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Old December 11 2009, 05:29 PM   #31
Insp.LeStrange
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Re: Sleeping at Warp









20 Our Beautiful Redemptions





“Doctor Salvatore.” Tom managed an amiable nod. Or at least tried to, while the doctor greeted him with a sweep of a medical tricorder wand.

“Mm hm. Evening, sir. Come on in. You can call me CT, by the way. Corbin Tibalt. Please, make yourself comfortable.” The doctor gestured for Tom to enter. “How's the shoulder? Would you care for something to drink?”

“No thanks. Shoulder's – tell you the truth I guess I got used to it. Must be on the mend. You said something about a matter of the crew, CT?”

The quarters stood nearly empty but for the furniture. An open suitcase rested on the main dining room table. It contained a half-built model ship nestled in foam; Tom recognized it as an ancient sailing vessel, a four-masted wooden Cutter. Of all the things one might bring on a starship test flight - a fragile, complicated project hardly seemed like a sound idea. What did that say about this doctor? Tom really had no idea. Which is why he was a pilot and not a ship's counselor. Or a diplomat.

“Two scotch glasses,” the doctor told the replicator. “With ice.” He took the rock glasses and produced a bottle of barrel-aged scotch from a rucksack. “Sir, how well do you know the crew?”

Tom declined the offer of a drink, and seated himself at the sofa, resting his posture more informally. “It's your quarters. Call me Tom. The crew? It depends. With regards to what, exactly?”

The doctor sat in the chair opposite. A fiftyish man of Greek ancestry, he spoke with the open flatness of his New England upbringing. A native Bostonian, he was well-traveled across the Federation as an itinerant Starfleet physician. Raised in a mission academy for orphans, Salvatore had joined Fleet Medical to spend most of his time in transit practicing exomedicine and participating in various Starfleet medical exchanges. While not nearly as far, or as fast as Tom had gone, Salvatore had been around the worlds, and then some. The doctor had even served in the Dominion War. Doctor Salvatore's service record had struck Tom as someone he would have liked to work under as a medic. When it came to dealing with humanoid crews, someone slightly less...digital. “Did you have something to report, CT?”

“In terms of physical health, there aren't any problems to report.”

“I see. But in terms of mental health?”

“I have some concerns.” The doctor leaned back into his chair, sipped his scotch and watched Tom.

“Is this a psychological evaluation, Doctor?”

“Not at all. This is what we in the medical profession call having a drink. Go ahead. Computer, Miles Davis. Fifty decibels.”

The computer sounded and muted trumpet jazz began to filter softly through the room.

“Thanks, no. Was there anything else?”

“The crew's mental health. I thought you should know. They're ready. They are chomping at the bit to rescue Voyager. Not that you need to hear it from me, but - you made the right call. We're all behind you – in command, and in spirit.”

Tom sighed. “Actually – that's what I would call a pretty good diagnosis. To be honest, it's exactly what I needed to hear. I just didn't know it yet.”

“Well this physician didn't just fall off the turnip wagon,” CT smiled, and raised a toast.

Tom looked around the quarters. “Not exactly Starfleet medical, is it.”

“The cost of being a ship's officer. I don't mind. I pack light. A life on the move, that's for me.”

“Speaking of which – what do you call that?” Tom indicated the ship model in the suitcase.

“A hobby of mine. Model sailing ships. Starships in bottles. Classic aeronautical vessels. That kind of thing.”

“I did the same thing. When I was a kid.”

“A good ship is an idea. Same idea, big or small. But no two are quite alike.”

“Kind of a funny kit for a ship's officer, isn't it?”

“Takes my mind off my work,” the doctor shrugged. “You should see some of the looks I've gotten at customs checks.”

“Well for a traveling fleet doctor who builds ships in his spare time, you sure don't seem to accumulate much.”

The doctor smiled and sipped. Tom decided not to pry.

“Served on a planet in every sector in the Federation, ten planets in Beta quadrant, seven starships, thirty-seven hospitals and an interstellar generational biosphere. I don't plan on slowing down anytime soon.”

“Looks like pretty soon you'll be adding a new quadrant to that list.”

Great,” he smiled. “I'll be the only doctor in Starfleet with a thousand light-year house call.”

Tom thought of B'Elanna, and Miral. Lying there in coma, while he shared small talk with a crewmate.

The doctor must have registered his mood. “Sometimes – there's just nothing you can do, Tom. Nothing except feel for them. You can do that just as easily from here. They know that.”

He considered this doctor. According to his service record, Salvatore had been married once. “If you don't mind my saying, Doctor, you seem pretty comfortable with fleet duty.”

“Yeah. But it wasn't always the case.” The doctor looked out the window at the streaming vortex, worlds fleeting past like so much warp trail dust. “Mala – that was my wife – she had a whole plan for us to settle down. On Earth.” He reminisced in momentary silence. “Even talked me into it.”

Tom sat silently while the doctor recalled his past. “She was a nurse, you know. We met in the aftermath of Wolf 359. On an emergency medical shuttle in high warp out of Regulus. Best damned nurse I'd ever seen in action. Taught me a thing or two about surviving days and nights of triage, with a smile for her patients that never left her face no matter how much blood she endured.” He refilled his glass. “Love, and duty – I just don't know if I have that in me again.”

The doctor watched Tom, lost in thoughts of his own.

“Life is transient,” the doctor continued. “A million things can go wrong. Most of it you can't control. But what you can control? You fight tooth and nail for.”

Tom roused from his sad reverie. “You lost her, didn't you.”

The doctor looked away and Tom had the impression he was only scratching the surface. “Shuttle accident on her way to a relief mission in the DMZ. I was already there, planet hopping and giving aid anywhere and everywhere I could – and making no friends on any side. She wanted to catch up with me there, though I insisted she stay at DS9. For all the good it did me.”

The doctor swigged his drink. “A Jem'Hadar attack wing just blew her shuttle out of the sky. No reason, no warning. No retribution. A humanitarian mission.” He darkened. After a silent moment, he said, “Killing a Jem'Hadar is like turning off a machine. There's no revenge in it. No gratification. No greater good. There's nothing, but emptiness.” He looked at Tom. “I've made my peace with that emptiness.”

“I'm...sorry,” said Tom.

“But Mala – she had empathy. She cared. Other nurses would just desensitize, but she never did. She empathized with each and every person under her care. It was a Herculean effort that made me feel like an amateur next to her. She was the best part of me. You probably know what I mean.”

Tom replied, ”In my case “empathy” isn't quite the word I'd use. More like, “outrage”. So tell me CT, do you ever think about, you know, doing it again? Starting a family?”

Salvatore swirled his ice lost in thought. “I didn't think so, but.... I'll face a Jem'Hadar shock troop with nothing but a well-charged phaser rifle. But kids? Scare the hell out of me.” The doctor reached for the bottle. “Mala's ova are still in cryo-storage though. Back in Boston. If I ever wanted a kid...that'd be...who I want. But I couldn't ask someone to carry it; and I sure don't want to hire someone. So I guess that's that.”

The doctor offered the bottle, but Tom declined again. Salvatore poured two glasses anyway. “A toast,” he said, putting the glass before Tom. “To our beautiful redemptions.”

Tom drank, and took a deep breath. He rose.

Doctor Salvatore followed suit. “As of now you are officially off duty. Regulations, Tom. Have a good night's sleep.” The doctor saw him to the door. “Captain.”

Tom hesitated, then nodded and left.

Last edited by Insp.LeStrange; December 11 2009 at 05:42 PM.
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Old December 11 2009, 07:10 PM   #32
Insp.LeStrange
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Re: Sleeping at Warp









21 The Limiting Factor




“One book of poetry.”

Vexa ran her fingers along the cracked spine of the antique book, and flipped through the browned pages. Something fell out. She picked it up; it was a dried red rose. She turned it in the light, and pondered the logic of placing a flower between the leaves of a book.

She remembered her task. After collecting Lieutenant Commander Tiroj's personal effects, she was to occupy her new quarters, as the ship's new resident Chief Operations Officer, with an unexpected field promotion to Lieutenant, Provisional Junior Grade. Captain Paris had presented her the pips himself in a quiet, dignified ceremony as befitting the occasion – accompanied by the five other officers he had upgraded, and the four others given full rank field promotions.

Vexa placed the book into the suitcase of Tiroj's personal effects. “Computer, resume recording.”

“Three bars of gold-pressed latinum.”

“One locket.”

“One...” She opened the small case, and saw reservoirs of colored compounds and applications. “One cosmetics case.” She touched crimson, and studied the red stain on her finger, and regarded her colorless reflection in the mirror. She could never hope to enhance her appearance with the refined skill she had witnessed in the feral elegance of Commander Tiroj's Boslic facial morphology.

“One set of mechanical pencils.”

“One drawing tablet.”

The tablet revealed many half-formed sketches of fanciful unfinished buildings and abstract architecture, modern, ancient, and alien. According to her service record, besides being the Operations officer, Yurel Tiroj was a practiced architect and inventor – two hobbies she had entertained in her off duty hours. Her drawings varied widely; but the emergency shelters she had helped to create on war-torn Soltok IV had given hundreds of displaced colonists an immediate refuge – perhaps the beginning of what might have been a distinguished humanitarian side career.

“One picture frame.” Yurel Tiroj and Doctor Salvatore walked on a long strand of calcite silicate particles in a class M temperate marine zone.

“One copy of Taechlen's Unexpurgated Field Equations.”

“One cultural relic, a drawing on dried animal skin. It would appear to be quite old.”

“One wooden flute.”

“One...Vulcan meditation stone.”



She thought of her mother. It had been six years since she had stayed at home for more than a week at a time.
With her promotion had come an upgrade to bridge officer quarters. A living room with two viewports, a bedroom with two viewports, a dining area, and full bath. Vexa had never rated such personal space before. She doubted she could occupy it quite fully.



She finished her task:

“One officer's manual.”

“One communicator.”

“One tricorder.”

“One phaser.”

“One pair standard issue boots. Well worn.”



She had taken one last look at the empty quarters, suitcase in hand, and deactivated the lights.

Tomorrow she would be moving into those officer's quarters. She would be placing her own personal effects and artifacts about the room, wondering who would be removing them. But for tonight, Lieutenant Commander Yurel Adlena Tiroj's quarters would stand empty, silent, and dark.



The Vulcan meditation stone lay concealed in her pocket; Doctor Salvatore had received the effects, intending to hand deliver them to her family; he had revealed to Vexa that he had been close with the lieutenant; and that Vexa was the only other one in the universe who knew. The doctor appeared to be a man of little disclosure to most people; yet Vexa had already felt an immediate bond between them. It was the bond of shared loss, which was a kind of logic she had never encountered before. When he saw the stone, he had studied it, and had placed it into Vexa's hand with a sad smile. “She would have liked for you to have this,” he'd said.

Walking through the corridors at the late hour, the crew still bustled with purpose and focused energy. But they seemed to veer a little too far from her; to notice her but pretend not to; to whisper after passing. She continued forward with an unfathomable lack of expression, such that none would ever know how close she had come, just minutes earlier, to defying her lifetime of purpose with the shedding of a tear.



Vexa entered the mess hall. The noisy relaxation of the crew filtered through the atmosphere. She could see faces watching her furtively, of crew she had yet to meet despite her months of working on the project. She really hadn't gone through the normal orientation procedures, and now her isolation, logically, felt pronounced.

She took her soup to a table of three female officers. As there were no available tables, Vexa interrupted them. “Would you mind sharing the table?”

The Human female looked at her friends. “Go ahead.” When Vexa sat, they arose. “We were just leaving anyway.” She watched them go with incomplete logical understanding and a sudden vacancy that seemed to enhance her public isolation. What was it that had offended the crew? Was it her mistake? Her first day of duty, putting them all in danger?

Admiral Janeway had told her, in a quiet moment on the evening before the inquiry, that Vexa had redeemed any mistakes she may have made. The Admiral, in fact, had indulged in a moment of nostalgia when she recounted her own first day of duty. She had nearly set off an interplanetary incident when she had openly contradicted a Hralik dignitary from an orthodox religious sect about the age of his planet; further exacerbated by her inadvertently crossing his shadow, a breach of cultural protocol, and nearly invalidating the Federation as a mediary between two war-weary planets and plunging them further into conflict. The Admiral had stated that it took her a week to leave her quarters at night. But had been glad she did, for the crew sympathized, as they also had all made their own mistakes.

But this struck Vexa as different, somehow. Perhaps it compounded with her unanticipated field commission to Lieutenant Junior Grade and subsequent posting as ship's Operations Officer. It would not have been the first time her excellence generated the resentments of those around her. What they refused to comprehend was the amount of work she had put into her career in order to excel – one theorem at a time. They could not know the extent of sacrifice of all other life considerations and typical rites of passage, indeed, even the deeper disciplined study and meditation of Logic. In light of her inexperience with leadership, however, she was to attend command exercises under the tutelage of Doctor Salvatore, when he was available, and to “fraternize”, as the Captain had suggested, once weekly with the First Officer – the newly-minted Provisional Commander Seven of Nine.

