Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Starkers, Feb 16, 2006.

  1. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

    Apr 22, 2001
    Dear all, this thread is designed to become the home for each and every winning story from the new monthly challenge. As such I hope we'll all get a story in here, at least once, and that this archive will act as an advertisment for all our other works. Anyway...on we go!
  2. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

    Apr 22, 2001
    November 2005

    "They're just jealous" By Zephyr

    Gene Roddenberry sat staring at his computer screen. This was his finest character yet. No one could help but be inspired by the qualities of this character—he was just so life-like, so believable. Absent-mindedly he noticed that he had new mail. He clicked on it and saw that a friend had sent him a link to the Mary Sue Litmus test to help fan fiction writers avoid creating Mary-Sues. Just for laughs, he thought, I’ll fill out the test for Wesley. See what they do to a canon character.

    Question 1. Is the character named after you? (10pts)

    Gene paused a minute and thought, well yes. Well, sort of, but that didn’t make Wesley a Mary Sue. The author of the test was obviously exaggerating, that had to be it. He scanned over a number of questions, relieved to find no more obvious ones. Okay, he did get a point or two for same gender and same ethnic group, but it would be a rather boring starship if there were no male Caucasians on it, so he was certain those two points didn’t count. Fairly pleased with Wesley’s performance, though a little riled at the initial question, Gene moved on to the next section, which was Personal Traits. Wesley breezed through this one. The only problem was “does everyone like the character?” With a sign Gene added one point to the growing total. And this section had been going ever so well.

    He skipped over super-powers entirely, ignoring the potentially painful “does the character just seem to know things,” and went straight to the section on the character and the real world. Now this section was not going well; he couldn’t seem to seem to answer no to any of the questions. That was a whole seven extra points. He bit his knuckles and got up and paced around the room. He knew better—of course Wesley couldn’t be a Mary Sue. He would never have written such a despised type of character. After all he had envisaged Spock, he had written McCoy’s dialogue, he would never have written a Mary Sue!

    Having managed to calm himself with a tea break, Gene sat down again to the final section: The fiendish plot. Well yes, he did introduce Wesley in the first scene, but someone had to. With a sigh he added another two points. Luckily a lot of the rest of the questions involved the TV series Gargoyles specifically, so he was saved from more embarrassment. Although the annoying question of “does the character save the day?” was worth three points. Sneakily, Gene thought: well he will save the day several times but I’ll only count it once. He is a brilliant engineer after all. He had nearly got through to the end without racking up any more points, till he got to the one about stories that revolved around the character. With a heavy sigh he added the two points and totalled his score up.

    It was a twenty-four! He was shocked that his brilliant creation could score so high. Looking it over, he saw that Wesley was definitely in the Mary-Sue camp, even after those traits he had managed to excuse. He stared at the test for a moment or two, not really believing his eyes. Then he turned and looked at the window and mumbled “they’re just jealous”.
  3. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

    Apr 22, 2001
    December 2005

    Death Watch By Starkers

    I wish it didn’t have to be like this, he thought.

    But it did, and he knew it did. On the view screen in front of him was the planet. It was nothing special, just another blue/green sphere like so many other M-Class planets, and it orbited a fairly uninteresting star. Nothing of importance, nothing of note, except for what was about to happen, then the planet would go down in the history books…

    As a footnote, a statistical entry, nothing more.

    The raktajino by his side had gone cold without him touching a drop, his mouth was dry but he couldn’t take his eyes off the planet.

    It wasn’t the first time for him- the third in fact- but nonetheless there was something…he struggled for the right word, historic seemed crass but it would have to do, something historic about this, his first time as a Captain. No one else to blame this time, no shying away from his own culpability by thinking that the Captain should have done something, anything.

    Sisko sighed. The Defiant had been in orbit around Belthess 2 for three hours, they wouldn’t be here much longer. The bridge was as quiet as a tomb, each of his crew was alone with their own thoughts now, each of them dealing with this in a different way.

    Kira was in her cabin, praying. When she’d said she hoped the Emissary didn’t mind his stomach had clenched. Of course he hadn’t minded, the only thing he minded was that dammed word.

    Bashir had argued of course, demanded that Sisko do something even though the young Doctor knew as well as anyone that nothing could be done. Sisko hoped the fire in Julian’s eyes, the passion in his heart, would never fade.

    But it would, you only had to look at O’Brien to see that. The two men were more alike than either would ever admit, both dedicated to fixing what was broken, both tinkerers. But, while Bashir raged against the inevitable, O’Brien faced it pragmatically, grim resignation in his veteran eyes.

    And then there was Worf, Worf who’d managed to surprise his Captain. He hadn’t been with them long, not long enough to know well, but still Sisko hadn’t expected him to be so emotional. Of course with the big Klingon it was hard to tell, but Sisko had seen a hint of turmoil in the warrior’s eyes. This bothered him, and Sisko wondered why? Perhaps because it wasn’t very honourable…maybe when this was over he’d ask. Then again maybe he wouldn’t, this wasn’t the kind of mission anyone in Starfleet tended to talk about.

    ‘Sixty seconds to impact,’ said Dax.

    He winced at the dispassionate tone of her voice. She’d approached this from the outset with clinical detachment that would have put a Vulcan to shame. Sometimes it disturbed him how cold she could be. He guessed multiple lifetimes could do that to you. In spite of that he knew she would be the only one he’d talk to about this, after.

    ‘Forty seconds,’

    He gripped the arms of his chair. I ought to be able to do something. I’m the Captain of one of the most powerful ships in the Federation; I’ve got some of the best minds in Starfleet right here on my bridge. I ought to be able to do something!

    But he couldn’t. They’d talked about it, run endless simulations through the computers, but all came up the same. It had been moot anyway, because his orders wouldn’t have allowed him to do anything even if one of their harebrained schemes had been viable. Except maybe he could have bent the rules, maybe he could have told Starfleet to shove their orders.

    ‘Twenty seconds,’

    Be honest, Ben, you could do something if you wanted to. So you can’t stop what’s going to happen, no one short of a Q could, but you could still save some of them. He’d done the math; in the time they’d been here they could have beamed at least fifty of them up to Defiant. Not enough for a viable colony though, he told himself; clutching at straws.

    No, don’t hide behind ifs and maybes, Ben, as much as the non-interference directive tears your heart in two you believe in it. And that’s why you’re going to sit here and do nothing.

    ‘Ten seconds.’

    Damn it woman, show some emotion.

    They’d all seen the Belthessians- their race didn’t even have their own name yet, just the afterthought of the Cardassian who’d discovered this world- their scans giving a superb overhead shot of one of their villages. In human terms they were little beyond cavemen. Though already they’d mastered fire, already they had tools and wore furs. Who knew where they’d be in a few million…


    On the screen nothing happened. Everything happened.

    Berthold rays were invisible, ghost particles that were nonetheless real enough to be deadly to all forms of carbon based life. The cloud that had just shrouded the planet, the cloud they’d only detected two days ago, contained a concentration of berthold rays more powerful than any yet discovered. He consoled himself that at least it would be swift.

    ‘It’s over,’ said Dax. ‘They’re all gone,’

    Now she let a little pain creep into her voice. Though no amount of pain could do justice to what they had just borne witness too. Over one hundred and seventy thousand sentient beings, a civilisation in the making, snuffed out as easily as a candle.

    And all we did was watch.

    Heavy footsteps sounded behind him, someone had to get off the bridge quickly, anger resonating though the bulkheads with every step, a death knell for a race.

    He knew it was Bashir.

    Worf muttered an obscenity under his breath that the universal translator had the good manners not to translate. Sisko looked over at O’Brien. He looked older, sadder than he had ever seen him. But then he forced a tiny smile. ‘We couldn’t do anything,’ he said ‘But at least we were with them, someone was with them, at the end.’

    Sisko turned back to the now dead planet, wondering if that mattered at all, wondering at the random nature of the universe, wondering if some alien ship had sat above Earth as a meteor crashed down and consigned the dinosaurs to extinction.

    “If someone had stopped that we wouldn’t be here now.”

    He knew the line off by heart, the very first thing the lecturers taught you about the Prime Directive. The words hadn’t sounded so hollow in a lecture hall though.

    He felt he should say something, a eulogy, an apology, anything to give this meaning.

    Instead he closed his eyes. He wanted to go home, he wanted to see Jake, to wrap his arms around his son and never let go. ‘Chief, drop a warning buoy, Dax, set a course back to DS9, maximum warp.’

    ‘Course laid in, Benjamin,’

    He opened his eyes and looked again at the graveyard before him. ‘Engage.’

    I wish it didn’t have to be like this.
    DarthTimon likes this.
  4. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

    Apr 22, 2001
    January 2006

    Too Much by RevdKathy

    Bethlehem Colony was in a far flung corner of Federation controlled space. Almost as if people didn’t want to know it existed. Which probably they didn’t.

    Health care had rendered such places long since obsolete. Well, almost obsolete. The days of penal colonies such as Tantalus was long gone. ‘Criminally and incurably insane’ was a forgotten category. People preferred not to know that there was still a tiny, tiny minority of patients who failed to respond to treatment.

    But out there, in a far distant corner, was Bethlehem Colony. Not a hospital. Nor really a prison. Euphemistically called an ‘asylum’: a place where people went when they needed to be kept safe.

    The staff at Bethlehem were hard working, decent folk. But no-one pretended they wanted to be there. It was hardly a posting liable to get you attention. And there were no promotion opportunities. A dead end post, watching over dead end patients.

    The man sat at his desk and stared into space. He wished he could forget how long he’d been at Bethlehem colony. He wished he could forget anything. But forgetting wasn’t in his repertoire. That was his problem. Century after century and every single moment carefully recorded.

    He remembered back to the beginning: his Father. And the woman he’d called ‘Mother’. In a way it was their fault. The time factor was not something they’d considered.

    He remembered his early days at college. He hadn’t fitted in then, despite his best efforts to blend. No-one had treated him as ‘normal’ until his first posting.

    He remembered that, too. His first Captain: a warm, brave, serious-minded man who’d taken the young lieutenant under his wing, and helped him come to grips with his basic humanity. Dead now, of course. Long, long ago.

