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Old June 8 2012, 02:13 AM   #1
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

UT: REFUGEE CRISIS/ DARK TERRITORY
“STEALING FIRE”

Caldera Expanse
November 2377

As The Gift of Fire burst free from the subspace tunnel, its steersmen felt a pang of regret. The exodus from their home planet had been nearly catastrophic. The priests, the Fire Bearers, had saved the Sacred Fire, but at the cost of leaving the other strata to fend for themselves against the Cold Ones, without the warmth of the Sacred Fire to guide them.

The steersman’s betrothed had been among those, hopefully, that escaped on The Pillar of Fire, the ship bearing the artisan and worker strata. She had been so proud of him when he had been accepted, an elevation from his station, as a pilot for the religious strata, the rulers of their world.

Neither one of them could’ve fathomed that his skills would be required one day to help the Fire Bearers vacate their world, or that he would be separated from his intended.

He tried not to think about her, he tried to focus on the task at hand. And there was much to focus on. The ship had taken a pounding, first from the cube, and then from the rough journey through the void, and not all of the obstacles had been naturally occurring. They had had to fight off marauders and other brutes, but they had also made some allies along the way, and it was one of those meetings that provided a route to this patch of space, far away from the Cold Ones.

One of the newfound allies, of a species once enthralled to the Cold Ones, had recognized their sculptures and artwork idolizing the Fire Beings that had visited their backwater world millennia ago and left behind a spacefaring civilization. The Fire Beings had changed everything, and the Aodh owned so much to them. When he had overheard the monks excitedly discussing their discovery that they might have found the home of the Fire Beings, the steersman knew that he would where that the ship’s course had been set.

It was a cold comfort, but the steersman had been heartened that the priests had left information with whatever newly made friends along the way as to their intentions. He could only pray to the Fire Beings that The Pillar of Fire, The Ring of Fire, carrying the laborers, and The Rain of Fire, bearing the military strata, also found their way to them. The steersman had left as many beacons behind as the priests would permit.

“How distressing is our situation?” A sonorous voice eased into his thoughts, dispelling them. He knew the voice immediately. He quickly placed the ship on autopilot, turned and kneeled, hands planted and his eyes staring at the ground.

“Rise Steersman,” the Prelate implored, blessing him with a touch on the shoulder. The pilot rose slowly, overwhelmed that the high priest would speak to him, much less touch him. The smaller, wizened man favored him with the gentlest smile. “Return to your duties, I will try not to disturb you.”

“You-you could never do such a thing,” he stammered. The Prelate chuckled, his purple eyes twinkling. He was dressed in orange and violet raiment befitting his station, though lacking his plumed miter. The crown of his hatless head was burnt orange, hairless, and smooth, unlike his face, which bore the violet sun carving that formed a circle from just below his lips to his forehead.

“That is very kind of you to say, but you know how our order frowns upon falsehood.”

“I was not bearing falsity!” He declared, wincing at the sharp tone of his voice. “My apologies,” he said quickly. He knew it was folly to even speak untruths around any of the religious strata, especially the Prelate. All of them were mind sharers. And all of his deepest thoughts could be laid bare at the Prelate’s whim.

The Prelate waved a hand. “None was taken. May I take up position beside you?”

“Of course, of course,” the steersman moved out of the way, and the head priest, the leader of their civilization, stood beside him. His hearts welled with pride as he gazed out at the stars, with the Prelate at his side. The high priest was clearly awed in a way that surprised an old space hand like the steersman. He seemed nearly as overwhelmed as the pilot had just been seconds earlier.

“Truly the Universal Hearth is a wondrous foundry,” the high priest remarked. The steersman couldn’t disagree. “And it is a good omen that we went through the fire to arrive at this place, our new home. It was like a rebirth.” Behind them the slender corridor breathed plasma fire, like some legendary beast.

The steersman nodded in agreement, though he couldn’t quite agree. Journeying through the spatial flexure had wreaked havoc on the ship’s shields and structural integrity system, but nearly obliterated main propulsion. The ship’s power grid was overtaxed keeping the vacuum from invading through all of the breaches and fractures crisscrossing the ship. Soon the grid would short out, leaving them without propulsion or life support, not to mention unguarded from the radiation and the other vagaries of space.

The steersman had long since jettisoned all of the escape pods, in a canny attempt to deceive a relentless hunting party. At the time the priests had backed his suggestion, even over the objections of some of the other pilots. They had trusted his judgment, and it had saved them only to perhaps doom them later, because now there was no escape, even for the Prelate, if the ship encountered more trouble. And what scans still worked told him that The Gift of Fire was far from safety. A minefield of plasma storms and gravitational anomalies remained in front of them. The flexure had helped them avoid the intense tetryon fields suffusing the space around them, but only leave them victim to a very dangerous region of space.

The spouts of plasma spraying before them, some licking the benighted ship, and rocking it back and forth stressing the shields further, would have been beautiful if he was not caught in the middle of them. It was a riot of color, flames more magnificent than any he had witnessed during the fire ceremonies back home. It was as if they were within the engine room of the Universal Hearth, witnessing the combustion that kept the cosmos functioning.

