Acrid Association

This section of Smoke & Mirrors features the following NPCs:
images-11.jpg - Redrum Murral
18420375_w434_h_q80-1-1.jpg-Seth Anderson
150px-Terok_Nor_Cardassian_Offic-1.jpg- Zal Malkat
Ajani-1.jpg - Ajani Obatu

:: USS Hawking ::
:: Lounge ::

The Nameless Acolyte drifted around the room a bit aimlessly. He knew why he’d been sent, but other things just kept grabbing his attention. This ship had so much…brightness…about it. His Holiness would hate it. In fact, he could hear a potential homily building in his head about the ‘distractions’ of peace. This place held all of the amenities that drew one off the ‘burning way.’

The acolyte made a conscious choice to look away from anything that drew his eye. The many colorful bottles stacked behind the elder man at the bar were the first to get ignored. Then the smiles of the ‘USS’ crew. Though he sensed their angst, there was an underlying optimism to them that he found unnaturally appealing. He then chose to ignore the plush furniture and the pleasant smells. All of these things distracted him from his goal.

And speaking of his goal… His brother… No. The man who looked like his brother seemed to be walking back toward Captain Bayal. The acolyte did the same.

“Captain,” the kinder version of Torrik started with what looked to be a forced smile. Odd that the High Priest’s smiles seemed to come more easily than this man. He quieted his thoughts in order to pay closer attention to the exchange. “Perhaps we should discuss possible courses of action.” So very serious. “Although the party has been enjoyable,” that was a lie, “I think our attention should return to what exactly we should do from this point forward.”

So… This Torrik Nils was a diplomat.

Bayal’s response came easily and with all the manners of a snake courting his dinner. “Very true. This is a monumentous occasion and we should proceed with the more interesting parts of our meeting. I will say that there are standing orders regarding our interactions with the ‘mirror universe’… With you. And I am excited to exercise them.”

Standing orders? The acolyte was surprised. Though he spent the majority of his time in the Temple, he was unaware of any orders. This must be a lie. The High Priest had warned of agendas mingling and mixing with agendas. He’d also said to allow those with plans the illusion that their plans were still firmly in place. The Ascended would sort it all out.

“Interesting,” Captain Torrik answered. “I envy you in that regard. But I am authorized to speak on behalf of the Federation in a variety of negotiations."

“Negotiations?” Captain Bayal laughed. “Let’s not make this so formal, Captain. After all…we are already so familiar with one another. Our orders are very innocuous, anyway. Your universe has intrigued us since the earliest days of our Alliance. Even before. And where we falter and fail, you all seem to prosper and grow. Since the first crossing, power has shifted in our galaxy no fewer than a dozen times. Empires have fallen… Yet here you stand as a representative for your Federation, the very same governmental body who we first encountered so long ago.” Bayal paused and smiled deeply. He reached out and clasped Hawking’s other Captain on both shoulders. “I’m tasked with learning from you. Your galaxy is ripe with…goodness. We wish to harness that good will for ourselves and grow a long lasting peace where there has been only strife.”

The young acolyte watched Torrik Nils spin the words in his head. Although buttery, Bayal’s words seemed somehow hollow. The act seemed very thin. Of course, the Nameless knew the real reason for their incursion into this space. Perhaps that knowledge clouded his perception. He watched Nils closely, looking for some sign of doubt. It never came.

“We would… be honored to… teach you,” Nils said, appearing quite unsure. “It is a general mandate of Star Fleet to better the peoples that we meet in our journey. What specifically might we do to accommodate you?”

“Knowledge is what we seek,” Bayal continued, his grin becoming so transparent that the acolyte had to look away. What does the High Priest see in him? “I’d like to send a team of fact finders, students if you will, to your ship for…access to your memory banks. We’d like to study your history. Learn from the inception how your Federation became so powerful.”

The silence that followed shocked the Nameless One. His head spun and he watched his mirror brother. There was nothing there. He didn’t show an ounce of emotion. No doubt, no trust… No animosity or anger… No friendship or kindness… This man lived behind a wall. He was indeed the mirror image of his holiness. Opposite…but the same.

“We would be pleased to offer you our histories… I’ll have my yeoman compile a library of published works dating back to…”

“Actually,” Bayal interrupted. “We were hoping for a cultural exchange of sorts. Perhaps our Hawking could host some of your officers… And you could do the same for us… The opportunity for knowledge in our meeting is unprecedented and cannot be missed.”

Again the silence. The young Bajoran wondered what went on in the Torrik’s head.

“We’ll make the necessary arrangements,” he said finally from behind a hard and uneasy smile.

“I am verypleased,” Bayal said, from behind his own smile… Then he floated off toward Malkat.

“Sir,” the acolyte interjected quickly with a step toward Torrik. “Could I have a moment?”

The Captain looked momentarily shocked, but allowed the expression to pass. He nodded.

“I was wondering… Maybe we could speak?”

“Yes… That’s fine,” the young CO said looking around the room for his own distraction. “What can I do for you?”

“Not here, actually… And not…now…” Jachin laid his trap carefully. His task was very specific. “But perhaps another time. When this reception isn’t going on?”

Another quiet that the acolyte was beginning to think were hallmarks of this Nils’ behavior stretched out between them. Then he nodded sharply. Are those tears in his eyes? This may be easier than I anticipated. But on the tail of that thought came unexpected remorse.

The thought of deceiving Torrik Nils had originally appealed to the acolyte. But now, looking at the tears clouding the man’s eyes a realization hit him. This was not the Torrik Nils he knew. The wall that slammed so firmly in place as the Captain spoke to Bayal seemed to be crumbling. And the resolve the acolyte had originally sensed from this Torrik seemed to falter. There was…a softness to him.

“I was hoping to get to know you… And hear stories of my family,” the acolyte continued, though his tone lost a little steam.

“We’ll set something up,” the Captain said casually. “For now, I should… I have things that need doing…”

“Of course, your holine…” The acolyte smiled at his own mistake. Some habits were deeply ingrained. “Of course, Captain.”

Then Torrik Nils turned to leave. And he didn’t stop until he’d left the reception altogether.

:: USS Hawking ::
:: Corridor ::

In the hall, Nils took a deep breath and thumbed his eyes trying to regain composure. That acolyte’s eyes… The last time he’d seen them they were lifeless and gazed accusingly back at him from the quarries of Bajor. That in addition to his ‘meeting’ with Bayal had him frayed. After all, he was no diplomat.

“Torrik to Tenanji,” Nils said quietly as he moved towards the turbolift.

=/\=Tenanji. Go ahead.=/\=

“Captain Bayal wants to put some personnel on our ship for study… Some sort of cultural exchange. I want you to lock down all essential systems and encrypt any sensitive data. From this point on I want everything on this ship limited by access codes. Free up as much published history as you can and flood the LCARS with it. Everything else needs to be limited access.=/\=

=/\=Understood, sir. Very shrewd decision.=/\= Their Security Chief sounded somewhat relieved. Nils wouldn’t be surprised if it was already done in preparation for the reception. =/\=Who will you be sending to their ship, Captain? Should I put together a team?=/\=

“I’d like to talk to Finn about that,” Nils said. Harry’s wisdom and experience would help guide that endeavor. Best to trust those things to the professionals.

Then a sudden thought hit him. He wanted to disregard it, but he knew such a move would be foolish. He sighed then continued. “I have an idea about who I’d like to send, actually… Would you have Callan Vail meet me in my quarters?”

A tri-level chess game was afoot. Best to get all their pieces in place…

“Torrik out…”

Featuring NPC's Captain Bayal Paven and Torrich Jachin
Originally Posted 10/13/08 by Torrik Nils


:: USS Hawking ::
:: Deck 3 ::

Nothing about their current situation made Nils feel 'okay.' Granted the crew of the IAS had done nothing to garner his ill will, but everything about two universes colliding aboard their ship seemed wrong. Ghosts faced down ghosts, and life changing experiences from one reality superimposed themselves on people who didn't deserve to bear them. For some reason, the Prophets had seen fit to gamble with barriers that ought not be messed with in their Orb of Reflection. The result thus far bordered on madness. The Bajoran couldn't shake the vision of his little brother, alive and all grown up from his mind's eye. Something about it exhilerated him, but at its core it signified little more than the tragedy that had molded him into the man he'd become.

"And now he wants to have a chat," Nils muttered to himself as he approached his quarters.

"Captain," Commander Vail approached the Bajoran at a brisk pace, "I understand you asked to see me?"

"Yes," snapped the younger man, startled by the El Aurian's approach. "Yes," he repeated a little more softly. "Let's take this in here," he added motioning to his door. It slid open and Nils led the man inside. Though spacious and uncluttered, the Captain's quarters were sparse in rather dull. He'd done no decorating and a few worn uniforms were draped over the back of a chair. He threw them aside and offered Vail the seat. "I assume you know about our guests?"

"Oh yes, had a passing word with one or two. For the most part I must say, I find our renditions are to be preferred." Vail quirked a brow at the chair but went ahead and took the offered seat.

"In most ways, yes, I'd agree," Nils offered somberly. Then he forged ahead refusing to allow the Intelligence Officer any insight into his personal affairs. "Captain Bayal wants to send a team over to our Hawking… And he wants some of our crew to have a visit over there. Cultural exchange or something like that," the CO added waving his hand around in the air. "Up to this point I have no reason to refuse, and I hope there isn't one. But…" He paused before settling into the chair opposite Vail. "I also don't have any reason to do it. Forming diplomatic relations with another universe seems absurd in a very profound way. I don't think there are protocols for this kind of encounter and I don't want to wish we'd been more cautious down the line…" Again the younger man paused. Although not a proud man, there was something that deeply troubled Nils about having to ask Vail for a favor. They hadn't been on the best of terms. "I thought you might take a trip over to the IAS. And maybe…you know…take a look around…"

To his credit, for once, Vail didn't smile. It was hard enough on the proud young Captain, for one, and besides that, the situation with which they were presented was far too precarious for any sort of levity. "If you hadn't asked, I'm quite sure I would have given up on you as any kind of leader." It sounded callous but, having spent the better part of a century in Intelligence, and a portion of that in Strategic Operations, the Captain would have been a fool indeed not to take advantage of the El-Aurian's experience. "Have our counter-parts given any hint… anything at all to indicate that their presence is anything but accidental?"

Nils shook his head and lowered his eyes. "They have not. Their timing was fortunate and their actions have been above board in every discernable way. I just find it…" His voice trailed off as he tried to put his finger on the phantom he'd been chasing since he first laid eyes on the other Hawking floating in space. "Accidents happen. I accept that. But the magnitude of accident that would have had to occur in order to create a stable portal between universes is astounding. Universes were not meant to coexist. There is a reason they are separated by the barriers that science has yet to unravel. Somehow the Orb we encountered changed all of that… But still… There's something… I just don't want to miss an opportunity that we may not ever have again. [b]If[/b] this is all one cosmic accident then there is no foul in gathering information, as I'm sure you can respect."

