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Old March 31 2013, 11:19 PM   #46
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

************************************************** *********
Hey guys,

Thanks so much for your continued support. It's been hard keeping this story going so I'm glad that you still are interested in continuing to read it.

Author's Note: When this story is ready for final posting, I will rename the first part "Calculation". This second part is subtitled "Escalation".

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

PART TWO: ESCALATION

USS Rushmore
Captain’s Quarters

Captain Dylan North was happy to shrug off his confining jacket. The gold embroidered white jacket fell to the group as he stretched his shoulders and loudly exhaled. His paunch poked out, seemingly as happy to be as unconfined by the cloth has he had been by the social gathering.

He really wanted to go to bed, to sleep off the effects of the pinot, but the blinking light on his desktop console grabbed his attention.

Dylan knew that if it had been urgent, a message from Starfleet Command, then he would’ve been personally alerted. Walking towards his desk, he knew it the communique of was of the personal variety, but that made it no less urgent he figured.

Plopping down in his chair, he opened his laptop and activated it. The golden laurels and blue background blinked away to reveal a recorded message from his wife. Dylan didn’t even play it back, he just sent a transmission.

It took five, somewhat tense minutes, before his wife came online. Dylan’s breath caught in his throat at the sight of her. Amelia looked the same as when they had met at a terraforming conference twenty years ago. At that time he had been a young science officer aboard the T’Plana and Amelia had been finishing her doctorate at the Tri-Planetary Academy.

Dylan had been taken by the statuesque, freckled redhead even before she took the podium to discuss reclamation efforts on Triannon, a planet still suffering from the aftermath of a religious war some two centuries earlier.

He had made sure to congratulate her after her presentation and their brief interaction had turned into lunch the next day, dinner the night after that, and on down the line marriage for some twenty years.

It hadn’t been easy, but both of them shared a love of horticulture and neither had sought to impede the career ambitions of the other, until recently. “Dylan,” Amelia said, the smile on her face not quite reaching her pale blue eyes. “Are you well?”

He dipped his head, “Yes, and you?” He asked, feeling suddenly awkward. He never could’ve imagined that relations would become so poor between them that he wouldn’t know what to say. There was a time they spent hours talking about nothing, and then nights deep in discussion and debate about everything from Martian aboriculture to the thematic underpinnings of The Dream of the Fire.

At one time Dylan had dreamed of nothing more than spending days laid out beside her, continuing these discussions, as they worked together as roving horticulturists for the Daystrom Institute.

But the war had come, and everything had changed. “I haven’t heard from you in a few weeks, I…was concerned,” Amelia said. Dylan grimaced. He recalled a time when neither would ever let such a length occur without communicating with the other.

Dylan had finally decided to leave Starfleet than join a far-flung mission aboard the USS Aries.

His only regret had been he wished he had left the service sooner, because war with the Klingons came shortly thereafter. Dylan had been able to resist the call to return to the fleet at first. He had acceded to Amelia’s wishes, but once the conflagration with the Dominion had broken out and Starfleet was in desperate need of competent personnel, North had no choice but to return.

Surprisingly, Amelia had not resisted. She had understood how grave the threat the Dominion posed to the Alpha Quadrant. Dylan’s promises to leave Starfleet again once the conflict was over had certainly assuaged some of her concerns as well.

He hadn’t known what he was getting into, how badly the Klingon War had depleted the ranks. Dylan was promoted shortly after his return to an executive officer’s rank and placed aboard the Rushmore.

He had really tried, or so he told himself, to leave Starfleet behind after the Dominion had surrendered, but he found he couldn’t. Due to the Rushmore’s wartime reputation, the Federation Council and Starfleet Command sought to use it politically in their attempt to keep Benzar from seceding.

The ship was given upgrades ahead of more worthy candidates and it was stocked with a full complement of officers that might have been more prudent to spread to other ships with a dearth of them. Dylan had served with many on the Rushmore through some of the darkest time of his, or their lives, and he felt an obligation to them, to continue shepherding them through the political minefields now.

He hated to admit but he felt this obligation trumped his duty to his spouse. And it pained him that she knew it. And because of that, there was very little to say. Yet Dylan tried anyway, “I saw you left a message.”

“You didn’t check it?” Amelia asked, her expression slightly incredulous, her tone a bit suspicious.

“You know I like to go directly to the source,” he tried to joke, but Amelia’s lips remained in a straight line. After the joke died, they feel into an uncomfortable silence.

Eventually Amelia said, “I was concerned about you, about them sending you back to that…place.” His wife’s face twisted into disgust. Her mild distaste for Starfleet had metastasized into open loathing. Unfortunately she had even fallen in with a fringe subset that believed that Starfleet exploration was partly to blame for the Dominion war.

“Federation imperialism” was the cry from that crowd. It was one, of many things, Dylan didn’t talk with her about anymore.

She thought Starfleet was being both manipulative and unnecessarily cruel sending Rushmore back into the abattoir they had barely escaped from. On that account at least, Dylan couldn’t completely disagree. But he also understood the value of having the heroic little ship return to the site of its famous stand, a reminder to the Benzite populace of how much the Federation sacrificed to save them, even if they failed in the attempt.

“I’m okay,” he said, not wanting to get into another row about Starfleet, “The tribute for the fallen was respectful, and even most of the Romulans were agreeable,” he said, thinking briefly of Volok, and then smiling at the memory of Velen checking him. “I’m surprised to say that.”

“I’ve worked with Romulans before,” Amelia said, nodding as she seemed to plumb her own memory. “They are sentient beings like we are, and they died fighting the Dominion like so many of our people did; all of this talk of Romulan subterfuge and hostility is nothing more than propaganda,” she surmised. Dylan grimaced again.

If only she knew, he thought, but wisely kept his mouth shut. “Once this mission is over, Command has ordered Rushmore to Starbase 373 to undergo repairs. I’ll have three weeks of free time.”

“I left the house in good condition,” she said, “But I can’t break away from Cardassia.”

“Cardassia?” He asked, surprised, and worried. “What are you doing there?”

“I’m certain I mentioned that the University of Culat had requested my services,” Amelia said, now defensive.

“Yeah, you said they had offered, not that you had taken the job,” Dylan replied, his stomach starting to knot up. “You know how dangerous the situation there is, with the militants.”

“Which Starfleet claims to have gotten a handle on,” Amelia shot back, “At least the Cardassian Security Forces have, which are just as reliable or more so on telling the truth about the issue.”

“Don’t start this again,” Dylan grated, “Especially to distract me.”

“Distract you?” Amelia raised both ginger eyebrows, “Distract you from what?”

“You just up and going to Cardassia, a damn war zone!” He couldn’t stop himself from shouting.

“Aren’t you in a war zone?”

“No,” he groused, “and even if I was, I’m in a Starfleet frigate.”

“Don’t worry about me,” Amelia said, “My hosts have been very hospitable and I have not felt threatened once since my arrival.”

“Damn it Amelia, it only takes one time,” he said.

