"Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-06 12:41pm


Ship's Log: 20 April 2642; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. We have completed a short overhaul of the Aurora at the Gersal Ring Yards and are preparing to depart for Universe S4W8 for training purposes..

On another note, Commander Meridina is leaving the ship for personal time. Her request for an extended leave has been granted due to the ordeal that the Goa'uld Amaunet put her through. I hope that time back home will help her recover mentally from the experience of being made into Amaunet's host.

Robert met Lucy at the airlock on the Ring Yards station. The Ring Yards were just one portion of the massive orbital ring built around Gersal's moon, with which the Gersallians refined the mineral wealth of their moon, built and maintained their starships, and supported the workers who made this possible. By mass it was one of the largest structures in the entire Alliance and the product of over twenty centuries of continuous construction and amalgamation of older Gersallian lunar stations.

Gersallians and Humans looked virtually alike, so it was hard to tell which of those walking around them were of either species, at least from seeing their faces. Clothing style proved the most effective way of telling the differences - Gersallians tended to prefer an overcoat or even a robe, some wearing long flowing dresses over trousers. It was a style that was employed regardless of gender, with yellows, oranges, and light reds favored, and specific design patterns or forms of overcoat and robe referenced regional differences back on their homeworld. Humans were more varied in their choice of clothing, going from jacket or shirt with trousers to jumpsuits.

Aside from Humans and Gersallians, Dorei were somewhat common. Alakin appeared here and there as well, and Robert noticed the pointed ears of two Vulcans - acolytes by their robes - who were boarding the next airlock over. A Minbari in worker caste garb followed them, chatting amiably with a Bajoran cleric.

A voice spoke over the loudspeaker. Initially it was in Common Gersallian Dialect, which Robert recognized a few words from. The voice repeated itself in English. "Orbital transport Luteran is departing in ten minutes from Airlock 42. All passengers please report to Airlock 42 immediately."

As the voice repeated a third time, this time in Lushan Dorei, Robert felt Meridina approach. Even in this teeming flow of life - a literal one too, as Meridina had shown him - he could feel her presence standing out amongst the others.

He could also feel how different it was now. He could sense the anguish inside of her, the pain of what she had been forced to do.

Meridina had been taken as a host by the Goa'uld Amaunet. Amaunet had used her body, her swevyra - "life force" - and the powers it granted, to wreak havoc during the peace talks with the Goa'uld. Several of Stargate Command's people had died at Amaunet's hand. Lucy herself had nearly died stopping Amaunet, and in turn Meridina had almost died when Lucy killed Amaunet.

And now she has to live with what Amaunet did to her, with her, Lucy was thinking. Robert could sense the thought with surprising ease. While some aspect of these "swevyra" powers were still difficult for him to use, mental linking with Meridina and Lucy was becoming easier with each passing week.

While they were in uniform, Meridina was wearing the traveling robes of a Gersallian Knight of Swenya, or swevyra'se as the Gersallians called it. A blue robe with the hood lowered was over a beige-tinted vest. A tied strap around her waist held up the loose, baggy trousers of the same color. Her dark hair was brushed downward, sweeping out slightly around the ears before curling back so that the ends pressed against her neck. She had only a small bag being carried on her shoulder. As a Knight of Swenya, Meridina owned little.

A small, sad smile came to her face when she saw them waiting. "My friends," she said simply. "I am glad to see you."

"We wanted to see you off," said Robert.

"I appreciate the sentiment," Meridina stated. She looked to Lucy. "I know you wished to come with me, Lucy, but I will be fine."

Lucy forced a smile to her face. She knew how much Meridina was hurting on the inside. She'd seen her with her defenses completely lowered. "I just don't want you to be alone."

"I will not be," Meridina assured them. "Now, I believe you have duties to attend to, yes?"

Robert nodded. "Julia and Nick are handling the new crew, but we're due for the supply run to Beta Durani 4." He looked at the time with his multidevice. "So we're due to jump out in about four hours."

Meridina nodded. "Indeed. Do not worry. I shall see you again in a couple of your weeks."

The station PA system repeated the prior boarding call. Meridina looked to the airlock. "I need to go now. I trust you two will continue the exercises I showed you?"

They nodded, giving each other aside glances.

"Then there is nothing more to say." She bowed her head to them. "Mi rake sa sweyvra iso, Robert and Lucy."

"Mee rockey sa sweevyra icho," was Robert's rather inaccurate reply.

Lucy allowed herself a giggle at his expense. Robert's continued inability to deal with Gersallian phonetics was a source of amusement to everyone else. "Mi rake sa swevyra iso, Meridina," she said, proud that as troublesome as it was she could at least make the sound right. She gave Meridina a hug.

Meridina was used to such displays of friendship and affection and accepted the hug, returning it with a slight embrace. When Lucy pulled back she gave Lucy the small smile she knew Lucy wanted, needed, to see, and turned to board her ship.

Lucy and Robert watched Meridina disappear into the corridors of the transport craft. Once she was well out of sight, they departed as well.

Julia Andreys stepped off the lift on Deck 6 and found Nick Locarno waiting for her. "Well, I thought we'd meet in the Briefing Room," she said.

"I figured you'd be arriving any moment," he answered. "So I waited."

"Ah." They began walking down the corridor. Their uniforms were almost a matching set, black pants, primarily black shoes, and a black uniform jacket, with the secondary color on the trim of each being the red of ship control and command. Julia had three gold stripes affixed to her collar, showing she was a Commander, while Locarno had two gold stripes to show he was a full Lieutenant. "So why am I assigned to this detail, again?", he asked.

"Because you're the senior Navigation Officer," Julia reminded him. "And we have an entire group of navigation and piloting officers coming aboard to join the crew."

"How many, again?"


Locarno chuckled. "Wow. That many? All at once?"

"Well, Ensign Rutira transferred to the Shenzhou," Julia said. "Ensign Karlan was promoted and is being re-assigned to oversee shuttle piloting at Nasin Station. Ensign Yaratov finished her flight qualifications and is assigned to the fighter wing now. Ensign Kurikt is expecting and has to go back to Alakis to lay her eggs…"

"...okay, okay, I get it," Locarno interrupted, shaking his head. "But it's still a little excessive."

She shrugged. "We have twelve runabouts, a few dozen shuttles, and the Koenig. We need that full complement of piloting officers if we're going to maintain all of our usual operations."

Locarno shook his head. "You love doing this kind of thing, don't you? Rattling off all of these justifications and facts."

A smile crossed Julia's face. "I like to remind you all of just how good at this job I am."

"Well, you don't need to convince me," Locarno assured her.

"Oh, you're looking to take my fun away, huh?" Julia chuckled.

"No ma'am, I am not," he assured her with a chuckle of his own.

After rounding the corner of a corridor the two went up to a sliding door marked Briefing Room 2. Typically used for department-level meetings, it was currently occupied by the dozen new officers that had joined the Aurora crew. Over half looked Human or Gersallian. There were three Dorei, an Alakin, and even an eager-looking Mi'qote girl.

Locarno looked over the new arrivals. His eyes briefly focused on the Mi'qote girl, with her bronze complexion a strange contrast to the snow-colored fur over her cat-like ears on the top of her head. Her tail, made of the same snow-colored fur, swished as she turned to face him with bright green eyes, more feline than Human. She smiled at him and stepped to the side.

The Human woman who had been behind her turned toward the door. Her dark eyes focused on Locarno and Julia. Locarno's eyes met her's.

Recognition shot through his mind. Locarno's expression froze in disbelief.

The young woman was his age, as she would be. Her brown hair was pulled back in a severe bun at the back of her head. Her face had a pronounced round shape to it.

And given the stare, she recognized him too.

Julia saw the look on Locarno's face. Concern flickered over her features. "Nick?", she asked. "Are you alright?" She followed his eyes and looked at the young woman in question, who turned away hurriedly upon seeing Julia's attention and, presumably, her rank insignia. "Someone you know?", Julia asked.

"Yeah," Nick said, his voice hoarse. He swallowed. "Her name is Jean Hajar." He looked at Julia and let her see how rattled he was. "She was in Nova Squad."

Undiscovered Frontier
"What is Past…"

Julia looked from Locarno to the woman he spoke of. She'd turned away and found a seat beside another of the new arrivals. She looked to them again with dark eyes that were hiding any emotional reaction to their presence. As if they were just new arrivals. "Nova Squad," Julia murmured, low enough that none of the new arrivals could hear. "You mean your group of cadets when you were in Starfleet Academy."

Locarno nodded. "Yeah," he said. "She and I are the only ones left now."

It was clear to Julia that Locarno was in the middle of some very strong emotions. "Nick, it's okay, I understand," she said. "Just let me do all the talking. I'll arrange to have her trained by Lieutenant…"

"No." Locarno shook his head. "No, I'm fine. I'm alright. It was just a shock to see her, that's all." He nodded toward the table in front of the assembled chairs. "Let's get this started. The ship's due to leave in a few hours, right?"

Julia nodded slightly. "Right." She gave him another worried look before turning away and going to the central chair. Locarno sat to her left. The right seat was vacant. Julia cleared her throat loudly, cutting through the background noise of quiet conversations among the new arrivals. "Attention, everyone."

All of the assembled turned toward them. Spines straightened.

"I am Commander Julia Andreys, First Officer of the Aurora." Julia motioned to her left. "And this is Lieutenant Nicholas Locarno, our Navigation Officer. He and I will be responsible for your acclimation training now that you're assigned to the crew. I know some of you are eager to get into your postings, so let's try to make this quick. You will all cover shifts on the bridge at the conn, at regularly-scheduled intervals, rotating between that duty and duty as shuttle and runabout pilots. In consultation with Commander Carrey, one or two of you will be assigned to the Koenig. Shift assignments will be as follows. Rozowski, Kutap, Rogers, Meritami, you will be on Alpha Shift. Hajar, U'saya, Korimi…"

Upon returning to the ship Robert went to his ready office. Jarod followed him in with a digital pad. "Oh, not you too," Robert mumbled. "And I thought Julia welcoming those new officers would give me a reprieve."

"Julia is all-wise when it comes to these things," Jarod remarked with faux-sagacity. He handed him the pad. "We just need you to sign on the final receipts. All of our requisition orders were filled and we've loaded all of the supplies we can ever need."

"That's good to hear." Robert took the pad and skimmed it. "Anything from Maran about our discovery?"

"You mean about how Darglan technology uses Asgard technology?" Jarod shook his head. "Not yet. He's got a panel of experts looking over everything."

"That's good to hear." Once Robert finished signing he handed the device back to Jarod. "Everything's ready for departure?"

"Pretty much," Jarod confirmed.

"Good. We're due to drop supplies off for the garrison at Beta Durani 4 before we rendezvous with the Phosako at the Durani Nebula," Robert said. "We finally got our orders in."

"Durani Nebula?" Jarod considered that. "That's in a quiet sector."

"The Nazis retreated from there four months ago, but they left a few surprises," Robert said. "We'll be sending them a couple of shuttles loaded with decontamination supplies and dextro-acid consumables."

"Turians, then?", Jarod asked.

"The Fifth Regiment. Or Platoon." Robert shook his head. "I'm still getting used to the way Turian unit organizations work. But their Fifth unit has set up a base on the northern continent to support Phosako and Alliance engineers building planetary-scale defensive systems for Beta Durani 4. They'll need extra food supplies, though, or we'll have to pull them out. Admiral Maran says it's already caused a bit of a scandal on the Citadel that our quartermasters screwed up on dispatching sufficient stores for them."

"I bet." Jarod put the reader in his pocket. "Well, we'll be underway shortly. I'll have the shuttles loaded with the supplies listed on the request."

"Good. We're due to launch them when we arrive in the Durani Cluster in two days." Robert nodded to him. "I'll see you for the staff meeting tomorrow, Jarod."

Jarod nodded back. "See you there."

Locarno was alone in the Lookout eating a late lunch when he looked up in time to see Zack approaching. "Any seats taken?", he asked.

"Not at all." Locarno gestured to one. Zack slipped into it and immediately took a bite from his chicken sandwich. Locarno looked at his own barely-eaten meal and forced himself to take a bite as well.

"So, any ETA on when you and Julie will have Ensign Hong's replacement?", Zack asked. "I'd like to know for setting up my rotation in the training exercises."

"None yet." Locarno eyed Zack suspiciously. He set his sandwich down with a forceful plop. "She sent you, didn't she?"

Zack gave him a look while finishing chewing a bite down. "What do you mean?", he finally asked.

"Julia told you about Jean," Locarno accused. "And she sent you here to get me to open up and talk about it."

Zack shook his head. "You think I need Julia's input on this stuff? The moment I heard a Nova Squad survivor was with the recruits, I knew you'd be like this."

"And how did you hear that?"

Zack lifted an eyebrow. "You know how things go around here. The rumor mill on the Aurora reminds me of the one back in our hometown."

Locarno sighed at that. "What do you want me to say, Zack? That she's reminding me of the worst mistake in my life? That I'm worried about whether I can work with her, if she blames me for her Starfleet career going nowhere?"

"I suppose that's a start." Zack saw Locarno's dark expression and sighed. He set his sandwich down. "Okay, dude. This is me. I'm not Julia, I'm not Mama Hen coming to check on the chicks. I'm just a guy looking out for his buddy, okay? If you don't want to talk about it, we won't."

Locarno was silent for a moment. Seeing the laid back expression on Zack's face made it hard for him to remain irritated at him and inevitably Locarno sighed. "Alright. I just… I never expected to see her again. To see any of them again."

"You invited them to join us didn't you?"

"Quietly, yes," Locarno confessed. "None of them answered. I can't be surprised. I got Joshua killed and nearly destroyed their careers covering it up. So after that, I figured... " He stopped.

Zack saw the expression covering his face and turned. Both watched as Jean Hajar stepped into the Lookout. She was still in uniform, just as they were, an ensign's single gold stripe on her collar. Her eyes clearly swept over them before moving on to take in the rest of the Lookout. She wordlessly moved on to the bar.

"Well, talk about your timing," Zack murmured.

Locarno let out a breath. "To hell with it," he said. "Let's get this over with." He stood up.

"Ah crap," muttered Zack. But he knew well enough to sit and observe as Locarno approached Hajar.

Albert, the assistant lounge host, got to her first, taking an order for a drink. Locarno patiently waited until Albert stepped away before walking up beside Hajar.

She'd seen him coming and turned before he could speak. "Lieutenant," she said respectfully, in a measured tone.

"Ensign." Locarno refrained from sitting down for the moment. "There's actually something of a standing rule in the Lookout that we don't go by ranks here. Not between crew."

"Really?" Hajar nodded briefly. "Well, then, I suppose it's 'Locarno' then."

Her tone was not the best sign that this would go well. But he formally accepted her proposal by nodded and saying, "Yes. Hajar. Welcome to the Aurora. I admit I'm a little surprised to see you. You never answered my offer."

Hajar's face curled into a thin, almost sarcastic smile. "I was still trying to salvage my Starfleet career at the time." The look in her eye became distant. "Not that it did me any good. Or Jaxa."

Locarno swallowed and nodded. "I heard about her."

"She was determined to make it work," Hajar said. "More determined than me, in the end. So, like Wes, I walked out. Made my way as a civilian shuttle pilot." By this point Albert returned with a glass of what looked to be brandy. Hajar accepted it with a nod and "Thanks". She immediately took a drink and considered it for a moment. "Then I heard about the marvelous opportunities of the Alliance Stellar Navy, and that my Starfleet Academy experience would be factored in if I signed up. So six months of expedited officer training and here I am, an Ensign after all." She looked to Locarno. "No thanks to you, Locarno."

There was some real venom in that voice. "I'm sorry for what happened," he managed.

"Yeah. Me too," she said. She took another drink and put the glass back on the table with some strength. "Let's get this out of the way, shall we? I'm sorry I ever signed up for Nova Squad. I'm sorry I ever listened to you, and I'm damned sorry I let you talk me into that damned Kolvoord Starburst plot. And if you've come to me looking for forgiveness, then you might as well keep walking, Locarno, because I'm never giving you that. You ruined our lives. You caused Joshua to die. And there's not a damn thing in this world you can do to ever make up for that." She glared at him, their eyes meeting and hers full of passionate ferocity. "You're my superior officer now and I'll respect that. We're here to do a job, after all. But we're not friends anymore and we'll never be friends again, do you understand?"

Locarno nodded briefly.


With that Hajar finished her glass and slammed it on the bar with some heat. She turned and, wordlessly, left the Lookout.

Zack stepped up behind Locarno. "So, how well did that go?", he asked.

Locarno drew in a breath. "About as well as I had any right to expect," he said in reply.

The Luteran finished making its leisurely course to the capital city Jantarihal, situated in the valley below the Great Temple of Swenya and the headquarters of the Order. Stepping out onto the open concourse of the Jantarihal Spaceport, Meridina looked up at the mountains that the Temple was built within and drew in a breath. Ordinarily she would have flown there directly from the Great Ring on a shuttle provided by the Order.

But not this time. She wasn't here as a swevyra'se reporting in at the Temple for assignment or debriefing. She was here for the purpose of simply coming home.

A brown-tinted carrier bus was waiting for her and others. There was no fare for it, the service being a communal one supported by the municipal and planetary governments instead of the private services favored in other societies. Even if there had been one, Meridina's robes and visible lakesh would have seen it waived. Swevyra'se paid for little in Gersallian space, and what little they paid for was at their insistence.

The bus was soon taking Meridina through the heart of the capital. The high, gleaming spires were a lovely sight, built to inspire as much as to function, with smaller buildings of round construction and slanted shapes abounding. Far below the bus, the streets flowed with rich life, a populace going about their way in the bustling roadways and walkways of the Gersallian capital. Meridina could, in the distance, make out Swenya's Column, marking the spot where the Grand Foundress refused the diadem that the peoples of Gersal were ready to place upon her brow, and where she had instead handed down the Precepts that, over a hundred years later, formed the basis of the Gersallian Interdependency.

Many other species found that title strange for a country. There were Kingdoms, Republics, Associations, Federations, Empires… but 'Interdependency'? It was likely from the translation of Gersallian into other languages, for Meridina thought the Human concept of republic and communal organization best fit the Gersallian idea of the Interdependency. Of a people bound together by laws and rules commonly accepted and developed by the populace.

It was not always easy. The history of first contact with the Dorei saw misunderstanding of the nature, and the Oligarchical, merchant-dominated republics of the Dorei had proven especially hostile to their concept of a society where public interest and private interest were not considered distinct from each other.

Humans also seemed to not understand it very much. Lucy had, upon having Gersallian society and law explained, used the term "socialism". Meridina had been intrigued and looked that term up. She thought it a poor fit, since Human socialism seemed to be built on the idea of the government dictating the economy for the benefit of workers, and of class conflict between those with much and those with little. The idea was bizarre. Why would someone not pay another proper compensation for their work? Or allow neighbors' homes to degrade or be shut down? Certainly one might feel envy at another's superior accomplishments or compensation for skilled work of greater demand, but to outright hate them? And surely everyone, especially those responsible for the economy, understood that everyone affects one another and that letting neighborhoods go into decline or workers to starve without food or suffer without medical help would undermine social cohesion and cause conflict? Why, indeed, would anyone want that sort of imbalance between different sections of society? Imbalance undermined society, after all. And it seemed this entire concept of "public" versus "private" was a sign of that.

Perhaps it was simply how other species approached the idea.

Meridina stopped her pondering. She was just avoiding the issue again. The thoughts constantly entering her head. The memory of Amaunet's darkness, of all of the slain in the SGC… it was just so much. So much.

The bus flew out of the city center and into the arcologies section, where tall buildings contained a multitude of homes. The bus flew in to street level and came to a stop at one arcology. Meridina quietly disembarked.

The entrance lobby was beautiful, covered in flower stands and small statuary. Meridina noted with surprise that there was a marking on one of the statues currently being removed by a young woman in the light red maintenance jersey.

With curiosity Meridina approached the statue, a fairly-good rendition of a majtan, a giant quadripedal herbivore of the northern forests of Tensha. The marking was blurred out so that she couldn't make out what it once was. "What has happened?", she asked the worker.

The yellow-haired girl grumbled, "A marking by the Dissenters. They've been up to it a lot lately." She turned and made eye contact with Meridina's waist. Her eyes widened at seeing the lakesh and her tone became more reverential. "Swevyra'se, what may I…" Her teal-toned eyes looked up and met Meridina's. The stunned reverential expression turned to stunned disbelief. "Meridina? By my family…"

"Penrine?" Meridina looked at her with some surprise. "My you have grown. It has been so long."

An embrace was exchanged. "It is good to see you, Meri," said Penrine. "Gami will be ecstatic."

"You and Leni still work to drive her to distraction, I imagine?", Meridina asked. A genuine smiled crossed her face.

"We do keep in practice," Penrine boasted. "After all, you are not here any longer."

"Swenya preserve me, there were times you two were so irritating…" Meridina stopped herself and allowed a laugh to come.

"You laugh?" Penrine narrowed her eyes playfully. "What is this? A laughing swevyra'se? A laughing swevyra'se who is the daughter of Karesl? Such a scandal for the Order!"

The look on Meridina's face turned somber. "Is my father home?"

Penrine's face shifted. Undoubtedly she had heard something of the fracture between Meridina and her father. She nodded in understanding. "At times. I have been told he is meeting with the Director and others. The Dissenters have been a distraction ever since the war started."

"The Dissenters?" Meridina frowned. "Are you referring to those who opposed the Alliance?"

Penrine nodded. "They grow angrier with every passing week, it seems." An uncomfortable look came to her face. "There was even a violent disturbance in Hatan several days ago, when recruiters came for the Alliance Army. I'm told one of them, a Human, nearly died."

Meridina was stunned by that admission. Gersallians could be independent-minded, certainly, and there were plenty of disputes and disagreements about this or that, but the idea of violence being used in them? That wasn't their way, it wasn't what was supposed to be done. Violent dissent unbalanced society, drove wedges into communities. It threatened to unravel the very concept of the Interdependency.

There has not been political violence on Gersal since the Brotherhood of Kohbal…

How could things have become so bad?

"I thought you were serving with the Alliance?", Penrine asked. "Why have you come home?"

The question was painful to consider. Meridina lowered her eyes. "I needed to regain my balance, to… deal with something that was done to me."

"Oh." Penrine nodded. "Well, Leni and Gami are home with your mother. Although Leni is probably still cleaning the gardens on the 12th level. I'm sure they're eager to see you."

Meridina nodded and forced a smile. "As I am eager to see them. It was good to see you, Penrine. Mi rake sa sweyvra iso."

"Mi rake sa sweyvra iso," Penrine answered cheerfully.

Meridina's family lived in a sizable home on the 12th level, on the north side of the arcology garden. She walked through said garden after leaving the lift to enjoy the scent of the flowers and other flora of her homeworld, and others. With interest she recognized tulips, obviously transplants from Earth, and other new alien flowers.

Standing in the middle of the garden, Meridina felt a gnawing anxiety build up. She had not been home in years. Her time away as a swevyra'se, and now serving in the Alliance, had kept her away. She hadn't even visited last year when the Aurora was repaired at Gersal. She had been so busy with Lucy's training, and hadn't wanted to face her father…

A painful ache came to her heart from that. She'd punished her sisters, her brother, and her mother for the difference of opinion she had with her father.

For several moments Meridina wasn't sure what she wanted to do. She felt hesitation, so unlike the decisiveness a Knight of Swenya had to show, and it gnawed at her that she was letting her experience with Amaunet affect her in such a strong way. Amaunet was dead, after all, and she was freed. The darkness had never been hers, only Amaunet.

But she could still remember. She could remember the thing burrowing into her neck and seizing her body. The agony whenever she resisted Amaunet's control. The horror and pain on Sha're's face, the cries of her infant…

...the dead bodies, slain by her physical hand.

Meridina had to take several deep breaths in an effort to deal with that pain.

She heard the rustling of leaves and turned. A young woman several years younger than her emerged. She was in a maintenance jerkin over a sleeveless blue tunic and a plain skirt of the same blue. Her eyes had the same blue as Meridina's own while her brown hair was cut short. Her eyes widened at seeing Meridina and a look of surprise came to her face. "Meri?"

"Leni," said Meridina. She forced a gentle smile to her face at the sight of her youngest sister Leniraya. "It is so good to see you."

"Meri!" She rushed forward and clasped Meridina's forearms with her hands. The embrace they shared was little different than the type Humans in such a situation might share. "It is such a relief to see you."

"I should have come sooner," Meridina admitted.

"What brings you home?", Leniraya asked.

Meridina's smile couldn't hide her feelings. Especially not from Leniraya, who had inherited some of their mother's mental talents. She tried to hold back the memories regardless, knowing that it would hurt Leni to see what she had suffered.

But she couldn't keep it entirely out. Leniraya's face twisted into a look of concern. "I understand," she said. "Let's go and see Mother. And Gami will be thrilled to see you."

"Are you not working in the garden?" Meridina frowned. "The arcology managers will be displeased you left your work unfinished."

"It is finished. Mostly." Leniraya put an arm on Meridina's shoulders, "You have returned home, they will understand."

Meridina nodded and let Leniraya lead her out of the garden and to the main entrance of the family home. The markings read out the family name of Lumantala. Family names were generally not used by Gersallians as much as they were among Dorei, Humans, and a few of the other species Meridina had encountered in her journeys. And for herself, it was almost never used, as generally she only referred to herself as coming from the Order. "Draswenya" was a common way to do that for some, although she never used it herself.

The door slid open as soon as the sensors reigstered their presence. Leniraya was the first through. "Our home welcomes a long and accomplished traveler!", she called out, undoubtedly amusing herself at her flowery turn of phrase.

The inside of the door was the family greeting area. Chairs and small tables abounded - a distant opening showed the dining table and the kitchen beyond, and to the side would be the family's inner living area and the halls to the sleeping rooms. Or "bedrooms", as Humans would call them.

A head of light blond hair graying at the temples looked up from the distant kitchen. Meridina felt her mother Drentiya's mind gently touch her own. She didn't resist her mother's mental inquiry. She was keeping the worst memories as quiet as she could manage. But she could sense her mother had an idea of what was wrong.

Please come, her mother said mentally, already leaving the kitchen. She was in her cooking robe, so dinner was due soon. "Meridina," she said aloud when they were close.

Meridina said nothing as her mother embraced her warmly.

"Gami! Gami, come!", cried Drentiya.

Gamays came bounding out of the living area and into sight. Meridina's sister, between her and Leniraya in age, wore a white vest and dark pantaloons. "Meri!", she called out, rushing past her mother and taking Meridina into an embrace. "Meri, it is so good to see you! Welcome home."

"Thank you, Gami," said Meridina. "Where is Qalk?"

"With Utiriluma," said her mother. "They are surveying a farmstead in the Lapana Valley."

"So he has made that choice? I must wish him well."

"He will be back in a few days." Drentiya put a hand on Meridina's bag. "Come, dear, your room awaits you. And then we will talk about this terrible pain I sense in you."

Meridina surrendered her bag and followed her mother into the living area and toward the hall leading to their bedrooms. As they approached her old room she finally worked up the nerve to ask, "Where is Father?"

The response in her mother's mind was easily read. Discomfort. Sadness. A little irritation, quickly suppressed. It was not easy for her to stand between her feuding daughter and spouse. "He is away," she said. "A meeting with some of the Dorei orders or some such thing, he will return in a day or so."

In other words, she had no worry about her father arriving soon and seeing, feeling, Meridina like this.

"I look forward to seeing him return home regardless," Meridina assured her suffering mother.

"It will be fine, my dear. What is important is to get you settled in, and for you to share with me what hurts you so."

Meridina answered her mother with a nod and followed her into her old bedroom. It was much as she left it. A single bed, a desk and chair, old clothes in the garment compartment beside the bed, a mirror. It held little more than her quarters on the Aurora.

What it did hold was one of her few material possessions, an old trophy from her sword lessons as a child. The sight of the trophy, a brass likeness of a talkesh blade, reminded her of that day she'd won it in a competition with other young initiates. Of her father's reaction and insistence she would be a great swevyra'se. That brought a dull ache to her heart. Her father had been the light of her life growing up, even moreso than the mother who taught her how to use her telepathic abilities,

Meridina went to the bed and sat upon it. It was softer than she remembered. Drentiya sat beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Open up to me, child," she asked. "Let me see what ails you."

So Meridina did.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-07 09:00am

The Aurora was on its way through the Durani Cluster, Rimward Liberation Zone, when they completed the jump to S4W8. Robert was in his ready office instead of his quarters for the last reports of the evening, with the ship at operating code Blue due to their relative proximity to Reich-held territories.

Still, this was a quiet sector, all things considered. Only one region of Reich space was still in easy warping range of Durani and all intelligence reports indicated the Reich only had a token defensive force there. Enough to resist a minor incursion or to possibly delay a major one until reinforcement, but not enough for an offensive.

The strategic situation was brightening at least. A year of build-up in the fleet meant that more new starships were entering Alliance service, including those using Darglan technology. It was making up well for the loss of the Klingon and Federation assistance.

And yet… whenever Robert looked at the reports, especially the casualty list, he remembered his role in starting this conflict. And it always stung.

His door chime sounded. "Come in," Robert called out.

Locarno stepped in from the bridge. It would be the end of his shift for the day. "You wanted to see me before I went off-duty?", he asked.

"I did." Robert gestured toward a chair and Locarno took it. "I understand that one of our new trainees was a classmate of yours in Starfleet Academy?"

Locarno drew in a breath and sighed. Robert could sense his aggravation at the subject coming up. "Right, of course you know." He nodded quickly. "Jean Hajar was in Nova Squad."

"I see." Robert frowned. "Well, I doubt Fleet Personnel knew about the relationship. Although it wouldn't surprise me if they did and this was another niggling little annoyance that Minister Hawthorne and Admiral Davies has thrown our way. Anyway, I'll arrange her transfer off the ship as soon as I can."

"That won't be necessary," Locarno insisted. He shook his head. "I'll adjust."

Robert gave him a close look. He could feel the conflicted feelings coming from Locarno. "You won't be doing her any favors, Nick, if she's still upset about what happened. She won't function at her best and neither will you."

"I can do this," Locarno insisted. "I'm not going to be responsible for Jean getting dropped from her training group."

"So you have a suggestion?", Robert asked.

"Let me show I can work with her, and she can work with me. No matter what we feel about Josh. Someone's got to fly the Sandar to Beta Durani 4. I'll let her pilot and ride as the co-pilot for training. It's a simple run. If we have any trouble, I'll remove myself from training duty."

Robert put his digital reader down. "I'm not sure that's how this sort of thing is supposed to go, Nick." Seeing Locarno was about to argue he raised a hand. "Don't worry about it. Just… see if you can make the professional side of things work. Alright?"

Locarno nodded. The relief radiated from him. "That works, Captain. Thank you."

"Just make sure everything goes smoothly," Robert asked. "You're dismissed."

It had been years since Meridina had cried on her mother's shoulder. Many years. She had been just a child the last time, reacting to harsh words of disappointment from her father over a childish misuse of her swevyra.

But as biting as his disapproval of her had been, it was nothing compared to the pain she felt now.

Drentiya had tears in her eyes. At her daughter's pain, and the sympathetic reaction she had on feeling it. "Meri." Her hand gently moved to wipe the tears flowing from Meridina's eyes. "My poor dear girl. To have had such a thing happen to you…"

"I can still feel it, Mama," Meridina sniffled. "The darkness. Its so cold, and its angry and hateful and it wants to come back out. It wasn't even from me, but it's in me now."

"The lingering influence of this 'Amaunet'." Drentiya gently held Meridina's hand. "Meridina, dear, you have always impressed me with how like your father you have become as a swevyra'se. We could not be more proud of you. But you must not be afraid to release your feelings. Stop struggling to contain them."

"I have to keep control," Meridina insisted tearfully. "I must not let the taint grow."

"Meri. Do you not see what…"

They were interrupted by the opening of the door. Leniraya was on the other side. "Father is home," she said. "He has returned early."

Drentiya nodded briskly. A small frown came to her face, not at the news that her husband was home, but rather as she felt all of Meridina's mental defenses snap into place. Meridina wiped away the tears swiftly and drew in several breaths, forcing control on herself. Control that Drentiya thought would prove more harmful than anything else in the long run.

"He will understand," she said gently to Meridina.

"I am a swevyra'se," Meridina answered. "I control my emotions. They do not control me." Her eyes closed while the last tears dried on her face.

"Meri…" Child. You must be open about your pain. You must not be afraid of it. Or of showing it to your father.

But the stoic look that returned to Meridina's face had told Drentiya she had failed in that argument. For the moment. Meridina was too committed to proving herself to her father to ever show that weakness in front of him.

Mother and daughter returned to the living area of the family home. Gamaya was still working at her study desk, where the wiry figure of Mastrash Karesl now stood behind her to observe with interest. He looked over to Meridina upon their return to the room. He was still in his robe of purple with blue trim - signifying his place on the Council of the Order of Swenya - with a light blue vest and tunic underneath joined with dark blue trousers. He gave Meridina an intent look. "You have come home, I see," he said. "How are you, ch-…"

He stopped. For a moment his eyes focused completely on her, scrutinizing every detail of Meridina's expression, her posture, her face. But that was just the openly-visible component for what he was doing, as his own powerful life force examined his daughter's. "Meridina, what has happened?", he finally asked. "I can feel…"

"A Goa'uld called Amaunet took control of my body," Meridina said simply. "She used my swevyra for her own ends while she was in control."

Nothing was said for a moment. Karesl was clearly feeling out for a sign of deception on the matter. But seconds before Drentiya could scold him for that, his expression softened. "I sense the truth of what you have suffered, daughter. Words cannot describe how much it pains me."

"Thank you," she answered plainly. "I have taken a leave from the Aurora to come home and meditate upon my experience. To be sure I have control of this taint."

"A wise choice, daughter," Karesl answered. "I can arrange healers to see you."

"Mother has already been a great help, I would not wish to impose…"

"It is never imposition," he chided her gently. "You know that, child."

Drentiya narrowed her eyes at her spouse. "Meridina does not need the Order pushing her into suppressing what happened. She must face it if she is to move on."

"Ordinarily, love, I would agree with you," Karesl answered. "But this is no mere pain. This is the taint of Darkness, brought on by the Goa'uld. Meridina must be careful in how she treats it lest the darkness within come out through negative feelings. That could cause the Darkness within to grow out of control.

"I would like to have Mother attempt to aid me for a few days, Mastrash," Meridina said formally. "I will report to the Great Temple for time with the healers afterward."

Karesl nodded at that. "An understandable choice, child." His expression warmed slightly as he looked to the rest of the family. "Hopefully Qalk will return soon. It has been too long since our family was together."

"I look forward to seeing him as well," Meridina agreed.

"Until then," said Drentiya, "I will get the evening meal finished."

"I shall prepare the table then," pledged Meridina. She turned and walked into the dining room

Drentiya looked at Karesl intently. I love you dearly, but please, for our daughter's sake, do not make politics of this. She deserves better.

Our daughter has already made herself a point of politics, my love, Karesl replied. It may be out of my hands. But I will do nothing to directly cause such a thing to happen. This I promise you.

There was a dissatisfied look on Drentiya's face. But she said nothing more while returning to the kitchen.

The usual morning routine saw Robert out of bed, into the shower, and then off to the Lookout for breakfast. Julia joined him there and they took to a table after exchanging "Good morning"s. "We'll be to our training point in six hours," Robert noted. "We should probably get those shuttles off to Beta Durani soon."

"The first launched this morning," Julia revealed. "Dahler and Uwambe are piloting."

"Making good use of the trainees then," Robert noted.

"The tricky thing is the Sandar," Julia remarked. "I noticed the flight crew listed on the plan. Are you sure about that?"

"Nick asked," Robert replied. "He wants to prove he and Hajar can work together. A shuttle run together on a training flight and cargo mission sounded right."

"He's been tearing himself up on the inside ever since he saw she came aboard." The look on Julia's face was a concerned one. "I wonder what that's like. He's done so much to move on since he joined us, but having that old mistake thrust in his face all the time."

"I think he'll work through it."

Locarno arrived at the shuttle bay first and quickly found the sleek shape of the Sanjar. The Alliance's transport shuttles resembled the newer Federation craft more than the old box-shaped shuttles Locarno had flown in Starfleet Academy and afterward. The nacelles were swept slightly back from the main body of the shuttle and positioned for more efficient warp field generation. The interior was twenty percent larger than the Federation models and, in this case, was packed full of crates containing dextro-compatible medications for the Turian garrison on Beta Durani 4. The rear hatch was already sealed and a side hatch at the cockpit, not found on Federation craft, was his point of entry.

Hajar was waiting for him in the piloting seat. Her duffel bag was tucked away beside her. Locarno did the same with his own, carrying hygienic supplies and a few snacks for the trip as well as a change of uniform. The replicator was accessible despite the full load, but there would be no sleeping on the fold-out beds until they were unloaded.

"Lieutenant," Hajar said. There was no coldness or bitterness in her words, just calm and cool professionalism. Locarno found that a bad sign. "I've completed the pre-flight checks. All systems are ready."

Locarno settled into the co-pilot chair. He double-checked her results as a perfunctory gesture and nodded. "Looks like we're ready to go."

Hajar pressed her fingers to the shuttle's communications panel, set between them for mutual access. "This is shuttle Sandar to flight control, we're ready for launch."

The voice that replied was Slavic-accented, although not Russian. "Sandar, you are cleared for launch."

Hajar quickly activated the thrusters on the shuttle. Locarno remained the quiet observer to the process while Hajar piloted the Sandar into open space. They cleared the shuttle bay at the back of the primary hull. "Preparing for warp."

Locarno checked his screens. "Your course is clear. Naqia reactor is powered up for warp flight."

"Setting course for Beta Durani 4, Warp 4.7." Hajar finished flying the shuttle away from the graceful lines of the Aurora. "Engaging."

The shuttle thrummed with energy. Locarno watched as space distorted around them until the streaks of warped space appeared outside of the shuttle. He leaned back and sighed. "ETA, Ensign?"

"Ten hours, fifteen minutes, roughly," she replied.

He glanced back to the rear compartment, still full of crates, and sighed. "Ten hours stuck in here."

"This is why Navigation Officers usually don't go on supply runs." Hajar gave him a look. "I'm not dumb, Lieutenant. This is some attempt to get me to talk."

"It's not," Locarno replied. "It's an attempt to see if we can work together despite what happened."

"Do your friends not trust me?", Hajar asked. "Should I just go ahead and ask for a transfer? Then I can see if it blows up this career too?"

There was some heat in her voice from that inquiry. "No." Locarno shook his head. "I don't want that to happen. That's why I wanted to make this run with you. I want to prove that we can serve together without having the past get in the way."

Hajar barely glanced his way. She seemed far more interested in her flight controls. After several seconds she finally spoke. "Like I said. We can work together professionally. But that's it."

Locarno nodded. He held back the sigh he felt wanting to form. It was going to be a long flight.

The brilliant sunlight was shining through the opening in the arcology structure, bathing the 12th level gardens in warm light. Meridina felt the warmth of her homeworld's sun on her face. It was a sensation she had not felt in a long while.

She was wearing a sleeveless tunic and knee-length skirt, both of dull brown coloring. The ground of the garden was not unpleasant to sit upon, legs crossed in meditative position.

Meridina was focusing upon her mind and spirit. She sought her center and thought of letting it soothe in the warm flow of the Flow of Life. She would let it calm her. Like it always did. Like it…

The flashes returned. She could feel the cold power, the burning fury, of Amaunet. She remembered how the Goa'uld had twisted her power and exposed her life energies to darkness. The faces of the people Amaunet had killed…

The people you killed.

Noise caused Merridina's eyes to snap open. She looked to her side and saw Gamaya walking up toward her, wearing a blue sleeveless pull-over blouse and matching blue baggy pantaloons. Gamaya looked at Meridina and asked, "Are you okay?"

Meridina forced herself to be honest. "I am not."

Gamaya reacted by sitting down beside her older sister. "I'm so sorry you were hurt like that, Meri. You have done so many good things, to know you are hurt…."

"Gami." Meridina wiped at her cheek to remove the tear still there. Afterward she set that hand on her sister's shoulder. "You have always been so sweet. But I know you have examinations coming and need to study."

"I can study later," Gamaya insisted. "But I want to be here for you. I mean, I'm not a farisa like Mother or Leni, I'm certainly not swevyra'se... but I can still help you."

Meridina put a soft smile on her face, for Gamaya's benefit. "I know. Ever since you were little, you have always wanted to be helpful." Meridina did not put into words the frustration she knew her sister felt. Out of all of them, Gamaya was the only child born without mindwalking or a connected swevyra. That outcome showed in the quiet frustration now appearing on Gamaya's face. "Your place to help will be in the sciences, where you have a brilliant future." Meridina pulled Gamaya into an embrace. "You should be working toward that."

"But what about you?", she asked. "This has happened. And there are the stories…"

Meridina blinked. "Stories?"

Gamaya swallowed. "I just… sometimes things come up. I know you and Father are opposed now. And the Dissenters said something about you, that you're teaching our ways to outsiders who don't accept the Order."

Meridina blinked at that. "Really? They have said that?"

Gamaya nodded. "It has upset Mother and the others greatly. Father as well, although he never shows it."

"I am not surprised." Meridina drew in a quick sigh and forced a smile back on her face for Gamaya. She stood to her feet. "Come, it is almost time for midday meal. Leniraya is making those stuffed hitashan you adore."

"Oh, I do. She's gotten better at making them than mother."

"I'll believe that when I taste them." Meridina led Gamay back to the family home, all the while worrying about what she said.

The Dissenters weren't new, although the name was fairly new. There had always been a part of the population opposed to membership in the Alliance. But how did this group amass so much power so quickly? And how could they know anything about her, much less have any ground to accuse her of teaching outside of the Order?

What was going on with her homeworld?

It was the equivalent of evening hours on the Aurora when the Sandar finally approached Beta Durani. "Securing from warp," Hajar said as a shudder filled the shuttle from dropping out of warp. Her tone, Locarno noted, was as emotionless as before.

Locarno put down his digital reader and checked his boards. "Hrm. That's odd." He watched the display with interest.

"What is?"

"I'm not picking up any signals from the surface," Locarno confirmed. "And the satellites aren't responding."

Hajar considered this. "Could there be a major communication fault in their systems?"

"This widespread? I doubt it." Locarno frowned. "I don't like the looks of this. The Paxson and Moore should have signaled us by now. I'm attempting to…"

There was a flash of energy and Locarno's hands shot to another control "Raising shields!", he called out. And not a moment too soon, as the shuttle shuddered violently. "I'm picking up Reich fighter craft coming up from around the planet!"

"Evading!" Hajar's hands went back to her controls.

The Sandar began a series of sharp maneuvers as emerald energy beams lashed out at them from the direction of the planet's north pole. "I'm sending a signal to the Aurora." Locarno hit several keys. "But I don't know if I'm getting through the jamming."

"Re-route power from the warp systems," Hajar suggested. "These things are faster than we are at warp anyway, we'll never get away."

"Good suggestion." Locarno began doing so, putting as much energy as he dared into the ship's transceiver systems to transmit the mayday. "This is the shuttlecraft Sandar to all Alliance and friendly vessels, we are being attacked by Nazi fighters. I repeat, Reich craft are in orbit of Beta Durani 4, we are under attack. Mayday, mayday…"

Beta Durani 4 began to loom large on their screen. "What are you doing?", he asked Hajar.

"I'm going to take us into atmosphere," Hajar said. "We've got no cover out here, but I might be able to lose them planet-side."

As if to reinforce her point, the shuttle shook again. "Shields down to seventy percent," Locarno noted. Another hit rattled them. "Make that fifty-five percent."

"Hold on!"

The Sandar plunged into the atmosphere of Beta Durani 4. The dagger-shaped Nazi craft pursued them, disruptors firing as they went. Hajar jinked and slid the shuttle back and forth trying to avoid the fire as, outside, the void of space became blue sky.

A burst of sparks came from the rear of the ship. "I'm losing power!", Hajar shouted.

"We just lost our primary power conduit. The secondaries are damaged and can't handle enough load…" The shuttle violently shuddered beneath them. "Shields down to twenty percent."

By now the shuttle was soaring over an alpine vista. Hajar banked them around a rocky outcropping on the side of a mountain and twisted the ship to follow the contours of a canyon formed by the river flowing at the bottom. It was, by the standards of an aerospace craft, a very narrow canyon for maneuvering. Locarno could see Hajar was absorbed with piloting them through the canyon and avoiding the sides.

The enemy craft didn't quite follow, preferring to remain above the canyon. Locarno's sensors showed the two pursuers flying above them. "Looks like they're trying to head us off at the end of the canyon." He looked at her. "Remember that tactical scenario we did back in the Academy? Stardate 45144?"

Hajar nodded. "The one where we caught Josh and Wes by surprise?"

"Yeah." Seeing she knew what he meant, Locarno went to work at his console. "Putting all available power into the phaser banks," Locarno confirmed.

Hajar nodded. "On my mark…" She looked at her instruments and where the Nazi fighters were relative to them. They were starting to pull ahead of them to cut the Sandar off. "Mark!"

Hajar jerked the Sandar into a climb, at an angle that presented the phaser banks to the enemy fighters. Locarno triggered the phasers as soon as he had a shot.

Twin beams of amber energy lashed out from the corners of the bow and converged on one of the Nazi fighters. They sliced through the shields of the ship and into its engine plant. The Nazi fighter disappeared in a fireball that spread flaming debris into the forest below.

The other fighter was already maneuvering clear when Locarno shot at it. His first shot was a glancing hit at the side. The second shot was wide. Hajar banked the shuttle to give him a better shot for his third blast.

The phaser beams hit home again. They sliced into the enemy ship, creating a smaller explosion that did not completely envelop the enemy ship. Instead it started to spin and fall downward, robbed of the power it needed to stay in the air.

Hajar and Locarno looked at each other with grins of relief. Survival and victory briefly trumped their difficulties over the past.

"So where did those fighters come from?", Hajar asked. "Those are short-range craft, right?"

"They had to have come from another ship." Locarno looked to his sensors.

What he saw wiped the smile from his face.

"Land," he said. "We need to land, now."

"What's wrong?", Hajar asked. She was moving to execute the order. "What are you seeing?"

Locarno swallowed. "Multiple warp contacts." He looked to her with fear in his eyes. "It's an invasion fleet."

Hajar swallowed and directed her attention back to her console. "Alright, I'm…"

The was a sudden violent surge through the shuttle that wanted to tear them from their seats. More sparks erupted from machinery spaces in the back. "They're firing at us from orbit," he said.

"I'll try to land us in some cover."

Hajar flew the shuttle toward the forested foothills near the canyon. Another emerald beam lashed out from the sky at them, barely missing from her desperate maneuvering. A second missed. A third.

The next connected. The rear of the shuttle exploded in a roar that deafened the two occupants. "Engines are out! Firing retro-thrusters… I have no helm control!"

Locarno watched the ground racing toward them on the screen. "Brace yourself!", he cried.

There was nothing more they could do before the Sandar began smashing through trees on its way to a violent landing.

It was near the end of the evening shift and Robert and Julia were putting in their final hours for the day on bridge watch. Lieutenant Jupap, Jarod's Alakin subordinate, was at Operations, and the helm was currently manned by Ensign Violeta Arterria, a young woman from the Sirian League who was, like some other Sirians on the crew, gene-tailored to have exotic hair and eye coloring, in this case possessing richly-colored purple hair and matching purple eyes, while her dark bronze complexion was a more natural and common coloration. Lieutenant James Jarke, a young African-American from the Earth Confederacy, was at tactical, and Caterina was finishing up her own shift at Sensors.

"Lieutenant Jupap, any word from Beta Durani?", Robert asked. "The Sandar should have arrived by now."

"I have received no regular transmission," the Alakin answered.

Julia gave Robert a look of concern. "Is everything okay?"

Robert looked back and shook his head. "I just have a… bad feeling, is all."

"The general kind or the metaphysical kind?", she asked.

"Sometimes I can't be sure," he admitted. He drew in a breath and tried to relax in his chair. "Ensign, what's our ETA to our destination?"

"Six hours, thirty-eight minutes, Captain," she answered.

"The Carmichel and her convoy isn't scheduled to arrive until the morning anyway," Julia reminded him. "And the Phosako are expecting us to be there."

"Yeah. But…"

A tone came from Ops. Jupap checked it. "I have detected a garbled transmission from Beta Durani. It appears to be a distress signal."

Robert turned his head quickly toward Ops. "Put it on, Jupap."

Crackling came over the speakers. "This is… shuttle... to all Alliance....", came a voice both realized was Locarno, through bursts of sharp static. "...are being… -cked by Nazi figh-... I rep-... Reich craft... orbit of Beta Du-.... under attack. Mayday, mayday…"

Robert frowned and clenched his hands in frustration. "Could we make it there and then back for the rendezvous? At high warp?"

"If we turn right around and leave again, sir," Violeta answered.

"Even then, if there's a strong enemy presence at Beta Durani 4, we could warp right into a Nazi attack group." Julia shook her head. "And if the Nazis are moving into Durani, that convoy's going to need us sooner, not later. We can't risk it."

The look in Robert's eyes told her that he knew she was right, and that he hated it. "Okay, we can't go…"

Julia nodded. "But the Koenig can."

Just twenty minutes later, Lucy was settling into an auxiliary engineering station on the Koenig's small bridge. Beside her Lieutenant Magda Navaez, Koenig's operations officer, was finishing her part of the launch. "All umbilicals released. All ship systems normal."

"All naqia reactors are functioning," Lucy added, looking at her own board. "Warp power at your command."

Zack leaned to one side of his chair. "Take us out as soon as the doors open, Ap. Then set a course for Beta Durani 4, maximum warp."

Lieutenant Creighton Apley, Zack's first officer and the usual pilot of the ship, nodded. "Main doors opening now. Releasing docking clamps."

The dock built into the rear section of the Aurora's primary hull finished opening up. The Koenig slipped out of it and turned away before picking up forward velocity. The Aurora's engine nacelles flashed with light as she jumped back to warp. Koenig prepared to go to warp as well, but instead of a flash of light from her nacelles there was a ripple through her form until she, to the eye of any who might have been watching, disappeared.

"We're at Warp 9," Apley confirmed several seconds later. "ETA to Beta Durani system is approximately four hours."

"Good. And the cloak?"

It was Magda's turn to make a report. "Operating normally."

Zack nodded. "Good to hear it." He drew in a breath and relaxed in his chair. "Well, it's been awhile since the parents let us out, hasn't it?"

"Looking forward to it, sir," Apley affirmed with a small smile.

"But not the part about getting shot at?", Zack asked with amusement.

"Oh, never that, sir," was Apley's reply.

Zack's only reply was a thin smile.

Pain woke Locarno up. He looked up at the intact cockpit window of the Sandar, now half-buried under soil and roots. He blinked as awareness began to return to him.

He glanced over to his side. Hajar was starting to stir. It was clear she was unharmed as well. Their harnesses had kept them from pitching forward at impact, substituting that experience with a more survivable, if still painful, bruising of the shoulders.

Locarno snapped his harness off and turned back toward the rear of the shuttle. The crates of supplies were still secured despite the force of the landing. Panels in the back were flickering from inconsistent power supply. Locarno checked his panel and confirmed that the shuttle's power systems were offline from damage. Backup battery power was the only thing they had left. Enough to run a protective shield for the next ten or so hours. He quickly activated those systems.

Hajar sat up in her chair, holding her head. "Everything okay?"

"We're on battery power only. I've got the shields up so they can't just beam us up."

Hajar examined her board. "I can't even get a response to the engine diagnostics."

"This shuttle's completely trashed. She's not flying again." Locarno got out of the chair and went to a compartment. He pulled out the survival pack, pulled a pulse pistol out of it, and fixed the pistol and its holster to his belt at the right hip. He double-checked his multidevice to confirm it had no damage.

Hajar was going for her survival pack too. "Do we stay here or try to run for it?"

"I don't think going anywhere will help," Locarno said. "We'd show up on sensors the moment they scanned for life signs."

"Maybe if we put together a jammer?", she suggested. "A passive jamming device to obscure our life readings?" She looked back to the shuttle panel. "Give me an hour and I can rig something up."

Locarno gave her a look. "Really?"

"After Nova Squad was broken up, I considered engineering," she said. "I took a course during the following semester, Field Engineering."

That made Locarno remember something. "Field Engineering… wasn't that under Commander Terox? That nutty Denobulan?"

"You have no idea," was Hajar's murmured reply. She pulled open the panel. "Just give me a minute, I need to get some parts from the shuttle's sensor suite."

Locarno returned to his chair and brought up communications. "Subspace communications are out, but I've got localized comms. It looks like the Nazis are focusing on the generator sites. The Turians and the engineering detachments are putting up a hell of a fight, though."

"Anything from the other shuttles?", Hajar asked.

"Nothing. They might be helping the defenders." Locarno shook his head. "We're about seventy kilometers from the nearest friendly base. If we stretch things out, we'll have just enough rations to survive the trip."

"If only we hadn't been carrying the Turians' rations, right?", Hajar sighed, her voice muffled from inside the shuttle panel.


Hajar stuck her head out briefly. "Do you think anyone got the distress signal?"

Locarno could have confidently asserted that it had to have been heard. But they weren't stupid cadets anymore, and Hajar wouldn't be tricked. He shook his head. "Can't be sure. I didn't get any responses."

A grim look came to her face. "Well, let's hope someone called for the cavalry, then."

All he could think to answer with was a nod of agreement.

Robert was preparing to get into bed for as much sleep as he could manage when the return call came from Admiral Relini. The Dorei woman, her blue eyes the same shade as her skin and long purple hair pulled into a braided ponytail, was the commander of the 9th Fleet and responsible for this entire region of space. "Captain, we are facing a Reich offensive in the Argolis Sector, so I will make this brief. We've confirmed the full extent of the enemy's attack in Durani. Our analysts believe this is a secondary operation meant to distract us."

"So what do we do about Beta Durani?"

"The forces you are linking up with will be committed to the counter-attack. They are already accelerating to meet you ahead of schedule. Your new orders are to make the rendezvous as soon as possible and escort the force through to Beta Durani 4."

"Yes, Admiral. If I may ask, I've got crew I sent to Durani, do we have any information on them?"

"Our last transmissions said nothing definite. We know one shuttle was shot down."

Robert nodded. "I understand. I'll inform you of when we make the rendezvous with the Carmichel. Dale out."

He looked up from his desk after Relini's image disappeared. Angel was sitting at the edge of his bed. She looked at him intently. "No word, then."

"No word," he said.

Her expression was pensive. While Locarno hadn't been an original member of their group, or even their outfit in the Facility, he was now a friend and colleague. The idea they were going to lose one of their own was a hard one.

"Zack will be there in an hour or so," Robert said to her. He pulled off the uniform jacket and hung it upon his uniform rack "And hopefully Lucy and Kane can do something to get them to safety."


Once Robert had shed the rest of his uniform he sat down beside Angel. She put an arm around him as he put one on her shoulder, and they drew close enough for a good night kiss.

The forest was not quiet. Chirping and whooping sounded in the distance and made Locarno regret that he hadn't looked up on the native fauna of Beta Durani 4. He patted his pulse pistol, as if to assure himself it was present.

A cry of frustration came from within the shuttle. Locarno went to the hatch and looked inside. Hajar was seated on the floor, a set of tools laid out with several pieces of electronics and technology around her. She had her fingers within what looked like the remains of a tricorder. "I'd like to punch whoever designed these things."

"Have you tried…"

Hajar glared up at him. "I know far more about this than you, so don't go trying to second-guess what I'm doing."

Locarno stopped abruptly. "Sure. I wasn't intending to step on your toes. But if we're going to get moving, it should be soon. Night's going to fall soon, and I don't want to be out in that forest at night. There's no telling what the local animals will be like."

"Actually, they're mostly herbivores in this part of the world," Hajar pointed out. "It's the alpines of the southern hemisphere where we'd be in real danger."

Locarno looked at her with surprise. "And you know this because…"

"...because I read the profile on the planet," she said. "Just in case. Shouldn't you have done the same?"

Locarno tried to hide his embarrassment that he had, in fact, not done so. He'd been far too distracted.

Hajar chuckled lowly at that. "Well, big surprise there." Her look turned bitter. "You were never one for doing all the prep work. You always left that to us. You had more schemes to cook up, more wild ideas for stunts, for flight formations. Maybe if you were more of a planner you would have seen how nasty the Starburst move would have been, and Josh would still be alive."

Locarno glowered at her. "You're not going to stop on that point, are you?"

"Given that it ruined our lives?" Hajar returned the glower. "You think you can ask me to just forget about that? About how you screwed everything up for us?"

"You could have said no," Locarno retorted. "You could have stopped me."

"No, we couldn't have," Hajar shot back. Her round face twisted into an expression of raw anger and hurt. "There's nothing we wouldn't have done for you, Nick. Nothing! We were ready to follow you anywhere, and you led us right off the damned cliff! Because all you cared about was looking good to the rest of the Academy!"

"I was trying to make us the best!"

Hajar laughed bitterly. "I know." She shook her head. "And now look where we are. Your stunt killed Josh. Jaxa was so determined to prove herself she signed up for a mission that got her killed. Wes is gone. And you and I are out of Starfleet. Although it's not so bad for you I see." Her eyes flashed with frustration. "You, the one who deserved the least, got the most out of all of us." Hajar motioned angrily to the gear she was working on. "So, Lieutenant, would you please allow me to resume my work? Or do you want us to be caught?"

Locarno had nothing to say to the diatribe. He nodded softly in the direction of the hatch. "I'll be on lookout outside. Let me know when you're done?"

"Certainly," she answered, promptly resuming her work.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-07 06:19pm

Lucy and Kane were on the Koenig bridge when the ship came out of warp near Beta Durani 4. Both looked at the viewscreen with some trepidation. "Well." Lucy swallowed. "That's not good."

Zack was in his command chair, looking at the same thing. At least a dozen Reich warships were orbiting the planet. He spotted Z-2500s mixed in with the short-ranged A-1700 gunship variants. Three Dresden-class light cruisers and a Sedan-class heavy cruiser were the largest units visible…

...save for the final one.

"Is that a Lutzow?", Zack asked. "Because the profile looks off."

Magda examined the readings from the Koenig's sensors. "The silhouette and characteristics are close. I think we're looking at a new battlecruiser class."

"This isn't just a raid then. They want to take the planet and hold it." Zack frowned as he thought on their situation. "And we don't have any sensor shadows we can hide in long enough to transport the Marines down?"

"They're too widely-spread around the planet," Magda confirmed.

"Well, it looks like Plan B." Zack turned in his chair to face Lucy and Kane. "Up for this, Lucy?"

"I'm not sure we'll be able to evade detection even if I do a powered down drop," Lucy remarked. "Not unless we get sneaky."

"Didn't you outfit the Rio with a cloaking device?", asked Zack.

"A cloak can't stop them from seeing our atmospheric wake," Lucy replied. Her brow furrowed. "We'd have to go slow enough, and be low enough, to make the wake so weak they wouldn't spot it."

"Sounds like it could work, though," Zack said. "And you could fly as close to Nick and his friend as possible."

"The only question is, can you survive long enough to get us into the atmosphere," Lucy asked him.

Zack looked back to the ships present. He reached for his intercom and keyed it. "Bridge to Engineering."

"Derbely here."

"We're about to present our Nazi friends with a target for a few minutes, Karen. Can you shore up the shield systems?"

"I'll give it everything I can."

"Thank you. I'll let you know when we need it." Zack returned his attention to the screen. "Bring up tactical view." The straight video image was replaced by a model of the planet and the enemy ships around it. "Do we have any idea on where their shuttle crashed?"

"I'm not… wait." Magda looked at her board intently. "I've picked up an engine trail consistent with a shuttle's drives. At this range I can't give you an accurate reading, but I can give you a rough location." She looked over at Lucy. "You'll need to scan for yourself once you're in the atmosphere."

"Thank you." Lucy looked at the tactical screen. "So we have a plan."

"We have a plan."

"Good." Kane nodded. "I'll get my Marines loaded. See you down in the bay, "

"I'll be right there," Lucy promised. She continued to examine the enemy force until after Kane left. "The trouble may be getting off-planet once we have them," Lucy noted.

"I'll stay as close as I can under cloak," Zack promised. "But I can't do much else until we have backup. And I get the feeling we'll be waiting for that."

"So do I."

They looked at each other. "Good luck, Lucy," Zack said to her. "Bring Nick home, please. And everyone else."

"I'll do what I can," she promised. "Make sure you get home too?"

"I plan on it."

After an exchange of understanding nods, Lucy departed the bridge. Zack looked back to the tactical screen. "Okay, it looks like one of those gunboats is right in the middle of our preferred approach vector for atmospheric entry," he noted. "April, as soon as we decloak I want that thing out of the way. Ap, you up for the atmospheric flight?"

"I'm ready for it," Apley promised. "Let me know when we go."

"We're ready to shift power to shields," Magda confirmed. "And I've started the necessary calculations for an in-atmo warp jump."

"Good. Relay those to Apley when you're done." Zack gripped the arms of his command chair tightly. It had been months since the Koenig had been in a battle. What a way to return to the war, he pondered.

The runabout Bastilone was not the standard runabout, as her decidedly-non-riverine name made clear. Lucy settled into the helm and looked over at Kane, who was manning the station beside her. "You've been flight training?", she asked him.

"I'll remind you, Lieutenant, that this is a Marine craft," he answered. "Of course I trained on her." Lucy gave Kane a skeptical look, so he soon added,"Holo-simulation training, I mean."

Lucy smirked. "Of course." She completed the flight checks. The Bastilone was a Wingate-class assault runabout developed exclusively for the war, built for inserting strike teams into behind-the-lines targets. One had been assigned to the Aurora as a just-in-case measure. "A good thing I was one of the test pilots."

Behind them, a gruff female voice asked, "Aren't they all about the same?"

"Lieutenant Lucero, meet Lieutenant Pauline Barker. Lieutenant Barker, this is Lieutenant Lucilla Lucero." Seeing Lucy's inquisitive look, Kane added, "The Lieutenant joined us at the Rings, she's one of my platoon officers."

"Right." Lucy turned her attention back to the board. "I hope everyone is strapped in, because our pre-flight checks are complete and I'm signalling the bridge that we're ready."

Barker nodded and stomped to the back of the runabout, where the Marines' seats were present. Her voice began barking orders.

Lucy gave Kane a look. "I thought Sergeants did things like that?"

"Wartime commission, Lieutenant," Kane answered.

Lucy nodded. A blue light flashed on the console. "They're moving in. We drop in approximately three minutes."

The Koenig was almost up to the nearest A-1700 when she decloaked. Amber fury erupted from her forward emitters and slammed the dagger-shaped Nazi gunship repeatedly until the vessel, its defenses overcome, exploded in a white fireball.

The enemy fleet recognized their arrival. Other ships began to converge on them as the Koenig dove toward the atmosphere. Red light gathered at her bow from the re-entry friction acting on her shields.

Disruptor fire came in as she breached the mid-point of the upper atmosphere. The emerald beams were fired from the emitter points on two more of the dagger-shaped Nazi ships - their Z-2500s and A-1700s - and stabbed repeatedly at Koenig's shields. From the angle she couldn't fire back directly and so took the enemy fire in silence.

"We're approaching the optimal drop point, sir," Apley stated.

"Magda, open links to our planet-side forces," Zack ordered. "Let's make sure the Nazis think they know what we're up to."

"Communication links established. We're receiving updates on their situations, casualties, remaining supplies."

"Drop point reached."

Zack nodded. "Open the shuttle bay door."

Koenig's shuttle bay opened up on the bottom of her hull. The Bastilone dropped out and shimmered out of view, joined by sensor probes to fully exploit the deception. The enemy would likely destroy the probes in the coming minutes, but that was part of the plan and thus fully expected.

"Bastilone is away. Under cloak. I'm reading minimal wind current disruption."

"Let's give them a minute." The ship shuddered slightly from another direct hit. "Prepare for warp jump."

"Preparing for in-atmo warp jump," Apley confirmed. "Coordinates and course laid in."

The ship rocked again. "Shields down to eighty percent. Enemy cruisers are moving into engagement range."

Zack nodded. "Steady…"

Apley keyed in more information. "Course is clear. At your command, sir."

"Steady…" Zack checked the timer. Every moment they spent here was another bit of distance the Bastilone could go without being noticed. He'd never feel right again if he felt he hadn't given them as big a chance as he could.

They took another series of hits. "Shields down to sixty percent," Magda warned. "We're starting to take bleedthrough damage to the hull."

Zack nodded. He checked the timer again and decided it was the best they could hope for. "Warp jump on my mark, Ap."

"Yes sir."

"Three… two…" Another hit rocked the ship. "....mark!"

Apley keyed in the command to generate a warp field. The Koenig shot out of orbit as if thrown by a catapult.

And the Bastilone continued on, creeping her way to the surface to avoid detection.

The whistling noises and hoots and other such sounds were keeping Locarno alert while he and Hajar tromped through the forested foothills of Beta Durani 4. They were following one of the streams that emptied into the central river. "This stream doesn't come from the mountains," he noted aloud, looking down the side of the tall hill they were on at the running water.

"It must start in an underground spring." Hajar took a moment to look around. "Or more than one. There could be all sorts of small caverns and waterways carved into the rock these hills are built on.

Hearing that prompted Locaro's attention to the time. It was getting dark. "We might have to stop and set up a camp," he said. "If there are caverns we can slip into they'd be great places to hide."

Hajar looked back at him while consulting her multidevice, specifically the directional scanning. "We've still got about two hours of daylight left. Let's keep pushing."

"We'll want to save some daylight for preparations," Locarno pointed out.

"I remember Professor Sirok's field survival course as much as you do," Hajar insisted. "I know what we need to do."

"You really like bringing up our Nova Squad days," Locarno pointed out.

Hajar looked back at him with a sardonic look. "It was the last time in my life that I was happy."

Locarno stopped. "You're never going to give me an inch, are you?"

For a moment Hajar ignored him and kept going. It was only when he'd called to her again that she finally turned. "I can't give you an inch, Locarno," she answered. "Last time I gave you any leeway was when you talked me into supporting that damned starburst training."

"Dammit, Jean!", Locarno shouted. "I made…"

He stopped upon hearing the distant sound of a cracking twig. Assuming the worst he jumped and tackled Hajar to the ground.

A loud "whmpf" sound filled the air, and the tree just past them exploded, showering Locarno and Hajar with splinters. Locarno felt the stinging pain of one of the splinters cutting into the back of his head, drawing a little blood.

The two scrambled forward as another disruptor bolt landed, this time within inches of Hajar's arm. They got back to their feet and ducked behind a thick tree. Hajar looked over her multidevice's sensor scans. "There's at least four of them," she said. "They're trying to flank us."

"Please tell me they're not in powered armor," Locarno said. He'd seen the others train in simulations against the Panzergrenadiers and knew they'd be dead if one of those was around.

"I'm not picking up any armor suits."

"That's a relief." Another disruptor bolt slammed into the tree, gouging out a chunk of it. "Not a big one, but I'll take it."

"We have to get to better cover," Hajar insisted. She looked over her multidevice. "There's a spring cavern entrance about a hundred meters to our southeast. If we can get in there maybe we can catch them in an ambush."

"Or they'll just throw a grenade in and finish us off," Locarno pointed out. He pulled out his pulse pistol and fired off a couple of shots toward the shooter.

"Do you have any better ideas?", Hajar countered as a challenge.

Locarno had to admit that he didn't. They had to change their position to avoid being encircled. And they didn't seem to have any good choices. "Right. Okay, ready?"

Hajar nodded.

"After their next shot…" When said shot blasted away more of the tree, leaving very little cover for them, Locarno leaned out again and fired his pistol in automatic mode. Blue pulses flew out toward the shooter, a figure in feldgrau crouched behind a long-fallen tree nearly sixty meters away. Said figure ducked back into cover to avoid the spray of fire.

Hajar leapt from cover and began running in the direction she had indicated. Locarno put his pistol to the brink of overheating before stopping and running to pursue. She stopped and turned, pistol up, and fired at their pursuer as Locarno ducked low under a shot that went wild. He turned and fired off another series of shots while Hajar continued onward.

The pursuit took them over the uneven ground. It had been hard enough walking through it - at a run they were at constant risk of tripping over thick silver-sheened roots and old rotten remnants of the fallen trees. Every time cover was offered they would turn and fire, forcing their pursuer's head down.

The other pursuers were moving up alongside them, appearing only on the sensors of their multidevices. Hajar started firing to their left and front to suppress the attacker from that angle.

The forest gave way only partially to the banks of a stream. Crisp, dark water flowed by at a fair current. "We're almost there," Hajar urged, just starting to pant. The adrenaline rush and fear were becoming overwhelming.

The opening in the ground was partly below the ground level. The gentle rushing of water was pouring inward. "This doesn't look… like a spring," Locarno said, panting now from the exertion of running for his life.

"We'll never make it to the next!", Hajar retorted. "Come on!"

As they entered Locarno couldn't help but feel they were entering a trap. They plunged into darkness until Hajar's multi-device activated a light for their benefit. She found an outcropping of rock along the wall and slid behind it. Her pulse pistol came up.

Locarno looked around. A stalagmite formation growing out of the ground looked like the best cover and he got over to it. He crouched low and checked his gun. He'd used up a lot of charges and only had two fresh power batteries for the weapon. He readied a fresh one and sat there, waiting, for the first enemy to come through.

One did. He didn't get a good look at the man, firing right at the entrance in time with Hajar. Blue pulses repeatedly hit the Nazi soldier's torso and he fell over, dead. A figure behind him retreated from the barrage of shots. A grunt of pain came from the retreating figure after a blue pulse from Locarno's weapon nicked him along the shoulder.

For several moments there was oppressive silence. Hajar and Locarno exchanged looks. Was the enemy going to rush through? Or would they do something else?

"Attention Alliance officers," an accented voice called out. "Surrender and you will not be harmed."

"We've seen the holos of your prisoner camps, pal, so the answer is no," Locarno retorted.

"If you do not surrender you will die."

Locarno looked to Hajar. They both figured what was coming next.

And they both looked toward the darkness deeper in the cavern.

Both ran from their cover and went deeper, following the flow of the water.

About ten seconds after they took off running, a thunderous roar sounded behind them, so loud it hurt their ears. The explosion was joined by the terrifying sound of falling rocks and the vibrations that could only come from a cave-in.

They ran. They ran as fast as they could, as the rumbling caught up behind them. The explosion had destabilized the delicate structural elements that kept the underground opening intact. If the entire thing collapsed on them…

Locarno pushed that thought out of his head, unwilling to follow that sentence through. Their only hope was to keep running, to keep running until they got to safety, and all while the rumbling continued to get closer and closer.

They arrived at what looked to be an opening up of the cavern to a wider, and hopefully safer, space. Hajar went through first and Locarno got to the opening…

And then there was pain, pressure, and the blackness of unconsciousness.

The Bastilone flew over the blue fields of a tree canopy, marking the temperate forest that the remnant engine trail from the shuttle had led Lucy to. The runabout had crept its way through the atmosphere, managing to go just slowly enough to avoid detection of its atmospheric wake, at the cost of precious time. Now they were in position to a point where the impulse drive signs faded.

"I'm not getting anything on comms," Kane revealed from his station.

"Given the jamming in the area, I'm not shocked," Lucy murmured. "It looks like they're using localized jamming."

"What? From a backpack source?"

"No." Lucy looked out and slightly up of the cockpit window. "That."

The craft that moved overhead was smaller than the runabout, but the speed with which it zipped through the air showed it was powerful in its own right. Four uniformed figures were standing on top of it, manning what looked like gun stations and a control panel, with a railing encircling their position.

"Assault craft," Kane muttered.

"Nazi flying saucers," Lucy sighed, not sure whether to laugh or groan. "You've got to be kidding me."

"Eh, the Taranak use something like those," Kane pointed out. "I mean, if you're going for low-level aerial ground-attack craft with hover flight, the saucer shape isn't bad for multiple firing angles."

"Whatever. That thing is going to seriously ruin our day," Lucy said. "And if we blow it up with the ship, we'll have to decloak, and the orbiting starships will blow us out of the sky too."

"Can't you just use your life force mumbo jumbo stuff on it?", Kane asked.

Lucy gave him a sardonic look. "I've never manipulated something of that size with my power before, Commander." She shook her head. "I don't think we should rely on stopping it that way. We need a way to ground it."

"Or blind the damn thing," Lieutenant Barker suggested.

Lucy thought on that. Slowly a smile crept across her face. "That is a very good idea," she said.

Under Lucy's control the Bastilone flew even lower, nearly brushing the treetops as it got below the Nazi assault craft. "We don't even need to decloak for this," she said. "Kane, we're going to run a powerful surge through the main sensors. Keep an eye on the stress levels for our systems, please."

"Sure." Kane gave her a confused look. "What are you planning on doing again?"

"The electronic equivalent of shining a blinding light in their eyes," replied Lucy.

"Oh." Kane grinned in acknowledgement and agreement.

Under Lucy's guidance the Bastilone kept its position. Energy surged into the systems on the runabout that would emit the pulse Lucy planned. An electronic signal that would burn out the sensing gear on the Nazi craft, or at least their IR scanners and similar systems.

Once she confirmed the pulse had gone off Lucy began flying onward. A check to the sensors showed the craft was flying away, this time at a much faster speed than it had been hovering before.

"Looks like your trick worked, Lieutenant," Kane said.

"So it does." Her hands moved over the controls again. "It looks like we've got a potential landing zone just alongside the river. Sensors are showing what looked to be a crashed shuttle about two kilometers south of the river. No life signs."

"That doesn't mean anything," Kane insisted. "They might have fled."

"Yeah." Lucy nodded. She hoped that was what had happened. "Okay, I'm going to fly us to the shuttle crash site. Ensign." She turned to the backup piloting officer she'd brought along, Ensign Yang. The young Anglo-Chinese man nodded in acknowledgement of her imminent command. "You'll take over piloting from here. Set her down at the river spot I indicated and keep the cloak on. We'll call for you if we need you."

"And for Christ's sake, make sure you pay attention to our codes. If we're sending the duress code on the subchannel keep this thing cloaked," Kane added. "Lieutenant, have Perelman and Icahn stay behind with the Ensign to guard the ship."

"Yes sir."

While Barker prepared the Marines and brought out the two who would remain behind, Lucy finished flying them to their destination. She brought the runabout as low as she dared above the trees before stepping away from the console for Yang to take over. While Kane oversaw the Marines jumping out into position - wearing their light powered suits they weren't in any danger of hurting themselves from the twenty-plus meter fall - Lucy changed out of her flight uniform and put on her field armor. It was purple like Meridina's, sans robe since wearing such a thing in this terrain was just asking for it to repeatedly get ensnared.

Once that was done and she had secured her lakesh and her pulse pistol to their proper places at her hips, Lucy went through the Marines' seating area and to the waiting back hatch. Kane was standing there, his light armor suit active. "My team's already scouted the crash site," Kane said. "No bodies, and there are clear signs of survivors."

"Or the Nazis could have removed their bodies… no, then they wouldn't need that assault craft out here, would they?" Lucy smiled thinly. "So they're still alive."


Lucy nodded. "Alright, after you Commander."

"You sure about this, Lieutenant?" Kane gave her a look. "You're not wearing a suit. I've got shock absorbers rated to a height of fifty meters. You've got unpowered armor."

"I've got swevyra," Lucy reminded him. "Or whatever you want to call it. I can use my life force to absorb the impact."

"Just so long as we don't have to carry you after you break your legs," Kane said. "See you on the ground." He stepped to the end of the short ramp and jumped off.

Lucy took a moment to breathe and clear her mind. She had to suppress the small voice of doubt that told her that no, she couldn't do this, this was foolish, and this was going to hurt. Doubt was her enemy, just as Meridina had taught her.

With certainty and readiness in her mind, Lucy jumped from the back of the runabout. The ground rushed up toward her from their height and she would have seconds to react before landing. Using those seconds she focused her power below her. The kinetic energy that would go through her body upon landing would, if this worked, be redistributed safely and evenly in the air around her. She'd still have a bone-jarring landing, but nothing would break.

When she hit, it was with a small "BOOM". Soil and debris flew away from the impact point with a violent wave. Lucy had landed on one knee to help focus her redistribution of the resulting energy reaction. Much to her relief, the impact went as planned. It jarred her, certainly, and it hurt a bit, but she hadn't broken anything.

"I've got a trail," one of Kane's people called out. "Leading to the southwest. Looks like two people."

"I've got another trail. At least two," said another nearby Marine. "Parallel."

"Fan out. Tajak, Poulastides, you're watching our backsides. Barker, you're in the middle with your squad. Lucero and I are taking point."

A chorus of "Yes sirs!" answered Kane. He looked at Lucy. The darkness of the moonless night and Kane's visor being dark made it impossible to see his face, but Lucy could imagine his slight grin at her. "After you, Lieutenant."

Lucy nodded. With her multidevice display up and active she brought up the trail the Marines found and began to follow it. Behind her, the entire group started moving.