    He remembered the bright enthusiastic engineer. They’d worked together to solve so many problems: one with the spark of genius and inspiration, the other with a limitless capacity to process information and sift through data. They’d had some brilliant times on that first posting.

    And others, too: the fierce Klingon, who’d actually respected him for his physical prowess. Respected him! Maybe the first person who had.
    And the gentle, empathic counsellor, who had been the first to try to understand the huge issues of his identity and strange collection of responses.

    And the girl. Tasha. Funny that after millennia she still mattered.

    When they admitted him to Bethlehem, they’d taken all his belongings ‘for your own safety’. He wasn’t sure what they’d thought he’d do with a desktop hologram, but he resented that loss. He’d like to see her again.

    Of course, Bethlehem had to exercise their ‘duty of care’. The place was carefully constructed so there were no ligature points, though he doubted he could hang himself. And no sharp objects, though cutting his skin would not make him bleed. He was a ‘risk’, carefully assessed after his so-called ‘attempted suicide’.

    They didn’t understand. How could they? Their lives were so short: maybe a hundred, a hundred and fifty years. Little enough to leave them always wanting more, always wanting to extend their lives by one more year, one more day, one more minute.

    But what about him?

    He’d had friends. He’d loved people. And they’d gone. Every single one was dust.

    And he’d achieved so much. With a positronic brain capable of almost limitless calculations he’d advanced science, engineering, medicine. He’d researched history, studied the arts, learned psychology.

    And finally, he’d run out of things to think. So he’d turned himself off.

    They didn’t understand. To them, that was ‘suicide’, sign of a disturbed mind. They deactivated his ‘off’ control, and tried to ‘treat’ him. But you can’t medicate a mechanical body. And talking therapies come to an end when there’s nothing left to say. He couldn’t make them understand: he’d simply lived enough.

    So here he was, in a Nice Safe Room on Bethlehem Colony. One of the very few ‘severe and enduring’ psychiatric patients. One of the ‘intractable’ cases.

    He shuffled in the chair. It gave him something to do. And stared at a blank wall, having seen everything else.

    What else did you do, when you had too much time?
  5. Revdkathy

    Revdkathy No PPE was wasted in the making of this avatar Moderator

    Oct 9, 2000
    being sad
    *Mod's note: this thread is now prune-proof :) *
  6. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

    Apr 29, 2005
    my sister finally got around to reading Death Watch.

  7. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

    Apr 22, 2001
    February 2006

    "We Come In Peace" by AdamCzar

    Captain G’rant waited so long for this one particular day that when it finally happened he could hardly believe it. As he stood in the middle of the bridge in the starship – his starship – he had to laugh to himself that he had predicted the situation so well: like anything anyone waits for, when the time comes, it seems like any other instant, moving by too fast. It’s only in a state of retroflection that a moment seems to slow down.

    Even so, he took a deep breath to add a little drama to the situation. “Mister Call,” he ordered the helmsman, “take us out.”

    The young helmsman couldn’t help but smile, himself. G’rant realized he was being a bit selfish by basking in this moment, making it his own, when his entire crew was right there with him.

    He spun around to face his chair and the rest of the crew behind him.

    “This is it,” he said after a moment. “We’re doing it.”

    That’s it? He thought. The big moment, and that’s all I say?

    With the slightest hint of embarrassment, G’rant sat in the chair. He’d sat in it a few times before, but now, as he began the mission he had wanted for so long, he took in the details. His arms fell onto the rests with ease, and as he took one more deep breath he felt his posture lean right back against the red fabric, his head held high.

    The Starship Explorer’s primary mission – finally granted by his planet’s Space Commission to get out there – explore all that was to be explored.

    Oh, the possibilities, he thought. I may even run into someone just like myself… seeking out new life and new civilizations for the betterment of all.

    On the other hand, as far as G’rant knew, he was alone. He’d pondered the subject with his family many nights before. Acquaintances and strangers alike would even ask him, “Do you think we’re alone in the universe?”

    For a scientist like himself, he always felt a bit pressured to give a definite answer. Grey areas never appealed to him. However, he knew the best answer his people’s studies could come up with was “I just don’t know.”

    The unknowing of it all drove him crazy. He wondered, if there was just one form of life like his own, why haven’t they made contact?

    Then the adventurer in him would take over, and decide to take the matter into his own hands.

    If they weren’t going to introduce themselves, he’d go out and introduce himself.

    One of G’rant’s largest ambitions was the forming of some kind of alliance. “The Great Planetary Alliance,” as he called it, was the source of controversy back on his home planet. Some of G’rant’s biggest critics called it too extreme and looked at it as a child’s fantasy. They hadn’t even make contact with any forms of life yet, and G’rant was talking about forming alliances whose sole purpose would be to go out and find more alliances to ensure a peaceful universe where everyone could be happy.

    But, the Space Commission saw in G’rant what many others saw – extreme optimism, and an unyielding determination to do the right thing. G’rant was a good man, and as soon as the first Starship was commissioned, after a few obligatory shake-down missions, he’d get the orders he always hoped for: “Go out there, see what you can find, and make friends.”

    So when the alert claxon came to life – the one that was programmed to notify everyone when a signal was being picked up that could indicate an intelligent broadcast – he was shocked.

    “This soon?” He asked, with wonder in his eyes.

    G’rant sprang up from his chair and ran over to his communication’s officer. “What is it?”

    The communication’s officer looked over his readouts. “It definitely has the signs of being intelligent. Definitely not any random noise.”

    “What kind of signal is it?” G’rant knew it would take time to figure that out, but he asked anyway.

    “It’s not analog,” the officer responded. “Not a radio wave. Switching to digital.” He pressed a command into the computer.

    The speakers creaked and popped a bit, but eventually there was a voice.

    And it spoke their language.

    “Clean that up.” G’rant ordered. His mind spinning, he pondered the situation. “Listen, we can understand them,” he finally stated. “Is it coming from the Space Commission?”

    “No, sir.” The communication’s officer answered.

    All eyes on the bridge were facing their Captain.

    “It’s gone, sir. The signal stopped.”

    Before G’rant could utter another word, the helmsman, from in front of the view screen, shouted for his Captain’s attention. “Sir!”

    The helmsman didn’t have to say anything. G’rant knew what he was going to say as soon as the large vessel materialized out of nothing in front of them. He got weak in the knees as he marveled at the architecture of such a beautiful vessel.

    G’rant laughed.

    “I don’t believe this!” he shouted. “Not even ten minutes out on our first mission and we’ve already found life!”

    Some of the other bridge crew began to laugh, too.

    “I knew it!” G’rant continued. “I knew life was abundant! I’m jumping to conclusions, sure, but if there is life right next door to us, logically there’d be more the further we went!” He shot excited glances all around.

    For a moment, an awkward silence took over the bridge. G’rant realized he was becoming too excited. Some of the crew looked scared. And when G’rant took another look at the vessel, the thought did enter his mind that the large green vessel was intimidating.

    Nonetheless, he didn’t wait for the signal to come again. “Can we send a communication to them?”

    “We can certainly try, sir.” The communications officer said.

    G’rant nodded. He walked around to the center of the bridge and stood directly in front of the view screen. When the communications officer gave the word, he began to talk.

    “On behalf of the planet of Rhemor, I greet you in peace.” He’d rehearsed this so many times, the words rolled right off of his tongue. He wished he could slow down this moment, too. “My name is Captain G’rant of the Starship Explorer. Our mission is to seek out new life, to make contact.” He left out the part about the Great Planetary Alliance. “Please, the last message we received was garbled, probably because of our—”

    He couldn’t finish his sentence. A large discharge of static came over the speakers. After a moment of fighting off the impulse, he gave in and covered his ears. He rushed over to the communication’s station.

    G’rant lowered his head to the officer and removed the hand from his right ear. “What’s happening?!”

    “It’s coming from their ship, sir!” The officer shouted back. “But we should be able to hear them just fine. It’s as if they’re sending the noise on purpose!”

    G’rant looked back at the view screen. The ominous vessel floated before them. What looked like white windows peppered the outer green hull. He could see no one inside.

    The noise stopped.

    “Captain G’rant of the Starship Explorer,” a voice announced. The bridge froze. A few seconds passed. “You have entered space belonging to the Romulan Star Empire. You are ordered to leave at once.”

    G’rant’s head began to spin. “The Romulan Star Empire? I’m sure there is some mistake,” he questioned aloud. “We’re only minutes away from our home world… this area is, by default, already claimed by the Great Planetary Alliance.”

    Some of the bridge crew began to understand.

    Sometimes, it happened as kids.

    They’d find a really neat area in the back section of their parent’s land and build a tree house, only to find out the tree was on someone else’s property.

    They’d be playing in the sandbox when another kid would approach and kick sand in their face for messing with their area.

    Back then, as children, they saw only one logical way to settle the dispute: who was there first? Even as adults, more often than not it ultimately came back to that one question.

    But G’rant was so thrown through a loop he was having a hard time maintaining his composure. “We’ve studied this area. There was no one out here. Our boundaries clearly indicate that at this time—”

    “Captain, you’re boundaries mean nothing.” The bully kicked sand in G’rant’s face. “You are not welcome here. Leave, or be destroyed.”

    As if suddenly realizing how badly this first contact was going, G’rant tried to redeem the situation. “Please, we mean no disrespect. Perhaps we’ve made a bad first impression—let me once again state our peaceful intention. If we’re this close by, we should be allies!”

    “Sorry to interrupt, sir, but I’m getting a peculiar reading,” one of the bridge officers reported. “There is an energy discharge forming along their starboard bow.”

    “A weapon?” G’rant’s brow furrowed. “Fine. Mister Call, get us out of here.”

    “Yes, sir,” the helmsman said. “Reversing course.”

    They headed home without saying much. On the way back, the moments seemed to go by a little too slow.
  8. trampledamage

    trampledamage Clone Moderator

    Sep 11, 2005
    hitching a ride to Erebor
    Neat idea, Starkers. Would it be possible to include what the challenge parameters were for each month - then we can see what each entry was going for.
  9. adamczar

    adamczar Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Feb 13, 2006
    Lower Michigan
    ^ My thoughts exactly. Good idea.
  10. trampledamage

    trampledamage Clone Moderator

    Sep 11, 2005
    hitching a ride to Erebor
    I think there's a time-limit on editing your own posts, so I'll put the themes here. Although, I can't find the challenge for November.