“This seat taken?” Grif threw his leg over the chair and put down his tray. Vexa suppressed any visible reaction to the various dishes he had acquired, all orbiting a seared slab of bovine muscular tissue. “Just got back from Commander Bessek's quarters. Did you know he collected antique noire movies and crime novels? And he has a whole gigaquad of Victorian era detective stories. I know I shouldn't do this, but,” he leaned in conspiratorially, “I made backup copies of it all. I don't know. I just thought it might help me get to know the guy whose quarters I'm about to take.”

“I am certain the Commander would not have objected,” Vexa replied. “I don't know that I will ever understand Commander Tiroj,” she added. “Nor the significance of her unexpected and futile demise.”

They sat in silence for a moment. Then, Grif said, “Are you sure? They died doing their duties. They died being exactly what they were meant to be, in a righteous cause. That's how I want to go.”

Vexa said, “They may have been prepared; but my parents regard ship duty as a kind of death penalty. This will only affirm their positions. They described my motivation for ship duty as an emotional reaction. They fail to see my life's pursuit of logic in this matter. They think I have succumbed to emotion but, in this case, they are erroneous.”

“You should have heard my father when I told him I wanted to join Starfleet. I thought the walls would fall. Talk about emotional reactions.” Grif laughed in his cup.

“I do not understand why one chooses to cope with the free expression of emotion,” she pondered.

“I couldn't live without them. They tell me who I am. Emotions are the reason I didn't take ship duty. After my father died – I just had to, you know, stick around close to home. My mother's health wasn't good. She needed me. And with the War, the Cardassians – someone had to be around to pick up where the old man left off.

“Then she died of complications. I was left alone. Don't get me wrong – plenty of family friends who offered me support and condolences. My father had won the loyalty of many. But by then all the good billets had passed me by. Never thought I'd get another chance like this. I plan on making the most of it. Might be my only chance to, you know, get out here.”

“Then perhaps we do understand something of each other.”

Grif regarded her. “I could never learn to live...without the free expression of emotion...the way you do. No feeling. No anger. No love. For me, that would always be a limiting factor. For a Bajoran, that's a kind of death penalty.”

Of the various conceptual responses occurring to her, as well as her subdued, naturally-occurring emotive and behavioral responses, Vexa failed to find a suitable reply. She couldn't argue; she found it too time-consuming to educate him enough to understand her component logic, let alone emergent logic. And she was tired. The subject vastly outweighed the constraints of a fleeting late night commiseration. And she found she had no motive – to offend Jace. She replied, simply, “For a Vulcan, love is the most destructive emotion there is.”



Sharp tones emitted from a nearby table, distracting their attention. Four junior officers sat in a shared criticism of something. Then one of them looked at Grif, and returned to the increasingly intrusive discussion.

Grif noticed the two Bajorans, a Bolian and a Human, whom Vexa recognized as having come from Hakton VII; a Federation colony in the DMZ under the constant watchful gaze of Cardassia Prime.

“And there it is,” Grif muttered.

It was the Human male who had started speaking loudly enough for their benefit: “Grifahni Gage advocated for dismantling of the Bajor provisional government, and to take a more aggressive stance in the DMZ. People like Gage gave the Maquis a bad name – committing aggressions, secret assassinations and other illegal means, any means at all, to secure Bajoran Maquis interests. The Maquis benefited from a lot of the terror techniques developed by the Bajoran Resistance over the years. But antique zealots like Gage would only undermine the Maquis cause as a frontier power and make the Maquis no better in the public's eye than the Cardassians.”

A muscular Bajoran Ensign stared at Grif smugly. “Well the Occupation was over. The demilitarization of the disputed colony worlds was just a formal technicality easily worked around, since the Cardies continued feeding arms and military support through third-party intermediaries like the Xepolites. Still plenty of action to be had for the bloodthirsty. And plenty of soldiers still craving blood with nowhere else to channel it.”

“But that didn't afford the mercenaries any suitable longterm strategy,” the Bolian countered. “Grifahni Gage and his terrorism singlehandedly undermined everything the Maquis had accomplished up to that point. It's because of people like him the Maquis will have to surrender to Bajoran bureaucracy now. With the Cardassian Union straining under joint fatigue, and exhibiting much less military cohesion through the sector, which could easily - ”

The Bajoran Ensign interrupted: “Grifahni Gage was a mercenary and a loose cannon. He was incapable of taking any longterm view. He wouldn't care if his actions and the actions of rogues like him destroyed all chance of Maquis security, in his quest for personal salvation.” He turned to Grif directly. “And I think I'm looking at another loose cannon right now. Our new Lieutenant Tactical Officer. Am I wrong? What are you? Sir.”

Vexa watched Grif still himself in considered silence; then he got up, removed his two Lieutenant's pips and combadge, and set them on the group's table.

He stood that way for a minute. Nobody moved.

“My father didn't fight for salvation,” Grif said. “He fought for survival. But not his own. For your survival. The survival of your families and your homes. You're just too obtuse to realize it. Oh I know you. I know each and every one of you. I know your assignment, I know what you studied at the Academy, and I know each and every posting you've served and what route you took to Mars and the favorite lunch of the shuttle pilot. Ensign Fetho. Ensign Lohr. Ensign Batilla. Ensign Cheraon. I know where you're from. My father flew missions in each of your colonies. And if you didn't know that, it's because the mission succeeded. You're in that chair right now because of him. You're here to debate the longterm greater good because of him, and people like him, who gave their lives to keep you alive, so you could live to fight the righteous fight another day. So go ahead and spit in his name and his cause. Because you were his cause.

“You think I'm like him?” Grif leaned into the Bajoran Ensign's face. “You're wrong,” he spoke lowly. “While you sit around hatching your political theories, when the Cardies come to burn your homes and families – I won't be there taking fire for the likes of people who would rather vilify their champions and hold themselves above the cost of their own survival.” Grif straightened, and replaced the combadge and pips to his uniform. “I'm a Starfleet Officer. I answer to Starfleet Command. As do you, now. So the only question left to ask, Ensigns, is - what are you?

The group remained silent. The entire mess hall watched in stillness.

“My old man isn't around anymore. But someone else here is. Sitting right over there, listening to you blowing steam like a first week cadet. I haven't seen one of you people thank her or congratulate her for saving your hide. You can't even talk to her.

“Now let me tell you what I see. I see four untested uniforms. But I'm not going to expect you to prove yourselves. I'm not going to give you any absolution. I'm not judging you by your service records, or your commanders' evaluations. The only thing I see are your actions. I want to know if you're worthy of the lives of those two officers that died defending this ship; worthy of the lives of this crew; worthy of the lives of my father, and all the Maquis who died for your chance to be a Starfleet officer on the Federation's only starship in the outer quadrants. So it's time to ask yourselves the question. What are you?”

The Bajoran Ensign stood at attention. “Sir.” He nodded, and went to Vexa's table, and offered his hand. She met it.
One by one, the other officers followed suit, rising, excusing themselves with a “Sir”, and shaking Vexa's hand before leaving.

Grif returned to his seat and started eating.

Vexa said, “I will never understand you.” Nor could she understand, after just suppressing the paralysis of cautionary dread, why, looking at him, her entire being began filling with strength, and radiant warmth. She was certain she could not hide it in her eyes – if anyone but looked.

“What's to understand,” Grif said unnoticingly, and bit into his steak.



Vexa spent the next hour shaking the hands of every crewmember who stopped by her table on their way out.



In her final night in cramped Ensign quarters, she lay awake another hour processing the day's illogical extremes. Asking herself questions his mere existence had unwittingly provoked.

Last edited by Insp.LeStrange; December 11 2009 at 10:21 PM.
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Old December 15 2009, 03:28 PM   #33
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Re: Sleeping at Warp









22 Dark Nebula





Acting Captain Thomas Eugene Paris of the USS Perseus read over his padd of report updates on his way to the bridge. He didn't know what happened, but he'd had the first full sleep in ages, thanks in large part to the catharsis provided by Doctor Salvatore – as well as the confidence instilled in him by the efficient professionalism of the crew; as well as their moral support. In turn, he, like Captains Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok, would try to offer his crew strength where they needed it, understanding when they needed it, and personal sacrifice, when duty and good conscience demanded.

According to the scrolling data on the padd, the Voyager trail had varied through the night. The ship had managed to not only erase its quantum wake, but also to alter course erratically. Fortunately, Seven and Vexa had successfully gotten the PRAM Sensor modifications online; the technology proved itself, and Voyager's unmistakable neutrino output had lit up like a Christmas tree on the PRAM display - resulting in an ebullient night shift for the crew. He doubted the alien intruder would be aware of the technique; so far, all of Voyager's course corrections had occurred independently of any PRAM Sensor tests.

Tom couldn't say why, but this morning, the crew seemed tighter, somehow. As if the night had affected them. They took to their duties expediently and in good cheer, considering. As acting captain he would have to make his peace with sometimes being out of the loop when it came to staff morale. But that was alright; because Tom trusted this crew. He trusted in their abilities and professionalism and even passion. He'd served over seven years with a good many of them; and had personally gotten to know each and every member prior to their deployment to Perseus.

The turbolift opened to the bridge.

Seven of Nine announced him. “Captain on the bridge!” She stood by the command chair, and the entire bridge crew stood at attention by their stations, awaiting inspection. Their show of respect emboldened Tom and filled him with a sense of pride – duty – and loyalty to each one of them in turn.

He stood in the center of the bridge and noted each officer: Commander Seven of Nine, First Officer and Chief Engineer. Lieutenant Commander Nikhila Munich, Second Officer and Chief Communications Officer. Ensign Ujio Shir, Helmsman. Lieutenant Grifahni Jace, Chief Tactical Officer. Lieutenant Vexa, Chief Operations Officer, now bearing a gold mantle - on a Starfleet uniform.

Tom hit the shipwide com indicator on his chair's panel. The boatswain's call sounded throughout the ship. “All hands,” he began. “This is the acting Captain. I'm pleased to report the installation of the new PRAM Sensor modifications have been successfully completed. Perseus is on a direct course for the Starship Voyager. Congratulations to you all. Starfleet couldn't ask for a better crew in all the fleet than the crew it is my honor and privilege to command, the crew of the USS Perseus. Voyager's only hope rests in your hands. Because of each and every one of you, the odds just shifted in her favor. Let's bring her home.” He killed the switch and sat in the command chair. “Stations – and let's stow the protocol.”




Tom evaluated the chart of the two ships' courses on the main screen. “She's on the run and hell bent for leather. Seven, report.”

“Sir. Given the headings set by Voyager through the night, Lieutenant Vexa and I have extrapolated Voyager's course corrections in order to localize any likely destination points along a range of median vectors.”

“What did you find?”

“The set diminishes with increased distance attained,” Vexa said, indicating a string of various trajectories across her panel's display of the Delta Quadrant; as Perseus blazed through the sectors, the fan-shaped vector range narrowed, parsec by parsec. “However many variables remain. The range covers many inhabited systems indicated by the Borg stellar data that Voyager acquired in its final voyage back to Earth.”

“What's this vector here?” Tom indicated a bold line traversing the range. “Wait a minute, I know that vector. That was Voyager's original course for Earth. Almost didn't recognize it upside down like that.”

“Affirmative, Sir. As you can see the range of possible vectors is entirely intersected by that course.”

“Speculation?”

“Unknown.”

Seven interrupted. “If the alien intruder originated from the Delta Quadrant she may have learned of Voyager in that time period. With her powers she could have easily taken any number of Federation ships with superior capabilities; yet she has obviously gone through great pains to acquire Voyager in particular. It would suggest a prior familiarity. Especially in light of our current course.”

“Or Voyager might have been her backup plan, if she failed to acquire Perseus,” Tom replied. “All we really know for sure is that her plan required a ship with quantum slipstream drive, obviously. She may have been able to fashion a quantum drive out of whatever matter replication techniques she employed – but it was Starfleet design. My guess is that no matter how advanced she is, she hadn't had access to a quantum drive until we gave it to her. Who knows what she wants to use it for.”

“Nevertheless, the vector patterns clearly fall into place around Voyager's original heading for Earth. Speculation suggests a correlation. Perhaps something Voyager did while in the Delta Quadrant affected the alien's interest somehow, which is why she would have taken the trouble to locate Voyager, out of all the ships in all the galaxy.”

Commander Munich looked up from her constant scanning of Voyager's records. “Well if there was ever any indication of the species of this alien, I can't find it. None of Voyager's records contain any mention of this race whatsoever.”

Tom wasn't convinced. “Still, it's not as if people steal starships to go take care of business tens of thousands of light years away from home. She must have at least some familiarity with the Delta Quadrant. Of course, if that's true, it raises a pointed question.”

Tom looked at Vexa. She paused from her scans to consider it.

“How did the alien traverse the quadrant in the first place to arrive in Sector 001 of the Alpha Quadrant?” she answered. “And if in a ship – where is its current location?”

He and Seven exchanged consternated glances.

“So, is there anything at all worth noting along these paths Vexa?”

Vexa zoomed in and graphical callouts indicated several key regions in the range. “If the course median holds to the extrapolation, Voyager could pass within a vicinity of approximately five hundred seventy-three star systems, most of them uncharted and statistically uninhabited. Five pulsars and nova-type stars, a stellar nursery, a void expanse, various known spatial and subspace phenomena, a cosmic string fragment and an imploding star cluster.

