Dark Territory: Blooded

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by DarKush, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Hi everyone,

    I'm taking a break from "Hero" for a moment, but I had this other idea in my head about revising the story "Blooded" which I was working on before "Hero". So I've started writing a revised version and I think it is ready for posting. It's a work in progress, but I hope you like the changes I made.

    It's changed considerably since the first version. I decided to combine two story ideas I had since they occurred roughly around the same time.

    ****************************************************************
    BLOODED:
    A DARK TERRITORY TALE

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Private Quarters
    2359

    Lt. Terrence Shamshuni Glover sank onto his couch, his reserves finally giving way as the adrenaline dissipated. He held his head in his hands, his muscles quivering, as a wave of revulsion overtook him. He clutched his stomach, forcing back the acrid bile burning the back of his throat.

    He forced it down and then waited a few moments before he got up and ordered a ginger ale from the replicator. His mother had always used the beverage to calm his upset stomach. He threw back the glass, pleased with the carbonated soda’s sting.

    “This is what command is like,” he told the empty room. “This was easy compared to how it was going to be.”

    He looked down at his soot covered uniform, with the fire blackened and frayed sleeves. “Piece of cake,” he muttered.

    Terrence nearly jumped out of his skin when the door chime sounded. He hid his surprise and his ongoing shock behind a bouncy demeanor.

    It evaporated as soon as the door opened. “Susan,” he said, both anxious and relieved. “I was just about to go down to Sickbay to see you.” The Bolian-human hybrid looked hollowed out, her eyes seemed to have receded into her sockets, making her thousand-yard stare more pronounced.

    “Well, I’m glad to see that you’re okay,” Glover said, looking her over. The scratches were barely noticeable but the bruises marring her beautiful face would take longer to fade. Also some of her flaxen hair had been seared off. Terrence didn’t care about that. He was just glad she had made it back to him safe. Now he was concerned about how sound she was. “Please, come in.”

    Susan didn’t move. She just looked at him. The silence between them lengthened. Terrence’s throat dried, the ginger ale a distant memory. His stomach started to twinge. He really didn’t want to say anything that might get picked up by a passerby, but the lieutenant felt Susan was presenting him with little option. “Listen, Susan, I…”

    She turned around abruptly and walked away, leaving Terrence silently watching her wake.
    ********************************************************************

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Conference Room
    Three weeks before…

    “I can’t believe they pulled us off of the front for this,” Lt. Terrence Glover grumbled as the meeting dispersed.

    “Yeah, we’re the ass kicking branch, not nursemaids. This is a job for Starfleet Medical.” Lt. Elgon concurred.

    “Oh stop it you two,” Lt. Susan Bano chuckled as she stepped between them. She wrapped her arm around Terrence’s waist and gave him a quick tug, before removing her arm and gracefully avoiding Terrence’s lunge.

    “You’re such a tease,” Glover said, glancing over his shoulder. The captain seemed to be in a heated, as usual, discussion with the first officer and chief science officer and hadn’t seen their horseplay.

    “Now, you two stop it,” the Tiburonian moaned.

    “I’m glad we’re getting off the front,” Susan said, as the trio hovered by the door of the conference room. “We are three months past due on our tour of duty anyway.”

    “Don’t I know it,” Elgon added. “The engines need a serious overhaul.” Elgon had taken over as assistant chief engineer after Pedro Rojas, Terrence’s best friend, had departed for the Carolina. It was the latest, and most distressing, in a series of shakeups on the ship. First his mentor Banti Awokou had been promoted and taken command of the Fuji. Awokou had taken Terrence’s immediate supervisor, Lt. Weiss, with him, but had left Terrence behind. And then Pedro had dropped the news that he was leaving.

    The most solid thing in his world right now was Susan. He didn’t know what he would do without her right now.

    “As does most of the ship,” Terrence admitted. Glover had only recently allowed Elgon into his orbit. He had always felt that the man was a bit boorish, though he and Pedro had gotten along fairly well. In fact, both of them had quite a few stories to share about the boisterous engineer. Terrence knew deep down that the Tiburonian was just a substitute for Pedro, and a poor one at that.

    “But instead of trucking Kitty Hawk to the nearest starbase their sending us to on this hush hush mission.”

    “Well I think it’s fascinating,” Bano replied. “I mean, we know so little about this species.”

    “The Alshain,” Glover said the name slowly, the name bringing back memories of his past dealings with the lupanoids. They hadn’t been exactly pleasant. He still marveled at how a simple family excursion turned into a near interstellar incident.

    But despite his experiences he knew that Kitty Hawk hadn’t been selected to exploit his ‘reservoir’ of knowledge. Command was doubtlessly interested in enlisting the help of the ship’s senior operations officer, Lt. Kjosco.

    He was the only Itrob in Starfleet and his people had been vassals of the Alshain for centuries. It was not a subject Kjosco liked to talk about, and Terrence couldn’t blame him. Even though he was born centuries after the fact, the history of slavery and colonialism that had affected his own people upset him. He could only imagine what it must be like to be living during a time when one’s kind was being exploited and there was little that you could do about it.

    Terrence thought of his friend Pell Ojana, and the Bajoran refugee camp where they met, and his heart ached. There was still so much oppression in the galaxy, no matter how brightly the Federation shined its light.

    “From the briefing sounds like their Crown Prince just has a bad case of the fleas,” Elgon zinged. Susan rapped her knuckles across his shoulder. “Ouch,” he jumped, rubbing his shoulder. “What was that for?”

    “You should take this more seriously Elgon,” Bano admonished. The Tiburonian’s elephantine ears dropped in mock disappointment. Susan ignored him, “His condition is serious enough for their Exarch to make this request. The outcome of this mission could have quadrant-wide repercussions.”

    “Every mission has quadrant-wide repercussions,” Glover mumbled, his mind back on that ill-fated family sojourn.

    “Not you too Terrence,” Susan sighed. “Seriously, this is a great opportunity to reach out, to help someone in need, and that’s what I joined the Fleet to ultimately do. I didn’t join to fight wars.”

    “None of us did,” Terrence said, sounding a bit too defensive even to him. Even though he had little desire to shed blood, he knew a sterling wartime record was a sure path to command. And that was his end goal, to be like his father who was eyeing an admiral’s posting and his mother who was making her way to command on the Adelphi. Terrence wanted to reach it the center chair as soon as possible. “But we didn’t start this war, the Cardassians did, and we have to hold the line. We can’t allow them to run untrammeled over the Alpha Quadrant.”

    “Here, here,” Elgon said. “If we beat them badly enough they might become our quasi-allies like the Klingons or at least have the good sense to stay behind their own borders like the Romulans.”

    “Wishful thinking,” Glover chuckled mirthlessly.

    “Cynical thinking if you ask me,” Bano said, shaking her head reproachfully.

    “What are you three still doing in here, dithering around?” Captain Gorik’s stern voice came down on them like a hammer. Terrence’s face heated up with embarrassment and he could see that both Elgon and Susan were blushing.

    Glover stepped forward. “Well, sir…”

    “Bah, save it,” Gorik waved them out the door. “Get back to your stations. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

    “Aye sir,” they nearly said in unison, and Terrence knew that his compatriots were just as relieved as he was to have incurred little of the captain’s rancor this time.
    ******************************************************************
     
  2. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Exarchal Coliseum
    Alshain Proper

    Exarch Jasta O’Jinn leaned over the balcony railing, glaring into the empty Combat Pit. This is where it had happened, he bitterly recalled, this is where the fate of his empire was sealed.

    The day hadn’t started out so darkly. It had been another thrilling match, his son, Jota, the Dauphin, and heir to the Exarchate, had displayed another dazzling display of prowess, ripping to shreds three sinoraptors.

    Jasta had never heard such thunderous applause from the crowd. Jota understood them, he knew the lust that drove the hearts of the Alshain, a fire that had dimmed in Jasta a long time ago. For the first time in decades, his people would soon have a leader worthy of them.

    And then…it had happened so fast, Jasta had thought it was a trick of the eye. His son had been circling the arena, to the growing applause and offerings of the crowd, and then…he was on the ground, his body writhing in agony.

    Jasta himself had never felt such agony, such horror, as he remembered the tortured look on his son’s face that day.

    Now the empire had been shaken to the core as rumors ran rife about Jota’s fate and what it would portend for the Exarchate. The wolves were out…literally.

    Jasta knew he had to do everything within his power to save Jota’s life. Even though he had more children, the next in line was Jedalla. A bright pup, but Jasta didn’t think he was strong enough to deal with the Son’a, the vipers coiled around the heart of the Exarchate. Their grip on the empire had only strengthened since Jasta had come to power.

    He had never wanted to be a ruler, but his older siblings had all died, in some foolish manner or other, leaving him the sole heir. And he had largely wasted his long reign on women and narcotics, all too readily supplied by the Son’a.

    Many in the Peerage and across the Exarchate remained furious about his unprecedented selection of a Son’a to be his vizier. The Son’a had been advising Alshain rulers for decades, and Jasta merely brought it into the light. He had hoped the revulsion would make it easier for Jota to one day topple the shriveled exploiters.

    Jasta’s ears twitched and he growled low in his throat. “I said I wished to be alone.”

    “My apologies, brother.” Jasta shifted his bulk around and glared at his brother.

    “More grim news Jarko?” His buffer brother stood at attention. Jasta was always impressed with the medals arrayed across his younger sibling’s broad chest. It always seemed like a new one had been added.

    A quirk of birthing order had prevented his people from having the grand duke as Exarch. Jasta had made sure that Jota had spent as much time with Jarko as possible, so he could learn how to be the furious warrior that Jasta had never been. Jota was as much Jarko’s son as Jasta’s.

    Jarko scratched his snout and grimaced. “His condition has not changed.”

    “What about the Federation? Have they agreed to send a physician?” For once he had bypassed his vizier. He didn’t want the Son’a to know that he had reached out the Federation; nor did he want the Peerage of Alshain nobles to find out. The Son’a would rightly see it as a threat to their hold on the Exarchate and the nobles would view his outreach as weakness, and an opening to their enemies or subjects to further carve into the empire.

    “They have,” Jarko said, with just a touch of distaste. He liked outsiders far less than Jasta, and the exarch knew it was the man’s love for Jota that had compelled him to enact Jasta’s plan. “They are sending a ship, the USS Kitty Hawk.”

    “Have you arranged a meeting place and the appropriate transport?”

    “Yes brother.”

    “Off with you then.” Jasta snorted at his brother’s hesitation. “Why are you still here?” He rumbled.

    “Are you…certain you are going to be all right here…by yourself?” Jasta responded with a great belly laugh, and for emphasis he cradled his girth.

    “You don’t think I can still handle the Peers and the other Septs?”

    “It’s not them I’m worried about…completely,” Jarko admitted. “The Exarchate is rife with rumors about Jota’s fate.”

    “I’ve decreed that anyone expressing any such speculation be apprehended by the Unguis,” Jasta snarled, peeved that his orders seemed to be falling on more deaf ears as of late. “I have not crossed over to the immortal hunting grounds yet.”

    Jarko bowed his head slightly, “Of course not, but it is hard to keep all of our people from talking and wondering what happened to the Crown Prince.”