    December 2005 - 1,500 words on the theme of "wish"
    January 2006 - 1,500 words on the theme of "time"
    February 2006 - 2,000 words on the theme of "boundaries"
  11. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

    Apr 22, 2001
    ^ Thanks for that. Wish I could remember what November was!
  12. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

    Apr 29, 2005
    November was 'deception' - i remember since my entry was simply entitled 'Deception'
  13. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

    Apr 22, 2001
  14. trampledamage

    trampledamage Clone Moderator

    Sep 11, 2005
    hitching a ride to Erebor
    March challenge - stories up to 2,000 words on the theme of "Misunderstanding"


    by Admiral2

    (1493 words)

    “Time to arrival, Mr. Data?” Captain Jean-Luc Picard asked.

    “Four minutes, twenty-three seconds.” Commander Data said, noting internally that it had only been five minutes since the last time Picard had asked.

    Picard had reason to be impatient. He was trying to avoid the collapse of a diplomatic initiative that had made significant progress over the past few years. That was why the Enterprise-E was barreling at Maximum Warp toward Tamarian space.

    Ever since Enterprise-D’s first encounter with “The Children of Tamar”, the Federation had made opening relations with the Tamarians a priority. The method they’d chosen for doing this was novel, in more ways than one. In essence, they would trade stories. Federation ships would periodically return to Tamarian space and wait to be contacted, then transmit text and holonovel versions of narratives from member worlds’ histories, mythologies and heroic fiction, then wait for their contacts to respond in kind. The ad hoc cultural exchange would provide both sides with a wealth of source material to work from while helping the Federation’s representatives to learn to communicate the way the Tamarians did. It wasn’t the most elegant plan, but it had worked. Picard had made the initial offering and gotten a response almost immediately, and in the years since he and other Starfleet captains involved in the exchange had become almost fluent in Tamarian communication. Both sides were really talking now, about their civilizations, about becoming allies and about the wider universe.

    Yet all of that progress was in jeopardy, and Picard was at a loss to understand why. The Starfleet officer currently managing the exchange program, Captain John Morgan, was relatively new to the job, but he’d been trained well. Picard wouldn’t have thought it likely that Morgan would commit any kind of diplomatic error, much less one that would require sending the Priority One distress signal that Enterprise had been sent to investigate.

    Picard brooded over the problem in silence for the last few minutes of the warp transit. Commander Worf’s report brought him out of his reverie. “Swiftsure coming into visual range.”

    “Slow to Impulse.” Picard said. “On screen.”

    As the ship slowed the image on the main viewer changed from the Warp-distorted starfield to a magnified image of the Federation Starship Swiftsure, Captain Morgan’s command. The small Nova-class vessel was currently surrounded by ten much-larger Tamarian cruisers.

    “Damn.” Picard muttered, then said clearly: “Hail the lead Tamarian ship.”

    Worf carried out the order. “They are responding.” He said.

    Picard stood, adjusted his tunic and looked squarely at the main viewer. “On screen.”

    The image changed again to a view of the Tamarian captain standing on his bridge.

    Without missing a beat, Picard said clearly: “Lanir on the hillside at Kanam!” Let me resolve our differences.

    The Tamarian glared back and sneered: “Judas earns his silver!”

    That was ominous. “A newborn who listens.” Picard said. “Pharon and his scales.” I don’t understand. I came to find answers.

    “Caesar crosses the Rubicon!” The Tamarian said. You are here to conquer!

    “The journeyman, with arms out-stretched! Sunset at Maryl. Lanir on the hillside at Kanam.” I come in peace! Give me time to resolve our differences.

    The Tamarian pointed at Picard. “The Rigan Fleet, with sails unfurled!” He raged. Leave now while you can!

    “Borath at the Passage?” And if I refuse?

    “The French at Agincourt.” The Tamarian hissed.

    There was a tense silence, which Picard broke by repeating his request in a more pleading tone. “Sunset at Maryl. Lanir on the hillside at Kanam.”

    There was another pause as the Tamarian captain glared at Picard, then his features softened as he relented. “Sunset at Maryl.” He growled, then closed the connection.

    Picard glared back at the screen for a moment after the image reverted to the Swiftsure and the alien ships, then he turned and walked toward the turbo-lift. Data spoke as he went. “Captain, given the length of the day on the world ‘Maryl’ references I estimate that we only have...”

    Picard cut him off. “I’m aware of how much time we have, Mr. Data. We won’t need all of it. If we haven’t figured out how to resolve this problem within fifteen minutes of the deadline we will simply withdraw to neutral space and hope to start over another day. Contact the Swiftsure and inform Captain Morgan that I’m beaming over. Number One, you have the conn.” With that he stepped into the lift.


    “I don’t know what happened, Picard!” Morgan told Picard in Swiftsure’s Ready Room. “I thought everything was going well! I even told Captain Akon that I looked forward to the day our peoples would truly be united, then suddenly he calls in all these reinforcements and he’s calling me things like Judas, Benedict Arnold and all sorts of other famous traitors from Federation history!”

    “Something you said must have given the him the impression that we would betray them.” Picard said.

    “Well, obviously, but I’ll be hanged if I know what I said!”

    “Calm down. What exactly did you say before Akon grew angry? What phrase did you use?”

    “I tried to use a symbol of unity to express my wish for continued good relations, so I said ‘Ganek on the plains of Vikrid’.”

    Picard looked as if he’d been struck. “Say that again.”

    “What? ‘Ganek on the plains of Vikrid’?”

    Picard lowered his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Of all the stupid mistakes...” He muttered, then said to Morgan: “You should have said ‘Ganak on the plains of Vikrid.'”

    Morgan looked confused. “So all of this is because I mispronounced Ganak?”

    “Have you actually read the story of the Battle of Vikrid?”

    “Are you kidding? There are over five thousand stories in the context database! I haven’t read a tenth of them yet. I’ve been more concerned with making sure I had the proper phraseology down pat for this round of talks.”

    Picard sighed. “The Battle of Vikrid was a seminal moment in Tamarian history. It was the first time the chief tribes gathered together to fight an invading horde. The leader of one of the tribes was a young warrior named Ganak. He formed the alliance, led the tribes against the invaders and laid the groundwork for unifying all the Children of Tamar.”

    “Okay, but I still don’t see...”

    “Ganek was the brother of Ganak. He was leading the invaders against his people and their allies for his own personal gain. His actions were the reason why Ganak took up the mantle of leadership. Their relationship had kept him from realizing Ganek’s ambitions almost until it was too late.”

    “Oh. So when I said ‘Ganek on the plains of Vikrid’...”

    “You essentially bragged that you were using this entire diplomatic effort as a ruse to put them at the mercy of their enemies and bring about their destruction, solely to satisfy whatever ambitions you might have.”

    The two captains stared at each other for several moments, then Morgan bowed his head. “I guess ‘Oops’ doesn’t quite say it.” He said.

    Picard smiled. “No, and I can’t honestly say there’s no harm done, but perhaps we can alleviate some of the damage. Here’s what we’ll say...”


    Later, on Swiftsure’s bridge, Picard and Morgan were standing in front of the viewscreen, facing the image of Captain Akon. Picard put his hand on Morgan’s shoulder and said: “The Man who listens.” He has learned what he needs to know.

    “Lothog before the Goddess!” Morgan said with a bow. I humbly beg your forgiveness.

    Akon regarded them for a moment. “The journeyman, with arms outstretched?” He said.

    “The journeyman, with arms outstretched.” Picard said, then turned to Morgan. “Herakles atones for his misdeeds.” Morgan will do anything he must to earn your forgiveness and trust.

    “Garoth and Marka by the fire?” Akon said. Will we continue to talk openly and honestly?

    “Garoth and Marka by the fire.” Morgan said.

    There was another pause while Akon thought, then he turned to someone on his bridge and said: “Akton’s ships, with sails unfurled.”

    “Captain Morgan, the Tamarians are pulling out.” Swiftsure’s tactical officer said.

    “All of them?” Morgan said.

    “Except Captain Akon’s ship, and it’s standing down from alert.”

    Morgan turned his attention back to the screen. “Lanir leaves the hillside.” Akon said. Our differences are resolved.

    Picard and Morgan smiled at him. “Lanir leaves the hillside.” Picard said. Akon nodded in affirmation then closed the channel.

    Morgan and Picard turned to each other and shook hands. “Thank you, Captain.” Morgan said. “That was not one of my finer moments.”

    “I was glad to help.” Picard said. “Just try to keep in mind that when dealing with the Tamarians...”

    “It’s about what you say and how you say it.” Morgan finished.

    Picard nodded, then stepped back a bit and tapped his comm-badge. “Picard to Enterprise: One to beam up.”

    Minutes later, the Enterprise-E pulled away from the Swiftsure and its counterpart and departed the system.
  15. trampledamage

    trampledamage Clone Moderator

    Sep 11, 2005
    hitching a ride to Erebor
    admiral2's on his own when it comes to summarising the April challenge! :p
  16. Admiral2

    Admiral2 Admiral Admiral

    Sep 14, 2004
    Not a problem.

    April's Challenge:

    It's the Cold War in the Alpha Quadrant, and our heroes attempt to gain strategic advantage without triggering a quadrant-wide conflict!

    April's Winner:


    The Winning Entry:

    Salus Populi Suprema Est Lex

    He’d been back on Cardassia several months, but still hadn’t gotten over the thrill of being home.

    Yes home was still a burned out wreck of a planet since the end of the war, with more hungry children on every street corner than even Starfleet replicators seemed capable of feeding, but still…

    It may have looked Cardassian, but DS9’s architecture was illusionary, a painful torture designed to remind him of home, whilst never letting him forget he was an exile.

    The lack of fellow Cardassians was disturbing enough, but the cold only amplified his pain. Even turning the heat up in his quarters hadn’t helped; it had merely left him a choice of tortures. Stay in the warmth of solitude, or mingle in the cold comfort of alien company.

    None of that mattered now. He was home, and the naturally warm Cardassian air was something Garak never tired of.

    The park was his favourite haunt. He liked the Prekem plumage that grew in purple clumps by the lake, and the mathematically precise walkways that ran through the park, testament to the rationality of the Cardassian heart.

