The Star Eagle Adventures VI: Semper Fidelis

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CeJay, Sep 15, 2014.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    The Star Eagle Adventures VI

    Author's Note:

    Welcome to Semper Fidelis, the sixth novel in the Star Eagle Adventures series. As usual, this novel is a self-contained story and can be enjoyed without previous knowledge of the Star Eagle or the United Trek universe. And as usual, it tends to be better the more familiar you are with the characters. But don't let that stop you.

    Star Eagle I-V, as well as novellas, vignettes and short stories are available as ebook downloads at

    Feedback and comments are of course always greatly encouraged.

    Special thanks to kes7 for her beta reading assistance.

    Imagine there's no countries
    It isn't hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace

    You may say I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope someday you'll join us
    And the world will be as one

    John Lennon

    Soldiers, when committed to a task, can't compromise.
    It's unrelenting devotion to the standards of duty and courage,
    absolute loyalty to others, not letting the task go until it's been done.

    John Keegan

    Stardate 52864
    November 2375 CE


    Two days after the Treaty of Bajor

    The attack had started at dawn.

    It wasn’t anything Gunnery Sergeant Jonar Arik hadn’t seen before. They had used artillery fire to soften them up and weaken their air defenses before they brought in the hive swarms which unleashed their firepower with pinpoint accuracy, decimating half the base within a few minutes.

    It was ironic, Arik had thought when the bombardment had commenced. After all only a day earlier this base had belonged to the very same people who were now trying to turn it into dust. It wasn’t entirely unexpected and actually made a certain kind of sense. If the enemy couldn’t have it, they would make damn sure Arik and his men wouldn’t keep it either. And if the sixty or so Marines which occupied this base now would lose their lives defending it, then so much the better for the enemy.

    Arik was determined not to let it come to that.

    He rushed into the main command and control room, dodging light fittings and pieces of the ceiling coming crashing down onto the floor.

    He found the room much like the rest of the base. Dark and brown colors dominated the interior design and symmetry was seemingly everywhere: the door frames, the support struts, even the bolts holding the place barely together. The designers had heavily favored trapezoids instead of squares, and ovals in favor of circles. Arik had only spent a small amount of time here, but he was already tiring of the design. Not that he expected to be staying much longer.

    “Where’s the LT?”

    Sergeant Thiago Carvalho, manning a control console, turned to Arik. He shook his head. “She didn’t make it, was one of the first to go down when we were hit by the hives. You in charge, Gunny.”

    The Deltan turned to see the the prone form of Lieutenant Yiigar lying on a stretcher, covered with a blood-soaked tarp. He allowed himself a brief moment to grieve her passing. She had been an outstanding Marine and a fellow comrade for almost two years. She deserved better than to be taken out by a stray explosive round at the beginning of battle.

    He uttered a quick prayer for her soul and joined Carvalho by the console. “What we got, Thi?”

    “Oh, you gonna love this, baby,” he said with a grin. “They’re hitting us from all over with everything they’ve got. They must be really mad we took one of their forward bases from right under their ugly noses.”

    The dark haired, broad shouldered Brazilian looked like he had been born to be a Marine, putting Arik’s much more slender Deltan frame to shame. And yet even though the two of them could not have been more different in appearances and backgrounds, they had somehow become fast friends during this seemingly endless deployment.

    Arik offered his own little smile. “I do like making them mad.”

    “I know you do, but we really shouldn’t stick around for this one, trust me.”

    Arik studied the screen and then pointed at the far east sector. “That’s our way out of here. Get everyone we’ve got left to fortify the northern perimeter, that’s where they’re going to hit us next. We need to buy ourselves enough time to get out of this mess.”

    “You got it, Gunny.” He quickly relayed his orders.

    The enemy carried out another strike. This one hit mere meters from the command room, blowing out all the windows and throwing everyone to the floor.

    Carvalho picked himself back up. “That was a close one.”

    “Double time.” Arik scrambled back to his feet himself and headed toward the exit. Halfway there, he stopped, spotting Yiigar’s body again. He turned around. “And Thi.” He gestured towards the dead lieutenant. “Nobody gets left behind.”

    Carvalho gave him a sober nod before he went back to issuing orders to the remaining men.

    Arik turned out to be right. They were making their move from the north and they were bringing quite a force with them to do it with. Fortunately for the remaining Marines, they had a little bit of heavy ordnance left themselves.

    “How many?”

    “Enough to make them wish they hadn’t come here,” said Corporal Chuba Tinbu, a thin and wiry Nigerian who was the unit’s heavy weapons expert.

    They were both standing in the base’s courtyard, where most of the Marines had assembled to make their stand against the incoming enemy. Small explosions ripped into the ground all around them at irregular intervals and occasionally hitting a building as well. Arik wasn’t too concerned. He knew their shields had a little bit of juice left, and their scatterers were still in full effect. This made it fairly difficult for the enemy to target with much accuracy.

    Tinbu peered through a gap in the wall, staring out beyond the shimmering transparent shield that still surrounded the base, but offered less protection with every successive hit. Arik followed his gaze and spotted the first ground vehicles hovering through the narrow canyon, right towards their position.

    “Makes you wonder why they even bother,” Tinbu said. “There won’t be much left of this place once they get here. Why not just bomb it out of existence?”

    “They want prisoners,” said Arik. “And we’re not going to give’em any.”

    Tinbu nodded, catching Arik’s meaning immediately. “On your word, Gunny?”

    Arik nodded. “Let’s give’em hell before we haul ass out of here.”

    The corporal nodded again and turned to his men, who had set up six smart launchers in the courtyard. The mobile weapons platforms were not much more than tripods with spheres the size of bowling balls positioned on top of them. “Fire on my mark.”

    Arik stared through the gap in the wall and waited until the enemy convoy was close enough that he could start to make out the infantry units moving along with their vehicles. He wanted to do as much damage as he possibly could. Finally, he turned to Tinbu. “Fire.”

    Arik watched as the six devices came to life, the dark spheres readjusting quickly and then revealing a number of perforations within their smooth surface. Once again, Arik was struck by their uncanny resemblance to bowling balls, but putting one’s fingers into the holes on one of these would have been instant suicide.

    Within seconds, the weapons erupted like fireworks, shooting at least two dozen missiles high into the sky. Arik craned his neck as he attempted to track their progress. Not all of the missiles survived— nearly half were quickly neutralized by the enemy’s countermeasures.

    That still left plenty of missiles to do some damage, though. Once they reached their designated altitude, the remaining missiles exploded, creating dozens of smaller projectiles that rained down on the advancing enemy like hellfire.

    The destruction was impressive, as at least three heavy tanks were ripped apart instantly and the cries of pain and agony confirmed that a number of infantry units had fared no better. Arik and the others had little time to bear witness as their enemy’s response was almost immediate and devastating. The remaining tanks unleashing their own firepower, this time with much improved accuracy. Two of the launchers were ripped to shreds within moments, forcing the Marines manning them to desperately scramble for cover.

    “Time to go.” Arik quickly gestured to his men. “Set them to full auto and fall back.”

    Tinbu and the others wasted no time, but Arik waited until the last man had stepped off the courtyard before he followed.

    He ran into Carvalho just outside the east gate.

    The Brazilian spotted the Deltan approach. “That’s everyone. Just your beautiful ass left.”

    Arik wanted to shoot back a stinging retort, but stopped suddenly when he spotted his friend’s rifle go up, the muzzle pointing in his direction. Without a second thought, he jumped forward and dove into the mud, just as Carvalho fired three quick bursts that passed right over his head.

    When Arik turned to look behind him, he saw three enemy soldiers cut down less than fifty meters away. He turned back towards Carvalho, who quickly extended his hand. Arik took it without hesitation and pulled himself up again and retrieved his helmet which had tumbled from his head thrown himself to the ground. “Just can’t let me die a noble death, can you?”

    Once outside the shield perimeter, they were exposed to the planet’s seemingly never-ending rain which pelting Arik’s face and his smooth bald head causing it to drip into his eyes. Like most others he had long since gotten used to it. He secured his combat helmet again to get at least some relief.

    Carvalho grinned. “And break a thousand hearts? Fat chance I’ll be responsible for that.”

    “I’ve been celibate for six years.” The Deltan wiped the mud and rain from his face as he began jogging alongside Carvalho to catch up with the rest of the unit.

    “So you keep saying, and yet I’m not buying it for a minute. Not with all the ladies melting at the sight of those big blue eyes of yours.”

    Arik tossed his friend a good-natured smirk. “Jealous much?”

    “Hell, yeah. Damn Deltans. It just ain’t fair.”

    They were on a small hill a hundred yards or so from the base perimeter when they heard the telltale fizzling sound of failing shields behind them. Arik stopped and turned back to look at the base—or what was left of it. He watched as the energy barrier surrounding the walls flashed a couple more times before vanishing completely. The hives moved in with little delay— dozens of tiny machines, flying in such tight formations they looked like swarms of bees. They were hundreds of times deadlier than even the most vicious insects as they unleashed massive amounts of fire power, bombarding every square inch of exposed ground, ripping deep seams into the earth itself.

    Next came the bombardment by the enemy ground vessels, still a good two hundred yards away from the base. Their attack systematically tore up one building after the next.

    Carvalho considered the destruction below. “Looks like they switched to a scorched earth approach after all.”

    “How many did we lose?”

    “Yiigar makes twelve. But we hurt them a lot more than they hurt us.”

    Arik frowned, but nodded.

    A silence fell between them as they watched the base being torn to rubble. “Hey, you mind if I ask you a question, Gunny?”

    The Deltan squinted through the rain at the man at his side. He had known Carvalho for nearly two years, since the day they had arrived on this world, and in all that time he had never once sounded quite so serious.

    “No, Thi, I’m not helping you hook up with any of the women in the unit.”

    That got a guffaw out of Carvalho. “That’s what you say now. My plan is to keep at it until I wear you down.” He grinned but then shook his head, his features turning serious again. “It’s not what I meant to ask though.”

    Arik gave him a short nod to let him know to go on.

    Carvalho gazed down at the blackened, soggy, smoking wreckage of the base. “You think it’s all worth it?”

    “Course it is.” There was no delay in his response, he didn’t even have to consider it. “It’s all working out exactly like the general predicted. We take their base, they send units to take it back and Fourth Battalion uses the distraction to hit them where it really hurts. It’s a thing of beauty.”

    But the Brazilian shook his head, looking pensive. “I mean all of this.” He made a sweeping gesture across the horizon. “The entire damn thing, you know? Goddamned planet in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes I wonder if there’s any point to all of this.”

    Arik turned to regard his friend with a surprised look, not used to hearing him talk like this at all. “Well, stop wondering right now, Marine.” He spoke in his best command voice. Then his tone softened. “Look, Thi, the general knows precisely what we’re doing here and you just gotta have faith in that,” he said. “This is war and we’re fighting for our gods-given right to exist. And we’ll take this fight wherever it may lead us. We’ll beat this thing and this godsdamned, rain-cursed planet as well. But we gotta stay focused, Thi. We gotta stay strong. And we don’t go home until the job’s done.”