“So, I ask again, how distressing is our situation Steersman?” The Prelate asked again. The pilot paused, not able to formulate the words. “I see,” the priest said, understanding.

“I am confident that I can get us through this maelstrom, but the continued pounding the ship will take as a result will drain our remaining power reserves. If we are fortunate,” he began.

“And we will be,” the Prelate interrupted, his purple eyes shining with an unshakable faith.

The steersman gave his leader a few moments of respectful silence, before he continued. “After we exit this expanse, I don’t know how much longer the ship can hold up.”

The Prelate tapped his wrinkled, hairless chin, as the steersman’s diagnosis sank in. “We might be the only survivors left of our kind,” he intoned solemnly, “So we must do all that we can to make sure that the Sacred Fire never goes out.” He looked at the steersmen squarely, “Do all you can to get us past this chaotic space, and then send a call for distress.”

“Are you certain?” The steersman couldn’t help but ask, for once forgetting his place. “But this sector of space is unknown to us, what if a hostile force intercepts our message?”

“We have made enemies along the way,” the high priest nodded sagely, “but also friends. It is the will of the Universal Hearth to determine which we will find here. For all we know the Fire Beings are just waiting on the other side of this hell for us, ready to collect their children.”

“I understand,” the Steersman replied, vowing to bury his doubts behind a determined mien. He wasn’t as trusting as the priests or monks, but then again, he didn’t possess their knowledge of the universe. It was above his station. And now that the high priest had made his wishes known, the steersman would do all within his powers to see them realized. He quickly turned to his task, setting up an automatic call for help in all known languages that would start transmitting as soon as they had vacated the expanse.

“Now all we can do is wait,” the pilot remarked, unable to remove the grim expression from his face.

“And pray,” the Prelate added, with a far more cheerful tone, but no less wary countenance.
************************************************** ************
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Old June 8 2012, 02:16 AM   #2
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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

Shuttlecraft Crosthwait
November 2377

The Type 11 shuttle eased slowly along the cusp of the expanse, the energy barrier roiling, with fingers of plasma fire reaching out greedily for the sleek silvered vessel. Commander Tai Donar knew it was killing Lieutenant French to pilot the shuttle on anything less than full throttle, but he took their assignment seriously.

It was doubtful that any ship would be foolish, or unfortunate enough, to venture through the Caldera Expanse, but a spatial flexure had long since been found within its searing embrace.

The Calderans, the namesakes for the expanse, had long ago discovered that the flexure provided an unstable gateway to the Delta Quadrant. But this sector of space was blessed, or cursed, with another entrance, the slightly more stable subspace corridor left by a race lost to time, an eon ago. The usually hermetic Calderans had been surprisingly forthcoming about their discoveries.

As news of the massive influx of refugees from the Delta Quadrant was becoming more widespread, Tai had to wonder if the sudden chattiness, relatively speaking, of the Calderans was due in part because they didn’t want to deal with the throng and were trying to push them off on to the Federation as quickly as possible.

The Federation was happy to oblige them, just one more reason the Angosian was glad he had left his homeworld to join Starfleet Special Missions which then had turned into a career with the Exploratory Division.

The Erickson had taken up position near the mouth of the corridor, also known as the Calderan Corridor, which struck Tai a bit oddly. For an avowedly reclusive people they had a curious habit of naming things after themselves. Captain Redfeather had ordered two shuttles to patrol the nearest exit for the expanse.

Tai had thought one shuttle could handle the task, but Security Chief Shashlik had quickly informed him that in addition to the natural dangers of space travel in this sector, pirates often used the expanse to strike out at passing ships, and then escape by going back into it. Only the most skilled or insane pilot and one with an extremely well shielded ship would dare to follow them. The captain hoped that the sight of two Starfleet shuttles would dissuade any buccaneers lying in wait on the other side of the expanse.

Tai had mixed feelings about encountering pirates or other trouble. Frankly he wouldn’t mind a disruption of the monotony. And there was a part of him eager to test his mettle against some of the adversarial Delta Quadrant species that they had learned about courtesy of Project Pathfinder.

The endeavor had been set up to facilitate communication with Starship Voyager, which had been lost in the Delta Quadrant for several years. Miraculously the ship had survived and now Starfleet had managed semi-regular contact with the brave souls aboard.

Captain Janeway’s crew had provided a wealth of information about the other side of the galaxy, including potential threats. Races like the Devore, Vaadwaur, Vidiians, Species 8472, and one that he took special note of: the Hirogen.

He had faced one of their hunters years ago, while he still wore the colors of his native Unomia state on Angosia III. The alien had somehow made it to Angosia before his ship crashed in the Iturri Jungle, and true to their predatory nature it seemed, the Hirogen began hunting his training cohort. Tai barely made it out alive, but he had triumphed, but for years he had wondered where the hunter came from, and now, courtesy of the Pathfinder data, he knew that he been spawned from a race of predators.

His own predatory nature thrilled at the chance to face more Hirogen or something even more dangerous, though his concern for his new crew help stanch his persistent blood lust.

“Not the welcome you expected eh, Commander?” The jovial voice issued through the intercom, breaking up his blood clotted thoughts.

Tai blinked, surprised at how deep in thought he had been. On the small viewer set between the cockpit seats, Chief Engineer A’nurd smiled at him, his deep-seated, golden eyes shining with merriment.

