Star Trek: Fallen Heroes

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Alexbright99, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Hello, my fellow fans. Here I will be uploading my most daunting fanfic project yet: Fallen Heroes. I have spent way too much time writing and editing this story, even enlisted a modest squadron of beta readers.

    It takes place a year after Star Trek Nemesis and features original characters (with a few familiair faces thrown in). The story's about a young man who became a member of the Q Continuum, only to get stripped of his powers and immortality when he decided to help the Federation in their hour of need. Now, with Starfleet on the brink of war, he has to find a way to make a difference as an ordinary human being.

    Feedback is much appreciated! Enjoy!

    ========================================================================

    PROLOGUE

    Screeching metal and a distant thud wake Ensign Marc Lucas from his sleep. He opens his eyes, but sees only the same darkness as when they were closed. The air is cold yet thick and scarcity of oxygen causes the now awake ensign to breathe rapidly. As he lies on his back, ominous groaning of structurally porous alloy surrounds him, like long-forgotten creatures of the sea calling to him. He has no idea of where he is, but one thing is certain: this is not his bunk aboard the USS Kennedy.

    With the Kennedy now on his mind, he starts to remember bits and pieces of how he ended up here. The Kennedy, the Wolf, the Sundance, and the Satellite were sent to Station A-12 for a diplomatic meeting with the Altonoids—a meeting that had gone horribly wrong, almost from the get-go. In a swift, strategic move, the Altonoids had attacked the small fleet and taken the diplomatic delegation hostage, including both the captain and the first officer of the Kennedy.

    Why is it so dark in here? He can hear phaser fire and screaming people in the distance, adding to the atmosphere of claustrophobia. He tries to move, which instantly causes sharp pains to shoot up his spinal cord. Gasping for the little air left in this dark chamber, he immediately reaches for the source of pain, his hands inadvertently striking the wall of rubble that has engulfed his lower body. Several of his fingers on both hands break, accompanied by a nauseating sound of cracking bones. Unable to hold back a primal scream, he quickly retracts his hands and summons all his inner courage to prevent himself from panicking. Difficult as it may be, he forces himself to concentrate on remembering the events that brought him here.

    Marc Lucas, a tall, twenty-one-year-old Latino, was part of one of the many security teams sent to Station A-12 from the battling starships in an effort to release the captured officers. Their goal was simple: find the shield generator preventing hostages from being beamed to safety and destroy it by any means necessary. Unfortunately, they had not succeeded. Chief of Security Lieutenant Appels and the kind Doctor Van Oers were all that remained of his ill-fated squad when he had sustained a severe phaser injury to his leg, rendering him immobile. Lt. Appels and Dr. Van Oers, having no choice but to leave him behind, had concealed him in an abandoned maintenance tube. This is where he must be now.

    The pain in his spine has gone, though that’s not the least bit comforting now that his hands hurt like hell. He doesn’t even want to think about how it is possible for his legs to be devoid of pain, buried as they are. Once again, he tries to move, but his spine sends up another sharp bolt of intense agony. Despite the cold, a pool of perspiration has formed beneath him. The screaming and phaser fire are getting closer, even beginning to drown out the roars of buckling metal that have been echoing throughout the station ever since he woke up.

    All right, Marc. Stay calm. There was a way in, so there has to be a way out. A loud clunk, distant, yet not nearly as distant as all previous sounds, startles him and advances his rapid breathing to outright hyperventilation. Somewhere in this labyrinth of maintenance tubes, a hatch has been opened, and he hears unpleasant voices growling orders, echoing off the tube walls. While impossible to tell where they’re coming from exactly, there’s no doubt that they’re steadily zeroing in on him.

    He searches for his weapon—or anything he can use to defend himself. As his broken digits scratch at the empty floor, he is once again reminded of his painful injuries. Voices are closing in, and Lucas’ search becomes more frantic. Just as he’s about to give up, he finds a cold object not belonging to the floor or the rubble that surrounds him. Please, let it be a weapon, Lucas implores whatever deity may be listening. With his broken fingers, it is difficult to identify the device he has found. He is too busy to notice right away, but the pitch darkness around him has softened, meaning that the approaching men are carrying flashlights. This erratic light provides him with enough illumination to inspect his find. As he lifts the device up with an unsteady hand, he can finally see what it is: a medical tricorder—and it’s dead.

    He should scream. He should cry. But all he can do is chuckle helplessly.

    Dr. Van Oers had given him the tricorder to mask his life signs, to shield them from the Altonoids. It worked, but something unexpected had happened. Only now does Lucas remember the full story.

    He was lying there on his back, with a buzzing medical tricorder next to his injured leg. There was light and warmth. More than enough breathable air complemented an acceptable level of humidity. Practically invisible to the Altonoids, all he’d had to do was wait out the battle taking place both on and off the station, the battle involving the Kennedy. His only real worry was his increasing need to visit the bathroom—not an insoluble problem. His mind must have wandered, inducing a trance-like state lasting an indeterminate amount of time.

    Then all hell had broken loose.

    In retrospect, Lucas has no idea whether he had been hiding in the maintenance tube for a few minutes or a few hours, but the sudden impact was unlike anything he had ever experienced before. All of a sudden, the maintenance tube had shaken as if caught in an earthquake, the lights had flickered and gone out, and a deafening, seemingly endless growl of twisting and compressing duranium/tritanium alloy resounded with such intensity that it had felt as if someone was pouring boiling water into his ears. As the overwhelming mixture of noises had drawn nearer, the shaking had increased exponentially. Lucas had tried in vain to protect his injured leg, but the forces he was fighting against had rattled him around in the maintenance tube as if he were a mere ragdoll—a brittle toy given to a careless child. Just as Lucas had thought it couldn’t get any worse, an even more powerful impact had struck, flinging him backward as the maintenance tube bent and cracked around him.

    Silence and darkness.

    How pleasant it was to be unconscious.

    He hadn’t expected to wake up again. And now here he is, wounded, hunted by men with flashlights, and unable to escape. So be it, Lucas muses. Like so many young soldiers who have died before me, my name will be added to the ongoing casualty list of war. He tries to be heroic about it, but a sudden wave of sadness catches him off-guard. The notion that he is not supposed to be here, that he should be home on Earth, listening to his favorite music, having fun with friends, overshadows all residual feelings of honor and duty.

    Several beams of light blind him and he automatically shuts his eyes.

    “He’s here, like I said he would be,” a snarling voice says. “Can you shoot him from here?”

    “I need to get closer. It’s not like he’s going anywhere.”

    At least four men laugh. They are Altonoids, no doubt about it. Slowly but surely, they are crawling over to the helpless ensign, their flashlights locked onto him. This is it. I’m done for. The pain will soon be over. He would have closed his eyes, if they weren’t already. Be brave. Be brave. Be brave. Despite his forcedly courageous inner dialogue, a hot tear mingles with the beads of sweat rolling down his face. Please, be brave. He hears one of the Altonoids—not more than a few meters away—raise his phaser rifle and say, “Time to put him out of his mi—”

    The floor gives way. Not just the floor under the Altonoids’ feet, but the entire floor sags diagonally and drops out from underneath Lucas. Sharp pain terrorizes his whole body—except for his numb legs—as he makes a free fall of at least fifteen feet and lands on the same broken floor. The pile of rubble covering his legs has dispersed, and for the first time he can see his maimed legs. It’s no wonder he cannot feel them anymore; they’re recognizable as legs, but that’s about it. These legs would befit a corpse. Instinctively, he averts his eyes. He hears the Altonoids cursing from above, still not far away enough to make him feel safe. In fact, they have started a slow descent to finish the job. The fact that Lucas is able to see anything at all is evidence enough of their proximity.

    In spite of the pain and the sheer terror of seeing his mangled legs, Lucas forces himself to look down. Beneath the collapsed maintenance tube lies a corridor section that seems out of place. It begins and leads nowhere—it is too damaged to be of any use—yet Lucas can’t help but notice that the color scheme of the surviving pieces of floor covering and wall panels does not correspond to that of Station A-12. It takes only a moment for him to recognize its origins. With a level of astonishment that trumps his current state of panic, he realizes that he’s staring at the remains of the USS Wolf. It must have smashed headfirst into the station.

    He can only guess at what happened to the Kennedy.

    Four beams of light pierce through the settling dust. They have found him once again. Lucas briefly looks up to gauge how much time he has left. Desperate for a solution, he looks down again at the Wolf’s shambles of a corridor. There, illuminated by the Altonoids’ flashlights, he now sees his phaser rifle lying on the Wolf’s corridor floor! For a brief moment, he experiences a hint of elation, as if there’s a possible escape from his terrible predicament. Then he realizes that the rifle is too far away. There is no way he’s going to reach it in time. He is going to die here. He half-expects his life to flash before his eyes, but all he can think of are disjointed fragments of memories, dreams, and most of all, his desire for this real-life nightmare to stop.

    A white-hot pain in the back of Lucas’ head puts an end to all his thoughts.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Interesting, if not a somewhat bold choice, of using a present tense narrative for your story. It makes it a big jarring at first but also adds immediacy and enhances Lucas' sense of dread. I'm curious if you plan to tell you entire story this way.

    Thematically, a very dark and violent opening but I certainly wouldn't mind to read some more.
     
  3. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Thank you for reading and taking the time to offer feedback. The rest of the story is in present tense as well, and yes, that can be pretty jarring for some. One beta reader even quit because of it, even after I jokingly suggested changing the title to "Falling Heroes." Others got used to it rather quickly, though.

    This prologue is a bleak start to a story with plenty of drama and tragedy, but I've added humor and action into the mix to keep things from getting too dark. I plan on releasing the first chapter this Friday. Stay tuned!
     
