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|June 16 2007, 04:13 AM||#16|
Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 3
Here's the next part, I hope everyone enjoys it!
MEET THE LADY Part: 3
“Shields!” The commodore called out, and then addressing his communications officer, he ordered, “Cilla…open hailing frequencies. Let’s see if we can get him to talk…” Before he could finish his sentence, twin green disruptor bolts lanced out from the wing struts of the Klingon cruiser, impacting harmlessly on the Lexington’s shields.
The bridge shaking mildly under the impact of the energy beams as the ship’s shields firmed up, Cilla quipped in a dry voice, “The Klingons have just answered our hail, Sir.”
“I see they have.” Wesley riposted in an equally deadpan tone. “Let’s return the favor.” His voice now crisp and clear, the commodore ordered, “Phasers—fire.”
“Firing phasers!” Ensign Bathory acknowledged with just the slightest hint of excitement as she pressed the firing button on her console. Twin orange beams sliced out from the tiny bubble at the bottom of the saucer, hitting the rear section of the Klingon vessel as it passed under the Lexington.
“Come about to 300 degrees…negative Z-axis…10 minutes of arc.” Wesley commanded. Aliz’s hands flying over the keyboard, the graceful starship pivoted about, its saucer section dipping as the Lexington turned on its attacker. “Prepare to fire phasers on my order…” the commodore instructed as the Klingon ship began its pivot. “Fire!”
Once again, the Lady Lex’s beams launched out, only this time to strike just a glancing blow at the D-7’s forward shields as the Klingon battlecruiser completing its pivot, launched another attack run.
“He’s feinting…” Alexei remarked coolly as the Klingon appeared to repeat his earlier attack.
“Setting us up for a right hook…” Robert agreed with a sly grin as he watched the enemy warship draw closer. “Ms. Bathory…” the commodore remarked as he leaned forward in his chair, “Now we get to see if your reflexes are as good as your record says they are. Be ready…you’ll only have a few seconds…”
“Aye, sir.” The Hungarian ensign replied confidently as the Klingon vessel drawing nearer, suddenly dropped its nose, yawing to the left.
Her fingers pressing down on the controls, Aliz felt as if she were actually pushing the giant starship down as she attempted to counter the Klingon maneuver. The Klingon vessel now beneath the Lexington, the youthful ensign barely heard the commodore’s order to fire. “Firing.” She automatically replied as her finger once again hit the fire button, phaser beams striking the D-7’s top shields as it passed beneath.
“The Klingon’s shields are down twenty percent, sir.” Talana called out from her science station.
The Klingon commander, however, had a few tricks up his sleeve as well, as Wesley soon found out. Turning quickly on his opponent, green disruptor beams once again came from the D-7’s wings, their impact shaking the Lexington violently, knocking crew off their feet and seats and on to the deck.
“What the hell!” Dr. Vincent called out from sickbay as he grasped on to the edge of an examination slab. Seeing a crewman wearing the red of security bringing in a young science branch junior lieutenant, the Lexington’s chief medical officer patted the top of the examination table that had just so recently rescued him. “Put her here.” He directed as he took out his medical tricorder. Running a quick scan of his patient, he flashed an assuring smile as he injected her with a hypospray, “Don’t worry, Ms. You’ve got a mild concussion. This should take care of it, but I still want you to stay here for now.” Turning his attention back to his staff, the doctor growled, “What are you people doing standing around with your thumbs up your asses? Get to your posts—if this keeps up we’re going to have a lot more people coming here soon
“Damage report?” Wesley called out.
“Shields down ten percent.” Cilla replied, “Minor injuries: a couple of concussions, but mostly bumps and bruises reported.”
“That’s good.” Wesley sighed in relief and then remarked to himself, “We’re not getting anywhere going around in circles like this.” Spying the nebula’s tendrils in the main viewer, a sly grin crossed the commodore’s face as he addressed his English navigator, “Mr. Lawford, plot us a course for that nebula.”
“Done, Sir.” Terrence replied as he pressed a button on his console.
“Ms. Bathory…” Robert now instructed, “Take us there...maximum warp”
“Aye, Sir.” The Hungarian officer acknowledged turning the starship towards the gaseous body.
“The Klingon’s pursuing…” Talana reported as the main viewer, now showing a rear aspect under the commodore’s orders, showed the Klingon battlecruiser in pursuit.
“Just as I thought he would...” Wesley replied, the grin still on his face. Addressing his science officer, the commodore inquired, “What readings are you getting from the nebula now?”
Her antennae twitching, reflecting both her excitement and her curiosity, the Andorian science officer replied, “Tachyon emissions have picked up markedly since the battle started.”
“Interesting…” Wesley drawled as Aliz reported that the Lexington was about to enter the nebula. “Reduce speed to one quarter impulse.” The commodore ordered as his eyes tried vainly to make out features within the pink and blue gaseous cloud that now obscured the viewscreen. “What are you getting now, Ms. Zha’Thara?”
“Tachyon emissions have just increased by one hundred and fifty percent.” The Andorian replied, her voice betraying her astonishment at the rapidly increasing readings.
“Ten thousand kilometers.” Lieutenant Lawford interjected, “The Klingon has also entered the nebula.
“Pivot…Now!” Wesley ordered his helmsman, the tiny woman piloting the ship once again willing the giant vessel to turn as she operated the controls on her console. As the Lexington spun around, Robert’s sharp eyes picked out his target, its silhouette barely visible in the clouds. “Fire!”
As Aliz’s finger pressed the firing button, the Lexington’s bridge lighting suddenly dimmed once…twice…and then went out completely.
“Emergency power…” The commodore ordered. The ship’s lighting flickering back to life, Talana’s voice rang out, this time, this time, her voice one of alarm. “Tachyon emissions two hundred…strike…three hundred…” The bridge now bathed in brilliant, blinding white light, officers and crew slumped down into unconsciousness as both the Lexington and the Klingon vessel facing it were both englobed within that dazzling light for just a fraction of a second. And then, as suddenly as it appeared, the light vanished.
The steady beeping from Talana’s scanner providing the only noise on the bridge, Commander Kuznetsov struggled to consciousness. Staggering out of his chair, he helped up the yeoman, who had fallen to the deck. Nodding his head at her muttered thanks, the first officer, taking visual stock of his personnel on the bridge, noticed immediately that two people were missing. Activating the ship’s intercom, Kuznetsov called out, “Commodore Wesley…Ensign Bathory…respond immediately.” After several moments of no response, the commander repeated his request, once again receiving no answer. Addressing Cilla Oudekirk, Alexei ordered, “I want an immediate count of ship’s personnel. I want to know how many people are missing and who.”
“Aye, Sir.” The blonde communications officer responded as the bridge lights flickered back on again.
“Mr. Lawford…” The commander called out, “What’s our current position?”
“Still within the nebula, Sir.” The English navigator replied, “But we’re drifting…”
“Correct for drift.” The Bear ordered as he stared into the main viewer. “What’s our Klingon friend doing?”
“Drifting as we are, Sir.” The English lieutenant answered back as an ensign rushed to the empty helmsman’s chair. “Our weapons and shields are still offline though,” He added ruefully.
“But so are the Klingons.” Talana added with a note of relief.
“I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere fighting our way out of this anyway.” Alexei mused as his thoughts were disrupted by Lieutenant Oudekirk’s voice.
“Sir…we have a count on those missing.” She reported, “We have a total number of five missing: The commodore and Ensign Bathory, Ensign Whatley, Crewman Reynolds, and Crewman Malik.
“Thank you, Lieutenant.” The first officer acknowledged as he cupped his chin. Turning towards his science officer, Alexei asked, “Ms. Zha’Thara? What do you make of what just happened to us? What was that light? And what do you have any ideas as to what might have happened to our people?”
“I’m not sure, Sir.” The Andorian replied apologetically, “But if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say it’d have to do with that massive tachyon buildup my scanners picked up before the lights went out.”
“Make that your top priority…” The Bear growled, “I want answers.” Turning toward Cilla, the burly Russian ordered, “Try the Klingons again—maybe this time they’ll be willing to talk.”
“Aye, Sir.” The Dutch communications officer replied as she replaced her earpiece which had slipped from her ear. “Hailing frequencies open…they’re responding.”
“Good.” Kuznetsov acknowledged. “Main viewer.”
The image of the cloudy nebula faded away to be replaced by an image, fuzzy at first, that gradually resolved itself into the form of a Klingon male, his swarthy skin, jet black hair, neatly trimmed goatee and smooth forehead marking him as one of those Klingons with human augment DNA.
This is both good and bad…Kuznetsov thought as he gazed intently at his opposite number, The good news is that augments aren’t physically as strong and react a bit more like humans than ridgies. The bad news, however, is that augments do act more like humans—on the whole they’re much more cunning and patient. Taking a deep breath, Alexei spoke, “This is Commander Alexei Kuznetsov, temporarily in command of the Federation Starship Lexington…”
“I am Commander Kalas, first officer of the IKS K’Mar.” The Klingon declared, baring his teeth in anger as he cut the Russian first officer off in mid-sentence. “You have committed acts of war against the Klingon Empire. You have attacked our shipping and have kidnapped our captain and several members of our crew! I demand that you release them immediately.”
“For a Klingon…” Alexei responded, laughing as he simultaneously matched his Klingon counterpart glare for glare, “…you have an almost Russian sense of humor!” His laughter vanishing, Kuznetsov went on the offensive, “It is you that have committed acts of war against the Federation. You have attacked our scoutship, attacked this vessel without provocation, and have kidnapped our captain and crew.”
