Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CaptainSarine, Nov 27, 2009.

  1. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Gibraltar

    Yeah, that was slightly messed up, wasn't it! :alienblush:

    Glad Astrid comes across as both capable and unstable - she's had a lot of training and has gone through lots of counselling, and in a normal mission she would be holding it together much better. This thing with Dax, though... That's personal.

    Happy that you're enjoying the taste of this brew! :guffaw:

    Diogenes

    Awww, you're in love with Astrid? :) Have to admit, I have a bit of a crush on her myself. Strong, capable, sexy and ever so slightly out of control... :devil:

    CeJay

    Yeah, Astrid is definitely not going to bow to any other spy, or anyone else for that matter. With her genetic engineering, she can totally handle Keene... For now!

    What do you mean nothing ever goes according to plan?? Do you mean I might be misleading you as to what might happen... :devil:

    Yeah, we haven't heard from Zoraya in a while. Don't worry, though, she will definitely have a role to play in all of this.

    Thanks to you all for your comments!

    Joel
     
  2. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    That Astrid is one tough chic. Bending a Klingon to her will, literally, wow!
     
  3. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Mistral,

    Yeah, Astrid is a tough woman, her genetic enhancements obviously helping with that. Probably one of the few who could give a Klingon warrior a run for his money.

    Glad you enjoyed the scene!

    Joel
     
  4. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 8

    Captain’s Quarters
    USS Redemption
    Slipstream Space

    Ba'el spent all of that night wracked by nightmares of the Scouring of Bajor. He saw countless visions of the planet burning, glimpsed things he could never have seen in real life – bedarkened phantoms of crumbling buildings, scorched earth and burning corpses. In his imagination, the whole planet became a pyre and he held the torch that lit it.

    He hardly slept. When the computer 'woke' him to inform him that the ship was an hour away from Laurentii space, he stumbled out of bed. The face that looked back at him from the mirror was hagard and haunted. He looked as bad as he had back on Earth just before Kovat called him up to take command of Redemption.

    After cleaning himself up - although he doubted even cell regeneration therapy could help the bags under his eyes - he put on his uniform and headed out the door, barely even nodding to the officer assigned to his security that day, a young Deltan man who fell smoothly into step behind him.

    As he walked down the corridor to the turbolift, Ba'el couldn't help himself from playing back his argument with Prin from the night before. As she had walked into his ready room, the first words out of her mouth had been to ask him what the hell he thought he was playing at.

    He had told her gruffly that it wasn't the time. All he had wanted was to sit there and stare out at slipstream space, to try and erase from his mind the look on Rhodes' face. He hadn't even wanted to think about Jasto Dax and that whole mess.

    Prin, though, wouldn't have any of it. She had pushed and prodded at him, trying to force him out of his shell, until he had thrown a glass globe he had picked up in Romulus across the room where it had shattered against the wall.

    Climbing into the turbolift now and ordering it to the bridge, he winced slightly as he remembered the look on her face when he had told her, his voice as cold as he could make it, to leave him the hell alone before he threw her out of the nearest airlock.

    She had stormed out.

    Now, as the turbolift doors opened and he stepped out onto the bridge, Ba’el searched for her with his eyes. She was stood over Lieutenant Barani at Ops, studying some kind of readout. Though she looked up at the sound of the turbolift doors opening and met his gaze, she turned away almost immediately. Biting back a curse, Ba’el left the safety of the lift and stepped out onto the bridge.

    "Captain on the bridge," one of the MACO's announced.

    "Status," Ba'el asked, trying to make his voice as normal as possible as he made his way around the edge of the Pit.

    "We're about three minutes from our exit position," Prin announced from Ops without looking at him.

    Ba'el accepted his headset from an ensign at the top of the steps, settling it down over his forehead as he descended. By the time he had reached the lower section, he had the viewfinder over his eye.

    "The other ships?"

    "All present and accounted for."

    "Good."

    Taking his seat, Ba'el tried to remain concentrated on the job. Prin had been right about one thing - he shouldn't be allowing his own personal problems to interfere with the way he ran his ship. He was just going to have to work through this in...

    His thoughts trailed off as the turbolift on the far side of the bridge swooshed open and Benjamani stepped out, Lieutenant-Commander Kalara at her side. All of a sudden, all Ba'el's anger from two nights before came flooding back and all he wanted to do was snap her long, pale neck.

    Stopping on the edge of the Pit, Benjamani just stood there for a moment, staring down at them imperiously. She had warned him during the infamous dinner that she would be coming to the bridge as an 'observer' for their arrival in Laurentii space. He had hoped she’d forgotten.

    "Status report, Captain Sarine," she demanded suddenly.

    I'm not your damned chauffeur, Ba'el wanted to say. Instead he turned to Prin, an eyebrow raised.

    Prin glared at him for a moment, and then sighed, turning to the ambassador. "We are almost at the coordinates you provided, Ambassador. We should be exiting slipstream space in one minute, forty one seconds."

    "Any contact with the Laurentii?"

    Prin shook her head. "None so far, sir."

    "Very well." Benjamani seemed pleased about something, but the happy look only lasted for a few seconds before she frowned. "I require a headset for my aide and I."

    Ba'el forced himself to meet Benjamani's gaze. He smiled. "May I ask why?"

    "So that we can see what is happening."

    Go to hell. He forced a smile. "I'm sure that can be arranged."

    "Now, captain."

    Before Ba'el could respond, another turbolift opened. This time, Admiral Qwert and Liaison Groves stepped out. Qwert had a spring in his step, while Groves looked a little the worse for wear, his eyes as sunken as Ba’el’s own.

    "Admiral on deck."

    Ba'el stood and nodded his head to both men, though inwardly he was fighting back a sigh. More observers. Wonderful. "Admiral. Mister Groves."

    "Don't know if I've had a chance to tell you this, Captain, but you've got quite the fine ship here," Qwert said, squinting down into the Pit. He caught sight of Prin and Barani, and leered. "Quite a fine ship indeed."

    Ba'el opened his mouth to reply, but Benjamani interrupted. "Captain, I--"

    Deciding to preempt any more requests for headsets, Ba'el cut her off. "Computer, tactical display."

    Instantly, the bridge around them vanished and the various Redemption crew members, admirals, liaisons and bitches, found themselves stood in the middle of a flowing tunnel of quantum energy. The blue-grey light had an almost hypnotic quality. Ba'el heard Benjamani gasp a little at the unexpected change, which left even him feeling a little nauseous. Thankfully, it only lasted a few moments before the ship exited slipstream space with a flash of white light and returned to normal space.

    The starfield was a familiar, comforting sight. The coordinates the Laurentii had given them placed Redemption and her support ships out in the nothingness between stars, along an imaginary line separating Federation from Hegemony space. Here, they were supposed to meet their hosts.

    Ba'el didn't need scanning equipment, though, to see that their hosts weren't there.

    "Where are they?" Admiral Qwert asked, his trollish little face all squished up.

    "Commander?" Ba’el turned to Prin.

    His XO was frowning as she stared at the readouts. "There's no one here but us, captain."

    "Are you sure?"

    Ba'el turned to face Benjamani. "If you wouldn't mind letting me handle my ship, Ambassador."

    Benjamani opened her mouth to retort, but to Ba'el's surprise, Kalara leaned in and whispered something that brought the other woman up short. She glared at Ba'el for a moment and then nodded curtly.

    Walking over to stand next to Prin at Ops, Ba'el lowered his voice. "What have we got?"

    Prin glanced at him, a hint of censure in her eyes, but she didn't say anything. "Nothing on short range scanners."

    "Long range?"

    Barani shook her head. "Nothing either. They're not here."

    Ba'el nodded, then turned back to the observers. "It seems our hosts are late. We'll hold station here and continue to scan the area. As soon as the Laurentii arrive, we'll inform you."

    His dismissal couldn't have been any clearer. Or firmer. Qwert got the hint immediately. Nodding to Ba'el, he slapped a hand on Grove's shoulder, eliciting a wince from the “hu-mon”.

    "Come on then, Groves. Looks like we've got time to finish that drink after all."

    The two men walked across the invisible decking, stepped into a turbolift, and disappeared.

