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Old January 22 2010, 08:49 PM   #76
CeJay
Commodore
 
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Wow, what's going on between Pryn and Barani? If there is one thing this ship doesn't need it's any more interpersonal conflict. That and spies ...

Pryn is right, Bay is picking a hell of a time to fall apart. Of course if he does, he's playing right into Benjamani's hand. It would also help to explain why he won't be in command of Redemption for much longer.

Pryn is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine. So far she's about the only person on this ship with a cool (and apparently quite beautiful) head on her shoulders. Didn't think I would ever say that about a Cardassian.
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Old January 22 2010, 09:59 PM   #77
CaptainSarine
Commander
 
Location: Lyon, France
Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Chapter 7

Bridge
USS Redemption
Slipstream Space

Astrid watched Ly'et walk up the steps to the upper portion of the bridge through the holographic representation of space that surrounded her position at the helm like a sphere.

From here, the ship seemed to hum beneath her fingers, the quantum slipstream tunnel almost vibrating through the very decking plates at her feet. Every few seconds, the computer instructed her to make minute course corrections to follow Q’sar’s calculations. Most of the time, Astrid had already begun shifting the ship’s course a few nanoseconds before the computer reminded her.

Splitting her attention between the helm and watching Ly'et, she saw the Cardassian woman stop at the door to Sarine's ready room and press her thumb to the plate to announce her presence. She stood there for a moment, then pressed the plate again. Finally, the door slid open and Ly'et vanished inside.

Interesting, Astrid thought idly. The tension between the two commanding officers seemed to be increasing. She wondered how long it would take before Sarine broke down completely. His Company file certainly seemed to indicate that he was fragile.

And how much of this tension has been caused by Dax’s revelations? She had learned just the day before that Dax had been to see the captain. Though no one knew the details, it had widely been reported that the Trill second officer had been removed from duty and remandered to quarters. Astrid had a good idea of why, and she had to admit that she was surprised. She hadn't thought the man would have the courage to go to Sarine.

Since her confrontation with him, Astrid had spent a lot of time thinking about what had happened, trying to make sense of it. She had surprised herself with how violently she had reacted to him. The Company had provided her with intensive counselling to help her work past the feelings that had been left over from Haebron Dax's attack against her parents. She had been convinced that the counselling had worked.

She had been wrong.

Still, the time she had spent analysing the situation had allowed her to gain a little perspective. She now realised that Dax represented a real and present danger to her mission. As far as she was concerned, that gave her licence to handle him as she saw fit.

And she had a very good idea of how she was going to handle him.

First, though... Glancing briefly back at Lieutenant Barani to make sure that the other woman’s attention was occupied elsewhere, Astrid brought up the program she had been working on secretely all morning. The program was hidden behind her normal controls, dissimulated by a code that only she knew the access to. More importantly, it had a secret set of controls on the left hand side of her screen that appeared to be a link to the quantum flow regulators down in Engineering, which allowed her to continue working on the program even when it was hidden.

Thanks to her genetically engineered intellect, Astrid had a perfect image of the program spinning around in her head, that she modified as she worked, allowing her to work on the program even when she didn't have it in front of her.

Thank you the Company, she thought brightly. The cerebal modication and training that had gone with it had been essential to this mission.

It took her exactly two seconds to confirm that the program conformed to the image of it she had in her mind's eye, and then she hid it behind her control module once again.

Almost done. Two or three more lines of code to make sure that the routing corresponded to Redemption's internal communication processor, and it would be ready.

Thank God for multiple processing abilities. While working on this program, she was also able to continue piloting the ship and begin to put together a message to Doctor Keene to meet her that night. And they say women can't do more than two things at the same time.

After making another minute change to Redemption's course, she wrote the last few lines of code and added them to the program she had designed. Using the information Keene had given her and the remnants of his transmission to the Klingon fleet, she had been able to design a fairly good approximation of the holo image - one that showed then-Commander Kalara discussing the upcoming attack of Romulus with a Klingon general. The code she had added would damage it just enough so that no one would be able to notice the tiny imperfections in Keene's holo emitter, as well as flagging it – discretely – for anyone who was looking for it.

She would just need to find someone - a suitable patsy, as it were - to find it.

Accessing the system, she transmitted the program. Her lines of code would hide the provenance of the program, thanks to highly complex Company encryption. No one would ever know that it been inserted into the mainframe from her station.

Once the recording was gone, Astrid finished compiling the message to Keene. She needed to see him that night, both to inform him of the progress of their little plan, and to get his help with a slightly more personal endeavour. She smiled. Keene would be just right to sort out her little problem.

Hydroponics Bay 4
USS Redemption

Keene slipped into the hydroponics bay, his eyes already searching the darkness for any sign of Underhill, aka Lieutenant Astrid Williams.

The air was heavy, pregnant with humidity and the overwhelming pungent aroma of wet earth and plants. A hint of spices from one of the nearby shrubs tickled his nose.

