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Old February 9 2013, 10:11 PM   #31
CeJay
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

A lot of interesting things happening.

T'Prell joining the fray might come to late for Dar and Glover's mission the way things are going.

And curious to see the Department for Special Affairs involved in things. God only knows what their game is.

Gakket definitely made my list of people I hope will not survive this story. What an ass. But me thinks something happened on the Astral Eddy he may not yet know about. At least I hope so.

Really enjoying this revision a great deal.
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Old February 10 2013, 07:00 PM   #32
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

The Romulans executing their Reman soldiers along with the pirate ship (and making one of their number carry out the order) was especially cold blooded.

I’m continuing to love the plots-within-plots at work here, with the web of deception and cross-purposes growing ever larger.

Satok allowing T’Prell to become involved is very risky, but weighed against the possibility of Samson’s mission failing (or worse yet, being publically exposed) it’s understandable why he made that decision.

Terrific re-working of this tale and I’m eager for more!
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Old February 11 2013, 03:28 AM   #33
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Hey guys,

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

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

Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
Benzar System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I understand that sentiment,” the captain grinned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Misery loves company,” he grumbled.

“Inside voice,” Miranda nudged him.

“What?” He asked, momentarily confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean?” Torkill asked.

“Nothing,” she huffed.

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

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

Uncaring, Miranda added, “And I’m leaving alone.” And she did just that, leaving a dumbfounded Torkill holding her drink.
************************************************** ************
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Old February 12 2013, 03:24 AM   #34
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

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

Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
Benzar System

“Now that’s interesting,” Dr. Zammit said, sidling up to Lt. Baran M’Brey. The relatively smallish Alshain glanced down at the relatively diminutive Bzzit Khaht. His hands were full, one carrying a glass of water and the other a tray with shaka, a native Bzzit Khaht dish. The Benzites had seemingly done an excellent replication of the blue moss.

“What are you talking about Zam?” She asked, good-naturedly, not worried about the man’s superior rank. Zammit was the only officer she had met in either Starfleet or the Alshain Starforce that felt it was actually insubordinate to refer to him by his rank.

“Didn’t you just see the way Commander Drake blew out of here?” The medic inquired. M’Brey looked at the exit and instinctively inhaled, seeking out her scent. But the woman had already crossed the threshold and her smell had been lost among the mélange of body odors, the medic’s included.

Adjusting to life aboard a Federation starship, first as a wartime exchange officer and then as a full-fledged member of the crew after her defection, Baran’s sensitive olfactory glands at times had been pummeled by the myriad odors of multiple species.

It had gotten so discomforting that Commander Nandel had recommended that Dr. Zammit come up with a solution. Of course, before he could apply the treatment, M’Brey had had to withstand the doctor’s strong musk.

The stench came from the sponge-like glands covering the man’s body. He explained that Federation scientists had developed a counteragent, an aerosol spray that mitigated the smell, and which Zammit used quite liberally.

While it mollified most other species, the foulness was still stomach turning for her, though Baran had learned to quell her gag reflex. And she was grateful for her fortitude, because the medic was an excellent conversationalist and quite a fount of information.

“No,” She shrugged, “So?”

“Lover’s spat perhaps?” The man’s yellow-green eyes lit with curiosity.

“Between you and Jonda, I don’t know who the bigger gossip hound is,” the Alshain replied with a smile.

“I’m surprised that you didn’t hear that heated exchange?” He asked. M’Brey playfully flicked one of his long, pointed ears, though careful to keep her claws retracted. “We don’t all have ears like yours.”

He harrumphed and then pointed at the lupanoid’s own drooping ears, “Speak for yourself,” he retorted, before laughing.

“I’m sure I’m not the first person to advise you not to eavesdrop,” M’Brey chided.

“I wish that my hearing was that good,” Zammit frowned, “But I only caught an elevation in their voices and then saw Miranda leave in haste.”

“If you are so curious, why don’t you just go ask Commander Drake,” M’Brey suggested, “Or better yet, how about Mr. Torkill?” Both looked at the hapless, flummoxed man, standing alone in the middle of the room. Baran felt pity for the man. He looked as out of place as the Jem’Hadar present, all clutching filled glasses that they would never drink.

“I don’t think so,” the medic smiled, “I like ingesting shaka not being turned into it.” The two officers shared another laugh.

