DT: Hero of the Federation (Revised)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by DarKush, May 8, 2011.

  1. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Dear readers,

    My apologies for my previous attempts at this story. I think I am now on the right track. I chose to put out a new thread so that you wouldn't have to wade through the previous stuff. This revised version is similar in some respects, but I've added some scenes and changed some names. I hope it makes for a tighter, better story.

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    DARK TERRITORY:
    HERO OF THE FEDERATION


    Jalana City Memorial Hospital
    Bajor
    November 2376

    She stood quietly over the bed, watching the slow rise and fall of the patient’s chest. She was heartened that the woman no longer required a ventilator to breathe. Though the medics couldn’t tell her how long it would take for the woman to wake from her coma.

    Even now she could see gray hairs growing like vines along the woman’s roots. And it had only been about six months. Shaking her head, she traced a finger down the woman’s dry cheek. The unconscious woman seemed so shrunken, so emptied of life, not the bold personage she had watched and studied for weeks, learning to imitate her perfectly.

    The current disguise she wore now even bore a resemblance. Despite the fairer hair, the resemblance was unmistakable. She saw it in the widened eyes of the medical staff, heard it in the whispers of several nurses, “I thought the colonel didn’t have any family.”

    The colonel didn’t. The woman shook her head. No, that’s not true, she realized. The woman did have family. Her own father had claimed her, and in a way that made them sisters. Growing up on Cardassia, programmed by the Obsidian Order, she never though there could ever come a day when she would consider a Bajoran nothing more than a terrorist or slave.

    She laughed coldly, “Guess I was wrong,” she remarked, stroking the colonel’s still face again. “I’m sorry Kira.”

    The woman’s breath caught as she felt the wind shift as the door opened. Her hand went for the disruptor under her robes. “Why am I not surprised to find you here?” The voice behind her was breezy, conversational. She kept her hand on the grip of her weapon. “You’re so predictable.”

    “Is that what you think?”

    “You’re here aren’t you?” The man’s voice was smug, insufferable, but she couldn’t deny that he was right, and that annoyed her the most.

    “What do you want?”

    “It’s time,” he said. The woman’s hand eased off her weapon and she gulped. She glanced down at Colonel Kira Nerys once more, for the last time.

    “Okay,” Illiana Ghemor turned around slowly, to gaze into the shining eyes of Elim Garak. “Let’s go.”
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    Crimson Shadow base
    Cardassian Space
    December 2376

    The slight man held up the skeletal man’s arm up in triumph. “The election is won,” a dispirited Gul Ermst Martell said, smothering his anger. At this time, perhaps more than any other since the war had ended, he needed to think before he acted. Far more than just his life hung in the balance.

    “On our backs!” Spat Gul Heftig, her neck plates bunching as she pounded the table with both heavy fists. “That vole Urlak recruited me! How could he do this! I had no intention to take up arms against the occupiers. I had merely joined the Crimson Order to receive my just due for my family, and it was he that flamed on about how the allied powers were exploiting our people and driving us to extinction!”

    “It was true,” Gul Gavran replied hotly, “even if Urlak betrayed us, as has Dien just now!” He jabbed a finger at the screen. Martell had muted the sound but all three could see the jubilation among the crowd and they could feel the triumph radiating from Urlak’s pores.

    The man was running for the premiership of the Cardassian Republic, and he had just scored a major political coup by negotiating a deal with Gul Vaidar Dien, their leader, for the Crimson Shadow to lay down its arms in exchange for amnesty.

    Dien had made this decision without consulting them, and they suspected many others. Now they were left with a choice, pick up the remnants of their splintered army or fold. Martell wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Unlike many, his family had not been slaughtered by the Dominion in a spiteful gesture at the close of the war. They lived on a colony world far from the war. He didn’t fight for revenge or to avenge, instead he had taken up arms to secure his family’s future. Martell didn’t believe that a Cardassian government run by outsiders was in the long-term best interest of his family, or his people, and the Crimson Shadow had become the best tool to meld his thoughts and actions.

    But perhaps Urlak and Dien had shown him another way. He had thought at first that Urlak’s working within the government was a clever ploy to take over from the inside. He had never scoffed at the old man like some of his brethren, he had never considered him a sellout, but as time drug on, he had become concerned that Urlak had been seduced and corrupted by a system had had pledged to raze to the ground.

    The final straw had come when he had openly declared the Shadow outlaws and completely divorced them from the Crimson Order. In fact, he had done away with his veterans group, and merged them into a new political party, the Unity Faction. It was similar to how the True Way had become consumed by the system and ultimately irrelevant, a flapping, useless rightwing appendage to a dying polity.

    The betrayal had felt deep, it had been personal, but nothing could’ve prepared Martell for Urlak working with the occupiers to actively hunt down, apprehend, or murder his former comrades. As the campaign heated up, the noose had grown tighter. Dien, feeling the pressure, as the putative leader of the Shadow, had buckled.

    Martell pondered if he should do the same, though he knew not to voice such apostasy around true believers like Gavran or Heftig. He knew they would vaporize him on the spot. “We can’t let this stand,” Heftig declared.

    “I say we make an example of Dien…and his family,” Gavran darkly suggested. “Blood in, blood out, that’s the only way you enter or leave the Crimson Shadow.”

    Martell shook his head, glaring at the fervid Gavran. He had never cared much for the unkempt, undisciplined man. “We will not stain our movement by murdering innocents.”

    Gavran laughed, “What do you think we have been doing all this time? We’re terrorists remember?”

    “No, we are soldiers, fighting for the freedom of our people. The unfortunates who have died at the hands of my men have been collateral damage, they were never targeted,” Martell paused, putting the full force his judgment on Gavran, “Can the same be said of yours?”

    Gavran was unfazed. To prove it, he propped his dusty boots on the table before replying, “It’s war,” he said with a shrug. Martell wanted to throttle the smug man.

    Sensing that, Heftig jumped up, “Please let’s remember who the real enemy is. We might have different methods, but the end goal is the same, a Cardassia free of alien influence.” Both men uncomfortably nodded to that.

    “So, what do we do now?” Gavran asked. Both Gavran and Heftig turned to Martell. Among the trio, he had pulled off the most successful engagements with their enemies.

    “We first have to find out from the other commanders who still wish to continue,” Martell proposed.

    “I would also suggest eliminating those who decide to leave the fight,” Gavran suggested. Martell paused, considering the idea.

    “Only them, not their families,” he warned. Gavran shrugged again.

    “I’ll make sure he retains honor,” Heftig promised. “But we must show that there is price to be paid for surrender.”

    “I agree,” Martell said.

    “But after that, what should we do?” Gavran asked, the first crack of doubt appearing in his facade of bravado.

    Martell paused again, not sure what to say. Outside of the few hardcore partisans, he suspected that a lot of the foot soldiers were tired of fighting, they wanted to go home, and rebuild their shattered families and lives. After all, what had they accomplished thus far?

    And others would see the amnesty for what Martell hated to admit it was, a way out, a way forward, a plausible alternative, to endless bloodshed. Perhaps there could be a political solution to removing the occupiers. He knew that change was in the wind with the Federation, that a new president, one far less enchanted with foreign entanglements, was about to assume office. Maybe this president would be amenable to removing Starfleet, but the same could not be said for the Klingons, their most hated foe.

    And he would rather have the Federation remain to counterbalance the Klingons and keep the foreheads on a leash. The silence grew heavy, portentous, but Martell was determined to let it play out until an appropriate response emerged. He had always been a patient man.

    “Did I catch you all at a bad time?” A voice snaked into his thoughts, startling him. Martell yanked his disruptor out of its holster. Both Heftig and Gavran were already aiming at the door.

    Martell blinked in surprise. Before them stood a man more wanted by authorities than any of them. “How did you get in here?” Heftig demanded. The man winked at her before waltzing into the room.

    “Are you seriously going to ask me that?” Elim Garak replied.

    “What do you want?” Gavran asked, suspiciously. Garak had been blamed, chiefly by Urlak, as the mastermind behind the assassination of Premier Lang at Terok Nor. Since Urlak had made the claim it was in doubt, though it hadn’t stopped the wily Cardassian ex-spy from being hailed as a hero by many of Martell’s men.

    “It appears you are experiencing a crisis of confidence,” Garak said, glancing at the ongoing celebration on the vidscreen. “Perhaps I can ameliorate your unease.”

    “And how do you propose to do that?” Heftig beat Martell to the punch.

    Garak grinned, before leaning forward, his eyebrows knitting together. His tone was conspiratorial. “I never thought you’d ask.”
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    Last edited: May 9, 2011
  2. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    Tarlak Sector
    Cardassia Prime
    January 2377

    “Thank you for being so gracious,” Trade Provost Mintof Urlak said, holding his arms out at his sides while the tailor fit him for a new suit.

    “It is no trouble,” President Norah Satie said. The holopad in the center of Urlak’s office was projecting a life-size image of the newly installed Federation president. “I can certainly attest to how hectic the transition and inauguration of a new administration can be.”

    “My apologies for not being able to attend your inaugural,” Urlak offered. “Our campaign had not concluded.”

    “I completely understand,” Satie said, “And business will keep me and the Deputy President on Earth. However, I hope that the presence of the Minister of State and Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief will suffice.”

    “It will be more than enough,” Urlak nodded. “I am honored that such high personages will be in attendance.”

    “Well, I’ve spoken with President Santiago, and he assured me that you have been a stalwart partner for peace and I hope to build on that relationship. You’re dismantling of the Crimson Shadow terror network was astounding.”

    “It wasn’t me,” Urlak said, soberly, “It was the Cardassian people, rising up to reject terror. And as much I appreciate the laurels you have tossed at my feet, there are splinter elements of the Shadow, plus other unreconstructed actors that have yet to turn away from violence.”

    “Yes,” Satie shook her head sadly, “I am well aware of that as well, and Admiral Grace will be looking forward to discussing the issue with you in further detail when he arrives.”

    “Admiral Grace,” Urlak said, “Truly an inspirational symbol of our new relationship. A former POW, now an advocate for peace between our worlds.”

    “It is…inspiring,” Satie agreed. “It is an example of how the fire of peace can melt any hardened heart.”

    Urlak nodded somberly. “When shall the Federation contingent arrive?”

    “Admiral Grace will be arriving, along with most of the other Federation delegates, within one standard week. The details have not yet been finalized.”

    Urlak smiled and nodded, “Very prompt,” he replied.

    “Here’s hoping that everything goes off without a hitch,” Satie’s smile was faint but genuine.

    “That’s all one can really do,” Urlak agreed. “Besides surrounding yourself with armed guards up to the neck scales.” They shared a laugh before his counterpart flickered away.

    “You can stop now,” He brushed the tailor’s hands aside. The woman straightened up, and assumed a most-untailor-like military bearing.

    “So the reports are true,” she said, “Admiral Grace must be the new C-in-C for Starfleet.”

    Urlak chuckled, so deep that it shook his slight frame, “Whoever would’ve thought my son could rise so high?”

    “You did sir,” the woman replied.

    “Well yes, I assume so.”
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    Palais de la Concorde
    Earth

    President Norah Satie leaned back in her seat and exhaled. She swiveled around to cock an eyebrow at the gaunt man standing in the corner of the room, out of range of the holographic communicator. “So Sabin, what do you think?”

    Sabin Genestra, her chief of staff, nodded almost imperceptibly, “His thoughts are almost as guarded as yours,” the Betazoid replied with a half-smile. Satie chuckled, before Genestra continued, “But I am confident that that was no mere tailor attending him.”

    “I sniffed that as well,” Satie said. “He was just being less discreet about having someone reading me. That might not be a bad thing.”

    “Oh?”

    “Sure,” Satie nodded, warming to the idea. “So far Provost Urlak has been a straight shooter and a solid partner in our campaign to stop the spread of terror in the Cardassian Republic. He’s also shown some diplomatic and political deftness in largely dismantling the Crimson Shadow.”

    “But there are reports that he has reconstituted the Obsidian Order,” Genestra said, with a rare note of alarm in his voice. Satie knew that after the Order had been nearly wiped out in a disastrous preemptive strike against the Dominion, the Dominion’s puppet, Gul Dukat, had been all but happy to disband the venerable covert organization and replace it with the Cardassian Intelligence Bureau. The CIB had become a hated reminder of the Dominion occupation since the war’s end.

    “If that is what is required to reign in the militants, then I am all for it,” Satie revealed.

    Genestra’s raised eyebrow would’ve made a Vulcan proud. “But Madame President…”

    “I know, I know, sentient rights and all that,” she waved away the man’s protest. “But the Cardassians are trying to rebuild from a near genocide. They need order, they need structure, and perhaps the Obsidian Order can provide that skeletal framework. I think the root of democracy planted by Natima Lang will not wither anytime soon.”

    “It will need constant watering though,” Genestra suggested, “and our continued involvement.”

    “There’s the rub,” Satie said, shaking her head wearily, “We’ve got our own problems to deal with and we can’t expend much more for the Cardassians or anyone else.”

    “I understand that,” Genestra said.

    “But, there’s a ‘but’ coming?” Satie smiled.

    “Not only do Federation member worlds need our assistance, a great deal of the rest of the quadrant does as well. This could be a great opportunity, unparalleled, to expand our influence,” Genestra replied.

    Satie snorted, “You sound like Santiago and his claque of interventionists.” The Betazoid’s smile receded to his regular dour mien.

    “I am loyal Madame President.”

    “Of that I have no doubt,” Satie said, “And I appreciate that you will keep any of your dissatisfactions between us?”

    “Of course,” Genestra quickly replied.

    “I enjoy honest debate, and we might disagree, but need I remind you that the polls support my position. Many across the Federation are tired of being the Atlas of the Alpha Quadrant. Their shoulders are tired, their backs are sore. And who is going to relieve them? If not us, who?”

    “I would rather it be us that maintain our dominance in this quadrant than ceding the responsibility to the Romulans or the Klingons,” Genestra shook his head in disapproval. “If not them, there’s the Tholians, Breen, even the Alshain.”

    “Ah, the Alshain,” Satie said, leaning forward in her chair, “What’s the latest from their civil war?”

    “It is quite messy,” the Betazoid replied, “I’m not sure it is exactly a civil war, it’s more a tripartite affair, with factions loyal to the deposed Exarch Jedalla fighting against those in league with Chair T’Riav. And you have both sides fighting against the Son’a.”

