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Old June 21 2010, 12:49 AM   #1
DarKush
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Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Author's Note: Dear Readers,

I've decided to not finish Pandora's Jar, in its current form. Unfortunately it was big, but not too big to fail. I thought it had become a bloated mess, but there was enough good in it to salvage parts of it. So I've decided to break it apart and try to flesh out some of the subplots I had running in that story. First up is a reworking of the USS Monarch storyline. Some things will stay the same, but some will change. I want to thank Brother Benny for the use of his characters. Also, Galen for the use of the crew of the Nagasaki.

My apologies again for those of you who were reading Pandora's Jar. But hopefully you'll like the revised stories. I feel this way I can do real justice to all those storylines that were cropping up in Pandora's Jar.

"Shadow Puppets" takes place after the short story "Dark Deeds" in the vignette series "Movements in Light and Shadow".

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

DARK TERRITORY:
SHADOW PUPPETS

Vulcan
May 2376

Admiral Samson Glover gently kicked back the bed sheet so that the nocturnal wind could cool his sweat slickened skin. T’Prell shivered beside him and wrapped the blood green cover around her naked olive skin. She pursed her lips in annoyance and Samson smiled. “Still cold natured I see?”

“I was birthed and raised on a desert planet, you know?” T’Prell said, “This one.”

“A lovely one it is,” his grin grew larger, “But not as lovely as you.” His Vulcan lover arched a black eye brow.

“Oh please, Sam you were never good with come on lines,” T’Prell groaned.

“But yet, somehow, here we are,” the admiral chuckled.

“Yeah,” T’Prell said, joining in him in a laugh. “Who would’ve thought it?”

“I know, but you know how we are, off again, on again, a never ending cycle,” Glover surmised.

“I am glad we are on again, in spite of everything,” T’Prell replied. The wattage of the admiral’s grin dimmed.

“Let’s not argue on my last night here T’Prell,” his admonition sounded more like a plea.

“Samson, I’m sorry,” T’Prell paused as she turned around to face him, resting her upper body on a propped elbow. Her body tensed and Samson sighed. He knew her body language well to know that a fight was brewing. He girded himself for the fireworks. He propped himself on both elbows. Oblivious, T’Prell continued, “But you know how I feel about this mission, and you know I feel even worse not being a part of it.”

“You know I could get in trouble for telling you, it is classified,” Samson grumbled.

“No, it’s so black that it is totally off the books,” T’Prell frowned. “And you know what that means, if you get caught, you’re totally on your own.”

“I will endeavor not to get caught then,” the admiral chuckled but T’Prell didn’t get the joke.

“I’m serious Samson,” T’Prell pressed. “I’m a member of the V’Shar. I like cloak and dagger games as much as the next person, but even this goes beyond the pale for me. What Logan is proposing could start a war, and even worse, could tarnish the Federation’s reputation for transparency and democracy at the worst possible time. We’re still recovering from the Dominion War, there are billions of beings across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants who still feel lost, left behind, are still trying to make sense for it all. We need to be that beacon for them, we have to be that light.”

Samson grunted. “Now, who’s being the idealistic one?” T’Prell glared at him. “Listen T’Prell, I hate to say it, but the war did change us. It changed me. It turned my son into a hollowed shell and my daughter-in-law into an amputee. And I got off lucky. The Dominion wreaked so much destruction and devastation that I would be remiss in my duties if I ever allowed a threat of that scale to emerge again.”

“The Romulans suffered catastrophic losses too and they are dealing with incipient revolts from their subjects, they are not that threat, and neither are Federation citizens.”

Samson recoiled as if T’Prell had physically struck him. T’Prell didn’t relent. “Sam, I just can’t believe you signed off on continued blood screenings on all starbases and outposts. You were one of the main opponents of that tactic from the onset. I remembered how rankled you were when Conrad Haas instituted it over your head on Deep Space 5.”

“That was a life time ago, millions of life times ago,” Samson said, a sour taste in his mouth. “As head of Starfleet Security, I thought it was the best thing to do. Not all the guns from the war have fallen silent, as evidenced by the Cardassian militants and even that Changeling that had infiltrated the Klingon Defense Force a few months ago.”

“Yes, the Changeling that helped save your son from some of those militants,” T’Prell nodded her head.

“One good Changeling,” Samson rolled his eyes. “Okay, two counting Odo. Am I supposed to think there aren’t some bad ones out there, smarting that they were defeated by a bunch of solids? I can’t take that risk, and I wouldn’t imperil anyone under my watch. But you don’t have to worry about that anymore, I’m not Security chief anymore.”

“You resigned to go on this insane mission,” T’Prell replied. “Subverting a plebiscite on Benzar? Using terroristic tactics? What happened to you?”

“What happened to you?” Samson shot up in bed, his eyes flashing, his nostrils flaring.

“You’ve done much worse, but I never judged you because I trusted that you knew the difference between right and wrong and if you felt extreme tactics were necessary, then they were.”

“Sam, I-,” T’Prell began.

“No,” he shook his head furiously. “No,” he said. He swiveled around and planted his feet on the hard, plasma rock floor. He hunched his shoulders and stared into the floor’s obsidian depths.

“Samson,” T’Prell said, more forcefully. She placed a hand on his shoulder. He thought about shrugging it off, but left it alone. “Sam, listen, I didn’t mean to accuse…”

“Save it T’Prell,” he gently eased her hand off him and stood up. He turned around to glance at her, “I’ve got some things I need to wrap up anyway. I know my way out.”