“So, there isn’t any scuttlebutt about trouble in paradise is there?” Zammit pressed gently.

“I recommend you check with Jonda,” M’Brey said. While she found some non-Alshain courting rituals and socializing intriguing, bewildering, and sometimes amusing, she merely liked to listen and not participate.

Despite her recent defection over the atrocities the Exarchate had committed against the Tarlac, Ellora, Ba’ku, Son’a, and Munzalans, M’Brey missed her people, and she missed serving in the Starforce.

However, the actions of her former government had made a return to the Exarchate and Starforce untenable so now she sought to make a new life among aliens. It could be trying at times, but her conscience demanded no less of her.

“Where is the good Mr. Jonda?” Zammit asked, standing on his toes to look around some of the taller guest. “I don’t see his familiar shock of purple anywhere?”

M’Brey sniffed again, and shook her head, “I’m not picking up his scent,” she said, shrugging, “Odd that he would be missing any party.”

“I know,” Zammit nodded in agreement before shrugging, “Oh well, maybe he just went to the refresher?”

“Perhaps,” M’Brey acknowledged, “Which isn’t a bad idea now that you’ve mentioned it.”

“I wouldn’t want to hold you from the tug of nature,” Zammit said cheerily. While M’Brey was sure that consideration was involved, she also knew that the medic realized that there hadn’t been much information she could provide him.

After saying parting words, the Alshain strode toward the exit. She paused at the door and looked back. She saw that the medic had already insinuated himself into the conversation ongoing between Commander Nandel and the Vorta.

M’Brey shook her head in bewildered amusement. Life in the Federation was going to be interesting indeed.
************************************************** *************
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Old February 15 2013, 09:06 PM   #35
CeJay
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

North isn't exactly hero material, is he? Or maybe he's exactly the right kind of hero. The one who lets his actions speak for himself. He sure is no diplomat as he aptly demonstrates here.

Thankfully the smooth (and likely untrustworthy) Velen comes to the rescue before matters get out of hand.

I'm enjoying getting a closer look at this crew with all their individual particularities. There is little you do better than create compelling characters and starship crews.
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Old February 17 2013, 03:38 AM   #36
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

CeJay,

Both Dylan and Velen are full of surprises is all I'm going to say.


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

Imperial Romulan Cruiser Aidoann

Samson Glover threw a hand over his eyes. The white light stabbing into them was nearly as painful as his headache. His mind felt sluggish and his mouth was drier than a Vulcan desert. His stomach quivered and the old man grimaced, remembering the last time he had been hung over. But he hadn’t drunk that much, Samson thought. However, he hadn’t checked the alcoholic concentration either, he realized. Plus, his tolerance had never been high.

Comprehending why he felt like he had been hit by a shuttle, it didn’t account for the intense light digging into his sockets. “Where…” he couldn’t finish the question, with his throat and tongue feeling like sand paper. Perhaps this was more than a simple case of overdrinking.

“Welcome back to the land of the living Admiral Glover.” A disembodied voice said somewhere above him. Samson’s heart stopped.

No one aboard the Astral Eddy knew his true identity. For someone to refer to him by his name and former title, it meant that the mission had failed and that either he was a prisoner or had been rescued by Starfleet.

If that was the case, what happened to the others? The question jolted his heart. The man sat up, his lethargic muscles protesting. He squinted, “Where…who…” he attempted to inquire.

“Lower illumination,” the voice said. The lights dimmed to a comfortable level. His eyeballs still hurt, but Samson used them anyway. The room was small, unadorned with thick shadows pooling at each corner. The ex-admiral looked up and saw a cone of light beaming down directly on him. At almost the same instant, Samson realized he was sitting on a floor, the thrumming of a singularity engine rumbling beneath him.

“Romulans,” he muttered, his stomach knotting in fear. Glover had been on enough Romulan vessels during the war to know the unique vibration of their main propulsion system.

“Very good Admiral,” a man emerged from the shadows. The Romulan was dressed in dark-gray uniform with a harness running from his left shoulder. He was well-built and would be considered handsome by most humanoid standards. But that attractiveness was marred by a predacious sneer. The admiral eyed the rank insignia glinting on the left side of the man’s black turtleneck.

