UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by DarKush, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    Alien Vessel

    Lt. Shashlik nearly pounded a hole through her EV suit as she slapped the compin attached to it again. “Ensign Fryer? Fryer!” she shouted. But static was the only reply.

    “What happened?” Ramlo pure green eyes were alit with fright. “What’s going on up there?”

    “I don’t know,” the Kaylar honestly answered. That’s what she wanted to know herself, though she had a good suspicion. She activated her communicator again. “Shashlik to Oyekan come in. Oyekan?” She didn’t even get static this time.

    She turned to the perturbed Arkenite and made sure to look him straight in the eye. Shashlik had never been one to sugarcoat things. “I think both shuttles have been destroyed.”

    “What?” The science officer gasped, taking a step back. “By who?”

    “My guess is the same people who attacked this ship the first time,” Shashlik spoke calmly, but inside she raged.

    “Why?” Ram asked, shaking his head sadly. He was thinking now not only of the ship of corpses surrounding them but of the sense loss of both Ensigns Kittles and Fryer, two very promising young officers whose lives had been snuffed out as quickly as one blew out candles.

    “I think they might have discovered what you did, about the polaric ion regulator,” the Kaylar determined, “and they’ve come to claim the prize.”

    “But it-it’s not here,” Ramlo was aghast. “And if it were, I would die rather to see those monsters claim it!”

    “That’s the spirit,” Shashlik said as shafts of light emerged around them. She pulled the light mace she carried in the right leg of her EV suit. Though it weighted her down, it always made her feel more comfortable about away missions. And besides she always liked to carry something from home with her, so that no matter where she died, it would be like she had died there, among her clan. Ramlo gripped his phaser.

    The beams resolved into a menagerie of masked aliens with an assortment of wicked weapons. Despite herself, Shashlik smiled. She raised the mace aloft and barreled ahead.

    Shuttlecraft Oyekan

    As Kittles guided the shuttle out of the muck, she already knew what she was going to say to Fryer. Her finger hovered over the communications button, ready to beat him to the punch. She smiled, imagining them sharing a laugh…and maybe more after they were both back on Erickson.

    She could, and had, done a lot worse than Roland. And she had been cooped up in her quarters too long, studying regulations when she wasn’t on duty, the gym, or the holodeck. She deserved to let her hair down once in a while, Karen reasoned.

    And letting her hair down wasn’t the only thing she planned to drop in front of Roland. Unable to stop herself, she hit the communicator. “I know, I know Roland…” she began, her voice catching in her throat, as she took in the wreckage on the main viewer before her. Silvery-white shards and debris were floating around the alien ship. “Oh God, Roland?” she whispered, trying to hail Greenaugh. “Roland!” She cried.

    She hurried scanned the area, turning to the ship. “Maybe he’s onboard,” she muttered, “Maybe he beamed aboard, and they’re all safe.” There were no life signs on the alien vessel.” They were all gone. “Oh God,” she closed her eyes and fell back into her chair.

    What happened? She asked the silent stars. It’s my fault this happened, the idea slithered into her brain and took hold, its icy tendrils bundling up her grief and guilt and keeping them at the forefront of her mind.

    Something, someone had to have done this, someone I allowed to do this, she knew, because I wasn’t smart or quick enough to find them. She ordered the ship to stop scanning for life signs. Instead, she began looking for warp trails. This time, the pathway screamed at her on the small screen. And this time the ship did not go slink back into the expanse. She could find the bastards who had destroyed Greenaugh and killed or kidnapped her friends, and she could set right what she had done.

    Unbidden, her finger returned to her communicator. She knew she should contact Erickson, that she should tell the captain what had happened, what she had done, but Karen couldn’t. Guilt, fear, selfishness, and shame all swirled within her. All she had ever wanted was to be a captain and now that dream was over. But if she somehow found a way to stop whoever did this, it could turn a court martial into a promotion.

    She hated the calculation, Karen wished her intentions were more pure, but at the moment she didn’t have time to beat herself up about it. Every second she spent hand wringing, the bastards were getting farther away.

    She angled the Oyekan in the direction of the warp trail. Karen glanced back over the debris and mouthed a silent prayer for Roland and the lieutenants, hoping she would find them soon. And then, she activated warp engines.
  2. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    Alien Vessel

    “Mr. Donar, do you see any signs of our people?” The captain’s voice was tinny, but still insistent. Tai swept his wrist lamp around the vacant bridge again. He held a rifle in the other hand.

    “No sir,” he said solemnly. He quickly reported the carnage he had found before exiting the bridge and into similar macabre scenes. The security officer behind him gulped loudly, prompting the Angosian to whirl on the stocky Axanar. The man pushed down whatever was threatening to come up as he quickly stood at attention. Donar held the man’s gaze for a few seconds, satisfied he could contain himself, before moving on.

    The Orion female accompanying them sniggered, prompting the Angosian to hitch his shoulders. The sniggering stopped in a nanosecond. Tai grunted, before activating his compin. “Commander Norrbom, have you found any traces of our officers in the engine room?”

    “No sir,” the operations officer crisply replied, her professionalism finally papered over her vehemence. “But we have found something very interesting. I think you’re going to want to see this, the captain too.”

    USS Erickson
    Observation Lounge

    Tai was a little disappointed that it wasn’t Admiral Glover looking back at the assembled senior staff from the inset wall screen. The man had become increasingly, and uncharacteristically withdrawn, since the death of his father. Before that, he had to contend with the divorce from Lt. Commander Mendes, who had also been a former colleague on the Aegis.

    It had been a rough time for his former commander and though they hadn’t been especially close, he at least wanted to see how the man was faring. If for no other reason than to report back to Juanita. Glover’s isolation had been extremely hard on her.

    But instead of Glover, they got the wizened, yet surly eminence of Cormac Sullivan, the Federation Security Advisor. When the captain had gotten the word that the former admiral would be addressing the senior officers, she had taken it with aplomb, even though they all knew it meant that Erickson had become entangled in something with far reaching and dangerous consequences for the Federation as a whole.

    “I’ve read your report,” the white-haired man said, shaking his head, and frowning, even adding more wrinkles to his countenance. He looked no less intimidating in a slate gray civilian suit. “This is most disturbing.”

    Captain Redfeather shook her head. “I can do nothing but agree with you sir. The idea that a species has found a way to harness the energy of polaric ion isotopes is both heady and frightening.”

    “I don’t see anything to sing songs about here captain,” Sullivan replied, wringing more silence out of the already quiet room. It seemed like the normal noises of the ship, the steady thrum of the engines even lessened before the man’s voice. “What I see is a quick unraveling of the new, hard won peace. Stable polaric ion energy would make the test ban treaty null and void, it would start a round of disastrous testing among the great and small powers, and it would lead to an arms race that would result in a war that would make the one we just endured with the Dominion look like an intense game of hoverball!”

    “Sir,” Redfeather said quietly, but with resolve, “I think you are overstating the case here.”

    “Captain, with all due respect,” he snapped, “I’m not only a desk jockey, I’ve faced off against the Cardassians and Tzenkethi and I saw too many friends bury their children during this last war, we can’t afford another conflict, and the discovery of this stabilizer, regulator, or whatever you call it is just the right kind of match for the tinderbox.”

    “What about the positive usage of polaric ion energy,” she countered. “Properly harnessed, we could solve the energy needs of the Federation and countless other worlds.”

    “The operative word is ‘properly’,” Sullivan riposted. “And you know as well as I do that the opposite is just as likely to happen. Could you imagine what this kind of power could do in the hands of the Romulans? Or even minor powers like the Alshain or the Son’a? They could end their war decisively, at the cost of genocide. We can’t allow this to happen. You won’t allow it to happen.”

    “What do you want us to do?” The captain said tightly, her lips drawn into unsmiling line. Tension crackled among the other officers.

    “First, I want you to scuttle that ship, there can be no trace of that kind of data left for our enemies to find,” Sullivan began.

    “But sir, what about those victims? Don’t they deserve a proper burial? The preservation of some aspect of their culture? What if they are the last ones left?” Tai was surprised, but pleased, that the heretofore contemplative Dr. Narsan up this salient point. The captain couldn’t help but smile. Sullivan’s eyes flashed as they focused on the stout hearted Halanan.

    But the fire dimmed briefly as the man sighed, “Listen, this might seem cruel, but there is nothing we can do for them now. We have to think about our own survival, and removing all trace of this regulator will make that a bit easier.” His gaze shifted back to the captain. “Once the ship is scuttled, I want you to follow those warp trails to their destination, retrieve the regulator, destroy it and any other data about it you discover.” Erickson had picked up two warp trails leading from the alien ship, one of which had belonged to the Oyekan. That strange twist had deepened the mystery surrounding the alien ship and its tragic fate even more.

