Captain Strauss and the USS Blanchard: “Blast from the Past”

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by TheLoneRedshirt, Apr 23, 2020.

  1. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Captain Strauss and the USS Blanchard: “Blast from the Past”

    (Author's Note: For a change of pace, this 3 chapter short-story is written in first-person, from the perspective of Captain Inga Strauss.)

    Stardate 65671.5 (2 September 2388)
    USS Franklin Blanchard NCC-90764

    Captain's Log, Supplemental:

    Tribunals are about as much fun as hugging a Capellan power cat while standing in a bucket of salt water. In forty two years of life, I've had the pleasure of sitting through three of them. You walk out feeling like you've been dissected with a blunt knife. If I never face another, it will be too soon.

    The good news . . . no general court martial, no suspension, not even an official reprimand . . . Phil Montaigne was right across the board. I guess his back-channel communications with Admiral Nate Porter were helpful. Maybe my string of bad luck going back a decade is coming to an end.

    But, (and there's always a “but” when sitting before a board of inquiry) there is a bit of bad news. No, it wasn't getting read the “riot act” about playing fast and loose with the Prime Directive. That was expected and probably deserved. Maybe. The J'Ril race will go on, bruised, battered, and bewildered, perhaps, but they have a future and can determine their own destiny. A far better outcome than extinction, in my opionion. But it still rankles me that Captain Syvick took the blame and brunt of the tribunal's ire. Now, a veteran starship commander is sidelined to fulfill the brass' perverse sense of justice. If they needed a scapegoat, they should have picked me. But Syvick was the senior Captain on scene, so . . .

    The somewhat bad news for me (and, by extension, my crew) is receiving new orders directing the Blanchard to patrol the Outland Expanse. Aside from the Caitian homeworld and a few small settlements, there are no Federation aligned worlds in the sector. To add to the fun, the Tzenkethi Autarchy are in the neighborhood, along with their saber-tooth cousins, the Kzinti pirates. We'll relieve USS Oslo (wonder what their C.O. did to tick off the brass?) and begin our sentence . . . our assignment, rather, keeping the peace in the frontier of the Alpha Quadrant.

    Computer, end and save.

    * * *

    Three weeks later . . .

    “Come on, Senior . . . show me what you've got.”

    I threw down the gauntlet to Senior Chief Petty Officer Angela Lemas as we sparred on the holodeck. To be honest, it was a half-hearted challenge. I was doing pretty well just breathing and not passing out. For her part, Senior Chief Lemas looked like she could go all day. I'm pretty sure she was taking it easy on me.

    We both wore ghi's and protective padding on head, fists, and feet. The idea was to avoid broken bones and concussions. However, I think I was setting a record for most bruises accumulated in one workout.

    On paper, Senior Chief Lemas and I were fairly evenly matched . . . roughly the same size, although she had a couple of inches and maybe ten pounds on me, and about the same age . . . her 45 to my 42. But SCPO Angela Lemas was all corded muscle and fast reflexes. Lean, mean, and quick . . . much quicker than me, I admit.

    And I think she enjoyed getting to kick her C.O.'s ass once a week.

    Not that I'm in bad shape. I work out six days a week – racquetball, running, swimming, and getting beaten up, are my main routines. There's comfort in knowing if Lemas really wanted to hurt me, I could probably out-run her.

    We circled around each other on the mat . . . she, like a panther, me, like a wounded . . . I don't know . . . pick your own metaphorical prey.

    I feinted with a right, then came at her with a sweeping leg strike. She saw it coming a mile away and elbowed me in the thigh to signal her annoyance in such a predictable move.

    Nothing like a knotted up thigh muscle to loosen up the curses. I knew how to curse in 27 languages . . . something I picked up from our Tellarite engineer on my days as X.O. of the Border Service Cutter, USS Bluefin.

    “Those are some new ones, Captain, what lang . . .”

    My acting will never earn me a role on Broadway, but I managed to distract Lemas enough to launch a leg sweep that took her to the map. Then, I finished with a hard heel strike to her abdomen, hearing the satisfying whoomp as her breath (and, hopefully, her evil soul) left her body..

    It was over-kill, but I pounced (more acurately, fell) on her and added a head-butt just for good measure. Not a terribly smart move, as I damn near knocked myself out.

    “Nice . . . takedown . . .” gasped the SCPO. I was impressed she could speak, much less remain conscious.

    A voice from my past spoke in my head. Never miss a chance to fight dirty . . . Rules are for losers . . . Fight like you will die every time you get into an unarmed situation . . . Bite, kick, do whatever it takes . . . If you quit, you're dead.

    Senior Chief Solly Brin. Probably the scariest person I ever met.

    I reached down to help up Lemas, but stopped just in time.

    “Slap the mat, Senior.”

    She grinned. Blood flowed from her nostrils and she'd have two good shiners without a few minutes in sickbay. Gamely, she slapped the mat, indicating her “surrender” and the cessation of hostilities. More than once, I had forgotten that detail and been tossed across the mat for my lack of attention.

    This time, we grasped wrists and I pulled her up. She bounced up easily, seeming none the worse for wear apart from a possibly broken nose.

    “That was . . . a good move, Captain. Unorthodox . . . and fierce . . . I like it!”

    I smiled. “Something I learned in the Border Service.”

    She nodded appreciatively. “You're a pretty good fighter . . . when you're focused, ma'am. But I recommend you add more . . . weights to your workouts. You've got great endurance . . . but your upper body strength could improve.” Her wind was coming back, but her voice was still thick.

    I was impressed with how quickly she was recovering. “Noted, Senior Chief. Same time next week?”

    “Yes ma'am. And don't . . . think that leg sweep will work a second time.”

    I shook my head. “I won't press my luck. Head to sickbay and get that nose looked at. You're bleeding all over my ship.”

    “Aye, aye,” she replied and trotted toward the exit.