"I can," Vail considered the Captain for a moment. "If I may… while, as you say, everything has appeared above board, I believe we should arrange a series of failsafes, both for our Hawking and any crew we send to the IAS. It would be the height of idiocy to allow our people into a situation where they may be taken hostage, or worse and…" but here he paused, uncertain how grey an area Torrik Nils was willing to tread.

"Failsafes? What kind of failsafes? Emergence transport devices?" Nils' eyes bore into the elder man, in an attempt to glean any insight from his years of facing down the unknown.

"That would be my first suggestion, yes… I want the ability to extract any of our personnel at the first hint of a… situation. Also, we'd be served well by inserting a sub-q tracer on each of our people and, one other thing…"

"Go ahead," the young Captain said, sensing the need to prompt his unlikely advisor. "I want to hear every option."

Vail nodded, "Very well," he rose, now, taking a few steps away to consider the ship hovering in view just beyond, "I've had some time to review the work of your Ensign Gorsky… his… Huey project?" Callan's eyes were deadly serious, "I believe those nanites might come in handy, should things go pear-shaped yonder."

The Bajoran dropped his eyes and examined the table closely. There were lines he'd prefer they never had to cross. But if he didn't prepare for every possible contingency, then he would be failing the crew and his duty. "Okay… Talk with Alex… Ensign Gorsky, that is. See if he can work up a means for remotely launching his AI. Make it clear, though, that I don't want people hurt or lives wasted. We are not going to weaponize his project. His AI sometimes gets a mind of its own and I want the parameters very clearly defined."

Callan, who'd read up on the side-effects as well, nodded vigorously, "I would hope he can safely program the nanites to take out the IAS shields. I wouldn't leave them utterly defenseless but," he paused a moment, listening again to the cadence of the visitor's voices from the lounge, "there is something in their behavior that warrants a certain, preparedness," he locked eyes with the often adversarial Torrik, "If you take my meaning."

The young Bajoran took the man's meaning all too well. In fact, for the first time ever he felt completely in sync with the ship's El Aurian guest…

JP featuring Harry Finn as Callan Vail
Originally Posted 10/13/08 by Torrik Nils

IAS Hawking
Dr. Munro's Lab

"Enter," Jill smiled,"Harry Finn," she said slowly, "…welcome to my parlor."

Said the spider to the fly, he thought, holding the woman's familiar/unfamiliar gaze. "It's Lieutenant," he told her, "Finn, Lieutenant jg, Harry, of the USS Hawking." Then he quite suddenly grinned before adding, "So, what's it gonna be? Poker, Pinochle, Kotra? I gotta warn you, I hate chess… but I've always been a sucker for Hearts."

If there was one thing this Jill had mastered over the other Jill, it was the art of apathy, nothing this man could say would pull her focus away from the task at hand, "We're off to a good start, Lieutenant." The doctor walked up to the restrained man, stopping six inches away from him so that she could study his face, just as she had studied the face of the other Harry Finn, "Please go on…after all, that's why we're here. To get to know you."

“And though she be but little, she is fierce,” Finn responded, softly. Abandoning the lame attempt at charm, he followed his instincts and tried another tack, “But not fierce enough,” he ventured, “Not fierce enough to do what’s right, instead of what’s convenient so, nowhere near as fierce as her.”

She paused before speaking. He was trying to compare her to the woman she had met earlier. She wasn't going to play. "What's right is a matter of perspective, Lieutenant," Jillian motioned to Chris to bring over the restraints, "You'll figure that out once you've lived in our universe for awhile."

“Everyone breaks.” the voice of Captain Rutledge, who led the Advanced Tactical Training course of 2362 spun forward twenty-two years to where Harry was now. “Everyone… it's only a matter of time so, when faced with a situation where you’re being interrogated, the best option is to get yourself killed as quickly as possible.” With those words in mind, as Kenny shifted his grip to move Finn, Harry went for broke, swinging his cuffed hands up and back, his elbow smashing the Bajoran guard in the nose before kicking back… he'd never make it out but then, that wasn't the point. He spun towards the other male in the room, Hodges' double but before he got there a spasm ripped across his muscles, incapacitating him. He dropped to his knees for a moment before a bleeding, pissed off Kenny dragged the shaking Human back into position.

Arras struggled to catch his breath as he secured a metal belt around Harry's torso, "We can do this your way, no problem. The bolt is in place, doctor. Whenever you're ready."

Jill nodded, "Lock him in," she smiled at Harry, "Don't be frightened, Harry. It's just a precaution. The belt has a bolt on the back which locks you into the chair."

Arras Crayn and Chris pushed the Lieutenant into the chair and slid the bolt into the locking mechanism on the chair.

F**king agonizers… as he was slammed back into the dentist chair of doom, Harry's old instructor continued the lecture from back in the day, “If you fail to be killed, then you lie: lie often, lie well, lie until you believe the crap you’re spouting so that, with luck, when the truth finally does come out, and it will, the enemy won’t be able to distinguish it from the bullshit.” He brought his eyes up to the echo of Jillian… no more than a hollowed out mimic of the woman he knew, "I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition," he quipped weakly, "Don't tell me, let me guess, your chief weapon is surprise… surprise and fear. Oh, wait, that's two weapons."

Jillian chuckled. She pulled over a chair and sat down in front of the restrained man, "There is no surprise about what happens in this room, Harry. My objective is simple. I have questions and you have answers. The fear is entirely up to you. You can make this as painless or painful as you want. It can be a friendly conversation if you want." She paused to reach into her pocket, closing her fist tightly around whatever object she was holding, "My first question is are you friendly, or are you not?"

"I'm the soul of friendliness; ask anyone."

"Wonderful." She said flatly, "Harry…" she paused, "I want to know the level 9 LCARS authorization code for the USS Hawking. Will you give them to me?"

"Sure, it's, Finn - Tango - Hotel - X-ray - one - one - three - eight." Lie, often, lie well…

Too easy…so he's not friendly. She smiled, "Thank you," she leaned forward, "Now…let's try this one more time. I'm going to give you one more chance to be friendly. What is the level 9 LCARS authorization code for the USS Hawking."

… lie until you believe… Harry held her gaze and repeated slowly, "It is Finn - Tango - Hotel - X-ray - one - one - three…"

Jill opened her fist, revealing a handful of children's jacks, "Do you know what these are?"

Harry stared down, then he looked up again and, while his expression remained neutral, he couldn't prevent the niggling worry at the base of his skull, "So, we're going to play games, after all?" When the jacks remained stubbornly in place he sighed, "Cantrips," because, in this situation, any truth, no matter how small, could lead to a greater truth and that could lead to disaster for the USS Hawking.

She looked down at the jacks in her hand, "I used to play with these for hours when I was little girl," she paused to smile at the memory, "I spent a lot of time alone, especially when the Alliance took me. These little things were my only entertainment." She playfully tossed a few into her other hand, "I remember one time I broke Malr Shia's medical tricorders," she looked up at Harry, "Malr Shia was my guardian," she added, "…anyway, as punishment, he made me swallow my jacks." She held his eyes with her own, "Do you have any idea how painful it is to have 6 jacks swimming around your stomach?"

He knew how painful it was to have his guts hauled out for view but no way was he going to share that. "I'm sorry," he told her, "for whatever they did…"

"They did what they had to do." She cut him off. She had no need for his pity. She pulled a med-table towards her and placed four jacks on a petri-dish, "Chris, prepare for transport. Target left clavicle, diaphragm, right kidney, and upper intestine. No punctures. Just pressure." She turned around to look at Harry, "Don't look so worried, Harry. Four jacks won't kill you, but any movements you make will risk puncturing one of you vital organs. I might one day go as high as five jacks, but I really don't know what that would do to you. So, let's just start with what we have. And then we can try that question again? Energize."

Jill searched Harry's face for expression as the jacks lodged themselves deep inside his body, "Tell me the code, Harry. And remember this is for posterity so be honest."

"Honestly?" he asked, his voice almost non-existent as pain and referred pain and the referred pain's second cousin twice removed made themselves at home in his innards, "You can take your questions and…" Harry grimaced as he raised his still-cuffed hands and with one horrendous thrust, pounded his fists into his gut. "Your best option is to get yourself killed…"

Jill's first reaction was to lunge towards the man and stop him from injuring himself, but, what sense did that make?

JP with her wickedness Jill Munro
Originally Posted 10/13/08 by Harry Finn

T’Shaini was unaware of the humming noise she was emitting as she walked thoughtfully down the corridor back to her quarters. As fascinating as she found this entire situation that they were currently in, for someone so accustomed to analyzing her companions body language it was disconcerting, to say the least, to see someone she knew or should know, or thought she should know but having the physical signals not quite match what she was expecting. A brilliant study in nature versus nurture. And a study that the counselor was going to have more time to explore in depth.

"Your perceptions are what I'm most interested in. Get a feel for who they are and what they want… We've no reason not to trust them, but I don't want to be blindsided."

Nils clearly was uneasy about…something. His orders were not the standard ‘cultural exchange, first contact procedure, it was far more. Adding that to the undertone of discomfort (which granted, could be due to the situation) made T’Shaini more concerned than she would normally be. Her thoughts drifted to the end of the encounter Javier had with the T’Shaini of that universe, a dark, closed off version of herself in security gold. Clearly many things had been different in her life, but how very interesting that no matter the universe, the same souls seemed to be tied together. Her, Javier, Cat, Nils..she did not see Harry, but she did see Jenny speak with someone identified as Seth Anderson…I must find time to speak with her, that must have been difficult. As was, no doubt, the nameless acolyte that Nils had spoken to. He had not mentioned speaking to the image of his lost brother to the counselor, perhaps he never would, that would be up to him. It was almost dizzying how the unseen threads that held this group together seemed to transcend even the bounds of the universe.

T’Shaini found herself staring at the door to her quarters with no real recollection of the journey. I hope no one spoke to me and I did not realize it… However, given the circumstances she was certain if she had, it would be understood. Squaring her shoulders, she stepped into her quarters to pack some things for her journey…a journey unlike any she had ever taken, hopefully an insight into the ties that bind and the evolution of the soul. That thought brought to mind a quote by a terran writer from long ago, Victor Hugo. “The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than of the real. It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live.” It seemed to the counselor that in as much as she had observed, that in this universe that was how it was viewed. To strive for the ideal….it seemed far less prevalent in their mirror counterparts. A fascinating journey to be sure.

She was to go to the IAS Hawking, only the gods knew what she would find.

Orignally Posted 10/14/08 by T'Shaini

-Main Engineering-
-USS Hawking-

"There's no easy way to say what I have to," Javier told the assembled engineers, "but I want to be the one to tell you." He was my responsibility just as much as anyone's. The Chief Engineer had ordered all the shifts to Main Engineering for a department-wide announcement. Those that had worked Gamma shift were looking around in confusion, most of them had been in their sleep cycle. Delano Mills blinked rapidly as he tried to wake up. "Earlier this week there was an accident aboard the USS Lakota," he started, Javier could tell many were wondering why this was important news. "The ship was lost, with all but a few passengers surviving."

"No, Chief that's, that's not right." It was Cadet Boyce that had spoken.

