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Old July 20 2009, 11:51 AM   #1
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Part of the United Trek universe

“Fragments of Control”

Historian’s Note: This story takes place from late May to early June 2378; beginning one day after the events of To Serve The Unwise.



Vorta Imperial Flagship
Unclaimed space
May 25, 2378 (Stardate 55395.1)

Two Jem’Hadar blocked the doors to the Vorta’s private chamber and Tal’Aura sighed in annoyance. She hated the uniformly pale colour scheme inherent in all Vorta Imperial vessels, which were not all that different to the colour of the Jem’Hadar. She was the only Romulan on board and would stay that way until the huge fleet reached Romulan territory and joined the Empire to crush the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. First the Terran Empire had usurped their territory and then the Alliance; it was time for the Romulans to exercise their right of superiority and teach the lesser races a lesson. That mission would go nowhere if she couldn’t get the damn Vorta to open up to her. He had to see that her methods were the only ones which would help his people to succeed.

‘Let me through,’ she implored the Jem’Hadar on the left, a nameless mass of barely-sentient muscle.

‘The Vorta does not wish to be disturbed,’ he replied.

‘He will see me,’ she stated as if it was a foregone conclusion.

‘The Vorta does not wish to be disturbed,’ the creature on the right added his opinion, if you could call it that.

Since asking nicely didn’t work, Tal’Aura squared her shoulders, closed her eyes and when she opened them a moment later, they were no longer the intelligent brown that her people recognised, but the red of pure evil. ‘The Vorta will see me, now!’

Both Jem’Hadar dropped to their knees and said in deep throaty tones, ‘The Pah-Wraiths are wise in all things.’

Announce my presence,’ she ordered.

The creatures rose and opened the door.

‘I thought I wasn’t to be disturbed?’ Weyoun asked from his chair behind the desk before he noticed Tal’Aura’s eyes and pushed the chair back, dropping to his knees.

Stand,’ she ordered and the Vorta obeyed.

The Jem’Hadar stepped quickly from the room.

‘How may I serve you?’

There have been rumours of a Prophet in the vicinity of the wormhole. It cannot be allowed to enter the Celestial Temple.’

Weyoun frowned. ‘We are tracking six Founders to the Romulan homeworld. Surely they are of greater concern.’

The Founders can be dealt with in time, but the Prophet must not be allowed to reach the Temple gates. Adjust course immediately.’

‘Tal’Aura, this is my ship, do not presume to order me about on it. We cannot divert even a single ship to track down some nebulous spirit.’

He suddenly dropped to his knees and went into mild convulsions.

Do not forget who gave you the means to overthrow your former Gods. You will obey.’

‘My life is yours,’ he replied by rote and the convulsions stopped. Weyoun touched a control on his desk. ‘Return to the anomaly, maximum speed. Open a channel to the lead warship.’

‘I will obey,’ the Jem’Hadar First answered.

Is there a problem?’ Eris asked as her image appeared on screen.

‘No, follow my previous instructions. Make orbit around Remus and wait for our return.’

I will obey,’ Eris replied and the screen blanked.

You will inform me when we reach the Celestial Temple,’ the Pah-wraith replied and exited the chamber.

As she walked down the corridor, her eyes faded to the normal brown and she leaned against a bulkhead for support. Tal’Aura shook her head and wondered what the hell was happening to her. She was beginning to feel less and less like herself every day, and seemed to be blacking out more than she ever used to. As a child she would black out whenever she got angry and even the most expensive doctors had been able to find nothing wrong with her. She had been given something to help with the headache afterwards, but over the last few months she found herself blacking out for longer periods and finding herself in unfamiliar places.

None of the Jem’Hadar said anything to her as she passed, they barely even acknowledged her presence and when they did it was to sneer and ask her to meet the Vorta leader, Weyoun. He was asking to see her less and less at the moment which meant that it was difficult for her to act as the Romulan representative to the Vorta Imperium. Tal’Aura reached her assigned quarters and realised that she couldn’t remember if she’d spoken to the Vorta leader about her misgivings. She shook her head and realised that she must have done since she was leaving his chamber when she woke up.

She felt a subtle change in the orientation of the ship and realised they were turning, heading back the way they came, back toward the wormhole and the rebel station. Maybe the Vorta was going to destroy it, was that what she suggested? She couldn’t remember. Definitely time to take another dose. As she reached the head, and plugged an ampoule into the dispenser, she noticed that the lines on her face were deeper than they had been. The stress of her new position was clearly getting to her. Her throat felt raw and she took a glass of water from the replicator to cool it down, but it didn’t help.

She took another look at herself in the mirror. ‘What is happening to me? Why am I feeling so awful?’

She saw her eyes flash red and knew immediately what had happened. Her trip through the wormhole had not been entirely without incident. It had awakened something inside her, something that was even now subsuming her personality.

Well done, Romulan,’ the Pah-wraith said through her mouth. ‘When I’m finished with the Alliance, your people will be next. The galaxy will be ours and all its petty races will worship us as their gods.’

‘Never!’ she shot back but felt her resolve weaken. ‘I will fight you until my dying breath.’

You will not succeed; I have had millennia to prepare for this invasion. You can do nothing to stop me.’

‘I will fight!’

You will lose,’ the Pah-wraith said and forced Tal’Aura’s consciousness deep inside. ‘Finally, I can fulfil my destiny.’
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Old July 20 2009, 01:48 PM   #2
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This was a fascinating read. I feel for Tal'Aura and am interested to see how she found herself in this situation -- it sounds like it's been building since her childhood. I'm also interested to see where the storyline is headed.
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Old July 21 2009, 12:03 PM   #3
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Chapter One

USS Pytheas
Docked at Terok Nor
May 25, 2378 (Stardate 55395.6)

Captain Astar, Aaron Wright and Sheena Gonzales had entered the rebel stronghold they knew as Deep Space Nine in their universe and with Smiley’s permission went straight for Ops, where the current rebel leadership resided. Over the last day or so, Smiley had given Astar a brief history of the last two years, and it wasn’t pleasant. The Alliance had conquered a number of unaligned worlds and destroyed any planet which showed rebellion, leading the rebellion to go underground, except for the shining beacon of Terok Nor and what remained of the Bajoran people. Astar wasn’t sure what to make of the stories but if the Vorta of this universe were being controlled by the Pah-wraiths, then they were far more dangerous than the Dominion ever were, for the wormhole aliens were the closest things to gods that currently existed. She had ordered Xeris to seal the airlock and make sure that no one entered or left the ship while she was on the station. This meeting with Smiley was a kind of strategy session, to decide what to do about getting their Wright back and maybe dealing the Imperium a crippling blow.

