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|February 6 2011, 03:28 PM||#91|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
The challenge -to create a fanfic that is populated with only your own original characters.
It was the last place in the universe anyone would want to be. People did not come to this place by choice. They came by necessity. Sometimes by accident. Sometimes it was the only option open to them. For some it was a refuge. For some it was a hiding place. For some it was a stopover. For some it was a hellhole they could never escape. For most it was the edge of the Frontier. They knew it to be the beginning of the Border Lands, that wild and chaotic region of space that knew no government and knew no rules. For some this place then was a vestige of civilisation and law and order. In reality it was a miasma of criminals, refugees, hard luck stories and wild adventurers.
“Welcome ... to Jericho Station ... cough ... hack ...agh!” The cragged Ferengi coupled over in haggard coughing, hacking up an undesirable sight which he deposited at the feet of a black clad Vulcan female and smartly dressed Cardassian male. When he was quite finished he smiled through gnarled yellow teeth and whistled a breath of vile air at his passengers at the airlock.
The Vulcan woman closed her eyes and nose to the sight and onslaught. She turned to take in the sight in front of her. The dark and dank surrounds of the frontier outpost known as Jericho Station. One of the Federation Alliance’s furthest and most far flung outposts. Judging by the interior, a dull and dreary claustrophobic foreboding presence to many of the place’s first time visitors,
She noted a rather casually uniformed lieutenant come bounding up to them. “Lovely, Phlegm. Just lovely.” The enthusiastic lieutenant beamed a very warm smile at the visitors to the station. His face was unshaven and his hair straggly and he very much cut the rugged hunk. As an aside for the Ferengi to overhear he told the visitors, “Never mind our lovely friendly neighbourhood Ferengi. I think I’ll make a better tour guide than he.”
Stopping from picking his nose the hairy eared Ferengi harangued, “Eh! What about giving me a tip?”
Despite herself, the Vulcan pass remarked. “I suggest you take avail of a bath.”
“A pity that pretty mouth of yours is so smart. Bleedin’ Vulcans. We were best being rid of the lot of you!” He looked as though he were going to spit on the Vulcan who looked upon him as though he were a disgusting bug.
“Phlegm! Take your credits and go.” Phelgm greedily grabbed at the handful of gold pressed latinium coins and quick as a flash squirrelled them away under his cloak. He did not bother to wave them goodbye but tossed the last of their crates out of the airlock hatch and closed the door without ceremony to them. Dale assisted the quiet Cardassian to pick up the pieces of luggage. He offered an apologetic appeasement to the travellers. “I must apologise. He’s rather an acquired taste. However, there are not many that will brave the journey out as far as the Border Lands.”
“Our flight was uneventful.” The statement implied that the bravery of the Ferengi could be questioned. Knowing Phelgm as he did, Dale Garrow did doubt it but did not doubt the man’s greed, thus motivation for making the perilous journey.
“That I gathered by your making it here. Trust me, if it had been eventful we would never have heard of you again. By and by, my name’s Dale Garrow. I presume you are ...”
“To presume would be a breach of security lieutenant.”
“Then by all means identify yourself.”
Her look was haughty and her tone echoed it as she awaited for him to pull out the security padd check. Into it she directed her clearance code. “I am Dr. Ajshea, Starfleet security code Shrika-3-4-C-7-Omega-6.” Garrow himself held the device aloft carelessly. It seemed protocol was not a priority despite the claims about how dangerous this region of space was.
The Cardassian spoke. “I am Braham Oses. Starfleet security code Detla-9-Epsilon-4-2-8-Shrika.” His voice was courteous and soft and yet held your attention. “Are things really that desperate out here?”
Shrugging the items he carried into a better position, Dale explained good naturedly. “That they are. Pirates, smugglers and slavers, bounty hunters, rampaging Klingons, skulking Rommies, the ... ahem ... the Union Forces.” Dale looked carefully sideways at the Cardassian lest he had trampled on any potentially political animosity. There apparently were none by the stoic expression the Cardassian bore. The thought crossed Dale’s mind that perhaps the Cardassian was as amenable as he seemed or perhaps the Vulcan woman had a greater impression on him. Dale’s voice which had been light and breezy numerating the many dangers that were out in the Border Lands turned cold and serious as he added a final, “and of course ... them.”
The change in tone and the gravity of his words did not seem to affect the slim striking Vulcan. “Have there been any confirmed sightings? Until then all manner of talk about ‘them’ is pure speculation.”
“Oh don’t me wrong a fair share of the rumours about them are just that – rumours! It helps to keep the fringes of the Alliance that little more wild and helps the pirates and slavers and warlords to have their way and keep control. With our resources spread so thin policing this region of space is not exactly high on the agenda.”
They started threading their way through the bustling promenade. Neon lights and orange spots illuminated the thoroughfare in a macabre almost gloomy light. The many soiled and uncouth residents of the vicinity only adding to the destitute impression the station was having on the two travellers. The two strangers were both being cast at the least dubious looks by those they passed by. And outright hostile looks by the others. In particular, murderous looks were given to Ajshea who walked on oblivious to the hostility she engendered.
A little cagey at the attention they were garnering Braham stated, “I had thought the Federation Alliance was beginning to make a concerted effort to do so.” He gave the intimidating looks a thin smile but feared that perhaps someone would act on revenge and lash out at Ajshea.
“Maybe in more important and profitable places than Jericho, Dr Oses. Welcome to the frontier. You left civilisation behind you by a long mile. And heck going by the recent feeds, civilisation isn’t that pretty.”
Striding ahead, the Vulcan reprimanded, “Our purpose here is not to make idle chat or make speculations about the political strife in the inner core.”
Braham apologised on her behalf. “Excuse Ajshea, Mr. Garrow. She is eager to see the station commander and be underway with our mission.”
“Perhaps you would let me lead the way then.”
She stopped short whirring round on the lieutenant. “I assume that the commander is on the command level. Therefore, following the directional signs will suffice.”
“Ah well ... he is not exactly on the command level.”
She raised a withering eyebrow at him. “Then where is he?”
“He is only a level up on Bazaar One.”
“That like this level is a venue for commercial enterprises, entertainment, salacious activities and drinking establishments is it not?”
Garrow looked discomfited as he had to explain the curious whereabouts of the station’s commanding officer. “Well Bazaar Two is aimed for a more shall we say downmarket crowd. Bazaar One has a more ‘discerning’ clientele.”
The sarcasm dripped off her tongue. “How reassuring it is to know that the commander is discerning.”
“Yeah.” He trailed off into nervous laughter thinking that only reason the commander was on Bazaar One was because he had recently won big in the casino. A profit the station commander was quickly ploughing through in the more expensive establishments of Bazaar One instead of his usual haunts on Bazaar Two.
“Take us to him then forthwith.”
Dale was perturbed at the idea of interrupting the Commander in the middle of whatever more discerning activities he might be engaged in. “Would you sooner not be brought to your temporary quarters?”
“We intend for the temporary quarters to be very temporary. In fact we intend to have no need for them. Our arrangements were made well in advance and we expect the fullest co-operation for our mission. If it is too much to expect to be met by the ranking officer on the station I can at least assume that the matter of our mission arrangements has been met.”
“Ah ... as to that, I do not wish to speak for the Commander.” Dale nervously sidestepped the issue doubtful of any such efficiency on the commander’s part. “This way please.”
She sniffed with an evident air of dissatisfaction.
* * *
The Willing Wench brought another sniff of dissatisfaction from the Vulcan as they stood outside it. The garish blue and purple neon lighting did little to create the impression of an upmarket establishment for a discerning customer. She voiced that opinion loudly before they entered.
“It is more discerning not for the soft furnishings but rather for the ... ahem ... attentive ... the erm quality ... the looks of ...”
Oses smiled thinly but honestly as he tried to appease Garrow. “Please Lieutenant do not discomfort yourself from explaining. We do not seek to cause you embarrassment.”
“Nor is there a need, it is clear that this is a brothel of some kind, a rather dubious kind. The male of a species is truly a pathetic specimen.” Her contempt was clear and under her breath Dale heard her mutter something along the lines of ‘unbridled passions’.
Dale ignored the woman and entered into the bar and after looking around approached a figure. “Ahem. I was wondering where Commander Anthbek is?”
The voluptuous landlady of the establishment trailed off from laughing and giggling in the lap of drunken Bolian. “Oh Mr Garrow. It has been awhile since you’ve paid me a visit.”
Garrow blushed and gave a furtive sideways look at the two who accompanied him. “Heh! I guess my Starfleet pay check doesn’t stretch to such luxuries Lili.”
“Tut, tut.” She stood up from the Bolian’s lap and came up to him, grabbing the lapels of his open uniform jacket. “We should always treat ourselves – the joy is always worth it.” She gave the two strangers an appraising look. “I see you haven’t brought me any willing customers. What’s the deal Dale?”
“A matter for the Commander. An urgent matter.”
“He has other pressing matters on his mind and body at present.”
“Out the back?”
“Of course Dale, I like to run a discrete establishment.”
“This is ridiculous.” The Vulcan woman rolled her eyes and stepped towards the entrance that led ‘out the back’. Lilli quickly stepped in front of her, arms out declaring the way blocked. Ajshea arched a disapproving and irked brow at the woman’s actions.
“Sorry hon’ but nobody goes through those doors without gracing my palm with the appropriate coinage.” For effect she extended her hand baiting the Vulcan to pay her so.
Ajshea gave the hand an offended look and wrinkled her nose. The disgust on her face clearly implied that she felt sullied by even being in the presence of the woman. “I will not grace your hand with anything. I have no idea where it has been. I am not your hon’ nor am I one of your pathetically bridled customers. I have no need to avail of the sexual services you ply here. I am a Vulcan.”
“Well hon’ I’ll see you at some point in the next seven years then shall I? I got that you were a Vulcan. The pixie ears and dreadful bowl cut hair do where the most obvious signs until you opened that pretty mouth of yours and I realised you to be a stuck up, sanctimonious, arrogant bitch. Then I knew for sure you was a Vulcan.”
“If I have need to sate my sexual urges I can do so for free. Yours is a tawdry business and I have no need to pay you for any services you have to offer. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to talk to Commander Jorga Anthbek.”
“He would be out back. So it would seem you need to go back there.” Lilli permitted herself a victoriously smug smile.
Ajshea breathed heavily through her nose before stepping back from the woman and the doorway. She looked the woman up and down carefully as if weighing up her chances in a fight. Lilli for her part fingered a small ivory handle blade at her waist whilst she signalled for her doormen to come over to her.
Ajshea carefully considered the situation and took a further step back before she hollered at the top of her voice, “COMMANDER JORGA ANTHBEK!”
Lilli protested as she rounded on the Vulcan. “Now you listen here you pointy eared witch! I will not have you disturbing the peace of my establishment.” From the corridor behind the door a commotion was heard and a lot of cursing to boot.
Oses stepped up to Ajshea and carefully guided her back from the landlady’s ire. The scene was obviously distressing to someone of his demeanour. He wanted to quell the situation but Lilli’s continued screams were not easily placated. The doormen also interjected causing Dale Garrow to now step in and try to restore some order to the ensuing brawl.
“What in the name of all that is cold and holy is going on out here?” From the door stormed a dishevelled middle aged Andorian, almost tripping over his unbuttoned trousers.
In her most conceited voice, Ajshea declared, “Commander Anthbek. I have need to speak with you urgently to matter pertaining to the security of the Federation Alliance.”
“Is that all! I was in the middle of...”
“I do not wish to speak of what you were in the middle of. We will speak. Now!”
Commander Anthbek zipped up his trousers with a sharp tug, implying his patience was run out. He only managed to snag ‘himself’ very painfully. Anthbek bent over in pain as Lilli rushed to attend him. After wincing and crossing his legs, Dale Garrow also came up to his commander.
Again Braham tried to be the pacifier to the disarray. “Or at the most convenient moment for the Commander. The matter is of much import.”
“Now might be the best time to discuss matters as he will surely now be thinking with his brain and not his...”
* * *
|February 6 2011, 03:28 PM||#92|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Ajshea broke from studying the walls of the Commander’s office. “Aggravate the situation? How ever do you mean?”
“I mean to say that our initial meeting with Commander Anthbek did not go well and our mission is of vital importance to derail with any personal animosities. We need his help to even begin our mission. If we are ever to learn about the threat ‘they’ pose we need to be able to secure a vessel and a crew to help us undertake our research and to test our weapon.”
“I am fully cognisant of what the mission parameters are and the necessity of securing a ship and a crew. I am also fully aware that we have orders for the Commander from Starfleet and he will have no choice but to follow those orders regardless of any personal animosities.”
“Be that as it may, it will expedite matters if we can make this meeting go more smoothly and not allow emotional baggage to bar the way to progress.”
“I am Vulcan. I don’t do baggage Braham.”
Recalling the barb thrown by Lilli in the Willing Wench, Oses could not help but look at the woman’s pointed ears. A look caught by Ajshea who cast a withering look at him in return.
The doors parted to permit the entrance of the large framed Andorian. He looked a little less dishevelled than before given the chance to dress properly. However, with his rounded gut and his cautious gait as he walked gingerly to his desk and sat even more gingerly into his chair, he did not exactly impress the Vulcan woman any further on second meeting.
Dale Garrow followed with a large tub of ice-cream and spoon, which he handed to the Commander. Ajshea was about to comment about how she figured he had gained the rounded gut when Anthbek tossed the spoon onto the table and sighed in deep satisfaction and relief as he placed the cold ice-cream onto his crotch area.
“Don’t get too snitchy Vulcan! If it weren’t for you I would not have need for such measures. I want no more smart talk from you or any moral lectures. What I do in my private time is my private business.”
“I shall keep tight-lipped even if you cannot keep it zipped.” She smiled sweetly and gratingly at him. For a long moment he felt the urge to throw the large tub of ice-cream at her.
“We have much to discuss Commander. We apologise for the urgency for our meeting but our orders from Starfleet are clear. The sooner we can be sorted the sooner we can be underway.”
“That is a most appealing notion Mr. Oses. You both have only been on my station for less than an hour and already you have caused considerable disruption.”
Rolling her eyes, Ajshea rejoined, “I am sure the brothel in question is the source of many brawls and disturbing scenes. I think our presence hardly constitutes anything scandalous to the inhabitants of this ... place.”
Anthbek bristled at her manner. “The very fact that a Vulcan walks the corridors of this station constitutes enough of a scandal in the eyes of many. After the action of Vulcan in the Onslaught I am surprised a lynch mob did not grab you and spare me the pain of ever meeting you.” He turned to Oses before Ajshea could begin to formulate a response. “And having a Cardassian not in Starfleet uniform walking the corridors alongside said Vulcan hardly soothes the passions of the mob any.”
“Our credentials have been verified by your ... security.”
“I am aware of that.” The Commander adjusted the tub of ice-cream as he leaned forward and joined his hands on the table. “I am also aware that Starfleet dropped the ball on this one. Otherwise, I am inclined to believe they purposefully decided to not inform me that I would be hosting a Vulcan aboard my station. Had I known, I would have had you dock secretly and out of sight.”
“Any antagonism towards me based solely on my being Vulcan is unimportant as well as racial and ignorant.”
“Oh I’m sure once people get to know you they don’t want to hang you simply because you are a Vulcan.” The dig either went over her head or she chose to ignore it. “But the fact remains, a good deal of people hold a deep, deep resentment, nay hatred towards any Vulcan.”
“I am able to defend myself from any trouble makers Commander. I also do not intend to be here for very long. If we could get to the crux of the matter of our business.”
“The security and order of this station is my business. The recklessness with how you have paraded yourself about these corridors is a threat to the security and good order of it.”
“I believe you over estimate the hostility of the station’s inhabitants.”
“I don’t doubt it. I doubt they will act upon it themselves however. Instead my biggest worry is that they will try to cash in on your presence. Already there may be bounty hunters en route to bag you. Some will pay handsomely for those pointy ears of yours.”
“Degrading your argument to petty superficial racial physical traits is deplorable and unproductive.”
He continued as if he had not been interrupted. “I’d be willing to hand you over for free and damn the reward. And if it comes to it, I may have to. If the Klingons, Gorn or the Romulans were to come for you in any kind of force, I would have little choice but to turn you over.”
“The notion that Klingons, Gorn and Romulans hunt down and capture Vulcans in revenge is but a scare tactic employed to keep Vulcans away from the frontier and indeed to try to confine them to their colonies.”
“It is no scare tactic. Be sure of that. Your method to deal with ‘them’ in the final days of the Onslaught was to devastate whole solar systems. You used that murderous mantra that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few to excuse the obliteration of millions of lives in an instant.” He punctuated his remarks with a sudden sharp click of his fingers.
“The nonsense of not referring to them by name is both superstitious and petty. The Vulcan Academy’s solution to the Onslaught was unprecedented but necessary. It was no excuse but a perfectly valid final solution to deal with the Spawn. Had the Vulcan Science Academy not taken its action the Spawn would have continued to devour systems and eradicate all life within the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. The final solution was radical and unprecedented. But so too was the threat to life unparalleled. The complete and utter destruction of the Spawn Hives was the only means of stopping the Spawn.”
