Hello! Don't say I didn't warn you. More Bounty stories were indeed just around the corner. So far we've had rogue Jem'Hadar, vengeful Ferengi, honourless Klingons, hippie Vulcans, merciless Orions and gun-slinging Nimbosians, and this time we have a special guest role for a character from one of the least memorable episodes of the whole Star Trek franchise. So, there's that to look forward to. I'll link the previous stories in this post as ever for completeness, but I'm doing my best to try and offer any 'required' Bounty-based continuity in the story itself (there's nothing major in this one, I don't think). Because we're getting to the point where reading everything from start to finish is becoming a serious undertaking. If anything doesn't make sense (aside from just the plot of the story, which never makes sense), please let me know. I'm also trying to work on hosting the previous stories somewhere else as well to try and make them easier to read, though I don't know what the rules are on sharing other sites. Either way, once again, thanks in advance for reading. And I hope you (continue to) enjoy these tales. Star Trek: Bounty is a slightly off-kilter series set in the Trek universe that focuses on the adventures of the ragtag crew of a small civilian ship, who do what they can to get by in the Alpha Quadrant. They're not exactly Starfleet spec, but they try to keep on the right side of the moral line where they can. The story so far: Star Trek: Bounty - 1 - "Where Neither Moth nor Rust Destroys" Star Trek: Bounty - 2 - "Be All My Sins Forgiven" Star Trek: Bounty - 3 - "The Other Kind of Vulcan Hello" Star Trek: Bounty - 4 - "It’s Not Easy Being Green" Star Trek: Bounty - 5 - "Once Upon a Time in the Beta Quadrant" ============================================================= Star Trek: Bounty 1.06 "He Feedeth Among the Lilies" Prologue The rash on Sister Lyca’s arm was getting worse. She walked over to the gaggle of villagers gathered around the campfire, resisting the urge to frantically scratch at the ugly red welts that peppered her from elbow to wrist, knowing that would only bring temporary relief from the burning discomfort. As she approached the fire, she was sure that she could see the face of the Beast of the Great Hereafter dancing in the flames. That it was preparing to take her from this place for good. A steaming pot of takarti root soup gently bubbled away in a huge bronze pot over the fire, sending great billowing clouds of spicy, aromatic steam out across the wide open expanse of the village’s central square. The meal, fit for the entire village, was being tended to by three of her fellow Sisters, and the smell of the rich purple-tinged dish distracted her from the rash, and the tricks of the flames. It reminded her of simpler times, when she had watched her own mother preparing the same meal. The fire itself served as the heart of the community, with every Makalite that lived inside the village walls responsible for keeping it burning every day from first light until the small hours of the morning as soon as they were old enough to forage for wood. As such, it served not only as a place for cooking. It was also a place to meet others, to tell stories, and, inevitably, to gossip. Sister Lyca felt increasingly certain she had already been the subject of the latter this morning. As she approached, the trio of pale blue skinned figures gathered around the pot looked up from their work, and appeared somewhat wary to see her. Yes, she realised, they must have heard. Despite that setback, she fixed a friendly smile onto her face as she arrived at the fire. “Sister Lyca,” the eldest of the women, a village elder called Sister Hyla, nodded, “Good wishes to you this morning.” “And to you, Sisters. Good wishes to you all on this new day.” She stood tentatively in front of them, fighting the continual desire to itch her rash, and keeping that part of her arm covered with the sleeve of her dress for the time being. “You need not trouble yourself,” Sister Hyla continued, “We need no help preparing first meal.” Lyca glanced around the square nervously. This was the focal point of the whole settlement, like all of the villages in this province. All around the square, huts and other structures fanned out in roughly concentric rings. Most of them were built from simple wood and stone, but in the bright sunlight of the morning, Sister Lyca saw the reflection of the new additions. The shiny glint of the new metal supports and struts that had been used to help strengthen the huts against the elements. All courtesy of The Seer’s kindly benevolence. The glinting pieces of metal reminded her how much had changed in their small village recently, and made her more determined that she had to talk to her sisters at the campfire. “I come here to speak about--” “We know,” Sister Hyla responded quickly, her tone measured yet stern, “We hear that you caused quite a scene in Brother Anker’s hut while The Seer was there yesterday. And we are not interested in hearing more words that go against the prophecy.” “What you have been saying is blasphemous!” one of the younger women, Sister Ryna, added, her voice considerably less measured than Sister Hyla’s. Sister Hyla calmed her by gently gesturing with one arm, while the other arm reached for the wooden spoon to stir the pot of fragrant soup. As she reached, the sleeve of her own dress rode up, revealing a string of telltale red welts. “But you have it too!” Sister Lyca pressed, pointing to the uncovered rash and revealing her own pock-marked arm, “We are all sick now, the entire village! And we’re getting sicker!” She watched as Sister Hyla quickly pulled her sleeve back down to cover her sickness, and all three women looked down to the ground. Their faces seemed to betray clear uncertainty, and she decided to seize on it. “We are not getting better, nothing is helping,” she continued earnestly, “The Seer brought this disease to us. I am sure of it.” Sister Ryna’s head shot back up to stare at her, defiance clear in her young eyes. “We three all keep faith with The Seer. You would be minded to do the same, Sister.” “Look at her skin!” Sister Lyca persisted, gesturing intently to Sister Hyla’s arm, “And it gets worse with every new dawn, you can all see it! Brother Anker is now too sick to leave his hut, even after The Seer’s visit. Sister Prya’s youngest grows weaker by the hour. The Beast of the Great Hereafter calls out for us all! Why can you not admit what is clear to your own eyes--!” “Sister Lyca. You seem distressed?” The familiar voice silenced her on the spot. She turned around. The other three women retreated back over to the soup, which was now threatening to boil over directly