‘How did you defeat them?’ Smiley asked.

‘Wright first,’ Astar repeated for the fourth time. ‘Once we know how we’re going to get my man back, I will help you stop the Imperium.’

‘Captain, may I remind you that Starfleet General Order 283 specifically prohibits any officer from assisting any political agency in the Mirror Universe, regardless of the situation.’

‘Noted, Commander,’ Astar replied. ‘But the Imperium isn’t a political agency, they are an invading force and there is an opportunity to force a detente between the rebellion and the Alliance, enabling them to pool their resources.’

‘I must officially object, Captain.’

‘Your objection is noted, Commander, and shall be entered into my log.’

‘Aye sir.’

‘About Aaron Wright, where is he likely to be?’

Smiley swallowed. ‘The Alliance has become more savage in recent years and any human, or alien for that matter, who displeases Regent Martok is immediately sent to Rura Penthe.’

Astar sighed. ‘The more things change...How heavily guarded is it?’

‘The mines themselves are guarded, but the planet itself is not. After all, no one who escaped would have a ship to get off world.’

‘So if we managed to get to Rura Penthe, we’d be able to rescue him. Commander, liaise with Lieutenant Parker and see what you can do about getting us into the mines. I’ll worry about getting us there.’

‘Aye sir,’ the half-Betazoid replied but made no move to leave.

‘Now, please.’

‘Yes sir.’

Once she’d gone, Astar turned to Wright. ‘You’re going to help us.’

‘Not a chance in hell. I’m not going anywhere near Alliance space, I’ve still got a brain in my head.’

Smiley tapped him on the shoulder and as Wright turned round, the general punched him in the nose, breaking it, again. ‘You’ll go with us, or you’ll find yourself facing your ex-wife.’

Wright glared at Smiley. ‘She’s still alive then?’

‘No thanks to you, you left her in the tender care of the Alliance when you stole that ship.’

‘She was slowing me down.’

Smiley turned to Astar. ‘He represents the ideals of the Terran Empire that we left behind more than a century ago.’

‘We’ll keep him on a tight leash, I promise. But once we’re ready to go, he’s all yours,’ the Trill captain replied, scowling at the traitor.

Wright sighed and tried to head for the turbolift, but he was stopped by a tall man with a Bajoran rifle.

‘Don’t move,’ he said.

Wright walked around him and felt himself hauled back into his previous position.

‘Aaron, meet Kol, he doesn’t like you.’

‘The feeling is mutual.’

‘About the Imperium?’ Smiley asked, ‘since you know what you’re doing about your man and getting him out of the hands of the Alliance.’

‘We didn’t defeat them as such,’ Astar told him. ‘Odo cured the Founders of a disease and agreed to join the Great Link, and in return the Dominion returned to Gamma Quadrant.’

‘So you can’t help me?’

‘I didn’t say that; Starfleet developed several weapons against the Dominion and several defences against their weapons. I will freely give you that information, if you tell me the truth about the Imperium.’

Smiley nodded, grim-faced. ‘It was Intendant Ro. She knew about the wormhole aliens from your universe’s Major Kira and three years ago she entered the wormhole to negotiate with them. Instead, she found the Pah-wraiths and they inhabited her body. Under their influence she found the Imperium and infected them with the Pah-wraiths, then returned to our side and was killed immediately by a Romulan.’

‘This Romulan, wouldn’t be Tal’Aura would it?’

‘I don’t know who she was, all I know is that she negotiated with a Vorta warship and our troubles began. The Romulans believe in their own superiority and while the Alliance has been focused on eradicating the galaxy of the Terrans, the Romulans have been slowly annexing Klingon systems. The Vorta tried to get us to join them against the Alliance but I recognise trouble when I see it.’

Astar nodded and then saw a lithe young Trill arrive in Ops. ‘Smiley, we’ve got trouble.’

‘What is it, Ezri?’

‘The Imperial flagship is headed our way, at maximum warp.’

‘Damn, we have to leave,’ the general said, a number of emotions warring within him. ‘Ezri, sound the evacuation alarm. We have to be gone before the ship arrives.’

‘We can’t evacuate everyone, the Defiant isn’t big enough.’

‘The Pytheas can help,’ Astar said. ‘But you need to go to a safe haven.’

‘We have one, we’ve been prepared for this for three years,’ he replied as the station went to white alert

‘Astar to Pytheas.’

Go ahead, Captain,’ Gonzales said.

‘Open the airlock and stand by for refugees, we’re evacuating the station.’

Acknowledged, Gonzales out.’

‘Where are we going?’

‘The Badlands, I hope your ship can navigate the plasma storms.’

‘The Intrepid-class starships are designed for high-manoeuvrability.’

‘Good, you’ll need it.’
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Old July 22 2009, 08:24 PM   #4
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Chapter Two

USS Pytheas
Docked at Terok Nor
May 25, 2378 (Stardate 55395.7)

Lieutenant K’Tyra Parker, the Klingon-human security chief aboard the Pytheas, had shelved her plans to rescue the real Aaron Wright and instead was herding frightened refugees aboard the starship in groups of ten to twenty, handing them off to her security or engineering personnel to put in quarters, cargo bays and shuttlebays. According to the scans that Gonzales had taken, the Imperial flagship would be in range in less than half an hour, and there were hundreds of people on the station as well as all their supplies. Parker had tasked every available transporter operator to grab supplies and store them wherever there was room. General O’Brien’s Defiant was doing the same, to a smaller degree, and two Bajoran vessels which had survived the last attack by the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance.

‘How are we doing?’ Astar asked as she stopped by.

‘We’ve about reached our limit of five hundred evacuees and we’re bringing the last of the supplies aboard now.’

‘All right, get back up to the bridge and prepare the ship for launch. Have Larson plot the most direct course for the Badlands.’

‘Let’s hope these Badlands treat us better than the Triangle.’

Astar smiled. ‘Compared to the Kursican Triangle, the Cardassian Badlands are a piece of cake. Larson shouldn’t have any trouble handling the plasma storms.’

‘Captain, what are you going to do about a first officer?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Aaron Wright won’t have the experience to act as your exec, and unless you shuffle the senior staff, you’ll be a man short.’