As he made his way forward, eyes sweeping every row and corridor, he thought about Lieutenant Williams. In the days since meeting with her in the cargobay, he had tried to make sense of the revelation that she was the agent onboard Redemption meant to help him. He hadn't been able to. It seemed totally and utterly unbelievable.

After all, according to her Starfleet records, Astrid Williams was a model Starfleet officer, one of that bright new generation of humans who had almost no memories of the Dominion. Lucky her, he thought wryly as he began to make his way carefully down the rows of shelving, each one holding a different type of plant.

He had done his research, of course, pulling every detail he could trawl from the main computer. Beyond the fact that her parents had died in an earthquake soon after the Jem'hadar pulled out of the Earth, she was so banal she was tantamount to boring. Her adoptive parents had been farmers, and she had grown up in what was known as Midwest America. She had slightly above average scores at school, enough to gain her a place at Starfleet Academy, but not enough to make her stand out from the crowd.

Her work at the Academy had been acceptable, though her final scores had been high enough to ensure her her choice of postings after graduation. But still, only slightly above average.

How could this human child be such an important operative that Lady J’tar believed she could help me?

And yet - if the message he had received was to be believed - she had done just that.

The air in the bay had started to bother him. Hot and humid, it seemed more suited to a Cardassian. Keene could feel his sinuses start to ache and he rubbed a hand over the bridge of his nose. Why did she have to choose this place?

He had had enough of this. He was about to call out for her and be damned anyone else who might be in the bay, when a shadow detached itself from the darkness and slid into view.

"Hello L'goth."

He snarled at her use of his real name. "Do not play games with me, little girl. You might get hurt."

She smirked at him. He had hoped to see even a hint of fear, but she seemed totally unafraid. Who is she? What is she?

"Now, now, no need to get riled up. I needed to be sure you weren't followed."

That I wasn't... Keene scowled. I was infiltrating Dominion slave camps when this child was still a babe in swaddling clothes. Impudent...

Astrid's smile widened as if she could tell how much she had riled him. Keene forced himself to remain calm.

"You said that you had news for me?"

She nodded, suddenly all serious professionalism. "It is done."

"You have planted the recording as we discussed?"

"Yes. A simple matter. The recording of you as Kalara now lies hidden deep in a communication's sub processor."

Keene felt his blood flow cold. "You mean me as Malok. The doctor."

To his horror, she shook her head. "Too difficult. It was much simpler to use the original recording and damage it enough that the holo-image was unmistakeable for the real thing."

Keene didn't consciously decide to move but he found himself towering over her moments later, his hands clenched into fists at his side. "Do you have any idea what you have done?"

Astrid didn't flinch, nor did she draw back. She simply looked up at him, an expression of real confusion on her face.

"I don't see what the problem is," she said slowly. "Kalara is as good a candidate as Malok - you obviously thought so or you wouldn't have chosen her to imitate in the first place. Besides, everyone aboard ship knows that Ba'el Sarine hates the woman. He'll be that much more willing to accept the evidence."

Keene swore he could taste ashes in his mouth. What has she done? Eveything had fallen apart because this child couldn't follow simple instructions. If - no, when - the recording was discovered, Kalara would be arrested. All of his plans - all of Lady J’tar plans - would fall apart.

I have to stop this, Keene thought. He made to turn away, to leave the hydroponics bay, but Astrid reached out and grabbed his shoulder.

"We're not done."

He shrugged off her shoulder. He didn't want to hurt her, but if she pushed him too far, he would. "I have nothing more to say to you."

She grabbed him again, and this time he had had enough. Reaching up a hand, he grabbed her fingers and threw her over his shoulder. Or at least that's what he tried to do. Instead, he quickly found himself on his front, a weight pressed against his lower back, his arm twisted up behind him.

By the old gods, he cursed. How had she done that?

He felt her leaning down, her lips pressed against his ear. "Never, ever, try that again," she said. "You hear me?"

When he didn't respond straight away, she forced his arm further back, forcing a gasp from between his lips. "You hear me?" she snarled.

To his shame, Keene found himself nodding. "I hear you," he managed to gasp out.

"Good. Now hear this. Whatever you thought before now, whatever you had planned, forget it. From now on, you work for me."

Keene shook his head, tried to struggle against her, but she seemed to have been blessed with strength any Klingon warrior would have sold his honor for. She kept him down on the ground as easily as if he had been a little child.

"I know everything about you and I could reveal the truth about your identity at any moment. If you want to have any chance of carrying out your mission correctly - and if you don't want to die at my hands - you will do exactly as I tell you." She forced his arm further back again, sending pain shooting down his spine and sides. Then she waited for a moment before going on. "Now ask me what I want you to do."

He gritted his teeth, refusing to give in to this child's whims. Her other arm moved fast as lightning, forcing his head forward and smashing his nose against the hard decking. He felt bone give way, followed by a flash of pain so intense that he couldn't see for a few moments. When his sight returned, he could see red, though he couldn't be sure whether that was blood or just the aftereffects of his minor concussion.