  4. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2013
    Location:
    USA
    I'm old school, so for me the only thing worse than third-person present tense is first-person present tense. No, I take that back. The worst thing is script format, especially center-justified script format.
     
  5. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2013
    Location:
    USA
    Okay, I made my way thru that. It was actually worth the effort. It's a good read. As I said, I'm really not fond of the tense use, but please do keep going with the story.
     
  6. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Ah, thank you for reading it despite the... um... tense tension. I appreciate it. Two days to go before I'll upload the first official chapter.
     
  7. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    As promised, here is the official first chapter of Fallen Heroes, in which we get to meet our protagonist Tony Q. This is the first quarter of chapter 1. I'll upload a new quarter of a chapter each Friday.

    ==============================================================================
    Fallen Heroes - chapter 1a

    Starbase 9 – June 27, 2380 – Stardate 57486.4

    The last few hours have been hell. The five admirals gathered in Starbase 9’s main office have never felt so powerless in their lives, sitting at their table, tapping fingers against the tabletop, having reduced their communication to rich variations of concerned expressions.

    “Still no word from the fleet?” Admiral Simon Winkler asks, breaking the uneasy silence.

    “None yet, Simon,” Fleet Admiral Owen Paris says. The mildly obese admiral, based at Starbase 9 since his predecessor Admiral Bywaard died in the line of duty, is pacing back and forth while excruciatingly slow seconds pass by single file. They’re all awaiting news from the front—news they undoubtedly will not like. It’s been too long.

    Suddenly, the image on the viewscreen behind Admiral Paris changes from the Federation logo to Captain Keith Harriman, alive and well. The admirals turn their attention to the viewscreen, which would’ve been easier if Admiral Paris weren’t blocking their view. He quickly steps aside so they can see Harriman sitting in the ready room of his top-of-the-line starship. The lean captain has the tired-but-centered gaze of a man who has recently seen battle. “Captain Keith Harriman of the USS Achilles, reporting in. I’m afraid I have little good news for you.”

    “Any… good news is welcome,” Admiral Paris says.

    “Do you want the bad news first?” A nod from the admiral prompts Harriman to continue. “The Altonoids have taken over Station A-12.”

    “We know, Captain. An hour ago, a smug Altonoid hailed us from the station and informed us of their victory. All defending Federation ships have been destroyed. They told us there were no survivors on our part. If that is true, it will be near impossible to ascertain what really took place there.”

    “They were wrong about that, Admiral,” Captain Harriman says with a hint of a smile. “We have found three survivors. They’re docking with our ship right now. We can’t wait to hear their statements.”

    “First damn good thing I’ve heard all day!” Admiral Paris glances over his shoulder to meet with concurring looks from four other admirals. His voice grows dark as he refocuses on Harriman. “What about the fleet? Where were you?”

    Harriman must have anticipated this question. “Moments after we heard we were to provide assistance, a massive fleet of Altonoid warships attacked us.”

    This doesn’t surprise Admiral Paris. Still, hearing his bleakest worries confirmed is as painful as he had feared.

    “We lost thirty-one out of forty-two vessels. I am sorry, Admiral. We were unable to join the battle for Station A-12.”

    “We were told that there were no survivors at all,” Admiral Paris says after a grave pause. “And we weren’t expecting to hear from you anymore, Keith. The survival of at least a part of your fleet is good news. Hurry to Starbase 9 and find out why Station A-12 fell.”

    “Yes, sir. Captain Harriman out.”

    As the Federation logo reclaims its rightful place on the viewscreen, Admiral Paris takes a deep breath and faces his colleagues. “We have a lot of work to do.”

    * * *

    Nedron System, USS Achilles – June 27, 2380 – Stardate 57486.4

    Captain Keith Harriman stares at his faint reflection in the translucent desktop screen and runs a hand through his hair, which is graying at an alarming rate. No wonder, with all the battles he has seen.

    He rises up from his desk and keeps his unfocused gaze fixed on the monitor. “I should’ve told them, Keith,” he says. “I should’ve told them about the exact circumstances of our survival. But how was I supposed to explain it to them?” He directs his speech to the empty screen, as if he were still speaking with the admirals. “This is not just between the Altonoids and the Federation; there was a third party involved. They told us to hide in a nearby nebula, and when we did that… they used unfamiliar technology to create a subspace well that drained the enemy fleet’s energy. They saved our skins, but I don’t know who they are.” He shakes his head. “I have to find out more about this mysterious deus ex machina. Whoever helped us, they might help us again.”

    The three survivors of the Station A-12 disaster should be arriving soon, so he pushes his thoughts about this potential new ally aside, rubs the fatigue from his eyes, and exits his ready room to enter the bridge.

    The USS Achilles, first vessel in its class, has an absolutely state-of-the-art bridge. It shares a good number of design elements with other Federation starships, but there are a few remarkable differences. Immediately noticeable is the sizeable holographic viewscreen, capable of projecting holographic recreations of people and their surroundings onto the bridge itself. The way it is incorporated, it has become a partial holodeck, making anyone and anything it displays appear as if they’re physically present. Though the deployment of holographic viewscreens isn’t groundbreaking territory for Starfleet, it has never been issued in this form before, taking up almost a quarter of the bridge.

    Another novelty is the U-shaped holographic LCARS interface hovering behind the captain’s chair in the back half of the bridge. While the exact advantages of having a semitransparent LCARS panel floating around aren’t quite obvious to the uninitiated, the designers couldn’t resist implementing it anyway. For everyone who remains unconvinced of this bridge’s newness: its color palette consists of every tint of beige, giving the bridge that modern yet comfortable finish that is so typically “twenty-three-eighties.”

    He doesn’t notice right away that he has the bridge crew’s rapt attention, because he finds himself transfixed by the tiny holographic wreckages slowly drifting among the stars that fill the front of the bridge—a grim reminder of a costly battle. “As you were,” he says to his crew once he realizes they’re awaiting orders.

    “We’ve cleared the area, sir,” Lieutenant Junior Grade Ernest Baxter, the chief helmsman, says. “Commander Tony Q’s shuttle has docked with our ship. Shuttlebay 4. Captain Rinckes should be meeting up with us soon.”

    “Good.”

    “The subspace well has completely dissipated,” Baxter adds. “We are free to navigate.”

    “All right, Lieutenant. Have Captain Rinckes dock in the same shuttlebay, and then signal the fleet to follow us to Starbase 9 at maximum warp.”

    “Aye, sir,” Baxter says as he refocuses on his boomerang-shaped workstation.

    Banishing worry from his expression for his crew’s sake, Captain Harriman steps into the aft turbolift. Once the doors close, he smoothens his already smooth uniform and lets out a deep sigh. “Deck 3, shuttlebay 4.”

    * * *

    One short turbolift ride later, Harriman enters the shuttlebay as the second Type 11 shuttlecraft alights on the landing platform. The closing bay doors shroud from view the Achilles’ graceful stern and the infinity of stars behind it. As everything on this ship, the shuttlebay is ultramodern and equipped with all the latest bells and whistles. No holographic interfaces floating around here, though.

    The captain walks over to the rear of the shuttles. Which shuttle will open its entrance hatch first is uncertain, so Captain Harriman strategically positions himself somewhere in between. After half a minute, the left shuttle opens its hatch—a big ramp that functions as aft bulkhead when unopened. As it lowers, it gradually reveals the aft compartment. Once it hits the deck with a soft thump, two figures emerge: Commander Tony Q and Ensign Emily Murphy. Tony Q leans on the ensign’s shoulder while she helps him descend the ramp.

    At most 5’8” tall, the 18-year-old commander is shorter than expected. Is this the man who repeatedly saved the Federation with his borrowed powers, earning him the rank of commander at a ridiculously young age? His condition appears to have worsened since the last time Captain Harriman spoke with him, even though that was less than half an hour ago. Tony Q’s pale face contrasts with his dark hair, and that phaser wound above his right hip clearly requires medical care. Ensign Murphy—pretty, brown-haired, probably not much older than the commander—supports him, keeps his knees from buckling. Captain Harriman, notably taller than the two of them, looks at the legendary Tony Q, someone he has heard many stories about, and sees nothing but an injured, tired kid.

    Tony Q tries to straighten his shoulders while he’s still leaning heavily on Ensign Murphy. “Commander Tony Q and Ensign Emily Murphy requesting permission to come aboard.”

    “Permission granted.”

    “Good, I was afraid we’d come all this way for nothing,” Tony Q says in a halfhearted attempt at humor.

    Captain Harriman coughs politely before saying, “We’re currently headed for Starbase 9.”

    “Good.”

    Another moment of silence follows. Once again, Captain Harriman is the one to break it. “I have scheduled an interview with you both six hours from now. Commander, I think it would be best if you let our physicians take care of your injuries first.”

    Tony Q gives a sad nod.

    Captain Harriman presses his combadge. “This is Captain Harriman to transporter room 2. Beam Commander Tony Q directly to sickbay.” A metallic “aye sir” acknowledges his instruction. About three seconds later, Tony Q dissolves into countless blue particles.

    Now that Tony Q is off her shoulder, Ensign Murphy’s exhaustion is beginning to show. Before she can react accordingly, dizziness gets the better of her and Captain Harriman has to be quick to catch her. He’s not exactly quick enough to prevent her from collapsing, but at least his reaction softened her landing. He crouches down with his arms around her.

    “I’m sorry,” Ensign Murphy says, blushing. As a capable and fit security officer, she must be unaccustomed to losing her poise like this, especially in the company of a starship captain.

    “It’s okay. You’ve been through a lot,” Captain Harriman says with his gentlest voice while he hopes no one will stumble upon them. It might take some explaining as to why he’s embracing a beautiful ensign on the shuttlebay floor.