Spewing angry spittle, the Commander railed against the Vulcan’s impassive demeanour as she candidly explained away the immense devastation. “And so what if it cost millions upon millions of lives, destroyed worlds and rendered whole sectors impassable. And let us not forget your mission here goes to show that the final solution has proven far from final!”
“It was a terrible price Commander however we need to focus on the now.” Oses tried to bring the heated exchange of words to an end. He turned in his chair and appealed to Ajshea. “Let us focus on the mission and on the future.”
“You are correct of course, Oses. Commander.”
The Commander gave her a long look. His antennae twitched upwards and pirouetted in agitation. “You wear black eyeliner around your eyes. Does that not mean you are a Redmeptorist? Does that not mean you are sorry for the actions your people took with their final solution?”
“I do and I am.”
“Well you don’t sound terribly sorry with your mealy mouthed words and petty excusing for the mass extermination of life.”
“I do not believe that the actions of the Science Academy were the proper course. I believe that other viable options were available. I do not however apologise for what they did. It is illogical for me to profess sorrow for actions that were not of my doing and beyond my control. It is illogical for me to try to account for their mistakes or for their success in ridding us of the Spawn for so long.”
“Talk about having your cake and eating it! That is a pile of crap!”
Ajshea was about to indignantly remonstrate with Commander Anthbek when the doors to the office burst open and a voice declared, “Oh Georgie!”
The party swung their attention in the direction of the seductive voice. From the doorway, outlined in the spilling light, a leather clad leg and boot propped itself on a short bar stool. The silhouette showed a figure that was strong and toned. At the fulsome hips a pair of holstered pistols hung. At her shoulders a fur trimmed black leather jacket with an outrageous animal print did little to distract from the effusive head of tightly curled hair that played free and flowing.
She stood proudly and with an allure with her hands on her hips. Even with her face in shadow it seemed evident that she was grinning, nay preening at the attention she garnered.
“Tabatha ‘Don’t call me Tabby’ Katherine Chase.” She stepped into the office as she declared herself, extending a hand as she neared them. “Most pleasing to make your acquaintance.”
Looking at the extended hand as if it were something radioactive, Ajshea refused to shake it and instead ignoring the introductions went straight to asking, “Why would I call you Tabby?”
Under his breath Jorga Anthbek sarcastically whispered, “Vulcans, don’t you just love them?”
“Indeed,” Tabatha declared smiling widely and placing her manicured nails on her hips, “why would you call me Tabby?”
Ajshea persisted. “Indeed why?”
“Why indeed?” Tabatha shrugged in return.
Ajshea informed her brusquely, “You raised the issue in the first instance.”
Tabatha winked and smiled as she answered, “Only to avoid the matter becoming an issue.”
“Which obviously failed.”
“Not really. You know not to call me Tabby now. Click, click.” She made guns out of her pointed fingers as she made the noise and winked simultaneously with it.
“This woman is wasting our time. Is there a purpose for her permitting her being here and interrupting this meeting?”
Tabatha pretended offence. “Well nice to meet you too.”
Jorga forgetting the spectacle of Tabatha stood in the midst of his office said declaratively to the Vulcan, “Tabatha earns a right to be here. You needn’t pull military protocol on me, as you are only a civilian yourself Miss Ajshea.”
Again, indignant, Ajshea started, “I am a ...”
He stated roundly, “I’m well aware of what you are.”
“Andorians have always been known to be belligerent. I see that you live up to that reputation.”
Jorga snarled, his antennae quivering in barely controlled rage, “You think me belligerent? You haven’t seen me belligerent Vulcan. You may be a Redemptorist Vulcan but it holds no clout with me. The black eyeliner around the eyes is but make up. It does little to make amends for the crimes you committed in the name of logic, expediency and supposed mercy.”
“I will not stand here and ...”
Oses stepped in again and tried once more to placate matters. He stood now to try and gain both of their attentions. “Commander Jorga, we all have difficulties with what has passed. Our mission is what is vital. What can and may save the future.”
Somewhat aggrieved at being forgotten and cast aside, Tabatha Chase o’ed in fascination. “Sounds fascinating. Do tell.”
Oses’ scales would have blushed at his indiscretion. The situation was not what he was use to. “I cannot. It is a classified matter.”
Tabatha tousled the bangles of curls before closing one eye to size them both up and pointed a long slender finger at each of them. “You’re civilians are you not?”
“Yes. We are. But with a mission brief from Starfleet.”
“Starfleet conducting missions out on the Border Lands?” She cocked a leg and leaned on one hand on her hip as she looked at the two of them surprised at such exoticness wrapped up in two rather serious figures. Though it she reprimanded to herself it shouldn’t have been too unexpectant considering that most Cardassians within the Federation Alliance stayed to their own territories unless actively serving in a Starfleet role. As for the sight of a Vulcan, especially one so striking and sensuous wandering about the Border Lands, Tabatha was just bowled over. “My, my, how very much more interesting.”
“Yet none of your business.” Ajshea stood now to assert her command. She turned to Jorge seated still behind his desk. “Commander, any issues you might have with me are insignificant in light of our mission. It behoves you to set aside any resentments and focus on the mission at hand. Let us begin by ridding ourselves of the presence of this woman and consider the details in private and secret.”
“That won’t be possible.”
“Oh Georgie. I love it when you stick up for me. However, you can go play nice with these people and I’ll see to other business I have on Jericho before we discuss your little proposition.”
“The matter of your proposition is the matter of the mission we speak of.”
“Oooo... do tell.” Tabatha smiled with a curious inkling and yet at the back of her mind was a nagging concern.
Ajshea must have begun to make certain logical assumptions too as she pressed of the commander, “Clarify.”
Jorga lorded it over the Vulcan happily as he set the tub of ice-cream aside. “What? Did you expect to get a starship and a crew from my meagre supplement and swan off into the Border Lands?”
“Our mission was cleared by Starfleet Command.”
“Yes it was cleared. The specifics of it were not. As the commanding ranking officer in the region it befell me to make it as practicable as possible. To that end, meet your skipper!”
* * *
|February 6 2011, 03:29 PM||#93|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
In the same breath Tabatha also declared, “Excuse me Georgie but I haven’t agreed to anything.”
The two of them began protesting at Anthbek over each other. Tabatha continued in a toying mood to begin. “Money up front I always say.”
While Ajshea continued ranting, “This is a Starfleet mission. It cannot be compromised by being subcontracted to some dubious civilian cargo hauler.”
As she picked up on the accusation cast by Ajshea, Tabatha addressed the Vulcan, “I am not some dubious civilian cargo hauler. I am Tabatha Katherine Chase, the finest starship captain you are ever likely to meet.”
Ajshea was unimpressed with any such claims as she forged on with talking over the woman. “I resent a vital mission of extreme importance and my being farmed out to some rank amateur with a penchant for dressing ludicrously and scandalously. Perhaps she should look for gainful employment on Bazaar One!”
“Rank amateur! My ship is the fastest most well armed in the quadrant, it could turn circles around anything Starfleet has to offer. I made the Denobulan run in...”
“Shut it the both of you!” The two women stopped short at the loud bellow from the Commander. The silence lasted only a moment before they started speaking again.
“Bazaar One!” She looked for an instant offended before turning on Jorge. “You were visiting Lilli’s again Georgie.”
Ajshea tried to score one more point. “I am mistaken. Apparently, Bazaar One is for more discerning customers.”
“Oh psst Georgie.” Tabatha announced. “I kinda like ears here. She’s feisty. I like feisty.”
Gaining her approval disgusted the Vulcan. “I like professionalism, a degree of decorum and someone who exudes authority.”
Before Tabatha could continue the tit for tat, Jorge interjected, “I don’t give a damn. I need to get you off my station as soon as! As for you Tabatha – don’t call me Georgie. You know I hate it.”
“Yes, but you don’t say that when you introduce yourself, so how is a person to know.” She winked in turn at him and then at Ajshea. “Anyway, her protests are all mute until such time as you can convince me of whatever your harebrained proposition is. Money talks after all.”
“I do not believe someone motivated by profit is going to be of use to our mission.”
At this, the quiet Oses spoke up. “I must profess Commander Anthbek that I am uncertain that is a viable option. The mission itself is quite likely perilous and open ended, requiring a long term commitment and investment that will require a dedicated and purposeful crew. Meaning no offence to Miss Chase.”
“That’s right, I’m not married.” She patted his posterior and ran her fingers through his slick jet black hair. “Though he makes a point about our deal Jorge, the danger and peril not so much an issue, in fact it kinda excites me. But the open ended nature makes it sound like an ongoing contractual affair. Which could become a bit of a bore. So, I think I might pass up on this one. See ya!” She wagged her fingers as she started leaving the room.
“Tabatha! Their mission is to find the Spawn.”
She stopped at the doorway. She turned slowly. Shocked and incredulous at what the Commander had proclaimed. The playful tone in her voice was dropped. Instead her voice was grave. “Are you serious? You intend to simply go off looking for them! What? Do you all think it some sort of safari hunt deal? Let’s jaunt about for a bit and hope we trip over one of them.”
“Let me explain the particulars to you. Alone. If you will excuse me.” He bid Ajshea and Oses to leave the office. Ajshea wanted to protest but Oses firmly led her out into the general gallery area that looked down to a level below wherein the lay the hub of Jericho’s station controls.
The curving gallery corridor was lined with other offices and a conference room with a number of stairs leading down into the circular command hub. At one time it was cool, glass lined and light. Now it was a grimy run down station centre with other priorities than the aesthetics of its interior.
At the doors to the Office there were a number of torn upholstered seats for visitors. It seemed that Tabatha Chase was not alone. Both Ajshea and Braham looked at the motley gathering before them. A mouselike creature that stood at waist level wore gun belts and a brown leather waistcoat along with a grimy pilot leathercap with holes for his large mouselike ears. Neither Ajshea nor Braham had seen a Weelom in person before and it was a startling sight to take in as the mouse paced the corridor in a foul mood speaking animatedly with another crewmate.
The Reptilian Xindi looked bored at the expositions of his miniature friend, his countenance worn thin. “Nesqhuim! Shut your trap before I do it for you.”
The mouse retorted angrily in a high pitched squeak as he jumped up onto a seat to gain a better height on the Reptilian. He pointed angrily with his hand and his tail, which was wrapped around a sandwich of some kind. “Derga it is alright for you! I am offended! Do they not know that I am ... oh hello!” He bowed in the direction of Ajshea and Braham. He then brought his tail up to his mouth and nibbled on the sandwich.
Derga stood against the wall with his arms folded. “You our potential clients?”
Braham inclined his head. “It would seem so.”
“There has been no deal made.” Ajshea pointed out.
“I am Braham Oses. You all work with Captain Chase.” He pointed in the direction of a third person shuffling along at the end wall engrossed in his thoughts.
Nesqhuim jumped off the seat and extended a hand by way of introduction. “May I introduce to you our engineer, Ellioh Hex.”
Oses approached the daydreaming Trill warily as he talked to himself absorbed in his own ramblings. “Pleased to meet you Mr Hex.”
The Trill came to, startled as if only now becoming aware that the corridor was filled with others. He extended a hand to the proffered and shook it effusively. His smile was wide and mad looking with the ebullient joy of making contact with another being. “Hex. Em ... ah ... yes ... Ellioh ... Ellioh Hex, yes Ellioh that would be it. Sometimes I forget. Never the minding. Heh. Did Tabatha enquire about the equipment I require?”
Nesqhuim shrugged and smiled benignly. “He’s a little ... batty.”
The Weelom explained good heartedly, “Well he has lived for almost nine hundred years. Old age has to catch up at some point.”
Braham seemed a little troubled by this and pressed further. “In what manner?”
A new voice volunteered the truth not. “Sometimes Hex forgets that he is Ellioh. He gets lost in his memories and past lives. However, with that said, when he is in the here and now he is like an almighty genius with the engines.”
“Oh.” He turned to look at the new figure. She was a Caitian of medium height. She came up to them and gave Nesqhuim a little rub under his chin with her claw. He squirmed at the gesture and puffed up indignantly however clearly enjoyed the attention. Ajshea refrained from making mention of a cat and a mouse.
“I’m Meetra Ros, gunner on the Effervescent Cascade.”
“That is the name of your ship?” Ajshea asked appalled.
Aggrieved Nesqhuim jumped back up onto a chair and faced the Vulcan. “And what of it? The Effy is renowned for its speed and agility! I would not deign to squander my skills on anything less.”
Ignoring the disturbance between Ajshea and Nesqhium, Oses asked of Meetra, “How often do his episodes interfere with his ability to do his job?” He hoped that Ajshea did not overhear the particulars. He also hoped the answer would be reassuring.
“Rarely in a crunch situation.” She tried to reassure. “Rarely.”
Suddenly the klaxons on the station rang out and the lights dipped to a flashing red hue. Dale Garrow bounded up the stairs from the command hub to the parting doors of the commander’s office. “Commander, perimeter sensors have detected the arrival of a Romulan scout ship!”
“This is Federation territory.” Ajshea informed them all.
At the doorway looking at the visage of the Romulan scout on the viewscreen with a concerned grim on his face, Anthbek informed her, “And those cannon phasers are a passport for him to travel where he wants to.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“This is your fault! No doubt someone has decided to cash in the reward for your Vulcan head. They’ve come for you.”
“I will not permit it.”
“You don’t have a say in the matter.” Tabatha Chase was gathering her people and steering them away from the gathering. “And just where do you think you are going?”
She smiled playfully. “It’s obvious that you have your hands full here Georgie. I’ll leave you in peace and be on my way. Sorry I couldn’t be of any assistance. Must dash. Important business to attend to.”
“What you mean is, that there is a new Romulan warrant for your arrest and you want to sneak off before they register your presence. No ball Tabatha.”
“It was all a misunderstanding! Unpaid fines, speeding tickets and a legitimate transaction they’ve misconstrued as theft.” Shrugging her shoulders she played it innocently. “Bye now!”
“I don’t think so Tabatha.”
“You’re hardly going to hand me over to the Romulans. Like she said, this is the jurisdiction of the Federation-Alliance. They cannot arrest me.”
“Again – those cannon phasers make for a compelling argument. Unless ...”
“Unless what?” She asked, hands on hip.
Ajshea cut in. “I demand you safeguard me in order that I can undertake my mission.”
“Unless you agree to the terms of the proposition and take these people on their way and help them to complete their mission.”
“Instead of surrendering myself you want me to choose suicide instead.”
Dale intervened. “Scout is within weapons range. It is transmitting the standard seeker message.”
“The Romulan Star Empire seeks retribution and justice for the war crimes perpetuated by the Vulcan people. Surrender all Vulcanoids to our military or face summary punishment for obstruction of justice.”
“Their mission is vital.” Anthbek declared over the repeating message. “I chose you Chase because you are the only person I know who can carry them all the way and bring them back. We need to know if the Spawn are mustering their strength and determine a means to stop them that does not require the same final solution as last time.”
“You expect me to agree to take the Effy and my crew into the Border Lands in search of monsters. It’s suicide I tell you Jorga.”
“Scout is on approach to the station. It is beginning sensor sweeps.”
“Put the shields up to try and buy us a little time and interference.” He looked at Tabatha and Ajshea. “I know this is not what either of you wants but trust me when I tell you that it is your only option. It is also the best option. Believe it or not you offer each other the best chance for survival.”
“Let me get back to my ship and I can try and make a run for it Georgie.”
“I’ll transport you there but only if you agree to take them with you.”
“Damnation!” She stomped her foot. She gave her fellow crew a questioning look. Nesqhium squeaked while Meetra shrugged. Hex was lost to his thoughts but Derga nodded slightly. The alternative was better than facing a Romulan prison sentence. “Ok, ok, ok. I agree. Now let us go.”
Dale tried to point out, “But the Romulans will know we helped them. As it is they’re demanding we lower shields.”
“Not to worry Dale. We will tell the Romulans that Tabatha took hostages and we had no option. Get your gear together Garrow.”
“Taking a Vulcan and a Cardassian hostage won’t carry much clout with the Romulans. Even taking you will stretch their understanding. However, it’s a Starfleet mission.”
“Oh goodie. A parting gift. You are too kind.”
Anthbek corrected her. “I need someone I trust along with them. Just so Tabatha doesn’t decide to dump them on the next available rock. Sorry son. This could be dangerous but the fate of us all depends on the mission’s success.” Nodding his head he pelted towards a storage cupboard and started filling a rucksack.
Ajshea gathered her own equipment cases. “Are you sure about this? The mission is too important.”
“I am.” He intoned solemnly. “Beam them to the Effy.”
Tabatha stood alongside Ajshea in preparation for the transportation. The pensive Vulcan looked appalled at her presence. “Cheer up ears. It’s going to be an adventure.”
“Whatever you say ... Tabby.”
* * *
|February 6 2011, 04:21 PM||#94|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
The challenge-to tell a story about overcoming the odds
FOR GOOD MEN TO DO NOTHING:
A DARK TERRITORY TALE
“So, this is what it must have been like?” Kall Yano whispered, her nostrils flaring as they filled with the stench of unwashed bodies and desperation. “My grandfather told me of the settlement camps when I was a child, but I thought he was exaggerating, you know? How grandfathers embellish things.”
