Fragile Things

This section of the story is in memory of:
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The following NPCs are featured in the following chapter:
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Jillian raised her hand just above her eyes and squinted as she strained to make out the bright shores of the Mare Crisium river. It was beautiful and just as she remembered it. Her eyes danced over the ripples of water as they led her further down the Korolev forest. She couldn't remember how she had gotten here or why she was here, but she felt safe. After, what seemed like hours, she approached a large man-made structure, hugged by dappled sunlight and a glorious wash of branches. The Mill. There it was, the forgotten Mill hidden in a tight copse of River Birches. The Munro Mill was one of the oldest settlement structures on the moon and although it had been long since abandoned, nobody had the heart to tear it down.

Jillian pushed through the brambles that crowded the old mill path and found an old stone marker. The mill road was covered in wild fruit bushes, and the transport ruts had become long narrow ponds, home to the largest moon bugs she had ever seen.

It was out of the corner of her eye that she saw him. A little boy. He rushed passed her and disappeared in the muddy rut. She pushed deeper into the tangled mess, glad that she had chosen to wear protective gloves. She looked over her shoulder once and found that there was no evidence of her progress; the forest had swallowed her whole.

She would have thought it a dream were it not for the surety that this was a path she had walked a thousand times before, and the taste of the river's passage in the air before her.

Between two leaning Maples, in a spot where a fine stone Mill had once towered over a small house, stood a crumbling pile of rotting timbers and moss-covered stones. She took a deep breath of thick, moist air and closed her eyes.

The Munro Mill was once a vibrant, active place busting with activity. Korolev residents coming and going, transport wagons sometimes waiting three and four deep, some brining raw materials, others waiting to cart off a new treasure. A steady steam of workers carried heavy pallets in and out of the loading room, their faces beaded in sweat, but ready with a smile and a nod if you caught their eye.

The steady creak of the wheel, the hum of the transports, the deep rumble of the grindstone, the groan of the bellows, and the slippery babble of water cascading over the wheel all combined into a symphony of productive energy.

One couldn't help but stand and watch, wanting to be a part of the energy which warmed the stones and throbbed underfoot. There was always a happy banter amongst those waiting and plenty of synthehol to go around.

These were not her memories. That was a long time ago, long before she was born. But time didn't matter here. Not here.

Jillian picked her way into the now silent first floor and placed a hand on a cold stone. Was there still magic inside these walls? If she climbed up to the top of the wheel and opened the sluice, would the old wheel start to turn, or would the whole works explode in a splintering hail of rotten wood, broken gears forced too hard by the sudden rush of water?

The old stairs groaned but held her weight. She slowly made her way to the top of the Mill. Sunlight cut through the gloom in bright shafts of light, piercing the partially collapsed roof. She climbed out into daylight and found the boy sitting at the far edge overlooking the great wheel, legs dangling in the cool, crisp air.

She sat down quietly beside him. "How'd you know where to find me?"

"Mom told me. She said you just got here."

"No I didn't." She tried to remember the last time she saw her mother. It was fuzzy, how long had she been here?

Brad tapped his hand against a timber. "When I woke this morning, the sky was blue." He pointed across the river towards the great lunar city, Korolev. "It is a beautiful day." The young boy smiled, "The air tastes like dandelions."

Jillian licked her lips and tried to sample the air. What does a dandelion taste like? She frowned, "And?"

"Just that." Brad folded his hands in front of him. "Would you like to go home?"

"I don't know. I suppose I do," she said carefully. This wasn't making any sense, "How did Mom…" She trailed off and shook her head, "I don't remember the last time I saw her…I don't even remember how I got here."

Brad ignored her comment. "The atmosphere was pretty last night, Jilly. Green with streaks of bruised purple. It was changing like a kaleidoscope held up to the light of earth."

She winced, "Are the dome environmental controls malfunctioning? Why was it blue this morning?"

Brad tapped impatiently. "What dome? I'm talking about the sky. Really, Jill - you've been living on that spaceship for far too long." He snickered.

"This is the moon, Brad. There is no 'sky'". She laughed softly.

Tired of her stubborn refusal to grasp the obvious, Brad hugged his sister. "Oh Jilly, you've been gone for so long you don't even remember what home looks like."

"I most certainly do remember what home looks like and I know full well that we have a dom—…" she stopped short as she looked up. She lifted her arm and pointed, "Sky", she whispered.

"I told you! You never listen to me!" He teased.

"OK, but what does that have to do with you sitting here waiting for me? I haven't been here in ages."

He rested his little head on her lap, "Promise me you won't go away again."

She looked down at him. His eyes…his smile…he was still so young. He looked exactly like he did just before he…. It was at that moment that she realized where she really was and what had happened. "I died," she said, willing to grant herself this small point to get to the larger one, "Oh god," she whispered. Everything came rushing back. Space. Starfleet. Hawking. The crew….Nils.

"I want to go back!" she said urgently.

"No…" He shook his head slowly, "no…you can't go back."

"Brad," she said carefully, "I'm not ready to be here."

"This is your home," he said like that was answer enough.

Her eyes filled with tears, "Will I ever see him again? I don't want to exist, even here, if I can't be with him."

Brad looked at her, a soft sparkle in his eye. "You're here, aren't you? With me…together again."

She smiled. The mill. The place her family had built with their bare hands. The moon. The place where her passion for medicine and exploration began. The place she called home, "What do I do in the meantime?"

The boy looked around and once again tapped the timber, "This place can be the way it was again."

"Really?"

"The foundation is still strong."

She looked at the stones, doubt in her eyes.

"I'm here to show you."

Originally Posted 11/18/08 by Jillian Munro


:: IAS Hawking ::
:: Bridge ::

"Simply a matter of gathering more intelligence," Captain Bayal said, trying to shield his own annoyance. The dark human and the Vulcan had caught him off guard. Captain Torrik had been abducted? There was only one man in any universe who would take such a step without first discussing it with the powers that be. "Fifteen minutes… we'll be in touch," he finished full ready to end the conversation, and with a rough gesture to the comm he cut the transmission.

Rising, and without a word to his bridge crew Bayal Paven stalked angrily to his ready room. There would be hell to pay. Torrik Nils had crossed the line this time. As soon as he was alone he opened the channel. “What do you think you’re doing? You took their Captain? Are you willing to risk everything for your…”

=/\= Shut up, Paven, =/\= came Torrik’s response. =/\= There’s a new plan…=/\=

:: IAS Hawking ::
:: Temple ::

“…and you will comply with the wishes of the Ascended without question.” The High Priest wordlessly directed his acolytes as they built the pyre on which he would die. His excitement at the prospect had him swooning. “We must return to the rift immediately.”

=/\= Have you lost your mind? Our invasion is at full… =/\=

“You’ll find that the fluctuations in and about the rift are building to quite a potent cacophony. It's falling apart," Torrik lied with ease. "We will be cut off unless we enter the rift. I can stabilize it once we’re inside, but if we don’t go in now we may be trapped here. And your glorious fleet will have no way to come through.”

A moment passed as Bayal presumably confirmed Torrik’s lie. Part of it was true anyway. The Orb of Conquest, open and throbbing, would be playing havoc with subspace all about the rift. And with the activity in the spiritual realm the rift surely would appear erratic at best.

=/\= Damn you Torrik… Your timing is awful. You can fix this? =/\=

The Priest smiled as he stepped over his twin still lying paralyzed on the floor. “It will be a simple task. A matter of realigning the Orb with… I won’t bore you with details, Captain. But all of these rituals have me very excited.”

=/\= Damnit… Get me Redrum, =/\= the Captain called to some unknown on the bridge. =/\= Redrum! Redrum! Redrum! I need a channel. Can he confirm how long his Interface will hold the USS?=/\= Torrik smiled, knowing how fully Bayal had swallowed the lie. In truth, the CO was nothing but a hungry whore. His mind dwelled somewhere below the beltline, and Torrik exploited that weakness at every opportunity. =/\= Find out!!! Fine, Nils. I’ll move us into the rift. You have less than fifteen minutes to do what you need to do. And…you owe me. =/\= The Captain's wicked grin played even across the comchannel.

“Fifteen minutes will be plenty,” Torrik said coldly before he cut the channel. “Flesh burns oh so quickly…”

Featuring High Priest Torrik Nils and Captain Bayal Paven
Originally Posted 11/18/08 by Torrik Nils


IAS Hawking
The Temple

“Get rid of that,” the order had been abrupt and dismissive and soon ‘that’, aka, Harry Finn, had been summarily dragged away from the rising pyre and tossed against the wall, shackles clanking ominously.

It had fallen to him, First among the Chosen, to deal Finn’s death, having not yet proved himself in another’s blood. The First glanced over his shoulder and noted that the High Priest was deeply engaged in the disposition of the Orb of Conquest. Already, the many torches gathered to light the final blaze were smoking enough to obscure his actions. The young man took advantage of the cover to reach for the massive blade usually reserved for the Days of Atonement. At least, he thought, hefting the machete-like weapon, he could make it quick.

Harry struggled up to a sitting position, using the wall for support, and gauged his executioner. This one, though nameless as the rest, was different. There was more in his eyes than blind devotion… there was grief… and, beyond that, doubt. “You don’t want to do this…”

“Silence!” the hiss was punctuated by a gleaming slash of tarnished silver, halting just as the edge kissed the condemned man’s throat. If the Human moved at all, he’d do the acolyte’s work for him. “You are nothing,” he said, determined to believe his words… his brother’s words, “nothing but an empty vessel for the gods… now that their message has been delivered, you are…”

“You’re right,” Harry interrupted, staring into the young Bajoran’s haunted eyes, “I’m nothing… less than nothing. I have no power but you,” his voice was low but charged with the truth, “you have, right now, more power than anyone in the universe,” he swallowed the dark laugh that wanted to bubble out, “two universes.” Beyond, he could hear the shifting of wood as Torrik Nils, his captain and his friend, was hauled onto the bier.