    “Computer, save and end program.” The sparring arena disappeared, replaced by the black walls and yellow grid lines of the holodeck.

    As I made to exit the holodeck, the charlie horse in my leg took that moment to announce itself.Somehow, I managed to hobble down the corridor without crying or cursing. Must set a good example for the crew, after all.

    I considered making my way to Sickbay, but decided against it, seeing as Senior Chief Lemas was there, and I didn't want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she had doled out some serious hurt on her part.

    Instead, I headed to Counselor Montaigne's office. He had an M.D., so he must be of some use.

    * * *

    “Ow, dammit Phil!”

    Montaigne gave me a look completely lacking in sympathy. So much for bedside manner.

    “Are you going to sit still so I can examine your leg, or do I need to sedate you?”

    “Are you sure you're actually a Medical Doctor?” I countered. I was beginning to think that Sickbay was looking like a better option.

    He looked over at his English Bulldog, Jake. “She interrupts my morning nap, and this is the thanks I get.”

    Jake whined. I wasn't sure if he felt sorry for me or if he was waiting for one of the treats Phil kept in a jar on his desk.

    With the pants leg of the Ghi rolled as high as it could go, Phil frowned and poked the injured spot one last time, eliciting a hiss from me. Thoughts of murder entered my mind.

    He rummaged in a drawer and removed a small med-kit, producing a Feinberger scanner that looked to have been state-of-the-art when James T. Kirk was an ensign. He shook it a couple of times, and it finally warbled to life.

    “You could get some modern equipment, you know,” I pointed out.

    “You could go to Sickbay, where they keep the modern stuff. Now, shut up and be still.”

    I complied, the best I could. He waved the small device over my leg, glanced at it, frowned, and rummaged through his kit again. This time, he came out with a hypo-spray that appeared marginally newer than the scanner.

    He paused, as if in thought, and turned a dial on the device. “How much do you weigh?” he asked.

    “Like hell!” I replied.

    “Sickbay, then. Two decks up, half way around the corridor, You can't miss it.”

    I muttered my weight.

    “What's that?” he cupped his ear. “A little louder, please.”

    “Don't. Push. It. Old. Man.”

    He smiled. “Just kidding.” Then, without warning, he pressed the hypo-spray against the knot in my leg.

    Mange-covered, syphilitic, hell-spawned, demi-whores,” I hissed. But as the last curse flowed from my lips, the pain began to fade.

    I blinked and, gingerly, moved my leg a bit. The swelling was already going down.

    “You were saying?” he asked, replacing the hypo-spray and scanner in the little kit before tossing the lot carelessly on the desk.

    “Um, thanks, I guess,” I was still a little miffed at him.

    “Good thing you saw about that leg. You had a nasty blood clot forming. It's gone now, and the anti-inflammatory meds should take care of the rest. It will remain sore, because a little suffering builds character and your language indicates a deficiency in that regard.”

    “Screw you, Phil,” but I was smiling now. I rolled the pants leg down and stood, gingerly. Yes, there was still some soreness, but it felt a hundred times better.

    He handed me a mug of Raktajino. It was my one vice (well, one of several), and Phil Montaigne was a maestro when it came to brewing the Klingon version of a spicy quadruple espresso.

    “In lieu of payment,” he began, “you can tell me a bit about the Outland Expanse.”

    I considered a snarky remark about how profiting off of medical services was both illegal and unethical in the Federation, but he asked a fair question.

    I shared the basics about the Caitians being the lone Federation-aligned major planet, the Tzenkethi, the Kzinti, and the sparse population.There was some lovely places, but a whole lot more ugly. The best I could describe it was as a sad and hopeless corner of the universe.

    “It's truly the frontier as far as Federation territory goes. Unfortunately, it's probably the least civilized with the most crime and mayhem.” I cocked my head and gave him a look. “Surely, you've been there at some point.”

    He shook his head while reaching down to scratch behind Jake's ears. The Bulldog's tongue lolled happily.

    “You might think so, but no. The ships on which I served were flitting about, seeking new worlds. I spent more time in the Beta Quadrant, believe it or not. Never made it to this side of the Alpha Quadrant.”

    “You haven't missed much,” I replied. Glancing up at an antique clock over his desk, I winced. “And I'm going to miss our staff meeting if I don't get moving.”

    Standing, I was relieved that my leg supported me without protest. Montaigne also stood.

    “Let me know if that leg gives you any more problems.”

    “I will, and thanks, Phil. I mean it.” I replied. “See you in fifteen minutes.”

    * * *
    From long practice, I was able to grab a quick sonic shower, put on a fresh uniform, run a brush over my teeth and through my hair (different brushes), apply lip gloss, and make it to the conference room with five minutes to spare.

    The leg, by the way, felt just fine.

    Commander Raymond Graycloud, my First Officer, and Science Officer Lieutenant V'Xon were already in place. Ray grinned at me.

    “I heard you put a hurtin' on Senior Chief Lemas.”

    “She gave as good as she got, Ray. I got in a lucky kick.”


    I had the feeling someone had won a bet.

    The rest of the senior staff filed in. Phil Montaigne strode in last, wearing his signature cardigan sweater that was at least a size too large. He took his usual seat by our CMO, Dr. Yue. Lt. Vashtee, my old Bluefin shipmate and curnt Ops Manager for Blanchard, sat on his opposite side.

    Chief Engineer, Lt. Commander Bradley Fuller and First Officer, Commander Raymond Graycloud sat on opposite sides of me. Lt. V'Xon sat in typically still and serene fashion next to Graycloud.

    The gang's all here, I thought, though we were still without a Chief Security Officer. That was on the agenda for another day.

    “Welcome to the Outland Expanse,” I began, without preamble. “We crossed into the sector at 0617, ship's time. On our current course and speed, we should arrive at Desola Station in roughly six hours. Absent a starbase in the sector, it will serve as a base of sorts for R&R and occasional repairs.”