    “And sir, what if people have read and memorized that data, do you wish them destroyed too?” The captain challenged.

    The security advisor sighed again. “You can place them into custody and bring them directly to Earth.”

    “So you can kill them?” The captain asked. Sullivan’s mouth twitched with anger.

    “How dare you accuse me of such a thing?” His face turned scarlet. “You are burning bridges I suggest you don’t…”

    “Right now I’m more concerned with the rule of law than my future career prospects,” Redfeather said, with more steel than the chief engineer. Donar was very impressed with what he was seeing from his fellow crewmen.

    “They will receive a fair trial,” he said through clenched teeth. “Just do your job and worry about due process later. The main priority is preventing that device and all data pertaining to it from falling into the wrong hands.”

    “Part of my job is worrying about due process,” Redfeather pointedly replied. “Because what good is protecting a Federation that won’t protect its citizens.”

    “The monsters who slaughtered those people aren’t worth much protection,” Sullivan said, and Tai was forced to agree with the man.

    “If they are sapient beings, they will get a fair hearing, not for them, but for all of us,” the captain rejoined, “We will find the regulator and the get to the bottom of what happened here.” She paused and looked at each other senior officers, her twinkle dimming just a pinch, “And we will destroy all traces of the regulator.”

    “Good,” Sullivan huffed, “I’m glad you can see reason captain, as well as respect the chain of command. Good people can disagree about things, but at the end of the day, either you are about protecting the Federation or you aren’t. I will be expecting regular updates,” he said, before signing off.

    “What a peach,” Lt. French rolled his eyes. He turned to the man sitting beside him. “Great job Doc,” he clapped the impassive medic on his shoulder, “Didn’t know you had it in you.” Tai hadn’t either, but he didn’t say so.

    “Captain, are we really going to go through with it?” Narsan asked. “These orders are outside the chain of command.”

    “They are highly unusual yes,” she replied, “but not as suspect as they seem. Sullivan never would’ve addressed us if Command wasn’t on his side, and I think the reason he did so was to hammer home how important this is to the administration.”

    “Yeah, to Satie’s reelection prospects,” French snorted.

    “Can the political talk,” the captain snapped, and the helmsmen jolted forward in his seat, as if he had eased back on a live wire. “I don’t tolerate that while on duty, and you know that Tim.”

    “Yes sir, sorry sir,” the young man looked chagrined.

    “Even though I didn’t like Sullivan’s tone, I can understand his trepidation,” the captain added. “This could be a very catastrophic weapon, on par with the Genesis Device if left in the wrong hands. And we do have to prevent that at all cost.”

    “Even if that results in death and despair for those that could be saved by this discovery?” Lt. Jilicia, a smooth browed, sallow skinned Boslic, standing in for Ramlo as science officer, spoke up.

    “Yes, even so,” the captain gently replied. “Perhaps I’m a warhorse, just not as old, as Sullivan, I can’t help but see the bad in this.” She shook her head in disappointment. But Tai nodded his in agreement.

    Jilicia shook her head, her innocence both beguiling and exasperating to the Angosian. “And that’s what I had hoped the war would mean the end to, of seeing the bad in every situation. What happened to the wonders of discovery, of believing in the innate capacity of sentient beings for good?” She asked, not just the captain and her fellow officers, it was as if she was also asking herself.

    “We woke up,” Norrbom said, with an almost sadistic relish. “You should too Lieutenant.”

    “Helen,” the captain chided.

    “I’m only being honest,” Norrbom replied, “I’m not the only one in this room who doesn’t suspect that whoever attacked that alien ship has also captured or killed our colleagues, our friends, and they’ve got to pay for that. I am intrigued by this regulator, no lie, but I’m more concerned about getting our friends back safe and sound, and if the regulator has to be destroyed to do so, or in the process of rescuing them, that’s square with me.”

    The captain shook her head, “Not the way I would’ve put it Helen, but I agree.” She clapped her hands and stood up. She eyed them all before saying, “Now let’s get to work people.”
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Oh wow, you really turned an 180 on us here, didn't ya? I really expected Kittles to be the one to buy it. Instead it were those she left behind. Unless of course they were just taken prisoners. But I'm not holding my breath on seeing them again alive.

    I don't agree with her call to go after the bad guys by herself. She's just going to get herself killed quicker that way. But yeah, she can kiss her captain's ambitions good bye.

    Jilicia should get together with Wayne Daystrom from the Agamemnon. Together they could form the "Let's look a the bright side of doomsday technology"-club.
  4. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    DarKush, you’ve got some phenomenal character work here, aside from the drama unfolding on the derelict ship.

    I absolutely loved the fantastic conversation between Donar and the chief engineer, how the two old warriors bonded due to the losses they’ve suffered in their lives.

    I also greatly appreciated the moral backbone Redfeather’s crew showed during their briefing with Sullivan. It's good to know that after all the Federation's been through in the past decade, there are still some officers concerned with doing the right things for the right reasons.

    Poor young Froyer seems to be a fatality, although we don’t know that for sure, and the other away team members may possibly be as well. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the mercy or restraint of the Burning Claw’s crew.

    May the heavens help them when Tai Donar leads the rescue party aboard their ship. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of his ire.
  5. BrotherBenny

    BrotherBenny Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Aug 3, 2005
    I'm just waiting for a situation in which Tai and Pava team up to lead a rescue mission. I sure as hell wouldn't want to be in the same sector, let alone planet if those two got mad at someone.
  6. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    I really do appreciate all of your comments. Some of your immediate questions will be answered in the following passage.

    Gibraltar appreciate you liking the character work. I started out with an idea for A'nurd being this annoying Neelix kind of guy, but then I wanted to give him a little bit more bite. And hopefully you and BrotherBenny won't be disappointed when Tai unloads on these guys, though this passage might show that they can be formidable. BrotherBenny's idea of a Tai-Pava team up sounds like a good one to me :). How about Tai and Pava against a Hirogen hunting party? Or a ship overrun with Species 8472?

    I want to thank you CeJay for the use of Sullivan, a future presidential candidate you used in one of your election stories. You had let me use him a long time ago, but at that point I was calling him Connor. When I thought more about the guy, I came across the name Cormac and liked that better.



    Squat, muscled reptilians, with scaly pink skin and obsidian claws slashed at her. Shashlik threw her arm up to block the toxic blows, the claws ripping through the arm of her EVA suit, but not deep enough to rend her flesh. The Kaylar had no intention of allowing them to do so.

    With her free hand she swung her mace, satisfied with the crack of bone and the grunt of surrender. She gave into the rush of battle, the call of hunts from years gone by.
    She punched, kicked, and swung her mace like a dervish, her adrenaline pumping faster than her fear, even her excitement.

    Shashlik would not fall like the hapless victims littering the decks of their own vessel. She would make her clan proud.

    She cut through the throng of brigands that had descended on her, crunching many underfoot. Another short, muscled man stood back, observing. She knew instinctively that he had to be the leader.

    She faced him, nostrils flaring, her lungs on fire, her hot breath fogging the faceplate on her suit. Shashlik didn’t know how much oxygen was left. She was prepared to fight until her last breath.

    Like the others, the man wore a black breathing mask over his nose and mouth, attached to red goggles covering his eyes. “Impressive,” his voice muffled behind the mask, and she saw the corner of his mouth inch upward in a smirk. “You shall make good sport.”

    Shashlik couldn’t help but laugh. She glanced down at the broken men before her. “For whom?”

    “Spirited too,” the man chortled. “I like that.”

    “Well let’s see how you like this,” She stepped toward him. The man stood his ground, not even reaching for the disruptor strapped to his leg or raising the black baton in his hand. His serenity gave Shashlik pause.

    As her blood lust began to ebb, she realized her mistake. She whipped around, growling low in her throat. A dark-skinned, dread locked woman held a struggling Ramlo aloft, her large hands gripping his neck, and his smashed helmet was at the hulking woman’s boots.

    “I would caution you that your colleague only has a few seconds of oxygen at most,” he replied, but Shashlik didn’t need the prod. She saw that Ramlo’s protestations were getting weaker and his skin was becoming a deathly verdant shade.

    “Salvation is aboard our vessel,” the man replied, “Provided you drop your weapon and come with us peacefully.”

    Shashlik glanced at Ramlo and the man mustered enough energy to shake his head no, which made up her mind for her. The mace dropped with a dull thud. “Now let him go,” she demanded. The woman didn’t budge. Shashlik took another step forward.

    “Nadeen,” the other man called out harshly, “Beam the Arkenite to Burning Claw.” The woman grunted, flexing her shoulders, before dropping the man. He crumpled at the woman’s feet. Her pulled out a communicator from her belt and issued a guttural command. Shashlik reached out for Ram, but he had been whisked away before her fingers could reach him.

