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Old December 22 2012, 03:36 AM   #91
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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

USS Erickson

Lt. Brocc bit down so hard that he drew blood from his bottom lip. “The joint is back in the socket,” Ensign T’Fal told him seconds later. The Dimoran, ignoring the pain, rotated his shoulder, testing out the Tiburon’s assertion. It throbbed, but he would survive. And he was grateful to have more mobility.

The two Hazard Team members pressed themselves against a wall, keeping out of the throng of crewmen coursing through the halls like a chaotic river of flesh. The mass had pushed them together, and they had spent a moment trying to corral the flood, to get the crewmen into the relative safety of their quarters. Some had listened, some had not. Brocc could no longer concern himself with either.

“Did you see any of the rest of the team on your way here?” He asked the elephantine-eared Tiburon; nearly yelling to make sure the man heard him.

T’Fal winced slightly, and Brocc apologized. “It’s okay sir,” the Tiburon flicked one of his floppy ears. “These things pick up sound pretty well, even in a cacophonic environment like this.”

“So, you saw no one?” Brocc repeated.

“No sir,” he said, “I was headed to the armory when I ran into you sir. Maybe the rest of the team is there?”

“Perhaps,” Brocc said, “But we’ll save the reunion. I need you to go down to Engineering. I’m going to bridge. If there are two areas these brigands are going to want to gain control of, it would be those.”

“Aye sir,” the younger man said without reservation. Brocc nodded with satisfaction.

“Be careful Ensign,” he barked, through with sentiment, “That’s an order.”
************************************************** ***************

USS Erickson
Main Bridge

“Andraste,” Commander Donar shook his head, blinking several times. The thin peel of smoke hanging in the air wasn’t the cause because his eyes had already adapted to the smoky environs. The reaction was more him wanting to wake from this dream, or nightmare he had stepped into. But it was his wife, his Andraste, here in the flesh. Rich chocolate complexion, long, carefully plaited hair, her beautiful face hardened by time. She was dressed in a tight fitting, brown leather tunic and pants, with a furred sash purple bisecting the tunic. The sleeveless getup showed off her toned arms, always one of her best physical features. The retro style clashed with the modern utility belt she wore.

The nasty looking Breen pulse gun aimed at his chest finished off her ensemble. Seven more pirates had accompanied his wife, coming in two waves via transporter beam. They had quickly fanned out across the bridge, three on the upper deck and four in the command well. With practiced efficiency they had pinned the crew against the walls.

He took a step toward her and she waved the gun, her finger tightening on the trigger. “I wouldn’t if I were you,” she warned, and he knew the woman was lethally serious.

“Your tattoo,” was all Tai could muster.

She traced the unmarked strip of skin running from her left eye. “I got it surgically removed,” she answered, with a shrug. “I see you still kept yours, hanging on to the past.” Andraste shook her head, in mock pity.

“But-but why?” Donar hated himself for asking such unimportant questions, but his brain was still reeling, trying to process why his reunion with Andraste, something he had once dreamed about, would occur in the middle of such carnage, carnage he no doubt knew that she had caused.

The woman grinned before coughing lightly. Her gun hand never wavered. “If people knew I was an Angosian, if they knew I was a super-soldier, they wouldn’t underestimate me. Which can be fatal in the mercenary game. However, there has to be some accounting for my size, so I tell most people I am a Capellan, a small one. A ‘runt’ if you were. No one really questions that.”

“All this time,” Tai shook his head. “You left Angosia…you left me…for this?” He gestured at the wreckage around him.

“I left you because you just didn’t understand,” Andraste said. “You denied what you were, what they made us. I couldn’t think of anything else but killing after the war. The thought of what I had once wanted to be…an artist,” her laughter was harsh and heartbreaking. “After the war, they said my paintings were too disturbing. No one would buy them, you remember that.”

“I do,” he closed his eyes, remembering holding the shaking, sobbing woman after she had lit a match to her artwork in a bon fire. She had left him a month later. Little had he known at the time that she was setting fire to her entire life, to who she had once been.

“I couldn’t be Andraste Beyoro anymore,” she said, “The war had taken that young, naïve woman away.” Her eyes hardened, “And I couldn’t be Andraste Donar either, or at least the wife you deserved.”

“I never hated what they did to us more than I do at this moment,” Tai admitted, his heart thudding painfully in his chest.

“It’s too late for that now Tai,” Andraste said, her eyes narrowing on the three pips on his collar. “You’re not the master of this vessel,” she surmised. “Where is your captain?”

“What are you planning?” He asked.

“To take your command crew as hostages while we pillage this ship for weapons and other valuables,” Andraste bluntly answered, “even now I have teams taking over your Engineering and Armory rooms. We’re going to make quite a bit of profit off of this ship.”

“No, you won’t,” he declared. “It doesn’t have to be this way.” He took another step forward, oblivious of the threat. He reached out to her again, “There is still a way to turn this around,” he offered.

Andraste stepped back. She laughed, “You are not seriously going to ask me to surrender are you?”

“If you want to live,” Tai said.

“Oh really?” Andraste challenged, “You think you can take me?” She said, shoving the gun into his chest. With lightning, Tai grabbed the barrel and yanked it upwards while throwing an elbow at Andraste’s face. The woman’s cheek shattered inward as the elbow hit home. The pulse gun went off, the recoil burning his hand. But the deadly discharge demolishing a piece of the ceiling above.

A yowl came from above and the grating over an overhead bulkhead popped open. A small furry blur leapt out, taking everyone by surprise. Hitting the deck in a controlled roll, Lt. Brocc began firing before he got to one knee. He picked off at least two pirates in just that many seconds.

Taking advantage of the man’s timely intervention, Tai yanked the gun completely from his ex-wife’s grasp. She snarled, spitting bloodied teeth at him before she unleashed a flurry of blows on him. Tai backed up, alternately trying to protect his head and his body as the woman unloaded her fury on him. From his periphery, he could see that Brocc’s action had inspired the other bridge crew.

Even defenseless, some charged the would be captors. He heard a spray of fire suppressant foam and a squeal from one of the pirates. Tai’s heart leavened as he withstood Andraste’s barrage.

They had often sparred when married and despite the much higher stakes, Tai was able to keep the woman from landing a knockout or lethal blow. And if he could keep her dancing along until he could get to the bridge’s weapons locker, he could waylay her and then completely retake command of the bridge.

Cursing him, she pulled a circular, three-bladed weapon from her utility belt. “Kligat,” Tai said through gritted teeth. A nasty smile spread over Andraste’s face.

“Hate to cut this short lover,” she said, “But you and your merry band are really starting to piss me off.” She tried to outflank him, slicing the air in front of him as she maneuvered him away from the weapon’s locker. He took a look back at it, and Andraste’s smile turned knowing. “I know a thing or two about Starfleet bridge design. You didn’t think I was going to make it that easy for you, did you?”

The Angosian widened his stance, his arms at his sides, trying to keep away from the deadly melee weapon. Though she only faked being a native from that world, his ex-wife wielded the Capellan weapon with expert skill.

He tried to reduce everything to the opponent standing in front of him, but it was hard blocking out the cries of his colleagues as the pirates began to reassert themselves. He flinched at each sound of disruptor fire and each cry of agony or worse. One of the shrieks sounded like it came from Lt. Brocc. And he didn’t even want to dwell on how badly the captain might be faring.