    Dr. Yue raised a hand. “What about Starbase 500? Isn't the Sector Commander, Admiral Ch'Shev, based there?”

    I nodded, having anticipated the question. “Yes, he is. But Starbase 500 is not actually in the Outland Expanse, but in sector 4773. Admiral Ch'Shev actually oversees three different sectors.”

    “There used to be a Border Service Star Station in the Outland Expanse,” added Commander Graycloud. “Until it was destroyed ten years ago.”

    “Destroyed?” asked Dr. Yue, with obvious surprise in her voice. I would need to remind her to read the mission briefs before our senior staff meetings.

    “Yep. Plenty of theories about who, how, and why, but no straight answers to date.”

    I sighed. “To get us back on track, let me summarize. There was an explosion that destroyed Star Station Bravo, killing many fine Border Dogs and civilians, in all, nearly three hundred beings perished that day . . . Human, Caitian, Vulcan, Andorian, Tellarite . . . even a few Klingons and Ferengi. Theories ranged from an attack by the Tzenkethi, perhaps using their Kzinti minions to plant explosives. Other theories get more bizarre . . . a false-flag operation by the Caitians to force Starfleet into pouring more assets into the sector, and a theory that the bombing was a plot by Section 31 to start another war between the Federation and the Tzenkethi.”

    Ray snorted at the last one, which I knew he would. He thought Section 31 was “a bogey-man used by Academy upper-classmen to scare plebes.”

    I knew better, but didn't argue the point. Honestly, it didn't matter. What mattered was the souls lost and no one seemed to care anymore.

    “Anyway,” I continued. “The Border Service deactivated the Second Squadron, not that much was left of it aside from the Dragonfire and a couple of obsolete Aerie-class boats. Starfleet took over patrol duties, with at least one capital ship assigned, rotating every six months. That's where we come in.”

    “What became of the Dragonfire?” asked Lt. Vashtee. Another question I anticipated. Maya and I knew some of the officers from that cutter.

    “Reassigned to the Third Squadron, last I heard. Artie Slayd is still C.O. as far as I know.”

    Maya nodded, but I could tell she was troubled. She felt the sting of losing a Star Station and fellow Border Dogs same as me, even with the passing of a decade. Some things ought to hurt.

    “Now, on to directives regarding Desola Station,” I continued. “Remember, this is not a Federation Starbase, and the rules are different.”

    “Starting with, there really aren't any rules,” interjected the Chief Engineer.

    “Accurate, as far as it goes,” I replied casting a warning glance at Fuller. The man was brilliant and a top-flight engineer, but he had a bad habit of engaging his mouth before his brain had a chance to catch up.

    “First and foremost,” I continued, “All Blanchard personnel will go on the station in pairs at minimum. Absolutely no-one, the officers in this room included, are to go on Desola alone. Am I clear?”

    I glared around the room, daring anyone to crack a joke. Wisely, all remained silent. Even Brad Fuller nodded in agreement.

    “Second, personnel going on the station will carry sidearms. Type I 'cricket' phasers are acceptable, but better to have one person in the party carrying a Type II that will be visible.” I looked around. Most nodded, although Dr. Yue was frowning. I knew this would be difficult for her as she was an avowed pacifist. “Phasers should be set and locked on heavy stun.”

    “Heavy stun?” asked Dr. Yue, “Isn't light stun sufficient?”

    “Not against a Nausicaan,” replied Graycloud. “Hell, some Human big boy with a few too many won't go down on light stun.”

    “Ray is correct,” I said. “That's a non-negotiable, Doctor.”

    Yue leaned back and crossed her arms, obviously displeased, but she held her peace.

    “Third,” I pressed on, “Any items purchased on the station are subject to passing through our transporter filters and remaining quarantined until full scans are completed.”

    “Fourth,” If you decide to eat food on the station, I recommend you carry a tri-corder. Most vendors are fine, but there's little in the way of health inspections out here. Let the buyer beware. We don't need a case of K'Tinga's revenge breaking out on the ship.”

    There were a few chuckles at that. Good.

    “Fifth, do not start any fights. Avoid confrontation if at all possible. If you're challenged, walk away. If insulted, ignore it. But if cornered and you consider yourself in danger, defend yourself.”

    Phil raised his hand.

    “Yes, Counselor?”

    “Any recommendations for allowing the crew to blow off some steam on that bucket? We've been on this ship for three solid months. I think the guidelines are necessary and appropriate, but let's be honest . . . some of our people will want to get rowdy when they go ashore, so to speak.”

    I smiled in spite of myself. “Always the realist, Phil.”

    He shrugged. “Just doing my job.”

    “Beyond the parameters I just laid down, and within the code of uniform military justice, I really don't care what the crew does, as long as it doesn't affect the rest of the crew, endangers our ship, or creates an interstellar incident.”

    There were chuckles this time. “Look,” I continued, “This isn't the first liberty call for the crew. We've been to Rigel IV, which can get a bit wild.”

    “A bit,” nodded Graycloud, nodding.

    “Any further questions?” The senior officers glanced around, but no questions were raised.

    “Okay,” I continued, relaxing a bit, “Now on to department reports . . .”

    * * *

    “Now entering system boundary,” announced the helm officer, Lt. (j.g.) Juan Garcia. I liked the young officer; he was an excellent helmsman, if on the quiet side.

    “Drop us out of warp, Mr. Garcia. Ahead one-half impulse.”

    “Tactical, raise shields. Lt. Vashtee, active sensor sweep, system wide.”

    I saw a few heads turn slightly. Lt. V'Xon, lifted an eyebrow but said nothing. Commander Graycloud, standing nearby, rose on the balls of his feet slightly, then relaxed, but made no comment.

    We cruised at sublight for nearly an hour. The bridge was quiet, save for the soft, echoing beep of the sensor returns and the hushed flow from the air-handlers. I almost wished for the background noise on the Bluefin. The old cutter seemed more alive, less sterile, with its numerous beeps, whirs, and rattles. It even had a friendlier smell – warm transtators and old leather, mixed with cold coffee.

