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Star Trek: Aldrin

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#1 Captain_Hair



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 08:41 AM

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#2 Captain_Hair



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 08:41 AM

Diplomatic Protocol
Derek Kessler


Captain’s Log
Stardate 57299.776604

We’ve arrived at FAS-N433 to begin our survey of the area. The Astronomical Survey identified the nebula over fifty years ago, but despite our presence in the Gamma Quadrant for over a decade, not even a probe was launched into the area. Command decided that now would be a good time to finally push into the area. We’ve encountered no alien species, hostile or otherwise, and have proceeded to begin sensor scans of the area. The nebula appears to be a standard Mutara-class nebula, complete with higher than normal levels of dark matter. I suppose that this surveying mission should be a welcome break.

Clark walked out of his ready room and onto the Aldrin’s bridge. Jensen was in her command chair, with R’Mor behind her at the ops arc and Toq’bae in the science station. Ensign Nicole Mason was manning the helm, and oddly enough, her older brother, Lieutenant Owen Mason, was sitting at the tactical station. The warm indigo glow of FAS-N433 filled the viewscreen.

Toq’bae immediately addressed Clark, “Captain, we’ve located a system deep inside the nebula.” He tapped his console and the viewscreen zoomed to a small portion of the nebula. A large white circle appeared around a bright spot, and four dots were displayed around it, with varying ellipses around the circle representing the planets’ orbits.

“Really?” Clark walked to his chair next to Jensen, “Inhabited?” He sat in the leather seat.

“I don’t know,” the Bolian stated, “But readings indicate that one of the three planets is an M-class.” The second dot out blinked red.

Clark smiled, “Sounds good. Lay in a course.”

Nicole nodded, “Course laid in.”


The Aldrin smoothly glided forward, its low-level navigational screens easily pushing aside the thin gasses of the nebula. The colors swirled in massive eddies behind the ship, and then slowly came to a stop as the collective gravity of gas and dust acted on them.

Jensen called out, “Distance.”

Toq’bae answered, “One million kilometers.”

Owen Mason squinted at the viewscreen, “What’s that?”

“What’s what?” Nicole questioned.

He pointed at the viewscreen, “Top right and left corners, large visual disturbances.”

Toq’bae narrowed his eyes, “Look’s like there’s something there, but sensors aren’t detecting anything.”

Clark hurriedly ordered, “Full stop!” The inertial dampers and structural integrity systems strained as the Aldrin abruptly halted. “Can you isolate the starboard disturbance?”

“Yes,” Toq’bae stated, “020 mark 24, seventeen hundred kilometers.”

“Launch a Class-4 Probe,” Clark ordered. A probe, about a meter long with several outboard sensor platforms, shot from the front of the Aldrin’s saucer. It angled off towards the swirling clouds to the right.

“Activate visual feed,” ordered Jensen. The view from the probe, a vortex of gas, appeared on the viewscreen.

“Time to disturbance,” requested Clark.

“Six seconds.” The probe continued through the nebula, constantly scanning its surroundings and relaying the data back to the Aldrin.

The feed from the probe suddenly ceased, replaced by the forward view. The starboard disturbance suddenly flashed with light and a large object within shimmered in waves of energy.

“We lost the feed,” R’Mor reported.

Clark stood from his chair as Toq’bae said, “Captain, I’m detecting displacement consistent with vessel movement!”

“Where is it headed?” the captain asked.

“Here.” In an iridescent flicker of energy, two alien ships appeared in the nebula’s gasses, headed straight for the Aldrin. They were around a hundred meters in length and very smoothly contoured. A long cylinder that bulged in the middle comprised the majority of the hull, with sharp, armored wings on either side. The aft portion was a large triangular propulsion unit and the front of the cylinder was inset several meters with a glowing blue dish.

Clark whirled around and ordered to Owen Mason, “Red Alert!” The Aldrin suddenly bucked as the ships fired beams of red energy into the navigational shields. The energy screen flashed brightly and failed, but was instantly replaced by the main full power defensive shields. The shields flared in splashes of green as the alien vessels pummeled the Aldrin. Red lights began to flash around the bridge.

“Defensive pattern Sulu Alpha Bravo!” ordered Jensen. The Aldrin twisted about and shot off into the nebula, dodging the enemy fire.

Clark fell into his chair as the Aldrin vibrated under the attack, “Lieutenant, ready quantum torpedoes.”

“Ready, Sir.”

“Fire.” Three bright blue torpedoes flew from the back weapon’s pod, tracking after the closer of the two ships. In a lightning fast maneuver, the other ship darted forward and fired through the small shield opening required to let the torpedoes out. The red beams dug into the back of the saucer, spewing fiery debris into the surrounding space.

The torpedoes hit their mark on the attacking ship and it blossomed in a yellow explosion, throwing debris across the nebula.

Alarms blared from every station on the bridge. The Aldrin bucked forward as the disruptors stuck its exposed hull. Sparks flew and secondary power overloads blew panels all over the ship. The engineering station on the bridge burst into flames, and the ops station exploded in a shower of sparks. Arcs of plasma energy shot out of the console and enveloped R’Mor’s body. She fell back into the large master systems display at the back of the bridge, smoke rising from the arms of her uniform. Toq’bae immediately left his station and went to her side.

The second ship darted away into the nebula.

“Pursuit course!” ordered Clark.

The Aldrin arced around and chased the ship.

Jensen turned her chair around and saw R’Mor on the deck. Owen Mason was also slumped over his console, dark red blood draining from a deep gash in his forehead. She pressed the small control panel on the end of her armrest, “Medical team to the bridge.” Toq’bae carefully pulled Owen Mason from the tactical station and laid him next to R’Mor.

Purple clouds rushed by on the viewscreen. The turbolift opened and Kelley and Murphy ran onto the bridge. Murphy dropped down next to R’Mor and Mason and pressed his hand to Mason’s forehead, slowing the blood loss. Kelley took over the helm from Nicole Mason, who promptly went to her brother’s side. The fleeing ship appeared on the viewscreen.

“Ready phasers,” Clark ordered.

Murphy left Owen Mason and sat in the tactical station, “Phasers ready.” He wiped the console clear of blood with his sleeve.

The enemy suddenly dodged out of sight. Kelley quickly followed after, bringing the ship into view.


Murphy struggled to maintain a lock on the ship as it darted through the nebula, evading every phaser beam. Each shot into the nebula ignited a small amount of the gasses, leaving a trail of harmless fire in the phaser’s wake.

The ship dove below the Aldrin, and Kelley piloted the ship into a gut wrenching turn after it. The large Akira-class starship groaned as she stressed it to its limits in pursuit of the nimble attacker. Despite the smaller ship’s efforts, Kelley managed to stay just behind it, giving Murphy more opportunities to hit it. A phaser beam finally made contact, flaring the ship’s shields in a yellow flash.

A small green light suddenly shot from the back of the ship. Kelley instinctively banked the Aldrin away, but it exploded in a flash of light several hundred kilometers away.

The turbolift opened and Wright and two other medical personnel stepped onto the bridge. They walked up to R’Mor and Mason, opened their med-kits, and pulled out several instruments.

“Lousy shot,” commented Jensen.

Murphy slammed his fist against his console, “Targeting sensors are down!”

“Activate manual controls!” ordered Clark. A pair of brackets appeared around the ship on the viewscreen as it weaved through the nebula. Murphy’s console split and an ergonomic joystick rose from the opening. Murphy grabbed the joystick, feeling the controls imbedded in its curved surface. A targeting cross appeared on the viewscreen and followed Murphy’s movements of the joystick. He bent it to the right and the target moved onto the ship. A squeeze of the joystick sent a phaser beam into the nebula, narrowly missing the ship and leaving behind a trail of fire.

Jensen pulled her console from the side up to her front. She read the reports displayed, “Hull breach on deck 6 section B. Forcefields holding.”

“Evacuate that area,” Clark ordered. He gripped his armrests as the Aldrin banked through the nebula. Murphy shot off another blast of phaser fire, again missing the ship.

“Vorik to the bridge.”

Clark tapped his armrest control panel, “Bridge here.”

“Captain, something out there set of a system cascade. It’s already disrupting sensors and is working its way to structural integrity and propulsion.”

“Can you stop it?” Clark asked.

“Not without cutting power to the affected systems,” Vorik said plainly, “And if we keep this up, the SI field is going to fail and we’ll be scattered across this nebula for the next million kilometers.”

“Understood,” Clark said, “Bridge out.” He looked up at the viewscreen. Another phaser beam lanced out at the ship, and this time hit. The ship’s shields failed and the beam sliced into its wing. Trailing fire and sparks, it spun off into the clouds. Kelley leaned to the right as she piloted the Aldrin in that direction.

“Break off pursuit,” Clark ordered.

The gasses on the viewscreen slowed to a stop.

Clark tapped his armrest control panel, “Bridge to Vorik.”

“Vorik here.”

“What do you need to shut down?” Clark asked.

There was a short pause, “Weapons, structural integrity, and warp drive.”

“Understood,” Clark tapped his controls, “Bridge out.” The viewscreen went black almost instantly. Clark stood from his chair and went back to R’Mor and Mason. Mason had a bandage wrapped around his head and the medical personnel were treating burns on R’Mor’s hands. Clark noticed her eyes were closed. He crouched next to her, “How is she?”

Wright looked up from the tricorder in his hand, “We can treat her physical injuries, but we can’t get her out.”

“Out of what?”

He slipped the tricorder into a clip on his belt, “She’s fallen into a coma.”

The news hit Clark like a brick wall. His head suddenly throbbed with pain, his hands felt weak and numb. “Can Dr. Cochrane do anything?”

“He was hit by an energy discharge,” Wright said, “It overloaded his artificial leg and sent him into neural shock. We had to put him in a stasis field to keep him from dying.”

Clark felt the color drain from his face. He steadied himself on the burned remains of the ops arc, “Can you do anything?”

Wright shook his head, “No, Sir. I recommend we return to Deep Space 9 so Dr. Bashir can treat them.”

“I’ll make sure there’s a shuttle ready,” said Clark, “Do whatever you can.”

“A shuttle?”

Clark stood uneasily, “We have to shut down the warp drive for a while. A shuttle will be halfway there before we can get warp drive operational again.”

“Yes, Sir.” Wright pressed a hypospray to R’Mor’s neck.

Clark slowly walked around the arc to his command chair. He sat and looked over at Jensen, “Did you ever feel absolutely useless?”

Jensen understood his question. She leaned forward and placed a reassuring hand on Clark’s arm, “It’ll be okay. You couldn’t have prevented it.”

“I could have ordered phasers instead of torpedoes,” Clark said quietly.

“Nobody expected them to fire through the shield gap,” Jensen argued, “They were lucky just to make it.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it,” Clark said. He leaned back into his chair, “They were faster than we expected, and they got away.”

Jensen shook her head, “You can try to feel bad about this all you want, but you need to realize you can’t be Super Captain.”

“And why not?” Clark asked.

She shrugged, “Because James Kirk already took that honor.”

Clark rolled his eyes, “Very funny.” He paused, “I’ve got two hundred fifty six deaths hanging over my head, just from our first mission. I can’t afford anymore.”

“You’ll lose your command?” Jensen questioned, “They let you keep it then.”

“No,” Clark said, “I’ll lose my mind.” He looked below the ops arc as R’Mor, Mason, and the medical team disappeared in the sparkling of a transporter.

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#3 Captain_Hair



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 08:42 AM


U.S.S. Aldrin
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
10:23 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.780024

Wright grabbed a small round dermal regenerator from a tray of medical equipment and walked over to Owen Mason, lying in a bed in the sickbay main ward. The unconscious patient had a bag of red blood hanging above his head, slowly adding fresh blood via intravenous tube to his drained circulatory system. Wright arrived at Mason’s head and held the regenerator over the gash in his forehead. He squeezed the sides of the device and a blue glow bathed Mason’s head. The flesh slowly grew together as the non-damaged cells were pushed into a state of accelerated division. The wound sealed and Wright placed the regenerator beside Mason’s shoulder.

The sickbay door opened and Jensen walked through. She went to the main surgical bay upon seeing R’Mor and Cochrane’s bodies inside. They were lying on separate bio-beds with large, white stasis field generators attached to the beds’ sides. Apparently stripped of their uniforms, both were covered up to their shoulders by a white sheet. Wright moved to her, “Commander, you can’t go in there.”