“The Borg data indicates several regions of major inhabited stellar civilizations as well as cold buffer zones not unlike the Alpha-Beta Neutral Zone. Lesser civilizations and colonized worlds are likely as well. The course also skirts various fractionated radiative regions, chaotic spatial disturbances, and posited dark matter formations. Of course, this represents what can be known or inferred. No doubt this region contains any number of uncharted phenomena. There is also a likelihood the destination falls outside this range entirely; however this likelihood, like the vector range, diminishes with time.”

“And nothing to indicate her purpose,” Tom said.

Neither Vexa nor Seven had a reply.

“There is another factor,” Seven countered. Vexa raised her brow in question. “The maximum range Voyager can maintain current speed before engine failure.”

“It is illogical to assume the alien will push Voyager to engine failure,” Vexa replied. “She can drop out of slipstream at any time, and reestablish any course available to her.”

“It is your logic which is in error,” Seven countered. “If her intention was to traverse a distance beyond the capacity of the quantum drive, she would not push the engines to their maximum limit prior to arriving at her destination, requiring a prolonged shutdown of those systems. She would have used a less energy-intensive speed for greater distance of travel. Therefore, logically, her destination must be within this vector range. I have already done the calculations. Would you care to run them, Lieutenant? For the sake of the Captain.”

Vexa considered silently in logical acquiescence and ran a new set of variable parameters. The computer flashed with vector corrections and other notations. The subset Voyager icons flashed in their respective positions across the sectors. “Varying speed over this course would result in an earlier arrival time than traveling at maximum speed and stopping for the necessary down-maintenance periods. The further Voyager travels the more this holds true. Captain, the Commander's hypothesis is correct. Velocity analysis indicates a greater likelihood that at current speed Voyager will reach her destination as early as possible, rather than take a more measured course for a longer or more circuitous route. She will have factored in her total distance accordingly.”

“She didn't reduce speed earlier. She won't stop completely down the line and arrive even later,” Tom said. “No, this is a one-legged long jump before burning out the drive. Good work to both of you.”

Vexa added the new data and requisite formulae to her analysis. The vector range shortened and narrowed considerably. “This increases the likelihood of her arriving at one of these charted regions. Captain, I apologize for overlooking such... an obvious key factor. My logic was in -”

“I've seen course corrections like this before,” Tom replied. “Like I said. On the run and hell bent for leather.”

Vexa exchanged looks with Seven. “Yes, sir, but – we have proved -”

Seven interrupted her. “The Captain's – logic – was correct, Lieutenant.”

“Yes, Commander.” They gave Tom the eye and returned to their readouts.



Grif took a look at their vector analysis on his Tactical station. “She doesn't know if she's being followed,” he said. “But she's not taking any chances. Gonna be tough taking her by surprise. So what are we gonna do when we catch her?”

Tom straightened from the readout. “Briefing room. Five minutes. Pencils sharpened.”



The briefing hadn't been as productive as he'd hoped. The extrapolated courses placed Voyager's destination somewhere in the central region of Delta Quadrant – an area Voyager had not even traveled before it had been absorbed by the Borg sphere in its final mission in the quadrant. So much for past run-ins.


“Captain. Reading massive fluctuations of discrete clouds and cloud complexes. Superradiant emissions, IR sources, hydroxyl emissions, ionized gas, carbon family molecules, silicon oxide, isotopometers and deuterated molecules.”

Voyager had disappeared from all sensors. Where she had gone, however, was no mystery.

“Sounds like a garden variety stellar nursery to me?” He hoped.

Vexa continued. “Readings indicate spectral line emissions in the microwave band of the EM spectrum. Most likely due to naturally occurring astrophysical masers.”

“Nothing Perseus can't handle, Lieutenant.” Tom leaned forward and assured himself he was right.

Despite their brainstorming during the briefing, little was forthcoming. The problem lay not in the crew's resourcefulness – but in the x variable that undermined all strategy: the alien motive.

“No sign of Voyager,” Ujio added. “The dense molecular cores of the filaments and clump formations provide too much interference. Some nasty weather ahead. Supersonic magnetic turbulences infusing and dissipating randomly, sir.”

“Shields up and steady as she goes, Ensign.”

Grif had suggested a covert boarding, given the opportunity, rather than a full assault. Seven contributed an inspired idea of a Borg-enhanced interpolating security field in which to snare the alien, utilizing Vexa's subspace-jamming technique to prevent the alien from reprogramming the technology telekinetically – or however she managed to do it. But it would take time to create.

Time the alien had not given them.


Perseus approached the stellar nursery, a Giant Molecular Cloud sixty-four point seven parsecs across in diameter. Somewhere in that violent storm-tossed dark nebula, the starship Voyager bided silently, deep in a dense molecular core, shrouded in ammonia traces and alien intent.

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Old December 15 2009, 03:36 PM   #34
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“Captain,” Ujio said, “Reading a large gravitational mass dead ahead. Cobalt collisional excitations and stimulated emissions. It's a forming star,” he said in wonder.

“On screen.” In silent awe, the crew watched the brilliant stellar formation amid the kaleidoscopic ignition of particulate matter, shimmering in a dazzling spectral display.

“Captain” Vexa broke in, “Reading increase in maser activity and gravitational effects of molecular clumps and vortices being drawn to the forming star. Carbon molecules, nitrogen, helium, neon, argon. Reading unknown induced emissions of several exotic particle types. Some exhibit excessive mass indications with minor charge-to-mass ratios. Strangelets.” She regarded the scene on the main viewer. “It is a prestellar quark core, Captain. The first one ever seen in existence.”

“Particle density of accretion molecules increasing to seven point five nine grams per cubic centimeter. Stellar currents exceeding mach five. She's getting rough, sir,” Shir said. He turned to Tom. “Plenty of EM interference, could provide suitable cover while we wait for Voyager to emerge.”

“Agreed. Drop anchor and batten down the hatches, Mister Shir.”

“Sir?”

“Full stop, Ensign.” Andoria. Ice planet, Tom told himself.

“What do you think Voyager's doing here, sir?” asked Lieutenant Munich.

“Hard to say, Nikhila. Maybe she's waiting for someone. Or something. Or she could be -”

Suddenly a massive energy beam ripped through the cloud and struck the Perseus shields, tossing the ship over like so much flotsam.

“What the hell was that!” Grif shouted over the red alert klaxon, while power fluctuated through the ship.

Tom pulled himself off the floor. “One of Vexa's spectral line emissions.”

Vexa returned to her station and sorted through the various alarms. The ship's power came back online. “Sir, an electromagnetic wave stimulated the exotic strangelet particle radiation. Since astrophysical masers lack mode purity or coherence, the result was - “

“Spectacularly not good!” Grif concluded from the floor.

“The stimulated emission of the exotic strangelet particles created these...shall we call them Exotic Strangelet Masers, sir.”

“Kind of a mouthful, Lieutenant. How about something simpler, like...EXS masers?” he replied.

“Yes sir. The beam eruption followed the path of maximum particle emission from the prestellar core.”

Grif hauled himself up. “In other words, random bursts of shield-penetrating death radiation.”

Vexa turned. “Essentially, he is correct, Captain. The EXS masers are highly-polarized and could overload the shield emitters; if the EM wave transitions should strike the warp core tetryon particles -”

“I get the picture, Vexa,” Tom finished. “Can you rig something to give us some warning if it happens again?”

“I will activate an X-magnetic spectrometric scan that should give us a warning. But sir – there is no guarantee we can outmaneuver the fluctuating radiation in time -”

“Perseus can do it,” said Shir.

While the crew waited and watched in tense silence, Perseus rocked in the high-velocity magnetic turbulence of the prestellar core formation. On the viewscreen, long tendrils of EXS particle beams disgorged from the quark star emissions, circling, lashing and blasting around the fluctuating cloud complexes, shuddering through ship and crew.



An alarm pinged. “Sir, reading a molecular vortex coming our way,” said Ensign Shir. “Heading towards the star. Stellar winds are rising.” More alarms started sounding.

“On screen.”

A dark vortex loomed and pushed its way towards them through the charged molecular currents. The clouds roiled from the approaching energy mass.

Voyager emerged from the clouds, firing phasers on Perseus.




The ship shook violently and plunged into chaos. Voyager fired all batteries against Perseus on an overhead pass. The supercharged particle currents erupted in a blinding lattice of EXS masers that enshrouded both ships in violent cosmic energy.



Tom roused in the darkness of auxiliary lighting, that flickered on scorched bulkheads, his shoulder burning in pain. “Report,” he strained. There was no reply.

He dragged himself upright and scanned the bridge. The crew began rousing from unconsciousness. He helped Munich right herself; the confused Com officer indicated she would be alright.

“Engineering! Report!” There was no reply.

“Sir,” said Ensign Shir. “Voyager is gone. I can't get impulse. Shields down to eight percent. Sir! We're adrift in the particle wake! We're falling towards the stellar core!”

Warning. Shields failing. Fatal radiation exposure in two minutes, came the automated announcement.

“Thrusters! Full reverse!”

“Aye sir!”

“Captain, we've lost phasers. I don't know how she did it. Reports coming in from the ship,” Grif added. “Casualties, no fatalities. Yet.”

Vexa added, “Sir, I'm reading a quantum wake exiting the region. Dissipating fast. Recommend we exit the nebula and activate the PRAM Sensor as soon as possible. Voyager's course is evasive.”

“Engineering to Bridge.”

“Go ahead, Seven.”

“Impulse engines have been damaged extensively; they are offline and will be unrepaired for at least twelve hours. Holographic crew are offline. Auxiliary systems are offline. Thrusters losing power. They may not clear us of the gravitational pull of the formation.”

“Status of the automated systems?”

“Structural readings are intact. However controls have been fused throughout the assemblies. We'll have to send teams to replace them manually. MVAM mode is unavailable.”

Warning. Shields failing. Fatal radiation exposure in one minute thirty seconds.

Tom leaned in his seat and checked his panel readouts. As the stellar quark core raged ahead, He factored in a new equation. “Seven, prepare for warp speed.”

The bridge crew all turned to him in surprise.

Seven replied, “Captain, there is no way to know what kind of effect a warp field will have on the particle masers. We don't know if the field will stabilize; or whether the deflector will be able to function in such a dense environment. You are taking a gamble. We must work on repairs in order to emerge from the nebula on thrusters and impulse.”

“How long will Voyager's vector trail last, Vexa?”

She shook her head. “It will have dissipated completely, long before then, sir. By that time the PRAM Sensor will be useless at pinpointing an accurate source. However the EXS masers will have certainly overpowered our shields by then. If we can even escape the gravitation of the stellar formation.”

“Seven, staying too long in the nebula with eight percent shields is a gamble we can't win,” he replied. “Them's all the cards we've got. Warp speed. Now.”

After a millisecond of silence, Seven replied, “Aye Captain. I will require one minute.”

Tom cut the com. “Any longer, and she's fired,” he assured Ujio.



A massive EXS maser lattice drew around the ship, just as Perseus jumped to warp and punched a new hole in the flashing nebula -

- and emerged from a quantum vortex firing a volley of photon torpedoes at Voyager.

Voyager's engines narrowly avoided the hits as the ship maneuvered through its orbit of a red star with a massive gravity: a Stellar Rogue lost in the vast darkness between two galactic spiral arms knifing the sky.

Alarms rang throughout the bridge. “Sir!” Vexa shouted. “EM readings are off the scale! Hard X rays, gamma rays, radio waves – the stellar matter is coalescing into an impulsive stage eruption!”

Shir shouted, “She's a Red Flare Star!”



“Captain!” Grif shouted. “Voyager's opening a slipstream directly in the path of the flare! And she's going in!”

The quantum vortex pulled the starship Voyager into the slipstream, faster than light.

“I can't control it Captain!” Shir yelled. “We're being pulled in!”

As a massive stellar loop flared out of the red star, the USS Perseus tumbled towards the vortex.

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Old January 7 2010, 08:22 PM   #35
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23 Marble Sirens





The Supplicant Scribe climbed through the vine-enshrouded statuary in the cold gray Ashallan autumn. Winter air penetrated her plain hooded cloak, while leaves swept the uphill landscaped paths and undermined footing on the ancient stone stairways. Ahead, she watched the Vulcan Emissary pause to regard the ancient grand entrance arcade of the Bajor Council of Ministers, remove his hood, and enter in solemnity.

She passed through the gauntlet of dozens of classical statues looming overhead, some weathered gray by millennia, others cut from fresh white marble since the Bajoran liberation. Sirens of the Prophets, from classical Bajoran mythology; she studied them in passing: Truth. Knowledge. Filial Piety. Suffering. Legacy. She read the inscription on the base of a wide, broken marble column: Their music calls the heart to the mountain, where the cliffs are sheer and the holds are slight.

Entering the grand arcade to the sanctuary of the Ministry, the Supplicant Scribe sipped from the chalice of Prophet's Tears. A chamberlain received her entry authorization and regarded her shaded visage. “Supplicant Scribe, Adjutant on behalf of the Dakhur Committee for Refuge. Enter with the Prophets.”

She found a marble bench in the upper gallery overlooking the circular table arrangements of the council floor, and watched the council meeting already in process.



“The dispute has arisen regarding access to these reparations,” spoke the delegate from the Petitioner's dais, in a voice soft and civil, at once sensitive, penitent, sincere, and – keen in inflection. It was difficult to believe the voice, like the plain supplicant's robe, was bore by – a Cardassian.