"Ask me."

His voice shook. "What... What do you want me to do?"

The bitch woman leaned forward. Keene was suddenly very aware of the feeling of her breasts pressed against his back and found himself becoming aroused. If a Klingon woman had attacked him this way, he would have been about ready to tear her clothes off with his teeth. As it was, he felt ashamed that this human child was getting such a reaction out of him.

Astrid pressed down on him, her lips now brushing over the skin just behind his ear. Keene felt his human skin break out in goosebumps.

"I want you to kill a man," she whispered. "I want you to kill Jasto Dax."

It took a moment for the words to punch through the haze left over in his brain from the mixture of pain and arousal. When they did, he was sure that he had misunderstood.

"The Trill?"

Astrid laughed, and for the first time, Keene realised that this woman was insane. "He's much more than just the Trill," she snarled. "He could ruin everything, for both of us. I need him out of the way, and I know that your little holo emitter still works. You can get rid of him without incriminating either of us."

"No," he snarled. "I can't use it again. If Kalara or the doctor find out that..."

"I don't care about that," Astrid whispered, shoving his arm up again. "You will kill Jasto Dax or I swear I will go straight to Captain Sarine to tell him about the nice little Klingon spy he has working in his crew. And once they've thrown you in the brig to await your nice little Starfleet trial, I'll come in the middle of the night and cut off your balls." She paused, and he could hear the smile in her voice when she spoke again. "And then I'll feed them to you with a spoon."

He knew that she was deadly serious. By the old gods, what was he going to do? She had him in a bind, figuratively and literally. He knew that there was nothing he could do to get out of it, nothing except go along with her damned fool plan and hope for an opportunity to take control once again. Hating himself for it, he nodded.

"We have an agreement?"

He nodded again.

"Good." For a moment, she pushed his arm that little bit higher, and Keene felt something give. Another flash of pain rushed through his body, forcing the breath from his lungs and leaving him swimming in darkness. When he came to again, she was gone.

He lay there for a good ten minutes, unwilling or unable to move. As he stared at the blood stains on the floor in front of his nose, Keene wondered what the hell he was going to do. How could he possibly regain control of this situation? Could he?

The only thing he knew was that if he wanted to survive, he had to do exactly as she had told him.

Somehow, he had to find a way of killing Jasto Dax.
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Old January 23 2010, 11:08 AM   #78
Gibraltar
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Holy crap! I’m still not sure if that was a violent confrontation between two deep cover operatives… or foreplay!?

Nice job here with establishing how capable and how unstable Astrid’s other persona is. Not only did she quickly establish dominance over Keene/L'goth, but she’s modified his plans without his knowledge to suit her whims.

Ah, plans within schemes inside machinations all bathing in a sea of deceit and mystery! It doesn’t get any tastier than that.
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Old January 23 2010, 04:33 PM   #79
Diogenes
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

oh. My. GOD!

Astrid... wow. there are no words.
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Old January 24 2010, 10:51 AM   #80
CeJay
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Looks like Williams has established herself as the alpha-spy on Redemption. But her personal (yet also entirely understandable) vendetta against Dax might prove to become her downfall. No such worries yet however, if everthing works out the way she planned. Of course we all know that hardly ever does anything work out according to plan.

This also helps to remind me of another spy on this ship from whom we haven't heard in a while. I used to like her a lot better than these guys and perchance she will have a role to play in all of this as well ...
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Old January 25 2010, 01:55 PM   #81
CaptainSarine
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Location: Lyon, France
Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Gibraltar

Yeah, that was slightly messed up, wasn't it!

Glad Astrid comes across as both capable and unstable - she's had a lot of training and has gone through lots of counselling, and in a normal mission she would be holding it together much better. This thing with Dax, though... That's personal.

Happy that you're enjoying the taste of this brew!

Diogenes

Awww, you're in love with Astrid? Have to admit, I have a bit of a crush on her myself. Strong, capable, sexy and ever so slightly out of control...

CeJay

Yeah, Astrid is definitely not going to bow to any other spy, or anyone else for that matter. With her genetic engineering, she can totally handle Keene... For now!

What do you mean nothing ever goes according to plan?? Do you mean I might be misleading you as to what might happen...

Yeah, we haven't heard from Zoraya in a while. Don't worry, though, she will definitely have a role to play in all of this.

Thanks to you all for your comments!

Joel
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Old January 25 2010, 09:37 PM   #82
Mistral
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

That Astrid is one tough chic. Bending a Klingon to her will, literally, wow!
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Old January 27 2010, 10:37 PM   #83
CaptainSarine
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Mistral,

Yeah, Astrid is a tough woman, her genetic enhancements obviously helping with that. Probably one of the few who could give a Klingon warrior a run for his money.

Glad you enjoyed the scene!