    “Victory through strength.” Carvalho fell back onto the battle mantra their entire regiment had long since adopted.

    “Oorah,” Arik said. “Victory through strength.”

    “Oorah and right as rain, as usual, Gunny.”

    “Don’t even talk to me about rain.”

    They both laughed at that.

    “Now let’s haul ass. Only a question of time until these guys decide to follow us.” He turned and headed away from the stricken base with Carvalho close behind to get to their rallying point.

    They didn’t get far. At the edge of the canyon they found Chuba Tinbu and a dozen Marines crouching by the tree line. Arik immediately noticed their tense body language and both he and Carvalho approached low and with caution.

    “What’s up, Chuba, why are we still in this damned valley?” Arik kept his voice low as a whisper and took a knee next to the corporal.

    “Scout team says they detected some movement just ahead.” Tinbu pointed towards what looked like a small settlement of now mostly abandoned buildings which stood right between them and the canyon exit and their rallying point.

    Arik knew these weren’t unusual in these parts and that the locals had long since deserted those hamlets to stay out of the way of the fighting.

    Carvalho glanced at Tinbo. “Tricorders?”

    “Bloody useless. Scatterers are in full effect. Can’t even tell if its ours or theirs but its scrambling all our scans to practically nothing.”

    “So we’ll do this the old fashioned way. Nothing new there. Get second squad to move up along the tree line just beyond that clearing.” Arik understood that as the highest ranking Marine left in the unit, it was up to him to give all the orders now. “Prepare the rest of the platoon to stand by to move up slowly. If there is somebody there, I want us to outflank them before they can outflank us.”

    The Nigerian nodded sharply and relayed the orders via his personal comm unit.

    Carvalho sighed. “I’d be more comfortable with some reinforcements.”

    “So would I, but you know that’s not going to happen. Whatever is scrambling our sensors is doing the same for comms. Anything further away then line of sight is out of reach for now.” He checked over his phaser rifle. “You ready?”

    Carvalho shot him a dark smirk. “Who wants to live forever, right?”

    Arik uttered a short, subdued laugh. “We’re not, they’re not.”

    As soon as he received the signal from Tinbu that everyone was in position, he gave the order to advance. They did so slowly, staying as low as possible and close to the underbrush, the intelligent camouflage of their fatigues adapting to their green and brown surroundings, making them nearly invisible.

    Arik stopped and raised his fist to let the others know to follow suit when he thought he spotted a hidden figure partially concealed behind a dilapidated building and less than thirty feet away. He wiped his wet face with the back of his hand, a temporary solution at best as the rain had not stopped since the night hours, and then activated the holographic target module on his helmet which slid over his right eye. It was designed to assist him in identifying targets, but the heads-up display dancing in front of his vision was struggling to tell him anything of use. Frustrated, he tapped the side of his helmet to allow the module to withdraw and brought up his rifle to take aim manually.

    Carvalho gently touched his arm. “Do you hear that?”

    Arik listened. At first, he heard nothing. But after a moment, it was unmistakable: a low-pitched hum that was getting louder and more intense by the second. He knew precisely what it meant. Trouble.

    “Hives, get down!” He flattened himself to the ground and activated his personal shielding system.

    Within seconds, the miniature drones had swarmed over their position and opened fire. The barrage was so intense Arik could feel the vibration through his shields. Without them, he knew he would have been instantly incinerated.

    Being careful to stay low, he reached for his belt and unfastened a small cylindrical device, not much larger than his hand. He pressed a button and a spike shot out from one end. Then he drove the spike hard into the ground in front of him.

    A bright blue light shot straight up into the sky from the device’s upper end and the air seemed to shimmer around him. He glanced up and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw that a large shield bubble had successfully formed overhead, putting a barrier between them and the drones. He knew it wouldn’t last long, but he hoped it would be enough to allow them to reach the rallying point and keep them safe from the threat above.

    He scrambled back to his feet. “Move out, now!”

    A quick head count revealed that one man was down, taken out when he hadn’t activated his shield quickly enough before the hives attacked. Two Marines were carrying his lifeless body.

    “Move, move, move!” Arik gestured forward. “Get to the rallying point!”

    But they made it less than a hundred yards before they encountered the next wave of opposition. The figure he had thought he had spotted earlier, concealed behind one of the buildings, turned out to be just one of many.

    Arik fired before the first enemy solider could take aim, ripping him off his feet.

    He fired again, three shots in rapid succession, taking out two more.

    A direct hit to his flank nearly threw him to the ground. A shrill warning sound from his belt let him know that his shield was almost gone.

    He ignored it and kept firing.

    The enemy kept coming.

    He never stopped moving, firing to the left, to the right and directly in front of him. The unrelenting phaser fire from his own men and those being slung towards them by the enemy, sizzled through the heavy and wet air, quickly turning it into thickening mist. Soon enough he perceived nothing more than shadows moving through fog. It didn’t stop him from shooting at anything that could be an enemy.

    When his rifle gave out, he swiftly jammed a new power cell into it from his belt with practiced ease and kept on firing.

    “Go, go, go!” He had no way of knowing how many of his people were still with him.

    He took another hit. This one forced him to his knees.

    An enemy soldier bore down on him, murderous fire in his eyes.

    Arik swung his rifle up, took aim at his attacker and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. The rifle didn’t fire.

    Not enough time to reload. Without a second thought, he launched the weapon like a spear at the incoming soldier, but the man dodged it at the last moment.

    With lightning fast reflexes, Arik grabbed for his sidearm, brought it to bear and fired. This time, the approaching soldier was not fast enough to avoid the fatal blast to his chest. But before the man’s body even hit the ground, something hard and unrelenting hit Arik from the side, and his phaser went flying out of his hand as he was thrown into the mud.

    Another enemy soldier had tackled him. He was much larger than Arik, and after a very short struggle the attacker had managed to get the upper hand, pinning Arik beneath him. With a vicious smirk, he pulled a large knife from his belt and and brought it swiftly down toward the Marine below him.

    At the last moment, Arik jerked his body to one side. The knife missed him by inches, burying itself hilt deep into the mud instead.

    His opponent’s eyes widened like saucers as he realized his fatal mistake. Before the man could free his weapon, Arik had slipped his own knife from his thigh holster and driven it deep into the man’s side, catching him right underneath his clamshell like battle armor.

    The man’s eyes locked with Arik’s, and time seemed to slow down for a moment as they stared at each other, their faces just inches apart. For the first time, Arik realized that as large as this man was, he was really just a kid—maybe eighteen or nineteen years old, but not one year older. Panic gripped the boy’s face and his eyes pleaded silently, trying to somehow avoid what he must have already known was inevitable.

    The young soldier broke eye contact, and time sped up again. In a last, desperate effort, he managed to free his knife from where he had driven it into the ground. Arik pushed his own knife deeper into his opponent’s flesh and twisted it in response.

    The young man moaned in agony, but he somehow managed the strength to bring the razor-sharp blade down on Arik again. The Deltan yanked his own knife out of the boy’s side only to drive it back into his flesh, over and over again, as fast and as hard as he could, until his hand was soaked with blood. And yet it wasn’t enough—Arik felt searing pain as his opponent’s knife ripped into his flank, tearing through his fatigues and flesh.

    It was, however, the young man’s last act. With a final, rasping cry, he collapsed lifelessly on top of Arik.

    He breathed hard, trying to focus on the pain at his side and willing it away. With great effort, he pushed the dead soldier off of him.

    He got back onto his hands and knees and looked up.

    The air was still dense with the smoke of weapons fire. He could see bright powerful discharges blasting back and forth, but not much more.

    He crawled around the body-strewn battlefield until he found a discarded rifle, not his own, and forced himself back onto his feet. Gingerly, he touched his side. His hand came away warm and sticky with thick, dark blood where his attacker had stabbed him. Only his adrenaline kept him upright as he continued slowly towards the direction he believed the rallying point to be.

    He wasn’t sure how long he had walked before the haze finally began to clear and he could see the end of the canyon.

    He heard a voice call out. “Gunny?”

    Chuba Tinbu rushed towards him, and Arik could spot quite a few more of his people behind him. He had reached the rallying point. He felt an immense sense of relief take hold of him—not so much that he had survived, but that his unit had.

    Tinbu looked rough. He had lost his combat jacket and the olive shirt he wore underneath had been ripped in various places. His dark skin was crisscrossed with wounds. Fortunately, none of them looked life threatening.

    Tinbu helped Arik over to a nearby rock and sat him down. Arik looked around at the handful of men who had gotten out of the ambush. Most of them had made it. But one face was missing. “Where’s Thi?”

    The Nigerian Marine locked eyes with him. “I saw him take a blast right to the head with his shields gone.” He shook his head. “He didn’t make it.”

    Arik closed his eyes as he felt fury swelling in his chest. Then he felt nauseous. He turned away and emptied his stomach into an adjacent bush.

    “Gunny, we need to get out of here.”

    Arik wiped his dirty face and looked for the corpsman. He called her over and instructed her to seal his wound and give him a stimulant.

    But the woman didn’t seem to like what she saw. “That’s not going to be enough, Gunny. You need the hospital.”

    “Just do it.” His intensity quickly convinced her to do as she had been told.

    He checked over the rifle he’d picked on the battlefield. It had at least half a charge left, and he had another power cell on his belt. He stood up slowly with the help of the corpsman and looked back from where he had come. There wasn’t much to see through the thick haze of the battle he had left behind. He took a deep breath, as he felt the powerful stimulant reenergizing his broken body. “We’re going back.”

    Tinbu was unable to hide his surprise. “What?”

    Arik whirled around to face him and the other beaten and exhausted men. “We don’t leave anyone behind. Ever.”

    The corporal looked unconvinced.

    Arik squared his shoulders and raised his chin, ignoring the pain in his side and his bruised muscles and limbs. “We’ve got men back there. Some may be dead already and some may still need our help. Regardless, we are Marines, we don’t leave our men behind, alive or dead. And we don’t ever go home until the job is done.” He looked at each and every one of them. “Victory through strength.”

    “Oorah.” Tinbu responded.

    “Victory through strength!” Arik roared back at him and his men.

    “Oorah!” This time their response matched his intensity.

    Arik turned around and led his people back towards the battlefield. Marines didn’t leave their own behind. And they didn’t go home until the job was done.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2014
  2. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    This is excellent, CeJay! You've done a masterful job of portraying the grit, emotions and esprit-de-corps of the Federation Marines. The imagery was vivid with the confusion and fog that surrounds combat and your character development was first-rate, particularly with Gunny Arik. It's interesting how philosophical warriors can be when death can be moments away.
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Thanks, glad you liked the prologue. It's a mood setter and a first glimpse at what is to come. The characters' differing philosophies on what is happening here will play a big role in this tale.
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006



    Nora Laas had started the trend, but it pleased him to know that he had been one of the earliest adopters.

    Most mornings, at around 0600 hours, So’Dan Leva, the half-Romulan tactical officer of the starship Eagle could be found on D-corridor on deck eight, the widest corridor on the ship, which completely circumnavigated the elliptically shaped saucer section, jogging alongside the Bajoran chief of security as part of their morning workout.