When Locarno woke up, he was in pain. Pain that went all through his legs and the lower half of his back, almost numbing in its intensity. He coughed at the dust that had gotten into his mouth and nostrils.

Most of his surroundings were dark, but there was a source of light nearby. That light, after he blinked a few times, was revealed as a small fire.

Locarno tried to move. Pain and pressure kept his legs pinned in place. He gasped involuntarily at the quantity of the pain and discomfort he felt.

Hajar appeared in his vision, sitting beside the fire that was clearly closer than he had imagined. She was working on her multidevice intently. 'Jean?", Locarno said with his voice hoarse.

She looked up and over at him. "How are you?", she asked.

Locarno grimaced. "Not good."

"Which is still better than you might have been otherwise." She went over to him and knelt beside him. "Don't try to move too much. You got caught in the cave-in. The cave nearly fell on all of us."

With Hajar closer Locarno could see the bruising and cuts on her dust-covered hands. "You dug me out?", he stated. "Thanks."

"Don't thank me yet." She shook her head. "I couldn't get everything."

Locarno could both feel and see that when he looked behind his shoulder to the broken stones still pinning him down. He let out something that sounded like a sigh and a groan had collided in his throat. "Well, I thought my legs had gone numb. Good to see I was wrong about that." He took a breath and looked back to her. "Any sign of more?"

"No," she said. And this cavern system goes on for kilometers. At least, it does according to my device scanners."

"Maybe there's another exit." Locarno nodded. "You should go."

Hajar looked at him. "What?"

"If you can find another exit, it's probably for the best if you keep going," Locarno continued. He grimaced. "I'm not going to be in any shape to follow."

"Ah." She nodded. An irritated look came to Hajar's face. "So now you want to be the sacrificing hero. I'll stay right here."

"Dammit." Locarno clenched his fists. "Jean, I'm being serious."

"And so am I. I'm not leaving you to die just so you can feel like a hero!"

"And what if they find a way in here?" Locarno gestured toward his legs. "You can't get me out alone. The only way for any of us to get out of here is for you to go and to remember the way back to me. If we're lucky, maybe friendly forces can get back in time."

Hajar didn't answer him. She turned her head away for a moment.

"I'll make it an order," Locarno said.

"I'll treat it like you would, and ignore it."

"Seriously, you're doing this now?!" Locarno smacked a hand to the ground. "I'm trying to work with you, Jean! Please!"

She didn't immediately react. Locarno saw her go back to fidgeting with the device in her hands. In the process she turned her back toward him, signaling the conversation was over.

He almost laughed. He wanted to. This entire trip had been meant to show that the past was the past and they could still be professionals. Instead it had made it all too clear that the past still mattered… and now he was stuck with her, unable to move himself, or to move on from what happened.

Locarno laid his head on his arm and thought, quietly, on his few options.

The stars and moon shined silver light through the center of the arcology and into the 12th level garden, illuminating the quiet place while Meridina sat there, legs folded, hands together in gentle repose. She focused upon herself, upon her power, her swevyra, and the emotions that could guide and effect how it manifested.

For so long this meditation had always worked to center her feelings. She would press her feelings and every raw, untoward emotion, every feeling with a hint of darkness to it, would seep away in the face of light.,

But now, whenever she felt like letting go, her mind filled with images of those killed by Amaunet. She could feel the Goa'uld's vicious hatred and fury, the self-centered arrogance, as it felt when Amaunet had held her captive. And her own feelings, the anger and rage she felt at how Amaunet had violated her autonomy as a person, the pain in her heart...

Meridina tried to fight it. She murmured a mantra, a rhyme in Gersallian repeated in an orderly, melodic way to help focus. Meridina would not let this control her. She would control it. She would restrain it. She would push these feelings away as she always did. Focus on the light . Focus on it. Focus on positive feelings, positive emotions. Control them. Control…

But she couldn't. The thoughts and feelings came roaring back. She kept thinking of Lucy. Poor, brave Lucy, who had stood against her, had fought her to a standstill with every ounce of will she had. The clash of their weapons. The savage joy when Amaunet had raked Meridina's lakesh through Lucy's flesh.

I will kill your precious student, the Goa'uld had told her. Not in words, but in savage malevolent feeling.

Reliving those memories made the meditation a sham. Meridina couldn't control them, she couldn't push them away. Why? Why did they still torment her? Why couldn't she move on?

Why couldn't she get rid of the darkness?

"It is odd to see you so troubled, Meridina."

The voice made her look up. Tears had formed in Meridina's eyes, tears from the frustration she felt within, but even through the blurred vision they caused her Meridina could see the shape of her father standing alone in the starlight. He was clad in the simple white tunic and brown vest he always kept for his private meditations.

Anger and shame welled up within Meridina. Every erg of her mental effort went into crushing these emotions, and all others, and to again regain her center of calm.

Karesl shook his head. "Meridina, you have always sought to impress me with your skills. But do you really believe I do not know what you are feeling?" He sat on the ground opposite from Meridina and assumed a meditative pose. "Your mother's gift and your swevyra make it very hard indeed to not sense your moods."

"It is odd that you can speak of knowing my feelings given how far apart we now are," Meridina remarked lowly.

A thin, bitter smile came to Karesl's face. "Ledosh has always been a very charismatic, very loyal man. I am not surprised by the faith he has in you. I simply wish it was for other causes."

Meridina seized upon that; it was a way to cease speaking on her failures before her father. "Were you not once friends? Didn't you train in the same cadre? Now you are enemies."

"Yes to all of those things, although I protest at describing us as enemies," Karesl said. "But Ledosh's views have become radical. And his insistence, your insistence, upon the prophecy…" He visibly stopped himself.

But he hadn't done so early enough, not to avoid Meridina's frustrated retort. "Why are you so insistent, Father, on this course? Of following Goras and his isolationism? The Alliance is everything we might have dreamed of. It holds the power to swing the universes toward the Light."

"And it holds the potential to drag us all down into darkness," Karesl replied. "The Human nations and worlds are fractious and squabbling. They keep no balance amongst each other, they do not recognize the interdependence of beings but insist either on absolute individual power or complete control. They are worse than the Dorei in this regard, and we are but one part that might get swamped by the rest. Indeed, we may have already begun…"

"The Dissenters?", Meridina asked.

"There are those who always insist on rebellion," Karesl noted. "So long as they do not harm others or call forth darkness in other ways, there is nothing necessarily wrong with that. The colonies have long been a way for those with the fire of youth to leave behind those they cannot achieve balance with. But now they have the Human example of demanding change. And I fear they have begun following Human examples of using violence to push for that change." Karesl drew in a breath and easily recovered his center. Thinking about such things was painful for him. To see thousands of years of social peace threatened, and threatened in part by people whom agreed with him and on another part by his own daughter…

"The Council could step in," Meridina said. "Reconcile the factions."

"That has been our usual way, but it does not work now. Many Dissenters accuse the Order of instigating our admission to the Alliance. They do not trust us." Karesl shook his head. "Perhaps they are right. We have had such an effect upon this new Alliance, and now we will be feared for it."

Meridina thought back to Commander King of the attack ship Sladen, who had served with the Aurora while the Koenig was elsewhere. The woman had proven to be a spy, working for Alliance Naval Intelligence and Admiral Davies in particular, sent to investigate how much Meridina and her Order were directly influencing the Aurora crew. When King had been discovered, she had revealed this fact and another: that the Gersallian government, advised by the Order, had threatened to withdraw from the Allied Systems if Minister Hawthorne and Admiral Davies prevailed in stripping Robert Dale and his friends of their ship. "I have heard that the Order involved itself in the attempt to take my comrades from their ship," she murmured.

"Yes we did." Karesl gave her a careful look. "Or rather Maklir did after Ledosh and the others with him pushed. And what has it gotten us? Suspicion and paranoia from the Humans as well." He shook his head. "You believed, daughter, that the Alliance would usher in a golden age of peace, of tranquility? It is a source of dissension and disruption as well, and I fear that the war with the Reich has only worsened this."

Meridina considered her father's words. She knew well enough that they were slanted by his own views, by his alignment with Goras and his isolationist ways. But she thought of that marked statue, of the reports of violence, and wondered… what if she was wrong? What if Ledosh was wrong? What if they were harming their people by their actions in support of the Prophecy of the Dawn, and all for nothing?

All Meridina had ever wanted was to serve proudly as a Knight of Swenya, to uphold the Code that embodied everything that was good and noble about the Gersallian people. She was ready to die for that. Had always been.

But… she'd been breaking it, hadn't she? With her training of Lucy and now Robert, with her devotion to the idea that the Prophecy was coming true, and that even the rules she had cherished could be circumvented if it was necessary to support that greater achievement.

Meridina did not usually doubt. Doubt was anathema to a Knight of Swenya, to a wielder of swevyra. The energy of one's life only worked its will with the universe when unclouded by uncertainty and doubt. There could be no half-measures. You either did or you did not. Act or don't act.

But now doubt gnawed at her.

The darkness inside of her, the darkness left by Amaunet, grew colder, as if to remind her it was there. That she couldn't be certain anymore, not while it lingered.

Karesl noticed the look on her face and extended his hand to clasp her arm. "You have suffered much lately, daughter. It is well you are home. Come, now, let us go back inside. You need your rest." He stood and offered his hand to help her up. "And I would be wrong to press this upon you while you still recover from your experiences. Your recovery is more important."

Meridina murmured her agreement. She let her father guide her back into the family home.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-08 07:58am

Lucy and Kane were in the lead for the advance through the darkened, night-time forest. The animals of Beta Durani 4 seemed to pay them little mind, which was much to Lucy's pleasure. I am not the outdoors type, she thought to herself.

Kane was busy looking over the ground. "The tracks are picking up right about here, it looks like they started to run."

"And no wonder why." Barker stepped ahead of them and surveyed a tree to the side. A tree that, on closer inspection, had clear chunks of its trunk missing. "Looks like the Ratzis caught up to them," the gruff woman stated.

Lucy nodded and knelt down. She closed her eyes and remembered what Meridina had told her about sensing others through their mutual life forces. How she could feel for those who didn't have the connection to the universe she did. Here the Flow of Life was different than it would be around sentient beings. The animal and plant life gave it a darker tinge. Not the cold darkness of negative thoughts but the absence of conscious thought. The life around her was built on instinct and habit.

But she could feel the embers of consciousness in the Flow of Life around her. The remnants of thoughts that were once here, the echoes of those far away. She could just about sense immense frustration and irritation. The frustration of a hunter having to struggle to catch their prey.

That would be the bad guys, then. Lucy kept on, trying to feel out for any other sensations.

"Lieutenant?", Kane said, looking at her. "We can't just stand around."

"Shh," she insisted. Lucy drew in a breath and re-focused. She had to go further afield, further away, hoping that she'd feel something, that she'd…

There was a sense of anger at the edge of her perception. Anger and grief and regret. She could feel physical pain. She… felt worry about a situation. Frustration at being trapped. Aggravation at stubborness.

There you are, Lucy thought.

"They're still alive." Lucy stood up. "I can feel them."

"Sure? Because I've got nothing on sensors," Kane replied.

Lucy gave him a look. "Yeah, I'm sure," she said with some exasperation. "This way."

They moved on, following the tracks to the southwestern course of the nearby stream. The tracks remained constant, showing two people running and gunning, stopping to cover each other as they went.

"Local topography suggests underground caverns, sir." Corporal Ijala's voice had that strange pitch common to Alakins speaking English. "Perhaps they fled underground."

"Probably a good idea with bad guys in orbit," Kane noted. "Everyone's electronic stealth gear checking out?"

"That won't do us any good against orbital sensors using heat scans," Lucy noted. "We just have to hope that any heat scanning they do doesn't have enough resolution to show them us against the background of the forest."

Their path took them to a cavern opening. The light was too poor to see directly the indications the multidevice was giving off. "I'm definitely picking up disruptor damage to the area. It looks like they ducked in here."

Kane motioned to his Marines and went in first with Corporal Mendelssohn. Several moments later he called out "Clear!". Barker motioned to three others to take up defensive positions at the cavern opening while Lucy entered to join Kane.

They didn't far into the cavern before finding a wall of loose rock. "Looks like someone triggered a cave-in," Kane muttered. "My suit's scans still show no life signs."

Lucy nodded and went up to the wall of rock now blocking their path. She concentrated again, feeling around it, through it, to see if she could sense anything.

She quickly felt the sensations within. The same anger and frustration, guilt and shame, concern…

"It's them," she said to Kane. "I can feel them."

Kane nodded. "Maybe they're jamming their life signs from our sensors?"

"Maybe, it's possible with the right tools." Lucy brought up her arm and began operating her multidevice, trying to see if she could form a connection to Locarno's.

Locarno had almost nodded off when he heard the tone come from the area of his forearm. Hajar heard it too. For the first time in a while she looked back at him and away from whatever it was she was doing. "Someone's sending me a narrow-beam transmission." Locarno used his hand to accept the message.

Nick, are you there? The ID code was identified by his system as Lucy Lucero's.

"It could be a trick," Hajar pointed out.

"It could be, but I doubt it." Locarno activated his audio receiver and transmitter. "Locarno here. Hajar and I are alive, but we're stuck behind rubble."

After several moments the signal came through again. "We could tell. Have you tried exploring to see if there's another exit?"

"That's a little hard," Locarno answered, "on account of the fact that my legs are buried under a bunch of rocks. And I'm pretty sure both of them are broken."

"What about Ensign Hajar? Didn't you send her to look for a way out?"

At Lucy's question Locarno gave Hajar a sharp look. "I tried. But she has other ideas."

There was no immediate answer to that. "Ensign, are you listening?", Lucy finally asked.

"I am, ma'am," Hajar replied, finally looking up from what she was doing.

"I hope, I really hope, you had a good reason to defy a direct order from your superior officer," Lucy said, "because if I find out this is drama due to your background with him I'm going to personally report you for jeopardizing yourself and maybe others out of sheer pettiness."

Locarno winced at the heat in Lucy's voice.

"I was finishing some modifications to my multidevice scanner, ma'am," Hajar responded. "I've turned it into a sonar mapping device and I've been delicately pinging for the last ten minutes. " She gave Locarno an intent look. "If you go about four kilometers to the south of the cavern entrance I think you'll find some kind of opening."

That prompted further quiet on the other end. "Four kilometers?", Lucy repeated. "...that's some pretty good thinking, Ensign. Hold tight there, we'll be in touch."

The call ended after several moments. "Good thinking," Locarno said, looking at Hajar now. "So now we wait."

"They still have to fight their way to us," she reminded him. "I'm sure the Reich troops are after us too." Hajar set her device down. "She's worried about you, isn't she?"

Locarno nodded. "Lucy's been around since the beginning. I mean, with the crew that used to run that Darglan Facility. The people who recruited me."

Hajar nodded. "So basically… she's one of your replacements? For us?"

Locarno's expression turned stony. "No," he said frostily. "She's not."

"Ah." Hajar's voice betrayed evident skepticism.

"Nobody could replace the squad," Locarno insisted. "And I've never tried. What they gave me is something you're clearly not interested in." He only gave her a moment to look to him again before he continued. "They gave me a second chance."

"That's nice." Hajar glared at him. "And what about the rest of us? We didn't get second chances. We had to live under the cloud of what you did while you got your precious second chance."

"That's why I tried to get you to join us back then!", Locarno protested.

"So what, I was supposed to just walk out on everything?", Hajar retorted. "Walk out on Starfleet, on the Federation, on everyone I know and love? And become some renegade like you?"

"Then that's your choice, but I did what I could to give you one!" Locarno, more than anything, wanted to move and to get out of the trap he was stuck in. But the weight of the rock remained too great. "I can't undo what happened to Josh, Jean! I wish I could, but I can't! All I could do was try to do the right thing, for you and the others. I thought it'd be enough when I… when I confessed, when I got kicked out of the Academy. That the punishment they ordered for the rest of you would be enough and you could move on with your careers. I'm sorry it didn't turn out that way."

As he spoke, Locarno felt the defenses he'd built up within himself, the walls that kept in his feelings about what he'd done, begin to just crumble away like nothing. He had done everything he could to move on from Nova Squad, from Josh Albert's death, but in the end… it was still something he couldn't walk away from. He had caused Josh's death. And no amount of excuses, no matter how true, could diminish that fact.

"You, Josh, Jaxa and Wes… you were the best," Locarno said through the tears forming in his eyes. "I admired every one of you for what you were and could be. I… I was flattered that people like you were so loyal to me. That you cared about what I had to say." He swallowed. "That… you saw me as your leader. All I wanted was to show the world, all of Starfleet, how great we were as a team."

Hajar nearly spoke. But at the words died in her throat. She had opted to wait and see what else he had to say.

"The Kalvoord Starburst seemed like just the thing," Locarno continued. "It just made so much sense at the time. That we could do it, and make it work, and it would show everyone that there was nothing Nova Squad couldn't do." He shook his head. The dust from all of the pulverized rock around him became small clouds in his blurred vision. "But I was stupid! I was arrogant! I had to prove I was good enough to lead and do anything! So I pushed you all into it! And I got Josh killed! And… and if I could find anyway to undo that, any way at all, I would. But I can't bring him back, and I can't bring Jaxa back, and I can't give you and Wes your lives back. All I could do was this… to join the others and make up for what I did to you, and to give you the chance to join me if you wanted." His voice grew hoarse from exhaustion. "I… I don't know what else I can do. How I can even begin to make it up to you..."

At that point Locarno stopped. He felt tired and alone. He'd done everything he could with Hajar, to show her that he wasn't the brash and arrogant fool he'd been as a cadet. That he had learned from his mistake.

Even now he had to admit he'd been wrong. He had asked Robert to let him take this trip to prove he could work with Jean Hajar as an officer. But he knew that hadn't been true. He'd wanted to show her that they could be friends again. To find some way for that to happen. Because if they could be friends again…

….if they could, it would let him move on.

Hajar remained eerily silent. It seemed like an eternity in the making. All of that, and she still wouldn't say anything?

Locarno, through the dust and tears, finally noticed the tears flowing down Hajar's face too. "Dammit, Nick," she muttered. "It would have been so much easier if you were the same arrogant idiot from the Academy."

He looked at her, confusion on his expression.

Hajar sighed and sat down next to him. "The truth is… we're not going back to that. Not right now." Hajar shook her head. "I can't. I just can't. All of my dreams went up in flames when we tried that Kalvoord Starburst." After she was answered by silence, Hajar continued. "Maybe you deserve a second chance from me. But I can't give it." She shook her head for emphasis on that point. "Not right now. Not when it feels like you were the one to get all the breaks."

As answers went, it wasn't satisfying. But Locarno didn't feel himself in a position to question it. He had another question on his mind. "So the answer to this entire trip is… no. We can't work together."

"There is far too much in the past," Hajar said. "I'm not ready to move on. Not while I'm trying to get my life back." She looked over at him. "If we survive this, I'm going to request a transfer. It might not look very good on my record, but it's the only way forward for me."

"I'll talk to Captain Dale and the others," Locarno answered. He couldn't keep the disappointment he felt out of his voice. "If we survive."

"Pretty long odds of that, it looks like," Hajar said.

"If you get the chance, though, leave me behind," Locarno insisted. "Please."

Hajar looked back to him with an uncertain look in her eyes. Her round face, now smeared with dirt mixed in with sweat, was dim with the light of their camp behind her. But he thought he could see something of a glint in her eyes. "Alright," she finally answered. "I'll go."

The only answer he could muster was a nod.

Lucy and Kane had left the blocked cavern behind, leading the Marines in the direction indicated by Hajar's work and waiting to see if they would encounter Reich forces.

They were not disappointed.

Here the forest was starting to give way to rockier surroundings. eons of erosion and similar forces had had pulled away the soil. The terrain was marked by higher and more pronounced hills and rises. Along one of those rises the various sensors the group was using were showing life readings.

Approaching from the northeast, the group followed the sloping hills up. Lucy already felt the presence of their foes through her life force. While much of the area was covered in darkness that was no guarantee they could get by undetected, not with the many forms of sensors and image enhancement that even field troops could employ. "Status on your cloaks?", Lucy asked.

"Getting pretty low on power," Kane noted. "If you were thinking of us just cloaking entirely and slipping through, we'd only have a minute or two before the power's out."

"So no sneaking in. Figures." Lucy drew in a breath and focused her thoughts to see if she could consider a solution. "Ijala, can you get a shot from around here?"

"There are no good perches, Lieutenant," replied the sniper in his usual chirping voice.

"Our best bet is come in on a main approach and open up as we get in range," Kane answered. "They're looking for ways to get at our people, they may not be expecting us."

Lucy considered that. She wasn't a big fan of the direct approach, not in this situation, but Kane was the ground commander, she was the tech help plus metaphysical backup. She nodded. "Go ahead then."

Kane nodded at her and looked back to his people. He began issuing commands, splitting them up into fire teams and giving them directions to approach from. She concentrated on other things. The growing sense of unease she felt, like something was off. Something wrong.

She realized what it was just in time to save Kane's life.

He had moved out of the cover of one of the last trees, ready to creep further up the slope. Lucy dived and tackled him to the ground. Not a moment later green energy lanced by the spot he'd been moving through.

The others opened up with fire. Not at an enemy on the ground, but above, where the rough saucer shape of a Nazi assault craft was now hovering overhead. Red energy flared around it; the craft's shield was stopping the Marine fire. A barrage of rockets flared through the night sky and met the shield. Again and again it flared red, and it did not fall.

"Looks like our friend came back", Lucy muttered. She helped Kane get back up and get back into some semblance of cover. Overhead the whine of an anti-gravity field told them the attack craft was still in position. "These things have energy shields?"

"Not according to the battle reports I've read." Kane frowned. "They must be getting tired of our boys shooting them down." He looked further away, toward the bottom of the slope where the team was finding cover. "Ijala, can you take a shot?", he asked.

There was no answer.

"They're jamming communications," Lucy said. "There must be a lot of power if they're blanketing even short-range comms."

"Shields, jammers, I'd hate to see what else this thing can do." Another emerald beam lanced the ground nearby. A second fired off further away, driving two of Kane's people back into cover.

"We have to find a way around that thing."

"There's no way around that thing, Lieutenant," Kane pointed out. He tried to peek around their cover and barely got his head back in time for an emerald beam to sizzle through the air where he had been.

"If we don't catch up, they'll kill Nick." Lucy started looking around their surroundings. The assault craft was in just the right spot, hovering nearby and forcing them to stay in cover without giving them much chance to fire at it. Even in the night it couldn't be missed, giving it a literal otherworldly look with the white glow from the craft's undercarriage and networked anti-gravity drives.

"If you get far enough way, you should be able to call the Bastilone in", Kane proposed. "A runabout should make short work of one of those things."

"'It'd take time to get into position. And if they fly a little too fast, the enemy fleet sees them." Lucy shook her head. "And that's if they didn't see them when they decloaked to fire."

"Well, I'm open to suggestions." Kane looked back to his tactical display on his HUD. There were more signatures moving in. Enemy troops, he suspected, to flush them out for the saucer to kill. "Because we've got more Ratzis coming in to flush us out."

Lucy bit into her lip for a moment as she thought about the situation. She looked back to the assault craft hovering above them. To generate a shield that powerful required a lot of energy. Could such a craft be capable of that on all sides?

Not likely. Not if they wanted to make it affordable, she decided. And if it was too expensive, it wouldn't be as numerous and therefore not as useful, since actual fighter craft could make short work of it.

"Give me what cover you can," Lucy said to Kane. "I'm going to try something." She leaned over away from him and put herself into a starting position to begin running.

As expected, Kane looked at Lucy as if she was nuts, although it wasn't a disapproving look. He tapped something on his arm and a rocket launcher swiveled up on his armor suit.

Once she was ready, Lucy began to run. She focused on her power, on the energy she felt within her and around everything else, and willed her legs to carry her forward faster and faster. Her running soon hit speeds normal Humans would never manage.

Behind her disruptor fire stitched up the ground. Rockets glared into the night sky again as Kane, and now his Marines, laid down the cover fire she requested. Rockets lit up the air and exploded against the craft's shield.

Lucy ran-on, rushing toward the slope and then up it. She ran up it, surprised with herself at how well she was keeping this up.

But the truly tricky part came next. Lucy backed away from the edge of the rockface and pulled her lakesh from the place on her belt. Here goes nothing.

Backing up an appreciable distance, Lucy took off running again and straight for the edge. At the last moment she jumped off with her feet, still focusing her power into her body's muscles to go faster and now jump farther. Her arms wheeled to either side in the open air as the distant ground, and the enemy saucer, rushed up toward her.

If Lucy missed, the landing would be painful and the enemy craft would get a clear shot at her. If she was wrong about the shields, she'd slam into a concentrated energy field and end up dead, burnt, or getting battered by the reactive force of impacting the field with the kinetic energy of her fall.

The craft loomed closer, and closer, and closer…

Lucy managed a landing just inside what looked to be the protective rail for the operation space. Coming out of the night sky above, compared to the clashing colors of energy fire from below, the enemy gunners hadn't been in place to notice her descent until she'd landed. She sensed their surprise, and more than that, the immediate intention to go for their weapons. Her finger hit the switch on her lakesh hilt. A sharp metallic sound sounded out and the memory metal surged from its reservoir in the hilt, forming a deadly blade that faintly glowed with blue light.

Lucy slashed the nearest Nazi trooper with her weapon. The blade found the side of his neck and cut through flesh and bone, nearly decapitating him. The enemy beside him pulled out his disruptor pistol, but Lucy caught him with a kick to the hand that knocked it free before driving the blade into his heart.

The third and fourth men recoiled, the fourth nevertheless having gotten his sidearm out. The emerald beam lashed out for Lucy the moment she got her blade back into position. It deflected from the blade, protected by that EM field, and the beam struck the third man in the chest. The man disappeared in a wave of green energy, utterly vaporized.

Lucy freed one hand and thrust it toward the last remaining soldier before he could fire again. He flew off of the saucer, crying out in surprise and fear as he fell to the rocky ground below.

Lucy looked around her. The controls showed a fairly decent display of both Kane's Marines and the Nazi troops moving to encircle them. She reached for what looked like the firing controls. Reading German was definitely not her strong suit and it took her an extra moment to realize how the firing and piloting controls worked.

Once she did, however, the battle changed immediately. It took only a couple moments to set up the craft's auto-hover control, allowing her to focus on the firing console. Under Lucy's control the powerful emerald beams again flared out. But this time it was the Nazi troopers forced to flee for cover as their own weapon was turned against them.

After firing a few times Lucy quickly checked another console. Even with the German language controls, she could guess it was their tactical jamming gear given the clear frequency markings on the controls. She quickly shut down jamming on their command frequency. "Lucero here, I've got control."

"Good job Lieutenant," Kane said. "I'm relaying firing data to you now. Keep the targets in that area suppressed while we handle the rest."

"I'm on it," Lucy answered.

From her vantage point on the saucer-like assault craft Lucy watched the battle unfold. Kane maneuvered the dozen Marines with him with the skill she expected from him, isolating and defeating the enemy bit by bit while she provided cover fire to keep them isolated.

As soon as the fight was over Lucy went over to the piloting controls again and flew the craft to the ground on the upper slope. It landed in a cloud of dust. Kane walked up to her. "You did it again," he said.

"You helped," Lucy answered. "As soon as their commanders realize what happened that saucer's a flying target."

"I hear you on that," said Kane. "Let's get to Locarno and Hajar. I want to set up a secure position just in case we get any more visitors before extraction."

Lucy promptly brought up her multi-device and called up the relevant data. "This way."

It was Gamaya who came to check on Meridina after dawn. The short-haired, spry young scientist-in-the-making set off her sister's doorbell repeatedly until, with great care, she opened the door. Her sister's main living area was as sparse as ever. Meridina was sitting on the bed, staring out a window. "Meri? Meri, it's time for morning meal." When Gamaya didn't get a reaction she walked up beside Meridina.

She was surprised to see the tears of frustration on Meridina's cheeks. "Meri?"

"I doubt," Meridina whispered.

Gamaya blinked. "What do you doubt?"

"Everything," was the low answer. "What if I have been wrong? What if…" She looked to Gamaya directly. "What if everything I have worked for was the wrong thing?"

It wasn't hard to see how twisted up Meridina's feelings had become. Gamaya did not have her parents' gifts, but she knew her sister and that was what mattered. "Well, sometimes we make mistakes," Gamaya said. "Scientists do it all of the time. It's how they make new discoveries. I mean… that's how it sometimes happens."

Meridina considered that. "Then I would be obligated to change what I have done."

"Sometimes. But sometimes it's just a mistake in methodology, not idea," Gamaya answered. "And sometimes it's just how you're looking at the answer. That's how it is for science, anyway. For you… this doubt's a bad thing, right?"

"Doubt is deadly to us, yes," Meridina answered.

"Why are you doubting?"

Meridina pondered the answer. "There are… multiple reasons."

"Because of what happened to you?" Gamaya put a sympathetic hand on her sister's arm. "Because of that alien taking over your body?"

"I believe that is part of it. But to come home and find the Dissenters vandalizing statues and causing violence. And over something I support. It makes me believe I may have helped ruin three thousand years of peace on our planet."

"That's because they've let themselves be scared into fearing the Alliance." Gamaya frowned. "They can't find balance with the Alliance, so they're lashing out."

"Perhaps." Meridina shook her head. "But perhaps I have lost my balance too. I want the Alliance to be something great. So much that I may be losing sight of what is going on. Our people are being disrupted by what has happened. How can I continue on the path I've chosen, knowing it may be tearing our people apart?"

Gamaya frowned. "I know Father sees the Dissenters' violence as another sign why we shouldn't be in the Alliance. But I think he's wrong. The Alliance is worth this. It's a chance for our people to become part of something great. We can't just step away from that." Gamaya smiled at her sister, a soft smile meant to build confidence. "I don't think you're wrong for wanting our people to remain in the Alliance, Meridina, and I'm proud that you're trying to keep us together in your own way. Whatever happened to you, whatever this darkness is... please don't let it make you doubt that. You're helping to bring us to a new and better future."

The two sisters looked at each other for a quiet moment. They had grown up together, they knew each other quite well, and they didn't need to speak to communicate on the subtle things. Meridina could see Gamaya's honesty, her passion for the future she saw before her, just as Gamaya saw Meridina's desire to overcome the doubt and darkness clawing within her.

Seeing Gami like this made Meridina feel ashamed of that doubt. She knew she was letting the darkness left by Amaunet cloud her judgement with fear.

I have so much to fear, she thought quietly. But fear was the enemy. It created doubt. It caused anger. It fueled the rage of the Dissenters. Fear of the future could cloud all vision, all wisdom, that could make the future better.

She had to overcome this. Meridina simply couldn't live with this doubt gnawing at her.

As her own expression settled into a look of quiet determination, Gamaya's mouth spread into a smile. She put her hands together. "Now… we should go get our meal. Mother will be upset if you let your food get cold."

Meridina smiled thinly at that. She was still considering her sister's words in her mind, in her heart and being, as she stood up. With a nod she said, "Let us not disappoint Mother, then. I will follow you."

They departed from the room.

It took the better part of two hours for the group to get to the cave-in area. They found Hajar half-asleep from exhaustion and Locarno mostly unconscious. "Corpsman," barked Kane.

One of his team moved forward. The tan-skinned young man, Corpsman Sandoval, ran a medical scanner over Locarno. "Both legs have multiple fractures," he reported to Kane and Lucy. "I'm also reading internal damage, although no active internal bleeding. We'll have to be careful moving him around."

"Digging him out will be hard," Lucy noted, looking over the fallen rocks that were pinning him. "If we shift the weight and structure of this rockslide, it could cause another." She looked to Kane. "I'll do my best to hold the rock up while you dig him out."

"That's all I can ask, Lieutenant. Corpsman, see to Ensign Hajar while we get this done."

"Yes sir."

What followed was one of the most grueling uses of her power Lucy had yet to endure. The rock was indeed loose, and more wanted to pour in even as the Marines, with their armor-enhanced strength, pulled the rest of the rock out. Every iota of will she had went into keeping the loose rock above Locarno from filling in the space that was, centimeter-by-centimeter, freeing him. She felt dizzy and weak as the ordeal went on.

"Almost… almost… I've got him!" Kane pulled Locarno free. The helmsman cried out from the shock of pain that came from the jostling of his broken legs. "Get clear!"

They did so, and not a moment too soon for Lucy. She let go with a groan of relief. Rumbling filled the cavern as loose rock poured into the gap created by the Marines and the removal of Locarno. Dust kicked up in clouds around the impact sight that lingered even after the rumbling ceased.

Lucy toppled to her hands and knees. Her head ached and her vision was growing blurry. "Lieutenant?", Kane asked, concern carefully laced into his tone.

"Just a moment," she muttered. "That took a lot out of me. I've never had to hold that much mass for so long."

"Right. Take a rest and hydrate." Kane looked next to Corpsman Sandoval. "Corpsman?"

"I'll have splints ready shortly, sir," the Spaniard replied. He reached into his medkit and pulled out a hypospray, which he applied to Locarno. "This will help you with the pain."

"Thanks," was the mumbled reply.

Hajar knelt down beside Lucy. "Are you alright?", she asked.

"I will be as soon as the world stops spinning," came the hoarse answer.

Hajar nodded. And after a moment of clear consideration she said, "Thank you, Lieutenant. Thank you for helping to get Nick out."

"Part of the job," Lucy mumbled.

"I know." Hajar shook her head. "But I wanted to thank you anyway."

Lucy replied with a quiet nod. Which made the room spin just a little more, so she stopped.

Dawn had just passed, sending the early rays of the day into the cavern opening when the team returned. Two Marines were carrying Locarno on a litter. Another was staying close to Lucy as she wobbled her way with them.

Kane signaled with his hands for everyone to stay put for the moment, just as they entered the daylight and could see outside. With everyone ready to take cover he and another Marine moved ahead to the furthest extent of the opening.

They took cover just in time, as emerald beams flashed through the air around them.

"Surrender!", a voice called out.

"That sounds like a really stupid thing to do," Lucy mumbled from her place behind cover.

"Agreed." Kane looked at his scanning system. "Looks like they pulled out the stops. At least a company out there, and they've got three of those attack craft with them. And a squad of Panzergrenadiers."

"So our other choice is hold out until someone comes?", asked Hajar. "I mean, don't you have a ship?"

"The Bastilone would have to decloak to beam us up and they'd spot that immediately."

"And you don't look like you're up for any more heroics," Kane said to Lucy.

She returned a weak smile. "I'm not that strong, not yet."

Kane nodded. "If we don't surrender, they'll probably toss grenades in. We can retreat back into the cave and hope someone comes along to pick us up, but…"

Before Kane could finish, everyone became aware of a growing roar in the air. The enemy troops did so as well. And all could see the shape burning in, outlined against the the dawn light.

The craft was much larger than any shuttle or runabout, yet smaller than an attack ship. Kane thought it looked like a planetary assault landing craft by size, and said so.

It flew too high for the Nazi troops to fire at, moving in at just enough of an angle for them to see a glimpse of the large engine assembly in the back, burning orange flame into the atmosphere. Similar jets appeared at the bottom, hovering engines being brought to bear to stabilize the ship in mid-air. It turned to present its side fully.

Four figures jumped from the open bay doors along the side. They were clearly too large to be human-sized fighters, given the size of the ship in relation to their clear profiles. The tremendous clouds of dust kicked up by their thunderous landings made that more evident.

The lead machine was not even human-shaped, with legs slanted forward with chicken-like reverse joints for knees. It was painted in general green camo style with the exception of a rattlesnake insignia on the feet of the machine. An arm ending with a muzzle came up and fired an azure beam that streaked through the air, a solid beam of energy around which lightning crackled like a helix.

The beam speared one of the assault craft. Its shields flickered red for the barest moment, just long enough to be visible, before they gave out. The saucer-shaped hovering craft exploded violently. Debris showered down upon the troops it had been supporting.

A second figure in the same color scheme, slightly smaller and with humanoid legs, swung up its high-shouldered arms, each ending with two muzzles aligned vertically. Golden flame erupted repeatedly from these weapons. Tracer fire showed the onslaught of shells that connected with another of the assault saucers. Again the red light of its shields briefly played over its surface, resisting the fire of the automatic cannons briefly before the shells ripped the saucer to shreds.

The third and last of the saucers died a moment later. There was no visual indication of what had struck it, simply a thunderous impact of an unseen kinetic shell that slammed through its shields like they weren't even there. The Nazi assault craft broke apart like an egg smashed by a hammer.

Crackling came over their tactical comm link. "Corporal?" Kane looked to Corporal Haleigh Stone, his command squad radiowoman.

"They're patching into our tactical comm channels, sir," replied Stone. She was the tallest and arguably strongest in the unit, courtesy of the genetic engineering done to make her home planet of Littlefield survivable with its high-G environment.

A moment later a male voice began to speak with a vaguely American accent. "This is Leftenant Garrett Petersen, 3rd Davion Guards, to Aurora rescue mission. Do you copy?"

"Commander Kane, Aurora Commander of Troops, I read you, Leftenant."

There was an explosion outside. A laser from one of the new arrivals had annihilated one of the Panzergrenadiers with a shot that blew up its internal power core.

"We're under orders to enable your extraction, sir. It looks like we were just in time."

Kane nodded and grinned at his Marines. "That you are, Leftenant. We'll hit them from behind now that you've got their attention."

The offer of help made sense, and its usefulness was highlighted by one of Petersen's machines nearly losing an arm to concentrated disruptor fire from the remaining Panzergrenadiers. "Much obliged, Commander, much obliged."

"Alright Marines!" Kane lifted his particle rifle into his arms. "Let's go make an impression on our new friends from the Inner Sphere. Ooh rah!"

"OOH RAH!", his squad roared in agreement.

Kane led them out of the cave. He quickly identified one of the enemy PGs, still focused on the Davion 'Mechs, and gave him a full blast to the back that took the foe out. Lieutenant Barker brought an arm up and fired a missile into a fireteam of Nazi troopers setting up a heavy weapon. It exploded from the impact and sent the feldgrau-wearing foes around it flying.

The attack by the Marines, and the shock of the attack from Petersen's platoon - or lance, as he would call it - took the fight out of the foe quickly. The expectation of overwhelming victory turned into imminent defeat was more than enough to finish shattering their morale. Some fled away, toward the forest, and a handful of survivors soon threw their weapons down and surrendered.

Once the chaos was over, Kane looked up at the towering machines that had come to the rescue. "Nice to see the walking tanks are everything they were talked up to be," he heard Barker mutter.

"Leftenant, is your ship still alright? There's still that enemy fleet in orbit."

There was a short chuckle on the other end. "Oh, they won't be a problem for long, Commander."

The orbital space around Beta Durani 4 was filled with the tailfires of missiles and a number of energy beams of varying composition and color. A Reich Sedan-class cruiser added to the pyrotechnic display by exploding from within after repeated hits found its fuel bunkerage.

The Starship Aurora turned away from its dead foe and directed its attention towards the largest enemy. The Nazi battlecruiser, of a newer class than the Lutzows they'd seen before, retorted to their fire with its super-disruptor emitters facing them.

"Shields down to sixty percent." Jarod looked over his screens. "It looks like this new design has upgraded cannons, among other things."

Robert nodded. "Ensign Arterria, bring us in on an attack run."

"The Carmichel is going after them too," Julia said from her chair.

"Locking on…" Angel looked over her board. "Firing!"

The Aurora's forward cannons blazed to life again, pouring thick bolts of sapphire energy over the enemy battlecruiser. Its shields flickered red under the onslaught, doing so as well when the amber of the Aurora's phaser cannons and arrays began to strike at it.

From another angle, the Carmichel raced in. The Scorpio-class attack cruiser was another of the new Alliance-wide designs built to fight in the war. It eschewed some of the mission flexibility of the Aurora to pack tremendous firepower into its 400 meter-long, 120 meter-wide frame. The slight wedge shape was from FedStar design practices for ships of its type, allowing it to bring its batteries of cannons to maximum on single, larger targets. Sapphire bursts came from its batteries of pulse plasma cannons like on the Aurora.

Both ships added solar torpedoes to their attacks. The enemy ship's shields buckled and strained under the onslaught. But they had not yet broken.

"The Nazi light warships are heading toward the Commonwealth carrier ships." Caterina's voice had the usual nervous squeakiness she got when they were in a fight. "They're still deploying."

Julia gave him a concerned look. "They only have jury-rigged shields on those DropShips, if they get hit by torpedoes…"

"Get Laurent's people to…"

"There's a ship decloaking," Cat said, cutting in. "It's the Koenig."

"Re-direct Laurent to the battlecruiser," Robert ordered. He grinned. "Zack's got them covered."

The Koenig shimmered into view "above" the group of dagger-shaped enemy ships rushing toward the deploying Commonwealth DropShips. "Target lock," April said from tactical.

Zack kept a confident pose in his chair. "Fire at will, April. Keep them off our allies."

He watched on the viewscreen as the Koenig's forward cannons opened up. Pulses of deadly amber energy slammed into one of the Nazi destroyers along the rear, where its internal warp drive assembly was located. A ferocious white fireball nearly engulfed the enemy ship from the direct hit, sending it spiraling off.

The next shots from April were slightly off. "They're evading," April said.


"On it," Apley replied from his place at the helm.

The Koenig twisted along one path and soon April's fire was again hammering the enemy torpedo destroyer. A final solar torpedo blew the vessel in half, leaving just one.

The Koenig turned to pursue that ship, and in the process opened the path for the Commonwealth ships to continue their descent into orbit.

On the Aurora bridge, Robert and the others watched the enemy battlecruiser suffer several more hits. Their shields were still holding, as were Carmichel's, and now the Mongoose fighters on the Aurora were adding to the ship's difficulties with repeated torpedo and missile strafing runs. Aerospace fighters launching from the Commonwealth carrier DropShips added to the damage, slinging upgraded warheads retrofitted for their fighters' missile launchers into the enemy's shields and, increasingly, their hull.

"I'm picking up a power surge," Caterina said. "It looks like they're…"

In a flash of light the burning enemy battlecruiser elongated briefly and disappeared.

"...going to warp," she finished.

Julia nodded while observing the tactical display. One by one the remaining icons for enemy ships were disappearing. "They're retreating."

Robert smiled at that and leaned forward in his seat. "Let them. We need to attend to the enemy planetside now. Jarod, any word from the Foxfire?"

"They're sending us regular tactical updates," Jarod answered. "The second wave of ships are burning into atmosphere now."

"Did they say anything about our rescue team?", Julia asked.

"Nothing yet." Jarod noticed a light on his panel begin blinking. "We're getting a hail." Clear relief entered his voice when he added, "It's from the Bastilone. It's Commander Kane."

Robert sighed with relief. "Put them on."

The viewscreen shifted to show Lucy and Kane in the cockpit of the assault lander runabout. "We found them, Aurora," Kane announced. "Locarno's busted up a bit, broken legs from a cave-in. But he'll live."

"We'll have sickbay standing by for your casualties, Commander," Robert said. "Thanks for getting to our people."

"We have you to thank for getting the reinforcements here," Lucy answered. "They saved our bacon." Her hands moved over the controls. "We're lifting off now to return to the ship."

"Good. Don't take your time either, we still have to escort the Marik contingent to Eta Durani 2 to stop the enemy offensive there."

Lucy nodded. "We'll be with you in a couple of minutes."

Julia, meanwhile, was already at work. "All fighters are coming back in, no losses," she announced happily. "And our other shuttle crews are preparing to beam back aboard. Unfortunately it looks like our other shuttles got shot up on the ground, none of them are flight-capable."

"Relay their coordinates to the shuttle bay transporters, then."

"Doing so now." Julia noticed another bit of data coming up. "And the Koenig is preparing to dock."

Robert nodded. "Signal the convoy to get back into formation. We'll warp out as soon as the Brasidas and her battle group get here. Ensign Arterria, set a course for Eta Durani, Warp 6."

"Laying in course and speed," the young woman answered. "ETA is ten hours."

"So much for this surprise Nazi offensive, huh?", Julia asked.

"They probably thought they could get away with it given the Klingon withdrawal." Robert shared a knowing grin with Julia. "The arrival of our new allies should make them have second thoughts about trying it again." He sighed and looked back to the viewscreen, showing the planet spinning below them as several more Commonwealth DropShips lowered into the atmosphere. "I'm just glad we didn't lose anyone."

"We got lucky, I guess." Julia's look turned sad. "We've lost enough of our people in this war."

"Maybe turning them back here will change the tempo of the war." Robert nodded to the screen and the ships still flaring against the atmosphere of Beta Durani 4. "And it'll bring the war to an end soon."

"All we can do is hope."

Robert found he had nothing to add to that statement.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-08 04:04pm

After writing and filing her debriefing report, Hajar went to the medbay and was directed to the bed where Locarno was kept. A skeletal regenerator assembly was over his legs. Leo stood over him. "I don't want to see you on your feet for the next few days," he was saying. "It'll take time for the fractures to finish healing."

"Sure," Locarno said. "I think I could use a few days off doing… nothing, I guess? Just complete and absolute boredom."

Leo gave him a sardonic look. "Don't make me sic Julia on you."

Locarno chuckled in reply. "Don't worry, you won't have to."

Leo let out a short laugh and walked off.

Locarno turned his head to face Hajar. "Hey," he said.

"Hey," was her response.

"So, we made it out alive, huh."

She nodded.

There was more uncomfortable silence between the two. They had already said everything there was to say, after all. Their feelings were known.

"Thank you," Hajar finally said, to break the silence if anything. "For keeping me from getting hit by those rocks."

"You're welcome." Locarno swallowed. "I can make arrangements for you."

"I know. But I'm not worried." Hajar shook her head. "For now, I'm just going to wait and see what comes up."

"Yeah." And like that, there was nothing more to be said. Hajar left.

The hover-vehicle ride to the Temple was an hour long, and Meridina used that time to continue meditating and considering herself. To consider everything.

The surroundings did not escape her notice, of course. The gentle climb up toward the mountains overlooking the capital, with the arcologies and non-residential towers marking the heart of the Gersallian civilization slowly giving way to lush forest and gentle creeks flowing away from the Lutanyan River and its gorgeous, azure sheen. She could sense the animal life in that area, intermixed with those enjoying the forests or training within its boundaries.

The forest gave way to the blocks of dormitories in which the members of the Order, and their providers, lived and ate together. These old structures had been built and rebuilt with the latest technology while keeping their circular architectures and gentle shapes. The remnants of the road that once connected the Great Temple to the capital could still be seen exiting the forest.

The driver set the craft down in the vehicle park for the Temple. Meridina intentionally left Alliance credits in her seat, knowing that the driver would not accept pay directly, and started walking toward the main building.

Around her, heads turned among the sensitive. They could feel her anguish and pain, still so prominent in her heart. And... yes, they could sense that little piece of darkness Amaunet had left in her. She kept her head bowed and tried to force the shame out as she entered the main building.

The red-robed defenders of the Temple gave her closer, scrutinizing looks as she walked into the great Council Chambers. She took it as a sign of trust that they did not stop her as they might have stopped another who felt like she did.

The Chambers were the largest structure on the Temple Grounds. They had been built for the public deliberations of the Order Council and for the ceremonies of the Order, such as the recognition of new Mastrashes or new members of the Council.

A chill went through Meridina's spine as she considered those public deliberations and ceremonies. They included trials for corruption or major violation of the Code. The sort of corruption she had now experienced… and the violation she was arguably performing by training Robert and Lucy as extensively as she was.

She walked beyond the vacant table, the ranks of vacant seating, and toward the relics. A great portrait depicted Swenya, dark-hair flowing out with a lakesh shining with symbolic light extended and held up. Below the portrait were three glass cases. One held Swenya's sandals, one her battle-torn blue robe, and the third, her ancient lakesh, with the rounded hilt different than any lakesh known to their histories.

The relics made Meridina consider Swenya, the Great Foundress. The woman who arisen from the obscurity of the provinces with her mentor and teacher, Reshan, and brought stability and peace to Gersal. She had defeated the Trumav Brotherhood, restored peace with Gersal's outlying colonies, and joined the other swevyra-using organizations into the Order that Meridina stood in today.

It seemed odd that so little was known about her, even if she had started out in the poorest provinces of the Jaldiran Continent. Her parentage was unknown. The only record of her birth was a printed record in the village of Trubin, stating the day and time of birth but not the mother's name - it had been established solely by the eyewitness testimony of a town elder's son, who didn't recall the parents. Even less was known of Reshan - claims he was from the colonies, disputes over the role he played in Swenya's life. The Brotherhood of Kohbal had caused so much devastation after Swenya's death that even these few surviving things were precious and rare.

For a moment Meridina set her eyes on the lakesh. The rounded hilt was so different from the one belted to her waist. She wondered why the roundish hilt had been preferred.

There was another presence in the room. Meridina turned and faced Mastrash Ledosh, her mentor and teacher, now standing by the Council table. He looked at her with caring brown eyes full of sadness. "I have worried," he admitted. "The reports of the darkness now within you, of what was done to you."

"Amaunet seized my being," Meridina said. "I could not stop her from taking control."

"A dreadful thing." Ledosh shook his head. "Have you spent time with the healers?"

"I… have considered it, yes," Meridina admitted. "But I fear they will prejudge me. Or that it will further complicate their perceptions of the Alliance."

"I see.” Ledosh finished walking up to her. "But this is serious, my student. This Goa'uld parasite has left you tainted by darkness.And that will excite the members of the Order."

"Can the healers purge me of this darkness?"

"They may be able to. It will not be easy on you." Ledosh shook his head. "And it may require you to renounce your commission and leave the Aurora."

She gave him a sharp look. Refusal was evident in her features. Leave the Aurora...?!

Indeed, her reaction surprised her, as it seemed that her doubt simply melted against the intensity of the thought. It was instinctive, immediate, flowing from within the deepest core of her person. No. She could not leave the Aurora. Her work there was too important.

Ledosh felt it too, but he also felt the obligation to give his student good counsel. "Meridina, please. It may be for the best." Concern showed on the older man's face. "Your father has already sensed the darkness lingering within you. It will be expected of you to be treated for it. You must cleanse yourself before you resume any duties."

Meridina shook her head. "I cannot. Not with the responsibility on my shoulders. I still have work to do."

"Even with the doubt?", Ledosh asked. "I can sense it in you, my student. You now fear your own power and will. You fear what you might become if your control slips. You fear your own feelings."

Her reply was a nod. "Yes," Meridina admitted. "I do. I fear those things. And I fear we may be causing pain for our people. But I also have faith that they will confront their fears and overcome them. As for myself... there will always be fear to overcome for those of us following Swenya's path. You taught me this, Mastrash, and you are a great teacher. I will not disappoint your teachings."

Ledosh remained silent for the moment. He had been fairly certain she would react that way. And, searching his own feelings, he felt his own fear. His fear for her well-being and for her future. "If things go wrong, Meridina, I cannot protect you."

"I do not wish it."

"Goras will pursue you with vigor. While the darkness lingers within you, it is a vulnerability he will aim for to destroy all we have worked for."

"I will be careful," Meridina insisted. "But I believe you and the others are right. They are the Bearers of the Dawn. And I must help them until their destiny is fulfilled."

Ledosh kept a level look on his former student. "I see. You are attempting to remain strong despite your doubt. Be careful, please."

Meridina nodded slightly. "I will, Mastrash. Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

"Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

Meridina walked back out to the hovercar that would take her back home.

She may have sensed them, the ones watching her, but if she did she didn't show it. From a windowed chamber three floors up in the Great Temple, Karesl watched his daughter departing alongside Goras.

Goras momentarily scratched at his full gray beard. He had shaved his head down recently, giving him more hair on his chin than on his head. Dark brown eyes focused on Meridina as she stepped into the craft. "I sense it in her. How unlike her," he noted. "Doubt. Darkness."

"My daughter has suffered much."

"Register that upon Ledosh's account." Goras stepped away from the window. "A great many things will be laid upon his head in coming days."

Karesl looked to his ally. "You believe the Dissenters will act more openly?"

Goras folded his hands before him, causing his purple robes to shift slightly. "Ones such as they always do. The Order cannot keep our people balanced if it is also unbalanced."

"There are still a few key votes. Mastrash Satrin, for instance, may yet be convinced of our approach."

Goras shook his head. "Satrin is too much of a xenophile. We must turn Rekisin, Quliran, and Lariskia first. Then they might bring her around." Goras gave Karesl a careful look. "Of course, if Ledosh is defeated, Meridina may suffer the greatest. She is the one of his faction who openly acted on his behalf."

"My daughter is devoted to the Code, wholly," Karesl said. "If the Council orders her to return home, she will do so. She would never invite ejection."

"Let us hope, for her sake, that you are correct." Goras took a seat. "If she fails to have the healers tend to her soul, she may yet fall to the darkness. And nothing will drive her further than to see her work undone by Ledosh's fall."

Karesl kept his expression level at that remark. A flutter of worry went through him. Ledosh had turned his daughter into a devotee of the greatest order. Might she resist even then?

Might he be forced to throw his daughter from the Order that had been her entire world?

"Let us hope, indeed," Karesl forced himself to say. "I will go see to the creche trials now. You know where to reach me."

"I do. Mi rake sa sweyvra iso, Karesl."

"Mi rake sa swevyra iso, Goras."

Karesl left the room. Goras watched him go and felt his essence grow further away.

A tone came over his personal computation system. He reached over and hit a key with the "Comm" marker on it in High Gersallian. A young woman appeared, her skin reflecting the sunlight off her shaved head. She had the robes of an apprentice. One of his. "Itaralai, have you made the contacts?"

"I have," she pledged. "The Dissenters thank you for your service to their cause, Mastrash. Although, is this truly…"

Goras waved a hand, anticipating the protest. "It is the best way. We must make the Alliance desire Gersallian departure as much as we wish it ourselves."

"If you feel it is necessary, then. We have made the arrangements with a source in the Senate. Entry will be possible when the time is right."

"Excellent. Keep me informed. Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

"Mi rake sa swevyra iso", the apprentice intoned. She disappeared from his screen.

Goras considered the situation quietly. No matter what happened, no matter what came, this had to be done. This had to happen. His people had to be saved before inertia bound them forever into Alliance servitude.


Ship's Log: 24 April 2642; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. We have completed our part in the counter-attack against the surprise Reich offensive in the Durani Cluster. With the assistance of Inner Sphere ground forces the planets that were invaded are now being reclaimed, and enemy troops are being driven into surrendering. The Reich fleet has already withdrawn from combat.

Robert, Julia, and Zack were seated alone in the bridge-side staff conference room looking over the final reports. Below them Eta Durani 2 span quietly, as if blissfully unaware of the fighting still going on along its surface. A warship of the Sol Republic was visible in its closer orbit, occasionally firing particle cannon bursts from its light armament as orbital fire support.

"No casualties for our fighter wings or on our ships," Zack said, grinning. "It's about time we had a complete sweep."

"We caught them by surprise, so don't get used to this." Julia looked over her reader again. "A small note from Beta Durani 4. Apparently there's a new casualty." She smiled thinly. "Friendly fire, of a sorts."

"Given the smile, it must not be serious," Robert noted.

"Well, the report says that some of the 'Mech pilots and soldiers from the Commonwealth had a small celebration with the Turians." Julia kept reading. "Apparently they got into a heated discussion about which of their units had the best battle histories."

"Bar room brawl?", Zack asked.

"More like bar room boozing. And a drunken FedCom soldier mistakingly picked up a Turian beverage and drank it."

"Ah." Robert nodded. "Hopefully they got that out of his system."

"Well, he's not listed as dead, so that's a good ending to the story." Julia smirked. "And this, gentlemen, is why I don't drink alcohol."

"What about…"

"Usually," she added, glaring playfully at Zack.

Zack returned the glare with a playful smirk.

"I think that's it," Robert said. "Anything else?"

"Actually, yes." Julia looked to Zack again, who nodded. "We have a solution for that little problem you spoke of."

"Oh?" Robert showed interest.

Julia tapped her multidevice in reply. "Jarod, send her in."

After several seconds the door opened from the bridge. Ensign Hajar entered and straightened her spine. "Reporting as ordered, sir."

Julia looked back to her report. "Ensign Hajar is one of our new piloting officer trainees."

"So I've heard," Robert said evenly. He leaned forward. "I read the reports on your mission to Beta Durani 4, Ensign. You did well despite the circumstances. I'm glad to have you."

Hajar smiled thinly and nodded. "Thank you, sir, for the complement. However, due to… personal reasons, I am going to request a transfer."

"So I'm told." Robert gestured to Julia. "Commander?"

Julia looked to Hajar before going over her datapad. "Ensign, you're not only showing high marks in piloting, but you're proven to have engineering aptitude too."

"I do have some, sir."

"As it so happens, there's a posting available for you that would make those 'personal reasons' no longer valid."

Robert could see where this was going when Zack stood up. "Ensign Hajar," he said, "I just lost one of my piloting officers to a transfer. I can use someone with your skills. And mixed specialties always has a place on the Koenig. I've asked Commander Andreys to arrange your transfer to my crew."

Hajar was clearly thoughtful for a moment, clearly considering the offer made. After that period of consideration she nodded. "I'd be honored to join the Koenig crew, Commander. Thank you for this opportunity."

"Report to Lieutenant Apley tomorrow morning for your on-ship quarters assignment and duty roster placement," Zack stated. "You're dismissed."

Hajar nodded briskly and walked out.

"Well, there's another problem out of the way, I guess," Julia sighed.

"Give it time," Robert said. "And maybe she and Nick will bury the hatchet. Anyway, I have reports to finalize and a dinner with Angel to get to, so we're all dismissed."

The three friends exchanged grins and nods before departing.

Locarno was still in bed, and still quite moody from it, when Hajar came to inform him of what happened. "The Koenig." Locarno grinned at that and nodded. "Yeah, you'll fit in well there. So long as Commander Carrey's notorious informality doesn't grate on you."

"I think I'll live," Hajar answered. She looked over the regenerator over his legs. "Still healing?"

"Just some final work on the skeletal patching, according to Doctor Gillam." Locarno sighed. "I'll be out of here soon enough."

"I'm glad to hear it."

Again there was silence between them. Each seemed to be considering what to say next. It was becoming torturous for Locarno. Their distance, continuing like this… the consequence of a mistake in his past he couldn't get over.

Finally Locarno sighed and said, "Are we going to do the silent treatment every time?"

"Probably," Hajar conceded.

"Alright. I understand." And at that, Locarno looked directly into her eyes. "Just to ask… Do you think that, one day, you and I can be friends again?"

Hajar's round face became, for the moment, an imperceptible mask. All Locarno could do was wait and wonder how she would finally answer him.

Finally the mask broke. A small, hopeful little smile appeared on her face. "Maybe," she said. "Maybe one day I can… I can move on. And we can be friends again."

With that said, Hajar turned and walked out.

Locarno laid his head back on the bed after she was gone. The ghosts of Joshua Albert and Sito Jaxa still hovered over him, making him recall all of those foolish and prideful choices he had made in the Academy. The ghosts that he could never quite get rid of.

But he had to smile, if only because Hajar had finally given him a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, he could move on too.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-13 10:54am


Ship's Log: 3 May 2642; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. We've made orbit of New Liberty in time for this year's Founding Celebration. The crew is looking forward to the downtime after our part in the counter-attack against the Reich forces near Durani.

It always brings warmth to my heart to see New Liberty, especially with how much it has grown. The colony is now surrounded by farms and small towns and villages for miles around the old center. I look at this place and I can't help but be awed at how far our colony has gone since we landed that first group of refugees back in the day. Even with the Alliance, and everything we've done on its behalf… I still can't help but feel, sometimes, that New Liberty may be our greatest accomplishment.

In the heart of New Liberty was the Administration Building, a pre-fab structure of Darglan design that had been worked and reworked over the few years to accommodate the ever growing number of residents of the colony. The Darglan architecture meant it was a smooth and curved kind of structure, four stories high , with circular windows on the exterior. It was in this building that the Colony's Governing Council held its meetings and that the Colony's civil service kept its offices, making it the nerve center for the Colony.

For years the management of the city had been in the hands of Beth Rankin, Robert's cousin. She was the daughter of his late aunt, born a couple years ahead of him. They were the only surviving members of the Dale family, at least of the generations from their grandfather onward, and despite his duties as a captain he made sure to keep in contact with her due to that unique connection.

It was also why he felt his heart swelling with pride for his cousin at seeing her new office in person. Beth Rankin had moved to New Liberty to be its manager. Now, as of the colony's last elections, she had gone beyond management: she was Governor.

Her office was as well-furnished as one would get on the colony. The wooden desk and furnishings were all well-made, carved from native woods by the craftsmen of the Colony (and in some demand across the Multiverse, Robert had been assured). A computer screen was set into a space intentionally built within the top of her desk. Behind her the flags of the Alliance - four stripes of color and a blazing torch in the middle - and of the New Liberty Colony - a green flag with the emblem of a sword breaking a pair of shackles - were on short flagpoles against the wall.

Beth sat behind her desk, wearing a dark blue blouse with a white buttoned down shirt beneath it. A matching suit skirt that went to her knees and dark leather shoes filled out her appearance. She had bright blue eyes and dark hair cut somewhat short and made into a shoulder-length arrangement. "Hello, Beth," he said, remaining at the door in his Stellar Navy uniform of black with command branch red trim, four gold stripes at his collar to mark him a Captain.

Beth looked up at him and smiled. She stood as he approached and walked around her desk to embrace him. "I'm so happy you're okay," she said.

"And it's good to see you're doing fine too," Robert replied.

"Well, the worst I have to worry about is another shouting match in the Council." Beth shook her head with a knowing smile. "I don't get shot at on a regular basis."

Robert nodded his agreement before sitting down in one off the side chairs. Beth didn't return to her desk but sat right beside him. "Shouting matches?"

Beth gave him a look. And then she laughed lightly. "Oh Rob, you always did tend toward the naive about the Colony. I know you like to think that all of those thousands of people you rescued over the course of our early days came together to live here in unity and harmony… but it doesn't really work that way in the end. Now that the Colony's settled, roughly speaking I mean, we are getting political factions. Half the reason I won the Governorship is that I've always focused on keeping the colony running, so all of the nationalities and political factions trust my judgement. They'll still fight me tooth and nail if they don't like what I'm doing, of course."

Robert sighed. "Yeah, I suppose that makes sense."

"Don't get me wrong, it could be worse. They disagree about things, but they all agree that they like living here, and that they want the Colony to prosper," Beth continued. "They just disagree on the how, and they don't want anyone running roughshod over their rights." Beth shook her head. "But you're not here to talk politics, Rob. You're here so that I can see my little cousin for the first time in a year."

Robert gave her a look. "I'm not that much younger than you, Beth."

She chuckled at that. "You will always be my little cousin, Rob." Her smile was one he couldn't help but match. "So, how are you and Angel doing?"

Robert chuckled in reply. "Oh, we're… managing, I suppose. Things aren't as smooth as they could be. I don't have time to do much with her due to all of my duties. There are times I wonder if it will last."

"It's always best to take it a day at a time," Beth replied.

"Yeah." Robert allowed himself a small grin. "So, what about you and Annabelle?"

Beth laughed. "Oh, turning the tables on me, are you?" She crossed her arms. "We're doing well, thank you for asking. We're openly together and people seem to accept that. I'm hoping you and Angel might be willing to have dinner tomorrow night, a little family meal?"

"I'll bring it up with her," he pledged.

"Good." Beth put her hands on her knee. "So, about this year's parade. They've made some improvements to the float that you might feel better about…"

Among the colonists and those who had been in the Facility, the most popular of the Colony's endeavors had become the New Liberty Ale and Beer Company. Founded by a Cameroonian who had studied brewing, it used hops native to New Liberty to give its ales and beers a distinctive flavor that made New Liberty ale a favorite.

The brewery, additionally, had its own restaurant and bar, where the newest ales and beers could be tried. The bar, internally, was covered with a mishmash of mementos and items speaking to the multinational, multi-ethnic nature of the Colony. Korean posters, images of Cameroonian leaders, and items from all sorts of cultures were omni-present.

Three seats at the bar were taken up by crew from the Aurora. Tom Barnes guzzled down part of his pint and let out a satisfied "Ahh", when his drink was done. "We need more of this stuff on the ship."

Lucy Lucero gave him a look from his right. "These are calories I don't need regularly," she remarked.

"Says the lady with the fancy-pants superpowers," Barnes retorted. He smirked at her. "It's not like you're gaining weight. You're pretty hot if you ask me."

Lucy gave him a playful but irritated punch to the arm.

"Now, lad an' lass, do behave." From Barnes' left, Montgomery Scott raised his pint up. "Ye need t' go with th' atmosphere here." He chugged down the remnants of his pint in one gulp. "Enjoy yeselves a bit more. We've earned it."

"Tell me about it," Barnes mumbled. He gulped down another drink. "It took me two days to get those shield generators re-synchronized after that battle at Clirison."

"But ye did a wonderful job at it, Tom." Scott looked to the nearby barkeeper with a raised and empty pint. "Hey lad, have ye got any o' that ale ye had last year?"

The barkeeper came over. He had a dark complexion that reflected the lights of the bar and chocolate brown eyes, with short dark hair on his head. "Hey Pierre," Barnes called out. "Your dad's knocking our socks off with how awesome this stuff is."

"I will be sure to tell him that," Pierre answered, his accented English thick with French and Cameroonian flavor. "As for your request, Mister Scott, we do have a batch of the anniversary celebration ale just like last year."

"Well, lad, charge my tab an' let's have at it," Scotty insisted.

"I'll take some too," Barnes added, gulping down the last of what he had.

Pierre looked to Lucy. She shook her head. "I'm due to meet Meridina at the spaceport in an hour. I am not going to greet her plastered."

"No fun," Barnes sighed.

Pierre grinned and retrieved their pint glasses. While he filled them at a nearby tap the young man added, "As for your other request, Mister Scott, Father is still experimenting."

"Other request?", Lucy asked, looking to Scotty.

"Aye, I told 'em he needed t' branch out more," Scott answered. "What this Colony still needs is a maker o' good Scotch, an' I'm sure a man who can make such a hearty ale can find a way t' make it work."

"What I want to know," a new voice added, hoarse with age and a general craggyness, "is if they've got any good whiskey."

Barnes and Lucy both saw the surprise come to Scotty's round face. His eyes widened. After a moment the old engineer turned in his stool to face the corner of the bar.

A figure stood there, shoulders stooped from age, hair whitened to snow by the same process. A face lined with years of experience and burden nevertheless curled into a charming grin, with blue-gray eyes glistening with humor. The old man was in a gray overcoat over a white shirt vest, with black trousers filling out his appearance.

"It would appear that your surmise was correct," a second new voice intoned. It did not have the hoarseness of age, but a deliberation in it that was settled and calm in tone. This man was in a gray suit and matching trousers with a brown robe over them, the hood lowered to reveal a face of a middle-aged man with dark eyes and darker hair.

But for Barnes and Lucy, the most distinct feature on the man's head were his ears. His sharp, pointed ears.

Scotty nearly stumbled from the stool. A look of sheer, surprised joy crossed his face. "Doctor McCoy!", he blurted out. "Mister Spock!"

"Well, there you are, Scotty," McCoy answered, the grin growing on his wizened face. "It's about time we caught up with you. We've got a lot of catching up to do."

Undiscovered Frontier
"The Important Things"

Scotty's laugh echoed in the New Liberty Ale and Beer Company bar. "I had no idea!", he cried out. "Why didn't ye call, I'd have met ye right away!"

"The good Doctor insisted," Spock replied evenly. "And I indulged his desire for amusement."

"Oh, don't let him fool you, Spock loved the idea. As much as he can love anything," McCoy guffawed. With Spock's quiet assistance he got up onto the stool beside Scotty. "The truth is, we didn't know if you'd be showing up, given the war you people have gotten pulled into. But once we met up in your capital and talked about it, we decided to make the trip anyway."

"I met Doctor McCoy on the L2M1 Universe's Earth," Spock clarified. "It was happenstance that we were present there together to make the journey."

"Wait." Lucy rose from her stool and stepped around Barnes and Scotty to face the newcomers. "So you two are from the Enterprise too? Did you get stuck in a transporter like Scotty did?"

"Oh, no we did not young lady," McCoy answered. "We got to this century the old-fashioned way."

Lucy sensed the "emphasis on old" remark that was forming in Barnes' mind, and now making its way to his mouth. She gave him another, somewhat-less playful punch to the arm, so he never got beyond the first syllable of "emphasis" before the sound turned into a surprised, "Ow!" She ignored the resulting sullen look on his face.

"As Spock was saying, we met up on the capital Earth of the Alliance and since everyone was talking about the anniversary and how your ship usually attends, we decided to see if you'd show up." McCoy looked to the bartender. "Son, I'd like a mint julep, if you don't mind."

Pierre nodded and went to get said drink.

"Not to pry, but shouldn't someone your age be a little… careful about alcohol?", Lucy asked, trying to be polite.

McCoy let out a chuckle. It was Spock who answered, "I have found from long experience, Lieutenant, that the good Doctor rarely does the logical thing."

That prompted a sarcastic look to cross the older man's face. "When you've put up with that damned Vulcan logic for a century, kids, you can put up with anything."

Barnes broke out into chuckles. "Scotty said you were a real smartass, Doc, nice to see it in the flesh."

Scotty turned and gave Barnes a bit of a glare. "I dinnae put it like that, Tom. Ah, where are my manners…" He turned back to his old comrades. "Doctor, Mister Spock, this is Lieutenant Tom Barnes, my senior Assistant on th' Aurora. Th' lad is possibly th' finest young engineer o' this generation… if he can learn when t' control that mouth o' his." He held out a hand toward Lucy. "An' this fine young lass is Lieutenant Lucy Lucero, she's with ship operations an' is a decent engineer an' pilot tae boot."

"Doctor, Mister Spock, a pleasure to meet you." Lucy offered her hand.

"Likewise, young lady," McCoy said, putting the fullest of charm into his greeting.

"Lieutenant." Spock nodded and offered his hand as well. During the handshake Lucy was surprised to feel a connection form, very latently, with him. She could sense the warmth under his austere Vulcan bearing - whatever he said, Spock was quite delighted at the occasion. "I see you have mental gifts of your own," he added.

Lucy took a moment, out of surprise, before nodding. "Yes, I've… learned some over the last year or so," she said.

Spock gave a slight nod of acknowledgement.

And it was then that Lucy felt very much like an interloper. We shouldn't be here went through her mind. "It was a pleasure to meet you both," she said with as much politeness as she could bring to bear. "But Lieutenant Barnes and I should be going, we have other things to attend to."

Barnes gave her a bewildered look. "What the hell do you mean by that, we don't…"

Lucy shot him a hot glare. But it was Scotty who said, "Lad, ye still have those diagnostics t' run on th' warp plasma feeds."

"But I can get those done in…" Barnes stopped when he saw the looks on both Lucy's face and on Scotty's. "Right. Plasma feeds. Gotcha." With a sullen look he slid off the bar stool and joined Lucy in departing.

Once they were out the door Scotty sighed, returning his attention to his two comrades. "Th' lad's goin' t' be a great engineer, but he's a bit daft when it comes t' th' social graces."

"Well, we can't all be so charming and likeable," McCoy said with a pleased grin. "Now, we've got several decades of catching up to do."

"Aye, that we do, Doctor," Scotty happily agreed. "That we do."

Near the Colony's Administration Building was the Medical Plaza, containing the main hospital for New Liberty and adjoining doctor's offices, medical labs, and outpatient care centers. The buildings were painted marble white with holographic signposts that shifted languages every few seconds, displaying names in over a dozen languages to ensure that all of the colonists could understand them without a translator handy.

Wearing a blue civilian jacket and white shirt with matching pants, Jarod entered one of the office structures and easily found his way to the office of the Colony Dean of Psychiatry, on the first floor in the eastern hall. The secretary waved him into the elegant office of the Dean himself. "Sydney," he called out.

His surrogate father and mentor looked up from his desk. "Ah, Jarod," Sydney said, a smile crossing his face. Well into middle-aged, the gray-haired man stood to his feet with some energy and accepted an embrace from Jarod. "It's good to see you."

"And it's good to see you too." Jarod clapped Sydney's shoulder before ending the embrace. Sydney showed him to a chair before sitting in the other guest chair. "And it's good to see how well you're doing."

"Well… I am fortunate. Governor Rankin was a gracious sponsor, and the other mental-care professionals in the Colony thought it would be a good idea to formally organize." Sydney put his digital reader in low power mode and set it aside. "How have you been, Jarod?"

"I'm doing well," Jarod replied.

"So you are." Sydney's expression turned serious. "Have you had any luck with the Centre's data yet?"

That caused Jarod to frown and sigh. "A few clues, but nothing substantial. From what I have seen, the Centre has a lot to answer for."

"That they do."

For a moment there was silence. Jarod was the first to change the subject. "How are the others?"

A small smile crossed Sydney's face. "Well, Nicholas is enjoying his work at the school."

"He's good with kids," Jarod agreed. "Did Broots finish his course?"

"He did. Now he's working with the Colony's government as a computer technician. It's the sort of honest work he wanted to start."

Jarod nodded. "Broots and Debbie deserve the quiet life." A sad look came to his face. "I haven't heard from Angelo in a few weeks. Is he okay?"

"About as well as can be hoped." Sydney frowned. "I have monitored his progress at the institution that accepted him. Telepathic experts will help his condition more than anything else can."

'At least he's getting help." Jarod owed much to Angelow, finding a way to help Jarod from within the Centre. Trying to get what was left of his mind working was the least they could do for him. Of course, with everyone else out of the way he was left with one final point of inquiry. "Miss Parker doesn't return any messages I sent," he said to Sydney.

The older man sighed. "She has had the most trouble adjusting. And she worries for what Mr. Parker has gone through back at the Centre. The likelihood that he was blamed for your attack and that he's been killed, it… scares her."

"Although she's probably making the fear look like anger."

"Oh, definitely." Sydney smiled thinly. "She gave up smoking, at least."

"Even with all of this" Jarod gestured to the multidevice on his wrist, "that seems like the biggest miracle of them all."

"It was necessary for her to join Colony Security."

Jarod's eyes widened a little. "Really? She joined the security force?"

"In an advisory capacity, she's not doing the police work," Sydney revealed. "She assists in investigations. We do have some issues with the interstellar black market. New Liberty's autonomous status and small size has encouraged various organizations to attempt operations here. Miss Parker helps in shutting them down."

Jarod nodded and chuckled. "She's always good at tracking people down. I've learned that the hard way."

"So…" Sydney put his hands together. "Dinner, Jarod?"

"Of course. Carranzo's?"

"There is a new Italian eatery near the Plaza that opened a few months ago," Sydney said. "I thought they might provide an alternative."

"That's good enough for me."

The New Liberty Spaceport, outside of the main city, was a new addition to the Colony. While before vessels with passengers had simply made use of minor fields outside of town, now they could land and disgorge said passengers directly into prepared terminals. Lucy stood in one of those terminals, her eyes on the brown, boxy Gersallian transport that had just landed, while further behind it other vessels were milling about. She identified passenger shuttles and liners from a number of the other universes up and down this terminal and the others.

She felt Meridina's arrival a moment before the Gersallian woman stepped through the terminal gate, carrying her small duffel bag of personal items and wearing the blue traveling robe of a Gersallian Knight of Swenya - a swevyra'se - over a white jerkin and cream-colored pants. The brown-haired woman had clearly felt her too and smiled at her. Lucy could feel that Meridina was better off than she had been before her leave. Not entirely better, that was certain, but at least feeling better.

"Welcome back, Meridina," Lucy said to her teacher, her friend, with a smile.

"Thank you kindly, Lucy." Meridina looked around. "I suppose Robert is…"

"...right here," Robert cut in, stepping up beside Lucy. He nodded to her and then grinned at Meridina. "Just in the nick of time."

"Of course. Although I did not wish to pull you away from your cousin."

"Beth and I talked over a working lunch, but she's back at the job now." Robert clearly sensed Meridina's state of mind as well. "It looks like you feel better now."

"I do," she stated. "The darkness Amaunet created inside of me is in abeyance. I am in control and reconciled to what happened." A look of amusement came to her. "I trust that you two have been keeping up your training?"

The looks they exchanged confirmed that they had, indeed, not done so, and had been doing other things.

"Then it appears I have returned just in time," she teased.

The bar echoed with the laughter of McCoy and Scotty while Spock observed with his usual stoic patience for his comrades' outward emotions. "An' I'll never forget th' look on th' Captain's face," Scotty continued. "I thought for sure that Chekov was goin' t' end up below decks for th' rest o' his career!"

"He almost did," McCoy revealed. "Spock and I had to talk Jim into giving him another chance."

"Aye, an' it's a good thing ye did. Th' lad ended up one o' our best."

"Indeed," Spock agreed.

McCoy nodded in agreement while taking another sip from his mint julep. "Hrm. Needs a little work," he judged. "But if this is his first, it's not bad."

"I'll be sure t' pass that along."

The smile on McCoy's face turned sardonic. "So, Scotty, how did you end up trying to run with these kids anyway?"