“That is not…”

“Think about it,” Harry was trembling with both fever and desperation, “right now, at this moment, millions… beyond millions… countless lives rest in your hands. You, and you alone, have the power to save an entire universe or,” now he allowed his gaze to slide, oh so briefly, through the filter of smoke to the nearly-completed pyre and the mad priest who’s eyes already burned in anticipation of the flame, “or not.” He waited until the young man’s eyes returned to his, “It’s all on you,” Harry insisted. “Do they live? Or do you condemn them to…”

Jachin, all unknowing, eased up on the blade’s pressure, “I… it is not so simple as that.”

“It is!” Finn leaned forward, daring the edge of the blade, “it’s as simple as the truth that, even though they’ll never know your name, you’ll be the one that every mother in the universe thanks, each time they see their kids playing without fear… or, you’ll be the one they curse as they watch their children burn. You are the only man, right now, right here, with the power to make the one choice that will affect everything. All you have to do is make it.”

The First pulled the blade away, resting it in the crook of his arm, “And if I make the choice you want… do you… can you,” his own voice cracked under the strain, “stop this?”

I don’t know. “Yes.”

Looking down at his feet, the First Acolyte, eldest of the Nameless Ones, brother to the High Priest of the Ascended… chose.

“But is it not said,” he began, as he raised both his eyes and the blade, “that without sacrifice, there can be no victory?”

Featuring Torrik Jachin
Originally Posted 11/19/08 by Harry Finn


The wind blew over the long grass and stirred it to motion. It flowed in waves of golden brown, sweeping across the savanna, the grass moving as if an invisible hand was being drawn over it. The sun was high overhead and the day was warm but the breeze rendered the sun's potency moot. Small kopjies dotted the landscape, clumps of trees and boulders with dark, inviting shadows where time would pass more pleasantly on the days where the heat became oppressive. There were whispers in the grass.

He held his hand out over the tops of the grass. It grew as high as his waist and so the movement was as simple as stretching out his arm. The grass tickled his open palm as his hand wafted over it's surface. There was something about the movement that set him at ease and the tension that he felt seemed to slip away from him. There was a moment of hesitation and then he laughed, the sound broke forth like water flowing over a breached dam. It had been held within himself for far too long.

The wind could not mask the approach of another, the grass warned him of this person's movement and so he turned to face the one behind him.

"Welcome home," the man said as a brilliant smile broke on his face. "I wondered if I would have to wait longer for you to arrive. It is good to see you my friend." The man extended his hand.

Without thinking he reached forward and clasped the proffered hand, and was assailed by memories of this person.

"Ajani?"

The Amandebele man's brow creased with worry. "You do not remember me? Do you know yourself? Sometimes the passage from one plane to the next can be difficult."

There was a second of confusion. Who am I? The memories swept back as if pushed by a mighty gale. The bright flash of energy, the touch of T'Shaini's hand against his own, the Alliance's treachery, the ship and his friends, his loved ones..they're in trouble.

Javier nodded. "I remember.." Idly scratching the front of his uniform, Javier studied his friend. "I remember our parting was..I was..not..I was an asshole," he admitted, remembering the final time he had visited that plane, blaming Ajani for being unable to help him 'see' Lia.

"Lia was alive even then, so of course you could not help me see her," Javier started.

"My friend," Ajani said, grasping Javier's hand before releasing it, "none of that matters. You are here, you are home. The concerns from that life are no longer important. Come. Ngeni Umhlobo. I want you to meet my family." The African man moved away, walking towards one of the small hills that stood behind where Javier had been standing.

He started to follow. "Wait.." Javier called out and Ajani's movement was checked momentarily. "Ajani, I..I let you die. Almost every day I think about it and what I could have done to keep you from dying. It's a burden and I can't come home knowing that others will be killed because I didn't do anything."

"My death was a part of my life," Ajani replied in a quiet tone, "How can you blame yourself? I do not blame you. I was doing what was required of me. To those who are given much, much will be required. I gave my life to keep my friends safe."

"Yes, yes you did," Javier agreed. The engineer scratched his solar plexus nervously, he didn't know what else to say to his friend. His fears and argument had been reflected in Ajani's own words. "I have to return," he whispered.

"It is not for me to decide," Ajani answered. He did not want his friend to leave.

"It is for us to decide!" a strong voice claimed, breaking the silence. Javier's attention was drawn to the men that stood around them. The chiefs, the leaders of the Obatu clan encircled he and Ajani. "Your time here has come to an end. Return to your people, when you are ready you will be brought here once more," Ajani's great-grandfather told Javier.

"I will return one day my friend," Javier promised Ajani, holding out his hand.

"I will be here to greet you my brother," Ajani stated as he shook his friend's hand.

"Return to your people, return to those whose hearts you hold, return with your spear ready, war is upon you," Amandla Obatu sang in a strong, proud voice. The wind became stronger, bending the grass to its will as the Obatu clan leaders began to sing. The sun grew brighter and brighter, its radiance wreathed the men beneath it.

"To those who are given much, much will be required," Ajani spoke as bright light consumed Javier.

-IAS Hawking-
-Sickbay-

"The subject is a male human, twenty-eight years old, in good health until he took a disruptor shot to the chest," Chris said as he examined the body laid out on the table in front of him. The doctor had already removed the subject's clothing and was ready to proceed with his dissection. The human had expired but he had organs that could prove useful to Omin Chris and Jill Munro's research. "The wound which caused his death is close to his heart. My congratulations to our security force, their aim is improving but is not close enough to render the organ useless," the young doctor said as he began to inspect the area around the wound. His words were recorded on a nearby console for documentation but also so he could relive the visceral sensations that the dissection would yield. Omin Chris was truly a man who took pride in his work.

"The outer layer of tissue is burned, the cells destroyed by the energy beam of a disruptor but.." the doctor stopped speaking as his eyes traced what he considered impossible. "There is cellular regeneration to some degree..how this is possible is beyond me." He reached over and plucked a scalpel from a side tray and began to make an incision near the regenerated layer off skin. "This is amazing..this human has the ability to regenerate..new cells..his organs might be completely healed."

The doctor turned away to retrieve a tricorder so he could scan the body's organs for regeneration. "I have no idea how this is possible but it is a discovery that the Alliance.." Chris stated excitedly as he turned back to the corpse. It was sitting up!

"Won't get to profit from," Javier said before his fist slammed into the doctor's face. The man went flying back against the console. Before he could recover his subject had cleared the table, pulled Omin Chris to his feet and punched him on the jaw. The doctor wilted. Javier let him slide to the floor.

Now to find the others. Javier thought, and with a sudden glance downward, and some clothes.

Originally Posted 11/19/08 by Javier Costala


USS Hawking
Deck 8

Though the field seemed deserted, the two IAS officers were on full alert, the Starfleet uniform they 'escorted' granted scant cover. So far, the Bajoran Enforcers had met with no resistance, the deck having cleared soon after their arrival. But it didn't matter. The IAS had the advantage and, if the USS crew were so foollish as to remain hidden, or continue with the guerilla tactics, well, it was easy enough for the strike team to return home while their captain blew these pathetic peacemongers back to their Prophets.

"This way," one, studying a tricorder, gestured with his disruptor and the Cardassian, wearing the gold collar of Starfleet Security, paused only a moment before taking the indicated turn.

She knew it was fruitless. A ridiculously quixotic thing to do, there was nothing a single Vulcan with a disruptor could do that would halt the onslaught of the Alliance. But somehow, T'Shaini could not help it, the need to do something triggered by the attack on children…children, forced her to continue on this unrealistic course of action. If nothing else, I can die knowing I have not aided the Alliance. Not quite the same as working for the rebellion, but desperate times….

The sound of booted feet marching down the corridor had her flattening against the wall, weapon ready. Only Alliance would be making so much noise. T'Shaini hesitated a bare second when the came around the corner, then fired on the two Bajorans. As his captors fell, the Cardassian looked up to see who had freed him and T'Shaini froze…not Malkat, but his twin. Suppressing a shudder, the Vulcan quickly retrieved the disruptors from the officers and tossed one to the Cardassian. "Here, I do not know what you can do, but it is better than being taken alive….trust me."

Catching it deftly, the Petty Officer tilted his head, curiously. "I have to say, this was… unexpected."

T'Shaini's nose wrinkled in thought. "Unexpected…indeed." With a shrug she looked down the corridor before continuing. "I seem to have developed a taste for tilting at windmills."

He checked their rear… no hostiles in sight, so that, when the Vulcan looked back to him, she was met with a fist full of disruptor, splitting the skin of her cheek and sending her flying into the bulkhead. The Cardassian wasted no seconds and followed up with a solid punch to the gut before taking hold of the woman by her hair and holding the weapon she'd given him at her throat, "Ah but, T'Shaini," Zal Malkat whispered in her ear, as she struggled to take a breath, "the thing about windmills is, they don't hit back."

JP with Zal….Zal not Gul dammit (as written by Harry Finn of course)
Originally Posted 11/19/08 by T'Shaini


USS Hawking
Bridge

"The IAS is breaking away," T'Preen announced. "She is… moving towards the rift."

"What?" Usher, only moments ago convinced that the Hawking was minutes from being blown out of the skies, almost perked up.

"Set a course to follow." T'Shaini ordered.

"Belay that," the Security Chief turned to the Counselor, "due respect, Commander, but…"

"But what?" There was an edge to the counselor's voice that was seldom heard.

Tenanji lowered his voice, "But, the enemy that was willing to destroy us only moments ago is fleeing, leaving us to deal with only their assault team."

"That in and of itself should signal that there is something to be concerned about." T'Shaini took a deep breath. "Why would they flee when they had us in such a vulnerable position? Does it have something to do with the fluctuations…or is it Nils?" Leaning in, her voice dropped lower. "There is something beyond our ken, and we will not discover it by abandoning…by letting them go."

