UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by DarKush, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ****************************************************************

    Jov’k Tholis
    Calcite-class battlecruiser

    “Warp engines are primed,” the Operations Officer informed the commander. Narskene looked at the viewer, watching the Starfleet vessel struggle to catch up to them.

    “Starfleet ship is moving to intercept,” The Weapons Officer stated the obvious. “And is powering…diverting power to forward torpedo bays.” S/he said, glancing up from hir terminal. What s/he wanted was evident.

    “Take us back to Tholia,” Narskene ordered.

    “But shouldn’t we…disable the Federation vessel first?” The Weapons Officer suggested.

    “Carry out my order,” Narskene barked, ignoring the bellicose weapons master. In reply to hir command, the cruiser turned from the glacially advancing Starfleet vessel.

    “Activate warp drive,” Narskene said.

    ****************************************************************
    USS Erickson
    Main Bridge

    The Tholian vessel began to stretch across the main viewer as the warp effect began to take hold. Tai knew they only had seconds, if that, to stop them. “Fire whatever operable quantum torpedoes available!”

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

    USS Erickson
    Corridor

    Almost at the Auxiliary Shuttlebay, Andraste felt the walls quiver. She recognized the vibrations. Tai had just fired torpedoes. So they had regained some control over the ship’s systems, the Angosian realized. She also guessed that the focus of her exes’ ire would be Burning Claw. The woman guessed that was the epitaph for her fellow buccaneers.

    There was no one on that bucket she would shed tears for, which made the decision she had already formulated that much more vital to undertake. Reaching the entrance, she tried the manual interface. Still disabled, she used her fingers to pry the paneling open and then rewired the interface to open the doors.

    Crossing the threshold, Andraste grinned at the fleet of gleaming silver-white shuttles now at her disposal. “Stop right there!” She heard a hard voice coming from the pool of shadows to her right. A strapping young Grazerite, holding a phaser in one meaty hand, strode forward. Andraste’s smile grew wider.

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

    Jov’k Tholis
    Calcite-class battlecruiser

    As the engines hummed around them, the warp field embracing the vessel, Narskene barely registered the weapons master’s shrill warning. “Commander, Starfleet vessel has just fired two quantum torpedoes.”

    The commander didn’t worry too much about it because the torpedoes would merely puncture the space where Jov’k Tholis had just been. Even if they made contact, the cruiser’s shields were strong enough to handle the initial volley, and it would give hir enough justification to vaporize the Starfleet vessel. None of the Federation advocates would be able to argue that Jov'k Tholis had not acted in self-defense.

    As space began to stretch before hir eyesight, Narskene heard the Weapon Officer’s second report. “First torpedo missed.”

    “What of the second?” Narskene asked, still not concerned. The stars were stretching to infinity now and the harmonics of the engines as the warp factored increased was like music to the commander. It was what s/he loved most about breaking the warp threshold.

    Enjoying the excitement of being on the cusp, Narskene held in hir bantling delight as the ship flung forward, piercing subspace. The moment was shorter than it usually was because of a terrible, uncommon rattling that shook the ship and threw it off course.

    Using her multiple limbs, Narskene maintained her poise. “What was that?” S/he asked, already knowing the answer.

    “One of the quantum torpedoes hit our portside nacelle,” the Weapons Officer’s tone was accusatory. For the time being, Narskene chose to ignore it.

    “Any significant damage?”

    “No,” the weapons master seemed not to want to admit. “The shields held.” The commander could hear the warp engines still humming. The Starfleet ship had even been ineffective at slowing them down. Their best shot hadn’t been good enough.

    “Well then,” Narskene said, with renewed confidence. “Helm, best speed to Tholia.”

    “I don’t think that will be possible,” the pilot soberly replied. The viewer, s/he added mentally. Look at the main viewer commander.

    There was a sickeningly Terran-like gasp from the Sensor Officer who had gazed at the main viewer without the mental prompting. Narskene’s eyes widened.

    A large, dark band hung before them, a massive subspace rupture like a grinning mouth, a hungry gullet. While the Starfleet ship had not damaged Jov’k Tholis, it had knocked the ship off course and nearly right down the maw of a monstrous tear in space.

    “Reverse engines,” Narskene nearly cried. “Reverse engines!”

    “It’s too late,” the Weapons Officer said, and Narskene had to have imagined there was a morbid self-satisfaction in the subordinate’s tone. As if hir words were prophecy, dark tendrils lit by infernal plasma lashed out at the ship, smashing into it, battering it about as if the large cruiser were a mere plaything.

    “Increase power to shields!” The commander barked as the ship continued getting tossed about, spidery cracks appearing throughout the bridge as Jov’k Tholis itself seemed to stop listening to hir. Klaxons blasted while the engines’ harmony had turned to cacophony.