    Ba'el turned to Benjamani. He didn't say anything, simply raised an eyebrow. The old woman stared back, scowling. After a moment, Ba'el sighed. He obviously wasn't going to get rid of her that easily.

    But I can't just sit here in the same room with. I can't. Not yet. I’ll go insane. But I can't just walk out and leave Prin again either.

    To his surprise, Prin approached him. Glancing up at Benjamani, she leant in to whisper in his ear.

    "Go."

    "What?"

    "I heard what happened during your meal with the other captains. What she did..." Prin screwed her mouth up in distaste. "I understand. I'll keep you informed if anything changes."

    Ba'el felt a surge of warm feelings and couldn’t hold back a smile. Good old Prin, he thought. "Thank you."

    She frowned at him, but Ba'el could tell it was forced. "Don't think you're off the hook, Sarine."

    "Wouldn't dream of it, Ly’et."

    He held her eyes for a few more moments, waiting for her to smile. When she finally gave in, a small smile crossing her lips, he nodded and turned to Benjamani.

    "Ambassador, I have some things to handle elsewhere. If you need anything, please don't hesitate to ask Commander Ly'et."

    Ba'el saw a hint of a sneer on Benjamani's lips as she smiled. "Of course."

    He didn't bother to take his leave, simply turning his back on her and walking to the stairs out of the Pit. He could feel her eyes on his back right up until he stepped into the turbolift. One of the security officers went to follow him in, but Ba'el held up a hand, and shook his head.

    "Sir, I--"

    "I'll be fine, lieutenant," Ba'el said. "That's an order."

    Before the security officer could insist, the doors closed on his startled face.

    Ba'el closed his eyes and stood there for a moment, breathing in and out. He had no idea where to go. He didn't want to go back to his quarters. He could have gone to one of the bars, but there would be people there. He just wanted to be alone.

    He thought back over the briefing material he had received on Redemption, trying to think of anywhere he hadn’t been yet that might afford him some solitude. After discounting a number of options, he had an idea. Yes. That would be perfect. Closing his eyes, he leant back against the wall.

    "Computer, deck 31."

    The turbolift sprang into motion.
     
  5. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    (continued)


    Flight Simulator Deck
    Deck 31
    USS Redemption

    Ba'el stopped on the threshhold into the FSD, checking the various cyclindrical machines to make sure no one else was there. Only when he was sure he was alone did he step all the way inside and let the door swish shut behind him.

    The FSD - Flight Simulator Deck - had been an addition requested by Starfleet Air Command, the fleet department responsible for every squadron and flight crew dotted around Federation space. It allowed Commander Turner’s people to maintain their form thanks to intense simulated runs. The simulators were designed to mimic any starfighter on record, varying from the standard Hornet-class fighter he had flown against the Klingons to more elaborate Klingon, Romulan and even Dominion fighters.

    When Ba'el had found out about the FSD, he had promised himself that he would make the time to log some hours in the simulator. Now seemed as good a time as any.

    He walked towards the nearest simulator, already thinking about the kind of simulation he wanted to run. He had just reached the control panel when the door opened.

    Swinging round, his heart dropping in disappointment, he relaxed as a familiar figure ran through the doors, out of breath. Commander Turner had a scowl on her face and she was already talking as she walked in.

    "Now, who the hell do you--" She stopped short when she saw him, her cheeks colouring. "Captain?"

    Ba'el couldn’t hold back a tired smile. "Hello, Commander."

    Turner’s blush intensified. "God, sorry, Captain. I didn't realise it was you. I've had a couple of wannabe flyboys trying to convince me to give them some time on the simulators, and so when I saw the unauthorised access, I assumed... I'm sorry."

    Ba'el waved a hand. "That's alright, Commander. I should have run this by you first. I just... I needed to blow off some steam."

    Turner was shaking her head as he talked. "No need to apologise. Hey, this is your ship." She grinned. "If there's anyone here who can go wherever the hell they want, it's you."

    He smiled.

    "Well, I guess I'll leave you to it."

    She had begun to turn away when Ba'el called her back. He wasn't sure why he did it - instinct, or some other impulse he couldn't control. "I wouldn't mind the company, actually."

    She paused, then turned back. "Yeah?"

    "Sure. Why not. We've never gone head to head."

    To his surprise, she grinned. "Okay, you're on."

    "What kind of scenario do you want to run?"

    Her grin widened. "I think I have just the thing."

    Flight Simulator Deck

    Ba'el cursed softly as Turner dropped out from behind an asteroid at his rear and began lighting up his six with the lasers on her T-drive fighter.

    He pressed down on the left accelerator pedal, gunning the left-hand engine and sending his own fighter careening out of the way.

    Straight into the path of an oncoming asteroid. Cursing out loud again, Ba'el jerked his control stick, narrowly avoiding a collision. He jinked left, then right, trying to throw off Turner's targetting sensors. He saw red lines of laser fire blast past him and he gritted his teeth.

    There is no way I'm letting this little girl kill me three times in a row!

    He decided to try something more drastic. Throwing his ship into a corkscrew dive, he carved a path between three asteroids, almost clipping his wing on the largest one before managing to regain control of his ship. He knew that Turner wouldn't be so stupid as to try and follow him through his dive, but he also had a pretty good idea of where she would be as she tried to follow him.

    Now let's show this girl how to fly. He remembered doing this once against a Jem'hadar patrol out in the Jovala system. It had taken them by surprise, he had a pretty good feeling that it would take Turner by surprise as well.

    All of a sudden, he cut all power to his left engine. The sudden lack of propulsion took a moment to register in the gravity-less arena of space, but after a few seconds, the dead engine sent his fighter into a 180° spin.

    Leaving Turner – who was coming in for the killing blow – directly in his sights.

    Ba'el grinned, then pulled the trigger. Three lances of hot red fire shot out of the triangular cannon mounted just behind his cockpit, catching Turner with a deadly blow. For a moment, her shields flared, then collapsed. Finally, the lasers pierced her cockpit and he saw a flash of white light.

    Space around him - the starfield, the debris, the asteroids - vanished to black. Ba'el sat there for a moment, then reached up and popped the roof of the simulator.

    He grinned as he heard Turner swearing loudly. He stood up in the fake cockpit in time to see her climbing up out of her own, shaking her head and muttering to herself. She looked up and caught his eye. Her frown deepened.

    "How the hell did you pull that off? Your fighter should have shook itself apart with a stunt like that."

    "There's a big difference between should have and did, Commander," Ba'el replied, unable to keep the smile off his face. "A big difference. You'll learn that when you see some real combat."

    "Don't patronise me, grandpa," she shot back.

    Grandpa? Ba'el looked at her, a single eyebrow raised. Turner seemed to suddenly realise who she was talking to, but she didn't blanch, or frown, or even blush. She stared back at him challengingly until he held his hands up. Fair enough, he thought. Ranks down. For now.

    "So, you want to go again?"

    She laughed. "Not right now. Give me a chance to recover from my humiliation."

    Ba'el nodded, a little disappointed. It had been a long time since he had been a simple pilot, able to concentrate on nothing more complicated than staying alive and finishing a mission. He missed it.

    Climbing out of the cockpit completely, he swung onto the ladder that led down the frame to the decking. By the time he reached the floor, Turner had just finished getting out of her cockpit. He watched her climb down, unable to stop himself from studying her rather fine figure, displayed to full effect in her tight flightsuit. He realised what he was doing and turned away just as she reached the deck herself.

    "So," she said, turning to him. "You want to talk about it?"

    He turned back, trying to pretend he had been studying... Well, actually, he realised, there wasn't anything he could have been studying. Trying to hide his embarassment behind a frown, he met her eyes.

    "Talk about what?"

    "Whatever it is that has you so riled up you've flown more combat simulations in the last hour than a rookie in his first week of training."

    Ba'el's frown deepened. He had been able to push away the last few days events while flying, but now the frustration came rushing back. He opened his mouth to tell Turner that he didn't want to talk about it, and then, almost despite himself, he found himself saying, "I get nightmares."

    The moment the words left his mouth, he realised how stupid they sounded. He went to shrug them off, make some smart comment, but Turner just nodded.

    "I can tell."

    Ba'el started slightly. "What?"

    "That you're not sleeping. I mean, I'm no counsellor, but even I know what a man who isn't getting his beauty sleep looks like."

