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Chapter 5: Hall of Mirrors

I walk into the sickbay on the Bajor to see the back of my opposite number.  She’s sitting on one of the exam tables stripped to the waist.  Tight, corded muscles flex under the skin as she looks over her shoulder and sarcastically asks, “See anything you like, Captain?”

I give her the hairy eyeball.  “I don’t swing that way.  Just saw you, is all.”

When we got back aboard Warragul insisted that she be brought straight to him for a full workup.  We’re not taking any chances with the other side trying to replace me like they’ve tried before.  She grabs the undershirt that goes with her Cardassian Guard breastplate and pulls it on over her head, then asks me, “Where’s the restroom on this tub?”

“Excuse me, tub?” I glare at her.

She grimaces.  “Sorry.”

I let her stew for a moment, then, “Computer, please direct Dal Kanril to the restroom.”  I focus on her again.  “Follow the green light at the baseboard.”

“Thank you.”  She grabs her breastplate off the coat rack and pulls it on, then walks out the door.

“Warragul!  Where are you?”

“My office, Cap’n!” a South Australian tenor voice answers.  I follow it into the sickbay’s admin office, where he’s waiting with Chief Corpsman Watkins and Dul’krah.
The three of them snap to attention.  “As you were.  Tell me about her.”

He scoffs.  “I might as well read off your own chart, Cap’n.  Apart from the lack of facial and abdominal knife scars, a replicated kidney, and associated residual trauma she’s exactly like you down to the genetic level.”

“Plus or minus a tiny fraction of a percentage point attributable to environmental mutation,” Watkins adds.  “And she’s about a centimeter shorter.”

“Does she represent a security risk?”

Dul’krah scratches at his left ear.  “I do not believe so, Captain.  Granted, we will have to change protocols to keep her out of classified areas of the computer memory, but that is as simple as creating a password.  However, it will slow down your access as well.”

“I want at least two of your people on her at all times.”

“I have already assigned Lieutenants McMillan and K’lak for the first shift.  She already knows them.  Second shift will be Chief Athezra and Security Officer Tran, third shift Ensign Runkaar and Security Officer Nurik.”  I nod approvingly.

“Something interesting, though, Captain,” Corpsman Watkins says.  “I touched her mind when I was taking her pulse.  Couldn’t help it; Betazoids are always-on.”

“Did you get anything useful?”    Watkins is only about a third Betazoid and her abilities are very limited.

“She doesn’t feel anything like you.  She feels like a born-and-bred Cardassian.  Her thought patterns—”

“You’re sure she’s Bajoran, though, right?”

She nods.  “Genetically and biologically, yes.  The differences are mostly psychological.”

Warragul continues, “She also had a poison capsule encased in a false back molar, which we removed.  Promazine, nasty stuff.  The Obsidian Order used it to keep their operatives from being taken alive.  Kills fast and disintegrates the body within a few hours, but it feels like your whole head is on fire until you cark it.”

“I’m sure she took exception to that.”

“Well, I managed to convince her of how seriously I take the Hippocratic Oath.  The lolly helped.”  He laughs at the look on my face.  “Jumja stick.  Seems she’s got as much of a sweet tooth as you do, Cap’n.”

“Okay, so we’re not completely different.  How is she physically?”

“She’s in extremely good shape, bar a few fresh and healing bruises consistent with full-contact hand-to-hand drills.  Cardies don’t skimp on physical training; they work their people even harder than we do.  She’s also got a device similar to our contraceptive implants, and she’s wearing a Cardassian betrothal pendant.”

I raise an eyebrow.  “Thought the Cardassians tended not to allow enjoined women to stay on active service.”

Watkins gives me a look.  “Would you let that stop you, Captain?”  I consider, then shake my head.  “Her neither.  You and she have similar personalities from what I can tell.”

The intercom chirps and Tess’s voice comes through.  “Bridge to Sickbay.  Captain, we’re ready for the demo you requested.”

“All right, I’ll be there shortly.”

I step out of the turbolift onto the bridge and freeze.  Tess is pointing a phaser at me, with everybody else sitting at their stations, staring in either suspicion, fear, or in Biri’s case what looks like a stubborn refusal to burst out laughing.  “Why did I join Starfleet?” Tess demands.

“Tess, what the phekk are you doing?”

“Answer the question!”

I think back.  Right, the day we met, Vega.  “To piss off your thavan, wasn’t it?”

She promptly lowers the weapon and slides it into a holster belted at her waist.  “Sorry, ma’am.  Had to be sure.”

I just stare at her.  “You really think she can just replace me like that?”

“Terrans managed it with Kirk.”

“Kirk didn’t have a ten-year-old scar on his belly, Tess.  Next time you’re not sure, just ask me to pull up my shirt.”

“Told you,” Gaarra comments nonchalantly.

The Saurian at communications interrupts the repartee.  “Captain,” Esplin says, “I’ve got that conference call set up for you.”  I acknowledge her with a nod and a smile as Ja’rod and Gul Morag appear on the viewscreen.

The turbolift door slides open again behind me and the other me walks out.  “Tess, Dal Kanril Eleya,” I introduce her.  “Dal, my XO and tactical officer, Commander Tess Phohl.”