    At least hir crew, including the weapons master, worked feverishly to avert destruction. But the great mouth of the rupture was only getting closer, and the assault against the ship was draining its power. The cruiser was struggling like a trapped beast, and it was losing.

    Narskene knew the battle was lost, but could at least be satisfied that the Assembly’s secret would stay safe and that hir crew had performed ably. That was all that a commander could ask for, and it was a fitting sum total for the brief mortal thread s/he had been given. Accepting hir fate, Narskene stared into the breach and dared it take hir.

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  2. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *****************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Main Bridge

    There was a much needed cheer that went up on the bridge as the second torpedo struck. Commander Donar held back his pleasure, keeping his eyes on the screen. After the brightness of the conflagration had dissipated, there was no sign of the Tholian spacecraft.

    Tai knew that the shot, which hadn’t even hit the Tholian battlecruiser head on, could have destroyed it. “Lt. Jilicia, what happened to the ship?”

    “Scanners show that the ship was able to go to warp,” the Boslic answered, with obvious disappointment.

    “At least we slowed it down,” Lt. French offered. “Maybe we can catch up to it.”

    Tai shook his head, “No, Mr. French. By the time we are in a position to effectively take on that warship, they will be halfway back to Assembly space. Our first priority is here, taking care of ship and crew,” the Angosian remarked. His head dipping for a few moments as he calmed the bloodlust still beckoning, he said quietly, “Restore power to main systems.” The bridge brightened as energy was redirected from the torpedo bays.

    He shifted his shoulders, the burden of failure rested uncomfortably on them. Though he had been unsuccessful in stopping the Tholians, it didn’t mean that another Starfleet ship couldn’t. “Lt. Jilicia, prepare a warning buoy about our encounter with the Tholians. I don’t want them waylaying any more ships. Also, if another Starfleet vessel happens upon them, they will have some inkling of what they might face.”

    “Aye sir,” the young woman replied, quickly getting to work. Tai left the upper deck and strode into the command well. Captain Redfeather, her face a mass of cuts and bruises, had been propped up in corner of the room, near her Ready Room. Before the Angosian could reach her, a shaft of bright blue light appeared in his way. It resolved quickly into Dr. Narsan.

    The Halanan clutched a medical tricorder in one hand, a hypo in the other, and a medical kit was slung across his shoulders. He coolly took in his surroundings, before turning in the captain’s direction without prompting from Tai.

    He ran the blocky scanner over the woman, mumbled something unintelligible, and then placed the hypo on her upper arm. Before Tai could inquire about her condition, the chief medic tapped his combadge and the transporter beam enveloped both him and his patient.

    Seconds later, several nurses, with similar equipment appeared on the bridge, and whisked away the most seriously injured crew members.

    For the first time in what seemed an eternity, Tai allowed himself a little bit of hope that Captain Redfeather would pull through and that things would eventually return to normal, as much as that was possible with the gaping hole left in the command structure and the ship’s community by the deaths of so many well regarded colleagues.

    Despite that, Donar was going to cradle the little ember of hope to keep the flame alive. He had Jilicia check in with Engineering and the other departments, getting a sense of how badly the pirates had hit them. After working out restoration timeframes for affected systems, Tai set about to deal with something that had been coiling in his mind, under a rock until the immediate danger had passed.

    “Lt. Jilicia,” he asked the taxed Boslic. She answered crisply, with no hint of frustration. “I want you to check for Angosian life signs.” The nanoseconds before her answer were some of the most agonizing that Tai had experienced in his whole life, and after all the death he had seen and blood he had spilled, that meant a lot.

    “I’m reading…two,” the woman jerked up from her terminal, her eyes wide.

    “Where is the second reading?” Tai asked, his expression hardening, as tension built in his muscles.

    “Auxiliary Shuttle…” Jilicia hadn’t even finished before Tai had clapped his combadge and ordered to be teleported there.
    ***************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Auxiliary Shuttlebay

    In hindsight, Tai realized he probably should’ve brought a phaser along. The floating shuttle turned around slowly to face him, Andraste in the cockpit. Below it, uniform rippling in the breeze was a Grazerite non-com, his head twisted at an impossible angle.

    The Angosian’s insides froze and he gathered his strength. Andraste smiled, before speaking, via the shuttle’s communication system. “Open the doors Tai, or I’m going to blast them.”

    “No,” he shook his head.

    “You’ll get sucked out into space.”

    “I’m not letting you go, not after what you’ve done, the murders you committed.” His heart ached as the woman shrugged.

    “Come now,” she chided. “This is not your coddled Starfleet compatriots you are talking to, this is your wife, and even more importantly a fellow soldier. You know how transient life is, and how much it is an honor to die in service of something you believe in. The lives I’ve taken here today, they now have a meaning, a resonance that those with more humdrum existences do not,” his wife declared.

    “That’s sick!” He snarled, his hands starting to twitch as the desire to lock them around his wife’s throat began to mount.