    Blanchard was a modern ship and still relatively new, of course. Her personality would develop with time and star-hours.

    Maybe I should spill a cup of coffee . . . I thought, idly.

    “Captain,” the edge in Vashtee's voice brought me to full alert. “The station has painted us with targeting scanners.”

    I smiled tightly. About time, I thought.

    “Return the favor. Tactical, energize all phaser arrays. Load and arm forward tubes with quantum yields and target that station.” I paused. “Maya, open a channel to the station, audio only.”

    Vashtee complied. “Channel Open.”

    I straightened a bit in the chair. It was a bit awkward, since my feet barely reached the deck.

    “Desola Station, this is Captain Inga Strauss of the Federation Starship USS Franklin Blanchard. You will deactivate all targeting systems aimed at my ship or we will respond. Be advised that we are a long way from the Federation core worlds and our rules of engagement are more flexible in the frontier. You have thirty seconds to comply.”

    I made a slashing motion across my throat, and Vashtee closed the channel. She turned in her chair and looked at me, expectantly.

    Graycloud, true to his Cheyenne heritage, has the ability to move without sound. I was startled when he whispered in my ear, “Inga, what the hell are you doing?”

    “Just following time-honored custom in this sector,” I replied, quietly. “Just wait.”

    To his credit, he nodded and resumed his position about a meter away. His face was impassive. He might have been chiseled from stone.

    Less than ten seconds later, Lt. Vashtee announced, “Incoming priority message from the station manager of Desola Station.”

    “On screen, Lieutenant,” I replied, suppressing a smile. Sometimes, being a starship commander can be fun.

    A rather large Human male with mocha-colored skin and a dazzling smile appeared on the viewscreen. I say, 'dazzling,' quite literally, because his teeth were encased in latinum. I almost expected the viewscreen to dim due to the brilliance of his smile.

    He spread his hands in a supplicatory manner. “Captain Strauss, welcome to the Outland Expanse and Desola Station. My name is Laska Pumjir, Manager of this humble station. I apologize for the less than hospitable greeting, but our defensive measures activate automatically when they detect a war ship and yours is most formidable. Rest assured, we have deactivated our weapons.”

    I was less than thrilled to have Blanchard characterized as a “war ship” but I let the remark slide. A glance at Vashtee and her thumb's up confirmed Pumjir's claim. I relaxed a bit.

    “Thank you, Mr. Pumjir, likewise, we will deactivate our weapons as well. We request a docking berth for the next five days; do you have anything available?”

    I could see Pumjir doing mental calculations as to the docking fees that would accrue. No doubt, double the normal rate. Not that I really cared, Starfleet gave me carte blanche for the duration of our mission.

    But of course, Captain Strauss. I will have our dockmaster transmit instructions and we will provide one of our largest berths. We can also provide shore power, Deuterium fuel, catering . . .”

    “Thank you, but the berth will be sufficient, Mr. Pumjir.”

    As you wish. And please, call me Lazka.” His grin grew even broader. I fought the urge to squint.

    “Thank you . . . Lazka. Now if you will . . .”

    Allow me the honor of hosting you and your senior officers for a dinner in your honor. We seldom receive such honored guests at Desola.”

    “That is most generous of you, Mr. Pumjir . . .”

    Lazka,” he corrected with a waggle of a pudgy, ring encrusted finger.

    “Lazka,” Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. At least, I didn't roll my eyes. “That is a most generous officer, but we have duties to perform at present. Perhaps we could take you up on your kind offer at another time?”

    A shadow crossed the big man's face, but it passed quickly. “I understand, Captain. Duty must come first. If you change your mind, please contact my aide, K'jik Griv, at the comm-code I will transmit to you.”

    * * *

    We made it to the station and docked at an adequate berth with no further drama. It was a rather tight fit, despite the Station Manager's assurances to the contrary, but Lt. (j.g.) Garcia and was more than up for the task.

    Besides, with our ablative armor, we could probably have cruised right through the station without scratching the hull. But that would be impolite and require days of writing reports. And probably another tribunal.

    “Mr. Graycloud, please set up and announce a crew rotation for shore leave.”

    “Shall I include senior officers, ma'am?” he asked.

    “Of course,” I replied with a puzzled look. Where was he going with this?

    All, senior officers?”

    “Ray,” I said, tiring of the game. “I promise to take some time off and go ashore.”

    He grinned in a manner I didn't like.

    “Great.” He showed me a PADD, “Cause' you're on the first rotation.”

    To Be Continued.
    * * *
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2020
    Cobalt Frost, CeJay, Cyfa and 3 others like this.
  2. aventinelover

    aventinelover Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Nov 27, 2008
    THANK YOU!! I've missed Captain Slayd and the Border Dogs horribly!!
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Awesome start! Love their patrol sector, which seems to have all manner of unseemly characters. I like the crew Inga's put together, professional but not afraid to let their hair down. I can only imagine the kinds of adventures they'll have out here.

    *Note: You've transposed Graycloud and Graywolf...
  4. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Thank you!
    aventinelover likes this.
  5. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Thanks! I don’t think it will get too dull for Strauss & Co.

    Re: Note - Dammit!
    Re: Re: Note - Fixed. Thanks!
  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Say, Inga doesn't have a brother named Levi by any chance? :lol:
  7. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Vice Admiral Admiral

    Sep 28, 2009
    The more I read of the Blanchard the more I enjoy.

    Also, good to see the Third Cutter Squadron is still going strong :bolian:
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  8. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    I didn't even think of that when I wrote, "Stauss & Co." :lol:
  9. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Thanks, Bry! Hopefully, Captain Slayd doesn't stir up too much trouble. ;)
    Bry_Sinclair likes this.
  10. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Chapter 2

    So, I found myself on Desola Station in the company of Phil Montainge and SCPO Angela Lemas. Apparently, Graycloud has assigned Lemas to be my personal body guard.

