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Old March 28 2011, 03:16 AM   #1
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

Author's Note: This story is one that spawned out of the aborted "Pandora's Jar". My apologies for those reading "Blooded". I do intend to return to that story at some date, but this story was on my mind and plus I wanted to push my series timeline forward. I hope you all enjoy this. This story is a sequel-of-sorts to "Under the Shadows of Swords". Thanks to DF for allowing me to use the Sutherland crew.

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


DARK TERRITORY:
HERO OF THE FEDERATION


Jalana City Memorial Hospital
Bajor
January 2377

She stood quietly over the bed, watching the slow rise and fall of the patient’s chest. She was heartened that the woman no longer required a ventilator to breathe. Though the medics couldn’t tell her how long it would take for the woman to wake from her coma.

Even now she could see gray hairs growing like vines along the woman’s roots. And it had only been about six months. Shaking her head, she traced a finger down the woman’s dry cheek. The unconscious woman seemed so shrunken, so emptied of life, not the bold personage she had watched and studied for weeks, learning to imitate her perfectly.

The current disguise she wore now even bore a resemblance. Despite the fairer hair, the resemblance was unmistakable. She saw it in the widened eyes of the medical staff, heard it in the whispers of several nurses, “I thought the colonel didn’t have any family.”

The colonel didn’t. The woman shook her head. No, that’s not true, she realized. The woman did have family. Her own father had claimed her, and in a way that made them sisters. Growing up on Cardassia, programmed by the Obsidian Order, she never though there could ever come a day when she would consider a Bajoran nothing more than a terrorist or slave.

She laughed coldly, “Guess I was wrong,” she remarked, stroking the colonel’s still face again. “I’m sorry Kira.”

The woman’s breath caught as she felt the wind shift as the door opened. Her hand went for the disruptor under her robes. “Why am I not surprised to find you here?” The voice behind her was breezy, conversational. She kept her hand on the grip of her weapon. “You’re so predictable.”

“Is that what you think?”

“You’re here aren’t you?” The man’s voice was smug, insufferable, but she couldn’t deny that he was right, and that annoyed her the most.

“What do you want?”

“It’s time,” he said. The woman’s hand eased off her weapon and she gulped. She glanced down at Colonel Kira Nerys once more, for the last time.

“Okay,” Illiana Ghemor turned around slowly, to gaze into the shining eyes of Elim Garak. “Let’s go.”
************************************************** ********

Tarlak Sector
Cardassia Prime

“Thank you for being so gracious,” Trade Provost Mintof Urlak said, holding his arms out at his sides while the tailor fit him for a new suit.

“It is no trouble,” President Norah Satie said. The holopad in the center of Urlak’s office was projecting a life-size image of the newly installed Federation president. “I can certainly attest to how hectic the transition and inauguration of a new administration can be.”

“My apologies for not being able to attend your inaugural,” Urlak offered. “Our campaign had not concluded.”

“I completely understand,” Satie said, “And business will keep me and the Deputy President on Earth. However, I hope that the presence of the Minister of State and Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief will suffice.”

“It will be more than enough,” Urlak nodded. “I am honored that such high personages will be in attendance.”

“Well, I’ve spoken with President Santiago, and he assured me that you have been a stalwart partner for peace and I hope to build on that relationship. You’re dismantling of the Crimson Shadow terror network was astounding.”

“It wasn’t me,” Urlak said, soberly, “It was the Cardassian people, rising up to reject terror. And as much I appreciate the laurels you have tossed at my feet, there are splinter elements of the Shadow, plus other unreconstructed actors that have yet to turn away from violence.”

“Yes,” Satie shook her head sadly, “I am well aware of that as well, and Admiral Grace will be looking forward to discussing the issue with you in further detail when he arrives.”

“Admiral Grace,” Urlak said, “Truly an inspirational symbol of our new relationship. A former POW, now an advocate for peace between our worlds.”

“It is…inspiring,” Satie agreed. “It is an example of how the fire of peace can melt any hardened heart.”

Urlak nodded somberly. “When shall the Federation contingent arrive?”

“Admiral Grace will be arriving aboard the Declaration, along with most of the other Federation delegates, within one standard week. However the Minister of State will be catching later transport, and should arrive a few days later; the details have not yet been finalized.”

Urlak smiled and nodded, “That’s still well ahead of time,” he replied.

“Here’s hoping that everything goes off without a hitch,” Satie’s smile was faint but genuine.

“That’s all one can really do,” Urlak agreed. “Besides surrounding yourself with armed guards up to the neck scales.” They shared a laugh before his counterpart flickered away.

“You can stop now,” He brushed the tailor’s hands aside. The woman straightened up, and assumed a most-untailor-like military bearing.

“So the reports are true,” she said, “Admiral Grace must be the new C-in-C for Starfleet.”

Urlak chuckled, so deep that it shook his slight frame, “Whoever would’ve thought my son could rise so high?”

“You did sir,” the woman replied.

“Well yes, I assume so.”
************************************************** ***********
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Old March 28 2011, 03:21 AM   #2
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

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

Desicca III
Cardassian Republic Border
January 2377

“Feel right at home I bet T’Joll?” Captain Elizabeth Shelby asked cheerily.

“I do not,” Security Chief T’Joll’s cold response was almost welcome in the blazing heat that permeated the environs of the crowded bazaar.

“Captain Shelby didn’t mean that literally,” Lt. Sito Jaxa explained, “The captain only was making a reference to Vulcan being a desert world like Desicca III.”

“Thank you Jaxa,” Shelby said, smothering a chuckle. The informal mentorship program she had set up to familiarize the new officers to life aboard Sutherland was at least paying off with these two; but not so much with Lavelle and Auguste.

She thought it was cute that the Bajoran had taken the new security chief under her wing more than just to familiarize her with Sutherland’s security protocols, though Shelby hadn’t asked her to. T’Joll certainly hadn’t, and even now didn’t seem all that sanguine with the prospect of having a buddy aboard the ship. The captain, on the other hand thought it was a win-win, Sito needed all the friends she could get, and T’Joll needed someone to help show her the ropes.

“My apologies Captain.” T’Joll replied quickly.

“I’ll let this one pass,” Shelby remarked, “Let’s chalk it up to nerves.”

“But I am not nervous,” T’Joll answered soberly. Shelby rolled her eyes.

“Yes, being nervous or anxious would be showing emotion,” the captain replied.

“Correct,” T’Joll responded.

“Fine, you don’t have to admit it,” Shelby teased. “I’ll be nervous enough for all of us.”

“Captain, do you believe this is a trap?” Lt. Sito asked, her brow crinkling. The tactical officer had argued for the captain to remain aboard the Sutherland and Shelby had repeatedly assured the skeptical Bajoran tactical officer that the situation wasn’t as dangerous as it appeared.

They were meeting an informant with information about the Crimson Shadow, a fractured but still lethal insurgent group making a blood soaked name for itself in the Allied occupation zones. The informant, a member of the Valerian cartel, had supplied information to Starfleet in the past. The Valerians had been one of the major weapons suppliers to Cardassian insurgents.

The long running extremist group the True Way, and splinters from Legate Damar’s Cardassian Liberation Front had initially been the leaders of the violent opposition to the postwar Allied occupation. But the Shadows, spawned from a rightist veterans’ group called the Crimson Order, had forced themselves onto Starfleet’s radar. The Shadows seemed to have a different benefactor than the Valerians and had eschewed their business offers. For the right price, and the appropriate discretion, some cartel members weren’t opposed to selling the Shadows down the river.

Starfleet Intelligence had learned that one of the Shadows, a Gul Rasad, was operating in the Desicca System, using it as a haven to strike at aid convoys heading to Cardassia Prime.

According to SI, Rasad had a violent reputation stemming back decades to the Bajoran Occupation. Shelby was anxious to take him down, even if her stomach roiled a bit at the method to bring it about. Junior Lt. Rudd had the bars of latinum slung across his broad chest, bandolier style. Shelby didn’t know if the large man was breathing heavy because of the weight of the bars or from the heat.

“Are you okay Mr. Rudd?” Shelby asked.

“Yes ma’am,” he replied, straightening. “Just a little hot under the collar as it were.”

“I guess my physical conditioning programs haven’t been strenuous enough?” Lt. Sito asked. Shelby couldn’t tell if the Bajoran was joking or not, and from the stammering reply of the younger Rudd, she was definitely sure that he didn’t think she was.