“No Sam,” T’Prell slid out of bed, leaving the sheet behind. Her nakedness, glimmering in the moonlight coming in from the room’s slanted windows, took his breath away, but he tried not to keep her from seeing it. He turned away. “Please Sam, let’s not end things on a sour note. Come back to bed,” she offered.

He sighed, his chest caving in, as his resistance weakened. He turned back to her and grabbed her arms. Samson pulled her close and kissed her with a passion he hadn’t felt in years, an abandon that he had never unleashed on her before. Pushing her away from him, the admiral said, “How about I take a rain check? It’ll give me more incentive to get back in one piece.”
************************************************** *****************

USS Monarch
Observation Lounge
Merias III Battle Site Reclamation Project
(Former Benzite Defense Perimeter)

“It would be nice to know what the Romulans and Benzites are doing with all those derelicts they’re not atomizing on the spot,” Chief Engineer Sofia Petrov whispered, causing Captain Benjamin Walker to grimace. Not only was his white dress uniform too tight, his head was buzzing with an oncoming headache that wasn’t being alleviated by the sound and bustle of the reception. And now to top it off, Sofia was about to cause an intergalactic incident by pissing off their Romulan ‘guests’. He leaned down, and muttered sarcastically, “Not in front of the guests dear.” The raven-haired Albanian chuckled. The pointed ears of several of the Romulans in the contingent heading towards them twitched.

The captain knew the Romulans auditory abilities were on par with their Vulcan cousins. There was no way that they could’ve missed Petrov’s aside, but they ignored it all the same. The captain looked out the closet window, turning his back to everyone while he composed himself. He had been working extra hard lately, he was ragged, tired, on edge, and he was finding it harder to keep his temper in check. The war had left him questioning many things. He placed a hand on the frosty window and peered out at the graveyard surrounding them. Despite his hardships at least he was still breathing, he reminded himself.

Large pieces of shattered starships floated around them like an artificial asteroid field, corralled by mobile gravity pulse units and tractor beams from the Border Service, Benzite, and Romulan vessels traversing the jagged hulks, careful to avoid the pools of coolants and fuel spread across the expanse. The main mission of the Border Service was to recover the bodies of Starfleet crewmen, retrieving usable technology was a secondary concern.

Not so the Romulans, it seemed like they were more concerned with keeping Starfleet away from the tech on their warships, and also in acquiring the technology from the derelict Starfleet vessels. Though Starfleet’s Eleventh Fleet had fallen to the Dominion at Merias, the battle had been fierce. Many good Fleet crewmen had lost their lives and a lot of hardware had been left on the battlefield in the defense of the Benzites, though it seemed like to no avail.

“Captain Walker,” the lead Romulan, a tall, silvered patrician-featured man strode forward, stopping with military precision just in front of the captain. Medals gleamed from the sash stretched across his chest. He stuck out his hand in a most humanlike manner. “It is a pleasure to meet you at last. Your record during the Dominion conflict was quite exemplary.”

Walker was a bit taken aback. He had never been complimented by a Romulan before. He cleared his throat, trying to recover. “I…umm…thank you….”

“Commander Volok, Patrin Volok,” he smiled. Walker dipped his head respectfully.

“Commander Volok, I can assure you that the pleasure is all ours.”

“Of course,” Volok replied. “Though I can imagine that this type of, how do you say, ‘grunt work,’ is out of the ordinary for a Sovereign-class vessel?”

Walker’s abashment quickly abated. His eyes narrowed slightly. Though it wasn’t blatant, the captain knew a dig when he heard one. “No one in Starfleet is above the tasks of bringing our compatriots home.” He said, more frostily than he had intended. But how else could he respond.

Monarch, in addition to other Sovereign-class vessels had spent less time on the front lines during the war. They had been used as part of a larger Starfleet and Federation strategy to project power and Walker had been forced to spend more time chatting up potential new Federation members and keeping skittish ones in the fold than joining in the fight. It was a sore spot for him, especially when a medal-bedecked Romulan bastard poked it. To add to Walker’s consternation, this farker Volok probably had actually earned all those medals on his chest.

“Of course, I didn’t mean to imply,” Volok began, but Walker ignored him. He stepped around the still speaking commander and addressed the sole Benzite among the group. The blue skinned, hairless alien nodded curtly in greeting.

“The Border Service ships assigned to the clean up are doing excellent work,” Site Director Malmak replied, an accusation hidden behind his tone. To the captain, he knew the Benzite was saying, ‘Why didn’t the 11th do as good a job keeping Benzar out of Dominion clutches?’ Though Walker didn’t want to believe it, he knew that many Benzites had become extremely friendly with the Romulans after the Imperial Navy liberated the Benzar System from the Dominion. Still affected by the afterglow, those Benzites hadn’t realized that the Romulans were not liberators but occupiers.

Before he could respond, he felt a subtle, but firm tug on his sleeve. He knew it was Sofia. And he knew that she could see him about to speak his mind. Which was something he knew would not be wise. And it would likely undue all the hard work that Ambassador Shanthi was doing back on Benzar. The Monarch had dropped the diplomat off before heading off the join the cleanup efforts at the reclamation site.

Walker removed the sting from his voice and worked his facial muscles into the hint of a smile. “We only wish to help get Benzar back on her feet. This battle site remains both an environmental and safety hazard, and a detriment to restoring the Benzite economy.”