    "I look that bad, unh?"

    "Like a badly manged jungle cat," she said, smiling slightly. "But I still like you."

    "I'm not sure whether that makes me more worried about you or me," Ba'el said lightly, though her words had set off brush fires in his chest.

    "Probably me. What are the nightmares about?"

    Again Ba'el opened his mouth expecting to say one thing and said something completely different. "The war. The destruction of Bajor, to be precise."

    And then, without really knowing why, Ba'el told her everything. First of all about the dinner party and what Benjamani had done, and then what memories that had dredged up. Before he knew it, though, he had also told her about the various other run ins he had had with Benjamani, and other things he had done during the war, and the Founders' death, and the burning of Bajor, and the guilt, and Elara, and his son, and...

    When he next became truly conscious of where he was, he was sat with his back against the simulator, Turner at his side. Somehow, her hand was over both of his and he had tears in his eyes.

    "Wow. I... I guess I really needed to talk about all of this,” he whispered as he realised what had just happened.

    Turner nodded. "Did you ever get counselling? After?"

    "There were offers but... I've never liked the idea of talking about all of this with someone who was being paid to listen."

    "I can understand that."

    “Good thing you were here, I guess,” he said with a smile.

    “I guess so.”

    They sat there for a moment more, Ba’el staring down at the deck, feeling her eyes on him. He could tell there was something going on here, some connection between them that had been there from the first day he saw her but stronger now, more immediate. What is it? He wondered. How have I allowed things to reach this point?

    He lifted his head to say something just as she leaned in. Without even meaning to, he turned his head slightly and their lips met. He tensed for a moment, surprised at the contact, then the sensation of her lips against his – soft, slightly humid – and the smell of her perfume – subtly flowery and with a hint of spice – washed over him. He didn’t make a conscious decision to press harder, nor to open his lips slightly. Blood rushed through his ears, and he was suddenly very conscious of his own heartbeat. He felt her respond, her own lips parting and…

    “Bridge to Captain Sarine.”

    The sound of Prin's voice broke through the haze that had settled over them and they both responded by darting their heads back. They stared at each other for a moment, neither knowing what to say. Ba’el’s comm badge chirped again. He broke eye contact and tapped it.

    “Sarine here.”

    “Captain, I just wanted to let you know. Three Laurentii Behemoths have just dropped out of slipstream space. They've hailed us and have demanded to speak to you."

    What perfect timing. Ba'el sighed, glanced at Turner, who had started to climb to her feet again. What have I done?

    "I'll be right there," he said after a moment.

    "Very good, sir."

    The comm cut off, leaving Ba'el and Turner stood in the silence of the FSD. Ba'el stared down at the deck between his knees for a moment, then looked up at her.

    "Well," he said.

    "Yeah."

    An uncomfortable silence grew between them. Turner broke it, finally.

    "Captain, I just want you to know, this doesn't have to..."

    "Commander.” He lowered his voice. “Gemma. I'm not the sort of man who goes around kissing female subordinates."

    "That's good to know."

    Smiling, Ba'el clambered to his feet, pushing his hand against the simulator to help himself up. He stood there, feeling like an awkward teenager. He pushed on regardless. "I'm serious. I like you. I... I know there is something here. But..."

    "Ah, the eternal but."

    "I am your commanding officer. And there is so much going on right now..." I don't want to hurt you.

    Turner - Gemma - reached out and put her hand on his arm.

    "Ba'el, you don't have to explain. I understand. I want to be your friend. If something else comes from that, one day, far, far into the future, then I won't complain. But I understand that for now, nothing can. I'll give you the time you need."

    He smiled. "You're quite a woman, Commander."

    Gemma smiled. "If you don't get going, you won't be much of a captain."

    He started. She was right. This was no time to be discussing this. "You're right,” he said, nodding. “I have to go."

    "What do you say we have a rematch in the next couple of days?"

    Ba'el smiled. "I'd like that. For now, though..."

    "Go."

    He hesitated anyway, staring into her eyes. She really was quite a woman. Then, shaking himself, he turned and walked towards the door.

    “Oh and Captain?”

    He turned, eyebrow raised.

    “Benjamani? I’ve known women like her. The main thing she needs is to feel in control.”

    “Yes.” He dragged the word out, turning it into a question.

    “She thinks she knows how you will react and that makes her feel confident. Don’t let her. Keep her off balance.”

    He stared at her for a moment, not sure whether he was more surprised at how insightful that seemed or the fact that he hadn’t thought of it already. He nodded, smiling. “Thanks. I’ll give that a try.”

    He turned away from her and walked through the door. For now, he had a mission to fulfill. Anything else would have to wait.
     
  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Sarine finally finds a confidant to whom he can confess his sins, and the potential for a relationship at some undefined point in the future. Benjamani continues to be her usual warm, sympathetic self, as Ba’el and his crew have to carry out a difficult diplomatic mission under the watchful gaze of an assorted peanut gallery of brass, bureaucrats, and political operatives.

    I’m glad to see Ba’el and Prin on speaking terms again after his outburst in the ready room.

    There so much going on here that I just want to pop a bowl of popcorn, sit back, and watch the fireworks. :lol: Terrific stuff as always!
     
  7. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    I'm not fond of romance in my stories-but you handled that deftly. And, if anything, I hate Benjamani more now than I did.
     
  8. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    Wow. Just getting to review the last two chapters now.

    Astrid is a real piece of work. She scares me! Apparently, she scares Klingon spies, too. And arouses them. What a scene! I sort of hate her now, though, just because she's crazy and effective and ruthless and she's messing with my favorite character, Kalara.

    Glad to see Prin and Bay can have it out and forgive each other. I like their friendship and I think they have nice chemistry together. In fact, I'm a bit of a shipper for the two of them ... but then you drop Turner on us. I know she and Bay have had their little eye contact flirtation thing going ... but here she listens and he opens up and we get the nice kiss. I like Turner, I do. She seems great. (I just like Prin a little bit more.) It's nice to see Bay get a chance to breathe and do something he enjoys with someone who makes him feel good. Even if it's not Prin. Sigh.

    Maybe I'm slow to catch on or have forgotten something from Volume 2, but these last chapters have had me wondering who Benjamani is really working for. Something about her reactions on the bridge just now seemed off to me, and then there's the way she seems to want Bay to be at his worst ... if she's up to something, I wonder if Kalara will be the one to catch on.

    Great stuff, Joel. I'm still thoroughly enjoying your characters and universe. Keep up the good work!
     
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    I guess we all saw something like this coming sooner or later. What I didn't see coming is the quality of Turner's character. She's beautiful, smart, insightful and patient. In short, the perfect woman for Ba'el.

    Maybe it's too early for him to have a romance but it's good for him to have a friend on the outside with a sympathetic attitude and an open ear. And if this is going to develop into a full-out romantic relationship, that would be fun too, if for no other reason than it's inappropriateness.
     
  10. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Hi all!

    Sorry, just realised that I hadn't responded to all your kind comments on Restoration - so sorry! :alienblush:

    Gibraltar

    Yeah, I felt it important for what is going to be coming next for Sarine to find that person to lead on, and I felt that Sarine and Turner really hit it off in those few brief scenes they were in back in Volume I. It made sense that their relationship would develop.

    Benjamani is a b***h, no two ways about it. Unfortunately for her, a lot of people are starting to get her number and are willing to help Sarine and crew out in handling her.

    Prin and Ba'el's relationship is too old and too strong for a little argument to get in the way. She'll always have his back, and has learned to handle his outbursts over the years.

    Hope you enjoy your popcorn! :guffaw:

    Mistral

    Thanks so much! Glad you didn't mind the yucky kissing too much! :lol:

    Yeah, everyone seems to be jumping on the "I-hate-Benjamani" boat, don't they?!

    Kes

    Yeah, Astrid is a scary woman, very strong and with a highly twisted way of looking at and handling things. Glad you enjoyed that scene, and yes, unfortunately, Astrid is going to be messing with Kalara in the next few chapters.

    Prin and Bay work well together. Like I said above, they've been friends for much too long to stay mad very long, mainly thanks to Prin, who is willing to forgive and forget after her initial anger has passed. I know you'd said that you were a Prin and Bay shipper (hey look mom, I have shippers! Cool! :cool:) but they've been friends for much too long and with much too much baggage for them to ever go back to that lover relationship they once had. More from Ba'el's point of view than Prin's. He loves her, but not like that, not anymore.

