Storm Warning

This portion of the story features the following NPC's

Kal-El Kowalski and Delano Mills
Security Officers:
Kyle Ellison, Hamish Drummond and Esperanza Fuentes

Kitiran Sh'kesh
sh'kesha'a of Amma

The small neri, reserved only for the steeping of enokitake, had begun to steam and Amma carefully added a single dose of the precious medicine. "How long since your last spirit quest?" she looked to the younger woman, hoping it had not been too recently. The enokitake remained in the dreamer for a time… too much, too soon could be a danger.

"Many moons." T'Shaini supposed that what she had done with the Dosi could be described as a spirit quest, however since the old woman's attention was so clearly on the…whatever she said, the counselor assumed the dried substance was hallucinogenic and may have side effects if used too frequently. At least she hoped her analysis was correct. "It has been many migrations."

"It is well… if our ancestors were correct, you may see past the clouds have dropped over our lands."

Dropping gracefully down on the cushions, how do I get some of these back on board for my office… the counselor folded her legs beneath her and looked up expectantly at the Hentari. "Respected one, I am prepared." Please let me be prepared.

Amma crouched in front of the en'yassryn, "Drink this all," she offered the tiny cup, "and may your path bring you to the knowledge the Kitiran need." As the seemingly placid woman reached for the drink, Amma caught at her hand, "I have not asked your name… nor in normal times would I," she said, "but it is in me that I should know who takes this journey on behalf of my Yassryn."

Eased by the warmth and strength that flooded from Amma, she answered easily. "T'Shaini…" She could not qualify it though, not as the Denagari would. "en'yassryn I may be, but I will give my service freely."

"Yes… yes you would." Amma allowed T'Shaini to take the cup and waited patiently as the pathfinder's tea was consumed in a single swallow. "I will watch over you…"

Why do all cultures 'spirit quest' infusions have to be so bitter? T'Shaini thought as she drank the contents of the cup as quickly as possible. Handing the vessel back, she rested her hands on her thighs, closed her eyes and waited. Without warning it felt as if she had been vacuumed up out of her body to hover over the kneeling Amma. Except that she could see her own seated figure opposite the concerned Hentari. Fascinating. Familiar with the concept but unpracticed at the practical aspect, the counselor assumed she would next experience a series of Jungian images, archetypal visuals from her unconscious that would help illuminate her journey on this mission.

With her next breath her awareness expanded further back and up until, though still aware of the two seated figures, she could also 'see' Jason and Del across the sh'kesh and then further on encompassing the entire Kitiran encampment. What is the terran phrase about 'assume'? Experimentally, T'Shaini stretched the edges of her awareness like fingers questing until they brushed across the lone figure of Harry, crouched in the tall grass communing with a…ferret? She could sense, behind her, to the east, the other away team, and a bright flame of another seeker at their feet. As interesting as this is, there must be more I should be accomplishing. Suppressing the urge to yell 'Hey Harry, I can see your house from up here' she took another imagined breath and soared.

Burgeoning awareness spreading to the far reaches of the plains T'Shaini became less aware of individual things and more attuned to texture and color, the lush green of the plain, the rich swirl of the moving herd beasts, the pinpoint brightness of the Hentari illuminated within each of the warm clusters of Yassyrn. Except, to the south, there was one pinpoint that was not quite as bright…and no wonder as it was closely guarded by a murky grayness. That grayness was not alone, further south and east was a void, a blackness that spread its spider-like tendrils as if seeking…seeking…once the word appeared it became clear that was its purpose, to seek. Bedie. Thought triggering a chain reaction, T'Shaini felt herself drop into a free fall, then as a diver from deep water, with an explosive breath, surfaced back into her body.

"There is a darkness tainting the tribe a days ride to the southeast, subverting the goodness that exists to its own purposes. The Hentari is pure but endangered, it is twisting another source farther from the light of the ancestors."

A day's ride southeast… "The Azuchi?" Amma leaned back on her heels… it had been hours since the en'yas… since T'Shaini had taken flight. The Kitiran elder had begun to fear she might not return. "It is close to mid-day," she said, falling back on mundane matters while she digested the words and what meaning might she take from them. Certainly she must send riders to the other nearby Yassryn… this matter was larger than the Kitiran alone…. "Take some food, then we will join your men… when you feel ready, I will escort you back to the one who waits."

There was a sense or urgency she could not refute. "I am ready, I will take what I need when we have had time to speak with the others."

JP with AmmaHari
Originally Posted 8/15/08 by T'Shaini

USS Hawking
XO’s Office
(Meanwhile, back on the Hawking, life goes on…)

Jenny Anderson entered the office and stared in mild horror. What had Harry been doing in here? There were bits of some sort of hide and tufts of fur and… of course… coffee cups in various states of emptiness strewn willy-nilly over, under and around every available surface.

Stepping further into the room her boot crunched over what, when she bent down to examine it, proved to be a small piece of bone… replicated she assumed… that might have been used as a button. “Wow.” If she hadn’t been determined to get back to Security ASAP, already, the state of the First Officer’s work space would have cemented her resolve.

Sighing, Jen bowed to the inevitable and started with the most obvious culprits… the coffee cups. She’d just dug one out from under the couch when the desktop computer pinged with an incoming message. Placing the cup… number nine by her count… back on the replicator pad to be recycled, she went to the desk and keyed in her access code. If it were anything confidential, it wouldn’t open for her and it's not like the crew ceased to function when the XO left the building… er… ship.

A text message popped up, from David Tattershall, T’Shaini’s yeoman. While the Chief Counselor was away he’d been doing some pick-up duty for the rest of medical, in this case by forwarding requests for Chris Hodges. It seemed the bioweaponeer was looking for permission to test mutations in the Teplan Blight virus, with an eye to proactively creating antigens to any potential changes in the root virus.

Interesting, in a really creepy way but with no Finn to sign off, “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” she spoke aloud as she typed back the response, along with the suggestion he go further up the food chain to Captain Torrik. Once the reply was sent, she turned back to the hell of her godfather’s office and began, once again, the search for skulking coffee mugs and as she did, Jenny started to sing an old… ancient, really… tune that her Dad had occasionally sung to her Mom.

“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two…”

Featuring NPC Jenny Anderson
Originally Posted 8/16/08

Somewhere on the plains of Girijan

Kal-El yawned as he stretched. The pungent mud that caked his clothing had lost some of its stench during the night. Now it was dry and so was he, well for the most part. The tent had offered the team shelter for the night. Kal-El peered up through the rent in the ceiling of the tent. It had let in some water but for the most part they had been dry.

Kerrin, curled up in a ball, peered out of the shelter. "I think it is letting up don't you?" She whispered to Fehr who was on watch.

"Whatever you say." He smiled at the Pollyanna attitude, the rain was much as it had been for the last hour. Dawn was coming, so perhaps that made it look lighter to her. Fehr could feel the waves of nervousness from the scientist but then, their arrival had been less than sanguine. He glanced down at his chisira/tricorder… his shield he kept for its intended purpose… the rain was not moving in a normal pattern at all but holding over an area roughly 30 by 12 kilometers… a thin strip of foul weather. "If, however, it does not ease within the hour, I suggest we continue towards the nearest population… we will inform Hawking of our intent…" he looked back at the worried woman, "Unless you have a better plan, Doctor?"

"Hawking…crap." Kerrin was certain she had missed the second 2 hour mark. "Hang on, I will check in." She reached down to pass her hand over her clan medallion.

=^=Dr. Schaeffer to Hawking, we have found shelter and will be moving out momentarily. There is a large clan settlement to our southeast, they will be our target host.=^=

=^=Received Dr. Schaeffer, I will pass on your report to Captain Torrik.=^=

The need to do overtaking her, Kerrin turned back to the huddled forms behind her and began to sing. "Rise and shine and give god your glory glory. Rise and shine and, hey!" Her song cut short by thwack of a wad of still damp hide being flung in her direction. "Everyone's a critic."

Much sooner than she would have expected the group was moving, having put back the welcome find of the semi-permanent structures the Yassyrn marked their main trails with.

"Maybe it's just my need to be thorough," Kal-El started, "but shouldn't you have informed the Hawking about our two lost lambs? Maybe even asked the ship if they have heard from either Ellison or Munro? I'm just saying it would be nice to know something."

Kerrin turned around with an incredulous look. "I let them know in my last transmission, but maybe you were too busy bitching about our 'accommodations' to hear."

"Actually," Hammish said as he patted the engineer on the back, "I think he was snoring when you made that transmission. I nearly missed it too because of the din. I've been to rock concerts that were less noisy."

The engineer shrugged off the security officer's hand. Kal-El muttered some choice phrases about 'who was being bitchy to whom' as he flipped open his tricorder and floundered out of the tent. "Whoever made these shoes did a pitiful job," he remarked on his way out, fully knowing they were the handiwork of the anthropologist.

"I find them quite comfortable, suited to the terrain." Not that she needed any reassurance, but Fehr couldn't pass up a chance to compliment a woman…or preen just a bit. "You must pass my compliments to whomever crafted them… they make one feel of the plains."

Kerrin smiled in spite of herself, so obvious…yet, somehow still charming. "Alright, where are we headed specifically?"

Hammish tried not to roll his eyes at Fehr. Between Grandpa Kowalski the grumpy engineer and Rico Suave the security officer, he was glad someone in the team was keeping them on track. "Should we try to make contact with the locals? Perhaps to gauge if there's been any cultural contamination? If there are outsiders here they will know about them, then we can find Kamal."

"Yes, we can work on our story on the way, I think saying a spirit quest sent us to them, a western tribe like the Ekkura so the possibility of contact would be close to zero, get in that way and then see what we can find out." Knowing she was likely to regret it, Kerrin gestured for the others to follow her and walked out to Kal-El. "Can you locate the closest Yassryn? And get us going in their direction?"

"Two point four kilometers south south east," the engineer replied without even looking up from his tricorder. "Maybe they'll have some clean furs..and better shoes."

Kerrin strode past him in the direction indicated. "And maybe if we are really lucky they will have something that can remove whatever it is that crawled up your ass…"

NPCs a go go with Javi and Tee
Originally Posted 8/16/08

Sh'kesh of the Kitiran Yassryn

No matter how serious the situation there was a twelve year old boy that still lived inside of Jason Hallows that was jumping for joy as they made their way through the Kitiran yassyrn. How many get to experience something of this magnitude? Even before rounding a corner to a cleared area the tell tale conglomeration of the smell of burning wood, heated metal and animals told Jason they would be meeting the huntmaster at whatever the blacksmith was called on Girijan. Whoa. Next to one of the six legged beasties that these people rode had to be Laerta, easily his height, lean and well muscled, and just reeked of 'you don't want to meet me in a dark alley'.