The entire bridge was still, waiting. "If it is the rift, we have no choice but to allow them to flee," Usher replied, "if it is the Captain… it's a matter of arithmetic, Commander… there are near two hundred souls on the Hawking…"

"No, no, no…" The Vulcan's voice rang with intensity. "you mistake my meaning. Do you really believe they have risked everything to kidnap one relatively insignificant Bajoran? However valuable he may be to us, in the larger palate he has little power in Starfleet. If it is Nils…he serves a purpose yet undisclosed." Was she arguing because she believed this? Or was it desperation to retrieve the lost souls that drove her. "I do not believe that this is finished."

It certainly would be finished if they, still weaponless, dove recklessly into a rift that might be about to close and yet… Tenanji was an observant man and in his time aboard the Hawking, he had observed that the Counselor's sense of… things not seen… was impressive. The more so since her encounter with the Dosi. It was a hard pill for a realist such as himself to swallow but, he trusted her instinct. "Very well," he turned to Warof at the helm, "Lay in a course, follow the IAS, best speed." To T'Preen, "Add a new order to the previous text… all forces engage the enemy at will… as long as we're not under their master's gun, let us take full advantage."

T'Shaini felt something internal 'click' and she relaxed imperceptibly. "Thank you, Usher." Harry was not Harry, the purpose behind the disengagement was Nils and Javier was not dead…please let this be the result of cognitive thought and not wishful thinking, because…here we go.

JP Between Usher Tenanji and T'Shaini
Originally Posted 11/20/08 by T'Shaini


:: IAS Hawking ::
:: Temple ::

Tingling at his extremities alerted Nils to the fact that he did indeed still have a body. From its betrayal aboard the USS to his venture into the 'phantom beyond' he was beginning to doubt whether or not he actually still lived. Though movement and motion still felt like a pipe dream, the Bajoran took a very small amount of comfort that feeling was returning. Until…

"We are ready to light the fires, holiness," the acolyte said somewhere out of Nils' view. If burning turned out to be his fate, he would prefer to leave all sensations wherever the drug he'd been injected with had sent them.

For a brief moment, the Captain of the USS Hawking considered giving in and shutting down. In Jillian's death, the fight suddenly lost meaning. But duty drove him on. This fight was about more than just he and Jillian. And he owed it to her to keep trying. He willed a finger to move.

"I've placed the Orb and the shackles are prepared," another acolyte said. This one walked past Nils where he lay and he caught a glimpse of the boy's bare legs. He forced his eyes to move and watched as the boy walked away.

The High Priest emerged from the smoke and stalked purposefully towards his fallen twin. He got on all fours and then lowered himself even further, falling prostrate in front of Nils. Their faces were millimeters apart and they shared each others breath. "I can't tell you how happy I am that you're here," the Priest said, his tone full of sincerity. "I'd wanted you to die before I met you, but it seems the Wraiths have better plans for us both…" His eyes drifted off in thought. "Which still involves your death, so that's a good thing." His cold smile preceded another kiss, this time on the forehead. "I love you for being here."

Nils held back the urge to strike out in revulsion, but in the holding back realized that he could perhaps strike back. Motor function was returning rapidly to his limbs. He held off, however, hoping to make a surprise attack when the time presented itself.

=/\= Torrik, we're in position, =/\= said a disembodied voice that echoed about the room. Bayal Paven sounded aggravated. =/\= Get it done. =/\=

Maniacal laughter followed and the Priest grabbed Nils by the back of the skull, pulling their foreheads together. "We are going to change the universe… Maybe alluniverses…"

With little doubt that now was his time, Nils pitched himself backwards then flung his head back into his mirror image. The cracking sound that followed instantly nauseated him. Reaching out with great speed, he clutched at Torrik Nils robes trying to pin him down. At the same time he wearily, but hastily, pulled his weight off the floor. Instantly, Nils found his footing then dropped his knee into the High Priest's chest… His full mass never found its mark, however, as two acolytes caught him by the arms and lifted him easily from the attack. A hard slap to the face came next, and would have knocked him back had he not been restrained.

"Impertinent…" cried Torrik Nils angrily, hauling himself off the floor. He used the oversized sleeve of his robe to mob up the blood that flowed down his head. "I show you my love and you repay me with violence?" The Priest shrieked in fury, but then caught himself and smiled. His teeth stained with blood he said, "No… You can't take this moment from me. This is the moment when…"

"You're insane," groaned Nils, his voice released from its chemical prison.

"No I'm not," answered the Priest with a look of genuine hurt. "You are," he retorted pitifully. "Come on. I don't have time for a conversation with myself. I'll learn soon enough." Turning toward the pyre structure, Torrik almost ran into the First. He'd come from an antechamber, and his hands were covered in blood. "My First!" Torrik seemed pleased and took the young man in his arms fully embracing him. "You've made all of this possible. And I smell blood…" Backing way the High Priest took the First's hands in his own. "I've always been able to count on you… And with my departure there will be a great void for you to fill." He paused for a moment trying to impregnate his speech with bloated meaning. "I name you my successor, brother. You will be High Priest when I burn…"

The First looked up into the Priest's face his expression painfully empty. "I…"

"Don't speak… This is a time for prayer." With that Torrik let the acolyte go and crossed to his spot where the as yet flameless bonfire waited and began preparing the shackles.

Still shaky on his feet, Nils didn't have the strength to truly fight the group of acolytes shuttling him toward the pyre and the Orb that rested above it. "No," he said attempting to throw his weight around. "Let me go." His protests went ignored as he didn't have the power to back them up. Even his voice sounded impotent.

"You shouldn't fight this. This is fate… It's destiny," his holiness said as he latched his wrist into one of the shackles. He threaded the chain that accompanied it through an eye ring attached to the Ark and handed the opposing shackle to the acolytes. "From the moment of your creation you were constructed for this purpose. And purpose is what gives each of us meaning. This is the meaning of life."

"Death is not the meaning of life," Nils replied sadly. The still burning image of Jillian's lifeless eyes clouded his vision. "But death can give life meaning. You’re willing to sacrifice yourself on an alter of darkness… That is a purposeless life. Empty and worthless. Life is for living or it's for nothing at all."

Torrik laughed as he braced himself for the flames to come. The acolytes locked the two men together over the pyre and pulled back. The Fourth acolyte approached reverently with some haunting and dark prayer on his lips. In his hand he held a blazing torch. "Inside the rift the Wraith's can move so much more freely," Torrik explained. "As the fires are lit and we burn, our Pagh will unite and empower the Orb. The resultant shockwave will blow this rift wide open, and free the Wraith's from imprisonment in our universe. The echoes of the Cataclysm will rupture the foundations of the Usurper's Temple and they will be locked inside, with no way to touch any universe. The reign of your Prophet's will end. And the Ascended will rise again with the…"

"Shut up," Nils said coldly. "How in any universe could I ever talk so much…"

The Priest laughed once more. "Oh ye of little faith…"

Wrong.

The Fourth dropped the torch and the pyre immediately began smoldering at its base.

My faith is not little, Nils thought as tears formed in the corner of his eyes. A transformation of understanding birthed within him as he faced a new defining tragedy. The Bajoran turned to take in the form of his little brother, dead yet still alive. His mind dug up memories of darkness and death from his childhood. His faith had been shattered and lost in the destruction of Torrik Jachin. But the Prophets had renewed his faith as they walked with him on the journey of his life. He'd been lifted up from hopelessness and granted new hope and greater vision. He'd experienced Pagh'Tem'Far and spoken with the Emissary. And even in the midst of this new 'darkest moment' of his life, he found something to be hopeful for. Because his faith was no longer that of a child, rattled by the circumstances that life would always cast on the road before us. He bore the full power of the Faith of his ancestors - the Faith of a man.

"You don't know what faith is," Nils said, his voice strong but detached.

Flames rose in and amongst the pyre, illuminating dark crevices in heat and light. Fire struggled to gain sway then emerged victorious turning black wood white, then red, as it climbed up to greet the sacrifice waiting above. Tongues of gas and plasma licked the robes of the High Priest and he cried out as his skin crackled and blackened at its touch.

But Nils hand remained pristine. The fire did not touch him.

"I…" He wanted to say the words that he'd used so many times before. I walk with the Prophets… They wouldn't come as emotion welled up in his chest. Light stood in opposition to dark. And despite the blackness present, both in the room and in both Torrik Nilses hearts… Light prevailed, as it tends to do.

Fear blossomed over the High Priest's face and wrestled with the agony of the burn. He cried out, livid. And his scream was that of an animal. He jerked wildly, trying to pull Nils’ flesh into a flame that wouldn’t burn him.

The Orb pulsated between them, then dimmed, and the Wraith's too made their presence known. Nils suddenly felt the heat of the fire, though he still didn't burn. He swallowed hard, realizing the gravity of the spiritual battle which must be waging all around them, unseen. Inside the rift, the two powers stood as equals. Light versus dark. Good versus evil. And the heat the young CO felt creeping up his arm was evidence that the Wraiths were a very real threat. Here, in this realm, there was no guarantee of winning. And victory would be hard fought. As a burning sensation blossomed across his hand, Nils closed his eyes to pray. 'Our battle is not against flesh and blood…' The Proverb returned to him unbidden and he prayed from the depth of his Pagh, even as he struggled against the flames that were now causing his uniform to smolder.

A sudden shifting from behind, followed by a string of curses and a hand grabbing hold of Nils' shoulder brought both the sacrifice's eyes to the rear where, rising through the smoke and flame a familiar, wrecked silhouette creased the dark. "Now, I don't know if you boys knew this but, most folks prefer to roast marshmallows on the camp fire…"

Torrikpalooza 08 with surprise cameo by the one and only Harry Finn.
Originally Posted 11/20/08 by Torrik Nils


IAS Hawking
The Temple

… can you… stop this?

Yes.

