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Cptn Swain

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  1. Excalibur, Season 8 | The Darkness and the Thunder The unprecedented wartime alliance of the Romulan Star Empire with other Alpha Quadrant powers, including their perennial enemy the Federation, against the Dominion, left in its wake a wellspring of less xenophobic sentiment throughout the Empire. As a result, rapid liberalization in the post-year wars took place under the Enuar (Forward) government. This included a temporary easing of tensions along the Neutral Zone, participation in multinational ventures such as Sky Harbour Aegis and the Camelot Project, and reforms to various civil aspects of Romulan life. These rapid liberalizations, however, have been met with an equally passionate push back from the more conservative elements of their society. Following the death of the Enuar leader, Praetor Kohlav Avfad in 2384, the last four years have seen the steady rise of the nationalist Sihhus Lakhraem (Preserve, Defend) under the leadership of Proconsul Jalon Llhvae. Underlying many of the platforms of the Sihhus Lakhraem is the deep-seated Romulan xenophobia and a growing distrust of even Romulan-inhabited border worlds, which were at the forefront of the Enuar movement. As the Sihhus Lakhraem have solidified their hold on the Senate, that distrust has become increasingly apparent with passage of several laws collectively known as the Preserver Acts directed at the frontier worlds, Romulan and alien alike. On the orders of Proconsul Llhvae and the Sihhus Lakhraem, rubberstamped by Praetor Gaher, greater numbers of Galae ships have been sent to patrol the border regions. Simultaneously, the Romulans have withdrawn their forces from areas of less value to the Homeworlds, reducing the numbers of exploratory craft and withdrawing from joint ventures like the Camelot Project in the Gamma Quadrant. The Neutral Zone, which had briefly been open to crossings if properly cleared by both sides, has once again become a no-man's land. Meanwhile, following a close election, the Federation has celebrated former Federation Councilor Hajer Somak’s inauguration. Running as a moderate, Somak has promised to continue most of his predecessors policies regarding rebuilding and modernizing Starfleet. He also promised that his administration would continue to expand the Federation with new members, and to continue to press the Cardassian Union on efforts to become less dependent on Federation aid. The blade that was broken has been reforged, and the new Luna-class Excalibur once again finds herself in the middle of perilous times. In Season 7: The Proud Tower, Pt. 1, much of our story involved the Paimpont region, where the Tamarn Empire and the Kaedwan Confederation felt the tensions between the Federation and Romulan governments rising. As we begin Season 8: The Darkness and the Thunder, we hope to engage you once again with a variety of themes and plots with faces old and new as the story unfolds.
  2. Background Information for Senior Staff General Information on Toren III : Third planet in the Toren system. Located on the edge of the Pampiont region of space, near the Tamaran Empire and the Romulan Neutral Zone. Class-M, the planet is on the arid side with few large bodies of water and sparse vegetation. Rich in minerals, Toren III has a thriving mineral extraction business. Leading exports include raw dilithium, tritanium and trellium-D. The Toren have also established small outposts on several moons of the system’s gas giants, in addition to a trade depot orbiting Toren III’s second moon. Species Profile: The natives of Toren III are humanoid in appearance, with the exception of pronounced cartilaginous ridges on their cheeks and nictitating membranes. The Toren are a proud and free people, having forged a unified civilization despite their fierce independence. They are known for their tenacity and will, overcoming any trial that is set in their path and holding true to their views through most hardships. However, this also means that Torens are a stubborn and wilful people, difficult to lead and unwilling to accept views that differ with their own points of view without extensive debate and persuasion. Technological Profile: The Toren achieved warp technology in 2237. Technologically advanced, the Toren are roughly on par with other similarly situated species, including their neighbors the Tamarians and the Kaedwani, but lack the industrial base or population to support a large military. Toren Politics and History: The Federation have maintained trade relations with Toren III for many years; they are one of the oldest trading partners in the region. The consolidation of power within the Kaedwani Confederation and the continued rise of the Tamaran Empire forced the notoriously independent Toren to seek protectorate status in 2368. Since then, a small but growing seperatist movement has called for a reversal of such policies. A government proposal to apply for full-membership has caused these bubbling tensions to reach boiling point. The past six months have witnessed a series of large demonstrations and occasional violence, particularly in the planetary capital of Trehjet and the provinces of Jhen and Mauret. Toren III’s planetary government is divided into a senate and a single head of state, called a Parak. The Parak is the spokesman for the planetary government, and heads up all diplomatic affairs in the name of his people. When spoken to he is referred to simply as Parak (name); for example, Parak Joffies is the current head of state on Toren III.
  3. Asher turned in bed, covering his head with a blanket. Maybe, he thought, if he ignored the chime they would just go away. A fourth round of beeping disabused him of this notion and after a heavy sigh, he sat up in bed and turned on his bedside light. “Come.” “Captain,” it was one of the junior bridge officers -- Ravi Malek -- who’d apparently been given the task of rousing Asher. Must have drawn the short straw. “Yes, Ensign?” To Malek’s credit, he remained unphased by the obvious displeasure shown by his commanding officer at being woken in the middle of the night. The stout, brown haired human stood at an easy attention just inside the doorway to Swain’s quarters. His eyes shifted occasionally across the room, the only sign of nervousness. “I am sorry to wake you Captain, I know it’s late.” “It’s fine. I just haven’t been sleeping well, my apologies for keeping you.” “Commander Stanton sent me to let you know that Admiral dos Santos called to schedule an early morning appointment.” Asher’s frown deepened. Starbase 46’s martinet commanding officer Rear-Admiral Carlos Gil dos Santos Puerto was notorious for his early morning briefings. Asher had hoped to avoid one of them as neither he, nor Excalibur, were in dos Santos’ chain of command. “I see, any particular information the Commander wanted you to share about that?” Malek nodded and produced a PADD. “Yes, sir. This should have everything.” Asher motioned him over and started reading,, leaving Malek to stand awkwardly at Asher’s bedside before coughing to get his Captain’s attention. “Oh, you’re still here. Was there anything else?” “No sir, just that the meeting will be at 0530 on the station.” What deity on what planet did I annoy? “Thanks. I am sure you have other duties to attend to at such an hour. Or maybe restful sleep.” Malek stifled a laugh and saluted crisply before leaving Asher alone to ponder the contents of the PADD. Asher closed his eyes and laid back down. “Computer, time?” The melodious computer voice chirped back the reply all too happily. “The time is oh-three-hundred hours and thirty-two minutes. Your alarm will go off at oh-seven-thirty.” Sighing heavily, again, Asher forced himself out of bed and headed for the replicator. “Coffee,” he said almost growling, “black, double strength.” Taking the cup, he started reading the PADD again. The initial message from dos Santos conveyed Starfleet’s appreciation for the information they had gathered from their probes and even more so, apparently, on the data concerning the alien device. Apparently, it independently confirmed a theory Starfleet Intelligence had been shopping as to their nature. “Well,” Asher said between drinks, “I suppose it’s nice to be recognized.” The rest of the missive concerned new orders for Excalibur. So much for the vacation, Asher considered. A few hours later, Asher and Jalen Stanton made their way to the expansive briefing facilities aboard Starbase 46. dos Santos was waiting for them. He was tall, lean and his slicked-back hair had just a touch of grey at the temples. His deep blue eyes conveyed little in the way of emotion. Asher forced a smile. It had been nearly thirty years and he still found the man distasteful. “Admiral.” “Captain, Commander,” dos Santos said with a sweeping gesture. “Thank you for coming, please have a seat, I am afraid we don’t have much time this morning, so we’ll get right to it.” Jalen tossed a glance at Swain and then nodded before sitting down. Despite dos Santos passive demeanor, there was clearly something grave about the situation. “I assume you both read the short document I sent you this morning?” Asher wanted to say something rude to the effect that he was a little old for pop quizzes, but just nodded. “Yes, sir. Though Toren III is a little out of the way from here, isn’t it?” “Still the same Asher, I see. Somethings never change.” For his part, Jalen made a note to ask Asher about his relationship with the Admiral. “I didn’t mean --” Asher half-lied.” Holding up a hand, dos Santos waived him off. “It’s fine. You’re right, it is a bit more in your old neighborhood, but Admiral Tersan asked me to brief you so that you could get underway as soon as possible. She knew you were hoping to get back to 39 Tango, but this is a bit of an emergency.” Asher felt a little silly, but nodded. Maybe dos Santos had changed. “As you know Toren III is situated in the Paimpont, close to Tamaran space but also the Romulan Neutral Zone. As a protectorate of the Federation, we’ve traded with them for years. Over the last several months, though, there have been increased tensions on the planet as they debate applying for full-membership. “Last month separatists staged a massive demonstration in the capital, demanding Tolen independence. Their government has asked us to mediate the dispute.” “I’ve been to Toren III,” Asher said, leaning back in his chair. “Though it was a long time ago aboard the G-W.” “That was why Excalibur was chosen, ”dos Santos nodded before continuing. “As I am sure you’ll remember, Toren III is not only in a strategic location for Starfleet to monitor Romulan activity but it is also rich in dilithium, tritanium, and trillium-D.” “So what are our orders, sir?” Jalen said, giving Asher another sidelong glance. Asher nodded his own approval of the question. “First and foremost you are to try and prevent armed conflict between the two the two opposing sides. The leaders of the two groups have agreed to talks mediated by the Federation. Your orders are to provide whatever security resources are necessary and to mediate the dispute.” “And I assume Starfleet has a preferred outcome?” Asher said with a bit of a frown. “While Command would obviously prefer Toren III to remain a Federation protectorate, and would welcome their application for Federation membership, you have a duty to be impartial. “I would suggest you start with a reception aboard the Excalibur. You’ll want to show them that the Federation can be trusted with security, and---” “And be a neutral arbiter despite our obvious interests.” dos Santos grinned. “Something like that.” Jalen smirked slyly, though his head was already filling with a list of things that would need to be done to get the ship and crew ready for the mission. Biting his lip, he glanced over to Asher. “We’ll need a few more days at least to get the computer core untangled,” Asher said, taking the cue from his executive officer. “And I’d like to give the crew a day or so of leave at your rec facility. I’ve heard it’s one of the best in quadrant. We could also do with a thorough resupply. My operations officer is still fuming that we didn’t get the chance before we left Elasia.” Nodding, dos Santos stroked his goatee. “Yeah, I read the initial report on the issues with your computer core. I’ve informed my engineering staff to give Excalibur top priority. As for the other things, of course. And you’re right, it is one of the finest rec centers in the quadrant, even has a parrises squares arena. I don’t suppose you’d like a rematch, Asher?” Jalen’s eyes widened. Oh dear.