Sensing his distraction, Andraste lunged at him, her blade nicking his upper arm. He pulled back just in time before it could do any other damage. “When are you going to stop retreating?” She taunted. “When did you become so soft?”

“Drop the kligat and I’ll show you how soft I am,” he promised. Andraste laughed. She had completely moved him away from the locker, almost to the other side of the upper bridge.

“Not lacking for confidence are you,” she licked her lips, eyes roving his body. “I hope you haven’t weakened in other areas.”

“Put down that weapon and I can show you that too,” he offered.

“I like it when you talk dirty,” she said, advancing on him.

“Eww, gross,” Helen said over Andraste’s shoulder. The Angosian woman’s shoulders bunched and Tai could see her wrestling with whether she should turn around or not. He decided to help her.

“Time to give up Andraste, she’s got a phaser on you,” Tai said, looking around the woman to see Norrbom propped against the wall by the now open locker. She held her weapon square at Andraste’s back. “Good work Commander.”

“Yeah thanks, could’ve done without all the pillow talk though,” the woman said. “But at least it kept her distracted.”

“I suppose so,” Donar said. He held out his hand. “Hand over the kligat.” Andraste cursed, her body tensing. For what, Tai didn’t know, but he was certain it wasn’t going to be good. He tried once more, “This raid is over. I promise I will do all I can to mitigate your incarceration sentencing, if you give up right now.”

“You think I’m going to a place like Lunar V again?” She thundered, and Tai winced, realizing his mistake.

“Andraste,” he was able to call before the woman released her weapon. It sliced through his shoulder on its way to implanting into a wall. The pain had barely registered, before the woman had turned on Helen. Norrbom fired, hitting her dead in the chest. But Andraste continued charging.

Grabbing his torn shoulder, blood geysering through his fingers, Tai shouted, “Commander, highest stun setting!”

“Damn,” Helen said, backing away from the rampaging Angosian. She was still fumbling with adjusting the stun setting when Andraste crashed into her, flattening her against the wall. Norrbom’s head bounced against the wall with a stomach churning smack. Helen gave a short, stunted cry before she fell to the deck. Tai rushed to her, checking her condition, unfortunately slathering her with his blood. The human tried to speak, but her eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out. The Angosian quickly wiped his blood stained hand on his tunic, and then picked up the woman’s phaser. He checked its stun setting.
Andraste hadn’t stopped. She had run toward the turbolift, hoping to escape the bridge. But courtesy of the plunderers’ attack, the lift wasn’t working. The woman was prying the doors open when he caught up to her.

“Andraste,” he called, not wanting to shoot his ex-wife in the back. He wanted to give her honorable due.

“Blast,” she called, yanking an old style hand-held communicator from her belt. “This is Nadeen! Emergency beam out now, damn you!” There was a crackle of static, and then Tai’s spirits lifted.

“This is Burning Claw, and we surrender,” Lt. Ramlo’s voice issued through the tiny transceiver.

Andraste bellowed in rage, whipping around to strike. Tai didn’t waste a second. He shot his ex-wife in the chest, at maximum stun. The woman hit the parted doors, still on her feet. Tai aimed again, “Surrender now,” he warned. Andraste glanced backward, through the sliver of the turbolift doors. “Don’t do it,” he snapped. Andraste yanked the doors apart and threw herself backwards. Tai got off another shot, clipping her shoulder.

“Andraste, no!” He rushed to the turbolift. He looked down into the depths and saw nothing. He knew it was a long way down. For the first time today he was grateful that full power had yet to be restored.
************************************************** **************
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Old December 22 2012, 10:29 PM   #92
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Location: US Pacific Northwest
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Yikes! That was an unexpected and seriously brutal family reunion for Tai.

I'll give Andraste/Nadeen credit, boarding a Federation starship is bold, hell, it's tantamount to suicide.

I'm a bit shocked to see most of the Starfleet crew aside from the Hazard Team fleeing the attack instead of running to retrieve weaponry to repel the pirate boarding teams. I guess for many of the younger officers and crew, the Dominion War is ancient history.

And I have a nagging suspicion that Andraste won't be so easily dealt with. The Angosian military engineered her to be a far cry sturdier than a plunge down a turboshaft.

Damn fine work, keep it coming!
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Old December 23 2012, 05:10 PM   #93
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

This has gone sideways really quickly.

Really impressed with what you've done with Nadeen/Andraste. Didn't see that revelation coming at all and the way it blindsided Doner was just beautiful.

It looks like things were going badly for Erickson and her crew but the tide seems to be turning, in no small part thanks to Ramlo's efforts on the Claw.

Really terrific work here.
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Old December 29 2012, 10:17 PM   #94
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Hey guys, I hope you and all the readers are in the midst of a joyous holiday season.

So glad you both liked the family reunion. I was trying to figure out the best way to do the big reveal so I'm glad it met your approval.

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

USS Erickson
Main Bridge

Commander Donar stood on the precipice, one boot already over the edge. Gripping the lift’s entrances with both hands, his eyes tried to puncture the darkness below him, searching for any signs of his wife. His ears were perked, primed to hear her prayers, screams, curses, or the sickening thud of skin and bone impacting the shaft’s duranium bottom.

His fingers dug into the threshold’s metal as he imagined the terror and fear that must be coursing through Andraste’s mind as she fell down the turboshaft. It was interspersed with a rush of memories of their life together.

He heard faint noises on the periphery of his conscious mind, but his attention was still focused on his wife, his heart ached for her. Donar wanted to throw himself into the abyss, in an insane attempt to catch up with her, to save her…finally. Something he had failed to do all those years ago. He gathered himself, his fingers rending the metal within his grasp as he sought to gain purchase, to be better able to leap.

“Captain Donar!” The shout pierced the haze, stopping his preparation. He whipped around, annoyed that someone was interfering with his efforts to save his wife, but also stricken with the fear that such an appellation could only be uttered if Captain Redfeather had expired.

“What is it?” He barked. Behind him, a battered Lt. French knelt beside an insensate Commander Norrbom. The younger man blanched at Tai’s ferocity. The helmsman swallowed loudly, before replying.

“Sir,” French said, “Captain, we need you on the bridge.” Tai’s eyes flicked to the demolished command chair. “Her pulse is very weak, but Captain Redfeather is still with us,” the man answered his unspoken question with relief. Tai wished to breath in a relieved sigh as well, but his large chest was constricted. “Until Captain Redfeather has made a full recovery, you are the acting captain now sir.”

“Norrbom?” Donar asked, ignoring what the flight control officer had just said.

“She’ll survive, I guess,” French said, with noticeable doubt, “The commander certainly is in better shape than Captain Redfeather.”

“I see,” Tai said, glancing once more into the darkness behind him, before he forged ahead. “Let’s get main power back online so we can transport our wounded down to sickbay. But first, I want communications, weapons, and shields back.”

“Aye sir,” French said, snapping to his feet. “Right away sir,” he rushed to corral whomever among the bridge crew that could still stand or was conscious to help.

Tai marched to the communications console. He rerouted enough emergency power to send a staccato communications burst through the main deflector. He hoped that Mr. Ramlo was up on his Morse code.
************************************************** ***************

The Burning Claw

From his perch, the new command deck of the Burning Claw, Lt. Ramlo smiled as he watched the sequence of long and short paused bursts across the Erickson’s main deflector. “I understand,” he said into the communications receiver. Though both Erickson’s inter-and-intraship communications systems were inactive, the ship’s audio receivers could still pick up hails.

