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Old March 5 2012, 08:25 AM   #121
Bry_Sinclair
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Location: Along the border of Talarian space
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

Here is the winning entry for the February 2012 Challenge, "Dressing Down", set by TheLoneRedshirt.

Enjoy!

* * * * *


Star Trek: Dawnstar


“Taking A Stand”

Brydon J. Sinclair


Words: 4770

Things on Delta Erisandi III had not been as they’d expected; what should have been a straight forward planetary survey had descended into chaos and bloodshed. Had she known exactly how bad things would have gotten and where her self-righteous act of conscience would take her, Rachel Keller had to wonder if she would have done anything differently?

It was the fourth day of her court martial. She stood before the window of the room she had been assigned, patiently waiting to be summoned to Xi Station’s courtroom. The planetary station had been built directly into a small mountain that overlooked a lush purple forest, which was clearly visible from most of the rooms, platforms, balconies and towers of the base. The last three days had been spent in the courtroom, going over the testimony of the rest of the landing party who had been on Delta Erisandi III, as well as the logs and records made by the team at the time, so she had had little chance to take in the natural beauty that Alanda Prime had to offer. This was the day that the court martial triumvirate would hear from the last two people involved: herself and Captain Thavalren ch’Kass.

A surge of anger clenched her stomach, not at the Captain but at his actions. Firstly his bias had kept him for realising what they were dealing with on the planet’s surface, which resulted in the death on one of her staff, then his demand for justice had stopped her from finding a peaceful resolution, as well as seeing another six members of the team injured—two of who were still recovering in sickbay, eleven days after the incident. She began to focus on the details on the survey mission and everything that followed, that she no longer saw the thick, vibrantly coloured foliage or winged lizards that glided past the windows.

The door chimed, breaking her concentration. She looked back at the entrance and called, “Come in.”

The panels swished open loudly. In the corridor outside her room stood two men, one in the dark mustard of the services division, on hand to escort her no matter where she went in the facility, but it was the other who had signalled the enunciator. He was a non-descript middle aged man holding an attaché case in one hand and a datapad in the other, he was in his command gold dress uniform and had the insignia of the Judge Advocate General’s office on the left side of his chest.

He gave her a meek smile. “Are you ready?” Commander Jeremiah Billings asked.

She turned to face him, tugged down on her blue tunic and then nodded. “Ready when you are,” she told him.

Following her lawyer out of her room, they headed towards the courtroom—the burly security guard following close behind. With every step, her nerves intensified and she questioned her actions—knowing that what she was about to face would be far worse than her own self-deprecation.


* * * * *


The courtroom was cold and bleak. Everything was hard angular lines and coloured in various shades of grey, except for the onyx bench behind which sat the three senior officers who would decide her fate: Vice Admiral Torsh emek Hrag, who was in charge of the entire Fifth Fleet; Commodore Yuna, the CO of Xi Station; and lastly, Captain Donald Tracey, who commanded the U.S.S. Exeter, the fleet’s flagship. All of them looked down on her with an air of disapproval, which only made the knots in her stomach multiply and constrict.

Seated in front of them was the court reporter, who was recording everything that was said and done within the room, her large almond eyes watching everything that went on. There were also three security officers present, one next to the large viewer that dominated one wall, whilst the others stood by each of the exits. There were also two lawyers present; Billings, who sat quietly beside her, and Captain Theresa Clay, who was pacing slowly around the room, eyes focused on the witness stand in the middle of the court. Seated behind her, opposite the bench, were ten of her former shipmates—all of whom had been on the survey team—whilst Captain ch’Kass was on the stand.

He was recounting the events of the mission, answering several questions and prompts that Captain Clay posed to him, before continuing with what happened—from his viewpoint. Keller could feel the muscles in her jaw tighten as she listened to the tale he told, her fists clenched into tight balls on her lap. The way he explained the failed mission was that everything had fallen apart when she had absconded on an unapproved and foolhardy task—one that, he believed, would have added to the number of dead had he not intervened.

As Clay listened she nodded in an understanding manner, even though it was not the first time she had heard his perspective. They obviously had it well rehearsed, as the questions she asked were answered immediately and always cast a bad light on Keller. Each time before Clay asked ch’Kass to continue, the lawyer cast a disparaging look at her.

For Keller’s part, she looked at Commander Billings who watched the on goings quietly. She had heard that he was good, if a little odd in how he did things, but so far in the trial she was yet to be impressed.

Once ch’Kass was finished, Clay thanked him then turned to the bench. “I have no further questions for this witness, sir.”

Hrag, as the ranking officer on the bench, nodded then looked at Billings.

“Commander, do you have any questions for the witness?” the portly Tellarite asked, his little eyes peering out from the deep recesses of his eye sockets.

As Billings stood up, Clay returned to her seat though kept a watchful eye on her opponent. The defence lawyer moved to stand between ch’Kass and the bench. He cleared his throat, clasped his hands behind his back and started to rock a little on his feet as he asked, “Prior to the unfortunate death of Ensign Bartlett, had Commander Keller informed you of her theory?”

“It wasn’t much of a theory,” ch’Kass began, “more a belief based on only a couple hours of observation.”

“But she did tell you what she believed, didn’t she?” the rocking back and forth continued.

“She did yes.”

“But it was your belief that she was wrong about the Erisandian?”

Ch’Kass’ eyes narrowed. “We had not found time to give the beasts a name,” he stated, his tone cold.

“My apologies, Captain. I always believed that many species were named themselves after the worlds they evolved on, but then again I’m an attorney and not an explorer, so I could be wrong on that point.”

“If a sentient species had been discovered on Delta Erisandi three, then they would be addressed by whatever terminology they so wished. However, seeing as none were discovered and the full survey was left incomplete, we haven’t yet named the local fauna.”

Billings nodded thoughtfully, continuing to rock on his feet with his hands still behind him. “But did you?”

The Andorian captain scowled. “Did I what?”

“Did you believe that Commander Keller was wrong in her assessment of the local fauna?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“They had made no effort to communicate with us and acted very much like animals of any of a hundred different planets.”

“Hmm,” Billings mused. There was a long pause. Finally, as the court martial panel behind him started to look annoyed, he asked, “You’re service record doesn’t show any substantial training or degrees in cultural anthropology, exobiology or linguistics—two of which Commander Keller has masters in. So what made you think you knew better than she did?”

That seemed to bring ch’Kass up short—had the setting been different, Keller would have laughed at look of discomfort on his face.

Clay was on her feet. “Objection. Captain ch’Kass is not the person whose actions are at fault here.”

Billings suddenly stopped rocking and spun around on the spot to face the three ranking officers behind him. “Commander Keller may be the one on trial for disobeying orders, but in order to explain why she felt it necessary to do so, we must first understand the circumstances and barriers she herself faced.”

The three on the bench looked between one another and muttered quietly to each other, before Hrag nodded and leaned forward. “We’re going to allow this, Commander, just be aware that our patience can only be tested for so long.”

“Thank you sir,” Billings stated with a deep nod.

Clay lowered herself back into her chair as Billings returned his full attention to ch’Kass. His sudden burst of activity had surprised Keller; in all her meetings with him, he had always seemed quite lethargic, so seeing him move at any kind of speed was a shock to the system—going by the reactions of several others in the room, they too had not expected it from him.

He resumed his rocking. “Well Captain? What made you think that you knew better than your Chief Science Officer, a woman who holds four masters degrees from Starfleet Academy?”

Ch’Kass shifted in his seat, trying to appear calm and controlled, but she could see he was seething. She had served under the Captain for the better part of five years, during which time he demonstrated to be a decisive and straight-forward leader though wasn’t particularly open to suggestions from others.

“Lieutenant Commander Keller is a good scientist, her academic record can attest to that, but that is also a drawback for her. She thinks like a scientist; studying, analysing and cataloguing everything. I have learned throughout my career to trust my instincts, something the Lieutenant Commander doesn’t.”

A faint smile crept over Billings’ face. “And yet she went to try and open a dialogue with the ‘local fauna’, because she thought she was right.”

Before ch’Kass could say anything more, Billings turned away from him. “No further questions,” he stated and returned to his seat, giving Keller a faint smile.

“You may step down, Captain,” Hrag instructed.

Ch’Kass nodded. He stood up and then shot a scowl towards Keller and Billings, before once again taking his seat beside Clay.

“We will have a recess until fourteen hundred hours, at which time we will hear from Lieutenant Commander Keller.” With that he tapped his gavel and the three officers behind the bench exited the courtroom. The rest of the assembled officers and specialists rose as they did and once they had left, they began to file out of the courtroom, each of them chattering among each other about the events of the day.

Keller and Billings waited until the room was empty—her escort would be standing outside for her. Once they were alone she gave him a smile.

“So how do we proceed?”

He fixed her with a serious look. “With the truth.”

* * * * *
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Old March 5 2012, 08:29 AM   #122
Bry_Sinclair
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Location: Along the border of Talarian space
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

After the recess and the court martial resumed, Keller found herself on the stand. In the middle of the room she was alone and exposed to everyone. She kept her posture straight though, hands clasped together to keep from fidgeting and her ankles crossed under the chair.

Billings came around the witness stand and took up his usual spot between the chair and the bench. Once again, he started rocking back and forth.

“Commander, we’re aware of the operational procedure of the survey mission; which shuttles were used, who was on the team and in which shuttle, the assignments they were all given and that to begin with everything started well. Begin from when you first encountered the Erisandi.”

“Objection,” Clay stated. “The sentience, if applicable, of the life-forms has yet to be determined.”

“Sustained,” Hrag agreed. “Commander Billings, please refrain from making any judgements on the life-form that are not supported by scientific fact.”

Billings nodded. “Begin from when you first encountered the life-forms.”

“We had been on the surface for only four hours when we made first contact with them.”

“Who was ‘we’, Commander?” Billings asked.

“Lieutenant Haliid Zaayl and myself. We were by a river going over some of his findings when he spotted them by the bank upstream. At which point I contacted Captain ch’Kass, Ensign Bartlett and Master Chief H’Vahrr. The life-forms were aware of us and though cautious, they remained by the river even as the other members of the team arrived.

“The Captain asked for a full assessment of them to be made, so Bartlett and H’Vahrr remained—to assist with studying the species and determining whether or not they could pose a threat,” she continued. At which point the large viewer came to life and displayed several optical scans they had taken during the initial assessment. The species stood over two meters tall, with a long body and slender but powerful-looking limbs, they were covered in a thick pelt of hair, a long tail swung behind them, large eyes and a short muzzle, their noses twitched as they smelled the air. Their sheer size was intimidating, but despite that they appeared more afraid of the survey team.

“We took what scans we could, taking care not to spook them and giving them time to adjust to our presence—though they became very interested in Master Chief H’Vahrr,” she added with a faint smile, remembering how they had curiously studied the brawny Caitian Security Chief. “On the first day we decided to keep our distance and observe. This continued for the second day by which time the group had grown from four to eight, but then on the third day they had increased to thirteen. It was after a couple of hours on that day that one of them approached us. There was a lot of vocalisation from other members of the group, so we made no sudden movements and shut down our instruments, so as to not startle them.”

She then went on to explain how over the next two days, the life-forms became more inquisitive and comfortable with the survey team. Keller had kept the Captain apprised of their development, as well as checking in with the other members of her research team periodically to stay on top of the rest of the survey. She then moved onto her observations of them, how they seemed far more organised than any other non-sentient species she had studied, and that amid the pattern of grunts, growls and moans there was some small sections of repetition, as though the same word were being repeated in different contexts. Keller had made plans to try and run a few neurological scans on the sixth day, but she had been called to a meeting to go over their current findings and plan the next stage of the survey.

“Who was present at this meeting?” Billings asked.

“Myself, Captain ch’Kass, Lieutenants zh’Tharr, Grett, Zaayl and Master Chief H’Vahrr. We didn’t know it at the time, but Ensign Bartlett had managed to track the life-forms down and was taking several scans.”

On the monitor a topographic display of the survey zone appeared. The location of the landing site and base camp were highlighted, the rest of the landing party—which only demonstrated how far away and isolated Bartlett had gotten as he’d gone looking for the aliens—and also what was later discovered to be the habitat of the life-forms. The computer tracked the progress of all the team members (based on the data their tricorders had gathered), the Bartlett icon was brighter than the others. As he entered a clearing it stopped and flashed red.

“Using the information from Ensign Bartlett’s tricorder, as well as a preliminary analysis I was able to run, this is the location at which he was attacked.”

“Was there anything special about this location?” her lawyer inquired.

“I was unable to take detailed scans and the primary memory core of Bartlett’s scanner was severely damaged, but from what little information I was able to gather there does appear to be a higher than normal amount of calcium in the soil of that clearing. Readings such as these are not dissimilar to burial mounds found on many planets.”

“Objection, supposition.”

“Sustained. Only facts relating to the trial, Lieutenant Commander.”

She nodded her understanding before continuing. The ensign’s body had been found on the banks of the same river that they had first encountered the aliens, his neck had been broken in one quick and powerful. Almost immediately the team had been recalled to base camp, phasers issued and they had all been placed on high alert. She had tried to access what information she could from Bartlett’s equipment, to see if it could provide a clue as to what had happened to the exobiologist.

“I managed to gather the calcium-related data from what was left of the memory core and took this to Captain ch’Kass, along with my theory that they were in fact a sentient race. I had studied them for the better part of five days, in which time they had shown a heightened sense of self-awareness, rudimentary language skills and now the possibility that they had some form of burial rites.”

“Would you normally make this assumption based on only a few days observation and limited data?” asked Billings, the rocking stopped.

“Under normal circumstances, no. I would need more time for further observation and scans, but with Bartlett’s death, I felt it necessary to make a case for why it might have happened—that he had unwittingly entered a sacred ground.”

“Did the Captain heed your advice?”

“No. He saw Bartlett’s death as an act of butchery by animals, which would need to be dealt with so as to ensure the safety of the survey team. I tried to highlight that if he ordered an attack, it would be against an intelligent species that were defending their customs and territory.”

“So it was at this point that you decided to disobey his orders.”

She took a deep breath. “Yes. I had been analysing the speech patterns and gestures of the species. I went back to my findings and focused on those that were related to one submitting or deferring judgment to another, behaviour I had witnessed three times since we made contact with them. I left the base camp whilst the Captain was planning on how best to track the life-forms, then followed the same path that Ensign Bartlett had been on—making sure to avoid the site where he had been attacked.

“Once I was near the location I began scouting the immediate area, looking for them. But they found me a lot easier than I did them. Three surrounded me, two holding rudimentary weapons. I did my best to emulate the appropriate gestures, at which point they stopped their advance.”

“Then what happened?” Billings prompted.

“I was taken to their encampment, where I continued acts of deference. I hadn’t been able to translate their language, but I did try to talk with them in a tone they would hopefully understand. They had just begun to lower their guard when Captain ch’Kass led the attack. I was pulled out of the area by Master Chief H’Vahrr, but before I was forced under cover I did witness two of the natives taking multiple phaser hits—the weapons had been set to kill.”

“After the attack, the aliens withdrew, correct?”

“They did.”

“The landing party didn’t pursue, instead the six injured members were retrieved and you withdrew back to the shuttles.”

“Yes sir.”

“Were you then able to continue your research to further prove your theory?”

“No. After we returned to the Kane I was detained and restricted to quarters, without computer access.”

Billings nodded thoughtfully before he turned away from her. “No further questions,” he stated and returned to his seat.

Vice Admiral Hrag nodded at Captain Clay. “Your witness.”

Clay rose and strutted into the centre of the room, facing Keller. Her face was slim, features sharp and angular, her intense green eyes locked onto Keller, like a hawk targeting its unsuspecting prey.

“We’ve heard from Master Chief H’Vahrr that he advised extreme caution be taken when around this species, correct?”

“Yes. After our initial observation and passive scans, we were able to determine that they were at least three times stronger than the average human.”

“Did you follow his advisement?”

She nodded. “Of course we did. Master Chief H’Vahrr is one of best security officers I’ve served with, I take all of his recommendations seriously—they’ve saved my life at least four times over the last five years.”

Clay paced a little, her eyes looking Keller over carefully. “Yet here you are, uninjured, whilst one man is dead and two others are still recovering.”

Before Keller could make a statement, Clay stopped her pacing and fired off another question. “Lieutenant Zaayl was with you and Ensign Bartlett as you studied the native species. What was his assessment of them?”

“As an ecologist, the lieutenant was focused more on how they developed and survived. From what we could tell they were herbivores, but the local plant life appeared to be woefully lacking in nutrients to support a life-form as large and complex as these humanoids—”

“Let me rephrase the question; did he believe them to be dangerous?”

“When we still believed them to be an animal he did, especially given their size—regardless of their diet, most animals will instinctively defend themselves if they feel threatened.”

“I see,” Clay mused. “After Bartlett’s body was discovered and brought back to the shuttles, did you examine the body?”

“I did. Labtech Coleman assisted. We determined cause of death.”

“Was there any other native animal that could have inflicted the fatal injuries?”

“No. They could only have been caused by a being with opposable thumbs; no other animal we had found on Delta Erisandi three has them.”

Clay paced a little more and stopped when she was just at the edge of Keller’s peripheral vision. “Even though you knew they were responsible for killing an officer from the Kane—one of your own staff no less—you still tried to defend them?”

Keller remained looking forward, at the vice admiral, commodore and captain who watch the proceedings with quiet intensity. “I believed that as a sentient species, their actions needed to be understood—so that no rash action was taken.”

“If they were sentient and all the noises they made were an attempt at communication, why then didn’t the universal translator decipher what they were saying?”

“In some instances a species vocal patterns are so unlike any that we have encountered before, that an entire new algorithm needs to be written and programmed into the UT. It is only as good as we can make it.”

“So, with no means of effective communication and disregarding what both your security chief and senior ecologist advised; you violated Captain ch’Kass’ order to remain at base camp, whilst they developed a strategy to deal with this dangerous race and went to find them?”

“Yes sir.”

“Because you believed you knew better?”

“Because I wanted to prevent anyone else from getting hurt, as well as make amends for and insult or dishonour we caused.”

“Were you armed?” Clay suddenly asked.

Keller looked over at her. “I’m sorry?”

“When you went to open a dialogue with this life-form, were you carrying your sidearm?”