“Of course we could get the job done more expeditiously if we had the help of our Corps of Engineers,” Petrov couldn’t help but throw a jab. Walker didn’t know whether to reprimand or kiss the woman. The Romulans had impressed upon the Benzites the need to limit the number of ships in the volatile Merias sector, and had convinced them that the Imperial Navy could do the lion’s share of the reclamation.

Ambassador Shanthi had already proved his salt by convincing the skeptical Benzites to allow at least two Border Service ships to assist the Romulans while Monarch was transporting him to the Benzar system.

“That eager to learn our military secrets,” blurted a short, whipcord thin Romulan subcommander. Volok frowned, the down turned corners of his mouth almost reaching his chin. Seeing his displeasure the subordinate stepped back.

“I see by the responses of our subordinates, and our own perhaps, that we still have the peace left to win, even if the war is over,” Volok said. Walker gritted his teeth. He knew that with the Romulans war was never over. They could even turn peace into a weapon. “Would you not agree Captain Walker?”

Walker glanced at the eagerly awaiting Malmak. The Benzite was gazing at him, no doubt ready to report his response back to his superiors on Benzar. Being childish would do nothing to advance the Federation’s cause. So, Walker did the proper thing, the professional thing, the grown up thing. “Of course,” he replied evenly. “We intend to win the peace, and win we will,” he said, adding emphasis to the word win each time. He wanted Volok to know he, and by association Starfleet, weren’t soft. He also wanted to Malmak to know that the Federation remained steadfast, despite some of the setbacks caused by the war.

At that moment a waiter carrying a tray of drinks walked by and Malmak waved them over. The eager Bolian bounced happily over to them, and the group emptied the tray. Holding aloft his glass, filled with a violet-colored spirit, Malmak said, “To winning the peace.”

The rest of the group held their glasses up as well. A round of clinking began, with Walker and Volok clinking their glasses last. They eyed each other over their sparkling beverages, sizing each other up. For just a second, Volok let his smooth façade drop, and Walker saw the visage of a cold, pitiless killer who would stop at nothing to achieve his goals. To that, the captain smiled. He had stared down killers before and was still standing. Volok wouldn’t be any different. “How about we toast to all the crews working out in the Battle Site,” he proposed, and Malmak nodded heartily. “Let’s put politics and things beyond our pay grade behind us and salute the true heroes of this mission.”

“Here, here,” Malmak said, with more emotion than Walker thought possible.

“I concur,” Volok said coolly, still eyeing Walker, but the captain no longer cared.
After a few more minutes of small talk, the group of Romulans moved on, and Walker made his way to the exit.

Leza can handle it from here, he thought, glancing over to the far left corner of the spacious conference room. The tall, angular featured Trill stood out, almost taller than anyone else in the room. Well at least Walker could just make out the brown mop of his first officer’s head. Astar was a natural at this stuff, he told himself, easing his conscience as he sought to leave the party early. He had a lot of work to catch up on and the spirits hadn’t helped the headache that had been blossoming in his head for hours now. But he was just seconds away from the door, and a quick nap, and a chance to refresh.

A light, but firm grip stopped him. Walker sighed inwardly, but kept his expression neutral when he turned around. “Is everything…”, he began.

“You know damn well everything isn’t all right,” Chief Petrov hissed. She was leaning close to him; too close. “You’re just going to let that Romulan veruul insult me like that?”

“You were out of line,” Walker shrugged, “as was his subcommander. I couldn’t fault Volok’s logic on that at least.”

Sofia pulled even closer to him, and the captain began to feel uncomfortable. “Wrong species,” Petrov joked. “The Romulans are the illogical ones remember? But who gives a frinx, what I am more concerned about is what happened between us last night. How logical was that?”

Walker recoiled as if Petrov’s touch had become white hot, and in a figurative sense it had. His stoniness began to crumble and his expression grew sharp. “We discussed that already,” he snapped. “It’s not going to happen again.”

“That’s what you said the last time,” Petrov smiled. She flicked an errant lock of her hair. “But you came back, and you will again.”

“I don’t have time for this right now,” Walker backed away, his legs rubbery. He hated how his weakness had led to this. Oblivious, the chief engineer pressed on.

“Make the time,” Petrov cooed. She leaned close to him again, pressing against him. Walker fought the urge to push her away, afraid such a sudden movement would attract attention. Instead he sidled around her. “I’m not going away Benjamin,” she said. “Unless….” She left the offer hanging.

“Unless what?” He asked, his headache forgotten.

“Let’s talk…in private.”

“No…I don’t think that would be best.”

Petrov sighed, “In your ready room then.”

“Once again,” Walker decided to stand his ground. “I just don’t think that would be wise Sofia.”

“Do you want your wife and children to find out about us?” The question cut through him like a knife. He staggered back, grabbing the edge of a table laden with food and beverages to steady himself.

“You wouldn’t,” he muttered.

“Of course not,” Petrov smiled, but there was no humor in it. “If you do what I say.”
************************************************** ******************

Last edited by DarKush; June 21 2010 at 01:01 AM.
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Old June 21 2010, 05:33 PM   #2
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Interesting.

I look forward to seeing how you change things.
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Old June 21 2010, 05:44 PM   #3
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Can't say I wasn't disappointed to learn of the unexpected demise of Pandoras Jar but I can tell you are picking up the most interesting plot pieces in this one, including some new ones.

I've got a bad feeling about Glover's impending mission, almost as if I already know the outcome.
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Old June 21 2010, 06:14 PM   #4
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Oof! Captain Walker goes from the frying pan into the fire. An awful assignment with dicey political ramifications, now complicated by an illicit affair with one of his senior staff.