“And I will assist once I’ve taken care of the immediate threat,” the Arkenite said, using Burning Claw’s sensors to locate the living members of the raiding parties. He was surprised that he didn’t see a Capellan bio-sign among the living. He certainly wouldn’t miss the ruthless Nadeen, Ramlo surmised, though he wished that he had been able to witness her end.

He activated the freighter’s transporter, sweeping up the pirates, and leaving them trapped in the pattern buffer. The scientist’s finger hovered over the re-materialization button. He could transmit them to the holding cells or just as easily drop them into the depths of space, or one of those nice subspace fractures littering the void around them.

Would anyone really blame him if he did? After all that these marauders had done to him, after they had killed his colleagues? Besides, the ship’s transporter was antiquated and transporter accidents unfortunately continued to happen even with state-of-the-art equipment.

The idea was tempting, but Ramlo held back. Despite whatever brutality had been visited upon him, it didn’t give him a license to respond in like manner. He was a Starfleet officer above all and he believed in the rule of law. These brigands would face justice, he decided. Not sure if Shash would agree with him, but Ramlo was doubtlessly certain she would appreciate his sticking to his beliefs.

Ramlo sent the pirates to the holding cells. Once the cells had been used to hold frightened slaves, now the rooms would be used appropriately to jail the slavers. Besides he could’ve killed the crew aboard the ship by shutting off life support, but instead he had pumped neurozine through the ship to incapacitate the shipboard crew. Why start murdering now, he surmised, somewhat sardonically.

Once the beams and a new round of gassing had been completed, Ramlo set about trying to find a way to help Erickson restore power quickly. Muting all sounds, so he could concentrate, the Arkenite engrossed himself in the myriad problems Erickson had as a result of flying into the pirates’ ambush. Unfortunately, the silenced sound prevented him from hearing the proximity alarm that blared throughout the rest of the ship.
************************************************** **************
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Old December 30 2012, 09:40 AM   #95
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Location: US Pacific Northwest
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Good to see Donar getting his head back in the game (with some prompting). Ramlo has his hands full aboard Burning Claw, and one can't help but admire his adherence to his principles.

What the hell has stumbled across them now, though?
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Old December 30 2012, 04:45 PM   #96
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

It's too early to celebrate victory but at least it looks as if the pirates are under control. And Doner is in command? Time for him to show us if he's got the right stuff to be in charge.
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Old December 30 2012, 07:15 PM   #97
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Thanks again for reading and commenting. This story is almost done. But there might be a shock or two left.

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

USS Erickson
Main Turboshaft

Andraste held her arms and legs at bent angles, as if she was skydiving, and in a way she was. Her eyes were rapidly adjusting to each new layer of darkness, searching for something, anything that could save her life. She didn’t know how long the shaft was or how much of it she had traversed. It had taken her an interminable amount of time to overcome her fear and panic. Hopefully she still had enough space left to pull off the impossible, which usually was very possible for Angosian super-soldiers.

With her enhanced eyesight, she caught glimpses of the ladder rings running the length of the shaft. Both of her arms shot out to grab hold. She bit down a scream as both of her shoulders were nearly wrenched from their sockets at the violent arrest of her fall. Her body slammed into the other rings, producing a fresh round of pain throughout her body. Andraste grunted and held on for dear life.
************************************************** ***************

Jov’k Tholis
Calcite-class battlecruiser

The large, pyramidal ship cut through the gaseous fog. Commander Narskene, at the bridge’s command center, sent a mental command. Hir Sensor and Weapons Officers scanned the two ships before them.

While waiting for their replies, Narskene regarded the scene on the triangular main viewer. The Federation starship was darkened, its silvery hull blackened where it hadn’t been punctured. “The work of mines,” s/he muttered, ordering the helm to bring the cruiser to full stop.

S/he didn’t want Jov’k Tholis to suffer the same fate as the Starfleet vessel. Narskene then shifted her head to the other ship. It was a smaller, Antares-style freighter. Though it hung in space before the starship, it looked none the worse for wear. So, this vessel must have tricked the starship into the minefield, Narskene surmised. And that made the denizens on the smaller vessel the deadlier foe due to their cunning.

“Commander,” the Sensor Officer chirped first. “Readings indicate that the Intrepid-class starship is operating on emergency power, while a massive polaric ion energy signature is emanating from the Antares freighter.”

“Weapons?” S/He asked hir weapons master. The heavy-limbed Weapons Officer replied.

“All weapons systems are offline for the Intrepid-class vessel. And weapons are depowered for the Antares-class freighter.”

“Excellent,” Narskene said. “Target all of our weapons on the freighter, along the area where the polaric ion readings are strongest. Once the shielding has been overwhelmed, I want the locus of the polaric ion emanations beamed to Cargo Hold One and held within an annular confinement beam.”

The susurrus of mental replies was sufficient for the commander. “Now, on my mark, fire!”
************************************************** **************

Last edited by DarKush; December 31 2012 at 03:16 AM.
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Old December 31 2012, 03:22 AM   #98
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

************************************************** ***************
USS Erickson
Main Bridge

Commander Donar removed himself from the guts of the tactical console as he heard its innards start to hum with new life. He stood up, dusting off his knees. He squinted at the increased lighting on the bridge. He strode aft, ignoring the wreckage, of men and materiel, all around him. “Lt. Jilicia, report.”

The Boslic was hunched over a makeshift ops console, converted from one of the auxiliary stations. A deep purple bruise matching her hair color ran down the length of one side of her face. Looking up into the shadow looming over her, she replied, “Captain, the power grid is at minimum capacity.”

Tai grunted approval. “How long until we reach full power?” Before the woman could reply, a proximity warning blared through the bridge. “What was that?” The Angosian asked the perplexed science officer.

“Let’s see if the viewer is working?” Lt. French offered.

“Put whatever caused that alert onscreen,” Donar ordered. A collective gasp ran through the bridge personnel as a large, pyramid shaped vessel, the color of molten lava, flew over them. Though he had never faced one in combat, the Angosian knew that only one interstellar power had ships fashioned in a triangular configuration: Tholians. And something in his gut told him that their sudden arrival wasn’t happenstance.

“Shields,” Tai ordered as he watched the ship pass Erickson on a course for the pirate vessel…and Lt. Ramlo.

“The best we can do right now is %15 percent,” the petty officer at the engineering terminal replied.

“Then do it, but make sure to concentrate shielding over the Engineering section,” Donar said, determined not to remain stranded out in this gods forsaken patch of space any longer than necessary. And warp core breaches would be less than optimal as well. “What about weapons?”

“That’s a little better,” replied the ensign who had taken over the restored tactical station. “Phaser banks are at %20.”

“Hail the Tholian vessel,” Tai ordered.

“No reply sir,” Jilicia answered. He repeated the request and got the same reply.

“Tholian vessel is powering weapons,” the auxiliary tactical officer yipped.

“Hail the pirate vessel,” Donar barked, his emotions getting the best of him. The marauder didn’t seem to have taken notice of the Tholian warship. It hadn’t taken any evasive maneuvers, increased shields, or charged weapons. What’s going on over there? Tai wondered, his concern for Ramlo growing.

“Fire a warning blow off the Tholian ship’s bow,” the Angosian commanded. Before the order could be carried out, the Tholians unleashed a devastating salvo at the hapless pirate vessel. Tai paused, watching the beautiful destruction as the disruptors stitched across the pirate ship’s hull, shattering its weak shielding as it punched through its hide.