How the Munzalan stayed so cheerful was something Tai doubted he would ever understand. A’nurd piloted the Type 10 shuttle Carruthers.

The man had volunteered, but if he hadn’t, he was sure the captain would’ve sent him anyway, at the behest of the crew no less. From Tai’s take, A’nurd was a good officer, but a little too taxing.

“Nothing like staring into a cauldron to get the old blood stirred huh?” A’nurd asked. “Being so close to the expanse is really keeping me on my toes, and tail,” he said, the black furred tip of it rising behind him, and wagging over his shoulder as if in greeting. The lemur-like Munzalan laughed at his own joke.

Donar didn’t know what to say, so he kept his lips drawn in a tight line. “Anything new to report?” He eventually mumbled unable to stand the engineer’s expected look and wide smile.

“No sir,” A’nurd said, bringing his shuttle to Crosthwait’s starboard. “How about you?”

“No, nothing here,” Donar said, not able to completely squelch his disappointment. He knew that the captain didn’t expect them to make any encounters, but he still felt like he had something to prove. Being a first officer was a new experience for him, one that he didn’t know if he was cut out for. As a security or tactical officer, he knew what to do, but being Erickson’s second, was totally new territory.

Sometimes he regretted making the move. He could’ve stayed with Juanita…the thought of what he gave up for this opportunity was a book chapter he didn’t wish to read at the moment.

“If I might be so bold sir, I think it is past time for us to hand over the reins to the next team,” A’nurd suggested. Tai thought about telling the Munzalan to go on ahead and he would stay back, but he took a sidelong look at Lt. French. The younger man’s eyes were drooping despite his best efforts. Perhaps he wanted to zip through this so badly because he needed the rack time, Donar wondered.

Tai had been genetically and chemically altered during the Tarsian War and he had the endurance of five humans at least, hardy humans at that. “I concur,” he replied to the engineer. He turned to the junior officer, and the man barely hid his relief. “Mr. French, set a course back to the Erickson.”

The Angosian took one last look back at the riled, coursing plasma ocean, and felt a profound sense of foreboding. The expanse seemed more disturbed than usual and he could only wonder, or worry, about what might arise from it. But that would have to wait for another time, he thought. “Full impulse Lieutenant.”
************************************************** **************

Hey everyone,

I just couldn't help jumping into this thing. I'm putting the other stories I was working on on hiatus until I finish this one, and maybe other Refugee Crisis story percolating in my head. I hope everyone enjoys.
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Old June 8 2012, 04:25 AM   #3
Gibraltar
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

You’ve set the stage for a First Contact scenario, but I can’t say whether it will be a peaceful meeting or an exchange of weapons fire. If it’s a fight they want, I’m sure Tai will be only too happy to indulge them!

A fantastic start, DarKush!
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Old June 8 2012, 07:32 PM   #4
CeJay
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Good news, you're back. Bad news, your long going story is on the back burner. Good news, you jumped into the fray with a dark territory refugee crisis story. Bad news, well let's hope there won't be any more bad news.

Off to a good start here with a fascinating new alien race and at lest one familiar DT face. Looking forward to more.
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Old June 9 2012, 01:53 AM   #5
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Thank you both for reading and commenting. It feels good to be writing again. And to be a part of this epic UT adventure. I hope you like what's in store of Donar. He's a character I've neglected over the years and I thought it was long past time for him to get some spot light.

Also, Wyoma Redfeather and the Erickson made a brief cameo in "Under the Shadows of Swords". I decided to revisit her and that ship instead of creating an entirely new one for this story.


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

The Gift of Fire
Caldera Expanse


This time the exit was far less thrilling, but just as damaging, as the ship limped toward the barrier into normal space. As a final indignity, a wave of plasma pushed against The Gift, throwing it out into the void, as if the expanse was spitting the Aodh out.

Was it an omen of the treatment that was to come? The steersman didn’t know. He didn’t have much time to ponder such thoughts, while keeping the ship from completely coming apart. Monitors were flashing angrily all around him, and the wheezing of the engines could be heard throughout the ship, as if The Gift was sighing her last breath.

Death rattles accompanied the mournful moan as the ship began to shudder uncontrollably, as shields and structural integrity began to fluctuate. He had begun a calculated program of shutting off power, leaving parts of the ship to the ravages of the cosmos, while evacuating the remaining crew to the primary hull. The secondary steersman had been in charge of the evacuation and had reported that all that could be saved had been. They had lost far too many people since they escaped homeworld, and the steersman feared that they would lose far too many more before they found a new home. If they found a new home.

The only pulsing light that he had to admit that he was happy to see was the automatic distress signal he had activated.

He fell into his chair and closed his eyes and prayed. Now all he could do was wait to see if how truly merciful the Universal Hearth was. His eyelids flew open as an alien voice screeched through the intercom.

The steersmen leapt out of his seat and flipped the toggle to activate the communication transceiver. He anxiously waited as the translation matrix made the alien tongue understandable.

“Alien vessel,” the toneless voice said, “we have received your distress call and will be sending rescue ships to your location.” Federation Standard, he recognized. Yet the voice sounded computer generated.

