The Star Eagle Adventures VI: Semper Fidelis

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

  1. Tribble puncher

    Tribble puncher Captain Captain

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    I feel like we need a epilogue after this ride.
     
  2. Tribble puncher

    Tribble puncher Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Location:
    Somewhere witty
    Excellent story
     
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.

    And you shall most definitely get an epilogue as well. Keep an eye out for it this weekend.
     
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    EPILOGUE​



    1


    It had been two days since the Sacajawea had been destroyed and it had taken him that long to make a decision. In retrospect, he realized that he had in fact arrived at his decision the moment he had stepped back onto Eagle’s bridge after he had barely escaped the stricken ship alive. It had taken him a couple of days to think things through and to make sure this was what he truly wanted.

    “I’ve read your report, Commander, and I agree with Commander Star that your actions were entirely justified. Captain Mahoney not only overstepped his authority but also recklessly endangered lives on the surface of that moon as well as that of fellow Starfleet officers when he gave the order to continue firing on that base. You were well within your right, I’d even argue it was your duty, to oppose him at that point.”

    Leva nodded at Owens while standing in the ready room and in front of the captain’s desk. “I would request that Starfleet shows leniency to the officers who sided with Mahoney.”

    The captain looked up at him, scowling slightly. “Starfleet has made it clear again and again that it is not looking for people who blindly follow orders, Commander, but understand the difference between right and wrong. Mahoney was wrong and so were those who stood by him.”

    “I understand that, sir. But Sacajawea’s crew was young and inexperienced.”

    He shook his head. “That is not an excuse.”

    “Maybe not. But if there was one thing that became clear to me after joining that ship is that more than anything, that crew lacked proper leadership. Mahoney had already practically removed himself entirely from daily operations at the time and Lieutenant Alendra, even though she did a remarkable job keeping things going, had been delegated far more duties than anyone could have realistically expected from her. I thought I was beginning to make inroads, maybe I could have turned things around if I’d had the chance to serve on her for a longer period of time, but as it was, the crew was so disengaged thanks to Mahoney’s command style, it is little wonder that most did not even know what to do when the time came.”

    The captain considered all this silently before he made eye contact with Leva again. He nodded slowly. “Very well, I will take you recommendations under advisement. However, I can only suggest a course of action. Starfleet Command will have the final word as what will happen to Sacajawea’s crew.”

    Leva was fairly certain that Owens had accumulated enough pull with the powers that be after commanding Eagle for over four years that they would listen to what he had to say. Of course Leva had not been happy that some of his officers had sided with Mahoney when he had challenged the man but in hindsight he could certainly understand their reasoning. And he still felt a certain loyalty to this crew, even if they had turned against him; even if their ship had broken up and burned up in the atmosphere of a small, inconsequential planetoid at a far corner of the galaxy.

    “There is one other matter I’d like to discuss with you, sir. It pertains to my next assignment.”

    Owens looked up again. “It will only be a formality until you are cleared of any wrongdoings, Commander. Once that’s done, I’m sure Starfleet will still have plenty of places for you to make your mark, including, I’m sure, more open first officer billets.”

    But Leva didn’t share his optimism. After all he had mutinied against his captain, and even though Starfleet would justify his actions, this mark would forever be part of his career. Very rarely did starship captains feel entirely comfortable working alongside a man who had turned against his previous commanding officer. Leva expected that it would make his career progression a challenge. But that was not the reason why he had made his decision. “I would like to request to be reinstated to my former position.”

    Owens’ eyes grew a little wider in surprise.

    “I know it’s an inconvenience and that you have every right to decline my request, sir. All I can say is that over the last few days I have realized the value of true loyalty. I’m not talking about the kind which is expected from those who serve in Starfleet. I’m talking about the kind of loyalty which comes naturally because you care about the people you serve with. And because you want to be part of something you can believe in. I believe in you, Captain, and I believe in this ship and her crew.”

    The captain’s expression remained firm and unreadable. “Commander, when you left this ship, I told you that I consider this crew family.”

    “I know. And I broke up the family.”

    “You misunderstand how family works, Commander.” Owens allowed himself a small smile to break his otherwise serious visage. “The way I see it, family is forever. And the most important part about family is that they forgive each other and that they welcome those with open arms who eventually find their way back.” He stood and offered Leva his hand. “Welcome back, Commander.”

    So’Dan Leva smiled and didn’t hesitate to take the captain’s hand.

    He was home again.



    * * *​



    Only moments after Leva had left his office, Tazla Star and DeMara Deen practically rushed into his ready room as if they were trying to beat each other to it.

    “This is the dumbest, stupidest, most pointless thing I’ve ever heard.”

    Owens regarded the upset Tenarian, once again realizing that she hadn’t been quite herself since Jonar Arik had died. She had spent the first day after their return mostly by herself in her quarters, turning down any visitors, including him. Once she had finally reemerged she had seemed angrier and much more irritated than normal. Her aura which seemed to surround her wherever she went and which would often force a smile on people’s faces even if they felt down or disconsolate seemed to have vanished.

    Michael stood from his seat and aimed his young friend a questioning glance. “What exactly is it that’s so pointless and stupid?”