“You can discuss the revisions aboard the ship,” Shelby replied. She turned to T’Joll. “Detecting any Valerian life signs yet?”

“No,” T’Joll said, the tricorder clipped to her belt, beneath her robes. Shelby knew the woman’s keen hearing could detect the beep on a low setting that wouldn’t alert the informant or anyone else. Shelby was certain all the eyes watching them weren’t benign. Though the Shadows or other potential adversaries had yet to make a move.

They rounded a corner and ran into Lavelle’s party, consisting of her First Officer, her Chief Engineer, and two new guys, Lt. Auguste and E’ryx, a Kressari security guard. “Anything,” Shelby asked. Lavelle’s eyebrows beetled, giving the captain the answer she knew, but didn’t want to hear.

“Back to square one?” Lavelle asked.

“We’ve already searched every inch of this dump,” Chief Engineer Tol remarked. “There just aren’t any Valerians here.” The Trill didn’t seem too disappointed though, Shelby realized. Jadon had probably encountered some of the Desiccan scarf dancers plying their wares throughout the bazaar.

“So, this was a wild goose chase then?” Lavelle replied, clearly not pleased.

“It appears so,” Shelby said, the heat suffusing her skin had nothing to do with the weather. “Someone has been jerking our chain.”

“Not quite,” a voice said from the air, “Though there is something I would like to jerk on you captain.”

Both away teams brandished weapons and looked around them wildly, trying to pinpoint the direction the voice had come from. “How about you show yourself, and maybe we can talk,” Shelby offered.

“Such an assignation might be worth more than the latinum in your possession, if the rumors are true,” the air shimmered before Shelby. A smallish figure, decked in an orange blind suit appeared before them. The mystery person pulled off their helmet, revealing the leering bulbous face of a Ferengi. Rows of earrings dangled from both of his large tattooed ears. “DaiMon Drux at your service.”

“Drux?” Shelby asked, surprised. She remembered the name from several years ago. He had been a big time pirate and smuggler until he had ran afoul of the Klingons and been sentenced to Rura Penthe. Somehow the Ferengi had survived the infamous prison planet and appeared to be trying to rebuild his fortunes.

“So, you know of me? A fan no less?” The leer morphed into a grateful smile.

“Not quite,” Shelby replied, regretting the dimming of the smile’s wattage. “Though I am familiar with some of your exploits.”

“Well, that’s something I suppose.”

“How did you escape Rura Penthe?” The Ferengi perked back up.

“That’s a long story, a thrilling tale than best be told in the private quarters aboard my vessel,” the leer had returned.

“We didn’t detect any Ferengi vessels in orbit,” Lt. Auguste said.

“I’ve taken great lengths to not draw attention to myself,” Drux patted the bright orange suit. “Why would I park my own vessel in orbit around this dustbowl?”

“Good point,” Auguste replied. Shelby noticed Lavelle smiling at the man’s perturbed expression. Auguste was book smart, but not too street smart. He had spent a good chunk of the war planetside, using his formidable intellect to help keep the Federation’s war machine from breaking down.

The need for experienced officers had compelled him back into service aboard a Starfleet vessel and Shelby had thought he would be a good fit for Sutherland. Though she thought he was a bit uptight, his intellect and organization skills were top notch. She was sure that someone aboard the Suthy would loosen him up before long. She was pleased that the man had the hide of rhinoceros because Sam had been riding him hard ever since he came aboard.

“Do you have the information we need?” Lavelle asked.

“The latinum?” Drux asked, wiggling his fingers. Shelby gestured to Lt. Rudd. The big man slid the bandolier off his chest and placed it before the Ferengi’s feet. Glancing down at the row of bars the pirate almost danced a jig. He reached down to golden ingots.

“Not so fast,” Shelby said, waving her phaser, “The information first.”

“Oh, that,” Drux smiled. “Here you go,” he unzipped a pocket on the breast of the suit and threw a data rod at Shelby. She snatched it neatly out the air.

She gave it a once over. “This rod is empty.”

“Yeah, I know,” Drux said. The air shimmered all around them and the two away teams found themselves surrounded by armed Ferengi. “The cartel learned about my side business, and being the gracious gents that they are, they decided not to kill me. They used their information on me to secure deals with the Shadows. And the down payment on my life is securing you. The Shadows want you.”

“No,” Lt. Sito shook her head. “I won’t be a prisoner again.”

“Cool it Jax,” Lavelle muttered.

“It’s okay Jaxa,” Shelby said. “I’m sure we can come to some type of arrangement, offer the good DaiMon a counter proposal.”

“I wish that were true,” Drux said. “But I have no wish to cross the Valerians again, in addition to the Shadows. I just wish that you had accepted my original offer captain. At least your last few hours of freedom could’ve been more…pleasurable.”

“And yours could’ve been less painful,” Shelby said. The Ferengi guffawed.

“Perhaps I can make a side deal for you,” Drux said, “After they are finished interrogating you.”

“Not gonna happen,” Lavelle replied, through gritted teeth.

“You’re right about that,” Tol quipped.

“We’re not going to go quietly,” Shelby said. “And you can’t subdue us all.”

“We have the advantage. We have you surrounded. It would be nonsense to resist us.”

“Oh yeah, like being prisoners to a bunch of anti-Federation terrorists sounds better than instant death,” Tol replied snappily.

“All right,” Drux sighed. “Stun them.”

“No,” Sito snarled. She threw her weapon at the Ferengi nearest her. The phaser cracked against the man’s nose. He stumbled back. By then the Bajoran had pulled a serrated knife from the folds of her robes. She sprang at the Ferengi, the blade slicing the man’s neck. A geyser of blood spurted from the wound.

“Go,” Shelby commanded, jolting everyone out of the shock of Sito’s horrific attack. Lavelle and Tol charged their gunmen, the skittish Ferengi hesitating long enough to receive a tackle from Sam and a roundhouse kick from Jadon. T’Joll felled a Ferengi with a neck pinch, and E’ryx’s furious hissing made one Ferengi toss their weapon and run off towards the dunes. Rudd and Auguste weren’t having as much good luck. Rudd’s Ferengi had pulled an electric whip and had lashed it around the man. The smell of cooking flesh and the man’s screams were short lived. Sito took her knife and threw it into the attacking Ferengi’s skull.

Auguste rolled on the ground with the Ferengi, the alien biting into the meat of Pierre’s shoulder. The man screamed, and the Ferengi bit deeper, blood seeping onto the ground.

“I got this,” Lavelle replied. The first officer moved quickly and low, hitting the Ferengi hunched over Auguste with full force. The Ferengi crashed into the ground. Sam pounded the man’s bulbous skull until he stopped moving.

Shelby had watched it all, the emitter cone of her phaser pressed into the flesh of Drux’s neck. “You guys forgot the stun setting on your weapons,” she asked with a smile. The away team stood up, some shakily, with Rudd leaning on Lavelle. They gazed in amazement at the carnage they had wrought. The only one that didn’t seem to be fazed was Sito.

The young woman had been through a lot, had suffered tortures and violations that Shelby couldn’t even fathom, and had endured them. But she had been changed, and the things they all had to do in the war hadn’t allowed her to properly heal. It had perhaps made her problems worse. In fact, the captain pondered if the wars against the Klingons and Dominion had made worsened them all. At least she could take some small joy from what came next, “DaiMon Drux, you’re arrest.”
************************************************** ************
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Old March 28 2011, 03:25 AM   #3
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

************************************************** ************
USS Sutherland
Captain’s Personal Quarters

Captain Elizabeth Shelby toweled off her face. Though the sonic shower had been refreshing and necessary, she still liked the feel of warm water on her skin. Even after the shower she still didn’t feel she had gotten all the sand off her skin or out of her hair. Being nearly covered from head to toe had provided little defense against the pernicious grains.

She glanced at herself in the mirror above the sink and ran her hand threw her damp, hanging blonde strands. She knew she should celebrate tonight, even though they hadn’t gotten the information they came for, Drux was already proving to be fount of information about the criminal organizations preying on postwar misery in the former Cardassian Union.

Now, whether the information could be believed, was another story. Though the Ferengi did have a bevy of holodeck programs that he offered free of charge after Sutherland had impounded his vehicle. She pursed her lips while gazing at her reflection. “Should I play the Vulcan love slave or her liberator tonight?” She pondered.

The squawk from the intercom system embedded in an overhead bulkhead put her ruminations on hold. “What’s up?” She asked.

