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

    Cesar Wasco could read a room as well as anybody and he had no illusions that Captain Owens and the others had their doubts about not just General Lam but also of his own fierce attempts to defend him. Then again they weren’t Marines. They couldn’t possibly understand how people like him and Lam thought. They didn’t understand that theirs was a life dedicated to loyalty, to total focus on a mission objective and of course, more than anything else, defending the Federation against all enemies.

    Unlike people like Owens, Wasco and Lam had not been trained as diplomats or explorers. They were first and foremost warriors. And in a life of a warrior, dedication and loyalty were more than just high concepts. They formed an essential life style. It gave them an undeniable purpose.

    Wasco harbored no ill feelings towards regular Starfleet personnel. In fact he admired Michael Owens’ even-handed and calm command style quite a bit. It reminded him somewhat of a former commander of his. The very man they had come here to see. Of course that’s where the similarities with the general ended. Owens wasn’t a military man. He ran his ship and his people far more magnanimously than any Marine unit he had ever been part of. It could be seen in the way he had chosen his closest confidants. A formerly disgraced Starfleet captain acted as his first officer and a young woman who had clearly been raised a pacifist and sometimes appeared as delicate as an exotic flower often served as his chief advisor.

    And while he held a certain respect for the fighting ethos of Cardassians, their loyalty and their dedication, it was obvious that Gul Belore, a man who had until recently been a diplomat, didn’t truly exhibit any of those qualities.

    In short it was not surprising that these people would not be able to fully understand what it meant to be a Marine and what made people like Lam truly tick.

    Of course all this was perfectly fine with Wasco. He didn’t need Owens and the others to understand. After all they all had their purpose in the greater scheme of things. And General Lam’s purpose was to fight to defend the Federation, no matter the cost. Something he had excelled at over most of his career. Wasco was convinced that without people like Lam, Starfleet and the Federation would have been defeated by its enemies a long time ago. He was an unsung hero who had put his life on the line again and again to defend what he held most dear. They didn’t talk about men like Wasco and General Lam at dinner parties on Earth or Alpha Centauri, they didn’t regard them as the last line of defense between their comfortable lives and the end of the freedoms they took so much for granted. Those people didn’t show their gratitude to him and his ilk for being able to live the lives they so greatly enjoyed and Wasco wasn’t bitter or angry about this fact. Marines didn’t need thanks or recognition for doing their jobs.

    He found the general in his office and just like Owens had guessed, Lam was immediately pleased to see him again, quickly ushering him in. “Cesar, I hope you’ve slept well.”

    “Yes, sir, thank you, General.”

    But Lam seemed to be able to see beyond those words. He offered a sly grin. “Bed a little to soft for you?”

    The major smiled. “Not used to it.”

    Lam nodded. “Of course, I understand. We can always put you up in the barracks with the men if you prefer.”

    “I might consider that, sir. However we are not planning on staying very long.”

    Lam stood from his chair and filled two glasses with the yellow wine which had remained from the day before. He offered one to Wasco and they both sipped from their drinks.

    “Just as I remember it.”

    “You were always fond of it, I recall.”

    Wasco nodded even though it wasn’t entirely true. He had come to tolerate it but he wasn’t overly fond of the bittersweet taste of the Chinese wine. Of course as a young officer when your mentor and superior offered you his favorite drink, you accepted it without question. Wasco may have believed in honesty but he didn’t see the harm in indulging a man of such accomplishments as Lam.

    “I’ve been thinking.” The general stepped away from the desk again. “I could use a new XO around here. Most of the senior officers I have either lack experience or a indispensable running a forward operating command.” He glanced at Wasco with expecting eyes. “What do you say?”

    “You are aware I’m attached to Sixth Division?”

    “General ch’Nek’s outfit.” Lam sat behind his desk and gestured for Wasco to do the same. “Don’t worry, the old Andorian is a close friend of mine and he knows he owes me. He won’t have any trouble seeing you and your company join us here on Valeria.”

    “My company?” Wasco sat and put down his glass. “They are stationed on Eagle.”

    Lam waved him off. “Marines were ever only to serve on Starfleet ships during wartime. From what you and Captain Owens are telling me, the war is over. Which means so is your tour on Eagle.”

    Wasco nodded. “Yes, sir. But with the war over, why would you need my company here?”

    The general leaned back in his chair. “You are starting to sound quite a bit like your captain.”

    “He has a mission, sir.”

    “He doesn’t understand what is at stake.”

    “To be frank, sir, I’m not entirely sure I do either. Why not take a chance on a cease-fire? You and your men have been fighting this war without pause for nearly two years. Even Marines are not supposed to be deployed to a single theater for such a long period of time. You had no troop rotations, nobody on this planet has seen another world in twenty-two months.”

    “Don’t you think I know that?” He sounded unhappy but quickly got his blooming anger in check. “But trust me, a cease-fire would be exactly what Metral is hoping for in order to gain an advantage. Do you truly think he cares about the peace treaty?” Lam determinedly shook his head. “If you’re right and if Cardassia is really hurting as badly as you make it out, Metral will want to do whatever he can to edge out at least a small victory out of this loss. Cardassia has had its eye on Valeria for decades. This is their opportunity.”

    “The Federation wouldn’t let him keep it.”

    “The Federation won’t care.” Lam spoke forcefully now, with total conviction. “They haven’t in a long time. As far as they are concerned Valeria is a neutral world. They haven’t sent me a single additional unit since the Dominion pulled out and if it had been up to the suits in Paris, we would have abandoned Valeria and left it to the Cardassians a long time ago.”

    Wasco considered that for a moment and came to the conclusion that Lam was probably exactly right on that point. After the high losses in the war, Starfleet was stretched to the breaking point, trying to support not just its own war ravished worlds but Cardassians as well. It would spare little to no resources to assist Valeria.

    “Do you know what happened to the last world the Federation abandoned to the Cardassians? I won’t let Valeria become another Bajor. Not while I can do something about it.”

    “But is it our place to safe the Valerians?”

    “It’s not just our place, Cesar, it’s our obligation. Not to mention what a Cardassian occupation of Valeria would mean in the big picture. Once they have a foothold here its only a matter of time until the Cardassians move on to worlds like Mariah IV and Fahleena. And after that they are just a stone’s throw away from key Federation worlds.”

    There was a certain kind of logic to his argument but even Wasco had to admit that it seemed unlikely the Cardassians could make any such land grabs even if they could somehow hold on to Valeria. After all their military was a mere shadow of its former self since the Dominion had turned on them. Lam still saw the Cardassians as the same threat they had once posed during the height of the Border Wars. It wasn’t the same Cardassia anymore. Not after fighting a costly war with the Klingons and then being decimated when their so-called allies, the Dominion had turned on them in revenge for revolting against their leadership.

    Lam could apparently see the doubt in Wasco’s eyes. “Don’t underestimate them, Cesar. We’ve done that mistake before and look where it led us. Even if they won’t be able to make such moves now, eventually they will. And in the meantime they’ll use their forces here to strip Valeria raw like they did with Bajor.”

    “And you really think that a few dozen more Marines and a starship will be enough to turn the tide on Valeria and prevent all this?”

    Lam nodded. “It won’t take much, Cesar. Not really. Our troop levels are almost identical and one starship and a few more fresh boots on the ground may be all we need to gain the advantage. With Eagle we’ll have an orbital weapon’s platform at our disposal, something the Cardassians have no access to. The threat of it alone could be enough to make Metral realize that he has no chance to holding on to Valeria.”

    The major looked doubtful, already fully aware that Owens would never agree to use his ship in this manner.

    Once again Lam seemed to know exactly what he was thinking. “It will be up to you to convince Captain Owens of the necessity of such actions. I could order him to cooperate of course but this would all be much easier with his support.”

    “You’re putting me into a difficult position, sir.”

    Lam nodded slowly. “I understand and I wish I didn’t have to but too much is at stake here for us to do nothing. Surely you can see that.”

    For a moment neither man spoke as Wasco considered his options. Loyalty had never been an issue for him. If nothing else, as a Marine loyalty was a given. To your fellow man, to your superior and to the Federation. It was supposed to be at the core of what it meant to serve in the Corps and it was supposed to be the simplest of all mandates, one that didn’t need much consideration at all. Now he realized that this was perhaps not always the case. Certainly not here and not now.

    “But perhaps you are right, Cesar.” Lam offered a little and seemingly understanding smile. “You know Owens much better than I do. Even though I am convinced that I have met many of his type before. Starfleet captains tend to be idealists, men and women who are so desperate to do the right thing at all cost that sometimes it ends up being their greatest flaw.”

    “I am not sure if I would describe Captain Owens in that manner.”

    Lam nodded. “I agree with the captain in one regard. This war must end as quickly as possible. He has come here to make that happen and there is no reason that it won’t.”

    “By turning Eagle into a weapon.”