    “Now, what to do with you,” the man said before her.

    She rounded on him, “I’ve got a few ideas,” she answered, with balled fists. Before she could react, the man sprung, a fierce cry accentuating his leap, his baton clutched in his hand like a spear. Shashlik only took a step backward, a feeble attempt to gather herself, before he was on her, knocking her down with force.

    She felt her leg twist awkwardly beneath, the bone giving way, agony exploding like a supernova through her body. But that wasn’t the worst…the man brought the baton down with all his might, smashing her faceplate, and digging into her cheek with an electric kiss….

    “Shashlik, Shash!” It wasn’t just Ramlo’s frantic voice, but his frenzied shaking that brought her back to wakefulness.

    “What the hell are you doing?” She rasped, for a moment thinking they were back in her quarters. “Why are you in…” She blinked several times, her mind taking in the dark, dank room. “I remember.” And then she winced, the pain coming back to her. She reached out for her throbbing leg, surprised it was still attached to her body.

    “How are you feeling?” Ramlo asked, concern etched deeply on his face. Despite a darkened blotch around his neck, the Arkenite looked none the worse for wear. Shashlik sent a silent prayer to deities she suddenly found useful again.

    “I’ve been better,” she said, trying to sit up, but Ram put his hands on her shoulders and forced her down. Even though she was still was weak and half-conscious, she could’ve pushed back against the man, but she decided not to. She did need to gather her strength. “What…happened?” She asked, the dryness of her throat made her tongue feel like sandpaper.

    “We were taken captive by pirates,” Ramlo said, “Who plan to sell you to the Orions.”

    “Orions?” she nearly spat the word. She hated the slavers and thieves. She wished that Starfleet had at least bent the rules once and rid the galaxy of them a long time ago.

    “Yes,” he nodded solemnly.

    “And what about you?” She asked, her mood darkening. “What is to be your fate?”

    He glanced around the cell and then dipped his head, lowering his voice, “They know about the polaric ion regulator,” he said, fear blanching his features, “They want me to help them find it.”
  7. BrotherBenny

    BrotherBenny Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Aug 3, 2005
    Tai is going to unload an industrial strength can of whoopass on these guys with the force of a supernova...I can't wait. :evil:
  8. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    So the reports of the deaths of the lieutenants has been somewhat exaggerated. At least Ramlo still has a good chance to get out of this alive. Shashlik no so much.

    The notion of a rescue mission led by Tai Donar made me think of a new concept.

    The Expandables: United Trek Edition. Starring Pava Lar'ragos, Solly Brin, Tai Donar, Nora Laas, Lure Mer'iab, Sita Jaxa, et al in a kick-ass extravaganza of butt kicking.
  9. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    Brother Benny I hope not to disappoint you, but Tai isn't going to be the only ones who are going to want to tear into these guys. And CeJay, that's an awesome idea actually. Get all the badasses from the UT into one big crossover action extravaganza.



    They swooped down together, changing before they touched gracefully onto the rocky outcropping. Fear’s guise changed, becoming humanoid again, but this time with further definition, taking on the height and breadth of a tall, muscular human. The brown-skinned, bearded man was the first human they had ever encountered.

    Hope donned the same mask. “Captain Terrell I presume,” Hope said, a jaunty smirk inching pushing up his hairy cheek. The salt-and-pepper haired doppelganger smiled in similar fashion. The only thing distinguishing them was that Hope wore a white, long-sleeved V-neck tunic and gray pants whereas Fear was dressed in a brown excursion jacket, of the style preferred during that time in Starfleet’s past. Hope found it ironic that both factions of their species could feel so differently about the same things.

    Hope thought that the first contact between the Federation and their kind had been a wonderful thing. Others had tried to exploit their kind, their world, or their system and had paid the price for it. But the crew of Terrell’s Starship Pacifica in particular and Federation in general had only sought peace and coexistence with their kind. Though the Calderans were been isolationists they hadn’t completely been hermits and they had used their shape shifting abilities to learn as much as they could about potential threats. Hope didn’t consider the Federation to be among that number. Yet Fear felt otherwise even after a century of peaceful relations with the Federation. The humans had respected their wishes to be left alone…and least until recently.

    But Hope couldn’t blame them for being proactive to shepherd the course of the massive wave of immigrants that would soon arrive. And Hope had to admit that he preferred allowing the Federation to steer them away from their space as best as possible, if for no other reason to inflame the xenophobes to take to the stars to attack interlopers.

    Fear rolled his broad shoulders, the beige jacket pulling tight across his pectoral muscles. He shifted his head, his eyes narrowing. “There,” he pointed. The device was pinched between two rocks on the lip of the outcropping. The device was oblong and deep orange colored, with something ominously blinking within it, like spouts of flame.

    “Do you have any idea what it might be?” Hope asked. He waved his hand in the direction of the device, mimicking a scanning device. His fingers twitched as they absorbed the data, but he couldn’t make sense of it. Whatever was inside was extremely powerful.

    “It’s dangerous,” Fear said, as if reading his mind. However Hope knew that Fear would never break such a taboo among their kind. Once one assumed a singular form, they were given privacy for their thoughts. “We must extricate it from our planet. Hurl it back into space.”

    “So that it can destroy some other hapless starfarer?” Hope asked, aghast.

    “Better them than us,” Fear shrugged, “Besides you know that there are few innocent creatures who dare to traverse our space. Mainly those seeking someplace to hide.” Hope shook his head in disgust, ashamed that a man wearing his face and speaking with the voice that he had chosen would say such awful things. “If they set this weapon off it might be the best thing for us.”

    “How so?” Hope asked, perplexed. Fear’s form changed again, becoming shorter, yet thinner, decidedly more curvaceous, his skin lightning in coloration. Carefully coiffed jet black hair didn’t hide Fear’s now tapered ears. Hope’s comrade had taken on the guise of Terrell’s first officer, a woman of the Vulcan species. She wore a blue-gray tunic, with a high, dark blue collar. Fear spoke with a dry, inflectionless voice.

    “If the weapon is activated it could be a decisive deterrent to anyone, including the droves that might pour through the subspace corridor or flexure.”

    Hope stepped back. “Are you serious? How many humanoid lives do you think our isolation is worth?”

    “Our continued existence is worth everything,” Fear said, countenance completely devoid of emotion.

    “This is too extreme, even for you,” Hope said, “We don’t know what the purpose of this device is. We must take it back to the others and discuss this as a group.”

    Fear shook his head, “We are not taking this weapon back to the group. That’s exactly what they might want us to do.”

    “They? To whom are you referring?” Hope said, looking around, his tone half-joking, half-flustered.

    “I see that you and your side have never been able to make the hard decisions,” Fear glowered at him, pointing a finger that took on a dagger tip. Though her voice was flat, her skin flushed a shade of green. Unbeknownst to the Pacifica crew the Calderans had studied them down to the molecular level and could turn themselves into perfect replicas of them. “If your faction had its way we would have been under the thumb of the humans a century ago.”

    “You know that is a falsehood,” Hope rejoined, though with no rancor. He knew that Fear could occasionally be the melodramatic sort.

    “If you will not save our kind, I will!” He said, shifting again so quickly that the silvery flying creature had taken to the air before Hope could blink. Legs, with sharp talons formed as Fear took hold of the device, yanking it free from the outcropping.

    “What are you doing? Get back here!” Hope shouted, looking up as Fear pushed himself higher. “Where are you going?” He screamed again, as wings sprouted from his back. He took flight, but it was too late. Hope had changed again, melting over the device, his form taking on the blocky design of one of Pacifica’s shuttles.

    Fear immediately activated his facsimile impulse engines and punctured the atmosphere. Hope didn’t even try to catch him. Instead he rode the currents back to the others. They had much to discuss.

    USS Erickson
    Captain’s Ready Room

    “Enter,” Captain Redfeather looked up from her data padd, unable to hide her surprised expression. “Helen?”

    “Permission to enter captain?” The woman asked, as prim as her formal stance. Wyoma nodded.

    “Of course,” she said, putting the padd down and gesturing toward either of the two chairs facing her desk. “Have a seat.”

    “Thank you,” the blond woman replied, sitting on the edge of her chair, hands in her lap, the picture of nervous comportment.

    Redfeather leaned back in her chair, to hopefully make the woman feel more at ease. “Something on your mind Helen?”

    The woman rung her hands, a grimaced expression on her face. Indecision did not suit her. Wyoma thought of something encouraging to say, to hopefully help her friend out, “A’nurd thought you did a great job down in Engineering.”

    “Yeah, well you know it’s my first love,” she smiled nervously.

    “Engineering your first love? I thought that was…” the captain paused, snapping her fingers in an effort to jostle her memory, “a guy named Erik from the Academy.”

    “Rydell,” Norrbom cracked, “Let’s not go there.”