    The tradition was nearly as old as their four-year service history on the ship, except for that back in the early days they had made the thirteen laps mostly on their own. Now, a great number of crewmen from all over the ship joined in. Most came out at some point after the duo was well into their third or fourth lap, and many left before they had completed their full run. This came as little surprise, since Leva and Nora prided themselves as being the most physically fit crew members on the ship. In fact, Leva had to admit that Nora was even more fit than he was. Part of that had to do with the fact that as chief of security, her job was much more physically demanding than than his—as chief tactical officer, he spent most of his time on the bridge.

    Leva had been a security chief once, on a starbase, while Nora had served as his lieutenant. He had greatly enjoyed the position, but after a few years, he had felt the desire to move on and return to serve on a starship. Only after accepting his new post had he learned that Captain Owens preferred to have the roles of security chief and tactical officer separated, instead of combining the position as was common on most other Starfleet vessels. Owens had given him a choice which of the two positions he wanted to fill. After some consideration, Leva had opted for the tactical post. Besides it being a bridge position, which kept him close to the pulse of the action, it had the added benefit of making him the ship’s fourth-in-command by default, allowing him to pick up valuable command experience.

    After he had made his choice, he was quick to recommend to Owens the best security officer he had ever known; Nora Laas. The Bajoran former resistance fighter and former Starfleet Marine had served with him with distinction on Deep Space Two and jumped at the opportunity to head her own team on Eagle.

    Neither he nor Nora could have complained about their roles not keeping them sufficiently busy. In fact, ever since the war with the Dominion had broken out nearly two years earlier, they had both had their hands full, more so than they could have ever wished for. Even though Eagle had not been used purely as a frontline vessel during this devastating conflict, she had seen her share of ugly combat duty and lost a number of her crew to the enemy, including her former first officer Gene Edison.

    Edison had left a huge hole not just in Eagle’s crew roster but also in the hearts of his colleagues who had considered him a good friend. Leva had counted himself among those. Of course nobody had been more affected by his passing than Nora Laas, who had become his lover only a few months before he had been killed.

    Edison hadn’t been replaced straight away, personnel shortages across the fleet had made that an impossibility, so instead Eagle’s Vulcan chief science officer Xylion had stepped up to temporarily fill that position. This in turn had required Leva to take on more responsibilities as the ship’s acting second officer. And he had risen to that challenge, even found it somewhat rewarding and perhaps for the first time in his life, had started to consider a career beyond being a tactical or security officer.

    On this particular morning, Leva noticed a new face joining them on their morning run. It belonged to Tazla Star, who had come aboard a year earlier to replace Xylion as acting executive officer.

    The enigmatic red-haired Trill had brought with her a ton of baggage from her old job, even if most had little knowledge of what exactly it contained. All that Leva knew for certain was that she had been a starship captain for a short period of time until she had disobeyed orders, which had led to the death of fellow officers. She had been court martialed, stripped of her rank and thrown into the Starfleet stockade until the outbreak of the war had required her temporary reinstatement.

    When she had first come aboard the Eagle, very few people had trusted her. It hadn’t been difficult to sense that this included the captain, who had noticeably kept his new XO on a short leash.

    Nora hadn’t gotten along with her at all—the security chief hadn’t just distrusted the XO, she had gone out of her way to oppose Star at every opportunity. Her behavior had bordered on insubordination. Leva wasn’t entirely sure how she’d gotten away with it for as long as she had. He suspected that, much to their first officer's frustration, Captain Owens had cut Nora a great amount of slack.

    Things had gotten better between the two of them over time. Granted, they weren’t exactly close friends, but there now seemed to exist a grudging respect between the two women. Eventually, even the captain had apparently decided to give Star the free reign one would expect a first officer on a ship the size of Eagle to have.

    As for Leva, he couldn’t help but feel at least slightly nostalgic for those times when his importance on the ship had been a little more significant. Not that the war effort didn’t keep him busy, but after Star had come aboard and once Owens had found it in himself to delegate more responsibilities her way, his influence had waned as he fell back into the role of fourth officer.

    By the time Nora and Leva were tackling their thirteenth lap, Star was already gone and so was most everyone else.

    Alex Clancy, the ship’s assistant counselor, had joined them for a couple of laps at some point, casually conversing with the security chief and putting a little smirk on Leva’s face, knowing that the two had become close after they had carried out a joint murder investigation some months ago. But Clancy was no runner, and even Nora’s company couldn’t keep him at her side for long.

    Only Major Cesar Wasco, the dark-haired and broad-shouldered Marine commander, and some of his men were still hanging on. The Marines usually preferred to carry out their workout down on deck seventeen where their temporary barracks were located, but from time to time Wasco and some of his officers would join them on their morning run.

    “Attention all personnel: Please report to your nearest crew lounge or monitoring station for an important announcement.”

    Leva and the others came to a stop after hearing the voice of Lieutenant Commander Xylion being broadcast over the ship wide comm. The half-Romulan glanced curiously at his sweat-covered running partner. Nora’s empty glance was proof that she too had no idea what this was about. Leva could in fact not remember the last time the entire crew had been asked to prepare for an announcement. Whatever had happened, it was big news.

    The Bajoran understood this as well, and they quickly made their way towards the Nest, Eagle’s largest crew lounge, which was located just a deck below them and at the most forward section of the saucer hull.

    After a very short turbolift ride they, along with others, streamed into the upper part of the lounge on deck nine and already found the room packed with crew members who were equally curious about what could have prompted this announcement.

    Leva and Nora made their way to the railing that overlooked the lower part of the Nest and spotted Captain Michael Owens standing close to the bar, apparently waiting for the room to fill to capacity.

    When he was satisfied, the captain glanced at Xylion, who activated a control panel that caused the bosun’s whistle to sound throughout the ship, and presumably also streamed the captain’s voice and image to various monitors all over Eagle.

    The room fell dead silent.

    The captain cleared his throat and slowly took in the scene before him—a packed crew lounge and the faces of dozens of people eagerly expecting his words.

    “It is with great joy and immense relief that I announce that as of two hours ago, the Dominion forces, along with their Breen and Cardassian allies, have formally and unconditionally surrendered to the Federation Alliance.”

    The crowd’s only reaction was an audible gasp. Otherwise the room fell back into surprising stillness, almost as if everyone was collectively holding their breath—as if the slightest noise or exhalation would reveal this news to be far too good to be true.

    “The war is over,” Owens said resolutely, as if to shake off any lingering doubts his audience seemed to be clinging to. A broad smile broke his visage, which perhaps said even more than his words had. To Leva, it seemed as if months of pain and suffering had suddenly fallen off his captain’s shoulders. He seemed genuinely more pleased, more relaxed, maybe even prouder than Leva had seen him in a very long time as he stood there in front of his crew, with whom he had been to hell and back over the last two years. He looked very much like a man reborn.

    The crowd finally began to come out of their momentary stupor as the enormity of the announcement finally fully sunk in.

    There were cries of jubilation all around, crew members shaking hands, hugging each other, some even crying, now that the bitter war which had cost so many lives had finally come to an end.

    Leva felt similarly, but besides a sense of elation, he also couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride swelling in his chest. He had faced the worst their enemy had been able to throw at him and his comrades, and yet, he was here, still standing at the end. Not unscathed, of course. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to wash away the pain of the many lives that had been lost, the many friends and people he had known well, but in the end, at least their deaths had not been in vain. They had come away victorious.

    He turned to see Nora Laas with a huge smile on her face. Without having to exchange a single word, they quickly hugged each other tightly. The way the Bajoran relaxed in his arms, he knew she was just as relieved as the rest of the crew.

    Neither of them had any words to offer after they separated again, and instead, decided to watch the crowd around them and enjoy the impromptu celebrations which had erupted.

    It was then that Leva spotted Atticus West out of the corner of his eye.

    Of course, the man was not difficult to spot in a crowd. Tall, completely bald, dark-skinned, with a full, lush beard covering much of his face, West was not a man who blended in easily, which was odd considering his profession.

    West had come aboard Eagle just a couple of weeks ago as a reporter for the Federation News Service to follow a tradition almost as old as war itself: to report and write about what happened on the front lines for those lightyears removed from it.

    Leva had found West affable enough, an easygoing kind of guy who, while unable to blend into a crowd physically, had little trouble striking up a conversation and making friends—a skill which doubtlessly helped him immensely in his chosen field of work.

    The reporter was a bit of a celebrity, in fact, and a few years before the war, he had made a name for himself after uncovering a corruption scandal which had reached into the highest circles of the Federation Council. The unprecedented investigation that had followed had led to numerous arrests and even the resignation of a senior Federation councilor.

    Leva didn’t think he had broken any other major stories since that time, and he suspected being embedded with Eagle was an attempt to regain some of his former glory. He doubted he’d been able to do this with great success so far.

    “Lieutenant Nora, Commander Leva.” He pushed himself through the crowd, apparently having quickly focused in on the two senior officers. “A few comments about your reactions to the news of the Dominion’s surrender? People are going to love hearing the thoughts of the front line heroes.”

    “Heroes?” Leva grinned at the absurdity of the term before looking at Nora. “How about it Laas, how does it feel being a hero?”

    Her only response was a heartfelt laugh.

    West was undeterred. “It’s what they’ll call you back home, you know? If you like it or not, you and your people will be celebrated and paraded around as if you single-handedly won the war. Give me your take on this. Tell me the story of the reluctant heroes, the unwilling soldiers forced to do battle. What do they do now that there are no more enemies to conquer?”

    At that Nora’s smile turned into a frown. “We didn’t conquer anything, Mister West. We fought for our freedom. For our right to exist. And many gave their lives so the rest of us could carry on.”

    She didn’t have to say it, but Leva immediately realized that her thoughts were with Gene Edison who had literally given his life for hers.

    “Of course, I didn’t mean any offense, I’m just looking for the angle that will make folks back home relate to the sacrifices you and your fellow men have made.”

    It was obvious that the topic of conversation was turning Nora Laas’s jubilation into annoyance, and Leva felt much the same way. The last thing he wanted after hearing the good news was to be made a headline piece for some article celebrating the so-called heroic efforts of those who had survived the war. And he certainly didn’t feel like baring his soul to an outsider like West who would use anything he learned to advance his own career. He shook his head. “Some other time perhaps.” He glanced at Nora. “Let’s get out of here.”

    She was more than willing to join him in finding a quieter place to celebrate, and perhaps even reminisce and remember those who were no longer around.

    But West was apparently already seeing the headline in his mind and tried once more to keep his story from walking out on him. “Come on, guys, just a little interview.”

    Leva turned back to him. “Not everything has an angle, Mister West. Not everything has to be a story.”

    “That’s where you’re wrong, Commander. Everything’s a story.” It was the last thing Leva heard the reporter say before he along with Nora Laas slipped out of the Nest.