After the first assault, the Tholian vessel curiously stopped. “Belay my previous order, and check the status of the pirate vessel.”

Jilicia rapidly said, “The freighter has suffered extensive damage. Both weapons and propulsion are inoperative, and the shields are gone too. The structural integrity field is in danger of collapsing.” The corsair was in bad shape, but the Tholians hadn’t destroyed it…yet.

Donar grunted, reassessing the situation. “Try hailing the Tholians again,” Donar said, reasoning that maybe the pirate ship had done some injustice in Tholian space. If that was so, he was certain that a mutually beneficial arrangement could be worked out without engaging in actions that could lead to interstellar war.

“Hail received, and is being answered,” Jilicia didn’t attempt to hide her happiness at the news.

The view screen flickered several seconds before the fiery countenance of a Tholian appeared. “Captain, Starfleet vessel, in the interest of continued peace between our nations, I will ask you only once not to intervene.” The Tholian commander ended the message as curtly as s/he had spoken.

“The Tholians have just activated a transporter beam,” the Boslic science officer replied. “They have taken the polaric ion generator from the pirate vessel.”

So that’s what they came after, Tai realized, shifting his jaw, his face taking on an even more determined cast. “Move to intercept them with whatever juice this ship can muster. We can’t let the Tholians take that device.”
************************************************** *************
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Old January 1 2013, 04:21 PM   #99
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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

The Burning Claw

Lt. Ramlo had felt the deep rumbling of thunder before the lighting struck. Pitched from his chair and slammed against a bulk head, the Arkenite’s head split open like a grape. There was a brief moment of blackness before the science officer awakened to a thudding, heavy pain in his cranium and blinding blood seeping into his eyes.

He blinked maddeningly, unable to will his hands to wipe the warm crimson fluid from his eyes. Strangely, even though Ramlo knew he should be in agony, the only pain he felt was in his head. The rest of his body was numb.

Taking stock of his situation, his neck creaked as he looked around. His body was a twisted, jangled mess, his legs crushed beneath a bulkhead. He was certain there was severe internal damage, but he could feel none of it. The lab had also been wrecked. His console and the control it had afforded him were both now slag.

What happened? He wondered. Had Erickson fired on them? But why? Had Nadeen somehow reasserted control? Impossible, he surmised. It must be someone else, his thoughts darkened, a third party?

“Who could it be?” He muttered, his speech slickened by the blood that bubbled up in his mouth and dripped from his lips. “Why?” He asked, his eyes shifting to the likely reason. “No,” he mumbled again.

A blinding orange light enveloped the polaric ion device, which miraculously had not been harmed during the barrage. In less than a second the device was gone, absconded, and in the hands of whomever had attacked the Burning Claw.

“Erickson,” he remembered. The ship, his friends, they could all be in danger. He tried to move his arms, to force them to remove the metal that had pulverized his legs, but they wouldn’t respond. “Computer,” he said, waiting in vain for the modulated, emotionless reply. He grimaced, realizing he wasn’t on the Erickson, and now would likely never be again.

Ramlo was still grappling with that dark thought when the final darkness rode in on a blaze of plasma.
************************************************** *************

Jov’k Tholis
Calcite-class battlecruiser

“The Federation starship is moving to intercept, they are charging weapons,” the Sensor Officer informed Narskene. The Tholian commander looked at the battered Starfleet ship, slowly moving to block their advance. But it was too late.

The ship they ostensibly were moving to protect was now debris. Narskene knew that the High Magistrates would want hir to be thorough in removing all traces of Tholian origin of the polaric ion device, and s/he could take no chances that data to that effect was residing within that decrepit freighter’s computer banks.

“Should we target the Federation starship?” The Weapons Officer asked, not hiding hir eagerness. The Weapons Officer carried the memories of hir forebear who had participated in the expansionist programs in the mid-23rd century. S/he longed to take on the Federation directly, to test hir mettle as earlier generations once had.

“Scan the Starfleet vessel for any polaric ion energy signs,” Narskene replied instead. Though s/he knew hir orders, the commander was reluctant to take a step that could be considered an act of war. And s/he wasn’t as confident in hir ship’s ability to destroy the Federation vessel completely enough to escape free and clear. Narskene was content to avoid a conflict and let the politicians of both nations argue over the reasons for Jov’k Tholis’s mysterious appearance in the Caldera Expanse.

“There are no traces of polaric ion energy aboard the Starfleet ship,” the Sensor Officer replied. S/he paused a beat, “The Federation vessel is hailing us again.”

“Ignore them,” Narskene said, “And set a course out of this expanse and back toward Assembly space, highest speed.”
************************************************** *************
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Old January 1 2013, 05:02 PM   #100
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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

USS Erickson

It wasn’t the first time that Andraste had thanked the monsters who had turned her into a nearly indestructible killing machine. With a strong yank, she pried open the lift’s doors, nearly stumbling out into the corridor. Her accelerated healing had already started repairing many of her more serious injuries, but was still very sore all over. Clutching her sides, her ribs squealing in protest, she took a quick look around. The darkened hall was deserted. No doubt the officious Starfleet personnel were all more focus on restoring the ship than milling about, or either the cowards were locked in their rooms, waiting for Tai to reestablish order.

Despite it all, she was pleased to see him again. Though he had thrown in his lot with self-righteous do-gooders he still cut quite the dashing figure. Andraste squinted as she recalled the layout of the ship in her head. One thing about Deoch, or more so about Mavaar, one of them believed in being prepared and had schematics of a wide variety of ships they might have to combat or elude at some point. Thankfully one had been of the Intrepid class.

The Angosian looked around once more, getting her bearings. “Now, where is the nearest shuttle bay?”
************************************************** **************

USS Erickson
Main Bridge

“Tholian vessel is backing away, engaging warp engines,” Jilicia grimly replied. Commander Donar frowned as he watched the scene unfold on the viewer. The Burning Claw was embers, along with Lt. Ramlo. Tai had lost another crewmember in his charge: Fryer, Kittles, Shashlik, Ramlo, so many others, maybe including the captain…

“Sort of obvious,” Lt. French said, no doubt trying to leaven the morose mood gripping the bridge over the death of yet another colleague. However, the bitter tang to his words belied even the light-hearted human’s attempts. Ramlo’s death had been the final straw…for all of them.

Donar closed his eyes and willed the rage churning within him to abate. Tai needed, the crew needed him at his best logical right now, not his berserker fury. The Angosian knew it was folly, but he made a silent promise that no other Starfleet deaths would occur in the Caldera Expanse today, not at the hands of the Tholians.

Tai had failed to prevent the Tholians from taking the polaric ion generator, but he would do all he could to stop them from leaving the expanse with it. “Move to intercept, full impulse,” he barked.

“Ah sir, we are not at full impulse right now,” the petty officer at the Engineering station reluctantly ventured.

“Then give us whatever you have!” The Angosian snapped. “And target all of our firepower at that ship. It’s not leaving this expanse.”

“Sir,” gulped the ensign at the tactical station. “Our weapons banks are now at 35%, I don’t think we can do much to impede them, while they could do significant damage to us, since our shielding and structural integrity are still on the mend.”

Tai glared at the young human brunette, biting back a blistering retort. He was not going to allow his emotions to get the best of him or make her the recipient of misdirected anger. He paused, his mind spinning through a host of scenarios.