    “That reminds me, have we heard anything from Mr. Cherenkov lately?” Satie preferred keeping Starfleet out of the loop as much as possible, in order to avoid committing resources, blood and treasure that could be better used elsewhere. Quiet, efficient professionals like Ivan Cherenkov had been of great help to her, and to the Federation, since her inauguration. In fact, Ivan had gotten started early, saving her from an assassination plot.

    “Nellen last heard from him a week ago,” Genestra said. “He reported that the Son’a were desperately seeking an alliance to help them survive the Alshain onslaught. If the Alshain weren’t fighting each other, they would’ve slaughtered the Son’a by now.”

    Satie shook her head, “Well let’s hope that doesn’t happen anytime soon.” Over the last several months the Son’a situation had drastically deteriorated. Gone was their vaunted, vaingloriously misnamed Imperium. The ragtag survivors now banded together under a Son’a Solidarity. Norah agonized over whether she would commit troops to protecting the Son’a in the event that their extinction was imminent. The scouring exposes of the Santiago’s administration’s dithering over the humanitarian crisis sparked by the Alshains’ pogrom against the Son’a had helped get her elected. She wondered how apoplectic Jake Sisko would be if she did nothing in the face of their genocide.

    But she prayed it would not be a decision she would have to make. There were so many other big decisions she was literally drowning in as it were. It almost made her wish that she could attend Urlak’s inauguration. It might take her back to the exhilaration of her own, which was already fading into a distant memory.

    “So,” Satie said, with noticeably less enthusiasm as she thought about how the job would only get harder with each passing day, “What else have you got?”
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    Last edited: May 9, 2011
  3. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    Aridus III
    Cardassian Republic Border


    “Feel right at home I bet Petty Officer Triese?” Captain Elizabeth Shelby asked cheerily.

    “I do not,” Triese’s cold response was almost welcome in the blazing heat that permeated the environs of the crowded bazaar.

    “Captain Shelby didn’t mean that literally,” Lt. Sito Jaxa explained, “The captain only was making a reference to Vulcan being a desert world like Aridus III.” The only indication that the woman came from Vulcan was her gracefully tapered ears, which were attached to a dynamite green body.

    “Thank you Jaxa,” Shelby said, smothering a chuckle. The informal mentorship program she had set up to familiarize the new officers to life aboard Sutherland was at least paying off with these two; but not so much with Lavelle and Maldin.

    She thought it was cute that the Bajoran had taken the new security chief under her wing more than just to familiarize her with Sutherland’s security protocols, though Shelby hadn’t asked her to.

    Triese certainly hadn’t, and even now didn’t seem all that sanguine with the prospect of having a buddy aboard the ship. The captain, on the other hand thought it was a win-win, Sito needed all the friends she could get, and Triese needed someone to help show her the ropes.

    “My apologies Captain.” Triese replied quickly. The Vulcan-Orion hybrid turned a deeper shade of green.

    “I’ll let this one pass,” Shelby remarked, “Let’s chalk it up to nerves.”

    “But I am not nervous,” Triese answered soberly. Shelby rolled her eyes.

    “Yes, being nervous or anxious would be showing emotion,” the captain replied.

    “Correct,” Triese responded.

    “Fine, you don’t have to admit it,” Shelby teased. “I’ll be nervous enough for all of us.”

    “Captain, do you believe this is a trap?” Lt. Sito asked, her brow crinkling. The tactical officer had argued for the captain to remain aboard the Sutherland and Shelby had repeatedly assured the skeptical Bajoran tactical officer that the situation wasn’t as dangerous as it appeared. They were meeting an informant with information about the Crimson Shadow, a fractured but still lethal insurgent group making a blood soaked name for itself in the Allied occupation zones. The informant, a member of the Valerian cartel, had supplied information to Starfleet in the past. The Valerians had been one of the major weapons suppliers to Cardassian insurgents.

    The long running extremist group the True Way, and splinters from Legate Damar’s Cardassian Liberation Front had initially been the leaders of the violent opposition to the postwar Allied occupation. But the Shadows, spawned from a rightist veterans’ group called the Crimson Order, had forced themselves onto Starfleet’s radar. The Shadows seemed to have a different benefactor than the Valerians and had eschewed their business offers. For the right price, and the appropriate discretion, some cartel members weren’t opposed to selling the Shadows down the river.

    Starfleet Intelligence had learned that one of the Shadows, a Gul Gavran, was operating in the Aridus system, using it as a haven to strike at aid convoys heading to Cardassia Prime. According to SI, Gavran had a violent reputation stemming back decades to the Bajoran Occupation. Shelby was anxious to take him down, even if her stomach roiled a bit at the method to bring it about. Junior Lt. Rudd had the bars of latinum slung across his broad chest, bandolier style. Shelby didn’t know if the large man was breathing heavy because of the weight of the bars or from the heat.

    “Are you okay Mr. Rudd?” Shelby asked the young Australian.

    “Yes ma’am,” he replied, straightening. “Just a little hot under the collar as it were.”

    “I guess my physical conditioning programs haven’t been strenuous enough?” Lt. Sito asked. Shelby couldn’t tell if the Bajoran was joking or not, and from the stammering reply of the younger Rudd, she was definitely sure that he didn’t think she was.

    “You can discuss the revisions aboard the ship,” Shelby replied. She turned to Triese. “Detecting any Valerian life signs yet?”

    “No,” Triese said, the tricorder clipped to her belt, beneath her robes. Shelby knew the woman’s keen hearing could detect the beep on a low setting that wouldn’t alert the informant or anyone else. Shelby was certain all the eyes watching them weren’t benign. Though the Shadows or other potential adversaries had yet to make a move.

    They rounded a corner and ran into Lavelle’s party, consisting of her First Officer, her Chief Engineer, Lt. Maldin and Glinn Sial Keta. The young Cardassian woman had served as their liaison during their assignment in Cardassian space. Shelby was glad to have her on this mission, it had made working with the locals a lot easier. The captain could also tell that by the occasional ogling from Lt. Commander Tol that the engineer continued to appreciate Keta’s presence aboard the Suthy.

    Unlike them, Keta didn’t feel a need to disguise her identity, with the planet having a sizable Cardassian population. What she had done though was discard her Cardassian Security Forces uniform. She wore instead a form fitting, sleeveless cat suit, with strategically inserted cuts down the back and across the thighs.

    “Anything,” Shelby asked. Lavelle’s eyebrows beetled, giving the captain the answer she knew, but didn’t want to hear.

    “Back to square one?” Lavelle asked.

    “We’ve already searched every inch of this dump,” Chief Engineer Tol remarked. “There just aren’t any Valerians here.” The Trill didn’t seem too disappointed though, Shelby realized. In addition to Keta, Jadon had probably also encountered some of the native scarf dancers plying their wares throughout the bazaar.

    “So, this was a wild goose chase then?” Lavelle replied, clearly not pleased.

    “It appears so,” Shelby said, the heat suffusing her skin had nothing to do with the weather. “Someone has been jerking our chain.”

    “Not quite,” a voice said from the air, “Though there is something I would like to jerk on you captain.”

    Both away teams brandished weapons and looked around them wildly, trying to pinpoint the direction the voice had come from. “How about you show yourself, and maybe we can talk,” Shelby offered.

    “Such an assignation might be worth more than the latinum in your possession, if the rumors are true,” the air shimmered before Shelby. A smallish figure, decked in an orange blind suit appeared before them. The mystery person pulled off their helmet, revealing the leering bulbous face of a Ferengi. Rows of earrings dangled from both of his large tattooed ears. “DaiMon Drux at your service.”

    “Drux?” Shelby asked, surprised. She remembered the name from several years ago. He had been a big time pirate and smuggler until he had ran afoul of the Klingons and been sentenced to Rura Penthe. Somehow the Ferengi had survived the infamous prison planet and appeared to be trying to rebuild his fortunes.

    “So, you know of me? A fan no less?” The leer morphed into a grateful smile.

    “Not quite,” Shelby replied, regretting the dimming of the smile’s wattage. “Though I am familiar with some of your exploits.”

    “Well, that’s something I suppose.”

    “How did you escape Rura Penthe?” The Ferengi perked back up.

    “That’s a long story, a thrilling tale than best be told in the private quarters aboard my vessel,” the leer had returned.

    “We didn’t detect any Ferengi vessels in orbit,” Lt. Maldin said. The poor Benzite looked like he was about to dry out from the relentless heat.

    “I’ve taken great lengths to not draw attention to myself,” Drux patted the bright orange suit. “Why would I park my own vessel in orbit around this dustbowl?”

    “Good point,” Maldin replied. Shelby noticed Lavelle smiling at the man’s perturbed expression. The Benzite was book smart, but not too street smart. He had spent a good chunk of the war planetside, using his formidable intellect to help keep the Federation’s war machine from breaking down. The need for experienced officers had compelled him back into service aboard a Starfleet vessel and Shelby had thought he would be a good fit for Sutherland.

    Though she thought he was a bit uptight, his intellect and organization skills were top notch. She was sure that someone aboard the Suthy would loosen him up before long. She was pleased that the man had the hide of rhinoceros because Sam had been riding him hard ever since he came aboard.

    “Do you have the information we need?” Lavelle asked.

    “The latinum?” Drux asked, wiggling his fingers. Shelby gestured to Lt. Rudd. The big man slid the bandolier off his chest and placed it before the Ferengi’s feet. Glancing down at the row of bars the pirate almost danced a jig. He reached down to golden ingots.

    “Not so fast,” Shelby said, waving her phaser, “The information first.”

    “Oh, that,” Drux smiled. “Here you go,” he unzipped a pocket on the breast of the suit and threw a data rod at Shelby. She snatched it neatly out the air.

    She gave it a once over. “This rod is empty.”

    “Yeah, I know,” Drux said. The air shimmered all around them and the two away teams found themselves surrounded by armed Ferengi. “The cartel learned about my side business, and being the gracious gents that they are, they decided not to kill me. They used their information on me to secure deals with the Shadows. And the down payment on my life is securing you. The Shadows want you.”

    “No,” Lt. Sito shook her head. “I won’t be a prisoner again.”

    “Cool it Jax,” Lavelle muttered.

    “It’s okay Jaxa,” Shelby said. “I’m sure we can come to some type of arrangement, offer the good DaiMon a counter proposal.”

    “I wish that were true,” Drux said. “But I have no wish to cross the Valerians again, in addition to the Shadows. I just wish that you had accepted my original offer captain. At least your last few hours of freedom could’ve been more…pleasurable.”

    “And yours could’ve been less painful,” Shelby said. The Ferengi guffawed.

    “Perhaps I can make a side deal for you,” Drux said, “After they are finished interrogating you.”

    “Not gonna happen,” Lavelle replied, through gritted teeth.

    “You’re right about that,” Tol quipped.

    “We’re not going to go quietly,” Shelby said. “And you can’t subdue us all.”

    “We have the advantage. We have you surrounded. It would be nonsense to resist us.”

    “Oh yeah, like being prisoners to a bunch of anti-Federation terrorists sounds better than instant death,” Tol replied snappily.

    “All right,” Drux sighed. “Stun them.”

    “No,” Sito snarled. She threw her weapon at the Ferengi nearest her. The phaser cracked against the man’s nose. He stumbled back. By then the Bajoran had pulled a serrated knife from the folds of her robes. She sprang at the Ferengi, the blade slicing the man’s neck. A geyser of blood spurted from the wound.

    “Go,” Shelby commanded, jolting everyone out of the shock of Sito’s horrific attack. Lavelle and Tol charged their gunmen, the skittish Ferengi hesitating long enough to receive a tackle from Sam and a roundhouse kick from Jadon. Triese felled a Ferengi with a neck pinch, and Keta’s furious scowl made one Ferengi toss their weapon and run off towards the dunes. Rudd and Maldin weren’t having as much good luck. Rudd’s Ferengi had pulled an electric whip and had lashed it around the man. The smell of cooking flesh and the man’s screams were short lived. Sito took her knife and threw it into the attacking Ferengi’s skull.

    Maldin rolled on the ground with the Ferengi, the alien biting into the meat of the Benzite’s shoulder. The man screamed, and the Ferengi bit deeper, blood seeping onto the ground.

    “I got this,” Lavelle replied. The first officer moved quickly and low, hitting the Ferengi hunched over Maldin with full force. The Ferengi crashed into the ground. Sam pounded the man’s bulbous skull until he stopped moving.

    Shelby had watched it all, the emitter cone of her phaser pressed into the flesh of Drux’s neck. “You guys forgot the stun setting on your weapons,” she asked with a smile. The away team stood up, some shakily, with Rudd leaning on Lavelle. They gazed in amazement at the carnage they had wrought. The only one that didn’t seem to be fazed was Sito.

    The young woman had been through a lot, had suffered tortures and violations that Shelby couldn’t even fathom, and had endured them. But she had been changed, and the things they all had to do in the war hadn’t allowed her to properly heal. It had perhaps made her problems worse. In fact, the captain pondered if the wars against the Klingons and Dominion had made worsened them all. At least she could take some small joy from what came next, “DaiMon Drux, you’re arrest.”
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  4. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    USS Sutherland
    Captain’s Ready Room

    Captain Shelby looked up from the screen, with an arched eyebrow. “Sam, you didn’t have to bring these into me personally,” she remarked, glancing at the padds in her first officer’s hands. “There is such a thing as e-mail you know.”

    “I know,” he chuckled tiredly, rubbing the back of his neck. “But I’m not here to deliver the after action reports,” he said.

    “I figured,” Elizabeth replied, with a sign. She pushed back from her desk. “You want to talk about Jaxa? About what happened today?”

    Sam nodded uncomfortably. Shelby gestured toward a seat. He grabbed it and pulled it up her desk. He placed the padds on the desk before replying, “There’s also other things…”

    “Mr. Maldin I presume?”

    “Yes,” Lavelle replied.

    “Sam, I think he handled himself well enough today,” the captain remarked.

    “Seriously?” He asked, his tone just on the edge of insubordination.

    “He hasn’t been out in the field too much,” Shelby offered. “He was planetside during the war, and besides if it wasn’t this mission, it would be something else about Maldin’s performance you would be critiquing.”

    “What do you mean by that?”

    “This is about Maria and not Maldin,” the captain reasoned. “It’s about Lt. Django not being here and you riding her replacement.” Sam winced, but the captain continued. “Sure Maldin needs to toughen up a little, he needs a little grit, but need I remind you that I put him on the away team for that reason, among others, and it was over your objection.”