Joel
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Old January 27 2010, 10:37 PM   #84
CaptainSarine
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Location: Lyon, France
Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Chapter 8

Captain’s Quarters
USS Redemption
Slipstream Space

Ba'el spent all of that night wracked by nightmares of the Scouring of Bajor. He saw countless visions of the planet burning, glimpsed things he could never have seen in real life – bedarkened phantoms of crumbling buildings, scorched earth and burning corpses. In his imagination, the whole planet became a pyre and he held the torch that lit it.

He hardly slept. When the computer 'woke' him to inform him that the ship was an hour away from Laurentii space, he stumbled out of bed. The face that looked back at him from the mirror was hagard and haunted. He looked as bad as he had back on Earth just before Kovat called him up to take command of Redemption.

After cleaning himself up - although he doubted even cell regeneration therapy could help the bags under his eyes - he put on his uniform and headed out the door, barely even nodding to the officer assigned to his security that day, a young Deltan man who fell smoothly into step behind him.

As he walked down the corridor to the turbolift, Ba'el couldn't help himself from playing back his argument with Prin from the night before. As she had walked into his ready room, the first words out of her mouth had been to ask him what the hell he thought he was playing at.

He had told her gruffly that it wasn't the time. All he had wanted was to sit there and stare out at slipstream space, to try and erase from his mind the look on Rhodes' face. He hadn't even wanted to think about Jasto Dax and that whole mess.

Prin, though, wouldn't have any of it. She had pushed and prodded at him, trying to force him out of his shell, until he had thrown a glass globe he had picked up in Romulus across the room where it had shattered against the wall.

Climbing into the turbolift now and ordering it to the bridge, he winced slightly as he remembered the look on her face when he had told her, his voice as cold as he could make it, to leave him the hell alone before he threw her out of the nearest airlock.

She had stormed out.

Now, as the turbolift doors opened and he stepped out onto the bridge, Ba’el searched for her with his eyes. She was stood over Lieutenant Barani at Ops, studying some kind of readout. Though she looked up at the sound of the turbolift doors opening and met his gaze, she turned away almost immediately. Biting back a curse, Ba’el left the safety of the lift and stepped out onto the bridge.

"Captain on the bridge," one of the MACO's announced.

"Status," Ba'el asked, trying to make his voice as normal as possible as he made his way around the edge of the Pit.

"We're about three minutes from our exit position," Prin announced from Ops without looking at him.

Ba'el accepted his headset from an ensign at the top of the steps, settling it down over his forehead as he descended. By the time he had reached the lower section, he had the viewfinder over his eye.

"The other ships?"

"All present and accounted for."

"Good."

Taking his seat, Ba'el tried to remain concentrated on the job. Prin had been right about one thing - he shouldn't be allowing his own personal problems to interfere with the way he ran his ship. He was just going to have to work through this in...

His thoughts trailed off as the turbolift on the far side of the bridge swooshed open and Benjamani stepped out, Lieutenant-Commander Kalara at her side. All of a sudden, all Ba'el's anger from two nights before came flooding back and all he wanted to do was snap her long, pale neck.

Stopping on the edge of the Pit, Benjamani just stood there for a moment, staring down at them imperiously. She had warned him during the infamous dinner that she would be coming to the bridge as an 'observer' for their arrival in Laurentii space. He had hoped she’d forgotten.

"Status report, Captain Sarine," she demanded suddenly.

I'm not your damned chauffeur, Ba'el wanted to say. Instead he turned to Prin, an eyebrow raised.

Prin glared at him for a moment, and then sighed, turning to the ambassador. "We are almost at the coordinates you provided, Ambassador. We should be exiting slipstream space in one minute, forty one seconds."

"Any contact with the Laurentii?"

Prin shook her head. "None so far, sir."

"Very well." Benjamani seemed pleased about something, but the happy look only lasted for a few seconds before she frowned. "I require a headset for my aide and I."

Ba'el forced himself to meet Benjamani's gaze. He smiled. "May I ask why?"

"So that we can see what is happening."

Go to hell. He forced a smile. "I'm sure that can be arranged."

"Now, captain."

Before Ba'el could respond, another turbolift opened. This time, Admiral Qwert and Liaison Groves stepped out. Qwert had a spring in his step, while Groves looked a little the worse for wear, his eyes as sunken as Ba’el’s own.

"Admiral on deck."

Ba'el stood and nodded his head to both men, though inwardly he was fighting back a sigh. More observers. Wonderful. "Admiral. Mister Groves."

"Don't know if I've had a chance to tell you this, Captain, but you've got quite the fine ship here," Qwert said, squinting down into the Pit. He caught sight of Prin and Barani, and leered. "Quite a fine ship indeed."

Ba'el opened his mouth to reply, but Benjamani interrupted. "Captain, I--"

Deciding to preempt any more requests for headsets, Ba'el cut her off. "Computer, tactical display."

