Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Starkers, Feb 16, 2006.

  1. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    Here is the winning entry for the February 2012 Challenge, "Dressing Down", set by TheLoneRedshirt.

    Enjoy!

    * * * * *​


    Star Trek: Dawnstar​


    “Taking A Stand”​

    Brydon J. Sinclair​


    Words: 4770​

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    * * * * *​


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “She did yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

    The Andorian captain scowled. “Did I what?”

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

    “Yes.”

    “How?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “So how do we proceed?”

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

    * * * * *​
     
  2. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    After the recess and the court martial resumed, Keller found herself on the stand. In the middle of the room she was alone and exposed to everyone. She kept her posture straight though, hands clasped together to keep from fidgeting and her ankles crossed under the chair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Objection, supposition.”

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

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

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

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

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

    “Did the Captain heed your advice?”

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

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

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

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

    “Then what happened?” Billings prompted.

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

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

    “They did.”

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

    “Yes sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Did you follow his advisement?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes sir.”

    “Because you believed you knew better?”

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

    “Were you armed?” Clay suddenly asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Silence in the courtroom,” Captain Tracey called.

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

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

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

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



    * * * * *​


    END
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  3. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    Procrastination Plaza
    This is the winning entry for the March 2012 Challenge set by Bry Sinclair. The theme was "What if?".


    Home
    by Angry Fanboy


    continued below
     
  4. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    Procrastination Plaza
    continued below
     
  5. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    Procrastination Plaza
    continues below
     
  6. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    Procrastination Plaza
    continues below
     
  7. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

    Joined:
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    Procrastination Plaza
    The End.
     
  8. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    Here is my winning entry for the April 2012 Challenge, "Abandoned", set by Angry Fanboy.

    Enjoy!

    * * * * *​
    [LEFT]
    STAR TREK: EPOCH
    Tales From The Cimmerian Cluster

    “Out In The Cold”

    Brydon J Sinclair


    Words: 5628​


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * * * *​

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Weird,” Harvey muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes Boss,” they replied in unison.

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

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

    * * * * *​

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “O’Connell. Harvey O’Connell, sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * * * *​
    [/LEFT]
     
  9. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    They spent an hour and seven minutes getting everything ready, going over all the equipment and gear they were bringing with them and ensuring it was in proper working order before it was secured in the hold of the shuttle. Boatswain Nkosi was lending a hand to get things ready, personally checking their EVA suits, so that by the time the Epoch reached Cimmerian Delta, they were already onboard the shuttle and waiting to depart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes sir…eh, ma’am.”

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

    * * * * *​

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

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

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

    “Which one?”

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

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

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

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

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

    “Aye.”

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

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

    “Power loss now at twenty-one percent.”

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

    “Acknowledged,” he stated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Understood,” Farojj chipped in.

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

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

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

    “What have you—O’Connell! NO!”

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

    Everything went dark after that.

    * * * * *​
     
  10. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    The alarm screamed at him. Groaning once again, Harvey reached out to smack the clock but his hand just kept on moving. Opening his eyes, throbbing pain shot through his head. Squeezing his eyes tightly shut to try and help block out the pain, but to no avail. He groaned again. His head was killing him, his body felt both heavy and weightless at the same time, and the place smelled of piss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Suit?”

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

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

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

    He was alone in the blackness of space.

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

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

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

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

    “Frak!”

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

    “Anyone out there? Please! Help me!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * * * *​

    END
     
  11. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Here is my winning entry for the May Challenge, 'Out of Uniform'.

    Aelwyd

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

    "Easy there, love. Mind the inertia."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    End
     
  12. Stoek

    Stoek Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2008
    Location:
    Stoek
    From the June 2012 writing challenge "Meet The Neighbors".

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    "hmm?" He asked sleepily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Le?" He said quietly.

    "What my love?"

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

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

    He nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "We are the Borg..."
     
  13. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

    August 2021 "Competition" challenge winner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Good night,
    boys, girls, androgynous, and transgendered children. Sleep well.
     
  14. GatorDASH

    GatorDASH Ensign Newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2012
    Sorry to post this a little out of order, but I forgot to put it here the other month. So here is the July 2012 'Star Trek Ala another Genre' winning entry, Data Fragments, a story in the vein of the movie 'Memento'.


    Data Fragments


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

    “Sure is.” Geordi replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    “Why are we running?” Data asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “The action is to you.” Data said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “What is our destination?” Data asked.

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

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

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


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

    “Greetings, I am Lieutenant Commander Data.”

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

    “Thank you for your help…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    THE END
     
  15. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    My winning/the only entry for September 2012, "I've Dreamed A Dream"

    * * * * *

    "Future Aspiration"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Which was why, when all the other ensigns had their eyes glued to the Federation flagship, her eyes were drawn to another ship in the opposite direction, almost obscured behind the short, barrel-like hull of a half-finished Miranda-Class. The vessel she had her eye on looked complete, just missing the finishing touches: pennants to adorn her bright white hull, as well as name and registry number. It followed the standard design, with a circular primary hull, a long secondary hull and two nacelles, which were attached with redundant pylons (one set connected with the engineering hull and contained the primary power transfer conduits from the core to the nacelles, whilst the second set joined to the saucer just forward of the powerful impulse engines). The ship had numerous tractor beam nodes, as well as twin-mount phaser banks, and three torpedo launchers, all of which merely highlighted the ships function as a cutter.

    The Albacore-Class wasn’t as large or glamorous as many of the other ships docked at Utopia Planitia, but was designed to be tough, durable and agile; she was a scrapper. She was meant to handle many hard and seemingly impossible feats, which would make mincemeat out of other ships, but that she was ideally suited to handle.

    One of Stillwell’s professors had told his class once that, there will come a time in ever engineer’s career, when they fall in love with a ship—it may not be the first one they serve onboard, or even the first one they are Chief Engineer of, they may only ever get to look upon her and admire from a distance without ever setting foot onboard, but every engineer worth their salt would have that one great love of the career. For Cassandra Stillwell, the moment she came across the specs of the Albacore-Class cutter, she knew she’d found her one true love.

    Unfortunately, she’d been unable to secure a posting to the Border Service, let alone an Albacore-Class. Instead, her first assignment was as junior diagnostics officer onboard the Akyazi-Class U.S.S. Artemis, a decent posting by anyone’s standards and she knew the ships technical readout inside and out, but as long as she had breath in her lungs, she would do her damnedest to get a billet onto one of the new cutters.

    Ch’Paahr looked at her and then out towards where she was staring. “She’s a beaut, isn’t she” he hissed quietly, dragging her attention away from the latest Albacore.

    “You can say that again, Chief,” she admitted.

    “I don’t know many rookies who pay such close attention to cutters, sir.”

    She gave him a faint smile. “That’s because most don’t know where they will end up, Chief. It may take a couple of years,” she began, looking back out the viewport, “but that’s where I’m headed.”

    “Good luck to you.”

    Stillwell looked back at the non-com and saw a supportive smile on his face. “Thank you, Chief.”

    “Shuttle Cruickshank, this is Utopia Planitia C-and-C. You are cleared for hanger eleven.”

    “Acknowledged C-and-C, proceeding to hanger eleven. Cruickshank out,” ch’Paahr confirmed over the comlink. “Would you like to do the honours?”

    She gave him a nod and after one last longing look, focused on the controls and aimed the shuttle towards their designated shuttlebay. Their futures awaited, and hers was only just beginning.

    * * *

    END
     
  16. Angry Fanboy

    Angry Fanboy Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2012
    Angry Fanboy

    This is the winning entry for the October 2012 challenge "Your Darkest Nightmare"

    ***










    Majestic














    The USS Majestic was a dead ship.

    Lost in the darkness of some future age, all alone on the wrong side of a wormhole that bored its way through time and space very nearly to the end of everything - a hundred trillion years into a future where most stars had turned to ashes and the universe was filled with the corpses of galaxies.

    Thousands of kilometres beneath the broken Majestic lay the blasted, airless surface of a world that had been dead for eons. The planet orbited a black dwarf, the shrunken, frozen remnant of a once bright and burning star whose furious death had long since stripped away any vestiges of atmosphere.

    Sigrid Hellum had been the starship's officer, the sole survivor from a crew of forty men and women. Virtually everyone had perished when the Majestic had been swallowed up by the wormhole that had brought them to this place - to the end of the universe. Only one other had survived, a young engineering cadet named Simon.

    Together, they had done what they could to stabilise the crippled science vessel, through the damage wrought by the Majestic's encounter with the wormhole had been so extreme that nothing of any real consequence could be done. The starship was unable to generate her own power and most of her interior was open to space.

    Only one small emergency bunker, located in the centre of the spacecraft and intended as a last refuge for survivors, still held atmosphere. Artificial gravity had bled away in the twelve hours following the ship's emergence into this dark galaxy.

    Both survivors had worked in silence for days to gather up the corpses of their fallen comrades, working in microgravity inside uncomfortable environmental suits that had to be worn outside of the emergency bunkers. Many of the crew displayed horrific wounds as the result of the ship's violent passage, making the gruesome task of bringing them all to the Majestic's small shuttlebay even more unpleasant.

    Though she was not a woman of faith herself, Sigrid had floated in solemn silence as Simon read a number of passages from the Bible he'd brought with him from Starfleet Academy, blessing the crew's journey into the arms of whatever god they might have believed in.

    For a long time Sigrid had struggled with how best to deal with the bodies of her crewmates, unsure of the most dignified course of action given that burial on a planet was clearly impossible. The difficulty of converting torpedo and probe casings to act as coffins seemed prohibitive given that she and Simon were struggling just to stay alive, and mindful to the unpleasantness of simply allowing so many corpses to float forever in the shuttlebay, Sigrid eventually found herself picking her way through the maintenance deck below the hanger to detonate the last-resort explosive bolts that would blast the bay door away into space, trailing with it what little atmosphere remained and the bodies of the Majestic's fallen crew.

    Strangely, Sigrid found herself almost pining for those first few weeks of her exile to this far future. As horrific as the immediate aftermath had been, at least there had been plenty of work to take both hers and Simon's mind off their hopeless imprisonment aboard the broken, powerless starship.