    Lavelle looked away for a moment. “It’s not about Maria,” he looked back at her, “Is it?”

    Elizabeth smiled sympathetically. “Sam love can be both a great and terrible thing. And we deal with it in a variety of ways; perhaps Maria taking the reassignment was just a way to get some space, some needed air.”

    “Our relationship wasn’t stultifying,” Sam said sharply.

    “I’m not saying it was,” Shelby shrugged. “It’s not like I was staying up on all the latest shipboard gossip. It is possible that Lt. Django took the assignment for the opportunity it was, and nothing more.”

    Sam mumbled, and Shelby added, “Which I don’t think you do.”

    “Yeah, well, maybe,” he admitted.

    “Remember it is a temporary reassignment,” the captain pointed out.

    “I know,” Lavelle said, a forlorn note in his voice. He shifted his jaw, “Have I really been that hard on Maldin?”

    “You’ve got the man running callisthenic programs with Jaxa right now, on his off time, and right after he had been cleared by Dr. Murakawa, what do you think?”

    “I see,” Sam said softly, a bit overcome by the evidence he had been oblivious to. “I guess I’ve got some amends to make.”

    “You can do that later, after we talk about Lt. Sito,” Shelby said, and Lavelle nodded.

    “I think she’s regressing,” he said, reluctance heavy on his face. “I hate to say that, but…”

    “I concur,” Shelby replied. “I was hoping there would be down time after the war, a chance to get back to exploring, but Sutherland, just like every other ship it seems, has been thrust into dangerous waters. I was concerned about how Sito’s been handling the strain, so that’s why I brought in Lt. Triese.”

    “I know,” Sam replied. “I agreed with the decision, however, I don’t think Sito’s taking it well.”

    “It seems like she’s getting along with Triese well,” Shelby replied, a bit too hopefully.

    “Above all, Jaxa’s a professional, but she’s also still a fragile soul,” Lavelle said. “She hasn’t been the same since we told the senior staff about the new assignments. She’s been more distant with me, even more than usual. I think she feels we’ve lost confidence in her.”

    “Absolutely not,” Shelby said strongly, “Jaxa has a force of will I could only imagine. I should call her in right now…” She reached for her compin.

    “I wouldn’t advise that captain,” Lavelle gingerly offered.

    “Why not?”

    “Because the more you deny it, it’s just going to convince her of how true it ultimately is,” Lavelle said.

    “Then how should we proceed?” Shelby asked. She knew that Sam and Sito went back a long time, to their early stint on the Enterprise-D, and shared a unique bond.

    “I think we shouldn’t do anything,” Sam finally advised. “I think we should just let her see through our actions how much we value her.”

    “I can accept that,” Shelby said, “but what troubles me is the ruthlessness of her response today. Sam, we can’t have that; I don’t want her to be a danger to the crew, or herself.”

    “I have to wonder then if her training sessions with Maldin might not be a bad thing for both of them,” the first officer said.

    “How so?”

    “It gives Maldin some much needed training and it allows Jaxa to let off more steam.”

    “I suppose,” Shelby said, not fully convinced. “I want you to keep an eye on her Sam.”

    “I will,” he promised.

    “Anything else?”

    “Nope,” Sam’s smile returned. “Got a poker appointment I don’t want to miss. I’m going to clean out some of these rookies.”

    Shelby chuckled. “Just be on guard. I heard Mr. Rudd is a bit of a card shark.”

    “Yeah, we’ll he hasn’t faced me yet,” Lavelle’s grin widened. “Have any plans?”

    “Actually I do,” the captain remarked. “I was invited to a game of Parrises
    Squares, by Mr. Grace.”

    “I don’t know if that’s the way I would score brownie points with my new captain,” Sam chortled, “but I guess to each his own.”

    “You know I haven’t played Squares in years, so I couldn’t resist the offer,” the captain remarked. “I just hope I don’t embarrass myself.”

    “That’s not even possible,” the first officer declared.

    “I see you’re still good at earning brownie points,” Shelby remarked.

    “Old habits die hard.”

    “Keep it up and you might get in a big chair sooner than you think,” Elizabeth replied.

    “I’m not in a rush to leave anytime soon,” Lavelle said. Shelby blew through her teeth and rolled her eyes.

    “You’re not going to Riker me are you? It took a while but even the Iceman melted and is doing a hell of a job on the Perseus.”

    “It’s not my time,” Sam declared.

    “There is a still a dearth of captains,” Shelby observed.

    The man leaned forward, “Have you heard something?”

    “No,” she answered, “It’s just something to think about.” He leaned back, relaxing.

    “As if I don’t have a lot to think about already,” he grumbled, with good nature. “Keep this madhouse in line is enough for me to handle right now.”

    “About that?” Shelby’s eyes lit with devilish merriment. “What are you and Jadon’s plans for breaking in the new crew, Sutherland-style?”

    “That’s a secret,” his grin was just as evil. “Which I can’t reveal on pain of death.”

    “It’s perhaps better I don’t know,” the captain relented. “I can at least claim plausible deniability if it gets back to Command.”

    “Don’t worry,” Sam waved away her concerns. “We’ll take extra care not harm one head on the head of Lt. Grace.”

    “Do that,” Shelby only half-joked. “With his father the Fleet Admiral now, you know the Suthy is going to get even more scrutiny.”

    “Which we can withstand any day,” Lavelle pumped his broad chest out.

    “Well, with Alvin’s dad the new C-in-C, and mine the new Defense Minister, I just feel that Sutherland’s going to wind up in the crosshairs of a lot of political malarkey.”

    “We’ll do you proud captain,” Lavelle declared, “while also keeping with tradition. Being Starfleet’s number one party ship is an honor I have no intention of losing.”

    Shelby shook her head sadly, “Is that true?”

    “Yeah, it was on a poll, Starfleet Times,” Lavelle remarked.

    “Well, I guess we do have a tradition to uphold,” Shelby declared. “Carry on Mr. Lavelle.”
    ********************************************************

    USS Sutherland
    Captain’s Personal Quarters

    Captain Elizabeth Shelby toweled off her face. Though the sonic shower had been refreshing and necessary, she still liked the feel of warm water on her skin. Even after the shower she still didn’t feel she had gotten all the sand off her skin or out of her hair. Being nearly covered from head to toe had provided little defense against the pernicious grains.

    She glanced at herself in the mirror above the sink and ran her hand threw her damp, hanging blonde strands. She knew she should celebrate tonight, even though they hadn’t gotten the information they came for, Drux was already proving to be fount of information about the criminal organizations preying on postwar misery in the former Cardassian Union.

    Now, whether the information could be believed, was another story. Though the Ferengi did have a bevy of holodeck programs that he offered free of charge after Sutherland had impounded his vehicle. She pursed her lips while gazing at her reflection. “Should I play the Vulcan love slave or her liberator tonight?” She pondered.

    The squawk from the intercom system embedded in an overhead bulkhead put her ruminations on hold. “What’s up?” She asked.

    “Captain Shelby, you have a priority message from Admiral Glover,” Lt. Maldin replied. Her heart skipped a beat at the mention of the familiar name.

    Could it really be him? She wanted to believe. “Pipe it down here,” she said quickly.

    “Acknowledged.”

    She didn’t reply, Shelby was gripped with too much false hope to speak. She had heard the reports, and then had seen the footage supplied by the Romulans, and she had even attended the memorial service, but deep in her heart, Elizabeth hadn’t wanted to believe any of it. If anyone could cheat fate, it would be Samson. And she could see the old codger making sure he was the first to tell her of his return.

    The captain rushed to take a seat at her desk. Her eyes moistened in anticipation. The blue screen on her desktop faded into the outline of a human male.

    Shelby blinked, her disappointment swapped by surprise. “Wow,” her lips worked into a smile, “When did this happen? Excuse me, I should say congratulations.”

    Terrence Glover, an admiral’s bars glinting on his turtleneck, had an uncharacteristically flat expression on his face. Gone was the knowing smirk, and Elizabeth assumed the flirty banter that they had been engaging in for years. But what could she expect, she chided herself. The man had been through hell over the last year.

    From being taken hostage by the True Way, to losing his ship, to his marriage’s dissolution, and perhaps the deepest blow had been the capture and purported execution of his father by the Romulans.

    His elevation to the admiralty seemed like cold comfort to Shelby, and she could tell that Terrence felt the same way. If things had been different, she could imagine the promotion would have him grinning ear to ear.

    “Captain Shelby,” he said coldly, as if he didn’t know her at all.

    “Rear Admiral,” she said, disappointed to take on a formal tone in her voice. She really wanted to reach out to him, to share more condolences about Samson’s loss. The elder Glover had always been in her corner and was nearly as instrumental in advancing her career as Admiral Hanson. “How can I be of assistance?”

    The admiral paused as a curious expression crossed his features. She saw a light slowly come on in his eyes and he nervously shuffled the papers on his desk. Through the scuttlebutt Elizabeth had heard that Terrence had also been a Romulan prisoner but had somehow escaped, though he had suffered some memory loss as a result. Perhaps his synapses were misfiring as they struggled to remember her.

    “Captain,” he stopped again, “Elizabeth,” he said, his voice and demeanor taking on an old, though not quite familiar, semblance.

    “Terrence,” Shelby said, her tightness loosening.

    “Good job on Aridus,” he remarked, with a ghost of a crooked smile. Her heart pinched at a trace of the man’s old confidence. “That helped make this decision easier.”

    “And what decision might that be?”

    “Sutherland has been selected for a very important mission,” he said.

    “Okay,” she said, wanting to prod him to elaborate, but remembering they were no longer peers, so she restrained herself, and waited.

    “You’ve been assigned to escort Fleet Admiral Grace to Cardassia Prime to attend the inauguration of Premier Urlak.”

    The tension eased slightly, though not Elizabeth’s displeasure. Though she was a skilled bureaucratic fighter she had wearied of it over the years and preferred long missions of exploration or even the occasional space fight as opposed to office gossip, maneuvering, and backstabbing. “Why was this a hard decision to grant Sutherland such a gift?”

    “I would think you would be a bit more thankful for this honor,” he said sharply. “Transporting the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet is the highest honor.”

    “Admiral, I think you’re being coy with me,” Shelby rejoined, not fearing a reprimand.

    “You know,” he said, rolling his broad shoulders, clearly not wishing to explain.

    “No,” she cocked her head. “No I don’t,” she said, even though Shelby had a damn good idea of why some of the higher-ups didn’t want Sutherland anywhere near the C-in-C or the inauguration. Over the years, her personal life had become fodder for some admirals and they had made it their mission to stymie her rise and to deny Sutherland choice assignments. It seemed so petty, some centuries-old that Shelby had stopped letting it bother her years ago.

    “Come on captain, it doesn’t hurt to have admiral’s son as a member of your crew,” Glover remarked. “Plus you were in the area. All I can say is well played,” his smirk suggested something cynical and untoward.

    Shelby frowned, “Sir…I don’t know what you’re getting at.”

    “I’m not judging you,” he said. “I think it was a nice move.”

    “Terrence, admiral, excuse me, but you know me better than that,” the captain remarked. Glover merely stared at her blankly. Elizabeth realized that maybe he didn’t know her as well as he once had. She sighed and just accepted fate, “I take it this decision didn’t sit well with some at Command or in the administration?” Glover scowled, confirming it. “I bet my father was among the opposition.” She had been estranged from her father for a long time. Philip’s joining Satie’s administration, hell his support for the former admiral, had been the latest bone of contention, between the two, though they hadn’t spoken in so long that Elizabeth had never made her distaste for his political choices even known.

    “I have other matters,” the admiral revealed.

    “Well, I guess the only way to burst the naysayers’ bubbles again is to do an admirable job,” she smiled.

    “From your record,” Glover said, glancing down as if he were looking for information, as if he were not as acquainted with her record as Shelby knew he was, or had been, she reminded herself of his memory loss. “I am certain that you are more than competent to complete the task.”

    “Thanks,” her sarcasm was tinted by sadness at her friend’s condition. “So, admiral, if I may be so bold, how are you doing?”

    “Fine,” he said, his voice revealing nothing of the turmoil she knew he had to be experiencing. “Why do you ask?”

    “Are you kidding me Terrence?”

    “No, why would I?”

    “This is me you’re talking to, Elizabeth, Liz, Lizzy.”

    “I am well aware of your identity Captain,” Glover’s scowl returned and irritation crept into his voice. Shelby sighed.

    “I’m sorry Admiral,” she said, straightening. “I didn’t mean to pry.”

    “You didn’t,” he said, “Anything else?”

    Shelby paused. She had wanted to discuss Jaxa with him. The woman’s display of savagery on Aridus had been unsettling, but she didn’t know if Terrence even remembered the young Bajoran, or if in his own state he could provide much assistance to her or Lt. Sito. “No sir,” she said, making up her mind. She, Counselor Freedman, and the rest of Suthy’s crew could take care of her. They were her family after all. “I have nothing to else to say.”

    Terrence nodded curtly. “Glover out.” Shelby touched the darkened screen, where the admiral’s face had just been.

    “In more ways than one,” she muttered.
    ***********************************************************
     
  5. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Deep Space Nine
    Promenade

    “Jake!” Lt. Ezri Dax screamed as she rushed him. She locked him in a bear hug, squeezing with enough force it cut off Jake’s oxygen. The young man reluctantly pulled himself out of the Trill’s death grip.

    “Ezri,” he grinned, “It’s good to see you again.”

    “Jake, it seems like you grow another foot each time I see you,” the petite brunette said, appraisingly. “The next time I see you I might need a step ladder.”

    “Well, hopefully it won’t be that long until we see Jake again.” Dr. Bashir had been standing beside the counselor when she made her dash for Jake. Now he was standing in front of the man. He stuck out his hand and Jake grabbed it firmly.

    “Dr. Bashir,” he said.

    “Julian, you know I’ve told you about that,” the medic chided gently.

    “I know, I know,” Jake said, shrugging sheepishly, “But old habits die hard.”

    “Don’t I know,” Bashir chuckled. “How are Kasidy and the baby?”

    “Oh, they are fine,” Jake said, pausing, “Please allow me to…” he turned around, but Ezri had already slid by him.

    “You must be Kall Yano,” the Trill remarked, embracing the other woman, and Jake was grateful that it looked less forceful. “We’ve heard a lot about you.”