    “Stop deluding yourself,” she said, “You know it’s true. Now, let me go, or I’m going to demolish a good chunk of your hull. Do you really think that this ship can withstand another breach?”

    “I’m not letting you go,” he repeated, damnable moisture collecting at the corners of his eyes.

    Andraste sighed audibly. “This isn’t about the crewmen at all,” she shook her head. “This is about you and me. You have to let me go, finally Tai. You can’t save me.” She paused, her voice growing surprisingly, disgustingly tender, “You never could. This is my life, these are my choices, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about them any longer. You have to let me go.”

    “You’re going to face justice,” he promised.

    “Perhaps, but not today and you know it,” she replied with equal resolve. “You have a ship and crew to take care of, save our little dance for another day.”

    He fought against each step, but the Angosian forced his legs over to the free standing operation console. The shuttlebay doors parted open slowly, the black vacuum beyond held back by a forcefield. While the field kept oxygen in, it did nothing for heat. A deep chill came over him as Andraste dipped the shuttle in a twisted gesture of respect or to say goodbye. She angled it around and then eased it through the shimmering forcefield and then out into space.

    Tai slapped his combadge so hard it burned his chest. He wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t leave a chevron imprint on his pectoral. “Bridge, lock tractor beam on that shuttle, now!”

    He waited anxious seconds for a confirmation that his order had been carried out. “Bridge,” he prompted after activating the compin again.

    “Sorry sir,” the brunette at the tactical terminal said, “But we were unable to lock onto the shuttle. The pilot engaged in some unorthodox maneuvers.”

    “Understood,” he said, “Donar out.” The Angosian knew it would be pointless to chew out the young officer. Andraste always had been a good pilot. It would take a very skillful hand to trap her with a tractor beam, and Tai wasn’t even sure he could have done it.

    Contemplating what had just happened, Donar stood in the shuttlebay, with the dead non-com, watching the doors shut, clanging with a finality he didn’t feel. “I will see you again Andraste,” he stated simply, quietly, “I promise.”
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  3. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ****************************************************************

    Infirmary
    Starbase 101
    Two weeks later…

    “Captain,” Tai Donar said warmly, punctuating it with a short bow once he reached her bedside. “It’s good seeing you conscious, and sitting up.” There were only a few other occupied biobeds in the massive medical center. The captain was propped up on the half-elevated bed, one leg and arm hanging from straps attached to the structure overhanging the bed. Tai stood on the other side of the bed, opposite the structure.

    Captain Redfeather smiled, and winced right after. Her face was covered with deep red and brown welts, and her right arm was still encased within a cast. “Captain Donar,” she chanced a smile again, got half way and then thought better of it. She nodded and him and winced again. “Thank you for getting my crew and Erickson back safe and sound.”

    He frowned, nodding his head, “I wish I could say the same, but there were fatalities.” Nine crewmen had been mowed down by the marauders, not counting the poor young man whose neck had been snapped by his wife. “And I let one of the key perpetrators go.”

    Redfeather’s eyes clouded over and her face took on a grim cast. “It could’ve been worse, much worse. But it wasn’t, and I have you to thank for it.”

    “Captain, I-I came here,” Tai paused, his words tangling. “To see you, but also…” She strongly shook her head.

    “Don’t you say it,” she warned, “Don’t you dare. You’re not going to quit on me.”

    “But captain, I…f-failed,” he stammered.

    “Who among us hasn’t,” she riposted, “and who among us hasn’t lived up to all of their promises. You’ve had men die under your command before, far more than I ever have, and you know that is one of the risks of the life we live.”

    He lowered his head, unable to speak. Captain Redfeather continued, “Listen Captain, Commander, oh, Tai, listen, I wasn’t honest with you. I did have doubts about you, reservations about your military conditioning,” she paused, to gauge his reaction. Tai kept his head down, so she continued, “I was concerned that when the battle was on, you might get lost in the thick of it, you might give into whatever thing the Angosians programmed you to be, but I was wrong. When that moment came, or moments from what I heard, you stuck by your crew, you put them first, and I,” she halted, the words escaping her now.

    Donar looked up and saw tears glistening in the woman’s eyes. With her mobile hand she reached out and grasped one of his, and squeezed it tight. “I just want to say thank you.”

    He nodded, his chest constricting, and his own eyes growing uncomfortably moist. “Also,” Redfeather added, with a trace of a smirk, “If you try to leave, I’ll send Helen after you.”

    ********************************************************************
    USS Erickson
    Captain’s Ready Room

    Despite his size, the captain’s leather chair felt too big for him. Tai downplayed his insecurity and laughed along with the woman gracing the holoprojector. Lt. Juanita Rojas, dressed in an alluring low-cut azure blouse and tight golden pants, definitely civilian attire, grinned as she finished, “I knew my man would make captain someday, but not so soon.” The slight blue tint bathing his paramour, courtesy of the projector, didn’t diminish one iota of her beauty.