    They had run what was left of the Majestic's catastrophically-damaged computer for an hour a day to conserve their only source of power - the ship's emergency batteries - and used it to slowly calculate how far into the future they'd travelled. Emergency subspace messages refused to transmit, leading Sigrid to conclude that the subspace medium through which the signals propagated had somehow dispersed or become unreachable this far into the future. Though it seemed doubtful there was anyone left to hear it, disaster beacons carrying the tale of the ship's demise were launched, more than anything to make them both feel like Starfleet officers again by carrying out these familiar operating procedures of an organisation from trillions of years in the past.






    ***






    But nothing could keep the inevitable depression at bay for long. Looking back, Sigrid realised that Simon had begun to lose his mind some time after the eighth week. She had done what she could for the young man, but the enormity and hopelessness of their situation was understandably too much for him to bear. While Sigrid hadn't been close to her family and had few friends, in that respect Simon had been her polar opposite.

    Even as she watched him deteriorate and begun to feed him stories that she was working on a plan that would allow them to home, Sigrid had known how it would end. On a purely selfish level, she was painfully aware that without Simon she would be completely alone.

    During the eleventh week the pair had been working in their environmental suits in what remained of the Majestic's engine room. The reactor itself was missing from the centre of the facility, having been automatically ejected into space where it had exploded harmlessly following their passage through the wormhole.

    Ironically, allowing it to explode inside the ship and reducing the Majestic to dust would have been far more humane than the slow death the survivors would inevitably endure.

    "I've come to believe," Simon had said via the communications link between their suits, "that God must have abandoned this universe long before this time period."

    Sigrid had regarded him in silence, experiencing the usual sinking feeling she had when he began one of these soliloquies.

    "And I can't help but wonder what," he had continued, an edge of desperation in his voice, "in the absence of God, happens to our souls when we die."

    It hadn't been a conversation Sigrid had wanted at that moment, nor at any moment.

    "Our souls?" she sighed.

    "This far beyond our own time, the universe is dark," Simon went on, his eyes wide and fervent. "No new stars are being created. Most of the galactic clusters have retreated so far from each other that they're no longer visible to each other, and most galaxies themselves have been swallowed up by the black holes at their centre."

    "I know all this, Simon," she had said.

    "Yes, but if God is no longer here, what happens when you die here?" he had demanded, his voice full of anguish. "Where do you go? There's only one conclusion."

    "Simon..." she had pleaded.

    "Hell is, by its very nature, the absence of God, is it not?" he had persisted.

    "Listen, you need to calm down a little, okay?" Sigrid had told him, turning from the flickering control console she was working at and placing her gloved hands on his shoulders.

    "I'm sorry," Simon had said after a moment. "Sometimes..."

    "I know," she'd replied with as much sympathy as she could muster. "But we'll be home in a few more days. I've got a plan, remember?"

    "Yes," Simon had said. "A plan. Of course."

    "You just need to hold it together a little while longer, okay?"

    "Yes," Simon had said again, and Sigrid had sensed that the young man was a little calmer.

    "Good," she'd replied, turning back to the console.

    A moment later a piercing alarm had exploded through her helmet speakers and she'd spun to see Simon thrashing around, his own helmet still in his gloved hands where he'd pulled it free of his environmental suit.

    Sigrid could only watch in horror as what could be the only other person who shared this future universe with her had died in her arms. She had cradled Simon's lifeless body for what felt like hours before returning to the emergency bunker.






    ***






    The feeling of dread and loneliness she'd experienced in the preceding weeks had been nothing compared to what she'd felt following Simon's death.

    On an intellectual level she understood that she may well be the only living being left in existence, though the very concept was so overarching that her brain struggled to comprehend the enormity of it.

    The next few weeks had been Sigrid's very own personal hell, feeling like the one Simon had spoken of, all alone aboard a lifeless starship in a dead, black universe. She had remained in the bunker during that time in a near catatonic state, subsisting on a few sips of water and dry emergency rations.

    It had been during her first excursion outside the bunker for nearly a month when she'd discovered the planet where the Majestic's story would end. She had been in the engine room, the only place remaining aboard the ship where some scant remnant of control remained, working at the console where Simon had chosen to end his life all those weeks before.

    The ship's few short-range sensors had detected a planetary mass a few million kilometres away, through this was as much information as they could provide. With her food and water rations beginning to dwindle after nearly four months, Sigrid had seized upon the discovery, and concentrated on adjusting the Majestic's course to bring it to this world.

    Using short bursts from the two emergency thruster packs that remained operational, Sigrid had been able to stop the ship's slow tumble through space and set it on a new heading towards the planet.

    Another month had passed as the Majestic drew nearer its final destination, when Sigrid had exhausted what hydrazine fuel remained in the thrusters to bring the shattered spacecraft into a high orbit.

    The barren, airless rock that had greeted her seemed to mock the struggle she'd endured in the previous months. The journey to this world had been four weeks of maddening loneliness and silence as the ship had crept gradually nearer.

    The world was long dead.

    Sigrid had known that the inevitable end had come. Even though they'd been used sparingly, nearly five months after its encounter with the wormhole the ship's emergency batteries were drained. In the coming weeks, the Majestic's orbit would decay until she finally impacted with the rocky surface below.

    For days she contemplated suicide with a newfound , often feeling for the release tabs of her helmet so that she may take the same way out as Simon had.

    But always she managed to pull herself back from the brink, whether it be through fear of how horrific those last moments of suffocation would be or the nagging echo of Simon's words about where her soul, if such a thing existed, would end up in this dark universe.

    As the starship continued its inexorable descend toward the planet, Sigrid had decided that after almost five months of floating in microgravity, she wanted to die with solid ground beneath her feet. Collecting up what few possessions she wished to take with her and the few remaining rations from the bunker, Sigrid headed for the one remaining escape pod still capable of being ejected from the crippled vessel.

    Before departing the starship, she recorded a last message.

    "This is the final log entry of the Federation starship USS Majestic. It has been five months to the day since we were brought to this place, a point in time that I estimate to be over a hundred trillion years from where we belong. This is Lieutenant Sigrid Hellum, the last survivor of the Majestic, signing off."

    The escape pod explosively had jettisoned itself away from the shattered hull of the small science vessel, spinning away so that the Majestic may continue on her way alone.

    Sigrid had watched tearfully from the viewport as the battered starship slipped silently away into the night.

    The pod's landing sensors had flickered to life as it began to descend, probing the inhospitable surface below for the a suitable landing site. As she watched sensor data begin to stream past the compact display, Sigrid had gasped as the sensors pinpointed something beneath her.

    An artificial construction!

    Sigrid urgently punched override commands into the panel, manually adjusting the pod's trajectory to bring it down as close as possible to the object the sensors had found and ignoring the preprogrammed warnings about deviating from the suggested landing site.

    Minutes later, the pod touched down amongst the rough-hewn mountains of a desolate and airless landscape, the retro-rockets that had slowed its descent unable to fully prevent the jarring impact that knocked Sigrid unconscious.






    ***






    When Sigrid awoke her entire body was in agony.

    As consciousness came flooding back to her, she realised that she was experiencing gravity for the first time in nearly half a year.

    She drew in a long, wheezing breath as she released the straps of restraint webbing that had held her in place during the descent from high orbit and the subsequent impact with the surface.

    Groaning under the unfamiliar strain of gravity, Sigrid pushed herself out of the acceleration seat, grasping for the handholds positioned around the compact escape pod to aid her ascent.

    She knew that the six months spent floating in microgravity had had a detrimental effect on her body, aware that her muscles had atrophied and she had lost a small percentage of her bone mass.

    For the first few months both she and Simon had engaged in a physical regimen designed to prevent such degradation as much as possible, coupled with regular hypospray injections using supplies from the ship's sickbay, but these precautions had soon fallen by the wayside as depression had taken hold.

    Sigrid's legs trembled as she attempted to stand before falling heavily against the side of the pod. After so long being weightless, standing would be a struggle wearing just a Starfleet uniform, but attired in the heavy fabric and helmet of the environmental suit it felt virtually impossible.

    Minutes passed as Sigrid struggled to find her balance, but eventually she decided she was stable enough, and popped the hatch open to take her first look at her new surroundings.

    As she climbed out of the pod she was confronted by the same desolate, barren landscape that she had observed from orbit. Everything appeared to be hewn from hard, gray rock. Mountains and valleys stretched away into the distance.

    It was not a welcoming sight.

    Sigrid slid down the surface of the pod to land on the rocky surface, her legs aching with the exertion as she surveyed the forbidding planetary surface.

    The small holographic indicators projected onto the faceplate of her helmet changed from green to amber, warning of her increased heart rate and adrenalin.

    A hundred metres away was the object that had brought her here.

    Sigrid pulled the specialist, vacuum-hardened tricorder from her equipment belt. The enlarged device was designed to be used by the gloved hands of someone wearing an environmental suit, and she held it up as she began scanning.

    The object itself was a torus, perfectly circular, fifteen feet in diameter with a thirteen foot diameter opening in the centre. The external side was three feet in height, whereas the sunken interior was four foot deep.

    Sigrid narrowed her gaze at the sensor returns being displayed on the device's screen, amazed at the information that the device was providing.

    According to the limited sensor suite of the tricorder, the torus was billions of years old, meaning that it had stood for longer than the entire lifespan of the universe as it had been measured in her own time.

    Cautiously, Sigrid began to walk forward on unsteady legs, scanning as she went.

    Whatever material the torus had been constructed from all those eons ago, it defied any attempt at analysis by the tricorder. Despite a near eternity of standing here on this world, subject to the ravages of whatever weather system had once been present and the bombardment of debris drawn into the planet's gravity well since it had formed, the exterior of the torus appeared as smooth and pristine as if its construction had just been finished.

    Perhaps the full sensor suite of the Majestic could have once provided some clue as to the torus' construction, although somehow Sigrid doubted it. Absently, she likened the relationship as being akin to an amoeba attempting to understand how a starship's warp reactor had been built.