    “Not necessarily. I mean, yes, that would be advantageous but the truth is this war will not be won by who has more men on the ground or who has more firepower in orbit. This war will be won by whoever has access to more consumable energy. In the past we tended to be fairly equal in this regard but lately we’ve been able to built up a slight edge and very soon, with Eagle’s help, we will be able to truly press our advantage.”

    Wasco nodded. “The power plant you mentioned.”

    “Yes. It might not sound like much but the sooner we complete it, the sooner we will be able to engage in an offensive which will end this war for good. With us as the clear and undisputed victors. And with that victory we will not only secure the future of Valeria and prevent Cardassian oppression on this world, we will be able to stop any long-term plans the Union has on this sector of space and beyond it. Captain Owens and people like him in San Francisco and Paris are only thinking about the short-term implications. Their only concern is the end of the war and starting to mend the damage and heal the wounds. I’m looking ahead, Cesar. I’m more interested in the bigger picture. And I know that this means that we will have to make some unpopular decisions now but I don’t just want to end this war, I want to avoid us having to fight the next one. And I will need your help to make sure we won’t have to.”

    Wasco had to give it to this man; he did tend to make convincing arguments. And who could possibly argue with the point that they had already paid such a high cost for fighting the Dominion War, that perhaps it wasn’t enough to have won the war. Didn’t they have a duty as well to do whatever they could to avoid having to go through such a devastating experience again?

    Before he could consider what the general had said any further, a massive explosion rocked the building.

    Both men jumped to their feet and turned towards the window. There, just a few hundred yards away, a large cloud of smoke was rising from behind a line of trees.

    Lam immediately recognizing the location. “The main barracks.”

    “The Cardassians are already making a move?”

    Lam frowned angrily as he headed towards the doors. “I told you they couldn’t be trusted. This is exactly what I was afraid of. Instead of a cease-fire, all Metral is interested in is more violence, exploiting any chance to get the upper hand. And mark my words, this is only the beginning.”

    * * *​
  2. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Lam appears to no longer be able to see the forest for the trees. His inability to let go of his fear and mistrust of the Cardassians is going to get a lot more people killed unnecessarily. There's a confrontation coming between he and Owens, and I'm not sure the captain can win such a contest without Eagle overhead to back his play.
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    Against Deen’s recommendation, Owens had immediately rushed out of the embassy and headed straight for the source of the explosion with her and Belore in close pursuit. He had of course understood her objection and without Nora around and Wasco otherwise engaged, he knew that she had probably felt it necessary to at least try and fill the role of his personal security guard. And she was no doubt quickly reminded that Owens had the terrible tendency to disregard advice pertaining to his own safety. An attribute he was sure he shared with a number of other modern Starfleet captains who had grown frustrated by being mollycoddled by first officers, security personnel and Starfleet regulations designed to keep them out of harm’s way at all times.

    But Owens had his reasons for his urgency to find out what had happened. Sure, he was willing to help out in any way he could even if he was certain that Lam’s people were probably better equipped to do so. His main concern had to do with the fact that his mission had just become a great deal more difficult if the Cardassians were striking so close to Starfleet’s command post, less than a day after he had arrived and advised Gul Metral of the end of the war.

    It seemed to indicate that Metral never had any intention of seriously considering the cease-fire Belore had proposed and that Lam had been absolutely right about his Cardassian counterpart and his warnings that he would exploit any talk of peace as an opportunity to escalate this conflict and perhaps even try to achieve a victory on Valeria for Cardassia.

    As far as Owens was concerned, this was a worst-case scenario. It would firmly entrench Lam and his belief of having to face off Cardassian aggression and with his influence at Starfleet Command he might even be able to convince the powers that be that his motives were just and the continued war on Valeria a necessary sacrifice.

    Owens was convinced that Starfleet would not send him any additional troops. If they hadn’t cared for this seemingly insignificant battlefield at the height of the war, they certainly wouldn’t care enough to send him more Marines now that the conflict had officially concluded. And of course there were no reinforcements to be had on the Cardassian side either.

    He didn’t even want to think of what kind of messy and endless war this status quo could turn into, with thousands of men and women fighting and dying needlessly and the innocent Valerian populace stuck in the middle of it all.

    They reached the apparent source of the explosion after a good two to three minute sprint. It was obviously a Marines installation, judging by the signage, the high fences and guard posts. A large chunk of the eastern facing fence had been blown away and at least one out of perhaps six large and gray prefab buildings was on fire.

    Owens heard Deen breathing hard behind him and turned to see her having bend over at the waist and resting her hands on top of her thighs. “You need to be in better shape.”

    She simply gave him an evil eye.

    Belore on the other hand seemed to have weathered their little run much better, even while wearing his heavy body armor. “Perhaps you better stay back.”

    But he shook his head. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather stick with you. A lone Cardassian loitering around here after an attack may not be a very healthy prospect.”

    Owens nodded and then headed towards what looked like barracks. As they came closer it quickly became obvious that they had been the target of the attack. There were at least a dozen men and women lying on the parade grounds outside the buildings and the first one he checked over seemed to be only dazed with minor and superficial injuries. He quickly noted that this seemed to be the case for most of the people outside.

    A few, who must have been close to the building which had taken the brunt of the attack, were wandering around somewhat aimlessly and as if in shock. Medics and security personnel were trying to round up the injured while a number of armed Marines who had followed Owens and his away team from the embassy were beginning to secure the perimeter.

    He had been concerned that the Marines would challenge him, being an outsider after all, or at least Belore, the sole Cardassian in their midst, but surprisingly nobody seemed to care or question their presence.

    Deen had quickly recovered from their sprint and then not hesitated again to help with the injured where she could. Belore, even though being left alone by the Marines, wasn’t quite willing to take the chance and remained at Owens’ side.

    “This does not appear to me like a military style attack.”

    Owens turned to look at the Cardassian. “How do you mean?”

    Belore surveyed the scene closely and at first Owens wasn’t sure what he was looking for. Then he pointed at the side of the building that was on fire and after a moment he could see it too. The sidewall had almost entirely collapsed along with part of the roof. And as the flames receded slightly, the aft part of some sort of freight vehicle became visible for a moment. Belore then pointed out the tire tracks the ground vehicle had left which were leading to the destroyed fence.

    “An accident?”

    Belore shook his head. “No, I’ve seen this kind of thing before. On Bajor. That vehicle was likely loaded up with explosives and purposefully driven into the building either by remote control or with a driver committing suicide in the process.”

    Owens didn’t follow. “Why would the Cardassians employ guerrilla tactics against Starfleet?”

    “It doesn’t make much sense.”

    A loud commotion coming from the still intact main gate to the barracks caught his attention. A group of armed Marines seemed to be involved in some sort of standoff. When Owens approached he noticed that the Marines had stopped a few vehicles attempting to enter the barrack grounds, all of which with their cylindrical design and large rubber tires looked Valerian in origin. The largest one appeared to be some sort of fire suppression vehicle and the others looked very much like emergency ambulances.

    “I won’t tell you again. Remove your weapon and get on your knees. The rest of you, turn those things around and get out of here, we don’t need your help.”

    Owens immediately recognized the lead Marine as well as the woman on which he had drawn a bead on with his phaser rifle.

    “Sergeant, what’s going on here?” He stepped up to the Andorian who was leading a unit of a dozen Marines, which had confronted the handful of Valerians who had exited their vehicles by the gate.

    “These are the people responsible for this attack, sir.” The Marine never took his eyes off the Valerian peace officer standing in front of her people. She was armed now but wisely kept her sidearm holstered. If it came to firefight, she’d be entirely outnumbered and outgunned.

    “The Valerians did this?”

    “Yes, sir,” he said. “And I’ll bet gold-pressed latinum that that bitch knows all about it. We should’ve taken her in yesterday.”

    “We just came here to help.” She took a very careful step towards them and Owens recognized the purple-haired woman from the day before. She still had a noticeable bruise on her forehead where she had taken a hit from the Marine’s rifle stock. “No need for the name calling.”

    “You take one more step and I’ll blow that head right off your shoulders.”

    “Sergeant, lower your weapon.”

    “Sir, with all due—“

    But Owens had no intention of going a few verbal rounds with the Marine. “Lower your weapon now, Sergeant, that’s a direct order. None of these people have made any hostile moves against us or this facility.”

    The Andorian hesitated for a moment but then very slowly and begrudgingly followed the order just as he was trained to do. “Sir, do not trust these people. You’ve been on Valeria for less than twenty-one hours. You don’t understand what is going on here and who our enemies are.” He kept his eyes on the Valerians while he spoke, watching their every move.

    “Do we require their assistance to put out the fire and see to the injured?”

    “We take care of our own.”

    Owens glanced at the Valerian peace officer.

    The woman shrugged. “Suit yourself.” She indicated for her people to get back into their vehicles.

    Owens stepped out of the gates but before he could make more than a few steps, he heard the Andorian Marine whispering to him urgently. “Sir, that woman should be taken in for questioning. You’d be a fool to trust any of these—“

    He turned to face the man, cutting him off. “What’s your name, Marine?”

