UT: THE FOUR YEARS WAR ORIGINS: FUTURE'S PAST

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by DarKush, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Hello everyone,

    It's been a while, but I'm back. My apologies to those who have been reading some of my recent works that I left hanging. When I was working on the "TFYW: Year Zero" stories I felt that I needed to expand the canvas, refine some ideas, and build on the mythology for my Dark Territory series. So, I had put what I had been working on to the side, to hopefully be revamped later. There were a lot of stories I wanted to tell to lead into the "Year Zero" which led into the actual Four Years War, so I came up with the "Origins" idea.

    My goal is that when this is all said and done "Origins" will help frame the entire event, for the Dark Territory entries in particular, and also add to the overall Dark Territory mythology.

    With "Origins" some of these entries are only slightly changed from their "Year Zero" versions ("A Burning House" and "Seeds of Rage"), while I've added quite a bit of new content as well. If you had read the earlier versions of those stories I think you can skip the updated versions without missing anything because the changes are minimal. Instead of breaking the individual stories out I'm just going to post them all in this thread.

    As always I hope you enjoy another foray into Dark Territory.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
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  2. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    A BURNING HOUSE



    The Dark Time…



    “General,” Monak yelled as he pushed through the large wooden doors and ran up to the throne. His chest burning, pain and tiredness completing to overtake him, Monak still managed to get out, “Shenara’s forces have breached our defenses! They are inside the fortress!”

    Even the massive closed doors and thick walls of the throne room couldn’t muffle the sounds of combat, the clanging of weapons, the rattling of pistols, spraying projectiles throughout the sacred palace.

    K’Trelan looked up slowly as if waking from a dream, a beatific smile on his face. Monak tried to hide his horror. So much had changed since he had pledged his honor and his house to the general’s dream. Together, they had overthrown the corrupt Emperor Reclaw, and K’Trelan had taken the reins as ruler.

    But not as a despot, not at first though. K’Trelan had instituted much needed reforms, to push the Klingon people forward, and that benefited a rising system-wide power. And for once, the Klingon people had a true voice in their government, not merely the men and women of means like Monak and his ilk.

    The idea that his honor was made easier by an accident of birth had never set well with him. And he had been drawn to K’Trelan, a man of low birth, but great vision, one who had earned his general’s rank.

    Monak had always been an outré thinker, and throughout his education and travels, he had gathered likeminded individuals who also knew that the empire needed to change if it was going to continue.

    K’Trelan had been reluctant to join them at first. And only after their last great campaign, against the traitorous Lord Qul, completely routing his forces among in the Gamma Hydra sector. It had been there that K’Trelan had made the decision to join the cause, to stop the endless cycle of nobles fighting over the riches of the empire, like vultures clacking over a carcass.

    But it was also in the Gamma Hydra sector that they found the object K’Trelan clutched in his hands. Monak frowned. There had been no name for it, the silvery shard found inside a container covered with alien script. K’Trelan had had the shard forged into a tik’leth, a blade he had boasted would rival the fabled Sword of Kahless.

    Monak had come to calling it Fek’lhr’s Fang, named for that great dark guardian of Gre’thor, and his torturing of damned souls. The shard had certainly pierced K’Trelan’s soul and twisted it, turning an honorable man into the thing that hung from the throne before Monak.

    K’Trelan had aged considerably in the decade since he took the throne. His thick black hair that once had flowed down his back like the lava from Kri’stak, had become stark white and his visage had become misshapen, not by battles, but by the poisonous influence of the fang.

    Even now, K’Trelan sat there, smiling, while Monak told him that Shenara had pierced the gates and was almost about to take Tolar’tu.

    “General,” Monak prodded.

    “Emperor no longer is it, Son of Monak,” K’Trelan finally recognized him, his smile widening before dropping from his face. “And ‘Shenara’? That tohzah is no Shenara!” The monarch raised his voice, his finally gall energizing him. “I slew the real Shenara, just like I did her father!”

    “And I was there, with you,” Monak pointed out, “I believed in you general.” K’Trelan reached out and patted Monak’s shoulder heavily. The usurper hadn’t caught his use of past tense.

    “We fought great battles together Monak,” he nodded, before his eyes glazed over, and Monak imagined that the man was awash again in past glories. The throne room’s walls shook, Shenara was near, but K’Trelan was still reminiscing

    “Those were good times, K’Trelan declared. “Reclaw was a pujwl’ and his reign was leading the empire to disaster. Honor demanded that he be slain. And a dishonorable figure like he was did not deserve an honorable death. I gave the people a voice in the empire, and for that, I am despised!” He spat. “I thought slaughtering all of Reclaw’s spawn would extinguish the hope of any restoration. I never suspected my enemies would be dishonorable enough to find pretenders for the Second Dynasty!”

    “General,” Monak was insistent. “We can no longer hold our position. This battle is lost!”

    “No,” K’Trelan looked away from him and down at the sword he gripped with both hands. “That’s impossible. The songs it sang to me, the dreams it showed me.”

    The other man didn’t hide his horror. “That thing…that thing is cursed! It has led us to ruin!”

    “No!” K’Trelan snapped at the man. The walls trembled, as explosions bellowed throughout the fortress, as more warriors died, but the emperor didn’t care. The object in his hands is all that matter. “This has been truer to me than my warriors!” He declared, holding the damned tik’leth up to the light and marveled at it. “It has shown me things, of a time when our people will spread across the galaxy, allied with others, a great armada defending the galaxy from foes deadlier than the Hur’q even.

    Our people in their current state won’t be ready for this challenge, not with the old ways, not with the nobles’ hoarding all the power. So, I have given the power to the people, I have made honor available to all, not just the nobles.”

    “If we leave now, we can salvage the dream and maybe replant it, if not on Qo’noS, out there, among the stars!” Monak pleaded.

    “No,” K’Trelan shook his head sadly. “That is not what the blade says. Our people must do this, and if they are unwilling, then they are unworthy of the lives, the duties entrusted to them.”

    Monak took a step back. Now he ignored the growing clamor near the throne room. K’Trelan stood up, holding the tik’leth in both hands, smiling at it as the object lit with an infernal glow.

    “This artifact contains not only knowledge, but immense power, a power to build, but also to destroy,” K’Trelan said. “The pretenders cannot be allowed to return us to the dark times of the past!”

    “What are you saying?” Monak demanded.

    “That I would rather we all die, that the great dream of Kahless end here, than to continue in a corrupted form,” K’Trelan replied, though he continued gazing at the object, into the artifact. The sword began to pulse as a heart existed within it, a very dark heart.

    Trembling, Monak pulled his mek’leth from behind his back. In his darkest moments, he had imagined taking just this action. The times when the blooms of the reforms K’Trelan had first instituted had been plucked as he become more autocratic, and reclusive, his only advisor being that cursed sword.

    Monak had done his best to cover for him, to hide the truth from the people, about K’Trelan’s falling state, but he had long since admitted it to himself.

    Monak had conspired with his cousin among the royalist faction. He had hoped to buy time, to not only preserve the honor of House Monak, but also to allow K’Trelan and his loyalists to escape.

    But K’Trelan didn’t want to escape. And he no longer wanted to fight. The man wanted to die, and he wanted to take the entire planet with him.

    Monak didn’t think about it any longer. He brought the blade down swiftly, slicing into the man’s neck and throat. K’Trelan’s eyes widened slightly and he twitched before he left the world. The tik’leth remained clutched in the man’s hands.

    Monak wrinkled his nose, not at the stench of the man’s bowels, but at the thought of touching the fang.

    The doors boomed heavily, the wood starting to crack. “K’Trelan!” Shenara’s voice rang out. “End this madness and die with honor!” The woman demanded.

    The man, who had taken on Reclaw’s name, was fighting in the Nawlogh system, leaving his ‘daughter’ to slay K’Trelan. The general was to be shown the ultimate dishonor, to be slain by a puq, a mere child who had won no battles.

    From the sounds of battles outside though, this Shenara had become blooded by now. Monak’s blood sung to him to engage the woman in combat. But his first duty remained to the Klingon people.

    Reining his disgust, Monak reached down and seized the artifact. It was surprisingly cool to the touch, as were the tendrils that sprouted in his mind.

    Monak fought against them, as he looked back at the shuddering door. Shenara would make of K’Trelan’s corpse what she would, and if she wished to claim the kill, that was her wont. Monak would not be here to dispute it. He had to take Fek’lhr’s Fang away from the fortress, off Qo’noS, and back to the pit from which it found K’Trelan.

    Monak just hoped he was strong enough to resist its call….


    THE END

    *****************************************************************
     
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  3. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    DEALERS IN DARKNESS




    Ganalda Station

    2342



    Terrence should’ve been afraid, most of his classmates would’ve been, but he wasn’t most of his classmates. He took a quick, furtive glance at his parents, seeing his father and mother standing by one of the station’s large viewports, gazing out at the multiple of rusting starships floating around them. Both were dressed in the colorful uniforms he had seen before in history vids. Even though they weren’t participating in the reenactment, they were getting in character, as his father had told him. “When in Rome,” the captain had said, with a smile. Terrence had had to look up the Old Earth phrase to understand what his father had meant.

    Though the old uniforms, weapons, and especially the starships looked cool, Terrence was more interested in exploring the station. He had never been aboard a Klingon space station before. He had had his fill of Federation stations, moving with his dad from post to post, while his mother served aboard various starships, the current being the Gral.

    He had wanted to be with his mother, to see the things she could only tell him about, but his mother had often had to remind him that space ships were no place for children.

    He knew that, but he still wanted to go. He missed his mother, and he knew that dad missed her too.

    It was great that the Gral was in the nearby sector, which allowed her to join them on a tour of the station’s floating museum.

    His dad had taken him to a similar one, the Fleet Museum on Earth, one that was bursting with ships even older than the ones at this station. He actually got to sit in the chair of the legendary NX-01 and crawled through the Jeffries tubes of a replica of the Franklin.

    The big draw at the Ganalda station was all the Klingon ships there, in addition to old Starfleet vessels that had arrived for the reenactment.

    His father had told him that the Federation and Klingons were commemorating a war that had happened a hundred years ago. As commander of Starbase 216, his dad had been invited to the event by the planet’s governor.

    “You know, it’s been the subject of some debate, the whole ‘Four Years War’ sobriquet,” he heard his father intoning as he inched away, closer to the surge of the station’s other patrons. “Some historians think the description should be done away with, that it was an overblown misnomer for the increase in tension after some eighty years of minimal contact with the Klingons.”

    “Similar to the Romulan self-exile after Tomed?” His mother asked. Even from this distance, Terrence detected the bitterness in his mother’s voice. He knew that his mother hated the Romulans, but neither she nor his father had told him why every time he asked. His mother’s expression would close like a door and his dad looked like the truth really hurt, so Terrence would back off.

    “Yes, in many respects,” his dad was nodding. “Earth, and later the Federation, had scant contact with the Klingons for almost a century after the Federation’s founding. The Four Years War period of the early 2240s was the most intense series of hostilities until the later wars.”

    Real wars,” his mother added.

    “I suppose so,” his dad replied, though with less certainty. “Though the men and women who died a hundred years ago, them and their families might have a different opinion on the matter.”

    “And what of your own forebears?”

    “It was very much a war for my kin who fought during those conflicts,” his dad said. Terrence, on the verge of escape, paused as he thought about the stories his grandparents told him about their parents and relatives fighting the Klingons. A lot of those stories had sparked his interest in Klingons.

    His dad had tried to get him into learning about the Romulans and their family history during that war, but the Klingons were more interesting. They were more heroic than the sneaky Romulans. And now that Terrence was at an actual Klingon station, he could see them up close, and hopefully meet one. He had been studying Klingon and knew a few words.

    He looked back once more at his parents and was heartened to see his mother leaning against his father, with the man’s arm around her back and pulling her in closer. Both were in regular clothes, another rarity. It was so good seeing his parents together again that Terrence thought about abandoning his quest and just joining them.

    But the same desire to learn that was in both his parents was in him too. So he disappeared into the teeming crowd.

    ********************************************************************

    Ganalda Station


    Terrence kept getting bumped around, eliciting grunts, groans, and a few likely bad words from the bustling inhabitants who he got in the way of. Eventually Terrence just stopped saying sorry and tried to move more nimbly to avoid the onrushing herd. But he wasn’t that successful because every few seconds he would pause to peer at an alien being he had never seen before or new treats that caught his eye or a smell that pleased, tickled, or assaulted his nose. The station’s environs were dimly light, the only light coming from orange-red lights interspersed throughout the station that reminded Terrence of fire. It was almost as if there was a great dragon at the heart of the station, powering it with its flames.

    The station was about the size of his father’s starbase, and it even resembled the lily pad look of 216, however this station was much older, much harsher looking on the inside and out. It looked unfriendly, as did many of the people trudging down the promenade. Still, Terrence was unbowed. His parents had taught him to be brave, to be an explorer like them, and if he was going to be a starship captain like his mother would be someday then he needed to act like it.

    The boy weaved through the crowds, moving quickly, expecting at any moment that one, or both, of his parents would swoop down and grab him like a Baneriam hawk.

    His father had given him a few credits to spend and Terrence had blown through them all. He was finishing the last of the icoberry juice he had purchased from a kindly gray furred woman that resembled a werewolf, humming the melody of a song he had caught snatches of being bellowed a quartet of joyful Klingons he had passed on his travels.

    Terrence was intent on draining the last bit of the sweet liquid from the straw when he bumped into what felt like a wall. The boy stumbled back, dropping his empty cup. “I-I’m sorry mister,” he said, looking up as he was struggling to regain his balance.

    Towering above him was a slender man draped in a hooded robe. Just beneath the hood he could see knotty ridges above the man’s eyebrows. The man snarled and spat at him. He raised a hand as if to strike Terrence, but then caught himself.

    “I’m sorry mister,” Terrence said, now with less fear. The man lumbered over him and the youngster gulped back his fading courage. The man’s thick ridged brow cast his eyes in shadow, but Terrence knew he was glaring at him, the eyes as black and pitiless as black holes.

    “Leave human,” the man ordered before turning back to whatever he was doing. He was so intent on it, that it drew Terrence’s curiosity.

    The man was standing at the guardrail, looking over it. Terrence stood beside him. “What are you looking at sir?”

    “Is my Federation Standard inaccurate?” The man snapped. “I told you to leave.”

    “Are you the commander of this station?”

    “What does that have to do with anything?”

    “Then you’re the governor? Mr. Mogh?”

    “Mogh,” the man snorted, “of course not!”

    “Then you can’t tell me what to do,” Terrence rejoined.

    “You little grishnar cat!” The man raised a hand again. Terrence tried to hold his ground, but he shrank as the heavily gloved fist came down. The man pulled back just inches from his face. When Terrence opened his eyes, the man was still peering at him. There was still contempt in his eyes, but also some…admiration. “You are brave…for a human.”

    “Uh, thanks,” he replied. The man was still scary, but there was also something sad about him, like he really needed someone to talk to. “So, what are you doing?”

    “Where are your keepers?” The Klingon demanded.

    “Oh, uh, you mean, my parents?” The man nodded tersely.

    Terrence tensed, remembering them and that were probably looking for him right now, and they would not be pretty steamed. He looked around and then down. “Oh, uh, right there!” He said, a bit too loudly. He covered his mouth and hoped that his parents hadn’t heard them. Good for him they were talking with a muscular graying Klingon, wearing a long black cape over a white furred tunic. He was walking and talking animatedly among a group of Klingons and others, including the nice young Trill ambassador that had journeyed with them to Ganalda.

    “Your sires are down there?” The man demanded.

    “Yes,” Terrence nodded. “My dad is the commander of Starbase 216; my mother serves aboard the Gral.”

    The man mumbled the name of the ship and then he began speaking rapidly to himself in Klingon, so fast that Terrence, who was just learning the language, couldn’t keep up.

    “Are you okay sir?” He asked the man who had turned from him, while still babbling. He hunched over as if gripped in pain.

    The man rounded on him so quickly that Terrence nearly fell over, stumbling backwards. The man’s face jutted close to Terrence, so close that he could smell the stink roiling from both the man’s body and mouth.

    “What did you say your name was?” He demanded.

    “Well, I, uh, didn’t,” Terrence tried not to stammer. “Perhaps I should get back to my parents now sir.”

    “No,” the man hissed. His hand snaked out and wrapped hard around Glover’s bicep, causing him to yelp.

    “Let me go,” he tried to yank free. The man’s fingers dug deeper into his flesh. Terrence bit his lip to keep the tears at bay.

    “Silence son of Samson,” the Klingon ordered, and curiosity and fear battled within Terrence once he heard his father’s name.

    “You know my father?”

    The man shook his head, lost in thought again, “No, no, only by reputation.”

    “Even Klingon warriors know my dad?” Terrence was impressed.

    “I’m no warrior,” pain etched across the man’s face. “That was taken from me, by men like your father.”

    “What do you mean mister?”

    Starfleet,” the man spat the words.

    “Why don’t you like Starfleet?” Terrence asked. “The Federation and Klingons are friends now.”

    The man turned back to him and blinked. “What?”

    Terrence repeated the question.

    “Why, why,” the man stammered. “They…they are…they took…they stole…they’ve…they’ve thwarted…everything!”

    “What do you mean?”

    The man pulled a rifle from beneath his cloak. “Hey, what are you doing?!” Terrence asked.

    “I wish I could say I’m sorry about your parents,” The man said. “It was supposed to be you stripling, but I will not cut short the life of one who will bring honor to the Empire.”

    Terrence didn’t understand what the man meant by that, and right now he didn’t care. The weird man had to be stopped. He had to get help. He turned to run, readying a scream, before he felt a sharp pain at the back of his neck. The boy sank to the ground, just able to turn around to look back at the man as waves of darkness crashed against his consciousness.

    He tried to reach out, he tried to cry out, but the pull of the darkness was too great. The man dragged him to the edge of the guardrail as if he were refuse before setting the rifle against the guardrail.

    “Mogh!” He screamed, “The House of Duras hopes you die well!” He began firing, and the universe turned even more upside down. People began running. The man had inadvertently saved him because if he had been in the same spot where he had been downed, he would surely have been trampled.

    The best Terrence could do was touch the man’s boot before heard the man shouting and other voices.

    “No! No!” He bellowed, breaking the rifle over a knee, and looking around wildly, like a trapped animal. Terrence could hear shouts and footfalls getting louder. The man began thrashing, as if invisible hands were trying grabbing him. He yanked free of them and then glared at Glover before turning to look at the ceiling. “The child is insignificant! You can’t do this! I was so close! The honor of my house must be restored!”

    Terrence blinked as a bright light stabbed his eyes. He threw up his hands automatically. There was a great roaring sound and then he was knocked back by strong winds. He chanced peeking through his fingers.

    He gasped as he saw the man halfway inside a portal that had opened right in front of him. It almost looked like a maelstrom and that the man was being sucked into it. The man was reaching out, clawing air. His eyes were moon-sized with fear.

    Terrence squelched his own fear and pain and forced himself to push against the wind. Each crackle of lightning made him jump. He grabbed onto the guardrail to secure himself and then reached out his free hand to the struggling Klingon. The man tilted his head, a curious expression on his face.

    “Take my hand mister,” Terrence yelled, the wind ripping his voice away from him. “Please!” The man’s eyes were untrusting. “Hurry mister!”

    The Klingon nodded, as if he had talked with himself and decided. He stretched out his hands. Their rough tips touched Terrence’s right before he was devoured.

    “No!” Terrence screamed before the hole folded in on itself so quickly and with such force that it threw him back. His head cracked something hard and unyielding, the pain briefly flaring, before Terrence fell into his own night.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
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  4. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *********************************************************************

    Ganalda Station


    Terrence winced as the light blinded him. He had to blink away the effects for several seconds, his vision resolving around the twin towers of his parents, both with looks of concern. His mother bent down and grabbed him, holding him tight. His father wrapped them both in an embrace.

    It was too much. Terrence began squirming, trying to find his way out. “I think the young one is suffocating,” a deep voice behind his parents. They both reluctantly let him go. It was the graying man in the cape, though he was no longer wearing the cape, and the left shoulder of his furred tunic was singed. It was the governor. Mr. Mogh. Beside that man was a Klingon woman, in a white doctor’s coat and wielding a penlight like a blade.

    “You are quite the brave one, Terrence, son of Samson,” the man intoned. “I can only hope that my own son has as much courage as you.”

    “Don’t you ever run off again like that,” his mother, now sitting on his bed, chided him. A lump formed in Terrence’s throat. He felt shame, guilt, and relief, that he was alive to see his mother’s anger.

    “Son, that man you struck you, he was very dangerous,” his father’s face was still wreathed with concern.

    “Not that dangerous,” the governor snorted. “He failed, as is often the case with the minions of Duras.” The man looked at Terrence. “This assault will be avenged young one.”

    “I don’t care about your blood feuds,” his mother snapped. She jumped off the bed and got in the Klingon’s face. The governor looked amused and then irritated. “What kind of security do you have on this station?”

    “I will find out where the breach was and seal it…personally,” Mogh promised.

    “If you don’t, I will,” his mother promised.

    “Now, Dietra,” his father began.

    “No, Samson,” she cut him off. “I will not allow anyone to attack my son!”

    “Terrence is alright,” his father replied. “Right, Champ?” Terrence nodded vigorously and then winced. He hated wincing. He really wanted to show his mother that he was alright. His mother could get very angry sometimes. And he saw the storm clouds gathered. He didn’t want the governor to be caught in the downpour.

    “Your son was unfortunately a bystander in a long running feud between my house and the House of Duras,” Mogh explained. “It is an internal matter and will be handled internally, on my honor.” The Klingon dipped his head in respect.

    “And we thank you Governor,” his father nodded.

    “Now is not the time to play diplomat,” his mother snorted.

    “Anytime is a good time for diplomacy,” the ambassador glided into the room. The governor glowered at him, but the man ignored it as he moved quickly to Terrence’s bedside. Up close again, “How are you doing young Mr. Glover?”

    “I’m fine Ambassador Odan,” Terrence nodded, and then winced again. “Well, except for this headache sir.”

    The diplomat looked at the medic. The woman explained his condition. From the irritated tone in her voice, Terrence could tell she had repeated the same information more than once.

    “Well, I’m glad it’s only a headache that’s lingering,” Odan replied, his expression sympathetic. He bent down and patted Terrence’s shoulder. “When we’re back aboard the Singleton I’m going to break out the lida I’ve been saving since I left Trill,” the man promised. “It’s been in stasis since and is the freshest in the sector.” His smile was kindly. “It’s just the thing for a headache.”

    “Stasis does not preserve the freshness of every offering, even Trill foodstuffs,” a prim woman Terrence had never seen before was now standing primly in the doorframe. Behind her was Captain Bullock, the Singleton’s skipper. Both were in regular uniforms, not the old kind his parents wore, the red jackets and black pants with the red stripes running down the legs. Terrence couldn’t wait until the day he wore the same uniform.

