Star Trek USS Talon: The Beauty of Gray

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by IreneAdler, Aug 27, 2014.

  1. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Bajoran Lieutenant JG Kayden Rychel and Cardassian Lieutenant Helik Dakbar had not gotten off to a good start. On the one hand, it seemed perfectly obvious. Even in 2408, there were tensions between Cardassians and Bajorans, and there were some who believed that the Federation would be at war with the Empire before the decade was done. Still, they were both Starfleet officers, fighting the good fight, or so it appeared, until a “harmless” comment from Rychel provoked an unexpected reaction from Dakbar. What followed was a love story that spanned life, death, espionage, questionable loyalties, blood ties, and much, much more.

    Still, if love was easy, everyone would do it.

    This novel was edited together from postings at USS Talon, and thusly encompasses the viewpoints of several characters, written by Erin Smith and Marian Murdoch. The story has been edited slightly to improve flow of conversations, to remedy spelling and grammar errors, and to omit unnecessary or unrelated subplots.
  2. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 1

    Lieutenant JG Kayden Rychel and Lieutenant Helik Dakbar had not gotten off to a good start. On the one hand, it seemed perfectly obvious. Even in 2408, there were tensions between Cardassians and Bajorans, and there were some who believed that the Federation would be at war with the Empire before the decade was done. Still, they were both Starfleet officers, fighting the good fight, or so it appeared, until a “harmless” comment from Rychel provoked an unexpected reaction from Dakbar.

    Afterwards, Dakbar stormed through the halls of the Talon, not caring who saw or got in his way. His stride was smooth, purposeful, but his expression was what caused many to step aside without comment. He could hear the blood pumping past his ears, through the great vessels, and he knew he should relax. Well, at least part of his brain was telling him that. However, Dakbar ignored that little tidbit of advice and let the fury consume him.

    He stopped at the console and tapped on the panel, selecting one of his seldom used programs. The doors to the holodeck parted and Dakbar stepped into his old home.

    "Helik!" A Cardassian woman emerged, towel in hand, "late as always, but ever welcome." She extended her arms to him and Dakbar hurried into them.

    As he felt the warmth of her embrace, he could detect her perfume, the same one she had worn since she had met his father. It smelled like the flowers on the northern expanse of their property; it smelled like home. His strong arms were gentle as they wrapped around her.

    "Why don't we go into the-"

    "Computer, freeze program." He stood there, holding his mother, not willing to let go. Deep in his chest, it began. A growl, so utterly primal that it would have been exactly the same as when the first Cardassians crawled from the primordial ooze. It grew in intensity until his head tilted back and he screamed to the heavens, his soul crying out for all that he had lost, and all that he would soon lose.

    Meanwhile in Engineering, Rychel was performing diagnostics, when she found a fault in one of the holodecks that was presently in use. Frowning, she pulled up the holodeck’s log, and froze as she saw who was inside. He’s going to think that I planned this… The timing couldn’t have been worse.

    She tapped her comm badge, "Engineering to Holodeck 1. Diagnostics indicate that the Safety Subroutines have been disabled for this holodeck... is everything ok in there?"

    Dakbar had just taken a breath when Rychel's voice cut through the holodeck. His eyes narrowed. How utterly convenient it was that she be the voice at the end of the 'line'. Not a stranger to subterfuge, Dakbar had his own ideas as to the cause of the malfunction. "Everything is fine," he snapped. Stepping back, he looked into the vacant eyes of his mother and shook his head sharply, trying to clear it. "Computer, end program." Nothing happened, so he repeated the command again, but with the same results. He turned. "Computer, archway." The arch appeared and he hurried to the door, only to smash chest-first into it. Cursing, he pounded violently on the doorway.

    Rychel sighed. There was no way that everything was fine unless Dakbar had deliberately disabled several features of the holodeck. Which she sincerely doubted that he had the security access to do, considering many of the subroutines that were malfunctioning were for Maintenance use only.

    She entered the turbolift. "Holodeck," she directed, continuing to read through the padd that she carried. If Dakbar was doing anything remotely dangerous in there, he was at tremendous risk.

    The turbolift stopped at her destination, and she ran over to the control panel for the holodeck. "How in the world did this happen?" She asked to herself. It looked almost like the holodeck had been sabotaged. But who would have done that?

    "If she thinks this is funny..." Growling in frustration, Dakbar looked behind him. There was no way he wanted the Bajoran to see that. It was a private matter and not one for her eyes. "Computer, run program Dakbar zero-zero-one."

    "Unable to access."

    This wasn't happening. "Computer load Dakbar zero-two-five."

    "Unable to access."

    He turned and punched the wall. "Computer, run prior program." Maybe it was stuck in a loop or something. Maybe it could remember what had come before this one if it was still in a buffer. Maybe-

    The room changed and he looked down at himself. "Oh, this so much better," he said sarcastically as he viewed the clothing the program had put him in.

    Outside the holodeck, Rychel began looking through its log. Dakbar had attempted to end his program,and to start several others. He'd also tried to exit - all of which were unsuccessful. "Could the encounter with the Q have done this?" She mused to herself, remembering Talon’s previous mission.

    Despite her desire to afford Dakbar with privacy,she needed to know what program he was accessing to see if he was in danger. But the computer would not allow her to see. "What is wrong with this thing?!" She demanded to no one in particular.

    She tapped her comm badge reluctantly. "Kayden to Holodeck 1. I'm outside,I can see that everything isn't alright in there. Are you in immediate danger?"

    He's never going to forgive me now...

    Dakbar began pacing. He assumed he could transport out, but then the rumor mill would have a field day about that. Besides, then he'd have to answer Lieutenant T'Kar's questions about the necessity of the site to site transport. She was very strict about them, almost as if using the transporters sapped her of energy.

    "Only from the fashion police," he muttered. His outfit reminded him somewhat of a combination between the pirate outfit he had worn to his only Halloween ball at the Academy, and the costume he had put on for Robin's birthday party. However, this outfit was much stuffier. He tugged on the collar of the shirt. Taking in a deep breath, he felt the tug of fabric from the dark vest. Who would wear this? Obviously, they had no job.

    Rychel frowned, wondering what he meant by that. But she didn't have time to ponder over the matter. She needed to figure out what was wrong with the Holodeck, and preferably before the ship got into trouble. She did not want to be the one telling Security that they had to handle things a man short because she couldn't get one of their crew out of the holodeck!

    "And, please cease calling me Holodeck one. Unless, of course, you really do want to talk to the holodeck, in which case I would be more than happy to put it on the line." He held up a hand and examined the detail of the useless fabric at the ends of his sleeves. He had time to wait. Maybe the Bajoran would get bored and go away.

    "My apologies, Lieutenant Dakbar. I just figured I was the last person on the ship you wanted to deal with right now.” Rychel's face reddened for what seemed to be the millionth time. And to think, the day had started off so well.

    "I hardly think that referring to me as the Holodeck would change that fact. I'm-"

    "Filthy pig!!"

    "Excuse me?" Dakbar whirled around to come face to face with a rather irate, red-faced man.

    “The console isn't accepting any commands, I'm going to open it up and try and connect with it directly. Let me know if anything changes in there, ok? I'll get you out as soon as I can," Rychel said.

    Taking a deep breath, she removed the panel and took a look inside. It was worse than she had previously expected. The gel packs within looked like they'd taken damage; some of them had even burst open entirely. She assumed that either the force of the explosion from the warp core, or perhaps radiation that had gotten into the ship while the shields were down were at fault. Fortunately, she'd brought everything she could possibly think would be necessary to repair a holodeck. Also, she was lucky to have taken an interest in holodecks while she was at the Academy, else she likely wouldn't have the ability to essentially rebuild one from scratch.

    Inside, Dakbar ducked a fist that was aimed directly at his face. "Sir, I do not have a curly tail." What was it with this ship's obsession with all things pork, anyway?


    "No no no," Dakbar said to the ceiling. He knew the holodeck had an imager built in that could, on command, take a snapshot of the occupant during their exploits. "Computer, deactivate imager!"

    "Unable to comply"

    "Of course you are." He also knew it printed out a hard copy if the occupant so desired. The question was, whether it was doing so now.

    "You'll be squeelin' when I get through with you."

    Rolling his eyes, Dakbar stepped aside as the man barreled past him in a rage. "Who writes this stuff," he remarked.

    "Lieutenant Kathryn Burnham," the computer replied with authority.

    "Who asked you," Dakbar snapped.

    Rychel removed the first of the Bio Neural Gel Packs, then paused a moment. She tapped her Comm Badge, "Lieutenant Dakbar, are you still in a holoprogram, or did that terminate it?" She would have checked the computer other any other circumstance, but in this case she did not trust it to be correct.

    Oh Prophets, I promise I will stop being so skeptical if he doesn't blame me for this… she thought.

    There was a shimmering of the hologram for a moment and the scene changed to a bedroom most likely found in the seedier side of any city. A figure moved on the bed and Dakbar, bored, wandered over and pulled the covers off. "Lieutenant Alexander," he asked, surprised. She purred at him and crawled over to the edge. "You're late, flyboy," she said.

    "Oh, I'm in it all right..." Kinin grabbed the front of his trousers.


    Rychel sighed heavily, and busied herself with figuring out the problem. Part of the issue was that she'd never tried to repair a holodeck that was in use before; it wasn't necessarily something Starfleet wanted people to do. She removed a few more gel packs, hoping that one of them would be essential to the holodeck's operations, and would cease the program. She needed to get Dakbar out of there, and she had a feeling that he didn't want to be transported out. That would certainly start rumors.

    She tried to manually open the doors, but found that they were locked. "Computer, unlock this door for maintenance. Engineering Override Kayden Alpha Niner," she said, her voice raising as she became more frustrated with the situation.

    "Unable to comply."

    "Of course not," she muttered, kicking the door to vent her annoyance. "That's why I didn't try that in the first place..." She took a deep, steadying breath, trying to focus on the problem at hand. "Fine, if that's how you're going to play it," she said. She hadn't wanted to damage the holodeck in any fashion, but it was clear that it was too late to prevent that. Whatever had messed it up in the first place had turned it into a dangerous threat.

    Returning to the supplies she brought with her, she reluctantly grabbed a bipolar torch. While she could have employed a phaser to cut the door, that would send a message up to the bridge that a phaser had been fired on the ship, and that would cause more problems then the Engineer wanted to deal with at the moment. She quickly targeted just the areas involved in the locking mechanism of the doorway, then pried at it. The door squealed in protest as she attempted to force it open.

    Kinin crawled closer to Dakbar, her hand still clutching the waistband of his trousers and Dakbar turned at an angle when he heard the door squealing. Just as the door gave up its fight, Kinin stuck her other hand down behind the fabric, causing Dakbar to jump and yelp at the same time. "Computer," he croaked. "End program."

    "Unable to comply."

    Kinin had a tight hold of anatomy. "What's your hurry?"

    Unable to pull away for fear of never having progeny, Dakbar glared at Rychel, then back at Kinin.

    "Come to bed," Kinin said, tugging. Dakbar had little choice but to follow. "If you don't get me out of here soon, Lieutenant Kayden, I promise you-"

    His eyes about bugged out of his head as Kinin, with her free hand, tugged down his trousers and shorts in one swift motion, exposing Dakbar's backside toward Rychel. Kinin looked down and grinned.

    "No!" Dakbar shouted, then said. "Computer, site to site transport to my quarters!"


    Within seconds, both Rychel and Dakbar vanished in a sparkle of energy.
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  3. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 2

    Rychel wasn't really able to process what she'd seen in the Holodeck. Dakbar was in an outfit (although "in" wasn't precisely the correct term) that looked like it was from an earlier phase of Earth's history, and it appeared that Kinin was trying to proposition him. She tried to ignore the fact that his pants were around his knees, which was hard given her personal feelings regarding the man. She hadn't wanted to use the transporters to resolve this because she knew that the Transporter Chief would see the site to site in the logs and would demand an explanation. But the decision had been taken out of her hands. Then again, the safeties were off, and lives might have been in danger… although probably not given what she’d seen.

    She exhaled quickly as they reappeared in Dakbar's quarters. She was surprised that she'd been taken along for the ride, but then again, Dakbar hadn't been specific. She looked him directly in the eye, trying to pretend that he wasn't in a state of disrobement, but it was difficult not to ogle him outrightly. Her face flushed red as she thought appreciative thoughts to the Prophets - at minimum she had a good image to entertain her daydreams later.

    As his quarters materialized around him, Dakbar was happy to be surrounded by familiar surrounding. "I hope she got a good look," he mumbled as he turned around and... faced the woman in his statement. Cringing, he bend down slightly and fumbled with his trousers, pulling them up quicker than was physically comfortable. Her face was red as she spoke.

    "I'll erase the holodeck records as soon as I can, by whatever means necessary," she said. Rychel knew that he would be humiliated by whatever had taken place in there. "As far as I'm concerned, this can stay between the two of us."

    He straightened up. "I am sure I can find an incendiary device that could do the job quite nicely. There are..." Nervously, he decided he needed to trust her, " that were taken. See that those were destroyed as well." Especially the last one. "Computer, lock access to all holodecks until further notice, authorization Dakbar epsilon omega three."


    "With as bad of shape as the holodeck was in, I don't wager that they got saved properly. The holodeck computer's gel packs were completely melted, it was a big mess," she said. "But I will delete any that I find, and I will do you the respect of not looking at them." She meant it, although she was terribly curious. Still, she'd seen the best part of the action so to speak, and she could live without seeing the remainder. Although she had to admit to a passing curiosity about how far those neck ridges extended below his uniform...

    His head dipped down in defeat. "Now it listens." He sighed and ran a hand over his shaved scalp. "Thank you for your discretion, Lieutenant." He tried not to think of what had driven him there in the first place, but she was standing in his quarters, after seeing him in a vulnerable position, and she had not held what had happened over his head.

    "Of course, I know that you likely wouldn't want your reputation besmirched because of some silly technical failure. Especially given that you work for Securiy, it has the potential to seriously impact your job." She imagined it would be difficult for him to order people to the brig if any of those pictures were released. No one would take him seriously, save possibly some of the younger women. And still, they would only take him seriously in hopes that he'd use the security restraints in the brig for something more fun than just containment.

    He nodded at her, grateful. There were many on the ship who would love to see him cut down to size. Plus, it wouldn't be good for his mission if he were under a constant microscope of ridicule. "About earlier..."

    Rubbing his shoulder nervously, he turned and walked to the kitchen and wet a towel, which he rubbed quickly over his face. You are stalling. He looked down at the towel and began folding it neatly. "I am very... I do not like it when..." He slapped the towel down on the counter and it made a sharp, wet sound as it impacted the cold surface. "My parents were very noble people, not like the predatory birds of Earth."

    Rychel forced herself not to flinch. "I'm sorry, that is my fault. I didn't realize that while there are many noble traits to birds of prey that there is a negative association as well. I know that Cardassians value family higher than nearly anything else, and I understand that you would get upset if someone insulted them. I merely meant to reference many of the positive traits of the birds. They are very protective and loving when it comes to their families. They're very intelligent, graceful...

    She could have been describing his mother. Dakbar clenched his fist, hidden by the bulk of his body that he had immediately turned from her.

    “I completely overlooked the negative connotations," she said. "I do hope you will eventually forgive me."

    "We have all said things we regret," he muttered. There was a lull in her monologue and he thought for a moment that she was done.

    She hadn't overlooked the fact that he had referenced his parents in the past tense. "I'm sorry that you lost your parents," she said softly.

    His shoulders slumped, following the motion of his head, then he turned and met her gaze. "My mother was a dancer, my father an artist. They were murdered to prove a point." He slid his hand over the counter and up the wall until his fingers touched the iron that hung there. "They rose to their 'lofty' position on the accolades of my people. They were well-loved." His words were angry, full of fire and longing.

    Rychel idly wondered how much he took after his parents. She could see a certain grace to his movements that must have come from his mother. She wondered if he'd inherited any of his father's skills as well. "I know it doesn't help much, but at least they will be remembered," Rychel said. There was nothing more tragic than to die for no real reason, and to not have anyone to remember you.

    She had no idea. "Yes," he said, darkly.

    "No one should have to endure that," Rychel said, her voice low and full of empathy.

    He held the water glass in his hand and took a sip. He remembered their faces, cold as the stone they had been placed upon, their bodies arranged in the public square. An example for those brave enough to look. A crack began to appear in the glass he held and a drop of water oozed out and ran down the side. Dakbar hardly noticed.

    "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" she asked. "If that's not too personal a question." She didn't want to pry, but she wanted to understand him better. Learning of the fate of his parents explained a lot to her - his hard exterior, his quick reaction to her words. She wagered he was slow to trust as well, and she felt honored by the fact that he trusted her with as much of himself as he had.

    His suspicious nature rose up until he realized she was only making conversation. He had lived far too long chasing ghosts that he believed the enemy was always around the corner. This woman, this Bajoran, was no threat to him.

    "Three sisters, two brothers. They are all on Cardassia." In one form or another. His other hand, the one not shattering the water glass, was still on the artwork. The piece was a new addition to his quarters, fresh from his storage locker on DS9 where he kept all of his personal belongings. He had originally intended to keep his life free from mementos, but had changed his mind after visiting the locker on the return trip from Earth. Now, his quarters were decorated with many pieces crafted by the hand of his father. "Do you have a large family," he asked, trying to be polite. Maybe something she said could be useful to him in the future. The thought caused him to shake his head and he walked out from the kitchen and sat down heavily in a large chair. He was tired of wearing masks and using every little thing to his advantage. There were days when he hoped the next away mission would be his last.

    "Oh yes,” Rychel said, beaming proudly. “I am the youngest of nine, five brothers, four sisters." It was odd being the youngest, being coddled years after she should have been, having to push to do anything that her parents would be impressed by. "An architect, an astrophysicist, a doctor, lots of scientists…”

    All noble professions, their father should be- Dakbar thought.

    “...a holonovel actress, and a want-to-be Starfleet Intelligence officer."

    "I am not sure what that means. Is he in the Academy?"

    "He's a member of Starfleet Security working at the Academy," she explained. "He is hoping to be able to do internal affairs at some point, he has a lot of connections in that department. I'm not quite certain what he does now, I don't have the clearance to know."

    She stepped over to the replicator for a moment, "Raktajino, extra strong, hot," she said, taking the beverage before sitting down across from Dakbar on the couch.

    "Those pieces are lovely," she commented, gesturing at the art on the walls. She didn't ask if his father had made them for fear of treading on a sensitive subject, and figured if he wanted her to know, she'd given him the opportunity to say something. She hadn't gotten around to decorating her quarters yet, but she planned to once she'd gotten a bit more settled into life on the Talon.

    She took a sip of her Raktajino, sighing in contentment as the hot liquid hit her tongue. She had to admit, Klingons did know coffee, even if the rest of their cuisine was a bit sketchy by Bajoran tastes.

    "All produced by my father. That one," he indicated the one she was currently admiring. "That was finished just days before he was killed." He clenched his teeth, then watched her take a sip of her drink. Her pleasure from it was evident. He had never acquired a taste for it, it was too caffeinated for his liking.

    "At least you have such beautiful pieces to help remember him by," she said. "He had a lot of talent." She was a fan of Cardassian art, but she didn't want to say it for fear that Dakbar would think that she was just trying to impress him.

    "Is there anything else you need," he asked. He was not good at playing host, though his parents had excelled at it.

    She felt like he was trying to dismiss her for a moment, and she remembered that she was technically invading his space. But as she was about to stand and excuse herself, he spoke again.

    Clearing his throat, he inclined his head toward her, "You should try Red leaf tea."

    "I really enjoy tea," she said with a smile. "I've never tried it though. I'm a purist, I like brewing my own leaves." No matter how many times people had tried to tell her that replicated tea was just as good as the brewed variety, she'd never fallen for it. The natural imperfections in the real leaves made a tea with body and character that couldn't be replicated. In her quarters, she had literally dozens or little tins containing tea from various parts of the galaxy. She was personally most fond of human and betazoid teas, as she found them a bit more interesting in flavor than Bajoran teas.

    Dakbar laughed and gestured to the counter of his kitchen where there was an entire tea brewing setup ready to be used; the pot was highly engraved on the outside and it had two graceful handles on either side and a small, stout spout.

    "Wow," Rychel said, as she looked at his tea set. "That's beautiful, I thought I was the only one who still appreciated a good cup of tea!" She exclaimed. Truly, tea pots were a rare commodity on Starships, and it looked as though his was very well kept.

    "Cardassians are very passionate about their food," he replied. "It took me quite some time to get used to others talking to me while I was eating. On Cardassia, we eat in silence, or with music in the background, so that we may appreciate what we are eating, rather than shoving it down our gullets." Like other species. He didn't add that, but it was implied.

    "There is something to be said about a meal that's cooked, rather than replicated as well," Rychel said with a nod. "Humans chew with their mouths open a lot," she said squishing her nose in disgust. "In fact, most races are rather disgusting eaters, if you ask me." They either took huge bites, or gulped their food down. What was the rush? Why not just eat rations if you're not going to taste it.

    He actually laughed out loud, something he rarely did. He was glad to see he was not the only one who objected to such rude behavior.

    He’s laughing! Rychel's heart fluttered at the sound, and she forced herself to calm down a bit. At least it didn't seem like he disliked her, as his laugh didn't appear to contain any malice. She smiled sweetly up at him, studying him with interest. He had pretty eyes, she had to admit, and the intensity of his gaze was definitely enticing. She nibbled a bit at her lower lip.

    "Let me initiate you," he said. He walked over to the replicator. "Water for tea, ninety-eight degrees Celsius." A large pitcher materialized, steaming, and Dakbar carried it over to the pot. He opened up a canister, one of eight that lined the counter, and scooped the leaves into the strainer basket, then lowered it into the pot. "The temperature is key," he said. "Red tea leaves do not steep well at lower temperatures, but they must not be boiled." He looked over his shoulder at her briefly, to see if she was paying attention.

    She nodded, filing this information away. Most of the teas that she got from earth were delicate and required lower temperatures, so she would need to make a special note of that. Also, she'd be best off using her cast iron tea pot, which despite being very heavy kept a consistent temperature for a long time. And three minutes was a bit shorter than she was used to as well, so she filed that mental note away as well. There was nothing more disappointing than a bitter cup of tea.

    Rychel wondered what Dakbar's intentions were. Was he just being nice to her because he needed her to protect his reputation? Or did he honestly enjoy her company? It was hard to say, and would likely keep her mind occupied for the remainder of her day.

    As he poured the water into the pot, Dakbar’s mind kept chewing away on what she had said about her brother. Dakbar was not a believer in coincidences and alarm bells were ringing off in his head. He put the lid onto the pot and turned to face her. "It needs to steep for three minutes, no longer. Otherwise it becomes bitter." Lifting his arm, he set his chronometer for the appropriate time. "How long has your brother been at the Academy?" He lifted his head, blue eyes boring into hers, waiting for the answer.

    She pondered over the matter for a moment, "It's been a while since I've seen him..." He was ten years her senior, and had started with the Academy at 16 years of age, and as a result, his career had progressed much further than hers. "He's been stationed at the Academy for a little over a year. Previously he was Security for important Diplomatic missions. I don't know many of the details though." Often, much of what Desan was assigned to do was well above what Rychel was able to know. "His name is Desan, did you know him?"

    "I was at the Academy for five years...I took a year off in the middle for family matters. Then I was on a science vessel for another five before being assigned to the USS Zephyr briefly before it merged its crews with another ship to form the Talon crew. I do not remember anyone named Desan." Even still, he found it troubling that her brother's activities were above her security clearance. His chronometer beeped and he removed the strainer from the pot, setting the soggy leaves aside for other purposes. He reached up into a cabinet and withdrew two cups from two different locations, the poured the liquid into his. Taking a long sip, he nodded his head in satisfaction. He moved his cup to the side, then poured hers, watching the thin coating of tasteless medication on the bottom of the specially prepared cup melt and dissolve into the liquid. He smiled slightly.

    Rychel smiled, her eyes lighting up at the thought. "I guess it is rather silly of me to assume that you know everyone in Starfleet Security," she said with a laugh. "He's just the sort of person you don't forget. He's the tallest Bajoran I've ever seen." Desan was even taller than the Captain if she guessed correctly.

    Then again... he remembered a tall Bajoran, though he had never met the man. The guy was dedicated to duty and was always surrounded by higher ranking officers. Naturally, Dakbar had steered clear of that group.

    Placing the pot onto a warmer, he moved across the room and handed the cup to her. "I am not sure if the Raktajino will have altered your palate, but I hope you enjoy it."

    Wanting to give it a fair shot, Rychel ordered a glass of water from the replicator and sipped it for a moment before she tried the tea she'd been offered. Fortunately she was used to drinking hot teas, and the higher temperature didn't bother her as much as it likely would for most. She rolled it around on her tongue for a moment, enjoying the flavor. "It's really unique," she commented after a moment. It starts out sweet but then has a nice piquancy to it that I didn't expect," she said with an appreciative smile. "It's very good, thank you for sharing it."

    Dakbar began to relax as she spoke and he started to rethink having given her the tea. She had been helpful, she was funny...

    He reached forward to take her still-full cup. "I was honored that you were willing to try. Your Raktajino is getting cold." He needed to clear his head. This was too confusing. One minute he thought her an operative who was studying him, the next moment she was simply an unassuming engineer.

    "Oh...." she said absently. I'd completely forgotten about it..."

    "Red tea takes some getting used to. It would not hurt my feelings if you preferred to return to your own beverage of choice." Give me the cup. His fingers curled around the bottom of it and he began to tug it toward him gently. He was no longer certain that drugging the Bajoran was what he wanted.

    "It is really good though," she said shooting a forlorn glance down at the cup, then back up at Dakbar. "But, well, if you insist, I will trust your judgement. I would like to have some again sometime, if that wouldn't be too inconveniencing of you." Maybe it's better if I give it to him, she thought to herself, then perhaps I'll have an excuse to talk to him again. For the Engineer, who was quite fond of spicy things, it was quite tasty.

    He stared down at her, still not quite sure what to make of her. "Anytime," he replied. What else could he say.

    "You don't cook at all, do you?" She asked, feeling almost silly for doing so. "I'm quite fond of spicy food, and a friend at the academy said I should try Cardassian cuisine. But it's rather hard to get it in the Federation, I fear." She'd had some of it back home on Bajor, as inevitably there were still some things that had hung around since the Cardassian Occupation, but she'd been told that it wasn't nearly as good as authentic Cardassian. "I'm somewhat of a food connoisseur, you see."

    As he slipped the cup from her delicate hand, he cocked his head sideways at her question. What an odd thing to say. How did she know he didn't cook, they had just met. His eyes narrowed with suspicion.

    "Sorry to disappoint you," he said. "But, as you have so acutely observed, I do not cook. I am at the mercy of the replicator and all its preprogrammed nonsense." He shook his head.

    "Sorry, I'm.... overly observant sometimes," she said, her face flushing a bit. "I noticed that you didn't seem to have any cookware or knives, and I assumed. Also, I'd always heard that cooking was a more womanly pastime." Good job, Rychel, you're coming off like a complete and total stalker now, she chided her.

    The blushing of her face could have been caused by many feelings. Embarrassment... feelings of guilt... a novice at subterfuge being caught... Dakbar noted the hurried explanation and the addition of a controversial statement that would change the subject. Fine. I'll play along. "Members of a Cardassian family share the household duties," he said. "It would not be unusual for my father to cook while my mother was away. In fact, several of his dishes rivaled hers and they both had their own versions of a dish my grandfather used to make. My failure at cooking is no fault of their own. I was...rebellious."

    This fact surprised Rychel, but only for a moment. While he didn't seem the type to rebel - quite the opposite in fact - he was in Starfleet, which wasn't quite a typical Cardassian thing to do. She wondered if he felt guilty for joining Starfleet after everything that had transpired with his parents, but she dared not ask. She didn't know him well enough to pry into his innermost feelings.

    "My dislike for food that has been created from the waste of who knows what is only tempered by the fact that my attempts at cooking are dismal failures." He walked back into the kitchen and picked up his own cup, then returned while sipping it slowly. It had cooled somewhat, but was still agreeable.

    Rychel cringed. "Even as a scientist by nature, I still find it odd," she confided. One thing that always boggled her mind in classes was just how dirty food was, even as short of a time as a few hundred years ago, and how many people died as a result of impure food. It wasn't something that she liked to think about.

    "It is not that replicator food is totally bad... I just cannot get past how it is made." He gave a dramatic shudder. "And a large part of enjoying food is mental. How can I enjoy it if I suspect it has been made from what an Ensign in the cargo bay just passed through his bowels just moments before?" He looked at his cup of tea, then swallowed the rest in one gulp.

    "Yeah... and how do we know that we've identified all the disgusting bacteria that one can harbor in their bodies," she added. It was one thing that bothered her about flying around in virtually uncharted space - how did they know that they were identifying and removing all the micro-organisms from the Away Teams before they were brought onboard. The Academy was fond of telling tale of all nature of alien bacteria and viruses... she tried to force herself to think of something slightly more positive.

    "I'm quite fond of spicy food, and a friend at the academy said I should try Cardassian cuisine. But it's rather hard to get it in the Federation, I fear."

    "Hm, yes," he said, straightening up and turning to put the cup on the nearby table. "The only Cardassian restaurant I knew of on Earth mysteriously burned to the ground several years ago, or so I was told."

    Rychel frowned. It always seemed to be the innocent vendors who were trying to earn an honest living that were the ones who suffered the most. What sort of coward burns down a restaurant, she thought.

    "What do you in your free time?" She asked curiously. She wondered if he was dating anyone aboard the Talon, or if he had someone waiting for him back home. She couldn't bring herself to actually ask that though, as she sensed that he was still regarding her with some suspicion. So far, she assumed that was because of the earlier incident in the Mess Hall. She hoped that it would pass with time.

    "I do not have free time," he explained. "When I am not on duty, I have studies to fill that space. There is very little time for frivolous activities." The Cardassian 'for the people' work ethic had been instilled into Dakbar since birth. "I am no longer a rebel, it seems." His eyes looked into the distance. He could still feel the pain of his torture and hear the screams of the others who were enduring it alongside him. "We learn by our mistakes," he added bitterly.

    Rychel frowned. It would appear that her question had been answered, or at least, she suspected so from the pain that suddenly became evident in his eyes. She felt bad for bringing things up, as it had apparently triggered a negative response in the Cardassian.

    But before she could say anything to try and lighten the tone of their conversation, the red alert went off. She sighed inwardly. She hoped she would get another chance to speak with Dakbar.

    "I shall escort you to your duty station until I get further orders."

    "Oh... ok," she said, a little concerned as to why he thought a security escort was necessary. But neither of them knew why the ship was at Red Alert, so she assumed that his judgement was sound.

    "Thank you," she said a moment later, gratefully.
  4. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 3

    It was an extended, although routine, red alert, and lacking orders otherwise, Dakbar had remained with Rychel throughout her duty shift. Afterwards, she had invited him to her quarters for tea.

    "It's weird, I've seen more crazy things in two days aboard the Talon then I did my entire time as an ensign. Is the Talon always this chaotic?" Rychel asked, as they entered the turbolift.

    "You have no idea," he replied. If only she knew what happened behind the scenes. "Sleep when you can, do not miss an opportunity to eat. Shifts mean nothing on the Talon, I have found. If you are supposed to work the night shift, chances are you'll spend more of your time in other shifts than your own. Aliens will not wait patiently until the change of shift." He knocked on the bulkhead as if they were just outside.

    Rychel nodded emphatically. "Yes, I imagine that's as true for you as it is for us. Our shifts aren't based around time so much as around what's broken. We don't go to our quarters til we have nothing left to fix, or we pass out."

    "I think we do it so we don't get-"


    "Bored." He followed her to her quarters, noting the location and the number as well as the time of day out of habit. He never knew when it would come in handy.

    If Rychel noted the hesitation, she didn't show it. "Fortunately, us engineers rarely get bored." It seemed that Starfleet was good at making new technological advancements, but was slightly less good at making sure they didn't go bad over time. Or that their bio-neural circuitry didn't share many weaknesses with it's biological inhabitants. But in Rychel's eyes, it was a way of making certain that she had a job. Reaching the doorway, she paused just outside and said, "Thanks for staying by me today. It was very kind of you to look out for me." She knew that it was obvious at this point even to the casual observer that she liked him, but she didn't care.

    "It is my duty to protect all officers during an alert." Well, that sounded awfully platonic. "You mentioned tea?"

    "It's a noble cause," she said with a half smile.

    She was rather naive.

    Rychel nodded, and stepped forward a half-step so the door to her quarters would open. The best thing about being aboard the Talon was that since her transfer came with a promotion to Lieutenant, she didn't need to share her quarters with anyone. "I still haven't gotten everything unpacked," she said apologetically, although save two boxes that were neatly set aside, everything appeared in order.

    Rychel liked order; she hated the fact that things were still needing to be unpacked. She'd already changed her quarters considerably from the layout that was standard - she didn't like Starfleet's preoccupation with lighter colors, nor did she like their square way of thinking. Her furniture had been covered with darker upholstery, in shades of dark purple, crimson, and burnished gold. She'd placed several wall hangings that were designed to resemble Gothic Victorian styles of earth's history, although her most impressive pieces were in her bedroom out of view.

    As he walked into her quarters Dakbar was not sure exactly where the supposed 'in the midst of packing' mess was located. He spotted two boxes, but that was all, and even they were lined up in perfect order. She'd been on the ship how long? Most of the crew that had left spacedock with the Peregrin or the Zephyr were still living out of half-unpacked boxes.

    "Make yourself at home," she said softly. "I hope you don't mind the heat, I hate how cold it gets in here, so I increase the temperature a bit."

    "That would take more effort than you can possibly grant me," he muttered as he reached out to touch the fabric carefully. It was soft, but strong.

    She walked over to the small kitchen area, and produced a tea kettle, that was inspired by Asian culture, before busying herself with locating the aforementioned Vulcan Spice Tea. Ordinarily, they'd have all been in a cabinet in alphabetical order, but she hadn't had time to get them ordered properly.

    While she walked into the kitchen, he casually wandered around in the living area, hands behind his back, observing everything. She had good taste in fabrics. It was luxurious, without being overly pretentious. He leaned closer to one of the wall hangings to get a better look.

    "I will attempt not to shiver." He sat down on the couch and stood up again almost immediately. Turning, he reached down and removed a small pillow before sitting again. Holding the pillow awkwardly in his lap, he looked toward the kitchen. "If it is any bother, I can go back to my own quarters."

    "Oh, no, it's no bother at all. I like entertaining. It's been a while since I've had company." She pondered for a moment before muttering an "Ah ha!" as she found the tea that she'd been searching for.

    "You should have seen the dinner Asanti threw for selected members of the crew. It was... interesting. I do not think he was skilled at entertaining, though Ensign Roderick got a water shower installed in her quarters as a result of a challenge he thought up on the spot to fill an awkward moment."

    "A water shower?" Rychel said with interest. "What sort of challenge did she have to win in order to get that?"

    "Whomever chose a song that would get stuck in the Commodore's head won." He shrugged. "It was some kind of Earth rebel music. Hard, but with a beat that is infectious. Songs of the people, not the kind that cares about critical reviews."

    He frowned as a thought entered his mind. "When you said tea, were you only talking about the kind you drink? I find it very difficult understanding when someone refers to a meal as 'tea'."

    "I meant tea as tea," she explained. "I think it's more of a human thing to call a meal "tea." But I could cook something up if you were hungry. I'm an okay cook." She said, flushing slightly. Walking over to the replicator, she requested boiling water, which she poured into her tea kettle after adding the Vulcan Tea Leaves. She set the chronometer for 4 minutes, and prepared two cups before turning back to look at her guest.

    "I wouldn't presume to impose," he replied. Truthfully, the thought of Bajoran food made his stomach crawl. Plus, he was still getting over the after-effects of the aphrodisiac drug he’d intended to give her earlier.

    "You sure? I can cook a mean Chicken Mole Poblano," she said.

    "I have never met an angry chicken."

    She realized he likely wasn’t familiar with human cuisine or slang, so she explained, "It's a spicy, yet sweet sauce with chicken and rice." She knew that not everyone was fond of Bajoran cuisine - even she found some things to have cloying sweetness.

    "Some other time. With the data I keep receiving, you would probably be part way through it and the red alert will sound. I do not think we should engage in anything that cannot be interrupted."