“Gul Trask, the Council has reviewed the petition of the Maquis Colony Coalition. The impetus for this issue is at question. The reparations would hardly make a difference in their current economic circumstances.”

“And to that point I'm certain they would agree, Minister Jenod.” He had a powerful, if soft presence, thought the Supplicant Scribe from her vantage above. In a way he represented an entirely new face for Cardassia. The face of a diplomat. Trask continued: “The reparation issue represents a problem which lies not so much in the economic arena as the political. It cuts to the heart of the formal relations which Bajor is currently attempting to strengthen with these member worlds. Each administration of the colony worlds enjoys a differentiated, discreet relationship with Cardassia. As such they wish to petition Cardassia directly for access to reparations for the Occupation, without going through Bajoran process or authority.”

“The Bajoran process ensures the fair deportment of those resources among all who suffered under the Occupation,” spoke another Minister.

“Be that as it may, Minister, by affording reparations to the Bajoran government, these Coalition colonies can claim that Cardassia denies reparation to some of those Bajorans who were forcibly displaced during the - Cardassian Occupation of their homeworld. A most unfortunate accusation that undermines Cardassian sympathies and disrupts our own social reforms at home. I am here to petition the Council for a formal writ that establishes the Bajoran government to be the only legal channel through which these reparations may flow, in attendance with the Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter, in order to strengthen both Bajoran and Cardassian respective positions on this matter. As you say, in order to ensure the proper and fair deportment to all those deserving of the small measure of justice and Cardassian atonement these reparations signify.”

“This is already the case, Gul Trask,” replied Minister Asuan, an elegant, severe older man with a D'ja pagh earring bearing a brilliant Stone of Council Permanence. “What exactly is it you wish to procure from the Council?”

Distinguished Ministers,” Gul Trask emphasized, eyeing Minister Asuan, “The problem of intercolony unrest has spread to sector interstellar traffic, namely for third party shipping interests, which are now being harassed and detained for inspection and other thin rationales, preventing trade and expedited access to these worlds. This problem has only worsened in recent weeks. However, with the permission of the Council, I offer a solution that can be to all of our mutual satisfactions. On behalf of the Cardassian Delegation, this proposal will be presented by someone far more qualified than I. With your indulgence, Ministers.”

Gul Trask looked to the entryway, where another hooded supplicant sipped from the chalice and entered.

“Proceed,” said the disfigured Minister Jenod.



The Petitioner stood in the center of the dais and removed his hood. “Eminent Ministry, hear my supplication.”



A minister stood. Across the room, another stood. Then more stood around the room, defiantly, as disbelieving unrest filtered through the chamber.

The new Supplicant waited silently and scanned the chamber with his only eye. The large Cardassian soldier towered from the dais like a pillar of raw power, exuding a lifetime of hardened battle experience, and allowed the room to absorb his presence.

Rifle-wielding Bajoran security guards calmly penetrated the aisles in a show of controlled force. The Council Vocutor bid them to stand at rest – for the moment.

Murderer, someone said.

War Criminal, said another.

The enemy, others said.

How is it he still lives?
another demanded.

How dare he address the Council of Bajor!

“Yes,” said the figure. “I am known to you. I am one known to all of Bajor. I am - Jagul D'Vral.”

The Razor of Hesdreth
, whispered the Supplicant Scribe from above.





“The Council will not hear the words of a mass murderer,” commanded Vocutor Ral the Elder.

“Honored Council, I am here for a single purpose. I am here to prevent – war.” He turned his piercing eye across each Minister, and settled, with great satisfaction, on Asuan. “A war which could lead to the annihilation of every civilization in this sector.

“I am here on the official behalf of Cardassia Prime, with the full authorization of the Detapa Council and Cardassian Central Command. The Cardassian government wishes to offer Bajor its services,” he surveyed the Ministry, “as neutral Arbiter between Bajor, and the independent worlds of the Maquis Colony Coalition.”

The Council of Ministers erupted in unbridled anger, and pandemonious shouts of violence.



From her perch, the Supplicant Scribe considered this delegate from Cardassia, this haunted voice of Bajor's blood-soaked past. The Razor of Hesdreth – overseer of the ill-fated Hesdreth Dilithium Facility, who had ruled with an iron fist, had mercilessly quashed terrorism with supremely capable military prowess and ruthless indiscriminance, and, upon the forced Cardassian Withdrawal from Bajor, had left in his stead the total ruin of the Bajoran mining camp. Hesdreth had fallen to utter and merciless destruction under a barrage of Galor torpedoes and phaser fire, the descent of burning death from orbit. He was a war criminal put to death by his own government – or so the worlds had been told. His very existence called historical reality itself into question – with the thousandfold screams of the murdered innocent.


“Our proposal would not only resolve Bajor's current internal crisis, which I admit to having no desire to become involved in,” D'Vral persisted, “but it would secure ship traffic through the sector. It would also represent a new style of relationship between all of our civilizations. A stronger peace, in the interest of mutual cooperation and survival.”

“Your interest lies with loyalism to the old Cardassian Regime!” someone criticized.

“If my desire to see a strong homeworld brands me a Loyalist to Cardassia's former glory,” he replied, “so be it. It is a value no doubt Bajor shares, as it is shared by most of the governments and peoples represented here today. Such a step could lead us all to a new balance of mutual respect, and dissociation from our most unfortunate historical missteps, which ultimately served none of our civilizations.

“Our mutual needs for destruction and enmity have been carried away by a swollen river of sorrows, carrying our lives with them. Will we too be carried away? Why should we succumb to historical folly, when we could assure security of all our peoples, the sector, normalized relations, and a stronger future together - which neither Bajor, Cardassia, nor the independent worlds can do with conflicted purposes.

“Yes, I may serve Cardassian interests; I may be motivated to secure trade, and even resources – even to establish other access to Bajor's natural resources, which Cardassia still has a pronounced need for, and of which Bajor would benefit from fair exchange. No more than this I seek, but renewed, reinvigorated relations of our planets; not through force, but through the full pursuit of legal channels freely agreed upon by all our parties. This would benefit all our worlds immeasurably, and mark a beginning of a new era of equal yet interdependent states, between and among the sector of all our births.”

“You expect us to listen to these lies?” a dignitary demanded. “This murderer is no better than Skrain Dukat!”

“Dukat was a sympathetic fool,” Jagul D'Vral countered. “As Gul of the Hesdreth Dilithium Facility, I was a willing participant of the Bajoran Occupation. Unlike Dukat, I never attempted to delude myself or others about the nature of our crime. It was an immoral, criminal act of war, pure and simple. A violent injustice against the Bajoran people, with grave consequences for all participants. Unlike some of my more erudite and outspoken compatriots, I have never harbored misconceptions about our Cardassian Occupation. So why, it should follow, would any rational being endorse such a crime against morality?”

He stepped off the dais and walked before each attendee to look them in the eye.

“I did it because Bajoran planetary resources were vital to Cardassian survival. And I did it - because the Bajorans allowed me to.”

The host broke into an agitated disruption.

“I refuse to pity those who did nothing to help themselves. Yesterday, the victim was Bajor. Tomorrow, perhaps it will be Cardassia. Or perhaps another world. I am, and have always been, a pragmatist. As I rotted in a deep, dark cell in all these years after the Occupation, I consoled myself with pragmatism.

“Hear me! Or do you fear contradiction in the weakness of your own position?” His powerful voice was soon drowned out.

Vocutor Ral the Elder brought the chambers to a relative quiet. “The Supplication was granted. Speak your peace, Petitioner. While you may.”

Passion arose in the pulsing presence of the aged warrior, and Jagul D'Vral drew up a power of intelligence and conviction that had apparently only strengthened in the years of his incarceration. “Bajor enjoyed millennia of free, unhindered development; yet still she chose a pacifistic governance influenced by metaphorical ideals. Bajoran occupation resulted from Bajoran irresponsibility to prepare and defend itself for war. If Cardassia hadn't occupied her, another would have – the Breen, the Klingon Empire, the Dominion, the Jem'Hadar, the Federation. Tyranny, domination and cultural contamination take many forms - hard and soft - none for which Bajor had prepared itself!

“To the Bajoran, Cardassia is the face of the enemy – but that face is only a mask - for the enemy within. Blame of Cardassia is the rejection – of Bajoran right to self-determination, and the gains or consequences of its own free choices. It is the refusal to recognize one's own role in history and destiny. It is the willful embrace of victimhood and all the self-serving entitlements that affords. Bajoran Prophecy has become - a cult of narcissism and self-oppression.”

He faced the body of Ministers. “When Bajor matures sufficiently to accept the costs of her choices, and is strengthened by facing her own weaknesses, she will come to recognize Cardassia not as an enemy; but as the forging fire of full self-realization. On that day, Bajoran and Cardassian alike will celebrate together. As brothers and sisters, under the suns and Prophets.”

The chamber of ministers lost all decorum.

After a few moments, the disfigured Minister Jenod stood and quieted the room, and gravely regarded the Council. “Fellow Ministers of the Prophets, I implore you. As the Prophets have taught us, let us not allow a righteous cry deafen us to a truer whisper. While we may denounce its source, the Petition itself bears a certain whisper of truth. A neutral arbiter to mediate the Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter, as well as attendant issues such as that of Cardassian reparations, and other pressing issues, could be exactly the balancing force needed in these troubled times. I propose arbitration – by a Federation mediator.”

Vocutor Ral spoke: “Would the United Federation Emissary please rise to answer the Council.”


The Vulcan Emissary Kel'Akann stood and approached the dais.

“What say you to the idea of the proposal, Emissary Kel'Akann?”



Kel'Akann reviewed the body of Ministers, and the Cardassian Petitioner. “Until all parties register formal agreement, the Federation Charter prohibits involvement in domestic political disputes with nonmember worlds. Until the Federation could be assured of the Maquis Coalition's willingness to endorse the Federation as arbiter, the United Federation cannot accept this role. As the Maquis Coalition have expressed a deep desire for independence, it is doubtful they would endorse mediation by their counterparty's superordinate government.

“In the interest of normalization of sectorwide interplanetary relations, however, there is a strengthening force yet to be exploited by the Bajoran government. Provided they adhered to the strictures of the mediation, carefully drawn and agreed to by all involved parties, it is my most considered judgment that the sector's best hope for peace, lies in – the Petition presented by the Cardassian delegation.”

The Vulcan watched the tumult with logical dispassion, and waited for the room to settle before speaking again:

“The Federation is restricted in this matter by its own noninterference charter. Cardassia, however, has no such restriction. It is as objective and informed a third party as you are likely to find. The countervailing utilization of Cardassian diplomacy could become a stabilizing influence in the sector – as well as provide their planet with diplomatic channels that could also stabilize the Cardassian Union, in time.

“With final regards to negotiations, a duly-appointed UFP representative may provide pertinent Federation historical treaty documentation, merely as a guideline for all parties' edification. But the Federation delegation would be unable to offer assistance in interpretation or implementation of any agreements. Voluntary, mutually arrived-at interdependence – is the best assurance of Bajor Sector and the Cardassian Union's interplanetary stability.”



As the Supplicant Petition ended, the Razor of Hesdreth bowed his head to the Vulcan Emissary. Kel'Akann responded in kind.



The Supplicant Scribe descended the marble steps into the bracing cold of the coming Bajoran winter. The Council vote would be anonymous - and final. Like the rest of the peoples of Bajor Sector, she would wait until the morning to learn the Council's ruling, and the fate of the sector.



Her Supplicant's cloak folded on a marble bench under the Siren of Hope, Starfleet Judge Advocate Trelliq Pel tapped her communicator and requested a beamout.

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Old January 7 2010, 08:27 PM   #36
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24 Rogue Star 1




Perseus keened out of control in the violent gravimetric forces of the quantum slipstream.

“Captain!” Vexa shouted over the sonic strains of the power systems and overloading consoles. “Coronal plasma from the prominence has entered the slipstream! Temperature differentials surpassing ten million Kelvins and increasing!” She held to her station as the ship convulsed. “Reading supervelocity accelerations of protons, electrons and heavy ions. The star's coronal mass ejection is continuing to feed into the slipstream! The prominence is not abating! It's spreading!”

Warning! Radiation levels at critical. Fatal exposure is imminent.

Tom hammered his malfunctioning console. “Grif! Divert maximum power to shields and thrusters! Mr. Shir stabilize our vector!”

“I'm trying sir! It's not enough! We're out of control!”

The ship heaved against the current differentials of the quantum vortex, tossing the crew and overloading the stations.

The helmsman clung to his station. “Speeds passing safety limits! Gravimetric forces are destabilizing the quantum matrix! Perseus is being thrown from the stream!”

“Sir!” said Vexa. “The high energy particle storm of the coronal mass ejection is rupturing subspace! It's cascading into a chain-reaction!”

Tom righted himself in his chair and rode the quakes. “On screen!”

The red star's coronal mass ejection flooded into the gravity well of the quantum vortex, and exploded in a blinding gravimetric wave of superheated radiation.

Suddenly the viewer shifted to the quantum vortex wall giving away to a warping blackness as the ship careened out of the slipstream. Then the blackness erupted with an approaching wall of roiling electromagnetic fire.

“Sir! Proton storm plasma wave approaching! Three seconds to impact!

“Mr Shir! Maximum warp!”

“Aye aye!”