    “Whatever happened to him?” The captain asked, her curiosity piqued.

    “Who knows,” Helen said, “I once heard a saying about sinking the boat once you get to the other side, you know, about learning to let things go. Well, when I was finally able to sink my boat, I just wish Erik had been inside it.”

    “Ouch,” the captain winced, but Helen chuckled, her anxiety receding.

    “Captain, I-I’ve been a real jackass lately,” she admitted. The captain wanted to nod in agreement, but kept an impassive expression. “And-and I just wanted to apologize. I’ve just been so bitter, so angry about things, that sometimes I think the galaxy is out to get me. And I was wondering what side you were on when this thing with Donar went down.”

    A gasp escaped the captain’s lips before she could reel it back. “Oh my God Helen, did you really think that? About me?”

    Norrbom looked miserable, but she affirmed the question with a nod. “It’s not all the time, but I do have my dark moments. And lately the darkness has been edging out the light. But when I saw you stand up to Sullivan today, I knew how wrong I had been about you. You’re still the same friend I’ve known, person I’ve respected.”

    Wyoma smiled, moisture forming in the far corners of her eyes. She wanted to reach out to Helen and squeeze her hands, but she wasn’t sure if it was enough trust had been reestablished for such a gesture. “Thank you Helen. That is a lovely thing to say.”

    “I know now that you aren’t just going to roll over for the higher ups, that you still have our backs.”

    The captain nodded, more than a little stung that Norrbom could ever think otherwise, but with her being so close to having Helen back, Wyoma didn’t want her bruised ego stopping their rapprochement. “I know you would never knowingly jeopardize this crew to further your career,” Helen added, “something I knew all along, yet things have gotten a little hazy as of late.”

    “You know I am here if you ever need to talk, Dendron too, all of us really,” the captain offered.

    “Oh, I’ve probably peeled back Dendron’s antennae from time to time after getting worked up,” Norrbom smiled. “And he’s done the best he could with me, but it takes time you know?”

    “Yeah,” the captain said, remembering her own conversation with the counselor. And he had said something to the same effect. “So, are you okay with Mr. Donar as the first officer now?”

    In less than a nanosecond, Helen’s open expression closed. Her eyes hardened and her lips formed a thin line. “No,” she shook her head, “He’s dangerous. I can’t fault you for your decision, I know it wasn’t done for ulterior reasons, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.”

    The captain frowned, and then sighed, “I can’t control how you feel, but I do think you need to accord Mr. Donar the proper respect.”

    “I,” she paused, grinding her jaw, “I can do that. So long as he does the same for me.”
    “Has he not?” The captain didn’t mean to challenge, but she had heard nothing of untoward behavior coming from the Angosian.

    “No, not to this point, though I’m not so sure after our elevator incident,” Helen’s eyes gleamed with a hint of her old naughtiness. “He asked me my opinion and I gave it to him, both barrels.”

    The captain smacked her head, “Oh boy, and he’s still standing?”

    “I guess so,” Norrbom remarked, not completely happy about that.

    “Then Donar really must be a super soldier,” Redfeather remarked.
  10. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    USS Erickson

    Commander Donar strode into the medical center. On the bed, the younger, lanky Rhaandarite woman sat up straighter, prompting a disapproving low growl from the Chief Medical Officer, who was carefully waving a bone regenerator over her arm. Dr. Narsan looked at Tai with a hooded expression. “Commander,” he said, his voice clipped, “How may I help you?” The tall, older, dark skinned man wore his blue medical coat like an elegant cloak. His low cut, graying hair revealed his large ears, which were both split at two points at the top. His ears were the only thing that distinguished him from a human.

    “I was checking on the lieutenant, is all,” Donar said. He had taken a quick inventory of the small medical center and been relieved to find that the doctor was only treating one patient. He sadly expected that most of the beds would be filled up before this trek was over.

    The Halanan nodded his head in the woman’s direction, “Lt. Zaylen will be fine, though it will take several hours until her bone completely heals. Just what was going on in those holodeck simulations?” His tone was accusatory.

    Tai took it in stride. Knowing what little he did of the man’s history, he could only suspect that the medic would think the worst of him. “Though our security team is very capable they are not hardened vets.”

    Now it was Zaylen’s turn to growl. The fair hued Rhaanderite shook her elongated head animatedly, her shoulder length black hair rippling like a water fall. “Doctor, the simulation was my idea.” Zaylen was the stand-in until Shashlik returned. “I wanted our security team to get a sense of the very real danger we will be facing in only a few hours.”

    She paused to look at Donar with golden eyes and gave him a curt nod, “The commander was just there to observe and provide advice.”

    “And there was very little advice that I needed to provide,” Donar nodded with satisfaction. “Both you and Lt. Shashlik are to be commended.”

    “Well, it seems you went a little overboard,” Narsan cut through the mutual praise society, “And maybe that wouldn’t have been the case if the commander wasn’t there.”

    “Doctor,” Zaylen began. Tai held up a hand.

    “It is alright,” he replied, “I am sorry that you got hurt.”

    “It’s nothing,” the Rhaandarite said, gingerly flexing her arm, and wincing at the attempt. “I’ll be alright in time for the mission.”

    “I would advise that you sit this one out Lieutenant,” Narsan said, in a tone that would not brook argument.

    Zaylen brooked it anyway. “I’m sorry Doctor, but I’m not going to send a team after Shashlik and Ramlo without me.”

    “You will if I order you to due to medical reasons,” Narsan shot back, “Which I am doing as if this instant.”

    “Doctor,” Donar interceded. “You’ve done a fine job stitching up her bone. You said it would be completely healed in a few hours.”

    “Unlike you Mr. Donar, the rest of us are more fragile,” the Halanan glowered at him. “The rest of us are…mortal,” a pained expression battered his face. Guilt and anger coiled and writhed in Tai’s gut as he memories of Kespyrtt III gripped him.

    By the time he came back to his senses, an oblivious Narsan was still talking, “And if Lt. Zaylen is put into a hostile situation, especially one that requires hand-to-hand combat, her arm could provide to be a fatal liability.”

    “But doctor,” Zaylen jumped in.

    “No Lieutenant,” Donar said, “He’s right.” Zaylen sat back, stunned at the first officer’s reversal.

    “But sir,” she tried again.

    “Dr. Narsan’s decision is in his purview and I back him on it,” he said, and the still simmering Halanan looked confused. It was obvious that he hadn’t expected Donar to agree with him. “I’m sure that the captain won’t object if I lead the away team.”

    The Angosian looked at the doctor, daring him to respond. But instead of defiance, the medic looked crestfallen. Clearly he was thinking of another high stakes mission that Donar had been a part of him, one that had ended in personal tragedy. And Tai felt another kind of guilt, one from being vengeful, of being a bully.

    Despite whatever meanness had inspired his words, Donar did mean to stick by them. As much as he respected Zaylen’s capabilities, this mission would require someone with his experience. Even the bad experiences. But this time he didn’t plan on adding to that tragic list.
  11. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    The Burning Claw
    Holding Cell

    The least imposing reptilian stepped forward, his full, striated lips nearly kissing the energy field confining the Starfleet officers. Though he was tall, his limbs were spindly. He had a long, thick heavy jawed face, with rough gray skin and four bony spikes protruding from his face, two right above eye ridges and two longer ones jutting out from the part of his cheekbones right beneath his eyes. He was dressed in a green tunic, with a yellow V-shaped harness-belt bisecting his chest to assumedly hold up his black jodphurs.

    Though the man looked completely different from the squat, pink-hued captain and the husky guards accompanying him, she knew them all to belong to the Venturi species. She had served with a gray-skinned Venturi, one of the few left in the Fleet, early in her career. He hadn’t been too talkative but he had at least told her that Venturi race was comprised of two races.

    The Venturi’s pink tongue darted out, tasting the air, as if seeking out their fear. It took all of Shashlik’s restraint, and a steadying hand from Ramlo, to keep her from rushing the forcefield. The humid air thickened with hostile intent, mostly radiating from her.

    The Kaylar was at least glad that the pirates had removed their EVA suits because they would’ve boiled in them assuredly in the sweltering temperatures. Both officers had peeled out of their gray and black jackets, down to their short-sleeve undershirts. But it had been little help, and now the fires of her rage had been stoked.

    Shashlik wanted to rip the reptilian’s head off and she didn’t care about the two barrel chested guards at his sides, their black neural truncheons at the ready. The master of this wretched vessel had wielded one against her. She now remembered what the baton was from the war. The truncheons had been favorite melee weapons for the Breen. And she had remembered reading about how they emitted painful electric shocks, sometimes with enough force to cause concussions or induce comas. Brain damage in victims was not uncommon, and now that she had experienced the agony first hand she could see why.