    “Is Tony going to be all right?” Ensign Murphy asks. “I’m no medical officer, but I could see he was weakening.”

    The captain sees she is beyond tired and even a little upset, so he keeps using his gentlest voice. “Our doctor will take good care of Commander Tony Q. Well, I suppose he’s not much of a Q anymore.”

    “He’s human. You saw him. No immortality. No godlike powers. Just an ordinary man.” She draws in a sharp breath. “I feel sorry for him. I think he underestimates the effect it will have on him.”

    He gives her a reassuring pat on the back and helps her stand up. “I suggest you take some rest before the interview.” Benching his gentlest voice for now, he reverts to his standard authoritative voice. “If you walk to the exit, one of my officers will take you to your guest quarters.”

    “Yes, sir.” The captain’s kindness has given Ensign Murphy new strength.

    Captain Harriman tries to put the friendliest smile on his slim face. “Dismissed, Ensign.”

    “Thanks, Captain.”

    Once the ensign has left, concern pushes aside Harriman’s friendly smile. He directs his attention to the other shuttle, which carries the third and final survivor of the Station A-12 ordeal. A minute passes without a hint of activity from the motionless shuttlecraft. Harriman decides against contacting the shuttle’s occupant to ask what’s keeping him, opting for a patient attitude instead, and seats himself cross-legged on the floor near the shuttle.

    His mind wanders during this rare moment of downtime and tries piecing together answers from what little information it possesses. The takeover of Station A-12 was a blatant act of war, and a diplomatic solution is unlikely. The Federation prides itself on its quest for peace among all species, yet finds itself preparing for another war, and will call upon Harriman’s combat experience. He will lend his expertise and fight to the last man, if required, to defend its citizens, homeworlds, and ideals, but how he wishes he could point the Achilles to the nearest star and explore the quiet seas of deep space.

    With a hiss and a metallic thump, the shuttle hatch begins to open, ridding Harriman from his somber musings. He rises to his feet.

    Down the ramp staggers Captain Stephan Rinckes, his attire as battle-worn as the man himself. His uniform jacket is missing; his torn, command department red shirt is showing instead. Cuts and bruises cover the visible parts of his skin, and his knuckles are swollen. His narrow eyes, partly covered by loose, dark-blond strands of hair, are cold and bloodshot.

    Whatever happened on that station, it wasn’t pretty.

    Avoiding direct eye contact, Rinckes walks up to Harriman and greets him with an absentminded nod in lieu of a bloody handshake.

    Captain Harriman suppresses the urge to steady his colleague and lets him stand on his own. Even in his injured state, Captain Rinckes has the brawn to fend for himself, and showing pity will probably not be appreciated. “Captain Rinckes, welcome to the Achilles. My name is Keith Harriman.”

    “Yes, I’ve heard of you,” Captain Rinckes says calmly. Gaze still lowered, he conjures an unexpected smile, which doesn’t match his worn appearance at all. “That’s an impressive ship you’ve got.”

    “Thank you, Captain. Maybe she’s not as formidable as the Sundance, but—” Harriman realizes halfway that if the Sundance were still intact, the haggard Captain Rinckes wouldn’t have arrived in a shuttlecraft.

    “The Sundance was a good ship,” Rinckes says before Harriman can apologize. Rinckes’ insincere smile disappears as his demeanor hardens, and his voice adjusts to match. “She had a fine crew.” He rubs a fist against his tattered shirt. “A damn fine crew.”

    Then, for the first time since his arrival, Rinckes fixes his eyes on Harriman. Those eyes… Unspeakable fear, unbridled anger, overwhelming sorrow—all wrapped up in a thousand-yard stare that catches Harriman completely off guard, unsettles him to the core. It’s as if he’s standing face to face with a man deprived of soul. Hypnotized by Rinckes’ icy stare, he looks into those empty eyes, unable to avert his gaze.

    Harriman gasps for air before he’s able to say, “My God! What happened to you?”

    Rinckes doesn’t respond. His mouth forms a thin line on his expressionless face.

    “Can you tell me what happened, Captain?” Harriman tries again.

    After a few uneasy seconds, Rinckes formulates a reply. “Permission to retreat to my guest quarters,” he says without changing his tone of voice or his blank expression.

    Questions about Station A-12 will have to wait. This is not the steadfast Captain Rinckes he has heard of; this shell of a man has been shaken by whatever terrible events befell him and needs to recover. With forced positivity, Harriman says, “One of my lieutenants is waiting by the exit. He will escort you to your quarters. Don’t forget to visit sickbay for a checkup.”

    Rinckes begins walking to the exit.

    “Report to my office in five hours for an interview,” Harriman calls out after him. “I need to know exactly what happened before I report to Admiral Paris.”

    Rinckes halts, turns around, and says wearily, “I’ll talk.”

    Once the troubled captain has disappeared around a corner, Harriman unnecessarily smoothens his uniform once again and mutters, “What a day.”
     
    CeJay likes this.
  8. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    A new powerful, hostile and extremely dangerous enemy. Just what the Federation needed after having to deal with Borg, the Klingons and the Dominion.

    Also a whole slew of fascinating and somewhat enigmatic characters making appearances here. And I'm curious to learn more about them and their story.

    The present tense narration is still a bit odd but perhaps less so as I read more . Keep it coming.
     
  9. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Thanks for providing feedback. It's always interesting to hear what others think of my work, be it positive or negative. It's the best way to learn to become a better writer.
     
  10. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Fallen Heroes - chapter 1b

    After multiple hours of investigating, researching, and casting worried glances at PADDs, Captain Harriman considers himself fully prepared for the interviews with the Station A-12 survivors, hoping to glean vital information from their stories.

    Right on schedule, Captain Rinckes enters his office. No longer scratched and bruised, he’s a different man than the one Harriman met in the shuttlebay five hours ago. He’s wearing a new, intact uniform, his hair is neatly groomed back, and—to Harriman’s relief—his eyes aren’t empty chasms of doom anymore.

    Harriman invites his colleague to sit down at the other side of his desk and tries to come up with a considerate first question. “Are you feeling any better?”

    “Perhaps we should skip to the questions that matter,” Captain Rinckes says, “We’re not here for a counseling session.”

    A short, tense silence.

    “As you wish.” Harriman drops his friendliness façade and picks up one of the PADDs that cover his desk. “All right, let’s take this from the top. Computer, commence recording.”

    Captain Rinckes sits back and listens as Harriman summarizes yesterday’s events.

    “The Sundance, Wolf, Satellite, and Kennedy were ordered to rendezvous with Altonoid diplomats at Station A-12. The commanding and first officers of the aforementioned ships, except for the Satellite, boarded that station to commence negotiations with the Altonoid delegates, preceded by a modest buffet… What happened then?”

    “The Altonoids took over the station.”

    “And held our flag officers hostage, yes. But why were you and your first officer Melanie Simons not among these hostages?”

    Rinckes hesitates before answering. “A minute or so before the takeover, I asked her to step out of the conference room with me.”

    “Why?”

    “To tell her—” Rinckes swallows his words and starts over. “For a brief discussion of progress.”

    Harriman stays silent, hoping this will encourage Rinckes to keep talking.

    “The station went to red alert,” Rinckes continues in a monotonous voice. “We found a way to contact the lead ship, the USS Wolf. We were to search for the shield array that prevented beaming out hostages, while our starships battled Altonoid vessels and beamed down troops to provide assistance. It didn’t work out. Once our defeat became certain, I knew I’d be valuable to Starfleet as a witness. I fought my way through Altonoid soldiers to reach the shuttlebay, procured a shuttle, and left. Last I saw was the Wolf crashing into the station without entirely destroying it. You can read it all in my report.”

    “What about Commander Simons?” Harriman asks.

    This question catches Captain Rinckes unawares. He answers nonetheless. “She wanted to split up, thereby increasing our chances of success.”

    Intrigued, Harriman locks eyes with Rinckes while asking, “Do you know what happened to her? Did you see her again after you separated?”

    “No,” Captain Rinckes replies immediately with an unreadable expression.

    After a few seconds’ pause, Harriman asks, “Were there any other survivors of the Station A-12 incident?”

    “That Tony Q kid and Ensign Murphy are the only ones I know of.”

    “Other than them. Perhaps—”

    “Look…” Rinckes clenches his jaw and leans over to him. “All I know is that I lost some damn good people back there. I lost the Sundance, my ship.” In an effort to regain his composure, he sits back and crosses his arms before saying, “The Satellite, Wolf, and Kennedy perished as well. The crew of Station A-12? I don’t know what happened to them, but I doubt any of them are still alive. Altonoids have a habit of slaughtering prisoners. Every single officer or civilian on board Station A-12 who managed to survive the initial takeover must be dead by now.”

    Harriman adds in sad agreement, “The estimated death toll of the takeover is 1,629. This number will probably not change; it’s the sum of all involved minus three.”

    “I lost 173 crewmembers. That’s not much compared to the total death toll. And it’s almost nothing compared to your space battle, which must have cost thousands of lives. I understand it is your duty to get to the bottom of what happened at Station A-12, but you can ask Tony Q and he’ll give you all the answers you need.” Rinckes moves in closer again. “I will have to inform the families of one hundred and seventy-three Starfleet officers that they’ve lost their sons, daughters, parents, spouses, their loved ones… under my command. That is my duty. So if you’ll excuse me.”

    Captain Rinckes stands up and leaves the bemused Captain Harriman behind.

    * * *

    Starbase 9 – June 27, 2380 – Stardate 57486.8

    “The following interview with Commander Tony ‘Q’ Blue and Ensign Emily C. Murphy provides a firsthand depiction of the Station A-12 incident,” Captain Keith Harriman’s recorded voice says to the admirals in Starbase 9’s main office.