  4. As chimes signaled the end of Beta shift, Asher shifted his position on his couch and took another drink of tea. He wondered how many times his name had been spoken as a curse in the last few hours as the ship’s officers completed their mandated training instead of exploring Starbase 46’s exceptional, newly renovated recreation facilities. He smirked and continued reading. To be honest, though somewhat petty, his directive had been a rather mild corrective. Frankly, Will and Rhan were lucky that Miranda wasn’t still the executive officer. Asher sighed. He liked Stanton. He was efficient, thoughtful, and competent -- all qualities any captain would value in an executive officer -- but he wasn’t Miranda. Asher's weekly dinners with Miranda had become more like getting together with a friend, while with Stanton they were, well businesslike. They rarely talked about anything other than work, and once the meal was over, Stanton headed back to his quarters -- where as Miranda usually stayed to polish off another bottle of wine (or two) and catch up on the latest gossip. It was fine, but Asher deeply missed the camaraderie he felt with Miranda. Who did he have to blame for that? He sighed again. A chime at the door interrupted his brooding. “Come.” He put his book down and set upright on the couch as his new chief of security entered. Lucius Rex was about Asher’s height, well-built, and his premature grey-hair gave him an air of authority that someone his age might normally lack. It was easy to see why Arden had found him attractive. Asher pushed the thought aside. “Commander?” Rex straightened. “Captain. I wondered if I might have a minute of your time.” Asher frowned inwardly, but nodded. “Sure, have a seat.” Nodding, Rex joined sat down in one of the chairs opposite the couch. Though the Swain had a reputation as an “approachable” Captain, Rex still found him a bit intimidating. “What can I do for you Commander?” Swain tended to leave personnel matters to his executive officers and, like Miranda, Stanton had so far proven himself to be extremely capable, but he wasn’t going to just cold-shoulder a senior staff member. Taking a deep breath, Rex composed himself before starting. “Permission to speak freely?” Oh boy. Asher nodded. “Of course.” “Why am I here, sir?” The question took Asher off-guard. “What do you mean?” “Sir, with due respect -- you’ve barely said two words to me since I came aboard. And at virtually every opportunity you’ve given me a frosty welcome. I talked to your old chief of security and... is this because...” Asher let out a laugh. “Oh gods,” he said, struggling to regain his composure. “I am sorry, were you about to ask me if this was because you dated Arden?” Rex blushed. “Well sir, I can’t think of any other reason you’d be so cold to me, when from what I can tell, you’re very warm with the rest of your staff.” Closing his eyes and fighting back a laugh, Asher finally regained his composure. “My apologies then commander. It certainly wasn’t my intent to make you feel unwelcome. It’s just, you’re new to the crew and I -- well I’ve been trying to be a little more -- anyway I apologize for the misunderstanding.” “Then it doesn’t bother you that --” “I thought you would have realized Arden’s the jealous one. To be honest, it’s a point in your favor. He has good taste in men. Unlike me. Mine is legendarily bad -- except for Arden.” Rex stifled a laugh, both at the implied compliment and the addendum. “Well,” he said, clearing his throat. “Thank you Captain. I just wanted to make sure that -- well if you didn’t want me here I was going to ask for a transfer now, before I got too settled in and while we were at starbase.” “Do you have any idea how hard it was to convince your former CO to let me have you aboard Lucius?” “Sir? I thought she recommended me for the job.” “She did -- only after I managed to get her a case of sparkling Romulan ale and a Tholian silk dress. And only then because I had introduced her to her husband twenty years ago.” Blushing again, Rex finally let out a sigh. “Well I am sorry to have disturbed you Captain. I am sure you’re busy, besides I need to make sure all my staff have completed their trainings.” Asher nodded. “Of course Commander.: Rex stood up and headed towards the door.” “Oh and Commander?” “Yes, Captain?” “Just remember that Arden’s a married man now, hmm?” Rex grinned widely and continued towards the door.
  5. Name: Lucius Rex Age: 34 (Born 2354) Sex: Male POB: Geneva, Switzerland, Earth Ht: 5'10" Wt: 200 lbs Eyes: Grey Hair: Brown Race: Human Rank: Lieutenant Commander Assignment Chief of Security, USS Excalibur Father: Marius Rex, Captain, Starfleet Retired (68) Mother: Carmen Rodriguez Rex, Captain, Starfleet, Retired (68) Siblings: Arturias Rex, Captain, USS Cape Horn (41) Ophelia Rex, Civilian (37) Background: The son of two career officers, it was no surprise when Lucius followed his parents and older brother to Starfleet Academy in 2371. Originally intending to become a science or operations officer, like many cadets in his class the outbreak of the Dominion War during his stint at the Academy steered the young Rex towards a more martial career. Graduating in 2375, he found himself serving on the front lines almost immediately. Following the conclusion of the war, Lucius was assigned to the Starfleet garrison on the Cardassian border world of Panora, before being transferred to Federation Embassy on Cardassia Prime. In 2382, Rex was again transferred to the USS Augustine, and again in 2384 to the USS Georgetown. Service Record: -Graduated Starfleet Academy rank of Ensign (2375) -Assigned to USS Griffin, Assistant Security Officer (2375) -Assigned to USS Lexington, Assistant Security Officer (2376) -Promoted to the Rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade (2377) -Assigned to Federation Peace Keeping Mission: Panora, Security Division (2377) -Promoted to the Rank of Lieutenant, (2379) -Assigned to Federation Embassy, Diplomatic Security Division (2380) -Assigned to USS Augustine, Chief of Security (2382) -Assigned to USS Georgetown, Chief of Security (2384) -Promoted to the Rank of Lieutenant Commander (2386) -Assigned to USS Excalibur, Chief of Security (2388)
  6. Asher shimmered aboard the hulking Elasian flagship Soltok. He was early, but greeted by a cordiere of Elasian officials alongside the senior Starfleet commander for the operation, Joshua Hamlet of the Yalta. Wearing the full-dress whites, Hamlet had salt-and-peper hair parted to one side. He was tall, pale and had deep blue eyes that sparkled in the transporter room lighting. Despite his height, the Elasian officials still towered. Their uniforms were far more ostentatious; silver chords hung from their shoulders, and the lower ranked among them wore highly polished silver helmets. The lead Elasian was lean and sharp featured. His dark auburn hair fell gently across broad shoulders covered in silver pauldrons. “Welcome aboard, I am Prince Coreth, Duke of Collasta and Viceroy,” he said to Asher with a respectful gesture. “The Elasian people and the House of N’Dak are honored to host you aboard the flagship of the Elasian fleet.” Asher smiled tightly, both at the grandiosity of the situation but also the mention of N’Dak. How the universe had allowed not one, but two houses to have such a name eluded him. “The honor, is all mine.” “Captain Swain” Hamlet said moving to shake Asher’s hand. “It’s so good to finally meet you in person. I served with Arden on Deep Space Six.” Caught on his back foot for a moment, Asher shook Hamlet’s hand half-heartedly before returning Hamlet’s own firm handshake. He remembered, now, that Hamlet had sent them a wedding gift -- an espresso machine -- that was still in a box in storage back on Starbase 37 Tango. “Of course,” he said, hopping his momentary lapse had gone undetected, “we love the espresso machine.” Pleased, Hamlet nodded. “His highness has offered to take anyone who arrived early on a tour. I highly recommend it, it’s an impressive ship.” Sensing that was more of an order than a suggestion, Asher nodded and went along with his royal highness. Asher had read about the rather pompous nature of the Elasians in preparing for the mission, but he had expected it to be an exaggeration. If anything, they had undersold it. The Soltok’s vast interior was finished more in the style of a cruise ship than of a battlecruiser. Every room and corridor had thick, rich carpeting and trim finishes. It was, surprisingly, tasteful however, as Asher had fully expected some garish nightmare to shame a Ferengi. The Prince was affable enough. He clearly took great pride in showing the ship. It wasn’t the Excalibur, but Asher smiled anyway. After they’d finished, Coreth invited Asher to join him in the lounge while they waited for the other Captain’s to arrive. “So,” Coreth said, handing Asher a drink from a passing waiter. “How do you find her, the Soltok.” Asher took a sip of the surprisingly good wine and cleared his throat. Several other captain’s had found their way to the lounge as well, but they were being kept busy by other Elasians and Hamlet. “She’s a fine ship,” Asher said. “A real show piece.” The prince nodded. “The other vessels of her class,” he said between sips of wine, “are more austere, but my grandfather insisted the Soltok be built to a higher standard. It’s a bit of an extravagance, I admit.” “What will become of it... and the other battlecruisers? They aren’t being sold, correct?” Coreth wrinkled his nose. “No,” he said flatly, “the Dano III, Prince Gaal, and the Freilo will all be decommissioned in the coming months and taken to the Federation boneyards at Gravis II. The Melora and the Tyan will go into reserve duty, while the Soltok will remain active leading the newly formed Elasian Security Force.” He continued unprompted. “Not everyone in the military has been happy about disarmament, or the democratization of our government. But it was the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do.” Asher lifted a brow, but sensed he should politely end the conversation. “Well, again your highness, thank you for the tour. It was most enjoyable, but I shouldn’t monopolize you. In fact, if you'll excuse me, I should catch up with Captain Hamlet.” Smiling, Coreth nodded and Asher slipped away with a deep sigh of relief before making his way over to Hamlet. “How was the tour?” “It’s a big ship.” “The Elasians don’t ever do anything small.” Asher nodded in agreement, taking a drink of wine before a waiter refilled his glass. Hamlet was breezy enough while they were in a group of other commanders, but sobered as he pulled Asher aside surreptitiously. The sudden mood change worried Asher, but he wasn’t deep enough into the wine to have lost his poker face. When he was sure they were out of earshot, Hamlet took a deep breath. “I have an assignment for you.” “Me -- or my ship?” “You, personally. “ Asher lifted his brow. “Strictly on the QT.” Unable to hide his frown, Asher nodded his understanding. “What’s up?” “Despite putting a lot of resources into it, Intelligence still hasn’t ferreted out the identity of the third party broker. Both the Elasians and the Cardassians have said that their agreement required strict non-disclosure. “But the Council is concerned. We have a team on the surface working it, but I’d like you to see if you can find anything out from the Prince. He seems to like you.” Asher’s brows went higher. “We talked a little and he showed me around the ship. That’s hardly a relationship.” Hamlet held up a hand. “It’s still something.” “Shouldn’t this go to someone more experienced with...” Asher’s voice dropped, “that kind of thing? I am not a spy or even a diplomat. I am just a scientist.” “I have people working on other angles,” Hamlet made a motion to the room. “But hadn’t got anyone to cover the Prince yet.” “I’ll see what I can do,” Asher said, resigned to his fate. “But no promises.” “That’s all I ask.” The identity of the broker had continued to be an explosive topic in Federation discourse. Asher should have known there would be some clandestine plot to find it out. Afterall, there were only so many people who could come up with the latinum equivalent to 20 billion Federation credits; and virtually all of the prime suspects had been eliminated so far. The Grand Nagus had personally given the Federation assurances that neither he nor any Ferengi were behind the deal, and had even taken the unusual step of having the Ferengi Commerce Authority complete a public audit of transactions. The Klingons had neither the will or finances, and at any rate could have simply bought the ships directly off the Elasians. The Romulans were always suspects in any galactic intrigue, but Praetor Gaher had been among the loudest voices against the deal, second only to the Bajorans. That left only the smaller powers, none of which, according to Intel, had the finances. Asher glanced over Hamlet’s shoulder to Prince Coreth.