He was relieved that it fit one of the languages of the beings they had encountered along the way. The steersman had always had an ear for language, and if the fates had been kinder, he would’ve been born in the religious strata so that he could be a scholar or educator, which would’ve allowed him to pursue that passion.

So despite his trepidation about meeting new sentients, he had at least been anxious to hear their languages. “I will supply the location of our vessel at once,” he spoke into the receiver as he transmitted the information.

“We will assist you within the hour. Enterprise out.”

The steersman’s brow wrinkled in recognition. He had heard the name before, from one the knobby headed aliens they had encountered, one who had been freed from the Cold Ones. He wished the ship hadn’t broken contact before he could ask them more questions. He thought about attempting to hail them again, but changed his mind. He would see them soon enough, all he had to do was keep the ship in one piece until then. Perhaps the Universal Hearth was as warm as it could be searing to send a ship of such renown to assist them.

He used the shipboard intercom system to eagerly relay the conversation to the Prelate. “Excellent,” the high priest remarked, his voice brimming with confidence. “I look forward to meeting this Enterprise.”

“So do I your Holiness,” the steersman said, and for once he meant it.
************************************************** ****************

Last edited by DarKush; June 9 2012 at 02:31 PM.
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Old June 9 2012, 01:59 AM   #6
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

************************************************** ****************
USS Erickson
Main Shuttle Bay

“No good hunting Commander?” Lt. Shashlik asked as soon as Donar’s boots touched the deck. The tall, bronze Kaylar stood eye-to-eye with Tai. Her frame was leaner, but no less muscled.

“Things were quiet,” Donar said, “How about here?”

“No ships came through the corridor, or probes for that matter.” The younger woman didn’t hide her disappointment. She was still so fresh that she wore her feelings on her sleeve. Emotions had long been pounded deep into Tai, buried so deep that it took him a long time to reconnect with them. Juanita had been a big help with bringing them back to the surface, but she had also reminded him how painful those feelings could be.

He eyed the shuttles Greenaugh and Oyekan, being prepped for disembarking. Assembled with Shashlik were Science Officer Ramlo, and Ensigns Kittles and Fryer. He nodded tersely to the rest of the quartet. “Good luck out there, and don’t take any unnecessary chances.”

“Yes sir,” they all answered before heading to their respective shuttles, Shashlik and Fryer, and Kittles going with the Arkenite.

A long, slender arm reached up and clapped Tai on the bicep. “I’m parched. I’m heading down to Birdland, care to share a drink?” Lt. Commander A’nurd looked up at him.

“I still have some unpacking to do,” Donar replied. “My apologies,” he added quickly. The Munzalan shrugged.

“Well the offer stands,” he said before pulling away. Tai nodded in understanding, but allowed the man to go on. Lt. French sleep walked by him, followed by Ensign Haile, who had had the likely misfortune of sharing the Carruthers with the effusive Munzalan.

If he ever did decide to venture into the jazz themed recreation lounge, he was going to have to order a beverage for the long suffering ensign. Shaking his head at the thought, Donar stepped out into the passageway.
************************************************** ******************

USS Erickson
First Officer’s Quarters

Though the Angosian had taken detours to the holodeck and then the gym, Tai hadn’t been lying about unpacking. He had been on Erickson for a month and had long since stored away the most of the sparse belongings he brought with him. Except for a few items that he had left boxed up.

He had wrestled with this decision aboard the Aegis as well, because he knew that unpacking the items would mean he was planning to stay for the long haul. With Aegis, he had largely accepted the assignment as a favor to Ivan Cherenkov, a fellow brother-in-arms, and being on a ship with a multi-vector assault mode didn’t hurt either.

However he hadn’t really been able to make Aegis a home, a suicidal Cardassian militant had taken that decision away from him.

The loss of that vessel and the crewmen aboard still burned him, in part because he hadn’t been there to prevent it. It was no idle boast on his part, he knew. He had been designed to win wars, and he was confident that he would’ve been able to gauge the Cardassian’s intent and enacted an appropriate response.

He had been languishing at Jaros II at the time, his personal effects in one of their storage compartments. That’s the only reason they had survived the ship’s destruction. And he had kept them packed up since his release from the stockade, as he sought to find a way in a suddenly chaotic universe.

But now a sense of stability had returned, and he was ready to establish some roots. He placed the box on the coffee table in his living room, and looked over at the imitation fireplace. A photonic fire was roaring. He opened the box and carefully unwrapped the first item. He held the archaic silver picture frame in both hands. He smiled down at his parents, Tiwaz and Caith. The sepia-toned picture had been taken in happier times, before the Tarsian War.

He placed it on the mantle above the fireplace. He returned to the box and sighed before removing the second picture. A beautiful, dark skinned woman, the corner of her left eye marred by the same green and black tattoo strip on Tai’s face, smiled back at him. Her thick, braided hair reminded him of Lt. Shashlik. The two women wore it in a similar fashion.

Come to think of it, Shashlik reminded him a lot of his ex-wife. “Andraste,” he muttered. Tai shook his head. He hadn’t met Andraste during the war, or at the Lunar V prison moon, where many of the veterans had been discarded after the war.