    As for Turner... I had never intended for her and Bay to end up together, nor had I actually included her as a character in my initial plan. But the chemistry between her and Bay back in Volume I changed everything. And I think Bay needed that to start getting over what he is handling at the moment.

    Benjamani as another spy or mole or with a hidden agenda? On this ship? Now whatever would give you that idea...? :devil:

    Glad you're still enjoying this story, the characters and the universe! Thanks!

    CeJay

    Glad you saw the Turner-Bay relationship coming, I sure didn't! They snuck it up on me, the b*****ds! :lol:

    I'm intrigued though as to why you feel it might be too early for Bay, too early in relation to what? His problems? His wife? I'm interested to know exactly.

    As for this developing into a full-out romantic relationship... Probably not for the forseeable future and certainly not in the way you might think it will happen. Bay has some major growing up to do before that happens.

    Glad you enjoyed this!

    Joel
     
  11. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 9

    Bridge
    USS Redemption
    Federation-Hegemony Border

    The sounds of the bridge were hauntingly familiar to Kalara, a painful reminder of her brief time in command of this ship.

    Stood above the Pit, she stared around at the various bridge officers going about their tasks and tried not to feel totally useless. She had avoided spending any time on the bridge, not wanting to put herself through the constant nagging reminders of what she had lost. Now, though, she had no choice but to remain here and imagine what might have been. For three hours.

    Ambassador Benjamani had left the bridge on Sarine’s heels, seemingly having made her point. She had ordered Kalara to remain, though, to oversee the communications' process when the Laurentii finally arrived. It had not taken Kalara long to realise that what Benjamani really wanted was a spy.

    How did this happen? she wondered. For an instant, she flashed back to the conversation she had had over subspace with her mother. Was Elyra right? Had she lost all honor in accepting this position with the ambassador?

    She certainly hadn't acted with honor when she had intervened in Benjamani's rift with Sarine. When Benjamani had begun to pressurise the captain, Kalara had found herself stepping to the ambassador's side and whispering in her ear that under Starfleet Regulations, Sarine would have been well within his rights to banish her from the bridge unti the official diplomatic mission began.

    It had sounded good at the time. Of course, it had also been a lie.

    Why had she done it? She didn't have an answer. She didn't feel any obligation towards Sarine, not after what he had done to her. So why had she stopped Benjamani from needling him?

    The only thing she knew for sure was that this wasn't working. She was finding it harder and harder to stand the ambassador - she was a consummate politician, a manipulator who seemed to take pleasure from manoeuvering people where she wanted them. Kalara was coming to realise more and more that she herself had been manipulated by her. Had allowed herself to be manipulated.

    But she couldn't see any way out.

    Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a beeping coming from the Pit below her. She blinked and focused on Lieutenant Barani at Ops. Something was flashing on her holographic screen.

    "Commander, we've got something."

    Prin Ly'et had been sat in the captain's chair, studying something on a holographic display that surrounded her position in a cylindrical flickering of light. She rose now and stepped through the hologram, reaching Barani in a few short strides.

    "What is it?"

    "A subspace aperture just opened a lightyear away. We have movement coming out of it." She paused, studying her screens, then turned back to look at Prin again. "The configuration matches known Laurentii ship design."

    "Tactical display, zoom in on the Laurentii ships."

    As the deck, walls and ceiling vanished in a series of holographic ripples, Kalara took a step back from the railing that surrounded the Pit and tapped her comm badge. "Kalara to Benjamani."

    The ambassador took a moment to respond. When she did, her voice seemed somehow colder than usual. "Ambassador Benjamani, here. Are they here?"

    Kalara bristled slightly at the other woman's tone, but she forced down her natural reaction. "Yes, ambassador."

    "On my way."

    Stepping back to the railing, Kalara heard Prin end a conversation with Sarine. Her attention, though, drifted to the side where a section of the holographic display had changed rendering to zoom in on the approaching Laurentii ships. Kalara barely suppressed a gasp.

    The Laurentii ships were huge, larger than any vessels Kalara had ever seen. She had heard talk of the famous biological engineering capabilities of the Hegemony, but even in her wildest dreams, she had not imagined anything like this was possible.

    They were alive, that much was obvious. The closest comparison Kalara could make was to a Terran water-animal that she had seen on her honeymoon with Damien. A whale. The Laurentii ships appeared to be huge, space-faring whales. Their hulls had the texture of rough skin, covered in excrescences and boils. A massive bulky main body gradually diminished to what appeared to be a serpentine like tail.

    "My god," one of the MACOs at Kalara's side breathed. "They look alive."

    "Commander, we're being hailed by the lead ship."

    "On viewer. Full bridge domain."

    Kalara quickly dropped her own view-finder down over her eye, just in time to see the sight of the Laurentii ships vanish to be replaced by her first glimpse of a Laurentii.

    The alien creature was visible from the shoulders up, giving her a glimpse of a silvery material covering his body. His face, though humanoid, carried a few obvious differences from those races Kalara was used to, starting with the twilight-black eye-strip that seemed to run all the way around its head.

    "This is Commander Prin Ly'et of the Federation Starship Redemption. May I be the first to--"

    "Where is the Sarine?"

    Kalara saw Prin tense slightly as she was cut off by the Laurentii commander. She bristled herself at the tone.

    "Captain Sarine is on his way to the bridge as we speak. In the meantime--"

    "Have him contact us when he is there."

    The screen went blank for a moment, then reverted back to the view of the approaching Laurentii ships, now much larger. Kalara could make out a series of metallic constructs that seemed to have been implanted into the flesh of the creature-ships, obviously some kind of control and habitat modules.

    Kalara felt a surge of anger at the way they had been treated by the Laurentii, but she stamped down on it firmly. This isn't my problem, she told herself. This isn't my ship. Not anymore.

    Prin stood there for a moment, as if lost for words, then she turned back to her seat. As she did, she caught sight of Kalara and smiled wanly.

    "Friendly, aren't they?"

    Kalara could only nod. Friendly, indeed.

    Bridge

    Five minutes later, Sarine arrived on the bridge. Kalara had remained at her station behind the railing, so she had a good view of him as he exited the bridge. Something seemed... different about him somehow. More relaxed almost. She would have sworn he had a smile on his face.

    He walked along the railing and down the steps into the Pit, accepting a headset from a young eager Ferengi ensign stood at attention beside his chair.

    "What have we got, commander?" he asked Prin Ly’et.

    The commander seemed as surprised as Kalara by Ba'el's strange reaction, but she recovered quickly. "Three Laurentii Behemoths dropped out of quantum slipstream space about six minutes ago. They hailed us, demanded to speak to you, and then ended the transmission. They're holding position off our starboard side."

    Prin's words seemed to dampen Ba'el's spirits somewhat and he frowned when she mentioned that they had ended the transmission. Sitting forward slightly in his chair, he stared at the Laurentii ships through the holographic display, then shook his head. Standing, he turned towards the front of the bridge.

    "Alright then, Lieutenant Barani. Put them on."

    Kalara watched in the viewfinder as the same Laurentii commander from earlier reappeared. With a little more time to study him, she noted the lack of a nose and the strange, tiny ears, which seemed to shiver every few seconds.

    "Who am I speaking to?" the Laurentii demanded.

    "Who am I speaking to?" Ba'el barked right back.

    The Laurentii seemed slightly taken aback by Ba'el's reaction, but he replied. "I am Juny'ar, varec of She-Who-Is-Driven-Away. Are you the Sarine?"

    "I am Ba'el Sarine, captain of the USS Redemption. I represent the United Federation of Planets and request that--"

    "Actually, captain, you will find that I represent the United Federation of Planets."

    Kalara couldn't help wincing slightly at the sound of Benjamani's voice. She turned to see the older woman stood just outside the turbolift, staring at Sarine. She clicked her fingers at one of the ensigns, who scurried over with a spare headset. She set it on her head like a crown, then carefully placed the viewfinder down over her eye.

    To Kalara's surprise, Ba'el didn't explode. He didn't make some cutting comment. Instead, he bowed his head and indicated with his arm that Benjamani should take over.

