Star Trek: Cayuga

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by admiralelm11, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

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    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
    CeJay, Gibraltar and Galen4 like this.
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

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    Feb 5, 2006
    Very nice, tightly written story with a number of intriguing characters. Wouldn't mind at all seeing more stories about this little ship and her captain with a seemingly dark past.

    Good stuff!
     
  3. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

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    I'm working on more stories about the Cayuga and her crew.
     
  4. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    A very enjoyable tale about a small ship and her hard-pressed crew under dire circumstances. It's never easy for a crew to lose their captain, but it's even worse in this situation. I enjoyed the interplay between your well defined characters. Nicely done!
     
  5. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

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  6. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

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  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

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    Feb 5, 2006
    Boy, you are really churning these things out now. Awesome. I've put them on my reading list. I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunity to read these stories in the coming days.
     
    admiralelm11 likes this.
  8. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

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    I seem to have nothing but time to fill and my hands have to keep busy. :)
     
  9. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Star Trek: Cayuga


    ‘00:00’


    By Jack Elmlinger



    An ancient collection of dusty walls, the doors shattered almost instantly after a kick. Starfleet officers clad in black, gray, and gold uniforms stormed inside. The lights attached to their rifles cut through the gloom. One team rushed towards the cluster of cargo containers at the far end of the room.


    The Lieutenant Commander in the lead motioned for the other teams to clear the rest of the rooms of the old book warehouse before she knelt down to examine the containers.


    “Pavlova to Atlantis.”


    A disembodied voice answered her. “Wintamba here. Go ahead.”


    “The area is secure, and we found the supply containers,” Lieutenant Commander T’Phera Pavlova said as she rubbed at the grime on the container’s surface, clearing the identification stencil. “From the Warrior.”


    The other security teams returned, shaking their heads in disappointment.


    “Sorry, Captain, but there’s nobody here. The black market closed up shop here well before we showed up here.”


    The line was silent for a few moments and the half-Vulcan woman thought she could feel her commanding officer’s irritation. “All right, Commander. Collect the containers and see if you can find any witnesses to how they got from the distribution center to here.”


    “Yes, ma’am,” Pavlova said to the air before tapping her combadge. It had been another useless search. “Well, you heard the woman,” she told her security teams. “I don’t want to have to do this again. So let’s get it right this time.” she ignored their grumbling as her team shouldered their weapons.


    The small gathering of Cardassians that had formed outside began to drift away as the Starfleet officer filed back outside. More than anyone, they hoped that the black marketeers would be caught that the food that they needed to live would be returned.


    In a fair world, that would have been the case.


    In the worlds of the former Cardassian Union, ‘fair’ was a forgotten concept.




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


    Without holodecks or any recreation facilities of any kind, the crew of the Cayuga was forced to create their own entertainment. One of those forms of entertainment that had become popular was the monthly play staged by the ship’s various departments. The Mess Hall’s tables had been pushed together into a makeshift stage and Sayvok and Aaron Connelly stood upon it.


    “Not long after First Contact between Vulcans and Humans did both races begin to explore the other’s culture,” Aaron began to say.


    Sayvok continued from his colleague’s cue. “This play is an example of such exploration. Written by T’Cam, it is based on late-twentieth-century ‘postmodern’ plays. It is titled,” And the Vulcan Walked in the Bar.”


    Behind them, the stars abruptly shifted from blurs to points. From overhead on the shipwide intercom, Lieutenant Kietsev said,” All hands, if you’d care to look out the forward or port windows, I think you’ll be very impressed.”


    Aaron and Sayvok lost their audience immediately. The room buzzed with anticipation as the first ship appeared, then the second, and then a hundred more ships.


    Over the intercom, Keitsev announced,” Ladies and gentlemen, the Thirteenth Fleet.”


    The viewports were clogged by crew members crowding around and straining to see Starfleet’s finest. As the crew pointed and shouted, the ships soared past them like great silver birds.


    “Is that… is that…!”


    “The Featherwind! My wife’s on that ship!”


    “Look at that, a Prometheus class starship! It’s magnificent…”


    The last of the ships finally flew past them, twisting into a graceful barrel-roll salute as it slipped by the viewport. A few officers waved back and then the crowd drifted back to their seats, chatting excitedly.


    “I’ve never been upstaged by an entire fleet before,” Aaron sighed grudgingly as he glanced at Sayvok,” but I have to say that it’s nice knowing that we’ve got them looking out for us.”



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



    “... and I hope that you are fulfilled by ferrying supplies to murderers and tyrants. We’ll try not to miss you while we defend the Federation Goodbye.” This random transmission from the Wildcat, the flagship of the Thirteenth Fleet, cut abruptly, leaving the Bridge in silence.