    But Deen was simply shaking her head, clearly still too upset to speak and instead began pacing the room.

    Star was more forthcoming. “The Teotihuacán has just arrived along with a few troop transports to take the Marines and the Cardassians back home. They’re mostly civilian freighters but they should have enough capacity for our needs.”

    Owens nodded, seeing this mostly as good news. It had after all been two days since the war on Valeria had formerly ended with both Marines and Cardassian forces standing down after Colonel van der Meer and Belore had successfully negotiated a cease-fire with Gul Metral. But the high number of troops still on the surface had remained a source of tension between all parties, especially the Valerians who could hardly wait to have all foreign troops fully evacuated and finally have their planet back for the first time in nearly two years. Eagle had not been suitable to transport that many troops and so they had to wait until more appropriate transport vessels could arrive. In the post-war chaos it would have taken weeks to get Starfleet to dispatch proper troop transports and he was thankful Command had managed to think creatively enough to resolve the Valerians situation by temporarily appropriating civilian ships for this task.

    “I don’t understand the problem.”

    Deen stopped pacing and shot him a venomous look as if his failure to understand was the source of the issue. Then she glanced at Star. “Commander, would you kindly explain Starfleet’s immense stupidity.”

    The Trill nodded and looked at the captain. “The Teotihuacán has deployed a number of emergency subspace relays on her way here to allow us to communicate directly with Command. They have been advised of the situation on Valeria and what has transpired—“

    She was going too slowly for Deen’s liking who took a step towards Owens. “General Lam, the very same man responsible for this entire mess, the same man who shot and killed Major Wasco, who ordered our deaths and who is solely responsible for Jonar losing his life; Starfleet Command wants that man back on Earth to be reassigned to Marine Corps headquarters effective immediately.”

    Owens regarded her wide eyed, understanding her anger now. Considering what Lam had done, at the very least he would have expected a court martial and immediate dismissal from the service, perhaps even prison time for disregarding orders, manslaughter and attempted murder. And he was certain any JAG prosecutor worth his salt would have been able to add a dozen or so more charges to the list.

    After Lam had been detained, van der Meer had advised him that upon closer scrutiny of his communications station, they had in fact located Starfleet’s original orders which Owens and Eagle had been sent to Valeria to enact. It had turned out that Lam had indeed received notification of the end of the war and was fully aware that he was supposed to find a way to end the conflict. It had explained why the man hadn't been more surprised when he had told Lam the good news. The general had known all along. But he had chosen to ignore those directives and the messengers who had brought them in favor of his own designs. He had escalated the war instead of finding a way to end it.

    But regardless what he had done, Lam clearly still enjoyed powerful friendships back home who must have moved heaven and hell in a hurry to have him avoid the fallout he so clearly deserved. He would lose his command, of course, probably would never receive another promotion and certainly would have to give up on any ambitions of becoming commandant or more someday. But Owens agreed with Deen, it was a slap on the wrist and nothing more and certainly not the appropriate punishment for his sins.

    Owens regarded Tazla Star who managed to keep her own feelings on the subject much better hidden. Of course she had not been on Valeria or met Lam but she had read the reports and knew what Owens and the others had been through. And she could relate to some degree as she too had once faced Starfleet’s wrath for her mistakes. Except that in her case, she had not gotten away nearly as cleanly as Lam was about to.

    Deen’s eyes were hard when they focused on Owens again. “What are we going to do about this?”

    “I don’t think there is much we can do.” Star regarded the younger woman. “Starfleet has ordered us not to discuss anything that has happened on Valeria. They want to make sure none of this becomes public knowledge.”

    That did not help to alleviate her anxiety. On the contrary. “I cannot believe this.” But she kept looking at the captain. “Michael, please tell me we’ll find a way to make him pay for what he’s done.”

    He wanted nothing more than do just that but was forced to slowly shake his head instead. “We start talking about this, I have no doubt Starfleet will come after us instead. Let’s face it, we don’t have nearly the kind of clout Lam has.”

    “That’s not good enough. We have to at least try.”

    “Dee, listen to me—“

    “No, I’m done listening.” She turned on her heels and rushed out of the room.

    Star looked after her before she regarded the captain again. “I hope she won’t do anything stupid. It could destroy her career.”

    Owens sighed as he took his chair again. “I think her career is the last thing on her mind right now. I’ve never seen her like this before. Let’s give her some time to process the things that have happened. Hopefully that’s all she’ll need.”

    The annunciator signaled another visitor and Owens looked towards the doors. It appeared the entire ship wanted a piece of him today. “Come in.”

    Gul Belore entered the ready room, offering the first officer a short nod before the Cardassian stepped up to the desk. “Captain, I hope this isn’t a bad time.”

    It certainly wasn’t the best time but Owens decided to not let him know that. “Not at all, Gul Belore, please take a seat. I haven’t seen much of you over the last couple of days and I had wanted to express my gratitude to you for your invaluable help in ensuring Gul Metral agreed to the cease-fire. I don’t think it would have been possible without your efforts.”

    He took the offered seat. “It was my pleasure, Captain. In the end however, I believe it was you who convinced Metral that the war was over and that my people had surrendered.”