    “All good I hope,” the Vulcan-Bajoran hybrid smiled nervously, her eyes alight with questions. Jake winced. He hadn’t told them, but he suspected that Nog did. The Ferengi was a good friend, but not one that could keep too many secrets it appeared.

    “I would think so,” Julian remarked, nudging Jake’s arm. “You two are quite the duo.”

    “I wouldn’t say it like that,” Jake began, trying not to stammer. He could feel Kall’s eyes on him.

    “Really?” Ezri asked. “Don’t be modest. You two have single handedly saved countless lives. If it wasn’t for your expose of Alshain war atrocities, the Federation wouldn’t have acted.”

    “Oh, that,” Jake said, relieved.

    “Yes that,” Julian replied. “Sometimes it pays to be modest. This is not one of those times,” he clapped Jake on the back. “Your father would be proud.”

    “I know,” Jake nodded solemnly.

    “So, you’re here for the inauguration?” Ezri asked, though Jake knew she was aware of that already. She must have sensed his awkwardness and wanted to segue to more comfortable ground.

    “Yes, can you believe it?” Kall was excited. “For FNS to entrust coverage of the inauguration of Premier-elect Urlak to us is a great honor.”

    “Well, we aren’t the sole reporters they are sending,” Jake corrected. “I mean, we’re just supposed to do the man on the street segments.”

    “Still, it’s an honor, and I’m looking forward to riding in style to Cardassia Prime on Bajora One.” The First Minister had insisted that Jake join him aboard his personal star cruiser once Shakaar had found out he would be going to Prime. How Shakaar found that out he didn’t have a clue, though he assumed that the Bajoran government was keeping tabs on the Emissary’s son. The thought creeped him out so he didn’t dwell on it.

    Instead he took a sweeping view of the station’s Promenade. It was bustling, as always it seemed. “Everything seems so different, yet similar,” he remarked, with a pang of homesickness.

    “Yes a lot has changed,” Ezri remarked, and Jake heard strains of disappointment in her voice.

    “Ezri’s right,” Bashir added, similarly saddened. “Us two, and Quark of course, are all that’s left.”

    “How is Kira by the way?” Jake asked, but feeling guilty for doing so. He had barely had found the time to fit in visiting his mother-in-law and baby sister, before transporting up to DS9. He had known that the Bajoran government had transferred Kira to a hospital on Bajor, over Bashir’s objections. They felt she could receive better long term care planetside, plus they wanted to free up bed space for the station’s residents.

    From what Jake had heard over the last several months, the Bajoran government had been asserting itself on the station like never before. The Starfleet presence had dwindled considerably in the wake of Lang’s assassination, which had strained relations between Starfleet and the Bajoran government.

    With DS9 being weaponized by sabotage, the Bajoran government had pushed for greater oversight, to prevent the station from ever being turned on them.

    “She’s still in a coma,” Bashir remarked, his sadness deepening, “but she is stable. Her vitals were strong. I checked on her this morning, matter-of-fact.” He brightened. “The colonel’s a fighter. She’ll pull through.”

    “I have no doubt of that,” Jake replied.

    “If will excuse us ladies, I need to talk to Jake about a personal matter,” the doctor said, and Jake did his best to appear nonchalant.

    “Of course,” Ezri was oblivious; Kall not so, much, but she allowed the Trill to hook arms with her and drag her to the bevy of proprietors spread along the thoroughfare. Kall looked back at him once, a silent question on her face. Jake nodded, but he knew he had no intentions of answering that question.

    The two men walked in the opposite direction, in silence for a moment. Julian finally spoke up, “Have you heard from our mutual friend lately?”

    Jake nodded. “He says he intends to expose Urlak for the quadrant to see and he wants me to be there to record it all, in living color.”

    “I don’t think you should go to Prime,” Bashir warned. Jake knew the man still regretted his involvement in this, but the medic had little control over Jake’s actions. He had confirmed his suspicions that Garak was still alive after he had followed the doctor to Rokat Colony.

    Instead of denying it, Bashir had reluctantly brought them into their circle. Garak had even fed him information about Urlak’s shady dealings, but no smoking gun tying the man to Lang’s assassination and absolving Garak of any hand in it.

    “I understand your concerns, but he needs me there,” Jake said. Bashir’s eyes narrowed.

    “What is he planning?”

    “I’m not sure,” Jake replied. “But he’s going to need someone impartial there, to report his side.”

    “I see,” Bashir remarked, “and there’s no way I can dissuade you?”

    “Doctor-I mean Julian, you know me better than that,” Jake smiled easily at him.

    “Yeah, well I suppose I do,” Julian rubbed his chin. “I guess there’s only one thing left to say?”

    “And that is?”

    “I prefer the window seat,” Bashir declared. “I’m going with you to Cardassia Prime.”
    *********************************************************

    Bajora One
    Private Quarters
    En Route to Cardassia Prime

    “I still can’t believe I’ve told you this,” Ghirta Dulcett’s scaly gray skin prevented her embarrassment from being evident on her face, but her voice was loaded with it. “But I needed to talk to someone. I-I don’t know what else to do.”

    “Don’t worry,” Lt. Ezri Dax said softly, giving the Cardassian woman’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “This is a strictly confidential conversation, okay?” The Trill put on her best reassuring smile.

    Dulcett looked at the woman, eventually matching her smile. “I trust you, I suppose. Things are just so different on Prime, even now. Knowledge such as this could always be used as a weapon.”

    “I don’t see how,” Dax replied, quizzically. Dulcett pursed her lips, sympathetic, and a bit envious of the woman’s naiveté.

    “You don’t see how my relationship with the new Bajoran Kai could create a political firestorm on both our worlds?”

    “No,” Dax shook her head, “I understand that. I just don’t comprehend how I, or the Federation could use this information as a weapon. New strains in relations between Bajor and the Cardassian Republic aren’t in anyone’s interests, except Cardassian insurgents.”

    “Or the reactionaries on Bajor,” Dulcett quickly added. The woman had noticed a deliberate chill, even more than usual, on the station and definitely on planetside whenever she visited Bajor over the last several months. The reverberations of Lang’s assassination and other galactic events, had helped to stir a deep unease among the Bajorans.

    And unfortunately, but not surprisingly, some Bajorans had struck out against offworlders, the vandalism even tainting the station. It had become prevalent enough that even Kai Sarkin recently spoke out against it, but Ghirta thought his words had done nothing to dispel the dark mood gripping his planet. It slightly reminded her of the dark, chaotic times after the fall of the Detepa Council, right before her people made their devil’s bargain with the Dominion. Of course the Bajorans had not become that desperate…yet, but Dulcett knew social dissolution when she saw it, it had marred a good deal of her adulthood thus far.

    Once the news came out that Sarkin Noma was the father of her child, that the head of the Bajoran faith had sired a half-Cardassian child, Ghirta didn’t know what the reaction would be, but she was certain it would not be pleasant. She touched her stomach, already fearful for the child growing within.

    “Have you told the Kai?” Dax asked, bringing Dulcett out of her reverie. The Cardassian woman shook her head.

    “No, how could I?”

    “You can’t hold this off, he needs to know,” Ezri remarked.

    “And he will…but not now, he has so much work to do on Bajor, I don’t want to be a distraction.”

    “I doubt that is how he sees you, and really shouldn’t that be his decision to make?” The Trill asked, and Dulcett couldn’t deny her wisdom, but fear clutched onto her.

    “I’m not ready,” she shook her head. “I-I’m just not sure…”

    “There are…other options,” Ezri proposed, with a pinched, distasteful expression on her face.

    It took Dulcett only a second to catch on. “Never,” she said vehemently. “Family is the cornerstone of Cardassian society. I could never terminate a pregnancy.”

    “Okay,” the counselor was more than willing to back away from the suggestion. “But I had to put other options out there. There’s also adoption.”

    “And what would I do in the gestation period until I have birth? Leave my post as the relief coordinator for Cardassia?”

    “It is an option, if you want to keep the pregnancy hidden,” Dax said, obviously not liking that choice either.

    “Yes,” Ghirta conceded, “but I love my job, I love building bridges between the Bajorans and my people. And I…I love Noma,” she admitted, her voice cracking.

    Dax gave her a moment. “Perhaps your child could also be part of building bridges, of realizing common ground,” she offered.

    “I-I guess,” Dulcett said, never considering the possibility before.

    “If a Bajoran and Cardassian can find love, the very head of the Bajoran church in fact, that’s a powerful symbol that both species can overcome their blood soaked pasts,” the counselor declared.

    “You speak with a wisdom beyond your years,” Dulcett remarked. Something flashed in the other woman’s brown eyes, but she merely smirked.

    “Yeah, I get that a lot sometimes,” her face took on a more serious mien. “After spending time on DS9, I’ve come to believe that rarely do things happen without cause, that at times there are greater hands at work.”

    “Yes,” Dulcett nodded. “Noma often expresses similar observations. I have never been a religious person, but my time with him has kindled an interest in the Oralian Way, the old Hebitian faith. I have a better appreciation for the concept of fate now, of the impersonal forces behind our actions, guiding our hands. I’m not saying I believe any of it, though I understand Noma better.”

    “He has also taken to studying the Way and will be conducting tours of Hebitian ruins after the inauguration, he has asked me to accompany him, but I don’t know if I should go. There are already rumors about his frequent visits to the station, and once I begin to show….”

    “So,” Dax said, with a shrug. “You are two consenting adults. Love is a rare, blessed gift in this universe, and don’t let anyone take it from you,” she said, and Ghirta felt a deep sadness pour from her gaze. “Because when it’s gone, it’s gone…”

    “You lost someone…special,” Dulcett understood.

    “Several someones,” she muttered, “But most recently, he…uh…lost me….”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “It’s complicated,” the Trill patted her hand. “I take it you don’t much about Trill physiology?”

    “No,” Ghirta shook her head in confusion. “I do not.”

    “I’ll have to send you some data on it, it should provide some illumination,” Ezri said, “Even though I’m still grappling with the unique genetic heritage of my people still.”

    “We all do,” Dulcett reached out, now comforting Ezri. “This talk has been most…refreshing. I feel…well, I’m not sure how, but at least it wasn’t as lost as before.”

    “That’s something at least,” Dax replied. “And I will always be here if you need to talk.”

    “Thank you so much Ezri,” Dulcett smiled. “I think you’re first in line to be godmother.” The Trill chuckled.

    “I would be honored,” she said. The woman’s combadge chirped and she tapped it. “Dax here.”

    “Ezri?” Dr. Bashir’s cultured voice issued through the tinny delta, “Where are you?”

    “Chatting with a friend,” she replied.

    “Once you’re finished, I was wondering if you come to our quarters for dinner, we’re dining with Jake and Yano.”

    “Sure,” Ezri said, pausing. The Trill glanced at Dulcett. “I would like to bring someone along.”

    “Certainly,” Julian remarked. “The more the merrier.”

    After the doctor had clicked off, Dulcett sat up in her chair, “Really you didn’t have to invite me, I don’t wish to impose.”

    “I can understand how tough it might be for you, to be onboard the same ship with the Kai but a galaxy apart from him,” Dax remarked, with amazing sagacity again. “It does nothing for your spirit to lock yourself away in a room until we reach Prime.”

    “I suppose you’re right,” Ghirta admitted.

    “Of course I am,” Dax tagged her temple, “I’ve got nine lifetimes stored in this noggin, got to know something right?”

    “I don’t follow,” Dulcett replied. Ezri waved away the woman’s confusion.

    “I’ve got to get you those Trill history data crystals,” Dax laughed, “If nothing else it should provide for some interesting reading on the way to Prime.”
    ************************************************************
     
  6. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Sutherland
    Private Quarters

    Lt. Peter Rudd grinned as he raked in another mountain of chips. “You guys are making it too easy.” He chuckled at the collective groaning around the table. “Especially you Commander Lavelle.”

    “Excuse me?” Commander Sam Lavelle asked, his mind elsewhere. He shook his head and pushed his chips forward, adding them to the pile. “Sorry.”

    “Everything all right Commander?” Glinn Sial Keta asked, as she picked back up the cards she had just tossed on the table. She shook her head again, as if in disbelief that the security guard had had the better hand.

    “Oh yeah, I’m fine,” Sam said, stretching. He stifled a yawn, “It’s getting late. I better go.”

    “Seriously sir?” Rudd asked, checking his chrono. “From the stories I’ve heard about the legendary poker games on the Sutherland, you would just be getting started. And you don’t want to attempt to win your money back? You sure you’re all right sir?”

    “I’m fine,” Lavelle said curtly before standing up. “Please carry on without me.”

    “Yes sir,” Rudd said a bit too jauntily. However, Lavelle seemed oblivious to the man’s tone.

    “Perhaps I should retire as well,” Keta said.

    “I’ll escort you out,” Sam said with a kind smile. They exited the room quickly.

    “What’s his deal?” Lt. Jamie Leighton asked. Rudd scowled at the attractive strawberry blonde. It had taken him a while to drag the woman away from her exobiology station and he didn’t want the mood spoiled by even the hint of insubordination.

    “The commander was tired, long and short of it,” Rudd said.

    “Well, from the stories I heard about Sutherland, both the senior officers went harder than the junior officers or civilians. I mean, Suthy isn’t called the party ship for no reason.”

    “This ship’s reputation, deserved or not, didn’t seem to be the reason you wanted to serve aboard it,” Rudd said, decided to turn the tables on his potential paramour. “I nearly had to pull rank to get you to attend our card game.”

    “I outrank you, remember?” Leighton remarked, undercutting her comments with a smile. Rudd’s cheeks reddened. “Besides, I’ve been trying to learn the lay of the land since arriving aboard. I didn’t have time to muck around as it were.”

    “Don’t you think it’s a bit fishy,” Rupiah asked, flashing a toothy, leering grin. The Ferengi waiter said, “I think it’s a bit telling that Glinn Keta also felt a need to leave the card game at the same time as the commander.”

    Rudd rolled his eyes, “That’s crossing the line Rupiah,” he warned the woman. The Ferengi merely sniffed.

    “Besides I’ve heard that the commander is totally involved with Lt. Django,” Leighton countered.

    “Lt. Django who isn’t here, Lt. Django that just took an extended leave…for unknown reasons,” Rupiah said conspiratorially.

    “Get off it Rupi,” Rudd groused. “How about we get back to the game?”