    Beyond the room, the faint din of work crews could be heard. Tai could’ve taken up space on the mushroom-like starbase, but he preferred being closer to the ship.

    “Don’t get used to it,” Tai quipped. “This is just temporary. Will you still love me after I’m busted back down to first officer?”

    “I love you,” the younger woman said, suddenly serious, “I’m so glad you made it out of that nightmare in one piece.” Donar had been ordered to be circumspect in how much he could discuss about what happened in the Caldera Expanse, but he had told Juanita as much as he had been allowed. “Andraste huh?” She asked, her eyes lighting with devilment again, “So, do you still have a thing for her huh?”

    He rolled his eyes, playing along, and feeling so good he had someone he could do that with. “All I said was that she still looked fit.”

    “Really now?” Juanita hit him with a jaundiced eye, “And also that she was agreeable, if I recall.”

    He huffed, “Well, yes, there is that.” He shrugged. They shared another laugh that died off into nervous silence.

    Juanita reached out and Tai met her ghostly hand. He so wished that she was there with him, that he could feel the warmth of her hand, wrap his arms around her, lay his head on her lap.

    Time had taken a lot from him, as it had Andraste, but at least he had found someone, a reason, to find himself again, and even more, to remake himself anew.

    “You be careful out there,” she warned him. “I don’t want to lose you.”

    “I don’t want to be lost,” he replied. “And thankfully I only have one ex-wife.”

    “That better be the case,” she said. He quickly nodded that it was. “I’m surprised that the captain hasn’t contacted you,” Juanita remarked, switching subjects. Despite his promotion to rear admiral, Rojas still referred to Terrence Glover as Captain. He was the only captain she spoke about often, or at length.

    Tai shrugged. “He’s a busy man,” he replied. It wasn’t like they were especially close and Donar hadn’t expected a call. Then again, he wouldn’t have been surprised if Glover hadn’t contacted him. Tai could see how having one of his officers reach the captain’s rank, if only temporarily, and handling the incident in the Caldera Expanse, would have been a point of pride for the man.

    “Don’t you think he’s different now, since…you know, the Admiral?” Juanita asked, referring to his father Samson. The former admiral had been captured and later executed by the Romulans almost a year ago. Terrence had failed in his attempt to rescue him and had been captured himself.

    Unlike Tai, Glover and Juanita had a much tighter bond. That was due in part to her deceased brother, Commander Pedro Rojas, who had been one of Glover’s closest friends. “He’s so…standoffish now, cold.” She shook her head, a sad expression marring her features.

    “We all deal with grief in a different way,” Tai offered weakly. He had noticed some personality changes with his former CO too, but hadn’t read too deeply into it. “We have to give him his space, let him…find himself again,” he added, thinking about both Juanita and what she had restored in his life.

    “I know; it’s just…” Juanita sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “I know he must feel terribly alone, with his father gone, the divorce,” her voice grew bitter, “and what those Rommie bastards did to him.” The anger took Tai aback.

    It also shocked Juanita. She touched the well of her throat and sat back. “I’m sorry.”

    “No,” he said, “It’s good to get it out. You should never carry that stuff bottled up. What the Romulans did to the captain, how they slaughtered Admiral Glover…not to mention all the other bad things that have befallen the captain,” he paused, reflecting over the loss of the Aegis and its seventy-five souls, “It could destroy a normal man. But Terrence Glover is not a normal man.”

    “You got that right,” Juanita brightened.

    “I have every confidence that he will be back, and stronger than ever,” he concluded, believing every word. For an average human, Glover had proven extraordinarily resilient.

    “I think you’re right,” she smiled. “And I think the captain could learn a few lessons from you in that regard.”

    He cocked an eyebrow, “Oh really now?”

    “Absolutely,” she nodded in agreement. “What you did in the Caldera Expanse is already sounding like a legend around the Fleet. It makes me extra pumped about getting out there and meeting the new life coming to our part of the galaxy.”

    Tai frowned slightly, thinking of the polaric ion generator and the havoc it had wreaked in the expanse. He shuddered to wonder if other members of that species were out there, heading their way with even more terrible weapons. “Don’t be so anxious,” he cautioned.

    Juanita sniffed, “Well, I’m hoping that we get picked for the second wave. I did hear that there’s a second wave to the Vanguard taskforce. Did you hear the same?”

    “I heard that as well,” Tai said, “Well, for the time being, I’m content with roaming the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.”

    “Come on man, where’s your sense of adventure?” Juanita teased.

    “I’ve had more than enough of that for a good long while,” Tai’s smile was close lipped. “Besides, it’s going to take several months to repair Erickson, and I was wondering if we could arrange some time to spend together in the interval.”

    The woman brightened so much, she shone like a star. “Maybe I should tell my CO to keep this can parked for a little while longer. I hear that Risa is wonderful this time of year.”