    As she reached the torus, she glanced back at the escape pod sitting at an odd angle in the distance, subconsciously looking for reassurance that it was still there, before reaching out and touching the glassy surface of the object with a gloved hand.

    "Who the hell built you?" she whispered, peering over the wall of the torus to look into the empty interior, all constructed of the same unknowable material that had defeated the tricorder's analysis.

    Sigrid pulled herself up and into the torus, straining slightly as she lifted one leg over the edge, then the other. She traced the interior with her hands, baffled by how such an object could exist in such a flawless state from virtually the beginning of time to the end.

    Faced with such a mystery, her exile at the end of the universe was momentarily forgotten.

    Suddenly the tricorder began flashing a warning.

    Sigrid glanced down, gasping as she saw the viscous, oil-like substance begin to gush out of tiny indentations along the bottom of the torus interior that she hadn't noticed before, flooding the space with astonishing speed.

    The liquid was already covering the top of her boots as she grasped desperately for the wall of the torus.

    The oil appeared to defy gravity, racing up the sides of her suit to swallow her up in a dark tide, congealing around her and pulling her down.

    The environmental suit's alarms began to sound, warning Sigrid of the icy liquid that she could feet entering her boots as the tough material began to dissolve under the sudden onslaught.

    The oil flowed up through her suit, covering her legs and abdomen as she fought the downward suction in a final, desperate attempt to free herself.

    Sigrid screamed in the moments before the liquid reached her face, flowing into her nose and mouth.

    Then she knew nothing.






    ***
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 4, 2012
  17. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

    November challenge entry:

    “And In The Quiet Heart Lies Hidden”

    challenge topic: Trek cliches

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

    Counselor Lorien Ari stretched as she stood, setting the PADD with notes from the day’s appointments into its usual spot on her precisely organized desk. Time for a little break, she thought. Lorien retrieved a stonecraft zhord mug – a gift from the D’haan Iron Conclave – from a shelf and set it in the replicator. The feel of the laser-precise (though handcrafted) angles of the mug reminded her of her recent ‘adventures’ on Corva’los, homeworld of the dwarven D’haan. The mug was a pleasant reminder; the scars Lorien bore on her legs and stomach were otherwise. Adventures, indeed…

    “D’hann rajvosa tea,” she said. “Seventy-six degrees Fahrenheit, with natak shavings and a pinch of cinnamon.” The replicator chirped in response, followed by its ubiquitous hum as the tea appeared in the bowl-like mug. Lorien retrieved the mug and took a sip, savoring the rich, earthy tastes of the tea. Before long, the tea’s aroma, not unlike that of freshly-turned earth after a rainstorm, hung lightly and pleasantly in the air.

    Lorien took another sip and sat back on the couch she’d recently vacated, tucking her legs under her as she reached for the PADD on her desk. Before she could activate the PADD, however, there was a knock at the office door.

    Never fails, she thought wryly. Then again, she was the head counselor on a Starfleet ship of the line, which meant that she was on-call – officially or not – all the time.

    “Yes?” she said, setting the PADD and the tea on her desk as she stood (again). Her office door slid open, and Commander Taylor poked her head in.

    “Connie! Come in, come in.”

    Connie stepped forward, but kept most of herself in the corridor. “I’m sorry to bother you; I know it’s past your office hours, but…” She paused, taking a calming breath. “…do you have a minute?”

    “Of course, Commander.” When Connie hesitated, Lorien repeated “Come in”, her voice half coaxing and half ordering. “Have a seat, and relax.” Lorien retrieved her mug and took a long sip. “Tea?” she asked politely.

    “No, thank you.” In one smooth motion, Lorien sat and tucked her legs back under her; Connie sat at the opposite end of the couch, somewhat stiffly. Connie’s eyes, though, belied the agitation that Lorien had sensed some time ago, before Connie had even headed down to Lorien’s office.

    “So, what’s going on?” Lorien asked, using a practiced, warm yet professional tone.

    “I… I’ve been having the dreams again, Ella. Only, they’re different this time.”

    Lorien took a second to make sure the door was locked and the ‘in session’ indicator in the corridor was lit. “When did they start again, and different? Different how?”

    “Um, they started up again about a month ago, after the incident at Takkin Gauto.” Connie’s voice went quiet. “When he… I mean, when the Captain was...”

    A knowing smile crossed Lorien’s face. “Stabbed? Yes, I remember. You were, shall we say, distraught. But Captain Frost was alright; it was only a flesh wound.”

    “Stabbed?” Connie protested. “He was run through with a Tseruntai claymore! He…”

    “Was back on his feet in no time. But we’re getting off-topic. You said the dreams were different.”

    “It’s like… It’s like they’re memories, Ella. Memories from a life I have yet to live; memories of a life with… with him. They’re comforting and disturbing at the same time.”

    “I suppose they would be,” Lorien replied thoughtfully. “I’ve never heard anyone describe their dreams like that before.” The corners of her mouth turned upwards. “So what do you think it all means?”

    Connie groaned. “You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you.”

    “I think it would be… helpful… if you’d finally admit it to yourself, Connie. And saying it out loud can’t hurt.”

    “I love him,” Connie said, her voice barely above a whisper. “I love him,” she said again, a little louder, the words spoken as if they were a new shirt and Connie was testing the fit. She looked over at Lorien, and a small but growing smile crossed her lips. “Blessed hell, I’m in love with Gabriel Frost.”

    “It’s about time you figured it out,” laughed Lorien.

    Connie blushed. “Was it that obvious?”

    “To everyone but you, apparently. I don’t know what was more amusing: your reactions whenever you saw him, or your attempts to disguise said reactions. I usually had to bite my tongue to keep from saying anything.” Lorien took another sip of her tea. “Or to keep from laughing.”

    “You’re my friend, Ella. Why didn't you say something?”

    “As your friend, Connie, and also as a trained counselor and doctor of psychology, I knew that you needed to sort out your feelings for Capt. Frost by yourself. I thought you’d manage it sooner, though.” Lorien smiled. “Looks like Lt. K’kovr wins the pool.”

    “Your department had... “Connie was interrupted by a chirp from her chronometer. “Why am I not surprised?” she said, smiling as she stood. “I’m due on the bridge.”

    “For gamma watch?” asked Lorien. “That’s unusual.”

    “Lieutenant Rio picked up a bug of some sort when we visited Ceresia VI, so Doctor Holliday has her on bed rest. I’m covering for her until she gets better.”

    Lorien got up, set the empty zhord mug back in the small sink next to the replicator and ran some water into it. “I’ll come up to the bridge with you,” she said. “I need to stretch my legs, get a little ‘fresh air’, so to speak.” Before the door slid open, Lorien put her hand on Connie’s shoulder. Connie stopped and turned to face her friend.

    “What is it?”

    “You’ve neither asked nor answered the most relevant question, Connie.”

    “You mean, whether this sort of thing would be appropriate behavior between a ship’s captain and first officer?”

    Lorien put her hands on her hips, expectantly, as Connie’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “Not that question, huh? You’re going to make me say this out loud also, hmm?” At this, Lorien just cocked an eyebrow. “Fine, fine,” said Connie.

    “Should I tell him?”

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

    “Captain,” said Connie, as she and Lorien stepped on to the bridge, “alpha watch ended nearly eight hours ago. Shouldn’t you be off-duty?”

    “Telemetry from the buoys we’ve dropped so far came in faster than expected, and it’s been giving the nav software the fits, so I…”

    “Was doing work that is the specialty of our very capable Astrometrics department,” Connie chided. “Work that Commander Nowar and hir team are specifically trained to do.” Connie sat in the command chair, clearly staking her claim. “Gamma watch is about to begin. No offence, Captain, but get the hell off my bridge.”

    Gabriel caught the smile in her voice, and saluted smartly. “On your word,” he said as he headed for the turbolift. Lorien had, in the meantime, settled into the first officer’s station behind the command chair. When Gabriel was gone, Lorien leaned forward, speaking to Connie in a low, conspiratorial tone.

    “Smooth, Connie,” she said with a chuckle. “Nice way to avoid having to talk to him.”

    “Figurative middle of the night or not, Ella, I’m not going to have a discussion with him about that in the middle of the bridge,” Connie whispered back. Lorien leaned closer.

    “He is really cute, isn’t he?”

    “Quiet, you.”

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

    A few hours later

    Lieutenant Avallios passed through the Stardome doors and stepped onto the freshly-swabbed deck of the pirate frigate Black Falcon, taking a moment to admire the breathtaking night sky. So clear… It was just such a sight in the skies over his hometown that led him to his destiny amongst those selfsame stars. Avallios gave the sky one last longing glance before moving aft to the ship’s wheel, where the captain was holding the frigate on course. The captain’s face showed the strain of steering the vessel, but also displayed an exhilaration borne from the struggle. Avallios couldn’t help but feel that Gabriel Frost would be at home and in command no matter the type of ship beneath his feet. There was however a – rightness, for lack of a better word – of seeing Gabriel on the bridge of Challenger, as if the one could not exist without the other, and the universe was somehow the better for their union.

    “Thanks for joining me,” said Gabriel as Avallios stepped up beside him. “I know this is cutting into your canasta game.”

    “I am Oathsworn to the Traveller,” replied Avallios with a slight bow. “What is it you require?”

    Gabriel had to smile at Avallios’ earnestness, though the Celvani’s religious, nigh-fanatical dedication to Gabriel, as the prophesied Third Traveller, still made him somewhat uncomfortable. “Just a friend to talk with, Covan.”

    “Ah, I see.” Avallios paused as if deep in thought. “How long have you had the ring?”

    “How did…? Oh, never mind.” Gabriel smiled a bit sheepishly. “I’ve had it for a while now; had a set made not long after I received the Gift of Five.”

    “And you have loved her since first you met.”

    “I… sensed the possibility,” Gabriel said hesitantly. “But my relationship track record is less than stellar, and the two times I opened my heart completely… Let’s just say they didn’t end well, for them.

    “Betsy Snowden and Jessica Bridger.” Betsy and Gabriel had been involved at the Academy; she had killed herself as a result of John Perceval's machinations. Jessica had died on the USS Spitfire as they were fighting Nassin raiders off of a colonial convoy. After all this time, the wounds left by these two women in Gabriel's heart were still raw.