They lock eyes.  Tess’s antennae twitch and Kanril tenses.  Tess moves first, starting to swing a left hook, and Kanril drops into a ready stance I recognize as Sau’vikta Three from Cardassian military boxing, hands up, knees bent slightly.  They stay like that for two seconds or so, and then Tess stops and holds out her hand to my double.  “Good to meet you.”

“Uh, thank you, Commander,” she replies, taking the proffered hand gingerly.

“I think we’ll be all right, ma’am,” Tess says to me, curtly, and takes her place at the tactical officer console.

Kanril just stands there looking nervous for a bit, then tells me, “I’ve never actually spoken to an Andorian before.”

“Get used to it, there’s over sixty of us aboard,” Tess says without looking up.

“No time like the present,” Biri says, friendlier.  “Birail Riyannis, science officer.  Call me Biri.  And you’ve already met Gaarra, of course.”

“So what’s this demo you wanted me up here for?”

“Cloak Penetration 101, sir,” Master Chief Wiggin answers from his console.  “Now, obviously we don’t have anything to test it on, but it’s a well-proven technique on our side.  We picked it up from the Dominion.”

“The who?”

“I’ll explain later.”  I shoot Wiggin a dirty look.  Technically his slip of the tongue is a mild Prime Directive violation.  Rule number one is, never say any more than you have to.

Wiggin continues, “It’s an active sensor technique called an antiproton sweep.  Antiprotons resonate in a consistent, detectable way when they interact with a cloaking field.  Now, you can modulate the cloak to reduce the feedback, but it takes time and it’s difficult when you’re under attack.  Commander Reshek, you ready?”

“I was waiting on you, Master Chief.  Generating antiproton spread in five, four, three, two, one, mark.”

Wiggin rears back in his seat.  “Bloody hell!  We hit something!”

“Battle stations!”  I bellow.  “Lock torpedoes and fire!”

As a spread of quantum torpedoes screams from the forward tube, a pair of Defiant-class ships decloak seventy kilometers out and come hard about, burning hard towards us.  Their cannons defensively spit as one and the torpedoes are wiped off the map fifteen klicks short, and then they stretch into the distance and vanish into warp, rapidly boosting into the warp 10 asymptote.  “I’m locked on, Captain!”  Tess says.  “We can catch them!”

“Let them go, Commander Phohl,” Dal Kanril says.  “Too late anyway—they’ll have reported back over subspace already.”

“Is your name ‘Captain’?” Tess snaps at her.

“No, but mine is, and she’s right, there’s no point.  I think we can assume we’ve just lost the element of surprise.  The Terrans know we’re here now, they know what to look for.”  I bang my fist on the railing in frustration.

“Well, on the bright side, at least we know for certain your technobabble works,” Gul Morag remarks.  “What else can you tell us?”

“Well, let’s see.  A ship traveling under cloak at high warp produces minor fluctuations in local subspace, and there’s this little trick with tachyon beams…”

We finish up half an hour later, by which point additional Klingon and Cardassian ships have arrived.  They’re suspicious at first but Morag and Ja’rod talk them down.  There’s at least two familiar faces in the bunch, Guls Antos and Surjan from the Fifth Order.  Surjan informs me, “Supreme Legate Corat Damar has been informed of your presence, Captain Kanril.  He is not pleased.”

“Why, ‘cause he has to work with the Federation?”

“I’m sure Jagul-in-Waiting Morag has explained our history with your government.”

“Not this again—hang on, ‘jagul-in-waiting’?”

“The Seventh Order’s commander, Jagul Mekor Dukat, was gravely wounded in a Terran raid yesterday.  He was pronounced dead two hours ago.”

“My condolences.”

Antos smiles faintly.  “I will pass them to his widow.  In any event the Central Command is recommending Morag as his replacement.  Now, Captain, do you plan to help us strike back at the Terrans, or are we going to wait here for them to come and pick us off?”
“I’m not sure yet what we have to do.  The Prophets didn’t give me a whole lot of guidance.”

“Right, your so-called gods gave you an objective and no actual intel,” Dal Kanril grumbles behind me.

“Watch it,” Gaarra growls to my left.  “They’re on this side, too.”

“Okay then, if they’re so great, where were they when the Terrans showed up a century ago?”

I roll my eyes.  “Would you excuse me a minute, Gul Antos?”  I mute the microphone.  “Dal Kanril!” I snap, rounding on her.  “I’ll be perfectly happy to debate the finer points of theology with you at your convenience but right now I have a phekk’ta job to do!  Can it!”

She glares at me.  I know that look—it’s the same one I had on my face when I told Ambassador Dronk to phekk off at the Jenolan conference.  Before she can say what’s on her mind I fix her with my best Sergeant Implacable stare, the look that says, I don’t give a flying phekk if you’re Shakaar Edon himself; as far as I’m concerned you’re just another brainless boot who can’t tell which end of a combat knife goes into the other guy.  I learned from the best, and it works even better on the Bajoran in the Cardassian uniform than it typically does on a Starfleet newbie:  she suddenly snaps to attention and starts intensely studying the wall behind me.

Then she gets a confused look on her face.  “Hey, that’s cheating.”

“Do I have your attention?”  She nods.  “Then please leave my bridge unless you have something useful to add.”  Her face twists and I give her a slightly less sergeant-y look, and she whirls and stalks out the turbolift door with McMillan and K’lak hot on her heels.