“I’m surprised by your reaction,” Amelia replied.

“Are you serious?” Dylan fumed. Amelia said nothing, but nodded in the affirmative. “How could you not think I would be concerned about my wife working on a war ravaged, teetering planet?”

“Just as oblivious as you have been to my concerns about your safety,” Amelia pointed out.

Dylan resisted the urge to sigh. “You didn’t object to me returning to the service,” he replied, with a well-worn line of argument.

“No,” she shook her head, “I didn’t, but now the war is over and still you are aboard that ship.”

“This crew needs me,” he replied, almost pleading.

“I needed you,” she said, and her past tense usage pierced his heart.

“What are you saying?” He asked, reaching out to stroke the screen where her cheek would be.

“I don’t know,” she looked down and away, her voice cut off by her tears.

“Listen, we can patch this up,” Dylan begged, “We can make this right, like it used to be, okay?”

Amelia looked back up at him, water trails marring her beautiful face. “Dylan, you were always a dreamer. I had thought Starfleet had ground that out of you, but you can still surprise me,” for the first time today her smile suffused her being. “It’s not going to work, but I love you for trying.”

“It will work,” he said, “I’ll make it work. I’ll go wherever you are. I mean, three weeks on Cardassia Prime sound lovely.” Amelia chuckled, “And don’t tell me you couldn’t use me.”

His wife pursed her thin lips. “Well, we are shorthanded on turf management specialist,” she admitted. Dylan held open his arms and hunched his shoulders, a gesture of invitation.

“I’m your man then.”

“We’ll see,” Amelia wasn’t quite convinced.

“I’ll make a believer out of you yet.”

“We’ll see,” his wife repeated, but at least the suspicion was no longer in her voice. She looked off screen as if in response to a summons. When she looked at him again, she said, “I’ve got to go.”

“Anything serious?” He asked, troubled.

“No,” she shook her head, her smile widening. “Just some of the professors enjoying our success in transplanting Chezkenite grapes to Cardassian climes. They make for some very potent wine.”

Dylan winced, touching his forehead. He could feel the headache slowly forming within his cranium. “Don’t remind me.”

“I hope you didn’t go overboard,” Amelia said, “You know you’re not much of a drinker.”

“I had to be a good participant,” he smiled, “but I kept it to a minimum.”

“I hope so,” she said, not quite convinced.

“Honest,” he said, “You know how I can be, and I certainly didn’t want to cause any intergalactic incidents.”

“I suppose so,” she laughed, and Dylan knew he was going to replay this conversation and listen again to that sound for a long time afterward. “I’ve seriously, really got to go this time.”

“I understand,” he sighed.

“Take care out there,” she said, a shadow creeping across her face.

“You too,” he touched her cheek again. His hand reminded on the cooling screen minutes after his wife was gone. There was a possibility to salvage their marriage after all, he realized.

The door chime aroused him from his joyful reverie. “Enter,” he said, still not quite in the moment.

“We need to talk,” Chief Engineer Drake stormed into the room. “About us.”
************************************************** *************
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Old April 1 2013, 12:22 AM   #47
CeJay
Commodore
 
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Ah, nothing like good old fashioned family trouble for a starship captain. Like he doesn't have enough to worry about already ... including his ... uh affair?

What's always interesting to me is to get a civilian viewpoint on the political going ons in the galaxy. Like Amelia's, they're often heavily opinionated and not fully informed but they are nevertheless valid opinions which act as a good barometer on the feelings of the general populace.
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Old April 7 2013, 02:01 PM   #48
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Thanks CeJay

When I decided to rewrite this story one of the things I did want to keep in it was the morally compromised captain. That character, originally Benjamin Walker (a Brother Benny creation) was one of the best things about the original version for me. So Dylan North continues in that tradition, though I'm going to do some things a bit differently than I did the first time around. With Amelia I thought it would be great to see a civilian perspective that I think is a bit right but also wrong and have that be something of a wedge between them.


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

Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
Benzar System


“The Alpha Quadrant is truly magnificent,” Hereth said, her violet eyes beaming with genuine wonderment at the sweep of space provided by the station’s large wraparound port window. “One can see why you fought so fiercely to retain it.”

An awkward hush fell over the small group surrounding the Vorta diplomat. “We fought to ‘retain’ it because it is our home,” Lt. Welker, an exobiologist in the Sciences Division, said tightly, her ice chip blue eyes freezing the suddenly flustered Vorta in place. “This isn’t a vacation spot for us.”

Hereth grew pallid at the woman’s harsh reaction and a helpless Commander Nandel looked to ship’s Counselor Nitsa for assistance, but the slender Mizarian looked away, her face seeming to recede into the depths of her ceremonial hood.

“I’m certain that Hereth meant no offense,” the Rushmore first officer finally jumped into growing fire. “A poor choice of words,” Nandel added, and the Vorta nodded heartily before bowing deeply.

“My apologies,” Hereth quickly added. Neither Welker nor Nitsa acknowledged the gesture and both melted away. A chastened Hereth made an excuse to depart moments later. Now Nandel felt embarrassed and a bit ashamed of her colleagues though she sympathized with them. It was that empathy that restrained her from pulling rank on the subordinate officers, and it would prevent her from disciplining them once the gathering had concluded.

They had all lost friends, colleagues, and sometimes more during the war. Nandel tried to not to dwell on such things, to live in the present, to prepare for the future, but this whole memorial service was doing nothing but dredging up old ghosts and horrific memories for almost all in attendance.

Except for Hereth. The Vorta didn’t have a clone analogue in the Alpha or Beta Quadrants during the war. She was an innocent, and the Halanan executive officer couldn’t help but credit the astuteness or shrewdness of the Founders for sending her as their representative.

Despite the still raw feelings, it would be hard to channel that ire on a person who had nothing to do with the war. At least except for all but the most unreasonable. Or the most vengeful.

Nandel sighed, figuring that she would have to talk to the captain, about Nitsa at least. It wouldn’t do for her to continue counseling those crewmembers still grappling with the aftermath of the war if she was similarly affected.

It wasn’t a task she was looking forward to. Nitsa had been so helpful in helping Nandel to come to grips with her own emotional scarring. Nitsa helped Nandel use her unique physiology to work through her demons.

Halanans possessed psychoprojective telepathy, which allowed them to create a solid doppelganger. Often these simulacra acted out subconscious desires. Much of Halanan mental disciplines went into controlling and channeling the projections in positive directions. But Nandel had been a proponent of suppressing the ability and dealing with unresolved baggage with the conscious mind, like she felt most sentient species did.

Before she had never been comfortable with the idea of relying on her projection or giving it too much free reign; she knew too much about the tragic results of such irresponsibility.

So it had been a hard sell for Nitsa to convince Nandel to use her simulacrum to explore her deep feelings of loss. But eventually she had relented and Nitsa had been with her sense, a true friend that had left her starbase posting to follow the Halanan to Rushmore.

