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About Victria

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    Evil is a point of view

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  1. "Promises Broken" Lieutenant Victria & Captain Ethan McConnell Sol System, Earth, Starfleet HQ, San Francisco “You’re being reassigned.” Victria stared blankly at Ethan, eyes slightly narrowed. “We discussed this already, did we not?” “I’m sorry, Victria. I really am. I did what I could, but it ultimately wasn’t up to me.” He sighed, running a hand through his dark hair. “I argued until I was blue in the face, but it was pointless. They had your transfer orders finalized before I ever met with the committee.” “And where am I being transferred?” she asked through clenched teeth. “Nord Station. It is in the Greenland province. You’ll like it. It is cold and perpetually night.” “Which department?” “Research and development.” He held up a hand to stave the burst of anger he knew was just below the surface. “Before you start in about being an experiment, they want you to help us with adapting Scorpiad technology.” “Stealing Scorpiad technology, you mean. The Federation will not provide a single crate of supplies to aid in the fight of my people, but they will benefit from what tyrannical technology filters into their hands. Is that a correct summation?” He frowned grimly. “The issue is not so easily explained. You know that. They have very good reasons for not involving themselves in what they deem a civil confrontation. We’re not allowed to arbitrarily take sides.” He cut off her next comment with a jerk of his head. “Save it, Victria. I asked to bring you these orders personally in hopes that you would accept them better coming from me. I didn’t come for a debate.” “After our last discussion, did you really expect me to simply accept this without resistance?” “I had hoped that you were more evolved than that. This assignment isn’t just about Scorpiad technology, you know. You have never been put through full Academy courses or evaluated in the areas that all officers are first evaluated before they are allowed to serve aboard starships. The nature of your... existence... exempted you from much of that, but there are things that you still must learn.” “You want me to attend classes?” Her expression was one of amused disbelief. “Essentially, yes. You excel in many areas that most of our students do not, but are severely lacking in others.” “I shall resist asking in which categories you find me deficient. Frankly, I do not care.” “Your sardonic attitude is one of those areas that need work,” he said wryly. “I’ll be there to help you along with that.” “I decline.” He blinked. “What?” “I decline this transfer.” She removed the communication badge she wore and handed it to him. “I withdraw all associations from your Starfleet and your Federation and will be leaving Earth immediately.” Ethan’s gaze turned hard and his hand formed into a fist around the badge. “No one said you have a choice in the matter,” he said, his tone dangerous. “Did you not listen to what I said during our last conversation?” she hissed, her anger very apparent. “Do you want to be treated like a prisoner? Because that is what you are, technically. You are a prisoner of war. Your fleet attacked a Federation ship and was destroyed. You were rescued by the grace of one of our officers! You do not get to decide your fate until we deem you are no longer a threat. And as of this moment, you are a threat! I can have your classification changed in an instant.” Peripherally, she was aware of others entering the room. She turned her head slightly to the left, watching the guards file in. Swinging her gaze to the right, she found more of the same. They were armed with rifles, but also with the special modifications she’d seen, incorporating ultraviolet technology into the beams. “I did not want this to come to violence, but you leave me with no other choice,” Ethan said flatly. “Submit willingly or they will subdue you with force. You are going to be transferred either way.” By way of answer, Victria whirled, launching herself at the nearest of the guards, striking his jaw with the full force of a roundhouse kick. He hit the wall behind him with a thud and slid to the ground unconscious. Almost immediately, three beams of purplish light hit her from different angles, eating through her clothing to score the flesh beneath. She hissed in pain and staggered forward, nearly falling as her flesh began to blister and dissolve. As soon as the weapons fire subsided, she dropped to one knee as her body healed the damage. In only minutes, the wounds had closed, but the throbbing pain remained. Enraged, she turned her attention upon Ethan. Saying nothing, she quickly jumped to her feet and lunged, intent on ripping his head free of his body with her bare hands. Six beams hit her before she got more than a few feet, striking her from all sides. Screaming, her body arched at an unnatural angle, nearly bowed with pain as she dropped to both knees. Despite her rising anger, she made no further acts of aggression as his team moved in to restrain her. Though her body healed quickly from normal wounds, it needed more time to regenerate the damaged cells from UV exposure. With the beams so concentrated, her body’s natural healing properties were struggling to keep up. She needed to feed to aid the process -- properly feed. While the pain slowly began to ebb, she was dragged to her feet and restrained at the ankles, giving her just enough slack to walk. Restraints were put on her wrists that automatically locked to the belt about her waist. “Don’t worry,” Ethan assured her. “This isn’t permanent. I know you are just reacting to the heat of the moment. You’ll eventually calm down. Once you are cordial, we’ll allow you the same freedoms you’ve experienced on the Excalibur.” “If you are waiting for me to be more civilized, you are going to be waiting a long time. I will taste your blood before this is over,” she promised. “I look forward to it,” he said sarcastically. Gesturing to the guards, he turned as they led her away.
  2. "Agendas" Lieutenant Victria & Captain Ethan McConnell Sol System, Earth, Station Caspian Two "I hope you aren't thinking of doing anything foolish." "I do not know what you mean," she said dryly. "Don't be coy with me, Victria. You know exactly what I mean. I know you better than you think." "Do you?" One eyebrow rose, not in query, but in challenge. Ethan smiled thinly in response. "There is nothing you can do for him. He brought this about on himself. I understand better than you like. From the reports I've seen, I know that his actions were necessary. It was not, perhaps, the wisest course of action, but for someone who had gone through all of the proper channels…" He shrugged. "There was a time when I might have done the same." "Do not tell me that you understand only to hide behind your protocols. If you truly thought that he had no other recourse, he would not be imprisoned." "What he did was very public, Victria. It cannot be ignored. We have laws for a reason. He broke them and knew there would be repercussions. He will suffer his punishment honorably." "I know this, but that does not mean I have to like it," she snapped. "I don't like it. I wouldn't expect you to." He sighed, running his hands through his hair as he leaned back in his chair. "I only want to make sure you aren't going to do anything." "Like what, exactly?" "I know how impulsive you can be. I know how your anger controls you." "I dislike games that do not involve bloodsport. Ask me plainly what you want to know." "Are you going to try to free him from prison?" he asked bluntly. Having not considered anything of the sort, Victria stared in surprise. "Free him?! You think I would attempt to free him? And then what? We fly about the quadrant, hiding from your Federation patrols? Start a rebellion?" She let out a single incredulous laugh. "I am sometimes brash and instinctual, but I would never be so dense." He seemed to relax. "Ah, glad to hear it. I had hoped… well, never mind. From your reaction, I can see that you weren't even contemplating it. But you are planning… something, aren't you?" "I had only planned to visit him. Before Excalibur disembarks, I wish to visit him. Can you grant me that much, at least?" "I'll see what I can do," he promised. Shuffling the stack of padds in front of him, he pulled one free and glanced at it. "On to other business, I brought you here to discuss two things. First, we need to debrief you on what actually happened. I read your report, but many of the items need clarification. Second, I have your transfer orders." "What do you mean, transfer orders?" Her brows drew together as his face became the instant focus of intense scrutiny. "You are being reassigned, but we'll get to that…" "No! You will tell me now!" Slightly surprised by the vehemence in her voice, he glanced up. "You are being reassigned to work with us here." "Absolutely not! You are not taking me off the Excalibur." "I didn't think you would want to remain on that ship with… with the command changes that will be taking place." "I am not leaving that ship. If you wish to assign special projects to me in addition to my normal duties, fine. I can easily complete them when not on regular shift, but you are not dragging me down here on some thinly veiled pretext that hides your true intentions." "Really, Victria. We have discussed this. I would never let th.." "You might not," she said, cutting him off, "but there are others that would. I am not a subject for your medical examiners to dissect and study. Here, I am under constant scrutiny and have absolutely no privacy. If you want to see me lose my patience and rip the throats from your colleagues, by all means, reassign me here. I guarantee it will happen within the month." "I… I had no idea you felt so strongly about it. I only thought it would give us a chance to work together. There is much I want to know about you and your people." He studied her face for a moment, then shrugged and looked back to his notes. Her nostrils flared as she caught the carefully controlled emotion that he wouldn't show. Ethan McConnell was a decent man that had always treated her with respect, but there were those that he worked with that would see her enslaved for the purposes of science, no matter how they justified it to themselves. Though the interest and curiosity between them was mutual, she would never attach herself to his division simply because he wanted to be her friend. "Under other circumstances, perhaps, but not these," she felt compelled to say. There were reasons why she wished to remain aboard the Excalibur for a bit longer, of course, chief among them that the ship would eventually be going back to the Gamma Quadrant. She had no intention staying aboard any longer than she absolutely had to, but she would never divulge that information to Ethan. If she admitted it aloud, he would be forced to have her reassigned, likely locked away in some subterranean laboratory for her own 'safe keeping'. From the way he looked at her, however, she wondered if he guessed at her intentions. He met her gaze, inclined his head slightly, and returned his attention to the report before him. Her respect for him edged upward. "I understand," he said. "I'll have the transfer cancelled. You can do more on Excalibur when she's in the Gamma Quadrant than anywhere else, anyhow. No one can argue with that." "Thank you, Captain," she said genuinely. "Now, what would you like to cover first?" "From the reports, there are many things that have happened over the past two years that we need to discuss. Let's begin at the beginning…"
  3. Love the logs, guys. Nice Castle reference there, Rue. ;) Love that show.
  4. "Nocturnal Speculations, Future Uncertain" LtCdr Garrison & Lt Victria Mark rounded the final corner towards his quarters, each footfall sounding heavier then the last. His shoulders slumped in defeat, and the only thing he could think about was polishing off the last of his whiskey, the only thing that could give him several hours of blissful unconsciousness. An unconsciousness where he didn't have to: account for Romulans on a Federation starship, explain why he threatened to drug Federation citizens, try to remember how many intelligence officers were on board at the moment… oh, and that lovely chat he had with a Republic redshirt about how mentally sound he thought Captain Corizon was. Reaching his door, he entered his command codes, unlocking the door. (Apparently he was also one of the few smart enough to actually lock said door since the arrival of their Republican occupying force.) Walking in, however, he noticed all the tell tale signs that the lock had been bypassed. Nearly three years on this ship, he certainly didn't have to guess who. "Victria," he stated without emotion, simply interested in drawing her out from whatever unseen shadow she was in. "They have been sniffing about, but no one has done searches of crew quarters. Yet." Perched on the back of his couch, she shifted her feet slightly and leaned forward. "I half expected them to swarm the ship in search of contraband, but their force is not as large as it should be. Of course, no one would dare think of mutiny. I suspect everyone is simply glad to be back alive and mostly worried about their careers." Turning her gaze from the floor, she fixed him in her icy stare. "You were interviewed for quite some time," she observed. "Judging from their attitudes, I half expected them to round us all up in cells for the duration of the trip back." Reaching into his secret stash spot, he produced a bottle and glass. Pouring himself a healthy amount, he moved to sit at the smaller loveseat opposite Victria. "Apparently I'm being viewed as something of a prime accomplice in all this..." He paused again, gulping down half the glass before continuing. "… based on the conversation I just had with some lowly command lieutenant. Ten years my junior and he calls me 'sir' as if it's a thread held between his metaphorical scissors." He let out a disgusted snort and finished the rest of the glass. "How could you possibly be to blame? It was Corizon's decision and his plan. Or did they expect you to file an official complaint and hide in your quarters for the entire mission like a coward?" Her attention shifted to his drink for a moment, possibly contemplating a drink of her own. "Or did they take exception to the way our guests were handled? The roughed up freight crew? The dead Romulan? Do they hold you responsible for those?" "Well... all of that actually. The apparent logic is that Corizon can scheme a grand scheme, but it takes a willing crew of participants to make it happen. I conducted the interrogations, shot four federation citizens who are, of course, innocent till proven guilty. I think they're the most pissed about the dead Romulan. Interstellar war and what not." He let out a defeated sigh, pouring himself another. Glancing up at Victria, he noticed her attention momentarily fixed on the bottle, so he motioned it towards her. His career was going up in smoke, might as well share this extremely fine whiskey with a woman that it seemed was nearly impossible to get drunk. There had been more absurd things in the past few days. She shook her head, waving away the offer of the drink. Alcohol was not what she craved and would do nothing to sate her hunger. She met his gaze again. "You are more than welcome to heap as much of the responsibility and blame on my shoulders. I care not. I have no career to protect and do not intend to wait to be punished for something we did as a favor to the Federation." Her fingers dug into the fabric of the couch. "We recovered the weapons, we discovered some of the people involved, and we rescued a stranded intelligence officer. I would say one dead Romulan is a small price to pay for what we accomplished." "As would I," he paused to drink. "However, I don't think many others will. There used to be an era in Starfleet where the ends justified the means, but those cowboy days are long gone. I stand by every one of my actions even if I still don't one hundred percent agree with what we did. Still, it needed to be done. Too many people would have died while our evidence was debated in committee and forum before being presented to the Romulans, who would, of course, deny everything." He quickly took on a sour frown, before finishing off his second glass. "However, should Starfleet require scapegoats, I'm ever ready to perform that duty as well..." One of her eyebrows lifted. "You would willingly let them punish you by stripping away your rank and dumping you some place you had no wish to be, even though you knew what you had done was not wrong? Is that part of the oath you take and the duty you accept when you become a Starfleet officer? Having served with you on this ship and knowing your disposition, I would not think you would simply give up so easily." "I don't intend just to give up. However, I doubt that reason will exist much in the coming days." He began to pour himself another glass, but the prevailing effects of alcohol had began to take hold, and he was soon no longer dispensing into his glass, but rather on the floor. "Damnit..." he trailed off, putting the bottle down, but did nothing more to rectify the situation. Mark had to guess he looked as pathetic as he felt. Truth was, he hadn't felt very motivated as an officer of late. Though now, after this botched mission, as illegal and questionable as it was, it was something worthy to him. Worthy of all the years, the blood, sweat and tears he'd put into his service. It only made sense that he'd be rewarded with court martial, dishonorable discharge, and possible imprisonment. "You though, I doubt you'll get much trouble. It'll only be a matter of time before you're stalking the halls again, intimidating junior officers." Victria continued to frown and then slowly shook her head. "This was never the life I would have chosen for myself, trapped here with my senses slowly dulled from disuse and with no proper source of food. They removed Corizon from the ship. There will be little incentive for me to stay here if they do not allow him to return. My people are fighting for survival and I should be with them. I have stayed only because Corizon made certain promises that would provide them with aid they would otherwise not have. Some of the resources are outside of traditional Starfleet channels. I could tell no one else, much less expect another to fulfill Corizon's clandestine guarantees." "What... what would you do then? Where would you go?" Somehow, Victria leaving the ship seemed a worse fate then being sent to some padded penal colony for an extended amount of time. "I would do what I was created to do. Fight. Kill. Die. It matters not, so long as I am with my people, rising against the oppression the Scorpiad have bestowed upon us for so long. They must suffer for the lives they so carelessly tossed away in the war of their own making. This ship saved my life. Corizon saved my life. I owed a debt and it had more than been repaid." Mark slowly nodded, unsure of what to say. She certainly had every right to do as she pleased, but he still found the thought of her leaving to be unsettling. It was his idiotic luck for falling for women with whom it was impossible to have a relationship. "Well," he stated after some time of staring at his glass, hoping the words would manifest themselves in his drink. "I hope you don't... get killed out there... or anything." They didn't. Her nostrils flared slightly as she caught some of the underlying emotional tones. The harsh lines of her face softened as her furrowed brow smoothed and her frown disappeared. Some unnamed emotion rose to the surface. Pity? Regret? Creeping from the couch, she rounded the table between them and sat down in front of him. Giving comfort was a foreign concept to her. She placed her hand on his knee, feeling awkward in the gesture. "Though no one can foresee the future, I can tell you that if I do leave, it will not be the last time we see each other. I do not intend to lay down my life in a pointless suicidal gesture for my people. If I fight, it will be to survive. I am almost as good at surviving as I am at killing." "That I can believe," he stated with a small smile. "Still, it won't be the same. We won't be able to have these wonderfully awkward chats. Though... you won't be able to parasail me into trees either, so perhaps we'll call it even in the end." "You survived everything," she pointed out. Her eyes shifted to the scars he bore on his neck where she had savaged him. She was almost glad that had happened. It severed their ties and would make leaving easier. The place he had occupied at the back of her consciousness had nearly been erased. There would be no wrenching goodbye. "You survived everything. There are few that could." He smiled at her, staring into her icy blue eyes until the familiar awkwardness again set in. "...It's getting late. I should probably call it a night." "Yes, it is pointless to think of the future that has not yet been written." She rose and looked to the door, then back to him. "The future is uncertain, but the present does not need to be. I would stay if you wish for company." Again he stared at his drink, considering his options for the smallest of moments before looking up at her. "Always."