“I know nothing about your captain!” The Klingon retorted, “And it is you who are the aggressors, while we have acted in self defense! You destroyed one of our patrol vessels in our space—we retaliated.”
Interesting…Alexei thought as he digested that little piece of news from the Klingon first officer. Taking a conciliatory posture, Kuznetsov replied, “Commander…perhaps neither one of us is at fault here…” Disregarding the derisive snort from his counterpart, the Bear continued to make his case. “Think about it…both of us losing ships in this same region…don’t you think it’s possible that there might be something else going on here? This is neutral space…” Alexei began only to be cut off once again by the angry Klingon.
“This space clearly belongs to the Klingon Empire!” Kalas declared with a smug grin.
“And you are a lying sardelka!” Kuznetsov swore in an act of calculated bluster as Cilla barely repressed a snicker at the insult that had just been delivered to the Klingon. “You and I both know that this is unclaimed space.” Then, just as suddenly as he exploded, the Bear resumed his earlier peace-making pose, “But…why don’t we let the diplomats figure that out. Right now, we’re both missing our captains and crewmembers and there’s a high probability that whoever did it is still out there. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to work together to get our people back?”
Pausing for a moment, the Klingon appeared deep in thought, “I do not trust you, Earther…but…at the same time…what you say is plausible.” Kuznetsov then saw the Klingon officer turn his head to speak to one of his subordinates. After several moments of conversation, the swarthy Klingon faced the screen once again, speaking in a guarded tone, “So, what do you propose?”
“For now…” The Bear proffered, “A truce…” Seeing the skeptical look on the Klingon’s face, the Russian quickly added, “A temporary truce. Only until we find out what’s going on and our captains and crews have been recovered. After that…it will depend on what they wish to do.”
“Agreed.” The Klingon replied, “We have a truce…for now. But be warned, I will be on guard for Starfleet treachery.”
“And I’ll have my eye on you, Commander,” Kuznetsov answered back as he gestured to Cilla to cut off communications.
As the screen went blank, the Dutch communications officer asked, “Do you think he’ll try something, Commander?”
“Da…” Alexei replied in a grim voice, “I’m sure of it.” Turning towards Talana, the Russian first officer ordered, “Get to work on those tachyon emissions. I don’t want our temporary friends out there to get the jump on us.” Nodding his head at Talana’s prompt acknowledgment of his orders, Alexei watched as she exited the bridge. Turning once again to Cilla, the first officer commanded, “Take us to Yellow Alert, Ms. Oudekirk.”
“Aye, Sir.” The tall blonde responded as the internal lighting changed from red to normal; the alert light shifting now from the brightly flashing red indicating General Quarters to a flashing amber color. “Yellow Alert, Sir.”
Nodding his head in satisfaction, Alexei pressed the intercom button on the arm of the center chair in which he sat. “Lieutenant Mtolo?”
“Aye, Sir?” The obsidian-skinned security chief responded from his post in Security.
“We have a temporary truce with the Klingons…” Alexei advised, “…but I want you and your people to stay on guard. I don’t trust those xuebratija Klinks as far as I can throw them.”
“Right, Commander.” The Zulu lieutenant promptly responded flashing a toothy grin. “If they try anything, we’ll be ready.”
Terminating the connection, Alexei cupped his chin thoughtfully, What did happen to the Commodore? The burly Russian pondered as he stared at the main viewer, And how do I get him and the others back?
“Where are we?” Ensign Whatley asked as her eyes scanned the clearing that she, Commodore Wesley, her roommate, Ensign Bathory, and two other Lexington crewmen, both wearing the red shirts of the Support branch had suddenly found themselves in. “I was at my duty station when all of a sudden…”
“I was on the bridge…” Aliz began, only to be interrupted by the commodore.
“I remember Lieutenant Commander Zha'Thara reporting a massive buildup of tachyon emissions coming from the center of the nebula…”
“And then everything went blank…” Aliz finished.
“So…how did we get here?” One of the security crewmen, an attractive younger human with sandy blond hair asked.
“That’s a good question…” The commodore replied, taking immediate and decisive control over the situation, “…and one that we’re going to have to address, but for right now, we need to know what we’re dealing with here.” Turning towards the olive skinned science officer standing next to his helmsman, Robert inquired, “Ensign…”
“Whatley.” Jennifer promptly responded, coming to attention, “Ensign Jennifer Whatley, Sir.”
“Stand at ease, Ensign.” Robert replied, giving his subordinate an avuncular grin. “This isn’t a parade ground.” Coming over to the recent Academy graduate, the commodore asked, “What’s your specialty, Ensign Whatley?”
“Life Sciences, Sir.” Jennifer answered back, “Xeno-biology.”
“Excellent!” Wesley exclaimed encouragingly, “Just the person we need in a spot like this. So Ensign…” Robert inquired, “What do you make of this environment.”
“Well, Sir…” Jennifer began hesitatingly, “I don’t have my tricorder…”
“You don’t need any scanning instruments to give me a general layout…” Robert interjected, now taking on the role of an instructor, “What does your knowledge and your senses tell you?”
“Well, Sir…” The science specialist began, “I’d say from the vegetation that we’re dealing with what would be the Earth equivalent of a late Cretaceous-early Paleocene environment. A lot of the trees I’m seeing here…” She remarked, pointing at a nearby tree, “…are angiosperms. If we were dealing with an earlier epoch, we’d be seeing a lot more ferns and cycads.”
“What about animal life?” Aliz asked as the security guards automatically assumed a defensive posture, their eyes continually scanning the perimeter, as well as the sky for any possible signs of movement.
“Depends…” Jennifer replied, “If you’re asking whether there are any dinosaurs or not…I don’t think so. For one thing…” She chuckled, “…if there were, we probably would have either seen one by now or seen some evidence of one. The larger ones aren’t exactly inconspicuous, you know.”
“Point taken.” Robert laughed, joining in the momentary good humor. “So…what might we see?”
“Well…I’m not sure…” The youthful ensign responded, “Just because it looks like a late Cretaceous-early Paleocene environment here, doesn’t mean that life will evolve in a similar manner as it did on Earth.” Pausing for a moment to take a breath, Jennifer continued, “For instance, this planet probably didn’t have to deal with the K-T extinction event that marked the end of the Cretaceous on Earth…” However, before she could continue, she was interrupted by Commodore Wesley’s urgent orders as a large shadow of a winged creature appeared on the ground.
“Cover! Now!” The commodore yelled as he waved his crew to nearby tree line. Running alongside her roommate, Jennifer heard a high pitched whine growing louder and louder and then the beating of wings and a scream as a gust of wind knocked her off her feet. Looking up, she saw the blond security guard snatched up into the air by the talons of a large creature that looked, to the frightened young woman’s eyes, to be a cross between a bird and a reptile. Clutching tightly to its prey, the blue scaled predator let out a loud call as it winged its way skyward, its opened mouth revealing row after row of sharp white teeth. Feeling something moist falling on her hair, Jennifer touched it. As she brought her fingers to her face, the young ensign immediately recognized the crimson fluid that was now beginning to spot her formerly immaculate blue dress. Waves of nausea growing within her, Jennifer, bending over, gagged as she disgorged the contents of her last meal on the ground as Aliz knelt beside her, her eyes watching the skies as she stayed with her friend.
Turning about as soon as he heard the scream from his crewman, Robert, grabbing the tiny phaser one from his belt, pushed the firing button, but to no avail as nothing happened. Cursing, the commodore saw Jennifer, crying, bent over heaving, Ensign Bathory by her side. Keeping a constant watch on the sky, Wesley made his way to the distraught officer and her companion, kneeling on the opposite side of the heaving woman. “I know you’re scared Ensign…” The commodore said sympathetically, “But we need to get moving. That thing—or one of its friends—might come back.” Seeing that the dark haired ensign had finished her heaving, Robert helped her to her feet. “Let’s go, Jennifer…” He encouraged, deliberately using Whatley’s first name as he, along with Aliz, urged the terrified young woman to safety, staying by her side every step of the way until they had reached the safety of the forest.
Turning Jennifer over to her roommate, Wesley spoke to Aliz in a low voice, “See to Ensign Whatley. I have a feeling we’re going to need her knowledge and expertise if we’re going to get back home ok.” Hearing the Hungarian helmsman’s whispered acknowledgment, Robert turned his attention to the sole remaining security officer, standing watch at the tree line. “Crewman…”
“Malik.” The swarthy skinned enlisted rating answered promptly, “Crewman Nassir Malik, Sir.”
“All right, Crewman Malik,” Wesley directed as his eyes took in the tree branches and scattered small rocks lying on the ground. “Since our phasers don’t seem to work here, we’re going to have to improvise.” Picking up a sturdy wooden stick approximately his height and a sharp edged stone, Robert grinned, “We should be able to make ourselves some makeshift spears out of these.”
“Aye, Sir.” The Moroccan crewman quickly acknowledged with a toothy grin. His smile vanishing, the security specialist pointed towards the setting sun. “Sir? We should also probably see about building a fire—in case we’ve got nocturnal predators too.”
“Good idea.” The commodore affirmed. Turning his attention to his helmsman who had just wiped the spattered blood off her roommate’s face, Wesley asked, “How’s your friend doing?”