    The ambassador seemed as taken aback as the Laurentii officer had been earlier. Still, she recovered quickly from her flustered state, speaking at the Laurentii.

    "Kishiruru, talaca seefu dan, varec-to," she said, her mouth having difficulty making the hissing sounds seemingly included in the Seefu alphabet. She had obviously mentally deactivated the translation matrix for the time of the greeting. Looking for an edge.

    "Kishiruru," the Laurentii replied. Then he went on, this time reactivating his own translator. "Now, Sarine, you will follow us."

    Kalara would have sworn she saw Sarine grin as the Laurentii commander - Jun'yar - neatly bypassed the ambassador. "If you will transmit the coordinates to us, varec Jun'yar, I will instruct my navigation's officer to--"

    "Surely we should exchange greetings, first, varec-to," Benjamani cut in again. Kalara thought she sounded desperate, desperate to maintain some kind of control over this conversation.

    "The time for greetings is passed. The herd will flock. You must follow."

    None of that made much sense to Kalara, but it seemed a clear enough indication that Benjamani should drop it. The ambassador, though, did not seem inclined to do that.

    "I was told that the negotiations would begin with--"

    "I do not care what you were told, kruvat. The time has passed. You will follow." From the slight shift of the incline of his head, the Laurentii was turning his attention back to Sarine. "You are the Sarine. We transmit the information. You will follow."

    The transmission went dead, leaving them all staring once again at the majestic vision of the three Laurentii ships seeming to hover in space beside them. Kalara heard Benjamani mutter something behind her, and kept her eyes firmly on the viewscreen. I will not get involved. I will not get involved.

    Sarine had turned to Lieutenant Barani at Ops, not paying any attention to Benjamani. He walked over to stand beside her, waiting for her to confirm that she had received the transmission. After a few moments, she turned and nodded.

    "Good. Transfer those to Ensign Q'sar's station. Ensign, make the necessary calculations and transfer them to the other ships. And someone please drag Ambassador Qwert and Mister Grove out of the Alpha Quadrant."

    As his people jumped to carry out their orders, Kalara sensed Benjamani draw closer. She did not turn, pretending to follow the movement of the Laurentii ships outside. Benjamani, though, didn't seem to have any intention of allowing Kalara to ignore her.

    "A funny thing, Lieutenant-Commander."

    Kalara made a non-committal sound in the back of her throat. Benjamani went on.

    "After I left the bridge, I went to check Starfleet Regulations in the main computer."

    Cursing to herself, Kalara turned and met Benjamani's gaze. If the older woman wanted to make something of this situation, she would stand and face her.

    "It seems that there is no regulation allowing a captain to ban an ambassador from the bridge at any time during a diplomatic mission. I guess that was missing from your induction into Starfleet."

    Kalara straightened. "Many things were."

    "Indeed." Benjamani took a step closer. "Do not toy with me, Kalara. You have no idea what I'm capable of."

    Kalara did not break eye contact with the other woman. She stared deep into her eyes, letting Benjamani see a hint of what lay underneath. "Neither do you."

    The two women locked gazes for a moment more, then Benjamani looked away. "As long as we understand one another, Lieutenant-Commander."

    As Benjamani went over to speak with one of her aides who had just arrived on the bridge, Kalara turned and looked back into the Pit. She discovered she was shaking from restrained violence. All she had wanted to do was reach up and snap the old woman's neck. She was more and more convinced that this was not working. One way or another, she had to get out from underneath Benjamani's thumb.

    One way or another.

    The Bowl
    Deck 10
    USS Redemption

    Redemption's science bay, known as the Bowl, resembled a vast glass construct and took up three floors. Including a holographic stellar cartography department, numerous laboratories, and every possible scientific equipment Starfleet could get their hands on, it maintained a cold, austere atmosphere through liberal use of glass separators, and white and blue lighting.

    Zoraya had been assigned a small corner in a vast laboratory, which she shared with a dozen other ensigns in Xeno-biology. Their boss, a frumpy Ferengi woman with overlarge lobes, had kept them busy running practice runs on samples taken from every Federation race she had been able to get her hands on, in preparation for their arrival in Laurentii space, when - she hoped - they would finally be able to spend some time studying some real alien biology.

    Zoraya hadn’t complained though. The grunt work had given her numerous opportunities to continue her true work. Since leaving Romulan space, she had sent well over seventy-five spider programs scurrying down into Redemption's main computers. Designed by Starfleet Intelligence, the spiders were so-called because they were very good at connecting different points into a wide web of information. They were also known as cameleons for their ability to take on the code and characteristics of whichever part of a mainframe they were trawling through. As far as the techheads in S.I knew, they were absolutely untraceable.

    I hope they're right, she thought. If one of them did trip an alarm, she would have a lot of explaining to do.

    She sensed movement over to her left and turned to see Lieutenant Gluta, the xenobiology department head, come scurrying down the corridor. The rotund Ferengi woman seemed out of breath, as if she had been jogging.

    When she reached the door into their small room, she was almost jumping up and down.

    "Contact," she crowed. "We have contact people."

    A murmur ran through the gathered scientists. Zoraya herself felt a surge of excitement. They had been waiting for their real job to start for days now.

    "Are they onboard?" one of the ensigns, a jumpy human girl with short black hair, asked.

    "Of course they're not," another ensign, a Romulan, sneered. "They won't be coming here, we'll be going there."

    "Silence," Gluta cried in that shrill little voice of hers. Everyone stopped talking. Once she was sure she had all their attention, Gluta went on. "So far we only have the recording of the transmission between the bridge and the Laurentii ships that met us to work with, as well as some scans of their ships."

    "Behemoths," whispered the ensign next to Zoraya, a Cardassian woman.

    "We're going to form two teams and try and get as much information as we can out of both."

    As Gluta began to separate them into two teams, Zoraya turned back to her station. She was only half-listening anyway, but when she saw the flashing icon on her screen, she stopped listening altogether.

    Her hands shaking slightly, she tapped the icon, opening up a data transmission from one of her spider programs. This one had been directed to set up its web within Redemption's communication's sub processor and to trawl through the scraps of transmissions that came there to die. It looked as though it had found something. If she was reading it correctly, it had found a garbled, encrypted transmission made on the day of the Klingon attack. Zoraya felt her heart beat a little faster. This might actually be what she was looking for. Now if she could just...

    "Would you care to join us in the real world, Ensign ? ?"

    Zoraya flicked her head round to see that Gluta and all the others were staring at her. She felt her cheeks burn.

    "Yes sir. Sorry sir."

    "What exactly is so interesting on your screen that you feel the need to ignore me?"

    Gluta began to come towards her, intent on seeing what was on Zoraya's screen. Panicking, Zoraya tried to find some way of stalling her when another Lieutenant came hurrying into their room.

    "Have you heard?" he announced as soon as he was inside. "The Laurentii have agreed to hand us scans of the interiors of their stations."

    Distracted by the announcement, Gluta stalled her forward motion and turned back to the man. All of the other ensigns were on their feet, excitedly asking questions of the newcomer. Zoraya took the opportunity to quickly transfer the data transmission to her personal station and then erased the message from her spider. She checked her screen to make sure there was nothing else there, and then went to join the other ensigns.
     
  12. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    Great chapter here!

    So Kalara is having second thoughts about the deal she made with Benjamani the She-Devil. Perhaps Bay will wind up with an ally in her, after all. :klingon: Liked how Bay was all relaxed and smiley coming onto the bridge, too. A fortuitously-timed kiss can make all the difference, apparently!

    The Laurentii are weird and alien and very well-described and well-handled here. The eye-strip really creeps me out for some reason. I assume they can see 360 degrees? That'd come in handy sometimes. The whale ships are a nice, otherworldly touch, too. Their unwillingness to deal with anyone but "The Sarine" is pissing Benjamani off. I'd be happy about that, except that I don't think it bodes well for Bay at all.

    And Zoraya is back! I loved the whole scene in the science lab -- feeling the excitement of all the Starfleeters geeking out while Zoraya tries to handle her spy stuff on the fly without drawing attention to herself as a lowly ensign. Very cool dynamic there, and the description of the science area was great, as well.

    Continued awesomeness, Joel! Can't wait to see what happens next!
     