“Captain Shelby, you have a priority message from Admiral Glover,” Lt. Auguste replied. Her heart skipped a beat at the mention of the familiar name.

Could it really be him? She wanted to believe. “Pipe it down here,” she said quickly.

“Acknowledged.”

She didn’t reply, Shelby was gripped with too much false hope to speak. She had heard the reports, and then had seen the footage supplied by the Romulans, and she had even attended the memorial service, but deep in her heart, Elizabeth hadn’t wanted to believe any of it. If anyone could cheat fate, it would be Samson. And she could see the old codger making sure he was the first to tell her of his return.

The captain rushed to take a seat at her desk. Her eyes moistened in anticipation. The blue screen on her desktop faded into the outline of a human male.

Shelby blinked, her disappointment swapped by surprise. “Wow,” her lips worked into a smile, “When did this happen? Excuse me, I should say congratulations.”

Terrence Glover, an admiral’s bars glinting on his turtleneck, had an uncharacteristically flat expression on his face. Gone was the knowing smirk, and Elizabeth assumed the flirty banter that they had been engaging in for years. But what could she expect, she chided herself. The man had been through hell over the last year.

From being taken hostage by the True Way, to losing his ship, to his marriage’s dissolution, and perhaps the deepest blow had been the capture and purported execution of his father by the Romulans.

His elevation to the admiralty seemed like cold comfort to Shelby, and she could tell that Terrence felt the same way. If things had been different, she could imagine the promotion would have him grinning ear to ear.

“Captain Shelby,” he said coldly, as if he didn’t know her at all.

“Rear Admiral,” she said, disappointed to take on a formal tone in her voice. She really wanted to reach out to him, to share more condolences about Samson’s loss. The elder Glover had always been in her corner and was nearly as instrumental in advancing her career as Admiral Hanson. “How can I be of assistance?”

The admiral paused as a curious expression crossed his features. She saw a light slowly come on in his eyes and he nervously shuffled the papers on his desk. Through the scuttlebutt Elizabeth had heard that Terrence had also been a Romulan prisoner but had somehow escaped, though he had suffered some memory loss as a result. Perhaps his synapses were misfiring as they struggled to remember her.

“Captain,” he stopped again, “Elizabeth,” he said, his voice and demeanor taking on an old, though not quite familiar, semblance.

“Terrence,” Shelby said, her tightness loosening.

“Good job on Desicca,” he remarked, with a ghost of a crooked smile. Her heart pinched at a trace of the man’s old confidence. “That helped make this decision easier.”

“And what decision might that be?”

“Sutherland has been selected for a very important mission,” he said.

“Okay,” she said, wanting to prod him to elaborate, but remembering they were no longer peers, so she restrained herself, and waited.

“You’ve been assigned to escort the Minister of State to Cardassia Prime to attend the inauguration of Premier Urlak.”

The tension eased slightly, though not Elizabeth’s displeasure. Though she was a skilled bureaucratic fighter she had wearied of it over the years and preferred long missions of exploration or even the occasional space fight as opposed to office gossip, maneuvering, and backstabbing. “Why was this a hard decision to grant Sutherland such a gift?”

“You know,” he said, rolling his broad shoulders, clearly not wishing to explain.

“No,” she cocked her head. “No I don’t,” she said, even though Shelby had a damn good idea of why some of the higher-ups didn’t want Sutherland anywhere near the Minister or the inauguration. Over the years, her personal life had become fodder for some admirals and they had made it their mission to stymie her rise and to deny Sutherland choice assignments. It seemed so petty, some centuries-old that Shelby had stopped letting it bother her years ago.

Except for one person, “Those opposed to me getting this assignment, did it include the new Defense Minister by chance?”

Glover scowled, bunching up his shoulders. His guarded response confirmed her suspicions. Philip Shelby, her father, was perhaps her biggest critic. “I’ll bet Admiral Shanthi also voiced some trepidations?” The new admiral merely pursed his lips.

“Well, I guess the only way to burst their bubbles again is to do an admirable job,” she smiled.

“From your record,” Glover said, glancing down as if he were looking for information, as if he were not as acquainted with her record as Shelby knew he was, or had been, she reminded herself of his memory loss. “I am certain that you are more than competent to complete the task.”

“Thanks,” her sarcasm was tinted by sadness at her friend’s condition. “So, admiral, if I may be so bold, how are you doing?”

“Fine,” he said, his voice revealing nothing of the turmoil she knew he had to be experiencing. “Why do you ask?”

“Are you kidding me Terrence?”

“No, why would I?”

“This is me you’re talking to, Elizabeth, Liz, Lizzy.”

“I am well aware of your identity Captain,” Glover’s scowl returned and irritation crept into his voice. Shelby sighed.

“I’m sorry Admiral,” she said, straightening. “I didn’t mean to pry.”

“You didn’t,” he said, “Anything else?”

Shelby paused. She had wanted to discuss Jaxa with him. The woman’s display of savagery on Dessica had been unsettling, but she didn’t know if Terrence even remembered the young Bajoran, or if in his own state he could provide much assistance to her or Lt. Sito. “No sir,” she said, making up her mind. She, Counselor Freedman, and the rest of Suthy’s crew could take care of her. They were her family after all. “I have nothing to else to say.”

Terrence nodded curtly. “Glover out.” Shelby touched the darkened screen, where the admiral’s face had just been.

“In more ways than one,” she muttered.
************************************************** ************
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Old March 28 2011, 07:53 PM   #4
TheLoneRedshirt
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Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

Nice beginning to what promises to be an intriguing story. Nice to see that the Suthy's crew can kick Ferengi butt. That was a brutal fight sequence.

Troubled waters ahead though. Jaxa and Terrence are both suffering from emotional wounds and Shelby is wading into rocky shoals. All fodder for a first-rate tale!
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Old March 29 2011, 12:22 AM   #5
mirandafave
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Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

I'm with TLR! This is an intriguing beginning. I think given the dynamics between certain characters such as Shelby, Sato and Glover alone makes it worth the read, given their troubled shared histories. But they have been important to one another at different points in their lives in one way or another. Given the setting, one wonders how this will play out.

Sito obviously is troubled ever still. Shelby has that to contend with as well as other crew not to mention the fact that they are about to get embroiled in a Dark Territory miasma of political trouble.

Most interesting is just how will being a Rear-Admiral sit with Terrence. Yes, he was ambitious but is this a rung too far? Would he sooner have stayed in the big chair on a bridge. My feeling would be yes - so it will depend on how things pan out here to see if I am right or wrong. Samson seemed made for the Admiralty so maybe his son can grow into the position. That is if Cardassian rebels and Satie politics don't oust of the rank before story's end.
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Old April 2 2011, 08:13 AM   #6
Gibraltar
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Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

Suthy’s crew made short work of DaiMon Drux and his friends, and in spectacularly brutal fashion, too. It seems that everyone else in the quadrant is having to learn the same bloody lesson that this isn’t the same old pre-war Starfleet they remember. These people are hard, fast, and thorough. Shelby’s right to wonder what the past decade’s done to them collectively, and to cringe a bit internally while doing so.

And Terrence Glover… a Rear Admiral?! Damn. Donald’s going to have to keep a low profile from now on. Terrence seems nearly a broken man, something I’d never have believed possible. The agonies the past year has stacked upon him, from the loss of two commands, the collapse of his marriage and the death of his beloved father, seem to have cumulatively quenched the previously inextinguishable flame in Glover’s heart.

Kudos to Shelby’s Sutherland for earning the privilege of transporting the Starfleet C-in-C to a major diplomatic event. Even just a few years earlier, such an honor being granted to that ship and crew would have been almost unthinkable. However, all things being equal, and with that old snake Urlak being involved, I’m sure nothing about this assignment will unfold according to plan.

Great stuff, and I’m looking forward to more.
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Old April 2 2011, 07:14 PM   #7
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

Thank everyone for their comments. I really appreciate them. Gibraltar, Sutherland hasn't been assigned to transport the C-in-C, but now that you mentioned it, perhaps I might rework that to put Sutherland fully into the action. I had intended to have another ship transport Admiral Grace and have Sutherland transport the Minister of State (equivalent to the US Secretary of State), but I might narrow it down the cast this time.