I unmute the screen.  “Sorry, Gul Antos.”

He looks like he’s trying not to laugh.  “I’ve been telling Kerim for years he has a very insubordinate subordinate.”

I laugh at that.  “Trust me, sir, I’m even worse.  Now, about that sensor data.”

I leave Biri and Wiggin studying the Alliance sensor records for signs of the energy signature of an Orb of the Prophets and take a break, headed for the officers’ gym.

The other me is stripped to her form-fitting undershirt and a pair of borrowed sweatpants and is making a concerted effort to kill the punching bag.  “I hope that’s not supposed to be me,” I comment as I unzip my uniform jacket.

She stops pounding the bag and looks over at me, panting slightly.  “Captain, where the shtel did you learn how to do that?”

“Do what?”

“That look you gave me on the bridge.  I felt like I was dealing with Garresh Arken during First Stage after I was conscripted.”

“Oh, that.  You thought I was born wearing a Starfleet uniform?  No, I spent four years in the Bajoran Militia first.  Non-commissioned officer, naval gunnery tech.”  I take off my earring, yank my undershirt off, and dig my sweatpants out of the locker.

“Huh.  How’d you end up in Starfleet?”

“Politics.  Sort of.  Space Arm got shut down due to budget cuts and I wanted to stay blackside, so my CO arranged for a transfer.  ‘Conscripted’, huh?”

She nods, grabbing a water bottle next to her and taking a gulp.  “Cardassian Guard doesn’t do recruitment the way the Terrans do, and especially not the Klingons.  Anybody who scores over certain thresholds at secondary school graduation gets an offer they’re not allowed to refuse—either civil service or military depending, five years minimum.  They thought I had ‘leadership qualities’ so they made me an officer.”

“Was it what you wanted?”

She laughs derisively, gulps down some more water and waves a dismissive hand.  “Not about what I want.  It’s about what the State needs.”

“Right, service to Cardassia above all.”

“You don’t have to be sarcastic about it.  Are the Cardassians on your side any different?”

“Not exactly, but they had a rough time in the Seventies.  Civilians revolted, military government got overthrown—”

“What?”  Disbelieving look on her face.

Kate McMillan explains, “The Obsidian Order kinda got itself blown up in ’71.  Um, Captain, do I have permission to—”

“She’s heard the name already and it’s not classified information.  A little late to be worried about the Prime Directive.”

McMillan nods.  “The Obsidian Order and the Romulans got together and tried to do a preemptive strike on a civilization in the Gamma Quadrant called the Dominion.  It was a trap—one of the op’s planners was a Dominion agent and they all got shredded.  A dissident movement took advantage and overthrew the Central Command.”


“And that is exactly what our Klingons thought,” K’lak states.  “They invaded Cardassia and between them and a colonial insurgency in the Demilitarized Zone between the Union and the Federation, the Cardassians were driven into the arms of the Dominion, with some help from a traitor named Skrain Dukat.”

She raises an eyebrow.  “As in the former Supreme Legate?”

“On our side, officially he never rose past gul,” I correct her.  “But he told the Dominion he’d give them the Alpha Quadrant if they put him in charge of the Union.”

“Okay, who are these ‘Dominion’ characters, anyway?”  She starts pounding the bag again.

“Pray you never have to meet them,” I tell her seriously.  “It took two years and the three biggest governments on our side put together to deal with them, and over a billion and a half people were dead by the end, half of them Cardassian.”  I take a breath.  “If you’re still curious, you can look them up in the ship’s computer.  Short version, they’re run by shapeshifters with a self-appointed manifest destiny to bring ‘order’ to the galaxy,” and I drop air-quotes across the word “order”.

“No matter who gets in the way?  Sounds like the Terrans.”

I can’t argue with that.  “Anyway, the Cardassians eventually got sick of the Dominion and switched sides, helped us take them down.  Nowadays, the popular definition of ‘serving Cardassia’ is rehabbing their reputation and rebuilding from the war.  They’ve given up on being conquistadors for the most part.”

Then the intercom chirps.  “El, it’s Biri.  I found something.”

I press the key on the wall.  “Whatcha got?”

“I’m not completely sure yet, just a signal from a Klingon scout vessel in the Bavar system.  Give me and Astrometrics ten minutes or so to massage the numbers and I’ll know more.”

“All right, keep me posted.”  I curse under my breath.  So much for getting a good workout in.

Unless…  “Hey, Dal Kanril, how does a few minutes in the ring sound?”

She lands a roundhouse kick on the bag.  “You’re not serious.”

I grin at her.  “Consider it your chance to get me back for shutting you down earlier.  Come on, I need a workout but I’m short on time.”

She shrugs and tosses her towel aside.  “Best two out of three?”  I nod and we clamber up into the boxing ring on the side of the gym.

I drop into a loose ready stance; she matches me with Sau’vikta Three.  “That’s quite a scar,” she says, stalking to her left.

“Caught a knife during a boarding action,” I explain, matching her.  “Poison screwed with the dermal regenerator.  Same with the one on my face.”

“You weren’t wearing armor?  Not even a stab vest?”

“We were defending.  Didn’t have time.”