She took a deep breath and looked back at the bench. “I was.”

Clay took a few steps closer towards her. “Even though you were on a mission of ‘peace’?”

“It was an unknown situation and I wasn’t certain that they wouldn’t just attack, given what had happened to Ensign Bartlett. I wanted a peaceful resolution to the situation, that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t defend myself if absolutely necessary.”

“Like Captain ch’Kass and the rest of the landing party were doing when they rescued you.”

“I didn’t need rescued. They weren’t making a move to attack—”

“That you were aware of,” Clay stated, her voice cold and hard. “You yourself admitted you hadn’t conducted nearly enough research on them to truly estimate how they would react to you or their behaviour as a whole. Your actions put a dozen of your shipmates in danger, with many being injured in the attempt to rescue you.”

“Objection,” Billings called out. “The Captain is badgering the witness.”

Clay gave her a sly smile. “No further questions.”

Keller was bristling with a mixture of anger and annoyance. Clay was damn good at pushing buttons, had Billings not jumped in, Keller knew she would have spoken out and given the prosecutor exactly what she wanted.

Hrag looked at Yuna and Tracey, both of whom nodded at the Tellarite. “The council will retire to make its decision. Court will reconvene at oh-nine-hundred tomorrow morning.”



* * * * *

It had been a fitful night sleep, but once again Keller sat in Xi Station’s courtroom, in full dress uniform and anxiously waiting to hear the verdict. Given all the time to reflect on what had happened, hearing the perspective of her shipmates and friends and being forced to defend her actions, Keller knew that what she had done the right thing for her conscience at the very least. Would she have done it again? Damn right she would have.

The courtroom was once again filled with the same collection of brass, JAG, guards, officers and specialists. Billings sat beside her, his face unreadable, whilst across the room Captains ch’Kass and Clay looked confident (the former smugly so).

Vice Admiral Torsh emek Hrag was looking at a datapad in front of him for a few moments, before looking up at the assembly before him. “The defendant will approach the bench.”

Keller stood up, Billings following her lead, but he remained at the desk whilst she moved to stand in front of the witness chair. She stood ramrod straight, arms by her sides, uniform freshly pressed, medals and commendations in neat rows on her left breast, golden hair was piled high on top of her head with not one strand out of place.

Hrag leaned forward slightly. “Lieutenant Commander Rachel Louise Keller, you stand before this council charged with dereliction of duty, insubordination, negligence—which resulted in the injury of six others—and dishonourable conduct.

“It is the judgement of this court, that in the instance of the latter of these indictments you are cleared. Regardless of the status of the native species on Delta Erisandi three, you acted with conscience and honour in order to preserve life.”

Despite the good outcome and the momentary relief that surged through her, how Hrag had phrased his statement worried her.

“However, the court cannot overlook the other charges under the same circumstance. It is therefore our ruling that you are guilty of abandoning your post, disregarding the orders of your Commanding Officer and, through your actions, being responsible for the injuries your shipmates sustained.”

Her stomach hurt. The intense cramping made her want to double over in pain. Somehow, she managed to remain upright. Behind her she was aware of sharp gasps and soft murmuring.

“Silence in the courtroom,” Captain Tracey called.

When all was quiet once again, Hrag continued. “Effective of this stardate, you will be stripped of your commission and dismissed from Starfleet.” With that he wrapped the gavel on the bench.

The effect was immediate. Among those bearing witness to the proceedings, there were was a lot of chatter, with one or two being more vocal at the verdict and sentence. Keller didn’t hear any of it. She stood in the centre of the court, the blood draining from her face and limbs, making her feel cold and heavy. Her stomach was so constricted she would have wept from the pain—had she been able to. Bouts of nausea washed over her and her lungs left unable to draw in enough oxygen to sustain her.

She was barely aware of Hrag, Yuna and Tracey leaving, or of Billings moving over to her. She didn’t feel his supportive hand on her right shoulder nor hear the reassuring words he spoke; she could see his lips move but didn’t hear a thing he said.

It was over. Her career, the life she had worked so hard to achieve, her hopes for the future. All of them had come to an abrupt end. Would she have done it all again?



* * * * *


END
__________________
Avatar: Captain Susanna Leijten, U.S.S. Silverfin NCC-4470, Border Service Third Cutter Squadron
Manip by: FltCpt. Bossco (STPMA)

Last edited by Bry_Sinclair; March 5 2012 at 05:40 PM.
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Old May 6 2012, 12:44 AM   #123
Count Zero
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

This is the winning entry for the March 2012 Challenge set by Bry Sinclair. The theme was "What if?".


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by Angry Fanboy


Angry Fanboy wrote: View Post
The trembling ceased.

Janeway released her tight grip on the arms of her command chair, where she'd been fighting to remain seated and ride out the storm since her intrepid-class starship had begun shaking, shockwaves being violently transmitted through its rigid superstructure that forced everyone to hang onto something or risk being thrown to the deck.

The large viewscreen that dominated the forward bulkhead was a mess of computerised static, and all around the darkened bridge the numerous display screens and consoles were flickering erratically. The crimson slow of emergency lighting cast unusual shadows across the large command centre.

For long moments an eerie silence reigned on the bridge of the USS Voyager as shaken crewmembers dusted themselves off and got to their feet, exchanging confused glances with each another. Every one of them sought the answer to the same question: what just happened.

Suddenly, a piercing two-tone klaxon blared into life, shattering the hush and startling everyone as it reverberated through the decks of the injured vessel. It was a specific sound that was ingrained into the psyche of every Starfleet officer - the one alarm above all that no one wanted to hear since it foretold the death of the starship.

"Reading a warp core breach, captain!" Kim cried out from his operations console at the rear of the bridge, grimly confirming what everyone already knew.

Janeway instinctively slapped her combadge, exchanging only the briefest of glances with Chakotay who had vacated his own command chair to stand beside her.

"Bridge to Torres!" she said sharply, all trace of familiarity banished from her voice. "We're reading a warp core breach up here!"

"We're on it, captain!" Torres called back from engineering nine decks below, shouting over the alert klaxon and hiss of depressurising cooling systems fighting to keep Voyager's central reactor from explosively detonating, destroying the starship and everything within a thousand kilometres.

"Plasma temperature is at forty-three million kelvins and rising!" Kim reported, clearly struggling to retain his composure as he frantically operated his flickering control panels.

"Can you shut down the core, B'Elanna?" Janeway demanded, recalling the necessary authorisation codes and mentally steeling herself for the unthinkable task of ejecting Voyager's beating heart into space so that it wouldn't kill them all when it exploded.

With no core to drive her warp engines, Voyager would be instantly transformed from a superluminal interstellar starship into a sublight spacecraft unable to travel above impulse speeds, robbing it of any chance of traversing the galaxy and deliver the one hundred and fifty people onboard safely home.

Only a few short months after being transported to this distant part of the Milky Way, Voyager's mammoth odyssey across the unknown Delta Quadrant would be over.

"I'm trying, captain!" Torres answered, her voice sounding strangled by the responsibility that rested solely on her shoulders as the crew looked to her for salvation. "It's not responding!"

"Evacuate engineering!" Janeway commanded, knowing that her next order would permanently remove any chance that Voyager would return home. But if she was to save the lives of her combined Starfleet and Maquis crew, she knew she had no other option. "I'm going to eject the warp core!"

"Wait!" Torres snapped. "Let me try one more thing."

"Plasma temperature now at fifty-million kelvins!" Kim announced, as if pronouncing a death sentence.

"Captain," Chakotay said urgently, his tone a plea for action. As well as anyone, he knew that this hesitation could mean death for everyone onboard in an immense uncontrolled explosion of matter and antimatter.

"I can't wait any longer, B'Elanna!" Janeway called, feeling the frightened eyes of her bridge crew on her as they awaited her inevitable order.

"A few more seconds, captain!" Torres pleaded. "I can do this!"

"Fifty-five million kelvins!" Kim called out.

"There!" Torres cried triumphantly.

Janeway spun around. "Harry?" she said, his name all the question that was necessary.

Kim was watching his console in disbelief. "Core temperature is dropping," he told everyone hoarsely, scarcely able to comprehend the information being displayed. "Forty million kelvins and dropping. Thirty million. Twenty million."

The alert klaxon ceased.

At that moment an almighty cheer erupted from nearly everyone on the bridge, leaving Janeway and Chakotay standing at the centre of a sudden outpouring of relief and gratitude directed at the half-Klingon chief engineer who had saved them all.

For the briefest of moments Janeway thought Chakotay would reach forward and hug her, but they both settled for a handshake.

"Core temperature has dropped to within safe levels," Kim announced, a broad smile present on his face.

Janeway drew in a long breath, calming herself as the exhilaration and relief began to subside, leaving her exhausted. Above all, her starship was intact and her crew alive after averting a devastating core breach by mere seconds.

"B'Elanna," she said warmly as the celebrations died down. "I have no doubt that I speak for everyone on board when I say we owe you an enormous debt of gratitude.

An awkward pause followed, during which everyone on the bridge stood silent.

"I'm afraid that isn't strictly true, captain," Torres replied finally. "I'm afraid it was me who caused the warp core breach in the first place."

Janeway frowned, struggling to comprehend what she'd just been told. She opened her mouth to ask Torres to repeat what she'd said, but before she could speak Paris called out from the helm.

"Captain, the navigational sensors just came back online. Sikaris is gone."

"Gone where?" Janeway asked, exchanging a puzzled glance with Chakotay. Voyager had been in orbit above Sikaris for three days, and had been in the process of departing when the ship had been hit by whatever turbulence she'd assumed had triggered the core breach.

"I'm afraid that Mr. Paris is not entirely correct," Tuvok interjected suddenly, having remained silent throughout the impending disaster. "Sikaris is precisely where it has always been, though it is not to be found on his navigational sensors."

"He's right, captain," Paris said, rapidly rechecking the astrogation panels on the helm. "If these readings are correct, we're about seventy-thousand light-years from where we were." He swallowed hard. "We're in the Alpha Quadrant."

Chakotay looked at her, disbelieving. "We're home," he breathed.




*




Less than ten minutes after the warp core breach had been averted and the staggering revelation that Voyager was home had been made, the small group of senior officers had convened in the briefing room just off the bridge.

Janeway sat at the head of the conference table, forcing herself to remain seated and outwardly calm despite the nervous energy that filled her. Her prayers had been answered and her starship had been delivered home, but the question over how such a miracle had occurred was still upmost in her mind.

Once Voyager had been stabilised and Tuvok had requested a meeting with the senior staff, it only reinforced what she already knew.

Chakotay sat beside her as the others filed in, his face still bearing the smile of disbelief that could be found on virtually everyone throughout the intrepid-class starship.

There was however one notable exception.

"As you are all aware," Tuvok said impassively, standing in front of the table as he addressed the assembled group, "Approximately ten minutes ago Voyager was transported from its orbit around Sikaris in the Delta Quadrant to its current location - an unspecified point in the Alpha Quadrant that will be determined more precisely once navigational sensors are fully restored."

Janeway leaned forward, the growing sense of unease she'd felt since Paris had announced their location threatening to overwhelm her.

"It is my duty to inform you that this was achieved through the use of a Sikarian subspace trajector matrix," Tuvok continued, "That was obtained in exchange for a copy of the Federation library in direct contravention of the captain's explicit instructions.

A few muffled gasps could be heard issuing from the mouths of the group, Paris and Kim chief amongst them.

"I never thought you had it in you, Tuvok," Paris admitted gleefully. "But I'm sure as hell glad you did."

"I can't let Tuvok take complete responsibility for what happened," Torres interjected, rising from her chair and moving to stand beside the Vulcan. "I'm the one who designed and built the interface for the trajector. I'm the one who activated it. And I'm the one who nearly triggered a warp core explosion by doing so."

"On the contrary," Tuvok said, "I take full responsibility for these actions. Lieutenant Torres was involved, but I was the senior officer and the culpability is mine. I fully expect to lose my commission and be court-martialled when we return to Federation space."

The room fell silent.

"That's certainly a possibility," Janeway conceded after a moment, interlacing her fingers as she considered his admission. "But I think we both know how unlikely it is given the outcome. I'm having a hard time reconciling your betrayal and the incalculable risk you took with yours and everyone else's lives by activating an untested piece of alien technology that could have easily destroyed this ship and killed everyone onboard."

"You have made it clear on many occasions that your highest goal for this crew is to get them home," Tuvok said. "But in this instance, your standards would not allow you to violate Sikarian law. Someone had to spare you the ethical dilemma. I was the logical choice, so I chose to act."

"Tuvok, you are one of my most valued officers and you're my friend," Janeway told him. "We have forged this relationship for years and I depend upon it. I realise you made the sacrifice for me, but it's not one I would've allowed you to make."

She paused.

"But what are my own personal feelings balanced against what was actually achieved by your actions? Even if those actions went against my orders? What is there to achieve with recriminations over what could've gone wrong when we're all here in one piece?"

Tuvok stood dispassionately silent. Beside him Torres looked unsure, her expressive face speaking of the shame she felt at disappointing Janeway despite having brought Voyager home.

"Perhaps in this case the end justifies the means," Janeway concluded. "In any case, there are a hundred and fifty people onboard this ship who consider you both the greatest heroes. I think I'd have a hard time matching you both down to the brig for disobeying orders given the circumstances."

At that moment the doors to the briefing room slid open, admitting Rollins who carried a small datapadd.

"Sorry to interrupt, captain," Rollins apologised briskly. "But we just got the astrometric database back online. I think you'd better see this."

"Just tell me, Mr. Rollins," Janeway said impatiently.

"We've identified our exact position," Rollins said slowly, as if delivering bad news. "We're in Cardassian space."

Janeway looked at Chakotay. Why was nothing easy?
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Old May 6 2012, 12:46 AM   #124
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

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Janeway led her senior staff onto the bridge, where they all scattered to assume their customary positions.

"I want status reports from all departments," she said loudly, standing before the two command chairs. "Mr. Paris, where are we exactly?"

Paris dropped into his seat at the helm, relieving Baytart and surveying the navigation console.

"We're in interstellar space in the Tokara sector," he told her. "About twenty light-years from the Demilitarised Zone and about a hundred light-years along the border from the Badlands."

"Right back where we started, give or take," Chakotay pointed out, trying to lighten the mood.

Janeway forced a wry smile, appreciative of his efforts. "What do we know about the Tokara sector?"

"It serves as one of the Cardassian Union's primary agricultural regions," Tuvok replied, calling up the information on his console. "A number of farming planets are located here that supply the Cardassian homeworlds. It is essentially one of the least fortified areas of their space."

"So all we have to do is dodge a few Cardassian farmers and we're home free?" Torres asked.

"Given our knowledge of the Cardassian mindset," Tuvok said, "We must assume that even a sector such as this will have warships operating within it."

"Tuvok's right," Janeway decided. "We'll set a course for Federation space and try to attract as little attention as possible. No subspace transmissions that could be picked up by the Cardassians until we're out of their territory. We've been out of touch for five months, another twenty-four hours won't hurt."

"Still," Chakotay said, "A damaged ship inside Cardassian space with fifty Maquis onboard isn't the safest place to be."

"They have no way of knowing you're aboard," Janeway told him. "And I have no intention of telling them. If we're intercepted we'll explain what's happened and deal with the fallout as best we can."

"I've set a course for the Federation," Paris announced.

"The warp core is still offline while we repair the damage caused when it nearly breached," Torres said. "I've left Carey in charge but I should get back."

Janeway nodded. "Do everything you can do speed things along, B'Elanna," she said. "I don't want to hang around here a moment longer than we have to."




*




In the mess hall, Kes sat silently in front of the large viewports, staring out at stars a galaxy away from the world of her birth. When she considered that every other Ocampan in the universe was trapped in an underground city, her being on the other side of the galaxy was even more staggering.

When she had requested a berth on Voyager after the whirlwind of events that had seen her rescued from the Kazon and witness the death of the Ocampa's godlike Caretaker, Kes had known that she would never get to see the ultimate destination of this incredible starship. The journey back to Federation space would, under normal circumstances, have taken seven Ocampan lifetimes.

But in a scarcely believable event, mere months after coming aboard, Voyager was cruising through space seventy-thousand light-years from Ocampa, mere days away from entering the wondrous Federation of different civilisations banded together.

"All I'm saying is that a little notice before transporting the ship to the other side of the galaxy would've been appreciated," Neelix called from his makeshift kitchen, raising his voice over the sound of metallic pots and pans being gathered up from where they'd fallen during the recent turbulence.

Kes smiled. Neelix had been complaining for the better part of an hour how inconsiderate B'Elanna Torres had been for activating the Sikarian trajector without warning.

"A shipwide announcement maybe?" Neelix continued. "A warning to hang onto something perhaps? No! Just plug it in and press go without telling anyone what's happening and practically demolish my kitchen in the process!"

"I heard that the trajector would've been no use once Voyager left orbit around Sikaris," Kes told him. "B'Elanna had no choice but to activate it since that was the only chance they had of it working."

"Sikaris wasn't going anywhere," Neelix called dismissively. "A few minutes' notice before hurling Voyager across the galaxy isn't too much to ask surely!? We didn't even end up in the right place! In the middle of enemy territory no less!"

"I think twenty light-years outside Federation space can still be considered a success after a seventy-thousand light-year jump, Neelix," Kes countered, grinning broadly at her Talaxian partner's irate manner.

"Not when it lands us in the heart of the Gartassian Empire!" Neelix retorted, still struggling to return his various cooking pots to their correct places.

"Cardassian," Kes corrected. "These are the people Commander Chakotay and the other Maquis were fighting before they were taken by the Caretaker."

"All the more reason to avoid suddenly appearing in their territory unannounced," Neelix insisted.

Kes rolled her eyes. Nothing she could say would convince Neelix of the miracle that had been achieved transporting Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant. She wondered if anything short of the ship appearing directly in orbit around Earth would have satisfied him.

"Neelix, have you even stopped to consider where we are?" she asked finally.

The metallic ringing of pots and pans ceased, and Neelix popped his freckled head up from behind the countertop to look at her.

"The Alpha Quadrant?" he said absently.

"The other side of the galaxy," Kes said. "The trajector was a one-way trip. You will never see another Talaxian or see your homeworld again. Everything you know is gone forever."