    “The Dauphin was merely overcome with exhaustion,” Jasta repeated the official story, “And decided to take a long vacation.”

    “And what shall you say when inquiries are made of my whereabouts?” The Grand Duke asked.

    Jasta chuckled, “That you joined him.”

    “Exarch,” Jarko started carefully, but Jasta held up a hand.

    “Don’t,” he warned. “Jota will pull through. You will help see to that, as will our best physicians. With the combined expertise of both great powers, Jota will assume the throne, and I can finally get some damned rest.”

    “Of course milord,” Jarko gave a deeper bow. “I will disembark with Jota at once.”
    ****************************************************************

    Exarchal Compound
    Queen’s Chambers
    Alshain Proper

    Prince Jedalla’s claws sprang from his feet, ripping his boots. The soles flapped against his feet, but the man continued to pace. His arms were locked behind his back so tightly that they began to hurt as well as strain his chest muscles, but he didn’t care. “How dare they whisk my brother away without so much as a hint about where they are taking him!”

    “You are not privy to that information because you aren’t important enough,” Queen Zerda remarked. The woman reclined on a long couch. She was dressed in sheer, white raiment, matching the color of her fur. Her amber eyes burned into him.

    “I’m a prince!” He huffed.

    “Not the Crown Prince,” she sighed before spearing a pear with one of her claws. A plate of offworld fruits sat on a table beside her. Zerda’s hunger for anything foreign, different, was well known among the great Septs, and unfortunately it had filtered to the lower classes. It gave them one more reason to revile her.

    She certainly wasn’t as noble or regal as his late mother. Zerda had come from a minor, dissolute Sept, and she had clawed her way up the social ladder and into her father’s bedchamber. Many had seen his marriage to her as the final straw…until he had chosen a Son’a to be his Vizier. An outsider advising the ruler of all Alshain, it was unthinkable.

    And talk swirled around about his father’s madness or rumored infirmity. The old man laughed or cursed it all away, but he let the talk continue, soon it would overwhelm him, and Jedalla had to wonder if that wasn’t what his father wanted. Maybe he wanted to be crushed and washed away, maybe he wanted to rest.

    The though disgusted him. However anyone ever relinquish power. If he were the Exarch he would never do such a thing…of course he would never be the Exarch.

    Jota was the next in line. Jota stood in front of him…he shook his head, banishing the thought away. He loved his brother, he wanted his brother to be well, and he wanted to be there to make sure nothing went wrong, but his father had blocked him out…again.

    “So it stands young pup,” Zerda smiled. She knew how much the term angered him. Zerda was only a few turns older than him. “What are you going to do about it?”

    Jedalla stomped to the table, tossing it and the plate against the wall in a splinter of glass, wood, and crushed fruit. Zerda sat up, her lips pursed, her eyes expectant. There was no fear in them, only anticipation.

    “First,” Jedalla declared as he extended his claws and brought them down across the chest of her dress, freeing her breasts. “I’m going to take what is mine,” he declared before burying himself between the peaks.
    **************************************************************
     
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    I'm gonna have to start calling you the master of the redux. This is yet again a particularly well done reboot of one of your stories.

    And I liked this one before. For the chance to get a sense of a younger Terrence Glover and filling in his history. Like most prequels we have a good idea where many of these characters will end up but it'll be quite interesting to ses how they'll get there.
     
  4. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    CeJay,

    Thanks for the comments. I'm glad you are liking it. I feel better about this revision than the original. I ran into a wall with it, and I think I've got more to play with with this version. I see it as a baptism of fire of sorts for Terrence, Jedalla, and one more character that I decided to toss into the mix. Going back in the past allows me the chance to revisit some old friends.

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

    Exarchal Compound
    Grand Vizer’s Offices

    Though some thought the Alshain gauche poseurs, savages merely attempting to buy respect among the great powers, Waroun liked their ostentation. The Son’a luxuriated in the gold latinum-inlaid pool dominating the center of his office, two pale-skinned Tarlac attendants at his beck in call. But his focus wasn’t on the scantily clad beauties at the moment. Instead his attention was directed at the ocular shaped viewscreen. A blunt featured Cardassian, with glossy black hair, looked down on him, with a mixture of displeasure and envy.

    “Jagul Tarkon, it is always a pleasure.” Tarkon grunted in reply. Waroun’s chest was tighter than the bands of mottled gray skin on his face. Despite installing his own sound suppressors in the room he still feared the Alshain’s superior hearing.

    “Have you made any headway with our offer?” The Cardassian admiral was terse as usual.

    “Jagul I don’t need to remind you that I am in a precarious spot here, I have to approach these things…carefully. If I straight out brought your request to the Exarch, he would then question how the Cardassians became aware of the condition of his son.”

    “You’re neck starting to itch at the potential beheading?” The corner of Tarkon’s mouth inched upwards.

    “Not at all,” Waroun chortled. “More likely the incontrovertible proof I have of deep Obsidian Order penetration into the Alshain government would set back your plans for cooperation a generation or more.”

    “ ‘Proof’?” Tarkon’s laughter reminded Waroun of grinding metal. “Something you’ve cooked up no doubt.”

    “It will be believed and that is the most important thing,” the Son’a stated with confidence. “And you know it.”

    “So, what shall I tell Central Command?” Tarkon asked. “The condition of the Crown Prince is of great concern to them. They have ordered our best medical minds to begin seeking a diagnosis and a cure from what scant evidence you have provided. But they need to see the patient.”

    “That’s not my decision,” Waroun said, with reluctant honesty. He had been advocating closer ties to the Cardassian Union for the Alshain, but thus far Jasta had been cool to the idea. The Cardassians would be much more amenable to buying Son’a weapons if they also had access to Alshain natural resources.

    Of course Waroun never talked about what the Son’a stood to gain from a stronger Alshain-Cardassian relationship. He often mentioned the Federation’s relationship with the Klingons, playing on the bloody past between the two nations. The Cardassians had recently been locked in a cold war with the Klingons, so their mutual animus for the brutes could be something to base a solid alliance around. So far, Jasta hadn’t bit.

    Waroun thought that the offer of the Cardassian vaunted medics to help his son might seal the deal, but was still figuring out the best way to broach the issue, when he was outmaneuvered. “The decision, appears to already have been made,” the Son’a bitterly admitted.

    “What do you mean?”

    “My sources have informed me that Jasta has decided to reach out to the Federation, to seek their medical assistance.”

    “He would go to allies of the Klingons before us?” Tarkon was disbelieving.

    “It appears so,” Waroun replied.

    “So, there is no way for them to change their mind?”

    “I….am not as certain of the Exarch’s mind as of late,” the Son’a admitted.

    “Then what good are you to us?” Tarkon replied, “And if you are so unreliable, one wonders about the reliability of the weapons you wish to sell us.”

    “I am an outsider here,” Waroun snapped, as he pounded the water, causing it to splash around him. One of the stitches holding his face together came loose and he felt thick, unclean blood seeping down his cheek. He was past his purification cycle, the regular process the Son’a used to drain toxins from their bodies, to prolong their lives. Unlike many species, his kind had a fierce devotion to living, and since they understood how precious life was, they knew of its importance to live life to its fullest.

    “It was just an achievement to reach this position! I must move slowly, I must gain their trust, and I must…know my place.”

    Tarkon sat back, considering. “The Cardassians respect order and the knowledge of your rank or station is one I understand, and respect. Is it possible that you can find out the details for the Federation’s visit?”

    Mollified, Waroun eased back down. The water now felt as tepid as his hold on power. “The Exarch would never allow the Federation to come here, no for something of this nature. It would be seen as a fatal weakness, an acknowledgement of Alshain inferiority.”

    “So, they would meet elsewhere?”

    “Yes,” the Son’a nodded, “perhaps a border world.”

    “Find out where,” Tarkon demanded. “Perhaps we can also be there…to provide a second opinion.”

    “If you harm the Crown Prince, Jasta will likely take the Exarchate to war against you,” Waroun warned. “You can’t fight on two fronts, or against a united Federation-Alshain front.”

    “I’m well aware of our military position,” Tarkon barked. “I have no intention of harming the Crown Prince. We are going to save him and by doing so, your ruler will excuse our impertinence and supply us with the materiel we need to continue our war against the Federation. And the Son’a will get their contracts.”

    Waroun nodded approvingly, “A win-win then?”

    “For everyone except the Federation,” Tarkon declared.

    “I can live with that.”
    ***************************************************************

    Central Command Vessel Jartan
    Private Quarters

    “Your messages have been become too infrequent,” Nebel Djorde chided her paramour gently. Dalin Aldur Keshet tried to smile, but his heart pinched. He missed the woman terribly and it was as painful for him to spend only a few minutes with her as it was for her.

    “Nebel I think you’ve forgotten that there is a war going on. It is only at the gul’s leisure that we are permitted even a few moments to call our loved ones.”

    “So, I am a loved one now?”

    “Don’t jest,” he said. “You know of my intentions.”

    “We are to be married?”

    “As soon as this war is over,” She sighed, causing Aldur’s heart to twinge.

    “This war will never be over,” she declared, her slightly scaled face darkening with frustration. “And if by some miracle it does end, we’ll become embroiled in another.”

    “It is our way,” Keshet declared. “We are conquerors, and if we don’t expand our empire, it will contract.”

    “You know, I love you in spite of our rampant imperialism,” she smiled.

    “Be mindful of the words you speak Nebel,” Keshet glanced around, warily. His room was empty but the Obsidian Order’s listening devices were everywhere. Disloyalty was not tolerated in the Cardassian Union.

    “I’m not worried about the Obsidian Order,” she declared.

    “Don’t think your parents’ connections or your position in the conservator’s office makes you completely safe.”

    “I don’t,” she said, her large dark eyes growing bigger, “I have you to protect me.”

    “I will do my best, but first I must do all I can to protect our empire.”

    “At least you’re not on Bajor,” she shuddered. “The horror stories I’ve heard of the occupation…”

    “Nebel,” he now chided her, “What I did I just say?”

    “Fine,” she huffed, “I don’t want to spend our few remaining moments talking about politics anyway.”

    Aldur relaxed. “I’m glad for that. I have no doubt that in time you will come to see the galaxy the way I do…and I fear for that day. But I am happy at least that it is a long ways off.”

    “So,” he switched gears, “How are you parents?” Before she could answer, his wall communicator whined.

    “Dalin Keshet, report to the gul’s stateroom.” Nebel’s mouth drew into a tight line. She had heard the summons.

    “I guess you better go,” she said, not enthused. At the moment, Aldur wasn’t either. He touched the screen, where her cheek would be.

    “I’ll contact you again, as soon as I can.”

    “Be safe Aldur,” she urged.

    “I will,” he promised, switching off the screen before his emotions got the best of him. He cleared his throat before replying to the summons. “Acknowledged.” Keshet went over to this closet and slid on his cuirass, his belt and holster. Before he left his room, he had drained all traces of emotion from his face. Nebel and his feelings had been put back into the appropriate mental compartments, and he was ready again to do what was necessary in service of the Union.
    *******************************************************************
     
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Well, it wouldn't be a very good story without some challenges and antagonists. And, dude, are the Son'a one of the "grossest" aliens or what ...
     