    I found this funny, since I had kicked her ass the previous morning. Sort of.

    Still, it was comforting to be in the company of someone who, truth be told, was much better with a phaser, and quite adept at unconventional warfare. Rumor had it that she once took down a Nausicaan with a fire extinguisher.

    I'll have to ask her about that sometime.

    As for Phil, he managed to just “tag along.” I'm not sure how much help Phil would be if we were accosted. Ostensibly, he was hunting for coffee beans. That, and the rare peppers that grow in Klingon space that are integral to a really kick-ass mug of Raktajino.

    The station was interesting, to say the least. I once stopped over at Deep Space 9, but Desola seemed even more odd and eclectic.

    The corridors were somewhat narrow for a space station and directional signage was virtually non-existent. Fortunately, Senior Chief Lemas had a great sense of direction. We passed myriad shops and eating establishments, catering to just about any Alpha Quadrant race and, probably, some from beyond.

    Personally, I don't like my food to crawl across my plate, so I demurred on a stop at a Klingon food kiosk. Apparently, Lemas loves Klingon cuisine.

    While she perused the menu and Phil asked questions (as usual), I turned my attention to the crowds milling by, hoping to find a Starbux on this misbegotten collection of tin cans.

    That's when I saw him.

    I couldn't be sure at first. My eye caught a large being moving quickly through the crowd. His size alone might not have registered, but he turned my way just for an instant.

    In that instant, I knew.

    Without thinking, I moved.

    He either saw or sensed me coming, because he suddenly turned down a side corridor in an attempt to lose me.

    I quickly picked up my pace, darting around beings from a multitude of worlds. From time to time, I would accidentally bump into someone, eliciting a hiss, growl, or curse. Part of me, the responsible, sober-minded, starship Captain, was telling me to stop, that this was stupid, and I was in violation of my own orders.

    The other part told the first part to shut up and keep moving.

    After several twists and turns, I came to a dead end. Bewildered, I turned completely around. There was no way I could have missed him and there was no way out, except . . .

    I took a couple of steps back and looked down. Sure enough, there was a maintenance hatch, flush with the flooring. I almost overlooked it. Studying it quickly, I could see tell-tale scratches where a tool had been used to lever the hatch up. Fresh out of tools, I pondered the hatch a moment, then removed my combadge. It was a tight fit, but I was able to get the tip of the Cochrane Delta under the edge. Twisting it, I gained purchase and lifted the hatch . . .

    . . . losing my combadge, as it fell away down a ladder shaft. It made a soft clatter as it tumbled downward, finally ending in a soft splash.


    The smart thing to do, would be to go find Lemas and Montaigne. Smarter still, head back to the ship for reinforcements.

    Smartest of all, forget what I saw and go find a nice Raktajino. Better yet, a strawberry sundae. Both, even.

    Stupid won the day, however, so I began to descend the ladder.

    If I was right, and I caught up with him. What the hell was I going to do?

    Better question . . . what would he do?

    Best to focus on question one. That, and not falling off the ladder.

    Thankfully, there were utility lights, albeit with anemic output. I considered reaching for my Type 1 phaser and use the built-in flashlight, but after losing the combadge, I decided against it.

    I estimate the ladder went down about fifteen meters before I hit the maintenance tunnel. There were several inches of foul smelling, oily water, which quickly leached through my boots. I considered stirring around to find my combadge, but was loathe to put my hand in that muck. My hand might not come back intact.

    Instead, I paused and listened. The corridor went off in two directions, following the curve of the station pod. He could be in either direction, now dozens of meters away, or just past either curve.

    A faint clatter came from my right. This time, I drew the small phaser, checking the setting to be sure it was locked on heavy stun.

    At least I was following one of my own orders. Got to set a good example, don't you know.

    Heart hammering in my chest, I moved as stealthily as I could while sloshing through water. I moved toward the sound like a moth drawn to a flame. It might have simply been some machinery or creaking from shifts of atmospheric pressure.

    But I knew otherwise.

    The corridor sloped downward slightly and the water level rose, spilling into my boots. I gritted my teeth against the cold that quickly numbed my feet. Wading through dozens of meters of tunnel, I came upon an intersection of sorts.

    Well, damn.

    Tunnels branched off in three directions. I stood at the nexus, baffled, but considering. Finally, I selected the most logical approach.

    “Eenie, meenie, miney . . .”

    And I found myself staring down the barrel of the largest hand-blaster I have ever seen. Pretty sure my heart stopped.

    He was still in darkness, but I could see the feral eye-shine, then a familiar voice from the past.

    “I heard you made Captain.”

    My mouth was dry, but I managed to croak, “Senior Chief . . . Solly. Odd place to meet, don't you think?”

    I had hoped the Braakman Boltcaster aimed at my head would lower, but Solly Brin held it steady. If he pulled the trigger, there wouldn't be enough of me for a decent DNA sample.

    “It's not 'Senior Chief' anymore. I left the Border Service and that life a long time ago.” His voice was quiet and calm.

    It was true. In fact, Solly Brin was classified as a deserter and was wanted for murder. I never knew all the details; I was reassigned after we lost the Bluefin and the survivors went our separate ways. Word was that his near-daughter, K'lira Rune, agreed to infiltrate one of the Orion Syndicate clans. But something went horribly wrong, and Lt. Rune was discovered. Rumor had it that her death was slow, painful, and barbaric.

    At that time, Solly was serving at the Recruit Training Depot for Border Service crewman as a senior instructor. When he learned what happened to K'lira. He just left.

    After that, some of the Orion clan leaders, the Ah'met-surs, began to disappear. Pieces of them would show up at various Syndicate gatherings.