    “Sergeant Thelos, sir.”

    “Very well, Sergeant. I believe you and your unit are needed on the base. Many of your fellow men need urgent medical attention.”

    Thelos hesitated once more but then fell in line again but not without leaving half a dozen men by the gate to secure the area.

    “If it isn’t my noble Sky Knight again.” The woman watched Owens approach after having dealt with Thelos, casually leaning against her ground vehicle while the others were beginning to turn around to return form whence they had come. “And what interesting company you keep. I don’t think I’ve seen a Cardassian around these parts in years.”

    “Gul Belore.” He introduced himself with a short nod.

    “Sub-commissioner Sharval, Valerian Security Forces.”

    Owens and Belore stepped up to her. “We didn’t get much of a chance to talk yesterday. I guess I keep finding myself in the unenviable position of having to apologize for the behavior of these men.”

    She smiled sweetly at him. “They’re obviously not your men,” she said. “Your with a starship?”

    He nodded. “Yes. We arrived here to prepare both Starfleet and Cardassian troops to return home. The war has ended.”

    “You don’t say. Who won?”

    “The Dominion surrendered.”

    She nodded to that and seemed thoughtful for a moment. Then she focused back on him. “And how’s your mission here going so far, Sky Knight?”

    He frowned. “The name is Michael Owens. And it’s not going very well to tell you the truth.”

    “Let me guess, Old Lam is not yet willing to give up on his master plans for Valeria.”

    “I was not aware that he had such plans.”

    Sharval stepped closer, much closer. In fact she moved right into his personal space until her face was mere inches from his and she placed the flat palm of her hand gently against his chest. She had done something similar when they had first met. He wasn’t certain if this was a local custom or not but decided not to stop her. And if he was perfectly honest with himself, Sharval was an intriguing woman, physically as well as intellectually. “I’m fairly certain there is much you are not aware of here on Valeria.”

    “I think you may be right.”

    “Perhaps we could help each other.”

    “Perhaps. But first tell me something.”

    She looked right at him then and he was once again startled by how intense her blue eyes were.

    “Is Sergeant Thelos right? Are Valerians responsible for this attack?”

    She removed her hand and stepped away. “It is possible.”


    She didn’t turn around when she spoke again. “Probably because they are fed up with having Starfleet and Cardassians use this planet as their private battleground.”

    Owens and Belore exchanged looks.

    “I suppose that does make a certain amount of sense.” The gul nodded slightly as he spoke. “I probably wouldn’t be very pleased if two foreign powers had decided to use Cardassia as ground zero to settle their disputes.”

    Owens nodded and then regarded Sharval again who still had her back towards them. “Have you been able to determine who is responsible?”

    She shrugged her shoulders and walked back to her vehicle. “Maybe I would if any of Lam’s people would be willing to talk to me or cooperate in any manner.” She activated the side door which quickly slid away to allow her entry.

    Captain Owens took a step towards her before she could slip back inside. “You said you might be able to help us with our mission.”

    She smirked again. “Perhaps, perhaps not.”

    “Let’s get together and compare notes. How about you join us at the embassy?”

    She quickly shook her head. “I’m not getting anywhere near that place unless I absolutely have to.” She stepped into her vehicle. After a moment it powered up and it slowly rolled forward until the door was right next to Owens. The window rolled to the side to reveal Sharval sitting inside. “Meet me at the central square at midday.” She shot him a last smirk. “We’ll talk there.” And then her vehicle sped off with its tires squeaking loudly which in turn drew the attention of the Marines who raised their rifles only to watch the vehicle shoot off into the opposite direction.

    Owens looked after her for a moment.

    Belore joined him. “A most curious individual, wouldn’t you agree?”

    He just nodded.

    “Do you truly believe she may be able to assist us in getting Lam to consider a cease-fire?”

    Owens turned to regard the Cardassian. “At this point I’m willing to try anything.” He and Belore returned to the still smoldering barracks. The rain had picked up a little and seemed to have helped the Marines to put out the fire.

    As he began to help the others with the injured, Owens wondered exactly how many more complications he would encounter on this planet which would threaten to make his seemingly simple mission of ending the last battle of the Dominion War ever more complicated.

    * * *​
  4. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    It sounds like General Lam is going off the reservation like a certain Starship Captain named Ronald Tracy did, and what's worse is that he has battle-hardened Marines and not a backwards civilization to back his play. It's a good thing the Eagle moved off, taking away any chance of getting reinforcements.

    But can Owens stop Lam like Kirk had to stop Tracy. I apologize for the comparison. "The Omega Glory" was the first thing that popped into my head, but I'm really liking this story. It's more intricate and takes you in different directions that I don't think anyone would expect.

    Keep up the great work, CeJay! :bolian:
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Thanks form the review,admiral. I will freely admit that the concept of the misguided captain/admiral/general, is hardly original but hopefully Lam comes across slightly more nuanced then Captain Tracy did.
  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    As if this situation weren't fragile enough, now we have Valerian insurgents adding fuel to the fire. :eek:

    I'm beginning to like Gul Belore more and more. An open-minded, level-headed Cardassian military officer is almost a contradiction in terms, but with his diplomatic background, Belore may just break the mold. I hope that with Owens' help, the two of them can wrest some semblance of peace from this powder-keg before the whole planet goes up.

    Terrific stuff! :techman:
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    “Will you try and relax already, you look as stiff as a corpse.”

    That was easy for Katanga to say, Tazla Star thought as she sat in the captain’s chair on Eagle’s bridge, her eyes intently focused on the view screen which currently showed nothing but the stars they were seemingly racing past.

    They had traveled at high warp towards the source of the distress signal they had received for nearly six hours and for the most part she had not left the bridge during that period.

    “I’m sue they’re fine,” said the doctor. “Long range sensors have already confirmed that the ship is still in one piece, isn’t that right?”

    Rachel Milestone swiveled her chair from operations to consider Katanga and nodded. “Yes, sir, the ship appears to be in tact.” She looked at Star but when she found her unwilling to make eye contact, she turned back to her station.

    “See, everything’s fine.”

    Star offered a minuscule nod. In truth she wasn’t particularly concerned about the wellbeing of the Sacajawea. Not really. Usually former starship captains or those who had moved on to other vessels thought back fondly of their previous assignments. Not so Star. Not with Sacajawea. In fact she had hoped to go the rest of her life without ever having to come across that ship ever again. And after she had overcome the initial shock of receiving a distress signal from her former ship, she had secretly hoped that all help would come too late for them and that she’d be forever lost in the endless void of deep space.

    She blushed slightly at the intensity and the unbefitting nature of her own thoughts and then quickly shook them off. There were dozens of people on that ship who did not deserve such a horrible fate and only a very few who most definitely did. Besides, she told herself, she was a Starfleet officer and the safety and wellbeing of her fellow men and women was one of her primary concerns. This went without saying. And yet as far as the Sacajawea was concerned, she had to keep reminding herself least she forgot.


    She forced herself to relax her shoulders at least a little bit and then looked at the man sitting next to her. She hadn’t told him a great deal about his former command and other than the little information available on her file she doubted anybody on board knew much. She had told the captain some of it but that’s as far as it went.

    “Listen, don’t worry, you’ll do fine.”

    She nodded slightly, knowing what he was thinking. He believed the cause of her anxiety was because this marked the first time since she had been on Eagle that she had been put in command of the ship without the captain around. He knew how important it was to her to show Owens and everyone else for that matter that she could be counted on, especially when the going got tough. She had even admitted to him once over dinner that she wanted Owens to be proud of her. She wasn’t entirely sure why but she couldn’t deny that what the captain thought of her matter to her quite a bit. Perhaps because he had taken a chance on her when he didn’t have to and when she’d had nowhere else to go. Katanga was only half right.

    “I know,” she said quietly. “I know.”

    “Than why do you look as if you’ve been invited to a cannibal’s dinner party?”

    That got a smirk onto her lips and she glanced at him. “Cannibal’s dinner party? Where do you come up with those things?”

    “Well, if you have been around as long as I have and you’ve met as many strange alien races, sooner or later you come across a few oddities.”

    That caused chuckles from Milestone and Lif Culsten at the helm.

    Her smile widened too. She wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not, her symbiont was significantly older than even Katanga and as far as she could recall from it’s collective life experiences none of its former hosts had ever encountered such an occasion. But the doctor had achieved his objective as her much more relaxed posture and smile attested to. She regarded him with a grateful nod.

    “We’re now approaching the Sacajawea,” said Lif Culsten.

    Star’s head whipped forward. “Red alert.”

    If anybody was surprised by her reaction, they kept it to themselves. There seemed little reason for the heightened alert level as sensors had not detected any ships in proximity to the other Starfleet vessel.

    And yet the order was followed without hesitation as the light on the bridge was reduced and partly replaced by bright crimson strobes, the alert klaxons beginning their usual howl throughout the ship. Eagle’s defensive shields were raised and all her weapons put on full standby. She was ready for battle.