  5. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    I thought you did an excellent job setting the scene - a typical day aboard the Starship Eagle (well, typical for wartime) from the POV of Commander Leva as he reminisces while he runs. (Hey, you gotta do something while you run, right?) Nothing shocking for those familiar with the Eagle series, but then came the announcement from Captain Owens - the war is over. I liked the initial stunned silence - is this for real? The news seemed too good to be true - then the truth set in and they began to celebrate. Nice touch, too, with the journalist getting comments from the heroes. True to form, real heroes never think of themselves in that manner. They're Starfleet officers and crew, doing their jobs.

    But I think Leva felt justifiable pride for what they had accomplished. :techman:

    "Everything's a story." Well, in a way, I guess that's true.
  6. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    The thought crossed my mind while reading the prolog, "Hey, this is a star eagle adventure....but it's a bunch of marines!" And I figured they were going to be just the token forces to be overrun and killed setting up the rest of the story. BUT all those thoughts quickly evaporated as I got sucked into the characters and their plight, and I found myself rooting for them, and hoping they would be able to extricate themselves from the situation.

    Then with chapter one, I really got the sense of a bigger story starting here. Just the right amount of exposition to give the characters and ship a background.

    Nice development, clean clear writing. An intriguing story so far that I look forward to more of.
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed this. I know that this segment was a bit heavy on exposition, mostly in order to catch the readers up and to reestablish some of these characters. And as most people tend to do a lot of thinking when they run, it seemed a good way to combine it all.

    Hey, thanks for reading and commenting. I do like to start off an adventure with a little bit of a bang before we shift into a slower gear to establish the plot. Thankfully none of these characters in the prologue felt like cardboard cut outs to you.
  8. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ashburn, VA
    I've only read the prologue so far, but I really enjoyed it. I love how you show both the bad parts and the good parts of war in juxtaposition: pain, camaraderie, death, loyalty, duty. I can't wait to see where you take it!
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    By the time Tazla Star got back to her quarters she couldn’t wait to get out of her sweaty running clothes and take a cleansing sonic shower.

    The morning’s unexpected events had thrown off her routine and peace or no peace, she was eager to fall back into well practiced customs. For Star routine was important. It was what kept her sane, considering the little sleep she got every night. And those few hours she did spend unconscious were usually haunted by dark nightmares about a past that wouldn’t let her go, no matter how hard she tried.

    It hadn’t always been like this.

    Even though her beginnings remained as mysterious to her as to most everybody else. All she knew for certain was that she had been born somewhere in the Jardan sector and that less than a year after her birth she had been dropped off by parties unknown, perhaps her biological parents, at Starbase 212. She had no idea why she had not been wanted and in truth she had long since overcome any feelings of inadequacy which may have resulted from this rejection so early in her life. Or so the counselors had told her.

    Genetic testing had eventually established her family line. While it had not helped to identify her parents, authorities had been able to locate a distant relative on Trill who was willing to take her in and raise her.

    Despite all of this or perhaps because of it, Tazla had worked hard to get into both Starfleet Academy and into the much coveted symbiosis program where she was eventually joined with the long-lived Star symbiont.

    Everything changed after her joining. While she had been a driven individual even before, she suddenly become almost obsessed with getting ahead in life and her career after she had become one with Star.

    And yet she didn’t blame the symbiont for the mistakes she had made. She didn’t blame it for falling for the alluring promises of a self-serving Starfleet intelligence agent, offering her career advancements and even her own starship someday if only she dedicated her life fully to his cause. She didn’t blame it for deciding to get addicted to a powerful drug in order to infiltrate the notorious Orion Syndicate and she also didn’t blame it for disobeying orders and thereby, at least indirectly, getting a lot of good people killed.

    No, those had all been her mistakes. Tazla’s mistakes. And she knew she’d pay for them for the rest of her life.

    Her door annunciator sounded before she could make it towards the washroom to get that much needed shower.

    With a heavy sigh she turned towards the doors. Yes, she had become a creature of habit but the routine this visitor promised to bring was not one she was looking forward to. Cognizant that the last thing she needed was to keep him waiting outside her quarters, he quickly asked him to enter.

    The doors slid apart and Elijah Katanga slid inside.

    The dark-skinned, gray-haired and bearded doctor was long past his prime. At least as far as his age was concerned. From simply looking at his trim and erect posture it was difficult to guess that this man had served in Starfleet for the better part of the century.

    “Anybody see you come in?”

    The veteran physician shook his head. “Not a soul.”

    “Are you sure?”

    He offered a dramatic sigh in response and placed the medkit he had brought on Star’s desk. “Will you relax, Dez. Nobody saw me. And even if they did, there is nothing odd about me coming to see an old friend.” The ship’s chief medical officer had a tendency to fall back into the habit of calling her by the name of Star’s previous host, the one who had been such a close friend to him once.

    She pointed at the medkit. “Carrying that?”

    “So what? Maybe I’m performing a routine physical while I’m here. I’ve been known to make house calls now and then.” He considered her sternly. “Stop being so paranoid for Christ’s sake. Believe it or not, I’ve been around long enough to know how to make a couple of excuses when the occasion requires it.”

    But her mind had not been put at ease at all and she let herself fall into one of the large chairs. “I just don’t know if I can keep doing this, Eli.”

    “Nonsense, you’re doing great.”

    She shook her head. “You’re wrong. You want to know what the first thing that popped into my mind was after the captain announced the end of the war?” She didn’t wait for his response. “I thought that with news that big, you probably wouldn’t make today’s session. And I felt relieved.”

    He took a couple of steps towards her. “You’ve been making great progress, we can’t stop now.”

    “You call this progress? We’ve been doing this for how long now? Seven, eight months? Three days a week. And nothing has really changed.”

    Katanga walked over to the replicator. “I told you when we first started this that it wouldn’t be quick or easy, Taz. But we’re getting there. You’ll just have to stick with it.”

    She leaned forward in her chair. “The problem is, I can’t see it.”

    He retrieved one tall glass of cold water from the replicator and handed it to her. “How’d you sleep last night?”

    She took the water and let herself fall back. “Four hours, maybe. Not more than usual.”

    He nodded. “Dreams?”

    “The customary fare of surrealistic nightmares. I think I was stuck in a Salvador Dalí painting this time. And if you think me being sweaty is bad, you have no idea how terrible I look fully melted.”

    “How about when you woke up?”

    She actually had to think about that for a moment.

    “Anything different?”

    “I wasn’t covered in sweat,” she said quietly when she realized the change herself. It had become normal that she was almost soaked through by the time she awoke in the morning. One of the side-effects of her condition.

    “That’s progress.”

    She quickly dismissed it. “That’s progress? I didn’t wake up sweating? So what in another year’s time I get five hours of sleep instead of four?” Clearly frustrated she stood up. “At that pace I’ll be cured of this cursed thing by the time they dig my grave. I can’t keep doing this. People will eventually find out and I can think of at least a handful of admirals who would love to use this to kick me out of the fleet for good.”

    The doctor shook his head. “I don’t think it’ll take that long. It took a while for your antibodies to get used to the compound I’ve developed. It’ll take a little while longer to balance your system but now that we’ve seen the first signs of improvements, the end is in sight.” He opened the medikit to retrieve a couple of hyposprays.

    “That’s easy for you to say, you’re not the one who gets shot full of your burning poison three times a week.”

    Katanga whirled around and tossed one of the hypos at her. Star nearly didn’t see it coming but managed to snap it out of the air just before it could hit her in the head.


    “Stop your moaning and whining, young lady. The alternative is you go back to being that junkie the Orion Syndicate turned you into and pump your body full of real poison until it destroys your mind and finally breaks down your body as well. And how long do you think you’d be able to keep that a secret? You want a shot at being a real person, a real Starfleet officer again, and not a slave to a compound you cannot control, well, this is the only way. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be painful but I know you Tazla Star. You are a strong woman. Or was that somebody else who jumped out of an aircraft without a parachute, or who nearly scarified herself being cooked alive by radiation to save the ship from going up like an infernal fireball?”

    She looked at the man with a shocked expression, not having realized, or perhaps having forgotten, how much heat he could muster with his gravelly voice even after all these years. How hard he could hit you with the truth. Then she allowed herself a smirk. “I guess I’m not afraid to die.”

    But Katanga’s visage remained stone faced as he took a step closer. “No Taz, you’re not afraid to die. You’re afraid to live.”

    It took her a moment to agree to that seemingly keen observation and then nodded slowly before she considered that hypo he had tossed her. She knew it contained Syndicate-Y, the drug her body had craved for a very long time. One designed to tie syndicate members to the nefarious criminal organization for a life time. She knew that all it took was to push it against her neck and all the anxiety and creeping fears would vanish. Along with any progress they had made over the last few months to free her from that aching desire.

    She tossed it back. “You know, I’ve really not felt like taking another hit for a few days now.”

    He caught it easily and put it back into his kit. “And that’s what we in the medical community like to call progress.” He turned back to face her, this time holding up a hypo-spray with an entirely different content. One that was going to hurt her in the short-term but was supposed to eventually free her for good. “Now, take off your clothes and tuck yourself in. It’s time for your medicine.”

    Her smirk returned. “We may be old friends but with this body I’m really not inclined to strip down in front of you.”

    “Dear girl, I’m a doctor. There’s nothing there I haven’t seen before.”

    “Be that as it may.” She shot him another little smile over her shoulder before heading towards her bedroom. Once out of sight she quickly removed her sweaty exercise gear, laid down in bed and as the doctor had suggested, tucked herself in.

    Katanga joined her shortly after with his medkit, placing a few neural monitors on her forehead.


    He looked into her green eyes.

    “Thanks for that prep talk.”

    He shook his head. “It was nothing you didn’t already know.”

    “Maybe but I think I needed to hear it.”

    Once he was done with the monitors and he had double checked the dosage in the hypo he glanced once more her way. “Ready?”

    She nodded. “My shift starts in four hours.”

    “You won’t be out more than three,” he said reassuringly. “Now this may sting a little.”

    Star couldn’t suppress a last grin. “You may be a terrific doctor, Eli, but you’re such a lousy liar.”

    And then he pressed the hypo against her carotid artery at her neck.

    “If anything should happen.” It had become a well-practiced line. After all they had gone through these motions over a dozen times now.

    “I’ll be right here.” He gently took her hand into his, squeezing slightly.

    She offered a grateful nod before she let her head fall down onto the pillow and looked straight up at the ceiling. “Here comes the fun part.” She gritted her teeth when she felt the first ambers of pain coursing through her body.

    Tazla Star was grateful that her quarters were soundproof. After a few minutes her screams came to an end and she mercifully drifted to sleep, secure in the knowledge that her old friend would remain at her side until the end.

    * * *​
  10. Dulak

    Dulak Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 6, 2007
    Pacific NW
    Talk about a monkey on her back!

    Really nice to see someone with a tortured background have such a drive to get on to something else rather than submit to being a perpetual victim with an excuse.

    More vignettes please! Of course interspersed with some juicy plot development, and MARINES. I mean, the story is called Semper Fidelis.
  11. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    You have to admire Tazla for her desire to climb out of the pit. No doubt her slow progress is frustrating but she's not the type to quit easily.
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    Yeah, Star is on a major redemption tour here. Just might take her the rest of her life to complete it.