So he knew Pierce was aboard the Lakota. Maybe they corresponded before the accident? The Chief raised his hand to silence the cadet as Mustapha went to stand beside the young man. "There was a search for survivors but no one was found. Among those lost was Crewman Pierce, he was in the process of being taken to Sigma Iotia." The stricken faces of some of the younger crew were a testament to how much BHP had been liked and how much he would be missed. Even Kal-El, who was almost always at odds with Pierce, seemed saddened by the news.

"The letter I received from SFHQ said that Pierce acted with great honor," Costala explained, "he's been cleared of all charges and will receive a commendation for his actions aboard the Lakota."

"Like that matters now," Fenton said his voice full of emotion. "He was innocent Sir, we all knew that none of that matters. They can shove their commendation up their.."

"Boyce!" Javier's voice cracked like a whip. He let out a breath then gently said, "They realized they were wrong. A commendation means they, and the Federation as a whole, appreciate his actions and sacrifice."

"Yes Sir," the cadet replied as he lowered his head. "I think them clearing him just came a little too late."

"So do I Cadet, so do I," Javier agreed. He looked out over the faces of the engineers then said, "If you need time to think and process this loss I understand, make the necessary arrangements with Chief Ibrahim. The counseling staff is at your disposal and I'll be here also. We won't be able to hold a fu..farewell ceremony until after we leave Girijan space. Dismissed." He turned to go to his office and only then realized that Caterina Costala had been listening to him speak.

"I'm sorry for your loss," she said, "It's not your fault he was killed."

"It feels like it though," Javier admitted before saying, "And I apologize for how I spoke to you earlier. You didn't deserve to be spoken to in that manner. I saw you and my ex jumped into my head.."

"There's no need to explain," Caterina said with a soft smile. "Would you care if I stayed here a little longer? We can get to know each other better, I think you'll find that I'm not a heartless bitch."

"I'd like that, but right now I have one more person to tell about Crewman Pierce," Javier replied as he sighed. "And she may not take it as well as Boyce did."

"Oh." Caterina only understood all to well what he was going to do. "Perhaps later then."

"Yes, later," the engineer said before he headed for the doors.

Originally Posted 10/14/08 by Javier Costala

USS Hawking
First Officer’s Quarters

Now that the farce of a ‘meeting’ was over and various IAS crew returned home or disposed about the USS Hawking under supervision, Harry was able to retreat to the empty cavern of Finn’s quarters and, once there, he made it his first order of business to check into the record search he’d initiated earlier. He’d been pleasantly rewarded by access to Finn’s medical history. Reading that file had explained the prohibitionist replicator, at least, so Harry made it his second order of business to remove the anti-alcoholic programming on the device. He didn’t worry too much that he’d be enabling Finn’s addiction, seeing as it was doubtful that the USS Hawking’s original XO would ever be returning to take possession of these quarters.

Hell, if things went too screwy, there wouldn’t be any quarters left to possess.

Now, Skagaran whiskey in hand, he returned to the desk and, using the secure link Malkat had provided, sent the records off to his superior’s attention on the IAS, along with the recently updated intel on the ‘visiting’ USS crew, and the failsafe’s this ship’s Callan Vail had instituted. Emergency transport recall and sub-q transmitters… guy was definitely a suspenders and a belt type. And because he was that type himself, Harry wondered just what else Vail had up his sleeve that he wasn’t sharing with the general public.

Of course, the IAS would be instituting the same procedures… including a few extra tricks up their sleeves, as well so, it’d be hard to call foul on the Federation players. Still, unless he could get hold of that LCARs access, his team was going to be screwed and to that end, Harry included a subtly worded reminder that Munro had yet to provide any useful intelligence; both because he needed the codes and because the thought of Munro getting a fire lit under her by Malkat gave him a dark surge of pleasure.

He never spared a thought for the man being questioning who, with Munro on fire, was going to get burned.

Featuring IAS tool, Harry Finn
Originally Posted 10/14/08 by Harry Finn

:: IAS Hawking ::
:: Captain’s Quarters ::

Bayal Paven wearily entered his dark quarters and lugged himself over to the sink. Finally able to drop the pretense, the man scowled at his own reflection in the mirror. “Fu*&ing Federation tripe,” he said quietly. None of this had been as he’d planned it. The damned High Priest always pushed things too far and too fast. They should have waited on their side of the portal for the invasion force to arrive. But that plan had been far too slow for ‘his holiness.’

“We’ve opened the portal, damnit,” Bayal cursed angrily. “As soon as we send word to the fleet the invasion force will arrive and we can enter that universe en masse. There is no reason to go now…”

“There is every reason to go now,” Torrik spat angrily at the Captain. “The Regent will drag his feet and we’ll lose our opportunity. There is no guarantee the portal will stay open. If it closes we’ve missed our chance.”

“Our chance for what, ‘your holiness’?” Bayal liked to use Torrik’s title against him. “We are one ship. We will have no chance to gain a foothold in that space without backup. I intend to win the war we are about to start, not flounder in our first attempt.”

“There are larger things going on, you simple minded…” Torrik Nils took a step towards the Captain and gripped him with both hands near the shoulders. “Paven… This is a chance we may never have again. The Orb cannot sustain the portal indefinitely. The Wraiths have given me a vision and a purpose. It is ours alone… Not the Alliances. If you lead this expedition into the mirror universe now, our names will burn brightly for all time… But if we wait…even for a day…everything could be lost. We must go now,” Torrik plead with the Captain.

Bayal took a breath and considered the Priest's words. Although sometimes impatient, the man had never steered them wrong. In fact, his ability to manipulate events and acheive the outcome he desired had become legendary. “We can cross over and set up a beach front on the other side. I will not take this ship deeper into their space without a fleet at my back… Understood?”

Torrik eased his grip and ran his hands down the Captain’s arms. “Understood,” he answered, his tone silky and dark. “You won’t regret it…”

Bayal shook himself from the memory. Their plan had come to fruition just like Torrik said it would. The replacement of Finn on the USS Hawking left them in a good place strategically, and their meeting had gone…well enough. He didn’t expect their mirror analogue to put down their guard completely, but with the hand they were playing he had plenty of time to get the tactical data they needed for the full invasion that was to come. The Regent’s fleet would be coming through the portal in two days. And Bayal wanted to be the one to hand this universe over to his superiors. The payoff would be exactly what he deserved. Fame…glory…recognition. And wealth as well. Perhaps he’d be made Intendant of some planetary system in this new world.

The exhausted Bajoran shucked his clothes and made his way to his bed. He eased himself carefully into the waiting comfort so as not to wake the sleeping form already lying there. As the first fingers of relaxation began soothing his tense muscles the voice interrupted… And immediately brought back the tension.

“Tell me everything,” said Torrik Nils, as he rolled onto his back. “I want to know every detail…”

And thus was the beginning of a long night's…lack of rest.

Post by Captain Bayal Paven and Torrik Nils, High Priest of the Ascended
Originally Posted 10/14/08 by Torrik Nils

IAS Hawking
AI (Adaptive Interface) Research Lab - Deck 6

Ensign Redrum Murral scurried through the lab, gathering the parts he’d need for the IAS away team to, if necessary, sabotage the USS Hawking. He’d been working for over a year on the AI subroutines and, if he did say so, himself, they were coming along quite nicely. That glitch with duotronic algorithm which Harpo had initiated six months past was… well that was just a glitch and Murral was sure he’d identified the error which had led to the cascade system failure of the Hawking’s primary systems.

“Anyway,” he said, “even it does go boom, it’s not our Hawking, this time.”

“I’m sure the nearly two hundred souls on the USS Hawking appreciate your deep concern for their well-being, Ensign… Redrum, is it?”

“Oh,” Murral tripped, almost dropping the interface matrices as he turned to face the Intendent-Elect, himself. “Intendent Vail, I, well, I was… I’m sure there won’t be any, um, side effects…”

“I rather hope there will not be, as it is you who will be planting the AI into the USS Hawking’s network and if it does go… boom… I’m sure you’ll be among the first to know.” The El-Aurian’s expression remained quite bland as he added, “We do, after all, only want to negate their shields… it will be a difficult task to take over their ship if it is pieces.”

“Oh, but, sir,” Redrum tried to protest, “I’m not… I mean, I usually just stay in the lab, you know? Pure research, that’s me! I’m not,” he leaned forward as if offering up a confidence, “a people person.”

Vail leaned forward as well, “I suggest you become one… you’re to depart at 06:30 hours.”

“Yes, sir,” Murral said, miserably, turning back to his work before remembering… “Oh but, sir… what should I…” But Vail was gone, leaving behind the fluttering Bajoran and a sense of impending doom, “… pack?”

USS Hawking
Dedicated Lab 1133 - Deck 6

“How confident are you in… Huey’s stability?”

Alex didn’t even look up from his programming, “For a simple command like this? Very.” He understood the risk inherent in the Lieutenant Commander Vail’s plan… taking Huey over in three separate sections, to be assembled and integrated to the IAS ODN network, but he’d been eating, drinking, sleeping and interacting almost entirely with these very nanites for the past several months. He’d felt hugely responsible for the secondary damage Hawking took after the Janus attacks… even if his nanites had been the only way to preserve the lives on the ship, they’d still done a number on all the vessel’s systems and it had taken far too long to ferret out the self-replicating offspring of the original Huey creche.

The near disaster had yielded an incredible amount of data, however and now… “All you’ll need to do is install the nanite cylinder into this modified tricorder,” he now lifted the tech to demonstrate to Vail, “once the cylinder is locked into place, insert this chip,” he held up an isolinear data chip, “It carries the command algorithm. Once the tricorder is interfaced with any ODN matrix, it will automatically set the nanites program, release them into the network and they will proceed to generate a random series of counter-harmonics which will neutralize the IAS shield frequencies.”

Callan studied the innocuous-seeming device, “For how long, do you think?”

Gorsky looked up, into the aged and serious eyes, “There’s a pre-set lifespan for this generation,” he said, “So, no more than forty-five minutes,” he said soberly, “less if they have someone on the ball enough to recognize what’s happening and and flushes the system.”

“So, I shouldn’t use these unless I’m damned sure they’re needed, and not until the moment of…”

“Yes, sir.” Alex began packaging the three items for the El-Aurian.

“Very good, Alex… may I call you Alex?” but of course he continued without waiting for a reply, “Alex, it’s very important that only you, I and the captain know of this particular backup plan. No one else is to be aware.”

“Not even the mules?” referring to the other away team members who would be carrying parts of Vail’s last and most secret failsafe.

“Especially not the… mules.” Vail shook his head over the odd terminology. “My thanks,” he accepted the scientist’s offering. “I’ll take good care of Huey.”

“I hope you don’t have to use him.”

“As do I,” Vail said as he turned to exit the lab, “as do I.”

Featuring NPC's Callan Vail, Callan Vail, Redrum Murral and Alex Gorsky
Originally Posted 10/14/08 by Harry Finn

:: IAS Hawking ::
:: Munro Lab ::

In the past, Harry had, to put it mildly, pissed off a few people and they, in their turn, had made it their business to… how would one put it? Get a little of their own back… by way of his pain. Some of them were pretty good at it, too… but none of the previous experts had been the least interested in anything Harry knew… they'd just wanted him to suffer and in a way Harry got that because in most cases he had wanted the same for them.

