Star Trek: Fortitude - Season Four

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by admiralelm11, May 1, 2021.

  1. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 22, 2004
    Location:
    Cobalt Frost in Phineas & Ferb's backyard
    Great stuff, man! I have to admit I was actually anxious to see what would happen after Ewan had lost his arm. I really hope Naketha gets some righteous comeuppance!
     
  2. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Star Trek: Fortitude
    Season Four, Episode Nine - ‘News’
    By Jack D. Elmlinger


    PROLOGUE

    He sat alone at the table.

    For some reason, he felt as giddy as the first time that he had met her. Before him, two tall glasses of Ktarian beer sparkled under the flashing artificial lights of Club 499. One was his and the other was waiting for her.

    It was her favorite… or, at least, it had been her favorite. She had been gone for so long. They hadn’t spoken in over five years, a gap so remarkable that he had no problem accepting her apparent death.

    Still, faced with seeing her again…

    Maybe he should switch to Aldebaran whiskey, another of her favorites.

    Something caught his attention. The panoramic bay windows of Club 499 overlooked the beautiful blue-and-green Class-M world of Santrag II and that, in itself, was a reason to turn his head but there was something else…. Something new…

    It was sleek, a feat of 24th-century engineering. It was coming in low, positioning along Starbase 499 with an obviously skilled helmsman at the controls. He didn’t need to read the name and the registration number emblazoned across the bow of the saucer section, but it didn’t stop him from doing it anyways. His heart skipped a beat.

    USS Fortitude, NCC-76240… an Intrepid-class starship…

    Her ship…

    A hand ran across his scalp with nary a single hair obstructing it. He had seen better days, of course. Time was to thank for that. Would she even recognize him? Would he recognize her?

    He had only heard fragments of what had happened. Swept up by some gigantic alien starship and carried to a distant planet, only to be found almost two years later by Fortitude was purely an example of sheer good luck. There was no telling what kind of toll such a great experience would have had on her.

    Well, it was time to find out. He sipped his Ktarian beer nervously. She would be here any moment now that Fortitude was back in the Santrag system.

    “I still can’t believe it,” he whispered to himself. “Kate Pulaski… alive…”


    ACT ONE

    Captain’s Log, Stardate 52450.6;


    Giving the severity of recent events, we’ve returned to Starbase 499 somewhat earlier than I had originally planned. It allows the crew some time to pause and reflect upon losing four of their colleagues to Naketha’s insidious actions.

    I do also have a personal reason for the homecoming. Doctor Pulaski is hoping to use the extensive medical facilities on Starbase 499 to complete repairs to my left arm. I’m scheduled to meet with her soo after she finishes responding to a personal request.



    The sharp intake of breath wasn’t meant as a shock.

    Standing over the table in Club 499, and critically sweeping her eyes across his face and body, Katherine Pulaski didn’t quite know what to say. She hadn’t expected seeing him again would hit her so hard. Funny… of all of her three ex-husbands, Oliver Madden was the one that she missed the least during her time with the Eastleans. It was probably why she hadn’t bothered to contact him upon her return to Federation space. Now, seeing him sitting there, a pint of Ktarian beer being offered to her in his hand, she doubted those feelings. He was looking well.

    Although…

    “You’ve lost your hair,” she noted, stating the obvious.

    “I’m glad to see that you haven’t lost yours,” Oliver retorted with his trademark sarcasm.

    “That makes two of us. Ollie, it’s good to see you!”

    They embraced over the table before taking their respective seats.

    “You mean that?,” Oliver asked slowly. “I came across your name by chance, Kate, in some Starfleet database. It took me months to track you down! I thought, well… I thought you were gone forever. How come you didn’t contact me?”

    Pulaski sighed. It was the question that was worth a million bars of gold-pressed latinum… that, unfortunately, she didn’t have an answer to. Why hadn’t she contacted him? It wasn’t like her return from beyond the grave was a state secret. She had sent a letter to her third husband within weeks of being aboard Starbase 499. It had developed into a lengthy exchange which had only been halted by the Tah’Heen incident, last year and the recent increase in Dominion activity. Hell, even Kyle Riker knew that she was alive and well in the Santrag system, serving aboard Fortitude. The doubt that she felt over her own reactions grew as silence followed Oliver’s inquiry.

    Oliver viewed her silence with trepidation. Folding his arms across his broad chest, the tan-colored jacket that he was wearing parted around the midsection, revealing a shirt underneath that was hugging an impressive washboard stomach. Pulaski’s eyes widened as she caught a glimpse. A reaction that he noticed.

    “Did you think I’d let myself go in my middle age?,” he said, chuckling.

    “The cargo business must be good to you.”

    “The Alpha Quadrant is all systems go, thanks to the war,” Oliver explained, his hands moving behind his bald head. “I’ve upgraded my ship since the last time that we spoke. Remember the Atlantic, that old crate? She’s a goner. It was difficult to part with her, for sure, with so many memories. I thought you were a goner too, Kate.”

    “You got rid of the Atlantic?,” Pulaski gasped in disbelief. “Ollie, that ship was your home for almost twenty-five years! You had it while we were married. It took us to our honeymoon on Risa!”

    Suddenly, the Doctor realized what she was saying. Of course… he thought she was dead. Flying around in that cargo hauler day-in and day-out must have dealt a crushing blow to his emotions, especially during the mourning period. They had spent a lot of time together aboard the Atlantic in their younger days. It was where he had proposed to her. It didn’t just carry cargo. It carried memories.

    “I’m sorry, Ollie,” she whispered because it was all that she could say. “I’m just sorry.”

    “Don’t be,” came his reply. “I’m not. My new ship is faster, bigger… and better in every way except… Well, it’s still just me. I fly it around on my own, just as I always did before, and I guess I always will. At least, with the Atlantic, I had the history to enjoy, you know. There was a reason for keeping her.”

    “I know you all too well, Ollie,” she reminded him. “What are you getting at?”

    “I think you can guess, Kate. After all, you’re right. You do know me too well.”


    * * * *


    The fact that she was a technophobe made him nervous.

    Oh, there was no question that he trusted her more than any other physician that he had encountered. Indeed, the track record of chief medical officers aboard Fortitude was hardly a glowing example of excellence, making her even more valuable and even more trustworthy in his eyes… but she was a technophobe. There was no denying it… and yet here she stood, leaning over his left arm, tinkering with technology.

    “How many more of these tune-ups am I going to need?,” Ewan Llewellyn asked.

    “As soon as I’ve connected all of the nerve endings,” Katherine Pulaski replied to his question,” there should be anything beyond regular housekeeping every month or so.”

    “No offense, Doctor, but I’m glad to hear that.”

    The new synthetic arm was an impressive feat of 24th-century medical genius, there was no question about that. When it was finished, it would look like a natural appendage and feel like one too if anybody were to touch it. To Captain Llewelly, it would never feel natural. The alloys were fused to the bone and to the skin. There were sensors in the fingers and cosmetic hairs would be implanted along the forearm to attempt to replicate when he had lost in the Aleh Terrh duel with Naketha… but it wasn’t the same.

    As Pulaski administered another hypospray to keep the local anesthetic strong, he reached across his chest and poked his open palm.

    Nothing.

    No warmth from his natural hand and no feeling from the finger jabbing away.

    Pulaski noticed, pausing in her work. “Checking something?”

    “I feel like some reject from the Borg Collective,” Ewan sighed.

    There was a brief silence. Pulaski was staring at nothing in particular. There was no reaction to his joke as forced as it was to try and cut through the morose cloud that surrounded him at the moment. Even though he wasn’t looking for one, the muted absence of even a token chuckle made Ewan move beyond his personal crisis and see that something wasn’t right with his Chief Medical Officer.

    “Are you all right, Doctor?,” the Captain inquired with a frown.

    “Sorry… Yes, I’m fine… Will be fine, thank you.”

    “You seem preoccupied with something. I’m not going anywhere. You can talk to me.”

    “Doctor-patient confidentiality?”

    “I don’t see why it shouldn’t work both ways.”

    Kate closed up the medical tricorder that she had been holding and smiled at Ewan. It was a grateful smile as though whatever was coming had been fighting against her and doing some serious damage. Slowly, she began to share.

    “His name is Oliver Madden, and he was my first husband…”


    ACT TWO

    At that moment, Oliver Madden was ordering his latest drink.

    It was all that he could manage to do. Upon arriving in the Santrag system and docking with the mammoth Starbase 499, he had built up every ounce of strength that he had towards the moment of asking Kate to leave Starfleet and come back to him. Now that the moment had passed and the answer was ambiguous, he didn’t know what to do with himself.

    He didn’t know where to go.

    He wanted the answer.

    No, he needed the answer.

    Without it, he simply sat at the table in Club 499, drinking synthehol and wishing quietly to himself that it was real alcohol.

    Come on, Kate. it wasn’t that difficult of a question, was it?

    Across from his table, a more happy reunion was taking place. After sharing a passionate embrace, not a second thought was given to the public nature of their feelings as Erica Martinez and Gabriel Brodie parted and took their seats. Continuing to hold hands, the Station Master and the tactical officer just grinned at each other for what seemed like an eternity. They hadn’t been together in months.

    “Damn,” it’s good to see you again,” Erica finally spoke.

    “We’ve been speaking almost every single day!,” Gabe pointed out to her before backing down from his position and widening his grin. “Yeah, it’s good to see you too.”

    “I’m glad that we’ve got this chance…”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well… what with Naketha and all…”

    “It’s like I said,” Gabe soothed, reminding Erica once again that he was never truly in the path of danger, much to his chagrin. “I was aboard Fortitude the entire time. We traded a few torpedoes with a Warbird, nothing serious.”

    “I know,” the beautiful Latina woman admitted, letting her dark hair breeze across her face as she began to admit her feelings. “It wasn’t so much the situation. I just know you, Gabe, and that means any dangerous situation that you find yourselves in out there makes me worry. You would never shy away from a fight. On the contrary, you would seek one out, and it puts you at risk. When you’re out there, those are the risks that I can’t help you with.”

    The old Gabriel Brodie would have rolled his eyes at such an outpouring of emotion. It had been a while, though, since he had been in a relationship, or making love to a woman was all that he could think about. Erica was different. She evoked emotion from him. Something that very few women had ever managed before. He recognized her admittance for what it was, a sweet-natured concern for a loved one, and yeah, he shared it too. Gently, he squeezed her hand in reassurance.

    “Hey,” the dark man whispered, dipping his head to see underneath her fringe and making eye contact,” no matter what trouble Fortitude gets into, and no matter who we face off against, I promise you… I’ll be back, at this table, telling you all about it in person, every time. It won’t stop you from worrying… but it’s the best that I can do.”

    “You know,” Erica smiled,” that’s more than enough for me.”

    “So,” Gabe continued after a short pause,” dinner… your place or mine?”

    Station Master Martinez entertained a short laugh.

    Regardless of his developments, once a womanizer, always a womanizer.


    * * * *


    Work on the Captain’s synthetic arm proceeded slowly.

    It was due to the conversation taking place between Ewan and Kate. Never before had the Doctor encountered a commanding officer so willing to invest time and effort in the personal problems of his crew. While he dismissed that it “takes my mind away from what you’re doing to the infernal contraption fused to my arm”, Pulaski knew this wasn’t true.

    He had made the senior staff into a family and not just shipmates. It was for this reason that she had gone into so much detail and soon she realized that she had run out of history to divulge. Ewan knew everything that there was to know about Oliver Madden, cargo captain, and Katherine Pulaski’s first husband.

    Everything except for the details of this morning’s meeting.

    “Do you know why he’s here?,” Llewellyn asked as another relay inside his metal forearm was calibrated. “I mean, aside from making sure that you really are alive?”

    “While it wasn’t actually said between us,” she revealed,” I think I do.”

    “He wants you to leave Starfleet, doesn’t he?”

    “How did you…?”

    “I’m a good listener,” Ewan smiled. “Well, what are your thoughts?”

    Removing the instrument from the mechanical depths of the Captain’s new limb with great care, Pulaski considered the question. There were many factors, too many of them to even comprehend all at once. She wasn’t getting any younger. Had she envisaged being in Starfleet service forever? Even if serving aboard starships wasn’t her thing, she knew that all it would take was a well-timed application and she could hold down a swanky desk job at Starfleet Medical Headquarters in San Francisco.

    Then came the question of companionship.

    Despite telling herself at several different stages of her life that some form of relationship didn’t matter to her anymore, she would only be lying to herself if she said the natural impulses weren;t still there.

    Oliver… Oliver had been young and so had she when they had tied the knot. Her passion for medicine forced her to seek a life other than that of a cargo ship’s physician. It had been rather fun though. Forced to improvise in a less-than-outstanding Sickbay, she had discovered her fondness for old-fashioned remedies and developed her distrust of technology. Oliver, the Atlantic...those years had been the making of Katherine Pulaski. They were who she was.

    And, boy, they had been exciting.

    She was older now, and so was Oliver. Still, he did look good…

    The recent action in the L’Raka village proved that she still had some fight left in her…

    How strange. She never would have believed it, but she was tempted.

    “I don’t know,” she finally admitted to Ewan. “Honestly, I’m not just sidestepping the question. There’s history between us. I really have no idea as to how we would work out together, and that’s a huge gamble.”

