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Old February 11 2013, 03:28 AM   #33
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Hey guys,

As always I always enjoy hearing what you think. I'm glad you like how cold blooded and sadistic Gakket is being and the other deepening intricacies. It's funny but I hadn't intended to rewrite as much of this as I have done thus far. Glad you are liking what I've done so far.

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Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
Benzar System

Captain Dylan North hung back in the corner, clutching a barely touched glass of Evoran pinot. He never had been one for social gatherings, and he hated the newer dress whites. They punched up at his shoulders and felt tight around the middle.

Dylan wanted to blame that on the tailor instead of his haphazard gym schedule as of late. The clinking of glasses and the din of engaged conversations was starting to make his head buzz. On one level he should be glad and proud of his crew that they were getting along amiably enough with the Romulans and even the Vorta sent from the Dominion. Commander Nandel was holding forth with the porcelain-skinned Hereth at the moment, both women all smiles.

There was a lot he could learn from them still, the captain realized. “Captain North,” Dylan winced at sound of the voice. “Why are you, ‘squirreling’ yourself away?” Commander Volok cut through the crowd, the smirk still slashed across his face. “Isn’t that the proper idiom, ‘squirreling’? Isn’t that a reference to some Terran mammal?”

North forced himself not to roll his eyes. Instead he remembered his drink and took a sip to collect his thoughts. He appraised Volok. The sharp-eared Romulan looked resplendent in his neatly trimmed black and silver uniform, barely a touch of gray in his black hair, which made the captain like the man even less compared to his own weathered appearance. The Romulan similarly sized him up, and Dylan tried not to suck his stomach in or puff up his chest, though he had an instinctual need to do so.

“Isn’t this a grand affair put on by our Benzite hosts?” Volok gestured to the large spread of dishes and beverages from across the quadrant and beyond. The Benzites had prepared something for every palate.

“It is,” North wanted to keep it short, and hopefully the Romulan would get the hint.

“A shame that with all the effort that the Benzites put into this feast, into that memorial that the only ship Starfleet could spare was a frigate,” Volok’s smile turned nasty as he leaned forward, his words aimed like an honor blade straight at Dylan. “I mean, it goes to show how unimportant the Federation considers Benzar if they couldn’t send the Enterprise or one of the more important ships.”

A vein along Dylan’s jaw line throbbed and he clutched his glass so hard that he thought it would break. His mind flashed back to all of his colleagues who had died defending Benzar against the Dominion, including Captain Larpek. Before he could stop himself, North jumped into the delighted Romulan’s face. “You listen here, you green-blooded…” the captain snapped.

“Captain North, is everything okay?” He calmed slightly at the sound of Barya’s voice. The Birthing Technician thankfully entered the conversation. Unfortunately she brought two others along with her. While Barya had a sympathetic expression, Administrator Malmak, the Benzite in charge of the memorial, was scowling at him. The other tag-a-long was admittedly attractive dark skinned Romulan woman with a bemused gleam in her eyes.

Though the Romulan wore civilian clothes, North spotted the disciplined, military way she carried herself that belied her civilian appearance.

“Everything is fine Technician Barya,” Dylan said tightly.

“This site is supposed to be a place of reflection to commemorate all who gave their lives here,” Malmak chided both men, though the captain felt it was really more directed at him. “This is not the place to re-air old grievances or new ones regarding Benzar’s sovereign status,” the self-righteous man concluded.

The captain’s face flushed hot at being talked to like a grade-schooler but he wisely kept his mouth shut this time. Volok had gotten the reaction he wanted and that made North feel even more indignant.

“Please forgive Commander Volok,” the Romulan woman said, and Dylan caught a welcome glimmer of displeasure in Volok’s eyes at the interjection. “Perhaps he was not aware of the sacrifices that you and your crew made for Benzar, saving the lives of many of its citizens. Without your efforts, it would take that much longer to rebuild Benzar.” She gave Dylan a curt bow. “We are all in the debt of the Rushmore and its fine crew.”

Dylan could never say again that he had never met a Romulan he didn’t like. He replied with a terse nod, and a more welcome smile. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure?”

The woman reached out her hand, Earth-fashion, “I am Livana Velen,” she added, “The new liaison to the Benzite provisional authority.”

“So, the Romulans are removing the military from control of Benzar,” North observed, staring with relish at a now perturbed Volok.

“Yes,” Velen said, “The Senate thought it was best that the military get back to doing what it does best, which is not run civilian governments,” Velen slid in her own honor blade.

“I understand that sentiment,” the captain grinned.

“Excuse me,” Volok replied with more ice than a Breen snow storm. He stiffly exited the group. Once Malmak saw that the second Earth-Romulan War wasn’t about to ignite, he folded back into the crowd. A relieved Barya followed. Velen stuck around.

North noticed that Velen’s glass was almost empty. “Care for another?”

She pursed her lips, considering the offer, “How about what you are drinking?” He held up the violet colored liquid. “What is that?”