Neelix regarded her for long moments. "Everything I need to know is sitting right in front of me," he told her simply.

Kes smiled, amazed as always at the total adoration that he felt for her. "Come and sit with me," she urged happily.

Neelix emerged from his kitchen, crossing the room and lowering himself into a chair beside his beloved Kes.

"What do you think will happen to us once Voyager reaches Earth?" she asked him. "Will Starfleet let us remain onboard?"

Neelix shrugged. "I hadn't considered it," he admitted. "I don't suppose Captain Janeway will have much use for my talents as a cook or a guide anymore. And I'd imagine that your hydroponics bay won't be necessary to grow food now that energy-conservation is no longer an issue."

"A new doctor and a full medical staff will probably come onboard," Kes added thoughtfully.

"We may have outlived our usefulness," Neelix concluded, his mood somewhat sullen.

"We still have your ship," Kes said, reaching forward and taking Neelix's hands in hers. "We can use it to explore the Federation together."

Neelix smiled warmly at her. "That sounds wonderful."

Kes leaned forward and kissed him.




*




"I have completed my scan of the sector, captain," Tuvok announced from tactical.

Janeway rose from her command chair where she'd been reading from a padd detailing what damage at been inflicted when Voyager had trajected across the galaxy. She had been pleasantly surprised to note that very little harm had actually been done to her starship, through a number of systems including long-range communications and more importantly warp propulsion remained unavailable.

The ship's emergency medical holographic program was also inoperative, through this fact had apparently been added as a mere footnote by Carey after he'd written the main body of the damage report. Not for the first time in the last five months, Janeway found herself momentarily confused at the pang of regret she felt that the Doctor wasn't active to witness Voyager's arrival in the Alpha Quadrant.

"What have you found, Tuvok?" she asked, banishing the unwarranted sympathy she felt for the hologram.

"These readings are incomplete due to the continued problems with our long-range sensors," Tuvok began. "However the Tokara sector is home to four class-M planets, all of which appear to be given over to agricultural purposes as per Starfleet records. I am detecting seventeen individual spacecraft, presumably of Cardassian origin though I am unable to be certain. I am also monitoring subspace radio traffic for any indication that Voyager has been detected. This appears to be a relatively welcoming locale, by Cardassian standards at least."

"Still, you'll forgive me if I hold off on booking my next shore-leave here," Paris threw in from the helm.

"Given that you are likely known to the Cardassians as a member of the Maquis," Tuvok replied, "I would advise against it."

Janeway grinned. Despite his actions on Sikaris, she was unable to remain angry at Tuvok when she considered what his disobedience had achieved. Had he not obtained the trajector, Voyager would still be in the Delta Quadrant, facing a decades-long journey with no guarantee that they would ever reach home. She could not forgive the betrayal, but she knew that she would eventually forget it.

At that moment, Janeway felt a slight reverberation through the deck that she immediately recognised. It was an almost subliminal sensation that soon became as familiar to a serving starship crew as the beating of their own heart.

"Torres to bridge," Voyager's chief engineer called delightedly. "The warp core is back online. It's not exactly running at peak efficiency and it's jury-rigged against virtually every Starfleet regulation, but it should be good for warp five all the way back to Federation space."

Janeway allowed herself a brief sigh of relief. "Excellent work, B'Elanna," she said warmly, turning toward the helm. "You heard the lady, Mr. Paris. Warp five."

"Yes ma'am!" Paris said enthusiastically, tapping commands into his console.

"Engage," Janeway commanded, watching in relief as the pinpoints of light that were Cardassian stars transformed into long streaks as Voyager slipped smoothly into warp.

After five months in the wilderness, they were finally going home.




*




Despite the fact that Voyager was travelling through Cardassian space, the realm of the Starfleet crew's long-term antagonist and the Maquis crew's mortal enemy, there was little that could dampen the mood of the one hundred and fifty souls nestled within the hull of the intrepid-class starship.

After five months spent a lifetime away from everyone and everything they knew in the farthest reaches of the galaxy, fighting for their lives against Kazon who wanted the advanced Federation vessel for themselves, Vidiians who wanted to harvest their organs to transplant into their own disease-ridden bodies, and other beings or anomalies who wished them harm, they had finally been transported within striking distance of their homes.

Everywhere he went on the ship, Chakotay could hear the unmistakable sounds of celebration somewhere in the background, permeating every section of the vessel. Throughout Voyager replicators were working overtime to provide off-duty crewmembers with food and drink, the careful energy rationing of the last few months forgotten.

Though Voyager wasn't quite out of the woods yet, everyone knew that the finishing line was only hours away.

As he walked through the large double doors that gave access to engineering, Chakotay found that the infectious mood of celebration that had overtaken the ship was only slightly less prevalent there. Music was being played over the large room's speakers, and many of the engineering staff were holding drinks. Some were chatting excitedly about their plans now that Voyager was home, and some of the more enthusiastic crewmembers were even dancing in front of their stations to the amusement of others.

Chakotay chuckled to himself, giving a dismissive wave to the few who noticed his presence and immediately looked guilty for engaging in such frivolity while on duty.

He wouldn't be the one to deny them their celebration.

Torres was seated quietly at the small monitoring station directly in front of the warp core, an untouched glass of champagne on the deck beside her.

"And how is our saviour?" Chakotay asked lightly.

Torres glanced up at him, forcing a smile. "Exhausted," she admitted. "Trying to hold together a warp core that I nearly breached a few hours ago and should be replaced, never mind brought back online and used to drive a ship at warp five."

"That doesn't even sound like a challenge for a woman who just transported a starship seventy-thousand light-years in a few seconds," he said teasingly, leaning back against the protective guardrail that encircled the damaged core.

"More of a challenge than you'd think," she groaned, leaning back in her chair and stretching her arms above her head.

Chakotay looked up at the swirling colours created by the annihilation of matter and antimatter within the tall warp core. "I suppose all this will be obsolete soon," he mused. "Soon everyone will be trajecting across space in the blink of an eye like the Sikarians."

"Not quite," Torres told him. "I've already been over this with the captain. The trajector operates within a neutrino envelope that needs to be amplified by the proximity of a compatible planet, one with a mantle composed of tetrahedral quartz. Without the crystalline structure of that type of mantle to focus and amplify the trajector field the device itself is useless."

"And planets like this don't exist in the Alpha Quadrant?" Chakotay asked.

Torres shook her head. "I've already checked the Federation planetary database," she said. "If they do exist here none have been discovered in over two centuries of interstellar exploration. They might be exclusive to the Delta Quadrant."

Chakotay shrugged. "Do you still have the trajector itself?"

Torres pointed toward a charred, half-melted lump of metal on a nearby console. "I took a phaser to it when it triggered the warp core breach," she explained. "But since Tuvok beamed aboard with it the computer will have a record of its exact quantum structure if Starfleet ever finds a way around the limitations and wants to recreate it."

"Maybe you should apply for the job," Chakotay suggested casually, endeavoring to find the correct balance for what he wanted to say.

"What job?" Torres asked defensively. "With Starfleet Engineering?"

"Why not?"

"Somehow I don't think that my current status as a Maquis terrorist would look good on my application form," she said wryly.

"Your current status is chief engineer aboard a Federation starship," Chakotay reminded her. "You've held that position for five months, culminating in successfully transporting that Federation starship across the galaxy. Taking all that into account, plus the strings I have no doubt Captain Janeway would be willing to pull, I think Starfleet would be glad to have you back."

Torres eyed him suspiciously. "You can't be serious," she said.

Chakotay leaned closer to her. "I'm not having this conversation with any of the other Maquis onboard Voyager, B'Elanna. You more than anyone has exceeded everyone's expectations since the Caretaker took us from the Badlands. To go back to fighting the Cardassians when you have so much potential..."

His words trailed off, his point already made.

"What are you saying, Chakotay," Torres asked, regarding him closely. "That I should rejoin Starfleet while you and everyone else go back to fighting and dying to protect all our homes?"

"I'm saying don't think that's the only option," Chakotay said. "I don't even know the status of the Maquis now. For all I know they might have all been wiped out by the Cardassians while we've been gone, although I very much doubt it. The Maquis are strong enough to survive losing you, B'Elanna. You have the potential to go as far as you like with Starfleet, developing new propulsion technologies or designing starships. Anything you set your mind to."

"And what about you?" Torres asked quietly, a lump forming in her throat as the magnitude of his words hit home. "What will you do now that we're back?"

Chakotay smiled. "I think you know," he said, placing a fatherly hand on her shoulder.

With that, he pushed himself off the guard rail and headed back through the small crowd of celebrating engineers, leaving Torres alone to consider her future.




*




“Bridge to the captain.”

Janeway was roused from the inviting realm of unconsciousness by the sound of her closest friend and most trusted advisor, realising that she'd fallen asleep at her desk in the read-room.

“Janeway here,” she responded, cringing ever so slightly at the sound of weariness in her own voice, “Go ahead, Tuvok.”

“I apologise for disturbing you, captain,” the Vulcan apologised. “But we are approaching what appears to be the site of a battle. There is a heavily damaged ship drifting nearby.”

"Acknowledged, Tuvok,” she said. "Drop us to impulse, but keep our distance from the damaged ship, their opponent may still be in the vicinity.”

“Aye Captain,” Tuvok confirmed. “Bridge out.”




*




“Slowing to impulse,” Paris reported from the helm as Janeway emerged from her ready room and onto the bridge.

She felt the deck shudder softly as Voyager slid gracefully out of warp.

“The damaged ship is Cardassian, captain,” Tuvok announced. “It appears to be a military supply vessel of some kind.”

Janeway descended the steps to the command level, where she placed her hands on her hips as she considered main viewscreen. “Yellow alert,” she ordered.

Instantly, lemon-coloured strips of lighting began to pulse rhythmically around the bridge, and Chakotay took the opportunity to examine the sensor data on the personal terminal, which rose up between the two command chairs at his touch.

“There’re no lifesigns aboard the ship Captain,” Chakotay said, glancing up at the image of one of the Cardassian spacecraft, and the violet tendrils of drive plasma radiating from its shattered engine ports. "And their cargo holds are empty. Whoever attacked them was looking for something."

“Given our current position near the Demilitarised Zone,” Tuvok put in, “I believe there is only one logical explanation for such an attack on a Cardassian vessel inside their territory."

"The Maquis," Janeway said thoughtfully, glancing at Chakotay. "Seems a little audacious even by Maquis standards."

"A raiding party," Chakotay told her. "Probably in search of supplies. Some of my colleagues can be a little more enthusiastic than I am."

“Should we inform the Cardassians?” Tuvok asked.

"Not until we're safely out of their space," Janeway said dispassionately. "Alerting them to our presence now would place Voyager in immense danger. Mr. Paris, resume our course. Warp six."

Paris’ nimble fingers moved quickly over the complex control panel, and Chakotay watched the viewer image change as the helmsman gently eased Voyager in the general direction the captain had specified. “Course laid in Captain.”

Janeway dropped into her command chair, resting her hands on its arms. “Engage,” she ordered calmly.

Under Paris' control, Voyager leapt forward into warp speed and leaving the left Cardassian ship, now no more than a floating tomb for its deceased crew, millions of kilometres behind.
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Old May 6 2012, 12:48 AM   #125
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

Angry Fanboy wrote: View Post
Paris found Kim in his quarters, having asked the computer to locate the young operations officer when Janeway had finally ordered him off the bridge a few minutes earlier after overrunning the end of his duty shift by nearly two hours. Despite the jovial atmosphere that reigned throughout the starship, Paris was acutely aware of just how precarious their situation was if they were discovered by the Cardassians.

A lone Cardassian ship found many light-years into Federation space would be met with a suitably robust response by Starfleet, and while long-term imprisonment would be unlikely, the Cardassian vessel would certainly be impounded and investigated before its crew was eventually returned home.

But a wayward Starfleet vessel discovered inside Cardassian space would be dealt with in a far more forceful manner, by a race for whom torture was still an acceptable means of obtaining information and a show trial in a one of their kangaroo courts was performed only once the sentence had already been decided.

Paris knew that the Cardassian Ministry of Justice would waste no time seizing Voyager and pronouncing its crew of Starfleet officers spies.

If they were intercepted by a Cardassian vessel, despite Janeway's undoubted skills as a diplomat, Voyager would need to make a run for it, and Paris knew that he was the best man to have at the helm if that happened.

Nonetheless long-range sensors had detected no vessels in the immediate vicinity, and after being told to get some rest but knowing that such a thing was impossible under the circumstances, Paris had decided to seek out his closest friend on Voyager.

The door to Kim's quarters opened with a hiss, and Paris stepped inside, surveying the darkened room.

Kim was seated near the viewport, rapidly entering text into a small datapadd.

"The whole ship is celebrating and you're tucked away in your quarters?" Paris said as the door closed behind him. "Even by your standards that's pretty lame, Harry."

Kim glanced up from the padd. "I'm writing letters to everyone back home," he explained. "Even once we reach Federation space we'll still be weeks away from Earth, too far for real-time communication. So as soon we're out of danger I'm sending these messages to Earth. One for Libby. One for my parents. One for a few of my close friends. Just to let them know I'm alive and well."

Paris smiled. He hadn't considered that after five months Voyager would have been declared officially lost in the Badlands and her crew classified as having been killed in action. Funerals would have no doubt taken place, with grief-stricken family members mourning the loss of their loved ones. He pondered how the friends and relatives of those killed when Voyager had been transported to the Delta Quadrant would be elated when they received word that the ship had returned, only to have their grief return all the more strongly when they realised that their loved ones weren't among those coming home.

How would his own parents and sisters react when he walked in through the door of the family home on Earth months after being declared lost on the mission to the Badlands? Absently he wondered what his funeral had been like.

"I think I'll wait," Paris said, dropping into a comfy chair. "Give them all a surprise."

"Aren't you just on a temporary assignment here from that penal colony?" Kim asked, only half-joking.

"I know Starfleet, Harry," he said confidently. "After everything that's happened they won't send me back there. I only had six months left on my sentence when Captain Janeway approached me to help track down Chakotay and five months of that can be written off with me being on Voyager."

Kim continued entering text into his datapadd. "Are you sure?" he asked. "What if the first transmission from Starfleet orders us to lock you in the brig until we reach Earth?"

Paris chuckled. "Then I'll have to steal a shuttle and make a daring escape," he said with mock-seriousness.

"Now that I'd like to see," Kim admitted.

"You might get to see about fifty Maquis do it for real," Paris said.

"What do you mean?" Kim asked.

"Think about it, Harry," Paris said. "I was captured on my first mission for the Maquis. I'm small fry compared to the majority of the others onboard Voyager. People like Chakotay are wanted men who the Federation considers traitors and terrorists, using their Starfleet training against the Cardassians. Starfleet is a pretty forgiving organisation, but they'll still want these Maquis brought to justice for their crimes."

"After everything that's happened?" Kim asked.

"It's only been five months, Harry," Paris told him. "I don't think that's long enough for everyone to just shake hands and go their separate ways, especially when some of those people are going to go back to destabilising relations between the Federation and one of its most powerful neighbours."

"I hadn't looked at it like that," Kim said.

"All I'm saying is that perhaps you should say your goodbyes before we reach the Demilitarised Zone," Paris said. "Because when we do there'll be a lot of people with itchy feet wanting to jump ship." He pushed himself to his feet. "Put that padd down and come and have a drink with me, Harry. I'm not taking no for an answer."

Kim paused, considering the offer before placing the padd on the table. "Just one," he said.

"Of course," Paris said with a grin, though privately he had other ideas.




*




Janeway strode onto the bridge of the starship when Chakotay called her, having been immersed in a report detailing minor structural deformations that had been discovered resulting from Voyager being trajected across the galaxy.

"We've got a problem," Chakotay said ominously, already standing at the tactical console with Tuvok.

"Go on," Janeway urged, knowing from his tone that the matter was serious.

"It would appear that we are being followed," Tuvok stated matter of factly.

"Have you detected a ship?" Janeway demanded.

"Not precisely," Tuvok said. "However I have observed a sensor-ghost that I initially subscribed to being the result of the damage done to Voyager's sensor systems when we trajected."

"When Tuvok brought it to my attention I had Lieutenant Paris adjust our course slightly for a few minutes," Chakotay continued tersely. "Mr. Tuvok's sensor ghost vanished, but returned when Voyager came back onto her initial heading."

"Indicating that whoever is following us maintained their course while we adjusted ours," Janeway concluded, her tactician's brain already recalculating the situation in light of the new information. "If this ghost was a result of our damaged sensors it would remain in place whatever course changes were made."

"It has to be a Cardassian ship," Chakotay said.

"If so it raises two questions," Janeway said. "Why follow us nearer and nearer Federation space when they could no doubt have intercepted and engaged us before now? And even more worryingly, how do they know our sensors are degraded enough that we haven't detected them following us?"

"What are you saying?" Chakotay asked.

"That ship knows exactly where to position itself in order to escape detection," Janeway told him. "Or at least not make itself obvious. I can't believe they could have gained such accurate information from a long-range scan of Voyager."

"You think someone tipped them off?" he said.

Janeway nodded. "Tuvok, check the communications system for any indication that a message has been transmitted from Voyager without our knowledge."

Tuvok immediately went to work. "This may take some time. As per your instructions I restricted access to the communications system. If a transmission has been sent to the Cardassians the person sending it would have needed to bypass my security lockouts. A person with such technical skill would likely remove any trace of their efforts."

"Check it anyway," Janeway said, moving to stand closer to Chakotay and lowering her voice. "Why would anyone onboard Voyager want to reveal our presence here to the Cardassians? We have a crew of Starfleet and Maquis who have so much to lose if we're confronted by a Cardassian warship."

Chakotay's face was a mask of concern. "I don't know. But we still have about six hours before we reach the safety of the Demilitarized Zone. We could send a distress signal to any Starfleet ships in the vicinity asking for immediate assistance."

"Any Starfleet ship that responds would have to cross into Cardassian space to help us," she said slowly, considering the proposal. "We have no way of knowing what sort of an incident that could trigger. We have to remember that we're the ones in the wrong here, not the Cardassians."