    Well that certainly ruled out... certain things. She managed to force herself not to blush at her own dirty thoughts. She was so transparent sometimes, and she was trying to get better at hiding her embarrassment.

    Dakbar looked somewhat awkward seated in her quarters, and for a moment she wondered if he was just pretending to be nice to prevent hurting her feelings. But she tried to push away her doubt. It couldn't possible be comfortable for him, being alone with a strange Bajoran woman that he barely knew.

    He caught her looking his way and he fiddled with the pillow, his back completely straight and his feet planted firmly on the ground. "It is good to see individuality in your decor." Conversation 101: Compliment the decor.

    "Thank you," she said softly, as she poured a bit of tea into each of the two cups. She carried the two cups of tea into the other room, and handed one over to the Cardassian, before sitting down on the couch next to him. She was close to him - although not so much that they touched. She folded her legs up under her in a position that less flexible people would classify as uncomfortable.

    "If you were anyone else, I'd tell you to wait until it cooled down a bit, but I wager you can handle it," she said with a grin as she blew lightly into her own cup.

    Looking sideways at her, he grinned at the challenge. He took the cup and examined it before sniffing the tea. "Thank you." It had an intriguing scent. Taking a sip, he moved the liquid around in his mouth briefly before swallowing. The intense heat felt wonderful going down his esophagus.

    She watched as he took the first sip of tea, without heed to the temperature, which would have scalded most races. Her face broke into a wide grin as he didn't so much as squint at the heat.

    "It is good." He parted his lips slightly and sucked in a bit of air. "A strange afternote. It reminds me of something, but I cannot pin it down." Looking over at her, he noticed her position. Flexible. Most desirable.

    "I'm glad you like it," she said. "It's always been one of my favorites." Stupid Red Alerts... she thought. Hopefully, this one will hold off for just a bit longer!

    "Well," he held his cup high. "Here's hoping your favorite beverages will always find their way to your lips." It was about as eloquent as Dakbar had been in years.

    "And to yours as well," she said, clinking her mug lightly against his, before taking a sip. Internally, she thought more about his lips than her beverages. Like how much she really, really wanted to feel them pressed against hers right now. She had no idea what had gotten into her, but she liked it.

    Returning to his previous compliment, Rychel said, "Federation decor leaves a lot to be desired. I'm not really a fan of gunmetal gray and pastels."

    "What about geometric designs?"

    "It depends," Rychel said thoughtfully. "I'm not fond of squares. I think they're kind of boring. Circles as well. I like more elaborate designs, acute angles, ellipses, things like that. I think it comes from too many long hours of geometry classes at the Academy. I find that the chevron is a thoroughly underrated shape," she said.

    "You should visit Cardassia some day. You would enjoy th-" She would most likely be killed. "Perhaps a holodeck simulation would suffice." He sat in silence for a while, sipping the tea and knowing what the future would hold for Cardassia, and the Federation. Soon, there would be no tourist trips for outsiders to the world of his birth. Dakbar thought of politics. He stared into his tea. Even this tea would be outlawed.

    "I would enjoy that," she said with a smile. "Perhaps you'd be willing to be my guide through holographic Cardassia?" She asked sweetly. She couldn't remember the last time that she'd been this bold with a man... probably because it had never happened before. Despite the fact that she was always attracted to men like Dakbar, it wasn't until recently that she'd actually been bold enough to talk to any of them.

    "Me?" He had meant for her to go traipsing off to the holodeck on her own, not use him as a guide. Then again, the thought had some intriguing possibilities.

    "I have heard stories that Federation officers still hit their heads on certain parts of Terok Nor.”

    "Terok Nor is fascinating to me," Rychel said. "There are no corners... there's no where to stop, no where to get lost, or to pull someone aside. The design of the station subtly directs people to where they need to be going so they can get there efficiently. There are also no circles or squares, save the station's ring. Everything else is elliptical." Yeah... she'd been a bit of a math nerd, but all the best Starfleet engineers were!

    "May I call you Helik?" She asked a moment later, eyes wide with both innocence and hope. She'd read somewhere of how nearly all mammalian species were hard programmed to feel empathy towards wide eyes, as young mammals had proportionately large eyes. Her siblings had teased her ability to talk people into nearly anything just by giving them the wide eyed look.

    His eye ridges shot upward. Then he caught the small sideways shuffle she was doing. I could have used you last night. Her innocent eyes gazed up at him. "I don't suppose there is any harm in you doing so," he said.

    She smiled up at him, angling her chin down somewhat so she looked at him coquettishly through her eyelashes. "Well, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, Helik," she said, rolling his name over her tongue. She decided that she liked the way it felt to say it, and she hoped to have the occasion to use it more frequently.

    Very proper. That was unexpected. His mother would be impressed. If she were still alive to hear it, which she wasn't. Too many people lost, too many souls he could no longer touch. He turned slightly and stared at the ridges between Rychel's eyes. Too many enemies.

    Rychel closed her eyes, humming softly in delight as the warm tea coursed down her throat. It was amusing to her that a race that was as logical as the Vulcans, who were known for having mostly bland cuisine, had managed to develop such a tasty tea. Dakbar drank more of his tea as Rychel savored hers. He wondered if she hummed during other forms of enjoyment.

    "Do you read for pleasure?" she asked curiously, peering intently at Dakbar. She found that so many people got so wrapped up in the things that they had to do that simple pleasures like reading often fell to the wayside. "Or do you lack the time?" As she spoke, she'd been unconsciously moving ever so slightly closer to the Cardassian. She didn't know what drew her to him, but she liked it.

    Another little shuffle toward him. "I.." He realized he was still holding the silly pillow in his free hand. He laughed and tossed the pillow onto her lap. With the motion, he could feel her hip brushing against his. "I do not have much time, but I do like to read. It is enjoyable to transport myself away from things once in a while.”

    "Oh? What are your favorite types of stories to read?" She asked curiously. It seemed like recently everything she read was some sort of technical manual or bulletin from the Corp of Engineers. She missed being able to read stories from other cultures to learn how they were similar, and how they differed as well.

    "The ones where the bad guy wins," he replied, darkly, but he became distracted by the warmth of her leg next to his once again. And her lips. Wet. Soft. He cleared his throat.

    Rychel grinned despite herself. If he had any idea what was on the padd beside her bed right now, he would have likely sprouted a second head from shock. Her penchant for reading stories from other cultures was something that her parents had found confounding. Especially since they were rarely books by Federation species.

    He looked down and to the side. "You know," he said. "If you get any closer, you will be wearing my uniform."

    I'd rather if you weren't wearing your uniform, she thought. But seeing as he didn't protest, nor did he seem to be moving away from her that she would play it flirtatiously. Her Orion roommate Nadaari from the Academy would have been proud of her, considering the nights they spent discussing how to properly flirt with a man. She licked her lips - another lesson from Nadaari. "I'm sorry, does that bother you?" She asked innocently, but she didn't move away.

    He shook his head in reply, then reached his hand up, his fingers brushing along her neck. One swift snap. Touching her earring, he examined it closer than before. A single jerk would rip it out.

    She inhaled sharply as he reached up, brushing against the sensitive skin of her neck. She let the breath out slowly, trying to ignore the pounding of her own heart. She also tried to ignore the desires that were welling up within her. Yes, she wanted his lips to follow his hand to that sensitive spot behind her ear, but no, now was not the time. Besides, she wasn't the type to fall in bed with a man the first day she met them. Or at least... she hadn't been before.

    "It really is lovely." He looked into her eyes. So trusting. So fragile.

    She didn't bother to try to hide the flush that came to her face at the compliment, just batted her eyelids prettily. "Thank you," she said softly.

    The red alert sounded and he pulled his hand away and cursed under his breath. "No rest," he said.

    Rychel sighed wearily. Seriously, what did a girl have to do to get the ship to stop going to red alert long enough for her to participate in some horizontal extracurricular activities with her crewmates? She was going to complain the next time the morale committee met.

    Standing, Dakbar gulped down the rest of his tea. "Be safe," he said. Part of him laughed at the comment.

    She smiled up at him as he stood. Those were the same words she'd spoken to him earlier. "And you as well," she said softly. She stood up as well, grabbing her padd, and the toolkit that she'd brought up from the holodeck.

    "Thank you for the tea." Without another word, he hurried from her quarters, his mind running in several directions at once.

    "You're welcome," she said. She allowed her eyes one last lingering look at his departing figure, noting that even without the armor, Cardassian men were much better built than most species she was familiar with. She sighed, trying to center herself, and to calm her hormones down to a less pubescent level, and then headed towards engineering.
  5. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 4

    The walk back from Engineering had seemed longer than she remembered it. Rychel hovered outside the doorway to her quarters, remembering the last time that she'd stood there. He was with her.

    Her face flushed.

    She entered her quarters, removing her uniform piece by piece before throwing the whole lot of it into the replicator for recycling. She entered the bathroom, and stared at herself in the mirror for a long moment.

    She scowled at her reflection, and watched the ridges on her nose seem to multiply as her brow furrowed at the action. Slowly, hesitantly, she reached up to grasp the earring. Her face flushed more as she remembered earlier, when he'd brushed against her neck ever so softly as he'd reached to inspect it...


    The word ran through her mind.

    Did it matter what she was? Did it matter the people she'd come from? Would he be more interested in her if those 6 little ridges weren't perched atop her pert little nose? What would she look like if she were a Cardassian, she wondered.

    Her neck was long enough, she decided, after a moment's inspection. Her frame was small though, not quite the same as the thicker, sturdier frame of a Cardassian woman, that was for certain.

    She shook her head, removing the earring and sitting it aside before she stepped into the sonic shower. While it would never be the same as a water shower, she had to admit that it relaxed her some, although it didn't divert her thoughts from their present course.

    She changed into a crimson shirt, made of light and flowy, yet clingy material with a low, boat-style neckline. After a moment's thought she replicated a simple skirt of a similar golden material. Finally, reluctantly, she retrieved her earring from the bathing room, and put it back in.

    There was no changing what she was. And what planet she was born on didn’t say anything about who she was as a person.

    She went out and tidied the living area of her quarters. She straightened the pillow that Dakbar had been holding while he was there. She picked up the two mugs and slowly, reluctantly took them to the replicator to be recycled.

    Come on, Rychel, must you always be so needlessly, hopelessly romantic? she thought.

    Sighing, she grabbed a padd from beside her bed, curled up in a little ball on her sofa, and began to read.

    Meanwhile, Dakbar had wandered the ship aimlessly. It was becoming a habit for the Cardassian and the crew were getting used to seeing him in odd locations all over the vessel at odd hours of the day and night. He couldn't sleep and he wasn't hungry. In the past month, he had lost some weight, which was especially evident in the hollows around his eyes.

    He paused and looked around, noticing where he had ended up. "Subtle," he laughed sarcastically at himself as he stared at Rychel's door. The redhead had been in his thoughts constantly for hours, his feet taking him where he had been once before. Running a hand over his shaved head, he put the other hand on her door. "Computer," he asked. "Location of Lieutenant Kayden."

    "Lieutenant Kayden is in her quarters."

    It was his imagination, but he immediately detected the odor of tea. Somewhere in those quarters, was a small, enthusiastic woman. He imagined what she had done after her shift and where she was inside the room. In his mind, he broke into the room, forcefully carried her into the bedroom, threw her down and made her cry his name.

    Sweating, Dakbar pulled his hand away and wiped it on his abdomen.

    Not today. He took in a sharp breath.

    Not today...

    He stepped backwards until his spine was against the far wall and he just stood there, staring at the doors which protected her.

    Try as she might, Rychel could not focus on her reading. Some might have blamed the topic of her book, as Romulan covert activities were hardly something that most would find fascinating. But up until yesterday, she had eagerly devoured every last word. Now... she was distracted.

    Sighing, she adjusted herself on the sofa, trying to find a position that felt more comfortable. But comfort didn't come. You'd think after spending the past 6 years with roommates that I would be glad to finally have a place to myself, she thought. At the Academy, and as an ensign, privacy was a luxury that wasn't allowed to her.

    She debated for a moment just walking around through the corridors, and exploring the Talon. It was a new posting after all, and there were myriad things that she hadn't explored yet. But she didn't want to look like the lost little new girl, so she decided that likely wasn't the best course of action.

    She sat down her book, and brewed up a cup of green tea. The human beverage was something that had often calmed her back at the Academy, and she hoped that she could rely on it's effects once more. She sweetened it with a bit of honey, then carried it back to the sofa. She sipped it slowly as she read, hoping at some point her heart would remove itself from her throat.

    She thought she heard the sounds of someone out in the corridor, and nearly got up to check, but forced herself to sit back down again. There are hundreds of people on this ship. There's always going to be someone in the corridor, she chided herself.

    With a resigned sigh, she stood up, tossing the padd onto the sofa, and disappeared into her room. From a compartment underneath her bed, she withdrew a small, neatly wrapped package. It had been a gift from her brother when she was assigned to the Talon. She unwrapped it slowly, careful not to tear the paper. As she expected, inside was a lovely wooden box, with intricate carvings. Desan always did know the styles that Rychel liked the most. Within the wooden box were several bottles of Bajoran springwine. Rychel knew that synthehol wasn't going to do the job on a night like tonight, and no one would fault her a glass of wine on a lonely night.

    She reached another box and procured a crystalline wine glass, and poured the Springwine into it. Returning to the living area, she flopped back onto the couch and took a quick sip.

    I hope one glass is enough…

    Dakbar didn't know how long he had stood there, but a cramp in his calf muscle told him he needed to move. Pushing from the wall, he started to walk away, then turned around and paced in front of her door. Only when someone else came by did he keep moving, but returned as soon as the corridor was clear again.

    Not today.

    He shook his head sharply and rubbed the back of his neck. This was going to be a long night. He was pacing again, getting more and more frustrated with himself by the minute.

    Just go to your quarters.

    He stopped and put his hand again on her door, as if he could feel her through it.

    Stop it.

    His hand reached up and hit her door chime.


    Clenching his jaw, he planted his feet and waited.

    It was funny, Rychel mused, the way that one glass of wine turned into two, then two turned into... how many bottles was it that Desan gave me, anyway? She checked, and there was still some left, so that was a good sign. She grabbed another bottle and took it out to the living area, where she sat it down on the table and poured another glass.

    The book that she'd been reading was starting to get interesting again - well, interesting to anyone who cared about telepresence operated drone-ships and their influence on covert military action. Still, she found her thoughts strayed from it rather more frequently than she would have liked them to.

    She wasn't quite sure how long she sat there reading, or how much wine she'd consumed, when a chime sounded at her door. She checked the padd she kept next to her to make certain that she'd not forgotten any of her duties for the day, and found everything was complete, which meant it likely wasn't a work-related visit.

    Perhaps, just perhaps her hoping and wishing had actually gotten her somewhere for once.

    Daring not to hope too much, she jumped up quickly, and ran over to the doorway, with agility and grace that was amazing given her slightly inebriated status. She hit the button which opened the door, and snaked the arm that was carrying her drink behind her back, the wine glass dangling from between her fingers.

    It was him. She had to play it cool.

    She smiled coyly. "Helik?" She said softly. "What are you doing up at this hour?"

    "I am unable to sleep," he said.

    A flicker of hope surged through the Bajoran's lithe body. Perhaps there was something between them, and she hadn't just imagined it. What other reason would there be for him to show up to her quarters this late in the evening?

    She stepped aside, still keeping the glass concealed behind her for the moment. "Please, come in?"

    She was hiding something behind her back. He laughed to himself at the clumsy way she did so. It was quite obvious. "You don't have a weapon back there, do you," he asked.

    She giggled a bit, "I don't know. Perhaps I do. I never know when I'm going to need to defend myself against an intruder in the middle of the night, you know." She grinned wickedly up at the Cardassian. Under ordinary circumstances, she would likely be terrified that he was going to report her, and that she would be demoted - or worse. But since it was him, she hoped that it would all work out in her favor.

    "I see," he said. "So you were planning on using this, how?" He could see several options, but he wasn't sure an engineer would, especially one who was drunk.

    "Well, I hadn't planned quite that far ahead yet," she admitted. "Perhaps I could shatter it and then use it as a makeshift shiv, though?" Still, she doubted that even with a shiv and her deceptively large upper body strength that she could defend herself against Dakbar.

    He grabbed her arm and drew it around. The alcohol sloshed in the glass as it appeared. Plucking it from her hand, he sniffed the contents. "Really, Lieutenant. Alcohol? On the Talon? Do I need to quote regulations at you?" He looked at her eyes. They showed signs of inebriation. What was that word his roommate used to say? Score.

    His words were threatening, but his tone was not. She feigned fear. "Oh, no, please don't report me," she said, her eyes wide. She grasped him by the wrist, pulling him back into her room to allow the door to close behind him.

    Dakbar’s eyes opened wide as she took him by the wrist and pulled him into the room. If that wasn't an invitation… "What is this," he asked. "It does not smell familiar." He handed it back to her, then scanned her body quickly, noting where the flimsy blouse clung to her curves. Perhaps this was a good idea after all.

    "It's Springwine," she explained, taking a quick sip. "Here, you should have some." She sat down her glass quickly, and disappeared into the other room, producing a second, identical glass.


    But she was off like a shot, moving surprisingly well for what he had seen by the condition of her eyes. The skirt she wore chased after her legs, swirling and floating like happy children around a treat. While she was away, he moved over to the couch and glanced at the displayed page on the padd, but quickly stepped away as he heard her returning.

    She quickly poured another glass, and gestured for Dakbar to come over. "Please, have a seat," she said, removing the padd from where she'd placed it on the seat, and sitting it instead on the table.

    Every action, every glance showed him that she was happy to see him. Alcohol had a way of releasing inhibitions, exposing parts of the psyche that were normally kept hidden. Part of his training had involved getting as drunk as possible and never giving in to questioning. As he sat down, he gestured to the padd. "What were you reading," he asked genially. He sat down in the middle of the couch, not at the end.

    Her face flushed slightly in embarrassment. At least she'd gotten finished with the Cardassian books that she'd been reading, that would probably strike him as being quite odd. "It's a book about Romulan covert activities in the 22nd century," she explained. "Specifically, Telepresence-controlled drone-ships." She sat down on the couch beside Dakbar, and took another sip of her wine. It had been fermented by her uncle, who had a rather large plot of land that supported a successful vineyard. The bottles that Desan had sent her were quite good. She would need to thank him later.

    She was still holding the glass she had poured for him. "May I?" Before she could reply, he reached forward and wrapped his large hand around it and her own hand. Drawing it forward, dragging her along, he took a sip. His eyes met hers. "Excellent," he said. He wasn't talking about the wine. Rychel’s heart raced, and her mind flashed to the brief moment of contact earlier, when he'd reached for her earring.

    She wasn't sure if he was referring to the wine, or her choice of reading material, or the fact that she was so close. She decided to respond to the middle option. "I have... somewhat peculiar taste in reading material," she admitted. His eyes were focused on hers, and she felt as though he was looking through them, into what lay underneath. She felt as though he knew every thought that was going through her head, and while this embarassed and scared her, she also had to admit that it was incredibly attractive.

    She warred with herself internally. She had the feeling that if she pursued him, that he would stay the night. And right now, after the arguments and the visits cut short by red alerts, and the alcohol... she really wanted that. He would have had to be stupid not to figure as much, and she knew that he wasn't stupid. Still, it wasn't in her nature to sleep with someone her second day on a new ship, and the day after she'd met them.

    It wasn't in her nature... she'd never done it before... yet still, this was a time full of new changes. She was on a new ship, with a new rank. What was the worst that could happen.

    Her confidence growing, she slid herself closer, until she was completely in Dakbar's lap, his face mere inches from hers.

    As her slight weight settled on his thighs, an odd reaction descended upon Dakbar. He should have reacted lustily, his body rising to the occasion. However, he felt his world contract inward and he took in a strangled breath.

    The golden red hair in front of him was replaced by closely cropped dark locks. The Bajoran nose, gone, eye ridges forming, a sardonic smile replacing Rychel's innocent grin. He remembered her touch, how it had goaded him forward, teasing, taunting, innocent, then as evil as death itself. Dakbar's breath quickened at the memory. Break him down. He twitched his head sharply, just once, as he remembered the pain.

    Rychel saw something in his eyes that she recognized.

    Pure, unadulterated fear.

    At first, she was slightly offended, but then she realized that there was no way that he was responding to her.

    Suddenly, he stood, spilling Rychel to the floor, a glass breaking and scattering shards at his feet. "This is..." He blinked, finally seeing the real woman who had missed colliding her skull against the table by mere millimeters. "I will replace that," he said about the glass. Turning, he hurried from her quarters, but only made it just outside before grabbing the wall for support.

    Rychel cursed herself silently for being right in her early impressions of him. No one was that hard on the outside, that afraid of letting others be close. No one except people that had been through tremendous hurt. Growing up on Bajor, she knew the signs of Post Traumatic Stress. She knew how even completely innocent situations could bring back haunting memories.

    She stood up quickly, suddenly feeling much more sober than she had mere moments before. She raced outside quickly, and thankfully, the corridor was empty, at least for now.

    "Helik," she said softly. She didn't touch him, as she knew that he might perceive that as threatening. His spine stiffened at the sound of her voice. Why had she followed? He had deposited her on the floor of her quarters as easily as garbage.

    "Please, come back into my quarters. I know that you don't want anyone to see you like this," her voice was soft, and soothing. She tried to make herself as non-threatening as she possibly could. Her point had validity. He needed to appear strong, invincible, if his mission was to be successful.

    "We don't have to talk about it if you don't want," she said. She didn't want him to refuse her offer because he feared that she would pry.

    Glancing over his shoulder at her, he stared at her. Why did she care? They were from two opposing worlds, their cultures still healing wounds from many years ago. He knew she didn't know about the recent Cardassian reversal in politics. Few did. Perhaps she was one of those Bajorans who believed that their two cultures were still working toward a common goal. He wanted to laugh at the thought. If Bajor knew what the future held, Rychel would be shutting and locking her door against him.

    Yet, there she was, offering him refuge in her world. Was she just naive?

    "It's a book about Romulan covert activities in the 22nd century."

    Her earlier explanation told him it wasn't true. She was open-eyed about everything, it seemed, but she chose a different path, one of peace.

    Moving away from the wall, he left a sweaty palm print on the bulkhead. It faded quickly in the ship's dry air. "Thank you," he said, bowing his head to her. "It is not something I am able to discuss." He was still shaken over the incident. Ever since those days on Cardassia Prime, he had been the pursuer. Rychel being so forward had thrown him off balance, something for which he had been ill equipped to handle. It was definitely a chink in his armor, a danger to his plans.

    "Then we won't," she said simply. Unlike many people, who thought that a person was the sum of their pasts, and who tried to know everything about the people that they were attracted to, Rychel believed in embracing a person for who they were now. She had no concerns who Helik used to be. She only cared about who he was now, and who he could become.Rychel felt a flicker of hope as Dakbar retreated back into her quarters. She couldn't figure out the glance that he gave her as he went back in, but she thought there was at least some element of confusion to it.

    And why shouldn't there be confusion? To this day, nearly 40 years after the Occupation, there were still hostilities between their people. Rychel was naive enough to think that Cardassians and Bajorans could ever live in peace. Even if the Occupation would have never happened, the Bajoran people were too bound by religion and superstition, and the Cardassians believed that religion was a point of extreme weakness.

    It just wasn't going to happen. No, Rychel was not that naive.

    Rychel did know that not every Cardassian was a cold-blooded killer like some Bajorans perceived them to be. She'd read the tales of the few that still held onto the Oralian Way - the old Gods of Cardassia's past. And she, Rychel, considered herself to logical, to reasonable to blindly believe that everything in her life was caused by the Prophets. She had free will.

    And it appeared that for the moment at least, her will was to be with Dakbar, regardless of what that entailed.

    He followed her back into her quarters and shivered slightly. "Would you have a blanket," he asked. For some reason, he felt chilled to the bone.

    "Of course. The Talon is frightfully chilly," she said. She retrieved a blanket from her bedroom. The scientific part of her mind pondered over the fact that the blanket was probably covered in her pheromones, and she dismissed the thought for the moment. That was something that she could worry about once Helik seemed more comfortable again. She handed him the blanket, cleaned up the remaining glass shard from the floor, and poured another glass of wine, which she sat next to her own in the event that Helik wanted it.

    A wave of relief swept over him. Most women would have pushed the issue with a whine of "tell me" which would have made him bolt. Instead, she ran and got him a blanket and cleaned up the mess he had made, bustling around him as if he was no threat at all. A small, genuine smile pushed at his mouth as he watched. The new, extra glass of wine was enticing and he could feel the after-effects of the adrenaline surge causing him to feel weak. Gripping the blanket with one hand, he picked up the glass and sat down heavily at the end of the couch.

    As if nothing had happened, Rychel asked, "When you were at the Academy, did you ever have the occasion to visit the Grand Canyon on Earth?"

    "Briefly," he replied, after taking a sip. "But it was for a training mission, not pleasure. It snowed at night and I spent most of the evening huddled around the fire." He closed his eyes, a peaceful memory finding its way through the darkness. "In the morning, I was still there, clinging to the last embers for warmth...and then the Terran sun rose scarlet in the distance, casting its light and creating shadows through the canyon." He opened his eyes and realized her hair was the same shade as some of those canyon walls. How beautiful those strands must be in the light of the sun.

    Helik seemed to be getting settled somewhat comfortably, and even was willing to try the wine again. Rychel took that as a good sign. Also, he seemed to be almost smiling. Not the same all-knowing grin that he'd used before, but something more genuine. She picked up her glass and took a quick sip as she curled up beside him on the couch.

    Clearing his throat, he looked away. "You have been there, I assume."

    "I used to transport there during vacations from class," she explained. She had a feeling that he would have liked it as much as she did. "It was really nice in the summer. I liked the heat. There were great places to rock climb, and the sunrises and sunsets made me wish I was a painter. Holovids just don't do them justice." She smiled as she too remembered her experiences at the Grand Canyon. Her friends hadn't understood her obsession with the place, as when they were in the Academy, they had always wanted to go shopping on the moon or something of the nature. She'd always wanted someone to go with her.

    "I hope that we'll have shore leave on Earth at some point so I can visit again," she said. She also hoped that one of the planets they came across in the Gamma Quadrant would have something similar. She took another sip from her wine, content just to sit there with him and reminisce about the past, and of course, the future as well.

    "Unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy our shore leave on Earth last time the Talon was there. I had obligations that had to be fulfilled." Debriefings, meetings, and interrogation. He pushed those thoughts away and looked back at Rychel.

    "Well, hopefully next time around you won't have those obligations and you'll be able to enjoy it," she said. She knew from her brother's work that the life of Starfleet security was often a somewhat lonely one. You were expected to work even when everyone else was on leave, and you frequently couldn't tell your loved ones what was going on in your day to day life. That was something she understood all too well.

    "I doubt that, but thank you." He gave her a small nod and examined the wine in his glass. It was very pleasing and he could understand why she liked it.

    Rychel found that he didn't seem so tense as he did before when she'd found him on her doorway. Getting his mind onto more pleasurable thoughts seemed to have done the trick, at least for now. Her mind pondered other pleasurable pursuits, but it seemed like his earlier outburst had been triggered by her forwardness. She resolved to not try and take control again.

    "Did you ever get to go down to Etimon while we were in orbit? Or have you heard what the planet is like at all?" She suspected that it would be far easier for them to visit Etimon than Earth for the foreseeable future.

    "No. I was busy here." That was the truth. "From what I heard, Etimon is very lush during the rainy seasons. The atmosphere changes hue depending on the seasons and how the energy from the planet is reflected. There appears to be a small power struggle, but with Ahska's return, that may settle down." He hoped it didn't. Politically unstable planets were ripe for conquest. "The main capital of Retanya has some beautiful architecture. You would enjoy it. Several of the crew are proud of the holoimages they obtained there."

    "That sounds really fascinating," she said. "I wonder if we have any information in the ships computer about the politics or the architectural history yet," she added. She loved reading about other cultures, especially ones that were completely different from her own.

    "Since they have gone through the process of becoming Federation citizens, part of the process is data collection. It would be a good guess that the information is there. It is too bad you did not have the opportunity to meet Ahska or her father." Rychel seemed to be the type of personality that would have meshed well with the young woman.

    She took another sip of wine, draining her glass, and refilled it once more. Looking at Helik's glass, she realized it was a bit low as well, and refilled it also. "Ahska left the ship the day after I came aboard, although I have heard people talking of her. She sounds like a nice person. Then again, I tend to see the good in everyone."

    Dakbar should have been happy to hear that little nugget. It could be useful. However, he found himself feeling despondent. He thought she was being nice to him because, well... He sighed as he realized she was probably this way with everyone. A change of subject was in order. "There is a planet not far from here that is composed mostly of pressurized carbon. It-"

    Her eyes widened, her technical brain understanding what that meant, "So it's a giant diamond?"

    He balked, forgetting where he was and had given out information he should not even know. "Or so I hear."

    She clapped her hand over her mouth, which gave her a quite comical appearance as her eyes were still wide at the thought of a planet-sized diamond. This made him laugh and he put the wine down before he spilled it. She removed it a moment later to speak. "I understand, it's a Security thing, you're not supposed to talk about it. I won't tell anyone."

    She was one of a kind, that was certain.

    She continued on, without even acting like he'd told her any sort of privileged information. "Where is your favorite place in the galaxy?" She asked curiously.

    "It used to be home, but not anymore. I guess I am searching for that place. My roommate at the Academy had a little plaque that his mother had made him. It was overly sentimental, but he put it on the wall anyway. It said, 'home is where the heart is'." Dakbar shrugged. "That plaque was decorated with all kinds of swirly hearts and over-ambitious calligraphy. It was embarrassing." Still, he missed the guy, even though the man was responsible for many embarrassing moments for the Cardassian.

    "Humans have such cute expressions," she said.

    "I guess it is true for those whom know where their heart actually is."

    She nodded emphatically. "It's a lot harder when you're on a starship," she commented. "Especially when you get transferred around a lot. I did some weapons systems research at a Starbase near Tyree, and we would visit when we had leave. The planet was really interesting, nearly the entire planet was one giant desert. There was some great rock-climbing there," she said.

    "It sounds like you'll climb just about anything," he said. Grabbing the edge of the blanket, he wrapped it tighter around him. Just the mention of a desert made him long for a warmer environment.

    "Pretty much," she said with a grin. “And I hope at some point to consider the Talon home," she added.

    Her smile was engaging, but now he knew better. She probably had every man in the ship knocking on her door. "If the Prophets are willing, hm?" He had no idea why he brought them up and he chided himself for being sarcastic, knowing she had been having a crisis of faith. However, deep inside, he wanted to hurt her for stringing him along, whether it was intentional or not. He put the glass down on the table and took a deep breath. Her scent was on the blanket and, again, he fought the need to throw her down and-

    Rychel, who had done enough reading of Cardassian novels to understand that verbal sparring was a common form of courtship, went along with the question. "I have no problem believing that the Prophets exist in a temporal state that transcends our own, and as a result, can see things that happen in the future," she said, taking a sip of her wine. "But I refuse to believe that the will of someone else controls what happens in my life. I'm loyal. I'm determined. I have a strong sense of duty, and I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to get where I want to be. I want to succeed because of my own merits, not because I wrote my wishes on a scroll and burned them in a temple," she explained.

    As she began talking about the Prophets, he looked up. Her words seemed rehearsed, as if she had been planning them for quite some time. Dakbar wondered whom she was trying to convince, the listener, or herself. Anyone who believed they were in control of their life was fooling themselves. There were always outside forces huddling in the darkness, pulling the strings.

    He started to get up, when she stopped him.

    "It looks like you were celebrating something. I should probably go and leave you to it."

    Rychel couldn't quite understand where he'd gotten that idea from. "No! No, it's not that at all," she said quickly. Her face flushed a bit.

    Oh? Dakbar sat back down. He was beginning to see that blushing was quite common for the Bajoran.

    "If you want the truth, I started drinking because ever since I saw you in the Mess Hall yesterday morning, I haven't been able to get you off of my mind." There. She'd said it aloud. She chewed nervously at her bottom lip as she waited for his response.

    He fought back the delicious smile that wanted to escape. Should he tell her? His need for control fought with his need to have her. Here, he had not needed to resort to drugs or deception. Here, she actually wanted him. It was an odd feeling. And she could be useful. He feigned embarrassment and looked into her eyes. Yes. He would tell her. "I stood outside your door for an hour before I rang the chime." Turning slightly, he opened the blanket, holding it outward, and beckoned her inside its warm folds.

    Rychel laughed. "Earlier... I actually thought I heard you out there, I just wrote it off as overactive imagination." She smiled at him once more as he invited her into the blanket, and joined him, snuggling up next to him. She let out a small sigh of contentment. "I'm not really the type to get interested in men, not since I was at the Academy at least. Since then I've mostly focused on my research."

    "That is admirable."

    She took a quick sip of her wine, grinning at some inner thought. "I've always sort of been fascinated with things that go boom," she explained. "So when I'm not repairing holodecks and replicators and the like, I spend my time studying weapons modifications - handheld as well as ship-based."

    Well, that was unexpected! "I would not peg you as someone interested in that kind of thing," he admitted as she settled herself against him. "Don't take that the wrong way," he laughed. "Bajorans are not known for their zeal for weaponry." It was one of the reasons they had been so easy to overcome.

    "I admit, I had no interest until I got to the Academy. I was thinking I'd end up handling Information Systems or something," she said. "But, I ended up tinkering with a Type 3 phaser as part of a project - we were trying to make them more powerful than Cardassian phase-disruptors using only commonly available parts." She paused. "My project kind of gotten out of hand. It ended up not being capable of being fired anymore, as it was less of a portable explosive. Blew up a huge crater in a mountain on the moon."

    He chuckled. "I'm sure the brass loved it, though. Sounds like you had the power you wanted."

    As she spoke, she'd relaxed more into Dakbar's side, surprised at how comfortable she was being next to him. She sighed contentedly, placing her hand lightly on his leg. She sighed in contentment. Without realizing she'd let her head rest itself on Dakbar's shoulder. She wasn't quite certain why, but when she was with him, she felt comfortable, and safe. There were very few people who she felt like this around, and she was glad that he seemed to share her interest. Her head fit easily into the natural pocket made by his neck ridge and shoulder, almost as if she were made for him.

    Dakbar enclosed the blanket around them and he left his arm where it rested around her. "I would like to see some of your work." If she was doing research for Starfleet weapons, he was definitely interested. His fingers gently caressed the softness of the fabric under his hand.

    She reached across him to pick up the Padd that she had been reading from earlier, tapped a few buttons, and handed it to Dakbar. "I've been working on a new emitter crystal for type-3b assault rifle. Starfleet sends them out to the field with emitter crystals that are only around 92% efficiency level because more efficient crystals are difficult and time consuming to create. We've been using a lithium-copper superconductive material for that for almost 200 years now. I've been looking for Gamma Quadrant materials that would been more efficient. There are a few good candidates. If they work on the small scale, I could convince the Chief to test it on a larger scale."

    He took the offered padd and read with interest what she showed him. In his hands was gold. Information that could easily be passed on to the right people. Information that-

    She shifted closer and he became distracted. "Have you looked into the rocks on Etimon? Their energy is quite powerful.A necklace a medic brought back disrupted instruments in Sickbay for an hour before they figured out what was causing it. I'm sure you could borrow it." " He shut his mouth quickly. Did he just give her help on building a weapon? What is wrong with me? He needed a reminder to why he was there and his mission, and that reminder was in the words she had said earlier.

    Her interest was piqued. "No, I don't think we've been given access to that data yet. I'll have to check in with the geologists when things calm down a bit," she responded. It did make sense that if the Etimonians had a unique relationship with energy that their resources and technologies could be quite useful to scientific developments. If she could be the one to harness that power, it would likely be good of her future. It meant a specialist position at minimum, perhaps a research position at Starfleet Headquarters.

    "You thought you'd end up in Information Systems? I had hopes to one day be the Ambassador for Cardassia." That said, the memories of his missing year at the Academy came back to him, and renewed his purpose. He studied the information on the padd, committing it to his photographic memory.

    "Really?" She pondered this information over for a moment. "I think you would have been good at it. You have a noble bearing, and you're quite interesting to talk to. And there's just something about your eyes that is extremely compelling," she said, flushing slightly.

    It was one of the reasons he had been chosen for his mission. He remembered succinctly the physical evaluation when he was first brought in. It was as if they were evaluating a commodity.