    The ambassador wasn’t fazed by the woman’s correction. He chuckled instead. “You sure you aren’t just a Vulcan with bobbed ears Captain Shanthi?” The woman glowered in response.

    “Thuosana,” his father was surprised, “what are you doing here?”

    “It’s a long story,” the woman replied, choosing her words carefully. The Al-Kindi had been tracking the would-be assassin.”

    “You were aware of this plot on my life and you didn’t inform the High Council?” Mogh thundered. “Or me?!”

    The woman’s dark eyes flashed, and she set her jaw, “There wasn’t…time.”

    “That’s not good enough,” Mogh snorted.

    “The governor’s right,” his mother rounded on Shanthi. The captain bristled, in response to the challenge.

    “Please, everyone, let’s cool our thrusters,” his father urged. The ambassador agreed.

    Both his mother and Shanthi held their ground, eyeing each other like sinoraptors. Though the captain outranked his mother, Deitra did not care, and while Terrence had been taught that insubordination was a very bad thing, he still was happy that his mother loved him enough to go against one of the principles that were very important to her.

    Maybe the dour captain saw that, so she put up her hands, like she was surrendering. And Terrence just felt in his gut that the captain didn’t give up often. “My apologies,” she said, before looking at Terrence. The woman’s severe mien softened. “There are larger…concerns occurring here that I can’t explain.”

    “This failed assassin is a time traveler,” the Singleton captain spoke up. Terrence was as shocked as everyone.

    Shanthi frowned at the square-jawed man. “How…”

    The other captain smirked, “Granted, my ship isn’t a brand spanking new Renaissance, but we’re not a bunch of slouches either,” Bullock replied. “Whatever kind of portal the attacker use flooded that deck of the station with chroniton particles.” He paused a beat, “Nothing harmful,” he added, winking at Terrence.

    “Temporal device?” Mogh was incredulous.

    “Captain Bullock,” Shanthi shook her head. “You shouldn’t have done that,” she said, closing her eyes. “If time travel isn’t headache inducing enough, now Temporal Investigations is going to get more involved.” She paused and looked at each person in the room. “Welcome to the party,” she replied with slightly upturned lips that looked like a smile, but conveyed no joy or warmth.

    “I-I don’t understand,” Terrence forced himself to speak, his cheeks hot as his voice cracked from fear. None of this made sense. Time travel? Sure, he had heard about it, but he hadn’t really believed it.

    And the mean Klingon, Terrence knew he wanted to murder the governor, but it also seemed like he wanted to kill Terrence too, but why? He was just a kid. Maybe he was just imagining that part of it, because how would the Klingon even know who he was?

    That answer calmed him down somewhat, but he noticed that everyone was now looking at him while he had his moment. It reminded him of the Klingon fighting against invisible hands for a second.

    His cheeks warmed, and he felt so small he wanted to hide like the voles he had seen scampering across the station. But Terrence forced himself not to pull the cover over his head. Instead he thrust his chin out, prompting a chuckle from the Klingon and an encouraging nod from his mother. He asked the question that was most pressing. “What’s going on?”

    Shanthi pursed her lips, and nodded, “I wish I knew young man. I wish I knew.”

    **************************************************************



    Golana

    2374



    The beam dropped him to the hard ground. His armor barely held against several vicious kicks to his side. “For once, can someone do as their told!” His assailant was snarling.

    Toral clutched his hurting side and slowly got to his feet. He ripped his disruptor out of its holster and aimed it squarely at the human. Or what he thought was a human. The man’s face was so ruined he couldn’t be certain. His face looked as dappled and pitted as a Suliban’s. And those damnable creatures were as protean as Changelings. So Toral couldn’t be certain who stood before him, but it didn’t matter nonetheless.

    “How dare you touch me!” the Klingon snapped. “I am the son of Duras!”

    The other man’s pique had evaporated and now he was chuckling, his lack of fear enraging Toral. “Yes, yes, the heir to the Great House of Duras, the one-true Chancellor of the Klingon Empire, yadda, yadda,” the man’s laughter grew. “I’ve heard it all before. And it means nothing. Your father, who never claimed you, is dead. Your aunts, who abandoned you, are dead. Your father’s rival is Chancellor and your father’s murderer spared your life.” The man shook his head. “You were too unremarkable to kill. Pathetic.”

    “I’ve had enough of you human,” Toral spat. He pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He pulled several more times and there was no sweet whine of red death. He cursed in frustration.

    “You fool,” the human said. “The same transporter beam I used to bring you back to this time I also used to deactivate your disruptor.”

    “I don’t need a gun to end your life human,” Toral grinned as he pulled his d’k tahg free. The two smaller secondary blades sprang out. He tossed the blade from hand to hand, toying with the man. He wanted him to see full well what was in store for him. It had been far too long since the blade had tasted blood. And Toral looked forward to giving his blade its fill of the arrogant human.

    Still the man was unfazed. “The Barge of the Dead was calling for you when I found you. You had lost everything. You had been humiliated once again by Worf, bested by a doddering Kor, the few supporters you had left, left you behind. I gave you a chance, a shot at redemption. All you had to do was eliminate the target, but you, and your precious, stupid Klingon pride stayed your hand.”

    Toral approached slowly, savoring the second the blade met flesh. “I am many things, but I will kill no child before they can wield a blade. That whelp’s battles remain in his future. He deserves to right to die as a warrior. The same right I am now according you.”

    The man smirked. “How can an honorless, unblooded k’pekt like you grant anyone something you lack?”

    That was it! “Mevyap!” The Klingon screamed with all his rage as he charged the man. The human moved quickly, sidestepping him. He wasn’t even attempting to defend himself. It was as if the man was toying with him, which only enraged Toral more.

    Toral turned quickly, jabbing air; the man had only been there seconds before. “What?” He cursed. The man had moved out of his reach.

    “You will die this day,” Toral promised as he advanced. The man wasn’t running, he wasn’t preparing to defend himself. His hands were at his sides.

    “No, I will not die,” the man replied, “and unfortunately neither will you. I wanted to wipe this stain off my record, but you’ve been given a reprieve. The Herald doesn’t like unnecessary bloodshed.”

    PemeQ to you and your Herald!” Toral kept advancing. The man yawned. “I’ll cut out your tongue!”

    “For such a fearsome warrior you really should pay more attention to your surroundings,” the man said.

    “What?” Toral slowed, confused by the man’s response. Too late he heard a rustling behind him and dozens of needles sliced into his mind. Lightning filled his vision before coursing through his body. He had never experienced such agony before he had witnessed it, from the Lethean who had once been in his employ.

    Seems like he wasn’t the only one to hire them. The human approached him. It was all that Toral could do to remain standing. The human stayed just out of reach and that gave the son of Duras some comfort at least. He hadn’t completely been defanged in the human’s estimation.

    “You had better kill me,” he got out, each word torture.

    “You won’t remember any of this,” the human replied. “Once we are done here, you won’t recall anything outside of a very severe headache, which I’m sure you will attribute to another tussle with a barrel of bloodwine. You have nothing else better to do than drown your sorrows,” the man replied. “Since you’ve been sitting out the war against the Dominion, unworthy even of commanding a starship.”

    Toral mustered his strength and launched forward, breaking free of the Lethean’s clutches. It took the human by surprise and for once he was too slow. Toral tackled, more like fell, on top of the stunned man. Marshalling all his strength, he wrapped his hands around the man’s throat.

    “What…were you saying…khest’n?” He gloated as the man’s corrugated face turned deathly pale and accented with blue. He pounded against Toral’s back, his blows even connecting with the warrior’s face. All that got him was a grunt.

    Toral was in a place beyond physical pain. His heart hurt, it burned like Kri’stak, and he poured all that hatred into his death grip.

    He was more than what his father, his aunts, Worf, Gowron, Kor, the Trill, or this human petaQ thought of him. He would prove it. He would show them all. And for those that remained on this coil, his face would be the last they would see. The human’s eyes were bulging, his veins popping in his neck, and around his temples. Toral felt good being in control again.

    The man continued trying to speak. Toral eased up a little. “Jatlh!” The warrior ordered.

    The human sucked in several gulps of air before answering. He shook his head, his eyes dark and merciless. “Back…to the drawing board.”

    The lighting sparked again turning Toral’s universe white.

    *********************************************************************
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
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  5. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *********************************************************************

    Klingon Empire

    2404


    Korath stood up slowly from the mat, confusion and anger warring in his eyes. “What is the meaning of this?! Who is this human son and why have you brought him here?” His hands clenched, and the scientist wasn’t sure if he wanted to throttle his son or the interloper.

    The room was heavy with the scent of var’hama candles, the only illumination in the room. But even in such wan light and the cloak covering his head and most of his face that the man was formidable and possessed an almost Klingon-like confidence. Beyond that there was something familiar about this human. Korath couldn’t put his finger on it just yet but he was certain he had met or seen this human before.

    Any other time the curious human would pique his curiosity, but now he had more pressing concerns. “I know about the Hegh’bat,” the human said.

    “Son, have you told this outsider about our ways?”

    “No father,” his son looked down, momentarily with shame, before his Klingon blood began pumping again. “This human is a warrior, a member of the House of Joroq.”

    “Impossible,” Korath shook his head.

    In response the man pulled out a mek’leth from beneath his cloak. Korath grinned. He drew his own blade.

    He had intended to die today anyway, with ritual suicide to restore his family’s honor and his place in Sto’Vo’Kor, but to fall in combat would be an even better end.

    “This human says he can restore our honor, regain your seat on the High Council back.”

    Unfortunately, the man didn’t attack him. Instead he presented the mek’leth to him. Korath snatched it and then examined it, grunting in surprise when he saw the official crest of the House of Jodmos.

    “You have a name, human?” He asked after shoving the blade back toward the human’s midsection. He ably took it without nicking himself, a sign that he had some skill with the weapon.

    “Magus,” the man replied.

    “Doesn’t sound like much of a name,” Korath said, tugging on his graying beard. “If I recall, it is another word for wizard, sorcerer in your tongue.”

    The man dipped his head. “I had heard you were one of the foremost minds in the Empire, but I only thought that extended to temporal mechanics.”

    “I know many things human,” Korath rejoined. “Keep that in mind.”

    “Of that I am aware Son of Monak,” Magus replied. “That’s why I am here.”

    “And why are you here?” He demanded.

    “The chrono deflector,” Magus said. “I want you to build another one.”

    The scientist turned from the human and directed his ire at his son. “Son, have you learned nothing from my example to not trust humans?” He glared at the man, trying to make him blink. To his credit, or his foolishness, the other man merely met his gaze.

    “Admiral Janeway made a deal with you, which you…amended,” the human said. “If you hadn’t, the seat she had secured for you would still exist.”

    “How dare you?!” Korath brandished his mek’leth. The human looked bored. “Son, you bring this haD’lbaH into my home to insult me?!”

    “Father, it is not as you suspect,” his son replied.

    His eyes widened with shock. “You dare question my judgment?!”

    “I do not, father,” the younger man said, an edge forming over his words.

    “Then dispatch of this wretch and return to assisting me,” Korath turned from the man. He would tarry no longer with staying in this wretched universe. Final glory awaited.

    “I don’t want the chrono deflector for my use,” the man replied. Korath knelt, keeping his back to the man.

    “So, you serve someone else,” he shrugged.

    “I serve only the cause of peace,” the man answered. Korath laughed at that. He clutched his stomach and let the deep belly laugh roll through him.

    That drawn his attention back to the man. He smiled at his son. “I see why you brought this toruk-doh here, to amuse me before I enter Sto’Vo’Kor,” he nodded. “You honor me son.”

    The enigmatic man nodded respectfully. Before his son spoke, the man interjected. Korath frowned at the disrespect shown his progeny.

    “You and I, we share a common enemy,” the man said.

    “Really?” Korath raised a bushy brow. “Did some Romulan make off with your companion or something?”

    The man’s expression hardened and for the first time, Korath saw the fire in the man’s eyes, a fire he had seen in his own reflection. It was hate. Pure, unrefined, unrestrained, cleansing hatred.

    Korath stood up slowly again, a new appreciation for this mysterious visitor. “And tell me, member of the House of Jodmos, what jagh do we share?” His voice was only half-mocking.

    “The Federation,” the man replied. The scientist took a step back and then looked at his son. The younger Klingon was nodding, a savage smile spreading over his face.

    Sure, Korath had heard of some humans who were outlaws and then there had been that whole Maquis contretemps a couple decades ago, but he had never encountered a human whose antipathy for the Federation was on the level of a Klingon or even a Romulan or Cardassian…until maybe, just now….

    “Why do you despise the Federation?” The scientist’s curiosity had been pricked.

    “There is an old saying on Earth, ‘If God had wanted men to fly he would have given them wings.’”

    “I don’t follow,” Korath looked to his son and the younger man was just as perplexed. The man did not like not knowing things.

    “In the end my reasons don’t matter,” the human said. “I’ve looked at the timeline and with each attempt, I’ve weakened its bonds, but still they hold, still the Federation stands here. With your device, and your…drive to destroy the Federation, that might be the calculus I need.”

    “You are a time traveler?”

    The man smiled. “Of a sort.”

    What did that mean? The scientist wondered. He looked to his son again. The young warrior shrugged. Korath growled at him before turning back to the human. “If you are some sort of time traveler, why do you need my device?”

    “I…have attempted…many times to alter history to dismember the Federation, to curtail even its formation, and I have enlisted many allies…though they all have failed,” the man answered, which really wasn’t much of an answer at all. “There are other factions defending or seeking to manipulate the timescape for their own purposes and thwarted my plans. However, the space-time continuum has been weakened, one more catastrophic temporal event might tip the scales, and I need someone with your genius and obsessive hatred of the Federation to achieve our shared goal.”

    He pulled a data pad from his cloak with such quickness Korath hadn’t even been able to put up his blade in defense. He hated being unprepared. It almost made him want to stab the human. Instead he grabbed the pad. “What are you proposing?” The scientist’s curiosity got the better of him.

    Korath scoured the information quickly, his eyebrows raising. He looked several times from the data to the patient human. Even though he was the empire’s, really the galaxy’s, greatest authority on time travel, he found the data hard to believe. This Magus had somehow discovered a way to deduce the timescape. This technology was beyond even Korath’s abilities.

    “Where did you get this?” He demanded of the human. The man smiled beneath his shadowed eyes.

    “Two centuries from now,” the man replied. “An instrument used by one of the historians of that period who traverse the time stream to observe historical events.”

    “So, you’re some historian?” Korath asked, and then swallowed his credulity to add, “from the future?” It wasn’t as if he didn’t believe in time travel. He had spent far too many years in vain pursuit of trying to get his fellow Klingons and others in its existence, but he wished it weren’t true because he didn’t want to be on this Magus’s hook, but he could only hold off his hungering curiosity for long.

    “I am not,” the man replied. “But I have been there…I’ve been many places…”

    The scientist frowned at the cryptic answer. “You come into my home, ask for my assistance, and yet persist in speaking in riddles.”

    “I can assure you that this is not a game,” Magus replied. The smile was gone now. “There are temporal agents who have interfered with my efforts, attempting to prevent me from doing merely what Janeway is about to do.”

    “Janeway?” Korath’s anger flushed lava beneath his skin. The woman had never told him what she intended to do with the chrono deflector. “What is that petaQ planning to do with my creation?”

    “She’s going to alter the timeline to save several of her crewmates from death…or worse,” Magus replied. “It is a total violation of Starfleet’s vaunted principles. In that I find no fault, but her selfishness will affect the lives of trillions.”

    Korath took a step back. His failure to retrieve his deflector had greater repercussions than embarrassment and the loss of his seat on the Council. The mad admiral would doom them all.

    “Admiral Janeway will alter time itself for her friends,” The taciturn human was now prattling on. “My goals are far more ambitious, but no less noble, and doubly necessary.”

    “Speak plainly human or leave my house!” Korath thought about shoving the pad back at the man, but changed his mind. If he could hold on to it while jettisoning the monologuing human, then he would count that as a victory for however many seconds he had left in this reality before that damnable Janeway changed it.

    “You can continue the ritual and end your life here,” the human nodded, gesturing to the ceremonial candles and special blade that his son would hand to Korath so that he could finish the deed. “It would give you an honorable death and erase some of the humiliation you suffered at the hands of Admiral Janeway,” the man paused, letting that scenario sink in. “You could also let her actions in the Delta Quadrant rewrite history, with the byproduct being that you might not even have been born or created all of your toys. Or you could do what you’ve always wanted to do, use your genius to make the Klingon Empire great again.”

    Korath wasn’t sure what this human, this magician, was selling, but it stirred the blood. “And how do I do that?”

    “Use your chrono deflector to go back in time, a time when the Federation is weaker, and where you can use your knowledge of the future to destroy them.”

    Korath’s eight-chambered heart thudded in his chest. His blood sung to him. It had been something he had long dreamed of, but it was as if the human had plucked those closely guarded thoughts right from his mind. Could his visitor actually be a telepath? Like a Betazoid? He sniffed deeply. For good or ill, the man smelled like an Earther.

    Telepathy among humans was rare, but not nonexistent. Had his foolish son brought a mind thief into his presence? Someone to scrape the bones of his mind, to steal his designs?

    He brandished his blade again. “Just who are you really ‘Magus’?”

    “I’m your salvation,” the man stepped forward, unafraid of the blade. He pulled back his hood. Even in the dim light, Korath could see him clearly. In shock, he dropped the weapon. “You,” he pointed, “I’ve seen you before, in the Hall of Warriors no less!”

    The man smiled. “It’s good to know my reputation precedes me.”

    Korath staggered backward. “What kind of jest is this?! How could you, you of all people want to destroy the Federation?”

    The man’s smile evaporated. “There’s another saying on my planet. ‘Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.’”


    THE END

    ******************************************************************
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018 at 11:18 PM
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  6. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    TIME’S ENEMY

    Orbital Dry Dock Facility

    Earth

    2149



    “I think your choice to command the NX-01 is unwise,” his Vulcan colleague was customarily blunt.

    Commodore Maxwell Forrest’s smile was tight. “You can read minds now Sub-commander?”

    “The Vulcan Space Council is aware of your oft voiced preference for Captain Archer to command the NX-01,” the Vulcan woman replied. “We also are aware that your promotion to the admiralty is imminent and once ensconced you will formally nominate Archer.”

    “And what’s wrong with that?” Captain Jeffries huffed. Forrest motioned for the intense engineer to dial it back. He knew how much effort Matt and his team had put into the NX project and especially the NX-01 and that the man was aware of all the roadblocks the Vulcans had put in their path to hinder, it not outright, end the completion of their space program. Jeffries’s mood certainly wasn’t helped by the bulky, stuffy environmental suits they were all wearing.

    The Vulcan glowered-though she would not have called it that-her eyebrows pinching together. “Archer has displayed a…dismissive regard for rules that could have catastrophic results in space, outside the umbrella of United Earth territory.”

    “For a supposedly unemotional people, you really hold on to grudges,” Jeffries retorted. Forrest didn’t say so, but he agreed with his old friend. “You’re still mad about Archer and A.G. showing up your Advisory Council and proving that the NX-Beta worked. We’re ready for this, and you’re not going to stop us this time.”

    The woman regarded the engineer like he was a new species. “Vulcans do not get ‘mad’,” the woman said frostily. “And it is far from certain how ‘ready’ Earth is to venture out into space. Especially under the command of an…officer with a proven track record of reckless behavior.”

    “Jonathan Archer is one of the finest men I know,” Forrest said, rounding on the Vulcan. “The sacrifices his father made, the effort Jonathan has put into making this project a reality, are to be celebrated and honored, not disparaged.”

    “That is a highly emotional response,” the subcommander replied.

    “We’re human, sue us,” Jeffries shrugged.

    “All the High Command recommends is a steadier hand steering the Enterprise,” the Vulcan replied.

    “I’ve had this conversation before,” Forrest forced himself not to roll his eyes. “With Soval. I like Gardner. Sam’s a good man, but he’s not the right man for the job.”

    “His record says otherwise,” the subcommander riposted.

    “Records capture some things, but not everything,” Forrest simply replied.

    The Vulcan didn’t hide his confusion. “I don’t understand.”

    “That’s the whole damn point,” Jeffries replied. Forrest nodded in agreement. The Vulcan frowned.

    “Captain Tok, of the Yarahla, has sent me a written recommendation supporting Archer’s selection. Jonathan helped install a graviton telescope aboard his vessel, which allowed the ship to view a dark matter nebula. I think that’s a pretty good indication of how Archer will conduct himself as captain of the NX-01.”

    “That remains to be seen,” was all the woman said, or likely could come up with.

    “Now can we get on with this unexpected inspection?” Jeffries asked. “I want to get back to my team. We’ve got a lot of work to do if this thing is going to be space worthy near year.”

    Forrest looked at the Vulcan. The woman reluctantly nodded. The admiral sensed she wanted to continue her putdowns on Archer, but she thankfully showed some restraint. Maybe the subcommander wanted to tour the NX-01 as much as the commodore did.

    The commodore kept looking at the ship, its frame no longer as skeletal as it had been mere months ago. The saucer section had been built and could sustain minimal life support, though the inspection team were donning space suits for this tour. The sub-commander wanted a closer look at the other hull and nacelles of the ship and Starfleet Command was accommodating. UESPA, as did the United Earth government, really wanted Vulcan support for this launch.

    As they made their way through the bustling corridors, the sub-commander tried another tack. “We’ve heard reports of increasing protests to the Enterprise’s maiden flight from Terra Prime extremists.”

    Jeffries huffed again. “They’re a bunch of clowns. Non-factors.”

    “Nonetheless it is an indication that Earth opinion is divided over Starfleet exploration,” the Vulcan replied.

    “I’m confident those reports you’ve been reading also show how most of Earth opinion is behind exploration,” Forrest countered. The Vulcan bristled but continued walking.

    And the commodore kept peeking at the ship as they neared the shuttle bay. Jeffries would be piloting them over to the ship in an inspection pod.

    Forrest was still admiring the sleek frame of the Enterprise when he was nearly knocked to the ground.

    The commodore staggered back as a large, muscular man pushed past him. It took Forrest a few seconds to catch himself. The man who had nearly knocked him over appeared to have come out of the shuttle bay. A thick cloak hung from his shoulders and his hair was wild tangle of gray.

    “Hey,” Jeffries called out, but the other man didn’t turn. Though Forrest wasn’t certain, the hulking figure didn’t strike him as human. The engineer moved toward the stomping man.

    Forrest stopped him. Jeffries reluctantly turned around. “That guy needs a lesson in manners. You’re a commodore for Pete’s sake.”

    Forrest grinned. “I know my rank Matt.” He shrugged. “Look, nothing got bruised, not even my pride. Let’s just get this tour underway.”

    “Alright,” Jeffries begrudgingly conceded.

    “That alright with you subcommander?” The commodore asked her. The woman’s attention was fixed on the back of the man who had bowled into Forrest.

    “Curious,” she muttered, to herself.

    “You know that guy?” Jeffries asked.