Laerta looked up briefly from the juvaal's mid-leg as the two strangers were led towards her, "Rub it thrice a day with the bhandi liniment," she ordered Vess, "and keep her off the hunt another four-day," turning to the men her Hentari had ordered she speak with Laerta held back a sneer… "Follow me," she ordered, and immediately strode off to the nearest cookfire. If she had to spend time with a pair of en'yassryn d'rag, she would at least have a full cup of lakma in her while she did it.

"Don't worry, I am sure she is friendlier than she looks." Jason whispered to the young engineer before stretching his legs to catch up to the rapidly disappearing Huntmaster.

Delano wasn't too sure as they reached a well-tended fire where the woman was already seated on one of a series of hide-covered stones placed in a semi-circle around the blaze. She had ladled out something steaming that smelled quite nice… the youngest member of the en'yassryn crew felt his stomach grumble at the enticing scent and then his skin flushed when Laerta's eyes seared into his.

"You may partake," she nodded towards a stack of cups, "both of you are part of the yassryn until mid-day."

Inclining his head, Jason said the ritual thanks before reaching for cup. "The hospitality of the Kitiran is welcome, and I…we, are grateful for its warmth and goodwill."

"So, I am to tell you of our… troubles," Laerta waited until the two had taken their own portions and sat… the younger with obvious nerves… almost she warmed toward him, "but first," she looked again at the other, "how long have you traveled the eastern plains? I would not tire you with old tidings."

"We have been much in the west, any tidings you have would be new to us."

"Yet you were the first to find our dead morayni," Laerta's voice was tinged with suspicion but Amma had never been wrong in her measuring of a soul. "Very well… you will note that we are well-camped far sooner than would be wise for the season. The 'zaccura' life wind, has blown ill this migration, so that the central camps are dry and barren and the herds of zaar have sought their late season pastures far too soon.

"Stranger, perhaps, my juvayni came across pack of d'rag… nine beasts… all dead.. not an arrow wound among them. We know not of any Yassryn capable of such damage. And these were more than dead… they were empty of blood."

Jason exchanged a look with Del. Curiouser and curiouser. "And this had never been seen before."

"So we thought," leaning forward in spite of herself, Laerta continued, "but when we sent word to the nearest yassryn, the Liirn, who ride north of us, did tell of a small party of their own who, winding the path of endings to their own Hentuu, were also killed and similarly left dry… as if they had been a moon dead in the mid-plains.

"And the desecration…" Laerta was not going to speak of this to outsiders yet… "caves of the ancestors have been despoiled."

Jason's archaeologist heart clenched in horror, which reflected on his face gave the Kitiran reason to trust whether he intended so or no. "What can we do?" It was clear to him that Bedie was the reason for the death, the reason for the desecration and it needed to stop, in whatever misguided quest she was on she was trampling all over these peoples lives and society and it needed to stop. "Whatever aid is ours to give we will give it freely."

"That is not for me to say," the Kitiran woman frowned, more in confusion than disapproval. These were not at all of the same herd as the en'yassryn she had, on occasion, crossed, riding sentry on the plains. "Amma will tell us what actions are best, when she has learned what she may from your companion. I warn you," she glanced at the newly broken dawn, then back at the men who looked quite ready to carve their way through all the demons of the spirit world on the Kitiran's behalf, "it may be some time before she is ready to speak to us."

"I had anticipated as much," Jason's eyes began to glint with mischief. "if it would not take up too much of your time, my brother and I have had little contact with juvaal since…well it seems forever." He bowed his head hoping she would take it to mean they had been outcast at a young age. "and I am sure we would both benefit from whatever you would be willing to show us." He threw a smile over his shoulder to Del. "Right brother?"


JP with Tee featuring Delano Mills, Laerta of the Kitiran and Jason Hallows
Originally Posted 8/16/08 by Harry Finn

-USS Hawking-
-Rec Lounge-

Javier scratched his cheek then looked down at the console in front of him. Think. You know how this is going to play out. Just find the pattern. There were many flashing red lights on the right side of the board but only a few on the left. It's uncanny how many of those just started popping up. "Uhmmmm. Uh..E-9?" the engineer called out.

"Direct hit," the Bajoran whispered in frustration. There was a reason he hadn't been stationed at tactical. And as he watched Javier demolish his fleet of naval vessels a stark reality slapped him in the face. If the Hawking ever became engaged in a firefight while he was Captain, their opponent may very well 'sink their battleship.' "Firing solution A-4," he continued following through with the search pattern he'd implemented early on. Based on his results he knew at some point he'd have to give it up. "I have a great many weaknesses as a Commanding Officer," Nils admitted as much to himself as to Javi. "I tried to tell Admiral D'Rinax."

"Incoming Salvo! Hard a port! Chug-chug-chug." Javier said to himself as he played out the shot Nils had taken. It always seemed to make the game a little more interesting when one added their own dialogue. He could only imagine what sort of sound the engines of a battleship made, never having been on one. Chugging along just seemed to fit. "Weeeeeooh. Sploosh!" the engineer added to illustrate the scream of the shell in the air and the splash as it hit empty water. "Miss."

"Only been on the job a couple of weeks and already found a 'great many' have you?" the Chief Engineer inquired as he started to plan his next barrage. "What did you say to D'Rinax? 'Sir, I've been known to sulk for hours, even days if the mood strikes me.' Or was it more like: 'Admiral, the problem with me is..women find me too damn attractive.'" Javi grinned at his CO. "I remember those three women at the regatta party. Well I remember that they were hot, I don't much remember names or specifics..Hey, and I heard some scuttlebutt that you and Munro, not that I listen to scuttlebutt..well is it true?"

The first part of Javier's volley had Nils preparing a defense. But at the mention of Jillian everything else sort of faded away. His cheeks got red and his expression soured. "Scuttlebutt? I'm not… There's nothing… Who was talking scuttlebutt? Jilli… Dr. Munro and I have a very professional working relationship and although… Well of course we have a history, but that's just what it is… It's history." Mostly Aside from a few minor slip ups the'd remained committed to their decision to be nothing more than platonic work mates. Well the slip ups were not completely minor… And perhaps they'd been a few more than just 'few.' There was the time she'd reported to him in his quarters regarding the facial reconstruction surgery and the conversation had turned to other body parts besides faces… And then there was the incident in sickbay where their 'acrobatics' left him with a pulled muscle and a sore back. And then again in astrometrics… And then there was the holodeck they'd coincidentally secured together when they'd both lost their uniforms and had to end the program to find them… There was also the episode on his desk in the Captain's ready room… Dear Prophets, Nils thought. We've completely fallen this thing again…

Coming out of his 'dirty' little walk down memory lane, the Bajoran locked eyes with the Chief Engineer. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he said, his voice wavering in the lie. He was a terrible liar.

"Okay," Javier replied, accepting Nil's answer easily enough, returning his attention to the board in front of him before adding, "you should practice that answer a couple of more times though, it's not as convincing as it could be…E-10." They have to be the two most 'on again, off again' people that I've ever met. the engineer thought as his fingertips idly drummed against the side of the game console.

"It's funny, because the way you are around her," Javier started, then realized he was in No Man's Land, "well it would seem as if you would want more of that, instead of not..just saying. Maybe being captain wouldn't be so bad if you had someone..not Doctor Munro though, clearly there's nothing between you two." As hard as he tried, Javi couldn't suppress the smile that that statement brought.

A cold hard glare drifted from Costala slowly down to the game board directly in front of him. He decided to ignore the comment. "Brace for impact," he said stiffly. The part of the game where you had to create dialogue for the plastic ship's crew seemed even more difficult than determining the proper firing pattern. It made him feel…stupid. "All hands, abandon ship. Repeat… All hands abandon ship…" Nils picked up the little gray plastic game piece and chucked it to the floor in frustration. Unless ancient Terran underwater vehicle had lifepods, then all hands had probably been lost in the last attack. "My submarine has been neutralized." In the fear that Javier may continue treading on sensitive ground Nils decided to divert the conversation, so he asked, "Are you concerned for Counselor T'Shaini… On this mission, I mean? And Firing solution D-4"

"BOOOOOM!! Direct hit. Captain, we've taken one below the water-line. The bilge is filled to the scuppers," the engineer said as Nils found his destroyer, a piece which usually hid in the open sea and caused the other player to go crazy trying to find it. After watching the fate of the surviving submarine crew, Javier was glad Nils had finally scored a hit. The commanding officer seemed to be taking the game personally as if each sunken ship was a testament to his own battle prowess or lack thereof. The engineer punched a red marker into the small ship, denoting it had been hit by enemy fire.

"Of course I'm concerned for her," Javier said, "I know she's well-trained and capable of defending herself but that doesn't stop me from worrying about her safety." He looked at his board then said, "S-3. What about you? Are you concerned for Dr. Munro?" Javier wondered if Nils and Jillian's relationship had reverted to what was commonly known in the Marines as a 'Wham-Bam-Thank You Ma'am', which tended to happen right before a mission when nerves needed settling and physical contact ensued.

"Miss," Nils said smugly. "Maintain present course…" A self-satisfied smile curled his lips as if he'd achieved some inner victory. "And yes… I'm concerned for her." The Bajoran sighed and twirled his fingers around in the small tray of white pegs absently. "But… My new role muddled my concerns significantly. I'm concerned for her, and I'm concerned for the others down there. I'm concerned for the Devanagari and the preservation of their culture. I'm also concerned about the Circle's interest in this planet. And Vail's interest in the Circle…" He shrugged and looked up with a troubled expression. "D-3?"

"Splash. Near miss there captain. Man the pumps maybe we can save her," Javier replied, effectively playing the bo'sun of the stricken destroyer. He thought about Nils' reply then remembered his conversation with T'Shaini before she had left the ship. "What if you had to choose between saving Dr. Munro and breaking the Prime Directive..what would you do then?"

Gut punch… The question tore at the nature of the man D'rinex chose to sit in Hawking's center seat. No matter what he answered there would be shame attached to it. His sense of duty defined him, but… "I don't know," he said seriously. Jillian made her decision to join the 'Fleet and the ultimate sacrifice is a risk of the job. Laying down one's life for the preservation of an entire culture really wasn't that much to pay in macrocosm. But in microcosm… In the real world where these people had become the family he'd never known, he didn't know if he could sacrifice any of their lives to preserve an ideal. "That price might be too high… And I hope I never have to make a choice like that." The cop out ashamed him. His command ability was lacking in every regard. "Could you make a choice like that? Reload and fire when ready…" His tone was sour and the fun of the game seemed to be fading. "C-4."

"Hit and sunk. Blurb, blurb, blurb. You skipped my turn," Javier admonished gently, "fortunately I don't care because now I get to fire a double salvo." He studied the layout of shots that he had made. "S-5 and S-7." The engineer noted the tone of his CO's voice. "It's a difficult question to answer..I don't think there's any correct way to answer until it actually happens.." Javier asked himself if he should tell his captain about the promise he had made to T'Shaini. He's my friend too. "I know there's my duty to Starfleet, but T'Shaini is a lot more important to me than a shiny little pip," Javier told Nils.