Nandel had finally given in after Nitsa had argued that the work they would undertake regarding psychoprojective therapy might be able to help even non-Halanans.

So far, Nandel wasn’t sure if it would, but the counselor remained convinced. In any event, she was personally feeling much better. After Cuellar, she had been on the ledge, and had pondered suicide many nights, but now she felt a part of life again, and the connectivity was something she thought she would never experience again.

And for that reason, she couldn’t reprimand Nitsa, even if she wanted to. Nandel sighed, and placed her empty glass on a tray from a passing waiter. She looked for Nitsa and then Hereth, but didn’t see either. It was just as well. There wasn’t much more she could say to Nitsa at the moment, and the idea of apologizing again, to a Vorta, in the midst of all the destruction her people helped wrought, made the first officer feel uneasy. It also made her feel darkly nostalgic. She could feel the cool brush of old ghosts on her shoulders.

Nandel quietly and quickly exited the room. There were old ghosts that needed conjuring.
************************************************** ***************

Mogadishu
African Confederation
Earth

Rear Admiral Visala walked at a languid pace, resisting the urge to tug on the collar of her uniform. Despite the weather controllers, the climate was too arid for her taste. She had been born in the arctic chimes of Andoria and despite being away from her home planet for many years she had never completely adjusted to other environments. She merely tolerated them, or endured them if necessary.

Even with a waistcoat on, she could feel patches of sweat starting to accumulate at the armpits of her red undershirt. She hoped to conclude this meeting as quickly as possible. She nodded and affected smiles at the few people who greeted her as she made her way.

She was heartened that there were so many positive reactions to her uniform. Sometimes Visala wondered if Federation citizens truly respected the sacrifices Starfleet made for them, or would comprehend that much of the subterranean doings of Section 31 were for their benefit. To keep them safe and secure, so that every citizen, every child could live in freedom and unhindered by want or need. She smiled at herself, remembering the pitch that her recruiter had lured her into the section with.

She couldn’t believe she had been so naïve back then. Things were a bit more complex than that, there were a lot of gray areas, and compromised souls in her line of work, but Visala had to admit that she still clung to the old idealism. Sometimes hanging onto it was the only thing that kept her sane, and feeling halfway clean at least.

The Andorian stopped at a wrought iron fence, joining a throng of others. Together they watched the renovations of the United Earth President’s residence. Millions, perhaps, billions visited the old capitol of pre-Federation Earth’s government. From what little Visala knew of Earth history, the residence stood as a testament to the human, no, the sentient, desire for peace, change, and transformation. Another heartening reminder, she realized, to gird her for what she must do next.

Logan was already leaning against the fence, looking away from the construction, a welcome downcast expression on his face. His disguise of sunglasses, a cap pulled tight over his curly locks, and garish tourist wear, which included baggy shorts which showed off toned legs, was simple but effective.

Visala hadn’t noticed any press people present, or attempting to hound the presidential chief of staff. Here he was just another onlooker. Visala was getting more attention.

That would normally concern her. She liked to be as inconspicuous as possible. Though the Andorian knew that the notice she was receiving would perturb Logan, so she didn’t mind too much.

She had arranged this meeting location, out in the open, and took her time getting there because she wanted him to stew. She wanted the human to understand who was superior, no matter how much smoke he had blown up the backsides of the Directorate as of late.

“Too your precious time,” Logan rasped, his voice low.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Visala beamed her most pleasant smile. “One that we should take time to appreciate, and remember for all the bad days that are to come.”

“Is that a threat?” Logan looked up at her. The Andorian imagined she could see hard eyes staring daggers at her from behind his opaque glasses. Her smiled widened as a result.

“I’m the least of your worries,” she said, stepping closer to him and bending so her lips were close to his ear. “Once the Directorate finds out about your little mishap, I think they’ll see the error of placing so much faith in you.”

Logan shifted awkwardly, his shoulders hunching, his body tensing. “I’ve delivered. Santiago is under our control.”

“Ah yes, except when he isn’t,” Visala said, “and the means that you have been occasionally forced to use to insure his compliance will have deleterious effects on him if overdone; traceable effects.”

“I’m well aware of that,” the human snapped. “That’s why I rarely resort to such methods, good old fashion manipulation works fine. The trick is getting him to admit that he really supports our way of doing things anyway. And that’s become increasingly easier over the years. We can thank the Dominion for that.”

“I’ll make sure to send a bottle of wine through the Bajoran Wormhole,” Visala said drolly.

“I didn’t call you to discuss Santiago,” Logan remarked, shifting again.

“Yes, you didn’t want to talk about one of your ‘successes’ but your failure, and a massive one it is,” Visala’s good cheer evaporated. “With such a device now in the wrong hands…”

“We’ve got to do something about that,” Logan paused, “Plus Special Affairs.”

“Eleuth?” Visala chortled at the man’s astonished expression. “I know all about your friend. I’m surprised that you didn’t hear about the transporter accident in Sidney this morning…tragic.”

Logan breathed a sigh of relief, “But what about the rest of Special Affairs?”

“Don’t worry about them,” Visala assured him. “My own people inside Special Affairs will cover up your involvement in this snafu.”

“What am I going to owe you?” Logan asked, setting his shoulders, as if preparing to be struck.

“Nothing, yet,” the Andorian answered, “Well perhaps a simple understanding that you remember your place in our organization despite your current preferred status. And when I call on you for a favor, you will not refuse me.”

“Of course,” the man answered quickly, as if he was spitting something rotten out of his mouth. “But what about the situation with my pointy-eared acquaintance?”

“I’ve already set things in motion,” Visala promised him. “We’ll retrieve what was taken.”

“What about the thief?” Logan asked.

“I’ll leave that up to you,” the admiral replied. For the first time since their conversation started, Logan smiled.
************************************************** ************
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Old April 7 2013, 03:52 PM   #49
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

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

Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
Benzar System


“You, Alshain, are you just going to stare at me, or speak your mind?” The Jem’Hadar soldier demanded. Lt. Baran M’Brey wrinkled her snout, a growl building in the back of her throat. The tips of her claws extended slightly, scratching the glass she held.

She glowered at the pebbled, gray warrior. The tall, muscled man stood near the closest section of the wraparound port. He stood stiffly, at constant attention. He clutched an untouched drink in his hand. M’Brey smiled. The man was so wound up it looked ridiculous. Like he was a living statue, and his attempt to look more social could only have been a commandment from on high.

She wondered if even the Vorta representative could’ve made him do it. M’Brey fancied that one of the Founders, who the Jem’Hadar revered as gods, probably had instructed him to be civil. And futilely holding a drink, as if it pained him to do so, while hanging back from the throng, was the best this warrior could muster.

She shrugged her shoulders and made her way over to him. She smiled, “I am Lt. Baran M’Brey,” she introduced herself. The man’s cold eyes flicked over her.

“You are in a Starfleet uniform,” he stated. Baran wasn’t sure it was a question or not.

“I am a member of Starfleet,” she offered, not sure what else to say, and having no desire to get into why that was so.