    It was unlike a human park. There was more stone here than grass, although since the end of the war he’d noted many of the statues dedicated to the unity of society had been toppled. A brave new Cardassia, though one that still needed heroes it seemed. A new statue stood by the entrance. It showed Damar, charging towards his fate, the inscription simple, yet powerful.

    “For Cardassia!”

    Garak smiled, Damar had been such a dour individual, but he had to hand it to him, the man knew how to make an exit.

    All the heroes in the galaxy wouldn’t be enough to save Cardassia now though, which was why Garak needed the help of men like the one waiting by the lake’s edge. An alien, but a good man, one who’d made those years of exile more bearable.

    ‘My dear Doctor, I’m sorry I’m late.’

    Julian Bashir was stood by a pair of stone chairs, leaning nonchalantly against one of them. Behind him was the murky water of Lake Lomak. On the opposite shore a group of three silhouettes stood by identical seats.

    ‘Garak,’ said Bashir. ‘I have to admit, I was disappointed when you didn’t meet me at the spaceport, but this,’ and he gestured around him ‘is so much more Cold War.’ His eyes narrowed. ‘Should I ask you about the weather on Cardassia?’

    ‘Ah, Doctor, still seeing spies everywhere, trying to turn even the most innocent of meetings into an espionage drama.’

    Bashir smiled. ‘I’m sorry, but can you blame me after all those years of you dangling titbits of intrigue before my eyes?’

    ‘I suppose not,’ said Garak. ‘You know, some of them even had a grain of truth to them,’ he nodded innocently.

    ‘So, what was so important that I had to miss attending the Levinson symposium with Ezri?’

    ‘Ah the delightful Miss Dax, you know I’m so glad you two finally got together…’

    ‘Garak…’ Bashir was playfully stern now.

    ‘Does there have to be a reason for friends to meet and reminisce about old times?’

    Bashir was about to reply, but instead his body stiffened as two Romulan soldiers, disrupters at their hips, walked by with the practiced arrogance of an occupying power.

    ‘Pay them no heed, Doctor. They are no threat to us.’

    ‘You seem awfully glib about having them here?’

    Garak shrugged. ‘Irrespective of my people’s change of heart, we were still the enemy, and technically we were on the losing side. It was inevitable that we would be occupied, and Romulan troops,’ he face darkened, ‘like their Federation brethren, are a part of everyday life now.’

    ‘Not for too much longer, if the reports are right.’

    ‘Ah yes. Coalition troops will start to evacuate Cardassia within the next six months, and the planet will be returned to our control.’

    ‘You don’t sound too hopeful.’

    ‘Oh I am, Doctor, believe me I am. But Cardassia, beautiful though it is,’ and he gestured to the greyness about him, ‘was merely the hub of a much larger entity.’

    ‘You mean the Union?’

    ‘Exactly.’ Garak smiled. ‘You always were quick to pick things up, perhaps a quirk of your genetic manipulation,’ he looked wistfully off to one side.


    ‘I’m sorry. Perhaps it’s the onset of old age, but my mind does seem to wander more and more of late.’ It was a lie of course, but he liked keeping Bashir off balance.

    Bashir turned to the lake. ‘Garak, you can’t expect us to just return the Cardassian Union to its former glory.’ Now he turned to look him in the eye. ‘I’m sorry, but there was always going to be a price for siding with the Dominion.’

    ‘I realise that, Doctor, and I for one am happy for Cardassia to pay, but almost fifty percent of our former colonies divided up amongst the allies?’ His grey skin paled. ‘Some of them are planets we will need if we want to rebuild our society,’ he paused. ‘Like Kelliss.’

    Bashir’s nose wrinkled. ‘Kelliss,’ he muttered. ‘I know the name…’ He snapped his fingers. ‘Of course, we passed it on our way in. Fifth planet of a binary system, fifteen point four light years away from Cardassia. The planet is just one big ocean but it used to supply Cardassia with the Leocite necessary for the construction of navigational deflectors. If I recall correctly fifty percent of your Leocite came from Kelliss.’

    ‘You are indeed correct. Your memory for facts and figures is as astonishing as ever,’ said Garak.

    Bashir shrugged. ‘Ezri says I remember too many dumb facts.’

    ‘Perhaps,’ said Garak with a nod. ‘But you are a talkative fellow, Doctor, and as such you need to have a lot of facts close to hand, dumb or not. What?’

    Bashir was grinning. ‘I just realised why you invited me here.’

    Garak played the innocent. ‘You have? Please do enlighten me.’

    ‘You want me to use my influence to ensure that Kelliss remains a part of the Cardassian Union.’

    ‘Can you do that?’ Garak tried to inject surprise into the question.

    Bashir chuckled. ‘I’m afraid your opinion of my importance is over inflated. I can put a good word in,’ he smile grew sadder, ‘but I doubt I will be listened too.’

    ‘Perhaps Admiral Ross could be of help?’ asked Garak.

    Bashir shook his head. ‘We’re not really on speaking terms anymore.’

    ‘Really? Why ever not?’

    ‘I can’t say.’

    ‘Ah,’ said Garak. ‘Secrets are so very addictive, aren’t they?’

    Bashir sidestepped the comment. ‘What’s so important about Kelliss anyway?’

    ‘As you yourself so adroitly pointed out, it was our greatest source of Leocite. If Cardassia is to prosper once again, under more amenable leadership of course, then we’ll need ships capable of defending us.’

    Bashir shrugged. ‘But with a smaller Empire you won’t need as many. Besides, part of the treaty stipulates that the powers in control of all your former colonies are duty bound to ensure that necessary supplies reach Cardassia.’

    Garak snorted. ‘Perhaps, but such supplies could be cut off in an instant if the Cardassian government did not “play ball”, as you humans put it. Already many of my fellow Cardassians are forecasting a bleak future, one where we are held at the mercy of the major powers, punished for our actions for centuries to come.’

    Bashir frowned. ‘You don’t really believe that.’

    Garak’s mood darkened. ‘I believe that we should learn from history. The military originally rose to power on Cardassia because the people were starving. Hunger and fear can be powerful recruiting sergeants for the more radical of voices.’

    ‘Are you saying that if Cardassians go hungry…’

    ‘Then we might see the rise of another Dukat, yes.’

    Bashir looked glum. ‘I can’t help. I can try, but men like us,’ he shrugged, ‘they aren’t really listened too anymore. ‘

    ‘Of course,’ said Garak, allowing a smile to brighten his face. ‘Decisions like these are always made by people of power, men and women with no concept of the realities on the ground.’

    ‘Do you really think there’s another Dukat out there?’ Bashir was genuinely concerned now. Garak almost felt guilty.

    ‘There are rumours of groups forming, insurgents who want to accelerate the coalition pull out, but they’ve little support. I was merely speaking hypothetically. You are, as always, quite right. With a smaller empire our space fleet must, by necessity, be smaller too. Although…I really do like the Limum fish from Kelliss.’

    ‘I’m sure there’ll still be plenty of Limum fish to go around.’

    Garak checked his chronometer. ‘Doctor, I am afraid another appointment beckons, perhaps we can continue this delightful conversation over supper?’

    ‘That would be nice, yes. The Director of the local field hospital was a lecturer of mine, I promised I’d stop by and see him.’

    ‘Just so long as I’m not leaving you to wander the streets of Cardassia alone, I would hate for something bad to happen to you.’

    ‘I’ll be fine.’

    ‘Excellent. Shall we say nine?’ Bashir nodded. ‘Very well, until then.’ He let Bashir turn away before he spoke again. ‘There was one other thing, before you go.’


    ‘I was hoping you could clear up a rumour I’d heard, you know how soldiers like to prattle.’

    Bashir nodded. ‘If I can.’

    ‘I have heard that, during your visit to Romulus, you became embroiled in real life espionage. Some people even say you know the identity of a Federation spy at the very pinnacle of the Romulan government.’

    Bashir’s expression never wavered. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, Garak.’

    For the first time now, Garak felt a twinge of doubt. Could he have been wrong? There was only one trick left up his sleeve. ‘Why Doctor, I never knew you could be so duplicitous, it’s nice to know not all my lessons were wasted.’

    Bashir laughed. ‘Now who’s seeing spy stories everywhere?’

    Garak laughed. ‘That is the trouble with rumours; they are so often mere flights of fancy. I shall see you later.’

    He watched him go. Bashir had indeed learned to hide his true feelings, but not completely. Before he laughed there was a moment; a flicker of pride as Garak stroked his ego. Many men would have missed it, but not Garak.

    * * *

    He walked slowly around the lake, giving his second visitor time to ponder what he’d seen. If the three Romulans were annoyed at this delay, they didn’t show it. Not that Garak cared about the bodyguards; it was the man in the centre he was concerned with, the man whose visage betrayed less emotion than the average Vulcan’s.

    ‘Chairman Koval,’ he said brightly, extending a hand that was ignored. ‘I’m glad you could come.’

    Koval, Chairman of the Tal Shiar, newly elected member of the Continuing Committee sneered. ‘Spare me your pleasantries. What do you want?’

    ‘That’s the trouble with our business,’ said Garak. ‘No one takes the trouble to observe the niceties anymore.’

    Koval’s eyes narrowed. There was a rumour he was dying, but Garak saw no hint of weakness. ‘Garak,’ he said, the word spat like an epithet. ‘I came here because of a disagreeable scrap of information you possessed about me, now I find I have cause to regret that decision. In truth the information you had was of no real threat to my position, I suppose it was curiosity that drew me here. Curiosity at meeting the fabled Elim Garak. Legend held that you were the best agent Cardassia ever possessed. Now that I stand before you, however, I can see that that doesn’t mean very much.’ He flicked a glance to his guards. ‘We will be leaving now.’

    ‘So soon?’ said Garak. ‘We haven’t even discussed the price of my silence.’

    Koval was unmoved. ‘Garak, the information you have is worthless. Before I left I informed the Praetor about my mistake on Tevane. It was a long time ago, and Romulans can be most forgiving.’

    ‘I wasn’t talking about Tevane,’ said Garak. ‘You saw who I was talking to didn’t you?’ There were binoculars slung around Koval’s neck.