He had met her after the prisoners had been released, thanks to the intervention of the Federation. Both had been undergoing counseling in an attempt to undo their psychological conditioning to make them better able to handle civilian life.

At times the sessions had had Tai longing for boot camp, but both had endured them, often relying on each other. Tai had thought that model might work for their marriage, but in the end, the Tarsian War had still claimed souls long after it had ended, and Andraste had never been able to make the adjustment. After their marriage had dissolved, she had left Angosia III to make her way in the universe. He hadn’t heard from her, or about her since.

If she was still breathing she didn’t want to be found and eventually he had learned to respect her wish. He placed the picture on the mantle beside his parents. “One more,” he muttered, now a little troubled that he was talking to himself. He pulled a round disk from the box and place it between the pictures. He touched it and a hologram of Juanita appeared. He smiled at her, thinking of what she had meant to him, and what he hoped she would mean to each other in the years to come.

Donar was still admiring the photonic likeness when his door chimed. “Enter,” he said offhandedly as he turned to greet his visitor. He hunched his shoulders and took on a more businesslike demeanor. He hadn’t been on the ship long enough to make friends, at least any that he wanted, and he was hoping that the chief engineer wasn’t dropping by.

Captain Wyoma Redfeather strolled into the room. The woman was striking, tall for human, with reddish tinged skin, and shoulder length, obsidian hair. She had an aura of command about her that wasn’t heavy handed or suffocating. Tai’s posture became even more ramrod. She smiled at him, her almond eyes crinkling with warmth. “Putting up your personal effects I see, so you are planning on staying for the long haul?”

“Of course sir, I mean yes captain,” Donar had to restrain himself from shouting the affirmation. The captain laughed.

“At ease Mr. Donar, please, I entered your residence,” she said, taking a moment to inspect the room. “Not a microbe of dust in sight I see. I think I’ve got you in the wrong position,” she said. “You should be head custodian.”

“I-I,” Tai looked perplexed. “I’m not sure how to take that sir.”

Redfeather’s smile widened. “As a joke, which is what it was Mr. Donar, or at least a feeble attempt. And please, I already told you about the ‘sir’ stuff. Ma’am is fine. Captain too.”

“Understood captain,” he remarked. After an uncomfortable silence threatened to set in, he asked, “Would you like a seat?”

“Thanks for asking,” she replied, “but no, I was just paying a visit, on my way to Birdland.”

“Commander A’nurd?” Tai’s lips drew into a tight line.

“Very perceptive,” she chuckled. “I swear the man can’t stand to be alone, and I decided since I’m the captain, I’ll take one for the team. You guys just don’t know the sacrifices I make for you.”

Tai’s lips curled up a tick. “After spending an extended amount of time with him along the Caldera Expanse, I think I can sympathize.”

Redfeather’s eyes glittered with devilment. “I think you’re going to fit in here alright Mr. Donar.”

“I hope so, sir-I mean captain.”

“I’ll let it slide, this time.” She chided good naturedly. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to join us in the lounge? This is crew performance night, and somehow A’nurd has convinced to Lt. Commander Kalnath to treat us to some Andorian Blues. It’s not to be missed.”

“Commander A’nurd is a persistent man,” Tai observed.

“Among other things,” Redfeather replied, “So what’s your answer?”

“I…uh,” before Donar could finish, both of their combadges beeped. The captain tapped hers first.

“Redfeather here,” she said brusquely, the levity jettisoned from her voice. “What’s up?”

“It’s the Greenaugh sir,” the bridge officer answered, “Their long range sensors have detected a distress call, alien in origin.”

Both senior officers raised their eyebrows as they looked at each other. “Where is the call originating from?”

“Lt. Shashlik said just outside of the Caldera Expanse.” This prompted a questioning look from the captain and Tai shook his fist in disappointment. If he had stayed he might have been able to lend more immediate assistance.

“Inform Greenaugh and Oyekan that they are to proceed to the expanse, but they are not enter under any circumstances.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Also inform them that we are on our way.”

“Yes sir.”

“Finally alter our course and inform Engineering that we are to go to maximum warp.”

“Aye.”

“I’ll be on the bridge shortly, Redfeather out.” The woman shrugged. “I guess we’ll have to get a rain check on those drinks, eh Mr. Donar?”

“Absolutely ma’am,” he replied.

“Let’s go make first contact,” she nodded toward his door.
************************************************** *************
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Old June 9 2012, 02:28 PM   #7
CeJay
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Good to see somebody from the original DT gang again. I don't think you ever had a chance to flesh out Tai Donar much and the Angosian super soldiers have always been a fascinating people.

Now something fishy is going on with that distress signal and I'm curious to see what's happening next.
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Old June 9 2012, 09:07 PM   #8
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

It looks as though Erikson and its crew have their work cut out for them. Tai Donar’s been a favorite of mine since Valley of Peace, and I’m interested in seeing how a former super-soldier settles into a command role.

The details and species-building on display here are fantastic, and I’m enjoying learning about this stratified alien society.
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Old June 10 2012, 06:14 PM   #9
DarKush
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Thanks again guys for the nice comments. But you are both pretty good with in the species-building department yourselves. I'm glad you both are pleased with my decision to let Tai strike out on his own. I had thought about including Juanita Rojas on the ship, but if I had done that I don't think it would've been as much about Tai. If things go right, I'll visit Juanita more in maybe another Refugee Crisis story.