    “You do love to gamble, Doctor,” he pointed out to her, a lopsided grin brought straight from the poker table to the biobed in a flash.

    “I must say,” Pulaski observed with genuine admiration,” that you are nothing like the previous captains I’ve served with. I mean that as a compliment. Fortitude is a lucky ship with you sitting on the Bridge… seriously.”

    The Welshman felt his cheeks flush red, matching the color of his uniform collar. “It’s just nice to be nice, Doctor.”


    ACT THREE

    Captain’s log, supplemental;

    Tomorrow sees the last upgrade to my synthetic arm. It also sees Captain Oliver Madden’s deadline for departing Starbase 499. Despite my long conversations with Doctor Pulaski, I believe she will be waiting until the last moment to make a decision regarding her future. On a personal and entirely selfish note, I hope she decides to stay… but I’m confident that whatever the result may be, she won’t arrive at it lightly.”



    “It’s a no, Ollie.”

    Katherine Pulaski was trying to break the news as gently as she would treat any of her patients, but sugarcoating it wasn’t making it any less difficult for him to hear. Standing in her quarters aboard Fortitude this time, away from the cluttered noise of Club 499, and relaxing in a more private environment, Oliver Madden let out a slow, deep breath. At least, it was an answer, despite it not being the answer that he had hoped for. If anything, the waiting had been hurting him the most. Oh, this rejection would still hurt, there was no doubt of that… but now he could move on.

    There was no harm in asking why, though.

    “We’ve both changed,” she pointed out to him. “No, that’s not right. We’re both the same people actually. Our worlds have just changed around us. I still want to practice medicine and you still want to run freight, but we’ve found ways to expand our desires. As a matter of fact, I’m in the process of giving someone a new arm.”

    “So cleaning grazed knees in Cargo Bay Four is beyond you now?”

    “You know that’s not what I mean, Ollie.”

    “Yeah,” Oliver said, nodding and regretting his last proposition. “I know… I’m sorry, Kate. I was just all hopeful again. I felt young again. At my age… At our age, that’s a rare thing, although I’ll be willing to bet that you see your fair share of excitement out here. Somebody’s arm, you say? Wow… damn, you’re really something, Kate. These people are lucky to have you at their side, picking up the pieces.”

    “Thank you,” Kate accepted. “That means a lot to me.”

    “Hell, I was even prepared to give you my only shuttlecraft…”

    That made the Doctor indulge in a chuckle.

    Oliver picked up his tan-colored jacket from the sofa and slid it over his shoulders, preparing to leave. There was little more to say. He had seen her, said his piece, made his case, and gotten the answer that logic told him it would be.

    Damn… he had listened to his heart instead of his mind. It was the Human thing to do, after all. Nevertheless, it had been great to see her again, alive and well, doing what she did best and what she always wanted.

    Before he could make it halfway to the door, a hand took a hold of his. It stopped him dead in his tracks, turning him back around.

    “Don’t be a stranger,” she asked… no, ordered him.

    “I’ll be around the Galaxy, out there as usual. You know me. Oh, I almost forgot…” Reaching into his jacket, Oliver produced a small isolinear chip. “Transponder codes,” he told Pulaski,” for the Atlantic II.”

    “You named your new ship, the Atlantic II?”

    “What else was I going to call the damned thing?”

    In taking the chip, Pulaski released his hand from her grasp. The cargo captain’s heavy boots carried him closer to the door. It swished open at his proximity. This time, it was his own responsibility to stop himself from leaving. One final time, he tilted his hairless back towards his first, and only love.

    “It’s because I’m bald now, isn’t it?,” he joked, always someone to leave on a joke.

    “On the contrary,” Kate smiled, countering the joke with the truth. “There’s a bald man out there in the galaxy like you, flying a starship around who carries my undying respect alongside him. Now… now I guess there are two.”

    Oliver Madden flashed his teeth as he left.

    “Until next time, Kate…”

    “Until next time, Ollie…”


    * * * *


    They were to be found in Main Engineering. Not her favorite place.

    Striding past the swirling azure reactions mixing within the warp core, she mounted the small elevator and ordered it up to the Chief Engineer’s main diagnostic station. There were tools strewn in her path that had mysterious functions that she could never understand. Not that she wanted to understand them. Technology, the hell with it. Neatly sidestepping the most important devices, she approached that pair of men that she was here to check upon.

    “Here for a last-minute approval, Doctor?”

    “Just making sure that my partner does a decent job, Captain.”

    Ewan Llewellyn accepted Pulaski’s presence as she watched the deft green fingers of Lieutenant Commander Sollik complete the final intricate touches to the cybernetic limb that she had attached in Sickbay. While it was strictly a medical procedure, replacing the lost arm with a synthetic alternative, there was always an engineering aspect to the larger, more complex methods of biomechanical body parts.

    Artificial organs were small and easy to maintain. An entire limb? Working fingers, a wrist joint, and pressure sensors… had all been hooked up to the central nervous system but all of it needed calibrating. That wasn't the job of a doctor but rather the job of somebody altogether more qualified, especially when your doctor wasn’t a huge fan of technology.

    The Suliban was doing fine work. With an impressed inclination of his eyebrows, Ewan showed off his newfound ability to move his fingers. The arm looked as natural as it was possible, save for the open hatch through which Sollik wrapped things up. Even skin pigmentation had been matched accordingly since it was an important feature for a Welshman proud of his tan. It took just a moment to seal and, in that instance, Llewellyn was as close to Human again as he was ever going to get. Rolling his uniform sleeve back down over the synthetic limb, he thanked his chief engineer and turned towards Pulaski.

    “I’m glad to see you’re still here to perform the final checkup, Doctor.”

    “Thank you, Captain.”

    “Are you all right? I mean, it must have been difficult…” Ewan paused, taking note of the smile that she was wearing. It was the last thing that he would have expected to see. Yet, there it was, nevertheless… a smile. Curious at what was so amusing, he responded with a frown as they left Main Engineering together.

    “This life of ours,” Pulaski answered upon noticing his frown. “I remember you asking me if I’d be all right after that Oxeeni business and that Vazai cult. I was just about to ask you if you would be all right given your own recent experience. We put ourselves through some really complicated situations, don’t we?”

    “You can say that again,” Llewellyn agreed with a nod, pushing back his dark fringe.

    “Yet we stay. We keep doing it to ourselves.”

    “And do you regret that, Doctor?”

    The smile on her face broadened as she replied,” Oh no… you couldn’t drag me away…”


    EPILOGUE

    The Ktarian beer in his hand was the last treat that he would allow himself.

    The last reminder… It was time to move on.

    With various sounds associated with decompression and docking, the many tendrils of Starbase 499 disconnected themselves from the outer hull of the Atlantic II. At the command of Oliver Madden, yellow impulse engines roared to a deeper orange hue as they pushed forward, away from the support of the blue-gray superstructure and into the welcoming orbital glow of Santrag II. the cargo vessel with the color matching her captain’s jacket, rotated slowly towards the road home, her bow pointing to her next destination.

    Oliver was inches from tapping the warp drive control.

    With his mind elsewhere, he gave in to reflection. He blamed the Ktarian beer.

    It evoked strong memories.

    Memories of another time… of another age… of a younger age.

    “Pull yourself together, Ollie,” he hissed, feeling his eyes grow wet with tears, hoping that his own voice would force them back to wherever they had come from. “You’re in command of your own ship. The Galaxy is big enough… They’ll be others out there. She wasn’t the only one!”

    She might as well have been.

    Katherine Pulaski left a lasting impression. That much was certain.

    Well, it had been worth a try. Now it was time to move on. Jerking his head back, he downed the remainder of the beer in one expert gulp. As it flooded his insides, Oliver Madden clenched his jaw in defiance of his emotions and discarded the empty glass before he punched the appropriate control.

    Immediately, the Atlantic II jumped to warp.

    Yes.. It was time to move on…


    The End.
     
  3. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 22, 2004
    Location:
    Cobalt Frost in Phineas & Ferb's backyard
    You've really captured Pulaski; I can totally hear/see Diana Muldaur!! I really enjoy the "slice of life" episodes.. I mean, I'm totally hooked on the tales of the Fortitude, but the "slice of life" episodes just add that little bit extra something.
     
  4. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Star Trek: Fortitude
    Season Four, Episode Ten - “Inmate”
    By Jack D. Elmlinger


    PROLOGUE

    “Come in.”

    Valerie Archer entered the Ready Room of the USS Fortitude to the frustrated huffing and sighing of her Captain and lover. Pacing back and forth across the length of the large, spectacular window that provided the backdrop of Santrag II, Ewan Llewellyn had his hands clasped firmly behind his back. Upon noticing his First Officer, he paused only briefly, inflating his muscular chest in a dramatic fashion. His expression said it all, despite the obvious mood hanging over him.

    “No luck?,” Valerie confirmed more than asked.

    “With Rear Admiral Blackmore out of action, I’m the ranking Federation Starfleet representative in the Santrag system,” Ewan fumed, resuming his pacing. “You would think that somebody down there would have the time to answer my calls!”

    He pointed out the window at Santrag II.

    “Things have been getting tense lately,” Valerie pointed out, trying to bring the boiling aggravation of the Welshman down a notch or two. “The Santragan People’s Freedom Democracy is a young government, Ewan. give them time to accept their newfound authority. Hell, they only kept Veth Ka’Gerran around to act as an ambassador to Starbase 499 because he knew how the game worked! Things were never going to stay the same. We’re dealing with --”

    “-- Veth Ka’Gerran,” the Captain interrupted her. “He’s the one that I’ve been trying to call!”

    “Oh… and there’s been no response?”

    “Five hours and counting,” he revealed. He stopped pacing long enough to allow Valerie to approach him and place a reassuring hand on his shoulder. It was the right move, just as she always managed to break through. His hand joined hers as a sign of thanks. “I just wish they would get back to us.”

    The monitor on the Ready Room desk started to beep.

    Finally!

    Upon reading the incoming message, Llewellyn began to wish that he had never been contacted at all. The frustration on his face was quickly replaced with a potent mixture of confusion and sorrow. He couldn’t believe what he was reading.

    “What is it?,” Valerie frowned.

    “Veth Ka’Gerran… He’s in prison!”


    ACT ONE
    Captain’s Log, Stardate 52547.1;

    My efforts to reach Ambassador Veth Ka’Gerran have revealed him to be incarcerated at the pleasure of the Santragan People’s Freedom Democracy. While I’m not sure about the reasoning behind such an imprisonment, I have little doubts that it is connected to the illegal assistance that we provided him earlier in the year. Feeling personally responsible, I have arranged for Commander Archer to visit Ambassador Ka’Gerran and find out what’s going on down there.



    A sleepy early evening Bridge crew was wrenched back from peaceful slumbering daydreams by the Captain’s presence. Marching from his Ready Room, Llewellyn assumed a central position and got the attention of Jason Armstrong. Peering out from underneath his floppy blonde fringe, the young ensign listened as the unexpected orders were given in a quick, snappy succession.

    “I want to speak with the surface.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    “Get me whoever is in charge of this People’s Council that they’ve got down there.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    “Put them on the main viewscreen.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    “Do you know who I’ll be speaking with, Ensign?”

    “Aye, sir,” Jason answered automatically, biting his tongue a second later. “Uh, I mean, no… No, Captain, I’m sorry, I don’t. Hold on, I’m getting a reply.”

    As Llewellyn turned towards the viewscreen, everybody who had been watching the operations officer plant his foot squarely in his mouth joined him. There would be time to feel sorry for Jason later. Something had irked the Captain and the forthcoming conversation was obviously going to be heated. Arden Vuro, Gabriel Brodie, and Valerie Archer all adopted their game faces as the Kentuckian at the back of the Bridge stopped short of burying his flushed cheeks in his open palms.

    The Bridge was overlooked by a large representation of an equally large Santragan male, middle-aged, and obviously doing well out of the current political climate. His pale skin and portly statue were markings of his profession. Politicians always managed to remain a galactic constant somehow. With an odd balance of annoyance and diplomacy, he addressed the entire Bridge.

    “Starship Fortitude… what can I do for you?”

    “I am Captain Ewan Llewellyn,” Ewan introduced himself. “To whom am I speaking?”

    “My name is Tret Bra’Kala. I am the current holder of the People’s Council Rotating Presidency and therefore the man that you will be dealing with for the next… ohh… six Terran months. Captain Llewellyn, it’s a pleasure to finally speak with you.”

    “President Bra’Kala,” Llewellyn continued after the traditional forced smile,” am I to understand that former Prime Minister and current Ambassador to Santrag II, Veth Ka’Gerran, is currently imprisoned on your world?”

    “Unfortunately, yes… you are.”

    “May I ask for the reasoning behind his imprisonment?”

    “He violated the People’s Council and contacted Starbase 499 for assistance during the recent incident involving a natural storm that swept through our capitol. I’m sure that you remember the incident, Captain. I gather you turned him away. That must have been a difficult decision to make, given your friendship with him. Allow me to personally thank you for respecting the ruling of the People’s Council.”