Jensen stopped, “Why not?”

“We had to put both of them in stasis,” Wright explained.

“I see,” Jensen nodded, “Did we lose anybody?”

Wright shook his head, “Not yet.”

“Good. Is there anything I can do?”

“As a matter of fact,” Wright turned and walked to an engineering division ensign lying on a bed next to Mason, “Could you push that cart over here?”

Jensen looked to her side and saw a wheeled metal cart loaded with medical equipment and drugs. She placed her hands on its side and pushed it to Wright.

The ensign’s uniform was drenched in blood, darkening the black fabric. Wright pressed a hypospray to his neck and it hissed as medicine was injected though his skin. As Jensen watched, Wright grabbed a forked tool off the cart and placed the edge of the ensign’s collar in it. A yellow beam appeared between the tongs, severing the uniform. Wright slid the device down the ensign’s chest and stomach, cutting his uniform clean open. A hole several centimeters wide was in the center of his chest, exposing several ribs and the flesh beneath. Blood flowed freely from the wound.

Wright put down the cutter and grabbed Jensen’s hands. He placed them on either side of the wound and ordered, “Keep pressure.” The flow of blood lessened but did not stop. Wright inserted a tool between two of the ribs and it emitted a purple light. He slowly withdrew the tool, turning it off once it was beyond the ribcage. He gently placed his hands on top of Jensen’s and moved them closer together, stretching the skin and closing the hole. “Keep it tight.” He looked at the cart, and then realized he’d left the dermal regenerator on Mason’s bed. Wright turned around, reached over Mason, and grabbed the regenerator. He held it above the ensign’s wound and squeezed, emitting a blue glow and closing the gap.

Clark’s voice suddenly sounded in the room, “Clark to sickbay.”

Jensen tapped her combadge, “Sickbay here.”

“Well, Hello Commander. We’ve got the Atlantis ready, so bring them on down.”

“We’re on our way. Sickbay out.” Jensen looked up at Wright, “Who’s going?”

Wright tossed the regenerator onto the cart, “Dr. Cochrane, Lieutenant Mason, and Ensign R’Mor. Lieutenant Ste has already prepared the shuttle.”

Jensen nodded, “Let’s go.” She tapped her combadge, “Sickbay to Transporter Room 1.”

“TR1 here.”

“I need you to beam Dr. Cochrane, Ensign R’Mor, Lieutenant Mason, Lieutenant Wright, and myself to the Atlantis.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Jensen watched as the transporter took hold of her, blurring her vision with sparkling particles. As the massive shuttlebay resolved around her, she saw the other four, three lying on bio-beds, materializing around her. The Atlantis was positioned only a few meters ahead, powered up and ready for launch. Clark had ordered the Atlantis to have an escort, so the Newton was warming up behind the Atlantis.

Clark stepped out of the open aft hatch of the Atlantis, “Hi.”

Wright pulled a lever beneath Mason’s bed and the meter-wide stalk holding the bed rose a few centimeters and dropped a wheel at each of its four corners. He pushed the lever back in and wheeled the bed to the hatch. Clark stepped off and helped maneuver the bed up the ramp.

Jensen moved to R’Mor’s bed and pulled her lever. The bed bounced onto its wheels and Jensen slid the lever back into position. She placed her hands at the Romulan’s head and the bed easily rolled towards the shuttle.

Kelley came out of the shuttle and grabbed the other end of the bed. Clark and Wright waked past them to get Cochrane. As she pushed R’Mor up the ramp, Jensen looked up at Kelley, “Any clue how long this will take?”

“Well,” Kelley backed into the shuttle, “We’ve got about fifty light-years to the wormhole, so assuming we don’t get delayed: eight days.” She and Jensen pushed R’Mor’s bed against the shuttle bulkhead.

Jensen felt she should reach out and apply a reassuring touch to R’Mor’s unconscious body, but she knew that contact with the stasis field could send her into neural shock.

Clark and Wright pushed Cochrane into the shuttle and positioned him between Mason and R’Mor. Wright pulled the wheel lever on Cochrane’s bed and it dropped to the deck. Jensen reached under R’Mor’s bed and pulled the lever. The bed hit the deck and vibrations reverberated through the shuttle.

Janel Ste, a young female Trill, entered the back of the shuttle carrying a large medical box. She placed it under R’Mor’s bed and stood, “That’s everything.”

Clark took a deep breath, “We’re still trying to get through to Dr. Bashir.”

Kelley walked to the front of the shuttle, “I suppose we should get on our way.” She tapped her combadge, “Atlantis to shuttle control.”

A voice came through the badge, “Skon here.”

Atlantis and Newton requesting permission for departure,” said Kelley.

“Roger,” Skon paused, Atlantis and Newton, you are clear for launch.”

Kelley looked though the front window of the shuttle, “Can you open the bay doors?”

“Oh!” Skon squeaked, “Of course! Shuttle control out.” A deep rumble shook the shuttle as the middle door at the back of the bay slowly lowered. The hazy blue clouds of FAS-N433 were visible beyond the Aldrin’s large nacelles.

Jensen shook Kelley’s hand and said, “Good luck.”

“Thank you, Commander,” Kelley nodded lightly.

“All right,” Clark was at the back of the shuttle, “Let’s let them get out of here.” He stepped off the hatch and out of sight. Wright and Jensen followed him out as Kelley sat in the Atlantis’ pilot chair. She tapped the control console and the back hatch quietly lifted off the deck and closed, sealing her, Ste, and the three patients inside.

Jensen watched as the Newton lifted off the shuttlebay deck. The air under it wavered as the shuttle’s anti-grav systems distorted the gravity exerted by the Aldrin. Under the power of low power tractor beams controlled by Skon in the control room above the bay doors, the shuttle slowly glided forward towards open middle door. It exited and was guided to a resting spot several meters beyond the Aldrin’s aft end.

Kelley waved through the Atlantis’ side porthole as it too was pulled out of the bay. Once beyond the grasp of Skon’s tractor beams, the shuttles’ impulse engines kicked to life and the pair sped out of sight.

Clark tapped his combadge, “Clark to Vorik.”

“Vorik here.”

“What’s the status of the repairs?”

Vorik paused, “The cascade overloaded several components of the warp drive. It’s going to take at least a week to complete the repairs.”

“Do we have impulse?” Clark asked.

“Yes, Captain.”

The captain nodded, “Good. Clark out.” He tapped his badge again, “Clark to bridge.”

A voice Clark didn’t recognize answered, “Wilks here.”

“Set a course for the second planet in the system we scanned,” Clark ordered.

“Captain, let me transfer you to the helm,” Wilks said.

Nicole Mason’s voice came through the combadge, “Captain?”

“Ensign, I need you to set a course for the second planet in the system we surveyed,” Clark repeated.

“Course laid in,” Nicole reported.

Clark took a breath, “Engage.” The shuttlebay reverberated with a low rumble as the powerful impulse engines on either side of the saucer roared to life. The view of the nebula through the open bay door changed as the ship rotated to head back to the system. Clark turned around and headed towards a turbolift alcove at the side of the shuttlebay.

10:31 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.781554

The turbolift opened and Clark and Jensen walked onto the bridge together. A tall male ensign with floppy brown hair, presumably the replacement for R’Mor, stood at the ops arc. As Clark and Jensen walked across to their command chairs, Toq’bae called out, “Captain?”

Clark stopped in his tracks, “Lieutenant?”

Toq’bae glanced down at his console, “I’ve detected a large structure on the second planet.”

“What kind of structure?” Clark walked to Toq’bae’s station.

“I can’t give you specifics, but it’s at least a kilometer wide, artificial in nature, partially subterranean, and possibly of Dominion construction.”

Murphy spun his chair to face Toq’bae, “Did you say Dominion?”


Jensen turned in her chair, “It’s inhabited?”

Toq’bae shook his head, “I’m not detecting any other structures and there’s no record of Dominion activity in this sector.”

“Any energy signatures or life-signs?” Clark asked.

“I’m getting faint energy signatures,” Toq’bae said, “But there’s too much disruption to accurately get a life-sign reading.”

Clark approached the ensign at the ops arc, “Where are the shuttles?”

“Uh,” the ensign examined his console.

Clark recognized his voice and interrupted him, “Wilks, right?”

He nodded, “Yes, Sir.” Wilks glanced around the bridge.

“The shuttles?” Clark prompted.

Wilks nearly jumped, “Oh, yes.” He looked back at the ops console, “Still at impulse. They should clear the nebula in less than a minute.”

“Keep an eye on them for as long as you can,” Clark ordered. He walked around the end of the ops arc to his command chair. The captain sat and tapped the controls on his armrest, “We’re going to Yellow Alert.” Yellow lights began to flash along the edge of the overhead, the first three accompanied by a low alarm. He looked to Jensen.

The Bajoran nodded with understanding, “Ensign Mason, take us in.”

“Yes, Sir,” Nicole answered. The Aldrin smoothly pushed forward through the nebula.

“Time to the system,” Clark requested.

“Four minutes,” Nicole responded.

Wilks cleared his throat, “The shuttles have cleared the nebula and accelerated to warp eight.”

The blue gasses rolled away in dense clouds as the Aldrin glided ahead. The gas suddenly cleared and the ship shot into a massive bubble in the nebula, lacking any of the blue clouds. A single star shone in the center of the cavernous space, apparently having drawn the surrounding nebulaeic gasses in during its formation, and that of the four planets that orbited it.

“Full stop!” Clark ordered. The Aldrin’s forward thrusters fired and the ship quickly slowed to a stop several hundred kilometers with the space. The captain took a deep breath, “Report.”

Toq’bae read off his display, “Four planets, Class Y, M, and J. There is a Dominion facility on the second planet. Minimal power signatures, no fusion reactions or matter/antimatter. Several life-signs, all faint.”

“What species?” Jensen asked.

“The nebula is interfering with sensors. All of the readings I’m getting are variable.”

Clark nodded, “Mr. Murphy, raise shields.” Murphy complied silently.

Jensen spun her chair to face Toq’bae, “Can we be detected here?”

The Bolian nodded, “Yes.”

“Any starships out there?” Clark asked.

Toq’bae shrugged, “Not that I can detect.”

Clark turned his chair, “Mr. Wilks, hail the base, all frequencies.”

Wilks looked down at the ops console, “No response.”

“Take us in,” Clark ordered.

Nicole nodded, “Yes, Sir.” She tapped the helm several times and the Aldrin moved forward again. The ship arced around the fourth planet in the system, a massive blue gas giant. The second planet, the M-class, was dead ahead. It had a single rocky moon orbiting extremely close to the planet. Much of the surface was an ocean of dark purple water, with a few small, isolated continents covered in a dark green carpet, presumably a thick coat of vegetation. The dark side was completely dark, devoid of any advanced habitats. It appeared to be a primitive world, lacking intelligent life. And in the center of a sensor disrupting nebula, also the perfect place to hide a base.

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#4 aklaus



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 01:15 PM

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
OK, now where's the rest?

#5 Captain_Hair



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 01:39 PM

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
OK, now where's the rest?

View Post

Have patience... :)

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#6 Canadian Mind


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Posted 01 June 2005 - 02:11 PM

damnit hair, you can't post the whole thing at once eh?
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Vancouver...While I may not live there anymore, this is the city I still call home.

#7 Captain_Hair



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 02:14 PM

damnit hair, you can't post the whole thing at once eh?

View Post

(1) I feel like dragging it out. I like getting input along the way.
(2) It's 95,000 words.
(3) It gives me time to write book 3.


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#8 Captain_Hair



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 03:32 PM


Shuttlecraft Atlantis
Sector 2008, Gamma Quadrant
10:37 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.782684

Kelley placidly looked through the forward window of the Atlantis. The stars were streaking by on all sides as the miniscule craft warped through space. Slightly ahead and to the port was the Newton, keeping tabs on its sister shuttle and its cargo. Kelley turned her chair around and looked at the cargo, three patients occupying a large portion of the rear of the shuttle. Ste was between her and the patients. The Trill looked up and smiled, “I’ll see your ten,” she languidly tossed a handful of tongue depressors onto the small table between her and Kelley. The depressors joined a growing pile of the ageless medical tool. Janel’s smile grew wider, “And raise you fifteen.” She placed another bunch of depressors on the pile. Nearly seventy of them now occupied the table, pushing the playing cards to the edge.