"Captain," Tuvok said. "I believe I have found something. A short transmission sent on what records indicate is a Cardassian military frequency. Judging by my relative ease in tracing it I would surmise that the person responsible was in a rush and had little time to cover their tracks."

"And that transmission gave the Cardassians our position and instructions on how to remain concealed?" Janeway asked.

"It would appear so," Tuvok confirmed.

Janeway tapped her combadge. "Bridge to Torres. Can you give me any more speed, B'Elanna? Our situation here has taken a turn for the worst."

"I'm afraid not, captain," Torres responded. "Just maintaining warp five is putting more strain on the warp core than I'd like. To be honest I was considering asking if we could reduce speed to warp four."

"Not possible," Janeway told her curtly, turning to Tuvok. "What are our chances of outfighting a Cardassian warship in our current condition?"

Tuvok looked at her grimly. "Slim."




*




In engineering, B'Elanna Torres stared up at the swirling colours of the warp core. She'd been awake for nearly thirty hours, twenty of those spent nursing the irreparably damaged matter-antimatter reactor powering Voyager's flight through Cardassian space.

"What was all that about?" Seska asked casually, startling Torres a little.

"I'm not sure," Torres admitted, glancing up at the woman whose urging had played no small part in her decision to employ the Sikarian trajector to transport Voyager home.

"Are we in some kind of trouble?" Seska asked, looking agitated. As a Bajoran, Torres knew that Seska, more than even the other Maquis onboard, would suffer terribly at the hands of the Cardassians if Voyager was intercepted.

Torres shrugged. "You know as much as I do," she said. "The captain wants more speed. Which isn't going to happen until Starfleet gives Voyager a full refit, with a new warp core top of the list of replacement parts."

"I don't think that's going to happen any time soon," Seska said.

Torres felt the cool tip of a phaser press against the back of her skull. "Seska!" she hissed. "What are you doing!?"

"Shut down the engines, B'Elanna," Seska instructed her.

Torres froze for a moment, her fatigued brain struggling to comprehend what was happening. "Why?" she asked hoarsely.

"Because if you don't," Seska said sweetly, "I'm going to blow your head clean off your shoulders and do it myself."

Torres felt her hand trembling as she reached for the control console, tapping the appropriate sequence of commands into the panel. Moments later the deck shuddered slightly as the intrepid-class starship dropped out of warp.

In the brief seconds between feeling the heat of Seska's discharging phaser and her world going black, Torres pictured Voyager dead in the water.
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Old May 6 2012, 12:50 AM   #126
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

Angry Fanboy wrote: View Post
"We've dropped out of warp!" Chakotay announced, frantically entering commands into his personal terminal.

"Bridge to Torres!" Janeway snapped. "What's happening down there?"

Several tense seconds passed with no reply from the chief engineer.

"B'Elanna, respond!" Janeway pressed, fearing the worst.

"I'm afraid Lieutenant Torres is unavailable," another female voice said suddenly.

"Seska!?" Chakotay exclaimed, vaulting out of his chair, an expression of confusion and anger etched into his face.

"That's right, Chakotay," Seska said. "I'm afraid Voyager's journey ends here. In Cardassian space."

"A Cardassian vessel is dropping out of warp," Tuvok warned. "I believe it is the one that has been following us."

"Red alert!" Janeway commanded defiantly, dropping into her command chair. "Raise shields and power all weapons! Begin transmitting a distress signal calling for immediate Federation assistance!"

"Done," Tuvok said. "However the Cardassian vessel is broadcasting high levels of subspace interference in an attempt to jam our communications. I cannot guarantee that our distress signal will be heard."

"Someone has initiated a site-to-site transport!" Kim announced. "Someone just beamed to the Cardassian ship from engineering through a weak-spot in the shields."

On the viewscreen, Janeway watched as the Cardassian warship banked sharply to face Voyager, positing itself directly between the lone Starfleet vessel and the salvation of the Demilitarised Zone that bordered Federation space.

"That's a kovat-class light-cruiser," Chakotay said, staring at the screen. "The Cardassians use them for border patrols. I've had a few run ins with them over the years."

"Light-cruiser or not they greatly outclass Voyager today," Janeway finished grimly.

"We're being hailed," Tuvok reported.

"On screen," Janeway said.

The warship vanished from the viewscreen, replaced with the angular grey features of the Cardassian captain seated confidently at the centre of his bridge.

"I am Gul Jasad of the cruiser Udat," the commander said silkily. "Your ship is trespassing inside Cardassian space in flagrant violation of the peace treaty established between our two peoples. In accordance with that treaty your ship will be impounded and your crew taken into custody until they can be processed by our judicial system."

"Gul Jasad," Janeway began, "We were brought here by circumstances beyond our control. Permit us to continue on our present course and we will leave your space within a matter of hours."

Jasad snorted. "And allow you to report back to Starfleet Command with any amount of tactical data regarding Cardassian ship movements and strength in this sector?"

"There is no need for this encounter to turn into a major diplomatic incident," Janeway told him, her tone becoming stern. "Let us be on our way rather than having this lead to severe consequences for both the Federation and the Cardassian Union."

"You have the audacity to lecture me on consequences when you've been discovered light-years inside Cardassian territory?" Jasad replied. "I have no desire to start a war with the Federation, captain, but if one does result from your presence here the blood will be on your hands and not mine."

"As I've already told you," Janeway continued, "We are not responsible for our presence here and are attempting to depart as swiftly as possible."

"And if I was to inquire as to how a state-of-the-art Federation starship might become so lost as to inadvertently trespass into Cardassian space?"

"Five months ago Voyager was abducted by a powerful entity and transported to the far side of the galaxy. We were stranded in the Delta Quadrant, seventy-thousand light-years from here, until we employed a piece of technology that brought us here."

Jasad smiled slightly. "A most inventive explanation. And one that I would doubtless be unable to believe had this version of events not already been related to me by one of our operatives aboard your vessel."

"Seska," Janeway said.

Jasad appeared disinterested. "The assumed names of covert agents are no concern of mine," he said dismissively. "Regardless of the circumstances, the facts are that you command a Starfleet ship that has been caught within Cardassian space. As per the treaty I intend to seize your vessel. My scans indicate that your ship has suffered severe damage and will not withstand any forthcoming battle, and as such I invite your immediate surrender."

"I will do no such thing," Janeway said.

"As you wish. In the interests of continued good-relations between the Federation and the Cardassian Union I am prepared to overlook your presence and put this encounter down to a misunderstanding. I will permit Voyager and her Starfleet crew to proceed out of Cardassian space, but the Maquis that you are harbouring are enemies of the Cardassian state. You will lower your shields and allow me to transport them aboard. The alternative is that I take your vessel by force."

"The Maquis on Voyager have been granted Starfleet field-commissions," Janeway told him. "This is one crew. Yes, many of the Maquis onboard Voyager have committed crimes against the Cardassian Union and the Federation, and when we return home they will answer for those crimes in a Federation court under Federation law. I have no intention of allowing them to be tried and executed by your own laughable legal system."

"You appear to be an intelligent woman, Captain Janeway. Consider your current circumstances. I have generously offered to allow your ship to proceed unmolested back to Federation space in return for fifty wanted criminals whose organisation is responsible for horrific acts of terrorism against the Cardassian people. I could just as easily overrun your ship by force and take not only these Maquis but your own Starfleet crew as well. Your ship can not sustain an attack by my vessel, nor can it escape nor call for assistance."

"He's right, captain," Chakotay said quietly from beside her, touching her arm gently as he spoke. "Jasad, my name is Chakotay. Perhaps you've heard of me."

"Indeed I have," Jasad agreed. "One of the more infamous terrorists to have killed Cardassian civilians."

"And one of the most wanted," Chakotay finished. "I'll come aboard your vessel, and take full responsibility for whatever crimes you wish. I'll even look suitably remorseful at whatever show-trial the Central Command wants to arrange for the benefit of the viewing public."

"And your associates on Voyager?" Jasad asked.

"Tried by a Federation court," Chakotay said. "Where they will almost certainly be found guilty and sentenced to a penal colony where they will pose no more threat to the Cardassian Union for years to come."

Jasad paused, clearly considering the proposal.

"Of course you can refuse those terms and attack Voyager," Chakotay continued. "Obviously we can't prevent you taking us all by force, but the engagement will almost certainly provoke a war between Cardassia and the Federation. The blood of many Cardassians will be on your hands, Jasad."

"As you wish," Jasad said finally. "Drop your shields and I'll beam you aboard."

Chakotay shook his head. "If we drop our shields you could beam half the crew away before we could raise them again. The shields stay up. I'll be leaving in a shuttlecraft within the next few minutes."

Jasad nodded curtly before terminating the link.

Janeway looked at him. "Chakotay," she said hoarsely, unable to find the words.

Chakotay smiled slightly. "It's the only way," he said, before turning sharply and ascending the steps to the turbolift.

"Commander Chakotay," Tuvok said as he passed the tactical station. "It is by no means certain that you will be executed for whatever crimes the Cardassians charge you with. Given that my own future with Starfleet is uncertain, you have my word, sir, that I will endeavor to free you from confinement if it is within my power to do so."

Chakotay tapped him warmly on the shoulder. "A Vulcan jailbreak?" he said wryly. "I'll look forward to it."

With that, Chakotay left the bridge of the starship Voyager for the final time, leaving the officers there in a solemn silence.




*




The type-6 shuttlecraft slid smoothly out of Voyager's hanger under Chakotay's control, before describing a tight arc and accelerating away from the Federation ship towards the Cardassian vessel looming nearby. As he adjusted his approach, Chakotay tapped a control to open a communications channel to the awaiting warship.

"Chakotay to Udat," he said. "I'm approaching your shuttlebay."

"Hello, Chakotay." Seska answered, the amusement audible in her voice. "I'm looking forward to seeing you."

"You'll forgive me when I say the feeling isn't mutual," Chakotay said lightly, unwilling to let the woman he had loved hear how hurt he actually was.

"Not everything I told you was a lie, Chakotay," Seska said. "I did have feelings for you."

"I don't believe a word you say," he told her coldly, just as the shuttle shuddered violently and the cabin became bathed in a scintillating orange light.

"I hope you don't mind if we bring your shuttle aboard with a tractor beam," Seska said by way of explanation. "We don't want a repeat of what happened with the Kazon warship."

Chakotay smiled slightly, taking his hands off the controls. "Be my guest," he replied, pleased that Seska was so far off the mark.

He watched the sensor display as the shuttle was drawn towards the Udat, waiting for the moment the warship's powerful shields were lowered to admit the Sacajewa.

His only regret was that he wasn't able to see Seska's face when she realised that she wasn't the only one who knew how to manipulate Voyager's communications system to secretly call for assistance.




*




"Three ships are dropping out of warp!" Kim called out. "They must've masked their approach somehow!"

"Cardassian?" Janeway demanded, her gaze locked on the image of Chakotay's shuttle being pulled towards the Udat via a tractor beam.

"No," Kim said. "They look Federation!"

Janeway watched in disbelief as three Maquis raiders, virtually identical to the one Chakotay had commanded, screamed past Voyager and began firing at the Udat with a fury that clearly caught the Cardassian vessel by surprise.

The warship remained motionless in space under a ruinous barrage of phaser fire and photon torpedo barrages for many seconds as the Cardassians onboard struggled to respond, and when disruptor fire finally bloomed into life in response the Cardassian vessel had already taken damage.

"The Cardassian ship has begun calling for assistance," Tuvok announced. "I would estimate their shields to be at around sixty percent."

"Should we help them?" Kim asked.

"We're the ones trespassing, Harry." Janeway said, her gaze never wavering from the intense battle being played out on the viewscreen. "I can't help the Maquis destroy a Cardassian vessel inside Cardassian space."

"I'm not sure if they need our help," Paris threw in. "They're pounding hell out of that warship."

"Commander Chakotay's shuttle has been released," Kim announced.

"Lower our shields and beam it aboard," Janeway ordered sharply.

On the screen, the smaller, more manoeuvrable raiders were performing acrobatics around the lumbering warship, discharging volleys of phaser and photon fire even as they dodged disruptor shots that the Cardassian vessel was spitting at them.

"Cardassian shields are at approximately forty percent," Tuvok said. "Their weapons array appears to have been damaged."

Janeway watched as a disruptor shot struck one of the raiders squarely, sending a stream of engine plasma out into space as it banked sharply away.

"Detecting power-fluctuations throughout the Cardassian warship," Kim said. "They're in trouble, captain."

Janeway held her breath as she watched the lights begin to flicker throughout Jasad's vessel. In the matter of a few short minutes the Cardassian gul had gone from a position of supreme power to having his vessel reeling from an unexpected attack by three smaller ships.

"Cardassian shields are beginning to fail," Tuvok warned.

"Open a channel to the Maquis ships," Janeway snapped.

"Open," Tuvok confirmed.

"Maquis ships! Call off your attack. The Cardassian vessel has been badly damaged and I cannot standby and allow you to destroy it!"

The viewscreen changed to show an image of an Asian man strapped into the cockpit of the lead raider.

"This is Takagi!" he snapped furiously. "You dare threaten us when we come to your aid!"

"And I'm grateful," Janeway said. "But this situation is already bad enough without a Starfleet vessel being seen doing nothing to prevent the needless destruction of a Cardassian warship with a hundred people onboard. Stand down."

"Listen to her, Takagi!" Chakotay added, bursting forward from the turbolift. "There'll be more Cardassian ships on their way. We all need to get out of Cardassian space right now."

"As you wish," Takagi said reluctantly. "Is your vessel able to go to warp?"

Janeway slapped her combadge. "Bridge to Torres. Status?"

"We're as ready down here as we'll ever be, captain."

"Resume our course, Mr. Paris," Janeway ordered.

Paris input the commands, and Voyager accelerated into warp, followed moments later by the three Maquis raiders who had come to her aid.
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Old May 6 2012, 12:51 AM   #127
Count Zero
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

Angry Fanboy wrote: View Post
The soft chirp of the door chime roused Janeway from her momentary slumber, the twin panels slipping back to reveal Tuvok.

"Captain," the Vulcan said as he stepped inside, "A large number of people have gathered in the shuttlebay."

"The Maquis?" Janeway asked.

Tuvok nodded once, almost solemnly.

Janeway rose from her chair. "I suppose I knew this was coming," she said.




*




Janeway felt sick to her stomach as she entered Voyager's vast hanger bay. Tuvok had offered to accompany her but she had declined, knowing that this was something she had to do alone.

Off to one side of the bay was the Sacajewa, still in the spot where the transporters had rematerialised it hours earlier. In the centre of the hanger around fifty men and women dressed in civilian clothes had gathered in a loose formation, each of them carrying bags that were slung over their shoulders.

Every one of them regarded Janeway silently as she entered.

Chakotay was standing at the front of the group, attired in the same clothes he'd been wearing when he'd first beamed aboard Voyager five months and seventy-thousand light-years ago.

"You're out of uniform, commander," she said slowly as she approached him.

Chakotay smiled. "I think it's best if we all go our separate ways before Voyager crosses into Federation space," he told her.

Janeway sighed, surveying the assembled group. "You people are all wanted by the Federation," she said. "I have a responsibility to bring you all to a Federation court to answer for your crimes. That was the mission that brought us all together."

"Is that what you want?" Chakotay asked.

"It isn't about what I want," Janeway replied, feeling emotion begin to well up inside her. "If I let you all go free I'm betraying my oath to Starfleet and refusing to do my duty as a Starfleet officer."

"And if we remain onboard Voyager will soon be met by another Federation starship," Chakotay said. "And myself and all these people will spend the next few years at a penal settlement. Takagi has told me very little has changed in the last five months. The Cardassians are still killing civilians in the Demilitarised Zone and the Federation is still turning a blind eye. Our families and friends are still in danger."

Janeway looked at him for long moments. "Make good use of this head start, commander," she said finally.

Chakotay nodded. "Thank you, captain."

She tapped her combadge. "Janeway to Tuvok. I'd like you to perform a level-one diagnostic of Voyager's deflector shield system, starting immediately."

"Given that such a diagnostic would require the shields being taken offline I would question that proposal at this time," the Vulcan responded almost instantly.

"Carry out my orders, Tuvok," Janeway said.

"Aye, captain. I am taking the shields offline."

Chakotay reached into his jacket, withdrawing his own combadge and squeezing it between his fingers. "Chakotay to Takagi. We're ready here."

The familiar transporter harmonic filled the hanger, and Janeway watched as the assembled Maquis began to dissolve into sparkling light in small groups.

"Goodbye, Kathryn," Chakotay said warmly, handing his combadge to her.

"Goodbye, Chakotay," she replied, feeling her throat tighten as he dematerialised before being spirited away to one of the Maquis raiders.

Janeway stood alone in the empty, silent hanger for long moments. Finally, she turned and headed briskly towards the exit.




*




Voyager's bridge was busier than usual as the starship crossed into Federation space, filled with personnel who had gathered to witness the end of their phenomenal odyssey across the galaxy.

Janeway stood on the command level, surveying the command centre for the most familiar faces. Neelix and Kes were here, holding each other off to one side, watching the proceedings intently. Beside her, B'Elanna Torres hovered with an expression of nervousness and excitement, still clad in her Starfleet uniform. Janeway had promised to do all she could for the young woman, reassuring her that she knew a lot of Starfleet admirals and had a stockpile of favours that she intended to call in. Torres would serve a short sentence, there was no avoiding that, but once that was complete Janeway was certain that Starfleet would welcome her back.

"Five months, three days, eleven hours," Janeway said loudly, prompting a hush to descend over the bridge. "That's precisely how long Voyager spent in the Delta Quadrant. The quote on the dedication plaque of Starfleet's most famous vessel reads 'where no one has gone before' - I'd say we've done that and then some. Voyager has visited a region of the galaxy far beyond the reach of current propulsion technology, but when a new generation of Starfleet ships does eventually reach that part of space in the coming century, I'm proud to say they'll find the fingerprints of another Starfleet crew already there. We've advanced the frontiers of exploration, made first-contact with races a galaxy away from our homes, some of them friendly" - she gestured at Neelix and Kes - "Others not. We've also lost a lot of friends and colleagues as a result of being brought to the Delta Quadrant, good people who I am sorry aren't with us today as our journey comes to an end. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as your captain, and although some of you may not have agreed with decisions I've made during that time, I hope you can at least respect and understand my reasons for making them. Wherever you all find yourselves in the coming years, be assured that my door is always open, and that you have a link with a hundred and fifty other souls who made this incredible journey with you. Welcome home, everyone."