Side note: I always love finding thematic names for shuttles and with the Starship Erickson, since Emory Erickson was a black inventor, the shuttles (and some of the crew) are also named for black inventors. And then the lounge is named for the New York jazz club Birdland (named for jazz great Charlie Parker), since jazz also was a black invention.

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

Shuttlecraft Greenaugh

The shuttles cut through space like Rigellian dagger fish. Lt. Shashlik restrained herself from hectoring Ensign Fryer to increase the speed to the engines. The shuttle was already going at full impulse. There wasn’t much else the junior officer could do, short of donning an EV suit and going outside to push it along.

These moments, right before the action started, both frustrated and excited her. Her stomach tightened and her biceps flexed as she mentally prepared herself. She didn’t know what the shuttles, or the Erickson on their heels, would encounter with the alien vessel.

So far, there had been some peaceful and not so sanguine first contacts made with the refugees streaming from the Delta Quadrant. And the news she had heard of the taskforce that had been sent into the Delta Quadrant had also had mixed results, some unfortunately tragic.

It was her job to prevent tragedy from befalling Erickson’s personnel. And she would do all that she could to minimize any harm, and Shashlik thought the best way to do that was to put as much time between the shuttles and the starship. If they could scout out the situation first and render whatever aid possible, then it would make things much easier when the Erickson arrived.

And if this was some sort of trick or trap, then the shuttles would be the ones to spring it, sparing the loss of an entire starship. Of course that did nothing for the four lives on the two shuttles. But all of them knew the risks, and she better than most.

Growing up on Rigel VII, among the many nomadic clans, death had always been a present companion. Oblivion no longer frightened her, but failure did, and dishonor terrified her.

Shashlik’s fears of both had been growing ever since Commander Donar had arrived. He was a warrior far above her, a security officer extraordinaire. She should’ve been pleased that such a personage was now her first officer, someone that perhaps could become a mentor for her, and Lt. French had suggested as much, but the Kaylar didn’t see it that way.

She couldn’t help but view it through a warrior’s eyes, and she had to suspect that Tai was taking her measure, and if he found her wanting, she would never be able to earn his respect, and she would never be able to maintain it among the crew. So she had to be better than ever, she had to prove herself, again and again, if necessary.

Rendering aid to the benighted alien vessel would be a good start. “What’s our ETA?” She asked the young man sitting in the co-pilot’s seat.

“Twenty minutes,” Fryer crisply responded, “And Erickson should arrive within the hour, at maximum warp.” He followed up, anticipating her question. She awarded the cinnamon-hued human with a smile.

“So the alien vessel is within range of short-range sensors?” The security officer asked.

“Yes sir,” Fryer said, tapping his companel. The small viewer on the dashboard shifted from the starfield to a dark, hulking shape that resembled a toppled pyramid.

“Can you detect any life sign readings?” Shashlik asked, her eyes narrowing. She didn’t like the absence of even running lights. The ship appeared to be a derelict, dead in space. She hoped that the same fate had not befallen its crew.

“No sir,” Fryer said, concern salting his voice.

“Try hailing them again,” Shashlik ordered. She had long since shut off the repeating distress call. It had been fraying her nerves and she needed to be as sharp and alert as possible.

“Nothing sir,” the ensign replied after a few moments. Shashlik nodded tersely.

“Good job Ensign,” she remembered to add before sending a message to the Oyekan.

“Yes, we are getting the same non-response,” Lt. Ramlo answered back. “And we have been running continuous scans since we got within range, and there’s been no change in our readings.”

“Do you think the ship has been abandoned?” The Kaylar asked.

“That is a possibility, but from what we can tell from our scans the ship has sustained some significant damage. It’s quite possible that the crew died from exposure to the vacuum,” the Arkenite said, with an alarming detachment.

Shashlik knew not to blame Ramlo for his coldness. That was just his way. He was into his full scientist zone. If he grieved, he would do it later, after the scientific mystery had been solved. They had both consoled each other enough during the dark days of the Dominion War for both to know the other’s heart. It was one of the few regrets she had once the guns went silent, that she and Ramlo had drifted apart, back into their work roles.

“Could it also be possible that the ship had been attacked?” Shashlik asked. She had never been one who put too much stock in coincidence or natural occurrences.

“That is a possibility as well,” Ramlo answered, “Though we would need more intensive scans to prove that.”

“And that’s what you’ll have,” she promised. “We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
************************************************** *************
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Old June 10 2012, 07:08 PM   #10
CeJay
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Shashlik's view of Doner certainly makes sense from a warrior's perspective and it would be interesting to see how their relationship develops over the course of this story. If she survives the next few pages that is. This is Dark Territory after all and I know better than to grow too attached to a character this early in a story.
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Old June 10 2012, 09:46 PM   #11
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Shashlik's admiration of Tai Donar’s warrior prowess is apparent and understandable. I hope she avails herself of the opportunity to learn from him, as the skills her could impart upon her are considerable. But, as CeJay has already noted, in Dark Territory, all tragedies are not only possible, but likely!
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Old June 11 2012, 04:39 PM   #12
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

I'd just like to echo what everyone has said and add that I'm glad you finally returned to the fold.