  6. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    This is really good, DK! The opening does not bode well for how this all turns out.
     
  7. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Redshirt, thanks for the praise. I am glad you are enjoying the story. CeJay, thank you for your comments as well. And also, thank you for the use of some of your Eagle characters, who will be introduced in the following passages.


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    Starbase 116
    Commanding Officer’s Office

    Captain Gorik was blunt. “I don’t like this.”

    “We’re not going to do this again,” Admiral Wainwright sighed. “I know you didn’t like being pulled from the front.” The brown hued woman leaned forward, her graying cornrows shifting. She glowered at him, and Gorik couldn’t help but smile. He sensed another argument in the air.

    “It’s not just that,” the Tellarite huffed. “My chief medical officer is more than capable of handling this situation. She is insulted that Command feels the need to bring in an ‘expert.’”

    “Is she now,” the admiral smiled wearily, “Or is that just you?”

    “I know my crew,” Gorik crossed his arms. “And none of us like being a taxi service for Special Affairs.”

    “So, that’s the rub eh?” Wainwright’s smile brightened. She thought she had him pegged, and that made him scowl that she was right. Truth was, Gorik didn’t like a lot of things about this mission, and once he did some digging and found out it was authored by the Department of Special Affairs and Investigations, he knew the source of his perturbation was justified.

    In general Tellarites cherished debate, but that meant a transparency and a free flow of information to ensure that debates were argued and won on the merits. Opaque organizations like Special Affairs flew in the face of that. Gorik was no fool. He understood the need for secrecy, in some respects, but the cloaking device surrounding DSAI raised his hackles to an extraordinary degree.

    “I can assume you also don’t like that Special Affairs is assigning the doctor an escort,” Wainwright said, glancing down at the padd on her desk.

    “Captain Jonathan Owens,” Gorik groused. The Tellarite had done some digging and Owens seemed clean as a whistle, which made him even more suspicious.

    “Yes,” Wainwright said, looking back up at him. “What’s your issue now?” Gorik thought about sharing it with her but chose restraint as well. He knew that Henrietta was just relaying orders from Command, orders that originated from the DSAI. Gorik also understood not to fray the woman’s nerves.

    It had taken him a long time, and a stalled career, to realize that humans and other non-Tellarite species were more sensitive; and not as accepting of arguing or insults as normal forms of communication. He had known Henrietta for a long time and had learned her stress points the hard way. He could see the vein sprouting from her left eye to her hairline.

    He knew that she didn’t like Special Affairs involvement either. The captain imagined with relish the rows she had with Command over the issue, and many others. The post at Starbase 116, the gateway to Sector 441, was heating up lately, as Cardassians sought allies to help them stave off defeat.

    Doubtless Special Affairs had concocted this scheme to curry favor with the Alshain Exarchate, one of the bigger powers in the sector.

    “So, when is the happy couple supposed to arrive?” Gorik asked, bowing to the inevitable.

    “Captain Owens and Dr. Katanga are scheduled to arrive in less than 36 hours, Earth standard,” she replied. “I’m sure you can find something to occupy your time until then…as long as it’s not arguing with me.”
    **************************************************************

    Starbase 116
    Bull’s Head Saloon

    Lt. Glover felt unusually somber. Despite the rollicking lounge, designed to mimic a drinking establishment from Earth’s Ancient West, he wasn’t in a partying mood. He merely stared into his half finished glass of Arcturian Fizz, which had long ago lost its fizzle.

    Susan, resplendent in a deep blue, low cut Deltan silk blouse, squeezed his bicep. He could tell by her bright eyes that she was eager to try her luck at the dabo table. Elgon and Lt. Raayna, the ship’s flight control officer, were at the domjot table, upsetting a surly Nausicaan duo.

    Terrence wasn’t too worried about the Nausicaans erupting though. Raayna, a blond Capellan, was taller and broader shouldered than both. And Glover had no doubt that she fiercer. Nurse Priya Barman was getting schooled at the dart board by a Bolian, still in his ensign uniform. Petty Officer Natron-Teso wasn’t fairing much better against a formidable U’tani woman at three-dimensional chess. Terrence chuckled wistfully. They were all that was left of the fabled “Troupe”, a group of young officers that had come aboard Kitty Hawk at roughly the same time.

    The membership had been fluid, sometimes unfortunately for those lost in combat or to the dangerous vagaries of space travel. Other times they had moved on like Pedro.

    Yet Terrence remained on Kitty Hawk, while the rest of the universe seemed to be passing him by. It wasn’t like he disliked serving aboard the venerable Constellation-class vessel. He leaned into Susan and smelled her hair.

    Terrence had a good thing with Susan, the first stable relationship he had in a long time, and there was something to be said for the comfort of reliability, of the routine. But all Glover saw in it was the seeds of stagnation.

    “So, are we just going to sit here all night?” Susan said, wiggling against him.

    “I see you really want to try that dabo game,” Terrence replied, “Go ahead. I’ll just sit back and watch.”

    Dabo was a new game to the Federation, a pastime of the Ferengi, a mysterious species now making waves in the Alpha Quadrant. He had heard a lot of conflicting stories about the Ferengi, everything from them being cannibalistic savages to carnival barkers.

    Terrence had never met one in person so he had no gauge to determine the tall tales from the truth. “Go ahead,” he whispered in Susan’s ear and gave her a little nudge for encouragement.

    “Are you sure?” She asked, biting her lip.

    “You’re relieved,” he replied, in a faux-command voice. The lithe Bolian hybrid laughed before sliding out of the booth. Glover watched her tight behind as she bounced toward the throng of people surrounding the circular table. He watched her play a few rounds, his attention divided between Susan and the alluring Orion woman attending the game.

    The woman was dressed in a skimpy, eye catching cowgirl outfit. Flower tattoos ran down both sides of her body, and the Mohawk she wore regretfully added to the idea of the Orion animal woman that Terrence had first thought of and quickly tried to banish from his mind.

    He had learned the hard way that species didn’t conform to the stereotypes others often believed about them. “Maybe,” he reasoned, as he watched a group of hardy Klingon warriors enter the bar. Some made their way to the bar while others stomped over to the dabo table.

    Glover’s antennae elevated as the Klingons shoved their way through the crowd. He knew that the Federation-Klingon alliance, though decades old, still was relatively shaky. Terrence also knew that some of the Klingons resented that the Federation was fighting the Cardassians while their government held them back. They had recently concluded a nearly twenty-year-long cold war with the Cardassians, which still hadn’t slaked their thirst for conflict.

    Terrence noticed that some of Kitty Hawk’s senior officers, sitting at the bar, being served by a four armed Terrellian barkeep, had turned their attention to the Klingons who had broken off and accosted the drinkers at the bar. He sat up, his muscles tensing, as the warriors loudly demanded service, their shouts overwhelming even the frenetic piano music blasting through bulkhead speakers.

    Lt. Commander Flax, Glover’s immediate superior, slid quickly off his seat, after the Yridian beside him had been tossed to the ground by a stout warrior. The small, fur covered Dimoran had faced off against the Klingon, looking up at the bare-armed woman.

    His response had only brought a hail of laughter from the Klingons. First Officer Bek’ele had interceded. Glover couldn’t hear the words, but he could tell by Flax’s reluctant response that the Xyrillian had ordered him to stand down.

    The other Klingons had pushed their way up to the bar, though they were careful not to disturb Flax or the other Kitty Hawk officers.

    “Hey,” a startled shout drew Terrence’s attention next. One of the Klingons had intercepted the dart thrown by the Bolian ensign, catching it in the meat of their hand. They plucked the tip out and stared down the Bolian. To his credit the ensign didn’t retreat and Barman came to stand by his side.

    “Here we go,” Glover said, getting up. He made his way closer, catching snatches of conversation.

    “This is a game of skill Bolian,” the bulky Klingon guffawed, “something severely lacking I see.” His buddy joined in the laughter.

    “If you want to play, wait your turn,” Barman replied. The bullies ignored her.

    “I’m sure that we can come to a reasonable accommodation,” the ensign offered.

    “Arden, that’s not what they want,” Barman sighed.

    “You should listen to the female,” the buddy rasped. “If you wish to avoid injury.”

    The bulky one pushed a blocky finger hard into the Bolian’s chest. “Hand over the rest of the darts, we are taking over this game.”

    “You’ll wait your turn,” Terrence heard a quick rustling beside him and then Ensign Cesar Wasco appeared beside Barman. Glover was still marveling at how fast the young security guard was as Wasco stepped in front of the nurse, to shield her. Cesar was just as burly as either Klingon.

    Terrence noted that activity was starting to die down around the dart board as denizens realized a fight was in the offing.

    “This doesn’t concern you human,” the bulky one said, “I was speaking with the Bolian.”

    “You are speaking with me now,” Wasco declared.

    “Stand down Mr. Wasco,” Glover stepped up. Cesar gritted his teeth and bunched his muscled shoulders. “You heard me ensign.” Wasco relented.

    Glover faced off against the bulky Klingon. “What do you want?” He gave the Klingon greeting, in Klingonese; the bulky one’s dark eyes widened in surprise.

    “You know our tongue?”

    “I know of your ways,” Terrence said. Klingon history and culture were as much an interest to him as the Romulan ways were his father’s. “And I know that honorable warriors would not conduct themselves in such manner.”

    “What do you know of honor, human?” The other Klingon spat.

    “Yes,” the bulky one nodded, “You wave your flag of truce and you offer your technology and comforts to our people, but then steal the glory of combat from us!” He got in Terrence’s face. They were nearly the same height and Glover’s nostrils were seared by the smell of fetid bloodwine.

    He faced the Klingon down. “We have done no such thing,” Wasco spoke up. Before Terrence could tell him to be quiet, the young man added, “Don’t get your panties in a bunch because the Betreka Nebula Incident left your leadership afraid of the Cardies.”

    Damn, Terrence thought, ducking as the Klingon threw a drunken punch at him. He landed two hard punches to the man’s sides, and then a savage uppercut that threw the man’s head back, with his body following. A tumult arose in the Bull’s Head as he heard the screech of chairs behind pushed back from the faux wooden floor, the rise of voices, and the shattering of glass. A full-fledged bar fight was in the offing.

    Glover turned to see Wasco wrestling with the other Klingon, both men wrapped in a series of holds, neither gaining advantage. Terrence moved to assist the younger man, when he was grabbed roughly by the shoulder. Without thinking Terrence swung as he turned, connecting with bone shattering effect. “Shit,” he muttered as Captain Gorik fell to the ground before him.

    ****************************************************************
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2011
  8. Sandoval

    Sandoval Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2010
    A very well-written piece of work. I particularly like the time period in which it is set since we have seen little of the years immediately prior to the Next Generation.

    Your characters certainly have their own voices and 'feel' like they're speaking as real people would speak.

    Very enjoyable.
     
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Agreed. And I have to say you've done a splendid job and getting the mood for this time period right, from the new Dabo game, the still mysterious and little known Ferengi to the shaky alliance with the Klingons. Of course the bar fight was unavoidable no matter what era this would have been set in. Any joke that begins with "A Klingon walks into a bar ..." will end in bruises and broken bones.