Jake Sisko nodded tightly, thinking wistfully of Joseph Sisko’s occasional tall tales. He couldn’t lie and not wish that he weren't with the old man now, enjoying a bowl of his granddad’s quadrant famous gumbo. Instead he was here, cramped next to Kall, which wasn’t a bad thing he also had to admit. He had picked the eager young cameraperson not only because he saw the same drive to prove herself that he had, but also because he thought the Federation News Service assignment would go smoother with a beautiful woman to chat with.
Kall’s beauty couldn’t be denied. She was a wonderful blend of two worlds, Bajor and Vulcan, with gracefully pointed ears and a ridged nose. Though the woman was caked in dirt, like him, her lustrous brown skin continued to accentuate her attractiveness. She had been a pleasure to work with, and that made him feel even worser for putting her life in jeopardy like he had.
The stern and caring voices of Joseph and Kasidy, his stepmother, floated through his head. They hadn’t been the only ones who had warned, cajoled, and demanded that he not venture into Alshain occupied space, but they were the only persons whose words nearly made him waver.
“I don’t want to lose you too son, not after…,” Joseph’s voice trailed off and the corners of his eyes moistened. Jake had had to turn away from the monitor to wipe his own tears away.
“I know why you’re doing this,” Kasidy had said, after pleading with him to reconsider, “I know from whom you’re doing this, but Ben wouldn’t want this…not for you,” the words had pierced his heart. But Jake had been committed to reporting on Alshain atrocities.
From his research, Jake had concluded that the Alshain had used their wartime alliance with the Federation to cleanse their space of the Son’a, who had been in league with the Dominion. Species cleansing was abhorrent no matter who the victim, but he had learned the hard way how the war had evinced a callousness that would not be soon removed from the hearts of many a Federation citizen.
Many grumbled about the post-war reconstruction of Cardassia, despite the near extinction of the Cardassian people at the hands of the Dominion. Some Federation politicians would only support funding rebuilding efforts by making a big deal about it being for security purposes only, to prevent terrorism, and not on compassionate grounds. In comparison, the much ‘smaller’ plight of the Son’a was swept under the rug.
It was too politically untenable to intervene in the affairs of the Alshain, especially since their joining the Allied war effort had opened a crucial fourth front and blunted some of the momentum of the Breen’s entry into the war.
But the Alshain hadn’t been satisfied with exacting revenge on the Son’a for a decades-long parasitic relationship, the Alshain were attempting to rid all of the territory in their sphere of influence of non-Alshain. They were guided by a manifest destiny termed “Greater Alshain” by their ruler, the megalomaniacal Exarch Jedalla. Innocent species like the Tarlac and Ellora, both victimized by the Son’a even more than the Alshain had been, were swept aside like detritus in the attempt to restore a mythical past. The genocidal inferno now threatened to consume species such as this sector’s native Munzalans, a langur-like species that had been relocated to this sector as reparations for years of involuntary servitude to the Alshain.
The Alshains’ bloodthirsty march reminded Jake of some of the darkest chapters in human history, and he knew he had to do something about it, in the only way he knew how. Where others were content to allow genocide to occur, he would go to the front lines and he would write about it, he would report on it, and if his words, and the images of the suffering of the Tarlac and Ellorans didn’t pique the hearts of Federation denizens then the war against the Dominion had been fought in vain.
The cave rumbled again, causing another round of panicked cries. Jake instinctively grabbed Kall and drew her close to him, ostensibly to protect her from any falling rocks. Dust kicked up by the ground quake got in his lungs, making him hack and tearing his eyes. He felt Kall’s long, yet supple fingers wiping away his tears before he opened his eyes again.
“Are you okay?” Her breath was warm and welcome on his face. Though the cave was cramped, with terrified refugees holding each other or themselves, Jake felt the cold approach of death with each fusillade.
“Get a room you two,” grumbled Ceven. Kall giggled nervously and pulled away reluctantly. Jake’s cheeks grew hot and he glared at the man after wiping the last of the tears and most recent grime away.
“Hey kid, if you don’t take her, I will,” he replied with a lopsided grin. The crusty Bolian tightly clutched an old-style plasma rifle, a kind Jake had once seen in a museum. To Ceven’s credit kept the ancient weapon spotless. It even glinted in the dim light provided by the few lamps that had survived the preceding barrages.
“Stop joking around Ceven,” Zene snapped. The young dark-skinned Elloran’s mien had never been more serious. He held a modern TR-116 rifle, a projectile weapon that Jake knew had been recently discontinued by Starfleet. The young reporter didn’t know how Zene had gotten his hands on the weapon, and he was smart enough not to ask.
If anything, the arrival of Zene and his group of irregulars had selfishly proven a boon to his efforts to highlight the tragedy wrought by the Alshain. The genocide needed faces, it needed human interest stories, and to be blunt, it needed an entertainment value that could lure the casual reader in.
Zene had recently left Starfleet, ending his short career to defend his people against the Alshain onslaught. Only months ago, the man had piloted the Starship Aegis, one of Starfleet’s most cutting edge vessels. After that ship had met an untimely end, Zene had decided to leave the Fleet and return home to give his life if need be to prevent more bloodshed.
The Aegis connection had proved fruitful for Jake. The ship had been captained by his “uncle” Terrence Glover, the Academy roommate of his father. Before Zene found that out, the Elloran had been determined to expel the journalistic duo. The former ensign still didn’t believe that their reports were doing much good.
So far, they hadn’t generated enough outrage to prompt the intervention of the Federation, outside of tepid support for a safe haven on Ba’ku. But Jake was convinced that the pen remained more powerful than any sword or tritanium bullet.
He had received some positive feedback on his feature on the acerbic Ceven, the ex-Maquis throwing in his lot with another group of underdogs. Jake’s Earth-bound editor gushed that the Bolian had the makings of a folk hero. A modern day Davy Crockett, Jake recalled the woman glowingly saying. The reference brought back memories of Dr. Bashir and Chief O’Brien’s scale model of the Alamo Mission. The model currently resided in Dr. Bashir’s quarters.
Damn it, he caught himself. He was trying not to think of DS9, and especially not Dr. Bashir. His memories of the young doctor hadn’t always been fond ones. His first real taste of war had been on Ajilon Prime only three years ago, and his cowardice had nearly resulted in Bashir’s death. Though Jake would later ‘redeem’ himself, causing a cave-in that prevented the Klingons from slaughtering Starfleet evacuees, he knew had truly done nothing heroic. He had panicked again, but the second time had resulted in him getting off some lucky shots.
He didn’t have a phaser rifle this time. The ceiling shifted, as more rocks fell and dust coated everyone. Jake heard soft groans and sharp cries. He heard hushed prayers, but more chillingly he heard a resounding detonation thunderclap at the mouth of the cave, followed by a gush of superheated air. They were far enough back in the cave to avoid injury from the explosion, but Jake knew that something worse had been loosened. Voices and hearts froze at the lusty howls of the Alshain. That old fear knifed his stomach, making his muscles palsy. The young man gulped hard, closed his eyes, but snapped them open quickly once his imagination started going into warp. He would rather face what was coming through the breach than the vivid horrors his mind conjured up of what the Alshain intended to do to them.
“They’ve broken through our barricade,” Ena, a soot covered Tarlac female said. Underneath the dirt, the fair-skinned woman was an eye catcher. She cradled her Breen disruptor as she stood up.
“Hold on Ena!” Zene barked, gesturing quickly at the surviving members of his crew. They each took up positions, determination engraving their countenances. Except for one.
“Godsdammit, I knew this was a fool’s errand,” the hard bitten Tarlac Galig snarled. “We’ve doomed ourselves in a vain attempt to save just a hand full! You’ve doomed us Ensign Zene!” He said the Elloran’s former rank with palpable disdain.
“No, no, you’ve all doomed us! You and your damned war!” Cried out an anguished voice. Through the dust-thickened darkness, Jake saw a trembling woman clutching a limp child, their head turned an impossible angle. This had been an ongoing debate among the refugees. Zene had argued that their presence prevented greater Alshain atrocities from occurring at the camp, while others were fearful that the raids the guerillas conducted against the Alshain would result in brutal reprisals.
The debate had been answered with finality when Alshain forces had swarmed the planet, decimating villages in search of Zene’s band. An Elloran herald, younger than Jake or Kall, had died at Zene’s feet after delivering the news of the surprise Alshain attack. Before the irregulars could scramble, the Alshain had hit the camp, driving the survivors into long abandoned mines that had been converted to inclement weather shelters.
“Shoziz Galig!” Spat B’dulla, a gray furred, charcoal faced Munzalan. A livid pink scar cut diagonally across his visage. B’dulla had rejected the usual pacifism of his people to take up arms.
“No, godsdammit,” the querulous Tarlac replied. “If we had just accepted the help of the Son’a they could’ve protected us.”
“Yeah, like they’ve been protecting us all these years,” a burly Elloran, whose name escaped Jake, replied drolly. “I promised my mother on her deathbed that I nor my siblings would ever be slaves again.”
“Well, at least we can remember what the lash felt like Mannar,” Galig remarked. Jake glanced at Zene. The man’s back was to him, but he saw him straighten slightly at the dig.
“Now’s not the time for this,” Jake rasped. Galig chuckled, and shook his head.
“As if you have any right to talk to me, much less be here,” the Tarlac said, looming over Jake. Jake stared up at the man, meeting his challenging gaze head on. Galig reached out and flicked the datacard hanging from Jake’s neck. “This press pass and you being human protects you.”
“You think so?” Jake asked. “You really think battle crazy Alshain warriors are going to give a damn who they sink their teeth into?”
“Yeah,” the Tarlac replied, “I do. They might look like animals, but they’re much smarter. They know what lives to take, and who to spare. And our deaths will make quite the byline for you won’t it Sisko?”
“That’s totally uncalled for,” Kall replied heatedly. “We’re here when we don’t have to be. This is our fight because we have chosen it. The galaxy has to be made aware of the injustice taking place here.”
“And that means when you get bored, you’ll simply chose something else to inveigh against,” Galig remarked, totally unimpressed.
“Galig, the Alshain are almost upon us,” Zene said calmly, turning around to face the larger man. Jake wasn’t certain if it was his imagination, but he thought he heard galloping. Though the Alshain were considered haughty and ostentatious, in part to impress their biped neighbors with gauche displays of their “high” civilization, Jake had read other stories.
He had read reports that their feral natures revealed themselves in combat, and that they often fought as quadrupeds. “If you don’t want to fight, if you want to be slaughtered like livestock, please hand your weapon to someone who still has at least a modicum of dignity.”
The Tarlac stepped back as if he had been slugged. His hand reached for the pistol at his side, causing several of the irregulars to aim at him. Galig quickly noticed that and his empty hands shot up. “I’m alright, I’m alright,” he promised. “I…I was just going to take up position.”
“Do so then,” Zene’s voice never wavered. His gaze turned back toward the mouth of the cave. A few of the refugees took the initiative to huddle their compatriots toward the back of the cave. Some of the refugees shielded their children and other loved ones while others picked up anything that could be used as a weapon. The howling grew louder, and it was punctuated by fierce barking.
Jake’s stomach roiled with fear. He felt the shroud of death over his shoulders. He wanted to grab Kall again. He wanted to tell her that he wished there had been more between them, but he didn’t. Instead, he did what he had come here to do in the first place.
“Set up the holorecorder,” he said dryly. “We’ve got a story to complete.”
|February 6 2011, 04:22 PM||#95|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Jake was startled by the familiar keen of transporters. “They’re beaming in!” Zene shouted. “We’ve been tricked!” He said, turning his weapon toward the multiple shafts of blinding crimson light forming within the cave.
“But the kelbonite?” B’dulla asked, stumped. The kelbonite ore lacing the rocks of the cave normally disrupted the transporter effect.
“That was the point for smashing the barricade, to beam in from within the cave,” Ceven groused. “Heck, that just makes the target practice easier.” Jake flinched as the irregulars tore through the first round of transports. Blood, flesh, and fur flew everywhere as the lupine soldiers met gristly ends.
But the beams kept coming, with greater rapidity and volume and eventually the guerillas couldn’t pick them all off. “My God, keep the recorder going,” Jake said as he posted up in a corner. He wished that he hadn’t given away the weapon Zene had offered him. Not only to protect Kall and himself, but to help the quickly outnumbered guerillas.
Imposing, heavily-armored Alshain warriors, armed with melee weapons, in addition to razor sharp teeth and claws tore into irregular and noncombatant alike, trampling over the remains of their fallen comrades. With growing horror, Jake realized that the first wave had been nothing more than fodder. The fighting was close quarters, the smells of carnage quickly flavoring the air.
Jake tried to continue reporting, “This…this is what our Alshain allies think of sentient rights,” he shouted over the din, ducking just seconds before the club swing would’ve dissected his head from his shoulders. The air from the club’s arc tickled his neck. He stumbled on the floor that was now slick with the mingled blood of the combatants.
Kall grabbed onto him to keep him upright and he clasped her in his arms, pushing her against a sea of writhing flesh. They pushed through the wall of bodies until they found actual rock to stand against. He knew it would be their last stand. Jake moved to plaster himself over her, to protect her as best he could, but he knew it was futile. “Dear Prophets,” he heard her whisper as they stood silent witness to the slaughter.
The irregulars fought valiantly, but they quickly began to falter. Their mounting losses only fueled the bloodlust of the Alshain. His stomach churned as he watched the canid warriors rip apart limbs, gut people with their claws, and even bite off heads, filling the enclosed space with the terrible crunch of bone and slick slap of meat. Hot blood sprayed everywhere, drenching them all.
Jake had survived combat with both the Klingons and Jem’Hadar, but he had never seen anything so savage. The Alshain had completely lost it. Their exultant howls shook not only the very foundations of the cave, but Jake’s soul.
“I-I can’t just allow this to go on,” Jake muttered after a few seconds.
“What?” Kall asked, the holorecorder propped on Jake’s shoulder, to give her a better vantage to capture as much of the melee as possible.
“I’ve got to help out,” he declared. The Bajoran-Vulcan hybrid grabbed his arm, with not surprising strength.
“No,” she said, “You’ll be killed.”
“You really think they are going to let us live, after this?” Jake snapped at her.
“We’re journalists,” Kall said, a plaintive tone in her voice, “We’re supposed to be objective, neutral observers.”
Jake shook his head. “Not when horror like this occurs, my God, what would Dad think of me if I just stood by…”
“Jake,” Kall said, her tenderness puncturing the shrieks and howls, “You’re father, the Emissary…”
“He’ll be back,” Jake cut her off, “and when he learns what happened here today, I want him to know that his son honored his memory, honored his family’s legacy of service, of sacrifice…just like him, just like Mom,” he voice choked at the few fragmented memories of Jennifer Sisko he still clutched onto, refusing to allow time to wash away. She had died at the Battle of Wolf 359, a victim of the Borg. His father had been a casualty of the Dominion. Though Jake believed with all his heart that Kasidy was telling the truth that his father had come to her in a vision and promised he would return. In fact, Jake almost could feel the presence of his father looking down on him now, from somewhere in the Celestial Temple.
“This is the right thing to do,” he said quietly, to himself and to Ben. He patted himself down, looking for a weapon. The only things on his person was an ancient writing pen, a gift from his father. Jake grabbed the pen and held it aloft like a dagger. “This will have to do.”
His scream was born of fear and anger as he joined the fray.
|February 6 2011, 04:23 PM||#96|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Jake’s eyes cracked open to a fuzzy white light. “Dad,” he muttered, hopeful that he was inside the Celestial Temple; that somehow his father or the Bajoran Prophets had saved him.
“Not quite Mr. Sisko,” the bass voice rumbled. Jake’s eyes fluttered open fully, and immediately closed. The fuzzy light had turned sharp and painful, matching the pain throbbing in his head and with growing realization, throughout his body.
“Wha-where?” His thoughts were muddied and filled with the clang and roar of a battle by all rights he should not have survived.
“Forgive our medics,” the speaker with the deep voice said again. “But we are not accustomed to tending human patients. He has assured me though that none of your injuries are fatal,” the man said. “It would be unfortunate for him…and his Sept if that proves incorrect.”
Jake eased his eyes open slowly, allowing them to adjust to the light. They resolved on the looming, tawny-furred figured standing over him. The man was tall, most Alshain were by human standards, but his frame was more rangy than muscular. He was dressed in a sleeveless purple tunic-vest and matching pants. A white, gold-embroidered white cape was artfully draped across his left shoulder. “I am Protocol Officer V’Del.”
“Where…” Jake’s throat was as dry as a Cardassian desert.
“You are in the infirmary aboard our flagship,” V’Del said with obvious pride. “Nauarch S’Elani would accept nothing less than the best treatment possible for the son of the honored Captain Benjamin Sisko.” With a sick realization Jake realized that Galig had been right all along. Despite Jake’s willingness to live among the refugees of Munzala, he was still a privileged Federation citizen, with the protections afforded to journalists and the son of a war hero to boot. He was different, and the risks he took had a bigger safety net to catch him if he fell.