Instantly, the bridge around them vanished and the various Redemption crew members, admirals, liaisons and bitches, found themselves stood in the middle of a flowing tunnel of quantum energy. The blue-grey light had an almost hypnotic quality. Ba'el heard Benjamani gasp a little at the unexpected change, which left even him feeling a little nauseous. Thankfully, it only lasted a few moments before the ship exited slipstream space with a flash of white light and returned to normal space.

The starfield was a familiar, comforting sight. The coordinates the Laurentii had given them placed Redemption and her support ships out in the nothingness between stars, along an imaginary line separating Federation from Hegemony space. Here, they were supposed to meet their hosts.

Ba'el didn't need scanning equipment, though, to see that their hosts weren't there.

"Where are they?" Admiral Qwert asked, his trollish little face all squished up.

"Commander?" Ba’el turned to Prin.

His XO was frowning as she stared at the readouts. "There's no one here but us, captain."

"Are you sure?"

Ba'el turned to face Benjamani. "If you wouldn't mind letting me handle my ship, Ambassador."

Benjamani opened her mouth to retort, but to Ba'el's surprise, Kalara leaned in and whispered something that brought the other woman up short. She glared at Ba'el for a moment and then nodded curtly.

Walking over to stand next to Prin at Ops, Ba'el lowered his voice. "What have we got?"

Prin glanced at him, a hint of censure in her eyes, but she didn't say anything. "Nothing on short range scanners."

"Long range?"

Barani shook her head. "Nothing either. They're not here."

Ba'el nodded, then turned back to the observers. "It seems our hosts are late. We'll hold station here and continue to scan the area. As soon as the Laurentii arrive, we'll inform you."

His dismissal couldn't have been any clearer. Or firmer. Qwert got the hint immediately. Nodding to Ba'el, he slapped a hand on Grove's shoulder, eliciting a wince from the “hu-mon”.

"Come on then, Groves. Looks like we've got time to finish that drink after all."

The two men walked across the invisible decking, stepped into a turbolift, and disappeared.

Ba'el turned to Benjamani. He didn't say anything, simply raised an eyebrow. The old woman stared back, scowling. After a moment, Ba'el sighed. He obviously wasn't going to get rid of her that easily.

But I can't just sit here in the same room with. I can't. Not yet. I’ll go insane. But I can't just walk out and leave Prin again either.

To his surprise, Prin approached him. Glancing up at Benjamani, she leant in to whisper in his ear.

"Go."

"What?"

"I heard what happened during your meal with the other captains. What she did..." Prin screwed her mouth up in distaste. "I understand. I'll keep you informed if anything changes."

Ba'el felt a surge of warm feelings and couldn’t hold back a smile. Good old Prin, he thought. "Thank you."

She frowned at him, but Ba'el could tell it was forced. "Don't think you're off the hook, Sarine."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Ly’et."

He held her eyes for a few more moments, waiting for her to smile. When she finally gave in, a small smile crossing her lips, he nodded and turned to Benjamani.

"Ambassador, I have some things to handle elsewhere. If you need anything, please don't hesitate to ask Commander Ly'et."

Ba'el saw a hint of a sneer on Benjamani's lips as she smiled. "Of course."

He didn't bother to take his leave, simply turning his back on her and walking to the stairs out of the Pit. He could feel her eyes on his back right up until he stepped into the turbolift. One of the security officers went to follow him in, but Ba'el held up a hand, and shook his head.

"Sir, I--"

"I'll be fine, lieutenant," Ba'el said. "That's an order."

Before the security officer could insist, the doors closed on his startled face.

Ba'el closed his eyes and stood there for a moment, breathing in and out. He had no idea where to go. He didn't want to go back to his quarters. He could have gone to one of the bars, but there would be people there. He just wanted to be alone.

He thought back over the briefing material he had received on Redemption, trying to think of anywhere he hadn’t been yet that might afford him some solitude. After discounting a number of options, he had an idea. Yes. That would be perfect. Closing his eyes, he leant back against the wall.

"Computer, deck 31."

The turbolift sprang into motion.
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Old January 27 2010, 10:38 PM   #85
CaptainSarine
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Location: Lyon, France
Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

(continued)


Flight Simulator Deck
Deck 31
USS Redemption

Ba'el stopped on the threshhold into the FSD, checking the various cyclindrical machines to make sure no one else was there. Only when he was sure he was alone did he step all the way inside and let the door swish shut behind him.

The FSD - Flight Simulator Deck - had been an addition requested by Starfleet Air Command, the fleet department responsible for every squadron and flight crew dotted around Federation space. It allowed Commander Turner’s people to maintain their form thanks to intense simulated runs. The simulators were designed to mimic any starfighter on record, varying from the standard Hornet-class fighter he had flown against the Klingons to more elaborate Klingon, Romulan and even Dominion fighters.

When Ba'el had found out about the FSD, he had promised himself that he would make the time to log some hours in the simulator. Now seemed as good a time as any.