    Llewellyn averted his gaze from the viewscreen. The deception had obviously worked. None of the officials on the surface of Santrag II knew that four disguised Starfleet officers had returned with Veth and provided the very assistance that was outlawed. Either that or this President Bra’Kala was being deliberately accusatory and sarcastic in that unique tone that politicians always managed to achieve. Not knowing which answer to take from the conversation, he pressed on.

    “Mister President,” he managed to say in the calmest Welsh accent that he could muster,” if Ambassador Ka’Gerran was found guilty, then there must have been a trial. Under the laws of the Federation, I and half of my senior staff should have been called to testify at that trial. Since we were never called, I must protest.”

    “The evidence was damning,” Tret Bra’Kala replied. “The jury reached a verdict before a summons could even be made. I have those summons on record. They can be transmitted if you like for your own peace of mind.”

    “I would very much like that. Thank you, Mister President. What about visitation rights?”

    “He has the same rights as any prisoner.”

    “I’m grateful for your honesty in this matter, Mister President.”

    “Anything for the man who saved this world in the past…”

    The viewscreen returned to displaying the depths of the Beta Quadrant as Ewan recoiled at that last final parting blow. He could have just been referencing the End skirmish from the first year of Fortitude’s posting or the encounter with the Borg Cube heading directly for Earth or even the nasty betrayal involving Tano Jmara and the secret Shurvun invasion fleet… but there was a sneaking suspicion at the back of his mind that he was, once again, making a sly reference to the fact that four Starfleet officers had breached the sovereign orders of a Federation member, several months ago. Great Scott, this was turning into a complicated dance.

    “Visitation rights,” he repeated to himself, musing over the facts.

    “Thinking of seeing an old friend?,” Valerie offered, stepping forward.

    “No, but you are,” the Captain ordered her. “Get down there and see what Veth has to say about this trial of his. I want to hear his side of the story because I don’t believe for one damned second that the Santragan People’s Freedom Democracy gives a damn about Federation legal proceedings any more. If there’s been a breach…”

    “Then what?,” asked the First Officer. “We’re going to spring him from jail?”

    Llewellyn answered with a long, silent stare.

    It was enough to shut Valerie Archer up.


    * * * *


    She materialized just outside the holding center.

    The Santragan prison guards eyed her with suspicion and mistrust. It was far from the reception that a Starfleet commander expected to receive on a member world, but then again, she thought to herself, Santrag II was far from any normal member world at the moment. There was a shroud of mystery surrounding the social evolution currently underway that not even the most powerful sensors aboard the gigantic starbase in orbit could penetrate. Taking a deep breath and ignoring the doubt cast over her uniform and presence, Valerie Archer stepped inside.

    He sat behind a thick wall of transparent aluminum. It was all very old-fashioned.

    Hollow, soul-destroying eyes rested in deep sockets.

    The flicker of recognition that crossed them wasn’t enough to brighten his mood.

    “You’ve got a visitor, Ambassador,” snarled one of the guards.

    “Hello, Veth,” Valerie said, awkwardly, trying to smile at him.

    The hollow eyes closed to avoid giving the observing cameras any hints.

    “Commander Archer,” Veth Ka’Gerran whispered,” you’ve got to get me out of here!”


    ACT TWO

    “I didn’t expect to have company… Well, not beyond him, of course.”

    With a gesture towards the occupied biobed, Ewan Llewellyn approached Station Master Erica Martinez as she worked on a few system reports alongside the comatose Rear Admiral Edward Blackmore. It wasn’t like there was a schedule or anything but this was the first time that he had come to see his superior officer and find competition for a seat. If it was anybody else, he would have come back later but Erica was a compassionate person with a strong head on some responsible shoulders. She would understand. As the Starbase 499 medical level continued to absentmindedly move around them, he peered her shoulder and scored a look at her work.

    “I was always bored by system reports,” explained the Latina woman. “Boxer was the only person who ever managed to make me do them. Old habits, I guess.”

    “You don’t have to justify anything to me,” Ewan said, smiling.

    “So, what’s your excuse?”

    “Worry. I come here and talk to him whenever something’s bothering me. These days it usually involves talking about Santrag II. I assume that you’ve heard about what the People’s Council did to Veth Ka’Gerran?”

    Erica slowly nodded, her sadness evident on her dark features. “He’s such a good man,” she told the Captain. “I feel so sorry for him.”

    “A lifetime of service, trying to help his people and look how they repay him.”

    The conversation fizzled out. There was an almost uncomfortable edge to this chance encounter. More so on Martinez’s part, thanks to the distant echoes of her romantic feelings for the Captain. Two entirely different jobs, two opposing ranks, and yet they shared this. It wasn’t until this crisis befell Edward Blackmore that they had realized just how much they needed the Rear Admiral. He had been the lynchpin holding the whole Federation's presence in the Santrag system together. If he was conscious, Llewellyn would have put good money on Boxer being able to save Veth Ka’Gerran from prison. He would have gotten answers over that as-yet-unexplained hijacking of the USS Steamrunner, and he would have sorted out that self-important People’s Council, saving countless lives in the aftermath of that storm… without breaking the law.

    “When’s Commander Archer due back?,” Erica finally asked him.

    “Any moment now,” Llewellyn told her. “I guess I’m just killing time here.”

    Another long period of awkward self-aware silence followed.

    “How’s the arm?,” Erica inquired, trying again to continue the conversation.

    “Fine,” he lied, still not entirely comfortable with the artificial limb and flexing it as he spoke, hearing it faintly whirr beneath the false skin. “It takes some getting used to though. That much you can be sure of.”

    “I hope I never have to find out for myself.”

    “Heh… Me too, Erica.”

    It was another painful few minutes before his combadge chirped. “Llewellyn here,” he answered instantly, tapping his communicator.

    “Commander Archer has returned from the surface, sir. She’s in your Ready Room.”

    “I’m on my way.”

    With an excuse provided, the Welshman left Erica alone with Boxer as he was literally saved by the bell.


    * * * *


    It was Archer’s turn to pace back and forth across the Fortitude Ready Room.

    Upon entering the room, Llewellyn quickly diagnosed her mood. Seeing Veth Ka’Gerran in prison had obviously shaken her. Was he really being treated that badly? Could Santrag II, a member world of the United Federation of Planets, really sink that low?

    As he stepped closer, he could see tears threatening to escape from Valerie’s eyes. Without thinking twice, he gathered her up into a tight embrace, emotionally supporting her through her trauma as well as physically supporting her athletic frame.

    The hug lasted a while. Nobody said anything.

    A report was only delivered upon parting.

    “He asked me,” she whispered. “He wanted help in escaping.”

    “Bloody hell… it’s that bad?”

    “The man hasn’t eaten a square meal in weeks. Screw what President Bra’Kala said about upholding Federation laws! On the surface, sure, everything looks clean and above board, but Ewan, we know Veth Ka’Gerran. That’s the one thing that they can’t change. The one thing that tells us that something’s not on-the-level down there. He’s quiet, withdrawn, panicked, and subdued… a total mess.”

    The Captain kept his own emotions under control. It was a challenge to say the least. “All right,” he said in a soothing tone,” tell me exactly wha…”

    “Captain to the Bridge!”

    “Perfect timing,” Llewellyn snarled with sarcasm.

    Running up the short flight of stairs from his Ready Room to the Bridge, he found nothing out of the ordinary. The viewscreen displayed a small Santragan shuttle blasting up from the planetary surface. Dozens of them came and went all the time, despite the strict new regulations imposed by the People’s Council. With a frown of impatience, hating to leave his lover in such a state, Llewellyn demanded an update from Ensign Armstrong. At least, today, the Kentuckian was refreshed and on the ball.

    “There’s a Santragan shuttle on an intercept course.”

    “Surprise me,” the Captain dared his operations officer.

    “Sir, they’re hailing us and asking to speak directly with you. The pilot is… No, the pilot claims to be… Ambassador Veth Ka’Gerran.”

    It was only then that Ewan noticed Commander Archer standing in the doorway to the Ready Room.

    They exchanged a silent stare.

    Damn…


    ACT THREE
    Captain’s Log, supplemental;

    Upon taking receipt of Veth Ka’Gerran’s shuttle, the Ambassador has requested official asylum aboard Starbase 499, a request that I cannot refuse under Starfleet regulations. While I keep him secure, I await the forthcoming outburst from the Santragan People’s Freedom Democracy. They are obviously not going to be pleased that Ka’Gerran escaped, mere minutes after Commander Archer left his prison complex.



    Erica Martinez walked into her private office aboard Starbase 499 with a mind loaded with problems and issues. Her arms were equally loaded with PADDs. Each one of them a new report, record, log, manifest, or timeline… gah! There were some days that she just hated her job as Station Master. All it took was one look out of her window, across the superstructure of the starbase, at the world below and the stars beyond… Today, beating her to it, was an invitation to dinner from Gabriel Brodie. It put a smile on her face as she dumped the PADDs on her desk.

    The smile quickly vanished when she realized that she wasn’t alone.

    Turning around, she screamed in shock.

    “HOLY SHIT!”

    “Please, please, don’t yell! Erica… Erica, it’s me!”

    The outstretched hands of Veth Ka’Gerran calmed the Latina woman down. Her reaction was explained by his appearance. Having been incarcerated for quite some time, the Santragan’s access to hair care products has been limited. The ring of gnarled horns protruding from his scalp was almost entirely covered by wisps of gray hair that framed his rapidly aging features. His once-sparkling eyes were sunken and empty, devoid of any life, excitement… save, of course, the excitement of being screamed at by Erica Martinez.

    ¡Madre Dios, Veth!,” she gasped, clutching her chest. “You scared me!”

    “I’m deeply sorry, Erica,” the Santragan apologized slowly, the moment adding to the innocence and sorrow etched onto his visage. “Captain Llewellyn said that this was the safest place for me to stay for the time being.”

    “Stay…?”

    “Oh, dear,” Veth sighed,” he hasn’t told you, has he?”

    “Well, seeing as I walked in here, thinking that this was still my damned office, I would have to say that’s a pretty safe assumption! Care to clue me in?”

    “I’ve requested asylum here. Captain Llewellyn helped me beam over without being detected. He is currently sending the shuttle that I arrived on, deeper into the Beta Quadrant so that those on the surface and, in particular, those on the People’s Council remain unaware of my current hiding spot. Erica, if I returned to Santragan custody, there’s no telling what will happen to me. An asylum request was my only hope.”

    The Latina woman nodded along to his words. When he had finished, she turned on her heel and marched straight back towards the door with her fists clenched at her sides. There was no way in the entire Galaxy that she was going to let this blow over without having her say.

    “Wait!,” Veth called out behind her. “Where are you going?!”

    The door’s sliding hiss was his only response.


    * * * *


    Ewan Llewellyn needed to get out of his Ready Room. He had been spending far too much time cooped up in the place recently. Five hours of trying to contact the surface hadn’t helped, and then only to find another fresh incident… crisis… whatever you wanted to call it… only to find another event waiting for him after finally getting through? It had planted him right behind his deck.

    This time, the monitor on his desktop showed the repugnant features of Tret Bra’Kala. The incumbent of the People’s Council Rotating Presidency was being his usual diplomatic self and it drove Ewan up the wall.

    “With all due respect, Captain,” the small viewscreen relayed from the surface,” I find the timing of Veth Ka’Gerran’s dramatic escape to be curious. Our records show that his last visitor was your First Officer, one Commander Valerie Archer. Tell me, did she mention anything to you about Veth planning an escape attempt?”

    “No, Mister President,” Llewellyn repeated for what seemed like the tenth time. “Let me make it absolutely clear that Starfleet had nothing to do with the Ambassador’s escape. Let me also make it absolutely clear that Starfleet answers to the United Federation of Planets and as a member world of the United Federation of Planets, Santrag II had sovereign authority in such matters. It would be highly illegal and immoral for me or any member of my crew to be complicit in Veth Ka’Gerran’s actions.”

    “That is well understood, Captain. I was merely wishing to establish clarity.”

    “I don't blame you, Mister President.”

    “Did you attempt to contact Ka’Gerran’s shuttle at all?”

    “No efforts were made by my people. Shuttles come and go from Santrag II all the time, Mister President, as I’m sure that you’re well aware of. We don’t make a habit of stopping them all for a chat. It would be highly unproductive.”

    “I see. Well, the People’s Council has authorized two Santragan cruisers to give chase to Ka’Gerran’s shuttle. In the interest of Federation community, would you be so kind as to give them the coordinates of the shuttle’s trajectory?”

    “I’ll have them ready and waiting,” Llewellyn concluded. “Good hunting, Mister President.”

    “Thank you, Captain. Have a good evening.”

    There was barely a moment to collect his thoughts as the desktop screen switched to the static crest of the United Federation of Planets. The noise that it made was quickly chased by the noise of the Ready Room door chimes. Rubbing his tired face with an equally tired right hand, Ewan got to his feet to accept his guest.

    Erica Martinez stormed in as soon as the word “enter” had passed his lips.

    “Ah, I bet you’re here about Veth.”

