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Old October 9 2011, 07:04 PM   #1
unusualsuspex
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Something of a gift!

Hi all!

I've been away so long it seems odd to be back, but 'back' is where I believe I am. The 'Star Trek - Angel' series is on hold but most definitely not forgotten. I simply needed something to ease me back into writing and restore my muse, so.......

In the next month, three short stories will be appearing as my gift to all you writers. Why a gift? Well, it will establish a new and unexplored sandpit in which to play!

I'll say no more for now but watch this thread!

Good to be back guys and gals
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Old October 10 2011, 04:20 AM   #2
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Re: Something of a gift!

Glad to have you back!
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Old October 10 2011, 09:14 AM   #3
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Re: Something of a gift!

Thanks Gib! Sorry for all the false starts but I'm hoping it will be worth it
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Old October 10 2011, 05:53 PM   #4
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Welcome back.
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Old October 11 2011, 12:42 PM   #5
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Re: Something of a gift!

Thanks Commbadge
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Old October 12 2011, 03:09 AM   #6
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Re: Something of a gift!

Glad that you're back, unusualsuspex. I look forward to your continuation of the ST: Angel series as well as reading your new material.
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Old October 23 2011, 09:50 PM   #7
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Re: Something of a gift!

OK, just a little advance notice....

First posting in this new saga begins tomorrow (after a loooooong weekend at work )

Standby to learn a couple of untold segments about the TOS episode ARENA and the beginning of.......

STAR TREK - DEVIL'S GATE
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Old October 24 2011, 12:50 PM   #8
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Chapter One








DEVIL’S GATE
BOOK ONE



ATLAS




ONE

Thomas Langley DeVille believed that no matter how many times he watched the stars he would never tire of their beauty. From a planet’s surface, through the haze of atmosphere, they would twinkle as if calling him back to them. In the depths of space they appeared like nothing more than holes in the fabric of reality allowing the pristine light of creation to shine through from the vast beyond. In warp though…

…In warp they rushed towards and around him joyfully, exulting in his passing and….

“Commander?”

DeVille realised that the way his title had been pronounced indicated it wasn’t the first time the captain had tried to attract his attention.

“Sorry Sir, I…”

Captain Alison Aster did nothing to hide the smile or slight shake of her head that was her usual reaction to his wool gathering. To be honest, DeVille made an excellent case for the beauty of space and the thrill of travelling through it and had been no different for the past five years that he’d served under Aster. It was probably one of the reasons that she wouldn’t trade him for any other second in command in the fleet.

“Just appreciating the view?” she inquired innocently.

DeVille had the good grace to blush realising that once again he’d been caught out. He nodded, but before replying to his captain he turned to the engineering station to his left, his head cocked quizzically as if he could hear something that nobody else on the bridge could.

“Mr Charbon, just check the warp configuration on the containers please?”

Aster closely followed the interplay between DeVille and the loadmaster knowing pretty much what the response would be.

“Sir,” responded Charbon after a check across his board, “the load has settled, warp reconfiguration is lagging slightly. On it now.”

DeVille’s face continued to appear slightly scrunched as he concentrated. Within a few moments, however, his demeanour relaxed and with the slightest wink to his captain, he called over his shoulder.

“Nothing serious Mr Charbon, but advise engineering it’s likely the feed conduits from the mating plate.”

“Aye Sir,” responded the young lieutenant and Aster smiled indulgently.

“I see your sixth sense is working overtime today?”

DeVille rocked on to the balls of his feet and deadpanned, “Captain, I prefer to think of it as communing with the ship. Sounds so much more mysterious.”

In truth, Deville’s 12 years of service aboard cargo vessels was enough, in Aster’s opinion, to have imparted to him a ‘sixth-sense’ type feel for minor things in the ship’s operation. It was nothing magical of course. Simply put, despite the complicated structural integrity and inertial dampening fields that kept sentient life and cargo in one piece during warp, there would still be small tell-tale vibrations through a deck plate or sub-harmonic noises barely audible over the ambient bridge noises that could alert those attuned to them of something being “slightly off”.