But Munro was different… hell, Harry was different, now. Now he was the first officer of an Intrepid Class starship and he had knowledge that someone else wanted and that made what was happening here and now much, much worse than anything the most perverted practitioner had ever come up with.

The jacks had been just the beginning.

Hours of excruciating pain had passed and still, Jill Munro, had no answers. She had extracted all of the jacks but had made no attempt to stop the internal bleeding that Harry had inflicted on himself. But even that didn't seem to be a threat. She had to admit, she was impressed. No other prisoner had shown this kind of resistance. He was unique. It was becoming abundantly clear that Harry Finn would rather die than give up any information to Jill….at least to this Jill.

She would try one last thing before moving on to harsher measures, "Harry, if you would rather die than tell me what I want to know, that can certainly be arranged. However, I would keep in mind that your place in that chair can easily be replaced. If not you…than someone else." She leaned in closer to him, "Perhaps someone like, T'Shaini."

Harry's response to the threat against Wendy was the croak of a laugh, which led to a cough which just added to the tally of damage that Munro had already inflicted. Once he'd recovered he saw she was still waiting, so, "Sorry, doc but, even if you had her, which you don't," hey, Munro wasn't the only one who could spot a lie at two paces, "you'd get squat-all that's useful… she doesn't have the clearances you want and more," he leaned forward as far as the restraints and his own shredded interior would allow, "she's wears the uniform… just like me. Just like me she knows there's more to the Federation than a couple of officers on the line so screw you, screw your threats and screw…" but the rant was half strength at best and another racking cough brought the diatribe to a stuttering halt, which was just as well, probably.

Jill didn't respond to it with a reaction, he had inadvertently answered another one of her questions, So, this Harry isn't in love with the T'Shaini from his universe. If not her, than who?. She looked over at Chris, "Get me 10cc of Tropolisine," the Bajoran nodded and left to fetch a hypospray loaded with the potent psychotropic compound. She walked over to the neural neutralizers alcoved console and began entering parameters for the beam emitter.

As soon as Munro called out for the drug, Harry had closed his eyes, searching deep inside for the mantra he’d used back in the day, when the docs in ATTC had been doping up the young and eager Security grunts as part of their resistance training. It didn’t take long… Harry had chosen something that resonated enough to come to hand easily.

He opened his eyes to see the doctor messing with some Frankenstein tech but deep, deep inside, he was already falling into the litany… Now, on the St. Louis team we have Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third…

Chris returned moments later with the Tropolisine, "I also brought this," he held up the Klingon type 1 agonizer, "I thought we might want to apply it before we administer the shot."

She nodded in agreement, "Remove his shirt and place the device about his heart."

The fellow playin' first base… Who…. The guy on first base…. Who is on first….

The console hummed beneath her hands and soon she heard the promising sound of the chair powering up. Suddenly an outburst of light and energy that could only be compared to a bolt of lightening rebounding between two points, ignited the beam emitter. It glowed a deep orange, ready to burst through its round orange lens. Jill re-checked her instruments and computer before giving the final go.

I'm not asking you who's on second.

"Doctor, I'm good go with the agonizer," Chris locked the device in place and held the hypospray to Finn's neck, "Tropolisine has been administered."

What’s on first?… What’s on second… thoughts… no… I don't know…

Jill took a deep breath and kneeled down in front of Harry so that she could look at him eye to eye, "I'm sorry it's come to this Harry. But you have to understand that if I don't get what they want, they'll kill me." She put her hand on his restrained arm and squeezed, "I'll make sure that your ship knows you endured great pain to keep their secrets safe…but this…this was just beyond you." She looked up at the beam emitter.

He heard the doctor's words and took them for the complete pile of crap they were. Third console to the lef… third base…

=/\= Computer, activate neural neutralizer =/\=

"STAY OUT OF THE INFIELD!" the denial shot out of the man as the world around him… changed.

In amazement, Jill could only stare at the perfect stream of light that shot down from the emitter. The machine itself was not what was going to get her the information needed. No, it would simply be used to temporarily alter Harry's short term memory. He would have no recollection of coming on board the IAS Hawking. Nor would he remember meeting a different Jillian Munro.

"Doctor, the Tropolisine has had sufficient time to set it. You may begin at your convenience." Chris called over from an observation console. He would continue to monitor the Lieutenant's vital signs.

Jill snapped her gaze off of the machine and onto Harry. She gracefully swept her hand down Harry's face, pulling his eye lids closed. It was time to set the scene.

"Munro to Finn….Harry? Harry, it's Jillian. Where are you?"

Rolling away from Kerrin, where she was sleeping the sleep of the… well, she was really asleep, Harry resignedly tapped the badge of his discarded uniform, "Finn here, Slugger… I was just… catching up with Kerrin. Is there a problem?"

From where she knelt before him, Jill Munro smiled.

A joint post by Harry "Big Brass Balls" Finn, and Dr.Evil…
Originally Posted 10/15/08 by Jillian Munro

IAS Hawking
Getty Quarters

Luke kicked off his boots, stumbling as he lost his balance from the leather shoe that was caught on the edge of his toes. He grabbed the back of the couch tightly to catch his balance and finally kicked hard enough to knock the boot off. He winced when a pain shot up through his leg from the force of the jerk. Getty sat down and rubbed his calf softly. The small desktop monitor beeped and he limped over to the desk.

The symbol for the Alliance flashed and in its place the face of an associate of Luke’s appeared in its place. The Cardassian grinned widely, “I’m glad I’ve caught you, Lucas. It’s been a while my friend.”

“Glinn Malcet! How's your business at Maron Nor,” Luke asked.

Malcet smiled, “It is good. I laughed with old friends and reminisced about old battles. And you, my friend, how are you?”

The human reached out to bring the monitor closer, “I’ve been doing fine. May I ask what this is about?”

“There are things in motion…” he began slowly and dramatically. “You are one of the few individuals I can trust, despite your species. When everything begins, I need you to protect my interests.”

Luke rubbed his brow, “And what does that entail?”

The Cardassian smiled, and continued, “You have always been loyal to the Alliance and to me, most importantly. You have always done what I have asked. If you continue on that path, you should have no worries about what I am asking of you. When the time comes, I’ll let you know what I need.”

“Okay,” Luke responded.

“And Lucas,” he inserted, “both you and your wife owe me your lives. If you must use her to complete your task, do it. I have heard she’s quite stubborn, and that worries me. You may have to-”

“She’ll do as she’s told,” he interrupted harshly. “You don’t need to be concerned about her.”

“You do not tell me whether or not I need be concerned,” Malcet growled. “Know your place Lucas.”

Luke’s face reddened in embarrassment, and he sighed. “Sorry,” he mumbled. He paused to allow the Cardassian a time to calm down. Glinn Malcet was quick-tempered, his emotions were masters over his common sense, and he would cut out his greatest supporters if they insulted him. “I promise you, she won’t be a problem.”

“Good,” the Cardassian responded, “I’m glad you think so. But, if she becomes a problem, kill her.” He waved a hand nonchalantly, “If you do have to kill her just know that she was no good for you anyway; she has not fulfilled her role as a woman or a wife. What woman believes that her job is not to bear children?”

“Despite that…flaw,” he began. “She will help.”

“I hope for both your sakes.” Malcet looked up at something that was beyond his screen, “I must go. Keep yourself alert for what may be asked of you.”

Luke nodded and the screen went black. He let out a deep breath and ran his hands over his face. Whatever Malcet wanted him to do wouldn't be easy to accomplish.

Originally Posted 10/15/08 by Tatiana Thorne

USS Hawking
Mess Hall - Deck 2

Jenny sat alone at a table in the rear of the quiet mess, hunched over the PADD which contained a letter she’d been asked not to write. Staring at the missive, she was starting to think should have listened to BHP's request to leave off communicating because now she was faced with the question of whether or not to send the damn thing.

Would he thank her for it? Would the sentiments it contained bring him any kind of ease or would it just add to the weight of loss? Was there any point to the outpouring beyond exorcising the strange twisting which had followed meeting her father…

Not her father. Jen felt the twisting go a bit deeper. She and Seth Anderson had never met before today but, Jenny let out a pained hiss, something about him had reminded her of Ben.

Not Seth in and of himself but… the way he was so clearly marked by something… dark… something secret.

Like Ben had been.

The young woman had no idea what Seth Anderson was hiding from… or more to the point, what he was hiding from her and probably she’d never find out. Ben, she now knew, had been hiding from his past, and doing a pretty good job of it until all those secrets had come back on him like a tidal wave and, before anyone knew what was happening, swept him away from the Hawking.

What had Seth wanted to tell her?

What would Ben be facing on Sigma Iotia?

Jenny ran her fingers over the brightly lit words on the PADD, lost in the shadows of two men’s secrets. After a time… how much she didn't know, her hand slid to the controls and hit 'delete'.

Featuring NPC Jenny Anderson
Originally Posted 10/15/08 by Harry Finn

IAS Hawking
Munro's Lab

Harry, who had raced to sickbay at Jillian's call, looked down at Torrik Nils or, what used to be Torrik Nils, on the biobed. "Nils," he sighed, realizing he was expecting the Captain to get up… hell he'd come back from the dead, once before… "How did this happen?" he asked, eyes turning back to Jillian… who had to be in shock… her eyes were more distant than he'd ever seen.

Torrik Nils?, Jill thought to herself, she wondered why Harry would choose the Captain of the USS Hawking, this might be easier than I thought, "Everyone on the bridge is dead, Harry. Something is wrong with the internal systems…environmental controls…" she paused and attempted to make her voice sound shaky, "…the environmental controls on the bridge failed…everyone is…gone."

Harry's frown went critical; if the controls failed then why hadn't there been any… "Where was the alarm… the ship should have taken itself to red alert… and.. how did Torrik's body get to third base?" He shook his head, trying to shake off a sudden, pressing headache. "Sorry, I just…"

Jill didn't have time to sort of the details, "I don't know!! Jesus, Harry! Nils is dead!!" She screamed, "The internal systems are probably affecting the security system as well…." She began to sob softly.

"I'm sorry, Jillian," he tried to find something he could say but, as always, words failed and, also as always, there was no time. He had to get to the bottom of the issue or there'd never be any time, for any of them. Tapping his combadge, "Finn to Tenanji…" or had Tenanji been on the bridge too? Jillian didn't look to be in the mood to share so, "Finn to Security… Fehr, Gran… Anderson… come back." There wasn't even static in response. Damn. "Finn to Costala? Ibrahim… anyone receiving this com please respond." Again, nothing. "Not like I'm asking who's on second…"

The last time this had happened… "Is it possible?" He started for the door, "Last time this happened it was Janus' slaving device but that's gone, right?" Then Gorsky's nanites finished screwing with the systems so, "Finn to Gorsky… SHIT!" Because of course no one was responding. "I need the left fielder's name… no… more intell…" he stumbled a bit as he reached the corridor. What was happening to him?