“Tholian vessel engines are almost fully powered up,” Jilicia said while Donar was still thinking.

“Ensign,” he said after arriving at his best option. “Divert all power to the torpedo bay, including warp, propulsion, and even life support.”

“Excuse me sir?” The young woman blinked.

“Do it,” He barked. “Life support will only be interrupted temporarily,” he said. “But I want us to be able to fire as many quantum torpedoes as possible at that Tholian ship.”
************************************************** **************
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Old January 1 2013, 07:42 PM   #101
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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

Jov’k Tholis
Calcite-class battlecruiser

“Warp engines are primed,” the Operations Officer informed the commander. Narskene looked at the viewer, watching the Starfleet vessel struggle to catch up to them.

“Starfleet ship is moving to intercept,” The Weapons Officer stated the obvious. “And is powering…diverting power to forward torpedo bays.” S/he said, glancing up from hir terminal. What s/he wanted was evident.

“Take us back to Tholia,” Narskene ordered.

“But shouldn’t we…disable the Federation vessel first?” The Weapons Officer suggested.

“Carry out my order,” Narskene barked, ignoring the bellicose weapons master. In reply to hir command, the cruiser turned from the glacially advancing Starfleet vessel.

“Activate warp drive,” Narskene said.

************************************************** **************
USS Erickson
Main Bridge

The Tholian vessel began to stretch across the main viewer as the warp effect began to take hold. Tai knew they only had seconds, if that, to stop them. “Fire whatever operable quantum torpedoes available!”

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

USS Erickson

Almost at the Auxiliary Shuttlebay, Andraste felt the walls quiver. She recognized the vibrations. Tai had just fired torpedoes. So they had regained some control over the ship’s systems, the Angosian realized. She also guessed that the focus of her exes’ ire would be Burning Claw. The woman guessed that was the epitaph for her fellow buccaneers.

There was no one on that bucket she would shed tears for, which made the decision she had already formulated that much more vital to undertake. Reaching the entrance, she tried the manual interface. Still disabled, she used her fingers to pry the paneling open and then rewired the interface to open the doors.

Crossing the threshold, Andraste grinned at the fleet of gleaming silver-white shuttles now at her disposal. “Stop right there!” She heard a hard voice coming from the pool of shadows to her right. A strapping young Grazerite, holding a phaser in one meaty hand, strode forward. Andraste’s smile grew wider.

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

Jov’k Tholis
Calcite-class battlecruiser

As the engines hummed around them, the warp field embracing the vessel, Narskene barely registered the weapons master’s shrill warning. “Commander, Starfleet vessel has just fired two quantum torpedoes.”

The commander didn’t worry too much about it because the torpedoes would merely puncture the space where Jov’k Tholis had just been. Even if they made contact, the cruiser’s shields were strong enough to handle the initial volley, and it would give hir enough justification to vaporize the Starfleet vessel. None of the Federation advocates would be able to argue that Jov'k Tholis had not acted in self-defense.

As space began to stretch before hir eyesight, Narskene heard the Weapon Officer’s second report. “First torpedo missed.”

“What of the second?” Narskene asked, still not concerned. The stars were stretching to infinity now and the harmonics of the engines as the warp factored increased was like music to the commander. It was what s/he loved most about breaking the warp threshold.

Enjoying the excitement of being on the cusp, Narskene held in hir bantling delight as the ship flung forward, piercing subspace. The moment was shorter than it usually was because of a terrible, uncommon rattling that shook the ship and threw it off course.

Using her multiple limbs, Narskene maintained her poise. “What was that?” S/he asked, already knowing the answer.

“One of the quantum torpedoes hit our portside nacelle,” the Weapons Officer’s tone was accusatory. For the time being, Narskene chose to ignore it.

“Any significant damage?”

“No,” the weapons master seemed not to want to admit. “The shields held.” The commander could hear the warp engines still humming. The Starfleet ship had even been ineffective at slowing them down. Their best shot hadn’t been good enough.

“Well then,” Narskene said, with renewed confidence. “Helm, best speed to Tholia.”

“I don’t think that will be possible,” the pilot soberly replied. The viewer, s/he added mentally. Look at the main viewer commander.

There was a sickeningly Terran-like gasp from the Sensor Officer who had gazed at the main viewer without the mental prompting. Narskene’s eyes widened.

A large, dark band hung before them, a massive subspace rupture like a grinning mouth, a hungry gullet. While the Starfleet ship had not damaged Jov’k Tholis, it had knocked the ship off course and nearly right down the maw of a monstrous tear in space.

“Reverse engines,” Narskene nearly cried. “Reverse engines!”

“It’s too late,” the Weapons Officer said, and Narskene had to have imagined there was a morbid self-satisfaction in the subordinate’s tone. As if hir words were prophecy, dark tendrils lit by infernal plasma lashed out at the ship, smashing into it, battering it about as if the large cruiser were a mere plaything.

“Increase power to shields!” The commander barked as the ship continued getting tossed about, spidery cracks appearing throughout the bridge as Jov’k Tholis itself seemed to stop listening to hir. Klaxons blasted while the engines’ harmony had turned to cacophony.

At least hir crew, including the weapons master, worked feverishly to avert destruction. But the great mouth of the rupture was only getting closer, and the assault against the ship was draining its power. The cruiser was struggling like a trapped beast, and it was losing.

Narskene knew the battle was lost, but could at least be satisfied that the Assembly’s secret would stay safe and that hir crew had performed ably. That was all that a commander could ask for, and it was a fitting sum total for the brief mortal thread s/he had been given. Accepting hir fate, Narskene stared into the breach and dared it take hir.

************************************************** *************
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Old January 1 2013, 09:36 PM   #102
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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

USS Erickson
Main Bridge

There was a much needed cheer that went up on the bridge as the second torpedo struck. Commander Donar held back his pleasure, keeping his eyes on the screen. After the brightness of the conflagration had dissipated, there was no sign of the Tholian spacecraft.

Tai knew that the shot, which hadn’t even hit the Tholian battlecruiser head on, could have destroyed it. “Lt. Jilicia, what happened to the ship?”

“Scanners show that the ship was able to go to warp,” the Boslic answered, with obvious disappointment.

“At least we slowed it down,” Lt. French offered. “Maybe we can catch up to it.”

Tai shook his head, “No, Mr. French. By the time we are in a position to effectively take on that warship, they will be halfway back to Assembly space. Our first priority is here, taking care of ship and crew,” the Angosian remarked. His head dipping for a few moments as he calmed the bloodlust still beckoning, he said quietly, “Restore power to main systems.” The bridge brightened as energy was redirected from the torpedo bays.

He shifted his shoulders, the burden of failure rested uncomfortably on them. Though he had been unsuccessful in stopping the Tholians, it didn’t mean that another Starfleet ship couldn’t. “Lt. Jilicia, prepare a warning buoy about our encounter with the Tholians. I don’t want them waylaying any more ships. Also, if another Starfleet vessel happens upon them, they will have some inkling of what they might face.”

“Aye sir,” the young woman replied, quickly getting to work. Tai left the upper deck and strode into the command well. Captain Redfeather, her face a mass of cuts and bruises, had been propped up in corner of the room, near her Ready Room. Before the Angosian could reach her, a shaft of bright blue light appeared in his way. It resolved quickly into Dr. Narsan.