  5. Mister Peanut joins Starfleet 'cause he heard it was nuts. .
  6. Only a few seconds after Victria entered the armory, Mark stormed in, looking ready to tear the entire room apart. Sealing the door behind him, he issued about the most violent expulsion order that the lowly armory team had ever experienced. They scurried out of the side door with Mark hot on their heels, sealing and locking the door behind the last one with his personal security code. He stared at the closed doors for several seconds before turning to face Victria. She was staring at him, clearly unimpressed by his show of force. "I am so God damned sick of you. The attitude. The veiled threats. The jokes, subtle and not. The disrespect. The attempted murder!" He barked the last one, a shaky finger pointing to the barely noticeable scar on his neck. "I break the bond because we're as bad together as we are apart. I give you as much damned space as I can give you with our respective roles on this ship. Nothing ever satisfies you, nothing! I've been working for over two years to manage some sort of a non-mind blowingly ridiculous relationship and nothing ever works!" "What do you want Victria? You want me to just ignore you as long as we're both on this ship? You want me to swallow my pride and transfer out because my subordinate with a penchant for killing keeps kicking my ass and making me feel foolish, or do you want me to get down on my knees so you can finish the job you started in the holodeck?" His eyes burned with as much intensity as she'd ever seen. One way or another, "this" was going to end here and now. Though gritting her teeth, Victria did not advance on him, keeping her rage barely restrained behind a thin veneer of civility. "What I want," she began slowly, grating out every word with effort, "is to forget everything that has happened between us. What I want is to travel back to the beginning to stop all of this before it began. I want to be able to breathe the same air as you without being able to taste your blood rolling over my tongue. I want to be able to look at you without wanting to choke the life out of you with my bare hands!" Her tone increased in volume with every word until she was yelling at him. Her hands clenched into fists, driving her fingernails into her skin until she drew blood. "I want to be able to co-exist in the same space with you without feeling this stabbing pain in my chest. I want these wounds I cannot see to heal! I want to feel something other than hurt. You wounded me more deeply than any knife or blade and I cannot fix it. I want the weakness gone!" His face turned from indignant, to an open jaw hang at her last words. "I wounded you? I wounded you!? Look at this!" He savagely grabbed her by the front of her uniform, pulling her inches from his neck. "This is you! In the end I was nothing more than a piece of meat. Even now I know it's taking every fiber in your body to hold your mouth and fangs shut!" Rather than tempt the Fates, he pushed her back, sending her into a rack of phaser rifles, causing several to fall off. He then produced his wrist, with the same puncture scars. "Now look at this, and tell me which set of scars you think I can live with! So enlighten me, Victria, please enlighten me on how I've wounded you so horribly!?" She snapped in frustration, grabbing one of the rifles jabbing into her back and hurling it across the room to shatter against the lockers. "I told you to leave! I warned you and you thought yourself invulnerable. You know that I am no human! I cannot always control my instincts and predatory urges! You knew that! You are as much to blame as I in that regard." She turned to glare at him and pounded her fist on her chest. "You left me with nothing! I am half of what I once was. Everything is gone. Everything is dead. When we were together, I felt almost human. I experienced your emotions and it helped me to understand. But it is all gone now and all am I left with are the urges that I can barely control." Fists clenched again, she began pacing like a caged animal, jaw clenched with anger. "I cannot live this way. I foolishly opened myself to you and now I cannot be as I was before - strong and unfeeling, never blinded by loneliness or pain." As he stared down at the now destroyed rifle, some of the anger washed away, replaced by a little sadness and mostly regret. He sighed deeply, recomposing himself. "Well, you're right about a great many things. We can't go back. This constant snapping, shoot first ask questions later mindset… I didn't have that before coming to this ship, before bonding with you. I was slow to anger, quick to forgive, a damned optimist if you can believe that. So you might have it harder than me, but don't think I walked out of your quarters that night, pushed you out of my mind and continued on without a care. You're gone, but it's a void in the back of my mind, which just makes me think of you, which just makes me think of everything that went wrong." Once again the anger flared. He grabbed a rifle and shattered it on the wall, pacing for a moment before turning on her. "So yes, you told me to leave, and yes I was foolish and naive to stay, but damnit Victria, I cared about you! If you claim to have had such a human experience bonded to me then you know what that feeling is. That hope that maybe I had just enough influence to calm you down, and even if I didn't I'd rather you take that rage out on me, then having you do something stupid that may have pushed us over the edge into a war with the Scorpiad, the Al-Ucard rebels, or both!" "I was in the holodeck so I would not do anything foolish." She stopped and turned to look at him, brow slightly furrowed. "I know you were only trying to help, but I did not need it then. I needed to work through the rage. It was the only way I knew how to rid myself of it. Think back to all of the times that you have tried to stifle my nature. Every time you berated me for following my instincts because they were not human and you thought them base and animalistic. For every situation that you have tried to control, there are dozens more that I have managed to handle myself, to control myself. You know that I did not hurt you intentionally. I was not... capable of cohesive thought. All I could smell was blood. I am starving. Every day I ingest synthetic compounds, but they only mimic the real thing and cease to be effective. I am starving, slowly, but all the same. That coupled with the rage... I could not stop myself." Sighing, he crouched down, his head in his hands, staring at the floor. "I don't want to hate you anymore. I don't want to live with this tension, this void. Every time I think I can look at you without a maelstrom of emotions, I go back to the image of your teeth sinking into my neck, and I don't know how to move past and accept what happened. I don't know if I can." She dropped to her knees beside him and put her hand on his cheek, lifting his face so that he would be forced to look at her. "I did not mean to put you in harm's way. And I do not intend to continue forcing you to relive it. I... I do not always know how to handle these feelings except in anger." He gave her a small nod, closing his eyes. How he'd missed her touch. It was hard to stay objective, to even stay mad like this. Could he move on though? If he didn't try, and stayed on this ship he knew it would consume him. He couldn't leave the ship, not after finally feeling like the first time in a long time he was somewhere he belonged. "I'll make you a deal..." He trailed off, as if still trying to think the words. "I'll walk away when you make it clear it's in everyone's best interest, and you don't bite me anymore. Deal?" He couldn't hold back the smallest lip curling smile at making such a statement. "I will never feed from you again unless you offer it," she promised softly. Her hand caught his wrist and she lifted it to her mouth. Their eyes locked, she kissed the marks there that she'd left. Then, slowly so as not to startle him, she leaned forward and kissed the scar he bore on his neck. The smell of him was intoxicating. Eyes closed, she inhaled deeply as she drew back. Impulsively, he quickly pulled her into a kiss, gently at first but quickly building passion. Objectivity, rationality and sanity be damned. They broke, resting on each other's foreheads, catching their breath. "Together in the hunt." He stated once he could complete coherent words, presenting the same wrist to her downward eyes. It was as good of an offer as he could present. Her breath caught in her throat and she quickly covered his wrist with her hand, shaking her head. "No, I will take no offerings of pity. You know the risks and the consequences and I will not subject you to them again, no matter how much I might want it." Pulling back a few centimeters, her eyes searched his. "Give me this instead." She kissed him again, heatedly and frantically, all of her anger and despair and loneliness channeling to passion that would not be denied. Even without the bond he could feel her, and he wasn't about to deny her. Weeks of built up emotion expelled as they battled for dominance in the embrace. Mark eventually prevailed, pushing her onto her back, her head narrowly missing one of the numerous strewn riffles. Needing release as badly as she, he was on top of Victria in seconds, continuing where they'd left off.
  7. If there was one last good thing this bond would do, it would prevent any awkward pandering over what was to come. She knew Mark was coming, and they both knew what this was about. So, after a determined walk, a push of the door chime, and an acceptance in, Mark and Victria stood face to face for the first time since their confrontation in the holodeck (not counting forced pleasantries and the passing of reports and orders while on duty). Staring her down, he tried to control his emotions. He'd processed and stored her betrayal as best he could, and he wasn't interested in the discussing the logic of being fed upon. So, after a few tense seconds he finally spoke. "You know why I'm here." "Yes," she said simply. Stepping to the side, she flicked a hand at the interior of her quarters, inviting him in. Her eyes remained on his face even as he passed her. The doors closed behind her, hissing a note of finality. "Somehow, I always knew this would be the end result. You still have not accepted. You ignore it as though it will simply go away." She strode past him into the living area. On the low table in front of the couch sat a heating pillar. Turned away from him, she dropped a handful of crimson pebbles into the shallow basin at the top. After a few moments, the incense began to melt and smoke lightly. "No," he shook his head. "I accept your biological requirements. I understand your desire to hunt. This ill conceived bond that I refused to break even when I realized it was a mistake taught me at least that much about you. If you expect me to accept and understand that you'll feed on anyone without any restraint or remorse, then you're as ignorant of me as you think I am to you." He let out a deep sigh, pacing around for a bit, before finally taking a seat, doing his best to relax into it. "Call me egotistical or naive, but I assumed that you would at least not try to rip out my throat like a piece of meat." "I warned you," she said, glancing to him. "I told you to leave. It was all of the restraint I could find at the time. Most would not have even had that much. No Al-Ucard would ever be so kind to a human." She sat on the table itself, legs curled beneath her on the reflective black surface. Her wrists rested lightly on her knees. Blue eyes found his through the rising tendrils of cloyingly sweet smoke. "On this ship, I am but a ghost of what I once was. In the holodeck, that was my true self. I am a Hunter. I am a Nightstalker. I am the bane of the Lucam and the Scorpiad. I am not a tame pet to be caged but a wild beast prowling. When the scent is upon me, when the Hunger rises, I can hold it at bay for only a short while. I went there to find release. You should have stayed away." She was unapologetic and cold, giving no sympathy or remorse for what she had done. Her face was a mask of neutrality, but a pang of emotion flowed through the bond from her. Hurt? Pain? It was barely a whisper and gone before it became tangible. "That is untrue. You have changed my outlook. Perhaps I once felt that way, but no longer. Not about you. I thought you, especially you, would understand. You who have been in battle before and know the way it overwhelms the senses, logic, and reason. What happened... was not intentional." She gestured to the side of the table nearest him, eyes dropping. "Sit. Please." Poised at the edge of his seat, looking to the door a momentary wave of anger flushed over him. He hated the control she had over him, and how she could make him question himself so easily. Sliding back into the seat, he pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Yes, I know the adrenaline rush. I know the heat of battle. Maybe even the 'thrill of the kill', but I've never turned my rifle on my crewmates when there were no enemies left. Even if I put aside my own feelings I still have to look at you and realize that there's a point where you can't distinguish friend from foe. What happens when Laarell pushes you too far? What happens if we have another run in with the Scorpiad and you don't have the convenience of tearing apart holograms?" He moved forward in the seat again, drawing closer to her. "You said it yourself. This civilized conversation right here is a ghost of the real Victria. As much as I want to believe you when you say there's a changed outlook I know what the real Victria is now. The real Victria wants to hunt, she wants to kill, and she wants to feed. There's no going back from that. I don't even know how to justify letting you walk the halls of this ship!" "It is not for you to question my presence on this ship," she growled. "A higher authority than yours ordained that I should be here. Take your concerns to Corizon. Tell him what I have done. I care not. He understands the rising Beast more than anyone. I doubt he will do anything save to tell you that you should have heeded my warning." Her jaw clenched and her fingernails drove into the fabric of her pants. Blue eyes flashed up at him briefly but quickly flitted away. She stared at the pillar before her, driving away the anger she felt, both from within and from without. "You can feel the control I must exert over myself on a daily basis. You can have seen how I attempt to conform. You, of any other, have seen how difficult it has been, and yet still I have tried. I was a fool for thinking you could understand. You are soft and weak and fragile. You know nothing, Mark Garrison." "If you wish this to end, sit," she said, her voice sounding far more calm than she felt. He opened his mouth to say something, but simply sighed and moved to sit on the table opposite her. There wasn't anything else to say. There wasn't going to be any compromise or justification, and he was sick of arguing with her. "What do I need to do?" He hadn't really thought about what would be needed to break the bond. Knowing Victria, he probably wasn't going to like it. Mark sighed uncomfortably. "Breathe deeply. And you must bleed." No, he was not going to like it, but it was necessary. She held out her hand for his. One of her blades flashed as she drew it from her hip. "Blood to seal the bond. Blood to sever it." Her eyes rose then to stare at him, waiting. "Of course..." He muttered, before finally producing a hand, holding it out for her. "Exactly how much must I, uh, bleed?" "As much as is required," she replied cryptically. Luckily she had taken so much of his blood already that very little taint remained. She slid the blade across his arm, deep enough to cut but not enough to do any serious damage. He bled freely, the steady stream of crimson hissing and bubbling as it hit the heated pillar beneath. Acrid smoke filled their nostrils and lungs. As she held his arm, her eyes closed so that she might listen to the fading whispers of emotion. When it was enough, she released him, indicating the first aid kit on the floor beside him. She could have closed the wound herself, but she had no desire to taste him. The burning incense masked the metallic tang of blood. She would not press herself upon him ever again. If she ever took his blood, it would be of his choosing and his desire. Her blade sliced into the flesh of her arm and she let her life flow to mingle with his. Then, all at once, they were alone. Each of them alone. Their feelings were their own. Not meeting his gaze, she wiped her blade free with a soft black cloth and extinguished the pillar. "You are free," she said softly, allowing herself the grief that always came from such a loss. Part of her was missing. It was the same whenever a clan-mate fell into darkness. "Thank you." It was all he could reply as he stared down at the burning incense. He ignored the first aid kit, too disoriented to notice. She was really gone. He somehow managed to keep from looking around the room for her, and reaching out to feel the back of his head, where under the flesh and bone she'd resided for so long. Glancing up at her, she looked as fake and artificial as the plastics and metal that surrounded them in this ship. Sitting across this table she felt miles away and looked...almost vulnerable. Part of him more then anything wanted to reach out to her, but he knew he couldn't. That was the part of him who wanted her to be something she couldn't. The part of him that allowed him to continuously be in denial about the reality of things, and convince him that everything would work out in the end. Looking down, he saw his hand already unconsciously reaching out. With a moment's hesitation it recoiled before he pushed himself off the table, standing over her. "I...I should go." "The feeling will pass," she said, knowing the confusion within him. She could smell it, but no longer feel it. Sitting motionless upon the table, her eyes remained on his face. "The rift will heal, the gap will fill, and you will soon forget everything but yourself." "Go," she said quietly, "and heal." "You too," he muttered with a small nod, before walking to the door. Once in the door way, he paused, glancing back. "Victria, for what it's worth...your people deserve to be free. If it weren't for you I don't think I'd believe that. I just hope when they are, they can see the rest of us as something other then prey." "Perhaps they shall," she said unconvincingly, then looked away as he left. When the doors closed, she grabbed the smokeless pillar in front of her and flung it across the room where it hit the wall and shattered. "Weakness be damned," she muttered darkly. "Bonds be damned."
