CHAPTER 01 ~NIMBUS III, JULY 1st 2270~ The piercing white slowly cleared followed by the ringing in his ears subsiding as his head dropped back down from being snapped back by a jab. Lucky shot thought Gabriel, and he quickly got his hands back up, deflecting the large hay maker thrown by the ridge-less Klingon Warrior. Only this time Gabriel countered, parried the arm away, stepped in and landed a solid uppercut into the thick-jawed Klingon then backed away quickly. He watched his opponent shake off the brief daze easily, but he didn't allow it to daunt him. For the Klingon however just rubbed his jaw and snarled towards the dirty-blond haired human as they circled one another around the gathered, rowdy crowd. Cheers, boos, incoherent shouting filled the air of the two shirtless combatants, though only Gabriel was breaking a sweat. Still they managed to keep the fight on even terms, however the Klingon wasn't thrilled about and vowed to make sure his victory would be swift and soon. It was then from the corner of his eye, Gabriel noticed a glimpse of golden silhouette. He quickly glanced through the crowd but with doing so, allowed the Warrior to take a cheap shot, and booted him to the ground with a dropkick. Feeling the wind knocked from him while his back smacked off the dirt floor, he quickly rolled back, and got to a knee where he witnessed the Klingon flipping up to his feet once again. Gabe then quickly scanned the area yet again, but the loud, snarly voice of the Klingon told him he was having none of that. “Don't take your eyes off of me! I am your opponent, you human petaQ!” Gabriel while regaining his breath glared right at the ridge-less brute, letting that insult sink in a bit, but then quickly dismissed it once he saw the silhouette of a bald-headed Starfleet officer in a gold tunic. 'Eric?' he said in his mind, then turned back towards his adversary and gave him a smirk before doing a come here finger wag. It was time to bring this little bout to a close. If he was hoping to provoke the alien it worked. The Klingon in a fit of rage, roared to high heaven with his arms outstretched, and ready to claw at the kneeling, square-jawed man. Blinded by his anger and frustration with the human he rushed him, and went for a dive. From within the crowd Admiral Eric Walker watched the bout, and could only shake his head at the display. Of all the places he thought he'd find him, this was the lowest on the list, but here he was, neck-deep in a brawl with a Klingon of all races. On the Planet of Galactic Peace no less either. Gabriel rolled out of the way and around behind the the goatee'd brute as he flopped face first into the dirt. As he watched the him spit out dirt, and glare back at him, Gabe smirked again, rose to his feet and stepped back a bit with his arms out, taunting the Klingon even further. Although now he believed that was a mistake on his part as he watched the bloodshot gaze of the warrior who smacked the ground before lurching up to his feet, and pulling out a dagger from behind him. The Klingon simply turned the knife back and forth, brandishing the shiny, angular blade, the hot sun above them glimmering off the shiny, chrome exterior. He moved closer towards Gabriel and reached out with a swing, then another, and finally lunged for him in desperation but missed, only to receive a solid hook to the jaw after Gabe leaned away from the swung blade. Barely phased, the Klingon flipped the dagger around to an underhanded grip and attempted to plunge it into the human's chest. Gabriel on the other hand managed to block him at the wrist, then swiftly snapped it down while striking upward with his other hand snapping up the Klingon's elbow which forced him to drop the knife. Without hesitation and before the Klingon could recover, he then proceeded the fling his opponent over his shoulder, slamming him back first into the ground. The crowd parted to get out of the way of the incoming feet and legs of the thrown being, then soon regrouped around just a little further back. Angrily the smacked around warrior reached out for his dagger once more, but Gabe's foot already stomped upon the handle and shoved it away. So instead he got back up to his feet a little ways back, breathing heavily then snorted and sending spittle out before him. Gabriel simply watched his angry foe once he had struck a more defensive pose, and gave a simple head shake. There was to be none of that now, no more weapons, no more playing. Now he was indeed much more serious that it even caught the Klingon off guard slightly. Especially with how cool and calm he appeared watching him strike another fighting pose, this time more open handed, but with the backs of his hands facing towards him. From the Klingon's perspective it