The Halanan clutched a medical tricorder in one hand, a hypo in the other, and a medical kit was slung across his shoulders. He coolly took in his surroundings, before turning in the captain’s direction without prompting from Tai.

He ran the blocky scanner over the woman, mumbled something unintelligible, and then placed the hypo on her upper arm. Before Tai could inquire about her condition, the chief medic tapped his combadge and the transporter beam enveloped both him and his patient.

Seconds later, several nurses, with similar equipment appeared on the bridge, and whisked away the most seriously injured crew members.

For the first time in what seemed an eternity, Tai allowed himself a little bit of hope that Captain Redfeather would pull through and that things would eventually return to normal, as much as that was possible with the gaping hole left in the command structure and the ship’s community by the deaths of so many well regarded colleagues.

Despite that, Donar was going to cradle the little ember of hope to keep the flame alive. He had Jilicia check in with Engineering and the other departments, getting a sense of how badly the pirates had hit them. After working out restoration timeframes for affected systems, Tai set about to deal with something that had been coiling in his mind, under a rock until the immediate danger had passed.

“Lt. Jilicia,” he asked the taxed Boslic. She answered crisply, with no hint of frustration. “I want you to check for Angosian life signs.” The nanoseconds before her answer were some of the most agonizing that Tai had experienced in his whole life, and after all the death he had seen and blood he had spilled, that meant a lot.

“I’m reading…two,” the woman jerked up from her terminal, her eyes wide.

“Where is the second reading?” Tai asked, his expression hardening, as tension built in his muscles.

“Auxiliary Shuttle…” Jilicia hadn’t even finished before Tai had clapped his combadge and ordered to be teleported there.
************************************************** *************

USS Erickson
Auxiliary Shuttlebay

In hindsight, Tai realized he probably should’ve brought a phaser along. The floating shuttle turned around slowly to face him, Andraste in the cockpit. Below it, uniform rippling in the breeze was a Grazerite non-com, his head twisted at an impossible angle.

The Angosian’s insides froze and he gathered his strength. Andraste smiled, before speaking, via the shuttle’s communication system. “Open the doors Tai, or I’m going to blast them.”

“No,” he shook his head.

“You’ll get sucked out into space.”

“I’m not letting you go, not after what you’ve done, the murders you committed.” His heart ached as the woman shrugged.

“Come now,” she chided. “This is not your coddled Starfleet compatriots you are talking to, this is your wife, and even more importantly a fellow soldier. You know how transient life is, and how much it is an honor to die in service of something you believe in. The lives I’ve taken here today, they now have a meaning, a resonance that those with more humdrum existences do not,” his wife declared.

“That’s sick!” He snarled, his hands starting to twitch as the desire to lock them around his wife’s throat began to mount.

“Stop deluding yourself,” she said, “You know it’s true. Now, let me go, or I’m going to demolish a good chunk of your hull. Do you really think that this ship can withstand another breach?”

“I’m not letting you go,” he repeated, damnable moisture collecting at the corners of his eyes.

Andraste sighed audibly. “This isn’t about the crewmen at all,” she shook her head. “This is about you and me. You have to let me go, finally Tai. You can’t save me.” She paused, her voice growing surprisingly, disgustingly tender, “You never could. This is my life, these are my choices, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about them any longer. You have to let me go.”

“You’re going to face justice,” he promised.

“Perhaps, but not today and you know it,” she replied with equal resolve. “You have a ship and crew to take care of, save our little dance for another day.”

He fought against each step, but the Angosian forced his legs over to the free standing operation console. The shuttlebay doors parted open slowly, the black vacuum beyond held back by a forcefield. While the field kept oxygen in, it did nothing for heat. A deep chill came over him as Andraste dipped the shuttle in a twisted gesture of respect or to say goodbye. She angled it around and then eased it through the shimmering forcefield and then out into space.

Tai slapped his combadge so hard it burned his chest. He wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t leave a chevron imprint on his pectoral. “Bridge, lock tractor beam on that shuttle, now!”

He waited anxious seconds for a confirmation that his order had been carried out. “Bridge,” he prompted after activating the compin again.

“Sorry sir,” the brunette at the tactical terminal said, “But we were unable to lock onto the shuttle. The pilot engaged in some unorthodox maneuvers.”

“Understood,” he said, “Donar out.” The Angosian knew it would be pointless to chew out the young officer. Andraste always had been a good pilot. It would take a very skillful hand to trap her with a tractor beam, and Tai wasn’t even sure he could have done it.

Contemplating what had just happened, Donar stood in the shuttlebay, with the dead non-com, watching the doors shut, clanging with a finality he didn’t feel. “I will see you again Andraste,” he stated simply, quietly, “I promise.”
************************************************** ************
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Old January 1 2013, 10:55 PM   #103
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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

Starbase 101
Two weeks later…

“Captain,” Tai Donar said warmly, punctuating it with a short bow once he reached her bedside. “It’s good seeing you conscious, and sitting up.” There were only a few other occupied biobeds in the massive medical center. The captain was propped up on the half-elevated bed, one leg and arm hanging from straps attached to the structure overhanging the bed. Tai stood on the other side of the bed, opposite the structure.

Captain Redfeather smiled, and winced right after. Her face was covered with deep red and brown welts, and her right arm was still encased within a cast. “Captain Donar,” she chanced a smile again, got half way and then thought better of it. She nodded and him and winced again. “Thank you for getting my crew and Erickson back safe and sound.”

He frowned, nodding his head, “I wish I could say the same, but there were fatalities.” Nine crewmen had been mowed down by the marauders, not counting the poor young man whose neck had been snapped by his wife. “And I let one of the key perpetrators go.”

Redfeather’s eyes clouded over and her face took on a grim cast. “It could’ve been worse, much worse. But it wasn’t, and I have you to thank for it.”

“Captain, I-I came here,” Tai paused, his words tangling. “To see you, but also…” She strongly shook her head.

“Don’t you say it,” she warned, “Don’t you dare. You’re not going to quit on me.”

“But captain, I…f-failed,” he stammered.

“Who among us hasn’t,” she riposted, “and who among us hasn’t lived up to all of their promises. You’ve had men die under your command before, far more than I ever have, and you know that is one of the risks of the life we live.”

He lowered his head, unable to speak. Captain Redfeather continued, “Listen Captain, Commander, oh, Tai, listen, I wasn’t honest with you. I did have doubts about you, reservations about your military conditioning,” she paused, to gauge his reaction. Tai kept his head down, so she continued, “I was concerned that when the battle was on, you might get lost in the thick of it, you might give into whatever thing the Angosians programmed you to be, but I was wrong. When that moment came, or moments from what I heard, you stuck by your crew, you put them first, and I,” she halted, the words escaping her now.

Donar looked up and saw tears glistening in the woman’s eyes. With her mobile hand she reached out and grasped one of his, and squeezed it tight. “I just want to say thank you.”

He nodded, his chest constricting, and his own eyes growing uncomfortably moist. “Also,” Redfeather added, with a trace of a smirk, “If you try to leave, I’ll send Helen after you.”

************************************************** ******************
USS Erickson
Captain’s Ready Room

Despite his size, the captain’s leather chair felt too big for him. Tai downplayed his insecurity and laughed along with the woman gracing the holoprojector. Lt. Juanita Rojas, dressed in an alluring low-cut azure blouse and tight golden pants, definitely civilian attire, grinned as she finished, “I knew my man would make captain someday, but not so soon.” The slight blue tint bathing his paramour, courtesy of the projector, didn’t diminish one iota of her beauty.