  8. I found a Scorpiad in my house today. I crushed it under my heel. Perhaps the next one I shall keep as a pet and feed it crickets. ... but I doubt it.
  9. This log takes place during the 4 hour lull between the 6/6 and 6/13 sims. - Three of the Scorpiad attacked at once, pedipalps clicking wildly. One of those deadly claws was enough to sever a humanoid in half with little pressure. The tips of their stingers thrust forward over their heads, sometimes striking faster than the eye could track. Victria danced in the middle of the horde, screaming in defiance as she escaped harm time and time again. Whirling, ducking, rolling in and out of their range, she toyed with them until she tired of the game, then she would strike. The first snapped a mighty pincher where she had been and found a blade buried in the joint where the claw met the next segment. A severing of tissue there rendered it useless. While it screamed and thrashed wildly, another struck, stinger thudding into the deck plating where she once stood. Again her blade flashed, the strength of her genetics slashing through the segment where it was weakest, removing it entirely. Enraged and in pain, the Scorpiad attempted to snap her up in his claws, but his writhing counterpart was in the way. And so the dance went, minute by minute she took piece after piece, angering and enraging them to the point of foolish mistakes, delighting in their pain and torment. At last, she had struck the final blow and the triad lay piled upon one another, twitching in death, their thick carapaces oozing ichor from dozens of places. She stood a few feet away, blood lust still high, fists tightly clenched around her dual blades, body shaking with the effort it took to stop her striking the dead things over and over. A scream ripped from her throat, piercing the air with all the malice and rage that her slight form couldn't contain. At some point during this gruesome dance of death, Mark had entered the holodeck. He didn't know if she'd noticed or not, not that it mattered, the bond provided. It was how he'd managed to track her from the bridge, winding through the corridors, past a few crewmen who we're giving wider berths to everything now. It led him to the holodeck, where he wasn't much surprised to see what was taking place. So, he stood, and he watched. This had to have been about as bad as it ever was. He'd seen her frustrated, hungry, but this was a new level. This made him nervous. Because, what he felt in her affected him in a way he hadn't yet known. He had almost lost it on the bridge, and now here, he could almost rush out and attack her. Which meant she could do the same, and she probably had less restraint. As slow seconds ticked by in what felt like hours, he was becoming more and more sure this was a bad idea. When she finally turned away from the pile of carapaces on the floor, and faced him, the option of slinking out went away. As their eyes locked, Mark stood tall. He didn't want to fight her, or be added to count of bodies on the floor, but he couldn't back down either. He was still her superior. He had to maintain control. If he couldn't do it with words, he'd have to do it the other way. As ill conceived as idea was. "Leave," she growled through clenched teeth. Her voice barely sounded human and would have not been out of place coming from some demonic creature sent straight from hell. Every line of her body radiated anger and tension and she made no attempt to keep the rising beast tethered. As he continued to stand and stare, she began to advance in slow, measured steps, circling slowly as if to cut off his point of retreat. "Get out," more grating words ripped free and spat at him. "No," He calmly replied. His fists were clenched, knuckles white however. He had little doubt she was going to attack, regardless of what he did. He was also vaguely aware that she still held her sword, while all he had was a lack luster type-2 phaser. Not to mention the fact it was holstered. Could he draw and fire before she closed on him? Maybe. Would he find out? Absolutely. Her rage coursed through him, feeding his own desire for combat. He couldn't deny that from the moment he'd first laid eyes on her on Camelot's promenade over two years ago, he'd been curious to find out what she was fully capable of. Looks like he'd finally find out. "If you can't tell the difference between me and that," His arm stretched out to the pile of Scorpiad, "then attack and get it over with." A wordless, blood-curdling scream filled the distance between them and was the last warning he had before she launched at him. Muscles bunched and then she was flying at him, sword in hand, swinging down to strike him at the base of the neck as though to cleave him in two. His eyes bulged for less then a heartbeat as a lifetime of instinct took over. With more force then he knew he had, he pushed off with his right foot, dodging to the left, narrowly avoiding the blade. Her headlong rush, and miss left her staggered for only a second, she'd turn around and cut him down, if he didn't do something. "Computer! Sword!" "Please specify-" "Just replicate her's dammit!" The sword appeared by his right foot, and by the time he'd reached down to pick it up, she was on top of him, ready to bisect him down the middle. In a sickly metallic clang he parried, needing to use both hands to stop her assault. Still she pushed against him, threatening to over take him. He grunted as he pushed back, the adrenaline beginning to flow, Victria's training and the bond telling him more and more that this was right. Her fury seemed to only increase at the appearance of the sword. The momentum from the horizontal sweep continued as she spun and sent her blade spinning wildly on the diagonal. Each thrust was carefully timed, each strike planned in advance. She was driving him to a specific area into a specific pattern, using her attacks to herd him, setting him up like a pawn in the ultimate chess battle. The rage that overflowed served to focus her rather than blind. Her instincts sharpened, her senses became more acute, and the intensity that twisted her face into a horrid mask only grew. Sword clanged against sword as he blocked some of her strikes, feeling the jarring power behind them. He danced out of her reach to compose himself, but she was already on him by the time he'd managed to reset his stance. Still, like her, he was getting better as the fight progressed, and he let his instincts move his body. There were two things gnawing at the back of his mind however. She had both strength and speed on him, which was always a constant. However, his theory that her rage would make her sloppy, and prone to mistakes had proven to be false. On this field, she was better then him and he couldn't deny it. His only hope was to break her blood lust. Easier said then done however, as attack, after attack, after attack left him only time to defend, or die. There was no hope for him. Even before the fight started, he was a dead man and there was no room in her consciousness for any other outcome. She was going to kill him. In her mind, it was inevitable. Strike after strike hammered home, though amazingly her blade never slid in for the killing blow. There was a reason for that and it was one that non Al-Ucard could never fully understand. They longed for the kill. It was the reason they were created, but the spilling of blood was a waste when it was not needed. She fully intended to drain him. She had only to set the play in motion that would give her the required access. Again her blade sliced through the air, slamming into his blade as he managed a parry. The thin instrument whipped quickly in the opposite direction almost faster than he could counter, but slammed again into his blade with an ear-splitting cry of metal against metal. Sparks flew from his blade and yet she didn't pause. One last strike drove him back yet again, directly into the trap she'd set. The bulk of a dead Scorpiad loomed behind him, cutting off any hope of escape. She'd kept him so distracted, he noticed the fractured carapace right behind him only as he had to take another step back. His foot held for but a moment before it slipped, sending him tumbling backwards. His back hit first, allowing his head to bounce off the floor as energy of his motion transferred along, disorienting him as the sword fell out of his hand. In the moment it took him to realize what had happened she stood over him. He glanced to his left, where his blade lay just beyond the end of his finger tips. It was over, in more ways then one. After everything they'd been through, every fight, every headache, every sleepless night together, this was how it would end. A thousand thoughts blinked through his mind, trying to balance all the rights and wrongs he'd committed in the last two years on this ship. Still, laying here, at her mercy... when he really thought about it, he'd do it all over. Her blade stabbed through the air, piercing the carcass behind him and she screamed in victory. Two hands grabbed the tunic of his uniform and she yanked him to his feet. There was no look of recognition in her eyes. No hint that his emotions were even filtering through the bond. Her Hunting instinct was simply too overpowering. Crushing him against her, she shoved his neck aside and sank her fangs into his carotid artery in one fluid motion, closing her eyes as she began to drink. It was the first she had ever bitten him and she was not being gentle. Her fingernails dug into his back, clawing at him through his tunic. Moments passed and she continued to drink, fully immersed in the process, her mind given over to the beast. She would not stop until he was empty, until she had taken every drop and fully claimed him as her own. He was not Mark. He was not a friend. Their shared experiences no longer mattered. He was prey and she the Hunter. And he was about to die. His eyes widened in shock, and he let out a gasp of horror as she began to...to...to feast on him. This he could not abide. She could have sunk her blade into his chest, and he could have died with some dignity. To be fed on like this...defiled in such away...it produced a furious anger that he'd never felt before. On the surface, he'd always managed to explain away the feeding as a necessity. Now, now he knew. She didn't feel a thing, not even as she tore him open. She was not Victria. She was not his friend. She was nothing but a beast, and while she may kill him, he'd ensure she'd die with him. His type-2 phaser dug mercilessly between two of her ribs. Even with only the default stun setting, at point blank, it wouldn't end well. "Put. Me. Down. Now," He let out in a ragged grasp, taking every bit of control to simply not fire immediately. There was a heartbeat of hesitation before he felt her fangs dig in again, so he pushed the trigger. The phaser beam burned into her torso, lighting her core up like a dull flame for a second. The staggering force of a point-blank shot did not go unnoticed. Her fangs ripped free the moment she was struck and her head snapped back as she roared in pain. The force of the weapon shoved her back in violent fashion. Every muscle tensed as the stunning effect of the phaser ripped through her. Ribs cracked as she struck the wall, head slammed violently against the holographic grid. Despite the pain, she staggered to her feet, body trembling with the effort, using the wall for support. As her icy gaze swung back, some of the madness was gone. There was still anger, but not the overwhelming rage that drove her to kill. Seeing him in the state she'd left him seemed to bring her to her senses. She was at his side in an instant, yanking the phaser from his hand before he had the opportunity to fire upon her once again. She ran her tongue across the bite she'd left, the coagulants in her saliva helping to staunch the flow. "Mark," she whispered, her tone tinged with pain. "Why did you not leave?" "I care...about you...I thought I could handle you..." At that he let out a sarcastic huff. "Fool," she hissed, wiping his blood from her mouth with one dark sleeve. "I have taken much from you, but you stopped me before I could take it all. You will live, though you do need medical treatment." "If you take me to medical, they'll ask questions." "Then give them a story. You were injured on the holodeck during a training exercise because you did not know I had removed the safety protocols." "Sure, preparations in case of an Al-Ucard escape, they'll buy that." His eyes rolled in a combination of sarcasm, and blood loss deliciousness. Mark pushed himself into a sitting position and pressed one hand to his forehead as a wavy of dizziness washed over. "Help me up. It's the least you can do." Rising, she used her significant strength to pull him to his feet, holding him close to her as he swayed unsteadily. "We could transport you." "And draw more attention? No thank you. You will help me there." His head rose and he stared at her. In a moment of coherent thought, and surprising strength, his fingers clenched around the front of her collar. "We will discuss this. After we've dealt with the Scorpiad, and your brethren." "Yes, this is something we cannot simply ignore," she agreed, her eyes shifting to the angry wound on his neck. She found it extremely difficult not to reopen the gash, wanting nothing more than to finish what she'd begun. Finally meeting his eyes again, she slipped one arm beneath his and supported his torso. "Let us get you to medical before you lose consciousness. I do not want to have to explain that as well."