    “That’s fine,” the waiter said. “I have to reclaim the earnings you stole from me.”

    “I don’t steal,” the security guard laughed. “It’s all skill.”

    “We’ll see about that hew-mon,” Rupiah flashed a feral smile.

    “Game on,” Rudd matched her smile with a challenging grin of his own.
    ******************************************************************

    USS Sutherland
    Deck Five

    Commander Sam Lavelle heard the soft footfalls behind him. He turned slowly, “Don’t tell me you’re lost Glinn Keta?”

    “Sial, please,” she said, rushing up to him, “And now, I’m not lost,” she smiled. Sam couldn’t help but notice how even more attractive the woman was when she smiled. Her skin was gray, but not pallid, nor as pebbled as some Cardassians. Her broad nostrils and full lips made her look less reptilian, as did her large, round dark eyes.

    Lavelle grinned in spite of himself. “I would hope not. You’ve been a member of our crew for a good month now.”

    “Yeah,” she said, frowning slightly, “And my tour of duty is coming to an end. I’ll be reassigned after the inauguration.”

    “Sad to hear that,” Sam said, and he meant it. He was a bit surprised by his feeling of disappointment. His opinions of the Cardassians had hardened over the years, over what they had done to Jaxa and then the war with the Dominion. However, it went against his core to blame all for the actions of some, and even if he had been so biased, the horror visited upon the Cardassian people at the close of the war, would’ve melted away that prejudice.

    “Really?” Sial brightened. “Well, I was thinking of actually leaving the Security Forces. I think Cardassia is getting back to firm footing, with a free, and stable election. I don’t agree with a lot of Premier-elect Urlak’s stances, but the people chose him.”

    Sam merely nodded. Truth be told, he hadn’t kept up with the minutiae of Cardassian politics, lately he had been far too busy keeping Sutherland on steady footing, along with missing Django…but he didn’t want to dwell on Maria.

    “I’ve missed the Federation,” Sial intimated, “I would like to return.” She looked down, as if embarrassed by the admission. Unbidden Sam touched her chin gently and lifted her head back up. “I feel so bad for admitting it, but I miss Vulcan. I hated the Federation at first, when my parents were forced from Cardassia, but over the years I grew fond of it. And now, it is Cardassia that I feel…dislocated from.”

    “I see,” Lavelle remarked. “I’ll talk to the captain about it.”

    “Thank you,” Keta remarked, hugging him. Her touch was electric. She held on to him a bit too long, and to his discredit he allowed her to. Coming to his senses, Lavelle pulled away from the woman.

    “I’ll do it as soon I get a chance,” he promised. “Now if you’ll excuse me.”

    “Actually Commander…Sam…I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind having a…nightcap?”

    Sam blanched. He held up both hands as he backed away from her. “I’m sorry Sial…but-but I can’t.”

    The woman was stricken. She backed away as well. “Did I say or do something to offend you?”

    “No, no, of course not,” he said, planting his feet. “It’s just…”

    “You’re involved?”

    “Yeah,” Lavelle said.

    “Yeah doesn’t sound so rock solid to me,” Keta remarked.

    “It’s complicated,” Sam admitted, “But it’s something I want to stick with.”

    “I can respect that,” Keta said, “I am certain your significant other is very lucky.”

    “I wish she thought that,” he muttered.

    “What was that?”

    “Oh nothing,” he said quickly.

    “Well I hope I haven’t made a complete idiot of myself tonight,” the Cardassian woman replied.

    “No,” Sam shook his head, “It just goes to show that you’ve got good taste is all.”

    “Ha,” Keta remarked. “Don’t get too full of yourself.”

    “Can’t help it,” Lavelle rolled his eyes, “It comes with the territory.”
    ************************************************************
     
  7. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Sutherland
    Holodeck

    “Maldin, duck!” Lt. Sito Jaxa barked. The startled Benzite tucked his head down, and Sito’s mace swung over it, slamming into the midsection of the creature that had just emerged from the jungle. The reptoid hissed as it fell back. Sito ripped the spiked weapon out of the downed monster with a wet smack.

    Jaxa clamped on Maldin’s shoulder and pulled him up roughly. “You need to pay better attention.”

    “I’m sorry,” Maldin said, attempting to wipe mud and grime off his knees.

    “This isn’t a game, the safeties are off,” she snapped. “You could get seriously injured in here or worse.”

    “I am aware of that,” Maldin replied, a bit miffed. “It was my request after all.”

    “You came to me because you wanted to be a more capable warrior,” Sito said. “This calisthenics program is a good first step, but it won’t do you any good if one of these holograms takes your head off.”

    “I get it,” he groused. “Can we continue?”

    “After you,” she gestured toward the thick foliage. “And keep your wits about you.” After admonishing the skittish Benzite, Jaxa had a hard time staying in the moment. Her thoughts drifted back to Aridus III. She heard the rough cut of her knife into the soft flesh of the hapless Ferengi, and the laughter of the Huntress. She recalled the hot splash of the alien’s blood across her skin, and the memory stoked deeper, despicable fires in her. His face morphed into the leering mug of Gul Rejak, the jailer and torturer who still haunted her dreams and fueled her rage.

    Rage that it became harder for her to control at times, forcing her to cloister herself away from her crewmates. The holodeck had become a welcome refuge for her to expend her wrath when it built up too much. She needed this session more than Maldin.

    The Benzite was a natural, though he didn’t realize it. Jaxa could tell Maldin was lithe and quick, but he didn’t have the confidence, or the killer instinct. Jax had too much of that instinct.

    The ever present ghosts of her past weren’t the only things unsettling her. Jaxa had been trying very hard to accept Captain Shelby’s decision to bring in Petty Officer Triese to head the security division. Before, Sito had been in charge of the security division while also serving as tactical officer on the bridge. Though Elizabeth said the move would be more efficient, allowing Jaxa to focus more on her bridge duties, Jaxa couldn’t help but feel it was a comment on her performance. Or either a subtle expression of Shelby’s feelings on Jaxa’s mental stability; maybe both.

    She had done her best to give Shelby the benefit of the doubt, and to bring Triese up to speed. Sito even found herself liking the Vulcan-Orion. Triese didn’t pry or constantly ask her how she was feeling. All she cared about was the job, and it made interacting with the woman crisp, professional, and within acceptable boundaries.

    The Bajoran barely heard the rustling of the leaves before the alien crashed through. He was a bruiser, large, muscled, with a skull face and a chipped ax. Sito moved forward, but then stopped.

    She looked into the hologram’s bottomless black eyes before saying, “Maldin, he’s all yours.”
    ****************************************************************

    USS Sutherland
    Detention Center

    “I thought I would find you in here.” Petty Officer Triese glanced up from the standing console facing the detention cells at the sound of the voice. She squelched a sigh at the smiling visage of Ensign Alvin Grace. At least he was persistent, she realized, as she stood at attention.

    “As you were,” the younger man said, a bit self-consciously. It was clear he was still not comfortable with the vagaries of rank. Though Triese was older than him and had several years more experience, Grace, being a commissioned officer, outranked her, even though he was barely out of the Academy. She resumed her duties.

    “What is the purpose of your visit Mr. Grace?” She asked, pausing before she tilted her head to the side. “And why are you dressed like that?” Her nostrils filled with the man’s scent, his human musk made more pungent by the sweat drying across his brow, and assuredly across his body.

    “Oh, this?” He tapped his chest. The brown skinned man was dressed in a skintight one piece sky blue outfit. His muscled physique, Triese had to admit to herself, was acceptable. “I just got through playing Parrises Squares with the captain and some others. She’s quite good at it.”

    “I see,” Triese said, returning to gazing at her screen.

    “You’ve never played Parrises Squares before?”

    “I never saw the need to,” the Vulcan-Orion said, not looking up. “Vulcan and Starfleet exercise regimens have been sufficient enough.”

    “Okay, but what about to have fun?”

    The woman stifled a sigh, but she couldn’t melt her frosty glare. “Vulcans do not have fun.”

    “Really?” The ensign said, disbelieving. “Because I’ve seen Vulcans engage in all types of games at the Academy, even baseball. Besides you’re half Orion too.”

    Triese’s stare grew arctic, and Grace tugged at his collar. “Sorry,” he offered. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

    “You did not,” Triese said, knowing it was a lie. A not very Vulcan thing to do, she chided herself.

    “Well, what about Vulcan games, like kal-toh?” Grace was indefatigable.

    “Kal-toh is a game of strategy, as is baseball,” Triese surmised. “Both are logical endeavors.”

    “So is Parrises Squares,” Dryer countered. “The next time we have a game I would like you to attend.”

    “Is that an order?”

    “No, no, of course not.”

    “Then I have no interest in attending…or participating.”

    “Not even to learn how the game tests logic and strategy?”

    “I said I have no interest.”

    “In the game…or in me?”

    “Both.”

    “I see,” Grace said, his tone now hot. “I won’t waste your time then.” Before Triese could reply, he pivoted quickly on his heel and left the room.

    “If I may offer some romantic advice,” DaiMon Drux said through his cage. Triese allowed just an ounce of perturbation in her voice in her reply.

    “You may not.”
    *************************************************************
     
  8. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Sutherland
    Sickbay

    Captain Shelby gingerly rolled her shoulder. “That better Captain?” The Kressari nurse asked. Shelby winced, but nodded anyway.

    “Yeah,” she chuckled, “I’m just not as durable as I used to be, I suppose.”

    “What possessed you to play a full Squares match so soon after getting in that scrape on Aridus III?” Dr. Denise Murakawa, dressed in powder blue scrubs, chided her. The slender woman was draped over an empty biobed, adjusting its sensor cluster.

    “The tussle on Aridus only left me sore,” Shelby said.

    “And now you’ve got some nice bruises to add to it,” the medic replied, still not letting her off the hook.

    “That’s why I’m so glad to have you aboard Denise,” Shelby smiled, “My own personal Dr. Feelgood to take the pain away.”

    “Ha,” Murakawa replied before she inspected the affected area on Shelby’s back. The captain tried to crane her head around but she could only see just the top of the purpled area. “You should be fine. The pain should go away completely in a few hours as should your skin discoloration. Of course if you wanted me to administer a stronger remedy?”

    “No, no,” Shelby said. “I’ll admit it was probably foolish for me to get a game in before we reached Starbase 375, but I just didn’t want to sit in my room or one the bridge. I’m a bit too keyed up for that. However, I definitely don’t want to greet the fleet admiral under the influence of any controlled substance, legal or not. Could you imagine the gossip hounds if that got out?”

    “Well, it is your discomfort,” the doctor replied, with mild disapproval.

    “Yes it is,” Shelby replied.

    “Captain Shelby,” a clipped, British voice came through the medical bay’s bulkhead intercom.

    “Yes,” the captain turned her attention away from Denise.

    “Fleet Admiral Grace has requested to be beamed aboard immediately,” replied Lt. Harrison, the beta shift watch officer.

    “Naomi, are we even within transporter range yet of the station?” Shelby was a little confused by this request, not to mention put upon. She had assumed she would have sufficient time to put the finishing touches on preparing the ship to receive the commander-in-chief appropriately, but now that hope seemed dashed.

    “Yes, we entered the perimeter of transporter range less than a minute ago,” the officer replied.

    “Is the admiral aware that we also have prisoners to transport?”

    “Umm…yes,” Naomi paused, “but he insisted that we transport them over after he is aboard.”

    “I see,” Shelby replied, glancing at the doctor who looked similarly perplexed. “Do as the man says.”

    “Aye sir,” Harrison briskly responded.

    “Shelby out,” the captain remarked. Turning her full attention back to Denise, she added, “I don’t think the pain in my shoulder is going to be the pain I have to worry about.”
    *****************************************************************

    Pentath III
    Cardassian Space


    Melken Urlak entered the cockpit. She placed a hand over the headrest of the pilot’s seat. “Why haven’t we docked yet?”

    The older, grayer woman craned her head around to glance up at her. “It appears that Orbital Control placed another vessel in our docking port,” she said, a pinched expression on her face.

    “Don’t they know who we are?” Melken asked, though she really meant “I”.

    “Of course they do,” the copilot said quickly, a bit too smoothly for Melken’s taste.

    “I want us to land immediately,” she demanded. “As soon as I can leave this plagued rock the better,” she snorted. Melken didn’t see the need to continue her grandfather’s goodwill, public relations tours now that he had won the election, but he insisted on it.

    Melken knew what it rightly was, her punishment for her latest wild soiree. Her grandfather had not been pleased when holos of her cavorting had leaked to the press.

    He wanted her far away from the capital while plans were made for his inauguration. For now she would relent to his wishes, but she would be damned if she missed the greatest party in Cardassia’s history, stuck out on the hinterlands, shaking hands and clutching dusty children, putting a face on her grandfather’s new government.

    “We are rerouting you to a new location,” tower control remarked, with a scraping, mechanical voice.

    “About time,” Melken said, folding her arms before she returned to her seat in a huff. Jevek, her retainer and bodyguard, an old gettle who had learned long ago not to tangle with her, barely looked up from his news slate. “Got something to say?” She challenged.

    Jevek merely shrugged and resumed perusing the news. Melken sat back down and glanced out the nearest port window. She felt the ship turning on its new course. They were being redirected to the other side of the planet, she realized.

    Why? She wondered, about to return to the cockpit and demanded why. Surely it couldn’t be that busy on Pentath. The world not only was recovering from being flattened by the Klingons but from specters of a virulent Rudellian fever outbreak years past.

    But she decided against it. So far her pilots seemed like they were competent and didn’t need her second guessing or questioning them. So she made due, marking time as the ship made its slow rotation.

    “Approaching new docking port, arrival time in two minutes,” the pilot said through the intercom, as if anticipating a question from Melken. She smiled, and the bodyguard shook his head. She threw back her head and laughed. People might not like her attitude, but it got results.

    Her laughter was cut short when the ship jerked violently, proximity alarms wailing a second too late. ‘What was that?” Melken asked, looking about wildly. Jevek remained damnably calm.

    “I’m sure it’s nothing,” he replied, shifting in his chair, but not subtly enough to hide the fact that he was making the disruptor strapped to his hip within easier reach.

    The ship rattled again. “Someone’s firing on us!” Melken shouted.

    “I am old, but my hearing’s not gone yet,” the bodyguard replied. “Secure yourself, strap in,” he advised. He pulled the seat’s restraining belt across his chest, clicking it in place.