    And not to worry, there'll be plenty of Marines in this story. Just give'em some time.
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    The sense of general euphoria on Eagle was still noticeable even a couple of days after the victory announcement. It could be seen on the smiling and much more relaxed faces of pretty much everyone onboard, Vulcans excluded. It could be heard in the conversations of crewmembers discussing their upcoming shore leave plans, many enthusiastically awaiting the end of the stop-loss order to return to their families. And it could be felt in the general attitude of people who until recently were faced with a bloody war which had threatened to drag on for years to come.

    But now, the Treaty of Bajor was officially signed, the Dominion and its allies had surrendered and for the first time in a very long time, there were no more enemies to fight. No Jem’Hadar, Cardassians or even Klingons to face in battle. For whatever short period it would last, the galaxy seemed to be at peace.

    Of course not all news were good. Overall Federation casualty numbers were still being calculated and had a tendency to creep up every day. And reports had been coming in that as a final, punishing effort, the Dominion had nearly obliterated the home world of their former chief ally in the Alpha Quadrant, killing hundreds of millions of Cardassians.

    But for now at least, the good news outweighed the bad and the mood in the Nest was festive.

    “So then I told him that he could take that photon grenade and shove it into a place where the artificial illumination wouldn’t reach it.” Nora Laas chucked at her own anecdote, sitting at a table opposite So’Dan Leva.

    Leva offered a little more than a subdued smirk.

    The Bajoran frowned. “What? That was a funny story.”

    “Can I be honest?”

    She nodded.

    “Funny stories aren’t your thing.”

    Nora scowled at him. “Yes, they are. I tell funny stories all the time.”

    “Really? What’s the last funny story you’ve told?”

    She had to actually think about that for a moment. “How about the one with the clown and the Ferengi in the gorilla suit?” She chuckled again, apparently recalling the story quite vividly. “That was pretty funny.”

    He rolled his eyes. “You told that joke about four years ago and it was an old one even then.”

    That made her pensive.

    “Don’t worry too much about it. You have plenty of other great skills.”

    “I suppose so. But you know what? I’m actually quite happy that I won’t have to use those kind of skills for while. At least not as much as I used to over the last two years. I might need to start thinking about acquiring a new skill set altogether.”

    “Sure.” He aimed another grin her way. “You could try and take up knitting. Just do us all a favor and stay away from trying to be a jokester.”

    She kicked him under the table and put on a mock frown. “Fine. Why don’t you tell me a funny story then? I’m sure you’re just full of them.”

    He sighed heavily and then took a sip from his Romulan Ale. He had used to hate the stuff but ever since he had gone on a mission to Romulus a year earlier, he had grown fond of the beverage. Of course the synthehol based replicator imitation was a pale shadow compared to the real thing. But regardless of how weak of a reproduction it was, the taste still tended to bring a smile to his face when it made him remember the extraordinary woman who had introduced him to it in the first place. That was not a story he felt like telling Nora at the moment. In fact he couldn’t think of anything funny to say. “Things are changing.”

    “Yes, they are. For the better.”

    But he shook his head. “I mean on Eagle.”

    A quizzical look remained her only response.

    “We lost a lot of good people over the years. It’s becoming a very different place.”

    She didn’t immediately respond to that. “I suppose change is part of life.”

    “I’ve been thinking that perhaps the time has come to make a change myself.”

    “What kind of change?”

    “A career move. I’ve been a tactical or security officer for fourteen years, ever since I graduated from the Academy. It’s not as if I haven’t enjoyed it. I’ve certainly never regretted my career choices or serving on Eagle but I worry sometimes that maybe I’ve become to comfortable here. Many of my classmates have long since moved on to bigger things. Maybe it’s time I did the same.”

    He could tell that Nora was entirely surprised by this admission. Perhaps he had surprised himself a little. “I had no idea you felt like that. Where’s all this coming from?”

    “I think mostly from the time I served as second officer, before Star came aboard. Then I got on offer last night from Starfleet.”

    Nora’s eyes grew wider. “Starfleet? What is it?”

    “It’s this big intergalactic organization we all work for, but that’s not important right now.”

    She aimed him an annoyed look at his lame attempt of a joke.

    His smile turned more serious. “First officer.”

    “Congratulations. Do you know what ship?”

    He shook his head. “No, it didn’t say. To be honest the whole thing looked very standardized. As if some computer back on Earth spat out a thousand of those things and sent them out randomly.”

    “I supposed it makes sense that they are looking for experienced officers to spread around after the casualties we’ve had. They’ll need qualified people all over,” she said. “But I don’t believe for one minute this was a random thing. They looked at your record and knew exactly what they had.”

    He shrugged. He wasn’t so sure if he believed that. There was no doubt of course that Starfleet was going to be desperate to promote officers and assign them to where they were required the most. And his observation regarding changes notwithstanding, in actuality Eagle hadn’t fared nearly as bad as many other ships which had suffered much more significant loses during the war.

    “Sounds to me as if you’ve pretty much made up your mind about this.”

    “I think so.”

    Nora nodded slowly and looked off into space, her mood had clearly taken a hit.

    “Hey.” He leaned towards her. “It’s a small galaxy, right?”

    “I suppose it is.” She made eye contact again. “I guess I’ve just gotten used to working with my closest friends over the years. It’s going to be different without you around. I’m still trying to get used to Star and Katanga. It’s all changing.”

    “Part of life?” He shot her another smirk, offering the same words she had used.

    “Yeah.” She quickly put her smile back on. “And it’s a great opportunity and I’m really happy for you. First officer is a big step up and I have no doubt you’ll excel at it. Who knows, in a couple of years you might be commanding your own ship.”

    He laughed at that. Leva had never really aspired to his own command. Initially he had joined Starfleet just to get away from Earth, his adopted home world. A place where he had never felt like he had truly belonged. Returning to Romulan space had not never really been an option either. For a time he had thought that he had found on Eagle what he had always been looking for. A home. But now as opportunity was knocking, perhaps it was time to rise to new challenges. To think about his career for a change. “Captain So’Dan Leva. It does have a ring to it. And I know just the right kind of person to be my XO when my times comes.”

    “Oh yeah?”

    “Lieutenant Trinik. He’s a damn fine officer and overdue a promotion. He’d be perfect for the job.”

    She gave him another swift kick under the table just before they both broke out laughing.

    * * *​

    Leva had left the Nest to make his preparations to leave the ship, including having what would likely be a difficult discussion with Captain Owens. He had clearly made up his mind about the issue and there was little Nora Laas could do about it. Nor was she sure she should.

    Of course she was sad to see him go. Considering its size, it was a rare occasion in Starfleet to be able to work with a friend, so seeing him moving on to a new assignment stung, probably more so than when Doctor Wenera had left the ship months earlier.

    For Nora as well as for most of her fellow officers, especially on the senior staff, Eagle had always been more than just another assignment and she had assumed the same to be true for Leva. That Starfleet wasn’t merely a chosen career path but a lifestyle choice. Sure, she could have worked on getting that next promotion she knew she deserved. Perhaps put in for an assignment on a larger ship or even a massive starbase where she’d have a team three or four times the size of her current department to look after. But then again, Eagle felt right to her. With no other place to really call home anymore, this ship and the people who crewed her had now taken that spot in her heart. It was what she was passionate about and what she was most willing to defend, even give her life for if it became necessary.

    And it wasn’t as if Eagle was a boring assignment. The opposite was true and in fact she had stopped counting the many times where she had come fairly close to having to sacrifice her life for her friends or colleagues.

    Nora had been raised a fighter. Not by choice but by circumstance and necessity. The truth she didn’t go out of her way to share with the rest of the universe however, was that she was pretty sick of fighting. Be it the Cardassians, the Tzenkethi, the Borg, the Klingons or the Dominion. Like many others she had felt an immense relief that at least for the immediate future, she didn’t have to pick up a weapon and defend what was most dear to her.

    With that pleasant thought on her mind, she made her way across the Nest after Leva had left and promptly found her other good friend, current chief engineer and her former Academy roommate Louise Hopkins who was having dinner with their Krellonian helmsman Lif Culsten.

    Only after she had already approached the table did she notice that the sandy blond woman had been deeply in conversation with the earless young man whose silver hair was as longer as Hopkins’ except that he wore his in a neat little ponytail. It was the kind of conversations which had put smiles on both their faces. For a moment she felt like an unwelcome intruder.

    Hopkins and Culsten stopped themselves suddenly when they spotted the Bajoran hovering over their table and Nora was sure she could see Louise blushing ever so slightly.

    “Am I interrupting something?” She couldn’t shake the feeling that she really was.

    Both of them spoke up in unison and somewhat clumsily. “No, not at all.”

    Nora didn’t buy it.

    But Hopkins was already indicating to another chair. “Take a seat. Join us.”

    “Take mine.” Culsten stood and picked up his plate. “I’m done anyway and I’ve got a late shift on the bridge.” He glanced at Hopkins. “Lieutenant.” Then he briefly looked at Nora and added another, “Lieutenant,” almost as an afterthought before he quickly departed.

    Nora took his seat and looked after the Krellonian making what seemed to be a swift escape. She turned back towards her friend. “Lieutenant?” She raised an eyebrow. “Now, I know something’s up.”

    “He’s just being polite.” Hopkins made an effort to focus on her unfinished meal.

    “Is that what that was?”

    She shrugged her slim shoulders barely making eye contact. “Or maybe he’s trying to be funny. You know how he is.”


    She looked up and straight into the Bajoran’s intense eyes. “Huh?”

    “What’s going on?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “You’re not …”

    “What?” she said a little bit to quickly. “No, of course not.”


    “We’re just friends.”

    Her suspicions did not abate. “Do I really have to remind you about the last time you were involved with a Krellonian? That didn’t turn out too well for anybody.” She was referring to her secret affair with one of her engineer’s earlier in the year who had not only ended up dead but had also turned out to be a spy.

    Hopkins’ eyes hardened. “Now that’s not fair and completely different. First of all Lif is not my subordinate. At least not really. Second, I’ve known him for years and third …” She stopped, clearly she didn’t have a third point ready. “And third, we’re just friends.”

    Nora raised her hands defensively. “Alright, alright.”

    “That’s right.” A triumphant smile came over her lips as she spotted somebody at a nearby table. “We’re just friends just like you and Alex Clancy.” She indicated towards where the brown-haired assistant counselor sat just a few tables over. He greeted them with a quick wave when their eyes met.

    Nora returned the gesture a little awkwardly before turning back to her companion. “That’s totally different. We’re just—“

    “Friends? You mean like me and Lif?”

    She nodded slowly, acceding the point.

    But before the conversation about possible friends or otherwise could continue, another man approached the table. Nora recognized him immediately, after all he wasn’t exactly difficult to pick out of a crowd with his large frame and big bald pate.

    “Ladies.” He offered them a disarming smile. “Do you have room for one more?”

    “Pull up a chair, Mister West.” Hopkins was a little quicker than Nora had expected from the usually shy chief engineer. Clearly she was eager to change the topic of conversation.

    He sat down at the table. “Very kind of you.”

    “So, Mister West, how’s the search for your next big story going?” said Nora. “Is peace turning out to be as good for business as war?”