Kelley counted fifteen depressors off the stack to her left and gently placed the on the pile, carefully betraying any emotions she felt. She stated, “Fifteen,” and laid her cards face up on the table, “Three Jacks.” She knew that Ste could beat that, but felt confident of her chances.

Ste laid her cards on the table, “Full House.” Suddenly, Kelley’s chances had been dashed. She was down to ten depressors as Ste reached out and scooped the prize to her. Several of the depressors slid off the table into her lap.

Kelley reached across the table and grabbed Ste’s cards and the deck, shuffling them together with her beaten hand. She placed them face down in front of Ste, “Your deal.”

The Trill grabbed the cards, “I don’t know why you keep playing this game. Your luck stinks.”

“It’s not about luck,” Kelley said, “It’s about strategy. I’m sharpening my negotiating skills.”

Ste shuffled the cards, “Negotiating? I thought poker was about bluffing.”

“Exactly,” Kelley leaned back in her chair, “In negotiating you sometimes try to convince your opposition that you can do something you know full well you can’t. If you play the chips properly, chances are he’ll cave in to the pressure and you won’t have to call your bluff. That is, unless your negotiating with a Ferengi.”

“I see,” Ste nodded. She leaned forward and began laying cards on the table, alternating between Kelley and herself, “And what do you need negotiating skills for as a navigator?” She placed the seventh card on each pile and placed the deck to the side.

“Danger is around every corner,” Kelley said as she picked up her cards and resisted grimacing, “Sometimes its best to try to make an enemy into a friend, instead of blowing them out of the sky.”

Ste shrugged, “I guess that will have to do.”

Kelley placed two cards from her hand face down on the table, “I’ll take two.”

U.S.S. Aldrin
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
10:41 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.783444

Clark stood behind Nicole at the helm, gazing at the image displayed on the viewscreen. The image was filled with the tops of dark green trees, with a dark blue building visible in the gaps between the trees. The captain walked around the helm and stood less than a meter from the large viewscreen. He studied the image, “Mr. Toq’bae, is your analysis complete?”

“Just a moment, Captain.” Toq’bae’s blue fingers danced across the curved surface of his console. He spun around and worked at another screen. After a few seconds, the Bolian turned back around, “Okay, I’m ready. I’m detecting three distinct energy signatures. One low level forcefield, an automated weapons tower ten meters from what appears to be the main entrance, and the facility’s environmental systems, which are pretty close to failing. There are fourteen distinct life-forms, all faint, but forcefield refraction is scrambling their species indicators.”

“Any guesses?” Jensen asked.

“Well,” Toq’bae shrugged, “It is a Dominion structure, so I’m going to guess Jem’Hadar and Vorta.”

Clark turned away from the viewscreen, “The forcefield, what purpose does is serve?”

Murphy answered, “Low level forcefields won’t stop anything physical from passing through, but the shock of the energy is usually enough to disable anyone who passes through. Plus, the field absorbs about half of weapons energy fired through, up to two hundred mega-joules, where it overloads and shuts down.”

“Any response to our hails?” Clark asked. He walked to his command chair.

Wilks shook his head, “No, Sir.”

“It’s ‘Captain’,” Clark said quickly.

Wilks smiled, “Yes, Sir.” He paused and corrected himself, “Captain.”

Jensen turned her chair around, “Can we beam through the forcefield?”

“Not a problem,” said Wilks.

Clark nodded, “Mr. Murphy, prepare an away team.”

The security officer smiled, “Yes, Captain.” He promptly left his post and headed towards the turbolift

“Oh, and John,” Clark called out.

Murphy stopped just inside the turbolift alcove. He turned to face Clark, “Yes?”

“Be careful,” said Clark, his voice serious with a sort of paternal warning.

The turbolift arrived and opened. Murphy stepped inside, “You know me.” He smiled.

Clark nodded, “You’re right, I sure do.” The lift closed and slid away.

Dominion Base
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
11:23 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.894576

The room was small and square, with a fine dust suspended in the air. Mounted on three of the walls were large consoles, damaged beyond repair by explosive force. The fourth wall was a smooth panel covered in condensation. A single door was in the opposite wall, partially opened to a dark room beyond. Parallel streams of light came in through several holes in the flat roof, also apparently severely damaged. Several small pieces of debris were scattered across the floor. All indications were that the room had been subjected to an intense battle.

The blue sparkle of a Starfleet transporter appeared in the room. Six columns of bright blue energy coalesced into six Starfleet security officers, each armed with a phaser rifle. Murphy, in the center of the six, slowly did a visual scan of the room. As the security officers around him turned on their phaser’s searchlights, Murphy unclipped a tricorder from his belt and began to scan the room, holding his rifle to the side. A security officer approached the open door and pointed his rifle’s light into the opening. He poked his head in and looked around.

Murphy slowly turned and kept his beeping tricorder pointed forward. He stopped at the empty wall. The tricorder was indicating there was a seam in the wall, but it couldn’t scan past the thick surface. Murphy stepped closer to the wall and held the tricorder close to it. The seam was incredibly tight, not even visible to the naked eye, but it wasn’t bonded together. A large locking bolt was detected within the wall, further indicating it was a door. Murphy ran his finger along where the tricorder said the seam was, feeling no difference between to supposed different surfaces. He tapped the scanned image of the lock on the tricorder screen and the caption ‘EMP Susceptible’ appeared next to it. Curious, Murphy tapped the caption and the display changed to ‘Activate Electromagnetic Pulse’. He looked over his shoulder and called out, “Solow! Take a look at this.”

A slight, balding lieutenant approached Murphy, “Yes, Sir?” Murphy handed his tricorder to him. “It’s an electromagnetic lock,” Solow quickly stated, “A simple EM pulse should disable it.” He tapped the tricorder and it beeped loudly. A quiet click emanated from the wall and the seam appeared. A narrow plane of bright white light shined through the crack, illuminating the dust floating in the air.

Solow handed the tricorder to Murphy, who pointed it into the narrow opening. It beeped several times and the outline of a body appeared on the screen. Murphy tapped the body and the display changed to a list of vital statistics about the person. The species jumped out at him. It wasn’t the expected Jem’Hadar, Vorta, or even a Founder. It was Romulan. Solow had apparently noticed the species designation too, “What’s a Romulan doing in a Dominion base in the Gamma Quadrant?”

Murphy tried to wedge his fingers into the crack, “Let’s find out.” He pushed against his fingertips, and then pulled back, shaking his hands. Solow picked a thick metal shaft off the deck. He tossed it to Murphy, who grabbed it out of the air and prepared to swing it against the door. With a the force he could muster, Murphy swung the bar against the door and the end of the shaft shattered, spraying bits of dark metal across the room. The broken shaft slipped out of Murphy’s hands and clattered against the floor.

Solow dropped to the floor, covering his face from the shrapnel. Murphy looked down at his arm, seeing a long shard of shining metal protruding from his forearm. A thin stream of red blood ran down the protrusion and dripped onto the floor. He grabbed the shard and slowly pulled it out, grimacing as the severed nerve endings in his arm came in contact with each other. Solow slowly stood and examined the wall, which was undamaged. Murphy looked down at the shaft, which was now sharpened to an angular edge.

“We need a lever,” Solow said quietly, still examining the wall. He looked directly into the crack, and then nearly fell back as the light shined onto his retina.

Murphy picked up the shaft, “A lever?” He tapped the wedge-end shaft against the floor and a metallic ring resonated through the piece.

Hearing the sound, Solow looked back at Murphy. He pointed at the shaft, “We need that.” Murphy pointed the sharpened end of the shaft at Solow, who reached forward and grabbed it. He inserted the pointed end in the crack and pulled the shaft sideways, straining against the unmoving barrier.

“Let me try,” said Murphy. Solow stood and let Murphy move next to the shaft. He wrapped his hands around its shiny metal surface and braced himself with a leg. Murphy pulled the shaft and started sliding across the floor despite his bracing stance. The bar slowly bent against the force exerted, but the wall slowly slid apart. Murphy’s legs gave wave and he fell on his back, sweat glistening off his hairless head. The shaft fell near his feet and rolled against the wall.

Solow approached the wall, being careful not to look directly into the crack, “I’d say you moved it a good three centimeters.”

Murphy stood and ran his hand across the crown of his head. He rolled his eyes, “Great, another twenty of that and we should be fine.”

“Just a minute,” said Solow. He walked over to a damaged console and picked up a Starfleet equipment case. He carried it over to the wall, opened it, and removed a small silvery sphere from the formed padding inside. A large, dark lens dominated one half of the sphere, and several smaller circular discs covered the rest. Solow smiled and set the sphere on the floor, “The ASRP-4, Advanced Surface Reconnaissance Probe, Mark 4. Anti-grav propulsion, gyro-stabilization, subspace scanners, long-range secure subspace uplink, and self-detonation. For field use only.” He activated the probe and it jumped up a few centimeters into the air then settled down to floating barely above the floor. Solow gently pushed it towards the crack in the wall, but discovered that the opening was less than half of the needed width. He looked up at Murphy, “Do you think you could pull this open some more?”

Murphy rolled his eyes, “Sure.” He picked up the shaft, inserted it in the opening, and pried it further apart. After several seconds of agonizingly slow movement, Murphy asked, “Is that good?” and relaxed against the wall. The opening was about a hand’s width wide

Solow shook his head, “Nope, another two centimeters should do.” Murphy dropped his head to his chest, and then adjusted his grip on the shaft.

The light coming through the opening suddenly lessened. Solow and Murphy immediately looked towards the change, and saw the frightened face of a Romulan staring back.

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#9 Captain_Hair



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 10:07 PM


Deep Space 9 – Ops
Denorios Belt, Bajor System
11:31 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 572999.896096

Colonel Kira Nerys stepped out of her office next to Ops and walked down the short set of steps into the center of Deep Space 9’s command and control center. All around her, Starfleet and Bajoran crewmembers worked to keep things running smoothly on the station, and in the surrounding space. A young Starfleet ensign immediately approached Kira, calling, “Colonel!”

Kira reluctantly turned towards him, “Ensign?”

The ensign came to attention a meter from Kira and handed her a Starfleet PADD, “Station security just picked up Morn. Again.”

Kira looked down at the PADD, which detailed the incident, in Quark’s Bar, of course, where Morn got drunk, began bellowing about Quark’s ‘moogie’, then attacked a Dabo girl for no reason, other than being drunk out of his mind. “Let’s just keep him there this time.”

“Yes, Sir,” He turned away from Kira and walked towards the turbolift.

Nog called out for Kira, “Colonel, we’re receiving a hail through the wormhole relay.”

Kira pushed her way towards Nog, “Who?”

“The Aldrin. They say it’s urgent.”

“On screen,” Kira ordered.

The face of Captain Clark appeared on the holo-projection screen suspended in front of the one empty bulkhead in Ops, “Glad to see we finally got through.”

Kira smiled, “Likewise. I wasn’t expecting to here from you so soon. Trouble?”

“Nah,” Clark looked off the viewscreen, “Just wanted to talk.”

“Captain, you know I have–”

Clark cut Kira off by holding up his hand, “Nerys, I’m joking. We were ambushed out here and had to send a few patients your way.”

“How long until they get here?” Kira asked.

“Eight days,” Clark responded, “They shot out our warp drive, so we had to send three of them on shuttles.”

Kira nodded, “I’ll notify Dr. Bashir. Is there anything else?”

“Nope, that’s all. Aldrin out.” Clark’s image disappeared, leaving the bulkhead behind.

Kira shook her head and tapped her combadge, “Kira to Bashir.”

Dr. Julian Bashir’s voice came through the badge, “Bashir here.”

“Doctor, we’ve got three patients coming from the Aldrin, I want you to be ready.”

“How long do we have?” Bashir asked.

“Eight days,” Kira answered, “They’re being shuttled over.”

“What’s their condition?”

Kira shrugged, “I don’t know, Clark didn’t tell me.”

“Okay. We’ll be re– Wait. They just brought in that Dabo girl Morn attacked. Gotta go.”

Dominion Base
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
11:33 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.896476

Without speaking a word, Murphy and the Romulan had started working together to pull the wall open far enough to walk through. The opening was now several centimeters wide and the Romulan put his arm though. His dull metallic quilted sleeve and projecting shoulder point were ripped in several places and smeared with dirt and soot, and his hand was worn rough, scarred across the palm. He carefully squeezed through the opening, turning his head to view his rescuers. The Romulan took a step back upon seeing Murphy, “You’re Starfleet?”