    “No need to be rude about it,” Keitsev said quietly. “I don’t like him at all.”


    There was a moment of quiet before Commander zh’Tali, enthroned on the command chair, intoned,” Indeed.”


    Keitsev checked his scanners. “The Thirteenth Fleet has gone to warp.”


    “Return us to our previous course and speed, Helm.”


    At the back of the Bridge, the turbolift door opened and Aimee Maguire walked out. She stormed over to the Captain’s Ready Room and let herself in, somehow making the automatic doors slam shut behind her.”


    “Somebody is upset,” Keitsev observed.


    “Lieutenant,” zh’Tali said, dryly,” your command over the obvious is captivating.”


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


    Jeanne Pozach had been raised to be a considerate person and to heed to the opinions of others. She had been told that these very attributes made her suited for command. However, as she sat in her Ready Room and listened to the tirade of her Chief Engineer, she wanted nothing more than to close her eyes and scream.


    “I don’t see how any decent person could keep that woman in her current position,” Maguire snarled at her. Both of her palms were pressed against Pozach’s desk and she leaned in, even closer as she raged on. A tangle of her hair fell out of place and Jeanne buried the compulsion to brush it behind her ear. “She killed a man! Her report said so!”


    From his seat opposite Captain Pozach, Lieutenant Brandon Hobbes said,” No one is denying that Commander zh’Tali killed that Cardassian, Lieutenant.” His hard face looked exhausted because he was just as tired of this argument as the captain war. “But can you deny that he was dangerous? A threat to others?”


    Maguire twisted to one side to glare at the science officer but he held her gaze. “Aimee,” he said as evenly as he could,” we’ve been other this matter, four times in the past week alone. Commander zh’Tali did not act inappropriately.``


    Maguire fumed a bit longer, trying to think of an untried approach to get her argument across. Finding none, she gave up, turned around, and stalked her way out of the ready room.


    Pozach let out a breath. “Thanks,” she told Hobbes.


    The science officer stood from his chair and he began to pace in front of her desk. “Maguire is acting… abrasively, but she does have a point.”


    “What is that exactly?,” Pozach asked him, mildly.


    Hobbes stopped pacing and looked at her. “zh’Tali is a frightening woman, Jeanne. She's entirely amoral. She was trained to kill, and she is very, very good at it.”


    Pozach shifted in her chair so that she could keep one eye on the stars streaking past her window. “Most people would say that it’s not a bad thing to be good at what you’re trained for.”


    “Yes,” he agreed with her,” but do we want a woman in command whose first trained instinct is to kill the problem? How the hell did she get into a position of command, anyways?”


    “I don’t like it either,” the captain said, slowly while she still gazed out the window. Focusing her eyes, she turned towards Hobbes. “But she is still the First Officer of this ship.”


    “There are better.”


    “There are worse.”


    Pozach’s combadge chirped and the voice of Ensign Polcheny announced over the intercom,” Captain, we’ve entered the Morock system. Sensors are showing the Starsong and Atlantis in-system in approximately twenty minutes.”


    “I’ll be right out,” Jeanne replied to the summons. To Hobbes, she simply said,” We’ll have to finish this conversation later.” He nodded but he didn’t seem to be any more pleased than she was.


    The doors to the Bridge opened as Polcheny was saying,” I really wouldn’t mind having Sean back.”


    There was a snort from Keitsev at the Ops station. “Why? It took him four months to be able to walk onto the Bridge without looking like he stepped into something unpleasant.”


    zh’Tali nodded to Pozach as she gave up the center seat. “You don’t like flying the ship, Ensign?,” the captain asked the young woman lightly as she sat down.


    Polcheny’s eyes went wide with fear. “Oh, no, sir!” Her hand flew to the single pip shining on her maroon collar and in a quieter voice, she said,” It would just be nice to have him and Doctor Moru back, is all.”


    Suppressing a smirk, Keitsev broke into the conversation. “Incoming message from the Starsong, sir. It’s Captain Weynik.”


    The main viewscreen switched from a starfield to the view of a Bridge much like the one that Pozach was sitting on. Albeit, the Starsong’s bridge was larger with rounder curves colored dark blue and gunmetal gray which was usually seen in Excelsior-class starships. From the center seat, the miniature Roylan said,” Captain Pozach, we’re hosting the meeting aboard the Starsong. Please make your way aboard in half an hour.”


    Pozach nodded at her fellow captain’s request. “Understood.” The viewscreen shifted back to the stars. This time with the silver hulls of the Starsong and the Atlantis in sight. “Commander, you have the Bridge. I’m going to prepare for the meeting.”