    Four admirals sit at the center table; Fleet Admiral Owen Paris lingers by the office’s viewscreen, on which Commander Tony Q and Ensign Murphy move into view after entering Captain Harriman’s office. Tony Q’s appearance raises a few eyebrows. His skin is pale and he treads carefully, like a wounded man—something that should not be possible. A small text at the bottom of the screen reveals this footage was recorded on board the Achilles less than an hour ago.

    The two young officers sit down opposite Captain Harriman, who seats out of the camera’s view, and resemble two children summoned to the principal’s office.

    “I assume our medical staff took good care of you, Commander?” Captain Harriman asks.

    “They did their best.” Though Tony Q has had a few hours to recuperate, he sounds tired.

    “How did—”

    “How did I wind up here?” Tony Q completes the sentence for him.

    It’s a shame Harriman can’t be seen in the recording; his expression must’ve been priceless. What is visible is Tony Q pondering his own question. After failing to come up with an adequate recap, he looks at the ensign sitting next to him. “You first.”

    Ensign Murphy hesitates briefly before launching into a well-prepared monologue. “I am Ensign Emily C. Murphy. I graduated last year, and becoming a junior security officer on board the USS Kennedy was my first starship assignment.” Thrilled to have an official conversation with a Starfleet captain, she inadvertently comes across as a tad too enthusiastic given the subject matter. “I was in one of the many security squads that beamed to Station A-12 to try and recapture it. Commander Tony Q had also joined our squad.”

    “I’ll explain later,” Tony Q adds.

    “We were searching for a way to shut off the conference room’s shield when Altonoids ambushed our team. The crate I used for cover blew up, incapacitating me. Commander Tony Q, despite being injured, singlehandedly pulled the destroyed crate off me, and we left for the shuttlebay.”

    “Why escape the station?” Captain Harriman asks. “What about your primary objective to retake the station at all costs?” Though these questions may appear to be accusations, Harriman asks them tactfully.

    Despite Harriman’s tact, Ensign Murphy’s enthusiasm fades. “We did fight back,” she replies, “while we were headed for the shuttlebay. Tony… Commander Tony Q needed medical treatment.”

    “Wasn’t it more important to do whatever you could to secure the station?”

    “The battle was lost, sir,” Murphy says, fierceness seeping into her voice. “There was no point in denying it. If Tony, I mean, Commander Tony Q hadn’t pulled me out from under that crate, I wouldn’t have been able to fight anyway and you wouldn’t be speaking with me now. He saved my life.”

    “And she saved mine,” Tony Q says, drawing back the captain’s attention. “I would never have made it out of that cursed station alive if it wasn’t for her.”

    That remark serves as Harriman’s cue to ask questions he’s been itching to ask for over six hours. “Commander,” he begins in a solemn tone of voice. “You’re quite famous in Starfleet for being a member of the Q Continuum. Frankly, you’ve saved our hides more often than many a respected officer before you gave up your last shreds of humanity to become a full Q and live amongst your new peers.”

    “That sums it up rather beautifully,” Tony Q says with sufficient sarcasm.

    “Under normal circumstances, a Q cannot be harmed by humanoid life because a Q has complete control over space, matter, and time.”

    “True.”

    “And now you’re sitting here, having suffered severe injuries, claiming that without Ensign Murphy’s help you wouldn’t have made it off Station A-12 alive. How can this be?”

    Tony Q’s posture droops as he struggles to say, “I am human.”

    “Does that mean—?”

    “They kicked me out, yes,” Tony Q replies, “for helping you.”

    “Me?”

    “No, not just you. Humanity! The Federation!” He lets out a deep sigh. “My fellow Q demanded I stop dwelling in the past. They’d allowed me to use Q powers to help the Federation because they considered it appropriate training for a human ascending to Q-ness. The idea that I, as a full member, would stick to meddling in human affairs infuriated them. To them, I was a valedictorian who kept insisting on playing with blocks upon graduating.” He sets his jaw. “But I saw it… from outside the confines of the space-time continuum. I saw the Federation was losing this battle, this upcoming war.”

    “So there will be war.”

    “You don’t have to be omniscient to see this war coming,” Tony Q says. “I mean, this was the final straw. Diplomacy has failed. Sure, we will try to resolve things peacefully, even after what happened yesterday, but do you honestly believe this war can be avoided?”

    “No,” Captain Harriman admits.

    Tony Q pauses for a moment of reflection and then smiles as if thinking about an old love. “You cannot understand what it’s like to be a Q, to have the entire universe at your fingertips, to be free in every sense of the word. I have seen places and dimensions beyond imagination and beauty… beyond anything a human being could ever comprehend, let alone experience. And it was endless, limitless.” The fire in his eyes dissipates. “But… I wanted to make a difference again. Is that a crime? Is that such a crime that it warrants taking everything I had?”

    These are questions neither Captain Harriman nor Ensign Murphy can answer.

    “So I grabbed a phaser rifle and set foot on that bloody station. Q tried to talk me out of it.”

    “That is the Q, who visited the Enterprise on several occasions?”

    “Yes, him. I couldn’t make him understand. He left in anger, and then I lost my powers as well as my immortality… And now I—”

    The recording stops abruptly and is replaced by a young ensign who is as anxious as any ensign would be when addressing a room full of admirals. “I’m sorry to interrupt you,” he says. “The fleet has arrived.” Five high-ranking stares prompt the young officer to clarify matters in an almost apologetic tone. “You requested to be informed when the USS Achilles and the other surviving ships arrived.”

    “Make sure the Achilles docks first,” Admiral Paris says. “Have Captain Harriman and Captain Rinckes meet us in the conference room on the double.”

    “Yes, sir.” The Federation logo replaces the nervous ensign’s visage, sparing him the sight of five admirals hurrying out of their office.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Feels like there's something more going on about what happened on this station that the survivors don't want to talk about. I like a good mystery.

    Also really curious to learn more about Tony Q and his peculiar origin story. I wonder if you'll delve into that further.
     
  12. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Yes, though Tony's origins isn't the focus of the story, it will be explored gradually in the upcoming chapters.

    I just noticed you write stories as well. I'll check out Civil War soon. Looks interesting!
     
  13. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Fallen Heroes - chapter 1c

    The Achilles, Tripoli, Cavin, Praxis, Taylor, Mystic, Perseverance, Adams, Vertigo, Sao Paulo, and Chariot have arrived at Starbase 9. That makes eleven out of the forty-six ships involved in two separate battles at Nedron and Station A-12.

    Spectators of the fleet’s approach have to admit this was another costly battle for the Federation. Sadly enough, a loss of this magnitude isn’t new for any of them—it pales in comparison with the Dominion War’s death count—but everyone realizes the thirty-five ships lost yesterday will certainly not be the last. To make matters worse, most people currently stationed on Starbase 9 have at least one person in their circle of friends and family who served on the ill-fated starships and who will never return home. People will gather by the casualty lists throughout the starbase, desperately hoping their loved ones are somehow still alive—a hope shattered by one line of text in a list filled with names. The only thing that will stave off their need to mourn will be fear of what’s to come now the Altonoids have instigated war in their backyard.

    Most of the surviving vessels, representing various ship classes, look battered and in need of repair. With its sleek, angular design, the Achilles is clearly the newest among them. Somehow, at first glance, it appears to be in pristine condition, even though she has sustained minor battle damage. Being the lead ship, she is first to pass through the giant space doors and enter Starbase 9’s internal docking area, which is capacious beyond measure and full of life. Work bees, shuttlecraft in all types and sizes, men and women in space suits—they’re all bustling about.

    The Achilles slowly maneuvers its way through this highly organized mess and halts near the heart of the starbase. This heart alone contains numerous offices and crew quarters, reception and waiting rooms, offering a splendid view of the docking area. Truly a remarkable piece of engineering, this starbase of over 13 kilometers in height (2,765 decks, if you’re counting) and nearly 9 kilometers in diameter.

    * * *

    It makes you feel incredibly tiny and insignificant when you walk the passenger gate from a docked starship to the heart of the starbase. The gate is approximately 90 meters long and offers a marvelous view of the docking area by virtue of its transparent sides and roof.

    Dozens of officers are currently exiting the Achilles via the gate; Commander Tony Q is one of them. Though it’s not as prominent as before receiving medical care, Tony Q still has a limp in his walk. Carefully, he proceeds toward the entrance of one of the uncountable passenger halls. He’s quite famous in Starfleet, but at the moment he wishes he was any ordinary guy. Everyone is throwing him glances, immediately looking away whenever his eyes meet theirs. It’s as if they’ve arranged a collective effort in inducing feelings of guilt and hopelessness. He can’t wait to get off this starbase.

    * * *

    Captain Keith Harriman and Captain Stephan Rinckes materialize in two blue transporter beams to be greeted by five admirals, who summon them to sit down at the imposing table in the center of the station’s main conference room. Equipped to hold up to several hundred attendants, the conference room’s current relative emptiness adds a twinge of reverb to everything that is said.

    Once everyone has settled in, Fleet Admiral Owen Paris opens the meeting. “Welcome, gentlemen. By now we have an adequate picture of what happened at Station A-12 and the battle of Nedron. We’ve gathered to inform you about our next course of action. It is safe to say we have a very serious situation on our hands.”

    Everyone listens as quietly as possible.

    “This starbase is practically next in line for another Altonoid attack,” Admiral Paris continues. “As we speak, our best diplomats are attempting to reopen negotiations with the Alto Empire. You don’t have to be a pessimist to believe their efforts will fail. Starbase 9 will be put on yellow alert indefinitely. Every Federation planet, ship, colony, or station will have to be fully prepared for all-out war. Men, we should be ready.”

