Aurellan Markalis hurriedly marched across the living area of her quarters, placing empty dishes in the replicator tray. She still felt groggy even after having cut down considerably on doses of triataline. She had limited the doses in the last nine days to her normally prescribed plus a gradually reduced amount meant to break the recent addiction. She felt a brief urge to replicate more of the drug even after having taken her daily dose after she pushed a control to dissolve the empty dishes. Of course, she had said just this once on multiple occasions. And how many more “just this onces” would result from this “just this once”.
Leo Houseman materialized behind her, the sound of which made her gasp with fear. She turned around and let out a sigh of relief at seeing a familiar face. As she kept telling him, she wanted to keep her personal and professional lives apart. And that meant no public displays of affection while on duty and being very selective about with whom they shared details of their relationship. That arrangement didn’t necessarily mean that her significant other would have to travel to her quarters in secret. Surely, walking up to the door and ringing the doorbell won’t start up the gossip mill. Commander Kozar visits the captain’s residence on an almost daily basis? Right?
“Do you still have to do that?” she asked, fruitlessly trying to hide her annoyance at his indiscretion.
“You said it was urgent matter,” Leo innocently explained.
“A personal matter of great importance,” Aurellan corrected, not that truly understood such semantic nuances herself. “Take it from somebody who has had dealings with Section 31, it’s still creepy. But anyway, I wanted to discuss something personal with you while there’s still a lull in combat. Sit down.”
The two of them sat down on the sofa. Aurellan took a deep breath to calm her nervousness about broaching a very delicate subject. “We both agreed that I would let you know when I was…ready to…consummate. Well…I’m ready.”
“All right,” Leo flatly responded. “How do want to proceed?”
Aurellan momentarily giggled. “Missionary position is fine.”
“Are you sure you’re comfortable with this after what happened last time, when I made the first move, as it were?”
Aurellan sighed ruefully, remembering Leo’s premature assumption that she wanted a sexual liaison after just the third date. “The way you sprung it on me was a bit frightening,” she explained. I’ve never…you know…copulated with anyone. After everything that’s happened and still will happen, I don’t want to die a virgin.”
“That doesn’t sound like a very logical reason,” Leo retorted, indicating how logically and rationally they both approached this relationship.
“No. But it is a human
Aurellan arched herself backwards, landing softly on the bed as she and Leo planted soft kisses on each other’s lips. His body was perched on top of hers, as he kissed one side of her neck and clasped her hands with his. She let out pleasured moans, her lips gaping open with satisfied agony as she felt his lips on her shoulders and collarbone. She wrapped one leg around his hip and grasped the back of his neck with both hands, and then skidded her fingers on her right hand down the back of his shoulder blade. She planted soft kisses on his neck. Soon, she felt another wave of euphoria all across her body as she arched her head aside, her facial muscles contorted from an ineffable feeling of blissful ecstasy.
Leo rolled over next to Aurellan while she was on her back staring up at the ceiling, her eyes wide with contented awe. A bed sheet covered her nude body up to her chest. Her arms, shoulders and chest were moist with perspiration. She took slow and deep breaths while her heart was racing. In this moment, all the stresses of her life just melted away. It was a moment she had hoped to savor for as long as it lasted. She now understood why this partnership was also called making love. She felt very strongly bonded to the man lying next to her, mentally and spiritually as well as physically, even if he was only a projection of light, energy, and forcefields. The tactile sensations of his flesh, or what passed for flesh, melded with hers still felt as real as any form of physical contact with a warm-blooded being.
“It was more amazing than I had ever imagined,” Aurellan gasped between breaths. “Unbelievably intense.”
Leo was on his back to her right, beads of sweat trickling across his bare chest. While the sweat and his unclothed state were merely holographic simulations, that was the furthest thing from Aurellan’s mind right now. What made the experience seem artificial was the hologram’s blank expression. She stroked the side of his face with her right hand to get his attention. He grinned lightly and said, “Glad to be of service.”