    Star couldn’t help herself but sound tense when she spoke, as if she was indeed taking the ship into combat. “Drop out of warp and put her on screen.”

    “She seems to be holding position near the remnants of a destroyed planet.” Milestone looked up and towards the viewer. “Her shields and weapons are offline.”

    A planetoid which appeared to have broken up centuries ago could be seen prominently just beyond the Starfleet frigate. The two massive hemispheres had pushed away from each other as if the planet had been split in half like a coconut. A large field of small to large planetary fragments littered the space in between and all around that former world.

    Star felt a cold shiver run up her spine when she spotted the familiar lines of her former ship. “Give me a status on her.”

    Xylion had a report ready. “There are currently two hundred five life signs on the Sacajawea. The outer hull is showing signs of multiple phaser impacts and the warp core is offline. Sensors are reading only trace amounts of antimatter on board.”

    Star nodded but said nothing else. She didn’t order an end to the red alert or asked for a standard hail, didn’t even give Culsten the order to bring Eagle alongside the fellow Starfleet ship.

    In the absence of any orders the Krellonian at the helm used his initiative. “Assuming standard rendezvous position and coming to full stop.”

    Katanga looked at the Trill next to him. “Taz?”


    He pointed at the screen. “You want to, I don’t now, do something?”

    She nodded. “I suppose I should.” She stood from her chair and took a few steps towards the main screen. She had dreaded this moment and desperately hoped to find a way to avoid it altogether. Now that was no longer possible.

    But just before she could give the next order, Trinik spoke up. “We are being hailed.”

    She took a deep breath, hesitating for a moment. “Put it through.”

    The screen shifted to show a bridge she was quite familiar with. Smaller and more compact than the one she found herself on now. She recognized that single chair at the very center. After all she had sat in it once, even if it had only been for a few months. But worse of all, she recognized the man sitting in it now. He was slimmer than she remembered him with shorter hair and he had grown a goatee. He had the rank insignia of a captain adorning the collar of his shirt but he still wore that same self-important expression. Recognition dawned on his face. “Tazla Star?” Captain Evan Mahoney was noticeably surprised.

    She nodded but said nothing.

    “I cannot believe it.”

    She couldn’t tell if he was pleased or upset about seeing her again. She wasn't even sure if she had a preference.

    A smile began to spread over his lips. “What a small galaxy we live in. Tazla Star as she lives and breaths. First officer, I take it?”

    She nodded again.

    “Where’s your captain?”

    “He’s preoccupied with another mission. He sent us to assist you with whatever you require.” She spoke quickly, not wanting to give him much of a chance to talk. “We’ve noticed that your main power is down and that you may have some problems with your antimatter generators. We can send over some temporary generators and an engineering team to help with repairs. With any luck you should be able to get underway again under your own power within a few hours.”

    His dark eyes seemed to bore themselves into her as she spoke. He didn’t reply straight away and instead continued to consider her for a moment. “That sounds like a good idea. In the meantime and while repairs are underway, why don’t you come over for a visit? It’s been a long time and we’re way overdue for a little reunion, wouldn’t you agree?”

    Star couldn’t believe his audacity.

    “And I’m sure there are quite a few people over here who would love to say hello as well.”

    “Thank you for the kind offer but I’m somewhat tied up here at the moment.” She was putting on an obviously forced smile. “Perhaps some other time?”

    “Not a problem, we’ll come over and see you instead.” He raised a hand before she could object again. “I insist, Commander. It’s the decent thing to do, to offer my gratitude for your assistance in person.”

    Star fumed but there was little else she could. How would it have looked if she had refused his request? He was a starship captain after all. And she wasn’t any more. She nodded very slowly doing a poor job of hiding her reluctance.

    “Excellent, we’ll beam over shortly.”

    She nodded and turned away from the screen, assuming the conversation was over.

    “Oh, Commander?”

    She stopped and turned to face him again. “Yes?”

    “You might wish to drop your shields.”

    She shot him an empty look at first. “Yes, of course.” She looked towards the Vulcan at the tactical station. “Lieutenant, stand down from red alert and lower the shields.”

    He acknowledged with a curt nod and within moments the normal light levels were restored, signaling the end of the heightened alert status.

    “Excellent,” said Mahoney. “We’ll see you shortly. Sacajawea out.

    And with that his face was gone, replaced by the image of his crippled ship surrounded by asteroids.

    “Can’t wait.”

    She felt Katanga stepping up to her and considering her curiously. “I believe you may have neglected telling me a few things about your history with that particular ship and her captain.”

    She sighed heavily. “I may have left out a couple of details.”
  8. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Taz and Mahoney in the same room? Someone warn Laas.
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Yeah, this could get real messy. Thanks for reading.
  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Tell Katanga to get Sickbay prepped... there will be blood. :scream:
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    With Lam too preoccupied with the aftermath of the bombing in which dozens of Marines had been injured but miraculously nobody had been killed, the general hadn’t taken much interest in Owens’ announcement that he intended to tour the capital city. He had however insisted that he take a four-man security detail with him, citing heighten tensions in the area after the attack.

    What Lam didn’t know of course was the fact that even though Owens found the various Valerian architectural styles quite intriguing, he had no intention of doing any sightseeing that afternoon. He was due to meet with Sharval, the local peace officer he had run into on two occasions since coming to Valeria, and he had decided against letting Lam know for now. Not that he would be able to keep it a secret for long with the heavily armed Marines coming along.

    The rain had thankfully let up again and was back to a slow drizzle, even lighter than what it had been when he had first arrived. He was beginning to suspect that Valeria had more types of rain than stars visible in the night sky.

    They had boarded a spacious, Starfleet-issue skimmer—beaming was not an option on Valeria he had since learned due to the omnipresent transporter scramblers—and after he had told his escort where he wanted to go, they promptly steered the craft towards the city’s central square.

    When they approached he found it much busier than the few other places he had seen in town, no doubt Sharval had chosen it for that reason. It was market day, apparently, and stalls had been erected all across the large, rectangular space surrounded by old and clearly historical buildings which must have had existed for centuries. Hundreds of Valerians were currently visiting the square, many browsing the wares and looking for deals.

    Owens did not wish to draw too much attention, even if it quickly became apparent that It would be impossible not to. The gliding Starfleet skimmer stood out in the sparse Valerian traffic and a number of people on the square regarded it suspiciously as it approached.

    He decided to ask the driver to keep going and leave the craft a couple of blocks away and then walk the rest of the way.

    He wasn’t as successful in getting the four Marines to stay with the vehicle however, their leader citing strict orders to keep close to Owens and the away team for security purposes. In the end he had no choice but to let them accompany him Deen, Wasco and Belore to their meeting.

    Once they arrived at their destination, he still found it difficult not to garner the attention he had wanted to avoid. Belore of course stood out as likely the only Cardassian in town, Deen had never been a woman to simply blend into a crowd and the four dark-clad Marines didn’t even make an attempt. They seemed slightly nervous and certainly uncomfortable at being surrounded by so many Valerians, almost as if they were traversing enemy territory. They were also not exactly subtle, shoving away anyone who stepped too close and drawing a bead on random people who seemed the slightest bit too curious even after Owens had asked them repeatedly to relax.

    He couldn’t blame them entirely for their cautious approach after he had learned that Valerians were likely responsible for attacking their barracks only some hours earlier.

    Owens had no idea how to find Sharval among the masses of people who frequented the square. Fortunately he didn’t have to wonder long as the woman found them.

    “Sky Knight!” Her voice rung out across half the spacious square and causing a few bemused Valerians to stop and turn to consider him and his away team. Once she had his attention, she waved him over to what appeared to be a small outdoor establishment with tables and chairs, near one of the corners of the square.

    “Did you really have to bring reinformcements?” She shot a frown towards the armed men escorting Owens and his party.

    “Not my idea.”

    She nodded, seemingly willing to accept this for now and then pointed to a large table with enough chairs for her and the away team. Not enough, as it turned out, for the Marines.

    Owens turned to the lead man. “Give us some room please, Corporal.”

    The human Marine frowned. “Sir, we have strict orders—“

    “I know, I know. But you can keep an eye on us just as well from ten meters away.” Owens spoke sternly, not taking no for an answer this time.

    Reluctantly the Marines backed off and created a lose perimeter around the establishment. Owens and the others joined Sharval at the table underneath a large protective parasol which shielded the outside tables from the rain. She had already taken the liberty to order beverages for them. When Owens tasted the orange and crimson drink, he found it sweet and juicy with just a hint of an alcoholic kick.

    “Very nice, thank you.”

    Sharval offered him a large smile.

    He took one last look around the busy square. For a moment it almost felt as if he was sitting on one of those famous plazas in a place like Rome or Paris, surrounded by droves of tourists and locals. The surrounding architecture, much of it appearing ancient and imposing, clearly fit the bill and even the sun had decided to come out a little bit. The weather was pleasant, not too warm and not too cold. The drizzle took some getting used to but after a while he hardly noticed it anymore.