The Perseus swerved into a forward vector and stretched into a warp speed escape.




On the darkened bridge, Ensign Shir hammered his helm panel. “We did it!”

“Report!” Tom ordered.

“We've cleared the event radius, sir,” Ensign Shir replied, checking his readings. “Long range scans ahead are...vast and desolate, sir.”

“Ship's reports coming in now,” Grif added. “Several crew injuries, no fatalities. Reading system malfunctions across the board, sir. Shields and weapons are shot, propulsion systems all offline, hull breach on deck fourteen, repair crews dispatched. Voyager...nowhere to be found, sir.” He faced his commander. “She's gone, Captain.”

Tom absorbed the information as he stepped to the viewscreen for answers, his burning soul reaching out through the empty space, grasping nothing.

“All stop.”





“Lieutenant Vexa;” Tom checked her station readings. “Did that system have any planets?”

“Affirmative sir. Three nickel-iron core planetoids, two class L's and a class M; three gas giants, two gas plutoids and numerous atmospheric and nonatmospheric moons throughout the entire system. Prior readings didn't indicate any signs of life. Now EM radiation is overloading sensors across the entire spectrum. Communications, sensors, warp fields...even life potentials – have been effectively destroyed in this solar system for the duration of its solar life.”

From the birth of a star to the death of a star system, Commander Munich said quietly. What are we, but a fleeting vanity?

In the dark of the bridge, they silently watched the subspace gravimetric rupture burn with coronal mass ions across the ecliptic of the entire system. The planets boiled in flames of total atmospheric implosion. The Stellar Rogue raged in the ignition point of that burning disc of fire, a misshapen, bleeding wound in space.

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Old January 23 2010, 03:13 PM   #37
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25 Matchhead





“An historical event such as the Perseus Trial provides many potential challenges for a physician. Apart from the usual pressing medical duties aboard a starship, one must prepare for any number of contingencies and emergency situations. Trauma resulting from systems failure events, effects of extended quantum radiation exposure from slipstream travel on any number of interspecies physiologies, statistical probability increase of distress calls emanating from untold sectors of traveled space – and my own personal sense of responsibility for putting the Perseus Trial into the historical record – places me in an unusual position as a doctor, and indeed, a member of the Voyager Crew. However, I dare say this is one physician who is up to the task.”

The Emergency Medical Hologram killed the playback of the vocoder with a groan, and let it drop to the floor. He sat on the floor against the wall in sickbay, abject in darkness, and hid his face.

The Voyager sickbay sat in shambles after the attack. At least, it had felt like an attack. Though the explosions had sounded like nothing a starship had ever produced, and had shaken the ship with incredible force. He sat here for days, afraid to work on his mobile emitter, afraid to venture out into the decks, afraid to be caught, and afraid of doing nothing.

The aural indicators of the biobed continued their low cadences. Captain Tuvok's biosigns sounded with an increasing stability compared to those of the past few days, when the Vulcan had wracked in violent pain and required force field restraint. The Doctor had no doubt but that he could have easily alleviated days of extreme suffering for the stoic Vulcan Captain, with a simple hypodermic treatment. If the hypodermic capsules had not fallen off the table under the attacks in the nebula, scattering. It had been his first lesson in living with a disability – seeing how utterly for granted he had taken sight, something he now realized he had depended on for his entire vocation, and indeed, his whole photonic gestalt.

The mixed hypo cartridges lay on the table uselessly. Of course, if the replicator somehow came back online, he could replicate the medicine he needed, but for one minor detail: should his patient react to the medication, the EMH could not respond, or indeed, even ascertain a diagnosis. Choosing the wrong medicine, or missing even a slight diagnostic cue, he might end up giving his patient anything from a mild histamine reaction to, oh, say, an intra-alveolar hemorrhage across the interstitial respiratory tissues, massive systemic air embolism, lung collapse and instant suffocation. Or worse. No, the Doctor's best medicine lay in the Hippocratic corpus: First, do no harm. Instead, he had endured his patient's violent bouts of suffering – with a personal toll that would haunt him forever. A feeling he was getting used to lately.

Listening to the aural signals of the biobed, the Doctor guessed that Captain Tuvok had lain unconscious for the better part of the day - or night. Upon waking, however, the patient might still exhibit signs of manic hallucination and extreme agitation; symptoms reminiscent of limbic excitation and cognito-emotive neuroinhibitory breakdowns more associated with a protovulcan biochemistry. Pon Farr, sans amour. Which worried him even more.

The computer simply refused to assist. Tuvok's recent decrease in violent episodes could have indicated a homeostatic recuperation of the Doctor's only available prescription: time. Time for the Vulcan mind to heal itself in the only way it could. Logically.

Or, he mused darkly, it could indicate any number of other pathophysiologic causes: psychogenic fugue, neurotoxic reduction of locomotor response, amyloidic angiopathy, mindmeld-induced hypnogogia, degenerative neurological infection of alien prions, or – coma. To name but a few from his extensive, highly-imaginative exophysiological database.

Only a kernel of sense of duty compelled him to pick up his vocoder, and open his eyes against the oblivion.

“Emergency Medical Hologram's log, supplemental. By the sound of the deckplating Voyager is still in quantum slipstream, but on course to where, I cannot say. I can only hope that the computer's report of the destruction of a rogue red dwarf system was somehow, a glitch. After all, the computer systems are full of them at the moment.

“The intruder, as near as I can tell, has not attempted movement through the ship. For all I know it hasn't left the bridge for the past few days. Which would make it either extremely disciplined in the yogic arts, or getting nourishment and rest through...other alien means. Actually I have come to feel undisturbed in sickbay. The alien seems to have no need to leave the bridge. Which allows Captain Tuvok to recuperate in peace – despite my regrettable inability and ineptitude at treating him. If he were any other patient I could at least offer him the comfort of emotional support.” He cut the recording. I'm not a doctor, I'm a voyeur. And not even a proper one.



Doc-tor,” the voice strained.

The EMH jumped to his feet. “I'm here, Tuvok. How - how do you feel?”

“The ship -”

“I'm more concerned with your nervous system, and whether -”

“The ship, Doctor.”

The EMH sighed. “As near as I can tell the ship is in flight somewhere in the Delta Quadrant. But to where, I have no idea. The alien has taken full control, and the crew remains entirely incapacitated. And...I wish the news were as good for the Perseus. She may have been - lost, Captain.”

Tuvok redoubled his concentration in a herculean force of logic. “What...has...happened -”

“After your mindmeld failed on me, you suffered an extreme agitated episode and passed out. I brought you here, to sickbay. You've been here the past several days. I'm sorry but I'm unable to treat you. I'm completely visually-impaired.”

“A regrettable...condition...no doubt. However... No treatment can supplement...the need of logic for my condition. Doctor...thank...you.”

“For what?”

“For allowing me privilege to...your log entries. They have allowed...logic to return me...to a more lucid state.”

Tuvok strained to get up. The EMH felt around the panel interface. “I can at least remove your restraints - that is if you feel back in control of your kinetic responses.”

“That would be...appreciated, Doctor.” The field fell, and Tuvok sat up. “I am still experiencing...disorientation. However...I believe I will be able...to function adequately.”

“That's the first good news we've had in a while.”

“Unfortunately...that assessment will...be short-lived.”

“During your episodes, you kept repeating something. About 'Wildfire'.”

Tuvok stood and made his halting way to the computer panel. The keys responded to his touch with numerous failed responses.

“If it's computer access you want, I don't know how helpful that will be with all these malfunctions. However you could try interfacing my mobile emitter with the computer; I might be able to better ascertain our situation.”

“Negative, Doctor. The alien has no intention...of releasing control of computing systems. Furthermore, it is imperative...we do not reveal ourselves prematurely. Billions...of lives...may depend on us.”

The EMH felt his way to the workstation. “Billions of lives? What do you mean?” He reached for Tuvok but felt only air.

“You must remain in sickbay,” Tuvok said from the next room.

“You – you know this? From the mindmeld with the alien? Did you learn anything else?”

A compartment opened in the office. It sounded like - the phaser hatch. “Affirmative,” replied Tuvok, followed by the sound of the sickbay doors.

The EMH fumbled against a work cart. “Wait! I need you!”

There was no reply.

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Old January 23 2010, 03:55 PM   #38
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26 Mercury






There is no crew member by that name aboard the Perseus.

“Check again, computer.”

Working. Search failure confirmed. Commander Reginald Barclay is not assigned to the Perseus, and is not aboard ship.


Lieutenant Commander Nikhila Munich left her post at the malfunctioning bridge communications console and entered the darkened turbolift.

The earpiece of her Neural Encoder sounded: “Barclay to Commander Munich. Are you coming?”

“Be right there, Commander.”

The turbolift door closed.



The large holodeck doors whirred open and Nikhila took a moment to absorb the environment. It appeared as a large room of Federation design, with smooth, brightly-lit walls and bank of unoccupied conference tables along each side. The center of the carpet bore a large UFP seal emblazoned with a planetary symbol: Bajor.

Hope I don't regret this, she told herself, and entered.

“Ah, Commander, welcome, welcome, glad you could make it; glad I could make it.” Commander Reginald Barclay descended from a communications mezzanine and straightened his yellow engineering coveralls. “That is, um, won't you? Care for, uh... something to drink?”

Nikhila smiled. “Thank you, no. Commander?”

“Barclay. Reginald? Barclay. I'm just...I hope you can just feel at ease,” he told her. “I'm here to deliver a message. Well. And maybe a bit more.”

“You're a hologram?” she asked.

“Yes! That's just it, you see. Oh, I knew you were always smart, but – well, I mean, that's why I chose to make contact with you, Commander Munich; not that I, I mean you, you're, I mean -”

“Computer, run a diagnostic of the holodeck safety protocols.” She regarded the Barclay hologram. “You understand.”

“Not at all, I mean – yes of course, please, do as you wish.” He opened his arms. “Computer, scan Barclay hologram for any glitches or signs of potential danger.”

Working. Holomatrix personality algorithms have degraded twenty-three percent from original parameters. Numerous cascading indexing errors have disrupted original matrix. Personality similitude falling below accuracy tolerance by fifty-three point two percent. Holodeck safety protocols maximized.

“You see? There's nothing – What? Fifty three percent! Computer, what happened to the missing data?”

Unknown.

“What are you?” Nikhila persisted.

“I'm Commander Barclay of Jupiter Station Holographic Design Lab. That is, I'm a message from him, the real Commander Barclay, who should be back in the Alpha Quadrant now, at least, I hope he is, though – there was that communique that -”

“The point, Mr Barclay?”

He sat at the conference table and invited her to do the same. “Commander Barclay compiled me as an interactive program. He loaded me as an emergency measure to observe and make contact should Perseus encounter any trouble beyond conventional communications distances. He programmed me to activate if I didn't receive his update after an established time frame. When activated I'm to work to establish communications with Jupiter Station, covertly if necessary. Just as a failsafe should the ship fall out of Starfleet control when beyond warp range.”

“A holographic dead man's switch. He's either a genius, or a crazy person. I knew I always liked him.”

“You...you know me? I mean him? I'm...well I'm honored. Right, uh, well, he designed me to be a backup in case of any Voyager-type long range scenarios, to observe, assess tactical conditions and report back, and if necessary – to interact with the crew.”

“I see. Sounds...like your average everyday breach in protocol. So my next question is - why now, exactly?”

“I've been biding my time in the system and evaluating the tactical situation, waiting for a communication update before revealing myself. But last night I received a security-encoded data burst from Commander Barclay. He had commandeered the Project Voyager laboratory long range communications array with an urgent message. However my further attempts to establish communications with Jupiter station have all failed. He's just not sending the transmission beam.”

You were that two percent variance in signal output! I spent half my shift tracking that down!”

“I apologize, Commander, it's just that – I – I've brought myself up to date with all of the sensor records and ship status. I know what Commander – sorry, Captain Paris is hoping to achieve.”

“Sounds like the Barclay I've heard about. Brilliant, and borderline illegal.” For the moment, Nikhila relaxed from uttering the code word that would alert security and decompile the holodeck. “So why not reveal yourself to the Captain?”

“Oh, I will! I just...I just wanted to make first contact, as it were, with...with...well, to be honest, I, that is, Commander Barclay, has always wanted to meet you.”

“What?”

“Well, you're Commander Nikhila Munich. Ensign Chief Communications Officer of the USS Centaur; promoted to CCO Lieutenant JG aboard the Akira class Banshee; promoted to CCO Full Lieutenant aboard the Excelsior USS Tecumseh, where you served with distinction in the Federation-Klingon war and the Dominion war. Chief Protocol Officer with official Federation envoy to Romulus and the Dominion. Currently CCO and Second Officer of Starfleet's newest NCV Quantum Class starship USS Perseus. Starfleet's current record holder of Second Contact missions, at six hundred twelve. Protocol expert, holding degrees in Exo-Psychology, Diplomatic Relations, Applied Sociological and Anthropological Sciences. Third Dan in Tiramisu Aikido, and all around alien expert.”

Takemusu Aikido. Though I do enjoy a good italian confection,” she replied. “You recite my service record better than I do.”

The Barclay hologram smiled. “Tell me, is it really true you can speak eleven hundred languages?”

She tapped her earpiece. “Eleven hundred seventy-one and counting. It's true, give or take a few pidgin dialects. All with a little help from my Neural Encoder. If I can use this little baby in the initial stages, I can retain any language encoded for universal translation.”