  7. Asher sat quietly in his and Arden’s quarters, drinking tea. It had been almost three weeks since they’d returned from their misadventures in time. Though he’d taken the opportunity to spend a few hours in a holodeck recreation of a ski lodge in the Alps, most of his time had been spent meeting with various Starfleet officials, including the several days he had spent “debriefing” (it was more of an interrogation) with the Starfleet Inspector General’s Temporal Investigations Unit. Their formal report wouldn’t come back for another few weeks, but the lead investigator had complimented Asher on his efforts to avoid and repair the timeline. The compliment came as something of a surprise, but apparently their little trick with the Enterprise-C had somehow erased that entire episode from the timeline and the only record of their sundering had been a sealed report by Captain Cormoran. Soft piano music played in the background while he read over the preliminary damage assessment on the Excalibur. He sunk into the couch as he read deeper into the report. There were, literally, dozens of remarks as he scrolled through the individual sections of the report that made his stomach turn, such as “total loss,” “will need complete rebuild,” and the ominous “unsalvageable.” Finally he came to the last section, a narrative from the senior engineer conducting the assessment. Part of him thought it was unfair to have someone who didn’t know the ship decide her fate. He was sure that this, Commander Arhren Sloan was perfectly competent and capable of delivering a fair assessment, but it just seemed somehow wrong. Then again, that was why Sloan was making the assessment and not Miranda or Tandaris. Neither of them could be remotely objective about their ship, and to be fair, neither could he. When had that happened, he wondered? That Excalibur became his ship? Odd now that she was possibly at the end of the line, that he would feel this tug at his heart. He took a drink of tea and started reading the final narrative. It was a bit like reading ahead to the end of a holonovel, or more grimly, reading obituaries. “After a thorough on-site inspection, and after reviewing reports from the ship’s Chief Engineer and Commanding Officer, I am prepared to make the following recommendations to Starfleet Command on the future of the USS EXCALIBUR.” Asher frowned, looking away towards the star-filled windows. The drydock was thankfully on the other side of the barren rock that Starbase 39 Tango orbited. He didn’t think he could look at her while he read the next lines of the report. “The vessel has sustained major damage to virtually every system, including power, life-support, drive, navigational arrays, and computer networks. The structural integrity of the superstructure required significant reinforcement to be towed at warp speed. “Even under normal circumstances, a recommendation for refit could be considered questionable. Given that Excalibur has undergone three major refits already in just under five years, it becomes even more questionable. Not only because of the large number of resources required to complete a refit of this magnitude (comparable in both time and material to new construction), but the underlying issues with key structural components that have now underwent the same number of refits one would expect for a vessel reaching the end-of-service life, but in just six standard years.” His heart sunk. He didn’t need to read any further to know how Command would receive the report. He laid the report down on the table. He considered calling Miranda to tell her. It would be another few days before Command made a formal decision. She deserved to know. Excalibur was as much her ship as it was his, afterall. It was late. What was it his father had always said about bad news? Something about it never going away. Asher frowned. He’d never listened to his father before, so he wasn’t about to start now. He glanced away again, towards where the picture of he and Arden as newly graduated cadets had been since Arden moved to the starbase. It had been one of the few possessions Arden had taken with him aboard the Bancroft. Asher swallowed hard. There was no one else in the world he suddenly wanted to be near. They had finally managed to catch each other on a livefeed just a few hours before. Asher hadn’t expected to cry. He was never the crier. Arden had teased him about it after. Which, he supposed, was fine. “Now you know how I’ve felt all these years, Asher.” That was an uncomfortable truth. They had been an item, on and off, since they’d met at the academy at the learning center where Arden was teaching supplemental classes to, mostly, non-human cadets on Federation standard. And in all of the break ups, all of the “cooling off” times it had always been Asher who’d left. It had never been Arden before. It also never been Arden whose career had come first. Asher was happy for his husband though. Even if it wasn’t an assignment of his choosing, the executive officer experience was virtually a prerequisite for having your own command. Arden would never, ever admit it, but in his heart, Asher knew, he wanted his own chance to command. They had chatted for almost an hour before Arden’s actual assignment had come up. The Bancroft, a relatively new Nova-class, had been assigned to survey one of the ruins that Asher had led bread-crumbed the Lugh too while searching for him. “It’s just this mission,” Arden assured Asher, though he hadn’t asked. “As soon as we’re done with the survey, Command assured me I can have my old job back at Starbase 39 Tango.” “Are you sure that’s what you want?” “Why wouldn’t I. It’s a good command, and Excalibur isn’t likely to be assigned elsewhere for a while I’d venture.” Asher bit his lip. “Arden, I don’t know if they’re going to sign off on a refit this time. She’s in pretty bad shape.” “Oh.” Arden’s voice was suddenly quiet, introspective. As if Asher had just told him a good friend had died. “I... I am sorry, honey. I -- well I guess we can talk about it once you know more. “The Bancroft is a good ship from what I can see so far. Captain Uhmasa has a good crew here. The other senior staff have been good too. You’d like the security chief, he’s an unjoined Trill.” Asher lifted a brow. “Anything I need to worry about?” Arden snorted. “Are you jealous? Why Asher Swain.” They laughed together before closing with I love yous and plans to talk again later in the week once the Bancroft had completed its initial orbital surveys. And more practically, when Asher knew for sure if his fears about Excalibur were real. Perhaps Asher, thought, he could join the Bancroft. He knew the planet, and the ruins perhaps better than one in Starfleet, and command would be more than willing, he assumed, to give him some leeway between assignments. After a moment, Asher pushed the idea aside. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone and besides, he’d learned from Arden that command had been extremely generous in not revealing to anyone aboard the Bancroft about the particulars of the ‘rescue mission’ that Arden had led to the planet. Admiral Haller had said in confidence that if there was a decision to decommission the Excalibur that she would help Asher get a new command of his choosing. The Excalibur had never been his ideal posting and Fleet had foisted it onto him, afterall. And despite his recent lapse in judgement, he was a seasoned commander at a time when many of Starfleet’s more senior commanders were retiring. Perhaps, Haller said, he might even be inline for a Sovereign-class or Galaxy-class. It was an appealing offer. He knew that the Strausbourg was nearing the end of a refit and that most of her command staff, including her Commanding Officer, Giles Greenworth, had been reassigned. He’d even stopped by the construction site to look over the new bridge module. Granted, he’d instantly felt guilty. Like he’d just cheated on a lover or something. Now, with the obituary in hand, he felt even guiltier. Still, the reality was that he would need to make a decision about his future soon. It was strange, really. He’d spent most of the last six months considering that very question, and now, having finally decided he wanted to command Excalibur, fate had seen fit to intervene and make the decision for him.
  8. William “Bill” Swaggert’s question hung heavy in the low-lit parlor of the Lake Como villa where the four main candidates to replace Nan Bacco waited to hear the answer from the outgoing president. Nan tilted her head slightly. “Not the Bajorans,” she said finally to a collective sigh of relief. Though tensions between the erstwhile enemies had eased significantly since the end of the Dominion War, there was little news that should would have pulled them together at such a late hour that could involve them both and not be in the “terrible, no good, in fact very bad” category. Of course, Nan considered, it didn’t make the news she was about to deliver much better, either. “Then who? There are dozens of worlds in the candidate process,” Rydra Thallis said, waving her lower pair of arms while gesturing quizzically with the uppers. “And if it involves the Cardassians...” Nan held up a hand. “The Elasian Confederation and the Cardassian Union have agreed, in principle, to the transfer of matériel, ships, and technology.” “The Elasians?” Hajer Somak’s thick brows were pointed upwards enough to give the Vulcan across the room a run for her money. “How much are we talking here.” “Nearly all of their recently decommissioned vessels. Roughly a hundred or some small patrol ships, sixity or so destroyers, thirty to forty light cruisers of an older model, and another thirty to forty of a new design, and roughly twenty or so heavy cruisers. In addition to torpedoes, shuttle and fighters, personal disruptors, and other items.” “You’ve got to be kidding,” Rydra said, flushing dark purple. “You seriously let this happen?” Nan frowned. “I didn’t let anything happen. We only found out about it a few hours ago and the agreement has already been made in principle. At our behest, they have agreed to allow me to announce it.” “For once I agree with Rydra,” Bill said sharply. “You seriously can’t be thinking of letting this go forward. Do you have any idea what the response from the public -- for our allies -- is going to be Nan?” “Just how did you find out about this anyway?” Rydra cut in before Nan could reply. “Did they just drop by your office and say, oh by the way?” “We intercepted a communique...” “You were spying on diplomatic channels of Federation members?” Rydra’s ears were flaring. Nan had never seen her be so vehement. Nevertheless, Nan took a deep breath and reminded herself to remain calm. Counting backwards in her head, she started again after a moment. “Firstly, the Elasians aren’t Federation members yet. Second, we intercepted a message sent in the clear by the Cardassian government to an unidentified third party that is helping finance the deal.” “You have to stop this thing Nan,” Bill said, his voice rising. Though he wasn’t as animated as Rydra, he was clearly more than a little upset by the news. “I thought I was pretty clear, Senator, that I didn’t ask anyone here for policy advice. The Federation Council has reviewed the situation and came to a decision that we cannot politically or legally interfere.” “What do you mean we can’t politically interfere,” he replied back. “The Elasians are up for Federation membership, and the Cardassians are still virtually dependent on our aid. See this is what I am talking about...” “I hate to agree with him,” Rydra interjected. “But there has to be some way we can intervene. Legally, aren’t the Cardassians bound by the Bajoran Accord...” “Oh, they were. They were. Until Madame President over here threw them out to get...” “Bill,” Nan said, letting just enough of her annoyance come through. “Shut up. First, the Lahore City Agreement didn’t change any of the statutory requirements on the Cardassian military. Secondly it actually formally spells out that they can’t use any of the money we give them through the reconstruction fund for military expenditures. You can say whatever the hell you want on the campaign trail, but I’ll be damned if you’re going to condescend to me like that.” After a long moment of interminable silence, Salyet of Vulcan spoke up. “Then, I assume that if the Federation Council has approved, that the purchase agreement is within treaty restrictions?” Nan was grateful for Salyet’s level headed presence. Taking a deep breath first, she nodded. “Yes, they will still be compliant with total force levels.” “And the Arcadia Agreement only specified that the Elasians would disarm, but didn’t have any stipulations on what they did, right?” Hajer asked, respectful as always. “Correct. Our previous technology sharing agreements with them do require that any offensive weaponry or other advanced proprietary Federation technology be removed before they could transfer the ships to a third party.” Rydra had calmed down, at least based on the position of her ear flaps and more muted purple color. “Still,” she said, “why can’t you use political pressure to slow the process down? You said the Council has already decided to move forward? Why were those meetings held behind closed doors and off the public record? You’ve said yourself sunshine is the best disinfectant.” “We can’t just go telling sovereign nations what they can or can’t do,” Hajer said. “Can you imagine the outcry from the Tellerites or the Caitians if we told them they couldn’t do business with other people?” “Neither of them are selling weapons of war to an aggressive species who, just a decade ago, brought us to the brink of galactic annihilation.” “Rydra’s right. The Bajorans, the Klingons, the Romulans? You think they’re just going to stand by and say ‘well I guess the Federation Council approved,’ and ‘we couldn’t possibly upset the mighty Elasian Confederation, whatever would we do without them!’ Come on, madame President. You have to see what a problem this is going to be, not just for you but for whichever one of us inherits this mess in six months.” “I do,” she said. “Believe me, nothing you’re telling me isn’t something I haven’t already strongly suggested to the Council. The Cardassians have every right to defend themselves, but this is going to be a mess.” “So why is the Council going against you?” “One of the things you’ll have to learn if you’re lucky enough to have this job,” she said with an almost wry smile. “Is that just because you’re the President, doesn’t mean you can ignore the Council.” “You mentioned,” Salyet interjected again, “a ‘third-party’ brokering the agreement and helping to finance the purchase. Who is it?” “We don’t know.” Bill couldn’t hide his exasperation. “What? How is that possible. Didn’t you ask them?” “We did. Both the Elasian and Cardassian ambassadors refused to tell me. Intelligence has a few leads, but nothing solid.” “The Ferengi?” Hajer offered. “Possible, but Intelligence is still working through everything,” she said with a heavy sigh. “Anyway, now you know. I will be addressing the Federation General Assembly in forty-eight hours. After that you’re free to address the situation as your campaigns see fit.” “Thank you, Nan,” Hajer said. “For the heads up. We’ll have a lot to talk about soon.” Bill simply glowered.