Okay, I take it back, even some of the the captains in the 'big leagues' with the Sovereign-class ships had it rough after the war.

Give me a mothballed Connie out of the limelight any day.

Really potent stuff here, DarKush, and we're still in the first chapter!
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Old June 21 2010, 06:57 PM   #5
mirandafave
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Well Pandora's Jar is a sad loss that's for sure. It had an awesome opening, a big stage and as to be expected of a Dark Territory story a lot of players with lots of differing and conflicting motivations.

That said, we are seeing lots of different players already in this and the scope might be narrowed [so far] but when you've got Romulans in the mix and secret black ops going on, the scope is rarely too small.

Some really goof fleshing out of the characters through their interactions with others. The dialogue conveys so much of the tensions simmering between allies. A dicey, knife edge situation trying to keep the peace with Romulans. Good stuff.
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Old June 26 2010, 02:49 AM   #6
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Thanks guys for your comments. This is a work in progress, and I am continuing to fine tune it, but I hope the narrowed focus makes for a better story. After Brother Benny allowed me to use the Monarch characters I really got into them so I hope the story does them justice. Plus, I thought it would be great to revisit some older storylines that I wrote a couple years ago but perhaps didn't flesh out as well as I should and mix them all together.

Also, during the Samson-T'Prell scene some of the things they talked about were references to earlier stories:
Conrad Haas and Samson butted heads in "False Colors" and Samson's son, Terrence Glover, was captured by Cardassian terrorists in "The Valley of Peace." Both stories are currently posted at the Dark Territory section of the United Trek website.

Last edited by DarKush; June 26 2010 at 04:08 AM.
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Old June 26 2010, 06:34 PM   #7
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Author's Note:

This scene should actually go right after the Samson and T'Prell scene that opened the story. I wanted two scenes to wrap around "Dark Deeds".

************************************************** *****************
Verex III
Two Days Later…

Presidential Chief of Staff Garth Logan watched the last of the Hinode’s warp trail dissipate before he made his call. He had been fortunate that Admiral Shanthi had wasted no time in leaving, heading back to her job at Starfleet Administration. If she had stayed much longer her absence might arouse suspicion and he was glad that the woman was sufficiently paranoid and guilt-plagued to not want to spend time at the location of perhaps her blackest deed in defense of the Federation.

Though Logan was perhaps even more in a fishbowl than Shanthi, he had the readymade excuse of traveling in support of President Santiago’s reelection. From Verex III, he would make a short jaunt to Cygnus VII, to shore up lagging support from Santiago’s home planet. It would be a disaster if Santiago’s own planet turned against him.

Logan would do his best to coax skittish and dispirited supporters to hold firm, but actually he could care less. The Federation Council, Starfleet Command, the Federation Presidency itself, they were all mere trappings, shadow puppets to the true masters pulling the strings. A light blinked on his console. He smiled before activating it.

In a shocking loss of control, the smile dropped immediately in surprise. The stocky Andorian woman, an admiral’s bar on her collar, grinned savagely in response. “Weren’t expecting me Mr. Logan, or shall I say Agent Laurent?” Calling him by his birth name caused the man to wince. Though the room was sound proofed and had been tripled check by him personally, he was still concerned that his ruse might be discovered at any moment.

The real Garth Logan had been liquidated and replaced years ago, and he had assumed the man’s identity on occasion, and it had become nearly a permanent assignment once the section needed an inside man in Santiago’s camp once he began making moves toward the presidency.

“How might I assist you Visala?” He asked, not acknowledging the woman’s rank, or her superior status in the section. Now the Andorian glowered at him.

“You really thought you could do an end run around me?” She asked. “What are you trying to prove?”

Logan shrugged casually, “I was doing nothing of the sort. The Directorate wanted the Iconian probe, and Starfleet Intelligence had it very closely under wraps. This way, it’s out in the open and we can procure it more easily.”

“At the expense of the careful planning and cultivating of anti-Romulan forces on Benzar?” Visala’s tone was derisive. “We could’ve have achieved both ends. If you had given me enough time to establish myself.” The Andorian had recently been promoted to rear admiral and installed on the Deputy Chief’s staff.

“Santiago needs a victory, something to prop up his campaign,” Logan replied evenly. Santiago’s rival, former Admiral Norah Satie, was proving quite resilient as a campaigner, and the Directorate had so far been unable to penetrate deeply within her campaign. “Not only can we get the Iconian probe, we can observe it in action on Benzar, and watch the Romulans overreact. The Benzites will come back to us in droves, Santiago’s policies will be vindicated, and it will still leave the Romulans with their Reman problem, and no way to pass them off to the Benzites or to us. Hopefully both the Romulans and Remans will devour each other.”

“This had better not fail,” Visala warned, her twin antennae circling the white shock of her hair like serpents.

“The Directorate signed off on this,” Logan said, with a smirk. The woman huffed. Her hands were tied. Logan had went around her, above her, and made her look ineffectual to boot. He had created a formidable enemy in the Andorian admiral, but at the moment he didn’t care. He basked in his supposed triumph. “Did you just call only to threaten me?”

“Bah,” Visala snorted before disconnecting the link. Logan leaned back in his seat and chuckled. Before the sound of his last laugh faded, the console blinked again.

“Here we go,” Logan said, certain it was the person he really wanted to talk to. He pressed the flashing light and an aristocratic Romulan looked back at him.

“Has the package departed?” The Romulan asked, without preamble.

