Fume Of Sighs

This section of Smoke & Mirrors features the following NPCs:
150px-Terok_Nor_Cardassian_Offic-2.jpg - Zal Malkat
th180px-DrofoAwa.jpg - Dramm Pal
Ajani-1.jpg - Ajani Obatu

USS Hawking
First Officer's Quarters

"Computer, what is the current location of Crewman Anderson?"

Behind the couch, Jen's heart actually stopped.

"Crewman Ander…"

"Belay that." Finn rose from the desk, sliding one of the daggers free from the brace. He'd heard… something… from the bedroom. In a moment he was within a meter of the door, peering into the shadows to see…

In a panicked bid to keep the computer from blowing everything Kerrin slid out from her hiding place to lean on the doorway. "I thought we might try a little harder to make this work." She tried to position herself in as 'come hither' a position as possible…why, why, why when everyone else was learning how to flirt was I studying?

"How did you get in here?" He was carrying the knife blade-up, behind his palm. She couldn't see it, but it would serve… if he needed.

Shit. Stick to the truth. "Gorsky…how else?"

"Right… how else?" Who Gorsky was… beyond a name in science… was a mystery but still, "I thought," he said quietly, as he closed in to the woman leaning uncomfortably on the door, "I was pretty clear, in your lab. I don't have any interest in games."

"Is that all this is to you? A game?" Kerrin was even more convinced that something was off. He had, in the past, brushed her off, or tried to push her away, but that was always in some misguided attempt to protect her. This was different, this was about him. And that just didn't feel like Harry.

In answer he wrapped his right hand around her neck and dragged the shocked Kerrin into a kiss… rough and demanding and… cold. Disgusted, he threw her back into the wall, "It is," he snarled, "it is a game when you're trying to force yourself to feel something that's not there. I may not be the sharpest blade in the drawer," he added, eyes hard, "but even I know when a woman's faking it." He leaned closer, "The man you thought you wanted is dead." What the hell, it's probably true, by now.

"What…what…" did you do with him? It almost slipped out of her mouth. Kerrin rubbed her hand across her mouth trying to erase the feeling left by that harsh kiss. Hands slid down to her stomach to cover the roiling that the word 'dead' had set off. I have thought him dead so many times I should be used to it by now. "What do you mean?"

"People… change."

F**k you Mr. Pah Wraith. "Change?" Kerrin pulled away from the wall and placed her hands in the center of Harry's chest and shoved. "Can they change that quickly? You came back and made it pretty clear that you had not changed. Hell, we left for Girjian and you and Jason were at each other's throats…can you change in three or four days? Who are you?"

Still keeping his knife hand down, he wrapped her wrists in his right and pulled her close, "I'm the guy the Orb drop kicked into the ocean and left to drown," Came back from where? And who the f**k was Jason? "You have a problem with this, take it up with your shrink," he tightened his grip, looking for any signs that this might have to end, right here and right now… he could probably cover her disappearance long enough to…

=/\=Jameson to Lt. Finn…=/\=

Harry released Kerrin, but his eyes held hers as he tapped his combadge, "Finn, here…"

"Hey Jameson!" Kerrin all but shouted, she was so relieved at the interruption..

=/\=Ahh, hello doc,=/\= the massive CPO replied, =/\=Sir, I have one of the IAS crew with me and he's… he says he needs to speak with you. He says it's urgent.

Harry's eyes narrowed. Wendy had just saved her own ass, whether she knew it or not. Meanwhile, he wondered who Jameson was talking about… Malkat wouldn't bother to ask… he'd just demand. "Good enough… I'll meet you in my office, ASAP. Finn, out=/\=

"So I take it we get to continue this later?" Much, much, much later…like when hell freezes over. Kerrin thought.

He took her by the elbow and steered her towards the door, casually dropping the blade back onto the desk as they passed. "There is no this to continue," he told her, pausing only for a moment, out of the door's sensor range, "and if I even think you've been in my quarters again…" he left the threat unsaid but, from the sharpening of her green eyes, he knew she understood. "People change," he repeated his earlier truth, "you can either live with that fact… or not." Then he moved forward and, as the door opened, gestured her out ahead of him.

That tricorder can rot as far as I am concerned…and I don't care how nuts we sound, we are going to Captain Torrik.

Behind the sofa, where she'd been crouched, knife in hand and ready to attack, Jenny counted to twenty. Then she counted to twenty, again.
When she thought enough time had passed for safety, she rose, leaving the tricorder where it had fallen but tucking the blade up into her sleeve. Technically, she wasn't supposed to be armed… not since she'd almost shot Chief Jameson, but something told her that now would be a very, very bad time to go unprotected.

Lucy and Ethel and MU Finn
Originally Posted 11/1/08 by T'Shaini

:: IAS Hawking ::
:: Temple ::

The First among Nameless entered the Temple with a fair share of trepidation. This meeting with the High Priest would not be pleasant and he knew it. Fear roiled and boiled in his gut, but he forced himself to keep walking. Two of the other acolytes knelt before the Arks and prayed, free from their robes. That indicated something was afoot. But then, with Torrik Nils something was always afoot.

“We’re preparing for the Blood Bonding,” the Third said falling into step next to the eldest acolyte. “Captain Bayal has granted us a worthy prize.” The teenager’s eyes danced with excitement. He then leaned in close to the First and whispered, “Where have you been?”

The young man once named Jachin shook his head and lowered his brow in warning. Asking questions was a sure way to get replaced. Replacement always existed as a dire threat considering an acolyte served for his entire lifetime, however short it ended up being.

“Where is the High Priest?” The First had a report to make. He moved quickly towards the altar's antechamber after the Third pointed in that direction. After following the corridor through the sheer fabric that hung from the ceiling, and entering the inner room he paused and gathered his nerve.

“You took longer than I anticipated…” The High Priest’s voice echoed around the room from where he knelt on the floor. Naked and with his arms wrapped over his chest he looked as still as a statue. The acolyte wasn’t even sure the Priest was breathing.

“The task… I had a difficult time with the task you set for me.”

Torrik rose slowly and turned to face the younger man. “And that is why I chose you, First Acolyte. Had I needed someone to collect cabbage from the market I would have sent someone else…” His tone was even, but still sounded threatening. “Tell me of your success.”

“I can not,” the Nameless one said, lowering his head in shame. “I failed. The Captain of the USS Hawking is alive.”

The explosion of anger that the First expected never came. Instead he felt the Priest’s hand cup his cheek. The acolyte raised his head and opened his eyes. “Your devotion to me is impressive…” Torrik had tears in his eyes. He moved closer to the acolyte and held his gaze. “Understand… He may look like me, but he is not me. The Torrik Nils of that ship is an abomination to the Ascended.” He smiled and wrapped his arms around the Nameless One. “I should have known, however, how difficult it would have been for you to kill him. You have always been bound to me with your whole soul.”

Torrik released the acolyte and moved away, retaking his place on the floor. The First stepped closer and knelt as well. “I… I am forgiven?”

The Priest chuckled coldly. “I forgive you completely.” An audible sigh of relief escaped from the younger man’s chest. “The Pah Wraiths will not be so forgiving, though. You will spend time with the Orb of Suffering. Then you will return to the USS Hawking and bring your target back to me.”

A sudden rush of anxiety stretched out from the Nameless One’s chest and caused his extremities to tingle. “I will do as you ask, your holiness. My brother will be here before the…” White hot pain exploded across his cheek before he could finish the sentence and the High Priest knelt over him, his face twisted in rage.

“Your brother?” His tone was fiery and full of passion. “How can a Nameless Acolyte have a brother?”

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean…” Once again agony blossomed across his cheek. He could feel the skin splitting over bone and warm blood oozed down his face. “Your holiness my…” Another blow to the temple stunned him, and the next almost knocked him out cold. He clung to consciousness, but felt it slipping away.

“I have been patient and gracious,” the High Priest yelled. “I have shown you immense latitude and even now my kindness overflows toward you…” He slapped at the acolyte with an open hand. Then suddenly he fell to the ground and kissed the acolyte on the forehead. His lips lingered on the younger man’s skin and he began to weep. “Don’t make me kill you… I don’t want you to die…” The High Priest practically sobbed.

Still dazed, the acolyte struggled to remain in the moment. Despite the harshness and fury directed toward him, he knew he deserved it. He also knew that the High Priest’s sincerity ran deep. Despite the separation placed on them in the Temple, his rational mind could not release the fact that they were brothers. And he was all the High Priest had left. He had no doubt that Torrik Nils would kill him if he had to - the man’s devotion to the Wraiths was unmatched. But he also knew the Priest held fast to their blood tie. Some part of the Priest was still the young boy who’d been inadvertently responsible for the death of their parents. That fact haunted Torrik like a ghost - following him around ever since that time always ready to strike out. The Nameless One also knew it was that ghost from their past that had always threatened the Priest’s sanity.

And because of his devotion to the Priest… To his brother… He would do what was asked of him.

“I am weak,” he uttered pitifully. “But I will not fail you, your holiness. Captain Torrik will be in our Temple and you will have him… Forgive me… I won’t fail again… I won’t…”

His words were muffled as the Priest, still crying like a child, drew him up closer and embraced him tightly. “We won’t fail…brother… Their worlds will burn…”

Featuring High Priest Torrik Nils and Torrik Jachin
Originally Posted 11/2/08 by Torrik Nils

.:: IAS Hawking : Chief of Science Office ::.

Vincent stood on top of his desk, a panel from the ceiling popped open, fiddling with the circuts inside. Sparks shot from the panel, causing Vincent to smile, and continue his work. A humming noise began eminating from the panel, but he continued to plug away at his objective, blowing off the noise. As he continued to focus on the panel, he never noticed the door to the room open, and the security officer step inside. The man looked up at the Chief of Science, clearing his throat, hoping to get the man's attention.

Vincent stopped what he was doing, looking down at the man. He pulled his hands down from the panel, and placed them at his side. The man continued to stare at him, the look of question in his eyes as Vincent stepped down from his desk. The two of them stood face to face now, neither one seeming to want to ask the other anything, but the security officer spoke up.

" Commander, may I ask what you were doing up there?" The man pointed towards the panel.

Vincent calmly stroked his goatee," Well, Lt. I began to hear a humming noise from the ceiling, and to be totally honest, it was distracting me from my work. So I climbed up there to try and stop the noise."

" Sir, that humming noise is an alarm. Somthing that goes off when a particular system in that panel has been tampered with. When did it start?" The man moved over towards the desk, looking up at the panel, then down at the PADDs on the desk.

" Lt, whatever is on that desk is none of your concern, I would have you step back from my work," Vincent grabbed the man's arm, moving him away," And the noise started about ten minutes ago."

" Well, sir, that's impossible, unless you were tampering with that panel ten minutes ago. You wouldn't be trying to knock out any certain systems in this room, would you?" The man moved back over to the desk," I think I may need to report this to the captain, possibly have an investigation."

" NO!" Vincent almost lost his temper, catching himself," I mean, that won't be nessisary, Lt., I was annoyed by the humming, that started by itself, and thus I tried to fix the problem. There is no reason to question anything that I say, you had better think very throughly about reporting this as anything more than a malfunction of the system," Vincent fiddled with the ring on his left hand, running his finger across the diamond on top," I won't be investigated, and that fool of a Captain shall not be notified."

The security officer drew his phaser, putting it to his side," Sir, are you threatening me? I'm going to have to put you under arrest."

Vincent smiled as the Lt. back towards the door,"I think not."

The Lt. lifted the phaser, and lifted his other hand towards his communicator as the door opened behind him. Just before he reached the badge, he felt a sting in his back. He arm fell away from the badge, and his phaser hit the floor as the piont of a silvery blade pushed through the front of his uniform. The man gasped for air as the blade pushed through the rest of the way. Vincent stepped up, adjusting the man's collar, leaning in to his ear.