Jill looked over at Omen Chris who was motioning for her to boost the dosage of Tropolisine. She shook her head and whispered, "The scene is set, we don't need to convince him of that. What we need to do is get rid of these damn memories that keep interfering." She nodded towards the neural neutralizer, "Increase power."

Chris grimaced, "If we do that, we risk permanent loss of memory."

"Chris, this isn't our Harry. Why do you care what happens to him? Do it."

Since the bridge was a no-go and Finn was pretty damned certain that Gorsky had the answers, he made straight for the AI specialist's lab, only realizing as he entered that Jillian had followed. "Gorsky," he called to the ensign, who was seated and apparently engrossed in a diagnostic readout. When the kid didn't respond, Harry put a hand on his shoulder, "Alex… get your head out of the monitor, we need…" but his words faltered as Alex' body crumpled beneath the weight of Finn's hand. Sliding to the floor both Harry and Jillian stared at the blackened remains of Gorsky's face. "Ahhh… Alex…" he looked around the room, noted that, yes, the containment creche's for his Huey Mark VI nanites were out… out and apparently breached. "Houston, we have a problem…"

"He's dead, Harry." Jill hoped that Harry was visualizing her checking Gorsky's pulse, "What happened?" she asked, a somber expression on her face.

"I think the inmates are running the asylum," Harry responded, going to the console and running his hands over the melted remains. "Sorry, I mean the nanites… he must have been working with them… but, this is…" He looked up, "Computer, current status of Hawking's critical systems"

"Take me out to the ball game… take me out with the crowd…" the computer crooned happily.

Harry felt his world go sideways, "Belay that," he ordered, moving towards the lab's LCAR's access monitor. With luck, the AI hadn't had a chance to affect the database and the database was where all of Gorksy's research was located, including the kill-switch code. "We need to shut down the nanites," he explained to Jillian, who was looking at him as if he had all the answers.

If only.

Jill leaned forward, finally, they were getting somewhere, "Tell me what I need to do."

"Ahh… pray? He started to type in his access code, "If we're lucky, the pad interface is still functioning…"

Jill looked over at Chris who tossed her a portable UV light, she quickly aimed it at Harry's hand and waited for his reaction to the burning sensation.

"Yeeahhh…!" he yanked his hand back from the sparking console, all too suddenly aware of what had happeend to Gorsky. "Dammit… okay, okay, " he closed his eyes and hoped that something could get past the computer's neuroses… "Computer, access files for Gorsky, Ensign Alex re: Huey, kill-switch, authorization code… authorization code…"

"What am I putting on third?" the computer prompted.

Harry's eyes snapped open, "Authorization code Finn, Tango - Hotel - X-ray - one - one - three - eight."

Jill closed eyes in frustration, we are so close. She reached over to the console beside her and activated the agonizer. A sharp pulse shot through Harry's body, "Harry! What's happening? What have you done?! That wasn't the right code! You've got to try again!" she yelled, trying her best to sound panicked.

Ya think? Gasping, he rolled away from the blast zone of the suddenly-explosive console. If things were this bad in here, what was happening to the rest of the ship? Jenny… she could be anywhere. "Code, code… ahh, okay, Computer, same request, new authorization, Finn - Sierra - Romeo - 7 -1…"

He's getting confused, mixing up what he told me earlier with what's real, she took a deep breath and activated the agonizer one more time, "Harry! You've got to concentrate. I don't think the ship can take another false code!"

Another wicked blast erupted from the ruined access port and he felt the world going grey. Get it together, Finn… He dragged himself to his knees and dug down… "Not going to let them die," the whisper was like a mantra, "I'm not going to let them die," he looked up, locking eyes with Jillian, "I won't let you die," he promised as, finally, the code he so desperately needed clawed its way to the surface, "New authorization, Finn - November - Whiskey - two - two - six - three…" for a moment nothing happened. "What? Come on, I know that's the one…"

For a moment she felt almost guilty. Would he really go to such lengths to save her life? But it wasn't her he was talking to, it was Jillian Munro, CMO of the USS Hawking.

Jill smiled, "Thank you, Harry. Thank you."

Through the haze of smoking electronics and stench of seared flesh, Harry looked at Jillian, "Did I do it? They're gonna be okay?" But even as he asked the question, the haze dissipated and the sounds of the lab faded and the warm, caring eyes of Jillian Munro shifted to the cool assessing gaze of his interrogator and he knew, ohh he knew, "I did it…" the words fell like dead things from his lips, "I did it…"

Jill began powering down all the equipment before calling out to Arras, "Take him back to the brig," she glanced over at Chris, "And get these codes over to Zal Malkat."

Harry didn't acknowledge the Bajoran as he was hauled out of the chair, barely felt the screaming remnants of the hours of pain Munro had inflicted. All he knew, all he felt, was a gaping chasm of failure… a failure that was going to cost the Hawking, and everyone on it, dearly.

Everyone breaks…

This hallucination brought to you by Jill Munro
Originally Posted 10/15/08 by Harry Finn

-USS Hawking-

Finding T'Shaini had not been difficult, explaining to the counselor that he needed her to accompany him to inform Jenny Anderson about BHP's passing had been moderately tough, but the closer the two officers got to Anderson's location, the worse Javier felt for the young woman. As the Chief Engineer, Javier had had to write letters to families before, explaining to them about how well their sons, daughters, husbands or wives had performed their duties and how they had made the ultimate sacrifice. Ajani was one of those. But he'd never offered the news in person. The engineer had always had the safety of distance, being removed from the ones to which he was delivering life-changing news. Now he had to tell a crewmember, a person who was a part of the larger Hawking family that the person they had known would not be returning.

"I wish I didn't have to do this," Javier told T'Shaini as they walked along the corridor to the messhall. He clutched the PADD he was carrying in his hand tightly. It held all of the information he had received about Pierce's death. "I've been delivering this sort of news too often as of late."

The counselor squeezed his shoulder in sympathy, she knew all too well the difficulty of such a burden and thought T'Shaini wished she could relieve him of that, she also knew that it was his duty to perform and would not allow another, no matter who, to do it for him. The door to the mess hall slid open with a hiss as they approached. A lone figure sat in the corner, luckily it was an off hour so the common room was nearly deserted. "Perhaps we could use the Captain's mess, I am loathe to have others witness the consequences of your news…whatever they may be."

A shadow caught the corner of Jenny's eye and she looked up from the now-blank PADD to see Chief Costala and T'Shaini. At first she thought they'd come to share a quiet meal but their eyes weren't for each other, this time. They were looking her way. As they came closer, Jenny rose to casual attention, "Sirs," she greeted, uncertain, from their expressions, if this were a duty-related visit.

Hoping to ease the transition for both of them, T'Shaini stepped in. "May we have a moment of your time? In private?" The young woman nodded, then followed the counselor to the Captain's mess, Javier trailing slightly behind. Once the door was closed the counselor gestured for Jenny to be seated. "As you no doubt have ascertained we have a need to speak to you." Crossing to stand beside where the clearly aprehensive Jenny was seated, T'Shaini leaned one hip to rest on the table while her hand dropped gently on the young woman's shoulder.

Feeling the weight on her shoulder, Jenny turned her eyes to the Lieutenant, trying to ready herself for what was coming even though she knew from the last time, with her father… you were never really ready.

"Jenny," Javier started, "I received a message from Starfleet HQ less than hour ago. There's been an accident on the USS Lakota, the ship that Pierce was travelling aboard. There wasn't much information on how the ship was lost and only a few people escaped.." The Chief Engineer swallowed and looked downward at the table for a second. "The officer that sent the message said that Ben had helped them escape but that he didn't leave the ship before it was destroyed," Javier explained as he looked into the young woman's eyes. "I'm sorry. Pierce was one of the best engineers I've served with, and I know he and you were close, so I thought you'd rather hear it from me than read it on ship news comm."

"Okay," she nodded, rubbing her hands on her legs, then rising, "okay… that's," close? They hadn't been close… they'd never had the chance to be close, not the way Ben wanted. All they'd managed to be were, "Objects in space," she realized as, once again, loss made the universe that much more empty, "there's nothing to hold on to… I have to," pulling away from T'Shaini's warmth, which would only be taken away in time, anyway, she started for the door, then spun back quickly, "Thank you for…. thank you," she said and again turned to the door but then the universe really did become empty and everything was black and she was well and truly lost.

He hadn't been expecting it and realized he should have as Javier managed to catch Jenny just before she hit the floor. The engineer had moved before he'd even realized what he was doing and lifted the young woman up then carried her over to one of the large armchairs in the room. Javier gently placed Jenny Anderson in the chair then moved back as T'Shaini moved in to help.

As soon as the Vulcan brushed the hair from her face, she saw Jenny's eyelids begin to flutter. "It is understandable, you have been under a great deal of stress." T'Shaini knew her well enough to surmise that she would view the faint as a 'weakness'. "It is a natural function of the body." The words were delivered in a low, warm tone as her hand stroked her hair. "What can we do for you?"

"Where's my…" she started to push herself up…

"Rest easy," Javier said and then added, "that's an order Crewman," when he saw that Anderson was making an effort to stand.

Wrapping her arm around Jenny's shoulders to steady her, T'Shaini helped her to sit up without allowing her to stand. "Where is what?"

She'd been going to ask for her dad… and how pathetic was that? He was as gone as Ben… Jen lowered her head to hide the tears that wouldn't just wait… but, then, "Where's Harry?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper. At least he hadn't left… Harry kept coming back, no matter what. "I… could I see him?"

Exchanging a quick look with Javier, T'Shaini guided Jenny to her feet. "Certainly, we will take you to his quarters immediately. Javier, could you contact him and let him know we are on our way?"

"Of course," the engineer replied his hand reaching up to tap his commlink. Javier paused then said, "I don't know if it matters to you but Pierce was cleared of all charges. He's also received a commendation..he doesn't have any family. Jenny, I think he would have wanted you to have it." The engineer tapped his badge, =^=Costala to Finn=^= he waited for the acknowledgment then continued, =^=T'Shaini, Jenny and I are going to stop by to discuss a matter of importance, we'll be there in two minutes, Costala out.=^=

JP Jenny and the Bad News Bears
Originally Posted 10/16/08 by T'Shaini

USS Hawking
Aft Lounge

They'd said nothing to one another after Seth had been herded back into the lounge. Nor after the brief lecture by Gul Malkat on the continued necessity of circumspection in their dealings with the USS Hawking's denizens. Now, however, the brass had begun making arrangements for some bogus 'cultural exchange' and they were to wait in the lounge until it was decided who should be returning to the IAS and who was trusted enough to remain and ferret out what intelligence was available.

Seth looked across the small table to where T'Shaini sat, "Well," he ventured, not knowing how long they'd have and needing to speak to her, "as parties go, that one…"

"…was as horrifying as they get?" Seth was one of the few people T'Shaini felt comfortable around, he had been where she had been, had done what she had done, and had lost…even more than she had. That made him safe. "When will they allow us to leave?"