“My…partner…” Jake ran his desiccated tongue over his cracked lips, “The woman…”
“Kall Yano?” V’Del knowingly replied. “She is being attended to. Her injuries were unfortunately a bit more extensive. She put up quite the scuffle. Her remarkable Vulcan genetics serve her well.”
“Where is she?” Jake’s voice hardened. He squinted through the pain and his protesting muscles as he sat up on his bed. He glanced around the spacious, spotless medical room. None of the other beds were occupied. Jake and the protocol officer were the only occupants.
“She is being attended to,” V’Del remarked, his one tone becoming firmer. “I have been assured that she will make a full recovery.”
“I want to see her, right now,” Jake demanded.
“You will see her, but first,” V’Del held up a finger. “I have a few questions….”
Jake Sisko felt scraped clean, inside and out as he stood in the shuttle bay deck, surrounded by a duo of stone faced Alshain guards. His Alshain ‘hosts’ had been roughly thorough in their cleansing of his body and wounds and V’Del had been equally as comprehensive in learning everything he could about Jake’s activities on Munzala.
And the young reporter had been able to take a measure of pride from not being able to produce the holorecording footage of the Alshain’s rampage inside the cave. That small victory was doused by the protocol officer’s adamant refusal to provide any greater illumination on the fate of Kall. And he wouldn’t even entertain any of Jake’s inquiries about the irregulars or refugees. “Those are legal matters which I am not privy to discuss,” the man would repeat ad nausea.
He trembled in the slightly cold air. The fur and armor covering his lupine sentries protected them much better against the frigid air than the too large one-piece suit they had given Jake. He surmised that their replicator technology wasn’t precise enough to get human body dimensions, or perhaps they just wanted to get one more jab in before they put him on the shuttle and sent him packing to the nearest starbase.
The entrance to the bay swished open and Jake’s heart pinched. “Yano!” He croaked in surprise, his voice cracking.
Kall Yano stepped in, accompanied by a smiling V’Del. “See Mr. Sisko, I told you, she would be well.”
The Vulcan-Bajoran rolled her eyes before walking over to Jake. He forced himself not to run to her. Though when they met he grabbed her and pulled her tightly to him, not caring what the Alshain thought of the emotional display. “Are you okay?” He asked. “How bad did they hurt you?” Up close he could see a patchwork of still healing scars and scratches marring the woman’s face. One ear was bandaged.
“I was going to ask you the same question,” Kall replied, giving him a once over. “You look a little banged up.”
“I feel a little banged up,” Jake admitted.
She managed to chuckle, “Well humans are a lot more delicate than my people.” He shared in the laughter. She glanced around. “Where are the others?”
Jake’s smile faltered. “I don’t know. They wouldn’t tell me,” though he had a sinking feeling that he would never see them again. The Alshain had probably executed them already. Jake just prayed that their suffering wasn’t prolonged, and he was already devising a searing eulogy for them.
And he couldn’t help sharing that information with the protocol officer. He wanted to wipe that smile off his face. He pulled himself out of Kall’s orbit enough to say. “You know, I’m going to write about what happened on Munzala.” He declared, “The galaxy will know of this atrocity.”
To Jake’s surprise V’Del’s smile grew toothier. “You can write all you want,” he shrugged, “But what is it you humans are fond of saying about the value of images…worth a thousand words or somesuch.” The protocol officer’s hazel eyes glittered in triumph.
Jake realized the man was just as predatory as the monsters on Munzala though his hunting ground revolved around the manipulation of words and appearances. “It appears that your holorecorder was unfortunately destroyed during the melee, and our subsequent inspections of your persons didn’t reveal any additional data, so as far as the galactic community knows, nothing out of the routine happened here.”
“That’s not true!” Kall charged.
“Without images, it’s just words, mere opinions from an improbably idealistic young man, still grieving over the profound losses of the Dominion War and looking to find some meaning in his life. A young man taken in and manipulated by renegades posing as freedom fighters. Magnifying our legitimate claim into species cleansing.”
Kall couldn’t take it anymore. “There was nothing ‘legitimate’ about what you did on Munzala; where was the honor in slaughtering unarmed people?”
V’Del shrugged his shoulders again, “What unarmed people? We routed a nest of guerillas. That story has already sent out on the comnet.”
“Bastard,” Kall pulled away from Jake, but he grabbed the woman before she could confront V’Del.
“Now’s not the time,” Jake said. “We’ll get our say.” Further antagonizing the Alshain would do them no good. The most important thing now was to get back to Federation space and see if they could counteract the Alshain lies with the truth. Kall took a step back and Jake knew that the Vulcan-Bajoran understood.
“Which is your right,” V’Del replied cheerily. “I wish you safe journeys. It would be in your best interests if we do not meet again. I don’t know if the Exarch’s charity will be able to protect you if you trespass into our space again.”
“You two are as lucky as you are reckless,” the station’s commander, a pinched face, violet hued Saurian, glowered at them. As soon as the Alshain had dropped them off, they had been rushed to the infirmary to undergo a full medical checkup. “Putting yourselves in harm’s way like that.” Jake lowered his head. He didn’t like being scolded like he was a child, but he felt so terrible about the tragedy on Munzala, he felt so responsible and so helpless that he deserved to be taken to task, for something. He could sense by Kall’s sharp intake of breath at the rebuke that she wasn’t going to stand for any of that though.
“With so little to show for it,” the chief medical officer, a green Nasat, piled on.
“That’s not quite correct sirs,” Kall smiled wickedly as she opened her right palm, with a small, circular disc within. Jake’s eyes widened and his heart raced.
“That’s a holographic data chip,” he remarked, a bit dumfounded by this turn of events. “How did you?”
“Do you really want to know how I got this past our captors?” Kall raised a telling arched eyebrow. “Let’s just say, they checked us well on the outside, not the inside.” The station commander’s face became even more drawn and the medic twisted his face.
“Perhaps not,” Jake grinned, his spirits brightening. He hadn’t felt so good in a long time.
Captain’s Ready Room
Two weeks later…
“Have I caught you at a bad time Mr. Sisko?” Captain Jean-Luc Picard asked, with obvious sympathy.
Jake Sisko stifled a yawn and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Of course not Captain Picard.” His eyes cleared, he added, “Though I must admit this is a surprise.”
Captain Picard gave the younger man a half-smile. “I’m not the personage of the moment Mr. Sisko. You are.” Sisko didn’t know how to take that. He smiled for a moment and then tried to tamp his enthusiasm behind a more serious demeanor.
“I’ m not in this for awards or notoriety,” Sisko said. Picard had heard that the young man had recently been nominated for a Brooks Award.
“Of course you aren’t,” the captain replied. “But I’m sure they don’t hurt.”
“No, I guess they don’t.” Jake conceded. “I’m assuming you’re contacting me about my most recent expose on the Alshain-Son’a War?” The younger man paused, a pained expression on his face, “About Munzala?” The captain nodded in assent; his expression frosting.
“I think it was a foolhardy thing for you to do, going into a war zone,” Jean-Luc realized how silly he sounded as soon as the words left his lips. He didn’t know Sisko but he had reproved the young man like he was Wesley. He had only met Jake briefly, years ago, when the Enterprise-D had visited Deep Space Nine shortly after his father’s installation as station commander. Picard and the elder Sisko hadn’t exactly hit it off due to the man losing his wife during the first Borg Incursion, principally led by an assimilated Picard, but eventually they had come to an understanding. Perhaps out of a deep seated guilt, and knowing what had befallen Captain Sisko, Jean-Luc had a desire to protect the man’s progeny, among other things…
“Risk is part of the job,” Jake said flippantly, the stars in his eyes dimming. His expression became defiant. “The galaxy had to see what’s going in the war zone, the Federation needed to know about the atrocities against civilians that the Alshain are committing.”
“One could hardly consider the Son’a civilians,” Picard found himself taking a defensive tack. “They enslaved two races, tried to destroy a planet, and that’s before joining the Dominion and waging open war on the Federation.”
“That war ended six months ago,” Jake said, with an impatient tone. It appeared like this was a well trod rejoinder for the journalist. “The Son’a Imperium surrendered and was abiding by the terms of the peace treaty. Whatever obligations the Federation feels it has to the Alshain Exarchate have been paid in full.” Jake took a breath before continuing, “And it’s just Son’a who are suffering. Tarlac, Ellorans, and Munzalans were slaughtered in the Tonkean Belt. I saw it with my own eyes.”
Picard remorsefully shook his head. Anij had been telling him the same things. Some of the war’s Son’a survivors had been fortunate enough to make it to Ba’ku, but the captain feared that the more that arrived there, the bigger a target the planet would become for the Exarchate.
“How many innocents should die before we start caring?” Jake had continued during Picard’s reverie.
“Salient point Mr. Sisko,” Picard said soberly. “May we continue this discussion…off the record?”
“Of course captain,” Jake’s expression sharpened. “How can I help you?”
“Despite some of your allegations that Starfleet has turned a blind eye to the plight of those in the war zone, I can assure you that many officers have not,” Picard said.
“I take it that you are in that number?” Jake asked, now all business. The captain was impressed by how quickly the man took on a professional bearing.
“Yes,” Picard admitted, though it pained him to do so. “Can I trust you Mr. Sisko?”
“Captain, I don’t think you would’ve taken the effort to find me if you didn’t think you could,” Jake answered bluntly. Picard agreed.
“There are some of us who would like to do more, to halt the civilian casualties, or at least provide humanitarian aid, but we are prevented from doing so. However, your articles on how the Alshain are conducting their war have given us renewed entrée in the debate. They are shaping public opinion and in turn that is influencing the policymakers. We would like those articles to continue, without undue risk to you of course.”
“Of course,” Jake said, pausing. Here it comes, Picard realized, the quid pro quo.
“My editor and all of FNS are now in my corner,” Jake said, “but it would make my job a bit easier if I could get quotes and information occasionally from likeminded officers in the Fleet.”
Picard tensed, but he anticipated that Jake would make such an offer. The little boy had he had once met in passing had become a man, a tough, grizzled professional. If the young Sisko hadn’t tried to angle for as much information as possible for his readership, he wouldn’t be doing his job, the captain realized. And if Picard held protocol above morality he wouldn’t be doing his. “I’m sure I can find a way to accommodate you.”
|March 8 2011, 01:47 AM||#97|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Tales of the USS Bluefin: “It’s a Family Thing”
Stardate 42093.8 (14 February 2365)
Star Station Echo – Berth 16
The ship was quiet now that the formal change of command ceremony was over. With the exception of the skeleton watch crew, most of Bluefin’s personnel were on the station, having shifted the celebration from military formal to Border Dog excess. It was likely that more than a few would find themselves in the station’s brig by morning as their alcohol-fueled exuberance ended with a few fights with Fleeters and Marines.
The thought made Joseph Akinola smile. Captain Joseph Akinola. That thought gave him pause.
He stood in the mostly empty ready room (his ready room, now) and gazed out the viewport toward the stars. He caught his reflection in the transparent aluminum, focusing on the new fourth pip that now adorned his collar. It was amazing how such a tiny piece of gold could weigh so much.
It’s my ship now. My crew. My responsibility. This weight, too, settled upon him, though not painfully. He had served on the Bluefin for 15 years under Captains Darby Reninger and Stanek, initially as an NCO, then as a mustang officer. Now he was in command.
When Akinola had enlisted back in 2334, he had never dreamed he might one day command a cutter. His promotion to Master Chief Petty Officer back in ’52 had seemed the pinnacle of his career and he enjoyed his role as senior non-com on the cutter. The war with the Cardies and the needs of the Service had changed that.
What had not changed was his love for this ship and her crew. With his ex-wife dead, his daughter estranged and his only sister many light years distant, the Bluefin was his real family.
He exited the ready room to stand alone on the quiet bridge. Akinola had relieved the duty officer, ostensibly to allow him to join his friends at one of Echo Station’s bars. In truth, Akinola wanted some time alone to process his new responsibilities.
Stepping down into the “pit,” he ran his hand across the leather of the command chair. He was, of course, no stranger to the center seat. As XO he had spent many duty shifts in this chair – but always there was the knowledge it was not truly his. The seat belonged to Captain Stanek. Akinola had merely served as a caretaker while the skipper was off-duty.
Now the chair was his.
He closed his eyes momentarily to take in the sounds and faint smells of the bridge. Most of the systems were off-line as the cutter drew power from the station’s umbilical connectors. The soft chirp of diagnostic routines and the faint hum of the air handlers blended with the lingering aroma of stale coffee and the faint tang of warm transtators.
To Akinola, they were the sounds and smells of home. Only the familiar voices of the crew were lacking.
The swish of the turbo-lift doors broke through his reverie. He turned to see Rear-Admiral Stanek step onto the bridge. The Bluefin’s former C.O. paused for a moment and Akinola thought he caught a brief, wistful expression on the Vulcan’s face. Stanek nodded in greeting.
“Captain Akinola, I hope I am not disturbing your solitude.”
“Not at all, Skipper.” He stopped and grinned, catching his mistake. “Sorry – old habits die hard, Admiral.”
“Indeed,” replied Stanek. He stepped around the rail and stood by the command chair, absently running his hand along the back much as Akinola had done moments earlier.
“Strange,” continued the Vulcan, “how an inanimate object such as a ship can become such an integral part of one’s life,” he murmured.
“Are you reading my mind, Admiral?”
A silver eyebrow crept upward. “Hardly,” he replied, dryly. “I have known you fifteen point two four one years, Joseph. I’m sure you have come to know me somewhat as well.”
This was true, at least as much as a Human could know a Vulcan without a mind-meld. Though he would never fully understand the workings of Stanek’s mind, he considered the Vulcan his friend and mentor.
“Sir . . . will you miss this?”
Stanek regarded the dark-skinned Human with quiet scrutiny. “You are inferring an emotional response on my part, Captain, to which I must reply . . . yes, I will ‘miss’ the ship, the crew, our work out here in the Borderland, and you, Joseph Akinola.”
Akinola nodded, not really surprised by Stanek’s response. The Vulcan could be as stoic and detached as the most disciplined Kolinahr adept, yet there were times when the veil slipped ever so slightly. Like now.
“Sir, I hope I’m ready for this. I don’t want to let you down, and I especially don’t want to let the crew down.”
Stanek nodded. “It is logical to be apprehensive when facing such a great challenge. But I have confidence in your abilities, Captain.”
The Admiral gazed around the bridge, as if to commit to memory every detail. “I have lived among Humans and other,” Stanek paused, “emotional races long enough to recognize there can be value in the expression of feelings. I do not pretend to fully understand this phenomenon, nor do I consider it logical, but I accept it as fact.”
He turned to face Akinola. “Joseph, your love for this ship and crew are evident. You have their loyalty as they have yours. But, as some of my Human colleagues have said, ‘command can be a fickle mistress.’ The Service will not always love you back.”
Akinola chuckled. “Forgive me, sir, but I never expected you to commend me for my emotional state.”
“Considering my many years, I suppose I can be forgiven my lapse.” A ghost of a smile appeared on Stanek’s lips, so briefly Akinola could not be sure if it was real or imagined on his part.
“In any case, Captain, I did not come to offer advice but to take my leave of you. A runabout for Earth leaves in eighteen minutes, twenty-two seconds. It would not be seemly for the new Commandant of the Border Service Academy to be late.”
“Our loss is New London’s gain, sir. It’s been a privilege to serve under you, Admiral.”
“The privilege has been mine, Captain.” He lifted his hand in the traditional Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper, Joseph.”
Akinola returned the salute. “Peace and long life, Admiral Stanek.”
Stanek nodded and glanced around the bridge, the wistful expression returning.
“Take care of her, Captain,” he said before turning and stepping into the turbo-lift. The Vulcan mask was once more firmly in place, Stanek’s expression stony and unreadable as the doors slid shut.
Akinola turned back to view-screen which was currently streaming diagnostic messages and providing a non-spectacular view of the station’s hull.
“Looks like it’s just you and me, old girl,” he murmured, settling into the command chair. He was interrupted by the chirp of his combadge.
“Brin to Bluefin.”
“Bluefin. Akinola here, go ahead, Chief.”
“Skipper, just wanted to give you a head’s up – some of our guys got into it with some Fleeters at Sloopy’s.”
Akinola sighed. “How bad?”
“It took station security twenty minutes to clear it up. Lt. Gilenhal has a broken nose and Crewman Tyler has a concussion. Commander Jilissa is at the station brig trying to get our guys released. She told me to get in touch with you.”
“Very well. Where were you when this broke loose, Chief?”
“Playing poker with some of the other senior non-coms, what else? By the time I heard about it, it was already over.”
“What about the Fleeters? Anyone hurt?”
“We put seven in sickbay.”
Akinola noted the “we” as well as the obvious pride in Solly’s voice but did not comment. “Keep an eye on our people, Chief. I don’t want another dust-up this evening, is that clear?”
“Aye, aye. I’ve already expressed my opinion in that regard.”