"Ah damn…" Nils shook his head. "Hit and hit." Which left one shot left smack in the middle of his cruiser before his fleet was anihilated. Javier's Battleship prowess was uncanny. "Look it's not about the pips. Believe me, I'd gladly hand one or two back at this point… I think… But, there are things larger than one life. Or even a whole ship full of lives. I'd like to think that if it came down to choosing, each of us on Hawking would gladly make sacrifices to insure the well being of an entire planet. It's about…ideals… And duty… It's about doing the right thing even if the right thing is really hard. And even if it will hurt a lot." The Bajoran took a moment to contemplate a scenario that would require him to offer up Jillian's life for some stone age alien he'd never met… Or not even Jillian. Could he make that call if it were T'Shaini… Or Harry… Or anyone down on the away team. "I think giving up one's own life is relatively simple. But to offer up someone you love…er…care about… Someone you serve with and respect." He shook his head and sighed. "That would make you either a great hero…or a terrible villain. I'm not sure which."

"I don't think I could make that call; it was bad enough when Ajani.." Javier said before slumping back in his chair, the game forgotten. He hadn't spoken of Ajani Obatu, his friend and fellow engineer, in a long time. Ajani had taken Javier's place and died because of his eagerness to try and help the beleagured Chief Engineer. "I have to go check the systems," he said suddenly, rising to his feet then just as abruptly sat back down. Nils had answered all of his questions, even the tough ones, and now when things got tough for Javier he had nearly fled. "I don't..I never had very many friends, most people think I'm kind of odd so..Ajani was a good friend."

There weren't really words that could deftly respond to the engineer's sentiment. Loss had characterized so much of Nils' early life that he'd grown weary of the words others tended to use when trying to 'patch it up.' And he knew nothing he could say would mean all that much. "I know there have been rough spots… But you've always been a good friend to me," Nils croaked. The 'awkward' was stifling, but his desire to be more open was one of the many changes that had followed his personal awakening. "Even when I wasn't a good friend to you… *cough* You… I've been grateful you are… Have been… Around…" Nils nervously scratched his eyebrow with his index thumb. "Ajani was lucky to have you as a friend, Javier."

"I just hit your last ship but we'll call it even," Javier announced as he cleared his 'fleet' with a swipe of his hand. "What are friends for?"

This 'Dude, You're So Gay' Moment brought to you by Battleship.
Originally Posted 8/16/08 by Javier Costala

.:: USS Hawking - Outside of Bridge ::.

Vince exited the bridge, being relieved by Capers, but hadn't left the helm on the bridge. He was staring down at a PADD that had the current course that he had layed out. He started tapping the screen, breaking down the orbit in every which way, looking for any irregularities, hoping not to find any. He stepped onto the turbolift, and continued to stare at the PADD.

The course was good, and there didn't appear to be anything that could go wrong, but this was space, and anything was possible. A solar flare that was big enough could kjnock them ofcourse by a fraction of a degree, and could spell trouble. The merc ship could somehow get a lucky scan and spot them, therefore provoking a battle. There were to many variables to consider, but Vince was attempting to run through them all. The doors of the lift hissed open, and he stepped out, still engulfed in the PADD. He started down the hallway, and turned a corner, walking while not paying attention was easy for Vince, as he knew the ship well, but if someone stepped out, the'd be getting a nice surprise and so would he.

He finally came to his destination, walking into the lounge, and finding a table off in the corner. He sat down at the table and sat the PADD down, still running through the various senerios, just trying to make sure. The barkeep asked him what he wanted, and Vince pointed to the water tap behind the bar. He was still concentrating on the PADD, but the keep knew what he was requesting. As the glass of water touched the table Vince grabbed it, taking a long drink. He tapped the screen again, and waited. Another flawless set of variables, causing Vince to grin a bit. As he continued to emerse himself in the PADD, he felt the table move, knowing there was only one person that would be there.

" What?" Vince continued to stare at the PADD.

" Well, I thought that maybe you needed someone to hang out with during your off time, besides, I am your best friend." Scott lifted his carmel colored drink up and took a drink," Don't people that are emersed in their work usually drink a bunch of coffee?"

Vince finally looked up from the device," Well, I guess usually, but I've never been the coffee kind of guy. I hate having that taste in my mouth, as well as the smell, and the crazy amount of caffenine," He took another long drink, another glass appearing on the table," There's also the thing about not wanting to ever have anything that looks like Finn's office, have you seen how many cups are in there?"

Scott laughed taking another drink," Oh, yea. I was in there the other day getting some schematicsfor the shuttles. But, hell, he needs the caffine. I bet he's craving some down there on the planet right about now."

Setting the PADD down, Vince took another drink and relaxed for the first time," No kidding. I'm kinda wishing I knew more about what was going on down there. I've never been on the ship during an away mission whilst in orbit, but I kinda like the change of pace," Vince leaned forward, folding his hands on the table," So, I know you've been digging around, what have you figured out?"

Scott put his feet up on the nearest chair, taking a new drink from the barkeep," Well, not as much as I thought I could, but most of the info is locked out to even me. Being the Asst. Cheif, I thought I'd be able to dig somthing out of the system, but no luck really. All I know is that Vail guy has something to do with it, and that Merc ship is a big part, but nothing more than that. It's all pretty vauge."

Vince flopped backward in his seat, his hands covering his face," Damn, maybe I could just waltz into the Captain's ready room, Demand to know what's going on, and seat myself in a chair awaiting his responce."

" Yea, then find yourself in your favorite cell in the brig," Scott laughed, taking yet another drink," Look, I'm sure that there will be somthing involving the away mission that they'll need you for, but til then you just gotta wait."

Vince began to answer back but the PADD was flashing. He looked down, a confused look on his face.

Scott leaned forward," Well whats wrong, Ace?"

" Well, most of the time I can figure out what a flag is representing as a flaw in an orbit, but this one here is just puzzling me." Vince slid the PADD over to Scott," Take a look and tell me what you can figure out."

Scott looked at the PADD, then lifted his finger, but lowered it, then lifted it again, followed by another lowering," Well this ain't like dusting crops kid," Scott paused," I suggest you take it to Javier. It looks like somthing is effecting a ship system, but he'll be able to break it down properly, and know what the problem is."

Vince finished his second glass of water, waving off a third," Yea, I was thinking the same thing," Vince tapped his comm badge,"Computer, where is Chief Costala?"

The computer responded quickly," Chief Costala is in the Rec lounge, adjacent to your current location."

Vince grinned," Well, that makes things convienent, doesn't it." Standing up, he took the PADD from Scott," I'll talk with you later, I need to see what this is all about, or I'll go mad trying to figure it out myself."

Scott stood up, bowing to Vince," And I bid the, adue……"

Vince walked through the tables and chairs of the lounge, heading for the Rec room. As he walked through the doorway, he saw Javier sitting with Captain Nils, and playing some sort of game, appearing to be enjoying themselves. Due to knowing the two crew members for as long as he had, he didn'tbother with any formalities, just walking up, holding the PADD out infront of him.

" Javier, I know you're busy, but when you get the time, could you take a look at this abnormality that I have found. It's happened since I modified the orbit to be more effecient, but I don't think it's anything big, but I want to make sure." Vince stood waiting for Javier's responce, hoping this minor problemwould get figured out.

Originally Posted 8/17/08 by Vince Stryfe

The Chief Engineer took the PADD that Vince Stryfe was offering him, if there was a flaw in the Hawking's systems he wanted to find the malfunctioning equipment as soon as possible. The anamoly that the helmsman was referring to was clearly listed on the flight plan Stryfe had configured for the Intrepid class vessel. The LRS scan showed the anamoly clearly enough but Javier tapped the PADD and called up a thermal scan, then an inverted light scan of the flagged area.

"It looks like one of the satellites has its own satellite or its a asteroid..a large one, beside it." Javier made his way over to a wall console and transferred the PADD's information to the console's screen. He also contacted the bridge and had the Bynarian Ops officers send another scan of the area to the console. It only took a couple of minutes to complete.

"The asteroid has moved closer to the moon," the engineer observed, "but we still should be able to see it better..Computer enlarge sector 44E, set resolution at 150." Blurred lines sprang into focus as the digital magnification of the scan revealed a hole in space. It wasn't something normally seen on a scan and the satellite's gravitational pull suggested that they were looking at something. But it was a big blank space where an object should have been.

"This is it," the engineer said, "The day they told us about in high school, when algebra would actually save our lives." Javier grinned then said, "Computer calculate the size of the anamoly in sector 44E then search for a match in the ship database."

<>Acknowledged Sparks,<> the computer answered, then said, <>Match found. The vessel's specifications match that of a Bajoran subimpluse raider.<>

"It's a scout ship, sitting near that moon, waiting for something or someone," Javier told the captain and the helmsman. "Or us.."

Originally Posted 8/17/08 by Javier Costala

:: USS Hawking ::
:: Rec Lounge ::

"It's a scout ship, sitting near that moon, waiting for something or someone," Javier told the captain and the helmsman. "Or us.."

"Looks like the Battleship strategy lesson may come in handy sooner than later," Nils said rising and stepping towards the exit. "I’ll be on the bridge." He nodded at Javi and Stryfe in turn and left. If things got dicey they’d be at stations soon enough as well.

Once in the corridor he made a slow jog to the turbo lift. "Bridge," he called before leaning against the wall. A Bajoran Scout ship… That was unnerving. And it was hiding in the sensor shadow of that moon. Either a new player had joined the fray, or more likely that small ship had launched from the larger merc ship. Hopefully the ship hadn’t seen them yet, but Nils had his doubts. They’d probably been there the whole time, guarding the back door.

=/\= Bridge to … Captain Torrik, =/\= the Bynars said. =/\= We’re reading… Some strange… =/\=

The doors to the turbolift swooped open and Nils stepped through. "I know… I know," he said cutting off the two small humanoids as they spoke. The CO dipped into the tactical station next to Tenanji and started duplicating the Chief Engineer’s process of refining the anomalous scans. "Stryfe brought it down to Javier who quickly…" A few beeps and chirps interrupted Nils as he spoke. "…uncovered…" The image on the tactical screen zoomed and blurred and finally dissolved into the shape of the Bajoran Scout Vessel. "This." The Bajoran stared down at the little ship. "Suggestions," he offered, glancing up at Tenanji.

"Sir, that depends," the cool response was not what anyone wanted to hear, "if our goal is to remain undetected the Hawking would be best served by going to silent running. This poses a difficulty for the away teams, however. They are due for second check in…"

The Bajoran Captain's eyes narrowed as he considered their next move. "Lt. Okeefe, best guess… Has the Scout ship spotted us and have they reported in to the larger vessel."