  10. The tables were set, the bar was stocked, and the dabo girls were changing. Time to start yet another day at the Holy Grail. Normally Travis Kroells wouldn't be up this early. Normally he'd be nursing a hangover, or some other excuse to make his employees actually earn their keep, but not today. Today was a special day. The Excalibur was back in town, and by the numbers her crew filled his pockets more than any other Starfleet ship in the quadrant. All of those horrific classified mission forced people to find any way they could to wind down. This Varen fellow was Travis's type. The ship had been sitting in port for nearly fifteen minutes before the crew flooded out. Hold them by the leash, get them salivating before setting them loose. Made the latinum flow even more. As he stood behind the bar, his best customer service smile plastered on, four women in science blue shuffled by, moving down the promenade as if some seasonal sale was on and they'd all just gotten hold of daddy's line of credit. Any minute the regulars would flow in, which included Mark Garrison. He would perch on his usual bar stool, blow what money he had on booze, and complain about his lack of a personal life, rigors of being a senior officer and what not. He wouldn't talk to any of the lovely women sitting around him, for reasons known and unknown, and Travis would string him along with enough lines to keep him from leaving, but not get out of his seat. It was what friends were for. So that customer service smile dropped into an open mouth hang when Mark walked in with Victria, sporting a demeanor that could almost be described as pleasant. Maybe mischievous. It wasn't until he had led her over, sat her down next to him at the bar, and began to stare blankly at Travis, that Kroells had regained his composure enough to clear his throat and address them. "Mark, Victria! What a pleasant surprise. I have to admit, I'm shocked to see you two here together." "I do not quite take your meaning," Victria said with a flash of teeth. She turned to peer sidelong at Mark. "What does he mean together? Does he think me incapable of spending time with humans, like a typical human usually does? Was that an insult?" She acted affronted, but of course it was only an act. Had she really been insulted, she would have reached across the bar and ripped the tender's throat out. Blue eyes slid back to Travis and a slight smirk twitched at her lips. "Of course not my dear, I was just saying, given the events that transpired the last time you two graced my establishment," He gave them a pleasant smile. This had less drama, but he had to give into the fact that it also meant less repair bills. "Well, it's good to see you've managed to patch up the rough spots. What can I get you?" "Whiskey sour," Mark promptly replied. "And for her...why don't you let her try that drink you told me about in your last comm. It's ready, isn't it?" "Mmhmm." Travis quickly poured Mark's drink, and then shuffled into the store room behind the bar. Victria peered at the bottle in Travis' hand when he returned, gaze following the line of liquid as he poured. She pulled the glass to her and sniffed the contents, both eyebrows lifting in surprise. "Alcohol... and... human? Not the most exotic of alien blends, but an interesting one." Her attention shifted back to Travis as she took a sip and let the liquid dance over her tongue. "Very impressive. Even more impressive considering that you have very little reason to cater to my tastes... unless this is an attempt to keep me from collecting what you promised last time I was here." She smiled wickedly, knowing Travis made no such promise, but Mark didn't know that. "Err...um, well," Travis's eyes darted to Mark and then quickly back to Victria. Mark, to his benefit didn't react, but Travis's reaction certainly seemed to show something was just unspoken. "I must apologize if I seem... un-exotic," again the eyes darted. "But for the life of me I couldn't get anyone else to volunteer." "I'm sure," Mark butted in. "I'm curious myself though, if this is some attempt to cater to her specifically, or if you eventually plan on making an attempt at marketing... this... to the Al-Ucard people." He told Victria his jealous stage was over, but this was a little bothersome. He supposed he should've asked Travis for more information when he told Mark he'd finally created alcohol Victria could stomach. "Marketing," she said bluntly, guessing. "If the Scorpiad continue to have a presence here, there will no doubt be Al-Ucardian slaves that accompany them. And though they are certainly well fed, perhaps they might be let off their leash to spy on the locals." She took another drink and licked her lips, eyeing Travis in a very predatory manner. "Un-exotic or no, you still taste quite good." She smiled slowly as she held her glass for a refill, enjoying making him uncomfortable. Mark took a sip of his drink while he eyed Travis pouring her another serving, with some unease. 'Let her have her fun' he figured, as he continued to sip. "I suppose we can get him to lend us a bottle to take with," he said, glancing over at her. "Actually Travis, we didn't come here just to share drinks. I'm interested in renting out one of those holosuites of yours. We're going on a bit of a vacation." "Really?" Travis turned his full attention to Mark. Anything to take his mind off the fact that his plan to serve himself up in a glass to Victria (to avoid her fangs) was backfiring horribly. He swiftly pulled out a catalog, catching her gaze as he handed it to Mark. "Well, look through here and decide...quickly." Victria continued to smile as she took another drink. The alcohol tended to burn off very quickly, but it wasn't unpleasant. Turning her attention to Mark, she leaned closer to peer at the catalog. "Are there any Hunting holos in there? Perhaps a midnight run through the city?" She ached for Al-Ucard, to join the Hunt once more, but there was little possibility of that when her people were at war. Mark pulled back, denying her access to the padd. "We hunted last time. Well, more apt to say you hunted. I was lost, and hunted." He turned to Travis. "See, few months ago we had a couple days off. She approaches me and says she wants to take me hunting. Right then and there my instincts fired off, but curious about her culture and what not, I agree. It was night the entire time, nothing but a pale moonlight. Not an hour in, she disappears, and I was left to run through the forest and fend for myself. The things she hunts could make a grown Klingon wet himself." "So no," he turned back to her. "We are not going hunting. We're going somewhere...with a beach...and waves, plenty of waves. I intend to break out my surf board, and actually enjoy myself. Not be chased by twelve foot beasts with three rows of flesh-ripping teeth." She frowned, giving him a dour look. "It was a good Hunt. I made several kills that night. I thought it was challenging. I was unaware that you did not have the same experience." Leaning with one elbow on the counter, she turned away from them both to survey the rest of the bar, eyeing the Dabo girls as they pandered to the gambling crowd and kept them distracted. "I do hope you realize that a typical daytime outing is not possible for me. Artificially created sunlight still generates ultraviolet." "Ah, normally that'd be true, for a Starfleet holodeck," Travis chimed in. "You guys are a bit behind on the...leisure side of things. Al-Ucards aren't the only species in the galaxy with sensitivity to UV rays. My holosuites can tweak just about every bit of a natural environment. I can turn off the UV, adjust the gravity, hell, I can turn the sun purple if you'd like. You know Mark, Pacifica would be a great choice. It has a weak main stage yellow star. Produces plenty of warmth, but not as much light as a lot of other resort planets such as Risa." "Pacifica sounds perfect old friend. I'll leave it up to you to set up the locale and what not. How long do you think it should take to set up?" Mark was positively beaming. It was impossible to tell however, if it was over the notion of enjoying a little surf, or being able to drag Victria along with him. "Hmm...half hour to an hour, give or take. In the mean time, feel free to gamble, drink, enjoy the offerings of the house. Just make sure you get the latinum transferred over before you go in. You do have the latinum, right?" "What is latinum?" Victria asked, teasingly. "Oh boy," Travis let out a long sigh. "You owe me Mark. I'll put this on your ever expanding tab. For now." With that he walked off, grumbling. Leave it to Mark and Victria to start him off with one of those days. ------------------------------------ The holosuite brought them through the front door of their hotel, The Pacifican (originality wasn't one of Travis's strong suits). It was warm, and sunny. Mark wore a pair of blue swim shorts with a open floral shirt, allowing him to properly enjoy the environment. It sure beat the Excalibur. Well, this was artificial too...but it felt a lot more real than the computer controlled and lit starship. Even if Victria ran off for the next two days, he could still enjoy himself. The doors opened behind him and Victria stormed in, stopping short in the shade of the door's awning. "Just what kind of foolish clothing is this supposed to be?" She yanked up the long-sleeved shirt she wore to reveal the black bikini top that barely covered her breasts. "I'm assuming this was the top, anyhow. The bottoms seemed to be made of even less fabric. Is this Travis' idea of a joke?" she asked with a scowl. "Because I have now had a taste of his blood and could do with more." Marks grin broke into an appreciative stare. He'd seen her with nothing on at all, but there was a large gap between that, and her usual attire. If she didn't look so furious, it almost would have been sensual. "I imagine he did it for me. Years with the Ferengi may have given him a great poker face, but he's a little scared of you...rightfully so." He glanced her over again. "If you'd like, I'm sure there are means to alter your attire, though I doubt you'll improve your coverings much. We should check in, and head to our room, there might be a change of clothes there." "According to the program, we are already guests of the hotel." She pointed to a bungalow a few paces down the beach that sat with others of its type. It butted up against a crystal-clear cove that was sheltered from the rest of the pounding ocean by a natural reef. Victria moved in that direction, but cringed instinctively when she reached the line where shade met sun. She stuck her hand out into the light to convince herself it wasn't real. Letting out a deep breath, she stepped out into the sunlight and squinted as she moved down the path. "It is too bright here," she muttered. He frowned slightly as they walked. It was quite perfect to him, but he also counted himself lucky that he was still walking...a little compromise was in order. "Should work easily enough as our holodecks...Computer," Beep beep. "Lower the ambient lighting by...twenty percent." He glanced upwards, as the sun itself seemed to dim. "Better?" "Not really," she continued to squint. "I did not think to bring my filtering lenses, but perhaps the program could provide those too?" The light was beginning to give her a headache and her headache was beginning to make her irritable. She stepped into the bungalow when they reached it, thankful for the shade. The airy rooms were open to the beach outside and all of the windows were propped open with thin curtains blowing in the breeze. The bed was surrounded by netting, something that mystified Victria until she remembered the giant insects on the swamp world. She moved to the closet to inspect the contents. "I'm sure you can conjure something up. I'm going to take a look around, try not to disappear right away." He traveled through a door way, glancing around as he walked deeper into the bungalow. His first thought was of some sort of a replicator, but in reality the entire place was a giant one. Still, there was something in keeping to reality, so he was pleased when he discovered the well stocked kitchen and more cooking utensils then he could wish for in a life time. They'd get a work out though. It had been a long time since he actually cooked something, rather than speak its name and have it appear in a little alcove. The dining room was elegant, but not too ostentatious. The bathroom was what really caught his eye. It held a large Jacuzzi tub with more jets then he could count. His grin quickly grew childish. Considering he hadn't ascended to the ranks where they gave you an actual water shower in the fleet, Mark could count the times on his hands that he'd bathed with water, holographic or not. He chuckled as he mused on it. Mark Garrison: Goes on shore leave to bathe properly. The closet consisted of mostly flimsy coverings and wraps and more of the same style of swimsuit she was already wearing. Victria sighed and took out a sari-wrap with floral patterns. She held up the material for inspection and frowned. It wasn't much, but it was better than the heavy pants and shirt she was wearing now. She was already beginning to become uncomfortable on the overheated planet. Quickly removing her shirt, pants, and boots, she tied the wrap around her waist and peered at herself in the full-length mirror. She was strongly reminded of the time that Laarell dressed her up in traditional Orion-whore garb and had pranced her about that bar on their 'recon' mission. There certainly wasn't much to the outfit. It was good that she wasn't shy. Looking around, she did find a table that held several pairs of eyewear. She tried on one of them and peered toward the brightness, pleased to find the blaring light dimmed to an acceptable level. "I found something interesting," she said, strolling into the bathroom with another pair swinging from her hand. "Oh, what's that?" He turned from his perch, leaning against a door frame leading into a sun room, with a spectacular view of the ocean. He joined her, nodding approvingly at the change of clothing. "Sorry, I suppose I forgot to mention the beach can get rather...hot. What did you find?" "These," she said, sliding them onto his face. "They help." She turned to stare at the beach, watching the waves roll in. Her thoughts drifted briefly to her underwater excursion on Satarimi. She wondered if Mark had ever gone diving. "It really is beautiful," she observed. "I wonder what sorts of predators lurk beneath the water." "Hopefully none," he chuckled as she sighed. "I don't think Travis would have a very good customer experience if one of his patrons was attacked by some predator. We could go out there if you like. I haven't gone scuba diving in a long, long time but I think I remember the basics. But if you're going to get me in the water, the absolute first thing I must do is surf." "Dare I ask what 'surf' is?" She turned to peer sideways at him in curiosity. "You take a long board...a surfboard, and use it to move along the face of a breaking ocean wave. It's really exhilarating. I could show you if you like. I might be a bit rusty though...I haven't gotten a chance to ride since Satarimi..." He decided not to mention Doug butting in, wiping out, him taking him back up the ship. That had been about the gist of his shore leave there. "You do it for the thrill, then? It is some type of challenge or competition?" She glanced to the water again and took a hesitant step into the sunlight. The glasses helped with the glare, but she could almost feel the sensation of burning alive. She had to stop herself from thinking about it. "They have competitions," He followed her, removing his shades. "But I prefer the simple challenge of it. How large of a wave I can ride. It's really not all that difficult, once you get the hang of it. Mostly just balance. I could teach you." "You have not even asked me if I can swim," she pointed out. "Al-Ucard has little in the way of open water." "Well, if you couldn't swim, I imagine out little boating adventure with Charlotte and Maryse would have ended on a sour note," He put an arm around her shoulder. "You'll do fine." She smirked. "Of course I will. I have perfect balance." --------------------------------- For what seemed like the hundredth time in a row, Victria lost her balance and fell sideways into the wave. The board would have shot off without her had it not been for the line that anchored it to her ankle. As she surfaced, another wave broke over and she went under sputtering. When she surfaced again, she screamed in frustration. "I do NOT like this activity." "I thought you said you had perfect balance?" Mark was floating nearby, sitting on his board. This was turning into a mixture of amusement and frustration. Amusement, because he had somehow managed to find the one activity Victria couldn't master in short work. Frustration because he was left to play teacher, and had passed up more than a few nice waves coach her from the sidelines. "Look, forget what I said about balance. Well, it's important, but there is a matter of instinct to it as well. You have to get a feel for it, it takes time." She growled under her breath and gritted her teeth, climbing back on the board and straddling it as she waited for another wave. It rose and fell beneath her as a lesser wave passed and failed to crest. "Just go... enjoy yourself," she snapped. "I will master this, but not with you hovering." He raised his hands in defeat. "Alright, alright. Just remember, there's such a thing as trying too hard. Let the wave take you." With that he swam out a distance, waiting for a good wave to rise. When one finally began to form, he turned the board around and began to move with it. As it grew and began to crest he pushed off the board, doing a little hop, and then standing on it. He rode along the wave as it crashed behind him, sticking his hand out to feel the