    “So, Sky Knight, have you come to save us all?” She shot him a bemused look across the table and then took a sip from her beverage.

    He frowned. “I’d much rather you called me by my actual name, Sharval.”

    She shrugged at that. “Human names are difficult for me to pronounce.” She considered DeMara Deen next who had sat in the chair adjacent to hers. “My, you are a pretty one, aren’t you?” The Valerian quite liberally reached out and touched her flowing golden locks. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen hair this bright.”

    Deen, who after all was no stranger to the attention, did not object and smiled. “Thank you, I like your hair as well.”

    “You’re not human, are you?”

    She shook her head. “I’m Tenarian.”

    “I don’t think I’m familiar with your people.”

    “Not many of us have ventured out into space.”

    She nodded and then let go of the bright golden locks. She looked at Owens and then back at Deen. “You wouldn’t be his mate, would you?”

    Owens nearly chocked on his drink at her forwardness, not certain if it was a Valerian characteristic or if Sharval was just brutally honest. He also noticed Deen blush slightly. A very odd reaction from a woman who had since perfected the art of taking compliments on a regular basis and who was not easily fazed by such comments. He quickly shook his head. “We work together.”

    But Sharval wasn’t buying it judging by her sharp almost skeptical look.

    “We’re friends,” Deen said. “We’ve known each other for a long time.”

    Sharval beamed again. “Not that long.” She considered the Tenarian with a knowing look. “You are practically still a child.”

    Before Deen could respond Owens spoke up. “Sharval, you said you might be able to help us with our mission.”

    Clearly sensing that Owens and Deen were not interested in pursing her current topic of conversation she began to nod slowly. “I certainly hope so,” she said. “Like many Valerians I would really be quite happy to see the Federation and the Cardassians take their disagreements elsewhere. We have no interest in your war. Besides, if what you say is true, and it is over, why go on?”

    The Cardassian regarded her. He had not touched the drink in front of him. “What is it you would propose?”

    She studied Belore for a moment. “Easy.” She looked back at the captain, the large smirk back on her soft features. “Get one of those massive starships of yours, put everybody on it, and send them anywhere but here.”

    Owens sighed. “I’m afraid it’s not quite that simple.”

    “Really? I thought you Starfleet types were all about making the impossible happen. Starfleet miracle engineers turning scrap into starships, Starfleet doctors defying death, Starfleet ingenuity conquering all.” Her amusement at watching Owens’ reaction to her words was not easily missed.

    And he could tell she was making fun of them. He had never spent too much time considering how people outside of Starfleet and the Federation, those like Sharval who lived on neutral planets, thought about him and his people. He couldn’t deny a certain truth to her words. Starfleet officers did have a tendency to believe they could move mountains relying on not much more than unwavering will and reliable technology and expertise. It had created a kind of mythos over the centuries which some were too quick to believe in, especially those serving in Starfleet themselves. He realized that for those outside of that circle this attitude often must have come across as a little haughty, perhaps even arrogant at times.

    Belore however seemed to find this entertaining and couldn’t hide his own smile as he considered the captain. No doubt he shared Sharval’s skeptical view of Starfleet.

    Owens had no defense to offer and decided against trying to come up with one. “There are currently approximately fifty thousand Marines on this world and about as many Cardassians. We just don’t have the resources right now to move so many people at once.”

    “Nonsense.” She took another sip. “You might as well be honest about it. Your superiors on Earth simply do not care enough for a little neutral planet in unclaimed space a hundred light-years away to spare anybody.”

    He shot her a sharp look. “They spared me.”

    “Yes, my noble Sky Knight,” she said, inviting another frown from Owens. “The very same who has to come to me to ask for my help.”

    “I believe, Madam, it was you who suggested this meeting,” said Belore.

    “I’m no madam but you’re right, I did, didn’t I?”

    Owens was getting the distinct impression that they were not getting anywhere. “Other than your ingenious plan of getting everyone onto a very big ship, do you have any other bright ideas which could help us—both of us—to end this war on your planet?”

    She laughed at that. “Is that sarcasm in your tone?” she said. “So you do have a sense of humor after all.”

    “He’s known to tell a joke from time to time too.” Deen had a hint of a smile playing on her lips.

    Sharval looked at her before regarding the captain once more, leaning over the table a little bit. “Good.” Her own smile widening. “I like a man who knows how to have a good time.”

    He simply glanced back at her with an empty look on his face, letting her know that he was still waiting for her to say something more substantial.

    She understood the message and leaned back. “Look, all we care about is that you and your Cardassian friends pack up your things and leave us alone. That’s not too much to ask for now, is it?”

    “The government of Valeria would disagree with you.” Wasco hadn’t spoken until now, preferring to listen instead. “They seem to have an interest in a continued Federation presence on this world judging by the agreements they have signed.”

    Sharval shot him a dark scowl, clearly not liking the man at all. Or perhaps it was his Marine uniform. “You mean Heral?” She uttered a dismissive laugh.

    Owens nodded. “Your supreme monarch signed a pledge of assistance with General Lam.”

    “Heral is a child and I don’t mean like your pretty friend over here.” She indicated towards Deen. “I mean literally. He has not yet reached the age of adulthood and is what you would call a symbolic leader. Nothing more. He wields no official power on Valeria. The chief magistrates make and enforce the laws, not the monarch.”

    The captain looked at Wasco and the others with a dumbfounded expression. If she was right and if Supreme Monarch Heral was nothing more than a figurehead, and if he didn’t really speak for the people of Valeria, any deal Lam had struck with him would have been inconsequential.

    “When the Dominion and your people first got here, both sides went to Heral to secure support from us for your causes. I don’t know if it was on purpose or if you were just ignorant about how things work on Valeria initially. Heral and his advisors like to think they are the ultimate authority even if they have no such guaranteed power under our laws. So while trying to please everyone and in an ill-fated attempt to keep civilians out of the conflict, he signed deals with both the Federation and the Dominion. Promising that my security forces would keep the civilians calm as long as you would ensure Valerians would not come to harm during this conflict of yours.”

    Deen looked as surprised as the others. “And I take it, it didn’t work out that way.”

    “Maybe there was some restraint at the beginning but soon enough civilian casualties mounted and both Lam and Metral began to call it collateral damage and justified it as a necessity to ensure victory.”

    Deen looked at Owens. “No wonder the Valerians are angry.”

    He nodded. “It’s a Prime Directive nightmare. We shouldn’t be on this world in the first place. The only reason we ever came here it seems is because the Dominion once considered it to be of tactical importance and a possible incursion point into Federation space. And after it lost it’s significance it has turned into a big great mess.”

    “General Lam’s motives make a certain sense however.” Wasco elaborated when Owens aimed a skeptical look his way. “You’re right it is a mess now but a Cardassian victory on Valeria could mean disaster for the Valerians. They could establish a permanent presence here and enslave the local populace like they did on Bajor.”

    Belore shook his head decisively. “Cardassia has given up on such harsh and colonial polices a long time ago. We’ve learned from the disaster on Bajor. Besides, in our current state, we would not be able to support any kind of occupation.”

    “In its current state perhaps not,” Wasco said. “But while the Dominion was still in charge, they may have had future plans for Valeria following a military victory.”

    “I find that hard to believe.” Belore was still not convinced. “If there had been such plans why would the Dominion have essentially given up on winning a ground war on this planet and withdrawn the Jem’Hadar?”

    “Gentlemen.” Owens inserted himself before the back and forth could continue. “Let’s agree that the circumstances have changed, for no other reason than that we are supposedly at peace now. I’m not interested in what may or may not have been on people’s agenda months ago. How do you we end this now?”

    Wasco was not yet willing to give up this point entirely. “The general is still convinced that a Cardassian victory will pose a significant threat to the Valerian people.”

    “Yes, he cares so much for us poor, helpless Valerians.” Sharval’s vicious smile on her lips seeped sarcasm.

    “He shouldn’t,” said Belore. “I have been empowered to speak for the Cardassian transitional leadership and I guarantee that all we want is to bring our soldiers home so that they can assist in the rebuilding efforts.”

    Owens quickly picked up on that. “Then that has to be our argument.”

    Wasco shook his head. “I don’t think the general would be swayed by this.”

    “It doesn’t matter if he agrees or not.” Deen looked at Sharval. “If we can get the Valerian officials, those with actual authority, to state that they wish for a withdrawal of all foreign troops, Lam would have to listen as there would be no continued legitimacy for Federation involvement here.”

    “What about the Cardassians?” said Wasco. “What if Lam is right and they plan to stay?”

    “It’s a risk I’m sure my people are willing to take.” Sharval’s statement invited the looks of everyone at the table. “Even if we can just get Starfleet to stand down and leave, and even if the Cardassians don’t go with them, at least this war will be over. That’s better than what we have now. I can tell you that we’d rather take our chances with them than have this war go on for another day. Besides if the Bajorans could fight them off, so can we.”