From the science station across the bridge, Jada looked up from her console, where she'd been busy at work. "Best guess? Yes and no… Their proximity to the moon masks their presence to us but not vice versa. But if they would have contacted the mercenary vessel from that position it would have given them away the moment we entered the system. It would appear they are employing the stategy Lt. Tenanji is suggesting to you."

Nils looked from the Chief of Science back to the Chief Tactical officer on board. "That alters the equation a little, doesn't it?"

"I wish we'd known it was to be a party," Tenanji murmured quietly before speaking aloud, "Since we have yet to be attacked by the Beradi vessel, nor have our landing parties been pinpointed by Kamaal's ground-based crew, we can only assume that they want to know what we are doing here. May I suggest then, that we give them something to listen to?"

Though entertained by the notion, Nils found himself cracking a smile not at the words, but at who'd offered them. It seemed the old iceburg had a sense of humor after all, dry though it may be. "I'm assuming you don't mean Klingon Opera. What'd you have in mind?"

"Perhaps some not too difficult, but not too easy, subspace commiques… indicating the success of the corbomite shielding while we maintain our orbital survey… including our current disposition that a landing is not necessary at this time?" He was not above using a bluff, not if it gave them time to further assess their enemy.

"Corbomite?" The name stirred a memory. And as his recall kicked in, Nils face lit up. "Good… Yes…that'll do." The Bajoran turned on himself and pointed at the Bynars at their station. "Open a channel… Make it look like we're contacting Command, but don't… And encrypt it with an old Starfleet protocol. The older the better."

"Understood…" "…Captain," came their reply in tandem. "Channel.." "…is open."

"Hawking to Command… The Orbital Survey of Omeron 341 is proceeding as expected. The planet's population is… Not ready for contact and we're not going to send a party at this time. Our…test of the corbomite shielding, however," he glanced over at Tenanji with a wicked grin. "Is coming along nicely. I'd rate it a complete success. We'll….try again in a few hours to duplicate our results. Hawking out…" He nodded at the Operations Officers to cut the channel then looked back at the Chief of Security. His first attempt at live theatre left him feeling a little exhilerated. "Well?"

"Generally, sir, if no one starts shooting at us, the ploy was a success," was the calm response. "Meanwhile, I advise we go to yellow alert and reduce as much comm traffic with the surface as possible. When absolutely necessary we can use tight beam burst transmissions to contact the away teams. We should also prepare for combat, should our deception begin to falter. The Scout ship is not heavily shielded. Should they attempt to transmit our position to the larger Beradi Vessel, we could elimate them before they reveal our presence."

Nils shook his head. "The Federation has a non-aggression pact with Beradis IV. If we fire first we could jeopardize the larger peace. I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war…" Taking his seat in the center of the room the CO continued, "But please do make any preparations for combat that you deem necessary and send a burst transmission to Harry filling him in on the situation. Better safe than sorry…" Gazing at the forward viewscreen, Nils steepled his fingers over his lips and took a deep breath. "For now…we wait."

Featuring some NPCs and Usher Tenanji voiced by the Finnster:
Originally Posted 8/17/08 by Torrik Nils


Dako surveyed the landscape of the young world from his perch, high above the burial caves of the simian-like creatures that occupied that land. His vision was excellent and the Beradian could see for miles. It had been he who had warned Kona about the last raiding party and it would be Dako who kept watch for any other parties that sought to interfere in their excavation of the caves. As he sat and watched, Dako cleaned his dagger, wiping away any trace of blood or flesh that remained on the weapon. Instead of disposing of the cloth he used to clean the blade, Dako tucked it inside of his pack. He would use it later, once they had returned home, offering it and the blood of his enemies to the warrior goddess, Ataryu as a proclamation of his skill.

A footstep on the rock behind him and the disruptor was in his hand, pointed at the head of one of his fellow warriors. Sira froze for a moment then laughed, a truly horrid sound as his mandibles clicked against his jaw. Dako frowned at the merc. "What do you want? My watch will not end in many hours."

"I wanted a break from digging. Bah, this search is fruitless, we should be fighting, not digging," the elder Beradi complained. "And fighting worthy adversaries, the uncivilized apes that inhabit this planet barely offer any challenge at all."

"They are a pathetic lot when you face them with disruptors or phasers," Dako agreed, " but in our last engagement I fought them with my dagger instead of using my pistol and found the fight much more challenging."

Sira looked at him in disbelief. "Their blood is not fit to stain my blade." The merc huffed in apparent disdain. "They are little more than animals and so I will dispose of them like animals. A couple of phaser shots and they are nothing, it is the way animals that wear fur should die." A slow drizzle began to fall, making Sira curse. Dako looked over the plain, as the rain fell it covered the grasslands with a grey veil that obscured his view. "The apes can have this planet when we are done," Sira said vehemently, "which I hope is soon."

"Do you think they will wonder about us? Will we have been worthy adversaries or demons to them? Will you speak of these battles to Ataryu?" Dako inquired.

"Animals such as these deserve death," Sira replied then began to make his way down towards the caverns where the sounds of digging grew louder as he approached. "They do not deserve rememberance before our Warrior's heart or in our stories."

The young mercenary waited until the elder was out of earshot. "I will remember them," Dako said quietly to himself as he sheathed his dagger. But what will happen if I am slain? All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain..

Featuring Dako of the Beradi
Originally Posted 8/18/08 by Javier Costala

Just East of the Kitiran Sh’kesh

Harry, fortunately alone but for the perpetually curious rodent, took in Tenanji’s terse one-way report on the split disposition of the Alpha team, the hidden Bajoran Scout ship and the need for com-silence. Sighing over the latest complications, he tossed another scrap of replicated jerky to Rex (or Regina… he sure wasn’t gonna look) and hauled out his chisira, lifting the false decor on the water skin to reveal the tricorder. In a few moments he’d converted Tenanji’s message to code, uplinked the tricorder to his combadge and transmitted the intelligence directly to Fehr and Ellison’s attention. It should, if the combined might of Engineering’s programming went as planned, call attention to itself with a pleasant but noticable vibration in their communicators, indicating a com from another ground-based crew member, which they would then download into their own variously disguised tricorders.

Harry split his attention between the interior of his chisira and the quietly active camp, taking a moment to scritch Rex on the back… in very little time his own com gently thrummed in his hood and the tricorder displayed ‘message received’ codes from both his targets. Satisfied, though he wouldn’t have minded hearing how Kerrin was doing, he closed up shop. “Can’t stop the signal,” he told Rex with quiet satisfaction. And not a moment too soon. From below there was a much more purposeful motion… a small party, mounted on the weirdly graceful juvaal, were leaving the sh’kesh… and heading his way.

Originally Posted 8/18/08 by Harry Finn


Esperanza fell back to where Fehr had paused, hunching over his tricorder. The others continued their steady hike across the sodden plains. “What’s happening?”

“There is a complication on Hawking… a Bajoran scout ship on the far side of our chosen camouflage satellite likely knows of their presence. To maintain our cover we are to avoid contacting the ship.” He sent the ‘message received’ code to Finn and stowed his chisira before falling into step with the ensign. Up ahead, they saw Hamish attempting to herd Kal-El leftwards and away from his favorite target, Dr. Schaeffer.

“Think it’ll ever let up?” Esperanza ran a speculative hand over her bow. It was too wet for the weapon to be of use as anything but a club, at present.

“The rain?” Fehr shrugged, “there is a stalled front, backing up at the coast, accept for this…”

“No, no, not the rain,” though that was annoying enough, “the brainiac feud.”

“Ahh, that,” Fehr’s expression wavered between amusement and weariness, “I do not think anything can keep those two from snarling at one another. He is a Kryonian tiger and she a panther and they are fighting over what each believes to be their own territory.”

Esperanza humphed, “Well that’s great but right now I’m starting to feel like some big game hunting…”

No sooner had the words left her lips when a shout from up ahead brought the two racing forwards. Just as they came abreast of Kerrin and Hamish, the looming shadows which had caused Kal-El’s exclamation solidified into the shapes of five juvaal, each carrying the well-armed figures of Devanagari tribesmen.

“Who crosses the Azuchi keshii,” a deep voice demanded, “Make your answer quickly, or be forever silent.”

“I am Fehr of the Ekkura, shadow walker to Kerrin, Hentari-to-be of our yassryn,” thanking all the gods that he’d studied his lines, “her spirit-quest has called her to these eastern plains.”

“It is not usual for a the spirits to lead the dreamer out of her own keshii…” the deep voiced rider challenged.

“Ah but you see, Kerrin is a very unusual dreamer,” this from Kal-El, of all people. Fehr almost lost character.

“It is so,” the security officer agreed, aware that Kerrin, the subject of all this broil, was practically writhing in embarrassment. Still, there was nothing for it: of all the team she had the deepest knowledge of the culture… who else to represent their spiritual leader? “Have we leave to continue?” Because if we do not, I aim to misbehave.

There was a moment of leaden contemplation, then, “We will escort you as far as our sh’kesh… there you may take council with our own Sallin, our own Hentari. If he wills it, the quest may continue.” He didn’t say what would happen if Sallin objected to their presence. “I am Tchiva, huntmaster of the Azuchi. Welcome.”

With that the five juvaal were brought around to surround the more pedestrian Ekkurans and, so encircled, the remains of the Alpha team continued on their way.

Post featuring NPC’s Esperanza Fuentas, Fehr, Kal-El, Kerrin, Hamish and Tchiva of the Azuchi.
Originally Posted 8/19/08 by Harry Finn

East of the Kitiran Sh’kesh

Approaching the clearly impatient warrior who had, as he’d promised, awaited the return of his companions in exile, Amma swallowed against the rising guilt which accompanied her determination. Behind her, T’Shaini, Jerad and Delan waited with Laerta and the gift of two juvaal until Amma could ask what she had come to ask. Once she reached the silent man, she stood firm and looked up into his steady gaze.

“I told your companions that I wished to speak with you alone.” Amma’s discomfort with him was still present but less pronounced, as if she’d become accustomed to the bitter taste of a necessary medicine. “Would you share your name?"

“To what purpose?”

“I would speak to you on a matter which… I would speak to you as one of the plains… for what is coming will certainly affect us all, yassryn and en’yassryn alike.”

For a moment the man’s eyes slid away from hers and towards those who waited beyond. What he saw in their expressions she did not know but when he looked back to Amma, “Harad,” he threw down the name like a challenge.

Amma refused to be impressed. “You are what you are,” she said quietly, “and because you are so… there is a chance you could do a great service to the Kitiran… perhaps to all of the plains… your own lost yassryn included.” And she explained, beginning with T’Shaini’s vision and expanding to the other strange events which Laerta had earlier described to Jerad and Delan. And then she asked what she had come to ask.