Beyond the room, the faint din of work crews could be heard. Tai could’ve taken up space on the mushroom-like starbase, but he preferred being closer to the ship.

“Don’t get used to it,” Tai quipped. “This is just temporary. Will you still love me after I’m busted back down to first officer?”

“I love you,” the younger woman said, suddenly serious, “I’m so glad you made it out of that nightmare in one piece.” Donar had been ordered to be circumspect in how much he could discuss about what happened in the Caldera Expanse, but he had told Juanita as much as he had been allowed. “Andraste huh?” She asked, her eyes lighting with devilment again, “So, do you still have a thing for her huh?”

He rolled his eyes, playing along, and feeling so good he had someone he could do that with. “All I said was that she still looked fit.”

“Really now?” Juanita hit him with a jaundiced eye, “And also that she was agreeable, if I recall.”

He huffed, “Well, yes, there is that.” He shrugged. They shared another laugh that died off into nervous silence.

Juanita reached out and Tai met her ghostly hand. He so wished that she was there with him, that he could feel the warmth of her hand, wrap his arms around her, lay his head on her lap.

Time had taken a lot from him, as it had Andraste, but at least he had found someone, a reason, to find himself again, and even more, to remake himself anew.

“You be careful out there,” she warned him. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“I don’t want to be lost,” he replied. “And thankfully I only have one ex-wife.”

“That better be the case,” she said. He quickly nodded that it was. “I’m surprised that the captain hasn’t contacted you,” Juanita remarked, switching subjects. Despite his promotion to rear admiral, Rojas still referred to Terrence Glover as Captain. He was the only captain she spoke about often, or at length.

Tai shrugged. “He’s a busy man,” he replied. It wasn’t like they were especially close and Donar hadn’t expected a call. Then again, he wouldn’t have been surprised if Glover hadn’t contacted him. Tai could see how having one of his officers reach the captain’s rank, if only temporarily, and handling the incident in the Caldera Expanse, would have been a point of pride for the man.

“Don’t you think he’s different now, since…you know, the Admiral?” Juanita asked, referring to his father Samson. The former admiral had been captured and later executed by the Romulans almost a year ago. Terrence had failed in his attempt to rescue him and had been captured himself.

Unlike Tai, Glover and Juanita had a much tighter bond. That was due in part to her deceased brother, Commander Pedro Rojas, who had been one of Glover’s closest friends. “He’s so…standoffish now, cold.” She shook her head, a sad expression marring her features.

“We all deal with grief in a different way,” Tai offered weakly. He had noticed some personality changes with his former CO too, but hadn’t read too deeply into it. “We have to give him his space, let him…find himself again,” he added, thinking about both Juanita and what she had restored in his life.

“I know; it’s just…” Juanita sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “I know he must feel terribly alone, with his father gone, the divorce,” her voice grew bitter, “and what those Rommie bastards did to him.” The anger took Tai aback.

It also shocked Juanita. She touched the well of her throat and sat back. “I’m sorry.”

“No,” he said, “It’s good to get it out. You should never carry that stuff bottled up. What the Romulans did to the captain, how they slaughtered Admiral Glover…not to mention all the other bad things that have befallen the captain,” he paused, reflecting over the loss of the Aegis and its seventy-five souls, “It could destroy a normal man. But Terrence Glover is not a normal man.”

“You got that right,” Juanita brightened.

“I have every confidence that he will be back, and stronger than ever,” he concluded, believing every word. For an average human, Glover had proven extraordinarily resilient.

“I think you’re right,” she smiled. “And I think the captain could learn a few lessons from you in that regard.”

He cocked an eyebrow, “Oh really now?”

“Absolutely,” she nodded in agreement. “What you did in the Caldera Expanse is already sounding like a legend around the Fleet. It makes me extra pumped about getting out there and meeting the new life coming to our part of the galaxy.”

Tai frowned slightly, thinking of the polaric ion generator and the havoc it had wreaked in the expanse. He shuddered to wonder if other members of that species were out there, heading their way with even more terrible weapons. “Don’t be so anxious,” he cautioned.

Juanita sniffed, “Well, I’m hoping that we get picked for the second wave. I did hear that there’s a second wave to the Vanguard taskforce. Did you hear the same?”

“I heard that as well,” Tai said, “Well, for the time being, I’m content with roaming the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.”

“Come on man, where’s your sense of adventure?” Juanita teased.

“I’ve had more than enough of that for a good long while,” Tai’s smile was close lipped. “Besides, it’s going to take several months to repair Erickson, and I was wondering if we could arrange some time to spend together in the interval.”

The woman brightened so much, she shone like a star. “Maybe I should tell my CO to keep this can parked for a little while longer. I hear that Risa is wonderful this time of year.”

“Risa is wonderful every part of the year,” Donar said, prompting another round of much needed laughter.
************************************************** ************
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Old January 2 2013, 02:51 AM   #104
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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

Starbase 101
Conference Room

“While I still might not like you,” Lt. Commander Helen Norrbom half-joked, “I detest him.” She flung her wrist dismissively at the door. Tension was still thick in the room, in the wake of Security Advisor Cormac Sullivan’s exit.

The dour Sullivan had been accompanied by a taciturn Saurian from Special Affairs and an inquisitive young Xindi-Arboreal Starfleet Intelligence agent. Sullivan had dominated the discussion, which consisted of mostly dressing down both Donar and Commander Norrbom over their failure to secure the polaric ion generator.

“Of course the Tholians are going to be tight-lipped about their involvement,” Sullivan had said, his white eyebrows reaching toward the stars, “Wait, do Tholians even have lips, or mouths?” He had pointedly demanded of one of his associates. The Saurian had merely blinked while the Xindi had consulted the personal display device she held.

“You just gave one of our longest-running adversaries a weapon of mass destruction,” he had brayed, prompting Helen to get out of her seat to dispute the man. The only thing that had held her back was Donar’s surreptitious, but iron clad grip on her forearm. He had warned her with a sharp expression to remain quiet. She had been forced to sit there while the saturnine Sullivan ripped them apart.

After he was finished, he informed them that both that Starfleet would be keeping a close eye on the Tholians to see if they violated the weapons ban. Since there were no signs that the Tholian warship had even made it out of the Caldera Expanse, it being littered with subspace tears and all manner of nasty anomalies, Helen wasn’t holding her breath.

Sullivan had then raked them both with a querulous gaze and told them that he also would be keeping a closer eye on Erickson. Helen hadn’t been unable to stifle a groan, which the older man had misinterpreted as fear. He had gifted them with a small smile before sweeping out of the room.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Tai shrugged.

“Are you joking?” Norrbom said. “He might be a blowhard, but he is the Federation Security Advisor.”

“Have you ever been stared down by Fleet Admiral Shanthi?” Donar asked, nonplussed.

“Hmmm, no,” Helen answered. The Angosian shrugged again.

“As I said, Sullivan wasn’t so bad.” He quipped.

“You know, I’m really starting not to like you again,” Norrbom remarked, “Sir.”
************************************************** **************

USS Erickson
Birdland Lounge
January 2378

The entire room erupted into cheers, and for the first time tonight, it wasn’t because of Lt. Commander Kalnath’s jazz quartet. Standing in the lounge’s entrance, stood Captain Redfeather, flanked by Counselor Dendron and Commander Norrbom.