    “I don’t follow.”

    “After the general was taken into custody, Colonel van der Meer made sure that the message you recorded was broadcasted planetwide. It reached Metral and his people as well and after they reviewed the documents, they came to the conclusion that they were authentic and that the war was over. It didn’t take much convincing on my part after that.”

    “I see.”

    Belore offered a smile. “You are quite the diplomat, Captain. Have you ever considered a career in that field? You’d might find it a very rewarding experience.”

    “Very rewarding or extremely frustrating. After all I wasn’t all that successful in convincing General Lam.”

    He nodded. “Not at first, no. But I don’t believe an entire diplomatic cadre would have been able to sway that man’s mind.” Belore stood. “Now if you don’t mind, Captain, I still have much to do now that we have reached an agreement with the Valerians.”

    Owens was confused. “Agreement?”

    The Cardassians looked surprised for a moment. “They haven’t told you yet? I apologize I was under the impression they had shared the good news. You see, the reason I have been mostly absent for the last few days is because Gul Metral, myself and the chief magistrates of Valeria have been working on a joint agreement which would make Valeria a protectorate of the new Cardassian Union. Now that it has become obvious that the Thulians have designs on Valeria, we have pledged to defend their world by keeping a contingent of troops on the surface.”

    Star looked at Belore as if he had just grown another head. “You cannot be serious?”

    “Oh, quite so, Commander. And in return for offering protectorate status, Valeria has agreed to become an exclusive trading partner with Cardassia which will be invaluable to us following the devastation the Dominion wrought upon our people.”

    Owens could feel his anger rising at having been blindsided by this smooth talking diplomat turned soldier. He left his chair. “Gul Belore, neither you nor Gul Metral have the authority to make these kind of deals or offer such assurances. Following the Treaty of Bajor Cardassia itself has become a protectorate of the Federation Alliance and I cannot see how they will allow such a deal to be honored, especially if it involves a continued Cardassian military presence on Valeria.”

    “I believe they will, Captain. I’ve studied the text of the treaty very closely and nothing we have proposed does in any way violate that treaty. And I imagine that Starfleet and the rest of your allies will be far too busy with the fallout from the war to worry about a few thousand Cardassian soldiers on Valeria.”

    Star shot the man an icy glare. “I thought you told us that those men are desperately needed back on Cardassia to help your people rebuild.”

    “I also told you that I’m a patriot. Which means that I will do whatever I believe is best for Cardassia. Securing this trade deal is worth the cost of keeping soldiers on this planet.” He looked back at Owens, an almost contrite expression on his face. “I suspected you might react in this manner and I’m sorry that you cannot see that this is going to be good for both of our people.”

    Owens wasn’t quite over the shock yet. “And how do you figure that?”

    “It’s obvious, isn’t it? With Valeria’s help, the burden of rebuilding Cardassia will no longer be solely on the shoulders of the Federation and your allies. The Valerians made it quite clear that they no longer have any interest in trading directly with the Federation. It appears General Lam has left a rather poor impression on the Valerian people.”

    “And you’re telling us that Gul Metral treated the Valerians any better?” Star shook her head, not able to believe this.

    “You’d be surprised, Commander.” Belore offered the captain one last glance. “Now you’ll really have to excuse me, Captain, as I said much still remains to be done. I will not require your generosity to return me to Gamma Seven, I’m certain I will find my own way. And for what it’s worth, Captain, it was a pleasure working with you. I wish you well. Good day to you both.” And with that he turned and left the ready room.

    Owens uttered another sigh but was still too worked up to take his seat again. “The good news just keep on coming.”

    “He’s certainly been a busy man.”

    Owens nodded. “The worst part about all this is that I cannot blame the Valerians for turning to the Cardassians. Lam has done a lot more damage here than just unnecessarily prolonging a war. He’s single-handedly destroyed the Federation’s reputation on Valeria, perhaps even in this entire sector.”

    Star appeared thoughtful while she kept her eyes on the now closed doors.

    “What’s on your mind?”

    She slowly glanced towards Owens. “If I remember right, this is exactly the way the Cardassians started out on Bajor before it turned from a protectorate to an all-out occupation.”

    Owens couldn’t help but be reminded of what Lam had said about his rationale for continuing the fight. He had been concerned of precisely this kind of outcome. Was it possible that he had been right after all? Michael dismissed that notion. And even if it was true that by planting their flag on Valeria, the Cardassians had set in motion events that could lead to much more than a protectorate status down the road, it was Lam and his bullish ways which had allowed for the situation to develop in this manner. In his near fanatical pursuit to protect Valeria from the Cardassians and the Thulians he had almost ensured the very thing he had tried to avoid.

    “And here I was beginning to think that Cardassia has changed.” Star aimed the captain a disappointed look. “Maybe not nearly as much as we would have hoped.”

    But Owens shook his head resolutely. “Maybe they haven’t but we have. We will not allow Valeria to become another Bajor. At least not while I’m around.”

    Only much later did he realize how much he had sounded like General Lam then.



    * * *​



    He found her sitting by herself in the upper part of Eagle’s Nest, slowly picking apart a Bolian soufflé but with seemingly limited interest in consuming the sweet desert.