He shrugged, "Dunno… kinda surprised I wasn't given the old heave-ho after that thing with… with Jenny." He turned his eyes downward, remembering Harry's words on the matter, "… you’ll be able to go to bed at nights with the warm, comforting knowledge that you’d managed to kill your own daughter… twice…". "Look, things here, with this plan… with the Alliance," he leaned over close, "we can't let it happen." He risked a look up, wasn't sure what he saw in her face, "I'm not going to let it happen," he added, surprising himself with the steel in his voice.

A chill she had not felt in years settled over her body. I do not want to hear this. But she had. "And what exactly, do you think you can do about it?"

"Alone, not much but," he set his jaw as he thought of the grown up version of his girl, "that won't stop me from trying. I'm not gonna ask you to pitch in if you're not willing but I won't let him hurt her… I won't let any of them hurt her. I won't let it happen again…"

T'Shaini pressed the heels of her hands into her ridges above her eyes. It never ends. "Jenny…you saw Jenny." Her voice was cold as she pressed her hands on the top of the table. "It is not her. Just like it was not him, no matter how I might wish it to be."

"No, it's not them… but it's who they might have been… who are we to stand by and let the people who ruined us keep doing it? It has to stop,T'Shaini… it has to stop somewhere."

"It is not as if I do not understand, it is just…" Just what…what did she fear? What could she lose if they made an attempt and it failed? Harry. Her fingertips turned white as the pushed against the table. She bowed her head in thought for a moment, then a voice drifted out from beneath her hair. "What did you have in mind?"

He glanced about the room but there were still enough lingerers to cover their conversation from IAS attentions, "If there were more… if I knew we had more of us, I'd try to take the Hawking but… our best bet is to just flat out destroy the IAS ," he told her, "but we need one more person to help with that," he took a deep breath because what he was about to suggest would wound T'Shaini far more than any Cardassian overseer had ever managed, "we need her… Caterina."

Her body jerked back in reaction. "You need her, then fine, you can have her." Pushing back from the table she started to stand. "I do not need to be involved."

"Harry said he'd kill her… he'd kill Jenny if he thought she suspected anything," Seth told her, before she could run away, "And we both know, that's not the worst thing that can happen to a Human girl… not if the invasion succeeds." He waited for the tortured eyes to return to his, "Is it right for us to let these people die, or worse, just because our lives suck beyond the telling?"

"I make no promises…"

"Ahhh, the lovely T'Shaini… and Mr. Anderson," the voice of Gul Zal Malkat interrupted her, "One can always count on finding you in one another's company. Companions in grief? Or is it something deeper… something you wouldn't want Harry to discover?"

"Do not be ridiculous." Her tone cut like glass. "Why does it need to be something sordid with you?" T'Shaini knew she was overstepping her bounds, but what could he do here? There would likely be dire reprecussions once they returned, but she could at least enjoy the temporary illusion of freedom.

Zal smiled at the petty rebellion, "It's no wonder he goes to such lengths to protect you," the Cardassian murmured before the smile went the way of the Empire and he added, "But rest assured that, no matter what services he has performed to earn your safety," and here he ran a cool finger over her cheek… over the scar, "if there is even a hint of betrayal from you, Harry will simply have to find himself a new obsession." Dropping the hand, he offered a nod towards Seth, "You're with me, Mr. Anderson, we're to return to the IAS. You," his attention snapped back to the Vulcan, "will remain. Quarters will be provided and your orders will arrive with the rest of the exchange party."

"Yes, sir." T'Shaini felt her teeth grind together, all illusions shattered with the mention of Harry Finn and the knowledge that she was to be kept in close proximity to him.

"Come along, Anderson," Zal spoke to Seth as if he were nothing more than a pet, "let's get you out of temptation's way. I'm sure T'Shaini will keep a close eye on Jenny for you… as I will certainly be keeping a close eye on you."

Seth didn't even look at T'Shaini as he stepped past. Either she would contact Caterina Costala or she wouldn't.

She sat alone in silence turning over Seth's proposition in her head. Damned if you do, damned if you do not.

JP with MU Tee and featuring NPC's Seth Anderson and Gul Zal Malkat
Originally Posted 10/17/08 by Harry Finn

USS Hawking
Executive Officer's Quarters

Harry watched T'Shaini bundle Jen into the sleeping area… it had been a tough conversation for the kid and she was wiped and the counselor had felt it best if she weren't subjected to Darby's inquisition so soon, soo…

He turned away from the women's exit to see the Engineer watching him. Harry glanced quickly around the room to make sure he'd cleared any suspicious activities… the computer was shut down, the com-unit from Malkat was in his pocket and the whiskey… well that was in his gut and the glass had been cleared the second he'd heard from Costala that Harry was about to get a visit. "So," he said, rocking back on his heels and stuffing his hands in his pockets.

Javier had a lot on his mind, some of which he wanted to discuss with the new Executive Officer but he chose not to mention it right away. The Chief Engineer shrugged and said, "So there's no other Harry Finn either I guess. Apparently Javier Costala doesn't exist in their universe, I mean the other T'Shaini said he was killed at any rate. Seems like he wasn't able to help them when he should have..kind of makes you wonder doesn't it?"

"Why wonder about something you had nothing to do with?" Finn turned away from the mockery of this second Javier Costala… one had been more than enough in his opinion. "Like wondering about another Harry… so he's not there. Maybe there never was one… maybe my parents never met over there or, fine, maybe he died too but that was there, not here." He looked back at the other man, "They're not your concern. This Hawking in this universe is."

"Yes and no they're not," Javier replied. "I mean, what sort of person he was intrigues me. Why he was friends with the other T'Shaini and what did he value about their friendship. What led him to make the decisions he did? If I could understand him better then it would help me to understand their universe better." The engineer frowned and added, "Maybe there are similarities between he and I that would help me learn more about myself?"

Gods! It was like looking in a some kind of funhouse mirror of the damned. Different universe, same inane babble… except for one part. "What makes you think they were just… how do know he and T'Shaini were friends?"

"She told me they had been at one point," the engineer answered. "She didn't like talking about it though so the conversation didn't last." He stopped talking and thought about the conflict that had been plaguing his thoughts since he had received the message about Pierce. Javier scuffed his boot on the carpet. He started to say something else then blurted out the question that was at the forefront of his thoughts. "Harry, do you think I'm a good department chief?" Javier sighed then said, "I mean, do you think that I'm fit to be in that position?'

What, vertical? No, no I do not. "Well, hell, I don't know," he picked up one of the small blades Harry had kept stashed in his desk and tossed it in the air and catching it by the hilt before adding, "have you blown up the ship lately? I mean, what criteria are we going by, here?"

He doesn't that a polite way of saying no? "I've never blown up a ship Harry," Javier said, "there was that one time in the marines on the Sentinel but that was blown out of proportion." He watched the blade spin lazily in the air before Finn caught it. "Lately it seems as if the engineering staff is..has an unusually high number of fatalities. And I'm wondering if it is because of my leadership abilities, rather than random accidents."

Flip… catch… flip… "I guess," catch, "you could look at this one of two ways. The first," flip "we live and work in space and, in space, a lot of shit can happen," catch… flip, "and the second," catch "The second is that you're questioning yourself because you sense that maybe," flip, "maybe you're not quite up to the challenge." catch. Harry's eyes shot to Costala, "But what do I know? I'm just the XO," and he tossed the knife again, but this time, straight at the engineer,

The former marine side-stepped and plucked the knife out of the air before it could reach its intended target. For a moment Javier didn't know what to say. Did he just throw a knife at me? And hint that I'm not fit to be Chief Engineer? "Did Girijan mess up your diodes?" the engineer asked in stunned anger. "If you think I should resign just say so, there's no need to toss a blade at me." Javier flicked the knife to the side so it buried itself in the XO's couch.

"Still got the same old reflexes," Finn commented, looking down… and the same killer instincts, it looked like. "Congratulations, you killed my couch." He looked back at the echo of the man she'd loved, "Relax… I think you're a perfectly capable… Chief of Engineering."

There was something odd about Harry Finn. Javier remembered what Mustapha had told him after returning from Girijan. Perhaps his diodes were crossed down there? But then again Harry had been the first one in line to try and shoot him on Halcyon, so maybe this was normal, slightly paranoid Finn behavior. The engineer laughed, that was water under the bridge. "Remember the last time you tried to kill me? Lucky for me it was a knife this time and not a gun."

"Hah, yeah…" Finn's response was more of a gasp than a laugh because, of course, he did remember… only he hadn't used a gun… he hadn't even fired on the shuttle. He'd just told Zal Malkat when and where the meet was supposed to go down and… no more Javier. He grinned at Costala, now, remembering that moment. If I did it once…

Featuring Evil Harry & Clueless Javier
Originally Posted 10/17/08 by Javier Costala

IAS Hawking
Conference Room

Intendant-Elect Vail glanced over his fellows with deeply concealed amusement. Here they were, four men of no little power in the Alliance, meeting for ostensibly the same purpose but each carrying their own, hidden and, quite likely, contradictory agendas.

He was also beginning to suspect that, of all the subterranean machinations, his own might not be the most diametrically opposed to the original mission as-written, which was not, he allowed his cool gaze to rest momentarily on his holiness Torrik, a reassuring thought.

Torrik grinned and gingerly held Vail's gaze before leaning forward to rest his elbows on the conference table. "So what's so important that required all of our attention this very moment? I hope this will be brief," he said casting an accusatory look at Captain Bayal.

"It will last as long as we need it to last… Your holiness." Bayal Paven looked in his element. Although he was wise enough to respect each man seated around the table (well, not the men so much as the power they each represented), he also felt completely at ease as the Commander of the vessel they all indwelled. "The Alliance has certain expectations of our mission, and I fully intend to fulfill our part. With luck the rest of the fleet will be here within forty-eight hours and we'll have another Intrepid class vessel to add to our numbers. If not…we'll have one less Intrepid class starship to stand against us. Either way, I want the next two days to be well planned and precisely executed."

"As you see fit, Captain," Torrik practically sang, leaning back in his chair once more. "We exist to serve the Alliance…" He barely even tried to hide the sarcasm he felt that statement deserved.

"If we are being honest and, here, together, I see no reason not to be, we exist to serve ourselves," Vail cut in before the Captain could respond. "If we did not, we four would never have risen so far in the Alliance, so," he leaned forward, elbows on the table, "to that end, what is the status of our foothold."

Zal Malkat glanced at his commanding officer before responding, "More of toehold, at present, though with some new information from our source, there may be a better grip, quite soon." He passed a PADD to Bayal, "We have access to the locked down data, thanks to Dr. Munro."
Paven smiled as he took the PADD and gave it the once over. Once again their resident Doctor earned her pay…and then some. "That… Is good news. Let's distribute the access code to everyone we send over to their ship. I usually don't play a hand so loose, but I have a good feeling about this." Addressing Malkat specifically he added, "I want every member of the team we send over to understand their task is nothing less than raping the data stored in that ship's computer. Histories, access codes, military installations, strategic points of interest, command codes." The added emphasis on the final piece sounded hard and final. "There is no such thing as too much information." He paused for a moment and scratched his brow before moving on. "Did Finn lead you to believe we could garner any support from their people at all? There will be a place in our new administration here for any an all who choose to collaborate with our efforts."