Murphy extended his hand, “I’m Lieutenant Commander John Murphy of the U.S.S. Aldrin.”

The Romulan looked uncertain, “Did the Empire send you?”

Solow stood up behind the Romulan, “No, we’re charting this nebula.”

“Nebula?” The Romulan looked through a hole in the roof, seeing the purple haze beyond the white clouds, “Have you pushed the Dominion back this far?”

Murphy looked past him to Solow, who looked concerned and asked, “What year is it?”

The Romulan turned to him, “I don’t know. The last time we knew was 2371.” He paused, “What year is it?”

Solow’s eyes were wide. He spoke slowly, “It’s 2380.”

The Romulan brought his hand to the chest of his soiled uniform, “Nine years?”

“The war’s been over for five years,” Murphy said.

A trace of anger crossed the Romulan’s face, “We’ve been here for five years after the war?”

“Is this a prison?” Murphy asked. He crouched down and pulled a small cylinder out of the case Solow had brought over. The Romulan stepped back cautiously. Murphy looked up at him, “Don’t worry, it’s a camera.” He activated the cylinder and a small red light glowed on the end. Murphy handed the camera to Solow and looked back to the Romulan, “So?”

The Romulan stayed next to the wall, “Yes. It’s a prison.”

“How many of you are there?” Solow asked.

Murphy raised his hand, silencing Solow, “Save it for the Captain.” He turned back to the Romulan, “What’s your name?”

“Sorel,” The Romulan said, “Centurion Sorel.”

“Sorel?” Murphy confirmed. The Romulan nodded his head. Murphy tapped his combadge, “Murphy to Clark.”

U.S.S. Aldrin
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
11:36 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.897046

Clark pressed his armrest controls, “Clark here.”

Murphy spoke through the bridge speakers, “I found something here you might want to see. I’ve set up a visual uplink.”

Wilks tapped his console, “Just a moment.” He looked up at the screen, “Okay.”

A static-laced image appeared on the screen, but the subject was unmistakable. Clark and Jensen stood, speaking at the same time, “Romulans?”

“Yep, he’s been here for nine years,” Murphy said, “Didn’t even know the war was over.”

Jensen stepped toward the viewscreen, studying the Romulan who simply stood there, cautiously looking straight into the camera, “The Dominion’s been holding them?”

“Yes, this base is a Dominion prison.”

“Are there any others?” Clark asked.

“We haven’t found anymore, but it is a big building,” Murphy said.

“I want to talk to him,” Clark said, “See if he’ll beam up here.”

“Yes, Captain. I’ll keep you posted, Murphy out.” The transmission promptly stopped.

* * *

A pair of security officers stood on either side of the circular transporter pad, prepared to subdue the Romulan if he attacked when beamed aboard. Murphy had reassured Clark that Sorel was unarmed and pretty much not a threat, but the captain had decided not to take any chances. The lieutenant standing behind the transporter control console placed his fingers on the operators and slowly slid them up. The familiar hum and sparkle of transporter appeared in two columns. As the figures coalesced, the corridor doors parted and a pair of medics walked in. Sorel and Solow appeared on the transporter pad and the humming dimmed to nothing.

Sorel quietly stepped forward, cautiously examining each of the Starfleet personnel in the room. One of the medics, Sara Bennett, a young female lieutenant with a trace of Klingon ancestry visible in the subtle ridges of her forehead, removed a tricorder from her belt and began scanning Sorel. The corridor door opened again and Clark and Jensen walked through. Sorel quickly identified Clark by the four gold command pips on his collar, “Captain,” he looked around quickly, “Where am I?”

Clark stepped to the edge of the transporter pad, with Sorel still a step above him, “You’re on the Federation Starship U.S.S. Aldrin, orbiting an unidentified planet in the Gamma Quadrant.”

“And it’s 2380?” questioned Sorel.

“Yes,” Clark confirmed, “Do you know how you got here?”

Sorel glanced at Jensen, who was studying the Romulan carefully, and said, “We were on a survey mission near Idran. A Dominion squadron ambushed my scout ship and took me and my crew captive.”

“Do you know how many were taken captive?” Jensen asked.


Clark stepped up onto the pad and extended his hand to Sorel, “I’m sure you’ve been through a lot in the past nine years, so we’ll do our best to accommodate your needs and get you home safely.”

Sorel awkwardly grabbed Clark’s hand, “Thank you, Captain.”

Clark shook the Romulan’s hand, “Now, if you’d like to go to sickbay for an evaluation–”

He smiled, “I’d be happy to.” Sorel stepped off the pad and Bennett walked into the corridor, leading the way to sickbay. The Romulan followed her out and the other medic followed him, quickly checking the phaser at his side.

Clark’s combadge beeped, “Murphy to Clark.”

“What is it, John?”

“I think we just found the rest of the Romulans,” Murphy said.

“How many?” Clark asked.

“Uh,” he could be heard counting under his breath, “Thirteen, in a room big enough to fit the Aldrin.”

“Okay, we’ll beam them up here for treatment,” Clark said, “Have you found anything else?”

“Not much. The Dominion destroyed or took everything of any value. The Romulans tell us that this room was the launch bay, and they left several days ago, maybe a week.”

“Good,” Clark acknowledged, “Any info they can give us will be helpful. Clark out.” He turned to Jensen, “Commander, arrange some quarters for our guests.”

“Yes, Captain,” Jensen suspiciously eyed the guards standing in the transporter room, “May I speak to you in the corridor?”

Clark gestured to the door, allowing Jensen to walk through first. Once in the corridor, Jensen leaned against a bulkhead and spoke in a hushed tone, “He said he was a Centurion, right?”

Clark nodded, “Right. On a survey mission.”

“What was a Centurion doing on a survey mission, on a scout ship?” Jensen asked.

“Maybe it was of military importance,” Clark suggested.

Jensen shook her head, “Then they would have sent a warbird.”

“He’s hiding something.”

The pair watched as an ensign walked past them, disappearing into a laboratory down the corridor.

“I’ll talk to Sorel,” Clark said, “You make them feel at home. The more at ease they are, the more likely they are to be cooperative.”

Jensen nodded, “I’m on it.” She turned and walked down the corridor.

Clark tapped his combadge, “Clark to Security.”

A woman’s voice came through the badge, “Security here.”

“Send four guards down to Transporter Room 2,” Clark ordered.

“Four guards. Security out.”

Clark turned and went back into the transporter room, preparing to greet the rest of the Romulans. As he walked in, a batch of seven Romulans was materializing. Most seemed relatively young, but one in the back looked as though he were a few decades older than the rest. His hair was gray, streaked with white, and was a bit longer than the others. Clark noted he seemed most in need of medical attention, with a blood-soaked bandage wrapped around his right thigh. The captain put on a cheerful facade, “Welcome aboard.”

Most of the Romulans looked around, almost as if they were evaluating their chances for escape, but the elder stared straight at Clark. Something about his face and the look in his eyes was intensely familiar to Clark. The corridor door opened and four security guards walked in. “Please,” Clark spoke, “Step off the transporter so we can transport the rest of your colleagues.” The Romulans promptly walked off the pad and a second group of seven, six Romulans and a Starfleet security officer, materialized.

With five security officers and thirteen Romulans in the transporter room, there was little room to maneuver. But despite the crowdedness, no one spoke. Clark spoke loudly so his voice could reach all, “We are preparing quarters for you. Please follow the guards to sickbay so you can be examined and processed.”

Two of the guards walked out into the corridor and the Romulans followed, holding their heads high. Clark knew that a rescue by Starfleet would probably be deemed unacceptable and a disgrace by the Romulan Empire, but they needed assistance immediately. As the Romulans filed out, the older Romulan came to Clark. He extended his hand in a very human greeting, “Captain, thank you for your hospitality.”

Clark took the Romulan’s hand and shook, “We’re glad to help. We’ll get you back to your homes as soon as we can.” He looked over the Romulan’s shoulder, seeing contempt in the faces of the others.

The Romulan spoke quietly, “I spent some time on a Starfleet vessel several years ago; there is an important matter I must discuss with you.”

“What’s your name?” Clark asked.

“Gerax,” he said, “Dr. Gerax, Romulan Astrophysical Academy.”

Clark nodded, “Well, Doctor, I’ll speak with you later.” He dropped Gerax’s hand.

Gerax smiled, “I’ll be waiting.” He turned and followed the other Romulans out into the corridor.

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#10 aklaus



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 10:17 PM

Dominion Base
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
11:33 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.896476

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HA! Finally found one.
Nothing to nitpick, though. Except that the chapters aren't long enough and you should release them two at a time. ;)

#11 Captain_Hair



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Posted 01 June 2005 - 10:23 PM

HA!  Finally found one.
Nothing to nitpick, though.  Except that the chapters aren't long enough and you should release them two at a time. ;)

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I blame my home-made stardate calculator program. :P

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#12 Captain_Hair



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Posted 02 June 2005 - 10:50 AM


U.S.S. Aldrin
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
11:48 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.899326

Wright quickly wrapped a bandage around the arm of one of the eight Romulans that had suddenly come to the sickbay. Nobody had bothered to inform the doctor that they were coming, much less as to why eight malnourished Romulans were on the Aldrin. The door opened and six more Romulans walked in, some looking around curiously, others with prying, manipulative eyes. “Make that fourteen,” Wright muttered under his breath. A few of the low ranking medical officers in the sickbay approached the newly arrived Romulans and guided them towards the large double doors to the left of the main surgical bay, the overflow ward. Wright had decided to keep the Romulans in the expansive overflow ward, along with the Aldrin crewmembers still recovering from the morning’s attack, but keeping them separated on either side of the curved room.

He finished securing the bandage and patted the Romulan on the shoulder, “That’s all.” The Romulan nodded, stood from the bed he was sitting on, and was escorted to the overflow ward by Bennett. Wright turned to the nearest medic not busy preparing something, “Emerson, get over here!”

It turned out that Emerson was examining a sample of green Romulan blood, but that could wait for later. The ensign turned around and walked to Wright, “Lieutenant?”

Wright looked through the closing overflow ward door, and then turned to Emerson, “I need you to get together fourteen nutrient boosters and see if you can get a few more guards down here.”

“We already have five guards,” Emerson stated.

“Yes,” Wright acknowledged, “But we also have fourteen Romulans.”

Emerson nodded, “I’ll get on it.” He turned and walked towards the supply room.

Wright checked to make sure that his phaser was still attached to his hip, which it was, and then head for the overflow ward. The wide doors parted at his approach and he was greeted by almost silence. Out of the forty beds in the room, less than half were occupied, all along a single wall of bulkheads with a vital signs display above each bed. All of the Romulans were quietly cooperating with the medical staff, allowing them to inject medicines with the hyposprays and letting the curious medics scan them with their tricorders.

An older Romulan sighted Wright and hopped off his bed. The Romulan was smiling as he walked over to Wright, “Lieutenant, thank you so much for your assistance,” he grasped Wright’s hands, “And the nutritional injections, but I have a matter which must be addressed soon.”

Wright sensed the urgency in the Romulan’s voice, “What is it?”

The Romulan leaned forward and asked in earnest, “Do you have anything to eat?”

A Romulan on the bed next to Wright started laughing, much to the bewilderment of the medic scanning him. He nearly fell of the bed laughing, “Gerax! We spend nine years in a Dominion prison and now all you’re interested in is food?”

The older Romulan, Gerax, nodded, “Right, and I’m sure you realize why.” He turned back to Wright, “We haven’t had a thing to eat for at least five days.”

Wright nodded, “I’ll contact the galley and have them be prepare some food for you.”

Gerax’s smile grew even more, “Thank you.” He turned and walked back to his bed, his step resembling that of a civilian more than that of the Romulan military.

Emerson carried a tray of fourteen loaded hyposprays into the ward, “Lieutenant?”

Wright turned to him, “Administer one to each of the Romulans.”

“Yes, Sir,” Emerson headed straight for the closest Romulan and set the tray on the bed next to him.