    “Congratulations,” the fuming Latina woman snapped at him,” you’ve just won the fucking jackpot. I mean, for God’s sake, asylum, Ewan? You granted asylum to a fugitive of a Federation member world?! Do you have any idea how complicated and insane that this situation has become? If Starfleet Command ever hears of this…”

    “Oh, come on, Erica!,” the Welshman retorted in his own defense. “When was the last time that we spoke with San Francisco? Can you even remember? Boxer was always talking about how we’re on our own out here and damn it, he was right! Veth Ka’Gerran is our friend and ally! What was I going to do? Call that idiotic People’s Council and tell them that he’s hiding out in your office? Erica, you’re here, twenty-four seven! You’re the one person that I expected support from. Honestly, don’t give me the damned third degree!”

    Martinez wasn’t listening. Terrified brown eyes had locked onto Llewellyn’s left hand. It took a long pause for him to catch on.

    The synthetic appendage had been holding a steel coffee mug. The Captain’s outburst has caused him to lose control of his mechanic reflexes. Slowly, as he had ranted on, his fingers had crushed the mug down to the size of a tennis ball. Coffee was leaking out from several fractures. Its former cylindrical form was entirely obliterated.

    Ewan’s cheeks blazed crimson. “I… I’m sorry… I… I didn’t mean to…”

    “It’s okay,” Erica interrupted him. “You obviously feel very strongly about this.”

    With a wrenching sound, Ewan separated the remains of the mug from his vice-like grip. For some reason deep down inside himself, all he wanted to do was to cry. Being in a job like this was already unstable enough without… this.

    “One last question,” his colleague asked him before she left,” did you help Veth escape?”

    There was no answer given.

    There was no answer that could be given.


    EPILOGUE

    Everything has worked out fine.

    With a heavy heart, Veth Ka’Gerran looked down upon his homeworld from the relative safety of Starbase 499’s lavish guest quarters. The People’s Council had bought the shuttle’s random course. Several minutes ago, a pair of sleek Santragan cruisers had roared past, their tri-winged hulls pointing towards their empty target. One wondered about their reactions upon finding no fugitive criminal aboard.

    Well… that would be a problem for another day.

    It was most likely that they would think that he had switched vessels or beamed down to a planet somewhere. Ewan Llewellyn was a good man. He and Valerie Archer would have plotted that flight plan to allow for such possible assumptions to be made.

    Veth hated tricking his own people.

    Santrag II used to be such a noble world with a society that one could be proud of. But now? Now the desire to modernize and overhaul consumed logic and reason in the political classes. They were heading for a meltdown. The People’s Council had been since the revolution. Nobody could see it. Nobody, that was, except him. And where had that foresight landed him?

    A token figurehead role as Ambassador…

    A dark, damp prison cell…

    A refugee aboard a Federation Starbase…

    Turning away from the window, Veth Ka’Gerran closed his eyes and wept.

    He wept for his past, his present, and for his people.

    Only a glimmer of hope kept him from weeping for the future.


    The End.
     
  5. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Star Trek: Fortitude
    Season Four, Episode Eleven - “My Q to Leave”
    By Jack D. Elmlinger


    PROLOGUE

    “Report!”

    Captain Ewan Llewellyn lurched forth from his Ready Room. The Bridge was awash with activity. The Red Alert lighting gave everything an eerie crimson glow, the corners becoming lost in shadow, and faces becoming almost demonic. The piercing scream of the klaxon punctuated words thrown from station to station. All of this madness hadn’t been what had alerted the Captain to trouble. No, that he had seen from his Ready Room window, the gigantic multi-colored force field that was enveloping his starship.

    It dominated the main viewscreen as well. At the helm, a shaken Lieutenant Arden Vuro turned his bald blue head back towards Llewellyn. He had thrown Fortitude into full reverse, just to keep the ship from slamming into the phenomenon.

    “Some kind of unknown energy matrix, Captain,” he reported to him. “It appeared out of nowhere, not a single warning. Sensors can’t penetrate it!”

    “Have we sustained damage?”

    “Negative,” Gabriel Brodie barked from Tactical. “However, the shields are not responding. Phasers and photon torpedoes are offline. Whatever that thing is, it must have some kind of dampening effect on tactical systems!”

    Commander Valerie Archer stood to join Ewan at the center of the Bridge. Resisting the urge to hold her hand, the Captain was about to contact Main Engineering and ask if there was some way of punching Fortitude through the disturbance. He walked an inch to the communications panel beside his command chair when it happened.

    A brilliant white flash engulfed the Bridge, originating from the vacant chair. Everybody recoiled at the sight of it but it dissipated as quickly as it had appeared.

    It left behind something… somebody

    Whoever he was, he sat with his legs crossed in the Captain’s chair. He was wearing a Starfleet uniform with four rank pips securely on his crimson collar.

    “Intruder alert!,” Llewellyn called out. “Just who the hell are you?!”

    “Me?,” the newcomer asked innocently. “Why, I’m Q, of course!”


    ACT ONE

    “Hold on a minute… who are you?”

    Captain Llewellyn adopted a scowl, confused at the question being bounced back to him by the omnipotent being known simply as Q. Every starship captain in Starfleet had been warned about this creature, this all-powerful childlike pest who, with a simple snap of his fingers, could change the very nature of existence if he wished for it. He had been irritating and endangering one particular vessel, the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-D for seven years, seemingly taking great pleasure in tormenting her commanding officer, Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

    Ewan had seen Captain Picard’s logs on Q. They were anything but positive. The current Red Alert aboard Fortitude was fitting.

    “Who am I?,” Llewellyn echoed. “Don’t you know? Aren’t you Q?”

    “You’re treating me as if I’m your god,” Q sneered at him,” although, I can’t say that I should be complaining. It’s about time that you Humans treated me with some respect. No, I’m happy to say that I have entirely no clue as to your identity.”

    “But you appeared on our Bridge!,” Valerie Archer objected, aghast.

    “Yes, I did, didn’t I?,” Q mused, flinging himself to his feet. “Strange… I was aiming for the Enterprise…”

    “Well, I can say that you missed,” Ewan observed, his scowl still in place. “This is the USS Fortitude, an Intrepid-class starship exploring the Beta Quadrant and I’m Captain Ewan Llewellyn. Naturally, I know of you. The entire United Federation of Planets has been alerted to your abilities and your uncanny thirst for mayhem. While I realize that I might have little choice in the matter, this ship is not your playground!”

    A flicker of recognition crossed Q’s face.

    “Oh, you’re Ewan Llewellyn!,” he gasped suddenly. “I’ve heard of you! You’re the pacifist youngster stuck in this boring corner of space. Tell me, what’s it like, having grown-up responsibilities? Ah, yes, and the steadfast Valerie Archer… guiding you through the difficult transition into adulthood…”

    Q paused, casting an eye over the Commander’s figure. “Hmm… guiding literally, I take it? My, my, anything to spice up the tedium of being left out here, away from the action.”

    Fuming at the insinuations being broadcast to the entire Bridge crew, mostly because they were entirely accurate, Llewellyn felt his left hand click involuntarily into a fist. The mechanical sound caught Q’s attention as the Welshman chose to attack the assumption of boredom in Fortitude’s day-to-day existence.

    “Clearly you haven’t been watching lately,” he growled.

    “No, I have much better things to do. Is that a robotic arm?”

    “As a matter of fact, it is, yes.”

    “How Borg-ish of you,” Q jibed at him, turning towards Commander Archer. “Watch out, my dear. He might try to assimilate you in your sleep. I would keep a phaser under your pillow, just in case things get a little… futile.”

    That was enough immature insults for now.

    “Okay, listen up,” Ewan shouted, seizing Q’s attention. “You have my ship trapped in some kind of force field. You just admitted that your presence here was an accident so I suggest you work on rectifying that and you do it now. Release my vessel immediately and be on your way!”

    “Shouting won’t speed things up,” Q chastised him. “Really, Captain, now that I’m here, I might as well stick around. Jean-Luc is always telling me to see the big picture when it comes to Humanity and this Federation that you’ve got going. Who better to observe it from its furthest arm? Oops, arm… sore spot, no offense intended.”

    “Q! Release my ship now!”

    With a quirky, mischievous smile, Q simply clicked his fingers and vanished. The force field around Fortitude disappeared along with him.

    Something told Llewellyn that he wouldn’t be gone for long.


    * * * *


    Captain’s Log, Stardate 52718.3;


    The appearance of Q aboard
    Fortitude has me troubled. While he may appear to be a harmless nuisance, my familiarity with Captain Picard’s descriptions of his appearances aboard the Enterprise leaves me filled with dread. Here is a being with unlimited power who threatened to wipe out all of Mankind and introduced us to one of our most fearful adversaries. Despite what he claims, I cannot believe that his visit to my Bridge is a mere accident. I have ordered that a constant Red Alert be maintained.


    The Briefing Room was full. Captain Llewellyn wanted everybody prepared for the potential havoc about to befall the Intrepid-class starship. Looking from face to face, he issued his orders with a blunt, direct tone that told his assembled officers of his fears, his worry, and his trepidation concerning Q. The reports coming back after Q’s shield released Fortitude were, at least, promising.

    “Shields are back,” Gabriel Brodie was saying,” as are phasers and photon torpedoes. I have all of the torpedo bays loaded and all phaser banks charged. Shields are at maximum power and I’m rotating frequencies.”

    “Well done, Mister Brodie,” Ewan thanked the black tactical officer with a sharp nod. “While there’s no record of a starship having to fight a Q before, he is prone to flinging vessels into unknown regions of space. I want to be prepared for anything, any threat, from any race, known or unknown. Maintain Red Alert.”

    “Understood, sir,” Brodie nodded.

    “Arden, what’s our status?”

    “Our heading remains at one-eight-seven, mark twelve,” the Bolian helmsman informed the assembled department heads. “We’re holding steady at Warp Six, just as before. I seriously doubt that a course change will make any difference, Captain. Q has a proven power at his disposal. We could go anywhere and he would find us.”

    “Noted. Keep everything as it is, Lieutenant.”

    “Sollik, I want Engineering buttoned up,” Llewellyn began to conclude. “Keep the warp core secured behind a Level-Ten force field and post security teams around all of the vital systems. Keep the maximum amount of your staff awake for the time being. Doctor Pulaski, be ready for anything, battle casualties, unusual diseases… Seriously, anything.”

    As the Chief Engineer nodded, the Chief Medical Officer replied. “I was aboard the Enterprise-D during an encounter with Q,” she revealed to them. “We were thrown into System J-25 and we lost a lot of good people. While it wasn’t from direct action from Q himself that caused those losses, he hardly showed any remorse when they occurred. Captain, he’ll toy with us.”

    “I know he will, Doctor. I wouldn’t mind a more in-depth conversation with you as soon as possible so I can hear what you’ve got to say about first-hand experience. Report to my Ready Room as soon as Sickbay has been prepared.”

    “Will do, Captain.”

    Ewan cast a final gaze over his senior staff. With his eyes finally resting on Valerie Archer, he gave her a brief smile. They had all been through worse than a visit from Q but that was the trouble with such an unpredictable being. This encounter had the potential to explode in their faces at any moment.

    Standing, he ended the meeting.

    “Okay, everyone, stay alert. Dismissed.”


    ACT TWO

    He watched them go about their business.

    What a dull mix of dull species! Look at them, walking here, pushing that, scanning this, reinforcing shields, maintaining a warp field… such a snore! Such things were beyond him. He was better than all one hundred and forty of them combined. Maybe today he would snap his fingers and shrink them, or maybe expand them, or make them fight somebody. Explosions were cool. Boy, did he love his powers. They let him do anything.

    Damn.

    Dad was searching for him again.

    With a sheer thought, he moved again, leaving the drab decor of Main Engineering behind for the equally sleep-inducing Bridge. More silly people pushing silly buttons… What did these people do for fun? Some of them weren’t all that bad to look at… for bipeds. Maybe they engaged in primitive mating customs that he had heard about.

    Hee hee!

    Mating!

    He wasn't supposed to know about that kind of thing. Not at his age, but he had skipped ahead. Hell, he did have unlimited power, right? Why shouldn’t he know about that? What made the grown-ups so important? What made them determine the rules?

    That’s right. Nothing did.

    Dad again.

    Damn, this was getting tedious.

    Maybe he should do a little undercover work for a while…

    Eeew! The humanoid form was so restrictive! He saw out of eyes that were all moist and delicate. What kind of crap design was this? And hair… What was the big deal with hair? All it did was grow and itch! Thank goodness, he wasn’t like this forever. Thank goodness, he could return to his true form or any other form that he wanted.

    His attitude towards hair made him, for some reason, gravitate towards the bald one. The one with the blue skin. Bolian, wasn’t he? What did they call him?

    Oh, yeah… Arden Vuro. What a stupid name… Arden. It had far too many letters. Still, he had done something right, or at least his species had. He was bald. No hair. Wise enough.

    Remembering his undercover status and not wanting to get busted, he picked up a PADD and started to absent-mindedly stab at the buttons with his index finger. Fingers… another useless waste of time. Although… there was that mating business that he had been thinking about.

    Wait, somebody was approaching. The dark one with the dark skin. Gabriel Brodie… that was it. Their grunt who liked to shoot stuff.

    “Lieutenant,” Brodie called out to Vuro,” I was wondering if you would allow me to tie the helm navigational sensors into the tactical console. It could boost their range and we would detect course hazards more quickly.”