    Now Solly Brin is a fugitive from the Federation and has a bounty on his head from the Orion Syndicate. As time passed, he moved from fugitive, to legend, to myth. I think Starfleet and the Border Service brass hoped he had died or gone off to live out his days as a grieving hermit on some rock.

    But that highly-decorated, dangerous, Red Orion, was far from dead.

    And that Red Orion was holding a blaster to my head.

    These thoughts flashed through my head in a moment, I suppose, but the stand-off seemed like hours.

    “Solly, I heard what happened . . . to K'lira . . . I am so sorry.” It was lame, and I knew it. But it was the truth.

    “Wasn't your fault. I have no quarrel with you, Captain. But I won't be taken . . . not now, not by you, or the Border Service or . . .”

    “Senior Chief,” I interrupted, as forcefully as I could make my voice, “Look around you. Do you think I'm prepared to take you in? Hell, I had no idea you were within a hundred light years of here. ”

    The glowing yellow-green orbs of his eyes narrowed as he considered my words.

    “Then what are you doing here?”

    “I'm C.O. of the Blanchard. We're assigned to the Outland Expanse for the next six months.” I decided to go out on a limb, to keep him talking.

    “What are you doing here?” I asked.

    I saw his eyes shift side-to-side, apparently checking to see if we were truly alone.

    “Hunting,” he said, evenly. I felt a sudden chill when he spoke. Whoever he was hunting . . . may the deities have mercy on his soul.

    “Who?” I managed to rasp.

    My eyes had adjusted to the dimness and could make out his bulk. He shook his head.

    “You don't have a need to know. Let's just say, it's time for someone to pay the Reaper.”

    And then, all hell broke loose.

    I remember hearing Senior Chief Lemas shout a challenge. Apparently, she found another way into the tunnels.

    Solly turned. He was always quick as a cat, despite his size. I tried to shout a warning to Lemas.

    Then the shooting started. I saw a bright flash . . . there was an ear-splitting noise . . . sudden pain . . .

    . . . then, darkness.

    * * *
    To be continued.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2020
  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Oh... that's not good. She was just starting to make some headway with Solly. I'd say heavens help those Orion Ahmet-surs... but c'mon, we all know they had it coming.

    I've loving the first-person narrative style with this story! :bolian:
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  12. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    There's an angel of death (demon?) coming for his revenge. Solly has a long memory, patience, and the requisite skills to take down the one's responsible for K'lira Rune's murder.

    Thank you! This particular story lent itself to Inga's POV.
    Gibraltar likes this.
  13. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    WOW! I'm really enjoying this story. Solly went rogue? Double-WOW!
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  14. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Gibraltar likes this.
  15. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Oh, yeah, I remember reading those. It's just been a while and I forgot. I'm sorry.
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  16. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Chapter 3

    I regretted waking up. Don't get me wrong, I was generally pleased that I wasn't dead. But my head pounded and throwing up was a viable option. It wasn't the first time I caught a heavy stun charge and I hadn't been looking forward to a second time.

    “Captain?” I was aware of Dr. Yue, hovering over me. I guessed we were in Sick Bay, that, or the after-life was inhabited by Asian physicians. "Can you hear me?"

    “Yurp,” I replied, or attempted to. Why was my tongue three sizes too large? Who shot me? Were my boots ruined?

    So many questions . . .

    I felt a pressure on my neck and heard a hissing sound. Hello darkness, my old friend . . .

    * * *

    Dr. Yue and Phil Montaigne managed to keep me in Sickbay until the following day. It's one of the few times the two M.D.s agreed on anything. Senior Chief Lemas was being kept for observation, having received a heavier stun charge plus another broken nose, apparently not my fault this time.

    Swearing that I would remain in my quarters (I crossed my fingers, so it didn't count), I instead made my way to the ready room.

    I attempted making an entry in my log, but since I wasn't completely sure what happened, I set that idea aside. Closing my eyes, I rememberied times past on the Border Cutter Bluefin. They were good times, mostly, except at the very end. I idly wondered where Solly Brin was, somewhere out there, both hunted and hunter, a very dangerous and wounded man.

    I tried not to think about who he was hunting. Or what he would do when he caught them.

    The door annunciator chimed. I considered ignoring it, but that would just make things worse.

    “Come,” I rasped. My throat was still sore.

    Phil Montaigne and Raymond Graycloud entered. Phil turned to Ray, “I told you.”

    My First Officer glowered at me. He was royally pissed and I really couldn't blame him. Deciding to head off the coming lecture, I jumped in first.

    “Would someone please tell me what the hell happened?” I glanced at Phil. “And why didn't you bring me a Raktajino?”

    Phil replied first. “One, because you've apparently lost your damn mind. Two, because you are on some powerful meds, which by rights, we should be monitoring in Sickbay, my Captain, so no caffeine for you.”

    He turned to Ray. “Your turn.”

    Graycloud fixed me with a baleful stare, all dark eyes beneath furrowed brow and chiseled cheekbones. “Captain . . . what the frakking hell?” He didn't sound so much mad as disappointed. I think I would have preferred angry.

    I knew I did what I did because I had to. And I would do it again. But I wasn't going to tell them that. Instead, I sighed. Maybe I have lost my damn mind.

    “Ray, tell me what you know and I'll try to fill in the blanks, okay? I feel like my brains have been replaced with tapioca pudding.” I waved in the general direction of the chairs. "Sit. Please."

    He looked much less than “okay,” but he nodded and they both lowered themselves into the comfy chairs.

    “Alright . . . When you took off, it took Senior Chief Lemas and Counselor Montaigne a few minutes before they realized you had disappeared. They tried contacting you, but you didn't respond.”

    “Lost my combadge.” It was lame but true.

    Ray nodded. “Right. So, Senior Chief Lemas contacted the ship, trying to locate you. No surprise that much of the station has an insulating layer to discourage scans, but most ships don't have a sensor array as powerful as ours. It took a few minutes, but we located you in the utility corridor. You were in tight quarters, so we made a site-to-site transport with Lemas, bringing her in behind the Orion life-form.”