DeVille was one such person, and six years aboard the Atlas had merely honed his talents to the point where his reputation for diagnosing something amiss before the computer did was becoming a shipboard legend.

He heard the hiss of the turbolift doors at the rear of the bridge moments before the smell of coffee teased his nose and a yeoman appeared at the Captain’s side. DeVille breathed deeply of the aroma and completely failed to hide his disappointment when he noticed only one mug on the yeoman’s tray.

Aster milked the moment for all it was worth. “Oh,” she said smacking her lips, “I do believe you’ve outdone yourself Mr Young.” DeVille’s face remained stoic as he nonchalantly attempted to concentrate on anything on the bridge not coffee related and suddenly Aster felt like she’d just kicked a puppy. “I’m sure that Commander DeVille would greatly appreciate a mug during our mission update briefing, Commander?”

“Thank you Captain that would be greatly appreciated.”

Aster nodded and the Yeoman departed to retrieve another coffee. When at last her attention fully returned to DeVille there was a twinkle in Aster’s eye once again. Standing from the centre seat, she headed towards the turbolift and leaned in towards DeVille. When she spoke, it was in the most contrived stage whisper he’d ever heard.

“I do believe Commander, you’ve dribbled on your shirt.” Without giving him a chance to reply – and relishing his pained expression – she marched past. “Mr DeVille, Mr Lense, with me please. Mr Solak, you have the conn.”

* * *

Like many briefing rooms, this one had once been utilitarian in appearance, but since Aster’s posting as Captain of the Atlas five years previously that had changed. The furniture had been left as issue; a long, slightly curved table placed centrally in the room could accommodate up to ten officers with its three screened viewer placed centrally so that all could observe it easily.

The bland walls, however, were now home to a collection of items that not only broke the sternness of the surroundings, but detailed in many ways the history and travels of the Atlas and its crew.

A replica of the ship’s commissioning plaque was placed centrally between the crossed flags of the UFP and Starfleet Command. Around this centre piece, randomly placed citations and certificates detailed the many humanitarian and military missions the vessel had undertaken.

On the opposite wall, hung below a single muted light, was a section of hull plate with an etched brass plate below it which read:

XCV-330
This hull plate commemorates the discovery and
eventual recovery of the XCV-330, SS Enterprise.
Missing, believed destroyed, the XCV-330 was discovered by
the USS Atlas on Stardate 1434.7.


Beside it was an image of the XCV-330 in its glory days; the long swan like neck stretching out ahead of the experimental warp ring that so resembled the Vulcan design on which it was based.

Other smaller items brought colour and history together making for a much less sterile environment to conduct briefings, something Aster whole-heartedly endorsed.

At that moment, besides Captain Aster and her first officer, DeVille, the seats around the table were occupied by the Atlas’ department heads. Lieutenant Commander Chep, chief of security, sat beside Doctor Jenny Marriot, the Atlas’ CMO and Lieutenant Martin Baker, senior communications officer. On the other side of the table were Chief Engineer Lieutenant Commander Andrea Schmitt and Head of Cargo Operations Lieutenant Michael Lense.

As an operational transport vessel, the Atlas did not have a dedicated science officer or team aboard. It was rare that their particular talents would be required on a vessel that tended to ply well known and explored routes within the Federation. Pushing at the envelope for a frontier run such as this one meant that Lense took up the post in a secondary capacity, and it was to him that the captain initially turned.

“Mr Lense, we’re just over two days out from Cestus III. How’s that ion storm developing?”

Lense, a keen eyed and whipcord thin young officer leaned forward in his seat to rest his elbows on the table. DeVille liked the young man having found him to have a wry sense of humour and usually a wonderful poker face. At the moment, however, it was a face that seemed to be showing a small amount of concern.