    “Risa is wonderful every part of the year,” Donar said, prompting another round of much needed laughter.
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  4. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ********************************************************************

    Starbase 101
    Conference Room

    “While I still might not like you,” Lt. Commander Helen Norrbom half-joked, “I detest him.” She flung her wrist dismissively at the door. Tension was still thick in the room, in the wake of Security Advisor Cormac Sullivan’s exit.

    The dour Sullivan had been accompanied by a taciturn Saurian from Special Affairs and an inquisitive young Xindi-Arboreal Starfleet Intelligence agent. Sullivan had dominated the discussion, which consisted of mostly dressing down both Donar and Commander Norrbom over their failure to secure the polaric ion generator.

    “Of course the Tholians are going to be tight-lipped about their involvement,” Sullivan had said, his white eyebrows reaching toward the stars, “Wait, do Tholians even have lips, or mouths?” He had pointedly demanded of one of his associates. The Saurian had merely blinked while the Xindi had consulted the personal display device she held.

    “You just gave one of our longest-running adversaries a weapon of mass destruction,” he had brayed, prompting Helen to get out of her seat to dispute the man. The only thing that had held her back was Donar’s surreptitious, but iron clad grip on her forearm. He had warned her with a sharp expression to remain quiet. She had been forced to sit there while the saturnine Sullivan ripped them apart.

    After he was finished, he informed them that both that Starfleet would be keeping a close eye on the Tholians to see if they violated the weapons ban. Since there were no signs that the Tholian warship had even made it out of the Caldera Expanse, it being littered with subspace tears and all manner of nasty anomalies, Helen wasn’t holding her breath.

    Sullivan had then raked them both with a querulous gaze and told them that he also would be keeping a closer eye on Erickson. Helen hadn’t been unable to stifle a groan, which the older man had misinterpreted as fear. He had gifted them with a small smile before sweeping out of the room.

    “That wasn’t so bad,” Tai shrugged.

    “Are you joking?” Norrbom said. “He might be a blowhard, but he is the Federation Security Advisor.”

    “Have you ever been stared down by Fleet Admiral Shanthi?” Donar asked, nonplussed.

    “Hmmm, no,” Helen answered. The Angosian shrugged again.

    “As I said, Sullivan wasn’t so bad.” He quipped.

    “You know, I’m really starting not to like you again,” Norrbom remarked, “Sir.”
    ****************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Birdland Lounge
    January 2378

    The entire room erupted into cheers, and for the first time tonight, it wasn’t because of Lt. Commander Kalnath’s jazz quartet. Standing in the lounge’s entrance, stood Captain Redfeather, flanked by Counselor Dendron and Commander Norrbom.

    The bruises had thankfully faded, and the captain looked resplendent in a flowing stately black gown. Norrbom wore a brassier electric blue dress that showed off her long, toned legs. Dendron was still in his uniform. The captain waved, her smile beaming.

    Everyone stood for the trio, clapping even when they arrived at the table at the front that had been reserved for them. A table had been left empty for the captain ever since her injuries, Redfeather being a frequent visitor to the lounge.

    Donar thought it was great to see Captain Redfeather finally being able to partake again in the life of the ship. Tai was also glad that he could hand the reins back to her. The repairs were almost completed on Erickson and a new assignment would be coming soon. The ship needed its real captain back.

    He looked down after feeling a soft squeeze on his bicep. Juanita placed her head against his arm. She sniffled and he could tell she had been crying. “Is everything okay?” He asked. She looked up at him, wiping her tears away.

    “Yes,” she nodded, “It’s just wonderful that your captain made it and is doing well. I guess I just got caught up in the emotion of it all.” He shook his head in understanding and pulled her tight.

    “I guess I should leave you two lovebirds alone,” Commander A’nurd said. He had been sharing the table with Tai and Juanita. While the crew had extended downtime, Tai had finally decided to join A’nurd on one of his excursions to one of the starbases’s taverns. It had turned into a frequent thing, as both men had perused almost all of the station’s myriad lounges. Tai did it more for camaraderie than the food and drink.

    “You don’t have to go A’nurd,” Juanita had said. She had become taken to the Munzalan more quickly than Donar had.

    “That is very gracious of you,” the engineer bowed deeply, his tail curling behind him. “But I must spread my joy around,” he said, his tail angling in a direction across the crowded room. Tai followed it to a table occupied by Lieutenants French, Jilicia, and Brocc, along with other members of Hazard Team. Catching the Angosian’s gaze, French lifted his glass, which prompted the others to do so too. Donar did likewise.

    “Just make sure you don’t leave this ship before you tell me goodbye,” A’nurd told Juanita, before he grabbed her free hand. Unfortunately, Juanita’s vacation was nearing its end and Donar would soon have to part ways with her again.