    After such a speech, nobody dares to say anything.

    Nobody except Captain Harriman. “There is something I must tell you.” This gets him plenty of attention. “There is a specific reason why part of our fleet survived the battle of Nedron.” This gets him even more attention.

    “Explain, Keith,” Admiral Paris says in a way that prompts Harriman to feel four feet tall.

    “We were losing the battle. The Altonoids had destroyed the majority of our fleet. There was no possible way for us to survive… But we did.”

    “What happened? Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

    Since he has the floor anyway, Harriman stands up to walk around freely while addressing the admirals and Captain Rinckes. “It’s a long story. You can read it all in my updated report.” Of course, this doesn’t really please the crowd, so he continues. “Let’s just say the seventy Altonoid ships were easily defeated, but not by us.”

    This raises the few eyebrows that weren’t already raised.

    “I haven’t told you this before because we didn’t know who helped us.”

    “But you know now?” the oldest admiral in the room asks.

    “Yes, Admiral Winkler. We’ve analyzed the data gathered in the Nedron system. My first officer handed me our science team’s conclusion minutes ago.” Captain Harriman halts near Admiral Paris. “Do you remember the battle of Griddle II?”

    “Pretty much an identical situation,” Admiral Paris acknowledges. “Another dispute between the Federation and the Altonoids.”

    Admiral Winkler chimes in again. “The late Admiral Bywaard commanded the fleet involved in that battle. Despite his best efforts, we lost a lot of ships to the Altonoids that day.”

    “Yes,” Harriman says, “until we received unexpected help from a third party that destroyed two Altonoid vessels with great ease. Intimidated as they were, the Altonoids withdrew.”

    “I believe the Sundance fought in that battle and barely survived,” Admiral Winkler says. This comment was half-directed at Captain Rinckes but he doesn’t respond.

    Harriman lifts his head and says with a barely contained grin, “The mysterious weapon’s subspace signature we found at Nedron is identical to the one encountered at Griddle II.”

    Silence fills the room as the news sinks in.

    “That third party we’re talking about…” another admiral says cautiously. “Are we talking about the S’Prenn?”

    The lean captain hesitates before answering, “Yes.” He can hardly believe it himself, even when confirming it to the brass, but his science team’s evidence is irrefutable. “They helped us out again. I don’t know why or if they will keep helping us.”

    “They could be a pivotal ally,” Admiral Winkler notes.

    “All we know is that they pulled us out of the fire and defeated seventy warships in the process,” Harriman says while returning to his seat.

    Admiral Paris has been quietly staring at the center of the table, reflecting on this new information. When he speaks up again, all go quiet and listen attentively. “We must try to contact the S’Prenn. We have to know whether they’ll support us if we go to war with the Altonoids.”

    Everyone agrees.

    “There is much work to be done,” Admiral Paris continues.

    Everyone agrees.

    “The three Station A-12 survivors will be given shore leave for at least a month, to give them the chance to recover.”

    Captain Rinckes disagrees. “Sir,” he says—the first word he has spoken since his arrival. “I can’t just sit around and do nothing while the Federation is in dire straits.”

    “Considering the circumstances,” Admiral Paris says, walking a fine line between friendliness and authority, “it would be best for you to blow off some steam. Don’t worry. We’re not putting you into mothballs.”

    “I appreciate the gesture,” Captain Rinckes says without even trying to sound sincere, “but I urge you to reconsider. Starfleet needs all the good captains they have. Can you afford to let me sit idly by while the Alpha and Beta Quadrant are plummeted into chaos and, let’s face it, war?”

    “You’ve got a point, Captain,” Admiral Paris says. Then, he notices Harriman’s mouth opening and closing several times in a row. “Keith?”

    Harriman exhales sharply before speaking out his concerns. “What the survivors of Station A-12 have been through is… quite something.”

    “And how would you know that?” Captain Rinckes asks. “You were a little late to the party, Keith.”

    Harriman doesn’t rise to the bait and uses his gentlest voice again. “All I’m saying is that the emotional stress you endured might have a substantial effect on you and your ability to command, at least in the short run.”

    Rinckes is unmoved by his colleague’s argument. “No, I’m fit for duty.” He addresses the admirals. “I’m forty-six years old; I’ve served Starfleet my entire adult life. Adversity comes with the job. I have endured the Cardassian War, the Dominion War, and multiple Borg invasions. I have seen much and lost many. I’ve already been through ‘quite something,’ let me assure you. I am a seasoned and skilled captain who is willing and able to serve, especially when Starfleet needs me most.”

    Harriman isn’t convinced yet. He won’t soon forget the raw emptiness he saw in Rinckes’ eyes when he met him in the shuttlebay.

    “You’ve never failed to impress us with your speeches, Stephan,” Admiral Paris says. “You’ll get your new command, don’t you worry about that.”

    “Thank you,” Rinckes says.

    For a moment, Captain Harriman considers challenging this decision. He chooses to stay silent, however. Once the admiral has made up his mind, he has made up his mind.

    * * *

    A young, brown-haired officer examines an information wall terminal near Starbase 9’s docking area. She sifts through the passenger manifests until she comes across Commander Tony “Q” Blue’s name. “There you are. The SS Hawkeye, boarding now,” Ensign Murphy says. She adds herself to the passenger list, picks up her baggage, and rushes toward the designated docking port.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  14. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Fallen Heroes - chapter 1d

    Commander Tony Q dawdles through a crowded passenger hold until a 24th century equivalent of a flight attendant spots him and guides him to the proper compartment. “Welcome to the Hawkeye, Commander Tony ‘Q’ Blue,” she says courteously. “You are free to pick a seat in the adjacent zone. I hope you’ve had a pleasant stay at Starbase 9.”

    Tony gives her a short nod and enters the correct seating area. “Had a pleasant stay,” he mutters to himself. “I’ve been here for only… what, six hours? Four of which I spent with a counselor who seemed to have more problems than me.”

    After evading yet another inquisitive stare, he settles for a window bench and deposits his fragile body on comfortable upholstery. The view is wonderful from here, and Tony watches the numerous work bees, shuttles, and starships continuing on with their respective businesses, as busy as it always is in such a vast docking area.

    He feels a thump. Someone has seated next to him. Not in the mood to socialize, even if restricted to the usual pleasantries, he hopes that whoever it is will go away soon. She doesn’t.

    “If this Earth is as beautiful and fun as everyone says it is,” she says, “I wouldn’t mind spending my R&R there.”

    Tony turns to the familiar voice. “Emily?” he gasps.

    “Tony?” Emily Murphy gasps. She exchanges the admittedly spot-on imitation for a big grin, awaiting his reaction.

    “What took you so long?” he deadpans, and he looks out the window again.

    In feigned anger, Emily crosses her arms and sits back. After a few seconds’ worth of silence, she gives it another go, “So you’re going back to Earth?”

    Slightly annoyed, Tony spares her a glance. “Yes, that would be the point of sitting in a transport vessel headed for Earth.”

    Another short silence.

    “Are you headed for Earth too?” Tony asks while he cannot entirely understand why he’s continuing this little contest of asking the blinking obvious.

    “Absolutely,” Emily says with an amused twinkle in her eyes. “What a coincidence. Of all the planets, we’re both headed for Earth.”

    “Startling,” Tony says, fully intent on staring out the window again.

    “Why? Why are you going to Earth?” Emily says to prevent that.

    Tony sighs before answering. “Because I was born there. Because my father lives there. Because I have no better place to go spend my shore leave.”

    “Does it still hurt?”

    “What?” Tony says, realizing he’s not going to be enjoying the outside view much during the upcoming journey.

    “Your wound. It’s more than just physical, isn’t it? Station A-12’s events must’ve hurt you in—”

    “I’d rather not talk about that, okay?” He faces her directly. “I thank you, profusely, for helping me, for saving my life, but I need to come to terms with this whole predicament, with everything I’ve lost.”

    “But you’ve also gained something there, Tony: a friend.”

    “Yes. And for that I am grateful, rest assured,” Tony admits. “Can I look out the window now?”
    “Be my guest,” Emily says with a smile.

    The Hawkeye fires thrusters and maneuvers its way out of spacedock with steady precision. Thanks to the window’s reflection, Tony notices people watching him, ranging from furtive glances to outright gawking. “They’re all staring at me. My fly’s not open or anything?”

    “You’re okay. Not all of them are staring at you. That guy over there seems more interested in me.”

    “I don’t doubt it,” Tony remarks dryly. He rubs his temples and groans, “I wish I could be invisible.”

    She will have none of that. “How many commanders aged eighteen are there in Starfleet? Really? You’re a celebrity!”

    “I’m not a celebrity. I’m just a… victim of circumstances.”

    Emily suddenly plucks two of the three rank pips off Tony’s collar.

    “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?”

    “I’m demoting you, Ensign,” she replies playfully.

    “What?”

    “An eighteen-year-old ensign attracts a lot less attention than an eighteen-year-old commander. You should change into civilian clothing as soon as you arrive on Earth.”

    A lieutenant passes by and—as is becoming the norm—gives the fallen Q a look of budding recognition, soon destined to upgrade to an awkward stare. Then his gaze lowers to Tony’s rank insignia. The lieutenant blinks a couple of times, raises an eyebrow, and continues on his way.

    “See! It works!” Emily says.

    “That’s quite clever,” Tony says, actually meaning it. “You should get a promotion,” he adds, sarcasm kicking in again.

    Emily places the two rank pips on her collar, right next to the lone pip indicating she’s an ensign. “Good enough?”

    Tony chuckles softly. “I had a feeling you’d do that, Commander Murphy.” When he resumes admiring the view outside, the internal docking area has been replaced by a typical sight for faster-than-light space travel: white stripes of stardust streaking past the window.