“Ah, I've always wanted to see your...device. An enhanced universal translator that splits neurolingustic signal processing into the brain's language centers and hippocampal longterm memory storage. Right?”

“You've done your homework,” she answered, handing it to him.

He eagerly poured over it's design. “It utilizes neuroelectric impulse feeds?”

“That's right. Based on engrammatic encoding that embeds LCARS pattern recognition algorithms directly into the brain's semantic network. Actually, it can also store other types of data patterns. But I don't want to be a cyborg, I just use it for living language synsets, not soulless data.”

“Amazing. Absolutely – I'm sorry, amazing. I appreciate you showing it to me.”

“Well I ordinarily wouldn't, but – for Reginald Barclay? You know, I've always wanted to pick his brain, too. I'm kind of a fan.”

“What?”

She leaned in. “Come on. He found Voyager. Project Pathfinder? Project Voyager? Rescuer of the USS Yosemite crew? First Contact with Cytheria? Assisted rebuilding Zephram Cochrane's Phoenix? The man is partly responsible for the Federation and the destruction of the Borg. And his holoprograms are cult classics! He's always been a hero of mine.” She replaced the neural encoder, ignoring his mute surprise. “This is just technology. The real challenge lay in the cultural and physio-kinetic interpretation of intended and inferential meaning behind the messages. Wouldn't you agree?”

“I, um, that is, yes, of course, I think -”

“Not to mention spotting lies. Now that's a challenge. But I've gotten pretty good at it.” She gazed at him sidelong. “So tell me, Mr Barclay's hologram, why have you asked me here? This is the Federation embassy to Bajor, is it not?”

“You do your homework too, Commander.” He rose. “Please. There's something you should see.”

She stood. “After you.”

The Barclay hologram tapped his communicator. “Computer, two to transport.” He noticed something in her hand. “What's that?”

“Oh this? Just a little phase decompiler,” she said innocently, as they disappeared in a transporter beam.
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Old January 23 2010, 03:57 PM   #39
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Re: Sleeping at Warp

They “rematerialized” in a holographic representation of a hillside outside Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Earth, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge on a summer afternoon. Immediately Nikhila noticed the crowd below, chanting agitatedly at the behest of the speaker on a makeshift podium.

She looked at Barclay. “Is this some kind of holonovel?”

“Would that it were, Commander. This is a visual record of – yesterday.”

Outside Starfleet Command, officers stood at parade rest in regular intervals. Although she had studied the protocol for public protest, Nikhila had never actually witnessed one, at least on Earth. While the officer contingent remained unarmed, in dress uniform, affirming an official ceremonial presence, she couldn't help but feel a disquieted sense of responsibility by the demonstration of discord in her own hometown. “What happened?”

Barclay handed her a pair of binoculars. “Look closer.”

She took them. “There are a lot of arguments down there.”

“That's right. People protesting for the same reason but for cross purposes. The first group is agitating for a stronger Starfleet presence in Bajor Sector to counter the rising threats against peace, be it Cardassian, Maquis or – anyone, really. Others are demonstrating on behalf of the Maquis and other residents of the former DMZ. They say the Federation presence there is what caused the conflict in the first place, and is only adding to the unrest created by Bajor's new Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter. The announcement by the Bajoran Ministry naming the Cardassians as neutral arbiters between Bajor and the Maquis Colony Coalition only added to rising tempers, and it all went to hell two days ago. And it's only getting worse.”

Nikhila increased her magnification and scanned the crowd more closely. She couldn't tell who was arguing for which side.

“I thought the Maquis issues were dead and buried.”

Barclay watched consternatedly. “That's exactly the problem.”

“I still don't see what would have compelled them into action like this.”

“We're – getting to that,” he replied. “Computer, two to transport.”


Toronto.

London.

Paris.

Sydney.


Protests and demonstrations flared in every city they visited. Then Barclay took them on a holographic tour of the Maquis Colony Coalition and other planets around the DMZ:


Valo II.

Juhraya.

Bolarus IX.

Delga Colony.

Buphan City-On-Steppe.


Each site, more heated than the last.

Bajor – Council Seat of Dhakur Province – a street in flames, a crowd in chaos.


Nikhila took Barclay's arm. “I've seen enough.”

He regarded her sadly. “No, you haven't.”



They transported to the bridge of a Federation ship – the expansive, regal command center of a Sovereign class starship. In the command chair, Rear Admiral Leth Valxaen sat erect in a gold-piped duty uniform. The bridge bustled under his watchful command. Tensions were elevated.

The crew watched the viewer intently. Nikhila glanced at the communications station. She instantly recognized the intensely active visual pattern of task indicators - of nearly a fleet of Federation starships.

“There she is,” said the helmsman.

“Magnify,” ordered Admiral Valxaen, Andorian antennae at the alert.

On screen, a Maquis Peregrine fighter dropped out of warp and angled towards a Cardassian freighter. The Peregrine launched a trio of photon torpedoes.

“Ensign Krusek!”

“Sir, the torpedoes do not appear to be targeted for impact with the freighter.” The tall Bolian woman sat in command at the Admiral's right hand. “It's a warning volley across the bow, Admiral.”

“Open a channel to the Maquis,” ordered the Admiral.

“They're not responding, sir,” said the com officer.

“I don't give a damn. Open their channels for them Lieutenant.”

The com officer responded, sending a powerful subspace burst, and Nikhila noted the com controls with professional approval. The Admiral continued: “Maquis vessel! Withdraw from your pursuit immediately. This region now falls under the protection of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet. If you make any further aggressive moves against that ship, in warning or otherwise, you will be fired upon.”

“We're arriving now, sir,” said the helmsman.

“Attack pattern beta three one.”



The starship Resolute dropped out of warp and rolled towards the Peregrine.

The Maquis ship arced for another pass at the freighter; the Admiral gave a silent command to his tac officer, who armed the ship's weapons systems.

“Attention crew of the Maquis vessel,” Admiral Valxaen intoned, his voice graveling and firm, “The Resolute is targeting your engines and engineering deck. I suggest you reinforce your shields and evacuate those areas immediately. After which we will be happy to provide tractor assistance. That is, if there's anything remaining of your ship. Good luck. Tactical officer, fire torpedoes.”

The tactical officer interrupted “Maquis ship is moving off, sir.”

The admiral watched the viewer. “I gave you an order, Lieutenant.”

“Sir? Yes sir.” The tactical officer fired.

The bridge crew watched in tense silence as a pulsing volley of photon torpedoes approached the Maquis ship. The ship increased speed and changed vectors, but the torpedoes compensated and continued their pursuit. The Maquis fighter pitched drastically and the torpedoes homed in on its drive section.

Admiral Valxaen watched intently to the final seconds.

He waved them off. “Abort arming sequence.”

As the torpedoes winked out against the Peregrine's shields, the Maquis ship warped away. The Bolian officer regarded the Admiral. “That was a dangerous ploy, Admiral.”

“Ploy, was it. Just a little singed hull plating, Commander Pel.” He rose. “Helm, bring the Resolute back to the fleet. I'll be in my ready room.”

The com officer interrupted. “Admiral? The captain of the Cardassian ship wishes to thank you directly.”

The Admiral didn't hesitate. “Handle it, Pel,” he said as the door closed behind him.



Nikhila turned to Barclay. “Are you sure this isn't a holonovel?”

Barclay shook his head. “Are you ready for the next bit?”

“There's more?”

He sighed with a nod and tapped his communicator.



They rematerialized on a stately balcony overlooking a crowd of people in the frigid air of winter. Beside them, several Bajoran ministers discussed something fervently while one prepared to address the restless crowd below.

“This is how it all began,” Barclay said.

“Where are we?”

“Ashalla, Bajor. The Tellarite Trade Commission building - and temporary office of - the Federation Embassy to Bajor.” He looked to the far side of the square. “And being broadcast across the Federation.”

“Weren't we just...?” she followed his gaze, and gasped. Across the square, Nikhila saw a devasted ruin where the Federation Embassy once stood.


While the Bajoran ministers made their speeches, Barclay motioned to a side table. “The bomb went off after the kidnapping of a Federation delegate. Nobody really knows who was responsible, but there's no shortage of speculation on the matter,” he said dejectedly.

“Who was kidnapped?”

“The Strategic Advisor to the Federation Office of Legal Counsel. Rima Toloruk. He was here working with the Interstellar Justiciary of the Bajoran High Magistrate, investigating the attempted Perseus bombing, and making inroads against the Maquis. But if it was the Maquis who kidnapped him and set the bomb, they're saying nothing. No one has come forward or is making any demands yet.”

The crowd responded to the speeches with furious chanting and constant interruption. The Ministers' voices strained against the din.

Shouts of support mixed with almost violent disdain from the crowd, in the address from a firebrand Bajoran Starfleet Captain. When she presented the burnt casing of the bomb, recovered from the site of the explosion, it only exacerbated the crowd's emotional upheaval.

“The Maquis feel like the Federation is allying with Bajor and Cardassia against them. Trying to politically dominate the sector, in order to open their planets for exploitation of natural resources, and possible colonization.”

“That's paranoid!”

“What, them? Or me? Maybe we're all getting paranoid lately. Since the Bajor Council passed both the Reaffirmation Charter and the Arbitration Treaty with Cardassia Prime – and something about Cardassian reparations for the Occupation - the Maquis feel pressed on every side. They've started to mobilize. Since this bombing, acts of terror have occurred on Bajor, Cardassia, in the DMZ, and – Earth. Problem is, it could be any one of us, or even all of us.”

Nikhila shouted to Barclay. “What about this first bomb? Was anyone killed?”

Barclay continued. “No one was killed, because a warning had come in shortly after the kidnapping. It was intended as a political statement, not an act of murder.”

Nikhila shook her head. “That's no political statement, that's a psychological cry for help. Or worse, a political stunt.”

“Guess what kind of energy signature the bomb had.”

“I'm afraid to.”

He covered his hands in the holographic cold. “Trellium fusion. Same as the Perseus attempted bombing.”

“That doesn't necessarily mean the incidents were related.”

“No. It actually complicates things.” The Barclay hologram shivered, blew into his hands and continued. “Between the attempted bombing of Perseus, and its disappearance with Voyager, tensions against the Maquis and Cardassia are rising everywhere. They're responding in kind. Starfleet is amassing a fleet to move into emergency control of Bajor Sector. As you can see, half the Sector, and indeed half the Federation is calling it an imperialistic aggression. The Cardassian attempts at negotiating Bajor's Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter with the Maquis only made things worse. Everyone is blaming everyone else for this bombing, and there's a lot of ship movement. And that's not all.”

“There's more?”

“Uh huh,” he nodded. “Romulans.”

“Naturally.”

“Long range security scans indicate Romulan fleet and supply movements. They've even communicated with Starfleet Command about offering assistance in the interest of 'trial joint humanitarian operations'. Romulan ships are positioning themselves for what they say is defense across the entire range of the Neutral Zone. They smell blood.”

“Jackals.” Nikhila quieted, and looked at the body of Ministers, each having spoken her and his peace. The crowd, however, did not look like it would disperse any time soon. “What do you think, Mr Barclay?”

“M – m – m – me? Why would it matter what I thought?”

“It matters. To me. And to Starfleet.”

He scanned the crowd. “This terror attack could instigate a war between Bajor, the Maquis, Cardassia, and the Federation. It's already generating civic protests across the whole Federation, with the Romulans ready to take advantage of the situation. Most of the public suspects the Maquis for this attack, as a resistance to the Reaffirmation Charter and all the rest of the external pressures. The Maquis of course, accuse Cardassia, and resent Bajor and the Federation, and are arming in self-protection. They will do what they do best. Fight for survival.”

After a moment of silence, he said: “B'Elanna Torres.”

“What?” she replied.

“She could set all this to right. She's in the middle of it all. Because she can prove who set that first bomb on the Perseus, and also, if the Maquis are telling the truth by denying it. With Toloruk's kidnapping Starfleet is starting to put real pressure on the Maquis. We all need her to prove it. She's the lynchpin of this whole situation! And she's...near death. That's why Commander Barclay sent this message. He didn't believe Perseus was under Maquis influence. If it had been it wouldn't have pursued Voyager. And that's the other flashpoint. Voyager. Considering Voyager's crew makeup of Maquis, a lot of people are accusing members of the Voyager crew. So Barclay told me to tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

“We need you. We need Perseus.”



As the speeches wound down, the crowd continued their fevered pitch. The Ministers broke and left the balcony. “Oh good, let's go inside,” Barclay said. “I could use a cocoa.”

“Just a minute, Reg. Computer, reinitialize Ashalla program from the beginning and playback in fast advance mode, visual only.”

The environment reset. The holograms began to advance rapidly through their paces.

“What...what are you doing?” Barclay asked her.

Nikhila faced the body of Ministers. The playback scanned through their speeches at increased speed. She studied an elder Minister wearing a bejeweled earring of Council Permanence. She watched his face intently through the entire playback.

When the playback stopped, she said, “He's lying.”

“About what?”

“Look at his eyes.”

Barclay leaned into the Minister's face. “I don't see anything.”

“That's exactly it, Commander. During the speech every delegate here glanced at the bomb device at least five times. This Minister? Not once.”