“Since we first picked up the warning four days ago Captain, we’ve been monitoring the situation. At that time it was a Class Two and to be honest didn’t pose a major threat.”

Lense leaned over to select a switch by the three screened monitor and an image appeared that showed the initial location of the ion storm when first reported and their course towards Cestus III drawn as a red curved line.

“As you can see, when the USS Martindale made her report, the storm was relatively slow moving and seemed likely to die out before it came anywhere near our route. Since the Martindale was heading away from the storm, we’ve had to follow it ourselves with long range sensors and by the looks of it, it’s shaping up to be a big one.”

Aster cast a worried glance at DeVille before asking “How big, Mr Lense?”

Once again tapping at the controls of the monitor, Lense changed the image to show a current sitrep and Aster immediately saw the reason for his concern.

“Class Seven or above Captain. It’s already increased in overall size and intensity and it’s now picking up speed. Sensor readings are improving, but only because it’s converging on our course.”

DeVille placed his coffee mug on the table and said, “Bottom line Mr Lense, how concerned should we be?”

Lense glanced to his left and the Chief Engineer accepted the baton.

“I’d personally be concerned about anything above a Class Five, but a Class Seven?” The way that Schmitt shook her head summed up the feelings of all those present. “The best we could expect is structural stress and extreme hull pressure. We’d be at risk of having to cut the containers loose and the odds are we’d lose the ability to safely control the cargo drones. The worst? In a nutshell Captain, don’t go there.”

Aster smiled sardonically feeling that Schmitt’s assessment was understated. “Sage advice Andrea, thank you.” Turning back to Lense, she asked the question he’d been expecting. “So where does that leave us operationally Michael?”

Flicking the viewer to its final graphic, he smiled slightly. “To be honest Captain, as long as you can sweet talk Commodore Travers into accepting a 24 hour delay, it’s not a problem.” He indicated the screen with a wave of his hand. “We can’t outrun and get ahead of the storm because we’re limited by the maximum cruise speed of the drones. Basically, we throttle back and allow the storm to pass ahead of us while we creep around its tail end.”

Aster nodded. “Excellent, thank you Michael. I’m sure the Commodore would prefer his goods late rather than never. I’ll speak to him personally after the briefing and Mr Baker?” She turned to the young dark skinned communications officer. “I’ll need to pass all this information to the Enterprise as well, she’s only two or three days behind us and I’m sure Captain Kirk would appreciate the heads up.”

“Aye Captain.”

“Andrea, how’s the Atlas fairing?”

“Oh you know how we pamper the dear thing Captain. Atlas wouldn’t dream of giving us problems. Especially,” she said smiling at DeVille, “when the Commander here can feel something wrong in his bones way before our diagnostic equipment even has a chance to warm up.”

Aster had a moment to enjoy seeing DeVille slightly nonplussed before returning her attention to the Chief Engineer. “I’ll take that as a clean bill of health then, which neatly brings me to you Doctor. Anything outstanding?”

Doctor Jenny Marriot looked chagrined to admit that there wasn’t. “This has to be the most sedate, incident free mission I can recall, and at my age I can recall quite a few.” There were one or two chuckles around the table at her patently untrue self deprecating remark although her face turned serious when she finished with “Let’s try and keep it that way people.”

“A fine sentiment to end on.” Aster stood, signalling the end of the meeting. “Mr Lense, stay on top of that storm, Mr Baker line me up with the Enterprise after I’ve spoken to Commodore Travers and Doctor,” she shook her head at Marriot, “you’re half my age and sound like my grandmother! Lighten up!”

Marriot gave her a mock scowl that was negated by the amused glint in her eye and the command crew left the briefing room to return to their assigned posts feeling relaxed and confident.

Not one of them had any idea that they would never stand in that room again.

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Last edited by unusualsuspex; October 24 2011 at 08:57 PM. Reason: Adjusting formatting!
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Old October 24 2011, 12:59 PM   #9
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Re: Something of a gift!