  13. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    What Kes said. In spades.
     
  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Good to see Kalara back on the bridge, though I feel for her that she’s now thoroughly caught in Benjamani’s web. And speaking of the lovely, effervescent ambassador, getting to see her perfunctorily shot down by the Laurentii was a real treat! :lol: She will take a back seat to The Sarine, to be sure.
     
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    About time for Kalara to figure out that her boss is not the kind of person you want to be working for. But if things continue down this way, she'll run out of friends and allies pretty soon.

    Nice to see the return of my favorite spy on Redemption. Maybe she can put an end to the craziness that is unfolding behind the scenes. Considering how you begun this volume, not very likely.
     
  16. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    kes

    Thanks so much for your enthusiatic comment! Yes, Kalara feels that she is in way over her head with Benjamani, a fact that will become more than apparent in the upcoming chapters. However, I liked the fact that when Benjamani goes toe to toe with her, it is Benjamani who backs down. She knows that Kalara could so take her in a straight fight! :klingon:

    Glad the Laurentii continue to intrigue, I wanted them to be a step away from the classic ST aliens we're used to.Yes, they can see 360° with their eyestrips. Personally, I find the ventral breathing slits to be more creepy, but I suppose I can see how the sight strip would be as well.

    Yes, Zoraya is back. With all the spying going on, she had to come into this somewhere. For now, though, she is more a pawn than a player, so we'll have to see how she progresses.

    Mistral

    What I said to Kes! In spades! :lol: Seriously, thanks for the comment, glad to see you're still enjoying this.

    Gibraltar

    Happy that you enjoyed seeing Kalara back on the bridge, and about time too, I say! Unfortunately, as you pointed out, she is still stuck in Benjamani's claws, something she is going to have to sort out eventually.

    Glad you enjoyed this!

    CeJay

    Kalara always knew Benjamani was not the sort of person to get involved with, but she purposefully closed her eyes to it at a difficult time in her life. Now she's suffering for it, unfortunately, and things are not going to get better for our dear Klingon Commander!

    Glad Zoraya is your favourite spy aboard Redemption. As you noted, though, it is doubtful she will be able to make things any better, and as we see in this chapter, she is actually turning out to be more pawn than player in this little game.

    Thanks to you all for the comments,

    Joel
     
  17. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 10

    The Alpha Quadrant
    USS Redemption

    Somewhere in Slipstream Space

    Colin and Admiral Qwert were on their third bottle of kanar when both their comm badges chirped.

    The buzz of conversation surrounded them on all sides. The Alpha Quadrant had been modified that morning and now appeared liked a a hu-mon bar from Alpha Centauri, well known in the pre-Occupation Federation. Known as Harry’s, the bar had been done out in greys and browns, with comfortable leather chairs and low lying wooden tables spread throughout the room.

    The comm badge chirped again.

    Qwert glanced over at his hu-mon companion in time to see a narrow frown cross his face. The frown deepened as he tried to figure out where the sound was coming from. Holding back a smile, Qwert reached down and tapped his own comm badge.

    "Admiral Qwert here."

    "Admiral, this is the captain. Are you with Mister Groves?"

    The Ferengi glanced at Groves, this time unable to keep the smile from his lips as he saw the Presidential aide still frowning at thin air. "Yes, Mister Groves is here as well."

    "Good," Sarine went on. "I wanted to let both of you know that we are about ten minutes away from Onyx Station, if you would care to come to the bridge."

    "We'll be there, captain. Thank you for letting me know."

    "Sarine out."

    The comm line went dead. Qwert looked back at Groves to see the hu-mon shake his head slightly, trying to clear some of the haze. "Are we there yet?"

    Qwert smiled and slapped him on the shoulder. "Yes, hu-mon. We're almost there."

    "We should go to the bridge."

    "Good idea."

    Groves stood, or at least he tried to. Somewhere between the idea leaving his brain and his legs actually moving, he got into trouble and stumbled forward, reaching out and catching himself on the table. The movement sent the glasses skittering across the surface, sloshing liquid onto the table top. Qwert hid another smile and reached out to steady the younger man.

    "You don't look so good, Mister Groves," he said in his most solicitous voice. "Are you sure you're going to be alright?"

    Groves nodded, obviously another big mistake, as he clutched at his head in pain. "Yes," he groaned. "I'll be fine."

    "I'm not so sure," Qwert pressed. "You look like you might have had a little too much to drink."

    "No, no," Groves insisted, trying to press forward, but finding himself stalled by Qwert's firm hand. "I'll be fine, I just need to get some air."

    "What you need is some sleep," Qwert urged. "I don't think it's a very good idea for you to be taking part in important negotiations in the state you're in, now do you?"

    Groves seemed to consider it for a moment, then shook his head, forcing another groan from between clenched teeth. "I... I suppose not..."

    "Good, excellent," Qwert said, loud enough to cause another spasm of pain to cross Grove's features.

    Straightening, he looked around the bar, eyes studying the various crew members spread around the rec centre. He picked out an ensign sitting at a table a few steps away, a young hu-mon male nursing what appeared to be a synthehol beer. Leaving Groves where he was, Qwert approached the young ensign, leaning on his latinum pressed cane.

    When he saw Qwert coming, the ensign bolted from his seat, almost throwing the table and glass of beer onto the floor. He reached out just in time and grabbed the table edge to stop it falling over, saluting with his other hand at the same time. Wide-eyed, he stared at Qwert.

    "Admiral!"

    "At ease, ensign," Qwert said genially. Being friendly to the help never cost anyone a single strip of latinum, said the 677th Rule of Acquisition. "We're all off duty here. I actually wanted to ask you a favour."

    Pressing out his chest proudly, the ensign nodded eagerly. "Yes, admiral. Of course, admiral."

    "Good. You see that man over there?" Qwert turned to point at Groves, who was now slouched down over the table. The ensign nodded warily. "I need you to get him safely back to his quarters."

    "Is he... Is he alright?"

    Qwert smiled. "He'll be fine, he just needs a little sleep. Careful, though, this is Mr. Colin Groves, Deputy Chief of Staff to President Baxter."

    The ensign's eyes widened even further. Qwert could see his hands begin to shake. "Are you up to this, mister?" He put a little steel in his voice, causing the ensign's back to straighten.

    "Sir. Yes sir."

    "Good."

    Hobbling slightly, Qwert waddled back over to Groves. Leaning down, he lay a hand on the hu-mon's shoulder. "Mister Groves? The ensign here is going to see you back to your quarters, alright?"

    Groves stared up blearily, his eyes glazed over and unable to focus. He nodded, a little drool falling on his shirt. "Unh-unh," he grunted.

    "Splendid," Qwert said, smiling widely. "Now get some rest."

    Turning with difficulty, Qwert started to make his way over to the door out into the corridor. He turned as the doors opened and glanced back at Groves and the ensign. The younger man was struggling to get Groves up and out of his chair, one arm draped over his shoulder, the other swinging dangerously close to the ensign’s crotch. As Qwert watched, though, an attractive young blond hu-mon sauntered over for another table and bent down to speak to Groves. From the look on Groves' face, he seemed to know her.

    Qwert frowned slightly as the young woman waved the ensign away and began to put her arm around Groves. Who is she? he wondered. Shaking his head, he reminded himself that he had more important things to deal with. Turning away, he marched out into the corridor, heading for the turbolift.

    Bridge

    As he stepped out onto the bridge, Qwert leaned more heavily on his cane. He had found it useful throughout his life to appear weaker than he actually was, a relatively easy feat considering the way that most people considered the Ferengi. He remembered vividly how many times he had been able to stick a knife through Vorta or Jem'hadar because they could not believe that a lowly Ferengi could possibly pose them a threat.

    One of the many ensigns serving on the bridge scurried over with a headset as soon as he stepped out of the turbolift. Qwert accepted it, adjusting it slightly to fit over his large lobes. As he did, he caught sight of Lieutenant-Commander Kalara stood at one of the wall stations above the Pit. He brushed the edge of his lobe as he studied her, sending a shiver running down his spine. Magnificent. Truly magnificent.