* * *

Clark walked into Engineering-A to the depressing sight, at least to an engineer, of an empty warp core. The complicated dilithium crystal assembly was visible in the center of the two-meter-wide clear tube, and the normally pulsing plasma relays leading to the overhead were a dark gray. The plasma coolant tubes position every ninety degrees around the core still glowed their usual eerie light green. Most of the engineers usually in the large, two level room were gone, off repairing the rest of the dual warp core drive system, weapons systems, and the structural integrity field necessary to hold the Aldrin together in high impulse maneuvers and at even low warp speed. Clark walked towards the warp core, approaching the steps that led to the two platforms around the reaction chamber. He climbed up to the first, and then the second. Clark went to the dilithium matrix console and accessed its secure functions, inputting codes along the way. A round hatch at Clark’s feet clicked and hissed, then slowly slid out from the warp core, bringing the dilithium matrix with it.

Clark crouched next to the exposed inner workings off the warp core, marveling at the overall simplicity of it. No computation was involved in the collection of the energy released by the reaction of deuterium and anti-deuterium, it was all naturally drawn to the dilithium crystals and channeled into the processing buffer. The energy focused in the space between the three pointed blue crystals, each of whom had several thin conductors leading off the mounted ends and into the plasma transfer regulators. During normal operations, the entire exposed portions of the matrix would be coated in superheated plasma, all guiding the powerful energy towards the complicated processing buffer that held the energy for only a few seconds, just long enough to get a pulse of energy to send down the plasma conduits to the warp engines. From the buffer on was a mind-boggling mess of ever improving technology, but the basic component of the system, the harnessing of the energy, remained relatively the same as Zefram Cochrane had conceived it over three hundred years ago.

The three little yellow circles at the outer ends of the dilithium crystals were dark, indicating that every crystal was out of alignment and would have to realigned with a host of precision instruments stored away somewhere for days like this. Clark shook his head in dismay, realigned the crystals would take several hours and couldn’t be done by one person. The only person to ever have done so by himself was the great Montgomery Scott of the original Starship Enterprise, but like Captain Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy of the same ship, one could never know if the story was actually true, a fable, or an outright myth.

Vorik came through the doors on the upper level of the room, reading off a PADD. The Vulcan looked up at Clark, “Hello, Captain.”

Clark jumped at the unexpected noise. He looked up at his chief engineer, “Hello, Vorik. How are the repairs going?”

“Slowly,” Vorik stated, “They used some sort of plasma beam when they punctured our hull and it overloaded most off the systems within several meters of the impact site.”

“How bad is it?” Clark asked. He tapped the console and the dilithium matrix smoothly slid back into the empty warp core. The captain walked up the final set of steps to the upper level of Engineering.

Vorik placed his PADD on a console, “Not good. Physical damage extends fifteen meters into the saucer and left a hole seven meters wide in the hull.”

Clark shook his head, “It’s a wonder no one was killed.”

“There’s more,” Vorik said, “They also managed to shut down the entire weapons module and disable a majority of the structural integrity field.”

“How long will our deuterium reserves last us while we use the fusion reactors?”

“Ninety percent of our deuterium still remains. At our current usage, seventy four point two six days,” Vorik stated.

Clark nodded, “We should be under way by then. Keep on the repairs.” He started towards the door, “There’ll be a briefing at thirteen hundred hours.” Clark exited into the corridor.

Dominion Base
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
11:59 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57299.901416

Murphy swept his rifle’s light across the vast emptiness of the room. A single shaft of light shined down through a massive hole in the ceiling, through which birds and other creatures had migrated in, and the Romulans said the Dominion migrated out. The smoothed and warped surface of the floor under the hole validated the story, as the Romulans also said the used their thrusters to take off, creating an intense wave of heat that consumed the oxygen in the room and nearly suffocated the Romulans. But that was a week ago, when the Jem’Hadar packed everything they could, destroyed the rest, and left.

Murphy moved closer to the dark wall, which scans had indicated was set into the ground. The wall was cool and damp to the touch, almost like a massive cave. He pointed his rifle up and the rifle’s light tried to automatically focus on the ceiling, but the roof was too high to do so effectively. Murphy supposed that the Dominion left in quite a hurry, as a partially-closed seam was readily apparent in the roof, over two hundred meters above. The room was a square with sides almost seven hundred meters long. Murphy marveled at the size of the room, but still wondered why the Dominion would create such a massive landing facility when they possessed such advanced transporter technology.

His combadge suddenly beeped, “Clark to Murphy.” The beep echoed back after a few seconds.

He tapped the badge, “Murphy here.” His voice resounded loudly in the empty bay.

“Hey John, just thought you should know that most of the Romulans seem a bit wary up here.”

“I’d imagine so,” Murphy said, “It’s a different galaxy they’re coming back to. Although I can’t believe you feel you need to let me know that.” He continued along the wall, running his hand along its rough surface.

“No, I’m just letting you know that we’re having a briefing at thirteen hundred hours.” Clark said.

Murphy nodded, “I’ll be there.”

“Good, I’ll see–”

Murphy cut him off, “Captain, hold on for just one minute.” He pointed his light at the wall next to him. Visible only because of the way the condensation beaded against it, was a hand-sized square inset about a meter high in the otherwise continuous wall. Murphy crouched and examined it.

“What is it, John?” Clark asked, not seeing what Murphy saw.

“I don’t know.” He placed his hand on the square and pushed. It moved in about a centimeter and clicked. Nothing happened. Murphy pulled his hand back and the square quickly slid into a slot in the wall, exposing what appeared to be a simple manual release handle. The handle was red and set into a glowing blue panel. Clark could be heard talking to someone in the background as Murphy slowly curled his fingers around the handle. He carefully pulled the handle and it slid out easily. The handle came out to the edge of the wall and stopped. The back panel changed from blue to white and there was a deep rumble inside the wall to Murphy’s right.

He instinctively jumped back and leveled his rifle at the wall, ready for it to burst open with Jem’Hadar. A section of the wall about three meters long, with its bottom two meters above the floor, clicked out and swung down, hinged at its base. They were stairs, hidden above the line of sight of almost any humanoid. The stairs led up to a tall opening, from which a flickering light emanated.

Murphy cautiously moved to the base of the stairs. He placed on foot on the bottom step, then moved the other up to it. Nothing happened, again.

“John, what’s going on?” Clark asked again, a brotherly concern evident in his voice.

He dared not to speak, just slowly walked up the steps, constantly listening for signs of a trap. Halfway up the steps, there had been no such traps. It was almost as if the Dominion didn’t think anybody could find this room, so why booby-trap it? Murphy arrived at the top of the stairs and looked into the room. Darkness pervaded the room. The light flickered again and something inside caught Murphy’s attention. He looked towards it waiting for the light. The light flashed and Murphy saw it again.


Murphy swung his rifle up towards what he saw. What he saw would be etched in his mind forever. He spoke slowly, “Captain, you are not going to believe this.”

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#13 ~Lady Trekki~


~Lady Trekki~

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 11:01 AM

Wow Hair...very nice. I love the cover!
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

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#14 Captain_Hair



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Posted 02 June 2005 - 11:04 AM

Wow Hair...very nice.  I love the cover!

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Thanks LT! :)

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#15 Captain_Hair



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Posted 02 June 2005 - 07:36 PM


U.S.S. Aldrin
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
12:58 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57300.015778

Clark stood with his hands folded behind his back, facing out the large windows that comprised the outer bulkheads of the Aldrin’s briefing room. The defunct weapons pod lay almost directly ahead, connected on either side to the spilt engineering hull. The prison planet was visible on the right side, and the rest of the vista was taken up by the Aldrin and the nebula beyond. The Aldrin was resting in a geo-synchronous orbit of the planet, floating directly above the prison.

The door leading to the corridor opened and Wright walked into the room. He took a seat between Nicole Mason and Wilks, the latter of who seemed a bit uneasy around the senior officers. Murphy slowly rocked back and forth in his chair, his face disturbed. Vorik’s face was smudged with some kind of brown lubricant from repairs in the weapons pod.

Clark turned from the windows and walked to his chair at the end of the table. He sat down, laying his hands on the cool glass surface. The captain looked to each of the senior crewmembers then said, “I called this briefing to discuss the Romulans we have taken aboard and what to do with them, but another concern has made itself clear. Commander Murphy, you have the floor.” He gestured to the security chief.

Murphy glanced down at a PADD laying in front of him on the table, “As I’m sure most of you have learned, the facility on the planet is a Dominion prison, abandoned approximately one week ago. They left behind fourteen Romulan prisoners, all of who were supposedly captured while on a survey mission and brought here.”

He stood and turned around to the large eagle and starship bronze relief in the display case behind him. He tapped a small control next to the case and a holographic screen shimmered into being. Everyone else in the briefing room turned their chairs to view the screen. A picture of the prison’s landing bay appeared. Murphy continued, “All but one of the remaining prisoners were in the landing bay. It is seven hundred meters square, and some two hundred twenty meters high.” He tapped the screen and it zoomed out to an isometric wire frame schematic view of the bay. A red wire frame of a massive ship appeared inside the bay. “Large enough to fit a Dominion warship.” Four blue Akira-class ships, two wide and two high, appeared in the bay, intertwining with the warship. “More than enough room to fit several Starfleet starships, even a Sovereign or Galaxy-class.”

He tapped the screen again and it changed back to the holo-photo of the bay, “But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about. Adjoined to this bay we discovered a room, hidden from sensors, a laboratory. We discovered several bodies, Romulans, a Human, and several others, all apparently undergoing genetic experimentation.”

“What kind of experiments?” Wright asked.

The screen changed to a shot of six bodies lying on surgical tables in a pristine room. Each was covered by a dark gray sheet up to their necks. Each of their heads had been shaved, and a few had surgical scarring across their scalp. Tubes filled with various colors of liquid were inserted into the necks and the sides of others’ heads. Yet others’ faces were traced with dark veins and their eyes wide open. “We’re not quite sure,” Murphy answered, “But appears they were attempting to manipulate their genes to cause them to be dependent upon ketracel-white.”

“Just like the Taurik impersonator claimed the Dominion had done on our first mission,” Jensen added.

“It appears that the Dominion did not succeed here,” Vorik stated, “The death of the subjects proves their methods to be faulty.”

“Let’s hope not,” Clark said, “Lieutenant Wright, I want you to beam down to the surface and examine these experiments yourself.”

Wright nodded, “Yes, Captain.” Murphy deactivated the screen and sat back in his chair.

Clark turned to Jensen on his right, “Commander?”

Jensen stood and walked towards the display case, reactivating the holo-screen as she walked by. The image of several Romulan D’deridex-class warbirds and Cardassian Keldon-class cruisers appeared on the screen. The fleet flew into a thick purple nebula and began firing on a rocky brown planet. A Dominion fleet suddenly came from the nebula and attacked the Romulans and Cardassians. Every non-Dominion ship on the screen was almost instantly obliterated by the surprise attack. The screen shimmered away.

“What you just watched,” Jensen said, “Was classified footage of a joint Tal Shiar and Obsidian Order fleet attacking the Founder’s homeworld. The command of the fleet was infiltrated by a Founder and led them into a Dominion ambush. Every Romulan and Cardassian vessel was destroyed and it is known that several personnel survived and were captured by the Dominion. I believe we have ample reason to assume that the Romulans we have rescued were part of the fleet that you just saw.”

“Sorel said they were on a survey mission, near Idran,” Wright countered.

“He is a Romulan,” Toq’bae said, “Romulans are well known for their deceptive nature. For all we know his name might not even be Sorel.”

Clark leaned back in his chair, “What I would give for a Betazoid right now.”

“It would make things much easier,” Jensen agreed, “But I believe we may already have a faster way to receive information from the Romulans.”

Clark nodded, “Go on.”

Jensen spoke as she walked back to her chair, “Many crewmembers have noted that a Romulan who identified himself as Gerax to be much more open and sociable than the rest of the Romulans.”

“Dr. Gerax did say that he wished to speak with me,” Clark added.

“It appears that he is not actually part of the Romulan military, which traditionally is comprised of paranoid and xenophobic Romulans. I believe Dr. Gerax has not been trained in the same resistance techniques that the rest of the Romulans have. He should be more susceptible to more persuasive forms of questioning.”

Clark cut her off, “Stop right there. I’m not sure how you did things in Section 31, but on my ship we will not lower ourselves to torture.”

A wave of anger crossed Jensen’s face.

The captain continued, “Sorel has already proven himself to be a poor liar by telling us he was a centurion on a survey mission in the Gamma Quadrant, on a scout vessel. Starfleet records have no indication of a Romulan scout vessel ever going through the wormhole, in fact, the Romulans had not even ventured into the Gamma Quadrant, at least officially, by the time Sorel was captured. I will talk to Dr. Gerax and see what he has to say, and in the mean time, try your best to be hospitable to our guests. We’ll get them off of here as soon as possible.” He stood, “Dismissed.”