    The door closed behind her as she left the Bridge. This caused Keitsev to smile. “A discrete rendezvous … a secret meeting between Captains… how exciting. How romantic.” He shot a look over at Polcheny. “It’s too bad that Sean couldn’t be here.”


    She blushed and turned away.


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


    “Where was the Gorn Hegemony during the Dominion War?!,” demanded Councilor Addeh. Being seen on a monitor, Weynik reflected, did nothing to dampen his intensity. While good officers of our Starfleet fought for our lives and theirs, what was the Gorn doing? Attempting to make peace with the Dominion!” Addeh spread his arms before him, his face a mask of incredulity. “Could there be a greater crime than not standing to fight an evil as foul as the Dominion of the Founders?!”


    Weynik sat silently in the Starsong’s conference room, watching the debate coming from the floor of the Federation Council Chambers. The room felt cold and the Roylan decided that it had nothing to do with the temperature controls.


    “On this day, the first anniversary of the end of the Dominion War,” the Rigellian councilor said, continuing with his bitter speech. “I propose that sanctions be drafted against those races that didn’t see fit to join the Federation Alliance in defeating the Dominion. The Gorn, the Tzenkethi, the Talarians, and the Tholians -- they have all proven themselves not to be allies of the Federation. Why should we continue trading with them or supporting their scientific and political endeavors? They didn’t support us in our war to live.”


    Weynik’s eyestalks grew into slits at the Rigellian's last words. While it was true that the Gorn, the Tzenkethi, the Talarians, the Tholians, and many more races had signed nonaggression pacts with the Dominion, one thought nagged at him, late at night.


    They have been smart to keep themselves out of the killing and the slaughter. He had commanded the Ajax and the Starsong in more than three dozen major engagements during the war. While he certainly would have been grateful to have seen a squadron of Gorn destroyers flying to his rescue, he couldn’t blame them for not risking the wrath of the Dominion.


    Heedless in his devotion, the Councilor from Rigel VIII continued to speak,” Furthermore, we must take measures to ensure that the people of the Federation are never again threatened by the Dominion or any of their allies. We already have a strong beginning with the crippling of the military and economic capabilities of the Cardassians and the Son’a as well as restrictions placed on the Breen and their military. But there needs to be more than that! I suggest the military occupations of Cardassia Prime and the Breen homeworld! The rest of the Galaxy will take their fates as examples of what evil will bring!”


    The Rigellian councilor’s speech set the Council into an uproar, although it wasn’t as much of an uproar as Weynik would have liked. In the years before the war, punitive sanctions such as the likes of what Addeh was proposing, would have been unconscionable. Now it seemed that the movement to punish those had lost or remained neutral during the Dominion War was gaining dangerous power.


    *They seem bloodthirsty.*


    The voice echoed in his mind and Weynik turned to see Wintamba standing at the open door, watching him with her eyestalks. The Roylan woman stepped across the room and sat down on the table next to him.


    “They… we’re still scared,” Weynik said, aloud. “How many millions died? And in the end, we couldn’t even bear the Dominion, just force them back to the Gamma Quadrant.” He reached out and took her hand. She smiled and he could feel her warmth through the telepathy that bound them together. “I think that people want vengeance. I know that there are enough strong captains out there who do --”


    Wintamba brushed against his mind. *Shh… do you remember what you said to me, two years ago? When the war seemed to be at its worst?*


    Weynik remembered her darkened quarters where she had held her and told her that Starfleet existed for more than killing and that it existed to explore and to protect. “I’m afraid that I might have lied,” he admitted to her.


    Wintamba looked towards the door, slipping off of the table, and out of his grasp. An instant later, the doors parted aside and Captain Pozach stepped inside. “Captains,” she said. “Hello.” She took a seat across from Weynik.


    Wintamba leaned forward and offered her hand. “You must be Jeanne Pozach,” she said without using her telepathy. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Wintamba of the Atlantis.”


    Relieved, Jeanne took her hand. “Thank you. I admit that I was surprised when we were pulled off our mission to meet here.”


    Weynik took that as his cue to speak and nodded at her. “Unfortunately, delivering supplies has become a secondary concern,” the Roylan told her. “As Commander zh’Tali and Captain Wintamba have discovered, a black market for relief supplies has popped up. Admiral sh’Diaar has ordered that the marketeers be arrested so that the supplies that we bring into Cardassian space will get to the people who need them.”


    Pozach frowned at this. “It’s not as if we haven’t been trying to catch the privateers ourselves. There’s simply too much ground for us to cover.” She glanced at the other captains, trying to express her opinion without seeming contrary because technically, she was the junior captain in the room. “Cayuga dropped off supplies at eleven Cardassian planets between Starbases Five-Seventy-Three and Two-One-Nine and that many again on the trip back. My ship simply doesn’t have the crew to spare, defending storage depots on nearly two dozen planets, including the colonies aided by civilian relief organizations.”