    She wanted to tear through them too, and then get to the captain, and finally the giantess that had nearly murdered Ram. “Don’t do it, Shash,” the Arkenite hissed, with uncharacteristic trepidation and heart rending concern. His hand dropped from her shoulder to trace down the intricate tattoos running down her left arm.

    A new one had been added for each year she had survived after coming of age. She refused to believe that the limb would receive another decoration. He wrapped his hand around hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze. If she wasn’t in such a blood red haze she would’ve thrown the man to the dirty floor and engaged in frenzied lovemaking for his concern. Instead, she did the near impossible and took a step back.

    Shashlik knew that running headlong at their captors was suicide and a more cunning approach was necessary. Her anger was robbing her of thinking that way, and she trusted Ram enough to follow his lead.

    “What do you want?” Ramlo stepped forward, not so subtly in front of the security officer. The Venturi took a step back and nodded respectfully.

    “I am First Mate Gedrik,” he said, adding with an ironic smile, “welcome to The Burning Claw.”

    “I think you should stick to the looting and pillaging,” Shashlik couldn’t help herself, “comedy is not your thing.”

    Gedrik shrugged, nonplussed. “The crew doesn’t complain.”

    “What do you want with us?” Ramlo asked, cutting off Shashlik before she could get another verbal jab in.

    “I wish to discuss my findings…and yours,” he said, his eyes bright with excitement.

    “I will not divulge such information to you,” the Arkenite’s voice was matter-of-fact. Shashlik flexed her arms, preparing for a violent reaction.

    But the gray Venturi merely waved away Ram’s defiance. “There’s no need, I am quite adept at hacking into Starfleet computer systems,” he replied. “Your tricorder has already provided a wealth of information about polaric ion energy, far more than what we had in our shipboard computer.”

    The Arkenite twitched slightly, a dead giveaway to Shashlik that the scientist was deeply troubled. “What do you plan to do with that information?” She was proud there wasn’t an ounce of concern in his voice as he asked the question.

    “That’s the part that might surprise you,” the reptilian’s voice was conversational, his manner open, as if he wasn’t talking to a prisoner, but a colleague. “We are pirates, true, but we are also patriots,” the man said, “and I think this polaric ion regulator holds the key to reigniting Alpha Venturi Major!”

    Ramlo’s head swiveled around quickly, his irisless green eyes blinking rapidly. “Did I hear you correctly?” He said, looking at Shash, but the question was clearly directed at the Venturi. Shock and confusion were etched over his face.

    “Yes,” the other man said. “And I need your help. Will you assist me…Lt. Ramlo?”

    “This is a trick,” Shashlik snapped, “A lie!”

    “I assure you it is no such thing,” Gedrik said, briefly recounting his failed attempts to rescue the star and the Venturi homeworld. “I’ve been researching and hoping…often against hope that one day I might find a way to save my people and this device has come to us…like a divine gift.”

    “One bought with the murder of an entire ship of people!” The Kaylar gently moved the still stunned Ramlo to the side. She faced the Venturi. The lack of deceit in his manner made her angrier. She hated liars, especially good ones.

    “I wish I could say that I am sorry,” he briefly lowered his head, “but it is too late for such platitudes. I have done things I am not proud of, I’ve dishonored myself, my wife, many times over as part of this crew…even before it, and I would gladly do it all again to be so close to this discovery.”

    “You’re a monster!” Shashlik clenched her hands, wanting to place them around the reptilian’s scrawny neck. The energy field didn’t look like that much of an insurmountable barrier and with him being so close she just might get to scratch him before the feedback knocked her to floor or worse.

    “I am worse than a monster,” the first mate nodded, his tone sober. “But none of that matters now. I will gladly surrender if you help me.”

    Shashlik snorted, eyeing the two guards, measuring the surprised looks on their faces. “I’m guessing you don’t speak for the rest of the crew?”

    Gedrik shook his head, “No, I don’t.” He looked at her squarely. “I can only answer for my own crimes.”

    “No deal,” the Kaylar said, pointedly turning her back on him, and folding her arms.

    “I don’t think you are in any position to negotiate,” Gedrik said sharply, “You in fact are no value to me at all. It is Lt. Ramlo’s intellect that will be of value here.”

    “Ramlo will never help murdering scum like you!” Shashlik roared, whipping back around.

    “Yes he will,” Gedrik’s confidence infuriated her more, “because he is a decent being. I am sure he is thinking of all the probabilities of what I am proposing because he wants to save millions of people too. And because he can first start with saving one…you.” He produced a small rectangular device from the pocket of his pants. He pressed a button.

    “What do you…” Shashlik asked before an agony she could never imagine exploded from her chest and spread throughout her body. She hit the floor, her body cracking against the unforgiving metal, yet she was still so gripped in pain that she had yet to feel the effects of the fall. Every nerve ending was on fire, she tried her best not to bite through her tongue as her convulsions overtook her.

    Somewhere far away she heard Ramlo shouting and then felt a shadow over her, and the Arkenite had her in his sure grasp, but the pain was too strong and she fought him as she attempted to fight it, bucking and writhing, the room filling with the stink of her vacating bowels.

    As suddenly as it started, the horror was over, and she was left to curl in her own filth and drool. Though the fire had stopped, the burning receding slowly, back into her bone and tissue. Ramlo tried to comfort her, but with what little force she could muster she pushed him away. She had never been so powerless or ashamed. The only thing that kept her from the edge was thoughts of the blackest revenge. She would hold on till then, and then she would joyfully go over the precipice.

    Above her, she heard the Venturi, a weathered strain in his voice, “The subdermal agonizers were something we picked up from a rather sketchy Cardassian. Our medic surgically implanted four into your friend. Normally we only use one per prisoner, but after her performance on the alien vessel, I thought more would keep her docile enough until we reached the Orions.”

    “And what about me? I’ve been in this cell the whole time.” Ramlo asked, his voice fraught with anger, disgust, and the customary curiosity. She opened her eyes, the light stabbing into them, but she fought through the new pain and the tears. The Arkenite stood tall, resolute, and in front of her, to defend her and shield her from the prying, leering eyes of their captors as best he could.

    “There was no need to implant you,” Gedrik replied, “We knew that you would do as we asked if you realized how great the threat to your friend was. Was I wrong in assuming that?”

    “No,” Ramlo said hurriedly, “I will help you…but on one condition.”

    “What is it with you Starfleet types?” The first mate was exasperated. “Time is wasting Lt. Ramlo.”

    “Lt. Shashlik needs medical attention,” he said, “Get that for her and I will help you.” Gedrik’s words were garbled, but the forcefield shimmered off and the two thickset guards trudged into the cell. They grabbed her arms and hoisted her up, hissing with displeasure at her stench. The woman wanted to fight them off but her limbs felt like rubber.

    “Careful,” Ramlo demanded and Gedrik echoed.

    Shashlik grinned savagely. She could at least take heart that her bodily waste had been so discomfiting to the guards. The Kaylar promised that it was only going to get worse for all of the pirates from this moment forward.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2012
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    I'm curious to find out how these Hope/Fear aliens are tied into everything. I love the concept, very non-humanoid.

    Also good to see Norrbom finally relaxing a little bit. Of course not as far as Doner is concerned. Not sure if I said it before but I like Redfeather. As Norrbom rediscovers she can be very warm and soft behind close doors but tough and uncompromising when having to deal with difficult superiors.

    Ramlo is not given much choice here but to play ball or watch his friend or colleague be tortured. Let's hope Erickson can intervene in time. Gedrick's motives may be pure, but I wouldn't trust him or his captain for even a second.
  13. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Excellent characterization work here, DarKush, as our heroes face a multitude of challenges.

    Norrbom lets a bit of the ice melt with the captain, though it's clear her hackles are still up around Tai.

    The crew of the Burning Claw are going to have a great deal to answer for. Though the potential promise of a 'cure' for the Venturi's situation could be a possible silver lining, the cost for securing that miracle is already too high.
  14. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    The Burning Claw
    Combat Room

    The air was thick with the smell of blood and sweat. Deoch gripped the hatchet tightly, a hiss building rising from his chest to his throat. He held it there, as he did his anticipation. The small ax was not his preferred weapon. His dagger lay broken on the floor. And the captain had just yanked the ax from the arsenal hanging along the combat’s room walls just fast enough to block a decapitating blow. The fair skinned Nuvian circled him, clutching the circular three-bladed weapon with her good arm. The other hung loosely at her side, blood still flowing from it. Mavaar had long since given up trying to favor it. Both of Deoch’s arms were sliced up nicely too, a casualty of his conceit to show them off at all times. The medic would have his work cut out for him after this session.

    The woman’s eyes were concealed beneath her heavily ridged brow. She blew unruly golden ringlets from her eyes. Her once sensuous lips had become a slash across her face, showing her bared teeth. Her skintight black leotard was appreciative of her sinuous, lethal form.