    “That sounds like a good theory,” Arden admitted. “Give me a second, okay?”

    “What? Are you running a systems check to make sure that I’m playing by the rules?”

    “You know, sir,” the Bolian answered sarcastically,” I still don’t like you very much.”

    “The hell you don’t!”

    Damn, this was boring! They even spoke as stupidly as they worked! Big deal… So they didn’t get along once. Now that they were okay, they could joke about it… Whoa, hold on, this was getting exciting!

    Oh, wait, no, it wasn’t. The humanoid form was beginning to grow tiresome after only two minutes. Then there was his Dad, getting even closer. Making like one of the locals, he walked into the turbolift and snapped his fingers.

    The chase would continue across the ship.

    Sooner or later, Dad would find him.

    Maybe then, he would think about shrinking Fortitude


    * * * *


    Captain’s Log, supplemental;


    It has been over four hours since Q first appeared aboard Fortitude. I’m beginning to nurture the hope that he has moved on, leaving my crew alone and letting us continue with our mission unhindered. I just hope --



    “I’m sorry to interrupt, Captain.”

    “Damn it, Q,” Llewellyn exclaimed, shocked out of his log entry by the sudden appearance of the omnipotent being over his right shoulder. “You’ll give somebody a heart attack one day! Don’t ever sneak up on me like that again!”

    With a roll of his eyes, Q left the Welshman alone behind his desk and walked over to the comfortable sofa in the Ready Room. Slumping down upon it, he let out a deep sigh and wistfully cast his attention out into space as if hoping to have it snagged by something of interest. Ewan watched the little performance for as long as he could manage before he simply had to fill the silence.

    “Okay, I’ll bite,” he admitted. “What do you want, Q?”

    “Whatever do you mean?”

    “I mean you’re not here by accident and you’re not here to… window shop!”

    “All right, fine,” Q finally revealed, throwing his arms up in a gesture of surrender before bringing his hands back down to his lap. “While my initial appearance on your Bridge was a genuine accident, I do know why it happened. If you must know, I’m chasing my renegade son and I think he’s aboard your ship.”

    “You have a son?,” Llewellyn asked him, slightly amazed and terrified by the prospect.

    “Yes, I have a son. Isn’t that what I just said?”

    “Sorry,” came the Captain’s apology. “You said you were chasing him?”

    “He’s become obnoxious,” Q continued. “He’s dangerous, unruly, a complete and utter menace to the Continuum. The Continuum that he was supposed to unite! Lately, his skills have improved as he’s grown. Why, just the other day, he was caught trying to collide two red giants together to see what would happen! The ecological mess was a nightmare to clean up, even for my extraordinary power. Anyways, enough about me. I think he came to this sector to hide away from the Continuum and, finding your ship, slipped aboard. I was going to enlist Jean-Luc to help me track him down but… well, you’re here already. I suppose you’ll have to do.”

    “Flattery will get you nowhere, Q.”

    “Are you going to make snide comments or are you going to help me?”

    “You’re Q,” the Captain confirmed in disbelief,” and you need my help?”

    “Oh, you won’t find him,” Q laughed, finding the prospect of a meager Human tracking down a Q hilarious. “No, what I need you to do is to stand down from your panic stations or whatever it is you call it. Whenever I appear, people point and shout. I don’t know if you’ve ever been a spy but I can assure you that it’s deeply frustrating!”

    Llewellyn weighed and analyzed the situation carefully. A son… This was an entirely different ball game now. Could this story be trusted?

    “The quicker that I find him,” Q added for extra persuasion,” the quicker I leave.”

    That was enough to seal the deal.


    ACT THREE

    Captain’s Log, supplemental;


    I have struck a deal with Q. Having lost control of his rebellious young son, he has asked me to cancel Red Alert and allow him covert reign over my ship. As soon as he’s done with collaring his offspring, he has promised to leave me and my crew alone. Grudgingly, from this moment, Red Alert is canceled. All we ‘mere humanoids’ can do now is wait for the results of the Q versus Q hunting match … and hope that we don’t get caught in the middle…



    This was annoying.

    Why had they stopped with all of the red lights? They had been working for him, tipping him off as to his father’s proximity. Well, not the lights themselves, that would be silly. Rather it was the alert level. Now all of these bipeds were walking around the ship normally! They were relaxed.

    Okay, not hugely relaxed, but most of them were starting to appear to be pretty calm, at least, on the outside. What was wrong with them? Didn’t they know that they could be blown up with just a snap?

    Dad… It must have been Dad!

    He had always managed to worm his way into the trust of these Humans. Maybe trust was too strong of a word but they usually ended up working alongside one another. That dull, monotone Frenchman, and that shrill, nagging woman in the Delta Quadrant… something about being lost or whatever. He didn’t care. All he cared about was having fun, and Dad didn’t want him to have any.

    What a rip.

    It wasn’t fair being young.

    Perhaps becoming a humanoid again would work. It would be a horrible experience but, as a means to an end, it could keep him hidden for a few hours longer… At least, on this temporal plane. Yeah, he would do that.

    With a snap, he had legs, arms… hair, yuck! One of their funny uniforms covered his new body. Hmm… the four rank pips were a bit much, something of a giveaway. Three of the pips disappeared in the blink of an eye.

    There…

    It was time to blend into the background. Dad would never find him here. He was willing to bet that, even without the red lights, these humanoids would point and fuss over his appearance anyway. They were so predictable.

    He walked deeper into the bowels of Fortitude. Was it shrinking time yet? Nah, he would keep going a little while longer. There was something rather fun about all of this. Wasn’t that what he was after all along? Just a little bit of fun?

    Turning around a corner, the fun came to a halt.

    “Ensign,” some blonde guy called out after him,” I haven’t seen you here before.”

    “Uh… yeah, I’m a new transfer.”

    “Are you sure? I don’t remember us taking on new crew members recently.”

    This blonde guy was being awkward. Hadn’t he been on the Bridge earlier? What had they called him back there? Something beginning with Jay… Jason? Jason Armstrong… Yeah, the ensign at the operations console. He had floppy blonde hair, falling all over his face. It was no wonder that he had avoided him earlier.

    “Where did you transfer from?,” Jason continued to ask.

    “Uh… the starbase. Yeah, it was pretty last minute, actually.”

    “Well, I’m Jason Armstrong, operations officer, and I think that I would know about any new personnel aboard. Would you wait right there, please? I have to call this in and get you checked out. After all, we do have a Q aboard!”

    Damn it! This was bad! Really, really bad!

    “Uh… I’ve got to go!”

    It was too late. There was no time to run. In a flash, he was there.

    “Junior?!,” Q, the grown-up Q, barked at once. His fingers were raised, poised to snap in a split-second. “Don’t even think about using your powers to escape or I’ll turn you into an Andorian ice bore for a month!”

    Aww… busted…


    * * * *

    Ewan Llewellyn and Valerie Archer were in the Captain’s quarters when two while flashes of intense light assaulted their senses. Blinking through the shock, both of them adjusted their sight to see Q holding a young boy who could be no more than thirteen years old, by his right ear. The boy was struggling, his face screwed up in defiance, complaining at the indignity rather than the pain.

    Llewellyn realized what must have happened with a smile. The family was, after all, striking to say the least. It was almost creepy… Two Qs in his quarters.

    “Well, Captain,” the grown-up Q presented with gusto,” I’ve got him! He was slinking around your ship, pretending to be one of you. This is his proper Human appearance, I’ll have you know. You should reward that blonde child that you have serving on your Bridge. He was the one who stopped him long enough for me to--”

    “Q, as much as I’m enjoying this report,” Ewan interrupted him, moving away from his First Officer to stare down the all-powerful being,” isn’t it about time that you got going?”

    “Yes, yes,” Q sighed,” I was just getting to that part.”

    “This is your son?,” Valerie asked, smiling at the boy.

    “Quite… oh, don’t smile at him!”

    “Why not?”

    “He’ll see it as a sign of weakness,” Q revealed to her,” and steal all of your things.”

    With a cautionary glance, Llewellyn sent Valerie back a step. The Welshman didn’t want to drag this out any longer. Q seemed ready to get going to administer his punishment on the teenage Q… that made Ewan pause. While this situation was somewhat overblown in the biggest understatement of his career, it bothered him that he was complicit in the forthcoming punishment. Children sometimes had to be brought into line, that much was certain, but Q had a history of being decidedly harsh. At that moment, he feared what was to come for the boy.

    “Don’t come down on him too hard,” he heard himself say, a curious out-of-body moment where reason just told him to let the Q move on. “Granted, his tantrums are rather more dangerous than most teenagers, but… well, I don’t know if this is true or not but you were his age once.”

    “Oh, no, not me,” the older Q sneered at him. “I’m ageless.”

    “Well,” Llewellyn lamented,” I tried.”

    “All that the Captain is trying to say,” Valerie attempted to explain, taking up the baton of the conversation for herself,” is that you appear to have mellowed. We’ve been talking to our Chief Medical Officer. She has had first-hand experience of your past transgressions against Starfleet.”

    “Crusher’s here?,” Q gasped in horror.

    “No,” Ewan corrected him. “Katherine Pulaski.”

    “Oh, shame… I suddenly had the urge to turn somebody into a dog again…”

    “See? That was you back then,” Valerie continued. “Today, I don’t see that. Today, I see a father trying to parent his son, and in that son, I see your old self, throwing things about for fun, for arrogance, and for some perverse fascination. So while you might be ageless, the Captain is right when he says that you were once his age.”

    Q considered their words for a moment. As annoying as it was, they had a point.

    “Very well,” he finally relented.

    He snapped his fingers and the two Q entities vanished into thin air.

    Finally, Ewan could relax.


    EPILOGUE

    It was the next morning. With a cup of coffee in hand, Ewan Llewellyn was being propelled through his vessel by a turbolift for the Bridge. Breakfast with Valerie had been quiet. They both needed it after the antics of the Q. sipping on the steaming hot beverage and feeling more awake with every sip, he was close to being content.

    Then, all of a sudden, all hope of contentment was shattered.

    “Oh, bloody hell!,” he cried out as Q appeared before him.

    “Language, good Captain,” Q warned him with a grin. “Anyways, I’m not stopping so you can stand down your defenses. Honestly, I’ve never met a more tightly-wound Human in all of my travels. Well, no, maybe one or two…”

    “Get to the point, Q,” Ewan grumbled. “I’ve got a ship to run.”

    “I just realized that I never thanked you for your assistance yesterday.”

    “It’s not necessary, really. Goodbye, Q!”

    “No, I mean it,” Q protested, getting the distinct impression that he wasn’t wanted and adopting the appropriate pained expression. “You weren’t what I expected at all. From what I’ve heard, you were another dull pacifist struggling with your first command. I mean… honestly, what a snooze-fest! But no, you’ve got an edge about you. I rarely tell people this, but I think I like you, Captain.”

    “I’m flattered. Now get off my ship!”

    Q chuckled. Watching Llewellyn’s reactions amused him.

    “I shall,” he said cryptically before snapping his fingers one final time,” but don’t be surprised if I return. Enjoy your coffee. This is your stop!”

    The turbolift doors swished open.

    Only Ewan remained inside, shaking his head with disdain.

    “Great…”


    The End.
     
    Cobalt Frost and Orbing Master like this.
  6. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Star Trek: Fortitude
    Season Four, Episode Twelve - “Letters from Home”
    By Jack D. Elmlinger


    PROLOGUE
    Three letters for three crew members…

    They had undertaken a very long journey to reach Jason Armstrong’s operations console aboard the USS Fortitude. Relayed from two different worlds, Earth and Bolarus IX, they had met at Starbase 499 over Santrag II and they had been flagged for forwarding to the Intrepid-class starship before making the final leap into the distant reaches of the Beta Quadrant. Lightyear after lightyear had passed by in subspace.

    With a yawn, Ensign Armstrong waited for the three PADDs lined up before him to finish uploading the letters. It took some restraint to keep from peeking at the third one which was addressed to him. Well… he knew it would be personal. Official Starfleet correspondence came through official channels, not the civilian networks. His shift had been a long one. The young Kentuckian was anticipating a nice cup of coffee with his boots off and his feet up on his couch… then he would read it.

    First, though, he had to deliver the other two letters.

    “Commander,” he called out to the engineering station, the PADDs in his hand, heading for the turbolift via the port side of the Bridge,” you’ve got a letter from your homeworld.”

    Sollik turned his seat around, got up and walked over towards the Ensign. Taking the PADD from him, he gave it a quick scan and felt his jaw clench. Slowly, the Suliban nodded his gratitude to Jason. Obviously, it was expected. A family member, perhaps, or an old friend? Would it be an ordinary letter or maybe bad news? Jason didn’t like to ask. It was personal after all.


    * * * *


    The Captain’s quarters were next.

    “Come on in!,” the familiar Welsh accent called out.

    “Sir, I have a letter for you,” Jason revealed, stepping briefly inside.

    “Oh, thanks,” Ewan Llewellyn nodded, taking the PADD. “Fancy a cup of coffee, Ensign?”

    “With all due respect, sir, I have my old letter.”

    “Say no more. See you tomorrow!”

    “Goodnight, sir.”