Thanks for the idea. This story is still very much a work in progress. My apologies in advance to the readers for the alterations I might make to the introduction.
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Old April 5 2011, 09:14 AM   #8
Galen4
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Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

I'm liking this one a lot. Suthy's crew is fun bunch and obviously tough as nails.
It's a safe bet that this mission isn't going to unfold as planned. Can't wait to see what you have in store.
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Old April 5 2011, 11:50 PM   #9
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

Author's Note:
Here is my second shot at this story. My apologies for jumping the gun before. But hopefully this one will require not such a major overhaul. I hope you enjoy.
************************************************** ******


DARK TERRITORY:
HERO OF THE FEDERATION


Jalana City Memorial Hospital
Bajor
November 2376

She stood quietly over the bed, watching the slow rise and fall of the patient’s chest. She was heartened that the woman no longer required a ventilator to breathe. Though the medics couldn’t tell her how long it would take for the woman to wake from her coma.

Even now she could see gray hairs growing like vines along the woman’s roots. And it had only been about six months. Shaking her head, she traced a finger down the woman’s dry cheek. The unconscious woman seemed so shrunken, so emptied of life, not the bold personage she had watched and studied for weeks, learning to imitate her perfectly.

The current disguise she wore now even bore a resemblance. Despite the fairer hair, the resemblance was unmistakable. She saw it in the widened eyes of the medical staff, heard it in the whispers of several nurses, “I thought the colonel didn’t have any family.”

The colonel didn’t. The woman shook her head. No, that’s not true, she realized. The woman did have family. Her own father had claimed her, and in a way that made them sisters. Growing up on Cardassia, programmed by the Obsidian Order, she never though there could ever come a day when she would consider a Bajoran nothing more than a terrorist or slave.

She laughed coldly, “Guess I was wrong,” she remarked, stroking the colonel’s still face again. “I’m sorry Kira.”

The woman’s breath caught as she felt the wind shift as the door opened. Her hand went for the disruptor under her robes. “Why am I not surprised to find you here?” The voice behind her was breezy, conversational. She kept her hand on the grip of her weapon. “You’re so predictable.”

“Is that what you think?”

“You’re here aren’t you?” The man’s voice was smug, insufferable, but she couldn’t deny that he was right, and that annoyed her the most.

“What do you want?”

“It’s time,” he said. The woman’s hand eased off her weapon and she gulped. She glanced down at Colonel Kira Nerys once more, for the last time.

“Okay,” Illiana Ghemor turned around slowly, to gaze into the shining eyes of Elim Garak. “Let’s go.”
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Crimson Shadow base
Cardassian Space
December 2376

The slight man held up the skeletal man’s arm up in triumph. “The election is won,” a dispirited Gul Ermst Martell said, smothering his anger. At this time, perhaps more than any other since the war had ended, he needed to think before he acted. Far more than just his life hung in the balance.

“On our backs!” Spat Gul Rike, her neck plates bunching as she pounded the table with both heavy fists. “That vole Urlak recruited me! How could he do this! I had no intention to take up arms against the occupiers. I had merely joined the Crimson Order to receive my just due for my family, and it was he that flamed on about how the allied powers were exploiting our people and driving us to extinction!”

“It was true,” Gul Tusser replied hotly, “even if Urlak betrayed us, as has Dien just now!” He jabbed a finger at the screen. Martell had muted the sound but all three could see the jubilation among the crowd and they could feel the triumph radiating from Urlak’s pores.

The man was running for the premiership of the Cardassian Republic, and he had just scored a major political coup by negotiating a deal with Gul Vaidar Dien, their leader, for the Crimson Shadow to lay down its arms in exchange for amnesty.

Dien had made this decision without consulting them, and they suspected many others. Now they were left with a choice, pick up the remnants of their splintered army or fold. Martell wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Unlike many, his family had not been slaughtered by the Dominion in a spiteful gesture at the close of the war. They lived on a colony world far from the war. He didn’t fight for revenge or to avenge, instead he had taken up arms to secure his family’s future. Martell didn’t believe that a Cardassian government run by outsiders was in the long-term best interest of his family, or his people, and the Crimson Shadow had become the best tool to meld his thoughts and actions.

But perhaps Urlak and Dien had shown him another way. He had thought at first that Urlak’s working within the government was a clever ploy to take over from the inside. He had never scoffed at the old man like some of his brethren, he had never considered him a sellout, but as time drug on, he had become concerned that Urlak had been seduced and corrupted by a system had had pledged to raze to the ground.

The final straw had come when he had openly declared the Shadow outlaws and completely divorced them from the Crimson Order. In fact, he had done away with his veterans group, and merged them into a new political party, the Unity Faction. It was similar to how the True Way had become consumed by the system and ultimately irrelevant, a flapping, useless rightwing appendage to a dying polity.

The betrayal had felt deep, it had been personal, but nothing could’ve prepared Martell for Urlak working with the occupiers to actively hunt down, apprehend, or murder his former comrades. As the campaign heated up, the noose had grown tighter. Dien, feeling the pressure, as the putative leader of the Shadow, had buckled.

Martell pondered if he should do the same, though he knew not to voice such apostasy around true believers like Tusser or Rike. He knew they would vaporize him on the spot. “We can’t let this stand,” Rike declared.

“I say we make an example of Dien…and his family,” Tusser darkly suggested. “Blood in, blood out, that’s the only way you enter or leave the Crimson Shadow.”

Martell shook his head, glaring at the fervid Tusser. “We will not stain our movement by murdering innocents.”

Tusser laughed, “What do you think we have been doing all this time? We’re terrorists remember?”

“No, we are soldiers, fighting for the freedom of our people. The unfortunates who have died at the hands of my men have been collateral damage, they were never targeted,” Martell paused, putting the full force his judgment on Tusser, “Can the same be said of yours?”

Tusser was unfazed. To prove it, he propped his dusty boots on the table before replying, “It’s war,” he said with a shrug. Martell wanted to throttle the smug man.

Sensing that, Rike jumped up, “Please let’s remember who the real enemy is. We might have different methods, but the end goal is the same, a Cardassia free of alien influence.” Both men uncomfortably nodded to that.

“So, what do we do now?” Tusser asked. Both Tusser and Rike turned to Martell. Among the trio, he had pulled off the most successful engagements with their enemies.

“We first have to find out from the other commanders who still wish to continue,” Martell proposed.

“I would also suggest eliminating those who decide to leave the fight,” Tusser suggested. Martell paused, considering the idea.

“Only them, not their families,” he warned. Tusser shrugged again.

“I’ll make sure he retains honor,” Rike promised. “But we must show that there is price to be paid for surrender.”

“I agree,” Martell said.

“But after that, what should we do?” Tusser asked, the first crack of doubt appearing in his facade of bravado.

Martell paused again, not sure what to say. Outside of the few hardcore partisans, he suspected that a lot of the foot soldiers were tired of fighting, they wanted to go home, and rebuild their shattered families and lives. After all, what had they accomplished thus far?

And others would see the amnesty for what Martell hated to admit it was, a way out, a way forward, a plausible alternative, to endless bloodshed. Perhaps there could be a political solution to removing the occupiers. He knew that change was in the wind with the Federation, that a new president, one far less enchanted with foreign entanglements, was about to assume office. Maybe this president would be amenable to removing Starfleet, but the same could not be said for the Klingons, their most hated foe.

And he would rather have the Federation remain to counterbalance the Klingons and keep the foreheads on a leash. The silence grew heavy, portentous, but Martell was determined to let it play out until an appropriate response emerged. He had always been a patient man.

“Did I catch you all at a bad time?” A voice snaked into his thoughts, startling him. Martell yanked his disruptor out of its holster. Both Rike and Tusser were already aiming at the door.

Martell blinked in surprise. Before them stood a man more wanted by authorities than any of them. “How did you get in here?” Rike demanded. The man winked at her before waltzing into the room.

“Are you seriously going to ask me that?” Elim Garak replied.

“What do you want?” Tusser asked, suspiciously. Garak had been blamed, chiefly by Urlak, as the mastermind behind the assassination of Premier Lang at Terok Nor. Since Urlak had made the claim it was in doubt, though it hadn’t stopped the wily Cardassian ex-spy from being hailed as a hero by many of Martell’s men.

“It appears you are experiencing a crisis of confidence,” Garak said, glancing at the ongoing celebration on the vidscreen. “Perhaps I can ameliorate your unease.”

“And how do you propose to do that?” Rike beat Martell to the punch.

Garak grinned, before leaning forward, his eyebrows knitting together. His tone was conspiratorial. “I never thought you’d ask.”
************************************************** *************

Last edited by DarKush; April 6 2011 at 12:04 AM.
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Old April 5 2011, 11:54 PM   #10
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

************************************************** ********
Tarlak Sector
Cardassia Prime
January 2377

“Thank you for being so gracious,” Trade Provost Mintof Urlak said, holding his arms out at his sides while the tailor fit him for a new suit.