    I thought about those last moments. “Brin had a Braakman Boltcaster against my head. I didn't really think he would use it on me. Funny . . . I didn't think those blasters had a stun setting.”

    “They don't,” said Graycloud. He produced a small package I hadn't noticed and placed it on my desk. Opening it, I found the Boltcaster. It didn't look quite as large as when Solly had it pointed at my face.

    “The power cell was removed,” continued Ray. “He was bluffing you.”

    That got my attention. “So, who stunned me?”

    A small smile played on my First Officer's face. “That would be Senior Chief Lemas. I haven't told her yet, but apparently, she fired on Brin, but he must have been wearing tactical armor under his clothing. You caught the deflected beam. Brin turned on Lemas, punched her, then used her own phaser to stun her for good measure.”

    “Or to teach her a lesson,” I muttered. My mind tried to process the ramifications. I was still woozy from the after-effects of the heavy stun shot, plus the meds in my system. I was gratified that Solly had no intention of harming me, but I was puzzled why he would threaten me, or pretend to. I just wanted to talk with him.

    “Do me a favor,” I said. “Let me tell, Lemas. She's not going to take this well.”

    “Your call,” said Graycloud. “Oh, and Solly Brin? He's vanished. Amazing a guy that size and distinctive looking could just disappear. We've done additional scans, but only a hand-ful of Orions are on the station, all accounted for. None are Brin, and none admitted to ever knowing or seeing him.”

    “Probably had stealth armor, military grade stuff. That would make it damn hard to track him,” I mused, then looked up at my First Officer.

    “Ray? I screwed up. I apologize.”

    His features softened. “Look . . . I understand you and Brin have a history. And, knowing what happened to his daughter at the hands of the Syndicate, well . . . I'd be more inclined to give the guy a medal than arrest him.”

    I nodded absently, feeling very tired. Ray noticed. “Look, get some rest. We can talk more later.”


    Graycloud left but Montaigne lingered.

    “Are you going to lecture me?” I asked.

    “To what end? You said it yourself, you screwed up. You and Lemas are lucky to be alive, you know.”

    I shook my head. “No, Phil. You're wrong. You saw it yourself . . . Brin removed the power cell from his blaster. That was intentional. I'm pretty sure he was as surprised to see me on the station as I was to see him.”

    Phil pulled up a chair closer to the desk. “Inga, the man is a deserter. He's implicated in at least three gruesome murders. You don't think that makes him dangerous?”

    I felt my temper flare. “Of course he's dangerous, Phil! Hell, I served with him for nearly six years.I've seen him in a fight . . . he's a one-man wrecking crew. But he's also loyal and was the best NCO I ever knew . . . maybe the best there ever was!"

    My tirade wound down quickly. I was tired of talking, but more need to be said.

    "Solly Brin saved my life on several occasions, putting himself at risk. He put his life and career on the line for our Skipper more than once. But before that, he took K'lira Rune out of a rat-infested hell hole and gave her a future, ultimately a career in Starfleet. Those three Ahmet'surs took his daughter, raped her, tortured hre, and mutilated her before murdering her. Yeah he killed them. You call it murder . . . I call it justice.”

    He regarded me somewhat sadly. “Captain . . . we don't have the luxury of dispensing that kind of 'justice.' You, me, Solly Brin, we swore an oath to uphold the laws and principles of the Federation. He violated his oath, broke faith, and abandoned his shipmates. Sure, I can sympathize . . . even understand why he might be carrying out a vendetta because of his daughter's death. But that still doesn't make it right.”

    I didn't want to look at Phil right then, so I stared out the viewport, grateful that it afforded a view of the stars rather than the gods-awfully ugly space station.

    “We'll have to agree to disagree on this one, Phil.”

    He stood, sensing he had just been dismissed. As he approached the door, he paused and turned.

    “Inga, what made you chase after him? What were you planning on doing if you caught up with him.”

    Maybe it was the fatigue, or the meds pumping through my veins, but I felt a tear stream down my face. I was glad Phil couldn't see.

    “I just wanted to see him again . . . make sure he was okay. He was my shipmate, Phil. My friend. One really bad, frakked-up day, he held my guts in place after I got carved up by a pirate with a damned cutlass of all things. I was hurt bad, going into shock, but somehow I knew I was going to be okay, 'cause Senior Chief Solly Brin was a dangerous son of a bitch, and he managed to take down the remaining pirates while keeping me alive.”

    Phil stood at the door, silent for a few moments. Then nodding his head, perhaps in understanding, he left.

    * * *


    Ship's gossip travels at warp speed, even on a not-so-small vessel like the Blanchard. I could feel the eyes of crew-members and noted the way conversation awkwardly ceased as I approached. Their Captain was the hot topic of the week, and not in a good way to my way of thinking.

    Phil Montaigne counseled to just ride the wave. “Every starship commander sooner or later does something that becomes the talk of the ship. Just let it go. This, too, shall pass.”

    I did address the matter with the senior staff. Since Commander Graycloud and Counselor Montaigne had already taken their pound of flesh, they remained mostly quiet. Brad Fuller seemed amused (typical), Science Officer V'Xon said little, but I could swear I heard a 'click' each time her eyebrow went up. Dr. Yue began a lecture about the 'circle of violence.' I think even V'Xon was tempted to apply a nerve pinch to shut her up.

    But Maya Vashtee ended that portion of the meeting. She simply looked at me and said, two word . . . “I understand.”

    And I knew she did. Once a Border Dog . . .

    * * *

    A few hours later, I was back to my normal routine, reading reports, checking fleet bulletins, etc. I was eating a sandwich in my ready room, silently correcting Brad Fuller's grammar on the Chief Engineer's weekly report. The man is a certified genius. He does this just to annoy me, I know it.

    The annunciator chimed. For once, I was grateful for the interruption. “Come!”