    ACT ONE

    Dearest Jason,


    We both hope that this letter finds you well. Given recent events, we thought that it was best to contact you first. All of the news channels are talking about subspace being jammed by communications during the Dominion War, but… Well, you will have doubtlessly heard about this before you finally get to read this, but it’s over! They say that Cardassia was quite the battleground. Some of the pictures… Again, you know more than us. We rarely get the time to watch the latest news feeds, what with the farm being clogged at this time of year. In fact, we almost hate to mention it but the Dominion War had been good for our productivity. We were being forced to increase output to keep up with supply and demand. The expected downturn, now that the war is over, won’t be a problem though.

    This new treaty of theirs seems to be holding. Some of the neighbors were talking about how fitting it was to call it the Treaty of Bajor. I guess we’re entering a truly new age. The Alpha Quadrant is safe again. Peace is here and we don’t constantly watch the skies for Jem’Hadar attack ships. Some of us were beginning to forget what living in peacetime was like! It could be better news.

    Is there a strong chance that you might be called upon to help with the rebuilding efforts? It would be lovely to see you back on Earth sometime. We know and understand from our visit last year how important your work aboard
    Fortitude is. Truly we do, so this is no added pressure on our part. Still, you’ve been an Ensign working the operations station for almost four years. Even if you remain based out of the Santrag system and Starbase 499, are there any whispers of a promotion? From what we manage to scrape together through the channels, you’ve had a relatively calm year out there when compared to the Alpha Quadrant! We continue to think of you every day and hope we’re correct in our assumption. What with all of the suffering that Starfleet had been through recently, it’s nice to know that you’re far from the bloodshed. Just remember it doesn’t take big flashy events to climb a rung or two of your career ladder!

    Okay, we’ll stop nagging. In fact, there’s also some further news. We apologize in advance for possibly opening an old wound, but we were attending a farming conference near San Francisco last week and we bumped into Jim’s parents.

    While it has been two years since his passing, time hasn’t helped them. We know what you’re thinking, that we only met them at your Academy graduation, but they recognized us and came over to our table, and… well, this must be a little hard for you to hear, son, but apparently Jim never stopped talking about you. They were filled with nothing but praise for our little computer. We were so proud! They wanted us to pass on a message to you. They wanted to say thank you for making their son so happy and being there for him during the Academy and aboard
    Fortitude. Oh, they’re such lovely people, Jason! Whenever you get back for a visit, you must meet them. Don’t worry. We’ll be right there alongside you, but it might do you some good.

    Anyways, we’re going to have to wrap this up. You know how many free moments we get in our day after all! There’s no hurry to reply, but now subspace is a little more vacant. It would be lovely to get a reply, just to make sure that you’re okay. We continued to miss you and love you in equal moments. Stay safe, okay?

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    All our love,

    Mom and Dad, XX



    Jason took a deep and calming gulp of air.

    There was a dried trail down his cheek, left behind by a tear that had fallen down during the part about Jim. it was an understandable reaction, of course. He longer saw his emotions as a weakness. A younger version of himself might have bottled the tear up and stored it away for when things truly got tough or for when he really needed to burst out to scream and yell… but not today. Today, he welcomed the tear.

    The rest of the letter had been so uplifting. It seemed that the whole of Starfleet went on a three-day party after the conclusion of the Dominion War had been announced over subspace. Even the crew of Fortitude, in their quiet little corner of space, had cheered as one. Jason was pleased to hear that his folks had shared in the celebrations. Earth was safe and it was good news.

    Tapping on the PADD in his hands, he decided to reply right away.


    Dear Mom and Dad,

    Thanks for your letter. Yeah, a bit of a roller coaster, that one! It was all good news, though, so I can’t really complain. First up, the Dominion War. Yeah, Starfleet lost a lot of good people and a lot of good ships and has been for ages. I guess we should count ourselves lucky out here that
    Fortitude, a fully operational Intrepid-class starship, never got called to the front lines. With that said, some of the reports that I’ve read… yeah, we get more than you civilians, as you can imagine. Boy, I would have loved to teach those Jem’Hadar a thing or two.

    You know, one day you’ll write to me and forget to put in a comment about a possible promotion. Don’t worry because that’ll be the day that I freak out and panic that something’s up with you! No, honestly, I’m happy with my role as Operations Officer, and I’m a trusted member of the senior staff. I don’t need an extra rank pip to tell people that I’m important. In fact, I shouldn’t really tell you this but you’ll get a kick out of it. Just before reading your letter, I dropped by the Captain’s quarters and he invited me in for a chat. A few months ago, I was his go-to guy for a very personal issue. I think he understands, and I therefore understand too, that my being a lieutenant would have no bearing whatsoever on my place on the senior staff. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to give me the ability to order Arden around.

    I’m kidding!

    Anyways, I’m really glad to hear that you’re doing well and that the farm is still going strong. Something positive to take from the Dominion War, and I guess you guys snagged the silver lining pretty well there. As for your trip to San Francisco and meeting Jim’s folks, what can I say? Thank you for passing their message on. Thank you for deciding to mention it. Just… Thank you. It helped, seriously. There isn’t a day that goes by without me thinking about him, and I miss him like crazy but these things were to be expected. Hey, I guess it comes with the job.

    I’m going to wrap this up now, and head to bed. We’re nearing a dark matter nebula and we have some charting to do tomorrow. As always, you have my love and thoughts. Take good care of each other and the farm.

    As for returning home any time soon, well… you never know what will happen.

    Lots of Love,

    Jason, XX



    ACT TWO
    To: Sollik, Lieutenant Commander, USS Fortitude
    From: Sekena, Kalrak City, Siberius Prime, Sector 3641

    Subject: N/A



    Sollik stopped reading immediately. No subject line. She had been in a hurry, hadn’t she? Probably written this long in advance, the Suliban chief engineer told himself, and sent it as soon as subspace was cleared of war-related communications traffic. Flexing his wiry frame as he sat down in his quarters and prepared himself for the coming letter, he swallowed a mouthful of Vulcan tea and continued, against his better judgment, to read.

    It was a reply that he had been expecting for just under a year.


    I am in shock. To learn that my brother harbors such secrets. It was not a welcome letter that I received from you, Sollik. Why didn’t you ever come forward before and tell your family about the abilities? We could have helped you. I think you’ve been serving in Starfleet for too long to realize that society has moved on here on Siberius Prime. A few months ago, one of the leading politicians in the central government was revealed to have the genetic markers for the abilities. He was treated with compassion and understanding by the doctors who attended him. I’m sure if you were to come home and get yourself fixed that they would show you the same compassion.

    What I can’t believe is that you told your Captain first! I know you explained the situation, and that you had to save his life… but, Sollik, honestly, how could he understand such things? He’s Human, isn’t he? His people have never had a shameful secret to hide from so recent in their history. The Cabal and their horrific actions were two hundred years ago. There are those alive who had parents become members of the Cabal, and those who remember the terrible things that they did.

    Humans?

    I’m not aware of anything in their history books about spawning an interstellar terrorist organization or forcing people to undergo genetic enhancements. I’m genuinely surprised that you weren’t booted out of Starfleet all together. You should think yourself lucky.

    I won’t be able to send this reply for quite some time. The war has the subspace channels jammed, even if the battle lines are far away from Sector 3641. One day, you’ll hear this, though, and on that day, I want you to think of your family. Think of your sister writing this and think of the emotional impact that your news had on me. Do what is right, Sollik. Come home and let the doctors fix you.

    You still have my love.

    This letter is sent to you along with it…

    Your sister, Sekena.



    With a hiss of rage, Sollik threw the PADD across his quarters.

    How dare she?! How dare she use such blatantly intolerant and bigoted language to speak of her own brother? It wasn’t his fault, damn it!

    The abilities that he had been gifted with were the results of his own illegal actions. They were the echo of a dark chapter in Suliban history. If anything, the chief engineer felt that she should speak out and stand up as a reminder to this generation, teaching them to avoid the mistakes of the past.

    Sollik thought back to the previous year when he had revealed his abilities to the crew of Fortitude. It hadn’t been long before he picked up his PADD and started to write to his sister. The reactions had been entirely positive from the myriad of species that served alongside him. Not one single instance of intolerance had greeted him, despite showing his own intolerance, rather blatantly to a select few crew members over the years. It had enthused him, inspiring him to tell more people and to tell his sister back on the Suliban homeworld.

    What a mistake.

    It was starting to dawn on Sollik. His people were full of phobias, of fear and bigotry.

    It was the 24th Century and the Suliban were members of the Federation.

    Sollik shook his green-scaled head in shame, his yellow eyes blazing. This kind of reaction made him ashamed to be a Suliban. Four years ago, at the beginning of his posting aboard Fortitude, he wouldn’t have given a second thought to prejudice. He had grown up with them, harboring them all of his life while harboring his own secret. Now, after four years with Captain Llewellyn, Commander Archer, Lieutenant Vuro, and Ensign Armstrong, in particular, he recognized just how damaging prejudice could be.

    Stuck for a reply to his sister, Sollik decided to sleep.

    He would tackle that little problem in the morning.


    * * * *


    Meanwhile, Ewan Llewellyn was thinking about anything but sleep.

    The PADD containing his letter still rested in the mechanical grasp of his left hand. He had already read the damned thing once. It was difficult to get through. It had been a difficult read and completely unexpected. He had no personal connection to the author. Nor had he ever met them… and yet they had written to him. They had involved him. Fuck them for doing so! No, wait, that wasn’t fair on them.

    The door to Ewan’s quarters chimed and he answered it quickly.

    “Trouble sleeping?,” Valerie Archer asked him upon seeing his tired face.

    “Thanks for coming,” he simply sighed.

    “No problem. Although I thought it was my place tonight?”

    “I don’t think it’ll be any place tonight. Sorry. I just got a letter.”

    Valerie stepped inside and took the PADD that was being offered to him. She felt bad reading something that wasn’t addressed to her, but then her role as First Officer including her Captain and, well, he looked like he could use some support.

    Carefully, she began to read.


    Dear Captain Llewellyn,

    My name is Matthew Blackmore. I am the younger brother of Rear Admiral Edward Blackmore, whom I understand acts as your superior officer. I have just been informed of the tragedy that has befallen him and his current comatose status. You have my deepest sympathy at this time. I know that you and him are close friends.

    I write to you from my station aboard the USS
    Testudo, an Akira-class starship stationed at Deep Space Nine and tasked with fighting the Dominion. When our job is done and the Alpha Quadrant is safe, I’m hoping that I might be able to take some time to visit Starbase 499 and the Santrag system. I would very much like to see my brother. It has been almost six years since we last spoke. The age gap between us was large enough to make rank an issue in our relationship. In fact, I probably shouldn’t mention this but we hardly parted on the best of terms. With Eddie now in a coma, I… I just hope that I’ll get a chance to patch things up again.

    A reply from you might help persuade my Captain, a rather stubborn Vulcan, to grant my request for a leave of absence. I know that this is a highly unusual request but given the circumstances… Hell, I wasn’t even told about Eddie for months! Please, Captain Llewellyn, endorse my request for me. I would be forever in your debt, sir.

    Thanks in advance,

    Yours faithfully,

    Commander Matthew Blackmore, First Officer, USS
    Testudo.


    “Oh, that’s so sweet,” Valerie breathed upon finishing. “Still, I never knew that the Rear Admiral had a brother. I guess they did part on bad terms, given that he’s never mentioned him before. What’s the problem?”

    Ewan’s face was a tragic picture as he spoke, his voice cracking. “The Testudo was destroyed over Cardassia Prime. Matthew Blackmore is dead.”


    ACT THREE
    Breakfast in the Mess Hall had a secondary objective for Sollik.

    Having slept on the thoughts buzzing around his head that had been instigated by the upsetting letter from his sister, the chief engineer had awoken with a determination to avoid the pitfalls of Suliban prejudice. Composing a reply to Sekena would come later in the day. Engineering was running at peak efficiency and he could assign some of the junior engineering officers to perform the menial tasks on his to-do list. For now, at breakfast, he had to start fixing the mistakes of his past.

    Jason Armstrong sat, smiling, over a plate of strawberry cheesecake.

    Yeah, fine, it was a little early for dessert, but Jason didn’t care.

    The letter that had finally come through from his parents had put him in a good mood while simultaneously refreshing the memory of losing Jim, which countered the good mood with a hefty dose of melancholy. The only thing that the young ensign could think of to combat such a confusing imbalance was, as usual, strawberry cheesecake.

    Sollik approached the table slowly. Pangs of regret blasted through his body. It hadn’t been until yesterday that he truly knew how Jason and Ensign James Morgan must have felt during those first few years aboard Fortitude. Serving alongside somebody opposed to their very existence…

    The strange thing was that he could still feel the dying remainder of his homophobia. It was a feeling that made him uneasy and a little sick. Suliban culture drove these phobias into each child. They were a challenge to overcome for those Suliban who left their homeworld and explored the wide culture of the Federation and other star systems… but if Sollik could do it, why couldn’t everybody else?

    “Ensign,” he growled with caution.

    “Sir,” Armstrong replied, detecting the uncomfortable atmosphere,” care to sit down?”