“I’ll be ok, Sir.” Jennifer responded in a low voice, answering in the place of Aliz. “I was just…”
“It’s all right, Ensign.” Bob replied in a fatherly tone as he put his hand on the science officer’s shoulder. Kneeling down in front of the olive skinned biologist, Wesley advised, “I know this isn’t probably how you pictured your first away mission to be like, Jennifer, but we’re all going to have to rely on each other if we’re going to survive. It’s ok to feel fear—I’d worry about you if you didn’t.” He said, eliciting a shaky grin from the young woman, “But you don’t want to let that fear take you over.” His voice now taking on a more soothing tone, Robert concluded, “You’ll get through this just fine if you remember your training and stay on your toes—right?”
“Right, Sir.” Jennifer replied, managing a shaky grin. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it!” The commodore exclaimed as he stood back up, a glint of sunlight reflected off of something in the distance suddenly catching his attention.
“Sir? What is it?” Fighting down the fear growing within the pit of her stomach, Aliz repeated her question, “What did you see?”
Barely making out the form of a metallic spire rising towards the cerulean sky, a grin slowly appeared on the commodore’s face. “Well, Ensign…” He said as he pointed towards the spire, “If we’re lucky, we might be able to get some answers to our questions over there.” Quickly deciding on a course of action, Wesley issued his orders, “First thing we do—we build a fire. Then…we see to weapons and finding something to eat. Lastly, we set up a watch schedule and get some sleep—we’re going to have a long day tomorrow.”
“Gitan was overconfident.” A tall, lithe augment-descended Klingon warrior wearing an honor sash declared as he speared a piece of cooked meat on the point of his d’k tahq. “And he was too slow.” The Klingon added as he admonished the three warriors gathered around the fire. “So…” He said as he chewed the piece of meat taken from the slain avian creature roasting above the fire, “…instead of bringing back prey, he became prey.” Flashing a toothy grin, the captain concluded his lecture, “Let that be a lesson to you all. Never underestimate your opponent.”
“Hunh…” One of the Klingons grunted, “Gitan’s ambition always did exceed his wisdom.”
“True…” Another Klingon agreed, nodding his head as he speared a piece of meat, “But he died in battle, right Captain K’Tan?”
“Correct, M’Kal.” The Klingon captain replied, “He died as a Klingon.”
Looking up from his meal, the third Klingon warrior, this one younger than the others, inquired of his commanding officer, “Captain K’Tan? How was the Federation starship able to transport us to this place?”
“I don’t know, K’Temoc,” The captain answered truthfully, “But I intend to find out.”
“So…” The first Klingon asked after letting out a satisfying belch, “How do we start?”
Spying the metallic spire lit up by the setting sun, now a deep red as it sank on the horizon, the captain replied smiling as he pointed with his knife at the spire, “See that, D’Kell? I will start there.” Turning towards his men, K’Tan commanded, “Eat your fill. M’Kal, you have the first watch…then K’Temoc followed by D'Kell. I will stand the last watch. Sleep well tonight—you will need your strength for tomorrow.”
“What are your intentions Commander?” The Klingon third officer asked from his station at the weapons console. “Do you truly intend to cooperate with that Federation Pet’aQ?”
“Of course not, D’Kor!” Kalas replied laughing. “It was merely a ruse intended to put him off guard. I have a plan…” The K’Mar’s first officer grinned, “But…” he cautioned, “…it will require patience. Pick twenty of our best warriors…men trained in combat in zero gravity.”
Nodding his head once in acknowledgment, D’Kor immediately responded, “I will see to it at once.”
As his third officer departed the bridge, Kalas gazed into the viewscreen trying to make out the faint outlines of the Federation starship amongst the whirls and vortices of the nebula, “Soon…my arrogant friend…” Kalas muttered softly, “...soon we will meet. And when we do…I will look forward to personally introducing you to our mind-scanner.”
|June 16 2007, 10:36 AM||#17|
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 3
I like writing in my post-NEM timeline, because I think that getting back to exploration after a long period of war and strife is not an easy thing to do, especially when some of the officers have known nothing but war for their entire careers. I don't think I have the necessary attention to detail for the TOS era to write same, but I really enjoy reading it.
Keep it coming.
|June 16 2007, 02:10 PM||#18|
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 3
I'm glad you're enjoying the story. I am finding the TOS era a fun change of pace to my usual TNG era writing.
|June 16 2007, 05:04 PM||#19|
Location: The void between my ears
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 3
Commodore Wesley displayed his experience and command demeanor in the way he encouraged his fellow officers and crew on the planet. He helped them to function in spite of their fears and exuded confidence - exactly the traits one would imagine from a star ship commander.
Of course, when you mentioned the redshirts as part of the cadre on the planet, my first thought was, "Someone's gonna die!"
I'm looking forward to the next installment! :thumbsup:
"You are beginning to damage my calm." - Jayne Cobb
|June 17 2007, 12:19 AM||#20|
Location: US Pacific Northwest
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 3
I like Wesley’s command style. Nowhere near as brash as Kirk, with more of a paternalistic flavor. This guy’s been there, done that, and is in possession of all the T-shirts (all your T-shirt are belong to us! ). It remains to be seen who or what is behind the abductions, and at present we’ve got armed Klingons on the planet pitted against our stalwart yet unarmed Starfleeters.
Welcome to Thunderdome!
|June 17 2007, 10:46 PM||#21|
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 3
I've missed that and it is that classic Star Trek feel that I was hoping for.
AND we've got Klingons!! Real, Klingons who are already planning to rip Lexington into tiny little shreds.
Lots to look forward to.
Visit StarEagleAdventures.com for original fan-fiction e-books for your preferred e-reader.
Now with a complete United Trek story archive.
|June 18 2007, 05:26 AM||#22|
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 3
CeJay: Thanks, I've been hoping to catch that ol' TOS feel here, I'll try to keep it going.
Gibraltar: Wesley is very much a father type here, unlike Kirk, Bob also isn't the sort who chases the yeoman of the week either. Liz must get her wild side from her grandmother...
TLR: I'm finding Kuznetsov to be fun to write--he's very much the anti-Chekov in a way--also, he most definitely has a very filthy mouth! And of course, you have to bring along a few redshirts to show how the monster(s) work
|July 3 2007, 11:36 PM||#23|
Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 4
Turning his head towards the young ensign, Commodore Wesley replied, dispelling his earlier dark mood through sheer force of will, “It might be beautiful, but it also tells me something else…”
“That we’re not anywhere near the nebula.” Aliz finished as she handed the commodore a hollowed out gourd containing water. “It’s ok—it’s from that stream to the north…we boiled it so any germs should have been killed.”
“Not like we have much choice in the matter,” Robert quipped, patting the ground near where he sat. “Have a seat, Ensign.”
“Thank you, Sir.” The petite Hungarian smiled as she sat down opposite the commodore, his light from the nearby fire giving the pugilist’s craggy features a warm quality that gave him a certain rugged handsomeness the youthful ensign thought. Taking a deep breath as she tried to dispel that particular thought regarding her superior officer from her mind, Aliz asked, stammering slightly, “So…what do we do if we don’t find a way back?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Ensign.” Wesley replied in a confident tone as he smiled warmly at the younger woman, “It’s a little early to give up hope now, Aliz—we’ve just got started.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Aliz responded; flashing a smile of her own as, taking the gourd from the commodore’s hands, she took a sip of the cool water. Looking up at the stars, the auburn haired helmsman asked, “I wonder where we are…I can’t place any of the constellations…”
“I don’t think we’re too far off from where we started.” Bob replied as he pointed at a faint smudge near the zenith. “See that?” As Aliz nodded her head, Robert continued, “Five’ll get you ten that’s our nebula.”
Shaking her head, the Hungarian ensign asked, “How can you be so sure, Sir?”
Laughing gently, the commodore responded, “I can’t. But it’s just as likely to be our nebula than not and I’d rather be working towards a goal rather than just slogging along.” His face now taking on a serious look, the former Academy boxing champ counseled, “Never underestimate the power of hope, Ensign. It can keep you—and your people—going when you’ve got nothing else.”
“Yes, Sir. I’ll remember that.” The young officer replied in a soft voice as she stood up. “Ummm…Sir…” The young ensign stammered, “Don’t you think you should get some sleep now?”
“Yeah.” The older officer smiled as he leaned back against the tree, “I’ll just go ahead and sleep here—it’s a pretty nice spot.
“Good night, Sir.” Aliz said softly as she turned away, her eyes involuntarily drifting to the figure of the commodore in repose before she forced herself to walk away. Easy, Aliz. The Hungarian woman thought as she made her way back to the fire. Not only is he your superior officer, he’s a good twenty years older than you are and he’s married with a child. Reaching the fire, she took a quick drink of water. Closing her eyes, the petite ensign fingered her medallion before drifting off to sleep, the last image in her mind that of the commodore resting peacefully underneath the tree.
“All right, everyone! Up and at ‘em!” Commodore Wesley called out as he roused his fellow castaways. “Here you go.” He grinned, handing Ensign Watley a gourd filled with water. “Have a drink, Jennifer…then go get some breakfast. We’ve got plenty of berries and the snares we set out nabbed us some small game.” Laughing, the commodore, after he was sure that the youthful ensign had fully awakened, went from crew member to crew member, repeating his performance.
“You’re certainly in a good mood this morning.” Aliz grumbled as she cleared the sleep from her eyes.