“It is no trouble,” President Norah Satie said. The holopad in the center of Urlak’s office was projecting a life-size image of the newly installed Federation president. “I can certainly attest to how hectic the transition and inauguration of a new administration can be.”

“My apologies for not being able to attend your inaugural,” Urlak offered. “Our campaign had not concluded.”

“I completely understand,” Satie said, “And business will keep me and the Deputy President on Earth. However, I hope that the presence of the Minister of State and Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief will suffice.”

“It will be more than enough,” Urlak nodded. “I am honored that such high personages will be in attendance.”

“Well, I’ve spoken with President Santiago, and he assured me that you have been a stalwart partner for peace and I hope to build on that relationship. You’re dismantling of the Crimson Shadow terror network was astounding.”

“It wasn’t me,” Urlak said, soberly, “It was the Cardassian people, rising up to reject terror. And as much I appreciate the laurels you have tossed at my feet, there are splinter elements of the Shadow, plus other unreconstructed actors that have yet to turn away from violence.”

“Yes,” Satie shook her head sadly, “I am well aware of that as well, and Admiral Grace will be looking forward to discussing the issue with you in further detail when he arrives.”

“Admiral Grace,” Urlak said, “Truly an inspirational symbol of our new relationship. A former POW, now an advocate for peace between our worlds.”

“It is…inspiring,” Satie agreed. “It is an example of how the fire of peace can melt any hardened heart.”

Urlak nodded somberly. “When shall the Federation contingent arrive?”

“Admiral Grace will be arriving, along with most of the other Federation delegates, within one standard week. The details have not yet been finalized.”

Urlak smiled and nodded, “Very prompt,” he replied.

“Here’s hoping that everything goes off without a hitch,” Satie’s smile was faint but genuine.

“That’s all one can really do,” Urlak agreed. “Besides surrounding yourself with armed guards up to the neck scales.” They shared a laugh before his counterpart flickered away.

“You can stop now,” He brushed the tailor’s hands aside. The woman straightened up, and assumed a most-untailor-like military bearing.

“So the reports are true,” she said, “Admiral Grace must be the new C-in-C for Starfleet.”

Urlak chuckled, so deep that it shook his slight frame, “Whoever would’ve thought my son could rise so high?”

“You did sir,” the woman replied.

“Well yes, I assume so.”
************************************************** **********
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Old April 6 2011, 12:01 AM   #11
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

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

Aridus III
Cardassian Republic Border


“Feel right at home I bet T’Joll?” Captain Elizabeth Shelby asked cheerily.

“I do not,” Security Chief T’Joll’s cold response was almost welcome in the blazing heat that permeated the environs of the crowded bazaar.

“Captain Shelby didn’t mean that literally,” Lt. Sito Jaxa explained, “The captain only was making a reference to Vulcan being a desert world like Aridus III.”

“Thank you Jaxa,” Shelby said, smothering a chuckle. The informal mentorship program she had set up to familiarize the new officers to life aboard Sutherland was at least paying off with these two; but not so much with Lavelle and Maldin. She thought it was cute that the Bajoran had taken the new security chief under her wing more than just to familiarize her with Sutherland’s security protocols, though Shelby hadn’t asked her to. T’Joll certainly hadn’t, and even now didn’t seem all that sanguine with the prospect of having a buddy aboard the ship. The captain, on the other hand thought it was a win-win, Sito needed all the friends she could get, and T’Joll needed someone to help show her the ropes.

“My apologies Captain.” T’Joll replied quickly.

“I’ll let this one pass,” Shelby remarked, “Let’s chalk it up to nerves.”

“But I am not nervous,” T’Joll answered soberly. Shelby rolled her eyes.

“Yes, being nervous or anxious would be showing emotion,” the captain replied.

“Correct,” T’Joll responded.

“Fine, you don’t have to admit it,” Shelby teased. “I’ll be nervous enough for all of us.”

“Captain, do you believe this is a trap?” Lt. Sito asked, her brow crinkling. The tactical officer had argued for the captain to remain aboard the Sutherland and Shelby had repeatedly assured the skeptical Bajoran tactical officer that the situation wasn’t as dangerous as it appeared. They were meeting an informant with information about the Crimson Shadow, a fractured but still lethal insurgent group making a blood soaked name for itself in the Allied occupation zones. The informant, a member of the Valerian cartel, had supplied information to Starfleet in the past. The Valerians had been one of the major weapons suppliers to Cardassian insurgents.

The long running extremist group the True Way, and splinters from Legate Damar’s Cardassian Liberation Front had initially been the leaders of the violent opposition to the postwar Allied occupation. But the Shadows, spawned from a rightist veterans’ group called the Crimson Order, had forced themselves onto Starfleet’s radar. The Shadows seemed to have a different benefactor than the Valerians and had eschewed their business offers. For the right price, and the appropriate discretion, some cartel members weren’t opposed to selling the Shadows down the river.

Starfleet Intelligence had learned that one of the Shadows, a Gul Tusser, was operating in the Aridus system, using it as a haven to strike at aid convoys heading to Cardassia Prime. According to SI, Tusser had a violent reputation stemming back decades to the Bajoran Occupation. Shelby was anxious to take him down, even if her stomach roiled a bit at the method to bring it about. Junior Lt. Rudd had the bars of latinum slung across his broad chest, bandolier style. Shelby didn’t know if the large man was breathing heavy because of the weight of the bars or from the heat.

“Are you okay Mr. Rudd?” Shelby asked the young Australian.

“Yes ma’am,” he replied, straightening. “Just a little hot under the collar as it were.”

“I guess my physical conditioning programs haven’t been strenuous enough?” Lt. Sito asked. Shelby couldn’t tell if the Bajoran was joking or not, and from the stammering reply of the younger Rudd, she was definitely sure that he didn’t think she was.

“You can discuss the revisions aboard the ship,” Shelby replied. She turned to T’Joll. “Detecting any Valerian life signs yet?”

“No,” T’Joll said, the tricorder clipped to her belt, beneath her robes. Shelby knew the woman’s keen hearing could detect the beep on a low setting that wouldn’t alert the informant or anyone else. Shelby was certain all the eyes watching them weren’t benign. Though the Shadows or other potential adversaries had yet to make a move.

They rounded a corner and ran into Lavelle’s party, consisting of her First Officer, her Chief Engineer, Lt. Maldin and Glinn Sial Keta. The young Cardassian woman had served as their liaison during their assignment in Cardassian space. Shelby was glad to have her on this mission, it had made working with the locals a lot easier. The captain could also tell that by the occasional ogling from Lt. Commander Tol that the engineer continued to appreciate Keta’s presence aboard the Suthy.

Unlike them, Keta didn’t feel a need to disguise her identity, with the planet having a sizable Cardassian population. What she had done though was discard her Cardassian Security Forces uniform. She wore instead a form fitting, sleeveless cat suit, with strategically inserted cuts down the back and across the thighs.

“Anything,” Shelby asked. Lavelle’s eyebrows beetled, giving the captain the answer she knew, but didn’t want to hear.

“Back to square one?” Lavelle asked.

“We’ve already searched every inch of this dump,” Chief Engineer Tol remarked. “There just aren’t any Valerians here.” The Trill didn’t seem too disappointed though, Shelby realized. In addition to Keta, Jadon had probably also encountered some of the native scarf dancers plying their wares throughout the bazaar.

“So, this was a wild goose chase then?” Lavelle replied, clearly not pleased.

“It appears so,” Shelby said, the heat suffusing her skin had nothing to do with the weather. “Someone has been jerking our chain.”

“Not quite,” a voice said from the air, “Though there is something I would like to jerk on you captain.”

Both away teams brandished weapons and looked around them wildly, trying to pinpoint the direction the voice had come from. “How about you show yourself, and maybe we can talk,” Shelby offered.

“Such an assignation might be worth more than the latinum in your possession, if the rumors are true,” the air shimmered before Shelby. A smallish figure, decked in an orange blind suit appeared before them. The mystery person pulled off their helmet, revealing the leering bulbous face of a Ferengi. Rows of earrings dangled from both of his large tattooed ears. “DaiMon Drux at your service.”