Just a quick bonus for taking the time to read this.....

A desktop of the Book One cover

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Old October 24 2011, 08:05 PM   #10
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Re: Something of a gift!

Oh, I do like me some TOS era fan fiction. Not enough of that to go around. Also nice touch to set this on a legitimate cargo hauler instead of a ship of the line.

Some serious foreshadowing here which makes me wonder who will survive this mission and who'll buy the farm.

Beautiful cover art and neat badge to boot.
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Old October 24 2011, 08:52 PM   #11
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Re: Something of a gift!

Thanks CeJay!

Chapter Two coming up...........
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Old October 24 2011, 08:56 PM   #12
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Interlude

INTERLUDE

The easiest way to survive an ion storm of any magnitude is quite simply not to be there. Given the choice, naturally. As life throughout the universe learns on a daily basis, however, choice can be an ephemeral thing.

On Earth, perhaps one of nature’s greatest feats is performed by the salmon. A natural imperative drives them hundreds of miles to return to the site of their birth to begin the cycle of life and death over and over again. It is an imperative that they can no more ignore than the act of existing itself; it is, quite simply, what they must do. But in that doing, many will die trying to reach their objective; some will fall prey to predators benefitting from the mass exodus, others will simply disappear becoming literally too exhausted to continue.

What, then, of the imperative that drives a single creature through the depths of space to renew its species? Imagine, instead of being one of millions flocking to the birthing grounds, you are just one with the onus of your species’ very survival wired into your genetic coding.

The Horta would understand perhaps, but confined to a single planet with no natural predator its chances of success seem higher.

Cold, tired.

Much higher than the chances of the creature that is now fleeing across space towards the place that will become its own graveyard and, simultaneously, the renewal of its genus.

Close now.

In the life before this epic journey, the creature had intelligence and a quiet grace as it shifted and phased between realities, reflecting on those things it found with quiet equanimity.

So close.

Yet in the closing days of that life, the intelligence is condensed to a single scintillating and primal thought.

HOME. Close.

No time to deliberate the beauty of a nebula, the power of a nova, or the solitude of a starless void bereft of life. Only the irresistible desire to survive, to return from whence it had come.

In steering the ion storm, interweaving through its wildly magnetic interior and using it to hurry towards its goal, it has caused an increase in its intensity. This is an event that the creature has, if not welcomed, at least anticipated. To travel faster, the storm has to be stirred into activity, despite increasing the risk to the creature. In its current state of course, it isn’t even aware that it is merely mimicking its forebears.

Hungry.

And in that final push, as the ion storm begins slowly to turn, the creature sees its last chance for sustenance as a cluster of glowing energy sources in the distance. And so it moves towards them feeling a blind yet incontestable desire to feed.
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Old October 25 2011, 05:44 PM   #13
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Chapter Two

TWO
Aster waited patiently for the connection in her quarters. She had made her way here straight after the mission update briefing to contact both Commodore Travers and the Enterprise before enjoying her evening meal and a quiet night in with a book.

Quiet night in? She chuckled at the preposterousness of the thought. Like I’m going to dress up and hit the town tonight?

The beep of her comm panel brought her back to the here and now as the Atlas logo dissipated to reveal the face of Commodore Grant Travers.

“Commodore,” she smiled. “Good to see you looking so well.”

“Even if I’ve aged twenty years in the past six months?” Travers chuckled. Aster noticed one or two more crinkles around his eyes than she remembered, and the neatly trimmed hair was certainly displaying more signs of grey than before, but the smile was just as warm and welcoming as she recalled from those early days at the Academy.

“After all this time Grant, still fishing for compliments? You’re incorrigible!”

The screen spluttered slightly, just enough to wash Travers face with static for a moment. Baker had warned her that the ion storm was likely to start marginally affecting communications with Cestus III.

“So how’s colony life suiting you? Looks like the tan’s improving!”