    Weynik watched her coldly for a moment, then shrugged. “That’s a fair point, Captain. I was told that Admiral sh’Diaar requested vessels from the Thirteenth Fleet to aid us and Admiral Trenagen refused. It seems that the Thirteenth Fleet is needed where it is, reminding the Cardassians who is in charge. As it stands right now, the resources available to us are our three ships and the Warrior.” He smiled because he knew Captain Ghran of the Warrior would love the chance to chase down some black marketeers.


    “Fortunately for us, I think I know how we can do it with less than that.” Wintamba looked at him but he continued,” And I think I know just the role for the Cayuga to play…”



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



    When the silvery glow of the transporter faded from around them, Wintamba and Hank Kimble stood on a darkened lawn. Several hundred feet away from them loomed a large mansion, lit only by a few lights.


    “I thought that they had repaired the power systems on Cardassia Prime,” the Roylan woman said.


    Kimble shook his head. “The damage done by the Jem’hadar at the end of the war is going to take years to fully repair. Even richer neighborhoods like this one don’t have the resources to make much headway.” Atlantis’ Chief Engineer shrugged his shoulders, continuing with his explanation. “The Starfleet Corps of Engineers is here and on other Cardassian worlds doing what they can but -- “


    Wintamba held up a hand, interrupting him. “We’re about to be addressed.”


    The massive front doors of the mansion swung open and an elderly Cardassian slowly walked towards them. “Are you the representatives from Starfleet that we were asked to admit?,” the butler asked them.


    “Yes,” Wintamba said, advancing towards him and bowing her head slightly. “I’m Captain Wintamba of the Atlantis. My companion is Lieutenant Kimble and we would like to speak with your master, please.”


    The Cardassian nodded at the Roylan woman’s request. “Right this way, My Lady.”


    When compared to the desolate rubble that made up most of the capital city of the Cardassian homeworld, the interior of the mansion seemed to be made up of another world entirely. Torches had been placed to excellent effect, giving it an almost rustic feel rather than one of the primitive conditions. In front of a large stone fireplace sat a Cardassian aristocrat who dismissed the butler with a wave of his hand.


    “I am Toret, formerly a Legate of the Cardassian Central Command. I agreed to this meeting out of a sense of gratitude towards the Federation after all that you have done for us.” His gaze lowered and met Wintamba’s and held it. “How may I help you?”


    Wintamba seated herself next to him. Kimble positioned himself behind her massively overstuffed armchair, giving no indication that he noticed the lack of a seat for him. “I’m thankful for this audience, Legate. Please understand that we have only the Cardassian people’s best interests in mind.”


    “Of course,” Toret said dryly.


    “The matter that concerns us is the black market that has appeared on Cardassia Prime and many other worlds across your space. It seems that there are vagabonds who would steal the supplies intended for starving civilians. Honestly, I find the concept disturbing.”


    Toret snorted at this. “A response is to be expected from a telepathic race such as the Roylans.”


    Wintamba plastered a smile on her face. “Very true,” she said, even though it was only one percent of Roylan females that showed any tendency towards telepathy,” but the simple fact of the matter is that we don’t have the resources to stop these marketeers. We have only four starships charged with covering more than five dozen worlds. My vessel, Atlantis, as well as the Starsong and the Warrior are attempting to track down and capture the marketeers but we’re stretched out pretty thin.”


    “You said four ships,” the former Legate interrupted her. “What was the last one?”


    Wintamba paused, thinking,” Hank, what is that other ship? The little one?”


    The engineer looked down at her in surprise. “The Cayuga? She’s picking up the slack in delivering supplies. She’s fully loaded and heading to the Sorrot system from Averral IV, I think.”


    Atlantis’ captain smiled. “What he said.” She leaned forward and added,” I hope that you understand the difficulties that we face.”


    “I do,” Toret said, eyeing her. “I suspect that you have a request to make of me?”


    “Yes,” the Roylan said, smiling with relief that she didn’t feel at all. “I came to you because I’ve been told that you still wield much power among the civil and military authorities here on Cardassia Prime. I hope that you can be convinced to extend some of your influence to aid us.”


    Toret opened his hands to her. “How so, Captain Wintamba?”


    “Perhaps by increasing patrols around the supply depots or by enlisting some sort of civilian watch. Anything that could help us bring these brigands to justice.”


    “I will speak to my associates.” Toret rose from his chair and Wintamba stood to match him. “Until later, then?”


    Wintamba took his hand and shook it gratefully. “Yes, until later. Good evening.”