He walked towards the nearest simulator, already thinking about the kind of simulation he wanted to run. He had just reached the control panel when the door opened.

Swinging round, his heart dropping in disappointment, he relaxed as a familiar figure ran through the doors, out of breath. Commander Turner had a scowl on her face and she was already talking as she walked in.

"Now, who the hell do you--" She stopped short when she saw him, her cheeks colouring. "Captain?"

Ba'el couldn’t hold back a tired smile. "Hello, Commander."

Turner’s blush intensified. "God, sorry, Captain. I didn't realise it was you. I've had a couple of wannabe flyboys trying to convince me to give them some time on the simulators, and so when I saw the unauthorised access, I assumed... I'm sorry."

Ba'el waved a hand. "That's alright, Commander. I should have run this by you first. I just... I needed to blow off some steam."

Turner was shaking her head as he talked. "No need to apologise. Hey, this is your ship." She grinned. "If there's anyone here who can go wherever the hell they want, it's you."

He smiled.

"Well, I guess I'll leave you to it."

She had begun to turn away when Ba'el called her back. He wasn't sure why he did it - instinct, or some other impulse he couldn't control. "I wouldn't mind the company, actually."

She paused, then turned back. "Yeah?"

"Sure. Why not. We've never gone head to head."

To his surprise, she grinned. "Okay, you're on."

"What kind of scenario do you want to run?"

Her grin widened. "I think I have just the thing."

Flight Simulator Deck

Ba'el cursed softly as Turner dropped out from behind an asteroid at his rear and began lighting up his six with the lasers on her T-drive fighter.

He pressed down on the left accelerator pedal, gunning the left-hand engine and sending his own fighter careening out of the way.

Straight into the path of an oncoming asteroid. Cursing out loud again, Ba'el jerked his control stick, narrowly avoiding a collision. He jinked left, then right, trying to throw off Turner's targetting sensors. He saw red lines of laser fire blast past him and he gritted his teeth.

There is no way I'm letting this little girl kill me three times in a row!

He decided to try something more drastic. Throwing his ship into a corkscrew dive, he carved a path between three asteroids, almost clipping his wing on the largest one before managing to regain control of his ship. He knew that Turner wouldn't be so stupid as to try and follow him through his dive, but he also had a pretty good idea of where she would be as she tried to follow him.

Now let's show this girl how to fly. He remembered doing this once against a Jem'hadar patrol out in the Jovala system. It had taken them by surprise, he had a pretty good feeling that it would take Turner by surprise as well.

All of a sudden, he cut all power to his left engine. The sudden lack of propulsion took a moment to register in the gravity-less arena of space, but after a few seconds, the dead engine sent his fighter into a 180° spin.

Leaving Turner – who was coming in for the killing blow – directly in his sights.

Ba'el grinned, then pulled the trigger. Three lances of hot red fire shot out of the triangular cannon mounted just behind his cockpit, catching Turner with a deadly blow. For a moment, her shields flared, then collapsed. Finally, the lasers pierced her cockpit and he saw a flash of white light.

Space around him - the starfield, the debris, the asteroids - vanished to black. Ba'el sat there for a moment, then reached up and popped the roof of the simulator.

He grinned as he heard Turner swearing loudly. He stood up in the fake cockpit in time to see her climbing up out of her own, shaking her head and muttering to herself. She looked up and caught his eye. Her frown deepened.

"How the hell did you pull that off? Your fighter should have shook itself apart with a stunt like that."

"There's a big difference between should have and did, Commander," Ba'el replied, unable to keep the smile off his face. "A big difference. You'll learn that when you see some real combat."

"Don't patronise me, grandpa," she shot back.

Grandpa? Ba'el looked at her, a single eyebrow raised. Turner seemed to suddenly realise who she was talking to, but she didn't blanch, or frown, or even blush. She stared back at him challengingly until he held his hands up. Fair enough, he thought. Ranks down. For now.

"So, you want to go again?"

She laughed. "Not right now. Give me a chance to recover from my humiliation."

Ba'el nodded, a little disappointed. It had been a long time since he had been a simple pilot, able to concentrate on nothing more complicated than staying alive and finishing a mission. He missed it.

Climbing out of the cockpit completely, he swung onto the ladder that led down the frame to the decking. By the time he reached the floor, Turner had just finished getting out of her cockpit. He watched her climb down, unable to stop himself from studying her rather fine figure, displayed to full effect in her tight flightsuit. He realised what he was doing and turned away just as she reached the deck herself.

"So," she said, turning to him. "You want to talk about it?"

He turned back, trying to pretend he had been studying... Well, actually, he realised, there wasn't anything he could have been studying. Trying to hide his embarassment behind a frown, he met her eyes.

"Talk about what?"

"Whatever it is that has you so riled up you've flown more combat simulations in the last hour than a rookie in his first week of training."