“Must’ve hurt like a son of a vole.”  Then she moves.  She rushes me but I’m no longer there, stepping forward and right.  I drop low and grab her legs and send her sprawling.
I pivot on a foot and drop on top as she turns over and rap her forehead with a knuckle.  “Good try, though,” I comment.  I grab her hand and pull her up.  “That’s one.”

“Yeah, that was careless.  Won’t happen again.”

We square off again, then she jumps forward and fires a punch at my midsection.  Block low right, kick left.  Intercepted with knee.  Sidestep, grab at upper arm.  She steps inside the charge, grabs my arm and throws me past her.  Rebound off the wire, running right haymaker to head.  Deflected into shoulder with right block.  I grunt as she knees me in the hip.  Fake left, right jab to midsection.  She grunts but traps the arm, knees me in the stomach and hits the back of my knee with a foot and my leg collapses and she drives me onto my back.  “One-one.”

I hold out an arm and she pulls me up.  “You’re using my moves.”


“Well, some of them,” I amend.

“I noticed that.  They teach chakar daran in Starfleet?”

“No, the Militia.  Although this Earth art Starfleet teaches is similar.  They call it Krav Maga.”

“I’ve heard of it.  The Terrans teach it, too.”  She backsteps and drops into a ready stance again, Sau’vikta Five this time, arms lower and wider.  “Final round, Scarface.”

“‘Scarface’?  You’re going down for that.”  I jump and tackle her to the ground.  She shoves me off and rolls and my fist hits the mat.  She kicks my hip and knocks me over and leaps to her feet as I absorb the kick, rolling clear, and pop up.

We start circling again.  I advance.  Fake jab right, parried with forearm, left punch to cheek and her head snaps back.  Right straight to the breast, left uppercut to chin, knee to stomach and the air whuffs out of her and she drops backwards.  I press my advantage, spinning to gain momentum, and kick her in the shoulder and she flies into the ropes.  She bounces off and lands an arm-bar across my chest as I knee her in the groin, and we both go down.

I lie there staring up at the ceiling for a moment, trying to get the air back into my lungs, and hear somebody laughing.  I look over at her and she’s laughing despite the blood dripping out of her nose.  “Ha ha ha!  Whoo!”  She gets up on an elbow and wipes the line of blood off her mouth with the back of a hand.  “You’re good, Captain!”

“You’re not so bad yourself.  Call it a draw?”


The intercom chirps again.  “Captain, Biri again.  I got what I needed.  Senior staff briefing in the conference room, fifteen minutes.”

“Got it.”  I roll to my feet and help Dal Kanril up.  “Want a dermal regenerator for that nose?”

“It’s already stopping.”

“All right, showers are this way.”

“Talk to me, Biri,” I tell the Trill as I sit down in my usual chair at the conference room’s curved table.  Guls Morag and Antos are also present, as is a Klingon general I’m not familiar with, a dahar master named K’Bor, son of QulDun, of the House of J’mpok.  Sitting at the end of the table?  Another familiar face, Koren, daughter of Grilka.  Dal Kanril sits next to her captain, off to my left.

Biri clicks to a system map.  “This is the Bavar system.  On our side it was an important stronghold for the Maquis but there’s not a whole lot there.  One marginally Class M planet, two smallish gas giants, and the rest is debris.  But we only care about the Class M.”  She clicks her remote.  “Commander Koren’s AKS QuHvaj’Qob—sorry, Koren, did I pronounce that right?”

“You did,” she confirms.

“Good.”  More good than she knows, considering what that turns into if you miss the glottal stop.  “Anyway, three days ago she found a previously unknown Terran base, and buried in her sensor records, Astrometrics Specialist First Class Kirvin Tors”—she gestures at a dark-skinned Perikian Bajoran noncom—“found an energy signature consistent with an Orb of the Prophets.”

“A what?” Koren asks, visibly confused.

She flicks to an image of the Orb of Prophecy and Change.  “We’ve never been completely sure.  They’re artifacts created by a race of beings that live inside a wormhole near here.  On our side the Bajorans believe they’re gods—Well, damn it, Kirvin, what do you want me to say about them?  We’re on the clock here!”

“Relax, Petty Officer Kirvin,” I tell him, gently but firmly.  “If you’re mad about it take it up with Prylar Simene.” He slumps back into his seat, still gritting his teeth.  “Sorry,” I tell the Alliance reps.  “It’s a touchy subject with my people.”

“Not you?” K’Bor asks.  He has a rumbling, gravelly voice.

“I didn’t say it wasn’t,” I answer, giving him a pointed look.  “But Commander Riyannis is not a member of our faith.  I don’t have the right to dictate what she can and can’t believe any more than she does us.”

“Thank you kindly, Captain.  Anyway, they’re objects with great power over space and time and the Terrans switched it with the one from this side.  Not sure when, not sure how, but according to the Captain’s Orb experience it’s how they’re keeping that portal in the outer system open.”

K’Bor leans forward.  “Allow me to skip forward.  You propose a planetary assault against a Terran surface base, based on a vision.”

“Yes,” Tess answers.

“I was not talking to you, anDorngan.  eleya HoD?

“Tess speaks for me.”

He looks me in the eye.  I glare back at him.

Then he starts laughing, a deep, rumbling laugh that I feel in my bones, and Biri jumps when he slams his fist into the table, knocking over my water glass.  “Hah!  It is past time we take the fight to the tera’nganpu’!  We will fight with you, eleya HoD, and it will be glorious!”