" I warned you, I told you what would be best for you to do, but you ignored me," He pulled the commbadge off the man's chest, tossing to the floor, breakit it under his boot," Now you'll be leaving this life, headed towards the depths of whatever hell your people believe in. I feel bad for you, but nobody is going to stop me from completing my goals, not even the Captain," Vince looked down at the protruding blade," Adn handy of me to have a brother that is partial to Klingon weapons."

The man holding the blade stepped into the light, revealing himself as Fain," Nice touch with that ring there Vincent, and a good thing I was in the other room."

The man looked up at Fain,then back at Vincent, and coughed, blood finding it's way onto Vincent's jacket," Wha…. Wha… were…. you doing….. up there?"

" Oh, I was taking this out," Vincent held up a small device," I don't need anyone listening in on my conversations, but you needn't worry about that, my friend, you'll be dead soon, and I'll continue on with my plan," Vincent took a small blade from his brother, who still held the Lt. up with the other blade," Pray now, cause you're life is mine."

Vincent slipped the blade across the man's throat, then stepped back. He cleaned the blade on his pant leg, then looked up at his brother," I do hate when things like that happen, but I do enjoy the look of blood."

Fain laughed as he pulled the blade out of the man's back," Well, I just enjoy the pain in their eyes. I wouldn't have even ended it so soon, I'dve watched the suffering for a moment."

" Yes, but I needed to get back to work." Vincent stepped over to a door behind his desk," And now I have to chance this damn uniform."

" Why did you bring up religion when you finished him. You're not one to believe in that sort of thing." Fain stood above the corpse.

" He's one of those that believe in that idiot, Torrik Nils. They don't even realize how ridiculous their religion is. Believing in a false god, or Pah Wraiths isn't going to save you, or allow you to achieve you goals. Doing things yourself, believing in yourself is the only way." Vincent turned towards Fain as he put a clean jacket on," I think Nils may need to be dealt with soon."

Fain smiled," I can handle that, he'll never see it coming."

" Not now, Fain, not now. Just give it time, our plans will come to fruition, and our enimies will look like that poor soul there…….."

Originally Posted 11/2/08 by Vince Stryfe

USS Hawking

"… so I was like, 'Dude,' an AIL is fine if you want to ride the consoles 24 a day, or feel the need to tweak for every single linguistic subtlety. I mean, an adaptive interface is really only as adaptive as its programmer, right? And, frankly, the applications are stupid limited…" Alex paused as he realized, mid-rant, that he'd probably lost his audience at 'Redrum's idea of complex coding is about as productive as a recursive algorithm'. Star was, after all, in Security and he recognized that sort of glazed expression from his days of rooming with Finn. "Anyway," he concluded, stabbing at the apple pie on his plate, "All it takes is one good fractal encryption and the interface becomes more of a face plant so…" he changed tack before Emily's gaze sank any further into her cup, "how was your field trip with Gul Malkat?"

"Huh?" Emily had been a little lost with his talking but not too lost to keep up completely. Usually she'd be eager to ask questions in an attempt to understand but her mind just kept wandering to Finn,"I'm sorry Alex, I don't normally have such a hard time keeping up. Despite the fact I'm in security," she stuck her tongue out lightly, "I had a fine time with Malkat, he's a person I wouldn't imagine having tea with but…" she stopped, "Alex, how well do you know Finn?"

Suddenly alert, he gave up on the pie. "About as well as anyone who lived with a guy for over six months could. Why do you ask?"

A stike of excitement suddenly hit her. Perhaps she could answer some of the questions rolling around in her mind but at the same time she didn't want to offend. What if Alex liked Finn and thought she was insane for even asking after his intentions. She paused, her teeth nibbled the inside of her lip, "Would he normally, well this isn't exactly a normal circumstance but factoring the circumstances in hand, would Finn associate or befriend Malkat?"

A short laugh burst out of the scientist at the concept, "Finn doesn't 'befriend' anyone," he chortled. "Some men are born with friends, some men achieve friends, and some men have friends thrust upon them… Harry is the third." He realized belatedly that Em was serious, "Sorry.. no, he wouldn't make friends with the guy… Harry's the most suspicious individual I've ever set eyes on. If he's hanging with the IAS XO, it's cause he wants to know something…"

"I talked to Tenanji and he said about the same thing. I just have this icky feeling," she picked up her cup and swirled the liquid around, "I don't know Finn, I've never even had a conversation with him but when I saw him and he came out of the room with Malkat it wasn't what I had expected. " she shot her head up, "Not that I go around just reading and inserting myself randomly into the thoughts of others as that would be rude and wrong and something that I would probably get hurt killed and very maimed for doing despite the fact that it is a natural instinct and something that I tend to loose control on when feeling nervous and rambling on as I currently am…" she ran out of breath and looked back down into the cup.

"Whoa, whoa," Alex leaned forward, lowering his voice, "Let's leave off any instinctual brain probes," he said, "though you won't find a lot of sympathy in this crew if you do lose control… if you haven't heard about what happened to your teammate, Anderson, yet you might want to check into what a full-blood Betazoid did to her," he, like most of the men on the crew, was leery of even thinking about that event. "And as to Harry… you're right, you don't know him and you've never talked to him. He's wound tighter than an EM coil, all the time and he has his reasons and most of them are classified…"

"It just felt ..wrong!" the instant the words were out she felt stupid and tried to fix it, "You're right, I'm not really at a place to say anything. It's just.. I've spent my entire life as me and I know when I sense somethings not right. I've lost so much to that feeling and I guess it just gets to me. You're right, I should just let it go.." she stopped, "and now I'm being overly dramatic which adds to this lovely conversation. Poor you." she smirked.

Alex, "Define wrong," he said, unnerved by his new friend's conviction. "And… can you project your feelings or are you only receptive?"

"Wrong..as in not fitting in, not harmonizing, out of sync. As for your other question I can do both, my Vulcan side makes it easier to work with, so I can send as well as receive. " she giggled, "I sound like a computer."

"So, you could be projecting your discomfort right now?" And was that a good thing or a bad thing?

"The discomfort of looking like an idiot sitting here in front of you or from before? They're both pretty prominent at this current time." it was her attempt at a joke but the humor seemed to fail in the moment. Instead she just came off as being rather thick and completely lacking in all things usefull.

D'oh! "From before… from the reason we're having this lame conversation… I want to know if I should trust my feelings or if they're your feelings and if they are your feelings should I trust them?"

A pang of annoyance announced itself after hearing the term lame used in reference to something having to do with her but at the same time she nodded, "I was joking before, I knew what you meant… I was just trying to lighten the mood a little. I can believe this is probably the last thing you expected to be talking about and I can guarantee that its not something I do often. In fact I never do it often, in fact I haven't done anything like this in years but…you'll know. You know yourself, your body and feelings and the way you think. Having something from me would be very noticable and different. As for trust, I can't say as we're still getting to know each other but for what it does or doesn't count as….yes you can trust me and my feelings."

"Okay, two things," he almost smiled, "First is, I bet I now have the same look on my face as you did when I was talking algorithms and second," he took a deep breath, "Harry is a friend, in a screwy, he got my girlfriend killed kind of way but, he is. So, for now, do me a favor and forget whatever is bugging you," he saw the darkening of her features, "or just don't mention it to anyone else. Rumor is like poison on a starship. Give him the benefit of the doubt, okay? And once I get five minutes I'll look him up and see if I get any 'wrong' vibes. I promise, I'll let you know if I feel anything weird…"

Emily finished her cup and set it down,"Okay, I'll let it be…" she stood up, "and I'll go, which should give you time to find five minutes." she gave a slight nod before leaving but the mood she left in was certainly not a happy one, it was more a humiliated one.

"Ow, am I bleeding?" Alex winced as the temperature in the room dropped a good ten degrees Celsius. "Guess I better go see what the ol' roomie's up to…" if he ever wanted to see a smile on Emily's face, again. Life was so much easier when I was a reclusive nerd.

JP with the amazing Finn as Alex
Originally Posted 11/2/08 by Emily Star

This post takes place during Kerrin and Jenny's actions in Finn's quarters.

-USS Hawking-

If I am to carry out my task I may have to kill her. Ajani brooded as he glanced over his shoulder at the female security officer that had replaced his first detail. I do not want to though.

Want. It signified that there was a choice. He, Ajani, could make the decision whether to take another life or decide not to commit a murder. The muscles in his neck and shoulders clenched involuntarily, expecting the surge of pain that came when the collar he normally wore was activated. But the pain wasn't forthcoming. Independent thoughts or feelings could no longer be restrained and he would not be punished for them either.

Mistress Rileena removed the neural collar before I left the Alliance ship. the slave reminded himself. She gave me freedom..how much freedom? He absent-mindedly entered another query into the console which the security officer had unlocked for him. Ajani realized that a part of him must have been thinking about his father as his eyes dropped down and found that the search he had keyed in was dedicated to Terran flora. There were so many varieties of flowers that it took his breath away. His father had described some of them to his younger son but Ajani had never been to Earth so he had no idea the number of genuses that existed. He could only stare at the graphic displayed in silent amazement. African daisies.

The graphic changed to a fiery red and orange flower. Gazania. As beautiful as father described. Then white flowers, of the genus nigella papillosa, also known as African brides because of their exquisite white coloring. Ajani was so enthralled he did not notice Karrie Rodriguez look over his shoulder. He heard a small gasp as the woman took in the ethereal beauty of the pale white flowers.

"They're very beautiful," the security officer voiced.

"Yes, my father believed that they were the most beautiful of African flowers," Ajani answered. It was true what his father had told him, 'the way to a woman's heart was flowers'. "He was a botanist and a master gardener on Cardassia Prime." He would not call his father a slave.

'Not a slave, never a slave,' his father told him fiercely. 'In here." Samuel Obatu pointed to his son's head, 'in your mind you are free. There is no state of slavery. Your mind is free even if your body is in chains. Live a free man. Never let them enslave your thoughts, when you begin to think you are a slave then you become one.

"A human botanist? On Cardassia Prime?"

"One of the few," Ajani answered before turning back to the console. He did not want to relive the days on Gul Kalar's family estate, he only wanted to see more beauty. I have the freedom to do what I wish with my time.

"There are flowers in the Botany Lab in Science," Rodriguez informed the young man.

"Like these?" He turned to face her, interested again. "May I see them?"

"It's not a restricted area, follow me."

Botany Lab
Deck 7

Ajani gently lifted the young plant from its pedestal and studied the stem and stalks. They were green and healthy, like the other plants within the small greenhouse lab. He sifted through the soil in the plant's small pot. The humus was rich in texture. Very good. the young African man thought to himself. He looked up at Leonard Brahms with a seldom seen smile.

"Are you a horticulturist?" Brahms asked, his curiosity piqued as the young man studied each of his plants.

Ajani hesitated. "A..gardener of sorts." I do sometimes prune. "You do not grow any plants hydroponically?" he ventured, changing topics.

"Some of them grow better in soil," Brahms answered. He took the Terran plant from the younger man and set it aside. Brahms then placed a Vulcan genus of flower in Ajani's hands. "This one, for instance, needs volcanic soil to survive. Who said Vulcans weren't stubborn?"

"Not I." The assassin rubbed his finger against the rough exterior of the plant's stalk. "I would like to stay here," Ajani suddenly said, "I would like very much to stay here."

"You can stay here as long as you're aboard," Brahms offered, "I have no assistant and still have a number of plant species to catalogue and inspect. If you would like to help me.."

"I mean, I would like to stay here, and not return to the other ship," Ajani clarified for the two StarFleet members. Now my mind and my body are free. he thought as the botanist and the security officer stared at him in surprise. "I am requesting asylum. I am not an officer within the Alliance. I am.." Just this once father. "I am a slave."

"I'll contact my shift leader, just sit tight," Rodriguez instructed. That came out of nowhere. First he's as silent as the grave, then he likes flowers, now he wants asylum? Can this day get any odder?

Featuring Ajani Obatu
Originally Posted 11/2/08 by Javier Costala

USS Hawking
Deck 5, Sickbay
Takes place during the Sickbay shenanigans, but with the lovers' spat.