    He laughed at that. “I’m not in this for the business side of things, Lieutenant.”

    “You’re just trying to make a name for yourself.” She offered a little smile. “Or perhaps regain lost glory?”

    It had been intended as a stinger but Atticus West didn’t rise to the bait. “My interest is the truth. I think people have a right to it.”

    Hopkins seemed intrigued. “And what’s the truth?”

    “It’s usually whatever the powers that be don’t want you to know.”

    Nora shook her head slightly. “I don’t think you’re going to find any conspiracies on this ship, Mister West.”

    “I wouldn’t be so sure.” He glanced at his padd. “In fact I’m working on a new story which could turn out to be very interesting indeed. It’s what brought me to your table today.”

    “What is it about?” Hopkins was apparently already hooked.

    And he was all too happy to oblige. “I’m writing an expose on your first officer. Commander Tazla Star.”

    Nora frowned. “We just signed a peace treaty with the Dominion after nearly two years of brutal warfare. The quadrant may be experiencing the first lasting peace in half a decade and you’re focusing on Star?”

    “Trust me, more than enough journalists out there are going to tell that story and I’m not interested in reporting on the obvious. I prefer to boldly go where others have not.” His smirk widened, seemingly quite fond of his little play on the Starfleet charter.

    The Bajoran gave him a hard look. “I don’t like the idea of you starting to snoop around in a crewmember’s life.”

    “I’m surprised to hear you say that.” West regarded his padd once more. “From what I’ve been told you and the commander didn’t get along at all. ‘A disgrace to the uniform,’ ‘unfit to serve,’ and ‘no business being on Eagle,’ are just a few juicy quotes of yours regarding Commander Star that I’ve been able to dig up.”

    Nora squirmed at having her own words thrown back into her face. There was little doubt they were hers, she recognized them alright but she hadn’t thought they had become part of the official record. “You’ve taken the things I’ve said out of context.” She knew she sounded as lame as a politician who had been caught in an obvious gaffe, trying to do damage control when it was clearly already far too late for that. “Besides, I may have been a little harsh and premature about my impression of Commander Star.”

    West nodded as he glanced back at his padd. “Apparently your views on this matter changed quite a bit earlier this year. Any particular reason for that sudden change of heart?”

    Nora did her best to try and hide the anger she was beginning to feel rising in her chest. This man had done his homework and done it well. She glanced at Hopkins and she could see her eyes widening slightly as she considered her friend.

    The truth was that Nora had struck a deal with Star back then. The first officer would not seek to prosecute Hopkins and Culsten for their knowledge of a spy operating on Eagle and in turn the security chief would drop her constant opposition to Star.

    Since having made that deal, Nora had come to realize that it hadn’t been much of a deal at all. Regardless of her personal feelings towards the first officer, Star did deserve respect and obedience by the virtue of her rank and position and she understood now that her initial opposition had been mostly borne from the pain she had still felt over Gene Edison’s death. Star didn’t have to make a deal at all for something that really hadn’t been optional to begin with. And yet she had been willing to save Hopkins and Culsten from a fate which would have almost guaranteed their dismissal from Starfleet and possibly even prison time.

    She had never discussed this with Louise but judging by her look now, it was clear that she had at least an inkling about the back room discussions which had spared her from losing what she cared for the most.

    West was too good at his job as to not to notice the sudden reticence at the table of discussing this particular subject and moved on for now. “In any case, I don’t see why you should be so concerned. On the surface this is a terrific story of redemption. A story about a disgraced Starfleet captain, losing her command, her rank and her freedom only to be given a second chance and becoming a valuable member of a starship crew once more.”

    Nora shot the man another hard glance. “But that’s not the story that has your interest roused, is it?”

    He nodded. “I do tend to look a little deeper. After all, that’s where people bury the truth. And something tells me there’s a lot to dig up here.”

    “I would seriously suggest that you stay away from this particular story and perhaps focus on something else? What happened to your heroes of the Federation angle?”

    West smirked. “I believe you and your friend talked me out of that one.”

    Nora cursed herself for that now. But how could she have possibly foreseen that her reluctance to speak about her war record would cause the man to turn his sights on Star instead? “Leave this one alone, Mister West.”

    “Oh the times I’ve heard those words.”

    “I’m being serious.”

    “You’re warning me off, Lieutenant? For the record, are you doing so in your official capacity as the chief of security of this vessel?”

    Nora stood suddenly and after a moment Hopkins followed suit. “I think this conversation is over.” She turned away and they both left the table. She knew it was nothing more than a tactical retreat and if she had judged Atticus West correctly, it had accomplished nothing than to further cement his resolve in pursuing his story.

    * * *​
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2014
  14. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Great character work, CeJay! I enjoyed the banter between Nora Laas and Mr. Leva. (Bonus 15 points for the "Airplane" reference.) :lol:

    Leva's revelation that he's planning to move on and accept a First Officer's billet wasn't a shock but you captured Laas' subdued dismay quite well. Then, to top off that news she gets cornered by the newshound, West.

    Maybe she should take up knitting. It might save her some grief. ;)
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    That's one hell of an opener! :eek:

    You've nailed the sheer brutality of warfare while acknowledging the advanced nature of ground combat in the 24th century. This hell-hole makes AR-558 look like a Boyscout picnic!

    One can only imagine what surviving something like that might do to a person...
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Hey guys, thanks for the reviews.

    I admit AR-558 was a bit of an inspiration. There are obvious similarities here, except of course that this is on a much bigger scale.
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    When Michael Owens stepped into the observation lounge on deck two, he found his crew, as was usual, already assembled and engaged in light conversation with each other. What was far less customary however was the light tone and general good mood that seemed to have gripped his senior officers. It was fairly similar to what he had encountered everywhere on the ship ever since his announcement two days earlier.

    It was also very much the way he had felt himself when he had first been given the news by Admiral Throl. It had felt like a massive weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He hadn’t really allowed himself to celebrate just yet. The wounds were still too fresh and it would take a long time for him and many other people, including the Federation itself, to heal from the physical as well as the psychological damage that the Dominion had wrecked in their obsessive desire to expand their control over the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.

    Too many had lost their lives in the defense of freedom, too many sacrifices had been made in his opinion to allow oneself much more than a sense of finality and the knowledge that the time for bloodshed was finally at an end. The war was over. Now was the time for the healing to start.

    Owens took his usual seat at the end of the table and watched as the faces of his officers turned to consider him expectantly.

    There was Tazla Star, his fire red haired Trill first officer who had come aboard under rather suspect circumstances but who had since proved herself again and again as being more than willing to turn a new leaf and serve him and his ship. He had very nearly come to regret his decision of keeping her on board, unable to bring himself to fully trust her but had since mostly overcome his hesitations. She wasn’t Gene Edison, that was for sure, but she was well on her way to become just as efficient and reliable as his previous executive officer.

    Then there was Elijah Katanga, sitting next to Star. Owens knew that the veteran doctor had been close with Star’s previous host and it appeared they had picked up just where they had left off. He couldn’t deny that he appreciated Star acting as a bit of a buffer between them. Katanga was a genius in his field, a legend in Starfleet Medical circles in fact, unfortunately the octogenarian also possessed the crusty stubbornness to prove it. It had been a battle just to get him to agree to wear his uniform jacket, which Owens noticed he wore unzipped, no doubt as a final act of proudly declaring his defiance to conformity.

    His Vulcan science officer was predictably the last person in the room on which the Treaty of Bajor seemed to have had any kind of emotional effect. True to his heritage, Xylion was a steady rock of stoicism. Of course he didn’t like to talk about the few times when his logic had slipped, even if ever so slightly, such as when he had agreed to stay behind on a rogue planet with a group of stranded Vulcans. In his defense, he had been blackmailed into doing so but some speculated that perhaps a young and attractive Vulcan woman had ultimately swayed his decision on the matter.

    Owens couldn’t help but consider So’Dan Leva with some sadness. The half Romulan had only just informed him that he would be leaving the ship to accept an offer to become a first officer somewhere else. He couldn’t blame him for wishing to further his career and understood that it was not an option he had on Eagle. A year earlier there may have been an opportunity but for now Star was firmly entrenched in her role. He still hated the idea of losing an officer of such experience and skill. And as Starfleet was in dire need of senior officers, and Eagle currently had enough trained people who could fill his position, Leva was due to leave the ship within the next twenty-four hours.

    He knew Leva and Nora were close friends and he could see in her eyes, whenever she looked at him, that she was particularly sad to see him go. Owens had been worried about Nora Laas for a long time. Ever since she had lost Gene Edison she hadn’t been quite herself, as if she had lost something of herself along with him. It had never been more obvious then after Tazla Star had come aboard and when it had appeared as if she had directed all her anger and frustration towards their new first officer who had replaced her dead lover. Fortunately Star had somehow managed to smooth things over with the Bajoran and the two were actually working quite well together now.

    DeMara Deen, his close personal friend, operations officer and eternal optimist did not have much to be optimistic about over the last couple of years. Not that she didn’t try. Her aura which she had inherited from her people had worked overtime to try and make people feel just a little bit better about the universe and themselves. But often it looked that even that wasn’t enough to cut through the persistent wartime gloom. And of course it hadn’t escaped his notice that for all of her buoyancy, Dee had seemed angrier and more frustrated the longer the conflict had carried on. She had never known war or significant violence before she had joined Starfleet and sometimes he felt that the experience had changed her. Thankfully over the last two days the Tenarian had appeared much more than her old self again, smiling, telling jokes and being the ship’s unofficial morale officer. He took it as a sign that there was hope for DeMara Deen yet.

    The other officers had been similarly affected by the renewed hopeful spirit coursing through the ship.

    Chief Engineer Louise Hopkins appeared much more upbeat lately and the same could be said for helmsman Lif Culsten. And Owens thought he could even see an amused little hint of a smile playing at the corners of Cesar Wasco’s lips, the commander of the ship’s Marine contingent and a man who tended to have such a serious demeanor, Owens sometimes wondered if the Marine had had his facial features surgically altered to display a permanent frown.

    Owens cleared his throat. “I trust everyone’s had a good few days of rest and is ready to go back to work. The war might be over but that doesn’t mean we don’t have things left to do. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this new peace is going to keep us quite busy for a while.”

    Star nodded in agreement. “The damage the Dominion has done to the Alpha Quadrant will no doubt take years to fully overcome.”

    “Is it true what they say? That the Dominion tried to destroy Cardassia Prime?” Deen’s purple eyes seemingly hoping it was not.

    “Unfortunately, yes. And the casualty figures are still coming in. Initial accounts indicate that over six-hundred million Cardassians all over the union have lost their lives.”

    That put a quick damper on the otherwise high spirits which had been prevalent in the room. Yes, the war was finally over, their enemy defeated, but the Cardassians had paid a heavy price for their ambitions. And all the suffering they had been responsible for notwithstanding, it was difficult to accept that the general populace, millions of civilians, had deserved such a cruel fate because a handful of power-hungry individuals had steered Cardassia onto a course of self-destruction.

    “They’ll need all the help they can get.”