Antos looks horrified.  “General, are you out of your mind?”

“Perhaps.  But I see this warrior before me and my blood rises.  She may be coddled and well-fed like the rest of the Terrans’ ilk, but she has heart, just like Gul Morag’s yaS wa’DIch.  I believe her, and I will call for additional forces.  How many troops do you have aboard your ship?”

“If you mean regular infantry?  None.  Starfleet doesn’t do ground assaults often enough.”

The other me lets out a derisive burst of laughter.  “So, what, we’re carrying you?”

“I didn’t say that!” I snap over my shoulder at her.  “What I do have is a unit of MACOs.  Elite Starfleet commandos trained for orbit-to-surface insertion, clearing LZs, that sort of thing.  And I’ll be on the ground with you, and you’ll have as many of my people with ground combat training as can be spared.”

“Like who?”

“Remember K’lak and McMillan, Dal Kanril?  They’re not just ship security, they’re my sniper team.  Thirty-four confirmed kills including seven I saw myself, and K’lak once shot a man off a hostage from 270 meters.  You’ll be the hammer but we’re the rapier.  I’ve also got combat engineers, an onboard industrial replicator, and a prefab field hospital better than anything you’ve got.”

Gul Morag looks to Dal Kanril and murmurs something in Cardassian that I don’t catch.  I get the gist of what she says back but it’s not fit for polite company.  I do hear a “yes” in there, though, and the hook-nosed gul turns to me.  “We’re in.”

“Morag!” Antos says in an almost pleading tone.

“What do you want me to say, Tekeny?  Cardassia has an opportunity here.  Forget the Orb for a minute—this looks to be a major Terran base, likely the source of operations we’ve been looking for in this sector block for months.  We take it quick enough, we get a lot of usable intelligence, and even if we don’t we eliminate a serious threat to our rear areas.  And you weren’t here to see Kanril fight, but she’s a good commander, and so far everything she’s said has held up.  I believe the potential reward is worth the risk.”

“I’m not moving without authorization from the Central Command.”  Morag throws a datacard on the table.  “What’s this?”

“Authorization from the Central Command placing me in overall command of our forces here, including your little flotilla.”

He stares at Morag.  “You’re pulling rank on me, Kerim?  After all the years we’ve served together?”

“If I have to.  I’d rather not.”

“You’re a real bastard, you know that?”

“Take it out on the Terrans.”

“Fine,” he grudgingly agrees.  “I’ll contact Jagul Figler and see if he can spare anything more from the Fifth Order.  I’m not holding out much hope, though—they got torn up pretty good at Goralis.  So did the Klingons.”

“Yes, and General B’Vat was captured, I know.”

“If he survived he will require many battles to regain his honor,” K’Bor comments.

“He’ll get them,” I assure him.  “Now that you can defeat the Terrans’ cloaks you should be able to start pushing them back without my help.  Let’s start planning the attack.”
TWR Chapter 5: Hall of Mirrors
Previous Chapter: Big Damn Heroes

So we learn a little more about Dal Kanril, and see the mirror versions of three Cryptic characters, Guls Antos and Surjan from “Standoff”, and Captain Whiny Bitch of the IKS Whineatyou’, who I’ve decided commands a crappy bird-of-prey in the mirror universe because I don’t like her.  K’Bor, meanwhile, is the mirror version of Brokosh’s Pointy-Haired Boss in Red Fire, Red Planet.

The bit about Dal Kanril being “a very insubordinate subordinate” and Eleya being worse was a dual Stargate SG-1 reference (the one’s a line from “Seth” regarding Jack, the other’s in reference to Richard Dean Anderson asking Air Force Chief of Staff General Michael Ryan if he had colonels as irreverent as O’Neill).  The part where Eleya gets Dal Kanril to come to attention despite herself was borrowed from a Mass Effect fanfic called The Translation in Blood (NSFW due to explicit sex).  “Jagul Figler” is a reference to masopw’s “Movie Night” piece for Literary Challenge 65 because it cracked me up.

DS9: “Covenant” said that promazine killed painlessly, but we only have Dukat’s word on it.  I decided that it was false information put out by the Obsidian Order in order to encourage captured operatives to take their poison.

Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: violence/gore and strong language)

Aen’rhien Vailiuri

In the blackness of space, there was nothing.

And yet there was something.  There was a pocket of nothing that moved in the nothing at speeds greater than what little light there was.

Within this pocket sailed a thousand-meter double-hulled warship, almost as wide as it was long, with a beaked prow like some enormous predatory bird over eighty stories tall, majestically silent in the nothing and appearing as nothing to any observer.  On the side of the great beak, painted in stylized High Rihan script five stories tall, unlit by floodlights with the giant vessel cloaked, were two words:  ch’M’R Aen’rhien.

To the solitary human aboard, the great words meant RRW Bloodwing.  At the moment Lieutenant Commander Jaleh Khoroushi, Federation Starfleet, was the el’saehne khlu’enh, the officer of the watch in her native service’s parlance.  Her official title was elsaenen ch’temivhen, operations officer.  Six months ago the Iranian-born logistics officer had been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  As part of the Federation’s alliance with the Romulan Republic, she would take part in an unprecedented exchange program wherein she would serve aboard a warbird as a department head, tightening the ties between the Federation and the newly recognized Romulan splinter state.  Jaleh was a natural choice for the assignment:  She’d minored in Romulan Studies during OCS and spoke the language fluently, and her name was known to some of the Republic crews from Starfleet humanitarian work over a decade earlier.  People back home sometimes joked she must be part-Romulan herself.