‘That’s not your concern, Lieutenant. You’re needed on the bridge.’

‘Aye sir.’

Astar stood in the gangway until Parker walked away then sealed the ship and headed for engineering. Parker took the turbolift to the bridge, hoping that while they were busy helping the mirror universe, the Cha’lav didn’t attack Starbase 535 and destroy everything they had worked to protect. This was the mission she had been sent back to deal with.

She walked down to Larson and explained what Astar wanted to do.

‘I’ve piloted through the Badlands before, Lieutenant. My father took me out there just after Starfleet took over Deep Space Nine, before the Maquis stuff started.’

‘Right then, so plot us a direct course, making sure it’s different to the Bajoran vessels and the Defiant.’

‘The Bajoran ships have already left the station, Lieutenant. The Defiant is getting ready to leave as well.’

Astar arrived on the bridge and took her chair. ‘Status?’

‘Helm is ready.’

‘Tactical ready, shields are up and weapons are hot.’

‘All stations report ready,’ Parker said finally, taking the science officer’s seat. Lieutenant Malling was in the main science lab looking over Commander Wright’s handiwork.

‘Detach mooring clamps and back us away, thrusters only.’

‘Aye sir,’ Larson replied. ‘Mooring clamps released, thrusters at one third.’

The Pytheas moved steadily sideward until they were several ship widths from the station, then increased to half impulse.

‘Captain, we’re being hailed by the Defiant.’

‘On screen.’

Captain, please lead the convoy into the Badlands, we’ll follow momentarily.’

‘General, you cannot hope to destroy the flagship,’ Astar said, immediately guessing his intentions.’

I haven’t got everyone off yet,’ the Irishman said a little more sharply than he intended. ‘The Pah-wraith controlling that vessel need to sense us leave, otherwise we’ll have destroyed the station for nothing.’

‘I’m assuming that Terok Nor is almost defenceless?’

Against this enemy, yes. Please, Captain, go now.’

Astar glared at the man and then sighed in resignation. ‘Ensign, plot a course for the Badlands, best possible speed.’

‘Aye sir, increasing speed to full impulse until we clear the Bajoran system.’

‘What is he hiding?’ Parker muttered to herself as she watched the Imperial flagship bear down on the small warship on a tactical plot. She began entering commands into the console and then paused momentarily before making active scans. ‘Captain, I know what he’s doing.’


‘I scanned for the same energy signature that the wormhole aliens give off when they are “communing” with us lesser beings. There is something on the station that could be a Prophet, and is probably the reason why the flagship is heading this way.’

‘He’s protecting a Prophet so it can enter the wormhole and kick out the Pah-wraiths? Ensign, reverse course.’

‘Sir?’ Larson and Gonzales said in unison.

‘We have to protect the refugees,’ Parker added. ‘We are their only hope for survival.’

Astar grimaced. Her crew had become far more mutinous in the last couple of weeks. ‘Remain on course, time to the Badlands?’

‘Three days at warp two, Captain, the Bajoran ships can’t travel any faster than that.’

‘I don’t remember the Badlands being that far from Deep Space Nine,’ Astar said as she consulted the readouts on the console by her chair.

‘The route isn’t as well travelled in this universe, Captain, so there isn’t a space lane to make the journey faster,’ Larson replied.

‘I suppose your father taught you all about the subspace topography of the galaxy?’

‘Yes sir.’

‘The Imperial flagship has dropped out of warp,’ Gonzales informed them.

‘On screen.’

The flagship looked similar to its other universe counterpart, but the weaponry was far more extensive. Neither the Defiant nor the station would be able to stand up to it. Gonzales confirmed that a moment later.

‘They don’t stand a chance. That ship has six phased polaron cannons and eleven plasma torpedo launchers. Terok Nor doesn’t have the Starfleet upgrades that Deep Space Nine has and will be unable to withstand the attack.’

‘How many people are still on the station?’ Astar asked.

‘We’re too far away now for an accurate reading.’

‘Use the astrometrics sensors.’

‘Aye sir,’ Gonzales said and entered a string of commands. ‘I’m reading two distinct lifesigns, one human and one Prophet, and they’re close together.’

‘How long until the flagship is in range?’

‘Thirty seconds.’

‘Is there nothing we can do?’ Larson asked.

In answer to his question, polaron beams streaked out from the flagship and hit the station’s shield generators which were vaporised instantly, along with sections of the central core. The Defiant suddenly shot off into warp.

‘Ensign, follow them, maximum warp.’
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Old July 23 2009, 10:57 PM   #5
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Chapter Three

Shuttlecraft Lowell
The Kursican sector (Our universe)
Stardate 55395.8 (May 25, 2378)

Murdoch had ignored the continuing hails from Starbase 535 and he avoided what few patrol routes there were and it wasn't long before he was in uncharted space since Ynelav IV was no longer a viable option. The Lowell had everything he could possibly cram into its library, and still the star charts were no help. Seated in the co-pilot's chair, Linnis was silently watching the stars streak by at warp and suddenly turned to him, her eyes wide in alarm.

'Adjust course, there's a ship approaching.'

Murdoch looked at his sensors. 'There's nothing out there.'

'You'll see it soon, but you need to change course.'

'Any particular direction?'

'The Delta Quadrant, we need to go to the Delta Quadrant.'

Murdoch sighed and tapped out a sequence on the panel in front of him. 'All right, we're now heading for the Delta Quadrant. I have to warn you though, I hope we're not going too far. We have enough provisions for maybe three months but no more, and this shuttlecraft is not for missions of such long duration.'

'Supplies are not a problem,' she replied knowingly. 'I know where we can stock up at regular intervals. I told you, you don't have to worry.'

Murdoch smiled at the thought of being told not to worry by what looked to be a ten-year-old girl, but she had already said she was two years old by her species' reckoning. Very little in the galaxy surprised him anymore but he was still a little annoyed that he was essentially being led around with no idea where he was supposed to go.

'I told you where we're going,' she said, replying directly to his thoughts. 'The Delta Quadrant.'

'What are we doing in the Delta Quadrant?'

Linnis sighed. 'We're going to find some friends of mine who can help us stop the bad men.'

That made Murdoch sit up. 'What bad men?'

'The bad men who kidnapped those people and tried to kill the dog men.'

'The Cha'lav?'

'Yes,' she nodded, lowering her head as if in memorial. 'I know people that can help us defeat the Cha'lav, but they live a long way from here.'