UT just seems to be a big black hole, sucking us all in again.
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Old June 11 2012, 05:09 PM   #13
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Donar should make for an interesting first officer. I wonder how he and Redfeather will get along when the situation gets more tense.

Something or someone seems to be playing both the Federation and the refugees. It'll be interesting to see who and why.
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Old June 17 2012, 08:59 PM   #14
DarKush
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Guys, thanks for commenting. I thought putting Donar in a different position might make for some interesting developmental opportunities. I hope that as the story goes along that bears fruit.

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

USS Erickson
Captain’s Ready Room

The captain’s smile was askew. “You picked a hell of a time to continue our session counselor,” Redfeather remarked, lifting one eye from the padd she held in her hand. “You do know the ship is on blue alert.” The stout, fair-skinned Ullian male smiled at her, completely unruffled. The mottled bulges on the sides of his head, running just below his graying hair pulsed gently.

“I know captain and I find the blue lighting on the bridge a better color schema than the usual bright lighting, I don’t see how it doesn’t contribute to constant eye strain. I am so glad you acceded to my request to not sit bridge side,” Dendron’s smile widened.

“And this is how you repay me?” The captain rolled her eyes before placing the padd down on her desk, otherwise empty except for the baseball signed by all players on the 2373 Cestus Comets Championship team, including her sister. “Please, have a seat.” While the man was acceding to her request, the captain continued talking, “I want you to know that I didn’t plan this blue alert to avoid getting out of our session.”

“Of course you didn’t,” Dendron chuckled, tapping one of his bulging temples. “I am a telepath after all.”

“Very funny,” Wyoma joined in the laughter. She knew that Dendron abhorred peeking into others’ minds without their express consent. The Ullians had a shameful history of mental invasion and the counselor still carried around the baggage of that sad history. It sounded almost like he needed a counseling session himself, but if she suggested that he would just redirect the conversation right back to her.

“How are things working out with the new first officer?” The Ullian asked, waving off an offer for refreshment. “I haven’t had a chance to get Mr. Donar on my couch yet, and we’ve only met in passing.” He stroked his graying goatee, waiting for her answer.

“I think Mr. Donar is adjusting well to his new duties,” the captain said, careful to choose her words.

Of course Dendron noticed her caution. “And how do you think the crew feels about him?”

“Why don’t you tell me?” Redfeather snapped, not meaning to be so sharp. She winced, “I’m sorry.”

“No, no, it’s perfectly alright, I am being a bit too coy after all,” Dendron admitted. “I think most of the crew is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t completely his decision after all. He was presented with an opportunity and he took it.”

“And what about Helen?” Wyoma decided to cut right to the quick. “She says she is okay with the decision, but she might be more…forthcoming with you.”

“If she was, you know I couldn’t reveal that to you,” Dendron leaned forward, a somber yet sympathetic look on his face.

“Not the details I get that,” Redfeather angled, “but what would be your impressions, hypothetically, figuratively, or whatever?”

“I…would think it could be difficult to be in line for the first officer position and then have it snatched away from you,” Dendron replied, “hypothetically speaking of course.”

“And she’s said this? To you?”

“I thought we were speaking in hypotheticals?”

“Oh, yes,” Wyoma leaned back in her chair and slouched down, suddenly feeling drained. Helen Norrbom was one of her closest friends, had served Erickson with distinction as chief operations officer, and was the captain’s pick to succeed the retiring Commander McDuffie. McDuffie had also thought Helen would be an excellent choice, but Starfleet Command, particularly Rear Admiral Glover, had other ideas. And he had inveighed upon her to consider an external selection.

After looking at the Angosians’s service record, Wyoma couldn’t help but both impressed and worried. He had displayed exceptional courage and leadership with Special Missions, fought on the frontlines in both the Klingon and Dominion Wars, been a senior officer on one of the most advanced ships in the Fleet, taught at the Academy, and also helped turn back the Talarians during their ill-fated incursion. With a record like that, Redfeather was surprised the man wasn’t angling for her job, and not just to be her second in command.

Of course his life before joining Starfleet had to have given the admirals pause about promoting him to the captain’s chair, as it had given the captain some hesitation about taking their recommendation to be her executive officer. The Tarsian War had been brutal and from what Donar had described, in his own words, of the actions he took in that war, they had chilled her bone marrow upon first reading.

It made her wonder if the man shouldn’t still be on that Lunar V prison moon. She had expressed as much to Admiral Glover. He had expressed understanding before pointing out how Donar had tried to make amends after the Tarsian conflict had ended and how he had moved on with his life and career. Redfeather had then been blunt and brought up that Donar had served with Glover on the Aegis and that some cronyism was at play.

The admiral, whom Wyoma had heard could have a mercurial disposition, had allayed her concerns. He admitted to having caring about the wellbeing of the people once under his command-which she couldn’t fault him for-but at the same time he thought that Donar languishing and needed a new outlet, a new lease on life, and to learn new skills.