    This caused more than just a couple of officers to look at the most unlikely person in the room to have expressed such a sentiment.

    But Nora Laas, the former Bajoran resistance fighter who had fought the occupiers of her home world since she had been able to first pick-up a weapon, held fast to her views. “I’m admittedly no fan of the Cardassians and some may call it poetic justice after all they have done to Bajor but genocide is despicable and I would not wish that fate on my worst enemy.”

    Nobody in the room disagreed.

    “Are those our new orders?” Katanga directed his old but not yet tired eyes at the captain. “To provide relief efforts to the Cardassians?”

    Owens shook his head. “Starfleet along with rest of the occupational forces made up of the Klingons and the Romulans are mobilizing relief and reconstruction efforts as we speak but we’re going elsewhere. For some months now Starfleet Command has lost contact with a military campaign being waged on the planet Valeria and resources have been spread too thin to investigate until now.”

    “Valeria was one of the first hot spots of the war.” Leva regarded the captain and then the rest of the room. “We dispatched a sizable ground force to prevent the Dominion from gaining control of the surface early on in the war.”

    “That’s correct.” Owens nodded. “Communications have been unreliable ever since a number of subspace relay stations in that sector were destroyed and the system has been too remote to allow for other means of communication. According to the last reports we have, the ground war on Valeria was still in full swing but effectively at a stalemate. Starfleet believes that word of the Dominion surrender has not yet reached the troops on Valeria on either side.”

    “You’re saying these kids are still fighting and killing each other even after the war has officially ended?” Doctor Elijah Katanga was clearly outraged by that idea.

    “Continued hostilities and battles between belligerent parties even after a cease fire or surrender has been declared are not unusual.” Xylion regarded the African doctor with a dispassionate look. “There are ample historic examples of this in the history of your own home world, Doctor, such as the Battle of Issy following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Battle of Prague which was fought days after the German surrender in World War Two and the Battle of Galorndon Core which took place three months after Earth’s victory in the Earth-Romulan War.”

    “My God, are you a man or a walking encyclopedia?” Katanga’s question caused the Vulcan to raise a single eyebrow in response. “Besides, those examples are all from times when communications were slow and unreliable. This is the twenty-fourth century for Christ’s sake. We should be able to let people know when they can officially stop killing each other.”

    Owens jumped in before the doctor could carry on. He agreed with the sentiment and the outrage but he didn’t have the inclination to allow the doctor to vent on the issue well into the night hours. If left unchecked, he was sure he would. “And that’s where we come in. We’ve already changed course for Gamma Seven, a small outpost near the Cardassian border where we’ll take onboard a senior Cardassian officer who will assist us with reaching out to the Cardassian forces on that world. From there it should take us no more than three days at high warp to reach Valeria.”

    Nora looked suspicious. “A Cardassian? And the Jem’Hadar will listen to him? Considering how their alliance turned out in the end, I find that hard to believe.”

    Owens shook his head slightly. “Starfleet is fairly certain that all Jem’Hadar forces on Valeria were pulled out nearly a year ago when the Dominion began to realize that the planet’s diminishing strategic value no longer warranted the effort of fighting a ground war there. Intelligence suggests that only Cardassian troops have remained.”

    DeMara Deen leaned forward in her chair. “So the Dominion understood it was a pointless battle and left but we didn’t? Why?”

    Michael had asked himself that same question but had not yet come up with a satisfactory answer. “I won’t claim to understand every decision Starfleet Command makes.”

    The doctor uttered a dismissive little grunt. “Perhaps because most of the time they tend to make no sense at all.”

    The captain moved on, glancing towards Major Wasco who hadn’t spoken since the briefing had begun. “With the end of hostilities, the major and his men were due to depart Eagle at Gamma Seven for their next assignment. However, I’ve been able to convince him and his superiors to let us hold on to him and his company for the duration of this mission, seeing as the Starfleet ground forces on Valeria are made up almost exclusively by Marines. And I also understand that you have personal history with the man who is in charge of the troops there.”

    Wasco offered a crisp nod. “That is correct, sir. General Xiaogang Lam leads Second Regiment, Fourth Division on Valeria consisting of nearly fifty thousand Marines and support staff. General Lam is perhaps one of the greatest strategic minds in the Federation today and has an outstanding service record. Many attribute our successes during the Cardassian Border Wars to his leadership and tactical acumen. And it is no secret that he is on the shortlist to become the next commandant of the Marine Corps.”

    Nora Laas nodded along, clearly agreeing with this assessment. Considering that she had served as a Marine during the Cardassian Wars herself, it came as little surprise that she too was familiar with Lam and his accomplishments.

    “I personally believe that the general is mostly responsible for shaping the Corps into the efficient fighting force it is today. I’m also fortunate to be able to say that I served under his command for six years. He’s been a mentor to me and taught me what it means to be a Marine. I learned more under his leadership than I ever did at command school.”

    Deen wasn’t able to suppress a growing grin. “So you could say then that Lam is the very model of a modern major general and that he’s got information vegetable, animal and mineral.”

    Owens rolled his eyes at this rather immature interruption, not that it came as a complete surprise from Deen.

    “He knows the kings of England and he quotes the fights historical from Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical,” added Louise Hopkins with a big smirk of her own.

    “I believe,” began Leva, equally amused, “he’s well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical. He understands equations, both simple and quadratical."

    Before Owens could put a stop to this impromptu outburst of silliness, Lif Culsten jumped in as well. “About binomial theorem he’s teeming with a lot of news,” he said. “And, wait for it—with many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.”

    The quartet was beaming with big smiles as if they were particularly proud of their accomplishment. Hopkins’ and Culsten’s were the first to falter when they spotted the captain’s rather displeased glare. Nora and Wasco also did not look amused.

    Tazla Star however couldn’t keep herself from grinning. “It take it that the tradition of the annual performance of the Pirates of Penzance continued to be alive and well even after I left the Academy.”

    Michael’s visage soften. “Let’s just make sure we keep the urge of sudden outbursts of song to a minimum when we meet the good general. I can’t imagine it would help our mission.”

    “And for the record.” Wasco sounded like his humorless self. “General Lam is a lieutenant general.”

    That caused a round of giggles in the room.

    “I think on that note we’ll adjourn this meeting.” Michael managed to wipe that tiny grin threatening to spread off his face. “Let’s make this happen and bring our people home.”

    * * *​

    Following the meeting Eagle’s senior officers began to stream out of the observation room and Nora Laas was all set to follow them until she noticed that Tazla Star had not gotten out of her chair, instead she had decided to remain sitting and work on a padd.

    For just a moment Nora was torn.

    A year ago, and shortly after the Trill had come aboard, she would never even have considered what was playing on her mind now. A year ago she would have been quite happy to let events run their course especially if they could in any way or form turn out to hurt Tazla Star and her position as first officer on this ship.

    Things had changed however.

    So she turned away from the doors and headed back into the room and to the chair the first officer occupied. “Commander?”

    The Trill looked up.

    “I think there is something you should know.”


    “I assume you are aware of Atticus West?”

    She nodded. “The war correspondent from FNS.”

    “Well, it appears Mister West is no longer interested in reporting on the war, or the new peace for that matter. Instead he’s set his sights on you.”

    She seemed confused. “Me?”

    “He’s been talking to the crew to research his latest story. And you are the centerpiece. He’s calling it a redemption piece but from what I can tell he’s trying to probe deep into your past to get to whatever truths he believes are hidden there.”

    Nora could tell that she didn’t like the sound of that one bit. In fact her eyes seemed to have lost their focus as she was looking past her and into empty space. “Commander?”

    It took her moment to find Nora’s again. “Yes, yes of course.”

    “I tried my best to throw him off but I think all I did was make him more determined. I’m sorry.”

    Star nodded, very slowly. “I appreciate the effort, Lieutenant.”

    When she said nothing else, Nora continued. “Anyway, I just thought you should know. Mister West does not strike me as a man who is willing to let go easily once he has dug his teeth into something.”

    It was quite obvious that this news had shaken Star and Nora could only imagine what kinds of skeletons she kept in her closet which she didn’t want West or anyone else for that matter to find out about. Considering the rather dubious mission she had been involved in when she had first arrived on Eagle, she was certain the reporter would have a field day if he discovered just a small portion of her darker past.

    As far as Nora was concerned, the past was the past and Star had redeemed herself in her eyes, but West and his readers might not see it quite the same way.

    Star stood. “Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention, Lieutenant, I appreciate that, I really do.” The sincerity in her tone was palpable.

    Nora offered a short nod in response. “On this ship, we look out for each other.” She turned to leave the observation lounge, not doubting at all that she had just ruined Tazla Star's day. She no longer took any pleasure from that.

    * * *​
  18. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    Differently to Doctor Ashely Wenera who had also left Eagle rather abruptly—albeit under very different circumstances months earlier—So’Dan Leva had chosen a much more low key departure.

    Once they had arrived at the Gamma Seven outpost which was really not much more than a small asteroid base, perhaps half the size of Eagle, the senior officers had gathered in the transporter room to see the half-Romulan off.

    And Leva was traveling light. A carryall thrown over his shoulder seemed to contain all the belongings he cared to take with him.

    “It’s been an honor, sir.” He reached out to shake Owens’ hand

    The captain accepted it with no hesitation. “All the best to you, Commander. I know that whoever is going to snatch you up can consider themselves extremely lucky to have you. You have been an inspiration and a role model to this crew and losing you won’t be easy. You’ve become part of the family.”

    “I appreciate that, thank you, sir.”

    Star offered the man a smile as well. “I may not have known you as long as the others but I can tell you’re going places, Commander. Good luck to you.”

    Leva gave her an appreciate nod before he regarded the other senior officers who had come to wish him well.

    Owens knew that he’d already had a quiet get together with most of them the night before, he himself had stopped by, and so with all necessary goodbyes already taken care of, he didn’t linger much longer and instead quickly stepped up onto the transporter platform. “Permission to leave the ship, sir.”

    “Permission granted, Commander.” He nodded at Chief Chow operating the transporter controls.

    Within moments Leva had dematerialized, gone to seek his fortunes elsewhere.

    Owens didn’t miss the fact that the crew he had put together four years ago was slowly beginning to break up. Gene Edison had been killed in action during the war, Ashley Wenera had left to tend to private matters and now his tactical officer had decided to advance his career somewhere else.

    It was true that he had chosen his senior officers carefully and with an eye on men and women who would see Eagle as more than their next assignment to get ahead in life. He had always wanted a group of people who would come together not unlike a real family. And for the most part he thought he had achieved this. He still considered himself lucky that most had been able and willing to stick around this long.

    Deen shook her head slowly, her eyes still glued on the now empty platform. “It’s not going to be the same without him around.”

    Hopkins felt similar. “I still can't believe he’s left us so quickly. It’s so sudden and unexpected.”

    “Things change. It’s part of life and we better get used to it.”

    Owens shot the Bajoran security chief a sidelong glance and quickly realized that she was attempting to hide her own disappointment at Leva’s departure by putting on a stern mask of pragmatism. She wasn’t entirely successful.