The officers stood from their chairs and began to file out of the briefing room. Wright moved over to Murphy, asking something about the bodies he’d found. Jensen stopped at the end of the table opposite from Clark. The captain sat back in his chair and angled it towards the windows as Jensen watched the remaining officers exit. The door slid shut and Jensen whirled around towards Clark. She almost yelled, “How dare you!” She slammed the chair in front of her into the table.

Clark turned his chair back to Jensen, “How dare I?”

Jensen slowly walked towards Clark, “How dare you insult me like that!”

Clark could see the anger burning in her eyes. He stood from his chair, “You were suggesting that we torture someone who doesn’t even appear to be connected to this joint strike thing you’ve uncovered!”

“And what makes you think he’s not connected?” Jensen stopped less than a third of a meter from Clark’s face.

“You said it yourself, ‘It appears that he is not actually part of the Romulan military’,” Clark said quietly, trying to calm Jensen.

Jensen was not phased by Clark, “And what makes you think they won’t keep lying to us?”

“Because the war’s over,” Clark said, “And when presented with the truth, the Romulans have a way of knowing when to give up.”

“The Romulan way of giving up is killing everyone who knows!” Jensen argued, “Including us.”

“The Aldrin is well armed and far from Romulan space. Starfleet doesn’t even know we’ve found these Romulans.”

“They should!” Jensen slammed her fist onto the chair next to her.

Clark lowered his voice, “This is my ship, and we’re going to tell them when we have the complete story!”

He saw Jensen’s hand coming up to meet his face and reacted by reaching up to stop her arm’s movement. They stood locked for a moment, Jensen’s hand hovering mere centimeters from Clark’s cheek. The captain didn’t look away from her face as she growled, “Don’t touch me.”

Clark slowly loosened his grip on her arm and Jensen pulled it back to her side. But this time Clark wasn’t fast enough. Jensen’s other fist drilled into his stomach and an instant later her leg hooked around his and knocked him to the ground.

Jensen tucked a loose lock of hair black hair behind her ear, “Never talk to me like that again.” She straightened her uniform jacket.

Clark sat up, clutching his stomach while trying to maintain what little dignity he had left, “Get off my bridge!”

The Bajoran turned and walked away, exiting the briefing room without saying another word.

Dominion Base
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
13:18 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57300.122730

Murphy and Wright materialized in the landing bay of the prison. Wright looked around at the expansive room, listening to the reverberations of the transporter effect. He commented, “It really is as big as you said.”

“You think I’d lie about something like that?” Murphy asked. He clicked on his rifle’s light and pointed it at the stairs, “This way.”

Wright activated a wrist beacon and slapped the light onto his right forearm, “Lead the way.”

Murphy walked to the stairs and confidently strode up, although still cautious of the possibility of a trap. Wright slowly followed him up the stairs, apparently unnerved by the lack of safety railings. He stepped into the room and shined his wrist beacon in. Wright blinked several times, “Holy shit.”

The closet table was occupied by a Bajoran. His scalp had been shaved clean and several thin tubes came out of the side of his head, crudely inserted directly into his brain. The tubes led to several different devices and canisters beneath the table, all marked in a language Wright didn’t recognize. A few of the tubes had been removed from the Bajoran’s head, exposing a disturbing intermix of technology and biology.

Wright unclipped his tricorder from his belt and scanned the Bajoran’s head. A wrinkle of concern crossed his face. “This is Breen technology,” he said, indicating the exposed junctions.

“The Breen didn’t enter the war until after the Dominion lost access to the wormhole,” Murphy said.

“So this was done after the war,” Wright said quietly. He stood and pointed his wrist beacon at the next table. It was a Romulan female. Her head had been shaved like the rest, but it was clear from the blood-encrusted sutures that physical surgery had been done on the exposed skin. Wright scanned her, “They’ve implanted ketracel-white dispensing devices in her brain,” he pointed down at the Romulan’s body, “And in the rest of her.”

Murphy stopped two tables down, “This one’s a human.” He pointed his light at a woman lying on the table. She had tubes similar to the Bajoran’s inserted into the sides of her head, but all were still plugged in, and pumping.

Wright quickly moved to her and pointed his tricorder at her body. He looked up at Murphy, shock in his face, “She’s still alive.”

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#16 Captain_Hair



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Posted 03 June 2005 - 01:12 AM


Dominion Base
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
13:18 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57300.122730

Clark transported to the base of the stairs, the transporter effect throwing aqua light onto the lower steps. Murphy was waiting at the top of the steps, phaser rifle at his side. He called out the obvious, “Up here, Captain.” Clark carefully walked up the stairs, favoring his right leg. He stepped into the room and looked around.

Several wrist beacons had been set up on the counters around the room, casting an eerie horizontal band of light across the bodies on the tables, interrupted by Wright moving around, and enhanced by the occasionally flickering light on the ceiling. Wright was standing at the head of a Human woman, who had several tubes coming from the sides of her shaved head. He set his beeping tricorder next to her head, “It’s alive.”

Clark rolled his eyes, “Very funny.” He walked over to the body and saw her chest rising and falling slowly, the dark veins across the side of her head and cheeks pulsing with every beat of her heart. Something about the woman was vaguely familiar to Clark.

“Captain, you’re limping,” Wright said.

“It’s nothing,” Clark protested.

Wright ignored his captain and scanned Clark’s right leg with the tricorder, “Your fibula’s been fractured.”

“Don’t ask.” He turned to the woman on the table, “What’s the scoop on her?”

“Well.” Wright handled the tricorder, “I’ve been trying, but I can’t make heads or tails of what they were trying to do.”

Clark crouched to examine the mechanics under the table and instantly regretted it. Waves of pain ripped through his injured leg and into the rest of his body. He struggled not to let it show, but knew his facial expressions betrayed him. Clark pointed at a large canister under the table. A thick white liquid flowed through a clear tube that ran from the top of the canister to the side of her head, “This looks like it might be ketracel-white.”

Wright looked down at his beeping tricorder, “Its seems like they were trying to infuse her nervous system with ketracel-white.”

“Forced addiction,” Clark confirmed, “Did it work?”

“Well, her brain seems to be suffering from a severe neuro-chemical imbalance,” Wright said, “But it looks like it is reacting to the white, not interacting. We should be able to reverse the effects aboard the Aldrin.”

Clark tapped the white tube, “Can we unplug her?”

“Probably, but I would like to beam all of them to the labs on board for examination,” Wright said.

Clark stood and pain shot through his right leg. He moaned and shifted all of his weight onto his left leg, lifting the other off the floor. Clark nodded weakly, “Agreed, and I’ll check myself in as well. And I’ll get some pattern enhancers down here.”

Murphy, who hand been standing near the door the whole time, tapped his combadge, “Murphy to Aldrin.”

Wilks answered, Aldrin here.”

“Could you beam down four transporter pattern enhancers?” Murphy asked.

“Sure thing. Aldrin out.” The combadge beeped off and almost immediately a bundle of four meter-long cylinders materialized at the bottom of the stairs. Murphy quickly ran down the stairs, grabbed the pattern enhancers, and came back up. He set them on the floor and, with the help of Wright, unfastened the straps that held the enhancers together. Each pattern enhancer’s brushed metal case was only a few centimeters wide, with three tripod legs folded up to the side one end and a long, vertically slotted transmission cone on the other end.

Murphy picked up one of the enhancers and clicked an activation switch on its side. The tripod legs flipped down and the slots on the transmission cone glowed white, throwing light onto Murphy’s face. He set the enhancer on its legs at one corner of the table. Wright activated another and set it at an adjoining corner. The instant the legs touched the floor a blue-white beam of light connected the two transmission cones. They activated the other enhancers and set them at the remaining corners, creating a rectangle of light around the table and the woman on it. The cones stopped glowing outside of the rectangle, concentrating all of their light in a ninety-degree wedge facing the table, amplifying the transporter carrier wave and annular confinement beam.

Wright tapped his tricorder a few times and the table slowly dissolved in the aqua sparkle of a Starfleet transporter. Wright and Murphy moved the pattern enhancers to a different table, and in only a few minutes, all of the tables were gone, leaving Clark, Murphy, and Wright alone in the room. Murphy gathered up and deactivated the wrist lights from the counters and put them in a Starfleet pouch. Wright grabbed the enhancers and positioned them around Clark.

“At least let me hobble out of here with my last scrap of dignity,” Clark argued.

Wright tapped his tricorder, “No.” Clark felt the tingle of a transporter, watched the sparkling lights, and materialized in the center of sickbay.

Nauseated by the transport, as he always was, Clark braced himself against the nearby lab station. An ensign approached Clark, noticing how he favored his right leg, “Sir, are you all right?”

Clark weakly shook his head, the combination of transporting and the broken fibula overwhelming him. He was vaguely aware that his legs were no longer supporting him and that there was a presence holding him under his arms. He felt the world around him slip away.

Still shaken by the Borg attack only a few weeks ago, newly minted Commander David Clark slowly walked through the wide corridors of Starbase 261. In the midst of performing upgrade work on the U.S.S. Bozeman in late 2373, a single Borg cube had broken through Starfleet lines and made it all the way to Earth. There waited the Bozeman, under the command of Captain Morgan Bateson, along with several other ships. With the fleet under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E, the cube was destroyed by and Earth saved from assimilation.

Despite that the Borg destroyed his ship, Admiral Hayes survived the attack and issued several commendations and promotions, including one to Lieutenant Commander Clark. He was reassigned, to a ship named the Cairo, a thirty-year-old
Excelsior-class starship, currently being overhauled and upgraded within the confines of Starbase 261. Clark was to be the Cairo’s chief engineer, as it was the only open position within seven parsecs for a Commander with his skills. With the experience of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers behind him, Clark was to supervise the remaining stages of the overhaul.

Clark came to the
Cairo’s docking port. A long, three-meter-wide tube extended from the starbase to the engineering hull of the Cairo. The round outer airlock of the Cairo was painted a light blue to match the color of the outer hull plating. He inputted a short access code into a control on the door and the circular panel slid to the side, hissing lightly as the air pressure equalized. Clark stepped through the threshold and onto the Cairo, and noticed that the Cairo’s gravity was slightly lower than Earth standard. The airlock door closed behind him.

Clark ran his thumb across the yellow collar of his uniform, feeling the three command pips attached there, and smiled. The inner door rolled away without Clark giving a command. An older woman, her pulled back black hair streaked with gray matching her sharp, keen eyes, stood across the doorway. Seeing Clark, she smiled, “Making sure they’re still there?” Clark noticed the four gold pips on her red collar; Captain. He snapped to attention.

She stepped forward and extended her hand, “Leslie Wong.”

Clark shook her hand, finding that her grip was surprisingly strong. He nodded, “Commander David Clark.”

Wong’s smile grew wider, almost as if she were trying to keep from laughing, “I’m not sure if you read the briefing I sent you, but my ship is an ‘all-at-ease’ zone.”

Clark nodded, “Yes, Sir.”

“Neither of us are on duty,” Wong said, “My name’s Leslie.” She stepped back into the Cairo, “Are you going to at least come on board?”

Seeing that Wong was apparently genuinely welcoming, Clark stepped across the threshold into the corridor of the

Wong immediately hooked her arm around Clark’s and began pulling him down the corridor, “Let me give you a tour of the ship.”

Clark decided that the path of least resistance would probably net him the best working relationship with his new captain, so he chose to go along, “If you insist.”

“I do,” Wong said, “You know, David – you don’t mind if I call you David?”

“Not at all.”

“Good.” She smiled as they walked down the corridor, passing Ensigns and Lieutenants, who continued on with their usual casual business as if their captain wasn’t even there. “You know, we’re a rather tight family here on the
Cairo. The senior staff has remained the same for the past eight years. All decisions are open for challenging, we’ve saved our own asses several times because somebody had a better idea than mine.”

Clark smiled to himself, deciding that Wong reminded him of his own mother. She was sincere and honest, but always open to new ways of thinking.

Wong continued, “There is a required senior staff briefing daily at fourteen hundred hours. Usually, it only lasts fifteen or so minutes, but I do it so everybody knows what’s going on and doesn’t come complaining to me because power to the replicators was cut at lunchtime.”