    “Yeah, thanks for the reminder,” said Gabriel under his breath. “You know as well as I the stories, myths, and truths of the difficulties the Traveller must face, and moreso the one who walks the path as his Companion.” Gabriel fell silent for a long moment. “I love her too much, Avallios. I can’t put her through that.”

    “The choice to walk at your side as Companion must be hers, Third Traveller. You cannot deny her the opportunity to choose. Recall the doom of Seric Tirian, A’he’a’ulho Second Traveller.” At this, Gabriel shivered involuntarily.

    “You’re right, Covan. I need to tell her, let her make the choice. But gods above and gods below, it scares me…”

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

    Two and a half days later

    Connie and Gabriel stepped out of holodeck five, wearing pre-Starfleet “NX-era” uniforms with Challenger NX-03 patches on the left sleeve. They were, as was their recent wont, engaged in a rather spirited yet friendly (and not-so-subtly flirtatious) debate.

    “My point is,” said Gabriel, finally able to get a word in edgewise, “they didn’t allow time for the plan to work. They abandoned her too soon.”

    “The phase inducers were critically overcharged,” Connie replied. “When they blew – not if, when – the ship would have been blasted into its constituent atoms.”

    “I’m not saying the phase capacitors wouldn’t have popped; that was inevitable.” A victorious smile crossed Connie’s face. “What I’m saying is, the polarization grid of the NX-class ships was a lot more robust than you or they realized. The assistant engineer’s plan was sound: enough energy would have been bled off through the grid so that when the phase capacitors blew, the explosion would’ve only taken a chunk out of the saucer. She would have been damaged but flyable.

    “She would have made it home.”

    Connie had a rejoinder poised to fly when Challenger’s avatar rezzed up next to Gabriel.

    Captain, Commander Nowar has a status update.

    “Put hir through, please.” The avatar was replaced by Commander Nowar’s holopresence.

    Captain, Commander,” s/he said tiredly, “we’ve finally got the kinks ironed out, and are ready to deploy the rest of the buoys.”

    “Excellent. I think we can still finish this assignment on schedule. Connie, have Lt. Mokul draw up a flight plan to make up for the time we’ve lost and execute as soon as he’s done.”

    “On your word, sir,” replied Connie. As she turned to head for the nearest turbolift, something in the look on Gabriel’s face made her hesitate. “Was there anything else?”

    “When we get back to Gateway, I was wondering… Well, I have reservations at The Avari…”

    “Are you trying to ask me to dinner?”

    “Yeah.” There was a long moment of silence, then Gabriel asked expectantly, “So?”

    Connie had to suppress her smile, though it was obvious that she was enjoying Gabriel’s discomfiture. “In order to get a proper answer, Gabriel, one must propo… put forth a proper question.”

    “When we return to Gateway, Connie, would you like to have dinner with me?”

    “Why, Gabriel Frost… Are you, captain of the starship Challenger, asking me, her first officer, on a date?” Though Connie’s voice held a hint of teasing, her expression was impassive, perhaps even imperceptibly disapproving.

    “Yes,” Gabriel said, “yes I am.”

    A warm smile spread across Connie’s face. “I would be delighted. The Avari, you say? I’ve heard reservations there are harder to come by then that Milliway’s restaurant at the so-called ‘end of the universe’.”

    “There is a bit of a waiting list,” agreed Gabriel, returning Connie’s smile. “But I’m sure it’ll prove to be worth the wait.”

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

    The Avari restaurant hung, suspended by invisible gravimetric anchors, in the middle of the cavernous space that ran nearly the length of Gateway Station’s vertical axis. Accessible only by a small launch, the restaurant afforded a spectacular view of the station’s inner workings and, thanks to strategically-placed (and impossibly large) transparisteel viewports, the planet Celvanos and her moons.

    Gabriel and Connie, in traditional Celvani formalwear, had enjoyed a pleasant meal. Their dinner conversation was equally pleasant, though it was obvious they were both dancing around the subject that was foremost on their minds.

    After a particularly long pause in the conversation, Connie said, “You’re a soft-spoken man, Gabriel, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you at a loss for words.” She smiled encouragingly.

    “There is something I want to tell you,” Gabriel said quietly, though with the little grin he got when he made a reference to some obscure bit of old Earth ‘pop culture’. “But I’m afraid of what it might mean if I do.”

    Connie reached across the table hesitantly, taking Gabriel’s hand in hers. Even knowing what Gabriel was, she was still surprised at the coolness of his flesh. She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. “Just say it.”

    “Connie, I…”

    “I beg pardon, Third Traveller,” said the maître d’, “you asked to remain undisturbed, but she was rather quite insistent.” His face apologetic, the maître d’ produced a small communication tablet. Gabriel tabbed the ‘receive call’ button. Admiral MacAllister’s face appeared; she wasted no time launching into a tirade.

    I don’t know why I bother contacting Challenger, anymore, Captain, because you’re never aboard. And what’s with that ridiculous costume you’re wearing?

    “Always a pleasure, Admiral,” said Gabriel facetiously. “I do apologize; I must have missed the memo that said I had to be on the bridge and in uniform even during my off hours.”

    As much as I’d love to trade insults, Captain, I need you to shut up and listen. A pack of Kethurian battle-barges is pursuing a Jyothai ship through the Orpheus Salient. Reports indicate the Jyothai ship is one of their royal junks, and the Kethurians seem to be herding it towards the Huuro Inclusion Zone.”

    “That’s not good.”

    Ah, the legendary situational assessment skill of Gabriel Frost. You’re goddamned right it’s not good. The Barcelona and her battle group are en route, but they’re coming from the Outbound sector. Even with slipstream, they won’t arrive in time. Challenger needs to interdict the Kethurians until the Barcelona can get there. I know you just got back from a deployment , and laying those buoys was such strenuous work,” she sniped, unable to resist taking a dig at Gabriel. “But Challenger is the only ship available. You are of course authorized to use slipstream for this mission.”

    “Because we had to make room for the buoys for the mission you ordered us on, Admiral, our torpedo stores are dangerously low.”

    You’re being rearmed right now,” said Adm. MacAllister, “but I need Challenger gone as soon as you get back on board. I hope for your sake that you’re not too late.” The comm tablet went dark as MacAllister unceremoniously cut the channel.

    “No rest for the wicked, eh?” remarked Connie.

    “Guess we’ll have to finish our conversation later, Commander.” Gabriel used the tablet to contact Challenger.
    “Commander K’kon, I need you to recall all personnel and prep the ship for launch in ten minutes.”

    We’re currently loading torpedoes and other consumables, Captain,” replied Challenger’s K’krothan Ops officer.

    “I know. Torpedoes are the priority, but get what you can on board. And please have Commander Taylor and I beamed aboard.”

    On your word, sir.” A moment after Gabriel had settled the bill for dinner, transporter beams from Challenger grabbed him and Connie, whisking them back to the mighty starship. As soon as they materialized, they headed for the bridge.

    “I don’t understand,” said Connie. “The Kethurians and the Jyothai have sworn to annihilate each other. If those barges destroy the royal junk, it’ll mean war. If they penetrate the Inclusion zone, we can’t pursue?”

    “It would mean a devastating war,” Gabriel replied. “But if we violate the Inclusion zone by so much as a picometer, it would mean Armageddon. The Huuro are not a species we want to antagonize any more than we already do.”

    “Already do? How”

    “By existing.” Stepping on to the bridge, Gabriel wasted no time, asking K’kon for a sit-rep.

    “All crew accounted for, sir. Umbilicals have been withdrawn; we are presently at station keeping with the RCS quads. Torpedo magazines report twenty percent loadout.”

    “It’ll have to do. Lt. Mokul, one-half impulse until we reach the outer markers, then engage slipstream drive at max. Plot your course for Beacon Point Bravo-Three in the Orpheus Salient.”

    “Plot my course for Beacon Point Bravo-Three, maximum slipstream velocity aye…”

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

    About half an hour later, Challenger’s senior staff was assembled in the conference room behind the bridge for an ad-hoc briefing.

    Barcelona should arrive within two hours of our encountering the Kethurians,” Gabriel was saying. “We just have to hold the battle-barges off until then.”

    “Hold them off?” asked Connie. “It sounds like you’re expecting to go straight into battle.”

    “Unfortunately, I am. The Kethurians usually just sling rhetoric and vitriol at the Jyothai, but if they’re slinging photon bolts, it means the game has changed and we don’t know what the rules are.

    “We’re not going in phasers blazing. I do plan on telling the Kethurians to stand down, I just don’t think they’ll be inclined to listen.” Gabriel turned to Lt. Priest. “Tactical analysis, Lieutenant?”

    Lt. Priest tabbed at the controls in front of her, and a hologram of a Kethurian battle-barge appeared above the conference room table. “Kethurian ships don’t employ torpedoes or missiles of any sort, and their photon cannons are equivalent to a type-6 phaser bank. The three main issues we’ll have to deal with are: one, those barges mount a lot of photon cannons; two, their ships are ridiculously armored; and three, their sublight drives produce copious amounts of Minckler particles. The Minckler particles disrupt communication and transporter signals, and make torpedo targeting a bit squirrely.”

    “A ‘pack’ of battle-barges usually comprises six ships,” added Gabriel. “We have our work cut out for us…”

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

    Encounter plus one hour

    True to Gabriel’s prediction, the Kethurians let their photon cannons speak for them. Challenger had so far managed to keep the battle-barges occupied and away from the drifting royal junk, but she was taking a pounding, and there was no way the Barcelona could get a signal through.

    “We’re finally getting clear sensor readings on the Jyothai junk, Captain,” said CDR K’kon. “There is only one life-sign aboard, out of a crew of over 200. Also, we’ve identified the markings; the junk is the royal transport for Princess Nairi Thelas Th’elasa.”

    “Damn,” said Gabriel softly. “Mr. K’kon, I need you to modify the deflector to create a ‘tunnel’ of sorts between Challenger and the royal junk. The antiprotons in the deflector beam will hold off the Minckler particles long enough for me to beam over.” Gabriel got up and headed for the turbolift.