  9. July 26, 2388 -- Earth Lake Como was quiet in the darkness. Cool mountain air drifted down from snowy peaks. Fireflies danced in the late summer. Nan Bacco smiled, she would miss Earth, she considered for perhaps the first time since she’d taken the Federation presidency. It had never felt like home, but now in the waning days of her presidency, she realized that like so many others it had captured her heart. She glanced away and back towards a small villa; the final aeroshuttle had arrived and Cal would be coming to collect. Sighing, she took a final breath of summer and headed back down a cobblestone path. Cal met her at the doors. He wore the same frown as always, though now she noticed something else, thought she couldn’t place it. “That’s it,” he said, “Swaggert is here now. They’re all waiting in the den. I had Maurice get them settled in with refreshments.” She nodded. “Good.” “Are you sure this is a good idea?” “No, but it's the right thing.” Cal’s frown broke. “I guess you really don’t have any plans to ever run for office again.” Nan laughed and patted her old friend on the shoulder, squeezing gently as she passed by and into the villa. It was nearly midnight local time and the small romanesque villa was still save for muffled chatter coming from behind heavy double doors, each carved with the likeness of several Roman gods and goddesses. “Madame President,” a plain-clothes Starfleet security officer from her detail who was guarding the doors said as he opened the doors. She glanced towards him with a smile before taking a deep breath. “Into the lion’s den.” The room, like the rest of the house, was decorated in a style meant to evoke the long dead Roman Empire. Waiting for her, were the four leading candidates to replace her. It was, she realized, the first time she’d actually been in the room with all of them at once. Nearest to her, Hajer Somak looked over as the doors opened. At nearly 130, the Catullan male’s once purple mane had faded to a regal silver and he seemed to enjoy his role as the elder statesman in the race. Across from him, the final arrivee was pacing. Nan sighed. William “Bill” Swaggert. If you were writing a political character for a holonovel from human history, you wouldn’t do much better than just modeling him. Young, charismatic, and extremely handsome. He was, Nan considered, almost too perfect. If she were twenty years younger and single, she might even consider him attractive -- until he started talking about politics, anyway. At the other end of the room, Salyet of Vulcan and Rydra Thallis were making small talk. Nan wasn’t actually sure why Salyet was running, if she was being honest. As Vulcans went, she was something of a wallflower. Sure she’d been part of three different presidential administrations in the past, and had been part of the Vulcan delegation to Earth for nearly half a century, but outside of the Champs d'Elysee, she was virtually a non-factor. Rydra, however, was a rising star in Federation politics. The purple-skinned Osadjani had made a name for herself as an outspoken critic of both Nan’s and the preceding Min Zife administration's efforts to rebuild Starfleet following the Dominion War. Earlier, she had been a passionate advocate for the Bajorans and a strong critique of Federation policy towards the Cardassians. Though she’d been a continued thorn in her side, Nan had always found her to be fair and forthright. As all four finally turned towards Nan, she motioned to the security officer to let the door close. She wondered when the last time anyone in the room had been alone at a meeting without an aide. Smirking she made her way over. “Thank you all for coming,” she said. “I know it’s late and I am sure you’re all wondering why you’re here.” Saylet, surprisingly, replied first. “It is a curious situation we find ourselves in, Madame President.” Before Bill could chime in, Nan resumed. “What I am about to tell you cannot leave this room. And if it does, well... I will make it my personal mission to assure that the campaign responsible doesn’t win the election.” “I thought you weren’t taking sides,” Bill said smugly, “that’s what you keep telling all the papers anyway.” “And I am not,” she gave him a cold glance. “I assume,” Rydra said, folding the upper most of her two sets of arms, “that if the President is going to all the trouble of meeting with us all, at midnight, in some tiny house away from Paris that it’s a matter of state importance?” “That is correct.” Hajer leaned forward, putting his glass down on a coffee table. “Alright.” Salyet added her agreement before Bill finally agreed as well. “In 48 hours I will be making a major announcement concerning a future Federation member and the Cardassian Union, after which you will be free to discuss the issue with the press freely. I am telling you all this now so that you can be prepared. The decision has already been made.” “Which future Federation member, exactly?”
  10. Constance d'Aubigné glanced over to the co-pilot seat of the shuttlecraft Arion. Asher Swain fiddled pensively with the box of datachips Rhan had given to him before he left. Though she’d been on the Excalibur for almost two years, she’d had very little direct interaction with the man. Which was, she thought, rather strange given his reported attitude. Not that she entirely minded the absence of a personal relationship. In truth, she preferred a bit of distance between herself and those who reported to her. It just seemed cleaner. “On approach to the Enterprise,” she said, moving her hands over the console. “Clearance from flight ops to land.” “I’ve seen Ambassador-classes before,” he replied, looking out the window. “But I don’t think I ever thought I’d see this Ambassador-class.” “Alphy -- my brother -- served on the Mandela. I visited him a few times. They don’t make them like her anymore.” Asher nodded. The Arion continued her approach before touching down with near pinpoint accuracy. Constance smirked as Asher reminded her again of the protocols that Commander Hawthrone had insisted they followed. She was to stay on the shuttle and avoid unnecessary contact with the Enterprise crew until Asher was ready to return to Excalibur. Under no circumstances was she to allow them aboard her shuttle. “So you want me to space them or?” Asher frowned, but she gave him an apologetic reply and his mood lightened. He checked his uniform one last time before disembarking. Captain Rachael Garrett was waiting for him, attended on either side by her own executive officer Samir al-Halak and their chief science officer Tholav. Garrett wasn’t as tall as Asher had expected. She welcomed him aboard, and after the perfunctory introductions, suggested they adjourn to a nearby lounge. Tholav would join them, later, she said. al-Halak excused himself to return to the bridge to coordinate gathering the list of supplies from the Excalibur. The lounge was little bigger than Asher’s ready room, but it was well appointed and comfortable enough. Tea service was waiting. “Unless you’d prefer coffee,” she said, pouring hot water into a cup. “But I’ve never been much of a fan.” Grinning widely, he nodded. “Same actually.” “Well then, this is an Andorian blend. Thalov introduced me to it when we first met back on the Ghandi. It’s got a bit of a kick.” While they waited for their tea to steep, Asher settled in across from Garrett. He would be lying if he said he didn’t feel a sense of school-boy excitement to be aboard the Enterprise-C. Still, he also couldn’t help but to feel a profound sense of guilt knowing what fate would befall the woman making him tea in a few years when on sleepy Sunday afternoon, her ship responded to a distress call from the Klingon outpost on Narendra III. He forced a smile as she offered him milk. “So, I am guessing it is a rather interesting story about how your ship got here?” “Well, I am not sure my crew would call it that, but I suppose.” She smirked. “How are they are?” “We’ve been through a lot in the last few weeks, they’re tired but they’re good. I think every Captain thinks that, but they are.” Nodding she took a sip of tea, and motioned for him to continue. He explained that they’d been returning to starbase following a diplomatic mission in the sector and had received a distress call. The irony of their somewhat intertwined fates loomed ever present in his mind, but he continued. “That’s where things got weird.” “You said it was from a Kaedwani freighter?” He nodded. “Yeah, on the edge of Tamaran space. They said they were under attack, well as near as we could make out. It was pretty garbled. When we arrived, we were the first ones there -- at least from our perspective.” Rachel lifted a brow, but took a drink of tea instead of asking another question as Asher continued to unwind the events of the last few weeks. “We managed to calm them down,” he said of the Kaedwani and Tamaran captains, “and we agreed to launch a joint investigation led by the Romulans and us. “By then we’d started to notice malfunctions and unusual biological effects.” “Unusual biological effects?” “It was strange, crew remembers were reporting old wounds healing or in some cases reopening. Our science and medical team suspected the high levels of chroniton radiation were at fault, but we couldn’t confirm it until we brought the wreckage aboard.” Rachel was listening intently and had largely forgotten her tea. “We discovered,” he continued, “that the molecular structures of the freighter’s hull were starting to regress to earlier temporal states but before we could hypothesize further, the Kaedwani cruiser started to lose containment. They ejected their core and well... what happened next is pretty conjectural.” Remembering that Rachel wasn’t a science junkie, like himself, he considered how to explain what happened. Even for an astrophysicist, he found it all a bit strange. “We think when the core exploded, that it caused a temporal inversion -- a rip in space-time -- that caused the destruction of the freighter. The result was a sort of, temporal eruption. We got caught in its wake and somehow ended up in the past.” Taking that all in Rachel leaned back in her chair, drumming her fingers. “Well, I guess that would explain what’s going on with the moon...” Sheepishly, Asher sighed. “Well not uh... not exactly.”
  11. The Lysander circled at low impulse. Svati frowned, crossing her legs in the command chair. It had been almost six hours and she could almost hear the clock ticking before the Captain would, smugly, declare the entire a diversion a waste of time and order them to return to their patrol. He’d doubtlessly add something smug about scientists while doing so. “Commander?” She turned. “Yes, Ensign?” “Come take a look at this.” Brightening, but keeping her enthusiasm in check she headed to the science console. “I’ll be damned. Get the Captain up here right away.” A few minutes later Jesselyin joined them. His tall, lanky frame occupying the bulkhead near the science console, he peered at the science officers skeptically. “So?” “These are ion trails,” Svati said pointing to the screen. “That’s the only explanation that makes any sense anyway. One very faint ion trail.” “It appears whatever ship left it,” Reese Corten added, with a prod from Svati, “that their field coils must have been out alignment or something. It’s very erratic.” Jesselyin nodded, thoughtfully. “That doesn’t explain the delta radiation spike. It could just be a freighter or something that passed through. Not like they keep their warp drives in perfect working order.” “That is a possibility,” Svati said, clearing her throat. “But it makes more sense for the two things to be related. If the Romulans are testing a new cloaking device -- perhaps something went wrong and they’re limping home. “We also only noticed the ion trails because Ensign Corten ran it through a Terras Cycler,” she said give him a sly wink. “They appear headed towards Romulan space.” Jesselyin frowned. “Options?” “We should follow the ion trails. Even if it’s not a Romulan ship, they could be damaged.” “And if is a Romulan ship? It could cause an intergalactic incident.” He closed his eyes. “Are we still having problems with the long-range communications?” “Yes,” the communication officer on watch chimed in. “We’re still trying to track down what’s causing it.” “How long would it take us to establish comms with HQ?” “At least four to five hours,” the comms officer said with a glance to navigation. “Assuming the phenomena is localized to this sector.” Jesselyin took a deep breath and glanced towards Svati. “Commander?” “The ion trails are already starting to dissipate, we should follow them.” “Very well. Helm, set course. Yellow alert.”
  12. Svati smoothed back her hair. Maybe she should just cut it all off. It was such a damned inconvenience and it never looked worth a damn. It worked for the Deltans, didn’t it? She sighed and secured the flap of her jacket. Her mother would never approve. Making her way down the hallway, she refocused on the task at hand. Telling her mother that she had shaved her head suddenly sounded more appealing of an option than waking the Captain. It wasn’t that he was a tyrant or anything. It was just -- she couldn’t place it into words -- he just didn’t seem to like her. Well not her. Her discipline. How had he put it when they first met? “It’s not you I have a problem with -- it’s what you represent. Scientists.” He’s almost spat the word. She shook her head again. Why the would you join Starfleet if you didn’t like exploration? Who spends four years busting their ass at the Academy and goes “yeah, don’t like this whole exploring thing you people are doing.” And then sticks around long enough to command a starship! The hallways were quiet and the deck lighting had been dimmed for evening. The Captain’s quarters were only a section down from her own and she paused collecting herself before hitting the chimes. The door lock clicked and the pneumatics hissed lowly. Oh good, he wasn’t asleep. “It’s late Commander -- how can I help you?” “I hope am not disturbing you,” she said, realizing how silly that sounded. “But?” He waived her in. “You’re in uniform and it’s -- gamma shift? So I assume it’s not just anything.” She smiled. “It might nothing, but one of our probes has detected some very unusual radiation readings in sector 41.” “What kind of radiation?” “Delta radiation.” The captain frowned, leaning back into his inset bunk along the wall opposite the door. “And you want to go take a closer look, I assume?” “Yes, sir. It might be nothing but it coul...” “When are we due in at Coridan?” The interruption caught her off guard, but Svati took a deep breath. “Not for another week, and...” “And this a chance to blah blah,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Yes, I am sure a delta radiation spike in the middle of nowhere is very interesting to you, but I have...” Seriously? “Captain, with all due respect -- sir, may I speak freely?” After a moment, he nodded. “Yes.” “Jesselyin -- sir -- I know you don’t like science officers. I am not sure why exactly, but sir -- I wish you would trust me on this. If it were just something I was interested in, I wouldn’t bother coming to wake you in the middle of the night. And if you can’t trust me then maybe you should ask Starfleet for another executive officer.” It was Jesselyin’s turn to be taken back. Sitting up, he laid the book he’d had in hands the entire conversation aside and swung his legs over the edge of the bed to face her. It took several attempts before he finally spoke. “No, I don’t want another executive officer and it’s not that I don’t trust you to do that job. You’ve continued to show yourself to be a perfectly capable ex-oh. “It’s late and I was intemperate. I am sure you wouldn’t bother me with something trivial. What do you think it could be?” He apologized? Lord have mercy. Letting the apology stand, Svati nodded. “There’s a number of things it could be, but the one that I am concerned about in particular would be Romulans testing modifications to their cloaking device. Intelligence reports for the sector have indicated an increased number of sensor blips over the last month or so.” “Very well. Inform Coridan that we might be delayed. Keep me updated.” “Yes sir and thank you.”