“Centurion,” Samson rasped. The man nodded appreciatively before coming to crisp stop in front of him. The admiral noticed that the man carried no weapons. Obviously he was a confident sort.

“Excellent,” the man’s sneer lengthened, “Of course I should’ve expected nothing less from the estimable Admiral Glover.”

“Who?” Samson asked. The man laughed.

“I’ve seen you in person,” the man shook his head, “During the war, on Outpost 23. I was part of Admiral Lendak’s security detail.”

“I see,” Samson said, nodding as he searched his memory for the man’s face. He shrugged after a few seconds, recalling nothing. The admiral saw no deception in the man using that as the identifier.

“You really should have done some reconstructive surgery,” The Romulan suggested. “Your face is more famous than you might think.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Glover said, not being able to hide the droll. “Perhaps you could drop me off at the nearest Starbase and I’ll see to it immediately.”

The Romulan laughed again. “I admire your courage human.”

“Thanks…I guess,” Samson replied. He tried to sit up, but the man placed a firm hand on his shoulder and kept him on the ground. “If we are going to hold hands, I would at least like to know your name?”

“Centurion Gakket,” The man almost gleefully replied, “Of the Tal Diann.” Samson’s heart froze again. Gakket took pleasure from the look of unbidden distress on the man’s face. “Though I wondered what could be so special about you and your compatriots-no one told me the truth-I understood it all after I inspected your stasis tube. Once I saw that it was the famous Samson Glover among the personages, it didn’t take much to figure out who the Romulan with you was…”

“Where is he?” Samson demanded, “And the Bolian?”

“They are alive,” Gakket said, “Though it took everything within me not to gut that traitor Ousanas Dar once I realized who he was. Of course you would never venture back into the Empire without your pet Romulan.”

“Benzar is not part of the Star Empire,” Samson forced himself to say it reasonably.

“Not yet,” Gakket smirked. “But that is only a matter of time. The Benzites revere us, especially Commander Volok, the Liberator,” the man paused, his eyes boring into Samson. The admiral cursed himself, the mention of his old enemy’s name had made his countenance recoil.

“So, the rumors are true,” Gakket surmised, “You and the traitor had a role in Volok’s imprisonment,” he fished, but this time Glover wasn’t biting. “He wants you for revenge, don’t deny it.” Samson kept his silence.

“But,” Gakket began, walking around the man, “Why would you traipse willingly into Volok’s trap?” Now back in front of Samson, the Romulan leaned down, almost nose to nose. “Why did you come? Why are you here? And how did Volok know where to capture you?”

Samson glanced down, refusing to answer the man’s questions. Though his mind reeled with questions of his own, chiefly how did Volok know they were here? If he did know, Samson wondered how many other Romulans knew, and what they would do about it. Though he didn’t want to, the admiral had to face the reality that a traitor in the Federation, someone either in Starfleet Special Affairs or Starfleet Intelligence was in league with Volok, and/or the Tal Diann.

None of those prospects boded well for the Federation, not to mention the likelihood that Samson would never see the outside of this cell alive again.

“Suddenly taciturn, I see,” Gakket remarked, resuming his full height. “Of course I have ways to make you talk, and I’m guessing that the commander won’t be too upset with me as long as there are pieces of you left for him do with as he pleases.”

The vise on Samson’s stomach had tightened to a painful degree, but he summoned an impassive look on his face as he glared back at the centurion. “Do your worst,” he challenged. It was rash, perhaps immature, but the admiral would rather give into anger than fear at the moment.

Gakket nodded appreciatively again, “I shall,” he promised, “And first with the female.”
************************************************** **************
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Old February 17 2013, 08:05 PM   #37
CeJay
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Not. Good.

Somehow I hope Glover and company have an ace up their sleeve here. I can't yet see how but I am an optimist.
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Old February 18 2013, 12:01 AM   #38
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Thanks CeJay,

Yeah, it's not looking good for the home team right now. I was so busy writing stuff for the other characters that I almost forgot that this is supposed to be a Samson story and wanted to throw a scene in there to remind me of that. Putting him in some real danger should also keep me focused on figuring out a way for him to get out of it.

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

Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
Benzar System

Lt. Commander Miranda Drake’s cloud of frustration lifted as she caught the Romulan Volok and Lt. Jonda in an animated conversation. The animation was coming all from the Catullan science officer, as was his wont, while the Romulan rigidly stood close by.