Of course, the job had its downsides.  There weren’t any other humans on the ship and sometimes she missed the company.  And very occasionally it meant assignments like this one, which everybody aboard agreed made no military sense.  As Khre’Riov t’Thavrau had so eloquently put it at dinner after receiving the orders, “the Khre’dhhokh Mol’Rihan needs to focus on its own people for a while, not foreign adventurism, and certainly not on the other damned side of the galaxy.”  But the Proconsul was determined that the Republic should get its name out there and build some outposts in the Delta Quadrant, even if all they could realistically spare for the op was two warbirds sent in opposite directions. (D’Tan had wanted five, minimum, but Khre’Enriov tr’Kererek and the Central Command had fought it down to two.)

It was the middle of the “night” shift and the bridge was quiet as the retrofitted Dominion War-era D’deridex-class vessel, stolen from the Imperial shipyards in the Dimorus system, approached a binary star system detected from the Jenolan Dyson sphere.  The Undine had been mysteriously quiet for weeks now, so with some reservations tr’Kererek had finally given the mission the green light.  That was nine days ago.

An uhlan passed by with a tray of tea and Jaleh retrieved a mug of the steaming, highly caffeinated Rihan brew.  Funny how roughly every single culture and species in the entire galaxy had at least one version of a hot beverage with stimulant properties.  The tea was bitter by itself but Captain t’Thavrau’s blend was flavored with khellid honey and spices, a practice she had picked up on her adopted homeworld of Virinat.  “Khnai’ru rhissiuy,” she thanked the uhlan, who continued on her rounds without a word.

The turbolift door quietly whined open to her left and a slim green-eyed Rihanha with a dark red-brown ponytail stepped out and snagged a cup of tea off the passing tray.  Arrain Sahuel i’Tlhira t’Khnialmnae, the warbird’s tactical officer, yawned and sipped her tea, grimacing.  “I don’t get what Morgan sees in this stuff, I really don’t.”

“I think it reminds her of home, t’Khnialmnae.”

“It’s too sweet.”

“You could always, I don’t know, order it yourself,” Jaleh suggested, flicking a thumb at the replicator set into the back wall of the bridge.

Rekkhai, as bad as this is, replicated just tastes fake,” the tactical officer answered, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her face.

“Well, you’re going to have to get used to it eventually.  At the rate we go through the stuff the tea plants in the greenhouse won’t last the length of the trip.”

Enarrain Khoroushi,” the helmsman interrupted, “we will be arriving in two minutes.”

“All right.”  She pressed the intercom.  “Attention, this is Enarrain Khoroushi.  El’arahtih tr’Yalu, please report to the bridge.”

The turbolift door slid open again.  “I was already on my way, Jaleh.”  Braeg ir’Nequencia tr’Yalu, head of sciences, stood a little taller than Jaleh, with Asian-looking features and more Rihan-typical jet-black hair. Auburn hair like t’Khnialmnae’s was even rarer for Rihannsu than it was in humans, and blondes like the helmsman were practically unheard-of.  “Siurrhan’saehne,” he addressed the sensor officer, “begin initial scans.”

The viewscreen flicked to a layout of the star system.  Not exactly an inviting place, even to Jaleh’s limited understanding of astronomy.  One red giant, and … “Braeg, is that a pulsar?”

The Rihanha nodded.  “Clear as day.  Classic accretion-powered pulsar with a severe axial tilt.  Orientation explains why the astronomers at the Dyson sphere didn’t spot it.”  He shook his head.  “We will find nothing intelligent in this system.”

“Nothing that’s supposed to be there, anyway,” Jaleh agreed.  “Helm, bring us out near that rocky planet five AUs from the primary.  We’ll do a cursory scan for mineral content and on the off chance there’s anything interesting, but I don’t think we need to wake the leih or Riov tr’Sauringar.”  She shook her head and ruefully muttered to herself in Farsi, “Another day in the great history of the Bloodwing.”

She took a seat at her console and t’Khnialmnae sat next to her.  “Rekkhai, would you mind a personal question?” the Rihanha asked as she programmed in a diagnostic routine.  The warbird’s engines rumbled as the ship dropped out of warp.  Jaleh shook her head.  “Do you have children?”

“Sort of.  I was the second of five.  My brother Ehsan and I were backup parents.  Why?”

“Because my sister’s having a baby and—”

A ping from one of the computers interrupted.  “El’saehne khlu’enh,” the communications officer, Erein Vanlhir t’Siedhri, addressed Jaleh, “broadwave subspace message coming in in the clear, audio only.”

“Let’s hear it.”

The audio was broken up by a frequent static crackle.  She managed to make out, “…axian merchant vessel … under attack by K…questing aid!  Mayday…”

Now Jaleh recognized the static.  Interference from enemy weapons fire.  “Lanat bar sheyan, that’s a distress signal.”  She reached overhead for the intercom and bellowed in Rihan, “All hands to battle stations!”