    Turning away as she seemed to sense his scrutiny, Qwert saw Benjamani stood at another station, talking furiously at someone through her viewfinder. He held back a scowl - the woman was a bitch, there were no two ways about it. That stunt she had pulled on Sarine during the meal had been over the line.

    Speaking of Sarine... The captain had seen him arrive on the bridge and had made his way up out of the Pit. Qwert forced a smile. Sarine made him uneasy, had done since he first met him down on Romulus. There was something dark about the man, as if he had nothing to lose. Qwert had known men - and women - like that during the Occupation. They invariably led their people into dangerous situations.

    "Admiral," Sarine greeted him with a short bow of his head. "Glad you could join us." He looked around. "And Mister Groves?"

    "Slightly the worse for wear I'm afraid. Kanar doesn't seem to agree with him."

    "He won't be joining us then."

    Qwert shook his head. To his surprise, Sarine smiled at him with an almost conspiratorial air. "What a shame."

    So the man does have a sense of humour! As his moogie always said, miracles can be brought if you can find the right price. Qwert wondered idly what Sarine's price had been.

    "Would you care to join us in the Pit?" Sarine offered.

    Qwert smiled, but shook his head. "I think I'll watch things from up here." He tapped his leg with his cane. "Not as mobile as I used to be."

    Sarine nodded. "Of course. Well, if you'll excuse me..."

    "Please." Qwert very carefully allowed Sarine to turn away before reaching out and grabbing his shoulder. "Oh, captain?"

    The Romulan turned back to face him, his eyes flicking down to the hand on his shoulder and then back up again. Oh, this one really doesn't like to be touched. "Admiral?"

    Qwert glanced over at Benjamani, then leaned in, playing the conspiratorial angle for all it was worth. "Just remember, this may be her mission, but she's your ship."

    Sarine's eyes widened, just a fraction, but Qwert could tell he was surprised. Still, he nodded. "Thank you." He looked at Qwert for a moment longer, as if wondering whether he had anything else to say. When he was sure there wasn't, he nodded and walked back to the Pit.

    Qwert watched him go. Feeling eyes on him, he turned to see Benjamani staring at him, barely restrained hostility evident in the depths of her eyes. Qwert took great pleasure in smiling at her and bowing his head. She only scowled and turned back to the wall station. She hates knowing that she can't touch me. Hates it.

    He was still looking at her back when a beeping sound rang out through the bridge. Qwert turned back to the Pit as that scrumptious looking Cardassian woman Sarine had chosen as his first officer announced that Redemption was about to drop out of slipstream space.

    "All hands, prepare for reversion," Sarine announced.

    Qwert hobbled over to the rail and pressed against it as the bridge crew burst into a flourish of sudden activity. Dropping the viewfinder over his left eye, Qwert was able to watch as Redemption followed one of the hulking Laurentii ships into a side corridor of slipstream space. A few seconds passed, and then the coruscating energy patterns that formed the slipstream walls began to collapse. Turning to mist, they dissipated and crumbled and finally vanished in a flash of white light that returned Redemption to normal space.

    Qwert heard more than a few indrawn breaths as they got their first view of Onyx Station. Even he had to admit that the sight was worth a few strips of latinum.

    The solar system where the Laurentii had grown Onyx Station had a single star, which blazed red against the darkness of space. Three planetoids danced around the sun, one a gaseous giant that scintillated purple, the other two yellow Class-N worlds the Laurentii apparently mined for an unidentified mineral that was key to their production facilities.

    The station herself orbited between the two planetoids. Qwert mentally commanded his finder to focus and zoom in on the station so that he could get a good look.

    The station was very obviously organic. Where the starships that had escorted them seemed based on an acquatic model, the space station seemed more plant-like. A single cylindrical trunk spun slowly on its axis, sprouting ephemereal tendrils from its top at the ends of which lay what appeared to be pods. There were no exterior lights - rather the very skin of the station/creature glowed with a golden light.

    Qwert had never seen such amazing feat of biological engineering. He felt again a giddy sensation of opportunity like he hadn't felt since his years as a trader back before he joined the rebellion. My lobes are tingling.

    His attention wavered slightly as he heard Sarine speaking in low tones to his Ops officer, another attractive female, though this one was hu-mon. Does this ship have any non-attractive females?

    With his lobes, he could easily hear Sarine's words. "Lieutenant, how many Behemoths are out there?"

    Intrigued, Qwert used his security clearance to access the tactical readouts. He frowned as he saw what Sarine was getting at.

    "Thirty-five, captain," the Ops officer responded. She looked up at Sarine, eyes wide. "And at least seventy other ships of varying sizes."

    They've gathered an armada out here, Qwert thought. That can't be good. What exactly are they playing at?

    Sarine seemed to be thinking along the same lines. Before he could give any further orders, though, the same Ops officer turned back to her screen at a chiming sound and announced, "We're being hailed by the station, captain."

    Instead of ordering the transmission to be put through, Sarine turned to Benjamani with a raised eyebrow. Qwert followed his gaze. The old hu-mon woman was frowning, her mouth open. She had obviously been about to demand she be allowed to speak to the Laurentii. She'd been caught off guard. Qwert turned away, smothering a smile. Well done, captain, he silently saluted Sarine. Keep her off balance. Well done indeed.

    "Would you like us to put you through?" Sarine offered geniely.

    "Thank you, captain," Benjamani grated through clenched teeth. Those words must have hurt coming out.

    "Lieutenant Barani, connect the transmission to Ambassador Benjamani's headset, everyone else incoming only."

    When Barani had finished, the view of Onyx Station and the Laurentii armada vanished to be replaced by the face of a Laurentii officer. A varec from the markings on his forehead and cheek.

    “Federation vessels, this is varec Shy’at aboard Ispaoreai Hyps’rat. Please identify yourselves.”

    “This is Ambassador Benjamani aboard the USS Redemption. May the Seefu guide you through the void, varec.”

    “And out into the light,” Shy’at said. “May I ask, where is Captain Sarine?”

    Even from his position, Qwert could hear Benjamani grinding her teeth. “He is here.”

    “Good. I am sorry to be so abrupt, but the kruin would like the negotiations to get underway as quickly as possible. Can you beam over?”

    “Of course. My staff and I will be happy to- -“

    “Please make sure that Captain Sarine accompanies you.”

    Benjamani stiffened again. She nodded, a harsh movement. “Of course.”

    “Good. We will await you at these coordinates.” He pressed his hand to the wall behind him, transmitting the transporter coordinates. Out of the corner of his eyes, Qwert saw Barani nod to Commander Ly’et, confirming reception.

    “Thank you, varec.”

    “We will see you soon.”

    The transmission went dead. Everyone stood there for a moment, watching Benjamani, waiting to see what she was going to do. The only person whose full attention was not on the ambassador was Sarine himself. He was studying the readouts from the station, though Qwert didn’t need to be a Betazoid to know that his full attention was focused on Benjamani.

    Finally, the ambassador spoke through gritted teeth. “Captain Sarine?”

    Sarine looked up, seemingly surprised that she had adressed him. “Ambassador?”

    “Please accompany the away team over to the station.”

    Sarine stood there, looking at Benjamani, his eyes boring into hers. There was not the slightest hint of good humour, nor graciousness in his expression. Qwert wondered whether he was going to refuse, or make her beg him. After a moment, though, he nodded.

    “With pleasure.”

    An audible sigh of relief rippled over the bridge. Another confrontation averted, Qwert thought. He just hoped they would be able to avert one with the Laurentii.
     
  18. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    (continued)

    Transporter Room 7

    A group of security officers were waiting in Redemption’s transporter room, led by the chief of security herself, a towering Xindi insectoid, whose mandibles clicked loudly enough to send shudders down Qwert’s spine.

    Apart from the security officers, Benjamani, Sarine and Qwert himself, the away team was made up of a young ensign who had been assigned as Sarine’s aide, two humans on Benjamani’s staff and Lieutant-Commander Kalara. Qwert had to admit to feeling reassured to have her there – no matter what lecherous comments he might have made about her in the past, he was at least lucid enough to know what a formidable warrior she was.

    Minutes later, the transporter beam faded around them and Qwert saw the varec who had communicated with them, stood in a transporter room about the size of Qwert's closet.