inside, letting the water splash against him. It was thrilling, and in many ways this simple act defined Mark Garrison. Sink or swim, succeed or fail. There was no grey area for him, no, either you rode life's wave, or it rode you under. As the wave finally dissipated and crashed around him, sending him riding out of a flurry of white wash, until his acceleration faded, and he sunk back into the water with a satisfied smile. "Show off," she muttered, having watched Mark's progress. She could feel his exhilaration and hated him for it. Deciding that one more try wouldn't kill her, she turned and emulated his movements, paddling the board out to deeper water where she turned and waited for the next wave. As it rose up beneath her, she began to paddle frantically toward the shore, keeping up with the wave as best she could. As it began to crest above her, she once again attempted to stand. The board wobbled beneath her, but she quickly found her balance and stance. Soon, she was riding along with the wave... until she overcompensated for the speed and tipped head over board into the water again. Apparently ripped from her ankle, the board continued along with the wave until it lost momentum. She surfaced some distance away, fuming. Mark's smile of hope turned into a grimace of despair as he watched her tumble again. It actually looked like, for a second, she might have had that one. He wished he could do more for her. The board mount had always been his trouble spot, once he got up, staying up was easy. Ironically it seemed to be the opposite for her. It only took a few waves before she had mastered it, but staying standing had proven more than difficult. As he swam back to her, his enjoyment faded into something a moot point. For every exciting wave he had, her frustration seemed to cancel it out, and now as she paddled out in the water, board nowhere to be seen he was ready to call it. Lest she break the board, or him. "Maybe we should take a break for today. There will always be more waves." Treading water, she sighed. "No, you were enjoying yourself. I am going to swim back in and rest for a while. Please continue. Perhaps I will see where my mistakes are happening." She left him then, swimming with strong strokes back to the shore. Her endurance was excellent. When her feet touched bottom, she wasn't even remotely winded. She climbed out, water sheeting off her pale skin, and dropped to the sand beneath one of the sunshades set there. He watched her swim, until he could no longer make out her features, before letting out a small sigh. Well, it hadn't turned out as well as he hoped, but at least better then he feared. With some more practice he was sure she'd be able to make a go of it. She did want to go diving, maybe that would raise-- He either heard it or sensed it, he didn't know which was first, and it didn't really matter, but as a large wave began to form, the largest thus far, he swam out to meet it with determination, whatever he was just thinking off quickly forgotten. --------------------------------- There were a hundred fun things to do in the water. Surfing, wakeboarding, hell, sitting in an inflatable tube and having some fool pull you along in a boat at unsafe speeds. So, as he sat under the water, breathing apparatus stuck in his mouth, to say this was a compromise was to understate the fact. Nearby, Victria gracefully swam by in her bikini. Okay, maybe it was a decent compromise. He got to see her in that and she got to take him diving. Diving, the only water activity she seemed to like. Maybe because that's what she'd done with what's his face from Satarimi before riding him and chomping on his neck? Ugh. Think positive thoughts, Mark, the bond is ever present. The scenery was beautiful. The reef was abundant with life of all sorts, save for the larger predators that Victria probably wanted to test herself against. Huge mountains of coral rose all about them, spiraling upwards from multiple sources. The sunlight filtered through the water, sending muted shafts of blue-green dancing on all surfaces. Schools of fish darted and wove in and about them, flashing silver sides and bellies of multi-hued scales. The deeper they dove, the more abundant the schools became. Enjoying the sensation of weightlessness, Victria held out her hand to one of the passing groups, waiting patiently as they swam in to investigate. Before one could dart away, she snagged it easily and held it up for Mark's inspection, proud of her triumph. It was a brightly colored fish that wriggled wildly to get away. She held it by one fin for a moment and then released it to watch it swim away. The mask didn't leave much for facial expression but he gave her a small nod of approval. The scenery was indeed beautiful, but Mark wasn't much of one to enjoy such things. From what he'd experienced of Victria she seemed to be mostly the same, but this experience seemed to hold some sway over her, so he decided to try and enjoy it for her. It was rather peaceful, and he did claim he was taking this vacation to relax, so why not give it a try. He swam a little deeper towards the collections of coral. The coral came in multiple hues and shapes, each more interesting than the last. Tiny creatures scuttled and swam about in the relative protection of the reef. As Mark's hand brushed past an outcropping, an eel darted out of its den to snap at what it perceived was a meal, but actually turned out to be Mark's fingers. It clamped down on his last two fingers, shaking its head in a painful sawing motion as it tried to remove the digits. Apparently Travis's holosuites safety features prevented loss of life, but not loss of fingers. The artificial hue of the ocean instantly disappeared as the eel's teeth sank into Garrison's flesh, only the bone stopping its swift clamp. Mark howled in pain, but underwater it translated into more of a gurgle and a flurry of bubbles rising out of his breathing mask. His arm flailed about in a vain attempt to smash the creatures head against the rock face it had darted out of. Snatching his flailing wrist, Victria gripped it tightly to keep it from moving and grabbed the creature by the muzzle. It's wickedly sharp teeth cut into her fingers as she dug her hand inside its mouth until she could get enough force to pry it from Mark's hand. With a quick snap, she broke the eel's jaw in half and left it to float away, dead. Kicking hard, she dragged Mark to the surface, yanking out her breather as she broke free of the water and pulled his hand up for inspection. "Son of a bitch!!" Mark howled as his mask was taken off, probably loud enough to be heard back at the beach. His mangled hand was bleeding profusely, and shaking involuntarily out of pain. Along with that, a creeping sense of embarrassment began to rise out of the depths. Not so much that Victria had to save him from certain disfigurement, but that it had happened in the first place. His undamaged hand thrashed to keep him afloat as Victria studied the other. "Trust me," was all she said before she stuck both bloody fingers in her mouth and began to suck. Her tongue ran over his broken flesh and her eyes half closed in pleasure. She clung to him, treading water to keep her afloat and to keep him from sinking. He watched her work in stark confusion. In a different situation he could have welcomed this sort of thing, but this wasn't his usual cup of tea. Had she not asked for his trust, he would've pulled his fingers out and demanded they paddle over to the first aid station. However, she long ago earned that trust, so he let her continue, hoping for the best. When she released his fingers, she grimaced and took a mouthful of salty water, spitting it off to the side. She inspected his wounded flesh again and then released his hand. His fingers were still mangled, but they had stopped bleeding. The toxic slime that had been covering them from the eel's bite was also gone. "Can you swim to shore or do you need assistance?" she asked without emotion. He looked over his hand with some amazement before looking back to her. "I should be able to make it. Thanks. How did you...wait...I probably don't want to know." "Probably not," she agreed before swimming back to dry land. --------------------------------- The wind whipped through their hair as the boat skimmed over the choppy water, bouncing wildly over the trenches. In the seat beside him, Victria laughed in delight, but her words were ripped away by the wind. "Faster," she mouthed. Behind them, the boat left a trail of foam, stirring up the water in a frenzy and sending off an infinite number of waves. He couldn't help but follow that command. Mark smirked as he punched the throttle down further, increasing the boat's speed. If his shades weren't securely fastened to his head, he was sure they'd blow right off. Any sort of conversation was impossible, but the bond they shared clearly let him know that faster was better. She leaned forward in her seat and clutched the dash of the boat just below the wind screen. Her fingers gripped the solid surface tightly as she turned to face the bow. Suddenly, she closed her eyes and threw out her arms, letting the wind and the spray flow past and caress her. She bared her fangs, grinning wildly and enjoying the adrenaline of the ride. Mark's chuckle was swept away in the wind as he watched Victria let about as loose as he'd ever seen. He had to admit, it was very attractive, and almost...human. He marveled how easy this was. Sure, the only other boat he'd operated had been destroyed by a giant lake monster, and the man at the rental shop had advised against pushing this thing too hard, but he had flown shuttlecraft a hundred times this speed and... THUMP. Whatever else Mark was thinking was cut off by a sudden hard wave. Bouncing his head off the wheel had a tendency to derail a train of thought. He leaned back into the seat with a groan, rubbing the spot on his forehead where he hit. He dared a glance over to Victria, where she would surely be laughing at his misfortune. He glanced...no Victria. Where could she have...oh no... Water, at those speeds, acted much like a solid mass. Bounced from the boat, Victria found herself briefly airborne and then hurtling down towards the surface at an amazing rate. She hit the water flat on her back so violently that it drove the air from her lungs and made her head spin. She sank like a stone and then found herself breathing water. Choking, she clawed her way to the surface and gasped for air. Sharp pain shot through her left side and nearly caused her to slip under again. Clutching her ribs, she did her best to tread water, hoping Mark would quickly realize she was no longer with him and return to pick her up. It didn't take long before Mark had found her, the pain in his side served as a good homing beacon. Pulling up alongside, he pulled her out of the water as gingerly as he could, but managed to cause a few stabs of pain in both of them despite himself. He gently placed his hand on her side, confirming his fear, but couldn't bring himself to tell her just how many ribs he'd broken. Trying his best to be a man he glanced up to her eyes. "Err...sorry?" She peered up at him from the bottom of the boat, pale, soggy, and miserable. Clutching her broken ribs, she gritted her teeth and grated out, "I'll think about it." --------------------------------- The sun was shining bright, not a cloud in the sky. Mark's legs dangled in the air, as the pleasant smell of salt water enveloped him from below. It was a beautiful day, plenty of time to salvage this disaster of a--the harness jerked at him, breaking his thought. The harness, led to a cable, which led to a boat, which had Victria behind the wheel. It had been a unanimous decision that for parasailing, Victria would be the helmsman. Maybe that wasn't the best idea. "VICTRIA! DON'T JERK THE THROTTLE!" Mark howled from above. A pity that even her sharp hearing couldn't pick out all of his words from so high up. "WHAT?" she shouted back. "JERK THE THROTTLE?" Though confused by what he meant and not the least bit familiar with most of the vehicle's controls, she did know which one controlled the speed. She threw it forward and turned the boat away from land, rounding the jutting peninsula ahead. "NOOOOO!!!" The leisurely slack that allowed him to stay upright yet move forward was jerked away, painfully, at the area where his inner legs met his pelvis. He mouthed a silent gasp, now basically being dragged through the air, with the chute doing little more than flopping him around with the wind. Victria glanced back to see how he was doing, and he used the opportunity to flail his arms in every possible way to get her to slow down. Thankfully, she did understand the girlish wail coming from him. Cutting the power totally off, she let the boat drift and craned her neck upward to view his progress. That was better, sort of, for a moment. As the boat's speed quickly dropped, so did his altitude. "No! No! Don't stop! AND DON'T JERK THE THROTTLE!" Victria sighed and increased the power, sending the boat off at a moderate pace and then slowly increasing speed. She glanced back briefly to make sure he was doing alright, then returned her attention to driving. A small inlet appeared as they rounded the shore. It looked to have once been a long finger of beach, but time and the water had eroded it into two uneven islands. Too late to cut the boat and turn it to go around, she sped through the narrow channel, hoping it was deep enough. The boat made it through with no problem, but she didn't account for the overhanging trees on either side. The line attached to Mark's parasail snagged and snapped as it was designed to do under such stress, saving him from being dragged through the trees. However, it could do nothing to stop him from floating down directly on top of them. A grimace formed on Mark's face as Victria and the boat sped off towards the horizon. Slowly, a low groan came from his mouth, and began to grow until the sound of tree branches breaking ended it. First a crack, then a thump, then, two more cracks, and one more thump for good measure before his parachute caught, and dangled him about ten feet off the ground. There he hung, that low groan returning. Victria brought the craft around as quickly as she could and sped back to the island, cutting the engines at the proper time so she could coast in to land. She peered up at Mark, assessing the situation with a frown. "Can you detach yourself or do you need help?" she called. "I think I can get it...hold on." Mark held in another groan of pain. He hurt all over, and made sure Victria got that message loud and clear. His legs seemed to be spared the torment of the branches, so he could say he was lucky in that respect. Reaching around to unhook the various straps and hooks caused him to start spinning and swinging on the branch. Enough so, that once he had gotten about half way, the branch gave way, dropping him unceremoniously on the ground. He dropped his head back onto the dirt, defeated. "Got it." He groaned. She climbed carefully out of the boat (her broken ribs mending, but still very tender) and knelt beside him, removing the rest of the harness for him. "Is anything broken?" she asked. Her hands ran lightly over his limbs, checking for injuries. "I'm sure there is," He winced as her hand traced over his collar bone, "but I hurt too much all over to be able to tell anything specific." She sighed. "Another trip to the medic station. I am beginning to grow weary of this day." He glanced to the west, where the sun was beginning to make its downward approach. "Don't worry, we check out tomorrow morning and then we're done with this vacation." He managed to flash his trademark smirk. "I think we might yet survive" --------------------------------- Their hotel room was quiet. Night had fallen and the moon rose high in the sky, looking abnormally large as its pale blue light reflected over the tumbling water. A breeze flowed in with the rising tide and swept through the bungalow, cooling them and bringing in the sweet scents of the tropical plants that surrounded the building. On the bed, Victria pressed herself against Mark, her hands lazily caressing his body. Her lips parted as he bent to kiss her, inviting further exploration. When they finally broke away, she drew back to peer at him, slender fingers running through his hair. "Perhaps this day might be salvaged after all," she suggested with a smile. He returned the smile while his hands traveled down her sides, appreciating the silky smooth feeling of her skin. "Had I known what trying to have a relaxing shore leave with you had been like I would've," he stifled a yawn, "I would've saved the time and money and just stayed in bed all day. Sorry, seems our oceanic adventures have taken its toll." He smirked to cover up his weariness. "Just as long as you have a tiny bit of energy left for one last adventure," she said. She leaned in and nuzzled his neck, using an enormous amount of self control to prevent herself from feeding. She nibbled at his ear and shifted slightly to kiss him again with a bit more force than before. Something in his body language made her pause, however. She rose up on one elbow to stare. One last adventure he apparently did not have in him. As Victria pulled away, Mark's head turned slightly, to reveal a peacefully sleeping man. He had neglected to mention that as much as he enjoyed her attention to his ear, he also found it extremely relaxing. In the morning he would be disappointed in his in inability to stay awake, but right now, there was nothing but a content smile on his face. Victria nearly screamed in frustration. Stalking out of the hut, she barked a command for the holo controls and had soon altered the program to suit her better. A few minutes later, she was hurtling through the jungle, hunting some twelve foot beast that had three rows of flesh-ripping teeth. No more vacations, she vowed silently.