“Remember what I said last night, Aliz…” Robert grinned as he handed the young Hungarian helmsman a piece of meat skewered on a stick, “Never underestimate the power of hope.”
“Yes, Sir.” Ensign Bathory replied as she fingered the medallion hanging around her neck. Her mouth watering at the taste of the meat, Aliz asked, “What is it?”
“What does it matter?” Wesley quipped with a shrug, “It’s edible and it’ll keep us alive—and that’s what’s most important.” Grinning, he handed the young officer a water gourd, “Now drink up and get ready…we’ve got a good day’s march ahead of us.”
Swigging the water from the gourd, Aliz smiled back, “Aye, Sir.” Walking over to where her roommate sat picking at red and black berries, Aliz asked, her voice edged with concern as she noticed the dry blood on her friend’s sky blue mini-dress, “How’re you holding up, Jennifer?”
“Better.” The dark haired exobiologist replied, managing a shaky grin. “It all happened so…”
“I know.” Aliz responded sympathetically as she took one of the black berries, popping it into her mouth. ‘Not bad.” She remarked as she took another.
“You should try the red ones.” Jennifer said as she took a bite of the meat. “They’re just a little tart—but not too bad.
“Hmmm…” Aliz vocalized as she tried one of the red berries, making a face as she bit into the berry. “A little too tart for me. I think I’ll stick to the black ones.”
“Sirs?” Crewman Malik interjected, coughing discreetly. Seeing that he had the two junior officers’ attention, the security rating handed each of them two sticks with points and another stick, this one crudely notched. “Spears…and an atlatl.” He said, explaining, “After sharpening the points, I put them in the fire for a while—that hardens them. These…” He instructed, holing out his atlatl, “Will give you a bit more range and power. You put the end of the spear here…” He coached, “…and throw it like this…” The Moroccan demonstrated, launching his spear smoothly towards its target, a nearby tree. “Now…” he smiled, “You give it a try.”
Both women, imitating the security specialist’s actions, after several fumbling attempts, finally succeeded in launching their spears, Ensign Watley’s attempt falling far short of the mark; while her roommate, Ensign Bathory, using her gymnastics training, enjoyed a bit more success, almost reaching the tree.
“Not bad, ladies!” Commodore Wesley praised, clapping his hands. “Take some more time to practice while I break camp. I expect both of you to be able to hit that tree by the time I’m done.” His voice taking on a more serious tone, the commodore explained, “I don’t expect either one of you to become experts, but you do need to know how to use these. Your life…or the lives of those around you…might very well depend on you striking your mark on the first attempt.”
“Aye, Sir!” Both officers promptly acknowledged as they each reloaded their atlatls with fresh spears, repeating the exercise again and again until finally, several attempts later, both officers struck the tree trunk, Aliz’s spear actually penetrating the bark.
“Good job, Sirs!” Crewman Malik praised as the commodore approached.
“Better…” Wesley chimed in, nodding his head approvingly. “We should be ready now. Go and pick up your spears…” He ordered as he handed each of his people two empty gourds. “First stop is the stream to fill these up. And then we make our way for that structure—whatever it is—and see if we can get some answers.”
Far behind the rest of his companions cutting their way through the thick underbrush, K’Temoc, in his position of rear guard moved slowly, carefully following the path blazed by his compatriots. Hearing the sound of a twig snapping ahead of him, the young Klingon warrior, his black beard freshly grown, paused for a moment. Engaging all his senses, he sniffed the air while his eyes scanned the forest, missing nothing as his ears picked up on the slightest sound. Hearing the faint snapping of another twig, the youthful hunter smirked as he picked up a scent. Hefting his d’k tahq in his hand, K’Temoc hunted.
Further up the trail, K’Tan, the captain of the battlecruiser, K’Mar, heard the snapping of a twig as well. Flashing a feral grin, the Klingon warrior motioned with his hand, his men fanning out on either side of him as K’Tan turned about, dodging just in time the swipe from sharp claws. His eyes seeing a bipedal creature approximately the size of a fully grown Klingon with a long, narrow neck, feathered crest and blue-green scales, its open mouth revealing rows of sharp teeth and fangs, the Klingon warrior smiled, his own feral grin nearly matching that of the creature.
Lunging as he dodged, K’Tan’s knife struck into flesh, the resulting howl of pain bringing a triumphant, “Maj!” from the captain as he withdrew his knife. Their captain having drawn first blood, as was his right, M’Kal and D’Kell leaped from their flanking positions, their knives punching through the creature’s sharp hide as its claws swiped again, this time raking D’Kell’s chest, cutting through the armored mesh of his shirt into flesh.
Hearing the sounds of battle as he drew closer, the youthful warrior, resisting the calling of his blood to leap into the fight, spotted a movement in the woods, circling around the struggle. Smirking triumphantly, K’Temoc stalked the stalker as it crept around the three Klingons battling its mate.
Howling his rage, D’Kell forced the pain out of his mind as his knife struck again, slashing into the scales of the monster under one of its armpits, twisting his knife, the burly Klingon barely dodged the sharp teeth of the creature as his companions struck again and again with their knives until finally, after making one last swipe of its claws at its tormentors, the creature died.
“Yaj!” K’Tarn called out, soon to be joined by M’Kal and the injured D’Kell, “Yaj!”
Creeping up, K’Temoc hearing his captain’s jubilant victory cry as well as the death howl the creature he had slain, watched as the predator he had been stalking, having witnessed its mate being killed, tensed its muscles to lunge at the back of the Klingon captain who was at that moment celebrating his triumph. K’Temoc, striking before the dead creature’s mate could pounce, struck, his knife piercing the back of the animal’s neck. Leaving his d’k tahq embedded within the creature, the young Klingon grappled its neck just below the head with both his hands. Planting his feet firmly on the ground, K’Temoc jerked on the reptile’s neck, sending it flying back towards a large tree.
Roaring its anger as it impacted on the tree, the reptilian creature staggered to its feet as K’Temoc, taking advantage of the animal’s stunned condition, leaped on it, forcing it to the ground. Taking his knife out of his prey’s neck, the young Klingon struck again, this time burying his knife through the lower jaw of the creature, piercing all the way through into the mouth. As the animal tried to close its mouth, it howled in pain as its upper jaw closed on the blade protruding from its lower jaw.
Hearing the sound of the battle behind them, K’Tan and the other warriors turned to watch as K’Temoc, withdrawing his knife, struck again, this time driving the blade into the creature’s braincase, killing it as its body twitched one last time.
“MajQa’!” K’Tan cried out, a broad grin on his face as he approached the young warrior. Taking a badge from his honor sash, the Klingon captain stood before the youth. “You are no longer a mere soldier…” The captain proclaimed as the young man before him smiled triumphantly. Pinning the badge on to the young warrior’s chest, K’Tan announced, “You are now ‘utlh…an officer. Wear this on your honor sash when we return to the K’Mar!” Taking a step back, the captain grasped the younger Klingon’s shoulders with his hands, “Qapla!”
“Do you have news, Ms. Zha’Thara?” Commander Alexei Kuznetsov asked, swiveling his seat around as the Lexington’s Andorian science officer strode on to the bridge.
Her antennae bending towards the burly Russian, Talana smirked, “Am I good or what?”
“I take it you have something for me then, Lieutenant Commander?” Alexei somewhat impatiently responded, “Do please…” He added, a faint note of sarcasm in his voice, “…enlighten us?”
“You’re no fun, Alexei…” The Andorian woman riposted with a half grin. Her smile fading as she took her station, Talana, activating the main viewer, made her report. “I was right about our answer lying in that massive tachyon surge that took place before the commodore and the others disappeared. Essentially, what happened was that the Lexington and the Klingons were enveloped in a spatial displacement field…” She said, the viewscreen displaying a schematic of the two ships being first surrounded by the field and then disappearing into the opaque field.
“I don’t understand…” Alexei replied, his voice reflecting his confusion, “…the field is gone, but we’re still here.”
“We’re here…now!” Talana corrected, “But…for a brief period of time…mere microseconds in fact, we weren’t. We were…for lack of a better way of putting it…out of phase.”
“Out of phase?” The Bear repeated, “What do you mean, Lieutenant Commander?”
“I’m not sure yet, Sir.” Talana replied truthfully, her voice filled with awe at the technology of whoever possessed the capability to accomplish this task, “I just don’t have enough to go on.”
“I thought you had good news, Ms. Zha’Thara…” Alexei remarked sourly.
“I do, Sir.” The Andorian smiled back. “While I can’t tell you exactly where we went or how it was done, I can tell you that whoever did this left us a trail to follow.”
“The tachyon emissions?” Kuznetsov ventured, his lips now turning up into a smile.
“The tachyon emissions.” Talana reiterated, her initial smile fading, “But we don’t have much time to act before the tachyons dissipate and the trail disappears.”
“What do we need to do?” Alexei quickly asked as he leaned forward in the chair.
“We can’t do this alone…” The science officer replied, “For this to work…we’re going to need the Klingons' help.”
Sighing deeply, The Russian first officer answered back in a dubious tone, “Are you sure there’s no choice?
“For this to work…” Talana explained, “…we need two ships. The power requirements are just too great for one ship alone to pull it off. The Klingons will have to reconfigure their disruptor arrays to emit steady neutrino streams that will ‘paint’ the tachyons while we will have to reconfigure our scanners to read them.”
“I see.” The Bear replied, cupping his chin, “How extensive will the sensor reconfigurations have to be?”