“Is that all it was to you?” Aurellan asked with a chuckle. “Just a service? Like I was practicing with you?”
“I wouldn’t exactly say that,” the hologram responded with a shrug as he stared straight into her gleaming blue eyes. “It was certainly an intriguing experience; one that gave me a firsthand understanding of why sentient beings seek to copulate for reasons other than procreation. It’s a means of establishing an emotional, as well as physical connection between two lovers.”
Aurellan smiled and rolled over, resting the side of her head on his chest. He stroked the back of her shoulder and her arm with one hand and locks of her blond hair with the other. She moaned pleasurably and stared soulfully into his eyes. “Then you understand why I didn’t want to copulate based simply on when a few supposed experts agree it is appropriate between two lovers?” she asked. “I wanted this experience to be more than just two naked bodies in a lurid carnal embrace. I love you, and I wanted it to be an expression of that love.”
Aurellan expected an awkward silence while the EMH processed what she had said. That’s why she was caught by surprise when he quickly responded. “I love you, too,” he said with no hesitation. “You’ve been willing to look at me as a real person while others see a piece of technology.”
Aurellan rested the palm of her left hand on his right cheek and smiled. She slowly arched her head upward and pursed her lips on his. She rested her chin on his left shoulder and closed her eyes, grinning blissfully in the hope that feeling would never go away.
That moment of contentment was immediately interrupted by a red alert sounding.
Morrison stood in the center of the bridge, just in front of the two command chairs when Limis stepped out of the ready room. He promptly returned to the tactical station as the captain stared at the viewscreen that was displaying Jem’Hadar and Breen ships approaching in groups of three and four. “Looks like they’re not going down quietly,” she mused.
“No, sir,” Morrison agreed. “Reading ten squadrons of Jem’Hadar battleships and Breen heavy cruisers, accompanied by support vessels. Plus about a dozen Cardassian patrol ships.”
Limis sighed, hoping that the lull in combat would last a bit longer so that engineering had more time for repairs. Oh, well, the crew was willing and able to handle combat situation at a moment’s notice.
“Alert to ships to...”
The tactical console chirped once again. Limis held her jaw frozen, waiting to hear what else the enemy had its sleeve. “I’m picking up about three-dozen Cardassian warships,” Morrison grimly reported, “mostly Galor
-class destroyers with six Dracon
-class heavy cruisers.”
Limis dropped her head, certain the Federation Alliance battle group had almost no chance against the oncoming reinforcements. Just remember the admiralty’s orders,
she reminded herself. We may be outnumbered, but our job is to try to fight our way to Cardassia.
“We're being hailed,” Morrison added.
“Put it up,” Limis commanded, certain a Cardassian gul would be gloating.
Limis was now eye-to-eye with a Cardassian gul, who appeared on the viewscreen. Like any gul, he was imposing figure, simply by his demeanor alone. He had pale copper skin and dark hair that showed some streaks of gray. Stubble around his chin indicated facial hair having recently been shaved.
“Captain Limis Vircona,” he said with an intimidating, yet modest tone. “I am JaGul Arek Latham, commanding the Ninth Order aboard the Cardassian Union warship
Pakar. We are here to join in the efforts to remove the Dominion and Breen interlopers.”
“I see,” Limis replied, trying to hold in a sigh of relief. That these Cardassians were on her side didn’t necessarily mean the coming battle would be any easier. “Then you’ve come to right place.”
“Then let’s get it done.”
Limis simply nodded in agreement and pleasant surprise that a Cardassian was echoing Admiral Jellico’s words of encouragement before closing the channel. “You heard the man,” she announced to the rest of the bridge crew. “Let’s get it done. All ships, form up alongside the Cardassian destroyers. All fighter and light cruiser wings, take out the support vessels any way you can. The rest of us will take on the battleships and heavy cruisers.”