“Good. Make sure of it. Anyone else taking a poke at a Fleeter tonight will be up for Captain’s mast.”
“Don’t worry, Skipper. I had to persuade a few of our guys, but they’re all standing down now.”
Akinola didn’t ask how Brin “persuaded” them. “That’s what I want to hear, Chief. Bluefin out.”
He considered calling someone to the bridge so he could head to the station’s brig, then thought better of it. Commander Jilissa was now the XO and springing the brig rats fell into her area of responsibility. Besides, he had every confidence that the Deltan could straighten out this mess. No time like the present to learn.
He sat back in the chair, once more relishing the quiet. No, the job would not always love him back. No doubt he would hear from an angry Starfleet C.O. in the morning.
But he couldn’t help smiling.
"We're a working ship, not a glory factory. We're not the knights. We're the castle guard. If you want something else - get over it."
- Captain Morgan Bateson, from Ship of the Line
|May 5 2011, 07:09 PM||#98|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Submitted for the challenge theme: “With Hate’s Heart . . .”
Author’s Note: For readers of “Tales of the USS Bluefin,” you may recall a shift in the future timeline from the story, “Ghost in the Machine.” From that point, there was a fork in the road, so to speak, of two possible futures for the Bluefin characters. This is a story from one of those future timelines, or, to quote the immortal Yogi Berra, “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
I leave it to you, the reader, to decide to which future this tale belongs. Regardless, you should know that for either timeline there is someone that Solly Brin has very deep reasons to hate.
And payback is a bitch. Especially when seen from Solly’s point of view . . .
Sometime in the early 25th Century
Rigellia City, Rigel IV
I watched you, my cousin, come into the restaurant as I finished my second Tanarian Sling. I wasn’t worried about getting a buzz, though. The bartender is a Ferengi and he adds extra seltzer and lemon juice to save on the booze.
That’s fine with me. I’m not here for the liquor.
Your two goons probably make you feel safe. And why shouldn’t they? Most folks are intimidated by the sight of genetically enhanced, three-meter tall green Orions.
But I guess I’m not most people. Your body guards just make it easier to track your movements. Most folks see a couple of giant, scary security hacks like yours and cower.
Me, I see targets.
I have to hand it to you though, at least you take your safety seriously, unlike those other Ahmet’surs, particularly Griblorn and Heqlun. But then, they weren’t expecting me.
Unlike you. You’ve probably been expecting me for about six years, haven't you, Lortho? Or maybe we've both been expecting this for much longer - say 70 years?
Yeah, Mother and I fled our homeworld and lived in a frozen hell-hole that even your kind won’t visit. Too bad for you. If you had sent someone to take care of me and Mother the way your old man killed my father, you could still be back in that gods-awful glitzy fortress on Verex III that the Elix cartel has called home for 500 years. Fat and happy. Looks like you've managed the fat part, at least.
Your old man probably never expected me to survive childhood, much less escape to the Federation and join the Border Service. I guess dear old Uncle Tranji was lucky though – he died of Y’rusan syphilis before I could visit him. Bet you didn’t know I knew that, did you?
A green Orion waitress stepped up to my table again, interrupting my reverie. Honestly, I think my knife sheath contains more material than her entire outfit. She offers to refill my drink and starts to offer something even more enticing, but then she sees the look in my eyes and her smile freezes and her breath catches. Smart girl, this one. Street smart.
I grab her arm and pull her into the booth with me. Nobody notices; hell, roughing up the servers and Dabo girls is normal behavior in this dive. I whisper that I’m not going to start any trouble, at least not here and especially not with her.
She nods and I see relief on her face as I relax my grip on her arm. Good. ‘Course I won’t be getting anymore refills or anything else she has to offer tonight. I can live with that.
I really meant what I told her. I don’t plan to start anything here. That’s why Lortho frequents crowded places like this. He knows that I won’t risk hurting any innocent bystanders. Of course, I use the term “innocent” loosely in a place like this, but I’ve no quarrel with the lowlifes in Rigellia.
My quarrel is with Lortho Elix. My dear cousin has a debt to pay and I've come to collect.
Look at him down there. He’s laughing it up with the Dabo girls, stealing a pinch and a feel here and there like he owns the fracking joint. They’ll put up with it, too, so long as he flashes the gold-pressed latinum and keeps their glasses filled. He thinks he’s safe now, surrounded by the crowds and his over-sized body guards. Lortho, you're getting careless and sloppy. Tsk. Tsk.
I watch from the glass balcony level above the gaming floor, my vantage point a booth in the corner. It’s in shadows, so I doubt he could see me if he looked right at me, but Lortho’s never been terribly bright. He probably thinks I’m light years away right now.
Thinking has never been Lortho’s strong point.
I do feel kinda bad about messing up the upholstery in his limo earlier. Too bad his driver wasn’t more cooperative – it’s a bitch cleaning blood out of Hrunthan leather. At least the driver won’t have to clean it. I left him in so many pieces a transporter couldn’t put him together. All the damn fool had to do was walk away.
The ice in my untouched drink melts and clinks, leaving beads of water droplets on the side of the glass and table. I take the lemon wedge from the glass and chew it slowly as I watch my prey. For some reason, the tart taste of the lemon reminds me of the Bluefin. I guess it’s ‘cause Cookie used to keep lemon wedges in the galley for tea and such. Gods, I miss those days.
Dammit, now I’m thinking about Joe. I don’t need this.
The last time we spoke was – what? Six years ago, of course. I can still hear him say it: “Don’t go down that road, Solly. Don’t stoop to their level. You’re not one of them.”
But that’s where you were wrong, Joe. I am one of them.
Before I was rescued by my near-father Kaldo Brin (you Humans would say, "adoptive father,") and learned from him things like honor, respect and compassion, I was Solly Elix, son of Tarlo. I took Kaldo’s name – yeah, I know it’s a Human tradition, but I wanted to honor him for all he meant to me and my mother. Deities, I still miss him.
Kaldo was a better near-father to me than I ever was to my K’lira.
Now, as I think of my lost near-daughter, my fists tighten. I feel my pulse quicken. A red haze falls across my vision and everything around me slows down. No, no . . . too soon. Too soon.
It’s battle fever – I’ve embraced it a hundred times before like a familiar mistress. But now is the time for stealth and patience. The violence I anticipate . . . lust for . . . must wait just a while longer. I close my eyes and slow my breathing. It helps, though I still hear the dull thud . . . thud . . . thud of my pulse in my ears.
My hand moves to the Andorian knife hidden in the forearm sheath under my cloak. It was a gift from K’lira when I made Senior Chief – just before she graduated from the Academy.
I move my hand away. I won’t need the sharp ceramic blade tonight. This knife is too good for the likes of Lortho Elix. I won’t sully K'lira's memory by defiling it with that slis’jaka’s blood. Tonight, my hands will suffice.
He’s standing up now – moving away from the Dabo tables. Good. I feel a smile of anticipation on my lips. My hand moves to another inner pocket and caresses the compact needle gun secreted there. It’s for the body guards. No, I don’t plan on killing them, but when they wake up in several hours, puking their guts out, they’ll be unemployed and wondering what in the seven hells just happened. Assuming things go to plan. If not, well . . . that's okay, too.
I watch as the bodyguards (I’ve come to think of them as Tweedledee and Tweedledum from a Terran story I once read to K’lira when she was a little girl) move aside the crowd to allow Lortho to pass.
I toss three strips of gold-pressed latinum on the table as I stand to follow. It’s an overly generous tip for watered down drinks, but the server reminded me a little of K’lira. Too much like her.
Lortho and his goons head out the front as I move toward the rear of the casino. I disabled the exit alarm hours ago.
It’s raining steadily as I slip out the back and into the alley where the skimmer-limo is parked. Lortho is probably pissed that the driver hasn’t pulled up to the entrance to meet him. He’ll be too mad to smell a trap and too impatient to wait on a driver who will never show up in this lifetime.
Sure enough, here they come, making enough noise to wake the dead in Sto'vo'kor. I wait in the shadows, the needle gun in my hand as Dee and Dum trudge toward the limo. One of them is holding his cloak over Lortho, so the Amet’sur doesn’t get wet.
I’ve seen rocks with better situational awareness.
Dee is shouting for the driver to unlock the limo. He knows Rigellian curses pretty well, I'll give him that. It’s raining too hard for him to see that the driver has gone missing. He might want to look in the ‘cycler bin. Not that there’s much left to identify as a Rigellian. But then, he shouldn't have provoked me. Not tonight of all nights.
Dum is still behind Lortho, gamely holding his cloak over the boss, for all the good it's doing in this downpour. I take aim and squeeze. The dart hits Dum in the throat and he goes down like he’s kissed a Capellan Powercat.
Lortho still hasn’t a clue. Now he’s cursing and kicking Dum in the ribs. I guess he thought Dum tripped? What an idiot.
Dee is just standing there with his mouth open. This is just too damn easy. I put a second dart in him and he slides down the side of the limo, landing face-first in a puddle of water. He might drown. Too bad.
Deities! Lortho still doesn’t know what’s going on. I walk out of the shadows. Maybe I should just tap him on the shoulder.
Lortho finally turns to face me. How ‘bout that? He actually has a disruptor pistol in his hand. Maybe he’s not quite as dumb as I first thought.
Nope. He forgot to prime the firing diode. Too bad.
Elix points the useless disruptor in my face. He sounds more angry than frightened at this point. Lortho always was a bully when he thought he had the upper hand. He made a hobby out of abusing women – especially women with green skin.
Like K’lira. Can't think about that now.
I step closer and pull a cigar from my cloak – a Ferengi Macanudo. When I light it, I see the change in his expression. His gun hand suddenly begins to tremble. How sweet - he recognizes me. I'm touched.
“Solly.” His throat makes a funny clicking noise – kinda like my lighter. Interesting coincidence, don't you think?
It’s a pretty good cigar for a Ferengi-made Cuban clone. Too bad it’s raining so hard I won’t be able to enjoy it very long. I blow out a plume of smoke in his face.
“Lortho,” I reply. “Time to pay the reaper.”
He looks perplexed and says something I don’t quite understand, although I get the jist of it. He manages to steady his hand enough to pull the trigger, which accomplishes nothing. If he had waited another five seconds, he could have taken my head clean off. Lortho was never much on patience. Me – I have all the time in the world.
I grab his disruptor hand, twisting it backwards until I'm rewarded with a satisfying crunch of bones, then I kick him in the crotch. Hard. He goes down in a stinking puddle of filthy water. I don’t think his custom-tailored suit will ever be the same. At this point, I don’t think he cares too much.
A clap of thunder drowns out his high-pitched keening. He’s curled up in the fetal position, trying to protect the remains of his mangled male organ. The mewling abruptly ceases as I kick him in the kidneys and lift him up out of the slimy pothole by the neck.
I see it in his eyes now. They are wide and bright, and communicate his feelings quiet well: Fear. Understanding. Resignation. Yet, there’s still a spark of the old hatred burning in those yellow eyes.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lortho’s hands frantically claw at me and he kicks wildly as my hands tighten around his neck. He's taller than I am, but I work out a lot, so I manage to keep my grip. My knuckles pop and my arm muscles burn but I can feel the fading thrum of his pulse through my fingers as I crush his trachea. As his eyes begin to bulge and turn glassy, I think of my near-daughter.
Gods, how I miss you K’lira.
"We're a working ship, not a glory factory. We're not the knights. We're the castle guard. If you want something else - get over it."
- Captain Morgan Bateson, from Ship of the Line
|May 31 2011, 12:27 AM||#99|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Submitted for the Challenge theme: "Epic Fail"
Captain Terrence Glover swallowed hard as the dual images resolved on the holographic communicator pad. He had spent a substantial sum to secure usage of the holo-communicator. The technology was rare even in the Federation, which made it nearly nonexistent on the infrequently policed border between the Orion Syndicate and Klingon Empire.
Terrence didn’t want to think about the debt he now owed and who he owed it to. All that mattered was the result. He gasped, breathless, as his wife Jasmine stood before him. The woman was striking, tall, chocolate, with hazel eyes. She had changed her hair since last they met. The austere bun had been replaced by a sleek bob, hiding her forehead and flaring out behind to her neck. She was so lifelike, Glover fought the urge to reach out and push back errant hair strands covering her left eye. “Jazz,” he whispered, his voice choking with emotion.
“Terrence,” she said flatly. He hoped that it was just a quirk of the communication device that made her sound so remote. Though deep down he suspected otherwise. The last time they had talked, on her ship the Meharry, Jasmine had asked him for a divorce. He had been so stunned, so hurt, that he hadn’t been able to respond.
It had taken him days to accept what she had proposed, but he could never do that. He had refused and he had demanded, asked, and finally begged for her to reconsider. Jasmine had at first been adamant.
Forgoing his pride, Terrence enlisted Pell Ojana, an old friend for him, and a new friend for Jasmine. The Bajoran had been reluctant to get involved, but he knew she would. And it was because of Pell’s efforts that Jasmine had at least conceded to marriage counseling.
The second person on the pad was a petit, severe looking Vulcan. “Counselor T’Luce, I presume.”
The woman dipped her head slightly. She was sitting in a chair. “You presume correctly Captain Glover.” Jasmine had insisted on discussing their marital problems with a complete stranger, someone totally objective, and Terrence couldn’t disagree that no species he had thus encountered was better than Vulcans at being impartial and objective. “Shall we begin,” T’Luce said. The counselor gestured to Jasmine and that’s when Terrence noticed the couch behind his wife.
Just seeing Jasmine again had so captivated him that he hadn’t paid attention to her surroundings. Terrence hoped his estranged wife was similarly distracted. He didn’t want her to known about the seedy, vole hole he was in right now. Nor did he want her to know about some of the questionable things he had been doing as part of his search for his father.
In June, his father had disappeared. As soon as Terrence had been released from Jaros II, after voluntarily joining his crew to show how much he appreciated them breaking the law to save his life, the captain had set out to find him.
Admiral Samson Glover was a predictable man, and for him to go off, without leaving any way to contact him, Terrence knew something was wrong, or that Starfleet had sent him on a dangerous mission. Of course, Command wouldn’t tell him anything so he had resolved to find out for himself. The war and what his crew had done for him had reinforced in Terrence’s mind that you had to take care of your own.
If things didn’t go well with Jasmine, Samson and his long distance Uncle Sheldon would be the only family Terrence had left. He had failed Jasmine, but he would be damned if he let his father get entangled into something he might not be able to handle.
“Captain Glover, would you care to start?” The Vulcan prodded. Terrence hadn’t realized a chasm of silence had formed since T’Luce had first suggested they commence.
“Well, I, uh,” he said, his nerves getting the best of him. He had never been one to share his feelings, unless around intimates. He paused, took a deep breath, and pulled it together. Terrence knew he was going to have to do this. He had to open up, he had to show Jasmine how much she meant to him. He didn’t want to face the future without her.
“I guess,” he paused again. “I don’t want a divorce,” he said, his emotions surging to thrust everything on his mind and heart out at once. He pushed back against that impulse. He needed to order his thoughts. He needed Jasmine to understand. “I know that things have been tough, really for the last several years. But we were at war, hardships were plentiful, for everyone.” Jasmine didn’t react. She just sat there, looking at him, or off into space. He really couldn’t tell.
“Go on,” T’Luce said after a short time.
“I thought things were going fine,” Terrence said, his voice hitching. Memories of the night he had spent with Dr. Rieta Cole slashed at him. They had finally given into their mutual attraction and it had been a catastrophic mistake. He hadn’t been able to muster the courage to tell Jasmine he had betrayed her, and now he was afraid admitting it would totally ruin his chances to save his marriage.
Jasmine had already been ready to bolt without even knowing about his infidelity. T’Luce leaned forward, her pointed ears twitching. She caught the hitch, he realized with gloom. Terrence froze up, waiting for the inevitable question, but thankfully it didn’t come. He proceeded slowly, “I know Jasmine thinks having children with her are important to me, well I can’t lie, it was. But the war changed a lot of things.”
“But it didn’t change that, you know it,” Jasmine charged, her voice heated. “I’m damaged goods to you, aren’t I Terrence?”
He reared back as if punched, “How could you even think such a thing? Much less say it?”
Jasmine shook her head. “I’m not even a full person anymore,” she tapped her artificial arm. She had lost her real one early in the war.
“You’re my wife,” he declared, “And I don’t want that to change, ever.”
“Really?” T’Luce asked, the question a well placed danger. Terrence gulped.
Here it comes, he realized.
“What do you mean by that question Counselor?” Jasmine asked.
“I see that the captain is expert on making pronouncements, but do you feel his actions match his declarations?”
“Well,” Jasmine pondered it, “I don’t know.”
“How can you say that?” He asked, exasperated. “I even got you on Aegis so that we could be together.”
“I’ve read both of your profiles,” T’Luce said. “Neither of you spent much time together before or after your marriage.”
“Our courtship was haphazard,” Terrence admitted. “And a couple little things like two wars overshadowed building our marriage.”
“I see,” the Vulcan replied, tapping her sharp chin. “Do you concur Lt. Mendes?” Terrence’s heart seized in his chest. Jasmine had already gone back to using her maiden name.