    “That’s a definite,” she said, smiling. The couple watched A’nurd flit through the crowd. Tai started to sit back down, but stopped when Juanita squeezed his arm again.

    “What’s wrong?” He asked.

    “Nothing, nothing’s wrong,” she said, sighing with relief. “For the first time, in a long time, everything just feels right.” She leaned back against him, melting into him.

    “I couldn’t agree more,” he said, “I couldn’t agree more.”
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  5. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *****************************************************************

    Aodh Homeworld
    One year ago…

    The Steersman brought his flitter to a stop. “Urith!” He cried over the surging throng, “Urith!” He shouted his mate’s name once more. His eyes flickered over the ripple of bodies, most dressed in the finery befitting the political strata. He focused his attention on the large circular hatches gobbling as many of the desperate passengers they could. The guards hovering about the entrances, on flitters similar to his, had largely given up on trying to police the mob.

    There was a similar sense of dread wreathing many of their features. The Cold Ones were here, their large cube ships carving into the homeworld, devouring people and technology. Once the Cold Ones had gorged themselves below, they would set their unholy sights on the ring space station above, holding the four remaining generation ships: The Gift of Fire, The Pillar of Fire, The Ring of Fire, and The Rain of Fire.

    He had been assigned to the Gift, given one of the holiest honors ever bestowed on one of his strata, in fact, of any strata. Shepherding not only the Prelate and most of his clerics, but also the Sacred Fire, the jewel left behind by the Fire Beings so long ago, the cornerstone of their civilization, would be his duty.

    But he cared for none of that now. All he wanted was to see Urith once more, before they cast their fate to the frigid stars.

    “Fintan!” His heart leapt at the nearly hoarse cry. A flitter zipped up to him, stopping just inches from his own.

    “Urith!” He cried out, unable to contain his joy. He took one hand off the controls, readjusting as the vehicle tried to get away from him.

    “Some steersman you are,” she joked. Urith wore a similar yellow jumpsuit. His beloved was assigned to the engineering crew of The Pillar.
    Fintan grinned. “And why aren’t you aboard The Gift?”

    “I had to see you…just once more,” he said, now feeling a bit sheepish, and not sure why. The woman smiled, tears glistening her eyes, before she put on a mock tough expression.

    “You’re too old to be so sentimental,” she admonished. “We’ll see each other again, once we have left this world to the Cold Ones,” she shuddered, their very mention chilling her, as it did Fintan. Despite all of their technology, all of their terrible weapons, the Cold Ones had found some way to bypass them. It had taken decades, but eventually they had overcome the Aodh.

    “The Gift isn’t going anywhere without me,” he smirked, trying to lighten his gathering sadness. “I am the chief steersman after all.” Urith rolled her eyes.

    “Get one little promotion and it goes straight to your head,” she said, reaching out to him and touching his cheek. “I can’t wait to hear all of your stories among the cloistered,” she said, “Stay safe.”

    Fintan kissed her hand, not really wanting to let go. “You do the same.”
    ********************************************************************

    Jov’k Tholis
    Calcite-class battlecruiser

    The anomaly threw out the battlecruiser like it was refuse. Commander Narskene, still grabbing hold to hir console, sent a mental command for a status report. The ship spun wildly, gases and fluids spraying across the bridge. The bridge was dark as space, with each newly sparking terminal providing a brief glimmer of light.

    The commander didn’t know where they were, what part of space, or even what time they had been thrown into, owing to the temporal properties of the polaric ion energy that had spawned the subspace rupture. Though she had hir suspicions, but the thought chilled her as much as the encroaching coldness of the void seeping through the hull multiple breaches: a predestination paradox.

    We’re going to crash, the replacement Sensor Officer said. Rudimentary sensors have detected a planet below us. We are barreling towards it now.

    Is there any way we can…cushion the blow? Narskene asked all the remaining bridge crew. Does the flight control station still have rudimentary functionality?

    There is some, yes, the hapless pilot sent the nervous reply.

    Try to scan for a body of water and then send us into that, Narskene riposted, annoyed that no one had thought of that before.

    Have detected a body of water, the Sensor Officer informed hir. The bridge lit up as the ship hit the atmosphere, and a fiery chariot formed around the Jov’k Tholis, yanking it down toward the planet below. The battlecruiser trembled violently and Narskene flinched at the terrible shrieking of metal and crystal as parts of its weathered hull were torn away.

    Angle the ship towards it, Narskene told the pilot.

    It is difficult, s/he replied, right before hir console exploded in hir face.

    Narskene calmly redirected flight control to hir station. The pilot had been right, s/he realized. The shaking ship and the planet’s gravity were fighting against hir, and they were winning. From what s/he been able to grasp from rudimentary readings, the ship was still not headed for the ocean, but for land nearby it. Breaking free of the atmosphere’s blazing embrace, what was left of the battlecruiser continued plummeting. Through the cracked viewer, he saw flashes of blue, the toxic nitrous-oxygen atmosphere seeping into the cracks.