    And thanks for the inclusion of Star Eagle characters. They seem to work quite well here.
     
  10. OverJoyJackson

    OverJoyJackson Lieutenant Junior Grade

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2011
    Location:
    Altanta Georgia, avoiding zombies daily
    I think this story has great potential because of where it takes place. And if you manage to make the Ferengi more appealing than most of the TV treks did then you are a VERY talented writer of Star Trek Fan Fiction.
     
  11. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting. It's always great to hear from new commenters. I'm glad you all are enjoying the story thus far. I'm a big fan of the Trek Lit. Lost Era books, the pre-TNG years have a lot of story potential, with the Cardassian War, the Tzenkethi War, the Talarian conflict, etc., and it was a time when the Ferengi were considered a real threat. Also I liked the tension early on with the Klingons in TNG, so I decided to play with some of those things. I hope you continue to read and enjoy what comes next.

    Let me add, so as not to disappoint you Overjoy, that I only mentioned the Ferengi to add color to this story, to ground it in the pre-TNG years. They will not play a role in this story.

    *************************************************************
    Exarchal Yacht Taste of Victory
    Medical Salon

    Lord Bescra did his best not to wring his hands as he stood near the entrance of the dimly lit room. The stasis tube, bearing the heir of the Exarchate dominated the center of the medical salon. A phalanx of hardy Paladins surrounded the tube. It gave the macabre appearance that they were standing death watch over a tomb. A fat Syndic stood at the end of the tube, mumbling solemn prayers and incantations. Occasionally he would wave a scented fire stick, its acrid smoke itching Bescra’s nostrils, making him hold his snout to keep from sneezing.

    As the Exarch’s personal physician, Bescra had little use for religion. He was man of science, however science had failed him thus far in finding a cure for Jota’s malady. His main concern was saving the life of the future Exarch, but Bescra also knew his life and the futures of his Sept also hung in the balance. Eager and younger doctors nipped at his heels, and would salivate at the prospect of his downfall. Bescra had kept the howling pack at bay thus far and he didn’t plan on giving up his hard won position anytime soon.

    The chief medic waited until the Syndic had finished, before speaking. “I need this room cleared. I am going to run another series of tests.”

    The Syndic gave him a mortified snort before gathering up his voluminous robes about him. All but two Paladins filed out behind him. Bescra made his way over to the possible first crypt and watched the dozing Dauphin.

    Even in sleep, Jota’s face was locked in a grimace. Bescra shook his head, cold logic giving away to the sympathy of a father and family friend. He had taken care of Jota since he was a pup, and Exarch Jasta had even been kind of enough to let Bescra’s litter run with the royal pack from time to time. He checked the readout at the top of the tube. He frowned. The fever had not abated. It was still coursing through his system like a raging fire. The physician had hoped that placing the young man in stasis would slow the rate of infection, and it had, but not nearly enough. If a cure wasn’t found soon, if Federation medicine proved inadequate to the task…He didn’t want to even contemplate what would happen.

    At first Bescra had thought the ailment a virulent strain of distemper at first. Even though the sickness still had the hallmarks of distemper, it was unlike any he had ever encountered or read about. Its ability to mutate and counter all of his remedies had stymied him and left him forced to suggest that the Exarch seek outside assistance. It had been one of the toughest things he had ever done, but he had to put the life of the patient ahead of his own ego.

    He had thought the Cardassians might be the best experts, due to their work on Fostossa virus. The plague had been eradicated from Bajor, proof that their occupation had been beneficial. But Jasta seemed enamored by the Federation, like they were a new, shiny toy. Like many among his kind, the Alshain longed for respectability, for their civilization to be recognized, and Jasta had latched on to the Federation, with its myriad cultures and its technological progress as a model to restore the Exarchate to great power status.

    Bescra wasn’t so sure, because all the Federation’s success was built on a layer of weakness, of a contemptible mask of compassion that allowed the weak to infect the strong. The Cardassians, evolved from lizards, were cold blooded at heart, true predators like the Alshain. They were the more natural ally, but the decision was not Bescra’s to make. So he accompanied Jota on a mission to a secret location to see if the Federation could provide the answers that he could not, if they could live up to the vaunted hype Jasta had hoisted upon them.

    The physician didn’t think so, but he staring down at the shriveling personage of the Crown Prince, he prayed he was wrong.
    ****************************************************************

    Central Command Vessel Jartan

    Dalin Aldur Keshet stood at attention as the orange beam resolved into the personage of Doctor Hekan Dulcett. The exobiologist was the expert they would be taking with them on their mission to intercept the Alshain vessel.

    His commander hadn’t shared much information about the scientist, and Dulcett’s appearance tightened Keshet’s throat. The woman was beautiful, her shoulder-length raven black hair matching her form fitting uniform. She had a squared chin and penetrating, brown predatory eyes that regarded the array of Jartan officers like fresh taspar. At her feet were several medical cases.

    Dal Renek, the ship’s first officer, stepped forward, smoothly offering his arm. The woman took it as Renek helped her down from the transporter platform. “Welcome to the Jartan Dr. Dulcett,” he said, with good cheer. The tall, sinewy dal was no doubt softening up the woman for conquest, Keshet thought derisively. “My apologies that Gul Jonor was not able to greet you personally, but there was a pressing matter he had to oversee.”

    “Nothing that will impede our mission I gather,” she said in a clipped, clinical fashion.

    “Only serious enough to pull him away from this most auspicious occasion,” the man replied. Keshet forced himself not to roll his eyes. Beside him, Dalin Locett snickered. He frowned at the woman, which ended the laughter, but didn’t wipe away her smile. Renek’s lothario reputation was well known not only just on Jartan but throughout the Twelfth Order.

    Renek attempted to lock arms with Dulcett. “Let me make it up to you, with a tour of our ship. Subordinates attend to the doctor’s personal affects,” he said, without looking back at them as he exited the transporter room.

    She rebuffed him. “We don’t have time for frivolities Dal,” she said, reproachfully. “Take me to the lab. I was told it has already been set up, to my specifications?”

    Renek took a step back, put off by the woman’s frigid response. “Well, yes, of course, it has. As soon as we received the request, I made sure that was done.”

    “Excellent,” Dulcett said perfunctorily. She stepped in front of Renek. “Take me there now.” Pausing in the threshold, she gazed coldly back at the other officers. “Make sure you are careful with my packages.”

    “I can handle these on my own,” Security Officer Bamar said, chest puffing out as he approached the transporter pad.

    Dulcett sniffed with impatience. “Not those packages. The ones that have been beamed into your cargo bay. I want them delivered to the lab as soon as possible.”

    “You heard that,” Renek said, his eyes boring into Keshet. “See to it.” His voice lost its edge as he regarded the doctor again, “Shall we?”

    “Proceed,” Dulcett took a step back to allow Renek to lead her out of the transporter room.

    “The Dal didn’t even introduce us,” Locett huffed. She was Jartan’s chief science officer and she had spoken admiringly of the Dulcett clan before. Their family had several notable scientists as well as business titans. Whichever Dulcett had been involved in the Fostossa virus eradication was the one Keshet had assumed they would be escorting.

    “I don’t think she cared,” Bamar said, sounding stung. “I wonder what is so important, so secret about those packages in the cargo bay that even I wasn’t informed of their arrival?”

    “Good question,” Keshet replied, his neck bones pinching with concern. Why Gul Jonor would sign off on that, while keeping most of his senior staff in the dark, wasn’t a good sign. “I guess we will find out shortly enough,” he added, not looking forward to the revelation.

    *************************************************************
     
  12. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Captain’s Ready Room

    “You can’t be serious sir?” Lt. Commander Bek’ele balked. Even Terrence was forced to agree.

    Holding his jaw, Captain Gorik glared at the bald, bronze-skinned Xyrillian first officer. “When am I not serious Number One?”

    “But sir,” Bek’ele protested. “Mr. Glover struck you, a superior officer, the captain no less!”

    The Tellarite rubbed his jaw. “I know that Bek’ele, I was there remember? On the receiving end?”

    “And I’m sorry for that sir,” Glover piped up, drawing stares full of ire from both officers. He sat back in his chair.

    “It was an accident Number One,” Gorik said. “Young Mr. Glover was defending his crewmates against the Klingons and he didn’t look before he swung,” he said, turning a baleful eye towards Terrence. The human wished he could shrink to nothingness at that moment. Holding the gaze, Gorik added, “Even the Klingon commander has weighed in on this, apologizing and asking that none of our crew be punished for the melee. He put the blame solely on his drunken crew and he said they are the only ones who bought shame to their service. I’m inclined to agree.”

    “But captain, what kind of message is that sending to the crew?” Bek’ele pressed on. “We can’t have you getting slugged and there aren’t any consequences.”

    “I swear Number One,” Gorik shook his shaggy head. “It seems like since you got pregnant, you’re higher strung.” The man was in his third month. A slight bulge was just starting to be noticeable. Terrence still hadn’t quite gotten his head around the idea that Xyrillian males birthed children, and the idea that Xyrillian women could impregnate non-Xyrillian males had left them off his expansive dating list.

    “I don’t think this accident should mar Glover’s record, but I do understand the need to discourage such unthinking behavior in the future, so what do you propose?” Terrence didn’t like them talking about him like he wasn’t there, but there was little he could do about it. He knew it was best to keep his mouth shut while the two men discussed just how much this incident was going to impact his career. The wrong move on his part here could doom him from ever getting the big chair.

    Bek’ele stood up and stared down at Terrence. “I propose that Mr. Glover be confined to his quarters from the duration of this mission.”

    “What?” Glover was half way out of his seat before he realized it.

    “Sit down Mr. Glover!” Gorik bellowed and Terrence plopped back in his seat, deflated. Gorik gingerly rubbed his chin as he contemplated Bek’ele’s idea. “I think it is apt.”

    “But sir, what if we run into difficulties? You know I’m the best hand at Tactical that you have,” Terrence protested. The Tellarite nodded and snorted. Terrence appreciated that Gorik didn’t see his honesty as arrogance.

    “Be that as it may Mr. Glover, you are confined to quarters.”
    ***************************************************************

    Starbase 116
    Commanding Officer’s Office

    Admiral Wainwright couldn’t hide her exasperation. “Your secret rendezvous location is Risa?”

    “Yes,” Captain Jonathan Owens said, without the least bit of doubt. Henrietta had to admit that the younger man was impressive. Tall, broad shouldered, his wavy black hair salted with just a hint of gray, Owens’s pencil-thin mustache added to the rakish appearance. He reminded her of one of the Old Earth serials her executive officer sometimes showed in the recreation center.

    “Can you think of a better place to hide, than one of the most popular tourist destinations in the quadrant? No one will expect us to be there. Plus it makes sense that the Crown Prince would seek to relax there after a bout with a mild infection. That’s the story the Alshain have concocted.”

    “The idea that this ‘secret’ meeting is already public knowledge makes this whole affair even sillier,” she huffed, unable to check her tongue. “Why not send the prince straight to Starfleet Medical HQ and be done with it?”

    “You know, better than I, I suspect, why that is politically unfeasible, on both sides. The Alshain can’t admit that they are relying on outsiders for help and the Federation doesn’t want to take the blame if it goes badly, nor do they want to inflame the Klingons, who still have some unresolved issues with the Exarchate.”