    “Commander Taylor, you have the Conn.”

    Connie motioned to CDR K’kon to take over as she followed Gabriel into the turbolift. “Let me guess: you’re a figure of prophecy to the Kethurians, and if you’re on board the junk they won’t shoot at you.” Connie’s sarcastic remark belied her anger and growing concern.

    “Actually, the Kethurians believe I’m the devil incarnate. I’m betting, however, that their fear of retribution from the Celvani is greater than their hatred of me.”

    “I don’t like those odds, and you said yourself we don’t know the rules anymore. And blessed hell, Gabriel, how did you manage to piss off half the known galaxy?”

    Gabriel’s combadge chirped as he and Connie entered the transporter room. “Deflector modifications ready,” reported CDR K’kon.

    “Do it.” Gabriel strapped on his Celvani thrustergun and pulled a portable shield generator from a storage locker before stepping up to the transporter pad.

    “Captain,” said Connie angrily,” I cannot condone this course of action!”

    Gabriel flashed the half-smile that Connie found so damned annoying. “Not your call. Energize.”

    “Captain!” Connie yelled as Gabriel dematerialized. “Gabriel, I lo…”

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

    On board the Jyothai royal junk

    “Hello again, Princess.”

    “So, it is by a beloved hand that my death will come this day? You may wear the face of someone dear to my heart, but I will not sell my life the more cheaply for it.”

    Gabriel dodged the dagger that flew at his head and placed the shield generator against the bridge doors. “I’m trying to save you, if you don’t mind.” The shield generator activated with a chirp, sealing the bridge from the Kethurian death squads that beamed aboard just before Gabriel.

    “You lie! I shall…”

    “You shall let me work, please. I swear, your people have elevated paranoia to an art form. The drama queen act gets old really fast, though.” Gabriel dodged another dagger and found the engineering console, calling up the junk’s status on the main screen.

    “Let’s see… Propulsion: RCS only, sublight’s shot, warp core is functional and warp plasma is flowing, but the nacelles are practically scrap.” He started to type furiously at the console. “Got to be a way out of this mess… yes!” Gabriel entered a string of commands that triggered a high-pitched alarm.

    “What in the name of the Allmother are you doing?” the princess asked incredulously.

    “Triggering an imbalance in your warp drive,” Gabriel replied as he continued to type. “If I’m right…”

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

    Simultaneously, on board Challenger

    Challenger’s holographic avatar rezzed up abruptly, appearing right in front of Connie. Commander, I’ve lost the Captain’s signal.

    “That’s not unexpected,” said Connie. She turned her attention to Tactical for a moment. “Fire torpedoes, spread pattern delta-one-three.” Then, to the avatar: “We knew the interference from the Kethurians could do this. Keep trying to reacquire.”

    You don’t understand, Commander, said the avatar as she stepped closer. Connie noticed the avatar’s voice carried an almost overwhelming tone of fear, and it made Connie’s stomach curdle. I’ve lost his beta-wave signal.

    Connie felt her legs suddenly go numb, and she would have collapsed to the floor if the avatar hadn’t gently steered her into the command chair. The beta-wave signal, the intimate (for lack of a better word) connection between Gabriel and Challenger, was for all intents and purposes unblockable. The only thing that would disrupt the beta-wave was Gabriel’s death.

    “Captain!” called Lt. Priest, from the tactical pit. “We’ve lost the Jyothai ship. No visual, no sensor returns.” Connie heard the Lieutenant but found herself unable to reply. The activity on the bridge seemed to devolve into dim sights and sounds on the periphery of Connie’s perception.

    After what seemed an eternity, Connie found her voice. “Challenger,” she whispered, “initiate Protocol Zero.”

    Initiate Protocol Zero, aye. Challenger’s holographic form blurred for a second; when it regained focus, she was wearing a void-black suit of armor instead of her usual Starfleet uniform. She began speaking in a coldly clinical voice.

    Parsing tactical subroutines. Initializing alpha-strike systems. Initializing omega-strike systems. Engaging hull plating polarization. Deploying limited ablative armor. Engaging crew protection subsystems.

    At her last phrase, forcefields and armored bulkheads snapped into place across the ship, and all computer terminals were locked down. The monitors still displayed information, however, and what Challenger’s crew saw there chilled them to their very bones.

    “Multiple firing solutions,” said Lt. Priest, her voice heavy with alarm. “Commander, we’re not aiming to disable…” A pause, then: “Holy God. Weapons systems coming on-line.”

    “Which ones?” asked CDR K’kon.

    “All of them.”

    “All of…?”

    “Outside of phasers and photorps, I don’t recognize any of these. Where the hell have these systems been hiding?” Lt. Priest could barely comprehend what she was reading. “Neutrino injectors, plasma lances, phaser blades, mass-pulse mines… void torpedoes? What in the name of all that's holy are void torpedoes?”

    Protocol Zero fully engaged, said Challenger. Awaiting final code key for activation.

    A dark fire burned in Connie’s eyes as she looked up at the avatar. “Code key…”

    Gabriel.”

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *
     
  18. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Location:
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    December challenge entry:

    The Further Adventures of Porthos - The Stilton Fulfillment

    challenge topic: Ironic Wish Fulfillment
    ************************

    Good smell good smell good smell good smell Alpha pet me pet me pet me. Thank you {tail wag}. First Hoshi then other humans make noise on magic box with no smell. Alpha speaks back. “Blah blah visitors blah blah DINNER blah blah.” Alpha answers again, “Blah blah beagle blah blah.” Door opens, T’Pol is here! {wag tail} Pet me pet me pet me I know you’ll pet me when you think no one else is looking. T’Pol says, “Blah blah DINNER,” and then leaves.

    Captain Jonathan Archer sat in his Ready Room on the NX-01, occasionally petting his pet beagle, Porthos, who often wagged his tail in what seemed, at times, to be genuine gratitude.

    There was a Communications chime. “Sir,” said Ensign Hoshi Sato, “I have the Caitian Ambassador for you. His name is, er,” she checked a display, “Gopalahr.”

    “Put him through. Ah,” the captain said as the image on his computer screen switched from the Communications Officer to the Caitian Ambassador, a rather felinoid person with light brown fur and whiskers. “Good to hear from you.”

    “Likewise,” replied the Ambassador. “We will be docking soon.”

    “We’ll have dinner ready.”

    “Might I bring my family aboard? They have never seen humans before.”

    “Of course. My, uh, my beagle will probably be very interested. I hope you don’t mind him attending; he’s my pet.”

    “I have a few fairly young children,” replied the alien, “I’m sure they would be delighted – particularly my youngest, Parenelsa. She is a shy child, and has some difficulty in speaking.”

    “He’s a gentle dog. Looking forward to it. Archer out.” There was a door chime. “Come in.”

    It was First Officer T’Pol. “I have the duty roster for tomorrow. And Chef Slocum reports that the Food Service staff is ready with tonight’s dinner.” A display on the captain’s computer showed the date – March the twelfth of 2155. She continued, “Lieutenant Reed is anxious to meet with Ambassador Gopalahr as there are some questions about security, given the fact that there seems to be some increased Romulan activity in this sector.”

    “Right. Uh, and thanks,” replied the captain as T’Pol departed.

    I wait and then Alpha says it’s time to go! Everywhere with Alpha is good! It must be good! I know it will be!

    Good smells are all over the hallways. Crewman Nyqvist had a hot dog at lunch four days ago. Doctor Phlox let the Derellian bat out by mistake yesterday. Crewman Porter and Private Ryan kissed in this very spot the day before yesterday. And I can smell it all!

    Good smell good smell Alpha sees Hoshi. Oh Hoshi, I love Hoshi! Hoshi! Hoshi! {wag tail} I get my ears scratched oh that’s the spot don’t stop don’t stop don’t ever stop. Nobody scratches my ears like Hoshi.

    Hoshi says, “Blah blah Caitians blah blah children blah blah DINNER.”

    Alpha says, “Porthos blah blah children.”

    We go into the Observation Lounge. DINNER!!!!! The smells are so good!!!!


    Jonathan and Porthos walked together in the starship’s hallways. The dog was sniffing almost constantly, his nose practically glued to the deck plating. It could, at times, be slow going, but the captain was indulgent – perhaps overly so.

    Ensign Sato met them at the entrance to the Observation Lounge. She bent down to briefly scratch the dog behind an ear, and then straightened up. “The Caitians are settling in. The Ambassador and his wife have six children – it looks like the oldest two are teenagers. The youngest one stutters a bit, and seems to be painfully shy. She’s a little bit difficult to engage in conversation and is very timid. They’re already waiting at dinner.”

    “Good,” replied the captain. “Porthos here is great with children. Maybe she’ll come out of her shell, and at least talk to him. Shall we?” He hit the controls and the door slid open.

    =/\=​

    Inside the Observation Lounge, the Ambassador got up quickly, and he and the captain exchanged pleasantries. The alien then introduced his family, ending with Parenelsa being presented last. She was very young, with fur in a kind of tortoiseshell pattern. She hid behind Gopalahr. “I’ve brought a friend with me,” Jonathan said kindly. He knelt down so that he could get to Parenelsa’s level. “This is Porthos. He is a dog. He’s very friendly and would love to meet you.”

    The dog tilted his head and wagged his tail. The child tentatively put her furry hand out and petted his shoulder once. “Oh!” she whispered. “W-why does his t-tail move so m-much?”

    “He does that because he likes you,” the captain replied.

    New smells good smells cats cats cats lots of cats, cats wearing clothes? Odd cats. One is very small, very afraid. {wag tail} Come closer. Will not hurt little scared one. Will never hurt little scared one. Little scared one Parenelsa. Pet me pet me. Little scared one not so scared now. {wag tail}

    The captain straightened up, knees cracking a little bit. He nodded to Hoshi and she went to sit with Lieutenant Reed, who had been engaging the Ambassador’s wife in some conversation.

    The Ambassador and the captain talked and talked, with Reed chiming in as he felt he could. Hoshi sat there, a bit afflicted with ennui and engaging the older children in conversation. She was a bit taken aback when Gopalahr’s wife asked her how long she and the captain had been married.