Scotty chuckled. "Well, Doctor, they saved my life, for one. Besides… they're good kids. Just needed some guidance is all."

"The reports of their missions that I am aware of have made for some intriguing reading." Spock was still nursing his non-alcoholic beverage, one of the fruit drinks offered by the establishment. "Although I have also been curious as to why you came out of retirement to answer to such a young crew."

"Like I said, they're a good crew, good people. And the things they're standin' for are worth my time." Scotty quaffed at his pint. "They're nae our old crew, o' course. They cannae be. But they're good folk an' I enjoy workin' with them."

McCoy grinned at him. "Now, Scotty, that's not all and you know it. There's no fooling an old country doctor. Especially not when you've been his patient for a long, long time."

"Ha!" Scotty shook his head. "No, I dinnae suppose ye're fooled." A twinkle appeared in the old engineer's eye. "Th' truth is, Doctor, I wasnae ready t' retire. An' t' see th' things these kids had, th' idea o' jumpin' between universes, nae t' mention buildin' an' runnin' that beautiful ship they'd inherited from th' Darglan, I cudnae walk away from that."

McCoy nodded gingerly. "Well, I suppose you couldn't, could you." He set his now-empty mint julep aside. "And it's as good as any a reason to try to keep up with the young."

"Ah, I cannae keep up with 'em, Doctor, I dinnae even try," Scotty answered. "I let them do th' runnin'."

"And that, Mister Scott, is the best way to handle it."

"I am myself curious to know more about the Darglan," Spock said, rejoining the conversation. "The Romulan government has been increasing their own investigations into the existence of the species."

"Aye, I imagine they would. Th' scunners were just about ready t' go t' war for th' drive technology last year."

"Indeed. Which tells me that the Darglan technology must be quite remarkable."

"Ye dinnae ken th' half of it, Mister Spock." Scotty shook his head. "It took me three weeks t' figure out how their plans for th' Aurora's power systems were supposed t' be laid out. Workin' naqia reactors isnae like anything I'd done before."

"I admit my curiosity to see how your vessel has turned out."

McCoy chuckled. "Just come out and say it, Spock. You want Scotty to give us a tour."

Spock maintained his stoic demeanor when he slightly turned his head to address McCoy. "I would not wish to take up Mister Scott's valuable time, Doctor."

"And now you're playing for sympathy," McCoy laughed. He looked to Scotty. "But hell, I'd love to see more of these kids that you've gotten yourself mixed up with."

The grin on the Scotsman's face didn't change. "Well now, I think that I might be able t' arrange somethin'. How long are ye plannin' on stayin' in New Liberty?"

"Well, since I'm here already, I thought I'd check in on your medical services around here," McCoy said. "I might as well put this damned Admiral rank to use if I've been saddled with it."

"I have already scheduled an appointment with Governor Rankin tomorrow morning," Spock explained. "I intend to inquire about the possibility of settling a colony of Romulan and Vulcan Unificationists on the planet."

"Well then, let me give ye th' contact frequency, an' I can get ye aboard tomorrow evenin'."

"Sounds like a plan," McCoy said warmly.

The Lookout wasn't as busy as it would normally be at this time of day, given the number of crewmembers who were planetside. Even Angel and Caterina Delgado, currently enjoying a late lunch, were only getting a light meal in lieu of visiting Carranzo's in the colony for dinner. The bowls of soup were nevertheless nourishing and enjoyable, and the two sisters were happily slurping away.

Well, perhaps not happily. Angel noticed her little sister kept glancing toward the bar of the crew lounge with a nervous look. Finally, with most of her meal done anyway, Angel finished a spoonful and looked at Caterina with interest on her face. "Cat, why are you so worked up? What's wrong?"

Cat forcefully gulped down the soup in her mouth. "Huh? Oh. Nothing. Nothing's wr-wrong. I just, I mean, I'm thinking about my simulations, that all. I'm running a physics simulation on jump point formations."

Before she even finished that sentence, her head swiveled back to the bar. Angel didn't stop an expression of pure skepticism from appearing over her face. "Uh huh," she intoned. "Really."

"Yeah. Uh…" Cat's cheeks were blushing faintly.

Angel turned her own head toward the bar, where a few people were at various seats, most toward the center. But there was one who was alone, a young woman with a dark bronze complexion and a fairly attractive, if somewhat slim, build. Her short hair, which while combed outward failed to get to her shoulders, was a bright vibrant purple in tone, the same purple as her eyes.

"Ensign Arterria," Angel mumbled. The young navigation officer, Violeta Arterria, was one of Nick Locarno's subordinates newly-assigned to the ship before the New Year. The young woman came from the Sirian League of L2M1, where gene modifications on coloration, or even other appearance aspects, were common in their society. She'd seemed to be the usual bright young officer type Angel was getting to know since the Alliance was formed; eager to show her worth and to be recognized for her merits by superiors.

Angel looked back to Cat. And a little light bulb went off in Angel's head, causing her to smile with amusement and a little bit of sisterly affection. "You're smitten, aren't you?"

"What? Smitten?" Cat blinked and forced herself to turn to face her grinning sister. "No. No! I'm not, I mean, I'm just…" Cat couldn't get Angel to stop grinning at her and finally surrendered. "Okay, maybe a little. Not a little. A lot. But she's b-beautiful and... and exotic… and awesome and I'm just…"

"...an extremely intelligent young woman who is looking for someone interesting to be with," Angel finished for her sister. "And I don't see how anyone would say you're ugly, Cat."

Cat looked to Angel with a thin smile. "That's because you're here, Angel, and if they called me ugly you'd punch them."

Angel considered that response. "Yeah, probably," she admitted. "But seriously, stop underestimating yourself. You don't need to hide what you are anymore. You're interested in her. Go talk to her, Cat."

Caterina swallowed, looking from her sister to Ensign Arterria and back to her sister. "If she brushes me off, you're not going to hit her, are you?"

Angel gave Cat a bemused look. "Regardless of what Rob, Zack, and Tom think, I don't go around punching people for little things." Seeing that hadn't satisfied her sister, Angel sighed. "Alright. I promise, no punching the girl if she doesn't like you. Okay?'

"Okay." Cat nodded, breathing in. "Okay. I can do this. I can say 'Hi' and be friendly. I'm like that all the time, aren't I?"

"Yes, you are," Angel assured her.

"Right. Be friendly. Say 'Hi'. Don't worry about anything… don't worry." Caterina stood up from the table and, with growing yet fragile determination, walked over to where Ensign Arterria was sipping at something.

Angel watched her sister long enough to be sure she'd struck up a conversation with the young woman before finishing her last few spoonfuls of soup and departing the Lookout.

The Aurora medbay was blessedly quiet when Locarno arrived, slightly limping along until he got up on a bed. Leo appeared out of the offices area and went up to him, scanner at the ready. "Well, nick, the good news is that all of the mending points are aligned properly and healing. The bad news…" Leo allowed himself a slight grin. "...is that you won't be doing any dancing for the celebration this year."

Locarno gave him a bemused look. "Sounds like a real disappointment, Doc."

"I imagined it would be." Leo looked over the results. "The other good news is that I'm bumping you back to full time duty once the ceremonies are done. Your legs have shown enough recovery to justify that. Hopefully this is the last time you let yourself get stuck in a cave-in."

"I'll do my best to avoid that, Doc." Locarno sighed. "So, any plans?"

"I'm attending meetings with the doctors down in the colony all week long," Leo replied. "I'll take some time out for the parade, of course…"

He stopped when Locarno gave him a sardonic look. "I'd think you, of all people, would appreciate the need for some downtime."

Leo leveled a look at him, a thin smile that was not really a smile. "And you're going to diagnose my need for leave time?"

"Well." Locarno clearly stopped to take a moment, thinking on the best way to say what was on his mind. "It's not exactly hard to see you're still broken up about Joshua Marik dying."

The smile had vanished from Leo's face.

Locarno saw it too. "I'm sorry," was all he could manage to say. "I know it's…"

"I get enough of the act from our esteemed First Officer," Leo said quietly. "I don't need it from you too."

"Everyone is worried about you," Locarno managed to say.

Leo nodded. "Of course you are, you're my friends." A look of quiet frustration came to his face. "But a kid died in my OR. A kid who might have lived if I'd done something different. This isn't something that fixes itself with the power of friendship, Nick. I have to work through it myself, alright?"

Locarno could see he would make no progress. He nodded quietly. "I see your point."

"Good." Leo motioned to the door. "Your checkup is complete. I'll see you again in a couple of days."

With the conversation clearly ended, Locarno left thee medbay.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-13 05:08pm

Robert returned to the Aurora with Lucy and Meridina and split from them immediately to see to the paperwork in his office.

There was an unexpected door chime sound that caused him to look up. "Come in," he said.

He'd expected Julia, or maybe Jarod. But it was Zack who stepped in. "So, how's Beth?"

"In charge, more paperwork than me, and more political headaches," Robert said.

"And openly out, too, I hear." Zack plopped into a seat opposite Robert's desk. "Good for her."

"Yes." Robert tried not to grin too widely. "You know Julia's the one handling shore leaves and runabout rentals, right?"

Zack laughed. "Not this year."

Robert blinked in surprise. "I figured you'd want to see Clara."

As soon as he said it, he could sense Zack's mirth and amusement. "Oh, that's not necessary."

"So she is coming here?"

"Oh yeah, she arrives tomorrow by about noon," Zack said. "
And I'm going to disable my multidevice comm to make sure we're not disturbed."

"If only I could," Robert sighed. He finished a signature on one piece of paperwork and electronically filed it. Satisfied with the work he had done so far, he put the reader down and looked at Zack. "I'm happy for you and Clara, Zack. I hope you enjoy your time with her."

"I intend to, don't worry."

"I know it's been a year…"

Robert stopped when Zack's hand came up. "Ah, ah, no. No using your new mumbo jumbo mind stuff to feel how I feel about my dad. It's been a year since he died, yeah, and it still hurts, and that's why I'm looking forward to Clara coming tomorrow. It's a way for me to enjoy myself instead of wallowing in grief."

There was a quiet nod from Robert. "That's a good way to approach it."

"The reason I came here, Rob, is that I think you and I need to stage an intervention."

That prompted Robert to give his old friend a confused look. "An intervention? For…?"

"Who else? For Julie." Zack shook his head. "She's been spending so much time arranging leaves she's not taking one for herself."

At that Robert shrugged. "Well, that's her usual way. She's always being the responsible one."

"Yeah, well, I think she needs to get out, enjoy a day to herself. And not just the day of the parade."

"Did you have something in mind?", Robert asked.

The smile that crossed Zack's face was infectious.

With the day nearly over Angel decided it was time to check in on Caterina, just to make sure she was okay… and, Angel had to admit to herself, to see how her sister's approach to Ensign Arterria went.

The first sign that things were not going as she might have expected was that Caterina was not in her quarters. Nor, it turned out, was she in Science Lab 1 or Science Lab 2. The ten minutes it took Angel to go to each place, certain each time that she'd find Cat there, finally prompted her to simply press her multidevice and tap it into the ship's computer. "Computer, where is Lieutenant Caterina Delgado?", Angel asked.

After a moment the feminine computer voice responded, "Lieutenant Delgado is in Holodeck 3."

Angel blinked. Why would Cat be in a holodeck? Her recreation was always going to the science labs to check on the gajillion simulations and scientific studies she was always doing.

With her curiosity further stoked by this, Angel continued on her way to Holodeck 3, halfway down the ship on Deck 14.

The holodeck was not sealed when she got there, nor was a privacy marker put up. Clearly Caterina didn't consider anything happening to be private. Angel found that oddly comforting.

With a press of a button the door slid open and warmth immediately hit Angel, a humid heat that reminded her of the kind you found in swamps. And indeed the interior was apparently a swamp, high dark trees and water standing everywhere off a beaten path before her. She stepped into the swampy area and, within a couple of steps, found an opening through the forest that led her to a more open area, pockmarked by ruins of marble and granite.

There were armed figures scattered about, most not moving. For some it was obvious why, with the arrows sticking out of them. Most were in chainmail or leather jerkins that looked medieval, and all had a grayish, inhuman pallor to them, with thin and long pointed ears.

Angel looked in the direction of a shout that she knew came from Caterina. "On the right!" She ran a short distance to the bottom steps of a ziggurat of the same worn marble, more of the enemy figures strewn about. Enemies still alive were crowding the steps.

And standing against them were just two people. Angel recognized Ensign Arterria's face, but she certainly looked off, even outlandish, in her low-cut white and green top with bared arms and what looked like very short shorts - they barely went thigh-length - joined by long boots or leggings that stopped mid-thigh. A white-brimmed white hat with a single dark blue feather in it was nestled over her purple hair.

Angel watched Violeta bring up an elegantly-carved longbow and put an arrow in it, its metal tip glistening in the light. In a rapid motion that spoke of training and practice Violeta pulled the string back and fired the arrow. It caught one of the gray-skinned enemies in the sternum. The being howled and fell down the stairs. By that point Violeta had already re-strung her bow and put an arrow into another foe.

Beside Violeta was Caterina, wearing a dark blue robe and a floppy yellow hat. She had a rod in one hand and was waving it at the enemies. "How do I use this stuff?"

"The spell names, remember?", Violeta answered.

"Oh, okay… wait, how do I cast… oh, I remember!" Cat swung her rod around and began chanting in Spanish.

Angel didn't know how this game worked, but seeing an enemy advancing on her sister, and knowing her sister's partner in this fantasy was busy with her own enemy, drove her forward. She charged up the stone stairs and slammed into the gray-skinned figure. It was like she had tackled an offensive lineman (as she had indeed done in what was very much a prior life); the sheer reaction force nearly took her breath away. The weight of the being's armor, and his own weight, had made sure of that.

Just as she entered Cat's sight, Cat finished her chant by pointing her hand forward and calling out the word "Blizzara!". Ice cold power formed ahead of them a blast of cold so intense it created a virtual block of ice around their foes that imprisoned them, save for Angel and her opponent. Only after she finished this did she notice her sister's presence. "Angel, what are you doing here?"

Angel almost answered, but the enemy - whatever he was - smacked her in the face. By all rights the hit was hard enough that it should have bloodied her nose, or even broken it. But just as the hit landed the strike was suddenly slowed to greatly minimize the impact.

Nevertheless Angel was thrown backward. She landed on the stone ledge with a pained "oompf".

The gray man got back to his feet and stopped. An arrow was now sticking out of his neck. He toppled over.

Cat was already going over to her. "Are you okay?!", her sister cried out. "That looked like it hurt."

"Not as much as it should have. I'm shocked my nose isn't broken." Angel sat up and looked over her sister, in her flowing dark robe. "....okay, why are you dressed up for Halloween?"

Cat made an amused face. "It's not for Halloween," she protested. "It's part of the game."

Angel gave her a puzzled look. "Game? This?"

"Ultimate Fantasy: Worlds of Adventure," answered Violeta, who was putting her bow up. She looked to Angel with some irritation. Angel acknowledged it with a sigh. She had generally violated some holodeck decorum by barging into an active session. But she could see Cat's reaction to her sister's presence and said nothing. "It's a holo-RPG."

"Uh huh." Angel nodded slowly. "And you become magic-users or something?'

"Yep!", Cat declared. "Isn't this fun?"

Angel blinked at her. "Well, I see the fun in hitting things, but you're usually in your lab talking about neutrinos and tachyons and tetryons and whateveryons."

"Yeah, but this is fun too!" Cat grinned at Violeta. "And when Violeta told me what it was and how it worked, I had to try it."

"And she's the only one on the ship who will play with me," Violeta added. "And it gives me a reason to keep up with archery practice."

Angel blinked at that. "Archery?", she asked.

"Well, yeah. My father won a Gold Medal in the Interstellar Olympic Games when I was little. He taught me everything I know." Violeta gestured to the top. "I'll go pick up the Crystal and save our progress. Okay?"


Violeta started going up the stairs, leaving immediate earshot to let the sisters talk.

"I thought you were just going to talk to her?", Angel asked.

"Well, I did. But this came up and I had time on my hands and she wanted someone to play with so I decided to be her partner. It's cool though, isn't it?"

"I suppose. The safeties are on, right?"

Cat sighed. "Of course. Otherwise, you'd have a broken nose."

"Good. Because I heard one too many stories about safety malfunctions from Worf and Data."

"That's why Tom triple-checked all of the systems back when we installed them." Cat smiled. "Captain Farmer told him one too many stories of the same kind. And you really didn't have to check up on me, you know? I'm safe here on the ship." After a moment's contemplation Cat quickly added, "When we're not being shot at by Nazis or crazy violent people with their own Darglan Facility."

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay," Angel insisted. "And to see how it went."

"Well, it went great." The smile hadn't vanished from Cat's face. "Why don't you give it a try? Violeta showed me the classes. You can be a monk."

The reply was a bemused look from Angel. "A monk?"

"Well, not St. Francis. I'm talking kung fu monk," Cat pointed out. "Then you'd get to hit people."

"Uh huh." Angel crossed her arms.

By this point Violeta was coming back down. She held up a solid crystal of blue color. "The Crystal of Courage. Now I just need Wisdom to complete the module and go on to the Elemental Crystals." Violeta looked over to Cat. "But that can wait. I've got some leave tomorrow and I really want to visit New Liberty and see what it's like."

"Oh, it's great," Cat said. "There are lots of fun places to eat, craftsmen making stuff, it's like a fair when the anniversary celebration happens."

"You know more than I do." Violeta gave Cat a grin. "I'd love to have you show me around. I mean, if you have the leave time too."

It was awkward for Angel to stand there and hear that, knowing what this meant for her sister. Caterina looked like she was stuck in a loop, unsure of how she should react and utterly frightened of what a rejection might involve. Her cheeks turned pink. After several moments she found her voice. "Oh. Uh… sure! Yes, I'd love to show you around and hang out with you… I mean…"

Violeta didn't seem oblivious to the effect she'd had on Caterina. A faint pink color appeared on the darkened bronze of her cheeks. "I'll see you at 1000 hours then?"

"Um, yeah, 1000 hours." Caterina nodded. "Transporter Station 1."

Violeta nodded and smiled more comfortably. "I'll be there." She held up the crystal. "Oh, touch this too. It'll consider the quest completed."

Caterina did. A set of stats appeared nearby in mid-air. "So… I leveled up?", Cat asked.

"Yeah, you did." Violeta looked away. "Computer, log off the game, please."

"Content saved. Logging off user."

The game environment faded in favor of the blue-walled chamber of the holodeck. Violeta continued on to the nearby door, taking the time to wave and say "See you tomorrow!" before stepping out.

"See you!", Cat called back to her, just before the door slid closed. Once she was done she checked the multi-device. "Eek! It's almost 2330! I never realized it was that late! I'd better get to bed!"

"I'd tease you about if you had a hot date tomorrow… but you apparently do," Angel remarked, grinning.

"It's so exciting. I'm never going to sleep tonight." Caterina looked down at her costume. "I'd better get back to my quarters and get this off so I can get ready for bed."

"My sister the sorceress," Angel teased.

Julia's morning routine went as it usually did. She woke up. She scarfed down breakfast for energy. She spent fifteen minutes warming up and then exercising, culminating with a t'ai chi/mok'bara fusion. She took a shower and satisfied herself that she wasn't gaining pounds (or was it more appropriate to use kilograms now?) and had remained generally in the athletic shape she'd enjoyed since High School. And then she put on her uniform and went to her office to continue sorting through leave requests.

To her surprise, she found three figures waiting. Robert had beaten her there, a big surprise since he usually took that extra half hour each morning to get ready. Even longer if Angel had stayed in his quarters that night.

But he had beaten her this morning. And he wasn't alone, with Zack and Leo standing to either side. "Good morning," she saida to the, a little bewildered. "Hey. What's wrong?"

"I did some checking," Leo said. "Do you know how long it's been since you last had leave?"

She shrugged. It had been a while, true. After a moment she said, "What about it?"

"I checked the logs. You haven't taken any leave time from the ship, not even liberty, since we were on Babylon-5," Leo explained.

"Which… fits you, but is a bit sad," Robert added. "You didn't even take time off when we were in the yard after Gamma PIratus."

To that Julia shrugged. "Well, yeah. The ship was being fixed. I wanted to be here to make sure it all went smoothly."

"I was back for the last three weeks of that," Robert pointed out. "You could have taken time."


"I've informed Captain Dale that I am concerned for your well-being," Leo stated firmly. "And that I want you put on liberty for the next three days."

"And I've agreed."

Julia held a hand up. "Wait. What… you can't…"

"The regulations are clear, Commander," Robert said. "I can. Even if I wasn't Captain." He smiled thinly at her. "So my orders are that you take the next few days to enjoy the anniversary celebration planetside."

Julia went to protest. But she stopped - she'd studied those regulations personally. "But I don't mind it…"

"Maybe not now, but eventually you'll burn out." Robert shook his head. "Don't worry about it. Jarod and I can pick up the slack and make sure the liberty schedules work. Go enjoy yourself."

"Remember," Leo said, "that's an order."

Julia gave them a scowl that was only half-playful. She turned to Zack. "And what are you doing here? Was this your idea, Zack?"


She frowned and crossed her arms. "I'll get you back for this, you know."

"Yep." Zack nodded and gestured down the hall. "But before you kick my ass, how about you join me at the spaceport? There's a ship coming in, and maybe you'll meet someone you'll actually want to spend the time with?"

Julia glowered at him. "Zack, is this an attempt to hook me up with someone?"

He held a hand up. "Not at all."

"Because if it is…"

She left the threat hanging as they walked off.

Once they were out of earshot, Robert looked over at Leo with a bemused grin. "Thank you for that backup, Leo."

"Ha." A chuckle came from the lab coat-clad ship's doctor. "After all of this time of her doing that to me, it was fun to turn the tables." Leo gave Robert a look. "So you're just going to do the paperwork yourself?"

"I am. And juggle the schedules for leaves. At least until the afternoon, when Angel and I are due planetside." Robert's grin turned soft and pleased. "Angel and I are joining Beth and her significant other for dinner tonight."

"Have fun with that," Leo replied while walking away.

Robert heard that and sighed. The things he did for his friends…

Indeed, before he could make more than a few steps away from the door to the office, he was met by Scotty. "Cap'n," he said respectfully.

"Scotty," Robert answered. "If you're coming to see Julia about your department's schedule for the leaves, I've taken that over."

"Oh?" The old engineer evinced interest in what he said. "Ye finally made th' lass take a break?"

"I'm sure I'll suffer appropriately for it," Robert sighed. "So, what can I do for you?"

"Well, sir, I was goin' tae ask permission to give a tour."

"To whom?", Robert asked. He wearily remembered how he'd gotten grilled over the tour given to Meridina's father Karesl.

"T' some friends o' mine," Scotty answered. A qiant smile came to his face. "A couple o' my old crewmates from th' Enteprise are attendin' th' anniversary, I'd like t show them about."

"Really?" Robert felt his interest peak. "Who?"

"Mister Spock and Doctor McCoy."

Robert was surprised at the names. He'd heard them before, and not just from Scotty. And he could sense how pleased the old man was at having his old comrades come to see his new ship. "Well, I'd be honored to have them aboard. Here, let me sign the paperwork, then you can get started on the arrangements." A thought brought a grin to his face. "Going to introduce Cat to Spock?"

The smile that split the engineer's face was all the answer he needed.

Julia and Zack were in uniform when they transported down to the Spaceport's private shuttle area. Unlike the public areas, for liners and commercial shuttles, they could stand in the landing area and wait for the craft they were due to meet as it came into its berth.

"Julie, Julie, Julie," Zack said, amusement in his tone. "You look like you'd rather be anywhere else but here."

"I'd rather be dealing with the long list of liberty requests," she answered. "These things have to be…"

"...they'll be done. But you don't always have to be the one doing them." Zack shook his head. "Take a break, enjoy life, have fun. Keeping the ship running can't be the only thing in your life."

Julia gave him a smirk in reply. "Says the guy who talks about his ship all the time."

"She's not all I talk about, though."

Any conversation that might have continued was cut off by the sound of the engine on the incoming craft. It came in as a pale dot on the blue sky, growing in size until it's gray bulk was plainly visible. Julia stared at it in surprise. She hadn't expected to see such a ship arrive.

The Colonial Navy Raptor craft came to a picture-perfect landing about a hundred feet away. Once its engines had died down and it was safe to do so, the two approached it.

The side door opened as they did. Clara Davis appeared, wearing a gray jacket over a blue sleeveless blouse and loose skirt. Her dark hair was combed back into a ponytail. She spotted Zack, called out to him, and then ran up to him. He opened his arms and took her into an embrace. They kissed warmly, passionately, for several seconds. "I've missed you," Zack said, putting his hands on her cheeks.

"I've missed you more," Clara countered, smiling. Julia thought it looked good on her.

Three more people stepped out of the Raptor. "How's it going, Loverboy?", called out Captain Kara "Starbuck" Thrace.

Julia gave Zack a bemused look. "Just what happened to you while you were with the Fleet?"

Zack's kiss with Clara had ended, allowing him to speak. "The Colonial pilots will pick nicknames for each other," Zack replied. He blushed. "So they picked one for me."

"And it fits so well," Kara added.

Julia looked to the others on the craft. She didn't recognize the brown-haired man in a civilian jacket, who now came up beside Kara. Their mutual body language made that relationship clear.

The final figure, however, was one she did recognize. Like Kara he was in a Colonial uniform, with a darker shade of brown hair. "Commander Adama," she said respectfully.

Lee Adama nodded. "Commander Andreys." His tone was as friendly as Julia's. Though their rank name was the same, in truth he was the equivalent of a full Captain and a superior officer. "President Baltar extends his greetings. He's asked me to represent the Colonies for your celebration."

"It's good to have you here," she said to him. Julia offered her hand and Lee took it warmly. "I hope you enjoy it."

"I intend to try." Lee noticed Julia looking at Kara's friend. "And this is Samuel Anders, Kara's partner."

"Mister Anders." Julia offered her hand.

Anders took it. "Commander."

"Anders is a pyramid player," Zack explained. "It's the favorite sport for the Colonies. Like basketball and rugby mixed up."

"Was might be the term soon," Anders said. "Your baseball is becoming more popular every day."

"Baseball?" Julia chuckled and gave Zack another look. "It sounds like you were awfully busy during your time with the Fleet."

"All I did was open a Little League for the kids," Zack insisted. He still had an arm around Clara. "Anyway, I've booked you all rooms at the New Liberty Visitors' Lodge, it's not far from the center of the Colony and you'll get to see everything. I promise." He looked to Julia. "And then once everyone has their luggage in their rooms, I can show you all the fun spots. The only rule is that we have to have fun, and that includes you..." He leveled a playfully paranoid look at Julia. "...Miss Responsible One."

Julia crossed her arms. Seeing Lee and Kara's expressions, she said, "Someone convinced Captain Dale that I needed a day off."

"Ah." Kara grinned. "Well, let's make it one to remember, then! First we get some rooms, and then we show your little city here how Colonial pilots can party!"

Julia sighed. She noticed the sympathetic look Lee gave her and silently thanked him for it. "Somehow I know I'm going to regret this," she mumbled, unheard by anyone but Lee.

The streets of the initial colony center were narrower than in other parts of the city, and the structures there were the smallest. Like the nearby Administration Building, they'd been made using Darglan prefabricated pieces, to provide the initial colony with dwellings.

Caterina and Violeta walked down one of those streets, where colony workers were still preparing for the next day's festivities. They were in uniform, Cat's uniform having the light blue trim of a science officer while Violeta's had the red trim of a command and navigation officer. Cat, as usual, was wearing the skirt instead of the uniform pants.

"This place has gotten so big," Cat said, looking over toward the new center of the city, where taller buildings rose in the near distance. "It was only a few years ago that it was just a village."

Violeta looked around at the dwellings and at the people milling about. Many had African complexions, but there were also the tanned bronze like her own and a number of East Asians to be seen as well. "I remember the first reports about this place, and about what your people were doing."

Cat showed interest at that. "Oh? Were people upset with us?"

"Not at all," Violeta insisted. "At least, not in the Sirian League. Sirians built our entire nation to be a combination of cultures and peoples. And to be socially free."

"Socially free?"

"Well, we're not libertarians like the Colony Confederation in D3R1," Violeta explained. "But Sirians don't like the idea of being told we have to act a certain way. Everyone should be free to live as they want as long as they're not hurting anyone."

"I know what you mean," Cat said. "And that's why we made this place. We wanted the people we were helping to have a chance to make their own lives."

"It can't have been easy," Violeta observed, looking over one building in particular. "The League had a lot of troubles growing up before we started to settle into roles. Ideas of what was going too far with freedom, or what should be permitted that wasn't." She brought her hand up to her head and ran her fingers through her purple hair. "It took ten years for gene-mods to be made legal."

Caterina furrowed her brow in surprise. "People were that upset about hair color?"

Violeta shook her head and laughed. "It's not just about hair color. Gene-modding had the potential to turn us into an entirely new species. Specific genes to enhance organs, enhance strength, or blend DNA from other species into our own genetic code. My cousin Louisa is one. She's a splicer, as they call it, and she's got literal eagle eyes now."

Cat gave a confused look in reply to that. "Wouldn't that require her to be born with those modifications? I mean, her parents would have to want it, right?"

"Not at all. Once they confirm the gene mod works, all they have to do is grow the new organ and implant it. So imagine how that possibility went over when it was first proposed."

"Yeah." Caterina nodded. "And there are plenty of worlds that forbid genetic modification."

Violeta nodded. "For these reasons, yeah. Of course, we Sirians are okay with it now. And we have some of the best technology and techniques for genetic therapy in the Multiverse today."

Cat nodded in reply.

"As for other things…" The smile on Violeta's face widened. She felt a bit of amusement. "We've never, in the history of our League, had to hide our sexual orientation."

And there it was. The unspoken factor in their conversations so far. Caterina dared not hope. Her heart skipped with anticipation.

Violeta noticed her physical reaction. She was too kind to draw it out painfully. So she nodded. "I'm gay."

Caterina couldn't help but sigh with relief. But she started to catch herself. "I… I was wondering."

"I could tell you were trying to spread your wings now that you're… what's the term? 'Out of the cottage'?"

"'Out of the closet."


"And yeah. I mean… I wanted to get to know you, to… be like I feel I should be."

"You want to have a date with me," Violeta observed. "Unless you count last night?"

"I… don't think so? Should I?" Cat swung her head with some vehemence. "I didn't think it felt like one?"

"It depends, I guess."

"But anyway, it doesn't matter. I mean…" Cat gestured toward herself. "Look at me. I'm tiny, I'm short, I'm skinny. I can't be that attractive."

Violeta looked at her with surprise. "You really think that?"

"Well, yeah. Because I am."

"You're adorable, cute, and sweet. That's good enough for a lot of people." Violeta shook her head and giggled. "I'm short too. And I'm on the thin side, and not very physical."

"But you're still taller than me. You've got curves."

"So?" Violeta laughed. "Have you ever met Lieutenant Skydancer? She's one of the fighter pilots and is from Sirius too. And she's built like a curvy, sex goddess amazon." Violeta sighed and shook her head.

Cat didn't quite know how to answer that. It was odd to her to meet someone else with body image issues as well. "I… I didn't think you could feel that way, you're so…" She caught herself. "This… I'm…. I don't know what to say."

Violeta gave Cat a sympathetic look. "This would be your first time trying to go out with someone?"


Violeta nearly asked what she meant, but caught herself. She'd heard about what happened on Deep Space Nine. This only made her more careful, realizing what Cat had gone through so recently. "And you've got your stomach twisting with fear and hope?"

"Twisting, wrenching, something like that."

Violeta nodded. "I know the feeling. Honestly, I still get it. I've never had a romance that really lasted, actually."

"I'm sorry. I…" Cat shook her head. "Am I being awkward? I mean, or… am I making you feel…"

"Stop worrying." Violeta shook her head. "You're not hurting me in any way. I just wanted you to know I have been there before. And…" She smiled sheepishly, and Caterina thought her heart would skip at it. "...I'm a little flattered that you picked me to be your first try at this."

Caterina couldn't quite speak. She felt flustered and uncertain and scared and…

Violeta took her hand. Cat nearly jumped. "Why don't we keep going?", she asked. "Show me the rest of the Colony. Then we'll decide how far to take things?"

"That… sounds good, yes." Caterina thought for a moment, working through the knotted up worries and fears and uncertainty filling her. "Let's go have lunch? I mean, if you're hungry… I'm not sure if you are or not, but Senora Corranza makes things like my mother did, and it's great, and you'll love it, I'm sure!"

The purple-haired young woman nodded happily. "Let's go eat then."

They resumed their walk through the Colony.

It had taken hours, and help from both Jarod and Meridina, to get the leave schedules sorted, and in the end Robert had been left with barely an hour to get ready and get to the transporter. Angel was waiting when he got out of the shower. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she was in a short-sleeved green blouse with a pair of blue jeans. "You're running late," she chided him gently. The grin on her face made it clear she wasn't upset on that fact… and given he had stepped out with just a towel wrapped around his hips, she was clearly enjoying the view.

"I had no idea how much work went into scheduling leaves for the entire crew," Robert said. "I really do not appreciate Julie enough."

"She's always been the responsible workaholic," Angel remarked. "And you'd better hurry if we're going to beam down in time."

Robert went to work on that, finding the clothes he'd picked the prior evening. Since it was a private family dinner, Beth would be dressed casually just as Angel was, so Robert pulled out his rarely-worn dark jeans and a polo shirt of dark green with vertical stripes of white running down it. He found he had to tighten his belt an extra not for the jeans to fit.

As soon as he was done Angel took him into an embrace and shared a short kiss with him. "Here we go," she said. "Time for a quiet, casual night together."

"The start of one at least."

They left his quarters and went to Transporter Station 1. A young woman with honey-colored auburn hair was standing the watch at the controls. "Two to transport down," Robert said to her.

"Yes sir." She pressed a key on her panel. A tone sounded from it. "One moment, Captain. I have an incoming transport request."

Robert nodded to her and joined Angel in standing to the side. Three distinct pillars of light formed. When they ended three men were standing on the pad. Since Scott was among them, it wasn't hard for Robert to figure out who had accompanied him.

The venerable gentleman in the gray coat made a disgruntled face. "That's certainly a new way to get my atoms scrambled."

"Your assessment is incorrect, Doctor," the other man, more middle-aged and with pointed Vulcanoid ears, stated. "This transporter technology does not appear to be based upon the same principles as our own." He looked to Scott. "May I be correct in assuming that it involves the shifting of matter through a subspace tunnel?"

"Aye, Mister Spock." Scott looked away from his old comrade and seemed to notice Robert and Angel. "Ah, ye didnae come here t' greet us, did ye?"

"We were about to beam down ourselves," Robert revealed. He looked to the visitors. "Ambassador Spock and Doctor McCoy, it's an honor to meet you gentlemen." He offered his hand. "I'm Captain Robert Dale of the Aurora. This is Lieutenant Angel Delgado, our Tactical Officer."

"Hello," Angel said, with a slight smile of greeting.

"Captain. Lieutenant." Spock accepted the offered hand. "I have heard of some of your accomplishments in the fields of multiversal exploration and diplomacy. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet you in person."

"Thank you for the praise, Ambassador."

"I take it you are about to meet with Governor Rankin?"

"Yes. She's my cousin and we try to spend time together when duty allows." Robert could sense the truth, and more than that, he could sense that Spock could, in turn, sense something of his abilities. "You've met her already?"

"The Governor was kind enough to discuss my proposal to settle a Unificationist community on New Liberty."

"They'll be welcomed, I'm sure." Robert looked on to McCoy. "And Doctor McCoy. Mister Scott's told us a lot about your days on the Enterprise. It's an honor to meet you as well."

"Well, you certainly know how to put on the charm," McCoy said, accepting the handshake with surprising vigor given his age. "And what a fine and healthy young lady you've got on your arm," he added, shaking Angel's hand as well.

"Doctor." Angel's smile widened slightly. "Thank you for the compliment. I like to keep in shape."

"I hope you enjoy your tour of the ship, gentlemen," Robert said. "If you need anything I'm a comm-call away."

"Aye sir, but ye should enjoy yer dinner with family," said Scott. "I widnae see you called away from that on my account."

Robert gave a nod and smile in reply and stepped up onto the pad. Angel joined him. "We're ready."

"Transporting now," said the young operator.

Robert and Angel were whisked away by light a moment later.

After they were gone, Scott led his old comrades out into the corridor. "Well, you've got an interesting young man in charge of the ship," McCoy noted. "And his lady's quite fit."

"Th' lass is a physical one, aye. Got a wee bit of a temper, though."

"What did you think, Spock?", asked McCoy. When there was no reply for a short time, he said, "Spock?"

"I was simply contemplating the apparent ESP talent possessed by Captain Dale. Much like those that Lieutenant Lucero clearly held. I find this attribute fascinating."

"We've seen Humans receive extraordinary abilities before, Spock. What's so special about this?"

"There seems to be a pattern to them. They share a similarity I find intriguing. However, they are not the reason for our presence."

"I'm looking forward to seeing just what kind of sickbay you've got here," McCoy said.

"Doctor, I dinnae think ye will be disappointed," Scott assured him.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-14 09:57am

Laughter filled the corner of Carranzo's that Zack had reserved. Perhaps fittingly, the laughter was directed at him.

"And I just punched him!", Julia declared, trying not to giggle. She directed a mirthful look at Zack. "He should have known better!"

"I was just coming in to look for Laura's necklace!", Zack protested. He had Clara in his arms, who was laughing riotously at hearing of this old predicament. "I didn't know you were even in the shower! I certainly didn't know you'd come out butt-naked!"

More laughter came from their guests. The day of touring the Colony had become a lively dinner, with Starbuck happily swigging a tequila with Anders while Lee nursed his drink more carefully. Julia had allowed herself a bit of a splurge with a dark ale, but only after Zack insisted. Zack and Clara had root beers in front of them, as well as the remnants of the enchilada platter they'd shared.

"Man, Carrey, we had you pegged when we gave you that flight handle," Thrace laughed.

"Laura McGinley?", asked Clara. "I didn't even know you went out with her. She was always on the vicious side."

"In love too. But I was a more shallow person back then, love." He kissed her on the cheek. "Now that I'm older and wiser and more mature…" He pointedly ignored the sniggers from both Thrace and Julia. "...I've got you."

"Damn right you do," Clara declared, giving him a kiss on the lips. He returned it happily. They cuddled up as much as the booth allowed.

Lee shook his head, chuckling, before taking a quick drink from the same ale Julia was enjoying. He looked across the table at Julia. "You have a lot of these old stories."

"It comes from growing up together." Julia smiled wistfully at the old memories going through her mind. "And there wasn't much to do in the middle of Kansas farmland, so we had to make up things to do."

"And in our county, that was itself a full-time occupation," Zack added.

"Oh, the county used to be so boring." Julia sighed. "I always looked forward to road games when I was in high school basketball, just to see the bigger towns in Kansas."

"Zack tells me your sport is a lot like pyramid," Anders said. "I'm interested in seeing how it works."

"Maybe tomorrow, then," Julia said. "Before the parade. When are you leaving anyway?"

"The day after," said Thrace. "That's all the time the Old Man could give us. We've got to be back to bring the Pegasus out of the refit yard in a couple weeks."

Clara let out a little, sad sigh at that. Julia gave her and Zack a sympathetic look before she turned her attention back to the others. "The Colony Visitor's Lodge has a basketball court. I can meet you in the morning and show you how the game works."

"So what is this parade going to be like anyway?", Thrace asked.

"Floats, displays, people dancing around and exchanging greetings in their various languages. It's a celebration of everything about the Colony." Julia sipped at her drink. She thought she felt the slightest hint of the alcohol nipping away at her sobriety.

"Before we end the night, we should see about crashing that party at the Lake Park," Zack suggested. "They'll be doing some warm-up for tomorrow."

"A proper party?" A wolfish grin now crossed the face of Kara Thrace. "And here I thought I wouldn't get a chance to show you Alliance people a proper party." She looked at Lee. "You coming, Lee?"

Lee waved a hand and shook his head. "I'll leave the demonstration to you. I'll be with the Governor tomorrow, I can't afford to be hungover."

"You were more fun when you were a pilot," she retorted.

"Responsibility and fun don't go together."

Julia's words caused Zack to glance her way briefly. "But that doesn't mean you focus entirely on one."

"Not if you can help it…" She let those words trail off by taking another drink. When Julia saw the table had gone quiet, she spoke again. "But don't stop having fun on my account. The Lake Park party won't last all night, after all." She motioned to Zack to put away the credit chit he was pulling out. "And I'll cover dinner. Don't worry, just go have fun."

Zack had a concerned look on his face. Julia answered it with a grin and a nod. "It'll be fine," she insisted. "Go on. Enjoy your time with Clara. I insist."

It was several seconds before Zack sighed, defeated, and led Clara, Thrace, and Anders out of the establishment.

The Executive Residence was hardly the palatial home that President Morgan enjoyed, nor anything like what Robert had seen other heads of state use. It had only two stories, and the second story was taken up by the bedrooms and guest rooms for state visitors. The kitchen, living area, dining area, and parlor were among the main areas of the first floor, and they were humbly furnished with mostly-basic furniture.

Robert and Julia were met by Beth at the front door, their host in a blue blouse and dark blue skirt down to the knee.. She had with her a young lady, a brunette, with light skin and brown eyes and the shawl favored by the Jewish refugees plucked up from the Pale of Settlement in C1P2. "This is Deborah Rabowicz," Beth said. "The Council insisted I hire a housekeeper."

"Captain, ma'am," the young lady said in accented English.

"Deborah, it's good to meet you." Robert offered his hand to the young lady. She stared for a moment, incredulous, before she finally remembered to extend her hand back. Robert blushed from a little embarrassment. 19th Century manners usually meant that "the help" weren't acknowledged this way by their social superiors. He'd made the young woman feel awkward and worried.

If Angel realized this, she didn't care, taking Deborah's hand as well before letting Beth hug the two of them together. "Come in. Dinner will be done soon."

"Did they make you hire a cook too?", Angel asked.

"Deborah and Annabelle do the cooking, actually," Beth said. She smirked. "But I've always been horrible at that."

"But we love you all the same," Robert said gladly.

She laughed. "I would hope so!"

The living area had a couple of couches and an assortment of recliners and chairs. Another woman, about Beth's age, was setting out drinks, and Robert recognized her from holos, photos, and prior calls as Annabelle. She was wearing the same casual blouse and skirt that Beth had, although of lavender and white color. Her skin was a solid brown in tint, the kind of brown you found in someone of mixed Caucasian and African ancestry, which was also seen in her facial structure. Light blue eyes, almost gray in their color, looked toward them. Robert could feel the warmth in the woman's being and the flutter of joy at seeing Beth. "Ah, the guests," she said. Her accent still had a slight Southern drawl to it. "It's good to see y'all." She approached and offered a hand.

Robert accepted the handshake, as did Angel. Beth got a quick embrace before the two shared a quick peck of a kiss on their lips. "Dinner should be finished soon," she said to them. "I pulled some drinks out of the cabinet."

"Do we still have that champagne that President Morgan sent us for the commemoration of the Constitutional signing?", Beth asked.

"I'm sure we have two or three bottles left." Annabelle looked to Deborah. "Debbie, dear, please check the wine pantry. I'll be in the kitchen."

"Yes, Miss," Deborah replied.

Their departure from the room left Robert and Angel to take up seats together on one of the couches, a wonderful model with a warm blue coloring. "Annabelle is better than I'd ever be at running a house," Beth admitted, a sad look on her face. "I suppose it is some compensation for the condition she was in when you liberated that plantation."

Angel frowned darkly. "There were some nasty things in those places."

"I know." Beth smiled sadly. "She still has the nightmares. But I'd rather talk about happier things."

"Agreed." Robert nodded and grinned. "I don't think I can ever say how much I'm happy for you, Beth. Annabelle is wonderful, and of everyone you're the best by far to govern the Colony. You've done more work to make New Liberty turn out like it has than anyone else."

"That's very kind of you, Robert, but you may be giving me too much credit." Beth shook her head. "I'm not a politician. And dealing with the politicians in the other Alliance states, or the Alliance Government… there are times I feel like I'm in over my head."

"That's another familiar sentiment," Robert sighed. "It's how I usually feel. Especially now."

"You've mentioned this training you're doing with your security chief."

"Yeah. It's been… a strain." Robert gave Angel a guilty look, which in turn made her cheeks burn with a bit of shame. "Especially since I often feel I'm not advancing as far as I could be. Once I've learned enough it's supposed to end, and I can get back to a normal routine."

"I'm still not sure exactly what this is you're supposed to be training for," Beth admitted. "But whatever it is… don't let it take over your life, Rob. You've got enough work in your job, and I know how heavy work loads can impact a relationship. And I know it's impacting what you two have."

"Yeah." Robert gave another uncomfortable look Angel's way before deciding to change the subject. "So, I'd like to catch up on Gabe, Ba, and the others…"

The three former Enterprise crew stood side-by-side in the large chamber of the Aurora's Main Engineering space. "Fascinating." Spock was looking over one of the unsecured stations and the variable power outputs being drawn from the various reactors compared to their capacities. "This goes far to explain the recent Romulan interest in 'naqia'."

"Aye, it's an incredible material." Scott tapped several keys on the station, bringing up the Aurora's drive profile. "I've broken all o' my old speed records with this system."

"The Darglan understanding of warp theory is quite advanced," Spock agreed. "I can see why this technology attracted your attention, Mister Scott."

It was clear that Doctor McCoy was lost on the technical side of things. "I'll take your word for it," he finally grumbled. Regardless he had a small grin on his face. "She's a beautiful ship, that's for sure. A bit too damned big, but beautiful." He looked around. "How many people do you have on this ship anyway?"

"A little under two thousand crew, not countin' th' civilian specialists."

"All these ships these days with their massive crews. Makes me miss the old days."

"I ken what ye mean, Doctor McCoy."

"Now, what I really want is to meet some more of these youngsters you're working with."

A sly grin crossed the Scotsman's face. "Well, I think there might be one lass we can meet."

After their day exploring New Liberty Colony, Caterina and Violeta had returned to the ship for a bridge watch and, for Cat, a chance to check her simulations in Science Lab 2.

Cat still wanted to see the outcome of said simulations, of course, but she found she was just as eager for 2030 to come about so Violeta would be relieved. After so long, just the mere concept of being with someone was making Cat impatient to see where it was going. The fear of eventual rejection was not nearly as strong as it had been yesterday.

Cat heard the door open. She glanced at the time and saw it was only 2003 hours; this couldn't be Violeta, nor any of the others. The timing wasn't right. She turned to face the new arrivals.

Scott continued walking up to her, two other older men at their sides. Caterina looked them over. Something was familiar about…

Then she recognized them. Or, at least, the Vulcan man in brown traveling robes to Scott's right.

Cat's eyes widened in disbelief. "Aye, lass, ye're nae bein' tricked," Scott assured her. "These are my old comrades from th' Enterprise, Mister Spock and Doctor McCoy. Gentlemen, this wee lass is Lieutenant Caterina Delgado, ship's Science Officer, an' ye'll never find another like her."

"I can see the family resemblance," McCoy noted jovially.

"Lieutenant." Spock nodded.

Caterina's joy and her shyness had kept her locked in a speechless state up to this point, neither nature able to quite overcome the other. But at long last the deadlock broke, and with it she let out her customary squeal of joy, an excited "SQUEEEEE!" that filled the lab.

Spock's eyebrow went up. A bemused grin came to McCoy's face that was matched by the satisfied one upon Scott, who had gotten the reaction he expected.

Caterina regained her composure enough to immediately offer her hand. "Mister Spock, I… it's such an honor! A pleasure… honor and pleasure… to meet you! Scotty's told us so much about you and the missions and… and your log is so thorough and precise and I have so many questions. Like the slingshot effect, how…"

And then she stopped. With the excitement having found outlet, the shyness came roaring back. A little voice in her head was yelling at her that, yes, she was in front of the legendary Mister Spock, and that she was acting like a silly fool instead of a science officer. Her cheeks turned deep red from the rush of embarrassment that went through her.

"I'm…. I a-apologize f-for my out-outburst, M-M-Mister Spock," she managed. "I just get… I got overexcited. I'm…" She stopped speaking.

Before the silence could become awkward, Spock spoke again. "Apologies are unnecessary, Lieutenant. I am quite experienced in witnessing the uncontrolled outbursts of Human emotion. Of primary concern is the issue of such enthusiasm clouding scientific judgement."

"Oh, no sir," Cat insisted. "I-I… well, I can't l-let myself get ex-excited about theories. I could b-bias myself. I have to r-remain objective. Otherwise I… I m-might not learn t-t-the facts if I don't."

"Indeed. Always keep your judgement confined away from your emotions. That is a key element to the role you have taken and will determine how well you rise in it.''

"Yes sir," she agreed. "And I can't tell you what a great honor it is to meet you." With her excitement and shyness finding a working medium point, Cat's stuttering had stopped. "And I don't think I can start to ask all the questions I have"

"I have time for a brief explanation of any points of interest to you." Spock settled into a chair beside Caterina's.

Caterina began asking questions concerning encounters from the Enterprise. The other two Enterprise crew moved away. "And she's got that muscled, healthy young lady as a sister? Older?"


"Ah." McCoy nodded. "I don't think anyone has met Spock with that kind of reaction. I wish I could have recorded it." The grin on his face turned into a little smirk. "A strange crew you've got here."

"Aye," Scott repeated, nodding. "Wud ye like t' see th' sickbay next, Doctor? They call it th' 'medbay' in th' Alliance."

McCoy nodded. "I think I'd like that."

The dining room in the Executive Residence was well-kept and looked the part of the dining area for the leader of a country (however small). The table had accommodated the main course of rotisserie chicken with multiple side dishes, with the meal being a welcome callback to the kinds of food Robert had grown up eating at the Dale family table.

Beth finished her glass of wine with a final gulp and kept a happy smile on her face. "And the entire Council started laughing."

"I would hope so," said Angel. "Why did they bother demanding something like that in the first place?"

"Some of the governments on Earth consider the normalization of relations to mean they get to push us around," Beth said. "But I told the emissary in no certain terms that New Liberty was never going to turn on its citizens, and with the Council backing me… he stomped out the door."

Robert was chuckling while shaking his head. "I never knew that happened. Why did they even try? They had to know it wouldn't go anywhere."

Beth shrugged. "I can't tell you. Maybe they thought there was something to the rumors."

"Rumors?", asked Angel.

"From Portland." Beth waved a hand dismissively. "There are rumors that the Senate is going to revoke our status as an autonomous state."

A look of worry came to Robert's face. "What? Why would…?" He stopped. The thought already came to him that this might be from Hawthorne's political allies, cutting at New Liberty because they couldn't get at him directly.

"I don't buy it. I have my own sources in Portland that say otherwise." Beth twirled her fork around some chicken and noodles on her dish. "But there's always someone coming up with ideas that they think will advance their agenda."

"Which is exactly what I'm afraid of," Robert said sullenly.

"The Defense Minister isn't a fan of ours," Angel said. "And he's got a navy admiral working alongside him that put a spy in our crew last year."

Beth's expression betrayed her surprise. "I remember you had to account for the 33LA incident with the government, but… it was that bad?"

"According to records we were shown, they were going to take our ship from us," Robert said. "They only stopped because the Gersallians and several other member states threatened to leave the Alliance."

"Do they even have the right to do that?", Beth asked. "We built the Aurora."

"But they're supporting it now. It's the Alliance that's paying our wages, giving us the crew we need to run the ship, and providing the spacedock facilities for repairs and maintenance." Robert took a sip. "So they do get a say."

"A say, maybe. But if we wanted to step out…"

Deborah entered from the side. "Madame, the consultant from Colony Security requests to see you."

"It must be about tomorrow,." Beth nodded. "Send her in."

Robert turned toward the door and watched the woman enter. Her hair was dark and long and she was built well, not too thin but well-kept in size and proportion. Her face had a reserved expression.

Surprise and a hint of suspicion came from Angel, evident in her body language That intrigued Robert.

"Robert, Angel, you've met Miss Parker, right?", Beth asked.

Robert realized why Angel was so upset. He shook his head. "Not in the flesh, but I've heard of her. Jarod brought her from his homeworld last year, didn't he?"

"He did." Miss Parker barely looked their way. "Madame Governor, I have the reports you requested ready, and Chief Almerda has made arrangements for the active and auxiliary police forces."

"The police?"

"For tomorrow," Beth clarified. "We've called up our auxiliary peacekeepers to help man the parade routes and keep everyone safe. It's standard when you run parades."

Robert frowned. "Do you think there might be an attack of some sort?"

Miss Parker smirked. "The Governor understands that just because you made this lovely little paradise for the downtrodden to be a land of hope and sunshine doesn't mean everyone will be play nice. You've got crime here like you would anywhere, and that means you need police and security to protect people."

Beth sighed at seeing how stony Robert's face had become. "It's Human nature, Rob. A lot of the people you took from those gulags and prisons and work camps were innocent people. But there were some that actually were criminals. They might not have deserved being in those kinds of places, but they don't always decide to turn a new leaf once they're out."

"Right." Robert sighed with discontent. "Silly of me to think otherwise, I guess." He nodded to Parker. "I hope you're enjoying your new work. It's something to be proud of."

"It's been a refreshing challenge," Miss Parker assured him. She turned her attention back to Beth. "I'll see you in the morning, Madame Governor."

"Enjoy the rest of the night," Beth urged. "We really must get you some time off."

"The thought is appreciated, Madame Governor, but I'll be fine." Parker nodded to them. "Enjoy your evening. You know how to reach me."

Without a further word, Parker stepped out.

Angel watched her go with a frown. Beth noticed the look on her face. "Yes?"

"I don't know if I trust her," Angel said, still looking that way. "She chased Jarod for years. And she didn't come willingly."

"She's done good work since she got here," Beth insisted. "Whatever she was before, she's embraced her opportunities here fully. We've had a drop in the crime rate since she started working with Colony Security. She's responsible for breaking up most of the major smuggling operations we've found in the last six months. She even gave up smoking'"

"Although it took her a few months," Annabelle added. "She was even kind enough to offer Beth her condolences when we thought you'd been killed by that bomb last July. Whatever she's done in the past, Miss Parker is trying to start a new life the same as everyone else."

"That's all we can ask of anyone," Robert said. He looked with concern toward Angel. "The entire point of the colony is to give people a second chance."

"Yeah." Angel forced her worry away from her mind. "I know."

The medbay was quiet, blessedly quiet, and Leo was thankful for the chance to deal with the inventory paperwork. And the personnel reports. And virtually every other piece of paperwork he had to do.

His hearing was sharp enough that he heard the main medbay door open. He stood up and left his office. By the time he took the short corridor to the main room of the medbay, he was met by the arrivals. "Mister Scott," Leo said politely. "And…"

"Doctor Leonard McCoy," the very old man at Scott's side answered. He glanced around the chamber. "Well, it looks like you're just swimming in technology, aren't you?"

Leo blinked. He recognized the name. "Your surgeon on the Enterprise," he said while looking at Scott.

"Aye." Scott grinned. "I promised Doctor McCoy a look at our medbay, but I think ye'll do a better job at it, Doctor Gillam. I'd better be goin' back t' Science Lab 2 t' see if Spock's ready t' move on."

"Or to see if that young lady has finally run out of questions," McCoy said, smirking.

Leo almost asked before putting two and two together. "You introduced Ambassador Spock to Caterina." A small smile crossed his face. "Well, if all else fails, you can replicate the jaws of life to split them apart."

"Oh, I'll think o' somethin', Doctor Gillam, dinnae worry about that."

Scott turned and left, leaving Leo alone with his counterpart from the old Enterprise. "Doctor Gillam, was it?"

Leo nodded.

McCoy smiled. "So… where are you from? I do think I hear a bit of Georgia in that accent."

At that Leo grinned. "Marietta."

"Atlanta," McCoy replied. "So, like I was saying, fancy sickbay you've got here."

Leo nodded. "A lot of good tools for saving lives. Although it's nothing without a good surgeon."

"Damn right." McCoy took a seat over on one of the biobeds. "I read your paper on removing that parasite… what was it… Go-ad?"


"Right." McCoy brought a finger up. "You took quite the risk, trying a procedure that delicate without a full operating theater."

"The St. Johns' medical module had all the gear I needed. And I didn't have the time to get the patient back to the ship." Leo patiently kept his hands at his sides. "Would you have done anything different, Doctor?"

McCoy shook his head. "Not a damn thing. It's a part of our line of work sometimes, taking risks for the good of the patient. The important part is recognizing it's a risk."

Leo nodded. The smile was fading from his face, however. "You're just working up to talking to me about Joshua Marik, aren't you?"

For several moments the elderly man in front of him didn't say anything. "Well, son, that depends," McCoy finally said.


"On you, mostly." McCoy lowered his head. "Lord knows it's never easy to lose a child."

"No, it isn't." Leo crossed his arms and sighed. After another long moment he sat opposite from McCoy on the biobed across from his. "I keep playing it over in my mind. If I could have done anything else to save Joshua."

"You always will." McCoy's voice was low, and the age made it all the more hoarse.

"And if I'd only gotten to him… a month earlier. Just a month, before the blast cells…" Leo stopped. He made himself stop.

"That's a fact of life for us, Doctor Gillam," McCoy said. "Sometimes we're just too damned late."

Leo nodded quietly. "I've lost patients before because they didn't get to me in time. I've done battle triage. But when it's just a kid it… it's so frustrating. And I know that I have to live with it." He had a pleading look on his face when he looked to the older doctor.

McCoy saw that look. A sad expression came to the deep, aged wrinkles of his face. "Nobody's going to take that pain away, Doctor. As much as we'd all like to be able to. All I can tell you is that, like any wound, it's going to heal with time."

"Yeah," Leo sighed. "I thought you'd say that."

There was nothing more to say on the subject. After a few moments of quiet McCoy slid off the bed. "Well, how about you give an old man a tour of your sickbay? Then I can give you a good and proper criticism on reliance on technology."

Despite the pain in his heart, Leo felt a laugh form in his throat. "I'd be delighted to do so, Doctor, and to hear about all of the ways I've been spoiled in the practice of medicine." He stood from the biobed. "This is our general treatment area. If half of my nurses weren't on shore leave they would have already finished checking your vitals."

"Lord, I would hope so…"

The excitement still buzzed through Caterina, even with Spock having departed with Mister Scott. Getting to speak to the legend, to hear his recollections and observations on the things he had observed in his career, it was like a late birthday gift and the best of them all.

An involuntary giggle escaped from her throat. She was so happy it almost ached.

"That can't just be anticipation for me."

Cat turned in her chair. Violeta was standing inside the door in her uniform, smiling at her. "It looks like you enjoyed your science stuff."

"It's not that." Cat sprung from her chair and skipped - skipped indeed! - up to Violeta. She felt like she would burst if she didn't start informing Violeta of what had happened. "Scotty brought his old shipmates from the Enterprise, he brought Spock! I've been reading Spock's old logs for the last year and I just couldn't believe I could talk with him and get the answers to so many questions I had and… and… and now I feel bad because you're here now and you don't want to…"

Violeta grinned and shook her head. "Everyone has their own hobbies and loves, Caterina. Just because I don't have this one doesn't mean I can't enjoy the way it makes your face light up."

Caterina felt a burn in her cheeks, which had indeed turned a deep pink. "I… thank you. But I don't want you to feel left out. Did you want to start your next module?"

Violeta shook her head. "No. It's almost 2100 and way too late for a good gaming session."

"Yeah." Cat swallowed. "Well, I guess, I mean, we could talk about… something else? No, not something else." She shook her head. Her hands moved forward until she felt Violeta grip them. She met Violeta's purple eyes, marveling still at how alluring they looked, and nodded. "We've only hung out the last couple of days, but I feel like we're bonding really well. And I'm worried I'm going to say the wrong thing or push things too hard. It's just so.. So new and exciting!"

"I know," Violeta nodded. "I'm worried too."

"Worried? About what?", asked Cat.

"About if this is right for you." Violeta brought her free hand up and gently touched Cat's face. "You're so sweet, Caterina. And you're brilliant. But I know that you've got to feel your way through this too. I don't want to rush you or hurt you."

"I know."

"So, this is going to be at your speed, Cat," Violeta continued. "You'll decide if this is going too fast or not fast enough. I'll take your lead."

Caterina responded with an understanding nod. And she thought about it.

It was frightening. And exhilarating. She had never been with someone before. Her knowledge of what that was like came entirely from observing her sister's romance with Robert over the years. Years of missed dates, small fights becoming big fights, and breakups that became friendly reconciliations and then full reconciliations, upon which the cycle would start to begin again. Their responsibilities on the Aurora only made that more difficult, and Cat dreaded the day that might come soon when Angel would break it off with Robert again, or he would with her. She hated seeing her sister hurt.

With that thought, it was easy to see why she should take it slow, or even avoid letting things get romantic at all.

But the moment Cat considered that, she felt a cry from within: NO!

No! She… she'd wanted something like this for long, always hiding even the thought of it lest her family know of what she wanted (that they had figured it out was not something she had considered, because the idea had been so scary to her). And Violeta was so… she was nice, and cute, and beautiful, and she had that exotic purple hair and eyes and curves and… and she was just… Cat didn't want to step away from this, and a part of her that she'd kept quiet for so long roared to life and demanded she take this chance now.

Just like you did with that Asari?, a voice from within warned. With it came a series of painful memories.

Caterina swallowed. Her voice didn't want to work when she tried to speak, and Violeta simply continued to be patient with her, compassion and friendliness shining in those lovely purple eyes…

Those same eyes widened when Caterina, pushing herself up on tip-toes, pressed her lips against Violeta's. It was only a light kiss at first, a series of pecks on the lips, but growing confidence soon turned it into a full one. Violeta's arms came up and went back down, and it would be Cat who reached with her arms to pull the taller woman closer to her.

The kiss became the kind of thing one remembered, full of passion and hunger. Violeta smiled through it and put a hand on Caterina's shoulder and neck. She lowered her head further to enable the kiss to continue. She left it up to Caterina on when to end it.

It finally did end, if just for Caterina to force herself to breathe. "I…" Her cheeks turned bright pink. "I…"

The smile on Violeta's face turned into a wide grin. "Do you feel better?"

"I…" Caterina swallowed. Thoughts and desires swirled in her head. "I… really think we should go somewhere. Other than here. Someone else might come into the science lab."

"I share my quarters with three other officers," Violeta pointed out.

"Right." Cat's smile turned a little sheepish. "But I don't."

The two young ladies began kissing the moment the door to Cat's quarters closed. They went over to the small couch in Cat's personal area and sat there, continuing to quietly kiss, to simply enjoy the sensations of the act. Violeta took the lead only slightly, using a hand to guide where Cat's head moved.

Caterina felt like her heart would burst from her chest as the kiss continued. Her hands moved to Violeta's sides while Violeta ran a hand along her right hip. The hand started to come up, moving under her arm toward her shoulder. Cat felt a tingle of good feeling, of simple pleasure, at the touch of Violeta's hands on her shoulder and neck, guiding their kiss as it continued, stopped for breath, and then resumed.

Their eyes opened briefly, and something in Cat's heart throbbed at seeing the look in Violeta's eyes, on her face. "You decide," was all she said.

Caterina nodded yes. Violeta moved forward and kissed her again. Her hands went to Cat's shoulders, one going to her throat and the other up her shoulder and down to…

The memory roared through Cat, without warning, without any intent on her part. She remembered a hand on her neck and shoulder like that, the other hand extending downwards…

She remembered Morinth.

A phantom of pain, not real but every bit as terrible as it had been when it was real, shot through Caterina's body. She could remember screaming, she could remember her terror, her inability to move, the feeling of helplessness that Morinth had given her when she started to kill her. The agony ripping through her body, burning it out from within.

Violeta gasped in shock when Cat cried out, lost in the sudden scream of pain and fear. She pushed away from Violeta and curled up on the opposite end of the couch. Her hazel eyes widened with the shock of the experience, the ferocity of that horrible memory coming back.

"What's wrong?", Violeta asked. Her breathing was heavy and a flicker of frustration crossed her features, followed shortly afterward by a full wave of shame at her instinctive reaction. That quickly turned to compassion as the young astrogator watched the tears welling in Caterina's eyes.

"I'm… I…" Cat sniffled. "I don't know why. I w-was enjoying thi-this… but th-then I t-thought of Mor-Morinth…"


"Th-the Asari w-who nearly k-killed me," Cat stuttered, in a sound almost to the point of weeping when you considered the tears.

Silence filled the quarters for a short time. Violeta's purple eyes started to brim with tears. "I understand."

"I-I'm s-sorry." Caterina shook her head. "I w-wanted it… b-but I… I…"

Violeta put a hand on Caterina's shoulder. "It's okay. I understand. You were hurt and nearly killed."

"I-I'm sup-supposed to be a-an ad-adult…" Caterina let out a choked sob. "B-But I ca-can't h-help it… I…"

"Caterina, please…" Violeta shook her head. "Don't feel guilty about this, please."

"I have to get st-stronger… I count o-on An-Angel so m-much, b-but she has h-her own life. I ha-have to g-get stronger. I-have to st-stand on m-my own. But th-things l-like this h-happen, a-and a-all I c-can d-do is cry… I must l-look like a bi-big baby to y-you."

"It's okay to cry. Over this." Violeta lowered her eyes. "But If I'm making you uncomfortable, I'll leave."

There was no immediate response from Caterina. But it was clear that she was uncomfortable with Violeta around. That having some witness her in this state, reduced to tears by the memories of pain and helplessness that had arisen within her, was making Cat even more upset. Violeta nodded quietly and stood. She walked to the door.

Just before it opened, Cat called out, "Stop, p-please."

Violeta did so. She turned and she faced Cat.

"You're r-right. Having s-someone see m-me like this…" Cat shook her head. "I h-hate being l-like this. Even w-with my sister. So I am uncomfortable." She forced a breath in. "B-but I th-think that's g-good. It might h-help me g-get better at this. So.. p-please s-stay. If you w-want, I mean."

Violeta walked back over to her and sat back on the couch. "I want to help you," she said.

"Th-thank you." Caterina looked at her and, despite the red in her cheeks and the pain in her eyes, a small smile came to her face. With determination she repeated her words. "Thank you, Violeta."

"You're welcome, Caterina." Wordlessly Violeta opened her arms.

It was an invitation Caterina happily accepted, moving over and letting the taller woman embrace her warmly. She wrapped her arms around Violeta's waist.

And the two did nothing else for the rest of the night.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-15 12:44pm

The Colony Visitor's Lodge was near the oldest residential areas of the Colony. A five story prefab building, it was originally employed to house new arrivals to New Liberty until permanent housing could be found, during which the residents would be issued with their translator devices and given other means to acclimate to their new home.

Of course, that had changed over the years. The Emigrant Welcoming Center now provided that housing and training, in rather more spacious surroundings, and the Colony had signed the property over to a colonist, Jeong Jin-Taek, who turned it into a lodge for visitors to the Colony. The rooms were refurbished as hotel rooms and the former common teaching areas turned into an eating area with three meals served per day. The old gym area had stayed the same, however, with the basketball courts and football field still available for both guests and local residents.

Earlier in the day they had settled their visitors from New Caprica into rooms. Lee paid with a voucher worth Alliance credits, courtesy of the Colonial budget, with one room each for himself, for Kara and Anders, and for Clara (and Zack). The doors were internal, which of course made the place feel fancy compared to the external entry doors you had at "normal" hotels, or at least as Julia had always known them.

Lee sat down beside the bed, his bag on the floor beside it right where he had left it earlier in the day, and looked around. A holovideo player was prominent on the dresser opposite the bed. An air conditioning unit was set below the window, outside of which one could see the Colony's central district. A bathroom unit, with shower, was available to the right of the entrance door.

"It's not a suite on Cloud 9," Lee observed. "But it looks nice."

"An old fashioned hotel room." Julia took a seat at the table between the bed and the window.

"You know the owner?"

She nodded. "A little. Jeong was one of the people we pulled out of a North Korean labor camp about two weeks after we got into that line of work." Julia shook her head while a thoughtful expression came to her face. The old memories were not pleasant, in many cases. "Sometimes I still see those places in my nightmares."

Lee nodded in reply and sat on the bed right across from her. Julia felt a slight burning in her cheeks when the thought came to mind that Lee was a rather handsome and attractive man.

"We've all gone through something," he said. "I noticed that Commander Carrey was a little disappointed in you."

Julia sighed and nodded. "Zack thinks I need a break. That I'm focusing too much on the work and not having enough fun in my life." The side of her mouth curled up, creating a little bit of an amused smirk. "Honestly, he's probably right. But I… I like what I do. Command is something I've always wanted. Maybe not quite like this, but I pushed for responsible positions even when I was younger."

Lee chuckled at that. "I've got more authority now than I ever wanted in life. Command of my own Battlestar… it's the dream of every Navy officer, and it fell to me."

"Your father needed the best man for the job, and you're it."

"He just wanted me as Fisk's XO. But Fisk had to go and meddle in the election."

"Zack hasn't talked much about the election. It's a bit of a shock that Baltar won, and I'm a little incredulous that he didn't settle here or another world outside of N2S7."

"Baltar isn't the easiest man to figure out. Which is surprising given how much of a narcissist the man can be."

"Anyway, you have the Pegasus now." Julia smiled at him. "Congratulations. Whatever the circumstances behind it, starship command's a big achievement."

Lee looked at Julia thoughtfully. "Commander, I would think you're jealous of me, the way you're sounding."

Julia started to speak, to deny it, but she stopped at the last moment. The damned thing was… he was right. To a degree. "I think about commanding a ship. As in being the Captain," she admitted. "Or Commander, in your case."

Lee nodded in understanding. "But you won't do it right now?"

"Right now I'm content where I am." Julia said the words without the kind of conviction she'd expected to have. "I keep the Aurora running and Robert turns to me for advice."

"But he's still ultimately the CO. And you follow his orders," Lee observed. "Have you thought about getting your own command?"


As soon as she said it, Julia knew she'd lied. And she knew Lee would know it. The thought had been subtle at first, but it had grown from there; there were times she had thought about it. About having her own ship. The price, though…

"I don't want to leave my friends," Julia said. "I'd have to. Or even worse, I'd bring some along, and we'd be fully split up."

"That's part of the navy life, though. You make friends, then you leave them when you go to new postings. When you climb in the ranks."

"I'm not denying it. But I'm not going to just walk out on the people I care about. Not to satisfy my ambition. I care about them too much."

"I do understand that." Lee leaned forward. "But I saw the way you were looking at Kara and Clara. You… don't have anyone, do you?"

For the first time, Julia actually frowned. She looked down at the floor for a moment to gather her thoughts. "Not in a long time."

Lee made a short, sad laugh. "Yeah, I know that."

"I had a guy. Years ago." Julia was still frowning when she lifted her head and faced Lee again. "He was a creep, and I cut him off. Then later I found out how much of a creep he was when I pulled a friend out of his literal torture dungeon."

The look on Lee's face actually brought a smile, albeit a small one, to Julia's face, from the amusement she felt at it. "That's… I don't think I can top that, actually," Lee admitted.

"Few can." Julia shook her head. "And I could have had… someone. A couple someones, actually. In the first case, we enjoy our relationship as it is and we didn't want to complicate it with romance. In the second…" Julia shook her head. "He was declaring his love for me, but I couldn't feel any for him. Not in that way. And honestly, I don't know if I want a relationship right now. I've got my work, and I like it. I'm not going to pine for a relationship that wouldn't work anyway."

"I can understand that." Lee leaned forward. His breathing had picked up a little. Julia got the feeling that he had much the same thoughts about her appearance as she had about his. "There's always the work."


Their eyes met. And in that way people could have, and without anything like mental abilities or life force sensing, they could understand each other. What they wanted and needed.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Julia forced herself to say.

"Right." Lee nodded in agreement.

Julia stood up. She didn't look back to him, but went for the door. Her hand gripped the handle and she twisted it.

But she did not pull the door open. At the last moment she stopped. Her heart pounded in her ears. She took a breath, then another, and felt the anticipation within her. It was a feeling she hadn't had in a long time.

The feeling of need that joined it wasn't as old. She had felt it, sometimes quite often. She had felt it tonight, seeing the way Zack and Clara acted with each other. The same with Kara Thrace and Samuel Anders.

And she felt it whenever she saw Robert and Angel together.

She turned back. Lee had removed his uniform jacket, now on the back of one of the table chairs, and was pulling off his uniform undershirt. He turned back to her after removing it. His chest was muscular and fit and, to her eye, certainly an appealing sight.

WIth deliberate steps Julia walked up to him. Lee kept his eyes on her, and it was clear he had similar thoughts. He did nothing, however, waiting to see what she would do first.

It was up to Julia to begin the kiss.

And she did so without hesitation.

It was getting late in the evening for both the Colony and the Aurora, synced as they were to the same operating time, and with dinner over Robert and Angela were preparing to leave Beth's house. Beth and Annabelle followed them to the front door. "Thank you for the meal, Beth." The smile that appeared on Robert's face was a sad one. "If only we could do it more often."

"I know the feeling." Beth embraced him, and he accepted it. With their arms around each other they gave one another a soft pat on the back. "I'm so worried about you. About you and everyone," she said. "You keep going into danger like that."

"I know," he answered. "But it's what we signed on for."

"There are times, Robert, that I wish you'd give this up and come here. There's plenty of farmland."

A soft grin crossed his face at that. "It'd be something, I suppose. An idea for when I retire."

Robert could feel the pang of fear that went through Beth. The thought that crossed her mind.

If you live long enough to retire…

"Don't worry about me," he said to her. "We've been through a lot, but we're still here. I'm not going anywhere. I promise."

Beth nodded. Left unsaid was the rejoinder in her mind: Don't make promises you can't keep.

Robert moved on to hugging Annabelle, who accepted it graciously. Angel meanwhile hugged Beth.

"Take care of her, please," Robert whispered softly to Annabelle, just a second before Beth whispered, "Please take care of Rob" to Angel.

The response was a pair of "I will"s.

Robert looked back at Beth. Beyond her, in the next room, Robert could make out the form of Miss Parker standing quietly, all proper in a casual business suit and long skirt, with a data reader in her hand. Angel couldn't quite hide the glare she was giving to Parker. She, in turn, saw them looking and returned the looks with a quiet gaze of, if not challenge, assertion.

"I trust her," Beth said. She could see where they were looking. "She's been a huge help, Robert. Please…"

"I'm not going to question you, Beth. This is your Colony. And it's made for second chances." Robert shook his head. "It's just hard. Knowing how long she chased Jarod…"

"It can be hard to bury old grudges and fears," Annabelle observed. She took Beth's hand tenderly. "But that is what our Colony was built to do. We move on from the pain of the past to the brightness of the future. A new start."

Robert nodded in agreement, prompting Angel to do the same.

But he knew Angel, for one, wasn't feeling it.

The tour ended in the quiet of the Lookout. Outside a number of civilian vessels loitered in orbit, performing their business or waiting for business to conclude with the anniversary celebrations the next day.

The former Enterprise crew sat together at a table near the window, observing the sight of the planet below and the ships before them. "Well, Scotty, I'll give you this," McCoy said. "You've got quite the ship here."

"It is most impressive," Spock agreed.

"That's kind o' ye t' say." It was clear from his face that Scott was beaming with pride at their assessment. "I've worked hard t' keep her runnin', an' th' crew does a fine job in bringin' us home." A wistful sigh came to him. "She's still not th' Enterprise, of course."

"Obviously so," replied Spock. "But we should always avoid the temptation to allow indulgence in memory to undermine our understanding of the present. This vessel is as worthy of your efforts as the Enterprise was, and she is a credit to your skill, Mister Scott, and to the skills of her other builders and her crew."

"That damned Vulcan stoicism aside, Spock's right about this one," McCoy agreed. "A man your age should be grateful you're in enough health to keep a ship like this running."

"Ah, gentlemen, Guten Abend."

The three turned and faced Hargert, who approached with a platter of glasses. "If I may be forgiven the interruption, I wished to meet you gentlemen. Mister Scott has spoken quite highly of you."

"Doctor, Mister Spock, this is th' gentleman who operates th' Lookout," Scott said. "Mister Hargert."

McCoy looked over the platter, and the bottles with the glasses. "Bourbon," he noted.

"Mister Scott and I have conversed on some on our favored drinks, Doctor," Hargert explained. "Your preferences were referenced."

"Well." McCoy smiled. "Don't mind if I do." He took a glass and held it toward Hargert, who gripped the bottle of Bourbon and brought it toward McCoy.

"Ye got that Scotch, I see", Scott said to Hargert as he poured McCoy's glass.

Hargert nodded and shifted his smiling face to Scott. "Of course, Mister Scott." He gestured toward the bottle in question, which Scott took with an empty glass. "And Mister Spock, as I am informed that you do not enjoy alcohol, I have attempted to brew a plomeek tea that, it is my hope, meets with your satisfaction." He presented the cup to Spock, who nodded politely and accepted it. "As for myself… schnapps, of course." He poured his glass and held it up. "To the benefits of age, gentlemen. We have the benefit of experience and the privilege of sharing it with the young."