    Despite the work out her breathing was steady and despite her injuries, Mavaar had not lost her composure. Deoch wished the same could be said of him.

    He had nearly succumbed to blood lust several times during their bout, and his rage had made him sloppy, and became a second ally to Mavaar as she had carved into like a roast. He was amazed that she wielded the three-bladed kligat, a Capellan weapon, even better than Nadeen, a Capella IV native. But the massive woman preferred energy weapons or her own brute strength from what he could tell, and neither had failed her yet.

    His first mate often frowned upon personal combat, but Deoch knew that his crew needed such outlets. Even if he could afford holosuites he wouldn’t want to install them. No photonic light displays could ever substitute for the smell of blood or the clash of steel.

    Deoch feinted, hoping to draw the woman off balance, so that he could go in for the finishing stroke. Once she was disarmed, she would be his for the taking, in more ways than one. . But once again, Mavaar was a step ahead. “You can’t be serious about indulging Gedrik,” she said, bringing Deoch out of his battle mood.

    “We can have this discussion later,” he groaned. He had hoped his offer of combat would cool her thrusters about it, but he had guessed wrong.

    “This could be, no it is, the score of a lifetime,” Maavar pressed, while still keeping her guard up. She knew him too well, he surmised. Perhaps it was time to sell her, though he knew that was merely a pipe dream, and the worst part of it was that she knew it too.

    “How much longer do you think you can keep this ship running or this crew docile? You’ll never make as much coin from slaves or acquired merchandise that you can with this regulator device!”

    “Yeah,” he shrugged, “but we would never catch so much heat for it either. If we went your route, it would be best to unload it on the Orions and let them deal with the headaches. I mean, this is something beyond us, and I have no desire to be pursued by Starfleet, not to mention the Romulans, Klingons, Tholians, Gorn, or whomever. All the big disruptors would want this thing.”

    “You’ve slipped out of many a noose since I’ve been here,” Mavaar rejoined.

    “Because I’ve been smart,” he shot back. “I know my place in the food chain,” he added.

    “Can you say the same for Gedrik?” The woman asked, drawing another groan from him. This was a sore spot for him, and she knew it. Though the Nuvian played the perfect courtesan in public, she had a quite formidable intellect, and once Deoch had learned to accept the value of that, The Burning Claw had become a far more profitable venture. The fake hail from the Enterprise, clipped together from Federation News Service segments of Captain Picard that had snared quite a few gullible travelers had been just one of her ideas. “Even if, and it’s a big if, his idiotic plan works, who do you think will get the credit for saving your homeworld? You?” She laughed, “Or him?”

    He lunged at her, and she slid easily out of the way, flattening the circular blade to bring down on the base of his neck. Despite her skill, her slender frame could only bring enough force to stun him. If Nadeen had been on the other end of that blow, Deoch’s last image would probably be of his headless neck.

    As it were, Mavaar’s strike knocked him to the ground, black worms wriggled across his vision, and the limbs that bore the brunt of his fall began to slowly capitulate. “Yield,” Mavaar’s whisper slithered into his ear, and he felt the woman straddling his back.

    He grinned, using his remaining strength to throw her off. It was perhaps the surprise that caught her as much as his strength, but the woman fell the deck beside him second before Deoch’s body gave out. Mavaar provided an unpleasant pillow, but he supposed it was better than the metal plating.

    She gasped, the air ripped from her, and Deoch covered her, his hands locking on to her wrists and pinning her to the ground. “No, do you yield?”

    He eased up only to allow her to catch her breath. Mavaar managed a smile. “Yield,” the Venturi commanded, the time for games at an end. He was the sole master of this vessel and he would make sure that no one forgot that, even favorites like Mavaar. With renewed strength, he pressed her wrists together, satisfied when he felt the bones scraping together in each. Quickly the Nuvian’s smile morphed into a grimace and then a wail.

    “I yield,” she said, defiance etched on her face.

    “That is more like it,” he laughed before planting a large kiss on her lips. Her tongue slipped through his teeth and found his, pulling him closer to her like a tractor beam. Their hands roved each other, tearing what they couldn’t unfasten or unzip.

    Their lovemaking was as furious and complete as a fast moving storm, made the more intense by their shared injuries. After it was done, they lie in a pile of tangled limbs, their blood commingling beneath them.

    “You know that I am right,” Mavaar ventured, her words pulling Deoch back from the cliff of dreams. “Your people will never accord you the honors that they will give Gedrik if you hand over the regulator to them. You are not horned.”

    Deoch hissed, “Don’t you think I know that woman!” The gray skinned, “Horned” Venturi had been the elite of their civilization, until the ecological disaster had made all Venturi equally endangered. However, old prejudices lingered and it was just one of many reasons that Deoch had left homeworld as soon as he could. Though many of the other pink “Unadorned” wished to accept a way of life that kept them second class even among a doomed, and eclipsed people, Deoch had sought the freedom of the stars.

    But Gedrik’s plea had had an unintended effect on him, and since the man’s revelations, he had been thinking about homeworld and the kin he had left behind there more and more. “But this is a chance to save my homeworld! If Gedrik is right, and he is a science brain, this could make us heroes on a galactic scale. All the warrants against us would be dropped, we could become celebrities, think of the riches in that?” He couldn’t help gushing, but the idea of making money so easily excited him.

    Mavaar frowned, clearly skeptical. “You’re talking about maybes. I’m talking about real power.”

    “And you know the problem with real power?” Deoch asked, his voice wearied with experience.

    “What’s the problem?” The Nuvian was as defiant as ever.

    “People like to take it from you,” he answered, not cowed at all, “and in this case, people with fleets of starships at their disposal.”

    USS Erickson
    Birdland Lounge

    Lt. French was already sitting in the opposite empty seat before he asked, “Care if I join you?”

    Lt. Jilicia shrugged slightly, barely acknowledging him. When she wasn’t looking out of the window she was staring into her half-filled mug of Takarian mead. The dark haired human flight controller wrinkled his nose at the deep amber beverage. “How can you drink that stuff?” He asked, drawing her attention away from the mead. The helmsman was still in his gray-black uniform, and had probably just gotten off duty. He must have come to Birdland for a drink or two before nodding off, but then again, with Tim French, who knew?

    It was quite possibly that he had homed in on her due to the kaleidoscopic blouse and matching breeches she wore. Neither was revealing, but both were snug in the right places.
    French held up his own glass. The drink was purple, with dark chunks floating within it. The Boslic science officer looked askance. She had never seen that concoction before, and her curiosity was piqued. “What is that?” She asked.

    “Oh, this?” He waved it under her nose and she got a full whiff of heavy spice and nearly gagged. “Phalkerian spice punch,” he proudly replied. “Phalow down in Engineering turned me on to it,” the young man smiled, and Jilicia had to admit that he did have a nice smile, along with a pleasant face and piercing blue eyes. Of course if only his maturity matched his physical attractiveness, alas…

    “Hey, what’s up with the funeral music?” He remarked, looking around for a waiter. Duke Ellington’s mournful piano melded with the piquant saxophone of John Coltrane to combine into a sad, reflective tune that matched the pall growing over the ship.

    She hadn’t known much about Earth music before attending the Academy, and hadn’t had much interest in it since her introduction, however, there was something aching and yearning about this duo’s “Sentimental Thoughts” that spoke to her. She couldn’t help thinking about their missing crewmen nor the ship that they had been ordered to scuttle, the final indignity for those tragic travelers from beyond the stars.

    “Hey,” French said, finally getting the attention of one of the waiters, “a little something more up-tempo please?” The Dopterian attendant nodded, hurrying back to the bar. The jaunty sounds of Louis Armstrong erased the darkness as if someone had flipped on a light switch. Jilicia had to admit that the mood brightened almost instantly and the conversations around the lounge became less muted.

    She guessed she would have to be morose elsewhere. The science officer pushed back from the table. “Where you going Jil?” French asked, a perplexed look on his face. “I thought we were having a conversation?”

    “Is that what you thought?” She asked, guiltily enjoying being a little mean. She needed a punching bag right now. “I guess you thought wrong.”

    “Hey,” he said, a hurt look wreathing his face, “That was uncalled for.” Jilicia could’ve come back with a dig about him intruding into her private time, but she relented. It was not fair for her to take out her frustrations on the helmsman.

    “I’m sorry,” she said, hovering over her chair.

    “I won’t accept it, until you sit back down,” he said, with a half-smile. She rolled her eyes and retook her seat. Tim looked around again, finding another waiter, a human this time. “My good man, could you please refill the lady’s drink?” The attendant rushed to comply. After he returned, both officers thanked him. Jilicia took a sip of the fresh drink and savored the sweet taste.