    The meal was served. Chef Slocum had decided to feature anything he could think of that a feline might like. There were tuna steaks, and there was only milk to drink. But there were also salads, and there was a grain dish on the side, with snow peas. Malcolm leaned over to speak with the server, Lili O’Day. “Where does this grain come from?”

    “Hmm? Oh, uh, it’s bulgur. I figured you’d want a counterpoint on your plate. Otherwise there’s an awful lot of protein flying around. Want some Stilton? We’ve got at least a good eight different kinds of cheese. Confidentially,” she said quietly, and he had to strain to really hear her, “I’m glad we don’t have cat grass on board. Otherwise, Chef would have insisted, and we’d’ve made a salad out of it.” Reed shuddered. “Not to worry,” she said, serving him a huge slab of tuna steak.

    Malcolm blanched at the huge selection of dairy products on display, and put his hand over his plate to prevent her from giving him a serving of the Stilton. “Is there anything to drink but milk?”

    “I, oh, I can’t grab anything else; too busy here, sorry,” Lili said. “You okay?”

    “It’s nothing, Ensign,” he replied, and she went back to serving the others and making sure the tumblers were filled with milk. He stared at his tumbler and frowned.

    “Well, this is kind of an unconventional dinner,” Hoshi said.

    “Perhaps there’s a spot of catnip in the salad,” he quipped under his breath. He peered over. “I do believe the little one’s made a friend.”

    “Long as she keeps feeding Porthos cheese, she’s got a friend for life,” Hoshi agreed.

    Good smell good smell fish good milk good oh and there’s CHEESE! Cheese! CHEESE!

    Parenelsa gives me cheese! Oh cheese! Oh Parenelsa! More please! {wag tail} More! Yes! Cheese! Can’t have too much cheese! This is what I’ve always wanted! UNLIMITED CHEESE!!! {rapid tail wag}

    Humans say, “Blah blah dinner blah cheese blah territory blah treaty blah security.”

    Who cares? Parenelsa is giving me CHEESE! {wag tail wag tail wag tail}


    By the time the captain knew what was happening, Parenelsa had twice filled her plate with cheese and had set it down on the floor for Porthos to eat. The dog was inhaling it.

    And then they all knew the consequences, as the dog’s digestive tract really wasn’t equipped to handle all that dairy.

    The expulsion of methane nearly cleared the room.

    Uh, oh. BAD SMELL.

    “I’d like to apologize,” the captain said, “Uh, Ensign Sato, could you please take Porthos to Sick Bay?”

    Parenelsa looked on in horror, a furry hand put up to her face.

    “Uh, I’ll do it, sir,” Malcolm volunteered and got up quickly, a Jack in the Box on springs. Hoshi glared at him – she had wanted to get out of the remainder of the dull dinner.

    “Don’t you want to speak with our guests?” the captain inquired.

    Malcolm cast about, trying to figure out how to put things. “Sir, I have, well, I have some minor food allergies of my own,” he said quietly.

    “Oh, yes, of course,” said Archer.

    “Come along now, little chap,” Malcolm said to Porthos. With the plate taken away, the dog had nothing to do but follow him.

    Once the door had closed, Parenelsa tugged on the captain’s sleeve. He bent down so that he could hear her. “Is, is P-Porthos very s-sick?” she asked, her eyes welling up.

    “No, he’ll be fine,” said the captain. “But that was too much for him. He’s going to have a bit of a bellyache.”

    “I’m, I’m s-sorry,” she whispered, scared again.

    “Do you want to visit him later? Your whole family can come. Would you like that, Parenelsa?”

    “Y-yes. I d-don’t want him t-to be in p-pain.”

    “I know you didn’t mean it,” Jonathan said.

    “Th-thank you.”

    Good taste good taste CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE Parenelsa I LOVE YOU!!! Ohhhh. Pain in belly. Not so good.

    Reed takes me to Doctor Phlox. Reed has different aftershave than Alpha and smells differently. Good smell.

    Halls smell good but belly HURTS. Travis and Shelby stood here three nights ago but did not kiss. She wanted to. He wasn’t sure. Private Hodgkins was angry right at this spot four hours ago; I can smell his sweat, a little sour in the air. He was with Crewman Parsons and Crewman Tanner and they were nervous.

    Reed says, “Blah blah dairy blah blah Phlox.” We get to Sick Bay. Phlox Phlox I love Phlox!


    It was a quick walk to Sick Bay, but the dog, even in his condition, was not moving that quickly. Malcolm considered just picking up the dog and carrying him, but he was mindful of the odors that the dog was, still, occasionally emitting. Fortunately, no one else was in the hallway. He took advantage of the quiet and softly said, “Not to worry, little chap. I, too, have an aversion to dairy. It’s called lactose intolerance. Only the doctor knows and, I suppose you do, too, now. And if I was a bit, well, earthier, I suppose I’d allow myself to openly have the same physical reaction as yourself. Of course I don’t. I’ll allow there’s a difference between you and I, eh? Ah, here we are.” He pushed the panel and the doors to Sick Bay opened.

    Doctor Phlox looked at them and shook his head. “Ensign Sato contacted me. She said there was an overabundance of cheese digested. Was that by you or Porthos? Or both?”

    “Both, I think. But he’s far worse off than I. We, uh, we had a bit of an incident.”

    As if to punctuate the Lieutenant’s words, the dog let loose again. In its nearby cage the Derellian bat shrieked. “Oh my,” said the doctor, his eyes tearing a bit, “that is, uh, it’s unique, let’s just say. Perhaps Commander Tucker can harness these emissions if we run low on dilithium, or if the matrix has any, er, issues.”

    “Doctor, if you please.” The Lieutenant’s urgency was justified, as the dog let loose again. “My God, it’s like Stilton, the MACO unit’s laundry and Klaang, all combined.”

    The doctor prepared two injections. He gave the larger one to Reed, who injected himself, as the doctor took care of the dog. “There,” said the Denobulan, straightening up. “a bit of lactase for both of you, in a neutral suspension. We shouldn’t have too many more, er, gaseous anomalies.”

    “I hope you’re right, Doctor.”

    Bad smell oooh bad smell. The Derellian bat doesn’t like that. Reed says, “Blah blah.” Then Phlox says, “Blah blah dilithium blah blah.” Bad smell. Oooh. Shot don’t like shot don’t like shot don’t like shot. Aaah. Belly feeling better.

    =/\=​

    “Right, sir. And my apologies, Ambassador. The little chap is all right. I shall return soon. Reed out.” Malcolm flipped his communicator closed. “I really should return to that supper. It’s just so damnably dull.” The ship was suddenly rocked. “Bloody hell!” yelled Malcolm. He ran out.

    Phlox turned to Porthos. “Let’s get you secured.” He brought out a larger crate and the dog obediently entered it. The door was shut as the Enterprise was rocked again. Phlox went to the wall communicator, which was chirping. He banged it. “Sick Bay; Phlox here.”

    “Doctor!” It was Ensign O’Day. “I have the Ambassador and his family. We’re coming to Sick Bay, under the captain’s orders. O’Day out.”

    Sour smell danger coming, ship is pushed HARD. I almost fall. Reed runs out. I smell fear I smell warning I smell wrong things. The Derellian bat is scared.

    Phlox says, “Blah blah secured.” I go into secondary den, but it is not safe. Big bang, big push. I smell the Derellian bat’s fear. The Edosian slugs and the tribbles are panicking, and I am terrified.

    I hear Lili in the magic wall box for a second. I lie down and make myself small. I fear for Alpha more than I fear for myself.


    =/\=​

    Lili arrived with the Caitian guests as quickly as possible. “Do you know who’s attacking us?” she asked the doctor.

    “I have no idea. We, I need to be prepared and have this area cleared in the event of any casualties.”

    “Right. Those kids, they really shouldn’t see that,” Lili replied. “Huh. Could they go into decon?”

    They were rocked again. “Good thinking. Uh, maybe take Porthos with you. I don’t know what I might end up having to deal with.”

    “Right.” She unlatched the dog’s crate, but he didn’t come out immediately. “C’mon, fella,” she coaxed, “let’s pretend I have a steak, or something.”

    Phlox herded the Caitians into decon and Lili was finally able to get the dog to follow her. Phlox shut the door behind them.

    Fear smell scared scared Lili’s here I love Lili. She always has food. Lili works with Chef. Comes to get me. I am afraid to go. I should stay and wait here for Alpha. But she says, “Blah blah steak,” and I know she doesn’t really mean it, because I can’t smell it. And she is afraid. But the ship is moving too hard and Parenelsa is there and she is very, very scared and so I follow.

    Little room decon old smells. Old planet place smells. Places with trees or ice or deserts. I smell Risa very faintly, smell of Rhylo, smell of Tandaran prison, smell of Xindi spheres. I smell all who have been in here, even those who are no more. I smell Crewman Cutler, who used to give me belly rubs. I smell Private Hawkins, who gave me half of his ham sandwich once. And I smell Major Jay Hayes, who called me Spike sometimes but I think maybe he was thinking of another dog whenever he said that.

    Human cats say, “Blah blah danger blah blah Parenelsa blah blah treaty blah blah security.”

    I feel the ship turning, hard.

    Lili says, “Blah blah dinner blah blah dessert.”

    Parenelsa cries and hugs me. I am as scared as she is.


    In decon, Ambassador Gopalahr said, “I had no idea there would be danger here. I never would have brought my family. I don’t want anything to happen to them. Parenelsa, do come and sit here with the rest of us.”

    The little girl had a spot on the floor, near Porthos, and did not give it up. Her father shrugged. “We’ve been trying for a treaty with the Romulans for months. Lieutenant Reed and the others will have to work harder to ensure our security, I am sure.”

    Lili said, “I dunno. It’s not my bailiwick. All I do is make the dinner and serve it. Seems kinda rude of them to interrupt it like that. They didn’t even wait for you to have dessert! It’s a carrot cake, by the way. I made it myself.” She paused. “Sorry. I know nobody’s up for levity.”

    “That is all right,” Gopalahr said. “As you yourself stated, this is not your area of expertise.”