    “Do you mind if I join you?”

    She looked up at him and then nodded, indicating towards the empty chair opposite hers.

    Leva sat with his Romulan Ale, taking a small sip as he considered Marjorie Alendra playing with her food. “How have you been?”

    She shrugged her shoulders.

    “The captain has agreed to let me rejoin the crew and resume my old post.”

    She looked up, a small smile forming on her blue lips. It was a meager effort at best. “Good for you.”

    He nodded. “It is. Truth is I enjoyed the challenge on Sacajawea at first but in the end I realized I was never really comfortable there and I’m not sure if I ever would have been even if …” He didn’t finish his thought. It was never a good omen to speak of a doomed vessel. Especially so soon after the fact.

    Alendra looked up at him and right into his green eyes. For a moment Leva thought he could spot anger there, as if he were to blame for Sacajawea’s fate. It vanished before her focus wandered back towards her desert. She was still not eating it.

    “Have you spoken to anyone else from the crew?”

    She shook her head without really making eye contact. “Not really. I had a couple of words with T’Sara and Preston but they’re mostly all avoiding me now. Can’t say that I blame them.”

    “We were right to stand up to Mahoney, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

    She nodded but still refused to look back at him.

    “What do you plan to do next? After the inquiry I mean.”

    She shrugged. “I don’t know. I was thinking that I might leave Starfleet. If the stop-loss order is rescinded any time soon that is.”

    “That would be a shame. You’re a good officer, Marjorie.”

    When she finally looked up again, her eyes were shooting daggers into him. “I’m a mutineer, Commander. Who’d want me to serve on their ship?”

    “You stood up for what is right. And you have a lot of experience, you’re versatile, somebody like you will be in high demand.”

    “Is that why you are staying on Eagle?” Her tone had taken on a cold edge.

    He nodded slowly. “Alright, I guess I deserve that. And yes, I understand we will always have that footnote in our files. It won’t be easy to overcome, but that’s not why I decided to come back here. I genuinely enjoy serving on this ship and the company of the people here. Maybe more than I’d enjoy trying to start over somewhere else. Even if it came with a promotion.”

    She regarded him carefully and then she nodded. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that.”

    He shook his head. “Don’t worry about it.”

    Alendra smirked. “Are you sure? I’ve seen that Romulan temper flare up before, not sure I want to wake that beast again.”

    He laughed and after a moment she allowed herself to relax as well.

    “Join me on Eagle.”

    “What?”

    “I’ve spoken to my second-in-command at tactical. He’s overdue for a promotion and looking for a new assignment now that I’ve come back and selfishly aborted his own career progression. He's a good officer and somebody will snap him up in no time. That means there is going to be a vacancy available and you’d be perfect for it. I’m sure the captain would agree.”

    She shook her head. “I’m not a tactical officer.”

    “I’ve studied your file. During the war you’ve done a bit of everything, including tactical. You’re bright, resourceful and a quick learner, I’m sure you’d pick things up pretty quickly. It’s not a senior position and if you really wanted to, I suppose you could do better on the open market, but with a bit more time, I have no doubt you’ll rise through the ranks if that’s what you want.”

    Alendra considered that for a moment before she spoke. “You know, to be honest, I actually wouldn’t mind a role with a little less responsibility for a while. Maybe this could work.”

    He nodded. “You’ll enjoy serving on Eagle. I know you’ve struggled on the Sacajawea, that it wasn’t a supportive environment. Starfleet isn’t supposed to be like that. And trust me, serving on this ship will be very different from what you have known.”

    “It would mean you’d be my boss again?”

    “You could do worse, I’m sure.”

    She dug into her soufflé and then offered him a large smirk, her white teeth stained with the sticky blue desert. “I guess, if you put it that way; I’m your girl, Commander.”


    * * *​
     
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    2


    He pulled slightly at the tight collar of his white uniform dress shirt, but didn’t complain, after all the occasion had called for the dress whites. No, there was nothing wrong with the uniform, Michael Owens just hated funerals. He had attended far too many of them over the last two years, many of which had been short affairs, held on the holodeck or a cargo bay after the latest battle.

    This one was planetside and yet no less tragic. In fact, perhaps even more tragic considering that the two men they were honoring had lost their lives long after the war they were supposed to fight had ended. Their deaths seemed so pointless and unnecessary. It made him angry just thinking about it.

    It wasn’t a real funeral as no bodies were being buried here. Instead they they’d be shipped back to Federation space shortly to be interred on Andor at the Memorial Cemetery as was customary for Marines fallen in battle. But first the two men would get a service right here on Valeria, surrounded by hundreds of their fellow Marines.

    They had used a scenic piece of land just outside the capital, with rolling hills and for once somewhat clear skies for the service. Owens noticed that even the rain had stopped but later realized that the Marines had erected a shield to keep the proceedings free from the persistent drizzle.