“Very.” The Andorian science officer answered back, her antennae drooping slightly, “It’ll leave us completely blinded to everything but the tachyon emissions.”
“Leaving us in the same situation as a horse with blinders on.” The Bear concluded grimly. “Meaning we won’t be able to pick up on any possible moves the Klingons might make.”
Nodding her head, the science officer answered back, “Right. But at the same time…” She smirked, “It’ll leave the Klingons without their disruptors.” Frowning, Talana cautioned, “Alexei…if we’re going to follow the trail, we have to move quickly and both ships will need to put all their resources into it.”
“Mmmmm…” Alexei murmured as he considered the situation, “There might be a way for us to follow the trail and ensure that the Klingons can’t blindside us.” Activating the intercom, the first officer spoke, “Lieutenant Commander G’arv and Lieutenant Mtolo report to the bridge at once.”
Her lips turning up into a sly grin as her antennae once again bent towards the burly Russian, Talana quipped, “You look like you’ve got something up your sleeve, Alexei?”
“Da, Ms. Zha’Thara, I do” The Bear replied, “It’s an old Russian saying…”
“So…” Talana teased, “Which one is it this time?”
Smirking, Alexei quoted, “Trust in God but lock your doors.”
Taking point, Commodore Wesley cut carefully through the brush, the rest of his group following close behind, the calls of the different animals creating a symphony that kept the Starfleet party constantly on its toes. One call, however, soon came to dominate the others. A high pitched call, it sounded for several seconds before ceasing, only to pick up again several seconds later at a slightly different pitch. Several seconds later, the call sounded yet again. Ensign Jennifer Watley raised her hand as she spoke out in a carefully modulated tone. “Stop. Wait a moment.”
“What is it, Ensign?” The commodore asked as he came to an immediate halt, crouching low.
“I’m not sure, Sir.” The olive skinned xenobiologist replied, “But those might be calls from a hunting pack.”
“Would they be stalking us?” Aliz asked with a worried expression.
“Not necessarily.” Watley replied. “They could be going after other prey, or it could be mating calls, or…”
“So, we’re not really sure of what we’re dealing with.” Robert finished, “Still…we don’t want to take chances.” Hefting his makeshift spear in hand, the commodore cautioned, “Stay alert.”
“Are we actually going to go along with this dogh scheme?” D’Kor asked as he gazed into the eyes of his acting commanding officer, the first officer of the K’Mar.
“Is that a challenge, D’Kor?” Kalas growled menacingly as his hand went to the d’k tahq at his waist.
“No, Sir.” The second officer quickly replied, shaking his head vigorously. “I was merely curious.”
Relaxing visibly now that his dominance had been acknowledged, a broad smile appeared on the first officer’s face, “Don’t worry, D’Kor. I know why you are concerned—that the Federation starship will attack us once our disruptors have been taken off line.” Seeing his subordinate nodding his head, Kalas’ broad smile became an evil grin as he explained his plan, “Remember, old friend, that they must recalibrate all of their sensors in order to pick up the emissions given off when the tachyons are bombarded by the neutrinos fired by our retuned disruptors. That means they will be totally blind…” Gazing intently into the eyes of his subordinate, the Klingon acting captain inquired, “Have you gathered the twenty warriors I told you to?”
With a single nod of his head, D’Kor promptly responded, “Yes, Sir. All well versed in zero gravity combat.”
“Excellent.” Kalas grinned. “When I give the order, those men, with you as their leader, will take a shuttle. Using just maneuvering thrusters you will draw close enough to the saucer section of the Lexington to where you can exit the shuttle, walk on the Federation starship itself, and cut your way directly into their bridge.”
Smiling broadly at the chance for glory that he had just been given, D’Kor exclaimed in a loud, enthusiastic voice, “It will be a glorious battle.”
As the high pitched calls grew louder and more insistent, nerves began to fray amongst the tiny party. “Where the hell are they?” Malik grumbled; his spear at the ready. “I wish they’d do something!”
“Easy, Crewman…” Wesley counseled as he motioned for the group to halt. Pointing, he whispered, “Clearing ahead. Ensign Watley?” Gesturing with his hand for the young xenobiologist to come forward, the commodore, once again taking on the role of instructor, inquired as the calls picked up even louder in volume. “Assuming you’re one of the pack that’s stalking us, what would you do here?”
“That clearing would be where I’d make the ambush.” Jennifer promptly responded. “The pack will try to cut one of us out. While some of the pack would drive the rest of us apart from their target, the others would try to bring their victim down.”
“Very good, Ensign.” Wesley praised, smiling approvingly as he continued to test his new officer. “Now…we have to cross that clearing to get to where we have to go. How would you recommend we do that?”
“We don’t have much time, Sir…” Watley pondered, carefully considering her answer, “From the sound of those calls, I’d say they’re getting ready to…” Before she could finish her sentence, a shout of alarm followed very quickly by a yelp of pain came from behind her as Crewman Malik threw his makeshift spear at one of the predators, a wolf sized cross between a bird and reptile with a dark blue crest on its head and sharp fangs lining the jaw of its beak. Screaming in pain as the first creature’s mate tore a gash into Malik’s leg with its fangs, the Moroccan struck down with his second spear, its point breaking off inside the body of the animal.
“Break for the clearing!” Wesley ordered, “And whatever you do…stay together! Don’t let those things separate us!” Stepping out into the clearing first, the commodore shepherded his people out into the open, Aliz supporting the injured Malik as the friends of the creatures that had attacked them earlier struck from both sides.
“They’re going for Malik!” Jennifer yelled as she launched her spear at one of the pack members, missing it.
“Stay together!” Robert cried out as the group ran, stumbling for the other side. Watching with alarm as Malik began to fall behind, the commodore and Aliz launched their spears, both striking one of the animals which, at that moment, was lunging towards the security trooper. Bringing the snarling animal down with his spear, Wesley gestured wildly with his free hand, calling out to the women, “Go! Make for the tree line! I’ll get Malik.”
“Hurry, Sir!” Jennifer called out as she and Aliz threw fresh spears at the howling pack which was trying to separate out the humans into two groups, “We’ll try to draw them off!”
Grabbing the injured Malik by one arm, Wesley and the security trooper staggered towards the others, lunging at the growling pack while at the same time trying to avoid their slashing teeth. Wincing in pain as one of the creatures slashed at his leg, scratching the skin as it tore through cloth, Robert lunged down yet again with his spear; piercing flesh as the pair finally reached the tree line. Driving the remaining members of the pack back with the last of their spears, the commodore sighed in relief. “Good work, everyone.” He praised as he made his way to Crewman Malik. Examining the security trooper’s wounds, Robert took one of the gourds containing fresh water. Pouring water over the wound, the commodore cleaned it as Jennifer ripped the collar off her minidress.
“Here, Sir.” The ensign said as she handed the dark material to Wesley who then used it as a makeshift bandage for the injured crewman. Hearing yet again the sound of material being torn, Robert turned his head to see that Aliz had just ripped part of her dress off at the hemline.
“Sit down, Sir.” The ensign requested in her thick Hungarian accent.
“I’m fine.” The commodore replied, fighting down the desire to wince in pain.
“I’m sure you are, Sir.” Ensign Bathory retorted as she reiterated her earlier appeal, adding, before the commodore could overrule her, “I just want to make sure you stay that way.” Cracking a sly grin, the youthful ensign quipped in a low voice that only the two of them could hear, “Remember what you said about hope, Sir? Well…we need you to stay strong to lead us. If your wounds should get infected…”
Sighing in resignation, the former pugilist cracked a wry grin as he sat down, extending his leg. “All right…all right, Ensign…you win.”
Smiling as she cleaned and bandaged the commodore’s wounds, Aliz chuckled, “I almost always do, Sir.”
“Are we ready?” Commander Kuznetsov asked the Lexington’s Andorian science officer, inching forward in his chair as he addressed her.
“The sensors are recalibrated.” Talana promptly replied from her science station.
“Ms. Oudekirk…” Kuznetsov then ordered, addressing the blonde haired communications officer, “Inform the K’Mar that they can fire when ready.”
“Aye, Sir.” The Dutch comm specialist acknowledged.
Toggling the intercom switch on the chair arm, the Lexington’s first officer spoke, “Misters G’arv and Mtolo…are you prepared.”
“Yes, Sir.” The Tellarite engineer responded. “Just give the word.”
“If the Klingons try anything…” the Zulu security chief promised, “…we’ll be ready for them.”
“Very good. Mr. G’arv…” Alexei smirked, “…you may release our watchdogs.”
“Watchdogs away.” G’arv exclaimed as he pushed a button on his console, releasing two of the small buoys that normally contained the ships’ logs and were usually ejected in the event of the possible destruction of the ship. The chief engineer had, however, modified these buoys. Instead of containing log entries, these markers were loaded with passive sensors and one other modification: once they had drifted far enough away from the Lexington, each of them shot out a line with a magnetic attachment that affixed itself to the ship’s hull.
“A trick from old Earth naval warfare.” Alexei had explained earlier to both G’arv and Lieutenant Mtolo when he had outlined his plan. “Naval vessels would tow sonar and other sensors behind them. By doing so they both extended their detection radius and prevented having their own ships detected by the opposition’s detection devices.” Lieutenant Mtolo and his people provided the second part of the Bear’s scheme, “Mr. Mtolo…” The burly Russian boxer explained, “The buoys are my guard…you and your people will be my left jab and right cross. If Kalas tries something—I’m counting on you to deliver the knockout punch.”