    “Now this is more like it,” French chuckled, amazed at his handiwork. A few crewmen had cleared out tables in the middle of the room and turned it into an impromptu dance floor. Lt. Commander Kalnath was whipping Ensign Haile around like an Andorian ice weapon. Jilicia was surprised but the woman’s squeals seemed to be from pleasure, not mortal terror.

    Sensing her concern, Tim filled her in. “It’s an Old Earth dance, called the “Lindy Hop”.” He held out a hand. “Care to try?”

    “I would not,” she said, not meaning to sound so cold, but the human seemed not to take offense. He had become entranced again by the skill and prowess of both Kalnath and Haile. A small circle had formed around them, clapping and cheering them on. “Well, at least you can join me in the circle?” He asked, “I don’t want to miss out.”

    “Sure,” she relented, with a small sigh. The young man was as worrisome as Gasparian gnats.

    She allowed the eager French to lead her into the gathering. Some crewmen clapped, others hollered, and still more danced along with the dazzling couple. The synergy between them was perfect, as was their joy in keeping alive an ancient cultural expression.

    Realizing that she was still holding Tim’s hand, she pulled away from him and backed out of the circle. Suddenly feeling stultified, Jilicia sought the fresh air of the corridor. “Hey,” the ensign called, catching up to her at the door. Once outside, the Boslic forced herself to turn around, to face him.

    “I just can’t do this,” she said.

    “What’s wrong?” The flight controller was genuinely hurt. “What did I do wrong?”

    “Nothing,” she smiled sympathetically, “It’s not you at all, it’s just, I can’t…I can’t celebrate culture after we just extinguished one.”

    “Oh,” for once, French had nothing to say. His expression became drawn, sober. “We had to do that,” he offered.

    “I know, we were following orders,” she said, with surprising bitterness. “How many monsters have used such phrasing to justify their actions?”

    Tim stepped back, stung, and Jilicia quickly covered the distance between them. She clutched his forearm. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean you, I just meant…I don’t know, it was just so callous, so wrong.”

    “Listen, I understand,” he replied. “But we did have our orders and I think it ultimately was for the good, we couldn’t allow any knowledge of that regulator to fall into the wrong hands. The war might be over, but we still have a lot of enemies out there, and some are emboldened because they think we are weak. Like the Talarians for example,” he pointed out, “even the Alshain are rattling their sabers or baying at the moon or whatever they do.”

    “I know,” she quietly agreed. The Talarian Incursion, while thankfully short, had been brutal and had briefly awakened fears of another war. She shuddered at the thought of how much more devastating the incursion would’ve been if the Talarians had had polaric ion weapons at their disposal. Perhaps there was something to Advisor Sullivan’s bellicose response after all.

    “And those aren’t even the big guys,” he added, “I mean, it seems like things have reverted with the Romulans, which unfortunately dried up our supply of Romulan ale.”

    Jilicia couldn’t help but laugh. French was trying really hard to lighten her mood and she appreciated it. “What’s your deal with alcoholic beverages? Do you need to talk to Counselor Dendron?”

    “Hey, who do you think had the best Romulan ale on the ship? Much better than Birdland,” French joined in the laughter.

    After catching her breath, Jilicia’s hand shifted from the human’s arm to his shoulder. “Thank you, I really needed that.” She loudly exhaled. “I just, I’m just afraid of what we’re becoming sometimes.”

    “That’s a good thing,” French said.

    “How so?”

    “If you weren’t worried about that, then that would be the problem,” he smiled jauntily, “Are you sure you don’t want to come back in?” He asked chucking a thumb at the lounge’s door.

    The Boslic weighed her options. Beyond the door she heard the din of the crowd. It was a lot of noise, and she really wasn’t up for that. “I don’t know,” she said. She did want to be alone, but she also knew that she had spent too many nights alone lately, and all of that solitude hadn’t shed any more wisdom on the problems bedeviling her. Perhaps a different approach was in order…

    The human’s shoulders slumped, “Hey listen, we’re all feeling anxious you know, and we’re all trying to find some way to relieve it, to get outside of ourselves for a few hours, or minutes at least, until we find the regulator.” His stare pinned her. “It might be the last time we get to do so,” he said glumly, and something in his gloom spoke to her and pulled her toward him. The bravado was just the surface, Jilicia realized. There was more to Tim French than she had thought.

    The scientist carefully wrapped her hand around his. “I’ve changed my mind,” she said, “I will accompany you back into Birdland.”

    French did a bad job hiding his surprise, “Are you serious?”

    “When have you known me not to be?” She asked, with a glimmer of a smile.

    “Good point,” the helmsman replied, squeezing her hand as he led her back into the raucous lounge. “Besides, my mother often told me never to look a gift horse in the mouth.”

    “Are you calling me equine Mr. French?” Though she didn’t do it often, Jilicia knew how to needle and she did like doing it.

    “Oh, umm, no, of course not,” Tim stammered, tugging at his red turtleneck collar. She enjoyed watching him squirm. “It’s just a turn of phrase, Earth vernacular and all that.”

    “I thought you were raised on Mars?” She stuck it to him again.

    “Oh my, is it warm in here, or is it just me?” He squeaked, making a show of looking around. “I’m thirsty, you see a waiter anywhere around?”

    She laughed, letting him off the hook. Jilicia tugged on his hand, “Come along Lieutenant, we have a circle to rejoin.”

    Beyond Caldera

    The faux shuttle sped through space. Fear knew that the others had restrained Hope and the other misguided by now. They had surely made them see reason and for that Fear was glad. The device, the dagger that had been plunged into the heart of his world, was now secure within its folds.

    Now all Fear had to do was find the appropriate area to drop it off. Preferably far enough away from Caldera so that the world would not suffer any effects if the infernal contraption exploded. But that wasn’t enough for Fear. The Calderan also wanted to send a message, to warn organics or others away from Caldera.

    Fear knew it needed to do more than simply jettison the device; it had kept its world pure from offworld contamination. Fear’s mind raced with possibilities, and eventually settled on one. It changed direction, toward the Calderan Corridor. If Fear set this device off inside the corridor it might collapse it, shutting off the easiest way for the refugee horde while also ending the Federation and other’s interest in Calderan space.

    Inside the shuttle a piece of him pinched off, taking on humanoid form again. The olive skinned woman looked similar to the Pacifica’s first officer, with tapered ears and severely upswept eyebrows, however her forehead bore ominous ridges. The woman knelt down beside the device and began searching for an access panel.

    To gain speed, he changed form, becoming more streamlined and sleeker, with two warp nacelles jutting from its sides, its dull green finish contrasted by a fiery predatory avian on its belly. Though the Pacifica had reached out to the Calderans first, contact hadn’t initially been their goal. It had been to thwart the Romulans who had been intruding into Calderan space, and incurring the wrath of the Great Tide.

    Fear had led one of the earliest assaults on a ship such as the one he had morphed into. Even though Fear didn’t trust the Romulans anymore than the humans it did admire their suspicious mindset. And it was in honor of that first blood that he would sever all ties between the Calderans and the rest of the galaxy.
  15. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    Hey CeJay and Gibraltar,

    Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you are enjoying the story and the characterization. The Hope/Fear thing came as sort of a lark. I wanted to do something different with the Calderans so I'm glad you're enjoying it CeJay. I'm glad you both are enjoying Norrbom thawing out a bit. I wanted to show that she and Redfeather are good friends and even though they might disagree from time to time the friendship endures.

    Unfortunately I'm having some internet issues so I might not be able to post as regularly as I would like for the foreseeable future. I hope the problems will get resolved soon but I don't want to make any promises.
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    I like how much time you are spending allowing us to get to know this crew. It almost makes up for the low number of more familiar Dark Territory faces. But who knows, if these people survive the coming events, perhaps we'll get to see more of them in the future. Big if, I know.
  17. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    I'm glad you're liking the longer look at the Erickson crew. I think that I sometimes rush a bit too much, introducing tons of characters, ships, etc. So this time I reined in my tendencies to do that. And the approach has allowed for the Erickson characters to grow on me. So we'll see how it goes.

    Shuttlecraft Oyekan

    Ensign Kittles’s eyelids fluttered and she awoke with a strangled curse. She pounded her console, mad at herself for falling asleep. She did her best to rub the grains from her eyes, a part of her secretly relieved that her body had found a way around the nightmares that had kept her awake.

    For the longest time, every time she had closed her eyes, Roland’s face had emerged from the depths of her thoughts, his lifeless gaze damning her for eternity. With her tongue, she dabbed her dry inner walls of her mouth. It was drier than a desert, and made worse by the feverish perspiration coating her skin. Karen couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten or drank. She just hadn’t been up to it.

    “I can eat after the job is done,” she muttered, blinking rapidly to get her eyesight into focus. Kittles stifled a yawn as she looked over the data from her scanners. She held back another desire to attack her terminal.