    Everyone was wearing their dress uniforms, including the Marines whose outfits had much more green to Owens’ whites. Van der Meer had brought a couple of hundred men from her battalion, most likely those who had known Jonar Arik particularly well. Judging by the stricken looks on most of their faces, the man had been well liked among the troops. A few hundred more had joined from various other units on Valeria. General Lam was not present and no doubt quite a few Marines wondered why that was, after all the full details of what had taken place immediately before the destruction of the fusion power plant had not been made public. There were plenty of rumors making the rounds of course, but only Van der Meer and the most senior officers on Valeria possessed full knowledge of Lam’s transgressions.

    Owens could spot a number of high ranking Marine officers in the crowd, led by the tall Scandinavian who Starfleet had formerly placed in charge of the withdrawal. He could see familiar faces among Wasco’s company, all of which had come from Eagle to pay their respects. DeMara Deen was amongst them too, looking resplendent in her white and gray dress uniform jacket and doing her best to keep her grief and anger in check.

    All of Eagle’s senior officers were in attendance, along with Tazla Star. There was even a small cluster of Valerians at the fringes of the service, making sure to keep their distance from the Marines. They too wore their best uniforms and Owens could spot Sharval amongst them. As far as Owens could tell, the only civilian present was Atticus West, the FNS reporter who had since fully recovered from his brush with death on Sacajawea. He was tapping away on a padd, indubitably planning to incorporate this event into his latest story.

    Van der Meer had spoken first and given a heartfelt speech commemorating both Jonar Arik as well as her friend Cesar Wasco. Then it had been Michael’s turn to address the few hundred people who had come here to morn. He had kept his regards brief, understanding that he wasn’t a Marine, that he was an outsider and as far as the majority of his audience was concerned, didn’t fully understand sacrifice the way they did. He didn’t agree but this was hardly the place to set them straight. He had been, however, Major Wasco’s commanding officer and as such he had made sure to praise the man’s dedication and loyalty. A loyalty which had cost him his life. And while he hadn’t known the man very well personally, not nearly as well as the rest of his senior officers, it hadn’t been difficult to find words to describe his uncompromising ethos. He could also not help but feel at least somewhat responsible for his death. Not because Lam had targeted him and Wasco had saved his life by giving his, but because it had been Owens who had talked him into coming along to Valeria. Wasco and his unit had been due to disembark following the end of the war but instead they had followed him to Valeria at his insistence. He took some comfort in the thought that he didn’t believe he would have been able to be successful here had it not been for Wasco’s invaluable assistance. Thousands would most likely have lost their lives if not for their combined efforts.

    Some more officers, NCOs and even a few enlisted men took the podium overlooking the two flag draped coffins after Owens, speaking highly of both Wasco and Jonar Arik. There had even been a few subdued laughs when the men talking about the Deltan remembered his good-natured humor and his occasional antics.

    Star had approached him after the last words had been spoken and the honor guard had fired their phasers into the sky. “That was a good speech, sir.”

    “Add this to the things I won’t miss now that the war is over.”

    She nodded slowly but they both understood that giving speeches at funerals was part of the job of being in command. All Owens could hope for was that he would have a lot less occasion to dust off his dress whites for a while.

    He spotted DeMara Deen standing close to Wasco’s sealed coffin. She glanced towards them for a brief moment but then diverted her eyes again as if she didn’t wish to even look at him. He uttered a heavy sigh.

    “Hey there, Sky Knight.”

    A small smile came over his lips when he heard he familiar voice and he turned to see Sharval approach, wearing a meticulous azure uniform.

    Star shot Owens a puzzled look.

    He quickly shook his head. “Don’t even ask.” Then he glanced back at the approaching woman. “Commander Star, please meet Sub-commissioner Sharval of the Valerian Security Forces. She has been instrumental in helping us achieve our mission here. Sub-commissioner, this is Commander Tazla Sar, my first officer.”

    Sharval smirked at Owens. “Sub-commissioner? I suppose the occasion does call for some formality.” Then she considered the other woman, paying especially close attention to her bright red hair. Considering how much she had liked Deen’s, Owens suspected she had a thing for hair. “A pleasure, Commander.”

    “The pleasure is mine, Sub-commissioner. And allow me to express my thanks for taking such good care of my commanding officer.”

    The smile on her face grew wider. “It wasn’t always easy, was it, Sky Knight?”

    He nodded. “We had some close calls.”

    All three of them briefly glanced towards those coffins containing the bodies of the two men who had not been as lucky.

    Sharval uttered a sigh. “Well at least we achieved something, didn’t we? What will happen to the general now?”

    Neither Starfleet officer wanted to answer that one.

    It caused Sharval to utter a little, mostly humorless laugh. “Oh, let me guess. Your brave and wise leaders have decided to do nothing at all about a man who’s been responsible for so much misery on my planet. Are they giving him a promotion for this?”

    “He is not likely to ever command another regiment.” But even Star didn’t sound satisfied with that outcome.

    “I suppose he’s a fortunate man then. If he stayed here to face Valerian justice, we would certainly come up with much more creative punishment.”

    Star turned to Owens. “Captain, I’ve been thinking about Starfleet’s orders on this subject. I understand we are not supposed to talk about what happened here but this doesn’t mean other people wouldn’t be able to ask questions.”