    “Their last war was fought over two centuries ago,” Wainwright remarked.

    “Both the Klingons and Alshain have long memories.” The admiral nodded. Both races were long-lived, so it might be possible that some of their oldest members might have had known relatives that fought in that last, devastating conflict. The Klingons had emerged from that war a major power and the Alshain had begun their long death spiral.

    “I can’t argue with your logic captain, though I don’t like your methods. There is too much skullduggery where Special Affairs are involved,” she said, blunt as she could be. “This is a matter that the Diplomatic Corps should be spearheading.”

    Owens’s bottom lip twitched; the only outward sign of his perturbation. “The Diplomatic Corps is not equipped to deal with the…special…nature of this mission.”

    “And what might that ‘special’ nature be?”

    “I am not allowed to disclose that,” Owens clammed up.

    “Of course,” Wainwright said. She shifted gears. “Captain Gorik informed me an hour ago that Kitty Hawk is ready to disembark. Has Dr. Katanga gotten all the equipment he requested from our medical supply?”

    “Ah yes,” Owens remarked. “The doctor bought a significant amount with him, but for the few things he lacked, your medical staff graciously provided. They are to be commended.”

    “I’ll let them know,” she said, “Now captain, get off my station.”
    *************************************************************
     
  13. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Klingon Bird-of-Prey
    Docked at Starbase 116

    “Was the transmission successful?” The Klingon captain snarled low in his throat at the question. He wanted to atomize the petaQ for questioning his competence.

    “Of course it was! Who do you think you are dealing with?” He glowered at the questioner. The man was unfazed. The captain hated the smug QuchHa’. The clean-shaven man looked disgustingly Terran, with no ridges and light olive skin. A widow’s peak dominated where a real Klingon’s proud forehead ridges would have been. The man’s voice even sounded different, un-Klingon, as if cultivated from climes far away from Qo’noS.

    “A man who can’t manage his finances,” the rejoinder was swift and lethal, demolishing the captain’s angry indignation. It also smartly reminded him of the mountainous debt that had brought him to this place, where working with the dishonorable So’taj, Imperial Intelligence, was the only way to rescue him and his House from financial ruin.

    “The virus was spliced into the data stream that I sent to Kitty Hawk,” the captain said, hating the keening strain in his voice. It felt like he was almost pleading, begging the So’taj agent to grant him mercy. It was the deplorable tip of an iceberg of disreputable behavior.

    He had plied his crew with wine and stories of old glories before they had arrived at the Federation starbase. He had chipped away at their fragile honor and egos by recounting his own glorious campaigns. It had taken much prodding for his blowhard first officer to turn his own shame into anger at the Federation for denying him a chance to win glory like the captain had. And then he had let them loose on the station, one gambit of many he had devised to test the crew of the Kitty Hawk, to gain entrance to their systems.

    His first officer had played his part admirably, and the captain had been all too ready to extend his apologies to his Starfleet counterpart, encoding the virus within the message. It would secure itself in the guts of the Kitty Hawk, doing whatever the So’taj wished of it. He hadn’t been privy to that information. He had been a mere means to an end, a vector for them to enact whatever clandestine plan they had cooked up.

    The So’taj agent smiled, but there was no mirth in the gesture. “Excellent. If it works, your debts are erased. Imperial Intelligence rewards success.”

    “You have nothing to worry about,” he promised, perhaps bit too quickly. The captain’s dark imagination could only imagine what tortures he would use on his operations officer if the virus failed.

    “I don’t have to tell you what will happen in the event of failure, do I?”

    “No,” the captain replied, his stomach roiling with detestable fear.

    “Well then, success Captain.”

    “Qa’pla,” he said weakly.
    **************************************************************

    Central Command Vessel Jartan
    Stateroom

    “Dr. Dulcett’s arrival was without complications?”Jagul Tarkon asked.

    “Yes,” Gul Jonor replied.

    “And her special cargo?” The admiral added. The gul did his best to keep his face neutral. He didn’t like bringing aboard items that even he didn’t know what they were, but the order had come from Central Command, signed off by the jagul speaking to him.

    “The cargo has been transported aboard, no problem. My first officer has informed me that it is being relocated to the lab we have set up for Dr. Dulcett as I speak to you now.”

    The rough hewn, older Cardassian nodded with approval, before saying, “I have a new course heading for you. Obsidian Order agents on Alshain Proper have discovered that the Alshain plan to rendezvous with a Starfleet ship called the Kitty Hawk, Constellation-class.”

    The admiral paused a moment, looking down, perhaps at his notes. It gave Jonor a few nanoseconds to rifle through his memories. He plucked the boxy, four-nacelle vessel out of the ether of his many engagements during the war. He had fought against that type of vessel before. The Constellations were old, but tough ships. But not so formidable that they couldn’t be bested, especially with the firepower under his command. The Galor-class easily outmatched the Constellations.

    “The Kitty Hawk has distinguished itself several times in combat against our forces,” Tarkon said. “If you have to engage it, destroy it, and you and your crew will be justly recognized.”

    “Understood,” he nodded.

    “I am transmitting what information we have on the ship. It is scant, unfortunately. The Constellations are far from top of the line, and have not drawn much attention from military intelligence or the Obsidian Order.”

    “Acknowledged,” Jonor added.

    “The Obsidian Order has also discovered the meeting location: Risa,” Tarkon paused, dissecting Jonor with his gaze.

    “A planet in Federation space?” Jonor’s face and voice didn’t betray the tension he felt at the news. Unlike the Klingons or Romulans, Cardassian vessels were not equipped with cloaking devices. Jartan couldn’t enter Federation space undetected. To do so would be a suicide mission. “Why would the Alshain go to all this furtive behavior and then agree to such a public rendezvous destination?” His only nervous tic was stroking his auburn beard.

    “I gather that it is an attempt to hide in plain sight,” Tarkon reasoned. “Already there are press releases on Proper saying that a recuperating Jota will seek solace at a resort. What better known resort in the galaxy than Risa? Also the appearance of a Starfleet vessel there would raise no alarms, unlike if they met at the Federation-Alshain border, or some obscure location.”

    Jonor nodded, catching on. It did make sense. “Please tell me you are sending cloaking device specs to me then.”

    Tarkon laughed. “No,” he shook his head. “We have the route the Alshain are going to take. Your orders are to intercept them before they enter Federation space.”

    “What if they resist?”

    “Compel them to accept our aid,” Tarkon ordered. “Any bruised feelings will be assuaged once Exarch Jasta has his son back and new ruler Jota will be beholden to us for saving his life.”

    “And what if the Kitty Hawk intercedes?”

    “The Kitty Hawk will be heading to Risa and shouldn’t be a problem,” Tarkon replied. However, if there is, you have authority to destroy the vessel. But remember the Crown Prince is your chief objective.”

    “We will make the Alshain see reason, or our disruptors,” Jonor said.

    “Whatever works,” Tarkon replied. “Just get it done.”
    ***************************************************************
     
  14. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Private Quarters

    Lt. Commander Kjosco sighed when the door chimed. He knew this moment would come soon, though he was expecting to hear Captain Gorik’s bellow summoning him to the conference room.

    The Itrob took a deep breath before saying, “Enter.” A brown skinned middle–aged, graying human, his uniform bearing the blue of the medical division, stepped across the threshold. His kind eyes belied his prim bearing. “Dr. Katanga, I presume?”

    “Yes,” he said, granting him a tight smile and nod. He carried a padd in his hand. Kjosco gestured toward one of the few seats he had in the room. Generally when in his private quarters he preferred relaxing and sleeping in the large Jacuzzi that had been installed. Despite the special material in his uniforms that preserved hydration, duty shifts often left him feeling dried out, and that made him unfortunately irritable. He was glad he had just gotten a good soak in before the doctor’s arrival.

    Katanga took a seat, but his posture remained ramrod perfect. He was here for business, not to make nice, and Kjosco appreciated that. “Lt. Commander Kjosco,” he began, “I would like to know what you know of the Alshain.”

    “Of course,” Kjosco suppressed another sigh. He had expatriated to the Federation so that he wouldn’t have to deal with the Alshain and their oppression of his people. He had long ago realized there was little he could do to alter the outcome. He didn’t envision, nor want his people to become the quadrant’s refugee class like some pushed for the Bajorans. Nor did he feel a particular affinity for other Itrob. He just couldn’t open up his hearts for that, there was too much pain, too much to take on.

    He just wanted to a good career, a stability, freedom, and respectability that he never could have achieved under Alshain rule, and as for his people, they were on their own. “Where would you like to begin?”

    “If I may,” Katanga said softly, “May I inquire about your past?”

    “I would rather not discuss that,” Kjosco replied. The human nodded understandably.

    “Understood,” he said, pausing as if he was trying to figure out the best way to proceed. “I realize this is a sensitive subject.”

    “Do you really think you do?” Kjosco asked, realizing that he was being a poor host, but not caring. “Do you really, really have any idea what it’s like to be an outsider? The only one of your kind?”

    “No, I must admit that I don’t,” Katanga said, “Though I did spend some extensive time in the Beta Renner System, among a canid species called the Anticans. It was completely voluntary and under less dire circumstances than I suspect your decision to join Starfleet was.”

    “I had a kind master…relatively speaking,” Kjosco said bitterly, “One who studied and taught on Vulcan. He was influenced by their concept of IDIC, and freed me. I never returned to Alshain Proper. It is amazing that a desert world like Vulcan turned into my personal oasis. I had feared going there at first. The concept of a world so devoid of water was positively hellish.”

    “I can only imagine,” Katanga kindly replied. “It must have been quite the adjustment living in the Federation.”

    “I am still adjusting, even after all these years,” Kjosco chuckled. “There aren’t a lot of aquatic species serving in the Fleet so there remains an issue regarding accommodations. Being a member of an amphibious species, it isn’t too rough going, though things could be better in that regard, and to the Federation’s credit, they are improving.”

    “That is good to hear,” Katanga said, his posture relaxing slightly. The gesture, plus the man’s genuine interest in him, put Kjosco more at ease.

    “So, these Anticans you spoke of, they are canids?” Katanga nodded. “Anything like the Alshain?”

    “They are not lupanoid, though I suspect they might share some cultural and maybe biological similarities with the Alshain. Of course whatever information you can provide can help me make that determination, with our databanks currently insufficient where the Exarchate is concerned.”

    “I will help you as best I can,” Kjosco said, actually meaning it.
    ***************************************************************

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Captain’s Ready Room

    “I don’t know if this is a mission of mercy or shore leave,” Captain Gorik rasped.

    “Perhaps it can be both Captain,” Jonathan Owens nimbly remarked. The man stood at attention in front of Gorik’s desk. He was tall, attractive for a human, and the snug Starfleet uniform fit him better than it did Gorik; another reason not to like him.

    Gorik missed the old duty uniforms, with the maroon jackets and looser pants. Not everything had to be streamlined, even though that’s the way things were going. The venerable Constellations were being phased out in favor of a sleeker aesthetic. It was truly the end of an era. This and the new breed of bureaucrats posing as officers made him wonder if he should just chuck Starfleet and sign up with the Border Service.