“Well I’ll be honest, looking after 512 personnel is a lot easier down here than up there, though I can’t deny I miss it.” He chucked his thumb over his shoulder to indicate the broad window behind him. “It helps when the planet you’re on feels like California rather than some out of the way dustbowl in the boondocks though.”

It was obvious to Aster from his grin that a planetside posting was agreeing with him.

“Mind if I give the crew some R&R while we’re there?”

Travers rubbed his hands together in glee. “Perfect! It means I get to invite you to dinner, and your crew might be able to help us with a little issue we have.”

“You mean other than the power plant upgrade and the final array modules?”

The observation array on the surface of Cestus III would be one of the largest in the Federation when it came online enabling them to see further beyond the boundaries of explored space than ever before. The final parts of the assembly were just part of their consignment.

“I’ll keep it as a surprise!” He held his hands up before she could reply. “It’s nothing serious, don’t worry. Be sure to bring along your tactical people. I've got an interesting problem for them.”

Aster laughed out loud at that. “Tactical people? Grant, I’m hauling containers not commanding one of those big Constitution Class beauties! My “tactical people” are a security detachment of 20. Still, if it helps…”

The screen fritzed once more and the picture washed out for slightly longer this time. Aster realised that she may not have much longer before comms were all but impossible, at least for a while.

“Listen Grant, you might have noticed we’re having comms issues because of this ion storm front that’s moving through.” She saw Travers nod in confirmation. “It’s the reason I put in the call actually…”

“Ah not for my witty repartee or gastronomic generosity then?”

She rolled her eyes before continuing. “That as well, but we’re going to have to delay 24 hours while this storm moves through ahead of us. Will that be a problem?”

She watched as Travers shook his head. “To be honest Alison, Hronsky tells me the array is two weeks or so away from going operational and we’ve had no visitors for over six months so an extra 24 hours isn’t going to upset the applecart. Besides, you’ll be here just before Jim so it’ll be like an Academy reunion.”

“Speaking of which,” she said checking her chronometer, “I need to update the Enterprise on the storm. I’ll speak to you once we’re clear of the storm’s effects Grant.”

“I’ll look forward to it Alison. Travers out.”

Aster couldn’t be certain but she was sure that Travers winked before cutting the transmission. Chuckling to herself, she requested that Baker hail the Enterprise while she snagged the ever-present mug of coffee that had been cooling on the side.

Beneath her level of amusement at Travers own good humour though, Aster felt a slight undercurrent of apprehension. It wasn’t so much the course of action they’d decided on to safeguard the ship. She knew that, logically, delaying the mission was the safe option and allowing the storm to run ahead of them provided more security than trying to outrun it. She just felt….

“Captain, I have the Enterprise on channel 3.”

“Thank you Mr Baker.”

The interruption derailed her train of thought somewhat and by the time Jim Kirk’s face appeared on her screen, the general feeling of concern was relegated to her subconscious.

* * *
DeVille had a routine and it was one that he’d instigated eight years, three months and seventeen days ago. He hadn’t meant it to become a routine, but nevertheless that is what had happened.

Up until that day he would finish his watch, retire to his cabin and record the message for Elizabeth. Her face, even now, filled his memory though it was always the image of how she had been the last time he saw her, not as she would look now because there was no now for Elizabeth.

He recalled the look of pure joy in her face every time he returned from a mission. How she would wrap her arms around him when she met him at the head of the gangway. They’d laugh as they both excitedly recited the exact number of days it was before he returned to Earth for good as an instructor at the Academy. And the number, that very last time he saw her, had been just 47.

When he embarked on the test flight that was meant to certify the new container units meant for colonization, it was a simple flight around the block and back home via Utopia Planitia. Or should have been if they hadn’t managed to blow two seals and almost lose the container.

The two day delay at Utopia had meant that Elizabeth would stay with her aunt for a short while, but at least communication from Mars to Earth was almost instantaneous. It was why he heard about the accident a mere twenty minutes after his sister knew.