As the sun began to set, Wesley smiled as the object of his party’s trek grew larger, now taking on the shape of an obelisk. Leaning on the large stave that now served as a walking stick, the commodore grinned, “Take a look, people! We’re almost there.”
“What do you think it is?” Aliz asked; squinting her eyes as she tried to make out details in the distance.
“I’m not sure.” Robert replied with a chuckle as he placed a hand on the young ensign’s shoulder, “But we’ll all find out together, tomorrow.” Scanning the terrain, the sharp-eyed commodore spotted a clearing located on a slight rise, “We’ll camp out tonight over there…” he pointed, “It’s the highest ground in the immediate area, making it a good defensible position.”
“It’s probably pretty close to water too, Sir.” Jennifer noted as she helped Crewman Malik to the ground. “I’ll bet there’s a pond or a stream or something similar over in that direction…” She remarked, pointing towards the west. “I spotted what looked like the local equivalent of water fowl setting down for the night.” The xenobiologist then cautioned, “But we better be careful—we don’t want to run into this planet’s version of crocodiles either.”
“Good point.” Wesley agreed. “All right, then. We’ll take five and rest up and then hike on over to that hillock and make our camp for the night. Get plenty of rest…” he admonished as he pointed at the obelisk, “…I have a feeling tomorrow’s going to be an even bigger day than today.”
“Our goal is within reach!” K’Tan called out triumphantly as he spied the obelisk. Taking note of the rushing water and rocky terrain, the Klingon captain smiled. “This is a good place to rest for the night. We build our fire here…” he commanded, pointing at a clearing. As he and K’Temoc set down the butchered meat from their earlier kills, the Klingon warrior grinned, “Tonight we feast!”
“Fire!” Kalas ordered as pale green beams lanced out from the Klingon battlecruiser’s wing struts.
“It’s working!” Talana cried out as she peered into her sensor viewer.
“Transfer to main screen.” Alexei commanded. The viewscreen shimmered for a moment to reveal a pale blue path through the starry field. “There’s our tachyon trail.” The Russian first officer declared, slapping the arm of the center chair he currently occupied. “Inform the Klingons and set course to follow that trail at maximum impulse.” Kuznetsov ordered, smiling in satisfaction. “And monitor the watchdogs…I don’t want any surprises now.”
“Look!” K’Mar’s weapons officer called out, pointing at the main viewscreen.
“I see…” Kalas grinned as the tachyon trail appeared on the viewer. “Maintain firing rate and match the Federation ship’s course and speed.” Nodding his head as both the weapons and helm officers acknowledged his commands, the Klingon acting captain toggled his intercom, “D’Kor…stand ready, but do not move until I give the order.” Flashing an evil grin, the ambitious first officer concluded, “I want to see where this trail leads us first.”
|July 4 2007, 02:04 AM||#24|
Location: The void between my ears
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 4
The XO has a completely different, but still effective style. I like the early warning system - clever idea!
Wonder what's in the obelisk?
"You are beginning to damage my calm." - Jayne Cobb
|July 5 2007, 04:13 AM||#25|
Location: US Pacific Northwest
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 4
The Bear came up with some terrific ideas on the fly to keep tabs on the Klingons, ‘cause he knows they couldn’t actually cooperate without a hidden agenda up their collective sleeve.
I wonder if that smudge Wesley saw in the night sky is actually the nebula, or he’s just saying that to give the crew a sense of hope? Anyway, it was a cool scene.
Very nicely done segment, quite cool. :thumbsup:
|July 5 2007, 08:58 AM||#26|
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 4
I liked how you juxtapose the Klingons and the Starfleeters attempt to get through the jungle. The Klingons are of course natural-born hunters and much more apt at dealing with the (very) wild life on this strange planet while Wesley and his people have a more difficult time. But you do highlight both sides’ greatest strength. For Wesley’s people that strength is clearly leadership and team work.
Also nice to see that the female officers (who wear the least clothes) rip apart their uniforms. Nice touch
All in all this feels very much like a classic adventure. Great job.
I do have one point I was confused about. Did you skip the part in which Lexington’s first officer discusses their plan of cooperation with the Klingons or did I miss it. I would have thought that it would take some convincing to get the Klingons to help out.
Visit StarEagleAdventures.com for original fan-fiction e-books for your preferred e-reader.
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|July 5 2007, 02:17 PM||#27|
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 4
|July 24 2007, 06:47 PM||#28|
Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 5
“How tall is it?” Ensign Aliz Bathory asked as she tilted her head back in awe at the huge structure jutting heavenward.
“It must be a good fifty meters or more in height.” Jennifer Watley chimed in as she helped the injured security crewman, Malik, up to the top. Looking up, the olive skinned ensign exclaimed in an awe inspired voice, “I wonder who built it.”
“That’s one of the questions I’m hoping we’ll find the answer to.” Wesley replied with a grin.
“Before we do that, Sir…” Ensign Bathory interjected, her eyes glancing down to the makeshift bandage tied around the commodore’s leg, “I want to take a look at that.”
Chuckling, Robert shook his head, “It’s ok, Ms. Bathory.”
“Are we going to go through this again, Sir?” Aliz grinned, “Now…do we do this the easy way—or the hard way? See…” She added, pointing at Jennifer who was already inspecting Crewman Malik’s wound, “…Malik’s being a good boy…”
“All right…all right!” The commodore exclaimed, throwing up his arms in mock resignation as he sat down, “You win!” Shaking his head, Robert remarked in a joking tone, “You must be a holy terror at home.”
“I am, Sir.” Aliz rejoined as she knelt down next to the ruggedly handsome older man. Removing her makeshift bandage, the young Hungarian nodded her head approvingly as she poured water from one of the gourds tied around her waist. “It’s cleaned up nicely. No sign of infection. Those poultices Jennifer made from those herbs that she found seem to have done the trick.”
“This does seem to be a resource rich world.” Wesley noted as his self-appointed nurse placed another poultice on the wound, “Hopefully we’ll be able to find its location once we get back to the ship. Although it has its dangers, it looks to be a prime world for colonization.”
“Maybe, Sir.” Aliz agreed and then joked as she tore off another piece of her hemline and tied it around the older man’s wound, “But for now, I’m just hoping we find a way back to the ship before I end up naked.”
Chuckling, Wesley struggled to his feet, politely refusing Aliz’s offer of assistance, “I’ve got it, Ensign.”
Laughing out loud, Aliz shook her head, “How does your wife put up with you, Sir?”
His smile vanishing, the commodore looked down as he mumbled, almost inaudibly, “That’s what I keep asking myself…”
Seeing the pained look on the older man’s face, the young Hungarian placed a tentative hand on his shoulder, “I’m sorry, Sir…I didn’t mean…I was out of line.”
“You didn’t say anything wrong, Aliz…don’t worry about it.” Bob answered back, a warm smile returning to his face as he regarded the auburn haired woman standing before him.
Flashing a slight smile of her own as she looked up into the craggy face of her commanding officer, Ensign Bathory replied in a soft voice, “Thank you, Sir.” Then, as her eyes appraised the flimsy looking bridge crossing the chasm separating them from the obelisk, the former Academy gymnast asked as she tilted her head towards the security trooper sitting next to Ensign Watley, “What about Crewman Malik? Can he make it across with his injury?” Gazing down into the chasm, she dropped a pebble. Counting down the seconds before hearing a barely audible splashing sound, she remarked, “That’s a long way down, Sir.”
Cupping his chin, Robert flashed a grin, “We’ll get across Ensign…”
“I know, Sir, I know…” Aliz joked, flashing an amused grin, “Don’t give up hope…”
“You’re learning.” Wesley jibed back before turning his attention towards the other male in his party, “How’re you holding up, Crewman?”
“I’m fine, Sir.” The Moroccan security trooper replied confidently as, with Ensign Watley’s help, he struggled to his feet. “You all go on without me. Don’t worry about me…I’ll be all right here.”
“I don’t want to hear that talk, Crewman.” Wesley answered back, his voice tone leaving no room for disagreement. “We all stay or go together!” Dashing towards a nearby tree line, Wesley pulled down a vine. “Help me out here…” He called out as he pulled down yet another long, thick vine. “We can use these as ropes…”
“Tying us all together.” Jennifer exclaimed as she and Aliz helped pull down more of the thick, long vines. Hefting one in her hand, the exobiologist observed, “They seem to be strong enough to support one of us should we slip and fall off, but I’d like to be sure…”
“One of those rocks over there?” Aliz asked, pointing at the ridge line they had just crested. “I’m sure one of them would weigh about as much as one of us.
“Good thinking, ensigns.” Wesley remarked approvingly as he pulled down yet another vine. “We’ll use this as our test line. Now…” he smiled as he began to walk towards the rocks, “Let’s see whether our makeshift ropes can do the job or not.”
“Well…” The commodore grinned as he and Malik pulled the rock up, “…we know now that the rope’ll hold.” Tying a rope around his waist, Wesley instructed, “We’ll tie ourselves together, that way, if one of us slips, the rest of us will be able to pull whoever it is up.” As the others tied the vines around their waists, Wesley further ordered, “Ok…Malik, tie the loose end of this rope to the vine around your waist and Jennifer’ll tie the other around hers, that’ll connect us all together. Aliz, since you’re a gymnast, you probably have the best balance of all of us, so you’ll lead. Crewman Malik will follow you, then Ensign Watley, and I’ll anchor us. Ready?” Seeing everyone nodding their heads in reply, Robert’s smile returned, “All right…we’ve got a bridge to cross. Let’s do it.”