  11. "Never a Good Idea" Inside The Holy Grail aboard Camelot Station w/ Travis Kroells, Mark Garrison, & Victria After listening to Commander JoNs' farewell speech, Victria leaned back on the bar as conversation picked up. She glanced to where Mark was currently making a fool of himself. "Do you intend to continue drinking? I have no interest in carrying you back to Excalibur." "Well, obviously I can't. Someone has accosted me and stolen my bottle. If I weren't such a nice guy I'd have him detained," Mark said belligerently. "Uh, excuse me. This was my bottle to begin with, thank you very much." Travis gave Mark a teasing look before taking a drink straight from the bottle. "I swear you think you can run all over The Grail just because you wear that damned uniform." "There is truth in that," Victria agreed. "You put on that uniform and become a completely different person. It has worsened since he was appointed the Chief of Security," she confided to Travis. "Yes," Travis nodded in agreement. "Mark Garrison, always so high strung with his duty and rules. I'll tell you, this stiff didn't know how to have fun whatsoever before he met me." "Yeah," Mark scoffed. "I used to have a clean record too." "You are obnoxious when you drink too much," she said. "And vulnerable." Mark's brow furrowed into a glare at Victria. "You're not so charming yourself either. Oooh, look at Victria, scary and blunt Al-Ucard. Pfft." He gave her an unimpressed look before glancing to Travis. "See what I have to put up with every day?" "Mmm, yes. However do you manage Mark? It's a damn mystery." Kroells chuckled and took another drink. "Your security force would be half of what it is without me," she said flatly. "You would do well to keep that in mind, intoxicated or not." "You know Vic... Vicky, you're lucky I'm half drunk right now. You may have had the upper hand on me when I first joined Excalibur, but I'm more then capable of taking you down now." Mark stared her down with a good bit of intensity. Travis took a step back, and took another drink. "Really?" Victria's gaze narrowed slightly. She glanced briefly to the milling crowd of their shipmates before fixing her attention firmly on Mark again. "You think so?" Travis was eyeing the crowd as well. Brawls meant security, which meant searches, which meant contraband charges, which was all the excuse Corizon needed to stiff him payment. "You know Mark, you were right; she does remind me of Alison. As does this situation and the night we all spent in lock up for it..." "Shut up Travis," Mark took a step towards Victria, leaning down and getting right in her face. "I know so. You make half the crew jump when you bare your fangs, but I'm not scared of you. Not one bit. So go ahead, try it." He raised his chin and tilted his head, giving her a free shot. "I dare you." One eyebrow rose fractionally and she stole another glance at the crowd. Meeting Mark's challenging gaze again decided her. Without warning, she reared back and punched him directly in the proffered jaw. His head snapped upward and his muscles seized as he fell back unconscious, hitting the floor with a dull thud. She leaned casually against the bar, glancing about to see if anyone noticed. Her gaze slid back to Travis. "Do you have a place to dump his body for a few hours?" Travis' jaw hung open for a few seconds before he reacted. "Uh...yeah...just drag him over here." He motioned to a room by the bar and then grabbed Mark by the wrist and began pulling. Victria took the other wrist and helped to drag him out of the main room. Those that noticed gave them a knowing look as though this had happened many times before. In the storage room, the two of them hefted the Security Chief and dumped him on top of a stack of crates. "You do not seem too worried," she observed, glancing to Travis. "Is this normal for him?" "Normal for him, with a woman like you," Travis sighed and placed the nearly consumed bottle of Aldebaran Whiskey on a rack. "He never did cope with stubborn women very well." "A woman like me? That is what you mean? Stubborn?" Thankfully for Travis, she seemed more curious than challenged. "That explains much. You have known him long, then?" "Yeah, Mark and I went to the academy together, back on Earth. What was that... twelve years ago?" Kroells paused and considered the notion. "Since then, we would see each other randomly. You could never pull Mark away from the Mercutio, and I wasn't exactly in a respectable position at the time." "Mark has mentioned you before, but never at any length. He has never divulged any stories of his past to me." She leaned slightly closer. "Is he hiding something?" "Not particularly I'd imagine," Travis eyed Mark's unconscious form, considering the one thing they did have to hide. "Mark's just not one to tell a fancy tale of his life. Besides, the majority of what is interesting isn't all that pleasant. Truth be told, I imagine he came out here to try and put his past behind him." "I can understand why someone would wish to do that," she said quietly. "You do not disclose the entire truth, but I will not ask why. We all have our secrets." "That we do, and I can appreciate someone who understands that," Travis gave her a warm smile, pulling a random bottle off the wall and examining it. "I don't suppose you're much of a drinker?" "Not of alcohol," she said with amusement. "But I do enjoy trying new things." "I can only imagine what that entails," Travis replied with a bemused smirk. "I've heard a few things about how you sample the local variety." "Have you really? What sort of things?" She took the bottle and removed the cap, sniffing the contents. She took a drink without reacting and handed it back. "I imagine you've heard them all before. A good number of them sound like they originally came from Laarell's mouth." He gave her an impressed look as he grabbed the bottle and drank, producing a burny 'ahhh'. "Besides, I judge people by looking them in the eye, not what's whispered behind them." She frowned at the mention of the Orion. "You should definitely not believe anything you hear from that direction. She and I are not the best of friends. She delights in both slander and provocation. I react... badly... to both." "Well I think I have a decent understanding of her. I can see why you too wouldn't get along, though I must admit I'm curious as to what caused all the bad blood." "That I cannot say, though I do have my suspicions. I believe her prejudice stems from jealousy. She cannot abide competition. Perhaps she believes I stand in her way in her quest to sleep with every male aboard the Excalibur." Travis chuckled and took another drink. "Oh so there's a race then?" He gave her a joking grin and handed her the bottle. She smiled thinly before accepting the drink. "I am not interested in that particular sort of rivalry. There is little she can do to keep me from what... or who... I want, if I am so inclined." "I'd imagine as much. You took out Mark easily enough and he prides himself on being able to take a punch. I suppose I'd be inclined to stay on your good side." "He can defend himself far better when not intoxicated. Perhaps it was unfair of me to treat him in such a manner." She glanced briefly in Mark's direction and smiled. "But he deserved it, and will hopefully not make that mistake again." "I wouldn't much count on that," Travis regarded Mark. "But there's always hope. I guess." "In any case, I do not intend to be here when he wakes." "Neither do I. I shouldn't have put him around so much glass." She laughed as she returned the bottle to him. "Thank you for the drink… as painfully ordinary as it may have been." He examined the bottle again before putting it back, then glanced up to meet her gaze. He smiled slyly. "Maybe next time you're in I'll have something that will appeal to your tastes." "Next time," she promised. Fangs flashed as she smiled in return. "I will hold you to that, mister Kroells."
  12. Mark had finally escaped Tactical and not a moment too soon. Bridge duty was something he was going to be saddled with more now as chief, but he'd been raised as a solider first. In the trenches with the grunts, away from the command and control center, was where he felt at home. He'd quickly prepared and been with the first group to beam over. The Scorpiad ship itself held countless unknowns and potential threats, but it was somewhere he could use his battle-trained senses. As he finished his climb down and felt the floor give slightly on his boots, he took a deep breath and savored the moment. Further down the hall lay the weapon Victria had discovered, which spurred him onward. "Cycling through the protocols in search of one that will deactivate the weapon," Victria's voice crackled over his comm as he came within range. Though others had come in to analyze the system, she had not moved from her chosen console, finding everything easily accessed from the terminal. While the others searched hesitantly -- not wanting to push or activate anything that could set off a horrific chain reaction -- she continued to easily sift through the Scorpiad database. Her gaze continued to stray to the fixed window on the left side of her terminal, which sent a rush of anger through the emotional link Mark shared with her. He produced a scowl for a moment as he moved towards her and her anger bloomed inside of him. He could already feel it on the ship, and she'd given him better directions here than that useless ensign two decks up. He tried to sneak in behind, as well as the EVA suits would allow. "I trust you know what you're doing?" He said half jokingly as he glanced to the left, trying to get a look on what was aggravating her. "Not really," she replied evenly. "But I can at least read the language and do not have to rely on incomplete translations. What are you doing here? Come to have a look at the star-killing, planet destroying weapon?" She did little to hide the bitterness in her voice. "Yes, I had to see it with my own eyes." He paused, and actually looked it over again. He understood her frustration well. "I knew the Scorpiad were behind this, but it's still somewhat shocking. At least there's proof now." "Yes. We have confirmation," she said coldly. "We know their specific targets, both those they have already destroyed and those they are planning to destroy. We can guess at a rough estimate of how many they have killed." "Bastards." He didn't like the situation any and Victria naturally amplified it. "How many?" "Hundreds of thousands. Colonies, worlds, systems. They are targeting any that oppose them. I doubt this is the only weapon of its kind. Likely, there are other ships of this model moving through Al-Ucardian space." He shook his head as he felt his own anger rise. "Starfleet treatises across the round table, and everyone pretends like they won't turn on Camelot after they're finished with the rebellion. I feel your frustration, which was why I was surprised you stayed... odd that this is where we've been led too." "I made certain promises," she said in explanation, but did not expound. "This information will be extremely valuable if placed in the right hands." "The right hands?" He asked with a raised brow. "Such as?" She glanced up at him briefly, unwilling to say more over the open comm with others listening in. Instead, she changed the subject. "How does the Captain intend to bring this ship back to Federation territory without it being reclaimed by the Scorpiad?" "I think that's still a work in progress. He had Commander Admiran working to make the ship space worthy. He says he can do it in 24 hours but..." He trailed off, glancing around the room. "...I don't know. If we actually get this thing moving the Captain wants to set this thing down on Avalon for the scientists to pick apart." He shook his head, deciding not to state the obvious about how the Scorpiads would feel about that. "Mmm," she said neutrally. She, of course, had her own plans for the ship and the information within, especially the schematics on the weapon itself. "I am still waiting for the pincer to snap shut." "Yeah, me too..." His eyes unknowingly scanned the floor for any tiny scorpions. "I can only imagine the crisis we're already stepping into." "The Captain's superiors are fools if they think the Scorpiad can learn how to peacefully coexist. This weapon proves they remain the ruthless conquerors they have always been." "The memory of the Dominion War is still fresh on many people's minds" He sighed, his own mind taken back to that time. "They won't risk an open war while the situation is contained thousands of light years away." "So I have been told," she said grimly. Straightening, she left the console and moved to one of the wall panels, regarding it thoughtfully. "How do you feel about the Federation absorbing this technology?" Mark stepped back to look over the weapon again. "Well, it's impressive in its... vastness, but I can't approve of the blood that's stained it. Technology like this... shouldn't even exist." "But it does, and it has been used, and it will probably be secretly integrated into one of your ships, provided that Ah-Windu finds some way to get it back to Federation territory without rousing the Scorpiad." Her gaze narrowed as she thought on other possibilities -- possibilities involving Al-Ucardian rebels with this sort of power. "If they discover that you have it, they will demand it back. Or start a war." "There's that too... there doesn't seem like much of a right way." He frowned, and glanced over to her. "What would you do?" "Do you really need to ask?" Her gloved hand tapped out a coded sequence on the panel and she studied the new menu. "You could at least make something up, so I don't have to worry you're going to try something." He eyed her over as she worked. It wasn't a possibility that he liked to consider, but consider it he had to. "I would destroy it," she said flatly. "No good can come of this ship." "As would I... though that's not how it'll happen." He leaned against the wall, his displeasure apparent. "No," she agreed. "More blood will undoubtedly be spilled." "Only question is when..."