    “It took them decades to force the Cardassians out and at a very high cost,” said Wasco.

    Belore shook his head again. “It won’t come to that. As a representative of the Cardassian Union—what’s left of it—I am willing to pledge no long-term Cardassian military interests on Valeria and an eventual withdrawal of all troops.”

    The Marine glared at the Cardassian. “That’s a big promise.”

    The gul nodded. “And I’ll keep it. As will my government.” He looked at both Owens and Sharval. “You have my word.”

    “I’ll take it. The Cardassian military no longer has the manpower to support an occupation and under the articles of the peace treaty is practically under Alliance control.” He looked at the Valerian, fully aware it was their people who would take the greatest risk.

    She considered everyone for a moment before she spoke. “I can get the local chief magistrate to draft an agreement. I know he thinks like I do and his follow magistrates would not hesitate to put their names on any document which would lead to a withdrawal of foreign troops. The chief magistrates tend to be in regular contact so it shouldn’t be difficult for everyone to sign it.”

    Owens nodded. “That’s a good start but we’ll need more than a piece of paper and a few signatures to convince Lam. We need to arrange a peace summit with at least one Valerian government representative who can speak for the people. Then we can lay out our plan to Lam and make a cease-fire a reality.” He turned to look at Wasco. “Major, you’re on good terms with the general, we’ll need your help to ensure he agrees to hold this summit and most importantly, that he attends it himself.”

    He nodded without hesitation. “Yes, sir.”

    Owens considered Sharval next. “And you will need to convince your magistrate to join us.”

    Sharval offered Owens another large smirk. “Like giving orders, do you?” She waved him off before he could respond. “Don’t worry, I can make that happen,” she said. “I told you, Sky Knight. Getting together like this was a splendid idea.”

    * * *​
  12. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Owens is embarking on a dangerous course here, one General Lam is sure to oppose. One hopes that Valerian backing might sway Lam's opinions, but I worry that 2 years on this world have warped his perspective irrevocably.
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    Less than half an hour after they had spoken, she’d been given the word that Captain Mahoney had beamed on board. Star had decided to meet him alone in the observation lounge mostly because it was a much larger space than the ready room and she knew she wanted to keep as much distance to Mahoney as possible.

    Sitting at the far end of the table, she took a deep breath when she heard the doors opening and then stood.

    A crewman stepped in first, announcing her guests and then let Mahoney and his first officer enter.

    Star noticed with some surprise that his XO was quite the familiar face. “Mister Leva?”

    He nodded at her, offering a small smile. “Commander.”

    “You’re new assignment is the Sacajawea?”

    “Yes, sir.” If he was perturbed over that fact he knew well how to hide this.

    She gave him a nod and then glanced at Mahoney who wore his own little bemused smile. “Taz, so good to see you again in person. It’s been far too long.”

    She was pretty certain he was lying.

    Star noticed that both Mahoney and Leva had come onto Eagle with phasers strapped to their hips. It was standard procedure to be armed during times of war or during an extended conflict but the war was over. Of course some starship captains preferred to have their crew armed whenever they were on duty and after fighting the Dominion for nearly two years, Star was certain more commanding officers would err on the side of caution in that matter. On Eagle however it was not standard practice for the crew to be armed and it was considered common courtesy to leave your guns at home when you where invited on another Starfleet ship. Star had the strong feeling Mahoney had insisted on wearing phasers on purpose.

    “Welcome on board.” She kept her tone curt.

    Mahoney looked around the otherwise empty room, obviously taking note that Star had decided to receive them alone. “Thank you, Commander.” He looked back at the Trill with a little grin to show that he had emphasized her rank on purpose. “We are extremely grateful that you were in the area and able to come to our assistance. I was not aware of other starships operating out here.”

    “Neither was I.”

    He nodded slowly and then pointed at the chair at his end of the table. “You mind?”

    “Be my guest.” Silently she was thankful he had decided to pick the seat furthest away from hers.

    He took the chair and Leva sat next to him. Star could tell that the half-Romulan had not missed the sudden tension in the room and guessed that he had no knowledge of the bad blood between her and Mahoney. She decided that it was better that way as she took her own seat again.

    “I take it you have been wondering what we’ve been doing out here.” Mahoney’s stupid little grin refused to leave his face.

    “The thought had crossed my mind.”

    “Naturally,” he said. “Are you familiar with the Thulians?”

    She nodded. “Somewhat. The people of Ultima Thule, an important Federation trading partner in this sector but if I recall an otherwise mostly reclusive race.”

    “Reclusive is putting it mildly.” He leaned back in the chair, making himself comfortable at the head of the table as if he owned the room. “We don’t even know what they look like. They are humanoid but tend to hide their faces behind masks.”

    Star knew that that wasn’t all that uncommon. A number of races had hang-ups over revealing their faces to outsiders. Some did it for cultural reasons, others because they didn’t breathe the same atmosphere as humans and many other humanoids. The Breen, whose border was in this sector of space as well, were a good example, as were the Xelatians, who happened to be part of the Federation.

    “Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to make some inroads with the Thulians.”


    “Since the war has ended they have been quite active in providing reconstruction resources to both Federation and Cardassian worlds most affected by the war. Unfortunately some elements in this sector are trying to profit from this goodwill gesture and have been attacking Thulian aid convoys, making off with their cargo. The Thulians have reached out to me to help them fight this pirate scourge as they do not have the military capacity to do so on their own.”

    “And that’s how your ship ended up disabled?” Star took perhaps a little bit too much pleasure from that fact.

    Mahoney frowned but Leva answered in his stead. “I’m afraid so. We were chasing a small group of pirates to the broken planetoid when we fell into a trap.” He briefly glanced at his captain.

    Star had the distinct feeling that there was more to that story.

    “Regardless,” Mahoney said quickly, clearly wishing to move on. “Once our repairs are completed and you join our efforts, these pirates will not stand a chance. With Eagle’s help we will locate their base quickly and take it out of commission for good. I made the Thulians a promise and I intend to keep it. After all this could be our best chance we’ll ever have to lay the ground works for diplomatic relations with the Thulians. And after the war, we can use whatever allies we can get.”

    But Star wasn’t convinced and judging by the somewhat uncomfortable look on Leva’s face, he wasn’t a hundred percent behind his captain on this one either.

    Mahoney did notice Star’s reluctance. “These pirates are not just hurting the Thulians, they are hurting us as well as millions of Federation citizens and Cardassians who depend on these supplies to be able to rebuild their lives. I’m not willing to let a group of greedy lowlifes affect the fate of so many. Not after everything we’ve been through over the last two years.”

    It wasn’t difficult to tell that he meant every word of it. Mahoney was a man with a mission.

    “You and Eagle will assist us in dealing with this situation.” There was a certain finality to his voice. He saw himself in command now, not just of his own ship but of Star and Eagle as well.

    She tried to consider her options. They had come here to answer a distress signal and assist a fellow starship vessel in need. Not to take part in on some sort of ad-hoc piracy suppression campaign. “My captain is expecting this ship back at Valeria.”

    “Your captain will understand,” said Mahoney. “Besides, these pirates are mostly using outdated Cardassian escorts. We were blindsided by their ambush but now that we have you here that will not happen again. With our combined fire power we should be able to deal with them quickly and afterwards you can go back to wherever you need to be.”

    Star didn’t respond straight away.

    Mahoney glanced at this first officer. “Mister Leva, would you mind giving us the room for a minute?”

    The Romulan looked at him and then back at Star before nodding, getting out of his chair and then leaving the observation lounge.

    A large grin came over Mahoney’s face once he had left and he also stood. Much to Star’s displeasure he was slowly making his way down the length of the table and towards her. “I thought it was about time that we had some privacy, don’t you think?”

    “What the hell do you want, Evan?” She quickly stood in order to be on equal footing with the man.

    “That’s captain to you, Taz.” He grinned and then brushed his fingers over the four pips adorning the collar of his crimson uniform shirt.

    “I cannot believe they actually promoted you?”

    You cannot believe?” His voice took on a harder edge. “And what kind of miracles did you pull out of your hat to get yourself out of prison and assigned as a first officer? You should still be rotting on Jaros II for what you’ve done.”

    Now she offered a little smile of her own. “I guess they made two mistakes then, didn’t they?”

    “Tell me something, Taz.” He leaned casually against the windows of the lounge, facing her. “Does your captain know about the things you were up to on Sacajawea? Because for the life of me I could not imagine him wanting you around if he was fully aware of all the sordid little details.”

    “Some people change, Evan. I guess not you.”

    He considered her for a moment. “Oh, I’ve changed, Taz. I’m the captain now. And you? You’re just the first officer. Funny how the universe has a tendency to put things on their head like that.”

    “I’m not going to help you with this little crusade of yours.”

    “Yes, you are, Taz.” He moved from the windows to step closer, practically invading her private space. To her credit, she didn’t flinch. “And you know why? Because I’m telling you to. Because I’m your superior officer now and I’m giving you a direct order. Oh wait, I forgot. You don’t do well with orders, do you? You prefer to run off on your own and get the people under your command killed in the process.”