“What does that mean?”

Nikhila thoughtfully tapped her phase decompiler against her palm. “He's seen it before.”

“My dear Commander,” the Barclay hologram smiled, “you have just earned a cocoa.”

She smiled and waved her phase decompiler. “Lead the way, Reginald.”

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Old May 17 2010, 04:01 PM   #40
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27 Riding the Blade





Ensign Ujio Shir tapped the indicator. That was the final vector analysis input into navigational control. Now there was nothing left to do but check his work. He began to cycle through the dozen or so possible courses he'd lain into the helm configurations.

The conn shifted through graphics of various sectors – stars, planets, nebulae, radiation, supernova events - the ever-changing gravitational phenomena of the quadrant. That's every possible course the captain might ask for, he told himself. Perseus drifted quietly in the vast desolation between galactic spiral arms. The vectors flashed on his screen and stretched through charted and uncharted space – to where they'd been and where they might be bound. They even included ports along Voyager's old heading.

All he could do was evaluate the possibilities. That is, second-guess the Captain, sequestered away in his ready room, strategizing against the impossible. He cycled through the interface, ferreting out stellar drift corrections and gravitational fluctuations; all constantly reconfiguring in the ebb and flow of a restless cosmos. Mapping out the vast distances of quantum slipstream, and dealing with its implications – its revolution - of helm duty. Coordinating helm control calibration with engine and power system repairs. Toying with the interface, the way he used to toy with a survival blade before a tactical drill operation, in his teenage years in the Akkorat Military Preparatory Academy.

In fact, he didn't know why he should have that feeling now. Maybe it was getting the ship back to fighting weight. Maybe it was “antennae anxiety”, or just a pheromone the humans were currently giving off. It felt like the quiet before the avalanche - the one thing in this universe he genuinely feared. The disorder. The dyscontrol. Standing against the sheer chaos – and falling. But stand he would.

For the past few days the crew had busied themselves with repairs, in a kind of hurried purpose. One by one, ship systems came back online; red indicators transitioning to blue and beige, fewer random telltales and now, bridge stations humming in quiet unison. Just the plinking of his shifting interface punctuating the thrum of the bridge.

Commander Munich had informed the Captain of, and indeed Tom had met, a holographic Commander Barclay, with bad news from Alpha Quadrant. The captain had put the visitor to work on shift in engineering, assisting with the quantum entanglements of the PRAM Sensor. Busywork, sure, but – someone had to do it, and the ship needed its crew.

Ujio glanced at the main viewscreen. Two distant galactic spiral arms cut across open space. Somewhere out there, Voyager headed for its ultimate destination; carrying a crew of incapacitated Starfleet officers, and the hopes of the United Federation of Planets.

Could Perseus track her? Or would they warp home to the Alpha Quadrant in defeat? And if so, how could they even try to rectify the mess back there? Everything was uncertain; yet Ujio knew, in the end Captain Paris would not make his peace with that System Killer roaming free in the galaxy. And when that time came, even if no one else would, Ujio would fight by the Captain's side. He shared an unspoken bond with Captain Paris. Both were pilots, both seat-of-the-pants kind of guys, and both loyal to their ideals. But unlike Paris' service record, Ujio preferred a clear chain of command. It made things...simpler. Maybe it was the comradeship. The due increase of rank status. Maybe it was the ability for a crew to take swift and powerful action; afforded by a clear differentiation of rank, unhindered by the arguments and power plays of civilian crews. Whatever it was, civilians just didn't get it.

And this crew. They would not give up. Not if there were the slightest chance of finding Voyager.

Yet – there it was. Voyager was gone. Gone. There was no chance of finding her. The alien had managed to stay one step ahead of them at all times. And now, she had won her prize. No way she would give up Voyager's location again.

So now the Captain would face what was truly a command decision. And with respect to Captain Tuvok, Ujio knew that on this mission Captain Paris was the next best person Starfleet could hope to have in the command seat of Perseus.

As for the rest of the bridge crew, in the hours and days after the Rogue Star incident, Lieutenant Vexa had spent her spare time working with her vector analysis of Voyager; but by now so much time has passed, Voyager could be literally anywhere in the galaxy.

Voyager had come a long way since it could be stopped by a few light years, Ujio thought.

Lieutenant Commander Munich had been listening to subspace communications chatter across the quadrant. She seemed to take to the task with almost a voyeuristic passion. When she happened on a new language, her station would light up with a kaleidoscope of library computer activity. He would watch her work with amazement and not a little jealousy for her command of her interface – a command not even Lieutenant Vexa displayed. Maybe she's part android by now, he thought.

Lieutenant Grifahni – Ujio couldn't say exactly what the Lieutenant worked on. And that probably suited them both. He didn't doubt the Lieutenant's ability. He just didn't share his casual manner, and frankly unorthodox tactics. Nor did Ujio particularly relish the thought of losing a future tactical argument to the Lieutenant's rank. But that, too, was all part of the chain of command. The Captain had needed both a tac officer and an able pilot. It would not be the first time Ujio's finely honed skills had cost him an opportunity for advancement – or subordination to a less-experienced officer. Still, he knew – the Andorian Ensign Ujio Shir that cooperated would far better serve this ship and crew than an Ujio Shir that didn't. He smirked, and resisted the empty captain's chair. For now.




Commander Munich removed her earpiece and powered down her relays. “Nothing. Voyager is either out of range, or -”

“Or her crew is otherwise unable to communicate,” Lieutenant Grifahni finished. “How about sensors, Vexa?”

“Negative. It would be easier to locate a neon-21 isotope in a silicon carbide stardust grain using an electrostatic electron spectrometer.”

Commander Munich rubbed her eyes. “Now I know I'm tired. The one person on the bridge who still has a sense of humor is Vulcan.”

“She's out there,” Ujio studied the viewer. “And we'll find her.”

“Before she destroys another star system?” Munich asked.



Grifahni called up a graphic of the original red dwarf system. “Vexa, would you say the red star had a typical arrangement of planets?”

“Affirmative - if by typical you mean statistical probability of a uniform scatter of planetary types throughout the galaxy. However the range of planetary bodies in this system was uniquely variant, especially in light of the star's constant flaring. In fact, prior to this I had not known of any star system containing such a wide continuum of constituent orbiting bodies, with atmospheres surviving the continual flare activity. No doubt a longterm study of the Rogue Star system would have yielded a great quantity of geophysical data for Federation science.”

“Exactly,” Grif replied. “Perfect conditions for a range of planetary factors. This was a test. She wanted to see the results of the event on a scale of planetary atmospheres and orbits, to generalize it more effectively.”

“For what?” Munich asked.

“For a weapon,” said Ujio.

“The question is, for what purpose,” Vexa added.

Ujio shrugged. “Take your pick. To fight a war. To auction off to the highest bidder. To take over a star system, or build an empire.” He shared a glance with Grifahni. “Or maybe just to wipe out a race from existence.”

Grifahni considered the alternatives. “If she intended to sell the weapon or auction it off, she could have done that on theory alone. She would not have risked her own life for a demonstration. No – the red star was a test because she intends to use it.”

“Which is why we have to stop her,” Ujio countered. “I hope your infiltration plan is ready, Lieutenant,” he suggested. “Because when we find her we'll have to move quickly.”

Lieutenant Grifahni was not amused. “You just get us in weapons range, Ensign. I'll take care of the rest.”

“Lieutenant,” Vexa said. “Allowing for the extreme improbability of ever locating the ship again, would you intend for us to engage Voyager in battle with heavy weapons?”

“Well, Vexa _”

“Starfleet ships do not destroy other Starfleet ships,” Ujio urged. “I'm sure the Lieutenant would only use that as a final measure, Lieutenant Vexa -”

Grif cut him off: “At this point I'm not ruling out any tactic. The alien has already demonstrated her ability to throw us to the wolves. She won't get that chance again, if I have anything to say about it.”

“Right,” added Munich; “After we rescue the crew.” She returned to her scans. “I just hope Commander Seven of Nine can convince the Captain to take that chance.”

“Your concerns are noted, Commander Munich.” Commander Seven of Nine stepped out of the turbolift.

Ujio's antennae straightened, and he turned back to his station.

Seven of Nine sat in the command chair and engaged the interface. “However, as Admiral Janeway would tell you, the “weapon” came from Starfleet. Therefore it remains our duty to not only recover the weapon, but to stop the alien at any cost; failing that we may have to place our lives between Voyager and its intended target. I am certain Admiral Janeway would rather we destroyed Voyager, and ourselves if necessary, than allow the alien to use it as a weapon on a living planetary system. Furthermore, while the technology may be new, the threat is not; the Starfleet Charter clearly delineates our available responses in this matter. Having witnessed the destruction we are directly responsible for, we are required to intervene. However I'm sure Lieutenant Vexa can report the probability of our locating Voyager again.”

Vexa didn't bother looking up: “Probability zero as X approaches infinity.”

Seven added, “The Captain already knows this. All stations report.”

“But Commander -”

Report.”

Lieutenant Vexa turned to the First Officer. “All engineering systems check ready, Commander.”

“All weapons systems and departments ready,” Grifahni confirmed.

“Helm?”

“Quantum speed at your command, sir.”

“Seven of Nine to the Captain. Report to the bridge.” She hesitated. “Please.”




Captain Paris seated himself in the command chair and surveyed the crew. He moved to speak, then hesitated. “All hands. Prepare for quantum travel.” He deactivated the com in frustration. ”Mr Shir. Set a course for the Alpha -”

“Sir, I've got something,” Lieutenant Munich interrupted.

“What is it, Commander?”

“Sir, I've been running Ensign Shir's vector analyses through the com, and listening to local subspace traffic along those headings.”

“Did you find her, Commander?”

“No sir. But you've got to hear this.”


The signal broke through on the overhead com:

External scans - through the entire system! On every planet! Killing everybody! I can't outrun them! The entire wing – destroyed! Turn back! Turn back! Those ships – or whatever they are - cutting through the entire fleet! They'll destroy us all! Evacuate the system! Evacuate the -

“Vexa, long range scans!” the Captain ordered.

“Detecting several fleets of ships in movement around an inhabited system seven point one light years from here, sir. Massive weapons discharges. Large amounts of radiation and debris scattering long range scans.” She studied another analysis readout. “Captain. I estimate a civilization of thirty-one point six billion people inhabiting several planets, colonies and orbital stations in the solar system. The planets seem to be under attack.”

Grif punched at his controls. “Numerous vessels, Captain! Ship engine signatures match at least four different warp energy configurations. I've...never seen anything like them, Captain! But it looks like an interstellar war!”


The subspace transceiver crackled:

Cities...bombarded! What...happening to...crew! The technology...somehow merging...them! They're turning...machines...are thousands of them...weapons failure! Infiltrating the bridge! Emergency! Help! Oh my God! Help us! Please! He -....

Hissing static filled the bridge.



Antennae twisted, Ujio turned to Captain Paris, who exchanged a knowing look with the First Officer. It wasn't the first time Ujio appreciated chain of command, with a more experienced officer in the big chair. What would the Captain do? What kind of commander – what kind of man was he? Ujio had a feeling they were about to find out.

“Orders, Captain?”

“Bring the quantum drive online. Auxiliary power to main systems. Helm – prepare for quantum speed. Light 'em up, Ujio.”

“Course, sir?” Ujio asked.

Captain Paris hit the shipwide com. “All hands. Battle stations.”


Ensign Shir laid in a new vector.

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Old May 17 2010, 04:25 PM   #41
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Re: Sleeping at Warp









28 Wildfire





The USS Perseus streamed into position before a double-ringed gas giant. The system erupted with silent flashes of light, and the ship navigated through clouds of decimated spacefaring architecture and ballistic debris.

“Most of the fighting has descended toward the inner planets, Captain,” Grif said. “However, reading accelerated technological development on the surface installations of the moons.”

Tom activated his chair's sensor panel. The data overcrowded the small readout. “Vexa, analysis.”

She reflected on her scans. “Sir, the humanoid and structural atomic signatures don't match any known configurations. But the exponential transformation patterns...are clearly...Borg.” She looked at Grif. “The entire system is being assimilated. Sir. Picking up an outpost on the third moon of the gas giant. Twelve humanoids. They have fortified themselves behind a regenerative ionic field of five point two gigajoules, and have so far staved off assimilation. But their ship and surface facilities have suffered extensive battle damage. They are stranded.”

“Twelve here, billions in the system interior,” Grif interrupted. “Sir, I've localized the main theater of battle. Most of the fleets are gravitating around the second planet of the system.”

“On screen.”

On the main viewer, several space fleets engaged in a chaotic, epic battle above a green and red-swathed planet. Cities illuminated an entire hemisphere shrouded in night. High in orbit, colossal, gray, manta-like dreadnoughts defended themselves from an onslaught of double and triple-hulled alien heavy cruisers, light cruisers and fighters. Some of the ships' surfaces transformed before their eyes with complex Borg materiel.

Tom turned to his First Officer. “Seven, are you...?”

Commander Seven of Nine shook her head, and went to Munich at the com station. “Commander Munich, report.”