    Narskene trilled, coughing at the noxious brew. S/he had hoped they would crash on a methane planet; at least they would be able to breathe if they somehow survived the crash. But now their fates were truly sealed. Unless they could reach the encounter suits in their armory, s/he thought. That was hir last thought.
    ****************************************************************
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  6. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ***************************************************************
    Aodh Homeworld
    One thousand years ago…

    The young, short haired woman eased her way down into the deep crater, each step, and the occasional slide drawing a collective gasp from those assembled. She paused each time, more so to regain her balance than for dramatic effect.

    It had been thirty passages since the great Fire in the Sky, which had brought something from the skies down to them, and cleaving a hole in good, arable land in the process. It was all as sign the clerics had said, that the sacrifice of the fertile land was small compared to the gifts the gods had placed inside their chariot.

    Even though she wore the purple ritual robes and markings of the priesthood, she was no true believer. But a person of her breeding had obligations and she would fulfill them. What she lacked in faith though, she made up for in other gifts, including the silent tongue. She could speak to others without thinking and also project her thoughts to them, but only when she touched them. Just her family knew, and her father had forbidden her from sharing the truth with others.

    While she considered the silent tongue a gift, others among her kind thought it was a curse. So she had hidden her true talent, like she had buried her faithlessness. Reaching the bottom of the hole, she paused, taking in the lump, which appeared to be a misshapen lump of crystal and iron.

    She remembered the stories she had first heard, of the hardy souls that tried to go touch the great Sunstone. Some had been burned to a crisp, others horrifically scarred for their remaining years. Still more had died of poisons spewing from within the darkened environs.

    “This will be a test of faith,” her rector-superior had told her, “Your test.” Perhaps he had wanted to be rid of her and merely devised a clever means to do so. Perhaps he had seen her lack of faith and was giving her a way to bow out of the priesthood. But this she could not do, because of family obligation.

    So she had made the trek here to this crater, to gaze upon the already fabled Sunstone and then to attempt to divine its mysteries. She walked slowly towards it, again less for drama, and more out of fear. Insane thoughts ran through her mind of abandoning her quest, throwing away her robes, and moving far from her family and their damnable demands of tradition and duty.

    She stilled those disquieting thoughts, lest they become too tempting. She inched glacially toward the Sunstone, the gathering above her watching her every step, their breaths hitching at every pause.

    Now at the entrance, or rather hole within the stone, she paused once more, to gaze up at all of the anxious and hopeful faces, as if taking in her last glimpse of life. She fingered the sun medallion hanging from her neck. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and stepping inside.

    She walked slowly, letting her breaths out in small bursts, testing each inhalation as if she knew what poison smelled like. As she walked deeper into the Sunstone, she realized it was much more than a rock. She didn’t quite know how to describe it. The best she could come up with was like a ship, like the barge that had ferried her here.

    Now that her curiosity had taken hold, she continued going deeper inside. She was careful though to take slow, measured steps. Sharp objects jutted from the walls and were spread across the floor.

    She lost track of time as she walked throughout the barge. It didn’t take her long to find the bodies. She had jumped at first, the crystalline creatures reminding her of the crawlers that pestered her and sometimes despoiled her food. The first sight of the larger crawlers had almost made her flee, but she had stanched that impulse and approached one. Poking it with the heel of her boot, she had realized that the creature was dead.

    If it was a creature at all, because even through her boot toe hill she could tell it was not made of skin. The exterior felt hard and as crystal like as its appearance.

    She wondered what manner of beings they were. Nothing in her texts had said such creatures existed. Looking forward to stupefying the sanctimonious rectors back at the rectory, she ventured even further, searching for other things she could use to upend their cloistered views.

    Turning a corner, she eyed a soft, mesmerizing orange glow. In one room, off to the side she saw a large crystalline screen, with diagonal patterns. It gleaming, pulsing if not with life, some kind of power. And if she didn’t know better, it almost felt as if was calling her.

    Stepping over one dead creature to reach it, she paused only a second before placing her hand against its smooth crystalline exterior. She shrieked, her body twitching in spasms as a torrent of images and emotions poured into her. She was touching a lattice, a way that these being communicated with each other, shared and stored their thoughts, and there were so many thoughts, a chorus of them, and so many images that came from a well of memories, for hundreds of years.

    Her mind nearly shut down as it struggled to contain them all, much less make it all understandable to her.

    Even after she wrenched her hand free, the woman, still in the clutches of the device, fell to the ground. Her mind reeled as she absorbed what she could, learning of beings and times that didn’t yet exist, from worlds far beyond her own. She didn’t know how long she stayed on the ground, only that when she was released, her stomach felt like it was eating itself and the smell of her own body clung around her.