    Parenelsa, scared, was not comforted by any talk of desserts. Quietly, she cried a little, reaching out to the dog, which was also shaking a little.

    =/\=​

    On the Bridge, Captain Archer did his best to stay seated as the ship took smaller hits and dodged the worst of it. “T’Pol!” he yelled. “What are you seeing?”

    She peered into a scope. “It would appear that the vessel or vessels that are attacking us are cloaked. My readings are similar to when we were in that cloaked Romulan minefield.”

    “Quantum beacons, sir!” Malcolm yelled. “That’s what we used the last time!”

    “Get me Tucker,” the captain said to Hoshi, who quickly complied.

    “Tucker here,” the Chief Engineer’s voice was tinny through the Communications speaker. “What’re ya doin’ to me? I got small fires in here!”

    “Can you get a quantum beacon up and running again?” Archer asked. “Mount it on the grappler like we did the last time.”

    “Gimme ten minutes. Torres, Rosen, Crossman!” he yelled to the people working nearby. “This is a priority. Porter, you’re on the containment field. Uh, Tucker out!” The connection was closed.

    “Hull plating is down to seventeen percent,” Malcolm reported. “That cannot come fast enough.”

    “Keep trying evasive maneuvers, Travis,” the captain said to Ensign Mayweather. The ship turned, hard, again.

    =/\=​

    In ten minutes, there was a Communications chime on the Bridge. “Cap’n,” Commander Tucker said, “have Malcolm try the quantum beacon now.”

    The captain nodded at Lieutenant Reed. He flipped a few switches. “There.”

    The fuzzy outline of two ships appeared on the main view screen. “Target their engines – on the one on the port side,” Archer commanded.

    “Yes, sir.” A pause. “Firing torpedoes.”

    The image on the left became sharper as, perhaps, the cloak was weakened. “Do you recognize the configuration?” the captain asked Commander T’Pol.

    “I believe it may be Romulan. But I am uncertain.” The two ships warped out of there before she could check them more closely. She looked up from her scope. “I cannot get a more accurate reading than a guess.”

    “That’s okay,” the captain sighed. “It’s an act of aggression, to be sure. But without a positive, clear and convincing ID, we can’t exact pin it on any particular species, can we?”

    “It would not further the Coalition’s agenda if we were to accuse a species without being absolutely certain,” replied the Vulcan. “The evidence is inconclusive at this time.”

    “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” conceded Captain Archer.

    =/\=​

    It seemed like forever before they were let out of decon. “What happened?” Gopalahr inquired.

    “I’m unsure,” Phlox admitted. He had a patient on one of the bio beds. The man was sitting there, holding his left arm and cringing a bit as Phlox returned to him.

    “You okay, Josh?” Lili asked, coming over.

    “Doc says he thinks I broke my arm. I don’t disagree.”

    “You know anything about what happened out there?” she asked.

    “All I know is; Engineering is okay. We were getting a quantum beacon ready but then I got knocked over too hard. But the engine’s all right, and all of that, and I figure we got the quantum beacon out. But I dunno who hit us.”

    “What is such a beacon used for?” the Ambassador inquired.

    “To check for cloaked stuff, mostly.”

    “Romulans,” concluded Gopalahr, pacing a little.

    Lili said to Josh, “I’ll make you potato latkes, even though I know it’s the wrong time of year. Just a little something to help you feel better.”

    “Well, thanks,” he said, as Phlox ran a scanner over the affected arm.

    There was a communications chime. Lili hit the wall unit, and the intercom could be heard. “All hands, this is the captain. We think we were hit by Romulan fire. But we don’t really know. This was another one of those quick sorties that we’ve been observing for a few months now. Enough of these, and we may be going to war with these people. So I think today’s meeting with Ambassador Gopalahr was even more important. If the Romulans are going to be a threat, then we’ll need good allies. And I’m sure the Caitians are, and always will be. Thank you to everyone; you all performed above and beyond today. Archer out.”

    Better smells recovery smells Josh is hurt I like Josh he threw a ball for me lots and lots and lots of times five days ago. He is hurt I don’t know how but I smell his pain. Parenelsa is a little less scared, we hear magic box. Alpha is on the magic box! Oh joy! Oh boy! Pure joy! ALPHA IS ALIVE!!!! {thump thump wag tail wag tail wag tail}

    Alpha says, “Blah blah fire blah blah threat blah blah Caitians blah blah everyone.”


    “We’d better go,” Gopalahr said. “If I am right, then, oh,” he sighed, “I fear we will be at war with them soon. We’ll make our good-byes and return to our ship.”

    “Very well,” Phlox replied.

    The captain entered Sick Bay. “Well, you heard it. You know what to do.”

    “I agree with you,” Gopalahr said, “We may very well be at war soon. Our home world will stand with yours, and with Tellar and Vulcan and Andoria. I believe the Lafa System will also support whatever you do. As for the Xindi, I am certain that they are sick of war. So they may not be so eager to join in. But it could be of value for them to remain neutral in the conflict that, I am afraid, is sure to come.”

    “I don’t know,” Jonathan said, kneeling down to pet Porthos. “I guess we’ll work out the details later, if we need them. I wish it wasn’t coming to that. You think of all of the little things of this day – a dinner, a chance to get acquainted. You made a new friend,” he said to Parenelsa.

    “But he got s-sick.”

    “It wasn’t bad. I bet you gave him everything he thought he ever really wanted. He just didn’t think through the consequences,” said the captain.

    Parenelsa sits with me some more, and then bigger cat human says, “Blah blah war blah blah war.” And then Alpha comes and he stays with me, too! She is a little less afraid, and Alpha speaks with her. “Blah blah dinner blah blah friend.” They make their good-byes. I thought the greatest thing I ever wanted was unlimited cheese. And I got it today. But it hurt my belly.

    And now Alpha is worried, and something else is going on. I know war. It is the worst of the bad smells. For Alpha to be all right is better than any cheese, but Alpha is so worried. For everyone to be all right, and stay all right, it is better than cheese.

    I love Parenelsa even though she did not have any more cheese. And that is the best thing. I had enough Stilton today. I had enough cheddar. And brie. And camembert. But I can never have enough of making someone like Parenelsa happy, or at least a little less afraid. But it may take a while for Alpha to be happy. He is so worried.

    I will never have enough of Alpha. It is more than I could ever wish for, even when times are troubled. It is the best of the good smells.

    Good smell good smell good smell.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2013
  19. Galen4

    Galen4 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Re: Angry Fanboy

    AFB,
    I just discovered your "Majestic" entry and was drawn in right away.
    Great piece of concise, yet descriptive writing. The created a dark, hopeless feeling in a short amount of space and kept me hooked all the way through.

    I really wish we had found out what that bizarre structure was, though. You left me hanging.

    Angry or not, your writing style is engaging. I'll have to make time to check out more of your work.
     
  20. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    Procrastination Plaza
    January's challenge theme was "Ethnicity and Culture":


    The Question
    by Count Zero

    As much as he had hoped to escape her, on the penultimate landing of the stairs Bishop Nevala finally caught up with him. Slowing down, he nodded respectfully in her direction. Intended as a greeting in passing, the grey-haired woman took it as an invitation to stay by his side on their way down the worn-out marble stairs whose once splendid white had turned into grey a long time ago.

    “What are you really doing here, Yokeen?” She finally asked after a few steps.

    “What? I mean, what do you mean?... Uh, respectfully.”

    Nevala sighed. “You're only ever half here whenever I teach, that's what I mean. You don't seem to particularly care about our faith, no offense.”

    Yokeen stopped abruptly, and so did the Bishop, turning to him.

    “So, why are you here?” she continued. “Is it because of your uncle? Because of a lack of other options? It's the question you will have to answer for yourself, eventually, you know, for your own sake. Why are you here, Yokeen?”

    She looked at him with a piercing glance that shattered his illusion of being able to provide a half-arsed answer that would satisfy her. The honest answer certainly would not do. After all, he couldn't really tell her that it was because he was interested in philosophy and writing but attending a regular university always came with the usual propganda, brain washing and oppression, could he? So he chose to say nothing and endure the feeling of having been exposed as a fraud instead that her unwavering stare caused him.

    Suddenly, she chuckled. “Oh, don't look at me like that. I'm not your enemy, I was just asking. It's your decision how you want to spend your life, after all.”

    With that, she turned, descended down the stairs and disappeared in one of the numerous corridors, leaving him alone to ponder her words, looking slightly forlorn on the wide old steps.

    Still disconcerted by the conversation, Yokeen Var arrived in the narrow square in front of the university building a little later where some of his fellow students had already taken to socialising now that classes were over. Tradition demanded all of them to wear white draped robes with black ribbons around the collar not just during classes but also upon arrival and leaving which meant they had to wear this outfit that not only Yokeen deemed ridiculous practically the whole day. Needless to say, it never failed to attract glances ranging from amused to disgusted and sometimes even comments when they were on their way to and from university.
    On three sides the walls of the building bore down on them, the finer details of its intricate masonry hidden under the black layers of the soot and dirt of centuries. On the fourth side a two metre high fence made out of a black metal alloy separated the square from Broadstreet which despite its name was not very broad according to today's standards but had been considered such when the city of Rostovar and with it, the Empire, had been young. Across the street, the grey and faceless facade of a large modern building twice as high as the university filled the view from the square. Being thus at once reminded of the centuries old tradition they were obligated to and the anachronism it and they themselves represented the students put extra effort into making their conversation especially light-hearted.

    “There you are!” T'Mara exclaimed jovially as she spotted Yokeen. “I see you escaped unscathed, after all.” Someone else laughed.

    “Yeah, I did.” Yokeen answered, deciding to go along with the tone of the conversation.

    “I told you you should have read up on Solymar,” the brown-haired, fairly pale-skinned and brow-ridged woman said.

    “Yeah, that's like basic stuff, man,” Jorok, standing next to her, chimed in. It stung Yokeen a little to get condescending advice by the group's uncrowned party king but he figured that he deserved it, considering how he had stumbled through the Bishop's questions in class. Working up the motivation to read the musings of an old guy from 500 years ago wasn't easy, though.