  13. It was late and gamma shift had reached the point of the evening where Harold Tisker considered if he could get away with a nap in the head. Lysander was nearly three months into her first real assignment -- cataloging gaseous anomalies in near the Romulan Neutral Zone -- and nothing even remotely exciting had happened to them yet; which, as far as Harold was concerned, was entirely okay. He leaned back in the command chair and started to close his eyes. Nothing wrong with an inspection of them. Behind him, the new junior officer they’d picked up at Starbase 10 prattled on about Erathian verb conjugations -- or something -- from the communications station. How anyone could get so excited for a language no one had spoken for three thousand years eluded Harold, but whatever floated the guy’s starship, A station or two over, an enlisted guy named Hancock was swinging (and missing) for the fences with gamma shift’s engineer, Malia Jhaon. Harold considered sparing the poor guy by reminding him that such flirtations were inappropriate, but that sounded suspiciously like effort, something Harold had sworn off for the rest of the shift. Harold had almost managed to doze off when the woosh of the lift doors stirred him to attention. Unperturbed. he sat up, pretending to be busy looking at the clipboard on his lap. “As you were.” Turning he started to stand. “Commander.” “No need, Lieutenant,” Svati Desai said. “I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d take a walk.” Harold exhaled. “Of course, Commander. Everything’s pretty quiet up here. Ensign Corten has been monitoring a small spike in delta radiation in quadrant 29. Nothing too unusual but...” “Delta radiation?” Svati’s eyebrow was peaked like a Vulcan, and she was already halfway to the science console. “There shouldn’t be any delta radiation spikes in quadrant 29.” She really must be bored, Harold considered. It was accurate. Svati had spent the better part of the last two weeks looking at space dust and crew evaluations. This was her first assignment as an executive officer and she wished someone had warned her about all the administrivia that came with the shoe closet they called her office. Reese Corten looked up as she approached. He was, from her remembrance of his file, a capable if inexperienced officer; like many on the crew, it was first real mission since graduating the academy. “So, what are we looking at Ensign.” “One of the probes picked it up, ma’am,” Reese said, rolling his chair over to give her room at his console. Svati nodded and looked over the readings. “Did you run it through the Terras cycler?” Fumbling for a moment to remember what that even was, he shook his head. “Not yet ma’am,” he finally said, “I -- uh -- we hadn’t seen anything other than just the spike so we were just recording the data.” She furrowed her brows and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. “Mmm,” she began tapping. “Always good to run delta radiation spikes through it. Though -- Ensign... Portein have you monitored anything on subspace?” Wide-eyed the young communications offer shook his head. “Uh --” he said, “ Nothing unusual.” Harold closed his eyes and bit his lip. He felt it coming. Wincing he braced himself. But the dressing down never came. Instead, Svati instructed Portien to begin monitoring from here on out. That was a relief. “Lieutenant, give him a hand and go back through the logs from when you detected this until now and make sure there’s nothing he missed.” What a damned inconvenience, but at least she didn’t blow up on him. “Ma’am,” Reese said, “what are you thinking?” “There shouldn’t be any unusual delta radiation in that sector. It’s empty space. And the -- what are their names? Tamarians and Kaedwani? Neither of them are very technologically advanced. Warp 4 or something like that?” Svati was pacing. She did that alot when she was trying to figure a problem out. She also rambled. It drover her roommate at the academy crazy. “How far is that from Romulan border?” Reese took a moment to find the exact distance. She nodded. “Though intel is spotty in the region,” she stopped. “Ah good the results from the Terras Cycler. “Interesting. You said we picked up the spike from one of the probes?” “Yes -- uh -- 6-D.” “Where is it now?” “Quadrant 30. “ “Turn it around, have it go back through 29 and this time have it do a level 4 sweep. Then we need to run a level 2 analysis of this data. It could be nothing, but this close to Romulan space...” Harold had been listening and while most of what she was saying was about as intelligible to him as Portein’s babbling about Erathian verbs, he got the gist of it. “Commander,” he interjected at an opportune time, “should we inform the Captain?” Svati took a deep breath. “No,” she finally said. “I’ll do it. I need to change into my uniform anyway. Ensign continue monitoring and begin the level 2 analysis.” Harold nodded. “Aye.” Good luck!
  14. Asher sat pensively next the glassy table at the center of the observation lounge, sipping replicated tea -- herbal supplement #431. It had a somewhat pleasant mixture of juniper, fern and cardamom that made him think of a flannel shirt. For replicated tea, it was passable. Chewing at his lip, he sat the tea down as the chimes announced the arrival of the first of guests. Captain-General Gal Calborn entered through the side entrance, flanked on either side by one of Excalibur’s security officers -- a concession to both the Tamaran and Kadwani delegations. She was stoutly built and dressed in full regalia. “Captain,” she said in the low-gutturals endemic to her species, “Thank you for agreeing to host this conversation.” Before he could respond, the chimes came again and the lythe, horned figured of the Kaedwani commander emerged from behind the doors. She looked towards her Tamaran counterpart for a long moment before turning her attention to Asher. “Captain Swain, I presume. Taller than I expected for a primate.” Was that a racism? Asher smiled anyway. “Welcome to the Excalibur, please have a seat. Can I get either of you anything to drink while we wait for Commander tr’Shaelon?” “I require no refreshment to be able to meet with you, my stamina is quite fine,” came an overly quick response from Calborn. Asher exhaled through his nose, trying his best to remain neutral. “Of course, Gen...” The chimes interrupted, mercifully, and tr’Shaelon entered the room with a flourish. “Jolan tru,” he said tipping his head. “I am pleased that we are all able to be here and that calm, rational dialog may yet win out.” This is going to be a very long day. Asher nodded and motioned everyone to have a seat. After some initial posturing on all sides, the four commanding officers each relayed the version of events as they had experienced it: the Tamarans had received a very garbled transmission that appeared to be a distress call and had moved to intercept; the Excalibur had detected a similar transmission and done the same; the Kaedwani continued to maintain they had detected no such signal but had instead detected the Excalibur moving off it’s registered flight path and moving towards a Tamaran vessel headed towards their space; and then there were the Romulans. “In the interest of transparency,” tr’Shaelon began. “My orders were to keep an eye on the Exca;inur during your trade mission to the Confederation. As you might imagine, my government weary of Federation interest in one of our strongest allies.” Asher had to make a concerted effort to keep from rolling his eyes, but nodded along. “Naturally.” “We had been keeping some distance, as I said we were only observing. We noticed your course correction and did briefly detect a subspace transmission, but both due to our cloak and its somewhat low-powered nature could not identify it further...” “A secret transmission!” The Kaedwani commander interrupted, thundering as she he smacked her fist on the table. “No doubt a signal from the Tamaran fools.” “How dare you.... You... you...” “Can we please,” Asher said sharply, “can we please refrain from pointing fingers.” The two commanders glowered, but nodded. Asher exhaled again and looked to towards tr’Shaelon who seemed impressed at Swain’s ability to defuse the situation. “Indeed. My science officers do not believe the transmission was Tamaran in origin, but without additional evidence we cannot rule that out.” “What more evidence do you need?!” This time it was Calborn rumbling from across the table. “There is an entire field of debris out there or did your fancy cloaking device keep you from seeing that too? Speaking of which... awfully handy you just happened to be here...” “Why would the Romulans destroy one of our ships?” “To precipitate a war between us! To drive...” “Stop it.” Asher said smacking his mug against the table. “Just stop it. We’re not going to get anywhere as long as we keep devolving into shouting matches.” Calborn recoiled, but the Kaedwan commander was less cowed. “Then what do you suggest, Captain? I have yet to hear any evidence exonerating your crew. You’re just as...” “Commander,” tr’Shaelon cut in abruptly. “I believe Captain Swain has a suggestion, if you’ll let him speak.” “Very well.” Asher made a note to thank tr’Shaelon later. Perhaps a bottle of the ale that Issaha had given him? “Yes, I am proposing that we conduct a joint investigation of the incident. Crewmembers from all four ships will be involved and each of us will agree to turn over all sensor logs and computer information. “I am sure that we all have information we’d rather not share, but we must trust each other.” “Why should we trust you?” It was the Kaedwani again. “Because I am trusting him,” tr’Shaelon said. “I am not exactly pleased at the idea of turning over sensor data or computer logs, either; and I assure you my superiors will be even less than thriled.” “Mine won’t exactly be happy either,” Asher admitted. “But I am committed to finding out the truth of what has happened. Something or someone destroyed the freighter out there and I intend to find out who or what did it.” Calborn nodded. “I will agree to these terms as well. My honor alone demands I clear my people’s name.” “Fine. I will, accede to your request on the condition that after the investigation is complete that you turn over all information to my government and all parties agree to accept Confederation jurisdiction when determining any judicial proceedings.” “Agreed.” “Very well.” Asher nodded. “There is one last matter. As my ship is the best equipped to handle an investigation of this nature, I would propose that it be headquartered here and led by my chief of science who will have independent authority to conduct the investigation. Are there any objections?” A welcome silence followed and for the first time, Asher began to breathe a bit easier. “Very well, I suggest everyone return to their ships and begin coordinating with Lieutenant K’hal on which officers you are assigning to his investigation.” Both the Tamaran and Kaedwani commanders departed shortly after, their security detachments keeping them apart; tr’Shaelon however lingered. “Captain, if we might have a moment in private?” “Of course, why don’t you join me in my ready room. I might even have a bottle of Romulan ale if you need something after that.” tr’Shaelon grinned. “In deed.”
  15. Kaedwan Confederation Report Prepared by: El’Arrain Issaha NDak, USS Excalibur ---- BACKGROUND Formed nearly a century ago, the Kaedwan Confederation began as a defensive alliance between the Kaedwan, Aedirn, Kovissian and Cintran peoples as a backstop against expansionist neighboring powers in the Paimpont region, such as the Xindi, Breen, Romulan, but more immediately the Tamaran Empire. The defensive alliance quickly grew into a multinational confederation and has solidified into a federated republic, comprising of several dozen star systems and ten member states. The Confederation maintains close trade relations with the Breen and Romulans, with whom they exclusively supply with cryogenic materials and oxium (a rare metal used in construction of Romulan AQS units.) In return, the Breen and Romulans governments provide them with weapons, technological advances, and protection from the Tamaran and Xindi. Due to the Federation’s longtime support of the Tamaran Empire, whom the Tamarans supply large quantities of biogenic materials, relations between the two have remained terse, if not antagonistic. However, recent developments on Romulus have led some in the Confederation to wonder about the long-term viability of their partnership, and to look towards the Federation -- who they are more ideologically aligned with -- as a better fit. POLITICS While the member states retain vestigial autonomy on a number of issues, real authority rests with the governing “Security Council.” The Security Council is nominally comprised of all ten member states, however only five are given “voting” rights. These five consist of three of founding members (Kaedwan, Aedirn, and Koviss) while the other two rotate on a two-year basis through the remaining seven representatives. At the beginning of each two-year term, the representatives elect a Chair who serves as the nominal head of government, though in reality the powers of the office are mostly limited to parliamentary procedure. The Confederation’s head of government, the Secretary-General, is elected by direct-popular election and serves for unlimted 6-year terms. The current Secretary-General is Gniss Colarni, the first Secretary-General to be elected from outside one of the original founding states. The Secretary-General serves as the commander and chief of the Confederation military, and guides both domestic and foreign policy. Within the Confederation, the Kaedwan and Aedrin maintain positions of consistent dominance, owing to both their relatively larger economies and populations. The Confederation military, in particular, while being nominally the responsibility of all member states, draws heavily from Aedrin and Kaedwani history and traditions. While the Kaedwan homeworld of Ard Jael serves as a defacto capitol, the actual capitol is a large, space-born facility located near the center of the confederation. BIOLOGY Kaedwan Classification P-2 life forms, the Kaedwan are mammalian primates. They have fair skin and complexion. Though their histories record they once possessed telepathic abilities, a genetic mutation that propagated throughout the species some 10-centuries ago seems to have neutralized this gene. Physically they are resemble Terans, with the exception of two corniculate structures on their heads. Aedrin Classification P-6 lifeforms, the Aedrin are mammalian primates. They have blue-green skin and markings in deep purple, pink and grey that form around their eyes. Koviss Classification M-5 lifeorms, the Kovissians are mammalians closely related to perissodactyla, more specifically Teran Tapirs. Cintra Classification P-5, Cintran are mammalian primates who bear a strong resemblance to Vulcan and Romulans, including having copper based blood. It is possible they are distant related. Tothir R-1 class lifeorms, the Tothir are a species of cold-blooded reptilians with a highly-evolved sense of smell that replaces their near-absent sense of sight. MILITARY OVERVIEW By Lt. Commander Philippe Augustin and Major Ryu Seung-jae The Kaedwan Confederation maintains a robust defensive posture with a series of outposts along their considerable borders with the Xindi, Federation and Tamaran governments. In addition they posses advanced technology on par with the Gorn or Tzenkethi Empires. Their military fleet primarily consists of varying classes of light cruisers, destroyers and smaller patrol vessels. These ships are armed with weapons sourced from Breen and Romulan governments. Federation intelligence suggests the Kaedwan also possess several larger capital ships. Current information indicates they have 16 Bulwark-class heavy cruisers (roughly equivalent to a Mk4 Excelsior-class), 4 Adamant-class heavy cruisers (roughly equivalent to a Mk2 Ambassador-class) and 3 Citadel-class battle carriers (roughly equivalent to an Akira-class.) Additionally further intel suggests the development of a series of new “medium” cruisers to be underway with the first of these ships expected to begin space trials in the next 16-18 months.