Suddenly Clark found himself outside of his memory. He was standing in pitch-blackness, not able to see his hand in front of his own face. There was a loud click and an overhead spotlight turned on, shining light on a Starfleet officer lying on a simple metal table. Clark stepped forward into the light, finding that the officer was Wong. His eyes grew wide and he could feel his tear ducts beginning to burn. The light clicked off.

Shuttlecraft Atlantis

Sector 2008, Gamma Quadrant
13:35 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57300.125960

Ste and Kelley were busy putting away the playing cards and multiple tongue depressors when Kelley realized that she had met Ste many years before. She looked up at the Trill, who looked back across the table at her. “You’re a host, right?” Kelley inquired.

“I’m the twelfth host of the Ste symbiont,” Ste confirmed.

“Jekar was my family doctor,” Kelley said, scooping several depressors into a small box.

A flash of recognition and the wisdom of old age flashed in Ste’s eyes, “I remember you. You broke your leg when you were five, falling off the Armstrong precipice.” Her eyes almost immediately grew despondent, “And I remember when you were fifteen, and your parents found you passed out in an airlock, the dust of methanide crystal smeared across your cheeks.”

Kelley realized that Ste knew a chapter of her life that only a select few on the Aldrin knew because of rank.

“Why did you lower yourself to methanide, and all those others I treated you for? You spent seven weeks in the hospital recuperating from dehydration, cortical damage, and tissue deterioration. Your parents were worried sick.” A tear ran down Ste’s cheek, “I had to tell your parents that I didn’t think you’d make it through the week.”

“I’ve given it a lot of thought,” said Kelley, “And I still can’t come up with a good reason for the methanide, the protillius, or the fara pills.”

Ste shook her head, wiping a tear before it fell, “There never was a good reason.”

Kelley nodded, “True, but I still don’t know why I did them.”

“Well,” Ste smiled weakly, “We’ve still got seven and a half days to figure it out, don’t we?” She looked over her shoulder at the unconscious bodies of Cochran, Mason, and R’Mor, “And I’m pretty sure they won’t hear a word you say.”

“No,” Kelley refused to revisit the darkest times of her life, “I’m not discussing it. With anybody.”

Ste crossed her arms, “Don’t you forget, if it hadn’t been for me, you would have been buried in the dust of Earth’s moon.”

“You didn’t save me,” Kelley argued, knowing she was mentally regressing several years, “Jekar saved me.”

“Part of me was Jekar,” Ste said, “And part of Jekar is me. So speak up.”

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#17 aklaus



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Posted 03 June 2005 - 01:28 AM

I blame my home-made stardate calculator program. :P

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Without going into whether you made it yourself, the simple fact that you have one of those... :P

#18 Captain_Hair



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Posted 03 June 2005 - 09:53 AM

Without going into whether you made it yourself, the simple fact that you have one of those... :P

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One of my roommates is a computer programmer. :)

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#19 Captain_Hair



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Posted 03 June 2005 - 09:56 AM


U.S.S. Aldrin
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
13:59 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57300.13052

Clark opened his eyes and blinked several times to clear the blurriness. He found that he was lying on his back on a bed in sickbay, staring straight up at the bright overhead lights. His vision was suddenly obstructed and it took at second for his weary eyes to adjust. Wright had moved over his captain’s face, “Good afternoon.”

Clark groggily rubbed his eyes and pushed himself up on his elbows, “What happened?”

Wright sat back on the empty bio-bed behind him, “I’m told you passed out the instant I beamed you into sickbay. You had managed to push your fibula from being fractured to completely broken, then to completely out of alignment.” Clark grimaced and Wright said more, “Also, you so thoroughly managed to mangle your tendons that I’m not letting you walk for at least two days.”

“You can’t do that,” Clark protested, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and coming to a full sitting position.

“Actually, I can,” Wright said, “And as acting Chief Medical Officer, I have the authority to relive you of command if I feel it is necessary.”

Clark conceded, “True. Is there any way I can get out of here? I do have Captain things to do, you know.”

Wright smiled, “Good. I got a pair of crutches for you.” He leaned down and pulled a pair of slender steel crutches from under Clark’s bed.

“I suppose that will have to do,” Clark said. He grabbed the crutches and hopped off the bed onto his left leg. For the first time he saw that his lower right leg and foot were encased in a hard white cast, making walking difficult anyway. Placing one crutch under each arm, Clark tested the limited mobility by hobbling out from the beds to the open area in the center of sickbay. He turned to Wright, “What labs did you beam them to?”

“The live one is in Lab 344, the others are in 346 and 348,” Wright said, “I was just going to head up to 344 when you woke up.”

An image of the woman on the table flashed through Clark’s mind and a connection was made. He immediately started towards the door. Wright followed after him, “Where are you going? Just so I know.”

Clark exited into the corridor, struggling to turn with the crutches, “344.” He knew that his fears were about to be realized.

* * *

Sorel stood from his bed in the overflow ward and walked past several beds of Romulans, some talking quietly, others resting. He nodded at one who acknowledged his passing and continued. Sorel came to the foot of Gerax’s bed and stopped.

Gerax appeared to be sleeping, but he immediately sat up. A wave of obvious contempt slid across his face, “Hello, Centurion.”

Sorel moved to Gerax’s side and spoke lowly, “What are you going to tell the Captain?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I know you requested an audience with Clark,” Sorel said, “What are you going to tell him?”

“That’s none of your business,” Gerax said.

“You are still under my command. I can’t le–”

Gerax interrupted him, “Sorel, your authority over me ended nine years ago.”

“If you compromise our mission…” Sorel warned.

Your mission,” Gerax corrected, “Became outdated the moment the war ended, five years ago.”

Sorel leaned close to Gerax, “Doctor, I highly doubt anything involved in our mission was declassified.”

“And I have no intention of disclosing any of that information,” Gerax said, “My business has nothing to do with your mission.”

“Then what is it?”

Gerax stood from his bed, “It is a personal matter.” He turned to leave the area.

“This doesn’t have to deal with your family, does it?” Sorel sneered.

Gerax stopped and whirled around, “How dare you bring my family into this!”

Sorel smiled slyly, “Go ahead and talk to the Captain, Doctor.” Gerax tensed as he restrained his fury, then turned and walked away, deeper into the overflow ward.

* * *

Still not accustomed to the crutches, Clark rushed out of the turbolift and stumbled. He began falling, but Wright grabbed him by his shoulders and stopped his descent. Wright hefted his captain to his feet and steadied his crutches. “Captain,” Wright warned, “You can’t go that fast.”

Knowing he was right, Clark nodded, “I noticed.” Carefully, he resumed his crutching down the corridor, passing by several of the onboard laboratories. They came to 344 and Clark noticed that the door had been locked. Wright immediately stepped forward and entered a clearance code on a control panel by the door. An audible lock clicked inside the door and it slid open, revealing the science lab inside.

The human woman and the table she was on were in the center of the lab, surrounded by six science personnel and their scanners. All of the tubes had been removed from the side of her head and a bandage had been wrapped around it. Much of the equipment under the table had been pulled out and was being examined with a myriad of scanners. But as Clark moved into the lab, none of that caught his attention. Her face was that of the woman in his dream: Leslie Wong.

“It can’t be,” Clark said quietly.

Wright stepped close to him, “Captain?”

Clark, focusing on the woman, ignored Wright. He crutched over to a console and began entering commands. The picture of a female Starfleet captain, a Human, appeared on the screen with the caption ‘Captain Leslie Wong’. Clark studied the picture for a moment, and then glanced over his shoulder at the unconscious woman on the table. He turned back to the screen and entered more commands, calling up a view of the woman as she currently lay on the table and placing it next to Wong’s picture. The likeness was unmistakable. The newer image zoomed in on her hairless head and created a yellow grid across her face, a map of her face print. Clark tapped the file picture of Wong and a similar grid appeared on that picture. The grid on the new picture moved over to Wong’s picture, was slightly enlarged, and positioned above her face, covering the grid already there. The grid began to flash white and the words ‘Exact Match’ appeared below the pictures.

Wright nearly gasped. Clark dropped his head and stayed still for a moment, collecting his thoughts and composure. He looked up at Wright, “Is there any chance she’ll make a full recovery?”

Wright struggled with the thought, “Slim, but we’ll try our hardest.”

“Oh, I wish Cochrane were here,” Clark said. He immediately added, “No offense intended.”

“None taken. He is a superior physician.” Wright unclipped the tricorder at his belt and walked over to the body. He turned back to Clark, “Do you think it’s really her?”

Clark nodded, “Not a doubt. She was my Captain on the Cairo.”

“I thought the Cairo was lost with all hands,” Wright said.

“All but one,” Clark corrected, “I was off the ship at the time.”

Wright clipped his tricorder back onto his hip, “Her body is slowly recovering from the ketracel-white exposure. I’m going to say it’ll be another day or two before we safely try to wake her.”

Clark nodded, “Keep me posted.” He stood straight and adjusted his crutches, and then made his way towards the lab door.

“It must have been hard,” Wright said.

Clark turned back to Wright, “What?”

“It must have been hard,” Wright repeated, “You know, loosing all those friends and colleagues.”

“It’s harder than you ever think it will be,” Clark said. He felt tears begin to sting his eyes and crutched his way out the door. Once the door closed behind him, Clark fell back onto the bulkheads, breathing deeply to control his emotions. Returning to Starfleet after the lose of the Cairo was one of the hardest decisions he’d ever made, and having to confront the Dominion and its actions constantly in the Gamma Quadrant wasn’t making it any easier. And now, six years later, Wong, his captain for only a few months, was back when all thought she was dead. This brought one name into Clark’s mind: Majel.

Clark knew the likelihood of Majel actually being alive was incredibly small, but with the discovery of Wong, anything was possible again. With one last shaky breath, Clark dried his eyes with his sleeve and continued down the corridor on his crutches.

He arrived at his quarters and the door opened to his dark living space, lit only by the glow of the purple light of the nebula. Clark slowly moved across his dark living area, passing the sitting area, his music library and marimba, and came to a thin glass bookcase next to the music shelves. Dimly lit from below, the multiple shelves were decorated with items from his past, from models of Kirk’s Enterprise he’d constructed as a child, to a commendation Admiral Ross had awarded him for escaping a Dominion prison station with the Aldrin and the majority of its crew. “Just three months ago,” Clark said quietly, remembering the pain on the faces of two hundred fifty six sets of parents, telling them that their son or daughter was gone forever, killed by the Dominion.

Clark’s eyes fell upon a small velvet jewelry box. Awkwardly holding the crutch under his arm, Clark reached forward and picked up the box. For several long moments he simply turned it in his hands, rubbing the soft surface with his fingers. He used his crutches to move to the couch by the large windows. Clark dropped the crutches to the deck and fell onto the couch. He slowly opened the box and was presented with two gold rings. He took a deep breath and grabbed the smaller of the two rings and removed it from its protective slot. Tenderly, Clark turned the ring in his fingers, watching how the light reflected off its traditionally smooth surface.

Clark saw the wave of painful emotion coming and quickly inserted the ring back in the box and snapped it shut. He leaned forward and deposited the jewelry box on his glass coffee table. Clark knew he wouldn’t sleep tonight, overwhelmed by the thoughts of Majel. Wiping his moist eyes, Clark stood and walked to his office workstation. He pressed a button at the end of his desk and it glowed red. Clark’s voice was transmitted throughout the Aldrin, “This is Captain Clark. There will be a senior staff meeting at sixteen hundred hours.” He released the button and the link was deactivated.

14:26 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57300.238802

Vorik calmly walked down the Deck 2B corridor, one of the two longest straight corridors on the ship. He turned into an alcove and set his gray engineering kit on the deck. Vorik entered an access code into a panel by a small hatch. The hatch unlocked and popped away from the bulkhead. Vorik grabbed the hatch and swung it open, locking into the bulkhead. He grabbed his kit, tossed it into the hatch, and crawled in after it. The Jefferies tube was narrow, but well lit. The deck was smooth duranium paneling and the sides of the tube varied between bright light panels and access ports of glowing technology. Pushing his kit down the tube, Vorik crawled further down until after a few meters encountered another hatch. He entered another code and the hatch slid apart. Vorik climbed out of the hatch and stood.

