In my right hand, I have a Celvani thrustergun. I think you know what a weapon like that can do, especially in a place like this.”

Darozan was suddenly interested in the glasses on the bar in front of him, rubbing each vigorously with a permanently soiled towel. But greed got the better of him, and he asked, “What do you want to know?”
“Kromm.”

“Haven’t seen him,” Darozan said quickly. “Been months, maybe years. Heard he drank so much bloodwine, he pickled himself.”

“Kromm, Darozan.” Gabriel flashed the Misiak sovereigns, the coins’ obsidian-black finish glinting in the bar’s dim lighting. Connie thought she could see the Skagganak drool at the sight, and it wasn’t pretty. That’s going to keep me up nights…

Two of the Skagganak’s four eyes glanced to his left; Gabriel traced the line of sight to a booth on the bar’s south wall. From what Gabriel could tell, the comment about Kromm being pickled wasn’t too far from the truth; even so, the once-proud Klingon warrior was unmistakable. Gabriel tossed one of the black coins in Darozan’s direction before heading for the booth.

“You said three,” Darozan whined.

“You get the other two if we get out of here without being shot at,” replied Gabriel over his shoulder. Makto caught the subtle signals in Gabriel’s tone of voice: get ready, things will likely get ugly soon. Gabriel stopped in front of the booth, paused for a moment, then grabbed the tankard of bloodwine out of Kromm’s hands and took a swig that he promptly spit onto the floor.

“You call this bloodwine?” Gabriel grimaced. “Weak. No fire.” He leaned closer to the inebriated Klingon. “Just like you.”

No response.

“I have come with a chance for you to redeem your honor, Kromm. I need you on my ship.”

Still nothing. Gabriel had to look for a moment to make sure the Klingon was even still alive. He pitched his voice for Kromm’s ears alone.

“Do you honor your blood debt, do you stand and join me, and serve on my ship? Or do I stand and tell everyone, including your son…” At this, Kromm’s eyes flicked upwards. “…how you fled and lived while a woman, a human woman…”

“No…”

“… how my mother gave her life so you could save your miserable skin?”

Kromm’s eyes moved slowly over to Makto, then back to Gabriel. “He must not learn of it,” he slurred.

“Secrets have a way of coming out,” Gabriel said flatly.

“If he is to hear it, it will be from my lips.” Kromm stood, unsteadily at first but with growing resolve. “I will honor my oaths; I will serve you.” Gabriel and Kromm walked over to where the others in the away team had been waiting.

“Let’s blow this joint,” said Gabriel, taking a step towards the exit. A gravelly voice piped up from behind them.

“Oh, I think not. Kromm I came for, but ah, Frost, you I find as bonus. Leaving? In body bags only.” Gabriel turned around, though he’d recognized the voice instantly.

“You…”
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