The en’yassryn warrior remained stone still as the Hentari spoke and, if he felt anything at all in response to the woman’s request, she could not see it, nor could she see it. When her words had run their course, she stopped and waited, watching him.

T'Shaini watched the conversation with curiosity, the Hentari seemed eager to talk to Harry…Harad, which had struck her as odd considering how dismissive she had been of him earlier. So she watched. There was little she could glean until after formally acknowledging Amma's departure, bowing and pressing her fingertips to her forehead then her heart, the Vulcan watched her return then turned to Harry. Oh dear. She knew he was going to be upset, but the reality was rather worse than she had imagined. Amma clearly told him. T'Shaini wished she had requested that she be the one to tell him of her vision…not that he would have been less angry, but she could have steered the conversation to make it clear how important it was that they help the Denagari. At least how important it now was to her. Stopping herself from scuffing her feet in the dirt like a child waiting for a scolding T'Shaini tried to smile. "Where is your ferret friend?"

Harry's eyes narrowed slightly at the question and he couldn't help looking down at the crevice where Rex had hidden at Amma's approach. Ignoring the question, however, he looked over his small crew and their two new six-legged additions, "Two things," he told them all generally, "First, there's a scout ship parked on the opposite side of the Hawking's cover-moon, we assume it's monitoring her activity so, unless there's some catastrophic meltdown in our cover, we are to maintain com silence."

"That's for you Del…" Jason flashed a smile at the young engineer who he could feel tense at the unwelcome news. "it's what you get for being so damned verbose."

"And second," the clearly unamused Harry's continued, "is something and old friend of mine used to tell me and now I'd like to share it with all of you," though his eyes locked onto T'Shaini and stayed there, "which is, 'don't let your mind go making promises your body shouldn't keep'."

"Interesting," The Vulcan stood her ground under the glare. "my father used to say 'never confuse what is easy with what is right."

"Nice," Harry looked up at the juvaal, then the two other members of the team, "Give us a moment… take Lucy and Ethel ahead, we'll be right behind you."

"Sure thing." Jason started to tug at the recalcitrant animals. "Come on, mom and dad are fighting."

T'Shaini simply raised one eyebrow at the comment, then crossed her arms and waited.

"Tell me, did your father, in his wisdom, say that it was okay to suck down the first foreign substance the nice witch doctors offer up? Did he cover the possibility that whatever local peyote they make their koolaid out of might not react well with alien physiology? Did he ever indicate that maybe, just maybe, diving into the local LSD pool could leave you a mindless, slobbering zucchini?"

"Amazing, even without such a warning from my father all such things did occur to me." She crossed her arms a bit tighter, perhaps to quell the urge to shake him for speaking to her like a child. "Nevertheless, in the moment, with the consideration that if I refused the care of the Hentari I would likely be blowing our cover. To receive such attention as en'yassyrn is unprecedented. What would you have had me do? Throw it in her face? Or perhaps just clumsily pretend to spill it on the floor?" The Vulcan held up her hand to forestall the oncoming argument. "Regardless, what is done is done. Now what is important is deciding what we can do to help."

Tabling the debate, for the moment, "What we can do to help is locate Kamaal and her hired hands… who at last massacre were due east of this camp…"

"Which is exactly where I saw the…" How to put this without sounding all mumbo jumboee. "blackness." Oh, good job. "I know how this sounds, but I saw it…well, not east, but south east, about a days ride."

Uh huh. "So, your trip in the sky with diamonds told you we need to ignore the obvious evidence an hour and a half away and take a day trip… to see the blackness…"

"Yes. There is something out there and that something is seeking, who else would that be but Bedie?" The counselor reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. "They are moving, there is no reason for them to stay by the caves where they were discovered by the Kitiran, can you not just think of this as more up to date intel?"

"From the same source that pinpointed my murderous tendencies?" Harry regretted the comment even as it left his lips, "Look," he shook off the Vulcan's touch and shifted slightly away, "I want to believe… I think I do, anyway but we have got to be damned sure of this course change. The lives of those people," he jerked his chin towards the bustling sh'kesh, "of Yurik's people, depend on us making the right choice. Are you certain we need to go south?"


He looked back at her, possibly the one person he knew that he trusted implicitly. Okay, so here's where we find out what trust means to you, Harad… "Fine. We go south, but," he held up one finger, "when we're clear for coms you get to make the report on your investigative methodology."

Luckily the one other person T'Shaini (besides Javier) that would be likely take this story at face value was the one she would be reporting to. Thank goodness I would not have to tell Usher. "Done."

"I'm not," Harry didn't move, "done." When T'Shaini turned a questioning eye on him he held her gaze, "You could have said no… when she offered you the shrooms you could have said no. We're already outcasts, one more black mark wouldn't have mattered and you wouldn't have risked your life for a vision." This time it was him holding up a hand to stop her protest, "I know, this may be the real deal, we could find the bad guys, the grail, the gold watch… everything, because you took that risk but just for one moment, just one, try and imagine what it would be like for the rest of us if you hadn't been compatible with… whatever… you'd taken. How the loss of you would affect the crew.. Costala, Lia, Jenny, everyone who depends on you to be there because you didn't think of your own safety. Please, all I'm asking is that you value yourself even half as much as the rest of us." Because if she couldn't, he'd be forced to do everything in his power to keep her off of future away teams…

This time, no matter how hard she tried, she could not keep her toe from digging a hole in the dirt. Maybe I can make it large enough that I will fall in. He was right, she did not think past the moment and the opportunity to help the one directly in front of her, if she were truthful with herself (and she always was) she would have to acknowledge that given the same situation again, she would make the same choice. But with greater knowledge. And a much increased sense of guilt. Making herself look Harry in the eye was even more difficult that she would have imagined, but she did. "You are right, I did not think it through thoroughly enough, I will do so in the future."

Harry suppressed a sigh. He'd evaded inconvenient strictures often enough to recognize when it was happening to him. But for now he could hope she wouldn't go throwing herself in front of a rampaging herd of zaar without at least sort of thinking it through so, "So, do we get to ride Lucy or Ethel? And you're steering… right?"

"Lucy? Ethel?" The Vulcan's brow knit in confusion. "Oh the juvaal?" A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. "I find I am partial to the darker of the two…that and that is the one that seems to have developed an unbridled hatred of Jason." Heading off to catch up to the other two she cocked her head to the side and looked at Harry. "What exactly did Amma say to you? If you do not mind me asking."

His inappropriate glee at Lucy's exceptionally good taste fell flat at Wendy's last question. He was silent for a few steps but again, there was that pesky trust thing poking him in the ribs. "She asked… Amma said, when we found the shadow in the south east, that if I would take its death on myself, you three would be welcome as members of the Kitiran yassryn."

JP Trusting Tee and Mr. Knickers in a Twist
Originally Posted 8/19/08 by Harry Finn


"This is inferior work," Laerta stated as she studied the zuut that the younger en'yassryn Delan carried, "the metal was not prepared well before it was formed. Where did you acquire such a weapon?"

Del gulped and looked up at the intimidating warrior woman. She had drawn his sword while the engineer had been admiring one of the ancient cannon that the Kitiran possessed. With an experienced eye the woman had studied the zuut then turned her questioning gaze on Delan. The sword had been replicated on the Hawking. In order to keep the weapon as close to Devangari manufacture as possible and support the story of the crew being outcasts, the replicator had been programmed to make an inferior, yet working, model.

" was g-g-g-given to m-m-me for m-m-my f-f-first e-e-erathyn," Del had told Laerta becoming more nervous the longer the Kitiran woman surveyed him with her dark brown eyes. Under her stare, everything Del had learned seemed to drain away.

"You completed these trials prior to being forsaken?" Laerta had asked in a somewhat gentle voice, shifting her body so she could block the man's view of the sh'kesh.

"Uh..n-n-no," Delano could no longer see Jason. His back was against the cannon. The engineer had no idea where T'Shaini was and Lt. Finn had been ordered to stay outside the encampment. He was very aware of how close Laerta was standing to him. It was hot in the shade of the tent. Del raised his hand to wipe the sweat off his brow and banged himself in the face with the shield attached to his arm. Laerta laughed.

Del could catch different parts of the conversation between T'Shaini and Lt. Finn, and this had interrupted his thoughts of what had taken place in the Kitiran encampment. He tried to tune the two officers out, much like he had tried to tune out his own parents back on earth, but the grasslands of Girijan seemed to carry the voices to him. Del's features remained stoic as he fidgetted with his shield. He waited until the two had rejoined he and Jason then chose his moment and approached the counsellor.

"I d-d-drank s-s-some s-s-stuff Laerta g-g-gave me," he said to T'Shaini before giving her a shy smile, then Del put his head down and quickly walked away from the Vulcan.

Originally Posted 8/20/08 by Javier Costala

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

“How can that be possible?” Nils’ voice was quiet, but intense. Bayal Paven stood across from him with his arms folded over his chest.

“All things are possible… But I do find this as surprising as anything I’ve ever read in the Prophecies. At least in light of our current situation.” Bayal settled into the seat opposite Nils and continued speaking. “I’ve never spent much time in Zocal,” the Bajoran admitted. “I’ve found that the more confounding works are those that dwell in imagery and symbolism. And they are best left to the Vedeks. But I happened to be reading the file compiled on the Beradis Colony world when Zocal’s Second Prophecy was open on my PADD. There are some striking parallels…”

“You think Zocal was referencing the Beradi Mercenaries in the second prophecy. But how could he even have been aware of their existence?” Nils was incredulous. Despite how much his faith had grown over the past two years, he wasn’t ready to take certain leaps of logic. Or more accurately - over logic.

Bayal chuckled. “Let’s skip ‘how’ for the time being. But look…here…” He began reading the Prophecy in the ancient Bajoran tongue. “Ta wil’tenta hir ru kana vima zona’kor. Ta zona’kor ema’propeh vu’ta Rinna. It references the warrior’s heart and how it leads to a lost eye. The Beradi spiritual system is based on a warrior deity with two faces - Ataryu, the feminine; and Atar, the masculine. The Beradi honor this deity by spilling the blood of their enemies, thus filling his heart. Or…her heart. I can’t work out the specifics.”

“I see that,” the CO replied scanning the PADD he’d been offered when Bayal entered. “That could very well be a coincidence… It’s this astronomical data that is the most compelling piece…”

“Yes,” began the technician excitedly. “The two faced god is reflected in verbal narrative and the constellations above the planet Beradis. There are stories of great victories over terrible foes, and the destruction of their ancient home world… All of it told through pictures in the stars. But the centerpiece of their sky is a constellation called the ‘Warrior’s Heart.’ It is an image of their deity grasping an empty heart. It symbolizes the need to continue spilling the blood of their enemies in order to keep Atar filled, incurring favor. The diamond shaped heart is situated around a single focal star… Omeron.”