He was standing next to the plasma transfer conduits, which stretched from the warp cores all the way through to the aft of the engineering hulls, and then down into the warp nacelles. The meter-wide-tube, which normally pulsated with glowing plasma, was dark and barely lit every few meters by a dim light. Vorik placed his kit on the deck and opened like a clam. He removed a tricorder from the kit and scanned the tube. As a result of the alien’s cascade weapon, a massive amount of static plasma had built up inside, and would have to be dissipated before warp plasma could be channeled through. Vorik entered a series of commands into a free standing console and magnetic locks all along the hundred meter length of the straight tube disengaged, clicking loudly and then echoing several times over. The tube divided along four parallel equidistant lines and spread apart, exposing the complex magnetic interlocks and containment systems that kept the plasma in the tube and transferred it back to the nacelles. Thin arcs of plasma sparked throughout the conduit, but within a few seconds the sparking stopped as the ambient energy was slowly dissipated. It would take several days for the conduit to equalize to a neutral energy state, giving Vorik and his engineers time to repair the other damaged systems.

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#20 Captain_Hair



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Posted 03 June 2005 - 05:05 PM


U.S.S. Aldrin
FAS-N433, Gamma Quadrant
16:00 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 56300.462966

Still using his crutches, Clark came through the briefing room door. He hobbled towards his chair, at the opposite end of the table. Red-faced, he apologized, “Sorry I’m late. These things slowed me down a bit.” He got to his chair and dropped down, letting his crutches clatter to the deck. Jensen merely glanced at Clark then looked away. Clark looked to Vorik, “How are the repairs going?”

“Slowly,” Vorik stated, “Their cascade weapon laced the entire warp drive with static plasma, so we’re going to have to wait at least four days for it to all dissipate. Structural integrity is still offline, as are all weapons systems.”

“Is there anyway to counteract it if they were to use it again?” Murphy asked.

Vorik though for a quick moment and then said, “Don’t let them use it.”

Clark looked down the table at Toq’bae, “Dr. Toq’bae, do you think you could modify our shields to prevent the cascade from inflicting so much damage?”

“I’ll try,” Toq’bae nodded.

Clark smiled, “Good. Some of you may already know about this,” he looked at Wright, “And others may not,” and then Nicole. “So here goes. The Human we found down there was alive. We transported her on board for examination,” he paused, “And the computer was able to identify her, she’s Captain Leslie Wong of the U.S.S. Cairo.”

“The Cairo disappeared with all hands six years ago while patrolling the Romulan Neutral Zone,” Vorik stated.

“Captain, you served on the Cairo, right?” asked Murphy.

“Yes,” Clark nodded, “I was Chief Engineer for only a few months when I took a shuttle out for supplies. When I came back, the Cairo was gone, presumably destroyed by the Dominion.”

Wright leaned forward, “Was there ever any evidence to the contrary?”

“Not until now,” Clark said, “But the only evidence supporting it was similar attacks on patrol ships, that is, until the Romulans entered the war.”

“Were any other Starfleet personnel found?” Nicole asked.

Clark shook his head, “No. There was also a Romulan, Bajoran, Andorian, Klingon, and a species we have yet to identify, all dead. But this discovery has renewed my hopes that the thousands of missing from the war may someday be found, possibly even alive.” He paused, “Wilks, could you prepare a message to send to the Romulan embassy? I think that this could get messy once we return.”

Wilks nodded, “Yes, Sir.”

“As soon as the engines are repaired, we will get on our way back to the Alpha Quadrant, hopefully catching up with the shuttles on the way. Lives are at stake here,” Clark said, “Our crewmates’, the Romulans’ our own. We’re out here blazing new paths, so who knows what else we’ll find.” He momentarily tried to stand, but thought better of it, “Dismissed.”

All seven stood to leave. Clark called out, “Commander Jensen, please stay here for a moment.” A few curious glances were exchanged between the senior staff, but Jensen nonetheless stepped to the side and the rest exited the briefing room.

Jensen stood at the end of the table opposite Clark and formally held her arms behind her, “Captain.”

Clark leaned forward, still in his chair, “Loy, I need to apologize for this morning. I realize that my actions had an effect other than that which I intended, and I’m sorry for any harm I may have caused to our relationship.”

“And your leg,” Jensen added, cracking a smile.

“You should be sorry for that one,” Clark retorted.

Apparently accepting Clark’s apology, Jensen left the end of the table and walked along the windowed bulkhead. She paused and looked through the window, watching as the planet’s sun set behind the horizon. “Will you allow me to question Gerax?” she asked dryly.

“Not by yourself,” Clark said, “I don’t think the Federation can afford to become entangled with the mess that the Romulan government is right now.”

Jensen turned to Clark, “How does that matter?”

“You remember what Shinzon did? After he assassinated the entire Senate, there’s hardly a leading government left in the Empire. Every Romulan politician, and his mother, is vying for control. The last thing we need to do is give them a rallying cause.” Clark laid back into his chair, “We are going to make this as low-key as possible. We’ll contact the Romulan embassy on Earth once we’re out of here and arrange for the Romulans to be transferred off of here onto a Romulan ship.”

“We could gain valuable information by interrogating Gerax, or any of the Romulans,” Jensen said.

Clark shook his head, “Commander, what information do they have that would be of any use to us? They’re nine years behind.” Jensen didn’t respond, so Clark continued, “There is no reason to interrogate any of them. We aren’t at war with the Romulans and they haven’t attempted anything suspicious. If you bring this up again I won’t allow you to even sit in on a questioning.”

Jensen grabbed the chair next to Clark, “Captain, if you knew the Romulans the way I do…”

“How do you know the Romulans?” Clark asked, “Through Section 31? Through clandestine dealing and fighting secret battles with the Tal Shiar?”

Jensen sat in the chair leaned forward. She whispered to Clark, “Sorel is a member of the Tal Shiar.”

“What makes you say that?”

“His uniform,” Jensen answered, “Normal Romulan military wears a silver uniform, and the Tal Shiar uniform is darker, less shiny.”

“They’ve been wearing the same uniform for the past nine years, don’t you think it would loose its luster after a while?” Clark argued.

Jensen licked her lips, “Captain, you have to trust me on this one. I wouldn’t contact the Romulans until after we’ve arrived at Deep Space Nine. With over a dozen likely Tal Shiar operatives aboard, this could cause trouble for the whole quadrant. If the Romulans were to learn that we have their Intelligence personnel aboard before we were within the safety of the Federation, they would launch an operation to capture the Aldrin, all the more enticing to get this ship.”

“And then the Federation would launch a counterattack against the Romulans,” Clark finished, “Igniting the war we’ve been avoiding for two centuries.”

“Plus, the Klingons would sense the Romulan’s weakness and attack,” Jensen added, “They’ve been itching to get their hands on the Romulans’ resources for almost as long.”

Clark nodded, “Then it’s agreed. We’ll wait until we’re safe before we contact the Romulans.”

Jensen smiled, “Thanks for listening.” She walked behind Clark and leaned over his chair, dropping her hand onto his shoulder. “I wouldn’t mind if things got back to normal between you and me,” Jensen said quietly. She stood and walked towards the door, and then paused. Jensen looked over her shoulder, smiled back at Clark and then left.

16:10 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57300.464866

Gerax hopped off his bed when he saw Wright enter the darkened overflow ward. “Doctor, I’d like to thank you for arranging that meal. It was delicious.”

Wright stopped mid-step, “Really? I didn’t think Louie would be all that great at Romulan cuisine.”

“He wasn’t,” Gerax said, “I just happen to like Earth food, which he does very well.”

“Okay,” Wright nodded, “I’m glad you liked it.” He stepped to continue on into the ward, but Gerax moved to block his path.

The Romulan spoke quietly, “I need to talk to your commander.”

Wright looked into Gerax’s eyes and saw his sincerity. He nodded subtly, “Come with me,” and turned back into the main sickbay ward. Gerax glanced over his shoulder at the other Romulans, who were busily involved in a large group gambling game popular on Romulus, and then followed Wright out. He watched Wright enter a room separated from the main ward by a large window and followed him in, finding the doctor sitting behind a white deck. Wright indicated the chair across from him, “Have a seat.”

Gerax obediently sat in the gray chair.

Wright leaned forward, “Why do you need to talk to the Captain?”

The Romulan laid his right hand palm-up on the desk, “I have messages I must deliver to the Federation. They’re encoded on a bio-chip imbedded under my skin.”

“And who are you?” Wright asked.

“I’m Dr. Gerax.”

Wright bit his lip and nodded, “The Captain’s a busy man.”

“He already knows I need to talk with him,” Gerax said.

“I see.” Wright tapped his combadge, “Sickbay to Clark.”

“Clark here.”

“Captain,” Wright glanced at Gerax, “I’ve got a Romulan, Dr. Gerax, who–”

Clark cut him off, “Go ahead and send him up to my ready room.”

“Yes, Captain. Wright out.” He leaned forward, “I’m going to send an escort along with you.”

Gerax nodded, “I understand, security precautions. I don’t blame you, with fourteen Romulans, I’d be cautious.”

Wright stood from his desk and walked to the doorway of the officer, “Solow?”

The lieutenant came from guarding the corridor entrance to sickbay, “Doctor?”

“Could you escort Dr. Gerax to the bridge?” Wright requested.

Solow nodded, “Yes, Doctor.” He looked to Gerax, who stood and walked to the door.

Gerax gestured to outside the officer, “Lead the way.”

16:21 Hours, April 20th, 2380
Stardate 57300.466956

The turbolift door opened and a Romulan stepped onto the bridge. Toq’bae looked to Murphy, who was quietly moving his phaser rifle closer to his side. A security guard stepped out from the lift and Toq’bae allowed himself to exhale. Murphy leaned his rifle against the inside of his station, still with arm’s reach. Something about this Romulan was very familiar to Toq’bae. He discreetly scanned him with his console, but the computer couldn’t identify him. Toq’bae visually studied the Romulan as he followed the security officer across the bridge to Clark’s ready room.

The guard pressed the comm panel by Clark’s door, “Captain, Dr. Gerax is here to see you.”

“Send him in.” The door slid open and Gerax stepped through, out of Toq’bae’s line of sight.

The door closed and Toq’bae looked to Murphy. The security chief spoke first, “There’s something familiar about him.”

“Yeah, I know,” Toq’bae said, “I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

Wilks, standing at the Ops stations between the two, leaned against the metal arc, “His name’s Dr. Gerax? Sounds Romulan.”

“Who knows,” Toq’bae shrugged, “Maybe I saw him at a conference or some–” he stopped mid-sentence. The Bolian pointed at Murphy and smiled, “I know who he is.”

“Who?” Wilks asked eagerly.

Toq’bae held up a cautioning blue hand, “Patience.”

* * *

Clark was sitting behind his desk when Gerax entered the ready room. The captain, reading a PADD, pointed to three lounge chairs and a table next to a bank of windows, “Doctor, have a seat. I’ll be right with you.” He turned to a console behind him and tapped its reflective surface. Clark stood from his chair and asked Gerax, “Can I get you anything?”

Gerax sat in one of the chairs, “No, thank you, Captain.”

“I’m glad you were able to get up here so soon,” Clark said, pulling a tray, holding a pitcher of ice water and two empty glassed, from a replicator next to the console. He awkwardly limped over to the chairs.

“It’s not like I have anything to do,” Gerax laughed.

Clark sat in the chair across from Gerax and looked out at the purple clouds of the nebula, “No, you’re getting me away from all of the red tape Captains have to deal with.”

“I know what you mean,” Gerax said, “Science research in the Empire took years to get all of the appropriate grants, permits, and authorizations.”

“You’re a doctor of the sciences?” Clark asked. He poured the water into a glass, the ice cubes loudly clinking off the sides.

Gerax nodded, “Yes, I’m, or I should saw ‘I was’, a member of the Romulan Astrophysical Academy, division of Subspace Tunneling Phenomenon.”

“Really?” Clark sipped the water, “My chief science officer was a professor of that at the Vulcan Science Academy.”

“He’s probably after my time,” Gerax said.

Clark set the glass on the arm of his chair, “You’d be surprised. Anyway, what did you need to talk about?”

Gerax looked at the pitcher, “May I?”

Clark was suddenly suspicious, “I thought you didn’t want any?”

“I’m allowed to change my mind, aren’t I? This is Starfleet,” Gerax’s hand hovered a few centimeter’s from the pitcher’s clear handle.

“I’m sorry,” Clark shook his head, “Go right ahead.”

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