“I was not aware that there were any Alshain in Starfleet,” the man replied, shifting to face her squarely. A dot of horns ran along the strong line of his jaw and chin.

“A lot has changed since the war’s end,” she said.

“Yes,” he answered. Baran thought she detected a note of disappointment in his voice, though his face expression remained unchanged. The man moved to shift away from her.

“You were bred in the Alpha Quadrant,” she ventured. The man head jerked slightly. He turned back to her. A flash of fire ran through his eyes.

“How did you know that?”

“The other Jem’Hadar,” Baran said, looking past her conversation partner. “He’s much older. An Honored Elder perhaps?”

Now the Jem’Hadar growled low in his throat. “How did you know that?”

“Alshain eyesight is just as good as that of the Jem’Hadar, as are our audio and olfactory senses,” she said.

“I was aware,” the man said brusquely. “You could decipher my origin solely from your powers of observation?” He asked, a note of disquiet in his voice. “I suspected that you had seen me in person, that we had met in battle.”

“No,” she shook her head, “I doubt many would survive in battle with you.”

The Jem’Hadar nodded in agreement. “I am Second Rak’Talon,” he announced, his voice ripe with authority.

“Pleased to meet you,” M’Brey held up her glass. Rak’Talon did not return the gesture. “I could tell that you were pretty young, and I suspected that you were one of the warriors bred in our quadrant.”

“One that bore our defeat,” the man’s voice held just a trace of bitterness. “There were very few Honored Elders left by the war’s end, so your speculation was correct.”

“I figured as much,” M’Brey said, “So your commander…”

“Never saw combat in this quadrant,” Rak’Talon said, “He brought great distinction to our kind due to his actions against the Rishtii’Pah among others.”

“So this is a learning experience for him?” The operations officer asked. The Jem’Hadar nodded tersely.

“For all of us, First Vono’ Clan gets to see firsthand the resilience of the force that defeated us, and I get a reminder of the dangers of underestimating our foes,” Though Rak’Talon was looking at her, his gaze seemed far away. “We will both take these lessons back to our brethren. It will make us better, stronger.” Now his vision refocused on her. “Pray to whatever gods you worship that war does not erupt again between our nations.”

Baran gulped, her fear temporarily overtaking her natural predatory instincts. She snorted and gave the man her most predacious grin. “Save the prayers for yourself.” Rak’Talon glared at her for a few moments before slightly raising his glass.

“I fought at the Battle of Aatu,” he revealed, “Your people are worthy adversaries.” A bit taken aback by the unexpected compliment, Baran ran her tongue between her sharp rows of teeth.

“And I was part of the forces that broke the Siege of Horus;” the operations officer admitted, “Jem’Hadar are stringy, but tasty nonetheless.”

She paused, gauging the man’s reaction. It took a few moments before the man’s whole torso, it seemed, rumbled with a deep grunt that was stuck between his chest and throat. Baran briefly shared in what she considered laughter before taking her leave of the Jem’Hadar.
************************************************** **********

Last edited by DarKush; April 7 2013 at 10:53 PM.
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Old April 7 2013, 07:02 PM   #50
CeJay
Commodore
 
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

So Section 31 is getting ready to strike back. Curious to see how that'll work out.

Love your tendency to dig out forgotten races. At first I thought the Halanans were your creation until I found the Memory-Alpha entry on them. I had kinda forgotten about them.
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Old April 7 2013, 10:52 PM   #51
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Thanks CeJay. I do like to use one-off or relatively unused races that interest me from the shows, literature, or maybe even games. Not only did the psychoprojective telepathy of the Halanans intrigue me, I also thought-and still do-that Salli Richardson was very hot on that DS9 episode.

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

Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
Benzar

Nitsa hated fidgeting, but she couldn’t help herself. It was an involuntary reaction, brought on by a host of things. This time it was jolted by anxiety at the presence of the Jem’Hadar among them.

She knew it was unbecoming of a Starfleet officer, a counselor no less to have such an adverse, prejudicial reaction, but the Mizarian couldn’t deny it. And she knew it was better to be honest about her feelings than to bury them or pretend her nervousness stemmed from something else.

Unlike many of her colleagues Nitsa had been spared facing the dreaded soldiers on a battlefield or across a starfield. She had spent the war posted at Starbase 337, and her ideas about the butchers had been formed from countless recollections from her patients.

She had shamefully come to detest the Founders and their minions. Nitsa had once harbored similar animosity for the Cardassians, but that toxic bubble had burst once she had learned about the pogrom the Founder had ordered on Cardassia Prime, which had resulted in the extinction of that planet’s population.

The thought of such genocide shook her. The Mizarians practiced a form of pacifism man others thought extreme. Their principled belief in peaceful non-resistance had resulted in her home planet being conquered six times in the last two centuries. Others scoffed or derided the Mizarians for being naïve idealists at best or cowards at worst, but all at least her people had survived each occupation and weren’t on the doorstep to extinction like the Cardassians were now or completely erased from the pages of history like so many warlike species.

“Counselor Nitsa, isn’t it?” A musical voice interrupted her reverie. Nitsa swung her head around quickly, in the direction of the speaker. As she did so, she hoped it wasn’t the Vorta.

She sighed internally. The Romulan liaison, Velen, stood in front of her now, with a full glass of a blue liquid Nitsa assumed was Romulan ale.

The woman took a sip before continuing. “I hope I wasn’t disturbing you counselor, but you seemed all alone by yourself in this corner. I thought you might like some company.”

I was perfectly fine being alone, Nitsa thought, but she said, with a hint of a smile and a slight dip of her head, “Why thank you for being so considerate Liaison Velen.”

“Please, call me Livana,” the woman offered. The Mizarian obliged her and the Romulan smiled in return. “It appears the crowd is thinning,” she remarked, giving the smaller gathering a once over. Nitsa followed her lead. The Mizarian noted that many of Rushmore’s senior officers had departed. Her eyes widened in surprise once she realized that Dr. Zammit had left too.

Usually the amiable Bzzit Khaht was the last person to leave a social function. “Today was a good day,” Velen nodded, more to herself it seemed than to Nitsa. “It’s a start, hopefully of a new era of peace between our peoples.”

“One can only hope,” Nitsa replied. Velen nodded in agreement.

“It is a shame that the Cardassians decided not to attend,” the Romulan said.

“I am sure that you can understand their reasons why,” Nitsa replied.

“Of course,” Velen nodded, her gaze taking no a glint of understanding. “But still, if we are to forge a new future together, we must confront the past.”

“I agree,” Nitsa found herself really doing so.

“Well, Mizarians are known for being agreeable aren’t they?” Once Velen smiled, Nitsa understood that the woman was trying to make a joke.

“At least six times in the two hundred years,” the counselor cracked. The Romulan laughed.

“Very good Counselor,” Velen said. “For a person who looked like they would’ve gladly hitched a ride on the warbird that left with Procurator Harmost, you recover quickly. The Mizarians truly are an adaptable species. There is much your kind has to teach the rest of us.”