    * * *

    Sol System, SS Hawkeye – July 1, 2380 – Stardate 57498.5

    Earth is the most beautiful planet in the entire universe—for humans, that is. Vulcans think Vulcan is the “most aesthetically pleasing” planet, while Klingons think the mere sight of Qo’noS makes your heart pump like the heart of a wounded targ or whatever it is they say. But for humans, nothing beats seeing Earth from outer space, especially today. With the exception of sparse cloud cover above Brazil and Alaska, North and South America are bathing in sunlight.

    Now the Hawkeye has entered orbit, Commander Tony Q gazes at the blue planet and realizes this remains an enthralling spectacle, no matter how often he’s seen it. Although Earth is still thousands of kilometers away, it’s as if all one has to do is roll down the window and reach out to touch it.

    “I’ve been away too long,” Tony whispers to himself. He can’t help but smile a warm, heartfelt smile for the first time in… well, feels like ages. Tony bets there are plenty more of those smiles being directed at Earth at this very moment.

    * * *

    Earth retains its beauty when viewed from Earth Spacedock, which bears close resemblance to Starbase 9, except for one main difference: this station orbits Earth, whereas Starbase 9 hangs in space many light years away, in the middle of nowhere.

    Having waited until most passengers left the area, Commander Tony Q and Ensign Emily Murphy roam an almost deserted passenger hall, which features a long line of windows showcasing Earth in all its glory. Even though they haven’t forgotten what their home planet looks like during the time it took to disembark the Hawkeye, they can’t resist darting the occasional glance at the giant blue marble.

    They haven’t spoken much since a few days into the journey as they enjoyed each other’s company without the need for incessant conversation. It could be because he is so close to home, or maybe he just feels safe around Emily, but Tony finds himself saying, sarcastically of course, “I can’t wait to see my father’s face when I come limping in.”

    “I’m sure he’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Emily says.

    “Haven’t seen him in a while. Been too busy gallivanting around the universe. I…” It’s hard for him to admit this. “…forgot about him, though I don’t think he has forgotten me. And now he’ll find me on his doorstep in this condition.”

    Emily spends a few seconds staring at the floor before saying, “Consider yourself lucky. I don’t have a father to return to. He’s been long dead. So is my mother.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” Tony says, feeling like an insensitive jerk for complaining to an orphan about having a father.

    Emily hasn’t taken offense. “They died thirteen years ago, at Wolf 359.”

    “The Borg…” Tony shakes his head. “Nasty lot.”

    “You’ve had a few run-ins with them.”

    “Too many.”

    “Your reputation is well-earned, you know that? Everyone remembers the last Borg invasion. You singlehandedly liberated a Borg cube, freed all its drones from the Collective, restored their individualities.”

    “They pissed me off,” Tony says, simpering at his choice of words. “For years I believed they had killed my father. During the invasion of ’78 I found out they had assimilated him instead. I used my powers to free him and thousands of others. I… I thought he was dead, and when I found out he wasn’t… instead of rekindling our family bond, I ran off a year later and haven’t seen him since.”

    “Don’t worry, Tony. He’ll be glad to see you. I just know.” She unleashes one of those smiles that could calm you even if you were the only redshirt in an away team.

    They’ve reached the end of the passenger hall. “Shuttle to San Francisco is this way,” Tony says while halting short of the door marked “to shuttlebay 1.” Its panel indicates the next shuttle departs within five minutes.

    “Shuttle to Lille is this way,” Emily says, pointing at the adjacent door, which leads to shuttlebay 2. She lets out an almost unnoticeable sigh. “I can’t wait to reunite with my aunt.” An uneasy silence follows.

    “So I guess this is goodbye then.”

    Emily nods.

    Completely failing to find the right timing in order to keep the awkwardness to a minimum, Tony attempts to embrace Emily. Completely failing to find the right response to decrease the awkwardness a little, Emily simply puts her arms around Tony too. The end result, though quite funny to see, would constitute a genuine hug. Letting go of each other turns out to be considerably easier and they do just that.

    “Thank you, for everything,” Tony says.

    “You’re very welcome.”

    The door to shuttlebay 1 opens for him. “Goodbye, Emily.” He walks through the door and into the corridor on the other side.

    “Goodbye,” she says before the closing door separates them.

    Tony limps through the corridor in search of this shuttlebay 1. Ten yards in, his pace slows to a crawl, every step increasingly harder to take than the one preceding it. Eventually, he comes to a stop and looks around for a moment, feeling a little stupid. “What am I doing?”

    Abruptly, he turns around and heads back. As if attached to an invisible rubber band, he picks up speed the closer he gets to his destination, until the door opens and reveals Emily, who hasn’t moved an inch.

    Tony halts in the doorway and the two officers stare at each other, not exactly knowing what to say. “That… umm… aunt of yours.”

    “I never liked her anyway,” Emily replies as she moves past Tony and enters the corridor he’s in. Tony bursts out with laughter and follows her. “We have about three minutes left to make it to the shuttle,” she says. “We’d better hurry.”

    “Wait a minute. I’m not that fast,” Tony says as he attempts to catch up with her. “You might need to carry me again!”

    Emily is wise enough to ignore that remark.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Nice. Really liking this banter and obvious chemistry between Tony and Emily.
     
    Alexbright99 likes this.
  16. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Fallen Heroes - chapter 2a

    Earth, San Francisco – July 1, 2380 – Stardate 57498.6

    From the moment the sun began its early-morning reign, there hasn’t been a cloud in sight. In a few hours, the sun will ring the curtain down on another well-received performance and disappear behind the horizon. Until then, everyone in and out of the city can revel in the comfort of a warm summer’s day.

    Lieutenant Ralph Blue has been working in the garden all day, yet he’s reluctant to quit. His endearingly archaic cottage on the outskirts of San Francisco is surrounded by a large garden, which requires frequent maintenance. That’s no issue for Ralph, who can be found tending his box trees whenever his busy work schedule in Starfleet’s science division allows him the opportunity.

    In his late forties, the lieutenant is an attractive man. His well-preserved looks and natural charm, complemented by his laugh lines, give him every ingredient to be a typical ladies’ man. However, after his wife left him when their only son was ten years old, his appetite for romance faded. Self-blame and regret formed a bitter cocktail preventing him from opening up to anyone new. Instead, he focused on being a good parent, until the Borg cut those efforts short. Following his assimilation into the Borg Collective and his subsequent rescue at the hands of his son, who left shortly thereafter, he embraces these instances of solitude to reflect on his life. On a day like this, there’s no doubt in his mind that he’s on the right track.

    So here the off-duty lieutenant is trying his best to turn a box tree into a perfect globe while occasionally throwing a glance at the city of San Francisco, which lies gleaming in the evening sun. He has no regret whatsoever for moving to this house on this hill with its bright green grass and fertile soil. Having lived here for almost two years now, he is yet to grow tired of the scenery, so he glimpses at the city once more, only to discover that a figure has emerged at the far end of the garden.

    “Dad?” the figure says.

    Ralph responds by cutting his award-winning box tree neatly in half. Oblivious to his act of tree mutilation, he drops his gardening tools and slowly rises to his feet, squinting at the silhouette. Could it be… “Tony?” he says, staggering toward the figure. Once he’s close enough to recognize his son, Ralph breaks into a run, aching muscles or not.

    “I’m sorry I wasn’t—” Tony says, unable to finish his sentence because Ralph hugs him so thoroughly he’s lifted off the ground.

    To Ralph’s surprise, his son winces in pain, prompting Ralph to let go and step back. Though this shouldn’t be, the young commander appears weak and disheveled. Granted, his wearing civilian clothing instead of a pristine Starfleet uniform might detract from his usual confident aspect, and it has been a year since Ralph has last seen him, but he knows his son well enough to sense his misery. “You’re not a Q anymore.”

    Arms hanging by his sides, Tony stares at the grass. “Is it that obvious?”

    “Is this why you’ve come back?”

    Tony struggles to come up with a proper answer. “I… I just wanted to say hello,” he says, trying to sound indifferent and failing. “And I was hoping we could talk.”

    “I must say I did not expect this sudden visit,” Ralph says in a serious tone.

    Tony opens his mouth, yet words elude him.

    “But you know you’re always welcome here.” The affectionate warmth in Ralph’s voice should alleviate any lingering feelings of guilt. “Stay here as long as you like or as long as Starfleet will let you stay.”

    This marks the first time since last year that he sees Tony smile.

    “You know your way around the house,” Ralph says as he guides his son to their home. While they’re traversing the stone path leading to the front door, he notices Tony is limping. He decides not to mention it. It can wait. Right now, he is content knowing his son has returned. “Your bedroom is still in the same place. I figured you’d be back one day.”

    From the corner of his eye, he spots another figure in the garden: a brown-haired woman roughly the same age as Tony. He gives Tony an inquiring look. “Who is she?”

    Tony responds with a brief eruption of incoherent stammering. That’s not working, so after a second of contemplation, he levels his gaze at his dad and says, “Umm… can we keep her?”

    * * *

    Night has fallen over the Pacific Coast. Tony has grabbed a hideous, yellow lawn chair and placed it smack-dab in the middle of the garden, facing a beautiful panorama of San Francisco and all its colorful city lights. The night sky is free of clouds and would be empty and peaceful were it not for the steady streams of air trams, city hoppers, and shuttles crisscrossing the Bay Area like organized fireflies. They carry on as if nothing has changed and nothing ever will, as if the Station A-12 Debacle never took place. He could almost trick himself into believing that—almost. Sitting there, alone with his thoughts, he cannot escape that gnawing feeling one gets after returning from a long vacation: as if one never left to begin with.