The doctor cleared her equipment, walked away, and the Gettys were left alone near the biobeds to talk. Sickbay was quiet, except for the quiet fumbling on the opposite side of their location by Rintala and Thorne, and the atmosphere between the two visitors was tense.

“What’s going on,” Luke asked lowly, his gaze focused on his nervous wife.

“I,” she began and paused. “Lucas, there’s a problem.”

He tensed, took her shoulders in his hands and pulled her closer, “What problem?”

She looked away from his cold eyes to attempt to the find the words she was looking for. The woman had no doubt that what she had to say would be the deal-breaker between them, “I screwed up.”

The helmsman didn’t respond and looked beyond her at the walls. His grip hardened, and he didn’t care if she was in pain or not. Tatiana made no move to back up, but when she noticed his jaw tightening, fear rose within her. Luke’s eyes met his wife’s again and he said calmly, “I thought you understood that making mistakes was not an option especially now that both of our lives are on the line?”

Tatiana took small breaths when her heart rate increased as several fear-based images of her death flashed across her mind. “I know that, and I did as you asked. I thought I had did everything right when I was blocked, but now that I think about it I-”

“Screwed up?” he finished for her, and removed one of his hands from her shoulders. She unconsciously flinched when hand met her face, and the newly-healed hand ran down the side of her face, her neck and rested again on her shoulder. There was nothing sensual behind the touch, but an ominous tactile look into what was running through his mind.

Luke had been caught between toying with her, and allowing his own desires to color his decision on what to do with her. He feared what Malcet would do to him just as much as she did, and he had chosen to look out for himself. He had no doubt that if their situation had been reversed, she would have made the same decision, “No more excuses, Tatiana. I gave you a chance and it’s your fault that you didn’t deliver.”

He dropped his arms back to his side, and Tatiana became livid at his nonchalant expression. “I let you whore me out to that…asshole,” she spat, pointing back at the security guard, “and you think I did this for what? Shits and giggles?” Her husband stared at her blankly. It wasn’t working, willing to throw away what little dignity she had left, she shook her head emphatically and pleaded, “I didn’t do it on purpose Lucas, I swear!” Desperation painted broad, neon-colored strokes over her words, and she couldn’t figure out what kept her standing rather than embarrassingly on her knees, praying to Luke, her personal false idol.

Her pleas flew into his ear, and out the other, “We’ll discuss it once this exchange is over, and we’re back on our ship.”

“Please…” she whispered sadly.

“Let’s go.” he answered and grabbed her arm. Luke guided her over to her mirror and their security escort. She didn’t struggle during the walk, nor did she give any indication of a problem when Thorne questioned her. He didn’t believe that she had accepted what she knew was coming, but that she was biding her time until she could make her case in a way he could not blow off. It would happen, and he would not fall for it again.

Ricki Lake would suggest they divorce, Dr. Phil would suggest Marriage Counseling, Oprah would suggest a new car…
Originally Posted 11/2/08 by Tatiana Thorne

IAS Hawking
The Temple

He’d completely shredded the skin over his sternum, trying to remove as much of the crushed insect as possible. It was less worry over the sepsis that was likely occurring than the sheer ick factor of the ichor spreading cold beneath his flesh. It wasn’t a pretty sight and it was certainly messy… which would hopefully annoy Torrik… and no doubt he was getting a little OCD in his constant probing for… bits.

Hoping that out of sight might add up to out of mind, Harry covered the seeping wound with his shirt, crossing his arms over the ruin as he leaned against the wall of the miniscule, yes, hole. Apparently the holographic temple included storage… just in case you wanted to keep your sacrifices fresh for later. Not too much later, he figured, from the sounds of youthful chanting filtering down into the over-heated shaft. Not too fresh, either, for that matter: it was getting warmer down here, he was sure of it… ‘why this is hell, nor am I out of it…’ *

Allowing his head to fall back, he peered at the dim lighting, some five meters up from where he waited.

"Tell me how you came to our universe… Give me details."

“No,” he whispered, though, of course, he’d said that before, hadn’t he? To Munro. And then she’d proceeded to peel him like a grape, digging out his authorizations with nothing more than a hypo and some mind-numbing tech.

And before that it had been T’Shaini… as unlike the Wendy he knew as this Jill was different from Slugger and now…

… now it was another Nils who wanted information and, for all that it had been bad, what T’Shaini had done, what Munro had taken… what Torrik was after was…

Well, Harry didn’t understand a lot but he knew, bone deep, that the fanatic priest was more dangerous to his universe than an entire fleet from the other side.

"I want to offer you to the gods!"

Riiiight. It was almost comical… who the hell was he, Harry Finn, to end up… here?

I’ll tell you who you are… you’re the guy who let that Devanagari push you into the Orb. Closing his eyes, he saw it, again. The hunter, mad with possessive glee and Harry, falling back, constantly falling back because every good counter-strike he could have made would have been fatal.

He could have won that fight, but only if he’d been willing to kill his opponent and… he hadn’t wanted to do that. He hadn’t wanted to be the man that the shaman, Amma, had seen… Your path is strewn with the dead… or even the man that Kerrin had claimed to be afraid of… so he’d fallen back, instead.

And because he hadn’t killed when he had the chance, the Devanagari had pushed the fight to the Orb, he’d thrust his sword through Finn and into the ark and then… everything had changed. Light and dark had exploded from the cask, bifurcating tendrils of each laying distinct claim to either man, coiling Harry in a burning luminescence and leaving his counterpart for the shadows. From what he’d seen of his attacker at the end, just before Harry himself had become lost, death at the Human’s hands would have been far more kind.

Not that it had been a picnic on Harry’s side, either. Not when his every molecule had taken the trip separately, each and every parcel shredded through the sieve of a thousand, thousand voices, berating him in words he couldn’t understand because he’d broken the laws of the universe and it didn’t matter that it was an accident because, sometimes, when things get broken, they can’t be fixed.

How he’d come through sane, he didn’t know.

Of course, at the time, he’d doubted his sanity, as his eyes had resumed seeing in another cave, with another silently screaming Devanagari, frozen in his own, inky hell. Then had approached another Wendy, sad and scarred and, worst of all, another Harry Finn who, only moments after T’Shaini had rooted through his memories, had turned reluctantly towards the frozen native, so close to another Orb and, with one very… telling… look back to T’Shaini… been taken away, in turn.

It wasn’t until much later, in the brig, that Harry had learned where that Finn had gone, and what he’d done.

Because you didn’t want to be the man Amma saw. You didn’t want to be… yourself. So now, someone else is you, and look how well that’s going.

“Doesn’t matter, now,” he rasped dryly at the chiding dark behind his eyelids. His prison was growing hotter and the sweat was stinging into his wounds while, deep within, he began to build what walls he could around the knowledge Torrik sought because all that mattered now was keeping the secret. Just one, lousy, secret, from the madman up in the temple.

Just above, in that very temple and out of the Human’s sight, the Fifth and youngest acolyte carefully monitored the small cell’s temperature. To prepare for the coming ritual, the Source must be cleansed and, as every True Believer knew, purification was best attained by burning…

*from Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe
Originally Posted 11/3/08 by Harry Finn

:: USS Hawking ::
:: Captain’s Ready Room ::

Nils stared down at the PADD and shook his head. Although he could guess at the reasons, he still wondered what had occurred to bring about this request, which lay before him. He chewed his lower lip considering the ramifications. If he released Javi from his duty and responsibilities as Chief Engineer then a new host of administrative and interpersonal issues would emerge. And despite his friendship with Costala (or perhaps because of it) he would not grant such a request without further information or at least a conversation. And with Javier on the IAS at present a conversation would have to wait…

So then would approval of the request.

As a stopgap, Nils sent a message to Yeoman T’Landra to initiate partial transfer of Engineering command to Mustapha for temporary relief of Costala’s duties. In point of fact, nothing would change since Javi wasn’t even on the ship. Once this mess with the IAS was over he’d call in T’Shaini for an eval and get her take on things. Her judgment on the matter would be his guide in how to proceed.

Before he could get lost in his budding plans to ask Jillian to marry him or his newfound alternate universe little brother his combadge chirped.

=/\= T’Preen to Captain Torrik. I have Lt. Peress on the comm for you. =/\=

“Put him through,” answered Nils, sliding the PADD to the edge of his desk.

=/\= Peress you are patched through to the Captain. T’Preen out. =/\=

“Go ahead Lieutenant. What can I do for you?” Although he was familiar with every ‘name’ assigned to the ship, he couldn’t think of a time the two had ever spoken before.

=/\= We have an… issue…=/\= Zane Peress’ voice was etched with worry. =/\= I just received word from Warrant Officer Rodriguez who is escorting one of the IAS crewmen aboard our ship that said crewman has requested… Well, I’m unsure if political asylum is the correct word considering the circumstances, but… He has requested asylum. =/\=

Nils froze and stared at his desk. “When did this happen?”

=/\= From my understanding it just happened a few moments ago in the Botany Lab. =/\=

By the Prophets… “Tell Rodriguez to hold her position and I’ll be down there in a moment. For now, keep this confidential, Lieutenant.” The potential firestorm that suddenly threatened to blossom on board the ship…on board TWO ships… made Nils feel very uneasy.

=/\= Aye, Captain. =/\=

“I’m serious about that Peress. The ship has a reputation as a rumor mill and we have ‘guests’ aboard. Keep this under wraps until I know what we’re dealing with.” The Bajoran CO was already out the door before he terminated the communication.

Originally Posted 11/3/08 by Torrik Nils

USS Hawking
Astrometrics Lab

“Whoa… here we go again,” Lincoln Purcell waved one hand vigorously to get Grayson’s attention, “Kylie, amp up the aft sensors… it looks like the rift is leaking more ionic protons.” The surge was minute, barely a bump in the waveform readout but it had happened late the previous morning as well, which couldn’t be good.

“Think the portal is unstable?” Kylie made the necessary adjustments to the array, then joined the civilian at his post.

“I don’t think the portal should even exist,” was the Vulcan hybrid’s comment. “But, yes, I think it’s unstable.” He stared at the readings… subtle but… there… there was a variance in the subspace emissions. “Transmit these readings to Ops,” he told her, “then I want to go over the past twenty-eight hours of readings from every sensor, internal and external…”

“Looking for…?”

“Any kind surges… or dips… indicating subspace activity. We’ll set the parameters for ionic protons, tachyons and… set up a subspace differential pulse… maybe we can get a closer look at what’s going on inside the rift.”

“On it.”

Lincoln barely heard the CPO’s response; he was lost in the data, again, wondering if the two universes agreed with him, that the rift shouldn’t exist and, if that was the case, how long it would take the laws of physics to lock the gate on the Orb-manufactured portal.

Featuring NPC's Kylie Grayson and Lincoln Purcell
Originally Posted 11/4/08 by Harry Finn

USS Hawking
VIP Quarters - Deck 3

=/\=Gul Malkat, we have an incoming transmission from Captain Bayal=/\=

“Thank you,” the Cardassian XO responded to the cool Vulcan tones, “May I take the com from here?”

“Patching through…”

Moments later, Malkat was seated at the spacious desk and looking at his CO on the desktop console. “Sir.”

Bayal’s eyes were cool, as always, revealing nothing, as always. “I don’t know if the USS has taken note, as yet, but there’s been more evidence of instability from the rift.”

Zal digested the news, “Is there need to return to the IAS?”

“No… the fluctuations are, as yet, minor. But you might want to step up your planned schedule,” the Bajoran CO held his second’s gaze, “it would be a shame to return home empty-handed. There is, after all, so much the USS Hawking has to offer us… whether our universes are joined, or not.”

“I agree,” Zal replied, not because his commander required vindication of his views but so that Bayal would know his first officer understood the orders. “Ensign Redrum and I will put in double time on the project.”

“Be sure to inform him his diligence will be rewarded,” Bayal said casually. “I look forward to hearing of your progress.”