appeared to him that this human piece of trash was offering him his hand. “Giving up, petaQ!?” “If that's what you think,” answered Gabriel as he waved for him to come at him. “That's more like it!” shouted the Klingon and rushed in for the kill, or so he thought. “Oh this should be good.” At the sound of the familiar voice's proximity Gabriel turned towards it, distracted he then felt the Klingon's full frame rush into his lower half, tackling him to the ground. Wind knocked out, ears ringing from the impact to the back of the head, he barely was able to force both eyes open as the taste of copper reached his tongue. Above him he witnessed the brute preparing to deliver a wild flurry of blows. Thinking fast the ex-Starfleet Officer managed to get a leg up and kick the alien aggressor right onto his back. Using that same motion the man rolled to his feet. The Klingon however was quicker to get back up and swung in wildly again. Both arms were blocked, neck tilted from a side jab then struck against the opposite temple with a chop all happened in few seconds. Eyes even more bloodshot the Klingon tried to reach out, but felt a sharp pain in his gut as the air was knocked out of him, twice, three times, then he was struck across the jaw, snapping it with a backfist, only to belly over from another punch to the broken ribs, and finally dropped by an elbow strike to the back of the neck. Out. The cheering and roars then died down after a few moments, and Gabriel glanced around at them all staring down at the beaten Klingon, bewildered and confused at what just happened. He figured some had a hard time taking in the reality that a human was able to beat a Klingon Warrior, though that was never the case outside of rumours he had heard from some systems. From experience he knew better, and honestly figured he was just lucky to manage to strike a nerve or two in the Klingon's sense of pride and blinded him with rage for him to get the openings he needed. Once the crowd began to part and dragged the Klingon away with them, Gabriel made his way towards the gated entrance of Paradise City. There he met the bald, weary, Starfleet Admiral waiting for him, arms folded in front of his chest. “I see you've been busy. What was that Tai Chi?” asked Admiral Walker. “A little Wing Chun, a little barroom blitz,” replied Gabriel as he grabbed his white tunic and black leather bomber off a post that stuck out of the ground, he then collected his winnings from a person nearby before they ran off. After getting his attire back together, and stuffed the papers into his inner pocket, he then added, “Anything I can do for ya, Admiral Jackass?” “That's not how you address a superior officer, and if I had my way would keep you here,” stated Walker who was a little deflated at how little of the threat he posed. This was his chance, only chance to get a lighter sentence after all. “Superior, that's a laugh,” Gabe stated as he briskly entered the city with the Admiral in tow. After a few feet he stopped and turned to face his old friend, now excommunicated, “You're the one that got me sent here. I'm retired remember? I can call you just about anything I want.” “I understand. You're upset - and have every right to be, Gabe. But would you just listen for a second?” “Alright..., let's talk. First,” replied the retiree while he marched on towards the Watering Hole Saloon, “I need a drink.” ~*~ “Let me get this straight...,” Gabriel said after taking a swig of some hard liquor, letting the burn settle a moment and then continued, “Pandora... blown wide open?” He waited and was answered by the Admiral's nod. “About bloody time.” “Congratulations on being one of those “I told you so” people,” Walker finally said, raising his glass to him, then downing the Kestellian Scotch. “Feel proud?” “You did that's for sure,” spat Gabriel sipping his drink again, “Weapon-izing Federation citizens.... How low can we get?” Walker took a scan of the darkened, neon and dimly lit saloon for anyone that could have been eavesdropping. He tried his best to hide the nervousness, but let it slip out a bit as he leaned across the table and said in quieter voice, “Could you keep it down there?” “No one around here really gives a care about it....” “You do... or you did a long time ago.” The forty-five year old Gabriel then slowly turned to face his old Commanding Officer, “Has the Starfleet Chatter been rectified?” “They are necessary for us to keep doing what we do out there,” the Admiral sternly explained, pouring himself another glass full, “They always will be.” “Well this project Pandora was--Is against everything we stand for,” Gabriel replied, leaned down to rest upon his forearms, then finished his beverage before placing the glass down against the dark