    Owens considered her for a moment as he tried to figure out what she was implying. Then a smile formed on his lips when he realized that she was indicating towards Atticus West.

    Sharval didn’t understand.

    “The man is a reporter. And with a little bit of prompting, this might be just the right kind of story for him to expose to a wider public.”

    The Valerian began to nod. “If he wanted to speak to me about what happened here, I’m sure I’d have quite a bit to tell him.”

    “Perhaps I should go and have a chat with our intrepid reporter.”

    Owens nodded. “Good idea, Commander.”

    The Trill shot the other woman a parting glance. “It was nice meeting you, Subcommissioner.”

    “And you.” She offered a wide grin. “And please, call me Sharval. By the way. The bright red hair? I love it.”

    “Right. Thanks.” Star was clearly caught on the back foot by that compliment and then departed quickly.

    Sharval kept looking after her. “I do like her. She has an intensity to her.”

    Owens nodded and then spotted the hard look in her eyes focusing on him. “What?”

    “You two wouldn’t be mates, would you?”

    He rolled his eyes at her inappropriate jealously. “No, Sharval, we’re not mates. She’s my first officer.”

    “Good.” Her fingertips brushed against his chest as they had done on previous occasions.

    He took her hand gently, lifting it away from him and then looked her straight in the eye. “Listen, Sharval, I think we need to talk.”

    She uttered a laugh, this one so loud a few nearby Marines glanced their way.

    Owens took her by the elbow and led her to a slightly more secluded area.

    She offered no resistance. “You speak like one would to a companion to dissolve a long-running courtship.”

    He shook his head. “We don’t have a courtship.”

    “I know. And I suppose you are about to tell me that we’ll never have one, either. That you are a starship captain with responsibilities and hundreds of men to command. That you cannot afford distractions while you make decisions every day that could mean the difference between life or death. Decisions that could affect the fate of the entire galaxy.”

    He frowned.

    “Am I close?”

    “I wasn’t going to mention the fate of the galaxy.”

    She responded with a smirk and then moved in and kissed him right on the lips before he could stop her. “One thing you should have figured out about me by now, I don’t believe in never. Maybe there won’t be a courtship today or tomorrow or even in a week from now. But who knows what the future brings?”

    He smiled. “I suppose you’re right.”

    “Of course I’m right.”

    His face turned solemn once more. “But I’m concerned about the future of Valeria. I don’t like the idea that your people have decided to allow the Cardassians to stay here.”

    “You are worried that they will take advantage of us poor, defenseless fools?”

    He sighed when she refused to take this seriously. “No. I’ve come to realize that you are anything but defenseless but the Cardassians have a history in this kind of thing and the last time they extended a hand of friendship to a planet, an entire people ended up being enslaved to them.”

    “This won’t happen here. We know about Bajor and what the Cardassians are capable of. We’ll be on our guard and once we have rebuilt our own military to defend ourselves from possible Thulian aggression, we’ll make sure the Cardassians drastically reduce their forces here. We might even send them packing altogether.”

    Owens looked anything but convinced.

    “And if they won’t go willingly, I have a valiant Sky Knight I can call to make them change their mind.” Her smirk was back, large as ever.

    He uttered a sigh but then nodded. “I don’t know what the Federation would do in such a case and I can’t promise that they are willing to help you if it came to it. They didn’t do anything for Bajor. But I can promise you this. If you need my help, and if I’m able, I will come for you.” He mirrored her smile. “Why else have a Sky Knight, right?”

    She laughed again. “Oh my, I’ve really led you on with that Sky Knight talk, haven’t I?”

    “I don’t understand.”

    Sharval pierced him with her brilliant eyes and then nodded slowly. “I suppose it’s only fair I told you. The legend of the Sky Knight, the Land Maiden and the Ancient Enemy; It’s about a mysterious force attacking the Land Maiden’s kingdom.”

    Owens nodded. “And the Sky Knight comes to her rescue. I’ve heard countless similar stories before.”

    But Sharval shook her head with a smile. “Well this one’s different. The Sky Knight means well but in the end he’s rather useless against the Ancient Enemy. You see in the legend he’s really more of a comedic character and a terribly awful fighter. Instead he makes the Land Maiden realize that she cannot depend on the help of strangers. As a result she gathers her strength and her wits and leads her people against the Ancient Enemy herself and triumphs in the end while the Sky Knight does nothing more but watch on from afar.”

    Owens couldn’t believe it. “So this entire time you were making fun of me?”

    She shrugged. “It was more of an endearing term.”

    He couldn’t help but laugh at that. It served him well, he decided, after all she had used the name so frequently he had almost started to believe it. Now that he realized that the legendary Sky Knight was a clown instead of a hero, he felt somewhat relieved. “Maybe I’m the Sky Knight after all. I do feel a bit of a fool now.”

    She shook her head. “You’ll always be my hero. And perhaps, if all it takes to get you back here is for the Cardassians to behave badly, maybe I’ll help them along. Just make sure you keep your glorious Federation out of it. We’ve had quite enough of them. I only want you to come riding to my rescue.” She shot him one final, bright smile before she turned away. “Until we meet again, Sky Knight.”

    “So long, my fair Land Maiden.”