A cheer rose up from the bridge, moving like a wave through the decks of the starship as Janeway's words reverberated through every section.

"Captain," Tuvok said once the elation had lessened enough that he could be heard. "We are receiving a Starfleet hail."

Janeway fought back a wave of emotion. "Where from?"

"A Federation starship," Tuvok told her. "The USS Discovery."

"Put it on screen," Janeway said, turning to the main viewer as it changed to display the image of a young Starfleet captain.

"This is Captain Paul Winter of the Discovery," the man said, a quizzical expression present on his face. "Are you in need of assistance? I'm afraid Starfleet records list your ship as having been lost five months ago."

Janeway smiled. "I think those Starfleet records will need changing, captain,” she said.
The End.
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Old May 6 2012, 04:12 PM   #128
Bry_Sinclair
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

Here is my winning entry for the April 2012 Challenge, "Abandoned", set by Angry Fanboy.

Enjoy!

* * * * *

STAR TREK: EPOCH
Tales From The Cimmerian Cluster

“Out In The Cold”

Brydon J Sinclair


Words: 5628


Fifteen months ago his life had been perfect. Captain of the wrestling and parrises squares teams, dating the class valedictorian and all set to enter Starfleet Academy and become an officer, out exploring the furthest reaches of the galaxy and seeing things no other human had seen before. But that wasn’t to be for Harvey O’Connell. At school he was a mediocre student, though popular and heavily involved in many extracurricular activities, they weren’t enough to make up for his poor grades. So whilst he was forced to watch Stephanie and their friends being accepted and get ready for their new lives, he was being left behind. There was always the option of enlisting—the academic requirements weren’t as strict, as they gave on-the-job training in whatever field recruits opted for—but he wasn’t going to be a lowly crewman whilst everyone else he knew were training to become officers.

After school he’d bummed around at home, not really sure what to do next and annoying his parents for being so mopey. Then one day, three months after his friends had left for San Francisco, he’d caught the latest report on the Federation News Service. They were covering a story on a new star cluster that had been discovered (over ten sectors from the farthest fringe of Federation space), which was reportedly filled with metals, minerals and ores that it could be mined for the next fifty years and still barely scratch the surface of the resources it possessed.

Over the next five days, they had numerous specialists in mining and geology on to speak about the find, what it could mean for the Federation and the rest of the galaxy—there were even a few representatives from the big mining companies, who stated they were very interested to get prospecting in the region (which had since been named the Cimmerian Cluster). It was on the fifth day that Starfleet had a public relations officer on; she was impeccably presented, in her figure-hugging uniform, raven hair piled high on top of her head, and a polite smile on her face. She’d told the interviewer that Starfleet was interested in the region, but that its remote location made it difficult to effectively reach in order to chart and patrol. She added that due to the tentative relations with such powers as the Klingon Empire, Tholian Assembly and Kzinti Authority, that Starfleet was at present unable to commit any substantial force to the region.

As soon as the programme was concluded, Harvey had gone to the computer and submitted his résumé with Jupiter Mining Corp. He may not have excelled academically, but he was hard-working, strong and eager to get out into the unknown, surely he would be of use to them in some capacity.

The rest, as they say, was history. JMC hired him as an able deckhand on one of the survey ships they were sending out to the Cluster, he went to their orientation facility on Titan for six months of basic training, after which he was whisked off to join the other new recruits and experienced staff of the S.S. Epoch.

He hadn’t known what to expect, but the last thing he thought he’d find was an old Intrepid-Class ship from the previous century—he had expected more from a big multi-system company like JMC and, going by the reaction of several other rookies, he wasn’t alone in that assessment. But he’d sucked it up and reported onboard, seeing as how the Epoch was probably his best shot of getting out into deep space without having to settle for being just a Starfleet enlistee. True, as a deckhand on the Epoch he was on the bottom rung of the ladder, he was expected to stack crates, mop floors, check equipment, messenger datapads from section to section, and any other dogsbody work that needed seeing too, but at least he didn’t have to worry about facing his friends.

The journey out to the Cimmerian Cluster took almost four months across unclaimed space, so everyone was a little on edge; aside from the initial scouts and a couple of follow up surveys, the region was still very much a wilderness—some on the crew had even started calling the Cluster and the space around it the “Wild West”. Truth be told, Harvey kind of liked that. He’d be like an early pioneer on a wagon train, or a cowboy making his home on the open plains—which was exactly why he’d signed up in the first place.

He’d even come to overlook the age of the Epoch, despite which, she was still in excellent condition and kept up to date. Much on the interior styling and décor remained unchanged, but that gave the ship character, something lost on modern ships with their smooth finishing. Onboard he had to share a room with one of the ship’s medics, an Andorian who liked to be called Shen. The two got along well and it didn’t take long for them to settle into the living arrangements as well as their duties onboard. He couldn’t say he had the wide circle of friends like back home; he spent every opportunity taking extra shifts or training programmes.

Once they reached the Cluster, they immediately set about their task. It was enormous: four closely grouped systems, including a red dwarf, two G-types and a pulsar; each system had at least one ring of asteroids, as well as multiple planets and dozens of moons—all of which were potentially packed full of the minerals they were there to find.

Harvey had gotten used to a routine when they were travelling, but once they got to work it went out the airlock and he had to get used to a whole new way of doing things. Their work load piled on as they would need to ready shuttles, gather together necessary gear, pack it (only to unpack it later and transport it to the labs), and were often called upon to join teams going out for core samples. It was a lot for them to take on, in addition to all their other duties. It was hard to believe that there were only nine deckhands onboard, yet somehow they always managed to get the work done on time.

* * * * *

The alarm screamed at him. Groaning once again, Harvey’s hand shot out from under the duvet to hit the snooze button for the third time. But this time he slapped the small alarm clock onto the floor, where it continued to wail at him to get up from under his bed.

Admitting defeat, he swung his bare legs out and over the edge of his bunk, his feet resting on the familiar carpet. Slowly, he raised his torso off the matrass and stooped his neck to keep from whacking his head on the bed above his. Shen had been rotated onto second shift, so they barely saw each other awake, one usually getting up as the other went to bed. When they’d been on the same watch, Shen would always get him up and make sure he didn’t fall back asleep—something he’d always had problems with growing up.

He reached under his bed, retrieved the offending clock, switched it off and set it back on its small shelf. Standing he stretched out his tired muscles. The cramped cabin just allowed him to do this, though not by much. The room didn’t contain much, just the bunk beds, a couple of closets each, and a single desk and chair—it was intended for sleep and little else; they had to make use of the mess hall, gymnasium or rec room for their entertainments and socialising. He checked that the bathroom they shared with the cabin next door was available, stripped and hopped in for a quick shower. As the hot water soothed his sore muscles, he couldn’t help but wonder what tortures awaited him. Boatswain Nkosi knew how to deal out the work to keep them all busy for their eight hour shifts, but he always let the deckhands know when they’d done well—as bosses went, he was alright.

Last week, Nkosi had taken Harvey aside and asked him if he was interest in getting his Bridge Certification—which would allow him to cover a station up on A Deck. He’d had to bite his tongue to keep his excitement in check, merely telling the older man that he was very interested in the opportunity.

Though the work was hard and sometimes very physical, Harvey had to admit he loved it. Maybe it wasn’t as glamorous as life in Starfleet, but he was out making an important contribution whilst Stephanie and the others still had three years of classes to endure—if they all managed to pass their exams.

Stepping out of the shower, he wrapped a towel around his waist and moved to the sink to shave. On the mirror, someone (he suspected his roommate) had drawn a smiley face with pair of antennae, which would only show when it steamed up. He chuckled as he wiped it off and continued his morning routine.

Forty minutes after waking up, showered, dressed and fed, he stepped into the cargo office, ready for whatever the day had to offer. He was surprised to find that Nkosi wasn’t there.

“Where’s the boss?” he asked Carla Montgomery, who was seated at the control console, whilst Raymond Gunn (who everyone called Ray-Gun) was perched next to her, looking over a datapad.

“Called into a meeting about an hour ago,” she told him. “He left a message saying we were to wait here for him.”

“Weird,” Harvey muttered.

“Yup,” agreed Ray-Gun. “Whatever it is, we’ll be the last to hear anything though.”

“That’s just the way things are boys,” stated Montgomery, who was once again looking over the console screens.

He chuckled and stepped over to one of the equipment lockers. Nkosi had ingrained on them the need to stay busy, that out of habit, Harvey began checking on all the torches and scanners that were inside the compartment. When he was only halfway through, the door behind him opened—it wasn’t an automatic like on his quarters, mess hall, sickbay or the turbolifts.

Nkosi stepped through and closed the hatch with a muted clang. He looked around approving at them, all carrying out tasks in his absence.

“So what’s the news, Boss?” Montgomery asked—having worked for several years with Nkosi, she had an easy relationship with the boatswain.

“We’re heading for the outer belt of Cimmerian Delta. The assayers’ probes have picked up dilithium signatures, so we’re going to check it out,” he began. They all knew what an important find it would be, given that good quality dilithium crystals were hard to find. “We’ll be there in a couple of hours. Aldridge has asked for a little help with this one, so I’ve offered up your services gentlemen,” Nkosi said, looking between Harvey to Ray-Gun. “There’s a mission briefing in twenty minutes in the ward room, you both need to attend.”

“Yes Boss,” they replied in unison.

“In the meantime, I want you both to get to hold two and go over the zero-g sample containers.”

“On it,” they replied together again, then headed for the cargo bay.

* * * * *

Like most of the other rooms on the Epoch, the ward room was compact and practical. It was the first time Harvey had set foot inside, seeing how it was generally only used by the senior staff. Seeing as how Ray-Gun was the more senior of the two, Harvey let him enter first then followed quickly behind.

Inside was a long rectangular table, with numerous chair around it, a small cabinet on which sat empty cups and glasses (though he noted there was no water or coffee on offer for their meeting), whilst the smaller bulkheads had large monitors—one was off and the other depicted a graphic of a star system. Around the table sat four people, all of whom he knew in passing but had never said more than ‘hello’ to. At the head of the table, her thick, dark brown hair pulled back into a tight braid, sat the diminutive Janine Aldridge. For a mining company ship, there were only three professional miners onboard, who acted as consultants and extraction specialists for samples—it was the Epoch’s job to determine where best to dig, before the main operation arrived in a few short months’ time—of those three, Aldridge was senior. Though she stood only a little over five feet, she was well known among the crew for her deadpan cynicism and dark, acerbic sense of humour—so no one knew when she was making a joke or really chewing someone out. On her left sat one of the more unusual crewmembers, Haldundresh K'Dentor. The tall, wiry Chezkenite headed up the assay and research team onboard, and from what Harvey had head, he was apparently one of the best geo-scientists in the Federation. Though brought up never to judge another species based on appearance, the native of Monchezke was odd, with his large, bulbous head, angular features, scrawny torso, and long narrow limbs; Harvey wasn’t quite sure how his body could support his head. Next to K’Dentor sat one of his assistants, Sikorra M’Vani. The lithe and sultry Caitian moved with grace and ease, whilst her vibrant green eyes didn’t miss a detail. On the left side of the table, sitting in the chair with his legs dangling in the air, was Farojj, the Girinite first shift helmsman. Everyone thought of him as peculiar, scurrying around, muttering to himself—often carrying out whole conversations, where he spoke for both sides—and turning up in some very unusual places.

Though arriving exactly when they were told to be there, Harvey got the feeling they were late, so he and Ray-Gun quickly took their seats. Aldridge watched them enter and sit down, her face impassive. After a few moments looking at the two deckhands, she then looked at the others in the room.

“Now everyone’s here, we’ll get started. Doctor,” she said, turning to K’Dentor.

He nodded his large, orange-hued head, before slowly rising to his feet; all his movements were measured and considered. He went to the monitor and focused in on the systems outer asteroid belt.

“Our long-range probes have detected dilitihium signatures, though scans show that the level of concentration is far greater than anything discovered previously. If these readings are accurate, we could have enough dilithium for hundreds of new starships—maybe even thousands.”

“Wow,” Harvey exclaimed, realising too late that he’d spoken aloud. He quickly clamped his mouth shut and felt his cheeks burn crimson.

Aldridge shot him a look that was somewhere between annoyance and disdain. Great, he mused, she hates me. Good going Harv.

K’Dentor never noticed the look, but instead nodded his head excitedly. “You are right to be impressed, deckhand…what was your name?”

“O’Connell. Harvey O’Connell, sir.”

“When we first looked at the readings,” he said with a gesture to M’Vani, “we were also excited. However, before we can mark this as a site for future mining operations, we must first confirm what we have found. This means we need samples.”

“Which is where we come in,” Aldridge stated. “We’ve isolated a large asteroid in the outer belt of Cimmerian Delta that looks to contain a significant amount of dilithium. The team will get out there and take core samples. Unfortunately, gravity is very light, which means that this will be a zero-g excavation and retrieval. The belt is also too tightly compact to get the Epoch safely inside, so we’ll be taking a shuttle.

“Mr Farojj,” she continued, looking at the helmsman, “your job is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll get us to the target asteroid and then remain at station and co-ordinate between the team and the ship. Doctor K’Dentor will monitor things from here, so Doctor M’Vani will be on the team.” She then turned to Harvey and Ray-Gun. “Since the two of you are both fully certified for zero-gravity ops, as well as cleared for use of the sonic drills, you will be coming along to help set up the equipment and collect samples.”

A smug feeling came over him. Had he not spent the months of travel out to the Cluster practicing and training for zero-g ops or going over the specs and guidelines for the mining equipment, he’d never have been selected for such an important job. He was being given a chance to make an important contribution, not just to JMC, but to Starfleet and the Federation. He could only imagine his parents’ reaction to the find and his part in its discovery when he sent out his next message.

Aldridge spent the next thirty minutes going over the safety protocols and mission criteria. Harvey listened to every word, taking note of his exact duties. His heart sank a little when she stated that he would be assisting her, whilst Ray-Gun would be working with M’Vani, but he was determined to try and change her first impression of him.

Once she had finished, Aldridge looked around the table at those that would be accompanying her. “We’ve got about an hour until we get there. Let’s get all our gear together and start prepping the shuttle; I want to be underway as soon as we arrive.”

With that, the meeting was apparently over and they had work to do.

* * * * *
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Old May 6 2012, 04:13 PM   #129
Bry_Sinclair
Commodore
 
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Location: Along the border of Talarian space
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

They spent an hour and seven minutes getting everything ready, going over all the equipment and gear they were bringing with them and ensuring it was in proper working order before it was secured in the hold of the shuttle. Boatswain Nkosi was lending a hand to get things ready, personally checking their EVA suits, so that by the time the Epoch reached Cimmerian Delta, they were already onboard the shuttle and waiting to depart.

Harvey sat in the hold opposite Ray-Gun and Doctor M’Vani, whilst Aldridge was with Farojj in the cockpit. Everything was strapped in to keep it from shaking loose and breaking, thus slowing them down, whilst the team were already suited up, all they were missing was their gloves and helmets. Only the pilot remained in the crews standard grey jumpsuit (the fitted suit, with its abundance of pockets, was standard for the bridge, engineering and deck crews, whilst the medical and research staff were in blue coveralls).

From the cockpit he could hear Aldridge speaking with the bridge, then strained against the harness to look out the forward viewport as the space doors opened and they were offered their first real look at the enormous asteroid belt (which was at least half an AU in width). Unlike other ships of the era, the Intrepid-Class didn’t utilise a drop-bay style hanger, but rather had two separate bays at the rear of the saucer—it was a design feature that allowed them to carry more modern shuttles, which were far more practical and durable that older models.

With expert skill, the Girinite lifted the shuttle off the deck and out into open space. The trip into the field was short and uneventful, a few small chips twanged against the hull of the shuttle but they were few and far between. It didn’t take long for them to reach the target asteroid. When they did, Aldridge joined them in the back, where they finished suiting up. The airlock to the cockpit sealed, keeping Farojj safe, whilst making it easier for them to move the equipment out into position.

Though it was Harvey’s first time on the job, the others had all done it before (even Ray-Gun who was only three years his senior, but on his second tour onboard the Epoch), so they knew exactly what needed to be done and kept him right. He was grateful for the guidance, as he wanted to be useful onboard and make a contribution, no matter how small.

The four of them floated out the shuttle, each laden with portable drills and sample containers, and headed towards the largest asteroid in the vicinity. The plan was to set up six small drilling platforms around the surface and drill simultaneously, lessening the time they needed to be out in EVA. The target sites had all been preselected on the Epoch and the co-ordinates were locked into their scanners, so each team had to set up three drills each. Once they were activated the drills it would take a short time to get down far enough for suitable samples, in which time they would have to make sure they remained calibrated and in synch.

As they split up and began their opposite trips around the asteroid, Harvey was alone with Aldridge. She remained in front, scanner open and directing them towards each point. When she made a statement or issued an order to complied, but their conversation went little beyond that. The silence made him uneasy, even more so as they moved further around the asteroid and lost sight of the shuttle.

They got the first drill established and as they were packing up for the second location, M’Vani purred through the comm that they had done their first as well and were moving to second position. Her soft tone and breathy voice right in his ear was incredibly intimate and Harvey became jealous of Ray-Gun for being paired up with the researcher.

“Copy that,” Aldridge’s level tone snapped him from his fantasising. “We’re moving now as well.”

She turned towards him. “Let’s get moving, O’Connell.”

“Yes sir…eh, ma’am.”

He couldn’t be certain, but he was pretty sure he saw her roll her eyes. Things are just getting better and better, he griped to himself.

* * * * *

The rest of the drills took only around forty minutes to set up, at which point both teams returned to the shuttle from where they could activate and monitor the progress, until such time as they had reached their target depth. In the shuttle, M’Vani and Aldridge went through to the cockpit, leaving Harvey and Ray to sort out what equipment was needed next.