    “No,” the woman said, slowly turning to face them. “His scent…was familiar. It belonged to a species I have encountered in the past.” All Forrest got from the hulking man was a strong peaty aroma.

    “And what species is that?” Jeffries inquired.

    The woman shook her head, as if to clear her mind, or her nostrils. “It isn’t germane,” she declared. “That species has not reached this sector of space, and that is fortunate for you.”

    “Now, I’m curious,” Forrest replied. “Is this one of the space horrors the High Command has warned us about.”

    “You have no comprehension of what awaits humanity beyond the stars,” the sub-commander replied.

    “That’s why we could use your help and not just your damn criticism,” Jeffries replied.

    “Matt,” Forrest held up a hand. “That’s unbecoming.”

    “On that we agree Commodore,” the woman’s voice was chilly.

    “Respectfully Sub-commander Taman,” Jeffries began again, his voice muted. “Who did that boor remind you of?”

    Taman answered, “They are called Klingons.”

    “Cling-ons?” Jeffries mouthed the word.

    “Close enough,” the Vulcan replied. “Our first contact with them was in the H’atoria system over a century ago. Subsequent encounters have proven them to be a brutal, warlike, overly emotional species.”

    “The superiority of Vulcan arms has kept the Klingons from encroaching deeply into the Alpha Quadrant, but if the NX-01 stumbles across them, the result will likely not be in Starfleet’s favor.”

    “We’ll just see about that,” Jeffries smirked, crossing his arms over his chest, his expression ready to take on all comers. Forrest couldn’t help but agree with Matt yet again, even though the man was too brusque.

    “I’m confident that Captain Archer and the crew he picks can handle anything the cosmos throws at them,” Forrest said. Taman’s expression pinched, but she didn’t voice her dissent.

    “Hey, commodore, Sub-commander,” Jeffries said. Forrest turned to his friend. The man was pointing out the window. At the Enterprise. “Look at that.”

    Forrest blinked and then rubbed his eyes, thinking that he was gazing at some optical illusion. But now, the ship was shimmering and then it wavered as if it was disappearing before their eyes.

    Jeffries yanked out his communicator. He held it up, close to his mouth, as he barked, “Trip, what’s going on over there?! Trip?!” There was no response.

    They watched in mounting horror as the ship continued wavering and then twisting and contorting as if it were made of liquid.

    “What’s happening?” Forrest asked the stumped Jeffries and then Taman. Both of the woman’s eyebrows were arched, nearly touching her hairline.

    The Enterprise ripped and twisted apart, spewing out debris and its crew seconds before its warp coil exploded. Jeffries threw himself in front of Forrest, knocking the commodore to the deck. Maxwell knew it was to no avail. He had glimpsed the blast wave from the destroyed vessel. It would engulf them all in seconds.

    *******************************************************************

    USS Alcubierre

    Somewhere….


    “Temporal wake holding…barely,” Ensign Loran said, the ship bucking to punctuate the helmswoman’s words.

    “Keep her steady Mahlet,” Captain Voula ordered as several consoles began sparking, activating the fire suppression system.

    “This is more than an incursion,” Commander Meso’Zuma grumbled. “Far worse this time.” The view screen showed the walls of the coruscating temporal wake which had been created by a massive temporal vortex centered in the Sol system.

    Science Officer Jolyon Koll felt the Jem’Hadar’s eyes on his back. He stifled the stirring of his blood and said before the first officer could demand, “The first officer is correct,” he replied. “There has been a temporal explosion…in Sector 001.” There were several audible gasps on the bridge. All of them knew what a temporal explosion wrought. The entire sector, Earth included, no longer existed.

    “It’s created a temporal blast wave that is rapidly expanding out…engulfing other systems at an exponential rate,” Fermin said from the operations console. “It’s ripping through subspace.”

    “We’re too late,” Voula replied.

    “Enlisting others to do our job was insufficient,” Meso’Zuma didn’t pull his punches.

    “I was attempting to preserve the timeline as best as possible, with as little of our taint as we could manage,” Voula countered. “You know that as well as I do.”

    “Of course, captain,” the man conceded to the Vulcan. “The damned Temporal Prime Directive,” the Jem’Hadar grumbled, with obvious displeasure. “And look where adhering that has gotten us.”

    “We’re not out of this yet old friend,” the captain replied. “What’s the status of our temporal shielding?” Voula asked.

    “Like Loran said, we’re holding,” Chief Engineer Padgett replied, “But not for long. If we get hit by that wave all bets are off.”

    “Koll, Padgett, and Fermin, work together to create as stable subspace bubble around the ship,” the captain said. “We’re going to get out of the wake and away from this temporal wave. A subspace isolation field should protect us.”

    “Operative word is ‘should’,” Padgett replied, with far less confidence than the captain. “We’ve never encountered temporal distortion of this magnitude before.”

    “If we exit the temporal wake, we could wind up anywhere in time, or simply be written out of history,” Meso’Zuma countered.

    “Do we have a choice?” Voula asked. “That wave is coming, we can’t be in the middle of it when it reaches us.”

    The first officer paused a beat. “Agreed,” he concurred. He turned to Koll and the others. “You have your orders.”

    The trio worked in concert, each providing calculations quickly, the actions familiar, though the stakes were much higher than any of them had ever experienced.

    The bridge dimmed briefly. “Subspace isolation field is in effect,” Koll informed the captain.

    The woman nodded tightly. “Alright,” she said. “Mahlet, take us out of the temporal wake.”

    Koll glanced at the captain clutching the armrests of her chair. Even Meso’Zuma took a seat at a vacant aft console, and the man always stood. Jolyon activated his seatbelt but still clutched on to the edge of his console.

    He tamped down the tingling fear as the young Cardassian moved the Alcubierre to the edge of the temporal wall. He fingered the emblem of his familial house on his baldric to still his nerves. “Taking us through the wake now,” Loran said.

    The Wells-class vessel rattled, the bridge shuddering as the structural integrity field was taxed. The temporal energies were proving resistant.

    “Lean into it ensign,” Voula said.

    “I’m…trying sir,” Loran replied.

    “Try harder,” Meso’Zuma barked.

    “Temporal wave will be upon us in under a minute,” Fermin called out, with surprising calm for the normally anxious Vaadwaur. Koll looked at the main viewer. A lash of energy was cutting through the time tunnel.

    “Change of plan,” the captain said. “Evasive maneuvers, get us away from that thing.”

    “Aye ma’am,” Loran said.

    “When we get some distance, we’re going to hit that wall at full warp,” the captain replied.

    “The wave is overtaking us,” Padgett informed them, his voice cracking.

    “Damn,” Voula muttered uncharacteristically.

    “Today is a good day to die,” Meso’Zuma took the words from Jolyon’s mouth.

    “No one’s dying,” the captain promise was upended when the blast wave slammed into the Alcubierre, nearly wrenching Koll from his seat. He gritted at the pain as the harness dug into him.

    More consoles erupted in flames, but this time the fire suppression system didn’t come on. Flames and smoke filled the bridge, crackling and burning wires, plastics, and flesh. The ship spun so hard Koll grew dizzy. The ship was tossed back and forth, like a toy boat in a thunderstorm.

    He fumbled to release his seatbelt, to help with the injured, but the mechanism would not unlatch.

    He began coughing, his lungs overtaken by the smoke. The science officer turned to his terminal, to check the status of his station, but the console was dead, as dead as they all were likely to be in seconds.

    Koll pounded his console in frustration, cracking its surface. He hadn’t put much stock in his ancestor’s ways as his father had wanted, but even he had imagined that his final day would have ended far more to his liking, a death that would be worthy of his bloodline.

    He focused all his vexation on the seatbelt clasp, ripping it apart after far too many seconds, cutting his hands in the process. The blood felt good running down his hands. It meant he was still alive. When he surveyed the bridge, he couldn’t the same for everyone.

    He ignored his sore muscles as he took a closer look at Voula. There was a shard of metal sticking through the woman’s chest. Her head was lolling, her eyes sightless.

    Koll closed his eyes and muttered a prayer for her. She had been a good commanding officer. “Meso’Zuma,” he mumbled, turning to the aft console. A bulkhead had fallen over the aft section, and all Jolyon saw was the man’s super polished boots beneath.

    Jolyon quickly made his way around the rest of the bridge, his sadness and anger growing. He had skipped the investigation the helm because it had been unoccupied, and he hadn’t wanted to see whatever stain Loran had been pounded into. But now his curiosity won out.

    He strode to the empty section, scouring the ground for the Cardassian’s corpse. He was heartened when he saw a gray, scaly hand shoot up from behind the console. He ran around the terminal. Loran was trying to use the console for purchase to stand up. Jolyn gently grasped her and helped her too her feat. She hissed at his touch and drew away.

    “It’s me Mahlet,” he replied. “Jolyon.” The woman blinked, her hooded eyes clearing.

    “Jolyon,” she said before collapsing into his arms.

    The woman’s face was discolored by bruises and crisscrossed with cuts, no doubt like Jolyon’s own. He gingerly cradled her in his arms. The ship was coming apart around them. With the ship’s sensors down, he could only guess that Alcubierre had been knocked clear from the temporal wake, somehow surviving the temporal wave, but at the close of the ship itself.

    He didn’t need a computer to tell him that the ship’s structural integrity field was failing. Jolyon could hear the screech and whine of the struts starting to come apart. It was only a matter of time before the ship came apart. And he couldn’t even issue self-destruct or abandon ship orders.

    “Damn,” he said, as he began racing toward the shuttle bay. He ignored the pain of each jolt as his footfalls hit the deck. The deck was trembling, as if the ship was wracked by pain when he reached the shuttle bay.

    Koll placed Loran as carefully as possible into the small Epoch-class shuttle. It would be a tight fit, but he would make it work. He hoped in and immediately activated the ship’s systems. He didn’t have time for a thorough check.

    He even didn’t have time to activate the shuttle bay doors. Jolyon chuckled at the irony of time no longer being a commodity on a timeship.

    Koll charged the shuttle’s weapons and let loose two chroniton torpedoes on the shuttle bay’s doors. What was one more hole in the ship, he thought.

    The science officer was pleased to see a normal starfield outside. They were outside of the temporal wake, but the question was where.

    As Jolyon took the shuttle out of the bay and taken it to full impulse, he was plagued by questions. What had caused the temporal explosion? Who had caused it? They had been on the trail of temporal agents operating in Klingon space, shutting down several of their schemes recently.

    Koll couldn’t help but feel that one of the operatives had slipped through the cracks or escaped the net they had set. He attempted to contact the commission but there was no response. Jolyon suspected that it no longer existed.

    The sensors alerted him that the Alcubierre’s warp core had been compromised. He took a quick look back at the ship before entering the quantum slipstream. There would be time to mourn later. Avenging came first.

    ************************************************************
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
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  7. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ************************************************************

    In the 22nd century….



    Korath guffawed, nearly overcome with the satisfaction of vindication. The chrono-deflector had worked. If only those short-sighted petaQ on the High Council could see him now. His timepod erupted from the swirling energies of the time rift, leaving him two centuries in the past.

    Before he had left, the scientist had already ascertained the best moment to strike. He would destroy the Enterprise NX-01 and thereby kill the Federation in its crib. Without Archer’s meddling the Xindi attack would’ve wiped out Earth, and if not the Xindi, then the provocations of the human augments would’ve resulted in a Klingon invasion, with Archer’s deed of preventing a civil war among his kind as reason to spare the humans.

    And from Earth’s smoking ruins, Korath would insure that the empire moved on to the Romulans next.

    Magus had provided him with a temporal disruptor. He would place it aboard the NX-01 whereby it would de-molecularize the hated vessel by fracturing spacetime, or so the mysterious human claimed. He would sabotage the vessel and then return to his own time, eager to see what a Federation-less galaxy portended for the Klingon Empire.

    He entered a course for Earth, refraining from activating the pod’s cloak, confident that the Starfleet technology of the time could not repel him. If anything, he could walk freely among the humans. They had yet to make first contact with the empire.

    Korath would have to be careful to avoid Vulcans though. Those pointy ears had been thorns in his peoples’ sides since H’atoria.

    As he traveled he thought about his kin. At this point in his familial history, the House of Monak had a seat on the High Council, as they had for centuries. By Korath’s time the family fortunes had waned considerably, and they had long since lost their perch.

    Beyond his experiments, Korath had wanted nothing more than to restore the name of his family, and for the briefest of moments he had. House Korath, arisen from the ashes of House Monak, had been part of the High Council once more.

    Even though Korath had had to deal with a lowly human like Janeway to achieve it, he still took pride in restoring his family’s place in the empire. Yet that same jackal had tricked him, and his rivals hadn’t waited to strip his family of their prize, the ancient wounds inflicted by House Monak upon them had not healed.

    With his timepod he could go anywhere, be anywhere, the scientist surmised. Perhaps after I dispatch of the NX-01, I’ll pay a visit to Janeway’s ancestors, or those of his enemies in the empire….

    Korath was mulling who to kill first when his sensors detected a ship dropping out of warp. Before the Klingon could raise shields, several phaser blasts had stitched across the pod, jostling the scientist.

    “Klingon vessel, you will deactivate your propulsion and weapons systems immediately and prepare for transport,” a harsh voice invaded his communications system. He squinted at the attacking ship. It was a design he had never seen before. It was small and sleek, slightly smaller than his pod. Who was this? And how did they know he was here?

    “Who are you?” Korath demanded.

    “I’m Lt. Jolyon Koll, of the late timeship Alcubierre,” the voice replied. “I’ve been looking for you for a long, long time.”

    “Never heard of you,” the scientist retorted. Flarg! He thought. His Klingon gambit might be over.

    “I’m giving you one chance to surrender,” Koll said. “So, you can stand trial before the Temporal Integrity Commission for crimes against time.”

    “I would rather die!” Korath declared.

    “Suit yourself,” Koll shot back. The Klingon’s sensors detected the other ship’s weapons. He noted that the ship was well-armed and had both transwarp and a quantum slipstream drive. He couldn’t outfight or outrun this vessel. What he wouldn’t give to get his hands on that ship.

    “I do not recognize the authority of your commission!” He said, stalling for time. “I’ve never even heard of it.”

    “That’s because it didn’t exist during your time,” Koll replied. “But it still maintains jurisdiction over securing the timeline and to repair major infractions.”

    “And what have I done that’s so wrong?” Korath said.

    “The list is truly too long,” the other man replied. “It will take years to repair all the damage you’ve done to the timestream.”

    “I have one more knot left to cut,” Korath crowed, slamming the activation button for the chrono deflector. The device, attached to the top of his ship spread out quickly, engulfing the shuttle, trapping it within a time rift before his unsuspecting opponent could react.

    “Ha,” Korath laughed as he watched the ship struggling to break free as it was being pulled through time. The scientist hadn’t even checked where he was sending the ship. Just so long as it was away from him.

    The shuttle sank deeper into the void. Korath wished there had been time to break open a flagon of bloodwine to watch the drowning vessel. He would’ve toasted another vanquished foe.

    Beyond the void a strong tractor beam speared his vehicle, rocking him. It began pulling him toward the rift. “No, no, no,” Korath shook his head, his long strands smacking against his face. He cut off the chrono deflector beam, but the rift remained open.

    “Flarg!” The man spat. The pod was drawing closer, the rift looking more and more like the mouth of a hungry saber bear.

    He racked his brain for a solution, pushing away his concern. He fired at the beam, but it held, his disruptors having little effect. Korath cursed again. He could see the other side of the void and the starship was pulling him in.

    If he couldn’t break the beam, he would have to seal the rift. “Antitachyon pulse,” the scientist muttered. The pulse would seal the rift!

    Korath put in the necessary calculations to generate the pulse, but he wasn’t moving fast enough. “Great Bird,” he breathed as he peered into the other side. His opponent was activating his transwarp drive.

    He was going to pull Korath into the gash even at the potential cost of his life. He admired this Koll even as he despised him for thwarting his glory. The ship was touching the lips of the rift now. Reenergized, Korath mounted a new attack on the ship with quantum torpedoes, striking furiously, and causing the tractor beam to waver. He took advantage to push his propulsion in reverse. He was heartened that the other ship was giving some. The tug-of-war stopped midway between the rift.

    “This is unacceptable,” the scientist said. He unleashed the one transphasic torpedo he had. Korath threw up his hands, to cover his eyes as the white light from the explosion filled the cockpit. Once his vision had returned to normal, he gazed at his handiwork. The other ship was listing beyond the void.

    “Today is a good day to die,” Korath gloated as he generated the pulse. He was still laughing as the transporter beam took hold.


    THE END

    *****************************************************************
     
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  8. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    THE ROMULAN PRIZE


    Hall of State

    Romulus

    2159


    The Proconsul’s gaze blazed like Eisn. The First Consul didn’t blink. She had withstood the man’s intense scrutiny, among other things, many times before. “If you weren’t aware we already are in one war,” he groused.

    “A war we are losing,” the First Consul rejoined.

    A look of fear flashed quickly across the man’s face, dousing his anger. “It would be unwise to voice such opinions.”

    “It’s not an opinion, and you know it,” she countered. “And this isn’t the Senate floor and our conversation is not being broadcast on the Central Information Net.”

    The man’s smile was slight. “You understand it isn’t the public I am concerned about.”

    “After all the conversations…among other things…that have taken place between us in this office, the Tal Shiar or the Tal Arcani would’ve doubtlessly had us arrested or blackmailed at this point if they were eavesdropping.”

    “Perhaps we are boring,” the man’s smile grew.

    “Speak for yourself,” the woman smirked.

    The proconsul stroked his neatly tripped beard. “We merely haven’t presented a threat to them…yet.”

    “What I’m proposing will not threaten the Empire. It could save us,” the First Consul pressed.

    “That’s what you said to convince the praetor to accede to that crazy gambit of yours with the Klingons,” the man shook his head, his tone disparaging. “The idea of allying with those savages…” he spat. Instantly a Reman emerged from the shadows, a towel in hand to wipe the spittle from the floor. And just as quickly, the pale wraith returned to the darkness of the dimly lit room. The only light in the room was provided by strategically placed braziers. The First Consul paused a moment to enjoy the crackling of the flames.

    “It was logical,” she began.

    The proconsul crowed, “Now you sound like the Vulcans,” he taunted.

    “It was logical,” she repeated, with force, “The Klingons already had a tense relationship with Earth. They blamed the humans for that massive viral outbreak several years ago, its aftermath is still roiling their society. Certain factions among their empire are very amenable to alliance, but the chancellor’s appointed diplomat was recalcitrant.”

    “There’s few worse stings than denied glory,” the proconsul mocked.

    “Don’t,” she warned, her voice as chill as a Reman night.

    “I never do,” the man’s voice turned just as cold. “To be blunt, you failed to bring the Klingons into the war on our side, and now this mission you’ve concocted could turn them into enemies instead of spectators.”

    “If you had been there, if you had seen the artifact yourself you would know that this is the right thing, the absolute thing we must do,” the woman spoke quickly, her passion starting to get the better of her. Normally, with the proconsul, that was a good thing, but now she knew that she was risking what little credibility she had, and putting the proconsul’s career and life at risk, so her heightened emotions were a liability. But she couldn’t help herself.

    “I know what I saw, it was a teral’n,” she continued, “The Debrune Teral’n!”

    “Impossible,” the proconsul said, though his voice had lost force. The man said the words but didn’t really want to believe them. “It was lost to our people, centuries ago, during the Sundering, before Worldfall.”

    “Yes, the great symbol of our past and our future, given by Surak to our ancestors, an acknowledgement that his foolish logic could not dampen the fire in our hearts,” the First Consul said, repeating her father’s words the first time he had told her of the Sundering. “The Teral’n was a symbol of all that made us who we were and are, unconquerable and indomitable in spirit.” Many replicas had been made of the fabled trident, several used by usurpers over the centuries, but the original had been lost to time, until now.

    “The mad Vulcan at least was wise enough to give us a weapon, a symbolic gesture to our forebears that he wished for them to be able to defend themselves in the unforgiving space beyond Vulcan,” the proconsul added.

    “Just think what recovering the Teral’n would do for our people,” the First Consul replied, “Especially now, when the war is in a stalemate, and the spirits of some of our people are flagging.”

    “Someone has expressed such sentiments to you,” the proconsul’s eyebrows knit together. He looked around conspiratorially. “Who was it?”

    “It doesn’t matter,” the First Consul dismissed the man’s paranoia, perhaps foolishly so. “If you presented the Teral’n to the praetor your succession would be all but assured.”

    “And you would allow me to take credit for this?” The man, to his credit, was disbelieving.

    “Are we not a package deal?” The First Consul smirked.

    The man matched the gesture. “My wife would raise objections to that.”

    The woman laughed, “Perhaps so, but the prospect of being the wife of the next praetor would salve any injured egos or douse any jealous embers.”

    The proconsul’s smile grew sad. “You know so much about the workings of government and the machinations of empire, but so little about the heart.”

    “I don’t want your heart,” the First Consul riposted.

    “Oh?” The proconsul’s expression turned lustful. “And just what do you want?” The tall, fit man leaned forward in his chair, his violet tunic pulling tight over his broad chest.

    “There’s no time for that…now,” the woman said to the man’s disappointment. She kept her disappointment out of her voice. “First, you must convince the praetor to retrieve the Teral’n.”

    “No,” the man sat back in his chair.

    “Excuse me?” She was aghast.

    “The praetor will learn of this once I am presenting the teral’n to him, on the floor of the Senate,” the man stated, his voice brooking no compromise. “That way he can’t upend our plans and secure the artifact himself. Further, if this fails, it won’t be my neck on the line.”

    “Understood,” the woman replied. She didn’t like the idea of risking the career it had taken decades to assiduously build, but her commitment to the empire trumped her self-preservation. It was even better that her patriotism meshed well with her ambition this time.

    “And I have the perfect ship for you,” the proconsul said after a moment, “The Odaus.”

    “Why that vessel?” The First Consul was suspicious.

    “The commanding officer is Marcella, daughter of Marius,” The proconsul explained. She smiled at the thought of the old cantankerous precept. He had been one of her instructors at the Collegium of Ancient Warfare.

    “One of the Old-Line families,” the woman nodded. “Her husband is Valens, the Vice Proconsul,” her eyes gleamed at the realization. The Proconsul grinned. “Why would you give this man such an honor, something he would use to unseat you?”

    “If this goes well, I will be Praetor and he will be a loyal proconsul,” the man replied. “And if it doesn’t, I remove a rival.” He paused. “And an obstacle to your ascension,” the man added.

    The First Consul only believed part of what her lover had told her, as usual. If her gambit failed, the only ascension for her would be removal from the mortal coil.

    *****************************************************************

    ChR Odaus

    Ementior system




    The centurion wore his customary scowl. “Since we have yet to plant our flag on Earth, it makes little sense to provoke the Klingons.”

    Commander Marcella leaned forward in her chair and smiled at the graying man. “In all the years I’ve known you Decimus you’ve never been hesitant to draw blood.” The centurion stood stiffly was at her side. The other bridge officers were quietly attending their duties at their stations on the circular bridge. They knew that once the grizzled thrai got worked up there was nothing to be done except weather the storm.