-class patrol that were along the outer formation of enemy vessels swung around and fired at the Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters. The larger Cardassian destroyers then laid down cover fire for the patrol vessels. Some of the ships were destroyed as they headed towards the Dracon
Their sacrifices allowed additional ships to slip through a line of Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters. The Lambda Paz
and flanking Saber
-class light cruisers fired phaser salvos at the fighters while speeding towards the larger ships. The Starfleet ships all fired swarms of quantum torpedoes, inflicting minor to moderate damage to the enemy ships’ forward hulls. Other squads of Akira
-class ships, along with Klingon and Romulan capital and support ships struck the enemy fleet either following behind the Lambda Paz
’s group or in other locations, all trying to squeeze themselves and more ships through the Dominion lines.
Gorn and Xindi vessels were also involved in the battle, blowing apart Dominion and Breen ships of all sizes.
It was a sight never seen before since before the founding of the Federation—an alliance of once mutually hostile alien races now fighting alongside one another against a common enemy. All of the ships now fighting on the side of the Starfleet ships represented races that had posed a threat to Earth or the Federation at the some point the previous two hundred years. Now, all those powers--Federation, Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian, Gorn, and Xindi--were united in vanquishing a dangerous empire from the other side of the galaxy.
Federation and allied ships continued firing endless rounds of phasers and torpedoes, having little trouble knocking down Jem’Hadar and Breen vessels. The larger vessels continued firing plasma torpedoes, taking down as many Federation Alliance support vessels as they could. The ships along the outside of the formation laid down cover fire for the battleships and heavy cruisers in the center. The ships in the center were firing plasma torpedoes at oncoming ships, damaging or destroying a number of Starfleet capital and support ships, Klingon attack cruisers and Romulan warbirds. As they were continuing to lay down disruptor and torpedo fire, the Dominion and Breen ships gathered closer together and slowly swung around. Then they streaked into warp.
“They’re withdrawing, sir,” Morrison triumphantly announced.
Some of the younger and lower-ranking officers and crew on the bridge stared at the viewscreen, their faces beaming with pride. It was a sight many of them had never expected to see when the war began. The enemy was withdrawing to its central headquarters. The higher-ranking officers--Limis, Morrison, Carson, and a few others--knew it was only a temporary victory, a strategic withdraw.
Limis still flashed a light smirk. She couldn’t help thinking that the Dominion knew it had lost. Winning the war now was simply a matter of defeating the bulk of their forces around Cardassia Prime. Of course, the task ahead would be far from simple.
“Let’s not start celebrating too soon, people,” she proclaimed while standing up out of her chair. “We still have a lot of work to do. The enemy has been backed into a corner. They know they’ve been beaten. They’re still going to make us fight to the bitter end. It’s still up to us to finish the job.”
A long silence filled the bridge, until Morrison’s communications board chimed. “Incoming messages from rest of the task force,” he said. “Admiral Gündersen on the Manchuria
says a number of ships were diverted from Sarpedion shortly after the solar eruptions at Minakus. They were able to slip a few wings of ships through to Cardassia.” He tapped a few controls on his console to sort through the additional messages. “Admirals Bellamy and Coburn say that a number of Cardassian destroyers initially fighting alongside the enemy lent them a hand at Tirolk. Admiral Ross and Chancellor Martok add that they’re lines were on the verge of collapse at Getha when the Cardassians switched sides.”
Limis took a quick look at the ceiling, wondering if those Prophets she didn’t entirely believe in were smiling down on her and the Federation Alliance fleet. Had all of Cardassia suddenly seen the light? In any case, Limis was certain victory was within their grasp, but humbled by the fact that the Dominion would not go down quietly.
“Lieutenant Carson,” the captain said, “set a course for Cardassia Prime. We’re going in.”
“Aye, sir,” Carson briskly responded.
Limis sat back down in the command chair, letting her own inner voice drown out various orders being given from her subordinates. Finally, after two long years, this war would soon be over and thousands of her deceased friends and colleagues in the Maquis would be avenged.