    “Yes, thank you. Listen, I have something that I wish to speak to you about. I suppose it’s actually more of an apology than a conversation.”

    “An apology,” the blonde Kentuckian frowned,” for what?”

    “If, at any stage in your career aboard Fortitude, I have subjected you to prejudice or hatred… no, wait… I have subjected you to my prejudice, haven’t I? I did the same to Ensign Morgan before he left. I want to apologize. You are a fine officer, Ensign, and a credit to this crew. I am deeply sorry.”

    Jason was stunned.

    “Uh… thank you,” he managed to say. “May I ask… why now?”

    “I finally realize what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such prejudice.”

    That letter, Jason remembered, the one that he had delivered yesterday… it must have been something huge, personal and horrible. Something that hit Sollik so hard that it was changing his very beliefs. Not knowing what else to say, he let the silence across the table run for much longer than it should have.

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” he finally answered truthfully.

    Sollik left the Mess Hall in short order.

    Jason simply watched him leave, his frown still securely in place.

    What had been in that letter?


    * * * *


    To: Sekena, Kalrak City, Siberius Prime, Sector 3641.
    From: Sollik, Lieutenant Commander, USS
    Fortitude.

    Subject: My Genetic Abilities.


    If you are in shock about the news of my genetic abilities, dear sister, then I am in outrage at your response. The way that you refer to the extraordinary things that I can achieve, and speaking of them as if they’re wrong… As if I’m wrong.

    I am appalled at the levels of bigotry and prejudice that you display. It’s not as if I joined the Cabal and asked for these abilities bestowed upon me. They are the effects of a long-dead mistake, just like the loss of our first homeworld was a mistake. Does that mean that I should cover myself in shame or consult with doctors to remove my abilities? Absolutely not!

    Do museums in Kalrak City brush over the darker chapters of Suliban history?

    You know the answer to that. We went there together as children! You and I both learned history together at school. We learned about the Cabal… and we are no different from other races and their problems. You’re wrong when you assume that Humans have never faced difficulty like the Suliban. They, too, have struggled with the terrible truth of genetic engineering in their past. Even so, whether they have had experience or not is irrespective of their compassion and understanding.

    If I had come forward on Siberius Prime and exposed my genetic abilities, I would have been treated with scepticism, fear, and mistrust by my own people. Yet here aboard
    Fortitude, and surrounded by all kinds of other races, I have not encountered anything but sympathy and genuine kindness. You will never know how that feels, to be more accepted by any race other than your own. I used to think that rules and regulations mattered and that the prejudice that I was brought up with was the be all and end all. Now I see how blind that the Suliban are. You said in your letter that you were surprised that I wasn’t booted out of Starfleet. Well, I’m surprised that the Suliban haven’t been booted out of the United Federation of Planets.

    As a race, we continue to let our past fester in our subconscious. We have let it damage our integrity and fuel our discriminatory ways. We think that strict social rules will save us from reverting to our previous nomadic forms.

    I have just returned from apologizing to one of my fellow crewmates. He was in a mono-gendered relationship, four years ago, when Fortitude was launched and I made my intolerance clear to him for a long time. I made him uncomfortable and sneered at his behaviour from a distance because I was Suliban and that’s what the Suliban believe. This particular Suliban, my dear sister, isn’t like that anymore. This Suliban believes in tolerance and fairness, the same tolerance and fairness that he’s been shown by Captain Llewellyn and the crew of
    Fortitude.

    I fear that I wouldn’t be returning to Siberius Prime any time soor, dear sister.

    I have no reason to, for it is no longer my home.



    EPILOGUE

    Captain Llewellyn sat on the Bridge with a heavy heart. His fingers were arched in contemplation, biological tissue meeting with synthetic skin, inches from the tip of his nose. He let his breathing fall leisurely as he gazed at the viewscreen and the uncharted stars that it displayed. The letter weighed on his mind since he could not reply to it.

    Matthew Blackmore, defending the Federation, fighting for freedom… and all he had wanted to do was to see his brother and patch things up before it was too late. Rear Admiral Blackmore might be the one in the coma, he thought, but Commander Blackmore had been the one to throw himself into danger. How ironic that it was the unhealthy injured brother that would survive a galactic war. How tragic that one day, Boxer would awaken to the news.

    Walking down towards her seat beside her lover, Valerie Archer saw Ewan’s expression and instantly guessed the topic of thought. There was no getting over this one, she knew, not for somebody like the Captain. Although he had never known him, Matthew Blackmore would be mourned, and because the letter would be impossible to answer, it would be read several more times before it was ever filed away in Fortitude’s database.

    “Hey,” the First Officer said, smiling with perception and empathy.

    “Hey,” the Captain replied weakly.

    “How about we get this show on the road?”

    Llewellyn flashed her a lopsided grin, even though he didn’t feel like grinning. There was one last thing to do before the Intrepid-class starship could be propelled between those uncharted stars on the viewscreen, and before it could allow her Captain to move on.

    Turning his head, he caught the attention of Ensign Armstrong.

    “Are you finished?”

    Jason watched as his LCARS display signaled in the affirmative.

    One to Earth, and one to Siberius Prime. The replies had been sent.

    “Aye, sir.”

    “Well, then… Helm, resume our previous course. Warp Six. Engage!”


    The End.
     
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  7. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Star Trek: Fortitude
    Season Four, Episode Thirteen - “All Hands, Part One”
    By Jack D. Elmlinger


    PROLOGUE

    It drifted alone for light years from anything. Just all alone in the night.

    Until today, that was.

    Dwarfed by the arrowhead of the saucer section, the alien shuttlepod spun peacefully before the impressive technical might of the starship Fortitude. The glowing blue energy coursing through the Intrepid-class starship’s main deflector dish made the rusty brown hull plating glisten for what was probably the first time in years. Invisible fingers reached out across the void of space as Starfleet sensors probed the unknown for any signs of life. Maybe somebody needed help.

    Still, there was something familiar about it…

    “Analysis, Ensign Armstrong?”

    Directing his findings towards Captain Ewan Llewellyn, the young blonde officer began to read from the operations console. The findings of the scan were quite detailed. The computer was taking a moment to run them through the comparative database and, at that moment, he could give the headlines to the rest of the Bridge crew.

    “Outer hull composed of duranium… Very limited weaponry, no shields…”

    “What about warp drive?”

    “Negative, Captain. Wherever it came from, it didn’t get here by itself.”

    Commander Valerie Archer stepped up to the aft section, joining Jason at the operations console and tapping a few instructions into the display. After drawing several blanks, the edge of familiarity subsided for a moment before she returned to the standard practice of analyzing an unknown alien vessel.

    “Lifesigns?,” she asked quietly.

    “One reading, very weak,” Armstrong answered her. “They’re… oh, my God…”

    “What?,” Llewellyn barked immediately. “What is it?”

    “Captain, they’re … End!”


    ACT ONE

    Captain’s Log, Stardate 52938.4;

    We have encountered a malfunctioning shuttlepod belonging to our most feared enemy, the End, who were previously thought to be eradicated but they have survived in the form of a lone individual drifting through the Beta Quadrant. Barely alive, I’ve ordered him beamed to Sickbay under heavy guard. My feelings on the matter would have me destroy him along with his shuttlepod, but my conscience says otherwise. As Doctor Pulaski treats her new patient, Lieutenant Commander Sollik is analyzing the shuttlepod.



    The decaying yellow skin… the rotting teeth…

    It was a face that Ewan Llewellyn had hoped that he never had to see again.

    The End pilot occupied the central biobed in Sickbay. As Doctor Pulaski worked over him, running her tricorder along the length of his reinforced armor suit, Llewellyn watched from a distance with Valerie Archer at his side. The two of them were beyond perplexed, beyond confused, and beyond scared. If this End vessel and this End soldier could survive the destruction of the Central Core three years ago, it begged the question of how many more potential threats remained there.

    “He’s severely dehydrated,” Pulaski reported, collapsing her tricorder. “Malnourished, too. I would estimate that he’s been in that shuttlepod for quite some time, Captain. Longer than you or I could survive without food and water.”

    “Some kind of endurance test?,” Archer mused aloud.

    “No,” Ewan countered. “The End are the most single-minded race in existence. They even beat the Borg in that category. Their lives revolve around conquest, expansion, fighting, and suppression. I sincerely doubt that they allow endurance tests that stretch out for this long. It’s more probable that he’s been floating around out here, ever since we destroyed his people’s fleet. With no starship to return to, he must have been lonely.”

    “That’s kind of tragic,” Valerie had to admit.

    Of course, it was deeply tragic… but this soldier was End. Llewellyn didn’t care enough about the End to feel sorry for him.

    “Doctor, treat him but keep him sedated,” he ordered. “The two security officers stay in the room and are armed at all times, understood?”

    Turning around, he went for the door with Valerie following close behind him. He tapped his combadge. “Llewellyn to Bridge. Arden, set course for Starbase 499 and engage at Warp Nine!”

    “Aye, Captain,” the Bolian helmsman replied instantly.

    “Running for cover?,” Valerie asked him.

    “With the End back in our lives, you bet I am.”


    * * * *


    They were leaving.

    Good. The less to fight, the better for his chances.

    The female was approaching his side again. She was holding a hypospray. Poor fools, trying to save his life when it didn’t need saving. How little that they understood the glory of the deception. Or how little that they understood his mission.

    It had taken almost three years.

    Three years since the Central Core was destroyed.

    Three years since the fleet was lost.

    Three years… and he was the last of his kind.

    Not for long…

    The female reached out to administer more of a sedative. Now was his chance, and he didn’t waste it. Encased in an armored glove, a hand snatched out at her wrist. Another hand followed by the arm that it belonged to wrapped itself around her neck. In a second, he was up on his feet and away from the biobed, using the female as a shield. With the hypospray in his hand, he placed it against her throat.

    The two guards that they had posted could do little. They had their weapons raised, of course, but that was stupid of them. They were far too compassionate to risk the life of their physician.

    This was the Medical Bay of their vessel.

    This place didn’t suit his purpose.

    He needed one of the weapons from one of the guards.

    He needed a transporter room.

    He needed to act.


    * * * *


    Meanwhile, in the Main Shuttlebay, things were progressing slowly.

    Sollik had only just figured out how to gain access to the End shuttlepod. The outer hull may have been covered in rust and age, but it was designed to last. The Suliban guessed that he could lock himself inside the vessel and throw it at a hypergiant star and emerge with nothing more than a deeper shade of green on his skin. The little auxiliary craft was so tough and durable that he considered pinching a few of its systems and specs in order to upgrade Fortitude’s own pair of Type-9 shuttlecraft.

    Once inside the pointed tip of the End shuttlepod, he found nothing out of the ordinary. Empty food lockers backed up Doctor Pulaski’s diagnosis of malnutrition and the navigational system was definitely burned out, meaning that the pilot would have needed a degree in stellar cartography to get anywhere… and the End didn’t have such professions, did they? They only had one objective, one life, and it was filled with violence.

    Sollik was about to finish his analysis when something unexpected happened. One moment, it was there, bolted to the floor, and the next…

    “Bridge, this is the Shuttlebay,” the chief engineer barked over his combadge.

    “This is the Bridge,” Captain Llewellyn replied. “Go ahead, Sollik.”

    “Captain, a component of the End shuttlepod was just beamed out of here.”

    “What? Which component and where?”

    “It looks like the shuttlepod’s transporter buffer, sir. As for where, I’m not certain, although the dematerialization effect looked Starfleet to me.”

    There was a period of uneasy silence over the intercom system. Obviously, the Bridge was busy trying to track down the unauthorized extraction of End technology from the shuttlepod, and Sollik, stuck down in the Shuttlebay, wasn’t part of that process. Suddenly, an answer was reached and Llewellyn had orders for his chief engineer.

    “Sollik, get to Main Engineering on the double. The End pilot has broken out of Sickbay and he’s inside Transporter Room Two. He’s stolen his transporter buffer and there’s no telling what he’s planning on stealing next. I want an emergency shutdown of Transporter Room Two as quickly as possible!”

    The Lieutenant Commander didn’t need to be told twice. “Understood, sir. I’m on my way!”


    ACT TWO

    He had his prize.

    Stage One of his plan was complete. Now it was time for Stage Two.

    The transporter buffer from his shuttlepod rested beside the alcove of Transporter Room Two, ready and waiting. He moved towards it, ignoring the flakes of dying skin that fell from his snarling visage. A quick check was all that it took… Yes, they were there, all inside, all trapped for an eternity, and all of them prepared for their mission. This would be a glorious process, he chuckled, returning to the transporter room controls.

    There was hammering at the door.

    Stupid idiots, trying to get it, trying to stop him.

    Soon he would let them in.

    Soon he would let his people out.

    It only took a moment to link the shuttlepod’s transporter buffer to the main transporter pad. With his eyes narrowing, he activated the confinement beam and began the slow and steady procedure of rematerialization.

    Here they came…

    His brothers…


    * * * *


    “Doctor,” Llewellyn exclaimed,” are you all right?”

    Katherine Pulaski walked onto the Bridge under her own power. It was a remarkable achievement, considering the sedative that was still running through her body. Rubbing her sore, aching neck, she nodded her status to the Captain.