brown, carbon-fiber table. “Least it was stopped before it really put us in deep trouble, cause it certainly went out of control. I'm just afraid to ask at what cost...” Walker took a long drink. “So what are you really here for, Eric?” asked Gabriel without taking his eyes away from his now empty glass, “Not just to tell me about how Jim Kirk with some Romulans caused the Pandora Project to go up in flames, I think.” “Command is going after everyone involved pretty hard,” replied the Admiral as he took another stiff drink. “As they should. You all have it coming....” “Don't you have any pity or mercy to speak of, Captain?” “Not since you, Thess, and everyone else involved threw me under the buss and into forced retirement,” Gabriel stated bluntly, then he reached into his coat and pulled out a few papers, placing them on the table for another drink, and to pay for the last one. “I'm no Captain anymore thanks to you, but I'm a semi-free man.” “Sleeping with Slave Girls and beating up rowdy Klingons...?” Walker queried sarcastically, “Should be grateful that's all they did.” Corrupt Bureaucrats. “Yeah, well, just had a lot of free time on my hands, had to find something to do other then meditation and drink away my days,” replied Gabriel as he took another swig from the newly filled dark glass. “Well the other reason I'm here is because I said I'd do this if they gave me a lesser sentence,” Walker finally said, almost begrudgingly as he took another gulp. “I'm reinstating you and I'm taking your place here. As an ambassador...” Hearing the word “reinstated” perked him up a little and he sat up slowly, eyebrows raised. “Oh?” Walker simply nodded as he finished his drink finally and tapped the glass back down, “Effective immediately in fact. Your shuttle is awaiting you at the space port, and will take you to your new ship tomorrow morning.” “New Ship too, huh?” Gabriel said in disbelief for a moment, “How'd you manage to swing that?” “Your old ship was destroyed in an accident,” Walker answered abruptly as he adjusted his tunic. “Another tragedy that I am sorry to inform you of.” “Not just professional courtesy?” asked the newly reinstated Captain, “How about my crew?” “You're new First Officer will be at the space port to greet you and get you up to date on the whys, and whats about this new assignment.” “Right to work, huh?” Gabriel said casually, “Guess Command's in a hurry for something.” “Experienced Commanders,” replied Admiral Walker, “Better sober up, Captain.” Standing up from his chair, he then pushed it back under the table, and placed a hand upon the back of Gabriel's seat as he leaned in, “I know you aren't going to thank me, and I don't expect you to. Heck I don't expect to see you ever again either. But like you, I believe in what I believe in, and that's the preservation of the Federation. Departure's at 09:00”. Then with a tap on the seat's back he sauntered out of the Saloon. Watching the Admiral leave Gabe then thought over what was said for a long time as he starred down into the dark liquid in his glass. Then eventually muttered under his breath, “You're damn right....” ~*~ The next morning as Nimbus III's F-type star rose over the horizon above the mountain tops of the desert plain world, Captain Gabriel Winchester felt the pain from yesterday no longer numbed by hard liquor, no made it worse. At least the pounding in his head made it feel worse then it really was. With a grunt, and groan the forty-five year old Captain made it out of bed, and met the floor. “Oof!” he coughed, then pushed himself up onto his forearms looking scruffy, hair a mess, and squinting even from the low light from the bars on the floor. Thankfully there was no sunlight shining through the curtains. “Knew he'd be right about the sobering..., oh boy....” “Come back to bed...,” came another voice, this one female, and like silk for the ears. A lone, beautiful and slender Orion Woman looked down over the side of the bed upon Gabriel who laid out in his black boxers upon the carpeted floor. “Or would you rather I join you down there?” “Heh,” he chuckled slightly while lowering his head down against the cool, maroon carpeting, then yawned loudly. “What time is it if you don't mind?” “Seven in the morning...,” replied the Orion Girl with a pout, “Don't tell me... You have to go....” “Okay. I won't tell you when I leave,” said Gabriel with a smirk after rising to his feet ever slowly, and then stretched. “But I am sorry, I'm outta here my dear. Just glad I'm not late.” “I'm sure someone else will come along...,” she murmured, not caring if he heard her or not. He did though and murmured back, “I'm sure someone will. Cause I certainly wasn't the first... nor the last.” ~*~ Around eight he got on some clothes which included a pair