“Why do you think I’m wearing this uniform,” Nitsa tugged at her gold-embroidered collar, “First the Federation and then the Star Empire.”

Velen held her glass up to Nitsa. “If it was up to me I would leave the clear the Neutral Zone for your safe passage.”

The two women shared a laugh before Velen said, a bit sadly, “However it is not up to me.”

“First it is up to the Benzites,” Nitsa said, “And I think our nations’ governments will proceed from there.”

“Yes,” Velen nodded, “A wise assessment.”

“It is my fondest hope that we all return here next year to commemorate this monument,” Nitsa said.

“I hope so, though it is my fear that we will be erecting new ones, for the war between our nations,” Velen said darkly. “I will do everything within my power to prevent that. I want you to know that.”

“Why me?” Nitsa balked, “I’m just a counselor.”

“There’s an old Earth proverb,” Velen paused, as she stroked one of her tapered ears, struggling to recall it, “about the journey of a thousand miles starting with one step. I would like to believe that this social function is that one step and the more Starfleet officers can see Romulans as sentient beings, with the same desires for peace and prosperity, and vice versa, we won’t have to build more memorials like this,” she stopped, to gesture at the gracefully turning ship fragments.

“I couldn’t agree more,” Nitsa nodded, warming to the liaison.

“And this memorial maybe is a testament to our leaders finally grasping the fallacy of intergalactic war,” Velen said. “I am surprised that both our governments acceded to the Benzites request that the corpses not be removed from the ships, that they bear silent, eternal witness to the horrors those brave souls were forced to endure.”

From what Nitsa knew of the issue, it had been hotly debated between the Federation Council and Starfleet Command. Command had wanted the corpses returned for proper burial, but the Council seeking not to antagonize the Benzites further would not go along with Command’s wishes.

“The memorial will be complete once the wreckages left from the Romulan vessels that liberated Benzar are added,” Velen remarked, “And then our peoples will be united in death, and maybe that might scare Ki Baratan and Paris enough to prevent such a thing from happening due to their actions.” Nitsa agreed.

“I’ve talked your ears off enough,” Velen said, punctuating her statement with a yawn, “And I don’t think they are as long as mine,” she flicked one of her pointed ears. “And the hour grows late. And I have to situate my new quarters aboard the Ra’kholh,” Velen said. “It will be taking me to Benzar.”

“I understand,” Nitsa said, and gave the woman a slight, respectful bow. “It was a pleasure talking with your Liais…Livana.”

“The pleasure was mine,” Livana said, downing the rest of the drink without as much as a wince. Nitsa watched her gracefully part the remaining participants. As she did so, Nitsa thought about the centuries-long enmity between the Romulans and the Federation.

Granted both had finally allied to defeat the menace of the Dominion, and even the Earth-Romulan War hadn’t wreaked half the devastation that the most recent war had, yet the tensions and distrust remained, enough to possibly have each nation at the others’ throats soon, if not over Benzar then some other flashpoint.

However, with all that being said, Nitsa, knowing that history of blood, was able to have a thoroughly engaging conversation with Velen. Maybe she could plant similar seeds for peaceful coexistence with the Dominion, in addition to confronting and beating back some of her own biases.

Welling up her courage, Nitsa moved from her spot. She scoured the room, looking for a Jem’Hadar soldier to chat with. She sighed with relief when she saw that Hereth had returned.

Not only did she owe the Vorta an apology, but the counselor knew she wasn’t quite ready to look into the eyes of a Jem’Hadar.

The Vorta was talking with a Benzite, but perceptively felt Nitsa’s eyes on her. She turned smoothly from the Benzite, a slight smile on her face. The counselor was surprised that there seemed no hint of suspicion in her light purple eyes.

“Counselor,” Hereth said, with the appropriate respectful tone, “How might I help you?”
************************************************** *************
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Old April 7 2013, 11:39 PM   #52
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

A nice litte discussion here even if I can't get myself to trust Velen, she seems far to reasonable for a Romulan and Nitsa is obvious the naive type.

And there is another old human proverb about wishes and horses.
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Old April 8 2013, 01:02 AM   #53
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Actual diplomacy! A rare event in the post-war period and its accompanying tensions.

Excellent and eye-opening discussions here. I'm glad to see there are still people on both sides who retain some idealism in the face of all that death and destruction.
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Old April 8 2013, 04:49 AM   #54
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Thanks guys,

Well diplomacy's got to work sometimes, or else there would be no diplomats right? I thought these passages would be a good place to flesh out the Rushmore crew but also the postwar situation. Glad you liked them.

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

USS Rushmore
Holodeck

Lt. Commander Nandel settled into a seat. The circular auditorium-size meeting room was filling up, with officers from the ships that had been gathered for the taskforce.

Below, in the center of the room was a large polished black table where her commanding officer, Captain Arjuna Liyange sat. The brown Sri Lankan sat beside a broad shouldered man of a darker hue, more akin to Nandel’s own. The captain had told the senior staff, a mysterious twinkle in her eye, about Captain Terrence Glover, whom she had met while they had been cadets on the Shuttlesworth, as she went over the list of commanding officers that would be taking part in the mission.

She hadn’t hidden her eagerness to see her old friend again, and Nandel couldn’t blame her.

The Halanan could see the two bantering good naturedly and a small part of her wished that her long, tapered ears could pick up their conversation.

Captain Liyange was generally a very private person, and for most of the senior staff, the gleam in her eye had gone unnoticed. But Nandel had picked it up, perhaps because she was feeling similar stirrings.

Sharing the table was Captain Machk of the Steamrunner-class USS Bowie. The massive, hirsute Grisellan took up two chair spaces. Also Nandel recognized the gray-skinned Rigelian Captain Nyneve of the Starship Killdeer. Nandel could make out the woman’s intricate, colorful facial markings even from where she sat. Beside her sat the Ktarian, Captain Lasair of the Miranda-class Tyche. At the end of the table where the Starfleet captains were bunched together sat Fleet Captain Borvo of the Starship Kinache. Beside him sat a placid Admiral Salk. The large, shelled Chelon seemed to be matching the Vulcan admiral in a stoicism contest.

She felt the wind shift slightly beside her. She could no longer remember his scent, but she trilled inside anyway. Nandel paused, waiting for him to say, “This is about to get interesting.”

She looked up at him and beamed, “Demetrius,” she said, rising to embrace him. But the man shooed away her open arms, just as the large doors to the chamber burst open and four Klingons strutted in. They were led by a blond-haired woman in a sleeveless, metallic tunic. “Time enough for that later love,” he replied, his eyes looking past her. “Let’s enjoy these fireworks.”

“What about the fireworks last night?” She said, repeating a line she had mouthed countless times by now. His short laugh was always the same.

Similar to Captain Liyange, Nandel had also been heartened by their present assignment. She hated the war, she hated taking lives, she abhorred losing friends and colleagues, but if Delagrange had to be assigned a mission, she was glad that it had been to the same taskforce as the Tyche.