    The Bridge was dark, with Red Alert securely in place with crimson lights running around the bulkheads and duty stations.

    With a caring arm, Ewan led Kate down to one of the central command chairs. “What happened?,” he asked him.

    “The End pilot wasn’t unconscious,” she told him. “As I moved in to administer more sedative, he grabbed me and used me as a Human shield against the security guards. The next thing that I remember is the hypospray hitting my throat and sending me down to the deck. When I came to, the guards were dead and their phasers were gone.”

    “It’s okay, Kate,” Valerie Archer said to soothe her.

    Llewellyn wheeled on his other officers. What was taking Sollik so long? Why wasn’t Transporter Room Two offline by now? Why wasn’t the End pilot in custody? Surely it didn’t take forever to force down a single door? And what the hell was the End trying to do anyway? Why steal his transporter buffer back? Nothing else had been taken… Well, nothing else as yet. What was going on?!

    Gabriel Brodie got the answer sent to his tactical station before anybody else. “Captain, I’m getting some unusual readings from Transporter Room Two.”

    “Elaborate, Mister Brode,” Llewellyn demanded.

    “Sir, there are alien biosigns appearing on my screen… six of them. No, wait… twelve now, sir. Eighteen… twenty-four biosigns now, Captain. Sensors show that they all match the pilot of the End shuttlepod… thirty… thirty-six…”

    Along with the rest of the Bridge crew, Ewan gasped in horror. It had suddenly become all too clear.

    “He had patterns stored inside his buffer,” Jason whispered. “Patterns for an army…”

    “Intruder alert! All hands to battle stations!”

    “Mister Brodie, get your people away from the door down there!”

    Brodie tried and failed to get through to his security team. With a forlorn expression, he watched as internal sensors recorded a wave of End soldiers bursting out of Transporter Room Two and swept over his four-man unit with sheer brute force.

    Meanwhile, the numbers continued to grow, six at a time, and now hitting a total of almost seventy-five. Within the blink of an eye, Deck Four was overrun by End. emergency force fields immediately activated into place but some of the emitters had been shot in preemptive strikes. The decks above, including the Bridge, were safe, but the decks below, including Deck Eleven, and Main Engineering were open to the overwhelming hordes.

    Llewellyn stood from his chair, shaking with rage as Fortitude became a battleground. When he could finally manage to speak, he looked towards the helm.

    “Arden, distance to Starbase 499?”

    “Three lightyears,” the Bolian noted with disdain.

    “Increase speed to maximum warp,” he insisted. “Whatever happens in the next six hours aboard this ship, Lieutenant, you do not move from your station. I don’t care if End soldiers invade this very Bridge, you get this ship home. Have you got that?”

    “Aye, Captain.”

    Fortitude jumped beyond Warp Nine as the numbers of End continued to grow.


    * * * *


    One hundred and twenty… one hundred and twenty-six… one hundred and thirty-two…

    It was Starfleet versus End, deck by deck.

    Security teams directed by the steady guidance of Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Brodie did their best to rally support. What emergency force fields remained were instantly deployed, but many of them were quickly overcome by the sheer number of enemy forces. Ten Starfleet officers with phaser compression rifles were all well and good against, say, ten unarmed soldiers, but against thirty… against forty… against fifty? It stopped mattering how many End were shot because in the time that it took to shoot one, six more would materialize in Transporter Room Two and scurry towards the frontlines.

    The Fortitude crew began to fail.

    Ten deadly officers quickly became twenty dead officers… who quickly became thirty.

    Their efforts were similar to standing on a shore and yelling at the waves to subside. It was impossible. Bravely, and prepared to do anything to defend their ship, their crew, their family, they stood their ground. They shot, punched, and kicked at the solid wall of End soldiers tearing through the corridors. They would never surrender, never retreat, even when their combadges screamed at them to do so.

    The deck plating quickly became soaked in blood.

    The End were ruthless, relentless… and unstoppable.

    Slowly, they were overrunning the ship.

    In Main Engineering, Sollik focused as hard as he could on remaining invisible.

    Sticking to the ceiling and blending into the cold blue steel of the bulkhead, he watched as the main doors were blown wide open. Several Starfleet bodies were thrown aside, torn apart by the enemy before almost twenty End soldiers swarmed towards the warp core and the surrounding duty stations.

    Sollik had to fight every fiber of his being to keep from dropping down and attacking the merciless bastards… but no. he would die in short order and as the chief engineer, he was needed elsewhere.

    Though he had time to stay and watch one tiny glimmer of hope.

    The End tried accessing Fortitude’s systems. Every button that they touched refused to cooperate.

    The fractal encryption code had worked. The seconds that his engineering crew had bought him outside in the corridor hadn’t been wasted. The End would never, ever be able to take over the ship’s systems now… and even if they did, it would take them years. The Bridge remained in total control, just the way that it should be.

    Heading for the Jefferies Tube, Sollik decided to head upwards.


    ACT THREE

    He emerged from the crawlspace to the sight of phasers.

    “Sollik!,” Valerie Archer exclaimed, lowering her sidearm along with the others.

    Clambering to his feet, the Suliban appreciated the stand down with a nod. Casting a narrow eye over the Bridge, he saw the entire senior staff was present. Thank goodness that Doctor Pulaski had escaped from Sickbay and that all of the major stations were manned. Well, at least, that was something… a tiny consolation. Along with the encryption code that kept the End in Engineering busy, that had gained them some time.

    “Report,” Captain Llewellyn asked him, scowling from behind a permanent frown.

    “Engineering has fallen, sir,” Sollik lamented. “I managed to lock every vital system with a fractal encryption code but they already have control of our transporters and the Shuttlebay. We’re trapped, Captain.”

    “Hopefully,” Ewan replied,” not for long.”

    Lieutenant Vuro had the answer to Sollik’s silent question. The Bolian activated the viewscreen as he pulled Fortitude out of warp. Waiting there for them was Starbase 499, hanging with a serene ignorance over Santrag II. Immediately, Llewellyn moved down to stand at the center of the Bridge alongside Valerie and Doctor Pulaski. Sollik headed for his engineering console as Arden announced their arrival back home.

    “Jason, hail Station Master Martinez,” the Captain ordered.

    “Hey, there,” Erica replied, a second later,” we weren’t expecting to see you --”

    “Erica, we have very little time,” Llewellyn interrupted her bluntly. “Our transporters are down. I want you to lock onto every single Starfleet crew member aboard Fortitude and beam them across to Starbase 499 immediately. This is an emergency situation, Erica. Do it quickly, and do it right now!”

    “Uh… yeah, sure,” the stunned Latina woman agreed. “Madre Dios! Ewan, I’m only picking up seventy-one Starfleet-registered biosigns! What the hell is going on over there?!”

    Seventy-one… from a crew of one hundred and forty…

    Everybody on the Bridge closed their eyes, the pain of such loss slamming into them.

    Ewan shook visibly with wrath.

    “Just start beaming them over, Erica! Now! All of them, and quickly!”

    “Understood. Energizing now.”

    Almost as if he was in a dream, the Captain moved over to his command chair and slumped down into the leather. He watched as his mechanical hand reached out and gently pressed a small button on his console. It was almost as if he wasn’t in control of his actions or, at least, he didn’t want to be. No Captain even wanted to make this call. It was the only call that remained, however. It was the only viable choice to ensure the survival of his crew… or rather what was left of them. The entire Bridge crew watched him.

    Burying his tears, he addressed his people for the last time. His voice echoed across every deck, every room… and yes, every bloodstain.

    “All hands, this is the Captain. Abandon ship.”

    Beaten, bruised, and yet still throwing punches and firing hand phasers, the exhausted crew of the USS Fortitude started to disappear. Scooped up by the caring hands of Starbase 499 and taken away from the nightmare before them, the violence of the battle, and the constant shadow of certain death, many of them welcomed the call to abandon ship. Many of them were also infuriated by it, waiting to return and make as many of the End die at their hands.

    From one lone shuttlepod and one lone pilot came an army, as if from beyond the grave. Soldiers from a dead race had risen out of hatred and evil to obliterate them. Nobody could blame Captain Llewellyn for his order, but nobody had to like the idea of running either.

    With the powerful transporters of Starbase 499, it took mere minutes.

    “That’s everybody except the Bridge crew,” Erica Martinez reported on the viewscreen, anguish etched into her expression. “Sixty-eight men and women have been beamed directly to our medical facility. Stand by for transport.”

    “Take everybody but Commander Archer and I,” Llewellyn replied.

    Erica was about to protest when she realized why. There was still a job to do, one final defiant act. After all, in beaming the crew over to the starbase, she had seen the sensor data on the occupants of the Intrepid-class starship. Questions as to how and why could be asked later. Right now, nearly two hundred End soldiers covered the interior of the ship and they needed to be defeated once and for all.

    There were glances of protest from other officers but they were quickly seized by the transporter beam. Pulaski, Brodie, Jason, Arden, and Sollik were all beamed to safety.

    Alone, the Captain turned to his First Officer and time felt like it had slowed down to a foreboding crawl.

    “Well,” she whispered,” I guess this is it, huh?”

    “I guess so,” he agreed.

    The dull thuds and screams of the raging battle below them had stopped. Even the Red Alert klaxon faded to a dim echo. Allowing for privacy, the viewscreen had deactivated the link to the Station Master’s Office and returned to showing Santrag II, glistening unaware below them.

    Reaching out his right hand, Ewan interlocked his fingers with Valerie’s and the two of them simply stood there, linked, absorbing their final moments on the Bridge of the USS Fortitude, NCC-76240… their ship…

    After what seemed like an eternity had passed by, Valerie squeezed Ewan’s hand.

    “It’s time, she told him.

    “Yeah,” he acknowledged, his heart sinking and his head rising. “Computer, activate auto-destruct sequence, authorization Llewellyn Alpha-Foxtrot 2421. Set a one-minute silent countdown on my mark.”

    “Computer, authorization Archer Delta-Bravo 2479… order confirmed.”

    “Auto-destruct sequence initiated with a one-minute silent countdown. There will be no further audio warnings. Awaiting final confirmation.”

    Llewellyn filled his lungs with the atmosphere of his ship for the last time.

    Enough was enough.

    “Thank you, Fortitude,” he quietly concluded. “Computer… mark!”


    * * * *


    The Station Master’s Office aboard Starbase 499 was a crowded place.

    Stepping down from the transporter pad in the corner and joining the throng of worried faces, some of them familiar and some of them not, Captain Llewellyn and Commander Archer finally released their grip on one another’s hands.

    Ewan immediately felt his legs break into a run, dashing over to the large window that overlooked the Santrag system. His misty eyes found her within seconds. Fortitude was adrift with nobody to control her or to guide her through the stars. There was only an army of End soldiers running through her corridors now, like infected blood running through the veins of an organism. In desperation, he placed a hand to the glass, not wanting her to die.

    Archer moved over to join him when a hand grabbed her shoulder. Turning around, she saw an expression of panic on Station Master Erica Martinez’s face. Something wasn’t right. Something beyond the loss of Fortitude. Something more… sinister…

    As the senior staff milled around data terminals, giving orders, the Latina woman briefed the Commander on the situation. “Our emergency evacuation of Fortitude was done so quickly that we didn’t even check for signal interrupt,” she explained. “There was a piggyback pattern to each transporter beam. Valerie, there are just short of one hundred End soldiers aboard my starbase and they’re scattered across all levels!”

    Valerie gasped, turning back to look at Ewan’s defeated stance.

    His nightmare had followed him here.

    “Damn it,” she whispered. “This isn’t over yet.”

    Just as she had finished her foreboding observation, it finally happened. The silent countdown was over. The minute was up and the self-destruct sequence had begun. The first explosion tore the port nacelle clean off. Spinning away, it crumbled under the natural pressure of space as the structural integrity field was lost.

    In an instant, two more plumes of flame erupted from the secondary hull, tearing great wounds into her steely skin. The deflector dish blew out, with shards of relays and debris bursting growth before finally, the antimatter pods around the Bridge detonated. The saucer section broke in half and the other nacelle exploded at the same time.

    Ewan bowed his head, unable to watch.

    As one struggle ended, another was just beginning.

    At that moment, all that anybody could do inside the Station Master’s Officer was mourn the violent and tragic loss of the USS Fortitude, NCC-76240.


    EPILOGUE

    “Where’s that cordrazine?”

    “Here…”

    “Make sure he’s stable. I want him to be moved as quickly as possible.”

    “How many End did they say were aboard?”

    “I don’t know. Our job is to treat these wounded. Security will keep them away.

    “Okay…”

    “Damn! Where is Bronson with that hypospray?”

    “He went to the other treatment room to get it. He should be here by now!”

    “Go find out where he --”

    “Bronson to Nurse Denton.”

    “Denton here. Where the hell are you with that hypospray?”

    “I’m sorry, but… Well, I’m in the other treatment room and there’s a problem.”

    “What? What’s the problem?”

    “Rear Admiral Blackmore’s biobed…”

    “What about it?!”

    “It’s empty!”


    To Be Continued…
     
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  8. Orbing Master

    Orbing Master Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Okay, whoa! Wasn't expecting to read this when I got out of bed this morning...
     
  9. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I blew up the ship. What have I done?!