Khhae’saehne,” Sahuel ordered as klaxons began to wail, “isolate the source location and patch it to the helm!”

The intercom crackled and a soprano voice stated in lightly accented English, “t’Thavrau to bridge.  Talk to me, Commander Khoroushi.”

“We’ve detected a distress signal from a civilian starship located—Sahuel!  Where are they?”

“Looks like one system over, three-point-four light-years deeper into the nebula!”  Jaleh repeated this to her commanding officer.

“Commander, you are to respond with all available speed.  I will join you as soon as I’m dressed.  Have a cup of tea waiting.”

Ie, rekkhai!  Gonaiih, set course!”  She hit the intercom again.  “Bridge to Engineering!  Veril, I need maximum warp power immediately!”

In the nothing, a pocket of nothing moved onto a new heading and accelerated.

“Saxis, we can’t stay here forever.”  The Axiana was safely hidden for the moment in the rings of a large gas giant.  They’d managed to lose the Kazon raiding party with a dangerous low-altitude pass through the atmosphere of a Class L moon and were now lying powered down among ice and rock chunks, from specks of sand on up to floating boulders the size of a house.  They’d been there for four hours.

“We don’t have to, Baz,” Saxis answered.  “We just have to wait for the Kazon-Tarrik to get bored and leave.”  He looked hopefully across the scanboard, then grumbled, “Rrrgh, bloody hairballs don’t know when to give up.”

“They’re getting closer, Captain.”

“Don’t you think I know that!?” he yelled back.  “Damn it, what in the name of the Great Forest is in that crate?”

“Hey, wait a moment,” Sil’Ta Dror, the ship’s Haakonian scan tech, interjected.  “Did you see that?”

“See what, Sil’Ta?”

“I don’t know.  Some sort of flicker on the subspace scanners.  It’s gone now.”

“Where was it?”  Bazor, the Hirogen mercenary that Saxis had hired a few months back as muscle, looked over the scanboard as Sil’Ta swung the view around.  The screen went staticky from a nearby detonation.  “Kazon are still getting closer, Captain!”

“Maybe you’d prefer to be back in that thill-dung bar I dragged you out of on Daxus II.”

“Well at least I wouldn’t be facing a dishonorable death by the hand of unworthy prey—”

“Hey, there it is again,” Sil’Ta interrupted.  “It’s on the other side of the Kaz—and now it’s gone again.”

“What are you seeing?” the Hirogen demanded.

“Look, here’s the playback.”


“There!”  The Haakonian pointed at what a less-trained eye would’ve considered a glitch in the screen, which Sil’Ta supposed was still possible now that he thought about it.

“What is that?” Saxis asked.

I don’t know!” the Haakonian yelled in frustration.  “Okay?”  There was another detonation.  “Captain, if they get any closer they’ll pick us up just on passive infrared!”

The Talaxian grumbled something unintelligible and scratched his head, then pushed a button on the console in front of him.  “Vanka!” he barked to the young female Rilnar in the engine room.  “I got another idea.  You think we can handle a deep dive into that gas giant?”

“How deep?”

“Deeper than the Kazon, hopefully.”

“Yeah, gonna have to go with ‘no’ on that one.  Those old Trabe ships have pretty good cross-bracing.  They can probably go deeper than we can.”

“All right, get ready to—”

“Captain,” Sil’Ta interrupted, “we’re being hailed.  It’s that guy Maje Tillih again.”


“No, tightbeam.  They found us.”

“Power up!  Run for it!”

Then for the third time in five minutes, the Haakonian saw something on his monitor.  Only this time it wasn’t a small fluctuation.  The disturbance was huge, over a kilometer across, as if space itself was ripping and tearing, and out of the purest nothing, something was forming.

And then that something opened fire and all hell broke loose.

Arrain,” a slim, weatherbeaten-looking Rihanha with long ebon tresses with a couple patches of silver at the temples, calmly addressed Sahuel t’Khnialmnae from the chair at the center of the Aen’rhien’s bridge.  “Target the lead Kazon vessel.  Commence attack.”

“Deactivating cloak!” the younger redheaded Rihanha confirmed.  “Firing forward battery!”  As reality itself was tortured by the fall of the giant warbird’s fading cloak, triple eye-searing streams of confined plasma snapped out into space at relativistic speeds from the mounts on the vessel’s nose and the leading edge of the upper hull.  The plasma bolts raced across the 150 kilometers separating the Aen’rhien from its target and slammed into the broadside of the older and much smaller Kazon raiding ship, not even as large as one of the warbird’s own warp nacelles, blasting straight through and continuing on into the distance.

Allāhu akbar,” Jaleh murmured, squirming in her seat as the Kazon vessel disintegrated, its death coming as suddenly as the strike of a cobra.  One of the hardest things to get used to about serving with Rihannsu?  A Federation starship was supposed to try to defuse a situation without first resorting to violence.  But Rihan tactical and strategic doctrines revolved around the surprise attack, had for centuries, and Khre’Riov t’Thavrau was old-school.

That meant she shot to kill.  Every time.

Imirrhlhhsenen nnea ri’nanovai didn’t even have his shields up!” Sahuel crowed.

“Language,” the older Rihanha chided her subordinate, then ordered, “Helm, take us straight past!  T’Khnialmnae, target the Predator-class—it’s the only ship in that formation that represents a threat!  Fire as she bears!”