    “Sir, Gamma Seven is reporting that our guest is ready to beam onboard.” Chow was wearing one of his usual and affable smiles even after the rather sad departure that had just taken place in his transporter room. There wasn’t much that could dampen the Chinese man’s spirit.

    Owens took a quick look at all his officers still assembled around him. “Alright folks, let’s break this up. We wouldn’t want to intimidate our guest on his first day on board.”

    They didn’t delay and everyone cleared the room save for Owens, Star and Nora Laas.

    The captain shot the Bajoran a quizzical look. “Are you sure you want to be here for this?”

    “All due respect, sir, I’m the chief of security. This is where I should be.”

    There was of course no arguing that point so he offered her a curt nod but also aimed a very brief and concerned look at Star which she mirrored. Nora herself seemed oblivious to her superiors’ concerns.

    “Go ahead, Chief.”

    Chow had to do little more than give Gamma Seven the green light to commence transport and a few heartbeats later another person began to materialize where the Romulan had stood only moments before.

    Owens wasn’t entirely sure what he had expected, all he knew was that it hadn’t been the man who had appeared on the transporter platform in front of him now. Starfleet hadn’t told him much more than that Gul Tevor Belore had been fully vetted and even given a low level Starfleet clearance similar to what was often awarded to civilian contractors or consultants who needed to operate on a Starfleet vessel.

    Belore looked far too young to be a gul in the Cardassian military—approximately the equivalent rank of a captain in Starfleet—even if he did wear the dark uniform and turtleshell like armor which was so common among his people. Besides his curiously young age—no older than thirty, Owens guessed—he looked much as one would expect; grayish skin, large reptilian looking neck ridges and a high forehead complete with a spoon-shaped ridge at its center.

    Owens had to force himself to remember that this man was no longer an enemy and truth be told it wasn’t easy. After all they had fought his people for nearly two years. Three days was not nearly enough time to get used to the changed face of the galaxy. He was determined to give it his best shot however. “Gul Belore.” He put on what he hoped was his friendliest smile. “Welcome aboard Eagle.”

    The man stepped down from the platform and mirrored that smile seemingly much more effortlessly and then stuck out his hand. “Thank you, Captain. It is a pleasure making your acquaintance.”

    He couldn’t immediately tell if he was being honest or if this was just a well schooled pretense from a race which seemed to have perfected the art of putting on a smile on their face while sharpening a dagger behind their back. He shook his hand regardless. “This is my first officer Tazla Star and security chief Lieutenant Nora Laas.”

    “A pleasure again.” He quickly proceeded to offer Star his hand as well. She hadn’t been quite prepared for it and it took her a brief moment to reciprocate.

    Owens couldn’t help but hold his breath when he turned towards the Bajoran but to his surprise Nora didn’t hesitate at all and proceeded to shake the man’s hand even more promptly than the Trill had.

    Belore didn’t pay Nora any more attention than necessary and instead turned back to Owens. “I know exactly what you are thinking, Captain.”


    “You’re wondering how a man as young as me could already be a gul and you have your doubts that I’ll be much help to you on this mission. Perhaps you are even questioning my commitment in this matter, considering that we were enemies just a few days ago.”

    But before Owens could try and dissuade him from his perfectly correct assumptions, Belore spoke up again. “I am of the opinion that we should get this undertaking off on the right foot, Captain, so I’ll keep no secrets from you. As for your first concern, the answer to that is really quite simple; I haven’t been a gul for long. In fact I was a glinn until two days ago and officially attached to the Cardassian diplomatic mission on Earth. I’m afraid on such short notice, I was the best Starfleet could do to get you a Cardassian military officer.”

    Owens exchanged a quick glance with Star who judging by her expression was equally surprised by the man’s candor. He glanced back at the Cardassian. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

    “I appreciate the sentiment, Captain, but I’m afraid I’m not quite as optimistic. You see my background is really in diplomacy and the military doesn’t hold people in my field in the highest regard.”

    Star regarded his uniform. “But you are serving in the military now.”

    “I do.” He nodded. “But only out of necessity.” He regarded the captain again. “As for my commitment however you can be fully assured that I am highly motivated. I may be a diplomat but I’m also a patriot. The Dominion nearly wiped out my race, it’ll take years, perhaps decades until we recover form this. Cardassia cannot afford a few thousands of her sons and daughters fighting on some remote rock. They’re urgently needed back home where they can help to rebuild. I more than anyone want to see them come back without delay.”

    “I couldn’t agree more,” said Owens. “And the sooner we get you squared away, the sooner we can be on our way.”

    Nora pointed at the doors. “If you’d like to follow me, I’ll show you to guest quarters.”

    Owens shot the woman a quick glance.

    “Splendid suggestion, Lieutenant, thank you.” He briefly regarded Owens again. “During the remainder of this mission I shall be at your disposal, Captain, in whatever form you may see fit.” He then followed Nora out of the transporter room.

    Owens watched them leave. He couldn’t totally ban images out of his mind of Nora leading the Cardassian into an empty part of the ship and strangling him with her bare hands. Then he quickly forced himself to think better of his security chief and turned towards Star. “What do you think?”

    “Not what I’d call your typical Cardassian.”

    He nodded. “Well, who knows, maybe we’re witnessing the face of the new Cardassia.”

    “One can only hope. But as for this mission, we better have some other ace up our sleeve. I fear that If we need to rely solely on Gul Belore to convince the Cardassians to lay down their arms, this is going to be a much longer mission than any of us would want it to be.”

    Owens frowned and yet it was difficult not to agree with her assessment.

    * * *​

    He had materialized in a transporter room much smaller than the one he had left behind on Eagle and even though only four others were present, including the transporter operator, the room already gave a cramped impression.

    As Leva looked around he noticed that none of the four people in attendance seemed to be paying him much attention. He had expected somebody to greet him but it did not appear they were even aware that he was present.

    That was until the transporter operator looked his way. “Uh, sorry, Commander, would you mind stepping down from there please.”

    It took him a moment to understand what he meant before Leva proceeded to leave the compact transporter platform. Unsure as to where to go next, he simply remained next to it.

    The reason why he had been asked to step off became quickly apparent when four bright blue columns of light gave way to three more Starfleet crewmembers and a large crate of unknown cargo on an antigrav unit.

    Leva remembered at least one other small vessel having approached Gamma Seven when Eagle had arrived and adding to two freighters already holding position nearby. He had not yet been told what his new assignment would be and so he had been naturally curious about the other vessels, none of which had looked like a likely destination unless Starfleet was out to punish him.

    The newly arrived men were quickly shown where to take their cargo and even before they had left the room another transport deposited even more crates and people. And once again there was little delay to get them on their way as well. In the meantime nobody seemed to pay Leva much thought at all.

    It seemed obvious that Gamma Seven was in the middle of a large scale cargo delivery but after the fourth team had come and gone, Leva decided he was sick of waiting and approached the man working the transporter. “Ensign, mind telling me where I'm supposed to go?”

    The young man glanced up and looked at him almost as if seeing him there for the first time. It appeared he had forgotten all about him even though Leva wasn’t quite sure how anyone could lose track of a half-Romulan Starfleet officer in such a small transporter room. “Sorry, Commander …?”

    “So’Dan Leva formerly of the starship Eagle. Awaiting new assignment.”

    “Right, right.” Leva could tell the man wasn’t trying to be rude or off-putting, he was simply very busy. “Yes, you have been assigned temporary guest quarters on Level D, section twelve-Baker.” He looked back up after he had checked his console as if this had answered everything.

    “And where would I find Level D, section twelve-Baker?”

    “Uh, right.” He looked around until he found somebody who could help with this. “Crewman Spencer,” he said, addressing a short, red-haired enlisted man helping with the latest cargo arrival. “Please show Commander Leva to guest quarters 2-12 on Level D, section twelve-Baker.”

    “Right away, sir. Please follow me.”

    “Thank you.” Leva spoke loudly enough to ensure the ensign would hear and then followed the crewman out of the room.

    The theme of small and cramped continued outside. The corridors were narrow and the ceiling was low and there were far too many people on this small outpost which had clearly been designed for a much smaller crew. Spencer and Leva had to practically press themselves against the walls on at least two occasions in order to navigate the corridors.

    “I guess you are being kept busy.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Any idea what’s going on?”

    “No, sir.” Spencer lead him into a turbolift.

    “Must be to do with the end of the war.”

    The man didn’t make eye contact. “That would be my guess, sir.”

    Spencer was clearly not the talkative type and yet Leva couldn’t help himself. “You wouldn’t have any inkling as to what my next assignment could be?”

    The crewman considered him for a moment with a blank look on his face.

    “Any ships you’re aware of that might be stopping by soon?”

    He shook his head slightly. “Sorry, no, sir.”

    “Of course.”

    The turbolift arrived on Level D and after that it was just a short walk to the doors leading to his temporary quarters.

    Leva turned back to the young enlisted man after they had arrived. “Let me ask you something, Spencer.”


    “How long have you been on Gamma Seven?”

    “Arrived three days ago, sir.”

    “Straight out of basic?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Figured as much.” It was just his luck, he thought, that the one person he had run into knew even less than he did. “Well, thank you very much, Crewman.”

    “Sir.” He understood that he had been dismissed and then headed back towards the turbolift.

    With a sigh Leva slipped into his quarters and wasn’t surprised to find it less than half the size of his quarters on Eagle. In fact it was perhaps as big as his washroom had been. A single bunk, a chair with a desk, a tiny porthole and a computer terminal were about all the amenities offered. A narrow door lead to what he presumed to be a closet sized shower.

    He dropped off his carryall onto the chair and walked to the small round viewport and just in time to catch a glimpse of his former ship. The saucer-shaped Nebula-class cruiser was in the process of maneuvering away from the asteroid base and Leva kept watching her as she rapidly accelerated away until she was just a tiny speck, indistinguishable from the endless stars which dotted the dark void of space. He felt a sudden and unfamiliar emptiness in his chest when he recognized the quick, bright flash which indicated that Eagle had just jumped to warp and with that likely out of his life as well.

    He turned back to take in his tiny compartment and for the first time since he had decided to leave Eagle he couldn’t help wondering if perhaps he had made a terrible mistake.

    * * *​
  19. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Chapters 1 & 2 review:

    I’m so glad to see Star doing something proactive to combat her addiction. Tazla is one of my favorite characters in your series, perhaps because I’ve got a soft spot for the underdog.

    And now that the war is over, comes the hard part… winning the peace. All those wounds, physical and psychological, that couldn’t be mended in a time of war must finally be treated. For some people, that’s going to be a fight…
  20. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Chapter 3 review:

    A battle of wills with a member of the press isn’t something often seen in UT. Having an ‘intrepid reporter’ aboard ship, one with instincts as well honed as West’s obviously are, is going to be another challenge for the crew to overcome. I suppose all ships have their share of secrets, but Eagle has generated more than her fare share since Owens took command.

    I loved the interplay here at the table, with Nora finally realizing that the harder she pushes, the more entrenched West’s interest becomes. Good thing nobody ever gets killed under mysterious circumstances aboard this ship… uh… oops. :rofl: