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Cptn Swain

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  1. Kaedwan Confederation Report Prepared by: El’Arrain Issaha NDak, USS Excalibur ---- BACKGROUND Formed nearly a century ago, the Kaedwan Confederation began as a defensive alliance between the Kaedwan, Aedirn, Kovissian and Cintran peoples as a backstop against expansionist neighboring powers in the Paimpont region, such as the Xindi, Breen, Romulan, but more immediately the Tamaran Empire. The defensive alliance quickly grew into a multinational confederation and has solidified into a federated republic, comprising of several dozen star systems and ten member states. The Confederation maintains close trade relations with the Breen and Romulans, with whom they exclusively supply with cryogenic materials and oxium (a rare metal used in construction of Romulan AQS units.) In return, the Breen and Romulans governments provide them with weapons, technological advances, and protection from the Tamaran and Xindi. Due to the Federation’s longtime support of the Tamaran Empire, whom the Tamarans supply large quantities of biogenic materials, relations between the two have remained terse, if not antagonistic. However, recent developments on Romulus have led some in the Confederation to wonder about the long-term viability of their partnership, and to look towards the Federation -- who they are more ideologically aligned with -- as a better fit. POLITICS While the member states retain vestigial autonomy on a number of issues, real authority rests with the governing “Security Council.” The Security Council is nominally comprised of all ten member states, however only five are given “voting” rights. These five consist of three of founding members (Kaedwan, Aedirn, and Koviss) while the other two rotate on a two-year basis through the remaining seven representatives. At the beginning of each two-year term, the representatives elect a Chair who serves as the nominal head of government, though in reality the powers of the office are mostly limited to parliamentary procedure. The Confederation’s head of government, the Secretary-General, is elected by direct-popular election and serves for unlimted 6-year terms. The current Secretary-General is Gniss Colarni, the first Secretary-General to be elected from outside one of the original founding states. The Secretary-General serves as the commander and chief of the Confederation military, and guides both domestic and foreign policy. Within the Confederation, the Kaedwan and Aedrin maintain positions of consistent dominance, owing to both their relatively larger economies and populations. The Confederation military, in particular, while being nominally the responsibility of all member states, draws heavily from Aedrin and Kaedwani history and traditions. While the Kaedwan homeworld of Ard Jael serves as a defacto capitol, the actual capitol is a large, space-born facility located near the center of the confederation. BIOLOGY Kaedwan Classification P-2 life forms, the Kaedwan are mammalian primates. They have fair skin and complexion. Though their histories record they once possessed telepathic abilities, a genetic mutation that propagated throughout the species some 10-centuries ago seems to have neutralized this gene. Physically they are resemble Terans, with the exception of two corniculate structures on their heads. Aedrin Classification P-6 lifeforms, the Aedrin are mammalian primates. They have blue-green skin and markings in deep purple, pink and grey that form around their eyes. Koviss Classification M-5 lifeorms, the Kovissians are mammalians closely related to perissodactyla, more specifically Teran Tapirs. Cintra Classification P-5, Cintran are mammalian primates who bear a strong resemblance to Vulcan and Romulans, including having copper based blood. It is possible they are distant related. Tothir R-1 class lifeorms, the Tothir are a species of cold-blooded reptilians with a highly-evolved sense of smell that replaces their near-absent sense of sight. MILITARY OVERVIEW By Lt. Commander Philippe Augustin and Major Ryu Seung-jae The Kaedwan Confederation maintains a robust defensive posture with a series of outposts along their considerable borders with the Xindi, Federation and Tamaran governments. In addition they posses advanced technology on par with the Gorn or Tzenkethi Empires. Their military fleet primarily consists of varying classes of light cruisers, destroyers and smaller patrol vessels. These ships are armed with weapons sourced from Breen and Romulan governments. Federation intelligence suggests the Kaedwan also possess several larger capital ships. Current information indicates they have 16 Bulwark-class heavy cruisers (roughly equivalent to a Mk4 Excelsior-class), 4 Adamant-class heavy cruisers (roughly equivalent to a Mk2 Ambassador-class) and 3 Citadel-class battle carriers (roughly equivalent to an Akira-class.) Additionally further intel suggests the development of a series of new “medium” cruisers to be underway with the first of these ships expected to begin space trials in the next 16-18 months.
  2. Author's Note, this log takes place during Excalibur's time on Risa. Apologies for the delayed posting. Elethor, the larger of the twin suns of Risa, had already dipped below the horizon of the Regent’s Lagoon while Hjae, the smaller of the pair followed close behind. It had been a long time since Asher had been on Risa. Arden had spent several years stationed at nearby Starbase 12 and came often, but that had been when Asher was in command of the Cassini and rarely had a chance to spend time with him. He took a drink. That was a choice, he considered. It was always a choice. They had known each other for half a lifetime. They’d been through virtually every major life event together. There had been their graduation from the academy, their first posting together, each’s first promotion. Arden had been the second call Asher made when he learned he’d been given the opportunity to command a starship. The first was his mother. They hadn’t even been together then. They were on one of the many breaks that Asher had come to feel were mostly his doing, but still there wasn’t anyone else he wanted to talk to about it more. “Of course you’re going to take it,” Arden had said, almost in disbelief. “If you turn down this command, who knows when another will come around -- and you can’t stay as the ex-oh of the Idrissi.” Arden had, as usual, been correct and he’d eventually accepted the offer to take over. There was always some doubt for Asher though. He’d never wanted to be in command. He certainly never wanted to be in command during a war. He was an explorer, a scientist, a cartographer. The war had changed everyone, everything. After it ended he’d considered leaving the fleet -- he’d done his bit for king and country; but as always, the allure of the unknown pulled him back and, at Arden’s urging, he accepted command of the Cassini. For the next ten years he journeyed into beyond. H was an explorer again. There had been a price to that, of course. Arden had always wanted to be with Asher, even before the Cassini but the distance strained their relationship even more. They went weeks, months without talking. Longer than during any other time in their lives. Still, Arden had always been there when Asher did call. Asher rubbed at his nose. Maryse had been kind enough to patch up his broken nose, off the record. He didn’t want to make anything official, regarding Miranda losing her temper in his ready room. He’d deserved that punch. Retiring was a serious consideration. Though it was unlikely Admiral Tersan would find cause for his long-term removal, the investigation and subsequent administrative leave had given Asher ample time to once again consider the matter. Not that it had really left his mind since being given command of Excalibur. Arden’s posting to Camelot had complicated matters. Their relationship had almost completely fallen apart when he’d surprised Asher by requesting an assignment to Camelot. Asher hated the Gamma Quadrant and, outside of the crew who he cared deeply for, the entire assignment to Excalibur. Nothing about it had ever felt right. He wanted the Cassini back, but then there was Arden who made it all seem less terrible. When they’d returned to the Alpha Quadrant, and Arden asked him to marry him it seemed like the right time to leave his career behind for Arden, who’d done the same for Asher multiple times -- but Arden wouldn’t hear it. “Absolutely not,” he said when Asher brought it up the first time on the long shuttle ride from Deep Space 9 to Asher’s family home on the distant colony of Kynareth. “It’s not an option. You’re keeping the Excalibur.” “And what are you going to do?” “I could join you.” Asher had frowned. “I love you, but...” “I know.” He kissed Asher on the cheek. “I know. We’ll figure something out that works for both us. People owe both of us favors.” Behind Asher, as the suns settled lower and stars began to sparkle through the purple-pink sky, he heard Miranda and Arden laughing in the kitchen of their bungalow and sighed. He’d been so selfish. Miranda had said it without saying it, but retirement was selfish. It was an easy way to solve a problem. No, solve his problem. Pushing off the railing, Asher finished his wine and headed inside. Dinner was a civil affair. Arden had prepared a fantastic meal, as he always did. Miranda seemed more at ease with him than she’d been a few days before, or even at the reception. She had every right and reason to be upset, Asher knew. Still, they both knew such tension was untenable aboard a starship. When they’d finished with dinner, Arden excused himself to the kitchen to make coffee leaving them alone. “He can cook,” Miranda said as she put her napkin on the table. “One of his many endearing qualities, but we were going to talk about you and Excalibur, weren’t we?” Asher nodded. In the three years they’d known each other, Miranda had quickly grown from first-officer to a valued friend and colleague. “In some ways it’d be easier for me, maybe even for them, if I asked for a transfer. A new captain could bring a lot to the table but... that’d be a little too easy for me, wouldn’t it?” She only nodded as he continued. “I should have brought you all into everything. I shouldn’t have hid it but... I did. There’s no real reason to go through that whole thought process, other than just... it won’t happen again.” “You’re right. It won’t,” she said firmly. “Because if it ever does, you’re on your own. No backup, no covering. We put our own careers on the line for you this time. I won’t do that again. I won’t let the crew do that again.” Her wine swirled in her glass. “You could take the easy way, but if you did, you’d probably hate yourself for it. Retirement wouldn’t suit you, and you know it.” “No... Arden said the same thing, and he’s right. I’d have to find something to do.” “I’m not sure why you’d even be considering the change. We work well together, don’t we?” She couldn’t quite keep the hurt from her voice. He heard it and drew back from his wine for a second. “Of course. You’re an excellent first officer and...” he paused, swallowing. “A better friend than I deserve. It’s just ... since the war the uniform hasn’t always felt right and I don’t know...” Taking a long drink of his wine, he sighed again. “And part of me feels like, I’ve made Arden make so many sacrifices. He’s always been the one giving something up for me, never the other way around. I thought -- I thought maybe leaving fleet and just being there for him would change things, but then I’d just be being selfish again. “It would just be about my own guilty feelings, and not how Arden feels.” "And how does he feel," Miranda said, pointedly. "He thinks I am being silly," Asher said as he emptied his wine glass and refilled it. "I know in his heart he wants us to be on the same assignment again but --" "But?" Miranda had softened some, but only some. "He's a good officer and the crew likes him. I am sure we could find a place for him." "It's not that. He'd fit in fine with the crew and he's one of the best officers in the sector. I just can't have someone that close to me under my command -- for a billion reasons. I know I am not exactly the type of commanding officer who keeps my officers at arms length, but there's got to be some limits and..." "And you couldn't give the order." Miranda was sympathetic now, as her own thoughts wandered. "I can understand that." "I just can't make decisions for the crew with him around. I could never send him on a dangerous away mission. I would second guess every command decision." "So, have you told him that?" "I didn't for a long time. Well, not directly. The old, 'it's not you' stuff," he tipped the wine glass back again. "But we've talked a lot since I came back. He's different, you know? Always has been. I've dated plenty of people over the years. Even someone like Kai, who meant a lot to me --I could, I think, have had him under my command. But Arden? I can't be rational. I wish I could. It would be easier, for everyone. I just can't." "Good. I am glad you're finally being honest with yourself. " Arden returned at that point with coffee, leaving unsaid how much of the conversation he'd listened to through the sliding doors. "So Miranda, what are you going to do for the remaining few days on Risa..."
  3. FEDERATION NEWS NETWORK NEWS ROUND UP Presidential Candidates Debate Future of Cardassian Reconstruction, Domestic Polcies at Forum Front runners vying to led the Federation met on Betazed for the first of a series of candidate forums ahead of formal debates scheduled for later next month. Candidates discussed a myriad of issues including the long, ongoing effort to rebuild Cardassia. With both President Bacco and her Vice-President opting out of runs, the field is considered wide-open. The next forum will be held on Vulcan on SD 28802.3. Tune in live to FNN for full coverage. Romulan Empire Announces Tighter Visa Requirements Citing a rise of security concerns on outlying worlds, the Romulan government has announced a series of changes to their already strict visa requirements for Federation citizens wishing to enter Romulan space. Beginning early next week, Federation citizens will be required to produce a number of new documents verifying their identity, and will be limited to only two weeks in Romulan space for non-government related travel. The Federation Diplomatic corps has released a statement saying they find the change ‘troubling’ and intend to discuss the matter at ‘the highest levels.’ More at FNN Intergalactic. Future Federation Members Converge on Risa Dozens of candidate worlds sent representatives to Risa to participate in a conference designed to allow a cross-culture exchange of issues facing those worlds on a variety of topics, including security, healthcare and infrastructure development. More at FNN Politcs. Elasia To Host 2390 Federation Track and Field Championships Following their expected ascension to full-federation membership, Elasia will play host to the 2390 Federation Track and Field Championships. “We’re very excited,” Jalen L’Kan, chairment of the FOGC, said at the announcement on Earth, “The Elasians put together such an amazing bid and we’re excited for our athletes to compete in such excellent venues.” More at FNN Sports. Investigation Into Labor Practices Announced The Federation Trade and Labour Board announced it would launch a full inquiry into reports over unsafe labor practices in the Tamaran Empire, following allegations that the long-time supplier of Federation biogel has been skirting labor regulations required for any Federation trade partner. The Tamaran Empire had denied any systematic issue, but did allow that ‘some’ suppliers could be breaking those rules and has vowed to address concerns by the Federation. More at FNN Markets.
  4. A shower hummed softly in the background of Asher’s quarters aboard the Excalibur. Arden bit his lip as he picked up the brass sextant on his husband’s desk. It had been a gift, from Arden, when they got back together again after some disagreement -- Arden couldn’t even remember when exactly. That had always been the nature of their relationship. On again, off again with long periods of not talking to each other. He thought they were finally past that. Glancing towards the bathroom, he wondered if he’d been wrong. Exhaling he set the sextant down. “I’m going to go check on a few things,” he said loud enough for Asher to hear him. “I’ll be back.” “Don’t go,” came a quick reply. “I am almost done, and anyway you need to get one too. Doctor’s orders.” Arden sighed. Dr. Dubois had given all of the crew who’d been aboard the Lugh actual orders to shower and rest. “I know,” he said, “I won’t be long.” Before he could leave, Asher emerged from the bathroom, draped in a towel, his body glistening in the low lights. “You shaved.” “I know you hate when I have a beard,” Asher said with a boyish grin. “I’ll have Talen do something about the pony tail too, promises.” “If you think sucking up is going to make me less mad at you,” Arden said with a tired sigh. “You might be right. But only a little. Though don’t expect Miranda to be so forgiving.” “I don’t expect either of you to be, honestly.” “I told you along time ago, I’d always be here for you. Even if you make that incredibly hard sometimes, it’s a promise I intend to keep.” “Sometimes I wonder if I even deserve you.” “You don’t, but the gods seem content to let that slide. Anyway, I am going to stay in some quarters K’hal arranged for me on deck 4. Don’t ask me to say. I love you Asher, gods know why but I do. Right now, though, I need sometime in my own headspace and you need to rest. I’ll be up for breakfast, okay?” Though he wanted to protest, Asher nodded. “Do I at least get a good night kiss?” “I hate you, I really do.” Eventually, Asher was left alone in his quarters. He made his way to the small bar in the corner and opened a bottle of wine. He should never have left for Telar Minor, he considered. Not without telling Arden what was going on. He had deserved that much. A chime interrupted. He half expected it to be Miranda. She had deserved more too. It was, however, just the intercom. “Captain, I have Vice-Admiral Tersan for you.” He grunted a sigh. Couldn’t she have waited a few hours. “Of course,” he said, finding a shirt and pants. “Put her through.” “Captain,” Tersan began, “I am glad to see you’re unharmed. Commander Hawthorne reports your captor and his compatriots are in custody.” “Yes. He turned himself in,” Asher added. “Good. Captain -- Asher -- I am going to level with you. This entire incident is more than a little concerning and I will spare you a lecture.” That was some small measure of relief. “Out of deference to your husband, and to your ex-oh and crew -- all of which you owe a great deal of gratitude towards -- I let them go off on their rescue mission, off the books. I’ve only skimmed the preliminary statements by this Kai Emaril, as well as your own and just -- what on Earth you were thinking escapes me -- but,” she held a hand up, “ Like I said, I am not going to lecture you. Other than your previous run in with Mr. Emaril you have a distinguished service career that shows an excellent record of judgement. On that basis, I’ve recommended that this not go to a full board of inquiry and Command has, provisionally, accepted that. So this will all be in house for sector command. “ “Thank you.” “Don’t thank me yet, Captain. It’s possible that we could find something that would merit opening a full inquest, but I would prefer that not to happen so if you have anything you’d like to tell me that was not in your initial report, now would be the time.” “Not that I am aware of, ma’am.” “I’ll hold you to that. “ She paused for a moment, straightening in her chair. “I would hope this doesn’t come as a surprise, but until we’ve finished our investigation, I am going to be suspending you from active duty. Commander Hawthorn will continue to have operational command of the Excalibur until the matter is resolved and I am including formal orders to that effect now. “ “Of course.” “Very well -- unless you had anything else for me, Captain?” “Only that I appreciate you allowing my crew and Arden to be the ones to mount my rescue, and I apologize for the inconvenience my lapse of judgement has caused you.” "Just see it doesn't become a habit."
  5. Reposting based on posting in the wrong part of the forums The Galaxy Osprey hummed along at its maximum cruise speed of warp 6.5, which for a ‘civilian’ ship wasn’t half-bad. The makeshift science lab on the second deck doubled as a weapons storage locker, something Asher was less than thrilled about. Still Kai had managed to ‘acquire’ a rather impressive collection of scientific equipment, including an extremely advanced holographic imaging scanner of Caldorian origin that would cost a small fortune on the open market, but the price, according to Kai, was going to be well worth it. Of course Asher knew Kai hadn’t actually bought the scanner. He’d stolen it. It still had a registry sticker from the Caldorian Science Adcademy on Thavor IV. Why bother lying to me now? Asher wondered as he adjusted the scanner to begin imaging the datacube they’d found in the Collabras system. After all of this, why lie about it. The thought continued to linger. There had always been a distance between them, despite their intimacy, even from the moment they met. The trademark woosh of pneumatic doors drew Swain back to the present, his hands moving towards a disruptor pistol. “You’ve gotten jumpier. Don’t trust me?” “Not particularly,” Asher said without turning away from his work, but letting the disruptor out of his grip. “Though I don’t think you’d hurt me. Those uh, friends of yours, though?” “They’re harmless, besides they know if anything happens to you they’ll deal with me.” “Touching.” Leaning against the ‘lab’ table, Kai frowned. “You think I am being insincere?” “No,” Asher said without looking up. “I just think you only care so long as I am useful for this little... whatever it is.”’ “I told you, I am going into retirement when this is over... at your insistence, I might add. “Why don’t you believe me?” “Experience.” Kai slid closer, blocking Asher from the scanner. “You’re the one who betrayed me.” “We’re not starting this again,” Asher pushed back from the table and stood. “We both made mistakes, some of us bigger than others. If I thought I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be helping you like this. I certainly wouldn’t be risking my career for you again.” “Oh,” Kai said, frowning. “So that’s why you’re ‘helping’ me? Because you feel bad about what you did twenty years ago still?” “I said we aren’t doing this.” “Doing what?” “Having this conversation. I told you I would help you find whatever this thing leads you to, and I’ve kept my end of the deal.” “You conditioned it on me turning myself over to the Federation after I’ve sold whatever artifact we find, you mean.” “I am a Starfleet officer Kai. I am only helping you because if I didn’t, you’d likely try and do this yourself and then end up dead.” “And you don’t need that on your conscience I guess -- killing me again.” “I love how you’re trying to blame me for that.” “I mean you did turn me in.” “I didn’t have much of a choice, for starters and second if you’d told me the truth...” “You wouldn’t have helped? Turned me in?” “I never wanted to be a part of your little scheme in the first place. It was one thing when you were just the ship’s purveyor of black market goods -- sneaking a case of Romulan ale here, a crate of Dzebian crystals there. Everyone knew about those little side deals -- even the XO. Hell I think half the officers used you for one thing or the other, but...” “But helping freedom fighters under the brutal occupation of the Spoon...” “Smuggling weapons to terrorists fighting a foreign government we happened to be trying to negotiate with to end nearly twenty years of unremitting hostility. Can’t think of many clearer violations of the prime directive...” “And yet you helped anyway.” “I only went along with it because you lied to me you bastard. You told me they were smuggling medical supplies.” “Technically...” “Don’t even. You knew damn good and well what was getting smuggled in and even if I agreed with what they were trying to accomplish...” “Yeah, yeah -- you’re a Starfleet officer. I am painfully aware.” “You knew what you were signing up for when you enlisted, don’t give me that crap.” “The Federation turned a blind eye to the Occupation. They turned a blind eye to what was going on the DMZ. They stood by and just watched.” Asher burst out laughing. “Like you gave a flying targ about any of that. This is exactly what I was talking about -- this is why I don’t trust you! You can never just be straight with me. There’s always some big story, some crap. Like this scanner. You didn’t buy it. You didn’t win it off a Ferengi in a game of tongo. You stole it. “But you won’t tell me that because -- hell I don’t even know why at this point. Maybe you’re just a born liar. I don’t think I even care anymore. I’ve risked my career for you, I’ve almost certain blown up my marriage. And for what? To be lied to even more? What parts of the story you told me back on Earth were even true? You know what don’t bother. Just -- just go drink yourself silly while I work. That’s what you were always good at anyway.” “Damn,” Kai said, “you really do care for me still, after everything.” Asher glowered. “Of course I care about you, but none of that matters anymore. You’re a lying thief.” “Look. I have certainly, over the years, embellished facts. Used them to manipulate people to do things for me that they wouldn’t do if they knew the truth -- and at this point, I do it so often and so regularly I don’t even usually notice.” “Here we go again.” “Fine, you’re right. I lie a lot. I stole the scanner from a Caladoran research team. They’re who found the second coordinate. I was, uh... I was under contract with them to provide security. I recognized the vault and well, you put the rest to together.” “I already figured most of that out. I am not an idiot.” “If you’re asking if I was being truthful about the rest? Then, mostly yes. After the war, I laid low for a while. Just small stuff here and there. The Bajorans might have talked the Federation into giving me amnesty, but I wasn’t exactly welcomed back into your big happy family with open arms.” “You could have signed on with someone reputable.” “Maybe, but I didn’t so who cares. “Look the rest of what I told you was true. I got in with a syndicate -- not that one -- but a syndicate. I was running stuff for them, when well... I got a little careless. Now I owe them. I have a buyer lined up, now we just to finish the job.” “And then.” “And then,” Kai said heavily, “and then I’ll turn myself over to Starfleet, like we agreed.” “Good. Now, let me get back to work.”
  6. I am sorry my child. Why? This is not what I tended for you.... for any of you, for us. Archimedean, do not weep for us. We told you, we would walk the path your chose for us -- wherever it led.
  7. Do you remember, when I first came to you, Archimedean? How could I forget? You were very scared. You spent much of your time alone, in your room. I cried, I think, nearly every day. I didn't understand how my family could have left me. They wanted the best for you. Do you still miss them? Sometimes. I wonder what J'nan looks like now; I wonder too if Len'za still smacks his mouth when he eats. That always annoyed me. But he was a good brother. I think of my parents, too. Mother especially. In another life perhaps, you will meet them again. Our path is not always one of companionship. Yes, though I have come to think of you -- and the others -- as my family now. This pleases me. The awakening is ... not always an easy transition. This is who I am now. I could be no one else.
  8. Come, we must go -- the others await. Are you sure of our path? One can never know with complete certainty that their path is true, but I know that this is the path we have chosen and now we must see it to end -- wherever that maybe. If the Archimedean believes this is the path we should walk, then I shall walk it with you. True wisdom is not always following blindly my child. But come, we shall discuss this later. For now we must see to our mission.
  9. As the sun went down behind Mars, the track lighting along the metal cage that surrounded the Pei Xiu flickered to life. A small shuttle dipped just below the horizon. “Big ship,” the pilot said, glancing over to his passenger. Asher Swain glanced over. He hadn’t been paying attention, and only just realized they were alone in the shuttle. “Mm, yeah. Big ship.” he said turning to look as the Nebula-class starship filled the window. The pilot laughed. “Where did you say you were stationed before, Lieutenant?” Fairly sure he hadn’t said anything about where he’d been assigned, or even what his name was, Asher exhaled and leaned back into his chair. “Transerfing from the George Washington.” “Ah,” the pilot said, making a small maneuver to bring the shuttle behind the drydock. “Don’t know anything about her, but the PX isn’t too bad.” “I am pretty excited about the opportunity to run my own department.” “You’re science, right?” Asher nodded. “The new chief of Stellar Cartography.” “Mmm,” the pilot said. “I’m just a security grunt and occasional taxi driver.” “I appreciate the lift.” “No problem. So, what’s your name -- Lieutenant?” “Asher Swain.” “Kai Emaril -- I’d shake your hand, but we’re coming around to land and the autopilot is a bit finicky today. So, that guy with you at spacedock? Friend, boyfriend...” “Friend,” Asher said a bit too quickly, before smiling. “Just a friend.” “I see.” After he’d disembarked, Asher found Kai waiting for him just outside the shuttle bay. “So, Lieutenant Swain -- big plans for your first night on the P-X?” “Not really, no.” “Well, they’re showing a holovid in the rec lounge at 1900 if you want to come. Maybe we can get drinks before or after. No pressure though.” “Maybe, I don’t know. I have a lot of unpacking to do and I should read over the brief for our mission...” Kai smiled. “Well, if you change your mind -- my quarters are on Deck 5, Section 12. Here --” He tapped the exact berth number into Asher’s datapadd before heading off in the opposite direction, leaving Asher to find his quarters alone. Sifting through a duffle, Asher stopped at a slender, translucent rectangle -- a picture. He ran his hands over Arden’s face. “Just a friend,” Asher said, tucking the photo back into his duffle and turning to pick up the PADD with Kai’s address.
  10. Snow fell, swirling and tumbling through the sky. Snow country in Japan was harsh, unforgiving and yet spectacularly breathtaking all at once. Asher smiled, tugging his blanket tighter around his neck. Behind him, the maid had brought up his breakfast and left it on the table, along with fresh linens for the baths. From the window, he could see the steam rising from the bathhouse. It was eight or nearly passed it, Asher decided. He arrived by tram earlier in the week and had mostly kept to himself. The inn was quiet, tidy and well-kept. The innkeeper had told him that it had been in her family since the Edo period. After nearly three months with Arden as a constant companion, it was a strange feeling to be suddenly alone; but in the desperate quiet of the snow country it was oddly comforting. Sapporo had been the perfect closing to their time together, but it had been time for Arden to leave for his new position at Starbase 39 Tango. Asher’s thoughts returned to the snow covered peaks in the far distance. In the winter, cold Siberian air flowed down along the ocean currents and filled the western slopes that formed the backbone of the Japanese home islands with some of the heaviest snow falls on Earth -- several meters at once was not uncommon. This year had been no different. Snow country always reminded him of the mountain ranges on Kynareth where he’d grown up, and as an academy student, had served as a retreat when the pressures of school and life had swallowed him and he needed to find himself. Now, as he had then, he hoped he might find himself among the snow and hills; nut in the swirling winter storms, one could become lost too. Ghosts -- yuki-ona -- could also find their way into your heart and lead you further from your path and into the nothingness of the beyond. Cold, alone. His leave would be expiring soon -- had it really been three months since they’d returned from the Gamma Quadrant? -- and he would need to make a decision he’d been avoiding. He wondered, as he took up a cup of tea from the breakfast tray, how the refit was coming. He’d made a point, at Arden’s urging, to stay disconnected from all of that. It had been difficult at first, but after the second week, all thoughts of his career had faded into the background. Commanding the Excalibur had never been his choice of assignments, and in reflection, his reluctance to accept the position had certainly colored his view of the last two years. Brass had been exceptionally understanding of his desire to spend time away. They had also made it clear that should he wish to have a command more suited to his interests, that they would accommodate him as best they could, though they were of course careful to make no promises. He took a sip of tea, staring into the cold, winterscape and the mountains once more before heading to the bathhouse. Steam rose into the cold air, a gentle mist floating above the snow-covered roof of the hotel. Like most of the ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) in the area, the bathhouse was fed from a nearby hot spring. He slipped effortlessly into the water, his mind wandering. The Cassini had been his home for almost a decade and her mission had been almost exclusively one of pure exploration. After the Dominion War that sort of escape had been the only thing keeping him in Starfleet. Though he had served during the war, and understood his role in protecting innocents, he had never been comfortable with the idea of being a soldier-soldier. Perhaps that’s why he’d been so uncomfortable with the assignment to Excalibur. Starfleet could say the Akira-class was a multi-use ship all they wanted, and even though it did have suitable enough laboratory and exploration equipment, it was still a warship. A warship assigned to a warzone. He closed his eyes and sunk below the surface. His thoughts drifted, but continued to return to one subject. Surfacing, he ran a hand through his hair and stroked an absent beard. Arden disliked both. He wondered if he should regrow them. He didn’t know when he’d see Arden again; unless of course he chose to leave Starfleet. That was the option he’d uncomfortably been mulling since the end of the war. In truth, the Cassini had only ever been a distraction from that question. A happy distraction, perhaps, but a distraction. When he returned to his room, the sun had already risen above the mountain, sparkling in the distance. He dressed quickly before leaving for a walk along a narrow winding path that twisted and snaked between the ryokan. Children played in the fields, building snowmen and riding on sleighs. The skiing crowd had left early in the morning and would soon return for lunch. Asher smiled. He had never skied, he considered. In all of the many trips he’d made to the snow country, and even on his homeworld, he’d never bothered. He doubted he’d be any good at it. Perhaps he’d take it up. Maybe he would join them for the afternoon, just to watch. By the time he’d returned from his walk, they’d already returned. He’d missed them by only a few minutes, one of the staff said as they brought him lunch. He had been late, so the meal was far simpler than was normal -- only a bowl of steamed rice, miso, fish, and of course, tea. He had nearly finished when the innkeeper -- a tidy, middle-aged woman with a round face and full, pink cheeks -- approached him. She bowed respectfully and greeted him in Japanese. “Your guest,” she continued, “can we prepare anything special for him?” Asher smiled. He’d almost forgotten. “No, nothing out of the ordinary, but we will take dinner in my room.” “Kekko,” she said bowing again, before disappearing back into the kitchen. He spent the rest of the afternoon napping and reading a book the previous patron had left. It was rather poorly written, but it passed the time as he waited for a man he hadn’t seen in over a decade. Asher hadn’t really known what to expect when the doors finally slid open.He found his eyes lingering on the sharp features of his one time lover. There was something haunting and fleeting there he hadn’t noticed all those years ago. He wondered if perhaps it was just the cold, clearness of the night. “This is a wonderful little place,” Kai said as they sat down for sake. “You look well, Asher. It’s been a long time.”
  11. Rain fell on the small collection of buildings that passed as a spaceport on Kaira IV. Inside one of the industrial structures, a rowdy chorus of an Irish drinking song drowned out the sound of rain pinging against the roof. “He said he’d meet us here?” “Yes. I am sure he’ll be along. He’s never been late before -- “ “What if he was caught?” “You worry too much.” “Aren’t those basically famous last words?” Kai Emaril glanced disapprovingly towards the other young man seated next to him in the corner table of the Rusty Stembolt. Maybe he had made a mistake in bringing him. He sighed inwardly -- there was little use in self-doubt. “Look,” he finally said. “We’ll give him another ten minutes and then we’ll go back to the shuttle.” “What did you tell Horran we were using the shuttle for anyway?” “I told him we were going to get a little fresh air and get a drink. I didn’t lie to him.” “Good,” the young man said, crossing his arms. “Why are you so uptight? People take shuttles for trips like this all the time.” “I‘m a Lieutenant, Kai, it’s different.” “You never you used to worry this much about stupid stuff -- Asher, besides here’s our man now.” Their “man” was really a tall, slender Bajoran female. She looked them over for a long moment before taking a seat opposite them, waving off the waiter as he approached. “Sorry to keep you waiting -- the spoonheads have made getting through the checkpoints more difficult the last few weeks. Something about the murder of some high ranking Gul.” “I am sure you’re torn up about that.” “Absolutely in mourning,” she said with a wry grin. “Though I understand your friend here might be able to help us out with all these -- traffic difficulties?” Kai looked to Asher, who was trying to hide his apprehension. “If you have the data, Asher can make it work.” “Good. People’s lives depend on this. If we can’t navigate the nebula, people are going to die. The spoonies are trying to starve us out.” “Don’t worry,” Asher said finding his voice. “I can do it. Just -- give me the data.” She looked him over again before producing a small data-rod. “This is everything we’ve been able to get on their detection net. When you’re ready, Kai knows how to transmit the data back to us.” Asher nodded, palming the data rod and slipping it into his coat pocket. “Like I said, we’re counting on you. Don’t screw it up kid.” -- Morning light snuck through cheap blinds, striking out towards the small bed in the corner. “Uggg.” “What is it?” “You need to go.” “Go where. It’s...” “It’s already morning -- you’re on duty in like half-an-hour and it will take you at least that to get across town.” “Screw that.” “No,” Asher said sitting up in bed with a tired yawn. “You can’t miss another duty shift this week. N’awel will have you up on report and then you’ll be in the brig and then I’ll be alone...” “Screw N’awel. My head hurts,” Kai buried deeper into the covers. “Go for me. It’s not like you can’t walk around with a phaser for a couple of hours looking tough.” “I have my own crap to do today. I have to meet that horrible Doctor ... what was his name? Ornn --- whatever -- I have to meet him at the ruins.” “Oh right; you’re mister important scientist guy and I am just the grunt.” “Basically. Now, get up and get a shower. We both smell like too much booze and I think I got a new tattoo last night.” “You did,” Kai said, finally emerging from the covers. -- It had been nearly three weeks since they’d met with the Bajoran female -- who Asher had learned was named Maier. Sitting alone at the bar of Starbase 63’s Pipyard bar, he frowned at the nearly empty glass of whiskey. “Another?” “Please.” The Pei Xiu had been laid over at the aging space station along the Federation-Cardassian border for nearly a week after their navigational array had been damaged in an ion storm. “How much longer do you guys expect to be here,” the bartender -- a scruffy, three-eyed Albertian simply named Golic said as he filled Asher’s glass. Asher shrugged. “Engineering says they need another couple days to calibrate something or the other. You know how it is.” “Ah,” Golic said, “Not that I mind. It’s been nice to have your people here -- good for business. With this on again off again war, it’s pretty variable. I remember when this place first opened -- before the fighting with the Spoonheads started --” Just as Asher feared he was going to be drawn into a long conversation with the racist bartender, he felt a hand on his waist and shoulder and soft lips on his neck. “Hey there,” Kai’s smooth voice followed the kiss. “I’ve been looking for you.” “Mmm,” Asher mumbled as he finished off the whiskey. “Where else did you think I’d be.” Kai slid to the stool next to Asher and motioned to Golic for a drink. “Knowing you? Working. I looked all over after my shift.” “You could have just asked the computer,” Asher said dryly. “That ruins the fun. Anyway, Mjar wants to see us tonight.” Asher’s eyes widened a bit. “Tonight? We can’t --” he stopped and looked around to make sure the bar was still empty. “We can’t get a shuttle to Kaira in three hours. That’s assuming we could even talk Horran into letting us take it out again.” Throwing back the whiskey, Kai turned to Asher and kissed him again. “You’re thinking too much again.” “One of us has to.” “I know that -- which is why I do it. Mjar is here and I made reservations for us at that Bolian place you like.” “It was okay.” “Whatever -- this whiskey is pretty good, Golic -- we’ll meet her there. You should wear that outfit you wore to Lexa’s reception it makes your ass look good.” “My ass always looks good,” Asher said getting up from his stool. “Where are you going -- “ Asher kept walking. Frowning at the freshly poured glass of whiskey, Kai exhaled and ran after him. “What wrong?” Pushing away, Asher kept walking. “It’s nothing. I have work to do. Go back to the bar or whatever.” “Don’t be like that.” “Like what?” “Like that!” Asher stopped. He bit his lip. Son of a ... “Is this about tonight?” “What gives you that idea? Of course it's about tonight. How could it not be about what you just told me!” “Why are you being so moody. You’re going to make a scene.” Turning, Asher brought himself within a few inches of his lover, pressing himself close. “Oh and meeting with your Bajoran terrorist on a Starbase is conspicuous as hell,” he kissed Kai for a long moment before releasing. “How stupid are you?” “You’re worrying again -- “ “One of us needs to worry I know you don’t give a damn about....” He paused and started kissing him again as someone walked by the airlock. “What don’t I care about?” “It doesn’t matter. I’ll see you tonight.” -- The brig cell was cold. Cold and smelled like booze. Booze and maybe blood. No it wasn’t blood, well human blood anyway. Too coppery -- Vulcan blood? Asher blinked open his eyes and stretched. “I see you’re awake.” Definitely Vulcan blood. “Oh -- Taven. Uh... what...?” Sitting in the corner, a tall, lanky Vulcan male sat cross-legged in what Asher only could assume was a meditation pose with a trail of dried green blood from his bulging lip. His right eye had also swollen. “You and Ensign Emaril required my, assistance.” Blinking again, Asher felt his head throbbing with every pulse of the electromagnetic field that cordoned off their cell. “Oh -- right. Thanks for that. Where is Kai anyway.” “I was simply doing what a... friend... does for another friend.” Tevan said closing his eyes. “As for Ensign Emaril -- “ “Kai’s being held by the planetary authorities.” N’awel’s nasal intonation didn’t help Asher’s hangover and what he thought might be a broken rib. Asher glanced over, feeling a whinge of pain as he took a deeper breath. Yeah, broken rib. “.” “Yeah, that’s a good word for it. Captain’s none too happy.” Asher started to protest, but between the headache and the rib, he just nodded. “Of course, sir.” “Turns out the dude you two started---” “We didn’t start...” “Got into a fight with,” N’awel corrected himself, with a roll of all four of his eyes. “He was some sort of courtesan or something and a personal friend --” Asher snorted, but N’awel continued. “A personal friend of the Regent. You two really couldn’t have picked a worse time for this either. Negotiations were already delicate... and now you get into a bar fight with the Regent’s...” “I know -- I know.” N’awel rolled only his upper set of eyes. “Fine I’ll spare you the speech, but only because Captain’s going to dress you down when she gets done getting Kai out of their clink.” “Why is Taven still here. He was only...” “He should have shot you both and drug you out of there....” -- The pneumatic doors to his quarters had barely swished open when Asher felt a heavy, unfamiliar hand on his shoulder. “Lieutenant Swain” came a commanding voice. “We need to talk,” “It’s okay Asher. “ Commander Roberta Seclair followed up. “But we should go inside.” Compliant, Asher nodded and stepped slowly into his quarters, his heart fluttering faster than a Mabrizi Hummingbird’s wings. Inside, he found himself opposite of tall, blonde-haired man in a dark suit and the stoic Seclair. “Sorry for the theatrics Lieutenant, but we’ve been waiting for you sometime now.” He should have been anxious, frightened or scared, but instead his first thought had been to the state of his quarters. Still, Asher swallowed. “Can I -- I am not sure what this is all about?” Secliar nodded to the tall blond, crossing her arms. “No reason to screw around with him, John. I told you, he’s a good kid.” ‘John’ nodded. “I suppose a more formal introduction is in order.. My name is John Lendover, Starfleet Intelligence and I need to talk you about your friend... Mister Emaril and your mutual associate you’re supposed to meet tonight.”
  12. The lift carrying Issaha and Asher passed through long, glassed section giving the riders an expansive view of the docking area where a number of ships, including the Excalibur, were moored. Holding back an urge to press his face to the turbolift wall, Issaha peered as the lift carried them upwards towards the station’s command zone. For Asher’s part he had to admit he was unsure if he wanted the arrangement that kept the Romulan office aboard much longer. It wasn’t anything personal; he actually found Issaha to be far more charming and amiable than any Romulan he’d ever interacted with -- certainly more so than his brooding older brother -- and Hakran had spoke positively about his merits as a science officer. Still, Asher couldn’t escape the worry that his continued presence aboard the Excalibur would draw unwanted attention to the ship and if there was anything the Excalibur and her crew didn’t need help with, it was with trouble. The lift disappeared into the upper workings of the station, leaving the panorama behind. Issaha sighed and turned back to Asher. “I never did get a chance to properly thank you, sir.” Asher looked up. “For?” “Accepting me as part of your crew ... via the exchange.” Smiling, Asher resisted an urge to tossel Issaha’s hair. “I'd be lying if I said it was entirely my decision, but for what it's worth -- you're welcome. Just next time let's try not to get you in even more trouble with your people? It's nice having you and all, but I assume you want to go home at some point, eh?” He blushed a light shade of green. “Yes, sir. Of course, sir. Less trouble.” The lift came to a halt, depositing them on the wide concourse of the administrative offices for the station, which served as the homebase for starships assigned to the sector. “It’s big.” Asher grinned at Issaha. “Ie,” he said. “That is the Rihan word for yes, right?” Issha nodded. “Ie.” They made their way to the suite cordoned off for the sector commander, Vice-Admiral Agruela Tersan. Asher saluted crisply once he and his Romulan charge were ushered into her office. “As you were,” she said, pouring a glass of water. “Welcome to 39-Tango, gentlemen. Please, have a seat.” The admiral was short, slender but with a certain regal bearing that demanded attention. She glanced them both over briefly as they took their seats opposite her desk. “I won’t keep you long, I am sure you both have things you’d rather do than listen to some admiral drone on, yes?” Asher smirked, “I can think of worse things, Admiral.” “Your husband mentioned you to be quite the charmer, Mister Swain.” Issaha suppressed a smirk as it was now Asher’s turn to blush. “Anyway, as I said I won’t keep either of you long. As you know, El’Arrain N’Dak -- did I get that right? I’ve never been very good with spoken Romulan.” Issaha nodded. Her pronunciation of his name had been a little off, but for an Lloann’na, not all that bad. “Mmm--” she continued. “As you know, the officer exchange program between our two governments has not typically been used as a long-term arrangement. Frankly, since the end of the war, we’ve barely had any requests from your government for a placement aboard a Federation vessel. “And given the recent incident, and even though I am personally confident based on the reports from your superiors, that your involvement was incidental; it’s somewhat natural for the folks at intelligence to be concerned about having someone with so many complications with their opposite number aboard one of our leading ships in along the border.” She stopped to take a drink before continuing. “However, after a thorough review I have been authorized to continue your placement aboard the Excalibur.” “Thank you, ma’am.” “You’re dismissed, but one more thing. If, at anytime, Captain Swain believes the safety of his ship is being compromised....” She left it there as Issaha stood and saluted neatly. Asher started to follow, but Agruela stopped him. “One moment Captain.” When they were alone, she continued. “I am serious about that last part. If you’re uncomfortable with this arrangement at any time let me know, is that clear?” “Yes.” “Good. This is a delicate situation. Being honest, if the Romulan ambassador hadn’t interceded on his behalf, there’s no way we would have let him be on a starship this close to the Romulan border.” “The ambassador?” “Apparently some friend of the family or something. His mother was part of their diplomatic corps for years.” Asher nodded. He knew Issaha’s family was influential. “Right. Well, I’ll do my best to make sure he doesn’t get into too much trouble.” “Aboard your ship?” Swain blushed again, but smiled. “We’re doing our best on that front.” “See that you do.”
  13. Asher frowned at the results. There was simply no scientific explanation for the readings on his PADD. Stars did not simply speed up. Their rotational delay was fixed along a mathematical timeline. He sighed and took a drink of tea. He was alone in the Excalibur’s stellar cartography lab, having let the junior officers take a break while they waited on a data upload from Starfleet to complete. Glancing to another PADD he looked over the reports from the surface. His brows furrowed. “The fauna was not that aggressive when we were here twenty years ago,” he said to himself. “Computer, display all logs from previous Starfleet surveys of the Irassa biome.” “There have been three previous surveys of Irassa completed by Starfleet,” the computer replied demurely. “Surveys were completed by the USS...” “Display all data from all surveys, specifically any data on the local plants and cross-reference with the samples Beta 002 and Beta 009-2 from the Excalibur logs.” “Working.” After a few moments the information began scrolling across the display. “What the...”
  14. Name: Philippe Augustin Age: 38 (Born 2350) Sex: Male POB: Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France, Earth Ht: 6'1" Wt: 215 lbs Eyes: Green Hair: Brown Race: Human Rank: Lt. Commander Assignment Chief of Security, USS Excalibur-C Call Sign: Father: Jean Augustin (65), retired, Starfleet Mother: Julia Martell-Augustin (64), active duty, Starfleet Science Siblings: Henri Augustin (35) Background: The son of career Starfleet officers, Phillippe grew up on Earth in the south of France, before attending Starfleet Academy, graduating with honors just at the outbreak of the Dominion War. Service Record: -Graduated Starfleet Academy rank of Ensign (2372) -Assigned to USS Idrisi, Assistant Security Officer (2372) -Assigned to 49thStarfleet Ground Force, Charlie Company XO (2372) -Assigned to 49thStarfleet Ground Force, Charlie Company CO (2372) -Promoted to Lieutenant, Junior Grade (2373) -Assigned to 49thStarfleet Ground Force, Battalion HQ (2373) -Promoted to Lieutenant (2376) -Assigned to Starbase 105, Chief of Diplomatic Security (2376) -Assigned to USS Calais, Chief of Security (2379) -Promoted to Lieutenant Commander (2383) -Assigned to USS Excalibur-C, Chief of Security (2388) Service Medals:, Distinguished Service Cluster( w/2 flourishes), Silver Palm, Crimson Shield. Bronze Star, Purple heart, Starfleet Infantry Medal, Cardassia Prime Campaign Medal, Dominion Campaign Medal
  15. Commander Korin Hazlet frowned deeply. It had been just over two months since he’d taken over the orbital shipyards on Cait, following a rather sordid affair involving the former chief foreman. His predecessor -- Captain Cierra Cohen -- had been relieved of duty following the incident and put on leave. The last he’d heard she’d been cleared of any wrong doing, but it certainly wasn’t a good look for anyone involved. His first task had been to clean house. It wasn’t something he liked doing, but it was needed. Cohen ran an okay operation, but the fact that a terrorist had so easily ingratiated himself meant he had few choices. The bright spot, however, had been the Excalibur. Hazlet had at first been hesitant to turn over the management of refit to her XO, and even more so when he’d learned she was also an engineer, but he’d found her an excellent project manager and even better at keeping their hare-brained chief engineer in check. So of course, some lame-brain moron at Command had to ruin all that, didn’t they? He frowned again, looking at his watch. It was almost 0700. The newly refurbished messhall of the Excalibur gleamed with a fresh polish on the flooring, and the sun was beginning to rise over Cait through the floor-to-ceiling windows. He looked back down to the PADD on the table and took a deep breath as he heard the doors open. Miranda strode in, admiring the shiny new repairs. “I’ve not seen this room look so nice in… well… ever.” Joining Hazlet, she smiled. “They’ve done a nice job, haven’t they? Repairs, refits, even an upgrade or two. We’re just about ready to shove off, pending a final inspection.” Hazlet forced a smile on his oblong face. “Yes, I think all things considered it’s gone pretty well. I have to say that I was nervous, really, taking over with everything going on, but you guys really made it work.” He paused looking back to the PADD. “Unfortunately,” he said after a moment. “I am afraid you’ll be here a bit longer than just an inspection.” Miranda’s smile faded to something most would consider neutral, though it was really just one small step above scorn. Her ‘Commander’ face. Most on the Excalibur had seen it at least once and all had been happy to slip away without witnessing anything harsher. As an engineer, she expected perfection of all her crew. Those that missed the mark once, didn’t usually miss it a second time. It was far easier (for everyone) to remain in her good graces. “I don’t like the sound of that, Commander. It sounds as though you’re about to spring some bad news on me, and I very much dislike bad news.” “I am afraid so,” Hazlet said, putting on a good front. He wasn’t thrilled about the situation and he totally understood her perspective. “Normally this would go to the CO first, but since Captain Swain is still on leave, I thought it’d be best to bring you and your Chief in on it instead.” “Well, my Chief of Engineering isn’t here, obviously. He’s busy getting ready for our final inspection so we can get underway and on to our next assignment. Or at least, that was the plan. So, out with it. What did Central Command decide this time without consulting any of us?” “How familiar are you with Quantum Slipstream Drives?” he said, ignoring her entirely understandable gruffness. She stared at him. “You’ve got to be joking. They’re incredibly dangerous, for all the benefits they provide in propulsion. Incredibly dangerous. Not to mention difficult to properly regulate.” “Yes,” Hazlet said matter-of-factly, “However R&D back home has spent the last several years working on making it work and are, apparently, ready for a live field trial. Why they chose Excalibur, I am not clear, though it could be because of the upgrades fitted to your deflector array -- apparently that’s a key component.” “Quantum slipstream requires an enormous amount of energy to be funneled into the deflector array in order to create a quantum field. It’s a delicate balance. If the field collapses while the ship is in transit, the ship would be thrown violently out of quantum space. There’s no controlling where you’d land. The ship could, very literally, break apart in piec…” She stopped, staring even harder, which quickly turned into a glower. “Wait a minute, why they chose Excalibur? CHOSE? What in seven hells are you trying to say, Commander?” Tense and rigid, she was bristling with anger. Hazlet didn’t react to the sudden flare other than to force a smile again. “I only know what the project leader told me,” he said flatly. “They apparently had planned to do it on another ship at Utopia Planitia but a complication with that ship’s navigational deflector meant they had to find another ship. Normally this kind of thing is done on an older ship, but given the stresses of slipstream and the updates required to the power generation and distribution systems, they needed a newer ship -- apparently Excalibur fit the bill.” “No. Absolutely not.” She shook her head. “I don’t care who this comes from, or who I have to talk to in order to have the decision reversed, but it’s not happening. Not on my ship. Not to my crew.” The back of one hand smacked against the palm of her other. “Do you even realize what we’ve just been through? How we barely escaped the GQ? The state of this ship before we started repairs? We’ve been sent on one insane mission after another! And now, when we have the chance for some normalcy, they want to outfit our ship with what is, effectively, a ticking bomb that could destroy the entire ship and everyone with it!” “I understand your concerns, I really do,” Hazlet said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “If it were upto me -- well I think it’s a terrible idea -- but it’s not. You’re obviously free to lodge a complaint with Command, I won’t begrudge you for it. “That said, I doubt it will do much good. The orders came directly from Starfleet Research and Development and were countersigned by Fleet HQ. The project team is already en route from Mars and should arrive later this week.” Miranda glowered. “No, it won’t do much good, will it? But that doesn’t mean I won’t yell at them at the top of my lungs. Just see if don’t. You think Captain Swain will be willing to go along with this?” She snapped her fingers. “Oh, I see. He’s on leave and can’t do anything about it. So you sneak in here with the project team, install this blasted thing while he’s away, and scurry back to the hole from which you crawled. A low blow, even for HQ.” “Who is your project leader? I want his or her name and location. We’re going to have a chat, the two of us.” It was now Hazlet’s turn to put a stern, withering look on his face. “Commander,” he said firmly. “She is not my project leader. I had nothing to do with this, other than being given orders that the installation was going to happen. Now I could have simply ordered it done and not brought you in on it, given that this is my facility and that for the duration of her refit, the Excalibur is nominally under my authority, but I didn’t so let’s just get that cleared up right now. If you want to blow your stack on Dr. Ilyan, that’s perfectly fine with me -- hell in your position I’d do the same -- but keep me well clear of your fury.” “You’re riding thin on technicalities, especially considering what happened to our ship while docked at this station. Granted, that wasn’t under your command, but I had more faith in Captain Cohen to stand up for what is right. I finished the repairs to our ship because I didn’t trust anyone from the station to complete them properly. My team made them happen. So don’t go spouting regulation at me. Excalibur is no more under your command than I’m the Empress of the Romulan Empire.” “Commander,” he said raising his voice only slightly above normal. “I understand you’re upset, really I do, and I do and did appreciate the assistance you and your teams provided. I did explain to Command that I didn’t think this was a good idea, but hell if you care about details. Now if you want to keep insulting me because you’re mad keep it up. Fortunately for you, I am not one to hold grudges because trust me, Commander, if I wanted to be an ass I could have your whole team pulled off this project and sent down to Cait to twiddle your damned thumbs. I know you’re mad, I know you’re upset but good lord, pick the right damn target. I guess someone never learned not to shoot the messenger.” “Rest assured that when I do find the appropriate target, they’ll get a lot more than a dressing down. I might be upset, but this isn’t even a fraction of what’s going to happen when my Chief Engineer hears about this.” She sighed, rubbing the back of her neck. Moving away from his table, she stared out at the station, her brow still creased with irritation. “You’d better go and finish doing whatever it is that you’ve been tasked to do. As you have the misfortune of being the messenger, and the only target we currently have, you’re not going to want to be here when the news hits the rest of the ship.” Softening, he nodded before standing. “Yes, I do have a lot of work to do. I have three inspections this afternoon. I’ll have all the technical details forwarded to you, as well the contact details for the project team.” “Very well,” she said, a tad calmer than before. “I’ll be sure to mention your reservations when I file my formal complaint.” She glanced over her shoulder at him briefly, then turned back to the star field. Miranda waited patiently until she heard the doors swish closed behind her to punch the transparent aluminum. “Ow.” Hand throbbing and most likely fractured, she ignored the pain and turned sharply on her heel, heading for engineering. The shiny new panels in engineering were going to have several dents in them once she gave Admiran the news.