    “Do something!” She demanded.

    “The pilots have it under control,” he assured her, “The pilot’s are some of the best trained in the Space Navy, and this ship is fully armed.”

    “Well, aren’t you curious who it is that might be attacking us?”

    “Yes,” he admitted, “though my major concern is you. Let the pilots’ do their job.”

    “Screw that!” She said, thundering toward the cockpit.

    “Milady,” he called out, slipping out of his restraints, and following after her. A large explosion on the ship’s portside tossed the ship in the opposite direction. After the intense flash faded, Melken barely made out the shape of a small, warship flying by the portside windows.

    “Hideki-class,” Jevek grumbled, as he struggled to sit upright. Melken saw a gash running across the top of the man’s forehead. She rushed to him, to help him get his bearings. “Hidekis don’t travel alone, they support Galor-class destroyers.”

    “You mean, there’s something bigger out there? That could do more damage?”

    “Yes,” he said, standing now on shaky legs. “We’ve got to call for help.”

    “They’ll destroy us before anyone arrives,” Melken shrieked, and jumped as the attacking vessel let loose another volley. This time the cabin lighting went out.

    “If they wanted to destroy us, they would’ve done so by now,” Jevek said, seizing the woman’s shoulders. “They’re after you.”

    “Me? I don’t understand.”

    “You don’t need to,” Jevek’s grip strengthened and he lifted her up and placed her behind him. He began pushing her away from the cockpit. “We’ve got to get you to an escape pod.”

    “But, but about the pilots?”

    “They’re as good as dead, once you the kidnappers have you.”

    “But they could fire on the pod!”

    “They won’t,” Jevek promised, “They want you.”

    “But wouldn’t it make it easier to catch me in a pod with even less defenses?”

    Jevek sighed loudly as he continued prodding her. “Not when I provide them with two targets, instead of one.”

    “You’re leaving me alone?”

    “It’s the only way,” he said, his reluctance obvious.

    “I-I don’t want to be alone,” Melken stated, hating how her voice cracked.

    “It’s not the optimal situation, but it is what must be done,” Jevek replied. “Come along Melky,” he muttered, causing the woman to melt at her nickname. Only a handful of people remembered her childhood nickname, and only her grandfather had spoken it since her father’s death. In a way Jevek had become a worthy substitute father for her over the years.

    “I don’t want to leave you,” she declared, her damnable emotions overwhelming her as the ship shrieked under the continued barrage.

    “It’s okay child,” Jevek said, “I want you to make planetfall, back at our original coordinates, and alert the authorities immediately, but after you’ve reached the port. I will began a distress call immediately upon ejection to draw them to me.”

    “This is a harebrained scheme,” Melken warned.

    The old man shrugged, “It’s the best I could muster on short notice, so sue me.”

    Melken chuckled, in spite of herself. “Take care will you, you old gettle.”

    “You do the same,” Jevek said. They had arrived at the escape pods. He rapidly tapped in the code on the panel and the hatch opened with a hiss. He nearly tossed her inside. He closed the door before Melken could properly say her goodbyes.

    She grabbed onto the seat as the pod erupted from the guts of the ship. She scrambled into the seat, strapping herself in as she scanned the rudimentary controls. Melken was far from an ace, but she felt comfortable enough to pilot the vehicle.

    She called up the coordinates for the spaceport and directed the ship toward it. “Now, let’s see what is happening outside,” she said. She commanded the ship to lessen the opacity of her ocular-shaped cockpit window. There was nothing but cold black and glittering stars in front of her. “Computer, aft view.” Cameras in the back of the pod superimposed the images they were recording over the starscape.

    Melken gasped. The Jevonite, her vessel, was listing badly, wisps of smoke trailing from its propulsion system. The small, manta-shaped Hideki was darting around it, slicing into the hull with surgical precision. She admired that the pilots were given it their best, but even with her untrained eye she could tell that its shielding was gone and the engines would soon follow.

    Her heart thumped painfully in her chest as she saw a small, oval zip past the Hideki, stitching its starboard nacelle. The blasts crashed harmlessly against the enemy ship’s shields. “Jevek,” she squealed, shaking her head in distress. He said he was going to distract them, lead them away, but Melken had no idea that he intended to do so in such a reckless manner. “Jevek no!” She pounded her console.

    One of the weapon’s ports along the Hideki’s far side fired. The escape pod was engulfed in the single blast. “Jevek!” She had never known how much she cared about him until she watched him die.

    The Hideki unloaded on the Jevonite next, dashing away as the ship became a ball of gas, fire, and metal. Unbidden, Melken altered course. She quickly demanded that the pod activate its weapons platform and switched the cameras back to normal view.

    Despite her paltry armaments, Melken was not going to let the murder of loyal Urlak servants go unanswered. Her father and most of her family had given their lives for Cardassia, and she would not dishonor their memory by not doing the same. She angled her ship toward the Hideki. As if reading her mind, the fiends piloting that vessel slowly turned to face her.

    “Magnify,” she whispered, her eyes widening as she took in the open gun ports lining the prow of the vessel like a gap-toothed grin. A rictus grin, a death smile.

    Melken steeled her fear and drove her ship onward, “Activate forward spiral cannon at my command,” she said, proud that her voice didn’t crack.

    Before she gave the order, her pod jerked violently, throwing her against her console with such force that it knocked the breath out of her. “What’s going on?” She wheezed, her sternum still smarting.

    A large shadow passed over the main viewport. Melken’s heart leapt into her throat at the familiar, deadly outline of Galor-class warship. It was so close that she could see it burnt orange underside clearly. She also figured out that it had her in a tractor beam.

    “Engines, reverse course,” she ordered. But the beam’s grip was too strong.

    “Melken Urlak,” a voice devoid of feeling invaded the pod’s speakers. “You are now the guest of Gul Gavran.”
    *************************************************************
     
  9. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Sutherland
    Transporter Room One

    Captain Elizabeth Shelby shifted the shoulders of her uniform. She smoothed the front of her black, long coat. Even though protocol didn’t demand that she and her senior officers be in dress uniform to greet the Fleet’s Commander-in-Chief, on such short notice, she wanted to send a message that the Sutherland was always prepared.

    Sam had suggested they throw on the dress whites, but even Shelby wasn’t going that far. She glanced down the line to check out her senior staff one more time. Elizabeth couldn’t help but smile as she saw Ensign Grace fidgeting. There was a time when seeing her father again made her nervous too. She regretted the absence of those butterflies now.

    Her smile faded as she thought about Philip Shelby and all the built up crap that stood between them, and now with less pep she ordered, “Transport the prisoners Chief.” The Ferengi brigands were being taken directly from the brig and dropped into one of the starbase’s cells. From there, Shelby didn’t know what their fate would portend, though something told her that the galaxy hadn’t heard the last of DaiMon Drux.

    The Transporter Chief tapped a button, looked up and nodded tersely, “Done sir.”

    “Thanks Pam,” she said, “Now bring Admiral Grace and his staff aboard.”

    “Aye,” the woman said. The room filled with the soft whine of the transporter effect. Three beams of light emerged, forming into solid, humanoid shapes. Within seconds, Fleet Admiral Grace gazed down at her. He was shorter than she imagined, a stocky, powerfully built black man, with low cut white hair.

    Behind him stood an innocuous Bolian, in Marine dress blues, and a personage that raised Shelby’s red flag. The blond woman noticed Shelby’s gaze, broke eye contact, but then returned it with a challenging look of her own. Oblivious to the silent staring contest, Grace bounded down from the transporter pad. He reached for Shelby’s hand. His touch was cool, his handshake firm and brief, “Captain Shelby, my apologies for the change in plans. I just wanted to get going to Cardassia Prime as quickly as possible.”

    “No need to apologize sir,” Shelby said. “We’re here to accommodate you as best we can.”

    “Thank you Captain,” Grace responded with a slight smile, before half turning to gesture to the duo behind him. “As you can see I travel lightly,” he chuckled. “I’m not a fan of huge staffs, entourages, or any of that clutter. This is Major Laxx, my protection agent.” Laxx nodded tersely. Grace nodded to the blond, who stepped forward slightly. She was dressed in a Fleet standard black and gray duty uniform. Shelby noticed a softening in his voice as he said, “This is Commander Justine Haas, my chief aide.”

    “I’m familiar with Commander Haas,” Shelby didn’t catch herself. The other woman tensed, and Admiral Grace had a quizzical expression.

    “Justine, you never told me you were acquainted with Captain Shelby.”

    “Sir, I don’t know the commander personally, just from what I heard on the news,” Shelby replied, unable to stop herself, “about her role in Leyton’s coup.” The Sutherland had been intimately involved in the events that led to stopping one of Grace’s predecessors from engineering a Starfleet coup of the Federation. Captain Erika Benteen, a friend and former lover, had lost her career and her freedom as a result of the shameful act. There was a lot of Erika in Commander Haas, Elizabeth saw, and the woman’s presence, was ripping open scabs Shelby had thought long healed.

    “Captain Shelby,” Grace said, his tone reproachful. “I assume this is about the Leyton business. Justine paid her debt. And she’s proven her loyalty to the fleet, the Federation, and to me in incalculable ways.”

    “It’s okay Admiral, really,” Justine’s voice was quiet, penitent, “I get this a lot. A lot of innocent people died.”

    “Not by your hand,” Grace retorted.

    “But still,” Haas replied.

    “It’s the past,” Grace’s voice carried a finality to it that nearly made Shelby step backward. “Now, shall I meet the rest of your senior staff?”

    “Of course, of course,” Shelby said, relieved to move on from the touchy subject and the roiling emotions it was engendering. The captain quickly went down the list. Ensign Grace was last.

    “Ensign,” the admiral said dryly.

    “Dad, I mean, Fleet Admiral,” the man’s voice squeaked, and Shelby could sense his embarrassment. It was nearly as obvious as his awkwardness. The admiral frowned at the break in decorum.

    “Ensign Grace can show you to your quarters if you like,” Shelby smoothly interjected. “I’m sure you two have a lot to catch up on.”

    “We can do that later,” the admiral said, “I would rather you escort me captain. I have some matters I would like to discuss with you.”

    “Oh, okay,” Shelby replied. “Everyone else is dismissed, Ensign Grace, stick around.”

    “Just you Captain,” the admiral pressed.

    Shelby fought against the desire to gauge Alvin’s reaction. She could only imagine how crestfallen he looked at his father’s dismissal. But she swept her concern for Alvin and her displeasure at his father, under the proverbial rug. “Of course Admiral,” she said, emotionless. “We’re here to serve.”
    ****************************************************************
     
  10. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Urlak Residence
    Cardassia Prime

    The wail pierced the walls, but thankfully it was cut short. Mintof Urlak glowered at the door. “The doctor should’ve administered the sedative minutes ago.”

    “Premier,” Venak replied calmly, “Chatelaine Makanath was proving difficult to…accommodate after learning the news.”

    “News she never should’ve heard in the first place,” he turned his glare on the ripcord thin woman, his pick for the new Obsidian Order he intended to institute as soon as he was properly installed as Cardassia’s next leader.

    Venak nodded, her expression grim. “Everyone knows about Melken’s kidnapping.”

    “Yes,” Urlak snapped, his legendary control starting to slip. He glanced out of the reinforced window of his office to the skyscraper adorned with an ocular view screen. Many similar buildings dotted the capital and they were all used to display information from the news services and government. But someone had hacked into them and shown his granddaughter, bound and gagged, her soft brown eyes filled with fear. The known terrorist Gul Gavran had boldly taken credit for her abduction.

    He had demanded that Urlak relinquish the premiership in return for Melken’s life. Melken was his last living grandchild, she was all that was left of his legacy, but the premiership offered him the chance to expand that legacy in ways imaginable and to bring all of Cardassia under his control.

    Family meant everything to Cardassians, it meant everything to him, but so did power. He couldn’t more easily sacrifice one or the other, and he intended to do neither. “Where is Gul Dien?”

    “Vaidar is on his way,” Venak said.

    “He knows these people, he informed me that he had the Shadow in control, that only a few insignificant splinters remained. Not so insignificant eh?”

    “I…recommend that you give me emergency authority to take over the Internal Security Apparatus.”

    “You know I can’t do that Venak,” Urlak said. “As much as I want to. I can’t take the reins until after the inauguration.”

    “Don’t you think that Acting Premier Remec would allow me to do that? He did say he would do all that he could to find her?”

    “It’s too…public…an act,” Urlak said. “No, these are roaches, they live in the shadows and that is where we will find them and crush them. I’ll let Remec go through the motions of a public manhunt, but Gavran will be mine to capture and to kill.”

    “Understood sir,” Venak replied.

    “Now, stand outside my office and wait for Dien. As soon as he arrives, take him with you. Question him thoroughly.”

    “You don’t wish to interrogate him sir?”

    Urlak considered his next words carefully. “If I deigned to question the gul presently….he would not survive my first question.”
    ****************************************************************

    Crimson Shadow base
    Cardassian Space

    Gul Martell wasn’t surprised by the person that had just popped on his view screen. The man’s appearance however was noticeable, and a bit unsettling. Elim Garak stared at him, across subspace, his eyes bugged out, his hair wild about his head. Martell had never seen the man with so much as a hair out of place. Now the man was apoplectic.

    “What game are you playing at Martell?”

    “I assure you this is no game,” Martell maintained his calm. “I had nothing to do with this. You knew that Gavran was a loose cannon.”

    “Yes, an unpredictable element that has disrupted carefully laid plans.” Garak said, struggling to reassert self-control.

    “One that might still prove useful to our plans,” Martell said. “Granted there will be a new round of repression against us, but that could also prove to be a successful recruiting tool.”

    “I don’t care about a Crimson Shadow recruitment drive,” Garak snapped. “Urlak has to face justice for what he did to Natima Lang! His corruption must be exposed, the Cardassian people and the Federation must turn against him. But now Gavran has unwittingly turned him into a victim! All the work I’ve done to build the case against him, that I was going to expose on the eve of his inauguration, it would’ve vanquished him, without a drop of blood. That’s all but impossible now.”

    “So, what do you intend to do about it?”

    “We intend to find the girl and return her to the authorities,” Garak remarked. “It doesn’t benefit your organization to be considered kidnappers, especially of children. There is no way the public will consider this a legitimate action. They will rightly see it the act of desperate cowards, not a viable movement that has the protection of Cardassia at its heart.”