    The only bridge member not fazed by the tempestuous centurion was Major Vashta. The lithe Tal Shiar operative didn’t show much emotion and didn’t even blink at Decimus’s blusteriness. In fact, Marcella was certain that the woman’s hardened gaze could melt duranium. She stood in the aft section of the ship, beside an empty console. She held her hands behind her back, within easy reach of either the disruptor or honor blade both at his hips. More than one Tal Shiar agent had expired due to ‘accidents’ among the Imperial Fleet vessels they oversaw.

    The commander thought it ironic that Tal Shiar agents still carried the ceremonial blades. She thought they had given up their devotion to their families, as well as any concept of personal honor, when they joined the ranks of the dreaded and despised Tal Shiar.

    “And I’m not now,” the burly Decimus grumbled as he glared at her, though Marcella knew there was no malice behind the man’s eyes. He had served with her father, and now he served her. He had become her mentor and strongest supporter in the Fleet. He had even rejoined the Fleet to be at her side for her first command. “We should be fighting our way to the Sol Sector instead of going on this akaana boar hunt.”

    “Patience old friend,” Marcella cautioned. Privately she harbored the same concerns as Decimus. But she had been given a commandment, from the First Consul no less, and on the honor of her bloodline, she would accomplish her mission or die in the attempt. Vashta had delivered the message with the First Consul’s imprimatur, which Decimus had verified. The high official had sent the Tal Shiar agent to ensure that Marcella, or whoever was left to avenge her death if Marcella fell, would carry out the woman’s orders.

    “This…mission,” Decimus was still grousing, “Sounds like a wild hlai hunt.”

    “The First Consul wouldn’t risk her reputation, or life, to risk a war with the Klingons if she didn’t believe the Klingons possessed the Debrune Teral’n.”

    “How is that even possible?” Decimus countered. “How did they get their paws on it?”

    “Perhaps they recovered it from an ancient wreckage,” Marcella shrugged. “Or maybe it was ancient Klingons that waylaid the vessel carrying the Teral’n.

    “Harrumph,” The centurion snorted. “No way any Romulan could be bested by Klingons.”

    “Remember that they aren’t above using deception,” Marcella smile was ghostly. “Not as honorable as we.”

    “Was there any visual confirmation of the Debrune Teral’n?” Her old friend asked. She knew that he knew the answers to his questions, but he was doing it allay any questions that might be nesting in the minds of the bridge crew, and they in turn would relay the information to the rest of the crew.

    “The First Consul wasn’t able to record an image of the artifact, though she did plant a tracking device on the Klingon ambassador’s ship,” Vashta replied, her expression and intonation eerily robotic. It was much different than the arrogance of most of the Tal Shiar Marcella had encountered before.

    “All we have to go on is the replicas made over the years,” the commander replied. “Operations officer,” Marcella ordered without looking at the man. “Activate the main viewer.” The man quickly complied. The oval shaped main viewer at the bridge’s prow shifted from the streaking starscape to a black screen. “Bring up the information compiled on the Teral’n.”

    A long, bronze metallic staff topped by a trident. Every good student knew that the two side blades retracted. “Sublieutenant Jalad, would you care to enlighten us about the history of the Teral’n?” It really wasn’t a request.

    The younger officer loudly cleared his throat, prompting both Marcella and Decimus to share a look and smiles.

    The lanky weapons officer stepped away from his terminal to stand in front of the commander. He gave her a stiffed armed salute before replying. “The Teral’n was entrusted to Archpriest Debrune at the insistence of the Ship-Clans who agreed to determine who would lead once they reached their destination. At that point the decision would be made who would wield the Teral’n. The Archpriest was politically neutral and therefore chosen to ferry the revered artifact.

    Unfortunately, the ship bearing the artifact was lost in the Trianguli system, after being waylaid by a hostile species.”

    “Very good Sublieutenant,” Marcella nodded with approval. She expected anyone serving on her bridge to be well versed about the history of their people. “Resume your post.”

    The obviously relieved man hurried back to his console. “Antecenturion Vrina, anything you care to add?”

    The sharp dark-hued woman left the navigation station to take the spot just vacated by Jalad. “Commander, the loss of the Teral’n led to a long period of internecine struggle after Worldfall until the Star Empire was founded. Once the empire had begun to expand out to the stars, one of the imperatives of the early explorers was the recovery of the Teral’n. This desire for completeness was easily manipulated by several usurpers who returned from their journeys with fake teral’ns.”

    “Excellent Antecenturion,” the commander said. She glanced at Decimus who nodded with approval. Vrina turned sharply on her heels after she was dismissed.

    “Lt. Lhair, how were the dupes exposed?” Marcella asked. After saluting her, the russet-haired science officer turned toward the main viewer. “Magnify screen,” she ordered. The helm officer refocused the image per Lhair’s instructions. “Stop,” she said. “There commander.” The woman pointed at the signature scored into the otherwise burnished metal. “The mark of Surak…or rather a poor approximation of it.”

    “None of the false teral’ns withstood quantum dating,” the science officer concluded.

    “We don’t have any scans of this alleged Debrune Teral’n that the Klingon possess,” Decimus pointed out.

    “That would make things too easy,” Marcella smiled. “Thank you, Lieutenant.” The red-haired woman nodded before retaking her terminal. The commander turned back to the centurion. “The First Consul was able to place a tracking device on the Klingon vessel. Fortune smiles on us, because the Klingon ambassador has taken a circuitous route back to their empire. The ship is currently in the Typhon Expanse.”

    “It’s holding there….” Marcella added, “Curious.”

    “I find it more curious that we have been taken away from the front to deal with this issue at all,” Decimus said. He added, sotto voce, “This sounds like nothing more than the First Consul saving face, for her failure to forge a pact with the Klingons.”

    “I don’t disagree,” the commander replied quietly. “This could be a mission of revenge…or one meant to weaken the position of Valens, her immediate superior.”

    “It is very curious that Odaus was chosen for this mission,” the centurion added.

    “You don’t think our sterling combat record alone secured the honor?” Marcella teased. The older man scowled, before grunting.

    “Even you aren’t that good…Commander,” Decimus retorted. Marcella chuckled. “I’ve never been a fan of these political games,” the centurion snorted. “That’s why I came back, to watch your back.”

    Marcella smiled. “Which I appreciate old friend.” She lowered her voice. “But let’s consider this an opportunity for advancement. I could be languishing in some Imperial Fleet office, or worse yet,” she shuddered, “a planet bound position at the Senate. But this mission provides me, us, and opportunity for bring great glory to the empire and would be the best gift I can give you once you have returned to retirement.” The commander was pleased to see that calmed the old set’leth down a bit.

    The centurion resumed his position at her side, at full attention. His hand on the gleaming hilt of his honor blade, Decimus began barking out orders. They had served together so long the centurion could read her thoughts it seemed. After she heard a shift in the engines through the deck plates, the commander ordered that the main viewer shift back to the starfield.

    She leaned forward in her seat, on the edge, almost about to tip over. Her blood was quickening as she thought of the chase. The Ementior system was near the expanse.

    The First Consul had placed a tracking device on the ambassador’s ship. The cloaking device should hide their entrance into Klingon space and keep Klingon forces unaware of their presence until they were upon their prey. And if things went according to plan, the consul’s Klingon colluders would help convince authorities would just think the ship experienced an unfortunate warp breach, or at worse was accosted by hostile Kinshaya, Kreel, or Xarantine.

    If things went right, the commander repeated to herself.

    ******************************************************************
     
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  9. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ******************************************************************

    IKS Tran’nuc

    Typhon sector


    It only took seconds being released from the transporter beam for Captain Ortiz’s face to contort. Lt. Commander Andrea Rocha bit down on her lip to stop from smiling. “Need I remind you sir that the Vulcan Consulate recommended a nasal numbing agent? I took my injection.”

    “No,” Ortiz was chagrined. “You don’t need to remind me.”

    Rocha couldn’t hold a straight face. “Well, it smells rather earthy, a peaty aroma.” The captain grunted before stepping off the transporter pad. The mountainous figure awaiting them threw his arms wide. “Welcome Captain Gustavo Ortiz, son of Eduardo,” the white-haired Klingon wrapped his large hand around the captain’s and excitedly shook the human’s-who was far from a wilting flower himself-hand. Rocha was regretting that once the ambassador was done it would be her turn next. And then, suddenly, it was. The large, hairy man was standing in front of her, and Andrea felt suddenly, and irrationally, small. Up close to the ambassador, the transporter room’s odor was magnified, and it barely overlaid the man’s unwashed body and the food and drink he had recently consumed, some of which was spattered on the man’s thick ceremonial cloak and the leather tunic stretched across his broad chest.

    “Commander Andrea Rocha,” the diplomat grinned. “Daughter of Xabier and Carmo, both noted warriors.” Rocha nodded, impressed that the man had done his homework. His opinion of the Klingon elevated.

    “You honor us Ambassador K’Dhan,” Ortiz replied, in his best command voice, one that automatically made Andrea stand at attention. “It is not every day that we Earthlings are in the presence of such luminaries as the Liberator of Galorda Prime.”

    “Now, it is you that honors me,” K’Dhan’s smile was so wide that Rocha thought it would split the man’s hirsute face. “I did not know that that tales of that little adventure of my long-gone youth had reached Earth.”

    “That and much more,” Ortiz replied. “That’s why Earth Command knows that you are a man who respects honor.”

    “I am,” the ambassador gave a big nod.

    “And that you don’t like enemies who don’t reveal themselves,” the captain added.

    The ambassador’s thick eyebrows knit together. Andrea could tell that the wily old man knew where Ortiz was leading him.

    “We have plenty of time for talk,” the Klingon crowed. “First, Karagh, abeh!” He saw they that the Klingonese wasn’t translated. “Let’s eat!” He added in Earth Basic.

    Ortiz began to press his point, but K’Dhan turned from him and clapped Andrea so hard on the back, the woman thought her lungs would hit the floor before she did. The Klingon and the captain helped steady her.

    “Are you alright Commander?” Ortiz asked. Rocha nodded, not quite able to speak.

    “My apologies,” K’Dhan said. “I forget my own strength.”

    **********************************************************************

    S.S. Sloane

    Typhon sector


    “How long you think they’ve been over there?” Helmswoman Marceau asked, before biting her nails again.

    “Too damn long,” grumbled Lt. Spano. The chief engineer was sitting-barely-in the command chair. The man was tense, his jumpsuit bunching up over his muscular chest and arms.

    “Come on now Vincenzo,” Lt. Penda Dryer needled, “You really got to let your paranoia about the Klingons go. The Romulans are the real enemy.” Her words prompted her to look back down at her tactical console. They were too close to Romulan space for her taste, and who knew if some of their warships weren’t lurking around them right now, sheathed within by their invisibility technology. Dryer had the ship’s quantum beacons and other sensors scouring the expanse around them, looking for any sign they weren’t alone. Penda nearly jumped at every energy distortion detected, but further investigation had borne no rotten fruit.

    “So is Earth Command, ergo, our mission,” Spano retorted. “If things do get hairy, I need to be in the engine room where I can really contribute.”

    “Spoken like a true second officer,” Dryer quipped. Spano couldn’t help but smile.

    “Ha, very funny,” the engineer replied. The two officers hadn’t gotten along at first, but over the years had formed a solid bond.

    “You two need some privacy to hug it out?” Science Officer Lao shifted in her seat to look at both officers, her smile askew.

    “Everyone’s a comedian today,” Spano threw up his hands and sighed heavily.

    “I think the Klingons are dangerous enough, without worrying about the Romulans now,” Marceau opined. “It wasn’t that long ago that the Klingons were threatening war over that Augment thing.”

    “A war averted by Captain Archer and the NX-01,” Dryer pointed out.

    “The NX-class,” Spano’s voice lowered, his eyes took on a faraway cast. “What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on one of their warp drives.”

    “Hey, the NX might be the new shiny toy for Starfleet, but I’ll take a reliable Intrepid like Sloane anyway,” Dryer said.

    “Here, here,” piped up Communications Officer Levenson.

    “Who asked you?” Spano groused. Levenson merely smiled, taking the man’s prickliness in stride.

    “Clarice is right,” Dryer said out of the side of her mouth while checking her terminal’s chronometer again. “They have been over there a long time.”

    “Now who’s getting antsy?” Spano asked. “You just are still steamed that the captain decided to limit the away party to just him and XO Rocha. Penda knew she shouldn’t have taken it personally, and he also knew that both Ortiz and Rocha could handle themselves. She had fought side-by-side with both officers before against Nausicaan raiders and Orion slavers. But still, she felt as out of sorts as Spano did. She was the ship’s chief armory and security officer and protecting the crew, chief among them the captain, was one of her main duties.

    “Danyel, hail the Klingon vessel,” Spano ordered.

    The man turned back toward the engineer. “You sure you want to do that sir?”

    “Didn’t I just request it?” The engineer curtly replied.

    “The captain did tell us he would contact us,” Levenson pushed back. “And that we were only supposed to hail the Tran’nuc if the away team missed the regularly scheduled check-in.”

    “Danyel does have a point,” Dryer said.

    “Your inquiring could be mistaken for concern, or even worse fear, from the Klingons,” Lao reentered the discussion. “That would weaken the captain’s negotiating position.”

    Spano glared at the woman, grunted loudly, and then said, “Belay that order Mr. Levenson.”

    The communications officer smiled and nodded at Lao. “Absolutely sir.”

    The engineer forced himself to sit back in the seat. Penda still saw that the man was anxiously gripping the armrests. “Everyone, stay frosty. We’re too far away from home and I just want to get back home.”

    Dryer nodded, as did several other bridge officers. For once, Spano had said something no one disputed.

    ******************************************************************

    ChR Odaus under cloak

    Typhon Sector


    “This has suddenly gotten more interesting,” Decimus opined, a predatory grin spreading across his face. As always, the man was at her side, though his attention was on the main viewer.

    “You have a curious definition of ‘interesting’”, Marcella frowned. There was an Earth ship in synchronous orbit with the Klingon battle cruiser. “This makes our job harder.”

    “And greatens the risk of detection,” Major Vashta added. The Klingon ship was a D4-class, large, with a long neck, a bulbous primary hull, and its steel gray hull was pitted and scarred by disruptor blasts. Marcella knew from its appearance that it’s crew were experienced warriors who had fought and survived many battles. The Starfleet vessel had a more pristine appearance, but the commander would not underestimate its crew. Klingons preferred to display their battle scars. Humans, by their deceitful nature, hid their formidability. The Starfleet vessel was of the Intrepid line, with the tips of its long, twin nacelles overhanging its saucer. A worthy challenge even if it wasn’t one of the newer, more capable NX-class.

    “Correct,” the centurion replied. “However, this might present an opportunity to do what the First Consul’s diplomacy could not.”

    “What do you mean old friend?” The commander inquired.

    “Earth’s Starfleet has provided us with the perfect patsy,” Decimus answered. “With both the smoking ruins of the battle cruiser and a Starfleet vessel even the Klingons could put together that both ships destroyed each other. Seeing the debris, they likely wouldn’t even do a rudimentary investigation.”

    “Ah,” Marcella sat back in her chair. “That would be beneficial to our cause.”

    “And it might even sway the Klingon High Council to ally with us,” Decimus added. “Even our dear friend from the Tal Shiar can’t argue with that logic.”

    Marcella looked at the stoic operative. “And what say you Major?”

    Vashta glanced at the commander before focusing on Decimus. “Logic is another curious word, especially from one who has evidenced such disdain for our Vulcan kinsmen,” the Tal Shiar replied. “Be that as it may, I concur with the reasoning. If we destroy both vessels, and secure the artifact, it will reflect well for all of us.”

    “I knew you and Decimus would see eye to eye eventually,” Marcella smirked. “Now we just got to figure out how to kill two mogari with one stone.”

    Decimus patted her shoulder. “I have utmost confidence you will achieve our aims.”

    “Thanks,” was all the commander said, her mind already at work.

    *********************************************************************
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
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  10. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *************************************************************************************************
    IKS Tran’nuc

    Trophy Room


    Commander Rocha was glad that the dinner was over. She hadn’t partaken from much of the offerings. She had just been trying to keep her stomach from flipping as the ambassador consumed twice his body mass from the food-not all dead-that covered the table.

    Captain Ortiz was doing a better job than her. The man had found something that resembled an Earth lobster and had cracked open the claw-which thankfully hadn’t fought back against him-and did a serviceable job of ingesting the contents.

    Doing her best to avoid the sights, smells, and movements on the table, Rocha looked around the room. The darkly lit room was filled with shields and melee weapons along the walls. In the far corner of the room, at a thick wooden desk, was a large, wicked sword under a glass case that dominated the desk. There was something strange about the sword, odd, but alluring. Andrea hoped she would have a chance to inspect the blade after the meal and negotiations were over.

    K’Dhan threw back a goblet of wine, most of it getting into his mouth. He swallowed loudly and smacked his lips, slamming the golden goblet on the table. He belched, the sound loud enough to hurt Andrea’s eardrums and the smell to singe her nose hairs. “That was good,” he said after a moment. “My House is the finest cooks in the quadrant. Did you enjoy your meals?”

    “The pipius claw was excellent,” the captain said. Before the diplomat could question Andrea, the captain spoke on her behalf. “Unfortunately, Commander Rocha is not feeling well and that affected her appetite.” Andrea was grateful for the intervention. “If you are so kind, we would like to take some leftovers. I’m sure the commander will make up for lost time.”

    “Of course,” K’Dhan beamed. “I’ll have them teleported over.” Rocha kept her smile on her face but frowned slightly when she glanced at the captain. Ortiz chuckled. The man hadn’t forgotten her jibe in the Klingon transporter room.

    K’Dhan pushed back from the table, giving his girth space. “So, now that we have conquered hunger, let the other battle to begin.”

    “Ambassador we hope to avoid conflict,” Ortiz replied.

    The diplomat had a good, long laugh at that. “So says the man whose planet is locked in a cosmic battle with the Romulans!”

    “It was not our choice,” the captain rejoined. “The United Earth government, as well as the other Coalition planets, did everything possible to avoid this war.”

    “Bah!” K’Dhan raised a white eyebrow in a good imitation of a Vulcan. “War is inevitable,” the man grumbled. “The Chancellor expected your government to propose an alliance, in which Earth and Qo’noS can divide the spoils of the Star Empire.”

    “We are not conquerors,” Ortiz replied, his expression strained.

    “Ha,” K’Dhan laughed so hard he grabbed his stomach. “Says the man who commands a warship and represents the growing power on the intergalactic stage.”

    “The Coalition of Planets is about cooperation and mutual defense,” Ortiz rejoined. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

    K’Dhan snorted. “There are many among the High Council that disagree.”

    “It can’t be a unanimous decision among your leadership,” the captain countered. “Hence, you wouldn’t be here.”

    “Some among the High Council just want to see the proud Earthlings grovel,” K’Dhan replied. “But also, to test your mettle. There was quite the wager that over whether you would seek a wartime alliance or a peaceful one.”

    “And which side were you on?” Ortiz asked.

    “Ha,” K’Dhan guffawed again. He shook a thick finger at both humans. “If you don’t want to carve up the Romulan Empire, then what would be the benefit to my empire for an alliance with your Coalition?”

    “A nonaggression pact between the Coalition and the Klingon Empire will likely end the hostilities with the Romulans and get them to the negotiation table,” Ortiz said, “And that also means that we would be amenable to Klingon expansion into the Borderlands and other areas, as long as they weren’t encroaching upon Coalition territory.”

    “A, how do you humans say, a ‘free check’?” K’Dhan grinned.

    “Yes,” Ortiz said tightly. Rocha’s stomach turned more at the idea than the thought of the food congealing on the table. Ortiz hadn’t liked the orders he had received from Earth Command. The rest of Sloane’s senior staff hadn’t either. But they all knew their duty and they were committed to carrying it out, the captain most of all.

    Andrea couldn’t even fathom how destructive a war with the Romulans would be. Earth hadn’t fully recovered yet from the Xindi incident. President Samuels understood how scarred Earth’s citizens still were, how vulnerable, and he had convinced the rest of the Coalition signatories to offer a deal that gave the Klingons essentially carte blanche, and with no interference like Captain Archer had rightly done to protect Raatooras refugees from Klingon predation.

    When Rocha had heard about the NX-01’s defense of the Arin’Sen against the Klingons, she, like many of her fellow Starfleet officers, had believed Archer firmly in the right. Captain Ortiz had voiced his own support. So, she knew it rankled the man to essentially codify Starfleet taking a hands-off approach, and not taking any political asylum seekers from Klingon holdings.

    United Earth leaders felt the situation was so dire that our compassion was a worthy sacrifice. Rocha wasn’t quite ready to pay that price, but it wasn’t her decision to make.

    K’Dhan was stroking his thick beard, stopping every few seconds to pluck out chunks of food the stroking had revealed. He tossed the bits into his mouth and chewed on them slowly as he mulled. “Would this non-interference be…retroactive?”

    “No,” Ortiz said sternly. “Captain Archer is not returning to Rura Penthe.”

    K’Dhan scowled, no doubt put off that the captain knew the reason for the inquiry. “Archer committed great crimes against the Empire. Handing him over would go a long way to earning our trust.”

    “Archer did the right thing, with the Arin’Sen, and in stopping a devastating viral outbreak and saving Qu’Vat colony. I think he’s more than made up for any violations of Klingon law,” the captain riposted.

    Unbidden Ortiz touched his knotty forehead and sighed with relief that the ridges were still there. “Well matched captain,” the man said, with noticeable respect. “If time permitted, I would like to play klin zha with you.”

    Klin zha?” Rocha asked.

    “Ah,” K’Dhan smiled. “It is a game of strategy, like Terran chess.”

    “You’ve played chess?” Ortiz was impressed.

    “Unfortunately, no,” the ambassador shook his shaggy head. “I’ve just heard of it.”

    “We can transport a chess board and pieces over,” the captain replied.

    “That is very gracious Son of Eduardo,” K’Dhan replied. “I wish I could return the gesture with klin zha, but we only engage in Klin zha kinta aboard this vessel.” The diplomat chuckled at the perplexed looks of both Starfleet officers. “It’s a live form of the game, using live combatants, and can get quite…bloody,” his smile widened.

    “That sounds…lovely,” Andrea grimaced.

    “It is Commander,” the burly man nodded solemnly. “It is one of the most honorable recreational pursuits of my people. If you participated, as either a klin zha player or a living combatant, it would erase any trepidation.”

    “Once we are allies, I look forward to challenging you personally to a game,” Ortiz said.

    The ambassador nodded with genuine respect. “That would be a challenge I would look forward to…but this decision is not in my hands.”

    “If I may, Ambassador…” Rocha interjected.

    “Of course, Commander,” K’Dhan replied, “What do you wish to ask?”

    Andrea turned around in her chair and gestured at the myriad weapons in the room. “You are quite the collector.”