  13. Corizon leaned back with a sigh while he waited for the turbolift to halt, wondering if would have been better if they'd simply stayed in the lost parts of the Gamma Quadrant instead of coming home to a royal mess, in a royal mess. The lift doors finally opened and deposited him a few sections down from Victria's quarters. In a way he understood her frustration. He'd had to sit by idly while the Dominion raided Dameon Prime, and was powerless to stop it. Now he was the instrument keeping her from her people in their time of need. He paused outside of her door. Even from the moment he'd met her nearly three years ago, when she'd taken him prisoner on Al-Ucard, he couldn't remember being so apprehensive about seeing her as he was now. Finally, after a deep breath, he chimed the door. The doors opened without voice command and she stood waiting for him. Two packed bags waited by the door. "Well?" she asked directly, obviously not interested in small talk. She did at least move aside to let him enter and stalked past him into the living area, though she elected to pace rather than sit. "Well?" she repeated. "What excuse are they going to give me this time?" "The good of your people." "Explain," she grated out. Sitting before speaking, he leaned back into the spartan couch. "I don't know how much you've been able to get out of your contacts..." "Absolutely nothing," she admitted. "Which means they are already embroiled in the war. Or dead. Or someone is preventing the messages from reaching them." She paced in front of the armchair, though her gaze flitted to him now and again as she moved. "Which is it?" His golden eyes watched her carefully, more out of habit than anything else -- hunters gave up habits with great difficulty. "A little of all three." He tossed her a PADD from his pants pocket and waited for the screaming, throwing, or, and he hoped this wasn't her reaction, killing. She snatched it deftly from the air and activated it with a tap of her thumb, scrolling through the contents quickly. Her scowl deepened and she snarled. Her gaze snapped back to him as she ceased to pace and stood dangerously still. That was good, she wasn't killing him -- yet. "That's classified beyond, well, anyone on this ship and just about everyone in the Quadrant. As you can see, Starfleet can't actually prove a damned thing, but they have their suspicions. Shortly after the attacks, they think that it must have forced a couple of the more senior houses that had been on the fence to openly commit to the rebellion." "With good reason!" She threw the padd back at him. "Starfleet has known this was going on ever since the report from the Saladin and they have done nothing. Instead, they have invited the Scorpiad into their own house, giving them ample time to mass their forces and grow in strength." Her eyes flashed as she began to pace once more. "You know as well as I do, Ah-Windu, that they will only be passive until they believe they have the advantage. Then they will snap their pincers shut and sever the Federation in half." Catching the PADD he nodded somberly. "I am not saying I agree with it, but the Federation isn't going to recognize the rebellion. They can't afford to legitimize that government at the risk of alienating the Scorpiads." "On the other hand," he said cheerlessly, "we don't exactly have a vested interest in the Scorpiads winning that war anytime soon." "Alienating? No. Provoking, more like it," she said accusingly. "Your Federation is afraid to they might provoke the Scorpiad into acting sooner than they would like. Instead, they are content to do nothing while my people, and all of the others that the Scorpiad have oppressed for centuries, continue to die." "I do not fault them this, if only because they have their own lives and worlds to protect -- but I cannot stand and watch Starfleet's folly, knowing full well what will come to pass." "You're absolutely right. The Federation isn't going to risk war over it, no. We can, and will, hide behind the prime directive for as long as we need to, but like I said, we don't have any real desire to see them win. In fact, it'd make us pleased as punch to see them eradicated, but that's not really an option the Federation and Starfleet will openly commit too..." Despite the gravity of the situation, a small, fanged grin crept across his face. Waggling his finger, he resumed. "However, what they are going to do, officially, is keep looking for clues. If they can pin the attacks to the Scorpiads with irrefutable evidence, we'll be able to leverage them into not attacking, we do, after all, control the wormhole which they so desperately need to power their ship yards." "Unofficially, and here's where you come in, the people I work with have... well they haven't authorized, because you can't authorize a damned illegal thing, have agreed that certain... intelligence leaks to your people -- like Scorpiad fleet movements and what we pick up on their diplomatic channels we monitor here -- could be most useful to the cause of your rebellion." She paused behind her chair and dug her nails violently into the fabric. "Such a nice sentiment, but you and I both know that it will not be enough. Clues? Fact finding? They have been at this for centuries and hide their actions well. You will discover nothing they do not wish you to discover. Let slip all the secrets you like, but most of them will be false leads and will only get my people killed faster. What the Al-Ucard really need is a reason to continue. A glimmer of hope that will push them forward. You do not realize how set in their ways those of the Council will be. That they have simply gone to war will not be enough. These creatures were our GODS! How long before they revert to that worship? My people need firsthand knowledge that these things can be killed, slain... that they are only mortal beings with mortal weaknesses." "Material support is out of the question," he said quickly. "What would you suggest?" "I can give them all of those things," she said, now dangerously calm. "I can keep them on the path to victory." "You're not going to go be Joan de'Arc of your people," he said dismissively. "You'd just be going and getting yourself killed." "You do not know my fate. I know of what I am capable," she replied through clenched teeth. He sighed, knowing how stubborn Victria could be. "But I'll make you a deal, just between the two of us." "Try it my way for three months. If you're not satisfied and think the only way to help your people is go charging into battle against the gods, then so be it, but at least give my way a chance. If you do, when the time comes, I'll see what I can about gaining recognition of the rebel Council as a legitimate governing body. If that happens, the Federation will have little choice but to get involved." "Why?! Why should I stay when you have little chance of holding me?" Though her rage was slowly draining away, the frustration would not be pushed aside so easily. Corizon took a deep breath and considered Victria for a long moment. "One of the leaders of your clan, Gasol, he's missing correct?" She tensed. "What do you know that you are not telling me?" "One of our ships intercepted a distress call from his ship, Night's Vengence..." "Night's Vengence is my clan's warship." Her lower lip began to bleed where she'd bitten down. "You knew that, did you not?" "I didn't know that until after I got the report," he said. "By the time our ship got there, it was already ablaze in space. However, the crew wasn't aboard..." "Why are you telling me now?" she asked. "Starfleet would never sanction a search and rescue mission that would not benefit them." "That would be correct," he said flatly. "On the other hand your own people don't have this information yet, now do they?" "I could not know and I have no way of informing them, considering the circumstances." "On the deck 90 of Camelot there is a highly classified cover communications array, my access code is Alpha Alpha Epsilon Charlie Nine Three Seven Zeta." She stared. "You will lose your ship if your superiors discover that you have given me this." "Yes, well, if I am caught passing information to you that will be the least of my worries." Her gaze dropped as she considered. Finally, she relinquished the death-grip she had on the back of the chair and glanced back to meet his eyes. "You have your three months." "Thank you, Victria."
  14. Disclaimer: Contains some violence and suggestive material. - Sometime long before... "Sleep, Yasin. We have an early day tomorrow." Yasin looked up as her mother entered her room , holding her favorite rag doll. The middle-aged woman settled on the bed and handed her the much-abused toy which she hugged with a smile. Though she had protested many times that she was getting too old for such childish things, the doll was one memento that she would never relinquish. Her mother brushed her hair out of her eyes and leaned forward to kiss her forehead. "Time to put the book away. We leave at sunup for the market and we will need your help packing." "Just a few more pages, mother? I am almost finished with this section and it is the exciting part where the evil wolf-beasts finally reveal themselves and are slain by the good farmer." "You have read this book a dozen times over, Yasin. Put it away. No arguments or… or the Iniquitous will snatch you up," her mother teased, crooking her fingers and playfully lunging to tickle, "like they do to all children who disobey their parents." "I am a little too old for that ridiculous tale," Yasin giggled, swatting at her mother's hands, but she did close her book reluctantly and placed it on the table beside her. "You are barely thirteen summers, child. Hardly ancient," her mother said dryly as she drew up the covers. She bestowed another kiss and rose. "Sleep well." "Sleep well, mother," Yasin replied as her mother blew out her candle and left, closing the door behind her. She lay restless for a few moments, turning to stare out of the window to the night sky. The twin moons, perfectly round orbs in their fullest stage, were both high enough to been seen from her vantage. She sighed and shifted to find a comfortable spot, but wasn't the least bit tired. Deciding she still had plenty of light to read, she spared a guilty glance at the closed door and quietly slid her book off of the table. She opened it to her previous page and quickly lost herself in the story. Yasin had only made it through the next few paragraphs when her room began to brighten. When she noticed the additional light, she rose and knelt on her bed to peer outside, pressing her nose to the cold pane of glass. Her eyes widened as the light grew until the night was as the day and the brightness made her eyes water. A deafening roar filled her ears and the entire house began to shake. Movement below caught her attention and she looked down to see her parents rush out into the yard. She quickly unlatched the window and pulled the two halves inward. A cold gale rushed inside and ripped the windows from her grip, banging them dangerously against the walls. Her long braids whipped behind her and plastered her thin nightdress to her small frame. When the light finally dimmed and the dazzling sparkles faded from her sight, Yasin could see an oddly shaped structure lodged in the middle of her father's biggest field. It had flattened a huge swath of crops as though it had fallen from the sky. Her parents had already navigated the neatly-planted rows and were standing dumbfounded at the edge of the flattened area. Suddenly, the noise died away and the air stilled. Yasin watched in amazement as the strange ovoid object began to move. A crack appeared and light spilled free onto the ruined field. A sickening ball of fear began to form in the pit of her stomach as the light was blotted out and a large creature emerged. The Iniquitous! They had come for her and her parents were in danger! She tore herself from the window, bolted for the hallway, and rushed down the darkened stairs far too quickly. She missed several treads and tripped painfully, tumbling down the last flight and crashing at the bottom in daze. Even still, she struggled to her feet and staggered for the open door. Beyond, she could see the talk stalks of the field and the silvery top of the foreign object, but she could no longer see her parents. Tears streaming down her face, screaming hysterically for her mother and father, she flew across the yard and into the crops, uncaring of the broad leaves that mercilessly slapped her face. When she broke free into the clearing, she tumbled forward and landed sobbing on the broken foliage. Her mother lay only a few feet in front of her. Her mother's severed head lay a few feet beyond. Screaming in horror, she backpedaled away from the horrid sight. Searching frantically for her father, she found him dangling at the mercy of the Iniquitous. The giant insect-like creature had pierced her father's body with its stinger and now held him before its multiple eyes in study. It shook his twitching body like a child would manipulate a puppet. Blessedly, her father was already dead when the creature raised one of its pinchers and cut him in half, spilling entrails, organs, and blood in all directions. Yasin retched violently and continued to retch until there was nothing left to give. She was not even aware of the shadow looming over her until those cruel claws hoisted her from the ground. Frozen in shock, she stared wide-eyed at her god and forgot to breathe. - "The outlook is not very promising. The formula is too radical for their feeble bodies to sustain. They fight the transition and lose, but do not remain sane afterward. We have had some success with filtering out as many of their own antibodies as possible before introducing the virus, but the end product is entirely too weak for our purposes. We have tried injection, ingestion, and dilution through various third party components, but with no better results." Mnil'kk's mandibles clacked in irritation as he strolled along beside the much larger Androct. "I am assuming that you came to me for a reason other than to confess your failures. I have read the reports. I am well aware of the difficulties." Gl'iix said, fully focusing one of his eight eyes on the Mari. "Get to the point." "We are ready to attempt the next phase." "Which is?" "Genetic reassignment for assisted reproductive growth." "Excellent. Do you have any likely candidates?" "Yes, several. The young in their early pubescent stage are especially resilient. Also, by furthering the growth process, we are able to decrease their normal gestation period by half." "I assume that will decrease even further in the future?" Gl'iix asked. "Of course," Mnil'kk assured him. "Once the primary subjects have given birth, we will be able to refine the process further. Perhaps we shall even move to cloning once the genetic markers have been perfectly placed." "I will make a strong suggestion to the General that we capture as many as possible during our next colony raid. The larger settlements have already been wiped clean. When do you expect the first test subject to give birth?" "In no more than two-day's time," Mnil'kk clicked excitedly, unable to contain his secret any further. "Two days?" Gl'iix stopped short and turned his entire carapace toward the smaller Scorpiad. "You began this project four months ago?" "Our initial failures hinted that the normal course would be pointless. We began to pursue alternative means even while we completed the first phase." "Which is why your department requested additional resources," Gl'ixx clicked rapidly in the Scorpiad approximation of laughter. "Very clever. You will be sure to receive a promotion over this… especially if the live births are successful." "They will be, to be certain. Our only concern is the training of the child once it is born. It has been altered in very specific ways and will mature rapidly. All of this will, of course, be outlined in my next report." "I look forward to reading it. Inform me when the time is near. I will witness this birth of our little project." The Androct dipped his cauda in the traditional manner of greeting and farewell. - Exhausted panting quickly heightened to screams of intense pain as another wave of contractions ripped through her. After a few minutes they passed and Yasin sagged back against the cold metal surgical bed, awaiting the next brutal round. Her naked body trembled violently from both the effort and the cold. She closed her eyes, though she could still feel them staring. They were all staring--and waiting--waiting for the monster within her to claw its way free of her womb. The strange, green-eyed humanoids flitted silently around the bed, monitoring her biosigns. Further away were the giant scorpion-like creatures, their multiple eyes missing nothing and their vicious claws snapping in frustration as the wait stretched. She once thought them to be the gods of the wicked come to punish her for her sins, but after a year in their company, she knew they were nothing more than ruthless galactic conquerors. Her world had simply been the next one in line for domination. The lifeless bodies of her parents still haunted her dreams. Day by day the numbers of her fellow captives had dwindled as each was taken for experimentation and had not returned. The males disappeared at random intervals; the females shortly after their first monthly courses. When her body betrayed her, they came for her as well. Instinctively, she knew what was to come. They wanted breeding stock. Once she had been impregnated, she had been isolated in a tiny cubicle. The green-eyed had been her only companions, though they remained ever mute. As her belly grew, her body dwindled, as though whatever grew inside her was slowly eating her from the inside. Yasin dwindled to a ghost of her former self. Skin stretched painfully taught over bone and tendon until she seemed nothing more than a walking skeleton. Her engorged stomach bulged in stark contrast. She bit down on her lower lip and stifled her screams for as long as possible as the next contraction began. But as her desperate pushing yielded no results, she heard the strange clacking sounds from the scorpions intensify. At some unknown signal, one of her handlers stepped forward to examine her stomach. The incision came as a complete surprise. Her screaming renewed, though this time in terror as she was sliced open from one hip to the other. Two of the aliens restrained her, though she was entirely too weak to struggle. After only a few moments, her screams died away to hoarse whimpers as the euphoria of blood loss made the room spin. From her ruined body, she watched as they pulled free the child not of her making. It was pale and silent. For a moment, she thought it was dead. She hoped it was dead. But as the aliens cleaned the infant, she