“Sir, Malkat out.”

Once the channel had closed, Zal spun the chair lazily and took in the room. It was even softer as the XO’s office but he found it not unpleasant.

So, Bayal wanted to take the USS Hawking, whether the invasion was a go, or not. And, whether the invasion was a go, or not, someone would be needed to command this second vessel… in Bayal’s name, of course.

Time, then, for Ensign Redrum to integrate his ‘Harpo’ into the USS tactical systems but, for that to happen, they would need some assistance.

Going to the door, he stepped out to speak to his current guard, “Crewman Pal, was it not?” he greeted the Xepolite who’d taken the latest shift.

“Sir,” Dramm responded, “Can I assist you with anything?” After his ‘career discussion’ with Mr. Finn, Pal had made sure he was on the IAS roster for as many shifts as possible. While it was true he didn’t want to involve himself in any potentially losing ventures, he saw no reason not to be close to the man who would be king… or captain… if events favored the invading force.

Zal smiled the smile of a cobra observing his still-ambulatory dinner, “As a matter of fact…”

Featuring NPC's Gul Zal Malkat, Security Crewman Dramm Pal and Captain Bayal Paven
Originally Posted 11/5/08 by Harry Finn

-IAS Hawking-
-Deck 4-

The closer Javier got to his assigned quarters the more apparent it became that he and the others would never be able to meet and plan anything. Even though he was successful in ditching Rileena, he and Mills were escorted by no less than three Alliance security officers after leaving Main Engineering. Javier could only assume that the Cardassian woman had not been pleased with his exit strategy. All our actions are going to be monitored, our quarters are probably 'bugged', and there's security no matter where we are..

"Crewman," he said, addressing Mills as they walked, "I need to unpack before we all go to the lounge for that drink that we agreed upon."

Mills blinked then replied, "Y-y-yes Chief…I m-m-mean Lieutenant!" The two broke off near their respective quarters and Javier noticed two of the security officers lingered outside of his and T'Shaini's door.

The quarters were somewhat spartan compared to his own quarters on the Hawking. That will change though, once my resignation is approved I'll need to vacate those quarters. the engineer realized. He stepped inside and waited for the doors to close before casually glancing around the room as if inspecting new surroundings. T'Shaini came in from what he supposed was the bedroom and Javier met her in the middle of the room. He caught her up in a close embrace and pressed his lips against hers. Pulling her body closer as his mouth covered T'Shaini's, he began to brush her hair back over her ear, his fingertips softly tracing its Vulcanesque outline. His lips kissed her mouth then moved over her cheek before gently sucking on her ear. "I think they are listening to everything we say," he whispered into her ear.

"Mmmm." T'Shaini tried to bring her mind back into focus. "I has ascertained as much." Sliding her hands around his shoulders she leaned against him. "Should I assume that this means you are not upset that I left you and Del to fend for yourselves?" She had returned to the quarters provided for them to sit, but even after her meditation the notion that she had abandoned them had not left.

"Not so much," Javier said as his lips trailed down her neck. "I can think of a way you could make it up to me..and it's probably the only place where we could find privacy," he suggested. There was a need for him to speak to her without having anyone eavesdrop but another need was growing within Javier as he spoke.

"Are you certain we will have privacy?" She asked the question not only for modesty's sake, but certain (as certain as she could be with what his mouth was doing beginning to scramble her brain) that he had something he needed to speak with her about.

"As private as under the covers gets," he answered as he unfastened his uniform tunic and shrugged out of it. Javier's mouth met T'Shaini's once more as he helped the counselor remove her own top and began to slowly steer them towards the back room while kissing her open mouth.

Discussion forgotten, T'Shaini sat back onto the bed and reached up, her hands beginning to shake slightly as she pulled Javier towards her.

He slipped down onto the bed with her, pressing her backwards and then pulling T'Shaini in close as he began to remove her clothing, his hands working the fasteners of her pants. "There's something we need to discuss," Javier whispered hoarsely even as he concentrated on getting to a place where he could touch more of her bare skin.

Am I supposed to be able to concentrate? T'Shaini made a noise that she hoped conveyed that she understood as she aided him in his current pursuit. Once free, her hands moved to similarly divest Javier of constraint.

The engineer pulled the covers of the bed over them, creating their own private tent as the last remnants of their clothing were pushed away. "There's something wrong with this ship," Javier breathed as his hands followed the curve of her back and pressed T'Shaini closer to him.

"Are we discussing structural flaws? Or is there something else…" She was almost startled at how low her voice was, her breath hitched as the next phrase spilled out "was there something the Cardassian woman said that made you suspect something?"

"No, it was the feeling," Javier shifted his body so that he was over T'Shaini, "I got in Engineering…and from speaking to you..the other you." He took her lower lip into his mouth and sucked on it as he moved closer to her. "Did you get the sense..that anything was wrong?" Javier asked, pausing as he touched her.

"Ah…it is….difficult…" To speak coherantly. "to analyze body language and intention of people that you do not know but feel you should…" Her voice rasped out between breaths. "however there was a palpable tension in manifest in the crew, it could…bode…ill."

"I..concur." Javier gave in to the desire that had started to cloud his thought process. Their bodies began to move in unison, and for a time, the status of the IAS Hawking's crew was put on the backburner.

Who says intelligence isn't a turn-on? Javier thought as he held T'Shaini, his fingers idly caressing her ear. "I think we need to try and speak to someone who is not in a Command position, a human crewmember for instance," he suggested softly.

Her tone cautiously low, the Vulcan voiced her agreement. "Indeed, though how are we to contact such a one?"

"There was one in Engineering," he remembered the man standing near Delano, "he was at the reception with your twin..I don't know his name."

"Seth Anderson?" T'Shaini had wanted a chance to speak with him after seeing his pain at seeing Jenny, but he had been whisked away so quickly that she had had no chance. "I think that is perfect, but how…"

"I never got that tour of Engineering, the Chief Engineer was busy with fitness reports or something," he said, basking in the warmth they had generated beneath the 'tent'. "I could ask again then we might try to speak to him..Del could help with that.."

"I would very much like to accompany you, but I am unsure on what pretext." A crease furrowed her brow. "Perhaps I may be the empty headed companion who will not stir on her own?" A grimace crossed her face at the prospect. "Or I could, as is my wont, pretend I belong and assume that no one will question me."

"Or you could be the jealous lover that goes along to make sure her partner doesn't get 'felt up' by the Cardassian version of Dr. Yates?" Javier suggested.

A smile blossomed across the counselor's face. "Are you concerned she will renew her…attentions?"

"Yes, I am and you are more..diplomatic than I am," he admitted then frowned and said, "I called her a bar skank before Del and I left Engineering."

"Oh." T'Shaini's mouth dropped open in an 'o' of surprise. Recovering quickly, she narrowed her eyes playfully in thought. "Well, since you have so thoroughly demonstrated that you have retained all of your…faculties, I can only assume she had no idea what that meant."

Is that Tee & Javi steaming up the IAS Hawking? Yes, yes it is.
Originally Posted 11/5/08 by Javier Costala

USS Hawking
Lab 1138

Kerrin paced around the lab trying to hold down the panic. She now knew that that was not Harry, no way, no how. Rubbing her arm where his grip was sure to have left bruises she thought that was just another example…well, not that he had never given her bruises, but that was my own fault as much as his and another story entirely. Forcing herself away from the unhelpful tangent she continued to worry about Jenny. "Where is she?" The archaeologist thought it would be a no brainer for the young woman to come directly to her lab to check in…but as of yet…no Jenny. Please god let nothing else have gone wrong.

The doors barely had time to open before Jenny had crossed the threshold. "Are you okay?" she asked, walking directly to where Kerrin, pale and visibly shaken, waited.

"Ahhh!" Kerrin sprinted across the room and grabbed Jenny and lifted her up in a giant hug…her height made it a little difficult, and probably quite a bit ridiculous from the outside, but the relieved archaeologist didn't care. "Thank god."

"I'll take that as a yes," Jen said breathlessly from on high, "umm… can't breathe?"

"Oh, sorry…sorry." Letting her down, Kerrin gave her one last quick squeeze. "So what the hell are we going to do now?"

On the question, Jenny felt the world shift and she turned towards the counter, one hand tracing the outline of the blade she'd hidden in her sleeve. "I don't… I," she watched herself draw the blade and, for a moment, lose herself in the memory of being in Harry's room, hiding behind his couch and wanting… wanting to… "you need to talk to the captain," she said.

Kerrin blew her bangs out of her eyes. "Yeah…" A cavernous pit formed in her stomach. "Someone needs to know…because that thing we just saw was not Harry." She dropped forward and pressed her forehead against the cool metal top of her lab table. She muttered almost to herself. "And what am I going to tell him?"

"Tell him… tell him about the drinking and, Kerrin," Jenny turned to the other woman, "it could be the drinking that caused the behavior, it could," she hated to think it but, who knew what had happened to him while he was off chasing Acker? There were rumors… a lot of rumors… of what her godfather had endured and, if even half were true… "His time on Kendrassa could have caused more damage than we know. I'm not saying it's not the Pah Wraith, I'm just saying we can't eliminate any possibilities. And, whatever you do, don't mention me. I wasn't there, okay?"

"What?" Kerrin was flabbergasted. "You want me to tell the Captain that he is drinking? You want me to say that I think that it is Harry that has changed, that he is no longer fit to serve…cause that is what it sounds like." She pushed away from the table and dragged her hands through her hair. "And you don't want to be mentioned? Because I am such a force of reason on this ship that he will even let me in his ready room?"

"He'll let you in sooner than me!" Jenny took a deep breath before continuing, "You know about the Constitution, right?" Of course she knew… everyone knew… "It happened because I made a series of errors in judgment and the Captain knows that and," she shook her head, "it's like I've had three strikes and I'm out. He won't even look at me. I'm working for the XO but the only contact I ever have with the captain of the ship is through his yeoman. If he thinks any of this information came from me… I… don't think he'll listen. I don't even know if Lt. Tenanji would listen to anything I had…"

Kerrin bit back the response that threatened to spill from her lips. She highly doubted Jenny was as poorly regarded as she seemed to think she was (why would you put someone untrustworthy with the XO even if they were related to them) but clearly nothing she said would make any difference at this point, and that wasn't the current argument anyways. "Dammit." She kicked at the stool next to her, then had to catch it as it wobbled. "You are unstable, he doesn't know me from a hole in the wall and we want to tell him he should put his XO under surveillance. Feh."

"Well," Jenny began before…

=/\=Finn to Crewman Anderson…=/\=

Both women froze.

=/\=Finn to Anderson, come back.=/\=

Jenny tapped her badge, "Anderson, here."

=/\=Jenny, there's been some new developments with the rift, I'll need you available until further notice.=/\=

Keeping her eyes on Kerrin, "Sir, yes, sir. What's your twenty?"

=/\=In the office… swing by Astrometrics for me, Purcell has some data that needs going over.=/\=

"On my way, Anderson out." She reached over and picked the dagger up from where it had been laying on the lab's counter. Tucking it beneath her jacket, at the small of her back, she gave a small shrug, "Technically, he's already under surveillance. I'll keep an eye on him for now. You just… let someone know… even Tenanji, if you can't get to the captain."

"Bah." Even something about his voice was off…or was she imagining things. "Yeah, I am already the nutty professor of the ship, why not go whole hog." She waved her hand in the direction of the door as her eyes clouded with thought. "Go ahead, I don't want to get you in anymore trouble than you already are."

Heading out, Jen shook her head, "So far I think you're the only one in trouble. In fact," she paused as the door slid aside, "do you still have Minnie?"

Kerrin had almost forgotten. "Oh…yes." She sprinted around the table and pulled it out from the drawer she had hidden it in. "Do you think I need it? Who am I going to use it on?"

"I don't know, but I do know it's better to have it and not need it than…"

"Need it and not have it." Kerrin rolled her eyes. "I would say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, except you are not really related to him." A wave of nausea spread over her. "Which right now can only be a good thing."