From the briefing, he knew it would take the drills around twenty minutes—any faster and they risked destabilising the orbit and rotation of the asteroid, which would make things in the already tightly packed field all the more difficult. As they saw to the gear, he kept an ear open to what was being discussed in the front, so when he heard an alert he looked back at the scientist as she scrutinised the readings. Ray-Gun must’ve been doing the same, as he paused and looked as well. Aldridge stepped closer to the Caitian’s console and waited impatiently for a few moments.

“One of the drills is losing power. It’s down twelve percent and dropping.”

“Which one?”

“Number two,” M’Vani replied, still looking at the screen. That made it the second one he and Aldridge and set up, but everything had gone smoothly and their checks had shown it was fully operational. What could have happened to it, in less than an hour, that it was now failing?

Aldridge looked back at him. “Grab your helmet and a couple of repair kits, we’re heading back out.”

“Yes ma’am,” he replied automatically, then quickly got together what was needed.

“Do you need another pair of hands, ma’am?” Ray-Gun asked.

“Not yet. Remain here, we could need other supplies so be ready to move quickly.”

“Aye.”

Ray-Gun and Aldridge switched places in the shuttle, his fellow deckhand now safe behind the cockpit airlock, as Harvey and the petite miner got their gloves and helmets back on and hefted the toolkits. He wasn’t sure exactly what use he would be; he was trained to run routine diagnostics not repair valuable equipment—though he suspected that Aldridge wasn’t expecting to rely on him too much, but rather needed someone to do heavy lifting.

Once they exited the shuttle again, they activated their thrust packs and took off towards the problem drill. En route he focused on their destination, not the wide expanse of stars that engulfed them, of the mishmash of rocks that floated all around them. Aldridge was in the lead and remained quiet, all he heard was his own breathing within the confines of his EVA suit, and the occasional update from M’Vani.

“Power loss now at twenty-one percent.”

“Understood. We’re almost there,” Aldridge reported back to the shuttle. “O’Connell, prepare to cut engines and reverse thrust in eight seconds.”

“Acknowledged,” he stated.

To himself he counted down. On eight, he tapped the stud that stopped his forward momentum and fired the reverse jets, bringing him to a relative stop. Aldridge did the same just ahead of him. Together they approached the faulty drill. Still new to life in space, he expected it to be like the old movies he’d seen back on Earth, hearing a shrill noise or clanking, but there was nothing, it looked just like how they’d left it— except the control panel was flashing red.

Whilst the mining consultant moved to the display and began tapping away at the controls, Harvey stayed a short distance away, looking at the drill. He was surprised that something was wrong with it, as he could see no problems. Over the open comlink he heard the two women on the team going back and forth over possible issues. Harvey felt like a spare part, just drifting a few short meters above the uneven surface of the asteroid.

“What if you try shutting down and restarting,” M’Vani purred.

“Without knowing what the original fault was, we could have the same problem crop up again,” replied Aldridge. “The diagnostic systems can’t localise the problem, and I can’t see anything that would cause a drop in power. The sonic pulse is stable, vibration dampeners are aligned, powerpack fully operational.”

Harvey pulled the scanner from its holster and began running a few sweeps. He wasn’t sure exactly what he might find that the more experienced members of his team couldn’t, but an extra pair of eyes was always useful.

“What if we get another drill from the Epoch?”

“It might have to come to that, Doctor,” Aldridge admitted. “Comm the ship and have them ready another drill, just in case we can’t solve this problem.”

“Understood,” Farojj chipped in.

As he drifted, scanning the drill, a faint flicker caught his eye. It was close to the connectors between the drill and its powerpack, but at his current angle he couldn’t see that caused it. Moving in closer, there was another flicker and the link between his suits comm system and the scanner chirped. He studied the screen again and noticed that what he saw wasn’t matching up with the system diagram.

Closing to only a meter and change he was finally able to see the frayed wiring and damaged sensor relay. It looked as though something had smacked into that section of the drill, throwing the sensors off whilst causing the power drain—which the diagnostics didn’t know existed.

He reached for the conduit, whilst tapping the comlink. “Ma’am, I think I’ve found the problem,” he stated, trying to keep his excitement and pride from his voice—he didn’t want to come across as big-headed on top of being a ‘dump jock’.

“What have you—O’Connell! NO!”

Her warning came just as his hand made contact with the damaged connector. There was a blinding flash, a pulse of heat passed through his suit, and his head snap backwards, cracking against the side of his helmet.

Everything went dark after that.

* * * * *
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Old May 6 2012, 04:15 PM   #130
Bry_Sinclair
Commodore
 
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Location: Along the border of Talarian space
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

The alarm screamed at him. Groaning once again, Harvey reached out to smack the clock but his hand just kept on moving. Opening his eyes, throbbing pain shot through his head. Squeezing his eyes tightly shut to try and help block out the pain, but to no avail. He groaned again. His head was killing him, his body felt both heavy and weightless at the same time, and the place smelled of piss.

“Must’ve been one hell of a party,” he slurred to himself. A voice in the back of his mind piped up, I hope Aldridge is alright.

That struck him as weird. Why was he worrying about the scary little woman? She’d never have been at a party, especially not one where he’d gotten as drunk as he had.

His alarm blared again, though this time is sounded like a voice instead of its usual shrill tone. “Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion in five minutes.”

“Funny Shen,” he murmured, finding his roommate’s practical joke a little morbid.

Chuckling to himself he allowed himself to enjoy the heavy-floaty feeling of his body, it reminded him of the zero-g simulator.

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion in four minutes and thirty seconds.”

“What?” he asked, the words finally cutting through the pain that filled his head. He opened his eyes a little and found himself looking out into empty space—though he and Shen had an interior room. It took a few moments for his vision to clear, but when it did he focused in on the cracks across the glass—as intricate as a spider’s web. They’d have to call maintenance to check that out.

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion in four minutes.”

“Suit?”

Suddenly it all came back to him; the shuttle, the asteroid, the drills, he and Aldridge heading out to check on a problem, her shouting, then the flash and the heat. Panic gripped his still jumbled mind, but he knew enough to be terrified. He must’ve been caught by a blast and knocked unconscious. He was now drifting in space.

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion in three minutes and thirty seconds.”

Harvey quickly started looking around for any sign of the big asteroid, the shuttle or the Epoch. Nothing. He did his best to spin around, still looking for something familiar so he could try and get back to them. But no matter which direction he faced he couldn’t see their target asteroid, and he hadn’t looked at the stars to know any patterns.

He was alone in the blackness of space.

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion in three minutes.”

He slapped the companel on the front of the EVA suit. “O’Connell to shuttle! Shuttle come in! Farojj, M’Vani, Ray, can anyone hear me? Aldridge, please respond!” he yelled into the open channel, his voice breaking with uncontained terror.

Epoch, this is O’Connell. Anyone! Please! Is anyone there? Someone answer!”

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion in two minutes and thirty seconds.”

“Frak!”

His mind was a mixture of pain and dread. He had no clue where he was in relation to the ship, how far he’d been blown or how long he’d been unconscious. With minutes of air left he wouldn’t survive much longer after it was gone—he was already starting to feel numbness in his hands and feet.

“Anyone out there? Please! Help me!”

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion in two minutes.”

He craned his neck to try and look down at the breastplate and the comm system controls. His hands felt heavy and clumsy, but he focused on what he needed them to do; open up a wide band channel. Still groggy from the concussion he must’ve suffered, it took him longer than it ever had in the simulator. His fingers either didn’t want to work or didn’t know how.

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion in one minute and thirty seconds.”

When he finally finished he opened a comlink, which went across multiple frequencies and band widths, if anyone nearby was paying the slightest bit of attention to their communications array they’d pick him up—or so he hoped.

“This is deckhand Harvey O’Connell, of the Jupiter Mining ship Epoch,” he began, using what little was left of his self-control to keep from breaking down. “I’ve been involved in an accident and am running out of air. Please, if anyone hears this message, I need immediate help. Please!”

He kept his finger on the transmit button as his suit calmly informed him, “Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion in one minute.”

“Can anyone hear me?” he begged. “Please! I don’t want to die!” Tears streamed unabashedly down his cheeks. “If anyone is listening, please help me!”

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion thirty seconds.”

The numb, heavy feeling was moving up his legs and arms. Summoning what little strength he had left, he smacked the companel, which lodged the transmit stud on, before he let his limbs go limp and float. His chest was starting to burn and every breath was getting harder to draw in. Inside his EVA suit, the air was warming up and getting stale.

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion fifteen seconds.”

Filling his lungs with what air he could, he screamed into the still open channel, “HELP ME!”

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion ten seconds.”

“Please,” he sobbed, his voice feeling tiny in his own throat.

“Warning: suit compromised. Air depletion five seconds.”

Harvey counted down his last few moments of breathable air, his body shaking as he wept.

After he counted one, the suit chirped. “Air supply depleted. Air supply depleted.” Its macabre chant continued both in his suit and across the channel he’d opened.

It wasn’t long before his eyelids felt heavy. Though he did all he could to fight it, slowly they closed.

“Pleeease…hel…p…” Harvey O’Connell tried one last time before his eyes shut.

“Air supply depleted. Air supply depleted. Air supply depleted. Air supply depleted.”

* * * * *

END
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Old June 3 2012, 09:36 PM   #131
jerriecan
Lieutenant Commander
 
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

Here is my winning entry for the May Challenge, 'Out of Uniform'.

Aelwyd

Note: This story takes place during the early second season of Star Trek: Enterprise.

"Easy there, love. Mind the inertia."

She bristles at his words, but his tone is nothing but reassuring. Of course she'll mind the inertia, at half a million tonnes the old T-class freighter is nothing but inertia. One miscalculation and they could miss the docking port and crash into the sleek ship they are docking with.

It is just the two of them now - the rest of the crew have their own stations to manage during the docking. She checks the readouts on the darkened bridge - ten meters separate the ships, seven, four. She holds her breath for an instant and punched the thruster control, releasing just enough gas to let the ships just barely touch before the docking clamps grab hold and secure the vessels together. There is barely even a tremor as the connection is sealed and oxygen begins to flow into the short tunnel between the ships. She looks up at him and says, "Good contact. Pressure is holding."

"Looking good, Aelwyd," says a woman's voice over the speakers. "Nice flying - didn't feel a thing over here."

"That's my girl," he says, and looks down at his daughter - all of twelve years old, her long, dark hair falling straight down her back - with her hands still gripping the controls. He grins wide and winks. "Permission to board?"

"We'll greet you at the airlock," the voice replies.

"Very good. Aelwyd, out," her father says. He pats her shoulder as she finally lets go of the controls and moves to follow him down the central corridor of the ship, bouncing along in the half-gravity. She is dressed in a miniature version of the crew's coveralls, complete with worn toolbelt and matching grease stains. His clothing is different - a colorful knit scarf is wrapped loosely around his neck, free of the grime covering the rest of his garments.

A memory - the crew sitting around a tiny plastic tree, a small pile of handmade gifts beneath it. She is five years old, and it is her first real memory. She watched as her father carefully opens his gift and holds it up for all to see - a carefully knit, brightly-striped scarf. She smiles as she watches her father and mother kiss, draping the scarf around their necks to bring them closer -

"Nice flying, love," he says, ruffling her hair, knocking her out of the memory. She pushes his hand away - she hates it when he does that. It makes her feel like such a little girl.

He fishes around in his jacket pocket for a moment. "This is a big day. First solo docking. That's something to be proud of."

"Not quite solo, Da," she says. Of course he had been there on the bridge, not five feet away, ready to step in just in case she needed the help.

He stops and kneels down, brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes. "Hey, don't be like that," he says. "You did the work, so you've earned the reward." He raises his hand, shakes it, and as if by magic a shiny seven-sided coin appears between his index and middle fingers. "You're officially part of the crew now, and as such you're more than earned a proper share."

He tosses the coin up, and in the half-gravity it takes what seems like forever to arc down into the girl's waiting hands. It's heavy - gold, maybe some alloy - and covered in familiar symbols. "Twenty-one dulacs," she reads, translating the Rigelian, and her eyes go wide. This was half a year's allowance! "Is - is this really mine?"

"Why not? You earned it, love. This little side trip is going to make us a fair profit, and might just get us some more Fleeter business in the future." He kisses her forehead gently. "And that docking was as smooth as I've ever seen in all my years."

"Thanks, Da," she says, then pauses. "I just..."

"You just what?" he says after a moment, already knowing the answer.

"Never mind," she finally says. He wraps an arm around her shoulders and holds her close until they reach the airlock. Most of the crew is already there, standing with lifters at the ready to move the dozen pallets of supplies over to the Fleeter ship. Even Rhys is there, complete with his knit cap which has seen better days - long-untreated stains have rendered the fabric a dingy gray-brown, and it has taken on a distinct odor. Even Rhys himself only wears it on special occasions, usually when they are dealing with Fleeters -

Another memory. The hat is new. She is six years old, sitting in the galley with her ancient hand-me-down PADD, working through her daily lessons. On the other side of the room, her father and Rhys are fighting in whispers, like they think she won't notice their anger. Rhys is angry about dealing with the Fleeters, the ones who work for Earth instead of for themselves. He doesn't want anything to do with them. Her father says they have to or they'll never get enough cargo jobs to keep running.

She hates it when they fight - Rhys is never happy about anything, and her father smiles less and less when he's around. But soon enough here comes her mother, who pokes a finger in Rhys' chest and tells him that if he doesn't like it, he can always go his own way. Nothing is stopping him, after all. He looks down and after a moment mumbles an apology to his sister and her husband. But from that moment on, the unwashed hat is always what the Fleeters take away from their meetings with them -


The airlock doors part, revealing a trio of blue-clad Fleeters with nary a stain marring their uniforms. At a glance the girl can see the man in front has four pips on his shoulder - a captain! He steps forward, his right hand extended. "Captain Webb? I'm Jonathan Archer, captain of the Enterprise."

Her father offers a hand in return, giving a quick squeeze and the barely perceptible nod he gave when he sized someone up as ‘good people'. "A pleasure, captain," he replied. "Andrew Webb of the freighter Aelwyd."

The other Fleeters begin moving the pallets through the airlock and over to the Enterprise. "We're fortunate to run into you out here," Archer says. "Our supplies of fresh food didn't hold out quite as long as we'd hoped."

"They never do," Rhys says sourly, and her father shoots him a hard glance.

"No bother," her father says. "Although it won't quite be what you're used to. Some of the vegetables had to be engineered to grow in local conditions. Changes the flavor a bit - and I bet you've never seen day-glo orange cauliflower before."

Archer smiles warmly. "I'm looking forward to my first time. And I expect it might bring back a few good memories to my helmsman. Ensign Mayweather grew up on a long-haul ship."

"Did he now?" her father says, and looks down at her. "Listen to the man, love. A boomer for a helmsman aboard a Fleet ship. Something to aspire to, eh?" He looks back at Archer. "Forgive my manners, captain. This is my daughter, Tegan - and the pilot for our docking as well."

Archer kneels down. "That was you at the controls? You're a very good pilot," he says in that voice most adults use whenever talking to children - not uncomfortable, exactly, but too polite, like they aren't sure what to say. "Maybe we can give you a tour of the bridge while you're here, let you sit at the helm controls." He looks back at her father. "You and your crew are more than welcome to stretch your legs. My engineer has some maintenance to finish up on the warp engines that should take about a day. Enough time to give you and your people a break."

Her father looks over at Rhys, who just rolls his eyes. "That's kind of you, captain, but we've already burned a little more fuel mass than we'd planned on for this rendezvous. We'd best be on our way if we're to reach Draylax with anything left to spare."

"I think I can help you with that," Archer says. "Tell you what - let the Enterprise get you up to your cruising speed. We can do it faster, and spare you burning any more fuel of your own."

Her father grins - he knows a good deal when he hears one. "You drive a hard bargain. Must be nice having the antimatter to spare." He turns to his crew. "You heard him, lads. We're guests of the Fleet for the next day or so. Please - " he gives Rhys a pained look " - be on your best behavior." He turns back to Archer. "Just lead the way."

The girl pauses for a moment as the others make their way into the Enterprise. She stands by the inner hatch of the Aelwyd, staring at the transparent aluminum set into the metal. Slowly she raises one hand, spreading her fingers as wide as they will go, pressing her fingers to the viewport. It is almost large enough to cover the whole area now -

One last memory - she is seven years old, and her birthday in three weeks. She is sitting on the bridge as the ship prepares to dock with another, watching a video feed of the airlock doors. Everybody is shouting as a siren wails. Something has gone wrong with the airlock - the hatch is stuck. Through the transparent aluminum viewport, she can see her mother struggling to breathe. She sees her father prying at the doors with a long metal bar, but they refuse to separate as the oxygen quickly drains from the airlock. She watches as her mother presses her hand to the viewport, spreading her fingers, a gesture which is mirrored by her father on the other side. A long moment passes. And then her mother slides away, her strength gone along with her life -

"Tegan?" her father calls. "Come along now. Wouldn't want you getting lost."

"Never happen, Da," she says. "I know right where home is."

He smiles, and for the moment her world is complete once again. "That's my girl."

End
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Old July 5 2012, 05:01 AM   #132
Stoek
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

From the June 2012 writing challenge "Meet The Neighbors".

Prime Majisters Log: Two hundred and thirty second day of accord:


No matter how many times I sit to update the official journal of my thoughts and feelings and actions as the elected leader of the whole of the world we have chosen to rename Lar-Dev I am always in awe, not only in the faith placed in me by my fellow citizens but by the zeal with which nearly everyone has undertaken the rebuilding of our world after we nearly destroyed it completely just slightly over two years ago. At the time in my capacity as Prime Citizen for the under citizens of Lar-Gand I had risked both my life and my reputation to seek to open peace talks with my opposite number. The Majister of the beings known as the Dev-Em. In short order we came to an understanding that neither we nor our peoples wanted war. But rather a select few in the upper strata of government, military, and business desired to create an unending state of conflict for varying reasons. It took some doing but all but the most fatalistic of even those factions were finally convinced that our conflicts were reaching a zenith where there was no end possible except total annihilation.