“Of course,” Logan replied curtly, all business on the outside. But inside, he danced a jig. Finally, his revenge was close at hand.
************************************************** ******************
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Old June 26 2010, 06:36 PM   #8
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Author's Note: This scene takes place immediately after the Walker-Volok exchange.

************************************************** ******************
USS Monarch
Observation Lounge

Commander Zammit sniffed loudly enough to draw Commander Leza Astar’s notice. “What’s got you riled Zam?” She asked the Bzzit Khaht chief medical officer.

The wiry, leather skinned alien casts his yellow eyes toward the room’s exit. Astar followed his gaze. She saw Captain Walker leaving the room, which was no small surprise to her. Benjamin wasn’t the most social animal. But more telling was that Chief Petrov was quick on his heels. “People are starting to talk,” Zammit snorted.

Astar frowned. “And just who are these people? And what are they talking about?” Zammit looked up at her, his gaze incredulous.

“Surely you can see it yourself, all the signs.”

“What signs?”

“Your species is closer to humans in physiology and culture than mine is, so surely you can’t be so obtuse.”

Zammit had a penchant for being blunt and prickly so Astar took his poke in stride. “No,” she shook her head, “How about you educate me?”

He gestured toward a corner and Astar followed him. He craned his long neck around to insure privacy before speaking again. “Haven’t you noticed how friendly the captain and Sofia have been lately? How she invades his personal space in a way she never did before? Just this past week, I treated them both for holodeck sustained injuries; and when I took a look at the activity log I see that they’ve been combining their holodeck time together a lot lately.”

“Why would you be looking into that?” Astar asked suspiciously. Zam gave her a thin-lipped shrug.

“I like to be thorough,” he replied. Leza wasn’t pleased with the answer, but she didn’t want to get sidetracked.

“So, what’s this all about Zam?”

He leaned close to her. “Commander…Leza…I think the captain and Chief Petrov are having an affair.”

“Are you serious?” Leza did her best to put enough disbelief in her voice, but the Bzzit Khaht shook his head knowingly.

“I see you have already suspected something similar.”

“That’s not my place to say, nor should it be yours,” Astar replied. “They are both adults and their private lives are their business. It’s none of ours, and if you hear any more rumors, I don’t want you encouraging them. Morale is bad enough as it is coming out of the war.”

“But what about fraternization,” Zammit replied.

“What of it?” Astar shot back. “If there is something occurring between the captain and Sofia, which is mere speculation at best, as long as it doesn’t affect the operation of this ship then it is not worthy of discussion. Is that clear?”

The medic’s expression grew icy. “Is that an order?”

“What do you think?”
************************************************** ******************
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Old June 27 2010, 02:38 AM   #9
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

************************************************** ******************
USS Carson
Outside of Scarab Nebula
Benzite System

Captain Katherine ‘Kit’ Daley clutched her cool coffee mug, unable to drink the tepid swill. She wasn’t thirsty and her nerves were already on edge enough as it was. She had retired to her ready room so that the bridge crew couldn’t pick up on her anxiety.

She always hated when her handler called, even though she had joined Section 31 willingly. There were just too many enemies out there, and the Federation way of life too fragile not to do anything to protect it. Though she disagreed with some of the section’s methods, she couldn’t argue with their necessity.

Or she hadn’t been able to for the missions she had been assigned, until this one. Capturing a ship with an admiral, the former head of Starfleet Security no less, and then taking him to a rendezvous point for some unknown purpose, but Kit was certain the admiral would meet an unfortunate end. It was one thing to defend the Federation against foreign enemies, but the thought of absconding an admiral made her queasy.

Her handler had assured her that a fellow operative was onboard the vessel heading toward them and that they would ensure the admiral was sedated and all Kit had to do was keep him that way until they reached their destination.

She had told her crew that the ship they would intercept was carrying a dangerous member of the Orion Syndicate, who possessed with a deadly, artificial contagion. He was to be whisked off the ship and his atoms held in the transporter buffer until he was delivered to the authorities, the better so that he couldn’t release it on Carson. Daley had decided on the buffer idea to keep her Chief Medical Officer from needling her about inspecting the prisoner.

So far, it had worked. Once the admiral was aboard, it would probably be a different story, but Kit would cross that bridge when she came to it.

The intercom interrupted her thoughts. “Captain?”

“Go ahead Number One,” she spoke loudly, after clearing her throat.

“A vessel matching the description of the Syndicate vessel has just entered the system, according to long range sensors.”

So, it begins, Daley thought miserably. She said, “Lay in an intercept course.”
************************************************** ******************
S.S. Hinode
Scarab Nebula

The tiny vessel spun wildly into the nebula, but an upset stomach was the least of Sam Glover’s worries. He was doing his best to pilot the vessel, rerouting helm control from the fried flight control terminal to the engineering console. The poor terminal was being multitasked to not only steer the ship, but keep the leaking engines running and to maintain the faltering structural integrity as best they could. The ship rattled, and Daneeka tensed. The lithe Bolian was at the weapons console. Somehow she had jury rigged it enough to get a modicum of power back into the ship’s paltry defensive array.

“I think that was an astral eddy,” she remarked tersely. “Not the Romulans. Not a depth charge.” Everything had went to hell quickly, first bizarre behavior from their pilot and then they had been tractor beamed by a Starfleet vessel accusing them of being members of the Orion Syndicate. They had not listened to Samson and had tried to beam them aboard. They had chosen to run, seeking a hiding spot inside the nebula. The Steamrunner-class ship had fired on them, scoring significant damage to the Hinode’s flight control and propulsion. While in pursuit, the Steamrunner had been attacked by a Romulan warbird. Before the Hinode’s sensors had went offline the warbird had gained the upper hand.