There was no answer Jenny could make to that, beyond, "The ship comes first, Kerrin… go see the Captain." And then she was moving, weighed down by the uncomfortable sensation of being… watched.

As many times as I have thought that I would give anything to see Harry again, this time is the worst…when I see him but not see him. Kerrin thought as she tucked away Minnie and prepared to debase herself in front of the Captain…or Tenanji…someone.

USS Hawking
XO's Office

Finn stood very still as he waited for Jenny to arrive. The glitch in the rift was a timely issue, giving him good reason to keep tabs on the young woman who, since he'd requested her location before contacting her, he knew to have been in lab 1138… Kerrin Schaeffer's lab. Presumably with Kerrin Schaeffer.

He'd be interested to know what the two women had been discussing.

Lucy and Ethel….what trouble will these nutty broads get into next?
Originally Posted 11/5/08 by T'Shaini

USS Hawking
Library - Deck 5

T'Shaini had needed some place private, not that she would be allowed to be alone, but she needed to sort out her thoughts. Without a second glance at her escort, T'Shaini found her way to the Library on the Hawking. Set up before a terminal she scrolled through the information made public to the IAS crew. Dimensions, deck breakdowns, what is a holodeck for? crew manifests…

Crew manifest.

Logical thought process suspended as her curiosity had her searching for her counterpart. Lt. Commander, served under Captain Nathan Benjamin on the Knight and then the Hawking, a counselor….which was beyond her comprehension, and then there was her cohabitation with Lt. Javier Costala. Not that she could glean much from official records, but this universe's T'Shaini seemed…what was the word he had used? Content. Once the door had been opened she could not help herself. Opening Javier's…this Javier's records, she began to read. Pouring over the information the world around her faded into nothingness.

"Tell me," a deathly quiet voice intruded, "is he as… shiny… as the old Javier?"

T'Shaini refused to jump, refused to show any external sign of the dread and fear that that voice inspired. "Shiny? I would not describe the 'old Javier' as shiny." Contrariness was an automatic when it came to Harry, but truly, that was a perfect word, shiny and bright…and she had been drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

Harry leaned his back against the console, covering the screen… he'd sent the guard outside as he had 'sensitive information' from the IAS to deliver. "Malkat wants everyone ready to move," he said, getting down to business. "If you return to your quarters, you'll find a Type 1 phaser," which he'd liberated from Finn's office, "under your pillow."

She spun around in the chair to look at him. "When?" I will not have time to help…I am so sorry Seth.

"Uncertain," he managed. It always struck him breathless, even now, her face… her eyes… "he's working out the technical details as we speak. Once our Hawking has control of their tactical, the boarding will begin and we'll be in play."

"In play…" A spike in the midst of her miasma of apathy appeared. How can I consign these people to the universe that I know?

"Don't do that," he warned, seeing the flash of doubt.

"My service may be to the Alliance but my thoughts are my own." T'Shaini spat back.

"No, they're not… they're his," Finn jabbed his finger at the computer screen, still displaying the shininess that was Lt. Javier Costala. "Only it's the wrong him and the one who does own your… thoughts… is a corpse. Not even a corpse… just vapor over Hutet… your thoughts were never your own. If they had been…"

"They still would not have been yours." T'Shaini rose to her full height which almost put her at eye level with Finn.

"Imagine the man I could have been, if they had," he said, before he could stop himself.

"No." She leveled her gaze at him. "You cannot place responsibility for your choices on me. You chose." The last word was heavy with censure.

"No," he echoed her denial, "I was chosen… a handpicked lab rat for Malkat and Dr. Demento," abruptly he turned away. None of this was relevant, none of it mattered. What had happened had happened and now he was who he was.

And had done what he had done.

"I was ordered to deliver a message, I delivered it. Get to your quarters and arm yourself and wait for things to start going boom. Once they do it won't be too hard to pick your targets." He glanced back at the screen, saw Costala's name, glaring at him like some accusatory ghost pointing the finger, "But not him," he added. "I didn't get to pull the trigger before. This time… this time I will." With a shake of his head, Harry headed towards the door, "Get prepped," he ordered, again, "and remember, after this is over… we have an agreement." And then he was gone.

T'Shaini had to catch herself on the edge of the counter as her knees went weak. Had he even realized what he had just revealed? Did she truly hear what she thought she heard? I didn't get to pull the trigger before. Lowering herself down to the floor, T'Shaini dropped her head between her knees. He killed Javier. She knew of the hatred, but even she had no idea how deeply it had run. He killed Javier. Moments passed as she sat, dry eyed and empty on the floor of the library. A discreet cough from the young human guarding her brought the Vulcan back to the present. Rising, she nodded curtly as she passed him, then strode out to return to her quarters.

He killed Javier.

Featuring MU Tee and MU Finn
Originally Posted 11/6/08 by Harry Finn

:: IAS Hawking ::
:: Temple Antechamber ::

“The ritual is dangerous, your holiness,” The First Acolyte said seriously. He sat on the floor with his arms resting on his knees and watched as the High Priest prepared. “What you’re attempting hasn’t been done in generations.”

“I know,” Torrik answered coldly. “But that isn’t your concern. I’d like to have you here with the other acolytes, but bringing the abomination to me is more important. It is your only priority. Go…and do…”

“As you command,” the First said as he rose to his feet. He then crossed his arms over his chest and turned to leave. “Be… Be careful,” he offered softly as he paused at the door.

“Leave!” Torrik’s voice was hard and echoed around the room. “I don’t need an acolyte to tell me that which I know so well! Leave!”

Then the high priest was alone… He stood silently with his thoughts and the memories that tugged at his concentration. In order for the ritual to be fully effective he had to cleanse himself from those distractions, so for the moment, he gave himself over to them…

“Mommmm!!!” A child’s voice called out into the darkness. Torrik knew it was his little brother, still lost in the wreckage. The Earthen Resistance pursued them since the ship crash-landed on this shadowy moon. And even now a filthy human held him by the scruff of the neck…

“Ahhh…. That must be the little brother, huh? So your choice kiddo… Do we head out towards him? Or do you want one more chance to tell us which way your parents ran off?” His heavy accent made it difficult for Torrik to understand the words. But ultimately he did understand. And with tears streaming down his face, he made a choice.

His tiny finger pointed the direction his parents had fled - away from the wreckage and away from the children. With a heavy thud, he hit the ground and the Humans tore off after his parents. Disrupter fire sang out through the trees, lighting their trunks in a green glow. And he knew his parents were dead… All that remained was the fire from the wrecked shuttle. The cleansing fire from the crash grew in his memory and burned it from the forefront of his mind…

The High Priest stoked the flames in the chamber, causing the fire to reach out towards the ceiling. Sweat beaded and dripped down his face and body. He took a deep breath and forced back the bile that rose in his throat. Though a tragedy at the time, he now knew that the Wraiths had orchestrated the darkness of his childhood to purify him and he accepted it as their will. Without that darkness he could not fully appreciate the fire that awaited him. In light of it all, he knew the grand design and purpose of his life was nearing completion.

=/\= Torrik! =/\= His name bounced around the room as the comm. clicked to life. Paven sounded annoyed.

“What…” Whatever complaint the Captain had stored up this time, the Priest resigned himself to hear it.

=/\= The transporter room informs me that your First Acolyte is returning to the USS Hawking… Would you mind informing the Commanding Officer of this vessel why he is doing that? =/\=

“Paven,” Torrik began, making his voice smooth and light. “I’ve told you on a number of occasions that the machinations of the Temple are of little interest to the Alliance Fleet. Allow us to…”

=/\= No, Nils! No. I’ve left myself totally at the whim of the religious sector for far too long. Too much hangs in the balance for me to trust you any further. =/\=

“The First is softening up the USS Hawking’s Captain,” he lied eagerly. “By weakening the man’s resistance and distracting him with familial ties he will be less prepared to fend off any action our illustrious Alliance Fleet has already set in motion. It’s all for the good of the Alliance, Paven…”

The silence on the comm indicated the Captain considered the words of the High Priest with a fair amount of doubt. =/\= Run these things by me… You cannot run around my authority on this ship. =/\=

Torrik held back the response that initially threatened to fall from his tongue. Paven’s authority was a thin illusion. The Ascended were the true authority. And just as it was in the bed they shared, Bayal Paven was the plaything and bitch of the Temple’s High Priest.

“As you wish, my love,” Torrik hissed. Then he cut the channel. It sickened him how any Bajoran could stand in the way of the Ascended. But historically speaking, Paven had always been somewhat of a stumbling block…”

“I don’t agree with the High Priest,” Paven said evenly in the strategic planning session. “Our holdings in this universe are threatened by the Resistance movement and our fleet is already stretched thin.” He glanced at the Priest who was staring daggers in his direction. They’d never met prior to this day, but the head of their faith was well known to all Bajorans. “Although I share contempt for the Mirror Universe, I find it tactically irresponsible to move our fleet through some…portal that has yet to be fully explained.”

“The Prophecies are clear,” Torrik said, eyeing his new adversary. Perhaps he would have to get closer to this Captain in order to garner support for what must be done. “I’ve spent time in communion with the Ascended in the Fire Caves, and they have granted understanding to me on a number of things that were once shrouded.. With the Orbs in play it will be possible to strike into another plane of reality and expand not only our military presence, but also our Spiritual one. We’ve located a planet in the Gamma Quadrant that bears an unknown Orb… The Orb of Conquest. And the Prophecies provide a key to unlocking that Orb.” He didn’t share that there were many things about the Prophecies that he’d yet to unlock. There were many secrets that he’d yet to reveal.

“There is still much to discuss…” Bayal remained completely unconvinced in the validity of the Holy man’s claim.

And thus the conversation had begun. Ultimately, he’d seduced Paven and brought him in line with the Prophecy. In the end, and after many nights together it had been Paven arguing for the Alliance Fleet’s full might in the invasion. But they compromised the full fleet in exchange for the chance to cross over at all. Hawking alone and as an expeditionary vessel would serve Torrik’s purpose perfectly, however. A full invasion had never been high on his priorities. It would come… Surely as the Wraiths burned their way into the Usurpers universe, the invasion would come. But he had to lead the way, holding the banner of the Ascended. There was a spiritual battle to win, before flesh and blood would make any progress.

“Speaking of flesh and blood,” the High Priest said aloud to no one but himself. “I feel fully prepared for a ritual…” He rose and draped a black robe over his shoulders. Emerging into the Temple proper he called for the acolytes to pull Harry Finn from the pit. The true battle could begin in earnest.

A Post by: High Priest Torrik Nils
Originally Posted 11/6/08 by Torrik Nils

USS Hawking
Deck 10, Main Shuttlebay

Luke lovingly ran his hands over the outside of the shuttlecraft, feeling the smoothness of one area under them, before moving them lower to feel the dints and dings that blemished the beauty before him. He smiled and looked over his shoulder, “Hey Tatia…”. Luke stopped himself quickly; he had forgotten that he wasn’t speaking to her.

Tatiana, who had been leaning against the farthest end of the craft, her arms crossed over her chest as she looked down, popped her head up quickly. Hope fluttered across her face, and she gave a small smile that quickly fell when he turned away and returned to lusting over the shuttle.

"Where's the guy you said would come here to answer my questions?" he asked Rintala suddenly.

"He's on his way," the blonde answered.

Tatiana pushed herself off of shuttle and walked slowly to an empty spot of the shuttlebay. Frank made a move to join her, and she shook her head and pointed to Luke. She wanted him to stay where he was, she wanted them both to allow her to breathe. Her mind was unusually blank, there were no plans forming, no ideas she could think of that would potentially save her life. All she had was her body, and even that would fail her. Luke would not fold, when his own life depended on what he did to her. Begging was the only route she could go. She would not allow her pride to lead to her fall.