  16. Author's Note, this log takes place during Excalibur's time on Risa. Apologies for the delayed posting. Elethor, the larger of the twin suns of Risa, had already dipped below the horizon of the Regent’s Lagoon while Hjae, the smaller of the pair followed close behind. It had been a long time since Asher had been on Risa. Arden had spent several years stationed at nearby Starbase 12 and came often, but that had been when Asher was in command of the Cassini and rarely had a chance to spend time with him. He took a drink. That was a choice, he considered. It was always a choice. They had known each other for half a lifetime. They’d been through virtually every major life event together. There had been their graduation from the academy, their first posting together, each’s first promotion. Arden had been the second call Asher made when he learned he’d been given the opportunity to command a starship. The first was his mother. They hadn’t even been together then. They were on one of the many breaks that Asher had come to feel were mostly his doing, but still there wasn’t anyone else he wanted to talk to about it more. “Of course you’re going to take it,” Arden had said, almost in disbelief. “If you turn down this command, who knows when another will come around -- and you can’t stay as the ex-oh of the Idrissi.” Arden had, as usual, been correct and he’d eventually accepted the offer to take over. There was always some doubt for Asher though. He’d never wanted to be in command. He certainly never wanted to be in command during a war. He was an explorer, a scientist, a cartographer. The war had changed everyone, everything. After it ended he’d considered leaving the fleet -- he’d done his bit for king and country; but as always, the allure of the unknown pulled him back and, at Arden’s urging, he accepted command of the Cassini. For the next ten years he journeyed into beyond. H was an explorer again. There had been a price to that, of course. Arden had always wanted to be with Asher, even before the Cassini but the distance strained their relationship even more. They went weeks, months without talking. Longer than during any other time in their lives. Still, Arden had always been there when Asher did call. Asher rubbed at his nose. Maryse had been kind enough to patch up his broken nose, off the record. He didn’t want to make anything official, regarding Miranda losing her temper in his ready room. He’d deserved that punch. Retiring was a serious consideration. Though it was unlikely Admiral Tersan would find cause for his long-term removal, the investigation and subsequent administrative leave had given Asher ample time to once again consider the matter. Not that it had really left his mind since being given command of Excalibur. Arden’s posting to Camelot had complicated matters. Their relationship had almost completely fallen apart when he’d surprised Asher by requesting an assignment to Camelot. Asher hated the Gamma Quadrant and, outside of the crew who he cared deeply for, the entire assignment to Excalibur. Nothing about it had ever felt right. He wanted the Cassini back, but then there was Arden who made it all seem less terrible. When they’d returned to the Alpha Quadrant, and Arden asked him to marry him it seemed like the right time to leave his career behind for Arden, who’d done the same for Asher multiple times -- but Arden wouldn’t hear it. “Absolutely not,” he said when Asher brought it up the first time on the long shuttle ride from Deep Space 9 to Asher’s family home on the distant colony of Kynareth. “It’s not an option. You’re keeping the Excalibur.” “And what are you going to do?” “I could join you.” Asher had frowned. “I love you, but...” “I know.” He kissed Asher on the cheek. “I know. We’ll figure something out that works for both us. People owe both of us favors.” Behind Asher, as the suns settled lower and stars began to sparkle through the purple-pink sky, he heard Miranda and Arden laughing in the kitchen of their bungalow and sighed. He’d been so selfish. Miranda had said it without saying it, but retirement was selfish. It was an easy way to solve a problem. No, solve his problem. Pushing off the railing, Asher finished his wine and headed inside. Dinner was a civil affair. Arden had prepared a fantastic meal, as he always did. Miranda seemed more at ease with him than she’d been a few days before, or even at the reception. She had every right and reason to be upset, Asher knew. Still, they both knew such tension was untenable aboard a starship. When they’d finished with dinner, Arden excused himself to the kitchen to make coffee leaving them alone. “He can cook,” Miranda said as she put her napkin on the table. “One of his many endearing qualities, but we were going to talk about you and Excalibur, weren’t we?” Asher nodded. In the three years they’d known each other, Miranda had quickly grown from first-officer to a valued friend and colleague. “In some ways it’d be easier for me, maybe even for them, if I asked for a transfer. A new captain could bring a lot to the table but... that’d be a little too easy for me, wouldn’t it?” She only nodded as he continued. “I should have brought you all into everything. I shouldn’t have hid it but... I did. There’s no real reason to go through that whole thought process, other than just... it won’t happen again.” “You’re right. It won’t,” she said firmly. “Because if it ever does, you’re on your own. No backup, no covering. We put our own careers on the line for you this time. I won’t do that again. I won’t let the crew do that again.” Her wine swirled in her glass. “You could take the easy way, but if you did, you’d probably hate yourself for it. Retirement wouldn’t suit you, and you know it.” “No... Arden said the same thing, and he’s right. I’d have to find something to do.” “I’m not sure why you’d even be considering the change. We work well together, don’t we?” She couldn’t quite keep the hurt from her voice. He heard it and drew back from his wine for a second. “Of course. You’re an excellent first officer and...” he paused, swallowing. “A better friend than I deserve. It’s just ... since the war the uniform hasn’t always felt right and I don’t know...” Taking a long drink of his wine, he sighed again. “And part of me feels like, I’ve made Arden make so many sacrifices. He’s always been the one giving something up for me, never the other way around. I thought -- I thought maybe leaving fleet and just being there for him would change things, but then I’d just be being selfish again. “It would just be about my own guilty feelings, and not how Arden feels.” "And how does he feel," Miranda said, pointedly. "He thinks I am being silly," Asher said as he emptied his wine glass and refilled it. "I know in his heart he wants us to be on the same assignment again but --" "But?" Miranda had softened some, but only some. "He's a good officer and the crew likes him. I am sure we could find a place for him." "It's not that. He'd fit in fine with the crew and he's one of the best officers in the sector. I just can't have someone that close to me under my command -- for a billion reasons. I know I am not exactly the type of commanding officer who keeps my officers at arms length, but there's got to be some limits and..." "And you couldn't give the order." Miranda was sympathetic now, as her own thoughts wandered. "I can understand that." "I just can't make decisions for the crew with him around. I could never send him on a dangerous away mission. I would second guess every command decision." "So, have you told him that?" "I didn't for a long time. Well, not directly. The old, 'it's not you' stuff," he tipped the wine glass back again. "But we've talked a lot since I came back. He's different, you know? Always has been. I've dated plenty of people over the years. Even someone like Kai, who meant a lot to me --I could, I think, have had him under my command. But Arden? I can't be rational. I wish I could. It would be easier, for everyone. I just can't." "Good. I am glad you're finally being honest with yourself. " Arden returned at that point with coffee, leaving unsaid how much of the conversation he'd listened to through the sliding doors. "So Miranda, what are you going to do for the remaining few days on Risa..."
  17. FEDERATION NEWS NETWORK NEWS ROUND UP Presidential Candidates Debate Future of Cardassian Reconstruction, Domestic Polcies at Forum Front runners vying to led the Federation met on Betazed for the first of a series of candidate forums ahead of formal debates scheduled for later next month. Candidates discussed a myriad of issues including the long, ongoing effort to rebuild Cardassia. With both President Bacco and her Vice-President opting out of runs, the field is considered wide-open. The next forum will be held on Vulcan on SD 28802.3. Tune in live to FNN for full coverage. Romulan Empire Announces Tighter Visa Requirements Citing a rise of security concerns on outlying worlds, the Romulan government has announced a series of changes to their already strict visa requirements for Federation citizens wishing to enter Romulan space. Beginning early next week, Federation citizens will be required to produce a number of new documents verifying their identity, and will be limited to only two weeks in Romulan space for non-government related travel. The Federation Diplomatic corps has released a statement saying they find the change ‘troubling’ and intend to discuss the matter at ‘the highest levels.’ More at FNN Intergalactic. Future Federation Members Converge on Risa Dozens of candidate worlds sent representatives to Risa to participate in a conference designed to allow a cross-culture exchange of issues facing those worlds on a variety of topics, including security, healthcare and infrastructure development. More at FNN Politcs. Elasia To Host 2390 Federation Track and Field Championships Following their expected ascension to full-federation membership, Elasia will play host to the 2390 Federation Track and Field Championships. “We’re very excited,” Jalen L’Kan, chairment of the FOGC, said at the announcement on Earth, “The Elasians put together such an amazing bid and we’re excited for our athletes to compete in such excellent venues.” More at FNN Sports. Investigation Into Labor Practices Announced The Federation Trade and Labour Board announced it would launch a full inquiry into reports over unsafe labor practices in the Tamaran Empire, following allegations that the long-time supplier of Federation biogel has been skirting labor regulations required for any Federation trade partner. The Tamaran Empire had denied any systematic issue, but did allow that ‘some’ suppliers could be breaking those rules and has vowed to address concerns by the Federation. More at FNN Markets.
  18. A shower hummed softly in the background of Asher’s quarters aboard the Excalibur. Arden bit his lip as he picked up the brass sextant on his husband’s desk. It had been a gift, from Arden, when they got back together again after some disagreement -- Arden couldn’t even remember when exactly. That had always been the nature of their relationship. On again, off again with long periods of not talking to each other. He thought they were finally past that. Glancing towards the bathroom, he wondered if he’d been wrong. Exhaling he set the sextant down. “I’m going to go check on a few things,” he said loud enough for Asher to hear him. “I’ll be back.” “Don’t go,” came a quick reply. “I am almost done, and anyway you need to get one too. Doctor’s orders.” Arden sighed. Dr. Dubois had given all of the crew who’d been aboard the Lugh actual orders to shower and rest. “I know,” he said, “I won’t be long.” Before he could leave, Asher emerged from the bathroom, draped in a towel, his body glistening in the low lights. “You shaved.” “I know you hate when I have a beard,” Asher said with a boyish grin. “I’ll have Talen do something about the pony tail too, promises.” “If you think sucking up is going to make me less mad at you,” Arden said with a tired sigh. “You might be right. But only a little. Though don’t expect Miranda to be so forgiving.” “I don’t expect either of you to be, honestly.” “I told you along time ago, I’d always be here for you. Even if you make that incredibly hard sometimes, it’s a promise I intend to keep.” “Sometimes I wonder if I even deserve you.” “You don’t, but the gods seem content to let that slide. Anyway, I am going to stay in some quarters K’hal arranged for me on deck 4. Don’t ask me to say. I love you Asher, gods know why but I do. Right now, though, I need sometime in my own headspace and you need to rest. I’ll be up for breakfast, okay?” Though he wanted to protest, Asher nodded. “Do I at least get a good night kiss?” “I hate you, I really do.” Eventually, Asher was left alone in his quarters. He made his way to the small bar in the corner and opened a bottle of wine. He should never have left for Telar Minor, he considered. Not without telling Arden what was going on. He had deserved that much. A chime interrupted. He half expected it to be Miranda. She had deserved more too. It was, however, just the intercom. “Captain, I have Vice-Admiral Tersan for you.” He grunted a sigh. Couldn’t she have waited a few hours. “Of course,” he said, finding a shirt and pants. “Put her through.” “Captain,” Tersan began, “I am glad to see you’re unharmed. Commander Hawthorne reports your captor and his compatriots are in custody.” “Yes. He turned himself in,” Asher added. “Good. Captain -- Asher -- I am going to level with you. This entire incident is more than a little concerning and I will spare you a lecture.” That was some small measure of relief. “Out of deference to your husband, and to your ex-oh and crew -- all of which you owe a great deal of gratitude towards -- I let them go off on their rescue mission, off the books. I’ve only skimmed the preliminary statements by this Kai Emaril, as well as your own and just -- what on Earth you were thinking escapes me -- but,” she held a hand up, “ Like I said, I am not going to lecture you. Other than your previous run in with Mr. Emaril you have a distinguished service career that shows an excellent record of judgement. On that basis, I’ve recommended that this not go to a full board of inquiry and Command has, provisionally, accepted that. So this will all be in house for sector command. “ “Thank you.” “Don’t thank me yet, Captain. It’s possible that we could find something that would merit opening a full inquest, but I would prefer that not to happen so if you have anything you’d like to tell me that was not in your initial report, now would be the time.” “Not that I am aware of, ma’am.” “I’ll hold you to that. “ She paused for a moment, straightening in her chair. “I would hope this doesn’t come as a surprise, but until we’ve finished our investigation, I am going to be suspending you from active duty. Commander Hawthorn will continue to have operational command of the Excalibur until the matter is resolved and I am including formal orders to that effect now. “ “Of course.” “Very well -- unless you had anything else for me, Captain?” “Only that I appreciate you allowing my crew and Arden to be the ones to mount my rescue, and I apologize for the inconvenience my lapse of judgement has caused you.” "Just see it doesn't become a habit."