"A most gratifying sentiment, Mister Hargert," Spock said, holding up the tea.


"That's about all I do these days," mumbled McCoy, but despite the slight sour look on his face, there was a grin on it.

The four old men took to their drinks. McCoy set his Bourbon down. "Mister Hargert, this is the finest Bourbon I have enjoyed in years."

"I am grateful, Doctor." Hargert nodded to him. "I am a discerning customer to my suppliers."

Spock finished a drink of his own beverage. "Your handiwork with the tea is singular. It is most satisfactory."

"My thanks to you, Mister Spock." Hargert took a drink of his schnapps. "At this time in my life, my pleasure is derived from seeing others enjoy the fruit of my labors in the kitchen."

"If only we'd had you on the Enterprise," McCoy said. "You're going to spoil the kids you've got running this ship."

"Doctor, I think he already has spoiled 'em," said Scotty.

"Ah, but spoiling is a point of view," Hargert said. "I like to think that I allow them the luxury of knowing there is a good meal waiting for them whenever they have need of it. That is one of the important things in life, isn't it?"

"You cannae get any arguin' from me about that, Mister Hargert," Scotty asserted.

"I'll drink to that." McCoy held up his glass. "To the Important Things."

As before, the toast was happily shared.

It was morning when Julia awoke, more by internal clock than anything else. A brief confusion at her surroundings immediately faded as the warmth of Lee Adama against her naked body, asleep beside her in the hotel bed, reminded her of why she was here. A slight blush appeared on her cheeks.

She slipped out of the bed. When she reached down for a piece of discarded clothing, Lee's voice came from behind her. "I'll understand if you regret it."

She turned back to face him, uniform pants already in hand. "Regret it? No." She shook her head. A small, thin smile came to Julia's lips. "I probably needed it more than I'd ever admit. And I get the same feeling from you."

He matched her smile. "Probably," he admitted.

"Zack's probably right that I need to live more." Julia sat back on the bed. Lee's hand touched her bare back, following the curve of her spine. Even in the dim light of the room they were visible enough that Julia and Lee could admire the sight of one another. "But part of living, to me, is what I do. I can make a difference out there, and I know I can be a leader."

"You're probably better at it than I'd be," Lee said.

Julia looked back at him. "Don't sell yourself short, Lee. You deserve better than that." She reached over to the spot on the ground where her multidevice had fallen due to the enthusiasm of the night. "Well, I have just enough time to beam back up and get ready if I want to make it to the basketball court."

"You can use my shower if it's faster," Lee offered. "I'll wait."

Julia gave him a pointed look. "Usually when an offer like that is made in our circumstances, they end up late."

Lee shrugged. "I suppose so."

Julia nodded at his acceptance. And then a little, impish smile came to her face, and her green, aquamarine-shaded eyes glinted with a playfulness she tended to hold back. "If we run a little late, there won't be much harm."

The remark made Lee laugh. As he did so, she walked to the door to the bathroom and pointedly left the door open while she turned the light on and reached for the shower controls.

The others were waiting patiently when Julia and Lee showed up at the gym, ten minutes late. It wasn't hard for the others to guess why, either.

Zack saw the spring in Julia's step, the impish little grin that told him that she knew she was going to be late and had done it anyway, and with just a smile and not a word he raised his hand toward Thrace, palm up.

Starbuck shot him a look that was both irritated and playful. "Godsdammit," she muttered, fishing in the pocket of her replicated gym shorts to pull out a plastic-cloth blend Alliance credit bill. She slapped it into his hand. "Lucky guess, Loverboy."

"Not as much as you think, Starbuck," Zack replied. "Not as much as you think."

Caterina woke up alone. Despite the recalled trauma the prior night, she hadn't had a nightmare about Morinth. That, at least, was a good thing.

First she checked the time. And she had plenty before they'd be expected to beam down for the parade. She wondered if they'd made any changes to the float. It had looked pretty last year, but there had been room for improvement. They'd been a little off on the nacelle placement.

A thought came to Caterina before she went to her shower. She went into the living area of her quarters and found the couch still occupied. Violeta hadn't even taken her uniform off.

Tears came to Cat's eyes. Violeta had stayed in her quarters just in case she needed someone. It fit what she knew of Violeta's personality and, yet… it also made her understand, and enjoy, how close they had become, even over just two days.

She wondered about that. Was Violeta as lonely as she was? Did she actually… attract Violeta that strongly? Her? She was skinny and short and small and not really curvy at all, she wasn't pretty, maybe "cute" at best… and Violeta was into her?

Maybe it wasn't physical? Maybe… they just worked well together?

Either way, Caterina bent over and gave Violeta a little kiss on the cheek. When she saw the woman's purple eyes start to flutter open, she said, "Good morning."

It took Violeta a few moments to work the sleep out before she finally responded. And then several more moments before she asked, "How are you feeling, Cat?"

"Me? I'm doing okay," Cat answered. "I feel better now." She smiled at Violeta as she sat up. "Thank you for staying."

"It's okay." Violeta smiled back. "I'm a pushover for sensitive girls, honestly. I just want to hug you and tell you it'll be okay and let you fall asleep in my arms."

A little giggle came from Cat. "Well, I'm really sensitive, so that works?" She sat down next to Violeta. "So, are you going to the parade? There might be room on the float."

Violeta laughed. But Cat's heart fell at realizing it was a sad laugh. "I'm scheduled to work the watch shift on the bridge during the parade," she said. "I'm still new on the ship. I mean, I've only been here for four months. When you're that new, you end up working the shifts when everyone else is off doing something."

"That's so not fair," Caterina said, after which she sighed. "Well, okay, maybe… well, I guess someone has to watch my science shift too during the parade, so I can't complain, can I?"

"Someone has to do it." Violeta shook her head. "Don't worry about me. I get to have tonight off. And we still have those crystals to get…"

That made Cat smile. "And I still have to get a handle on playing a black mage."

"I wasn't going to say anything… so you'll be there at 1900?"

"I'll be on the bridge until at least 1830, so I'll have to rush… but yeah," Cat answered. "I'll get there as soon as I can."

"I look forward to it. So… I guess you'd better get ready for your parade…"


"And I need to go back to my quarters to get ready for my shift." Violeta sighed wistfully. "See you at 1900?"

Cat nodded and smiled. "1900. But before you go…"

Cat leaned over and put her lips to Violeta's, and before they went their separate ways for the day, they shared a tender kiss.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-15 04:34pm


It was after the parade that Scotty met back up with Spock and McCoy. As VIPs, they had joined Beth, as well as the Colonial delegates and others, on the main stand to watch the procession, and afterward were there to greet the Aurora crew after the float (improved by the views of some of them) returned to its proper hanger.

The introductions were exchanged. The meeting most of the others anticipated, beyond the disappointment from Caterina having already met Spock, was Spock being introduced to Jarod. The two geniuses exchanged handshakes. "A pleasure to meet you, Mister Spock." Jarod grinned slightly. "I actually took the name 'Doctor Spock' once myself."

Spock raised a curious eyebrow. "I see. Would this happen to have been a reference to 20th Century pediatrician Doctor Benjamin Spock?"

Jarod nodded. "That it was. I was Pretending to be a pediatrician at the time."

"I see. Mister Scott informs me that you learned warp mechanics after observing a systems chart for twenty seconds?"

Jarod looked to Scotty, who grinned like a teacher showing off a prized pupil. "Give or take a second," he answered. "Although that was mechanical understanding, mostly. The underlying science was something I took a little longer to grasp."

"I myself required seventeen seconds, but I had the advantage of prior knowledge of the scientific basis in question," Spock answered.

Before Jarod could answer that, his multidevice let out a tone. "Excuse me," he said, looking down to check it. It was a message from Sydney. He looked to Robert and Julia. "Sydney wants to meet me at his office, we're going to dinner."

"We'll see you back on the ship, Jarod," Robert replied. "Take care. And give him a hello from the rest of us."

"Thank you." Jarod looked back to Spock. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Ambassador Spock. Hopefully we can meet again some time."

"Indeed so," Spock answered. "Live long and prosper."

"The same to you."

After Jarod stepped away, McCoy came up beside Spock, having just finished talking with Zack and Barnes. "Hrm. I always wondered what you'd be like if you showed emotions. I reckon he's as close as we'll ever get to that."

"Unlikely, Doctor, but an interesting thought nevertheless."

As the rest of the Aurora crew was starting to disperse, to either go to duty stations or head on to enjoy the rest of the day, Scotty returned to them and joined them in stepping outside. There was still cheering coming from the city, distant and thunderous, as the celebrations continued into the after-parade events. "Are ye stayin' any longer?", he asked his old comrades.

"Regrettably, I am informed that my window of opportunity to return to Romulan space in safety is starting to close," Spock answered. "I will be departing within the hour to make the necessary rendezvous to return to Romulus."

"A damned shame," McCoy said. "But I can't do much better. The Phlox is arriving in thirty minutes to drag me back to Starfleet Medical. Seems there's been an outbreak or some other damned thing."

"Aye, duty calls."

"As duty always does," Spock noted. He gave Scotty a meaningful look. "I am grateful to see that you have found your own place in our century, Mister Scott."

"It's better than babysittin' midshipmen or wastin' away at th' retirement colony," Scotty said. "An' it's good t' know that after all these years, I can still do th' job."

"Indeed. And I look forward to hearing further reports of your achievements, Mister Scott." One might have almost thought Spock was being wistful when he continued, "Your continuation of the voyages we made long ago is… agreeable."

"Just don't let these kids run you ragged, Scotty," McCoy insisted. "Or I might have to have a word or two with them."

"I would surmise that these words would be among the more colorful terms in your vocabulary, Doctor?", Spock asked.

McCoy flashed a grin in reply. "You're damned right about that, Spock."

Jarod found a ride on the community taxi line to get him to the Medical Plaza. He entered the office building where Sydney kept his offices. It was closed down with only a single security guard visible, a light-skinned Human or Human-looking man in sunglasses. Jarod nodded to the man, who nodded back as Jarod went on into the hall toward the office.

He entered the office waiting space. Sydney's secretary wasn't present. That didn't surprise him, and Jarod saw no problems in knocking on the closed door. "Sydney? I'm here." He opened the door after a moment.

There was nobody in the office.

Jarod's hand went immediately to a key on his multidevice.

That same second, amber energy lit up the periphery of his vision. He turned in time to see the phaser beam being absorbed by the energy field his multidevice was emitting. His attacker was a humanoid, somewhat short, and mostly human-looking. Mostly save the fur-covered, cat-like ears on the top of her head, and the red tail swishing behind her. Jarod recognized her as from one of the lesser-advanced species of N2S7, a Mi'qote.

She growled something in her native language. The auto-translator decided the best translation was "Bollocks!"

Jarod heard the step to his left and turned to face a man in dark-colored combat gear. Dark eyes gave him a cold, intent look from a face with East Asian features.

He moved more quickly that Jarod could anticipate and threw a punch that sent Jarod flying back into the door to Sydney's inner office. One of the hinges was torn off from the impact. A red light on Jarod's multidevice alerted him to his shield nearly failing from the blow. It had been a-near superhuman strike - Jarod figured it was cybernetic enhancement - and that told him his attacker was giving him precious little time to react.

React he did. Julia had taught him some of her techniques, and he applied it by a quick shift to the right that caused his opponent's next punch to go through air. Jarod timed his own punch to a pressure point, at the celiac plexus, that knocked the wind out of the man for a brief second. He grabbed and pivoted, turning his attacker's weight and momentum against him to send him flying into the door Jarod had just hit, tearing it completely off its hinges.

Another amber flash and the whine of a phaser told him the first attacker was still after him. His shield took that shot as well. But there was no guarantee his shield could take another, not from the disruption caused by that punch he'd taken. Jarod ran out into the hall.

He nearly collided with someone else, a short man with almost pale white skin and short-cut brown hair. Jarod turned away from him and back down the way he had come in, even as the new arrival threw a kick at his feet that his shield barely resisted. The attacker cried out in pain and rage at the feedback the shield hit him with. He fell back.

Running, Jarod finally had a moment to hit the comm key on his multidevice. "This is Jarod, emergency transport, now!"

There was no answer.

Jarod's mind was quick enough to consider the attack and what it meant. He could imagine the likely responsible party. It would be something to deal with when he got away. If he could get to the security desk, a hardwired line might…

Ahead of him the security guard from before appeared at the end of the hall. Jarod looked at him, saw the look on his face, and realized he was in trouble.

How much trouble, however, he hadn't even a chance to realize before it was too late.

The fake guard's hand came up toward Jarod. Suddenly it was like Jarod had run into a brick wall. He slammed into nothingness and literally fell right back.

He tried to get back up. As he did the man's hand became a fist. Invisible force grabbed Jarod by the throat and lifted him. He choked out a cry of surprise and fear while his feet flailed below him. He looked on his attacker as his free hand pulled away his sunglasses.

His eyes were an unnatural, yellow color, almost gold, and almost gleeful.

The force on Jarod's neck tightened. He gasped and choked, but no air could enter through the force holding his windpipe closed. Within seconds he was starting to black out.

"Stop, or you won't get paid," a voice said. "I need him alive."

Jarod felt the force go away and hit the floor. He tried to raise his head. A pair of hands grabbed each arm and pulled him up, holding his arms behind him until cold metal gripped his wrists. He glared at the person in front of him. "Of course it was you."

"It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out," replied Miss Parker. She was in the kind of business casual suit Jarod had always seen her favor during their long chase. About the only change was the multidevice on her wrist and that the firearm at her hip was now an Alliance-model pulse pistol. "That's how it's always been for us. You run, I chase." She smirked as she brought a cigarette up to her mouth. Her other hand bore the lighter that, with a flick of her finger, she used to light the cigarette up. She inhaled from it for a moment, causing a red glow to further consume the cigarette. She removed it from her mouth and exhaled a breath full of smoke. "God, I needed that," she sighed, savoring the experience.

But with that done, Miss Parker returned her attention to Jarod. "You know, I always figured I'd catch you eventually. I just never imagined it'd be like this." She gestured around her at the rest of her team.

"Why are you doing this?" Try as he might, Jarod was being held by two of his prior assailants, and was well and truly caught. "I saved your life," Jarod reminded her, frowning. "More than once."

"Yes, you have," replied Miss Parker. "And now, Jarod, you're going to save my father."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-20 12:14pm


The planet of New Liberty continued its quiet orbit outside the window of Robert's bridge office. He stood nearby, in the black-and-command-red-trim uniform of the Alliance Navy, breathing in a sigh at the sight. New Liberty, once, had not even been a speck on the planet surface. But now he could make out the gray splotch of city, and if his vision was a bit stronger, perhaps he'd even make out the fields surrounding the city where the Colony's staples were grown.

The thought occurred to him of one day retiring here and founding a new Dale family farm. Although Angel was, by her own repeated admission, not the type to be a farmhouse wife, he could almost imagine them in a home like his family's, kids playing in the fields as they grew old together.

Thinking of Angel in that way felt weird. Their relationship had always floundered on one rock or another, and it was certainly rocky right now. But it wasn't like he had anyone else to think about that way?

Except, of course, for that memory of the eagerly-shared kiss after a thrilling escape and a tumble down a collapsing hill. The pain in his ribs, the feeling of dirt and sweat mingling, the jubilant look on Julia's face before and after they shared that kiss...

The thoughts and dreams might have become a confusing, hopeless muddle if not for the interruption when his door chime went off. "Come in," he called out, and turned in time to see Julia enter with her uniform on. "I thought I had you on leave for another two days?", he asked with a wry look.

"Technically, you do. Technically, I'm not handing you the last shift's reports," she said. An amused grin crossed her face. "Technically this sprouted wings and flew to you."

"Ah, technically, that sounds interesting," he replied, chuckling and taking the datapad. "So how are you going to enjoy your remaining leave-time?"

"I'm going to tour the Colony again," she replied. "Seeing it with Zack and the others made me realize how much it had changed. I can barely find my way around it now."

"It's a booming city now," Robert agreed. "And it makes you think, doesn't it?"

"About how we started it? Yeah." she nodded. "Of course, that's what this anniversary is all about, isn't it?"

He nodded quietly. "Well, I don't want to…"

Before he could finish, there was a tone at his desk to say they had an incoming communication. He pressed the button to open the comm line. "This is Captain Dale," he said.

The person on the other end was Jupap. "Sir, Colony Security is hailing us."

"What for?", he asked.

"They say something happened in the Medical Plaza. It… it involves Commander Jarod."

Robert and Julia exchanged worried looks.

The transporter that brought Jarod and his captors to what looked like the inside of a ship was an Alliance model transporter. Which did not narrow down the suspects as well as he might hope, unfortunately, as the subspace tunnelling-style transporter was becoming more and more widespread with every passing month.

The room was full of chairs. One had been prearranged with restraint cuffs built into the arm. Jarod was forced into the chair and restrained with those cuffs by two of his attackers while Miss Parker watched.

"He is still determining how to escape," said the golden-eyed man. "Give me ten minutes with him and I will crush his spirit."

"Jarod's been conditioned to resist torture and abuse," Miss Parker replied. "And the Centre wants him back intact. Which means I want him delivered intact."

Jarod laughed at her. "Do you really think they're going to let you walk away?"

"Oh, I'm sure they'd still like to make an example of me," she said. "But they'll be happy with having you back. Then they'll let my father go."

"Do you really think he's still alive?" Jarod laughed harshly and shook his head. "You should know better."

"I know he's alive," answered Miss Parker. "And if they betray me…" She frowned at the thought, which she clearly wasn't letting herself think about. "That's why I hired these gentlemen. If the Centre kills him, or they try to double-cross me, I have the firepower to make them regret it." There was a cold look to Miss Parker's eyes as she inhaled another drag from her cigarette.

One of Jarod's attackers, the Asian cyborg, left the room. "I would have helped you rescue your father," Jarod said. "If you'd asked."

"Would you have, Jarod?" Miss Parker drew up a chair. She took another drag from her cigarette. "With everything my father was responsible for? What if it meant leaving your dear friends on the Aurora?"

"I would have arranged something," he insisted.

For several moments their eyes met, and it was clear Miss Parker was considering the sincerity of his words. During their silence, Jarod felt a steady acceleration through the ship and a sudden lurching feeling that surged and vanished. It was the familiar sensation of entering an interuniversal jump point.

The door slid open again. The cyborg re-entered. His voice was calm when he reported, "Wolff just made the jump. It doesn't look like anyone was the wiser in orbit. We're home free."

"Thank you, Kang." Miss Parker stood up. "Wilton, Y'tala, you'll have the first watch with him. Don't let Jarod out of your sight. In two hours I'll have you relieved."

The Mi'qote woman and the short man in the room nodded.

Miss Parker nodded to the man with the gold eyes, who nodded back and departed with Kang.

"He's a corrupted Gersallian, isn't he?", Jarod asked.

Miss Parker stopped and turned. "You mean he has the same weird magic that the Gersallians go on about? Yes, he does. And I'm paying him almost everything I have left after hiring the others."

"You made a lot of money in a year as a 'security consultant'", he charged.

Miss Parker smirked. "Well, as I told your friend Captain Dale last night… there's a dark side to his precious utopia. And I'm very good at finding things." She took another drag from her cigarette and blew out a puff of smoke. "Enjoy the ride, Jarod. We'll be back home soon enough."

Without another word, she left, leaving Jarod alone with his guards.

Undiscovered Frontier
"Family Matters"

Robert and Julia were met by Sydney at the office building he used in the Medical Plaza. He was accompanied by two men, an African and someone with a tanned bronze complexion. Robert recognized the second man as Luis de Almerda, a Colombian policeman whom they'd found in a FARC camp back in the old days. He was in the uniform of the New Liberty Colony Security Service and was the chief of police for the entire colony. "What happened?"

"Mister Okonwi can explain better," said Almerda.

The African man nodded. When he spoke, the translation systems kicked in for Robert and Julia. "We detected an unscheduled transportation from the premises approximately thirty-eight minutes ago," Okonwi explained. "Officers were dispatched to the scene and found evidence of a struggle in Dr. Sydney's office. We also located the security guard unconscious in a backroom during our search of the premises."

"This was a trap, then." Robert looked to Sydney. "Do you know anything of what happened here?"

"I found a message from Jarod on my device," Sydney explained, "telling me he had almost arrived at the office. Going by the message he believed I had called to meet him here. But I never did."

"Someone lured Commander Jarod into a trap with the false message. Someone aware that he would not be on guard," observed Almerda.

Robert felt a sick feeling in his stomach. The suspect was not too hard to guess. "Miss Parker," he muttered.

"It would make some sense, unfortunately." Sydney shook his head. "Miss Parker was upset in being brought here, and she worries about her father's fate with the Centre. She may have taken Jarod to try and save her father by exchanging him."

"Given what Jarod's told us about these people, I doubt they'll cooperate that well." Robert sighed and clenched his hands into fists. He thought he could actually feel it, feel the emotions Jarod had felt as he was attacked with… overwhelming power?

A cold trickle went up his spine.

Julia noticed the change in his expression. "Are you okay?", she asked.

He looked to her and shook his head. "I feel like there's something… wrong here. Something nasty."

"You are correct."

They all turned. Meridina was walking up to them, wearing the casual robes of her Order. "Commander Meridina," said Almerda. "Thank you for coming."

"You are most welcome. I came as quickly as I could." Meridina looked over the building. "I feel the lingering power even here." A look of deep worry came to her face. "One of the attackers was a swevyra'kse."

The term had the familiar root word in Gersallian for Robert's growing knowledge of that language. But he'd never heard of this term before. "A what?"

"A wielder of power from swevyra who has fallen into darkness." Meridina shuddered. "This is what Amaunet turned into when she had control of my body."

"I thought someone like that would be little better than an out-of-control psychopathic killer?", Robert asked.

"That is the eventual end of them all. But some resist quite well, sometimes for years. They are capable of cunning and planning. Some may serve as mercenaries, others put their efforts into growing a personal power base.' Meridina shook her head. "They are not to be underestimated."

"Dammit," Robert breathed. He looked to Almerda. "I can assign officers to assist the investigation, if you'd like."

Almerda nodded and understood. "Of course."

Robert looked to Julia. "I know you're on leave…"

"I'll direct things from here," she said. "We'll look through Miss Parker's things and see if we can find a clue on what her plans are."

"I shall stay and assist," Meridina pledged.

"Keep me informed." Robert sighed. "I'm going to file the official report on what happened."

When Robert returned to his quarters, he found Angel waiting for him. And he could feel the angry tension building up within her. "Whatever happens, I want to go," Angel insisted.

"I doubt we'll be launching the rescue mission," Robert said. "I'm not even sure what will happen. The Earth of A4P5 is still on the 'no contact' list."

"We can't just let her get away with this!" Angel clenched her fists. "Dammit, I knew that… that bitch would do something like this. I could see it in her eyes when I saw her the last time."

Robert stopped beside his desk and turned. "What do you mean?"

"After Jarod found her a place to live, he visited her. I went with him." Angel frowned. Her fists were clenching and unclenching over and over. She desperately wanted to hit something. "I even told her that if she did something to Jarod I'd kill her."

Robert sighed. "You would," he noted.

"I want on the mission, Rob," Angel said. "Let me join Julia and Meridina."

"Angel, I don't think I can justify that," he answered. "Two officers is a big enough commitment."

"Dammit, I owe it to him…" Angel crossed her arms. "Rob, please, let me do this. I know people on New Liberty too. And maybe…"

Robert plopped into his desk chair. "Angel… give me a moment."

While she stewed, he thought on it. More accurately, he focused on it, trying to sense what the best course of action was. Whether or not Angel would be needed, if it was best to send her. Hearing her heart beating and his own, hearing the thumps as she paced around his room, was distracting.

Whatever the future was, it wasn't something he could sense. Not this time. He had only his own instinct on the situation, versus the part in his head that said Julia and Meridina were enough for the job.

But his heart said otherwise. Robert sympathized with Angel's sense of responsibility for what happened with Jarod. And what was the harm in giving Julia and Meridina some backup? They weren't going anywhere. So he nodded. "They're probably at Colony Security, going over Miss Parker's things."

A look of relief came to her face. "Thank you," she said. "I'll beam down immediately."

"If they have anything they need computer help with, don't hesitate to call Cat and Lucy," Robert added.

"Of course not." Angel leaned over the side of the desk and gave him a kiss on the lips, which he returned. When their kiss ended after a few seconds, she smiled and said, "We'll find him, don't worry."

"I won't," he promised, and then he watched quietly and with some contemplation on his choice while Angel picked up her bag and went to the door.

With nothing much to do and little hope of escape for the moment, Jarod looked at his surroundings. His place of confinement had evidently been built to be the dining area of a vessel. It had been stripped to be turned into his prison, but he could make out the remaining floor braces for heavy kitchen equipment.

As for his captors, one was the the red-furred-and-haired Mi'qote woman with a number of different guns on her main belt and on bands around her upper legs to hold more guns. The Human man beside her was wearing a simple jumpsuit of dark gray and black, with his hair cut close to his head. Quiet, calculating amber eyes were still intent upon Jarod.

"You know I'm an Alliance officer, right?", Jarod asked.

"What of it?", asked the Mi'qote. Y'tala was her name, presumably, given how Miss Parker had spoken. "I'll make my money and sod off to the Unaligned Worlds, same as always."

Wilton, for his part, chuckled. "Pal, I know more boltholes and safe housessafehouses than you can imagine." He was speaking in English, but his accent was unique. "And on Solaris, I'm a drop in the bucket. I do this job and it's back to business as usual for me."

"Are you really so certain of that?", Jarod asked them. "Because if you're…"

He was interrupted by an explosion of pain. Wilton's fist smashed into Jarod's face. It didn't cause much in the way of damage to his body, but it still hurt. "Shut it or I'll get the tape," Wilton declared.

Jarod glared at him and gave no other reply.

For most of the Colony, the fall of night had merely heralded the second great run of celebrations, with grand fireworks to be seen and enjoyed by all.

In the Security Headquarters, there was no celebratory mood. It was widely known that Jarod had been one of the "Facility crew", he had been directly involved in rescuing many of the Colony's current citizens - including some of those now with Security - and his abduction rankled them.

Almerda and Okonwi showed Julia, Angel, and Meridina into a meeting room. Bagged belongings were gathered, including personal datapads and a noteputer system. "We've queued the contents of Miss Parker's personal data systems," said Okonwi. With a tap of a button he brought them up.

After several minutes of looking, Julia shook her head. "This all looks legitimate," she said. "Notes and observations on the cases she was helping Security with."

"Perhaps she did not commit any of her plans to electronic data format," mused Meridina. "Although it is interesting how often she accessed the suspicious characters list."

"'Suspicious characters list'?", Angel asked.

"Under Council order, we keep a list of individuals who have come to our attention, either by direct observation, by report from the populace, or reports by other government agencies," explained Almerda. "It gives us a place to start in some investigations."

Okonwi added, "We do not do pre-emptive arrests either."

"I would hope not," murmured Angel.

Julia ignored that comment and continued. "Well, we know she was looking for someone to work with. Maybe she hired people from the list?"

"The issue will be finding out which ones. There are probably dozens, maybe even hundreds, of listed persons that she could have approached." Almerda drew in an irritated sigh. "We'll do what we can, of course."

"Of course." Julia nodded to him and hoped he understood how much his efforts were appreciated.

"I'd like to know if there's a way Miss Parker was in touch with the Centre." Angel looked over one of the noteputers. "I mean, would she go to all of this trouble without having any guarantees?"

"If her goal was to recover her father, perhaps she was willing to take that risk." Meridina looked over another of the noteputers. "We should try to track any vessel they departed on."

"There have been ships coming and going all day," Almerda said. "I will confirm with Traffic Control."

While Meridina and Julia were discussing that with Almerda, Angel was looking over the rest of the evidence. Further along the table, apart from the things found in Miss Parker's home and office, were a few more evidence bags. She looked them over. Most were debris from Jarod's abduction.

But one…

Angel looked to Okonwi, standing nearby. She held up the bag. "You found this on the scene?"

Okonwi looked at her and at the bag. "Yes," he said. "The ash could have come from a number of things."

"Like a cigarette?"

Okonwi considered that. "Possibly."

Angel opened up the baggie and took a sniff. "I recognize this smell," she said.

"You are an expert on cigarette ash?"

"No." Angel shook her head. "But I've smelled it before. Back in the Facility days. Enough that I'll never forget the damned stuff" She looked to Julia and Meridina, who were noticing the conversation now. She offered it to Julia. "Remember?"

Julia took it and sniffed. A frown came to her face. "I think I do."

"It's Cuban," Angel said. "The cigarette was made with Cuban tobacco."

"From which universe, though?", asked Meridina. "Presumably you are looking for a link we can follow from this fact."

"Do we know what Miss Parker's expenditures were like?", Angel asked. "Did she import anything from outside of our universe?"

"I'm not seeing it on these records. But she might have made receipts private."

Angel looked at the ash again. An idea percolated into her head, based off old memories. "Julia, I have an idea," she said softly, softly and lowly that Okonwi couldn't hear from where he was. "I think I know where Miss Parker got her cigarettes."

"Oh? Almerda can probably…"

"No," Angel said. "If we go in with Security, they won't cooperate. But if it's who I think it is, he might just talk to us, personally, without the law involved. But we'll have to go in as civilians, and without our multidevices and sidearms. He won't talk to us if everyone sees we've got Stellar Navy-issue tech."

"A lot of people here would recognize us anyway."

"Not if we go in carefully, without calling attention to ourselves."

"And I can attempt to mentally dissuade recognition," Meridina offered.

Julia frowned pensively over that, They were supposed to be helping Okonwi and Almerda, not hiding things from them. And without their multidevices they had no means of communicating with the Aurora for emergencies. The Aurora wouldn't even be able to track them.

But there was an earnestness in Angel's hazel eyes that Julia couldn't ignore. If it helped them find Jarod faster, they should do it.

"Okay," Julia said. "We'll follow you on this."

Robert couldn't sleep. Not from nightmares, just from general nervousness and worry and a sense of frustration. Jarod was effectively a member of the family, he had saved their lives, and he had been taken by the same people that Robert and the others swore would never have a chance at him again.

And as things stood, there wasn't a damn thing Robert could do about it. All he could do was hope Julia and the others could find out something they could use to help get Jarod back.

"I shouldn't have laid down early," Robert muttered. He sat back up and crossed his legs. Meridina had shown him this meditative position and explained the value of using it to quiet his mind and self. By clearing his head, he could rest more easily, or be more in tune with the energy within him and its connection to everything else.

The months of training had made it somewhat clear that he lacked the strengths Meridina and Lucy had with this. He wasn't sure he'd ever be capable of bringing a sword to a gunfight and winning. That mostly relieved him, but it did give him a tad bit of disappointment, of feeling inadequate. Meridina had counseled him not to concern himself with those feelings. "The power you wield is meant for you, whatever its comparison to others," she had insisted, and he had accepted.

Gradually he felt like he might yet get to sleep… just to have the comms beep. Lt. Pacetti stated, "Bridge to Captain Dale. Priority message from Admiral Maran."

Robert answered immediately. "I'll get it right now." He went to his desk, put in his code, and accepted the incoming transmission. The dark-haired Gersallian admiral appeared on the screen. Robert thought he looked tense. "Admiral, sir, good to see you."

"The same, though we have little time for pleasantries. I received your report about Commander Jarod. We'll do what we can to locate him, I assure you. But right now we have another matter." Maran's expression was tense, and Robert could tell something big was going on. "An opportunity has presented itself, Captain, one that we must seize. It may shorten the war."

That made Robert pay attention. "Sir?"

"Ever since the attack on New Austria, the Reich has been dispersing its fleets carefully, ensuring it can respond quickly to another such attack by us," explained Maran. "This has hobbled them somewhat on the main fronts of the war, but it's prevented us from launching effective raids in their rear areas. But we now have a window of opportunity. The Reich's been forced to adjust after the recent fighting and in their shifting of assets, there will be a small time frame during which we can attack several facilities of strategic importance without risking a confrontation with large numbers of opposing ships. To exploit this attack to the fullest, we're throwing every available ship into the action. That includes your's."

Robert swallowed and nodded. If Maran wasn't exaggerating, a large enough attack in Reich rear areas might completely disrupt their front lines. It would shorten the war. "I understand, sir, we'll get underway by your order."

"You'll be making a rendezvous with the Themistocles and her battle group," Maran said. "They're gathering in Universe C5O2 as we speak. Coordinates are being transmitted on a subchannel. You must depart immediately, the window is closing steadily and we need literally every minute."

"I understand, sir," Robert said. "I'll have our people beamed up from New Liberty immediately." He sighed. "Colony Security should still be able to do what they can for Jarod."

"I assure you, once this is over I will personally intervene with the President to get approval for his recovery, even if it means sending strike teams to his home Earth. But I need you at that rendezvous immediately, Captain. Command out." Maran's image was replaced by a copy of his office seal, a variant on the Presidential one that depicted the Alliance torch insignia on a shining shield.

Robert triggered his comm unit. "Dale to Bridge. All hands to Code Yellow, call up all personnel from New Liberty."

The junior officer didn't ask why. That was good, he wasn't supposed to. "Ordering the Transporter Stations to begin now, sir."

"Take the coordinates Admiral Maran sent in the subchannel on his communication, we need to jump there as soon as the drive is spooled."

"Yes sir."

Robert got dressed and replicated some coffee. He had a feeling he would be up for a while. With the coffee in hand he went to the bridge.

When he arrived, Pacetti had vacated the command chair for Locarno, who had arrived before him. "What's going on?", Locarno asked.

"Command's launching a special operation against enemy supply lines," he answered quickly. "We need to jump in the next few minutes just to make the rendezvous, and we have the orders for that. They need every ship." Robert got into his seat. "Have we gotten everyone back?"

"Almost everyone." Locarno returned to the helm. "But the Transporter Stations haven't been able to lock onto Commander Andreys, Commander Meridina, or Lieutenant Delgado."

Robert was confused by that. "What do you mean they can't lock onto them?"

"Their multidevices have been removed," Locarno revealed. "I talked to Chief Almerda and he said they left to pursue a lead on Miss Parker's activities."

"Dammit," Robert grumbled. As much as he wanted the investigation to continue, going into an operation like this without his XO or his Tactical Officer would not look very good, especially if things went wrong. "Is there any way we can track them?"

"Without their multidevices to fix their locations?" At Sensors, Ensign al-Rashad shook her head. "We can't discern their life readings from any others, sir. There are dozens of Gersallians in the Colony."

Robert looked at Locarno. "Lieutenant, we don't have time to wait for them to get in contact with us. For the duration of this operation, you're going to be acting XO."

Locarno nodded. "I understand, sir."

"Jump drive ready, Captain," added Jupap at Operations.


The Aurora generated an interuniversal jump point and flew right into it.

Julia and Meridina let Angel give the directions to the cab-driver, who took them from the center of the colony toward its outer fringe. The area they found themselves in was full of modest home and buildings, once storage for colony supplies and now turned into other enterprises.

Angel's address was for one of the smallest of these former storage facilities, which had a sign out front in Spanish. "The Cut Throat?", Julia said, frowning. "Seriously?"

"Seriously." Angel went to the door. "This is why I wanted us to ditch the uniforms."

And indeed they had: Angel was in a brown jacket and green-and-white shirt with blue jeans, Julia had opted for a black leather jacket over a red blouse and black trousers. Meridina looked out of place in a matching jacket to Julia's, with a brown shirt underneath and blue pants to match the jacket.

Inside there was a number of small groupings of beings, mostly favoring drinks and muttering quietly with each other. The place had the look of a real dive of a bar, grungy and barely hygienic, the kind of atmosphere Julia would have associated with a biker bar. A low end one.

The man at the bar was heavy set, with a light brown complexion and dark hair. Light brown eyes looked at them with a mix of amusement and wariness. "Ah, my avenging angel," he said. "Come to see me again, eh?"

Angel looked back to Meridina and Julia. "This is Hernan de Corelo. He remembers us more than we'd remember him. He was from our third move on the Cubans."

"Si, yes," Corelo agreed. "I was sweating and starving in that stinking prison until you sprung me."

Angel smirked. "What he's not saying is that he wasn't a political dissident or someone in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a black market dealer that the Cubans caught. And he's been putting his experience to work here on New Liberty."

Meridina blinked. "And you know this because?"

"Because two years ago, the Angry Angel here caught me selling," he answered for her. "Told me that if she caught me dealing drugs or weapons she'd tear my arms off and beat me to death with them. And she's one of the few I know who can do it."

"So he learned, after siccing his thugs on me." Angel smiled sweetly. "They don't work thuggery anymore."

"Just business, amiga, just business. I only deal with adult customers, and no weapons or hard drugs."

"I turned him into security, actually," Angel continued. "But Almerda cut him loose. The evidence was skimpy." She approached the bar and leaned over it. "And there were other considerations, weren't there Hernan?"

He could see what she meant. "Since you're here on a special occasion, how about I take you to the back?" Hernan gestured toward a door. A moderately-stout man in a dark suit was standing there quietly.

"It would appear that these kinds of establishments are transcendental among all cultures," Meridina mused philosophically, smiling thinly at Julia.

Julia nodded wordlessly and looked around. She'd always figured there was a dark side to New Liberty, but to go diving into it made her nervous.

Hernan led them to the back area. There were more tables, a larger bar with more liquors on them - including several bottles of bright blue liquid that could only be highly illegal Romulan ale - and a stage.

"Is this a theater, then?"

Hernan smirked back at Meridina. "Of a sort, yes."

Julia was frowning at him. "A sex show. Something like that, right? Because you wouldn't be hiding a strip club."

"That would depend, Senorita," Hernan said, slipping behind his bar. "Some of the people who live here, they are not very tolerant of the finer pleasures of life, you know? The law may say these things are fine, but they would make trouble. It's better to not make it too obvious, yes?" He looked over to Angel, who was remaining silent but still tense. "So, I hear there was an incident earlier this evening to mar our fine anniversary celebration. I'm betting you're here over that, yes?"

"We are." Angel took a seat at the bar. "I know you've got contacts back home, on our Earth, Hernan. You've been selling Cubans?"

"I have a modest market," he replied.

"Was this woman one of your customers?" Angel held up a picture of Miss Parker.

Hernan studied it. "Hrm. Maybe."

Julia rolled her eyes. "This is when you pull out a roll of bills and start bribing him, isn't it? Jokes about helping him jog his memory?"

Angel chuckled. She gave Hernan a knowing look. "Are we going to be cliche, Hernan?"

"I am being serious," he insisted. "But I do believe I have seen her, yes. She came to me for business."


Hernan smirked. "Among other things. A very ambitious planner, that woman."

"So we've learned." Julia frowned. "So what else did she want from you besides the means to give herself lung cancer?"

"Contacts. Names. Business arrangements." Hernan smirked. "She knew about my arrangement with Chief Almerda. That chica was cold as ice about it too. Would've ratted me out if I hadn't helped her at a bargain price."

"With?", asked Meridina.

"She was looking for people to hire," Hernan revealed. "And for information about the black market. To tell you the truth, I think she was using me to confirm things. I'm not the best in the Colony on these things, you see, but I've been doing it longer than most. The Mafia, the Bratva, the Orion Syndicate, they all have come through here and there, but I'm the one still here, and anyone who's anyone on this Colony comes here eventually."

"So you're in with all the scumbags," Julia muttered.

"A way of looking at it," Hernan said. "But I've kept my word. No drugs. No kids. No taking our people." He frowned. "Especially that. This is my home too, and nobody messes with my people, comprende? We take care of our own."

At that, Angel put two and two together. "So you've been helping Miss Parker make good with Colony Security, feeding her intelligence to help them shut down the nastiest of the organizations and getting the rest to pony up for you and her to leave them alone." She put her arm on the bar. "Is that about right?"

"Always nice to see you've got a brain with those muscles," Hernan replied. "A shame you're wastin' time on a ship, amiga, there are people who would pay big money to see you punch people."

"Heh. So, do you have any idea who she hired?"

Hernan shook his head. "Not my thing. I directed her to some people. Offworlders from other universes."

"And they would be?"

"Bad people, amiga. They don't have arrangements with you either. You step into their places, you might not come back out."

"We could get warrants," Julia suggested. "Go in with Colony Security."

Hernan chuckled. "Yeah, and maybe someone in Security is earnin' some spare dinero from them, sends them a little message, you show up and they're gone. Sorry, but you ain't finding out anything from them that directly."

Julia frowned at that. It shouldn't surprise her that even their colony would have corruption. But it rankled regardless.

"I believe we have learned all we can," Meridina noted. "We should return to resume contact with the Aurora."

Julia nodded in agreement. She looked to Angel, who slid off the stool. "Thank you, Hernan." She smiled thinly. "Want me to make it look good?"

"I would rather not be punched by you again, Angry Angel," Hernan answered. "But if you ever want to punch people for money, let me know, I'll talk to the organizers."

At that Angel smirked. She turned and followed the others out.

None of them seemed to noticed the hooded, cloaked figure who followed them.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-21 01:42pm

Jarod had nodded off slightly. When he awoke, his minders had changed. A massive reptilian alien, a Krogan, was now by the door. Nearby, reclining in a chair, was a young woman in a black catsuit that emphasized all of the attractive curves of her very attractive body. Auburn hair was pulled back on her head into a severe bun. At her side was a device that made Jarod think of a cattle prod.

"I don't suppose I could get a bathroom break?", he asked.

The Krogan growled.

"Shush, my dear monster," said the young woman, her voice a lilting accent that Jarod couldn't quite place. She eyed Jarod with eyes that were inhumanly gold, much like the Gersallian from before. A mischievous smirk appeared on her face. "We don't all get what we want, Mister Jarod, or I would have you screaming and begging for mercy by now. Alas, my employer doesn't want you properly broken. I do so miss the chance for playtime, but I must be a professional about these things."

There was a coldness in the air, similar to but not the same as the coldness that radiated from the Gersallian. Between that coldness and the eye color, Jarod could see he was dealing with another powered individual like Meridina and Lucy. "I don't place the accent."

"You wouldn't. Nor would you place this one." The second line was spoken with another strange accent, more gutteral in its sounds. "If you must know, I'm from the universe you call S0T5." She grinned. "I am so enamored with the other universes. To think that Earth still exists in them. I really did quite enjoy the visit to one of the Earths." She frowned. "Alas, the constabulary proved most cross with me. I was only playing with the transients, they really should have thanked me."

"And where are you from specifically?", Jarod asked. He thought back to the materials on S0T5 that he had read. It would explain her strange accents.

"Hush, dear, I musn't tell you, or I would have to kill you in a most wretched manner, and I would thus wind up having to kill my employer. And that simply wouldn't do." She leaned back in her chair. "I suggest you go back to sleep, Mister Jarod. We shan't be much longer, I think."

Jarod went silent. The time wasn't right yet, not with this woman present, nor her hulking Krogan friend. He would have to wait for his opportunity.

It was when Julia and the others got back that they found out about the Aurora. "He left without us?", Julia asked, horrified. "Then… whatever's going on must be really time-sensitive. I knew we should have brought along our multidevices."

"Hernan would have thrown us out," Angel noted. "Half the room would have recognized Stellar Navy devices."

"And how many recognized us anyway because of who we are?", Julia retorted.

Meridina shook her head. "I suspect Hernan would have been motivated more by those who would not have recognized you."

Almerda sighed upon hearing Hernan's name, but waited until they were done before speaking. "I was wondering if that's who you were going to. If the man wasn't so damned cooperative…"

Meridina, sensing Julia's aggravation, set a calming hand on her shoulder. "It cannot be helped."

"I shouldn't have gone," Julia insisted. "I should be at my post." She looked to them. "We should be at our posts, dammit. They're going into a dangerous situation and we're not there!"

Meridina nodded. "I know, and I understand," she said, her tone gentle and quiet. "But what is done is done, Commander Andreys. You could not have known. Do not let this gnaw at you."

It was clear Julia was not going to feel any better, however. She clenched her fists. "We've got to make the most of this," she said. "We need to find out how Miss Parker left and any clues on what she's doing, then we need to go get Jarod back."

"Thankfully, I've received some help in that department," said Almerda. "Please, follow me."

He led them to a computer lab in Colony Security. At the main station of said lab was a man who looked to be in his thirties, Caucasian with a balding head, wearing a civilian jacket, shirt, and pants. He was busy at work on the computers.

"Broots," Angela said.

The former member of Miss Parker's Jarod-chasing team turned in his chair. "Angela," he said. A soft, friendly smile crossed his face. "It's good to see you again."

She nodded. "Given the situation, at least."

Broots ' friendly smile faded. "Yeah." He shook his head. "I was hoping it was true. That Miss Parker was accepting our new lives here." He turned in his chair. "But she wasn't. And she's been plotting this since last year, going by her records. It took a little doing, and every trick I've learned about your computer systems, but I found hidden data in her personal computer systems. It was masquerading as a system operation file."

"That sounds quite complex," Meridina noted. "Is Miss Parker learned enough in computers to compile such a thing?"

"I doubt it," answered Broots. "I think someone showed her." He tapped a couple of keys and brought up a series of communication logs. "And she's been in contact with the Centre."

"That's not possible." Julia frowned and looked intently at the communication logs. "A4P5 is strictly off limits to us, and we have long-range sensor nets arrayed around the system to prevent anyone from getting there undetected. How could she have done this?"

"If I had to guess, she found a way around it," Broots said. "Starting about four months ago."

"Do we know what they said?", asked Angel.

Broots shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not. But it's not hard to guess what they were talking about."

"Her father must be alive," Julia said. "Given everything I've heard about her, she can't be dumb enough to do all of this and not be sure of it."

"Knowing the Centre, even if her father's alive, they would have made a hard sell." Broots shuddered involuntarily. "I do not miss working for them."

"They seem quite dark indeed." Meridina moved forward. "Can you tell whom Miss Parker hired to help her? I know she had a swevyra'kse with her."

"A wha…. never mind." Broots started going through the data again.

One by one, images appeared. "It looks like she got most of them from the suspicious persons list," Broots remarked.

Eight images popped up. Most looked Human, with one woman who had eyes hued golden. Julia recognized the odd ones out as a Mi'qote and a Krogan, the former with fiery red fur around the cat-like ears at the top of her head, the latter colored dark green with fiery red eyes.

"I'm putting these people through the records that Colony Security's gotten from the rest of the Multiverse… and these people are bad news." Broots shook his head and read from the list. "Adam Wolff, Universe L2M1, a suspected smuggler and killer with a Rowland Ltd. Light Cargo ship called the Deadman's Hand, suspected stolen. The Krogan is Weyrloc Krel, kicked out of a mercenary group called the Blood Pack for excessive violence and discipline problems. Y'tala is another mercenary known for operating in an area called the Unaligned Worlds in N2S7. There are warrants for her arrest from the Dorei, the Gersallians, and her homeworld Ys'talla. Karl Wilton is from S0T5, a mixed martial-arts fighter who is listed as a bodyguard and mercenary for hire with contacts in the Solarian and Cevaucian underworlds. The woman was known as Denna Reynolds and Una Samson, she's also from S0T5, and is wanted by the Solarians, the Aurigans, the Cascadian Freeworlds, and a couple of other states as a known assassin." Another data point popped up. "And it looks like someone matching her description was involved in a spree of killings on M4P2 Earth. The Systems Alliance has a standing alert listed on the UAS criminal database."

"Christ," Angel swore. "Where the hell did Parker get the money to pay for these people?!"

"I'll look into it," Broots promised. He looked over the last entry. "And the last is for a Gersallian man, Dralan Olati."

Angela blinked and looked to Meridina. "I thought Gersallians didn't have last names?"

"A misconception," Meridina replied. "But they are not commonly used. We use given names and placenames, rarely family names." A pensive look came to her face. "Olati… that is a Kuneli name."


"One of our ethnic groups, from our western hemisphere's tropical island region," replied Meridina. "The Kuneli have maintained a clan-based family structure. The Olati clan are from the island of Wutami and are a leading family. He undoubtedly specifies the name as a badge of pride." Meridina had a frown on her face. "This 'Denna Reynolds' also seems to be a swevyra'kse. That would mean two of them. This is most concerning."

"We can't take all of them on," Angel noted. "We'd never stand a chance. We'll need backup."

"That's assuming we can even get to A4P5," Julia noted. "We could be killing our careers or end up imprisoned if we try."

"There is an alternative," Meridina pointed out. "We should take wisdom from our quarry."

"You mean hire people for yourself," Broots said. "I'm not sure with what, though…"

"The right people will not require financial compensation," Meridina said. "And even if we do, the reward for recovering an Alliance officer may suffice."

"I doubt it," Angel grumbled. "But the question is still… where are we going to find people?"

There was silence for a moment. It was broken by a laugh. Everyone turned to face Julia, who continued the laugh for a moment. A wide, brilliant grin was on her face. "We follow Miss Parker's example," Julia said. "Angel, call Hernan. Tell him we're looking for people who can fight. Heavy hitters."

"Do you think we will find someone willing to work with us in that sort of crowd, Julia?", Angel asked, not quite able to eliminate the skepticism from her voice.

"It's a start," Julia answered.

"Indeed," Meridina concurred.

It was getting late, and they were all getting tired, when the three women found themselves in an outer commercial area beyond the limits of the initial Colony, still out of uniform. Here the streets, few as they were, were unfamiliar, and Julia felt the hair on her neck stand up at looking over it all. It was profoundly uncomfortable to her to think of how places like this could exist even here, in the Colony they had built for the abused and oppressed.

One such warehouse had an open door on one end. Angel, again, took the lead in approaching the door. A large, sunglass-wearing man looked over them.

"Hernan says hello," Angel said. "I'm his Angry Angel."

"You here to participate?"

"I'm here to find someone," she answered. She held up a bill. Earth Confederacy currency. "Here's the gate for all three of us."

The man frowned and looked over the bill. "Any trouble, and they'll never find you, understand?"

"Understood," Angel replied. She nodded to the others and went inside.

Low voices came from the warehouse as they entered the main part of the building through a hall. Crowds of people, some nicely dressed and some not-so-nicely dressed, were gathered here and there. More men and women in suits glared their way initially before shifting attention away. "They are quite suspicious of us," Meridina noted. "Our identities are known."

"Then don't cause problems," Angel said.

"They're just here to make money, right? Killing us would ruin that."

"So let's not give them a reason to think they should make the attempt." Angel checked her civilian-make multidevice, provided by Hernan with a few names on it. "Hernan's sure our guy is here. A real badass of a mercenary. Keep looking."

As they moved around, in the rough direction of what looked like a betting table, an MC got into the center ring. "And now for our next card!", the man, a Korean man with a decent English accent, declared. Julia ignored him announcing one fighter, a man with a Central Asian-sounding name, and kept looking for their contact.

Nevertheless she was interested to hear the name of the second contestant, dubbed "the Blind Raptor", as an alien sounding name: Kasszas S'szrishin. She glanced back, wondering what species it was, to see that the bronze-skinned human stripped down to boxing shorts was facing a six and a half foot tall feathered reptilian humanoid, lime green scales on his lean raptor-shaped head joined with red and yellow feathers. The reptilian wore a robe-like garment of faint yellow and dark gray. His eyes were dull and unmoving, as if he wasn't seeing what was in front of him as the crowd cheered or booed his name.

"Julia, he's over here."

Angel calling out to her diverted Julia's attention. She turned to face an area beside the makeshift gambling kiosk. A man in a dark brown shirt and black trousers was leaning against the side of the kiosk, looking at the fight. His eyes were not matched; the left one was normal and brown, but the right one looked off-center and had a grayish, almost white coloring to it. His face was worn with age - he was rather clearly middle-aged, at least - and gruff, which was not surprising given what Hernan said about him. And it was, indeed, the face of the man that Hernan had proposed to Angel when asked.

Since she had the superior rank, Julia stepped past Angel and up to the man. "Are you…?"

The older man put a finger to his mouth in a "silence" gesture. "Not now, girl, the match is startin', and I put credits on this one," he said. He had an English accent and a rough tone.

Julia frowned, but she didn't continue for the moment. No use aggravating the man when she was coming for his help. She turned her head to watch the fight.

The Human fighter was tall, large, and muscled. He looked and moved like an MMA fighter, and Julia admired the skill he showed in the martial arts with his movements.

But what she was surprised at was his foe. The Zigonian was clearly blind, but yet the Human couldn't land a single strike on him. Kicks and punches were dodged with deft, agile moves in all directions. The Zigonian nearly slid across the ring in avoiding the man's strikes, punches and kicks and grabs that Julia would never have evaded, even if she'd seen them coming. Nearby people were screaming in frustration at the Human, demanding he land a punch, that he do anything to end the fight with a victory (for both himself and for their wallets).

The misses were making the other fighter frustrated and angry. His attacks were losing the grace and poise Julia had seen before. He was wasting energy in increasingly wild strikes, losing his posture, becoming so easy to read that Julia would have put him on his back by now.

Suddenly he fell. The Zigonian hadn't raised an arm or leg to strike him. It was like he had his legs knocked out from under him… Julia "ahhed". Of course. The Zigonian had a tail.

The fighter went to stand up. The Zigonian's foot struck his shoulder and knocked him back over. The Zigonian stood over him and then kneeled to pin the Human in place. The Human struggled, flailed, and then gave up upon seeing he couldn't move or harm his foe.

"The Blind Raptor wins again!", the MC declared.

People nearby threw strips of paper to the floor in disgust, grumbling and growling. The man they'd approached broke out laughing. "Serves you jackasses right," he crowed. "You see someone callin' themselves blind gettin' into a fight, you know they've got somethin' to them!"

The people he shouted at growled further, but none dared approach. And not just from the bouncers that would stop them. Julia could see the killer instinct in the man. He was dangerous, just as Hernan had said.

"Now, girl, you were sayin' something?", the man asked her.

Julia nodded. "You're Zaaed Massani, right?"

That got her a smirk and a look. "Who's askin'?"

"I'm Julia Andreys. I'm with the Stellar Navy."

"So, you God-amned people are finally gettin' around to considerin' my offer?", Zaeed asked. "Because I'm just about ready to head back home. Gettin' tired of this pissant little place."

Julia frowned at that description of the Colony. But she was more interested in what he had said. "What offer?"

Zaeed eyed her over. "Ah dammit," he growled. "So you're not here to talk about my contract offer? It was that little jackass Corelo, wasn't it? Sendin' me another shitty little job that I'm not interested in. No, sweetheart, I'm not here to do bounty huntin', not unless they've got swastikas."

"You came to fight the Nazis?", Angel asked.

"Damned right," Zaeed said. "Hell of a thing, havin' a universe with damned Nazis around. Beats blowing up more bastards in the Terminus Systems, and I figured you people would be payin' good credits. A man's got to eat, after all, even if he's blowin' up God-amned Nazis. But all I bloody hear is shit about God-amned regulations for private military contractors, 'where's your license', and all that shit. I told that little rat Corelo that I was only interested in people who could light a fire under your Alliance arses, and he sends me this?"

"Mister Massani, who else wanted to hire you?", asked Meridina.

"Some broad, long dark hair, name of Parker," Zaeed said. "Said she had a bounty. But I'm not an idiot. I'm a bounty hunter, not some God-amned kidnapper. I told her to take a hike."

"Well, that's a coincidence," Angel said. "Because she's the one we're here about."

Zaeed chuckled. "Ah, she got her team and what, took a friend? Well…" He crossed his arms. "What can you pay? Because it'd better be worth my God-amned time." Around them the crowd was cheering again. Another fight was underway.

"How much are you looking for?", Julia asked.

Zaeed eyed her. And then he shook his head. "Forget it. You ask that instead of offerin' something, I know you don't have it. Piss off."

"We can offer you something better than credits," Angel insisted, stepping up as if to cut him off.

There was steel and irritation in Zaeed's working eye when he looked her way. "I know you probably think you're hot shit, but I've been fightin' since you were in diapers, girlie. Move away or I'll make you move."

Julia stepped up and back into Zaeed's sight. "You say you want a contract with the Alliance for the war. I can get you that."

Zaeed laughed in Julia's face. "You're shittin' me, girl. What are you, some hotshot lieutenant lookin' to impress an admiral without havin' to blow him?"

At that Julia drew closer, matching him eye for steely eye. "I'm not," she said, in a low and forceful tone. "Because I'm Commander Julia Andreys, First Officer of the Starship Aurora, under the direct and personal command of President Morgan and the Chairman of his Defense Staff. I can present your case to Admiral Maran himself with a single call."

Zaeed narrowed his good eye. He didn't flinch away.

Neither did Julia.

"Well," he finally said. "I'll be damned. Looks like I finally got someone's bloody attention." He looked to the others. "So, we're after this Parker lady. Who'd she take?"

"She hired mercenaries like you," Angel said, "and abducted our shipmate."

"Commander Jarod is the Operations Officer on our ship," Julia added. "I'm sure helping with his recovery will go a long way when I talk to Admiral Maran about you."

Zaeed pondered that. "I knew that lady was God-amned trouble," he growled. "Alright. What's your plan? And why do you need me? You've got a ship, and so you've got bloody Marines on it."

"Our ship's been called away on a time-sensitive mission," Julia replied. "We got left behind because we were out of communication. So we're putting together a rescue mission of our own."

"And you're lookin' for professionals to fight Parker's team, right?" Zaeed pondered it for a moment. "Alright, what the hell, I'm bored stiff anyway. I do this job, you present me to Admiral Maran."

"Done," Julia vowed. "I'll personally escort you to Defense Command if I have to."

"I'll bloody well hold you to that, Commander," Zaeed answered. "Got transportation?"

"I've got thoughts on that," she replied. "People I know."

Zaeed nodded. He brought up his left arm. An omnitool came to life, wrapping around the space between the elbow and wrist like a multidevice was. Angel raised her civilian-model multidevice toward him as Zaeed operated the hard-light controls that popped up. "This is my call number," he said. "I'll be back at my rooms, gearin' up. Let me know when and where to meet your ship." Once the data was transferred, he lowered his arm and the omnitool disappeared. "Now excuse me, I've got some credits to collect."

Zaeed walked away from them. "A rather formidable individual," said Meridina. "There is rage burning deep within him that may yet lead him astray."

"Right now, that's not our problem," Julia said. "Let's go."

The next fight was still raging as they went to leave. They walked back into the hall leading to the front door. Only as they got close to it did they watch another guard step out from what looked like the cash office. The hall was narrow enough that he was blocking the exit.

Julia's eyes narrowed. She glanced back and saw that two more of the guards were blocking the hall in the other direction.

"It would appear that they want something," Meridina said.

Another figure stepped out from the cash office, better dressed than the guards flanking him. He was Human-looking, but with dark eyes that were not normal for Humans. Betazoid, Julia thought.

"Commander Andreys," the man said. "A surprise to find such an august presence here."

"And you are?", Julia asked.

"A businessman," was the reply. "I admit I was stunned when I was informed of your conversation with the mercenary. To think you would come here, to my humble little fighting ring?"

Not having time to stretch it out, Julia asked, "Why aren't you letting us leave?"

"As I said, I'm a businessman. And I can imagine how much someone of your rank is worth. As ransom… or not, as the case may be." He smirked. "I've heard there are certain… parties in S4W8 who would pay a Brikar's weight in gold-pressed latinum to get their hands on any member of the Aurora crew. Three of you? Even better."

"They'll tear this place down hunting for us," Angel said. "And I know people who'll kill every Syndicate man on the planet if you try this."

"The Syndicate isn't afraid of a few black marketeers on a two-bit planet, young lady. Now, if you make it worth my while to let you go, perhaps some business arrangements of benefit to…"

Before he could finish speaking there was a shout from behind him. The sounds of flesh being struck, a cry of pain, made it clear someone was being attacked.

Meridina acted next. She extended a hand to the rear and a wave of force slammed into the bodyguards behind them, sending them flying. She reached into her pants belt and pulled out her hidden lakesh, which extended to full length with a sharp metallic shriek. "I will watch from behind!", she shouted.

Angel and Julia dashed forward. The guards to either side of the Syndicate manager moved ahead of him to intercept. One was an Andorian, one of the masculine genders, and the other was a solid-looking Human. They braced themselves for a fight.

Angel attacked first, taking on the Andorian with a low tackle. There was no style to her follow up punch that knocked the Andorian out cold.

The Human snarled at Julia and threw a punch that nearly connected. She pulled to her left at the last moment to avoid it and grabbed the arm in question. The move she used was based on the mok'bara Worf had taught her and Angel during his time on the Aurora, a sequence of muscle movement and weight shifting that allowed her to pull her attacker's arm behind his back and twist until he screamed and went to his knees. Julia kept the pressure up until Angel helpfully punched him across the face and knocked him out.

Pain surged through her head a moment later. Julia screamed, as did Angel, and both put their hands to their temples. The Betazoid!, was the thought that came through the pain.

Yes. Now…

The pain let up, joined by another cry of surprise and pain as something wrapped across the Betazoid's head. He fell over, losing consciousness as he collapsed. Julia and Angel looked to the cloaked figure that stood behind their foe, a large metallic staff in his hand. "This way," he urged in good English, running toward the door.

Behind them the whine of an energy weapon was joined by a cry. Someone had tried to shoot Meridina with a phaser and had the beam directed into his shoulder. Within the warehouse cries of shock and surprise came. People heard the fighting and now heard the gunfire. They would be stampeding for the exit any moment.

"Meridina, come on!", Julia shouted, Angel already running ahead with their rescuer. She delivered a solid punch that put the troublesome door guard out completely, ensuring nobody blocked them.

"Go!", she shouted, deflecting another energy shot at her, this one more of a pulse and from a pistol. "I will follow if I can."

Before Julia could insist, a figure loomed behind the Syndicate bouncers shooting at Meridina. The figure twisted and a flash of green color slammed into the side of one of the bouncers, knocking him into the other.

It took Julia a moment to process what that flash came from. It had come from a tail.

The blind Zigonian who had been fighting in the ring entered the hall. "Go", he said firmly. "I am behind you." He resumed running. Meridina joined him.

Nearby was an aircar, or rather an air-van, with four seats in the back. Their rescuer ran for the driver side and Julia went for the same side, with Angel already getting in the front seat on the passenger side. Meridina retracted the lakesh blade and followed Julia in, prompting her to move over to sit behind Angel. The blind Zigonian found his way into the back door and climbed into the rear.

A crowd of people started rushing out of the front door. The suited bouncers were with them, and they were reaching for weapons.

"Go, go!", Julia urged. The hooded, cloaked figure's hand was already reaching for the wheel. The van tilted toward one side from the weight. The Zigonian used his tail to close the rear door just as a phaser beam scoured it. The van lurched toward one side until its hovering systems compensated for the acceleration and curve, returning to a flat and level bearing by the time they were racing down the road.

"I'm so going to slap Hernan for this," Angel growled.

"I do not think Mister Corelo knew of the danger," the hooded man said. His voice and tone were reserved, quiet, and he seemed very calm for the situation. "Are you hurt?"

"My head's still ringing from that telepathic attack," Angel groaned.

"Mine too." Julia rubbed at her forehead. "He was really going to try and abduct and sell us?"

"Damned slaver," Angel spat. "I wish I'd broken his neck before we left."

"Given the damage he has done to the Syndicate's standing here, I do not think that would prove necessary," the hooded man said.

Julia nodded and looked back to the Zigonian. "Thank you," she said.

"Thanks are not necessary," he said softly in reply. His blind eyes continued to stare at nothingness. "Creation guides us to where we are meant to be, and so I was guided to you." His head nodded. "I am Kasszas S'szrishin and I am a Brother of the Harmonious Val-Drillim."

"Commander Julia Andreys," Julia answered. "Commander Meridina, Lieutenant Angela Delgado."

Meridina bowed her head in respect to Kasszas. She turned to the driver. "You followed us when we left Hernan de Corelo's establishment earlier this evening."

"I believed you would run into danger eventually," the man answered. "It seemed proper to help you."

"Why?", Angel asked.

"Because it was, and still is, the right thing to do. Allow me to remove my hood now, as a gesture of trust." With a free hand he pulled the hood away.

It had seemed high before to Julia, and she realized why upon seeing the bone wrapping around the crown of his head and pointing up toward the rear. "You're a Minbari," she said. She tried to place the bone's appearance and what she knew of what that marked with Minbari. "And born in the religious caste?"

"Yes, Commander Andreys." He nodded. "My name is Lennier. And I wish to help you save your friend."

Jarod awoke with the jolt that went through the ship. Nearby his bodyguard, the Asian man with the cybernetics, was sitting quietly. "Turbulence," he said simply. "We're making our way into the atmosphere."

"And lighting up every radar in the hemisphere," Jarod said.

"The ship's got stealth capability," was the reply. "Not that it matters to you."

Jarod tested his restraints again. They were still firm. "How much did she offer you to become a fugitive?"

"That's between me and her." The visor on his face hid his eyes when he turned to face Jarod. "If you ask me, I don't give a damn if you turn around and escape from these people. Just don't do it until we leave. Otherwise, we'll be forced to cripple you, and that'd just be a waste."

"I'll take that under advisement," Jarod replied.

He waited patiently while the turbulence came to an end. Shortly thereafter there was a vibration in the deck plates; they'd landed.

The door slid open moments later. Miss Parker stepped in with the Gersallian man and the Krogan. "It's time," she said.

"You're just going to hand me over to the Centre in exchange for your father?", Jarod asked.

"You're the genius, Jarod, so what do you think?" She nodded to the latter, who with a growl and grunt stepped forward and bodily lifted the chair and Jarod with it. It was a tight fit getting out of the door, with the Krogan growling the whole way about it, from which they walked down what Jarod figured was the main hall of the ship. It certainly appeared to be a cargo vessel.

The rest of Parker's team, save the unseen pilot of the ship, joined them in the cargo bay. A ramp opened up, leading to a cool autumn night. The ship had landed on a private airway stsrip. Jarod looked over the property they were on. It was somewhere in the Cascades, on the inland side in what Washingtonians called "the Inland Empire". The mountains were already blocking the setting sun, casting shadows over everything. It was probably miles to the nearest town.

The structure was a squat, one storey building of concrete and brick. It looked like a small office building, or a station for park rangers. It might have even been the latter at one point. But knowing the Centre, it had been heavily refurbished, perhaps even with an underground level or two (or three, or even four).

Several figures were between them and the structure. Most were in dark suits holding firearms. One was standing behind a wheelchair, in which sat a sickly, balding man that Jarod readily, and unhappily, recognized as Mister Raines.

Another was a man of bronze coloration and Caucasian facial features. He had dark hair and a dark beard, both streaked with white, and cold gray eyes. His suit was the best of those present and his air was that of the man in charge. "Ah, Miss Parker," he said, with an English accent that was refined and hinted at an Arabic origin of the speaker. "So good of you to join us. I was beginning to worry."

"I'm not here to say hello," she said. "Let me see him."

The suited man nodded to someone behind him. Two men stepped up carrying a video monitor. The screen showed a barely-furnished room, more of a prison cell, in which sat an older balding man with a frumpled suit.

"Daddy," Miss Parker breathed.

The figure looked over and up at a screen. "Angel," the old balding man said. A smile crossed his face. "I knew you'd come back for me."

"Did they hurt you?", she asked.

"Not much, and that doesn't matter."

Miss Parker nodded. And then she glared toward Raines and the suited man. "This wasn't the deal."

"Maybe not, but there's no telling what your people are capable of." The man kept a diplomatic smile. "Understand our point of view, Miss Parker. Last year Jarod and these allies of his came and penetrated the security of the Centre. Mister Lyle told us of what he was capable of in his debriefing, as did our security teams at headquarters who personally witnessed as one of Jarod's associates disappeared in a flash of light. If we brought your father here and confirmed his location to you, you could just as easily snatch him away and leave us holding the bag. And we can't have that, can we?"

Miss Parker frowned. "I suppose I can see the logic," she said. "But you could have shared that with me while we made the deal."

"It was something of a last minute consideration, I assure you," the suited man said, and with just enough conviction that one could almost think he was telling the truth. "I suppose we were so eager to get Jarod back that we failed to properly consider the situation. I assure you, returning your father to you is my honest intention. The Centre has nothing to gain by needlessly antagonizing people with your evident resources. It pains me that you felt it necessary to bring so many interlopers as it is."

"I've found trust is in short supply when it comes to certain people," Parker answered, leveling her eyes squarely on Raines.

"That goes both ways." The sick, vicious old man returned the glare. "I could ask why she brought these people, these things." Raines looked to the Krogan, who growled in reply. "I think it was so you could take your father by force."

"Only if you make me," she insisted. "Stick to the deal and you've got nothing to worry about."

I'll kill the one in the wheelchair for free, a voice said in her head. It was Dralan, of course.

"This can still work, Miss Parker," the suited man insisted. "Your father can be brought to you swiftly. We only need you to cooperate for a little while. Would you hear me out?"

For several tense seconds there was silence. "I'm listening," answered Miss Parker, finally breaking that tension.

"Bring some of your team and enter with us," he said. "Witness while we begin Jarod's debriefing. Once we have completed his debriefing, you walk out with your father. We're guaranteed something for our trouble and you have done your duty as a loyal daughter, free to leave with Mister Parker with the blessing of the Triumvirate. And thus everyone's happy."

Miss Parker frowned. She didn't trust them, and that was quite obvious to everyone. But running the situation in her mind, it was the best solution that didn't risk her father being executed before she could intervene. "Agreed," she said. "But let me make something clear." She used her other hand to bring up her multidevice and tapped the call button. "Wolff? Show them your surprise."

"With pleasure", replied a man with a strong voice, his accent from the English Midlands.

There was a whirring sound coming from the cargo ship. A false panel slid away and a flat, wide muzzle emerged from it and pointed toward the building. "That's a 200 megawatt plasma cannon," Parker said. "If you betray me, everything here gets atomized. And then Mister Wolff moves on to the rest of the Centre with any of my people left, understand?"

Raines frowned deeply. His superior, however, merely smiled as if he was pleased by Miss Parker's threat. "I'd expect nothing less of the daughter of Mister Parker," he said evenly. "It is a shame you have decided not to remain with the Centre."

"I've had my fill of it."

She looked to her team. "You know what to do."

The Krogan put Jarod down. Miss Parker pulled her gun as Denna unlatched Jarod, winking at him in the process as if to flirt and then putting a pair of shock cuffs on his wrists. The auburn-haired woman's golden eyes flashed with malicious pleasure as she stroked the key on the small remote control in her palm, sending a low level shock that made Jarod gasp from the pain, mostly in surprise at how intense it was.

As this was going on, Miss Parker listened to Wolff over the radio. "Sorry, luv, but I couldn't get a fix on his location. They're usin' a tight beam signal bouncin' off of satellites. Clever little buggers, aren't they?"

"I was expecting that," she said, or rather whispered, so bare a whisper that only Jarod heard her. But it would be picked up by her transmitter regardless, and thus Wolff heard her too.

Miss Parker held the gun to Jarod and motioned toward the men from the Centre. "After you."

The suited man nodded and turned. Mr. Raines' assistant turned his chair. The other armed men remained long enough to cover them before joining the Centre contingent.

"You have excited his curiosity," mumbled Dralan. "He may attempt treachery. And the sick man desires it."

"That's to be expected." Miss Parker narrowed her eyes. "Did you sense anything about who he is?"

"They think of him as 'His Lordship.'"

"He's British," Jarod noted. "And he might have a peerage."

Miss Parker quickly put two and two together. "He's one of the Triumvirate, then." She smirked at Jarod. "You should feel honored."

"Oh, so honored," he responded sarcastically. He turned his head to face Parker. "If you had brought me in on this, I could have gotten your father out by now."

"Maybe, maybe not. Now move, or I'll have Dralan move you."

Jarod sighed and started walking.

Inside the building they were brought to a flight of stairs that led underground. "Another underground base," Jarod sighed. "How shocking."

"You should be honored, Mister Jarod," said the suited man. "We built it for you. If you hadn't run, you would have found this place a kind and loving home. Alas, it was not to be."

Jarod said nothing while they went down sterile officer corridors, although there was no mistaking the purpose of the heavy steel security doors with electronic locks. They went to one and opened it. "We don't need him cuffed here," the suited man said to Miss Parker.

Parker nodded and looked wordlessly to Y'tala. The Mi'qote woman nodded back and took out the device to unlock the shock cuffs. She did so without comment, putting them back on her belt.

At this point Jarod was taken by the security men for the Centre, who pulled him inside and then shut the door. Paper and pen were laid out before him, as was a computer system loaded with advanced modeling software.

"This doesn't look like it's meant for a simulation," Jarod said, looking toward the guards.

"That's because we've got something new for you to do, Jarod."

The voice was familiar, and it made Jarod frown deeply. He turned toward a darkened corner of the room, a room evidently more large than he'd realized.

Overhead lights snapped on. Standing on the other side of the room was Mr. Lyle.

And on either side of him were two wooden chairs, each with a figure strapped into it by wire. One chair held a woman who looked to be in her late twenties, perhaps just at thirty, and the other a man now clearly into his late fifties or even sixties, both Caucasian in complexion. The man was in a pair of trousers but otherwise barechested - the brown-haired woman was in a pair of running shorts and a sports bra, scuffed from a struggle. They had duct tape covering their mouths, keeping them from speaking.

Jarod's heart threatened to plunge into his twisting stomach. "Dad," he muttered. "Emily."

Mr. Lyle effected a wipe at his cheek as if to deal with a tear. "I'm so moved by family reunions," he said with full glibness. "They gave us a run, Jarod. You'd be proud. Catching them was a nice little distraction while we waited for you to be brought back." Lyle leaned over Emily. His hand stroked at her cheek and a strand of disheveled hair there. She recoiled from him. Her face was twisted into defiance and fear and anger, joined by the worry in her eyes when she looked at Jarod. "We're still looking for your precious mother," Lyle confirmed. "Although it wouldn't shock me if she's dead by now. But with your dear old Dad and your precious baby sister here, I think we have enough to work with, don't you?"

Jarod clenched his fists. "If you harm them, Lyle, I'll…"

"...watch helplessly, because you're not the one in control here, Jarod. I am." Lyle chuckled, and the chuckle was the kind you'd expect from a man on the cusp of losing control. Even the other guards in the room shifted uncomfortably, but they remained in a position to intercept Jarod if he tried to lunge toward Lyle. "I had so many fun plans for your debriefing, Jarod. A little taste of what I've gone through thanks to you. But His Lordship made it clear; the Centre wants you unspoiled. He's a bit of a prig, between you and me. I had so many ideas… so many..." Lyle again ran his hand along Emily's face, causing her to try and pull away in disgust. "...and he said no. Anyway, moving on, because time is money you know." Lyle went into a corner of the room and brought over a device set on wheels. Jarod swallowed at seeing what it was, and knew what Lyle was doing as he pulled leads from the machine and fixed them with clear tape to the bare arms, shoulders, and bellies of his bound captives. "Nothing near the heart, of course," Lyle cooed. "We wouldn't want to give them a heart attack, would we?"

"What are you doing?", Jarod asked in a low, dangerous tone.

"For a genius, you can be slow on the uptake," Lyle laughed. "Here's how it is, Jarod." He plopped into a chair facing Jarod, with the controls of the device in front of him and behind Emily and Charles. "The Centre doesn't care about your simulations now. Oh, maybe one day they will, but they've got more important things to do with you. They want your technology. Everything you showed us you can do is something the Centre wants for itself now, and you are going to give it to us. We want you to write out the science, the plans, everything so we can produce this stuff." Lyle held up a hand. "And yes, I'm sure you're about to say you'll never give it to us, the Centre can't have it, blah blah blah, but that's where your family comes in. Because if you don't start cooperating right now..."

Jarod shouted "No!" as Lyle's hand went to the dial.

The machine buzzed faintly. His sister and father started to tremor violently in the chairs they were bound to, muffled screams coming from underneath the tape covering their mouths. Their faces twisted into a rictus of savage agony.

"Stop!", Jarod shouted in desperation.

Lyle grinned devilishly. "I don't see you writing...", he said in a sing-song tone.

Wordlessly Jarod grabbed a pen and took a paper to start scribbling. He started with something basic, something that wasn't too dangerous to write about, by laying out the foundations of subspace theory. He glanced up while he scribbled furiously.

Lyle watched him write for several more seconds before turning the dial back to the off position. Emily and Charles were left wheezing, with tears flowing from their eyes.

As Jarod continued to write, his mind raced. He counted the hours since his abduction and considered how long it might have taken before it was detected, and how long for an investigation to confirm Miss Parker was responsible and that he'd been brought here. After that, how long before the President would approve a rescue mission into the exclusion zone around Earth...

Which, in turn, would tell him how long he had to stall Lyle before the Aurora crew arrived to rescue him.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-22 08:59pm

Chief Almerda accepted the report of the fight club with exasperation. "We have had intelligence of the Syndicate establishing a business operation on New Liberty," he sighed. "How they manage to do so without direct Orion commercial traffic is beyond me."

"I'm sure you're not the only police chief wondering the same," Julia said. She stood with Meridina in Almerda's office while Angel remained with the others.