Ba'el's frown deepened. He had been able to push away the last few days events while flying, but now the frustration came rushing back. He opened his mouth to tell Turner that he didn't want to talk about it, and then, almost despite himself, he found himself saying, "I get nightmares."

The moment the words left his mouth, he realised how stupid they sounded. He went to shrug them off, make some smart comment, but Turner just nodded.

"I can tell."

Ba'el started slightly. "What?"

"That you're not sleeping. I mean, I'm no counsellor, but even I know what a man who isn't getting his beauty sleep looks like."

"I look that bad, unh?"

"Like a badly manged jungle cat," she said, smiling slightly. "But I still like you."

"I'm not sure whether that makes me more worried about you or me," Ba'el said lightly, though her words had set off brush fires in his chest.

"Probably me. What are the nightmares about?"

Again Ba'el opened his mouth expecting to say one thing and said something completely different. "The war. The destruction of Bajor, to be precise."

And then, without really knowing why, Ba'el told her everything. First of all about the dinner party and what Benjamani had done, and then what memories that had dredged up. Before he knew it, though, he had also told her about the various other run ins he had had with Benjamani, and other things he had done during the war, and the Founders' death, and the burning of Bajor, and the guilt, and Elara, and his son, and...

When he next became truly conscious of where he was, he was sat with his back against the simulator, Turner at his side. Somehow, her hand was over both of his and he had tears in his eyes.

"Wow. I... I guess I really needed to talk about all of this,” he whispered as he realised what had just happened.

Turner nodded. "Did you ever get counselling? After?"

"There were offers but... I've never liked the idea of talking about all of this with someone who was being paid to listen."

"I can understand that."

“Good thing you were here, I guess,” he said with a smile.

“I guess so.”

They sat there for a moment more, Ba’el staring down at the deck, feeling her eyes on him. He could tell there was something going on here, some connection between them that had been there from the first day he saw her but stronger now, more immediate. What is it? He wondered. How have I allowed things to reach this point?

He lifted his head to say something just as she leaned in. Without even meaning to, he turned his head slightly and their lips met. He tensed for a moment, surprised at the contact, then the sensation of her lips against his – soft, slightly humid – and the smell of her perfume – subtly flowery and with a hint of spice – washed over him. He didn’t make a conscious decision to press harder, nor to open his lips slightly. Blood rushed through his ears, and he was suddenly very conscious of his own heartbeat. He felt her respond, her own lips parting and…

“Bridge to Captain Sarine.”

The sound of Prin's voice broke through the haze that had settled over them and they both responded by darting their heads back. They stared at each other for a moment, neither knowing what to say. Ba’el’s comm badge chirped again. He broke eye contact and tapped it.

“Sarine here.”

“Captain, I just wanted to let you know. Three Laurentii Behemoths have just dropped out of slipstream space. They've hailed us and have demanded to speak to you."

What perfect timing. Ba'el sighed, glanced at Turner, who had started to climb to her feet again. What have I done?

"I'll be right there," he said after a moment.

"Very good, sir."

The comm cut off, leaving Ba'el and Turner stood in the silence of the FSD. Ba'el stared down at the deck between his knees for a moment, then looked up at her.

"Well," he said.

"Yeah."

An uncomfortable silence grew between them. Turner broke it, finally.

"Captain, I just want you to know, this doesn't have to..."

"Commander.” He lowered his voice. “Gemma. I'm not the sort of man who goes around kissing female subordinates."

"That's good to know."

Smiling, Ba'el clambered to his feet, pushing his hand against the simulator to help himself up. He stood there, feeling like an awkward teenager. He pushed on regardless. "I'm serious. I like you. I... I know there is something here. But..."

"Ah, the eternal but."

"I am your commanding officer. And there is so much going on right now..." I don't want to hurt you.

Turner - Gemma - reached out and put her hand on his arm.

"Ba'el, you don't have to explain. I understand. I want to be your friend. If something else comes from that, one day, far, far into the future, then I won't complain. But I understand that for now, nothing can. I'll give you the time you need."

He smiled. "You're quite a woman, Commander."

Gemma smiled. "If you don't get going, you won't be much of a captain."

He started. She was right. This was no time to be discussing this. "You're right,” he said, nodding. “I have to go."

"What do you say we have a rematch in the next couple of days?"

Ba'el smiled. "I'd like that. For now, though..."

"Go."

He hesitated anyway, staring into her eyes. She really was quite a woman. Then, shaking himself, he turned and walked towards the door.

“Oh and Captain?”

He turned, eyebrow raised.

“Benjamani? I’ve known women like her. The main thing she needs is to feel in control.”

“Yes.” He dragged the word out, turning it into a question.

“She thinks she knows how you will react and that makes her feel confident. Don’t let her. Keep her off balance.”

He stared at her for a moment, not sure whether he was more surprised at how insightful that seemed or the fact that he hadn’t thought of it already. He nodded, smiling. “Thanks. I’ll give that a try.”