    The Border Dogs still appreciated the rough and tumble of space travel in a way the new Starfleet eschewed. “The last refuge,” he muttered. Owens blinked.

    “What was that sir?”

    “Sir, good I like that,” the Tellarite nodded. “I want you to remember who is the master of this vessel during your stay here. Never forget it.”

    Owens nodded and tried to smile, but couldn’t. His blue eyes flashed cold. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

    “Do you know the latest arrival time for the Alshain?” Gorik asked. Another grumble: The Alshain ship was only communicating with Owens, via an encoded channel, as per orders of Starfleet Command. Damn Special Affairs!

    “Ah yes, they will arrive at Risa in less than 56 hours.” Gorik tapped his compin.

    “Bridge, set a course for Risa, maximum warp,” he ordered.

    “Risa sir?” Bek’ele couldn’t hide the surprise from his voice.

    “I don’t stutter!” He snapped. “Risa Mr. Bek’ele.”

    “Aye sir, Risa it is.”

    Gorik leaned back in his chair, satisfied to feel the thrum of the engines through the soles of his boots. He felt their change in timbre as well as the ship slowly turning in acknowledgement of his orders. He didn’t have to look through his port window. In fact, he liked not looking at the stars to know where he was at or going, he relied on his instinct. He had been captain of the Kitty Hawk for so long he imagined that they had a symbiotic bond.

    There was already talk of decommissioning her, after the war, and when she left the stage, he figured he should as well. Leave the new Fleet to ambitious office sharks like Owens, he thought, his nose wrinkling.

    “When should we arrive…sir?” Owens asked, though Gorik knew it was a formality. He could tell the man already knew. Despite the show of respect, the Tellarite knew it was just a show, and he was not amused.

    He frowned, his answer coming through gritted teeth, “Don’t ask me questions you already know the answer to. Don’t presume I’m an idiot!”

    “I would never make such presumption,” Owens protested.

    “It’s best that you make sure your man is prepared as well as stay out of my site.”

    “I would prefer to be on the bridge,” Owens replied. “In fact, I have been given sole authority to communicate with the Alshain.”

    “I know that,” the Tellarite’s face grew hot with indignation. “Muzzled on my own vessel! You Special Affairs guys are a piece of work.”

    “We’re all in the same Fleet captain,” Owens said.

    “Try acting like it then,” Gorik retorted.

    “I’ve been nothing but respectful of you and your crew,” Owens’s decorum cracked for a split second, and Gorik smiled. He had found a weak point, a divot in the armor. It was something he could exploit.

    “Make sure you continue to do so, because sole authority or not, you will wind up in the brig. Understood Captain Owens?”

    Owens’s face blushed a deeper shade of pink. He worked his mouth, as if he was struggling to keep his true response under wraps. He finally managed to say, “Clear as crystal sir.”
    *****************************************************************
     
  15. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Private Quarters

    “We’re heading to Risa, for real?” Glover’s gloom increased. He had been going crazy, confined to his cabin. Though he had escaped serious reprimand, the idea of being denied participation in such an important mission ate at him.

    It also only left him to imagine what the scuttlebutt must be regarding his confinement. He had exercised and tried to read, listened to music to pass the time, but nothing worked. Before Susan’s visit he had found himself sitting at his desktop console, contemplating calling his parents, Captain Awokou, or Pedro. But if he did so he would spill his guts and he couldn’t stand to hear their disproval, or to see how much fun Pedro was probably having aboard the Carolina.

    Susan’s arrival had been a timely save, from further embarrassment. He sat with her now, sinking into the plush couch. A bottle of half empty wine, more emptied by Susan than him, and a tray of cheese, crackers, and fruits sat half eaten, more by him, sat on his coffee table in front of them.

    Terrence hadn’t been that hungry, but he needed something to nimble on, to keep from talking. Susan hadn’t noticed his reticence, or pretended not to, and she had provided most of the conversation. Though talking about her day at work had only reminded him of his absence.

    Susan had decided to switch gears, and told him about Risa. That had made him feel even worse. “Maybe the captain will relent and let you get some shore leave at least? He has authorized it for most of the crew.”

    “I doubt it,” Glover said, not adding that he didn’t feel he deserved it.

    “I know that Bek’ele is being a hard ass about it, but the captain seemed pretty understand, surprisingly so.”

    “Yeah,” Terrence remarked, a bit surprised by that as well. “He was real cool about the whole affair. He even said I had impressive right cross.” He couldn’t help but chuckle as he recalled the conversation in the ready room. Gorik had even talked about some of his rows with Klingons during his long years in the Fleet. They had mostly come at the beginning of his service, back when peace with the Klingons was a fairly recent thing. Commander Bek’ele hadn’t been so enchanted with the stories.

    “You know, Cesar feels awful about what happened,” Susan added. “He wasn’t confined to quarters, but Commander Flax sent him to Engineering. He’s cleaning the warp injectors, with a toothbrush last I heard.”

    “Ouch,” Glover winced. “I think I came out better in the bargain.”

    “Yeah, I think so too,” Susan replied, hugging him tightly. She placed her head on his chest, right above his heart. Terrence cradled her in his arms. He didn’t know what he would do without Susan right now. The woman had been vital to keeping him sane during their times at the front and now. It made him wonder if he was crazy to even contemplate leaving her, for another assignment. “If they don’t let you go on shore leave, I’m staying aboard too.”

    “No, Susan,” Terrence nodded, “You deserve a break, go.” He urged. “Just make sure you preview whatever bikinis you intend to wear in this cabin. You need my expert opinion.”

    She looked up at him and smiled lustily, “We can start that right now…if you like?”

    “Well there is no time like the present.”
    *****************************************************************

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Holodeck

    Dr. Dolores Sandoval at least liked Owens. She kept trying to give the man the eye, but his attention remained focused on his charge, Dr. Elijah Katanga. Katanga had just ambled to the head of the biobed. On it rested a strapping, salt and pepper Alshain male; a photonic replica of Crown Dauphin Jota. In addition the Katanga and Owens, Dolores, Chief Engineer Kelley, Operations Officer Kjosco, and Science Officer Bano surrounded the bed. Nurse Barman stood at the ready to provide any assistance needed.

    Dolores had no idea why the Chief Engineer was sitting in on this, but she was certain all would be revealed. Both Katanga and Owens liked to play things close to their vests. With Owens she didn’t mind because she liked men with an air of mystery, but she couldn’t help but feel that Katanga as her colleague, should share all his information with her to better help devise a cure for the prince’s ailment.

    Katanga walked slowly around the immobile canid, touching his body at various spots. Each touch would dissolve hair and skin and reveal a look at his insides. Sandoval winced at the projected rate of infection. The man’s outsides didn’t look too good either. It was like the virus was eating him alive. His rich coat was turning white in spots and shedding in others. His limbs were also starting to atrophy as his organs shriveled up inside.

    Initially she had been miffed that Command had felt the need to bring in an ‘expert’ instead of relying on her acumen. She had served in the Fleet, on all manner of ships, for some two decades. She had even spent time at Starfleet Medical, and they didn’t let slouches in there, so she had thought herself more than capable of handling any disease, especially one that was infecting a reportedly less advanced nation.

    Dolores had thought it a simple matter of introducing them to something the Federation already had in their medical repertoire. But looking at this virus and how it was marching like an invading army, laying siege to the Crown Prince’s vital organs, she had never seen anything like it.

    “From the initial reports, I suspected that the virus was a severe form of distemper, not dissimilar to canine distemper on Earth,” Katanga dryly remarked. “But this strain is far more virulent. It is a strain never encountered before, by the Alshain, or the Anticans. I’ve also reviewed what scant information we have of other canid species, like the Chalnoth, but there is nothing similar to this viral infection either.”

    “Then how do you propose to combat this virus?” Lt. Bano asked the obvious question. The young woman took a step forward, her eyes narrowing at the black tide washing over the benighted prince’s innards, “If even their own physicians are stymied by it?”

    Katanga began to answer, but looked at Chief Engineer Kelley. “Perhaps I should give the floor to you,” he offered. Maureen Kelley stepped up, gathering her thoughts as she ran a hand nervous through her vibrant red hair.

    “We are going to utilize nanotechnology to halt the rate of infection,” she said.

    “And shore up the Crown Prince’s battered immune system,” Katanga nodded. Kjosco coughed slightly, and the middle-aged medic turned to him. “This is a procedure not without disagreement.”

    The Itrob nodded, stepping forward. His eyes were riveted to the hologram as he spoke, “The Alshain despises the use of any artificial medical aides. Their cultural structure is very social Darwinian. If you are not strong enough to continue the hunt you are left to die. The idea that you would use technology to alter the decree of the gods is blasphemy.”

    “So, you’re saying that if we save his life through this process, we are destroying it nonetheless?” Dolores finally spoke up. The amphibian nodded.

    “What other options do we have, on such short notice?” Katanga countered. “The virus has severely weakened his immune system; we need to introduce a new variable, one that can counter the mutations.”

    “Do you think that Jota, if conscious, would accept this treatment?” Sandoval asked pointedly.

    “What does that matter?” Owens interceded, his response putting him on Dolores’s shit list. That and the wedding band she just saw glint under the ceiling lighting. “If we have it in our power to save his life, we have to do so.”

    “Not at the expense of turning the Alshain against your entreaties in the process,” Kjosco countered. “Many might feel that you are corrupted Jota, have made him a tool of the Federation, a puppet stringed up with your technology.”

    “That’s absurd!” Owens said with a dismissive wave.

    “Is it really?” Sandoval countered, “If we go against his wishes, it we ignore their culture and religion?”

    “We can save his life though,” Kelley jumped in.

    “Are you sure about that Maureen?” Dolores turned to her old colleague. “These types of nanotech medical procedures are still in a largely experimental phase.”

    “So is genitronics,” Katanga frowned, turning his scowl fully toward Sandoval. She met his gaze. “I know of your research in that fledgling field of science. I know that is what you are going to propose.” She had to give him kudos for his thorough research into her background.

    “You know me too well Doctor,” Dolores admitted. “At least the solution is all natural.”

    “Don’t you think replicating many of the Crown Dauphin’s vital organs and immune system is even more complicated, more risky than simply injecting nanomachines into his body?”

    “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a risk,” Sandoval answered. She turned to Kjosco. “Would the Alshain have any problems with matter conversion cloning?”

    “None that I am aware of,” Kjosco said, blinking several times as he thought about it. “I think the main point of contention is the idea of some type of artificial enhancement. In ancient times Alshain warriors consumed the hearts and bodies of their enemies…there are still some reports that that continues to this day,” he paused as Barman gasped sharply in disgust, “I don’t think there would be too much opposition to the Crown Prince receiving new organs, especially if they are replicated from him.”

    “Fine,” Owens said, crossing his arms. “Change of plan, Dr. Katanga, assist Dr. Sandoval in working on a genitronic solution.”

    “Captain, I must protest,” Katanga said. “Genitronics is very much in the theoretical stage. It isn’t proven science.”

    “Well, then, it’s time to put theory into practice,” Owens rejoined. “See to it.”
    *****************************************************************
     
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    This is nothing less than a story about the destiny of an entire people and who gets to shape it. The stakes couldn't be much higher.