  19. Reposting based on posting in the wrong part of the forums The Galaxy Osprey hummed along at its maximum cruise speed of warp 6.5, which for a ‘civilian’ ship wasn’t half-bad. The makeshift science lab on the second deck doubled as a weapons storage locker, something Asher was less than thrilled about. Still Kai had managed to ‘acquire’ a rather impressive collection of scientific equipment, including an extremely advanced holographic imaging scanner of Caldorian origin that would cost a small fortune on the open market, but the price, according to Kai, was going to be well worth it. Of course Asher knew Kai hadn’t actually bought the scanner. He’d stolen it. It still had a registry sticker from the Caldorian Science Adcademy on Thavor IV. Why bother lying to me now? Asher wondered as he adjusted the scanner to begin imaging the datacube they’d found in the Collabras system. After all of this, why lie about it. The thought continued to linger. There had always been a distance between them, despite their intimacy, even from the moment they met. The trademark woosh of pneumatic doors drew Swain back to the present, his hands moving towards a disruptor pistol. “You’ve gotten jumpier. Don’t trust me?” “Not particularly,” Asher said without turning away from his work, but letting the disruptor out of his grip. “Though I don’t think you’d hurt me. Those uh, friends of yours, though?” “They’re harmless, besides they know if anything happens to you they’ll deal with me.” “Touching.” Leaning against the ‘lab’ table, Kai frowned. “You think I am being insincere?” “No,” Asher said without looking up. “I just think you only care so long as I am useful for this little... whatever it is.”’ “I told you, I am going into retirement when this is over... at your insistence, I might add. “Why don’t you believe me?” “Experience.” Kai slid closer, blocking Asher from the scanner. “You’re the one who betrayed me.” “We’re not starting this again,” Asher pushed back from the table and stood. “We both made mistakes, some of us bigger than others. If I thought I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be helping you like this. I certainly wouldn’t be risking my career for you again.” “Oh,” Kai said, frowning. “So that’s why you’re ‘helping’ me? Because you feel bad about what you did twenty years ago still?” “I said we aren’t doing this.” “Doing what?” “Having this conversation. I told you I would help you find whatever this thing leads you to, and I’ve kept my end of the deal.” “You conditioned it on me turning myself over to the Federation after I’ve sold whatever artifact we find, you mean.” “I am a Starfleet officer Kai. I am only helping you because if I didn’t, you’d likely try and do this yourself and then end up dead.” “And you don’t need that on your conscience I guess -- killing me again.” “I love how you’re trying to blame me for that.” “I mean you did turn me in.” “I didn’t have much of a choice, for starters and second if you’d told me the truth...” “You wouldn’t have helped? Turned me in?” “I never wanted to be a part of your little scheme in the first place. It was one thing when you were just the ship’s purveyor of black market goods -- sneaking a case of Romulan ale here, a crate of Dzebian crystals there. Everyone knew about those little side deals -- even the XO. Hell I think half the officers used you for one thing or the other, but...” “But helping freedom fighters under the brutal occupation of the Spoon...” “Smuggling weapons to terrorists fighting a foreign government we happened to be trying to negotiate with to end nearly twenty years of unremitting hostility. Can’t think of many clearer violations of the prime directive...” “And yet you helped anyway.” “I only went along with it because you lied to me you bastard. You told me they were smuggling medical supplies.” “Technically...” “Don’t even. You knew damn good and well what was getting smuggled in and even if I agreed with what they were trying to accomplish...” “Yeah, yeah -- you’re a Starfleet officer. I am painfully aware.” “You knew what you were signing up for when you enlisted, don’t give me that crap.” “The Federation turned a blind eye to the Occupation. They turned a blind eye to what was going on the DMZ. They stood by and just watched.” Asher burst out laughing. “Like you gave a flying targ about any of that. This is exactly what I was talking about -- this is why I don’t trust you! You can never just be straight with me. There’s always some big story, some crap. Like this scanner. You didn’t buy it. You didn’t win it off a Ferengi in a game of tongo. You stole it. “But you won’t tell me that because -- hell I don’t even know why at this point. Maybe you’re just a born liar. I don’t think I even care anymore. I’ve risked my career for you, I’ve almost certain blown up my marriage. And for what? To be lied to even more? What parts of the story you told me back on Earth were even true? You know what don’t bother. Just -- just go drink yourself silly while I work. That’s what you were always good at anyway.” “Damn,” Kai said, “you really do care for me still, after everything.” Asher glowered. “Of course I care about you, but none of that matters anymore. You’re a lying thief.” “Look. I have certainly, over the years, embellished facts. Used them to manipulate people to do things for me that they wouldn’t do if they knew the truth -- and at this point, I do it so often and so regularly I don’t even usually notice.” “Here we go again.” “Fine, you’re right. I lie a lot. I stole the scanner from a Caladoran research team. They’re who found the second coordinate. I was, uh... I was under contract with them to provide security. I recognized the vault and well, you put the rest to together.” “I already figured most of that out. I am not an idiot.” “If you’re asking if I was being truthful about the rest? Then, mostly yes. After the war, I laid low for a while. Just small stuff here and there. The Bajorans might have talked the Federation into giving me amnesty, but I wasn’t exactly welcomed back into your big happy family with open arms.” “You could have signed on with someone reputable.” “Maybe, but I didn’t so who cares. “Look the rest of what I told you was true. I got in with a syndicate -- not that one -- but a syndicate. I was running stuff for them, when well... I got a little careless. Now I owe them. I have a buyer lined up, now we just to finish the job.” “And then.” “And then,” Kai said heavily, “and then I’ll turn myself over to Starfleet, like we agreed.” “Good. Now, let me get back to work.”
  20. I am sorry my child. Why? This is not what I tended for you.... for any of you, for us. Archimedean, do not weep for us. We told you, we would walk the path your chose for us -- wherever it led.
  21. Come, we must go -- the others await. Are you sure of our path? One can never know with complete certainty that their path is true, but I know that this is the path we have chosen and now we must see it to end -- wherever that maybe. If the Archimedean believes this is the path we should walk, then I shall walk it with you. True wisdom is not always following blindly my child. But come, we shall discuss this later. For now we must see to our mission.
  22. Do you remember, when I first came to you, Archimedean? How could I forget? You were very scared. You spent much of your time alone, in your room. I cried, I think, nearly every day. I didn't understand how my family could have left me. They wanted the best for you. Do you still miss them? Sometimes. I wonder what J'nan looks like now; I wonder too if Len'za still smacks his mouth when he eats. That always annoyed me. But he was a good brother. I think of my parents, too. Mother especially. In another life perhaps, you will meet them again. Our path is not always one of companionship. Yes, though I have come to think of you -- and the others -- as my family now. This pleases me. The awakening is ... not always an easy transition. This is who I am now. I could be no one else.
  23. As the sun went down behind Mars, the track lighting along the metal cage that surrounded the Pei Xiu flickered to life. A small shuttle dipped just below the horizon. “Big ship,” the pilot said, glancing over to his passenger. Asher Swain glanced over. He hadn’t been paying attention, and only just realized they were alone in the shuttle. “Mm, yeah. Big ship.” he said turning to look as the Nebula-class starship filled the window. The pilot laughed. “Where did you say you were stationed before, Lieutenant?” Fairly sure he hadn’t said anything about where he’d been assigned, or even what his name was, Asher exhaled and leaned back into his chair. “Transerfing from the George Washington.” “Ah,” the pilot said, making a small maneuver to bring the shuttle behind the drydock. “Don’t know anything about her, but the PX isn’t too bad.” “I am pretty excited about the opportunity to run my own department.” “You’re science, right?” Asher nodded. “The new chief of Stellar Cartography.” “Mmm,” the pilot said. “I’m just a security grunt and occasional taxi driver.” “I appreciate the lift.” “No problem. So, what’s your name -- Lieutenant?” “Asher Swain.” “Kai Emaril -- I’d shake your hand, but we’re coming around to land and the autopilot is a bit finicky today. So, that guy with you at spacedock? Friend, boyfriend...” “Friend,” Asher said a bit too quickly, before smiling. “Just a friend.” “I see.” After he’d disembarked, Asher found Kai waiting for him just outside the shuttle bay. “So, Lieutenant Swain -- big plans for your first night on the P-X?” “Not really, no.” “Well, they’re showing a holovid in the rec lounge at 1900 if you want to come. Maybe we can get drinks before or after. No pressure though.” “Maybe, I don’t know. I have a lot of unpacking to do and I should read over the brief for our mission...” Kai smiled. “Well, if you change your mind -- my quarters are on Deck 5, Section 12. Here --” He tapped the exact berth number into Asher’s datapadd before heading off in the opposite direction, leaving Asher to find his quarters alone. Sifting through a duffle, Asher stopped at a slender, translucent rectangle -- a picture. He ran his hands over Arden’s face. “Just a friend,” Asher said, tucking the photo back into his duffle and turning to pick up the PADD with Kai’s address.