“Drux?” Shelby asked, surprised. She remembered the name from several years ago. He had been a big time pirate and smuggler until he had ran afoul of the Klingons and been sentenced to Rura Penthe. Somehow the Ferengi had survived the infamous prison planet and appeared to be trying to rebuild his fortunes.

“So, you know of me? A fan no less?” The leer morphed into a grateful smile.

“Not quite,” Shelby replied, regretting the dimming of the smile’s wattage. “Though I am familiar with some of your exploits.”

“Well, that’s something I suppose.”

“How did you escape Rura Penthe?” The Ferengi perked back up.

“That’s a long story, a thrilling tale than best be told in the private quarters aboard my vessel,” the leer had returned.

“We didn’t detect any Ferengi vessels in orbit,” Lt. Maldin said. The poor Benzite looked like he was about to dry out from the relentless heat.

“I’ve taken great lengths to not draw attention to myself,” Drux patted the bright orange suit. “Why would I park my own vessel in orbit around this dustbowl?”

“Good point,” Maldin replied. Shelby noticed Lavelle smiling at the man’s perturbed expression. The Benzite was book smart, but not too street smart. He had spent a good chunk of the war planetside, using his formidable intellect to help keep the Federation’s war machine from breaking down. The need for experienced officers had compelled him back into service aboard a Starfleet vessel and Shelby had thought he would be a good fit for Sutherland.

Though she thought he was a bit uptight, his intellect and organization skills were top notch. She was sure that someone aboard the Suthy would loosen him up before long. She was pleased that the man had the hide of rhinoceros because Sam had been riding him hard ever since he came aboard.

“Do you have the information we need?” Lavelle asked.

“The latinum?” Drux asked, wiggling his fingers. Shelby gestured to Lt. Rudd. The big man slid the bandolier off his chest and placed it before the Ferengi’s feet. Glancing down at the row of bars the pirate almost danced a jig. He reached down to golden ingots.

“Not so fast,” Shelby said, waving her phaser, “The information first.”

“Oh, that,” Drux smiled. “Here you go,” he unzipped a pocket on the breast of the suit and threw a data rod at Shelby. She snatched it neatly out the air.

She gave it a once over. “This rod is empty.”

“Yeah, I know,” Drux said. The air shimmered all around them and the two away teams found themselves surrounded by armed Ferengi. “The cartel learned about my side business, and being the gracious gents that they are, they decided not to kill me. They used their information on me to secure deals with the Shadows. And the down payment on my life is securing you. The Shadows want you.”

“No,” Lt. Sito shook her head. “I won’t be a prisoner again.”

“Cool it Jax,” Lavelle muttered.

“It’s okay Jaxa,” Shelby said. “I’m sure we can come to some type of arrangement, offer the good DaiMon a counter proposal.”

“I wish that were true,” Drux said. “But I have no wish to cross the Valerians again, in addition to the Shadows. I just wish that you had accepted my original offer captain. At least your last few hours of freedom could’ve been more…pleasurable.”

“And yours could’ve been less painful,” Shelby said. The Ferengi guffawed.

“Perhaps I can make a side deal for you,” Drux said, “After they are finished interrogating you.”

“Not gonna happen,” Lavelle replied, through gritted teeth.

“You’re right about that,” Tol quipped.

“We’re not going to go quietly,” Shelby said. “And you can’t subdue us all.”

“We have the advantage. We have you surrounded. It would be nonsense to resist us.”

“Oh yeah, like being prisoners to a bunch of anti-Federation terrorists sounds better than instant death,” Tol replied snappily.

“All right,” Drux sighed. “Stun them.”

“No,” Sito snarled. She threw her weapon at the Ferengi nearest her. The phaser cracked against the man’s nose. He stumbled back. By then the Bajoran had pulled a serrated knife from the folds of her robes. She sprang at the Ferengi, the blade slicing the man’s neck. A geyser of blood spurted from the wound.

“Go,” Shelby commanded, jolting everyone out of the shock of Sito’s horrific attack. Lavelle and Tol charged their gunmen, the skittish Ferengi hesitating long enough to receive a tackle from Sam and a roundhouse kick from Jadon. T’Joll felled a Ferengi with a neck pinch, and Keta’s furious scowl made one Ferengi toss their weapon and run off towards the dunes. Rudd and Maldin weren’t having as much good luck. Rudd’s Ferengi had pulled an electric whip and had lashed it around the man. The smell of cooking flesh and the man’s screams were short lived. Sito took her knife and threw it into the attacking Ferengi’s skull.

Maldin rolled on the ground with the Ferengi, the alien biting into the meat of the Benzite’s shoulder. The man screamed, and the Ferengi bit deeper, blood seeping onto the ground.

“I got this,” Lavelle replied. The first officer moved quickly and low, hitting the Ferengi hunched over Maldin with full force. The Ferengi crashed into the ground. Sam pounded the man’s bulbous skull until he stopped moving.

Shelby had watched it all, the emitter cone of her phaser pressed into the flesh of Drux’s neck. “You guys forgot the stun setting on your weapons,” she asked with a smile. The away team stood up, some shakily, with Rudd leaning on Lavelle. They gazed in amazement at the carnage they had wrought. The only one that didn’t seem to be fazed was Sito.

The young woman had been through a lot, had suffered tortures and violations that Shelby couldn’t even fathom, and had endured them. But she had been changed, and the things they all had to do in the war hadn’t allowed her to properly heal. It had perhaps made her problems worse. In fact, the captain pondered if the wars against the Klingons and Dominion had made worsened them all. At least she could take some small joy from what came next, “DaiMon Drux, you’re arrest.”
************************************************** ****
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Old April 6 2011, 12:01 AM   #12
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

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

USS Sutherland
Captain’s Personal Quarters

Captain Elizabeth Shelby toweled off her face. Though the sonic shower had been refreshing and necessary, she still liked the feel of warm water on her skin. Even after the shower she still didn’t feel she had gotten all the sand off her skin or out of her hair. Being nearly covered from head to toe had provided little defense against the pernicious grains.

She glanced at herself in the mirror above the sink and ran her hand threw her damp, hanging blonde strands. She knew she should celebrate tonight, even though they hadn’t gotten the information they came for, Drux was already proving to be fount of information about the criminal organizations preying on postwar misery in the former Cardassian Union.

Now, whether the information could be believed, was another story. Though the Ferengi did have a bevy of holodeck programs that he offered free of charge after Sutherland had impounded his vehicle. She pursed her lips while gazing at her reflection. “Should I play the Vulcan love slave or her liberator tonight?” She pondered.

The squawk from the intercom system embedded in an overhead bulkhead put her ruminations on hold. “What’s up?” She asked.

“Captain Shelby, you have a priority message from Admiral Glover,” Lt. Maldin replied. Her heart skipped a beat at the mention of the familiar name.

Could it really be him? She wanted to believe. “Pipe it down here,” she said quickly.

“Acknowledged.”

She didn’t reply, Shelby was gripped with too much false hope to speak. She had heard the reports, and then had seen the footage supplied by the Romulans, and she had even attended the memorial service, but deep in her heart, Elizabeth hadn’t wanted to believe any of it. If anyone could cheat fate, it would be Samson. And she could see the old codger making sure he was the first to tell her of his return.

The captain rushed to take a seat at her desk. Her eyes moistened in anticipation. The blue screen on her desktop faded into the outline of a human male.

Shelby blinked, her disappointment swapped by surprise. “Wow,” her lips worked into a smile, “When did this happen? Excuse me, I should say congratulations.”

Terrence Glover, an admiral’s bars glinting on his turtleneck, had an uncharacteristically flat expression on his face. Gone was the knowing smirk, and Elizabeth assumed the flirty banter that they had been engaging in for years. But what could she expect, she chided herself. The man had been through hell over the last year.

From being taken hostage by the True Way, to losing his ship, to his marriage’s dissolution, and perhaps the deepest blow had been the capture and purported execution of his father by the Romulans.

His elevation to the admiralty seemed like cold comfort to Shelby, and she could tell that Terrence felt the same way. If things had been different, she could imagine the promotion would have him grinning ear to ear.

“Captain Shelby,” he said coldly, as if he didn’t know her at all.

“Rear Admiral,” she said, disappointed to take on a formal tone in her voice. She really wanted to reach out to him, to share more condolences about Samson’s loss. The elder Glover had always been in her corner and was nearly as instrumental in advancing her career as Admiral Hanson. “How can I be of assistance?”