    She clenched her teeth tightly. “Starfleet regulations specify that the tactically superior vessel—“

    He waved her off. “Maybe if you were the captain. But you’re not. So you better get used to the idea that I’m in charge.”

    “Do you mind getting out of my face?”

    He gave her another smile before he stepped away to give her some room. “You want another reason to do what I tell you?” He turned her way once more. “I mean other than you avoiding disobeying orders again and be thrown back into the dark hole you crawled out of? Do as I say or it will be my great pleasure to tell the whole galaxy exactly what you’ve been up to. And after I’m through with you, nobody will trust you ever again with as much as a garbage hauler.”

    She left it at scowling at him. It was one of those looks that she wished could kill.

    He took a little breath of air. “It was almost just worth it for seeing that expression on your face.”

    Star ignored that jab. “Alright, I’ll help you with this. But under one condition. You don’t come back here. Not ever. And once this mission of yours is over we’re through. For good.”

    He looked around the room. “What a shame, this is such a pretty ship.” He shrugged. “We can hammer out the details of our combined efforts over comms. And remember to be civil around company, Taz. Nobody wants to see those pretty spots of yours distorted into a frown.”

    “Are you done?”

    He regarded her closely, looking her up and down carefully. “You know, Taz, if only you had taken up my offer when you had the chance. We could have been great together and you could have saved yourself a lot of pain and headache.”

    “Sorry.” A vicious little smile appeared on her lips. “I don’t share my bed with scum.”

    He responded with a little grin of his own. “Now we both know that’s not true.”

    “Get off my ship.”

    Mahoney didn’t move straight away and then took his time to head towards the doors. He stopped short of stepping through them and instead regarded her with another glance. “Oh, and if you ever change your mind, you know where to find my quarters. I think they were yours once.” He offered a last, almost lecherous grin and then left.

    As soon as he was gone she released a heavy sigh she hadn’t realize she had held back. The truth was she had come fairly close to punching Mahoney in the face so hard that he would have needed Elijah’s assistance to pick himself off the floor again. Of course Mahoney would probably have liked that. After all it would have marked the end for her and her career even if there was little doubt that he deserved it.

    Star let herself fall back in the chair, starting to understand that it was in fact she who was getting pummeled. And the hits, she realized, just kept on coming.

    * * *​
  14. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    People sure like to try to borrow the Eagle lately, don't they?
  15. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    She should have punched him. I don't care if he outranked Star. Mahoney is a tribble's ass...
  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Mahoney has a date with a well deserved comeuppance. I just hope it doesn't cost any lives other than his... :evil:
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Evil thoughts here. Perhaps Mahoney has good reasons to despise Star ...

    She's a popular ship, ain't she?

    Agreed, that would have made for a nice visual. Of course it would have also landed her in the brig.

    Thanks for reading, people.
  18. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    He had been caught entirely unaware by the all too obvious animosity that had been present between his current and former superior officers when he had met Star along with Mahoney. They had both done an admirable job of trying to hide it, but Leva had been a security officer long enough to be able to read the subtle and in this case not so subtle indicators on people’s faces. There was absolutely no love lost between those two.

    Oddly Mahoney hadn’t mentioned any of this before they had left for Eagle. Hadn’t even told him that Tazla Star had commanded Sacajawea before him and that back then he had been Star’s first officer. Odd because Leva had told him everything he had wanted to know about his former posting, including about Star herself. He had even pointed out that transporting over onto Eagle wearing phasers would probably not go over well. His captain had chosen to ignore that advice entirely.

    “I think red really suits you. It makes you look important.” Nora Laas wore a little grin on her face, sitting behind her desk in the security office. “You may have to be, seeing that you’ve apparently already gotten yourself into a fine mess here.”

    Even though it had been less than a week since he had been gone, Leva had decided to meet up with old friends while he was on Eagle, not sure when he would ever get another chance, and Nora had been pleasantly surprised to see him again, judging by the way her face had lit up when he had appeared by the open doors of her office.

    Sacajawea.” She blew out some air. “Could you have landed on a worse ship?”

    He frowned as he took the seat opposite her. “You’re not helping.”

    “Sorry,” she said. “But you must have known about her. She was Star’s old ship, the one on which she went off the reservation and which directly led to her disgrace and imprisonment.”

    Leva nodded slowly. “I know. But to tell you the truth, it entirely slipped my mind. I remember reading about the incident, or at least the little bits that had been cleared by Starfleet back when it happened two years ago and then again when Star came on Eagle. For some reason I never made the connection when I got to Sacajawea. And that ship and its mostly green crew have kept me so busy, I never bothered asking questions or read up on her full service history.”

    She grinned. “I bet you wish you had before getting into that room.”

    “No kidding. Those two do not like each other. I don’t know what happened after I left but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d get called down to sickbay to pick up my captain.”

    Nora chuckled.

    “It’s not funny.”

    “It’s a little funny.”

    “Not in my position, it isn’t.”

    She nodded sympathetically. “So, any idea what the nature of the bad blood between those two could be?”

    “Not really and I doubt either of them will open up to me. What we know from official records is that Star disobeyed orders during a mission to apprehend a fugitive and basically abandoned her ship to go after him by herself.”

    “Something that may have gone over pretty badly with her first officer at the time.”

    “I agree. But that doesn’t explain why Commander Star has such a problem with Mahoney.” He shook his head slightly. “No, something else is going on here.”

    Nora leaned back in her chair as she regarded her friend, a smirk back on her lips “Regret leaving Eagle yet?”

    He favored her with a scowl. “It’s not exactly what I expected. But I still like the challenge. She’s nothing like Eagle or even any other assignment I’ve ever had. And in a way that makes this very interesting. I have a real opportunity here to make my mark and help shape this crew into an efficient unit.”

    “What’s Mahoney like?”

    He didn’t respond to this straight away. He wasn’t sure how much he was comfortable telling her. Not because he had a desire to keep any secrets from her but because he understood what a terrible impression the truth would make. After all his own first impression had been anything but encouraging. But the man had changed suddenly. Now that he had a new purpose, he was almost like a man reborn. And he couldn’t deny that he felt a certain amount of loyalty towards him and Sacajawea. It was his ship, too, now. “He has some rough edges,” he said. “He and his crew have been through some tough times during the war.”

    Nora’s eyes darkened. “Haven’t we all?”

    “Yes but I think it was different for them. They had very little success and the crew suffered a great deal,” he said. “Even more than we did.” He added that last part quickly even though he knew that Nora had suffered greatly herself.

    She nodded, clearly understanding sacrifice. And what it could do to a person.

    “He seems competent enough. He doesn’t have the experience or even the wisdom of Captain Owens but I think his heart is in the right place.”

    Nora nodded. “There is another but coming, isn’t there?”

    Leva sighed. She had a tendency to be able to read him like an open book at times. “He’s also got a dark side. And it scares me a little bit.”

    Her eyes opened wider. “And this coming from you?”

    He nodded. “It takes one to know one. I’ve been struggling with my dark side all my life,” he said but then corrected himself. “My Romulan side. And sometimes I feel like it is just waiting to bubble over and take control. I think perhaps Mahoney is even closer to that edge.”

    She looked concerned. “I do not envy you.” And yet she managed another smile. “Looks like you will have your work cut out for you. And if it’s a challenge you wanted, you’ve really got one now. Good luck.”

    “You mean to the both of us.”

    Nora responded with a quizzical look.

    “That’s right, you haven’t heard yet. Mahoney has drafted Eagle to help with our mission to chase down and eliminate the pirate activity in this sector. And he will be calling the shots.”

    “And Star agreed to this?”

    “I believe she has.”

    Nora didn’t hide her anger. “Damn her,” she hissed. “Sometimes I can’t help but question that woman’s loyalty. We have places to be. The captain and Dee are practically stuck on Valeria all by themselves. We need to go back there as soon as possible. I think I’m going to have some words with my first officer.”

    Leva knew well of course of her past animosity towards Star. There weren’t many on the ship who didn’t. The two women had managed to get passed it and Nora had noticeably relaxed her attitude concerning Star over time. However, she sounded just like the Nora of old again.

    She noticed his concern and offered a playful grin to alleviate it. “Don’t worry, I promise to be civil.”

    Just then the intercom interrupted their conversation. “Captain Mahoney to Commander Leva.”

    He exchanged a quick look with the Bajoran and then tapped his combadge. “This is Leva. Go ahead, sir”

    “Commander, may I ask where you are?”

    “I’m still on Eagle, sir.”

    There was a short pause. “I see. Commander, I appreciate that you must have quite a few friends over there but may I remind you that you are my first officer now?” His voice sounded sharper than Leva had been used to. “I need you to be here, by my side. Do I make myself clear?”

    “As crystal, sir. I’m heading back now.”

    “Excellent, Commander.” He sounded much more pleased now. “I’m looking forward to having you back. Mahoney out.”