    The elderly Cardassian butler led them outside again and the captain took a moment to enjoy the cool air. It almost reminded her of her home planet of Royla.


    “So much for him as a suspect,” Kimble said from beside her. “He didn’t give up a thing.”


    “No,” the captain said,” but we did.” She smiled at his confusion and tapped her combadge. “Wintamba to Atlantis, two to beam up.”
     
  10. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    * * * * * * * * * * *


    “I heard that they have chefs aboard the Starsong,” Sam Dixon said, glancing across the long table before looking down at his plate of replicated food with a sigh.


    Next to him, Aimee Maguire twisted a strand of her blond hair around and around. “I doubt it. There hasn’t been a chief aboard a Starfleet ship in seventy years.”


    “So what do you think we’re going to do now?,” Keitsev asked them. Dixon followed his gaze out the front window to what the Starsong majestically dominated the view. “I heard that the captain’s not saying anything,” he continued slyly, turning towards Maguire.


    “You’re right,” she said coldly. “She’s not saying anything. So leave it.”


    Keitsev shot a look at Dixon. “Did I catch you at a bad time, sir?,” he asked the Chief Engineer.


    “You want to know why I’m angry? I’m angry because Pozach refused to put that psychopath zh’Tali in the Brig!”


    Keitsev frowned at her outburst. “Why would she do that?”


    For a few moments, Maguire simply stared at him, dumbfounded. Dixon slowly shifted away from her, attempting to intervene with a hesitant,” Sweetie?”


    “She should do it,” she interrupted him,” because that woman is insane. She isn’t what a Starfleet officer is supposed to be.”


    “I think you’re looking at her in the wrong way,” the ops officer said, leaned back in his chair easily. “She killed a Cardassian. So what? It’s because of Commander zh’Tali and people like her that the Federation made it through the war.” He paused contemplatively before adding,” If you ask me, she’s a hero.”


    Maguire buried her face in her hands before fixing him with a disgusted look. “Think about what they taught us at the Academy. We explore strange, new worlds. We seek out new lifeforms and new civilizations. None of that includes killing people!”


    “See, that’s where you and I differ,” Vasily told her,” about the role of Starfleet. I mean, yes, it’s great for us to find new species, explore new worlds, and all of that. While we’re off becoming enlightened, what about the rest of the Federation? Do you know what I was taught at the Academy? That those of us in these uniforms are the only line of defense between the citizens of the Federation and whoever would harm them. Whether they’re Jem’hadar, Borg, or whatever else is out there in this Galaxy. This is our job.”


    He rose from his seat and dropped his napkin onto his plate. “Davi zh’Tali has done more to defend the Federation than anyone else on this ship.”


    With that said, he turned and stalked his way out of the Mess Hall, leaving Maguire and Dixon to sit there in silence.


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



    “Captain,” I’m reading them again,” Lieutenant Keitsev announced, breaking the uncomfortable silence on the Bridge. “Sensors are detecting disturbances on the edge of our sensor range.”


    zh’Tali’s eyes slid over to Pozach as the captain let out a measured sigh. “Have Lieutenant Maguire run another diagnostic on the sensors.”


    Keitsev paused for a minute before saying,” Captain, this is the second time in the last forty minutes that sensors have picked up these things. I don’t think that they’re sensor ghosts.”


    “What would they be, Lieutenant?,” zh’Tali asked him, standing on the right side of the command chair.


    “Cloaked ship,” the operations officer said, raising his chin at her challenge,” or vessels at the extreme edge of our sensor range, following us and attempting not to be seen.”


    “Maybe they’re ghost ships,” Polcheny said before she blinked. “Do ghost ships have treasure?”


    Pozach turned to face Keitsev. “Personally I doubt that cloaked ships would randomly follow us halfway across the sector. Don’t worry about it, Lieutenant.”


    “Sir,” he began to say.


    “Don’t,” the captain repeated herself,” worry.”


    Ensign Polcheny frowned at Keitsev who fidgeted with his console. Captain Pozach went back to drumming her fingers on her chair’s armrests, and even zh’Tali seemed to be restless.


    “Captain,” the Andorian zhen began to say,” we’ve been on this course for a week now with nothing … out of the ordinary. Perhaps we should…”


    Pozach stood up from her command chair and began walking circuits around the Bridge. She swiped the helm console for dust and poked her fingers through the holographic image of the viewscreen. “Commander, I was once told that all things come to those who wait.” She paced around a little more before she murmured,” and we will wait.”


    She wandered over to the dedication plaque mounted on the starboard bulkhead. “Did anyone know that this ship was built at the Antares Shipyards?”


    “Fascinating,” Keitsev said drolly.