of faded jeans, a white shirt, and his black bomber jacket. Gabriel then made his way out of the lodging hut, down the ramp, and across the sandy pit towards the garage on the opposite side of the Saloon. Thankfully he remembered the sunglasses and put them before the first rays of the sun struck him in the face. Although, it wasn't really enough to stop the pounding headache completely it did help a little. Re-adjusting the grey Starfleet duffel bag around his neck and shoulder, he entered the dusty garage made out of worn and carved stone. There wasn't many vehicles in there, but rather heaps of junk that littered the floor and around the walls. Making his way through the mess as best as he could, Gabe found what he was looking for. A familiar, dark blue tarp. Reaching out he grabbed and raised the tarp to reveal a old, but semi-pristine, bronze and black hover bike. Aside from a caked layer of dust it looked good as new. He then proceed to wipe off the power tank and gave it subtle double tap as a smile graced his lips. “Still here, now let's see if you still run, shall we?” Wiping away as much of the dust as he could Gabriel then carted the old bike on outside on it's own wheel supports. If he had to, least he could ride it normally, like a motorbike, if that hover systems were down due to neglect. Then taking it over towards the gates, they opened them for him without any hassle, and closed the doors behind him with a loud clunk. He looked back a moment, missing the last glimpse of the saloon and town of Paradise City. “Well... onto better pastures,” he said aloud and returned to looking straight ahead as he swung a leg over the seat, and plopped down. Pressing a few buttons and flipping a few toggle switches upon the speedometer screen, the bike came to life with a few blinks, illuminating in a pale, green colour. “Alright,” he uttered, and then shifted it into hover mode. A moment passed, then the wheels folded up and slid back into hidden compartments while the machine hummed and vibrated slightly beneath him. 'It worked' he thought, and grinned yet again as the hover bike seemed to operate without a hitch for about a few seconds. It started to lower but he gave it a whack on the tank, and it flickered back to life again remaining a float. Exhaling deeply, he ran his fingers through his short, combed, dirty-blond hair with the bangs parted slightly in the front, and had a little laugh to himself. “It works, ha ha...! I'm staying low to the ground for now... Safe than sorry.” With a kick of the ignition pedal and a few revs of the handle grip, he was off and down the cracked, flat plains with the sun rising higher up into the sky, now finally washing everything in it's morning light. Gabriel only leaving a trail of dust in his wake. ~*~ For several miles Gabriel rode along the cracked plains while hovering low enough just in case the system flickered again, he'd be able to catch himself without performing a face-plant. Also as he went the sound system was turned on full blast, blazing “Highway to the Danger Zone” the whole way there as he flew passed several mountain ranges, then headed down into a small valley oasis of sorts. There he found the space port made up of several, single story grey buildings, towering silver cylinders with bulbous, oval tops, and one towering building that acted as ground control. Shuttles of varying types littered the single story rooft platforms, and landing pads around the premises. As he got closer the newly reinstated Captain that felt he had just regained his second childhood, came in contact with some greenery that had been planted by Starfleet no less. Definitely making him feel at he had come back home, although at first he wasn't sure of how the reception would be. Early treks he took here usually ended in him being turned away, even threatened to be stunned on sight. So far there was nothing like that. Security guards even gave him a courteous nod on the way by them, while others gave a frown, which was probably either they were loyalists of their old orders, or it could have been the music he blared out the speakers. Reluctantly he toggled it off, and made his way around towards the ground control tower, parking the bike right beside the main entrance. Powering down the engine he dropped the tires, and dismounted from the bike finally, pulling the key out of it, and stuffing it into his bomber's pocket. The white-grey exterior of the building was certainly a familiar sight that reminded him of the Academy, as they shared similar architecture. In fact to keep that feeling of nostalgia he stayed there for a moment of two longer, then headed towards the sliding glass doors that parted open once he had reached them, and walked the UFP blue carpet into the