He turned away from her and walked through the door. For now, he had a mission to fulfill. Anything else would have to wait.
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Old January 28 2010, 02:17 PM   #86
Gibraltar
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Sarine finally finds a confidant to whom he can confess his sins, and the potential for a relationship at some undefined point in the future. Benjamani continues to be her usual warm, sympathetic self, as Ba’el and his crew have to carry out a difficult diplomatic mission under the watchful gaze of an assorted peanut gallery of brass, bureaucrats, and political operatives.

I’m glad to see Ba’el and Prin on speaking terms again after his outburst in the ready room.

There so much going on here that I just want to pop a bowl of popcorn, sit back, and watch the fireworks. Terrific stuff as always!
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Old January 28 2010, 10:09 PM   #87
Mistral
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

I'm not fond of romance in my stories-but you handled that deftly. And, if anything, I hate Benjamani more now than I did.
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Old January 29 2010, 03:37 AM   #88
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Wow. Just getting to review the last two chapters now.

Astrid is a real piece of work. She scares me! Apparently, she scares Klingon spies, too. And arouses them. What a scene! I sort of hate her now, though, just because she's crazy and effective and ruthless and she's messing with my favorite character, Kalara.

Glad to see Prin and Bay can have it out and forgive each other. I like their friendship and I think they have nice chemistry together. In fact, I'm a bit of a shipper for the two of them ... but then you drop Turner on us. I know she and Bay have had their little eye contact flirtation thing going ... but here she listens and he opens up and we get the nice kiss. I like Turner, I do. She seems great. (I just like Prin a little bit more.) It's nice to see Bay get a chance to breathe and do something he enjoys with someone who makes him feel good. Even if it's not Prin. Sigh.

Maybe I'm slow to catch on or have forgotten something from Volume 2, but these last chapters have had me wondering who Benjamani is really working for. Something about her reactions on the bridge just now seemed off to me, and then there's the way she seems to want Bay to be at his worst ... if she's up to something, I wonder if Kalara will be the one to catch on.

Great stuff, Joel. I'm still thoroughly enjoying your characters and universe. Keep up the good work!
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Old January 30 2010, 11:09 AM   #89
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

I guess we all saw something like this coming sooner or later. What I didn't see coming is the quality of Turner's character. She's beautiful, smart, insightful and patient. In short, the perfect woman for Ba'el.

Maybe it's too early for him to have a romance but it's good for him to have a friend on the outside with a sympathetic attitude and an open ear. And if this is going to develop into a full-out romantic relationship, that would be fun too, if for no other reason than it's inappropriateness.
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Old February 2 2010, 12:59 PM   #90
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Hi all!

Sorry, just realised that I hadn't responded to all your kind comments on Restoration - so sorry!

Gibraltar

Yeah, I felt it important for what is going to be coming next for Sarine to find that person to lead on, and I felt that Sarine and Turner really hit it off in those few brief scenes they were in back in Volume I. It made sense that their relationship would develop.

Benjamani is a b***h, no two ways about it. Unfortunately for her, a lot of people are starting to get her number and are willing to help Sarine and crew out in handling her.

Prin and Ba'el's relationship is too old and too strong for a little argument to get in the way. She'll always have his back, and has learned to handle his outbursts over the years.

Hope you enjoy your popcorn!

Mistral

Thanks so much! Glad you didn't mind the yucky kissing too much!

Yeah, everyone seems to be jumping on the "I-hate-Benjamani" boat, don't they?!

Kes

Yeah, Astrid is a scary woman, very strong and with a highly twisted way of looking at and handling things. Glad you enjoyed that scene, and yes, unfortunately, Astrid is going to be messing with Kalara in the next few chapters.

Prin and Bay work well together. Like I said above, they've been friends for much too long to stay mad very long, mainly thanks to Prin, who is willing to forgive and forget after her initial anger has passed. I know you'd said that you were a Prin and Bay shipper (hey look mom, I have shippers! Cool! ) but they've been friends for much too long and with much too much baggage for them to ever go back to that lover relationship they once had. More from Ba'el's point of view than Prin's. He loves her, but not like that, not anymore.

As for Turner... I had never intended for her and Bay to end up together, nor had I actually included her as a character in my initial plan. But the chemistry between her and Bay back in Volume I changed everything. And I think Bay needed that to start getting over what he is handling at the moment.

Benjamani as another spy or mole or with a hidden agenda? On this ship? Now whatever would give you that idea...?

Glad you're still enjoying this story, the characters and the universe! Thanks!

CeJay

Glad you saw the Turner-Bay relationship coming, I sure didn't! They snuck it up on me, the b*****ds!

I'm intrigued though as to why you feel it might be too early for Bay, too early in relation to what? His problems? His wife? I'm interested to know exactly.

As for this developing into a full-out romantic relationship... Probably not for the forseeable future and certainly not in the way you might think it will happen. Bay has some major growing up to do before that happens.

Glad you enjoyed this!

Joel
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