“I guess,” Jasmine ventured. “No, Terrence is correct. There was very little time to build a foundation for our marriage. We were pulled every which way, and then the incident,” his wife faltered and Terrence’s heart thudded in his chest.
“The Tyra System,” T’Luce remarked. “Would you care to discuss it?”
“No, she wouldn’t,” Terrence snapped. Jasmine’s iciness thawed and she granted Terrence a small smile.
“It’s okay Terrence,” she said quietly. “I lost my arm in the Tyra System. The Dominion assault there was brutal.”
“I am aware,” T’Luce said. “I counseled several of the survivors.” Jasmine nodded at the woman, apparently in understanding. “Please excuse my interruption,” the counselor added before Glover snipped at her about it.
“It…it left me feeling not whole, as…less of a woman,” she admitted. “I’ll never get over seeing the scarring, the burns for the first time,” Jasmine’s voice cracked and she lowered her head. Terrence reached out to her, his hand slicing through the photonic projection.
“Oh Jazz,” he muttered.
“Not just the amputated arm, but the theta radiation, it…it left me barren,” Jasmine said, her voice choking with tears.
“Jasmine,” Tears streaked Terrence’s face. “I love you. I don’t care about having kids.”
“But I do,” she snapped, her hazel eyes flashing and her nostrils flaring. “I wanted us to be a family.”
“We are a family,” he pleaded. “Jazz, please just give me…”
“No, no you don’t understand,” she shook her lowered head, her voice sounding like it was coming from an infernal pit. Her whole body shook. “I-I never told you…how could I…”
“Jazz-Jasmine, I don’t understand,” he began.
“I…,” she paused, to loudly suck in air. She looked at him, her eyes rimmed in tears. “I was pregnant.”
|May 31 2011, 12:31 AM||#100|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Lt. Jasmine Mendes knew the counselor had placed a hand on her shoulder, for support, but she didn’t feel it. She did feel her husband’s anguish at her admission. Even across subspace, she could see how the news had stricken him, devastated him.
As she had known it would in all the scenarios she had thought out, as she had debated whether to tell him or not. She had decided not to. What good would it do to wound him like she had been wounded? What selfish joy could she derive from dragging him into her pit of misery?
So she had carried it around with her, the pain and the guilt, and it had warped her, turned her cold, numb, and afraid of the future.
There were times when she could briefly escape herself and see and hear the terrible way she treated her husband, but felt powerless to change it. In a way she wanted to push Terrence away. She wanted to bear this agony alone. She deserved it.
Jasmine should’ve taken the maternity leave that her captain had offered right before the mission into the Tyra System, but she planned to do so right after. She hadn’t thought the Dominion was going to be all that tough despite what she heard. And she was on the Mandela, a Galaxy-class ship, the best line in the Fleet.
Once the battle for Tyra had been enjoined Jasmine had quickly learned the error of her ways. She had seen little combat during her time in the service and nothing like the demonic fury of the Jem’Hadar.
The Mandela had almost made it out of that abattoir intact, the Dominion had largely fallen back after they had wiped out most of the Fleet and claimed the system. However, one or more of the overzealous monsters had hit the retreating Mandela on a strafing run, shredding what remained of its shields and slicing into Main Engineering. Plasma coolant tanks burst and theta radiation spread through the section, entangling her in its lethal grip. The plasma coolant took away her arm, but the radiation murdered her child and the possibility of having another.
Life had lost something that day, and Jasmine doubted she would ever be able to recover it. So why drag down Terrence, whose future remained so bright?
“Jasmine,” Terrence was quiet, his voice somber. Her heart had fluttered at seeing him again. Broad shoulders, jutting chin, sparkling black eyes, and smooth walnut brown complexion. So strong, so confident…but so sad. She knew the war had taken its toll on him as well, had turned him into something he never thought possible, had made him the author of acts that would haunt him for the rest of his life. He deserved a chance at a happiness she couldn’t give him.
“Jasmine, I love you.” He declared. “And I love you even more now, because of what you’ve been able to come back from, and all by yourself.”
“You-you’re not mad at me? For keeping this from you?” Terrence had told her about a previous relationship with a married woman, Dr. Nya Chace, with whom he had served early in his days on the Cuffe. Their relationship had produced a child, but Chace had terminated the pregnancy once she decided to get back with her husband.
“Listen,” he paused, gathering his words. “I wish you had told me. I wanted to be there for you. This is something we could’ve faced and overcome together.”
“Oh Terrence,” she said, “I couldn’t, I wouldn’t subject you to that.”
“But why,” he cried, his voice clotted with pain.
“No, not after…what happened before,” she said, hoping he would understand. His eyes widened in reply.
“That…had nothing to do with you. That wasn’t your fault.”
“What are you referring to Captain Glover?” T’Luce inquired, reminding Jasmine that the woman was still in the room.
“That’s none of your business,” Jasmine barked, prompting a harsh chuckle from Terrence. She wasn’t going to completely pull out all of Terrence’s skeletons, or her own.
“That’s my girl,” he remarked. But she knew, sadly, that she no longer was.
“Terrence,” she began softly, “I didn’t treat you fairly. I was cold and distant,” she admitted. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologize,” he said quickly, “You should never apologize for that. Especially after what you went through,” he declared, “But now that it’s out in the open, we can move on from this, together.”
“No,” Jasmine shook her head. “We can’t.”
“I don’t understand,” he frowned. “I don’t love you any less; your scars mean nothing to me. I just want you back.”
“Terrence…dear, our problems are deeper than even what happened to our child,” Jasmine remarked. “You know that.”
“I-I…what do you mean?”
“It was always a tempestuous pairing. We were so opposite, yet not so opposite at all it seemed,” Jasmine replied wistfully, as she remembered their early courting days from Deep Space Five.
“We complemented each other,” Terrence offered. “We accentuated each other.”
“Yes,” she nodded. “We did for a time, but maybe we are just too different for this to work. Especially if we don’t have something like children, our own family, binding us together.”
“Jasmine, if we really want to make this work, we can,” he stated. “I do, but the question is, do you?”
She sat back, not sure how to respond. She looked to the counselor, but the Vulcan merely looked at her with open curiosity. T’Luce was curious about her answer too. What good you are as a counselor, Jasmine huffed. She was glad she didn’t have to pay the woman for her time, another benefit of living in a moneyless economy.
She sighed and gathered herself. She gazed straight at her husband. “Terrence, I could tell you maybe, and that’s how I feel, but that isn’t the right thing to do. I need time, I need space, I need to understand who I am now, what I want now since I can’t have a family with you. Since I can’t be the wife and mother I had wanted to be. And it would be wrong to ask you to wait around for me to find the answers I need to seek. So…I still want the divorce.”
“Jazz, please,” Terrence was shaking so badly, his teeth chattered. “D-Don’t do this.”
“I have to,” She said, touching where his face would be. “In time, I hope you understand.”
“My God Jazz,” he replied. “How could you expect me to understand that? That you want to end our marriage? That you want to leave me,” he said, now looking away. He sniffled.
“No,” he turned back to her, his eyes burning coals. “You’ve had your say. Now, it’s my turn. I love you, I’ve loved you since before even I knew how to describe that tightening in my chest and that heat across my skin whenever I was in your presence. There’s been no one in the galaxy, except you, that would ever make me think about settling down, of altering my career plans, but that is what I had wanted to do with you.
And I’ll do that, for you. I’ll leave Starfleet right now. I just want to be there for you, with you.”
“I’m not finished,” he exhaled, his body deflating. “But-but I haven’t been honest with you either.” His dead eyed look pinned her to her seat. “As much as I want to rail against your decision to end our marriage, you might be right.”
Jasmine was stunned. Terrence never gave up on anything, or anyone. Ever. “Terrence…”
“Jazz, Jasmine,” He said, his eyes boring into her. “I haven’t been faithful,” he said the words plainly, clearly, in his command voice. But Jasmine still hadn’t heard him.
“It…happened several months ago. Only once…with Dr. Cole,” he said, his voice cracking as his eyes lost focus. He lowered his head. Jasmine couldn’t believe it. She had met the winsome medic in passing, and she and Terrence had seemed to be quite friendly, but she never would’ve imagined that something like this was going on.
“Only once? Like that’s supposed to make it okay?” She balked. Her bluster covered the hot knife digging into her stomach.
“I know, I know it doesn’t,” he said quickly, “But that’s the truth, and we both knew it was wrong as soon as it was over. That’s why she left the ship.”
“How dare you bring me onto the same ship you had her on! Is that why you did it, you needed a new playmate?” The blade continued ripping into her insides. At the moment she prayed it would hit a vital organ so she didn’t have to hear any more from Terrence.
“Of course not, I wanted you with me because sleeping with Rieta brought it home how much I loved you and needed you in my life.”
“Hell Jazz, it wasn’t like you were much of a wife to me then.”
“Bastard! And-and after what I just shared with you.”
“I didn’t know, I didn’t know that at the time,” Glover’s voice was raw with agony. “All I knew, all I felt was my wife pulling away from me, pushing me away, not wanting us to be together. Rieta was…she was just different. We bonded during the war…and I let it spiral out of control.”
“And you’re telling me this now?”
“I want us to be together,” he said, “but it has to be based on trust, all around. You were honest with me and I wanted to be honest with you.”
“Terrence, I knew you were capable of many things, but nothing like this. I never could imagine you a cheater, as someone who would betray his vows…as someone who would hurt me like this.”
“I didn’t either…until it happened. But it was one night…one time. I know, God I know what a mistake it was. I want another chance, I need another chance, please give me another chance.” He was up now, hovering in front of her. Terrence lowered to one knee to be eye level with her. “Please…” She had heard Terrence beg more in this counseling session than she had ever in her life. She knew he loved her, and that knowledge melted her heart. But Jasmine also knew that love sometimes just wasn’t enough.
She reached out to him, her hand hovering over where his heart would be parsecs away. “I’m sorry Terrence, but this is for the best. For both of us, it would seem. I need to find my way again, and maybe you do to.”
“That’s not what I wanted to hear,” he admitted. “It’s what I’ve been dreading hearing, even if I it could feel it coming.” He reached out, attempting to clutch the hand over his heart. She pulled it away. Terrence stood up and resumed his position.
The sparkle was gone from his eyes, and his expression was impassive. But Jasmine knew him well enough to know how crushed he was, and how he was trying to put on a brave front. “I-I’ll sign the papers and send them to you in the morning.”
“Thank you Terrence, it really is for…” He deactivated the link. The concluding words died on Jasmine’s tongue. She crumpled over as the knife sliced her open. Deluged in tears, she couldn’t talk, she barely could breathe. She knew she was a mess, and that her emotional meltdown must have been disgusting to the Vulcan counselor, but the other woman kindly said nothing. In fact, T’Luce calmly waited for her to right herself again. The counselor waited a long time.
|June 7 2011, 05:15 PM||#101|
Location: The EIB Network
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Submitted for the Challenge theme: "Reconciliation" (Special Thanks to The Lone Redshirt, for this opportunity.)
By Rush Limborg
Author's note: Reconciliation between people is a funny thing. There are times when it doesn't happen until after one of them is long gone--then, of course, the reconciliation is internal, as far as the other party is concerned. And sometimes...it helps one cope with conflicts to come.
Here is a a story involving such a reconciliation. I'm not entirely certain as to exactly when the framing story takes place--some time in the long gap between the latest DS9 Relaunch novel and the beginning of Ezri's tour of duty on the Aventine, shortly prior to the Destiny trilogy.
Though this technically isn't one of my Ezri Dax tales--still, there are quite a few connections with them, including a certain blue sculpture....
A final note: The song Vic sings is, of course, the classic made famous by its centrality to the movie Casablanca.
The word count is 2727.
Deep Space Nine
"As Time Goes By"
Julian Bashir entered Vic Fontaine’s lounge—alone.
The man—well, the hologram, who might as well be a man—was standing up on stage, chatting with his band. He turned to see who’d entered at this late hour, and smiled, walking down to greet him. “Hey, Doc!”
Bashir smiled in return…but only halfheartedly. “Hello, Vic.”
Vic chuckled. “Well—not that I don’t care for an audience, but…what’s bringing you here this late?”
Bashir stiffened, looking off, unsure of what to say.
Vic frowned, staring at him in concern. “Doc?”
Bashir blinked, “Hmm?”
Finally, he sighed, and said, “Ezri’s going to leave, tomorrow.”
Vic swallowed, and said, “Leave. You mean…”
Bashir felt his lip tighten. “She’s gone. Transferring off the station, all right?”
Vic nodded. “Oh, right…”
Bashir sighed. “I’m sorry—I…”
“Hey, it’s fine, Doc. Can’t say I blame you for that.”
Vic nodded to what Bashir was holding under his arm. “That a gift for her?”
Bashir took it in his hands, staring down at it. It was a small abstract figure…a sculpture of a crystal-like material. It was a mild shade of blue; he’d picked it up because of that. It reminded him of her eyes….
He nodded, his voice near a whisper. “Yes….”
Vic gave a sigh of his own. “Doc…I—”
“Oh, no, it’s all right.”
The hologram shook his head. “No, it’s not. Now, I don’t care what her reasons were—”
“Vic,” Bashir said, stiffening again, fighting hard to keep his lip from quivering. “Please…this isn’t the best time.”
Vic spread out his hands. “I know…. Sorry, Doc. I just…well you know, it caught me off guard when it all happened.”
Bashir nodded. “Me too,” he whispered.
Vic nodded to the sculpture again. “Think she’ll like that?”
“I…I hope so.”
Vic smiled sadly. “For what it’s worth…I think she will. Very much.”
Bashir returned the smile. “Thank you, Vic.”
“Hey—just here to help, pallie.”
Bashir chuckled. “I suppose. Listen, I don’t want to impose, but…could you play something for me?”
Vic shrugged. “Anything.”
Bashir looked off, thinking hard. He knew it would be painful…but somehow, it just felt right.
He turned back to his friend. “Vic…you remember that song you played when…when she and I first—well, our first night together?”
Vic’s smile vanished, staring at him in unease. “Oh…Doc, I—I don’t think—”
“It’s all right,” Bashir muttered. “I can take it.”
Vic swallowed, and nodded. “All right….”
He waved him to a seat. Bashir sat down, setting the sculpture down on the table beside him.
Vic stepped back up on stage, giving instructions to the band. Finally, the opening notes of the piano rang out, slowly, deliberately, as Vic began:
You must remember this:
A kiss is still a kiss,
A sigh…is just a sigh….
The fundamental things…apply…
As time goes by….
The rest of the band joined in. Julian Bashir closed his eyes, listening to the words, lettings his thoughts be carried along with them.
And…when two lovers woo,
They still say, “I love you.”
On that you can rely….
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by….
His thoughts turned to another time…years ago, shortly after she had first arrived on the station. He let down his guard completely…and remembered….
* * *
Julian Bashir stood there in the Replimat, at a discreet distance, watching her, waiting for the opportune moment. The girl was standing at the replicator, apparently deciding what to order.
“I’danian spice pudding,” she began in a smiling tone—but then cut herself off, “No—cancel that. I’ll have a…”
She raised her hand, drumming her fingers in mid-air, in apparent “eeny-meeny-miny-mo” fashion. Finally, the smile in her voice returned as she ordered, “Kilm steak, rare…”
But she cut herself off again. “No, Tobin was a vegetarian….”
Bashir felt a surge of compassion at this. Poor girl…I don’t blame her. How immensely difficult it must be for her…all those voices, those conflicting interests battling around in her mind….
I don’t know how Jadzia was able to handle it.
The girl sighed, all the certainty gone from her posture. Thinking hard, she hesitatingly said, “Give me…”
But Bashir had had enough. He wasn’t about to let her suffer like that. “Two Fanalian toddies,” he called out to the computer.
The girl—Ezri, wasn’t it?—turned to see who it was, blinking in confusion—and what looked like relief.
Bashir smiled at her, as he walked up to the replicator and concluded, “Hot.”
The computer chirped, and the order appeared in the console.
A smile appeared on Ezri’s face, and Bashir could have sworn her eyes were sparkling. “How’d you know?” she asked in a tone of warm gratitude.
Julian felt his smile grow. “Lucky guess!” he replied with a shrug.
He found himself taking a liking to her already. She was very beautiful, certainly…but it was more than that. Right away, he could deduce a pleasant, fun personality—different than Jadzia’s, of course; somewhat more demure, more “pure”, as it were. Still…she was immensely attractive, as far as he was concerned.
Bashir took the tray, and asked, “Care to join me?”
Ezri gave a slight nod, her voice gaining a slight tone of amusement. “Sure!”
Bashir led her to a table he’d already set up, a chair already pulled out for her. He set her toddy down first, and waited for her to sit down before he did.
As he sat, he found himself observing her, despite himself. She sat there grasping her mug with both hands, her posture tense—not with discomfort, so much as with anticipation, which showed in her eyes as she met his gaze, blinking as if to wake herself from a daze.
Such an eagerness about her…an enthusiasm, flowing through her—a drive so hard to keep inside. This was something he sympathized with completely—he somehow felt something of a kindred spirit in her.