The admiral paused as a curious expression crossed his features. She saw a light slowly come on in his eyes and he nervously shuffled the papers on his desk. Through the scuttlebutt Elizabeth had heard that Terrence had also been a Romulan prisoner but had somehow escaped, though he had suffered some memory loss as a result. Perhaps his synapses were misfiring as they struggled to remember her.

“Captain,” he stopped again, “Elizabeth,” he said, his voice and demeanor taking on an old, though not quite familiar, semblance.

“Terrence,” Shelby said, her tightness loosening.

“Good job on Aridus,” he remarked, with a ghost of a crooked smile. Her heart pinched at a trace of the man’s old confidence. “That helped make this decision easier.”

“And what decision might that be?”

“Sutherland has been selected for a very important mission,” he said.

“Okay,” she said, wanting to prod him to elaborate, but remembering they were no longer peers, so she restrained herself, and waited.

“You’ve been assigned to escort Fleet Admiral Grace to Cardassia Prime to attend the inauguration of Premier Urlak.”

The tension eased slightly, though not Elizabeth’s displeasure. Though she was a skilled bureaucratic fighter she had wearied of it over the years and preferred long missions of exploration or even the occasional space fight as opposed to office gossip, maneuvering, and backstabbing. “Why was this a hard decision to grant Sutherland such a gift?”

“I would think you would be a bit more thankful for this honor,” he said sharply. “Transporting the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet is the highest honor.”

“Admiral, I think you’re being coy with me,” Shelby rejoined, not fearing a reprimand.

“You know,” he said, rolling his broad shoulders, clearly not wishing to explain.

“No,” she cocked her head. “No I don’t,” she said, even though Shelby had a damn good idea of why some of the higher-ups didn’t want Sutherland anywhere near the Minister or the inauguration. Over the years, her personal life had become fodder for some admirals and they had made it their mission to stymie her rise and to deny Sutherland choice assignments. It seemed so petty, some centuries-old that Shelby had stopped letting it bother her years ago.

Except for one person, “It was my father wasn’t it, he’s behind this?” Glover’s silence confirmed it. Philip Shelby was the new Defense Minister. His joining Satie’s administration, hell his support for the former admiral, had been the latest bone of contention, between the two, though they hadn’t spoken in so long that Elizabeth had never made her distaste for his political choices even known.

But it appeared that her dad was trying to reach out to her, but in typical fashion, instead of just contacting her personally, he decided to do through hierarchal methods. “I take it this decision didn’t set well with some in Command?” She didn’t feel the need to name names, there were too many after all.

“Well, I guess the only way to burst their bubbles again is to do an admirable job,” she smiled.

“From your record,” Glover said, glancing down as if he were looking for information, as if he were not as acquainted with her record as Shelby knew he was, or had been, she reminded herself of his memory loss. “I am certain that you are more than competent to complete the task.”

“Thanks,” her sarcasm was tinted by sadness at her friend’s condition. “So, admiral, if I may be so bold, how are you doing?”

“Fine,” he said, his voice revealing nothing of the turmoil she knew he had to be experiencing. “Why do you ask?”

“Are you kidding me Terrence?”

“No, why would I?”

“This is me you’re talking to, Elizabeth, Liz, Lizzy.”

“I am well aware of your identity Captain,” Glover’s scowl returned and irritation crept into his voice. Shelby sighed.

“I’m sorry Admiral,” she said, straightening. “I didn’t mean to pry.”

“You didn’t,” he said, “Anything else?”

Shelby paused. She had wanted to discuss Jaxa with him. The woman’s display of savagery on Aridus had been unsettling, but she didn’t know if Terrence even remembered the young Bajoran, or if in his own state he could provide much assistance to her or Lt. Sito. “No sir,” she said, making up her mind. She, Counselor Freedman, and the rest of Suthy’s crew could take care of her. They were her family after all. “I have nothing to else to say.”

Terrence nodded curtly. “Glover out.” Shelby touched the darkened screen, where the admiral’s face had just been.

“In more ways than one,” she muttered.
************************************************** *****
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Old April 6 2011, 01:30 AM   #13
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

************************************************** *****
Deep Space Nine
Promenade

“Jake!” Lt. Ezri Dax screamed as she rushed him. She locked him in a bear hug, squeezing with enough force it cut off Jake’s oxygen. The young man reluctantly pulled himself out of the Trill’s death grip.

“Ezri,” he grinned, “It’s good to see you again.”

“Jake, it seems like you grow another foot each time I see you,” the petite woman said, appraisingly. “The next time I see you I might need a step ladder.”

“Well, hopefully it won’t be that long until we see Jake again.” Dr. Bashir had been standing beside the counselor when she made her dash for Jake. Now he was standing in front of the man. He stuck out his hand and Jake grabbed it firmly.

“Dr. Bashir,” he said.

“Julian, you know I’ve told you about that,” the medic chided gently.

“I know, I know,” Jake said, shrugging sheepishly, “But old habits die hard.”

“Don’t I know,” Bashir chuckled. “How are Kasidy and the baby?”

“Oh, they are fine,” Jake said, pausing, “Please allow me to…” he turned around, but Ezri had already slid by him.

“You must be Kall Yano,” the Trill remarked, embracing the other woman, and Jake was grateful that it looked less forceful. “We’ve heard a lot about you.”

“All good I hope,” the Vulcan-Bajoran hybrid smiled nervously, her eyes alight with questions. Jake winced. He hadn’t told them, but he suspected that Nog did. The Ferengi was a good friend, but not one that could keep too many secrets it appeared.

“I would think so,” Julian remarked, nudging Jake’s arm. “You two are quite the duo.”

“I wouldn’t say it like that,” Jake began, trying not to stammer. He could feel Kall’s eyes on him.

“Really?” Ezri asked. “Don’t be modest. You two have single handedly saved countless lives. If it wasn’t for your expose of Alshain war atrocities, the Federation wouldn’t have acted.”

“Oh, that,” Jake said, relieved.

“Yes that,” Julian replied. “Sometimes it pays to be modest. This is not one of those times,” he clapped Jake on the back. “Your father would be proud.”

“I know,” Jake shook his head solemnly.

“So, you’re here for the inauguration?” Ezri asked, though Jake knew she was aware of that already. She must have sensed his awkwardness and wanted to segue to more comfortable ground.

“Yes, can you believe it?” Kall was excited. “For FNS to entrust coverage of the inauguration of Premier-elect Urlak to us is a great honor.”

“Well, we aren’t the sole reporters they are sending,” Jake corrected. “I mean, we’re just supposed to do the man on the street segments.”

“Still, it’s an honor, and I’m looking forward to riding in style to Cardassia Prime on Bajora One.” The First Minister had insisted that Jake join him aboard his personal star cruiser once Shakaar had found out he would be going to Prime. How Shakaar found that out he didn’t have a clue, though he assumed that the Bajoran government was keeping tabs on the Emissary’s son. The thought creeped him out so he didn’t dwell on it.

Instead he took a sweeping view of the station’s Promenade. It was bustling, as always it seemed. “Everything seems so different, yet similar,” he remarked, with a pang of homesickness.

“Yes a lot has changed,” Ezri remarked, and Jake heard strains of disappointment in her voice.

“Ezri’s right,” Bashir added, similarly saddened. “Us two, and Quark of course, are all that’s left.”

“How is Kira by the way?” Jake asked, but feeling guilty for doing so. He had barely had found the time to fit in visiting his mother-in-law and baby sister, before transporting up to DS9. He had known that the Bajoran government had transferred Kira to a hospital on Bajor, over Bashir’s objections. They felt she could receive better long term care planetside, plus they wanted to free up bed space for the station’s residents.

From what Jake had heard over the last several months, the Bajoran government had been asserting itself on the station like never before. The Starfleet presence had dwindled considerably in the wake of Lang’s assassination, which had strained relations between Starfleet and the Bajoran government.

With DS9 being weaponized by sabotage, the Bajoran government had pushed for greater oversight, to prevent the station from ever being turned on them.

“She’s still in a coma,” Bashir remarked, his sadness deepening, “but she is stable. Her vitals were strong. I checked on her this morning, matter-of-fact.” He brightened. “The colonel’s a fighter. She’ll pull through.”

“I have no doubt of that,” Jake replied.

“If will excuse us ladies, I need to talk to Jake about a personal matter,” the doctor said, and Jake did his best to appear nonchalant.

“Of course,” Ezri was oblivious; Kall not so, much, but she allowed the Trill to hook arms with her and drag her to the bevy of proprietors spread along the thoroughfare. Kall looked back at him once, a silent question on her face. Jake nodded, but he knew he had no intentions of answering that question.