Only now, Harry wasn’t so sure. He was, at the moment, crumpled in ‘death’, where the kid had left him freed from the shackles but with one new cut along his right arm, to prove the deed had been done. The young man had bathed his hands in the fresh swelling of red before leaving Harry with the sword and a look of absolute trust the older man had in no way earned; hell, he could barely keep his grip on the hilt of the broad-bladed weapon. Effing stigmata…

The flames were growing. It was time to move. Harry pressed against the wall and shoved himself to his feet. If he were lucky, he’d have one shot at breaking up the Wraith barbecue. Too bad he could hardly stand, had cloudy vision and his head felt just plain wrong, thanks to the priest’s Bloody Marys. Thinking on that urged another nauseated gag, I never drink… wine, but there wasn’t time to indulge in the sickness of it all; there were flames crackling and the convocation of Orbs were swelling in a visual cacophony and the acolytes were, thankfully, enraptured by the show.

One shot.

Shambling through the shreds of smoke in a pathetic lampoon of stealth, Harry moved closer, wondering if he had it in him to get a run going when his eyes rose to the men atop the burning mountain and he saw… the priest beginning to burn, sure as sin but not… not… Nils. Not the Captain. The fire didn’t touch…

“How?”

Maybe he wouldn’t have to save Nils, after all…?

”GO!” A voice, not Harry’s voice but something deeper, warmer and VERY insistent, broke through his awe. ”We can’t hold, not here… GO… NOW!

“Okay.” After everything he’d ingested in the past hour, it wasn’t much of a surprise to Harry that he was hearing voices. At least, he thought, this voice and he had the same objective.

He began to move again, the shuffle becoming a lope becoming a run that brought him, blade swinging wildly, at the approaching acolytes who dodged back or (ha) tripped over the First who just happened to be in the way… and then faster, faster, faster… he was on the pyre, dashing through the… flames on the sides of my face!… up up up before his own weight could bring him crashing down into the inferno and then he was at the top, next to the two Torriks and the ark and they were all choking on the rising smoke and sparks were nestling on his clothes and, swearing, he had to grab Nils to remain upright. "Now, I don't know if you boys knew this but, most folks prefer to roast marshmallows on the camp fire…" Harry heard himself say as the two faces of Torrik turned to face him.

"Harry, get out of here," Nils cried out in relief. He'd been certain the First acolyte had dispatched his first officer in a bloody offing. "You're too close to the fire!" Though he'd made it this far, his survival was not guaranteed and the rising flames limited his chances with every passing second.

"Why won't you burn," yowled the High Priest vehemently. "The ritual… The ritual!!!"

Harry ignored both his Captain and the priest and reached out to test the chain, "HOT!" He snatched the hand back and wondered if he had the oomph left to shove the ark off the pyre and not kill the two men attached.

"Harry, listen to me," Nils called trying to be heard over the building roar of flame and the howls of the High Priest. "You've got to get out of here…"

Torrik suddenly burst into another fit of laughter as the sleeve of his robe caught fire up to his neck. He eyed Nils' uniform as it too transformed from smoldering fabric to burning ash. "The ritual will succeed… The Wraiths will be free." He turned triumphantly to Harry Finn. "You may as well follow orders," Torrik yelled in agonizing victory. "There's nothing you can do!"

“Sure there… is,” and on that last word, the sword which had been meant to end Harry Finn's life sliced downward and a split second later the High Priest fell, screaming, in one direction while his charred hand dropped out of the shackle in another. Down it fell into the flames, inciting a sudden gout as it fed the fire. “Time to go,” Finn muttered, hauling the chain through the loop owowow and patting ow Nils’ smoldering shoulder to prompt a quick departure. Turning, he eyed the tortured writhings of the priest, clutching at his suddenly abbreviated arm. Reaching down, with the last of his strength, Harry lifted the flame infested robe and shoved the man off of the burning mound. No way was he leaving anyone to burn.

High Priest Torrik Nils tumbled one way, out of the fire's reach and off of the Pyre. Still struggling against the chemical invasion in his body, Captain Torrik Nils tumbled the other way also to relative safety. The Orb of Conquest, however, did not tumble. A heavy shockwave pulsed through the room like noiseless thunder. The Orb darkened ominously and a shadow of a shadow rose from inside the Ark, reaching out to claim any life within reach. A low and angry wailing emanated from deep within the box and rumbled the deck plating of the ship.

The not-sound had been enough to drive him to his knees, dropping the sword and grabbing at the nearest support which was… uh oh… the ark. Harry's eyes lifted, following the rising tide of gloom which spilled from the chest… "Oh…cra…"

The phantom appendage rose high over the pyre then swept out in a wide arc. As it moved, darkness followed. It collided full force with Finn's chest lifting him off the pyre and flinging him like a rag doll against the far wall, down which he slid with boneless grace, as if he really were no more than a hollow man.

Featuring High Priest Torrik Nils, Captain Torrik Nils and Harry Finn
Originally Posted 11/21/08 by Harry Finn


:: USS Hawking ::
:: Corridor, Deck 6 ::

Jill's face was expressionless and not one of her limbs stirred, she had to appear calm and rational, "But why? I have enough prisoners back in our brig. Federation test cases are…difficult to manage. In this universe, they are led to believe that humans are of equal importance. They are undesirable candidates, and you know it."

"What I know is what I've been ordered," again, Arras Crayn internally cursed his assignment to the doctor. "These Federation cattle need to learn fear and learn it quickly. Your experiments keep Humans in line… the ones you don't practice on, anyway."

She winced, taken aback by his not-so-subtle subtleness, "And what the hell is that supposed to mean?" On any other day the doctor would have brushed crewman Arras' comment aside but this could buy her some time.

Growling, he spun in front of the woman, his patience with the inferior being at an end, "It means" he told her, enjoying the moment of ascendance over the petite female, "that your 'research' is a sham and everyone but you and your half-blood assistant knows it. All your trials are good for is the hammer they hold over the rest of the Humans… don't misbehave or you'll go to the labs… don't whisper against the Alliance… Munro is waiting. You're the boogyman they warn their children with, Doctor. And as long as you continue to be so… effective… you can have the life Malkat has granted you so I suggest," he half turned, gesturing towards the turbo-lift, "if you want to keep that life, you'll go pick yourself some examples… sorry… experiments…"

His words stung. For the first time, she actually believed what he was saying. But it wasn't too late, was it? She could save those people, "And what are you, Arras? I may be just a tool for Malkat, but I did not come along so easily. It would be hard to replace me. But you…" a slight smile crept up from the corner of her mouth, "There's nothing special about you, Arras. Malkat could have you replaced in a day…and when he finds out how you've treated me…" she hissed, "…you'll find yourself in my 'sham' of a lab."

At that she found herself on the floor, staring up at the furious face of the Bajoran Enforcer. "Wrong thing to say, Jill," he told her, coldly, disruptor appearing, though hanging loosely at his side, "alone on a hostile vessel… anything could happen…" he started to raise the weapon but the sudden sizzling of another weapon sliced across his arm, causing Crayn to drop his sidearm and spin to face…

"Sorry, not gonna let you pin a murder on my crew," Jenny said.

Using the distraction, Jill kicked back from the floor, hitting his shin. Her blow knocked his leg out from under him. She put all her weight onto his body and squeezed the wound on his arm with her hand. Crayn kicked furiously, trying to dislodge himself, but her legs were rooted between his, "You're right, Arras," She was breathing heavily, "I am the boogyman…" She snaked her arms up and with a quick motion, snapped his neck.

"Dammit!" Jen used her free hand to haul the furious Munro off the new-made corpse. She'd wanted to not get someone killed, here. It was her fault, though… she hadn't imagined Jillian's double to be so… dangerous. She knelt and double checked that, yes, the enemy really was dead before saying, "I think we should go."

The other woman made no protest but simply nodded and moved away from the new-made corpse. Jenny spun to the left, meaning to return to the ladder-well from which she'd emerged but found quite quickly that her legs were unwilling to go any further.

Probably, she thought, it had something to do with the kut'luch currently buried in her abdomen. "Oh," she said, thinking that, for a Klingon, the Alliance soldier was surprisingly quiet.

"Doctor," the Enforcer greeted calmly, "your presence is still required on deck six. I will deal with this…" The Klingon, Rak'h's mirror image, locked eyes with Jenny, "Your death will not be quick," he asserted quietly, "and it will not be painless but it will serve as a lesson to all who would resist the Alliance. Crayn was part of my team, so it falls to me to punish his killer."

The blade gave a sudden twist, drawing a sharp cry from the Starfleet officer before it was withdrawn and Jenny allowed to slide down to the carpet, there to make acquaintance with an entirely new kind of pain.

A JP with Harry Finn, as the voice of Jenny
Originally Posted 11/21/08 by Jillian Munro


-USS Hawking-
-Deck 8-

The Alliance officer stepped into the room and came to a sudden and complete stop. In front of him was a human woman. He had seen many human women before but he had never seen one topless, and this one was most definitely topless. Standing slack-jawed in the doorway the IAS team member forgot about his orders to kill the Federation officers on this deck's section. He continued to stare until pain exploded in his temple and everything went black.

"If you ever tell anyone about this I'll kill you," Heather Oakley threatened Fenton Boyce as she pulled on her uniform top. The cadet had already stripped the man of his weapon and pulled the enemy officer away from the doorway.

"Who would believe me if I did?" Fenton said, he heard Oakley hiss and added, "Don't worry I'm not one of those locker room jerks." He flexed his hand while staring away from Heather as she fastened up her uniform blouse. He had hit the guy hard, wanting to remove the threat as soon as possible. Did jealousy fuel that punch? At first he had refused Heather's plan but she had convinced him it would give him the break he needed. She had been right, they were now armed and one of their enemy was incapacitated. He approached the doorway and checked the corridor. A cluster of fleeing science officers ran past Fenton but one fell as she tripped over someone else's feet. The mistake saved her life because a beam of energy sliced through the air missing her by inches as she fell face-first to the deck.

Fenton set his feet, aimed at the IAS officer who came running after the science group and gave the Cardassian a face full of phaser beam. The man shrieked in agony and collapsed on the deck writhing in pain. Cadet Boyce approached the man and gathered up his weapon and the commlink on his belt after stunning the man into silence. He probably needs medical attention but he's going to have to wait. Fenton thought coldly as he returned to where Heather and the science officer were waiting.

"Thank you, Cadet, I'm Teema, I know you're Fenton, I've seen you around," the science officer rattled off. "I was in the lab and the next thing I know these guys burst in and start shooting and I just ran. Well he chased me and you know the rest.."

"You're welcome," Fenton said as he gave one of the phasers he was carrying to Oakley, who from some reason was frowning at Teema.

"Can I..can I stay with you?" Teema inquired of Boyce.

"Sure, we're going to try and reach Main Engineering and three pairs of eyes are better than two so let's go," Fenton replied.

"Why Engineering? Isn't that one of the first places they would go?" Teema couldn't help but ask.

"Maybe, but our Chief is a former marine, he had a plan for every contingency, so we should be safe there," Fenton explained to the chirpy science crewman without going into too much detail.

"But if you'd rather stay here.." Heather started, sounding irritated.

"Oh no, I'll go with you," Teema said before looping her arm around Fenton's. "I know you'll keep me safe."

Oakley rolled her eyes at Fenton's cheesey smile. She was tempted to stun them both.

Originally Posted 11/21/08 by Javier Costala


:: USS Hawking ::
:: Corridor, Deck 6 ::

While the Klingon was busy with the Federation officer, Jill quickly swiped up one of the disruptors from the floor and fired it at his back.

Rak'h, slumping forward, just managed to turn his eyes towards Munro, "You are no better than that," he jerked his chin towards the bleeding woman on the floor, "to turn on your betters…"

Jill dropped the weapon and turned her attention to the young officer. Kneeling down, she gently rolled the girl onto her back and began inspecting the wound, "Your spleen has been punctured," Jill shook her head, "I need to get you to sick right away. If I don't remove it, you'll die."

"S'on deck five," Jenny said, staring hard at the killer doctor, the one who had 'experiments', "can't get there from here… did you see Harry?" she asked, suddenly, "On IAS? Mine… my… Harr…"

Jill wasn't sure how to respond so she just nodded and told the truth. There was no point in sugar coating anything, "Yes. I was asked to interrogate him. He was then taken to the high priest. I haven't seen him since."

"Shoulda known," Jen rolled away from the woman, started to bring her knees beneath her but it hurt, "shoulda seen he wasn't real," tears were leaking unregarded from her eyes as the blood continued to spill over her hands.

"Sit down!" The doctor screeched, "You know what happens when you move around while you've got an open laceration in the middle of your body?" Jill ripped the arm off her tunic and tied it around the girl's torso, "It's a fast way of draining all the blood from your body, that's what happens." Jill dug her arms under the officer's back and lifted, "Where's the closest medical focal point?"

"You learn all that in interrogation school?" Jenny hissed at the movement then, as the doctor gave her a look "labs… all along the left wall… all have triage kits. Scientists," she added, blearily, "always blowing shit up."

Jill held her breath as the first set of lab doors swooshed open, the last thing they needed was another fight - she had already killed two people in a span of 10 minutes. Clear. Jill exhaled and set the girl down on a lab table. She quickly scanned the room for a medical kit, "I hope to hell they have something in here to put you under. Without the proper equipment this could get…painful."

"Cause it's been a party so far. Did you hurt him?"

Jill grabbed the medkit and set it down next the young girl whose name she still didn't know, "Yes." She looked her in the eyes, "Yes, I hurt him… I've hurt a lot of people," she added as she loaded a hypospray.

Jenny turned her head so she could see the woman, more unlike the Jillian she knew than she could ever imagine… as the Harry they'd sent was so unlike… "He's family," she said, her voice colder than it had ever been, "you hurt my family and now…" she hurt too much, in too many ways to keep talking, but, "Why?"

Jill snickered, "Why did I hurt him?"

God, she sounded like she enjoyed it. Jenny tried to move away from the approaching hypo, "Think I'll take my chances…"

This kid was beginning to make her blood boil. Jill closed her eyes and took a deep breath, "It's a harmless analgesic." She motioned towards the medkit, "There's nothing in there that's going to put you under while I operate. You either take the painkiller or you shut up. Which one is it going to be?"

"Gimme," Jen held out one bloodied hand and waited and, when Munro handed it to her, checked the programmed dose and self-administered. As the edge of the sickly welling pain dulled she looked back at the woman who called herself a doctor, "I don't trust you," her voice and her vision was fading a bit, with loss of blood, "but if I happen to survive your care, we're… gonna talk… about… Uncle Harry."

Jill watched as the girl's eyes began to glaze over, "As you wish."

And with that, the girl was out.

A JP with Harry Finn, as the voice of Jenny.
Originally Posted 11/21/08 by Jillian Munro


-USS Hawking-
-Lounge-

"I DON'T KNOW WHAT UNIVERSE YOU'RE FROM.." Kal-El Kowalski yelled across the lounge as he and Darbs took cover behind a barricade of furniture.

"Stay down Kalie-Walie," Darby scolded him as she lined up and fired her phaser at the three Alliance members who were bearing down on her and Kal-El. Her shot went wide and the security officer was forced to take cover as energy beams laced the air around her.

"BUT YOU GUYS SUCK!!" Kowalski finished before a phaser beam lanced his shoulder, leaving a burn mark and making the tipsy engineer howl in pain.

"Oh Kalllllie, are you hurt?" Darbs wailed then began to lay down a furious barrage of fire on the IAS security group.

"Those bastards can't hurt me," Kowalski stated as he checked the wound. "I'm a f**king engineer by god! I'm smarter than all of them put together." He leaned over the chair he had been taking cover behind. "DID YOU HEAR THAT YOU ICONOCLASTS?!? I'M SMARTER THAN YOU ALL!!"

The next phaser shot hit him in the arm of his already wounded shoulder. Kowalski groaned and slumped back down. "They shot me again..those Cro-magnon men." Darbs was too busy trying to keep them from being overrun to reply. "Screw them, I'll teach them to f**k with an engineer." Kowalski took his tricorder out and set the instrument to overload then hurled it into the midst of the IAS group.

"TAKE THAT YOU BASHI-BAZOUKS!!" he yelled as he shook his good arm at the invaders. A beam of energy struck the engineer in his side and he went down. At the same instant the tricorder blew and shrapnel shredded the IAS boarding party.

Originally Posted 11/21/08 by Javier Costala


USS Hawking
Deck 5, Sickbay

“Thorne!” Amy Amos called out, getting the attention of both Tatiana and Mikhail. The two turned to look at her, their full attenion on her. The nurse threw her hands out in Tatiana’s direction. “Tatiana, I need your help, we have a problem.”

The doctor dropped the items in her hand, and walked over to the woman. “What’s up?”

“We’re having problems with some of the people here. They’re freaking about the IAS.”

Tatiana frowned, “They know to stay calm.” She looked over Amos’ shoulder to glance at the group who were quietly arguing amongst themselves, “Tell them to calm down, take a deep breath and just calm down. They’re not the only ones worried, but we have a job to do. Look tell them we’re just a Sickbay, the worst they’ll do is ask us to treat them.”

“Are you sure about that?” Amy asked.

Tatiana shook her head, “Not at all, but it feels good to hope. It keeps me from going crazy over this.”

“We have a patient!” someone called out, and the two turned to see an injured male stumbling into Sickbay holding his upper right side. He didn’t don a Star Fleet uniform, nor was he someone she had recognized. The newcomer’s face was twisted in pain. The red head fell to the ground. From under the squirming newcomer, Tatiana noticed the ground was stained crimson from the blood flowing from his wound. “Get him on a biobed,” she instructed, snatching up a Medical Tricorder, and tossed it over to Amos. She pulled a tray of tools as she rushed over to “Give me rundown of his injuries; I need to make sure he doesn’t bleed out before we fix what’s wrong.”

“His liver is damaged.” she listed. “No damage to the brain. He has a fractured Ulna and two broken Phalanges.” Amy paused, “After that, there’s nothing but bruises and lacerations left. I can take care of those when you’re finished.”

“I’ll fix the liver first. It looks like a penetration wound,” Tatiana observed. “I don’t think he’s one of ours. When did we start using knives instead of phasers?” She asked absently, slapped anesthesia into a hypospray, then depressed a high dosage into the patient’s carotid. The tightness of the stranger’s body loosened, and the women set to work.

“I don’t know,” Amy answered honestly, reached over and handed Thorne the laser scalpel.

Tatiana, opened the wound further with the scalpel, and frowned. “Knives, I can’t believe it. Cellular Microsuture,” she requested, and the nurse handed it over. “The Hepatic Vein is undamaged. I’m patching up the organ now.”

At the moment she began, the ship began to shake, causing Tatiana to have an unsteady hand. She stopped her work, and waited for it to subside. “What the hell is going on out there,” she asked and took hold of the biobed to keep herself upright. She tossed a nonchalant hand, “It doesn’t matter, we have to finish up. Once we’re done we won’t have to worry about him, the anesthesia I gave him will keep him out for a while.”

Once she had completed the repairs on his liver, she picked up the instrument used to close the incision she made, as well as the opening created by the knife wound. She walked around the biobed to stand at Amos’ side. “Hand me the Osteogenic Stimulator please. Thanks,” she said and smiled at the nurse. She placed the instrument at an angle over the male’s fractured Ulna, and ran it over the wound.

“It’s fixed,” Amos said after running the tricorder over his arm.

“Moving on to the phalanges then,” Tatiana stated, and glanced at the red swollen hand. She repeated the process over the broken bones and sat the instrument back on the tray. “Do your thing, Amy.”