The bruises had thankfully faded, and the captain looked resplendent in a flowing stately black gown. Norrbom wore a brassier electric blue dress that showed off her long, toned legs. Dendron was still in his uniform. The captain waved, her smile beaming.

Everyone stood for the trio, clapping even when they arrived at the table at the front that had been reserved for them. A table had been left empty for the captain ever since her injuries, Redfeather being a frequent visitor to the lounge.

Donar thought it was great to see Captain Redfeather finally being able to partake again in the life of the ship. Tai was also glad that he could hand the reins back to her. The repairs were almost completed on Erickson and a new assignment would be coming soon. The ship needed its real captain back.

He looked down after feeling a soft squeeze on his bicep. Juanita placed her head against his arm. She sniffled and he could tell she had been crying. “Is everything okay?” He asked. She looked up at him, wiping her tears away.

“Yes,” she nodded, “It’s just wonderful that your captain made it and is doing well. I guess I just got caught up in the emotion of it all.” He shook his head in understanding and pulled her tight.

“I guess I should leave you two lovebirds alone,” Commander A’nurd said. He had been sharing the table with Tai and Juanita. While the crew had extended downtime, Tai had finally decided to join A’nurd on one of his excursions to one of the starbases’s taverns. It had turned into a frequent thing, as both men had perused almost all of the station’s myriad lounges. Tai did it more for camaraderie than the food and drink.

“You don’t have to go A’nurd,” Juanita had said. She had become taken to the Munzalan more quickly than Donar had.

“That is very gracious of you,” the engineer bowed deeply, his tail curling behind him. “But I must spread my joy around,” he said, his tail angling in a direction across the crowded room. Tai followed it to a table occupied by Lieutenants French, Jilicia, and Brocc, along with other members of Hazard Team. Catching the Angosian’s gaze, French lifted his glass, which prompted the others to do so too. Donar did likewise.

“Just make sure you don’t leave this ship before you tell me goodbye,” A’nurd told Juanita, before he grabbed her free hand. Unfortunately, Juanita’s vacation was nearing its end and Donar would soon have to part ways with her again.

“That’s a definite,” she said, smiling. The couple watched A’nurd flit through the crowd. Tai started to sit back down, but stopped when Juanita squeezed his arm again.

“What’s wrong?” He asked.

“Nothing, nothing’s wrong,” she said, sighing with relief. “For the first time, in a long time, everything just feels right.” She leaned back against him, melting into him.

“I couldn’t agree more,” he said, “I couldn’t agree more.”
************************************************** *************
DarKush is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 2 2013, 02:55 AM   #105
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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

Aodh Homeworld
One year ago…

The Steersman brought his flitter to a stop. “Urith!” He cried over the surging throng, “Urith!” He shouted his mate’s name once more. His eyes flickered over the ripple of bodies, most dressed in the finery befitting the political strata. He focused his attention on the large circular hatches gobbling as many of the desperate passengers they could. The guards hovering about the entrances, on flitters similar to his, had largely given up on trying to police the mob.

There was a similar sense of dread wreathing many of their features. The Cold Ones were here, their large cube ships carving into the homeworld, devouring people and technology. Once the Cold Ones had gorged themselves below, they would set their unholy sights on the ring space station above, holding the four remaining generation ships: The Gift of Fire, The Pillar of Fire, The Ring of Fire, and The Rain of Fire.

He had been assigned to the Gift, given one of the holiest honors ever bestowed on one of his strata, in fact, of any strata. Shepherding not only the Prelate and most of his clerics, but also the Sacred Fire, the jewel left behind by the Fire Beings so long ago, the cornerstone of their civilization, would be his duty.

But he cared for none of that now. All he wanted was to see Urith once more, before they cast their fate to the frigid stars.

“Fintan!” His heart leapt at the nearly hoarse cry. A flitter zipped up to him, stopping just inches from his own.

“Urith!” He cried out, unable to contain his joy. He took one hand off the controls, readjusting as the vehicle tried to get away from him.

“Some steersman you are,” she joked. Urith wore a similar yellow jumpsuit. His beloved was assigned to the engineering crew of The Pillar.
Fintan grinned. “And why aren’t you aboard The Gift?”

“I had to see you…just once more,” he said, now feeling a bit sheepish, and not sure why. The woman smiled, tears glistening her eyes, before she put on a mock tough expression.

“You’re too old to be so sentimental,” she admonished. “We’ll see each other again, once we have left this world to the Cold Ones,” she shuddered, their very mention chilling her, as it did Fintan. Despite all of their technology, all of their terrible weapons, the Cold Ones had found some way to bypass them. It had taken decades, but eventually they had overcome the Aodh.

“The Gift isn’t going anywhere without me,” he smirked, trying to lighten his gathering sadness. “I am the chief steersman after all.” Urith rolled her eyes.

“Get one little promotion and it goes straight to your head,” she said, reaching out to him and touching his cheek. “I can’t wait to hear all of your stories among the cloistered,” she said, “Stay safe.”

Fintan kissed her hand, not really wanting to let go. “You do the same.”
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Jov’k Tholis
Calcite-class battlecruiser

The anomaly threw out the battlecruiser like it was refuse. Commander Narskene, still grabbing hold to hir console, sent a mental command for a status report. The ship spun wildly, gases and fluids spraying across the bridge. The bridge was dark as space, with each newly sparking terminal providing a brief glimmer of light.

The commander didn’t know where they were, what part of space, or even what time they had been thrown into, owing to the temporal properties of the polaric ion energy that had spawned the subspace rupture. Though she had hir suspicions, but the thought chilled her as much as the encroaching coldness of the void seeping through the hull multiple breaches: a predestination paradox.

We’re going to crash, the replacement Sensor Officer said. Rudimentary sensors have detected a planet below us. We are barreling towards it now.

Is there any way we can…cushion the blow? Narskene asked all the remaining bridge crew. Does the flight control station still have rudimentary functionality?

There is some, yes, the hapless pilot sent the nervous reply.

Try to scan for a body of water and then send us into that, Narskene riposted, annoyed that no one had thought of that before.

Have detected a body of water, the Sensor Officer informed hir. The bridge lit up as the ship hit the atmosphere, and a fiery chariot formed around the Jov’k Tholis, yanking it down toward the planet below. The battlecruiser trembled violently and Narskene flinched at the terrible shrieking of metal and crystal as parts of its weathered hull were torn away.

Angle the ship towards it, Narskene told the pilot.

It is difficult, s/he replied, right before hir console exploded in hir face.

Narskene calmly redirected flight control to hir station. The pilot had been right, s/he realized. The shaking ship and the planet’s gravity were fighting against hir, and they were winning. From what s/he been able to grasp from rudimentary readings, the ship was still not headed for the ocean, but for land nearby it. Breaking free of the atmosphere’s blazing embrace, what was left of the battlecruiser continued plummeting. Through the cracked viewer, he saw flashes of blue, the toxic nitrous-oxygen atmosphere seeping into the cracks.

Narskene trilled, coughing at the noxious brew. S/he had hoped they would crash on a methane planet; at least they would be able to breathe if they somehow survived the crash. But now their fates were truly sealed. Unless they could reach the encounter suits in their armory, s/he thought. That was hir last thought.
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Last edited by DarKush; January 2 2013 at 03:32 AM.
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