    “Yes,” the man beamed. “During my many travels, in the quest for diplomacy, I seek out weapons, often ancient, and any especially tied to Klingon history or the history of other great empires.” He pushed back his chair and stood up. He gestured for both humans to do likewise.

    “I have full armories at my ancestral home, but I carry my favorite pieces with me,” he replied as he pointed along the walls. The man explained several weapons to her, but Andrea kept looking at the prominently displayed sword on his desk. “You know, during my last visit to Earth, I acquired several pieces…including an assegai, knobkierie, Nguni shield from the Zulu empire, a Roman caltrop, a Frankish angon, an Aztec atlatl, and a Japanese tachi blade. Quite the impressive haul!”

    “Indeed,” Andrea nodded, looking at the captain. Ortiz was admiring twin jagged edge, hand-held weapons.

    “Those are Andorian chakani,” K’Dhan answered the man’s unspoken question. “I didn’t purchase those, I earned them the hard way.” He tapped his chest. “I can show you the scars.”

    “Some other time,” Ortiz replied, and Rocha inwardly sighed with relief.

    “It is quite the entertaining tale,” K’Dhan promised. “My crew slaughtered, myself, wracked with injuries, taking on the best the Andorian Imperial Guard could throw at me. The arrogant Andorian captain accepted my challenge for personal combat. He was arrogant…but honorable. He earned a place in Sto’Vo’Kor.”

    The man paused, closing his eyes, and muttering something unintelligible. Andrea and the captain gave the man his moment.

    K’Dhan opened his eyes and looked surprised to see them there for a moment. “Ah, yes,” he nodded, remembering where he was. He continued identifying the weapons along the wall until he finally arrived at his desk. Finally, Andrea thought.

    “The crown jewel of my collection,” The man crowed.

    “This is a tik’leth, correct?” Ortiz ventured. “A traditional Klingon sword.”

    “Impressive Captain,” the diplomat replied. “Yes, technically this is a tik’leth, however it’s so much more than that.”

    “How so?” Rocha asked, forcing herself not to sound too eager.

    “The Old Earth saying, about looks being deceiving comes into play here,” the ambassador added. “I am certain in my morrow that this is the Fang of Fek’lhr!”

    The man looked at both humans, surprised that both look confused. The ambassador laughed. “Oh, of course, you wouldn’t know.” The man replied. “I believe this to be one of the most infamous artifacts in my people’s history, a blade, alleged to have mystical properties, once wielded by K’Trelan, the great betrayer who came to power in a disastrous period known to history as The Dark Time.”

    “Mystical properties?” Rocha asked, her eyes drawn to the blade. She blinked, seeing for just a moment, etchings like script across the blade, but it must have been a trick of the light.

    “So, the old tales say,” K’Dhan nodded solemnly. “There have been many stories passed down through the years, about how the sword gave, or rather, cursed K’Trelan with prescience among other powers. But who is to say how much of it is true, eh?”

    “You believe some of those stories?” Ortiz asked. He took up position on the other side of the Klingon. He was looking down at the sword, his expression unreadable.

    “Oh yes,” the diplomat shook his shaggy head. “Can you not hear it, tendrils at the back of your brain?”

    Both humans shared a look but remained silent. Andrea didn’t want to admit that her mind had been…touched…by something.

    “It’s one reason I believe that this is in fact the real sword,” K’Dhan proclaimed.

    “Where did you find it?” The captain asked. Rocha noticed the man’s voice was tight. His eyes remained locked on the blade.

    “The Delphic Expanse, before it vanished,” K’Dhan answered.

    “I thought Klingons generally avoided the expanse,” Ortiz was intrigued.

    The ambassador smirked, “I’m not the average Klingon!” He laughed again, smacking the captain on the back. The man stumbled forward, almost smashing into the glass case.

    K’Dhan yanked him back. “My apologies captain. I still do not know my own strength!”

    “It’s alright,” Rocha could tell the captain was cross but didn’t his best to hide it. “Mistakes happen.”

    “Yes, and it would be a great mistake to touch the Fang,” K’Dhan warned. “Physical contact enhances its hold. I was not the first of my search party to find the Fang. The man who did…I slew him to end his madness.” K’Dhan lowered his head and closed his eyes. “I brought his family into my house. It was the least I could do. He had served me well.”

    “Just what is that thing?” Rocha asked, her curiosity…and desire…overwhelming her trepidation.

    “It wears the guise of a simple tik’leth, but some of its alloys are extradimensional,” K’Dhan replied. “I don’t know what it is, nor do my scientists. What I do know is that I must safeguard it so that one of the more ambitious leaders among my people use it to wreck untold destruction, as K’Trelan once did.” He stroked his chin, “A diplomat never stops forging peace.”

    “But isn’t this a danger to you, or your crew?” Ortiz asked.

    “This room is being bathed with chroniton particles to disrupt the temporal properties while routine resonance pulses are used to weaken its psionic energy,” K’Dhan said. “This part of the vessel is usually off limits, which also minimizes contact.”

    “Yet, you brought us here,” Ortiz pointed out.

    “Yes,” K’Dhan smiled. “The pull of the blade affects people differently, sometimes it helps reveal their true natures.”

    “And what did it reveal about us?” The captain demanded.

    “That you are not warmongers, or power seekers,” K’Dhan answered. “It took you a few moments before you heard the Fang’s song.”

    “Well that’s a good thing, right?” Rocha broached.

    K’Dhan grunted, turning from the blade. He walked over to a long, battered staff topped by three blades. He touched it with a finger. “I’ve met with other…guests…whose focus also was not on the sword, who were completely taken with other items…and she most certainly could not be trusted.” The man moved his fingers over grooves, real etchings, in the metal. It looked like a short message, but Andrea couldn’t make out which language. This was the only time she had ever wished that Levenson accompanied an away mission. In addition to being the ship’s chief communications officer, he was an admittedly excellent exolinguist. Not at Hoshi Sato’s level, but he would say otherwise.

    “Where does that leave us then?” Ortiz asked, with less bark this time.

    “Son of Eduardo,” K’Dhan turned back to both officers. “I will discuss this with the High Council and I will argue for an alliance. The Romulans have proven themselves to be without honor. Archer, despite his meddling, helped the stave off disaster for the empire twice and he sought nothing in return except peace. He is a worthy example that your Coalition can be honest brokers.”

    The captain smiled, a rare occurrence. “Thank you, Ambassador,” Ortiz dipped his head in respect. “It was an honor meeting you, sharing a meal, and seeing your collection. I won’t forget about our game of klin zha.”

    “I wouldn’t allow you to,” K’Dhan laughed. The men clasped hands.

    Rocha pulled her gaze from the tik’leth. She smiled at the Klingon when he turned to her. “It was also an honor meeting you, Daughter of Xabier and Carmo.”

    “Likewise, Son of Thok Mak,” Rocha said. The large man grinned with approval. “We also do our research,” the woman added.

    “Very good,” K’Dhan laughed again. Andrea had to admit that the raucous sound was endearing.

    “Pardon us, but we must be going,” Ortiz said. “We have a war to fight after all.”

    “I am truly envious,” K’Dhan replied, his gaze becoming dreamy. He led them back to the transporter room. Once they were on the pads, the ambassador barked orders to the young officer manning the transporter station.

    Right before she heard the screech of the transporter beam, K’Dhan called out, “May you and your valiant crew die well!”

    Wait, Rocha thought, as her vision filled with reddish light. Was that how Klingons said goodbye? Before she could ask, the beam broke her apart.

    *************************************************************************
     
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  11. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *************************************************************************

    ChR Odaus under cloak

    Main Bridge


    “So, this was your brilliant stratagem?” Major Vashta challenged. Marcella merely smiled, eliciting a frown from the Tal Shiar who doubtlessly expected another response from her mocking. The surfacing of the woman’s arrogance was actually reassuring, the commander thought. Now Vashta was acting like a typical Tal Shiar.

    “We’re still in one piece, aren’t we?” Marcella rejoined as she watched the Earth starship go to warp. It pained her to not have left the ship in ruins, but that was not her mission. “It is likely we would not have survived a battle against both the Earth ship and the Klingon battle cruiser. And even if we did our ability to board the Klingon vessel would’ve been an impossibility.”

    “Perhaps for you,” the major shot back.

    “Well, unfortunately one of the great Tal Shiar starship commanders must have been unavailable,” Decimus griped. The man was satisfied at Vashta’s glower.

    “How can you be certain that Klingon investigators won’t expose that the weapons and warp signatures we leave behind are false?” Vashta demanded.

    “If the operations officer did his job correctly, copying the readings from that Starfleet vessel,” she paused, drawing the attention of suddenly anxious Vorum, “then it will look like the humans were at fault. Any discrepancies will be brushed away by our allies among the Klingons and the natural bloodlust of the rest of them.”

    “That remains to be seen,” the Tal Shiar didn’t concede.

    “The First Consul vouches for the Klingon sympathizers, same as she does for you, so yes, it does remain to be seen if her trust was warranted.” Marcella smiled at that, drawing eye daggers from Vashta.

    Decimus demanded of the weapons officer and engineer. “Have the appropriate adjustments to weapons and propulsion been made?” Both answered in the affirmative. “And what of the cloaked mines? Have they reached their destinations?” The officers repeated the same affirmation. If things went according to plan the low-yield mines would destabilize the battle cruiser’s shields, while also providing a great distraction to allow the Odaus to swoop in uncontested.

    Marcella switched her attention to the quarry. “Weapons, target the battle cruiser’s propulsion, weapons, and shield generators. Be surgical; Our goal is to wound, not to kill.”

    “As you command,” Jalad crisply replied.

    “You will fire as soon as we drop the cloak,” the commander replied. Next, she activated the communicator on the armrest of her chair. “Lt. Lhair, Trinam Rhin, are the Imperial Marines ready?” Marcella knew the Tal Shava were eager to get their hands bloody. So much of the war had been fought among the stars, with birds-of-prey and warbirds carrying the raptor banner forward.

    “They are,” the science officer briskly replied. “We are awaiting Major Vashta in the transporter room.

    Marcella kept her frown off her face. “That’s your cue,” she told the Tal Shiar. The other woman merely gave her a nod before exiting the bridge. The lift door had barely closed before Decimus started.

    “At the least I should be leading the boarding party,” the man thundered.

    “I need you here,” Marcella replied. “Disabling that battlecruiser and keeping it so will be no easy task.”

    “You really trust Vashta with carrying out this mission?” Decimus was incredulous.

    “Of course not,” Marcella replied. “But I trust Lhair. She’s smart, formidable, and has the loyalty of Rhin and his soldiers.”

    Decimus grunted, “Yes, we’ll go with loyalty.”

    “What was that Centurion?” Marcella asked.

    “Oh, uh, nothing,” the man said quickly, his chest greening. The commander smiled. “This will be just like Draken IV, all over again.”

    “One can hope,” the wizened man agreed.

    “One can do far more than that,” the woman said, turning from him. Sensing her mood, Decimus ordered that Odaus shed its cloak. She tugged down on the snug glittery black tunic. “One can execute. Pattern Marius theta,” she barked, before hissing, “Execute.”

    ************************************************************************

    IKS Tran’nuc

    Trophy Room


    The ambassador sliced through the air with his favorite bat’leth. His back was turned to the viewscreen. “What do you make of the humans?” The harsh voice asked behind him.

    K’Dhan turned around quickly, bringing the sword low and perforating the midsection of an imaginary opponent. “I already know how you feel about them Toral. You should rejoice that your son died in combat.”

    “Duras fell to an inferior, the result of treachery!” The gray-haired, heavy-ridged councilor slammed so hard on his desk that K’Dhan heard it. The man stopped his exercise routine to face the other man directly.

    “That’s not how I’ve heard it,” K’Dhan replied, not holding back from sneering. “Duras had been humiliated by Archer and he sought to rectify that, becoming so reckless that he sowed his fate. But I will give him credit, his thirst for redemption led him even into the Delphic Expanse.”

    “These humans are not to be trusted,” Toral spat.

    “And the Romulans are?” The diplomat countered. He knew that the patriarch of the House of Duras was a supporter of allying with the Romulans.

    “They are a warrior people, much like our own,” Duras said. “They hold to the same ideals of honor.”

    “By skulking about with their invisibility technology?” K’Dhan scoffed. “Doesn’t sound too honorable to me, attacking without facing your opponent or openly declaring your intentions.”

    “The Romulans sought to even the odds, they were being encircled by Earth and its allies, just like we soon will be,” Toral asserted.

    “Do you know anything about these people you disparage?” The ambassador challenged. “Their history is replete with wars, barbarism on a level that would thrill any Klingon heart.”

    “They’ve shorn those admirable qualities,” Toral replied, “Or are concealing them, until they have us within their clutches.”

    “I concede that could be the case,” K’Dhan nodded. “I didn’t sense that from Captain Ortiz and his subordinate, however he is just a soldier. Earth’s politicians might have other ideas or a change in attitude once they are in a stronger position.”

    “Now even you see reason,” Toral replied, with obvious surprise. K’Dhan and Toral’s houses had both been locked in a decades long feud. It was rare that any member of their houses spoke without drawing blood.

    “As usual, a Duras misunderstands,” K’Dhan grinned. “Let the humans encircle us,” he shrugged. “It will be a glorious war.”

    Toral snorted. He wanted to retort but found there was no counter. A war with Earth would be one for the ages. The supposedly pacifistic humans had thus far fought the warrior Romulans to a stalemate. K’Dhan could only imagine how much more confident Earth and its allies would be if they did defeat the Star Empire. Finally, a foe worthy of Klingon effort!

    “I take it that the Chancellor, by having you contact me, that the High Council has made its decision about allying with the Coalition of Planets? Before I even can present Earth’s argument in Council chambers?” The ambassador demanded.

    Toral sucked one of his sharpened teeth. “I contact you of my own accord,” the man stated. “My allies agree that not only are you an embarrassment but now are an impediment.”

    “I am still coming to Qo’noS and I will speak before the Council,” K’Dhan declared. “Your intervention will not deter me.” The councilor stood to his full height. “I made a promise to Captain Ortiz and I will fulfill it.”

    Promise,” Toral scoffed. “To a human?”

    “Yes, a human,” K’Dhan nodded. “Has it become fashionable now for Klingons to not honor their word? You sound like a QuchHa’!” Toral roared, and the diplomat grinned, knowing the insult would stir Toral’s ire. The Qu’Vat virus had created a sub-race among their kind, the QuchHa’, the ‘unhappy ones’ who had lost their proud ridges. Along with losing their ridges, some among the unfortunate strain had forgone their respect for honor and the old ways. In a sense, they were much like how obstinate fools like Toral claimed the humans to be.

    “Sure, come to Qo’noS and plead your case,” Toral jeered. “It will make for a good laugh.”

    “You won’t be smiling when we are face to face,” K’Dhan promised.

    “I would look forward to it,” Toral leaned forward, his gaze hard as stone. “Though it will not happen. This is our last conversation old enemy. I merely wanted to see your insufferable face one last time.”

    “Are you finally committing Hegh’bat?” The ambassador half-joked. “Or Mauk-to’Vaur to insure Duras’s place among our honored dead?” Toral’s growled low in his throat, a pained expression skittered across his face.

    K’Dhan felt a pang of guilt at the last swipe, but he couldn’t help himself. His old rival got his blood up. The convivial spirit between the men evaporated and the ambassador felt the cold fury in Toral’s eyes.

    “Are you such a d’blok that I need to repeat myself?! M’Rek did not send me. He, nor any of the rest of the High Council know I am talking with you now,” the man said. “Except for Kormog, because I couldn’t allow him to carve into the minn’hor first.” The House of Torg had foolishly joined forces with Duras in their feud against the ambassador’s family.

    K’Dhan was confused, though he didn’t show it. “Do you and that toruk-doh Kormog miss me so much that you couldn’t wait until I returned? Were you so desperate to bring those pointy-eared petaQ into our imperial home that you thought you could dissuade me from presenting the humans’ case before the Council?”

    The other man shook his head slowly, a mocking expression on his face. “Still the headstrong, clueless Yintagh after all this time.” Toral pressed his face almost to his screen. His voice became a whisper. “If only I could be there now….to hear your last breath.”

    “What are you prattling on about?” K’Dhan demanded, his hackles rising. “If you or your pet prickle mouse Kormog are planning a welcoming party for me, I look forward to it!” The deck trembled furiously, nearly throwing the ambassador to the floor. The klaxons screeched, answering for the councilor. K’Dhan glared at the man. “What is the meaning of this?!”

    “May you die well…Son of Thok Mak!” Toral declared before cutting the communication.

    The room rattled again with such force that it knocked several weapons from the wall. “QI’YaH!” K’Dhan shouted as he rushed to the door, nearly mowing down the young officer that had been sent to retrieve him. He didn’t help the lagh recover. Instead he demanded, “What is it?!”

    “We’re under attack sir,” the man rapidly answered.

    “Tell me something I don’t know!”

    ************************************************************************
     
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  12. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ************************************************************************

    S.S. Sloane

    Captain’s Ready Room


    Captain Ortiz plopped into the chair at his desk. He wiped his sweaty face with the towel before throwing it across his shoulders. After the ambassador had beamed the remains of their dinner over, the thought of enduring another round of Klingon cuisine had prompted Andrea to go the infirmary and compelled him to hit the rec room. He needed to create some space to take down more of the heavy food.

    Gustavo’s sport of choice was boxing. Unfortunately, he had no takers today and worked himself into a lather hitting the punching bag. From that he moved on to the MMA target bag.

    On the way to the mess hall, he was alerted to a call from the bridge. Lt. Dryer was already waiting at the door of his ready room when he arrived on the bridge. He didn’t waste his time or hers by taking a shower or putting on a uniform. Instead he sat down at his desk, the air cool on his bare arms. He was wearing a soaked black tank top and matching workout shorts. Sometimes he was self-conscious about the scarring running up both limbs, but he was too peeved to give that much thought.

    Gustavo did his best to keep the annoyance out of his voice. “Are you sure this couldn’t have waited until Alpha shift?” He paused only a second, “Why are still on duty at this hour anyway?”

    “Well, sir,” the younger woman’s voice cracked slightly, but she pressed on. “There was just something about the readings we recorded in the Typhon Expanse that bothered me, so after my shift I sequestered an auxiliary station on the bridge to investigate it further.”

    “And?” Ortiz pressed.

    “Oh, yes,” Lt. Dryer pushed the PADD toward him. Ortiz took the rectangular device and scoured the contents on its display screen. He frowned. “You’re certain of your findings?” He looked at the data again.

    “I ran the calculations several times Captain,” Dryer replied, a tinge of irritation in her voice that he would expect her to bring him something that she wasn’t certain about. He smirked. He liked his bridge officers to bark back at him if necessary. Gustavo had little patience for shrinking violets.

    “Alright,” Ortiz nodded. He stood up, his muscles protesting, but he ignored them. “Have helm and navigation alter course back to the expanse, warp factor four.” It was as fast as the Sloane could go. The captain hoped it was fast enough.

    “Chief Spano isn’t going to like that sir,” the woman gave a faint smile. Ortiz chuckled.

    “That’s why I’m leaving you to tell him,” he said. A laugh escaped her. The captain tossed the towel on his chair.

    After Dryer had returned to the bridge, the captain strode over to the intercom mounted next to the office’s door. He activated it. “Commander Rocha, this is the captain.” He winced at a loud responding groan. “Andrea, are you alright?”

    “Yes-yes,” she said, more forcefully the second time. “Just…a little…stomach ache sir. I’ll be fine, after a good night’s sleep.”

    “I hate to interrupt your recuperation.”

    “What’s happened?” The woman’s voice was clearer now. Gustavo could tell she was fully awake.

    “I’m not sure,” the captain admitted. “However, I think our new friend, Ambassador K’Dhan could be in serious trouble.”

    *************************************************************

    IKS Tran’nuc


    If the ship’s captain wasn’t dead already K’Dhan would’ve killed him. He snarled at the bulkhead shard sticking from the man’s chest, angry that it had denied him a righteous expenditure of vengeance.

    The ship shook again and through the hole ripped from the hull. The bird-of-prey was coming about. Through the shimmering, staticky force field patched over the shattered bridge, K’Dhan could see the deadly beautiful craftsmanship of the Romulan vessel. He pounded his fists against the headrest of the captain’s chair, causing the dead man’s head to loll to the side.

    “Status report!” He demanded, whipping around after no one answered him. He repeated himself even louder, but the few bridge officers left were too busy trying to retain that condition. He trudged over to the communications console and yanked a yelping young bekk from his station. He tried to put out a distress call.

    “Ambassador,” the man said from behind him, “We were able to transmit one distress call before the Romulans blocked us.” K’Dhan rounded on the younger man, ready to throttle him. Impressively the young man held his ground, his eyes gleaming with the desire to inflict violence. “Well, then keep trying to raise our brothers! This treachery will not go unpunished!” The diplomat took out his frustration on the closest bulkhead instead as the bekk returned to his duties. Having the younger man in one piece and helping his fellows was more important than a momentary test of prowess.

    “Romulan petaQ!” He roared. So, the fool Toral, and his lackey Kormog, had really done it, they had gone and allied themselves with the Star Empire!

    He couldn’t wait to present the news of their treachery to the Chancellor. Such betrayal would raise the other Great Houses against the two dishonorable knaves. They would run both traitorous houses into the ground, grinding them and their memories into dust. K’Dhan would ensure that it was he though, that delivered the personal death blows to each man.

    Kormog’s greatest crime was being friendly with the House of Duras, so a simple, clean beheading should suffice, K’Dhan reasoned, but for Toral…he was savoring the thought when the bird-of-prey fired again. More consoles sparked, there were more guttural cries, one death rattle…

    The surviving crew were working feverishly to keep the ship alive. K’Dhan was holding onto the headrest so tightly that he had bent the metal. He thought of plucking the dead captain out of the seat, but then dismissed the thought. He didn’t need to sit in a chair to be the master of this vessel. It had been in his house for quite some time now, a gift from the House of Mo’Kai, after his last son had married one of their daughters.

    “Brota will avenge me,” the muttered, thinking of the young warrior, his only surviving son and heir, and then thinking of how odd it was to conjure such thoughts. He had been in far worse scrapes than this before.

    The ship shuddered again, pulling K’Dhan out of his reveries. There was a great throbbing in his skull, as if someone was drilling through his temple. He touched his head and his fingers were wet. He looked at his thick fingers, coated with blood, and he didn’t know how it had gotten there.

    “Ambassador!” The bald young woman was appealing in the snug leather and furs befitting her station. “Can you still lift a bat’leth?” She demanded. K’Dhan swayed before planting his boots hard on the deck. He squinted at the sash across her shoulder, smiling at the ornament denoting her house.

    “This you ask of the man who alone slew a pack of klongats in the Almron Preserve?!” He balked. That the whelp thought him impaired enough, weak enough, that he could no longer fight to even ask such a question, galled him and stoked the lava churning within.

    “Ambassador,” the unfazed woman pressed, “We must get you to an escape pod!”