    Martell rubbed his chin. He couldn’t deny Garak’s logic, and he was impressed how the man had quickly gone from unhinged to a model of reason. It almost made him suspect that the Garak’s rage was all an act, to better gauge how deeply Martell was involved in Gavran’s shenanigans. One could never tell with the former Obsidian Order agent.

    “So, you think we should disavow Gavran?”

    “You should do more than that. You should be the one to bring him in.”

    “I should betray a fellow comrade-in-arms, a brother, for Federation support? I have no desire to become an Earther lapdog.”

    “Think of the big picture Martell,” Garak sat back in his seat and grasped the air with his hands. “If you can gain some Federation support it blunts the support Urlak has been amassing, and it makes the Shadow more acceptable to the mainstream. You can transition from your hideouts to the halls of power.”

    “Like the hollowed out True Way?” Martell scoffed.

    “Isn’t Tarkon scheduled to take over as head of the Security Forces?” Garak countered. “Less than two years ago, the True Way was in open warfare against the occupation forces and now their titular head will soon oversee the entire Cardassian military, with the support of his former occupiers. That’s real change, not fighting against your own kind, in skirmishes where no one wins. You have to work from within. The Federation won’t stay here forever, but they will stay longer or return if they perceive Cardassia has become a threat to their interests. A kind gesture now lessens some of those fears, hastens their departure from our space, and leaves the playing field just between you and a bunch of corrupt, weak men. Our people have always had an affinity for boldness, for strength. Do you not exemplify those traits Gul Martell?”

    Martell shifted his jaw. He couldn’t deny Garak’s logic. After a few minutes of carefully pondering the man’s words and searching for the hidden meaning underneath, he replied, “You speak with great insight. I will bring Gavran to heel and return Melken.”
    **************************************************************
     
  11. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Sutherland
    Main Bridge

    Captain Shelby reclined in her seat. Sutherland cruised along at maximum impulse. Admiral Grace had cut the tour short, and the captain hadn’t complained. In fact she had been more than a little peeved at how offhanded the man had treated his son, and she didn’t want her displeasure to slip out, like it was sometimes wont to do, especially if she felt her crew was being mistreated.

    She looked at the young man now. Ensign Grace was focused on his duties, piloting the ship to Cardassia Prime. There was no indication that his father’s words had stung, but Shelby had been there before with her father and she could see behind a stiff upper lip.

    She was trying to figure out the best way to broach the subject with the helmsman when the turbolift door opened. “Fleet Admiral on deck,” Lt. Sito said. Surprised, Shelby looked toward the lift as Commander Lavelle stood up. Admiral Grace strode down the ramp into the command well, ignoring as the crew hastily stood up.

    He waved them to sit down. “Captain Shelby, we need to talk.” Instead of heading toward the command chair, he walked toward the Ready Room. “In here.”

    Shelby tugged down her tunic, her stomach tightening. This couldn’t be good. She glanced at an expectant Lavelle. “Commander, you’ve got the conn.” Crestfallen, the first officer nodded.

    Grace waited by the door, his bottom lip twitching with impatience. Shelby noticed that he wasn’t even looking at the helm. His son was studiously avoiding looking at him too. Men, she shook her head.

    Grace was on Shelby’s heels as she entered her personal office. Before the captain could take her chair, the admiral blurted, “Captain, I’m relieving you of command.”
    *************************************************************
     
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Found some time today to catch up on this. I remember starting To read this back when you started over a few times. Looks like the work payed off. This is yet another intrigue filled political thriller you got on your hands here with a number of compelling players.

    I especially enjoy that you've thrown Shelby and Sutherland into the mix even if I'm also am tad disappointed that Glover had but a cameo appearance so far. I would love to see more DT characters show up here.

    I'm enjoying this in any case and what a bombshell Adm. Grace just dropped on Shelby. Surely this cannot stand ....
     
  13. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    CeJay,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I always enjoying reading your comments. I'm glad you are liking what I've written so far. Unfortunately I don't intend to bring in too many DT folks right now, but who knows if I change my mind.

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

    USS Sutherland
    Captain’s Ready Room


    Captain Shelby blinked several times, “Excuse me?” She coughed. Admiral Grace frowned, folding his arms impatiently across his broad chest.

    “I didn’t stutter,” he replied.

    “Sir, is this some type of joke?”

    “Does it look like I am amused?”

    “Absolutely not sir,” the captain sat straight up in her seat, “May I ask why?”

    “Yes,” he said, taking a seat in front of her. His countenance softened, as did his voice. “Listen, I know this is a shock, but I have just received terrible news.”

    “What happened sir?”

    “Melken Urlak, the granddaughter of the Premier-elect has been kidnapped. We are the closest starship to the incident site. I have already informed Command that Sutherland would help the Cardassians in this matter.”

    “Of course, but I don’t see why that would necessitate me being relieved of command.”

    “That’s not for you to ponder,” he said crisply. “Don’t fret, this will not reflect badly on your career. I want to personally oversee this mission. In fact, breathe a sigh of relief, if the mission fails…,” he paused, his gaze going glassy, and he ground his teeth before continuing, “the fault will rest with me, not you, and from what I know of your colorful career captain, the less controversy you engender the better.”

    “Just hold on sir,” Shelby said.

    Grace gave her a humorless smile. “Cool your thrusters,” he said. “Now that was a joke.”

    “Well, I don’t feel like laughing,” Shelby mumbled.

    “These are not laughing matters,” Grace replied, his voice now cold. “Cardassian authorities believe splinter elements of the Crimson Order were involved. You are familiar with Gul Gavran, are you not?”

    “Yes,” Shelby shook her head. “We were on his trail when we netted DaiMon Drux.”

    “Well the serpent has reared his head and struck in the Pentath System.”

    “That’s where we are going then?”

    “Yes, to rendezvous with a Gul Dien,” Grace said.

    “I’ll inform the crew,” Shelby remarked.

    “Don’t worry about that,” the admiral remarked. “Commander Haas is taking care of that as we speak.”

    Shelby’s lips drew into a tight line. “Sir, that should be my responsibility.”

    “For the duration of this mission captain, you’re responsibility will be as my first officer. Justine will serve as Strategic Ops officer. I’ll leave you to reconfigure the rest of your crew as you see fit, you are the expert in that regard.”

    “Good to know you see I have some value,” Shelby quipped.

    “Very cute Captain,” Grace said. “I don’t like cute on my ships.”
    ************************************************************

    Bajora One
    Private Quarters

    Dr. Julian Bashir’s forehead creased. He nervously glanced around the room again, even though he knew no one else was there and he had swept twice for bugs before he answered the old style, flip communicator.

    “Doctor,” Garak chided through the device’s small mesh screen. “Frowning like that will leave permanent marks on your face.”

    “How do you know I’m frowning?”

    “Do you really need to ask?”

    “No, I suppose not, besides it’s unimportant. The important thing is what are you going to do about Ms. Urlak, and can I help you.”

    “One, I don’t know,” Garak said with surprising frankness, “And two, no. It’s a risk me calling you, but I had to know, if your special friends have any information that might be of use.”

    “If they do, they haven’t informed me, and I’m not sure it’s best that I tell them we still communicate. The protection of the Federation is their number one goal, and right now, you are considered a destabilizing element to peace with the new Urlak administration.”

    “Urlak is the true threat to peace,” Garak replied, his voice devoid of its usual charm. “He has to be stopped.” Julian was getting a rare glimpse behind the veil Garak carefully put up for others, and he wasn’t liking what he was hearing. Garak seemed far too remote, far too on edge. He had been out in the cold too long.

    “Perhaps…” Bashir said slowly, “If you just come in and explain your case, bring your evidence, we could…”

    Garak’s laugh was bitter. “Still so naïve, my good doctor, it’s not a trait that I find quite as charming as I once did. I’m well aware that your friends know what type of monster they are dealing with and foolishly back him because they think they can control him, they’re wrong.”

    “Well, how do you intend to stop him?”

    “By saving Melken,” Garak sniffed. “The Cardassian people won’t be able to believe the lies Urlak has been spreading about me if I am the one that brings in his granddaughter.”

    “I see,” Bashir said, rubbing his chin. “That does make sense.”

    “Of course it does,” the former tailor replied, “And that’s why I need your help.”

    “I’ll assist you in any way I can.”

    “Keep your eyes and ears open and send me any pertinent information,” he said.

    “I will do that,” Bashir promised.

    “Good,” Garak said, “As always, it’s a pleasure chatting with you.”

    “Likewise,” Julian replied, reluctant to end the conversation. “Be careful, will you.”

    “If Urlak’s goons haven’t caught me yet, they won’t anytime soon,” Garak promised before he clicked off.

    Bashir sat back, pondering their talk, and trying to figure out the twisted vagaries of life that had led both men to their present course. He wasn’t too deep into his wool gathering when the door chime signaled.

    The doctor stretched as he stood up. The chime ringed several times before he made it to the door. “I’m coming,” he said, huffily. The door slid open. Jake Sisko was standing in the doorway.

    “So Doctor Bashir, have you heard from Garak lately?” He asked.
    *************************************************************
     
  14. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Wow, Grace is way out of line here but it's not like Shelby can do much about this, considering he's the CnC himself. And considering some other revelations about Grace, this may not go well for Sutherland at all.
     
  15. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Bajora One
    Private Quarters

    “Hey,” Jake yelped as Bashir pulled the younger man roughly into his cabin.

    “I’m sorry, sorry,” the doctor sheepishly shrugged. Sometimes he forgot his own genetically enhanced speed and strength. “I didn’t mean to startle or hurt you.”

    “I’m okay,” Jake said, rolling the shoulder of the arm that the doctor had latched on to.

    “It’s just…not wise to be so cavalier about Garak,” Bashir warned.

    “Why?” The younger Sisko challenged. “Afraid your friends are listening?”

    Julian blanched. “What, what do you know about that?”

    “Though it might’ve seemed like I was nonentity at times on the station, I always kept my eyes and ears open, like any good writer. You pick up a lot of stuff along the way, care to confirm my suspicions.”

    “Jake,” Bashir clamped down the man’s shoulder and squeezed on purpose. The reporter winced. “This is not a game. My ‘friends’ as you call them, are very dangerous.”

    “Listen Doctor Bashir, I’ve survived months in a war zone, I survived a full on onslaught from an Alshain death squad,” Jake pumped out his chest. “I’m more resilient and tougher than I look. I’m not the little kid you first met aboard DS9.”

    “I know,” Julian slightly reduced his pressure, “But you’re wading into some very deep, dark waters. I would never forgive myself, nor be able to look Ezri or Kasidy in the eye again, if I let something to happen to you.”

    “I’m an adult,” Jake said, pulling away from the doctor’s now slack grasp. “I make my own decisions.”

    “Of course, of course,” he replied, perhaps seeing Jake as a man for the first time. One more bit of gloss removed from his eyes, one less innocent in the galaxy. The doctor sighed. “How did you know I maintained contact with Garak?”

    “He sent me this,” Jake pulled a datapad out of his pocket. “I just skimmed it. The encryption code was surprisingly easy to break, I think he made it so as a favor to me.”

    “What’s on it?” Julian dreaded asking. Jake proffered it to him, but the medic didn’t want to touch it.

    “Everything,” Jake said, blowing through his teeth, “revealing how deep the cesspool of corruption Premier-elect Urlak is swimming in.”

    “I see.”

    “Unfortunately, there’s not enough corroborating evidence,” Jake said, a pinched expression on his face. “It makes me wonder why Garak would send this to me know, without having all of his duck’s in a row. Or why would he send to me anyway, I’m just a low man on the totem pool with FNS.”

    “He trusts you perhaps?”

    Jake laughed. “Come now doctor, you know that Garak trusts no one….well, with the possible exception of you. So that’s why I’ve come to you. I doubt that Garak would contact me without contacting you as well. What’s going on?”

    “It appears there’s been a wrinkle in Garak’s plans,” Julian revealed, somewhat relieved to be sharing his burden. “The news has broken yet, but Urlak’s granddaughter has been kidnapped by militants.”

    “Whoa,” Jake said, taking a step back. “I’ve got to inform my supervisor.”

    “Wait Jake,” Julian said, “That’s not all, Garak is going after her. He’s going to save her, to bolster the argument that he had nothing to do with Lang’s assassination.”

    “Well, what can we do to help him?”

    “I say we wait, and I’m asking you to hold back on releasing this information, it will get buried under the real humanoid drama of Urlak pining for his kidnapped granddaughter. Let Garak bring her back, and establish his innocence and then drop the information.”

    “Okay, okay,” Jake threw up his hands, “I’ll sit on it,” he replied, “but what are we going to do until then?”

    “Perhaps the hardest thing either of us can do,” Bashir inveighed. “We wait too.”
    *******************************************************************

    USS Sutherland
    Captain’s Ready Room

    Fleet Admiral Albert Grace leaned back in Shelby’s chair, his fingers digging into the soft leather. His impassive expression belied his thudding heart and his roiling stomach. He activated the captain’s desktop computer. Contacting Starfleet Command, he piggybacked an encoded message to Cardassia Prime, hiding it in the data stream.

    After getting an update on the kidnapping from Command, he switched to his intended destination. Mintof Urlak looked as pallid as he felt.

    “Melek,” Mintof’s voice was hollow.

    “Father,” he said, his throat dry, his words escaping him. Grief overtook him and he buried his face in his hands. Mintof said nothing as he wailed, doing his best to muffle the outpouring with cupped hands. “Wh-what have they done to Melken?”

    “What have I allowed to happen?” Urlak asked harshly.

    “No father,” Melek said, though there was a part of him that felt exactly that. Despite the decades of distance, his father still knew him so well. “What news do you have? Is she still…”

    “Yes, as far as I know she is still alive,” Urlak said. “Those voles wouldn’t go through all this trouble to simply kill her.”

    “What do they want?”

    “He wants us to release all of the Crimson Shadow prisoners,” the premier-elect said.

    “That’s all?”

    “Isn’t it enough? I can’t negotiate with terrorists. How would that look to the Federation or the quadrant powers if I conceded to force?”

    “Who cares how it looks, it’s your granddaughter, your last living grandchild.”

    “I know that,” Mintof said coldly. “But there are…other considerations.”