The entrance to the shuttle bay opened behind her, she didn't bother to turn around even as heavy footsteps approached her back. When she looked down to the ground and noticed the shadow behind her, she turned around to see who had entered. Tatiana knew the face, and it sent a twined ball of anger, fear and disgust to her core. She backed up slowly, her hand reaching out behind her for Luke, but all she met was air. He was still focused on the shuttle, and Rintala didn't care enough to acknowledge who had entered, nor did the other USS crew who were working on a nearby shuttle.

"Well, you rang, and I answered. What can I do for you all today?" Vince walked up to the two men standing next to the shuttle.

Luke hands had stopped their movement at the sound of the voice, he turned around and saw the mirror of the IAS Chief of Science. He leaned to the side to grab a look at Tatiana. She hadn't spoken, and that bothered him more than he would admit.

Rintala turned to Vince and greeted him with a small nod, "Getty is a helmsman on the other Hawking, he wanted to ask you about the shuttles. According to him, they don't make 'em like this in their world."

Vince smiled as he looked over at Luke, "Well I'm more than just a helmsman, I'm the Chief, even if it's not completely totally recognized, I'm still the best. This particular shuttle is the Delta flyer. I wouldn't expect y'all to have one, due to it being developed on the Voyager by their crew, and has become quite a mainstay in the fleet. This little baby here has quite the capabilities, but sadly enough all I can show you is the outer hull, nothin' from the inside."

Luke's attention wasn't focused on the shuttle any longer, "The outer hull, yeah." He stepped around Stryfe, and to his oddly quiet wife. She stood frozen in her previous spot, but her eyes were focused on Stryfe. Her gaze was hard and her hands were folded together in front of her. She looked as if she was trying to stop herself from running out of the shuttlebay or punching the male that just joined them. He reached her, but didn't make a move to lend a comforting hand, "Are you okay?"

"Oh, now that's nice and odd," Vince looked at the woman staring at him, "Last time someone looked at my like that, it was less cold. 'Course, it was the USS Tatiana, and it was under different circumstances," Vince smiled as he thought about the good times," Anyhoo, I'm Vince Stryfe, ma'am, very nice to meet ya."

The image of Stryfe, a man he had not sanctioned to touch her, near or on his wife made him angry. Until he had to get rid of her, he still reserved the right to care. Luke turned his attention to Stryfe, "She obviously doesn't return the sentiment. And I'd appreciate it if you kept any details about you and any version of my wife to yourself."

"Hey, hey now, nothing was meant by it. I was just talkin'. Hell, what your wife wants to think is fine with me. I respect people's choices, and I don't try to impede where I don't belong. Soooo…what else would you care to know, I have a list in my head of what I can and can't show you, but there's a lot to be seen that I can show," Vince stopped for a second, "Ok I'm officially confused, my bad…"

"Ask your questions Lucas," she finally spoke. After she had stopped the typhoon of emotions and thoughts that came at the sight of Vincent's mirror, her mind registered the uniform and the differing speech. She joined the group by the shuttle, and attempted a look at Stryfe. "I'm…sorry," she began. "Your mirror and I…"

Luke looked interested in what she would say, and frowned when she didn't complete her thought. He had no clue that Tatiana and their Chief of Science knew each other beyond the time spent on the IAS Hawking. They barely interacted, barely came in contact and now he knew it had more to do with a past history rather than her own lack of interest in anything outside of herself. "If this is now a mainstay of your fleet," Luke began, "What upgrades were made to improve your fleet's previous shuttles even more?"

Vince slid his gaze over to Luke, smirking, "Well we have taken quite a few of the systems, and controls of the Delta, and integrated them into existing shuttles. Our major goal is to straight build off of the Delta's success, and render the previous shuttles obsolete, but I happen to like the old ones. They can fly differently, and allow you to do some awkward maneuvers."

"There's nothing better than the original," Luke agreed. "When we looked at your Engineering," he said with a quick nod to Tatiana, "We noticed how sleek and sophisticated your technology is. The Cardassians could benefit from taking your route when it comes to advancements."

"There's a lot of species that could benefit from our tech, but most of them think they have a hand up on us. We like to utilize our relationships with others in the federation to advance our tech, and in turn assist them in advancing theirs," Vince slid his hand along the shuttle," Still, nothing on this ship matches up to our fighters, they're something else entirely."

"Really," he questioned with a childish grin. He caught Tatiana's gaze and smiled shyly at her. His excitement over Star Fleet's ships overshadowed the fear he had sought to put in the heart of Tatiana with his behavior. This could prove to ruin how bleak she saw her feature, but he didn't care, "What are the systems like? The fighters in my world are good, but only because the Resistance forced them to improve."

"Computer, display archive holographic, Valkyrie: Blackhawk A14, from my personal database. Remove all technical data, and display the fighter as is." Vince moved to the side as the hologram presented itself, "Also, display, on the my maintenance console, some of the archived footage of the Valkyrie: Blackhawk Squadron in action." Vince rolled the console over next to the hologram, and then waited for Luke's expressions to show.

He didn't speak, but watched in amazement as the Valkyrie ran through several flight patterns. "Tatiana, look, she's beautiful," he whispered reverently.

"Do I have competition now," she asked him quietly, testing his new found kindness.

"Of course," he responded with a grin, and she smiled in return. Perhaps his glee would remain intact long enough for her to reason with him when they were finally alone.

Vince walked around the outside of the hologram, stopping next to Luke, "They teach maneuvers for the Valkyrie in the Flight Academy that I came up with. In official records I'm one of the best to ever sit in the seat. The ones you see here, are modified to seat a single pilot, but standard issue have a pilot and a navigator. Those fighters can tactfully disable a Sovereign Class, and render most ships helpless as another, bigger starship, pummels them as the fighters distract them."

"Nice," Luke responded. "You're very lucky to have these at your disposal, and-"

"And your ego is just as big as our Stryfe," she snapped, interrupting Luke's compliment.

"Tatiana," Luke warned through clinched teeth. She had been cordial earlier, but like everything else in their lives, it changed with the smallest thing.

The woman held her hands up in surrender, and quieted. She was still trying to separate the two Stryfes in her mind, but was failing miserably. His tone as he described how his superiors viewed him, reminded her so much of Vincent when he started on his speeches praising himself. It made it hard to forget that this Stryfe was not the one she knew.

"Ma'am, it's not necessarily an ego trip. I view it as an esteemed sense of pride that something that I have done is being employed across the fleet, assisting our pilots in protecting our people, along with countless others in the galaxy. Saving lives plays a big part in my heart, and knowing that my abilities have helped do that, just makes me feel great about myself," Vince looked over at the console screen, noticing the time," Well, I'd hate to cut this short, but I have a Helm meeting that I have to be at. But if you would like to discuss anything else, feel free to stop by my quarters in about an hour and a half or so, or you could just have Rintala contact me." Vince started towards the doors to the shuttlebay," Catch y'all later…"

"Thanks for taking the time out," Luke responded as the Chief was making his exit. Once the man had gone, he frowned down at his wife and spoke to Rintala, "We'd like to head to our quarters if you don't mind." Once their escort took his spot at the head of the group, the Gettys followed behind him quietly. They entered the turbolift, and once the woman took her place in front of him he spoke lowly, "We need to talk."

A Fierce Foursome Featuring:
Frank Rintala, Vince Stryfe and the Gettys
Originally Posted 11/6/08 by Tatiana Thorne

Then—in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life…was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:*

:: IAS Hawking ::
:: Temple ::

The High Priest to the Ascended strode purposefully towards the center of the Temple and stepped up onto the dais. Smoke swirled around his feet and his robes swirled around his body. With great reverence and humility, Torrik approached the Alter. One by one he gave honor to the Arks of the Orbs and opened them in sequence. After a brief incantation to the Lonely Ones he stirred the flames in the twin braziers on either side of the Alter, then he knelt and crossed his arms over his chest. With his eyes closed he called out into the ether and his voice was swallowed up by the glowing Orbs. They seemed to glow ever brighter as if in anticipation of the ritual to come.

"You know," Harry's voice was dry, literally, "you guys might consider turning this place into a spa… best sauna ever!" The kids seemed unimpressed but then, he had given the biggest one a black eye before they'd piled on top of him and secured his hands. Now they dragged the Human towards the arks… the same arks which he'd tried to wreck, earlier, and the waiting priest. "And then there's Creepy, the eighth dwarf," he added as Torrik looked up with a particularly predatory expression.

"I assume that's funny in your universe," Torrik said with no humor to his voice. "I know it is probably too much to ask, but would you mind showing a little respect during our ritual? It will be a stretch considering your manners so far, but this is very serious. And our lives do hang in the balance…" The High Priest was serious and in no mood for banter.

"Oh… my… god…" Harry's face went slack, "You mean if I don't adjust my attitude we could die before you got any useful intelligence? Let me think about that… okay, here's one, 'A priest, a rabbi and a vedek walk into a bar…"

"Your disrespect is staggering," the Bajoran sighed. But he fought off any anger that threatened to boil over. In order for a true success, his mind needed to be clear. "Fortunately the condition of your heart is irrelevant to this process. I just thought perhaps you might apply some of that religious tolerance your universe is so famous for… Guess not…" He nodded at the acolytes who immediately attempted to force Finn to his knees.

"I'll be happy to tolerate your religion," Harry hissed as, after a pathetic attempt to remain standing, his knees cracked on the hard floor, "from a distance."

"Fair enough… But not an option. You have something I need." Torrik examined the haggard and tired man. Clearly his time on the IAS had taken its toll. "Because of my grace," he started callously, "I'd like to offer you one more chance to tell me what you know of your crossover. This ritual is not pleasant and you could spare yourself some of its more…intimate… agonies."

Harry held the other man's gaze, despite the shuddering in his soul, "No."

"If that is your final answer, then we will begin." Another nod toward the acolytes and two of them moved to a large brass drum full of water. They lifted it and placed it between the two men kneeling on the floor. "The heat has drawn from us the moisture that allows us to live, along with the impurities it began cleansing from our blood. Now we are washed with water from the flames… In the name of the Lonely Ones, The Ascended, the Pah Wraiths of the Fire Caves…"

With that a third acolyte drew water from the tub with a cup and poured it over the High Priest's head. The water was hot, but not boiling and he sucked in a breath as his skin reddened beneath the flow. Three times the acolyte dipped and poured. Three times Torrik accepted the burn. Then the acolyte turned to Harry Finn. The scalding shower was repeated three times on the Starfleet Officer as well.

The water was nothing… well, nothing compared to the words rebounding through Harry's skull… Pah Wraiths.. Pah Wraiths… Pah Wraiths… It had been meaningless to him… even with all these orbs surrounding them: the Lonely Ones; The Ascended… they'd just been words on which to hang a madman's obsession. But the Wraith… even Finn, not the most spiritual of sentients, understood the threat even one Pah Wraith could pose and, from what this freak was spouting, the alternate universe was their playground… they were worshipped. As the liquid trailed rivulets of heat down his torso, washing his wounds open once more, he realized that the IAS invasion was a farce or, at the very least, a secondary consideration. What was really happening here was… "What?" he asked, all the irony scalded from his voice, "What are you really doing in my universe? What do they want?"

Torrik Nils laughed, basking in the heat of the room and the hot moisture still tracing lines down his back. "Nothing less than everything…" He captured Finn's eyes and added, "And you're going to help give it to them…" Raising his hand to the youngest acolyte, the High Priest took a small black mortar from him. A sickly yellow paste lined the edge of the stone bowl. "This is kovarri. It is a mixture of herbs and beetle dung. I tell you this because from this point forward we may well not be in full control of our faculties… At least not in the traditional sense." Torrik held the bowl out towards Finn. "A finger full on your gums will do the trick. You can do it. Or I can do it." His expression was cold and dire.