saw it draw its first breath. Pale blue eyes shifted to find hers, unnaturally focused for one just born. Shivering uncontrollably and unable to break the thrall the baby had upon her, she raised her arms to accept the living horror from the aide. Tiny fangs granted her the sweet release of death. - "Progress?" the Androct asked, his full attention on the battle that waged in the sparring ring before him. "Excellent. Beyond our expectations. They are amazing creatures and have instinctively perfected the traits we carefully selected. The third generation has exceeded all previous achievements." "What of the first and second generations?" "Disposed of, though not before we experimented. We introduced each of the others to their predecessors to observe how they reacted and the results were similar to those we have seen countless times." "The third generation subjects eliminated the first two?" "Yes, exactly." The smaller Scorpiad skittered to one side as the fight drew dangerously close to where they stood. "With only one exception. A first generation killed the three attacking him and would have finished the rest had we not sedated him." "A curious anomaly." "Yes, we thought so as well. We have done extensive tests and found mutated material incorporated in his genetic structure. A surprising find, but one that we have been able to duplicate and use to our advantage." "And the unfortunate problem with the skin sensitivity?" "That we can do nothing about, not without decreasing the effectiveness of the coagulant properties they carry." "Then we will modify their world to suit their deficiencies. Their ability to cripple the changelings is all that matters." Gl'iix snagged one of the pale-skinned males from the ring as he strayed too close and tightened his giant pincer just enough to cut into his skin. Though the fighter bared his fangs, he did not cry out. When the Scorpiad released him, he immediately fell to his knees and knelt, bowing forward in submission until his forehead touched the floor. The open wound that ran the entire length of his back closed over almost immediately. "As you can see, their healing abilities are astounding," Mnil'kk said proudly. "How long until the full force is ready?" "No more than a month. We have already begun creating the fourth and final generation and have incorporated the mutation from the first. They are growing in the incubation units until they reach maturity. We discovered it was far easier to regulate their development ourselves than rely on the crude natural delivery. The female carriers never survived the births else we could have used them for future incubations." "They were a weak species when we arrived." "No longer," Mnil'kk stated proudly. - :I show anomalous readings coming from pod vee-seven.: The green-eyed technician frowned as the thought entered his mind from the worker at the control console. He moved forward to study the display, glancing up briefly to the pod in question. His frown deepened as the hissing of escaping air emanated from one of the intake hoses. :That unit is not scheduled to be deactivated for another three weeks. Find the bug in the program and fix it.: :It is not the program,: the technician tapped the console rapidly, running the diagnostics a second time. :It is the subject. She is fighting the hibernation and the program is responding to her distressed biological readings.: :Increase the sedatives.: :I have. No change. Her metabolism is processing them faster than the equipment can compensate.: He glanced up questioningly. :What does this mean?: :It means we have a new mutation. And trouble. Inform Master Mnil'kk.: :I just sent him word. He replied that he would be here immediately.: :Good. Do what you can to keep her under.: The lead tech paced forward to face the clear portal of the unit. The sleeping figure within stirred restlessly and a furrow appeared on her smooth brow. Glancing briefly to status panel on one side, he jumped as he looked back and found pale blue eyes staring at him. :Impossible!: "Evidently not," she said aloud with a feral smile. :Get one of the Masters in here!: he shouted to anyone within range. The tech whirled and ran as she began to hammer the portal with her fists until the polymer shattered. His coworker had already bolted for the exit. He almost made it to safety before she caught him by his smock. His mouth opened in silent protest as he was yanked backwards against her nude form. :I am not your prey!: he protested. "Then why do you bleed for me?" she asked before tearing into his throat. - The city held its breath in terror as silent shadows stalked its streets. The occupants no longer ventured from the safety of their homes at night for fear of disappearing, though the solid walls afforded little protection. Each passing day, more families were broken as members mysteriously disappeared from their beds. It was rumored that the disappearances would continue until the night-stalkers found their prey. Little did they know that the night-stalkers were enjoying the Hunt immensely and had no intention of leaving. Victria slipped between the two office buildings and paused at the mouth of the alley, crouching to peer out into the dimly lit street. She waited there motionless for several minutes as the rest of her fellow stalkers moved into position. For the past month, they had systematically searched the city grid by grid. They were hampered by the unyielding daylight, which gave their prey the opportunity to flee and relocate, but each night they had renewed their efforts in full force. After several days of clever herding, they finally had it cornered. Across the way, she watched Madai dart from one shadow to the other as he circled to the side entrance of a large warehouse. Her gaze flicked to the upper floor as she saw movement in the window. Unless some hapless citizen had lingered after work, they would celebrate their victory tonight. Moving from hiding, she covered the short distance at a run and used the rough brickwork to scale the face of the building. Her chosen entrance was an open window a floor beneath the one where she'd seen movement. The pitch-dark interior was comforting and did little to hamper her excellent night vision. Bolts of fabric were stacked neatly in racks that went from floor to ceiling. She extended her senses to their fullest, searching for the scent she craved. The subtle, earthy smells of natural fibers filled her nose and provided nothing extraordinary. Creeping past dozens of rows, she finally found the stairs that led between levels and slowly began to climb. Light from the lamps outside filtered in through the small windows at each landing. She kept close to the walls and slipped beneath them so as not to betray herself in silhouette. Theoretically there should be no one outside save her fellow stalkers, but the instinct to remain unseen was strong. She paused at the entrance to the next floor and crouched, listening. Her nostrils flared as she inhaled and then froze. It was here. Somewhere. Soft footsteps crossed the roof above and she knew that Madai would soon be positioned at the opposite stairwell, cutting off any retreat. The others were stationed around the building itself should they fail, but they would not. She would not. The pungent smell of fear permeated the room and brought a smile to her lips. She followed the trail past the first three storage racks and paused at the next aisle. Again, she took a deep breath to catch the scent and began pacing down the narrow corridor, crouching and rising slowly to sniff the shelves of cloth. The garish colors and patterns were an assault to her eyes -- not to mention her personal style -- but she studied them, seeking further clues. Her gaze rose upward as the lower shelves yielded no results and she began to climb. Something on the second shelf from the top made her pause. She studied the fabric carefully as her instincts told her something was off. A bolt of light blue lay askew on the pile. It was an exact copy of the one beneath it both in hue and weight, but the odd script that identified it was an unreadable blur as if hastily written. The smell of fear increased. "Hello, changeling…" Without warning, the fabric exploded into a toxic gaseous cloud. She laughed at the creature's attempts as it enveloped her head, but with no ill effect. The cloud dissolved into something odorless and colorless, though to her senses, it still smelled like changeling. As it shot upward and flowed over the racks, she quickly followed, leaping effortlessly across breaks in the shelving units. She pulled a small device from her belt as she ran and activated it. A flick of her wrist sent an energy net flying. It struck the gaseous cloud, wrapped around as though encasing it in a giant bubble, and sent it plummeting to the floor. The changeling quickly transformed to escape. Pulling her sword free, Victria leapt from the racks and threw herself at the monster below. A many-tentacled creature rose to meet her. She ducked beneath one of the spiked tentacles as it whizzed over her head, leapt over as it tried to sweep her feet from under her, and finally brought her sword down to sever it completely. As two tentacles whipped past, she managed to catch one, though its spikes sank deep into her side. She hissed and wrenched it free. Before she could better her grip, it oozed free in gelatinous state and the changeling reformed. Each time she captured the creature it quickly slipped free, reformed, and renewed its attack. Her frustration began to rise. Despite the battle that waged, she still felt Madai approach. The changeling had no time to react as the other stalker attacked from behind, using one of his many blades to slice away three tentacles. They fell to the floor and immediately melted into their protoplasmic state. While the changeling was distracted, Victria caught another of its spiked arms and sank her teeth into the solid mass before it could transform. The reaction was instantaneous. A shudder rippled through the changeling as it lost cohesion and collapsed. It struggled to regain form, but the coagulant spreading through it prevented a complete change. It shifted to several different forms with no better results. A half-formed and misshapen humanoid emerged, wailing in pain as the venom forcefully solidified the rest of its body. The two stalkers crouched in front of the dying changeling, utterly transfixed. When the screaming stopped, Victria plunged her hand into the corpse and ripped free a chunk of their dead enemy. Madai's hand covered her own and together they pulverized the material until fine ash sifted through their fingers. He grinned as she glanced up to meet his gaze. "I always enjoy this part. They are so silent and still and peaceful afterward." "As it should be," she agreed. "It was a good Hunt." "Yes, you did well." His free hand rose and he entangled his fingers in her hair, pulling her forcefully to him. Their mouths met and tongues began to explore. She growled in pleasure as his fangs nipped her lower lip and drew blood. When she returned the favor, he snarled and pulled her away to better access her neck. He nipped playfully at her cool skin until he reached the column of her throat. She gasped and arched against him as he bit down. Roaming hands turned frantic as they tugged at clothing, ripping seams and fastenings free if they refused to yield. Pale bodies soon joined in fevered union, replaying the ancient need that they no longer required but still enjoyed. When at last they parted, they drew away reluctantly to dress and bask in the lingering euphoria of both their kill and their sated physical lust. Victria watched the elder hunter as he put his clothing to rights as best he could. "I Hunger," she stated impatiently, knowing he felt the lingering bloodlust as well. "Then it is time we pay the remaining citizens a visit. The penalty for harboring a changeling is death." His blue eyes brightened as he turned. Victria grinned. "We have another month before we are expected to return." "If we apply ourselves, it will not take nearly that long." - Sometime after... Victria peered listlessly at the viewscreen before her, oblivious to the data scrolling rapidly past. When she finally realized she was missing the report, she tapped the program closed and leaned back in her chair. Memories of the recent venture into the Black Marsh distracted her yet again. Am I losing my edge? Ah-Windu's fears, later echoed by Mark, drummed an ever-present beat in her mind. She shared their fears because she knew the result was inevitable. Those of the Federation enclosed themselves in their stifling ships and fought their battles from a distance. Rarely were they forced to use the natural-born abilities that drove their instinct for self preservation. She knew their sharpness was diminished because her own was beginning to fade. Despite the relentless training sessions she forced upon herself, her senses were dulled by her continued stay. The lenses she wore to protect her eyes cast a grubby, monotonous patina over her environment. The replicated rations were not sufficient enough to give her body what it needed. The hunger, thankfully lessened somewhat by the doctor's efforts, remained her constant companion and was never completed sated. The frustration she first felt at becoming a captive on the ship was beginning to return in force. The Black Marsh had been the catalyst. Already riled from the Hunt and killing of the lizard-creatures, Victria had been faced with the image of her mortal enemy. Though she now knew that the changelings were simply another ruling force in the quadrant, the urge to seek and destroy was difficult to overcome. She had been bred and trained to kill her prey. To Hunt the changelings required the highest level of skill, only the best breeding, and the most ruthless of killers. It was fixed firmly in her genetic structure. Did she have the strength to overcome that? Did she even want to? The rising Hunger said no.
  15. "You seemed in a hurry to leave the bridge," Victria mused as she nabbed a seat near Mark and flipped it around backwards. Settling in, she rested her arms up on the back and tilted her head to read the data padd in his hand. "Reviewing tactics?" Garrison snapped to, finally breaking out of his dull stare-down with the clock. He was somehow still awake, though he looked more like a zombie. "Too much debate..." He took a sip of his coffee. "...For no resolution." "There are too many unknowns for a definitive resolution at this point. I was disappointed that it did not end in bloodshed." A slight flash of her fangs as she smiled. "I am due back on the bridge shortly. One of the patrols was off schedule and I was called to correct the gap." He groaned while rubbing the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger, rather embarrassed that Victria had to be called off the bridge for a simple patrol. "This is a coordinating nightmare. Even sharing the load with the Marines, nearly everyone in the department is running a patrol during some shift." "Yes. And any delays further compound the issue and throw off the other patrols. Patrols are being interrupted for mundane issues, which was the issue in this case. Some of the crew do not seem to realize that our security personnel are protecting their lives and not simply in the area as available muscle for heavy lifting." He smirked, recalling lazy border patrols with the Mercutio, where excitement was what you got to lift on your shift. "I just don’t get it some days. Most of this crew served on the previous Excalibur, they've seen what this quadrant is like, and that this isn't your average tour, but they all bicker like little children!" "I have noticed that sometimes it is easier to argue than it is to face the situation and the difficult decisions that must be mad,” she pointed out. “All we can do is provide viable options. You must admit that though the discussion may have been mildly heated, it did produce several interesting ideas." He nodded in agreement. "You have a point there, though it was a bit too...democratic for me. And don't get me started on Tia. Dressing down the Captain like that? In front of the entire bridge? She wouldn't have lasted long in Starfleet if she'd joined during the war." Victria arched an eyebrow slightly, but then she had different ideas about the chain of command. "Corizon can take care of himself. Perhaps he enjoys the challenge now and again. Ruling absolutely can grow dull without the occasional rebellion to quash,” she mused. “What have you been working on in the meantime?" "Well, besides patrols... I got a comm from crewman Baxter...Baker...Bark...whatever. His team has been working on the sensors since everyone else is busy with the Cloak. I thought I'd go down and check their progress, and let you handle the meeting." A coy little smile traced his lips as he'd found yet another way to avoid the bridge crazies. "I see. Running, are you?" She smirked despite his smugness. "I do not mind. I actually find the clash of opinions amusing, though it is a slightly disturbing when I am one of the most composed." He gave her a good natured smile, a bit surprised himself. "I doubt it’s going to get us anywhere, but I still think it's important that we follow anything that might improve our internal defenses.” "Agreed. We still have yet to determine a way to keep the Boganary transporters from penetrating our shields, which does not bode well for this mission should they decide on another raid." "Right, right." He nodded and dug through the pile of padds before him before procuring one, and handing it over to Victria. "I was thinking that because we have so many teams, we should remap auxiliary tactical to manage our security teams during a boarding. Just plug it in and the holographics should take care of the rest." "A valid suggestion. Overlaid with interior scans of the ship, it would at least give us an idea of where each team is clustered, provided that the Boganary do not manage to destroy the sensor nodes again." She accepted the padd and glanced at it briefly. "I shall broach the subject during the meeting." Thanks." He yawned, and then quickly took a swig of coffee. He glanced at the clock again, taking careful notice of how long this day was grinding by. "You know... I thought you said you were on patrol?" "No. I said that I went to correct a patrol. Actually, I am headed back on the bridge." She rose and righted the chair. "I will be sure to give the Captain your regards." He blinked. "Oh right." He finished off the coffee. "I should probably go to engineering. Sitting around isn't doing much to keep me awake." "Enjoy yourself," she said. "I will let you know what is decided. I am sure a decision will be... eventually." He nodded with a smile and gave her pat on the shoulder as he exited the officer’s lounge.