Moving slowly, Aliz grasped both sides of the rope bridge as she carefully placed one foot in front of the other on the slender board that served as bridge. Everything seemed to be progressing smoothly until she heard a yelp coming from Crewman Malik behind her and then the bridge began to sway violently from side to side, the young gymnast struggled mightily, pressing down with her arms to stop the violent motion.
Watching with alarm as he saw Malik stumble, Commodore Wesley matched the motions of his Hungarian helmsman in the lead, adding his strength to hers in an effort to stabilize the bridge as Ensign Watley struggled to help the Moroccan security officer regain his footing. Sighing in relief as the security officer recovered, the commodore called out, “Everything ok up there?”
“We’re fine, Sir!” Jennifer called back, “Malik just slipped.”
“Ok, but try to be a little more careful. Take your time; we don’t have to rush it.”
Feeling the breeze beginning to pick up, Aliz looked up in the air. Noticing the darkening clouds, the young Hungarian shouted back, “Sir…we might want to pick up the pace a bit. If that wind picks up too much…”
“Right, Aliz!” Robert answered back. “You set the pace. Everyone else, watch your footing.” The wind growing more violent, the tiny party struggled to retain their footing as the swaying of the bridge grew ever more violent.
Drops of water now stinging against her face as she made out their goal just a few meters away, Aliz gritted her teeth as an especially violent gust of wind struck, accompanied by the crack of thunder and a brilliant bolt of lighting snapped the flimsy rope bridge, “Hold on!” She shouted, as she and the others held on for dear life. Grunting as she slammed on to the cliff face, Ensign Bathory, holding on tightly, called out as she glanced down. “How is everyone?”
“I’m ok!” Jennifer called back, her voice hoarse as she tried to make herself heard over the whistling wind.
“I’m fine!” Commodore Wesley responded, “Just a few bumps and bruises.”
Hearing nothing from the Moroccan security officer, Aliz called out again, “Malik?”
Looking up, Jennifer cried as she saw the redshirted crewman plastered against the rock face, a jagged rock jutting from his chest. Her tears indistinguishable from the falling rain, the young science officer shouted, “He’s dead.”
Watching the horrible tableau from below, Commodore Wesley called out, “Jennifer…Aliz…we’ll grieve for him later. Right now we have to make it up this cliff before the other end of the bridge decides to snap.
“Yes, Sir!” Aliz called back as, using the rope bridge, she began to make her way up the rock face, the others following. Robert, stopping at Malik’s body, said a silent prayer as he gently closed the young Moroccan’s eyes. Resuming his climb, he made rapid progress, nearly catching up to the stumbling Jennifer. Catching her as she lost her footing, the commodore smiled encouragingly.
“We’re almost there, Jennifer. Just a little bit more. You can do it!”
Scampering to the top, Aliz, ignoring the rain and wind, held her hand out to her roommate. Grabbing her friend’s hand, Jennifer pulled herself up to the top, soon followed by the commodore. As the trio paused to catch their breaths, Jennifer asked in a somber tone, “Does anyone know if Malik had any family?”
Shrugging her shoulders, Aliz replied somberly, “I don’t know. I didn’t know him before we all got pulled here.” Turning to the commodore, she asked, “Do you know, Sir?”
“No.” Robert admitted, shaking his head in shame, “Lieutenant Mtolo—his immediate supervisor would know. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to get to know the details on more than a few people yet.” His eyes now reflecting his determination, he added as he struggled to his feet, “But I intend to when we get back.”
“Sir…” Aliz cautiously ventured, “There’s no way you could have known what was about to happen…”
“Aliz is right.” Jennifer chimed in, “What happened to Malik could have happened to any of us. You shouldn’t blame yourself.”
“I know…” Bob conceded, a sad smile on his face, “I’ve seen more than a few young men and women…friends…shipmates…crew…die, and I’ve sent more than a few off to die—that’s one of the decisions that comes with captain’s stripes. Still…” he admonished as he once again took on the role of teacher, “…the decision to send someone off on what is likely to be a fatal mission or the loss of a crewman in an accident or in the line of duty should never become something you see as routine. One of the most important possessions a starship captain has is his…or her…” he emphasized as he gazed into the eyes of the two women before him, “…humanity.”
“Yes, Sir.” Aliz and Jennifer responded softly, taking in the commodore’s words as he struggled to his feet. Holding out his hand, he helped both young ensigns up as he turned his gaze to the obsidian obelisk standing before them.
The rain slacking off, Robert’s voice took on an enthusiastic tone. “Why don’t we see what this thing is?”
As the three Starfleet officers walked around the obelisk, searching in vain for what looked like an opening, Aliz remarked dejectedly as she shook her head, “I can’t find a way in.”
“Neither can I.” Jennifer added, her voice taking on a dismal tone as well until she spotted something out of the corner of her eye. “Commodore…Aliz…I think I spotted something!” A broad smile on her face, she cried out, “They’re right here, but they’re easy to miss. You have to look at eye level and use averted vision to spot them.”
Following the science officer’s instructions, grins broke out on the other two officer’s faces as they also spotted the three shapes etched faintly into the face of the monolith.
“They’re patterns.” Aliz exclaimed. “There are three parallel lines and three triangles. But what do they mean?”
“Hmmm…I wonder...” Wesley muttered softly as he approached the etched patterns. Touching the first line, he found, to his astonishment, that he could move it. Using his finger, he moved the line to where it bisected the first triangle from top to bottom. Smiling, he repeated the process with the second line and triangle. Touching the third line, he drew it in such a matter that it bisected all three triangles from left to right. As he completed the pattern, the face of the obelisk started to glow a warm yellow. Stepping back a couple of paces, the commodore and the two young women with him looked on with astonishment as an opening appeared.
“Well…” Robert remarked, flashing a slight grin, “Looks like someone just answered the doorbell. Let’s see who’s at home,” he urged as the trio walked through the opening, the entrance returning to its former obsidian form after the last of the group had passed through the threshold.
K’Tan and his party, now less one warrior, having approached in the opposite direction from the group from the Lexington, didn’t have to face the challenge of the chasm. They faced another obstacle—one that brought a gleam of anticipation to the eyes of the Klingon starship captain. Standing before him and his two remaining warriors, blocking their progress to the obelisk was a giant creature. Like most of the predators they had encountered, it was part reptilian and part avian. Standing erect, it was approximately ten meters in height, with a red feathered crest that looked like a fan on the top of its head. Its reptilian heritage showed in its blue scales and fore-claws as well as the sharp teeth that lined its long beak. Its challenge call, a loud hiss, brought a smile to K’Tan’s face.
“This…” The Klingon exulted, “…is a challenge worthy of a warrior! Brandishing his d’k tahq, he raised it above his head, shouting out to the monster, “Tai-kleon! Today is a good day to die!” Turning to his men after issuing his challenge, the wily K’Tan issued his orders, “We must lure it here, where the terrain favors us.” Hefting a rock in his hand, the warrior declared, “I will act as bait. You two—wait in ambush in the trees.”
“Understood!” K’Temoc and M’Kal acknowledged in unison, uttering a proud, “Qapla!” as their captain stepped confidently towards the growling creature, honor blade in one hand, rock in the other. “Let’s take our positions, M’Kal!” K’Temoc urged as he began to ascend the tree closest to him, “Don’t worry…” he laughed as he noticed the sour expression on his fellow warrior’s face, “…there will be glory enough for us all!”
As K’Tan drew closer to the hissing, growling monster, it lunged at him in a gesture the Klingon warrior instinctively understood to be a challenge. Smiling, he drew back his arm containing the rock, throwing it with all his strength at the animal, hitting it square in the snout. Laughing as the creature howling its rage at the tiny Klingon’s impertinence, charged, K’Tan turned and ran, leading the giant into his carefully conceived ambush. Diving into the underbrush, he shouted, “Now!” as the monster charged into position.
Jumping down from their concealment atop the canopy of trees, M’Kal landed on the back of the creature as K’Temoc struck its neck. Piercing flesh as they dug their d’k tahq’s in between the animal’s thick scales, both warriors flashed savage grins as the beast howled in pain. Rising to his feet, K’Tan joined in the carnage as he dashed beneath the beast, grabbing on to its legs as he jabbed into its flesh, his blade searching for ligaments and tendons to slash.
The behemoth, however, did not stand helpless before its assailants’ onslaught. Twisting its serpentine neck around, it struck the Klingon stabbing into its back, its powerful jaws severing the warrior in two. Shaking its head, the creature devoured the hapless M’Kal, splattering his blood on to everything and everyone in the vicinity.
Ignoring the droplets of their comrade’s blood landing on his face and body, K’Temoc struck and again, digging his dagger deeper into the monster’s flesh until finally, he achieved his goal, the creature’s spinal cord. Twisting his wrist and slashing upwards, the Klingon warrior, with a triumphant shout, severed the cord as his captain, also shouting a victory call, succeeded in severing the creature’s ligaments. Leaping off as the giant monster fell to the ground, K’Temoc rolled on hitting the ground, coming to his feet at the same time as K’Tan, who, jumping off the monster’s leg, tumbled safely away. Rushing at their now helpless prey, both warriors plunged their knives deep into the magnificent monster until, with a last cry, it moved no more.