    "Perhaps it isn't too late to consider it?" She looked at him intently, licking her bottom lip slightly. There was something extremely compelling about him, and she couldn't quite figure it out. But she knew one thing - she really, really liked whatever it was.

    He sighed and squeezed her tighter to him. "Much too late," he said. "I am-"


    "Are you sure you have no Orion blood in you," he asked. "I feel as if I can tell you anything." This was dangerous. One slip, one wrong word, and he would be exposed. It had almost happened, just then, and for what? A small, insignificant Bajoran. Yet, there he sat, his strong arms wrapped around her, her scent wafting up around him to be taken in with every breath. Many have died because of the wiles of a woman. But what a way to die.

    "Nope, 100% Bajoran, insofar as my medical records show," she responded. "I'm glad that you feel that way. It really means a lot to me. I know that you don't seem like the type to just give trust away easily, and I'm truly honored." She hadn't noticed that he had halted in the middle of what he had said, but she did not push him for further information. He would tell her if and when he thought it necessary.

    He didn't know what to say. She was so easy-going and giving that it was sending his mind, and body, spiraling to places it shouldn't be going.

    "I'm sorry that things with your career didn't turn out the way that you'd expected them to, but I'm sure that it's all for the best," she said. She knew that he'd lost his parents, and she assumed that it was related to the reasons why he was unfit to be an Ambassador. She only hoped that she could help him move on from the pain that plagued his past, and to be happy once more. The tension in the air was so thick that it was physically palpable. She wanted to make idle chit chat, but nothing came to mind. She could barely hear her own inner monologue, for her heart was pounding so fast that she could hear it beat in her ears. Her lips were slightly parted, as she couldn't seem to keep her breath, and from time to time her tongue darted out to moisten them. She was painfully aware of how near he was to her, and even more aware of how easy it would be for him to just pull her onto his lap and push her skirt up...

    "One would hope." It was a lie. All for the best? Would she say that when he ended up betraying them all and the Talon hung lifeless in space, a burned out husk? He glanced at her, past the long eyelashes to the trusting eyes. He remembered when he had blind optimism, before things went dark and filled with pain. It seemed like so long ago. She blinked and he snapped back to reality. She must be saved. What a ridiculous thought! Dakbar was beginning to think he had been drugged by the same chemicals he used on others. The Order must prevail. Looking away, he stared at the Bajoran decor. She will die for the cause.

    She forced herself to regain control. She should say something. Words... words... anything. Comment about the recent red alerts, or the Vulcan baseball team, or the weather on Terra. Say something.

    The hand that had moved to rest on his leg caressed him softly, her fingers drawing idle patterns on the fabric of his uniform trousers. It was hard for her not to lean forward, to kiss him, to feel his body against hers. But she would not do anything further until either he did, or he invited her to.

    Her fingers were like small bolts of electricity on his leg and he could barely stand it any longer. His lips parted and, in one strong swoop of his arm, her body was facing him. His eyes bored into her. If she were to die, then he would know her first. He stared intently at her, past her eyes, into the darkest recesses of her being. She felt as though every memory, every embarrassing moment, every triumph... all of it was laid bare before him. But despite the fact that he could see through her, despite the fact that every time he surveyed her person she felt as though she stood naked before him... despite all of that, he still seemed genuinely surprised when she spoke.

    He turned his head to look away, and his body moved against her. Her skin sung out from beneath the fabric separating them, and yearned to be touched. He pulled her closer to him, and her breath caught in her throat. She could smell the scent of the wine on his breath, and her gaze drifted down to his lips.

    "Do you want me," he asked, his voice deep and powerful. The raging of his heart almost overwhelmed him as he waited for her answer. Her body, her eyes, the dew that appeared above her lip, all told him she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

    Her heart skipped a beat, and for a moment, all she could do was nod silently. Did she want him? Honestly, if he left right now, she feared that she would never come down from the hormone-induced high she was experiencing. As she nodded, he felt victorious. How easy this had been.

    She cleared her throat. "I do," she said, her voice low and husky. She slowly brought her arms up, not wanting a repeat experience of his earlier fear. Her hands wrapped around his neck, rubbing against the ridges that were iconic for his species. He took in a breath and ground his teeth together, trying to stay sane against the innocent, but intoxicating motion she had inadvertently made.

    "Please, Helik," she said softly.

    No one could fault him now. She had given her approval, asked for it. His hands picked her up roughly and he pushed her down to the floor, shoving a table out of the way. It bashed against the wall, scattering the contents to the ground, spilling wine.

    He didn't care.

    He stood above her for a moment, looking at his prize. His work, his mission, had all lead up to this. The domination of his enemy. Dropping down, straddling her, he pushed her arms back, scraping them across the surface on which he had placed her. It probably would leave marks on her ivory skin.

    He didn't care.

    Quickly, he tore at her blouse, her dress, tearing them to shreds. It felt expensive. It felt handmade. It felt like an heirloom. As he exposed her flesh, his motions became even more frenzied, like an animal trying to get to the soft underbelly, the most tender of morsels. His nails raked her skin, drawing blood.

    He didn't care.

    His hand found its way to her neck and he tilted her head back, stretching it until the tendons stood out in sharp relief, a pale comparison to his own, but enticing nonetheless. His lips met hers hungrily. Eyes open, never closing, he watched for any emotion. He wanted to see her fear.

    He didn't-

    Those eyes looked into his and he pulled away. Rolling away from her, he came to a halt and sat, staring, his hands dragging bloody palm prints across the floor. "I..." He stood, stumbling, looking down at the tattered figure. "I'm sorry." Wiping his hands on his uniform, he turned and ran. Out of her quarters, away from those trusting eyes.

    He cared…
  6. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 5

    It became clear to Rychel quite early on in Dakbar's frenzy that that he wasn't motivated purely by lust. She suspected something far darker lay beneath from the look in his eyes when he'd fled earlier; the wild fear that threatened to consume him. Her heart went out to him. From what he’d said about his past, and from how he’d responded to certain triggers, she was certain that someone had done terrible things to him, and if Rychel had the ability to, she would likely make whoever that was pay. He wasn’t cruel. He had shown her the ability to be kind, the ability to be inviting. He had began to trust her, even despite his best efforts to keep her at arm’s length.

    When she told him she wanted him, she’d not been silly enough to believe he would be gentle with her. While she was trusting, she wasn’t quite so naive. So she didn't make a sound as he pushed her to the floor. He surveyed her lying there, as good as helpless. It wasn't the look of a man who was about to make love to a woman. It wasn't even the look of a man full of lust wanting to appraise the beauty he'd managed to catch. This was far more feral, more predatory. And it was then she realized that right then, at that moment, it wasn't about the sex at all.

    He could kill her, if he wanted to.

    This knowledge had been clear in her mind almost as soon as they'd met. Despite how much she had trusted him, and how much faith she had that he was not a bad person at heart, she hadn’t been unaware of the sheer power that his form contained. The knowledge that if she'd judged wrong, if she was mistaken, if there was some deeper malice underneath... she was very much in danger.

    She knew if he killed her, or even if he seriously injured her, that his career with Starfleet was over. He’d likely be sent to a Federation penal colony. She couldn’t fathom that he’d survive there as a Cardassian. If he went too far, it was the end for both of them.

    We both go down together, she thought with some irony.

    She’d looked back up at him, her eyes wide. Yet she did not fear. She was not weak. She was not his victim. It was as if she was watching from afar, seeing it all happening to someone else, and not living through it herself.

    His hands clawed at her, and she fought with all her might not to cry out. She remembered the Prylar who had instructed her in temple as a youth, and despite the fact that she lacked faith, she utilized his teachings to find some sense of inner calm. She knew what she had to do. She would help him. She couldn’t help him if he didn’t believe that her trust was genuine. If he were ever to believe that he was capable of more, she had to prove beyond any doubt that she trusted him implicitly, even when things went poorly. And if he were ever to believe that he cared for her, he would need to stop himself. Fighting back made no sense, and calling security was not an option she cared to consider.

    She did not cry out.

    Somewhere, deep within her, she trusted that her opinion of him was right. She knew that somewhere within there was a person who cared. She still didn’t have a clue how to bring that person out, other than to be kind to him, and to trust him. But she knew that it was there. She repeated it to herself over and over again, focusing on the mantra of sorts that she had come up with to maintain her composure. There is a good person under there somewhere, she repeated. I will prove it to him.

    She had no idea how long he took out his frustrations on her. Though it felt like it was an eternity, she knew that it could not have lasted more than a few moments. He grabbed her, torquing her neck painfully, and she stared at him, expressionless. She knew how easy it would be for him to kill her. One little snap of her neck, and it was all over. She trusted him not to do it.

    Despite her pain, she responded in kind when he kissed her. Though her concerns regarding both of their well beings had taken precedence over her own lust, she would not lay there and do nothing. She wanted him to understand that her refusal to act was because of trust, not fear. He wanted him to know that she wasn’t frozen, unable to respond, unable to call out for security. His eyes bore into hers, and she wondered idly what he looked for. Was it passion? Longing? Pain? Fear? She couldn't gauge his desires when he was in this state. She wanted to tell him that she’d forgive him, because she knew that he didn’t really mean to cause her such pain. But the words didn’t come to her lips, and she could not force them.

    She looked up at him with all the wonder and trust of a young child, untouched by the fears of the world. And as he pulled away, she smiled at him.

    He didn't want to. Deep down inside, no matter what he thought, there was part of him that cared for her. He could have taken her right there without issue. No one could have persecuted it. She’d given her consent. She’d practically pleaded him to have his way with her. She would have never asked him to stop.

    "I'm sorry," he’d said.

    “I know,” she’d responded softly. There was a hint of pity in her voice, and it was reflected in her eyes. She lay there for a long moment, replaying it in her mind, as she came to terms with what had happened, and what it meant. While she had played it off as being cool, calm and collected while Dakbar's rage threatened to destroy them both, she was now more uncertain how she felt.

    “What did they do to you?” she asked aloud, even though she knew he could not hear her. What sort of trauma could occur that would provoke a man to just snap like that? Who had hurt him? Their previous discussions had revealed to her that his parent’s death was some sort of punishment. Had he been tortured at the same time? Was this done to him by his own people?

    Overwhelmingly, Rychel felt pity.

    Rychel wasn’t sure what to do. She contemplated running after him, telling him that she forgave him, and that she understood that he didn’t really mean to act the way he did, but she thought that it would only be detrimental to the situation. He needed time apart from her to consider his actions. He needed to get sober, and stable. He needed to get to the point where he was in control of himself, and not acting off of the base, animalistic instincts that fuel him. She was a mess of thoughts and emotions, and cycled through both quickly.

    As the adrenaline in her body faded, she began to actually feel the pain of the wounds that he’d inflicted. Without a word she recycled the torn clothes, and the broken glasses. She retrieved the empty bottles and got rid of those as well, not wanting to have an incident if they were found in her quarters. While she couldn’t see Helik reporting her for them, she could not be sure. As she worked, her neck became stiff, and she forced herself to ignore it.

    She couldn’t very well go to Sickbay in her state. There wasn’t a single possible explanation for her injuries that would make sense, and she did not wish for security to get involved. She retreated to her bedroom, and was able to produce a small medkit that she kept on hand for minor injuries that came up when she was working. It wouldn’t ease the pulled muscles in her neck, but it would help with the cuts and scrapes that marred her skin.

    She performed the minor skin repairs with detachment. She was sure that if a Counselor was to advise her, she’d be told that she was in denial. As the marks gave way to perfect, unadulterated skin, she even found herself smiling somewhat at the action.

    Once finished, Rychel went into her bathing room, and surveyed herself in the mirror. Bruises had begun to form on the pale skin of her neck, but she was pretty certain that her uniform would hide it. If it did not, she could merely cover them with cosmetics.

    Then there was the matter of cleaning blood off the carpet, which was a good bit more difficult. She remembered the Shakespeare that she’d learned at the Academy, specifically Lady MacBeth. “Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!” she said.

    Finally finishing the cleanup, she stood, and surveyed the results. All signs of Dakbar’s actions had been erased, save the bruises on her neck. But without activity to keep her mind from considering what happened, Rychel found herself engulfed in doubt.

    He’d hurt her.

    More than just the physical hurt, he’d pushed her away, which left her feeling the sting of rejection. She knew he cared. She’d seen it in his eyes before he had fled from his quarters. She’d seen it in his eyes half a dozen times as they’d discussed things. Whether he realized it or not, she knew it to be fact.

    She sat down at the computer console in her room, and debated typing out a message to him to let him know that she would forgive him. She typed several messages, deleting each one. While she did not send them, the act of writing them made her feel better. She idly pulled up personnel records, and had looked at his file. Of course, as Security, most of it was locked to her. But there was a photo, and she reached out, trailing her fingers down the image.

    Eventually, she sighed, and stood up. She knew that she would never have the nerve to send a message, and that she was just writing them to occupy her mind.

    I wish I knew how he was, she thought to herself sadly. Had he made it back to his quarters safely? Had someone stopped him because of the wild look in his eyes, and the blood on his hands? She doubted the latter was true, as Security would have arrived at her door if that was the case.

    With a sigh, she decided to take another sonic shower, to cleanse herself of the evening's activities. She stood in the shower, her thoughts a confused blur. Her hand went up to touch her lips, still raw and chapped from the forcefulness of his kiss. She leaned back against the wall of the shower, and slowly slid to a seated position on the floor.

    She did not try to stop herself when the tears came to her eyes.

    He did not hurt her. At least, in Rychel’s opinion, not as much as he had hurt himself. Her injuries were trivial, and would have taken mere minutes to heal were she to go to the Sickbay. What ailed Helik went far deeper than just surface abrasions and bruising.

    She was not a victim.

    Not in the conventional sense, at least. Not in the sense that many woman had been victimized over the existence of intelligent life. She had been given a choice, whether Dakbar had realized it or not, and she chose to endure. She chose to be strong.

    Being a Victim was a Choice.

    Rychel chose to be strong.

    Standing up she turned off the shower. She changed quickly into her pajamas, and walked out to the wall console next to her doorway. She toggled it to private, then cancelled the order. She did not wish for him to think that she feared him.

    Much as she’d told him earlier, Rychel genuinely believed that she was in control of her destiny. And furthermore, she believed that she had far more control over Dakbar than he would ever confess, even to himself. Rychel wondered if that was what he feared. If he was so used to being in control of situations that the concept of someone else being in control made him uncomfortable. Or if he’d let someone else take control in the past, and it had ended poorly for him.

    Turning about quickly, Rychel aimed a quick right hook at the bulkhead, her fist connecting solidly with the metal surface. She hated waiting. It was not something that she excelled at in the slightest. Sighing, she walked back to her bedroom, and got in bed, curled up in the blanket that still carried his scent.

    She knew that if she wanted to have any perception of control, she would have to wait for him to communicate with her.

    “Your move, Helik,” she said softly, before closing her eyes.
  7. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 6

    The doors slid closed behind him and Dakbar stood in complete darkness, the room as black as his mood. Without sight, his other senses increased and he could smell her blood, the odor drifting up from where he had smeared it across his abdomen. He tore at the jacket, slinging it far from him, not caring where it landed, but the scent was still there. It taunted him, a reminder of what he had almost done, what he could not finish. Stomping across the room, he left a trail of clothing in his wake until he stood in the center, fists clenched at his sides. Why was it always a woman?

    He remembered that day at the Academy where he had stood, angry and tense as now, but in a fountain, the water causing the black fabric of his clothing to run, creating rivulets of black, swirling and mixing with the pure liquid until everything was gray. The cause of his anger then was also on the ship now, a constant reminder of that day. He knew how hard it was to work with her, to pass her in the hall, to stand beside her during training exercises and not remember. Now, there would be another. She would tell others, they would avoid him. Three women, all used by him in some way, a sisterhood of his failures.

    He thought of his mother, then. How she had hoped he would be the first of many who would blaze a new trail for Cardassia, for the lives of their people. Her idyllic thoughts were what got her killed. "It was not my fault," he whispered, but the words were hollow. He knew it was a lie. His refusal, his lofty goals were what killed them. At the Academy, he was in the perfect place. Already accepted, already through the scrutiny of Starfleet, he was to be the dagger that slit the throat of the Federation's plans. When he was assigned to the Talon, he became the prodigal son. Not to his parents, but to those who desired conquest.

    Dakbar's anger grew with every thought as he relived those memories. A cousin had been killed and his parents had sent him a single note to the Academy. "Order and chaos." He knew what had happened. The Obsidian Order had reappeared. He took the next transport back home, ignoring the pleas of his instructors to stay.

    The room had been dark, just like this one. He had called out to his parents, but blackness was his reward. Waking up, hours later, in a place of which he still didn't know the location, it all began. Retraining. Dakbar laughed sarcastically. Torture was a better word. He refused at every turn until they released him. When he returned home, his parents were dead in the square. It was a message that he could not ignore in order to protect his sisters and brothers. Sending that message was the hardest thing he had ever done, at least, up until that point.

    What followed left an indelible mark on the Cardassian. Pain, training, followed by more pain. He balked several times, requiring them to start again. Weeks he went without food, he was denied medical care. At one point, they brought in his sister until he finished a task. Always... neverending... they threatened his family.

    Dakbar took in a sharp breath at one such memory. It was the last time he saw his sister. In a fit of rage, Dakbar reached down and grabbed the coffee table, hurling it across the room, smashing the holoprojector in its path. Next came the couch, then a chair, a lamp, and anything else he could get his hands on. They were all symbols of his memories, thrown away, discarded as he wished he could do so easily with the thoughts that swirled in his head.

    "Lights," he shouted, and he was sadistically happy when the carnage displayed around him. It wasn't enough. He continued until the only things unbroken were himself and the ironwork on the wall. His bare feet crunched through broken glass and debris as he made his way back to the overturned coffee table. From the underside of it, he withdrew a communication device and threw it on the floor. It was his connection with those who controlled him. Tossing it on the ground, he lifted his foot above it.

    They will die.

    His foot halted, just inches above it. He lifted it again, this time determined to crush the mechanism.

    We will assume you have failed...

    "I. Do. Not. Care!!" Dakbar stomped on the ground, beside the device with each word.

    ...if we lose contact.

    Dakbar's scream of frustration echoed in the room. He bent down and picked up the intact device, his knuckles white. Breathing heavily, he stared at it. It was magnificent in design, simple to operate, and, thus far, had not been traced, mostly because of when he chose to use it. Blood from his fingers streaked the silver surface and he panicked. There would be no denying he knew about it, should it be found if he left it like that, but he would worry about it later.

    Leaving bloody footprints across the room, he walked into the bedroom and placed the device in a drawer, then sat down on the bed. Putting both hands behind him, he grabbed the cover and drew it forward, wrapping it around himself. Unfortunately, it reminded him of Rychel. Throwing off the blanket, he began pacing, feeling caged.

    Just forget.

    One of his 'lessons'. Forget the past, let it go. It was easier to push it aside when you had pain clouding it anyway. Here, on a perfect starship, everything was sterile, even your emotions. Having a bad day? Don't show it. Dakbar snarled and unlocked another drawer. Sifting through vials, he pulled one out and tossed the cap back inside. It rattled among the vials, then dropped to the bottom of the drawer. Tilting his head back, Dakbar took a long drink, then put the empty vial back where he had found it. He closed the drawer with his knee and shook his head. He barely made it back to the bed before sleep overpowered him. It was a dreamless sleep. Anyone finding him there would have thought him dead if they didn't look too close. An arm and a leg hung loose over the edge of the bed.

    The potion only had a short lifespan in the body, and, an hour later, he woke up, then cursed in Cardassian at the futility of it all. He considered taking another, but knew it was too dangerous. Would that be so bad? Dakbar stared at the drawer, but his hands were tied. Taking his life would break contact, and his family would die. But you'd never know.

    He sat down heavily on the bed. What choice did he have? His other sister had a child, another on the way, possibly even born by now.


    How could he choose one over the other? Philosophers would argue that until the ends of time. Dakbar knew the answer. Family first. It was what made Cardassian life worth living...or so they said. However, it was easy to argue away that point if you weren't xenophobic.

    Turn yourself in.

    It was the first time the thought crossed his mind. It had to be her influence. Starfleet would arrange somehow for him to continue his transmissions, giving false information, all from the comfort of a cell somewhere. He would never feel the warmth of a woman's body against him, never see his family again. What was the point.

    Running a hand over his ridged head, he stood and returned to the living room. By now, the blood on his torn hands had dried, as had the bloody footprints across the room. It would take a while to get things back the way they were, but he had no visitors anyway. Only Rychel.

    He clawed at his head. Stop thinking about her! She was a Bajoran. She was the enemy. They were all the enemy, all oblivious to his mission and what lay ahead. She'll be dead soon. He nodded with his thoughts. A malfunction. It would be easy to arrange. He would have to wait, though. If she were like all other women, she would tell someone what had happened. Her death would have to wait. It would give him time to plan.

    Pulling a padd out of the rubble, he carried it back into the bedroom and sat down. With a little research, he was able to figure out her routine, her duties, what parts of the ship were 'hers'. Dakbar didn't know it, but his planning had put his reservations about his mission on the back burner. It gave him something to do. Inactivity was the spark for darkness and, for the moment, Dakbar had stepped just outside of its clutches once again.
  8. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 7

    Sleep came quickly to Rychel, as it tended to do for those who were in the grips of both inebriation and physical exhaustion. The antique clock she insisted upon keeping in her quarters tick-tocked merrily, counting away the seconds. She awoke with a start, her heart racing, and her body slick with sweat. But as she turned to look at the clock to see when it was, she found that she was unable to do so. There was a tightness in her chest that reminded her of being crushed, and she let out a small squeak as she fought to get air into her lungs. Her eyes scanned the darkness, slowly making out the shapes of the items in her room as they focused. In the corner that was better lit, there was an old Occupation-era subspace radio, a pet project of hers. She squinted at the other corner that was within her field of vision, but it was engulfed in shadows and she wasn’t able to see the chair that sat there. She made a mental note to herself to get something to illuminate that corner a bit.

    She tried to mentally comfort herself. It’s sleep paralysis, she rationalized with the logical part of her mind. But her body refused to cooperate, refused to come down from the Fight or Flight agitation that gripped her. She tried to force herself to take deep breaths, and to just relax and go back to sleep, but was unsuccessful.

    There was another noise, and she struggled to place it, as she was unable to turn her head to look in it’s direction. But focusing on the sound merely distorted it, and the resulting frustration did not aid her in her present state. Initially, it sounded like a light shuffling, but as she listened harder, it sounded more like crinkling paper. But that wasn’t right, Rychel couldn’t even remember the last time that she had seen a piece of paper, and she certainly didn’t have any in her quarters.

    As she became more used to her ineffectual state, her hearing improved, and she heard the sound of breathing. She was not alone.

    She fought with all her might to will her jaw muscles to move, to say something, but she could not. She wanted to ask who was there. She wanted to call security to her quarters. But she could do neither.

    She had to wait.

    The breathing was unsteady. It wasn’t the slow breathing of someone in a relaxed state. Instead, it was the rapid, frantic breathing of someone in a heightened state of excitement... or fear. She wasn’t sure how long she waited there, the tick-tocking of the clock causing a discordant rhythm with the breathing of the stranger.

    “Rychel?” The voice was low, and distorted. Whomever had chosen to visit her had employed some method to mask the true tone of their voice.

    Rychel tried to swallow, but her throat was tight, and she nearly choked in the process. She tried to squeeze her eyes closed, but as soon as they shut again, the illumination in the room changed, and they flew open once more.

    The subspace radio, which she had fought to make operational to no avail, had apparently turned on of its own accord, spilling a light amber light over the room. Her heart skipped a beat as her eyes quickly looked over to the chair, and saw the form of a darkly clothed man seated there.

    Rychel realized that the breathing she’d heard had not been a figment of her imagination. The crushing feeling overcame her, and she feared that she would pass out, as she was unable to get enough air into her lungs. She became light headed, and the room began to spin.

    What if it wasn’t sleep paralysis? What if whoever it was was controlling her in some fashion. A cold sweat formed on her brow, and beads rolled uncomfortable down her face and to her neck. She wanted to shiver but could not.

    The seconds drew out long and painfully as she watched him - as the figure had a masculine silhouette. She couldn’t tell if he was awake, staring back at her, or if he’d simply fallen asleep there.

    The subspace radio began receiving a signal then, and began playing it of it’s own accord. The voice was low, and the language unfamiliar to Rychel. “Non sum qualis eram,” came the voice from the subspace radio. There was a pause, then a second voice said, “It is not enough.” There was a moment’s silence, before the sound of subspace interference was heard, followed by the repetition of the two phrases.

    Non sum qualis eram.

    It is not enough.

    Non sum qualis eram.

    It is not enough.

    So distracted was she by the radio transmission that she hadn’t noticed the shadowy figure approaching her bedside. He crept slowly forward, the dim illumination of the radio’s indicator lights throwing his features into stark contrast.

    She squinted, trying to focus on the face, to figure out who it was. It appeared familiar to her, but as she studied him, she could see that what she was looking at was actually a crude mask. Now that he was standing, she could tell that he was reasonably tall and well built, but that could have described any number of men who worked on the Talon.

    As he grew closer, a coldness began in Rychel’s stomach, and began rapidly spreading to her extremities. Would she have been capable of shivering, she would have been trembling with all her might. But she still lay there completely paralyzed, save her eyes and her breathing. Fear was like a knife, twisting at her innards. She wanted to run away. She wanted to scream. She wanted to summon security.

    The voices on the radio had faded into a dull monotony, but suddenly, their haunting rhythm was altered by a third voice.

    “He does not like it when you know he is there,” was said by a young girl.

    Her eyes drifted over to the radio, then snapped back on the figure, who was now looming over her. “You are feeling fine,” came the distorted voice.

    Rychel was most decidedly not feeling fine though. Her fear was so overwhelming that she almost expected it to suffocate her.

    He reached out with his hand, pushing a sweat-soaked strand of hair from Rychel’s face. His hand was hot against her clammy skin. Now, this close, Rychel could see that the figure had dark blue eyes, and that the expression within was calm and detached.

    He withdrew a hypospray, and put it lightly to her arm. It made a hiss as it injected it’s contents into her. With his other hand, the figure closed her eyelids, and she was too frozen with fear to open them at first.

    The radio had begun it’s discordant chanting again.

    Non sum qualis eram.

    It is not enough.

    Non sum qualis eram.

    It is not enough.

    In between the radio’s words, Rychel could hear that the Talon’s engines had been kicked up. They were no longer at cruising speed, but instead had kicked into high warp. She frowned. Was there something going on? Up until this point, Rychel had been comforting herself with the knowledge that it was just a dream, but perhaps there was more to it? What if someone had come onboard?

    That thought was distracted as a tapping noise began. Sick curiosity overwhelmed her, and she opened her eyes once more. The figure still loomed over her, he was tapping his fingernails against the hypospray as he watched her.

    “That won’t do at all,” he muttered.

    Rychel felt hands wrap around her neck, fight as she could, she felt herself become slowly weaker. Despite her will, her eyelids drooped shut.
  9. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 8

    Rychel awoke with a start, sitting bolt upright in her bed, and stared around, bewildered. Fragments of a nightmare still came to her, and her breathing came in great heaving sobs as the tears streamed down her face.

    "Computer, Lights," she said, her voice so husky that it surprised her.

    The subspace radio in the corner of her room was on, but no message came over it.

    She exhaled. "I don't know why I keep that thing, it always gives me the worst nightmares." Still, she walked over to the chair in the corner, investigating it for any signs that it had been occupied recently.

    "Computer, have their been any occupants to my quarters since I removed the privacy lock on my door?" She asked. It was an easy thing to fib, but someone who wasn't clever would not have considered doing it.

    "Negative," came the computer's response.

    She shook her head, sighing. It was inconsequential, she supposed. Anyone with a moderately good knowledge of small devices could block the computer from recording an entry or an exit.

    Standing, she walked about her quarters, searching for anything that seemed even the slightest bit "off" to her. There was nothing. She remembered what her brother had said, about people that would be willing to strike out at her because of him, because of what he did for a living, and she laughed derisively. She would need to think of something to tell her brother other than the fact that she was pursuing a Cardassian.

    She ordered her morning tea from the replicator in her room, and took a sip, before sitting down at her computer console. She realized she hadn't toggled it off the night before, and the image that greeted her was Dakbar's personnel record photo. She sighed, her eyes lingering for a long moment before she checked her messages.

    Diagnostic reports, maintenance records, reports of things that were "off" about the ship. Nothing from her brother, or from Helik. Sighing she flipped back to the photo, shook her head, then toggled off the console. She still had several hours before her shift, so she decided to head to the Mess Hall for a bit before her shift started.

    Removing her pajamas, she went into the bathroom, and eyed herself critically in the mirror. The bruises were still there, so low that they would be covered easily by her uniform. At worst, they could be dismissed as love bites, and that was what she'd intended upon doing. She took her time in the sonic shower, attempting to deal with the remainder of her pent up frustrations from the night before, but was largely unsuccessful.

    Sighing, she toggled off the shower, and finished getting ready. Checking the duty roster, she found that she was to report to the bridge, as they have received orders to locate a missing science vessel. Details about the operation suggested that they were going to attempt to rescue a USS Copernicus, which had been investigating a pre-warp society when it had gone missing. Prime directive mission, she thought idly to herself. Ordinarily, a mission that contained a mystery would have excited her, but at the moment, she had too many other things on her mind.

    Striding onto the bridge, Rychel paused for a moment as she walked onto the bridge, her jaw dropping as she saw the sight on the viewscreen. Electric blue ribbons of energy criss-crossed over the starfield, and wispy tendrils shot out from time to time in a fashion that was both menacing and beautiful. She caught herself quickly though, remembering that she had a job to do. As she walked towards the Engineering station, she realized that Helik was on the bridge as well, and she shot a shy smile in his direction to try and get it across that she didn't harbor any bad feelings regarding the night before.

    At Rychel's smile, Dakbar found himself smiling and forced himself to stop. Plastering a neutral expression in its place, he focused on his work. Now that they were at yellow alert, he felt in his element. Of course, there was very little for him to do, since they weren't about to fire on an energy cloud.

    For a few short moments of Rychel's life, all that mattered was that Helik had smiled at her. She pushed it away quickly though, remembering that she was a highly trained Starfleet officer, and not some wanton schoolgirl with a crush. The moment she was at her station, she was focused on what her duty was. The Science and Ops teams were putting a lot of drain on the sensors at the moment, and she rerouted power from non-essential systems in order to give them a bit of a boost.

    "I’ll see if I can get through the interference," the operations officer said.

    "I've rerouted extra power to the sensor systems, that should help some," Rychel said quickly, stealing another glance at the viewscreen before focusing once more. From the periphery of her vision, she could see another of the tendrils of energy lancing out, this was on a direct course to the Talon. The Talon rocked some, and she grasped the corner of the panel to avoid being knocked from her seat.

    "Reading hull breach. Deck six. Junior Officers Quarters," Dakbar said. Rychel was puzzled. Why hadn’t the shields been up? She shook it away quickly, knowing she had an important job to do. The downside to being an engineer is that by the time you go involved, it was hard to figure out why decisions had been made.

    Her hands flew over the terminal as she checked the condition of the area. "Emergency forcefields are in place and holding," she said quickly, sending off an order to the engineers below to go take a look. "A maintenance detail is en route." Fortunately, the damage didn't seem to be that severe, and it wouldn't impact any essential systems either.

    Dakbar scanned the area close to where the hull had been breached. "No organic matter present in the debris field." He'd much rather focus on what was happening to the Talon, than to the expendable shuttle crew, which was en route to the planet's surface.

    The bridge was full with rapid-fire chatter and various members of the Talon’s crew attempted to analyze the energy cloud, and find ways to protect the Talon from further damage. Well, at least this should make figuring out what happened to the Copernicus easy, Rychel thought. It was unlikely that the vessel got too far with this energy cloud around. The science staff went into a rapid-fire discussion of what the cloud likely was as they tried to discern how to predict where it would move next, but Rychel was lost by their high-level science babble.

    Dakbar ignored the scientific drama and turned back to his station as damage reports came in from the various departments. "Breach was minimal, Captain. No reports of casualty. Unless you consider the loss of a bed and some personal effects to be traumatic." Out in space, floating past the windows, was an assortment of articles, including several bottles of hair dye.

    She let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Even though she didn't know that many people aboard the Talon, losses were always hard on her. Especially when they weren't even the result of a combat situation. No one expected crewmembers to die when they were just on routine search and recovery type missions.

    Already, the Engineering teams were hard at work getting the hull damage resolved, preliminary reports suggested that so long as nothing else occurred, they would be fully repaired within the hour. She rerouted power from a few other non-essential systems in order to boost power to the shields slightly in the event that they were hit by another one of those energy waves. Then, she attempted to prioritize helm control in the power management systems, and as she looked over at the helm, she noticed Ensign Traylen Reesa was at the controls. Rychel tried not to draw too much significance from the fact the Talon was being piloted by a half-Cardassian, half-Bajoran, which was an odd coincidence in light of the previous day’s activities.

    At the helm, Reesa was constantly making adjustments to the “safe” course that she had plotted, which was ever changing giving the high-mobility of the energy cloud. She watched as the path she'd plotted gradually got wider and wider as the energy - or whatever it was - began to dissipate. There was still one narrow passage that the Talon needed to pass through though, one that made her slightly nervous. Still, she tried to force away that feeling, focusing on more important tasks at hand - keeping the ship safe.

    They reached the narrow part of the path, and Reesa had almost began to relax when she felt something. She wasn't sure if it was intuition or just coincidence, but she had a bad, bad feeling, almost as though something cold had hit her in the gut. The path was so narrow that her ability to make evasive maneuvers was extremely limited, and initially, she just chalked it up to nerves.

    Then, another tendril of energy snaked out from the darkness of space, headed directly for the Talon. She had a flashback to a flight simulation she’d completed earlier, as the circumstance was nearly the same - energy coming at them from either side, and now from directly in front of them. Her expression remained neutral, the only outward display of her distress being a quick, "Shtel!" Fortunately for her, the Universal Translator still wasn't sure how to interpret the Cardassian oath, or it didn't bother to. Reacting without even thinking, she threw the Talon into a maneuver that Starfleet Flight Instructors used to refer to as an "upward right corkscrew." One moment they were moving on a more or less horizontal plane (as horizontal as their plane could be given how direction worked in space), the next, the Talon's nose was pointing nearly straight up, with a tight starboard roll. She watched her instruments as the wave just barely missed the port nacelle. Under ordinary circumstances, she'd have been extremely proud of the maneuver, as it was something far more commonly performed in a single pilot fighter than a Sovereign-class starship.

    The lights dimmed slightly, and there was an almost imperceivable increase of the thrum from the ship's systems as the inertial dampers struggled to compensate for the unexpected maneuver. She let out a breath slowly as she righted the ship in space, and corrected her course accordingly.

    There were very few things that would make Dakbar smile broadly lately. His life was too complex, his friends few and far between, and his mood sullen. However, when Reesa pulled the Sovereign class vessel up into a full corkscrew spin away from the anomaly, Dakbar's grin stretched his face like a child who had just discovered candy. The excitement took hold of his common sense and, when the ship leveled, he said, "Let's do that again." Embarrassment crossed his face and his head swiveled to face the Captain. "Sorry, Sir," he said, but the grin was still there.

    Previously, Rychel had been unaware of what it actually felt like to swoon, but suddenly, she understood the concept all too well. She forced herself to look away, face flushing slightly in embarrassment. She'd seen hints of the softer, kinder person underneath, and those hints drove her forward. It was like the joy of solving a particularly difficult Engineering challenge, or of opening a complicated puzzle box to get to the present that lurked beneath. The pain, frustration, and work was always extremely rewarding in the end. For a moment, she was distracted from her console by a memory of his lips on hers... and despite how rough he'd been with her, she knew that somewhere inside there was a man who cared for her.

    Shaking away the thoughts, which were completely inappropriate for the given scenario, she focused back on the task at hand. The helm, operations, and science were all discussing whether it would be safe to orbit the planet. She checked all of the necessary systems, making sure that there wouldn't be any surprises. If they did come across another storm, she did have some options that would allow them to better ride it out. She prepared to put those measures into place, just in case. Shields were holding well at 110%, the inertial dampening system had held up well, even under completely abnormal navigational scenarios, and the sensors were running even better than they had been a few moments before.

    Bring it on, she thought, smirking at the viewscreen.