'So how are we going to get there and back in time?'

'We'll get help and get back in time to help.'

'How?' Murdoch asked.

'Uh oh,' she said. 'The other ship found us.'

The proximity alarm wailed and Murdoch looked at the sensor readings. 'I don't recognise this configuration. There's nothing like it in the library computer.'

Linnis looked at the sensor logs too. 'It looks like an Akishi ship, but the forward part is wrong.'

'Akishi? Aren't they part of the Ynelavii Cooperative?'

The Ocampa snorted. 'As long as it benefits them, but it is unusual to find them this far from their own territory, if it is them.'

'We're being hailed, so I guess we'll find out.'

The image on the forward monitor changed to that of a slender alien form which resembled an Earth rose. The alien spoke but it took a few repetitions for the universal translator to kick in and decipher the language.

'You will hand over the telepath or be destroyed.'

This time, Murdoch snorted. 'This girl is under my protection. What has she done to harm you?'

'Her kind, and those like her, ruled this part of the galaxy centuries ago. Two hundred years ago we overthrew the telepaths and took control of our own destiny. They refused to leave our territory and we hunted them down. She is one of only a handful left.'

'I can't let you take her. We're leaving this area of space.'

'You may leave, if you do not return,' the alien said.

'We will not be returning here,' Linnis told her. 'I don't like it here.'

The alien woman smiled. 'As well you shouldn't. Your kind are not welcome here, little one.'

Murdoch cut the channel as he noticed Linnis' eyes getting narrower. 'Don't hurt them. They are acting out of fear and hatred. You're better than that.'

She jumped up and headed into the aft compartment. The Flyer-class shuttlecraft was more than large enough for the two of them, especially as they had so little in the way of personal items. Murdoch watched the alien ship vanish as if enveloped in a cloaking field but the sensors didn't identify it as such. It was there one moment and gone the next as if it had never existed in the first place.

He resumed their previous course, for the Delta Quadrant, and called up what Admiral Nechayev had been kind enough to give him. Everything on the Ocampa came from Captain-now-Admiral Janeway of Voyager, and it wasn't much. Kes had provided as much information as she could about her people but their distant past was a mystery as was the Caretaker's mate, Suspiria. Janeway was sure that there were other Ocampa colonies but she had no proof and after Kes evolved into a new lifeform, Janeway could do nothing about proving it. There may well be other colonies but Janeway's short cut home through the Borg transwarp network meant that there was still large swathes of the Delta Quadrant that were still unexplored.

He reasoned that Linnis was taking him to one of these colonies, or at least somewhere or to someone that had a lot of firepower.

'Not quite,' he heard her muffled response.

'Are you reading my mind again?'

'Yes, but if you want me to stop you need to improve your mental shields.'

'I didn't know humans had mental shields,' he said, putting the ship on autopilot.

'Everybody does, they just have to learn to use them.'

'Can you teach me how to strengthen them?' he asked as he moved into the aft compartment.

'I can but it will take time,' she replied with a smile.

'We appear to have plenty of it.'

'First, you need to lock away memories you don't want people to see if they do get into your head. Everyone can do that.'

'I work in Intelligence, we're trained to do that.'

'Let's see,' she said and began probing his mind.
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Old July 27 2009, 10:59 PM   #6
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Chapter Four

USS Pytheas
Bajoran system
May 25, 2378 (Stardate 55395.8)

Captain Leza Astar watched in near-horror as Terok Nor exploded, sections blasting apart all at once. It made her thankful that Starfleet had made the necessary upgrades to Deep Space Nine otherwise the same might be said of their own station. On her tactical screen, she saw the flagship begin to move again, adjusting its course for a direct line toward the Badlands. She sighed and waited for her tactical officer to inform her of the fact.

‘Captain, the flagship is headed our way at warp nine-point-four, and I’ve just run a simulation on our weapons’ effectiveness.’

Astar moved up to her position and spoke sotto voce. ‘Commander, I don’t know what Wright let you get away with while he was in command and to be honest I’m not sure I want to know, but I am in command now and you will follow orders. I expect to be notified the moment something happens, not seconds later once you have run simulations. Is that understood?’

Chastened, Gonzales nodded. ‘Yes sir.’

‘All right, what have you got?’

‘The flagship’s weapons are superior to those of the Dominion, and our weapons are no match for that ship’s offensive capability. We would lose.’

Astar appeared to consider her options. ‘Speak with Xeris and see if you do anything to channel more power into the phasers. I would also suggest that you work on a way to make the shields somewhat stronger. I didn’t like the way that polaron beam sliced through the station’s shields.’

‘Aye sir, I’ll get on it right away.’

Astar strolled across the bridge the Andorian operations officer, who seemed a little ill at ease. ‘Is there a problem, Lieutenant?’

‘No sir, I’m glad to see you back on your feet.’

‘Talen, I know there is something wrong, tell me.’

‘Something doesn’t feel right, almost like we’re being manipulated somehow.’

‘By the Prophets?’

He shrugged. ‘Possibly, I’m not up on my Bajoran spirituality. But the ship doesn’t feel right either. I’ve got a little itch right at the base of my antennae.’

Astar sighed. ‘You’re reading an energy signature that you can’t identify, right?’

Talen’s eyes widened. ‘I do actually read reports and histories, Lieutenant. When that itch becomes unbearable, I want to know about it that second.’

The Andorian just nodded.

Astar smiled and then returned to her chair. ‘Open a channel to the Defiant.’

‘Channel open,’ a junior security officer replied.

‘General O’Brien, I know what you have on board, and I need to speak with you urgently regarding this matter.’

O’Brien’s face appeared on the viewer a second later. ‘This isn’t secure.’

‘It will do,’ Astar informed him. ‘You need to be completely upfront with me on this issue. I am willing to help you only as long as you are honest with me. I don’t care about your petty bickering with anyone else at this moment in time, I want to get these people to a safe haven, get my man from the Alliance and get out of here.’

What about the Imperium?’

‘Watch your aft scanners, they’re following us into the Badlands. You and I both know that ship doesn’t have the manoeuvring capabilities to do anything, but we need a contingency plan.’

I have one, Captain,’ O’Brien shot back, his tired face now contorted into a near grimace. ‘I will not reveal it to you, even over a secure channel, but you will know it when the time is right.’

‘General, can you at least provide me with coordinates as to where we’re going?’