Zal let out a disgusted breath, "Both his and my own assessment on that score were dim, to say the least. For the most part, these people are like gettles, comfortable in their Federation fold and unable to see anything beyond the fence. But there was one… a Security crewman… who had a promising feel."

"Your double?" Vail asked, ignoring the Cardassian's surprise that the Intendant should have heard about the existence of Zal Govan.

"Not him," Zal replied, tersely. "A Xepolite, Dramm Pal. Someone should feel him out and, if he's as likely as he seems, he may also know of others less unfriendly to the concept of change."

"Put Finn on that… Their Finn was security so he should have an in road from the outset." Paven turned abruptly to Torrik. "And the portal? Any insight into the stability?"

"It's stable," Torrik answered with an air of boredom. "It will remain so indefinitely, so far as I know."

"Know farther," Bayal snapped smartly. "I refuse to be unsure of our…"

"I said it's stable," the High Priest retorted, spitting venom and fury at the Commanding Officer. "Clearly the Orbs are doing their job and it's blasphemy to question the Ascended. Their design brought us here and their design will see us through…to the end…"

The two men stared coldly at each other and tension mounted.

Vail and Malkat, neither of them Bajoran nor favored of the Ascended, glanced at one another. "This may be true," Callan said, hoping to support the Captain's view without looking as if he were taking sides, "but, for we, unchosen, some quantifiable definition of that stability would be welcome. It was noted, for instance," and now the El-Aurian introduced his own PADD, sliding it towards the wall of hostility which Torrik represented, "that the portal's subspace emissions, which had been almost nil, began to fluctuate while our crew were aboard the USS Hawking. I forwarded this information to your immediate attention," he nodded towards the High Priest, "but, alas, was unable to rouse you from your… meditations…. and while they have once again receded to an acceptable level, the mere fact that they did alter at all is of some concern."

"Concern and worry is tantamount to a lack of faith," Torrik said coldly. "But I don't expect the unfaithful to be burdened by such a thing as faith." The Bajoran Priest pulled the PADD toward him and reviewed it carefully. However inconsequential these 'fluctuations' were, they did seem to coincide with the first visit to the USS. Interesting…and perhaps more than interesting. "I'll…look into it," said Torrik, smooth as silk. "Let the portals stability be my problem. I figured out how to open it and I feel sure I can maintain it."

"Fine," Bayal said, ready to move on to something new. "What is the status of Redrum's project? What will it do and how do we make sure it gets implemented properly?"

Vail was far from 'fine' with the priest's explanation but he knew better than to confront the man openly… the Hawking was, though technically Alliance, a very… Bajoran vessel. "Ensign Redrum's primary focus for the past year has been in adaptive interface link technology. This technology is key to our hopes of taking the USS Hawking with limited resistance. All he needs is access to the Federation vessel's EPS trunk for, he tells me, fifteen minutes and an uplink will be formed between our two ships. Once established, our Hawking will have limited control of their Hawking."

Malkat looked up, "Why limited?"

"Think of it as the two ships' first date," Vail replied dryly, "they need get to know one another. For the purposes of this mission, Harpo… sorry, that's what Murral named the thing… has been designed to interface specifically with Tactical."

"Tactical? So we could effectively render them helpless? Perhaps make them a bit more pliable and open to coercion?" The Hawking's Commanding Officer looked about at the three faces considering the prospect of commanding two ships. That would effectively make him a fleet commander, which in war time would get him a field promotion to Admiral. He just needed to make sure they would be at war. "That sounds very appealing. Make certain Redrum has all the support he needs in that endeavor. Also, our ruse to get bodies aboard their ship means we'll have bodies aboard ours. If need be we can make that quite literal. I don't want them in the way and I don't want them nosing around. Lethal force is authorized from the time they come aboard." Bayal scowled a bit before continuing. "Just make certain our people have smiles on right up until the point they have to fire a phaser or snap a neck. If no one has anything else…"

"I have something else," Torrik said lifting a finger. "What are our plans for Finn? I mean, the squishy Finn. The one the lovely doctor broke in two… Does anyone still have need of him?"

That question was followed by a silence during which Malkat briefly considered then discarded the possibility of Munro reconditioning a second Finn, Bayal accepted that, now the prisoner had given them what they wanted, his continued existence was a liability to the mission and Vail internally raised and discarded half a dozen potential reasons for keeping the spare alive. Unfortunately, there were none he could conceive that would satisfy these men. He hated the waste but… there was too much at stake; the fate of one Human could not be allowed to matter.

Vail looked up and saw that the others had, in their own ways, come to the same conclusion.

"Well then, good," Torrik said with a cold smile. "I'll handle the disposal of the prisoner as well," eventually, he added silently.

"Then let's make all this occur. Thank you, Intendant Vail for joining us," Bayal said with his own calculated smile. "Your insight is always welcome and discerning." It never hurt to kiss the ass of the nearest politician. He ignored the deep sigh coming from Torrik's location. "If that's all…" He waited for any interjection, which never came. "Then you are all dismissed."

Torrik lingered and watched the Executive officer and Intendant elect gather their things and exit then moved in close to Paven squeezing the back of the man's neck. "You're tense."

"Don't ever do that to me again. My orders are rule of law on this ship and I will not have you disrespecting my authority," said the Bajoran CO unable to make eye contact.

The High Priest's countenance fell and his brow furrowed over his eyes. "On the contrary, Captain," he said with chilly calm. "You should not disrespect my authority which comes from the Fire." A wicked grin painted his face as he moved to the exit. "But I'll take it out on you later." The mischievous laughter that followed faded away as he carried on about his own dark tasks.

A Joint Effort between Harry Finn and Torrik Nils
Originally Posted 10/19/08 by Torrik Nils

IAS Hawking
Chief Engineer's Quarters

In my mind I am free.

The Cardassian woman casually circled the young human male, her hand lazily weaving back and forth as her fingertips trailed over the unblemished skin of his torso. She then moved to his back which was crossed with a lattice-work of scars. She smiled as her hands pressed firmly against the ridges.

"Do you remember when you first came to me?" she whispered in a voice filled with sensuality. The woman rubbed her hands up and down the young man's back, taking pleasure in her handiwork.

When my servitude began..

"I asked you a question," the Cardassian said sharply as she raked her nails against the old cuts.

"I remember it well Mistress," the human answered. He didn't move as she pressed her claws into his flesh. Showing pain only excited the woman and he wasn't going to let her have her way that easily. "I was a boy of fifteen, my family.."

"Family?" The woman laughed. "Humans do not have families. There is no House, no extended line for Humans. Your father, if you wish to call him that, was selected for his strength." Her hands slid along the scar tissue, fingers wide, palms pressed against the lines that trailed down her slave's lower back. Rilenna remembered when she had given him the scars. The night he had been caught with one of the female slaves. She didn't mind that her husband ****ed every human female slave he owned, but she expected more restraint from her male attendant. Rilenna had watched them, disgusted and enthralled by their animal passions, until she had the guards intrude and kill the female slave. The Cardassian had whipped her attendant within an inch of his life. He had the scars to remind him of the price of infidelity.

"The woman who birthed you was chosen by my husband because she displayed all of the qualities of a good mate. You were manufactured to suit my needs." Her hands slipped lower on his body, cupping the rounded flesh which had its share of scars. These had been given when he was still new in her service, long before she had taken him to her bed. It had been this punishment which had unlocked the sensations of pleasure in Rilenna that she experienced when causing others pain. At first she had sated her appetite by exacting punishment on the female slaves that her husband, Gul Kalar had used to satisfy his peculiar tastes. But she found that nothing drove her to the heights of pleasure quicker than the pain suffused cries of a male voice.

I am her property. Except for my thoughts, my thoughts are my own. the young male reasoned as he stood rigidly in his Mistress' quarters. Her hands coursed along the scars but he showed no sign of the affront in which he was drowning. He had lived with the shame of his position for seven years, now it almost seemed normal.

"I have a task for you," Rilenna explained as her voice quivered and her hands pressed firmly against the scarification on her slave's buttocks.

"I was created to serve you Mistress," he replied in a tone of subservience.

"This is a special task," the woman breathed into his ear. "I need you to remove someone."

"A Cardassian?" he asked, before realizing he had asked far too quickly. She will know I take pleasure in the death of her species.

"Not my husband, not yet," she answered her voice a breathless whisper. A moan escaped from her mouth as her hands tightened against him.

Her pleasure is taking precedent over her guile, but she will remember my mistake at a later time.

"The Assistant Chief Engineer.." Rilenna instructed as her hands withdrew from his body long enough for her to undress. "I want you to eliminate Caterina Costala," she said as she let her clothing fall to the floor, "make it appear as if she grew careless." Accidents happen when one grows careless in Engineering. She pressed her body against the scars on his back as her hands slipped around him to caress the muscles of his chest. So smooth, unblemished, a complete difference from his back.

"Costala? Has she wronged you Mistress?" he asked as the woman rubbed herself against him. He knew there were still a few moments until she would initiate sex.

"She defies me..I will be the Hawking's new Chief, not Caterina," she said in a husky tone. And perhaps its captain once my attendant removes that simpering idiot Bayal from existence. Caterina Costala will not influence my husband nor move against me once she is dead.

"And your husband?" the attendant asked.

"When I no longer need him, you may fulfill the purpose for which you exist," Rileena replied before raking her nails across his chest. "What is your purpose?" she asked him in a voice rough with need.

"I bring justice to my Mistress' enemies," Ajani Obatu hissed through clinched teeth.

Featuring Darth Vader's Secret Apprentice AKA: Ajani Obatu
Originally Posted 10/19/08 by Javier Costala

USS Hawking
Executive Officer’s Quarters

On the beach, her knees drawn up to her chin, Jenny watched the tide go out. It was always going out on this beach, which only existed in her dreams.

The last time she’d been was on her father’s birthday and it was then she’d noticed that the sorrow had, like any stone caught in the constant susurration of the sea, smoothed its rougher edges, leaving only the weight of the loss without the cutting edge of fresh grief.

Now, staring at the softly sighing waves, she felt that sharp pang anew and with it, the hollow presence of another ghost, moving away with the tides but when she turned to say goodbye… the only farewell she and Ben would ever share… it wasn’t his shadow covering her…

“No… no… no… don’t…”

“… go… don’t…”

“Hey, hey… Jenny… Jenny wake up…”

Jen struggled up from the cold twilight to a deeper darkness, relieved only by the stars glittering beyond the bedroom’s port and even those were blocked out by the silhouette looming over the bed. “Who are you?” the question shot one direction as her body scrambled another… back and away from the shape of her fear.

There was a sudden, sharp silence, keen as a shiny new blade before, “Lights, twenty percent,” the quiet order and the following soft illumination answered the young woman’s panicked query, “It’s just me,” Finn told her, not moving a muscle.