Once The Accord was reached the next logical step was to permit the whole of the newly united peoples to elect a leader. The Majister chose not to put her name forward for potential selection due to her age. Instead her Adjutant Majister ran. And very nearly won. But by a narrow margin victory was mine and with victory a great responsibility. One which I am pleased to say that the one who had been my opponent has given great aid with as Prime Adjutant. With the two of us, and indeed all the peoples of Lar-Dev working together we have been able to rebuild with breathtaking speed. Such speed that I am now free to consider launching a new undertaking. One that is incredibly bold, but I think will work to cement us as one people for all time. And in doing so I get to bring great joy to a dear old friend.


Tornak Tolgas was not a male who enjoyed waiting. When he had been a youngling and then a simple learner he had been forced to endure waiting upon the pleasure of others. But once he was a fully accredited educator woe be unto any learner who might dare to be so much as a minute late to his class. Tornak actually had a remote system installed that allowed him with a push of a button to lock the classroom doors forbidding any tardy being entry. When word got around about his propensities tardiness for his classes became almost non-existent. "Well non-existent until Lar-Gand became an increasingly militaristic society. Suddenly no citizen gave a cold dram about exploring the high realms, not even via remote probe." The old male thought to himself as he fidgeted wondering when his old "friend" would deign to allow him ingress. Finally the officious looking secretary said in a bored tone, "The Prime Majister will see you now citizen."

Tornak opened his mouth to correct the still wet behind the neck little twit when from the inner chambers the sound of a door opening and a booming voice calling forth, "Rami, he didn't study twenty seven years to be called "citizen" isn't that right Doctorus Tornak?"

At the sight of his old friend Tornak's black mood lifted and he could not help but laugh. "Perhaps. But let us not stand on titles today, lest I waste what little audience I have been granted in rattling off all of yours." The Prime Majister motioned for him to enter and then shut the doors.

Finally after several minutes of catching up the two males sat each with a glass of Tablux. After a moment of companionable silence the Majister looked at Tornak and asked, "Tell me Tolgas, what do you know of juggling."

Of all the questions he was expecting this was pretty much so far down on the list as to have never actually occurred to him. "Well, I suppose it depends on the type of juggling Znarr."

At this the Majister laughed. "Ah quite. I had forgotten about your talent for managing to say "I don't know" without actually having to say those dreaded words."

Feeling a bit put upon Tornak snorted and said, "Fine, I don't have fumfricking clue what in the chill you are talking about. Since I'm old and going to die soon, how about if you do me a small favor and just come to the fumfricking point."

Taking a sip of his drink Rus Znarr took a moment to compose his thoughts. "War is a wonderful thing..." He started to say when his old friend leapt to his feet in rage.

"Oh? Really? Tell that to the countless dead proto-citizens, tell that to the soldiers, tell that to my Wife!" Tornak's voice grew louder and louder until finally he was shouting in the Majister's face. The sound of the latch on the door being undone and a three sentient security detail coming in weapons drawn helped him to realize just how out of control he had become. The female on point looked at the planet's elected leader and calmly asked, "Is all well within Prime?"

Majister Rus nodded and looked at his chieftan of security, "All is calm within and without chieftan." Nodding at the Majister's use of the pre-designated code phrase she had her subordinates withdraw.

"Well Tolgas while I'm not unpleased to see that you are still capable of all the passion I recall from when I was a mere representer and you a newly minted educator, perhaps I can presume upon my office for a moment and earn sufficient silence that I might actually manage finishing what the fumfrick I was saying?" Sitting down, the older man simply nodded.

"Good. Now as I started to say, War is a wonderful thing when it comes to uniting a people towards a common cause. I suspect it is the reason why leaders of both the Lar-Gand and the Dev-Em peoples turned to it so often the way an addict turns to the dream draught. But it has proven far too costly. I know this as do you."

Rus paused to take a breath and to see if Tornak could bear to hold his tongue for even such a small interlude. Surprisingly the silence held until he chose to break it anew. "The thing of it is, that our people need a cause to unite them."

Unable to hold silence any longer the educator and scientist spoke up quietly. "But we have a cause. Rebuilding the planet."

"Yes and no. In the early days rebuilding was all consuming. But now? Now far too many people who were a part of that effort have come to find that they are no longer as keenly needed. Now in time I'm sure there will come a day when the people of Lar-Dev will be able to pursue their own interests with the same zeal that war and then rebuilding have been pursued. But I don't believe that time has yet come."

Considering this for a moment the old male looked up from contemplating the patterns in the rug. "Let's say, for the sake of arguing that you are correct. What could the people be offered that would unite them in the same way as war and rebuilding?"

At this question, a question he had been eagerly waiting to ask, the Majister smiled and said, "What about taking our place within the interstellar community?"

Tornak's face grew bright blue. His breathing became exceedingly deep. For a moment Rus thought his old friend was having a heart, possibly a hearts attack. Just about the moment he was ready to call for medical intervention Tornak said weakly, "If this is a joke I will declare a rebellion and kill you in the name of the people."

Rus frowned warmly. "It's no joke my friend. I want us to reach out to an extraterritorial race and I want you in charge of the effort."

The old scientist's breathing was coming quickly now. "When do we start?"

Prime Majisters Log: Five Hundred and Sixty Second Day of accord:

There are stories from the planets dark past times about those who enforced their will upon the people instead of leading by consensus. I was raised, even in the days before a united Territory to view such beings as cruel, and wasteful and just plain wrong. But considering the amount of wrangling, wheedling, wheeling dealing and just plain seat kissing I have had to do, to get approval, and funding for Project Contact I will not deny that there have been moments when I have envied the despots of old.

But I think all the efforts of myself, the newly created Citizenry's Bureau of Extraterritorial Affairs, and a whole host of affiliated bureaus is going to pay off and soon.

For the last year we have sent out probes containing a complete history of the Lar-Dev people, a display of our technological capabilities, and an invitation to come and visit us, with directions how to find our prime solon, and information about how to access the global communication network.

The hardest part was convincing a majority of the people that we are safe in doing this. Tornak has always maintained that any race that managed to achieve interstellar travel would have moved past the petty warlike behaviors that the planet bound tend to exhibit and have embraced peaceful cooperation. His words always stuck with me and it has been the reason why I have wanted to seek out the attention of the interstellar community even though we have yet to leave our own territory.

Now we have gotten data back from a probe that gives the sense that it has made contact with a vessel of alien origin. And the sensing satellites seem to indicate that it is coming towards us. Based on its present speed we expect that it should be close enough to contact us by tomorrow, day after at the latest. My lovely and ever so patient life mate has gently demanded that I spend the rest of this evening with her and our children, and since this is likely to be the last time I will have the chance to do so, for several days I have graciously acceded to her demands.


The soft purr of his lifemate's voice roused Znarr from his near slumber. "What do you suppose they'll look like?"

"hmm?" He asked sleepily.

"The aliens. What do you suppose they'll look like?" Rus Leroz asked.

The Majister considered this for a moment. "Well normal I suppose. You know four legs, six arms, blue skin, normal."

"How terribly boring that would be." His lifemate replied.

"Boring? We are on the threshold of meeting beings from beyond our territory and you've already declared them boring?"

"Well no, but, it seems to me that there's no law of the sciences that says that beings not born here should have to look like us. Wouldn't it be more exciting, more fun if they were truly alien?"

"Well I suppose. But what's your notion of alien my dear?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe only two legs and two arms. With pink skin. And soft fur on their heads. And other places."

Allowing one of his hands to drift towards the entry to his females birthing pouch he said teasingly, "What might one ask other places were you envisioning?"

This question resulted in the loving couple spending another period of time contemplating their species own biology.

After deciding that they were both hungry the two of them got dressed and headed down to the kitchen. Sensors alerted the night staff and in moments a small snack was being whipped together. As the Prime Majister and his Prime Lifemate sat in the informal dinings area they held hands as if they were still freshly minted Citizens, and newly Bound.

"You must be very nervous." Leroz said quietly.

"Why do you say that?" Znarr asked his puzzlement clear.

"My lifemate and fertilizer of our offspring, you have never been anything other than loving and demonstrably so. But in all the times I've known you, it is only when you are worried about something that you become so aggressively, exhaustively sexual."

Znarr paled slightly, and then suddenly something occurred to him. "Is that why you have always referred to our offspring as 'The Children of Crisis'?"

His mate frowned enigmatically and said, "Well if you look at their birth dates and do the math..."

For reasons that he could not explain, reasons he wasn't entirely sure he completely understood himself the leader of the united Citizens of Lar-Dev found this incredibly funny. After he spent several moments laughing loudly he suddenly took a deep breath.

"Le?" He said quietly.

"What my love?"

"What if this is all a huge mistake? What if we have made mis-assumptions about the kind of beings out there in the stars? What if they are not peaceful and kind?" He asked all this quickly and quietly, in a rush as if he were afraid that if he didn't ask these questions now he'd never find the courage to ask them. And he knew that he was in the presence of the only person in the world whom he could trust to take his doubts in stride.

"In all our years of bondhood it has never been my habit to throw your words back in your face. Would you not agree that to be so?"

He nodded.

"Then know that I do not quote you to yourself to dismiss your concerns. But because the wisest answer I can give you is one you have already given to others."

The Majister swallowed hard and nodding said, "Alright."

Taking a moment to get the words right in her mind his mate spoke after a moment. "We are born to die. This is not fatalism but mere fact. Accepting this fact the question comes how shall we go to our deaths? Some go willingly, eagerly even. Others go fighting. But for myself what I think is of greater import is, what is the state of our deepest inner selves. Tomorrow I shall go to attempt to make peace with those who we have long held as our direst and most implacable foes. Should I go to them with fear and hatred in my hearts? Or should I go with a belief, with a bedrock faith in our common Citizenhood, and with a sincere hope that they desire peace as strongly as we do? For myself if I am to die in doing this I would rather it be said that at no moment did I foresake the true peace, and at no time did I lose faith in myself or my fellow citizens. Both at home among friendly faces and abroad among those who I once called foe."

Znarr gazed into his mates eyes, his tears matching hers. He opened his mouth to speak but she put a hand over it. "I do not know what will happen tomorrow. But the existence of life beyond our territory is fact. And the fact that you choose to embrace this rather than hiding and hoping we will be left be, makes me prouder than I have words to say to be your mate and the mother of your offspring. Now eat and let's try to get some sleep. You know how dark you look on vidfeed if you're overly tired."

The next day was a constant rush of last minute preparations. A public space was prepared and the com system was on standby. It had been decided that since it would be mid-day at the Majisterial residence when the vessel should be on communication range that they would initiate contact rather than waiting for the aliens to do so.

Finally the moment came, and the yellow "active" light came on telling the Prime Majister that he could begin speaking.

"My fellow Citizens. In just a moments time a signal will be sent to the extraterritorial ship making its way toward us. I will send directly to them a message of friendship and well wishing. And then it is hoped that the whole of the Lar-Dev people will hear their reply. As you have no doubt learned by now I am not prone to long speeches. But I do want to take a moment to thank not only every scientist and technician for their efforts but also the whole of the Lar-Dev. This historic moment could not have come to be if not for the support of all Citizens everywhere. And now I shall address myself to those above us whom I hope shall name us friends as we wish to so name them."

At this signal a second yellow light came on indicating that they were now transmitting to the alien vessel. "Welcome visitors. On behalf of the united Citizens of Lar-Dev I beckon you come and know us, and let us know you in return. Come in peace, and go in peace when it is your will to do so."

After a moments crackly silence a third blue light came on indicating an incoming transmission. Everyone held their breath not wanting to miss the first words spoken by extraterritorial beings.

"We are the Borg..."
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Old September 10 2012, 05:35 PM   #133
Cobalt Frost
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

August 2021 "Competition" challenge winner

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

Hello, boys, girls, androgynous, and transgendered children. Today we're going to read a story about Starfleet, and a contest between two Starfleet captains. Is everyone sitting comfortably? Good, then let's begin.

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

See the space station. The space station is called Gateway. It is very large. It is in the Gateway Sector. The Gateway Sector is a long way from Federation space.

Docked at the Gateway station are two starships. One of these starships is the USS Challenger. The USS Challenger is very sleek, and looks sort of like a bird. The Gateway station is the USS Challenger's home base.

The other starship is the USS Coventry. The USS Coventry looks like a famous old starship, but it is actually new. The USS Coventry is visiting the Gateway station.

Why is the USS Coventry visiting the Gateway station? Because near the Gateway station is a large asteroid field. Asteroids are giant rocks in space. These rocks are sometimes used as targets. This is why the USS Coventry is here. The USS Coventry and the USS Challenger are going to have a contest. They are going to shoot photon torpedoes at the asteroids. Each ship is testing a new torpedo targeting system. The ship that shoots better will score the most points, and win the contest.

The USS Coventry goes first. The crew of the USS Coventry is skilled, and they don't miss a shot. They get a perfect score. The USS Challenger goes next. The crew of the USS Challenger is also skilled, but half of their shots miss. They lose the contest.

After the contest, the captain of the USS Coventry and the captain of the USS Challenger have a briefing with Admiral Durham. Admiral Durham is a very important Starfleet officer. All three men are in Admiral Durham's office.

The captain of the USS Coventry is John Perceval. He is very handsome. He is a famous Starfleet captain. Captain Perceval makes fun of the USS Challenger because they lost. Captain Perceval is not a good winner.

The captain of the USS Challenger is Gabriel Frost. He is not as handsome as Captain Perceval, and he is not famous. Captain Frost doesn't like that Captain Perceval is making fun of him. Captain Frost kicks Captain Perceval in the nuts. Captain Frost is a sore loser

Admiral Durham yells at Captain Frost for kicking Captain Perceval in the nuts. He is going to punish Captain Frost. But then, Ensign Lynch knocks on the door. Ensign Lynch works on the Gateway station. He says he has some sensor data that Admiral Durham should see.

Admiral Durham takes the PADD that Ensign Lynch brought with him. It has data from Gateway station's powerful sensors. The sensors help Gateway station gather information. This time, the sensors show that Captain Perceval hid trans-spectral phase shift inducers in the asteroids. The trans-spectral phase shift inducers put out an invisible energy field. The invisible energy field put out by the trans-spectral phase shift inducers gave false information to the torpedoes fired by USS Challenger. This false information made the torpedoes miss their targets.

Admiral Durham is mad. He is mad because a lot of work was done on the targeting systems that the USS Coventry and USS Challenger were testing. He is mad because the targeting systems were disrupted by the trans-spectral phase shift inducers. He is mad because the trans-spectral phase inducers are very old technology, but the targeting systems are very new and special technology. And he is mad because Captain Perceval cheated. Starfleet officers should play fair.

Admiral Durham tells Captain Perceval to get in his ship and go home. Admiral Durham is still mad at Captain Frost for kicking Captain Perceval in the nuts. And everyone is sad because nobody won the contest.

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

Well, boys, girls, androgynous, and transgendered children, that's the end of the story. Do you see why it's important to play fair and not cheat? Good, I'm glad that you do.

Good night,
boys, girls, androgynous, and transgendered children. Sleep well.
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Old September 14 2012, 05:01 AM   #134
GatorDASH
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

Sorry to post this a little out of order, but I forgot to put it here the other month. So here is the July 2012 'Star Trek Ala another Genre' winning entry, Data Fragments, a story in the vein of the movie 'Memento'.


Data Fragments


//
“Your shuttle out there, is it the same kind as the one Data crashed?” Dod asked as he welcomed Geordi La Forge to his small shack.

“Sure is.” Geordi replied.

“Warp drive and a transporter, you don’t see them that fancy around here, especially two in one day.” Dod said in disbelief.

“The Enterprise carries twenty-one type 6 shuttles. Where’s Data?” Geordi asked.

“I am here, Geordi. But I do not recall where here is.” Data said from the back to the shack.

Dod stepped aside so Geordi could enter. The shack was a single room that served as bedroom, kitchen, and dining area. Geordi had Data sit down by the table in the center of the room and opened the access panel in the back of the android’s head.

“Dod said you have some memory problems.” Geordi pulled a tricorder out of his engineering kit and began to scan Data’s head. “Do you remember how you got the suit?” Geordi was referring to the expensive looking linen suit Data was wearing.

“I do not. A self diagnostic indicates my memory compressor has been damaged. The compressor receives raw memory information from my memory buffer and then encodes it to my memory engrams in a more efficient file format.” Data explained. “I have not been able to form new memories since the shuttle crash, and my memory buffer holds only ten minutes of information before if pushes the information to the compressor.”

“So you don’t remember anything that occurred prior to the crash?” Geordi asked.

Data shook his head. “I am incapable of remembering anything that occurred before my last memory buffer reset.”

“You’re lucky that Dod found you.” Geordi said. “We were searching Coridan Prime. If Dod hadn’t contacted us, it would have been another day before we expanded the search to this moon.”

“Thank you, Dod. I apologize that I cannot remember your assistance.” Data said to the Coridan wearing a shirt with worn elbows and a faded pair of work pants.

“No need to thank me, Data.” Dod assured him.

Geordi completed his scans. “Good news, Data. Your memory compressor is still functioning. It’s the connection between the compressor and your memory engrams that has been damaged. I should be able to repair it.” Geordi stowed his tricorder and pulled out a hyperspanner. He carefully concentrated the device on a point at the back of Data’s head.

“That should do it.” Geordi closed the access panel and put away his tools.

Data’s eyes went wide. “Where is Dod?”

Suddenly two heavily armed men burst through the door of the small shack and leveled their weapons leveled at Data. “Coridan Security Forces.” One of the heavily armed men said. “You are under arrest for grand larceny and murder.”

Before Geordi could ask, “What is this all about?” Data had leapt up from his chair and knock the two armed men to the ground. He picked up one of their weapons and ran out the door.


\\
It was dark. Where ever Data was, it was very dark. He could hear men yelling at each other, but did not know what the disagreement was about. He felt a hand tapping on his leg.

“Data, it’s me, Dod.” Whispered the person tapping Data’s leg. “Drop to the ground and follow me. I’ll get us out of here.”

Data did as Dod told him and they slipped out a door in the back of the bar. It was daytime outside. In the light Data saw he was wearing a linen suit and that the man calling himself Dod was a Coridan. Dod started to run away from the building. Data followed.

“Why are we running?” Data asked.

“Coridan Security Forces just raided that bar. The Orions they’re after won’t go quietly.” Dod hollered over his shoulder. Sounds of weapon fire erupted from the bar.

“What was I doing in a bar?” Data asked.