    “And the man who designed her security systems now commands the Surefoot?” She traced a finger along the bottom-most line of text on the plaque. “‘There’s the known and the unknown; in between there are doors,’” she read.


    “New sensor readings,” Keitsev interrupted her.


    “More ghost ships?,” Polcheny asked him.


    Keitsev shook his head. “No, it’s a Cardassian freighter and it’s putting out a general distress signal.”


    zh’Tali caught Pozach’s eye. The captain walked back to her seat with more vigor than she had shown in the past several days. “On screen.”


    “Audio only. I’m patching it in.”


    The speakers crackled with static. “To any ship that can hear us, we are the Cardassian merchant freighter Bokmal, out of Cardassia Prime. We have been attacked by Maquis raiders and our drive systems are off-line. Please assist.”


    “Bokmal, this is the Federation starship Cayuga. We will arrive at your location shortly. Hold on.” “Pozach tapped her armrest as she sat down in her chair. “Put the ship on screen.”


    The cargo ship appeared on screen, spinning end over end and spilling plasma from its warp drive into space. “Negligible damage to the outer hull,” zh’Tali observed with a suspicious glare.


    “Too bad,” Keitsev said coldly before he remembered himself,” but that is real plasma that they’re venting into space.”


    “Dropping out of warp…,” Polcheny announced,” now.”


    Pozach sat up in her seat. “Helm, bring us within thirty thousand kilometers of them. Mister Keitsev, steady them with the tractor beam.”


    “Captain, energy readings aboard the Bokmal just shot through the roof.” Keitsev’s voice was tight with stress. “The Cardies have their warp drives back on-line and I’m reading a serious buildup--”


    “Red alert,” zh’Tali said, interrupting him. “Raise shields.”


    The deck buckled under a weapons strike. Pozach gritted her teeth but she held on.


    “They fired on us,” Keitsev yelled after checking his board,” before we got our shields up! They’ve damaged the shield generators!”


    “Bridge to Security,” Pozach said, quietly after tapping her combadge. “Prepare to be boarded.”


    “Boarded?,” Polcheny asked her. “Why would they --”


    “Reading transporter signatures!,” Keitsev interrupted her. “Intruders have been detected on Decks Four, Nine, and Eleven!”


    “Captain,” her Andorian first officer said, turning to face her captain,” I believe now would be an appropriate time.”


    Pozach nodded and she rushed off of the Bridge.


    Keitsev looked angrily when he turned from his board to face Pozach. “Captain, aren’t we going to return fire on the Cardies?!,” he demanded to know because the heat of battle was upon the young operations officer and in his blood.


    The Red Alert klaxon sounded twice before she spoke. “I would thank you not to use racial slurs on my Bridge.” She turned to face the lieutenant and continued with,” And no.”


    “But,” sputtered the lieutenant,” they’re Cardassians! Why the hell not?!”


    A faint smile spread across her lips. “Because, Mister Keitsev, there are better ways to resolve conflicts than fighting.”

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



    Sam Dixon flattened himself against the bulkhead as another disruptor erupted near him. The Cardassians were laying down a barrage that was thick enough to keep anyone from getting near the cargo bay that they were holed up in. The security officer swore to himself as he failed to line up another shot with his hand phaser. Over the scream of phaser fire, he could hear the whine of a transporter as the Cardassians stole more of the relief supplies.


    A Cardassian leaned past the carbon-scorched doors. The barrel of his disruptor was questing for a target, only for its owner to fall to Dixon’s expert marksmanship.


    Taking advantage of the break in the weapons fire, he yelled,” Ntannu! Cover me!” He charged into the cargo bay, rolling through the door and coming up with his phaser ready.


    There was a moment when the Cardassians did nothing but smirk. Because at that moment, they and the last of the supply containers disappeared into the golden mist of a transporter effect.


    The security officer swore and slammed his fist into the wall. He grimaced in pain for a moment before he tapped his combadge. “Dixon to Bridge. The intruders got away, Captain.”


    He expected anger from her, perhaps yelling of some sort. Instead, Captain Pozach simply asked him,” Did they capture all of the cargo containers?”


    Dixon surveyed the empty room. “Yes, sir,” he said, quietly.


    “Good.”


    He looked up in surprise. “Sir?”


    The line clicked off.


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



    When there was no one there to greet them as they stepped off of the shuttlecraft, Sean Pasko began to realize just how bad things were. Shouldering his travel carryall, he left the shuttle bay while Doctor Moru headed for Sickbay. He joined the press of the ship’s crew streaming through the corridors darkened for the ship's night.