Lt. Demetrius Nash, the man who was her bond mate, served as security chief on the Tyche, and she knew the assignment would result in a much needed reunion. And they hadn’t wasted much time once both ships had docked at Starbase 213. Nandel was still aching from the night before.

Instead of being entranced by the commotion below them, the Halanan took the time to gaze at Nash. The man was oblivious to her, with his rapt attention on the main conference table. She took in his thick shoulders, which topped off his tapered frame. His large ears were in part exposed by his haircut which was shaved on the sides but boxy on top. His lemon-brown complexion was lighter than hers, but close enough to pass easily for a Halanan. His ears almost made the cut too.

She ran a finger down his smooth, clean shaven jaw line. He twitched, glancing at her with a leering grin. “Didn’t get enough last night huh?” Nandel rolled her eyes.

“Seriously Nandel, you’re missing the show.” She sighed and diverted her attention back into the well. The Klingons talked loud enough that sound amplifiers were not necessary. The four warriors stood at the opposite end of the table from the Starfleet officers.

The blond folded her impressively muscled arms across her buxom chest. “Are you saying our contributions are not good enough?” She demanded.

“I never implied such a thing,” Borvo remarked with a soothing basso rumble. “But Cuellar Nor is a heavily-fortified base, and our mission to take or disable it will be hampered by the…” he paused, looking to the admiral for assistance.

Salk spoke up. “The Klingon High Command informed me that they could provide six starships, including two Vor’cha-class attack cruisers.”

“Well, I am certain that whomever you spoke to at High Command didn’t have to remind you that a war is going on and that losses are frequent during times of conflict,” the woman’s tone dripped with both condescension and challenge. Nandel remembered to look at Captain Glover at that point. She saw that the human was nearly out of his seat, wanting to join in but restrained by his rank and Captain Liyange’s hand on his shoulder. She hadn’t caught that gesture the first couple times she had replayed this scene, but now she liked to watch it, as well as the interplay of emotion and silent communication on both humans faces. It told her more about both captains than Liyange ever would, even if she had wanted to, which Nandel doubted.

“I am well aware of that Captain Ji’ral,” Salk said coolly, “as I am sure that you are aware that wars are won with the appropriate use of men and materiel and with implicit trust from allies.”

“Are you saying that the High Command has deceived you?” Ji’ral spat. The woman drew her dk’tahg blade and a hush fell over the room. Glover shot out of his seat. Nandel knew, from past experiences, that Demetrius was on the edge of his seat, but she always liked the drama that unfolded next so she ignored her paramour for once.

“Reclaim your seat Captain Glover,” Salk’s voice remained calm, but hard as duranium. The human captain reluctantly obeyed the order, but Nandel could tell he kept his eyes on the aggressive Ji’ral. Salk then addressed the fuming Klingon. “This display is counterproductive,” the admiral chided. “The High Command sent two K’vort-class light cruisers and two B’rel-class scouts as their contribution to a mission that was intended to halt the Dominion advance and provide a beachhead for an eventual invasion into Dominion space. Even with the Vor’chas we had been informed would be assisting the venture, the taskforce would be at a disadvantage. We are currently now even more so.”

“We are Klingons!” A young upstart stepped up, brandishing his own weapon and thumping his chest with his blade hand. Thankfully the blade faced away from his sternum. All the Klingons but Ji’ral growled in agreement.

Salk tilted his head, “I have not had the pleasure…”

“I am Commander Lorcan, son of Lorath!” The man crowed. He had long flowing, black hair and a brow so smooth he could almost pass for a human. Even Captain Lasair’s brow was more heavily ridged.

“You are a fool,” Ji’ral sneered. “Resume your place!” She bellowed, whipping around the man and staring him down until he stepped back.

Once she had reestablished her dominance, the woman turned back to the Starfleet officers. “Lorcan is exuberant, but he is correct. We are Klingons. We thirst for combat and we thrive on challenge. The disadvantage is the Dominion’s.”

The admiral nodded and then gestured to the fleet captain, ceding the floor to the Chelon. Borvo spoke, his gravely tone foreboding, “We shall see if your skills match that boast soon enough Captain Ji’ral.”
************************************************** **************
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Old April 8 2013, 09:31 PM   #55
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Interesting scene there with a bit of historical perspective via the holodeck. Good to see Terrence, if only in hologram form. And good ol' Admiral Salk, standing toe-to-toe with the Klingons as always.

Now I'm waiting to see how this archival footage relates to the crisis consuming Benzar...
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Old April 9 2013, 02:30 AM   #56
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Gibraltar,

Thanks for reading. All I can say is that hopefully it will all make sense to you before the story is complete. Though the holodeck scene (s) do allow me to provide a glimpse of the Cuellar mission, which is something I had alluded to in an earlier story. And it provides me a chance to return to writing Terrence and I don't like going too long without putting him in the mix in some fashion. I was starting to miss writing the guy, though CeJay is doing a bang up job with Terrence and Cuffe in "The God Particle".

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

Imperial Romulan Cruiser Aidoann

The latest wail nearly broke Samson. He shuddered, his marrow freezing in his bones at the wet, heart-rending sound that had been ripped from Daneeka.

He had never known the Bolian to be anything but resilient, and for the Romulans to draw such horrific shrieking from her, the admiral didn’t want to imagine what Gakket was putting her through.

His fears and concern were also heightened by the fact that he had been placed in a windowless cell and held in by an old fashioned nearly impenetrable metal door. It didn’t help matters that the Romulans had thrown Ousanas into the cell moments before they had begun their brutal ministrations on Daneeka.

At that time the smirking Gakket had been honest about his desire for both of them to share in listening helplessly to Daneeka’s misery. He brayed that it would weaken their resolve.

Samson thought differently. It stoked his desire to escape and to further to enact revenge. He wasn’t so sure that his old comrade felt the same.

Ousanas Dar sat slouching on a bench, his face a mass of green-blood dried welts and bruises. His ears twitched at each harrowing sound issuing from a bulkhead speaker.

“Ousanas,” Samson ventured softly, done with pretenses. “Are you okay?” The admiral was crouching by the door, looking in vain for some defect in its makeup that would help him engineer an escape.

“Mind probe,” the Romulan muttered quietly, almost whispering.

“What was that?” Samson asked.

“It sounds like they’ve attached mind probes to Daneeka,” he spoke louder. His voice had no inflection, but his countenance weighed heavy with despair. “I have not heard such a sound in many years. I had hoped not to hear it ever again.”

“I don’t want to hear it, or experience this mind probe, and I sure as hell want to help Daneeka get free of it,” Samson declared. “And I need your help for that.” He paused, giving the battered man a once over. The admiral had been so eager to stave off his own despair with concocting an escape plan that he hadn’t stopped to comprehend what the Gakket’s goons had done to Ousanas.