Dod stopped running when he reached a land vehicle. “I dropped you off there. Get in.”

Data walked around the back of the vehicle to the passenger seat on the other side. He noticed the rear of the vehicle had a large storage area and was filled with crates.

“You said you liked playing poker.” Dod explained as he started driving. “I dropped you off at the bar where they usually have a game going on so you could play while I tried to contact your ship.”

“You attempted to contact the Enterprise? Where you successful?” Data asked.

Dod nodded. “Yes. And I was able to get a hold of them quicker than expected. I was gone for less than ten minutes and you wandered into a heap of trouble. Anyway, I contacted your ship and they even have a shuttle already in the area. Some guy named La Forge will be here soon. I’m taking you to him.”

“You are taking me to Geordi La Forge? Thank you for your help, Dod. I appear to have damaged my memory compressor. I imagine I would be quite lost without your assistance.”
Dod chuckled. “Believe me, Data. I remember.”

\\
Data looked around. He was in the passenger seat of a land vehicle. There was no driver. For some reason he was wearing a gold silk shirt and a linen suit. To the rear of the vehicle was a large storage area filled with crates. A Coridan was rooting trough one of the crates. He finished what he was doing and walked from the back of the vehicle to Data’s door. Data opened the door and stood up to greet him.

“Take this.” The Coridan shoved a stack of isiks into Data’s hand.

“Thank you, but I do not require currency.” Data said.

“You lost your memory again.” The Coridan sighed. “I’m Dod. I’m going to go contact your ship and let them know that you’re here and that you damaged your memory compressor. You are going to stay put in there.” Dod pointed to one story building a short distance away.

“If you are going to contact the Enterprise, I should accompany you.” Data said.

“Data, you have no idea what’s happened to you. We agreed on the ride over that I’d find a safe place for you to stay while I send the message. You already gave me the frequency and your identifier.”

Data looked at the building. “This is a safe place?”

Dod shrugged. “Safe as they come around here. It’s a bar. You said on the ride that you liked poker. They usually have a game going in there. I’ll pick you up as soon as I soon as I send the message.”

Dod jumped into the land vehicle and drove off. Data put his isiks in the pocket of his linen suit and walked towards the bar.

It was dark inside the bar, despite it being daytime. There were no windows and the lighting was kept dim. The low murmur of voices stopped when Data entered. The patrons at the bar and seated in the booths against the walls followed the android with their eyes as he walked to a round table in the center of the room where a group of three well dressed Orions played poker.

“Greetings, may I join your game? I possess ample currency.” Data pulled the stack of isiks out of his pocket and place it on the table.

The Orions looked at Data and then at the stack of isiks. The middle Orion pushed a pushed an empty out with his foot from under the table. “Your deal.” He said placing the deck of cards in front of Data’s seat. Data sat and began to shuffle the cards.

“Isiks are a rare kind of money around these parts.” The Orion to the left said as changed the isiks for poker chips. “Where did you come by these exactly?”

“They were given to me by an acquaintance.” Data replied. He began to deal the cards. “Five card draw, nothing wild.”

The Orions anted and picked up their cards. The one to the right tossed some chips into the pot and raised the stakes. “That’s a very nice suit. Where did you get a suit like that?”

“I do not remember.” Data said as a matter of fact. The bet was to him. “I call.”

The pot was good and Data dealt card to replace the ones the Orions discarded. The one to the right raised again. The one in the middle stared at Data, not even bothering to collect his replacement cards.

“The action is to you.” Data said.

The middle Orion smiled. “I like the way you put that. And what do you expect me to do?”

“There are only three actions you may take: call, raise, or fold.” Data replied. “I assumed you were familiar with the rules. Do you wish me to review them for you?”

“I know the rules.” The middle Orion said. “I know how the game is played around here. You don’t even remember where you got that suit. I think you are the one that needs to be reminded of the rules.”

The Orions to the left and right bolted up out of their seats and reached for the disruptor pistols tucked in the waists of their expensive suits.

“Perhaps we are both familiar with different versions of the rules for draw poker with me.” Data said, surprised at the Orions’ actions.

As suddenly as the Orions had pulled their weapons the front door to the bar was smashed open and five heavily armed men burst into the room.

“Coridan Security Force! Everyone on the ground now!” The leader of the men yelled.

The Orions took their weapons off of Data and turned them towards the Security Forces. Suddenly the lights went out.


\\
Data woke up on the floor of well lit room. He looked down at his body. He was wearing a gold silk shirt and a linen suit. The room was filled with neatly stacked crates. He heard steps coming down a set of stairs from the only door in the room. A Coridan wearing a shirt with worn elbows and a faded pair of work pants emerged from the door.

“Oh good, you’re up.” The Coridan said. “I’m Dod.”

Data assessed his physical condition. “It appears an energy surge has overloaded my neural net.”

“Another injury from the shuttle crash? You said it damaged your memory buffer.” Dod picked up one of the crates and turned toward the stairs. “Help me with these.”

Data picked up a crate and followed Dod. “I do not remember a shuttle crash. Nor do I remember acquiring these clothes.”

“You never do.” Dod chuckled. “Your clothes were torn up pretty bad in the crash.”

Data and Dod loaded the crates into Dod’s land vehicle. Then set out over a dry brown plain, kicking up a plume of dusty behind the vehicle.

“What is our destination?” Data asked.

“Town. To contact your ship.” Dod answered. “You crashed out in the middle of nowhere. You’re lucky I was nearby.”

Data considered the Coridan’s modest clothing compared to the linen suit and silk shirt he awoke in. “How is it that I have come to be wearing such expensive clothing in such a remote location?”

Dod laughed as he pulled the vehicle onto a prepared road. “I don’t think you have enough time left in the memory buffer for that story. I’ll tell you once it resets, it’s a long way to town.”


\\
Data looked around. He was seated, but moving at a considerable speed. His uniform was cover in soot. He was passenger in a land vehicle that had a two person cabin and a large storage area in the back. A Coridan was driving.

“Greetings, I am Lieutenant Commander Data.”

“I know, I know.” Dod said. “You were in a shuttle crash. You hurt your memory thing. You need to get to a subspace terminal.”

“Thank you for your help…”

“Dod, my name is Dod. And you promised to help me. My friend is locked in a vault buried in a field. You said you would help me get him out, and then we’ll get you to your terminal.”

Data looked out the window. The vehicle was traveling down a prepared road. A dusty plain and brown, wilted vegetation stretched out around them. Dod pulled the vehicle off the main road and drove out onto the plain. After a couple of minutes they stopped.
Data followed Dod out of the vehicle. Dod knelt down and wiped dust out of a latch on a small metal door in the ground. He turned the latch and opened the door to reveal a computer lock.

Dod stood up and beckoned Data to the computer lock. “That’s it. That’s the lock.”

“Dod, how did your friend become trapped in this remote location?” Data asked.

“Data, we don’t have time to go over this again. Your memory buffer will reset soon and you’ll forget everything. Please help my friend.”

Data knelt down and studied the computer lock. He entered a sequence in to the keypad, but the lock responded un-encouraging beep. He entered another sequence, this time his fingers moving faster. Another negative beep. He tried again, faster. Beep. Data’s finger began moving at superhuman speed. The beeps melded into a single tone. Suddenly there was a loud mechanical click. The ground nearby shifted as a door hinged open revealing a set of stairs.

Data followed Dod down the stairs into a well lit room full of neatly stacked crates. Sitting on one of the crates was an Orion in a gold silk shirt and a linen suit holding a disruptor rifle. The Orion quickly stood and raised the rifle.

“There is no need for alarm.” Data said. “I am Lieutenant Commander Data, your friend Dod and I are here to recue you.” Data looked towards Dod. “Dod, why are you holding a phase pistol?”

Dod fired. The blast hit the Orion in the face and vaporized his body. The gold shirt and linen suit dropped to a pile on the floor. Dod pointed his pistol at Data.


\\
“Where am I?” Data wondered. He was seated before a console that had lost power. There was a large window in front of him. “I am in a shuttlecraft.” Data realized, unsure of how he got there. His uniform was covered in soot and all of the shuttle’s systems were unresponsive. “It appears I have been in a shuttle accident.”

Data turned when he heard movement in the back of the shuttle. There was a short balding being with pale brown skin searching through the shuttle’s storage compartments. It appeared to be a Coridan wearing a shirt with worn elbows and a faded pair of work pants. The Coridan tossed most of the items he found on the floor, but every so often would place one into a sack hung over his shoulder.

“Greetings.” Data said. “Those items you have taken are the property of Starfleet and must be returned.”

The Coridan jumped upon hearing Data’s voice. “I’m sorry.” He said breathlessly. “You didn’t have a pulse. This shuttle had a nasty crash. I was going to claim salvage rights on these items. I’m Dod. I didn’t mean any harm. I’ll put it back. I’ve just been down on my luck lately.”

“Your confusion is understandable. I am an android. I have no pulse.” Data turned his head to the side as he completed a self diagnostic. “However, it appears there is damage to my memory compressor. Without it, I cannot form new memories. That would explain why I have no memory of the crash.”

Dod walked to the other side of the shuttle and pointed to a piece of charred and mangled metal. “Bad plasma regulatory. You’re lucky to have survived.” Dod thought for a second. “How can you carry on a conversation without a memory? How do you remember what you just said?”

“My memory buffer holds approximately ten minutes of information before transferring the information to my memory compressor.” Data explained. “I will need to get to a subspace terminal to contact my ship. My injury will leave me a disadvantage. Could you help me?”
Dod rubbed his chin thoughtfully and studied data. “Yeah, I could. And you could help me.” He finally answered. “I did a job for these Orions awhile back. Helped them lift a small fortune in isiks. They stiffed me. Kept it all for themselves. You could help me get it back, and then I can take you to a subspace terminal.”

Data shook his head. “I cannot be party to a crime.”

“The Orions committed the crime. You’d be like, punishing them. They have the loot locked up in vault buried in a field. It’s unguarded except for lock with fractal encryption. I bet that android brain of yours could open it right up, memory or not.”

“I will not. Stealing from criminals does not make the act any less wrong. I cannot help you Dod. I would be against my moral and ethical programming.”

Dod angrily kicked the bulkhead of the shuttle and yelled. “I just can’t get a break!” He paced back and forth, an idea forming. “You’re not going to remember and of this, are you? In a few minutes we’ll be strangers again. I just have to convince you you’re doing something good. I could even make the Orions think it was all you.”

“I will not do anything against my moral or ethical programming.” Data insisted.

Dod smiled. “You won’t know you are, and you won’t remember.”

“Greetings.” Data said. “Those items you have taken are the property of Starfleet and must be returned.”


//
Data ran from the shack towards Geordi’s shuttle. He passed Dod’s land vehicle, the rear storage now empty except for a faint glow of light. The ramp on the back of the shuttle was beginning to close. Data leapt and hurdled the rising ramp into the back of the shuttle. A waist high stack of crates was just completing transport into the back of the shuttle.

“Computer, disable main power, voice authorization Lieutenant Commander Data.” The shuttle’s computer immediately responded to Data’s command. Data aimed the weapon over the crates at the Coridan in the pilot seat. “It is over Dod. The Coridan Security Forces are here to arrest you.”

“They’re here to arrest you!” Dod shrieked. He was on the brink of tears.

“They did come for me, but for crimes you committed.”

“You’re the one in the dead man’s suit! You’re the one who gambled with stolen isiks!”

“You put this suit on me and sent me to play poker with stolen isiks. You knew the Orions would recognize their friend’s suit and the isiks you helped them steal days earlier. And I suspect it was you that called the Security Forces at the bar and to your home.”

“I just can’t get a break!” Dod sobbed.

Data moved to the front of the shuttle and grabbed Dod by the arm. The defeated Coridan allowed himself to be escorted out of the shuttle and turned over to the Security Forces.

“You’re lucky you weren’t charged with assault, Data.” Geordi said. He and Data were back in the shuttle. Geordi tapped a few controls and transported the crates of isiks out of the shuttle and into a waiting Coridan Security Forces vehicle.

“Once I explained the nature of the damage I had experienced to the authorities, and that I had to act quickly to stop Dod from escaping, they forgave my indiscretion.”

“You never suspected Dod was manipulating you?” Geordi asked.

“It is difficult to judge a person’s motivations in the total absence of context. By the time I contemplated such thoughts, my memory buffer would reset.” Data explained. “It was not until you had repaired the connections to my memory compressor that the context of Dod’s actions fully formed in my mind.”

“He had the isiks and you were left in between the security forces and a group of angry Orions Why would Dod ever call the Enterprise to pick you up?” Geordi wondered.

“He needed a shuttlecraft to leave this moon.” Data replied.

Goerdi sighed. “I for one will be happy when we’re off this moon and back on the Enterprise.”

“I cannot remember a time I was more content to leave a place.” Data powered up the shuttle and set a course back to the Enterprise.


THE END
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Old October 3 2012, 06:44 AM   #135
Bry_Sinclair
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Location: Along the border of Talarian space
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

My winning/the only entry for September 2012, "I've Dreamed A Dream"

* * * * *

"Future Aspiration"

Ensign Cassandra Stillwell looked out at forward viewport in awe. The shuttle Cruikshank was on final approach to Utopia Planitia, where Starfleet’s largest shipyards were located, so amid the vast webs and spidery legs of dry-docks and construction bays, the tall domed hubs of the stations that accommodated the engineers, designers and technicians, there were dozens of ships, of every class imaginable; from small Valkyrie-Class scout ships through to immense size and power of the Excelsior-Class explorer. Upon seeing the vast array of ships, the excitement level in the shuttle blossomed.

Since she had gotten to the shuttle earlier than the rest, Stillwell had the distinct pleasure of sitting in the co-pilot seat, whilst the rest of her classmates had to crowd around behind her and the pilot, Chief ch’Paahr. The Andorian was simultaneously half amused at the reaction and half annoyed at being crowded by fifteen eager and excitable ensigns. Seeing the poor non-com’s state, Stillwell tapped the stabiliser control and the shuttle rocked slightly.

She looked over her shoulder. “Spatial turbulence, you’d best take your seats and buckle in.”

There were a few gripes and moans, but when the turbulence returned a moment later, rougher than before, they heeded her advice and took their seats. When she turned back to the controls, she noticed a wide grin on the face of ch’Paahr. Struggling to hide her own amusement, she gave the shuttle one more slight rock, before resetting the stabilisers back to normal.

“There’s the Exeter!” one of her former classmates called out as they neared the Constitution-Class ship.

“The Constellation—I heard they’ve heading out on a deep space mission beyond Argasso Point!”

“And guess who’ll be flying her into the unknown,” another added in a cocky tone.

“You got the Constellation? How’d you manage th—”

“Look!” an excited female voice squealed. “The Enterprise!”

There was a reverent silence, mixed with gasps of wonder, as the rest of them took in the Excelsior-Class U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-B. Stillwell glanced at it, took in the elegant lines and design of the ship, the long graceful nacelles, the quad of impulse engines on the flat saucer, the staunch neck and deep body of the drive section. Technically she was a beauty, and Stillwell could appreciate that, the stories of her first seven years in active service were already well known and well-read at the Academy. As an engineer, Stillwell would have loved to have taken a look around the ship, but that was where it ended. She saw and appreciated its technical marvel, but there were other ships out there in the fleet that she wanted to get aboard and really sink her teeth into.

Which was why, when all the other ensigns had their eyes glued to the Federation flagship, her eyes were drawn to another ship in the opposite direction, almost obscured behind the short, barrel-like hull of a half-finished Miranda-Class. The vessel she had her eye on looked complete, just missing the finishing touches: pennants to adorn her bright white hull, as well as name and registry number. It followed the standard design, with a circular primary hull, a long secondary hull and two nacelles, which were attached with redundant pylons (one set connected with the engineering hull and contained the primary power transfer conduits from the core to the nacelles, whilst the second set joined to the saucer just forward of the powerful impulse engines). The ship had numerous tractor beam nodes, as well as twin-mount phaser banks, and three torpedo launchers, all of which merely highlighted the ships function as a cutter.

The Albacore-Class wasn’t as large or glamorous as many of the other ships docked at Utopia Planitia, but was designed to be tough, durable and agile; she was a scrapper. She was meant to handle many hard and seemingly impossible feats, which would make mincemeat out of other ships, but that she was ideally suited to handle.

One of Stillwell’s professors had told his class once that, there will come a time in ever engineer’s career, when they fall in love with a ship—it may not be the first one they serve onboard, or even the first one they are Chief Engineer of, they may only ever get to look upon her and admire from a distance without ever setting foot onboard, but every engineer worth their salt would have that one great love of the career. For Cassandra Stillwell, the moment she came across the specs of the Albacore-Class cutter, she knew she’d found her one true love.

Unfortunately, she’d been unable to secure a posting to the Border Service, let alone an Albacore-Class. Instead, her first assignment was as junior diagnostics officer onboard the Akyazi-Class U.S.S. Artemis, a decent posting by anyone’s standards and she knew the ships technical readout inside and out, but as long as she had breath in her lungs, she would do her damnedest to get a billet onto one of the new cutters.

Ch’Paahr looked at her and then out towards where she was staring. “She’s a beaut, isn’t she” he hissed quietly, dragging her attention away from the latest Albacore.

“You can say that again, Chief,” she admitted.

“I don’t know many rookies who pay such close attention to cutters, sir.”

She gave him a faint smile. “That’s because most don’t know where they will end up, Chief. It may take a couple of years,” she began, looking back out the viewport, “but that’s where I’m headed.”

“Good luck to you.”

Stillwell looked back at the non-com and saw a supportive smile on his face. “Thank you, Chief.”

“Shuttle Cruickshank, this is Utopia Planitia C-and-C. You are cleared for hanger eleven.”

“Acknowledged C-and-C, proceeding to hanger eleven. Cruickshank out,” ch’Paahr confirmed over the comlink. “Would you like to do the honours?”

She gave him a nod and after one last longing look, focused on the controls and aimed the shuttle towards their designated shuttlebay. Their futures awaited, and hers was only just beginning.

* * *

END
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Avatar: Captain Susanna Leijten, U.S.S. Silverfin NCC-4470, Border Service Third Cutter Squadron
Manip by: FltCpt. Bossco (STPMA)
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