    Engineering was in better shape than he would have expected, given the air of general panic throughout the ship. Chief Engineer Maguire was standing, waist-deep, in an access panel in front of the warp core. She was tugging out isolinear chips and bio-neural gel packs, tossing them aside. She didn’t notice him approaching until he plunked down next to her with a grin.


    “I see that you all had some fun without me,” he said, lightly.


    Maguire was startled at first by his presence. But then she glared at him as she shifted a strand of hair out of her face. “While you were out, having fun, the rest of us were being ambushed.”


    “Ambushed?”


    “Yes, by the Cardassians and it wasn’t fun either. They boarded us and stole all of the supplies that we were carrying,” she said as she began to separate the piles of isolinear chips and gel packs. “They took out our shield generators and one of their boarding teams hooked up a device to the power distribution system that kicked a lot of systems out of whack, including the warp drive. That, I can tell you, certainly kept us from chasing after them.”


    “Well,” Pasko said as he stood up from where he was sitting,” look at it this way. Now you’ve got plenty of opportunities to use your fancy techno-babble.”


    “I would appreciate it,” Maguire shot back at him, grimly,” if you didn’t refer to what I do as ‘techno-babble’” An alarm began beeping from the access panel. “Oh, for… Zehna, I told you! Ramp up the magnetic constrictors to shut off the matter and antimatter flows, then run alignments checks on the dilithium crystal articulation frame. You’re never going to get a clear reading on it if you’ve got deuterium and anti-deuterium flying around!”


    Grinning to himself, Pasko left Engineering. Shadows failed to hide the carbon scoring around the cargo bays. He whistled quietly and tapped his combadge,” Commander, locate Commander zh’Tali.”


    The computer beeped for attention before saying,” Commander zh’Tali is not aboard the Cayuga.”


    He frowned at this information. “Okay, locate Captain Pozach.”


    “Captain Pozach is in the Mess Hall,” replied the calm voice of the ship’s computer.


    Pasko turned away to find a turbolift but he paused to say,” Thanks,” before heading off.


    The Mess Hall was deserted. Its tables cast long shadows over the piano where Pozach sat. her fingers danced across the keys and the pilot cleared his throat. She stopped playing, only to turn to face him.


    “Sean, welcome back.”


    The lieutenant straightened to attention. “Permission to come aboard, sir.”


    “Granted. How was your trip home?” She straddled the piano beach and Pasko turned a chair around to sit across from her.


    “It was… enlightening… especially after listening to Doc Moru tell me about his father. But it was good to be with my family for a bit.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Ran into Aimee on the way here. She was pretty angry about all of the extra work that you seem to have picked up.”


    “I would imagine so.” Her tone wasn’t sharp but he still shifted uncomfortably in his seat.


    Pozach sighed. “We got tricked by a fake distress call from a Cardassian freighter. They jumped us and stole the relief supplies.”


    “I tried to report in to Commander zh’Tali, but the computer said that she wasn't aboard. Do you know where she is?”


    The ship’s chimes quietly declared the midnight hour and Pozach chuckled to herself before she turned back to the piano. She searched its top for a moment before she pulled down a sheet of music. “Sean,” she said, placing the music in front of her and running her finger across the title,” I know exactly where Commander zh’Tali is…”



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



    The base’s cargo bay was Cardassian in design. It was colored brown and gold with arches that stretched up to the ceiling. Federation cargo containers were spread across the floor with the top off of one of them popped open. Silently, a figure dressed in black climbed out, carrying an ax.


    Down the hallway, a voice drifted in from the operations center. “The starship has crippled the Bokmal! Their shields are down to seventy-six percent from one hit. One hit!”


    “Did the distress signal get through to Toret?”


    “Yes, but…”


    “What?!”


    “He says we’re on our own.”


    “That’s an Excelsior-class starship! What does he think we’re going to do?”


    There was much swearing and the black-clad figure strode into the operations room to say in a harsh Cardassian dialect,” You are all under arrest. Lower your weapons and put your hands in the air.”


    A dozen Cardassian soldiers looked up from their monitors in surprise.


    “Who the hell are you?,” one of them asked, the rank markers of a Glinn on his uniform.


    “My name is Davi zh’Tali, and you’re all under arrest. Lower your weapons and put your hands in the air.” The Andorian stepped forward, her kar’takin held loosely in front of her.


    The Cardassians traded incredulous looks with each other and a few smirks appeared. “Yes, of course,” the Glinn said with a sinister smile. “Harrek, Duni, would you kill her?”


    “Thank you,” zh’Tali whispered and with a slight pop of her neck, she began to move.