“So regardless of what the prophecy ultimately means, we at least know why the Circle has interest here at Girijan," Nils said as his eyes scanned the PADD, devouring the information. "They’ve followed the prophecy here based on this interpretation. What does the rest of the Prophecy say?”

“I’m still working on a final version. The dialect of Zocal’s Prophecies has always confounded the Vedeks and there are a number of translations floating around. On one point they all agree… This Prophecy deals with the ‘eyes of the Prophets.’ I wanted to get this to you before I spent much time working out the finer points.”

“I’ve never heard of the eyes of the Prophets… But whatever they are, it’s clear Kamaal wants them.” Nils sighed. As generally was the case, one answer only lead to more questions. “I hate to ask you to keep at such tedious work, but I think you’re on to something. Would you mind pressing in a little deeper to see what you can find?”

“It’s not the work, but the purpose that makes it special,” the spiritual man answered with a smile. “I would be glad to continue this investigation. The insight into the unknown work of the Prophets is motivation enough for me.”

The Captain contemplated Bayal’s implication carefully. “I don’t think anything so distant from Bajor could reveal much about the Prophets…”

“Be careful not to be so persuaded by the rightness of your own judgment that you invalidate off hand any evidence that doesn’t confirm you in it. Nothing that can be called truth may be arrived at by such a means.” He smiled at Nils warmly before saying, “Isn’t that the basis of good science?”

Be both. The resounding memory stirred within the Bajoran CO. Bayal Paven’s presence always drew him to a deeper place within himself. But he didn’t have time for such thoughts today.

“It is… And were we talking about science I wouldn’t dismiss anything until the evidence dismissed it for me. Eliminating what isn’t true to get to what it is… But we’re not talking about…” Nils paused realizing he was getting drawn in again. “Then again we probably are… As the conversation unfolds I’ll probably realize that there is some wild connection between this situation and my own scientific method.” He smiled and rose from his seat indicating that their time was coming to an end. “And although I feel certain I will benefit when you impart such wisdom to me, I should be on the bridge right now…”

“Very well,” Bayal said returning the Captain’s smile. “A conversation for another time then. Perhaps we’ll also hit on the nature of good and evil. Perhaps free will versus fate?”

“I’m already tingling with anticipation,” Nils said through good-natured sarcasm. They both emerged back on the bridge and parted company. As much as Paven’s perspective strengthened his own, there were many spinning plates that required his attention. He didn’t know how he’d cope if one fell and shattered.

Featuring NPC Bayal Paven
Originally Posted 8/20/08 by Torrik Nils

Plains beneath the Cliffs of Khor

“Just remember,” a deep voice intoned sagely, “no matter where you go, there you are.”

“That really doesn’t make me feel better,” another, more lyric voice responded. “Especially since we’re not going anywhere…”

Frey’s eyes focused and she was amazed that she was alive to see anything at all. She’d been trying to climb away from the small pack of d’rag when the entire wall of the plateau had shifted beneath her and she’d fallen.

The voice, so soft, which had assured her all would be well she’d taken for one of the spirits… perhaps her own bond mother coming to fetch her away but this was a stranger, cloaked from the rain and behind her…

“Welcome back,” the deep voice commented. “It’s been a long day, watching you sleep,” the warrior knelt down next to Frey, wincing slightly as he did so, “I am called El’san and this is J’lian… we were separated from our companions by the earth-slide… which allowed us to meet you.”

“And some angry beasts…” J’lian commented wryly.

“The d’rag!” Frey began to sit up, fear bringing her strength.

“Not to worry,” J’lian placed a calming hand on the girl’s shoulder, “they are dead, now.”

“All of them?”

“Well, four, anyway,” El’san said, as if such a feat were nothing.

Two Devanagari against four d’rag? “You are mighty warriors,” Frey whispered, “perhaps it is you I came to seek?”

That caused a sharp look between the two. “Perhaps,” J’lian said, helping Frey to her feet, “this is something you can explain while we seek better shelter… our en’kesh did not take the fall so well as we…”

“And if we may be honored by your name?” El’san asked politely, for all that his lean, scarred face was the stuff of fireside tales, his voice was quiet and soothing.

“I am Frey, of… of the Azuchi,” the girl said. “But there is a darkness growing in my yassryn, and the spirits pressed me to find help outside the sh’kesh. I left only two days past, to find…

Outside the Azuchi Sh’kesh

… the bringers of the light…

Tchiva huffed his annoyance as he recalled Frey’s words, as related by her bond brother, Fortin, the last she’d spoken before chasing off on some mad, dream-induced quest across the rain-drenched keshii. And now the juvayni assembled to seek out Frey, who had yet to return from her folly, had been rudely interrupted by the arrival of the Ekkurans who had, of necessity, been escorted to the sh’kesha’a of the yassryn’s Hentari.

Now it was too late in the day to return to the hunt for the stray young woman. What was she thinking? Racing off into the storm because of a few bad dreams? What did she hope to accomplish? If there was a shadow growing, it was the place of every Azuchi to remain close to the sh’kesh, not go wandering off in search of some, ‘bringers of light’.

Pah… she’d find nothing but zaar and this ceaseless rain… but still… still he felt a responsibility to his fellow hunter. Fortin was a good man and clearly worried for his sib.

But for tonight… tonight he had delivered this Kerrin, the spirit-quester, and her shadow-walkers to Sallin, (under heavy guard, of course) and now was free to seek his own light.

If only Frey knew… but he was not to speak of this… not to anyone. The time was not yet right, he had been told.

So for now, Tchiva made his rounds of the juvaal, exchanged pleasantries with the keepers and retrieved his newly-edged zuut from the smith before quietly easing out of the sh’kesh and to the cliffs, where his bhandi line waited in concealment beneath a stone set near a pria tree… perfect for tying off the line.

In the continual wet of this unusual season and despite his careful scan of the area before descending, Tchiva failed to note that his actions were being watched by one who had been…

Above the Azuchi caverns

… marked by blood. Amma’s words, describing Harry in their last conversation. Marked by blood and therefore, to her, one who might wade through more… for the benefit of the Kitiran, anyway.

He supposed it was pretty naive to think there would be no repercussions to his… actions… on Kendrassa Prime but to have it thrown in his face by an undeveloped planet’s shaman, who had no business knowing anything about Harry… or Harad, even… well, that had been an ice cold bucket of water on his soul.

Thinking of the Hentari’s off-handed judgment, and her hard offer, he recalled the words of Callan Vail… “Parts of it never end, Mister Finn. Parts of it never end."

“Apparently not,” he whispered to himself as he peered through the wet grasses of the small hillock in which he lay concealed after the long (and painful) juvaal ride to the southeast coast. It was his watch… T’Shaini’s vision had pinpointed this particular area of the cliffs as the source of the ‘blackness’.

And that was another kick in the mental pants, that he’d been willing to follow the Vulcan’s spiritual GPS but, accompanying as it had Amma’s too-accurate views of Harry’s nature, he’d felt compelled to follow the strange path laid out by T’Shaini’s visions.

Staring down now, he caught sight of one of the locals skulking to the cliffs. The guy clearly didn’t wish to be seen as he carefully removed a coiled rope from beneath a stone, knotted it to a nearby tree trunk and began a stealthy descent.

“Huh…” Harry watched in the deepening gloom of twilight as the line remained taught, then, after about fifteen minutes, give or take, the rope went slack.

=/\=Finn to T’Shaini, =/\=

=/\=T’Shaini here =/\=

=/\=Get the others up to the grassy knoll… we’re going to go rappelling.=/\=

Originally Posted 8/20/08 by Harry Finn

:: USS Hawking ::
:: Bridge ::

Miniature blinking lights and quiet (but attention grabbing) beeps emanated from Jada’s console. She scowled down at it as she continued her limited scan. Putting the entire vessel on ‘silent running’ meant that her scans were limited in their effectiveness. Instead of full 360-degree capability, she was limited to sector scanning, resource constraining, bursts of telemetry. Regardless, the returns became more and more disconcerting.


The storm system that had seemingly popped up from nowhere had grown in strength and intensity over the last twelve hours. And the lightning generated by the freak storm was producing 240 kiloaperes of electricity – over two times the maximum standard bolt. The resultant ionization, as well as an as yet undetermined aberration in sensor tracking of the planet’s eastern coast made all the information sketchy at best.

“Captain, we have a problem,” O’Keefe began, her ominous preamble setting the stage for the rest of her report. “The localized weather system we’ve been monitoring is amping up energy output by the hour. The resultant ionization of the atmosphere in that area is reaching the threshold for safe transport even as we speak. If we don’t pull the teams out now, we’ll have to wait for the storm to dissipate before we can safely beam them up.”

She watched as the former CSO straightened in the Captain’s chair. Her evaluation of his performance as the ship’s commanding officer was still out. Thus far he’d conducted himself well enough, but he’d yet to truly be tested. In any event, his promotion had left a void for her step into, and that pleased her ambitious soul.

“One ten… One eleven… Prepare a burst transmission to Harry. Ask for a situation report and advise on our status. Tell him we need to beam them out of there.” Captain Torrik seemed cool, but Jada had learned to read the man. He was probably ripping himself apart now, trying to decide which course of action was the correct one.

The Bynar twins complied with their orders and moments later had a response from the XO. “Lt. Finn…” “…has responded, sir.”

“Put it on audio,” the Bajoran in the center seat said as he prepared to listen. Jada did the same.

Belay that! Tricorder readings losing cohesion.. more interference closer we come to indicated target region… believe this to be source of interference, possible base of ops for Kamaal…

The plot thickens, O’Keefe thought watching the ship’s new decision maker. “Our window of opportunity is closing, sir,” she added quickly. The new telemetry just returned and the atmosphere around both teams was very quickly becoming too dangerous to risk transport. Something else caught her attention. “I’m reading increased levels of interference as well,” Jada commented. “It seems that whatever is affecting Lt. Finn’s tricorder is having a similar effect on our scans. If I could increase the gain and activate our full array…”

“Not yet,” the Captain said, cutting her off. “Not yet…” The concern was creasing his mask of stoicism. “I don’t want to give away our position to the Mercenary ship… For now let’s give Harry time. Bridge to shuttlebay… Prep all auxiliary craft for emergency evac of our personnel. I want engines running and pilots in chairs. Hold off on launch until I give the word.”

So he was capable of making tough calls. Jada knew his girlfriend was on the surface, yet still he held back.

=/\=Acknowledged,=/\= came the reply from the main shuttlebay.

“How long is that window open, O’Keefe,” the Bajoran asked, his steel eyes boring into Jada’s skull.

“It’s closing now, sir… In approximately ten seconds there will be no way to initiate transport.” She could be just as cool.