    I have a decent idea of what happened to the Alshain after the events of this story but I can't say for certain that I know how they got there. It's going to be fun to find out.

    Oh and it certainly helps that I get to see what Owens' dad was up to before he played a bigger part in his son's life.
     
  17. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Private Quarters

    “Enter,” Terrence Glover said. The tall man swept into the room, prompting Terrence to jump from his seat. “Captain Owens,” he said, standing at attention. Owens briefly waved for Terrence to sit back down.

    “At ease, and please have a seat Lieutenant,” Owens urged. “I hope that I am not interrupting you.”

    “No sir, not at all,” Terrence said, still standing, but now at parade rest.

    “Let me cut to the chase Mr. Glover,” Owen said, “I understand you’ve encountered some difficulty lately resulting in your confinement to quarters.”

    “Yes sir,” Glover tersely replied.

    “There’s nothing I can do to change that.”

    “I would not expect, nor want you to sir,” Terrence remarked. “As far as I am concerned this is a light punishment.”

    “I concur,” Owens said, “Striking a superior officer, you would be under a starship under my command,” he said sharply, his features hardening. The younger man tensed up, as if expecting a figurative blow.

    “How might I be of service sir?” He asked, his tone noticeably chilled.

    “The Department of Special Affairs and Investigations is interested in you Mr. Glover,” an unfazed Owens replied. “I have been authorized to extend you an offer…if interested.”

    Terrence was stunned. Only a few minutes ago he was still worried that his career had hit a dead end and now Owens had given him this offer. Special Affairs was definitely a prestigious posting, but he didn’t want to ascend to the admiralty that way. He wanted to get there by service on a starship. He wanted to sit in the big chair, not behind some desk, or hopping transport from ship to ship. He wanted to be the master of a vessel. Starship command was where it was at, as far as Terrence was concerned.

    “I must politely decline,” Glover said. Owens nodded tightly.

    “Your desire for starship command is not a secret,” the captain replied and Terrence’s eyes widened at the man’s observation. Just how much did Owens and Special Affairs know about him? And why had they gone through so much effort to acquire that information?

    “No, it isn’t,” Glover agreed. “I’ve stated that goal on my application to the Academy and spoke of it often throughout my collegiate career, but I must admit that I am surprised that you would know about that.”

    Owens gave a tight-lipped smile. “When Special Affairs takes an interest in someone, they want to know everything they possibly can to insure that the recruit is a good fit. You’ve got talent and drive, and Special Affairs recognizes that.”

    Terrence nodded. He couldn’t disagree. “Furthermore Mr. Glover, if you want to make it to admiral, it’s a far faster climb going through DSAI than slogging through Starfleet.”

    “Respectfully sir,” Glover began, “Even though my focus has been on scaling to the top of Starfleet I still also enjoy exploration and discovery.”

    “The wonders of deep space travel sometimes pale in comparison to what you will see as a member of DSAI,” Owens countered.

    “Such as?”

    The captain chuckled, and wagged a finger, “I’m not at liberty to discuss.”

    “Thank you for making this offer…I will consider it,” Terrence said.

    “Think long and hard about it Mr. Glover,” Owens said, “Look at me, I already have my fourth pip. If I had stayed in the standard fleet I can’t be certain that my ascent would’ve happened so quickly.”

    “That I will definitely keep in mind,” Glover said, both excited and scared at the prospect of a new venture.

    “Really see that you do,” Owens replied, pivoting quickly on his foot and exiting the room.
    ***************************************************************

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Private Quarters

    The attractive ash blonde leaned back and gave a hearty laugh. “You really are going to attempt a genitronic solution?”

    “Of course Toby,” Dr. Dolores Sandoval snappily replied, a bit peeved at the blithe response from her old colleague. She thought Dr. Toby Russell would be thrilled that Dolores was taking her idea from theory to practice. They had worked on the research together years ago, but some initial failures and then life itself had gotten in the way of them bringing the idea into fruition. Which Dolores really regretted because replicated organs could’ve saved a lot of lives lost during the war.

    “Listen, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to take this so lightly,” Dr. Russell sobered up. “It’s just, you know how difficult our early trials were, I had to move on. I thought you had too.”

    “Well I have,” Dolores said, still a little annoyed. Toby had always been intrigued by the next new idea that popped into her head. Sometimes it was difficult being friends with a genius. Dolores was more centered; more of the nuts and bolts workhorse. In med school they had made a great team, but like with so many things in life, it had to end. “But when I read over this patient’s symptoms, genitronics seemed like the most viable solution.”

    “Then I suppose the situation is dire that you want to try something unproven, on a sapient being.”

    “There’s really no choice, and there’s little time,” Sandoval almost smiled when Toby frowned. Now she’s getting the seriousness of the situation, Dolores thought.

    “I’ll help, in any capacity that I can,” Russell declared.

    “Thank you Toby,” Dolores replied. “This consultation, this whole mission is classified. I had to raise a little hell to let you in the loop.”

    “I understand,” Russell said, now all business. “Send me the work ups you have on the patient and I’ll send you all the data I have on the genitronic replicator.”

    “Thanks Toby,” Sandoval now allowed herself a little smile.

    “No problem,” Toby smiled at her. “Just like old times huh?”

    “What do you mean?” Dolores asked.

    “Oh, pulling a miracle out of a hat while severely under the gun,” Russell chuckled, “Makes me long for med school again.”
    *************************************************************
     
  18. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Central Command Vessel Jartan
    Lab

    Dalin Locett gasped in horror. Even as a science officer she had seen many horrific things during her years of military service, but those had largely been the result of war, and easy to compartmentalize. But the sight before her now, the perversion of science, the one cherished thing in her life, stunned her nearly into catatonia.

    “So this is what Central Command wanted to keep hidden,” the voice made Locett jump. She had been so morbidly transfixed on her discovery that she hadn’t heard anyone come in. Locett turned toward the voice, blinking as she struggled to form words.

    “G-Gul,” she stammered, “I-My apologies.”

    “Don’t,” Gul Jonor said, his eyes burning like embers in the dim room. “This is unconscionable.” He replied, gesturing to the row of a dozen cryogenic tubes. Each contained a different, mostly hirsute being. They were different genders, ages, and there were even children. Some of the being’s faces were contorted in rage or fear, as if they had been placed in the tubes against their wills, which Locett was sure had happened.

    “What it is science,” Dr. Dulcett said, with dispassion. The lights came on, blinding Locett momentarily. When her vision cleared, she saw that the doctor, with Dal Renek in tow, had entered the room. She walked among the sarcophagi, running her hands along the clear glass coverings. “Each of these beings is from a canid or lupanoid species; they will provide appropriate test subjects to find a cure to the crown prince’s ailment.”

    “But at what cost to them?” Locett asked, finding her voice again. Dulcett looked at her, no shred of emotion on her face, and a cold hardness in her eyes.

    “Does that truly matter?” Dulcett asked.

    “And think of the contribution these beings will make to medicine,” Dal Renek interjected smoothly.

    “Silence Renek!” Jonor bellowed. He turned his ire toward the exobiologist. “I didn’t fight for the honor of Union to let some academic sully it.”

    “We academics have bought renown to the Union,” Dulcett said, “Our cure for the Fostossa virus has been hailed across the quadrant. Do you really think that would’ve been possible without sapient experimentation? Those Bajorans were sacrificed for a noble cause.”

    “It wasn’t their choice,” Locett said hotly. “You murdered them!”

    Renek laughed, “What do you think an occupation entails? I served on Bajor, you have no idea what it was like trying to bring civilization to those primitives. Sometimes we had to utilize harsh methods to get them to see reason.”

    “And that’s why the ‘reason’ has metastasized into a full blown rebellion,” Locett encountered.

    “Be silent, both of you!” Jonor thundered. “I served on Bajor too, in the early years of colonization. But I never mistook it for what it was. Bajor had resources we wanted and we took them because we were stronger. There was nothing civilized about it. As a younger man, that was all the explanation I needed…but now, I am left to wonder what were the consequences of the things we turned ourselves into to be conquerors. Is this callous disregard the poison fruit of all our endeavors?”

    “This from a man who commands a warship?” Dulcett raised an eye ridge.

    “Fighting to defend your home is much different than experimenting on innocent people, people who have no quarrel with the Union or seek to impede our progress. People who have nothing of value for us to covet,” Jonor remarked.

    “That is where your empty rhetoric about honor fails you,” Dulcett said, looking down at the tubes. “These beings hold the key to our alliance with the Alshain. Could you imagine how that would help the war effort? Having their resources at our disposal? Using their border with the Federation to harass and attack the enemy? At this moment, they are more important than any battle we are engaging in. They are the key to winning this war.”

    “And how desperate is the Central Command that they believed such bilge?” Jonor asked in disbelief.

    “Desperate enough to give me complete authority over this ship and crew if the need arose,” Dulcett rejoined, smiling. The gesture chilled the marrow on Locett’s bones.

    “What are you saying?” Jonor asked.

    “I am saying that you should return to the bridge and do your job, while you allow me to do mine,” Dulcett said. “You just get us to the Alshain vessel, I will do the rest.”

    “That is unacceptable,” Jonor barked.

    “Dal Renek, please escort the gul back to the bridge,” Dulcett said, ignoring Jonor. “And if he continues to protest, please inform him of what we have discussed.”

    Jonor looked shocked as he gazed at his first officer, “What is going on here Renek?”

    “Nothing sir,” Renek said, “But a chance for us to honor the Union once more with our service. That’s all it has to be, but if not…a retirement letter has already been written for you.”

    “So that’s the game you are playing?” He rounded on Dulcett. “You’ve hijacked my ship!”

    “I’ve done no such thing, the action is squarely with you,” Dulcett replied, “I know that you came out of retirement to fight in the war and perhaps it is time for you to return home.”

    “I won’t allow you to force me from command,” Jonor declared, looking from the scientist to Dulcett, “Either of you!”

    “And I would never attempt to seize command from you,” Renek promised. “But we do have our orders sir.”

    “We are more than the sum total of our orders,” Jonor riposted. “But I fear that your generation doesn’t understand that and my generation is at fault. We were so taken by the idea of empire that we accepted all of the restrictions that came with it.”

    “Security, purpose, those things aren’t restrictions,” Renek countered. “Order keeps us above the beasts.” Jonor merely shook his head.

    “You’ve been by my side all these years and haven’t learned anything,” the man said, his shoulders sagging. “I am an old man, it is too late for me to go against what I have dedicated my life to, but rest assured Central Command will receive a full report of what has occurred on this vessel, under your ‘authority’, Dr. Dulcett.”

    The woman nodded, “I could expect less from an officer of your caliber.” The gul grunted at the false praise.

    “Dalin Locett, come with us,” Jonor said. Locett couldn’t wait to get out of the macabre chamber. She was disgusted at what her hero really was, behind the glossy news reports and sterile science journals.

    “Dalin Locett will remain here,” Dulcett said, her voice brooking no debate.

    “I need my science officer on the bridge,” Jonor replied.

    “An auxiliary officer can calibrate your sensors or such nonsense,” Dulcett replied. “The dalin’s scientific talents will greatly assist in my research. This is not a request.”