    “Escape pod?!” The man was beside himself. He had been furious to learn that his good friends among the House of Noggra had had them placed onboard their gift. When he and Noggra both had sailed with the Imperial Fleet there had been no escape pods. Warriors died or survived, there was no retreat.

    “No,” the shook his head, ignoring the fresh spike of pain. He still wasn’t sure how he had gotten the wound. K’Dhan recalled vaguely falling more than once on his way to the bridge as the bird-of-prey had released fusillades against them, carving into the ship.

    Tran’nuc is lost,” the woman said matter-of-factly, so soberly that it was like a hard slap. The ambassador couldn’t protest it. “It is my duty to ensure that this mission succeed and that means you must live sir.”

    “I will not run away while brave Klingon warriors continue the fight!” He declared.

    “Your honor is not in question here,” the subordinate, to her credit, did not back down. He was shorter than him, but she dug in her heels, squared her shoulders, and struck him as larger and more powerful than a sabre bear at that moment. “The only reason we are not space debris right now is because the Romulans are holding back. We were taking completely by surprise,” she paused, shame evident on her face. The woman bit hard on her bottom lip, drawing blood. It dripped from her mouth as she continued, “They want something,” she said, her eyes focusing hard on him. “I can only guess it’s you sir.”

    “Me?” That thought was so ridiculous, it was all that K’Dhan could do not to laugh in the woman’s face. “That’s absurd,” he thundered, but then caught himself. Was it? He knew that they were allied with Toral, either in his employ, or far more likely the later. Perhaps they wanted to capture him for Toral? The coward would not dare place himself in the same room with K’Dhan at this point, but he could watch the Romulans do the deed safely across subspace.

    He couldn’t allow that! He wouldn’t give the t’gla the satisfaction. And neither would he allow himself to be a plaything or hostage to the Romulans. He would rather cut his own throat than dishonor his house in such a way.

    “I will avenge you,” he said after a moment. He looked the bronzed woman squarely in the eye and placed a hand on her shoulder. “What is your name…Lieutenant?”

    “Klotma,” she said proudly. “Daughter of Girjah.” He zeroed in on the symbol of the woman’s house glittering on her baldric.

    “The House of Girjah,” the ambassador nodded with appreciation. “A fallen house presently, but with those of your ilk among its blood line, it will one day rival my own, or even surpass it.”

    The woman dipped her head respectfully. “That is a great honor Ambassador.”

    “I am the one honored,” K’Dhan replied. “May you die well Lieutenant…Captain Klotma!”

    The woman smiled, her eyes flashing with anticipation. “I will die taking many Romulan koruts with me!”

    “I know you will,” K’Dhan laughed. “Make them suffer!”

    **********************************************************************
     
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  13. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    **********************************************************************

    IKS Tran’nuc


    The fighting was close quarters and vicious. Many of the Romulans, including Rhin, had holstered their disruptors and unsheathed their honor blades. The Klingons brandished their own blades and both Klingon and Romulan threw themselves at each other, slashing and stabbing with such fury that the deck plates were coated with the red and green blood.

    The Tal Shiar found the joy both the Romulans and Klingons had given into distasteful. It was the most distressing part of a distressing assignment, but none of the disgust was evident.

    She evaded various Klingon attackers and sought to incapacitate rather than kill when possible. The hardy Klingons made that nearly impossible to do.

    More than once she used the Kormerek style, moving and striking so quickly she could apply the tal-shaya to mercifully dispatch her assailants. Each time a corpse dropped, Vashta looked around, expecting to see a dagger or disruptor bolt headed her direction. Science Officer Lhair was quite perceptive and she would likely know that the technique was from Vulcan, exposing her.

    For over a year, Taman had been Vashta. She didn’t know how the V’Shar had captured the Tal Shiar officer, and she understood even less the vagaries of a forced katra transference, a form of the val-reth, imposed by Kolinahr masters upon the captive Romulan. The Vulcan surmised that the woman had been chosen due to her assignment to the Imperial Fleet Command on Romulus. How the V’Shar knew she had left the imperial center and where to abscond her, the woman didn’t know and hadn’t asked. If the Security Ministry had wanted her to know they would have informed her.

    Taman had first refused the summons to the Hall of Ancient Thought. The idea of taking her katra, everything that she was, and imposing it over the consciousness of an unwilling host was a violation of the vilest sort.

    However, the Security Ministry and the masters had concluded that it was the best way to plant a Vulcan operative deep within the Romulan government. The V’Shar had tried surgically altering Vulcan agents, and even enlisted emotional V’tosh ka’tur Vulcans in the infiltration efforts, but those attempts had failed.

    The cultural, not to mention the physiological cleavages between the Romulans and Vulcans had become too great for the Vulcans to successfully integrate themselves into Romulan society. Thus, the V’Shar had conceived of another plan, taking the katra of a Vulcan and implanting it within the mind of a Romulan, thereby evading any damning genetic scans, and allowing said Vulcan operative to access the Romulan’s memories.

    It required a person with extraordinary mental disciplines to first survive the procedure and then to be able to keep Vashta’s consciousness in abeyance. The Security Minister made certain to inform her that wasn’t the actual reason she was chosen. Others, with far stronger mental discipline, had failed successful transplantation. Her superiors felt her prior work with humans and other emotionally immature species as part of the Space Council made her a logical fit and able to adapt to their emotionally regressive Romulan cousins.

    It was concluded that Taman could adapt more readily to the emotional Vashta, could mesh with her host’s volatile nature and contain it better than a Vulcan with a more cloistered background.

    Initially, Taman had continued arguing against the decision. She was not as certain of her capabilities as her superiors and the idea of merging minds, dominating the mind of another was abhorrent and went against nearly principle she had learned and lived by as an adherent of Surak.

    Her superiors had not withheld that the katric transference was permanent. The fal-tor-pan refusion process to rebind the katra to its living host had not been practiced in centuries and was deemed too risky. If the Vulcan had been human, she would’ve smirked at that summation. As if the transference itself didn’t bear its own risk.

    Taman had eventually been swayed by the loss of life wrought by the war. If she could restore the Alpha Quadrant to a relative state of peace, the sacrifice of her soul and Vashta’s body were small prices to pay. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” the Security Minister had reminded her, the condescension making the perverse application of Surak’s axiom even more appalling.

    The woman could no longer deny the logic and she acceded to becoming a sand viper coiled within the nest of the Star Empire.

    First, she had had to relearn everything, and quickly. The first several days had been the hardest of her life as she learned to how to walk, talk, and gesture as Vashta. Tapping into her deep vein of emotion to produce genuine laughter, rage, and sadness, had shaken her to the core at times. Many a time she had shrieked with rage or laughed insanely when she saw a mirror, but not her own face looking back at her during that dark period. It had also been difficult assimilating into Romulan culture once she had left Vulcan, but not as much of a culture shock as Taman anticipated, and that had regrettably bothered her. There was something feral residing in the nether reaches of her heart that even the dictates of cthia could not banish.

    The Vulcan fought against it even as she fought the Klingons. The boarding party had been fighting since transporting aboard the battle cruiser. Guided by the First Consul’s tracking device, the team was working its way toward the location.

    Close to the door, a large shadow crossed over her face and another snarling, growling Klingon was in her face, slashing and punching. Taman ignored the pain, pushing it into a corner of her mind to attend to later.

    She pushed the man back. He flew back, yelping with surprise. The man was tall, muscular, covered in brown leather and dirty fur. His hair hung long, wild, and as crazy as the look on the man’s face. He pointed his three-bladed dagger at her. Taman saw it was dripping with her blood.

    “Show your face baktag!” He roared, “I’m L’Kell, Son of Magh! And today is a good day to die!”

    “As you wish,” Taman dipped her head respectfully. She tapped the side of her helmet and the blood-green opaque coloration of her face plate shimmered over, revealing her face, though her most of her head, including her ears, remained covered.

    The Imperial Fleet used black, silver accented, combat uniforms, adorned with the imperial logo over their chest and equipped with disintegrators to ensure that no Romulan soldier was captured dead or alive. The effect was great psychological warfare, adding deep layers of mystery to who the Coalition was really fighting. It wasn’t lost on Taman that it allowed the Romulans to pose as Vulcans, moving freely into Coalition space. Conversely, the Vulcans returned the favor. Taman had been shocked when the Security Minister had told her that the Romulans were descendants of the Sundered, but she understood the commandment to safeguard the secret.

    Humanity, despite its professed tolerance, would have a hard time distinguishing between Vulcan and Romulan. The recent Xindi attack on Earth had triggered xenophobic impulses deep within the Earther racial memory, including the extremist Terra Prime movement.

    If the humans learned of the truth of the shared heritage, an immature response from them might fracture the alliance, and leading to a Romulan victory. Now that Taman understood the stakes, knew that the Romulans were the unreconstructed of her kind, it was imperative that the Star Empire be soundly defeated to prevent them from sweeping across the whole of the Alpha Quadrant.

    L’Kell charged her. “Ke’chaw!” A person enslaved to their emotions would likely have been seized by fear just long enough for the Klingon to run his blade through them. This L’Kell had the misfortune of facing a Vulcan.

    Facing off against the enraged Klingon, she could feel Vashta stirring. Taman had never been able to completely suppress the woman’s strong personality. Her angry voice had always been there, scraping against Taman’s mental walls, seeking a weak spot for entry. Taman had been able to rebuff her, but now with the battle joined, amid so much carnage, the woman’s heart raced, and she knew the excitement had a Romulan origin.

    Taman barely avoided being skewered despite reading the man’s intention, the large warrior being extraordinarily fast. The woman avoided the blade, but her leg took a battering as she stuck it out to trip the Klingon. He crashed down, shouting more from embarrassment than injury. The Vulcan jumped quickly on the man’s back and applied the tal-shaya. L’Kell died quickly, slumping on the ground.

    “Where did you learn that?” Rhin asked. Taman looked up to see the man standing over her. Like her, the man had deactivated his face plate. He held a bloody honor blade in one hand and a smoking disruptor in the other. His tone was more curious than accusatory. “I’ve never seen that move before.”

    Taman stood up and draped her expression with haughtiness. “Because you are not Tal Shiar,” she replied. The man frowned but was smart enough not to make a retort.

    The Vulcan looked around. The din had died down. A few Klingons were left engaged in battle with the Romulans, but the majority had joined L’Kell in the afterlife. “Where is Lt. Lhair?”

    The man used his blade to point toward an opened door. “She’s gone after the object,” he said.

    “With me,” she motioned for him. Taman felt a shudder at turning her back to the man. She knew that Rhin and Lhair had more than a professional relationship. If she needed to incapacitate or restrain the woman for some reason, Taman couldn’t rely solely on the ingrained fear of the Tal Shiar to insure the man’s compliance.

    Rhin began using his disruptor to mow down any Klingons still standing. His bloodlust had been sated. Taman forced herself not to look back at each sizzle of the weapon, anticipating that she would turn to see the emitter pointed at her. She knew of the stories of Tal Shiar that had encountered accidents while serving on Imperial Fleet vessels and she didn’t have to be telepathic to sense Decimus’s distaste for her.

    Taman channeled her anxiety into action as she ran into the room. She gasped as she saw a hulking Klingon man standing over the downed Lhair. He clutched a large, vicious looking sword in both hands. His chest was heaving, his mouth open, his hair wild about his face, his gaze animalistic.

    The Vulcan quickly assessed that Lhair was still breathing-barely-and she also quickly took note of the Debrune teral’n hanging on the wall. She also noted that the glass case that had been removed on the desk behind the fearsome Klingon. The man had taken that sword out, and not to defend himself. The room was filled with weapons, including various pistols and disruptors.

    He had taken the sword because it was of some value. The hilt of the blade glinted, words forming over the polished blade. The script was alien, yet, somehow, she understood it. No, she shook her head. That was incorrect. She felt it, and in her mind, she…saw it…

    A curious expression doused the madness in the Klingon’s eyes. His gaze narrowed. “You know what this is?! You hear its song?”

    Unbidden Taman took a step back and shook her head, denying the Klingon’s charge. But she knew she was lying. Somehow, someway, an inanimate object was speaking to hear, reaching deep into her mind….

    “You will not take it from me!” The man roared. “It is my birthright! My destiny!” He was on her in seconds. Taman moved by instinct, just barely avoiding a cleaving blow. Her hand shot out, grasping his wrist, and twisting it hard. Her other hand found his neck. The man fought against the nerve pinch, but he succumbed like all the others.

    He fell in a heap. Taman knelt in front of him, her mind spinning, her reality warping. She didn’t know what was going on. In the distance, she heard harsh, rapid words in Romulan. On the edge of her vision, she saw Rhin kneeling by Lhair.

    He turned to her. He spoke but his voice sounded very distant. Taman closed her eyes to shut out the growing chorus of voices within her.

    “The Debrune teral’n,” she heard the marine say.

    “Secure it,” she said, straining to form the words. “Take it…and…get back…to Odaus.”

    “But Major,” Rhin protested.

    “Retrieve teral’n…take Lhair…leave….” Was all she could say. The man held his ground a second longer and then she heard him groan with effort and his shadow left the edges of her consciousness.

    Sound receded, the universe fell away, and all that existed was the sword. When the redoubtable Klingon began stirring, it pushed Taman to do what her heart was crying out for her to do, what Vashta demanded. As one, Taman and Vashta grasped the fallen blade….
     
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  14. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    …A world below her, a world in flames. She stood tall, her ghostly reflection superimposed over the destruction the vessel she was on was wreaking on the benighted planet below. But she wasn’t alone, there were other ships, an armada of them, ringing the planet, all pulverizing it. She touched her face. The ears were tapered, they were familiar, but the face she now wore was not. It was too long, too thin, the nose was a slit like the mouth, and she was hairless.

    “Isn’t the fire beautiful Akraana,” the man came to stand beside her. He was as tall as she, and just as stately. His wiry form draped in obscenely rich and festive garments.

    “Khosarr,” she spoke his name as if it was second nature. “Call off the bombardment,” she said. “The Iconians have suffered enough.”

    “The demons of air, of darkness, haven’t begun suffering,” the man replied, his expression darkening.

    “If we crack open the planet we risk the Fount,” she countered.

    Khosarr turned his back to her. “This alliance is tenuous. The others have acceded to be led by the Arretians only because of my reputation. I stand to tarnish that by not turning Iconia to ruin.”

    “End this now,” she didn’t back down. She grabbed his bicep, and squeezed firmly, pulling him back to face her.

    Khosarr frowned at her. “You know as well as I do the indignities we have suffered at the hands of the Iconians. And the others… the Iccobar, the Kaferians, the Dinasians, the Kothlis’Ka, the Dewan, the Atreonid, the Voth, the Eunacians, the Idryll, the Altamidians, the Vedala, the Medusans, the Chodak…even the cephalopods endured worse. They will not be easy to convince.” She looked back out at space and saw so many of the vessels bearing the races Khosarr named. A near constellation of starships, of various designs, as varied in aesthetics as the beings who made them, encircled the planet.

    She smiled, though no joy touched Taman’s heart. “There are ways to make them accede to our wishes.”

    The man’s eyes widened in surprise. “Our mind stones are only for us, not to be used against others. To do, we become no better than the Iconians.”

    She felt a pang of regret. She looked away. She still saw the flashes of the cannons pouring fire, flinching at each recoil.

    “As you wish,” Khosarr said behind her. The firing ceased seconds later. Below them the world blazed with fires, an egg almost on the verge of cracking.

    She felt his strong fingers on her slender shoulders. “We will secure the Fount and split equally and fairly among us, allowing no one group an unfair advantage.”

    She looked at him and smiled, but inside she shivered. Just so easily she had given into a dark thought, and their collaborators had less mental discipline, less restraint than her kind. Akraana feared that they had only created slain one monster to create multitudes of them…



    …The latest war was nearing its end. Those last desperate few who fought under the banner of the raptor had shorn themselves of all honor. She had been there when the opposing forces had agreed to not use any of the devastating psionic weapons created by their kind, such as the Tol par-doj, Stone of Gol, Vorl-tak, and rods of Kel, as reason and passion battled it out.

    In this current battle, reason was finally winning, a new awakening was dawning among the Vulcanian people, and that change must be take place and take hold at all costs. The great minds of their world had turned to evil ends and now her people possessed the power to destroy their world, and with such a devastating future hanging over her people, adherence to logic was paramount to the continuation of their species.

    Once the truce had been broken and the Raptors had tried and failed to steal the Stone of Gol, the psionic weapons had been broken apart and their remnants spread across the planet. She had been given the task of destroying one of her people’s most sacred relics, one that held great power. The old tales had said it was one of the gifts left by the ones who had created her people and left them to fend and thrive on this forbidding planet. That it had been taken from the great heart that had beat at the center of a long-dead empire, a principality ruled by literal demons, beings that could appear anywhere within time and space.

    She had considered those tales fantastical, even as a child, and barely could accept them now, even though she was a priestess. In fact, she called heavily on her faith as she ventured further into the Fire Plains.

    Only Pensho, her pet le-matya, was foolish enough to accompany her. She was grateful for the company. It allowed her focus on something more than what rested inside her pouch. When Master T’Para had carefully handled the sliver to her, swaddled in a black cloth, she hadn’t thought much of it, and certainly that it had come from across the stars and bequeathed to them by the Ancient Ones.

    It looked more like a piece of unused metal from her father’s forge. But T’Para had held it with such reverence, T’Laron knew it was an artifact of great value. So much so that she experienced uncustomary distress at the old master’s commandment to destroy the sliver by tossing it into one of the lava pits dotting the Fire Plains.

    The stretch was cursed by cracked earth and thick steam from the fire pits. Without her flame retardant clothing and goggles she wouldn’t have made it as far as she had. She was grateful that Pensho had a sturdier constitution, but T’Laron was still worried that either one of them could be splashed with lava or boiled by steam at any lirt’k.

    It was an expanse so hostile, predators steered clear of it, perhaps its only saving Dryer, along with the ancient large statues made by braver souls than most. “Just us and eschaks here Pensho,” she said, stroking her large pet’s striped fur. The le-matya purred and shuddered with delight, closing his eyes. T’Laron thought of taking a sip of water but changed her mind. She would need to preserve her water. She didn’t know how long until she found the right fire pit, deep enough to drop the sliver in. The creature stiffened, his eyes snapping open, and he growled low in his throat, making T’Laron recoil.

    “What’s wrong?” She asked. The creature’s hackles raised. T’Laron looked around quickly, pulling out her blade which suddenly felt inadequate. The ahn-woon hanging from her belt didn’t feel like it provided better protection. The masters of Raal demanded that the monks and priests of the order adhere to the old ways.

    As she saw what Pensho had alerted her to, T’Laron wished for firearm. Several shadowy figures emerged from behind the large statues in front of them. They were all wearing hooded cloaks, either honoring or mocking the similarly adorned silent statues looking down on them all.

    T’Laron noticed that some held crossbows, some wielded lirpas, and others brandished firearms.

    She was quick, but she wouldn’t be able to outrun an arrow or a bullet. She would have to fight. She patted her old friend’s stiff back. T’Laron could tell Pensho to leave her to her fate, but she knew the creature wouldn’t. The group converged into one mass and a single person eventually stepped forward.

    He stopped before he got close enough to her blade and placed his firearm in a holster on his side. He pulled back his hood. He was older, with short white hair and a trimmed white beard. His sightless left eye was as white as his hair. “I am Abban,” he announced, “We need not be enemies, Priestess.” He looked down and smiled at Pensho. The animal hissed.

    “How do you know who I am?”

    “Who else but a person of faith would traverse these forsaken lands?” Abban inquired.

    “You are here,” she said, pointing her blade at him, “And you and your band do not look like a gathering of monks.”

    Abban laughed, and it chilled T’Loran. She hadn’t seen such raw emotion since she had joined the monastery.

    “You are correct,” he nodded, “We place our faith in what we can see, what we possess,” he patted his firearm. “Not some old tales of imaginary deities.”

    T’Laron was stung by the man’s blasphemy but she maintained her composure. “If you don’t believe in things you cannot see, then why are you here, Abban?”

    “I don’t believe the Ancient Ones were gods,” the man said, words that would’ve resulted in the elimination of his entire bloodline mere decades ago. “I do think they were beings from another planet, far more advanced than us, and they left behind one piece of their technology.” He pointed at the bag. “The piece in your possession.”

    T’Laron clutched her bag. “You don’t understand how powerful, how dangerous this Tear of Khosarr is.”

    “The war god,” Abban nodded, smiling again. He pulled back his cloak, revealing the black raptor symbol adorning his blood green tunic. “I understand war very well young one, and I know that to win it, we need the sliver.”

    “I would die first,” she said, taking a step backward. T’Laron chanced a look around, hoping to find a fire pit that she could either toss the bag into, or if necessary launch herself into. She would not fail Master T’Para.

    Abban saw what she was doing. He gestured for his soldiers to stop advancing. “Listen sister, there is no need to waste your life. With the Tear I can bring this war, all this slaughter, to an end.”

    “And what of the next time, and the next?” T’Laron said, still backing away, still looking. “Surak’s ways will save our people. He has taken from the best of the old tradition and expanded on it mightily. It can break the cycles of war, the endless violence.”

    “It will make our people soft, and weak,” Abban’s voice hardened, “It will leave us unprepared if the Ancient Ones return and are not so beneficial the second time or some other race from among the stars comes to our world. War builds character, it advances the strongest, the best.”

    “It debases all of us, it regresses society,” T’Laron countered. “All of these centuries of warfare have arrested our growth. We have yet to reach the stars because we fight amongst each other so.”

    “Then join with me to stop this war,” he held out his hand, “to end all future wars.”

    Feeling the heat on her back, T’Laron stopped backing up. She had found what she was looking for. She ripped the Tear from her bag and held it over the fire pit. The priestess hoped the pit was deep enough and burned hot enough to melt the artifact.

    “Don’t!” Abban shouted as he held up a hand. T’Laron wasn’t sure he was talking to her or his soldiers who had raised their weapons.

    “I have been entrusted with a mission from Master T’Para, would you have me break solemn vows?” T’Laron demanded. “Why would you expect such dishonor from me…brother.” The heat was kissing her hand, the pain becoming unbearable, but T’Laron bore it, and kept the sliver over the pit.

    The man grimaced at that. He turned to his cohort. “Kroykah!” he ordered. The group had started advancing again. “I beg you,” the man said, stiffly getting on his knees. T’Laron knew by the awkwardness of the gesture that Abban was a man who never bowed.

    He held open his arms wide. “Help me, help our world.”

    “That’s is what I am doing,” she declared for dropping the artifact into the bowels of their world. Abban cried out as weapons sparked. Both hit her at the same time, knocking T’Laron over the edge. She closed her eyes and made peace with her fate, deadening her pain receptors and closing in on herself before the fire and darkness did…


    … “That was a warning shot,” the human stated. “That is your final warning.” Vashta blinked, confused by where she was, when she was. She looked around wildly, and saw able soldiers attentive at their terminals, very much like she any other Romulan warship, but this was unlike any Imperial Fleet ship she had ever been on. The aesthetics were familiar, the beige and green-gray accents, and the raptor symbol adorned consoles and walls, but the consoles and environs were more advanced than Vashta had ever seen.