Debating a nanosecond or two over what she should do, the engineer headed toward the odd twosome. The Romulan stiffened slightly, his tapered ears no doubt catching her approach. Volok turned smooth, a practiced smile on his face. He dipped gracefully in respect, “Commander Drake,” he said with such familiarity as if they had been working together for years.

Miranda forced herself not to curtsey. “Commander Volok,” she looked around him to Jonda, and acknowledged her science officer.

“Commander,” Jonda’s smile was far more genuine, though tinged with nervousness.

“You two seem to be engaged in quite an interesting conversation,” she threw out her hook.

“Ah yes, Mr. Jonda was telling me about the mechanics of the forcefield holding the debris in a globular formation,” Volok said, nodding with appreciation as he continued, “A most complicated, and admirable process.”

“Agreed,” Drake said, warming to the subject. She had spent hours poring over the schematics of the memorial and had been eager to ply its creators with questions. The best part of this whole affair thus far had been meeting some of the engineering team. She wished she had one or more on the Rushmore. Not to knock her team at all, but such engineering skill was something rare, even in Starfleet.

Miranda had already determined to try to recruit a few of the Benzites for the Corps of Engineers and hoped to put a bug in their ears about it before the Rushmore disembarked. “Ah yes,” Drake began, “I was speaking to Planner Felnis about…”

“My apologies,” Volok said, a remorseful expression wreathing his features, “But I am fatigued. I had actually been planning to retire to my vessel before I encountered Mr. Jonda,” he said.

“And you know how I am,” Jonda said, with a sheepish shrug. “I guess that the commander had enough forbearance to tolerate me going on one of my tangents.”

“It was a fascinating tangent,” Volok declared.

“I see,” Drake said, her eyes narrowing slightly. Something was going on between the two men, and it had little if anything to do with engineering small talk.

“If I might take my leave?” Volok asked, though he had already stepped away from both Starfleet officers. Before Miranda could reply, the Romulan headed in the direction of the transporter rooms.

She waited until she thought he was safely out of earshot and then leaned close to Jonda. “What was that about?”

“Just idle conversation,” the Catullan smiled, but now the gesture didn’t feel so warm. It felt artificial, chilly even. “Nothing to concern yourself with Commander.”

“I can order you to tell me,” Drake’s voice hardened.

“Yes, you could,” Jonda replied, unfazed, “though I think you would disappointed with the result.”

“What is that supposed to mean Lieutenant?” The engineer asked, not hiding her exasperation.

“That when you look for shadows, you’ll find them,” Jonda said, shrugging, “An old saying among my people. I think that everyone is so uptight, on edge, and that’s not any way to be. We won the war, all of us together, we should be allies, and it’s time we started acting more like that. Step one, is treating the Romulans like fellow sentients.”

“How we treat the Romulans isn’t the issue,” Miranda rejoined, “It’s how they treat us.”

“Fair enough,” the science officer sighed, “Perhaps we change that by engaging them in dialogue.”

Drake shook her head sadly at the younger man, “We’ve been trying that for years,” she replied wearily. “It hasn’t worked yet.”

“Doesn’t mean we should stop,” Jonda replied earnestly. Drake tried not to laugh at the man’s idealism. She would have liked to think that she had been that fresh faced once. She clapped the younger man on the back.

“No it doesn’t,” she conceded. She sighed, feeling more relaxed. The fog hanging over her had lifted. She canted her head to the side as the din from the gathering came through the closed doors.

“Have you forgotten that a party is going on?” She teased the science officer. Jonda smiled.

“Of course not,” he said, gesturing at the door. “After you commander.”

“No, you first, I insist,” Miranda replied with a chortle. Jonda acceded to her wishes. Though she wasn’t as keyed up, the engineer still felt uneasy about the furtive conversation. She hated to admit that she didn’t quite believe that Jonda had been completely honest with her, and at the moment she preferred to keep her in front of him.
************************************************** *************

Imperial Romulan Warbird Ra’kholh

The engineer knew to be waiting for him when Commander Volok appeared on the transporter pad. He stepped off it and imperiously passed the penitent Lt. Vahen, without even glancing at her. He couldn’t prevent himself a small smile of triumph as he caught the woman’s flinching from the corner of his eye. He would deal with her later, or not at all. It depended on his mood. Volok had learned long ago that the anticipation of punishment was just as effective, or more so, than the actual chastisement itself.