O’Brien smiled. ‘You should have the coordinates in your system already, Captain. After all, our universes are not that dissimilar.’

Astar nodded. ‘And yet in other ways it is completely different. We’ll rendezvous in three days, General. Astar out.’

As the screen blanked, Astar turned to face each of her bridge officers, then decided to speak to each one of them in turn about the events leading up to her reawakening. But that would have to wait for a more appropriate time. Right now, however, she needed to get them all ready for a fight they might not be able to win.

‘Mister Larson, I want to be ready for a warp jump if we’re surprised by the Vorta in the Badlands.’

Larson turned around. ‘Captain, we can’t go to warp inside the Badlands, the best I can give you is a hyper-impulse burst.’

‘Ensign?’ Astar asked.

‘It was something I was working on before my father’s death. It involves channelling the impulse energies through the deflector dish to push the ship to eighty percent of light speed.’

‘An interesting notion, does it work in simulations?’

Larson hesitated for just a moment. ‘It works in about half the simulations with the same parameters.’

‘I see, have you run simulations using the Pytheas’ engines yet?’

‘Yes sir, and the chances of it succeeding are better than with even a Defiant-class ship. That tore itself apart.’

‘I see, well when your shift is over, I would like you to make preparations with the chief engineer. The more tricks we have up our sleeves the better.’

‘Aye sir,’ Larson replied, eager to assist and prove one of his pet theories.

‘Lieutenant Talen, I want all intruder-alert systems at maximum efficiency. I don’t want a dust mite where it doesn’t belong.’

‘I’m already on it, Captain. All internal sensors will be operating at maximum, and all forcefields will be fully operational when needed. I will liaise with Commander Xeris regarding the structural integrity field.’

Astar nodded. ‘Right then,’ she said, seeing that even though her crew had put up with a homicidal maniac for a commander for a couple of weeks, they were still at the top of their game. ‘Time for a little action, I think.’

She activated a program from her console and then entered a sequence of commands, inputting requests, then toggled the intraship communication system. ‘All hands to battle stations. Repeat, all hands to battle stations.’
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Old August 2 2009, 08:30 PM   #7
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Chapter Five

USS Pytheas
Approaching the Badlands
May 27, 2378 (Stardate 55401.9)

Lieutenant Commander Xeris scowled at the results the captain had just delivered to him. His engineers had performed below expectations during the drills over the last two days and he was going to have to read them the riot act. To add insult to injury, his cache of weapons had been confiscated and would be recycled through the replicator system, but the captain had allowed him to keep eight items. It was a tough choice but he had a way to get around it, provided certain members of the crew were amenable to it. He muttered a curse and tossed the padd onto his desk, striding out of his office with an expression reminiscent of Zeus prior to the throwing of a thunderbolt.

Xeris paused by the warp core and bellowed. ‘In a line, now!’

Twenty-three engineers scurried into view from across two engineering levels and various Jeffries tubes and held themselves in a line.

‘Now listen up, I’ve been a little lenient on you recently, and you’ve been slacking. This isn’t a Corps of Engineers’ ship where you can come and go as you please until the next trouble spot shows up. From now on, you’ll show up for your shift ten minutes early for a roll call, and the first person who’s late gets a week in waste reclamation. Now get back to your duties, dismissed.’

He turned round and returned to his office to think of ways of torturing his engineers when Gonzales’ voice resounded through the intraship comm system. ‘All senior officers report to the bridge. We are approaching the Badlands. I repeat, all senior officers to the bridge.’

‘Great, just great,’ he muttered. ‘Queran, get your Xindi butt out here.’

‘Sir?’ the Xindi-Arboreal deputy chief engineer answered the summons.

‘I’m going to the bridge and I will monitor things from up there. I want you to be ready to deal with anything that arises. If I call down I want you to do what I tell you straight away, no matter how bizarre it sounds.’

She nodded. ‘Yes sir.’

‘Good, engineering’s all yours.’

Xeris made his way quickly to the bridge but was still the last one there. All the other senior officers, except the non-existent first officer, were present already. Astar indicated that they should all take their positions and they did so. He moved to the engineering station on the starboard side of the bridge and opened a link with Queran, who was ready to receive instructions.

‘Ensign, how close are we?’ Astar asked.

‘Forty million kilometres and closing,’ Larson replied.

‘Slow to impulse and prepare to follow the convoy inside.’

‘Aye sir.’

‘Captain, the evacuees are following the Defiant into the Badlands. Six minutes until the flagship intercepts,’ Gonzales added.

‘The plasma storms are particularly intense in this region, Captain,’ Xeris interjected. ‘I’m strengthening the structural integrity fields and channelling some warp energy into the shield grid. It should provide a small measure of extra protection.’

Astar nodded, watching the viewscreen as the seven convoy vessels began to separate to wind their way through the plasma storms.

Xeris glanced at Larson who had called up a storm plot on his console which showed the plasma needles, the convoy and the Defiant. He smiled at the young man’s ingenuity and continued to adjust the engines.

‘The last convoy ship has entered the Badlands, flagship intercept in two minutes.’

Astar didn’t need to be reminded. ‘Ensign, take us in, one half impulse.’

‘Aye sir, one half impulse.’

‘Ensign, I’m projecting an optimal course onto your screen now. It’ll automatically update with the new information from the astrometrics lab,’ Gonzales informed Larson.

Larson just nodded his head.

Xeris looked around and noticed that he hadn’t seen Lieutenant Malling, the new senior science officer. She must be down in the astrometrics lab, lucky woman. It was one of the few pieces of technology that he wasn’t completely familiar with, and it rankled him. Mahtani, Elements rest his soul, didn’t let him anywhere near it and he hoped that Malling might be more amenable to it.

‘The flagship is now entering the Badlands,’ Gonzales said.


‘Shields at maximum,’ Xeris replied. ‘But the plasma storms are interfering with them somewhat.’

‘To what degree?’ Gonzales asked.

He looked at her like she was questioning his abilities. ‘Like the Vorta might get off a lucky shot and hit something vital. The shields are buckling in various spots at random intervals.’

‘Is it serious?’ Talen asked.

‘Only if we get hit,’ Xeris replied sardonically.

The Andorian’s antennae stood straight up but Xeris ignored the feelings of anger directed at him.

‘The flagship is approaching on an assault vector, it looks like it’s aiming for the convoy,’ Gonzales forced everyone’s attention back to the matter at hand.