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



    “Excellent,” Wintamba said before she deactivated her combadge. She turned towards T’Phera Pavlova and the squad of security officers that waited with her on the front lawn of the mansion. “Starsong tracked the ship that attacked the Cayuga back to its base and they’re capturing both now. The distress signal from the base was directed to this house.” She gestured towards the mansion. “Go.”


    Pavlova led her squad to the front door and rapped on it sharply. The aged butler opened it and looked at her with surprise. “You are not expected.”


    “I should hope not,” Atlantis’ security chief said, pushing the door open to allow her and her security officers inside. “We’re here for your master. Where is he?”


    “What is the meaning of this?!,” Toret’s voice boomed down from the staircase.


    Wintamba stepped forward, framing herself in front of the lit fireplace. “Sir, I have reason to believe that you are somehow involved in the theft of Federation relief supplies.” She motioned towards Pavlova. “I’m sure that if you don’t mind chatting with my Security Chief about it, then all of this can be cleared up in no time. After all… we’re all civilized individuals.”


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



    To say that there was blood everywhere was something less of either an understatement or an exaggeration. There were portions of the ceiling that still retained their original color. Along the walls lay the Cardassians, dead, maimed, or otherwise pacified.


    zh’Tali looked up at the three Starfleet officers who had beamed into the operations center. They looked at the carnage around them and then at the woman who knelt untouched at the center of it all.


    Hideo Namachi took in the corpses stoically and asked,” Is the base secure?”


    “Yes, Commander,” replied the zhen.


    “I see,” the Starsong’s first officer said,” and the stolen cargo?”


    zh’Tali nodded towards the door. “Down that hallway.”


    Namachi sent the security officers to secure the containers before regarding the Andorian. “Impressive work. I thought that only Klingons and the Jem’hadar were this… savage.”


    zh’Tali stared at him before she rose to her feet. “Beam me aboard. I wish to return to my ship.”


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



    It seemed that even on the decimated world of Sorrot Minor, there could be a celebration. From her perch atop a container, Captain Pozach watched the Cardassians’ first moment of joy since the black market had come with a smile on her face.


    “Captain Weynik is looking for you,” said a voice from behind her. “There is a celebration among the command staffs of the successful completion of the operation. He was surprised that you didn’t attend.”


    Pozach turned and watched zh’Tali for a long moment. “I am celebrating. Here.” She motioned at the crowd of Cardassians. “I helped distribute the supplies. It seemed like a better use of my time.”


    “True,” the Andorian said evenly.


    Neither woman said anything for a very long time. zh’Tali, because she had nothing to say, and Pozach, because she had to find the words inside herself. Finally she opted for the simple approach after considering and dismissing numerous rants and speeches.


    “You killed.”


    zh’Tali nodded sheepishly. “Seven fatalities. The remaining Cardassians are expected to make full recoveries within the next three weeks, according to Doctor Moru.”


    Pozach closed her eyes and a hint of steel worked its way into her voice. “I asked you not to kill, Davi.”


    “An unreasonable request that you shouldn’t have made, Captain.”


    “All right,” the captain said, sliding off of the container,” let me ask you this, Commander. What makes us, as Starfleet officers and citizens of the Federation, morally superior to the Jem’hadar?”


    zh’Tali’s eyes lowered into slits as she rose to the bait. “The predisposition to act in a manner consistent with the morals of the Federation, presumably.”


    “Virtues like mercy apply. You didn’t have to kill any of them but you did. How can you claim to defend the virtues of the Federation when you refuse to exercise them?”


    “A good question. Allow me to pose a similar question to you. Was it the Federation’s morality or its mercy that allowed us to defeat the Dominion and their Jem’hadar?”


    “I…,” Pozach began before pausing,” I suppose not. War tests our virtues not supports them.”


    “Exactly,” zh’Tali said with a hiss, surprising the captain with her sudden intensity,” the Federation’s lofty ideals cannot survive their encounters with the Galaxy around them. That’s why there will always be people who stand aside from those ideals, ready to protect them.”


    “We can resolve our conflicts before they result in death.”


    “Spoken like someone who has never fought before,” the First Officer said, icily. “Will mercy towards a Jem’hadar convince it that peace is the proper path? No.” She cut the air with her hand. “It will give it another opportunity to kill you and it will take it.”


    zh’Tali stepped closer to her and the captain could feel the other woman’s body vibrating with repressed rage. “The society that you’re so proud of would not be possible,” she continued,” if not for individuals willing to damn themselves to ensure that you can keep your… virtues.”


    Pozach tried to lock states with zh’Tali and failed miserably. She looked down at the ground and listened to her start to walk away and then pause in her stance.


    “Although,” the commander said,” without those virtues, the Federation wouldn’t be worth damning oneself for.”


    Pozach looked up in surprise at this admission but zh’Tali was gone.



    The End...