Samson merely grunted at Daneeka’s reply. He didn’t want to even look at the woman right now, even if he could afford to take his eyes off his terminal. He couldn’t help but glance at Madsen the former pilot of the ship, and the unnatural angle of his neck, courtesy of Daneeka. His eyes flicked to Ousanas Dar, the last member of the trio that had set out from Verex III to destabilize Benzar. The tall, stately Romulan was wedged between the flight control station and a bulkhead. His olive skin was tinged with a sickly pale green and his breathing had become more ragged. The hand he held at his side was soaked with blood, but the man’s look remained steady, almost unfazed.

Daneeka had saved Dar when Madsen had inexplicably attacked the Romulan. But Samson felt her use of lethal force was unnecessary and just underlined how reckless the woman remained, even after serving time as part of Leyton’s failed coup. Dar had served with the woman on Deep Space Nine and he had vouched for her. He said they needed the toughness for this mission. Dar had only recently worked his way back into Samson’s full confidence, but the admiral wondered if he had been too hasty in letting the man back in.

Of course keeping Dar alive, along with Daneeka and himself, was the admiral’s primary concern. An uncharacteristic curse slipped from his lips as the ship hit another eddy and flipped over with such force that it threw Glover from his seat. He saw a glimmer of the hell the ship was still hurtling toward before he slammed into a bulkhead, the head smack bringing on darkness.
************************************************** ******************
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Old June 27 2010, 08:30 AM   #10
Gibraltar
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

You’re weaving an increasingly complex web of politics and alliances here as various powers vie for control of the Federation in the post-war period.

I think I’m going to need a diagram to keep all these people and their affiliations in order!

Terrific work!
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Old June 27 2010, 05:58 PM   #11
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

A lot of story lines here and some look interestingly familiar. I seem to remember a mission with Glover, Sr., Daneeka and Dar but not a Starfleet ship giving chase after them.

Also, interesting to see Laurent make another appearance. This guys seems to be popping up all over the place lately but what else would you come to expect from a man who tries his best to be a puppet master.

I'd pay some money to eventually see this arrogant meddler's downfall. I fear it won't be soon enough.
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Old June 27 2010, 11:25 PM   #12
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Glad you're continuing to like it. I had hoped with SP that I wouldn't have too large of a cast and that it wouldn't be too convoluted, but we'll see.

Yes, Laurent has reared his serpentine head again. He's the Krychek of the DT universe, with a serious mad-on for Terrence Glover and Donald Sandhurst, stemming from the events of "The Crucible". He'll get his one day, but probably not in this story.

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

USS Carson
Main Bridge
Scarab Nebula

“Where the hell had those Romulans come from?” Her First Officer asked between hacking coughs. It was the same question Captain Daley had pondered when the avian-emblazoned warship had emerged from the other side of the nebula, tendrils of gasses trailing behind it like gossamer wings. But the ship’s armaments had proven anything but lovely.

The Rommies had started in on them quickly, forcing Carson to break its tractor beam on the smaller vessel. “And why the frinx are they in league with Orions?” He added, and Daley had nothing for that question. She knew it wasn’t the case. She knew the Orion thing was ruse, and it’s a good bet the Romulans did too, and they wanted that admiral for their own nefarious ends. Daley wasn’t going to allow that to happen. The last she had seen of the admiral’s ship, it was barreling into the depths of the nebula.

It would be a bitch tracking it on sensors, but her crew would just have to prepare for drudge work, Daley realized. After they had pasted the Bird-of-Prey.

Which was proving easier said than done. First the Rommies had gotten the jump on them and second their strikes had been surgical, causing significant damage to weapons and propulsion. But the Carson was a tough little ship, and the captain thought she had enough firepower left to dispatch them. Though she would really like to know why they attacked her first. Starfleet Command, and more importantly, her handler, would really like that answer.

The Steamrunner faced off against the dull green light assault cruiser. Sensors could just make out the hints of fiery orange bird painted on the ship’s underside. “Try hailing them again,” the captain ordered, wiping tears from her eyes. Most of the smoke had been sucked away by the fire suppressant system, but some of the particles remained in the air and stung her eyes.

“No response,” the harried young Operations Officer replied. The kid had been doing duty on a starbase during the later stage of the Dominion War, and this was his first real taste of combat.

“Not a surprise,” Daley replied calmly, hoping it passed to the young man. “This is like the tenth attempt at communication they ignored.”

“Romulans powering weapons,” Number One grumbled.

“And this is the same response,” Daley added. “Transfer power to forward shields and brace for impact.”
************************************************** ******************
Imperial Romulan Crusier Korvix
Scarab Nebula

“The Starfleet vessel has shifted its shields to its forward sections,” the Decurion at the weapon’s console reported. It was too late to change his orders and Major Jero watched the barrage slam into the reinforced shields, sapping away more energy from the ship without slicing through it.

His ridged brow furrowed. Jero rubbed his shaved chin with a long index finger as he contemplated his next move. The Bird-of-Prey was more than a match for the smaller ship, but was outclassed by the compact, but powerful Steamrunner. The only reason Korvix had scored the hits it had was because he had taken them by surprise. He had hoped the initial lightning assault would result in a warp core breach, but the Steamrunner’s shielding and hull had proven nettlesome in that regard. And now the ship continued to annoy him while his real prey fell deeper into the maw of the nebula.