‘Adjust our course to block them, Ensign,’ Astar ordered.

‘Aye sir, adjusting course to 312 mark 194,’ Larson muttered as he made the correction.

‘The flagship is increasing speed, fifty-six percent impulse.’

‘Match them.’

‘Captain, I do not recommend full impulse in the Badlands. The intake manifolds will become clogged if we’re unable to clear them fast enough,’ Xeris added.

‘The flagship is still increasing, now at sixty-three percent impulse.’

‘Put us directly in their path, Ensign. That convoy must be protected.’

‘Aye sir.’

Xeris watched the look that passed between Gonzales and the Andorian and sighed. He knew that they were thinking Astar’s behaviour was erratic and that more action might need to be taken, but there was nothing he could do without tipping anyone off.

‘Captain, we’re being hailed,’ Gonzales said, seemingly shocked, but only Xeris could read her that well.

‘Finally, on screen.’

You are interfering in an internal political matter,’ Weyoun spoke with the same obsequious tone she’d heard from the feeds during the war in their universe.

‘The Vorta do not belong on this side of the wormhole,’ Astar replied. ‘Why don’t you go back to your side?’

Weyoun narrowed his eyes, looked off the screen for a second and then nodded. ‘It has been decreed that you be destroyed.’

The screen blanked.

‘They’re firing!’ Gonzales screeched as the polaron beam slammed into the shields.
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Old August 2 2009, 09:11 PM   #8
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More, please.
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Old August 3 2009, 01:38 PM   #9
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More, please.
Yes, I agree. This was pretty good, and I loved the energy of the story. I love to 'see' the main characters in my mind. Who would you cast as Xeris?

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Old August 4 2009, 12:38 AM   #10
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To be honest, I haven't really given much thought to who might be cast as any of my characters, so feel free to tell me who you think might do a job of playing the angry Romulan engineer.
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Old August 8 2009, 05:04 PM   #11
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Chapter Six

USS Pytheas
The Badlands
May 27, 2378 (Stardate 55402.0)

Consoles across the bridge sparked and died, the lights flickered and came back on dimmer than before and the ship shook as the shields absorbed an awesome amount of energy. Gonzales maintained her station only by bending over double and clutching the tactical station as if it were an errant child. As the ship righted itself she anticipated her captain’s order and threw auxiliary backup into the shields. The lights came on full again as Queran and Hu’fret did their jobs. She heard Xeris mutter a curse and yell orders down to engineering while Larson and Talen regained their stations and began coordinating with their departments.

‘Status of the convoy?’ Astar asked.

‘Beyond the range of the flagship,’ Gonzales answered.

‘Get us out of here before they fire again.’

‘Aye sir, the flagship is following us deeper into the Badlands.’

‘Let them,’ Larson muttered. ‘They’ll never manoeuvre like we can.’

‘That’s enough, Ensign. Gonzales, fire a couple of torpedoes back at them. Hopefully it will slow them down long enough for us to get away.’

‘Aye sir, firing.’

‘Status of the ship?’

‘A few fried circuits, but nothing my engineers can’t fix,’ Xeris replied. ‘But I wouldn’t recommend getting hit a second time. We’re likely to lose structural integrity in places. That beam caused an extensive power drain on our systems.’

‘Noted, Commander. Gonzales?’

‘Direct hit to their forward shields. No damage to their hull.’

‘Captain, it seems that the Imperium’s polaron beams are more powerful against our shields here,’ Talen said, ‘but not because of their general strength.’

‘Explain?’ Astar asked, moving toward his station.

‘Because our ship, and everything about it, has a different quantum signature, the polaron beam interacts with our shields in a different way. It is in fact the only reason our shields stayed intact. Were we the Defiant, the shields would have failed.’

Astar sighed and changed direction for the tactical console. ‘Can we give O’Brien shield enhancements without violating General Order 283?’

Gonzales shook her head. ‘I’d recommend against it, Captain. When we’re gone, the rebels could use whatever we give them against others in the quadrant and bring about a second Terran Empire.’

‘I don’t think that’ll happen, Commander. General O’Brien seems to have been influenced by our side's Captain Sisko and the others from Deep Space Nine who made it here. He genuinely wants to move forward and not make the same mistakes that his people have made in the past.’

‘Do you believe you can get the rebels and the Alliance to work together?’

Astar shrugged. ‘They have no choice in the matter. Either they work together or they die. Since the Romulans are also involved, one must also be vigilant of treachery, although I fear it is the same situation that Cardassia was in. The Romulans probably believe that the Imperium can offer them a larger stake in galactic politics, but when the chips are down I think they’ll be betrayed and will lash out.’

‘Against whom? Those who betrayed them or those or did nothing in their eyes to help them?’ Talen asked.

‘Regardless, I don’t want to be here when that final chapter happens. As long as we can get Regent Martok and General O’Brien to the negotiating table, I’ll consider my work here done. Then we’ll be able to rescue Wright and get back to our own universe.’

‘I would suggest that we attempt both at once,’ Gonzales said. ‘If Martok was to find out we violated Alliance space after negotiating a truce, he will feel betrayed. We have to take Wright from under his nose while he’s distracted by the negotiations.’

‘That could also backfire.’

‘Then we flee. We have the ability to go home at any time.’

Astar nodded. ‘Where is that ship?’

‘Still on an intercept course but holding steady at sixty-nine percent impulse power. We’re at seventy-four percent and slowly pulling ahead.’

‘The convoy?’

‘Still on course for the target planet.’

‘Are we going to leave the refugees on that planet when we leave?’

‘That’s the idea. No unnecessary casualties.’

‘Captain, we’re being hailed by the flagship.’

‘On screen.’

Once again, Weyoun’s face appeared on the viewscreen, but he was not smiling. ‘Your defensive systems are capable of withstanding our attack, how?’

Astar hid a grin of her own. ‘Do you really think that we entered this universe without the means to defend ourselves? You’ll find our offensive systems quite capable as well, Weyoun. And you tell your Romulan masters that the rest of the fleet will be availing themselves of our technology.’

Weyoun looked off screen to receive instructions and then cut the channel.

‘Well that didn’t go as planned,’ Astar muttered.

‘Sir?’ Talen called out. ‘The flagship is adjusting course.’

‘Where are they heading?’

‘To the Defiant,’ he replied, tying his console in to the astrometrics lab.

‘Xeris, I’m going to need as much impulse power as you can give me,’ she turned to her chief engineer.