"And hiring this mercenary, this Zaeed Massani… are you sure that's wise?"

"Given the scale of the threat Miss Parker's team poses, it is reasonable."

A concerned look was on Detective Okonwi's face at that. "I still find it hard to believe she raised the funds to hire such individuals. She was not paid that much as a consultant, and even if she had business arrangements with Corelo, he does not move that much money. I doubt anyone does even in a black market economy, not with the size of our Colony. She must have outside help of some sort."

"I'm afraid I have no answers." This was from Sydney, who had joined them when they returned to Colony Security. His face was withdrawn and stony. "I don't know of anyone who could have assisted Miss Parker financially."

"Whatever happened, our next move is clear. We need a ship."

"I cannot help you in that regard," Almerda said. "Even if I had one, it would violate the Alliance statues to travel to A4P5, and the Colony would be blamed."

"I know. I already have some ideas in that direction," Julia said. "I just wanted to touch base with you one last time before we left. In case anything else was found." She smirked. "And to get our multidevices back." She subconsciously ran her right had over the device returned to her left wrist.

"Of course." Almerda smiled back. "And we will conveniently forget that you stated an intention to violate the exclusion zone around A4P5 Earth."

"Why, sir, whatever do you mean by such a thing?," Julia answered in faux-disbelief, injecting such much-needed levity into the situation. "Hopefully I'll see you again soon enough."

"Go with God," was his reply. Okonwi gave a nod of agreement.

After they left the office and were walking through the halls of the building, Meridina spoke up. "I have two points of concern to address."

"Shoot," Julia replied.

"The first is transportation. Do you have any in mind?"

"I already have a candidate, you might say," Julia said. "Although with our new friends, it might get a bit cramped."

"I see." Meridina nodded. "Not a runabout then?"

"Much smaller than one, I'm afraid."

"I think I see your intention. Hopefully Commander Adama will be able to change his traveling plans. I am somewhat intrigued that you seem ready to trust him on this endeavor, though, I do not recall you two being so cl…" Meridina stopped at sensing the very stray, much-unintended thought that crossed Julia's mind. She gave Julia a curious look. "Truly?"

"What?", Julia asked.

"You and Commander Adama…"

Pink appeared on Julia's cheeks. "We understand each other, let's leave it at that?"

"I see." Meridina nodded. "I believe I understand. I am happy that you found necessary companionship."

"That might be putting it a bit far..." Julia turned a corner, followed by Meridina. They were approaching the main entrance of Colony Security. "And the second thing you were concerned with?"

"Miss Parker has availed herself of the services of two swevyra'kse," Meridina pointed out. "That is, those with my abilities, but who have fallen to their dark sides. I am unaware of their levels of skill and power, but I am uncertain of my ability to protect you from both."

"So what you're saying is that we need another one of your fellow Knights," Julia said.

"Or someone of similar training. There are several Dorei orders who train much as we do, they may also help."

"We'll talk about it when we get back to the others," Julia said, just as they emerged from the door.


The voice caused them to turn back just outside the door, which remained open. Behind them came Sydney, winded from the near-jog he had sustained to catch up. "I… would like to go," he said.

"I appreciate the thought, Sydney, but this is going to be dangerous."

"I know. But I want to be there for Jarod." Sydney took a moment to fully regain his breath, and to work up his composure in the process. "Please."

Meridina gave Julia a look. "This may for the best."

"I don't know if there will be room in the Raptor for all of us," she replied. "Even with one of us acting as co-pilot."

"Perhaps, or perhaps not, but we should at least let him have the chance to go."

Julia pondered that. "Is this one of those 'life force' hunches like Robert gets?"

Meridina raised an eyebrow at that terminology. "I suppose it could be said to be such."

"Well." Julia let out a sigh. "Alright. If we have the room, you can come, Doctor Sydney."

The aged man nodded in gratitude. "Thank you, Commander. I will assist you in any way I can."

"Let's go meet back up with the others," Julia said. "I need to see someone about a ship."

They found Lee Adama in the dining area of the New Liberty Visitors' Lodge, sitting with Thrace and Anders. "We heard about Commander Jarod," Lee said. "How can we help?"

Julia, Angel, and Meridina were sitting opposite from them. Lennier was off with the van and Kasszas had returned to his own room in the lodge to get things he said he needed. "We need a ship," Julia said immediately. "A way to get to Earth. Getting someone to give us a jump to A4P5 is the easy part, the hard part is a ship that can make the trip."

"You want to use the Raptor," Thrace said.

"Preferably with you along as the pilot," Julia added.

Thrace looked to Lee. "I'm all for it if you say go," she said. "It'll be cramped, especially if you're bringing extra people. Plus there's the other matter."

"Other matter?", Angel asked.

"Fuel," Lee explained. "Your people don't mine or refine tylium. And the Raptor only has enough fuel left for a couple of jumps at most. That was all we would have needed for the final trip home."

Angel frowned at that. "So basically, if we have to make more than one jump either way, we're boned."

You just had to use that word, didn't you?, Julia thought to herself. She could see a little twinkle in Lee's eye that she knew was mirrored in her own. As much as it had been a one night stand… it was the type that could easily become something more if allowed to develop. Which, of course, was the tricky part, since Julia wasn't entirely sure she wanted something like that, and she didn't think Lee was either..

"Yep," Thrace said, her voice returning Julia to the matter at hand. "Unless you know of any refined tylium we can top the tank off from."

"I'm afraid not," sighed Julia.

"Now if you find us a ship to ride on, that's do-able." Thrace looked again to Lee. "If the Commander agrees."

Lee smiled at that. "Commander Jarod helped get our people off the Colonies," he said. "I think Admiral Adama and President Baltar will agree that he deserves our help. I'll ask Miss Davis to join me in finding passage on another ship. You take the Raptor and help them in any way you can."

"I'm going too," Anders said. "To give you backup."

"If we can all fit in the Raptor… the more, the merrier," Julia agreed.

"So long as we're not going far, I think we can jam quite a few people in." Thrace sipped at her drink. "Now the question is… can you get us a ship?"

"A ship willing to breach the A4P5 perimeter," Angel added sullenly.

"I'll think of something," Julia said. "Let's get to the spaceport."

They stood up to leave, and were doing so when Lee called out to Julia, prompting her to come back to him. "Good luck," he said. "And…"

"Last night was last night," she answered. And she did so with a smile. "It was special. And it was good. Don't doubt that."

"Yeah." He nodded, smiling back. "Do you mind…"

It was clear what he was asking for. "For good luck? Sure."

They leaned in close and their lips met. The kiss had been intended to be a quick one, but it turned into one that lasted for several seconds before she ended it. "It's a shame you'll be gone by the time we're back," Julia lamented with a sigh. "I've still got a few days of leave."

"Maybe we'll catch each other another time?" There was a bit, quite a bit, of hope in that sentence.

"Maybe." Julia held his hand for a moment. "Have a safe trip home, Lee."

"Good luck getting Jarod back, Julia," he answered.

She walked away and to the exit of the eatery. Angel was waiting there, leaning against the door frame with her arms crossed and a wide grin on her face. "Well well," she said. "I was wondering about last night. It's about time, if you ask me."

"Pardon me?", Julia asked.

"We all deserve someone," Angel said. "Maybe it doesn't last, maybe it does, but why not enjoy it when it's there?" She smiled with genuine warmth. "I'm happy for you. Rob would be too."

"Thank you," was all that Julia could say in response. "but I think we need to focus on the matter at hand now?"

"Lead the way, O fearless leader," Angel opined with some exaggerated affectation in her voice.

The air-van Lennier had acquired was now stuffed to capacity. He sat in the front with Meridina, the second row was for Julia, Angel, and Sydney, and the third row of seats had Thrace, Anders, and Kasszas, who now held a walking stick in his clawed hands. The two Colonials gave careful looks toward the blind Zigonian. To their surprise, he seemed to know the looks he was getting. "It is always best to remember that Creation is a varied existence, made of diversity of all forms of life. Harmony is found in acceptance."

"Uh… works for me, I guess," Thrace said, a lopsided grin coming to her face.

They were driving on to the spaceport when Meridina looked to Lennier. "I believe we have met, have we not?"

"We were not directly introduced," he answered. "But I saw you briefly on Babylon-5."

"You had come to join President Sheridan's escort to Minbar," Meridina said. "And now you are here. And no longer an anla'shok."

"No, I am not," he answered. A distant look came to his eyes. Meridina felt the shame swelling inside of him. "I am no longer worthy of being an anla'shok."

"And yet you have acted in the best traditions of that order," Meridina pointed out. "You came to our aid freely, without offer of compensation or reward."

Lennier glanced her way. "It seemed the right thing to do."

"So it did." Meridina looked away for a moment. She could see this conversation was not going anywhere. She understood it as well; Lennier's past, his feelings of shame and disgrace, were his burden, and he did not wish to discuss it. She needed to respect that.

Julia looked up from her multidevice. "I just sent Zaeed a message to meet us at the spaceport."

"Have you found a ship to take us yet?", Angel asked.

Julia sighed and shook her head. "I was hoping the Shahams could help, but the Eagle is off escorting refugee convoys in S4W8."

"What about our other friends?"

"They're all assigned to Alliance operations." Julia shook her head. "The way things are looking, we'll need to contract a private ship."

"You could call Beth," Angel pointed out. "She might have a ship available."

Julia shook her head. "If I have to. But I don't want to get her in any trouble with the Alliance."

"Creation has guided us together for this purpose," Kasszas stated. "Creation will guide us to a vessel."

Angel looked at the Zigonian with a little confusion on her face. "I thought Zigonians were Catholic?"

To that, Kasszas made a recurring hissing sound that seemed to be chuckling. "As a child I initially thought all Humans were soulless materialists. Creation is made up of individuals, Lieutenant, and individuals create diversity by their very existence. Such is the will of Creation and its Universe."

"A most curious philosophy," said Meridina. She looked back at the Zigonian. "I sense you have a vibrant swevyra of your own."

"We are all bonded to Creation in our own way." Kasszas breathed a little hiss. "The Harmonious Val-Drillim are only one of many beliefs that are in the Conciliation of Tsorra-Mahl Harmonies." The hissing sound in the name "Tsorra-Mahl" was a peculiar one, not repeatable with non-Zigonian tongues.

"Including the Catholic ones?", Angel asked.

"You speak of the Holy Scale Nomads," Kasszas answered. "You have met them and their great tree-ships?"

"Uh… no," answered Angel, sharing a quizzical look with the other Humans in the van. "Never seen a tree-ship."

"We have a Zigonian crewman on our ship," Julia explained. "He is understudying with our chaplain. And is doing good, from what Padre Mann says, except for that incident with the incense…" She shook her head. "Anyway, I need to focus on finding us a ride."

"And I must consult about finding another swevyra'se, if possible," Meridina said. "Miss Parker has hired two mercenaries given into the darkness. I would be remiss to try and fight both."

"I believe I may know of some assistance with that," said Lennier. "I shall leave you at the spaceport and return with further help."

That made Meridina and Julia very curious, but they said nothing on the matter.

Angel looked over at Sydney. "Are you okay?", she asked.

He looked at her, a distant and haunted look in his eyes. "I am, I suppose," he said. "I'm simply concerned for Jarod. The Centre will not be gentle with him. And I'm worried about how we'll find him."

"Knowing Jarod, we may not have to," Angel said. She attempted an encouraging grin. "We'll find him. And we'll get him back."

What she didn't add verbally was the thought that went through her mind, causing Meridina to glance back at her with concern.

And when I catch her, Miss Parker is a dead woman.

Lennier left them as promised, beside the hangar where the Colonial Raptor was being kept. Julia had the feeling that their group had grown large enough that they were approaching the transport limitation for the craft. Maybe I should just send Starbuck and Anders back to Lee and find another shuttle, she thought. But she resisted it; there was no guarantee that any ship she found would have a working transporter of any kind on it. The Raptor might not be able to get to Earth by jumps, but it would provide them a working ride down, and given the sensor upgrades that had been performed on the Colonial Raptor fleet, it might even hide their presence electronically.

It's still going to be nearly standing-room only.

"I'm going to do preflight checks," said Thrace. She looked them over. "Anders will be my ECO for the flight, wherever we end up going."

"I'm leaving it in your capable hands," Julia said. She looked back to the others, who were all looking at the main door, and with good reason.

Zaeed Massani had swapped into a set of battle armor, painted with a light orange, almost yellow color, with a visible grenade pouch on his belt and more grenades strapped to the belts slung over his shoulder. A sidearm was affixed to his hip and two rifles were on his back. "So, that's our ride?", he asked. "Goin' to be a God-amned cramped trip by the look of her."

"That's our ride down from orbit to planetside," Julia answered. "I'm still lining up a ship to get us to Earth."

Zaeed snorted at that. "You're really doin' this by the seat of your pants, aren't you? No prep time. Doesn't look good for our operation." Zaeed looked over the others. He smirked at seeing Kasszas. "Ah, the Blind Raptor is it? I probably owe you a drink. I cleaned up good on your fight tonight."

Kass flicked his tongue. "You need not concern yourself. I was following the path laid by Creation, as we all do."

"Yeah. Works for me, I guess." Zaeed moved on to Sydney. "What do we have here? You don't look like you're along to fight."

"I'm here to help find Jarod in any way we can," Sydney replied. "If that means shooting a man… I've done it before."

Zaeed looked Sydney eye to eye. "You have, haven't you?", the mercenary finally remarked. "Suits me. Just remember the right way to point the gun when the time comes." He looked to Julia again. "Is this it?"

"We have one, maybe two more," she answered. "I'm going to make a call now about our ship. Or rather, she is." Julia looked to Angel.

Angel got what she meant. "Hernan again?" A frown crossed her face. "I don't like relying on him too much, Julia. I…"

The low thrum of an electric-motor bike made everyone turn. A young African woman rode it up to them, wearing a brown leather jacket and black trousers. She looked all business as she slid off the bike. "I've been sent to find you," she said, her voice thick with an accent that Julia thought to be Central African. "Hernan de Corelo wanted you to have this." She reached into her pocket and pulled an object out, which she tossed in an underhanded throw. The object arced in the air and Julia reached out to catch it.

It was small, a sort of dirty white in color, and eminently recognizable. "This is a phaser power pack." She looked at the indicator on the bottom. "The charge has been used up."

"The Syndicate attempted to abduct you tonight," said the woman. "Hernan and several associates didn't take kindly to it. A message has been sent. We thought you should know." She turned back to her electric bike.

"Can you call him?", Julia asked. "We need a ship with an FTL drive that can get us to Earth, Universe A4P5."

"That's a no-contact Earth," the woman noted. "Not many ship captains will risk breaking the Alliance's laws."

"I'll use my personal code when we arrive at the quarantine perimeter," Julia said. "The ship will be logged as having a legitimate reason to be present. It'll be on my responsibility."

For a moment there was silence. "One moment," she said. "I will make the call."

Angel was still frowning. "I don't like this, Julia," she insisted.

"You're the one who went to him first," Julia reminded her.

"For information. But you're accepting favors from him now," Angel pointed out. "And guys like Hernan, they keep tabs on their favors. He'll want to be repaid in the future."

"I'll deal with that when it comes," Julia said. "But the longer we wait, the more likely something happens to Jarod. I can't let that happen."

A minute later the woman came back up to them. "Hernan knows a captain, they owe him a favor. They'll do the job."

"Are they landed here on the port, or do we have to fly up to them?', Julia asked.

"Hanger 8J," the woman answered. She went back to her bike and rode off.

As she did so, the air-van pulled back up and came to a stop. Lennier emerged from the driver side. On the opposite side another figure stepped out and rounded the front of the vehicle.

She was a Dorei, a rich blue skin complexion with light purple spotlines running along her hairline and down her neck. Bright purple eyes looked them over and a self-assured smile crossed dark blue lips. Her face was oval-shaped and pretty in that way Dorei shared with Humans. Her clothes were a black leather jacket over a tamasa, a Dorei tube top-like garment, this one colored bright green with a cyan stripe running horizontally along the middle. The tube top started below the shoulders and stopped just above her waist. Her visible skin at the waist showed a hint of muscular definition beyond simply being flat. On each hip was a hilt pointed downward.

The Dorei looked them over. Julia got the sense she was doing more than looking, which was somewhat confirmed when the Dorei girl nodded politely to Meridina. "Swevyra'se," she said.

Meridina nodded back. "Fenari."

"What's that mean?", Angel asked, bewildered.

"It is 'Gifted' in the English Human tongue," the Dorei girl said, her accent in English sounding like a mishmash of Hawaiian and Spanish. "For many Dorei, the gifts of the swevyra'se of Gersal are seen as derived from the Eternal Goddess, or whatever god or gods they worship, and we are known as the Gifted." The young woman nodded. "I am Druni Jestani."

"Did you belong to an Order?", asked Meridina.

"I was a Sentinel of the Silver Moon," answered Druni. "But I felt my destiny was elsewhere. I am a Paman, though, not a Laytar, I assure you."

"She means she was not cast out, but left her Order in good standing," Meridina explained to the others.

"Whatever," Zaeed said. He waved a hand dismissively. He looked at Julia. "You got that ship we need, right? I'll be stowin' gear on the assault craft, call if things go tits up."

"I will stay as well," replied Kasszas.

"Alright." Julia motioned to the van. "We've got to visit another hanger. A ride is supposed to be waiting for us there. I hope everyone's gotten their things together."

"Of course." Lennier nodded. "I am ready to depart at any time."

"I carry my things with me," Druni added. "So I'm good to go."

"You can come with us to meet this captain, then," said Julia. She looked to Angel and Meridina. "Angel, do you mind staying with the others to prep the Raptor?"

Angel nodded. She could see the look on Julia's face and knew what she really meant: Stay with the others so you can come after us if this is a trap of some kind.

Without another word Julia climbed into the van, this time taking the passenger seat beside Lennier while Meridina joined Druni in the back seat. They rode off to take the short trip to Hanger 8J.

Hours of tension had built up, leaving Jarod feeling mentally and physically strained even as he continued his scribbling. He kept glancing toward his captive father and sister, still bound to chairs and wired up for Lyle to torture at his whim. Lyle still had his hands on the control device, his finger stroking the surface of the dial whenever Jarod looked.

Lyle had always been a sociopathic monster, but the past year had made him much worse. At least before he had been in control of his impulses. Now he looked like a demented monster straining to break from his leash. Every fiber of his being seemed bent upon inflicting pain and indulging in other base emotions.

"I'm starting to run out of patience, Jarod," Lyle remarked. "Maybe you need more incentive…"

"That's not…"

But it was too late. Lyle twisted the dial. Charles and Emily seized up, muffled screams coming through the duct tape placed over their lips. After several seconds Lyle turned the dial again and the shocking ended. Satisfied glee crossed his face. "I hope you've written something worthwhile," he said to Jarod.

"It's the basics of subspace physics," Jarod answered. "Understanding of this science will put the Centre decades ahead of anything on Earth."

Lyle looked at him with a glower. "Oh, isn't that special. Except that's not what I was asking for, was it?"

"But you need to have this knowledge to…"

The dial turned again. Jarod felt sick to his stomach at seeing his father and Emily suffer at Lyle's hands.

As they tried to scream through the duct tape gags, Lyle laughed. "Oh Jarod, are you really going to do this? You're stalling for time, aren't you? Hoping for your friends to come rescue you. But let's face it, they wouldn't know where to look, would they, and even if they did… the moment they show up by that door, I'm turning this thing on full blast. Your dear sister and daddy will be dead in seconds. Now…" He turned the dial off again. Emily and Charles were slumped in their chairs, chests heaving as they caught their breath. "...we want the weapons, Jarod. We want the invisibility devices, the rayguns, whatever it is that lets you blip around. And we want them now."

Jarod glared at Lyle, his eyes full of hatred and disgust in equal measure. His frown deepened. "Alright," he said. "I can draw plans, but I need to know what materials you have available."


"Because that's how I know what you can actually build." Jarod had forced patience dripping from every word.

"And it's certainly not so you can build a radio or a beacon, right?" Lyle moved his hand back to the dial.

Jarod's hand shot up, palm out and down, as if he could use the motion of his hand to bring Lyle's hand away from the dial. "This won't have any parts that can be used for something like that," Jarod insisted. "You can ask any engineer."

Lyle snarled and was clearly in deep thought, which didn't seem as easy now he was so out of control. He about ground his teeth together before uttering a frustrated "Fine." He looked to the guards. "One of you go get the message to His Lordship. A list of all our available electronics."

The guard nearest Lyle nodded and slipped out the door.

Lyle's hand snaked up toward the control. "Just so you don't get any ideas, Jarod…"

Jarod protested with a "No!", but it did nothing. The dial was turned again. Not as far this time, however, although Charles and Emily began to shake and tremble in the chairs again. They were in clear pain.

"One wrong move, it gets turned up," Lyle warned.

"This isn't necessary!," Jarod shouted. "You don't have to hurt them!"

"Oh, but I do!", Lyle countered. "Because it hurts you!" He smiled widely at that. "And that's all I've wanted to do for years."

Jarod looked to his father and sister. Their eyes were focused on him, pleading with him for help while the electric current continued to run through their bodies.

But there was nothing he could do for them. Nothing to stop this from happening, not right now. Tears of frustration flowed down his cheeks at watching their torment and knowing he was helpless to stop it.

Lyle saw the tears.

And he laughed.

One floor up, in a well-furnished conference room that fit more with an urban skyrise than a secretive facility in the middle of the northern Cascades, Miss Parker was with Mister Raines and His Lordship. And they were all watching the live feed of Jarod and Lyle. Miss Parker frowned, finishing a drag on her second cigarette since this had started. "He's gone off the deep end, hasn't he?"

"We felt compelled to give Mister Lyle an… exhaustive debriefing," His Lordship answered, the pause in the line coming like he was trying to find the right euphemism for "prolonged torture". "His claims were outlandish until we could fully confirm them."

"He was always a sick bastard, but now you've made him a rabid dog." Parker shook her head. "You should shoot him and put him out of our misery."

"Perhaps." Mister Raines wheezed for a moment before continuing. "But he still has his uses. His plan for breaking Jarod's spirit is working."

"Poor buggers," Y'tala muttered. "Killin' a man's family to get 'im to talk, I can get behind that if it's business. Torturin' the poor kittens, though? That's low."

Dralan smirked. "On the contrary, I find it… invigorating." The Gersallian's smile was sinister. "I can feel the rage and hatred and pure terror from here."

Not for the first time did Miss Parker regret hiring Dralan, but she said nothing on the matter. She looked over to a second monitor, showing her father sitting on a bed, waiting patiently.

"How much longer until I can take my father and leave?", she asked.

"Soon enough," His Lordship replied.

"Why are you in such a hurry, Parker?", Raines asked. "Perhaps you are concerned Jarod's friends will come for him?"

"It's always possible," she answered. "But you don't need me to tell you that."

"We want our worth from Jarod, then your father can go free, I assure you." His Lordship frowned at Raines. "Whatever some of my subordinates may say to the contrary."

Raines took in a raspy breath and seemed to ignore the comment.

Miss Parker didn't care either way. She frowned at the screen showing Jarod, and hoped that this would be over soon. She'd come too far, burnt too many bridges, to fail now.

Hanger 8J was one of the largest for the New Liberty spaceport, big enough that Julia figured the Koenig would easily fit if necessary. It was at the end of a line of similarly-sized hangers that had been built years ago, during the Facility days, to accommodate their growing fleet of cargo transports and large spaceliners.

The main door of the hanger was closed, so they went to a secondary door. Julia hit the door chime, and then a second time before the door opened and a man with a dark complexion answered. "Yes?", he asked, his accent generally Indian in tone. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm here to see your captain. Hernan de Corelo referred me," she answered. Behind her Lennier, Druni, and Meridina stood patiently.

The man remained silent for a moment. "Very well," he finally said. "Come in." He opened the door fully, revealing that he was wearing a black-and-gold suit that looked to be from M4P2.

Julia led the others into the hanger. The vessel present completed the impression created by the man's appearance; it was also clearly an M4P2-derived design, apparently a civilianized equivalent of a Systems Alliance frigate design, but now with warp nacelles affixed to the ends of the drive wings on either side. The hull was gold-and-black like the man's suit, with a configurable support brace holding the ship in place. The cargo ramp was below the main body, facing the front, again like a Systems Alliance frigate.

Standing at the bottom of the ramp was a woman in a black and white suit. The suit was virtually a catsuit, skin tight, and doing nothing to hide her figure. Striking blue eyes looked them over while dark hair cascaded around her shoulders. Her face had been dabbed with some makeup, its features apportioned evenly around a round-shaped face.

A slight tinge of jealousy went through Julia. This woman was stunningly, unbelievably good-looking, like she had been crafted instead of born.

"Hello," she said to them. Her accent was Australian and her tone betrayed confidence. "Mister Corelo said you needed a lift? What specifics are there?"

"Yes. We need to get to Earth, Universe A4P5, and back. We're recovering a friend that was taken there against his will" Julia motioned behind her. "We've got a craft that can go from orbit to the ground, and it should fit in your cargo bay."

"I see." The woman looked them over. "Well, I have a favor owed to the man, so I'd like to discharge it. But A4P5 is a restricted world. There's a United Systems exclusion zone around the system enforced by sensor buoys tied into their local fleet control. The moment they read us going through a starship will be sent in to stop us."

"I'll provide you the necessary code to get in without setting the alarms off," Julia promised. "You don't have to worry about prosecution."

"Well, that does change things," the woman said. She extended a hand. "My name is Yvonne, and I'm the captain of this vessel, the Tainaron."

Julia took the hand and shook it.

"That is an interesting name," remarked Meridina.

"It's from Greek, actually. It's another name for Cape Matapan." Yvonne brought her left forearm up. An omnitool flashed to life around it. Her right hand tapped something on the omnitool's controls. "Prep the ship for launch, we're going to leave."

"Yes ma'am," a voice replied.

"I'll get in contact with the ships in orbit, there has to be someone willing to generate a jump point for us," Yvonne said. "In the meantime, welcome aboard. We'll rendezvous with your craft once we're in orbit."

Julia nodded. She watched Yvonne turn away and go back up the ramp before turning to face the others. "That was easy."

"Perhaps too easy," Lennier mused.

"Perhaps she wishes to clear her debt with Corelo?", Meridina speculated.

"Keep your eyes open, then," Julia said. "But we've got our ship, and I'm going to take what we've been given." She held up her multidevice and keyed Angel. "We've got our ship. M4P2 design, the Tainaron. Have Starbuck fly you into orbit for the rendezvous."

"We're on our way," Angel answered.

The four stepped up into the cargo bay of the ship. They found seats along the side, for workbenches, and used them for the moment.

Meridina looked to Lennier and Druni. "I am curious as to how you met each other?"

"I was exploring in E5B1," Druni replied. "I went to a small border system near the Minbari, Human, and Centauri frontiers. It was a rough place and there was a fight." She nodded to Lennier. "Lennier came to my aid."

"So you're traveling together/"

"In a general sense, yes," Lennier said. "Although I do not believe we have any permanent arrangements to do so."

"I go where it feels right," Drruni said. "Ever since I left the Silver Moon."

Meridina nodded. "I see." She looked to Druni's belt. "Those weapons, they are runari?"

"No. These are short-blades. Tenari." Druni drew one and flicked the trigger in the hilt. There was a sharp, metallic sound as memory metal flowed up and hardened into a curved blade about fifty centimeters long.

Julia saw that interested Meridina. "I have not seen tenari before," she said. "So you are a practitioner of Tasa Duria?"

Druni smiled and nodded. "I am."

"And that is?", Julia asked.

"It is a sword-fighting technique among some of the Dorei nations," Meridina said.

"The rough English translation would be 'Cyclone of Fury'," Druni added. "It is a dual-handed style. From my travels, I believe you Humans have a few styles like it. I recall being on one of your Earths, in a place called Cebu, where I saw men fighting with sticks in a similar way."

"Arnis, or eskrima," Julia said. "It's a Human martial arts style that focuses on training to fight with weapons in both hands."

"I see. Perhaps it is similar to that, but with memory metal blades." Druni caused her tenari blade to retract and fixed it back to her hip.

"It is a very difficult style to master," Meridina noted. "And Lennier told you of our issue?"

"We will face Fallen Fenari." Druni nodded. "It sounds like a good challenge."

"A deadly one," Meridina corrected.

A smirk crossed the young Dorei woman's face. "Those are the good ones," she countered.

Meridina's usually-stoic demeanor was broken by the flash of irritation that went through it.

Julia sighed. A rumble in the ship told her the main engines were coming online. They were about to launch. The rescue mission was officially getting underway. Well, we've got a team. A strange team in a lot of ways, but it's a team. Let's hope it's enough.

The relative quiet of the conference room in the Centre facility ended when the door opened. Everyone turned to see Kang enter without a word. "We told you only two," Raines rasped at Miss Parker.

"I won't be long, I just need to speak to Miss Parker," Kang said, glancing toward the wheelchair-bound man. His voice was almost toneless, no real emotion coming from it.

"Whatever you feel you need to say to Miss Parker, you can say to us," His Lordship stated.

Kang gave Parker a look. She nodded. "Wolff wants to know the hold-up," Kang said. "He only has so much reactant fuel, and if he runs low on energy he won't be able to keep his stealth system active. Alliance sensor buoys would be able to detect his drives' subspace signature."

"Then have him take the drives offline," Miss Parker replied.

"He's reluctant to do that," Kang answered. "A drive restart could take hours."

"Then tell him it's an order," Miss Parker hissed, getting close and glaring at Kang.

Kang brought a hand up, his fingers spread out, and he shook his head. "He wants to hear it from you."

Miss Parker narrowed her eyes.

"Problems with the help?", Raines asked.

She turned her head and glared at Raines. "A minor issue. I'll go handle it and be right back."

"It would be an undermining of trust, I think, for you to just… disappear at this juncture," His Lordship insisted.

"And yet you still have my father hidden away." Parker gestured to the relevant screen. "So you've got leverage. And I don't think you want Jarod's friends showing up. They've got a big damn spaceship, a lot of guns, and the technology to track the Centre across the planet. Especially if Jarod's been sharing that data he took from you last year. If that ship shows up in orbit, your only chance of surviving it will be to hand Jarod back politely with an apology and a smile."

"You overestimate them," Raines said.

"No, you underestimate them," Parker retorted. "I've seen the technology the Multiverse has to offer. They could have troops transporting down to every Centre safehouse, warehouse, and office location within minutes of arriving in orbit. They'll find and hack all of your satellites within five minutes, tops, of coming into range. And if you make them hunt for Jarod they're going to make you regret it. These people can and will destroy the core of the Centre in an afternoon if given the chance. I want my father back and I don't want to go to jail, so I don't want to give them that chance, Raines. And don't think they won't haul you off too."

Raines glowered. He looked to His Lordship, who was clearly considering Parker's argument. "Ten minutes," he said. "Then I expect you back here, or we will assume treachery."

"I'll be back before then," she insisted.

With Kang in front, she followed him at a brisk pace out of the facility and over toward the ship. "What's the problem?", she asked once they were well out of earshot of the Centre's guards.

"I just received a message from contacts at New Liberty," Kang said. "Jarod's friends are on the way."

Miss Parker scowled. "Dammit, I was hoping for more time, that they'd have to wait for their President to…"

"It's not the Aurora," Kang said. "They're gone. Called away on some mission. My contact says it's a small team, not much larger than our own. Commander Andreys from the Aurora is leading it."

"The blonde." Miss Parker pulled out another cigarette and lit it up. "Anything else?"

"She's bringing the Gersallian chief of security with her, and Angel Delgado. Plus help."


"The old man? Yes. And others they picked up. My contacts can confirm one of them is Zaeed Massani."

Kang said the name like it meant something. It didn't to Miss Parker, and as she inhaled a drag from her cigarette her eyes made that clear. "Who?"

"A known mercenary and bounty hunter, one of the best from M4P2. We don't know much about the others, though."

"Still…" Miss Parker considered it. "Tell Wolff to fake shutting down his engines. We're going to have to leave in a hurry."

"What's your plan?"

"Find where they're keeping my father, take him, and let the Centre and the Alliance sort themselves out after we leave," she replied.

Kang nodded. "Good plan. I'll see about giving Wolff a fix on the signal for your father's location. It'll take a few hours."

"Just make sure it's done before they get here," Miss Parker insisted. "Now I need to get back in."

"Of course," the man nodded. He watched quietly as Miss Parker re-entered the building.

The moment Jarod had the list he'd demanded, he started writing and scribbling again. Making advanced technology with these parts would be just about impossible without the high quality batteries found in things like multidevices and pulse pistols. But he knew he had to give something soon, or Lyle would gleefully start torturing his sister and brother again.

And Jarod couldn't let that happen.

He did manage something. It would provide a reasonable energy shield generator. And if the generator itself died, the power could be diverted to other means. Means that Jarod had intentions for.

But for now the most important thing was survival. And that meant keeping Lyle appeased.

Lyle's intent stare was distracted by a ringing tone in his pocket. He reached in and pulled out a cell phone. "Lyle," he answered.

Jarod intentionally paid no attention as Lyle spoke with a voice on the other end. "Are you sure?", he said. "I'll have to… alright, I understand." Lyle hung up and looked to Jarod. "I want progress on that by the time I get back," he demanded. He looked to the guards and nodded. One produced a pair of handcuffs. Jarod did nothing as the cuffs were used to secure Jarod's ankle to the chair he was sitting in. Lyle grinned and looked back to Charles and Emily. "While I'm gone, let's give you a chance to talk to your family." With rapid movements he ripped the duct tape gags off, eliciting brief cries of shock and pain from his captives. "Don't worry, I've got fresh pieces for later." Lyle brandished, from near his chair, a fresh roll of duct tape. "See you soon." With a chuckle still coming from his throat, Lyle traipsed out of the room.

"Dad. Emily." Jarod looked up from where he was working. "I'm sorry you got caught up in this. It's all my fault for not finding you."

"No. Jarod, no." His father's English accent was now hoarse from his state. The hours of on and off torture had done their terrible work on him most of all. "This is their fault, not your's."

Jarod's face twisted into an expression of pain and shame. The feelings of the last few terrible hours now bubbled to the surface, the feelings of blame over his failure to find his family. He had gotten so devoted to the work on the Aurora, to what they were doing, that he hadn't given his family the attention they deserved. Tears formed in his eyes at the intensity of that thought. "No," he said. "It is mine. I should have done something about this years ago. I should have come and found you."

"And what then?", Charles asked. "The Centre would have found you too."

"No," Jarod said. "No, they couldn't have. I could take you somewhere that the Centre could never follow."

"How?", Emily asked. "And… what's Lyle even talking about? Rayguns, invisibility devices… what's going on, Jarod? Are these things you made for them?"

The bewilderment and worry in his sister's voice was evident. She'd endured the torture better than Charles, but the confusion about what was going on was worse for her.

Jarod looked back to the schematic he was drafting. He started to work on it again. He knew, he damn well knew, that no matter what he did, Lyle would turn the damn machine back on when he got back, just for the fun of it. But he had his own reasons for completing this device as soon as it could be done.

Once he was sure the drawing was accurate, he looked back at Emily. "You won't believe what's going on," he said. "Not until I show you."

"Of course I'd believe you," Emily protested.

"We know you won't lie to us, Jarod," Charles insisted.

Jarod sighed and shook his head as he drew the illustration of where wiring should go on his schematic. Once this vital part was done he looked back up. "For over three years, I haven't even lived on this Earth," he said.

They stared.

"There's a Multiverse out there," he continued. "Earths centuries more advanced than our own. And a group of well-meaning people came to our world looking to help, and ended up saving me after that terrorist attack in Pasadena a few years ago." He stopped, letting them process that information while he did more drawing. "I've been working with them since. Hoping to find a way to find you without the Centre catching on." He let out a sigh. "Granted, I had no idea that the Alliance would forbid traffic to our Earth for not being advanced enough to risk contact. That's made coming back a little complicated."

"You're… you're telling us… you've been living in outer space?"

Hearing the disbelief in Emily's voice, Jarod nodded. "On a ship called the Aurora," he explained. "I've been serving as the ship's Operations Officer. I even helped build her." A little grin came to his face. "I'm Lieutenant Commander Jarod now."

"You're Pretending, then?", Charles asked.

"No, Dad, I'm not." Jarod shook his head. "I don't Pretend anymore. This is who I am now. What I do." His eyes lowered. "And it's why I'm to blame for this. I got so caught up in my new life that I could never make the time to come back and try to look for you."

"I… I don't blame you," Charles said. "I've been on the run too long to blame you for finding a new life where you didn't have to run."

"But I could have found you given time, and I didn't take it. I didn't insist on it like I should have!", Jarod shouted. "And now you're here at the mercy of a monster. All because of me."

The others were temporarily speechless. So much had been said, and Jarod's claims on where he'd been were so unbelievable, that they were having trouble processing it. He could see Emily even wondering if he had gone mad.

"These friends of yours," she finally said. "They're not going to abandon you, are they?"

The question cut through the guilt and Jarod's attention on his schematic. Even if the truth was so pleasantly evident he didn't need to remark on it. "No," he said. "Never. They're coming, I'm sure of it. They're coming right now."

And so he continued to work, banking on just that.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-23 01:07am

A quiet corner of the Tainaron's crew area served for Meridina's meditation. She sat on the floor, legs crossed and hands in her lab, quietly focused on the universe through her swevyra - her life force.

But it wasn't like it normally was. The kernel of darkness implanted in her by Amaunet was still there, the lingering remnants of Amaunet's arrogance, rage, and hatred. Meridina kept her attention away from it lest she remember the rampage Amaunet had unleashed. With the fight to come, she couldn't afford to dwell on that right now, to let that shame and doubt enter her and degrade her strength. Not again a swevyra'kse.

"Are you okay?"

Meridina looked up upon hearing the accented voice. Druni stood nearby, leaning against the wall, arms crossed. Her own energy settled comfortably around her.

"I can feel fear," Druni said. "Doubt. I've… never felt that in a swevyra'se before."

Meridina lowered her eyes in shame. It seemed she wasn't controlling it as much as she would prefer. "I did not feel such things until recently," she admitted.

"What happened?"

"I was possessed by an alien parasite called a Goa'uld," Meridina answered. "It turned my swevyra toward darkness. It felt rage and hatred, and it used me to kill."

The image in her head returned. Of her own lakesh biting into Lucy's neck, the desperate determination on her student's face as she fought to hold the blade back while blood poured from the wound on her head and the cut in her leg. She remembered Lucy's pain, her sorrow, at having to run Meridina through to stop Amaunet.

Druni's eyes reflected her compassion for Meridina's pain. "I have heard stories of my fellow Sisters being turned against us by slavers using neural override implants. I can only imagine the suffering you endured."

"Thank you." Meridina looked up at her. "Why did you leave the Silver Moon?"

"I had a dispute with the Order. A doctrinal issue," Druni said.

"I see." Meridina nodded.

Their conversation might have gone on, but there was a call over the PA. "Commander Andreys, please report to the command deck," Yvonne said.

"Looks like we're almost there," Druni remarked. She ceased to lean against the wall. "I will go tend to my pre-battle exercises."

Meridina responded with another nod. She turned her attention inward yet again and resumed her meditations.

Julia took the elevator and stairs up to the command deck. The initial area, at about the midway point of the deck, was devoted to some of the recreational space. Network communication terminals and computer systems for the crew flanked both sides. Perhaps a bit more than necessary, given the size of the crew. Julia found it all curious.

The front of the ship was dominated by a large holographic galactic map, zoomed in on their local space. Yvonne sat in a chair in front of the map - beyond it were two crewmen. The ship's pilots, Julia figured. Crewmen also held stations to either side for, presumably, sensors and communications.

"We're coming up on the perimeter of the Alliance exclusion zone," Yvonne said. "I need your access code."

Julia nodded and went over to communications, where an Asian woman was seated. She nodded and turned her seat to get out, allowing Julia to sit there. The hard-light controls were similar to those she had used before and it wasn't hard for her to open a communication line to the sensor buoys. She put in her command code.

Moments later the hardlight viewscreen showed a new display. The system had accepted the code.

"We're clear," Julia said, turning the chair and then standing from it. As its former occupant reclaimed her place, Julia stepped up beside Yvonne. Below and in front of her, the pilot continued to monitor their systems as the ship continued on its way, warp engines thrumming through the ship. "Well, you are," she corrected. Seeing Yvonne's curious look, Julia added, "Depending how this goes, I may have just earned myself a court-martial."

"That would be a mistake on the Alliance's part." Yvonne actually looked sympathetic. "Frankly, Commander, if they do something like that, they're just asking you to find superior employment elsewhere. There are all kinds of organizations that could use a woman of your ability."

Julia smiled with some amusement. "You wouldn't happen to be trying to recruit me into whatever sort of underground, sometimes illegal work you normally do, would you Yvonne?"

"You might be surprised at the opportunities out there," she said. "And at what I am normally employed at. No offense was meant, however, merely an observation. I wanted you to know that there are good causes that could use you if the Alliance turns its back on you."

"I'll remember that," Julia said. "I'm going to get the others ready now."

"Of course. I'll let you know when we make orbit."

With Julia getting the others together, Angel ended up being the one to rouse Kasszas. She found the Zigonian in a spare room, sitting on the floor in a meditative pose. Remembering what had happened to poor Petty Officer Dougal when he'd entered the holodeck while Crewman Thalaz was using it, Angel had been holding her breath and took a very careful, very short breath.

"I am not burning incense, or any other such thing," Kasszas said.

"Just making sure."

"Of course. I am aware of how Humans are affected by our practices." Kasszas flicked his tongue. "And I sense we are about to arrive at our destination."

"We're about half an hour out," Angel confirmed. "I'm making sure you're ready."

"I am always ready. And I sense your view of such a claim. It is not mere bravado." The Zigonian raised a single, taloned claw. "Through Creation I may sense such things that my eyes do not behold. I am of Creation and Creation is within me."

Angel nearly said something about that, but stopped. Something of it kindled a thought in her. It sounded so much like the things Robert talked about, how his new powers worked.

"Your people can.. do things, right? See things, feel them.. move objects with their minds?"

That rapid hissing chuckle answered. "That is not the way of the Harmonious Val-Drillim, but there are others in the Tsorra-Mahl who have teachings like that." Kasszas seemed to ponder something. "I sense you have a question?"

"Is it…" Angel sighed. She couldn't hold the question back, even though a part of herr wanted to. "...Is it possible for someone with such a… thing, such powers… to get them removed?"

For a moment the Zigonian was silent. "Such a bizarre question. Is is like me asking you if you would like your own eyes to be plucked from your head."

"That's not an answer."

"True." Kasszas put his clawed hands together. "The answer is that I do not now. I have never heard of such a thing being done. I sense this answer displeases you?"

It did, as much as Angel tried to hide it. "I was hoping to hear some way to get rid of it. So someone I care for can be free from it."

"One is never 'free' from Creation. We are all part of it."

"This isn't about your beliefs," Angel shot back, her voice vehement. "It's about the fact that ever since he realized he can do this stuff, it's started to take over his life. And he has enough responsibilities."

Kasszas flicked his tongue again. "I see. And you care for him?"

"I love him," Angel insisted.

"No, you do not."

That brought the Zigonian a harsh glare that he could not see. Angel's nostrils flared. "What?", she asked bluntly, with deceptive calm in the question.

"To love is to accept. But you do not accept." It was clear the Zigonian could feel the flare of anger in her. "Your love is not for a person but a mere phantom. An idea of a person that does not actually exist. This is why you seek to take his link to Creation away, as if it could be done. Your idea of him is of the him that existed before he realized his connection to the whole of Creation. Now he has changed, and you no longer accept what he has become. You no longer love him."

Angry silence filled the air between them. Kasszas, his observations made, simply turned inward again.

Angel snarled and nearly barked a hot denial. It died in her throat, becoming a growl of "Crazy Goddamned lizard" as she stepped away and left Kasszas to himself.

Jarod had finished the schematic with seconds to spare.

It hadn't kept Lyle from turning the dial again.

This time he didn't bother with the duct tape. Charles and Emily's cries echoed through the room then, and they were doing so again while Jarod was working with the actual parts, now brought in by Lyle's order. "This takes time!", Jarod shouted, using a soldering gun and trying not to mess up while his family screamed in agony.

The dial turned to the off position again. "Sick bastard," Emily muttered between the deep breaths she was making.

Jarod looked up in time to see Lyle smack her across the face. He turned and smiled at Jarod. "You can go faster than that, Jarod. We know that."

"No, you don't," Jarod growled in response. "Given what I have to work with, this has to be done just right, or it won't work!"

"I'm not an idiot, Jarod!", Lyle screamed, the smile again gone from his face. "I know you're stalling! You're waiting for help! And it's not coming! Now get your ass in gear, do your job, or I'll make this look easy with the things I'll do to them."

Jarod frowned and redoubled his efforts. He still had little firm knowledge of what time it was, or how long it'd been since he was abducted, but he knew it couldn't be long. And he had to be ready.

In the Centre conference room, Miss Parker stood with Dralan and Y'tala as they watched Raines and His Lordship watch Jarod and the others. I sense deception, Dralan communicated to Parker, mind-to-mind, a method of communication she frankly hated.

Who? Where?

Around us. From you, certainly.

Any luck on finding my father?

Dralan looked slightly toward Y'tala. The Mi'qote mercenary nodded and brought up the multidevice on her wrist. A message was written on it.

I just found the beam transmission. It's coming from under us.

Parker frowned. Of course. Her father had always been here. Hidden, right under her nose.

Her mind raced, pondering what her next move would be. She gestured quietly to her own multidevice, prompting Y'tala to nod and begin a transmission to it, her findings and the approximate course of the beam and thus where it might be coming from.

To avoid suspicion Parker put her eyes on the screen. Lyle was torturing Jarod's family again. He kept his eyes on Jarod, mostly, while one of the camera angles set behind Jarod still showed a good view of his face and the sadistic, mad gleam in his eye.

If things went a certain way, Parker realized she would easily, gladly, shoot him between the eyes.

Dralan grabbed her arm. Parker looked at him in irritation. "What?", she demanded.

"I sense them," he said. "They're here. They'll find us if I use my power."

Parker frowned. Time was running out, and she needed to make the next move count. If she left, just up and left, it would send the wrong signal. But if she waited too long…

"Get ready to move," she whispered.

The Tainaron was in far orbit of Earth, staying out of direct sight of satellites. Its own sensors were searching about for signs of the Deadman's Hand. Julia came to the command deck again to observe with Yvonne. "We can't detect signs of any vessels like your records show," she said. "But they could be hidden from sensors."

"That's likely," she agreed. "So we need a different way of finding them." Julia looked back to where Meridina waited quietly. "Meridina, can you sense Jarod? Or that dark sweveera whatever?"

Meridina shook her head. "I am afraid I sense nothing. Our quarry is hiding himself."

"Well, we can't stay up here forever," Yvonne said. "You should launch your ship and get in closer."

"Agreed." Julia offered a hand. "Thank you for the help."

"Don't mention it, Captain," was the response she got. "And I've had my technicians give you a little extra help, something to deal with that vessel you're looking for. Captain Thrace already knows."

Yvonne's remark prompted a nod from Julia, hiding her own increasing curiosity about this ship and its crew. The way they acted and moved… it wasn't military, precisely, but it wasn't what she'd expect from a band of smugglers either, or any other private cargo ship that would operate with the likes of Corelo. They almost remind me of us, before the Alliance was the thought in her head.

But there was no time for dwelling on these thoughts, not when they had a friend to rescue. Julia and Meridina walked away at a brisk pace toward the rear of the command deck.

Several minutes later, the Raptor emerged from the launch deck after pushing through the mass effect-generated atmospheric containment field. Thrace was at the controls and Anders was beside her, looking over the electronics for the Colonial craft. Julia stood behind them, holding a bar along the side to keep herself steady, as the Raptor's inertial dampening systems were barely operative, having never been built to accommodate them.

The passenger area of the Raptor was nearly overloaded. Kasszas took up a disproportionate amount of room, being the big reptile, with his stick in hand; and Zaeed being loaded for bear didn't have a small profile either. Meridina was wedged in with them on a bench. The second bench had Druni, Lennier, Sydney, and Angel. Angel was checking her pulse pistol.

"You do not want to kill her," Kasszas said. A number of eyes looked his way.

"Excuse me?" Angel frowned at him. The last thing she wanted was more prying from the strange blind reptile-man.

"Miss Parker," he said. "You do not want to kill her."

"Like hell I don't. I promised to, in fact."

Julia looked back at Angel, frowning. "What?"

"When Jarod tried to make good with her last year, showing her the new home he'd arranged for her," Angel said. "I came with him, just in case. I could see it in her eyes then, that she wasn't giving up. And I told her I'd kill her if she hurt Jarod."

"We still need to know how she put her team together," Julia reminded Angel. "We need her alive." Seeing the look in Angel's eyes, Julia immediately added, "That's an order."

Angel didn't answer. She did glare at Kasszas.

"She still has a role to play," the lizard explained.

"And you know this because… 'Creation' tells you?", Angel asked, disbelief strong in her voice.

All the Zigonian did in reply was make a sad noise.

Jarod made the last internal connection on his new device. It looked like a block of metal attached to a metal colander with wires strewn everywhere, but the internals and the way the wire was arranged would create a fairly short-lived energy field.

Lyle looked it over. "Is that it?", he asked incredulously.

"You wanted something that works, didn't you?", Jarod asked, frowning. "It was never going to be pretty. Not with the tools you've given me."

"And how do I know it works?"

Jarod responded by flicking a switch. "Now try shooting me."

Lyle chuckled. "Oh, and have it be some bizarre device that sends the bullet back into me? I don't think so." Lyle looked to one of his guards. "Shoot him. In the arm."

The guard nodded, with maybe a little reluctance, and pulled a firearm. Jarod didn't flinch as it came up toward him. The gunshot echoed in the room, hurting his ears.

But no bullet struck him. There was a flicker of energy in front of him and then a very slight sound from the floor. Everyone looked down to see the smashed bullet come to a stop after rolling a little on the floor.

Emily stared, wide-eyed, at this. "That's not possible," she murmured.

Lyle whistled. "Well!", he said. "There we go. Looks like we have a start." Lyle walked over and picked up the schematics and the device from Jarod's work area. "Next up, I want a raygun. I don't care what kind, but it'd better fire lasers or whatever you do instead of bullets."

Jarod narrowed his eyes. "You don't have the materials."

Lyle responded by raising his hand toward the dial.

"Dammit Lyle, you don't have…" It was too late. The dial turned and Charles and Emily were crying out again as electricity surged into their bodies. "....that's not going to change things!", Jarod screamed. "You don't have the materials for me to build a weapon like that!"

"Then list what we need!" Lyle stabbed a finger at the paper stack on Jarod's work area. "Do it now or I turn this up!" He turned it down, but not off, leaving Emily and Charles to suffer.

Jarod started scribbling, trying to think of the things that would be available here, on an Earth at the start of the 21st Century.

He couldn't afford to not cooperate. Not until he knew for sure that his plan had worked. All he could do was write and hope that someone would be in orbit soon, before the oversized battery pack on the shield generator gave out.

Because an energy shield wasn't the only thing it was capable of generating.

The Raptor was keeping its distance in far orbit, roughly halfway between the start of the atmosphere and the Tainaron. "Still not… wait." Anders looked at his screen. "I've got something."

"What?" Julia looked over at his screen. A ripple was appearing on it, coming from Earth.

Anders looked it over. "It looks like a low-level radio transmission, VHF, being transmitted into orbit on one of the Alliance short-range radio bands."

"What's in it?", Julia asked.

"It looks like a series of pulses… the signal keeps cutting on and off."

Julia looked at the display. "It's not being interfered with. It's doing that on purpose…" She grinned. "It's Morse code. Of course."

"Morse code?", Anders asked. "What's that?"

"It's an old system for transmitting messages as electric pulses down wires," Julia explained. "So many pulses of short and long duration meant a letter in the alphabet. It's why we call ship distress signals SOSes sometimes."

"And do you know this code?"

She nodded. "It's part of officer training. Just in case we need to communicate something discreetly, or without normal communication methods." She watched the pulses start and stop intermittently. "It's Jarod… he's being held somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Mountain area, eastern side. And.." As the next few words came through Julia breathed a sigh. "...they've got hostages. His family."

"Hostage rescue's always a bitch," grumbled Zaeed.

"I don't think we can fit more than two in here, not with everyone we've got," Starbuck said.

"Then why don't we just take their ship too?", Druni asked. "You said the pilot stole it, right? I've never had an issue with stealing from a thief."

"Is that why you left whatever order that was?", asked Angel.

"No," she replied.

"Taking their vessel will be difficult if they raise shields."

"Well, it's a good thing the Tainaron mounted a couple disruptor torpedoes on your bird," Zaeed remarked. "We've got the ordnance if they try that."

Julia should have been happy to hear that. And she was… but it also brought back to mind her inkling that there was more to Yvonne and the Tainaron than she had expected. Angel's warning about getting too deep with Hernan echoed in her head.

"Can you give me a direction?", Thrace asked. Hearing her brought Julia out of her thoughts. She now wanted to smack herself for getting distracted from the matter at hand upon realizing she'd left the conversation behind. "We can't stay out here forever."

"I'm trying," Anders said. The Raptor turned toward Earth. "Wait… I think I… have it." He grinned at Julia. "I've got it. I'm using the visual sensors now…" On his screen, the dawning sun was starting to throw light over the area, although the line of dawn was just starting to reach Spokane. The screen zoomed in on the eastern side of the Cascades until it showed a facility in the middle of the countryside, built along one of the lower mountains. A little marker popped up over it. "It's definitely coming from there."

Julia nodded. She could already see the profile of what looked to be a cargo starship on the tarmac beside the building. "And there's the ship." Julia thought on it. "Starbuck, can you land us nearby? We'll be needing to take that ship."

"Taking us in now. ETA five minutes." At Thrace's command, the Raptor changed its direction again, moving straight for Earth.

"Maybe the Tainaron could land and pick us up instead?" Angel was looking over it too. "Because taking the ship too is probably going to be harder."

"I doubt Yvonne would agree to risking her vessel," said Lennier. "Especially as we already promised we would not need further help, simply transportation."

"So it's a fight, probably against her entire team." Julia patted her hip, where her pulse pistol was holstered. "But we knew that coming in anyway."

"Who do you plan to send into the building to get your friend out?" Kasszas kept his claws on his walking stick.

Julia considered that, and the makeup of the foes they were facing. "Zaeed, you're in charge outside," she said, looking his way. "Meridina will be busy facing their dark life force guy…"

"Swevyra'kse," Meridina said.

Julia shook her head. "Sorry, but I'm not even going to bother trying to pronounce that. Meridina will take him on. Druni or Kass will be needed for the other one they've got. Zaeed will direct the rest of you while I go with Sydney into the base."

Angel gave Julia an intent look. Julia didn't return it, especially when Angel didn't say anything.

"Good plan, until it goes tits up anyway." Zaeed checked his sidearm pistol for a moment. "If we're takin' their ship, I'll need everyone. Our pilot too."

"Can you secure the Raptor?"

"I'll lock it down," Thrace said. "Just don't let it get wasted. Admiral Adama will have my ass." Nearby Anders secured his own sidearm and checked his ammunition. "And our ETA is now two minutes. We're entering atmosphere."

The Raptor began to shake. Julia's heart picked up its beat and every muscle went tense. Everything that she'd been planning since the previous night was coming down to this.

In the conference room, most eyes were still on the screen showing the cameras in the room where Jarod was kept. Parker looked that way as often as she could, but she was more concerned with checking the exits without alerting Raines and the others to what she was doing. A plan was forming in her head now that she knew it was only a matter of time before they were attacked.

A cell phone rang. Raines' attendant handed him a phone, and he rasped, "Yes", into it.

"What is it?", His Lordship asked.

Raines listened for a moment. "I see." He turned his head to face his superior. "Air Traffic Control is picking up an aircraft entering our airspace from orbit. They will be landing within a minute."

His Lordship turned and faced Parker. "They're not yours, are they?"

"No," she said.

Raines looked at her intently. Parker met the look, kept it, and inwardly cursed as she realized what that look meant.

Raines knew. He knew she had been expecting this attack.

But he hadn't said anything. Why?

A sick feeling came to Parker's stomach. But first she had to deal with the situation. She turned to Dralan. "You and Y'tala go out and help the others. If they only have one assault vehicle worth of troops, you should be able to deal with them."

Dralan nodded. Y'tala pulled a particle pulse rifle from its place holstered on her back and smirked. They walked straight out.

Parker activated her multidevice next, opening a link right to Wolff. "Raise your shields. Shoot them out of the sky."

"With pleasure."

"Woh there!" Thrace jinked the Raptor to one side. A split second later a pulse of green energy whizzed by them. "We're under fire!"

Anders looked to his screens. "It's that ship. It's got some kind of weapon mounted on it. And… I think it's raised shields."

"It would appear to be a plasma cannon of Earth Alliance design," said Lennier.

"Well, whatever it is, it'll blow us out of the sky. I'm changing our approach vector." Thrace began to maneuver the Raptor around. Another shot lashed out at them and barely missed.

"Don't these things have shields now?", Angel demanded.

"Shields for resisting Cylon raiders, Delgado, not cannons."

"Well, this brings back unpleasant memories," Zaeed grumbled from the back.

Druni looked up. "If you can get us close and remove the shields, I can deal with the cannon."

"What?!", demanded Thrace. "How?"

Meridina gave Druni a quizzical look. Druni smiled gently in response.

"Anders, lock on the torpedoes," Thrace said.

"I'm getting a firing solution now."

Julia forced a calm expression that belied the fear and worry building up within her. Doubt came and was beaten back down by will. Everything she heard was that Kara Thrace was a hell of a pilot, one of the best, and so her life and the lives of her team were in Kara's hands. She would rely on the Colonial pilot to get them safely to the ground, that was it.

The Raptor had several more shots come their way. Many were close. But none hit. The ground rushed up toward them on the cockpit window.

As the squat facility in the middle of nowhere loomed large, so did the Deadman's Hand. It was a boxy shape, landing struts extended, and appeared to have an internal warp drive instead of a nacelle-based system. Although Julia couldn't see it, she knew that the ship was surrounded by an energy field that would fry them if they came too close.

"Fox One!", Anders called out.

The torpedoes dropped from the Raptor's hardpoints and flew forwrd, twin bolts of light from their mass effect drive fields. Within seconds they slammed into the the shields around the Deadman's Hand, creating a massive burst of light and an explosion along one end of the ship.

"That did it!", Anders shouted. "Their shield is down!"

Druni stood and opened the hatch on the side, causing a roar of wind to drown almost everything else. She drew in a breath and put her hands together, index and middle fingers extended, in a focusing gesture.

Julia felt the hairs on her neck start to prickle. Meridina actually gasped in surprise, sensing the shifting of energy, the way Druni was using her life force energy. Druni's wound her right arm around, as if dipping her fingers into an invisible pool in the air. Electricity started to crackle and spark at her finger tips as her arms moved in sequence. Meridina could feel Druni's power splitting the air, separating energies and creating an imbalance in forces, then allowing the tremendous discharge that was building to flow around her.

In a quick movement Druni stabbed her right hand, and the fingers there, forward. Power erupted from her in the form of a great bolt of lightning.

The release of energy struck the plasma cannon on the Deadman's Hand directly. It couldn't resist the power Druni had channeled, exploding brilliantly.

Julia could feel her jaw hanging in utter surprise at the act. Everyone was stunned and said nothing as Druni turned back to face them. "It is a difficult technique. We are not allowed to use it in the Silver Moon."

"Lightning drawn from the power comes from darkness," Meridina insisted. "How can you risk…"

"There is none," Druni insisted. "It is not the same." She saw Meridina's frown and lowered her eyes, as if she had expected this reaction.

"Here we go!", shouted Thrace.

Under her control the Raptor swung around and came to a landing beside the Deadman's Hand.

Zaeed jumped out of the hatch first, a beaten up old M8 Avenger in his hands. The assault rifle opened up with a roar at the approach of the armed guards for the facility. Quick bursts of fire, expertly aimed, put them down by one one.

The others jumped out quickly. There was no cover to be had in the tarmac all the way to the building, so their only hope was a direct attack on the armed men before they could shoot them all. Julia and Angel hit the ground firing, sending pulse pistol shots that made two more guards drop. Their suppressive fire, meager as it was, provided the extra time for Zaeed to eliminate the men with quick bursts from his rifle.

A loud roar filled the air and made the three turn. Powerful arms lashed out and knocked Julia and Angel out of the way, one to each direction, with such force that Julia's pistol went flying from her grip. The big Krogan caught Zaeed as he tried to dodge out of the way, knocking him several feet away onto the tarmac.

Krel unholstered a shotgun and aimed it toward Zaeed. Kasszas' tail whipped out and gripped the gun as it leveled toward the prone mercenary. The Zigonian flicked his tail away and ripped the weapon of the Krogan's hands. Krel growled and turned toward Kasszas, who held up his stick. Krel took out another gun, this one a large pistol, and began to fire it at Kasszas, who evaded with a series of spins and dodges, whirling his walking stick around and even deflecting several of the mass effect-propelled rounds.

Sydney, a pulse pistol in hand, unloaded on another guard rounding the building. His shots missed at that range, but they made the guard take cover around the corner. He came up to the others and gripped Julia's arm. "We need to hurry!", he urged.

"What's your hurry, old man?"

The question didn't come early enough to give Sydney the time to dodge the punch that sent him flying. Wilton cocked a grin at him before turning his attention to where Julia and Angel were standing. Kang and Denna stepped up beside him. "Well well, looks like you ladies are in for a rough time," the fighter said.

"Poor little kittens," Denna cooed, pulling a prod-like weapon from her belt and raising it.

Wilton charged first, and Julia sprang to intercept him, blocking a punch and ducking a kick before throwing a palm strike that he batted away. He threw a punch at her stomach that nearly connected, causing a brief spasm of pain, but she followed it up with a snap kick to his weak side that caught him in the ribs.

Denna charged forward, a sinister figure in her black combat leathers, and got Julia on the weak side as she evaded Wilton's strikes. The moment her weapon made contact with Julia's ribcage, white-hot agony surged through Julia's torso. She screamed and toppled, stunned by the sheer shock of the pain.

Both of her attackers went flying, courtesy of Druni throwing out a wave of force. With the pain fading Julia was able to look up and see that Kang was now facing Lennier, the two adopting martial arts stances and waiting patiently for the other to strike first. Zaeed was still getting up and exchanging fire with what few Centre guards were left on the outside. The Krogan, Krel, was pursuing Kasszas with dogged determination, the blind Zigonian twisting and moving around his larger foe to evade his attacks. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Thrace and Anders going up the cargo ramp for the Deadman's Hand - they would go after Wolff and secure the ship for everyone to escape on. Angel had gotten back up and was checking on Sydney, who was starting to move.

She took all of this in, their relative positions, and considered what had to be done. This was mostly going with the plan.

Mostly, that is, save for the fact that her position meant that Angel was the better choice to go after Jarod than Julia.

"Angel," Julia said. "You go with him. I'm staying out here."

Angel looked back. Her hazel eyes had that intense look they got whenever Angel's blood was up and her adrenaline was pumping. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. Go!" Julia heard the footstep behind her and ducked and spun away, barely evading the high kick that Wilton had meant for the back of her skull. She turned and caught his next strike, he caught her counter-attack, and she moved her arm to take a blow to her forearm instead of her shoulder blade, the movement acting to deflect the energy of the blow so that it didn't actually cause as much damage. Wilton backed off for a moment. "You're good," she said to Wilton.

"The best." Wilton smirked. He brought his fists up. "Now hold still, blondie, and maybe I won't mess up that pretty face so much."

Julia smirked and assumed a defensive posture, arms leveled and her hands balled into fists. She awaited his attack and when it came she blocked and deflected and evaded several strikes until Wilton left his side open. She went for it, then immediately whipped about, evading the trap he'd set for her in doing that intentionally, and caught him by surprise with a kick to the jaw that made him twist and fall over. The falling movement continued, Wilton using its inertia to get back to his feet. A snarl now twisted his lips. "Well, you're not half bad," he admitted. "I'm going to enjoy this."

Julia said nothing, resuming her defensive posture. The smirk appeared on her face again and she curled her palm inward, turning the back of her hand toward Wilton and curling her fingers in a "Come here" gesture.

He took the invitation.

Angel and Sydney were met by Meridina as they approached the door. "Where are you going?", Angel asked Meridina. "You should be helping the others."

"I felt it more important to help you."

"Why?", Angel asked.

The door ahead of them opened. A man in a dark long-sleeved suit exited, a sword already in his hand. His oval-shaped face was immediately familiar to Angel. It was the Gersallian Parker had hired. "Oh," she said. "That's why."

"Dralan Olati," Meridina said. She raised her lakesh and extended it. "I cannot allow you to harm anyone else."

"It's been a long time since I fought a slave of Swenya," Dralan said. "It'll be fun to kill another one of you sanctimonious drones." His golden eyes glittered with satisfaction. "Although you feel interesting. Is that.. doubt I feel? Maybe a little darkness? My my, you're not a very good slave of that whore Swenya, are you?"

"Insulting the Grand Foundress is a petty attempt to undermine my control, don't you think?", Meridina observed. She glanced over her shoulder at Angel. "Go around. I will hold…"

The blow was meant to take Meridina's head off her shoulders. She saw it coming even as the intention formed in Dralan's mind and had her lakesh in place to intercept the blow. The EM fields of their respective blades interacted and created a loud "whmmm!" sound in the air from the force of the impact.

Dralan pulled his weapon back and brought his hand up. Crackling lightning erupted from it. Meridina intercepted it with her lakesh blade. It snapped at her, as if the lightning could almost on its own will go around the EM field holding it in place.

Finally the lightning stopped. "It was no petty insult," Dralan said. "You and the others are fed lies. You worship that bitch-tyrant Swenya when she ruined our people. She made them weak and soft."

"She gave us purpose, she showed us the Light."

"Light is weakness. It is tyranny. It enslaves souls." Dralan snarled. "And I will never be enslaved again!"

He tried to choke her with his power, but Meridina resisted that. He switched a moment later and lunged with his lakesh. Their blades met yet again.

While the fighting by the others raged on around them, Kang and Lennier remained a distance from each other after their brief exchange of attempted punches and grabs. Lennier's hands were in a ready self-defense gesture, ready should the other man make a move. "Hrm," Kang finally said. "I've never faced one of your kind before."

Lennier said nothing in reply to that.

An eager smirk finally came to Kang's face. "Not that it matters. You're just another alien to kill." His left hand reached to his back and retrieved the sword that had been fixed there. He held it out, swapping the handhold to hold it in reverse, pommel-up, and assumed a combat stance with the blade parallel to the ground.

"If that is how you wish to proceed." Lennier pulled his denn'bok out and triggered it to extend.

Kang smirked and, with a confident air, charged at Lennier.

Zaeed fired another burst from his battered old rifle, good old Jessie, felling another of the dark-suited security men with old chemical-propellant firearms. His breathing had picked up and his muscles burned. I'm getting too God-amned old to run a fight like this. And no damn cover, too.

It seemed he'd finished the last of them off, though, which was good because it meant he could focus on helping his team put down the mercs guarding the ship. He turned toward the fight and glowered at seeing Julia, not Angel, engaged in a hand-to-hand fight. So she's still out here, eh? Who's going to be in charge? This is what I get for joining an op this rushed. I don't have time for this crap. Zaeed brought Jessie up to fire when a sudden shot from the side knocked him over. His personal shield took most of the blast and saved his life.

Stupid mistake, God-ammit it, lettin' someone shoot me from the flank.

That someone, it turned out, was the "Mi'qote" woman on Parker's team, Y'tala. She was perched at a window facing his way, a particle rifle up and aimed at him. Zaeed swung Jessie over and fired, full auto, letting his old gun really push her heat capacity with enough suppressive fire to drive the cat-lady back into cover. He moved toward the window, firing all the way, until Jessie grew so hot that she was smoking. Finally her safety kicked in and Jessie stopped firing, going into cooldown.

His quarry recognized her chance and popped back up, rifle raised. Zaeed was ready for her though, and he already had a grenade in mid-air when that gun popped back up. He threw himself to one side, knowing another hit would finish his personal shield and leave him dead, while reaching for his side-arm. He hefted the M-3 Predator and fired off several shots just as Y'tala was shooting at the grenade he tossed. A number of the shots struck her shield and degraded it, forcing her to take cover as the grenade went into the window.

As the grenade went through the window, Y'tala came out of it. She hit the ground rolling and held up a phaser pistol. Amber fire washed over Zaeed's shield. His combat gear let off the tone he hadn't wanted to hear; his shield was completely drained now.

But now Jessie was cooled down. He picked her up from where he had to drop her and fired, full-auto, at the Mi'qote woman. She jumped back to evade but it was too late for her personal shield, as enough rounds slammed into it that it flickered and dissolved.

With no cover and his personal shield overloaded, Zaeed couldn't let her get another bead on him. He dashed forward and, as she stood, fired off another shot. She rolled away from it and pulled a gun. Now he went down, rolling and shooting, but rolling in the right direction.

Y'tala took a gamble; she held her ground to try and get a shot in. But Zaeed, despite his age, was too quick for her to keep a bead on him in short-range. Her shot went wide.

Zaeed twisted Jessie in his grip and brought the stock of the gun crashing into her face. Her nose broke with an audible crack, red blood gushing from it, and a single tooth went flying from her mouth.

The move should have won Zaeed their brief battle. But it didn't; Y'tala's leg shot out and kicked him in the knee from the side. Zaeed's knee came out from under him, causing him to go down onto it. She went for her sidearm again as Zaeed went for his, and simultaneously they each brought a free hand up to grip the other's gun, leaving them locked in place, the loser unlikely to survive the result.

Thrace and Anders held their guns ready as they continued on down the main corridor of the Deadman's Hand, working toward the main bridge.

They were barely a quarter of the way when Anders pulled Thrace into cover in one of the doorways, just before a sapphire pulse of energy went past where she had been.

"Think you're hot shite to come after my ship, don't you?!", cried out Wolff, standing in cover near the bridge. "Come on if you think you're hard enough, nobody's taking my ship from me!"

Thrace and Anders looked at each other. Being in a relationship and having fought side by side, they could read one another well enough to agree to a plan without any verbal communication. Thrace gestured and Anders nodded. He poked out slightly and went back into cover as fire came down on his position.

Thrace slipped around the corner and returned fire, driving Wolff into cover. Anders dashed ahead, taking cover at the next door. Just as he got into the cover fire came back their way. Wolff could see the tactic they were using and was ready to take his chances to shoot one of them down.

They would repeat the same, now Anders giving the cover fire while Thrace moved ahead, taking cover opposite from Anders to force Wolff to divide his fire. They exchanged looks that confirmed that each knew what this meant; this was going to take time. Time they might not have.

Angel and Sydney made for the opposite end of the building. A fire exit door presented itself as an entry point. It was supposed to be one way, but with a couple shots from her pulse pistol Angel wrecked the door's closing mechanism and was able to kick it open.

It was a stairwell, and they were on the top floor. "Okay, where do we go?", she asked Sydney.

"We might be able to find whoever's in charge nearby. There's no telling how far down the facility is."

"So this wa, good.

They went toward the door Just as Sydney started to go through the , the door opened and a man in a dark suit came out. The security man saw them and lifted his gun up.

With Sydney partially in the way, Angel didn't have room to shoot without risking him. Her leg snapped up and caught him in the hand with a kick. She moved in a quick lunge, grabbing the man's gun hand and coming up with a kick that caught him in the throat, forcing him to wheeze and gag out of shock. She followed that with a punch and a throw toward the outer door, clearing him away. "Go, go!", she urged.

Sydney kept going, as fast as his weary old legs could carry him, while Angel took up the rear.
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"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-23 12:30pm

The air in the conference room was growing more tense by the moment. The Centre Triumvir, "His Lordship", was talking on the phone with someone and frowning. "Send them all… well, how many…" The normally debonair man in his fancy suit was now pacing. "Get more, we have the office in Redmond… yes, by chopper if you must, we need the backup." He turned the phone off. "Can your people stop them?", he asked Parker.

"I hope so," she replied. She looked them over. If she was fast enough that she could shoot them before they sent an alert…

There was a loud banging noise as the door was kicked violently open. Miss Parker turned to face the newcomers as well.

Angel and Sydney entered the room, guns drawn.

Raines' attendant drew his weapon and leveled it at Angel.

Miss Parker reached for her pulse pistol, but didn't draw it yet.

"Sydney," rasped Raines.

"Mister Raines." Sydney covered him, among the others, with a gun. "Where's Jarod?"

Raines quietly turned his eyes to a monitor, where they could see Jarod and Lyle, not to mention Jarod's family. "You clearly aren't as capable as Miss Parker warned," he said. "We'll have this compound reinforced within hours."

"We'll be gone by then," Angel retorted. "You idiots should be praying thanks that our ship's on special assignment, otherwise we would have sicced a company of Marines on you by now."

"You would be the young lady who penetrated Centre security last year." His Lordship took a seat. "I respect bravery and action like that. So let's discuss the matter and find an acceptable accord." He folded his hands and gave every appearance of being the amenable, ready-to-deal English aristocrat. "The Centre fed Jarod for three decades. Clothed him. Protected him. We have a vested interest in his work, you might say. Now, if we had compensation of some sort, I can see the Centre happily permitting Jarod to move on "

"You're nothing more than slavers," Angel spat. "I saw what you did to Angelo. Your man Lyle was holding a little girl hostage. The reason I haven't shot any of you yet," and her eyes turned to Parker with venom, "is because all I care about is getting Jarod and his family out of here."

"Young lady, you are not in the strongest bargaining position," Raines replied. "One of you will be shot if a fight breaks out. And with a single phone call, I can have Lyle kill Jarod's family, or even Jarod himself."

"So what 'compensation' would the Triumvirate want?", Sydney asked.

"Your technology. The chance for the Centre to lead the world into a new era of discovery and expansion." His Lordship put his hands together.

"There are political considerations. Rules."

"Of course. But these things… they are bent all the time, Doctor, as I'm sure you're aware. My colleagues and I have made our careers out of such things."

"The Alliance will never deal with you," Angel swore.

His Lordship sighed. "Young lady, I can only be so hospitable toward such… irrational hostility. Mister Raines is correct, your position is not the best. This is a time for negotiation, before more lives are lost. We can both benefit."

The look on Sydney's face made it clear to Angel that he didn't trust them, but saw no harm in talking for the moment. Angel, however, was pondering if she could shoot the main behind Raines before he fired.

Her eyes wandered onto the monitor screen. She could see the two people strapped to chairs - Jarod's family - quaking and crying out. Her anger stoked. She needed to find them, now, and put an end to it.

For the moment, however, the standoff continued.

One floor below, Jarod was hard at work designing the necessary capacitor to use in a particle rifle, part of his "produce something" efforts to placate Lyle while he waited with baited patience to see if anything happened. Or, unfortunately, if his beacon had been found out.

Lyle was agitated. And that meant Emily and Charles were suffering more shocks, as he played with the dial, as if their pain eased his frustrations. "Remember," he said, looking to Jarod, "if anyone outside of the Centre comes through that door, they die."

Jarod actually felt relieved by that. He suspected Lyle was remaining in communication with his bosses, and if they had him that upset…

You're here. Come on… please hurry. He gave a nervous look to his suffering family. Before it's too late.

The fighting outside continued to rage. Krel was tearing up the tarmac with his gun in his attempts to shoot Kasszas. The slippery Zigonian, always moving away from where the gun was firing, was without a single blow driving Krel toward an outright blood rage.

As Kasszas twisted away from another shot by Krel, he nearly crossed paths with Lennier and Kang. The Minbari's denn'bok continued to clash with harsh metallic ringing whenever it deflected Kang's sword. Kang's attacks were well-aimed and precise, forcing Lennier to use all of his skill to stop them.

A grunt of pain came from Julia. She'd just misjudged Wilton slightly and opened her side up to a punishing punch from the other martial-artist. She grimaced and blocked out the pain, letting him come at her again. He was getting cocky, arrogant, and she let him as she waited for the right opening. Occasional punches and snap kicks kept Wilton somewhat honest, but she remained on the defensive waiting for the best opening.

Gunfire continued to sound from the corner of the field where Zaeed and Y'tala were locked into hand-to-hand combat, each trying to keep the other from getting a clear shot. Y'tala delivered a wicked kick that that left a bruise growing on Zaeed's face, and Zaeed returned the favor ten seconds later with a punch that may have cracked one of her collarbones. He grabbed at her arm and twisted her weapon away. Her hand shot out and took his wrist, twisting as well, and in the mutual movement Zaeed's Predator fell away.