    “There are no other considerations,” Melek said. Rarely had he ever challenged his father. It had been Mintof’s decision that Melek leave his family and undertake this deep cover mission, assuming the life of captured Starfleet officer Albert Grace. It had proven to be another wise decision, as most of his father’s were. Now Melek stood at the pinnacle of Starfleet and the Cardassian people had a true patriot in control of the most powerful military in the Alpha Quadrant.

    But Melek could not accept that Melken’s life was another ball on the dom-jot table. She was all he had left. The wars with the Klingons and the allies had taken everything away from him, his wife and the rest of his children. Only Melken remained, and he was prepared to give all to save her.

    “I have taken command of Sutherland,” he said, as if confessing a crime.

    “You’ve done what?” His father was beside himself.

    “I can’t stand idly by while those monsters have my daughter.”

    “Now is not the time to be a slave to your emotion,” Mintof chided him. “You must relinquish command and resume course to Cardassia Prime. For the sake of our entire enterprise you must disconnect yourself from this. You are too close Melek.” He had never heard his father plead before.

    “And how suspicious and weak would that be, to reverse course now?” Grace asked. “As it stands, I am prepared to defend my actions to the human Satie based on humanitarian grounds. I am sure she would understand my desire to show the Federation’s willingness to support an ally, but to go back on that, to vacillate would be disastrous for my long-term career. Even Terrans, especially those of Satie’s ilk, do not abide indecision.”

    “I see,” Mintof said after a moment of contemplation.

    “I have already arranged a rendezvous with Gul Dien.”

    Mintof’s eyebrows raised in surprise, “How did you?” Melek was pleased to see that he could still put one over on his father.

    “I have my sources,” was all he could say.

    “I see,” his father said more coldly. Melek forced back the shudder as he imagined the political purging that Mintof would commence as soon as the finished talking. “I can’t dissuade you from this. All I can say then is bring her back to us.”

    “I promise I will father,” Melek declared. “No matter whom I have to eliminate or sacrifice to do so.”
    *****************************************************************

    Thanks for reading and commenting CeJay. It keeps me going on this story that's taking a long time to write. I'm not feeling as much motivation lately so I always enjoy your comments. Hopefully I have been able to convey the reasons why Grace took such drastic actions in the above passage. He's distraught over his daughter's situation.

    It's true that this probably won't go well for Sutherland. You know how I roll. But since DF hasn't given me permission to blow up the Sutherland and kill everyone, it's a safe bet that they will survive the ordeal I'm about to put them on. Now the auxiliary characters I've created: Keta, Alvin Grace, Triese, Peter Rudd, Maldin, Jamie Leighton, Rupiah, Justine Haas, etc, they are fair game.
     
  16. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    USS Sutherland
    Conference Lounge

    The senior staff filed out of the room like they had just attended a funeral. Captain Shelby was nearly as shell shocked as they were. She was having a hard time processing the reality that her starship had just been hijacked, and by no less a personage than the C-n-C of Starfleet. She didn’t know if there was any recourse, short of going to the President directly. She knew her father could help in that regard, but due to their history, he would probably applaud her being removed from the captain’s chair.

    She was just going to have to suck it up and accept it, and make sure this mission ended quickly and cleanly so she could drop Grace’s ass off on Cardassia and get this over with.

    “Captain Shelby, are you okay?” Shelby shook her head, shaking loose her cobwebs. She looked up. Commander Haas was standing in front of her, albeit at a respectful distance.

    “I’m fine,” Elizabeth said glumly, “couldn’t be better.”

    “Listen, I know this is an unfortunate turn of events, for everyone,” Haas said. “But the Fleet Admiral is very concerned about maintaining peace with the Cardassians and he wants to insure that the premier-elect understands that the Federation is a firm ally.”

    “I get that,” Shelby said charitably. But he didn’t have to make me look like an incompetent to do it, she thought but kept to herself. Haas didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of her anger. She was just as much at Grace’s whims as she was, then again, a successful mission would doubtless elevate her profile and get her one step closer to regaining a captain’s seat. What if Grace was intending for that seat to be Elizabeth’s?

    She closed her eyes and her mind to that dark thought. I’m getting too paranoid in my old age, Shelby chuckled.

    “What’s so funny?” Haas asked, “though I’m glad you’re able to laugh about this.”

    “Life is full of obstacles, you know that as well I as do,” Shelby said.

    “Better than most sir,” Haas crinkled her aquiline nose. “But this is only temporary. The Shadow doesn’t know that they’ve rattled the hornet’s nest.”

    “I bet,” Shelby said charitably.

    “If I may be blunt,” Haas ventured, and Elizabeth nodded. “I do look forward to working with you. I’ve heard a lot of stories about the Sutherland.”

    “Good ones?” Shelby asked. Now Haas laughed. The sound was musical.

    “Perhaps after this is over we could discuss that…over dinner?” Shelby was taken aback by the woman’s forwardness, but she had to admit that the tall, lithe blonde was attractive. And she knew Grace just about better than anyone. Perhaps she could tell Shelby something about what made the man tick, something that Elizabeth might be able to use to her advantage.

    “Well, we do need to coordinate our strategy, don’t see why we can’t do that while eating.”

    “Excellent,” Haas smiled. “How about my quarters, in an hour?”

    “Sounds good,” Elizabeth said. She watched the other woman bounce out of the lounge. “Curiouser and curiouser,” she muttered as she replayed the exchange in her mind. She knew there were going to be a lot more twists and turns before this mission was over.
    ************************************************************
     
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Grace's reason for taking over on the Suthy is completely understandable but it was an obvious overreaction on his part which brings his position as a spy into palpable danger. Good thing Shelby has already stumbled across a way in which to potentially reveal the imposter. I suppose it helps to be an attractive blonde with a certain reputation ...
     
  18. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Just remember that Shelby has no clue about Grace's true identity. She just wants to get a feel for him to make sure he doesn't put her crew or ship in unnecessary danger; not to mention her career. I suppose it does pay to have a certain reputation, or maybe not. Time will tell. Thanks for reading and commenting again.
     
  19. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Cardassian Central Command Vehicle Rlakar
    Stateroom

    Gul Gavran reluctantly ordered the computer to turn down the music. He glanced at the prim woman standing before him. Even the cuirass armor and military fatigues couldn’t disguise her shapely build. Despite being constantly on the run and under attack from Federation and Cardassian Security Forces, she even maintained her hair, keeping it stylish with blue streaks to match the blue blush dabbed in the center of her forehead ridge. “I take it this is about our guest?”

    Glinn Berced nodded soberly. “The prisoner is doing well sir.” Sometimes Gavran wished it could be about something more, but he and Mallun Berced had been friends far too long for him to allow amorousness to screw it up.

    “Has the sedative worn off?”

    “Not yet,” his second in command replied.

    “Well, at least we will have maybe an hour left of peace,” Gavran joked. Melken Urlak had proven a handful. Even after ordering his soldiers to cuff the woman several times, she hadn’t relented until his medical officer had administered a sedative. That had made it easier for them to transport her to the brig.

    Gavran made a mental note to just immediately beam the next hostage to detention. He had wanted to impress her, to intimidate her by teleporting her directly onto the bridge, right in front of him as he sat in his command chair like a throne. Gavran winced at the hint of the purple bruise on his cheek that hadn’t faded away. Melken had packed quite the punch.

    “Sir,” Berced said more slowly, “Gul Martell has contacted us again, as have several other brethren.”

    “Ignore them all,” Gavran said, punctuating it with a dismissive wave. “I took the only action the Federation and their Cardassian puppets afforded me,” he declared. He knew he was preaching to the choir, but continued nonetheless. “If Urlak concedes, it will replenish the ranks of the Shadow with true patriots, not the ones who turned their backs on the liberation of our people. And it will sour the Federation on Urlak for giving into our demands. If he holds his ground, if he sacrifices his grandchild it will make him look like a heartless monster to a great many of our people. Urlak loses either way.”

    “But sir,” Berced played her role as the devil’s advocate, “I can see Urlak easily placing the blame for Melken’s execution on us, after all we will be wielding the disruptor.”

    “It’s the average man and woman on Prime, who still hasn’t recovered from the losses of whole families, that won’t buy that. They’ll see Urlak as sacrificing his own granddaughter, his last grandchild to curry favor with the Federation. The Shadow isn’t as reviled among our people as the Federation media wishes their people to believe and this will prove it.”

    “Or it could provide Urlak the impetus and support to go after the Shadow full force,” Berced countered.

    Gavran smiled, “Which is what I want anyway. It will finally give me the excuse to remove all the parasites and traitors holding our people back.”

    “It is a war that I know must come, but I regret its inevitability.”

    “Take heart Mallun,” Gavran remarked. “I know that a lot more Cardassians will have to die until our people are free, but this is the way of the universe, it prunes the weak, cultivates the strong.”

    “I understand,” she said, still sad. “If Urlak hadn’t betrayed us, hadn’t been seduced by power, then none of this would’ve happened.”

    “He was never truly on our side to begin with. He was Obsidian Order; we are of the Guard, the true protectors of Cardassia,” Gavran declared. He paused, to catch his breath. “Now, return to the bridge, keep me apprised of any changing developments.”

    “Of course,” she gave a curt nod before leaving his office. Gavran sighed, his confidence starting to wane. Though he believed everything he had just told Mallun, he wasn’t certain about how successful they would be, the real reaction of the Cardassian people, and if he or the crew would survive this gambit.

    There was one man though that he did feel could better answer those questions. He opened an encrypted channel to him. The small, gray face on the screen brightened instantly.

    “I take it everything continues to go well?” The man asked.

    “Garak,” Gavran grumbled, “This had better work.”
    ****************************************************************

    USS Sutherland
    Guest Quarters

    Captain Shelby felt awkward as she stepped into the cabin. “I didn’t know what to bring for a working dinner,” she admitted.

    “It’s okay,” Commander Haas smiled. “I’ve got things covered,” she gestured to the dining area. The smell of the food was already tickling the captain’s nose. “If you don’t mind, I prefer eating first before getting down to brass tacks sir.”

    “I don’t think the world will end if you call me Elizabeth,” Shelby remarked. “Justine?”

    “Yes,” her smiled widened. “Justine, Elizabeth. Please, follow me.” The commander led her into the dining room. A large bowl of spaghetti heaped with meatballs dominated the table. The heady aroma was accented by a plate of garlic bread. A bottle of sweating red wine was begging to be popped open.

    “I hope this isn’t too heavy a meal captain, I haven’t had a chance to eat, with the last minute beam out and so forth.”

    “No, no, it’s fine,” Shelby said. She stood by her chair until Haas gestured for her to sit. The commander sat down afterwards. “After you.” There were two sets of tongs sticking out of the bowl. Shelby used the one nearest her to plop some the pasta onto her plate.

    They munched quietly for a few moments. After washing the first bite down with some wine, Elizabeth decided to wade in, “So, how are your accommodations?”

    “They are fine,” Justine said. “It’s been a long while since I’ve been aboard a starship. I miss it,” she said, a forlorn expression on her face.

    “I’m sorry if I bought up bad memories,” Shelby winced slightly. She could only imagine how wretched she would feel if she had been stripped from command.

    “No, the stuff that happened on the Reprise, is long over,” Haas said, though her expression belied that sentiment. “I mean, the last ship I served on was Hakata, under Admiral Grace and then the captain that succeeded him.” She paused, her clear blue eyes darkening as she remembered something unpleasant. “Not everyone was as sanguine about me being back in the Fleet as Admiral Grace, so when he asked me to join his staff, I agreed.”

    “I can see that the Fleet Admiral has been a good friend to you,” Shelby replied. It made her think fondly of Admirals Hanson and Glover, and how both men had been great mentors and abettors of her career.

    “More than that,” Haas took a sip of wine, “He’s been a second father to me…I mean, after my dad…”

    “Hey, you don’t have to go there,” Shelby interjected, “I don’t want you dredging up painful memories.”

    “It’s okay, I mean, I get hit with this stuff all the time, people inquiring about my relationship with my father, about our roles in the coup, and how I feel about it now. It’s just become a part of me. More scar tissue,” Haas sat back and shook her head. “I mean, wow, I never could’ve imagined that my career, or my life would turn out this way. I thought by this time I would be closing in on an admiral’s bar. Before the coup, I couldn’t imagine anything worst on my record that losing the Rigel Cup to Nova Squadron.”

    “I remember that contest,” Shelby remarked, wistfully, “It was pretty good, right up until the end.”

    “I wish I could say the same,” Haas laughed. “I can only remember the name, and Nova Squad jubilantly celebrating.” She tossed back the remainder of her drink. “That reminds me, we share a mutual acquaintance, don’t we?”

    Shelby nodded, “Yes, Terrence Glover.”

    “Ah Terrence,” Justine shook her head. “I’ve never met a more insufferable man.”

    Elizabeth, her mind flashing back to hollowed shell of her friend, was seized by a need to defend him. “Terrence is one of the best captains, and now admirals in this Fleet.”

    “Oh, I know that,” Justine laughed, “Believe me. Terrence and I probably go back longer than you. Our rivalry was legendary at the Academy. And even after I had kidnapped him during the coup, he spoke up for me at my trial. Despite that I can call them like I see them because we are twins in many respects. A lot of untrammeled ambition…at least he made admiral.”

    “Yeah,” Shelby said sadly.

    “You’ve spoken to him, recently?”

    “Yes.”

    “How is he doing? I tried to contact him, after I heard about his father, but he didn’t return my calls.”

    Shelby said, feeling uncomfortable about giving her thoughts about the man’s tortured state. “I think the healing process is going to take a while.”

    “Yes,” Haas remarked. “It did for me.” The woman looked down at her plate and pushed it away. Shelby did likewise. “I’m not hungry anymore.”

    “Me either,” Shelby said. She had hoped to pump the commander’s brain for more information about Admiral Grace, but they had gotten sidetracked on a discussion about Terrence Glover. That man had a tendency to get people doing that, Shelby thought with a crooked smile.

    “What’s so funny?” Haas asked.

    “Oh nothing,” Shelby replied. This soft interrogation was going to have to go on longer than she anticipated. “I guess we should discuss the mission now.”

    “Yes,” Haas said, a little downcast. “I guess we should.”
    *************************************************************
     
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Oh Garak, you back stabbing, two faced son of a spy. No, I'm not condeming the man just yet, not until I figure out what his endgame is. In fact I shouldn't be surprised that he's playing an angle here. Or two.

    I'm eager to find out what's going to come out of Shelby's information gathering mission. So far things seem to remain rather civil ...