    She was dirty, she was stiff, tired and famished, but none of that mattered. Because she had communed with beings of fire, and now she believed. Not only that, they had told her of a great object of enormous power, even greater than the lattice, that would make her people great, so magnificent that they too would one day stride among the stars like the Fire Beings. That great power, like a sacred fire, was nestled within this barge.

    She stood up, shaking off the tiredness and stiffness, allowing the knowledge of the Fire Beings to fill her and to guide her to the sacred fire and to her destiny.

    The End
    *****************************************************************
     
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    You gave us a big chunk of story in order to wrap this up. Lot's of great stuff here, most notably of course the absolutely awesome time-travel ending. I love stories that end on an a-ha moment and I love time travel stories (just finished watching Looper. What a trip). The realization that this polaric ion device came to these people via the future and as a direct consequence of a battle between the Tholians and Erickson was just a terrific, mind-bending and fully satisfactory ending to this great tale.

    Of course as you do in Dark Territory, you refrained from giving us neat solutions to all your plot lines, such as Andraste's escape and Donar's pledge to find her again and presumably bring her to justice. One wonders if he'd be more successful at this next time around though. Clearly the man still has certain feelings for his ex-wife and I liked how you brought Rojas back into the mix, just to complicate matters a little further.

    Norrborn and Donar seem to have made peace with each other, which is good to see and I'm also happy that Redfeather survived and gave Donar her blessing, reaffirming perhaps that his journey from super-solider to Starfleet officer may at last be complete.

    People mentioning Glover and his change since his imprisonment by Romulans gives me hope that we'll return to learn more about the goings-on of DT's most hated/beloved character in the not to distant future.

    Awesome story, Darkush. So what's next? I remember at least two outstanding stories of yours which I'd really love to continue reading.
     
  8. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    CeJay,

    Thanks for reading and always commenting. I really appreciate the feedback. It was a tough haul, I had wanted to get it finished by December 31, but I guess the first day of 2013 is a good consolation.

    Though I could tweak it further, I'm not. I am pretty satisfied with the results. Tai Donar has been a character that I hadn't really given much focus to and was glad that Gibraltar's Refugee Crisis idea gave me that opportunity, in addition to also revisiting the Erickson and fleshing out its crew. I've grown fond of them while writing this story. I would like to continue their adventures, but not sure yet when or how that's going to come about. Sometimes I worried that the story was getting away from him and his arc, so I tried to reestablish that. I also wanted to build a little on his relationship with Juanita, contrasting it to some extent with his failed marriage to Andraste.

    As for Andraste, she is a loose end and I generally don't like loose ends. So if the right story idea comes along, you will see her again.

    I'm very pleased that you liked the predestination paradox with the Tholians. I thought it would be a neat twist to have Narskene's crew wind up being the ones who started it all.

    It was great fun writing the Tholians, even though I started developing them late in the series. I had been wanting to do a Tholian story for a long time but hadn't really come across a good way to use them.

    With the recently minted Admiral Glover, I've been trying to figure out a good story angle for him. I haven't quite arrived at it yet, but expect to see him if in some form or fashion in other stories.

    What's next? I do have to rewrite "Shadow Puppets" and to finish "Hero of the Federation". I intend to do those, and maybe add some additional vignettes to "Signs & Portents" to lead into "Hero". I also have some old stories I want to update that I might post sometime hopefully soon.
     
  9. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    A remarkable and memorable ending to a fantastic story! I've always been a Tai Donar fan, but he really came into his own during the course of this tale.

    The addition of his ex-wife into the story was a gut-punch for Tai, and I foresee one hell of a reunion for these two characters sometime in the future.

    The crew of Erickson sacrificed some of heir dearest blood on this fateful assignment, one which proves the danger posed by the influx of refugee peoples into the Alpha Quadrant.

    How ironic that the Tholians ended up locating a device they'd created, delivered back into their clutches (however briefly) after hundreds of years and thousands of parsecs.

    I hope this isn't the last we'll see of Captain Redfeather and the crew of Erickson. This crew deserves another outing!
     
  10. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Gibraltar,

    Thanks so much for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. It was a fun one to write. I had some reservations about it and it was a struggle at points, but I'm very pleased with the final result.

    I do wish there had been a chance to let Tai go full out on the pirates, but I when I thought more about it, I liked the tension between him doing that versus putting his crew first. And I'm glad he chose the crew. It helped tie it back, in my mind, to the initial set up and gave him something of an arc with this story.

    I'm glad you liked the twist with the Tholians. As I wrote before, the Tholians were fun to write after I got a feel for them, and I liked the idea Narskene's ship actually being the reason the Aodh got the polaric ion energy device, in part due to the meddling from the Tholian Chronological Corps when they altered the timeline to hide any Tholian involvement.

    The Erickson crew did grow on me and I hope to do something with them in the future. A spin off series wouldn't sound too bad, would it?