Originally Posted 11/21/08 by Tatiana Thorne


Petty Officers Tarro Jolan and Jeremy Eight moved stealthily along the maintenance passages on deck fourteen. Only a few minutes earlier they had been going over the very same area looking for a broken plasma conduit in the hopes of finding it and getting out of the Jefferies tubes for the rest of the day. Now, the very same tubes had become a refuge, offering them at least a fighting chance at survival and keeping control of the Hawking.

The sounds of weapons fire and destruction from the main corridor had faded away quickly. Either the attackers had moved on to another area or the Hawking crew had eluded them. Cut off from the rest of the ship in the dark recesses of the Jefferies tubes, neither of them really had any way of knowing what was going on.

“Hold on,” said Jeremy as he pulled out his tricorder, which was chirping softly. “It’s a message from Lt. Tenanji… orders to go stealth and take out whatever enemies we can.” He snatched the commbadge off his uniform. “We’ve got to ditch these so they can’t track us.”

Tarro nodded as he removed his own communicator and looked around for somewhere to dispose of it. “Here,” he said, reaching out to take Jeremy’s. “This ought to keep them from finding us for a while.” He tossed both badges down a ventilation duct and they were gone, clattering off into the bowels of the ship.

The engineers moved off down the passage until they came to the hatch to the junction room. Instinctively, Jolan reached for the handle to open the door, but Jeremy stopped him before he could pull it. Almost silently, he shook his head and whispered to Jolan.

”I think I heard something… there’s somebody else on the other side of the door!”


What do I do? What do I do?

Indi Corin's internal dialogue would have been noticable by anyone had they the opportunity to look at her face. The delicate yet angular features mirror her thoughts almost perfectly. No need for a telepath as it was clear she was in over her heard.

"I've prepared for this haven't I?" She tried to ask herself rationally, creeping along the corridor, away from the tractor subsystem.

A thoroughly unimpressed Cam Atwood had been moved back into the Jefferies Tubes from which they had come, protesting all the while. I ain't no schoolchild! He had protested loudly, grandious claims suggesting he could take on the whole IAS invasion team by himself, disabled or not, weapons or not. Indi had just grimaced in response, guilting him into 'hiding'. How could I concentrate on finding a weapon, worrying about you? She had asked him, ignoring his mention of "Sissy".

"We have done drills before to prepare for this, surely?" She asked herself. Indi wasn't the 'warrior' type, she spent most of her time with her nose in the computer core for crying out loud.

Her own inner demons were beginning to win, her own self doubt playing over and over in her mind. "Why do I bothe- Argh!"



The door she sneaked passed opened suddenly, resulting in a small scream escaping from Indi's lips. In the split second before she realised who had appeared, to recognising the engineers familiar features, Indi had prayed aloud, knowing she was dead.

"Hush!" Jolan spoke up, instantly calming Indi were she stood as she was pulled quickly into their current hide-away. “Indi, are you alright?”

Indi looked at the two engineers, still recovering from the shock they had just given her. From the looks on their faces, they had both seen something horrible as well. Jeremy looked relieved to see her, and Jolan seemed more concerned with keeping her quiet. “Yes, I’m fine… Atwood is hurt, though. He’s a few sections back that way.”

“We’ll have to find help, we don’t have communication,” Jeremy replied. “I don’t know how we’ll get him to sickbay… we need to find a medkit.”

“We’ve got another message from the bridge,” Jolan interjected, pulling his softly chirping tricorder out of its holster. “Apparently, there’s some sort of adaptive interface interfering with the ship’s systems. We’ve been ordered to look for it and disable it.”

“Well, how convenient that we were already on our way to the EPS grid,” quipped Jeremy. “If we’re not looking for one thing, it’s another.”

Jolan smirked at his friend’s comment. “If we can find it, we can get the ship back under control and get these bastards for what they did to Wakeel.” Jeremy nodded, obviously in agreement. “You with us, Indi?”

Corin nodded as well. “Yes, but we need to find help for Cam too.”

“Alright, then, no sense sitting around here… let’s get a move on.” Without waiting for a reply, the Bajoran opened the hatch and crawled into the next Jeferries tube.

Jeremy frowned as the newly-expanded trio left the junction room down another Jefferies tube. There were any number of places on the Hawking from which a saboteur could disable the ship’s defenses. Coming across the right one by dumb luck would be almost impossible, especially with their movements restricted to crawlways and access hatches. More to the point, it was probably guarded by someone from the IAS.

“We need to find weapons,” he blurted out suddenly. It wasn’t really a revelation, they had all been thinking it.

Indi didn’t look back at him as she answered quietly. “Getting to a weapons locker probably isn’t going to be easy. But you’re right, we’re not going to get very far if we don’t take some of these guys out.” The Jefferies tube had come parallel to the main corridor and they could see out into the empty hallway through the various conduits and equipment as many of the access panels on the other side had been removed earlier while searching for the damaged conduit. It was convenient, being able to see out into the corridor while still being shielded by the conduits and the darkness of the crawlway.

Out the corner of his eye, Jolan caught a sudden spark of bright blue light. He stopped cold and looked into the dense maze of wiring at the thick EPS conduit that ran between them and the corridor. There it was again, more sparks of light and a noticeably charred crack in the main conduit where the energy was arcing across the metal. He couldn’t help but chuckle as he saw it.

“What’s so funny?” asked Jeremy.

“Look,” Jolan replied as he pointed out what he had seen. “We spend all afternoon looking for the damaged conduit… and there it is… right here.” Jeremy cracked a smile as he thought about it and it was obvious that he, too, was trying not to laugh at the irony of the whole situation.

Indi, who had not been part of the seemingly endless search for the leak earlier, suddenly waved her hands around at her companions. “Shh you two, I hear somebody coming!”

Both Jeremy and Jolan immediately stopped laughing and the trio crouched down as a pair of unidentified individuals came walking along the corridor from opposite sides. Only their boots were visible, so it was impossible to tell whose side they were on. As they approached, they slowed down and stopped almost directly in front of the silent engineers.

“Everything clear in that direction?”

“Yeah, we’ve cleared out all the Federation filth on this deck. Three humans, a Vulcan, and a Napean.”

Jolan’s eyes narrowed as he listened to the two intruders, just a few meters away, continued to discuss their heinous acts so nonchalantly. He could feel the anger building up inside of him and glanced over at his shipmates. Indi was wide-eyed as she absorbed the impact of their words, while Jeremy bit his lip pensively and was staring at the metal access panels leaning against the wall across the corridor. Suddenly, he turned to his companions and mouthed words to them. I have an idea!

Silently, he pointed at both Jolan and Indi, then to the access hatch a few meters down which opened into the corridor. Slowly, stealthily, they crept towards the hatch and looked back to see what Jeremy was doing. He had opened his toolkit and taken out a plasma infuser which he was pointing directly at the damaged conduit. Jolan grinned as he realized what Jeremy was planning, and leaned forward to be ready to jump out into the corridor as soon as the moment was right.

There was a blinding flash of blue light and agonized howls from the two IAS intruders as Jeremy jammed the plasma infuser into the ruptured conduit. The energy arced out across the corridor like an angry flailing tendril as it charged through the metal. Jeremy jumped back, letting go of the tool and shouted. “Take that you mirror universe scum!”

As suddenly as the explosion of energy had started, it dissipated as the ship’s safety systems deactivated the conduit. Jolan and Indi burst through the hatch and into the corridor and jumped the two stunned Cardassians. They fell to the floor, writhing in pain and smoking as the residual plasma coursed through their unconscious bodies. Quickly, Jolan grabbed the two disruptors that they had dropped and tossed one to Indi, then turned back toward the open hatch as Jeremy emerged into the corridor.

“Well, now we’ve got weapons," Jeremy proclaimed with a look of satisfaction. He looked down at the unconscious Cardassians lying on the floor. "Next time, don’t mess with Starfleet engineers.”

A joint post by Matt Hudson and Simba Wekesa.
Featuring NPCs Indi Corin, Jeremy Eight, and Taro Jolan

Originally Posted 11/22/08 by Simba Wakesa


:: USS Hawking ::
:: Bridge ::

T'Shaini strove to not let the rapidly whitening knuckles betray her inner disquiet. Willing her fingers to release from the support in front of her she snuck a sideward glance at Lt. Tenanji. Which one of us is Vulcan? No matter what may be going on inside his head, there was certainly no evidence of any tension on his face. Was the need to follow Harry, Nils and Javier causing her to act on flawed judgment? Was she risking the lives of everyone on this ship on intuition that all may not be what it seemed? All the support personal, the civilians…the children. Oh gods. No, intuition was not just a hunch, it was also the subconscious mind adding up clues that the conscious mind had not fully comprehended or had full cognition of.

T'Preen's voice cut through the Counselor's thoughts. "Commander, there is an enormous upsurge in rift activity."

Am I supposed to know what that means? T'Shaini once again felt how unfit she was to be on the bridge in an emergency. "Will it affect systems? Can we expect reinstatement of control of tactical any time soon?"

The Vulcan at Operations shook her head as she examined her console. "Systems will be affected. How, I cannot say."

"I can take a stab," Jada O'Keefe said crossing from the turbo lift to take her spot at Science. "It'll be hell to navigate and the Polaric energy will play havoc on our hull, but as long as our exposure is limited we should be alright… I have to stress the limited part. Without shields we'll be very vulnerable."

T'Shaini nodded, 'very vulnerable' she could understand. "Continue toward the rift and keep me apprised of any escalations in the situation.

"Commander," Tenanji started, his tone still cool. "The IAS has crossed the threshold of the portal and no longer register to our sensors."

"So we're going in blind and without weapons," Jada said cynically. "Someone roll down a window and get your sidearm ready…"

"However much I appreciate your attempt to bring levity to a decidedly tense situation, I feel your talents would better used aiding the navigation of the rift." T'Shaini inserted with a raised eyebrow.

"Aye, sir," O'Keefe answered pretending not to notice T'Shaini's unease. The Chief of Science turned her attention back to the readout before her.