To sweeten the deal, the admiral had then let her in on what was happening with Taskforce Vanguard and the coming refugee crisis, and how Command wanted Erickson at the forefront. Glover added that Command, and himself included, felt more comfortable with having Donar out there to greet any potential hostile forces than cooped up at Starfleet Command or on some Starbase.

Taking Donar on would be a sign of Erickson’s rising reputation in the Fleet, and that kind of word of mouth would improve everyone’s careers in the long run, including Commander Norrbom’s, or so that’s how Glover had put it, punctuating it with a knowing, yet dazzling smile. Wyoma hadn’t seen a sign of the man’s prickly nature, but she had gotten caught a little in the magnetic field of his charisma.

Still it had taken her several days to give him an answer. Once she poured back over the man’s record, and after she talked to him via subspace, Wyoma had to admit that Donar had been an impressive candidate. He was more qualified than Norrbom, she had to be honest with herself, though Helen was more tied into the crew, and Redfeather liked the idea of a close knit unit. Perhaps a bit too much, she had reasoned, and throwing a curveball or two at all of them from time to time was necessary to keep stagnation at bay.

Pulling herself out of the wellspring of memory, the captain glanced at the small sphere, its white surface nearly covered by all of the squiggled autographs. She had clutched that ball before telling Helen the decision and held it while making the call to Admiral Glover.

Once the decision was made she didn’t question it, and she would make the same decision again, though she was disappointed that she and Helen had become more distant. Commander Norrbom stayed on top of her duties, perhaps even more efficient than she was before, but gone was the banter on the bridge or the late nights at Birdland.

Wyoma had leaned on Helen heavily after her lover, Lt. Commander Gavin Mohmand, had died in a terrorist attack on Point-Station Epsilon over a year ago. And now it felt like Wyoma had betrayed her, even if it was the best decision. She just hoped Helen would understand in time and dreaded that one day she would walk into the Ready Room with a resignation or reassignment request.

So far that hadn’t happened and Wyoma wanted to pick Dendron’s brain to see what she could do to head off what she knew in her gut had to be coming. “I’ve tried talking to this about her,” the captain admitted, “but Helen just says everything is fine and buries herself even more into her work,” she shook her head, and bit her lip. “I know she’s not fine, but I’m not sure how to get her to open up.”

“I think that’s going to take some time,” Dendron said, “She needs to reconcile all the emotions she is feeling and that process works differently for everyone.”

“I understand,” Wyoma said, a small sigh escaping her lips. Norrbom’s coolness hadn’t affected her job one bit, but Redfeather missed her friend. “So this is something I have to sit back and allow to happen.”

“Or not,” Dendron added with a slight wince, “My apologies.”

“No, no, you are right,” the captain shook her head. “She might not be able to reconcile her feelings regarding my decision.”

“That is a possibility,” Dendron stroked his goatee again. “I didn’t want to give you false hope.”

“Thanks Denny,” Wyoma’s smile was wan.

“Regarding the rest of the crew’s feelings regarding Mr. Donar,” the Ullian moved on smoothly, “there is one noticeable holdout.”

“Dr. Egren,” the captain said. The counselor nodded, his smile receding. One blot on Commander Donar’s record had occurred during a botched rescue mission on Kesprytt III. Donar had been a part of Special Missions Team-9 which had conducted the mission. Scores of Kes had died as a result. One of the Federation casualties had been Egren’s spouse.

The Edoan had pulled from his own tragic experiences to help provide solace to Wyoma during her time of grief as well. The captain had made sure to seek out Egren’s advice before making her final decision, and at the time the man had expressed no reservations. But now that Tai had come aboard, Egren suddenly didn’t have time to do anything but the most precursory medical scan on the man.

“I have spoken with the Chief Medical Officer,” Dendron said. “He was very communicative. He knows he shouldn’t blame Commander Donar for what happened, and in a way, he doesn’t, he said that he thought he had moved on, but whenever he sees the man he thinks of his wife.” The Ullian stopped, his face contorting with frustration. “There is little I can do to help him at this stage except recommend continued sessions to allow him to express his frustration and anger.”

“Anger?” Redfeather asked, shocked; even though she shouldn’t have been. She had been very angry herself in the months after Mohmand’s murder. She had blamed God, fate, the universe, and especially the Cardassian militants. The anger had become so strong, so poisonous that for a time it had nearly imperiled her career. She had to take a leave of absence and Commander McDuffie had graciously stepped in, as well as out, when she returned. So she knew how stultifying unchecked anger could be. “Perhaps, I could speak to him as well?” she suggested.

“I think that would be a great help,” Dendron nodded.

“Is that the real reason you came to see me?” The captain was finally catching on.

“Absolutely. Not.” Dendron smiled. “I came to see that Tenarian Glow smile of yours.” The captain blew through her teeth.

“On that note…”

“I’m being dismissed, aren’t I?” The Ullian was already standing up.

“You’re a better mind reader than I thought.” The captain quipped.
************************************************** ***************
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Old June 17 2012, 09:24 PM   #15
CeJay
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Captains confiding in their cousnelors seems all the rage lately. I love the insight it gives us into these characters and more importantly the crew and how Donar's assignment has affected them. The crew dynamic on Erickson is something that bares continued observation.

Great chapter.
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