facility. “I'm home... ish,” he said to himself, then took off his sunglasses, and pocketed them. Eventually he reached the front desk where a lovely brunette sat clad in her red uniform dress. They both smiled at the same time, and he approached as she rose up to meet him at the desk. “Yes, Welcome Captain Winchester, how can I help you?” she queried politely. “Thanks, and I was informed I would be departing the planet.... is that true?” he asked, almost half-jokingly. “Yes,” she stated with a nod, and held back a small laugh, “That is indeed true. Platform C, at 09:00, Shuttle Galaga.” “Thank you,” replied Gabriel with a smile, “Also was told my XO would be here to catch me up on things. Is she around?” “Yes, Lieutenant Commander Vael's in the waiting area behind you,” said the young brunette warrant officer as she pointed in the direction, “I can call her over.” “No, thank you, that's alright,” replied Gabriel as he held up a hand to stop her, “I'll go and introduce myself. Need the walk, it was a long trip.” “Very good, sir. I'll let Commander O'Connell know of your arrival as well,” she said, and with that went back to her seat and went about her work. “Thank you.” Still grinning a bit the Captain glanced around the grey-blue walls, and noticed an opening into a waiting area across from the front desk. Rubbing his hands a moment he then sauntered on over, and to be honest he felt a little nervous. Stepping into the blue-walled waiting room across the way, Gabriel noticed the walls were lined with several of those triangular, blue and black cushioned chairs you've find on the bridge of most ships. Along with a few, asymmetrical tables to break them up a bit, placed in each corner and the middle of the room. It was then his gaze came across these exquisite, smooth yet angular, purplish-pink, and white crystal-like haired woman, wearing a golden Starfleet tunic dress while reading a PADD. Talk about rough terrain, he thought. “Well, look at the gem we have here,” said Gabriel as he somewhat cautiously stepped towards the Amethyst woman. “Lieutenant Commander Vael, I presume?” “Well ain't you full of them, sir?” came her reply as she looked up from her pad, “I've heard them all before, but let me be frank.” “Sure, Commander Frank,” he said jokingly with a bit of a smirk as he held out a hand, “I'm sorry if I offended you.” “Not in the least,” she said taking his hand and shaking after she rose up. “Your joke was cute, and you've been out of the loop for quite a while, so I'll let it slide this once. I just find quips about my racial appearance to be, frankly annoying.” “Fair enough,” said Gabriel, “I'll do my best to refrain from letting another slip.” “Good, and thank you, sir,” she replied with her own smirk. “Would you mind if I asked what species you are though?” he asked, “I don't believe I have come across one quite like you before in my travels.” “Not at all, I am Crystalite,” she offered, places her hands behind her back as she stood at ease. “Crystalite? Fascinating, and I'm guessing a recent addition to the Federation?” “More or less,” she answered, “We've been in the Federation for while, just haven't really interacted with Starfleet much until recently, well not too recently.” “Oh, so your rank isn't honorary I take it?” “It is,” she replied, a little too quickly as her gaze lowered a bit, but then she regained her composure, “Honorary Field Commission to Lieutenant Commander for my distinct service record, and the fact they weren't getting many bites for a first officer for you, sir.” “Well ain't that a positive ray of sunshine?” Gabriel said, his sarcasm overflowing at the brim, “I don't blame them. They should be lucky I didn't decice to go John Wick on them though....” “John Wick?” Vael queried, cocking her eyebrow, “I don't believe I've heard of this individual.” “Oh they killed his dog, took his car,” explained Gabriel as he started to make his way towards the open door. “We should probably get going.” “Sir, I do not believe the Federation kills small defenceless animals....,” she stated, the concern ever evident that she was taking him seriously. Gabriel then stopped and turned towards her placing both hands on his hips, “You have never come across a Chihuahua before have you?” She shook her head, “No, Captain, I haven't. Still I do believe you have your facts wrong, sir.” “John Wick's a movie, Commander Vael, from earth's early 21st Century,” he explained. “I see...,” Vael replied, uncertain of what to think, or even make of him currently. Not even Admiral Walker's description had prepared her for this. “Oh... we have a lot to go over I see,and not just the current mission, Lieutenant Commander!” he said aloud as he marched on towards the door, and Vael following him briskly out of the room.