"Approaching the rift," Warof interrupted from the helm. "At present course and speed we'll enter the portal in eight seconds."

"Thank you." Release the deathgrip on the railing. "Set to scan for our crewmembers as soon as the IAS Hawking is in range."

"Pulling our missing crewmembers biometric data from sickbay and bringing all sensor pallets to bear. I can match the data to individual biosigns as soon as we cross the…"

Jada was cut off as Warof announced their status. "We're entering the rift." He barely had time to finish the phrase before all the lights on the bridge dimmed and the deck plating shuddered beneath their feet. After a brief moment in darkness, the systems snapped back and aside from the vibrations humming about the ship, everything returned to normal.

T'Shaini breathed out a prayer of thanks. "Status?"

"All systems online," T'Preen snapped back instantly. Then she gave pause as she continued, "Aside from those that were already rendered impotent by the IAS malicious programming, that is. Hull strain is increasing, but remains within operational parameters." A sudden jolt in the ship knocked her about. "That will not remain the case for long, however."

"Then initiate the scan," T'Shaini responded. "the sooner we retrieve our people the sooner we can leave." Then with a glance toward T'Preen. "And in case they do not take kindly to our search and rescue it would be fortuitous if tactical was operational."

This Bridge Banter brought to you by T'Shaini and a BUNCH of NPCs…
Originally Posted 11/22/08 by Torrik Nils


USS Hawking
Deck 8

"Malkat." T'Shaini choked out. She struggled against him, but winded she made little headway, and a numbness at the loss of opportunity began to settle over the Vulcan. So quickly, it was over so quickly.

"I had a feeling about you," he said, glancing down to check the charge on the weapon, "too bad that feeling was correct. Did you have anything you wanted me to tell Harry, before…?"

"Harry?" Even raspy her tone was incredulous…Seth, Caterina…yes, but Harry? "No." She started to close her eyes against the inevitable, then forced them open. "What are you waiting for?"

Amazingly, he looked a bit… sad, "You have no idea, do you?" the Gul asked. "No idea just how important you are to him… what he's done for you."

The Vulcan's eyes narrowed. "Oh I have an idea…he let slip his involvement in the death of Javier Costala, not a feat that was likely to elicit any warm feelings toward him."

Shoving her back against the wall, Malkat then stepped back a pace, though the disruptor remained firmly affixed to T'Shaini's throat, "You don't comprehend at all. He had no choice in the matter. Over eight months in Dr. Munro's chair, his thoughts being turned constantly back to his devotion to you… you, T'Shaini, were the hook… can you see? The means by which I was granted the most perfect soldier, was you… his love for you is what bound him to me.

"Isn't that so, Harry?" Zal raised his voice, though he didn't take his eyes off of the prisoner and here, sure enough, stepping over the carcasses of the dead Enforcers, came that most perfect soldier.

"Sir?"

T'Shaini had to swallow the bile that his words caused to rise in her throat. "No." Her voice a harsh whisper. "No." If it were true…if she were to believe him…then so much horror was laid at her feet.

"I'm afraid, Harry, that T'Shaini is responsible for the deaths of your comrades," he nodded towards the nearby bodies, "and that, I am afraid, cannot be allowed to stand."

Head down, hands behind his back, "I… understand."

"I knew you would."

Life assuredly over, all that she believed hanging in tatters around her, T'Shaini found something well up within that she would never have believed possible…pity…and for Harry Finn. Searching to make eye contact, the Vulcan sought release, for herself, for the misery that the Alliance brought, from her memories…and could she seek something for herself that she withheld from others? "I am sorry." The words meant little in the entire scheme of things, but they were all she had to offer.

"Too little, too late…" Malkat's finger tightened…

"Sir!"

Malkat, still with his eyes on the goal, "There is no other way, Harry…"

"I know! I… know… I only ask that… I be the one to do it." As his master hesitated, the Human fell to his knees. "My life for you," he asserted as his eyes, seemingly of their own volition, rose to T'Shaini's, "always."

There was a beat, the space of a mortal heart's before, "Very well," Malkat stepped back, allowing Harry to come between the disruptor and it's target.

Rising, drawing one of the blades he'd stolen from this Hawking's Finn, Harry held the woman's brown eyes for one long moment before, "Always," he repeated, spinning to slide the dagger across his master's throat, accepting as he did the sudden, incinerating hole that now gaped in his own stomach when Malkat fired.

The sudden release caused T'Shaini to slump the the floor, stunned. Eyes wide, she sat gape-mouthed as the life seeped from Zal Malkat, then she pulled her gaze to the fallen form of Harry Finn at her feet. She sat frozen in disbelief, unable to move or speak.

"I never could…" the words floated up from where Finn lay dying, "… never could reach you…"

What could she say, his words were true…even here, even now…with all he had given her, T'Shaini could not return the feeling that he so desperately sought. Reaching out, she clasped his hand…so cold, in hers. "What can I do?"

Nothing, he almost whispered, knowing he deserved nothing. But she was here, now and for the first time, she was… "Looking…?" though in fact his own vision was fading, his voice a ghost in the coming dark, "Look harder. Can you… see who I used to be? The man who… loved…"

The word fell gently from her lips "Yes." But too late.

RIP MU Harry Finn (whew)
Originally Posted 11/22/08 by T'Shaini


-IAS Hawking-

The sickbay of the Alliance ship was cold and sterile and Javier could not have imagined a more inhospitable place existed on the Hawking. He had been to some real dirtball planets while in the marines but even at those mission locations he had found a few redeeming qualities. The engineer didn't find any on the Alliance ship and found the atmosphere promoted a feeling of discomfort with a hint of malevolence. He didn't stay any longer than was necessary and once the good doctor had been trussed up by strips of his own shirt, Javier left the man tucked inside the morgue freezer. The doctor was not alone, several frozen corpses would keep him company.

The frozen human bodies, some showing signs of torture, told Javier just what type of ship the IAS Hawking was and what sort of crew manned the vessel. He had seen grisly remains and the victims of torture in liberated work camps but the discovery of what had transpired on the Alliance vessel disgusted him.

The doctor became lucid as Javier placed him in the freezer with the corpses, his eyes widened in recognition of where he was but his protestations were muffled by the gag the engineer had stuffed in his mouth.

"I'm leaving you here alive," Javier said, his tone as cold as the freezer's atmosphere, "it's more than you deserve..I should just kill you but you're helpless and I'm nothing like you. If you're lucky Doctor, your crew will find you before you freeze to death. Until then I hope you're haunted by the thoughts of your death and what you did to these people." The engineer closed the door and walked away without a backward glance.

Sickbay on the Alliance ship, unlike that of the USS Hawking, was deserted so the engineer was able to pick up what he needed and make his way to the exit unchallenged. He came to a screeching halt when the doors suddenly opened.

"Found him outside the Temple," the one guard was telling the other, "had a weapon and was going to make an attempt on High Priest Torrik's life is what the acolyte told me."

"How many assassination attempts does that make?" the other asked.

"Damned if I know," the guard answered, "I wonder if those new acquisitions had anything to do with this plot.."

The two security officers were dragging an unconscious man. Each had one of the man's arms but came to a stop when they saw Javier.

The one on the left took a scalpel in the throat, the officer on the right dropped the man and grabbed for his phaser turning, causing the scalpel that was thrown at his throat to lodge in his eye. With a scream of pain, the Alliance officer lost his grip on his weapon. Javier scooped up the phaser and fired. The weapon had no stun setting and the focused energy turned the Cardassian to ash.

Working quickly, Javier stripped the officers of their uniforms and weapons, the unconscious man was none other than Vince Stryfe's twin. "You're on your own now Vince," Javier told the man's sleeping form as he clothed himself in an Alliance uniform taken from one of the dead guards. "I don't know your intentions so I can't risk waking you. But if your intentions are good, then you have your freedom."

The engineer crept out of Sickbay just as an alarm sounded and the mirror Hawking began to shake as the ship entered the rift. The sound of running feet thundered along the corridor, telling him that people were moving in his direction. He fought down the feeling of panic and made a quick decision.

When in Rome.. Javier sprinted down the corridor, mixing with the crew that were running to their emergency stations. It was the perfect cover, no one saw anything out of the ordinary. They were in the middle of a boarding action in an unstable environment, people tended to run around a lot. Now to find this temple. And the 'acquisitions' they mentioned, I hope T'Shaini isn't one of them.

Originally Posted 11/22/08 by Javier Costala


-IAS Hawking-

Sometimes people act the same as scientific bodies, gravitating towards one another without the slightest knowledge of the other's movement. They collide and release an energy that burns brighter than either could obtain as a solitary mass. So it was with Javier and Caterina Costala, both engineers and both completely dedicated to the idea that somewhere out there, there was someone that needed their help. It was pure coincidence that this person was the same for each Costala, although a different version in each respective case.

I have to get off this ship and find T'Shaini. Caterina thought as she fled down the corridor.

I have to find T'Shaini and get off this ship, Javier told himself as he ran then mentally added, and Harry too.

Flashbacks of having Camenze Taray on the Hawking came back to him as Javier turned a corner and ran straight into a woman. His phaser was pointed at his 'assailant' before the woman could draw her weapon. "You!" Javier said.

"Javier!" Caterina responded, "How did you get here?" Then she remembered the invasion and how resourceful her own Javier had been. "You.. I can help you..I need to escape too. I've set the plasma relays to fail, engineering is going to burn. I need to find T'Shaini, she's aboard your Hawking."

For some reason, and it was so bizarre if he thought about it, Javier trusted Cat. "Is my T'Shaini here?" he asked as he lowered the phaser.

"I don't..she was transported out, they all were..after you were.."

"Shot."

"Yes, your ship recalled them."

Javier breathed a sigh of relief. At least for the moment T'Shaini was safe. "Where's this temple?" he asked as Javier helped Cat to her feet and then pulled her into the shadow of a doorway in a deserted side corridor. "The guards were talking about a high priest and a temple."