Now at a disadvantage, Zaeed pulled the combat knife from his belt. Y'tala went for it and he met her movement with one of his own, bringing his knee up and smashing it into her wrist with enough force to knock the phaser pistol from her hand. Y'tala hissed in frustration while her elbow shot in at his throat. The blow was strung, nearly crushing his windpipe, and the surge of pain and reflexive panic gave Y'tala the moment she needed to go for her weapon. With a burst of will the old mercenary forced the pain out and went after her. Just as Y'tala's hand started bringing the phaser over, he drove the knife into her leg, just above the knee. The limb buckled and she cried out, red blood oozing from the wound. His hand came up and took her wrist, twisting and twisting until she dropped her weapon. Her free hand came up and slashed across the right side of his face, along the scar and near his fake eye, leaving five bloody furrows in his flesh.

A harsh laugh came from the other side of the battlefield. The dark-clad woman known as Denna continued to try to hit Druni with her blunt weapons, each promising a world of agony if it made contact with Druni in any way. Druni's tenari swords met her blow for blow, stopping any such contact from impacting her. Occasionally Denna would mix it up, throwing a kick or a punch, that Druni would have to block as well. She launched counter-attacks of her own, resembling a whirling dynamo of sharp death once she hit her stride. Denna snarled as the tip of Druni's blade cut into her combat leather and took some of her skin off. She stabbed at Druni's ribs and barely made contact. Her weapon sent a wave of pain into Druni's body that nearly knocked her down. In desperation Druni's arm swept out and raw power forced the assassin away. Denna absorbed some of that with her own abilities, but it gave Druni a few feet of distance that gave her time to recover before Denna went at her again.

On the Deadman's Hand, Thrace and Anders were continuing to creep forward ever so slowly, having made it halfway now to the door where Wolff was trying to hold his ship under his own power. "I could use some help here," Wolff snarled into his comm.

"I'll be with you shortly," Kang answered.

Outside Kang was still locked into combat with Lennier. He'd swapped his hold on his sword to pommel-down, giving him better control for meeting Lennier's attacks with the denn'bok. He kept his blade moving with swift, precise attacks that Lennier met with his weapon, then backed off to avoid the counter-attacks that Lennier gave with the opposite end. A part of him was supremely annoyed at his opponent: Lennier had not one drop of sweat on him, as if this took no effort on his part at all. Kang snarled and unleashed a flurry of attacks, strong swings of his sword to try and push the Minbari off-balance. Lennier met the furious offense with a series of blocks, bringing the ends of his staff to deflect Kang no matter how fast his sword moved.

With his energy ebbing for the moment, Kang backed off, holding his sword level and ready to meet an attack from Lennier. Lennier moved his denn'bok into a similar defensive position. "You are quite strong," Lennier noted.

Kang said nothing, letting his frustration and anger stew, waiting for an opening.

Nearer to the building, there was more clanging of metal and EM fields in the fight between Meridina and Dralan. She could feel Dralan's rage and hatred, his sheer loathing of her and everything she believed in, and it made Meridina's resolve harden.

"That darkness is part of you," Dralan said. "You should embrace it. It has the power to give you anything you want."

"I am sworn to the Code," she replied. "That is what I want."

Dralan snarled and tried to lash out with his power, a wave of energy to throw her back. Meridina met it with her own and resisted the strike. He followed it up with a series of cuts with his lakesh. She dodged and parried them, keeping her sword moving and letting her instincts, the conduit for her life force, guide her arms to reflect his attacks.

"The Light is weakness, it is tyranny!", Dralan shouted as he battered away at Meridina, forcing her back and away from the others.

Meridina let him. She would maneuver back when it was time, but for now she needed to get distance between Dralan and the others. With a swevyra'kse, there was no telling what they would or wouldn't do to get at their foes, and she didn't want the others falling to him.

The question was whether she could hold him back long enough to wear him down or get an opening. The darkness was a terrifying force in its corruption, certainly, but the dark feelings that fueled it granted tremendous power, power like Meridina had rarely seen. Amaunet, in control of her, hadn't been this powerful as she could not fully command Meridina's life energies. Dralan could command his own, immersed in darkness as it was, and did so.

Ultimately, her goal was to buy time. Time for Angel to get Jarod, time for the others to prevail in their battle, and she had to trust they would not be too late.

The stand-off in the conference room had everyone remaining in place. Angel felt the sweat gathering on her forehead as she kept her pulse pistol leveled toward Raines' attendant, who had his gun on Sydney. If she pulled the trigger and didn't get the shot right, Sydney would be shot in turn. Would she be able to stop Raines or the British man in the suit from ordering Jarod and his family to be killed?

Was she willing to risk that?

It got to the point where she almost was. But in the end, it wasn't Angel who broke the stalemate.

Angel was worried about the timing, but so was Parker. Moreso, as her only hope for escape with her father was the Deadman's Hand, and her ear receiver was picking up Wolff's calls for help as he faced attackers moving on his bridge. If they didn't hurry, they'd lose control of the ship.

And so it was Parker who took the gamble. She leveled her pulse pistol and fired.

The shot hit Raines' man square in the head. A moment later Angel's gun fired as well, mostly from reflex, and it hit the man's hand. He fired a half-second later.

Sydney cried out as the bullet struck, grazing his neck. A spurt of blood followed its course across his flesh. He dropped his gun from shock and reached up to the wound.

Parker was already in motion. Angel nearly moved to stop her, but went to Sydney first. He waved her off. "It's not as bad as it looks," he insisted.

Angel scanned it. "It grazed you. You'll need medical attention."

"We have to get Jarod first!", Sydney insisted. He pulled his bloody hand from his neck and reached for his gun with the other hand. He held the gun, one-handed, toward Raines just as Raines was reaching for his phone. "Don't!"

Angel stepped up and ripped the phone from the wheelchair-bound man's grasp. "That won't do you any good," Raines said. "I'm supposed to remain in contact with Lyle. I haven't been, and he knows something is wrong."

"Then where is he?"

"Why should I tell you?", Raines asked.

"Because if you don't…" Angel put her pulse pistol up against Raines' shoulder. Her thumb set the power level to a non-stun setting, but not powerful enough to kill. "...I'll starting shooting the crap out of you."

"Oh. Torture." Raines smirked. "You don't have it in…"

Angel pulled the trigger.

A cry of pain erupted from Raines' damaged lungs. He sucked in air after it, as if by itself he had almost lost all the breath in his body.

"Angela," Sydney began.

"Your elbow's next, you sick old bastard!", Angel shouted. "Where is he?!"

Raines' nostrils flared. A snarl came to his face.

"Angel, this isn't necessary," Sydney insisted.

The fury burning inside Angel didn't want to heed that. These bastards had attacked Jarod and his family. Jarod, who was effectively a member of her family too. And they wanted to act smug about it? She was going to wipe the smug smiles off their damned faces, and anything else necessary to get Jarod back.

Sydney, meanwhile, was reaching for the multidevice he had picked up. "Look," he said. "I can check the monitor's signal, I think this will let me track where he is."

Angel narrowed her eyes at Raines before looking to Sydney. "If you think it will work."

"Yes, I'm…"

Before he could finish, the suited man dashed for the door. They turned and Angel fired at him, but the shot was a half-inch off and he got out unscathed. "Dammit!", Angel cursed. She ran after him, leaving Sydney with Raines.

"You… look well," Raines said.

"And you look terrible," Sydney answered.

"It's not quite like old times, is it?" Raines smirked. "Tell me, Sydney. How much of this is guilt? You profited from Jarod as much as we did."

"I know," Sydney said. "And I'll take that guilt with me to my deathbed." He turned his head and eyed Raines. "How much guilt will you carry, Raines?"

"Guilt is overrated," was the rasped reply.

Miss Parker went for the stairs. Her destination was not the first level but the second, where secure rooms were kept. Only a single guard stood in her way, and she shot him down before he could react to her arrival at the bottom of the stairwell. Sloppy. I suppose all of the competent ones went upstairs.

Her multidevice displayed the location of her father as straight ahead. She ran past the empty rooms, storage compartments, and to a single gray door. She grabbed the handle and pulled it open. The inside was the comfortable room she'd seen her father in. Ahead of her, as if in a hotel room, was a dresser drawer set, on which sat a television and a camera assembly.

After she stepped in, a terrible smell hit her, the smell of human waste. As if the toilet hadn't been flushed. She took the final steps in to clear the corner and look to the bed…

...where her father laid, arms at his side.

There was a hole in his forehead. He'd been dead for a while.

For a moment denial surged strongly. She'd seen him alive just minutes ago, on the video screen. This couldn't be…

She looked to the camera again and saw it, the recording device the camera was hooked into. Seeing it, that was when Parker knew she'd been tricked.

The pain was almost overwhelming. "Daddy," she said, her voice hoarse with horror, rage, and guilt. She stepped up beside the bed and leaned over her father's corpse. His eyes stared back at her, empty. Miss Parker's lip quivered as she tried to close his eyes. They wouldn't close; rigor mortis had set in.

Miss Parker started to weep. She couldn't help it. Everything, every deal she'd made, every thing she'd sacrificed, had been for nothing. They'd killed her father… why? To punish her, even though she'd brought Jarod as she'd promised?

She almost couldn't breathe. The pain was starting to suffocate. They'd killed her father. The Centre had murdered him. They'd tricked her and she fell for it.

The pain gave way to rage. She stormed back out of the room, just as footsteps started to come from the stairs. She made her way there, gun raised, and looked up to see His Lordship rushing down the stairs. "You killed him!," she screamed in rage.

He looked at her. Bewildered surprise came to his expression. "What?", he asked. "Wait…"

"You murdered my father, you bastard!"

"No, I…"

She didn't hear what he started to say. She didn't care. Her finger pulled the trigger. Again and again. Energy pulses of white-blue fury slammed repeatedly into his torso and neck. His death cry was drowned out by the barrage.

With her face twisted into fury, Miss Parker ventured toward the stairs. She got up the first one, gun raised, when Angel appeared on the next flight, her weapon lowered toward Parker. Angel's eyes narrowed at her. She glanced toward His Lordship's corpse and back to Parker. "Your father's dead?", she asked.

Parker glared up her way. "I'm going to kill Lyle," she said. "And Raines. And every other sonofabitch in the Centre." There was no smirk, no emotion, when she met Angel eye-to-eye. "Unless you want to settle this now? You're here to kill me, after all."

Angel frowned at that. It was true... Mostly. She was planning on killing Miss Parker.

Nevertheless, she raised the gun a little. "That can wait," she said. "Jarod's more important."

Parker nodded. "First subbasement. I'll show you."

The dawn light was shining on the combatants outside of the building. Wilton and Julia exchanged punches, Kang and Lennier's duel had carried them toward the building, while Druni was forcing back Denna and Kasszas continued to fluster the Krogan.

"We're runnin' out of time, God-ammit!", Zaeed shouted, locked in ferocious combat with Y'tala. She bit at his neck, sinking her pointed teeth into his old Blue Suns tattoo. Zaeed growled in pain and brought his left arm up to elbow her across the face. Some of his flesh went with her and blood covered that side of his neck. "Bitch!"

Y'tala spun away from him. Zaeed lunged and grabbed on just as she started to pull the phaser pistol up. Without his weapons at hand, she had the advantage, and Y'tala knew it. She brought the phaser up and nearly had it pointed at him when he got a hand on her wrist. The maneuver cost him leverage though, giving Y'tala the advantage and allowing her to shift her weight and pin him for the moment, keeping his other arm out of the way and his legs trapped. She nearly had the phaser on him, and her thumb had already set it to high. A single shot and he'd be gone. "No hard feelin's," she gasped, her voice distorted by the broken nose. The phaser drew centimeters closer, in a moment the emitter would be on him and it'd be over. "It's business."

A moment before she could fire, Zaeed's head shot up and slammed into her face. Her broken nose broke further. The shock of the impact caused Y'tala's head to snap back.

It also disrupted her balance. Now Zaeed could put his superior body mass to use, forcing her off of her position. His hands both gripped at the hand with the phaser and ripped it free. A look of fear crossed her green feline eyes as she felt the emitter come up against her stomach, and Zaeed knew that fear. He'd seen it a thousand times before, the fear he saw in his nightmares and in his dreams, the fear he hoped to see one day in the eyes of Vido Santiago.

He pulled the trigger.

There was a whine from the weapon he was gripping. Y'tala had no time to scream as amber energy consumed her body, every inch of it, until there was nothing left.

"No hard feelings," Zaeed said, his breath hoarse. "It's business."

It seemed like the right thing to say.

Zaeed went over and picked up his Predator, his knife, and most importantly, Jessie. His shitty old rifle was intact and looked fine. He brought it up and sought out a target.

Before he could fire on the assassin in the catsuit, a solid "whomp whomp whomp" came to his ears. Zaeed turned and faced the source; helicopters coming up over the mountains. "Company," he growled. They were running out of time.

He put Jessie up. For this, he needed the other weapon on his back. The Mantis sniper rifle extended to full length by the time he brought it up. He crouched down to a knee and raised it toward the lead of the incoming helicopters. The crosshairs lined up on the pilot. Wordlessly, Zaeed pulled the trigger.

The shot wasn't quite on, though, as he wasn't in the optimal firing position. Instead of a headshot, the bullet went low. Granted, he could still watch with satisfaction as blood erupted from the throat of the pilot, who reached for his savaged throat and was clearly gagging. The helicopter began to spin wildly out of control, nearly hitting the others.

The other pilots weren't idiots. They began to maneuver more wildly as they approached, throwing off his aim. Zaeed put the rifle back and pulled out Jessie again. He turned back to the fight. "Put them down, dammit!" He watched the Krogan, Krel, nearly catch Kasszas in a charge. The Zigonian whirled away, his tail whipping across Krel's face and snapping it in one direction like it was a slap.

Krel roared furiously and looked away. Not toward Kasszas, but toward Zaeed again. And Zaeed knew he was in trouble. The Krogan's eyes said everything; Krel was entering a blood rage. Even with his gun gone, that would make him the most dangerous foe on the tarmac. Zaeed began to pour fire into him with Jessie, but the Avenger didn't have nearly enough stopping power for a Krogan in the middle of a blood rage.

Zaeed jumped clear and rolled over to a crouch. As he did so, Kasszas jumped behind him and landed on the Krogan's head. His clawed feet raked over Krel's face and left eye, which came free in a geyser of blood. Krel didn't seem to note the pain. His hand came up and grabbed at the Zigonian, who jumped free.

Except Krel got lucky. His flailing hand caught Kasszas' tail and gripped it. Kasszas let out an involuntary hiss and, from the shock, dropped his walking stick onto the ground. An angry roar came from Krel as he pulled Kasszas back by the tail and threw him.

Right into Zaeed.

The impact knocked the air out of the mercenary's lungs. "Dammit," he wheezed. He looked at Krel, now preparing to stomp them.

Druni had sensed her comrades' danger. She waited for Denna to make a lunge and, instead of cutting at her, slid to the side and then brought her foot up in a kick to Denna's throat. The assassin gasped in shock and fell over for the moment. Druni had a second with which to kill or incapacitate her, but that second would mean Krel getting to Zaeed and Kasszas. So she turned away and ran up, jumping up and landing on the Krogan's back. She drove her tenari blades into his neck and head, again and again, but the tough Krogan hide deflected the blows. Blood was everywhere, but she wasn't hitting anything critical.

What she was doing was keeping Krel from finishing her allies off. He stumbled to the side, roaring in rage, and his arms flailed upward trying to reach at her. Druni jumped off and landed on the tarmac, blades held out and dripping with Krogan blood.

"Go for the headplate, girl!", Zaeed shouted. He was nearly out from under Kasszas, who was still recovering his bearings. "There's a spot near the front plate, get your blade in there and you can pry the bastard's head half off!"

Druni almost asked where, but she didn't need to. She could sense where Zaeed was thinking of. She nodded to him and returned her attention to the Krogan, now charging for her. Instead of jumping clear she ducked low, gathering her energy in with her. She released it as Krel was nearly on top of her, enough kinetic force drawn from her Gift to cause even a blood-raged Krogan to stagger. With that, she had her opening, and she used it to drive her blades into the spot. She jumped upward and pulled.

The response was horrific. There was a terrible sucking noise, joined by a shrill scream from Krel as the top part of his head peeled up and off, leaving bloody inner flesh. Even in his blood rage Krel felt the full force of this loss. Druni could feel his pain, a pain so savage that she knew she had but one option left.

She drove her blades into his head.

The blow was fatal, instantly so, with the armor plate no longer protecting his skull and brain. Krel fell over and Druni skipped clear of him as he did.

Denna struck. The assassin came in, both of her weapons forward, and pushed them both to Druni's back. The pain consumed Druni's conscious thoughts. A shrill scream expelled all of the air from her lungs.

"Exquisite," the assassin cooed. "The pain is so…"

Kasszas' tail whipped out and wrapped around Denna's wrists. With a yank that helped bring him to his feet, he pulled her back from Druni, who toppled to the ground, barely conscious and utterly paralyzed. Denna kicked out with her leg and sent out a wave of force that knocked the Zigonian backward, forcing him to let go of her wrists. Now the Zigonian and the assassin stood facing each other. "I've always wondered how much pain one of your kind can take," Denna said. "Although I imagine your brains are so addled by the drugs you inhale, it might not be the same."

"I know your kind," Kasszas said. "You, who twist the gifts of Creation to selfish ends."

"If you're talking about the Ministry of Fate, I don't particularly care for them either. It's so much more fun being on my own." Denna brought her weapons up. "Let's see how these agiels work on you, reptile."

Kasszas extended a hand. His walking stick flew to it like metal to a magnet. The stick swept in and blocked her first blow. Her follow-up swing went high, and he deftly moved away from it.

Zaeed pulled up Jessie just as the helicopters began to land. He opened fire on the nearest one, claiming a man with an assault rifle just before he could jump down. Quick bursts of fire from Jessie, deadly and accurate, brought down another, while the others remained in cover on their chopper.

Zaeed reached down and jostled Druni. "Get up!", he insisted. "I can't cover you, dammit! Get up!"

The twin martial arts fights - Julia versus Wilton and Lennier versus Kang - were still raging near the ship. The two combats were drawing closer and closer as metal continued to meet metal and blows were being dodged and parried.

Julia was feeling the duration of the fight, but she was certain Wilton was too. His style was aggressive, forceful, and her reliance on t'ai chi had balanced that, letting him expend his energies against her defense. She could sense he had some idea what she was doing, but evidently her combat style was not one he was familiar with (although he had the same advantage; she wasn't sure if he was using kung fu, karate, or savate, or some weird mish-mash of them all.

It was a mok'bara move that really gained her the advantage, though, or rather tying one that Worf had shown her with her other style. Finally, Wilton had extended himself, a powerful punch that Julia's relative slowing had made too tempting to pass up. She had to admit that a half second separated her from a blow that might have turned the battle against her, but it would instead work the other way, as in one fluid movement she grabbed the outstretched arm and pulled it with her. She kept turning, throwing Wilton off his balance, and twisted around until she was at his back and his arm was locked painfully behind his back. Wilton screamed in pain and anger.

It became more pain when Julia finished her move by breaking his wrist.

With that surge of pain taking fight out of him, Julia wrapped her arms around his throat and took him into a sleeper hold. Her legs came up and wrapped around his arms to pin them in place, his lack of balance and her weight driving him belly-down to the ground. He wheezed, gasped, and started to go silent as the lack of oxygen sent him into unconsciousness.

Julia could hold on longer, guaranteeing he went unconscious, or until he was dead. But killing wasn't something she thought of doing when it wasn't necessary, especially not with the martial arts skilled she valued as a discipline. She let go and pulled herself away from Wilton. Her eyes quickly found her lost pulse pistol, and she went for it.

Kang moved with the speed of a snake lunging at its foe. One moment he had been driving Lennier back, the next he was twisting around and getting into a position that would have taken Julia's head off clean. At the last moment she spun away. The weapon didn't cut across her neck, but it did slice along her belly, cutting away the cloth of her shirt and undershirt and nicking a bit of her jacket as well. Blood flew along with the blade, just as it began pouring down the wound in her belly and side.

It brought back memories. She'd been wounded there by a blade before. Over a year ago, when the Jem'Hadar had boarded the Aurora. She briefly remembered nearly bleeding out.

There was no time to worry about that, though.

While she fell in the wrong direction to go for her pistol, she'd also kept Kang from killing her immediately as he'd intended. He turned back to Lennier just before the Minbari's denn'bok could find his head, parrying the blow and nearly getting Lennier's entire arm with a blow at the shoulder that barely missed.

With Kang's attention diverted again, Julia forced herself back up, ignoring the pain and wet blood from her wound, and got to her pistol again. She swung it over at Kang and fired a wild shot.

It didn't hit him directly, but it did graze his leg. The leg buckled under him and he dropped to a knee. Lennier's denn'bok struck him across the face, knocking two teeth out in a spurt of blood that came from Kang's mouth. He went spinning over and landed on the ground, belly-first. As he tried to stand, Julia shot him in the back with her pistol, putting him down for good.

Lennier turned his attention to Julia. "Are you alright?" His eyes focused on the blood pouring from Julia's side.

"I'll live," she said. She looked back at the fighting. Zaeed was desperately trying to keep the arriving Centre reinforcements suppressed. Druni was beside him, still prone on the ground. "Do what you can for her," she said. "I'm going to help Starbuck and Anders."

"Of course."

They split up.

Trust only went so far, and so Angel kept her pistol ready while following Parker into the first subbasement level.

Sydney's voice came over her multidevice, "The Centre has reinforcements landing by helicopter. We're almost out of time."

"Parker's taking me to Jarod," Angel said.

"I'm tracking you and I'll be with you shortly."

"What about Raines?", Angel asked.

"I just shot the spokes of his wheelchair. He's not going anywhere."

"Good," Parker said. "I know where to find him."

Angel didn't answer that. She understood what Parker was going to do, and she didn't care for the moment.

The door they were looking for wasn't hard to spot, with the electronic security lock and the heavy steel construction. Angel brought up her multidevice and had it scan the lock, then access it. The system was purely dawn of 21st Century in sophistication, nothing to even her tactical-standard multidevice. It quickly cracked the security and undid the lock.

Lyle and Jarod looked to the door when it opened. The appearance of Miss Parker was a surprise, and not pleasant for Jarod.

He would have reason to reconsider that later.

That reason, of course, was that it gave Lyle a half-second of pause before he realized what was happening and went for the dial. Just as his fingers wrapped around it to twist, Parker's gun fired. The pulse shot slammed into his chest, right on the sternum, and he fell back.

Parker turned and elbowed one of the guards. The door opened wide enough for Angel to come in, and she caught the second guard across the face with a punch that sent him down.

Seeing Angel made Jarod's day. He grinned with relief at her. "There you are."

"Jarod!" Angel looked down to where his foot was chained to the chair. She knelt down and pressed the pulse pistol to the chain. A single shot delivered enough energy to break the chain in two.

Jarod went immediately to Charles and Emily. His first act was to disconnect the device, ensuring there was no chance of an electrical shock. By that time Angel was already freeing Emily's wrists. Jarod went to work on his father's bindings.

"Your friends came," Charles said weakly, grinning.

"They did."

"So your Dad's English?" Angel started removing the wrist shackles while Emily pulled off the wires that had been tormenting her.

"His name is Charles. My sister is Emily." Jarod motioned to Angel. "This is Angel Delgado, she works with me."

"And who's the lady…" Emily stopped.

Jarod and Angel looked to the door.

Parker was gone.

Jarod quickly put it together. "They killed her father, didn't they?"

"Yeah," Angel said. "It's why she's still breathing. She brought me to you."

"Where are the others?" Jarod looked to the door. "Shouldn't you have a Marine team?"

"Nope." Angel shook her head. The last of Emily's electrodes were off and she was pulling off the last on her father. "The Aurora was called away on a time sensitive mission. Angel, Meridina, and I were left behind because we were incommunicado hunting for Parker's trail. We had to put together a team of allies. They're outside fighting off Parker's people right now."

"How are we going to get off-world?"

"We brought a Raptor, and we're stealing Parker's ride. Now let's…"

The door swung open and Sydney entered. "Jarod?", he asked. "Jarod, are you…"

"I'm here," Jarod answered.

Sydney wasted no time in embracing Jarod, who accepted it.

"Andreys to Delgado," a voice said over the multi-device. "Please come in."

Angela tapped her multidevice. "Julia? I'm here."

"Have you gotten to Jarod?"

"He's here." Angel nodded. "I got to him and to his family."

"Then get out of there. They've got reinforcements coming, and we're still trying to take that ship."

"Major Charles." Sydney looked over Jarod's father. "Allow me." He took Charles by the arm and hefted him on his shoulder.

Jarod did the same with his sister. Angel pulled her gun and led the way for them.

Julia had to take cover when she spotted the corridor to the Deadman's Hand bridge. Wolff was firing at where Thrace was in cover. She and Anders were at the last set of doors before the bridge, a quarter of the way down the hall. But they could go no further with so much remaining space, giving Wolff time to poke out of cover. "Starbuck! Anders!" Julia grimaced. Her side still hurt from where that Chinese cyborg had cut her. Blood was soaking into her pants leg. I need stitches, soon. "I'll add to your cover fire."

"Any of you gits come any closer, you die, get it?!", Wolff shouted.

"Wolff, I've got two life force-wielders, maybe three, behind me," Julia retorted. "We're taking that bridge. Your choice is whether you surrender or we have to shoot you."

"I'm not goin' back to the cells, you hear me?! You'll get my ship over my dead body."

"Suits me," Thrace retorted. She looked down the corridor to Julia, who nodded. She made a hand gesture in acceptance, and another one, presumably to Anders.

Anders' gun began to bark. As it did, Julia stepped into the corridor and got onto one knee. She raised her pistol up, both hands level, and sighted the gun on the doorway while Thrace approached it, gun at the ready.

Right before Thrace got beside the door, Wolff popped out, his gun raised and ready to shoot the Colonial pilot.

Julia fired first.

Her accuracy wasn't bad. She trained for it, even if she rarely used it, and some of the edge from her days in the Facility was still there. The shot, meant for Wolff's chest, was a little high. But it got his throat, and that was a shot she'd take.

Thrace made it to the bridge. Julia saw her kick at something, presumably Wolff's gun, and there was a shout of "Clear!"

Julia got back to her feet and walked up to the bridge. The pain in her side felt like it was growing worse. The wound was being aggravated by her constant movement and fighting. I'll get it checked, soon. But I've got to finish this first.

She entered the bridge, where Thrace was securing Wolff's body. Her eyes moved over the bloody wound on Julia's left side. "Damn, Commander. We'd better get you bandaged."

"We will when we're out of here." Julia pulled herself into the pilot seat. The controls weren't ones she normally used, but they were familiar enough. She started to run the pre-flight protocols, primarily systems checks. "Looks like Wolff didn't lock down his systems. He wanted to be able to leave in a hurry."

"So do we." Thrace stood up and looked to Anders. "The cargo bay looks just big enough for the Raptor. I'll fly her in now."

Julia nodded. "Go."

"Anders, stay with her," Thrace ordered. He nodded in agreement.

"If you can find something to bandage me with, I'd love to stop bleeding everywhere,' Julia remarked, the drollness in her voice evident.

Anders went to work on that.

With Lennier's help, Zaeed got Druni back to the safety of a building corner. From there he could direct fire on the men coming from the choppers, trying to keep them suppressed.

Druni was starting to stir. "Urh."

"We need you on your feet, girl," Zaeed insisted. "Come along, get up."

"Where did that pain come from?", Druni asked.

"I believe your foe attacked you from behind."

"I've never felt so much raw pain before," Druni said. She looked back to the ship. "Look, they've done it."

Everyone could turn and see that Thrace was coming down the cargo ramp and making for her ship.

"But we have yet to get the ones we came for…"

"We need to buy 'em time." Zaeed looked Druni over. "Think you can help me deal with those choppers? I can give you some cover if you can blast 'em out with that lightning."

"I'll need several seconds."

"You'll get 'em." Zaeed held up Jessie. "Ready?"

"I will go to assist Commander Andreys with her injuries," Lennier said to them. "As the Humans I've known would say, 'Good luck'."

Zaeed nodded.

When he rolled out of the corner to one knee - thus providing a smaller target - there were at least a dozen security men advancing, all armed with the same kind of rifles. Zaeed popped off a burst that claimed one, then another burst that took the legs out from another. The rest of them scattered and went prone, looking to avoid getting shot and to then shoot back.

Behind him Druni was already at work. She reached into the energy in the air with her gift, with the warm energy she had long felt within herself. Her arms wheeled around, splitting the energy in the air as they went, creating more and more of an imbalance between the latent positive and negative energies that existed around her.. She did so quickly, with less care than she normally managed, because she had only a second or two before she would be hit by gunfire.

She thrust her right hand forward just as one of the gunmen turned his weapon toward her. The charges she'd split crashed back together, following the channel her power laid for it. The resulting bolt of lightning shot through the air, crackling outward as it did and shocking at least two of the gunmen.

But the main bolt hit home: one of the helicopters, just as it was going to take off. The electricity blasted through the frame of the craft, warping and breaking it.

It also found the fuel tank.

A split second later, the helicopter exploded in a massive fireball that knocked down most of the remaining Centre gunmen. Some, hit by shrapnel, didn't get back up.

More importantly, flaming debris started hitting the third and last of the choppers, and it started to back away even with two more gunmen inside.

Zaeed followed up the attack with quick and deadly bursts from his rifle. Jessie's rounds hit home, and the attacking reinforcements were no longer a problem. "That's a God-amned impressive trick," he said, turning to Druni.

She was frowning, though. "Not everyone sees it that way," she said. "Knowing how to do this, and being willing to use it, cost me everyone I ever cared about."

"Their loss," Zaeed answered. "You ever want to go into merc work, I can set you up. You'll be a rich woman in months."

Druni didn't answer that.

Before she could act further, the door facing the Deadman's Hand opened. Angel came out and held the door open, allowing Jarod and Sydney to carry Major Charles and Emily out of the building. Emily was starting to walk more on her own power, but it was clear Charles was having trouble. "Take him," Emily insisted.

Jarod nodded. He took Charles' other arm to bring his dad to safety.

"Alright, let's get to the God-amned ship," Zaeed growled. "I'm not doin' this for creds, so no billin' by the hour."

Angel nodded. Druni pulled her tenari back out. "I'll catch up with you," she said. "I'm going to help Kasszas."

"After we get them to the ship," Zaeed said. "He's handlin' himself." Zaeed tilted his head toward the fight in question.

Kasszas' stick effortlessly batted away another jab by Denna with one of her weapons, with a twist of the stick knocking the other hand and weapon away from him. He spun around and smacked her with his tail, sending her rolling over the tarmac until she came to a crouch. A vicious snarl crossed her face.

"Strange how I am the blind one, but it is you who has not landed a blow," Kasszas remarked, keeping his staff level.

"Was that a taunt," Denna challenged.

"I thought that rather obvious." Kasszas brought his stick to a vertical position and held it. "Perhaps I should stand still for a moment and make the fight fair for you?"

The frustrated growl that left Denna's thrown caused the rapid hissing that amounted for a chuckle from her reptilian opponent. "Your attempts to provoke me are not humorous and not at all working!"

"But you see, I am not just trying to provoke you. I'm seeing you for what you really are, dark one." Kasszas' tail swished quietly behind him. The dawn light was now bringing some color to his light yellow and gray robes, but his dull eyes remained still and unmoving. "A spoiled child living only for transitory pleasures. No higher cause, no greater being, nothing but the moment for you, with the darkness in your heart the only way to fill the emptiness inside." Kasszas' reptilian voice took on a stronger, more hostile tone. "And I see those you have harmed. Your delight in torment and pain, all feeble efforts to fill that void. I should despise you, but I can't help but pity you."

"Pity?" Denna snarled. "Pity?! Pity is nothing! I don't need it! You can have the pity for what I'm going to do to you, you miserable lizard!" Denna gathered her strength and reached forward. Lightning crackled at her fingertips and lashed out at Kasszas.

But Kasszas was no longer there. The lightning struck the trees far behind him, setting them ablaze.

Kasszas moved with the grace of a predator. In seconds he crossed the distance from where he had been to where Denna was realizing her strike missed. His stick was a blur in her vision before it slammed into her forehead. The force knocked her unconscious immediately and she was sent flying, going through the air for several feet until she hit the ground, rolled, and came to a stop. Blood started to pool from her head from the force of the blow he'd struck

Kasszas lowered his head at the sight. "I am of Creation, and Creation is within me," he hissed, and then, with a sad sound, he turned away to rejoin the others.

At this same time, Meridina and Dralan were still off in their side of the property, near the barbed wire fence, continuing their duel. Meridina was meeting her foe blow for blow, giving ground but no openings. She could feel his rage and anger being stoked by frustration. He wanted her dead, as painfully as possible, and by not giving him that his frustration was becoming all-consuming.

Among those things being consumed was his control. Meridina watched his strikes lose their focus. The lakesh in his hands continued to batter at her blade, but as if it were a club and not a blade in of itself. His eyes remained locked onto her. His lips seemed to be permanently twisted into a snarl. This state gave him more power, but it cost him something more dear than power; it cost him control of the fight.

Meridina was in control, but it didn't mean she could win whenever she wanted. It meant she was in a position to dictate its pace if she acted accordingly. She opened herself up fully to the power around her, allowing her life force to sense everything and guide her thoughts to the solution.

"The things I'll do to you, whore of Swenya," Dralan roared. "The ways I'll make you scream, you slave of the Light!"

"A slave?" Meridina deflected another blow and parried a second. She gathered her strength and used it to stop his power when Dralan threw it at her wildly, attempting to knock her over. "Look at yourself, Dralan. You are a slave yourself. A slave to the darkness festering inside you."

"The dark is my strength!", Dralan shouted.

"It is your master," Meridina retorted. She took a step back while he continued to tremble with fury, giving herself maneuvering room. "It has enslaved you completely and totally. You have no will beyond it."

"I need no will with the darkness!"

And with that, Dralan took a step back and then lunged forward.

Meridina moved swiftly. She spun on her left foot, moving away and then toward Dralan just as his blade entered the space she had occupied. Her lakesh swung out with her, guided by both hands, and accompanying her spin until it found its target.

The blade passed cleanly through Dralan Olati's neck.

Head and body, no longer joined, toppled onto the ground. Meridina retracted her lakesh and summoned his blade to her hand with her power. She looked over his remains with contemplation, a little sorrow…

...and disgust. Disgust, which came a second later, because in that first second one emotion surged up from a terrible place inside her.


She had felt joy, immense and gleeful satisfaction, or the taking of a life. At felling a dangerous foe who sought to kill her and people she cared for.

She secured her hilt to her waist belt and put the hand to her mouth in horror. How could she let such a dark thought come through?

The realization was a feeling that she was still tainted, and her doubts and fears resurfaced. If she had felt like this around others, they would see her as a swevyra'kse in the making. Her judgement would be swift and complete, and it would humiliate everyone she cared for.

Her multidevice chimed. Julia's voice came through it. "The ship's ready. And I've got more helicopters on sensors and approaching vehicles. We need to go."

After a moment, Angel said, "We're on our way. Don't bother waiting for Miss Parker, she's not coming."

"Angel, did you…"

"She didn't, Commander." The voice was Jarod's. "Miss Parker has unfinished business with the Centre. It's all she has left. And she saved my family's life.

"I see. Get on board, then, and watch out for Starbuck, she's going to be bringing the Raptor in." After a moment Julia added, "Meridina? Are your receiving?"

Meridina drew in a breath and looked back at Dralan's body. She considered his lakesh, the design on the hilt and the iconography engraved on it. The characters looked Gersallian, but she didn't recognize them precisely.

She pocketed it before tapping her own multidevice. "I am coming." And she turned, heart still heavy, to walk toward the commandeered smuggler's ship.

On the bridge of the ship, Lennier was checking over the secondary console. "The engines are ready," he said. "This vessel's anti-matter fuel is running low, but it should be sufficient for us to return to New Liberty."

"Yeah." Julia checked her life sensors. "It looks like everyone's aboard. I'm going to fire the thrusters." She turned her head and noticed Lennier staring at her. "Yes?"

"I believe you should let someone else pilot this vessel," he said. "You are wounded and need medical attention."

"I know," she replied. "But we've got to lift off now." She pressed a key. The ship lurched under them slightly and began to lift off. She grimaced and glanced down at her wound. It wasn't bleeding as profusely, but her clothes would have to go straight into the replicator for re-processing. There would be no getting those bloodstains out.

Once they reached the appropriate height Julia increased power to thrusters. She swapped to impulse drives as they reached the upper atmosphere, putting in a course to leave Earth's orbital space as quickly as possible. No cloaking device, just this emissions stealth. Dammit, there's no way the locals haven't seen us. Although I doubt they missed the ship landing too. Admiral Maran is going to be really irritated.

Once she was sure they were home free, Julia hit a button that was labeled for the ship intercom. "I need a ship pilot up here, I'd like to get patched up before I bleed out."

"Commander, I am getting a signal from the Tainaron."

Julia nodded at Lennier. "Put them on."

Yvonne's voice came over. "I see you made it."

"Complete success," Julia said.

"Are you okay? You sound like you've been hurt."

"I had a cyborg try to cut my head off. I was lucky and only had him slice me below the ribs." Julia smirked. "I'll live."

"Ah. Well, that's good. My best to you, Commander. Despite everything, it was a pleasure to meet you. Please do remember what I said, should the Alliance hold this against you."

Julia responded with a diplomatic "I'll keep that in mind. Andreys out."

By the time she finished saying so, the door to the bridge opened. Angel stepped in. She looked over Angel and shook her head. "So much for leave. You go off, get in a kung fu fight, and get yourself nearly sliced in half by a cyborg ninja or something."

"Tell me about it."

"Well, Starbuck said something about flying big bricks, Anders doesn't know a damn thing, and Druni is busy helping Jarod and Meridina tend to the wounded, i.e. you." Angel walked up to the piloting chair and gestured toward the door. "So I'm going to take over as ship's pilot. You go get that treated. I don't want to be the one to tell Robert that you bled out from being a stubborn jackass."

Julia sighed and chuckled. "Well, I'd hate to make you do that…" She got up, still favoring her wounded side, and walked to the back of the bridge. "Do we have any prisoners to watch? Besides Wilton?"

Angel shook her head. "No. Parker stayed behind, and aside from Wilton her team was dead."

"Right." Julia nodded and walked out.

Angel sighed and shook her head before taking the chair Julia had vacated. She looked over the console with something of a quizzical expression. "Okay, let's see…"

"Perhaps I should…?"

Angel turned her head and glowered at Lennier. "I know how to pilot a ship, okay? We all learned it."

"Ah. Well, if you insist," Lennier said. "Please do ensure our course will not involve our vessel plowing into something at warp speed."

Angel narrowed her eyes at the Minbari. "Are you trying to be funny?"

Lennier kept a plain look on his face. "Of course not. I'm sure you are aware that Minbari do not generally have a sense of humor."

"Because that sounded like you were razzing me about my ship piloting."

"I would never call attention to any alleged lack of competence on your part."

Now Angel was certain the Minbari was enjoying a laugh at her expense. "You know I can kick your ass, right?"

"I'm quite sure you are capable of kicking me on the backside."

With a look of comic exasperation on her face, Angel turned and directed her attention to plotting their course. The stolen ship jumped to warp a moment later.

The woman who called herself Yvonne stepped into her office. She reached out and hit a key. A circular holo-display built into the wall activated. Hernan de Corelo appeared on it. "So, they did it?"

"They did," Yvonne replied. She smiled at him. "Thank you for your assistance in this matter, Mister Corelo."

"You're welcome, Miss Lawson," was Hernan's reply. "I trust your superior will consider my offer?"

Miranda Lawson nodded. "Cerberus is in need of contacts in this bright new Multiverse that your people have linked us to. You'll hear from us again, Mister Corelo." She terminated the connection. The Illusive Man would indeed be pleased with the success of the operation, and of the opportunities it had presented.

With a press of a key on her desk Miranda activated her intercom. The Tainaron had other places to be, after all, and there was more work to do, always more work to do, to protect and improve Humanity.
Last edited by Steve on 2017-01-23 12:35pm, edited 1 time in total.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-23 12:30pm

Mister Raines watched sullenly as the smuggler starship lifted off, carrying Jarod and the Centre's leverage against him with it. The Centre had nothing to show for the operation now, nothing but dead sweepers, lost vehicles, and damage to the facility.

"Hello Raines."

Mister Raines turned the one functioning wheel on his wheelchair, allowing him to spin around and face Miss Parker. She held her gun toward him. "Ah." He put his hands together on his lap. "This is about your father, of course?"

"Why?", Parker demanded. "Why did you kill him? I gave you Jarod!"

"And yet you hid from us the knowledge that his friends were coming," Raines pointed out coolly. He smirked. "I know you have lived in a futuristic space age society for some time, so I suppose you forgot about directional microphones." He cackled at the look on her face. "Yes. We overheard your little conversation with your friend Kang. So I made the decision to put your father out of our misery. I decided His Lordship didn't need to know. After all, Mister Lyle was happy to do the deed."

"I'm glad I shot the son of a bitch dead, then."

"Did you?", Raines asked.

Parker frowned at that, and she followed Raines' eyes to the monitor on the screen showing the room Jarod had been confined in.

Lyle was gone.

That moment was when pain shot through Parker. She felt the pressure in her back, the pain within her, and only then noticed the metal blade sticking out of her belly. A sucking sound accompanied the blade's disappearance. With her strength failing she tilted over and propped herself up against the conference room table. This let her turn and face her attacker. "Y… you?", she asked in confusion. "Why?"

Kang was flicking the blood on his sword off. He looked down at her, his eyes obscured by his visor, and a slight grin crossed his face. "I couldn't let you kill Mister Raines. We have business to discuss."

Pain and fury crossed her face. "But I… we…"

"You've served your usefulness, Miss Parker."

"What are…."

Before she could finish, Kang slugged her in the jaw with enough force to break it, let alone knock her unconscious. She fell with a thump, blood still pouring from the deadly wound.

"She might have proven useful," Raines remarked. "Although I do not mind her being dead."

"You'd be surprised how much use a dead person can be." Kang put his sword up.

"And this business you've mentioned?"

Kang responded by pulling a device out of one of his pouches. A mass effect field generated around it, holding it in mid-air while a graphic displayed a bar filling up from 0% to 100% with the caption "Establishing Link".

When it hit 100% the proper communication channels were opened. Data surged through the ether between universes and the domain of subspace, forming into a real-time and life-size image seated just five feet in front of Raines. Raines looked at the man in the chair, noting the cigarette burning in between his fingers and the look of his business suit.

But what Raines noticed most were his eyes, his unnatural, mechanical-looking blue eyes.

"Hello, Mister Raines." The figure set his cigarette down. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am the Illusive Man. I believe you've already met my operative, Kai Leng?"

The man who had called himself Kang nodded slightly.

"I'm listening," Raines said.

"I've been aware of your organization for some time, Mister Raines," the Illusive Man continued. "I represent an organization called Cerberus. I believe that the Centre and Cerberus can be of great benefit to each other."

Raines narrowed his eyes. "I find that hard to believe given our… technological limitations."

"Technology isn't the only thing Cerberus looks for in picking partners, Mister Raines," the Illusive Man said. "The Centre has its own advantages. Your people can provide us with manpower, and most importantly, due to the state of your native Earth you could provide a certain degree of obscurity for special projects. And we are prepared to reward the Centre handsomely for its partnership."

There was silence in the conference room for several seconds. Raines thought the issue through. And what it meant for him if this went somewhere.

A small smile crossed the sickly man's face. "I believe I can say that we would be interested in your offer, Illusive Man," Raines rasped. "Very interested…"
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-23 10:35pm


The ship was still several hours out from New Liberty's counterpart in A4P5. Julia, exhausted and tired, was napping away in one of the quarters. A door chime drew her attention. Having stripped her bloodied clothes off, Julia had to settle for a shirt stolen from the captain's things that, due to Wolff's smaller height and other differences, only went down to the end of her ribcage. This meant the bloody bandage over her wound was visible.

When she got to the door, she found herself facing Zaeed. "Mister Massani?", she asked. "What can I do for you?"

"Just checkin' in on you. Wanted to see how well you were healin'. I don't get to meet tough as nails lady Commanders every day."

"Well, I'm glad I could fill that void for you," she replied. "I've already written up a quick report for Admiral Maran. I made sure to note your contributions and my recommendation that the Alliance Defense Command give you a contract for the war. I'll share it with Admiral Maran as soon as we return to the Aurora."

"That's what I was hopin' to hear. You wouldn't like how I deal with broken contracts."

"Yeah, I can imagine that. Anything else I can do for you?"

"Nothin'. I'm goin' to take some Zs now. Best if I take the last room, ever since I broke my nose my snorin' can wake up a hungover Salarian."

"Rest well, Mister Massani."

In the rear cargo bay, Meridina was staring at the lakesh she recovered from Dralan. The characters engraved on the hilt intrigued her. But she would have to consult with databases before she could figure out if they were some form of Gersallian writing or not.


She looked up as Kasszas and Druni sat across from her. "I can sense your turmoil from across the ship," the Zigonian said. "What troubles you?"

"I killed a man."

"So did we," Druni said. "I killed several. It's not supposed to be easy, but it feels like this deeply effects you. You've never killed before?"

"No. I have." Meridina couldn't keep the shame from her face. "But this is the first time I felt joy in the act."

Druni nodded. "I see. Yes, I can understand that."

"The darkness within me… it lingers. Why? Why can't I purge myself of it, why can't I rid myself of Amaunet's taint?"

"Darkness comes from many sources, dear Sister," Kasszas said. "Perhaps you must look inward to see where this comes from, to truly understand it, and thus to deal with it."

"If I can't beat this darkness, I cannot be a swevyra'se any longer," Meridina said. "And I would have nothing."

"That may be where you are going wrong. Darkness is best dealt with by understanding, not suppression."

"My order does not feel that way."

"Nor did mine," Druni added.

"I see." Kasszas nodded. "And I know others who feel the same. And perhaps their ways are the best for you. I can only wish you well, Meridina, and that you find the harmony within that you seek. Should you wish it, my brothers in the Harmonious Val-Drellim will aid you in this purpose. You need only ask."

Meridina let a small smile come to her face. "My thanks, Kasszas." She looked to them. "What shall you do when we return to New Liberty?"

"I will do as always, and follow where Creation leads," Kasszas said.

Druni nodded. "I'm not sure. I really like New Liberty, but I imagine I'll move on before long." She glanced toward Kasszas. "Perhaps I'll visit Kasszas' universe and his homeworld. I'm not sure if Lennier will go too, but we're not technically traveling together, and I've no idea what he intends to do in the long-term."

"You would be welcome. Although, perhaps, you should also be careful. The ways of the Harmonies of Tsorra-Mahl can be difficult for other species to understand, or to deal with."

"I'll keep that in mind." Druni looked to Meridina. "And you? I've never heard of a swevyra'se holding military rank before. Are you going to stay with your ship?"

"I am," Meridina replied. "I have people who count on me. It is for their sake that I must deal with this darkness within me."

"Then I look forward to seeing you again in the future. May the Eternal Goddess forever cast her light upon your path, both of you."

"May Creation keep us on our intended paths," Kasszas replied. "And may they cross again."

Meridina smiled gently at them both. "Mi rake sa swevyra iso, Kasszas, Druni."

Julia and Angel met in the center hall and went to the bridge. Lennier was still sitting at the support station, watching over the ship's systems, and it made Julia wonder if the Minbari ever had to sleep.

Jarod was piloting the ship now, and doing so in the company of his family. Charles and Emily had found clothing in Wolff's belongings to make use of and, given their ordeal, looked rather well. Meridina's healing abilities had apparently helped them greatly, just as they'd helped to reduce the depth of the cut in Julia's side.

"I'm still not sure… I mean, look at this," Emily said. "I feel like I'm in a dream."

"I felt the same way last year." Sydney was sitting at an auxiliary station in the corner. "It's hard to believe all of this is possible. But you'll get used to it."

"Over time, it even starts to get a little mundane," Angel remarked. She leaned against the door to the bridge with her arms crossed. "And I still sometimes can't imagine how we started all of this."

Charles nodded and looked to them. "I want to thank you for taking care of Jarod," he said. "All of you." He looked toward Sydney.

Sydney lowered his eyes. "I don't think I deserve your thanks, Charles. I was complicit in the Centre's crimes."

"And you've made up for them," Charles insisted. He turned his head back to Julia and Angel. "And you two. Commander, Lieutenant…"

"We don't have to stand on ranks here." Julia smiled at him. "I'm Julia and she's Angel."

"Well then, Julia, Angel." Charles smiled and nodded. "Thank you both very much, not just for saving us, but for giving Jarod a home. For being his family when we couldn't be with him."

Julia nodded. She accepted the hug that the older man gave her. "We were lucky to have him." She looked past to where Jarod was looking over his instruments. There were tears in his eyes.

"Family's important for all of us," Angel added, accepting the hug. Emily gave them hugs too. "And that goes for you two as well."

"Thank you," Emily said. She breathed in a sigh. "Well… I guess I'm going to have to find something to do when we get to this colony of yours. Or do you have reporters in your space age civilization?"

"Oh yes," Julia said, nodding and grinning. "We've got reporters."

"There are two newspapers in New Liberty Colony that do live broadcasts over the planetary data net," Sydney remarked. "I'm friends with an editor of the Herald, I could get you an interview within a week or so."

"Well, at least I'll be doing what I love," Emily remarked.

"And I'll find something as well," Charles said. "It's going to be strange, though. I'm going to have to get used to not being on the run."

"I can tell you that it's a great feeling," Jarod said. He turned in his chair and faced them. His expression was thoughtful. "Dad, about Mom…"

"She's safe," Charles said. "I made sure of that. The Centre can't find her."

"I'd still like to find her and bring her with us," Jarod said. "We can't bring back Kyle, but…" He stopped and lowered his eyes in thought. "I don't want to have her go through what you did. I don't want to abandon her."

"You haven't. We haven't," Charles insisted. "And when we get the chance, we'll go back for her. But don't worry, son, she's completely safe where she is."

"I can talk with President Morgan and Admiral Maran and try to see if they can get an exception made," Julia said. "Assuming I'm not court-martialed over this."

Angel rolled her eyes. "The mission succeeded, we brought Jarod back safe and sound, and we even recovered the ship Miss Parker took to A4P5 Earth so there's no risk of the technology falling into the wrong hands. So tell me, worry wart, why would they court-martial you?"

Julia leveled a look at Angel. Before she could speak on the matter, a tone came from Jarod's console. He turned back. "We're arriving at Harvest. Taking us out of warp."

The cargo ship dropped out of warp near the planet Harvest, the A4P5 version of New Liberty's planet. "There's a couple of ships in orbit." Jarod looked to Lennier.

Lennier was already activating the communications system. "I'm requesting a jump point to H1E4, set for New Liberty." After a moment he nodded. The interuniversal transport Van Sickle is preparing to open one for us. They state that the Aurora is already waiting for you on the other end."

"Send them our thanks," Julia requested, and Lennier did so.

"We're really going to change what universe we're in," Emily stated, almost questioned, with clear wonder and disbelief in her voice.

"Yes, we are," Jarod said. "And then you'll get to see our ship."

Ahead of them the jump point opened, an emerald vortex in the void of space. Jarod accelerated the Deadman's Hand and entered the point. There was that customary tremor through the ship as it made the jump and transitioned between universes. On the other side they got an immediate view of New Liberty, where night had fallen on the main colony and turned it into a small collection of bright light on the surface. "Welcome to your new home, Dad, Emily," Jarod said.

Julia was enjoying the looks on their faces as Jarod turned the ship. "And there she is," Jarod began, "our ship, the Star…"

Jarod stopped, as if stunned into silence. Bewildered looks appeared on the faces of Charles, Emily, and even Sydney.

Confused, Julia turned to face the bridge window.

The sight she saw wiped the grin off her face.

"Mother of God…", gasped Angel.

The Aurora hung in space before them, as they had expected.

Her great azure hull was covered, simply covered, in blackened and charred hull armor, with the scoring of weapons impacts having obliterated parts of the green and white stripes along her starboard side. Her deflector dish, a circle of brilliant blue and gold, was charred by battle damage. Wispy clouds of plasma were still seeping from both of the starboard warp nacelles, which flickered from power failures. A great, massive gouge had been ripped from the lower primary hull, now covered in replicated armor patching.

Nearby, equally visible, was the Koenig, blackened and battered, a visible hole toward the rear of the ship not far from the engineering spaces.

Julia finally found her voice. "What the hell…?", she asked.

For the moment, nobody was answering.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-26 12:17pm

A little head's up; the subplot mentioned in the 2-08 summary about Julia facing a decision is being shifted to 2-09, it fits the title and story better.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-27 03:58pm


6 May 2642

2 Hours Ago

The system was a forgettable one, with no habitable worlds, terraformable worlds, or even asteroids or spatial bodies with valuable resources. On maps it was usually only identified as a system with a string of letters and/or numbers, regardless of the map-maker.

But the reports had made it clear. For the last four months, the Nazi Reich had been using System S4W8-452TD as the location of a supply depot for the Raumkriegsmarine. It was one of many targets that were supporting the Reich's war effort. Its elimination would complicate Reich logistics and undermine the advantages of the Reich's shorter supply lines.

That was why the Starship Aurora and a complete battle group of the Alliance Stellar Navy had jumped into the system, the way prepared by jump probes dropped by the Starship Albacore.

The plan, explained to Robert by Admiral Martino on the Earth Confederacy carrier Themistocles, was a raid in the purest since. They would jump in via the probes and launch a full assault on the supply base, a space station in orbit around a planetoid-sized object along the main plane of 452TD's asteroid belt. The nearest enemy fleet unit was at least four hours away at even maximum warp, giving time to destroy even a heavily-shielded base.

As it turned out, there was no supply base. Instead, within a pocket of local space that dampened sensor returns, there was a large Reich naval battle group waiting to commence a pre-planned warp jump to intercept them.

On the bridge of the Aurora, Robert could do nothing as the battle swiftly turned against them. The Nazis had numbers, and more than that, they had not one but two Aryan-class dreadnoughts, as well as one of the older Lutzow-class battlecruisers, which were slamming their forces with super-disruptor fire. Sitting nearby, Locarno was reading off the incoming tactical reports. "We've just lost the Umikaze and the Ramage."

"Status on the Themistocles," Robert said. "We've got to get them free if we can."

Locarno shook his head. "Their impulse drives are down. Warp systems not responding."

On the screen, the Aurora's main weapons were busy hammering one of the dreadnoughts. Through concentration of fire, they'd managed to get its shields low enough that their heaviest weapons, the pulse plasma cannons, were blasting holes into its armored hide.

But that left the battlecruiser and the second dreadnought to come after them and the Themistocles, all while the swarms of Z-2500s and the dozen plus Dresden-class light cruisers decimated their supporting ships. And to make matters worse, without impulse drives, the Themistocles couldn't jump. It wouldn't be able to enter a jump point under fire without impulse power.

That thought crossed Robert's mind in regards to his own ship as it rocked steadily again. At the helm, filling in for Locarno, Ensign Violeta Arterria was busy maneuvering the kilometer-long Aurora to minimize the effect of enemy fire, but even the most experienced ship pilot would have problems throwing off fire against a target as big as the Aurora. "Sir, we're losing impulse power!", she reported.

Lucy was at Ops, filling in for Jarod, and added, "Primary and secondary shield generators are overwhelmed, tertiary generators are failing! Armor self-repair systems operating at seventy percent capacity."

Robert keyed the intercom with his chair control. "Scotty, we're going to be sitting ducks!"

"I'm doin' all I can about it, sir!," replied the experienced engineer. "But we're takin' tae much fire, th' shields cannae keep up!"

On the screen a Reich cruiser exploded, courtesy of the Aurora's main battery and a torpedo run from the Koenig. Zack's ship, with the Trigger-class ships Albacore and Wahoo, moved on to attacking another target.

"I'm picking up more ships coming out of warp!", Caterina cried out from the Science station. "Reich warships. Multiple cruisers and destroyers, attack ships… and one dreadnought." She swallowed. "Going by their profiles and ID codes… I think they're SS."

Robert's stomach threatened to twist into the proverbial Gordian knot. "We can't win this," he muttered.

"Command message from the Themistocles, audio only," Locarno said.

Admiral Martino's accented voice boomed over the speaker. "All ships, break free and jump! The Themistocles is lost!"

Robert tapped a key on his chair to open the tactical communications line to Martino. "Admiral, we can try to tractor you into a jump point."

The Italian man's response was immediate. "Negative, Captain, you're out of position. If you come in to assist, the Aurora will be lost as well. You must go!"

Robert hated it, but Martino was right. The carrier was a lost cause. "Acknowledged. I'm sorry, Admiral."

"Godspeed, Captain."

Even after the line cut, Robert wasn't quite done. "Can we beam anyone off of our crippled ships?", he asked Lucy. "Or out of our side's escape pods?"

Lucy shook her head. "Not many. I've got all transporter stations working on it, though."

That would have to be enough. Every survivor beamed away was one less survivor left to whatever torments the Reich had in store for them. Robert turned to face tactical. With Angel gone, Lieutenant Syrandi Luneri was manning the post. The purple-skinned, teal-spotted Dorei woman was proficient at tactical and had done what she could, but there were so many targets that she couldn't do much more. "Lieutenant, direct firepower forward. We're going to punch our way out."

"Aye sir," Syrandi answered.

"Nick, signal Koenig, I want Zack at our side. Recall all fighters and signal any ship in range to follow us."

"Sending signal now," Locarno said.

"We'd better hurry," Cat added. "Those SS ships… they're not going after the Themistocles. They're after us."

The bridge of the Koenig had much the same atmosphere as the Aurora. Zack was focused on the tactical picture on his display and in his head as his ship, and its two half-sister ships (Cousin ships?, he mused), maneuvered closer to Aurora. A Nazi heavy cruiser moved to intercept them. "Get them out of the way, April!", he shouted.

Lieutenant April Sherlily, his tactical officer, gave him an "Aye sir" as her first response. Her second response was a furious barrage of pulse phaser cannon fire that raked across the side of the heavy cruiser. Solar torpedoes rushed to join her shots.

Other torpedoes and pulse cannon fire converged on the cruiser. Three attack ships might yet have failed to cut her side open like Zack had wanted, but the Aurora sent several phaser beams into the cruiser as well. Its shields degraded from the barrage and his torpedoes, and those from other ships, hit home. The explosions flowered along the port side of the cruiser. At least one hit was a lucky one, as the enemy cruiser was clearly losing main power.

It made its mark before dying, though. The cruiser's disruptors lashed out at the Aurora. Her navigational deflector sputtered and flickered as emerald beams stabbed away at it. Another beam, one of the last before the cruiser's guns went quiet, stabbed into the Aurora's lower starboard nacelle. Flame erupted from the wound, joined by wispy plasma leaking through the injury as the nacelle itself began to flicker from power loss.

Zack checked his tactical display. Other ships were trying to break out with them. Some weren't making it.

But something worse loomed over his tactical display. More enemy ships had entered the system, and they were heading right for the Aurora.

"Those aren't A-1700s," Lt. Magda Navaez observed from ops. "It looks like a new assault ship design. I'm reading larger disruptor emitters. And their shield strength is stronger."

"A new challenge, then," Zack announced, hoping that the confidence would ease the worry he knew the others had. "Ap, don't let them get too close to the Aurora. We need to make sure they break out."

"Aye sir," Apley said.

Within a minute combat was rejoined. Dark-hulled SS ships loomed ahead and turned the space around them into a flurry of emerald beams and bursts. Missiles streaked out and met the Aurora's point-defense phaser banks, strobing out as thin amber lines from the ship to meet the incoming missiles. But not every missile was stopped, and those that got through blasted through the Aurora's failing shields and scoured her armor and hull.

Apley kept them moving, evading the incoming missile fire, while Sherlily maintained phaser fire on any target that presented itself.

This changed at the approach of the enemy assault ships. They had previously been referred to as gunboats, reflecting that they were little more than flying cannon batteries easily smashed by the Koenig. But these ships were anything but. Sherlily's phaser barrages did a number on their shields, but they did not remove them with the speed or ease they might normally enjoy. And the enemy disruptor cannons and missile fire was tremendous. The Koenig endured several hits that reduced its shields. The other ships with them were faring similarly, even as they sought to give as good as they got it.

"We're losing dorsal shields," Magda warned.

"Divert emergency power to shields and engines," Zack ordered.

As he made the order, a Nazi dreadnought loomed ahead of them. The Aryan-class ship was painted black as night, save for the swastika emblem of the Reich - the Hakenkreuz of black on a white circle in a red field - and, as an SS ship, twin thunderbolts that looked like the letter "S". The ship had that same slanted look as most Reich ships, with the drive hull slanting upward to meet the blocky primary hull area.

This ship was the most dangerous of the ones in their path because it had the largest "super-disruptors", large spinal mount disruptor cannons that could blast through even the toughest shields, along with smaller versions of the same that were multi-directional banks. If one of the spinal models hit the Koenig, even their armor wouldn't save them. It would likely be a one-hit kill.

But they weren't aiming at the Koenig, but the Aurora.

And Zack could do nothing as it fired.

The entire bridge of the Aurora felt like it was going to shake to pieces. "Direct hit!", Lucy reported. "Forward shields are down! They just…" She swallowed. "They just shot a hole clear through the primary hull! All primary hull decks have taken damage, multiple sections…"

Robert looked to Lt. Tom Barnes, Scotty's main assistant, manning the engineering station on the side of the bridge. "Divert all power to shields and impulsor drives, now!"

"I'm on it!", Barnes answered.

The Aurora's shields, taking in power from the rest of the ship, strengthened partially. It wouldn't last, not with the shield generators overwhelmed, but it might get them clear.


The weapons fire from the Aurora ceased as the weapons were denied the energies they needed, everything devoted to the Aurora's escape from the deadly Nazi trap. Disruptor shots continued to strike the hull, missiles joining them as point-defensive fire couldn't keep up with the barrage. Syrandi wisely diverted the PD weapons' fire to the much deadlier shield-disrupting torpedoes that the enemy destroyers were chucking toward them.

It was tense and close. Robert started to feel his breath come back to him as open space cleared on the monitor. They were doing it. They were almost out.

"Sir, we don't have any warp power," Violeta reported. "We've got three damaged nacelles."

"Forget about the warp drive. Send to all ships, jump as soon as they're clear!"

Main Engineering on the Koenig was in a state of surprising control, and that was mostly from the leadership of Lieutenant Karen Derbely, the ship's Chief Engineer, who had long made clear to her personnel what she expected of them in a crisis situation. "Lutal, Krrit, make sure those power conduits aren't overloading, we can't afford a short!", she cried out, looking over the Master Systems Display in the middle of Engineering. Into her communication line she added, "Hajar, I need you and a damage control team on Deck 3, Section D, the primary engine coupling is showing too much stress."

"On our way."

Derbely stepped away from the display and went over toward the plasma coolant conduit with a scanner. With the rest of her team already busy dealing with the increasing damage, she was the only one who could ensure the vital piece of machinery was working, keeping the power conduits handling the tremendous energy being generated by the ship's naqia reactors from melting down. Her scan confirmed her fear, that the pounding they were taking was causing stress damage to the coolant lines. I'm going to have to get a team on this, she thought, turning away from the coolant.

Just as she was walking away, the ship rocked so violently Derbely was thrown to the floor. The intensity of the shock told her what the MSD would have if she looked toward it. The Koenig had just suffered a direct hit, not just any direct hit, but one that had blasted through the armor and…

There was a shriek of metal and a horrible slushing noise. Derbely's heart froze in fear the moment her mind realized what it was.

The plasma coolant line had ruptured.

Right beside her.

In the end, she couldn't turn in time before the coolant struck her. All she could do was scream in agony until everything went dark.

The Koenig's bridge had rocked just as violently at the impact. Their harnesses kept them in their seats, of course, but that meant Zack was sure he'd have a bruise over his chest. "Report!"

"Direct hit on dorsal hull, we've been hulled!", Magda answered. "Damage to Decks 1 through 3, Sections C and D!" Magda noticed the blinking warning light. "We've got a plasma coolant link in Main Engineering!"

Zack took that news with horror. Depending on which plasma line linked… if it was the post-cycle coolant, carrying heat away to the heat exchangers… that plasma would melt anything and everything down to the bone if it hit them.

Even worse, the ship's safety systems would kick in, shutting down any broken coolant lines to prevent further leakage, and in the process force the ship's power systems and drives to reduce output to prevent overheating.

"I'm losing impulsor power!", Apley said.

"Bridge, this is Engineer Lang," a man with a German accent said over the comms. "The feeding coolant lines ruptured, we have lost one-third of our coolant capacity. Automatic systems are reducing power."

"Override them!", Zack insisted, even as the thought Where is Karen? went through his head. "We need every bit of power we can get to keep up!"

"Engaging overrides, sir. At our current rate of power usage, we have an estimated five minutes until the power systems overheat!"

"Understood." Zack frowned. He was worried about Derbely, but that had to wait until his ship was clear. In five minutes we'll either be safe or dead anyway.

"Impulsor power back to enhanced level," Apley reported. "We're starting to clear them!"

"Sir, the jump drive won't engage," Magda said. "That direct hit damaged it."

"Signal the Aurora and get us beside her, then," Zack urged. "We'll jump out with them."

"Yes sir," Apley and Magda said simultaneously.

On the Aurora bridge, Robert watched with tentative relief as they seemed to clear the enemy squadron. "Engage jump drive on my mark!"

On the screen they could already see green jump points forming around them. Individual ships, mostly the destroyers and attack ships that had evaded the overwhelming enemy fire,

"Captain, the Koenig just signaled." Locarno looked at Robert. "Their jump drive is down. They're moving to jump alongside us."

"How long until they're in range to enter our jump point?"

"Fifteen seconds!"

"Jump when they're in position."

The ship shook again. "That dreadnought's targeting our engines," Lucy said. "I'm not sure we have fifteen seconds."

Barnes didn't have to be asked, considering it was the Koenig. "I'm diverting all available power to the aft shield generators!"

The aft shields of the Aurora strengthened as more disruptor fire and missiles crashed into them. With the dreadnought firing on them, it was a question of how much more they could take.

"Aft shields at twenty-five percent," Lucy reported. The ship shuddered again. "Twenty-two… twenty… eighteen…"

"The dreadnought is firing!", Cat added, seeking the power spike on her screens. She drew in a breath out of sheer terror at what that meant.

The three spinal mount super-disruptors on the SS dreadnought fired at once. A last second roll of the ship by Violeta kept two from hitting the Aurora. The middle blast, however, could not be evaded.

It speared the back of the primary hull, striking the docking port for the Koenig directly. Flame and debris erupted from the wound now carved into the Aurora as the shot carried into the hull areas adjacent to the dock and, above, to the primary shuttle bay. Further explosions went off, relatively minor, as several craft in the bay were damaged and destroyed by the blast.

One of the misses also struck home, but not on the Aurora. Robert could only watch in horror as the Albacore, just about fly into its jump point, was hit in the rear section by the disruptor beam. With the attack ship's shields battered to near-nothingness, its armor alone couldn't resist the blast. The Trigger-class attack ship disintegrated until it was nothing but a cloud of debris. The jump point it generated closed as nothing kept it open any longer.

A second later, Koenig was alongside the Aurora. "Activating jump drive!", Lucy shouted.

Ahead of them space was pulled open by an emerald flash that expanded into a swirling vortex. Violeta, and Apley on the Koenig, put everything into their impulsor drives. Robert forced himself not to gulp as they came close, to within seconds, of escape, as it felt that any moment the Nazis might yet stop them, might shoot the jump point and de-stabilize it…

Then the ship lurched below him, a familiar lurch, as it flew through the point. Koenig surged ahead, entering a split second later.

Ahead of them, the carnage of 452 TD had disappeared from the viewscreen. Instead it was New Liberty, spinning quietly as the Colony moved toward night.

"We made it," Cat squeaked.

Robert nodded and swallowed. "Nick, I want damage reports and casualty reports. Lucy…" Robert drew in a breath. "Get me Admiral Maran, highest priority."

"Yes sir."

"How did they know we were coming?", Cat asked. "I mean, were they expecting us? Was this a trap from the start?"

"I don't know," Robert said. "But someone's going to have to find out."

Undiscovered Frontier
"The Wages of Fear"


The tension on the bridge had mostly given way to post-battle exhaustion and relief when the word came that Julia and the others had arrived at Harvest in A4P5. Robert had Jupap, now manning Operations with Lucy and Tom Barnes off helping with the repairs, relay the message to the Van Sickle to please provide the jump point, and the vessel's captain swiftly signaled agreement.

The squad cargo ship that came out of the jump point moved toward them for several moments before Jupap confirmed they were being hailed. "Put them on."

The screen shifted. Julia dominated the middle of it, but he could also see Angel and a Minbari in the background. "Robert, what happened?", she asked.

"A disaster," he answered quietly. "Did you find Jarod?"

Julia nodded. "He's right here. We got his family out too."

"At least something went right around here," mumbled Locarno, who was still in Julia's chair.

Julia noticed that too. "I'll be right over with Angel and Meridina. We'll transfer the ship over to our allies."

"I'm coming too," Jarod added. "You'll need everyone to start getting the ship fixed up."

Robert nodded. "It's good to see you're safe, Jarod. I just wish you didn't have to come home to this."

He nodded. "It certainly wasn't the homecoming I expected."

"I imagine you'll want to spend time with your family…"

Jarod looked offscreen. A male voice with an English accent said, "It's fine, Jarod. Emily and I will be here when you have time."

At that Jarod looked back to Robert and shook his head. "I'll be over with the others."

"Alright. We'll beam you aboard as soon as you signal. Aurora out."

The image disappeared from the screen. Once it was gone, Robert stood from his chair. "Nick, you've got the bridge. I want to go finish my full report to Admiral Maran." He looked to Jupap as he walked past, stopping briefly to face the Alakin Operations Officer. "If we get any signals from Command, let me know. Maybe… maybe the other attacks went off better."

Jupap nodded. "Yes sir," he chirped.

Robert nodded back, knowing his expressed optimism was sorely misplaced, and went into his office and straight to his desk.

With the Deadman's Hand left to Lennier to land on the planet and turn over to the New Liberty police, Julia and the others made quick stops by their quarters to change into uniforms before they went on duty. Angel went off to take over Tactical, Meridina to her Security office, and Jarod was off to join up with the repair teams. That left Julia to head straight to the bridge.

When she got there, Locarno was in the command chair. He nodded at her and gestured toward Robert's bridge office. "He's waiting for you."

Julia nodded. "Who did we lose?"

Locarno sighed. "Most of the crew in and around the main shuttle bay. We took casualties on most of the decks, especially in the primary hull from that shot that went straight through. Right now we're looking at about a hundred and fifty casualties confirmed. At least forty dead." Locarno looked toward the viewscreen, where the Koenig was visible. "Carrey's got eighteen casualties and at least six dead."

Julia felt her fists clench. A sudden thought seized her. You were supposed to be here for this. If you'd been here, you could have made a difference. She brushed it off, as much as she could, and asked, "What happened?"

"It was a trap," he replied. "Robert will fill you in."

Julia nodded. She turned away and went for the ready room door. As she did so her wound started to sting. Whether from something wrong with her bandaging or a psychosomatic response to her feelings on the situation… she couldn't tell.

Robert was at his desk, working the hard-light keyboard on the office's desk while looking at his screen. He looked up as she entered and stood to attention. "Julie," he said, signaling an intention to be informal. "It's good to see you. When Chief Almerda said you had left to rescue Jarod… well, given what he said about Parker's team I was a little worried."

"I understand." She went to a chair and sat down. The suddenness of the move did more to make her wound hurt, enough that an involuntary wince came across her face.

Robert noticed it immediately. "Are you okay? Were you hurt?"

"I'll live," Julia answered, although she was visible favoring the side that had been cut.

Robert could have actively sensed for her wound and known how much it had hurt, and what damage it'd done. As it was, between the fatigue in her features and the clear pain she felt, he knew Julia's wound was not insubstantial. But he couldn't bring himself to do that. It felt like it would be a violation of Julia's privacy.

"What happened?", she asked. "Nick said it was a trap."

"Admiral Maran had reports that the Reich's fleet movements were opening a window that would let us jump into their rear areas and hit their supply system before their fleets could respond. He threw every available ship he had into the mission, including the Aurora, and we had to leave right away." Robert frowned and set his hands on the table. "But instead of an undefended supply base, we found a Reich attack fleet waiting in ambush." Robert put a hand on his chin and shook his head. "They went right after us and the Themistocles. They crippled her, and we couldn't stop it. We were lucky to escape in the end given the beating we took."

"Why didn't you jump to a repair yard?"

"Lucy just used our last jump coordinate to get us out quickly." Robert shook his head. "And with the damage to our impulsors and power systems, Scotty wants a few hours to complete some repairs before we jump again." Robert gestured to his computer. "So I'm passing the time getting a report filed." He sighed. "And worrying."


"it's been two hours, and no word from Portland about what's going on," Robert said. "I'm worried about what happened, and… I'm worried that Admiral Maran was leading one of the task forces. If we lost him…"

The thought was a chilling one. Maran had become one of the most respected leaders in the Alliance. His loss would be a massive blow to Alliance morale, especially if it came with the losses this operation had caused.

Moreso, for them personally, it would mean losing one of their biggest supporters in the Alliance military command structure. And even if President Morgan selected someone else to head his Defense Staff, Admiral Davies would gain in authority and influence, and he had made it clear he intended to strip the Aurora from them as part of his fears about the Gersallian Order of Swenya.

"I think we would have heard something if Admiral Maran as captured or dead," Julia said. "He's probably just busy trying to deal with what happened."

Robert frowned. "This was supposed to shorten the war. Now we might have prolonged it. We've lost the initiative we've been picking up. There's no telling how the Nazis are going to react."

"What's more important is how we react. We can't give up over a single setback, no matter how large."

"I hope enough people see it your way." Robert's thoughts about the politics were dark enough. Some of the Alliance states were still avoiding full application of their strength to the effort, forcing Morgan to burn political capital to cajole them into greater efforts. Now those states would be even more reluctant to expend their efforts.

Robert looked Julia over. "There's nothing more you can do, Julie. You should go see Leo about getting that fixed." His head nodded toward forward and slightly to the side.

"I can take over the bridge for Nick."

"Pacetti is already on his way to do that. Right now, you need medical attention." He could have ordered her, but Robert instead added, "Please."

Julia had a frustrated look on her face. But seeing the concerned look on Robert's and the pain still stinging in her side, she sighed and nodded. "I'll go down there right away."

"Thank you." Robert checked his screen. "Get some rest. I know you need to be in your own bed for a night of sleep. We'll talk again in the morning."

Julia nodded and stood from her chair. She left the room and returned to the bridge. Angela had relieved Lieutenant Luneri at Tactical and was looking over things. She caught Julia's eye, and the look they shared said it all.

Could we have made a difference?

The medbay was busy when Julia came on. Numerous crew were on the biobeds or stretchers, waiting for their turn to be treated for injuries sustained in the fight. Julia found it was standing room only.

"Commander." Nasri's voiced carried over the din of moans, ponderings, and quiet conversations. She walked up, looking tired herself. "What's wrong?"

"A cyborg with a sword tried to cut my head off," she replied. "I dodged and he cut below my ribs instead."

"A deep cut?"

"I figured it would need stitches. And Meridina was too tired to do anything for it."

"Come this way." Nasri led Julia beyond some of the patients and to her examination area, now vacant. "Let me see."

Julia pulled off her uniform jacket and the undershirt she wore beneath it, down to her undergarment. The bloodstain on the bandage had grown a little since Julia changed clothes. Julia waited for Nasri to look it over. She felt her pull the bandages back and examine the wound, which stung like hell. The bandage went back on. "It's not too deep of a cut, but deep enough that you would have needed stitches if we didn't have dermal regenerators." Nasri frowned. "But this will call for a heavy regenerator. I'll need to get you to a biobed and you'll have to wait for a unit to open up."

"Nick told me we had a hundred and fifty casualties."

"Closer to two hundred now," Nasri replied.

Over a tenth of the crew, Julia thought.

Nasri handed Julia a gown. "Put this on and bring your uniform." With the gown on and her uniform and undershirt under her left arm, Julia followed Nasri through the medbay to a group of biobeds with larger bits of medical equipment around them. The non-urgent operation ward was adjacent to the critical care ward and she could see worse cases inside.

"You'll be seen in order," Nasri said. "It's standard procedure, you understand."

"Yeah." Julia nodded. "I'll be fine."

Nasri nodded and guided her to one of the unused biobeds, beside the entrance to the critical ward. Julia sat on the biobed, which immediately began displaying general physical information regarding her on its main display.

She had only a few minutes of quiet before she saw Zack work his way in. He was in his uniform and looked much like Robert had. His eyes were focused on the door to the critical ward so much that he didn't notice her until she called out to him. "Zack." When he turned and looked her way, she asked, "Are you okay?"

"No," he admitted. "I lost too many people."

Julia nodded. Proportionally speaking, his casualties had been worse, eighteen in a crew of about fifty being over a third of his crew. The Aurora was just starting to approach the ten percent loss mark in contrast. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry I wasn't there."