    * * *​


    It wasn’t difficult for Star to get West’s attention, he spotted the redhead in her white uniform long before she had stepped up to him.

    “Ah, Commander, I’m so glad I’m running into you. I know we’ve had our differences before but I did not yet have an opportunity to thank you for, well, I suppose, saving my life back on the Sacajawea.”

    She nodded. “Don’t mention it. I see you have fully recovered from that ordeal.”

    “Certainly physically. Maybe it’ll take a little longer to get over the psychological scars.”

    “I find it difficult to believe a fearless and intrepid reporter like yourself hasn’t stared into the face of death countless times before.”

    The tall, bald and dark-skinned man considered the woman for a moment, as if trying to determine if she was being sarcastic. “Believe it or not but I’m much more comfortable working from behind a desk than from a burning starship.”

    “I suppose being a war correspondent isn’t really your calling then.”

    “I guess not. Good thing it’s over right?”

    She nodded and they both glanced towards a group of Marines who had begun to play back pipes, filling the air with their mournful melodies.

    “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the story I was going to write about you.”

    She shot him a dark sideway scowl.

    He merely shrugged. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m really thankful that you saved me but from what I can tell it’s a really juicy story. I can’t just ignore that.”

    “You talked to Mahoney before he died?”

    “Yes but he didn’t get a chance to tell me much. And to be honest the little he did tell me about you sounded more like a spiteful rant than useful facts. But I have to say, that man truly disliked you. I can only imagine what kind of number you must have pulled on him.”

    She shook her head but didn’t look at the reporter. “Ever consider that maybe he pulled a number on me first?”

    He nodded slowly. “Maybe he did. And I’m guessing you’re not the kind of person to cross. Perhaps in the end he got what he deserved.”

    Star was tempted to agree but stopped herself short. No matter what Mahoney had done to her and perhaps even others, he didn’t deserve to die. Certainly not the way he had. She couldn’t exactly claim to be sorry that he was gone but that had been no way for a Starfleet officer to die. She glanced back at him. “So you’re telling me that being my enemy could be dangerous and yet you are still insistent on pursuing this story of yours?”

    West shrugged. “What can I say, I do like dangerous. And let’s face it, after coming within a hair’s length of burning up on a dying ship, I’m sure whatever you might do to me is going to be far gentler.”

    Star shot him another venomous look to which he merely smirked. Then she looked back towards those two coffins. A procession of Marines surrounded them now as they were paying the final respects. “What if I could offer you another story? One which is guaranteed to put you back into the spotlight and maybe even earn you a couple more of those awards you always seem to be chasing.”

    His eyes lit up. “I’m all ears.”

    She shook her head when she glanced back at him. “No, first you give me your word you drop that exposé you’ve been working on.”

    West wasn’t quite ready for that kind of commitment. “I don’t know, Commander, how can I be sure this story is worth all that?”

    “You like going after people in power, do you not? Right now all you have is a former starship captain fallen in disgrace and serving as a first officer. I’m not exactly the most exciting person in the quadrant. How would you like to expose a man with real power and influence? Somebody with friends so influential, he might even get away with murder.”

    She knew she had his full attention by the look in his eyes. “You’re talking about General Lam, aren’t you? I had a feeling there’s more to this than people here are letting on. But none of the Marines I’ve spoken to are telling me anything. They’re even more tight lipped than your crew.” He shook his head. “And if nobody talks, there’s really no story here.”

    Star smirked. “Everything’s a story.”

    He looked at her with surprise, realizing that she had turned his favorite expression against him. He nodded slowly to concede that point. “Perhaps but not without sources.”

    “I’m surprised you are willing to give up so quickly. I took you for a more tenacious sort. But regardless, I might be able to point you in the right direction, maybe even put you in touch with a few people who’d love to share all the sordid little details with you.” She briefly glanced away to find DeMara Deen who had not moved far from one of the coffins. “Even a few Starfleet officers. That wouldn’t be on the record of course, but it should be more than enough to verify whatever else you manage to dig up. And in the end, you might even bring down another big name or two.”

    It didn’t take him long at all to see the upside of what she had proposed. “Trade one story for another? A commander for a general?”

    She nodded. “Perhaps even more.”

    “A story filled with shock and scandal?”

    “Most certainly.”

    “With a chance for fame and glory?”

    “Undoubtedly.”

    “And possibly change the status quo?”

    “Oh, once you are threw with this one, nothing will be quite the same again.”

    Atticus West offered a growing grin. “How could I possibly say no to that?”



    * * *​


    The service was coming to an end and most of the Marines were slowly heading back towards the capital or their bases all over Valeria. Owens knew that the evacuation would commence first thing the next morning. Within twenty-four hours not a single Marine or Federation citizen would remain on Valeria, even the embassy in the capital would be shut down until further notice at the request of the Valerian government. For the time being Valeria and the Federation would not enjoy any diplomatic relations at all. It angered Owens that this had been the outcome of Lam’s politics on this world. The Federation could have used Valeria as a continued trading partner but instead the Valerians would now solely trade with the Cardassians.