    “Before everything, below everything and above everything there is submission. Scholars will argue about the intricacies of our teachings until the Empire ends. One thing they can't argue about is this: submission is at the heart of our faith.”

    Those were the first sentences of Solymar's work which had instantly killed off any interest Yokeen might have had to read on. He would never submit to anyone or anything, certainly not to some vague supernatural he didn't even believe in.

    “Yeah, well, basic and boring.” he quipped in the hope of sounding casual.

    Just then, out of the corner of his eyes, he saw someone approaching their group quickly from the street. He turned around and felt his heart jump when he realised it was a Reman – taller than most, lanky as many, looking angry as all of them. A thousand unsorted thoughts were racing through his mind as he watched the Reman march on towards him, most of them involving grim scenarios. About a metre away from him, the Reman stopped abruptly – too close for Yokeen's comfort but he resisted the urge to flee from this man who so closely resembled the demons from his childhood stories.

    “Are you a cleric?” the man asked in his otherworldly voice.

    Yokeen turned around in search of whoever the Reman must have been addressing as he certainly didn't think of himself as a cleric. Seeing only his fellow students who had backed off a few metres he realised that the man had asked him.

    “Well...,” he started to say, in an effort to give a detailed explanation of his status, then thought better of it. “Yes.”

    “Your assistance is urgently required.” the Reman stated. “Please accompany me.”

    “Okay.” Yokeen replied simply, not knowing why.

    Before he could ask any of the many questions he had, the Reman was already on its way back towards the street, gesturing for Yokeen to come along, while setting a brisk pace Yokeen had some difficulty keeping up with.
    Out they went onto Broadstreet, right into the crowd of pedestrians on their way home or to one of the many shops lining the street. Not losing his enigmatic guide in this chaos would be a challenge, Yokeen thought at the sight of all those people bustling about. Just then, he noticed how a passage was opening up before them as they moved along because everyone carefully evaded them – or rather, the Reman in front of him. They rushed by unremarkable new buildings housing offices, shop windows displaying clothes in muted colours, toys and old books, the ominous Black Tower and the famous Praetor Grimlek school, accompanied by stares and whispers.

    When they arrived at Imperial Square the Reman slowed down considerably, shielding his eyes from the sudden onslaught of an early summer day's sunlight now that they had left the dimness of the narrow, tunnel-like street behind them. This allowed Yokeen to finally get beside him.

    “So, what's your name? Mine's Yokeen,” he said and extended his hand.

    “Olik.” the Reman grumbled, ignoring Yokeen's gesture.

    “Where are we going?”

    Olik's answer consisted of a frown, followed by an irritated look.

    “All right, that was a stupid question.” Yokeen mumbled to himself. There was only one place where Remans could live in the city, the old Varmur district. The thought of walking there – which would take them at least half an hour – didn't appeal to him, though. The open space of the square with its low-rise buildings of red brick around them, the blue sky and the sea birds circling above them made him feel exposed. And he was still wearing his robe which clearly marked him out as an aspiring pastor of that weird up-start religion the authorities found quite suspicious. Now he was also accompanied by an even more suspicious Reman.

    Weakly, he asked, “Are we going to walk there?”

    “No,” Olik replied, pointing in the direction they were heading anyway.

    “Oh, right, the rail station...”

    The station was located on the fourth floor of a ten-storey high building from two centuries ago, built in the dominating style of that time which favoured rectangles above all else.
    Although the station was open on one side it was awash with the yellow light from the globe-shaped lamps hanging from the curved ceiling.

    “We will have to get off at Hiren alley,” Olik said.

    “Yes, I know.” Yokeen replied, slightly puzzled. Why would Olik feel the need to tell him that? After all, they would be taking the train together. Then he realised.

    “That's not a problem. I'll get on the same carriage as you. There's no law against that, just the other way around. I usually do that, anyway, if it's not too crowded.”

    “Why?” Olik asked, the surprise evident in his voice and eyes.

    “Solidarity, I guess. I think the way we treat you is wrong. There is nothing I can do about the law but I can show you my support.”

    Olik looked at him thoughtfully but didn't say anything. He remained silent for the whole train journey so Yokeen spent it smiling at the other Remans in the only carriage they were allowed to use in what he hoped would come off as a friendly gesture, feeling wistful when they passed the station he would normally get off and wondering about what would await him once they got to Varmur and why a cleric was required.

    Although no one could tell with certainty it was generally assumed that Varmur had started out as an ordinary district of the city, just like any other. Over the centuries it had first become the go-to place for new arrivals many of whom were and stayed poor, then the ideal place for shady entertainment in dimly lit cellars and illicit business deals in gloomy backyards and finally the home of the city's Reman population due to zoning laws preventing them from living anywhere else.
    The adjacent districts had long ago built walls around it to prevent the vice and filth from spreading so the only way to expand had been up and in between. That's why Varmur resembled a giant more or less lofty building consisting of smaller buildings which had grown ever closer together over time and connections between them starting from the first floor up.
    The only free space was a small strip beyond the fence whose openings served as the main entrances on the side Varmur bordered on Hiren alley. Yokeen was no stranger to the district, he came here fairly often for a certain kind of party and other things he didn't really like to think about in any detail. As he crossed the open space by Olik's side he sincerely hoped that they wouldn't encounter anyone he knew. Quite unlikely in daytime, he figured, but it still made him feel uneasy.

    The space between the houses was just big enough for two people so Olik took the lead. After a few turns, crossing several buildings at the ground level they were soon approaching the Reman part of the district, an area completely unknown to Yokeen. They went down steps and entered a complicated system of pathways that would have been completely unlighted were it not for random spots of pale sunlight finding its way through the many levels of connecting structures above them. Most of the time, Yokeen stumbled through the dark from which Remans seemed to appear out of nowhere, passing them with grim expressions on their faces. Sometimes he would stop to catch a glimpse of their daily lives through openings in the buildings' walls they passed or admire the merchandise in the small shops located in nooks and niches.
    Olik had noticed this erratic behaviour of his guest right away which only affirmed his long-held opinion that Romulans were weird people. With a heavy sigh, he turned around.

    “We don't have time for this and you might get lost.” He grabbed the cleric's hand who smiled in response. Weird people, Olik concluded and turned back around to continue on their way.

    The absurdity of the situation didn't escape Yokeen. It was an odd feeling to hold a Reman's hand and be led by him. He should have been the one to direct him and tell him what to do. At least, that was what Romulans were taught from childhood. Strangely enough, he appreciated Olik's grip which was firm but not tight. A few turns later they stopped in front of a rusty metal door.

    “Here it is.” Olik declared and opened the door.

    They entered a small room dimly lit by a dirty lamp of the kind used to light mining tunnels which was taped to the low ceiling with a small kitchenette to the side. Two older Remans, one of them a woman, with anxious looks on their faces and a younger man whose expression Yokeen couldn't quite read were awaiting them. None of them spoke a word but the woman motioned for Yokeen to go to the adjacent room whose door had been replaced with a filthy grey curtain and followed him in.
    In there, a Reman whose skin looked leathery and especially pale, lay on a bed that occupied most of the room. Shivering under a woolen blanket, the man breathed heavily, his eyes closed. Yokeen knew then why he had been so urgently needed. Despite all the physiological differences he knew that this man was about to die. There was an intricate liturgy for the dying but Yokeen remembered it only fragmentarily. For a few moments, he felt utterly helpless and useless. Then he remembered that for most complicated things a simpler alternative existed.

    He kneeled down by the bed, looking at the man's face.

    “What's your name?”

    The man opened his eyes, looking back at Yokeen. “Elim,” he whispered.

    “What's your favourite aspect, Elim?” he asked gently. No reply came forward. Instead, Elim groaned.

    “What colour?”

    According to the prophet all of reality consisted of a finite number of aspects. They could be represented by colours. But Elim remained silent.

    “It's blue.” the older man who had entered the room in the meantime, answered on his behalf.

    “Loyalty,” Yokeen said, smiling. “That's my favourite, too. It has all the best songs.”

    Normally, he would have given Elim the figure representing this aspect to hold in his hands. But he hadn't brought any with him. Instead he gave him his ribbon to hold. There were prayers, incantations and songs associated with every aspect. As prayers weren't his strong suit Yokeen mostly stuck to the songs, starting with the simple ones from his childhood and improvising some of the lyrics of the more complicated ones. Sometimes he could hear Elim humming faintly along and then he stayed with that particular melody a while longer. When he felt that Elim's last moments had come he stopped and made room for the two older Remans whom he assumed were his parents. Elim died and everyone stayed silent. There were no tears. Yokeen wasn't sure whether Remans could even cry and felt ashamed that - although he had lived his whole life next to them – he didn't even know such basic facts.
    The two older Remans turned to him and he offered his condolences – heartfelt – but realised that this ritual was unknown to them. The two filed out of the room but before Yokeen could follow he was confronted by the younger Reman.

    “Why did you have to bring up loyalty of all things?”

    Yokeen lifted one eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

    “He poisoned himself, that's not very loyal, is it? Way to rub it in.”

    “I didn't know that! It was his favourite aspect.”

    At that, the Reman laughed hoarsely. “His favourite aspect!” he tried to mimic the way Yokeen had said it but failed. “It's his favourite colour. It's not like anyone follows your childish religion down here. Did you actually believe that?”

    “Well...” Yokeen's voice trailed off because he couldn't think of a good answer.

    “It's only because our stupid religion prohibits suicide. There's nothing but eternal damnation for those who do it. They thought that maybe they could prevent this from happening if they called you in, you know, another stupid religion to counter the stupid religion.”

    He stared angrily at Yokeen who thought it wiser not to answer.

    “If you ask me,” the young man continued in a calmer voice, “there is nothing happening after death. What do you think?”

    “You know, actually, I agree. My religion allows for this possibility. Maybe it isn't that stupid, after all.”

    Olik appeared in the doorway and threw an angry stare at the other Reman.

    “I'm sorry, Yokeen.”

    “It's all right.”

    In fact, it was more than all right. Despite everything, he felt oddly exalted. He had finally figured out the answer.