    "We're in high orbit. Holding stable at 20,000 kilometers," Reesa said a few moments later, and the bridge crew busied themselves once more, this time with locating the Copernicus and her crew. There was wreckage at one area in a dead zone of the planet, but the crew wasn’t too hasty at assuming they’d found what they were looking for.

    "There are Bajoran life signs at the site of the wreckage," the operations officer said

    Dakbar raised a ridged brow. "There were Bajoran officers on the Copernicus crew." He changed his focus and swept the dead zone.

    Now this was the part that Rychel was particularly interested in. She too scanned the area that they referenced, and found the wreckage. Preliminary scans looked good, she couldn't see anything that looked like a path behind the vessel indicating she had crash landed. She also checked for signs of large scale plasma leakage that would indicate a non-reparable engine issue, but found nothing of the sort.The energy cloud was making their scans slower, and less reliable than they would normally be, and she focused hard to ensure she didn't overlook something.

    After a further scan, she could tell that the mass of the ship - for it was a ship - was correct for that of a Nova class science vessel. There was something smaller next to it, and that took a bit more time to identify, but through process of elimination, Rychel realized that it had to have been the Waverider shuttle that was standard on Nova class vessels.

    "Captain... I believe we have found the Copernicus," Dakbar said. With the victory of the discovery, he found the need to look at Rychel.

    Her eyes met Dakbar's and she grinned at him, excitement clear in her expression. "Positive identity confirmed, Captain," she said, focusing on her console once more. "It looks like she landed under her own power. The navigational deflector and communications arrays look to be severely damaged, and the solitary impulse drive seems to be failing." Rychel shook her head. The Copernicus would have likely still been orbiting under it's own power were it not for the fact that Nova-class vessels only had one impulse drive. "Warp core seems to be intact, though, and hull integrity is good. I think she's reparable."

    She typed in a few more commands, aware that the majority of the bridge was focused on her. Were the Copernicus the Talon, she would have likely been alright. But the small science vessel lacked the crew and the supplies to handle their own repairs. She looked up once more to address the rest of the bridge. "Her Waverider shuttle appears to be undocked, and one of her two shuttlecraft is missing." Unfortunately, this wasn't very telling information, as the Waverider was only equipped for atmospheric flight, and Rychel had no way of knowing whether or not the Copernicus started the mission with two functional shuttles. She flushed slightly, focusing back on her console, having never before said quite so much on the bridge before. She hoped that the information was at least somewhat useful, and that she wasn't just "that random person who gave way too much information."

    As Rychel continued to give out more and more information Dakbar was confused as to why she blushed so scarlet partway through her explanation. Had his eye contact made her remember what had occurred between the two of them? He vowed not to look her way again, unless it was absolutely necessary. Keeping his eyes on his console or on the viewscreen, he scanned the area around the Copernicus. "There are no signs of any Aescans near the Copernicus."

    That was extremely fortuitous, Rychel realized, recalling that the planet was only at medieval tech level.

    With nothing else to do, Dakbar typed out a message to Rychel. It simply said, "Are you uninjured?"

    The message came through, and Rychel looked at it for a quick moment, fighting the urge to walk to Helik's side and reassure him that everything was alright, and that she didn't harbor any ill will towards him. "I'm fine," she responded. "Although something really odd happened last night after you left that kind of freaked me out. Are you alright?" As she pressed send, she looked up at him, smiling in the hopes that he'd understand that she was really alright, and that she wasn't just using the typical female non-answer of "I'm fine."

    She pretended to be busy at her console, but since she was assigned to the bridge, she knew she would not get the nod to go with any repair teams. Monitoring from afar wasn’t so bad, but it was a hard task for someone more accustomed to hands on work. With the initial excitement from the location of the Copernicus quickly dissipating, Rychel found that she was slightly bored. She kept an eye on the progress of the repair crews on deck 6, while at the same time making sure that nothing changed with the Copernicus' status. She fought the urge to fidget while she waited for Dakbar's response. Well, assuming that he did respond to her. She figured that his question regarding her well-being was a gesture that they were still on speaking terms, but she dared not hope too much.

    Dakbar stared at the message for a second, then looked up and saw her looking his way, urging him with her expression to believe what she said. He looked away, at the viewscreen. A message popped up from M'Khol, stating he was going planetside. With Kinin out and M'Khol down there, that put Dakbar in charge. There were things he needed to do with that opportunity and he hoped the second away team's mission would take some time. Dakbar typed a message to Rychel on his console. "We should talk."

    Around her, members of the bridge crew were discussing who was going down to the planet, and Rychel had little to do, save send down comprehensive information to engineering so the team could be assembled with the necessary personnel. It was going to be a long mission, that much was clear from the amount of damage the Copernicus had taken. Rychel hoped that she didn’t get stuck up on the bridge for all of it. She eavesdropped on a few members of the bridge talking about how fascinating pre-warp societies were, but she found it hard to focus on what they were saying, let alone think up anything to contribute to the conversation. When her console notified her of Dakbar’s next message, she was certain she had a silly grin on her face.

    She read it over three times, searching for any sort of inflection or meaning behind it, but unfortunately, it was an extremely neutrally written message, and she was pretty certain that he'd written the message vaguely on purpose. Oh well, she thought ruefully to herself. I probably wouldn't be interested in him if he was easy to figure out. It was true. She tended to like her men like she liked her Engineering problems - complex, liable to explode at the worst possible moment, and able to keep her awake all night long. “We should talk,” eh? At least it was better than the alternative.

    She quickly drafted a response. "Can you stop by my quarters after your shift?" she wrote, hitting send before she could have the time for second thoughts. Then she double checked the status of the repair teams, and the status of the Copernicus, before relaxing a bit. In theory, things should stay calm until the end of her shift, but she wasn't about to relax too much.

    Dakbar kept finding his attention drawn back to Rychel. What could have happened after he had left that would have 'freaked her out' more than what he had done?

    Her mind kept flitting back to the night before, when she was in her bedroom. There were things about the whole scenario that just didn't add up. The seed of doubt in her mind had begun to sprout, and she needed an unbiased opinion to tell her whether there was truly someone in her room the night before, or if she had just imagined the whole thing.

    Rychel smothered a yawn behind her hand. Between the drinking late with Dakbar, and the maybe-nightmare, she hadn't gotten nearly enough rest. She was quite glad that she'd managed to avoid going down to the planet. Even if she didn't manage to get sleep, she hoped that she could at least talk to Dakbar about everything that had transpired after he'd left.

    "Are we boring you, Lieutenant," Commander Tyne asked, having seen Rychel's yawn. His eyes twinkled at her. "Perhaps we should have sent you on the second mission."

    Rychel's face flushed bright red under Tyne's criticism. "No sir, just a busy week in Engineering." That was perhaps an understatement. Between gel pack issues, combat damage, engineers losing their memories... it had been far busier than average.

    Dakbar's eyes bored into the Commander, but when the man's gaze swept the bridge, the Cardassian had looked away. He pulled up the text message that was blinking at him. "That would be unwise," he typed in response. "Is it important that we meet there?"

    She stared at the message for a long moment, then typed out a few messages, erasing each before sending them. She took a look at her console, making sure nothing required her attention, before finally responding to the message. "I suspect someone was in my quarters last night after you left,” she typed. She hesitated another moment before adding, "I need to know if it's my imagination getting the best of me, or if there's credence to that possibility. We could discuss the matter elsewhere if you prefer." Before she sent the message, she squeezed her eyes shut, hoping that Dakbar would not take it all the wrong way. She wasn't trying to use the experience to garner his sympathies. But something about the experience had left her terrified.

    It was ironic that she'd spent so much time the night before, tempting danger by allowing Dakbar to get close to her. He could have quite easily destroyed her if he truly wanted to, yet she had faith that he cared enough not to. And now he was her only hope in understanding whether or not something had happened last night, or whether it was all in her head. This nameless, faceless fright was the worst that she'd felt in some time. She was never afraid. She trusted her own abilities, and she laughed in the face of danger.

    What was it about the whole scenario that suddenly had her so on edge?

    Dakbar glanced over at Rychel. He had pretty much torn her apart last night, but something scared her even more than that? Now he was intrigued. "I will meet you in your quarters."

    Rychel felt extraordinarily relieved reading the message, and a small smile formed on her features. She'd been afraid that after the night before he wasn't going to want anything to do with her, even though she knew that somewhere inside there was a part of him that cared for her.

    “Message from the away team, sir,” the communications officer said.

    Tyne waited, then read the data. One was a theory as to the cause of the energy storms, and the other was a detailed list of supplies. He scanned down the list. "Lieutenant Kayden, please coordinate this list of supplies the Copernicus needs with the cargo bay and make sure it gets down to the planet." Sending it to her, he then looked again at M'Khol's observations about the storm before flipping it over to the science officer, which caused a flurry of activity over on that station. Tyne laughed. Discovery was what they were all about.

    "Yes, sir," Rychel said, taking a look at the information that was sent to her. She quickly identified them as parts required to repair the Copernicus' navigational deflector. Most of the parts were simple enough to acquire, and should have been found within the cargo bay. One of the components was larger, though, and would need to be replicated with one of the large scale replicators in the cargo bay, before being beamed directly to the planet. She added a few anti-grav sleds to the list before she forwarded it along, as she suspected that there was no way the engineers on the planet would be able to lift the thing into position.

    She tapped idly at her console as she received confirmation that the supply team was getting the parts together. She calculated a good location near the Away Team, but where no one was presently standing for the things to beamed down to while she waited. She did pity whichever Supply Assistant got tasked with replicating the one component, though, as it itself was nearly the size of a Danube-class runabout.

    Along with the supplies, Rychel pulled any on duty Engineers who weren't assigned to a task, and told them to report to the planet in order to facilitate the repairs. Within a few minutes, she'd received confirmation that all of the supplies and personnel were prepared, and she ensured they all made it safely to the beam down spot.

    "All of the supplies have been transported down," she said a moment later, once she confirmed that everything had arrived in the proper number of pieces.
  10. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 9

    By the end of Rychel’s shift, repairs to the Copernicus were well underway, a method of identifying where the tendrils of the energy cloud would appear had been found, and the Talon’s damage had been fixed too. Sure, she hadn’t done the large majority of it, but she still felt a sense of accomplishment.

    Upon arriving back in her quarters, Rychel took a nice, relaxing sonic shower. Being clean helped to chase away some of the residual sleepiness that she was experiencing, and she smiled as she fixed her hair in the mirror. She spent as little time as possible in her bedroom, trying to convince herself that she needed to not "contaminate" anything that her previous nighttime visitor might have left behind.

    She debated over what to wear for a moment, knowing that Helik would likely be stopping by, unless he changed his mind. She frowned a bit, but tried not to be negative about it. "If he doesn't come by then I'm sure he would have a good reason for it," she said softly to herself. She decided on a simple, lightweight dress in an olive green that complimented her eyes. Peering at herself in the mirror, she made certain that she looked presentable, but not like she was trying too hard. Success! she thought.

    Her stomach rumbled, and she walked towards the replicator. She ordered the things that she would need in order to create a barbecued spicy shrimp, and carried them all carefully into the kitchen. Just in case, she made enough for two, resolving that she could save the remainder in the event that she ended up eating alone.

    Grabbing a heavy cast iron pot from one of her cabinets, she powered on the burner, and went to work, humming merrily as she cooked. Cooking was something that Rychel genuinely loved to do, especially when she had the occasion to cook for other people, although she frequently had to tone down the spiciness of her dishes in order to get others to even try them. Spicy food is tasty food, she thought, a smile inexplicably coming to her face.

    Dakbar was not in the mood for this, not at all. However, Rychel's message to him earlier intrigued him. A mystery awaited discovery, and that had far more draw than anything else he could be doing at the moment. His long stride carried him angrily through the corridors until he stood outside of her door. As his hand reached up for the the chime, the memory of their last time alone together flashed before his eyes. Her blood was still amongst the rubble in his quarters, mixed with his own.

    He tapped the chime.

    It was then that he realized he hadn't even cleaned up. She's just asking you to come to figure out her mystery. It was not much comfort. For some reason, he felt the need to be more presentable. She's a Bajoran. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. He turned and began walking down the hall.

    Rychel had finished preparing the shrimp, and transferred it off of the heat so it could rest a bit before being consumed. While she’d been waiting, she placed most of the things that she'd gotten dirty while cooking into the replicator for recycling. The cast iron pan she sat aside to be cleaned off later. Smiling in satisfaction as she surveyed the results of her efforts, she walked to the bathroom for a moment to make sure she hadn't gotten herself dirty while cooking. While in there, she spritzed a bit of a soft perfume on her wrists and throat, humming contentedly. She also looked around to make certain that everything in her quarters was in it's proper place. While she wasn't quite obsessively neat, she was of the opinion that a few minutes of cleaning now saved a whole lot of effort later.

    She was distracted from her clean train of thought by a chime at the door, at which point a huge grin came to her face, despite her best attempts to tone it down. She skipped rather than walked out to the door, hitting the button to open it. She was surprised to find that Dakbar was walking away from her door, and confusion colored her expression. "Helik?" She asked. "Is everything alright?" She had been prepared for him to be hesitant after everything that had occurred the night before, but she hoped that she could reassure him that everything was alright.

    He stopped in his tracks, his head hanging low. He could keep on going, just walk away without a word. However, her mystery made him pause. If there was anything going on, he needed to know about it. It could affect his plans in the future.

    "I made enough dinner for two if you're hungry," she added a second later. The path to a man's heart was through his stomach, or so they always told her when she was growing up, and would argue that cooking was for people who sucked at repairing replicators. In the past, cooking had made her quite a few friends, especially when she baked, but it had been a while since she'd had the opportunity to cook for a man she genuinely wanted to impress.

    He was famished and couldn't remember when he had eaten last. Slowly, he turned around, but the emotions in his eyes were hard to disguise. He had been summarily dismissed from the bridge by his supervisor for making what should have been seen as a logical suggestion.

    "Thank you," he managed to say. Approaching her quarters, he moved past her and into the room.

    "No problem, you've been on the bridge for hours, you're probably starving." Rychel knew that she was, and he had arrived on the bridge long before she did. She'd heard a rumor that Kinin wasn't presently ready for duty, and that because of that the bridge shifts for Security were off. It made sense.

    "That is true," he stated. Immediately, he noticed that the blanket from her couch was missing as were several breakable items that had been on her coffee table. The table that he had thrown aside with just a flip of his hand. Looking away sharply, he moved into her kitchen and sniffed the air. "It smells interesting," he said.

    "Barbecued Spicy Shrimp," she said. "A human dish, from the Central American region." She'd also prepared spanish-style rice along with it. She retrieved two plates from the cabinet, and placed a helping on one of the plates before handing it over to Dakbar. While Rychel was pretty well known amongst her friends for being a good cook, and she'd spent years practicing, she was still slightly nervous that the dish wouldn't be suitable to a Cardassian palate. Still, she'd heard they were fond of spicy foods, so perhaps he would enjoy it. He stared at the contents of the dish that was thrust into his hand, then took a closer sniff. It did smell spicy.

    She made a plate for herself, before ordering a glass of water from the replicator. "What would you like to drink?" She asked. She forced herself not to blurt out everything that was weighing on her mind about her visitor the night before. Similarly, she fought the urge to ask him what was the matter. He hadn't seemed like he was in a bad mood when she'd left the bridge, but then again, a lot could happen in an hour. If he wants to discuss what's bothering him, he'll say something, she thought.Whatever it is, he probably wants to think about something else for a while. That, she was more than certain she could help with.

    "Whatever you are having," he said. It was common courtesy. One did not force one's host to open another bottle. However in the replicator era, many had forgotten that rule. Maybe it was just a Cardassian courtesy. He stood there, looking at the dish, then picked up one of the shrimp with his fingers and examined it. "Is this an insect?" He knew several races that ate insects, but didn't think Bajorans were one of those. Maybe it was something they picked up during the days of the Occupation. He grinned slightly, imagining scores of Bajorans crawling around on the ground trying to catch a crawly creature. As he looked up, he came face to face with a ridged nose. Suddenly, the image wasn't quite so funny anymore. He put the shrimp back down on the plate and looked at the goo that covered the pads of his fingers. He was at a loss as to what to do about it.

    "It's a crustacean, they're sea creatures," she explained. "Like crabs and lobsters and the like. They're really quite tasty, especially when they're prepared well." She liked to think that she was rather good at preparing seafood. She wondered if he would have any idea what crabs or lobsters were either. Surely he'd eaten some seafood while he was at the Academy? She recalled reading about Cardassian cuisine, and how a lot of it was based on fish juices and sauces.

    "I have seen others eat them. I just was too hesitant to ask. Mainly because they already made fun of my lack of knowledge about human dishes." His eyes looked through her, to the past. "Mountain oysters," he said. "They laughed for days after I asked what the shell looked like." He took the napkin from her and wiped his fingers on it, getting rid of the gooey substance.
    "Why would you know anything about human dishes? Humans are so human-centric. It doesn't occur to them that they aren't the end-all, be-all of the universe. It's no wonder the Q like to play with them so much," Rychel said, shaking her head.

    Realizing that she hadn't gotten any utensils, she flushed slightly, heading back towards the kitchen to grab a pair of forks and some cloth napkins. "Sorry, I'm a little absent today, it would seem," she said. Half of it was because he was in her quarters again, and half because she was still quite flustered about the previous night's events. "Please, have a seat," she said, gesturing to the one of the chairs at the small table. She handed the fork and napkin to Dakbar, and smiled at him shyly for a moment before taking her own seat.

    Once she sat, he put his plate down and slid onto the chair, bumping his knee in the process. Rubbing his knee with one hand, Dakbar picked up a fork in the other and speared a shrimp. If it was aquatic, he was willing to try it. He let it sit in his mouth for a second, then he began to chew. As he swallowed, he could detect the spiciness building on the back of his tongue. There was a sweetness, too. Looking up, he smiled at Rychel. "This reminds me of you," he said before he even realized what he was saying. He took a sip of water and let it enhance the effect of the spice.

    She smiled, blushing a bit before looking back down at her plate. "Thank you," she said, looking up a moment later. "It's one of my favorite dishes."

    Feeling awkward, he changed the subject. "Tell me about last night," he said.

    She inhaled, collecting her thoughts before she said anything. "Have you ever woken up, and felt absolutely paralyzed? Like, you were aware of what's going on around you, but you can't do anything except breathe?"

    "Yes," he said quietly. He preferred not to think about it.

    She speared a shrimp with her fork, took a bite from it, and swallowed before she spoke again. "I woke up last night and I couldn't move, and I'm pretty certain there was someone in my room." Dakbar was out of his chair and looking around at the room from where he stood.

    She looked away, unable to meet his eyes for fear that there would be scorn in his gaze. "At... at first, I assumed it was just sleep paralysis. But the more that I think about it, the more certain I am that it really happened. I just don't know what to look for to see if someone was here."

    "I mean, of course I checked the records for my door," she said quickly. "But c'mon, anyone with a basic level of Engineering can make a device that tricks the door sensors, I used to make them at the Academy so the other cadets could sneak out after curfew."

    As she explained the steps she took, he smiled. She was smart and this whole situation was giving him insight as to what he could get away with in the future. He had several of those devices in his quarters. In fact, he had already used one on the ship.

    Realizing that she'd been talking for some time, she said, "That's the basic gist of it, what in specific would be useful for you to know?" She asked, her eyes trusting as they met with his.

    His eyes narrowed at her. "You are holding something back," he said. "Tell me everything." Her body language gave her away. "Even the smallest detail could be a clue." He paced the perimeter of the room, looking for signs, but then came back and sat down. She had worked hard at this meal, and a thorough examination of her quarters could wait. He ate, enjoying the shrimp, enjoying the intrigue.

    "Before I was assigned to the Talon, my brother had some high profile court case in front of a Federation jury that he attended. To my knowledge, he was just there as security, but he sent me a message warning me that there were people that were out there that would try to use me to get at him," Rychel explained. She shook her head quickly. "Initially, I just blew it off as a paranoid big brother being paranoid, but since this all happened, it's made me wonder if there isn't more to it."

    Dakbar considered what she’d said. Security officers frequently made enemies, but none that would take on a Sovereign-class starship just to get back at someone's sister out of revenge. It didn't happen. Unless that security officer was much more and that sister was targeted as a pawn in a deal that needed to be made. Petty thugs didn't do that.

    She took a deep breath, then a few sips of water before continuing.

    "After you left, I cleaned up, took a shower and went to bed," Rychel said. "I didn't privacy lock my door because I didn't want you to think that I was avoiding you," she hated bringing up the night before's events, but he'd insisted that she tell everything, so she wanted to be thorough.

    "Rychel..." He gave her a scolding glance.

    "I woke up a bit later, and I couldn't move, nor could I speak. I couldn't see the chronometer, so I have no idea how much time passed. After I calmed myself down, I heard breathing in the corner of my room. There's a chair there, but the corner is completely shadowed when the lights are out."

    "Breathing?" He scooted his chair closer. "What did it sound like?"

    "The breathing was rapid. Whoever it was wasn't calm," she said her face scrunching up a bit as she recalled it. "Someone said my name, and it sounded garbled, like a device was being used to disguise the voice.”

    "Then what?"

    “I have a shortwave radio in my room. It's nearly 100 years old, and to my knowledge it hasn't worked for 40. Regardless, last night it started working, and it was repeating these words over and over. The first bit was in Latin, but I don't know what it means. Then it would say, 'It is not enough,' and repeat."

    "You should run the Latin phrase through linguistics," he said.

    She nodded, and jotted down what she remembered of the phrase. She could run it through the ship's computer once Dakbar had decided whether or not the whole thing had just been her overactive imagination running wild. She fought the urge to tell him that she wasn't crazy, but decided it best to just stick with the facts for now. "Then the figure who was seated in the chair approached my bedside. He was wearing a mask, close to your height, but not as well-built. Blue eyes," she explained, trying to think of anything else identifying that she'd noticed about her visitor. Dakbar realized there were too many on board who matched that description.

    "When I realized someone was there, a third voice came from the radio. A little girl. She said, 'He does not like it when you know that he's there' or something similar."

    Radio? The Aescans used radio. Was it possible she was picking up something from Aesco as the Talon had approached? That still didn't explain the man.

    Fear, genuine, unadulterated fear was clear in Rychel's eyes when she looked back up at Dakbar. "The man said, 'You are feeling fine,' or something of that nature. He injected me with a hypospray in my arm," reflexively, her left hand let go of her fork, and her left hand rubbed at the spot on her right arm, where there was still a bruise.

    "Show me." As she lifted her arm he took it in his hands and examined the area. There were other bruises, too, but it was impossible to tell if they had come from himself or the mystery guest. "What did he give you?"

    "I assume a sedative. I've always required far higher doses than normal to be knocked out. It's partially a Bajoran thing, partially just that my body seems to just ignore sedatives," she explained. When she'd gotten injured as a child, it had been a quite troublesome trait. He filed that little nugget away for later.

    Rychel continued, "He waited there for a moment, like he expected me to fall back asleep, and then said, 'This won't do at all,' and wrapped his hands around my neck."

    "What?" He reached up, moving her hair away from her neck. But his hands had been there as well. She was badly bruised and needed medical care.

    "I.... I think that's all I remember," she said. After all that had happened between them, he had never seen her even the slightest bit bothered. The truth of the matter was that Dakbar had never truly frightened her. Not the way this had. She didn't add the words that didn't need to be spoken - that if Dakbar hadn't visited the night before than she would have known from the fresh bruises that something had went awry.

    "You sit there. Let me think a minute."

    "I won't go to Sickbay about it, because they'll ask too many questions, so I don't know what he did to me, if he was even there at all. You are the only one who I can trust about this. I refuse to get you in trouble just to try and save myself." Her tone was genuine, as was the faith in her eyes.

    The faith that he would do the right thing.

    The faith that he wouldn't immediately dismiss her as crazy.

    The faith that he'd encountered things like this in the past and would have some clue what to do about it.

    "You have to, Rychel. Before the evidence is gone. It may already be too late, but you need to be checked. Whatever was in the hypospray could be a clue."

    Her eyes hardened, and she looked up at him defiance in her eyes. "I refuse to do or say anything that could get you in trouble. If Sig asks, I injured myself in the holodeck yesterday when I helped you out. Is that clear? You insisted that I go to Sickbay, but I refused because it would be a waste of my time." She sighed. "What do you think? Am I crazy?"

    His hand somehow ended up on top of hers. "I question your taste in confessors, but it does not make you crazy." He stood up. "Eat while I investigate. If you can remember anything else, tell me." He picked up a tricorder off of Rychel's counter and moved carefully and slowly into the bedroom. "Computer, lights, one hundred percent." The room fairly glowed with intensity and he made his way, section by section, throughout the room. In the corner of the room, he found the chair that supposedly contained the man at one point. "Have you noticed anything removed from your quarters," he called out to her as he examined the chair. A piece of white was sticking out from between the arm and the cushion.

    "Um, one second," she said, remembering the chip. How did I forget to check that? she chided herself. Entering the kitchen she peeked into one of her cabinets. Everything was where it belonged. "No, nothing's missing. I don't really have anything of much value," she explained.

    Well, that was interesting. Out of all the areas of her quarters she could have checked, a kitchen cabinet was not one he would have thought would be first on her list. Unless, of course, there was something of value hidden there. Interesting.

    Dakbar returned to the kitchen and walked up to the replicator. "Standard crime analysis kit." A metal box shimmered into view and Dakbar carried it back into the bedroom. Opening it, he drew out a pair of tweezers and a vial, which he uncapped. With the tweezers, he extracted what appeared to be a torn corner of paper. Placing it in the vial, he set it aside and continued his search.

    He did the usual security query to the computer as to access logs and came up blank. Only he and Rychel had been in the quarters since her alleged attack. Removing a device from the box, he told the computer to extinguish the lights and close the door. In complete darkness, he began to shine a light in various frequencies throughout the room. When he got to the bed, he pulled back the covers. A tiny fleck caught his eye and that, too, went into a vial for analysis. He then found evidence of tears on her pillow. She hadn't mentioned that she had been crying. His hand moved the covers even more and he cursed. "Rychel..." Dakbar's expression hardened. He finished up his investigation, though it took about fifteen more minutes.

    When he returned to the kitchen, his remained silent. He sat down and ate the remainder of his cold dinner and drank down all of the water before saying anything to her. Though he’d remained silent, Rychel could tell by the look in his eyes that it wasn't just a dream. He'd found something. A feeling of cold spread across her body and threatened to overwhelm her.

    Pushing back the empty plate, he tapped his combadge. It was the last thing he wanted to do. "Commander Ericson, please report to Lieutenant Kayden's quarters immediately." He knew she would not want this. He knew it was going to be uncomfortable, embarrassing and she'd probably resist. Yet, it had to be done.

    He put a hand on Rychel's shoulder. "Have you showered?"

    She nodded, but was interrupted by a unique beep from her computer console. "Desan," she said. “He messaged me while I was on the bridge, but I haven’t had time to listen.” She rushed into the kitchen, opening a cabinet, and threw her tins of tea leaves to the floor. She removed a sturdy box that was locked with a biometric device, and placed her hand atop it. It flashed green for a moment, and she removed the single Isolinear chip within. Dakbar was intrigued, but kept his expression neutral as if everyone kept something hidden behind their tea.

    She opened a panel nearby, and inserted it into the computer.

    "Security Access: Granted," came the voice of the computer.

    I shouldn't be letting anyone know I have that thing, but I have to trust him, she thought stubbornly. "Computer, access message from Kayden Desan, security level 4, clearance Kayden Alpha One Three Niner." It was a security level that shouldn't have been privy to any Engineer below the Chief, but she hoped Dakbar was distracted enough to not notice. Then again, it was foolish to assume a Cardassian was unaware of anything happening in his presence. No amount of self control could keep the surprise from his face after hearing that. He chuckled, wondering who, exactly, was the most duplicitous one on the ship.

    "Play message."

    "Hey 'Chel,"

    She smiled as he went through his greeting, reaching out with one hand to touch the display. He looked so tired. She wondered what was bothering him so much.

    "I'm sorry I haven't contacted you in a while, but you know how work in Starfleet can be. I hope you're keeping out of trouble. Listen, 'Chel, remember the trial a while back? It was for a man named Colton Hunter. If you ask around on the Talon, I'm sure you'll hear a lot about him. Colton Hunter escaped, 'Chel. And I have every reason to believe that he will try to get to the Talon as quickly as he can. 'Chel, he's dangerous. Be careful. Don't trust anyone. Talk to Stein if anything suspicious happens. He's a good friend of mine, he has been since the Academy. I should be seeing you soon, be safe until then. Love you."

    The message flickered off, and she stared at the blank screen, her mouth agape. Coincidence was always better at getting one into trouble than it was for getting you out of it. "Do... do you know anything about this?" she asked, and her legs felt weak beneath her. Stumbling slightly, she reached out, grabbing on to Dakbar to steady herself. He put a hand on the small of her back to steady her.

    He nodded and guided her to a chair. "He is the brother of one of our science officers. He tried to steal a very dangerous program, kidnapped one of the Button sisters, and pretty much endangered many lives. It is unfortunate that he escaped." Dakbar was pretty certain he had given her a politically correct response. The truth was, his mind was spinning. The Cardassian looked down at Rychel. "Do not worry," he said. "I am sure the Talon would be the last place he would want to be. It is too 'expected'."

    Outside of Rychel’s quarters, Sig punched the door chime with his fist. A flutter of anxiety tugged at Sig's heart. She was Bajoran, and he, a Cardassian. If they didn't open fast, he would override the door security. Still, Dakbar was the one who made the call, not Rychel.

    "That would be Commander Ericson. I will speak with him." Dakbar went to the door, and stepped outside with Sig, then waited until the door closed.
  11. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 10

    Rychel still wasn't entirely certain what precisely she needed medical attention for. She was bruised up a good bit, yes, but it was no worse than half of the things she did to hurt herself on a regular basis. She steadied herself for the doctor's visit. The last thing she wanted was for yet another person to see her at her weakest.

    Dakbar waited until the corridor was clear. "Commander. Last night, Lieutenant Kayden was attacked after being drugged. It is quite possible that she was raped. I have completed my investigation and will process the information thoroughly. Please..."

    The fact that she had waited so long to report it wasn't unusual. Many victims needed time to process what had happened. Sometimes, it went unreported for weeks, if at all. The fact that Rychel had been brave enough to call for help said a lot about her character. Sig expected to be let in immediately, but the Cardassian seemed to need to add something else. Sig waited impatiently.

    "Be gentle." Dakbar turned and opened the door, gesturing Sig inside. "I will be right outside."

    This, from a man who had just asked for the lives of four crewmembers to be eliminated to protect the Prime Directive? This day just kept getting more and more bizarre.

    "Good," Sig said. I would've ordered your ass outside anyway.

    Once inside, he hurried over to Rychel's side. She had obvious bruising in multiple places across her body and he wondered how severe it was in the areas he couldn't see. He smiled softly to her and knelt down beside the chair. "Call me Sig, call me Doctor, call me Commander, call me whatever makes you comfortable." He put down his bag and pulled out his tricorder. "Tell me what happened."

    Rychel had a feeling that this was going to be a common theme going forward. She resolved to write out a full statement on the matter at some point so she didn't have to keep saying the same words over and over. She launched into the shorter version of her tale.

    "My brother Desan warned me before I came to the Talon that there are those who might harm me to get at him," she said. Realizing that made no sense out of context, she explained, "My brother... he says he just works for Starfleet Security escorting diplomats around, but I think it's more than that. He was apparently at Colton Hunter's trial, so he has to be more than what he's explained."

    She took a sip from her glass of water before continuing. "Regardless, I awoke in the middle of the night, and I couldn't move. There were these weird messages coming through the antique shortwave radio that I have in my quarters, although that might not be related. I began to realize I wasn't alone, and a man approached my side. He said 'You are feeling fine,' and injected me with a hypospray," she gestured to the spot on her arm where she'd been injected. "I felt a bit sleepy, but I forced myself to stay awake. He said, 'This won't do at all,' then put his hands around my throat and choked me," she finished.

    The tricorder in Sig's hands lowered to the floor when she got to the part about having been injected, and then strangled. Who could have done this? From what Rychel had said, it sounded like she suspected Colton Hunter, but that would be impossible. Wouldn't it? Sig followed her over to the couch and waited for her to lie down. He began removing a few things from his bag.

    As he scanned her, he felt even more anger. There was a tremendous amount of trauma and signs of recent dermal regenerator repair. Either she had tried to fix it herself, or the attacker had done so. Also, judging from the decreased level of loose skin cells, she had recently taken a sonic shower. Great. "Can I get you to lie down on the couch," he asked gently. "I'm going to need to take some samples."

    Rychel complied, but there was confusion on her features. "I don't really need a doctor, I think Helik was just being overly cautious," Rychel explained. "I hurt myself worse than this while I'm working all the time." Rychel was never the sort to rush down to Sickbay every single time she had an ouchy, and she wasn't about to start just because there was a chance that a strange man was in her quarters.

    His hands froze in mid-air. "Lieutenant," he said. Dakbar didn't tell her? Now Sig was really angry. This put him in a really awkward situation. The Cardassian's behavior lately was not making the doctor comfortable with his decision making processes at all. Now, Sig had a patient lying on a couch, who had no idea what he was about to do, and the situation could have become very wrong had he proceeded without any warning to her. "Lieutenant Dakbar believes that you might have been sexually assaulted." Keeping his hands at his sides, he shook his head. "I thought you knew why I was here." I'm going to kill that man.

    "He thought I was..." she trailed off, unable to say the words. She was glad she was lying down, as her head began to spin. "I don't... why would anyone...." she bit down on her lower lip. How was she supposed to feel after something like this? Sure, she'd known women who'd been raped before, but they all remembered it. One of her roommates in the Academy had flashbacks frequently, especially when she was with someone else. She shook her head, trying to force the thoughts away.

    He gave her time to sort it out, but he knew it wasn't something that would be quickly accepted. She had been violated and, what made matters worse, she hadn't even been aware that it had happened. To not even have the chance to attempt to fight back... Sig clenched his jaw tight. "Would you like a female in the room? I could send for nurse Habot, or maybe a friend of yours?"

    She shook her head, "I don't have many friends on board, I've only been here three days. Helik is the only person that I've spoken to for more than a few moments."

    Well, Sig was certainly not going to let Dakbar in the room.

    She took a deep breath trying to gather her thoughts. "Besides, I don't even remember anything happening, and I know that doesn't mean that nothing happened, but I'm still.... quite detached from the whole idea." She frowned. What sort of coward raped a woman who was unconscious? Then again, what sort of coward came into a woman's quarters in the middle of the night, and injected them with something from a hypospray?

    She realized that her body was unusually tense, and she tried to force herself to relax as best as she could. Truth be told, she wanted Dakbar. She wasn't certain that she was going to feel safe in her own room from now on. She'd been asleep while the intruder was in her room before, what if next time he wanted her to remember?

    "Did you try to heal yourself after the attack," he asked gently. "I noticed many recently regenerated skin cells. You know you can call me any time you need medical attention. I don't mind."

    "It wasn't that big of a deal," Rychel said. Somehow, she doubted that Sig agreed with her on that.

    He continued to remove items from his bag, then he explained to her what he was going to do. "I will try to be as gentle and quick as I can."

    Waiting for her to relax, he gave her instructions as he went along. His voice was soothing and kind, his touch as careful as possible. While Sig was performing the exam, Rychel tried to tell herself that it was just like any other exam she'd gotten in her life as an adult female. She distracted herself solving engineering problems in her head, rerunning her bridge shift in an attempt to determine if there were better courses of action given the circumstances. She had to admit a certain amount of pride in herself for keeping her head cool in a bad situation.

    "There," he said when he was finished. "You can sit up now." He put the samples into his bag for processing later, but he had the proof he needed. "Wait here." He stood up and walked to the replicator. After giving his authorization codes, he replicated the medication he needed and carried the hypospray back to Rychel. As he applied it to her neck, he said, "This will eliminate any side effects from what happened." Meeting her gaze, he held it as he pressed the button and let the medication filter into her system. "You may experience some nausea, but it will pass in a couple of hours."

    She nodded, biting down on her bottom lip slightly. She was glad for the medication; the last thing she wanted was an everpresent reminder of what had occurred. If she would have conceived a child, she would have felt obliged to care for it. Family was important to Bajorans. But if that child had his father's eyes... she squeezed her eyes shut, shaking herself quickly. Don't think about it, it's over.