"No one goes there to pray," Cat whispered in a frightened voice, "no humans I mean. The ones that enter never leave. There's talk among the crew, about sacrifices and.."

"Where is it?" Javier asked again. "I think one of my friends is being held there."

"They're dead if they've been there for more than a day."

"Not this guy, he has a way of surviving," Javier informed Cat.

"I don't want to send you to your death..I did that once before," Caterina said as she embraced Javier. She laid her head against his chest. "I was angry the day you left. I told you to go..to go to hell. You never came back."

"Cat, he never came back," Javier reminded the woman. "But even if you did say that, it didn't have anything to do with his death," he said softly. "He chose his own path. Please, where is the temple located?"

"Deck 4. I've never been there so I don't know its exact location," Caterina eventually answered. She released Javier and looked up at his face.

"Get a shuttle, no, get the Aerowing, they won't expect that, prep it and have it ready to fly. I think we'll need to make a quick get-away," Javier instructed.

"It's Captain Bayal's personal craft. I'll need codes or another engineer working simultaneously with me to help break into it," Cat said, "who will do that?"

Javier was at a loss. He couldn't look for Harry and be at the Aerowing to help Cat prep it.

"I will." the voice came from the corridor. Javier pointed the phaser in the man's direction. Seth Anderson stepped into the light. "I want to make sure my Jenny is safe," he told Javier resolutely. "If hijacking the captain's personal shuttle is the way to do that then I'll help you."

"And it's a good way to piss off the bastard that's kept you a prisoner here," Javier replied. "You two get to the Aerowing, I'm going to the temple." He handed Cat his spare phaser as he spoke.

"There's no time.." Anderson started to protest.

"Then we'll make time," Javier said roughly, "Christ, when did you give up?

"The day my wife and daughter.." Seth began.

"Dammit Anderson, I watched my best friend die. Hell, I probably sent him to his death," the engineer said as he grabbed the older man by his collar. "But people die, death is part of life!" Javier thought about the words as soon as he had said them. He released Anderson. "People die." The last statement said more to himself than anyone else. I gave up. I gave up on the ship and the whole Engineering dept. the officer realized. "Prep the Aerowing, if I'm not there in fifteen minutes take off."

Caterina started to protest.

"Fifteen minutes," Javier repeated, then turned away to go find his friend, the indomitable Harry Finn. He had walked a few steps when he realized he had no authority to issue orders to Cat and Seth.

Originally Posted 11/23/08 by Javier Costala


-IAS Hawking-

He knew he was close because the air held the stench of burned flesh. Sacrifices. What sort of twisted religion do they practice on this ship? the engineer thought. Luckily there hadn't been much foot traffic near the temple so his passage along the deck had been unchallenged. The ship still shook and Javier had the sinking feeling that the Hawking was travelling through the portal. What if we're trapped here?

A young man burst out of a set of doors to his right. The youth's eyes were wild with hysteria. "The Ascended Ones have arrived! They have arrived!" he shouted, turning to stare at the engineer. Javier noticed that the skin on the side of the young man's face was burned. "The Ascended..*crack* The maddened youth was silenced as Javier brought his phaser down on the frenzied youth's temple. The pole-axed youngster dropped to the floor silently.

Javier stepped over the youth and moved into the temple. The decor left something to be desired, especially since Javier was not into the burning pyre theme. Other youths scampered about, one saw him and charged at him, screaming some religious jargon. The engineer levelled his weapon then shot the young guy through the leg. It brought him down but did nothing to calm the charged atmosphere of the room. With a curse on his human ancestry, another of the young men leaped at Javier.

It was the sort of situation the engineer didn't care for but had been trained to deal with. It was the 'him or me' choice and Javier chose himself as the designated survivor. Plasma scorched across the room and brought his attacker down. His eyes fell on a huddle form that was slumped against a nearby wall.

"Harry!"

The engineer moved across the room towards his friend, his weapon searching for any threat. It was then that he saw the Orb. The ark was open and its light was a swirl of grey. "Oh shit," Javier said. Orbs weren't supposed to be bathed in grey or darkish light. The thing had emanated a light blue brilliance when he had opened it on Girijan.

"Harry?" he inquired as he knelt beside the Hawking's Executive Officer. "You look like..shit." It was a correct assessment as far as the engineer was concerned. Harry Finn didn't answer him though, the man was out cold. Javier glanced back at the orb and it was at that moment that he saw another familiar face.

"Nils?"

The CO of the Hawking was laying near the orb. As he spoke, a shadow moved forward towards Nils causing Javier to cover the person with his phaser. "Touch him and you die." The person turned towards the engineer and Javier saw that it was Torrik Jachin.

"I want to help him."

Javier kept his phaser on the younger man. "You can help us all if you close the Ark."

The younger sibling of Torrik Nils turned to look at the orb. A shadow encircled the orb and even as the man stepped toward it he was knocked back by an unseen power. Jachin landed close beside Nils who seemed to be struggling to stand. "Javier?" the captain asked.

"Stay there," Javier said to both Jachin and Nils. He clipped the phaser to his belt and walked towards the orb. A shadow followed his progress, waiting as he moved closer to the holy object. He could feel a presence within the room, a presence he recognized. "You remember me don't you? You used me to open the ark on Girijin."

"You were an unworthy tool," a voice said, he couldn't tell if it spoke in his thoughts or out-loud.

"Nils, how do I close it?" the engineer asked, standing just beyond the shadow's path.

"Your life will be extinguished if you seek to hinder our victory." it hissed in his thoughts.

'To those who are given much, much will be required,' Ajani's words suddenly became clear. "If that is what is required to defeat you," Javier stated, "then so be it." He stepped forward to grasp the doors of the ark. The next thing Javier knew he was sitting beside the insensate Harry Finn and he could feel all sorts of pain throughout his body.

"That wasn't quite what I had in mind," Javier admitted, then added in a grateful voice, "but at least I'm not dead."

Originally Posted 11/23/08 by Javier Costala


:: IAS Hawking ::
:: Temple ::

Nils watched as the manifestation of the Wraiths picked off yet another one of his crewmembers, one of his friends, and flung him against the far wall. “No,” he called, his voice hoarse and weak. “Alright… Alright… Enough is enough.” With that, the Bajoran struggled to pull himself up onto his feet. Slowly and deliberately he made his way towards the pyre and the Orb waiting at the top, unaware of the threat standing directly behind him.

“You… And I… Must die…” The High Priest said. One of his arms terminated in a burnt and charred stump, but the other held a phaser. He held it up with a twisted smile and said, “A little crude, but it will suffice. Now… Climb the pyre, or I will kill you.”

“Kill myself, or you’ll kill me?” Nils shook his head, unable to find the humor in the absurdity of the request. “Neither choice is very appealing.”

“The Wraiths stand just on the other side of the veil,” Torrik pleaded. “We are the key – you and I. We can change everything and redeem ourselves. Our pitiful and miserable lives can finally have meaning. All we have to do is allow our pain to end. Don’t you have pain?” The Priest began sobbing. “Doesn’t it hurt you to live?”

Nils considered the man standing before him very carefully. For the first time since meeting him he actually found something in common with him. “Yes… It hurts…”

“Then let’s end it… Let’s change it… We can make it right.” He leveled the phaser once more and aimed it at Nils face. “We will make it right.”

“This isn’t right,” the young CO replied earnestly. “I once thought that it was our pain that defined us and made us who we are. It’s all I could focus on and it dominated everything I did. But now…here…looking at you…” Again Nils shook his head. He felt sorry for the man standing before him. “It’s not our pain that defines us, it’s our choices. And I made different ones than you. And I’m going to keep making different ones.”

A grievous howl erupted from the broken and twisted High Priest. “Then I’ll kill you and burn your body with mine… That is my choice. That is my desti…”

His words were ended abruptly as he crumbled to the ground, unconscious. Behind him stood the First Acolyte with an iron sconce in his hand. “I don’t think he ever really understood destiny,” the young man said sadly. “Go… I’ll close the Orb when you’ve had time to return to your ship. If we destroy it now, you will be trapped here.”

“No,” said Nils. He scooped up the phaser that his mirror had wielded and aimed it at the Orb of Conquest. When he fired, the phased energy stretched out from the weapon and collided with the pallid glow of the Ark. The whine of the phaser was drowned out by a new wailing. It sounded like two starships colliding.

“What are you doing?” The First sounded hysterical. “You don’t know what that will do! You could destroy us all!”

“On the contrary,” the Scientist turned Commanding Officer answered as his newly acquired phaser weakened the energy barrier emanated by the Orb. “The artifact is a conduit between our universes. It’s maintaining a death grip on my universe because it’s somehow keyed into a mirror replica on that side. Their link opened a rift in subspace. The nadion particles will close the subspace fracture and dissipate the polaric ion energy that fuels the whole process… Your phasers do fire nadion particle beams, right?” Nils asked suddenly.

“How would I know that?” the First said with arms raised in frustration.

“We’ll just have to take that part on faith,” Nils said through a crooked smile.

Suddenly, the Orb went dark and drew in on itself. The ‘hand’ of the Wraith that circled and guarded the apex of the pyre reached out, as if to grab hold of something. But try as it might, the dwindling Orb still pulled it in, like a vacuum. With an anticlimactic snap and a very small pulse of white light the glow and the shadow were gone. The Ark fell from its perch and clanked down onto the floor, a dead husk.

There was no time for celebration, however, as the ship shuddered and tossed them all about. Nils found himself on the ground and sliding towards a wall. Power failed momentarily and the image of the Temple faded along with all the furnishings. The familiar hologrid revealed itself.

Nils found himself pressed up against a wall next to an unconscious Harry Finn and a dazed Javier Costala. “We’re trapped here,” the CO apologized. He said it as much for himself as anyone as the ramifications of his choice to destroy the Orb settled on him. “I think I just trapped us here…”

Originally Posted 11/23/08 by Torrik Nils


Smoke & Mirrors

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