Volok strode down the corridor, not even acknowledging the rapidly saluting officers he brushed by. Once inside his private quarters, behind the safety of sound proofed walls, he bellowed, unleashing the full weight of his fury.

He had kept it pent up too long and now, out of sight, he tore through the room. Rending chairs and tables, upturning the sofa and smashing mirrors, Patrin superimposed a face over each item he demolished.

Ripping his skin on jagged wood and twisted metal, the sight of his own blood empowered him on to more destruction. His boot smashed the glass coffee table top and he imagined it was Velen’s face he was pulverizing. How dare she interrupt his parley with Captain North. He was just about to get the rash human to commit another faux pas in front of the Benzite elite.

Word of such uncouth behavior on the part of North would’ve spread throughout the Benzite punditry and from them to the lower masses. It would’ve been one more finger pulled away from the Federation’s grasp on Benzar.

But the arrogant Velen had to interject, her desire to engage in internecine bureaucratic warfare had been more important to her than luring the Federation into another diplomatic blunder.

Were the Tal Shiar really so frightened of the Tal Diann that they wanted Benzar to slip from the Star Empire’s clutches?

The idea of such selfishness enraged him further. After razing nearly every other standing thing in his room, Volok turned to his personal terminal. He blinked several times, in rhythm with the soft green light emitting from the computer. In his fugue he hadn’t noticed it before.

His curiosity reined in his anger, and Volok stalked over to the terminal. He activated it and listened to the encoded audio message. Reaching back for his chair, the commander felt empty air. Turning around, momentarily confused, he gasped at the trail of destruction he had just created.

It shook him that he had just done such a thing, that he had allowed his temper to rule him so. The chair had been a casualty, so Volok hunched over the screen and tapped in the proper authentication sequence.

Minutes later a peeved Garth Logan glared at him. “Where have you been?” The tousled hair human demanded.

“I didn’t know I had a Terran nanny,” Volok snapped back. Logan opened his mouth to retort and then closed it as he gave Volok a thorough once over. “What happened to you? You look like you just survived a row with the Yan-Isleth.” Volok patted down the wild strands of hair. He did nothing about the blood smeared across his cheeks.

Volok snarled at the mention of the Klingon Chancellor’s personal bodyguards, the supposedly fabled Brotherhood of the Sword. “What do you want?”

“You know what I want,” Logan said, not backing down. “Has the package been delivered to you?”

“Yes,” Volok nodded, “All three, nice and tied with a bow, according to my subordinate.”

“Excellent,” Logan said, pausing as he considered his words, “Did your subordinate report anything unusual about my contact?”

Ah, Volok realized, his smile widening. He might not be able to strike at Velen…yet, but he could take down this toadying human. “You wish to know the status of the…Steadfast, is it not?”

“Yes,” Logan said slowly, his eyes hooding with suspicion.

“It and her pilot are space atoms,” the Romulan boasted, “and not only do I have my prisoners, I also have your Iconian device.”

“What?” Logan spat, and Volok laughed.

“Did you seriously not think that I didn’t know about your other mission, the one that would deliver the Iconian device to Benzite insurrectionists?”

“How is that…how could you?” The human was so livid, his face beet red, that he couldn’t even formulate a full sentence. Volok wondered if that is how he had looked just moments earlier.

“The Tal Diann has eyes everywhere,” he boasted. “And on behalf of my organization and the Star Empire, I thank you for giving me the means to not only to affect my vengeance but also to crush the rebellion your Starfleet Intelligence is aborning. If I was a citizen, President Santiago would have my vote.”

He gave a full throated laugh at the man’s face contorted with fear. “Yes, I know who you are and who you work for, Mr. Logan. Did you really take me for such a fool? And if you did, guess who is the fool now.” With a deep satisfaction, Volok disconnected the link, leaving the dumbfounded, outmatched man to stew in the hell of his making.
************************************************** **************
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Old February 18 2013, 05:35 AM   #39
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

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

Château de Saint Brisson
Residence of Presidential Chief of Staff
Earth

Garth Logan paced the floor of his private office, his arms locked behind his back, his mind constantly replaying the conversation he had just had with Volok. How was it possible? He maddeningly pondered. How had the Romulan outthought him?