    Sig pulled up a chair. "Over the next few days, you are going to go through a variety of emotions. You'll feel anger, loss, sadness. It is perfectly normal for what has just happened. Some want to avoid people, others want to be involved with every activity, to get it out of their head. If you want to keep this to those who only know now, and you need to talk about it, I'm there, no matter what time it is, okay?"

    She nodded. She didn't want to talk about it anymore. She didn't want to have to explain it to anyone else. She wanted to get past it, to move on with her life. If it's Colton, you're going to have to tell Desan what happened, the nagging voice of her subconscious reminded her. He was going to be so disappointed in her for not being more careful with herself. She sighed.

    He patted his bag. "I want to get these samples analyzed immediately. There may be DNA traces that will tell us who did this."

    "Please let me know what you find out as soon as you know," Rychel said softly. She wasn't sure what she wanted the answer to be. Would she want it to have been Colton at the risk of disappointing her brother? Perhaps it was a member of the crew though, someone that she'd passed in the halls of the Talon, who she'd smiled at, who she'd had lunch with. She would certainly feel more betrayed in that instance.

    "Thank you for coming," she said softly.

    He gathered his gear and stepped back to the door. "You can come in now," he said to Dakbar. As he passed the Cardassian, his eyes narrowed. "Take good care of her," he said. "That's an order."

    The two men stared intently at each other before Sig turned and strode off down the hallway. Dakbar chose not to reply. Had Sig wanted one, he would have stayed. Dakbar cursed. His completely logical suggestion on the bridge had turned many against him. That was not good for his mission. He would have to buckle down and be the good little Starfleet officer for a while until he got back in their good graces. How long that would take, he didn't know. He turned and walked back into the room, placing a concerned expression on his face.

    She looked expectantly towards the door, waiting for Dakbar to come back into the room. She wasn't sure if she'd ever quite feel safe again, at least not until whoever had done this was gone.

    "Are you okay," he asked Rychel.

    Rychel nodded, trying to think of something appropriate to say. "I'm fine," was certainly the Universal standard, but it didn't seem right under the circumstances. While she wasn't precisely upset, she wasn't quite ok either. Her quarters, her privacy, her body... all violated by someone as of yet unknown. "I'm adjusting," she said after a moment's thought. "It's hard to feel bad about something I don't remember, but it's hard to feel safe knowing what happened." She wondered how long it would take before she could enter her quarters without searching for ghosts in the shadows.

    "Do not worry," Dakbar said. "I am planning on increasing security to your quarters. This will not happen again." Moving Sig's chair back into place in the room, he sat down next to her on the couch. It was good she didn't remember. While it was hardly ever reported in popular literature or verbal stories of torture, many times a woman was involved in a captive situation, it involved some sort of sexual torture as well as physical and mental. He had seen it on Cardassia during his training with the newly revamped Obsidian Order. He had even participated in it. He looked over at Rychel. She was so small, so fragile. She would never survive what they could do to her.

    "Thank you," she said. While she supposed that having security around would make her feel better in the long run, for the short term, it left her feeling weak, as though she required other people in order to just stay alive. She suppressed the feeling, figuring she'd deal with it at a later date. It was just a weakness now, and until she knew that whoever had attacked her was off the Talon, she wasn't going to think about anything other than what she needed to do to survive.

    "Can I get you anything?" The remains of their dinner had grown cold on the table, but he was pretty sure hunger wasn't at the top of her list after Sig's exam.

    "That bastard's head on a plate? Actually, no, scratch that, I'd rather do him in myself," she responded, her tone fierce.

    Really? He looked at her with renewed interest. Would she have the strength, the courage, to actually carry out those words. He knew that Georgia Button had all but folded to Colton Hunter's will.

    She took a deep breath before saying, "I'm sorry, I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to feel right now." The only thing that Rychel was really certain of was that she really didn't want to be out of Dakbar's presence for a while.

    "Rage is a good emotion," Dakbar suggested.

    This forced up a small, yet dark smile to Rychel's features. Oh, she was angry alright, and she was pretty certain that a few rounds of kickboxing in the holodeck weren't going to do a damned thing to quell her rage. Mentally, she began ticking through a long list of things that she wanted to do when she found this man, whoever he was. I wonder where I left my spare laser cutter, she thought.

    "What did Ericson find?"

    "He hasn't given me a full report yet, but he found... DNA..." How exactly did you tell someone you cared about that you'd been used? Taken advantage of when you couldn't even defend yourself?

    "Ah." Her attacker had been careless, which indicated it was not Colton Hunter. The man would not have left evidence that could be traced to himself.

    "Part of me wished I'd have been awake so I could have defended myself," she said a moment later, looking away. "But, I know for the long term, being stuck with that memory would not have been easy." Unconsciously, she slid slightly closer to Dakbar on the couch, needing the feeling of security that came from his presence.

    "Yes. It never goes away." Reaching over, he put his hand on hers.

    "He's not compiled a full report yet, but when he knows something, he said he would get in contact with me. Hopefully there was enough evidence for him to figure out who did it," she said softly.

    "Then, we shall wait." He sat with her, the two of them lost in their own thoughts, for what seemed like hours.

    Under different circumstances, she would have been glad to feel his hand on hers, to be able to sit together in silence without finding the need to talk. Yet under the present circumstances, her mind was wandering. What if they couldn't find this person, and they didn't know if he was still on the ship? Would she need a security detail just to go to Engineering every day? That was unlikely. The second Desan found out she had been.... compromised.... he would have her back at Utopia Planitia in no time flat. He had to be caught. He just had to. There was no other way that she could go back to her everyday life.

    Finally, Dakbar tapped his combadge. "Lieutenant Dakbar to Commander Ericson."


    "Commander Ericson, come in."

    The seconds ticked by. There was no response, and Rychel stared at Dakbar, somewhat puzzled. That's awful rude of Sig, she thought to herself, her typical naivete kicking in. After a second unsuccessful summons, a cold fear began to overwhelm her, and she began to shake. He's still here, she realized.

    "Computer, location of Commander Ericson."

    "Commander Ericson is on Deck Seven."

    Dakbar stood up. "Computer, Clarify."

    "Commander Ericson's location is in the corridor adjacent to the medical laboratory."

    She did the math in her head. Sig should have easily been in the lab, probably done whatever needed to be done, and contacted her by now. Maybe he was ill. Or someone bumped into him in the corridor and wanted to chat.

    C'mon, 'Chel, not even you're that naive, she thought.

    "Stay here," Dakbar said to Rychel. "Do not answer your door. Arm yourself." He hurried out the door.

    "But...." she started to say, but she understood how Starfleet worked. Dakbar's primary duty was to Starfleet, and Sig was a Chief Medical Officer. She did as she was told, sealing her quarters with every lock she knew how to employ, even convincing the ship's computer that her quarters was hazardous and that only engineering personnel in Environmental suits could enter. She rerouted the alert for the status to her own console in engineering. Unless the Chief was really interested in what she was working on and powered it on, no one would be the wiser unless they looked for it.

    She then began to take deep breaths, "Think, 'Chel. Desan taught you what to do in these situations. Now get a grip and do it!" she demanded. She ran into the bedroom, and grabbed the small, yet powerful personal phaser that Desan had given her. She grabbed her commbadge, attached it to a pillow, tapped it, and then stepped back a few paces. "Computer, site to site transport on my commbadge to the brig," she directed. The pillow shimmered away, presumably to appear in the brig. She'd have a lot to explain later, such as why she was wasting ship's resources while at warp, but she hoped fervently that they would understand.

    There was no way to mask her biosign, and she hoped that whoever it was that might track her wouldn't have the time to scan for that. Hopefully, they would just query the computer, which would inform them that she was located in the brig. It wasn't the most clever of places, but it might help buy her some time.

    Whirling around, she quickly realized that Dakbar had left the evidence that he'd found in her quarters. Pursing her lips, she considered beaming it somewhere else, but she feared that it might get contaminated, or lost, or worse. With a sigh, she gathered it up as carefully as she could so as not to contaminate anything, and hid it in the kitchen cabinet. I really need better hiding spaces, she thought.

    Looking down at the small phaser, which she'd tucked in her bra for safekeeping, she realized that she didn't feel particularly safe with it. Heading back into her bedroom, she pulled something out of her closet, a project that she'd been working on. It was a compressed tetryon pulse weapon, standard issue for a Sovereign-class vessel, but one that she'd made some modifications to. She had been intending upon making the weapon fire more times on a single charge, and it had a modified power system that she'd not been able to test out yet. "Well, worse case scenario, if it explodes, it's taking out whoever I'm firing it at too," she said, surprised at the dark turn her sense of humor had taken.

    I should probably see a Counselor about that, she mused in a detached fashion.

    Since everything that she could do had already been done, she sat down, and waited. Though her face was a mask of calm, her heart was wild in her chest, and she hoped that whatever had happened to Sig wasn't going to happen to Helik as well. I don't know what I'd do if he got hurt trying to defend me, she worried.

    Dakbar rushed down the hallway, around a corner, and saw the CMO. He was... just standing there? "Sir," Dakbar called from down the hall. The man didn't move. He hurried up to him. "Commander." Sig was just staring at the bulkhead. Placing a hand on the man's shoulder, he shook him. "Sig!" He shook him a bit more violently and the med kit fell out of Sig's hand. Catching it before it hit the floor, Dakbar set it aside. The fact that the kit was still there was a good sign, but he wouldn't be happy until Sig verified the contents were intact. Still not getting a response, he smacked the Second Officer of the Talon across the face with the back of his hand. "Commander," he shouted again.

    "What th' hell are you doing," Sig shouted as he raised his hand to his face, rubbing the stinging spot where the Cardassian's hand impacted the flesh. He looked down at his hands but didn't see the medkit. Glancing around, he saw it on the floor, off to the side. How'd that get there? He glared at Dakbar.

    "Sir, I-"

    "Lieutenant, you'd better have a good idea for striking a superior officer, or I'll see you in the brig so fast it'll make your head spin." He walked forward and picked up the kit.

    "You were-"

    "You can explain inside." Entering the lab, Sig put the kit down and pulled out the samples, then got to work.

    Dakbar rubbed his hand over his shaved head and followed Sig inside. "You were just staring into space, Sir." That was hardly enough to slap someone, though. "I called to you three times, even shook your shoulder, but you were unresponsive." He looked down at his chronometer. "You've been gone for over forty minutes."

    Sig was processing the results, but when Dakbar said the last part, Sig turned around in his chair. "I what?" He looked down at his chronometer but really had no reference point. He hadn't looked at the time since he left for Aesco. Picking up a tricorder, he scanned himself. "There's nothing wrong with me," he said. "Aside from a red hand mark on my face, most likely."

    If that didn't convince the man that something was wrong, then Dakbar didn't know what else to say. He let Sig do his thing. Pacing around the lab, he stopped now and then to read a sign on the wall, or try to figure out what a particular device was used for. This was taking too long. "Can you hurry it up a bit," he asked the man. "I don't want to leave the Lieutenant alone any longer than I have to."

    "Then go," Sig waved his hand at the impatient Cardassian. "I'll call you with the results." He paused and looked up at the man. "If it'll make you happy, I'll secure the door." He turned around and ignored Dakbar.

    "With all due respect, Sir," Dakbar started. "The chain of evidence has already been potentially compromised. I will stay here until you finish." He took a stance near the door and indicated by his expression that he was not taking 'no' for an answer. This was his domain and, even though Sig could very well order him from the room, he needed to protect the evidence.

    He wanted to tell the Cardassian to get lost, but Sig knew that had the roles been reversed, he would have demanded the same thing. "Okay, but stay out of the way." He prepared the samples and began the analysis. If her attacker was known to Starfleet, they would have his DNA on file. It didn't take long for the computer to come up with a match.

    The blank display suddenly illuminated, with the file of a Talon crewmember. "Ensign Brad Roman," Dakbar read over Sig's shoulder. "Operations." He studied the face. "Blue eyes, about my height, not as built... that was Rychel's description." He nodded. "I will go apprehend him." He headed for the door.

    "Halt," Sig commanded. "You will do no such thing. You will return to Lieutenant Kayden's quarters and finish up your investigation."


    He tapped his badge. "Ericson to Haywood. Please escort Ensign Brad Roman to the brig as a 'person of interest' in a quarters break-in. Lieutenant Dakbar will send you his report, as will I. Please hold him there until a senior officer arrives."



    Sig looked at Dakbar. "You will not be heading the interrogation. Dismissed." Turning around in his chair, he began further analysis on the samples.

    He stared at the back of the Second Officer of the Talon. It would be so easy to kill him right there and then. "Yes, Sir," he said, instead. He turned on his heel and made it back to Rychel's quarters. He tried to get in, but found all attempts thwarted. "Lieutenant Dakbar to Lieutenant Kayden. Please open your door."

    Rychel started to undo the locks that she'd done to her quarters, then hesitated. If someone had accosted Sig, and Dakbar had come under the same fate, perhaps said individual was holding Dakbar under duress, using him as motivation for her to unlock the door. She hesitated for a few moments, trying to decide what would be the best course of action.

    "Is he alone?" She asked the computer.

    "Affirmative," the computer responded. Still, that didn't really mean anything, and she hesitated once more.

    "Haywood to Dakbar," Lieutenant Kayden's combadge appeared here in the brig. I did a bioscan and she's still in her quarters."

    "Thank you," Dakbar replied. He stood in front of her door, flummoxed, then began pounding on it.

    There was pounding at the door, and she realized that there really was no way that she could just lock herself in her quarters and hide for the rest of her life. With a resigned sigh, she grabbed the compressed tetryon pulse rifle, then returned to unlocking the door. She braced herself against a bulkhead, and leveled the weapon at the doorway, hoping that she wouldn't need to use it.

    "Enter," she directed, making certain that as much of her small frame was concealed as she could possibly conceal. Her expression was fierce as the doors began to part, and she was ready to face whatever stood outside them.

    At the sight of the huge weapon, Dakbar drew his phaser, but then lowered it almost immediately. The weapon was almost bigger than her, and her expression was that of a woman who had run out of options. "Careful," he smiled. "I am fond of my head in its natural position." Had her situation not been so traumatic, he would have laughed. Even his hardened heart couldn't find the humor. Later, in his quarters, he would reflect back on the vision of her with the gigantic gun, and laugh. He would laugh at her, a puny Bajoran who played with big guns. In his sleep, though, he would weep for her. So embroiled in confusion was his mind about this woman, he never knew how he would react to what she did next. And that... that was dangerous.

    Rychel quirked a small, albeit grim smile. "We should have agreed upon a signal to indicate that it was you who'd returned, and that you were not under duress," she said. "I wasn't certain that someone wasn't trying to use you to gain entrance to the room." She was being paranoid. Desan would be proud.

    "The results are in," he said. "It was Ensign Brad Roman from Operations. Do you know him?" He stepped carefully inside, his hands where she could see them. "Haywood has him in custody."

    She frowned, shaking her head. "I've never even heard the name," she said thoughtfully. It didn't make a lot of sense to her. She didn't think she'd encountered him in her travels, why would he do such a thing? Walking to the computer console, tetryon pulse rifle still in hand, her back still against the wall, and said, "Computer, display personnel file, Ensign Brad Roman." The file pulled up complete with picture, and she stared at it impassively for a moment. "I've never seen this man before in my life," she said finally.

    He looked nice. There was a natural upturned shape to his mouth that was friendly, even in a "serious" portrait. He had pretty eyes. Under ordinary circumstances, Rychel might have dated him. She stared at the image until it was burned into her mind. She would recognize him if she saw him again.

    She looked very small behind the gun, her back against the bulkhead. "Come here," he motioned her to him, then held out his arms. It was a move he had seen his father do numerous times when his mother had been distressed and she had done for her children. Even with Rychel still in place behind the weapon, he knew how she would feel in his arms. Fragile, vulnerable. Her neck so thin, easily snapped. Her suffering would end, she would not have to face months of second guessing what had happened, reliving it in her dreams. All it would take was one swift twist.

    She sat the weapon down quickly, finding that the urge for human contact was strong within her. She nearly collapsed into his arms, her tense body relaxing somewhat as she buried her face in his uniform. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. Just one snap.

    Thoughts raced through her mind, with one forcing it's way to the surface. "I want to hurt him," she said softly, her words devoid of inflection, like it was more a casual observation than a suggestion of violence.

    The words seared into his brain and he saw his sister, saying almost those very same words, after she had been tortured yet again.

    "I know," he said quietly.

    "Are you sure... Sig didn't respond... there's no way someone could have..." she said, trying to resolve her concerns into words. "You don't think it's been meddled with?" Her emotions were rapidly cycling, from rage, to comfort at Helik's presence, to confusion. The details didn't seem quite right to her. She didn't like it, not one bit.

    "I am sure," he lied. She didn't need doubts right now. Later, she could be angry at him if his suspicions were confirmed. Right now, though, she needed to know that everything was right with her little world. In a single swift motion, his hand moved. Not to her neck, but downward. In an instant, she was in his arms and he carried her to the couch. He would not put her in that bed. Reaching the couch, he knelt down and placed her upon it. "Sleep," he said. Her adrenaline stores were probably extremely low by now. "I will stay."

    "Thank you," she said softly.

    He moved to a nearby chair and sat down, his phaser in his hand. "Sleep." He began to recite the history of Cardassia in a monotone voice, as his instructors had done ages ago. It was hypnotic, calming, sleep inducing. For the next several days, as the Talon progressed to SGE, Dakbar took up this post, this new ritual, with this very confusing woman asleep under his care.
  12. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 11

    Five days later, Rychel rifled through the backpack that she'd put together of things she'd need on her trip down to Etimon. She'd packed light, but had included every possible essential, including a medical kit, a spare pair of shorts and tank top, a bit of food and water.

    And of course, lots and lots of rope. The uses for rope were near infinite, and it always paid to have some on hand. Walking over to the replicator, she requested a pair of nice hiking boots, which she put on, and walked around in to see how they fit.

    You shouldn't go down to the planet all by yourself, she chided herself quickly. She'd been going back and forth on the matter for the large majority of the morning. On one hand, she didn't want Dakbar to grow bored of having her around. But on the other hand, rock climbing and hiking on a somewhat unknown planet wasn't the safest thing that she could be doing. But she didn't know anyone else who would be willing to eschew the lovely beaches, beautiful gardens and other locales of the planet in favor of what was barely more than desert. Sure, she thought it was pretty, but her tastes were definitely not the standard, especially for a woman.

    She walked over to the computer terminal, and jotted down a quick note to Dakbar, including a quick holoimage of where she intended upon going. She clicked send before she could have any second thoughts about it, then went back to making sure that she had everything packed that she would need.

    She decided she'd give him an hour or so to respond, and if he didn't say anything then she'd try and find someone else to go with.

    Dakbar was sound asleep when his message queue blipped at him from his bedside padd. Rubbing his eyes, he reached over and tapped into his mail folder. Rychel? He sat up quickly in bed, letting his long legs slide around until his feet met the floor. Last night was the first night he had insisted she sleep without him guarding her in her quarters. He had set up many security devices to give them both peace of mind. He was, however, sleeping in a vacant junior officer's quarters, which vaguely smelled like vomit, just down the hall from her.

    Heading down to Etimon for some rock climbing/hiking. Want to come?

    She had unlimited energy, Dakbar decided. Yawning, he stretched and moved his head around, feeling the pull on his ridges. Taking a quick shower, he put on a pair of strong trousers, hiking boots, and a brown t-shirt that had been specially designed for his unusual neck size. Even still, he tugged briefly at the opening after putting it on. The holoimage she had sent reminded him of his homeworld and he smiled at the thought. Maybe it was warm. Maybe, once they got to wherever she wanted to hike, there would be time to lie on a toasty surface for a while. He packed a small backpack with necessities, including a change of clothes, and he sprinted down the hallway. Though he had set up a security override to her quarters earlier, he allowed her the privacy she needed by tapping on the door chime.

    As he waited, a sly grin formed on his face. A lot of things could happen while hiking. Some of them fatal.

    "Take good care of my sister."

    He chuckled softly, remembering Desan's words. He’d met the man the night before at a celebration aboard SGE.

    She was beginning to worry that he wasn't going to come, and as she heard the door chime to her new quarters, she grinned wildly. She skipped over to the door, manually pressing the button to open it. "Hello, Helik," she said cheerfully. "I'm just getting the last few things I need packed up." She gestured for him to enter, then walked back over to her bag. She packed the last bit of rope before hefting the bag onto her shoulders and testing the weight to make sure that it was well balanced, and that she would be able to climb with it on.

    He entered and, while she finished getting things packed, he took the time to check the security devices he had installed, as well as the log files. Nothing appeared to have been tampered with, nor did anything pop up on the log.

    "I checked the temperature, you'll be glad to know it 95 degrees and sunny, with a slight breeze," she said with a grin. She looked him over appraisingly, glad that he seemed to be dressed appropriately for their excursion.

    "Sounds good," he called out from her bedroom as he slipped a camera into place while she wasn't looking. "It will feel good to get warm." Returning to the main room, he casually leaned against the wall and watched her pack.

    "C'mon, let's get down there," she said excitedly, leading him to the transporter room. She double checked the security locks on her quarters before heading down the corridor.

    "The desert is not going anywhere," he laughed at her as he spun around and followed her out the door. "You might want to slow down and enjoy the journey."

    "Did you sleep well?" she asked. She was surprised that she had been able to sleep without him around, but she felt safer knowing that he was just down the corridor, and that he was keeping an eye out for her.

    She could tell that he cared about her, that was clear from the way that he looked at her. What she didn't understand was why he still seemed to keep her at a distance. She assumed that it was just because he didn't trust himself not to hurt her, and she hoped that he got over those hesitations soon. Perhaps this little trip down to the planet would make him realize that she really was strong, and she could take care of herself when she needed to. Looking up at him, she smiled. She was determined to have a good time down on Etimon.

    "Better than I should have," he stated, but she was already stepping up on the transporter pad. He joined her there and she looked up at him, smiling that innocent smile of hers. "Energize," he said to the operator who was engaged in a rather animated discussion with a coworker about two naked crewmembers. Dakbar cleared his throat and they jumped. "Energize?"

    "Right! Um..."

    Dakbar narrowed his eyes. "Lieutenant Kayden sent the coordinates."

    "Desert, right? Hang on."

    Looking down at Rychel, Dakbar rolled his eyes, but kept his opinions to himself. One never knew when a transporter operator might come in handy in the future.

    Reappearing on Etimon a moment later, the heat was almost oppressive compared to the relative cool of the Talon, and it took Rychel's breath away for a moment. Still she adjusted quickly. It took a bit longer for her eyes to adjust to the brightness of the light, reflected off the sand beneath her feet. She'd given the transporter operator coordinates to an area near a nice place to hike, but that wouldn't require any advanced climbing skills. She wasn't certain if Dakbar knew how to climb, or if he'd want to learn, so she decided to start out easy.

    The holoimage that she'd found of the area didn't even begin to do it justice, especially given the fact that it was still early in the day there, and the sky was still colored from the recent sunrise. The rocks were similar to Earth sandstone, and the resulting color gradation in the rocky plateaus was beautiful. Rychel imagined that at sunset it would be hard to tell where the sunset ended and the plateaus began.

    Dakbar closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, filling his lungs with the warm air. For a moment, he imagined he was home, back on Cardassia. Had he been more innocent, he would have wished that, when he opened his eyes, he would see his homeworld again. However, he was not naive, nor was he a dreamer.

    She took a few steps forward and found a small lizard-like creature, although it was unlike any other lizard she'd ever seen before. First, it was pink in hue, and as Rychel looked closer, she saw that a lot of the sand was pink as well. There were also grains of orange, yellow, red... many shades that she didn't typically attribute to sand. The second noteworthy thing about the lizard was that it had tiny, translucent wings, and as Rychel approached, it spread them, preparing to fly away. The light filtering through the membranous wings took on a light pink hue, fractured by the red of the creature's veins. "Wow, Helik, look at it!" she coo'd, trying to keep her tone down so as to avoid startling the little creature.

    Opening his eyes, he smirked when he saw Rychel's position. Totally oblivious to any danger around her, she was enraptured by an Etimonian creature, her back to him. He moved to her side and observed the lizard. "It looks very fragile," he said. The same could be said about the woman next to him. At the sound of Dakbar's voice, the lizard took flight, gliding to a perch a short distance away from them, chattering all the while. Rychel pouted somewhat as the little creature flew away, but was quickly distracted by the overall beauty of the area.

    "Same to you," Dakbar said. Brushing his arm past hers, he touched the stone surface. It was warm from the sun and had a sandpaper texture. Part of him just wanted to go find a flat rock and lie down for hours, but they were supposed to be hiking and climbing. "Where do you want to start," he asked. The area had many possibilities. Climbing was something every cadet had been trained to do, and he remembered his very first climb. They had been put in some really tight wetsuits and were to climb down a cliff, into the water, to retrieve an item. Kathryn had looked amazing in her wetsuit and Dakbar had almost been left behind trying to get into his, which was a size too small. It was during that training module that Dakbar had been called away and told of the deaths in his family. By nightfall, he was on a shuttle back to Cardassia.

    Deep in thought, he stared at his hand that rested against the rock.

    She spun around a few times. "That one!" she said, pointing. "Hope you paid attention when they taught this stuff in the Academy." She skipped off to the cliff that she'd pointed to. It was a little more ambitious than her original plan, but Dakbar's comment had made her eager to show off. It wasn't a straight upward climb - there were areas where one could actually walk normally for a few feet before climbing again, but she figured it would make a good workout.

    "I had to repeat the class," Dakbar said as the walked toward the monolith she had chosen. "I dropped out partway through it the first time." Pulling on a pair of gloves as they walked, he slowed his stride to match hers.

    She debated asking about it, but decided that it might be a sensitive subject, and left it alone. "So you've gotten a bit more than the average practice," she said instead, figuring that was a safer topic. "Did you climb at all before you joined the Academy?" She was careful to avoid mentioning his homeworld, for fear of bringing up the negativity that he'd displayed previously.

    Stopping beneath the rock face, she looked up, mentally planning where her hands and feet would need to go to maximize her climbing efficiency. Dakbar raised a ridged eyebrow. The first part was out of her reach. Should he offer to-

    Rychel crouched down low, springing up quickly and clinging onto the mountain like a feline would cling to a curtain. There was a tenuous moment as her feet fought for purchase, but she found a spot quickly enough, and pushed herself upward with a strength Dakbar had not anticipated. Quite frankly, he was impressed.

    "Do you need me to start running a rope?" She asked. She was more than content to free climb up the side of the cliff, but understood that he might want to be a bit more cautious.

    "As a safety officer, I would say 'yes'. As a man with an ego, I should say 'hell, no'." He looked up at her, getting a nice view of her posterior curves, but had to look away to pick his handholds.

    Rychel laughed gleefully, "Well then, I'll run a rope so we can get back down, and if you choose to use it, you're behind me so I won't be the wiser." Personally, with her experience, compact physique and long limbs, Rychel trusted herself to make the climb without safety gear. Still, this wasn't the holodeck, so she was playing things a bit more carefully than she would if she were back on the Talon and climbing in a simulation.

    Even so, she began placing anchors in the side of the cliff. It would be a far easier and safer trip down if they could just rappel down afterwards. Getting down wasn't nearly as exciting for Rychel as getting up was.

    After a moment, she peeked down to see how well Dakbar was progressing. She had far smaller hands and feet than he, so some of the holds she chose were not suitable. As such, he had to look for a different path, slightly to the side of hers, but well within reach of the rope and anchors. She was glad that he'd agreed to come along with her. He caught her looking down at him and he smiled up at her. "Mind what you are doing. I do not wish for you to fall on my head."

    She laughed once more, "I'm glad to see you have your priorities straight," she said, focusing on her hands and feet for a few moments, as he did have a valid point. "I'm more concerned with breaking my backside than your head," she said.

    She came to a spot that was a bit less craggy than what they'd climbed so far, and she hesitated for a moment, trying to find hand and foot holds. She was nearly to the top, and she wasn't about to turn back now. Once she'd gotten to the top, she knew she could always place a rope for Helik in the event that he couldn't grip the rock surface the way she could. She had a handhold, but it was a bit further left than she thought she could safely reach. This was one regard in which her small size was a handicap in climbing, smaller stature meant less reach, and less reach inevitably meant that she had less options for hand and foot holds. If she would have been 6'0" with a proportionate armspan, she likely would have only had minor difficulties grabbing on to that handhold. Still, she was pretty certain that if she made a quick jump to the left, she could snag it with one hand, and get footholds before gravity knocked her downwards. Besides that, she'd been laying the rope along for the journey back, so if she fell, the rope should catch her after about 8 feet. It would be uncomfortable, and would likely result in a wicked bruise the next day, but it likely would not be fatal.

    Without saying anything to Dakbar, for she knew he'd tell her no if she suggested it, she leapt sideways, reaching out with one hand to grab the face of the rock. For a moment she hung there, one armed, straining to hold on as her feet scrambled for purchase.

    Time had stood still for Dakbar as Rychel's muscles contracted and he saw her prepare for a jump. She couldn't be serious! He smirked. Maybe he wouldn't have to do anything. Maybe she'd just carelessly kill herself. However, as she became airborne, he found himself calling out her name and reaching forward to stop her. With one hand, she caught the rim and Dakbar scrambled to close the distance between them. "Hang on!" Before he could reach her, she'd gotten ahold of the rock, and reached the top of the column.

    Rychel flopped down on the rock, breathing heavily, but with a smile of exultation on her face. "That was fun!" she exclaimed, giddy with adrenaline. The rock was warm beneath her back, and she hummed slightly to herself, enjoying the feeling. After so many weeks trapped on a starship that always seemed too cold, it was so very, very good to be warm.

    "You almost gave me a heart attack," Dakbar said, flopping down next to her. As his thick skin absorbed the heat transfer from the rock, he closed his eyes and listened to her humming. This should have been a moment of utter tranquility; however, his mind was racing. You are letting her get to you. His eyes narrowed.

    "I'm sorry," she said softly. "I'm really quite good at climbing though." She stretched, enjoying the warmth of the rock on her muscles, which relaxed her considerably.

    "So it would appear." He watched her body stretch out, but his mind was troubled.

    "Before I joined the Academy, several friends and I used to like to go out to the dry lake beds for target practice. They would line up metal targets, each target printed with the image of-" He felt the need to hurt her. "Bajorans. When we were done, we would go climb for a while."

    It didn't surprise her that hatred of the Bajorans was still common on Cardassia. It was understandable, the losers of a war tended to carry their grudges on for far, far longer than the winners. And the Federation had won, even if it was a close call sometimes. But he'd obviously managed to get over his prejudices, and she was proud of him. "It's funny how things change as we grow more experienced," she said. "We really can never predict how life might change us. I'm proud of you, you've came far."

    He stared at the sky, watching deepening clouds on the horizon, their color signaling the beginning of the rainy season on Etimon. It would be several days before they amassed enough strength for the deluge, though. Dakbar had checked the weather patterns before he met Rychel for their climb.

    "There are many on Cardassia who will never change," he said darkly. "The society is changing rapidly, the power shifting yet again." His mood darkened with the clouds. She was proud of him? She hardly knew him.

    Galaxy politics were an astoundingly complex matter, and it did not surprise Rychel that the Cardassians were returning to their roots as a warlike society. "It's hard to expect to change hundreds of years of thinking," she said thoughtfully. "Those in charge now were not in charge when the Dominion War occurred. They see decade after decade of military success, marred by one failure. A single failure, regardless of size, is more easily attributed to individuals failing, rather than the system as a whole failing." And from what she knew of the Dominion War, there were several noteworthy individuals— most prominently Gul Dukat— who were largely responsible for making many poor decisions. The simple fact of the matter was that the Cardassian Union lacked resources. There were two ways to go about getting them– finding unexplored yet fertile worlds, or conquering already developed worlds. The latter was generally easier, especially given how many large powers in close proximity functioned in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. And soon, the Gamma Quadrant.

    "Or at least, that's how I understand things from history classes," she added quickly, flushing a bit. She feared that he would think her assumptions naive, although the Dominion War was something she studied quite closely. Still, the Cardassian perspective might be completely different.

    "And Desan, most likely," Dakbar added. He could get into an intense discussion with her about the politics of his people, but he knew it wouldn't help his mood one bit. "Let us not talk of this now," he said quietly. Her cheeks were flushed from some imagined embarrassment, but he saw no reason for her to do so. Few were brave enough to discuss the history of the war with a Cardassian.

    He looked over at her from his supine position and studied her profile. After witnessing her climb, he realized she had a strength in her that few ever saw. She deserved better than to be serving the Federation. Rolling up onto his side, he propped his head on his hand and started several times to say something, but stopped himself. He had to be careful. A battle raged inside of him. Part of him wanted to pick her up and toss her off the side of the cliff. The other part...

    He reached over and stroked her warm cheek with the back of his hand.

    As he stroked her face, she caught his hand in hers, bringing it down and kissing it softly. She smiled up at him, noticing the look in his expression. Her brow furrowed in concern. She knew that he was in a very difficult position, stuck between two worlds, two completely different cultures, yet not fully part of either. She doubted that he'd ever be accepted back on Cardassia, not after being part of Starfleet. And she knew that as long as there were those who were alive when tensions were high with the Cardassians that he would always be judged for the planet of his birth.

    More than anything, Rychel wanted to make him happy. As an engineer, her first love was always of fixing things, of making things right for those she cared for. Yet his problems were far larger than anything she could possibly tackle on her own, and that left her feeling helpless in a way that was completely foreign to her.

    He looked into her eyes, hooded behind a furrowed brow. The sun suddenly broke through the clouds, shining across the pair of them, turning her hair into burnished gold. Her Bajoran earring caught the sun and he wished to rip it away as it sparkled up at him, reminding him of who she was. But she had seen too much violence recently. Again, he was torn between the monster that had been created by torture and other means, and the man he used to be. The sun beat down on them, the clouds opening further, and Dakbar could feel it soaking into his back.

    "I am not cold," he said softly, though it wasn't just the temperature of his skin he was talking about. He sat up, next to her, his finger trailing down her chest and abdomen. In one swift move, he removed his shirt and tossed it aside while straddling her. Leaning forward, he carefully removed her earring and lobbed it on top of his shirt.

    She smiled up at him, glad that her idea to rock climb someplace warm was well received. In one quick movement he was on top of her, and a moment later he'd tossed his shirt aside. Her expression changed to one of puzzlement as he removed her earring, but she did not question the action. She wanted to reach up, to pull him closer to her and to kiss him, but she knew that would end poorly.

    As he looked down at her, he asked, "Do you trust me?"

    "Of course, Helik," she said, smiling up at him, her expression full of trust. "I trust you more than anyone else." It was true. Even her brother seemed to have his own motives and desires, leaving Rychel frequently feeling like she was just another pawn in some game he was playing.

    And that's all it took. He smiled at her, but it was clouded with an unreadable emotion. With his legs straddling her, he pressed his body to her, kissing her passionately, his hands roaming her small, lithe form.

    Returning his kiss with fervor, her mind struggled to put together what his intentions were. Was he finally going to give her what she'd been pushing for? He'd been keeping her at arms length ever since someone had crept into her quarters, despite the fact that she'd been insistent that being with him would make her feel better about it all. But she suspected it was less about what she felt, and more about how he'd responded the last time that they'd tried to consummate their...

    Was it a relationship? Rychel wasn't quite sure, and she was hesitant to ask. But she liked when he was around. She felt safe. And she felt special, because he didn't seem to let just anyone be close to him. She was important to him. And that was all that mattered.

    A decision had been made. They were alone in a desolate area. No one around. Time clicked by as he roamed over her, the sun beating down upon them. There would be no witnesses. No inquiries. It was time. It would end now.

    "Together," he said, before kissing her again. His muscles tensed...
  13. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 12

    Every tech and every nurse who had been on the ship had responded to the call. As Sig ran into the bay, there was a crowd of knowledgeable personnel surrounding two biobeds. "Good lord," Sig said as he pushed through the crowd. "Call Simms and Williams. Get them down here now."

    He surveyed the two patients, who were held in stasis. "What happened?" These were catastrophic injuries, usually seen in a shuttle accident or from a battle, not from a peaceful planet like Etimon.

    "Some kind of climbing accident. Ginny from supply found them and beamed them here. It's lucky she was there. I don't think the Etimonians would've been much help."

    "No," Sig said. This was nothing the gel could've cured.

    "Surgery is being prepped."