    The varec stepped forward and bowed before Benjamani. After going through a ritual greeting that both Benjamani and Sarine seemed well versed in, he closed his eyes, seemingly communing with the station. Moments later, to Qwert’s surprise, the wall behind him irised open, revealing a passageway beyond.

    "If you will follow me," Shy'at said, "I will bring you to the kruin."

    As Benjamani followed him, Qwert held back slightly, preferring to walk with Sarine. As they passed through the opening, the captain stumbled slightly, reaching out a hand to catch himself against the wall. Qwert caught at his arm, stopping him from falling.

    The moment Sarine's fingers touched the surface, he tensed up. Qwert glanced up at him to see his eyes had rolled back in his eyes. A nauseous feeling settled in Qwert's stomach.

    "Captain?"

    Sarine continued to stare off into space for a moment, and then he shook his head and focused on Qwert. "What... What happened?"

    "You almost fell."

    "I... That's so strange."

    "What?"

    Sarine didn't seem to be listening to him. "Captain Sarine?"

    Blinking, Sarine smiled wanly. "Sorry. Not sure what just happened. I'm fine now."

    Qwert nodded. He was not convinced, no matter what Sarine said. He could hardly order him back to Redemption, though. Still, he would definitely keep an eye on him.

    Stepping away from the edge of the portal, Sarine set off after the others, Qwert a few steps behind. They caught up with them at an intersection with another passageway. Benjamani glared at them. Qwert just smiled.

    He took a moment to look around. The passageways did not seem solid, like the corridors of a Starfleet vessel. Instead, he got the feeling that they opened and closed as needed, almost like veins. He reached out himself, dragging the tips of his fingers over the surface. To his surprise, it rippled slightly, contracting beneath his touch. It's alive, he realised. This is all part of whatever creature was used to create this.

    The group had continued on, so he stumbled after them. The floor was ever so-slightly springy beneath his feet, more like muscle than metal. It was going to take him a little while to get used to it, especially with his cane.

    His attention was drawn away from his study of the station itself to the sound of a heated conversation going on up ahead. He looked up to see that the group of Starfleet officers had come to a halt. By the time he reached them, he realised why.

    Seven Laurentii, their skin colour varying from the same greyish tinge as their guide through a deep blue and a livid purple to black as dark as space itself. Their eye strips were also coloured differently. All of them were tall, though, and muscular. And their anger seemed to wash over the Starfleet people like radiation from a neutron star.

    As Qwert reached the group, he heard their guide speaking urgently to one of them.

    "Please," he was saying, "you must let us past. I must bring the kruvati before the kruin."

    The tallest of the Laurentii, a large purple skinned male, sneered at Shy'at, his thin lips pulling back to reveal teeth almost as pointed as a Ferengi's. His ventral air flaps also opened wide, apparently another sign of anger or scorn.

    "The kruin does not speak for the yazsmoot, kispa. Nor does he speak for our people. These kruvati will be brought before the yazsmoot for these discussions."

    "But I have orders..."

    "I do not care about your orders. You serve the yazsmoot and you will obey me."

    Qwert watched with interest as the darkness in Shy'at's eye strip faded, turning to a dull grey. Some kind of photo-sensitive reaction to emotion? Very interesting. He wondered whether there could be any kind of commercial application. His thoughts followed that track for a moment, then snapped back to the present as Shy'at finally spread his arms in what appeared to be a gesture of surrender.

    "I obey."

    The Laurentii who had ambushed them did not respond, but simply turned and began to walk down the corridor. Shy'at turned and glanced at the Federation officers, almost as if he were begging for them to do something. When no one said anything, though, he made the same wide-armed gesture and turned to follow them.

    Qwert made sure to walk alongside Benjamani. He leaned in towards her.

    "What was all that about?"

    Benjamani looked down at him disdainfully, but she answered him anyway. "There seems to be some kind of power struggle between the kruin - the master of Onyx Station, if I understand it correctly - and the yazsmoot, which is the leading council."

    "And this yaszmoot is the leading council of the whole Hegemony?"

    To his surprise, Sarine - who had been walking a few steps in front - was the one who answered.

    "No, only of this section of the Hegemony, which is centred on Onyx Station."

    Benjamani glared at him, but didn't contradict what he was saying. Qwert barely noticed it, his mind playing through what Sarine had just said.

    "So the people we're negotiating with, they do not represent the whole Hegemony?"

    Benjamani shook her head curtly. "Not at this time, no."

    "Then--"

    Before he could ask the obvious question - how would anything they negotiated be accepted throughout the Hegemony, or were they going to have to negotiate with every damned Laurentii in Hegemony space? - the corridor before them opened out into a large chamber. Some kind of council room, Qwert guessed.

    Vaguely spherical, the chamber’s floor descended into a hollow where a large table seemed to have been extruded from the floor itself. The only light was provided by the walls, which glowed with a dull luminescence. There were no other fixtures or features.

    Sat around the table were a dozen other Laurentii, their skin colour as varied as that of the group who had intercepted them. They seemed to have been in the middle of an important conversation when Qwert and the other Federation representatives were led in. Two or three stood at the arrival, raising their voices in what sounded like angry confusion.

    "This doesn't look good," Qwert heard Kalara whisper to Benjamani. The ambassador shook her head violently, but didn't make any other comment.

    Shy'at turned and motioned for the Federation officers to stop. Qwert watched as he then hurried to catch up with the purple-skinned Laurentii from earlier on. The two of them then approached the table.

    "Is there a leader of the yazsmoot?" Qwert asked after a moment, looking over at Benjamani.

    The ambassador shook her head again, tight-lipped. She doesn't know, Qwert realised. He looked to Sarine, but the captain only shrugged. Qwert sighed loudly. His briefing papers had made it clear that the Federation knew very little about the way the Hegemony was organised, but this was ludicrous. How could he negotiate when he didn't know who had the final word?

    Shy'at and the purple Laurentii seemed to both be stating their cases before the yaszmoot, most of whom seemed very agitated at the irruption. One of the members of the council stood near the purple-skinned officer, and seemed to be supporting him. A smaller Laurentii - did that mean he was older - stood by Shy'at.

    "They look like they're split about something."

    "Us," Sarine said.

    After another few minutes of heated discussion, a very large Laurentii, his body muscular and scarred beneath heavy robes, turned to face Qwert and the others. Qwert could feel the anger - and even hatred - washing off of him in waves. If he had been Ferengi, he would have been glaring. As it was, he raised his hands and then two streams of yellow liquid came streaming from his ventral lips, splashing to the floor. A foul odor arose, filling the enclosed space. Once he had finished, the brawny Laurentii turned and stalked towards the far wall, which flowered open to allow him access to a corridor beyond. A handful of others followed.

    They all stood there for a moment in silence, not sure what to say. Finally, Qwert spoke up.

    "What by the Material Continuum just happened?"

    "He spat at us," Sarine said.

    "That was spit?"

    "What passes for it, anyway. I've seen it happen once before. Basically, it means he thinks we are unclean and he wants nothing to do with us."

    "Oh, that's good."

    Shy'at had climbed back up the hollow walls and now approached them. From the jerky motions of his hands and head, Qwert guessed that he was nervous and uncomfortable. When he reached them, he looked to Sarine.

    "The yazsmoot has agreed to see you and hear your requests."

    "We--"

    "Are happy to accept their gracious offer," Benjamani interjected. She stared daggers at Sarine, who simply nodded in agreement, though Qwert saw him stiffen somewhat at her tone.

    "If you would come with me."

    As Shy'at led them down towards the table, Qwert couldn't help but glance at the yellow stain on the floor. As he watched, the ground itself opened up and sucked the liquid down. His eyes widened at the sight, and he looked away quickly.

    Oh, we're off to a wonderful start, he thought. A wonderful start indeed.
     
  19. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    I think this probably isn’t going to go down as a spectacular opening gambit in the annals of diplomacy!

    I’m loving the continuing animosity and power-struggle going on between Sarine and Benjamini, and how much Qwert is enjoying the show.

    At first the Laurentii appeared simply enigmatic and mercurial, but now we discover their culture is as discordant as any other humanoid society. Those divisions will obviously complicate these delicate negotiations…

    Yeah, that could have gone better. :lol:
     
  20. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    I liked the way you told it from the Adm's pov. An interesting dynamic that served to make the character more than one dimensional.
     

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