Bashir mentally struggled to find the right words to say. What could one say to a person you had never met…who possessed all the memories of one of your dearest friends?
Is this how Captain Sisko felt, when he first saw Jadzia? Seeing a beautiful young woman, all too aware that she also remembered him as a pupil…a brash young man whom she—then a he—had had to reign in…
Bashir shrugged off the thought, and began, “So, um…here we are!”
Ezri chuckled softly at that, giving a light shrug of her own, her blue-grey eyes sparkling again.
Her eyes…Bashir found himself suddenly captivated, looking at them in wonder. There was a certain element of wisdom in them…a deep thoughtfulness, in stark contrast to youthful bloom which filled the girl’s features. It was so eerily familiar, somehow…. Of course, that should have been no surprise.
The sound of her voice snapped him back to reality, as she narrowed her eyes in what looked like amusement. “What was that?”
Bashir blinked. “What was what?”
Ezri shot him an expression implying that the answer should have been the most obvious thing in the universe. “That look…?”
Of course. He’d been so captivated by her eyes…that he’d let all subtlety vanish.
Ah, well. No sense excusing it. “This may be the last thing you want to hear,” he said, “But…you have Jadzia’s eyes.”
Only half of the truth, of course. There was a sweet, childlike element there that was decidedly pure Ezri. Still…it was probably the best response he could give without possibly disturbing her.
Apparently not. Ezri stiffened again, as she gritted her teeth, lowering her gaze as if mentally counting to ten.
Bashir immediately realized his mistake. He remembered, just a few minutes ago, she’d been struggling with all the memories of past hosts. A reminder of that was the last thing she’d wanted to hear….
“I’m sorry,” he muttered softly, and sincerely. “I, um…I shouldn’t have said anything.”
She looked up at him, with a tired smile. “Don’t flirt with me, Julian—please?”
Bashir blinked, caught completely off guard at this. “I’m not—”
“I remember how you used to flirt with Jadzia.”
For goodness, sake, I was trying to be nice, and she has to bring up—?
Bashir shook his head quickly, driving the thought from his mind. “It—it was just an observation—”
“Good,” she cut him off again, nodding quickly, her eyes widening in what looked like nervous defensiveness, “Because I’m not like her. She knew how to handle it—actually,” she looked off, and a smile seemed to play on his face, “She quite enjoyed it.”
Bashir felt a smile of his own at this. “Really?”
Ezri tilted her head, with a smirk. “You didn’t know?”
Why, of course I did. “The lady doth protest too much,” and all that.
Bashir shrugged. “Well, I…always suspected it….”
Ezri nodded…and finally, she seemed to relax a bit. “You can be very charming….”
Julian lowered his gaze, staring into his mug, dejected at how this was going. Oh, I “can be”? Frankly, I’m not sure how to take that, Ezri. I’ve heard too much from Jadzia along those lines to take that as a good sign. Goodness, what is it about women I still can’t find myself able to understand?
But Ezri wasn’t through. “You want to know something?”
Bashir looked up, mentally preparing himself for the inevitable rejection, the “Julian, you’ve been a great friend, but you must understand we Trill should consider ourselves above such things”, the “Julian, I was a man once, so I understand all the emotions you’re going through”…the patronizing, without any mercy—all with her unaware of what she was doing.
But nothing prepared him for what she did say.
Ezri leaned forward with a smile, as if indicating he’d love what she was going to telling him…and said in a conspiratorial voice, “If Worf hadn’t come along, it would’ve been you.”
Julian Bashir stiffened, the blood running cold in his veins.
No—she didn’t mean it like that. She didn’t mean to say…
But whether she did or not…nonetheless, the words churned inside, tugging at his heart. And despite himself, a feeling of bitterness swelled up inside him—certainly not at Ezri, not even at Worf…but at a friend long lost, whom he’d often wished would be something more.
Confound it, Jadzia. What that how you thought of me? Was I a “backup plan” for you—was that it? You knew how I felt—how many times did I tell you, only to have you shrug it off and tell me I’d never succeed with you? How many times…and now I hear this?
“If Worf hadn’t come along…”
Was it that you had felt something…? Your coming to my quarters on the Defiant, vulnerable, scared…asking if you could sleep there—your holding on to me, after I’d saved your life, joking with me about how foolhardy it was—was there more to all that…and I just didn’t see it? Did I just give up too soon?
But why didn’t you realize that? Why didn’t…
“If Worf hadn’t come along…”
Jadzia…why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you give me any sign…any indication that you really did feel something? Why the games—why the constant pushing away?
But just as the questions were becoming more than he could bear…he felt two soft, almost frail hands take his own. It was Ezri.
He briefly looked up at her…and was stunned at the sadness in her eyes. It was as if she could read the conflict simmering inside him—as if…
Immediately, Bashir’s gaze fell once again in shame. It was his problem…he had no right to make her feel guilty in any way.
But he saw and felt her grip on his hand tighten…as if pleading for him, begging him to accept what amends she could make.
“You really miss her, don’t you?” she asked in a near whisper.
The innocence of the question—the simple offer of support for a friend…caused him to meet her gaze again. At her words, he somehow felt as if the bitterness inside him had suddenly washed away. Despite all that had happened…
No…it wasn’t your fault at all, Jadzia…was it? It was me. I’d told myself you would never feel the same way…and I’d accepted it—for the most part, anyway. I found myself able to…to get over you. I could live without you—I could live happily, finding other things to bring me peace, such as it was.
I…it was never really ‘love’, was it, Jadzia? I was infatuated with you…and it blinded me to reality. Had it all been real…I’d have waited. I’d have persevered. But…I didn’t. Because it wasn’t love. I’d thought it was…but it wasn’t.
And I have no one to blame but myself.
And now, Ezri Dax sat there across from him, waiting for his answer.
Julian Bashir sighed, and nodded. “Yes. I, uh…suppose I always will.”
And he felt a small, genuine smile of gratitude, as he added, “But, somehow, talking to you—it seems to help.”
She returned the smile…and it seemed as if tears were welling up in her eyes. Was she thanking him—for being willing to recover from the pain, for accepting the nonverbal apology she gave?
Whatever it was…Julian Bashir felt his spirit lifting, as he let her hold his hand, and smile. For now, at least, he was at peace.
* * *
He opened his eyes as the memory ended. Of all things…why that memory?
Was it—he was almost afraid to consider this possibility—was his mind telling him to let go? To put the memories aside, and move on?
Vic continued the song:
Moonlight and love songs…never out of date…
Hearts full of passion…jealousy, and hate…
Woman needs Man—and Man must have his mate—
That, no one can…deny….
Julian remembered the lesson he had learned, then—about himself…and Jadzia.
There was something I heard once…something about love. Something like…“It’s not about finding the person you want to live with…it’s about finding the person you can’t live without.”
He had found he’d been able to live without Jadzia. And, though she had seen him as a possible choice…ultimately, it was Worf whom she could not live without. But he—Bashir—she could.
But…was that true about Ezri—and him?
He remembered his relationship with Leeta. They had broken up without any problems whatsoever. No pain in the aftermath—although, (he felt an internal smirk), he had felt a little put off upon discovering that part of the reason for it was that she’d found she was attracted to Rom….
But with Ezri, it was different—far different. There had been tears between them, when it had happened…there had been a feeling of darkness, of…of emptiness. And frankly…those feelings somehow returned every time his thoughts returned to that moment—and to all that had led to it.
That’s what it is, isn’t it? I’m asking myself if…if I can live without her, like I could live without Jadzia. And the answer…well, I don’t think I have an answer, yet. And until I do…I can’t really deal with these feelings…can I?
The voice of Vic Fontaine filled his ears, the lyrics of the song reaching down into his soul:
It’s still the same old story:
A fight for love and glory,
A case of do, or die….
The world will always welcome lovers…
And with that, the song ended. Julian Bashir found himself blinking back tears as he rose from his seat, taking the sculpture under his arm.
Vic came down from the stage, walking up to him. “How we feeling, Doc?” he asked softly.
Bashir shrugged, shaking his head. “I don’t know. But, somehow…I had to hear it.”
I don’t have any answers, Vic. But…whatever they will be…I’d better find the strength to handle them…somehow.
Vic nodded slowly, thoughtfully, as if able to guess his thoughts.
“Well,” Bashir extended his free hand to Vic, “Thank you, my friend.”
“Hey,” Vic clasped it, shaking it firmly, “I’m always here if you need me.”
Bashir chuckled. “I know. And thank you—for everything.”
With that, he left, the blue sculpture under his arm, Vic Fontaine standing still, staring after him in silence.
And Julian Bashir returned to his quarters.
* * *
Julian Bashir Will Return….
"I have been wounded but not yet slain. I shall lie here and bleed awhile. Then I shall rise and fight again."
"Forget it, Jake...it's Chinatown."
|July 9 2011, 09:34 PM||#102|
Location: Honolulu Hawaii
June Challenge 2011 - "Liberty"
Word Count: 2,039
Congratulations on being promoted and receiving the USS Io. Your brother hears that commanding a ship is the best experience out there. It is an experience that your brother will never have.
The greatest difficulty now that faces Starfleet is how to deal with our hard earned peace. As you know the Romulan Star Empire has broken apart. The Klingon Empire is at peace but you can never tell what is going on with them. Thankfully Ambassador Worf and General Martok have that sewn up. The question remains on who will be the new enemy – the winner of the Romulan Civil War or ourselves.
Yes the problem is us. It is the same problem your brother had when the irritating mustang officer of a Bolian took over Operations and then the entire ship.
Your brother should be blunt about it – he has not been on any Federation ship for the past seven months. In fact he is listed as Missing in Action. He is a deserter.
Let your brother rewind a bit.
About a year ago Chief Pun found himself lost in this tenement. He had about a year before retirement and the Dominion War still went on. Old Man Quinn still ruled the USS Thomas Paine – the last ship that your brother had pride in serving.
So Chief Pun is walking down this road when this attractive woman comes. She slides in and Chief Pun says that he’s not interested. Then she says that she is willing to pay him a good amount of federation credits for his company and at that time Chief Pun displayed an odd sense of curiosity.
Chief Pun ran the swing shift in Operations, specifically the bridge. Your brother held the navigation console on the bridge in that lovely eight hours. It is at the time when everyone is asleep and the lure of the night embraces one’s mind. One can almost imagine that they cannot be touched. It is a brotherhood of night watchers and early morning guards.
Chief Pun lets the woman buy his time. She had red hair and white skin. She has the most curious eyes. The woman does not give a name and the two pretend that they have a good time in that alien town.
Chief Pun later is formally asked by this woman for a place on the Thomas Paine. She is willing to pay money and she is attempting to get away from some unknown people.
Chief Pun always had a soft spot for ladies and then he finds out that she is an Orion shape shifter. To be exact, she had Chameloid and Orion heritage. She proved that in front of Chief Pun in a shadowy bar.
At that time Chief Pun had a decision to make. Chief Pun decided to take that offer. He would later cite the reason as to spite the mustang officer that held the post of adjunct Operations Officer under Old Man Quinn, formally known to most as Captain Olsen Quinn.
At that time, Lt. Zim Brocht served as the adjunct Operations Officer. He is Bolian. He started out as the watch officer and has gone to higher ranks. He always reminds everyone that his kind went by the wrong advice to be cooks and jolly men. He is bald, obviously, and always praises Captain Kirk every second sentence or so. At some point Zim Brocht discovered the grandeur of General Custer... someone that in his eyes is worthy of adoration like Captain Kirk, and formally changed his name to John C. Custer. It's either that or some person called him General Custer behind his back and he thought Custer lived as bold as Kirk. It doesn't matter.
He is an awful person.
There is nothing good about John C. Custer/Zim Brocht. He should have run into an accident a long time ago. However, your brother is getting ahead of himself in this tale. Your brother will get back to the main tale. Due to your inability to process names other than Earth related, your brother will refer to him as John C. Custer for the rest of this missive.
Chief Pun wrote the woman into shift crew as Crewmember Jane Dun. Chief Pun had a sense of command and loyalty only matched by Old Man Quinn. Your brother would have followed him to the darkest patch of space if he marched there. Needless to say, your brother got the short end of the stick in hosting this odd crewmember.
The first thing that Crewmember Jane Dun said when she came into your brother’s room did not smack of decency. She saw your picture. She stated the obvious and then looked around. “You are a bit of a hermit aren’t you” she added. She dumped her bag on the nearby cot and stuck out her hand. “The name is now Jane” she announced. She has this smile of a thousand suns. “What’s yours?”
Your brother said his name. “That’s nice” she replied. “Maybe I’ll just call you Henry Hermit” she pronounced. She has this movement when she turns her head to denote curiosity. She puts her hands on her hips and assumes a command posture. At that time she had brown hair that fell in ringlets and a kinder face than the initial one that Chief Pun had seen. “Yes – I’ll go with that.”
Your brother said something to contradict her. He said his real name. She looked at him. “I think you look more like Henry Hermit to me.”
That began a wonderful friendship. Of course, dear brother, your brother would have to cite the earlier letters he sent to you in that time. There are the other two roommates that didn’t last and your brother had a … bad addiction. You offered consoling but the best trip came in the War.
The biggest problem on the USS Thomas Paine came in the irritating Lt. John C. Custer. He never any experience in the war and used the swing shift as his cover to avoid it. The war went on and the biggest problem came in the list of the dead. Chief Tower – the one who ran the morning shift – got plucked for an away team. He got shot by a spoon head.
Commander Door of Security got captured by a Jem’Hadar. Ensign Paul the pilot got annihilated in a space battle we had with the Breen. That tore up the bridge for a while. You surely remember those letters that your brother sent you about those battles.
There is nothing good to say about John C. Custer as he climbed over the backs of good men. Old Man Quinn had a health problem and being in the war never helped him. The Commodore of our battle group replaced him with one Captain Calhoun Brink, who didn’t like war. However, the war made desperation a common place thing.
Captain Calhoun Brink served for the year before the peace. He took a liking to Lt. John C. Custer and promoted him to Commander of Operations. That came with more pips and the late nights/early mornings never held freedom again.
The man interfered with everything. You remember those letters. You remember how the middle ranking crewmembers got elbowed out. You remember how Chief Pun got pushed on the USS Sutherland. Everything became orientated on a proper ship akin to the Enterprise D, which did not exist at that time. Commander John C. Custer had these orientations that … your brother will not describe at all.
The very best thing in that year came in the form of Jane Dun. She had this lovely laugh that made every man turn their eyes and heads. She still has that. She made ‘Henry Hermit’ currency everywhere on the ship.
She made optimism run everywhere as well. At one point she asked for help with this man on the morning shift that had gone too far. We ate midnight rations together and she asked me – “Henry could you just pretend that you are going out with me? Don (the man she didn’t like) needs to be taught a lesson.”
Your brother said something to the effect that such a thing would be dishonorable. She had this snort and broke out in laughter. “Really Henry Hermit – we’ve got a mustang officer that sings the praises on Captain Kirk and you’re worried about being dishonorable?”
Your brother followed up on that proposal and she made life better. The act ended but we have always been friends. She makes every day filled with joy. Those six months she served go beyond pleasure and … essentially what you have with your wife but with a firm line.
The problem came in John C. Custer. We would always take over the bridge crew at 1500 as backups to the actual bridge crew. Then 1800 hours we would be the actual bridge crew and then it would run up to 2300 hours where the early morning shift would take over.
He would be there and every time she would take over the pilot console he spotted her. He sneered at her and said – “How many people did you bribe this time Orion?” She would take that in and then ask “No one Lt. Custer, sir. Why would I bribe time from Orion? That is just a constellation.”
John C. Custer then would attempt to twist that out. Alas at that time Lt. Green of Security would be there. He never did get to that quip. Later Lt. Green became Commander Green.
Then John C. Custer had ferreted her other heritage… and that is not a good story to tell.
Over time it became unbearable and she went on the early morning shift. Your brother followed suit. He does not have feelings for her as you so rudely remarked on that last letter. She is the promise of the night and the wonders of the early morning in the flesh. She laughs. Oh – how she laughs.
The greatest ache came in about four months after Captain Brink took over. She saw the writing on the wall, especially when Chief Pun disappeared. Commander John C. Custer made Operations his pet whipping boy and so many veterans vanished when the peace got formally signed.
During a stop at Deep Space 7 she made some excuse that she needed to visit a friend. She came up to your brother at the last day of the shore leave and she apologized. She looked at your brother and said – “I’m sorry Henry Hermit but I got a better job.” She shrugged.
Then she held your brother’s hands. She held them as lovers do. She always has these warm hands that feel like lace. Jane always respected that line. Jane said that she had shape-shifter blood in her. Your brother said – “I don’t care Jane. Don’t tell me your real name. You are my day and don’t leave Jane.”
She smiled and then she changed into someone that had Jane’s eyes. She had those eyes and the finest shape that your brother will not describe. Then she became someone else with the same eyes, as if to show your brother her true face. She spoke with the same voice. “Thank you Henry Hermit. You’ve been good to me and I shall never forget it.”