“Starfleet vessel is preparing to return fire.” The Decurion reported casually, as if she were noting a change in the work shift. He admired her steel. He wished he could possess it as the main screen filled with the silver, scorched hull of the Steamrunner, its phaser arrays glowing an intense fiery orange. He knew he couldn’t defeat the Steamrunner without damaging his ship beyond repair, and unable to fulfill his mission regardless. He tapped a quick encoded message into the armrest of his chair and sent it to his superiors. Hopefully it would take the sting out of his failure and his family would not have to suffer for his dishonor. Jero looked back up at the screen. The Steamrunner loomed ever larger.

A human female voice came over the intercom. “I know you won’t respond, but please listen. I am Captain Katherine Daley of the USS Carson. You have interfered in the apprehension of wanted fugitives. Stand down and explain yourself. You have thirty seconds to reply or I will be forced to fire upon you.”

In response he ordered, “Ramming speed, maximum warp.” As the warp drive whined to life, Jero dreamed of waking up in Erebus, with his hands around the human woman’s throat.

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

USS Monarch
Captain’s Ready Room

“You’re not joking?” Captain Walker couldn’t believe the words Sofia had just spoken. Sofia leaned back in her chair, throwing her boots up on his desk.

“I want you to leave the Battle Site immediately and head toward the coordinates I’ve just supplied you,” Petrov said. From the conference room to the ready room, the woman’s entire persona had changed. A chill emanated from the woman and it made Benjamin want to shiver. She wasn’t the same person that had been his friend for years and only recently had begun sharing his bed. It was like he had been sleeping with a stranger. All pretenses had been dropped and there was a cruel set to her features that had never been there before.

“Why?”

“That is no concern of yours,” the engineer replied. “Do it, and after this is complete, I will request reassignment and you’ll never see me again.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Believe me, its best that you don’t know more than what I’ve told you.” Petrov slid her feet back to the floor and quickly hopped out of the seat. She planted both hands almost to the opposing edges of his desk and leaned close to him. At least her scent hadn’t changed. For a second, he saw a glimmer of the old compassion in her blue eyes. “Benjamin, I didn’t intend for things to turn out this way, believe me I didn’t. But I have orders, and a mission to carry out. I would rather do that with no painful revelations…or worse, but I have my orders.”

“Who gave you these orders?”

Petrov sighed. “I can’t say.”

“Well then, I’m not moving anywhere then.” He sat back and folded his arms. “Not until you tell me what this is really all about.”

Sofia sighed more loudly. “Damn it Ben, why do you have to be so stubborn? But time is of the essence. I want you know that my superior is not going to be pleased.” She replied. She walked around to his side of the desk, and used her hip to bump him to the side. She quickly activated his desktop computer. When the screen shifted from the UFP emblem to a shadowy figure, Petrov glanced back and him and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

On the small screen a stout, Andorian female, with an admiral’s bar adorning her collar, glowered at them both before leaning forward. “Captain Benjamin Walker,” she rasped, “Welcome to Section 31.”
************************************************** ******************
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Old June 28 2010, 04:35 AM   #13
Gibraltar
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

The Romulans are more desperate than the Starfleet crew knows, and now Walker's reticence to be blackmailed by Petrov has got him far more than he bargained for...

Wow, bad things, man... bad things.
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Old July 3 2010, 07:40 PM   #14
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Glad you liked the last scene Gibraltar. With the following scenes, the plot continues to thicken like day old gravy. Happy Fourth to my American friends.

************************************************** ***********
Imperial Romulan Warbird Avengeance
Stateroom
Merias III Battle Site Reclamation Project
(Former Benzite Defense Perimeter)

Commander Patrin Volok reread the short message, blinking back his anger. He imagined his rage flowing through his bloodstream like green lava, nearly washing his sentience, his very soul away. The Korvix had been so close to capturing Samson Glover and Dar.

He pounded his desk with such force that he was surprised that he didn’t cleave it in two, though bone did give way. The throbbing in his hand was a distant second to the anguish in his heart. With his functional hand, he reached out and touched the soft light encapsulating the holographic recreation of Turi, the love of his life.

Glover and Dar had taken her away from him decades ago, and his life had never been the same. He had married, and had children, he had served the Empire, but Volok had done all those things because that was what he was supposed to do, he had done his duty, but he had enjoyed little of it. The only thing that could compete with Turi for his affection was the Tal Arcani, once the Empire’s military intelligence division, but it had been absorbed by the Tal Shiar, in part because of Glover and Dar as well. The duo had taken away the two things he cherished most in life and Volok was hungry to return to the favor.

But Jero’s failure prevented that. No, he realized, shaking his head. It wasn’t Jero who failed. Volok had been betrayed. The plan had been for him to attack the vessel ferrying Glover and Dar before it reached the rendezvous point Volok had established with Logan.

Logan thought that he was the only person Volok had in the upper echelons of the Federation and Starfleet. Logan thought that Volok didn’t know about the Iconian probe. Logan thought that he was foolish enough to believe that Dar and Glover would merely be training Benzite and Reman partisans to conduct a secret war against the Romulan forces on Benzar.

But Volok knew about the probe and he had wanted both it and his enemies. He could present the probe to his superiors to justify his actions and to petition for the restoration of the Tal Arcani.

It appeared that Logan or other actors had brought in a Federation starship to upend his plans. Now, it would force him to devise another scheme. He was heartened that Jero was able to report that Glover’s vessel was damaged but still intact. Hopefully they could survive the nebula until he could send another ship.

In the meantime, he had to play his part. He let his rage froth to the surface before activating the subspace transceiver. In less than a minute, Logan appeared. His expression was tight, his eyes flashing with displeasure.