Less than five seconds later the crockery was rolling on the floor and Harry was on his feet…

Torrik visibly deflated a little and settled lower to the floor. The acolytes, however, sprang into action. Four spry young men launched themselves at the struggling Starfleet Officer. They became a writhing mass of bodies on the floor before Torrik finally spoke up. "Fine," he said angrily. "Fine!" Flinging himself from the floor he quickly gathered one of the sets of shackles that decorated more than one wall in the Temple. He made quick work of binding Finn's wrists and feet as the Nameless Ones struggled to hold him down. Then the chains were latched to one of the metal rings strategically placed on the floor. "Fine," he yelled one more time before finding to his spot on the floor. Then he waited for the knot of men to untangle themselves.

Kneeling again, Harry kept yanking at the bindings, instinctively trying to flee even now, while the battered and disheveled mini-Torrik's pulled away, the youngest going in search of the wayward bowl. He eagerly brought it back to his High Priest.

"Harry, this is the Fifth Acolyte of the Ascended. He is the most recent addition to our family. When he was a small boy his biological parents left him for dead. We took him in and gave his life a purpose…" Torrik looked up at the adolescent, but didn't take the mortar. "Administer the kovarri to Mister Finn. If you fail, I will give you to the Ascended."

Budding fear danced across the teenagers face, but he didn't hesitate. He approached the Human, who had frozen at the last words of His Holiness. The man's blue eyes looked at the youth, filled with sorrow and something else…

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry… the apology was a mantra as Harry turned his face away from the kid, trying, still, to avoid… whatever was coming next. Not that it mattered… the acolyte was young but apparently familiar with the concept of someone trying to avoid taking his medicine. He placed the bowl out of reach and wrapped one arm about Finn's head from behind and with frightening efficiency, slid the goo between Harry's lips and then, knowing by now the nature of the prisoner, the teenager locked his hand over the Human's mouth, preventing him from spitting out the vile substance.

Torrik smiled. Visibly relieved, the Fifth Acolyte returned to his master and passed him the bowl. "Our minds and the rationality they provide build a wall between our souls and the spirit of the Ascended. The walls of perception are sacrificed to the fire…" With that he took a finger full of yellow sickness and smeared it between his cheek and gums. "And now we wait for our intellect to burn."

Too late… Harry's mind was already on fire… filled with the flames which had dogged him for as long as he could remember… burning autumn leaves covered in blood… the conflagration of the Chimera's bridge, blazing laboratories filled with Tennyson's living dead and, of course, Sara was there, aflame in the shuttlebay of the Anarasi Maru but this time, holding him in her arms, searing him to her in the inferno she'd created… shuddering Harry into her embrace until he was completely unaware of the temple or the surging light of the orbs or Torrik's collapse into his own pyrrhic madness.

A madness that danced with images of his parents burning to death in jade flames that were not hot… And images of priests of the Ascended taking him in, and taking him over… The abuse he'd suffered at their cold hands surfaced in his memory and his body recoiled with the thought. He tried to cover himself, but couldn't find enough fabric to hide under. Exposed and helpless he cried out and his cries mingled with cries of agony from so many he'd offered to the Wraiths.

As the two men writhed, each in their own private hells, the Nameless Ones followed their previous instructions, two keeping watch lest the seizing become dangerous, the other two taking up the stiff reeds left for them by the High Priest. They began a slow and steady chant as they took positions over the two men on the floor. "The pride of the body is broken in pain from below…" And they struck the men in unison. It didn't matter where the reeds fell. The purpose was to humble the body. Their arms rose again and they repeated, "The pride of the body is broken in pain from below…" And their arms dropped propelled by the force of the young men's strength and each blow brought forth another surge of heat from the assembled Orbs…

*From Edgar Allen Poe's 'Alone'

A joint sickfest with: Harry Finn and High Priest Torrik Nils
Originally Posted 11/6/08 by Torrik Nils

-Guest Quarters-
-USS Hawking-

The display of the warp core was three dimensional and slowly rotated on the screen. Adjustments had been made to the design so that it was an exact replica of the core that the
IAS Hawking contained in its Main Engineering. Caterina pushed aside another coffee cup and brushed her hair away from her eyes then pulled it up into a ponytail. She had been looking for a solution for almost three hours but nothing presented itself.

It has to be simple; a problem that can be easily overlooked, the engineer reminded herself as she mentally shot down another act of sabotage. What is the time frame on the attack? Caterina wondered. She had so little information with which to work out a means to sabotage the Hawking. T'Shaini had not shared much more.

Maybe she is in her quarters..I could ask her for specific details. Caterina thought before dropping the information on a PADD and making her way across the corridor to the security officer's designated quarters. The engineer punched the alert key on the door console and waited.

The sound pulled the Vulcan from the echoing of her thoughts. After the 'meeting' with Finn, that one phrase kept turning over and over in her mind. He killed Javier. She did not know what she was going to do with the information, but she knew that it changed everything. She sat staring at the door as her brain began to translate the sound she had heard. Finn. Had he realized? What more could he want? Or was it time. Sliding her hand beneath the pillow to retrieve the phaser, she rose and signaled the door to open.

Caterina entered the room and moved towards T'Shaini, she felt nervous for some reason but this feeling disappeared when she saw the phaser in the Vulcan's hand. "What..what are you doing with that?"

The hand holding the phaser dropped limply to her side when T'Shaini saw who it was. "I have been put on notice, it is near time." Moving back to slide the phaser back, the Vulcan gestured toward the one chair for Cat while she sat on the edge of the bed.

The engineer crossed over and sat down, but rather than relaxing, leaned forward towards the Vulcan. "Time for what?" Caterina asked. She let the PADD slip down onto the chair beside her, forgotten for the moment.

T'Shaini buried her face in her hands…when had she gotten so careless? But who would have thought that someone would have been brought over without being a party to the mission? Silence stretched between them as T'Shaini wrestled with the mess that could incur if she revealed too much and the burgeoning hope that if she realized what was at stake perhaps Cat would be willing to help….It would be unwise to speak of my suspicions surrounding Javier's death.

Sliding across the few feet that separated the two women, Cat found herself kneeling beside T'Shaini. She gently grasped the woman's wrists. "Time for what?" the engineer reiterated, "Is there something I can help with?" Caterina pulled the woman's hands away from her face but did not relinquish her grasp. "I found a way to help with the ship," she added, trying to sound encouraging, "Is that what this is about? I can help."

Her mouth opened and closed several times before T'Shaini could manage to force some words out. "You can?" She lifted her head, as the offer began to allow a small hope to dawn. If nothing else we may be able to give these people…this Javier, a chance. "Truly? You can?"

"There's a way..it won't be immediate," Caterina explained. "It will cause the core to gradually overload but it will destroy the ship. I have to sabotage the warning sensors and safety protocols and then the faulty anti-matter injector will do the rest." She released T'Shaini's wrists and procured the PADD from her chair. "See," she said as she held out the PADD to the Vulcan. The graphic display showed exactly what systems the engineer would sabotage to destroy the IAS Hawking. "Since it's gradual and unlikely it could be averted, there would be time for some crew to leave the ship."

"You would do this?" T'Shaini looked over the PADD, which as much as her limited understanding of engineering could comprehend it seemed as if it would work. "Why?"

Because my career is over. Because of what the Alliance does. Because I want to see Kalar punished. The reasons clamored in Caterina's thoughts but none seemed to ring true. The engineer looked up at the other woman. "I would do it for.."

"Javier." Of course. I cannot tell her. "If you are certain." Suddenly aware of the proximity of the kneeling woman, T'Shaini rose, reaching down to pull Cat to her feet. "How will you obtain permission to return to the IAS Hawking? Or can you initiate this from here?"

"That's the difficult part," she said, "I need to be on the ship." Caterina noticed how close she was standing to T'Shaini and started to take a step back, but then thought better of it and lowered her voice to say, "I'm sorry for this..but sometimes a lover's spat can get out of hand." Her hand came up and smacked T'Shaini's face with a resounding smack.

"YOU LYING BITCH! I SAW YOU STARING AT HER LIKE SHE WAS NEXT ON THE MENU!!" Caterina yelled at T'Shaini before grabbing the other woman's hair and initiating the start of a class one cat-fight.

Shock quickly shifted toward amusement, I now know what he saw in her. After all it was not as if she could ask to return. Ow! Wrapping her hand around Cat's wrist to keep her from tearing her hair out she began to squeeze until the woman's fingers went numb enough to pull away. How to continue this without either hurting her or getting thrown off myself.
Once Cat was extricated from her hair, T'Shaini pulled her in and wrapped her arms around the squirming woman. "You are imagining things…you always jump to the wrong conclusion." The Vulcan shouted over her protests at being restrained. "Is there someone outside to overhear?" She whispered into Cat's ear.

"Liar! Slut! How could you do that to me?!" Caterina shouted as she fought against the Vulcan woman's greater strength. "I think.." she started to reply but was interrupted as a male and female security officer entered T'Shaini's quarters.

Caterina freaked out when she saw the female security officer. Screaming with rage, she fought to free herself from T'Shaini, as she rained verbal abuse at Astyr Melon. "YOU! ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE ME AWAY SO YOU CAN BE WITH HER?! I'LL KILL YOU IF YOU TOUCH HER!" The engineer continued to struggle even as the two security officers helped T'Shaini subdue her. Taking the scariness to another level, Caterina attempted to bite the male officer.

Blinking away the stars she was seeing after in her flailing Cat's remarkably hard head cracked her in the chin, T'Shaini tried to apologize over the rabid rantings of the unhinged engineer. Jumping back from the snapping jaws, the Vulcan saw the male security tap his commbadge, presumably for backup.

=^=McMennan to Ellison, backup required.=^=

Words faded into the background as T'Shaini threw her weight against Cat and brought her to the ground. "Feet, get her feet." Mellon grabbing her legs allowed T'Shaini to straddle the prone woman, pinning her arms to her side as her hand covered her mouth to muffle the vitriolic rant. Leaning down ostensibly to aid in control the Vulcan hissed. "I believe you have made your point." A smile flashed and disappeared in an instant. "And well done too."

She smiled with her eyes, much in the same way Javier had, as she continued to struggle half-heartedly. The officers had restraints and Caterina found her wrists and feet bound soon enough. Another officer arrived and the two explained the situation to him. Ellison's gaze went from Caterina to T'Shaini and for a moment Cat was afraid that she had managed to get both of them returned to the Hawking..and the punishment that would be meted out for her behavior.

Ellison sighed and said, "She's out of here. Carry her to Transporter Room 3, contact her ship then cut her loose for the return trip. I'll remain with T'Shaini and get a statement for my report, Lieutenant Tenanji is going to love this."

In this corner… by MU T'Shaini and Catarina Costala (AKA Javi)
Originally Posted 11/6/08 by T'Shaini

USS Hawking

Having left T’Shaini with the news to get prepped, Harry, as tightly strung as a Vulcan lute, now made his way towards Gul Malkat’s quarters, grateful in the extreme that the local Captain had taken on whatever diplomatic to-do Jameson had been calling about. Time was short… shorter now that…

“Hold lift,” he gasped out, the memory of his last conversation with Jenny suddenly sucking the life out of him.

“So,” Harry had greeted Jen, accepting the PADD she’d brought up from Astrometrics, “what did Kerrin have to say?”

The girl didn’t flinch, he’d give her that. Accepting he'd checked on her location Jenny clearly decided to balls it out. “She said… and I sum up, here… that you were ‘mean’ to her. What up with that?”

He just stared.

“What up with that, sir?” she amended.

Harry sighed at that, then turned to look at the port, though he could still watch her reflection, “I don’t expect you to understand…”

“I certainly won’t understand if you don’t tell me anything,” Jenny dropped the formality, again, “So far the only story I’m getting is from the woman scorned…”

“The woman scorned broke into my quarters,” he inserted, “bypassed the locking code, in fact.”

“I know that, but…”

“You know?” He spun to face her, eyes hard. “How?”

The young woman faltered for half a second under that glare, which was enough, “She told me,” she explained, with a feeble shrug, “part of the whole, ‘he was mean’ conversation.”

“Right,” before turning back to the port, “Of course.”

“And that’s how you want to leave it? With Kerrin hating you?”

No response.

“Uncle Harry?”