  24. Snow fell, swirling and tumbling through the sky. Snow country in Japan was harsh, unforgiving and yet spectacularly breathtaking all at once. Asher smiled, tugging his blanket tighter around his neck. Behind him, the maid had brought up his breakfast and left it on the table, along with fresh linens for the baths. From the window, he could see the steam rising from the bathhouse. It was eight or nearly passed it, Asher decided. He arrived by tram earlier in the week and had mostly kept to himself. The inn was quiet, tidy and well-kept. The innkeeper had told him that it had been in her family since the Edo period. After nearly three months with Arden as a constant companion, it was a strange feeling to be suddenly alone; but in the desperate quiet of the snow country it was oddly comforting. Sapporo had been the perfect closing to their time together, but it had been time for Arden to leave for his new position at Starbase 39 Tango. Asher’s thoughts returned to the snow covered peaks in the far distance. In the winter, cold Siberian air flowed down along the ocean currents and filled the western slopes that formed the backbone of the Japanese home islands with some of the heaviest snow falls on Earth -- several meters at once was not uncommon. This year had been no different. Snow country always reminded him of the mountain ranges on Kynareth where he’d grown up, and as an academy student, had served as a retreat when the pressures of school and life had swallowed him and he needed to find himself. Now, as he had then, he hoped he might find himself among the snow and hills; nut in the swirling winter storms, one could become lost too. Ghosts -- yuki-ona -- could also find their way into your heart and lead you further from your path and into the nothingness of the beyond. Cold, alone. His leave would be expiring soon -- had it really been three months since they’d returned from the Gamma Quadrant? -- and he would need to make a decision he’d been avoiding. He wondered, as he took up a cup of tea from the breakfast tray, how the refit was coming. He’d made a point, at Arden’s urging, to stay disconnected from all of that. It had been difficult at first, but after the second week, all thoughts of his career had faded into the background. Commanding the Excalibur had never been his choice of assignments, and in reflection, his reluctance to accept the position had certainly colored his view of the last two years. Brass had been exceptionally understanding of his desire to spend time away. They had also made it clear that should he wish to have a command more suited to his interests, that they would accommodate him as best they could, though they were of course careful to make no promises. He took a sip of tea, staring into the cold, winterscape and the mountains once more before heading to the bathhouse. Steam rose into the cold air, a gentle mist floating above the snow-covered roof of the hotel. Like most of the ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) in the area, the bathhouse was fed from a nearby hot spring. He slipped effortlessly into the water, his mind wandering. The Cassini had been his home for almost a decade and her mission had been almost exclusively one of pure exploration. After the Dominion War that sort of escape had been the only thing keeping him in Starfleet. Though he had served during the war, and understood his role in protecting innocents, he had never been comfortable with the idea of being a soldier-soldier. Perhaps that’s why he’d been so uncomfortable with the assignment to Excalibur. Starfleet could say the Akira-class was a multi-use ship all they wanted, and even though it did have suitable enough laboratory and exploration equipment, it was still a warship. A warship assigned to a warzone. He closed his eyes and sunk below the surface. His thoughts drifted, but continued to return to one subject. Surfacing, he ran a hand through his hair and stroked an absent beard. Arden disliked both. He wondered if he should regrow them. He didn’t know when he’d see Arden again; unless of course he chose to leave Starfleet. That was the option he’d uncomfortably been mulling since the end of the war. In truth, the Cassini had only ever been a distraction from that question. A happy distraction, perhaps, but a distraction. When he returned to his room, the sun had already risen above the mountain, sparkling in the distance. He dressed quickly before leaving for a walk along a narrow winding path that twisted and snaked between the ryokan. Children played in the fields, building snowmen and riding on sleighs. The skiing crowd had left early in the morning and would soon return for lunch. Asher smiled. He had never skied, he considered. In all of the many trips he’d made to the snow country, and even on his homeworld, he’d never bothered. He doubted he’d be any good at it. Perhaps he’d take it up. Maybe he would join them for the afternoon, just to watch. By the time he’d returned from his walk, they’d already returned. He’d missed them by only a few minutes, one of the staff said as they brought him lunch. He had been late, so the meal was far simpler than was normal -- only a bowl of steamed rice, miso, fish, and of course, tea. He had nearly finished when the innkeeper -- a tidy, middle-aged woman with a round face and full, pink cheeks -- approached him. She bowed respectfully and greeted him in Japanese. “Your guest,” she continued, “can we prepare anything special for him?” Asher smiled. He’d almost forgotten. “No, nothing out of the ordinary, but we will take dinner in my room.” “Kekko,” she said bowing again, before disappearing back into the kitchen. He spent the rest of the afternoon napping and reading a book the previous patron had left. It was rather poorly written, but it passed the time as he waited for a man he hadn’t seen in over a decade. Asher hadn’t really known what to expect when the doors finally slid open.He found his eyes lingering on the sharp features of his one time lover. There was something haunting and fleeting there he hadn’t noticed all those years ago. He wondered if perhaps it was just the cold, clearness of the night. “This is a wonderful little place,” Kai said as they sat down for sake. “You look well, Asher. It’s been a long time.”
  25. Rain fell on the small collection of buildings that passed as a spaceport on Kaira IV. Inside one of the industrial structures, a rowdy chorus of an Irish drinking song drowned out the sound of rain pinging against the roof. “He said he’d meet us here?” “Yes. I am sure he’ll be along. He’s never been late before -- “ “What if he was caught?” “You worry too much.” “Aren’t those basically famous last words?” Kai Emaril glanced disapprovingly towards the other young man seated next to him in the corner table of the Rusty Stembolt. Maybe he had made a mistake in bringing him. He sighed inwardly -- there was little use in self-doubt. “Look,” he finally said. “We’ll give him another ten minutes and then we’ll go back to the shuttle.” “What did you tell Horran we were using the shuttle for anyway?” “I told him we were going to get a little fresh air and get a drink. I didn’t lie to him.” “Good,” the young man said, crossing his arms. “Why are you so uptight? People take shuttles for trips like this all the time.” “I‘m a Lieutenant, Kai, it’s different.” “You never you used to worry this much about stupid stuff -- Asher, besides here’s our man now.” Their “man” was really a tall, slender Bajoran female. She looked them over for a long moment before taking a seat opposite them, waving off the waiter as he approached. “Sorry to keep you waiting -- the spoonheads have made getting through the checkpoints more difficult the last few weeks. Something about the murder of some high ranking Gul.” “I am sure you’re torn up about that.” “Absolutely in mourning,” she said with a wry grin. “Though I understand your friend here might be able to help us out with all these -- traffic difficulties?” Kai looked to Asher, who was trying to hide his apprehension. “If you have the data, Asher can make it work.” “Good. People’s lives depend on this. If we can’t navigate the nebula, people are going to die. The spoonies are trying to starve us out.” “Don’t worry,” Asher said finding his voice. “I can do it. Just -- give me the data.” She looked him over again before producing a small data-rod. “This is everything we’ve been able to get on their detection net. When you’re ready, Kai knows how to transmit the data back to us.” Asher nodded, palming the data rod and slipping it into his coat pocket. “Like I said, we’re counting on you. Don’t screw it up kid.” -- Morning light snuck through cheap blinds, striking out towards the small bed in the corner. “Uggg.” “What is it?” “You need to go.” “Go where. It’s...” “It’s already morning -- you’re on duty in like half-an-hour and it will take you at least that to get across town.” “Screw that.” “No,” Asher said sitting up in bed with a tired yawn. “You can’t miss another duty shift this week. N’awel will have you up on report and then you’ll be in the brig and then I’ll be alone...” “Screw N’awel. My head hurts,” Kai buried deeper into the covers. “Go for me. It’s not like you can’t walk around with a phaser for a couple of hours looking tough.” “I have my own crap to do today. I have to meet that horrible Doctor ... what was his name? Ornn --- whatever -- I have to meet him at the ruins.” “Oh right; you’re mister important scientist guy and I am just the grunt.” “Basically. Now, get up and get a shower. We both smell like too much booze and I think I got a new tattoo last night.” “You did,” Kai said, finally emerging from the covers. -- It had been nearly three weeks since they’d met with the Bajoran female -- who Asher had learned was named Maier. Sitting alone at the bar of Starbase 63’s Pipyard bar, he frowned at the nearly empty glass of whiskey. “Another?” “Please.” The Pei Xiu had been laid over at the aging space station along the Federation-Cardassian border for nearly a week after their navigational array had been damaged in an ion storm. “How much longer do you guys expect to be here,” the bartender -- a scruffy, three-eyed Albertian simply named Golic said as he filled Asher’s glass. Asher shrugged. “Engineering says they need another couple days to calibrate something or the other. You know how it is.” “Ah,” Golic said, “Not that I mind. It’s been nice to have your people here -- good for business. With this on again off again war, it’s pretty variable. I remember when this place first opened -- before the fighting with the Spoonheads started --” Just as Asher feared he was going to be drawn into a long conversation with the racist bartender, he felt a hand on his waist and shoulder and soft lips on his neck. “Hey there,” Kai’s smooth voice followed the kiss. “I’ve been looking for you.” “Mmm,” Asher mumbled as he finished off the whiskey. “Where else did you think I’d be.” Kai slid to the stool next to Asher and motioned to Golic for a drink. “Knowing you? Working. I looked all over after my shift.” “You could have just asked the computer,” Asher said dryly. “That ruins the fun. Anyway, Mjar wants to see us tonight.” Asher’s eyes widened a bit. “Tonight? We can’t --” he stopped and looked around to make sure the bar was still empty. “We can’t get a shuttle to Kaira in three hours. That’s assuming we could even talk Horran into letting us take it out again.” Throwing back the whiskey, Kai turned to Asher and kissed him again. “You’re thinking too much again.” “One of us has to.” “I know that -- which is why I do it. Mjar is here and I made reservations for us at that Bolian place you like.” “It was okay.” “Whatever -- this whiskey is pretty good, Golic -- we’ll meet her there. You should wear that outfit you wore to Lexa’s reception it makes your ass look good.” “My ass always looks good,” Asher said getting up from his stool. “Where are you going -- “ Asher kept walking. Frowning at the freshly poured glass of whiskey, Kai exhaled and ran after him. “What wrong?” Pushing away, Asher kept walking. “It’s nothing. I have work to do. Go back to the bar or whatever.” “Don’t be like that.” “Like what?” “Like that!” Asher stopped. He bit his lip. Son of a ... “Is this about tonight?” “What gives you that idea? Of course it's about tonight. How could it not be about what you just told me!” “Why are you being so moody. You’re going to make a scene.” Turning, Asher brought himself within a few inches of his lover, pressing himself close. “Oh and meeting with your Bajoran terrorist on a Starbase is conspicuous as hell,” he kissed Kai for a long moment before releasing. “How stupid are you?” “You’re worrying again -- “ “One of us needs to worry I know you don’t give a damn about....” He paused and started kissing him again as someone walked by the airlock. “What don’t I care about?” “It doesn’t matter. I’ll see you tonight.” -- The brig cell was cold. Cold and smelled like booze. Booze and maybe blood. No it wasn’t blood, well human blood anyway. Too coppery -- Vulcan blood? Asher blinked open his eyes and stretched. “I see you’re awake.” Definitely Vulcan blood. “Oh -- Taven. Uh... what...?” Sitting in the corner, a tall, lanky Vulcan male sat cross-legged in what Asher only could assume was a meditation pose with a trail of dried green blood from his bulging lip. His right eye had also swollen. “You and Ensign Emaril required my, assistance.” Blinking again, Asher felt his head throbbing with every pulse of the electromagnetic field that cordoned off their cell. “Oh -- right. Thanks for that. Where is Kai anyway.” “I was simply doing what a... friend... does for another friend.” Tevan said closing his eyes. “As for Ensign Emaril -- “ “Kai’s being held by the planetary authorities.” N’awel’s nasal intonation didn’t help Asher’s hangover and what he thought might be a broken rib. Asher glanced over, feeling a whinge of pain as he took a deeper breath. Yeah, broken rib. “.” “Yeah, that’s a good word for it. Captain’s none too happy.” Asher started to protest, but between the headache and the rib, he just nodded. “Of course, sir.” “Turns out the dude you two started---” “We didn’t start...” “Got into a fight with,” N’awel corrected himself, with a roll of all four of his eyes. “He was some sort of courtesan or something and a personal friend --” Asher snorted, but N’awel continued. “A personal friend of the Regent. You two really couldn’t have picked a worse time for this either. Negotiations were already delicate... and now you get into a bar fight with the Regent’s...” “I know -- I know.” N’awel rolled only his upper set of eyes. “Fine I’ll spare you the speech, but only because Captain’s going to dress you down when she gets done getting Kai out of their clink.” “Why is Taven still here. He was only...” “He should have shot you both and drug you out of there....” -- The pneumatic doors to his quarters had barely swished open when Asher felt a heavy, unfamiliar hand on his shoulder. “Lieutenant Swain” came a commanding voice. “We need to talk,” “It’s okay Asher. “ Commander Roberta Seclair followed up. “But we should go inside.” Compliant, Asher nodded and stepped slowly into his quarters, his heart fluttering faster than a Mabrizi Hummingbird’s wings. Inside, he found himself opposite of tall, blonde-haired man in a dark suit and the stoic Seclair. “Sorry for the theatrics Lieutenant, but we’ve been waiting for you sometime now.” He should have been anxious, frightened or scared, but instead his first thought had been to the state of his quarters. Still, Asher swallowed. “Can I -- I am not sure what this is all about?” Secliar nodded to the tall blond, crossing her arms. “No reason to screw around with him, John. I told you, he’s a good kid.” ‘John’ nodded. “I suppose a more formal introduction is in order.. My name is John Lendover, Starfleet Intelligence and I need to talk you about your friend... Mister Emaril and your mutual associate you’re supposed to meet tonight.”