The two men walked in the opposite direction, in silence for a moment. Julian finally spoke up, “Have you heard from our mutual friend lately?”

Jake nodded. “He says he intends to expose Urlak for the quadrant to see and he wants me to be there to record it all, in living color.”

“I don’t think you should go to Prime,” Bashir warned. Jake knew the man still regretted his involvement in this, but the medic had little control over Jake’s actions. He had confirmed his suspicions that Garak was still alive after he had followed the doctor to Rokat Colony.

Instead of denying it, Bashir had reluctantly brought them into their circle. Garak had even fed him information about Urlak’s shady dealings, but no smoking gun tying the man to Lang’s assassination and absolving Garak of any hand in it.

“I understand your concerns, but he needs me there,” Jake said. Bashir’s eyes narrowed.

“What is he planning?”

“I’m not sure,” Jake replied. “But he’s going to need someone impartial there, to report his side.”

“I see,” Bashir remarked, “and there’s no way I can dissuade you?”

“Doctor-I mean Julian, you know me better than that,” Jake smiled easily at him.

“Yeah, well I suppose I do,” Julian rubbed his chin. “I guess there’s only one thing left to say?”

“And that is?”

“I prefer the window seat,” Bashir declared. “I’m going with you to Cardassia Prime.”
************************************************** *********

Last edited by DarKush; April 6 2011 at 02:49 AM.
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Old April 6 2011, 03:06 PM   #14
DarKush
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Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

************************************************** ************
Bajora One
Private Quarters
En Route to Cardassia Prime

“I still can’t believe I’ve told you this,” Ghirta Dulcett’s scaly gray skin prevented her embarrassment from being evident on her face, but her voice was loaded with it. “But I needed to talk to someone. I-I don’t know what else to do.”

“Don’t worry,” Lt. Ezri Dax said softly, giving the Cardassian woman’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “This is a strictly confidential conversation, okay?” The Trill put on her best reassuring smile.

Dulcett looked at the woman, eventually matching her smile. “I trust you, I suppose. Things are just so different on Prime, even now. Knowledge such as this could always be used as a weapon.”

“I don’t see how,” Dax replied, quizzically. Dulcett pursed her lips, sympathetic, and a bit envious of the woman’s naiveté.

“You don’t see how my relationship with the new Bajoran Kai could create a political firestorm on both our worlds?”

“No,” Dax shook her head, “I understand that. I just don’t comprehend how I, or the Federation could use this information as a weapon. New strains in relations between Bajor and the Cardassian Republic aren’t in anyone’s interests, except Cardassian insurgents.”

“Or the reactionaries on Bajor,” Dulcett quickly added. The woman had noticed a deliberate chill, even more than usual, on the station and definitely on planetside whenever she visited Bajor over the last several months. The reverberations of Lang’s assassination and other galactic events, had helped to stir a deep unease among the Bajorans.

And unfortunately, but not surprisingly, some Bajorans had struck out against offworlders, the vandalism even tainting the station. It had become prevalent enough that even Kai Sarkin recently spoke out against it, but Ghirta thought his words had done nothing to dispel the dark mood gripping his planet. It slightly reminded her of the dark, chaotic times after the fall of the Detepa Council, right before her people made their devil’s bargain with the Dominion. Of course the Bajorans had not become that desperate…yet, but Dulcett knew social dissolution when she saw it, it had marred a good deal of her adulthood thus far.

Once the news came out that Sarkin Noma was the father of her child, that the head of the Bajoran faith had sired a half-Cardassian child, Ghirta didn’t know what the reaction would be, but she was certain it would not be pleasant. She touched her stomach, already fearful for the child growing within.

“Have you told the Kai?” Dax asked, bringing Dulcett out of her reverie. The Cardassian woman shook her head.

“No, how could I?”

“You can’t hold this off, he needs to know,” Ezri remarked.

“And he will…but not now, he has so much work to do on Bajor, I don’t want to be a distraction.”

“I doubt that is how he sees you, and really shouldn’t that be his decision to make?” The Trill asked, and Dulcett couldn’t deny her wisdom, but fear clutched onto her.

“I’m not ready,” she shook her head. “I-I’m just not sure…”

“There are…other options,” Ezri proposed, with a pinched, distasteful expression on her face.

It took Dulcett only a second to catch on. “Never,” she said vehemently. “Family is the cornerstone of Cardassian society. I could never terminate a pregnancy.”

“Okay,” the counselor was more than willing to back away from the suggestion. “But I had to put other options out there. There’s also adoption.”

“And what would I do in the gestation period until I have birth? Leave my post as the relief coordinator for Cardassia?”

“It is an option, if you want to keep the pregnancy hidden,” Dax said, obviously not liking that choice either.

“Yes,” Ghirta conceded, “but I love my job, I love building bridges between the Bajorans and my people. And I…I love Noma,” she admitted, her voice cracking.

Dax gave her a moment. “Perhaps your child could also be part of building bridges, of realizing common ground,” she offered.

“I-I guess,” Dulcett said, never considering the possibility before.

“If a Bajoran and Cardassian can find love, the very head of the Bajoran church in fact, that’s a powerful symbol that both species can overcome their blood soaked pasts,” the counselor declared.

“You speak with a wisdom beyond your years,” Dulcett remarked. Something flashed in the other woman’s brown eyes, but she merely smirked.

“Yeah, I get that a lot sometimes,” her face took on a more serious mien. “After spending time on DS9, I’ve come to believe that rarely do things happen without cause, that at times there are greater hands at work.”

“Yes,” Dulcett nodded. “Noma often expresses similar observations. I have never been a religious person, but my time with him has kindled an interest in the Oralian Way, the old Hebitian faith. I have a better appreciation for the concept of fate now, of the impersonal forces behind our actions, guiding our hands. I’m not saying I believe any of it, though I understand Noma better.”

“He has also taken to studying the Way and will be conducting tours of Hebitian ruins after the inauguration, he has asked me to accompany him, but I don’t know if I should go. There are already rumors about his frequent visits to the station, and once I begin to show….”

“So,” Dax said, with a shrug. “You are two consenting adults. Love is a rare, blessed gift in this universe, and don’t let anyone take it from you,” she said, and Ghirta felt a deep sadness pour from her gaze. “Because when it’s gone, it’s gone…”

“You lost someone…special,” Dulcett understood.

“Several someones,” she muttered, “But most recently, he…uh…lost me….”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s complicated,” the Trill patted her hand. “I take it you don’t much about Trill physiology?”

“No,” Ghirta shook her head in confusion. “I do not.”

“I’ll have to send you some data on it, it should provide some illumination,” Ezri said, “Even though I’m still grappling with the unique genetic heritage of my people still.”

“We all do,” Dulcett reached out, now comforting Ezri. “This talk has been most…refreshing. I feel…well, I’m not sure how, but at least it wasn’t as lost as before.”

“That’s something at least,” Dax replied. “And I will always be here if you need to talk.”

“Thank you so much Ezri,” Dulcett smiled. “I think you’re first in line to be godmother.” The Trill chuckled.

“I would be honored,” she said. The woman’s combadge chirped and she tapped it. “Dax here.”

“Ezri?” Dr. Bashir’s cultured voice issued through the tinny delta, “Where are you?”

“Chatting with a friend,” she replied.

“Once you’re finished, I was wondering if you come to our quarters for dinner, we’re dining with Jake and Yano.”

“Sure,” Ezri said, pausing. The Trill glanced at Dulcett. “I would like to bring someone along.”

“Certainly,” Julian remarked. “The more the merrier.”

After the doctor had clicked off, Dulcett sat up in her chair, “Really you didn’t have to invite me, I don’t wish to impose.”

“I can understand how tough it might be for you, to be onboard the same ship with the Kai but a galaxy apart from him,” Dax remarked, with amazing sagacity again. “It does nothing for your spirit to lock yourself away in a room until we reach Prime.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Ghirta admitted.

“Of course I am,” Dax tagged her temple, “I’ve got nine lifetimes stored in this noggin, got to know something right?”

“I don’t follow,” Dulcett replied. Ezri waved away the woman’s confusion.

“I’ve got to get you those Trill history data crystals,” Dax laughed, “If nothing else it should provide for some interesting reading on the way to Prime.”
************************************************** **********
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Old April 6 2011, 03:39 PM   #15
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Re: Dark Territory: Hero of the Federation

Way more interesting this time around. Can't wait to read more.
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