    He nodded. "I'll take Kayden first." He glanced at the other biobed. "He'll have to wait. Let's move her in." The top of the biobed rose up, via antigrav lifts, and the medics carefully moved her into the surgery ward while Sig began sanitizing his hands. "We'll start with the internal injuries first," he said, trying not to look at the shattered skull.

    Kayden Desan had arrived in Sickbay mere minutes after Rychel and Dakbar had been transported aboard the Talon. Recently transferred to SGE, he’d come aboard the Talon to see the ship his sister had been assigned to. Upon querying the ship’s computer and finding out she was in Sickbay, he’d made his way there with haste. Desan could barely get inside the door, there were so many men and women in blue rushing around. He had a sudden sinking feeling. What had went wrong? Perhaps a whole lot of the Talon's crew had come down with some flu or something on the planet. But then, he saw the two figures in stasis through the crowd, and he felt his knees go weak. Grabbing on to the nearest biobed for support, he looked to the nearest person. "Wh....what happened to her!?" He demanded. Though he was unfamiliar to most present, he hoped that since he was in Command red, and wearing Lieutenant Commander pips that someone would take him seriously.

    "Is... is she going to be alright?!"

    If Desan had to list one thing as his biggest pet peeve, it would be a tie between not knowing what was going on around him, and not being in control. Unfortunately, in this instance, he was both, and to further add to the problem, it involved his sister. He wasn't a doctor, but he could tell by looking at her that it wasn't good. Not at all. Fortunately, he knew that Sig was a very talented doctor, and short of Starfleet Medical, he wasn't going to find anyone better to entrust Rychel's care to.

    A medic stopped outside of the surgery. "Sir, we're going to have to ask you to-"

    It was then that he noticed the ridged nose. "If you're family, you can stay, but over there," he pointed to a nearby chair. "Doctor Ericson will do all he can for both of them. It was some kind of climbing accident. I don't know all the details. You'll have to wait for the Commander." He gave Desan a look of compassion. "She's in good hands." Hurrying away, he entered the surgical suite where Sig was just finishing his sanitizing routine.

    "Who is that," he asked the medic.

    "Hell if I know. He seems overly pale for him not to be family."

    Sig looked out the window briefly, then focused all his attention on Rychel. He took in a deep breath. The stasis field had to be lowered, otherwise it would affect Sig's own body if he worked under it. "Where is Williams?"

    Almost as if he had heard his name, Williams came flying through the Sickbay, wearing only a pair of pants and his shoes. A medic grabbed a scrub top and threw it at him, which he quickly donned as he slid to a stop. As he got up to speed via the medic, Sig stared at Rychel, prioritizing her injuries in his mind. On the other side of the bed, a large monitor had been put in place, showing the tricorder readings and her current vitals. "This is going to be nasty," he said.

    Williams finished up and entered the suite. "Where do you want me?"

    "Watch for cranial bleeds," Sig said. "I'm starting with the abdomen. She's got a fragment of bone lodged in the descending aorta." He took another deep breath and let it out slowly. "Okay, lower the field."

    That didn't sound particularly good to Desan, and he ran his fingers through his hair anxiously, trying to look anywhere but at his sister's battered form. C'mon, 'Chel, you've got to be okay, he thought. Of all the ways that Rychel could have injured herself, this was perhaps the most unexpected, at least in Desan's eyes. Rychel hadn't fallen while climbing since she was a little girl back on Bajor. Desan had been in the Academy when that happened. Even still, that fall was pretty minor, and only left her with a broken wrist and leg. This was far, far worse. Still, who knew what she'd been up to. Perhaps she was showing off to impress the Cardassian...

    His eyes narrowed to slits as he considered the matter of Helik Dakbar. If there was any evidence whatsoever of foul play, the Federation judicial system wouldn't be able to find enough pieces of him to give him a trial. That was for certain.

    A nurse walked up to Desan. "Can I get you anything, Sir?"

    "Alcohol. The real stuff if you can find it," he said. Somehow, he expected to be denied his request, but he was still going to make it.

    "Sorry, Sir," the nurse said. "But I can get you an orange juice or coffee. Commander Ericson has a special blend in his office, if you'd like that?" She busied herself with supplies while she waited for his answer.

    It took every ounce of willpower in his body not to grab the nurse by the shoulders and scream, “DO I LOOK LIKE I NEED COFFEE TO YOU!” He took a deep breath before answering, “Orange juice would be good, thank you.”

    So many doctors and medics... the tension in the air was palpable. He couldn’t bring himself to look. The nurse returned at some point with his orange juice, and he took a sip, but he felt the bile rise in his throat in response to his anxiety, and he sat it aside.

    "Williams?" Sig asked.

    "Damn bleed," Williams said, his hands moving in a blur. Everyone worked in silence for a while, no one wanting to interrupt the thought processes of the other. Finally, Williams let out a breath. "Got it."

    Sig remained silent. He was working on removing the bone fragment to the aorta. One false move and she would bleed out rapidly.

    "Blood pressure is dropping," Metters announced.

    Desan exhaled slowly, trying to relax somewhat. Focus, Desan. She wouldn’t want you to act like this, the calming voice in his head said. Don’t think about her like she’s dead, you fool!

    "I'm going as fast as I can," Sig muttered.

    The nurse returned to Desan’s side, “Perhaps I can have one of the doctors give you something to help you relax a bit?”

    “I think the doctors are occupied right now, but thank you for the offer.”


    Desan wanted to scream.


    Desan wanted to get up from the chair, throw it against the wall, and beat the first person he saw that resembled the Cardassian to a pulp.

    Williams looked up from his own monitor to where Sig was working.

    Desan wanted to cry.


    Desan wanted to destroy every beautiful woman in the universe for daring to remind him of her.

    "Hands out," Sig shouted. When all had done as instructed, Sig smashed his fist down on the stasis field button. Running a forearm over his sweaty brow, he looked down at Rychel's unmoving form. "Okay, let's regroup for a minute."

    Desan opened his eyes, his calm regained. The nurse eyed him skeptically, backing away as though she feared he’d gone completely mad. “A Vedek, you have one aboard?”

    The nurse nodded, her eyes wide with fear.

    “Summon him. Now.” Though he held no power over the members of the medical staff, the nurse nodded.

    “Vedek Jalek to Sickbay, immediately,” she said. While the medical staff was considering their next moves, the Vedek had made his way down to Sickbay.

    “I’m Vedek Jalek Ludir,” he said, bowing slightly to Desan in greeting.

    “Kayden Desan,” he said, not bothering with his rank. “My sister is on that biobed over there.” He nodded his head in the direction of Rychel.

    “Rychel,” Ludir said knowingly, having met the girl a week prior. “She’s strayed from the faith.” It was a comment, not a judgement.

    “She would have still wanted the proper rites performed,” Desan insisted.

    Ludir nodded, “She will get them, if she needs them. In the meanwhile, I will speak, and I will see if the Prophets listen.”

    “Whatever it takes,” Desan said softly. He wasn’t about to be skeptical when his sister’s life was on the line.

    Ludir bowed his head, and began softly murmuring in the ancient language of the Bajoran people. Hopefully, even this far from the wormhole, the Prophets would listen.

    Meanwhile, the medical staff assessed the chance of safely removing the bone fragment by hand, and had considered several alternate methods, including pinpoint transport.

    "The aorta isn't the problem," Sig said. "She has multiple injuries and is bleeding from somewhere else." He stepped over to the monitor and paged through screen after screen of data and scans. "Scan her again," he said.

    Williams nodded, then reached up to push a few buttons. The scanning device made a slow sweep over Rychel's inert body and the results displayed on the monitor. "It can't be a minor bleed," Sig said, frustrated. "Where is it?"

    "There," Williams announced, pointing lower.

    "Femoral? She's bleeding into her thigh." That was a relief, actually. It would be easy to fix. "Metters, set up a transfusion. Once we lower the field, get that started. Simms, repair the femoral artery. I'll finish up the aorta. Williams, you stay where you were."

    The doctors had all moved back to the field. "Ready," Sig asked. Once he was sure everyone was in place, he lowered the field. "Make it fast, Doctor," he said to Simms. They had no time for him to analyze it sixteen ways. Sig wished Kane were there. While Simms was a qualified physician, Kane was more skilled in this type of trauma situation. Metters got the blood flowing into Rychel's vein while Sig worked to remove the bone shard from the large vessel. Since Rychel had never been pregnant, her internal system was very similar to that of a human, aside from the vertical ventricles of the heart, which made Sig's job fairly straight forward.

    "Cardiac ejection fraction at sixty three percent," Metters said after scanning with the tricorder again. "Kidney output is normal."

    "Good," Sig nodded. "What's her saturation?"

    "Ninety two."

    "Completed," Simms said after a few moments.

    Desan exhaled. That sounded positive. Perhaps that meant her condition had stopped declining, at least momentarily.

    "Blood pressure is normalizing."

    Sig nodded. "Wonderful. You might as well stay down there and start repairing all those broken bones." Rychel's legs were a mess, with multiple fractures throughout her lower legs, ankles and feet. "Metters, can you do a complete scan of Dakbar so it's ready when we switch patients?"

    "Yes Sir," Metters said.

    "Simms, I'll want you to take point when we switch." It wasn't often that Sig made professional choices based on personal feelings. However, since both patients had been in stasis, it gave him the luxury of choosing Rychel over Dakbar first. Ever since Dakbar's shocking suggestion on the Bridge, Sig had little love for the Cardassian. He could wait.

    Metters exited the surgery suite and headed for Dakbar's biobed. As he passed Desan, he nodded to the man in red. There was some strange robed man muttering off to the side and Tad decided to just leave him alone. Walking up to the biobed, he initiated the full body scan, sending it to the surgery console. The Cardassian's injuries seemed even more severe than Rychel's, if that was even possible. He had an internal decapitation, lacerated spleen and collapsed lung from rib fractures, major bleed in the brain, and other fractures too numerous to count. Frowning at the readings, he looked from Dakbar's biobed to the surgery suite and back.

    Desan let out an audible sign of relief. If she was well enough that they changing focus to Dakbar, who he honestly thought they should just let die, she was probably out of the worst danger. Still, he wanted a chance to make him pay for what he'd done to his sister, and Desan’s mind went to work considering the various methods he could use to torture Dakbar.

    As Metters passed through the sanitizing bay, he was deep in thought. Entering the room, he waited for a lull in the conversation before interjecting. "It appears as if something landed on top of Lieutenant Dakbar," he said. "Also, one of his ribs broke through his chest and part of it is missing." He knew at least one of them would pick up on what he was suggesting.

    Desan stopped his train of thought, stunned. Something had fallen on top of Dakbar, and he was willing to bet that something was Rychel.

    He'd tried to save her.

    Sig's eyebrow rose precipitously and he gestured with his elbow to the bone shard that rested in a tray off to the side. "Take a look at that. See if it's a match." Metters moved over to the tray and scanned the bone fragment. "Cardassian DNA, no doubt about it."

    Williams, finally able to relax his guard, began repairing areas of brain bruising.

    "They were found by a member of our crew," Sig said. "Lucky for them she was there. These injuries would have been fatal had they remained much longer." The Gazerite nurse nodded. "God, I could use some coffee," Sig added. Williams grunted his agreement to that. They worked non-stop, fighting the clock, and were winning. "Someone go tell that Bajoran outside that her condition is stable but guarded please. Find out who he is."

    "I'll do it," Metters said, as he put down the tricorder. Walking up to Desan, Tad smiled down at the man, then knelt next to him. "I'm Tad Metters, one of the medics. Lieutenant Kayden's condition is stable, but guarded. Commander Ericson is wondering if you are family?"

    Sig finished all he could do internally, so he closed her up. When he was done, he nodded at the two doctors. "We'll keep her sedated and move her back into the main room. Gorbin-Tynis, finish the minor skeletal and soft tissue repairs while we take a short break. He covered Rychel's torso with a drape and removed his gloves, tossing them in a bin. Stretching his back and neck, he groaned a little as the muscles protested. As he moved out of the suite, he nodded to Desan briefly, then sat down at the surgery console. Gorbin-Tynis began detaching the top of the bed and activating the anti-grav. Slowly and carefully, he and Williams moved Rychel back to where she had started her sickbay adventure. A nurse handed Sig a cup of coffee. "You're an angel," he said to her. She just laughed.

    "Thank you," Desan said gratefully. "I am her brother." Desan knew that the Talon's remaining time at the station was likely short, and he suspected that he wouldn't get away with sticking around.

    Desan watched as they moved her out onto another bed, and he was slightly concerned at how pale she looked. Still, if she was in any danger, he knew that the doctors of the Talon would look after her. He looked over to Ludir. "Thank you for coming," he said softly to the other man, not wanting to disturb the other things occurring around the Sickbay.

    "It is my duty," Ludir responded simply. Whenever Bajorans needed help, he would always give it, without hesitation. "Although Rychel... she seems to be a very nice person from when I spoke to her briefly.

    "It means a lot to know that there will be someone on board who can watch over her."

    "I will, and when she awakens, I will tell her that you love her. I think she will be happy to know that her brother was with her in her time of need, even if she did not necessarily realize it."

    "It will mean a lot," Desan said softly. "Despite the difference in our ages and the fact that I've been away with Starfleet most of her life, we've always been very close." Rychel was a lot like him in many ways, but the ways that they differed, she was his complete opposite. It was a puzzle to him how she'd turned out the way she had.

    "He says he's her brother," the medic said, returning to Sig. After waiting for the CMO to sign the padd he held out to him, he left the doctor to his own thoughts.

    "Thanks," Sig said. He took a long drink of his coffee. He stood up and walked over to Desan, then pulled up a chair next to him. Sitting, he smiled gently at the man. "It looks like Rychel is going to be fine. At this time, there appears to be nothing to indicate that there will be any long-term disabilities."

    "Thank you for everything you've done," Desan said, the gratitude clear in his tone. "She means a great deal to me. It is good to know that even after I leave, she will be in good hands."

    Sig glanced at the biobed. Rychel's face was covered in bruising and one of her eyes was swollen shut. "As her internal injuries heal, we'll tackle the rest of the less serious trauma. I just want her body to have time to adjust slowly, rather than shock it with too much all at once."

    Desan nodded, it made sense, even if it did pain him to see her in such a beat up state. "Fortunately there's a lot of strength in that tiny body," he said, the fondness apparent in his eyes as he looked at her.

    Sig gestured to the bed. "You and the Vedek can talk to her, if you'd like. Though she might not remember it when she wakes, she can hear you. The sound of your voice may be comforting to her."

    Of course," Desan replied, long legs carrying him quickly to her bedside.

    Sig got up and walked over to the biobed, then adjusted the sheet to better cover her. Now that the medical portion of her care was winding down, the second officer in him kicked in and he began to analyze what had happened in an entirely different thought process. As he let go of the sheet, he asked quietly, "What happened down there?" In the biobed next to her, Dakbar's unmoving form was slowly raised up on the anti-grav stretcher and moved into the surgical suite where the medics began setting up for Simms.

    Desan looked down at Rychel, tears beginning to form in his eyes. "Oh, 'Chel," he said, sighing. He brushed a strand of hair away from her battered face. Despite all that she'd been through, she still looked strangely content lying there. "You always were too stubborn to listen to me when I told you that you were cavorting with trouble." Rock climbing was dangerous, regardless of your skill level. And it was even more so when you didn't use the proper safety equipment.

    He waited until Sig wasn’t in earshot. “I dunno what you’re thinking spending time with that Cardassian,” he said softly, shaking his head. “But for what it’s worth.... he saved your life.” He still wanted to know the truth behind what had transpired down there on Etimon. Hopefully when she woke up, they’d have answers. "Mom and Dad miss you," he said after a moment of thought. "They're going to kill me when they hear you were hurt. Hopefully you'll be able to visit Bajor soon, so they can see you again." Although, preferably without your Cardassian beau, he added mentally, shaking his head. That was another thing that their parents were going to hold over him for the foreseeable future. She never would have met the Cardassian if you wouldn't have lured her away to Starfleet, said a voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like his mother's.

    His mind drifted a bit, and he imagined Rychel coming home with a half-Cardassian child someday. He cringed a bit at the thought. Hopefully, when the time came for her to settle down, she would do so with a more appropriate choice of mate. He knew he was just being biased, and he was relatively certain that he’d be displeased with anyone his sister decided to bring home. It was just an occupational hazard of being Kayden Desan’s little sister. Despite that, he’d never been so concerned with his other sibling’s lives. He didn’t connect with them the same way that he connected with Rychel.

    He looked up to where Dakbar was being wheeled over to be prepped for surgery. He had to admit that the Cardassian looked worse than Rychel did. Her was curious to see how the doctors handled the matter of the gaping hole in the center of his chest. And from the angle that Desan was standing at, it looked like his spine might have been broken. At least, he didn’t think that Cardassian heads were supposed to fit on the body that way. Despite himself, he made a quick mental prayer to whoever was listening that Dakbar would be okay as well.

    Sig went about mentally preparing for the next phase in this awful trauma and he closed his eyes briefly, willing away ill-feelings toward the Cardassian. He was a patient, pure and simple. They all deserved to be treated equally, no matter what he felt for them.

    "Commander, if you would focus on the collapsed lung, I will relocate the spinal column. Doctor, monitor his vascular activity for fluctuations. Metters, prepare a strong stimulant and respiratory catalyst," Simms said.

    Sig knew he would have a tough road ahead. The ribcage had been crushed, with fragments jutting every which way. Dakbar was lucky Rychel was so small. Moving next to the bed, he assumed his position and waited.


    "Do it," Sig said.

    Ludir frowned as they began to operate on Dakbar, but made his decision quickly. He wasn't just a Bajoran Vedek anymore. He was a Spiritual Advisor as well, and he owed it to everyone aboard the Talon to provide equal support. I know this isn't precisely what you all are used to, he thought to any Prophets who might have been listening. But I owe it to him to give it a shot.

    Hopefully, the Prophets would respect Dakbar for protecting one of their own chosen people. This might just take a miracle. Still, Ludir forced the skeptical thoughts away, and focused on hope, and peace. She won't be able to live with herself if she knows he died saving her.

    "Status critical. Status critical. Status critical," the computer stated as soon as the status field protecting Dakbar was dropped.

    "What the-?" Metters began.

    "Cardiovascular instability," Simms said, and Williams prepared the defibrillator. The first charge went off with a whine, and Dakbar’s body spasmed on the bed. Still, the alarms continued, and the readout above the biobed continued to display arrhythmia. Another attempt was made. No change. “Increase the charge,” Simms directed.

    The third charge was unsuccessful, and Simms pressed a hypospray against Dakbar’s neck, carefully. After a moment the alarms died down, and the doctors breathed sighs of relief before beginning their assigned tasks.

    Sig’s hands moved expertly over Dakbar's crushed barrel-shaped chest, preparing the site, then he created a small incision through the thick skin, between two ribs, to allow him better access to the man's lung. Luckily, there was just a unilateral pneumothorax. Very carefully, he removed the shard of rib that had caused a puncture to the lung, then he repaired the lung. Afterwards, he inserted a suction drain into the pleural space to get rid of excess blood, air and fluid so that the lung would be able to expand again. When that was finished, he moved on to repairing the ribs. They would never look like a textbook example of the perfect Cardassian ribcage ever again, but they would be serviceable.

    Checking the drainage tube, he moved slightly, giving him a better vantage point to address the rib that had shoved its way through Dakbar's flesh and into Rychel's body. Sig created a tiny incision and actually cut away half of that rib from the man's body, removing it and setting it aside, before closing up the wound. Straightening up, he looked over at Williams, who was still monitoring the man's readings, as ordered.

    Simms quickly adjusted Dakbar’s spine, ensuring that the alignment was correct before going to work with an osteoregenerator to begin healing the bones. He worked carefully to ensure that he did not inadvertently damage any nerves worse than they already had been. As the medical staff continued to diligently work at Dakbar’s physical injuries, a second battle was being fought within.
  14. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 13

    Dakbar had not known such pain ever before, even during his months of torture on Cardassia. Lying on the ground, with Rychel impaled on top of him, he struggled to stay conscious. However, his strength finally became exhausted and the hands that had gripped her to him during the latter part of the fall dropped weakly to his sides on the ground. He could feel the moisture under them and knew it was blood. "Rychel," he groaned. Then, two legs appeared next to him and suddenly he felt the tug of the transporter beam. As he faded from Etimon, his consciousness faded as well.

    "He is not worthy," a voice said. In his mind's eye, he saw the face. It was Gul Lesot. "Make him pay."

    "He tried to save me." Rychel. She looked perfect, her hair glowing in the sun.

    "He is a traitor. He should die." The Captain, arms crossed.

    "Agreed," said Lesot. "Weakness and emotional frailty should be extinguished."

    "He saved her." Ludir.

    "He is an idiot. He played the game, let him pay the price." Lesot's eyes glowed blue.

    "Let him live. Let him make the choice."

    Rychel smiled. "I forgive you."



    In the surgery suite, an alarm went off. William's fingers flew over the console. "Neural activity is off the charts," he said.


    As the alarms went off on the biobed once more, Ludir continued his prayer, but his thoughts were not in the present. They were in the past, back when he was the Starfleet officer lying on the biobed, his vital signs quickly fading. He could still remember clearly standing outside of his own body, looking down at his own burned and bleeding torso. The Prophets had spoken to him that day, showed him the error of the path that he had chosen, and pointed him in the right direction.

    "There are people who need you," the Prophet had said. "Your own people, back on Bajor. And others as well. But not here. Not like this." Those had been the words that had sent him running as fast as he could back to Bajor, to a monastery where he'd put on the robes, and recited the oaths that made him the man he was today.

    He concentrated on this memory, on the way he had felt when the Prophets had spoken to him. He hoped that if he concentrated with all his might that he could summon the Prophet that had spoken to him nearly a decade prior. He sought the warm, comforting embrace of his beloved Prophets, who had the power to transcend simple human limitations.

    Please don't let him die, not here, not like this. He saved one of our people. Surely that must count for something?!

    Sig tried to make sense of the readouts they were seeing. "Brain activity should be dropping, not rising. Where's it coming from? What part?"

    "The amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. He's dreaming," Williams shrugged.

    "No," Sig said. "The prefrontal cortex isn't involved in dreaming. It's the logic center. He's trying to figure something out." This was bizarre. "Are you sure he's sedated?"

    Williams checked the levels. "Absolutely."

    “I repaired the brain bleed,” Simm said.

    "Well, that's interesting," Sig said as he placed another tube inside of the Cardassian to get to the security officer's spleen. "Keep monitoring it. It's not causing any problems yet. Run another scan of his brain, though, just in case we missed something. Maybe there's a foreign object lodged somewhere." Unfortunately, they didn't know much about the Cardassian brain. Xenophobic societies seldom allowed outsiders such information. "For all we know, this could be normal for the species in response to trauma." As he repaired the spleen, Sig kept looking up at the monitors from time to time, checking on the man's vitals, which for the moment seemed stable. Williams and Simms continued their assigned tasks, and Sig took advantage of the moment to check on Rychel.

    Lobbing his gloves into a bin, he emerged from the surgery suite and a nurse helped remove his bloody gown. He stopped at Rychel's bed to check her vitals. "Hang in there, Lieutenant," he said. "The ship needs you." Sometimes an officer pulled themselves up after being reminded of duty. It didn't hurt to implant that thought. From what he knew, Rychel was a good officer.

    An alert went out throughout the Talon that the ship was about to depart, and though he hated to do so, Desan had to leave.

    Sig walked over to Ludir, who seemed to be zoned into a prayer of some sort. Softly, so as not to alarm the Vedek, Sig said, "I'm going to wake Rychel." He stepped over to her bedside and administered some heavy duty pain medications. She would feel sore, but nothing more than that. He needed to ask her some questions. When he was satisfied the meds had had time to work, he administered the stimulant and sat down on a chair nearby to wait.

    As she slowly emerged from her fog, Rychel wasn't certain what she'd had to drink last night, but when she woke up enough to figure it out, she was going to throw away the rest of it. At least, if she hadn't drank it all in the first place.

    She hovered in that state of not quite awake and not quite asleep for a while as she considered the matter. She'd had two glasses of brandy at the party the night before, that much she could remember. Then what? Then Helik had gotten her settled in her new quarters, and politely yet firmly told her that he wanted to make sure she was capable of sleeping on her own. She'd pouted for a while after he'd left, then she'd snuck down to Sickbay and asked the Third Shift doctor for a mild sedative. After reading the report Sig had done on her a few days prior, the doctor had finally agreed to give her one, and sent her on her way.

    She moaned slightly. She hadn't even danced the night away, and still her legs felt like she'd run a marathon before practicing some kickboxing. She just wanted a few more hours of sleep before she had to wake up. Wait. She didn't have to wake up, they were still docked. "Compu'er, ligh's," she mumbled, her tongue having that thick, wooly feel it took on when one had been heavily sedated.

    Sig stirred in his chair, but gave her a few more seconds to realize where she was. It was extremely common for the patient to be confused just after coming out of sedation, especially if they were unconscious when first brought to Sickbay.

    "Wha'd tha' doc'or give me," she said, tying to bring up one arm to cover her face. She must have said the command so muttled that the computer couldn't understand the request. But the arm didn't come when she tried to call it, so her eyes fluttered open slowly, a perplexed look on her face. "Huh?" She said in confusion, as her muddled brain tried to make sense of what was going on around her. She was in... Sickbay? "What'm I doin' here?"

    Standing, Sig gently touched her upper arm. "Rychel?" When he was sure he had her attention, he continued. "You have sustained some serious injuries, but we have repaired them." He gave her time to process that information. "Can you tell me what happened?" He had resisted the urge to tell her she had been in an accident. The first rule when questioning someone was to never assume and to let them give the details. He wished her brother had been there during this, but that couldn't be helped. It would have been too soon to wake her then. "What do you remember?"

    "I.... I don't know," she said, finally getting full control of her tongue back. She was still so very thirsty though. "We left the party early.... Helik and I," she said, to knowing whether or not Sig would have picked up on that or not. "I had two drinks at the party. I couldn't sleep... Helik's been staying with me since the... the incident, but he wanted me to try sleeping alone." She was having a hard time getting the words out right, and it was becoming more difficult as her fumbling made her more frustrated. "I came to Sickbay, the night shift doctor gave me a sedative." She shrugged.

    That concerned Sig. What she was describing was not current.

    "That's all I remember," she said finally. "When... when is it?" She asked. It felt like they were moving, so at least some time had passed. "Why am I here? Where's Helik?" Her eyes flitted around the room, but she couldn't find him. She knew that if she was injured badly enough to be in the Sickbay that he would want to be with her. Unless... something prevented him from being there. She noticed the Vedek, head still bowed in prayer. She recognized the prayer. It was one for those who were near death, a plea to the Prophets to allow their pagh to stay in their bodies. A cold, sinking feeling clawed at her stomach, and fear was in her eyes as she looked up at Sig. What had happened?

    "Easy now," Sig said gently. "It's the afternoon after the party. You and Dakbar were on Etimon and you were seriously injured." He looked up to check her vitals.

    Rychel blinked, struggling to remember. She shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut. She tried to focus on things she knew. She knew what she'd worn the night before. How good Helik had looked in his tux. How good her meal had tasted. The disappointment she'd felt when Helik had left her quarters that night, because she'd hoped for a romantic night alone with him. "I don't remember," she said, her frustration growing. How few things there were that she truly didn't know, and why did her own past 18 hours have to be one of them!?

    "Do you remember being on the planet at all? You were wearing hiking gear." Though it wasn't unheard of for a patient to block out a traumatic memory, Sig had hoped she would be able to remember at least something from her trip planetside. Her eyes met his and he saw the fear. In a physician's career, there were many times when they had to make educated decisions based on a patient's mental status and medical health. A shock could send someone spiraling downward, the mind giving up and the body following. Other times, a lack of knowledge was more stressful.

    "I don't remember, no." She said softly. "But that wouldn't surprise me. I like to hike and mountain climb. I've been doing it ever since I was a little girl." She tried with all her might to remember. "A few days ago when we were en route I was looking in to places that we could visit." She sighed. "I'm sorry, I don't remember."

    "It's okay. Give it time." Back in the surgical suite, Dr. Williams was finishing up repairing an orbital fracture on Dakbar when he heard a sound. "Damn," he said. The sound increased, becoming a rasping, struggling sound coming from Dakbar. "Damn it," he shouted again. "Intubation tray, now, before it completely closes off!"

    Rychel had heard the sputtering sounds, but hadn't recognized them for what they were due to her own struggle with her memory. But as the doctor's words came from across the room, her eyes widened in sudden understanding. Sig hadn't told her about Dakbar. And she had a very good idea why he hadn't.

    Fear shot through her once more as she leapt from the biobed with grace and speed that defied her state mere moments earlier. But a combination of all the pain medications, and the recently knit bones in her legs caused her to sway before toppling to the floor. Momentarily distracted, Sig had failed to notice Rychel's movements until she was halfway out of the bed. He reached after her, but she fell out of his reach. "Damn it," he cursed. Normally, he hated to have patients restrained unless absolutely necessary. It caused them to fight the bindings and/or forcefield and waste valuable energy. Right now, he was questioning that decision.

    The glimpse of a memory came back to Rychel; she was lying on top of him, the pain was worse than anything she'd ever imagined feeling. He'd said her name, and weakly, with all the strength she thought she had left, she'd told him three simple words.

    "I love you."

    "He can't die!" She protested, arms flailing feebly in the air. "He... he saved me, he can't die!"
  15. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 14

    Dakbar's inner battle continued. Face after face appeared in his mind. He fought the images as his subconscious tried to deal with what was being said to him. "I am Cardassian," his mind shouted.

    "You are dying."

    "Let me die."

    "If that is your wish," the image of Sig said.

    "It is."

    Rychel's kind face appeared. "I love you."

    Dakbar's heart rate increased in response to the words and the rapid expansion of swelling around his trachea due to the trauma and surgery. He tried to choke out a reply, but none came. It would be over soon, all his years of torment and confusion.

    "Let me go."

    "She loves you. You tried to save her," Ludir's image spoke.

    "I tried to kill her."

    "You are confused, choose your path."

    "Let me die," he repeated. His heart rate plummeted.

    "We're losing him," Williams shouted. He tilted Dakbar's head back as much as Simms' fusion would let him and he tried to slide in the intubation tube. "So much swelling, the opening's too small." He threw it aside. "Get me a pediatric set." The medic hurried and soon a smaller tube was in the hands of the doctor. Sliding it in, he nodded. "Hook him up." Precious oxygen began to flow as the medic bagged the Cardassian until he could be hooked up to the ventilator. Williams prepared a hypospray and pressed it against Dakbar's neck.

    "Come back," the vision of Rychel pleaded, her eyes frightened.


    The swelling began to decrease as the medication flooded Dakbar's system and Williams used a device to further help it along. "Heart rate is increasing again," the medic informed him. Williams let out a breath. "Thank god." The medic shook his head and pointed out of the room at the Vedek. Williams raised an eyebrow. "Whatever works," he said.

    "I love you," Rychel repeated yet again.

    Suddenly, unexpectedly, Dakbar's eyes opened.

    "He's awake!"

    Pain. Utter and unbelievable pain. Powerful muscles flailed and he reached up, grabbing the intubation tube.

    "Stop him."

    In one swift maneuver, he pulled it out, then took in a huge breath without the aid of the ventilator, before letting his hand fall loose by his side.

    "Rychel," he whispered through the pain.

    Hurrying around to the other side of Rychel’s bed, Sig squatted down next to the surgical gown clad woman. "Rychel," he said as he steadied her. He slipped his arms under her and picked her up easily. He was about to put her back in bed when he heard the jubilant cry of Williams. Turning, he looked into the suite. Dakbar was...awake? Sig blinked. How long would that last, he wondered. Was this the Cardassian's last moment in time? He looked down into Rychel's eyes, then made yet another decision, one he hoped he wouldn't regret.

    With rapid steps, he carried her into the suite. Williams looked up and smiled. "He just called for her," he said. The medic grabbed a stretcher and Sig placed Rychel down onto it, then they slid it over next to Dakbar's bed.

    Williams prepared an extremely potent concoction of pain medications and applied it to the Cardassian's skin as Sig ran a couple of restraints over Rychel's lower body, and Dakbar's, too for good measure. "You two aren't going anywhere," Sig said. Williams locked eyes with Sig. Both men certainly hoped the pair would be around for a long time, yet Dakbar was still not out of the woods completely. Sig waved the medic out of the room, and Williams followed. Seconds later, Sig stepped away from the pair but remained in the sanitizing alcove, the door propped open by his foot.

    Rychel weakly thanked Sig, before her focus shifted fully to Dakbar. It was obvious that his injuries were grievous, even despite all of the surgery that had been performed so far. He looked so very pale and she bit down on her lower lip. "I'm here," she said softly, hoping that her voice would soothe him. "I'm going to be alright, you don't have to worry about me. Just worry about getting better." She didn't know what she would do if she lost him, especially with the knowledge that he saved her life.

    "Rychel?" Dakbar struggled briefly, wanting to see her, but quickly relaxed after realizing the futility. The room fell silent, save for the subtle beeping of status indicators. The effort had cost him, though, and his chest rose and fell as he tried to catch his breath. Why was she even there? He had tried to kill her.

    "Helik!" Rychel exclaimed happily. She was so glad that he recognized her voice, that he knew she was there. "No, don't struggle, you need to be still so you can get better," she said admonishingly as he tried to turn about to see her.

    "Thank the Prophets," Ludir said softly, bowing. He murmured words of thanks, expressing that he entrusted the Cardassian's fate to them. He just hoped that they would see him fit to survive.

    Dakbar’s vision went dark and he saw the face of Ludir. "You saved her." As his vision cleared, he looked around wildly. "What was that?" The Bajoran cleric was obviously taking advantage of his weakened state.

    "Are you alright?" Rychel asked, her tone fearful. He seemed to be struggling with something entirely different, and she couldn't figure out what was wrong. She saw Ludir approaching, but she had no idea why that would upset him.

    At the edge of his vision, Dakbar could see the man standing a long distance away. "What..." He took in a frustrated breath and tried again, louder this time. "What are you playing at, Vedek," he asked with venom.

    "Helik," Rychel said, so softly that it was barely audible. Why was he acting like this? What was wrong with him?

    "I don't understand," Ludir said. "There was an accident. You and Rychel were hurt. You saved her life, but you were very badly injured. You're both going to be alright though." He wasn't sure if the statement was true, but he knew that optimism was likely better for both of them. People who believed they were going to live were far more likely to survive. "I can leave if my presence upsets you. Kayden Desan asked me to keep an eye on his sister though, as he could not come along."

    "I want you to get out of my head," he replied, his voice as angry as he had ever let show on the ship. "How are you doing it? How-"

    "Out of your head?" Rychel asked. That made no sense at all. Bajorans weren't telepathic, and Ludir certainly didn't appear to be doing anything overtly hostile. Dakbar had to be hallucinating, or the medication had made him paranoid, or something. She felt as though her world was spinning out of control around her, and she tried to convince herself that it was merely all the medicine and all the news she was receiving about what had happened to her and Dakbar. Still...

    "I'm not in your head, Helik," Ludir said softly. He held his hands out, showing that they were empty. "I don't have anyway to get in your head, I'm just a simple Bajoran." He was cautious to keep his tone and his actions nonthreatening. "I believe that the medications have made you a bit paranoid, that happens to people sometimes." Ludir looked over at Rychel, "Desan wanted me to tell you that he loved you." He doubted that she would remember his vigil at her side, but he planned to tell her once things calmed down a bit. For now, he was most concerned with keeping both injured parties calm, so no more harm came to either of them.

    "Desan?!" She asked, surprise momentarily distracting her for her concern. "He... was here?" That made sense, he was on the station. But where was he now? Oh, she thought sadly as she realized they had left the station. She hadn't even gotten a chance to tell him what had happened to her.

    "Fantastic." Dakbar took in a trembling breath. "You have delivered your message. Now, tell me this. How is it that I knew the sound of your voice in my dreams when I have never heard it before?"

    "I've been here," Ludir said. "Ever since you and Rychel were brought in..."

    He clutched the sheet under him in anger. "How are you doing it?"

    "All I've done..."

    In his rage, he had all but forgotten Rychel. "How?!"