onto the campfire. He stood across from them near the edge of the square, his arms open wide and his green robes gently billowing behind him in the morning breeze. It was a peaceable vision that was only slightly undermined by the two somewhat menacing Brothers that flanked him on either side. Unlike the rest of the villagers, he wasn’t blue-skinned. He was considerably paler and more lightly hued. His forehead was also missing the ridge of raised bone which all the Makalites that Sister Lyca had ever met before had. The Seer had explained to the villagers that he had travelled here from a distant land. And that he was here to listen. Slowly but surely, any fears or mistrust that the villagers might have had gave way to acceptance. And then, as disease had come to the village, to something stronger. Blind faith in what The Seer was promising them in his prophecy. “Good wishes to you, Seer,” Sister Hyla called out as she tended to the soup. She and the other two women at the fire bowed in deference. The Seer offered them a nod, but his focus remained fixed on Sister Lyca. For her part, she tried to ignore the fear that she felt inside, along with the itching sensation on her arm. She kept her back straight and unbowed and her expression defiant. “It really does pain me to see a member of my flock looking so troubled,” he continued, a gently lilting tone to his voice. “We should all be troubled,” she muttered back. The Seer’s benevolent expression barely changed, though she could see that his face had tightened slightly, as if he was irritated by her. “Well,” he continued after a moment, “I do hope you’ve all remembered to make your donations this morning at the temple?” He gestured to a large and entirely metal hut at the side of the square. It was the newest construction in the whole village, specifically requested by The Seer, and it had become the most revered place for all of the villagers. A place to pay respects to The Seer’s benevolence. “Yes, Seer,” Sister Hyla nodded deferentially, “We have all paid our respects.” “And what about you, Sister Lyca? After your unfortunate little outburst in Brother Anker’s hut yesterday, I do hope you’ve found it in yourself to pay special respects. To properly repent on this brand new day.” The Seer’s features were still calm, but there was an accusatory tone to his voice. She could tell that he was challenging her. She ignored the fear inside and took a step forward. “I repent nothing,” she said as strongly as she could manage. She heard gasps from the Sisters around the pot. But The Seer himself remained serene, with the look of a man who knew he was still in control. “Well,” he nodded, “That’s your decision, of course--” “I stand by it all! Everything I said! The prophecy is a lie!” She shouted loud enough for her voice to carry across the entire square, and out into nearby streets and huts. Several villagers emerged into the square to take in the spectacle, and the growing audience emboldened her further. “How long have we been paying respects, Brothers and Sisters? How long have we been listening to The Seer’s proclamations? And the sickness just gets worse.” The Seer shook his head and turned to the growing crowd, holding his arms out even wider and bringing his showmanship to bear on them. “Poor Sister Lyca, her words are so cruel,” he mourned for the crowd’s benefit, “But I ask you, has The Seer ever let you down before? When you needed your crops to flourish, or the rains to come, did I not forecast it? And I assure you, the prophecy is real, if you keep the faith, and pay your respects, then The Seer will always take care of his flock--” “We’re dying!” Sister Lyca spat out the words, and held up her arm for all around to see. This seemed to trigger a flicker of anger on The Seer’s face, just for a moment, before he regained his composure. “Please!” she called out around the square, “You must all see! The salvation that The Seer has promised is not coming for any of us!” “Alas,” The Seer bellowed even louder, whirling his cloak around with a flourish and gesturing to the two Brothers in his entourage, “Sister Lyca appears to have entirely lost her faith. Perhaps a few more days in the Bastille will help her to find some clarity of thought…” The Brothers moved over and grabbed her arms. She winced as one of them clasped her reddened forearm. She tried to writhe and squirm to break free, but it was useless. “If we keep hope in our hearts,” The Seer continued, “In time, your Sister may be ready to rejoin us.” “No!” she cried out in frantic desperation, even as the Brothers started to haul her away, “Don’t listen to him! Please!” She was interrupted by a sudden unearthly roar, enough to shake the very ground on which they all stood, and causing the vast cooking pot to topple clean over, ruining this morning’s helping of takarti root soup. The villagers in the square, Sister Lyca included, all began to panic. Other villagers came rushing out of their huts in confusion, with trusty stones and slingshots in their hands to fend off whatever was threatening the peace of the village. Then, above their heads, something flashed into view. Sister Hyla gasped out loud. It was a curiously large object, with two stocky and short wings. There was a faint wisp of smoke trailing from it as it jagged across the sky. Everyone watched on, pointing at the mysterious object above them. Some thought it might be a great angry bird, sent to punish them for their past misdeeds. Others feared it was a symbol from the dead souls of their ancestors. Sister Lyca heard one of the Brothers restraining her mutter a long-abandoned Makalite incantation in the direction of the object. Only The Seer remained calm. Because only The Seer knew what it really was. He threw his hands aloft dramatically, turning his theatrics all the way up to eleven for the benefit of his terrified audience. “My flock! Here it is! My prophecy is coming true, exactly as I foresaw!” He shot Sister Lyca a knowing look as he continued. She didn’t call out again, as stunned into silence as the rest of the villagers were. “Please, I beg you all, take this chance to double your donations in the temple! Whatever you can spare! Because now our salvation will come to pass!” He gestured to the object in the sky, as it descended further. “The spotted man with the skyship is here to take us from this place!” Hearing his words, the villagers erupted in cheers of adulation. Many of them raced back to their huts for further treasures to take to the temple. Sister Lyca stared up into the sky, dumbfounded by what she was seeing. As she looked back down, The Seer fixed her gaze with a cruel smile. High above their heads, the Bounty prepared to land.