‘I’ll be in engineering.’

‘Mister Larson, coordinate with engineering for your hyper-impulse theory. It may be the only way to prevent an atrocity.’

‘Aye sir, can I suggest an additional manoeuvre?’

‘Go ahead.’

‘We may be able to use the warp engines to generate a plasma needle, and the flagship would be caught in its throes.’

‘It’s worth a try, permission granted.’

Astar settled back into her seat and looked to her left where the first officer’s seat sat empty. As Larson and Xeris called out their orders and recommendations, she considered the possibilities of recruiting from within. As second officer, Gonzales was the logical choice to replace Wright but Astar didn’t think that the tactical officer was ready for the posting. She would put forward her recommendation and the subsequent shuffle of senior staff and junior officers to Starfleet Command when they returned to their universe, along with an alternate possibility of assigning a new officer to the ranks of the Pytheas from elsewhere within the fleet.

‘Captain, we’re ready,’ Larson said.
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Old August 10 2009, 07:03 PM   #12
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Chapter Seven

USS Pytheas
The Badlands
May 27, 2378 (Stardate 55402.1)

Astar moved to stand behind Larson and put a hand on his shoulder. ‘Turn us around, Ensign, and let’s make this work.’

The Pytheas slowed and turned before increasing speed and barrelling toward the flagship on what was clearly an intercept course. Larson held the ship on course and his hands were a blur as he adjusted the feeds coming to his screen from engineering.

‘Xeris, prepare the deflector dish for the plasma burst. I’m going to need the hyper-impulse manifold online in the next two minutes if we’re going to pull this off.’

Acknowledged, Ensign,’ the chief engineer replied. ‘Hyper-impulse system is online, but if you blow out too many power relays, we’re going to be in for a bumpy ride. Give me another minute for the deflector.’

‘Captain, the flagship is powering up the polaron beam, thirty seconds before firing range,’ Gonzales called out.

The shields will hold,’ Xeris replied, the open comm line to engineering providing him entry into the bridge’s happenings.

‘Keep her steady, Ensign.’

‘Aye sir, now approaching optimal distance. Xeris, you ready?’

Deflector modifications are online, you’re clear to go.’

Larson entered a sequence of commands on his console and a burst of warp plasma channelled through the ship’s deflector impacted the lower band of the Badlands’ plasma field. The plasma ignited and a needle quickly rose ahead of them up as the two starships approached each other.

The flagship was closer to the needle and tried to veer off, but it was too large to manoeuvre quickly and the port nacelle was shorn off, spinning away into the Badlands before exploding quietly. The Pytheas threaded the needle’s gap and let loose a volley of torpedoes before turning back toward the convoy.

‘Direct hits, their shields are gone and they’re venting oxygen,’ Gonzales crowed.

‘Are they pursuing?’

‘No sir, they’re turning back.’

Astar sighed and Larson turned to face her. ‘They’ll be back, we’ve only been granted a reprieve. As long as we make sure the planetoid isn’t found, the civilians will be safe and we can leave the Badlands to complete our objectives.’

‘Well said, Ensign. How far behind the convoy are we?’

‘Nearly forty minutes, Captain,’ Talen replied.

‘Engage hyper-impulse drive,’ Astar ordered.

Larson turned back to the flight control console and began to increase the ship’s speed. ‘Increasing to full impulse, point-six light speed,’ he said.

The ship shook a little.

‘Xeris, increase power to the structural integrity field.’

It’s already fifteen percent beyond maximum, Captain. I’m not sure I can get much more out of it.’

‘Point-six-two light speed...point-six-eight...’

The ship began to shudder more violently. ‘Inertial dampers are redlining,’ Gonzales said, struggling to hold on.

I’m redirecting the warp plasma flow to inertial dampers and structural integrity.’

‘Was the ship designed to withstand that?’

No, but we are supposed to be protecting the convoy.’

‘Commander, I don’t want you destroying the ship. With the Vorta flagship out of commission, the convoy should be safe enough,’ Astar told him.

Aye Captain, let’s hope the Alliance has no idea we’re here,’ the engineer shot back.

Astar agreed with the sentiment. ‘If we redline, power down to normal levels.’

‘Aye sir.’

‘Mister Larson, keep going.’

‘Yes ma’am,’ point-seven-three light speed,’ he replied as the shuddering levelled out.

Astar realised that Xeris had dumped a significant amount of power into systems that weren’t designed to handle it, but as long as it held for long enough, she'd put a commendation in their files for original thinking. She felt the ship surge ahead as the inertial dampers whined in protest. The vessel was not designed to sustain these speeds at impulse.

‘Hull integrity down to ninety-three percent,’ Talen called out.

Astar scowled. ‘Ship’s status?’

‘Structural integrity down to ninety-one percent and holding, inertial dampers at eighty-six percent and holding, and shields are at maximum,’ Gonzales replied.

‘How far behind the convoy are we?’

‘Eleven minutes.’

‘Point-seven-five light speed,’ Larson interrupted.

‘Captain, why aren’t we using warp speeds?’ Talen asked, his lack of knowledge apparent.

The plasma storms wreak havoc with warp fields,’ Xeris answered from engineering. ‘Not even Voyager was able to go to warp in the Badlands.’

‘Captain, ship approaching from an oblique angle!’ Gonzales said, cutting off the conversation.


‘It reads as Cardassian, Galor-class, an Alliance heavy cruiser.’

Astar sighed. ‘Course?’

‘It is on course to intercept the convoy, Captain. At its present speed, it will reach the convoy before they reach the planet.’

‘How the hell did we not see that?’

‘They've probably got cloaks,’ Gonzales replied, ‘being allied with the Klingons and all.’

‘Very likely, Commander.’

‘Point-seven-seven light speed,’ Larson said. ‘I don’t want to push it much more, Captain.’

‘Time to intercept the Alliance ship?’

‘Five minutes at current speed,’ the helmsman replied.

Astar glanced at the lights around the bridge, set at red alert and knew for a certainty that this was not going to end well.

‘Open a channel to the cruiser.’

‘Aye sir,’ Gonzales replied. ‘Channel open.’

‘This is Captain Leza Astar of the Federation starship Pytheas. Identify yourselves.’

A very familiar and unwelcome face appeared on the main viewscreen and Astar held in a shudder of revulsion. ‘I am Gul Dukat of the Cardassian-Klingon Alliance, welcome to the mirror universe, Captain.’