    She'd never seen him this angry before, not really at least. Not when they'd had their misunderstanding in the Mess Hall, nor when he'd gotten stuck in the holodeck. Even when he'd attacked her in her quarters, he seemed more angry at something internal than at her. This venom he'd turned on Ludir was real, it was current. And it terrified her. His knuckles were white as they gripped the sheet overtop him, and she placed a hand overtop his. "Helik," she said, pleading. "You're not well."

    "I've prayed for you. For both of you," Ludir explained, his volume raising a bit, but his tone remaining calm. "You likely heard me while I was praying, even when you're unconscious you still hear what is going on around you. I promise you, I have done nothing but speak to the Prophets on your behalf. You saved her life. They recognized that." It was a gamble, telling him just what had transpired, but Ludir hoped that the man would be reassured, rather than drawn into further fury. He saw Rychel's hand come to rest of Helik's, and he fervently hoped that would bring the man back into reality. She must have meant a lot to him if he were to risk his own life for hers. Hopefully it would be enough to break through the anger he now felt.

    Dakbar had been pretty much ignoring Rychel all during his tirade, until her hand touched his. His head tried to turn sharply to her and a small 'crack' could be heard. He grimaced and looked straight again.

    A Cardassian curse flew from his lips. "They recognized it." He laughed again. "Save your prayers, Vedek. Save them for your-" He stopped and gritted his teeth, the gentle touch upon his hand reminding him of who else was in the room. "For your own soul."

    Save them for your own kind, Ludir amended mentally. He casually looked over at Rychel, but could tell that she didn't realize what he'd almost said. Clearly, some part of him still possessed the innate biases against the Bajoran race, yet he was trying to get passed that, or so it seemed, for his relationship with Rychel.

    Dakbar bent his arms at the elbow, his hand slipping from under Rychel's, and he pushed with all his might until he was sitting upright, his eyes locked on those of Ludir. "I do not dream of Vedeks," he said. "I do not dream of you, with glowing blue eyes, telling me what I should do, telling me to live. I am Cardassian. That is not our way. We do not dream of..."

    His words and his demeanor, his haughty, condescending, defiance reminded Rychel of the news holos she'd seen as a child. Cardassian overseers spewing insults upon the Bajoran slaves who were so far beneath them. Guls ordering innocent children to their deaths. Mothers ripped away from their families to be used as comfort women. As much as she knew she should be appalled, she was fascinated. Rychel bit down on her lip.

    Dakbar twisted at the shoulders, his head remaining straight. He stopped talking, finally able to see Rychel and the damage that was still evident on her face, shoulders, and other areas exposed by the gown she wore. "You were there," he said. "In my dreams. You told me... you said you loved me."

    "It wasn't just a dream, Helik, it was a memory," she said, her expression oddly serene given the circumstances. "I told you I loved you. I do love you." Her words were filled with conviction, despite the fear she'd experienced prior. She hoped above all else that if she remained confident that the Helik she loved so much was in there, that he would realize it too.

    "How can you love someone who-" Had it not been for the recent injury, Dakbar would have tilted his head to the side. Did she not remember? Or, did she value her life so lightly that it didn't really mean anything to her, what had happened. His hand reached over to her and he held her jaw between his thumb and index finger as he examined her wounds, then touched a section of bloody hair. The amount of blood loss indicated that the injury had been severe. She would have died had he not cushioned her fall, that was certain.

    Confusion etched his angry face. He wasn't even exactly sure why he had changed his mind mid-fall. She was a Bajoran, yet...she wasn't. Her ideals were different, from what he had heard during their long talks while he watched over her after she had been attacked. Clearing his throat, he realized he should say something in response to the heartfelt admission she had just made. Did he love her? He scoffed at the thought. Surely not. "You should get some rest," he said. His eyes met those of the other Bajoran. "Lost your voice so soon," he asked. He waved his hand dismissively, in an almost direct copy of the leaders of the Cardassian world.

    "My voice isn't the one you need to hear right now," Ludir said. "Hers is."

    "Go. Leave us be." Lying back down carefully, he folded his hands on his abdomen and closed his eyes.

    Ludir frowned as he turned, and walked away. Rychel didn't profess her feelings it in the manner of foolish teenagers trying to pretend they were all grown up. Nor did she say it in the manner of a woman who hoped that in saying she loved a man could assert control over him. She was genuine. If the scene was different, and the pair were in front of him at a Wedding ceremony, he would have been so happy that she'd found such a feeling.

    But now, in this place, under these circumstances, Ludir felt only fear.
  16. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 15

    Dakbar materialized on top of the pillar of stone. He had left Sickbay against medical orders but he didn't want to take the chance of missing his opportunity. Standing in the full sun of the day, he took one moment of selfish indulgence, feeling it seep into him yet again. Then, he dropped to his knees and began to work. His skilled hands fabricated the scene, making it look like an accident. Every mark in the stone, every scratch, rope burn, crack...they all mirrored the story he had fabricated in an attempt to cover what had really happened.

    I should have killed her.

    He scowled at his own thoughts as he worked. Thoughts of glowing blue eyes stopped him in his tracks and he almost threw a vital piece of equipment in anger.

    I should have died.

    Yet, something had stopped him there in Sickbay, pulled him back from the brink, just as he had pulled Rychel in the physical plane. He looked down to the ground, stretching his neck more than he should at this process of healing, to where a dark stain still spoiled the beauty of Etimon. His blood had mixed with hers down there and it was strangely poetic, if more than a bit morbid. Shaking his head, he continued his work.

    Reesa smiled to herself as she materialized in the desert, oblivious to Dakbar’s presence on a cliff above. It was still, neither creature nor breeze stirred the immediate area. As her eyes adjusted she could see sand in every direction, and from the sand rock formations jutted up, the sandstone they were formed from striated with various colors. It reminded her of the Mekar Wilderness on Cardassia Prime.

    She began to spin around in a childlike fashion, her skirt billowing out around her as she moved. It felt so good to be warm, to feel the sun beating down on her, absorbing into her skin and making her feel alive. It had been years since she felt this good.

    Remembering her time in school as a girl, she started to dance. Cardassian schools emphasized the arts, especially for female students. Where the males would learn how to fight, and military tactics, the females learned dance and scientific pursuits. It had been a while since she'd done any of the traditional Cardassian dances. And as she considered it, she realized that she hadn't painted since her third year at the Academy.

    Maybe that’s why she’d felt particularly bad as of recent. She’d lost touch of who she was, of where she’d come from. Being Cardassian was part of who she was. Yes, there was the Bajoran half as well, and it had it’s benefits. She wasn’t nearly as paranoid as most, and she felt she was a bit more balanced as a person in general.

    As she danced, she was almost certain she saw someone moving on the rocks above, but when she paused to take a look, she saw no one. Shaking her head, she went back to her dancing. Maybe I did inherit a bit of the paranoia, she mused. It was probably true since her grandfather was associated with the Obsidian Order…

    Dakbar heard a muffled scuffling sound from below, but chalked it up to any number of Etimonian mammals that were known to inhabit the region. None of them were dangerous, and none of them could fly up to where he was, so he ignored it. There was one last thing to do. Reaching into the sand, he retrieved Rychel's earring and pocketed it. As he did so, he listened again.

    The sound below had become rather rhythmic, which was confusing. Sticking his head back over the cliff, he looked down and saw someone whirling around like a top. Grabbing his field glasses, he magnified the image and watched the odd woman dance around. Suddenly, a face looked upwards and he recoiled back away from the cliff. Ensign Traylen. He rolled onto his back in momentary panic and regretted it when he tried to get up again. Grabbing his head with both hands, he supported it as he regained a sitting position.

    Several thoughts went through his mind. He could shoot her and hide the body, but transporter records would show she had been there. Nothing would look more suspicious than her dying where they had been found. He cursed quietly, then smiled as a thought occurred to him. Tapping his combadge, he contacted the ship, giving them specific instructions. Seconds later, Dakbar disappeared from the rocky spire and reappeared right in Reesa's path. As she whirled toward him, he held out a hand, stopping her in her tracks as her body collided with it. Looking down at her, he said, "Poor taste to be dancing on my near grave, Ensign."

    Though a fleeting expression of surprise came to her face, she schooled herself quickly. "My apologies Lieutenant, I was not aware you had died?" she said, not quite understanding what he was talking about. Most people didn't get very much notice that they were going to die, unless they were gravely ill. And he didn't look ill. At least not insofar as Reesa could tell, and she liked to think that she was somewhat perceptive especially in regards to Cardassians. Humans were a lot harder to figure out. Many of them just seemed frail at all times. Perhaps he'd almost died there then? No one told Ensigns anything.

    Though she’d recovered quickly, much to her credit, Dakbar saw only the blue makeup. She dared wear it? She was not even Cardassian anymore, just an amalgamation of a sullied gene pool.

    She could feel her heart racing inside of her chest. She was torn with regards to Dakbar. On the one hand, he was the only person on board the Talon who could come close to understanding her. But on the other, he was likely compelled to end her life simply for existing as proof of the weakness of Cardassian men.

    His lip curled upward slightly, though it was less of a smile, more of a smirk. "You do not listen to the gossip, then?" His laugh was forced and he looked deep into her eyes. "Do you not remember that gossip always has a basis in fact and that keeping an ear to it will help you stay alive?" It was something they were taught early in life. Perhaps her parents threw away all Cardassian ways in favor of raising her as a Bajoran.

    One of her brow ridges arched up a bit. "The entire bridge crew went crazy under Salorri mind control in the middle of my shift. Then half the crew ended up missing on Salor. Lieutenant Commander M'Khol was badly injured, and Lieutenant Kinin was raped." She decided to leave out Robin. He could die for all she cared at the moment. "The rumor mill has been a bit busier than it typically is." She debated making some reference to his presumptiveness at assuming that he was of significant importance to tell stories about. She could tell by the way he looked at her that he hadn't thrown away the Cardassian beliefs about sullying the bloodline. She forced her breathing to stay steady, and to not show any weakness in front of him. That would only prove he was right to think poorly of her in the first place.

    M'Khol was injured? "Yes," he agreed. "But that all happened after my injury. Perhaps the welfare of a fellow Cardassian is not a priority of yours."

    "Or perhaps I know better than to stick my nose into your business," Reesa replied. Especially given the fact that she previously had no idea just how much he still followed the beliefs of the Cardassian people. Although this incident had confirmed her fears. "At least until I had an idea of whether or not you found me loathsome." She was bold and messing with fire.

    "Tell me what you see," he asked as he gestured to the darkened ground near where they stood. As he waited, he looked her over, as one did when purchasing a new set of clothes. What she was wearing was acceptable. At least she wasn't wearing that damned Bajoran earring. His hand, which hung down by his side, fingered Rychel's jewelry through the fabric of his pocket.

    She sidestepped over to the stain so she could get a better look at it without presenting her back to him. It was a test, she knew it. And yet despite this, despite the fact that he intended and hoped for her to fail, she felt a part of herself awaken that she hadn't utilized in years. She tried to avoid overanalyzing every detail around humans. They were just too unpredictable, too illogical. This reminded her of the puzzles of her childhood, and a quick grin appeared on her face for the first time in days. She remembered suddenly the one time that she'd met one of her Cardassian grandfathers, and how desperately she sought to prove to him that she was worthy of his name. And suddenly, that desire for acceptance from her own kind began to come back. She wanted to prove to him that her Bajoran half didn't make her any less observant, or less intelligent. She needed to overcome what she saw as a handicap.

    She needed him to like her, to accept her.

    She began to study the scene intently. There was blood... Cardassian blood she recognized easily. Her eyes moved from the blood, tracing a path up the side of the cliff to the very top. It wasn't a particularly difficult climb. It was steep, but there were plenty of handholds for someone with Dakbar's height and armspan.

    "You fell," she said softly, as she was uncertain of that assessment. "No... you could not have fallen." There were numerous reasons that this was true, the most noteworthy being that if Dakbar really had fallen that he would likely have not returned. And as she'd made note of originally, there were plenty of handholds.

    Dakbar watched her with interest as she attempted to piece together the puzzle. Her first conclusion was faulty on many levels.

    "Someone else was with you, there's non-Cardassian blood here."

    "Very good," he admitted out loud. So, she did have some training. Despite her best attempts to remain neutral, and to not allow him to manipulate her, she felt a quick flush of pride. It inspired her, pushed her onward.

    A chill ran down her spine. There were two options, and Reesa didn't like either of them. Option 1 was that someone had tried to push Dakbar off of the cliff, and Dakbar had taken that person with them. But that didn't seem plausible. If someone attempted to murder a Talon crew member, there would be a lot bigger fuss about the whole situation, even with everything that happened on Salor. "You jumped?" Option 2 was phrased as a question, though not an idle guess. She hoped to discern from his expression something that would tell her if she was on the right track. He laughed sarcastically, and she puzzled over that response for a brief moment.

    She pondered over the facts once more in her own head, assuming that he would be far better at schooling his expression than most she encountered. The non-Cardassian blood added a bit of mystery to the situation. Perhaps whoever it was fell accidentally, and Dakbar had risked himself trying to save them? Kneeling down, she picked up a bit of bloodsoaked sand, examining it more closely. She recognized the smell of it. It was Bajoran blood. There was no way that he was trying to save someone. The only time a Cardassian would sacrifice themselves would be for their family. That was the only thing worth it.

    Which left one other option. "You jumped," she said, this time with more certainty. And this time, she understood why he was here. It had not been an accident. It had been deliberate, but he did not intend for anyone else to know about it. Whether his purpose was to kill himself or whoever it was that was with him was something that Reesa had no way of determining, although something suggested to her that it was both. She had a hard enough time living around humans. She imagined that he felt even more out of place around them. Reesa had often known that if Starfleet didn't work out for her that her only real recourse was to commit suicide. That still didn't explain who this other person was, or why he had tried to take them with him.

    Her conviction was strong. This could be dangerous. However, whatever she found, Starfleet could also find. Reesa was Dakbar's litmus test. "Now why would I go and do something like that?"

    That was the part of the equation that didn't add up for her. Suicide, perhaps? She wagered he wouldn't use such an ineffective method. He would have found some difficult to trace poison that would quickly and painlessly end his existence. A sick fear struck her almost like a blow to the stomach, but she kept her facial expression neutral. Would he kill her for figuring it out?

    "How are you still alive?" She asked, her curiosity overcoming her fear at hearing the answer. A sick part of her wanted to know how the Bajoran was doing, but she dared not ask that question. Not yet. Not until she had a better idea of just what he had done and why.

    "Good genes," he said, his eyes meeting hers, the implication intentional.

    Her eyes narrowed. She said nothing though, as she knew anything that she said on the matter would only provoke his wrath. Still, she mentally reminded herself that his family was unimportant. He was no one. At least her own Cardassian relations were men of importance.

    "What makes you think that I jumped?" He gave her a dark smile.

    "I think you jumped because I don't believe you could have fallen. I've only rock climbed at the Academy and even I have enough skill to get up this mountain." She looked him over quickly, studying his physique through his clothing. "You quite obviously have greater upper body strength than I do, and your armspan is greater too."

    "Physique does not equal skill," he reminded her.
    "But rock climbing is covered in the Academy," she responded absently. She expected that it was likely covered in more detail with Security personnel, since you never knew when you'd be chasing down someone who tried to climb over something to get away.

    "I was simply trying to save the life of one of our crew." It wasn't a lie. Much.

    She ran her finger through the blood on the sand. "I've seen enough dead Bajorans in my life to know what their blood smells like," she said.

    "The smell differs based on the kill," he instructed.

    She didn't want to know how he knew that. In fact, the mere mention of such sent chills running down her spine. She was suddenly painfully aware of just how vulnerable she was. It would take nothing at all for him to kill her. He could probably snap her neck before she even comprehended what he was doing.

    She paused a second, remembering something she'd seen a few days earlier. "You were with a Bajoran at the party," she said. Understanding lined every nuance on her face. As he stood over her, he realized how easy it would be to kill her now.

    "She fell, not you," Reesa said, standing up straight and looking him in the eye,catching him off guard for a split second. "She fell, and you tried to save her." A smirk twitched up the corners of her mouth. "You're in love with a Bajoran!" She exclaimed after a moment.

    "Mind what you say," he said, coldly.

    "You would be surprised how many great Cardassian men have fallen for a Bajoran woman. Guls... Legates... even members of the Obsidian Order. It's almost like a game to see who can hide their illegitimate children the best." She should have had more sense, and part of her screamed to just sit down and shut up. That it was better for him to think that she was stupid than to think that she was insolent. But for some reason, that part of her didn't prevail. She didn't know what she was hoping to achieve. Did she think that if she guessed right that he would respect her?

    His hand flew out, the back of it catching her across the cheek with all the force he possessed. It knocked her off balance, forcing her to the sand. To her credit, she did not cry out. "You are on dangerous ground," he hissed. Somehow, she had a feeling that he wasn't just speaking metaphorically, that he was genuinely being literal. She tried not to think of the blood stain nearby.

    Dropping down beside her, he pushed her further into the sand. "And you have no idea who you are dealing with." She glared up at him. If he was going to kill her, she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of seeing fear in her eyes. She saw anger and hatred in his expression.

    Releasing her, he stood and gathered his gear. As he glared down at her pathetic form, he narrowed his eyes and touched his combadge. "Dakbar to Talon. One to beam up." Within seconds, he was gone.

    Sitting up, she took a moment to catch her breath. She didn't want to transport to the Talon right away, as she didn't want to chance running into him. So she walked around aimlessly in the desert for a bit, wondering just what Dakbar was up to. He didn't seem right to her, not by Cardassian standards, nor by Federation standards. There was a hint of desperation present in his words and his actions that Reesa didn't understand. When she finally transported up to the Talon a while later, she was even more lost than she'd been before she beamed down to the planet. Dakbar was her only hope of finding someone who could understand what she was going through. But he had even more reasons to loathe her now.
  17. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 16

    Rychel hadn't seen Dakbar since Sickbay, two days prior. It wasn’t precisely a surprise; she’d spent much of the Talon’s brief mission recovering. Still, she'd expected that he would be there when she returned to have the rest of her injuries tended to, but the doctors told her that he'd snuck out a good bit ago. And when she asked the ship's computer where he was at, she was informed that he was no longer aboard the Talon.

    She tried not to get too upset by this fact. He likely wasn't in the mood to see her, at least not yet. Somehow, she thought he would need a bit of time to square with all that had occurred.

    She hadn't been alone in the corridors much since her nighttime visitor, and it was somewhat odd walking through a largely empty ship. She resolved to get over her pointless fears, and to enjoy the time that she had away from her duties. Stopping back at her quarters, she changed into a white, ankle length dress with gold trim. Her brother had frequently told her that she looked almost ethereal in the gown, and it made her happy to wear it.

    She headed to the transporter room, and after a bit of internal debate decided to head down to Etimon, where there was a carnival in progress. She hadn't attended one since she was a little girl, and she didn't know when she'd get the opportunity to do so again. As she walked through the gates, she saw a bunch of contortionists performing, and she headed over to watch them.

    The crowd about her oohed and ahhed, and it was quite clear to Rychel why they were so impressed. The contortionists were very talented, and it was obvious that they enjoyed what they were doing. Their costumes were flashy, and their sets complex. Relaxing a bit, she stood there and watched, eye wide with wonder. As a child, she'd always considered acrobatics as a possible career choice. She was small, lithe, and flexible, all good traits for the profession.

    A tall man stood next to her, clad simply in a blue t-shirt and jeans, his eyes on the acrobats. Unconsciously, his body weaved minutely with their movements. Vlad hardly had the the kind of body that would lend itself to that kind of activity, but the music accompanying them made him want to move. Suddenly, one of the acrobats fell from a great height and Vlad reached to the side, gripping Rychel's upper arm in surprise. However, it was all part of the act, and another acrobat swooped in and 'saved' her at the last minute. Realizing what he had done, Vlad laughed and removed his hand.

    Rychel’s breath had caught in her throat as one of the performers fell like a stone. But her attention was drawn away by the feeling of a hand on her arm. Some silly part of her hoped it was Dakbar, but deep within her, she knew that it wasn't. It would be a while before things got back to normal— if they did at all.

    "Hard to quell automatic reactions," Vlad said to the redhead. His eyes returned to the show as they introduced fire to make it even more dramatic. Occasionally, he glanced down at her. It was refreshing to see someone so unafraid to show awe.

    She turned to look at the man who was gripping her arm, and immediately felt a flush come to her face. "It's alright," she said with a small smile.

    "Now," one of the performers said during a pause in the action. "We need a 'volunteer' from the audience." A group of kids near the front started waving their hands. "Sorry, kids, but we need an adult." There was a group groan as small hands fell back down. Vlad secretly put his hand up behind Rychel and pointed to her head.

    Rychel watched, looking around curiously, wondering who would volunteer. Part of her wanted to put her hand up, but she was too nervous. What if she made a fool out of herself in front of everyone?

    "Ah! You!" The colorful performer pointed at Rychel. "Hair of flame. Perfect."

    Rychel blinked quickly. "Me?" She asked at first, her voice awed. "" She repeated a moment later, a bit of nervousness clear in her tone.

    Vlad chuckled innocently. Looking down at her, he cocked his head toward the stage. "Go on."

    The performer beckoned her forward. "Don't be afraid. We haven't injured anyone in years!"

    "I'm not afraid," she said. Her tone was defiant and Vlad certainly hoped she was a member of Starfleet. Walking forward through the crowd, she was glad that she'd chosen to wear sandals instead of heels. Something told her that heels would have been horribly impractical for whatever it was that the performers wanted her to do.

    One of the performers reached down with one hand to assist Rychel up onto the stage that they were performing on. "Sit here, on this swing," he instructed. Rychel sat down as she was told. She could handle sitting on a swing.

    What she didn't anticipate was the fact that the swing began to move, lifting her higher up into the sky. There was a moment of vertigo as she recalled her recent injury. She reminded herself that there was likely some sort of a forcefield or something that would prevent serious harm to her if she were to fall. Still, she had to force herself to breathe slowly to calm down the fit of anxiety that threatened to consume her.

    Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea, Vlad thought. He saw her fists tighten on the supports.

    C'mon 'Chel, this isn't that bad. It's perfectly safe, Rychel thought. Then again, she thought that climbing up that cliff was perfectly safe too... But things were different now. A lot had changed. And the person who'd made her feel safe was nowhere to be found. At least, Rychel couldn't see him.

    One of the performers sailed over to her on a line and whispered in her ear. "Don't move." That said, she sailed away. Music swelled and the crowd began to clap. Vlad joined in, though he was now very nervous for her safety. These were aliens, not Earth performers. What right did he have to endanger her like that?

    That was unnecessary advice. Rychel was confident of her capabilities, but that didn't make her foolhardy. While she knew she could probably stand up on the swing, or even do flips on it if she was so inclined, she was already over her monthly quota for near death experiences, and she wasn't of the mindset to test fate much more.

    A spotlight suddenly appeared on her, and Rychel was glad that she was far enough up that no one could see her blush. It obscured her view of below, which made her a bit nervous for she could not see how many people were around, nor could she get a good feeling on just how far up in the air she was.

    The announcer said something that Vlad didn't catch and suddenly the air around the redhead was filled with acrobats. They moved around her like a single organism, fluid and beautiful. Vlad began to relax, until torches were lit. Uh oh. Acrobatic jugglers contorted their bodies as they tossed the torches all around the woman, the light of the flames illuminating her face. Hang in there, girl.

    Rychel forgot about how far up she was, an about the fact that she was wearing a dress that she hoped people couldn't see up. She was in good shape, but she had nowhere near the strength, nor the flexibility of the contortionists. Rychel felt her face flush from the heat of the torches as they came closer and closer to her. She stared in awe at the web of bodies and fire that surrounded her. More than anything else, she hoped that they were very, very good at what they did.

    Meanwhile, on the ground below, Desan stormed around the carnival, looking for his sister. He was infuriated by her failure to mention her nighttime visitor. Though he was good at finding people in crowds, he’d ended up in a large group around the performance, and it was difficult to maneuver people out of one’s way when everyone’s attention was on a show. Not allowing himself to get distracted by the show, he instead looked around for someone that he recognized in the crowd. The first person he came across wasn't someone who might know his sister, but it was someone that he didn't feel that he should ignore.

    "Captain," he said, nodding a greeting to Captain Fedorov. Noticing that the other man was focused on the show up in the air, he looked up. Then, he did a doubletake.

    "What... what is my sister doing up there?!" he exclaimed, surprised. But as the initial fear wore off, he had to admit there was something subtly beautiful in it all. With the lights shining on her up in the air like that, wearing a white dress... she looked like the angels of human faith. And her hair shone in bright contrast against the white. But he didn't like the fire, not one bit.

    "From the look on her face, having the time of her life," Vlad replied. He noticed the Bajoran by his side tense up when the fire was lit. Nothing was more dangerous than a man who was protective of a sister.

    Desan forced himself to slowly relax. Just when he thought he was okay with all that was going on, one of the torches struck cloth, and ignited swiftly.

    "Relax, I'm sure they know-" Vlad started. Then, in front of hundreds of horrified onlookers, several bodies fell from the sky. Rychel’s heart rate increased drastically as she watched the performers fall away from her. There was nothing she could do. She felt helpless.

    This has to be an act, Vlad thought. Time seemed to stand still. Small children were clinging to their parents or friends and Vlad started moving through the crowd. Before he could get far, though, tanks raised from the stage, and the performers dove gracefully into them, arcing their bodies at the right moment, so as not to hit the bottom. "Damnit," Vlad said, causing a nearby Etimonian to scowl in his direction. Showers of water exploded upward through prepared nozzles, fanning around Rychel but not drenching her at all.

    Desan growled under his breath. "She was badly injured a few days ago," he told Vlad. "She fell from the top of a high cliff. Her heart was pierced. She should not be up there." His tone was terse, and it took all of his will not to shake under the power of his emotions.

    The music changed from the frantic pace into something more pastoral. Behind Rychel, a cascade of water began to form, swelling and undulating, until it formed a huge waterfall. Lights of various colors reflected off of it, and the supports of Rychel's swing began to glow with a soft light of their own. Up above, two very muscular, buff aliens, clad only in very snug tights, slid down the supports, one on each side, until they were even with her.

    As the spectacle unfolded up in the air, Vlad forgot about Desan behind him. His sister was gorgeous, and many in the crowd had their mouths open, not only due to the show, but as to how amazingly the volunteer blended into the scene that had been created. Vlad wondered if they would have picked her out regardless of whether he had indicated her or not.

    Rychel looked about, smiling at the softer music. The show was remarkably well-done, she had to admit, minus the part that ended with her scared half to death. She took a deep breath. They couldn’t have anything worse planned. Just breathe, she thought, then turned her head to one side to find the crotch of one of the performers level with her eyes.

    "Um..." Vlad said, turning to Desan.

    The two performers began to perform an intricate, seductive dance about Rychel, weaving in and out of the supports of the swing. Rychel’s face flushed brightly red, and she felt a surge of guilt running through her. What would Helik think if he was there right now? She missed him, and her resolve at giving him a bit of time and space was swiftly fading. Tears began to stream down her cheeks, no matter how hard she tried to will them away. She'd fought through so much recently, never once giving herself time to come to terms with any of it. No man or woman was an island. No one could go through life alone. Not Helik, and not Rychel.

    She was aware of the performers moving around her, but she no longer cared what they did. She was done.

    Vlad saw her shoulders slump and he was on the move again, pushing his way through the crowd until he was near the stage. The two alien men with Rychel undulated around her seductively until one of them saw her tears. Without missing a beat, he gave his partner a signal. "Let's get you down," the other said. He made a fluid gesture with his arm that someone hidden caught and began to lower the swing. Safe on the ground, the men picked Rychel up off of the swing and carried her, held aloft as if she were a Queen, to the edge of the stage. The announcer immediately began the next phase of the program seamlessly.

    Rychel resolved to force it all down. Ignore everything that bothered her, harden herself, and just keep moving until she couldn't move anymore. A few more slow breaths had slowed her heart rate, and somehow she managed to keep her posture solid, and her expression impassive. Just stay strong until you can get back to the ship.

    Across the compound, in a rented apartment many stories up, Dakbar watched out the window, his field scope focused on the target. It had taken a good deal of cunning, using the help of a Ferengi contact on Etimon, to get the room quickly after he had, quite by accident, discovered the opportunity. Now, as he watched, the other operative moved closer, through the crowd. He was inconspicuous, just another face in the crowd, just another observer to the great show.

    Dakbar smiled as the distance became smaller until the operative was very, very close. Do it. He held his breath, keeping the scope steady. He could hear footsteps in the hall outside, see insects buzz past the target, every sense was on point, even though it was not to be him to actually carry out the deed.

    Dakbar felt alive and all questions were pushed aside. Do it! A hand moved forward, touching the target lightly on the arm. In an instant, Desan crumpled to a heap on the ground, unnoticed by those around him as Rychel was lowered to the stage and taken away. Only then, did Dakbar turn the scope on her.

    Rushing forward, despite the crowd Vlad gestured to the men taking Rychel down from the stage. "She's with me," he said.

    Rychel recognized him as the man who'd grabbed her shoulder before, and she headed towards him. She stumbled a bit getting off the stage, and she grabbed on to him for support. "I guess we're even now," she joked, cringing when her tone was a bit weaker than she expected.

    She wasn't sure what to say, what to do, where to go. She took a shaky breath, trying to force herself to stay strong. Perhaps I should just go back to the Talon and rest, she thought to herself. Though she'd never admit it to anyone else, she craved affection. She wanted someone to hold her and to reassure her that things would be ok.

    But she could no longer plaster a smile on her face and believe that lie.

    In the apartment above, Dakbar felt conflicted yet again. As he increased the magnification, he saw Rychel’s troubled face, but it was quickly blocked by the body of Federov. For a moment, he almost put down the scope to go to her, but he raised it again, determined to see this through. From his high vantage point, he could see over the crowds and they parted nicely as soon as the guards showed up, leaving a perfect view of Desan's body.

    "I'm Vladik," he said. He put an arm protectively around her shoulder and began to walk through the crowd.

    She shook her head, clearing her thoughts. "Rychel," she responded, smiling up at him quickly. "And thanks. I dunno if I could have gotten down off that stage without you."

    "And then," he said rather loudly, as if slightly inebriated, "I said, if you touch me again, I'll bury you in a casket filled with tribbles!" He laughed uproariously.

    Rychel wasn't quite sure what he was doing, but she assumed that it was try and cause some sort of a distraction or a misdirection to anyone who might be watching. So she laughed along with him. She would have to puzzle over just what had happened later when she had a bit more time, and a bit clearer head.

    Vlad tilted his head close to hers. "Your brother is here." He looked around, but had lost sight of the man. He continued to tell tall tales as he escorted her through the crowd. His ruse worked and most ignored her in favor of the half-drunk tall man.

    "Oh, he is?" She said, trying to sound nonchalant as her eyes scanned the crowd. Internally, she was surprised. He was still at the station? He knew Vladik? She really hated not understanding what was going on around her!

    She walked along with him, pretending to be interested in his stories, yet discreetly looked around for Desan. Was her life in danger? She frowned somewhat as she considered it. Perhaps that was why this man was trying to keep people's attention off of her.

    Etimonian soldiers were everywhere and Vlad drew Rychel close to his body as they passed. "This doesn't look good," he said. Rychel's eyes scanned the area, quickly assessing the situation using various techniques that Desan had taught her. She wasn't going to be a victim, not again.

    The crowd parted for the soldiers and Vlad saw the prone form of Desan. "What th' hell happened," he shouted. Pulling Rychel along, he tried to get past the guards, but they blocked his way. Rychel’s face grew paler than usual, and she retrieved the type 1 phaser from where she’d stashed it in her bra.

    "Captain Vladik Federov of the USS Nike," he shouted, and they finally stepped aside.

    Rychel’s eyes widened despite the gravity of the situation. A Captain? She was saved by a Captain? She suddenly felt quite embarrassed about everything. Scanning her surroundings once more, she fell to her knees beside Desan's prone form. "Desan... Desan wake up," she said.

    An odd feeling welled up inside of Dakbar when Rychel knelt by the man's side but he reminded himself that this had to be done. Desan was dangerous and too close. With him in the picture, there was the very real possibility that Rychel would tell him something. Even the smallest suspicion could tip the balance and end his mission.

    "Did anyone call a medic? Did anyone see what happened?" There was a collective shrug from the crowd. Up on the stage, the performers continued on, not breaking their routine, even though most of the crowd looked elsewhere.

    Of course no one had done anything. Crowds of humanoids were one of the most collectively stupid entities in the known universe.

    He tapped his combadge. "Federov to Nike..."

    Rychel shook her head, some of the "take charge" nature that she typically suppressed showing up. One of her biggest strengths was being able to handle difficult situations, and she forced herself not to remember that Desan's life was at stake. "No, Talon. Their doctor is very good, he saved my life." She demanded, momentarily forgetting just how many more pips Vlad had than she did.

    "Good luck," he said to Rychel, his hand briefly resting on her shoulder before he moved off to talk further to the Etimonian guards. A moment later, Desan and Rychel were sparkling out of view.

    Rychel just hoped that Sig hadn't used up his monthly allocations of miracles…


    Dakbar squeezed his eyes shut, but it didn't block out the memory of his near death. As Rychel and Desan were transported away, Dakbar put down the scope and sat down in a nearby chair after closing the window. He had, after his episode with Reesa, considered just ending his life, doing it properly this time, but pride got in the way. This was his mission to see through, and only Klingons ended their lives when things got too hard. He threw away that option permanently. No matter what happened, he would complete this mission.


    Dakbar shouted a curse and raked his fingers along his bare scalp. The door chime got him out of the chair and he moved quickly to the door. A man walked in, sandy haired and average size.

    "You saw," he asked the Cardassian.

    Dakbar nodded and pulled a small container out of his pocket, which he flipped to the man who caught it easily.

    Opening it, the man checked the contents, then plucked a data chip from the container and pocketed it separately. "I'll send it tonight, after the ruckus has died down." Without saying anything further, he smiled again, and exited the room. Dakbar remained there for several minutes more, before stepping out into the Etimonian sun and vanishing into the crowd.
  18. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 17

    When Rychel materialized in Sickbay, she was still holding her phaser in her hand. The only outward sign that she was upset was that her knuckles were white, and her grip on the handle stronger than necessary. When Desan had heard that she was going into Starfleet Academy, he had made a point out of drilling her in how to handle various situations. And for once, she was actually in control when things were going wrong. She wasn't going to fail him, she couldn't disappoint him. Not now, when he needed her the most.

    She quickly grabbed the nearest person in medical blue. "That's my brother, Lieutenant Commander Kayden Desan. He collapsed down on the surface of the planet," she said matter-of-factly. Hesitation and tears weren’t going to get her anywhere, she had to be strong, at least until the medical staff had things under control.

    Her eyes scanned the room, looking for Sig. She trusted him the most of any of the Talon’s medical staff. She almost wished that Vlad had beamed up with her, but she knew that it was for the best that he try and figure out what had happened. He might find some clue that helped them figure out what had happened.

    “He has a lot of enemies,” she said. “I don’t think that this was an accident.” She hoped that they took her seriously. If not, it could make it harder to save him. She was sure that the Sickbay didn’t automatically assume people were poisoned or drugged unless there was good reason to think that.

    C’mon Desan, you’re strong. You’ve got to survive.

    Simms rushed over before Rychel could locate Sig, and the petite Bajoran hung back, trusting the doctor’s opinion. “It appears as though he’s been struck by some sort of electroshock device,” he said, checking the Commander’s vital signs from the readout above the biobed. "His vitals are falling fast, give him four ccs of trianoline."

    “No,” Rychel said softly, forcing herself not to lose it right then and there in the middle of Sickbay. “Be strong, Desan. Please, be strong.” Her brow furrowed with worry as she watched the doctor tend to Desan. It wasn’t Sig. She wondered if it would be rude to ask someone to call Sig, for she wanted to make certain that her brother was in the best hands possible.

    The medic did as she was told. “No effect, sir.”

    "Twenty milligrams of lectrazine." Commander Wallace, the Talon’s Chief Counselor, appeared at Rychel’s side, wrapping one arm gently about her while the doctors worked.

    The medic shook her head, “Nothing sir.”

    Simms scanned the area of impact, which he gauged by the residual electrical charge in Desan’s skin. Retrieving a laser scalpel, he made a small incision in Desan’s skin, before gently removing what appeared to be some sort of dart. “Bag this up for security team,” Simms directed.

    “Vitals are returning to normal, Doctor,” the medic stated a few moments later.