    Jonor looked at Locett, a sad gleam in his eye. There was nothing he could do, short of forfeiting his ship and worse. She knew Renek would be no help either. He was clearly in Dulcett’s camp.

    But sensing her distress, he said, “Look at it this way, Locett, you are getting to work with Dr. Dulcett. A dream come true is it not?”

    “More like a nightmare,” Locett couldn’t stop herself. Dulcett seemed unperturbed by the description.

    “A nightmare is still a dream,” Renek rejoined.
    *************************************************************
     
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    More surprising than what the Cardassians are up to here is perhaps the integrity of the old gul and his younger officer who are clearly not buying the usual, whatever-it-takes and for-Cardassia sentiments. This is rather refreshing for a race that has been portrayed in rather harsh colors in the past.
     
  20. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    As always CeJay, your comments and observations are much appreciated. I wanted to do something a little different with Jonor than the typical Cardassian heavy who blindly follows orders. I wanted him to have a sense of honor and a sense of regret that a younger, hungrier officer on the make like Renek wouldn't have. To me, these two guys are shaping up as poles of Keshet, his ambition and sense of duty to country versus his own personal honor. Keshet wasn't in the following passage though because I didn't feel the scene needed him and I wanted to flesh out Jonor, Locett, and the others a bit more.

    Author's Note: Klingon Imperial Intelligence was given the name So'taj by D'Noth (forgot to acknowledge that a while back). Also the Itrob were a species created by Gibraltar in his story "Prophets and Loss".

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

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Private Quarters

    Lt. Pedro Rojas sniveled his nose, as if he smelled something rotten. “I don’t know about that man,” he replied. The stout engineer filled the tiny screen on Terrence’s desktop.

    “Come on Pedro, it is a good opportunity,” Terrence said, though it sounded like he needed to convince himself more than his old friend. “I mean, a posting with DSAI…that could really open some doors.”

    The hefty man rolled his eyes, “Like being the son of a captain and a commander don’t already?”

    “Hey,” Terrence said, wincing slightly. Usually it didn’t bother him to come from such a privileged background. It was something he rarely flaunted, unless he needed to, but he didn’t like talking about it around his friends, especially Pedro, who came from humble origins…relatively speaking. Terrence wanted to earn his way as much as Pedro, who didn’t have higher ups in Starfleet to rely on, did. Though there was a part of Terrence that knew that wasn’t completely true. He had connections that others didn’t, and he had used them on more than one occasion.

    Maybe his family background was an impetus for Owens to make his offer? Terrence had done a little research into the captain and found out that he had a son in Starfleet as well. Terrence wondered if Michael Owens if had a spot at DSAI already for him, or if his dad or someone else had made the offer yet. Glover wondered if the younger Owens would refuse the good fortune his name likely provided or embrace it.

    “I’m just saying Terrence, those Special Affairs guys are too clandestine for my taste,” Pedro shook his head. “We recently got entangled with one out here on the Tzenkethi border. Carolina was assigned to patrol the border because of a spike in Tzenkethi raids.”

    “So, what happened?” Glover asked. Rojas made a zipping gesture across his mouth and then threw away the imaginary key. “I see,” Terrence remarked.

    “Yeah, and I know you are a guy that likes to talk about his accomplishments,” Pedro chuckled. “I can’t imagine you doing big things that you have to keep to yourself. That would kill you.”

    “Ha,” Terrence chuckled. “I see you’ve developed a sense of humor since your transfer. How is it going?”

    “Carolina is a great girl,” Pedro beamed. “A little temperamental, but you know I like ‘em feisty. Speaking of feisty,” Rojas’s smile dimmed a bit, “How is Raayna doing?”

    “You know how Raayna is,” Glover remarked. “She’s never going to let on how she’s feeling inside.”

    “Don’t I know it,” Pedro muttered. “I feel sorry for any of those holograms she might be sparring with.”

    “Yeah, we were all wise enough to not take her up on her offers. But she is making it okay,” Terrence added after a chuckle. “You both are just going to need time.”

    “It was hard leaving her, almost as hard as it was leaving Kitty and you,” Rojas replied, “but everything has its time and place. And maybe it’s your time now Terrence,” he said, his tone becoming somber. “I’m not going to lie and tell you that I think Special Affairs is where you need to be, but I know you, and you’re not the type to sit around too long. You’ve got too much of a fire under your ass.”

    “I know,” Terrence said, nodding. “But I’m just not sure which way to go, and then there’s Susan too.” Pedro was one of the few people Terrence would ever express doubt to. He did his best to maintain an air of self-assuredness. He never knew who was watching and what opportunities they might bestow upon someone with composure and confidence, someone that appeared to be able to take any problem in stride and that could project an aura of reassurance. A lot of it was artifice, Terrence knew, but he had gotten so good at it, so practiced over the years that he could even fool himself on occasion. It was the rare friend that got a peek behind the curtain. And Pedro was among his rarest of friends.

    “Ah,” the engineer inhaled deeply. “Yeah, relationships complicate things,” he shook his head, looking away for a moment. Terrence could only imagine he was thinking about Raayna. “You could try the long distance thing?” He offered.

    “You didn’t,” Terrence rejoined.

    “Hey,” Rojas shrugged, “At least I offered, but neither me nor Raayna are exactly the willing to wait type, we live for the moment.”

    “I bet,” Glover raised his eyebrows, “Who is she?”

    “A cute little Nuvian hairdresser,” Pedro intimated, “Did you know that Nuvians have twelve fingers on each hand?”

    Glover laughed, “Uh yeah, you don’t remember that time on Argelius II?” The engineer’s eye brows beetled together as he combed through his memories.

    “No,” he shook his head, drawing a blank. He leaned forward, an eager expression on his face. “Jog my memory please.”

    “It was shore leave, I met the Nuvian and you had the blue girl, with the extended tongue…”

    “Oh yeah,” Pedro nodded, his eyes shining with remembered delight, “Oh definitely yeah.”

    “Pedro, you’re too much,” Glover said, “I miss you man.”

    “I miss you too Terrence, I guess chatting by subspace isn’t the same is it?”

    “No it isn’t.”

    “Something you need to keep in mind when you consider what to do about Susan.”

    “Yeah,” Terrence sighed. “I haven’t come to that decision yet. I mean, maybe we can get an assignment together?”

    “Maybe,” Rojas said, though with less confidence. “You know the war has everyone stretched. I don’t think Captain Gorik could stand to lose two more good officers after losing Commander Awokou, Weiss, and yours truly in such a short time span.”

    “I know,” Terrence nodded, “And I doubt Susan would want to leave Hawk in a lurch. She’s busted her ass to make it to the senior staff.”

    “Can’t believe she got there before you,” Pedro said, half-joking.

    “Me either,” Glover replied, completely serious.

    “Don’t worry Terrence, there’s a center chair with your name on it.”

    “I wish I could see it myself,” Terrence admitted. “My ability to dream has dimmed a bit as of late.”

    “Don’t worry, when the time comes, I’m sure you’ll get your pick of one of the new Galaxies,” Pedro whistled, “Those things are beauties, true works of art.”

    Terrence agreed. The large, majestic ships were the top of the line, the best in design and engineering that Starfleet had to offer, but Glover found the prestige of serving aboard one of the ships and eventually commanding one more intoxicating than its capabilities. “One day, old friend, and I’ll bring you along. You and me on the Enterprise, wouldn’t that be something.”

    At Starbase 116, Terrence had heard the rumors that they were reviving the venerable name as part of the Galaxy-class line. And what other ship than the famed Enterprise for Terrence to establish his mark and his name right alongside Archer, Pike, Kirk, Harriman, and Garrett? In time he was sure he would surpass them all. “Sounds like a plan to me,” Pedro replied, “You just get the promotion and I’ll be right by your side, always.”
    ****************************************************************

    USS Kitty Hawk
    Main Engineering

    Lt. Commander Maureen Kelley knew she should be over it by now but Kjosco’s appearance always made her give him a once over. The amphibian was average height with a wiry, but well muscled physique and his wet suit designed uniform fit him like a glove. What stuck out to her most was his oblong, fin tipped head, his large, bulbous eyes, and his webbed hands and feet. He generally walked around the ship barefoot, his custom made footwear too uncomfortable.

    Maureen couldn’t help but admire the blue and green hue, patterned for underwater camouflage, or so Lt. Commander Flax had once told her.

    “Am I catching you at a bad time?” Kjosco asked, still hovering at the threshold of her office. Kelley sat up in her chair, embarrassed that she was staring at the man, but granted him entrance.

    “No, no, of course not,” Maureen said, standing up. “Please, have a seat?”

    “I would prefer to stand,” the Itrob remarked. He planted his feet behind the row of chairs facing her desk. The engineer remained standing as well.

    “Oh, okay,” Kelley said, “So, what can I do for you?”

    “There have been several malfunctions of the food replication system,” the amphibian replied; Kelley now noticed the padd in his hand. He held it up for her. She took it and glanced down at it, frowning and wincing as she read the contents.

    “I hope the food poisoning wasn’t too severe?”

    “It was not,” Kjosco shook his head for emphasis, “The medical staff has already taken care of them and returned the affected crew back to their quarters for convalescence.”

    “That’s good to hear,” Kelley said.

    “I’ve already spoken with the captain,” the Itrob began. “I would like to take the replicator system offline to do a thorough diagnostic of its systems.”

    “That sounds like a good idea,” Kelley said. “And I suppose you think it would be wise to start a diagnostic of all the ship’s systems?” Kjosco nodded. “Commander I didn’t know you were part Betazoid.”

    Kelley laughed, pleased that Kjosco joked with her. The man was usually so withdrawn that for him to feel comfortable enough to do such a thing went a big way with her. She held a finger to her mouth and shushed. “Don’t tell anyone okay. How do you think I aced my Academy finals?”

    “I would assume through appropriate study,” Kjosco said, cocking his head quizzically to the side, his eyes rounding on her. “Is there some other way?”

    “No,” Kelley chuckled, “No, I was just making a funny, a joke.”

    “I see,” the Itrob said. He paused for a few awkward moments, not sure how to proceed. Maureen moved in to save the day.

    “I will start a level one diagnostic of the propulsion systems as soon as we finish talking. If we net something I will let you know.”

    “Thank you Commander,” Kjosco’s slash of a mouth twitched upward. “I suspect this is nothing.”

    “But one can never be too cautious,” she replied.

    “Ah yes.”

    “Perhaps we can look over our findings…together, over dinner?” Kelley offered.

    “I generally dine alone,” the Itrob said.

    “Well, a little variation never killed anyone,” Maureen replied.

    “Actually it almost did, the food poisoning incident I mentioned earlier…the cause of this systems check?”

    Maureen wanted to slap herself upside the head. Kjosco really couldn’t take a hint could he? “Okay, how about you just relay your findings to me at your earliest convenience and I will do likewise?”

    Kjosco attempted a smile again, “That would be optimal.” After he left, Kelley did thunk herself against the head. Either the Itrob was the most clueless man in the galaxy or he was playing really hard to get. Fortunately for him, Maureen considered herself an excellent, dogged hunter.
    ******************************************************************