So far Samson had been left alone, perhaps his higher Starfleet status gave even the insolent centurion pause. But not so Ousanas, the admiral knew. Gakket had been practically frothing at the mouth with rage at the discovery of Dar’s identity.

Samson figured that Ousanas was everything men like Gakket had been taught to despise and now that he was within the centurion’s clutches, he hadn’t been able to restrain all that indoctrinated rage.

“This was a mistake,” Dar looked up at him, a manic light in his eye. Though the Romulan was staring at Samson, the admiral wasn’t sure Ousanas was actually seeing him. “We never should have done this, never should have,” he nodded his head, burying it in on his chest, his shoulders hunching high as if to protect his cranium from an imaginary blow.

He’s cracking up, Samson realized, in dreaded wonder. He didn’t think anything or anyone could do such a thing to Dar. He knew the man had survived much worse than this.

Ousanas looked back up at him, through him. “We sought to prevent a catastrophe, but that is exactly what we have created.”

Samson reached out to him, wanting to touch him, to reassure the nearly insensate Romulan, but his fingers never made it. The man’s babbling held a stinging ring of truth.

And that’s when the admiral realized that it wasn’t Gakket’s torture that had gotten to Dar; it was the man’s conscience. Samson didn’t know how to repair a wounded soul. He had been too busy skirting his own, and that is what he decided to continue to do as he went through the motions of trying to find a way out of their cell.

Staying active, keeping his mind distracted was the only way the man knew to keep his own guilt from catching up to him.
************************************************** **************

USS Rushmore
Holodeck

The scene had shifted, to the night before. The two lovers lay together, their bodies cooling among the rumpled sheets. In the wan light, provided by a cascade of stars, Nandel traced the MACO tattoo on Demetrius’s bicep. Her fingers ran over the open mouth of the lunging shark.

She had always been intrigued by the curious body marking, which had been taken from a patch worn by members of the pre-Federation Military Assault Command Operations.

Nash had proudly told her that one of his ancestors had been a member of the unit and had served with distinction in the Earth-Romulan War. Stories of that ancestor’s exploits had inspired him to join Starfleet and pursue a career in the security division.

He had shared that story with her on the Falconer, the ship they had both served on before duty had pulled them in different directions.

“You love that tattoo?” Nash whispered in her ear, his voice full of amusement.

“And the arm that goes with it,” Nandel smiled, tugging on the muscled limb for emphasis. She knew it was wrong dwelling in the past, conjuring up these spectral memories that will never come again, but she missed his smile, the feel of his embrace, the force of his personality, the depth of his love.

She had feared confessing to Demetrius that she bonded with him, and what that meant for a Halanan. Halanans bonded once, and it was for life. She had thought it would scare him away and that the transient nature of Starfleet service would give him the perfectly logical out. Nandel had resigned herself to that possibility. She couldn’t expect a non-Halanan to conform to the unique biological imperatives of her kind.

But the opposite of her fears had happened, and even though they had been separated, Demetrius made it back to her when he could. Those times were short, but so delicious. Demetrius touched her cheek, his hand sliding down to gently grab her chin. He liked tucking her chin in for some reason.

Nandel didn’t mind because she hungered for his touch. Demetrius’s expression turned bittersweet before he turned around in the bed and sat up. “What’s wrong?” She asked as she moved to stand behind him, leaving the sheet and her modesty behind.

Demetrius gazed out at the starfield beyond her port window. The sleek, lethal visage of the Kinache floated by, powered by its impulse engines. Seeing the Akira-class ship reminded Nandel of Falconer, which was of the same class.

The Halanan placed her hands on the man’s knotted shoulders, concerned about the tension she felt in them. She lowered her head to his neck and kissed it gently. “What’s wrong Demetrius?”

He didn’t answer her for a few moments. Eventually he sighed, “There’s just never the right time or place.”

“What are you talking about?” She asked. He moved away from her, but only slightly, just giving himself enough room to look at her. Playing her role, Nandel dutifully furrowed her brow with worry.

The man fell silent again, and Nandel could just imagine the internal debate warring with him, before he acted. Demetrius reached down to the floor, where their pieces of their uniforms were strewn about. He snatched up his pants, and dug into a pocket.

Nandel’s heart swelled even though she had replayed this scene countless times in her mind and on the holodeck. “I think it’s time we make it official,” Demetrius said, producing a large, brilliant flamegem ring.
************************************************** **************
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Old April 10 2013, 03:53 AM   #57
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

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

Merria Cosmopolis
Benzar

Every time Lt. Commander Meldin thought he had gone to a place beyond pain, Major Vorot reminded him otherwise. His body jerked spasmodically again, the restraints shackling his limbs to the upright gurney was the only things that kept him from flopping to the floor.

The two small mind probes attached to his forehead stabbed through his eye lids with flashing lights the color of human blood. Major Vorot’s sigh was audible. She sat at a small table near the door in the stifling room. She held the smaller probe controller, about the size of a Starfleet PADD, in one gloved hand. The other rested comfortably by her disruptor.

On the table sat a pitcher of the most tempting water the security officer had ever laid eyes on. One glass sat tantalizingly by the cup. “Once again Commander Meldin, what do you know about the Benzite partisan movement?” She paused to allow the man’s self-control to return.

Control of his bodily functions had been one of the first casualties of the Tal Shiar agent’s interrogation. Meldin had almost gotten used to the stench, but the feel of his drying excrement on his skin still turned his stomach. However there was nothing in it to expel. The contents that hadn’t made it to the floor were staining the front of his uniform. Dried tracks of vomit and spittle ran from the corners of his mouth. It was all disgusting and unsanitary, but there was nothing he could do.

The Benzite was surprised at how nonplussed his interrogator over his appearance and smell. He reasoned that the woman had probably conducted so many inquisitions by this point that his condition didn’t faze her at all. “I-I know nothing,” he forced the words out, over a tongue that felt like sandpaper.

“Your resiliency is impressive,” the major said. She picked up the pitcher and filled the cup. She took a sip of the water, making a show of savoring it. She put the cup back down, stood up, and approached him. “Let’s try another tack,” she suggested.

Meldin remained silent. It wasn’t as if he had a choice in the matter. “Why did you murder Commissioner Morah?” The woman returned to a previous line of questioning. Meldin’s expression hardened at the accusation. “We know she was associated with the partisan movement. Was she going to expose them-you-or was this some lovers’ spat?”

Before Meldin dismissed the questions, Vorot leaned forward, “Is there dissension among the partisans? If you have such information this could be your ticket to incarceration and not execution.” The Benzite wished the woman would get a bit closer so that he could at least attempt to take a chunk out of her face with his teeth. It would result in his death, but at least he could end his life with a bit of satisfaction. Wisely the woman kept far enough away from his teeth or puke.

Unfortunately Meldin had nothing left to spew even if she was within striking distance. “The Federation isn’t going to allow you to execute me,” Meldin said, after clearing his throat several times.

“Perhaps,” Vorot concurred, shaking her head as if she was seriously considering his reply. “Except that we are still in Federation space and you are subject to the laws of a Federation member state.”