    His father, carrying an equally hideous lawn chair, walks up to him and seats himself next to his son. “That Emily sure is a sweet girl,” he says. “I can tell she’s feeling at home already. She has customized the guest room to suit her wishes and made an inventory of everything we have and should have.”

    “Yeah, she’s like that,” Tony says with a subdued smile. “We’d better get used to it.”

    “With her steadfast and strong-willed personality, she reminds me a bit of Sally.”

    Tony’s subtle smile turns into a joyless grin. “Let’s hope Emily possesses the loyalty Mom lacked.”

    Ralph clears his throat before asking cautiously, “While you were out there, did you reestablish contact with your mother?”

    “No. I haven’t spoken with her since she left us.” Tony rubs his jaw. “To tell you the truth, with the way it all went down, how she abandoned us, I don’t ever want to see her again.”

    “Neither do I,” Ralph says, though he doesn’t sound convincing.

    With that touchy subject out of the way, they silently enjoy the soft weather and take in the splendid view. Minutes drift by like the maundering petals of the lone cherry blossom tree standing proudly at the edge of the garden.

    “I’ve really missed this,” Tony says. “It’s different when you’re human. Cool breeze on my skin, air filling my lungs, a real heart pumping blood through my veins, being restricted to one time and place, watching stars that were once my domain. It is humbling to realize how incredibly weak and small I have become.” He catches himself speaking with sudden contempt. “Sorry…”

    “It’s okay, son.” Ralph hesitates before continuing. “Emily told me a few things about what you went through at Station A-12, what you did and sacrificed. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you, what storm is raging in your head. I’d like to, but I can’t.”

    “That’s all right. I can’t imagine how I feel either,” Tony says with a wry smirk. “My current strategy is to try not to think about it too much. I’ll deal with it when I must. It will take time, good old-fashioned linear time.” He wishes he had a beverage with him. That last sentence would have warranted taking a swig and looking pensively into the distance.

    “You’ve changed.”

    Tony nods, trying to appear stolid while suppressing a brief, unannounced pang of remorse.

    “Standing up against the Q Continuum, choosing a side and facing the harsh consequences. You knew what you were giving up.”

    “But was it worth it?” Tony asks, no longer pretending to be indifferent. “Most of my friends are dead; I couldn’t prevent that from happening. Got myself scarred for life in the process. I did what I thought was right, but I’m starting to believe I’ve made a horrible mistake.”

    “No, you made a conscious decision to be there for your friends when they needed you most, and to be here and fight with us, potentially helping billions of people. The Continuum wouldn’t let you, but you did it anyway. How can that be the wrong call?”

    An ironic sort of smile contorts Tony’s lips. “I guess becoming a Q has changed me in more ways than I realized, hasn’t it?”

    Ralph no doubt intends to encourage him, yet it comes out as a feeble afterthought when he says, “Hey, you do with your life whatever you want.”

    Tony sighs. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

    Their conversation falls silent again as Tony takes a deep breath of pleasant night air and stares at the distant skyscrapers, tiny pins of light shining from their windows, creating a star field of their own. It takes him a while to muster the courage to say what needs to be said. “I’m sorry, Dad, for leaving you here. I shouldn’t have neglected you the way I did… You didn’t deserve that.”

    Ralph knows a sincere apology when he hears one. He puts an arm around Tony and shakes him about playfully. “Well, you’re back now, aren’t you?”

    “Phaser scar, Dad. Phaser scar,” Tony groans.

    This father-son “quality time” moment suddenly gets interrupted by Emily shouting from inside the house, “Guys, you might want to see this!”

    * * *

    Ralph, Emily, and Tony sit together on a big sofa in the living room, watching the news on a holographic screen concealing the fireplace when activated. This technology is similar to the viewscreen used aboard the Achilles, albeit simplified and made suitable for domestic use. None of that matters to the three off-duty officers, for the news broadcast has captured their unbridled attention.

    A holographic representation of a reporter—an attractive woman in her late twenties—addresses them while the Federation and Altonoid flags hover behind her. “—after claiming they have annexed Loïdian space. Ever since Starfleet made first contact with the Altonoids, three years ago, the Altonoids have treated us with unwavering paranoia and hostility, culminating in several armed conflicts. Regardless, we never gave up protecting the fragile peace between us and the Alto Empire. Last week’s forceful takeover of Station A-12, which cost thousands of lives—”

    A stock holophoto of Station A-12 appears on screen. Emily finds it distressing to be confronted with this image, a blatant reminder akin to a sudden punch in the gut. Her wounds are all too fresh. She won’t soon forget the macabre sight of the dead USS Wolf clutching the defeated station. That was the exact moment she fully understood the true extent of the tragedy she had witnessed and that the Altonoids’ victory was irrevocable.

    Luckily, the reporter comes into view again. “This relative peace was left hanging by a thread by what many considered an act of war. Our best diplomats have deployed a wide array of tactics to secure peace through negotiations, but the Altonoids were, simply put, ‘unwilling to listen,’ according to a Federation spokesperson.”

    She pauses for a few seconds, looking billions of viewers across 8,000 light-years of Federation space in the eyes. “The Alto Empire has declared war on us. The major forces of the Alpha and Beta Quadrant, among them the Klingons and the Romulans, have stated they will remain neutral during this conflict, for this is ‘a dispute between the Federation and the Altonoids.’ Because none of the governments sees any reason or indication that the Altonoids might attack them as well in the near future, the Federation is on its own for now.”

    Tony is getting paler by degrees while staring through the viewscreen, and his father shares his silence. Emily can’t believe this is happening. It’s as if she’s in one of those dime-a-dozen disaster holodeck programs or experiencing a bad dream. Sadly enough, there’s no waking up from this. She was in her mid-teens when she watched a disturbingly similar news report announcing the Dominion War. That one proved to be only too real.

    The reporter keeps spewing cold fact after fact. “Starfleet is already sending fleets to the Altonoid and former Loïdian borders. Additional military information is not available at present. However, we can be sure that Starfleet will do everything in its power to defend the citizens of the Federation from these aggressors.”

    Emily turns to Tony, perhaps hoping to find solace, but he is no longer by her side. Looking around, she catches but a glimpse of Tony walking out the front door. His father hurries after him.

    * * *

    With unfocused eyes, Tony stares at the stars dotting the night sky in deceptive serenity. It’s hard to take that a war is being prepared somewhere out there—a war he could not prevent.

    Footfalls in the grass alert him of his father’s approach. “I knew this would happen,” Tony says to him. “Everything is spiraling out of control the way I foresaw when I was a Q. I know what’s going to happen next. I know where this will lead us. It is what shaped my decision to assist the Federation.”

    His dad cannot offer a response to that.

    “I don’t… I don’t know the specifics,” Tony continues. “I no longer understand the intricacies of time; details of future events have blurred into a vague mess, yet I can say with absolute certainty that we have great reason for concern.”

    Emily walks up to father and son with her arms crossed in a worried self-hug. “But I heard you say you know what’s going to happen.”

    “I know we’re going to lose,” Tony says grimly.

    “Don’t say that.” Ralph puts a hand on his son’s shoulder. “I’m neither an expert on temporal mechanics nor can I comprehend how the Q perceive time, but I do know one simple truth: the future hasn’t been written yet. Already your actions must have influenced what you believed to be the future. Could that be why the specifics of this upcoming war have become hazy?”

    Tony remains silent as he gently removes himself from his father’s grasp to step forward. He keeps listening, though.

    “We’re all afraid of the future,” Ralph says. “Everyone is, especially now.”

    “But we know there’s always hope,” Emily cuts in. “We may not be omnipotent, but we can make our little differences each day and hope for the best.”

    Tony’s gaze is fixed on the heavens, yet he knows she’s smiling right now, for his sake. “I suppose you’re right.” He turns to face his father and Emily, and indeed, her encouraging smile does not disappoint. “Now I have you two. I couldn’t have predicted that.”

    “Exactly!” Ralph says. “Who knows what other great things await us?” He lets the notion sink in for a few seconds. “Or we could all be dead by next week,” he continues in the same optimistic tone of voice.

    A beat of shocked silence.

    Then everyone bursts out with laughter, and they go back into the house, leaving the radiant field of stars to watch over this tiny blue planet, as it has always done.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Bittersweet chapter, a lot of doom and gloom and yet also some great imagery as father and son reconnect. No action or explosions here, just good dialogue and colorful prose.

    And perhaps some hope for the future?

    Really good stuff!
     
  18. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Couldn't have written a better synopsis myself, Cejay. I appreciate your feedback. Thank you for reading! Next up, we make a little time jump to early 2382 and see what our main characters are up to. Stay tuned!
     
  19. Alexbright99

    Alexbright99 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2018
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Fallen Heroes - chapter 2b

    Earth, San Francisco – February 17, 2382 – Stardate 59130.4


    The Federation banner contains only a fraction of the countless stars visible from Earth: three prominent stars, to be exact, accompanied by a few dozen smaller ones. A miniature holographic Federation banner serves as a backdrop for a miniature holographic news anchor emanating from a portable holo-emitter. Its owner, a middle-aged man in a Starfleet uniform, leans against a wall in a calm street overlooking the bustling Golden Gate Bridge while quietly watching the little news anchor hovering above his left wrist.

    “—not much has been heard of the Altonoids since,” the holographic woman says, “which has given us a chance to lick our wounds. Shipyards are operating at peak capacity to counter the terrible losses suffered during the past one and a half years. Unfortunately, nobody could ever replace the millions of lives already lost in this fierce war. The last armed conflict with the Altonoids dates back as far as over four months ago, but given the ongoing efforts to rebuild our defensive and offensive—”

    Two loud-talking Starfleet officers distract the man for a brief moment as they pass by. When they recognize who they’re bothering, the officers immediately go quiet, allowing the admiral to continue watching the news.