“Let me know the moment it opens again…”

She programmed a subroutine into her console to alert her when the situation changed. It may not be the instant the window opened due to their decreased capacity to scan the surface. But it would do the job. She leveled her own hard gaze at her new Commanding Officer and replied in an equally hard tone, “Aye sir.”

He’d yet to really pass her test…

By NPC Jada O'Keefe
Originally Posted 8/20/08 by Torrik Nils

:: USS Hawking ::
:: Shuttlebay ::

"Chief, I really don't understand the propulsion design for this vehicle," Cadet Kalani admitted to Javier as she watched the engineer test the structural integrity of the frame. "All of the bike's components are starship grade parts but the engine, well, it just seems.."

"Brilliant? Dangerous? Awe-inspiring?" Javier replied as he jumped up and down on the bike frame.

"I was going to say silly," Lili replied in a soft tone.

"Oh." The engineer stopped the structural test. "I can see how it would be confusing, not many people have ever used butter cream icing as a fuel source before, not to mention red velvet cake mix." Javier moved across his workspace and retrieved the specs for the bike. "What do you think of the design?"

"It's retro but considering the velocity you say it can achieve," Lili stated, "I think we need some more safety features." The cadet picked through his tool chest and found a grease pencil, she then began to sketch over the top of the bike. "How's that?" she asked, once her thoughts on the extra features had become part of the specs.

"Sexy," Javier said in admiration as his eyes followed the bike's new aerodynamic curves. "You know your motorcycles Cadet."

"My dad loved them and I always helped him, so yeah I got a feel for them," Lili said proudly as she idly picked through Javier's tools. "After he retired from the Corps, we would go riding every weekend. It was one of the things that really helped him adjust to civilian life." The cadet was silent for a few moments. "He saw a lot of action during the war, a lot of his friends bought know, the guys who he had made the plans with to go riding. You know how it is Lieutenant."

Javier nodded his head. "I know how it is," he agreed but left everything else unsaid. There were events that he had witnessed that could not easily be spoken of. Javier had only been in a few engagements but he knew the kind of things that First Sergeant Kalani had seen. Unless one had been in the Corps and in battle it was hard to relate the stories to another. "He never told you?"

"No Sir, just told me about boot camp and the stuff leading up to the war," Cadet Kalani answered as she used the tip of her finger to trace along a crescent wrench. "When he was out riding it seemed like he would forget all that stuff," she said as a smile crept onto her face. "Then it was just me and my dad, not me and First Sergeant Kalani."

"It's difficult for the senior nco's not to be the job all the time," Costala commented. "so much of them goes into the job so much of the time."

"The same can be said of officers too," Lili pointed out.

"True..well cadet I think I've found a rider for this thing," Javier said.

"Who? Oh, you're not going to ride the bike in the race?"

"No, you are," Javier said with a grin.

"Me? But I..I can't ride it, I mean I'm just," the cadet stuttered in surprise until finally she threw her arms around the Chief Engineer. "Thank you sir, thank you!"

"Okay, it's partially your design," Javier said until he felt the cadet hug him "Cadet, Cadet Kalani. CADET. We're on duty. I mean, it wouldn't be okay if we weren't on duty. You're welcome of course, now just, yes three feet of distance, there." Kalani had grease on her uniform from where she had hugged him. It was on her uniform blouse, right at the front. Screw it, I'm not calling attention to that area. Costala thought. Where's T'Shaini when I need her? She usually fends off the women..Yates, Taray, Cabbits.. But he could tell with Kalani it had been a celebration of excitement and nothing more. T'Shaini needs to be here so she can tell Cadet Kalani to split, then the counselor and I could get all greased up together and test the structural integrity of the bike in a different manner.

Originally Posted 8/20/08 by Javier Costala

Entrance to Tchiva's cavern

"Sir!" Delano had to shout into Lt. Finn's ear to make himself heard over the combined might of the storm and the waves crashing far too near to the small shelf of rock where the two men currently perched, "Are you sure this is the right cave?" After all, they'd only passed about thirteen others on the way down the slick cliff face.

Harry nodded, then held up his tricorder, which was now displaying gibberish, "We've lost all funtionality!" he yelled to the young engineer, "Plus," he pointed towards the interior of the cave, barely visible, but, and this was key, visible; someone in there had a light source, "this is the only one with a porch light!" Mills nodded and Harry patted his shoulder, "Just keep holding the line!" he pointed towards where T'Shaini's shadowy form was nearing and Delano tightened his grip on the rope, serving as anchor to those descending. Without him, in the current wind, it was likely someone could fall… Harry had come close enough to losing the line when he'd gotten that ill-timed transmission from Hawking. "I'm going to check the interior…" and with an encouraging, "You'll do, Mills," Harry slipped into the slightly less noisome dampness of the cave.

Fascinating, I get chided for taking chances with my life by drinking tea and then am asked to rappel down a cliff in a storm without batting an eyelash. T'Shaini carefully felt further down with one foot for the next toehold, then a shout almost lost in the wind prepared her for the hand on her leg to let her know she had reached the entrance. A few more meters, then just as she touched down her hands, slick with water, lost their grip. Which would have been disastrous but for the quick yank on her arm from Delano. "Thank you Del." T'Shaini dropped a quick kiss on his cheek before clearing the entrance for Jason…who, seemingly effortlessly, dropped lightly on the ground and clapped Del on the shoulder. Not fair.

Registering the far off glow of some unknown light source, T'Shaini nodded to the other two and they carefully made their way to the silent figure staring into the depths of the cavern.

Harry had already drawn his dagger from the double-duty sheath at the small of his back (the phaser was tucked in a hidden, inner pocket) and used the hilt to scrape a mark on the cave's left wall. Where he waited the tunnel split, the right fork was dark but he'd followed it enough to realize that it rose higher into the pocked cliff face while the leftmost, which was barely illuminated by the faint, flickering glow of a torch, sloped downwards. When his team joined him, Harry shoved the knife under his belt then held up one finger and pointed downwards. Leaning close he whispered, barely, but they heard, "We need to know what's down there; best bet, we wait for him to leave," he now pointed to the right tunnel, "then go investigate…"

"You mean we can't jump the bad guy?" It seemed hours since Jason had had a chance to annoy Finn, how could he pass up an opportunity like this? "We just let him walk out?"

Any other day he'd have let it slide but Harry was still reeling from Amma's attempt to use him as the spirit's personal hitter so instead he leaned that much closer to Hallows, intending to keep his next words private, "You want to take him down? Hell, go for it. Just make sure you get his 'bad guy' credentials before you snap his neck." It was hard to read in the dark but he was almost sure that got a reaction… of a sort. "No? Than let's just…"

Perhaps it was because of her acute Vulcan hearing…or perhaps it was because she was not engaged in sniping at another member of the away team, but T'Shaini was the one to hear the approach. Touching Harry lightly on the shoulder she indicated the other tunnel.

"Go," he mouthed, dragging Mills along by the shoulder as he followed Wendy into the disputed cover. Hallows didn't make a sound as he dove in, after. The space narrowed as they progressed and, once they'd gone far enough to be swallowed by the inky darkness of the higher tunnel, Harry found himself pressed close between the bulk of the young engineer and the counselor, who'd turned to keep an eye on the entrance. Her tension likely mirrored his own as he briefly melded himself to her, just long enough to reach behind and draw his phaser from concealment. It was the sort of situation that would normally lead to awkward jokes but now there was only the suspended breath of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Tchiva strode from the cavern, focused on reaching the wind-lashed cliffs. His communion had been curtailed by a series of disturbing images and he was given to understand that the spirits were displeased. The storm wracking the Hentuu was surely the outward sign of their affront. Almost shaking from the strength of his visions, the hunter had left his torch burning before the Eye of the Seeker in his haste to follow the path laid out in lightning tracks across his soul.

JP with the Spelunkin' Vulcan, featuring NPC's Delano Mills and Jason Hallows
Originally Posted 8/21/08 by Harry Finn

Sh'kesha'a of Sallin

Sallin, Hentari of the Azuchi considered the five before him… and not only five. According to the warrior, Fehr, there were two others of the Ekkuran serronayni gone missing off the northern cliffs. More lost seekers, he thought as the wind howled around his sh'kesha'a. Frey was out there, somewhere, as well… run off after Sallin had failed to heed her warnings but… she was young and the spirits seldom sent dreams to anyone not Hentari, certainly not without the benefit of the enokitake.

But now there was this storm… a shrieking, mad thing… and these visitors who had arrived just prior to the howling winds. Another sign, perhaps? But of what? What darkness had Frey seen coming? Sallin turned to face the one called Kerrin, who would someday serve her own yassryn as Hentari. "When you were sent to our keshii on your quest," he began, "did the spirits offer any guidance? Are you seeking a thing, a person… another dream, perhaps?" His question was punctuated by and ear-splitting crack of thunder.

Kerrin wanted to crawl off somewhere and cry. What made me think I could pull this off? Knowing that crawling was not really an option she just plowed forward and prayed that her research had been thorough enough. "Both, a thing that is rooted in a person." That hot mess of a sentence having only elicited a puzzled look from the Hentari she made another volley. "I have seen an object much desired, so much so that it taints and warps the one who is searching. I believe the weather is related to this search, or perhaps it means that it has been found and will bring misfortune to the clan harboring this one."

All through the space Sallin felt the hunters, left to watch over their visitors, go tense with suppressed anger and the responding alertness of the Ekkuran shadow walkers, "I can quite truly tell you we have seen nothing so… seductive. The weather, as you say, is alarming," he paused to wait out the next crash of thunder, "enough so that we have curtailed most of the hunts, and have only made one pilgrimage to the Hentuu of our ancestors… that to set the bones of Rylla, our last Hentari, on her final path. Even that was an ill-omened voyage for her resting place suffered a collapse and we near lost our hunt master, Tchiva, to the fall. Fortune was with him, at least, for he returned from his adventure unscathed but since then, the cliffs have been too much a danger to even allow our young their appointed dream quests."

Oh he did, did he? "I do not mean to impeach the honor of the Yassyrn Azuchi, their integrity is unmatched throughout the plains, as is evidenced by the fact that I was sent to you to fulfill my journeying." Kerrin had no problem sucking up if it got her and everyone else out of this alive. Even better if it got them some information. "Learned one, have you sensed a change anywhere or within anyone that could be of assistance?"

Again there was a shifting of bodies and Sallin felt as if the fire had ceased to burn, so chill did he feel. Surrounded by those loyal to Tchiva, bearing the bows the huntmaster had improved on, as well as the more finely-edged zuuts which were much in evidence, he felt that he should chose his words with care… and of course, there was, "One of our young ones, Frey, did suffer from dreams of a darkness. So much was she frightened that she left the sh'kesh in search of aid… bearers of light she called them. I am shamed that I did less to keep her among us," he said, rising to offer Kerrin more lakma. Leaning over her as he poured from the ladle, he continued in a sub-whisper, "there is another…"

Quite suddenly an errant gust of chill wet blew through the heavy fabric flap at the entrance of the sh'kesha'a, violently interrupting Sallin's confession as it snapped through the draped fabrics, knocked cushions aside and quenched several small braziers.