“I already know,” he said curtly, “And it wasn’t me.” His blue eyes narrowed as he regarded Volok. “What about the Romulan vessel that appeared?”

Volok sniffed. “A random patrol I surmise,” he lied easily. “I became alarmed when the ship I sent to the meeting point reported that Glover’s vessel was tardy.”

“So you don’t suspect that the Tal Shiar knows?” Logan’s voice was limned with relief. Volok was similarly relieved that the Korvix was his doing and not the Tal Shiar’s. He had spent time in prison and lost all of his fortune and most of his family standing when his long time rival had moved successfully against the Tal Arcani. It was only the massive losses in the officer corps incurred during the Dominion War that gave him another chance. And his actions at Benzar had almost completely redeemed him. Some were even talking about a Senate seat, but he would rather be the director of the new and improved Tal Arcani.

“No, if the Tal Shiar knew of our little plan, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” Volok stated with sincerity. The only reason he had been imprisoned and not executed was that it amused some in the Tal Shiar to have him caged up like an animal for occasional display. He had become a living monument to their ultimate triumph, or so they thought.

Logan shook his head in disbelief. “A twist of fate then, just not one in our favor?”

“Yes I suppose so,” the Romulan nodded, “But that doesn’t explain the appearance of the Starship…Carson.” A shadow crossed Logan’s face at the mention of the vessel, but he didn’t reply.

“If you didn’t send the starship, then who did?” Volok demanded, not quite believing him.

“I’ll find out, I promise,” Logan said.

“You better,” Volok warned, though he could care less. He would retrieve both his quarry and the probe before Logan could activate another operative. Where Logan had to move in shadows Volok could operate more freely. “If that vessel is captured by a Romulan patrol….”

“I know,” Logan’s face slackened with despair. “That’s why I need you to insure that doesn’t happen.”

“I’ll do my best,” Volok couldn’t help being coy. He liked watching the normally unflappable human squirm.

“You’ll do more than that,” Logan snapped. Volok raised a playful eyebrow.

“Don’t take that tone with me,” Volok replied. “Benzar space is our space now, I will find him.”

“I would prefer that we did it together. Give me time to bring in reinforcements, with equipment that can search the nebula.” Don’t want me finding the probe I see, Volok thought. Logan was trying to cover his tracks.

“Are you inferring that Romulan technical expertise is not up to the task?”

“This isn’t a pissing contest!”

“If intergalactic politics isn’t that, then what is it?” Volok charged. “Your section dropped the ball to use a human turn of phrase, and now it is in my court.”

“Volok,” Logan began.

“No,” Volok’s patience had worn thin. “It will take you precious hours or days even to bring in another ship or personnel. We don’t have that time. I will find the ship and I will return it to you sans Glover and Dar,” he paused, unable to help himself, “and the Iconian probe.”

He grinned as the blood drained from Logan’s face. “You…you knew?”

“Of course,” Volok’s grin had turned into a smirk. “All three will cement my position in the Empire and I have you to thank of course.”

“Wait,” Logan started again.

“I’ll make sure to send you a bottle of our finest ale,” Volok said before severing the link. Logan had served his purpose and continuing to talk with him was a waste of time. The need for conversation was over. The time for action was at hand.
************************************************** *****************

Mogadishu
African Confederation
Earth

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

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

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

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

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

“So, did he say yes?” The voice was feather light. Visala didn’t like people sneaking up on her, but she smiled in spite of herself. Visala had trained the woman well. The raven haired, olive-skinned human took up a position beside her.

“Of course he did,” Visala remarked. “Did you doubt Petrov’s abilities?”

“No,” the human said, shaking her head. Dark ringlets encircled her face and her deep blue eyes brimmed with certainty. “She’s a good agent.”

“Who no doubt bears a striking resemblance to you,” Visala observed. The other woman shrugged, though the Andorian could tell the nonchalance was forced.

“Come now, don’t tell me that wasn’t part of the reason you put her on Monarch and that you encouraged things to progress,” Visala asked. “You thought her resemblance to you would make it easier to break down his resistance.” The other woman shrugged again, this time with more fluidity.

“Does it matter? As long as it works,” the woman’s smile had faded and her eyes smoldered.

“Of course, the ends always justify the means,” Visala said, punctuating it with a tiny nod. “He’s in and he’ll make a good asset.”

The other woman sighed, drawing the Andorian’s suspicion. “What was that sigh about?”

“He should make a good asset,” the woman agreed. “But knowing him, his damn conscience will get in the way.”

“Cheating on his wife wasn’t compromising enough for him?” Visala asked.

“I don’t know,” the woman admitted. “At times Benjamin can be so…unpredictable. He’s a patriot through and through, but I know he will question our methods, it won’t sit right with him, but the importance of the mission, of our cause should ensure his loyalty.”

“And what about Petrov, and his feelings for her?” Visala didn’t wish to be cruel but she had to ask.

The woman took that convenient opportunity to marvel at the reconstruction. “I don’t know,” she finally said after a few moments. “I don’t know how he feels about her, or about me. And how that will affect his decisions or not.”

“Of course,” the Andorian nodded. “The spouse is always the last to know.”
************************************************** ******************
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Old July 3 2010, 09:27 PM   #15
CeJay
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets

Wheels within wheels, spies versus spies and cloaks and daggers everywhere.

Section 31 truly seems omnipresent, doesn't it? It's a real scary thought and one wonders where this will all lead eventually.
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