How had he made Logan look like a fool? Was it Eleuth? Visala? Or some other hole in his plan?

Even Madsen didn’t know about the true contents in Glover’s case. If the Tal Diann had captured and tortured her, it would’ve been to no avail. She couldn’t have told them anything.

Somehow he had been outmaneuvered, and it roiled him greatly. Stopping in front of his desk, he slammed his fists onto its unyielding surface. His knuckles cracked and the vibration shook both his arms.

His pain receptors had been reduced since the accident that had once scarred most of his body. However he remembered the special agony that one Section 31 operative, the mysterious Morgan, had inflicted upon him once for overstepping his bounds. Logan shivered at the thought of how the Directorate would deign to punish him once they found out about his side deal with Volok.

Losing the Iconian probe was bad enough, but how he lost it could cost him such torment that death would be a mercy. He looked up at the ceiling, saying aloud, “Now would be a good time to give me some advice,” the man implored. There was only silence.

Sighing, his whole body deflating, Logan began to think of the best way to salvage the situation. Swallowing his pride, he moved around his desk and sat down. Activating his personal computer and gritting his teeth, Logan made the call, “Admiral Visala’s office please.”
************************************************** ************
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Old February 18 2013, 05:41 AM   #40
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Author's Note: I decided to change the name of Fleet Captain Walker and the Monarch that was briefly mentioned in the first scene of this story. I saw that killing Walker and destroying Monarch will be a continuity problem for Star Trek Pytheas stories. So I'll change the character's name and ship for the finished work. I think most people get by now anyway that this is a much different story than the original version of Shadow Puppets.
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Old February 23 2013, 01:43 PM   #41
Gibraltar
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Wow, quite a bit happening here. The diplomatic soiree was an excellent backdrop for the various intrigues developing in the vicinity of Benzar.

Samson is putting on a brave face, but he’s now in hostile custody and utterly disavowed by Starfleet, even if they were to discover his imprisonment. Volok is going to enjoy eviscerating whatever is left of the elder Glover, provided that the centurion leaves him anything to play with.

I have to admit a certain delight at seeing Volok twist the knife in Logan’s guts, as its not everyday someone gets to pull one over on Section 31 so spectacularly. Logan would be better off vaporizing himself now, rather than wait to see what Visala and the others have planned for him.

As always, your plans-within-plots wrapped inside machinations continue to delight!
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Old February 24 2013, 08:46 PM   #42
CeJay
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

S31 agents in trouble seems to be the theme of the week. I don't like the guy so I don't feel particularly bad for him. I am however gravely concerned for what will happen to Glover and co, not to mention Benzar because of Logan's careless deal-making.
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Old March 24 2013, 09:23 PM   #43
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Hey guys,

As always thanks for reading and your comments. It's been a while since my last post and I hope the interest hasn't died completely for this story. I've recently been caught up with moving and other things so it's hard getting back into it. One way I want to do that is make this part one and start a part two to help me get this back on track. I hope you like the close of part one.

************************************************** **************
Morgue
Merria Cosmopolis
Benzar

Quaestor Helveid frowned as Major Vorot ripped back the sheet, exposing the naked corpse. Meldin noticed Commissioner turning a very Romulanesque shade of green as she clutched her stomach and turned away from the dead body.

“Was that necessary?” Lt. Commander Meldin snapped. He would rather give into his anger than his uneasiness at the moment. And he wasn’t certain what riled him more at the moment, the deathly gray, shrunken pallor of a woman he could’ve considered a friend under different circumstances, or the second violation to her person, this time at the hands of the major.

With the edge of the blue plastic sheet bundled in her gloved hands, the unfazed Vorot replied, “You both expressed some doubt…mortification at the news I delivered. Do you believe me now?”

“The mortification has doubled I think,” Helveid said, starring honor blades at the woman. “And is more than justified,” he added. Vorot smirked at him before returning to dissect Meldin with her gaze.

“The High Commissioner has reacted as I would suspect for a Terran,” Vorot noted, “but you Commander Meldin, your reaction thus far has been…interesting.” She thankfully recovered Morah’s corpse.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Helveid asked. She ignored him and continued staring at Meldin, her gaze inquisitive and hungry.