“Its Evoran pinot,” North said, “This is my first taste of it. It’s not bad.”

“I’ll try it then,” the woman replied, “I trust your judgment.”

“Dispatching Volok and then trusting my taste in wine,” Dylan grinned, “I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
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Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
Benzar System

Lt. Torkill thought it would mollify him when most of the Romulan warbirds that had escorted the Dominion ship had peeled off, cloaking before heading to parts unknown. One Norexan-class warbird remained in orbit, and he hadn’t been too circumspect about checking it out through the station’s large viewing windows.

It was a sleeker engine of death than the hulking D’deridex-class, though both ships shared an avian design. The Fenarian would have loved to get a chance to explore the ship, but better yet test it against Rushmore. True his vessel was only a frigate, but it still packed quite a wallop. Plus Torkill was confident in his martial skill against any foe, short of a Borg cube. And he was certain that he could inflict maximum damage on even one of those before they vaporized him to bits. Torkill was certain he would never, or could ever, allow himself to be taken by the Borg and corrupted by the machines.

The wreckage floating beyond the warbird reminded him not just of the war, but of his first real taste of starship combat, during the most recent Borg incursion. He had been on the Kuvak at the time. The Miranda-class ship had been disabled fairly early, during the fleet’s failed attempt to stop the Borg in the Typhon sector.

While attempting to restore ship’s systems, Torkill had had to listen helplessly to the audio coming in from multiple ships as the Borg tore through on its way to Earth.

He had made sure he wasn’t so useless against the Jem’Hadar, whenever he had had the opportunity to face them. Though now, after the war was nearly a year old, Torkill felt an odd affinity for the few Jem’Hadar who had accompanied their Vorta liege.

Though they wore their standard gray uniforms, with the tubules sticking from their pebbled necks, the warriors were sans weapons. And they looked as awkward and out of place in the new era of peace as Torkill felt.

Though the old castes had faded into history Torkill still gravitated to his traditional warrior breeding. And with the Jem’Hadar actually being bred for war, this new era must be hell for them. He grinned, liking the thought of the horn heads suffering.

“Misery loves company,” he grumbled.

“Inside voice,” Miranda nudged him.

“What?” He asked, momentarily confused.

“You’re vocalizing your thoughts again,” she said, smiling.

“I am?” He asked, not quite believing her. She took a sip from her wineglass before answering.

“Yeah,” the engineer said, chortling. “Like you always do.”

“My apologies,” he said, with overt formality. Torkill looked around furtively, “Did anyone hear?”

“No, I don’t think so,” she said, “besides they probably wouldn’t know what you were talking about anyway, unlike me.” The woman said with confidence. Torkill wished he could sweep the human into his arms and mount her on the desert tray, protocol be damned.

Miranda purred deep in her throat and shivered slightly. She subtly, yet suggestively, bumped against him. Maybe Jonda was right about them being telepathically linked, Torkill wondered. They certainly felt as one during their lovemaking.

“Perhaps we can cut out of here early,” he leaned down, rasping his voice in her ear the way he knew she liked.

“Not yet,” she said, her voice suddenly distant. The woman was looking toward the center of the room, at the captain.

“If the captain wasn’t a bonded male, I would think he might be having the same thoughts we are,” Torkill said with amusement. The captain was getting on famously it seemed with a comely chocolate-hued Romulan female, her coloration not far off from Torkill, even though it was scales and not flesh which covered his body.

“I hope the captain watches himself,” Miranda said, less enthused. “These Romulans can be quite deceptive.”

“Said by the person who is a Romulan expert,” Torkill jested. Miranda turned on him, a flash of anger in her hazel eyes. The Fenarian took a step back. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she replied abruptly, scowling at the captain and the Romulan. “We just don’t need any more diplomatic incidents,” she said. “The Romulans have already tried to make hay out of that commissioner’s comments. The last thing the Federation needs is for them to besmirch the closest thing we’ve got to a hero of Benzar.”

“Well, if it were some other man I might be able to empathize with you, it’s the captain you’re talking about,” Torkill said, not hiding his confusion, over the woman’s statement or her change in attitude. “He is as sturdy as they come. No Romulan intrigue could shake him.”

“Don’t be so sure about that,” she cryptically replied. “We all have our breaking points.”

“What does that mean?” Torkill asked.

“Nothing,” she huffed.

“No,” the Fenarian wasn’t ready to let it go. He had caught the scent of something and like any good predator he wanted to see it through to the prey waiting at the end. “That wasn’t just nothing. What are you referring to?”

“Just drop it,” Miranda snapped. “I’m leaving,” she declared, pushing her glass into his stomach. He barely caught the sloshing glass, which unfortunately splashed on the midsection of his dress white tunic, coating it with a deep red, dripping smear.

Uncaring, Miranda added, “And I’m leaving alone.” And she did just that, leaving a dumbfounded Torkill holding her drink.
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