‘Weren’t you the Head of Central Command?’

Dukat’s smile fell. ‘Legate Damar had other plans, but that is another matter. Withdraw from our territory or I will be forced to destroy you.’

‘I don’t believe that is going to happen, Dukat. Perhaps you should return to Cardassia.’

One day,’ Dukat replied and cut the channel.

‘He’s been exiled,’ Talen said, adding: ‘Shame that.’

‘He’s probably even more dangerous in this universe than he is in our own,’ Astar warned. ‘How long until we’re in weapons range?’

‘Sixty seconds.’

‘Don’t fire unless he fires first.’

‘Aye Captain.’
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Old August 16 2009, 01:58 PM   #13
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Chapter Eight

USS Pytheas
The Badlands
May 27, 2378 (Stardate 55402.3)

The battle with Dukat had never materialised.

The enigmatic Cardassian was still following them but making no move to attack. Astar hadn’t sent a message to Smiley in case Dukat was listening in and so she just slowed the ship and waited, plodding along until the Defiant had seen to the safety of the colonists. It had been three hours and there had been no word as yet. Instead of pacing she had retreated into her quarters, leaving Gonzales in command of the bridge while she looked through the paperwork Wright had signed off during her forced medical leave. The reports from the senior officers had given her interesting reading and she was sure that she was now firmly in command again without any issues outstanding.

‘Come,’ she said when her door chimed.

‘Captain, it would appear that the colonists have made it safely. We picked up the Defiant for a few seconds before it cloaked again,’ Gonzales told her. ‘We’re ready to go into Alliance space.’

Astar nodded. ‘Are all the repairs complete?’

‘Xeris is still fiddling with the structural integrity field, but other than that we’re as good as new.’

‘All right, have Larson set a course for Rura Penthe. We’ll rendezvous with the Defiant and then make our way. The less time we spend in this universe the better.’

‘Captain, we’re receiving a hail from General O’Brien,’ Larson informed her over the comm.

‘Put it through.’

Captain, I see you have company.’

‘Is Dukat a big a pain in your universe as he is in ours?’

O’Brien shrugged. ‘He has his moments, but I must warn you. If he has decided that he wants the Pytheas, he’ll do anything to get it.’

‘Then he’s out of luck. We’re ready to get our man back, will you be joining us?’

I don’t have a station to go back to, and I’m itching to give the Alliance another crippling blow. I’d love to reduce that frozen wasteland to slag.’

‘You would have an easier time getting into Alliance space than we would, but I would welcome any help you could provide.’

I have an idea.’

‘I’m listening.’

Take Dukat’s cloaking device.’

Astar chuckled. ‘Are you insane?’

I know where it is and how to get it, without being discovered.’

Gonzales nodded and Astar stared at her. ‘Rendezvous with us and we’ll discuss the plan.’

Excellent, see you in a few hours, Captain.’

Astar sighed. ‘What have we gotten ourselves into, Commander?’

‘Sir, our best hope of evading the hundreds of ships between here and Rura Penthe is to arrive under cloak. We can cripple Dukat’s ship, take the cloak and by the time he’s able to warn anyone, we’ll be long gone, maybe even home.’

‘It’s still a very risky gambit, so much can go wrong and we don’t have any backup.’

‘I do understand the risk, sir, but as the Ferengi say, “the riskier the road, the greater the profit.” Who knows how many others from our side are being held captive here.’

‘He’ll need extensive counselling once we get him back,’ Astar said, changing subjects slightly. ‘I want you research his life exhaustively and prepare a holodeck simulation to assist in his recovery. Liaise with Counsellor Zayner to provide the right balance.’

‘Aye sir, I’d like to be in the away team that acquires the cloak.’

‘I was going to ask you to lead it.’

‘Thank you, Captain.’


Once Gonzales was gone, Astar leaned back in her chair and called up what little information there was in the ship’s library on the mirror universe. It wasn’t much, with almost all of it classified beyond a captain's clearance level. What she could access informed her that the earliest incursion was reported to be in the twenty-second century but that was uncorroborated. Kirk transported into the mirror universe during his historic five year mission and then the common crossovers centred on Deep Space Nine, where the barrier between the universes was said to be the weakest.

It would be about five hours before Smiley O’Brien caught up with them to go over a plan to steal Dukat’s cloak, and she decided to get some sleep during the downtime as she was running low on energy. As she rose from the chair, she clutched her abdomen and collapsed, having just enough strength to call sickbay before she felt consciousness ebbing.

‘Careful,’ Doctor Maxx said as she opened her eyes.

‘What happened?’ she asked, feeling weak.

‘You need to get home to Trill, soon.’


‘The symbiont is ill, and your own hormones are in dangerous flux,’ he replied, waving the medical tricorder across her abdomen and head.

‘Spit it out, Arlon.’

‘One of your hosts has an unresolved issue and you will both continue to get worse until you perform the Zhian’tara. I’m surprised the Symbiosis Commission hasn’t pushed to have it done before now.’

‘They have, but it wasn't practical to do so since I have few close friends and often work too far from Trill for a Guardian to travel.’

‘Well then, as soon as we get back to our universe I’m placing you on medical leave until the Zhian’tara can be performed and the host’s issues are resolved.’

‘That’s not necessary, Doctor.’

‘Captain, I don’t think you understand the gravity of your situation. If the rite isn’t performed soon, both of you will die. I can offset the effects for a while, but it will require constant monitoring,’ he said and knelt down. ‘This will monitor the biosigns of both of you.'

Astar groaned. It was not what she needed at this moment in time. ‘Thank you, Doctor.’

‘If you collapse, I’ll be there quickly and if it gets worse, you’ll be going back into stasis again for the symbiont's safety.’

‘Is that necessary?’

‘Yes, in the wake of the uprising on Trill, new regulations specifically state that the symbionts are to be protected by any means necessary short of killing the host to protect it.’

Astar nodded with minimal movement, she was still weak. ‘I need to be in full control of my faculties.’

‘You will be, shortly.’
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Old August 16 2009, 03:51 PM   #14
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Oh boy. If Astar goes out of commission who is going to lead the ship? Gonzales might be good at her job but she doesn't strike me as a command material officer.

Great, as if Pytheas doesn't have enough things to worry about already.
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Old August 17 2009, 08:45 PM   #15
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Parker, maybe? This is great, I'm looking forwards to more! Loved the plasma spike thing, btw.
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