“Oh, God…” Jenny stopped and realized she was clutching at her chest, trying, she supposed, to keep the emptiness from growing… engulfing what was left. “I’m… I was dreaming and I thought… I thought you were dying… dead… I thought you were gone.”

“No,” though his voice was strange, “no, I’m not… Jenny,” Harry’s voice sighed down and he crouched beside the bed, “I’m sorry about your friend. I guess,” he looked away, obviously uncomfortable, “I guess he was… pretty special. I mean, was he… were you two…?”

“No,” she saved him further verbal stumbling. “No it was… never like that. He wanted… I found out, way too late, he’d wanted us to be, or to try to be, anyway.”

The Betazoid got in the way, he recalled the report, watching how her skin, even in the dim lighting, flushed then paled by turns.

“I feel like I betrayed Ben,” she added, speaking to the blanket.


Jenny shook her head and picked a the coverlet, “I left him alone, to face that trial, alone… I should have asked… I should have done something. I should have noticed that he was… that he wanted more than friendship.” She finally looked up to see Harry watching, his eyes curiously intent. “I never noticed and now…”

“If you had noticed,” he began and again there was something a bit, odd, about his voice, “if you had realized he wanted something more, if you’d seen him, and how he felt about you… would you have… is it something you would have wanted, too?”

Closing her eyes, whether to hide from the question or see the truth, “I don’t know,” she confessed, “and I think that’s the biggest betrayal of all,” Jenny looked at Harry who was still kneeling beside his bed, “I keep thinking that if I had, or could have cared for him… then I would have noticed but, I never did see him. I never once saw anyth - Harry?”

“Sorry,” he threw the word down from where he now suddenly stood, back to the bed and staring out the port. “Knees aren’t what they used to be.”

Riiight. “Is it… is there trouble with Kerrin?” this was delicate territory she knew, but the jerk of his reaction to her name indicated trouble in paradise…

“I, no, I mean… well… maybe?”

Jenny pulled her knees back under her chin, “I guess it’s not easy, being with someone when you’re in the ‘Fleet,” a fact she’d better resign herself to right quick, “but I’m glad you found Kerrin. After Sara, well, after she and Dad were killed… hell the whole Acker thing, I didn’t think anything would make you happy… ah, shit,” she realized he’d turned and was now staring down at her. Probably appalled, “I’m sorry,” she started to climb out of bed, “I should just get out of here before you resign your godfather status.”

“No, Jen,” he shook it off and leaned against the bulkhead, “It’s nothing you said,” he paused, considering the girl a moment. “Maybe,” he said quietly, as if just realizing something, “maybe it’s more what you haven’t said. I mean,” he smiled uncertainly, “I don’t think I ever asked how… the whole Acker thing…what it did to you…”

Oh…, “You were… you were in a lot of pain, too,” she replied, delicately avoiding the drinking… how, for a time, it had taken Harry almost as far away as death had taken her father.

“No excuse,” he shook his head, “I should have… I should have asked. Is it…” and now he sat, carefully, on the corner of the bed, “is it too late to ask, now?” He looked down at his hands, clasped between his knees, “Maybe, if you talk through the first grief, this new one will be easier to take.”

“I wouldn’t know where to start…”

“At the beginning?”

Jen considered the man before her; contrite and, in some way, rather desperate. It was so out of character for Harry, she didn’t think she could refuse. “Mostly,” she began, “I felt like you’d all left me… you and Dad and Sara, even Tim and Esther… you were all my family, you know?”

No, I don’t, Harry thought as Jenny began to introduce him to the XO’s shadowy past, but I will… And all the while, as she told her tale, two phrases lurked in the back of his skull.

”… I never did see him."

… and…

”I’m glad you found Kerrin…”

Post featuring Jenny Anderson and MU Harry Finn
Originally Posted 10/20/08 by Harry Finn

-USS Hawking-
-Costala/T'Shaini's Quarters-

The Chief Engineer looked over the letter which he had completed a few moments before. It was only a paragraph in length but set out his wishes and recommendations in a concise, official manner. The letter was addressed to Captain Torrik Nils and its contents were a request by Javier to step down from the Chief Engineer's position. The reason he had given for his resignation was dereliction of duty, because the welfare of the engineers under his command was his responsibility, and after Ajani, Boyce, and Pierce's deaths Javier wondered if he was at fault. They all took risks that I should have never allowed them to take..I should have done more..looked out for them. the engineer thought. My lack of readiness killed Ajani, my anger killed Boyce and my indecision is probably why Pierce is dead.

He reclined in the chair as his finger hovered over the send key on the desk console. Javier remembered how surprised and excited he had been when he became Chief Engineer and received his commission, he'd never dreamed it would end like this. Capable. That's what Harry had said, I'm capable. That's a polite way of saying performing at minimum efficiency. Costala knew that it was partly Finn's recommendation that had gotten him the Chief's job, the promotion coming soon after the Halcyon mission. If he thinks I'm not good enough..then maybe I'm not?

Like a diver from deep water, T'Shaini began to surface from her meditation. She found it helpful to center herself before potentially stressful activity, and she could not imagine a more potentially stressful scenario than the one they were about to enter. So many confusing levels of behavior expected in addition to the pressure of establishing some sort of diplomatic communication with this other Hawking. Almost beyond comprehension. She tapped her commbadge lightly. =^=David, we are about to depart, is there any information you need before we leave?=^=

=^=We are all set down here counselor…good luck.=^= Even the perennially optimistic David seemed tense.

=^=Thank you for all that you do, T'Shaini out.=^= Please do not let him rearrange the zen garden once again…. Moving to the other room, she hesitated before entering, Javier was staring at the screen with such intensity that she was unsure of whether to disturb him. "Are you alright?"

"Yes, yes," Javier replied as he was startled out of his thoughts of how inept he was as head of the Engineering department. His finger hit the send key before T'Shaini could read what he had written. The letter of resignation was sent to Nils with a copy being forwarded to Harry Finn also. "How was your meditation?" the engineer asked, not wanting to discuss the letter or its contents.

The counselor smiled. "It was refreshing." Crossing to the side of the bed she pulled her bag from the floor. "Are you ready to depart?"

"Ready as I'll ever be," Javier replied as he stood to his feet and walked over to stand in front of T'Shaini. "You know you don't get to carry that," he said, smiling as he took her bag and hoisted it over his shoulder. He picked up his own duffel and swung it over his other shoulder. The strap grazed his arm causing to Javier scratch it absentmindedly. The tracker embedded just beneath his skin was not something he had wanted, but it had been mandatory for everyone in the away team. "Do you think they'll give us quarters or separate us?"

"Interesting question, I do not know if they have been appraised of the fact that we customarily…co-habitate." Silly that she could feel her cheeks darken at the speaking of the words aloud. "Do you believe it will an issue if we do not address it?"

"Maybe if I slipped the Operations officer some credits they'll put us in the same room? If not you and Jada will be sharing rooms while Del and I get to be roomies. Something tells me Del won't be near as good a snuggler as you are," Javier teased.

T'Shaini regarded him seriously. "Or perhaps I should be more concerned that he will be just as good…or better." The Vulcan made it all the way to the door of their quarters before the smile she could feel threatening broke over her face.

Javier chuckled then stopped as he watched T'Shaini's face. She's, no she's not. He followed her out the door, glanced down the corridor both ways to make sure the coast was clear then smacked her on her backside playfully. "Del doesn't have quite the figure that you do, I think I'll stay with you."

The counselor squeaked a bit when his hand made contact, recovering quickly she kept moving in the direction of the transporter room. "I would prefer that as well, if the choice was given…I am unsure of whether we should insist if it is not offered however."

"I think they'll get the hint, especially since my first action aboard the IAS Hawking is going to be to dip you Counselor and kiss those lovely lips," Javier explained in a serious tone as they turned a corner. "That way, I'll have sufficiently embarrassed us both on both Hawkings. Got to keep my ERA up."

"Eep." T'Shaini stumbled a bit as his words sank in.

He caught her arm, steadying T'Shaini after she made a shocked sound. Loosening the grip on her elbow so he could slide his arm around her waist as they walked, Javier said, "I'm just kidding, I know how important first impressions are to you." He gave her a quick squeeze-hug before they arrived at the transporter room.

Ah, of course. How ridiculous of her to react to that, of course he would not jeopardize the mission. She made sure she was composed as the door slid open revealing the rest of the group engaged to go over to the IAS Hawking. Delano standing by the transporter technician, the Bajoran security officer, Darvin Brennek, with one foot on the transporter pad, clearly he was eager to leave. As they were standing in the doorway Jada O'Keefe pushed brusquely by them and finally, in the corner was Callan Vail, his cool gaze surveying the room with an air of indifference.

"What a rogue's gallery!" Javier commented as he recognized the other people in the room. Five sets of eyes stared at him and some of the stares were not friendly, in fact O'Keefe seemed to be glaring. "Okay what I said about first impressions and making a good one..I may have been overly optimistic about that," he admitted to T'Shaini.

JP Co-habitations R Us
Originally Posted 10/20/08 by T'Shaini

IAS Hawking
XO’s Office

Zal Malkat examined the report from his 2IC, who was to command the boarding party when the time came to take the USS Hawking. Everything indicated readiness but, the key would be to maintain that ready stance for an indeterminate period. The plan hinged on the activation of Ensign Redrum’s AI… until the USS tactical systems were firmly in IAS hands, he wouldn’t risk his forces (or himself, for that matter) being cut off on the other vessel.

He tapped the control pad of the desk unit to read up on what Finn had forwarded regarding their Lt. Tenanji’s security protocols. The Tactical Chief of the USS Hawking was a thorough, and admirably suspicious, man. There was to be no unmonitored movement about the ship by the visiting ‘research’ party… each member would have a Security detail assigned to them. Also, they were only allowed access to the Federation vessel’s LCARs in parties of two, on a rotational basis with, again, a Security presence in the room at all times. No unmonitored assembly of the group… and so on and so on. It looked as if the only privacy the visitors would find was in their assigned quarters and, perhaps, the lavatories.

In fact, the Starfleet preparations for their visit were almost duplicate of the Alliance’s own arrangements. The problem here was that Tenanji’s precautions were going to make the implementation of Redrum’s device a… challenge… to say the least. Not that Malkat had any doubts of their eventual success. With Finn they had their ringer in place and, if necessary, could help create a distraction that would enable Redrum to establish the uplink.

The Cardassian forwarded Finn’s report, adding on orders to keep a surreptitious eye on the Human systems tech, Seth Anderson. The man had seen and spoken to a woman who may as well be his daughter: it would be the height of naivety to believe Anderson would walk away from that with no upsurge of a father’s protective instincts.

No, if the man made any motions towards rebellion, Malkat wanted to know which way his steps would tread. There had long been quiet rumblings of a Resistance presence on Hawking and now there was the chance, however slight, that the bereaved father could ferret out that very presence.

Closing out of the computer, Zal gathered his spare belongings and made for the transporter room. It was, as Finn had been known to say, showtime.

Featuring NPC Gul Zal Malkat
Originally Posted 10/21/08 by Harry Finn

Smoke & Mirrors

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