    “Commander,” the human prodded, drawing her attention back to the main viewer. She squinted at the man. He was a graying dark-hued man with a neatly trimmed beard and artificial blue eyes. The man’s uniform was not like Earth’s Starfleet ungainly jumpsuits. Instead, it was stately, a black tunic with gray over the shoulders, and a shiny delta pin on the chest.

    “Commander,” the human spoke again. “I’m sure we can accommodate you and your crew. The Federation Council is working overtime in assisting the survivors, Vulcan authorities, and the Romulan expatriates in the Federation have opened their doors as well.”

    He knows I’m Romulan, she realized. How? The human was continuing to blather. “You need not see us as enemies any longer, that time has passed. Let us help.”

    The woman touched her face, gasping that she wasn’t wearing a mask. “We want to help, but we will not allow you to violate Federation territory or threaten a Federation planet,” the man declared. “If you persist in this aggression I will have no other recourse than to meet it in kind.” The man’s kindly demeanor turned to steel. “Do you understand?”

    Vashta looked around and saw that all of the other Romulans’ faces were uncovered. “You see my face?” She asked the human.

    “Yes,” the man said slowly, not hiding his confusion. “I don’t know what kind of stalling tactic this is, but I advise you to turn around and vacate this section of space immediately.”

    “No,” she said automatically, her old hatred for the Earthers resurfacing. “You don’t give me orders.”

    “Don’t look at it as an order,” the man replied. “The Federation Council wants to help your people.”

    “Help? My people? How?” She looked around at the crew, but most of them were focused on their terminals. Her gaze swung back around to him. “Who are you?”

    The man sighed, “Is this another delaying tactic?”

    “Who?!”

    “I’ve already told you once,” the man’s expression hardened briefly. “Captain Geordi La Forge, of the Starship Challenger.”

    “Commander,” a roughhewn man approached her chair. She swiveled around to him. The insignia on the harness running across his torso marked him as a centurion. Vashta sighed inwardly, at least Imperial Fleet ranks hadn’t seemed to have changed a great deal.

    “Speak,” she commanded.

    He bent down and lowered his voice, “Why are we delaying? The Virtus may not be a Norexan, but we can hold our own against a Galaxy-class.”

    “Admiral Norexan?” She asked, confused. “Where is she?”

    The centurion scowled. “Commander,” his tone was gentle, but firm. “Now is not the time for games. La Forge is soft, like most humans, but even his patience will run short, and he will fire on us.”

    “To do so would sign his death warrant,” she declared, with more confidence than she felt. But it mollified the man enough that he resumed his post, without her ordering him to.

    Vashta needed to create some space to figure out what was happening here, and she couldn’t take a ship into battle that she didn’t know anything about, a crew she hadn’t served with, against an opponent she was equally in the dark about.

    She looked back at the main viewer and saw that the man was patiently waiting her out. “Captain La Forge,” she said, “I allow you to live…this time.” Before the man could respond, she ordered the communication severed. She perched on her chair. “Helm, plot a course back to Romulus, top speed.”

    The man at the flight control station didn’t move. Instead he looked at her. A sickly green blush was on his cheeks. “Are you hard of hearing?” She demanded.

    At that, the woman at the adjoining station also turned to glare at her, her expression doleful.

    “And what of you?” Vashta barked.

    “Commander,” the centurion spoke again. She heard his approach. She swiveled quickly to face him, unsure if he would be carrying a firearm or honor blade. She had noted with some relief that some of the officers on the bridge carried them, as well as the person whose body she inhabited.

    “What is it?” She asked.

    “Are you well Commander?” The man asked, his expression sympathetic. “This was no retreat,” he added. “It was an ill-advised gambit to send just one ship, an aging one at that, into the heart of the Federation, to take control of the Gateway world, once the Tal Shiar had learned of its existence.”

    “What were we supposed to do?” The baleful female officer countered. “Just die?! The Federation have been keeping the power to change time all to themselves! Who knows what they’ve been doing all this time to direct our destiny?!”

    “Tullia is correct,” the pilot spoke up. Vashta was becoming more confused by the exchange, and frustrated, but also by the breakdown in decorum. These officers were far too informal, and it made her wonder what kind of commanding officer allowed such laxity. “I knew that Hobus was the Federation’s doing all along.”

    “I was there Junius,” a scarred officer stood up from an aft station. “Unlike you, and Starfleet lost ships there too.”

    “Don’t you dare compare a loss of a few ships to what we lost!” Tullia was out of her chair. “What I lost!”

    “Everyone, settle down,” the advisor was gentle, but firm again. Tullia and the scarred man shared hard looks but both sat down.

    “Now, that everyone has returned to their senses,” Vashta sought to reassert control. “Follow my orders.”

    “Belay those orders,” the centurion spoke. He rapidly gave another course heading, which the helmsman input. The ship was already heading to warp when Vashta jumped from her seat. She charged toward the usurper, the honor blade drawn.

    “How dare you countermand my order!” She snarled, ready to strike the man.

    The man didn’t react. Instead his expression was mournful. “Commander, you dishonor your ancestors, your husband, and your children by living in this lie.”

    “What are you talking about?!” She demanded.

    “It pains me to think it, even more to voice it,” the centurion replied, “But perhaps it is something we all need to be reminded of, to accept how changed our universe is now.”

    “If you don’t answer my question,” she jabbed the blade at him, just stopping at his eye. The man didn’t flinch.

    “Romulus,” he said, looking past the knife’s edge and right into Vashta’s heart. “Romulus is gone….”



    …Vashta’s mind was still hers, thank the D’ravsai, but her hands were different. They weren’t even hands. She held out each for examination, gaping at her long, dark tendrils.

    She quickly reached for her face but found only more writhing tendrils. She was nothing but a mass of writhing, serpentine limbs. What happened to me?! She shrieked inside. What have I become?!

    She looked around wildly, wondering what new horror she had fallen into. The ground beneath was quaking, the sky storming. She looked up and saw something even more fantastical than her present state of being.

    It was half of a large face, one that looked vaguely humanoid, but also something other…and it was contorted, in great pain. Vashta was mesmerized the moon-like visage, seeing something Romulan in its features, but even whatever she was now. She gasped as cracks formed in its façade, like dark spidery webs.

    “The infection has reached Fountainhead,” the alien speaking to her was of a humanoid species she hadn’t encountered before. The hairless, cone-headed being had orange-purplish skin and his face and neck were covered with breathing slits.

    Vashta didn’t know why but she understood exactly what the man meant. Somehow, she knew the great heart of Civilization was known by many names among its innumerable member worlds. Her people, or the being she inhabited, called the Begetter.

    “The situation has grown direr,” the alien was speaking again, drawing Vashta’s attention away from the agonized visage. “I’m sorry, but I can’t send you back to Kelva,” the man said. “You must take part of the Fountainhead to the Pandorian system,” he added.

    He pushed a small box toward her. She hesitated. The man held out the box. “I understand your frustration Azha,” the man replied. “You had wanted to seed your home system with Fountainhead, perhaps restarting the great cycle of life and growth in that benighted sector, but we misjudged the infection, and also, the hunters.”

    Memories she shouldn’t have possessed slash through her brain, with such forces that stumbled back. There were other beings, many of races she had never seen, or could scarcely imagine, killing those who held similar boxes. “The hunters,” she mumbled.

    The other man nodded, “Yes, and we are the last protectors of Civilization, we have gathered the remnants of Fountainhead that we were able to before the infection spread to the core. We must be steadfast in our mission to plant the seeds for Civilization to flourish once again, elsewhere, or else when, if necessary.”

    She took the box, placing it within her nest of tendrils. Unbidden, one tendril reached out and touched the man’s face. He closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. Vashta didn’t understand, but did completely, that this being meant something to her, or rather the body she inhabited. Her host’s voice spoke through her, “I will never see you again Gero.”

    He opened his eyes, “Azha,” he said, touching his chest before cradling the offered tendril. He placed the tendril over his chest. She felt his heart, and whatever passed for a heart in this form, throbbed with pain.

    “It is the greatest tragedy that we can traverse the timestream, yet we have run out of time,” Gero said before pulling away from her.

    Azha/Vashta watched him go. She stayed rooted in the spot until the great face above her echoed the scream that had been building inside her…
     
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  15. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ************************************************************



    S.S. Sloane

    Main Bridge



    Commander Rocha was a nice shade of Orion green. The motion of the ship didn’t help her condition much as the warp engines churned through space at full speed, the force rocking the ship even more than usual and pushing against the ship’s structural integrity.

    Chief Spano had complained, but the captain had been adamant. When Gustavo was convinced, there was no turning the man around. Andrea looked once again at the readings Lt. Dryer had discovered, and it made her feel even more sick to her stomach. Penda was thorough and the hypothesis she had concluded was sound. There had been another ship present while they had been meeting with Ambassador K’Dhan, a cloaked vessel.

    Dryer had discounted her idea that it was a Klingon vessel since their empire didn’t possess the technology, and the Suliban’s invisibility technology had been penetrated years prior, so that counted them out. The Romulans were the only choice left.

    Andrea looked back at the slender, raw-boned woman. Dryer was focused intently on her instrument panel. If her hypothesis proved correct, her station would be key to their survival. Gustavo wasn’t the only immovable force on the ship. Dryer, to her credit, had sensed something askew, and had did the research to expose the nearly impossible shifting in the electromagnetic field in the expanse that fit the dimensions of another vessel. Just about anyone else would’ve missed that, dismissing the fluctuations as natural cosmic occurrences.

    Penda hadn’t discounted that either, to her consternation, but there was enough meat there for Gustavo to look, and Andrea had eventually come around to concurring with both officers.

    “How much longer?” the captain asked as he came to stand beside Rocha. The man adjusted his jumpsuit. It was a familiar anxious tic of his that made her smile. Gustavo frowned.

    “Ah, yes,” Rocha remembered. She relayed the information.

    “Anything on long-range sensors yet?” The man turned around to the tactical station. Rocha swiveled in her chair to see if Dryer had found anything.

    “Captain, we’ve just received a garbled message,” Communications Officer Levenson interjected, his earpiece pressed so hard against his ear that it looked like it had become a part of him. “It’s not translating. But it does sound Klingon sir,” the man turned around in his chair. Andrea’s stomach turned when she saw the man’s pale skin and haunted expression. “I’m no expert on Klingon language, but I can pretty much tell a distress call when I hear it.”

    **************************************************************

    IKS Tran’nuc

    Trophy Room



    Ambassador K’Dhan lurched to his feet. He was groggy, his conscious still spread across space and time. Contact with the Fang had shown him great battles, past and future. The humans he had come to admire would become fierce enemies, and he saw great clashes with them in the years to come.

    But he also saw that they would become great allies, and even one of his own would wear their uniform…

    This one, a proud warrior, the best of their race, a man who possessed power, but was not possessed by it….

    Perhaps such a one was strong enough to resist the pull of the Fang. Sadly, K’Dhan was not.

    Drawn to the infernal blade again, he saw it near the form of the convulsion Romulan. He didn’t know if she was dying, nor did he care. He had heard tales about how touching the Fang could be fatal, that a body couldn’t handle the shock of its revelations.

    And he couldn’t afford to be seized by it again. He tore strips from his cloak and wrapped it around the sword. Around him the ship was coming apart. His crew was valiant, but the effort was futile. K’Dhan thought of dying with them, that perhaps the sword itself would be immolated along with them, but he feared that would not be the case.

    The sword would survive and someone less honorable, like a Duras or a Torg, would claim it and plunge the empire into another Dark Time, or perhaps even worse, the Romulans would gain possession of it, and enslave his people.

    He had a duty to safeguard the empire from such calamity. Cradling the sword, he moved toward the exit. Behind him the Romulan groaned. The diplomat considered ending the woman’s life but decided not to waste the few seconds to do so. Let her die by the hand of her own, a fitting end for such a glob fly.

    “Don’t,” the woman hissed, prompting the weary ambassador to turn back to her. The woman was now on her stomach, crawling toward him, no, really toward the Fang, one arm outstretched, her fingers grasping.

    “You will never have the Fang of Fek’lhr!” He declared, turning decisively from her and right into his destiny. The blade tore through his guts, filling him with the sweet fire of death.

    “You shall not possess the Fang either,” Klotma breathed, thrusting her blade deeper. “I’ve seen the light…the Light of Kahless,” she declared. “The tik’leth it showed me. It can restore my family’s place of honor.”

    “You foolish puq!” K’Dhan snarled, grasping the woman’s slender neck. “You have no idea what this sword is, what it can do…” He dug his fingers into her flesh. The woman grimaced but continued her attack. Her eyes blazed with flames by the dark warriors he had seen while in the Fang’s clutches.

    “It possesses great power, it sees…beyond,” Klotma answered, “It has called to me, it has promised….”

    She twisted the knife in him, causing K’Dhan to exhale in pain but somehow, he maintained his grip. An ocean of blood spilled from him, and his strength began to flag. The Son of Thok Mak saw that the woman was in the grip of battle frenzy, conjured by the Fang.

    “You will…not win,” he gasped.

    “I…will not…but one of my line…will,” she said, twisting the dagger the other way, ripping something deep inside him. K’Dhan fell to his knees. His fingers slid from the woman’s throat. She stood above him, her breathing wild, ragged. He looked up and glared at her.

    He weakly lifted the tik’leth and tried to drive it into her stomach. He nicked her, striking her side, drawing blood, but it wasn’t enough. She came around, slamming her d’k tahg under his jaw. K’Dhan’s flame blew out, his last thought was of happiness to be free of the Fang’s hold.

    **********************************************************************

    ChR Odaus

    Main Bridge



    “Those veruul can’t even shoot straight!” Decimus crowed as a photon torpedo shot an aft torpedo bank. The torpedo tore through space in the opposite direction of the Odaus.

    The bird-of-prey had dealt a mortal blow to the Klingon battlecruiser. That garbage scow was falling apart, and it wouldn’t be long before its warp core breached, and the ship went up like a Romulan candle. All that was left was to retrieve the Tal Shiar and watch the warp core devour the vessel.

    Once things had settled down, Trinam Rhin handed the Debrune teral’n to Marcella, more concerned about the injured Lhair. Marcella forced herself not to snatch the sacred staff from him. She exhaled as she wrapped her hand around it, imagining all the history contained within the emblem of their people.

    Suddenly feeling magnanimous, she dismissed the anxious marine, so he could be at Lhair’s side in the infirmary. She turned to Decimus and held the teral’n aloft. Even the old centurion’s grizzled visage crumbled, and he gazed in wonder at the ancient relic.

    He had to close his eyes to break the spell. Turning from it, he cleared his throat. “Commander, the major is still aboard the Klingon vessel.”

    “Yes,” she nodded, recalling Rhin’s hurried recounting of what had happened in the ambassador’s trophy room. It appeared that Vashta had went into a seizure after battling the ambassador. Before she had succumbed, she had at least given Rhin the proper instructions.

    “Perhaps we should just leave her,” Decimus muttered, though loud enough for her to hear. Marcella stroked the teral’n. It was just as likely that the Tal Shiar would intercept them and claim the relic for their order and their nefarious purposes, denying her crew and her husband the honor of retrieving it.

    “Scan the Klingon ship for Romulan life signs,” Marcella said instead. Decimus sighed, and she secretly shared the man’s regret. At least she was hoping that the woman had died by this point, so she could honestly argue that she tried to retrieve her but had been too late.

    “Commander, the Klingon ship is hailing us,” the communications officer replied.

    Marcella gave a sidelong look at Decimus. The centurion shrugged. “Perhaps they want to surrender,” he offered.

    “It’s far too late for that,” the commander replied. “Besides, I thought Klingons didn’t surrender, that it was an affront to their concept of honor.”

    “Honorable Klingons?” Decimus snorted, “Sounds oxymoronic.”

    “Be that as it may,” Marcella said, “Open the hail.”

    “It’s audio only,” the communications officer added.

    “So be it,” the commander replied. “Execute.” There was loud, painful burst of static, and then a rough, garbled voice spoke.

    “Secure that torpedo,” the voice ordered.

    “Vashta,” Decimus said, his head tilted to the side. Marcella nodded, concurring.

    “Major Vashta,” Marcella replied. “Prepare to be beamed back aboard Odaus. Your mission was successful.”

    “No!” The woman snapped. “The torpedo! The torpedo!”

    Marcella looked at the equally perplexed centurion. “What is she baying about?” Decimus once again verbalized the commander’s thoughts.

    “Lock on to the combat suit’s communicator,” Marcella told Sublieutenant Jalad.

    “Commander, the suit’s communicator has been damaged,” the weapons officer replied.

    “Lock on to her bio-signature then,” Decimus groused.

    “No,” Vashta said, “I will not be teleported! That’s an order!”

    “You do realize that the battlecruiser is minutes away from a warp core breach?” Marcella asked.

    “The fate of the empire is at stake,” Vashta rejoined.

    “Because of one photon torpedo?” Decimus scoffed. “The trinam did say you suffered a seizure, I think it’s touched your brain.”

    “The battlecruiser is breaking orbit,” Jalad informed the commander.

    The centurion sighed, “Enough of this Major!”

    “Decimus is right,” Marcella added, “Stop whatever game you are playing.” She nodded toward the Weapons Officer.

    “Commander, she’s transferred the ship’s remaining power to the engines and erected a force field around the bridge,” he gulped before adding, “I can’t transport her back.”

    “Ship is going to impulse,” Jalad said a second later.

    “Stop that vessel,” Decimus barked.

    “No,” Marcella held up a hand. “If the woman wants to kill herself, so be it. We did our duty, we tried to bring her home, but she’s chosen to chase some phantom. Let her. That ship’s warp core is failing, going to impulse will hasten its end.”

    “Yes, yes, of course,” the centurion shook his head and smiled. “You know how much I enjoy the hunt.”

    “That I do, and we got our most important quarry,” Marcella said, holding up the Debrune Teral’n. “Our work here is done.”

    **************************************************************
     
  16. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    **************************************************************

    S.S. Sloane

    Main Bridge

    One hour later….



    Captain Ortiz jumped out of his chair. “Where is the Tran’nuc?” He asked. There was debris on the main viewer but enough to be the remains of the entire battlecruiser or any ship that had attacked them.

    “Sir the ship…has left,” Lt. Dryer didn’t mask her confusion.

    “The ambassador escaped perhaps?” Commander Rocha turned around, her expression as hopeful as her tone.

    “There are two…warp trails…going in opposite directions,” Dryer said after a moment. She bent over her instrument panel, her nose almost pressing the metallic finish. “I’ll be damned,” she gasped.

    “What is it?” The captain asked. Rocha’s stomach twisted.

    “One of the warp trails is definitely from the Tran’nuc,” Dryer answered. She paused and looked at her console again. “But the other is reading as ours.”

    “How is that possible?” Ortiz took a step back. “We certainly didn’t exchange fire with the Klingons.”

    “The evidence says otherwise,” Dryer frowned. “The false warp trail is leading right back to Coalition space.”

    “We’ve been set up,” Chief Spano said from his aft station.

    “Damn,” Ortiz slammed a fist against the armrest.

    “What do we do Captain?” Rocha asked. “Do we go after the Klingon vessel to offer aid, and explain ourselves if need be, or do we go after the ship that stole our identity?”

    Decisions warred over the man’s features. “Whoever masqueraded as us also has a cloaking device. Penda, are confident that you can detect them again?”

    “No sir,” the woman replied with reluctance. “I got lucky this one time, and the variables will be different in another patch of space.”

    “That settles it then,” the captain nodded. “We find Tran’nuc and hopefully the ambassador will listen to us and not simply blast us out of the sky.”

    *********************************************************************

    S.S. Sloane

    Main Bridge


    “Oh God,” Commander Rocha covered her mouth. The ship eased through the debris field, the large fragments were unmistakably from Tran’nuc.

    Captain Ortiz was hunched over in his chair, his expression dour. “This is definitely not good. Juni, are there any life signs?” Science Officer Lao placed her face against the sensor hood.

    She looked up, her expression mournful, “No,” she answered. A moment later there was a beep that sound like a tree falling on the near silent bridge. She turned around quickly and looked at her panel. She turned around so quickly she almost fell from her chair. “Sir, I stand corrected, there is one survivor!” She turned back to her console. “Not in the wreckage, but in an escape pod, it made it just outside of the blast radius.”

    “On screen,” Ortiz said, his voice tinged with eagerness. The viewer went to a battered pear-shaped gray escape pod. “Prepare the grappler. I want to know the instant that pod is aboard.”

    He stood up, “I’m going to my ready room. Rocha, you have the command chair.”

    She slid out of her chair, “Mr. Levenson, have Dr. Epps on standby to assist the pod’s survivor,” Andrea ordered before taking the vacated center seat. “I just hope we were in time.”

    ****************************************************************

    S.S. Sloane

    Sickbay


    “Why is a Vulcan wearing a Romulan uniform?” Ortiz demanded. The woman was unconscious on a medical bed below them. The tapered ears were a dead giveaway for identifying her species, though admittedly Gustavo had never met a Vulcan with a V-shaped brow ridge on their forehead. The survivor’s serene appearance was incongruous with the dark uniform, one that Gustavo associated with death and extreme cruelty.

    When the woman had been rescued from the escape pod, she had been wearing a helmet. It had been quite the shock to see such a familiar face once the helmet had been taken off. Ortiz had ordered the information restricted only to Rocha and the chief medic. The captain didn’t know what was going on, but he intended to find out.

    “I wish I knew Gustavo, but that’s not my bailiwick,” Dr. Epps pushed back. “My job is to keep people alive, and my patient has suffered severe neural shock.”

    “I need her to answer some questions Barnard,” the captain pressed.

    “I’ve had to induce coma to prevent her neural pathways from completely shutting down,” the bald, gray-bearded, dark-skinned medic replied. “I’m not going to do anything that might impede her recovery. I’m counting on her redoubtable Vulcan constitution to also help her.” He paused, frowning, “Though the scans I’ve made are inconsistent with what scant information we have about the Vulcans.”

    “How so?” Ortiz barked and then grimaced after Epps glared at him. “Sorry about that, but I’m just on edge.” The doctor nodded in understanding and sympathy. Barnard had been serving aboard the ship far longer than Ortiz and been a constant source of advice and encouragement as Gustavo went from a callow junior grade lieutenant to the captain’s chair, all while serving aboard the Sloane. Epps had been a father-figure to him and many other crewmen over the decades that had served aboard Sloane. Gustavo would like to think no one loved the old ship more than him, but he knew better.

    “It’s just there are some very small physiological differences between this patient and the Vulcan medical records we have.”

    “You think it’s something unusual?” The captain asked, more gently this time.

    Epps shrugged, “It’s really tough to say Gustavo. The Vulcans haven’t been the most forthcoming in sharing their medical information, so these differences could mean nothing.”

    “Well, just keep an eye to see if anything else in your medical examination that raises a personal tactical alert,” the captain suggested.