    Belore had been right at least about the silver lining for the Federation. Now that Cardassia could receive aid from the Valerians, the Federation would not have to extend as many of its own precious recourses to help the Cardassians rebuild. Of course in the end, he wasn’t sure if it would make all that much of a difference. The destruction the Dominion had wrecked on Cardassia was of nearly unprecedented scope and he feared that the Valerians help might be nothing more than the proverbial drip in the bucket. After all the Valerians had a lot of rebuilding to do themselves.

    He was also still angry at Belore’s back room deal with the Valerians. Of course after Lam he couldn’t blame them for seeking assistance elsewhere, even if it was hard to swallow that the infamously xenophobic Cardassians had ended up being a better choice for Valeria than the usually magnanimous Federation. He was mostly upset that he hadn’t seen Belore’s motives coming. He had been at the man’s side for nearly three days, fought and bled with him only to find in the end that he’d had his own endgame all along.

    It was all water under the bridge now, he decided. There was nothing more he could do about any of it. His mission on Valeria had been to end the war and he had achieved this, even if more people had lost their lives in the process than he had been comfortable with. But he had stopped Lam from launching an offensive which could have killed thousands more and lay waste to much of the planet. Gul Metral and his troops had been ready for an impending attack, he had learned after the cease-fire had gone into effect. Like Lam, he too had received generous assistance from the Thulians and if both sides had gone into full out battle, the consequences would have been devastating. In the end the Thulians would have been the only victors. Just as they had planned, they would have found Valeria devastated with both foreign armies having annihilated each other and a good chunk of the planet along with it. It would have been easy pickings for them after that.

    And yet the Thulians remained almost as much of a mystery as before. Owens wasn’t sure if they really were the same Ancient Enemy as the one in Sharval’s legend but they certainly seemed to fit the bill. The manner in which they hid their appearance underneath heavy masks and suits and their tendency to use energy dampening weapons seemed to imply that they were affiliated somehow with the Breen whose territory was only a few light years from Ultima Thule. The Breen who had fought on the side of the Dominion during the war had been bound by the Treaty of Bajor in a similar fashion as the Cardassians and it was possible that they had somehow plotted to use the Thulians to pursue another military agenda.

    It was all speculation of course and it was just as likely that the Thulians were nothing more than a Breen offshoot but otherwise unrelated to the larger empire and their interests. Owens knew it was unlikely that they would learn the full truth for a while. Maybe not ever.

    For now all they could do was to remain vigilant and to keep an eye on the Thulians to make sure they would no longer pose a threat to either Valeria or the Federation. Owens had already made the conscious decision to keep himself appraised on any developments in this corner of the galaxy after they had left it behind. And it wasn’t necessarily the Thulians that worried him but the Cardassians who would maintain a military presence on the surface for the foreseeable future.

    He spotted Tazla Star joining him once more. “How did it go with West?”

    She smirked. “I believe humans have a fitting saying. Hook, line and sinker.”

    Owens nodded. “Good. I think it’s safe to say that once Mister West publishes his story, Starfleet will have little choice but to prosecute Lam for what he’s done here.”

    “Knowing West, the general will probably require protective custody once the truth is out.”

    The captain regarded his first officer for a moment and Star clearly wasn’t entirely sure why. “I meant to tell you, Commander, that I’ve read the reports about what happened to Sacajawea.”

    She seemed to brace herself for whatever came next.

    “I won’t lie to you. I was worried when I let you go off after her the way you did. I know you had bad history with that ship and I was afraid that it might cloud your judgment having to deal with her and her crew again. Captain Mahoney, I understand, was your first officer when you were her captain.”

    She nodded carefully.

    “I want you to know that I stand behind you one-hundred percent. Mahoney’s actions were irresponsible, petty and misinformed. If he had been allowed to carry them out to their conclusion, not only would he have been responsible for the deaths of dozens of Valerians trying to protect their home, he may very well have been instrumental in assisting the Thulians from taking control of Valeria. You did the right thing.”

    “Thank you, sir, that means a lot coming from you.”

    He indicated towards the way that led back to their shuttle and Star fell into step beside him. “I know it’s not been easy for you on Eagle. And I know I haven’t always made it easier but I think we are finally at a point where we are comfortable with each other. It took me a while to get here but now I couldn’t wish for a better officer at my side.”

    She offered a large smile in return. “I feel the same, sir. And I’m really thankful for the opportunities you’ve given me. Even if it took us a while to work out all the little kinks.”

    Owens responded with a smirk. “I guess some of them weren’t that little.”

    “We got there in the end, that’s all that matters.”

    The captain gave her a good-natured clasp on her back as they headed towards the shuttle which was parked on a nearby hill. The sun had only just begun to set over this hemisphere, drowning the rolling hills in gentle orange and purple hues and for a brief moment Michael Owens felt poetic.

    Things would be very different on this world in the morning. Hopefully they would leave things behind better than how they had found them.

    It was going to be a new dawn for Valeria.

    Maybe even for the Federation.

    “I think we’re going to make a great team, Taz. I really do.”




    the adventures will continue …​
     
  6. Tribble puncher

    Tribble puncher Captain Captain

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    Enjoyed the story quite a bit, will be following these...
     
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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