Then … something distracted your brother. Lt. John C. Custer called for a canceling of shore leave due to his orientation. Some Klingon got into a brawl and your brother got involved because of one of the new crewmembers. He saved him and the cruelest sight came in that empty table. She disappeared in the crowd.
You know by the letters that your brother sent that your brother became Chief by default. It felt empty. It felt distasteful coming from Commander John C. Custer. Even the uniform felt false.
So … that is the reason why your brother left. Your brother kept a running communication with her for a year. That year will not be described except that it became misery personified. Obviously she’s affiliated with the Syndicate but there’s always that line. She will be always your brother’s Jane and he will always be Henry Hermit for her.
On that glorious day the Thomas Paine stopped at Deep Space 9. Commander Custer had some meeting that day. Your brother packed his goods and said that he had every intention of visiting you. Your brother lied and knew he lied.
She waited for him at the promenade in the face of some Bajoran woman. But the eyes reminded your brother of Jane. “Henry” she said. They embraced as former crewmembers and best friends. The crowd went on and swallowed them whole. They disappeared.
Your brother is happy.
|September 1 2011, 05:43 PM||#103|
Location: S.H.I.E.L.D.ing you...
Re: June Challenge 2011 - "Liberty"
by Cobalt Frost
David Tennant as Captain Gabriel Frost (human male)-
Kinoshita Ayumi as Commander Connie Taylor (human female)-
Kate Beckinsale as Challenger’s computer voice and holographic avatar (appears as human female)-
Frank Welker as the voice of LCDR K’kon (K’krothan male)-
Hugh Jackman as the voice of CDR R’riel (Tas-Bestonian male)-
Dee Bradley Baker as the voice of Lt. D’negel (Tas-Bestonian male)-
Garret Hedlund as Lt. Mokul (Romulan male)-
Harold Perrineau as Challenger’s COB (‘Chief of the Boat’, human male)-
Morena Baccarin as Major T’sera (Vulcan female)-
Vin Diesel as Sgt. Makto (Klingon male)-
Michael Clarke Duncan as Kyu-Syubi (Orcanoch male)-
Sir Anthony Hopkins as Kromm (Klingon male)-
Sam Waterston as Fleet Admiral Robert “Phaser Pants” Durham (human male)-
Judd Hirsch as Admiral Michael Rosenthal (human male)-
Melina Kanakaredes as Admiral Anemona Nikolakis-Costopolous (human female)-
William H. Macy as Ensign Lynch (humanoid male)-
Julia Ormond as Rear Admiral Mary Catherine MacAllister (human female)-
Irfan Khan as LCRD Bahri Kumon (human male)-
Hank Azaria as Darozan the Skug (Skagganak male)-
Sanaa Lathan as Lt. Erika Priest (human female)-
"Don't touch Lola."
-Phil Coulson, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
|September 1 2011, 05:44 PM||#104|
Location: S.H.I.E.L.D.ing you...
Re: June Challenge 2011 - "Liberty"
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Starbase 136, Location [Classified RECURVE ARBOR]
CAPTAIN GABRIEL FROST stood to the side, arms folded across his chest. He’d done his part, and now it was out of his hands. Chief Engineer R’riel tapped a string of commands into the master systems access terminal – the so-called ‘pool table’ – that more often than not served as the hub of activity in Challenger’s Main Engineering. As he typed, Commander R'riel’s clawed fingers echoed in the unusual quiet that hung in the air. After an interminable pause, his efforts were rewarded with the computer’s pleasant contralto stating:
Flow sensor operating within normal parameters.
Several of the engineering crew broke into smiles and high-fives, and Gabriel breathed a sigh of relief. Finally… He looked over at the stocky, muscular Tas-Bestonian.
“Commander, at your leisure.”
“Aye, on your word, sir,” R’riel replied. “Computer, begin warp core initialization.”
Within moments, the familiar rhythmic thrum of Challenger’s mighty warp core permeated Engineering, more felt than heard. Once the core warmed up to full power, the thrum would be noticeably more audible. Gabriel tapped his combadge.
“Commander Taylor, please advise the Harbormaster that initial startup was successful. Challenger will be ready to depart in one hour Standard.”
“Aye, sir.” Connie, on the bridge, quickly enabled the captain’s chair’s comm protocols. “Challenger to Dock Command, come in please.”
“LCDR Bahri Kumon here; go ahead, Challenger.”
“Engineering reports warp core initialization and startup successful, advises departure in one hour.”
“It’s about damn time,” LCDR Kumon said, not quite under his breath.
“ExCUSE me?” snapped Connie, putting the full weight of her rank and years of service into her voice (and her frustrations with Gabriel, for good measure). The Harbormaster visibly recoiled.
“Challenger is, um, cleared to depart, all departure lanes are clear. Starbase 136 out.” The Harbormaster cut the channel before Connie could really lay into him. She growled in frustration, then took a deep breath and went back to her pre-launch duties.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Slightly less than one hour later, various umbilicals detached from Challenger, retracting back towards the dock arms. Challenger’s running lights came up, followed by jets of ionized plasma from her RCS thrusters, pushing her away from the station. As Challenger picked up speed and backed away from the berth, another starship hove into view, tended reverently by a Bulldog-class tug and several heavy-lift shuttlecraft. Despite the catastrophic battle damage she wore, she was instantly recognizable. There was only one ship of that class still in service, only one ship with that unmistakable profile.
“Enterprise,” whispered Gabriel. “Gods above and gods below.” Everyone on the bridge stopped and stared at the main screen as the shattered ship was oh-so-gently moved into the berth next to the one Challenger had just barely vacated. Acting on a gut feeling, Gabriel used his internal connection to Challenger’s computer to direct a power spike to the starboard lateral sensors, all but one pallet. Everyone on the bridge winced at the screech of feedback.
The face of LCDR Kumon abruptly appeared on the main screen. “Challenger, what the hell was that?”
Gabriel turned to the MSD at the back of the bridge while Connie consulted the Sciences station; it was Connie who responded first.
“Some sort of power surge in the EPS grid.. not sure why. No effect to ship systems, though, other than some audio feedback. Anything on your end?”
“No. Did those sensors record anything?”
That’s an odd question, Gabriel thought. “Just a bunch of static,” he said. “I can send you the data-tracks.”
“That won’t be necessary,” LCDR Kumon said. “But make sure you, um, delete them.”
“Delete them?” asked Gabriel. “On whose authority?”
“Adm. Durham’s,” Kumon responded, a little too quickly. “That ship was involved in a classified engagement, and, um, per his orders – which we received just 15 minutes ago – no records of any kind pertaining in any way to the, um, incident are to be kept. You’re not even allowed to talk about it. The authentication code is, um, Durham Tango-Six-Four-Epsilon.” He paused and glared in a feeble attempt to appear menacing. “You saw nothing, Captain.”
“You’ll excuse me if I call the Admiral to verify this.”
“Go ahead. Just, um, get out of the system before you do.” Just as suddenly as he’d appeared, LCDR Kumon was replaced by the view of the starbase as Challenger continued to back away.
“Helm, set your course for the star system’s outer edge, one-half impulse.”
“Set my course for the star system’s outer edge, one-half impulse aye,” Lt. Mokul replied crisply. “On your word, sir.”
“We’re just going to run off?” Connie asked, incredulous. “Sir, that was the Ent…”
“I know exactly what that was, Commander,” said Gabriel. “Once we get out-system, I’m calling Unified Command and getting answers. Until then, we assume the orders are valid. No one talks about it.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Cut and print,” the director said. “OK everyone, that’s lunch. One hour, people!” The cast and crew of Star Trek: Flight of the Challenger began wandering off in various directions, though most of them headed for the craft tables or the restrooms. A couple of stagehands headed for the bridge set with cloth rags and Windex in hand, to make the set look perfect for the impending round of press photography. The director stood and stretched, looking over at the visitors to his set that were trying to remain as unobtrusive as possible.
Which would include me. I’m here representing the trekbbs.com website, one of a handful of Trek fan sites selected to visit the set of the newest television incarnation of Star Trek. Unlike previous versions of Trek, this newest show was picked up by the cable network Starz, and that means significant differences from when Trek was on broadcast TV. For starters, the season is comprised of six two-hour-long episodes; only one season is on order, but the fans are already clamoring for more. Considering that this is the pilot that’s filming now, the clamor is a bit premature, but we can hope.
Also, the show has a significant budget increase over broadcast TV; in fact, the pilot’s budget is near feature-film levels. Not to mention, due to the show being on cable, the stories are promised to be more “mature”, “deeper”, that sort of thing. From what we’ve been teased about the scripts, it looks like that’s the case. And if that wasn’t enough, the production has been able to land some big – and I mean big – name talent. We’ve been promised a few minutes with the cast who are on set today, which unfortunately means no one-on-one. Still, I’m very excited. Who wouldn’t be?
First on the list is David Tennant, who plays Captain Gabriel Frost. David is no stranger to sci-fi TV, having played one of the most well-regarded Doctors in the history of the record-setting run of Doctor Who. Some chairs are set up in a relatively quiet corner of the set for David and those of us from the various websites. After a round of introductions, the first question is posed: why Star Trek?
“Ah, you see, I had just finished shooting the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special with Matt Smith, Christopher Eccelston, and Paul McGann, and had gotten that old science-fiction itch.” It’s amusing to hear David drop Gabriel’s American accent for his natural light Scottish brogue. “I read the script, loved it, and besides, to be part of one of America’s biggest sci-fi franchises? I couldn’t pass it up.”
The next question came from me: what drew you to the character of Capt. Frost, and what can we expect from him?
A knowing smile crosses David’s face. “There are things I know that of course I can’t tell you. Spoilers, to borrow a phrase.” We all share a chuckle. “Gabriel is a very conflicted man. He’s thrust into this position he doesn’t want, but for reasons as-yet-unknown is forced to keep. Not to mention, his superiors seem to be involved in a nefarious plot, and Gabriel wants to be in a position to stop it.” David puts his hands up to forestall the rush of questions. “Sorry lads, I think I said too much.”
One of the assistant directors indicates that there’s time for just one more question. Someone asks about the chance for romance between Captain Frost and Commander Taylor, Challenger’s XO.
“Oh, I’d have no idea about that,” David smiles. “What are the Starfleet rules on fraternization?” Another group chuckle. “Still, Kinoshita-san, I mean, Commander Taylor is rather attractive. I’m sure Gabriel wouldn’t mind…” David stands, indicating our little Q&A is over.
“Thanks so much,” he says, flashing that million-dollar smile. “Enjoy the show!” David heads for the bridge set for some publicity photos. We all stay seated; we’re supposed to talk to Kinoshita Ayumi next. She’s no stranger to science fiction either, having starred as the Yellow Ranger in the sentai program Dekaranger (mangled for US audiences as Power Rangers SPD). After a couple of minutes, though, the director pops by to say that she had to take a call from her family in Japan and would be unable to talk to us. He indicates that we should follow him to another part of the set.
"Don't touch Lola."
-Phil Coulson, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
|September 1 2011, 05:45 PM||#105|
Location: S.H.I.E.L.D.ing you...
Re: June Challenge 2011 - "Liberty"
Starbase Prime, Earth orbit
Admiral Durham, you have an incoming transmission from Starbase 136, his desk-mounted computer stated. He tabbed the channel open.
“Admiral,” said LCDR Kumon nervously. “Um, the cookies from grandma just arrived.” At that, Adm. Durham sat bolt upright. He quickly entered a code sequence, then looked back at the screen.
“The channel is secure.”
“Sir, the Enterprise arrived, um, approximately one-half hour ago. She is secure in a berth, and the, um, camouflage is in place. To anyone arriving, she’ll look like a Nekktonian proton trawler.” He swallowed audibly. “Just, um, just as planned.”
Adm. Durham’s eyes narrowed. “So why do I get the feeling there’s something you’re not telling me? You’re more nervous than a Gungan in heat.”
“Admiral, um, I…”
“Now, Lieutenant Commander.” Durham’s voice was steel. “While you still can.”
“Sir, there was, um, a ship at the station when the Enterprise arrived. She’d been due to depart two days earlier, but the, um, primary flow sensor in the starboard warp plasma manifold registered as defective. If that sensor doesn’t read nominal, the, um, warp core will not initialize.
“And sir, we used the, um, cover that was prepared. The captain will be calling you shortly to verify the orders.”
“You’re still hiding something, Mister Kumon, and my patience is wearing very thin. I’ve noticed that you’ve very carefully neglected to mention the name of the ship that was not supposed to be there!”
“Um, it was, well, um…”
“Choose your next words very, very carefully, Mister Kumon.”
“Challenger, sir. It was Challenger.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Adm. Durham stormed into the private lounge at the top of Earth’s Starbase Prime, where Admirals Rosenthal and Nikolakis-Costopolous sat playing tri-D chess.
“Scotch,” he hissed.
“And hello to you to, Robert,” Adm. Rosenthal said with exaggerated cheeriness. “But I’m not your farkocktah barmaid.”
“I was talking to the replicator, Michael. Scotch!”
Please specify type and year of vintage.
“Glenfiddich, 1946, neat.” The replicator hummed, and seconds later Adm. Durham pulled the glass from the opening and slugged the amber liquid in one smooth motion.
“Another.” The replicator complied; this time, Adm. Durham took the glass and sat down next to the other admirals. Adm. Nikolakis-Costopolous had her uniform tunic off and was wearing only a branch colored (Command red) tank top underneath that displayed her ample cleavage.
“Stop staring,” she shot at Adm. Durham, not taking her eyes from the board. She was a mediocre player at best, but she acted as if each game she played was the final match in the Trans-Galactic Invitational.
Adm. Durham took one last long look, grudgingly turning his attention to his scotch. “The Enterprise is at 136,” he said flatly. “But her arrival did not go unnoticed.”
“What?” said Adm. Rosenthal. “We scheduled for no ships to be there for two days on either side of the arrival time. What ship…” Realization hit, and he and Adm. Nikolakis-Costopolous said the word simultaneously.
“She was at 136 for final fittings, and should have left two days ago. But there was some problem with a flow sensor, and the computer refused to initialize the warp core. Damned stupid safety protocols!”
“That particular protocol is in place for a reason,” said Adm. Nikolakis-Costopolous. “Remember what happened to the USS Thresher?”
Adm. Durham did indeed remember; he was planetside on Mars when the ‘Thresher Incident’ occurred. “Oh.”
“So what now?” asked Adm. Rosenthal. “Do we recall them?”
“Challenger is due in the Gateway Sector. Any substantial delay or recall on our part, and Frost’ll start asking questions. That, we don’t want.” Durham took a long pull from the scotch, sighing heavily. “Frost contacted me before I came up here. He bought the cover, and besides, Gateway is about as far out of our collective hair as we could send him.” Another pull on the glass. “Not to mention, we still need to get our scapegoat in place.
“This hand is dealt. Time to let it ride…”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“That was good, Sam, but I want another take of you and Kumon.” The director is addressing Sam Waterston, best known as the indomitable Jack McCoy from Law and Order. Judd Hirsch, who plays Admiral Michael Rosenthal, pulls a well-worn paperback from under a seat cushion, while the lovely Melina Kanakaredes, Adm. Anemona (‘she goes by Mona’, we’re told) Nikolakis-Costopolous, stands up to stretch. She stands a little too quickly, though, and narrowly avoids a ‘wardrobe malfunction.’ She beckons to a nearby costumer.
“Can we get a little more tape over here?” she asks. As she’s waiting, a stagehand brings her a cup of coffee. It’s clear she and Mr. Hirsch have had long days, so our little group decides to not disturb them. Something has to be reset in the Adm. Durham office set, so while he’s waiting, Sam Waterston walks over to greet us.
“Sorry we don’t have more time to talk,” he says. “After so many years on Law and Order, I’ve learned to appreciate the support of the fans.” Someone in the group mentions that Law and Order doesn’t have a convention circuit, but Star Trek does.
“So I’ve heard,” Sam says. “I kinda knew about that going in to this project, but my best friend’s kids are fans – Trekkies? Trekkers? – and they talked me in to signing on.” I mention that outside of an episode of the relatively recent iteration of The Outer Limits, that Sam’s involvement in sci-fi has been basically non-existent. He nods thoughtfully.
“That’s true. But when the chance came along, besides from my friend’s kids, you know, it’s Star Trek, it’s something we all grew up on.” Someone pipes up: Sam Waterston, closet Trekkie? “Some of us more or less than others, but it’s like an American mythology. Besides, working with this cast is fantastic. I’m probably just as star-struck as most of you.”
The director indicates he’s ready for Sam, so he excuses himself and trots over to the office set. Our group goes back to making ourselves unobtrusive, trying to commit as much of what we see to memory and notebook/iPad/what have you. We’ll get a chance to take some pictures before we leave the set, but since the set is live right now, no pictures are allowed.
Sam nails the next take, and goes to shoot one more with Judd and Melina for good measure. As they’re doing that, we see Sir Anthony Hopkins coming from the makeup trailer, in full regalia. He looks good as a Klingon; we can’t wait to see him in action…
"Don't touch Lola."
-Phil Coulson, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
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