    “I will,” the medic looked back down at the woman. “Captain as soon as she’s well-enough to speak, I will inform you.”

    “Fair enough,” Ortiz nodded. Normally the break point of a discussion, the captain instead gazed at the woman again. “None of this makes any damn sense. What was a Vulcan doing on a Romulan ship that attacked a Klingon battlecruiser?”

    “You’re assuming it was Romulans who attacked the diplomat’s ship,” the doctor pointed out.

    Gustavo was incredulous, “Who else could it be?”

    “Well, there are Vulcans opposed to the Coalition,” Epps replied, “And those logic extremist fellows.”

    “Those guys are on the fringes,” Ortiz said, dismissing them.

    “And maybe this is their attempt to make their presence more known,” the medic suggested.

    “Could be,” Gustavo rubbed his chin. It was a hard pill to swallow. He glanced at the woman again. “Then again, this could be a mercenary, one of those Vulcans-without-logic I’ve heard about.”

    “That is a strong possibility,” Epps nodded. “It makes more sense that concocting some larger conspiracy.”

    “But the idea of a Vulcan working with the Romulans boggles my mind,” Ortiz replied.

    “Just one more bizarre thing to add to all the rest of them out there in the cosmos,” the medic surmised. He clapped his old friend’s shoulder. “And for Earth this is just at the start of the journey.”

    *************************************************************
     
  17. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Taman/Vashta was wrestling with herself, then they were grappling with each other. Two bodies, both together and apart, merging and separating, joined in the fight of their lives. Lives intersected, diverged, and twined together again.

    One instant Taman was meditating in her domicile in Vulcana Regar and just as quickly Vashta inspected a herd of travit that grazed her ancestral lands on Henaka. Then around them burned the blistering heat of Vulcan’s Anvil for Taman but was the firefalls of Gal Gath’thong for Vashta. So similar, yet so different.

    Both women wanted to scream, wanted to thrash against the physical shell trapping their brains. “Get out of my mind!” Vashta snarled. “Release my body!”

    “I cannot,” Taman replied, using all her discipline to keep her composure.

    “You’ve violated me!” The Romulan spat. “How logical is that?”

    “The needs of the many…”

    “Spare me your false morality, you took possession of my body, you shackled my mind, because you could!” Vashta charged. “You still hate us for rejecting the dictates of your precious Surak! This is nothing more than a millennia-long vendetta!”

    “That is not true,” Taman replied. “We seek peaceful coexistence with all beings.”

    “Ha, tell that to the Andorians or even the humans!” Vashta laughed, but it was not a mirthful sound. “They are nothing more than your proxies to finish the war that your forebears could not.”

    “The aggression of the Romulan Empire was the cause of this war,” Taman pointed out.

    “Only because of human encroachment, abetted by Vulcan!” Vashta rejoined. “We had no choice but to defend ourselves!” The dangerous dance continued, both women locked in a deadly embrace.

    Taman tilted her head, seeing her foe in a new light, “The Tal Shiar mental conditioning is fascinating. The Romulans might lack our mental discipline but your propaganda is quite thorough in shaping, or rather warping, reality.”

    “The only reality is that the raptor’s wings will extend over the Alpha Quadrant!” Vashta crowed.

    “That will not happen,” Taman said. “The Star Empire is losing the war.”

    This war,” Vashta riposted. “But once I recover that Klingon sword, the powers it contains will give us the advantage!”

    “I would end our lives before allowing it to happen,” Taman declared. She broke her embrace, its suddenness making Vashta pause, but only for a moment. The Romulan went in for the kill, as Taman knew she would. And the Vulcan allowed the woman to strike, with her palm slamming into Taman’s nose, cracking bone and pushing shafts of it into her brain.

    While she was dying, her fingers found Vashta’s temples, and she threw her essence into the other woman.

    The Romulan fell to her knees, over Taman psychic corpse. “What have I done?” She muttered, “What have you done?” She charged, and then she looked up into the storm gathering above her, “What have we done?”
     
  18. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ****************************************************************

    S.S. Sloane

    Main Bridge



    After retrieving the escape pod, Ortiz had ordered Sloane to pursue the falsified warp trail. Returning to the bridge from the infirmary, the captain saw that the search continued. Rocha eased out of the command chair. Gustavo didn’t take the seat. He stood by the chair, focused on the penciled star field in front of them.

    “What’s the status of the search?” The captain inquired.

    “We’ve hit a dead end,” Lt. Dryer answered, her displeasure evident.

    “Could you have chosen a better description?” Chief Spano chimed in, drawing a hard eyeroll from the armory officer.

    “At least we’re closer to Coalition space,” Ensign Marceau offered.

    “From this point, they could’ve gone anywhere,” Dryer said. “To Vulcan, to the Rigel system, to Romulan territory, literally anywhere.”

    “I’ve informed Command of the situation,” Ortiz said. “Admiral Somers has said that Starfleet will take appropriate measures if a Klingon threat materializes.”

    “This doesn’t sound good,” Rocha replied.

    “Understatement of the year Andrea,” Ortiz responded with uncustomary drollness.

    “So, what’s the plan now boss?” Spano asked.

    “Admiral Gardner has ordered us to Outpost 10 to give a full accounting of what happened in the expanse,” the captain replied.

    “Not going to lie and say I won’t appreciate some downtime,” the engineer quipped.

    “Remember there is a war going on Vincenzo,” Ortiz said, only half-joking. The engineer was appropriately chastened. He turned back to his console in time to catch a face full of flames.

    “Vinny!” Dryer screamed as she jumped from her seat and race to the thrashing, shrieking man.

    “Penda, man your station!” Ortiz barked as the ship rocked again, sparking more consoles. “Danyel, help Spano!”

    The woman paused only a second to glare at the captain before rushing back to her station. “Polarize the hull,” the captain ordered over the wailing klaxons, “Penda, charge weapons and find something to hit!” While the armory officer was working on that he silenced the blaring alarms.

    “What the hell just struck us?!” Rocha turned halfway in her chair. A trail of blood ran from her nose. The deck trembled again with such force that Ortiz dug into his armrest to keep from being thrown from his seat. Smoke filled the bridge and he felt the heat from fires behind him.

    “What the hell happened to the fire suppression system?” He groused, “What’s our damn status?!” Acrid fumes poured into his mouth, watering his eyes and making him hack.

    “Warp core offline, various ship systems inoperable,” Lao replied, “We’re almost dead in space.”

    “Penda?!” Ortiz swiveled around in his chair. He wiped away tears. “Give me something?” His throat was already raw.

    “It’s Klingons sir, two ships, one warbird and one Raptor-class scout,” she said, her eyes glued to console. “They are coming around again sir.”

    He turned back around, “Brace for impact!” He ordered before the thunder began again.

    ***************************************************************

    S.S. Sloane

    Sickbay


    The injured were coming in droves. Dr. Epps barely had time to think before another injured person, or worse were brought in. He had put the Vulcan to the back of his mind. So, it didn’t register when he rushed by the bed she was on. He stopped and backed up. “Who moved this patient?!” He shouted to his medical staff, all while looking around the throng. “Where is she?!”

    ****************************************************************

    S.S. Sloane

    Main Bridge


    Penda Dryer was glad to be hitting back, but it wasn’t enough. The Klingons had gotten the jump on them and inflicted massive damage. They were all doing their best just to stay in the fight. The crew had pulled together, breaking out fire extinguishers to put out the fires. One of the crewmen had gotten the fire suppression system going in the meanwhile. The smoke had been sucked out, but the stench of smoke, burned circuits, and charred flesh hung heavy in the air.

    Penda tried to stay focused and not think about Spano. Levenson and one of the other ensigns had taken the man to sickbay. Vincenzo was a pain the ass, but he was their pain in the ass, and she hoped the man made it through. Right now, though she wasn’t sure if any of them would.

    Penda unleashed another volley of pulsed phase cannon fire and photonic torpedoes. A cheer went up as the fusillade hit pay dirt, smashing through one of the attacking ships, piercing its bulked up aft section, tearing the scout apart.

    “No rest for the weary,” she heard Ortiz grouse. “Lt. Dryer, find that other bastard so we can send him straight to hell.”

    “Klingon vessel is coming about,” Rocha called out, drawing Penda’s attention away from her station.

    “Klingons are hailing,” the auxiliary communications officer said.

    “Now those pendejos want to talk,” Ortiz grumbled. “Put ‘em on screen.”

    A dark brown Klingon, with a torn, bleeding cheek glared at them with his one good eye. The other was behind an eyepatch bolted to his skull. His long, grayish braided hair hung down his shoulders. He was wreathed by an infernal red light. “I am Kormog, son of Torg…”

    “And I don’t care,” Ortiz cut him off, drawing what a strong pejorative in response from the Klingon. “You attacked a Starfleet vessel.”

    “I was bringing the assassins of Ambassador K’Dhan, a member of the High Council, to justice!” The man shot back. “He came to you under a flag of truce and you slaughtered him and his brave crew!”

    “That’s not true,” the captain replied. “Let me explain.”

    “And do you also care to explain how you’ve compounded your crime by destroying another Klingon ship?!”

    “We were just defending ourselves,” Ortiz replied, the words sounding a bit hollow to Penda. The captain appeared stricken by the Klingon’s accusations. From what Dryer had learned about the visit aboard the Tran’nuc, the captain had come to respect the Klingon ambassador and thought he would be an advocate for cooperation between the Coalition and the Klingon Empire. And now to be accused of murdering the man must be quite disconcerting.

    “You can tell that to the magistrate at your tribunal,” Kormog retorted. “Now, lower your shields and prepare to be boarded.”

    “No,” Ortiz shook his head. “You want to take us into custody, then you’re going to have to do it the old fashion way.”

    Kormog’s smile was nasty, “I am glad you said that.”

    “You had no intention of taking Captain Ortiz or his crew into custody.” Penda joined everyone in looking at the woman standing by the turbolift. It was the woman they had rescued from the escape pod. She looked Vulcan, but or rather Vulcanoid, but her uniform was definitely Romulan. Penda looked at the other aft bridge crew and saw they were just as surprised by the woman’s appearance, and what she was wearing, as the Armory Officer.

    The Vulcanoid moved quickly down to stand in the command well, in front of a strangely unsure Ortiz. Kormog also looked uncertain.

    “What is this?!” He demanded.

    “Enough with the fiction,” the woman said, her expression cold, her words measured. “You merely wanted a recording to justify your actions to the High Council, to ‘prove’ that Captain Ortiz resisted apprehension,” the woman replied as she clasped her hands in front of her, a gesture Penda had seen countless Vulcans do.

    “I don’t have to listen to this!” He brayed.

    “If you wish for me not to expose the collusion of Houses of Duras and Torg with Romulan officials to start a war between the Coalition of Planets and the Klingon Empire without the authorization of your High Council, you will power down your weapons and leave the Sloane in peace.”

    And in one piece, Penda thought, but kept to herself.

    “I don’t take orders from your kind,” Kormog spat at the screen. He turned from the screen so quickly his braids smacked his face. He growled something unintelligible, before glaring at them again, “I told Toral your people were nothing but taHqeq, not to be trusted!” Penda wondered what the man meant by that. Certainly, the Vulcans were uptight and could be jerks, but they had a galactic wide reputation for their veracity, their often brutal and blunt honesty. “Are there other ships lying in wait? On the way?! What manner of trap is this?!”

    The woman silently held her ground. Surprisingly, it was the fearsome Klingon who blinked. “I will not forget this treachery! Know that your people have made an enemy of the Son of Torg!”

    “Taman of Vulcan hopes one day to turn that animosity to cooperation,” she replied, holding out her hand, her stiff fingers outstretched to form a V-shape. “Live long and…” The Klingon cut the communication. His warship whipped around with admirable nimbleness before going to warp.

    “I guess the cat’s out of the bag,” Rocha muttered as she got up from her seat. She grabbed her neck and massaged it. Ortiz was already out of his seat, heading toward the mysterious woman.

    A thousand questions were buzzing in Penda’s head. Who was Taman? Why was she on the Tran’nuc? Why was she wearing a Romulan uniform? And how would she know about any conspiracy between the Romulans and Klingons?

    And while she was thinking of all that, she was scanning to make sure the Klingons really had left while also running a diagnostic on the ship’s weapons systems. She wanted to marshal what they had and be ready in case more Klingons or Romulans came their way. The journey to Outpost 10 was still too long away to be caught unprepared again.

    “Taman, how are you feeling?” The captain inquired, with apparent concern. The woman turned slowly to face him.

    “Not. Optimal.” Was all she said before collapsing. Ortiz caught her. The captain placed her gently on the ground and then looked around the bridge. He pinned everyone with a hard look before saying.

    “You didn’t see or hear any of that.”

    *********************************************************************
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
  19. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Somewhere between the stars….



    It had been hours, days, since the oxygen ran out. Klotma wasn’t sure. Stuffed within the torpedo casing, clutching the Fang of Fek’lhr close to her chest, it’s sustenance was all she needed. She had never felt closer to Kahless or even the older gods than she did at this moment.

    She had been pondering for a great while now if this wasn’t the true Sword of Kahless, the most revered relic of her people, and had been libeled by naming it after Fek’lhr, overseer of the dishonored. A trick to keep those of ill will from claiming the sword. But Klotma had always been a believer.

    She had wanted to go to Boreth, to study the teachings of Kahless the Unforgettable in greater depth but her father had not been able to afford to send her, the family fortunes had fallen dishonorably low. Instead she had been sent to the Imperial Fleet to win glory for a house in desperate need of it.

    And now she would bring even more than mere trinkets or the accolades of irrelevant mortals, she would bequeath to her house and nation the bounty of gods….

    …A strong man, resembling her father, and wearing the ornate ancestral armor, strode among a resplendent warship, one not seen since the Golden Age. Raising the sword, he would use it to light the great Beacon of Kahless, bringing the whole of their people together to fight the humans…

    The blade had shown her many such things, whispering to her all the dark murmurings she had thought locked within the recesses of her heart….

    Before glory was restored, the sword had to be returned to where it had been rested, only to build found by the worthy. Klotma was certain it was the man in her visions, a man she knew at a core level was of her line.

    The whispers had told her to shoot the torpedo in the direction of the Gamma Hydra system, an improbable course, but Klotma had did as the voices commanded. As her breathing slowed and the final darkness creeped in, the great ships of the Black Fleet appearing in the distance.

    Belting the Warrior’s Anthem with the little breath left in her lungs, Klotma clutched the sword tighter. She would guard it in life and death until her foretold scion greeted her.

    *****************************************************************
     
  20. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *****************************************************************

    Outpost 10

    Four Days Later…


    “That’s one hell of a story Gustavo,” Admiral Jeremiah Somers said, “And it’s one that stays in this room.”

    “I told my crew something along the same line,” Ortiz replied. Rocha nodded in affirmation. “But I would really like some answers.”

    “I know you would,” was all the dark-skinned older man conceded, but remained tight-lipped.

    “Permission to speak freely sir?” Andrea raised a hand out of habit. Realizing her gesture after the flag officer gave her a quizzical look, Rocha quickly lowered her hand.

    “Of course, Commander Rocha,” Somers replied. Before she spoke, the admiral added, “I served with your mother. How is Carmo by the way?”

    “She joined back up as soon as the war broke out,” Rocha said, “Back with the Corps of Engineers.”

    “Carmo is one of hell an engineer. Taught my boy Jackson quite a bit,” the man’s smile receded. Andrea’s voice hitched in her throat. Her mother had told her that Jack had been the chief engineer aboard the Slayton, which recently had been lost in the Wagner-219 system. The admiral’s grief was still raw.

    To his credit, he quickly got a hold on his sadness, “Please, continue Commander.”

    “My condolences for your loss sir,” Andrea began. The elder man nodded in acceptance. “Sir, I think we deserve more of an explanation here.”

    “Commander Rocha,” Ortiz interceded. His respect for the chain of command and Andrea’s career compelled him to issue that admonishment. His heart was with his first officer. The fight had left the Sloane so damaged it would take nearly a month until the ship was ready to rejoin the fight. Far worse, they had lost 17 people, including Chief Spano. There was no damn refit in the galaxy that could fill the void left by the loss of all those lives.

    “No Gustavo,” Somers held up a hand, “Let her speak.”

    “Admiral, we lost a lot of good people in the Typhon sector and we don’t even know why,” Rocha said, doing her best to keep her voice level. “Not to mention the real assassin of Ambassador K’Dhan is still out there, roaming free.”

    “I can tell you about the Klingons,” Somers offered. “Our ambassador Vanderbilt presented your findings to the High Council’s representative at Babel. Thomas said the woman snatched the data pad, went back to her ship for an hour. When she came back, the woman said that it was an ‘internal matter’ and that was that. So, we still have just one war to fight, and to win.”

    “And what about Taman?” Rocha pressed, drawing a disapproving grunt from the captain. Somers looked at the woman squarely.

    “You’ve already answered your own question,” the man replied, his voice and expression etched with a palpable pathos.

    “I don’t follow,” Rocha said.

    “In war sometimes you never know why,” Somers’s rejoined.

    ******************************************************************


    Outpost 10

    Recreation Room


    Vincenzo would’ve wanted a celebration, but no one was in the mood to make merriment at his passing. A pall hung over the table as the officers and other crew who knew him best clutched the bottles and glasses and replayed private moments in their mind. It was driving Penda up the wall, but she felt she had to do this for Vinny.

    There was literally nothing else to do for him. Captain Ortiz had allowed her to assist in the engineer’s funeral arrangements and she had accompanied the captain and Acting Chief Engineer Burkhart when Ortiz met with Spano’s now widow. She wished she had met Brigit under better circumstances. Spano had talked about her often, but Dryer had been surprised to learn that the engineer had spoken about her to Brigit.

    When Brigit had told her that Vinny thought Penda was one of the best officers he had served with, it had crushed the armory officer. Dryer had let it go the nanosecond she was back in her quarters. If she had been so good she could’ve saved him. But to do that meant countermanding Ortiz’s order and possibly dooming the rest of the ship.

    She followed orders, and her sometimes foil and friend forever was now gone. Penda wanted to crawl inside an injector tube as much as wanted to pound down drinks and swap stories, moments now frozen in amber because there would be no more new memories about Spano. His antics now would become magnified or forgotten based on how the livings’ memories changed of him over time.

    Captain Ortiz and Commander Rocha, both sullen, joined them. Normally this would be a head-turning event since Ortiz rarely socialized with the crew. Rocha, on the other hand, was a regular in the Sloane mess hall.

    It didn’t take long before Lt. Burkhart, his cheeks florid, spoke up. “Did the admiral tell you anything?” Ansel had been the closest to Spano.

    “No,” Ortiz was blunt. “I’m sorry,” the man said, words that didn’t come readily to the man’s lips Penda knew.

    “Damn it,” Burkhart said, placing his glass down with force. “I just wish someone would say something. I mean, who was that woman? Cat got your tongue too Doc?”

    Dr. Epps took a sip of prune juice, which Penda knew was his beverage of choice, and kept his poker face. Burkhart snorted, turning halfway in his seat. “Maybe those guys have answers?” He flicked a thumb in the direction of the group of Vulcan officers at the bar.

    Their starship had arrived yesterday to retrieve Taman. Where they were taking her was anyone’s guess. “Perhaps I should just go ask them,” the engineer said, pushing back his chair.

    “Don’t,” Rocha replied.

    “We agreed no ranks at this,” Burkhart stood up. Swaying, he grabbed table to steady himself.

    “Put your ass back in that chair,” Ortiz ordered. Burkhart stared at him. The captain met his gaze until the engineer gave in. The man huffily sat back down. He crossed his arms like a spoiled child.

    “Shit,” Levenson muttered. Penda looked around and saw a Vulcan approaching the table. The tall man wore a form-fitting metallic brown tunic and matching pants, one of several Vulcan military uniforms. The man’s hue was a shade lighter than Penda’s. His pate was hairless and smooth.

    Captain Ortiz stood up. “May I help you?” He tried not to sound hostile, but Penda thought he didn’t stick that landing.

    The man nodded respectfully, “Captain Ortiz, I am Sub-commander Terral, of the Starship Lanka-gar.” Ortiz returned the gesture.

    “How can I be of assistance?” The captain’s tone had softened considerably.

    “I overheard,” he paused and dipped his head again so that the Sloane crew got a look at his pointed ears. Was that an attempt at humor? Penda wondered. “I wanted to extend my condolences over the loss of your crew.”

    “Thank you Sub-commander,” Ortiz replied. “That means a lot.”

    “It would mean more if you told us just who the blazes that woman in the escape pod was,” Burkhart stood up, his legs shaky. Terral gracefully gave the tipsy man space.

    “Now is not the time for this Ansel,” the captain’s voice was low, his teeth gritted.

    “If the good Sub-commander Terral is really so concerned, perhaps he can tell us why my friend had to die?” Burkhart pressed.

    “That’s uncalled for,” Rocha chided the unrepentant engineer.

    “I am not at liberty to discuss that,” the Vulcan replied smoothly. “All I can say is that the sacrifices endured by this crew have been of enormous benefit in hastening the end of this conflict.”

    “Cold comfort,” Burkhart folded his arms again.

    “Come on Ansel,” Ensign Marceau spoke up, “We would be space debris if Taman hadn’t saved us.” The engineer glowered at the helmswoman.

    “My apologies Sub-commander for this…lack of decorum,” Ortiz said. “It’s just…”

    “Captain, I understand how…illogic…emotional humans can be,” Terral diplomatically interjected. “Especially after undergoing profound change and loss.”

    “Can you at least tell me it was worth it?” Burkhart demanded. “Your people can’t lie, so if you say it, at least I can tell Brigit that.”

    “Vulcans are capable of telling untruths, like most humanoids,” Terral corrected, “However we generally consider it more logical to be honest and transparent unless it is more prudent to prevaricate.”

    “Ha,” the engineer snorted, “Transparent coming from you sounds rich.”

    “That’s enough Mr. Burkhart!” Rocha was on her feet now. “You have long since crossed the line!” Terral’s eyes narrowed slightly, doubtlessly discomfited by the unchecked emotions flowing around the table. However, the sub-commander rode the wave.

    “To answer Mr. Burkhart’s inquiry,” the Vulcan replied, “My superiors deemed the mission a success, ergo, it was ‘worth’ it.”

    “That’s something,” the engineer held himself even tighter, a tinge of sad vindication in his voice. “That’s something.” His eyes began tearing and the man crumpled, sobs overtaking him. Penda dabbed at her own moistening eyes.

    The Vulcan looked down at the grieving man, his rigid control receding a fraction. His voice thawed slightly, “It is ‘something’ indeed.” The words mollified the engineer and the pall began to dissipate.

    It was only after the Vulcans had left the rec room that a nagging thought slid into Penda’s mind. Had the Vulcan told the truth, or merely what Burkhart and many of them needed to hear? The thought twisted around in her mind like a knife. She tossed back her drink to dull its pain and kept ordering and drinking into there was no more pain.

    *****************************************************************