    Our Ops Manager stepped in, pausing as the door slid shut.

    “Lieutenant, what can I do for you?”

    She hesitated, so I indicated for her to sit down.

    “Thank you, ma'am. I hope I'm not disturbing you.”

    “Not at all. Honestly, I could use a break. What's on your mind, Maya?”

    “We received an encrypted message, text only, a few minutes ago. No source was indicated, and the message was routed through hundreds of relays, that there's no way to know for sure the origin” . . . “but, I'm pretty sure I know . . .”

    And suddenly, I did too. “Solly . . .”

    “I forwarded it to your terminal and marked it 'eyes only' so no one else can view it.” She rose, waiting to be dismissed.

    I beckoned to her. “Come around here. I want you to see this too. We old Border Dogs have to stick together.”

    She smiled and came around to peer over my shoulder. I activated the screen, endured the brief retinal scan, and called up the messages.

    There it was . . . “To Executive Officer, USS Bluefin, NCC-4458.”

    I drew in a quick breath. Even though I knew it was from him, it still was unexpected.

    Captain Strauss,
    It seems strange to call you that. Congratulations are past due.
    I apologize for any injury I may have caused you. To be honest, I never expected to see you or any of our shipmates again. When cornered, I can get agitated.
    I wish I could explain things, but as the Skipper used to say,“that ship sailed a long time ago.”
    You understand mission. I'm on one and won't be stopped until I'm done or dead.
    You're a good officer and a friend. You have my respect.
    Be well. Be safe. Kick pirate ass, if that's your mission.
    Do not attempt to find me.


    Maya breathed out something between a sigh and a sob. “Oh, Solly.”

    I silently agreed, afraid to speak.

    * * *

    The annunciator chimed again, an hour later.

    “Come,” I said absently. I was still signing off on reports, but my mind was replaying the message from Solly Brin.

    Senior Chief Angela Lemas entered, approached my desk, halted, came to attention and fixed her eyes about 18 inches over my head.

    “Senior Chief Petty Officer Lemas reporting to the Captain for disciplinary action, ma'am!”

    I almost chuckled but realized she was serious.

    “At ease, Senior Chief.”

    She moved smartly, hands crossed behind her, legs shoulder width apart.

    I sighed. “What's this about, Senior?”

    “Ma'am, I failed to provide adequate security for the Captain, per orders. I failed to detain the ass . . ., the perpetrator who assaulted the Captain. I failed to . . .”

    This was too much. “Dammit, Senior Chief – sit down!”

    She frowned slightly, but complied. I think she was miffed that I interrupted her confession of mortal sins.

    Steepling my fingers, I gave her my best command stare. “I repeat . . . what is this about? I thought we discussed this when you were still in Sickbay.”

    Lemas sagged slightly. “Sir, like I said . . . I let you down. You could have been killed by Brin.”

    “Belay that crap,” I interrupted. “As I recall, I abandoned you, not the other way around. And Brin had no intention of hurting me. He just wanted me to back off so he could escape. Your attempt at rescue was both brave and daring, beaming in to a dark corridor and engaging an unknown opponent.”

    “And getting my nose broken again, and shooting you in the process.”

    Did I give you permission to speak?” I barked, tersely. “Shut up and listen. This was on me. Period. You did good. And you didn't shoot me, you shot Brin. Neither of us knew he wore armor. Catching the ricochet was just bad luck. You definitely caught the raw end of the deal.”

    She sagged some more. “Permission to speak, ma'am?”

    I drummed my fingers on the desk. I needed caffeine. I needed ice cream. I needed a bottle of Saurian Brandy and a week on a desert island. “Go ahead.”

    “I thought I was better than that. Should have been better. It's my job.”

    I waited. She remained silent.

    “That's it?”

    A curt nod.

    Oh for the love of . . . “Senior Chief, let me give you a reality check. You are good. Very good. But you are nowhere, no how, no way, in the league of Solly Brin. If you work at it, you might be half as good one day, which would make you about the best in the current crop of NCO's in Starfleet. Now, quit your whining and get back to work. I don't have time to stroke your fragile ego, I'm busy.”

    Lemas' eyes narrowed for just a moment, but then she grinned and stood. “Aye, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am.” She did a smart about-face and moved toward the door. She stopped and turned. “Up for a return match tomorrow, sir?”

    “Sure. I'll kick your ass again.”

    “In your dreams, sir. Thanks.” Blanchard's senior non-com left.

    “You're welcome,” I said, turning my attention back to a stack of neglected PADDs.

    CeJay, tax1234, aventinelover and 2 others like this.
  17. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Love it! :hugegrin:

    I loved the aftermath of Strauss' completely reckless but utterly understandable actions. I got the feels with the old Border Service camaraderie and how much that still means both to Inga and Maya. And as always, my heart goes out to Solly Brin and his adopted daughter. To lose almost everything and then surrender all that you have left (your career and friendships) to pursue your righteous vengeance... ugh.

    Wonderful, horrible stuff.

    *As I was reading this chapter, my Pandora feed pops out this particular song:

    Talk about coincidence!
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2020
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  18. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    I'm gratified that you enjoyed it, especially considering how well you know the history and characters of the Bluefin. Solly Brin is a tragic figure, for sure. As a red Orion, he was looked down about my his green "betters." Born into slavery, he was freed by a mother who sacrificed all to get him away from that hell-hole, Verex III. He learned concepts such as honor and duty from his own adoptive father, one of the first Orions to serve in Starfleet, only for that father to die while Brin was in boot camp. You know the rest - rescuing and adopting K'lira Rune, a stellar career, a long friendship with Joseph Akinola, then tragic loss - first of the Bluefin, then his daughter. Now, he is obsessed with destroying not just K'lira's killers . . . he wants to take down the Orion Syndicate.

    Dude! Downright chilling! :eek:
  19. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Excellent story.
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  20. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Thank you!