Though it was never discovered what had spooked the horse that Elizabeth had been riding, to DeVille the cause was irrelevant. The loss of his eight year old daughter never would be. Elizabeth had been the one constant in his life since his wife left, a woman who had never wanted a child in the first place and had been more interested in DeVille’s promotion prospects.

When she finally left, (without a trace, much to DeVille’s relief), Elizabeth had gone to live with DeVille’s sister while he was off planet. Over subspace, they had made so many plans for the time when he would return home for good.

In the here and now without her, there were no plans to return because his life had been condensed and focussed into service to Starfleet. All there was for him on Earth were memories and a small white headstone. A headstone would eventually weather and decay in his absence, unlike the memory of Elizabeth and that memory he could keep with him always no matter what his geographical location might be.

Following the funeral service and a period to grieve in complete privacy, he’d finally returned to duty once more, and at that point he’d made the adjustment to his routine. Now, before retiring to his quarters, he would take the turbolift down to deck fourteen before making the transfer by Jefferies tube through into the cargo container that was magnetically and mechanically latched below the transport tug.

Once inside, he would take the small electric transit platform that ran the length of the container and, if necessary, make a manual transfer into the next container until he was as far as it was possible to get from the ship itself. There he would stay for an hour, no more and no less. Sometimes he would read, other times he would listen to music, still other times he would do absolutely nothing at all other than watch the stars he loved pass by outside the small window. The isolation, the solitude was enough to cleanse his battered soul for another day and he would then eschew the electric transit platform to retrace his route, occasionally pausing to speak to any crew member who happened to be down there performing their duties.

By the time he’d finally arrive back at his quarters, his appetite would be piqued, his mind would be clear and another day would pass where the abyss of his loss was prevented from claiming him.

And so it had gone for eight years, three months and seventeen days. It was a routine that now filled him with comfort because the dreams of Elizabeth and that awful black day had receded to the depths of his subconscious. Occasionally they would return but with less power to hurt, just enough to sadden. That was a starting point, he supposed.

Heading back towards his quarters now, he felt the weight of the day and his duties lift and his mind began to gather itself for the evening ahead. Passing the pod containing the power plant upgrade for the Cestus III colony, he waved distractedly at a pair of crewmen far below as he considered what his evening meal would consist of. Jenny Marriot had been dropping subtle hints about changing his diet, hints which he had so far managed to avoid picking up on much to her chagrin. Moving on brought him past the huge grain silos and dry food supplies that would also make landfall at Cestus.

As he passed forward through the manual interconnect into the container that was directly attached to the Atlas he shivered slightly. The air here was relatively cool anyway but he knew that part of his shiver was directly attributable to the huge magnetic containers holding antimatter that stretched the length of the cargo container. These supplies would be heading on past Cestus to Starbase 18, a central nexus for Starfleet shipping routes.

Hauling antimatter wasn’t overly dangerous under normal circumstances, but he always felt a sense of relief when it had been unloaded.

Eventually he arrived back at his cabin, and in the intervening period dinner had been planned, several inconsequential items of paperwork had been mentally written and formatted and his diary for the following day pretty much finalized. He sighed as the door hissed open and he stepped through into the relatively spartan quarters.

In a sudden moment of insight, he noticed just how devoid of personality they were. I think it's time the place had a makeover he smiled to himself. Dinner first though.
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Last edited by unusualsuspex; October 25 2011 at 09:06 PM. Reason: Another cock up :)
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Old October 25 2011, 08:48 PM   #14
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Re: Something of a gift!

Nice work. And welcome back! It's good to see you writing again. Plus I'm especially surprised by the choice of TOS ship. I don't think anyone's written about a Ptolemy class before so it's a refreshing change for once.

Keep up the great work. I can't wait to read more.
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Old October 25 2011, 09:28 PM   #15
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Re: Something of a gift!

And thanks to you too Admiral Good to be here again!
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