“Despite what you think, the Benzite people are not your puppets. They will not condemn a Starfleet officer to death just because of trumped up charges,” Meldin riposted, feeling both good and ashamed that the woman had struck a deep vein of anger.

The major smiled. “The provisional authority is very amenable and they want to stanch the menace the partisan’s pose very much. Your Starfleet uniform won’t save you once I have established your partisan ties.”

“Good luck with that,” he scoffed. “You’re going to have to torture me a lot more to get me to confess, because I know that your mind probe hasn’t revealed anything about such involvement.” He knew that the controllers also served to dissect the data gleaned from the mind probe. It galled him that the woman had access to his thoughts, but once again, he was helpless to prevent that.

“True,” the woman admitted with a shrug, “Which is not a surprise if you have received mental conditioning, as I assume a Starfleet security officer would have. So I guess we will have to do this the old fashioned way.” Meldin clenched his teeth, girding himself for another wave of intense agony. But the woman pocketed the controller and pulled a small blade from her back, which had been covered by her uniform jacket. She pressed an indention in the hilt and it vibrated slightly, its song sending a trill of terror through Meldin.

“So you recognize what this blade is,” she remarked, with delight.

“Monofilament, of Tholian manufacture,” he said, trying to put on a brave face, but his voice sounded tinny and inside his stomach corded with horror. “Such blades can cut through virtually anything.”

“Correct,” Vorot said, “So, let’s begin again shall we?” She asked as she approached him.
************************************************** ************
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Old April 11 2013, 07:32 PM   #58
CeJay
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Romulans are just bad news. I really wonder how Vorot is going to get away with torturing a Starfleet officer and Federation citizen on what is, strictly speaking still a Federation world. Even if Benzite law may be more liberal when it comes to torture and the death penalty, you'd think Federation law would overrule that.

I suppose she's confident that Benzar will decide to leave the Federation and thereby make her actions seem less inappropriate. Just for that reason I hope Benzar remains a Federation world. I want to see Vorot go down in flames.

I know, I know, wishful thinking.
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Old April 12 2013, 01:13 AM   #59
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Vorot's removed the kid gloves for sure, and poor Meldin is suffering terribly at her hands. Here's hoping there's something left of him to recover from this crime after she's had her way.

I hope Starfleet sends a Special Missions Team after Vorot... it'd be no less than she deserves.
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Old April 14 2013, 07:41 PM   #60
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Hey guys,

Glad Vorot has made such an impression on you both .

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

USS Rushmore
Holodeck

Lt. Commander Nandel blushed at the low, appreciative whistle. “How can you lift your hand with that rock on your finger?” Lt. Laxle smirked. There was a devilish gleam in the copper-hued Ithenite helmsman’s eye. Even though she had heard the good-natured teasing countless times, Nandel still found it hard to look the diminutive man in the eye.

And she had long ago stopped holding up the ring for him and the rest of the bridge crew to marvel at. The band now did feel like a weight if not on her finger then on her soul. However the program proceeded apace.

“Congratulations Commander Nandel,” On the main viewer, Captain Glover’s handsome face was split with a wide grin. “Who’s the lucky being?”

Nandel looked up at the beaming human, with a stricken expression on her face, playing her part. The operations officer had just come on shift, while Captain Liyange was talking with her counterpart on the Cuffe. The taskforce was in route to the Cuellar system and the two captains were going over last minute details before the fighting begun. She gulped, “I’m sorry sir,” she said, looking abashedly from Glover to her own commanding officer, “Sirs, I mean.”

Both Glover and Liyange laughed. Many among the Delagrange bridge crew snickered while others did little to hide their grins. The only one who remained immune to the much needed humor was Executive Officer Nivek, who retained his dispassionate Vulcan countenance. Captain Liyange held up a hand, silencing the chortling. The woman gave her a small, sympathetic smile. “It’s okay Commander Nandel,” the woman said, “Our conversation was winding down anyway, and I think this news is a good reminder to us all of what we are fighting for, and that we must never lose sight of what matters most while we do so.”

“Hear, hear,” Glover agreed, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.” The Cuffe captain paused for a few seconds, “Oh wait,” he chuckled.

“Beat it Terrence,” Liyange shot back. The Cuffe captain held up his hands in mock surrender.

“Fine, fine, I’ll let you win…this time,” Glover replied. “See you on the other side of this thing Arjuna, Glover out.” Before Liyange could get another word in, Glover’s face was replaced with an image of his Nebula-class vessel, a sister ship to the Delagrange. The Cuffe was gone seconds later, only the aftereffect of its warp trail remaining.

“Always have to get the last word don’t you?” Liyange muttered to empty space. She laughed to herself.

Nivek, unable to restrain his curiosity, leaned toward her and asked the question that Nandel and certainly most of the senior staff had to be wondering, “Captain,” the Vulcan began with uncustomary hesitation, “I was not aware that you…served with Captain Glover.”

“Fishing?” Liyange asked, arching her eyebrow in a good Vulcan approximation.

“Merely inquiring as to the nature of your relationship,” The man said, far too bluntly. The Vulcan was oblivious to the hush that fell over the command center. From what little Nandel knew of his service record the man had served aboard the all-Vulcan starship Sonak for nearly a decade before taking the first officer’s position aboard Delagrange.

She didn’t know what had prompted the change and Nivek wasn’t forthcoming. In that regard the man had been very similar to the captain, until her meeting with Glover had seemed to remove whatever had been inserted into her rectum. And now Nivek was asking the captain a personal question on the bridge. Had there been a Psi 2000 outbreak that she was unaware of?

She replayed all of those crazy questions that had spun around in her mind at the oft-kilter behavior of her superior officers.

Liyange’s expression was impassive, but Nandel thought she caught just a playful twinkle in the woman’s gaze. It was doubtful that Nivek noticed it at all. “If I have…crossed personal boundaries, my apologies,” the man said, finally catching on. The captain just nodded and smiled again.

“It’s alright,” Liyange shrugged, and Nandel sensed that the woman was unshackling a great weight. The Halanan could never imagine that a person could actually come alive in a time of war, but that’s what she felt was occurring with her commanding officer. Perhaps the idea that they were flying to their likely doom freed her some from the distance she had erected as part of her station. “You probably didn’t pay much attention to my Academy record, but Glover and I were both cadets on the Shuttlesworth. Saw some action there against both Osaarians and Nausicaans. We both saved each other. He’s a valued friend and it is horrible that it took this war for us to see reconnect, but there are few sapients besides Terrence that I would rather have at my side in a fight, even if he does like to have the last word.”

“I comprehend,” Nivek said after a few moments. The entire bridge seemed to exhale collectively.

Nandel remembered that her stomach had started clenching as soon as the small smile vanished from the captain’s face and a steely glaze came over her eyes. The captain locked on the main viewer, at the vast starfield it visualized. The time for levity had ended. “Helm, best speed to Cuellar Nor,” Liyange commanded.
************************************************** **************
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