    ‘Yes. Doctor Julian Bashir. What of it?’

    ‘I believe you two are old friends.’

    Koval looked bored. ‘I met with the Doctor on Romulus. But I do not have any human friends.’ He sounded disgusted at even the suggestion.

    Garak smiled smugly. ‘Only human paymasters?’

    ‘I see that minor infringements are not the only hold you feel you have over me. Now you are inventing imagined betrayals.’

    ‘Am I?’ said Garak. ‘Doctor Bashir seemed quite specific.’

    Koval smiled as if addressing a child. ‘Garak, we have both lived and worked in the shadows. Do you really believe that if this ludicrous accusation were true, I would have allowed Bashir to live? ’He didn’t wait for an answer. ‘Now I will be leaving this cess pool of a planet.’ He made to barge past Garak.

    ‘I am sure Admiral Ross ensured the good Doctor’s survival as part of the price for his complicity.’

    Koval froze. He sneered at Garak, but he made no further attempt to move past him. Instead he flicked a glance at his guards; they moved away. ‘You have a theory, nothing more,’ he said, his voice cold.

    ‘If you say so,’ said Garak. In truth he had no proof, just the hunch that the most obvious spy was always the least obvious, and who was less obvious than the head of the Tal Shiar? The fact that they were still talking suggested he was right.

    They stared at each other for a minute. In the end Koval broke first. ‘If this were true, you realise you have signed your death warrant, and Bashir’s.’

    ‘Of course, but should anything happen to either of us, I have made arrangements. What I know will reach the Praetor’s ears. Posthumous revenge is never as sweet, but it can still be quite potent.’

    Seconds passed. The wind coming off the lake sheared through them, but neither man faltered.

    ‘What would your price be for keeping this disagreeable falsehood a secret?’ Koval said at last.

    Garak’s eyes sparkled. ‘Kelliss.’

    There was no bargaining, no negotiation. Koval merely nodded, then spun on his heels and stalked after his men.

    Garak watched him go. If Cardassia were to rebuild it would need the deflectors Kelliss would provide- not to mention the dilithium deposits buried deep and unseen beneath the oceans.

    Koval was a problem though; one who served multiple masters was never a reliable long term asset. Garak decided he would have to kill him, always assuming Koval didn’t see though Garak’s flimsy hold over him, and kill both he and Julian first of course. Garak felt guilt for putting the Doctor in danger, but, as Cicero had said, the welfare of the people was the ultimate law, and above even friendship.
  17. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

    Apr 22, 2001
    May 2006- Subject 'Heart'.


    Dark Territory-The Heart of the Matter by DarKush

    Heart of the Matter predates DT: The Crucible, which is still being posted. You don't have to read the Crucible to understand this story...I hope.

    Historical Note: This story takes shortly before the Klingon Civil War shown in the TNG eps. "Redemption 1 & 2"

    The Heart of the Matter

    The Khemet Sector
    Klingon Empire

    Lt. Commander Terrence Glover gave a low whistle of appreciation. This was the closest he had ever been to a D’Kora-class marauder. Its graceful curvature and soothing orange metallic finish seemed totally at odds with the rapacious bent of its crew.

    His commanding officer, Captain Borte, daughter of Goragh, wasn’t as impressed. The sinewy woman leaned forward in her seat, her voice an eager hiss, “How much longer until we are in firing range?”

    “One hundred kellicams,” Lt. Krastil, sitting beside him at the navigation console replied. “This is going to be good,” she said under her breath for his ears only. When Glover looked at her in response, she winked before flashing him a sharp toothed grin.

    Terrence gulped his acceptance, his fingers wrapping tightly around the ship’s controls. One of the things he loved best about his assignment to the IKS Dorna was piloting the K’Vort class cruiser.

    With its archaic steering column, the power of the ship was literally in his hands, at his whim. He felt every twist and turn of the steering controls, each judder. In addition, his fairly expert flying skills had also helped him win respect on the Klingon warship.

    It had been a long, hard struggle to be seen as member of the Dorna’s crew first, Borte’s Executive Officer second, a Starfleet officer third, and last a human.

    He had thrown himself into disproving the critics and doubters on all counts, earning a multiple contusions and several broken bones along the way.

    He suffered the occasional pangs and twinges of agony in silence however, though sometimes he counted down the days until he could return to Federation space to get them properly reset.

    “Commander Pragh, power the disruptor cannons, prepare to de-cloak on my order!” The fierce captain snapped. Terrence glanced back to see Pragh glowering at him.

    The tall, muscular Klingon was standing at his upper level console right behind Captain Borte. When the Dorna had been selected to host Terrence as part of Starfleet and the Klingon Defense Force’s joint Officer Exchange Program, Pragh had been temporarily demoted. Though he maintained his usual station as the ship’s Weapons Officer.

    Unwilling to assassinate Borte and take command, Pragh instead had skulked around for weeks after Glover’s arrival, seeking to bully Terrence out of the Executive Officer’s position.

    Even though Glover wasn’t blessed with a naturally ridged, thick skull or a bodily system of redundant organs, he was tougher than he might’ve appeared to Pragh.

    And his ambition and dedication to the task at hand might’ve even rivaled the Great Kahless; Though Glover kept that comparison to himself, not wishing to offend any of his crewmates’ religious sensibilities.

    A month ago, the two men had met in battle in the Mess Hall. To his credit, Glover had been able to bust the larger man’s nose, take out a few of his teeth, and had only received two cracked, and badly attended to, ribs for his efforts.

    The fact that he had left a fight with Pragh still tied to the mortal coil had impressed his colleagues. And it had even spurred Krastil to begin teaching him Mok’Bara, a Klingon martial art form, upon his recovery.

    Their sessions had even led to her instructing him in the arts of seloh. And the injuries incurred during those tussles didn’t bother him one bit.

    “We are now within firing range,” Krastil said, her voice husky with excitement.

    “Sowee TAH!” Borte was on her feet now. The image of space on the rhombus shaped main viewer wavered as the cloaking field that had enveloped the ship dropped.

    “Fire!” The captain commanded. Seconds later, a succession of red beams erupted from the two cannons mounted at the ends of the Dorna’s wings. They stitched across the rounded aft section of the marauder, leaving scorched and twisted metal in their wake.

    “Direct hits,” Pragh gloated. “Their defensive shields and engines are gone. Life support is failing. They are at our mercy.” Gouts of quickly vanquished flames were spouting all over the ship’s hull, as the marauder spun madly.

    “The Ferengi were so confident of their escape that they didn’t even have their shields raised,” Borte remarked in astonishment. “The fools,” her spittle splashed loudly on the deck in front of her.

    “The Ferengi are hailing,” Communications Officer Lochem announced. The portly man sat on the left row of banks on the upper deck behind Pragh. “They wish to surrender and are requesting immediate assistance.”

    Borte sat slowly back down in her seat, a contemplative look on her face. Instead of replying to Lochem, she said, “Terrence, son of Samson, what do you suggest?” Both Glover and the captain ignored Pragh’s audible groan.

    “Well…I think we should help them.”

    “Typical Starfleet,” Pragh spat. “That ship invaded Klingon space, and made off with personal cargo bound for the Imperial Governor of Kredak! For their insolence alone, they should be blasted into atoms!”

    Borte didn’t respond. She merely continued looking at Glover. The man quickly realized it was another test, another challenge, but he didn’t know the right answer, or what the captain was looking for from him.

    So, he decided to speak truthfully, “Was it insolence or courage-kajanpak’t-on the part of those Ferengi? Despite the consequences they dared challenge the Klingon Empire, pilfering items no less than from Governor Lorath, one of the most opulent officials in the realm. Shouldn’t that be worth a reprieve?”

    “Or sentences at Rura Penthe?” Krastil added. Glover shivered. The horror stories he had heard about the infamous, ice bound penal colony during his days reading Academy texts about Jonathan Archer and James Kirk, had only been confirmed by his crewmates on the Dorna.

    “Your heart will never be Klingon human,” Pragh sneered, stepping from behind his station. The man flexed his massive arms.

    “No matter how many tolerate you here, or use you as a toy, you will never understand the warrior’s spirit that courses through a true Klingon’s veins. If you did, you would know that no higher honor can be bestowed, no greater mercy than to fall in battle at the feet of a superior’s blade.”

    “I doubt those Ferengi over there would understand your brand of kindness.”

    “My point at exactly hew-mon,” Pragh drew out the word in imitation of the Ferengi oft-mispronounced of Terrence’s species. Though his body screamed in protest, Glover jumped to his feet, prepared to face another challenge. He cracked his knuckles.

    “Perhaps it’s time I rearranged your nose again Pragh.” The Klingon threw back his head, long, thick dreadlocks flying in every direction. Clutching his stomach, he roared with laughter.

    “Stay where you are Commander Glover!” Borte bellowed. She smiled devilishly. “I have made my decision.”

    (Several Hours Later…)

    Krastil slammed a goblet of steaming Bahgol tea in front of him, most of its contents splashing on his lap. The woman roared in laughter, clamping a hand down on his shoulder, squeezing it painfully.

    He bit back the burning pain as the liquid soaked into the crotch of his breeches. Glover was glad that he long ago ditched his red and black Starfleet uniform for more durable Klingon attire. The Bahgol might’ve eaten through his old suit like acid. Terrence gave her a grimace-laced smile. “Thanks.”

    Still chuckling she leaned down, her lips at his ear. “Tonight,” the woman said, biting his earlobe, just hard enough to remain pleasurable. She clapped his shoulder again and then sashayed out of the mess, her lithe frame drawing several lustful glares, and a few leering sneers in Glover’s direction.

    After she was gone, he took a sip of the rich red tea still in the goblet. Despite their hardened martial image, the Klingons found a way to celebrate the most mundane events. Their dinners were often elaborate affairs, highly ritualized, and filled with songs and stories of battles and victories past.

    And dinners were even more raucous after a great victory, as Captain Borte, sitting at the head of the long officer’s table, was spinning their confrontation. Or more so, a great haul. A golden diadem adorned the inebriated woman’s head.

    The Ferengi had offered little resistance, and seemingly more afraid of the unexplained streak of mercy on the parts of the Klingons had revealed all of the secret caches littering their ship.