The tone, so like that of the girl he’d known… the girl who’d died right in front of him over three years back was like a knife, slicing through his spinal cord and he couldn’t stop the jerk of reaction.

But this wasn’t her. This girl was looking to another… dead… Uncle Harry and he had his own ass to cover… and he'd taken steps to do so, before she'd arrived. “I don’t tell you what you don’t need to know… especially not now, not when you’re dealing with, well,” he turned back and fixed her with a look of sad understanding, “you’re dealing with a lot on your own, just now.”

“I didn’t think,” she replied coolly, “that I was on my own.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he countered, crossing towards her, watching her, “It’s just that… with your friend dying and seeing your Dad… shit, now I’m doing it… seeing Seth… and all that so stupid soon after the thing with Chuck…”

“Don’t,” she said tightly, forgetting anything like protocol, “don’t use that to dismiss me. I’m done with Chuck, I’m done with what he did to me and I’m done with not trusting my own instincts.”

“I’ll bet you are,” he said, quietly, as if confirming something. “Okay… no dismissing.” He returned to the desk, internally reshuffling his priorities, “Now, back to business… it looks as if our high maintenance guests just got more high maintenance,” he looked up, “There’s the possibility they’ll be departing sooner than they’d hoped so there’s a push to get as much data transferred as possible. I’ve been asked to supply some additional aid to… Gul Malkat… so…”

So, he’d left her in the office, hunkered down over the computer, downloading select historical records of the Romulan Star Empire for the benefit of the IAS Hawking. Harry figured there was enough cultural data in the files he’d assigned to keep someone busy for three shifts, though he didn’t expect her to be that long.

The Veridium 6 he’d dropped into the hot chocolate he’d left for Jenny, to make up for the onerous task, would see to that. And buried beneath the data she was downloading, he’d left a note… ostensibly from Jenny herself… apologizing for the mess. It wasn’t elegant but, given the traumas the young woman had recently undergone, not completely out there. And it didn’t have to sell for long, anyway.

Ordering the lift to continue its course, Finn took cold comfort in the fact that now, at least, Gul Kalas would never get his hands on Jenny Anderson.

Featuring Jenny Anderson and MU Finn
Originally Posted 11/7/08 by Harry Finn

Emily stripped out of her uniform and jumped into the shower. She didn't have much to do at the moment, in truth she was too riled up to even think of relaxing. But why, why was so tied up into knots? Frustrated she threw some soap into her hair and rubbed it around.

'Gorsky', the name was sour in her thoughts. He had to be the reason. Why had she even said anything!? When had she ever opened up to a stranger before. She paused then realized it had become quite a common occurence of late. She had talked to Tenanji as well, as little as she had to go on she'd still spoken up. If she truly hadn't cared it would have stayed a question deep in the back of her mind. In her head she was a strong fortress but in truth her likeness was more a gelatin mould. Emily had changed and she wasn't sure if she liked it.

"GAH" she yelled, letting her annoyance out vocally while hitting the wall of the shower. The slight outbust was her warning to leave the shower, after rinsing her hair of course.

Emily had to choose who she was going to be. She couldn't keep getting upset at her actions, questioning what she thought was right. It was too much drama and too much stress. Growing up her father had commanded her to keep quiet, to be resolved and simple. He hated her for the way she was, if he had known she was half betazoid as an infant he never would have agreed to the adoption. Emily knew it and nothing in her life could take away that feeling of being hated.

'not even love,' she thought. She'd been engaged. Yet even those memories left her hollow as she was now alone. So why was she so upset that Gorsky hadn't believed her. He barely knew her, she barely knew him and she was being rash. It was time to start using the logic she was born with, time to tuck back a little and focus.

"They'll hate you for what you can do. They'll whisper behind your backs and fear you when you're around. Different is never good. People prefer what they understand, so be simple." her father had said.

Emily nodded, "Simple." she said outloud, "Simple I can try."

Originally Posted 11/7/08 by Emily Star

USS Hawking
Deck 3, VIP Quarters

“Three years we’ve been married, and you never once mentioned you knew Vincent before we started working with him.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she grumbled and took in the dull gray walls. For all the advanced and interesting technology they possessed, they somehow couldn’t manage to figure out interior design.

Luke’s threw his hands in the air in frustration, “Tell me!”

She picked a spot on the wall, and didn’t remove her eyes from it. “My…master,” she sneered, “was an acquaintance of Vincent’s father. I met him one night they visited, and that’s when it all began. He did things to me.” Luke’s eyes widened and he stalked to the wall behind her position, his face alight with an anger he had never felt before. His chest burned from it, and his balled fists needed something to go through.

“Not in that way,” she said quickly to calm him down. “He likes to hurt people, with tools, with his hands. It doesn’t matter. He gets off on the sight of blood, on the crying and the screams. I…hate him not because of that, but because somewhere along the way I began to like it,” she swallowed. “I am disgusted by it.”

The woman sat on the bed, “I learned to like it because I didn’t want it to hurt anymore. I didn’t want to give him any more pleasure from hearing me scream. After a while, it got boring to him, and he lost interest. Unfortunately, I was left even more f***ed up than I was before I met him.”

“I’m sorry that happened to you,” he lamented. “But that has nothing to do with our situation now. Malcet is not kind to people who disappoint him. You should not have had any problem with getting around their systems, but you did.”

The woman’s heart fell, and as she prepared to fall to her knees, he spoke again.

“I’m not going to kill you,” he announced. “As much as you are a liability at times, I need you. But, there’s something you’re going to do in return.”

Tatiana straightened, “Anything.”

“Whatever Malcet asks of us, you will do it no matter what it is.” His tone brooked no argument, and Tatiana jumped up smiling widely.

“Thank you,” she cried. “I promise everything is going to go well. Once we’re back on our ship I’ll fix it.” She looked towards the facilities. “I think I’m going to head in there.”

“Yes, go take a shower,” he agreed. “You smell like adultery.”

She snorted, “And you never have?”

Luke shrugged, “Of course I have. Hurry up.”

The man walked the length of the room, taking in the drab coloring and the quiet he never seemed to find on his own ship. Today he had saw things he only dreamed about, shuttles and ships that weren’t made for just battle, but exploration. Technology was open to all rather than the chosen few. Personal Edens could be created without any danger of the exploration of curiosity stealing it away. The people of this Hawking didn’t have to worry about looking over their shoulders, deception or death. He wanted this; he wanted to lay down his burdens, but the life he lived in his universe made it all impossible.

“If you keep thinking that hard, you may break your brain.” A voice tinged in laughter interrupted both his contemplation and the silence of the room. He turned around to see Tatiana fully dressed, “You got dressed?”

“I assumed you would be punishing me for screwing up,” she responded. She walked to him, “But I had hoped you wouldn’t. If you get past the first layer…” she led off.

“Good,” he responded, and reached a hand out to take strands of her hair between his fingers. He studied the texture and feel, his gaze not focused on the woman before him, but one of his favorite parts of her. He released them and watched as they fell. His lips touched hers; his tongue separated her mouth and met her tongue to duel. The two joined by their mouths, blindly stumbled over to the bed.

Luke broke the kiss and pushed her down into a sitting position. He sat down next to her and brought his lips to her ear. He took the end of the lobe into his mouth and gently sucked. After releasing it, his warm breath covered her ear as he spoke, “I want kill Rintala for touching you.”

“You told me to d-”

The helmsman bit down on the lobe hardly. The woman flinched in surprise, but didn’t attempt to pull away. “I know,” he acknowledged sternly. “It doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Tatiana’s and Luke’s eyes met and they stared at each other. She reached out and ran the tips of her fingers down his cheek. “I love you,” she whispered and kissed him.

Luke laughed and scratched the tip of his nose, “No, you don’t.” He ran a hand over her breast, and rested it on her shoulder. His lips met hers again, and he pushed her down so her back met the bed. He rolled to rest on top of her, and planted his hands on either side of her face to hold himself up.

“But I can,” she assured him from her position below him. “I can.”

Luke yelped when the warmth at his back was suddenly assaulted by her cool hands. “I don’t need you to tell me this; I’m not going to kill you.”

Tatiana looked away at the wall to their right. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears and Luke regarded her silently. “I saw him today,” she began. “I saw Mikhail and it hit me that I don’t have anyone else Lucas, but you,” she reminded him sadly, “All of my family members are either dead or they can’t be bothered.”

Luke didn’t respond. His eyes caught hers, and he couldn’t find the words. They had never discussed how they truly felt about each other; they only chose to acknowledge the hate that lay on the surface. Her tone changed when she realized her slip, “What I mean is that I can find some part of me that is fond of you.”

Luke smiled and teased her, “You can’t take it back now.” She made a disapproving face, and he laughed loudly. “Don’t worry, I’m sure I can find some part of me that is fond of you too,” he parroted. “Fine,” he sighed in defeat “There is a part of me that is fond of you, it’s miniscule, but it’s there. Now you don’t have to think that being vulnerable for once is akin to me shooting your dog. Now we both look weak.”

She grabbed hold of the bottom of his top, and pulled it up. He slid his hands forward and came crashing down on top of her. Tatiana cursed, and hit his back, “Don’t do that!”

“Sorry,” he said, “But you need my arms, I can’t hold myself up and remove my shirt.”

The woman didn’t react, but continued her goal of separating Luke from his top. Once it was dropped on the side of the bed, she scooted up, to rest her head on the pillow and her breath caught in her chest, as his hands moved up her top as he kissed his way up her stomach, the skin between her breasts and her collarbone. Her eyes were closed as she took in the sensations of the cool air across her revealed skin. “I want you now,” she moaned, leaned up and roughly pulled the shirt over her head. She let it fall to the floor, and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Patience woman,” he warned and motioned to the piece of clothing she removed. “You’re ruining the romance.”

“Maybe I’m done with the romance,” she muttered and kissed him. She pulled back and looked at Luke incredulously, “How is this romance exactly?”

He reached for the button of her pants, “Slower pace.”

“Ah. I thought it included flowers, candlelit dinners, things like that.”

Luke stopped his fumbling with her pants and shot her an exasperated look, “This is my version of romance, deal with it.”

“Sure,” she responded and lifted her body off the bed so he could remove the offensive piece of clothing. “God, screw the romance. Drop your pants and let’s get to it. I can’t wait anymore.”

The man stroked her bare thigh, stopping at the faint pink line that stood out against her pale skin. “I’ve always wanted to ask how you got this,” he murmured before bending down and running his tongue across the scar.

Tatiana swallowed and focused on the ceiling rather than her husband, “I fell and cut my leg open.” At his look she explained further, “Not all my injuries came from sick bastards, Lucas.” She glanced down again to see him removing his pants. “Come on Luke, hurry up,” she breathed. At Luke’s surprised look, she explained, “I’m trying it out. You don’t like it?”

Luke shook his head, “Not from you.” He brought his weight down on her again, and initially they didn’t move. Two pairs of blue eyes bore into each other, each searching for answers and truths that had always been left unsaid.

“I can,” she finally spoke, repeating her sentiment from earlier. Her husband smiled from above her.

It began. Rhythm and sound melded and filled the room as the two gave and took; playing parts that most days they felt they were made for. “Lucas,” the woman moaned and kissed him roughly. She closed her eyes, anticipating the coming wave. The inexplicable spread to her limbs, and then dispersed. Luke moved to her side, and the woman rested her head on his outstretched arm.

Soon, slow and deep breathing came from his side as Tatiana dozed beside him. He pulled his arm gently from under her head and rolled on his side to follow her example. He reached under the soft pillow and his fingers grazed an object. His fingers grasped the object and pulled it out. It was a PADD from the USS. Luke didn’t understand why it was there, but he read it anyway.

Be ready.

Luke threw it down and cursed. The man had had a small hope that they wouldn’t go ahead with their plan. He wanted to lay down his burdens, but the life he lived made it all impossible.

Life should always involve personal growth and sex…
Originally Posted 11/7/08 by Tatiana Thorne

Smoke & Mirrors

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