“Glorious!” K’Tan shouted, exulting in his and his officer’s triumph, “Glorious! We will have songs written about us!” The Klingon captain boasted as he clasped K’Temoc on the shoulder.
“Indeed!” The young officer replied with a toothy grin as he and his captain looked on triumphantly at their conquest. “A most magnificent victory!”
“Yes.” K’Tan agreed as he turned his eyes to the obelisk. “And now…” He declared pointing at the monolith, “…it is time to seize our prize.”
As the two warriors drew closer to the looming black structure, a series of reddish shapes appeared on its face. Watching as the swirling shapes slowly coalesced into Klingon letters, K’Tan read aloud, “Through battle you have arrived…through blood you will enter.” Then, as he read the last word, two recesses the size of Klingon hands appeared below the writing. With a grunt, K’Tan, taking out his d’k tahq, sliced his palm, drawing blood. Nodding his head at his subordinate, K’Temoc, immediately understanding, copied his captain’s action. Both warriors, stepping up to the obelisk, placed their hands within the recesses. As their blood touched the surface of the obelisk, the face of the structure glowed. Stepping back, the Klingons smiled triumphantly as an entrance appeared. “Let us see what awaits us.” K’Tan declared as he and K’Temoc stepped through the entrance.
“What are our ‘allies’ doing?” Commander Alexei Kuznetsov inquired as he pivoted his chair towards his communications officer.
“They’re behaving themselves so far.” Cilla Oudekirk, the Lexington’s Dutch communications officer noted. “No transmissions out of the ordinary and nothing suspicious coming from the sensor pods outside the ship.
“Good.” The burly Russian first officer replied, “But keep a careful watch—I don’t trust those Klinks as far as I can throw all of them together.” Addressing his Andorian science officer, he further inquired, “What are you picking up, Lieutenant Commander?”
“Nothing so far…wait!” The lovely Andorian exclaimed, her original statement forgotten as her eyes, invisible to the others as she was hunched over her sensor visor, widened in astonishment, “I’m picking up what appears to be a large structure in the center of the nebula.
“Main viewer!” Alexei ordered as the navigator, Lieutenant, Junior Grade Terrence Lawford, rushed to comply, his fingers flying over his console. Seeing nothing but swirling clouds of gas, the Russian officer nicknamed the Bear commanded in his usual gruff tone, “Magnify and go to tri-xenon filters. Let’s see if we can clear some of this clutter.”
“Aye, Sir.” Terrence acknowledged in a crisp English accent as he moved to comply with the acting captain’s command. “Got it, Sir.” He called out triumphantly as a form took shape.
“Bozhe moi!” Alexei swore as his eyes took in the sheer magnitude of the object before them: a central spire, pointed at both ends, surrounded by a ring, with spokes connecting the spire with the ring. Jet black in appearance, the structure possessed elegance in its simplicity. “I wonder who built it…” The big Russian mused in an unusually contemplative tone.
His science officer, also speaking in an awestruck tone, voiced her opinion, “I don’t know, Sir, but I’m dying to find out.”
“Look at it.” Acting Captain Kalas proclaimed from his place on the bridge of the Klingon battlecruiser, K’Mar, practically drooling as his eyes took in the magnificence of the structure before him. “And soon it will belong to the Empire!”
“Shall we begin the attack on the Federation starship?” His acting first officer, D’Kor inquired, his lips turning up into a feral grin.
“Not yet.” Kalas replied, holding up a cautionary hand. “If I know the Starfleeters, they will want to study…” the Klingon warrior said, putting all his scorn into that last word, “…it.” Flashing a sly grin, he continued. “We shall let them…in fact…we shall join them. Then, once they have plumbed its secrets, we shall strike. We will take the Lexington and the alien structure at the same time.”
“Sir!” The warrior manning the communications console called out, “The Federation starship is hailing us.”
“You see, D’Kor?” Kalas gloated, “Even now, the Federation commander is about to make his proposal.” Signaling for his communications officer to put the signal through, Kalas settled back into the captain’s chair as the image of the burly Russian appeared on the viewscreen.
“I’m sure by now…” Commander Kuznetsov declared, “…you have seen the alien structure.”
“I have.” Kalas answered back, “What do you propose?”
“I suggest…” The Russian first officer replied, “…that we launch a joint expedition to study it. Of course, we will share all information.”
“That’s all well and good…” Kuznetsov’s Klingon counterpart rejoined, “…but how do we determine who owns the structure?”
“I recommend…” Alexei responded, “…that for now we leave that question to the diplomats.”
Cupping his chin, Kalas deliberately held back his response for several moments, giving the appearance of carefully considering the commander’s words. His lips turning up into a grin, the Klingon answered back, “Very well, Commander. This is my proposal—it is not…” he added in a grim tone, “…subject to negotiation. Each ship will send one shuttlecraft to the object with no more than six. The shuttlecraft will launch simultaneously. Any information gained by either party will be shared equally. Then, after our landing parties have finished their work, they will return at the same time.”
“Accepted.” The Russian officer agreed, “With one stipulation.” Matching the Klingon officer glare for glare, Alexei continued, “No weapons other than standard sidearms permitted with weapons locked on a stun setting only. For us that will be phaser ones. For you, disruptor pistols—leave the bath’leths and d’k tahqs on your ship—and I don’t give a damn about the d’k tahqs being honor blades—no edged weapons and no weapons set to kill. Each team will inspect the others’ weapons on arrival to ensure compliance with the terms.” He then concluded in a voice that clearly indicated that he would not accept any compromise, “It’s that or no deal.”
With a low growl, Kalas replied, “Very well…I agree.”
“Good!” Alexei responded, plastering an insincere grin on his face. “I’ll have my science officer coordinate with whoever is leading your landing party regarding landing points on or near the structure for our teams. Kuznetsov out.”
As the Starfleet officer’s image faded off the screen, D’Kor cursed, “Pet’aQ! He is afraid. He knows he and his people cannot defeat us in honorable combat.”
“You’re right, my friend…” Kalas replied condescendingly, “…the Federation commander is afraid—but he is also very smart. He seeks to minimize our advantages while maximizing his. Still…” The Klingon commander said, his lips turning up in a sly grin, “…it will avail him naught. One Klingon warrior is worth three humans.” Grinning as D’Kor nodded his assent, the acting captain further ordered, “Also, have your strike force ready to move the moment we receive the results from the expedition. I want the Lexington taken before that Pet’aQ of a first officer knows what hit him.”
“Do you think the Klingons will honor their side of the agreement, Alexei?” Talana asked, her antennae twitching nervously.
“Hell no.” The Russian growled. “Oh…they’ll send real scientists to work with you, but…once they’ve gotten all they think they’re going to get, they’ll strike. That’s why I want you to be prepared.”
“How?” The Andorian science officer queried, “We will have equal weapons and they’ll have the initiative.”
“Ah…” The Bear grinned, “That’s where you’re wrong. “Remember, odds are, you’ll end up controlling the flow of data. Also, I will be disguising three security specialists as science officers…” Seeing the dubious look on the lovely Andorian woman’s face, Alexei chuckled, “Don’t worry, Lieutenant Commander, I want you to coordinate with Lieutenant Mtolo—I’m sure he’s got three security officers who have at least a working familiarity with the sciences. Regardless of what you might have heard, security specialists are not knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.”
“I never said they were, Alexei…” Talana replied with a frown, “But I should remind you of the same thing, not all Klingons are mindless killing machines. Remember, they possessed interstellar travel and had already conquered an extensive empire long before your species had even ventured beyond your atmosphere. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating them.”
“You make a good point.” A chastened Alexei responded. “Be sure that those you choose to pose as science officers can, in fact, act as such—at least in a limited capacity. We can disguise them as ensigns—that should help maintain their cover should they trip up in some way or other.” Taking his science officer’s smile and nod of her head as agreement, the Russian commander proceeded with his instructions. “As you complete your mission, try to maneuver yourselves where you can react quickly should the Klingons break the truce. Don’t let them get too close to you. Even without their damned blades they’re dangerous. Understood?”
“Yes, Sir.” Talana responded crisply. “If it’s all right with you…” She ventured, “I’ll contact my opposite number on the K’Mar and get the ball rolling.”
“Go ahead, Lieutenant Commander. And…” The Bear added, his voice taking on a cautionary note, “Be careful.”
“Don’t worry, Alexei…” Talana replied in a teasing voice as she began to walk towards the turbolift doors, “I always am. And now…” She joked as the doors slid open, “I’ve got stuff to do…I can’t wait to see what’s inside that thing!”
Cupping his chin as he gazed on the large structure almost filling his viewscreen, Alexei murmured to himself, “Some mysteries are better left unknown…”
|July 24 2007, 09:39 PM||#29|
Location: The void between my ears
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 5
Harmony is restored to the universe.
Seriously, a great segment. Obviously, some intelligence is at work here, luring the commodore & crew plus the Klingons to the obelisk. And what of this object in the Nebula? (Sound of Dave Bowman's astonished voice in 2001, "My God, it's full of stars!")
Nicely done! Waiting impatiently for more.
"You are beginning to damage my calm." - Jayne Cobb
|July 24 2007, 11:12 PM||#30|
Location: US Pacific Northwest
Re: Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 5
The Bear’s doing a damn fine job in Wesley’s absence, making sure the mystery is explored, but not at the cost of being too vulnerable in the face of impending Klingon treachery.
Can’t wait to see where all this is leading…
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