Nikhila punched through her frequencies with futility. “The chatter is broken, erratic. It's as if the crews are fighting themselves, too, Captain.” She regarded Seven, whose tense assessment of the com station interface clearly revealed consternation on a personal level. “The system belongs to the Enqar System Alliance. A loose association of several sector powers, which had lived in relative peace for over five centuries. Those dreadnoughts belong to the Alliance. The other ships seem to have been assimilated from the outer planets and turned against their fleet. I believe this all started only hours ago. But I'm not picking up any Borg communications, Captain. As near as I can tell, ships on all sides are functioning as individuals. It's Borg – but it's not Borg as we know them, sir. It's more like...”

“An insurgency,” finished Grif. He punched his readout to the main viewer. The image switched to static-degraded sensor images of alien crew fighting each other onboard a ship. “You see any Borg?”

“No, actually,” Tom replied.

Grif called up an image of an alien crewmember and juxtaposed overlays of various sensor readings. While humanoid in appearance, internally, the scans showed an entirely different story. Technology interwove through his entire body.

“According to the chatter,” Munich added, “the assimilations of crew aren't becoming apparent until too late. The technology remains hidden in infected individuals.”

“Covert assimilation,” Grif said. “Allows them to move freely in their organization; probably as sleepers at first - until it was time to act. This, coupled with the fact that we don't see or hear any cubes indicates -”

“A Borg adaptation of tactic, Captain,” Seven finished. “However they have re-emerged from destruction, it is clear that they are not the Borg of previous encounters. Perhaps they have also found a way to counter Federation weapon technology as well.”

Captain Paris walked to the screen and took a moment to consider. “There's only one way to find out. Take us in, Ujio.”




The Perseus fell out of warp and opened fire against a Borg-infested Alliance Dreadnought, drawing some attention away from a beleaguered Enqar attack wing. The Federation Prometheus-class ship skimmed over complex Borgified surface features, and fired phasers at a key installation. A wing of Alliance fighters disengaged from their sortie to regroup, and Tom heard their hails and Commander Munich's responses as so much background radiation.

Ensign Shir was navigating the helm expertly through the chaotic architecture of the dreadnought. Tom resisted the urge to take over helm, confident in the Ensign's abilities – and own will to survive. Besides, as Captain now, he had to focus on the broader lay of the field of battle.

Perseus shook with an energy weapon discharging against her shields. Alliance cruisers began to fall into formation around her, evoking her leadership. But the dreadnought resisted the attack, proving just too big, too tough to be slowed by conventional weapons.

Perseus wove through the battling ships, evading fire and delivering devastation under her energy weapons. The crew fell, and those who could, got up to fight again, and again.


“Shields down to twelve percent, Captain!”

“Maintain heading! Fire all batteries!”

“Captain, we've lost junctions seven through twelve! Auxiliary power is failing!” Grif shouted.

“Emergency power to shields and weapons!”

“It's not enough!”



Just then something heavy slammed Perseus. As the crew righted themselves, Vexa said, “The dreadnought has caught us in a tractor beam, sir! Attempting to disengage!”

Her hands flurried against the negative telltales. Even in the midst of battle, Tom saw, Lieutenant Vexa met a challenge with a kind of cool, logical inevitability. If there was a way through, she would find it. Given enough time.

“Grif, phasers!”


The klaxon sounded amid blasts of hits to the shields. “No good, sir! The Borg tractor frequencies keep overwhelming the phase cycle! We can't budge, sir! We're taking a beating!”

“Divert power from primary hull life support! All crew evacuate primary cruiser! Head to secondary and tertiary cruisers!” Tom saw his crew stare at him in disbelief. “You all heard me! Move!” As he hit the evac sequence on his chair console, emergency lighting flashed and the crew departed the bridge. Tom rose to put his hand on Ujio's shoulder, still at helm. “No time for heroics, Mister Shir. Get going. I'll be right behind you.”

“Then with or without your permission,” Ensign Shir replied, “Consider this my resignation, Sir.” He popped open an emergency panel and handed his captain a respirator, and took one for himself.


Tom returned to the captain's chair on the emergency-lit bridge. “Paris to Seven. You'll take command of the secondary cruiser, and Commander Munich will take the tertiary. I want you to evacuate the system and regroup at rendezvous point delta.”

“Captain, we should utilize the secondary and tertiary hulls to mount a counteroffensive; they are the stronger hulls and stand the greatest chance against the dreadnoughts.”

“Which is why you will be taking them back to Federation space. You have your orders, Commander. And – good luck. To us all.”

“Your plan is flawed, Cap -”

“You got that right. Paris out.” Tom disconnected the com with an interpersonal regret that he could not indulge.

“Mister Shir. Code Blue. Initiate M-VAM separation sequence, and divert all power to phasers.”

“Aye, Captain.”

“You know, you don't have to call me captain anymore. You're a civilian now.”

“And you can't give me orders anymore. Captain.”



With an explosive shudder, the secondary and tertiary cruisers detached from the primary hull, turned off and pulled away. Tom and Ujio watched them warp away with spectral flashes in separate directions, as enemy phaser beams scanned in confusion.

Another Alliance dreadnought brought itself to bear on the Borg ship. The two great ships passed slowly above the planet, strafing phasers and volleying hundreds of torpedoes against each other.

“Sir, the Perseus Secondary – she's warped to the gas giant!”

Perseus shuddered under the dreadnought's phasers. “Paris to Seven, I gave you an order!”

Acknowledged, Captain. We are evacuating the system as ordered. With the twelve outpost personnel.

“Sir!” Ensign Shir pointed to the main viewer. “The Enqarian ship's stopped firing!”

On screen, the attacking dreadnought hovered darkly. Both ships had ceased firing.

Then, the dreadnoughts began maneuvering together. They both began firing on the other ships in range.

“The Borg took her!” Ujio redoubled his efforts.

The reduced fleet attacked the new enemy, to little avail.

Ujio fought on through his sinking heart.



As the second dreadnought overshadowed the fleet, it suddenly glowed from the inside and disgorged a fiery bubble outward from its core. A huge fireball engulfed it's center, as the ship's great hull split to its extremeties with plasmic fractures.


The starship Voyager knifed out from the dreadnought explosion and rolled towards the Enqarian sun.


She's here,” Tom bit. “Get us the hell out of this tractor!”

“I'm trying sir! The phasers are having no effect!”

“Try reconfiguring the deflector for a sustained inverse tachyon burst! We'll overload their entire grid with a bellyfull of sorrows!”

Both men turned behind them. Commander Barclay's hologram compiled into place on the bridge. “Just let me reinforce the warp constrictors and reroute the feedback surge to secondary phase inducers before we blow half our own hull off.”

“Barclay! Nice of you to show up to our little party.”

“You know me, sir. Love those fireworks.” He winked and engaged the science station.

The dreadnought fired another phaser volley against the Perseus shields.

“When you're ready,” Tom said. “Shield emitters overloading. They'll be gone in less than thirty seconds. Computer, report status of USS Voyager.”

The USS Voyager is entering standard orbit above the system star.

“Sir! Voyager's firing photon torpedoes. But...it doesn't make sense!”
“Report!”

“The photons. They are circling the ship. Sir, they seem to be disappearing into subspace!”
“On screen!”


The starship Voyager appeared on the viewer above the raging surface of the Enqarian sun. Brilliant pinpoints of light encircled the ship like electrons whipping around an atom. “The torpedoes are entering and exiting subspace at random, like small subspace vacuoles. Their paths are impossible to predict.”

Several Borgified Enqarian cruisers pursued Voyager. As they entered the torpedo matrix, photon torpedoes emerged from subspace and impacted on each ship with massive detonations.

“So much for plotting an attack pattern,” Ujio said darkly.

The Voyager hovered over the surface of the sun, enmeshed in a web of flashing photon coronae, emerging and disappearing in a deadly web. She's out-adapting the Borg, Tom thought.

“Mister Shir, status of the Enqarian sun?”

Ujio checked his sensor readings, and looked back at Tom. “It's bad, sir.”

“Mister Barclay, how is the tachyon burst coming?”

“Just another minute, Captain.”

Tom looked at Ujio, who shook his head deeply.

“We don't have a minute. Computer, status of Perseus secondary hull.”

The Perseus secondary hull is in standard orbit above the system gas giant.


Dammit, Seven.

Barclay! I need phasers now!”

“Almost ready, captain!”

“Sir! The Enqar sun is flaring!” Ujio indicated the screen, where a heavy swirling mass of coronal plasma began gathering to an active prominence. Sensor alarms sounded in that dreadful, familiar symphony.

“Mister Barclay...”

“Enqar Alliance.” The viewscreen activated. Admiral Janeway appeared onscreen, surrounded by darkness, her face a study in severity. “Despite all reason, in your quest for power you have attempted to collect and study Borg technology. In your arrogance you have underestimated its power and your ability to control it. The Borg technology has adapted to what had defeated it in the past. The new Borg threat will not be allowed to take root in this galaxy again. It will not be permitted to leave this system. You have chosen your path. Prepare for your consequence.”

“Sir, the flare!” Ujio shouted.

“Barclay! It's now or never!” Tom gripped his chair.

“Just five more seconds, Captain!” The Barclay hologram held up a hand, and with the other hammered through a sequence of indicators like a concert pianist.

“Paris to Seven, you're out of time! Evacuate the system – now!”

“Sir, Voyager has opened a slipstream! Solar prominence in progress!”

“Reg!”

Now, Ensign!” Barclay pointed to Ujio.

Ujio fired the superenergized tachyon feedback pulse up the tractor beam. A surge of energy overloaded the dreadnought tractor emitter grid. The beam cut. Perseus pulled away free, as the dreadnought glimmered from a mass of internal plasma overloads.

“Ensign! Get us out of here! Maximum warp!”

“Sir, I can reach Voyager before she gets away!” Ujio activated the helm controls.

Tom rose. “I gave you an order, Mister Shir!”

“But sir, we can still get them! We can stop it!”

Tom ran to the helm and punched in the commands himself. Ujio grabbed his arm and the two men struggled against each other. On screen, Tom could see Voyager enter the slipstream before the solar flare.

Barclay grabbed Ujio and pulled him off Tom. “There's not enough time, Ensign!”


Tom engaged the engines. In the seconds before the Perseus warp reactor engaged, he saw Seven's ship still hovering above the gas giant. Off their bow, the colossal Borg dreadnought imploded.

“No!” Ujio cried at the viewer.

The proton storm fed into Voyager's quantum slipstream and started to bleed out into open space. With a screeching sensor overload and blinding flash, it turned into a wall of plasma, burning towards them with exponential velocity.

Ujio stared in horror. Then remembered his controls.

The USS Perseus jumped to warp.


The bridge shook in warp space as the proton storm overtook them. Tom rode the shocks in the captain's chair. All power to the engines!

The Barclay hologram aided Ujio at helm control, shouting something, but he couldn't make it out over the roar of the engines and overloading systems. Perseus yawed in her trajectory. The gravimetric forces of the storm overwhelmed navigational control. The proton storm ate the space behind them, ripping through the Enqarian system, instantly destroying everything in its path – planets, moons, ships, everything - burning out all life – Enqarian, Borg, and possibly Federation too. All sensors had burned out. There had been no sign of the secondary or tertiary hulls. Tom felt the ship torquing violently as it rode the advance wave of the plasmic wildfire.

He watched as the Barclay hologram flickered out of existence, along with bridge power systems.

He watched a plasma overload filter through the navigation console and explode in Ujio Shir's face, light ripping through his body and tossing it to the deck.

He felt the storm engulfing his ship, crashing over its plasma shields. He felt the radiating ions charge through his body like a lightning rod and throw him against the bulkhead like a piece of debris.


Fire tore the edges of his consciousness.




Searing pain.

Tom roused into consciousness, and clutched his flaring shoulder wound. The bridge lay in darkness, burnt and destroyed. He scrabbled his way to Ujio's body and held him. The lifeless body fell limp in his arms.

The main viewscreen flickered on. Admiral Janeway appeared. An emotionless carving.

“Damn...you!” Tom croaked. “Whoever you are!” He cradled Ujio's charred face and closed his eyes. A boy. Only a boy. A boy who had trusted his captain; who had given up everything, even his life – for simple loyalty.

As Perseus flung powerless in its trajectory, Admiral Janeway spoke:

“United Federation of Planets. In your arrogance you have underestimated the power of quantum slipstream technology, and your ability to control it. You have allowed it to fall out of your control. Any further interquadrant threats will not be allowed to take root in this galaxy again.” She leaned in: “Choose your path.”

The screen switched to an external view of Voyager. The ship's nacelles vectored into position, and Voyager opened a quantum slipstream and shot into the vortex, and into oblivion.


Tom laid Ujio's body down and checked the sensor readout on his chair. Voyager's heading was clear:

The Alpha Quadrant.

Bajor System.



Ujio's lifeless body dematerialized in a sputtering transporter beam. The computer crackled:

Casualty autotransport engaged.

Tom righted himself in his captain's seat, as the emergency lights blinked and life support winked out.

The dead, burnt, decimated primary hull of the USS Perseus tumbled in its fate, a permanent part of the Enqar Civilization debris field, alone and silent in an empty cosmic drift. United Federation of Planets Starfleet Captain Thomas Eugene Paris sat alone on his dark bridge, alone in his dark judgment, with nothing left of his world to command.

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Old July 15 2010, 07:35 PM   #42
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Re: Sleeping at Warp

Book I: Sleeping at Warp

Book II: Burn Factor (continued here)

Star Trek: Wildfire
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