    The treasures had been so great that after scuttling the D'Kora, Captain Borte had allowed the Ferengi to limp back to whatever recess they had slithered out from in several of the craft's life boats.

    Terrence hadn't totally agreed with the captain's decision of letting the raiders go free, but at least he had helped prevent their wholesale slaughter. He hoped, but doubted, that their near brush with death would teach them the error of their felonious ways.

    The riches looted from Governor Lorath were only the tip of the iceberg of revelations. After Glover did some cross-referencing with Starfleet, he had discovered that they had thwarted DaiMon Drux, one of the most notorious privateers in the Beta Quadrant.

    Despite Drux’s meticulous planning for the heist, he hadn’t anticipated the sudden reassignment of the patrol ship Kaj, and its more indolent Captain Chitagh with the younger, more aggressive Borte.

    The captain had remained tight-lipped about the new mission, though Krastil had speculated that it had much to do with Borte’s open displeasure with Chancellor Gowron’s regime. Captain Borte and her crew were being placed out in the sticks as punishment. Glover hoped that Gowron wasn’t so petty, but after spending months aboard Dorna, he wouldn’t be surprised.

    “I misjudged you,” Pragh crowed, placing another crushing hand on Glover’s shoulder. He could see the glint from the man’s jewel encrusted fingers out of the corner of his eye.

    Pragh settled down beside him, placing a dish with a bloody, raw hunk of meat in front of him. The meat’s rancid smell made Glover’s eyes water. He pushed his own plate of pipius claw to the side.

    “Not hungry tonight Terrence, son of Samson?” Pragh asked mockingly. “No matter,” he pounded Glover on the back.

    “Your foresight will keep all of our families fed for several years, no matter the storm brewing between Gowron and the Duras. Your heart might be Klingon after all,” he paused, wrapping a massive arm around Glover’s shoulder and pulling him close. Pragh smelled like he had showered in bloodwine. “There is one way to find out for sure though.”

    “And that would be?” Glover wasn’t certain how much of Pragh’s camaraderie was alcohol induced, but he wanted to seize on any opportunity to bury a hatchet between them, before Pragh or one of his cronies slid a dk’tahg in his back. “I’ll do it,” he said before thinking about what it might entail.

    “That’s the spirit!” Pragh roared again, his hand clapping like thunder against Glover’s back, the force of it almost throwing Terrence halfway across the wooden table. With one paw on his back, Pragh used the other to slide the plate of bloodied meat over to Terrence.

    Glover restrained himself from pinching his nose or gagging. “What’s that?” He said only after he was certain he could keep the pipius claw he had ingested earlier in his stomach.

    “A delicacy,” Pragh said, his face darkening slightly, “Something that grunts like us never get to experience. But because it was your leniency that won us these prizes, it is only honorable that you partake of the bounty first.”

    “What is it?” Glover repeated, his nose hairs curling.

    “Raw heart of targ of course,” Pragh answered, smacking his thick lips, “How do you humans say it,” he paused, his ridged brow furrowing, as he pushed Glover toward the plate. “Dig in.”
  18. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    June 2006-Subject: Birth of the Federation


    One Small Step by Starkers

    Well here's mine...

    * * *

    By the time the ship’s engines finally gave up the ghost, it had been travelling for almost two hundred years.

    It is a great fallacy that once an object starts to move in space it will move forever. Even in a vacuum there are forces that will work to slow a ship down, rob it of inertia. There’s gravity for one, and each time the ship passed within even a few million kilometres of a planet or a star, it was slowed down, just a fraction. Sometimes the process was reversed, and the ship gained impetus from its close passage to a planetary mass, but in the grand scheme of things the universe was against it, and it lost much more headway than it ever gained in this manner.

    Then there were the multiple meteorite impacts, and collisions with other cosmic detritus, as if some higher power were tying to stop the little ship from going onwards.

    Impossibly though, she did. Yes she slowed down, and yes she covered less distance in the hundred years following the death of her engines than she’d managed in the first five years of her flight, but even as one power strove to stop her, it was as if another urged her onwards; even going so far as to deposit a wormhole in her path, one that existed for less than twelve hours, yet threw the little ship more than a thousand light years further along and into the outer edges of the Tn Sway.

    * * *

    The Tn were an old race, one almost human like in their general appearance. The Tn Sway had been growing for five millennia, and showed no sign of halting, and each Fln that passed, each Pnm traversed saw more and more sentient species join the Sway.

    Now a Tn scout pairing hung in space beside the little ship. There were two of them, a male and a female, resplendent in crimson vacuum suits that more resembled the chitinous exoskeleton of an insect rather than any conventional space suit.

    Eager eyes peered out from within amber tinted visors made from triple layered resin, drinking in the sight before them.

    ‘What is its scale?’ Asked the male.

    The female’s suit contained the pairing’s sensor array, and with a thought she activated these to answer her colleagues question. ‘Two hundred metres in length,’ she replied.

    He nodded within his helmet, though he did not know why. His suit contained no sensors, only weaponry, and while her job was to understand the alien ship, his was to destroy it should it prove a threat.

    He doubted this would be difficult.

    ‘Are those its propulsers?’ he asked, a gloved hand gesturing to the four tubes that hung apart from the ship, attached by spindly arms that made the ship resemble a bird’s skeleton.

    ‘Yes, I believe so. It looks like the ship is propulsed by a simplistic matter/anti-matter engine. She has two matter/anti-matter reactors.’

    He laughed at that. The Tn Sway had outgrown such technology a thousand yeas ago.

    ‘I don’t think they’ve functioned for a long time though, the ship’s power signature is very low.’

    ‘What is it made of?’ he asked, his gloved hand reaching out but stopping just a fraction away from touching the bronzed hull.

    ‘Some duranium composite. Again it is simple, but effective.’

    The suit’s computer poured thoughts into his mind. ‘We are running low on gel; our air will be gone in less than five units. What else can you detect?’

    She didn’t move, her lithe form merely hung there in space beside the mysterious craft. To an observer she might have seemed dead, the abandoned corpse of a space farer who came to grief in this solar system years ago and had remained here, frozen in time, ever since.

    He had worked with her for over a million units though, and he knew she was reliable. Separately they were formidable, together they were held in high regard within the Sway. Though her body was motionless he knew her mind would be racing as she analysed every scrap of data.

    ‘That’s unusual,’ she said after a moment.

    ‘What?’ suddenly he was alert, the suit’s plasma thorns primed to fire at a moment’s thought.’

    ‘The vessel’s main computer is an open mind, there are no plasma walls, no passwords…and it was designed that way. It’s like we were supposed to probe its data stores.’

    ‘So probe away, but make it fast,’ he replied. He relaxed but kept the thorns’ launch protocol on high.

    ‘Fascinating,’ she said at last. ‘The ship is named the USS Pax.’

    ‘What is a pax? And what is USS?’

    ‘Pax means Peace apparently, and the USS is some kind of identification prefix for ships belonging to something called the Federation?’


    She shrugged inside her suit, forgetting for a moment that he wouldn’t perceive this. ‘I have no…wait!’
    He almost launched the thorns then, only the flimsy nature of the alien ship making him stay his thoughts.

    ‘It’s ok, nothing threatening.’

    ‘Stop doing that,’ he admonished her. ‘At this range the plasma thorns might damage us as well. If I am to use them I’d rather it was to counter a genuine threat.’

    ‘Sorry,’ she replied, chastised. Technically they were of equal rank, but everyone knew the warrior’s word counted above the scientist’s. ‘There’s a message playing, continually repeating. When I first linked with the computer it detected us, and the message tried to reach out.’

    ‘So what did it say?’ he grunted. Absently he noted they had 4.62 units of air left.

    ‘I don’t know, I disconnected the link the moment I spotted it.’

    ‘Well reconnect it, words cannot harm us.’

    Her face safely hidden beneath a visor, she smiled. He never used to be so inquisitive- she liked to imagine that some of her own personality was rubbing off on him, both in work and at leisure. It was the way with Sway scout pairings- two individuals who lived and breathed each other’s lives so completely that they became almost one. A third of Scout Pairings ended up retiring as mates, another third usually ended up killing each other.

    This pair occupied the final third- a pairing who complemented each other so well that they were able to merge sex, violence, and science without their egos getting in the way, each of them able to separate their real existence from their existence as part of the pair.

    ‘Ok, I am prepared to initiate the link once more,’ she turned her helmet to look at him. ‘Ready?’

    4.5 units. ‘Do it.’

    For a moment nothing happened- then a new thought entered his mind, an alien thought.

    In his mind’s eye the warrior saw a white walled room, and in the centre of that room stood a man, at least it looked like a man. He seemed almost Tn like, more fragile, paler, but the resemblance was there all the same. He wore a uniform of some kind, blue with red stripes across the shoulders. He had the bearing of a warrior, but was obviously not- the close cropped hair was more befitting of a child than a fighter.

    When the man spoke he smiled, and the warrior Tn was even more repulsed. What kind of way was that to start a greeting with another race?

    ‘Greetings to you who have found our little ship.’

    Even the man’s voice, the language he used, sounded weak. The Warrior’s mind was well trained, and he heard the voice both in its originality, and translated simultaneously. He checked the gauge, 4.49 units left. He decided he’d give the message till 3.3 before abandoning the mission and returning to their shuttle.

    ‘My name is Admiral Andrew Dupree, and I represent the United Federation of Planets. It still seems odd to say that. By our calendar the year is 2161 and just a few days ago the inaugural UFP charter was signed. We have entered a new era of cooperation between races. Twelve different species signed the charter. Twelve unique cultures, many of whom were enemies in the past, but who have now agreed to work together in harmony. This ship, the USS Pax, was launched to celebrate the formation of this union. The ship is unarmed, and contains information about each Federation member world, it is our hope that many new races will learn about us, learn that as we move out into the galaxy we are not something to be feared, that as we reach out it is with inquisitive eyes rather than clenched fists. Mine is the first of many messages that will be beamed via subspace to this ship, hopefully the goals and beliefs of the Federation will grow even as this ship travels further than any of us have gone before.’

    And then the man in his minds eye was gone. The Tn warrior grunted.

    ‘Does that mean you liked it?’ asked his partner.