    Nora shot Leva a look, surprise and amusement mirrored on her face. “You didn’t tell me he’s a taskmaster.”

    He stood. “Well not usually. His encounter with Star must have put him in a bad mood.”

    “Yeah, she can do that.”

    “I better get going before he sends a search party after me.”

    “Alright, you take care of yourself, So’.”

    “And you as well.” They exchanged smiles before he headed for the doors and left to return to the ship he now called home. For better or for worse.
  19. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Argh! There's so much happening just below the surface that these two just can't know... yet. Leva and Nora think they're just dealing with a personality conflict and bad blood, when the reality goes so much deeper. :eek:
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006

    Tazla Star was looking over the latest reports from Sacajawea and found that repairs to her antimatter generators were ahead of schedule, mostly thanks to Louise Hopkins lending her more inexperienced counterpart on the other ship both her hands. Her updated repair schedule estimated that Sacajawea would be shipshape and able to run on her own power again in less than three hours.

    For Star repairs couldn’t be completed quickly enough. The sooner they were done, the sooner they could finish Mahoney’s mission of neutralizing the pirates and she could go back to Valeria and more importantly get out from under his thumb. And with any luck even get him out of her life for good.

    She looked up with a frown upon hearing the annunciator. The last thing she wanted at the moment was company.

    And yet that didn't stop Elijah Katanga from apparently overriding the door controls and stepping inside.

    She favored her old friend with a dark scowl. “There are certain rules on this ship even you should follow, Eli. One of them is never to enter the captain’s ready room without being asked to enter.”

    “That rule doesn’t apply when there is an emergency.” He sat in the chair facing her and the desk.

    “What emergency?”

    “You tell me.”

    She sighed. “Eli, I’m really not in the mood.”

    “And I really don’t care,” he said bluntly. “We need to talk. About Sacajawea and about Mahoney and why we’re still here instead of going back to Valeria where kids are continue to kill and die in the name of a war which is already over.”

    She leaned back in Owens’ chair. “The captain asked me to take my time. He thinks that having Eagle in orbit is not going to help him convince General Lam to agree to a cease-fire. He’s not expecting us back for a while.”

    “Fine. But that still doesn’t explain what’s going on with you and that ship out there.” He pointed to the viewport where the smaller frigate could be seen in front of the split planet.

    “She’s my old ship.” She put on a lame smile. “You know how it is. Just like seeing your first love again.”

    He decisively shook his head. “You’ve known me long enough to know that you can’t fool me that easily. I know about love. I even like to think that I felt it once or twice in my life. Now your feelings towards that ship and its captain have nothing to do with that. In fact, I think it’s safe to say it’s the exact opposite.”

    She stood and walked over the window to glance at the ship which she had once commanded. Her first and only captaincy which had lasted mere months and had come to a sudden and tragic end. She couldn’t stand looking at her for long and turned back to Katanga whose eyes considered her appraisingly. “There are things I don’t like to talk about, not even to you.”

    “That’s not going to fly this time.”

    Her frown deepened.

    “Oh, don’t give me that look.” He continued in a softer tone. “Listen, Taz, I’m worried about you, alright? I know things haven’t been easy for you. On this ship and before. I know that you have struggled with adversity and animosity for a long time. And now you have this hack journalist gunning for you and the ghosts of your past are popping up again. For your own sake, you need somebody to confide in. And if isn’t me then who?”

    She sighed, once again realizing that he was absolutely correct. How was it, she wondered, that with all the lifetimes of experiences she had over him, he still turned out to be the wiser of them both. Then she remembered that she had never really benefited much from the wisdom of the Star symbiont, no matter how hard it had tried to remind her of it. She had always been too damn stubborn to listen to others. Perhaps it was time to change all that.

    She took the seat again. “Mahoney and I have history.”

    “Yes, he was your first officer.”

    Star shook her head. “I wish that’s all it was.”

    “Oh.” Understanding dawned on his features. “Bad breakup?”

    “Bad everything,” she said. “I shouldn’t have gotten involved with him in the first place. Not just because it was inappropriate but also because he had his own motives for wanting to be with me. And some of them had nothing to do with me at all.”

    “I suppose he wouldn’t be the first who tried to sleep himself to the top.”

    “Yes but it was all so stupid and pointless. And I was so incredibly naive at first. Fell for his fake charm and everything when I should have known better. I broke it off after less than two weeks and he didn’t take it very well.”

    “Okay, so the two of you were in a bad relationship. That happens. And it happened when? Two years ago?”

    She confirmed that with a nod.

    “Don’t you think it’s time for the both of you to move on? Why is there still so much animosity between the two of you?”

    Star looked straight at her old friend, not really wanting to elaborate any further.

    “There was more to it, wasn’t there?”

    “Before I left Sacajawea on my little unsanctioned excursion to apprehend the man we were after, I may have drugged Mahoney with Syndicate-Y.”

    At that Katanga’s eyes opened wide. “You didn’t?”

    But she nodded. “Gave him more than a full dose. He’s lucky he survived it.”

    “That’s not good.”

    Fury reached into her eyes and her tone took on a sharp edge. “The bastard tried to blackmail me. He found out about my plans and came to see me just before I was due to leave. He threatened to stop me by going to my superior unless I agreed to rekindle our relationship and become his lover again.”

    The doctor didn’t say anything straight away, instead he simply looked at her, regarding the Trill woman wordlessly.

    “So perhaps I didn’t make the right choice. In hindsight I should probably have backed down then and there but it wasn’t that easy for me back then. I owed a lot of favors to people you can’t just say no to. And frankly, Mahoney was just in my way. It would have been different if he had possessed the slightest shred of moral fiber in his bones. If he had been a good man and a loyal officer to me. But all he ever wanted was my body and whatever delusional ideas he had about advancing his career through my bed.”

    Katanga still needed a moment to respond. “That’s a lot to take in.”

    “Hence why I didn’t want to talk about it.”

    “Who else knows about all this?”

    She shrugged. “I never told a soul,” she said. “Not sure about Mahoney. I would think that he would have wanted to keep this episode to himself as well. Maybe Sacajawea’s CMO Newheiser. After all he knew about my problem with Syndicate-Y and even tried to help once. As it turned out he was nothing more than another pawn of my ruthless former boss, possibly send to Sacajawea to keep an eye on me.”

    “I’m starting to see why you have such strong feelings regarding that ship. Was there anybody on board with an ounce of decency?”

    “There was the Ariolo security chief. His loyalty to me cost him his life.” She was unable to bare looking at Katanga any longer and diverted her eyes.

    A maddening silence engulfed the ready room when neither Star nor Katanga had words to offer following her confession. She wasn’t sure what was going through his mind at that moment but she was convinced it wasn’t going to be good. When he had first come aboard he had been more than willing to offer her his seemingly unconditional absolution and that was before he even knew any of the terrible things she had done. And she could have easily gone on with the horror show which had been her life. Dragged out all the nasty little secrets of the things she had to do while she had worked for a shadowy part of Starfleet Intelligence only to realize much later that she had really only ever served the whims and personal agendas of a single man. She feared he’d never even look at her if he truly knew the full extent of her sins. She wasn’t even sure if he was still willing to do so now.

    “I am not going to sit here and judge you for the things you’ve done in your past,” he finally said. “It is not my place. Besides, I like to think that I know your true character. I knew it back when I was friends with Dezwin and I’ve seen the same spirit and the same sense of self-sacrifice since I’ve come aboard Eagle. I cannot admit that I agree with the choices you have made in the past but as far as I’m concerned those have little bearing on the here and now. And as far as Captain Mahoney is concerned, from what you’ve told me, he’s a person much worse than you ever were in your darkest days. He’s a self-serving opportunist who does whatever he must in order to fulfill his personal desires regardless of who or what gets in his way. It sounds to me that whatever you did to him, he had it coming.”

    Star glanced at her old friend, surprised by his continuously unwavering support of her. And once again she was not certain she deserved it. She didn’t know how to respond.

    “But I’m also going to tell you the same thing I’ve told you the other day. Don’t let the mistakes of yours past dictate your future.”

    She sighed heavily. “That was easy to say when we were talking about just a reporter trying to get his next big story based on nothing more than rumors and hearsay. Mahoney can actually make good on his threats. He knows the sordid little details, hell he was there for many of them.”

    “That you drugged him while he was trying to take advantage of you?” He shook his head. “That’s not going to reflect very well on him now, is it?”

    She shrugged. “Maybe he doesn’t care anymore.”

    Katanga leaned forward. “Alright then, in that case you may have to make another difficult decision, Taz. Do you let this man control you for the rest of your life? Will you sacrifice the trust and the loyalty you have built so hard on this ship in order to hide your past mistakes or will you stand up to him even if that means that you risk your own career doing so?”

    She had no immediate answer to those questions.

    The veteran doctor leaned back in his chair. “To be honest, for the Star I know, this isn’t really such a difficult decision at all.”

    * * *​