    “—the Federation suffer the same fate as the Loïdians? Starfleet Intelligence has proven irrefutably that the Alto Empire has betrayed their former ally and overthrown the Loïdian government, their citizens enslaved, their technology exploited.

    “And what about the S’Prenn? In the beginning of the Federation-Altonoid war, the S’Prenn helped us on three separate occasions. Mysteriously enough, we haven’t heard anything from them in over a year, nor have we found any indication of S’Prenn activity. Their continued support would have been more than welcome. What has happened to them? Nobody can give us the answer to this ever-pertinent question. Starfleet assures us, however, that they will not stop protec—”

    The slender admiral shuts off the wrist holo-emitter. The dissipating hologram reveals a Starfleet drafting poster on the nearby wall—a poster on which able-bodied young men and women stand side by side, willing to lay it all on the line to defend their homes. Admiral Keith Harriman studies it and lets out a somber sigh before walking out of the alley and into the crowded streets.

    “San Francisco has seen better days,” Admiral Harriman thinks out loud, noticing many details that were different, say, two years ago. The people are timid, silently going about their everyday activities, whether they are human, Vulcan, Bolian, or any other species the admiral comes across. Most of them have suffered great losses… Family, loved ones, some even lost their entire home planet. Heavy hearts render the streets quiet and colorless. Few children play in the abundant parks and playgrounds. Any desire to play outside has long since been quenched by their parents’ wartime anxiety. Shuttles, air trams, and other forms of transportation do their work overhead, somehow appearing equally as timid and lifeless.

    But hey, at least the sun’s shining, trying to cheer up the world.

    Every once in a while, Admiral Harriman encounters armed Starfleet officers. He greets them whenever they greet him, but he shakes his head afterward. This reminds him too much of the Dominion War, when Earth was under constant threat and nearly turned into a police state. The aggressors may have changed, but the looming atmosphere of dread is eerily similar.

    “The last armed conflict with the Altonoids occurred in early October, but everyone is still jumpy,” Harriman mumbles to himself. “That last encounter was a disaster for the Federation. The entire population of Matala IV wiped out, another 84 vessels lost on our side…”

    People are staring at him, and he realizes his thoughts are a bit too loud to be classified as such. He stops speaking but keeps ruminating. Nobody has forgotten the Matala incident. Better yet, everyone can readily name each Altonoid incident of the past two years, starting with the Station A-12 Debacle and the Battle of Nedron. He can still picture himself on the bridge of the Achilles, his fleet hopelessly outmatched, shouting orders as the relentless enemy destroys one ship after another, each with hundreds of good people on it, all lost to the vacuum of space.

    Lieutenant Commander Ralph Blue is standing across the street, amidst a dressed-up crowd that has gathered in front of a beautiful old building with a cement stairway leading to a solid maple double door entrance. The lieutenant commander enthusiastically waves his arms at the admiral.

    Harriman pushes his troubled expression away with a broad—if not entirely genuine—smile and waves back.

    Ralph is wearing his Starfleet dress uniform, which is notably different from the standard-issue one. For instance, the dress uniform jacket is white instead of black and has a wide blue-gray stripe running down its center, there is prominent gold stitching on both jacket and pants, and it makes its wearers look like they escaped the set of “The Love Boat.” A considerable portion of the crowd is wearing these dress uniforms. Judging by how happy everyone seems, it’s obvious something special is going on.

    Feeling a little self-conscious, the admiral hurries across the street.

    Ralph greets him with an extended hand. “Admiral Harriman, I presume?”

    Harriman replies with a courteous nod and shakes hands with the lieutenant commander. “And you must be Ralph Blue. Tony’s father.”

    “I’m glad you could make it, Admiral. Not everyone we invited could be here today.”

    “I just had to visit them. When I met them two years ago, while still in command of the Achilles, I somehow felt responsible for them, especially for Tony. I’m glad to hear everything turned out well for him.”

    “You bet.” Talking about his son—with an admiral, no less—makes Ralph’s eyes light up. “Since he arrived on Earth he has been serving at Starfleet HQ as a tactical advisor. Everybody’s very pleased with his work. If it weren’t for him, we might’ve lost many more lives in this war.”

    A short silence ensues. The word “war” has become a jinx these days.

    “It’s odd, though,” Ralph continues in order to break this gloomy silence. “My own son outranks me and has a better service record than I’ll ever have, even though I’ve been with Starfleet for twenty-five years.”

    Harriman detects a fair share of fatherly pride in Ralph’s voice. “You should be proud of him,” he says, knowing the lieutenant commander wanted him to say that.

    Ralph’s smile widens. “Thank you, Admiral. I am.”

    Harriman leans in a little closer and says in a serious tone, “The first time I spoke with Tony, he was very upset about losing his Q powers. I felt sorry for him.” He tries to formulate a tactful question regarding Tony’s current state.

    No need, Ralph can already guess what the admiral is getting at. “He seems to have accepted his newborn humanity. It has been a struggle, and I don’t think he has fully come to terms with himself yet. He’s a fighter, though. Despite everything, he remains focused on the future. Nobody here can deny that.” A subtle smile shows off his laugh lines, and he glimpses up the stairs. When he sees nobody is there yet, he asks, “So what do you do now? You’re no longer in command of the Achilles, you said.”

    “Correct. Last year I got bumped up to admiral and they put me in command of Earth Spacedock.”

    Ralph gives the admiral a pat on the back. “Earth Spacedock? Now that’s a good career move.”

    “Yeah, well, I’ve supervised so many battles—too many to count—and I know deep down that I can be more valuable commanding a ship on the war front.” He shrugs. “Starfleet decided to take me out of the captain’s seat anyway and promoted me to admiral as cold comfort.”

    On a special occasion such as this, Ralph is impervious to pessimism. “On the bright side, it is safer in Earth’s orbit than way out there.”

    “That’s true. I shouldn’t complain. Skilled in combat as I am made out to be, I’ve never yearned for battle.” A glimmer of mischief flashes across his lean features. “But if we’re under attack by an Altonoid fleet, I don’t intend to sit on my butt and wait for them to come knocking on my door.”

    Ralph chuckles at the admiral’s candid remark. “So who’s in command of the Achilles now?”

    “The powers that be replaced me with an established captain.” Harriman smoothens his jacket. “Captain Stephan Rinckes.”

    The crowd cheers and throws white rice at the young man and woman who have emerged from the building and are coming down the stairs. Some of the attendees are taking pictures with their holo-cameras, ready to cherish the occasion for years to come.

    Like his father and many others guests, Commander Tony “Q” Blue is adorned in his dress uniform. He’s looking better and healthier than ever, yet he still favors his right leg. Although walking has become considerably easier for him than it had been directly after the Station A-12 Debacle, he proceeds down the stairs carefully with the help of his bride.

    Ensign Emily Murphy is wearing a gorgeous red wedding dress and tries to maintain a smile through all the rice that is being thrown at her. It’s clear the newlyweds are quite fond of each other, because they’re focusing on the happy moment itself instead of the hazardous fountains of rice.

    Of all those present, Ralph is applauding the loudest. Harriman applauds too, though with a tad more modesty. Admittedly, seeing Tony and Emily this joyful warms his heart. Happiness this pure is the rarest of commodities.

    When the bridal pair has finished their brief journey down the stairs, they recognize Harriman standing next to Tony’s father. The happy couple work their way through the crowd while high-fiving outstretched hands and receiving hugs varying in intensity, and eventually they reach them.

    “That’s been a while,” Tony says as he shakes Harriman’s hand. “An admiral, no less?”

    Admiral Harriman tries to say something self-effacing, but a wholehearted embrace from Emily prevents this.

    As if it isn’t busy enough for Tony and Emily, their wedding planner summons them to get on the shuttle bus that touched down seconds ago. The white shuttle bus—in the 24th century more shuttle than bus—opens its side and rear doors, and a red carpet rolls out of its right door. While the overzealous wedding planner pushes Tony toward the shuttle bus, Emily manages to stay put and say to the admiral, “At nine o’clock this evening we’ll hold a wedding reception at Deer Park Villa. You’re welcome to drop by if you want.”

    “Thank you kindly for the offer,” Harriman says, using his gentlest voice again, “but I have other obligations.”

    “That’s okay. It was nice to see you again.” That’s all she can say for now, because the ardent wedding planner has grabbed hold of her and is gently but firmly pulling her in the direction of the shuttle bus, where her husband awaits. Once she has boarded, scores of people follow suit, including a small-framed, middle-aged lady wearing a beret. Tony’s father hops onto the bus as well and wraps his arms around his son and daughter-in-law as soon as he has braved a sea of occupants.

    Alone in the thinning crowd, Harriman watches the red carpet rolling back in and the doors closing while the shuttle bus gets ready for departure. He waves as the shuttle bus lifts off, heads for the sky, and becomes one of the many anonymous specks of dust flying overhead. His waving went unnoticed, no doubt.

    Admiral Harriman will have to report back to Earth Spacedock soon, yet something compels him to stay a while longer and go for a stroll. When he saunters off, hands clasped loosely behind his back, his mind wanders as it did before. This time, however, his thoughts aren’t so downcast. The streets seem colorful and alive to him now, and the sun is shining brighter than before. At a leisurely pace, he makes it all the way back to Fort Mason and spends ten minutes gazing at the juxtaposition of sea and hills before pressing his combadge and disappearing in a flurry of blue light.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Tony and Emily makes sense. They had real good chemistry.

    Good to see it's not all bad news but it does feel like things are about to get worse, if Tony's earlier prophecy is anything to go by that is.
     
    Alexbright99 likes this.