"It wouldn't have changed anything," Zack answered, his eyes still distant. "We were betrayed. Or tricked. They were waiting for us and had us outnumbered and outgunned from the first shot." Zack shook his head. "Whoever screwed this up needs to be fired."

"I'm sure there will be an investigation." Julia chuckled bitterly. "Hell, I'm probably going to be investigated for everything I did to get Jarod back."

"Whatever you did, Julia, you actually succeeded. This was a complete fiasco, and it got good people killed."

"Who are you here to see?"

"Karen." Zack glanced in the direction of the critical ward. "When we took that direct hit that blew through our armor, the shock blew a coolant line in main engineering. The only reason she's alive is because it was the pre-cycle line."

Julia nodded. "I'll come with you, if you want."

The appreciation was visible on Zack's face. He accepted and they walked, together, into critical care.

The cases here were the worst of those who had a chance to survive. Missing limbs, burns, all sorts of injuries and damage were treated here.

There were fifty beds in this particular ward, arranged into rows of ten beds, with various pieces of medical equipment out for the use of the patients. Julia and Zack went over to one in the corner. If the name at the base of the bed hadn't read "K. Derbely", Julia would have never known it was her.

Virtually the entirety of Derbely's head was covered in bandages. What little was visible around her closed eyes showed signs of hideous burning. Aside from the gown she had heavy bandaging visible on every other portion of her body.

"It's a miracle she survived," Julia murmured.

"Yeah. A miracle," Zack said. There was a bitter tone in his voice. He looked over his unconscious chief engineer with a deep frown that contrasted heavily with the smiles he'd had just a couple of days ago. "My ship's been shot up, the Nazis kicked our asses… the way things are going, we need miracles."

"Zack." Julia touched his hand. "You look exhausted. Maybe you should get some rest."

He turned his head and faced her. There was a look in his brown eyes, one of frustration and pain. Had he been in a better mood, he would have reacted to her clear need for rest. "I can't," he said. "I've got responsibilities."

Julia opened her mouth to speak further, but stopped herself. If their positions were reversed, she'd be feeling terrible too.

A treacherous voice in her head added, And at least Zack was here for them, I can't say the same can I?

"Zack, Julia."

Both turned to face an exhausted Leo, wearing his medical blues with a white lab coat. "We've done all we can for her now, Zack," Leo said. "Lieutenant Derbely will be transferred to a full medical station as soon as possible."

"Will she make it?', Zack asked. His voice was hollow.

Leo sighed and nodded slightly. "I'd give her good odds. Seventy percent for at least a partial recovery. We just have to keep the damaged tissues clean of infection until the specialists can begin a full dermal restoration on her. There may be other damage she'll need therapy for."

Zack showed relief at that. "At least we have that." Zack looked at Julia. "Any word on how long we have until we can dock again?" When she froze for the moment, Zack caught himself. "Oh, sorry," he said. "I forgot you didn't know." His words were calm and withdrawn, as if they hadn't just unintentionally acted as a means of brutally declaring "You wouldn't know because you weren't here".

Julia bit into her lip. Her eyes looked away from him.

Zack was still looking at Derbely and didn't notice the reaction. Nevertheless he sighed. "Well, I'd better get back to the ship. My crew needs me."

"Hopefully they'll have your dock fixed soon," Leo offered. "Your people need your quarters here on the Aurora to get a proper rest."

Zack smirked at that. "Yeah, I know. So does my crew." He looked over to them and forced a smile to his face. "Thanks, Julie."

"What for?", she asked.

"For saving Jarod. We've lost enough friends and colleagues as it is." Zack walked past them. "I'll see you later."

They watched him leave the ward. Leo looked back to Julia. "Alright, let's get you back to the non-urgent ward." They walked out of the critical care ward and to the bed where Julia had left her uniform. Leo looked around and stepped away long enough to pull up a large dermal regenerator unit. "Lay down and let me see that wound."

Julia laid on her back on the bed. She raised the gown up past her belly to expose the bandaged wound. Leo pulled the bloodied bandages off and threw them in a biohazard receptacle. "Hrm. Not too deep. But deep enough. You're lucky you didn't lose more blood than you did." He scanned it. "No sign of infection. What happened anyway?"

For several moments Julia didn't answer. She was staring at the lights above on the ceiling. Her thoughts were entirely with the circumstances of what had happened. What had been done to her ship, her crew, while she was gone.

"Julia," Leo repeated, his voice now forceful. It snapped her out of her thoughts. "What happened?"

"A cyborg man, some ninja or something, tried to cut my head off," she answered. "I dodged and he just got me in the side."

"I'll say. The cut was precise. I'm surprised a sword managed such a clean cut, actually." Leo picked up a wand from the dermal regenerator unit. He pressed it around the wound. "I need to clean the wound out first, just to be on the safe side. I want to make sure you don't have any particles of your clothing left in that could lead to an infection later. Does it feel numb now?"


"Good. Give me a little bit…"

Julia remained still as he worked. She ended up deep in thought again, even as her eyelids tugged downward until her eyes were closed. She fell asleep without intending to.

"Alright, all better," Leo declared.

That jolted her awake again. Julia sat up and looked down to where she'd been cut. There was just healthy light skin there now, a little pinkish in its color.

"You need some rest." Leo put away the dermal regenerator gear. Around them several of the people had changed.

"Leo…" She sat up. "You didn't skip me ahead in the line, did you?"

Leo smirked and shook his head. "No. I did defy Doctor Singh's insistence that I go get some sleep now that our immediate crisis cases are all handled. Technically I'm not supposed to be here."

"Well, I won't tell if you won't," Julia said, smiling as she did.

"You can change in my office," Leo offered. "And then I insist you get some rest. You lost some blood and you pushed yourself pretty hard, you need a couple of days to recuperate."

"I've got a ship that needs fixing, Leo," Julia reminded him. Her smile seemed more brittle now. "A couple of days is too much. But I'll give you tonight."

Leo shook his head. "I expected as much. Just take it easy."

"As much as I can. I promise."

Both knew that she wouldn't, that she couldn't. Not as things were. But Leo pretended to accept the promise and they walked away together, heading toward his office.

It was running late when Robert emerged from his bridge office, all reports written and filed. The damage report from Scotty had made for sobering reading. The main shuttle bay had taken severe damage and would need reconstruction. Half of the ship's shuttles were completely destroyed or so damaged that they would have to be written off, and most of the rest would need extensive repair work. The runabouts were in similar shape: the Susquehanna, Vistula, and Rhine were utterly trashed and would have to be scrapped; every other runabout had taken major damage. Adjacent to the main shuttle bay, the docking bay for the Koenig was wrecked and would have to be rebuilt.

The primary hull would also need weeks worth of reconstruction work at the L2M1 Earth Fleet Base, especially given the hole that had been blasted into it. Dozens of crew had lost their quarters to the blast and were being re-billeted in spare quarters or, where necessary, the holodecks. Robert had nearly even ordered that the senior staff officer quarters be opened up to them, just for Locarno to point out that it was unnecessary given the other available room on the ship.

Six weeks repair time, minimum, Robert mused quietly. He walked toward the central chair, where a much-fatigued Locarno was still sitting. "You're relieved Lieutenant," he said.

Locarno stood up. "Yes sir." He examined Robert's own state of post-battle exhaustion and added, "I suggest you stand down for relief as well, Captain. You need your rest."

"I'll head down soon," Robert promised. "I'm just waiting for a call from Portland before I can rest."

"I'll send Pacetti up," Locarno said. "So that you can stand relieved when you're ready to sleep."

"Thank you, Nick."

Locarno gave him a final nod and, with barely-disguised relief, went to the bridge lift. Robert settled into his command chair and watched the New Liberty Colony's lights on the screen. If he wasn't careful, he would nod off right here in his chair.

He nearly did, in fact, and he jolted to full wakefulness when he heard the chirp from Operations that confirmed an incoming signal. Jupap turned his feathered head back enough that Robert could see his beak move. "Captain, priority call from Defense Command. Admiral Maran is on for you."

"Put him through." Robert stood as the screen flashed. Seeing the dark-haired Gersallian admiral appear, wolfish gray along his hairline as always, was a relief. Robert had been terrified that he'd been with the attack and was lost. "Admiral."

"Captain." Maran nodded quietly. "My apologies for taking so long. I've been in Defense Staff meetings for hours. You don't know how grateful I was to get confirmation of your survival. The President was relieved when your signal came in to Portland."

"Thank you, sir." Robert swallowed. "How bad was it?"

"It was a disaster, Captain, make no mistake about that. Our losses in ships went over the fifty percent mark. Three quarters of the capital ships we assigned, carriers and dreadnoughts, were lost." Maran's tone was somber. And Robert could see that, stoic as he always was, something was weighing heavily on him, in a way that it hadn't even during the dark days of the prior July when the war had just begun and the Nazis were pummeling their way through Alliance space. "Our gamble was turned against us."

"The Nazis dangled the bait and we went for it," Robert said.

"That is one theory. There is another one, however, and it is far more terrifying."

Robert blinked at that. "Which is…?"

Maran's expression turned grim. "The Defense Committee has decided to order an investigation, Captain, into the operation. We have reason to believe that this wasn't simply a random trap set by our enemies."

"What do you mean…?"

Maran's voice took on a hard edge to it. "I'm not at liberty to discuss the issue over a communication. Not even over a priority encrypted line. How soon can you jump again?"

"Mister Scott needs to shore up several elements of our power systems, the battle damage and our last jump overloaded some of our systems. He's due to give me an update in the morning sometime around 0600."

Maran nodded stiffly. "Very well. As soon as you can jump, I want Aurora back at the Fleet Base, I have a dock already set aside for her and a berth for the Koenig. Preferably I want you and a contingent of officers that you trust in Portland by 1000."

"Yes sir," Robert replied, and he refrained from giving any voice to his immense worry over Maran's words. "We'll be there."

"I'll be expecting you, Captain, at Defense Command. Maran out."

The transmission ended and the view shifted back to the planet. Robert immediately wondered what Maran meant by the trap not being random.

But first things first. He did need to get some sleep.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-28 04:29pm

It was nearly 2400 ship time when Meridina returned to her quarters. It had taken some time to go through all the reports from security, many of whom were now working to help with some of the repairs. Meridina was pleased with how well the work went without her immediate presence.

Now that she was alone, she had time to look into her own curiosity. She went to her table and to the item she'd left there upon her return to the Aurora. Dralan Olati's lakesh waited for her scrutiny.

It was a competently-crafted lakesh, good handiwork. The type that came from a trained swevyra'se like her, and therefore indicated training in the Order. "Computer," she said, "please connect to the Order of Swenya database on Gersal."


As she waited for the connection to finalize, Meridina examined the rest of the weapon. Engraved on the hilt were a series of characters. An inscription, a phrase or sentence, that she did not understand. The characters did look like they were related to High Gersallian, but yet they meant nothing even if she assumed specific letters to be similar letters in HIgh Gersallian. Clearly this mysterious inscription was written in something entirely different.

A cold feeling came to her. Dralan Olati had been a killer, driven entirely by his dark impulses with no real freedom to decide his course. She had never seen someone like him before. Not someone with a developed set of life force power.

But she had that in her too. The darkness she had felt within her since the Goa'uld Amaunet had infested her and used her to hurt, kill, and torment. She meditated on it, she focused herself on the light, on her highest emotions or simply upon the wholesome light within… but the dark wouldn't go away. It started to feel as if had always been there and had only chosen now to come out.

That thought was perhaps the one that scared her most of all.

"Connection established," the computer said.

"Search the temple archives for a man named Dralan Olati."

"Accessing. Accessing." For several moments nothing came. Finally… "Search complete. No records found."

Meridina frowned at that. "Computer, are you sure?"

"All records have been scanned. There is no indication of Dralan Olati.

That makes no sense. HoW could he have made such a lakesh without training from our Order "Computer, there are two things I wish to process tonight. First, expand the search for Dralan Olani to public Interdependency records. Authorization code Kul-ta-ta-je-omal te."

"Authorization code processed. Accepted. Beginning search. Awaiting second input."

Meridina laid the lakesh on the table and accessed her multidevice. With a few key strokes she took images of the weapon. Another two keystrokes and the images now appeared on her computer display. "Computer, cross-reference these markings. They appear to be a form of Gersallian. Please check for any Gersallian dialect that uses them."

"Beginning search."

"How long until the searches are complete?", Meridina asked.

"Estimated time to completion at current data transfer rate: 16 hours thirty-five minutes."

So that was that. There was no point staying up any longer, not when there would be a staff meeting in the morning. "Thank you," she said, rising from her chair. She began to pull off the duty uniform as she made her way to the bedroom section of her quarters.

At 0630 the following morning, a thoroughly exhausted Aurora command staff were in their conference room, as was an equally exhausted Koenig staff.

The most exhausted of all were those who had been involved in the repairs. Scotty looked like he was about to fall asleep at the table. Jarod, Barnes, and Lucy all had varying degrees of deep fatigue written on their expressions, fatigue that even Hargert's best coffee was having trouble dispelling. The others on the command crew were better off in appearance, but it was clear that their morale was low and everyone was tired and upset.

Robert started the meeting with a look toward Scotty. "Mister Scott, Admiral Maran has a repair dock waiting for us at the L2M1 Earth Fleet Base. Can we jump yet?"

"I'll need a few more hours, sir," he said. "Lt. Nesay is busy finishin' repairs on the warp nacelle struts, an' we cannae jump safely until th' power supply systems have been checked. That's goin' tae take a few hours."

"You have until 0900," Robert replied. "We're due in Portland at 1000."

Scotty started to protest but stopped. "I'll see what I can do, sir."

Knowing Scotty would do just that, Robert turned his attention to Zack. "Has the Koenig regained its jump capability?"

Zack shook his head. "The blast damaged the primary particle feed for the drive, so we can't generate a jump point until its fixed. And with our reduced Engineering staff, Ensign Hajar estimates another day worth of repairs to handle it. Half a day with every member of my crew on repair duties."

"Hajar?", Julia asked.

"She's the senior surviving officer assigned to engineering," Zack answered. "With Karen gone and Lieutenant Trelit dead."

"Right. Sorry." Julia looked away, with her face showing she was deep in thought.

"We'll jump you with us then," Robert said. "Admiral Maran has a repair berth ready for your ship too."

"Good. With a full dock team, Koenig should be ready for duty in a couple of weeks."

Robert looked to his digital notepad. His last item, and worst, was now up. "Do we have a final casualty count?"

"Three hundred and seventy-six casualties of all kinds have been accounted for by the medbay staff," Leo revealed. "Sixty-one dead."

The news hung over the room. It was stifling in its depressive strength.

"We still have about forty-six cases in the critical care ward that I'll want to offload to fleet hospitals as soon as possible, for the best possible care," Leo continued. He glanced Zack's way; one of those forty-six was Karen Derbely. "Another thirty of the critical cases we've got are not so critical we need them taken off our hands. Most of the rest are injuries we've been able to treat. I have a listing of who is fit for full duty or must be restricted in duty. I'll forward it to Julia when we're done."

She nodded. "I'll make sure all department heads and shift officers are made aware of who is available. Although given how long we'll be in the dockyard this time, I imagine we're going to have a lot of crew changing anyway."

"I'll let you deal with the issue as you see fit," Robert replied. He put the notepad down. "Okay everyone, this meeting is dismissed."

As everyone stepped out, Robert found he was looking at Julia. She hadn't slept well - then again, few of them had - and she seemed distracted. "Are you okay?", he asked.

Julia looked at him. She remained silent for several moments before shaking her head. "No. No, I'm just thinking about things."

"Chief Almerda sent a report last night. They finished clearing evidence from the Deadman's Hand. The people you worked with put in their statements and were free to go. Apparently Captain Thrace and Anders got a jump to N2S7 late last night, so they're already gone." Robert used his notepad to check a part of the message. "Almerda's going to turn the ship over to FedStar authorities. He found out there's an active case against the ship's former controller. By taking him down and bringing her in, you're going to be liable to part of the reward once the FedStar admiralty courts finish dealing with it."

"I guess Zaeed will get some cash out of it after all," Julia murmured, but she still had that distant look in her eyes.

"Julie? Are you okay?"

"I'm alright," she said. "Anyway, I need to get to my office and start going over the personnel reviews for the battle."

"Nick should have filed his report by now, so you don't have to worry about that."

Immediately Robert could tell something was wrong, given the surge of shame and frustration that flared inside of Julia . "Yeah, he would be the right one to do that, wouldn't he?" She stood up. "I'll be in my office, let me know if you need anything."

"As soon as we get to L2M1, I need to go down to Portland to see Admiral Maran," Robert said.

"Then I'll take over repair command duties while you do. Until then." Without another word, she was gone, leaving Robert to sit, alone, to ponder Maran's message.

Whatever was going on, he knew he wouldn't like it.

In the end, Scotty got them jump-capable at 0842.

The Aurora locked onto the jump anchor for Earth L2M1 and jumped through, arriving a few kilometers off of the Fleet Base's repair yards section. Numerous ships were already taking up much of the berths, some survivors of the disaster, others here due to other causes. As promised Maran had berths ready for them, in two dry-dock sections in the various wings for their appropriate sizes. He also had a shuttle waiting for Robert.

Robert had heard the "contingent of officers you trust" and decided it meant Maran wanted people who could help with whatever was going on, presumably an investigation. With dock repair teams now present to help Scotty's engineers, he decided that meant Meridina, Jarod, and Lucy.

The shuttle, a Gersallian-built one simply designated in Gersallian letters and numbers - roughly something like LRT-3924 - flew them down to Defense Command. The pilot was a young man, a Human with clear mixed-ethnic backgrounds who identified himself as Ensign Cloudrunner.

Defense Command was built just west of where the Willamette River flowed into the Columbia, near Lake Vancouver, on what was once (on L2M1 anyway) the Washington State bank of the river. The six azure structures towered over the river, the five outer ones arranged in the form of a five-point star and linked to the central one by enclosed foot bridges. For Robert, who grew up with news reports about "the Pentagon" - even his father's stories of visiting there during his time in the US Navy - this towering structure was clearly the Allied Systems' equivalent of that building.

Once they'd landed, they went off to the floors in the central building with the main offices. Admiral Maran's office was toward the middle of the 11th floor as a privilege of rank; the offices there were closer to the officer's club, the large fifth floor food court, and the eighth floor's air-car bays. The latter was a real luxury as there were no transporter stations in the Defense Command structure, and all travel to and from Command was tightly secured. More tightly, in fact, than they'd seen the last time they were nearly a year prior.

The last time we were here, Defense Minister Hawthorne and Admiral Davies were trying to railroad us and kick us off our ship, Robert thought sullenly. Finding out later that the two had initially won, that they had convinced the Defense Committee, or at least a majority of it, to vote against Robert and the others, had been a real sting.

Finding out that the Gersallians and several other states had threatened to leave the Alliance if the vote wasn't reversed? That had actually scared him. More than anything, Robert wanted the Alliance to succeed and to thrive. He certainly didn't want to be the cause of it being ripped apart.

At Admiral Maran's office they were met by a young man with a dark brown complexion. "I am Commander Kanelas," he said, with an accent Robert had not heard before. Kanelas looked to Meridina and gave her a respectful bow of the head. "Swevyra'se, kima iso tuna."

Meridina answered with a head bow of her own. "Kima iso tuna. Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

They exchanged a few more lines before Kanelas looked to them. "My apologies, I have forgotten myself. Admiral Maran is currently in a teleconference with Admiral Relini. I will inform him you've arrived." Kanelas nodded again and walked into the next room.

Robert turned his head to mumble, "Do you understand…?" at Jarod.

"I don't think they're talking about tuna," Jarod replied, cutting off the question.

"I figured you'd have learned Gersallian by now, being a Pretender and all."

Jarod snorted. "I'm the Operations Officer of a kilometer-long starship with two thousand people always on board. I'm not going through my list of 'learn this thing' as fast as I used to. Learning Gersallian is still in the mid-40s, and I probably won't get to that for another eighteen months."

A bemused little smile was clear on Meridina's face at their exchange. "I would be happy to assist you with such, Commander Jarod," she said. "My apologies for not translating. Commander Kanelas is from Otapil on our main southern continent. The Otapin are among the Order's strongest supporters. Their people consider it proper to show immediate reverence to a Knight of Swenya."

"Ah." Robert nodded. "Well, as long as you're not talking about us behind our back."

"Perish the thought." Meridina turned away, satisfied with the exchange.

"Shouldn't you have learned this language yourself?", Jarod inquired quietly. "She's teaching you, after all."

"I know. But while I can pronounce German well enough that I've met Germans who think I've been in America too long instead of realizing I'm actually American, I can't even say 'swevyra' without my tongue going thick."

"It's because you try too hard," Lucy said.

The door opened again. Kanelis emerged partially. "Admiral Maran is ready for you."

Robert and the others stepped into the office, where Maran was standing behind his desk. The torch-and-tetracolor flag of the Allied Systems was beside his desk, as was one showing the Seal of Defense Command and it's quartered shield under the Alliance torch insignia. His work area had several digital pads upon it, presumably each secured and only containing specific and isolated classified data. A hard-light keyboard was still visible. He had been typing only moments ago.

"Admiral, sir. I've brought Commander Jarod, Commander Meridina, and Lieutenant Lucero. I trust all of my officers, but I considered they would be the ones you wanted to have in this situation."

"Your consideration was accurate, Captain." Maran's expression was grave. He'd clearly been up much of the night. "I'm going to make the facts plain. We were deceived. Most of the systems did not, in fact, have the sort of supply targets we had been led to expect. Instead it would appear that the enemy used electronic warfare to deceive our scouts. The apparent opening in their deployment schedule was clearly feigned to provoke an attack by us that could be ambushed."

"How bad is it?", Robert asked.

"Our last estimates are in. We launched four hundred and twelve ships into that attack. Only two hundred and seven returned, all damaged to varying extents. Out of twenty dreadnought-class warships, only six returned, and only ten of eighteen carriers. We also lost two-thirds of our cruisers."

Robert couldn't help but swallow. The Aurora had been one of those lucky third to escape. "What does this mean for the war?"

"It will not cost us the war, at least not militarily. But it has set back our time-tables for further military operations. Admiral Relini has been forced to call off her planned offensive and is preparing defensive positions."

Robert caught that first sentence, especially its uncertain ending. "...at least not militarily." "There's more to this, isn't there?"

Maran nodded. "There is. And I didn't dare mention it over a channel, not even one that's encrypted." Maran reached for his desk drawer and pulled out an electronic device of some sort, a small curved shape with a light on the end that he brought on with a squeeze of his fingers. The green light blinked several times before a second green light activated. "There," Maran said. "We're secure."

"You're afraid of electronic bugs," Jarod said.

"I have to be." Maran sat down. With a hand gesture he invited Robert and his officers to take seats in the nearby chairs and couch. "I must be blunt. The Intelligence Office has discovered signs that some of our operational planning, including the proposals for the raid we just attempted, has been compromised."

The implications were clear. Robert's jaw fell slightly as he processed the thought. "You mean they say we've got a spy in Defense Command. That someone leaked this stuff to the Nazis and they planned the ambushes from that?"

"I do. So does the President, and the Defense Committee, and several members of the Senate." Maran put his hands on his desk. "We need to find out the truth of this, and now. Otherwise we may be facing the end of the political willingness to continue the war."

"You can't be serious," Lucy gasped. "They'd try to make a deal with Nazis?"

Maran shook his head. "When people are desperate enough for peace? I can see them doing anything. Councilman Pensley has gone as far as to threaten to encourage his government to withdraw from the Alliance if we don't change how the war is prosecuted or offer peace to the Reich."

"Pensley would be the one who is convinced that I instigated the war on purpose," Robert recalled.

"Yes. He's argued repeatedly for your court-martial, in fact. Even Admiral Davies has grown tired of the man."

"And here I thought Davies would back that," Lucy muttered.

"Admiral Davies is a complicated man. But he does know the scope of the threat we're facing, and he has no illusions that any peace with the Nazi Reich is possible. He and Pensley are not allies."

"He tried to bribe Zack into turning against us during the hearings last year," Lucy retorted. Robert winced at the surge of anger he felt within her. "He sent Commander King to spy on us, and he's using Naval Intelligence to spy on your people! Complicated, hell, he's as much a threat to the Alliance as Pensley is!"

"Lieutenant, calm down," Maran ordered. His tone was still quiet and patient, but there was an edge to it when he said that, an edge that told Lucy (and Robert) that in this he damn well expected to be obeyed.

Meridina gave Lucy a worried look. The angry snarl on Lucy's face faded. "I'm sorry, Admiral," she said. "I was out of line."

"Yes, you were," was Maran's quiet reply. It was a rebuke, and Lucy took it as such. "The reason I summoned you here is that I'm compiling a task force of officers to investigate the matter and report on it to the Defense Committee. Officers who are not assigned to Defense Command and who have extensive combat experience against the Reich."

"And who couldn't have been in a position to be the leak," Jarod noted.

"Yes." Maran looked at Robert. "The Aurora will be spending over a month in drydock for repairs, Captain, so for the time being, I'm assigning you to oversee the investigation."

Robert blinked at that. "Me? But… I don't have counter-intelligence experience, or investigative experience."

"No. But I'm aware you have other potential talents to help give you insight into evidence that is discovered."

"Admiral, is this wise?" Meridina kept her voice respectful. "Knowing how certain factions in the Alliance government feel about the Order, and anything that seems linked to them, the fact that Captain Dale has our abilities will mean that those opposed to the Order will be suspicious of his findings."

"You are correct. That's why I'm assigning another officer to be his second in the investigation and to sign off on the final report. Someone that the Defense Minister and his supporters cannot so easily overlook."

"Who?", Robert asked.

Before Maran could answer, a tone came from his desk. He pressed a key on his hardlight keyboard. "Commander?"

"The Commander has arrived as instructed," said Kanelis.

"Excellent timing. I'm waiting with Captain Dale now."

Moments later, the door opened. Robert and the others turned to face the new arrival. Clad in the black-with-burgundy-red trim of a command officer, and with the expected three gold strips on the collar to denote Commander rank, the new arrival cut a prim and proper figure with her brown hair pulled back into a severe bun at the back of her head. She immediately stood at attention and giving a disciplined, "Reporting as ordered, Admiral," in a crisp English accent.

"Excellent. You're just in time to meet the rest of the team."

Robert looked back at Maran with surprise. "This is who we're working with?"

Maran nodded.

"Captain Dale." Commander Elizabeth King nodded her head respectfully. "Commander Meridina, Commander Jarod, Lieutenant Lucero. It's an honor to see you again."

Julia took a working lunch into the Lookout, where she spent more time with the "working" part than the "lunch" part. The normal views one could find from the windows were replaced by the drab gray interior of the drydock. Outside dock workers would already be zipping around in zero G to inspect the damage on the Aurora's hull. It would likely be a day or two of inspections before the dockmaster certified a comprehensive repair plan for her to sign off on, after which work would commence.

"Your stew is getting cold," a voice admonished.

Julia looked up from her digital reader. Hargert was standing beside her, a cup of coffee already in his hand and moving to replace her empty cup. "Oh, Hargert," she said.

"I wanted to give you my thanks for rescuing Mister Jarod," Hargert said. "I feared the worst."

"You're welcome," she replied.

She went back to her work, just to realize the elderly German man hadn't moved. "You are not well, Commander."

"My cut is healed," she replied. "I'm fine."

"I am not speaking of wounds to the body. I fear for the other wound."

"I'm not hurt, and I'm not mentally troubled if that's what you're implying," Julia insisted. "I wasn't here, but I had a reasonable excuse for it and it can't be held against me. I'm not responsible for what happened to the ship."

"Indeed not."

"I couldn't have done anything to stop it," Julia continued. "If I'd been here, nothing would have changed. We'd still have gotten our asses kicked and I'd still be here going over battle reports and reading about all the people we lost."

Hargert nodded in agreement.

Julia felt a sensation in her hand. She looked toward it and saw she was clenching the cup so tightly her hand was shifting color from the intensity. She forced herself to relax.

"When you are ready, Commander, please talk. With me, with your friends, with someone." Hargert gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder. "But we are here for you."

With that said, he walked away, leaving Julia to the feelings roiling inside of her.

Admiral Maran took the time to escort Robert and the others, including Commander King, to the twenty-fifth level of Tower 3, the tower that pointed toward the southeast. There they found a vacant planning room with secured control stations and datapads waiting. "Inform Commander Kanelis if you have any needs and yeomen will be sent to meet them," he said upon their entry. "I've arranged for the appropriate logs to be provided to you. The Intelligence Office is overseeing the interviews of possible suspects. Transcripts and recordings will also be provided."

"We'll get on this right away, sir," Robert pledged.

"I'll be back in two hours," Maran said. "Then you and Commander King are due at a Defense Committee session."

Something about that did not make Robert feel more comfortable. "That quickly?"

Maran nodded. "A delegation from the Senate will be attending as well. They voted this morning on the matter."

"I thought that the Defense Committee's Senators simply reported findings to the Senate?"

"Normally. But in this situation, the Senate decided to take more active steps. Members of the Senate Committees on External Affairs and Security are going to join. Not as voters, but as observers, and Defense Minister Hawthorne will give them limited questioning privileges." Maran was evidently not happy with the decision. He hid it as well as always, butt Robert could feel his aggravation with it. "I know you won't have anything to directly show them within two hours. Your presence is merely to establish that the task force has been set up."

"I understand," Robert answered. "I'll see you soon, sir."

He nodded and walked out.

"Translation: The Senate wants to do its own investigations," Jarod said. "And that only complicates things more."

"Indeed." King found a seat. "Especially when you consider that the compromised plans were shared with both Senate Committees."

The others looked toward her. Lucy crossed her arms. "Well, I guess you'd know something about spying, wouldn't you Commander?'

"Indeed, Lieutenant, I served as an intelligence analyst for a time before committing to the command track." King's reaction was nonplussed, as if she didn't care about the remark one way or the other. She had spent over a month the prior year spying on the Aurora crew on behalf of Admiral Davies.

Meridina sensed the subtle and unsubtle animosity toward King. The others were still clearly bitter about King's true purpose when she was assigned with the Sladen to the Aurora. "How is your ship, Commander?", Meridina asked.

King looked to her. Meridina could sense the sadness that came from within. "We survived the raid. Barely. Half of my crew is dead. I wouldn't be here right now if we hadn't blown our drives with a warp jump. The Sladen will be spending a month in drydock."

Hearing that, Robert looked to her and nodded. "You have my condolences, Commander."

"And you have mine, Captain, for the losses you sustained. Thankfully you and I are here to find out what caused them. Not all of our colleagues were so fortunate."

Robert could sense Lucy's severe discontent. Jarod wasn't happy either. But when he met Robert's eye, Robert could sense his feelings of acceptance on the matter. They were working with King and had a job to do, and that was that.

"We should get started," Robert said. "In case hard questions are asked."

"As I suspect they will be." King started to frown. "Some of this is irregular, most irregular. The Senate's rapid action implies…" She stopped.

Robert considered her thought and finished it. "It implies they were ready for this in some way. They had delegations from those committees picked and ready."

"It's possible that those committees have already been gunning for the Defense Committee and were ready for the opportunity," Jarod pointed out, already reading a digital pad.

"That is the most likely explanation. Even in wartime, legislative politics can be nasty." King picked up another digital pad and looked it over. "The chambers of the Council fighting one another, and the committees of both fighting all sides, all for the control they feel they need to push their take on the war."

That didn't surprise Robert. Even in the days of the Facility, there had been occasional fights for influence between the governing council on Liberty and the Facility Council, over things such as authority over the transport ships or the mining colonies and stations. The larger the organization, the more possible centers of power that could come into conflict with each other.

But there was still something about it he didn't like. Something they were missing, hidden and ready to cause harm if it wasn't found.

And there was King's presence. And that meant everything they did, everything they said, would get reported to a man who wanted to take everything from them. Mistrust was already built into this team. Lucy's constant bewilderment and anger directed toward King was proof of that.

But if they had a spy working for the Nazis, or just looking to harm the Alliance, they had to find that spy. The war couldn't be won if a source from the top kept telling the Nazis what they had planned. Finding whether there was a spy or not and neutralizing that spy had to come before anything.

"Commander King."

She looked over at him. "Yes?"

"Whatever happened last year, whatever your thoughts about the Gersallians, we can't let that get in the way of this job. The Nazis are the enemy and we have to focus on that."

King nodded. "I concur, Captain."

Robert looked to the others. "That goes to all of us," he said. "We can't let any animosity toward Commander King or Admiral Davies get in the way. This is a threat to the Alliance and the war effort."

"Agreed," said Meridina.

Jarod nodded as well.

That left Lucy. She was looking at a pad partially, but her eyes came up and met them. Finally she nodded. "Agreed."

"Then let's get started on this." Robert took a seat and picked up a blank pad. "Give me what you find and Commander King and I will put it together to inform the committee."

Two hours later Robert and King walked together, and otherwise unescorted, into the Defense Committee chambers. The Committee met near the middle of the building, in a chamber of red and amber-colored wood-paneled surfaces. The Committee Members themselves sat in a semi-circle facing the middle table, where those giving evidence or testimony would sit, while behind this table were seats for observers or future participants. The room had not changed any since Robert had last been here, when he faced losing the Aurora. This time, however, he sat toward the rear of the room, and was grateful he wasn't the focus of this session.

Not yet, anyway.

As before, ahead of him was the seat where the Defense Minister sat. Gerald Hawthorne was a thin man with a hawkish nose and a conspiratorial look about him. How he had enough of a grip on his post that President Morgan couldn't dare fire him was something Robert wasn't sure.

Seated nearby were Admiral Maran and Admiral Davies, in their positions as Chairman of the Defense Staff and Vice Chief of Naval Operations. General Gulinev, representing the Army, was also present. The crusty old Russian had lost hair since Robert last saw him. The stresses of war planning were clear on his weathered expression.

A glare came his way. Councilman Pensley was not as thin as Hawthorne, and his hair still showed some dark brown color. He sat to one side of the semi-circle. Councilman Palas was nearby, wearing standard Gersallian-style robes, and the third Councilman was an African woman in a suit.

Opposite them were the three Senators of the committee. Sriroj of the Sol Systems Republic was one he recognized immediately. The Dorei Senator was new, a man with a pale purple complexion and blue eyes that wore his long light teal hair in an elaborate series of ringlets and braids. I will never taunt Angel about her hair again, Robert thought upon seeing that. The third Senator was an Alakin, with green and yellow plumage around the neck of what Robert was sure was a female Alakin. She was in a suit of pale yellow and green trim that struck Robert as more masculine looking, at least for what he thought of such things.

The final member of the Committee was the Intelligence Director, now General Hatcher.

Now Robert could see the further additions, though. Tables along the sides had been set up and a number of other figures were seated. Dorei, Alakin, Gersallians, Humans of various ethnic origins. They would be the Senators Maran mentioned, from the Senate External Affairs and Security Committees. Robert scanned them for faces he knew, most of which he only knew through those news reports he actually managed to watch.

Hawthorne, in his place, rapped his gavel. "I call this meeting of the Defense Committee to order. These are tough times for us all, so I thank you for your prompt response to the summons. And my greetings to the esteemed Senators joining us today from the External Affairs and Security Committees. This situation is one we must all get involved with solving." Hawthorne looked over everyone. "As you all know by now, our attempted rear area attack on the Reich became a fiasco. All indications is that the Reich lured us into an ambush. The Intelligence Office believes that they were made aware of our standing plans for a quick raid by a spy, or some other security leak. Regardless of whether this is true or not, we must investigate the situation thoroughly, and ensure that our war effort does not become derailed by poor leadership. Councilman Pensley?"

Pensley had glared toward Robert again, stood to show he wanted to speak. When Hawthorne's permission came and he spoke, briefly turning to address Hawthorne, it was with a voice not quite strong enough for the ferocity behind the words. "I would argue that the real question is if we should have a war effort at all, Minister. The German Reich was clearly provoked by a certain radical clique within the Alliance government and military." He looked back toward Robert. "A clique, I am sad to say, that has won the ear of the President, and which even today shows its strength by its presence before the Committee."

Robert said nothing. He knew he had no standing to speak as it was, not being officially called as a witness yet.

It was Senator Sriroj who responded to Pensley. "The good Councilman's known hostility toward some of the leading lights of our Alliance are well known to all of us," the Thai woman said, some acid in her accented tone. "The fact that he persists in this ridiculous course of appeasement of one of the most vile regimes in the history of Human civilizations is ludicrous in itself."

"The Senator ignores the fact that the Reich was clearly provoked by an incursion of their territory and the destruction of its ships by Alliance vessels," Pensley shot back. "And while I will not ignore the crimes of the Reich, the deaths caused during their invasion of our colonies in S4W8 can be laid at the feet of the radicals responsible for provoking a war we were not ready to fight."

"And so you would have us make peace with the fascist butchers?!", Gulinev demanded. "The same fascist butchers who have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Alliance citizens?![/i]"

"They no longer pose a threat to us," Pensley replied. "Their fleets have been driven back. We have liberated many worlds from them and the Darglan Facility of their universe has been destroyed. We've already broken the foundation of their empire. All we have to do is make peace and let their warped little system crash down around their ears. We don't need to lose more to finish off an enemy that time will beat. The only reason we're doing it now is because of small-mindedness being led about by crazed political radicalism."

"You make presumptions about the sustainability of the Reich that are unproven," Palas stated, rising to his feet. "And I do not believe this is rel…"

"And this, right here, is what I speak of!", Pensley thundered. "The Gersallians and their need to judge everyone else and throw their weight around! Clearly I'm not the only one who's seen it! They've amassed undue control over…"

"Councilmen, you are out of order!", Hawthorne cried, slamming his gavel. "Both of you are to be seated at once!"

Palas nodded in deference and did so.

Pensley did not at first. He glared at Hawthorne, who glared back, until finally the man sat with an audible thump.

"The purpose of this meeting is not to discuss peace feelers. It is to examine the issue we are faced with on a possible security breach," Hawthorne declared. His eyes scanned the room until they locked onto Robert. "Captain Dale, Commander King, I am informed that Admiral Maran has placed you in charge of the investigation. Please share with the Committee what you have learned so far."

Robert and King stood and took the central table. King nodded to Robert, signaling he would be the one speaking for them, so he brought up his digital reader. "Honored Members of the Committee, Honored Senators, we have looked over the preliminary information from the Intelligence Office." Robert drew in a breath. "It appears that at some point around five weeks ago, several anomalous access requests were logged into the Main Defense Planning Database. The database in question, for those who aren't aware, is where the secured operational plans drawn up by Defense Command planners are kept for review and alteration. Among the plans was the list of potential targets for the recent operation, or rather the list for the types of targets the raid in question was meant to eliminate."

"You say anomalous access requests, Captain." Councilman Zoral, of the Sirian League, leaned forward. His sandy brown hair was combed back and the middle-aged man kept a business expression on his face. "Can you explain what precisely you mean?"

"The system is designed to log all access requests by access point and personal code. Nobody is supposed to be able to look at this data anonymously," Robert explained. "These access requests had no such information. No access point was logged. No personal code. In short, we can't tell who accessed the data, or even if they managed to. All we know for sure is that someone tried without their location or identity being logged."

"Wouldn't a failure to put in a proper access code lead to an alarm?", the Alakin Senator asked.

"It logs the failure and alerts Defense Command security to the access attempt, yes. But we have no matching failures logged. In fact, throughout the year we only have five failures logged at all, and those have all been identified as user error by personnel with access authority." Robert looked over the notes that Jarod had compiled for him again. "The best explanation is that someone found a way to tap into the database without using a known access point. Someone physically tapped the computer cores themselves."

"That sounds dubious," Davies said. "Those cores are kept under the highest security regime. There are multiple access restrictions that have to be bypassed just to get to them."

"I understand that sir," Robert said. "But that is our best explanation for the moment. We'll investigate the possibility immediately."

Maran leaned forward. "Then the question is, if someone did get our planning data, how did they deliver it to the Reich? We have no standing channels with them, and no state we know of has regular diplomatic communications that could be used for that form of covert communication."

"They may be using long-range subspace radio keyed to specific high frequencies," Robert replied. "Or they're using another form of communication we haven't consdiered yet. We're going to look into this as well."

"Commander King, do you concur with Captain Dale's testimony to this Committee?", Hawthorne asked.

"I do, sir," King said. "Captain Dale and I have examined the evidence and come to these conclusions jointly."

"Then I leave this investigation in your hands…"

Pensley jumped to his feet. "I lodge an official protest! Captain Dale is not qualified for this sort of investigation."

"He commands officers who are."

"Nor can he be trusted with the conclusions, not when he is responsible for this war in the first place!", Pensley insisted. "This will become a mere cover for him to further promote the radical agenda that has already brought us war!"

"Councilman, you are out of order," Hawthorne ruled, slamming his gavel. The defense minister turned his glared toward Robert. "Captain, the Committee concurs with Admiral Maran's decision to place you and Commander King in joint investigation of this affair. We expect immediate results. You are dismissed."

"Yes sir." Robert stood. King stood beside him and nodded as well. The two walked briskly to the exit door.

Once the Sergeant-at-Arms let them out into the receiving area, Robert looked to King. "So Pensley is leading the peace movement?"

"He is." King gave Robert a look. "Although that's hardly a secret, Captain."

"I spend so much time doing other things that I can't keep up with all of the politics around the Council, honestly."

"I see." King consulted her multidevice. "It is past 1500 local time now. I could use a lunch, can't you?"

"I didn't get to enjoy the officer's club the last time I was here," Robert said. "I hear they make a mean steak."

King smiled at that. "Captain, you have no idea."

The job of overseeing the repairs on the Aurora was divided in responsibility. As Chief Engineer, Scotty was responsible for the immediate portion of it. He was the one that would be working with the dockmaster on a repair schedule and providing the list on what was necessary.

But the administrative side of it was all on Julia. She had to liaise with the dockmaster, with the quartermaster for both the ship and the Fleet Base, and she had to sign off on the necessary crew scheduling changes that came with shipping out crewmembers to other medical facilities.

Looking over the latter was the hardest. The casualties the Aurora had taken were severe. Knowing she hadn't been here to fight by their side… that made it worse.

The door chime for her office sounded. "Come in," she called out.

Angel was the one who walked in. "Well, hello workaholic," she said. "You do know that we're in drydock, right?"

"I do. I have the paperwork to prove it."

"Isn't that mostly Scotty's paperwork?"

"I told him I'd process it for him," Julia said. "That way he can focus on getting our ship fixed."

"I don't think you saved him much time." Angel crossed her arms and leaned against the door. "So, I was thinking we could do something. When you're done and off-duty."

"I had a pretty tight martial arts fight yesterday, Angel, I don't need to worry about honing my skills right now."

"I'm not thinking of a bout this time. In your mood that would be begging for bruises." Angel smirked. "I was thinking you, me, maybe Cat and her new girlfriend, going down to Portland and doing something, I dunno, girly. Shopping or something."

Julia leveled an intrigued stare at Angel. "Angel, you have never been a girly type girl. Never. That includes shopping."

"Well, maybe it's something to try?"

"You mean it's…" Julia stopped and blinked. "Wait. Cat and who?"

"That purple-haired helmswoman, Ensign Arterria."

"And she and Cat are… together?"

Angel shrugged. "I dunno. They're playing some game on the holodecks. Well, they were, I'm not sure what they're doing now. But I know Cat's interested in her and would love to go visit the city with her."

"Well, I'm sure you'll all have fun," Julia said. "But I've got reports to file and repairs to check on and…"

"Yes, because that's going to make up for us not being here for the attack," Angel remarked.

Julia stopped. She looked up and glared at Angel.

"I'm not dumb. I wish I'd been here too," Angel said. "But we didn't know this would happen, did we? And Jarod needed us."

"So did the others," Julia said, her voice harsh. "Our ship went into a dangerous, important operation without three of its senior officers, including its Executive Officer. That is, me."

"We couldn't have known that would happen!"

"We shouldn't have had to think about it! We should have stayed in communication and…"

Angel stepped forward from the door and slammed a palm on the desk. "And where would Jarod be if we'd done that, huh?!"

The retort brought silence to the room. "I know," Julia murmured. "But it doesn't change the fact that we weren't here when they needed us."

"I know. But we can't do anything about that right now." A grunt of frustration came from Angel. She turned to the door. "I get it, though. No to the trip. Alright."

"Maybe later," Julia said. "Once we've got the repairs going."

"Yeah, maybe," Angel said, frowning. She went through the opened door and out into the hall beyond.

In Tower 3, Jarod and Lucy were looking over the designs of the secured computer core for the Defense Planning Database. Meridina observed quietly. By her estimation, unless a swevyra'se or a disciplined swevyra'kse was responsible, the task of surreptitiously adding a device to tap the core's data seemed impossible. The security measures were simply too complex.

Meridina quietly checked the time on her multidevice. Seeing what time it was, she stepped away from the table and tapped her device. It only took a couple moments to open a channel to the Aurora, where the results of her search awaited her.

The search for the hilt was incomplete. Some of the symbols were simply unidentifiable. The others, however, seemed to be from a pre-Swenya dialect. And not just any, but the dialect of the Kuneli and their neighbors. The dialect and language were considered dead and forgotten by Gersallian authorities, swept away by the Rising of Kohbal after Swenya's death.

As for Dralan Olati… that was the most surprising. The profile was from the Olati clan-family public database. Dralan was the second son of the Mastesh of the Olati's third daughter. That meant he was not of a particularly high ranking within the family. And the image was fairly accurate to what she remembered.

But the complication was that the system claimed he was dead.

Meridina murmured, 'how?" and continued her search. She looked back in time to see Jarod and Lucy staring at her somewhat. "Sorry," she said. "Simply an investigation I have started relating to Jarod's abduction."

"You mean that Gersallian with the yellow eyes?", Jarod asked.

"Yes," Meridina replied. "I killed him during our fight. I am investigating where he came from. I have… questions, you might say."

"Yeah." Jarod rubbed at his throat. "I bet."

"It must be hard," Lucy remarked. "I mean, he had a lakesh too, right?"

"He did."

"And only the Order knows how to make them. So he was one of yours."

Meridina looked back to the image. "That is what I thought as well," she said. "But the records don't show that. By the records he was never involved with the Order."

"Huh." Lucy's brow furrowed. "That's kind of disturbing, isn't it?"

"Tremendously," Meridina said. Because if Dralan hadn't been in the Order, that meant terrible questions had to be considered.

Where did he get his training? And where or how did he get his lakesh?

"A mystery for later," she said, turning. "We should focus on the security of the Alliance first. Have you found anything?"

"Nothing yet, we're still looking everything over," Lucy said.

"Hrm." Meridina approached them again. "Well, allow me to continue with you, then. Perhaps there is something to find."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-29 02:40pm

The officer's club was essentially a bar with a large eating area. Alcoholic drinks from across the Multiverse were present, although Robert asked for a soda. King, however, called for a brandy. "I wouldn't see you for the kind to drink while we're on duty," Robert said to King as she took a drink of the amber liquid.

"There are such things as detoxicants, Captain," King reminded him. "But I've found there is truth to an argument of Winston Churchill, that one drink is good for bolstering the senses."

"Wasn't that 'courage'?"

"Perhaps." King smiled thinly. "You are rather closer to Sir Winston chronologically than I am. Or rather to the versions of him from our respective histories." King took another sip and took on an introspective look. "I've always wondered what it'd be like to meet the man. If we could find a world where he still lived."

"If we did, it'd be illegal unfortunately," Robert said. "The Alliance Contact Limitations would keep us from contacting anyone on that world, short of an accident."

"I know." King took another drink, and Robert did the same. As he pondered his soda, she went on. "Of course, one could question the morality of that statute. Imagine the good we could do if we were to encounter an Earth in the 1930s, or 1940s. With our technology, the fascist powers would be crushed in days of paltry effort. All of those millions of lives saved."

Robert set his hands on the table. "I find it interesting to hear you say that, Commander. I used to be in that business before the Alliance. And I've learned it's not always so cut and dried."

"No, I suppose not. But then again, you didn't have the benefit of the training and organization you do now."

"Does Admiral Davies share these thoughts?", Robert inquired, feeling curious.

"I rather doubt it. I'm not even sure I do." King shook her head. "I believe in the chain of command and in the order of law, not your cowboy Yank heroics."

That elicited a chuckle from Robert. "Cowboy? That's a new one. I usually get called a White Knight first."

"Perhaps. But the point remains." King took another drink and swallowed it. "But then I think of the Nazis, those bloody bastards, and I think of worlds where their ilk still thrive, and I begin to wonder if it isn't worth it to ride in and crush them before they hurt anyone else." King looked into her glass, deep in thought. "If my ship were on patrol near such an Earth, and I picked up the radio signals from a place like Auschwitz, or the calls for help during the Warsaw Uprising or the Rape of Nanking…"

"I understand," Robert said. "I mean, I understand where you're coming from."

"I imagine you do." King set the glass down. "Of course, that's where the Honourable Councilman from the Tetzelian Republic would give you the dirty look like before."

"Pensley." Robert nodded. "I'm not too familiar with L4R2, actually. Ba handled our negotiations with the Tetzelians and other governments."

"I don't think they ever liked you, honestly. They blame your kind of politics for the destruction of Earth's biosphere in their history."

"So that's three universes with a trashed Earth," Robert said.

"That is true." King sighed. "Most people know bloody well what peace with Nazis means. That it's just a breather before the next round. The Tetzelians, though, they don't see that. To them history started with the evacuation of Earth, so they don't worry about Nazis the same way we would." King shook her head. "They joined the Alliance for economic benefits."

"And now we're in a war."

"Yes. A war that you have been blamed for. I would suggest that you avoid any vacations to Tetzel any time soon, Captain."

Robert nodded and grinned. "Is that the famous British understatement I've heard so much about?"

"Well, we must all keep up appearances."

A moment later a civilian waiter came in, bearing plates that had made-to-order ribeye steaks fresh from the kitchen grills. Potatoes and carrots were on King's plate. Robert had rice and green beans with his steak.

"Now we eat," King said. "And then we find out how much your super-savant and your mind-readers have discovered since we left them."

Before they left, Robert - feeling guilty - secured three plates to go for Jarod, Lucy, and Meridina. King waited patiently for him to get the boxed meals before walking back to Tower 3.

When they arrived, the three were all looking over materials. "I've brought dinner," Robert said. "Straight from the officer's club."

"You're a lifesaver," Jarod sighed. He took the offered box. Inside was a steak, sides, and utensils all prepared. "It's been a couple days since I had a proper meal."

"A couple of very tiring days, I imagine," Robert answered, offering Lucy her meal. He came to Meridina last. "It's a Gersallian meal. I was assured it was Maran's favorite."

Meridina nodded and opened the container. A slight smile came to her face. "Spiced rutapi with ganaral sauce. This is quite a handsome meal." She looked to Robert, still smiling. "Thank you for this, Captain."

"You're welcome."

King took a seat. "Do we have anything new?"

"The only method we can think of for gaining physical access is if someone has abilities," Jarod said. "As in the ones that the Gersallians call swevyra."

"Ah." King looked thoughtful at that. "I see. Do you concur, Commander?"

"Yes. It was my suggestion." Meridina gestured to the layout of the core and its protected approach. "A swevyra'se or swevyra'kse could have implanted suggestions within the guards on duty. They would have the guards open all of the access doors. Once in the core room, access could have been tapped by any number of devices attached to the main control console."

"The console would be secured against that," King said.

"If they're smart, they had something along to put it into a test mode," Jarod said. "Like any technician would."

"How often do the cores get tested?", Robert asked.

Lucy checked the schedule. "Once every ten weeks. More often if it's been called for due to technical problems."

"Check the logs, see when the last test came," Robert said.

"I'm doing that now," Lucy replied. She examined a log. "Looks like the last test was around April 4th."

"That's definitely within our targeted time period. Now we need to know if the technician was behind it or if someone slipped in around that time to trick the guards."

"Let me check the logs," Jarod said. He began operating one of the workstations. "Isolating…"

A holographic 2D image appeared on the wall facing them. It depicted a woman in an Alliance Army duty BDU walking up to them. For a moment there was nothing between them. And then she started to wave a hand.

At that point, the video abruptly cut out.

"Jarod?", Robert asked.

"Someone deleted the visual data from the file," he said.

"At least here," King said. "Those files are backed up offsite automatically by way of a one-way data transmission. The saboteur may not have known this."

Jarod nodded. "I'm checking the backed up record now." He looked back to the screen.

It was the same image again, and played on from there. The woman waved her hand. The soldier led her through.

"He didn't check her ID," Lucy said.

"And they're not supposed to escort anyone," King added. "The doors between the checkpoints are meant to be unlocked by the technician."

They watched as the woman went through the following layers of security with the guard at her side. At the middle checkpoint, another hand wave seemed to placate the guards there. The same at the last checkpoint, after which the young woman entered the core room.

The core was a hexagon, at least sixty feet wide, which meant the image only showed a part of it around the central control console and the door to leave. While the guard remained, the woman went to work on the system. For some time she worked under the core's central control console, including removing the panels below it and working on the wires within.

"Computer, freeze frame," King barked. When the video stopped, she said, "Zoom in on the subject's right hand. Lower right quadrant, upper left."

The computer analyzed King's order and obeyed. The video zoomed in. Without an order it began to enhance the image. The technician was pulling an object out of her bag. It was small, with a clear section meant for splicing wiring together.

"I've never seen anything like it," Jarod said.

"I have."

All of the eyes in the room turned toward Meridina.

A sad look filled her blue eyes. She was struck with disbelief. "It is a device manufactured by the Interdependency Defense Forces," she said. "It is intended for making entry into secured computer systems."

"So you're saying that Gersallian military intelligence did this?", King asked.

"Unlikely," Meridina said. She shook her head and was clearly struggling with what she had just seen. "However, the Defense Forces work closely with the Order, and provide us with access to such devices for our own work."

"Meridina, think about what you're saying," Lucy said.

"I know precisely what I am saying," Meridina answered. Both Robert and Lucy could feel the growing emotional turmoil within her, the sheer disbelief that this had actually happened. "But there has been trouble on Gersal for months now. Anti-Alliance sentiment has created a faction called the Dissenters who oppose our participation in the Alliance. So it is possible that even one of my fellows has gotten mixed up in this."

Commander King observed Meridina make this admission. She nodded stiffly. "Well, that leaves our duty clear. We should report this to the Committee."

Robert sighed and nodded. "Agreed." He had no choice, and he knew that, but he also knew he was handing a loaded gun to Hawthorne and Davies. Whatever was going on here, there was no telling how far it would take their anti-Gersallian, or at least anti-Order of Swenya, agenda. "We'll send a message to the Committee and then go check to see if this device is still active."

"I shall call for the technical staff," King said, bringing her left arm up to look at her multidevice. "We'll need their support."

"Secure the work stations and our materials," Robert said. "Let's get to the core."

The Main Defense Planning Database was in Tower 4, facing to the southwest, located on the highest levels of the complex (lower levels held less-critical computer cores). The five officers had called up a transport car to speed them across the walkway spanning Towers 3 and 4. The blue-skinned Dorei Private driving the craft still looked intimidated as all hell by the five officers after they left him on the other end of the walking bridge. From there it was another ten floors up to the entrance to the Planning Database.

By the time they arrived, Defense Command Security had already answered King's summons. An Army Captain, an African woman with a slight build and reserved demeanor, was waiting for them at the first checkpoint. "Commander King. Captain Dale." Her voice sounded East African to Robert. He almost wanted to say one of the Somali accents, but he'd heard many during the Facility days and wasn't sure of them all. "I am Captain Joan Orombi, of the Security Detachment. I already have technicians inside investigating this device."

"So it is still there?", Meridina asked.

Orombi nodded. "Yes, Commander, it is."

"These devices have an identification code that is placed within the hardware, it cannot be removed without disabling the device," Meridina said. "If I get the number, I should be able to verify where the device came from."

"You already know its origins?", Orombi asked.


"We watched the video of the device being planted," Robert explained. "Meridina was able to identify it."

"Ah." Orombi could tell that there was more to it, but she went back to business. "Follow me."

They went to the first checkpoint, where they were waved in. "We still need to figure out how they erased the on-site security footage," Lucy said.

"We will investigate thoroughly, Lieutenant."

Robert nodded. "It should help us narrow down…"

He stopped as every fiber of his being sensed the impending threat. There were only seconds to react.

"Get down!", Meridina shouted. She jumped and pulled Orombi to the wall and down. Lucy got Jarod and pulled him to the other end and Robert did the same with Commander King, who shouted "What the devil!?..." in shock as he grabbed her by the arms and pulled her.

The entire tower seemed to quake beneath their feet. A thunderous roar sounded beyond them and a plume of flame erupted from the next set of checkpoint doors. Along the walls they were safe from immediate burning, but the blast wave caught them with enough strength to knock them all over.

For several seconds Robert thought he was going to black out. His head was spinning wildly and his body ached. He could faintly hear something over the roar that had overwhelmed his ears and left them ringing. Only as his vision cleared could he see Meridina looking at him, calling his name. Robert!, she shouted in his mind.

I'm alive. He checked on King. The blast had knocked her out cold for the moment, but he could feel the life within her, and there was no sense that she was wounded. So is King.

Jarod and I are fine, Lucy added mentally.

Orombi is as well.

With that confirmed, they all looked toward the direction of the core. Fire suppression systems were kicking in and the distant drizzling sound of flame-retardant foam being sprayed over the core's access area was audible.

Robert swallowed. "This has gone beyond spying," he said. "Someone with links to the Gersallian government just set off a bomb in Defense Command."

"Yes." King was frowning. "Clearly to prevent us from gaining access to their data hacking device." King gave him a somber look before looking to Meridina. "I'm sorry Commander. But the way things are going, we may very well be looking at the end of your species' membership in the Alliance."

Meridina reacted to that news mutely, and only Robert and Lucy could feel the raw frustration surging within her. Everything she'd fought and sacrificed for was at risking of falling apart before her very eyes.

Across the Columbia and along the west bank of the Willamette, the city of Portland shined like a jewel in the lengthening sunset. Holographic signs advertised and announced everything from products to news; in the streets and in pre-programmed aerial lanes vehicles moved, carrying people from work to home or from home to work or any other location.

In the old Northwest Quarter, one dwelling in particular had quite a number of residents. On all relevant records, the home had been rented by the Gersallian Interdependency's Interspecies Cultural Exchange Directorate. The neighbors had little to say of the occupants; they were friendly to neighbors, but seemed distant, which would have been strange indeed if the neighbors knew which organization that rented the house.

Inside there were a dozen Gersallians. A few had military backgrounds. All had been training for some time for what was to come, and all were dedicated to the cause of the Interdependency… or rather, the Interdependency as they saw it. A Gersallian Interdependency that was free and independent of the quarrelling, unbalanced Human societies it had mistakenly bound itself to.

Most of those in the home were in the basement. Sound-proofing and passive jamming fields ensured privacy for the training they underwent there. At some expense, a holographic chamber had been placed into the basement, so large that it nearly took up the entire floor. Reassembling it had been the work of a week for the occupants.

On the inside, they had completed another practice run using the information given. This one had ended like many of those in the recent couple of weeks; victory, with the armed men and women standing among the carnage and destruction of what had been a holographic recreation of the Alliance Senate chamber. The holographic visages of dead Senators and officials abounded everywhere.

One of the leaders pulled off his combat helmet. "The attack was a success. End simulation."

"Kalnat." Another of his men pulled off a helmet. "Should we not practice extraction?"

"Extraction will come in one of two ways, my friends." Kalnat looked at them in one sweep of his head. "We will either be capable of activating the transporters, or we will not. That is the truth of the matter. By the time we finish this work, there will be no escape if the transporters fail."

The second man nodded. So too did the others.

"We will make one more…"

Before Kalnat could finish, a door appeared in the nearby wall. A woman in a blue robe over light purple vest and dark blue leggings stepped in. She was shaved bald, and her blue eyes looked to Kalnat intensely. "Our time has come," she said.

Kalnat looked to her. "What has happened?"

"The device was found. Our source in the Senate says we can delay no longer." The bald woman looked over them all. "We must now show our devotion to our people. A Senate meeting will be called for tomorrow morning to discuss what has happened. That is when we will strike."

"If the device was found, then security will be…"

"Our source will deal with security," the woman said. "We will do the rest."

"Yes, we will. May Swenya and our ancestors forgive us for what we must do," Kalnat answered.

"Indeed." She turned and left.

The woman walked up to the ground floor, then to her small, spartanly-furnished second floor. Her computer systems turned on and she immediately accessed the communications links that had been so carefully established in the prior months.

Within minutes a face appeared on the screen, with a moderately-sized beard and a bald head like her own. "You caught me in a meeting," said Mastrash Goras, of the Order of Swenya. "What is it, Italarai?"

"Our listening device was found. The charge went off as planned, but our source says we must hurry. We launch the operation tomorrow."

"I see." Goras nodded stiffly. "Then I can only wish the best to you. You and the Dissenters carry the hopes of our future with you, Italarai. Know that, even if your conscious is troubled by your duty."

"I know," Italarai answered. She nodded. "Mi rake sa sweyvra iso, Mastrash. I could not have asked for a finer teacher."

"You have been a devoted and marvelous student, Italarai. I hope to see you again. Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

The tension in the Defense Committee was undeniable. Robert left it to King to give the report on their findings, including the offsite video backups. His ears were still ringing from the blast. But it wasn't just that which made him feel like he had to sit down.

The bomb had killed Orombi's team. The guards at the midway checkpoint had been critically injured. The damage to the core had been substantial as well and Tower 4 had been abandoned for the time being while experts analyzed the damage and made sure that the structure was sound.

And now he was presenting evidence that this had been done by one of their own. An investigation into whether the Nazis had expectations of the Alliance's raiding plans had led them straight to findings that could rip the Alliance apart.

"And you are certain of this?", asked Minister Hawthorne.

"We are, sir," King replied. "Captain Dale and I have signed off on the findings. While we cannot be sure what data was leaked due to the destruction of the spying device, it is clear that a major security breach could have easily leaked our plans to the Reich. The method by which this communication could have been made is still undetermined."

"And it was agents of the Gersallian Interdependency who committed this act?", Pensley asked.

"I object to that!" The male Dorei Senator - Hipathi - stood to his feet with his pale purple skin turning dark purple around his cheeks. "This is not proof that the Gersallian government has done anything!"

Pensley smirked with immense self-satisfaction. "I hear the voice of the Dorei Senator, but I hear the words of the Gersallians who are his puppet-masters."

Hipathi's face turned an even deeper purple. Before he could bark out a retort, Hawthorne's gavel rapped. "You are both out of order!", Hawthorne shouted. When both sat, still glaring at each other, Hawthorne returned his attention to King and Robert. "The device, you say that the video record shows it as a Gersallian one?"

"It does, sir," King said.

"How did you make this identification, Commander?", asked Councilman Palas. The Gersallian legislature's voice was hoarse. His expression was drawn and pale.

"Commander Meridina provided the identification, Honored Councilman." King turned to face him. "She stated that it is a device made by the Interdependency Defense Forces, and that it has been provided in the past to members of the Order of Swenya for use in the field."

Palas looked at Meridina. She seemed almost in her own world. Robert could feel the anguish and uncertainty she felt, and now horror that her own people might have caused the deaths of Alliance personnel.

Hawthorne and Davies exchanged intrigued looks. Robert kept himself from scowling.

"These are grave accusations," Sriroj said. The Thai woman's eyes went to the Defense Minister. "I would move that an investigation be ordered into the possible Gersallian involvement."

"Assuming this isn't some false flag." Zoral sat up in his chair and triggered his own recorder and microphone with the movement. "There are factions that would attempt such a thing to turn us against each other."

"And yet the investigators' own video proof shows that the saboteur used mental powers, just as the Order of Swenya does," Davies retorted. "All of this evidence is pointing in that direction."

"We both know that the Gersallian Order of Swenya is not the only source of such beings, Admiral," Zoral retorted. "The intruder could have been a Betazed. But you don't see me rushing to accuse the Federation, do you?"

"How would a Federation officer have gotten their hands on such sensitive Gersallian equipment, Councilman?" Pensley shook his head. "I know how much you Sirians love the Gersallians, but this is really too much. In time you'll be as beholden to them as the Dorei are. And before the honored Defense Minister calls us to order, I have my own proposal to add to the Honorable Senator Sriroj's." Pensley looked over the others, and especially at the Senators assembled from the External Affairs Committee. "I move that the Defense Committee formally endorse resuming the peace initiative with the Reich. It's clear we have to clean up our own house before we can even begin to consider a permanent arrangement in S4W8."

"I object!", General Gulinev snarled. "We cannot make peace with fascists!"

"It is not your place to object to a political consideration, General!", Pensley shot back.

"Order!" Hawthorne slammed his gavel. "There will be order in the Committee!" With swiftness the voices and shouts died down.

As the voices died down, the Sergeant-at-Arms approached Hawthorne and whispered into his ear. "Very well," he said. "Bring her in."

Robert and the others looked back to see the doors open to admit a new arrival. The Chinese woman in question was reserved in her attire, a full-sleeved gray suit and loose gray trousers with gold-colored embroidery on the sleeves and cuffs. Her dark hair was pulled back into an austere bun, the temples already graying, and her face was thin.

A very bad feeling came over him at seeing her.

"Senator Kiang," said Minister Hawthorne. "Thank you for joining us."

"Minister." Kiang nodded. "I have come to inform you that the Senate has voted to hold a full session in the morning on this situation."

Sriroj gave her peer a look of irritation. "I was not aware the Senate was voting on the subject."

"Nor were any others here," Kiang said. "But Senate President Akreet agreed to the session and held a virtual meeting of the majority of the Senators. The vote for a session was approved. And the Defense Committee has been requested to observe and participate as is deemed necessary."

"Very well." Sriroj was clearly unhappy.

"Then I take it the Senate is assuming control over the investigation?", Hawthorne asked.

"Oversight, yes. But I believe it acceptable for your team to continue their work," Kiang said. "Although some considerations may be necessary given the evidence. Among the legislation being proposed would be a ban on permitting members of certain 'orders' from serving in the Alliance services."

Robert could sense Lucy's surge of anger at that. He knew she could feel his. Within a second he was on his feet, looking at Kiang. "You're talking about banning Commander Meridina and her peers," he said.

"Captain, you have no place to join this conversation!", Hawthorne barked.

Robert bit down on his lip at that.

"I would be happy to help direct such legislation through the Council," said Pensley, who was almost purring with delight. "I have long waited for the Senate to realize the dangers facing the Alliance from the inside."

"Do not mistake our purpose," Kiang said. "We have many considerations for how to deal with the recent difficulties. The investigation into Gersallian responsibility for the security breach, and for this bombing, is just one element. That is why we wish the Defense Committee's presence."

Robert could feel the satisfaction oozing from Hawthorne and Davies. Maran's face remained a stone mask.

"Then, in light of this, I will adjourn the Committee for the evening. We will reconvene tomorrow morning. Before we adjourn, however…" Hawthorne looked back to Robert. The pleasure was eminent in his face. "It is clear, Captain Dale, that your services with this investigation are no longer necessary. Nor are they desired. You and your officers are hereby relieved from those duties and you are dismissed. Commander King, you may assign a new team as you like."

Maran frowned at Hawthorne. But he did nothing. Given the way things had gone, he could do nothing.

"We are all hereby adjourned." With a last rap of the gavel, the session ended and the Committee began to file out the nearby doors. With a gesture, Davies summoned Commander King. She took one last look at them before joining him through a side door.

"Robert, you can't let them do this," Lucy said. Beside her, Meridina looked and felt miserable. "This is the opening they've been waiting for!"

"There's not anything we can do," Jarod replied on Robert's behalf. "Maran's known for cooperation with the Order of Swenya, so this makes it impossible for him to act."

"So Meridina's going to be kicked out of the Stellar Navy over this?" Lucy shook her head. "That's ridiculous! And that device doesn't prove anything. There are other life force users out there, they could have swiped it!"

"It's not about what is true," Robert mumbled. "It's about what fits everyone's expectations." As he said that he looked to Kiang, who was exiting with other Senators from the two observing delegations. "And you heard Pensley. There are probably more like him. They have it out for the Gersallians. Maybe over last year, or maybe over other things. This gives them a chance to vent about it."

"There has to be something we can do," Lucy insisted. "Because look at them. Hawthorne and Davies are so paranoid about Meridina they don't care about anything else."

Robert considered that. "There's only one thing I can do." He stood up a the room finished clearing. "I'll meet you at the shuttle bay. If nothing comes of this we'll just have to get a flight back to the Aurora."

The others nodded in reply as they stood, even Meridina. They left together.

When they got to the shuttle bay, at the very top of the central building, Jarod went off to find a flight officer and a shuttle that would be available. Lucy and Meridina waited outside of the chamber. "Maybe it's what Zoral said." Lucy put a hand on Meridina's arm while she stared blankly at the window. Night was falling in Portland and the red and orange rays of sunset were coming over the hills to the west, on the opposite side of the Columbia River. It was a lovely sight, but it was also not the focus of Lucy's attention.

Lucy felt the fear and despair inside of her mentor and it made her heart sink. Those emotions would only make things worse for Meridina and her struggles with the darkness that Amaunet's possession had left her with.

"I wish it were true," Meridina said. "But a part of me… it is as if my swevyra itself can feel that it is true. That one of my own was responsible."

"Are you sure?"

"Quite." Meridina shook her head. "I… I can't understand it. Why would any of them do something like that? Even my father, even Goras, would not…"

"There might be another explanation. Maybe one of your Knights went rogue and fell to darkness? They could be working for the Nazis, or whoever is spying for them."

"If so, then they have done us a great harm, Lucy. Great harm indeed." Meridina shook her head. Tears had appeared in her eyes. "They are destroying everything that we have aspired to build. The future itself is at threat because of them, the victory of Light, everything I've sacrificed for…"

"The what?", Lucy asked. "What are you talking about?"

Meridina bowed her head. "There are some things I have not told you, Lucy, because it was not the right time. Perhaps, now, it shall never be."

Lucy's curiosity piqued. But she also trusted Meridina enough to let the curiosity pass. "It's up to you on how much you tell me. I would like to know."

"Perhaps… in time. When this is over."

"Now all we can do is hope Robert comes up with something."


Robert made a beeline toward Admiral Maran's office. But he did not stop there.

A couple of turns down further corridors brought him to his destination. Beside the door was the sign with the name of the office's occupant.

Admiral William Davies - Vice CNO

Robert keyed the door and opened. An older woman, of about forty with a Mediterranean complexion and dark hair, was sitting in the next room at one desk, her rank insignia that of a Captain, while a younger Caucasian woman in her early twenties with a yeoman's rating insignia on her collar was at the desk beside the door. Both looked up. "Sir?", the yeoman asked. "How can I help you?"

"I'm Captain Robert Dale and I need to speak to Admiral Davies," he said.

"He is currently occupied in a meeting," the yeoman replied. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait."

"No, yeoman, he will not," said the Captain. Her accent was Spanish, or maybe Portuguese. "I'm Captain Benedita Soveral, the Admiral's senior aide. And I can tell you that he is not interested in speaking with you."

"I need to talk with him about the investigation," Robert said.

"You have been removed from that investigation, Captain Dale." The way she spoke made it clear she didn't think he deserved the equal rank to her. "Commander King will share anything of interest. Now, the Admiral has had a very long day and isn't up to whatever complaint you wish to subject him to."

"I'll let him decide that."

"It's my job to decide," Captain Soveral declared. "And if you don't leave I will call…"

The door to the inner office opened. Commander King stepped out with Admiral Davies at the door behind her. Both looked at Robert. King nodded to him, gave him a polite, "Captain Dale", and went on out.

Davies and Robert exchanged looks. "I can give you a few minutes, Captain," he said, withdrawing into the office. Robert followed before the door closed.

Davies' office was more furnished than Maran. Old holopics and normal 2D print pictures adorned shelves. A large model of an Earth Confederacy dreadnought was prominent on one wall.

"Well, Captain, I don't have a lot of time with the Senate session coming in the morning." Davies took his chair behind his desk and looked to him. Even as he did, he was typing something onto his systems. Behind Davies and through the secured window Robert could make out the city lights of Portland in the distance, a lovely view if not for the circumstances before him. "What do you want?"

"Admiral, I'd like to continue being part of the investigation."

"That is not possible, Captain," Davies announced. "And given what Commander King's debriefing stated, you know why."

"She told us about what happened last year, yes. The Gersallians threatened to leave the Alliance if the Defense Committee removed us from the Aurora."

"And the Senate knows it, as does everyone on the Committee," Davies said. "They know you're not an unbiased observer in this, Captain. You have strong reason, very strong reason, to see the Gersallian involvement in this scandal hushed up."

"But that's not what I want," Robert insisted. "Whoever did the crime has to face punishment, regardless of their species."

"What you want, Captain, is irrelevant. You're off the investigation. As far as I'm concerned, you should be going back to that starship that you can't seem to keep out of the repair yards." Davies put his hands on the table. "If things play out the way they're going, hopefully that won't be happening again either."

Robert ignored the remark, even as he sensed what it entailed. He had another card to play. "You don't think it's suspicious that Senator Kiang is the one who's initiating this Senate meeting? That she's the one who just so happens to be ready to put this entire thing in the open?"

:"Suspicious? No, I'm damn grateful. She was working with the Gersallians last year. It seems it only took thousands of dead Alliance personnel to make her see that mistake."

"And you didn't read the report from DS9?", Robert asked. "We had Dominion sabotage completely shut down the station, and we never found out why. The summit had to be the target."

"Your own report said that Commander Kane secured the Senator."

"After several minutes of blackout, sir," Robert said. "That's more than enough time for a Changeling to act."

Davies met him eye to eye. "I see. So that's what you're going to argue. That Senator Kiang is doing this because it's not her, she's been replaced by a Changeling."

"I think we need to look into it," Robert said. "We still don't know how any defense plans could be sent to the Nazis."

"Commander King will undoubtedly turn up the cause," Davies said. "As for the failed summit, I have indeed read the report, and my conclusion is that the incident is far more easily explained by the presence of a centuries-old Asari serial killer being able to hack into the atrocious computer security of that decrepit old Cardassian station. Calling it a Dominion operation when we had no indication of Dominion involvement in the situation is foolish."

"Jarod's report on the virus used on DS9 says otherwise."

"Commander Jarod's report simply specified that the attack vectors were similar. Not that they were the same." Davies put his hands together on the desk. The gesture briefly dismissed his hardlight keyboard. "This seems to me to be nothing more than the desperate flailing of a partisan for the Gersallians and the Order of Swenya. Frankly, you should have followed your mentor's example, Captain, and kept you mouth shut, because there's nothing that you can do or say to cover up the fact that your Gersallian friends have been caught red-handed engaging in espionage against the Alliance military. And if I have my way, the Gersallians are going to outlaw that damn Order or be driven out of this Alliance. And if that costs us a third of our memberships, that's fine by me, because we'll be a better and safer organization without them."

Robert looked across the desk at Davies with near-incomprehension. He understood that Davies had suspicions of the Gersallians, but this was taking that even further. "Can't you see what you're doing, Admiral?", he asked. "All of this paranoia and suspicion is going to destroy the Alliance!"

"I'm well aware of what can or can't destroy this Alliance, Captain," Davies retorted. He started typing again. "And it seems to me that you've already picked your side on that matter with what you've become." Before Robert could ask what he meant, Davies smirked at him. "Oh, I know what you are, Captain. I read the report on Gamma Piratus. You've become one of them."

"If you mean I found out I've got these life force powers, yes," Robert said. "It let me save the lives of my colleagues and stop the Nazis from taking over the Facility."

"Oh, I'm sure it did," Davies said. There was a dangerous glistening in his dark blue eyes. "But that's the problem. Powers, things like that, are a threat to the liberties of the Alliance and its people. That blast tonight proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind. One saboteur, one, waltzed right through all of our security by mentally dominating our people. I shudder to think of what entire organizations of them can do. Because when you think about the number of people they can dominate and the power they can wield, and how many of them there are, you realize that nobody is safe from them. They could seize control of our government with ease. They've already done it with the Gersallians and the Dorei. And when you realize that, a good man comes to only one conclusion." Davies stood and leaned across his desk, drawing closer to Robert. "The Order of Swenya, and the Crimson Brotherhood and the Silver Moon and all of those other Dorei organizations, are grave and terrible threats to the citizenry of the Alliance. And I am going to neutralize those threats to preserve the sacred liberties of every member of this Alliance."

The sheer vitriol and disgust coming off of Davies was almost putrid. There was no disguising what was within him: fear, and with that and being driven by it, was hate. Hate for anyone who could wield power over him. Who could turn his mind against him. The sheer horror of that thought of violation had hardened Davies' opinions on the matter.

It was with frustration that Robert brought his hands up in a gesture of disbelief. "How can you be so close-minded… this is what the Nazis want! And the Dominion, and the Batarians, and all the other tyrants and dictatorships that stand to benefit from the Alliance collapsing! They want us at each other's throats!"