"It seems to do that a lot around here," Kal-El said, cupping the warm mug in his hands, "blow rain in the tent, I mean." The contents of the mug smelled earthy and yet there was a hint of woody fragrance to it. "Eugh," the engineer intoned and started to push the cup aside. He caught Hammish's look and upraised eyebrows. Right, take one for the team. It's all about hospitality. He gulped the liquid down as quickly as possible, trying not to gag.

Trying to block out the annoyance that was Kal-El, Kerrin leaned in to the rapidly retreating Hentari. Mind on overdrive she tried to find a way to spend time alone to hear what it was that he was trying to tell her. "If I may be so bold, would you be willing to share a serronayni?" Please have let me got the stress right…" This would be it if he took her at her word, Kerrin had no idea what a true serronayni entailed, but from the look on Sallin's face when he heard her suggestion, he knew it was not a spiritual journey she was after.

A plethora of NPCs by Harry, Tee and Javi
Originally Posted 8/21/08 by T'Shaini

Interior of Tchiva's Cavern

The tense silence stretched out as the group, unsure of whether they were truly alone…waited. After minutes that had felt like hours the silence was broken by a hoarse whisper. "I would like to lodge a formal complaint, I get the engineer and you get to rub up against the counselor." Jason cracked a smile that no one could see toward Del. "No offense meant, Delan."

"N-n-none taken."

"Shut up, both of you," Harry hissed before extricating himself from the aforementioned counselor and slipping quietly down to the cave's entrance, phaser held close to his body and hopefully obscured from view. It was empty of any lurking Devanagari, though there was still light coming from the lower tunnel. He turned to where T'Shaini had followed and making sure she could see him, pointed to her more sensitive ears, hoping she understood the question.

Something is going to need to be done about the two of them, pity now is not the time. T'Shaini acknowledged Harry's gesture and took a moment, then shook her head. "I can hear nothing, I assume who ever that was, was alone."

Mills and Hallows had joined them by that point and Harry was sorry to see that Delano looked shell-shocked. Crap. Still keeping his voice low he addressed the engineer. "Mills, you're with me on point… keep an eye on that tricorder and let me know if it starts to… well, work, actually. Hallows, you keep behind us and T'Shaini's rear guard… keep those ears primed… phasers out and set to stun, just, you know, keep 'em low." As an example he tucked his phaser in his right hand, behind the shield and, because he was a suspenders and a belt kind of guy, drew his zuut for good measure.

Something illuminated by the glow of Delano's tricorder caught Jason's eye. Grabbing the the top of his shield Jason angled the glow toward what he thought he saw. "Gorgeous." Absentmindedly he pulled the tricorder/shield from the young engineer's grip he began examining the etchings of what he assumed was spiritual content on the cave walls. He flipped the tricorder open to take some readings before he remembered. "Shit, this is invaluable…and I can't do anything about it."

"Put that away," Harry's voice, followed quickly by Harry's sword flipping the tricorder closed, interrupted the scientist's frustrated glee. "Not a field trip," he continued to the accusing glare from the younger man, "focus… now… on Delan's six." And after returning the shield to the shocked Delano, the quietly furious XO strode off down the narrow tunnel, noting that the rock beneath his boots was kind of slick… maybe the rain was starting to wash into the cavern.

"Jason." T'Shaini took him lightly by the arm. "I understand, but we have to keep moving." He bit back the response he had aimed at Finn's back at her soothing words. He wasn't even sure why it worked, but it did. Guess that is why she is a counselor. Splashing through a small puddle grumped quietly. "What, is it raining sideways?"

Wondering if she was going to bemoan the lack of a tranquilizer gun by the end of this mission, T'Shaini followed after Harry. Together, in body if not in mind, the group hiked a slight downgrade for several long, silent minutes. The glow of the unnamed light source grew gradually until the markings Jason had observed stood out in relief against the dark gray rock. As one they halted, knowing that whatever it was they were searching for lay directly around the next bend, as if they were unsure of whether they were prepared for what they were to discover. "Very dangerous…you go first." Jason whispered.

Not bothering with a comeback, Harry crept forward, keeping to the right as the tunnel opened up. By now there were rivulets of water following them into the depths of the cave's system and he had to work not to splash too much as he entered the chamber… in fact, there was so much water on the floor that the torch which had been left on the cavern floor had guttered out… it was only a smoking hunk of pitch-covered wood by now. "So… where's the light… coming… from…" but now, looking up and around, Harry saw…

Well, he didn't know what he saw, really… other than the rear wall of the cave, strewn with what looked to be a small rock slide… and in that wall… was something… Harry tried to fathom just what could be hidden in the stone but it looked as if part of some sort of… box, lid partially open… had been revealed by that slide… and something in that box was producing the light that they had been following, all this while.

"Hey, Indy!" he hissed back, "Get your ass in here!"

Jason sprinted forward at the unexpected urgency in Harry's tone and then skidded to a watery halt in wonder. "Holy shit." Creeping gingerly up to the vessel containing the glowing object, he squinted as he began to translate the glyphs on the exposed ark. Waving off the encroaching bodies he could sense coming up behind him, Jason stepped a little closer. "Well I think I can guess why the tricorders aren't working…"

Del perked up visibly at that, "Yes?" he held up his shield to view the by-now predictably screwed-up readings.

Jason grunted in frustration. "Too archaic for an accurate translation, Kerrin would know more…"

Harry rolled his eyes at T'Shaini, "She's not here. You are… best guess?"

"Well, one thing I can tell you," Jason's eyes never left the object. "I can tell you it would be a good idea to contact your Captain as soon as we get clear."

"Clear? Clear of what?" Harry tapped his hood, anyway, Hallows' attitude had put him on alert. =/\=Finn to Hawking=/\= he began before he realized there'd been no reassuring 'boop' of connection. "Clear of what" he reiterated, coming closer to the entombed artifact.

Jason's abrupt turn stopped Harry's forward momentum. "The Orb…or the 'presumed' orb." He had to smile on the astonished looks that sentence provoked. Couldn't have planned it better. "If that is indeed archaic bajoran, and I am reasonably certain it is, then I can assume that that is an ark containing a lost orb." Who could blame him if his smile was a little smug. "And I can say that if your Captain is Bajoran, he would be the one most interested in its existence."

"Fine," Harry turned to T'Shaini, "we're outta here… you take point, Mills, you're behind her, keep trying to contact Hawking, every few minutes… I had successful contact outside so…"

His orders were interrupted by two things… one was a sudden and very disconcerting rumble emerging from the very tunnel through which they'd just passed, and the other was a quick flash of dull metal, flying straight towards Hallows, along with the words, "They will only speak for me!"

JP with T'Shaini featuring Jason Hallows and Delano Mills
Originally Posted 8/21/08 by Harry Finn

The Cavern

“They will only speak for me!” Tchiva loosed his dagger and the words at the same time but the response from the quartet of d’rag bait was quick. The youngest, a giant whom Tchiva had taken from his movements to be little better than a sluggard, raised his shield to catch the lithe hunter’s death from out of Tchiva’s hands.

Delano, shocked at his own alacrity and the unfamiliar burn of anger which followed, yanked the dagger from his shield, even as he felt Jason's grateful hand gripping his shoulder. There wasn't time for more as…

… cursing, mad with protective jealousy and the murmurings within, the Azuchi huntmaster drove forward, zuut swinging, only to be caught on the opposing blade of the elder warrior. With a wicked grin, Tchiva slid his own blade around the other man's, more than ready to shed the blood of the interloper.

No room. No room to draw her bow, no room to draw her sword….which really was just as well considering how inept she had proved. In desperation T'Shaini drew her phaser, which only sputtered uselessly this close to the orb. Looking over she saw Jason, hand on hilt gaging the likelihood of hitting either her or Del trying to help Harry.

"Shit." Not only were the close quarters keeping him from doing anything, something even more f**ked up was happening. The water level in the cave was suddenly at mid calf and he could hear the rushing of water echoing in the cavern. "What the hell is that? High tide?" Jason thought he was being facetious, but as the words came out of his mouth a feeling of dread accompanied them.

It was bad enough trying to maneuver a weapon meant for open plains in a cramped cave but now the rapidly rising waters were trying to pull his legs out from under him. Harry had locked the mad-eyed Devanagari's weapon with his own and now the two were in a stalemate… hilt to hilt, face to face and blocking the only exit to a rapidly drowning tunnel. Knowing the priorities, Harry turned a quick, desperate glance towards T'Shaini, "Call Nils!" he ordered, "You have got to keep it away from Kamaal!" And so saying, he grit his teeth and, at the next surge of the incoming tide, yanked the shocked warrior backwards. He'd meant only to clear the way to the tunnel but the rush of water on the backsurge pulled at his feet and the two went under and for a few moments the struggle continued in the frigid saltwaters of Girijan's rising sea.

Seeing the frozen look on the Vulcan's face Jason grabbed Del and pushed him forward, then once he was stumbling uphill he turned back to T'Shaini. "He is right, contacting Nils has to come first." He watched her shake herself, then nodding to him, splashed after Delano. With one look back at the now-surfaced struggling pair, Jason followed. Damn martyr complex. At the juncture of the two tunnels it became obvious that there was no way they were going to make it back up the rope. "Head up the other tunnel." It was at an upward slope opposed to the one they had just exited so at least they had a chance.

"Dude! You must chill!" Spluttering the first words which came to mind as he stumbled to his feet, bereft of sword and having dumped the heavy shield in the water, Harry backed away from his grinning attacker. In the back of his mind he had the space to wonder just what the universal translator would make of his offhanded comment. Judging from the other guy's continued advance, nothing useful. Finn still had the dagger, he even drew it but he also knew that, if there was a chance this could end without a death, he'd take it.

Too bad the other guy didn't feel the same way.

Using his zuut to full advantage, now, Tchiva swung and stabbed at the pathetically parrying fool. Close quarters or no, the utilitarian knife was no match for a warrior's blade. In moments his prey was pressed against the cask itself and in another he was disarmed and it was clear the spirits were pleased, shining forth with greater intensity so that Tchiva was near to sightless when he drew back for one last thrust.

As the waters roared throughout the endless tunnels which the sea had wrought, one man's voice, crying out in blind agony, had no chance at all of being heard.

JP with T'Shaini featuring Delano Mills and Jason Hallows
Originally Posted 8/22/08 by Harry Finn

Unhelpful Tears

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