    “Nothing,” she groused, “It’s like they’ve completely vanished.” So far her hunt for her missing colleagues and Roland’s murderers had yielded nothing. “What am I going to do?” She asked aloud, afraid that someone would finally answer her. And they would tell her the likely truth, that the ship had already been lost to the lethal vagaries of the expanse.

    It was the last thing she wanted to her, so she just couldn’t accept it. The ensign would strive on. If she couldn’t find them soon she would have no choice but to contact Erickson and admit what she had done, of how her ambition had allowed her friends and fellow crewmen to be assaulted by marauders.

    “It’s not just your fault,” another voice, one more defensive, issued from her lips. “One more shuttle, with minimal firepower, would’ve done little against a warship or pirate ship.”

    She shook her head, letting that argument go even as part of her wanted to desperately cling to it, to use it to beat back the baying guilt, nipping at her mind, gnawing her soul.

    “No,” she closed her eyes, Roland still there, still damning, “I should’ve been there. It’s my fault. I-I should’ve died with Roland, or sacrificed myself for him and the others. That was my duty and I…I shirked it.”

    She hung her head, allowing her guilt to have at her, to clobber her. She wanted it to beat her into oblivion. Karen dropped her hands from the piloting controls, giving Oyekan to fate. She just wanted this hell of her own making to be over. Maybe she would fly into the same anomaly that had probably gobbled up the kidnappers’ ship.

    And maybe, just maybe, she can be with Roland on the other side…if he could ever forgive her. She knew he was a better person than she was, and she smiled at the thought of being forgiven, of the accusatory Roland in her mind’s eye finally opening his arms to embrace her…

    The beep drew her back. One eye cracked open, zeroing in on the insistent beeping from the multiphasic scan she had activated to aid in her pursuit. Karen knew that a multiphasic scan would help cleave through the intense interference resulting from the expanse’s radiation.

    It had been seeking any unusual energy readings, and had just found a mother lode. The scan was spiking off the charts. “What is that?” She asked, before imparting the question to the ship’s computer.

    “Oh my God,” she murmured, after the computer dryly recited its entry on polaric ion energy. Is this what those monsters were looking for? She wondered, chasing that with another, even more terrifying thought. “Could they be testing it right now?”

    “Data insufficient to answer your inquiry,” the computer dutifully responded. Annoyed, Karen jabbed the vocal interface off. She needed to be alone with her thoughts right now, and her ghosts.

    It didn’t take long for either to drive her to redirect the shuttle’s course toward the disturbance.

    Jov’k Tholis
    Calcite-class battlecruiser

    The trigger had been pulled. Narskene skittered backwards, assailed by the shock that ran from the High Magistrates directly into hir brain. S/He used both arms to push away one of the more eager subordinates rushing in to help. In hir weakened condition s/he was fearful that the zealous underling might peer into hir mind, or sense hir revulsion which would be nearly as bad.

    Narskene had been careful to mask whatever disagreements she had with her superiors as she scaled the lattice to hopefully sit among the High Magistrates hirself. S/He had become a dutiful soldier that her superiors could rely on, and s/he wasn’t about to derail their faith in her now, especially when s/he could use the information they were chittering madly about to assist her ascension.

    When s/he found hir voice again, she barked, “Altered destination. Full warp!”
  18. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    The Burning Claw

    First Mate Gedrik’s voice sounded nearly an octave lighter as he addressed the bridge via intercom. “Yes, yes,” he said, in answer to Deoch’s skeptical question. “By seeding the area around the polaric ion torpedo and the star with chroniton particles we hope to heighten the temporal properties of the polaric ion isotopes, thereby causing a temporal rift upon impact.”

    “And that’s supposed to do what exactly?” Deoch asked. Ramlo noted that the Venturi captain didn’t even try to mask his ignorance, nor did Gedrik hide the look of exasperation on his face. Though he did strip it from his voice.

    Gedrik sigh was almost inaudible. He paused, and began very slowly to re-explain what he had just told the lead pirate.

    “So, you’re saying you can create some kind of temporal shift that allows the star’s fuel from the past to bleed into the present sun that’s running out of fuel?” The captain was still disbelieving.

    “Exactly,” the first mate replied, with obvious relief. “The chroniton particles will also work to briefly link the two suns together in the same time period.”

    “And you Arkenite, do you think this is possible?” Deoch had already dismissed his subordinate.

    The scientist swallowed the lump in his throat. He hadn’t expected to be called upon. He nodded as he spoke, “It is theoretically possible.” Gedrik gave Ramlo a withering glare.

    “I see,” Deoch said, clearly mulling over his course of action. After a beat, he said, “Who am I to argue with one of homeworld’s best scientific minds and a three-brained Starfleet science officer!”

    “I am certain captain that this is a turning point in history, this is when we become legends, and your decisiveness has made it possible,” Gedrik remarked, laying it on thick.

    “We’ll get that regulator, and when we do, make sure you can back up everything you just told me,” Deoch warned. “Bridge out.”

    His Venturi’s counterparts glare quickly morphed into a relieved smile. “You should be more assured of your hypotheses Mr. Ramlo!” He clapped his hands together, “I can’t believe we are going to do this! That we are going to make history!”

    Lt. Ramlo ran a hand over his smooth, three lobed head, clipping one of his pointed ears as he brought it back down to the dull black oblong plasma torpedo. He blinked several times, doing his best to absorb all the possibilities. “Temporal Investigations would probably violate their own rules to go back in time to make sure I never attended Starfleet if I am party to this,” he replied, though his heart throbbed with excitement over the idea. It nearly made him forget that he was a prisoner, stuck in a dim room filled with lethal weapons, with his jailers his only companions.

    “Temporal violations be damned!” First Mate Gedrik replied, exclaiming his point with another loud clap.” The tall Venturi was on the opposite side of the torpedo. One burly guard stood watch at the door, the disruptor in the holster on his leg within easy reach.

    The Arkenite tempered his delight at the results of their brainstorming session. He tapped his long fingers against the hard casing of the torpedo, remembering what it was, and what it could possibly do. Alone the disruptor torpedo could kill hundreds or thousands, but equipped with a polaric ion warhead, the death totals could escalate exponentially.

    “We can’t make this decision,” he said, the warmth that suffusing his cheeks diminishing. “We don’t have the right, the authority to take millions of lives into our hands.”

    His smile losing only a little wattage, Gedrik asked, disbelieving, “You can’t be serious!” He exclaimed, throwing up his hands. “I don’t get you Starfleet types. You claim that you live to explore, to find new things, life and civilizations and all that, that you want to make life for the citizens of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants better, and when you’ve found a way to do that, you get all self-righteous.”

    “This is a decision we can’t make on our own,” he held his ground, “We should take this to the Federation Council and Venturi authorities.”

    Ramlo was rattled by the other man’s full throated, head thrown back, bitter laughter. Once Gedrik was eyeing him again, the reptilian snorted. “We could do that, and while they dithered, Alpha Venturi Major would move one step closer to stellar death.”

    “But what we are proposing,” the Arkenite tried one more time, “It could have unforeseen consequences way beyond the Venturi homeworld. What if the experiment goes awry, what if it accelerates stellar death? What if it destabilizes the sun completely? What if the temporal and subspace effects ripple across space?”

    “That’s the risk with science,” the other man shrugged.

    “How can you be so flippant about this?” Ramlo’s temperature began to rise, and not from enthusiasm this time.

    The Arkenite winced as the other man’s claws dug into the torpedo’s finish, causing an unpleasant scraping noise. Gedrik leaned over, nearly head butting the scientist. The Venturi’s eyes bore into him. “I know the sacrifices some have made for science, for the greater good,” he said, his voice barely a whisper, but clear enough for Ramlo to hear and be chilled by its restrained fury. “My wife, my beloved Berae died trying to re-ignite our sun. I can do no less,” he declared.

    “This is insanity,” Ramlo refused to back down, despite his growing fears. “This has to be tested first.”

    “I assure you it will be,” Gedrik confidently nodded his head, “On Alpha Venturi Major.”
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    I'm starting to wonder if Kittles’s will turn into something akin to the unexpected savior here, seeing how far she's gotten.

    Somebody will have to make a move, and soon, because Gedrik's plan sounds reckless and is eagerness is exactly what tends to lead to big calamities.
  20. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Kittles can’t give up, as circumstances are pushing her inexorably deeper into this mystery. Ramlo, meanwhile, is being ‘forced’ into a situation where he may help cause the deaths of billions. Better he had taken his own life then allowed himself be become the consulting scientist to a desperate band of thugs and pirates.

    Ugly all the way around, and it only promises to get worse as Fear prepares to deliver its package on some unsuspecting sentients.

    Terrific stuff!