    Rychel let out a breath that she hadn’t realized she was holding, and her shoulders sagged visibly. She was so exhausted... she just wanted to sleep. But she couldn’t, not until she’d seen Desan awake. She would not rest until he was alright. She felt guilty, for mere days before their positions had been reversed.

    “Thank you,” she said to no one in specific. Hopefully, they’d have answers soon.

    As Morgan felt Rychel relax, she held her a bit tighter. "Come on," she said. "Have a seat." Physically moving her to the side, she sat Rychel down in a chair near to Desan's bed.

    “I hope Captain Fedorov is alright,” Rychel said. “He stayed behind on the planet. Desan owes him his life.” Rychel owed him as well, she at least wanted to thank him.

    "Dimorian toxin," the medic said, returning with a PADD for Simms with more information. Had the dart remained in Desan much longer, it would have shut down his neural pathways and killed him. "He's very lucky."

    "Quite potent, though the effects can be easily counteracted now that the dart is no longer in place,” Simms said, then walked over to where Morgan and Rychel were seated. "I'd like to keep him under observation here until his body has filtered out the toxin. You did well to bring him here so promptly. I’ll alert you when we revive him."

    “Okay,” Rychel said, somewhat reluctantly. “I should probably try and get some rest anyhow.” Even taking the time that she spent injured into consideration, she still hadn’t gotten a lot of rest within the past few days. Standing up, she walked over to where Desan lay resting. She kissed him softly on the forehead. “I hope you’re better soon, brother,” she said softly. “And I hope that the Captain finds whoever it is that did this to you.”

    Sighing, she tucked her phaser back into it’s holster, and left the Sickbay.

    Some time later, Sig arrived at sickbay. He walked over to Desan’s biobed and checked the other man’s vitals. "About time to get you home," he said. Leaning against the console, he picked up a vial, examining the barb that had been removed from Desan's flesh. "What happened to you down there," he muttered. There was always something to threaten the crew. Sig had already learned the hard way that even the most innocuous shore leave could turn deadly in a single heartbeat.

    He put down the vial and retrieved a hypospray. Loading it, he then pressed it against Desan's neck. Desan's superiors had been quite adamant that the man get back to duty as soon as possible, even to the point of requesting that Sig beam him over before he was stable. That had not gone over well with Sig and he had let them eat communication static for hours at a time. Now, Desan was ready. "How many of your nine lives are remaining," Sig asked the man as the drug finished its stimulant effect.

    Desan hated being in a vulnerable position, and his mind quickly tried to ascertain the conditions around him. It sounded like a Starfleet vessel, but not one that was moving. The smell— or rather lack of smell— in the air coupled with the sounds of the equipment made him guess that it was a Sickbay. "Six or seven," he responded, trying to keep his tone neutral while he remembered just what had put him in Sickbay.

    The number was actually higher than Sig suspected. Perhaps Desan was trying not to look boastful? Usually, by the time security officers had only passed one year out of the Academy, they had faced death several times. Sig regarded Desan in silence for a second. Maybe the man was just really good at what he did. That would certainly explain Starfleet's insistence that he be returned immediately.

    Desan struggled with recollection, and he scowled as he considered it. He'd been down on Etimon, at the Carnival. He was looking for.. "Rychel?" he asked, sitting up quicker than was likely prudent given his previously precarious medical state.

    "Easy...easy," Sig cautioned.

    Desan opened his eyes, and looked Sig in the eye. He was on the Talon. "Where is she, where's my sister?" he asked. Vlad had been looking after her, so he assumed that she'd made it back to the Talon safely. His eyes quickly scanned the Sickbay for any trace of her, but did not see her.

    "She's safe," Sig assured him. "Probably resting. She was exhausted from worrying about you." Before Desan could run off to let her know he was okay, Sig held up his hand. "I already told her you were fine."

    Desan visibly relaxed at Sig’s reassurance. Bringing his hands up to his face, he scrubbed at his eyes, and forced away the urge to yawn. He didn’t have time for sleep. He’d probably wasted too much time asleep already. He shook his head as a wave of dizziness threatened to put him back into an unconscious state. “Thank you. She has far too much to worry about already, without my own health being at the top of the list,” Desan said, shooting the doctor a weak smile. He felt drained, and he wondered how long it would be before he got another good night of rest. Something told him it would be a while.

    Sig wondered if Rychel had ever told Desan about her nighttime visitor. The fact that the young woman had been subjected to such major turmoil was puzzling to Sig. Why her? Was she careless about her choices, or was there something more to it?

    "How long have I been unconscious?" Desan asked, dreading the answer to his question. He was busy, very much so, and from the rumors that he'd heard, this was just the beginning.

    "Hours," Sig admitted.

    Desan sighed. He’d taken time out of his busy schedule to try and meet with Rychel, and now he doubted that he’d have the time to discuss the matter of her late night visitor with her. He knew she was an adult, and moreover that she wasn’t an Ensign fresh out of the Academy anymore. She was a bright young engineer with great potential, and a great career ahead of her. But to him, she would always be just his little sister.

    He grabbed the vial from the counter and set it down next to Desan. "You were very lucky. Captain Federov and your sister probably saved your life by their quick reactions. Vlad headed up the investigation until he was recalled to the Nike. They're about to pull out."

    “I’ll have to give the Captain my regards the next time we meet. I owe him, not only for saving my life, but also for getting Rychel out of a bad spot down on the planet,” Desan said. He much preferred to have others owe him favors, rather than the reverse, but if he had to owe anyone, he would prefer it to be Captain Fedorov. He trusted the other man not to do anything silly, or to get too carried away in his requests.

    "I'm sure he'd love to hear from you," Sig said. Bad spot? Now what had Rychel gotten into? He'd have to look further into it later. Just as he had done with Robin, Sig worried that perhaps one of Starfleet's finest was a bit cavalier about their own safety.

    Desan grinned. “I fear that Captain Fedorov sees more of me than he likely wants to see,” he said. “Some weeks I spend more time on the Nike than I do at my own posting.” There was also the matter of him sleeping with the Nike’s Chief of Security, who was rumored to have a thing for her Captain, but that was another matter entirely.

    He nodded in the direction of the vial. "Doctor Simms removed that from your arm. Had it remained another minute, you would have died." A label was attached to the vial describing the toxin. "As it is, for the next week, I want you to report to a physician to evaluate your liver functions." He smiled at Desan. "There should be no long term problems, providing those levels remain stable."

    Desan nodded, although his attention was focused on the vial. Under ordinary circumstances, no one would have been able to catch him unawares in such a fashion. Rychel was a weakness, and that was something that he understood all too well. For not the first time, he wished that he would have taken on another name to reduce her risk of being harmed.

    The next news wasn't going to be as pleasant. "They never found the one responsible."

    Desan swore creatively under his breath, and jumped down from the biobed. He forced himself not to sway as he walked over and picked up the vial containing the dart, although it took every ounce of his strength to do so. Eying it curiously, he sighed. “Romulan in design, but the Ferengi sell these to almost everyone in the galaxy. Anything telling in the poison itself?”

    "Not really," Sig replied. "Illegal, but sold extensively. Whomever prepared this made sure it wasn't something unique.

    “Of course,” Desan said, sighing.The bad guys never made things easy, that was for certain. In this case, it was fortunate that it was a common poison, for the more hard to come by stuff was generally far more lethal.

    “Commander..." Sig had to be really, really careful here. "I know I'm going to kick myself over this for weeks, but it has to be said. Rychel was attacked on the ship. I'm not sure if you knew about it or not, but..." He sighed and ran fingers through his hair. "With this attack on you, it makes me wonder, even though her attacker was apprehended."

    “Her official report indicated that she did not recognize the person who was apprehended, although the suspect was wearing a mask,” Desan interjected. “She said the eyes were different, though.” He hesitated a moment. “I keep an eye on anything that involves her,” he explained.

    A sudden shiver ran up Sig’s spine. "There's something else." Where to begin? "When I took the samples from her attack to the lab, I..." He took in a deep breath and let it out. "Hell. I had a momentary lapse outside the lab, almost like I had forgotten where I was going. I didn't make much of it at the time, it was a stressful week, but now..." Shaking his head, he picked up a PADD and transferred some files to it. "Here's my full report. Rychel wanted some things to remain private." He held it close to his body, still unsure, then shook his head again and handed it to Desan. "She can't know I gave you this."

    Desan looked about to make sure that there was no one around who might overhear. “I would like to hope that she will tell me herself one day,” he sighed. “You all will be heading out again soon, so unfortunately, I have no time to speak to her today. Next time she comes in for a physical, I need you to be as thorough as possible. Make sure there’s nothing that’s out of order. Run any scan you can think of. If the person who did this is still out there, and is after me— which I’m quite certain that is the case— it’s not merely enough to violate my sister. He’s after something else, something bigger.”
  19. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 18

    A month had passed since Desan’s brush with death, and Rychel had spent much of it in the care of a counselor, receiving therapy for the traumas that she’d endured. When she returned to duty, she found that the Talon was en route to the planet Maeri, where they would assist the natives in repairing the weapons systems that protected them. Much to her delight, she found that she was in charge of leading one of the teams. Sure, it was only two other engineers, and a security officer, but everyone needed to start somewhere, right? After she and her team had landed, she lead them over to the cliffs. Maeri was beautiful, and the weather was nice; not too hot, not too cold. Despite herself, a grin formed on her features as she walked over to the edge.

    “Alright, these basically look like a simplified disruptor weapon,” she said, looking over the scans that had been taken by the Talon while they were in orbit. “The tricky part is that they’re mounted on the side of this cliff.” Stepping forwards towards the edge, she looked down. A rush of vertigo threatened to overtake her, but she reminded herself quickly that they would be taking all the proper safety precautions while working on the disruptor arrays. Pulling out her tricorder, she scanned the nine disruptor arrays.

    “Unfortunately, it looks like they’re mounted in the cliff too well for us to easily remove them, so I think we’re going to have to rappel down to them,” she said after another moment’s thought. She considered transporting down, but that seemed a bit risky. You didn’t want to accidentally transport in with poor footing and tumble down to your death. Particularly after my recent success with cliffs.

    “You can stay up here if you preferred,” Rychel said, looking over at the security officer who was part of her team. “I’m not sure what would make it easiest for you to defend us.” She would have guessed he would have been able to fire a phaser better from the top of a cliff, but then again, she wasn’t a security officer. She knew everyone’s individual styles were different, though, and perhaps he would feel better being nearer to them.

    Ensign T’vorak weighed over the options. “I think up here would be best.”

    Rychel nodded, walking closer to the edge so she could point out the various platforms. They were arranged loosely in clusters of three. “These three,” Rychel said, pointing towards three of the disruptor arrays that were obviously more protected. “Seem to be intact, we just need to test them to make sure they’re firing alright. We can probably do some simple upgrades to make them more efficient.

    “Hopefully if the Mehtak decided to come back anytime soon, we’ll get a warning,” Ensign Travers said.

    “With the Talon in orbit, I’m sure we will,” Rychel said, before continuing down the list. “The next three,” she pointed a bit further down along the cliff, “Are largely intact, but they need maintenance, and they need replacement power cells.

    Moving over to the next cliff facing, she frowned at the readings for the remaining disruptors. The cliff itself was scarred, and showed signs of burns from weapons fire. “This one is nearly entirely destroyed, it will likely be better to construct a replacement on the Talon and beam it down. “The remaining two have relatively severe damage but should be repairable. The power cell’s been breached on the left one, so we’re going to have to be very careful.”

    “I think we should start by getting a good read on one of the working devices. Then we can start fabrication on a replacement, and get a benchmark for what we need to do. Any questions?”

    “Are we going to both go down to the same disruptor, or each take one?” Travers asked.

    There were advantages in both sticking together and in splitting up, and Rychel puzzled them over for a moment. “I’ll get readings on the working unit, and then we’ll start work on the least damaged disruptor array, together. That way we can get them up and running quicker in case the Mehtak come back,” Rychel said after a moment.

    “Now… the Mae indicated that they’ve been disabled as they’re set to fire on anything they don’t recognize, but we should take caution just in case,” Rychel said.

    “Yeah, I’d rather not risk our lives if at all possible,” Ensign Cole said.

    “I believe they’re heat tracking, so we’ll need something hot,” Rychel mused. She grabbed a sturdy-looking piece of metal and scanned it quickly with her tricorder. It was sound enough to stand up to a quick phaser burst. Unholstering he phaser that she’d checked out before heading to the planet, she threw the hunk of metal as hard as she could. She shot it with the phaser, and grinned as it turned nearly white with heat. 8 of the 9 disruptor arrays did nothing, but one of the ones towards the end of the row quickly fired on the metal chunk.

    “Well, looks like they might not be as good at turning things off as we would hope.” Walking over to a nearby terminal, she pressed a few buttons. It was in a language that she did not recognize though, and she suspected that the defense system wouldn’t just let anyone shut it off.

    Flagging down one of the nearby Mae, she explained her dilemma. The Mae woman walked over to the console, toggling it off quickly. Still, just to be sure, Rychel tested it one more time. Nothing fired. That was a good sign.

    Finding a sturdy structure, she began to hook up the safety lines that would allow her, Cole, and Travers to rappel safely down to the disruptors. Despite her familiarity with such things, she triple checked absolutely every connection. She did not want to end up in the Sickbay again. Walking over to the edge, she fought back another wave of vertigo. Everyone has fears. We can choose to succumb to them, or we can choose to overcome them, she thought. She could do this. She wasn't going to let her fear control her, that was for certain. Hopefully Dakbar would be proud of her for being so courageous. Perhaps that would help to get him past whatever it was that was making him so distant ever since the accident. "Last one down to the platform is a rotten egg!" Such a weird human saying, but then again, many of them were. Then, Rychel began the descent.

    Both Rychel and the other two engineers arrived at the first disruptor array at nearly the same time, and quickly began work scanning the device. Up closer, Rychel could see that there was a compartment behind the disruptor where power cells were stored. That made things a good bit easier for the team.

    Once they had a good baseline of what the working disruptor array looked like, Rychel rappelled a bit further down to get to one of the arrays with a non-functioning disruptor array. Once she’d gotten safely situated, she began to scan it. “Yeah, this one just needs a power cell. Otherwise it looks intact, and it looks like there are power cells in this compartment. While I get them out, you should see if you can figure out how to install them into the array,” Rychel said, looking over at Travers. She began to fiddle with the console on the storage cabinet, a process that was made worse by her inability to read the Mae language. After a few moments, though, she managed to get it open, and she removed one of the power cells. She scanned it quickly with a tricorder to make sure that it had not been damaged in any way.

    “Alright, looks like we’re good to install this,” she said. She handed it to Travers, who placed it carefully into position. Travers made sure that all the connections were properly hooked up, and held a thumb up. Blue status lights on the console next to her were encouraging. Hopefully blue wasn’t the equivalent of red on Maeri.

    Scanning the whole array one more time with her tricorder, she decided that it all looked good. Rychel took out a padd, and utilized it to decipher the Mae characters on the console before her. She ran the disruptor’s self-diagnostic, as she feared that there might be some differences in the Mae technology . Everything came up blue again, and since the first time blue seemed positive, she assumed that this time it would be as well.

    “It looks like this one is all good,” Rychel said. “Hopefully, the rest of them will be this quick, although I fear I may be jinxing us.”

    Cole groaned mock-dramatically. “Great, now the next six will be awful endeavors!”

    Rychel laughed. “Ok, I’m going to set up the self-test for this array. I’ll give us a 60 second timer to get over to that platform over there,” she said, pointing to the next disruptor array over. “Ready?”

    Once Cole and Travers had indicated that they were ready, Rychel began the timer for the self test. She quickly made her way over to the next platform, pulling out her tricorder to scan the disruptor array from afar. For the remainder of the 60 seconds, she held her breath. This would be the real test of their labors.

    The seconds ticked down, and the disruptor array fired.

    “Bridge to Away Team, The Mehtak are incoming.”

    Rychel swore, looking over to the rest of her team. “Alright, we’re going to need to be very careful. Let’s split up,” Rychel said, her hand drifting down to the phaser at her side. She didn’t mention that the reason she wanted to split up was more to try and ensure at least one of their survivals if things got bad. Handing a power cell over to Cole, she began the climb over to the next disruptor array.

    Her adrenaline was pumping, and any fear that she had regarding climbing or heights had completely disappeared as a result. This was the last disruptor array that just needed it’s power cell replaced. After this, the others required real repairs. She was a bit concerned that the three that they’d replaced power cells on might have issues because they were in need of maintenance, but her primary concern was getting them working, not getting them working well. She just had to hope that everything would work out well in the end.

    Part of her mind was all too aware of the fact that they were just outside the range of the runabout Juliet, which had been set up as a makeshift shield. They would need to climb back up if they were under attack, or wait it out and hope for the best.

    She got the power cell ready, but she fumbled slightly with getting the disruptor itself unassembled, and she forced herself to focus harder. Still, she repaired it quite efficiently given her relative familiarity with the technology.


    The sound rang out across the area, and the resulting vibrations nearly knocked Rychel off of the cliff face. It was only her extended experience with rock climbing that allowed her to catch herself on time. Well, sounds like the Mehtak are here, she thought grimly.

    “COLE! Travers!” She called out, so as to be heard over the distance separating her from the other engineers. “I’M STAYING DOWN HERE, BUT TAKE.” She couldn’t force the other engineers to stay in such a precarious position, not while the Mehtak were attacking. Fortunately, they’d approached from the other side. Thank goodness for small favors.

    It took the large majority of Rychel’s skill to move over to the next disruptor array. By now, she could hear the repetitive strikes of the Mehtak’s weaponry on shields. She hoped the team assigned to repair the Maeri’s shields had been successful, but somehow she doubted it. As she moved over to the next platform, she wondered how many Mehtak there were, and how long it was before the shields fell.

    Arriving on the next platform over, she began to hurriedly work at repairing the disruptor array. She knew that once the Mehtak headed over to this side of the settlement that the Mae would likely turn on the disruptors, and Rychel couldn’t be caught fixing them while they were active. She had to work fast. She had to get as many of the disruptors working as she could before the Mehtak got through the Juliet’s shields. It was her sole focus as she worked, and she tuned out the world around her.

    Rychel worked as quickly as she dared given the circumstances. There was a large crack down the power converter of the disruptor that she’d chosen to work on, and it was requiring a lot of work with a laser welder. While she worked, she carefully checked the mounts of the disruptors. She was relatively certain that even if the Mae had to turn the arrays back on that she could just press herself against the rock in order to avoid their energy beams.

    She hoped.

    Sweat began to drip down her brow, and she bought one hand up to loosen her uniform tunic. Her head was pounding, more from from the stress than the repetitive disruptor bolts on the shields to the west. But the sound was a constant reminder of how important her work was. If her team failed then Mae were going to die.

    Juliet’s shields aren’t going to hold much longer!” T’vorak called from above.

    Completing the disruptor she was at, Rychel hurried over to the next disruptor. Sweat was running down her face in rivulets, and she dashed them away with one sleeve, before focusing on hand and footholds. She quickly checked the other two engineers, who’d ignored her order to take cover. Still, they were managing to get more disruptors repaired, which was likely imperative to their survival.

    Her uniform tunic had been cast aside long before, as it made both working and climbing more difficult. She’d stripped down to the grey sleeveless shirt underneath, but still she was sweating profusely, partially from the heat and partially from the stress. She was glad that her sessions with Morgan had been so successful because this would have been a very bad time to have an emotional breakdown.

    “Done these!” Cole called.

    “Same!” Travers added.

    “Almost done this one!” That would leave them with eight of nine working. The ninth would have to wait until the Talon had finished fabrication. “That shield’s going to go any minute now. We need to get these done and get someplace safe.”

    She heard the quiet as the Juliet’s shields fell, and she cringed. Was this how she was going to die, clinging to the side of a cliff as the result of a warp core breach in an atmosphere? But for some reason, it didn’t come, and Rychel was certain that it wasn’t because the Mehtak decided to give up and go eat cookies instead of harassing the Mae.

    Looking up, she saw one of the Mae looking down at her. “Turn the array back on!” she called. She knew it would take a few minutes for the system to come entirely. Meanwhile, she hurriedly continued to work on the disruptor in front of her. She knew she could get it working before the array came online. She had to do it. She couldn’t let the Mae down.

    “Four minutes,” the Mae called back. That was nearly an eternity, Rychel realized. Well, assuming she didn’t get taken out by the Mehtak in the meanwhile. Still, there was a shaking in her hands that wasn’t there a few moments before. Come on, get a grip. The PADD next to her ticked down the minutes remaining in the disruptor’s initiation cycle.


    Three minutes was almost a lifetime in situations like this. She dug through the burned circuitry, selectively replacing only the components that were most critical. A power relay here, a coupling there, a few wires to help balance things out.


    The power cell was still discharged though, so she’d need to replace it. Slamming shut the casing, she quickly opened the storage chamber where the spare cells were stored. Then, opening the compartment for the power cell, she prepared to replace it. Unfortunately, she cut her hand in her haste, and she pulled it back reflexively.

    No time to worry about that, ‘Chel, she chided herself.

    She turned her focus back to replacing the power cell. Everything else around her might have not existed. She could hear the sounds of the disruptor fire drawing nearer, and she knew that meant that the Mehtak were approaching.


    She slammed the power compartment shut and initiated the self test for the disruptor. The panel flashed orange. Somehow, she suspected orange was bad.


    Fumbling with her tricorder, she began to scan the whole assembly over again. There had to be something she missed, some simple connector... something. She blinked quickly as sweat dripped into her eyes.


    She could hear the thrum of power through the whole cliffside as the 8 enabled disruptor arrays powered up. She knew if the one she stood at was too badly damaged that it could explode as soon as it was fully enabled. She felt like she was going to be sick, but she didn’t have the time to deal with it.


    There it was. The thing she’d missed. There was a loose wire. She quickly opened the side of the disruptor, tightened the connector, and watched with glee as the console lit up blue.


    She pressed herself up tightly against the rock face, knowing she didn’t have time to climb up to the top. She was going to have to hope that the Mehtak didn’t get it in their heads to try and shoot the disruptor that she was standing next to.

    The runabout Romeo had been assigned to try and keep the Mehtak vessels away from the teams that worked to restore service to the Maeri defense systems. As Romeo led the Mehtak vessels on a good chase, their course inevitably took them to the cliffs, where the disruptors could provide extra fire power against the Mehtak. As soon as the sensors for the Mae disruptors detected the Mehtak vessels in range, they began to fire, and Rychel realized just how precarious a position she was in.

    For one thing, the Mae disruptors were quite loud. She clapped her hands over her ears, and crouched down into as small of a ball as she could. They also let off a lot of heat, and she began to sweat even more profusely. Fortunately, the Mehtak seemed preoccupied with shooting at the Romeo, but they did spare a few shots over at the cliff side, which sent rocks flying everywhere. The resulting flurry of rock fragments stung at every piece of bar skin, causing her to regret casting the top of her uniform aside. She closed her eyes, turning her face towards the cliff side. It prevented her from seeing what was going on around her, but at the same time, she knew that it was the best way to prevent herself from any serious hurt. Still, it left her horribly unaware of what was going on around her. Were the Mehtak firing on the cliff more? What was the explosion that she heard? How long had passed? Was there any hope for her, or should she try to leap off the cliff into the water below?

    This is hell, Rychel thought to herself. Hopefully, she’d find some way out of this situation. She wasn’t ready to die just yet.

    At first, Rychel had been genuinely convinced she’d made the right decision. She was helping the Mae to defend themselves. Even if the disruptor she’d stayed behind to fix were to only take down one Mehtak vessel, that was one less vessel that could land and hurt or kill the Mae. In fairness, the disruptor she’d fixed helped take out a good two or three Mehtak ships, but there was a reason it was broken in the first place. It had a great position to take aim at incoming vessels, which inevitably meant that it had great position to be shot at.

    Fortunately, the Mehtak didn’t seem to prioritize accuracy with their weapons so much as they prioritized frequency. Still, disruptor bolts hit the cliffside around her, sending rocks flying all over the place. She knew she’d be bruised and bloodied when this was all over.

    That was... if she got out alive.

    She mulled over her options. She could stay where she was and have a greater chance of being hit. Or, she could attempt the perilous climb back up to the top. Perhaps if the Mehtak had a living target, they would focus more on accuracy. That could be a decision that ended her life.

    Next to her, the disruptor whined as shot after shot was fired. The heat coming off of it was stifling, and Rychel wasn’t sure how long it would be before she suffered from burns. She uncurled for a moment to peek up. Fortunately, the cliffside above her hadn’t been disrupted too much by the Mehtak weapons. Under other circumstances, Rychel would have laughed at the Mehtak weapons not living up to their names, but she didn’t have time for that.

    She would have to climb quick, that was for certain. If the Mehtak forces got to the cliff’s edge before she got up, she’d be a sitting duck. And the longer that she stayed in one position, the more likely she’d get shot.

    Her safety rope had been severed by one of the blasts, but she paid it no mind, climbing up the mountain face as quickly as she could without risking her balance. She quickly wished for the rope, though, as she’d never climbed a mountain face while being pelted by rocks of various sizes. She would add that to the long list of things to do if she got off the planet in one piece.

    I’m never leaving a starship again, she thought. But she was quickly brought from her thoughts by a baseball-sized hunk of rock colliding with her left shoulder. Her left hand released its grip reflexively, and for a moment, she hung there precariously by one hand. Her eyes drifted down to the rocks below, knowing there was no way she’d avoid death if she fell this time. Certainly not without Dakbar to cushion her fall.

    With effort, she grabbed back on to the cliffside with her left hand, and pulled herself up towards the top of the cliff. The top was looming nearer every instant. Still, she was so sore and tired...
  20. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    Chapter 19

    It took most of her remaining effort to drag herself atop the cliff. She lay there panting heavily for a moment, before realizing just how bad the situation really was. Several dozen meters away she could see the rest of her team, but there was no way to get to them from where she was. Certainly not with the crowd of Mehtak that separated them. Off in the distance, she could see more Mehtak fighters landing, and she swore softly.

    She wasn’t sure that her legs would support her, but she managed to stand with some difficulty. Once she was standing, she propelled herself behind a rock, drawing her phaser quickly. She thumbed the toggle up to kill before peeking around to see if she’d been noticed. So far, she’d not. She waited for her moment to fire, not wanting to be overwhelmed by Mehtak by revealing herself too soon.

    She waited until the Mehtak were distracted, firing shots off in T’vorak’s direction, then took aim, squeezing off a quick shot. As her shot struck true, a Mehtak soldier fell to the ground. Her confidence inspired, she took aim once more.

    As Dakbar’s vessel landed some distance away, the Cardassian found a scene he had hoped he wouldn't find. The Mehtak were everywhere, some dead, but many hiding like cowards behind rocks while firing at the Starfleet officers. His eyes spotted Cole, Travers, and T’vorak. Where was Rychel? He dove for safety behind a large boulder as one of the Mehtak spotted him. Where was she? Weapon in hand, he swung around the boulder and fired almost immediately at the head of one of the aliens, dropping him to the ground. The sound of a Federation phaser caused his head to whip in that direction. Rychel. She had to be behind that rock. To add credence to his claim, she popped out from behind it and fired. Her aim was deadly and perfect. That's my girl. A ridged eyebrow rose briefly at his own thought.

    Rychel was exceedingly cautious with her positioning, making sure not to give the Mehtak a clear shot on her. Their weapons were likely going to be set to kill, and she wasn’t going to die. Not here. Not now. Not after everything else that she’d been through. The adrenaline rushing through her gave her a strength and a focus that she wasn’t used to, and she had to admit that she found it exhilarating. Despite her fear, and the danger, she was enjoying herself.

    Fueled by a desire to save the woman who caused him so much mental turmoil, he ran across the open area, firing on instinct alone at the Mehtak who rose to stop him. There was no careful aiming, just pure ability to know where the target was in relation to his own weapon.

    Looking around her rock to make another shot, she saw a glimpse of something moving towards her. At first, she thought it was Mehtak, but the uniform was decidedly Starfleet. Taking her shot, she grazed one of the Mehtak in the arm, as the rest of his body had been blocked by the personal shield that he carried. Still, it was enough to get him to drop his weapon, and to fall over, clutching the severely burned limb.

    She heard the footsteps of the Starfleet officer approaching her, and could judge that whoever it was was making haste. Sure enough, Dakbar skidded to safety behind 'her' rock. He caught his breath, then said, "We have a ship, let's go." His head cocked in the direction of the ship. "The ride is bumpy, but Cobus made it work."

    She grinned, amazed by his timing. “I’m glad to see you,” she said. She peeked out for a moment to see the Mehtak that separated her from the ship.

    Unfortunately, the way back to the Mehtak vessel was more than a little filled with those who wanted them all dead. "Do not think," he said as he put a hand on her elbow. "React. Let your training guide you." It was then that he noticed all of the torn fabric, blood, and bruising. His face hardened. "Can you run?"

    “Yes,” she said confidently, although her legs were starting to ache a lot. “Wait.” Reaching down into the boot holster, she removed the small phaser that Desan had told her to keep on her person at all times. She fondly referred to the Type 1 as a “Cricket.” “I’ll cause a distraction,” she explained. She’d been holding on to the Cricket in case the power cell on her Type 2 ran out, but now that she knew that there was a chance of rescue, she could afford to lose it. She deftly disengaged the safety on the Type 1, and set it to transfer energy from the power cell to the prefire chamber and back again.

    "You already are a distraction," he said as he watched her muck around with a Type 1 phaser. After several seconds, it became apparent what she was attempting to do and he ducked back down behind the rock with her. The rapid energy transfer was more than the power cell could handle, and the small phaser began to whine loudly.

    Rychel counted down the seconds in her head. She had to hold onto it until the last possible moment to prevent the Mehtak from getting away from it. She could hear the Mehtak disruptors pounding away at the rock that they used for cover, and she knew that their attackers were getting closer. Dakbar had to admit that his anxiety level was approaching critical the longer she held the overloading phaser in her hand. Throw it!

    When the whine of the phaser reached an extremely high pitch, Rychel stood up, lobbing the Type 1 towards the largest group of Mehtak attackers. Dakbar had been about to grab it from her hand when she finally lobbed it away. The resultant explosion was extremely satisfying and he looked at Rychel with renewed appreciation. Her timing and aim weren’t perfect, but they were good enough, and the explosion left several of the Mehtak attackers dead. Many of the others had been either staggered, or momentarily blinded by the explosion.

    “Now!” she exclaimed. She grinned gleefully at the explosion that she’d caused, glad that for once her penchant for blowing things up was a good thing.

    Grabbing her by the arm, he dragged her after him. He needed to keep physical contact with her so that he would know where she was at all times. They ran over the dusty surface, barely avoiding being hit by blasts from the weapon of the lone Mehtak who had been lucky enough to be far enough away from the phaser overload. As they neared the ship, he swung her into his arms and carried her for the last few meters.

    Rychel’s entire body ached, and she was a bit annoyed at how the adrenaline seemed to be wearing off. She felt slow, sluggish, heavy. She felt the heat as disruptor bolts narrowly missed their bodies, and she realized just how much danger they were in.

    Desan would kill her if he ever found out what she was doing.

    As he deposited her on the floor of the Mehtak ship, she sunk wearily into a lump on the floor. “Thank you,” she said softly. How many times would he save her life?

    The other members of her team were loaded into the Mehtak vessel, which continued over to the next repair team. Rychel would have ordinarily wondered where and how they’d gotten it, but she couldn’t care at the moment. She looked over at Cole, but found the other engineer hazy. For the first time, she saw T’vorak’s injuries. T’vorak was hazy too, as was Travers Rychel looked around. Everyone was a bit blurry. She frowned. That wasn’t very good. Exhaustion and dehydration were threatening to take over, this she was sure of. But she didn’t have time to be tired now, and she certainly didn’t have time to pass out. That’s my team, she thought, looking at the other three members of Team Four.

    She forced herself to her feet, although she swayed somewhat at first.

    “You should rest,” Dakbar said.

    She frowned. “My team. My responsibility,” she said. The determination on her face told him she needed to do this, and he stepped aside as pride welled up in his chest. By force of will alone she stumbled over to where Cole sat. “Are you alright, Ensign?” Her words sounded somewhat slurred to her own ears, and that fact frustrated her. Didn’t her body know that she had things to do? People to take care of? Her chief had trusted her to get things done, and to take care of her team. And that’s what she was going to do.

    As soon as the world stopped spinning, that is.

    “I think I’m doing better than you, sir!” the Ensign responded quickly.

    Dakbar appraised the man's injuries. That's because you are hardly injured. His eyes narrowed at his crewman, but he quickly hid his annoyance. "Lieutenant Kayden is strong."

    Despite herself, Rychel flushed a bit. It was so infrequently that Dakbar praised her, and she definitely appreciated every word. “Thank you, sir,” she said, remembering that in the heat of a mission, she was best following protocol regarding rank. A pouch of water was thrust into her hand, and she drank thirstily from it, knowing that it would be key to resisting dehydration.

    She tried to listen to the chatter around her, for it dealt with the recovery of the other teams, but all the sudden she felt rather weak, and it was hard for her to focus on it. The rest of the crew seemed to have it under control, though, so Rychel allowed herself to relax. The vessel landed once more, and Dakbar rushed out, along with the rest of the security team. A surge of pride went through her as she saw Dakbar diligently working to help others. Still, she worried a bit until he returned to the vessel a few minutes later, with several other Talon crew.

    Dakbar stepped over to where Rychel was seated, his expression concerned. "You have not been evaluated yet?" He looked accusingly at the medic. "Come, I will tend to you. She has other patients." Grabbing Rychel up from the floor, he carried her through the hallway until they came to an empty room. As he placed her on a bench, he said one word, "stay." Without hesitation, he began pulling off her clothing.

    She was doing her best not to show how injured she was, but it was hard as the adrenaline wore off. This other room smelled, and Rychel’s nose wrinkled. Do the Mehtak believe in bathing? Somehow, she thought not.

    “It’s not that bad,” she said softly, as he removed the undershirt she was wearing. Looking down at the various lacerations and bruises that were hidden beneath, she frowned. “Well, not going to kill me.” She suddenly realized just how dangerous staying down at the disruptor had been. How would he have felt if she would have died down there? She hadn’t even had time to send him a farewell message before she left the Talon because she’d gotten ready to leave so quickly.

    "That, I will believe." He removed her boots and pulled her trousers away from her legs. As he tossed the material aside, he frowned at all the bruises. she sat there, clad in just her underthings. She was glad that she’d made sure they matched this morning - light blue. The Mehtak vessel was warm, and she was grateful for that fact, as shivering would have likely been quite uncomfortable.

    “Thank you,” she said. “For saving my team. And me.” As always, Rychel thought of her own well being last. She looked up, her eyes searching his face, trying to determine just what he was thinking.

    Her eyes met his, and, for a moment, he became lost in them. Those eyes haunted his dreams, smashing through images pertaining to his mission, always innocent, honest, and questioning. There were times he wanted to jam something into those eye sockets, but he was sure she would find some other way to mess with his head.

    She was well aware that his gaze lingered on hers longer than was necessary, and she felt her face flush in response. Things had been odd ever since the accident. She’d known he would not like that he’d been visited by the Prophets, and that they may have saved his life. She wasn’t sure that he believed that, but she knew that ever since they’d discussed it, he’d been distant. Sure, there were moments here and there when things would seem the way they had before the accident, but before they could get anywhere, duty always tore them apart.

    "Does this hurt," he asked as he gently bent one of her knees. It was slightly swollen. It angered him that each away team hadn't been accompanied by a security officer and he intended to make his displeasure known as soon as they got back. It was against protocol. Still, if Starfleet wanted to kill off their officers, who was he to argue?

    She exhaled quickly at the sharp pain that shot up from her knee, up the side of her leg to her hip. She nodded, not trusting herself to keep her voice steady. She didn’t want to look weak in front of him, certainly not after what he’d just told her team. She knew that he wasn’t the sort to throw out a compliment that he didn’t mean.

    The pain receded, thought, and for a moment, Rychel forgot where she was, and that she was injured. She forgot that the Mehtak vessel smelled like a festering pile of Rakonian swamp rat corpses, and that there was still a good number of Mehtak ships and warriors around. Reaching up with one tentative hand, she traced a pattern from his eye ridge, following the bony protrusion to where it met with his ear, then down his neck until the Starfleet uniform got in the way. It was funny how often the uniform got in the way of life, in a both literal and figurative sense.

    She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say anything, she began to disappear as the transporter took hold of her.