    ‘Spare me, the man seemed weak, the notion of this Federation though…it is intriguing.’

    ‘Reminds me of the first cheln of the Sway, back when only four other races had joined.’

    He nodded. ‘He spoke of further messages, are they there?’

    ‘You are worried their little club did not survive?’ she asked

    ‘Curious,’ he replied.

    She resisted the urge to laugh. ‘Yes there are, do we have the time to see them?’

    He didn’t look at the gauge. ‘We have time.’

    Another white room appeared in his thoughts. This time though it was a female who stood before him. Strangely she seemed stronger than the male from earlier. She was obviously of another race, the sharply tapered ears and skin colouring told him that. She looked old, wise with it but mainly old, and she wore dark trousers and a tunic of gold. Her right hand was raised in some curious gesture.

    ‘Live long, and prosper all who encounter the Pax,’ she said, her voice like an androids. ‘I am Captain Ch’nar of the Starship, Explorer. It is my honour to be the latest bearer of news to this fine vessel.’

    The Tn frowned. She talked about honour yet expressed no emotion. He decided he didn’t like her.

    His feelings did little to stop her talking though.

    ‘It is stardate 4981.5, and at this time membership of the United Federation of Planets stands at 94. The Federation has grown further than any of us thought possible when the charter was signed. To those this ship encounters, be advised, our message is still one of peace and understanding.’

    Even as she vanished he snapped his head towards his partner. ‘The next one,’ he said.

    Another white room- but a man this time, a tiny frail man, his head devoid of hair. The Warrior almost laughed at him, until he spoke, suddenly the Tn warrior heard strength there. This man was a leader…

    ‘This is Captain Jean Luc Picard, of the starship, Enterprise, and it is my great honour to address you, to speak to all those races and civilisations that the Federation has not yet encountered. I sometimes envy the Pax, odd to empathise with a creation of metal and circuits, but the things the Pax must have seen…more than I ever shall.

    It is stardate 56125.8. The Federation has survived a war that cost us dearly, yet still we grow. Today the Kel’net’lop’sun joined the Federation, the 275th race to do so. We are at peace with the Dominion and the Romulans, and the Borg have not been seen in some time. Truly I feel we are on the verge of a golden age, and I am sure the Pax has played a part in that…’

    He was gone.

    ‘There’s one more,’ said the female scout, pre-empting the question she knew was coming.

    ‘Excellent. Play it.’

    She smiled. She had already triggered the message.

    The white room was gone now, and instead the messenger was stood by a lake, twin suns burning brightly in a a pink sky above him.

    He was a curious creature. Tnlike, but also strange, like a humanoid hedgehog. He looked soft, weak…

    ‘Hello!’ he shouted, his enthusiasm jarring. ‘I’m Feenix, Delta Quadrant Federation President. You can’t believe how happy I am to be here today, how happy I am to talk to the beloved Pax, a legend within the Federation, and still going, at the edge of our strongest scanners, but still there!’

    ‘This creature is annoying.’

    ‘Shush, he’s still speaking.’

    ‘….date AX/254.L, and today it is my honour to tell you that Federation membership stands at 487 species! The Federation has not been at war in 65 years, life expectancies are up and Quinex flu has finally been eradicated. This will likely be the last message able to reach the Pax, and so my final message is to those races who are yet to encounter our most long lived of emissaries. Already 13 member races had their first encounter with the Federation through the USS Pax, and it is my hope that I now speak to future Federation members.’ He grinned. ‘I look forward to meeting you!’

    And then it was over.

    For a moment the two Tn Scouts hung there in space. Finally the scientist spoke. ‘It’s amazing. Such…such…’

    ‘Arrogance.’ Said the warrior

    ‘Yes, arrogance. 487 species and they think they rule the universe, think we will be grateful to join their Federation.’

    The warrior shook his head sadly. ‘The ship’s databanks contain full details of its route?’

    ‘Yes, if we wish the Sway will be able to travel back along that route.’

    ‘The Sway will wish to,’ said the warrior with conviction.

    ‘But they’re so small.’

    He laughed, a deep throaty sound. ‘You have forgotten your tenets- the Sway did not come to encompass a million peoples by ignoring a hundred.’

    Within her helmet she nodded. ‘Of course, you are right. Goddess forgive me.’

    ‘We should return to the shuttle. I will bring the Pax.’

    And with that the warrior reached out and grasped the Federation ship, the vessel nestling delicately in his palm as the two scouts turned back towards their small shuttle.

    A shuttle that- had the Pax been sentient- would have appeared to it as large as a Borg cube…

    Stark City: Home to Star Trek Vesta, Dr Who fanfic, and film reviews.

    "I did my duty, for Queen and Country."
  19. TimmyWl

    TimmyWl Commodore Commodore

    Feb 13, 2002
    Honolulu Hawaii
    July/August Challenge: What Lies Beneath
    Winner: me! (the poster)

    -> If no one gets the reference, this is set in an alternate universe of Doctor Who.....

    -> Also, spoilers are...mentioned...if no one has not seen the "new" series of the re-launched series...but beyond that - nothing really major [i.e. Borg attacking DS9 in Season XX] really is revealed....

    I am telling this story as it was told to me.

    Some time ago, before Paregoric became what it is today, there was a village called Parse. It had been founded along the Penn Stream, slowly ebbing along Hooker’s Run, and pooling in Critic’s Corner. The village was a simple one. There was a blacksmith, a mining shaft, marketplace, and fields of nothing but farms.

    In a sense, it was farming country, complete with the obligatory trees at every foot one makes going any direction.

    It was after Farmer Nark had established the first mill on Penn’s Stream that the Doctor came. It is said that Farmer Nark had thought he had come from the capital. The Doctor never really gave him his name; just that he was looking for a place to stay with his paramour.

    The Doctor, as Farmer Nark said to Steven Soot, the smithy at that time, had the trappings of the City upon him. He was bright. He was chipper. He even wore a suit with a tie around his neck.
    The only thing that really stood out was his commoner’s shoes and the eyes. Farmer Nark made it his mission to tell everyone in the village that the Doctor had a sage’s eyes. There was just something about him that belayed the youthful countenance to him.

    His paramour made even more ripples, for she was considerably older, too old for the young Doctor. At best guess she was about midwife’s age, streaks of blonde fading into white, the beauty taunt upon the trappings of age, a motherless sage was the words that lay upon the lips of those that peopled the market. Her name, as it came to be known, was Renee or Rennet – some higher lord’s name that clearly branded her – but she was so graceful in her ways that what story that made her fell upon the road.

    The Doctor and his lover, a Renee, elected to stay the fortnight in the village. He had chosen the pub and prattled on in an alien tongue. Sage Wend did talk to him and found out that the Doctor had known more about the Stars Themselves than his forefather and his forefather before him.

    They elected, after a fortnight of helping the villagers, to make their own hearth beneath Dagger Rock. It was quite unusual for he had chosen to build a blue shack of sorts with glass windows set inside underneath Dagger Rock. How it came to be, cast in the neat setting that no man could ever aspire to, lay unsolved, even to this day.

    Yet they chose to make their own hearth. The building still stands to this day, lying beyond the shadow of Dagger Rock, near Penn Pool. The Doctor had given into his paramour’s suggestion that the villagers would welcome him. She spoke with a strange accent that lay many miles away from the capital, perhaps even farther, as Sage Wend did say.

    For three years they lived there. The Doctor presided over the burial of Sage Wend, creating the massive Tomb of Wend, far grander than what Jack Carver could do. For those three years the village was blessed, a thousand times over, and naught a single deed of misfortune ever visited any doorstep.

    Three more passed and people started to call the area Rose Meadow for Renee always grew them. She started to teach her own language. Youth always shown in her face far beyond any child could bear. She said that it was the music she was told when she attended her own fireplace as her years only accounted no more than six seasons.

    They were the blessed years.

    Then, one day, they vanished. They vanished in a storm, they say, where the lightning scalded the trees into blackened skeletons of horror. Everything was wet, muddy, and desolate. It was a time of great flood and sorrow.

    At the same time, the Lords came on by, claiming that they had suffered a great loss in the West, and needed help. Farmer Nark, aged that he was, went to the Doctor only to find the stone cottage abandoned and the blue windowed shack gone. The vines that had conquered it over time lay in a great heap, as if God Himself, had plucked it away.

    Farmer Nark called forth the Doctor in the house. In there he saw that everything had been set as the Doctor wished it to be. There was a fallen cup on the floor. The Doctor had run out, it seemed, in a moment of weakness visited by the Fiends Below upon his paramour. The Lords themselves did affirm that what they saw was blood upon the ground. They had seen war themselves.

    In honor of the Doctor, it was decided by the village that bore his absence as they did so honorably in that time, the area he occupied was forever stated as holy. Farmer Nark himself made it his mission to forever guard the legacy that the Doctor had made upon the people. It was Steven Soot that made the fence that surrounds the area as his last gift to the Lord on High for the mercy of the Doctor.

    This is the reason why what lies beneath Dagger Rock is the only place where the dead lay outside the gate, outside the rose garden, and outside the stone cottage was the Doctor’s Home.
  20. Gold Grizzly

    Gold Grizzly Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 1, 2004
    The Heavenly Midlands, England
    August/September Challenge: Alternate Universes

    Winner: Gold Grizzly



    Stardate 48720.2

    “You must let go of your guilt, Wesley”.

    Ensign Wesley Crusher sullenly regarded the visitor to his quarters on the USS Intrepid.

    “Why do you care what I do? Don’t you have more important places to be? You’re meant to be a Traveller, remember?”

    The alien gave his by now familiar enigmatic smile.

    “Wesley, I have been to places you can barely imagine, seen life forms of a variety that your Starfleet can never show you, but I have seldom encountered anyone with your talents. It is worth a great deal of my time to ensure that your gifts are not squandered, but your current path leads that way”.

    “Don’t you get it? Everyone I’ve ever been close to is dead or lost. If I’d been there then it might never have happened”!

    “You don’t know that. It isn’t your place to say what would or should have been. All you can change are the present and the future”.

    “Fine, then! Let’s change the future! With your abilities, we can find my mother; she might still be alive, needing our help!”