“Elaborate,” was all the Benzite gave her. He had faced down every threat from the Xenarth to the Jem’Hadar to the Breen; Meldin wasn’t going to allow the Tal Shiar operative to intimidate him. The woman smiled, up for the challenge. Before she spoke, he added, “Perhaps you should save yourself some time, remove one of your gloves and apply a mind meld.”

The woman’s smile evaporated. “You are from the Mind War division are you not?” Meldin pressed, keeping his face impassive and his voice even. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Helveid recoil slightly. It was apparent that the man hadn’t known what part of the Tal Shiar Vorot had truly come from.

Telepathy had been an atrophied genetic trait among the Romulans, more associated with their reviled Vulcan kin. From what Meldin knew of the Romulans, many felt the touch telepathy still practiced by their Vulcan cousins was a violation of the highest sort. It was that revulsion that made Vorot and other Romulan telepaths both desired and leprous.

“What does the Mind War division have to do with this?” Helveid demanded. The major ignored him.

“You continue to intrigue me,” Vorot said, nodding triumphantly. “I am certain you are the one she was seeking.”

“What are you talking about?” McCall asked, color starting to return to her face. “Mr. Meldin explain?”

“It appears that Commissioner Morah was in league with terrorists,” Vorot said, drawing stunned silence from her audience. “She had been under surveillance for months. We suspected that she had information about an imminent attack, something massive…”

“Terrorism? Morah?” Meldin asked, not believing it. That didn’t seem at all like the woman who had quasi-flirted with him mere hours ago. Then again, there were some, even among his own kind, who were masters of deception.

“Mr. Meldin, tell me what you know about the Benzite partisan movement?” Vorot asked. Meldin’s forehead furrowed at the mention of the resistance movement that had sought to end the Romulan occupation through violent means. What tie would Morah have to them?

“Don’t answer that question Mr. Meldin!” Commissioner McCall snapped. “I will not be pulled into another Romulan intrigue and neither will you!”

“I’m sorry but the time for games is over,” the major replied. “A serious crime has been committed, and a potential terrorist attack hangs in the balance. We don’t have time for any more niceties.”

As if on cue, several hulking imperial marines burst into the room, their disruptor rifles at the ready. Meldin wasn’t sure if they pushed Helveid out of the way or if the insignificant man merely faded into the background. Meldin’s muscles tensed as he calculated his odds against the crack Tal Shava unit.

He might be able to take a couple of them before being cut down, but the security officer held back, afraid that any such action might result in collateral damage, namely High Commissioner McCall. He knew the best way to adhere to his duty, which was keeping Commissioner McCall safe, was to do nothing. He was going to have to ride this one out and see how best to turn things to his advantage once the human was out of harm’s way.

“Lt. Commander Meldin, Starfleet, I am charging you with the murder of Commissioner Morah, Election Integrity Commission.” The Tal Shiar agent said, with mock formality. “You will tell me why you murdered the commissioner. Did she have second thoughts? Did she develop a conscience?” As she peppered him with insane questions, the marines slowly advanced.

“This is outrageous!” To her credit, McCall found her courage. She stepped in front of Meldin, her finger wagging at the nearest marine. “You lay one hand on him and it’s an intergalactic incident!”

The lead marine scowled but didn’t take a step closer. The others also stopped. Major Vorot merely smiled. “Your reasoning would be the case if Benzar was an independent planet or a member of the Star Empire, but it remains a member of the Federation, and Starfleet officers are subject to the laws of planetary members.”

McCall paled. Meldin swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. “We are merely assisting the Benzites with their interrogation.” The major’s demeanor was the voice of probity.

Before either McCall or Meldin could rejoin, Vorot snapped, “Now, take him away!”
************************************************** ****************
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Old March 24 2013, 11:35 PM   #44
CeJay
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

I've been missing this story as of late. Good to see you finding time to come back to it.

Things seem to be going pretty well. For the Romulans and the slimy Volok that is. Not so much for Meldin who'll have to do the kind of battle he's probably least familiar with. Fighting a false murder charge.
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Old March 27 2013, 06:27 AM   #45
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Very well played by Major Vorot, not many people get the upper hand on Commander Meldin. One wonders how many agencies, secret societies, and rogue agents are working at cross-purposes on and around Benzar?

This will doubtless go down as the most-rigged election in recent galactic history!

Wonderful work, DarKush! Keep it up.
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