"The meta-powered beings of the Multiverse are greater threats to this Alliance than any of those forces you just mentioned," Davies retorted. "I want the Nazi Reich gone too, but not at the cost of my freedom of thought. If I had to choose, I'd gladly be supporting Pensley's peace broadcasts if it meant saving the Alliance from your friends.""

"People with these abilities aren't threats to you," Robert insisted. "It doesn't work that way!"

"So you say. But I have little reason to trust you." Davies was still oozing vitriol, and it was joined by intense satisfaction. He took his seat again and resumed typing. "Now, you've said your peace, Captain, and I have work to do. I suggest you return to your ship. Your part is done and you are dismissed."

Robert's first desire was to plead for time, to persuade Davies he was wrong. But there was no mistaking that oily, dark feeling he was getting from Davies. There would be no persuading him with talk. Davies was convinced of a threat, and now he had evidence that his suspicions were correct. And that was all there was to it. Dejected, Robert began to walk toward the door to leave.

One last thought came to him. He turned briefly. "Admiral, if you're so worried about people with life force powers being able to take over minds, why did you let me come in here alone?"

Davies looked up from his desk and smirked. "Captain Soveral has been monitoring us. I've been keeping in touch with her the whole time. At the first sign of you using your powers against me, she was going to fry your brains out with a microwave pulse rifle. Now, as I said, you are dismissed."

Robert blinked and opened the door. Captain Soveral was indeed standing on the other end. A black-painted rifle with an emitter at the firing end was in her arms. She smirked at him. "The yeomen has a weapon as well."

She did indeed. Also pointed at Robert.

"I've also alerted security to send a sweep our way. So I don't suggest you try anything, Captain, if you want to live." Soveral tilted her head to the door. "You may go."

Robert nodded. The paranoia and fear oozing from Soveral was just as bad as that from Davies. He almost got the sense that she wanted him to "try" something, just so she would have an excuse to shoot him.

He didn't give her the chance. He went for the door.

When he arrived at the shuttle bay, Robert found the others waiting. "How did it go?", Lucy asked.

"Davies thinks he's won," Robert sighed. "He's… poisoned by hate and fear about us. He thinks we're out to use our powers to dominate the minds of the government and rule the Alliance like.. I don't know, some clique of super-powered beings."

"He thinks we are like the Brotherhood of Kohbal," Meridina said. "Darkness does manifest as desire to rule and to dominate."

"Either way, he's enthusiastic about tomorrow. He's convinced that he's got the smoking gun he was looking for. And he doesn't care at all about the issue with Kiang."

"Is there anything more we can do?", Jarod asked.

"I… I don't know," Robert said. "Admiral Maran's helpless. Depending on how things go tomorrow, President Morgan might even be forced to re-assign him. And I'm not sure the President can do anything. Not with the bomb, I mean."

"Then it may be over," Meridina said quietly. "Maybe it has been for nothing…"

Lucy gave Meridina a worried look. "We should go back," she said. "We're all exhausted."

"I have a shuttle ready," Jarod said.

"And a pilot?"

"Oh, no pilot." Jarod smirked. "I gave some advice that was helpful and the assigned pilot signed off for the day. The flight control officer's agreed to let me pilot the shuttle back. I'll have a couple of the flight crew fly it back in the morning."

"Then let's go," Robert sighed. "After the day we've had, I just want to collapse in bed."

"It's that device, isn't it?", Lucy asked, as she approached Meridina's quarters alongside her mentor. "That's what's bothering you."

"It is more than the device," Meridina said. "I cannot get the feeling out of my being that everything is going wrong. Something is going to happen. And because of the darkness infesting Admiral Davies, we can do nothing about it."

Lucy had to admit she felt apprehensive too. Like something terrible was about to happen. But she couldn't place it, not exactly. "What do you think will happen?"

"Destruction. Death. Slaughter. And from it more." Meridina's blue eyes hazed with doubt. "But the darkness within me… I can't be sure if what I'm seeing will come to pass or if it is a reflection of what is inside. If I'm distorting my sight with the darkness within me."

"Maybe not, but we can't take that chance." Lucy frowned. "Let's get some sleep first? Then maybe in the morning we can figure something out."

The day had been a blur of paperwork and quick meeting for Julia. That had been a benefit, if only to keep her from facing the twisted up feelings inside.

But once she was trying to sleep, that benefit went away. She couldn't sleep. She tossed and turned in her bed while her mind continued to run the images in her head. The tactical reports that Robert and Locarno had filed, and Zack's, had made the progress of the battle clear. She kept thinking of the things she would have done had she been there, advising Robert, and how that might have changed the battle. Maybe they could have saved more ships… no, certainly they would have. Maybe even the Themistocles.

It seemed like she had finally settled into sleep.

Suddenly her multi-device went off. She sat up and opened her eyes. The drydock was gone, replaced by burning ships and energy weapons fire raining down on the ship. Her eyes widened and Julia sprinted off to the bridge, still in her nightgown. The cyan-toned garment was hardly fitting for duty, but she had to get to the bridge, she had to be there! They needed her!

She about jumped into the lift and shouted "Bridge!" It started lifting her up while the ship rocked beneath her. The journey kept going. Far longer than it should have. "Go faster!", she demanded. "Faster!"

"Unable to comply. Lift car already at maximum safe velocity."

A long growl of frustration answered it. "Get me there you stupid…!"

Finally, after even more time, the door opened. Julia rushed out onto the burning bridge as the vessel rocked around her. On the viewscreen a Nazi dreadnought was pumping super-disruptor blasts into the Aurora. "I'm here! What's happening?"

"You abandoned us."

The voice was Cat's. But off. Julia turned toward Sensors.

Cat's blackened corpse was laid against it. Her head lolled, lifeless, to the side. But the mouth still moved. "You abandoned us, Julia."

"Why?", another voice asked. Angela was sprawled out on the floor nearby, half of her body ablaze and her eyes staring dully upward. "Why weren't you here?"

Julia's breath quickened. She looked around in a panic. Barnes stared at her, a blackened corpse at Engineering. "You should've been here!", he accused.

"You left us to die," agreed the slumped corpse of Nicholas Locarno. He was in her chair.

"We needed you and you abandoned us." That was from Robert. Julia, trembling in disbelief and fear, rounded the side of the command area to go toward her seat and his. He was laid back in it, arms dangling to either side, a disruptor burn between his lifeless eyes.

Leo was on the ground nearby, a medical case in his hand opened and its contents strewn about. Even as he didn't look toward her, his mouth moved. "You weren't here."

"You weren't here!"

"Ye weren't at yer post!"

After the accusations from Zack and Scotty, Julia started to turn, trying to follow the voices, until she found herself in engineering. Not on the Aurora, but on the Koenig.

Karen Derbely, in hospital gown and wrapped in bandages, was standing beside the plasma coolant conduit. "Look at what happened to me," she said, her voice scratchy and strange. "Because you weren't here, because you weren't here!"

Behind Derbely the conduit splintered. Julia screamed as the coolant rushed like an ocean wave and washed over her, cooking her to…

Julia sat up, a scream still in her throat, and again was in the quiet darkness of her quarters. Once the scream stopped the only sound was the heaving of her breath. She looked out the window and saw nothing. She'd set her windows to tint mode.

It was a dream. It was all a dream.

The time said 0250. That made Julia groan as she slid out of bed. Her blue sleeping gown had a coat of sweat now. And her mind… her mind was in such agitation that she knew she wouldn't be falling asleep soon.

Her first act was to assume a ready stance and to begin the slow movements of a t'ai chi routine. If it worked she'd be able to get some sleep soon. All she had to do was let her mind calm down.

It didn't.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-29 02:40pm

The dreams came back for Robert that night. The broken, twisted remnants of a city stretched before him, shadowy figures dancing just out of range of the light, and beyond a single light pierced the sky. A loud noise, like a trumpet horn sounded through the Devil's synthesizer, rattled his bones.

And then there was a scream. He turned. Julia was strapped into a chair of some sort, with something braced around her head while her bare wrists were covered in straps, while SS men stood nearby at controls. Her face contorted into agony and she cried out. Fassbinder, the SS man killed at the Gamma Piratus Facility, was standing beside her smirking as he looked to Robert. He started to open his mouth.

But then he was gone. Robert stood in a room with men in SS uniforms strewn everywhere, already dead or unconscious. Winds whipped around him like he was standing near a tornado. He looked up and saw a young woman in a tattered vest and suit, both red with gold or yellow trim, standing on a raised dais. The winds whipped around her. When she opened her eyes, they glowed with pure energy. Robert raised his arms in self-defense…

....and then he was somewhere new. To his surprise, it was the Senate chamber of the Alliance. And it looked like a war zone, with work stations still sparking while the dead bodies of gunmen and Senators and others were strewn about. "This is all your fault!", screamed a voice. Robert turned and found Admiral Davies over the dead body of Commander King. "I'm going to destroy everything you cherish!", he vowed. "I will not let you win!"

And he could imagine it, in a flurry of horrible images, a host of Alliance fleets destroying one another accompanied by the Alliance flag being torn in half. When the destruction ended he looked up.

It was New Liberty that was burning. Beth and her wife were among the dead at his feet, and on the Government Building, a Nazi swastika fluttered triumphantly in the flame-swept winds consuming the Colony. A wolf howled in the background. And then he heard the door chime and…

….and Robert was awake, sitting up in bed, while the door chime went off in the main living area. He looked over and saw he was alone. Angela had gone to bed in her quarters when he hadn't returned. He took the time to pull on a pair of knee-length shorts before stumbling to the door and opening it.

Julia was standing in the doorway with reddened eyes. She'd pulled a baby blue bathrobe over the emerald nightgown she'd changed into. "Hey," she said. "Are you…?"

"Angel's not here," he replied. His eyes felt heavy, but after that dream he knew he'd be awake for a while. "Come in."

Julia stepped into his quarters. "Do you want to have a coffee?", she asked. "It looks like we're not getting any sleep."

"Let's give it half an hour, the last thing I need is for the caffeine to keep me up when I could fall asleep again." He went to his replicator. "You?"

"If you're not having any, I won't."

"Okay then. I'll get us some tea then." He looked back to his machine. "Brown tea, unsweetened, warm. Two mugs, standard servings." Light coalesced as the atoms were moved about, forming the requested containers and beverages. He picked them up and brought them over to the couch, where he handed one to Julia. He stepped beside her and sat to her right, at the edge of the couch. "So, here we are," he said.

"Looking like two insomniacs fresh out of bed," Julia added, smirking.

Robert looked down, as if just noticing he was shirtless. "Ah, yeah."

"At least it's an enjoyable view," Julia added in a teasing tone.

"Right." Robert sipped at the tea. It wouldn't wake him up like coffee. If anything, he hoped that it would soothe enough that he would go back to sleep. "So… bad dreams?"

"You've got those life force powers, that's cheating," Julia answered. She took another sip.

"Too true." Robert sighed. "And they're part of the problem. I take it you heard?"

"I did." Julia shook her head. "Someone's already let it slip that a Gersallian was behind it, and that it might be the Order."

"Davies. Preparing the way for his grand plan to crush the Orders or drive the Gersallians and Dorei out of the Alliance." Robert shook his head. "The man was ready to have me shot tonight over these powers."

"You're joking."

"I'm not." Robert sipped at his tea again. "And what about you? What caused your bad dream?"

Julia took a quiet sip first. "I… it's probably this… twistiness I feel inside."

"From not being there?"


Robert shook his head. "But you can't blame yourself…"

"I know, Rob." Julia's voice was laced with irritation. "I know that. Rationally. Nobody can blame me for not being there. You don't, Zack doesn't, Maran doesn't…"

"But you do."

"Yes." She nodded. "Yes, I do, and I shouldn't, but I Goddamned do." She put her left arm on her left thigh and used the hand to prop her head up, half covering her face in the process. "It's like there's this part of me that refuses to accept any reason for it. It's mad as hell I wasn't there and it's making me suffer for it."

"Sometimes our head and our heart aren't in the same place," Robert sighed. "I'm sorry that it's making you feel that way."

"Well, nothing you can do about my psyche." Julia moved her head to take another drink. "So is this it? I mean… is this thing going to blow up?"

"Senator Kiang called for a Senate session tomorrow. The Defense Committee will produce the relevant evidence." Robert shook his head. "Maran's helpless. Morgan can't do anything about it. Whoever did this, whether they're Gersallian or not, made a mess of things. We lost lives tonight."

"Right." Julia nodded, but her eyes were dark. "You think this will go that far?"

"I think the Alliance is about to fall apart." Robert's expression was dark. "And I think that it might be the Dominion's fault."

"Kiang." Julia nodded. "Kane did say he didn't get in to see her right away."

"Could be nothing."

"Or it could be that she was replaced by a Changeling."

"Right." Robert pondered that. "So, how do we convince anyone? After tomorrow it'll be too late. The news will go out what happened and the Gersallians' role in the Alliance will be destroyed."

"Except the evidence isn't one hundred percent," Julia noted. "So all of the people who like the Gersallians will see it as Hawthorne and Davies stretching the evidence to justify a bigoted agenda."

"And all the while, Pensley will be in the Council, pushing the anti-war agenda."

"As if the Nazis will make peace and keep it." Julia rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, but that's not stopping him. And he'll get Tetzel's Senator to agree with him, and they'll push to resume their peace proposal broadcasts to…"

After a moment, Julia looked at Robert, who stared dully ahead. "Robby?"

"Resume peace broadcasts," Robert murmured. "He said he wanted to resume them."


"Which means that they've already been made before," Robert said.

"Right." Julia shook her head. "But what…" She stopped. Her eyes widened.

"The broadcasts. That's how." Robert sat up and went over to his desk. "Computer, open priority channel, full encryption, authorization code Dale Juliet Zulu Romeo Three Five Six."

"Please specify recipient."

Robert leaned over it. Julia stepped up beside him. "Commander Elizabeth King."

"Locating specified recipient. Standby."

"Why King?", Julia asked.

"Because Maran can't do anything about it now, and Davies would literally take the Devil's word over mine right now."

"And King won't? She's his spy, remember?"

Robert shook his head. "True, but she puts her duty before her prejudices."

"Ah." Julia sighed. "Well, I'll leave you to it."

Robert stopped leaning over his desk and looked over to Julia. "Hey, Julie?" He put a hand on her arm as a gesture of support. "I know that this isn't something you just get over. All I can say is… I trust you. I trust you more than I trust myself, and if you're not here for a crisis, I'll always know it's for a good reason. I know you won't abandon us, okay?"

Julia responded with a faint smile. "Thanks," she said. "I'm hoping that helps."

"Me too." Robert looked back to his desk monitor.

A moment later King appeared. The background seemed to be that of an apartment bedroom. The call had roused her from bed, so King was in a conservatively-made night-robe. A bright, shiny pink robe, but a normal one still.

"I guess she doesn't sleep in her uniform," Julia mumbled to herself, so low even Robert barely made out what she said.

"Captain." King was clearly irritated, and just as clearly dedicated to hiding it. "I suppose you have a good reason for waking me at this ungodly hour?"

"Commander, Pensley talked about resuming peace broadcasts to the Reich," Robert said. "So there have already been broadcasts, right?"

"I believe so. I'll have to check the logs."

"I think that's how our plans were passed on to the enemy."

King frowned at that. "How? Those messages were vetted by the Intelligence Office and the Command Staff."

"Maybe not in the actual message. But someone, our spy for instance, may have been able to add the data if they got access. A subchannel or something. Something most people wouldn't see unless they knew what to look for."

King considered that. "It's possible. Although if true, the consequences are horrifying."

"What do you mean?"

"As I said, those messages were carefully vetted up to the moment of transmission. For any additional data to be included in the package would have required the highest accesses. I'm not even sure the technicians themselves could do it and not be noticed, only someone with access to the actual message and related data before its transmission."


King thought for a moment. "The Senators on the External Affairs Committee."

Robert frowned. "Kiang."

King's jaw clenched. "I'll make inquiries. Please meet me tomorrow morning in the Rose Garden. Go ahead and bring the others."

"We'll be there," Robert pledged. "Dale out."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-30 03:59pm

Italarai and Kalnat had roused everyone that morning for a final layout of the plan. One of their number, Seqen, was doing his part already by preparing their transportation. Infiltration would mean staying out of sight; the day was warm and it would be impossible to justify wearing the heavy clothing that might have obscured their weapons to the eyes of others. Instead they would carry them in packs and duffelbags, made so that they would look like tourists if spotted inside the Senate.

With one careful look Italarai noted their nervousness. She could feel their fear. That deep down, despite their devotion, they still did not want to die. She understood it, and indeed, she didn't feel bad about it either. To follow a cause to the final end was always difficult.

"We will not die if it can be avoided," she stated. "The Interdependency will need us in the coming days. Our attack may very well provoke war. But without it, our people will be conquered from within, and we will become nothing but puppets to the Humans and their Alliance."

The heads at the table nodded grimly.

The door opened. Seqen stepped in. "The truck is ready," he said.

"Then we leave immediately," Kalnat said. "For the people of Gersal."

"For the people of Gersal," the others echoed.

With the light of the sun and the growing warmth of the day, the Rose Garden looked particularly tranquil when they arrived to meet King. She was near a public meal replicator kiosk with a mostly-finished breakfast before her. "I was afraid you wouldn't arrive," she said as Robert sat down. Lucy, Meridina, and Jarod all brought up seats.

"We had a few difficulties getting the carpool at Command to let me use a vehicle," Robert said. "I had to go to General Gulinev's chief of staff to get them to cooperate."

"Yes, that would be Admiral Davies," she said. "He contacted me this morning with the suspicion you would try to intervene."

"He's taking this way too far."

"He is frightened of the powers you wield. I admit I'm not pleased with the prospect either." King sipped at her coffee. "The difference is, I know that you're not the kind of man to use them just to get your own way. And if you and Meridina were committed to covering up this incident, you wouldn't have identified the device in question so readily. Davies and his inner circle know you only as a brash radical assigned to a command above your station and with the power to compel them mentally."

"I don't think I could compel a cat to bat yarn with these powers, honestly. But that's not what we're here for."

"Indeed not." King frowned. "I've been up all night attempting to decipher the peace initiative broadcasts that were sent."

"You didn't find anything?"

"No. But that's not surprising, as my access has been restricted by Senate order. All I could access was a basic copy of the planned message and the raw data on the transmission itself, since it was sent through Stellar Navy channels." King held up one of the digital pads in front of her. "But I can't see what was actually sent."

"I would think Davies would back you in getting to review them."

"He can't on his authority. The President can, but without probable cause I can't go to him. The Senate would be in an uproar." King shook her head. "Hypothesis aside, we have no actual proof that the plans were transmitted inside of the peace offers. Without that proof, nobody will let us have the access we need."

"Maybe we don't need the actual transmission," Jarod said. "May I?"

King nodded and handed him the digital pad. "What are you going to do?"

"I'm examining the transmission data. How much raw data was used, for instance. A simple message, even as an official communication, wouldn't be above a certain size." Jarod examined the contents of the screen. Robert could only imagine the way that his mind was running, quickly analyzing what was before him in such a way that he was nearly putting himself into the shoes of the saboteur. "So I'm comparing the message that was planned to the volume of data that was actually sent." After a few more seconds Jarod smirked. "There you are," he murmured.

"Commander?" King looked at him intently.

"Each transmission is at least three percent larger than it should be with this message."

"What if someone made last minute alterations?", Lucy asked.

"Then they would be defying the Senate's explicit instructions," King answered. "What could be sent within that margin? The size of the message isn't that great, there's no way the plans could be mixed in."

"Not in one message." Jarod showed a pleased smirk. "But what if each specific transmission had a different piece? I mean, presumably the message was transmitted repeatedly over a few days, right?"


"Then maybe the system was set to transmit the data piece by piece with every individual transmission of the peace message," Jarod said. "The Nazis, by analyzing the message, realize it contains something extra, and after several transmissions our spy has introduced himself, or herself, and sent them the plans they took."

"A plausible explanation," King said. "I might be able to present this to the Senate."

Robert nodded. But he was already thinking of something else. "We need to be in the Senate."

King gave him a look. "I'm already putting my career at risk talking to you, Captain, I lack any authority to get you into the Senate. And why would you want to be there?"

"Because I think something's going to happen today," Robert said. "I don't have any physical evidence for this, just my instinct and my power. I think whoever was behind that spying device is going to strike again. And maybe at the Senate itself."

King pondered that. "You sound convinced, Captain. But should you be so certain of it?"

"I'm as certain of it as I was certain that I needed to go down to the Facility at Gamma Piratus," he replied.

For a moment King said nothing. She was weighing that thought in her head. "If you hadn't gone down, the SS would have taken control of the Facility."

Robert nodded but said nothing. The others remained quiet as well.

After another period of thought King sighed. "I'm going to get court-martialed for this, I suspect," she muttered. "But I think I can get you in." She checked her multidevice. "And we'd better hurry, the session will start soon."

"We won't be able to take weapons into the Senate," Robert noted.

"No, we won't." King frowned. "And we will be scanned for weapons before we go in."

"So we'll have to be unarmed?", Lucy asked. "What good will that do if there's an attack?"

"We will manage, Lieutenant."

King heard Meridina's words, but she was clearly suspicious of them. She said nothing, however. Robert got the feeling she knew what Meridina was getting at and didn't want to even think what she was thinking. "Alright, let's get going," she said. "I'll meet you at the aircar garage beside the Senate."

Only after King walked away did Robert give Meridina a leery look. "The lakesh won't show up on a scanner, will it?"

"No. We craft them to evade the sort of scanning that finds weapons."

"Right." Jarod sighed. "So we're going to smuggle two swords into the Senate Chamber. And to think I just got out of a cell."

"Hopefully we will not need them," Meridina said.

Robert frowned at the thought. This was the kind of thing that would further set off Davies' paranoia. But they needed to be ready to fight off anyone attacking the Senate, and that meant having at least something for self-defense. It was a risk he would need to take. "I don't want to keep Commander King waiting," he said. "Let's get going."

Long ago, the area had been a residential neighborhood joined by the railroads that connected Portland to the rest of North America. Eventually the area had torn away by the conflicts and social dislocations that the Earth of the Federated Stars had known in the time between the 21st and 27th Centuries, becoming open land.

Then the Alliance had been formed, and at the proposal of various authorities, the regions of the Northern half of Portland that had undergone this change had been handed over to the new United Alliance of Systems to be their capitol complex. The various government offices were to be housed in structures that, with 27th Century industrial technology, were ready within months of the announcement. The former Portland International Airport had been converted into a Spaceport for the increased off-planet traffic of the Alliance. Defense Command had, over the course of ten months, arisen in its place between the Columbia and Lake Vancouver.

Council Hall was another such structure. It was two buildings joined by a central covered courtyard area, the northern building belonging to the Alliance Council and the southern building belonging to the Alliance Senate. The flag of the Alliance flew over both structures, each designed with elegant square marble columns along the exterior and in the light shades that all of the contributing cultures agreed would work. To a Human eye there was something slightly off about the structure. The dome over the covered courtyard was carved in the Gersallian style, a polished and gleaming glass exterior with a smooth, pyramidal-shape at the top, while the layers beneath it contained eaves that gave it the appearance of a pagoda, but with strong upward slants at the ends of the eaves as favored by the Alakin. The Dorei had contributed the internal halls and how they were laid out, made to resemble the Legislative Hall of the Dorei Federation in the capital city of Darnis on Doreia. The marble exterior reflected Western architecture while the Eastern influences showed in the eave overhang. The smaller domes above each structure were done in the styles prominent in the Indian subcontinent, the internal courtyard was adorned on the inside and outside by Arabic art (the designers had even worked calligraphy, denoting Arabic phrases about the strength of alliance, into the art itself).

As with most bicameral systems, the lower house was truly representative (albeit at a rate of about twenty billion citizens per Council Representative) with a large chamber that would house up to seven hundred legislators if the time came, while the upper house held three members per Alliance member state. One Senator was elected democratically by the citizens of a member state, one elected by the national legislature, or equivalent body, of the state in question, and the final Senator appointed by the Head of State of the member state. These representative policies left the Alliance Council, currently, with three hundred and seventy Councilmembers and eighty-seven Senators, all to represent the roughly seven and a half trillion beings that resided in the Allied Systems.

And Robert knew that he was about to possibly decide the fates of those seven trillion something people. Their livelihoods, freedoms and liberties, their very lives, could be lost if this went bad.

This is when Julie would remind me that this is why we get paid the big bucks now, he mused as King led them through one of the non-public entrances to the Senate, located along the north side of the building. Not that we're millionaires…

They were met by security almost immediately. "They're with me," King said.

The Human guard who accepted her identification nodded in reply. He was Caucasian, with pale blond hair barely visible under his protective cap and dark brown eyes. When he spoke to say, "Please come forward for the security scan," it was with a Norwegian accent. Nearby his companion, a man with a dark complexion and features that Robert thought looked Indian, remained at the ready with his pulse pistol holstered.

Robert was scanned and cleared. Jarod came next. That left Meridina and Lucy. Robert forced his face to become a mask of non-emotion as they were scanned. It seemed for a moment like the man was taking an overlong interest in Lucy. He waved the scanner over her again, as if looking for something…

Lucy scowled. And Robert, for his part, felt guilty at the relief as he sensed what was in the Norwegian's head. It was a petty abuse of power, but he was doing the second scan just to have an excuse to look over Lucy again. He waved her through. Meridina didn't get quite the same scrutiny and went through as well. King led them down the hall.

Once they were out of earshot, Robert looked to King. "That guard should probably get talked to."

"Unfortunately, Captain, I have no standing for it," she answered. "Otherwise I would have already reported his conduct. Perhaps I'll have to go to Colonel Agarwal, she will be most interested I'm sure. But that is a matter for another time." King looked to her multidevice. "The session should be starting any moment. I will be called in shortly."

"Jarod and I can present the evidence with you and answer questions," Robert said. "It might be best of Lucy and Meridina remained outside the Chamber at first."

"Agreed." For a moment King was in thought. "I take it that Senator Kiang is at the top of the suspect list?"

"You read the report from DS9?"

"I did." King nodded. "I also find it more likely that the Asari was responsible. It doesn't pay to underestimate beings who have lived for so long, I think. But I won't dismiss your concern out of hand. 33LA has already proven the destruction a Changeling can cause and the extent to which it can hide from us. The prospect of the Chairwoman of the Senate External Affairs Committee being replaced by one…" King shook her head. "It is possible Admiral Davies has identified the wrong existential threat to our way of life."

"I don't blame him for being worried about mental powers," Robert said. "Honestly I'm scared of what they can do too."

"I've already been on the receiving end of them," Jarod added.

"We both were, I recall," King noted. "Venir was an eye-opener."

"Let's just hope Davies understands he's worried about the wrong threat, then," Robert sighed.

At that moment King's multidevice went off. She breathed in as if to steel herself. "I've been summoned," she said. "Let's go."

As they continued on, Robert contemplated the feelings he was sensing from her. King was afraid. Not of him or Meridina so much as she was her own "side" in this. Admiral Davies and Minister Hawthorne would, indeed, be furious at her for involving him again. She was putting a lifetime of work on the line for this. It was humbling to realize he'd won that much trust from her.

Robert also felt guilty. He'd been brusque with her when she left the Aurora with her ship. Indeed, his entire crew had been more than ready to see her go and to never see her again. Now he saw how unfair that was. He hadn't quite forgiven the spying, no, but as they marched on to the moment of decision before the Senate, he found he respected King more than he ever had before.

His thoughts were interrupted by a sense of uncertainty from Meridina. He looked back to her. "Are you okay?"

"I am," she said. "I thought I sensed something, that's all."

"It felt like a presence to me," Lucy said. "But maybe it was just my nervousness."

"Maybe, or maybe not."

They nodded at his remark. "We shall be prepared either way," Meridina pledged.

The Dissenters' cargo truck was moving toward the Council Hall loading entrance, along the eastern side of the building, when Italarai felt it. The presences were vibrant and active to the senses of her swevyra, three in total, although one was not so strong as to feel like a threat. Knowing that such presences meant those who were capable with their life energies, it meant a complication for Italarai in that they might sense her use of her powers. "There are swevyra'se present in the area. I will be sensed," she murmured to Kalnat.

"Then we go to the alternative," he murmured back. He went to the front of the cargo area and pulled open the slide to speak to Seqen. "Are we ready?"

"I'm pulling up now," Seqen said.

"Italarai cannot help us. It will have to be you."

He could hear the uncertainty in Seqen's voice when the reply came. "For Gersal."

The truck pulled up to the forcefield gate at the building exterior. A Human man, light-skinned with a bit of a tan, met them, wearing the green and black uniform of a Council Hall Security Officer. "ID and authorization," he said. "What's your purpose?"

"I am picking up items at the request of Senator Gilnatan." Seqen handed him the ID, provided by the Interspecies Cultural Exchange Directorate, and the authorization order provided by their Senate contact. He forced his nervousness down into his belly, knowing the slightest suspicion would force him to use lethal means. And out here, in broad daylight, anyone could spot them. The entire mission could fail at this moment.

When the guard handed him back both items, Seqen breathed a sigh of relief that a last moment constricting of his throat made into an apparent grunt of acceptance. The guard pressed a key and the forcefield disappeared. Seqen gently tapped the accelerator pedal and moved the truck into the gate. A ramp down led them into the basement level loading docks.

They were now on the clock. Their logged arrival wouldn't immediately engender suspicion - at least not if their source had been accurate - but given enough time, their failure to depart would be noticed. Transport vehicles weren't supposed to stay for long after all, and they still had to deal with the mandatory security inspection. And Italarai could not manipulate their minds now, so he would have to deal with them quietly.

The truck came to a stop near one of the loading areas. Seqen stepped out of his truck while, in the back, Kalran looked to his technician, Laras. The bearded, tan-skinned Gersallian was looking over a display. "I've used the codes provided to patch into the feed for Senate security," he said. "Our contact came through. The security grid in the Senate Chamber is stuck into a loop. As far as their minders are concerned, everything is reading fine."

Kalran nodded. As he did, he heard Seqen speaking with the inspectors. "Activate personal cloaks," he instructed. Everyone, within a second of one another, triggered the personal cloaks they were carrying on their belts. The cloaks only had a few minutes' worth of charge given their power demands - the superior Darglan-technology personal cloaks had not been available for use when the operation was planned - and this was to be their main use in the plan; get them into the Senate.

Once the inspectors opened the back, they reached for their scanners as they climbed in. Kalran waited patiently and quietly to see if they detected the hidden transporter pad under the sensor-absorbent material laid into the truck's rear bed. If they found it, then he would have to kill them here and now, and it made their escape even more complicated. Perhaps even impossible. But if they didn't…

After several tense moments, the two seemed satisfied by the results and left the back of the truck. Seqen thanked them. Behind Seqen, the others moved to the rear doors and quietly lowered themselves to the asphalt of the loading dock. "Swenya be with you," Seqen muttered, knowing Kalran and the others would hear. "Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

The strike team, with the batteries on their personal cloaks winding down, moved swiftly to the stairwell door. Their contact's authorization code let them into the stairwell and they ascended it, as rapidly as possible, as they bore down on their target.

They just had to get to the Senate Chamber undetected. Then surprise would be theirs.

The entrance King chose to enter was the southern one. They came through the door into a space between the raised seating area of the Senate. The carpet was emerald bordered by blue, and the wood paneling was done in one of the Dorei styles - Robert wasn't familiar with it - while ahead the overhead lights were made out as electric light chandeliers. Multiple desks were laid out and a Senator sat in each, although they only became visible as the party got to the end of the entrance way and to what proved to be the middle tier of the seating area. Above them were seats, and below them were more.

Down, in the "pit" at the middle of the Senate, space had been set aside for the Defense Committee to sit. The quarters for them were cramped, with little room between each seat due to the confined space of the pit area. At the south end of the pit was a podium, presumably for any guests to address the Senate if requested.

While the Senate was a circular chamber, the northern quarter of it was taken up by a series of raised platforms. The lowest platform had the Party Leaders. There were six recognizable political parties of Alliance-wide popularity, and from what Robert had learned of Senate practice, these six parties were recognized at this platform level by having their leaders in the Senate sit there. Given there were only 29 member states of the Alliance, Robert found it odd that there were that many political factions of that size. I guess I'm used to Republicans and Democrats being it, he used. Sometimes it was odd that there were still bits and pieces of his pre-Facility life that persisted in this age.

The second tier was for the President of the Senate, currently an Alakin Senator named Akreet, with green and yellow feathering around his head. The Sergeant-at-Arms had a place there as well, as did the Secretary of the Senate.

The uppermost tier was where President Morgan was sitting, flanked by a couple of his staff. None of the Cabinet were present today save Hawthorne.

Heads turned toward them as they approached the back of the middle tier. By the time they reached the lower tier and King was facing the Defense Committee, standing at attention beside the podium - she had openly avoided standing there - everyone in the Senate was looking their way. Robert glanced toward one of the lower tier seats to find that was where Senator Kiang was sitting. He still felt nothing quite out of the ordinary about her, but with all of the other emotions in the room - and they were starting to run high - he couldn't focus on her with any accuracy.

Robert could feel Davies' disbelief and anger. Hawthorne had clearer control of his emotions. He was more curious than anything. And Maran… Robert tried not to give even the slightest grin at the flicker of hope he felt within his mentor's being. Or at Zoral's clear amusement.

"If it pleases the Senate," Hawthorne began, "this is Commander Elizabeth King, tasked by the Defense Committee to look into the Gersallian attack and the security breach at Defense Command."

Akreet gave a tilt of his head, an Alakin head gesture indicating acceptance. "You may proceed." At that, King went to the podium facing northward. Robert and Jarod took up positions beside her.

"Commander." Hawthorne smiled, but it was brittle. "I see you have brought Captain Dale and Commander Jarod with you. I trust they are relevant to your report?"

"Yes," she said. "In keeping with your orders from last night, I requested they attend to my investigation as members of my team."

"This is outrageous conduct!", Pensley shouted. "Captain Dale and his officers were expressly removed from…"

From the Senate desks came a roar of indignation and a babble of voices in various languages and accents. "Order!", was the usual shout, along with a few "Sit down!"s and one "The Councilman has no leave to speak!"

"The Senate calls the Honored Councilman to order," Akreet declared. He smacked a gavel to his podium. "He may only speak when prompted by myself or the Defense Committee Chairman, as he is well aware."

Pensley's face was going purple by the end of the rebuke, but he obeyed.

"And what prompted you to make this decision despite the clear wishes of the Defense Committee, Commander?", Hawthorne asked. There was a dangerous tone to his voice.

"Captain Dale was kind enough to share his insights into the security breach investigation," King explained. "He proposed a method for our war plans to be transmitted to the Nazi Reich that I thought credible. Upon further investigation, I have determined that his proposal was not just credible, but accurate."

Hawthorne nodded his head once. "And that method would be?"

Commander King held up her digital pad. "The data was transmitted in installments within the peace initiative broadcasts the Senate sent to the Nazi German Reich at the end of March."

Several voices in the Senate broke out in a furor. Pensley's anger and disbelief overwhelmed Robert's feelings of the others. He stood and glared to Hawthorne, who nodded. "This is a travesty!", he shouted. "This is a fraud. Commander King, either by her own will or at the will of another, has aligned herself with the militant radicals who dragged us into the war in the first place! This is nothing more than an attempt to block all prospects of peace!"

"I'm afraid not, Councilman," King answered. "The evidence speaks for itself. The transmissions sent to the Reich contained at least three percent more data than the message approved by the Senate mandated. That is above the margins of a few simple edits."

Some Senators cried out in disbelief, others in anger. Pensley looked to one of their number, who was identified by the holographic nameplate as Kita Marswell, Senator of the Tetzelian Republic. The dark-haired woman stood. "I move that the Senate declare this line of questioning out of order. This claimed proof has no weight to it. A few percentage points of an error?"

"The Tetzelian Senator displays her ignorance on behalf of her dear Councilman Pensley," one accented voice proclaimed. It was a Human Senator in the middle tier, Senator Benjamin Hadley of the Procyon Association. "Those of us who understand subspace communications are well aware that the claimed percentage is peculiar. I move that the Senate President order the release of transmitted data. Then we can judge for ourselves."

Senator Kiang rose. "The Senator from Procyon has a point, but this is a matter for the External Affairs Committee. I move that we adjourn and allow the Committee to deliberate this evidence in the presence of the Defense Committee. After all…" Kiang eyed King and Robert together. "...only a Senator of the Committee could have changed the data between its approval and transmission."

If Kiang was a Changeling spy… Robert felt she was a damn good one.

Because if so, her words had a calculated effect. More and more Senators were shouting, furious or disbelieving or mortified at the idea that one of the ten Senators assigned to External Affairs could be a traitor.

As the turmoil reached its fifth second, Pensley was glaring hatred at Robert. "This is a conspiracy!", he screamed. He pointed his finger at them. "A conspiracy against peace and against the Alliance by radicals and their Gersallian masters!" Robert could hear the enraged man's screamed words, but he wondered if many others could given the Senate was devolving into a heated argument. The rapping of a gavel told him Akreet was trying to restore order. Given the disbelief and fury in the room, this clearly wouldn't come immediately.

"Oh no," he breathed, looking to Jarod.

Jarod looked back. "What?"

"This is what she wanted," he said back. "The Changeling wants this disorder."


"To delay the Senate. To keep it deliberating, and in turmoil," Robert said, even as Akreet's gavel pounding grew louder. Above him, President Morgan gazed at the disorder that had gripped the Alliance Senate with eyes full of shame. This was supposed to be the orderly body that debated with calm, but the tempers and emotions that the crisis had spurred was taking hold even here.

"Whatever's going to happen, it's going to happen at any…"

The gunfire erupted before Robert could finish his sentence.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » 2017-01-31 05:49pm

Meridina and Lucy remained outside of the Senate Chamber's southern entrance, listening intently as the shouting within grew. Lucy gave a glance toward Meridina and held back a sigh. Months ago, Meridina had been this figure of supreme, calm confidence in Lucy's life. Now she looked like a monster might jump from the corner at any moment. Much of the quiet confidence had given way to clear worry and doubt, and those were not qualities to people with their abilities.

Whatever she was suffering internally, however, Meridina was still quite skilled, and Lucy could feel her become more alert. Lucy, do you feel that?

Lucy focused for a moment. At first she felt nothing, at least nothing that stood out against the growing emotional agitation coming from the Senate chamber. But as the seconds passed she felt it. Nervousness, tension, but defiant intent mixed within.

And violent thinking. Someone was steeling themselves for imminent killing. Intentional, unrelenting, and brutal killing.

Lucy felt under her uniform jacket and to the space at her waist where her lakesh was hidden.

Meridina's body had tensed. She made no similar movement. But yet, within seconds she was moving. Her hand swept out and energy lashed out. A sharp impact sounded against the far wall. Another thump came from the floor.

Out of nothingness appeared a dark-clad man, Human-lookingg, with a weapon in his arms.

Lucy had her lakesh out and swinging just in time. Her blade moved at the commands of arms that Lucy was not really controlling. Her instinct, her bond with the universe, were guiding her blade to deflect the shots that came roaring out of nothingness. One shot deflected back into the unseen attacker caused a sudden explosion of sparks. A ripple in the air appeared and became another dark-clad figure, with a mean-looking automatic weapon in his hands.

Said figure still had the gun pointing toward Lucy, and indeed was still firing, but Lucy didn't have to hold back his fire for long. Meridina lunged to his side and swung her lakesh in a clean cut at his forearms. The slice lopped his hands and the lower third of his forearms off completely. Crimson blood spurted out and onto the normally-immaculate carpet. The man screamed in pain and shock at the damage.

Lucy looked to their fallen enemies. Both were just starting to stir. Her first thought was to disarm them before they could recover.

And then a sense of immediate danger filled her being. Lucy stopped and tried to focus on it. She felt her power instinctively move her body, turning her to the side.

A lakesh blade swung through the air she had just vacated. A single figure shimmered into view a moment later. Her attacker was a woman, bald, with haunting blue eyes focused entirely on Lucy. Some surprised briefly flickered in them when Lucy brought her lakesh up and nearly cut her along the cheek.

Italarai was stunned at what she saw. The Human had a lakesh. More importantly, she'd trained with it. Italarai wasn't just facing one possible threat now. She would have to eliminate this one too.

With a single movement of her hand, Italarai's power lashed out and slammed into Lucy. Lucy didn't get her defense up in time. The blast of pure energy struck like the blast wave of an explosive, hurtling Lucy through the doors and into the Senate Chamber.

A Senate Chamber in which the earlier shouts of anger were now those of fear and terror.

The gunfire had jolted the Senate's attention with swift and terrible efficiency. Senate President Akreet's calls to order halted as the sound echoed for a moment and stopped. "Sergeant-At-Arms," he said, "contact sec…"

The east and west doors exploded at almost the same moment. Since each door had two security officers watching it, this had the side benefit to the attackers of eliminating four of the security staff, leaving only the two at the south door, the Sergeant-At-Arms himself, and a security man among President Morgan's staffers.

As the explosions were still echoing in their ears, dark-clad figures came in with assault rifles. The lead one coming in from the east raised his weapon to spray the top tier with blue energy bolts. Morgan's people had already pulled him down into cover.

The lead shooter from the west opened up, as did the fellow behind him. The Sergeant-at-Arms was too slow to avoid being hit, taking shots to the right shoulder and arm that brought him down.

Further shots struck Akreet square in the chest. Robert was certain the Alakin was dead before he hit the ground.

King rounded the podium and dashed for the Defense Committee chair. The incoming shots soon moved down toward them. She plowed into Admiral Davies and dragged him to cover. Maran and Gulinev had already secured Minister Hawthorne. The other members of the Committee were taking cover.

So were many of the Senators. But cover wouldn't help those in the lower tier. More gunmen were pouring into the Senate from both east and west, and while fire continued to converge on the President's location and the Party Leaders, the other shooters were firing into the pit.

By this point Robert and Jarod were moving. Jarod moved into cover toward the southern door, the only one not breached, where the armed guards there were already moving up to try and shoot at the incoming shooters. But they only had sidearms available, not rifles. One of their number, a male Dorei, took a blast to the chest and fell down right beside Jarod, dead. Jarod picked up his gun and went back to the corner. When no suppressive fire came Jarod leaned out and lined up his pistol with one of the shooters coming in on the west side. His weapon barked, two shots in succession. One was slightly off and the other struck a shooter in the shoulder, knocking him back into cover.

Robert went into the pit as well. He could feel the attention of a couple of the shooters on him and jumped just as they fired where he was, sending shots that just missed him and hit a desk behind which one of the senators was cowering.

He put everything into the jump, just as Meridina taught him, and it cleared him straight to the second tier. He landed between Akreet and the Sergeant-at-Arms. He sensed nothing from them; they were dead, and there was nothing he could do about that. But he could still save the others.

A cry came from the Senate floor. He looked in time to see Senator Marswell struck again by a shot. She fell to the ground, clearly dead.

Looking to the west, Robert saw the man Jarod shot helped into cover by a compatriot. A third figure, a woman, was tracking him with her gun. He had only moments.

Robert extended a hand toward the Sergeant-at-Arms' fallen body. The pulse pistol he had been carrying zipped through the air and into Robert's hand. He swung it over, diving to the side as he did, and barely evaded the first burst of shots from the dark-suited woman's rifle. He let his instincts, directed by the power within him, take the aim and fire.

The shot nailed the attacker in the throat. She went wide-eyed and gagged as she fell over.

He hit the floor, on his side, and adjusted his gun and aim to the remaining uninjured gunman on the west side. Again he pulled the trigger, squeezing it several times.

Initially his shots were a little off, missing to either side. But as the gunman turned, Robert pulled the trigger one more time. This time, whether it was luck or his abilities finally synching like they should, he got the hit he was looking for, a shot right in the forehead. The figure slumped over beside his wounded friend, the back of his head smoking. "The west door is clear!", Robert shouted. "West is clear, get everyone out!"

The surviving security man beside Jarod heard Robert and shouted the same. "West door, evacuate now!" Jarod nodded in agreement.

As he turned to begin giving covering fire on the east side, the southern door exploded inward. Lucy landed on the ground beside him and rolled until she reached the steps leading down to the lower tier. She grunted and, with effort, picked herself up. There was no mistaking the gleam of the lakesh now in her hand.

She brought it up as a blur zipped past Jarod. Another woman - Italarai - swung her own lakesh toward Lucy's neck. The blow was parried. Lucy grunted and, in a move that was surprising enough the Gersallian never saw it coming, threw her head forward hard enough to smash her forehead into the nose and mouth of her attacker. An audible crunch came and blood gushed from the broken nose that resulted from the impact.

Jarod brought his pistol into place to shoot the woman from behind. Lucy noticed first and sent him a quick mental message, more of a sensation: No. He turned his attention to the gunmen along the eastern door to aid Robert and the last remaining Senate security guard.

Robert was staying behind cover. Bursts of energy flew over his head with enough frequency that he knew it would be impossible to leave cover and not get shot. Mentally he reached out for the others. Meridina?

I am occupied, was her return thought. There are three more attackers attempting to come in by the south entrance. For a moment their connection lapsed. Two now.

Jarod? Lucy?

Busy! That thought was definitely Lucy's, and Robert heard another clang and electric buzz as lakesh blades slammed together.

I'm helping to get the Senators out the west door, Jarod thought. And for the record, I hate telepathic communication.

Robert smirked at that. Be that as it may, I could use some cover fire. He reached out mentally for King and sensed her approaching. Commander King?

Get out of my head! was the sole reply, a powerful thought that actually made Robert's head hurt.

A burst of fire from overhead came from the other side of the room, forcing the other gunmen into cover before they could shoot at Robert again. He heard footsteps thumping on the floor and turned his head to see King rushing up to join him. She'd claimed a weapon from one of the fallen attackers to the west door. Upon closer examination Robert recognized it as a MP-10 Particle Rifle, a common enough model initially built in the Colonial Confederation of D3R1.

With King giving him cover fire, Robert rose over the desk of the dead Sergeant-at-Arms and squeezed off several shots. The gunmen on that door had taken cover at the nearest desks. One started to change cover, with King's weapon literally ripping the desk up, and Robert fired a shot that got the gunman in the leg. A cry echoed in the Senate chamber.

The other two gunmen were trying to shift between suppressing the opposition and shooting at the Senators as they fled. One wild shot did take a Senator in the arm, sending him down his knees. Jarod quickly bolted out of cover and grabbed that Senator, helping him up long enough for two others to grab their colleague and help him along. Over by the west door Senator Sriroj and Admiral Davies were directing the evacuation. Davies had retrieved a weapon from the other fallen gunmen along that side and occasionally squeezed off a shot toward the fighting.

The fight between Lucy and the swordswoman Italarai had moved toward the pit. Lucy was giving ground, using her lakesh defensively and buying time for Meridina to finish off the attackers outside the south doors so they could work together. And it was clear Italarai knew it. Robert felt her surprise and frustration at how well Lucy was fighting. "You've been trained as a swevyra'se," the woman said in a harsh tone. "How?"

"That's my little secret," Lucy retorted, catching another swipe of the blade.

It was at that moment she felt the risk. A shot not just coming for her, but going toward one of the Senators. Lucy backed away from Italarai and then jumped backward, opening the range with Italarai, and using the break from the attack to swing her lakesh to intercept the bolts that came toward her.

Bolts, it would later be said, that would have struck Senator Sriroj directly had they landed.

Indeed, said Senator noticed this and called out thanks, while above them the bolts flew upward and hit the electric chandelier. Sparks flew from blasted lights and rained down upon everyone.

Italarai charged toward Lucy as she moved to adjust. Robert could feel the future of that move with crystal, horrible clarity. Lucy's blade temporarily out of position, an awkward posture to stop the first blow, a fist or foot to knock it away, and then… Lucy would die.

So Robert, with King providing ample cover fire, turned and opened fire on Italarai as she got up to Lucy. Lucy did indeed make the awkward block, but Italarai couldn't take advantage of it. She felt Robert's shots coming and she twisted her blade to reflect them. One pulse deflected, then a second, and the third, deflected right toward the fleeing Senators…

…where it struck Senator Kiang square in the side of the head.

A number of people noticed it. They couldn't help it. And so it was with great shock that the pulse in question did not send her to the ground, dead. It did cause Kiang to stop and falter, yes, but it also caused the entire side of her head to briefly turn amber in color and began to lose shape.

Robert's horror turned to an almost satisfied realization. Kiang was indeed what he thought she was. "Changeling!", he shouted. "Everyone down!"

The shout, and other considerations, caused Senators near where "Kiang" had stumbled to fall back from her as she picked herself up from the ground. A bitter expression crossed the Changeling's face. Her entire body turned into amber and she flowed through the Senators toward the exit. Robert didn't care let the Changeling escape and moved his firearm over to engage her. But she was too fast and he couldn't risk shooting one of the fleeing Senators.

It was King who opened fire. WOM, WOM, WOM, one after the other, shots that nearly hit the Changeling each time and didn't hit a Senator. Robert wondered what she was doing. He almost asked until the feeling within him made him turn and face the other direction again. One of the last gunmen was trying to get a shot at their backs. He went for cover the moment Robert's gun started barking.

The Changeling continued toward the door, but not directly, not with King's shots forcing her to dodge and evade away from the door. Further shots descended around her from the pistol in Jarod's hands. The infiltrator was shapeless, nothing but a flowing mass of amber fluid that evaded their shots. She had been stymied in her immediate escape attempt, so she changed tactics and started moving to the middle platform where Robert and King were. As she rushed them, dodging and weaving around King's shots, the amber began to coalesce. A hiss filled the air as she became an alien serpent of some kind, like a boa constrictor with the agility of a rattlesnake. Crimson scales covered the head, turning into brown and yellow further down the form.

Robert felt the strike coming just in time. He jumped and knocked King over, causing the Changeling's strike to miss. Only after they were down did he realize that the Changeling had wanted him to do that, as she continued on toward the east door.

Ironically enough, it was one of the attacking gunmen who stopped her for the moment. Whether he knew what the Changeling was or not, he opened fire. Particle bolts filled the space in the Changeling's line of advance and forced her back for the moment.

King and Robert wheeled around and opened fire on her. Being fired on from three guns and two directions had pushed the Changeling's evasive abilities to their limits. Several shots grazed the serpentine Changeling. Amber appeared over its scaly body as the hits caused the Changeling to lose form. A couple of direct shots brought it down into a formless amber puddle.

With the common enemy disposed of, Robert and King had to take cover as the gunmen started shooting at them again. Robert heard one calling out in Gersallian and the fire on their position became relentless. The particle blasts were destroying the desks; they had to scramble down to the Secretary of the Senate's desk as those of the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Senate President became so battered they were no longer effective cover. The two gunmen shifted back toward the east door, firing as they went, and soon King and Robert would have no cover unless they fell back to the west side of the platform.

Lucy could sense their danger. She parried another blow from her attacker and twisted her lakesh around to catch the next. This gave her the position to force the wielder toward the Defense Committee table. With an instant to gather her focus, Lucy lashed out with her force powers. Raw, unseen energy sent her foe flying off into the abandoned desks of the middle tier. This gave her the opening to go the distance to the enemy gunmen as they retreated. They saw her coming and turned their particle rifles on her. Lucy's power guided her arms to block the incoming fire with her lakesh blade.

Robert and King slipped out of cover and brought their firearms to bear. Each sighted down on one of the gunmen and pulled their triggers. The pulse and particle fire caught their foes, as did one shot deflected by Lucy, and there was nothing the two gunmen could have done to save themselves at that point.

Italarai got back to her feet in time to see Kanral and the last of his fighters go down. The mission was a failure. This displeased her.

But displeasure could wait. She wasn't done yet. She had only moments with which to escape. Her hand went within her robe to the secret control there and her finger found the button to activate the beacon. She felt a surge of warning go through her as the device activated.

At that moment Meridina whirled into sight. Her lakesh slashed toward Italarai's, a disarming move she could never have stopped.

It never connected.

Italarai materialized in the transport truck down in the Council Hall loading dock. Seqen watched her materialize, and materialize alone. He frowned. "The mission failed?"

"It did," she said simply. "Our window is almost closed."

"Then we should…"

Seqen stood, and the moment he was on his feet Italarai's free arm made a pulling gesture. She yanked him toward her in a burst of her power… just as she brought her lakesh up toward his chest.

Betrayal and shock flashed over his expression as Seqen felt the blade go through his heart. "Why…?", he asked weakly.

"It is better this way," Italarai answered. Sensing he was already mere moments from death, she brought the beacon out and pressed a key along its side. This changed the system it was locked onto. With another press of the button, she was whisked away by a transporter.

She materialized on a space vessel in orbit of Earth. The small personal shuttle had no IU drive, but it did have a solid warp drive for its size, and best of all, a second set of hardwired ID codes that she could use. In just five seconds of transporting she was in the cockpit seat activating her warp drive. The small shuttle shot off toward Proxima Centauri, where a ship would be waiting for her in interstellar space.

Once she was secure, Italarai activated her backup comm line. She sent a single message to Mastrash Goras.

The operation failed to achieve optimal results. Suspect we were manipulated by Changeling from S5T3 Dominion. But it wasn't a total loss. The video from the Senate will make for interesting viewing and may provide opportunity for you.

After that, there was nothing to do but sit and wait for shuttle to arrive at its rendezvous.

The last of the attackers disappeared in a burst of white light a moment before Meridina would have knocked her blade away. She frowned and looked out at the Senate, and most importantly, at the dead bodies around the floor.

The carnage was not as bad as it might have been. Still… all of this death. And all done by her people. Her people! Shame and horror filled Meridina at the thought of it.

This.. this was supposed to be a time of greatness. A time of hope, prophesied by Swenya herself. This was not supposed to have happened.

"Meridina!", Lucy shouted. "A little help?!"

Meridina reacted immediately, jumping down to the main walkway between the middle and lower tier and running over to the east door entrance. Robert and Lucy had their arms up and hands out. Their power was flowing outward, binding the Changeling as she - or he, or it - writhed about on the floor. The amber fluid of the Changeling seemed to be trying to take shape. "We have to hold it," Robert gasped. "We have to keep it in place until security gets here with a container."

"I understand." Meridina raised her arms and added her power to her students'. Together the three held the Changeling in place.

King kept her commandeered assault rifle on the creature. Nearby Admiral Davies and Jarod walked up, weapons raised. "Security across the entire building is down," Davis said. "Someone scrambled all of the systems."

"Someone using Senatorial access codes, I bet," Robert said. He kept his focus on the Changeling while talking; even with Meridina and Lucy helping and doing most of the work in holding the thing down, he didn't want to risk it getting up.

"I doubt they'll be Kiang's," King said. "This entire incident has the feel of a false flag operation."

"Your meaning, Commander?", Davies asked.

"We were manipulated, sir," King said. "And so were the Gersallian radicals who launched this attack."

"We'll see if the evidence backs your theory, Commander," Davies responded harshly. He looked over at Robert and then Meridina and Lucy.

For a moment, real fear struck Robert. Davies had them dead to rights. He could kill them all with a single sweep of the rifle on automatic fire… No! Robert forced the thought down. Davies was paranoid, but he wasn't suicidal. Even he couldn't ignore a Changeling that had been masquerading as a Senator, and if he gunned them down nothing would hold the creature back. He'd read the reports from 33LA. The Changeling would kill him, King, and Jarod in seconds, and that was assuming Jarod didn't gun him down first.

While King and Davies kept the rifles taken from the killed radicals trained on the Changeling, Jarod was busy operating his multidevice. "I'm gaining access to the Council Hall security system," he said. "And I just got a message through to the Aurora. They're relaying my reports straight to Defense Command."

"Who did we lose?", Robert asked. "I saw Senator Akreet go down."

"Djalis, Rawlinson, Marswell…" King's voice was firm, but Robert could feel her own horror at what happened. "I counted at least eight dead Senators."

"Ten," Jarod corrected. "And Councilman Palas didn't make it."

"Dammit," Robert muttered. He looked to Davies, but his biting remark died in his throat. Now wasn't the time. And right now, all he wanted to do was collapse as soon as the Changeling was secured.

Mastrash Goras had called upon all of his discipline to force the surprise to come out when Mastrash Maklir's junior apprentice informed the Council of the news over the interuniversal networks. The attack on the Alliance Senate was on all of the major news sites and networks. Goras waited patiently for confirmation that there was little information as to the extent of it. How many Senators had died, how many got away, and most importantly, if any of Italarai's people had gotten out.

Karesl made it clear he wished to speak. Maklir nodded assent. "I move that the Council adjourn for now," Karesl said, his voice somber. "We must extend official condolences to the Alliance Senate for its losses on this tragic day, and offer the services of our Knights to find those guilty and bring them to Justice."

Ledosh nodded. "I second the motion."

"Let all vote as their swevyra requires," Maklir intoned. The old man registered his vote last, as he always did. It was a unanimous outcome. "Mastrash Ledosh, you will send the message."

"It shall be done at once."

The Council split up and went their separate ways. Karesl stepped up beside Goras. "A terrible tragedy." Karesl shook his head. He could sense Goras' intense thoughts. "Do you think it could be the Dissenters?"

"If so, they have gone too far," Goras insisted. "We should continue to monitor this. We may yet find the opening we need."

"If only it had not come with such bloodshed," Karesl sighed. He nodded to Goras and stepped into his office.

Goras went into his own office. He found Italarai's message waiting for him. Whatever did she mean?, he pondered. It would be hours before they could speak with any security. In the meantime, he would have to monitor communications.

Night was starting to fall when more video reports came. As Italarai reported, it was a failure.

It was only after seeing leaked videos of the fighting in the Senate that Goras realized what Italarai meant… as he watched Italarai duel with a Human woman with dark curly hair. Goras smiled at recognizing Lucilla Lucero, Meridina's student who had turned down the Order… and yet was here dueling with an Order lakesh in her hand.

Oh you foolish girl, he thought. I have you. You have overreached, and now you and your entire cause are mine to crush.

Ship's Log: 10 May 2642; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. The news of the attack on the Senate, and the outing of Senator Kiang as a Changeling infiltrator, have sent shockwaves across the Alliance. That the attack was instigated by Gersallian extremists, the anti-Alliance "Dissenters", has caused a lot of shouting and anger. If not for the unfortunate death of Palas and for Commander Meridina's prominent place in the defense of the Senate, it might have caused irreparable damage to the Gersallians' participation within the Alliance.

Thankfully, with the Changeling a captive and Kiang's systems exposed to scrutiny, Commander King is ready to issue a report to the Senate with Commander Jarod. Commander Meridina, Lieutenant Lucero, and myself have been asked to attend as well.

The damage to the Senate chamber hadn't been fixed. Eleven desks, mostly on the east side of the chamber, were vacant and covered by wreaths. The Council had sent their Sergeant-at-Arms, an Alakin female, to stand in the place of her fallen colleague. The various Senators looked on in quiet dignity, far from the state they had been in when violence had broken out, and all awaited for the new Senate President to call the session to order.

The prior day the Senators had made their vote, and now Senator Sriroj Thiang stood as Akreet's successor. The appointed Senator of the Sol System Republic was as stoic as Robert had usually seen her. Above and behind her, President Morgan was again in place. More of his Security Service guards were flanking him. And the Council Hall security forces had been tripled. There would be no chances taken.

Sriroj looked down at the pit, where the Defense Committee was together. They were short two members. The Council had yet to appoint a delegate to replace the slain Palas, and as Senate President Sriroj would no longer sit on the body, and again no delegate had been appointed yet to replace her. "Minister Hawthorne, the Senate is prepared to hear your findings."

Hawthorne nodded and looked across the table to the witness podium, where King stood with Robert, Jarod, Meridina, and Lucy flanking her. Up in the visitor's gallery the command crews of the Aurora and Koenig were in attendance. "If it pleases the Senate, Commander King has finished her preliminary investigation into this terrible attack." Hawthorne nodded to her. "Please, proceed."

"Yes sir." King looked to her datapad. "My investigation, with the help of the Planetary Criminal Investigation Bureau and the Portland Police Department, has determined that the attackers were Gersallian extremists known as Dissenters. They oppose Gersal's place in the Alliance." King looked up at Sriroj and Morgan. "It appears that they gained entry to the Senate using command codes that were officially assigned to Senator Yantanaran."

Heads started to turn to the tan-skinned Gersallian woman sitting in the upper tier. Her face was pale with disbelief.

"However, evidence recovered from the computers of the Changeling masquerading as Senator Kiang indicate these codes were duplicated." With that King defused the growing tension. "It appears that the Changeling was seeking to instigate a political crisis to split the Alliance over apparent Gersallian government terrorism."

"There is nothing 'apparent' about Gersallian terrorism!", thundered Pensley from his seat. "The wreaths we see here are proof of that." By the time he finished, cries of "Order!" were starting to drown him out.

"Sit down, you are out of order!", ruled Sriroj, and her glare told everyone she would not humor Pensley today. The irate Councilman obeyed.

"Was this Changeling also responsible for the leaking of our plans to the Nazi Reich?", asked Davies.

"It would appear so, sir, yes," King said. "By the Senate's decree, Commander Jarod and I examined the broadcasts sent to the Reich to offer peace. They did indeed have fragmented data parts that, when compiled, provided several of our war plans to the Reich. This includes the proposed raids on their supply lines."

"And the Gersallian involvement in the data theft from Defense Command?", asked Maran.

"Our records from the other day confirm a ninety-nine percent probability that the force-endowed Gersallian who escaped by transporter is the same woman who planted the data hacking device into Defense Command," King stated. "Communication logs indicate this woman and the Changeling had been in contact for at least a month beforehand."

"Do we know who she is?" The question was from Senator Hipathi.

"We do not yet, sir. We merely know she was trained in the arts of the Order of Swenya."

"A good thing we had two defenders with similar training," noted General Gulinev.

"Is there anything else you believe the Committee and the Senate should hear, Commander?", Hawthorne asked.

"Only that our initial concerns about the Gersallian Order of Swenya appear overstated," King answered. "I can't rule out rogue elements in their organization, of course, and I will continue my investigation into the attack with the Committee's blessing. But it is clear that a blanket condemnation of the organization is, at this time, premature. Furthermore, this unprecedented security breach indicates we may need to consider our own organization of such talented individuals to answer to the Alliance Government. It is my recommendation that the Senate and Council launch an investigation of this." King looked to her side before facing Hawthorne again. "I would also say that this tragedy would have been far, far worse if not for the conduct of Captain Dale and his officers. With the security and future of the Alliance at stake, Captain Dale and his people showed impeccable virtue. They acted with intelligence, decisiveness, and valor in support of my investigation. And I needn't point out their conduct during the attack." King nodded her head. "That is all, Minister."

"You may step down." Hawthorne nodded. "Do any on the Committee wish to issue a statement before we vote on Commander King's report?"

Pensley stood. "I will only say that I am mortified that the peace initiative was abused so callously by this outsider, and that I plead with the Committee and the Senate to not let this incident bias them against the possibility of peace."

Robert wouldn't let himself smirk. He was amused to see that General Gulinev had no such scruples, rolling his eyes at Pensley.

"Anyone else?"

Davies stood. "I have a statement," he said. As he did so, he eyed Robert and the others. "While Commander King's recommendation for an Alliance organization of… talented individuals has its merits, we must remember that such powers pose grave threats to the liberties our systems and nations cherish. The powers we have seen would allow these beings to crush us under a tyranny that we might never escape. I would move that aside from looking into our own organization to protect the Government from these threats, we also begin research into ways to suppress these abilities and to deal with those who abuse them. Such a precaution is manifestly necessary to our posterity. Otherwise we are risk from all sorts of organizations, be they the Order of Swenya or the Earth Alliance Psi Corps of E5B1. I ask the Committee and the Senate to please begin considering these measures while we still have time. That is all." Davies sat.

Admiral Maran didn't react to that. But he showed Robert and the others a grin even as he ignored Hawthorne's last request for statements. When none came, the minister turned and looked up to the Senate President. "Senator Sriroj, the Committee has finalized its report into these incidents, and we have nothing further to add."

"Thank you, Defense Minister." Sriroj looked down to the podium. "Commander King, Captain Dale, Commander Jarod, Commander Meridina, Lieutenant Lucero. Please, approach."

Robert wondered what was going on, but he said nothing while joining the others in walking around the pit, up the steps, and to where Sriroj was standing. "It is my position, and that of the Senate, that we have you to thank for our very lives. The citizens of the Alliance can rest easy knowing that they have such valiant defenders standing watch over them. Your courage and commitment saved many lives and thwarted an attack that might have torn the Alliance asunder, and your boldness in the face of an unexpected threat ended the grave risk that the Changeling infiltrator posed." Sriroj looked up to Morgan. "The Alliance President and Stellar Navy may yet reward you in any manner they deem fit, but here and now, the Senate of the United Alliance of Systems awards you the Senate Order of Merit."

The Sergeant-at-Arms stepped up and provided Sriroj with her first case. The medal was a metal disc of silver with the Alliance torch insignia set into the middle. Robert didn't move, didn't dare to, as it was pinned to his chest by the Senate President, who went on to do the same to the others.

As Sriroj did so, applause came from the Senate and from the Gallery. Robert peeked momentarily to see Julia, Angel, and the others clapping with proud grins. His heart felt lightened by it. Despite everything that had happened, the Alliance had been preserved, and the Changeling threat dealt with.

There would be battles in the future, of course, and he knew in his heart they would be vicious and dangerous and painful. But for the moment, that was still in the future, and here in the present, he could smile and enjoy the moment.


After the ceremony and an attendant dinner, the crews returned to the Aurora. It was clear even on the trip back up that Meridina was not in the festive mood, indeed, that she had been forcing cheer for the benefit of her comrades.

None felt that more acutely than Lucy and Robert. Robert gave Lucy a nod as they all left the shuttle bay, acknowledging her intent to check up on Meridina.

Meridina had been swift in heading to her quarters. By the time Lucy got there she was already inside. Lucy stood at the door and leaned against it. "I'm here if you need me," she said simply.

A moment later, the door opened.

Meridina was sitting alone, staring at the book Lucy had always seen her looking at. The book that contained Swenya's writings. "It wasn't supposed to be this way," Meridina sighed.

"What wasn't?"

"I am lost," Meridina murmured. "I have had such faith in this. Such faith that this was the hour, this the time, but now…"


She wasn't supposed to say these things. But Meridina didn't care at the moment. She'd alienated her father for this cause. She'd risked her position in the Order for it. She'd believed that the time had come, that this was the prophesied day that Swenya had promised millennia ago.

But the Alliance wasn't becoming the shield of Light. It was falling into the darkness of fear. Men like Hawthorne and Davies were poisoning it from within, the Dissenters had committed murder to alienate her people from the Alliance, and dark forces from without were constantly battering away at it, causing pain and suffering to increase.

Meridina got up and moved through her living area. Her mind was in turmoil.

Had her father been right? Had she, had Ledosh, been wrong?

Was it all for nothing?

The dark thoughts within her stirred. She felt the cold doubt, the biting fear that none of it had mattered, nothing she had done. That all of her dreams were going to die.

"Meridina, please, talk to me," Lucy urged. She took up a chair and sat beside her teacher. "Whoever these people were… I mean, there are always going to be people who are extremist, and who go too far. But we're not going to let them drive us apart. We've already stopped them once!"

"I thought you were the ones," Meridina murmured, as if nothing Lucy said had registered. "I thought this was the time." The Gersallian, sniffling, stumbled over and landed on the floor beside her couch.

"Meridina, it's not over." Lucy walked over to her and helped her onto the couch. "We'll figure this out."

"Lucy, I am so sorry." Meridina shook her head. "I thought I was making things better, that I was helping you find a potential, but… it was my own ego. I wanted you to be the ones…"

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"You're supposed to be them," Meridina continued. "You're supposed to be the Dawn Bearers! You're supposed to forge a shield of Light and bring us Hope and Victory! But that's not happening. Everything is going wrong, my people are going mad with fear and anger, and this darkness...it is clawing inside of me, all of the doubt and fear that I… I have never felt like this before! The Goa'uld is gone, the mark should be gone, I should have healed by now! But I haven't! The darkness inside of me is still there and I can't make it leave!" Meridina finished her tirade by breaking down into tears.

It was hard for Lucy to see Meridina like this. Amaunet had been bad enough, and she sensed the confrontation with the "swevyra'kse" while rescuing Jarod had been troublesome in its own right… but now it was like she had been stripped bare of all expectations, all hopes, by seeing her people engage in such pointless killing. Indeed, to see one of her own Order helping in that slaughter.

At this point in time, a despairing fear long buried under layers and layers of mental blocks, conditioning, and sheer willpower was surging through to the surface. Lucy could sense that in her. Meridina had truly become completely, deathly afraid that everything she had done had been for nothing, and everything she had believed had turned out wrong.

"Whatever you're talking about, the darkness isn't going to take you, I promise," Lucy insisted. "I'll help you. Robert will too. We all will. You're one of us, Meridina, you're a part of this family!"

Meridina gave Lucy a sad look. "But I will not be much longer. Everything is ruined now. My errors have seen to that. And I am so, so sorry I didn't tell you before, about what I knew, about what I felt."

Lucy blinked. She couldn't make out what Meridina was talking about. "Is it this 'Dawn Bearer' stuff you talked about? You can tell me, Meridina!"

Meridina shook her head. "It's too late. I can sense it."

"What? How is it too late? What is…"

Meridina stood suddenly, as if she sensed something. She sighed and nodded. "Of course," she murmured. "They know."

Wordlessly, Meridina began to strip her uniform off. Lucy watched in bewilderment as Meridina took a simple sleeveless linen robe of blue and white and pulled it on, covering her down to the ankle. She affixed her lakesh to the linen belt that held the robe in place and walked to the door. "You don't need to see this," Meridina said. "But… I would feel better if you came."

"Where are you going?", Lucy asked.

Meridina did not answer. And Lucy could tell she wouldn't.

But she still followed.

Robert had been about to pull his uniform off, much to the delight of a waiting and smiling Angel, when he received the alert from the bridge. "Sir, there's someone at the starboard airlock. Several people in fact. They're refusing to leave and are demanding to be let aboard." Lieutenant Pacetti sounded as professional as ever.

"Have they identified themselves?", Robert asked.

"No, but they say they must speak to you. And they have government clearances."

Angel was frowning at him over that, although he knew he wasn't the focus of said frown. "Let's find out what's going on," Robert said. Into his multidevice he said, "Tell them I'm on my way, Pacetti."

"Yes sir.."

Together they started the journey to the lift. When they got to it, Julia was already stepping in. "Pacetti called you too?", Robert asked.

"Yeah," she said. "He must think we'll both need to face this. I wonder who it is?"

"Knowing our usual luck?" Robert sighed. "Admiral Davies coming to give us a surprise inspection."

"But we're in repair dock undergoing heavy repairs…" Julia sighed and rolled her eyes. "So yeah, of course."

Once on Deck 10 they made their way to the starboard side of the primary hull. The airlock door was still secure when they got there. An Alakin female, Lieutenant Charrip, was present with a small security detachment. "The airlock officer summoned me, sir," she said. "Just in case."

Robert nodded and stepped up to the airlock door. At that point he knew who was on the other side. He couldn't help but feel the sheer power. "Bridge, ready the emergency airlock security protocol," he said into his multidevice. "If you see anyone force their way onboard, trigger it. Hell, if I don't give you the clearance signal and I start to let them aboard anyway, trigger it."

Pacetti showed no hesitation. He responded immediately with an, "Aye Captain."

Julia gave him a look. "That's a bit excessive."

"After the other day, I'm not taking chances," Robert answered as he opened the airlock door. He stepped into the airlock as the other end opened as well.

Seven figures stepped in. All were in red Gersallian robes, and all wore the same purple body armor Meridina favored. The lead among them was a bald man with tanned skin. He looked at Robert through alert eyes and, Robert could feel, a supremely tuned swevyra/life force. "I am Hajamar, a swevyra'se of Gersal and Knight-Sergeant-At-Arms of the Order of Swenya. My Knights and I have come to seek justice."

"If you're after the crazy lady who got away from the Senate attack, you're wasting your time here," Robert replied.

"That is not our duty," Hajamar answered. "You are Captain Robert Dale?"

"I am."

Hajamar handed him a Gersallian datapad. It held text in Gersallian and an English translation beside it. Robert read over it, but Hajamar made sure to pronounce its contents. "By order of the Council of the Order of Swenya, I have come to arrest the Knight Meridina, daughter of Karesl of the Family of Lumantala."

Robert's jaw dropped in surprise. "...what?", he finally managed.

"Knight Meridina is wanted for treason against the Council and its commands, and of the Code of Swenya," Hajamar continued. "And we will take her into custody, Captain Dale."

"Like hell," Robert snarled. Behind him, Julia and Angel crossed their arms and stepped closer, as if to support him against the long odds. "This is my ship, and a starship of the Alliance Stellar Navy. We don't answer to your Order. If they want Meridina, they can go through the proper channels."

Hajamar narrowed his eyes. "I see she has trained you as well," he said. "Another proof of her treason."

"She's been teaching me control of this power, nothing more," Robert asserted. "Now, I suggest you leave and go through the Admiralty and Defense Command or even the courts, but I'm not handing Meridina over on your say so."

"We won't let the traitor escape us," Hajamar warned.

"Then camp out there for all I care," Robert retorted. "But if you step one foot on my ship, my crew has orders to blow the airlock and seal it behind us. And I know you're powerful, but I wonder if even you people can resist explosive decompression."

Hajamar seemed to consider it. "You are deceiving us," he said. "You would be taken too, as would your officers."

"Yeah," Robert said. "But my crew will probably beam me and my people back before we hit the wall of the drydock. Depending on how fast the safety people respond, well, do you think you'll be that lucky?" He went eye to eye with the Knight, glaring into his brown eyes. "Are you willing to take that chance?"

And he was clearly considering it. Robert could see that. Hajamar and his Knights weren't pushovers, and they knew their thing, and the fact was Robert was more outmatched here than he'd ever been in this sort of situation. Not even being cornered by Fassbinder and his SS at the Gamma Piratus Facility was this bad.

"Please, stop."

Robert turned. Meridina and Lucy were entering the airlock. Lucy looked bewildered, but Meridina had a sort of strange calm, even if it was covering immense doubt and… even despair, Robert thought.

"Knight Meridina," Hajamar said.

"Knight Hajamar." Meridina nodded respectfully to him. She reached to her belt and pulled out her lakesh hilt.

Hajamar's Knights all went for their blades. A chorus of metallic shrieks accompanied the extension of a half dozen lakeshes.

Lucy almost reached for hers, and Angel was clenching her fists for a fight. But Meridina looked to her and shook her head. She looked back to Hajamar and held her right palm up, the hilt laid on the palm. Robert felt her power grip it and levitate the hilt. It moved slowly through the air toward Hajamar.

Hajamar opened his palm. The weapon accelerated, too fast for Robert to intercept it, and landed square in his palm.

Meridina stepped up beside them and looked to the four. "I am honored to have known you all," she said. "Thank you for making me feel as if we were family. I am humbled by your generosity of spirit and your courage. Mi rake sa swevyra iso." She turned back to Hajamar. She put her wrists together and extended them forward. "Knight Hajamar, I surrender myself to the Knights of the Temple. I am ready for judgement."

Hajamar's expression softened. His eyes showed a glimmer of compassion. His reply was a wordless nod. From his own belt came a set of metal shackles.

"You can't do this!", Lucy screamed. She looked to Robert. "Stop them! Stop her!"

Robert swallowed and looked to Lucy, who looked like she was about to cry. "I can't, Lucy," he said. "She's going with them of her own free will."

"There has to be a regulation about this!" Lucy looked to Julia next. "Isn't there? She's an officer of the ship! They can't just march her off!"

"Maybe if we were on active duty, we could order her to not surrender," Julia said. "But we're in drydock, Lucy. The entire crew is in stand down. I mean, if she wanted me to I could fight this…"

By now Hajamar had fixed the shackles to Meridina's ankles as well. Lengths of tritanium chain, starship hull grade, now bound Meridina's limbs to a ring of the same material. The chain rattled as Meridina took her first steps, now standing between the seven Knights in red. She looked back to Lucy with tears in her blue eyes. "Goodbye, Lucy," she said. "You will find your way. I believe in you."

Hajamar gave a blunt, but not hostile, order in Gersallian. Meridina turned away and began to walk in time with her jailers.

Robert could feel Lucy's swevyra crackle with power. She was going to attack. Before she could he grabbed her by the arms. "No!", he hissed. "Not here, not this way!"

"This isn't right!", Lucy shouted. "She didn't do anything wrong! She's the purest, most noble woman I've ever met!"

"Yes, she is," Julia said. "But starting a fight here won't help her. We've got to fight this another way."

"How?", Lucy demanded.

"I don't know yet." Robert looked back down the airlock tube. The far airlock door slid to a shit, cutting off their view of Meridina. "But this isn't over." A look of grim determination crossed his face.

Upon seeing it, the same crossed Lucy's face as well. Angel and Julia both nodded in agreement.

"Meridina is family. And we're going to help her any way we can," Robert vowed.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » 2017-01-31 07:09pm

Meridina's trial should end with trial by combat where Robert has to fight this space knight who removes his helmet to reveal A LIZARD!
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