Welcome to the 16th installment of Star Trek: Independence. This will be a work-in-progress. For new readers, my stories typically run around 60-80 pages. Some stories I pop out in a month or two...others take two years. Even though my series is an ongoing story arch, I'm attempting to write this so new readers can get into it as well. I think even 'old' readers might like a few reminders too. Thank you for your interest! ***** Star Trek: Independence “Lucid Dawn” “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” -- Mohandas K. Gandhi PROLOUGE Stardate: 54316.5 (7 Sep 2377) SS Boundless, Civilian Transport Ship En Route to League of Sovereign Colonies Space The stars streaked by Captain Sintina Aurelia’s window. Captain…but she wasn’t captaining a damn thing. Her hiking boots rested on the window ceil. She was reclining back in a chair, just watching the stars go by. There was little else to do. The accommodations were nice enough. Privately run ships like this go out of their way to make their passengers comfortable. It wasn’t a top of the line luxury liner, to be sure, but it would get the job done. The Latin American woman had smooth cappuccino skin, jet black hair that went to her shoulder blades, and brown eyes. The thirty-seven year old was petite. She was out of uniform, of course, wearing: denim jeans, a simple white shirt, and a black leather jacket. Her face was joyless. Aurelia had been on this cruise for over a week. It would take three more weeks to get to her destination. For her, getting there was not half the fun. Sure, she had swum in the ship’s pool and taken in a few holoprograms, but mostly, she found herself in her quarters…glazing out the window and wondering how she got to this point. Last month, she was a starship captain. Granted, she had reputation for leaping before she looked. That trait had served her so well during the war. Sintina had prided herself as being a combat officer. Soldiers execute commands. She never questioned the integrity of the officers over her. As events spiraled beyond her control, she began to realize, being a Starfleet captain meant more than being just a soldier. It was not a roll she was comfortable with. She knew when her career started going wrong. It was when her late first officer, Karim bin Nadal, first made her aware of the Federation’s dark, little secret. At the time, she was ambivalent about this Section 31. She didn’t ask for this revelation. She didn’t want to know. He dragged her in, however - kicking and screaming - into some deranged cloak and dagger underworld. It took her some time, and the destruction of her pervious ship, to accept the truth. The truth was: she didn’t know who to trust anymore, or who the enemy was. Something happened to Sintina during the war. At the academy and beyond, she was outgoing…some even claimed promiscuous, but at some point, she withdrew. She used to claim it was because her command responsibilities required emotional distance. Now, she wasn’t so sure. Whatever the underlying cause, she only had three people in her life that she really trusted. Not just that she trusted them with her life, but they wouldn’t…hurt her. One of them was Karim. He had started out as her tactical officer on the Midas, during the war. He was fun, but the consummate professional. He never unduly judged anyone. Not to mention, he was brave, selfless, and the finest officer she had served with. Now, he was dead. The former ship’s counselor on the Independence, Kimula sh’Somachanar, was another person she could confide in. The Andorian was one of the most light-hearted women she had ever met. Somehow, Kimula was able to insulate herself from the horrors of the war. Sintina never figured out how she could balance joy with duty, and maintain her own happiness while helping others cope with their own demons. The captain envied those talents. Kimula had taken a position at Project Pathfinder. It wasn’t that Sintina begrudged that…it was just, bad timing. The final person was Ro Laren. They were academy roommates, class of ’62. The Bajorian and she bonded more than either had probably expected. They understood each other. Over the years, they sporadically communicated. Sintina remembered writing Ro while she was in the stockade. They lost track of each other after Laren defected to the Maquis seven years ago. God, Sintina was pissed at her for doing that, after she had finally gotten her career back on track. Then came the Dominion. Any animosity Aurelia had held faded when the Dominion decimated the Maquis. She expected never to see her friend again. Shortly after the war, Aurelia and the Interceptor class Independence, were sent to investigate a Cardassian prison camp on Lazon II. Low and behold, Ro was there. She had been through hell, but she was alive. It was as if, Sintina resurrected a part of herself when she saw Ro again. Things had changed, but their bond was less like friends and more like sisters. After a few months in a Federation penitentiary for her previous transgressions, Laren went right back to the Maquis. Sintina could have killed her. Ro had thrown away her life at least three times, now. It boggled her mind. Apparently, there were still some things about Ro that mystified her. Despite that, Ro Laren was all Sintina had left. At this point she wasn’t sure if Ro was a friend or an enemy, but she didn’t know that about anyone…not anymore. The fact of the matter was she simply had no where else to go.