    “No. Her path has taken her away from you. Only time will tell whether it leads back to you again. We cannot interfere in such matters. Come away with me, and you shall be taught to understand why”. Wesley merely shook his head. The Traveller regarded him with a resigned sadness in his eyes.

    “Very well. I am unable to reach you, so I shall take my leave of you. If you ever change your mind, then you will know how to contact me. Until we meet again, Wesley”.

    The young man barely glanced up as his mysterious visitor vanished. As so often was the case during his off duty hours, his thoughts were turned towards the past. Somewhere along the line, something had gone seriously wrong. He just wasn’t sure of exactly when.

    Stardate 48020.3

    Dr. Beverly Crusher glanced around her quarters on the Enterprise, wanting to ensure that she not forgotten anything. The familiar rooms seemed completely empty, as they should be; the bag slung loosely over one shoulder contained the last of her possessions to be transferred off ship.

    As always when she examined them closely, the quarters slightly unsettled her. They were, in theory, identical to her quarters on the original saucer section, but there were subtle differences which few but she could ever notice. She had lived in this place for over a year, but it had never felt like home. Her home had been destroyed long ago.

    Perhaps she should have shipped out on another vessel straight away, but she and Geordi had agreed that they should both remain, to keep alive the spirit of their own crew on this new vessel. Losing Geordi had only strengthened her resolve. When the new ship was completed, she was ready and waiting to reclaim her place.

    But almost from the first day, she had clashed with the new captain. She found Jellico rigid and inflexible, more concerned with the rulebook than with the spirit of what Starfleet stood for. After a string of bitter arguments, in which she invariably found little support from her shipmates, his brutal handling of the community of Native American descendants on Dorvan V had pushed her too far, and she had taken her objections to Starfleet Command … only to find that he had beaten her to it.

    She was to be reassigned, and a new doctor would take her place. Jellico was severing the last major link to the past, to the crew who had set out to explore the galaxy seven years ago.

    Shaking her head sharply, she strode from her quarters without a backward glance. Negative an experience as this had been, perhaps it might yet work out for the best for her. She had already had one bit of good news: the Captain of a new vessel had expressed an interest in recruiting her into her crew. She had been afraid that only the more tedious jobs would be available to her given the manner in which she was leaving the Enterprise, but this would be a true ship of exploration, with the most up to date technology available.

    It was time to leave the past behind ... and the USS Voyager might be just the place to do that.

    Stardate 44700.4

    Crusher surveyed the bleak landscape of Tarchannen III, hoping that her eyes would succeed where her Tricorder had failed. But there was no sign of La Forge, nor anything to indicate that intelligent life had ever bloomed on this obscure planet.

    If only she had paid more attention the last time she had spoken to him! He had called by her temporary residence on Earth a month ago, to tell her that he was taking a break from overseeing the construction of the new Enterprise. An old friend of his, Susanna Leitjen, had contacted him with some wild theories about the recent disappearances of some old shipmates of theirs, and the two of them were taking a small ship to investigate.

    Geordi had seemed unconcerned by the whole thing at the time, but in retrospect he had been edgy, and not quite himself. She should have insisted on coming along as well; perhaps, with her medical expertise, she might have done something about … whatever it was that had happened.

    When La Forge and Leitjen had failed to check in, she had managed to get passage on the Hood, which was sent to investigate. They had arrived to find an empty ship in orbit, and two discarded uniforms on the planet. No humans. There were log entries and medical records indicating that both officers were experiencing some unusual medical symptoms, but that was all they had to go on.

    She looked at the empty yellow and black garments in her hands. Perhaps, in time, the mystery of what had happened to their owner would be solved. But she knew in her heart that her friend would not be coming back.

    Stardate 44002.4

    Commander Data (temporarily holding the rank of Captain) was, as ever, dispassionate as he regarded the Borg cube in orbit around Earth. On the main view screen, the Enterprise’s phasers and photon torpedoes could be seen bombarding the intruding vessel. It was a futile attempt, but he had felt compelled to try; it was, after all, the human thing to do.

    The time for such indulgences had now passed, however. The Enterprise had sustained heavy damage already; if he delayed any further, they might not be able to make the necessary sacrifice. He addressed the Conn officer.

    “Mr. Jackson, lay in a collision course with the Borg vessel”.

    He had no sooner spoken the words than a particularly savage strike from the enemy vessel rocked the ship. The Conn station exploded in a shower of sparks, and the operator was flung from his seat.

    “Re-routing Navigation controls through this station!” barked a deep voice from behind him. “Collision course laid in, Sir”.

    Data turned to see Worf regarding him with the joyous intensity found only in a Klingon about to die in heroic combat against a superior force. His own expression was unreadable, but many thoughts passed through his mind in that instant.

    He thought of Captain Picard, aboard that vessel somewhere, and pulling the strings as the Borg Locutus. He thought of Geordi and Dr. Crusher, evacuted by escape pod along with other non-essential personnel. Ironically, the injuries La Forge had sustained during their previous abortive attack on the Borg would now save his life, as he would surely have remained on the Enterprise if fit to serve. Perhaps his friend would now have a long and happy life.

    He recalled his own actions since Captain Picard’s abduction. Would a human officer have found a better way to stop the Borg? He would never know.

    He replayed every significant experience he had had since his activation 30 years ago; every lesson learned, every triumph achieved and every defeat suffered.

    To those watching him, he did not seem to pause at all before giving his final order.


    Stardate 43938.1

    “If you were human, I might think that you were somewhat preoccupied, Mr. Data”.

    “I believe that that assessment would be accurate, Captain”. The new first officer touched the third full pip on his collar. “This celebration is in my honour, but I do not believe it to be deserved. My promotion would never have occurred if I had performed my duties adequately”.

    “Commander, the loss of the Will and Deanna was a tragedy all of us were helpless to prevent. What do you think the Commander would say to you in this situation?”

    “I believe that he would offer his congratulations, sir”.

    “And he would also tell you that he believes, as I do, that there is no one on this ship better qualified than you to do the job of first officer”. Picard’s expression spoke volumes of the sincerity of his words. But still, Data was plainly quite troubled.

    “I appreciate the confidence in me, Captain, and I do not doubt that Commander Riker would approve. However, the fact remains that there might have been no lives lost aboard DaiMon Tog’s vessel if we had arrived there sooner. My failure to recognise the code used in the Commander’s signal straight away cost us precious hours, and may have made the difference between life and death for our friends”.

    Picard shook his head ruefully. He had been over and over this himself as well, of course. It was difficult to accept that the absurd little Ferengi had cost him two such outstanding officers – and friends, yes. But they all had to accept the situation, and move on.

    “Data, I wish I could say for certain that it didn’t make a difference, and put your mind at rest. But it is not our privilege to know such things. I’ve lost many friends in my years in Starfleet, and perhaps I could have saved them, if I had played my cards a little differently; but the important thing is that I performed my duties to the best of my abilities … and so did you. You made every effort to decode that signal, and we did get there in time to save one life, at least. After all, if not for you, would we ever have understood the message at all? I can think of no one aboard with more skill at such matters”.

    Stardate 41417.2

    “I can’t get it”.

    Wesley was engrossed in his own Dynamic Relationships test, but still could spare a thought for his friend, who seemed to be finding it a real struggle.

    “Don’t fight it, Mordock. Just relax into it and let it come automatically … you can do it”. Wesley tapped a few more of his controls; just a few more seconds and he would be there …

    “No... it is going too fast”! Mordock seemed to be on the verge of giving up.

    Wesley felt sympathetic towards the Benzite: perhaps if he took a glance at his screen he could offer some crucial piece of advice to help him out. There weren’t any rules against it. True, it might hurt his own chances, but wasn’t it worth it to help a friend?

    But then he remembered that he had resolved to take a less idealistic approach to life. Much as he liked the Benzite, if he couldn’t do this test without help then maybe he didn’t belong in Starfleet. At least, not at Wesley’s own expense.

    “Keep at it”, he said without turning around. A few seconds later, the pattern on his own screen aligned. He had passed the test. T’Shanik also finished before the time ran out, but Oliana and Mordock both failed the test.

    Wesley felt slightly ashamed as he watched the Benzite’s shoulders slump in defeat, but that didn’t detract much from his excitement when Lieutenant Chang returned to the room, and gave him his warm congratulations for posting the second best time ever recorded for the test. If he could just make it through the Psych test in one piece, then that place in the Academy would surely be going to him. He was within touching distance of his dream.

    Stardate 41257.3

    Wesley sat alone in Ten Forward, and gazed thoughtfully out of the window. A month had passed since his close call on the planet of the Edo, and he had bounced back quickly from the fright of nearly losing his life on his first experience with Away Team duty.

    His mind kept returning to the events of the mission, however. The entire ship had been placed in jeopardy because of him … and not for the first time. Was he doing something wrong? Did he really have what it took to make it in Starfleet?

    He was so caught up with his thoughts that he hardly noticed Commander Riker approaching his table until the First Officer was settling into the chair opposite him.

    “Is something on your mind, Mr. Crusher? You seem a little preoccupied lately”. Wesley outlined his concerns.

    “Can you give me your honest opinion, sir? Am I cut out for this life”?

    “My honest opinion? Yes, but you’ve got a lot to learn.” Riker smiled to take the sting out of his words. “You’re a smart kid, Wes; but you are still a kid just the same. You’re full of confidence about who you are and what you can do, but that attitude can lead to careless mistakes. I think that you need a little less idealism and a little more realism”.


    “Yes … not just about yourself, but about the galaxy you live in. On the Edo planet, you said: ‘I’m with Starfleet: we don’t lie’. The reality is, you’re going to face situations where lying, or cheating, or hurting someone is necessary for the greater good, and it would be naïve to imagine otherwise”.

    Wesley’s expression was pensive. Riker felt saddened at having to shatter the boy’s innocence, but it was necessary if he was going to make it in the career he had chosen. He rose to his feet.

    “Don’t take this too hard. You’ve done better these past few months than most children your age could ever dream of. But Starfleet is for adults: if you really want to make the grade, then you’ve got to leave your childish notions behind”.

    He walked away, taking a glance at Wes’ face before striding through the doors. Most fifteen year olds would have let advice like that slide right off them, but the boy’s thoughtful expression showed that he was taking it all in.

    Riker smiled. He was sure that his words would make a difference.