Pale blue weapons fire spat from the side of the teardrop-shaped vessel, longer than the Aen’rhien but not as wide, as the warbird screamed past.  The phaser fire splashed harmlessly across the warbird’s shields; those on the bridge felt nothing.  Return fire blew glowing craters in the side of the bronze-colored ship.  “Damage report?” t’Thavrau asked.

“None.  Starboard shields holding at 97 percent,” Jaleh answered.  “That was rather pathetic, actually.  Their weapons are about as good as what we were using a hundred years ago.  Shields are even worse.”

“Target his forward weapons array,” Riov Sarsachen tr’Sauringar, the executive officer, ordered.  “Fire aft battery, then cloak and bring us around for another pass.”

“What in the Great Forest was that thing?!” Saxis yelled.

“I’ve got no clue!” Sil’Ta yelled right back.  “I’ve never heard of a ship of that configuration before, never mind one that can turn invisible!”

“They fight well,” Bazor remarked, cracking his knuckles.  “Worthy prey at last.”

Sil’Ta looked at the Hirogen incredulously.  “They’re on our side, you idiot.”

“Damn.”  Baz looked crestfallen.

“I think,” Sil’Ta amended, and the big guy started looking a little more hopeful.

“They vanished again.”

“Hey, listen to this,” Saxis said, hitting a key.  “Tillih’s going thill-dung!”

The broadcast came through.  “Where’d they go?  Where’d they go?  Who was that?”  There was a pause.  “This is Third Maje Tillih, calling for additional vessels!”

“Oh, wonderful.”

Then the console pinged.  Incoming hail.  “Merchant vessel Axiana, this is Optrican Assemblage Vessel Watchkeeper.  We have received your signal and are eleven minutes out.”

Saxis grabbed the microphone.  “OAV Watchkeeper, this is Axiana.  Somebody beat you to the party, no idea who.  Appeared out of nowhere and blew a Kazon raider to bits in one shot, then smashed up a Predator-class and vanished again.  I’m sending you a screengrab.  You recognize these guys?”

There was a pause.  “I’ve never seen anything like it.  They hostile?”

“To the Kazon, yeah, but they don’t seem interested in us.  Oh, by the way, we just overheard the Kazon calling for reinforcements.”

“Captain,” Sil’Ta interrupted, “that disturbance is back!”

“T’Khnialmnae, target their engines with the forward battery.  Other weapons, targets of opportunity.  Commence attack pattern Valdore Three.”

“Decloaking!  Firing main battery!”  Again reality was tortured.  Again, triple streams of green lanced out into space from the warbird’s bow and wings.  This time the Kazon vessel had had the forethought to boost power to their shields, blunting the assault, but the plasma blasts still tore deep into the heart of the teardrop-shaped vessel.  A secondary explosion tore a hole out the port side, shattering the nacelle.  The D’deridex-class vessel’s secondary arrays went into rapid fire, swatting down a pair of fighters that managed to launch from the vessel and smashing the hangar bay; a fireball belched out from inside.

“We’ve got one trying to get on our tail!” the sensor officer announced.

Morgan barked, “Aft torpedoes!  Fire!”  Glowing green plasma torpedoes belched from the tail of the warbird; the Kazon raider firing at their engines quickly broke off and went evasive.

“Long-range sensors detecting several more ships entering the system!  One from vector three-zero-three by one-two, unknown configuration, nine minutes out!  Six from vector nine-two by three-five-four, definite Kazon or Trabe, thirty minutes out!”

“Helm, t’Haramliu Turn!  One more pass on that Predator-class with the forward battery!”

The warbird pitched hard up, twisting to port as it did so to present a marginally smaller target.  No sense taking unnecessary risks.  The nose passed ninety degrees and into what had been upside-down from where they were, and the enemy entered the forward firing arc.  “Firing, main battery!” t’Khnialmnae announced, and again streams of plasma lanced out at the enemy.  They cut through the damaged forward shields with ease and ripped deep inside.  Secondary explosions rocked the vessel, laying huge rents in the outer hull that belched debris, atmosphere, and bodies.  Escape pods began to pop off the vessel’s flanks as more explosions shook the ship.  Then the impulse drive failed, main power went out, and its orbit began to decay.  The hulk would eventually spiral down into the gas giant or one of its moons, or be torn apart in the rings.

“They’re rabbiting, Captain!” Commander Khoroushi said of the remaining five raiders.

“Let them.  See to the survivors.  Lock transporters and bring them aboard, and see to it any weapons are lost in transit.”  She signaled for a refill of her tea and pressed the intercom key.  “Leih to tr’Khev, we have some unexpected guests about to come aboard.  Have your troops ready to escort them to the brig, and be prepared to set up a temporary holding pen in one of the spare cargo bays.”  She released the key without waiting for a reply.  “Get me a full readout of that ship they were attacking.”

“Looks like a freighter, ID transliterating to Axiana,” Jaleh said, reading off her console.  “Basic navigational weapons, phaser-equivalent.  Decent shields, though, Federation military-grade a few generations ago.  But their engines are pretty shot up—I don’t think they can go much faster than warp 3 right now.”

“Hail them.”  T’Siedhri hand-signaled her.  “Merchant vessel Axiana, this is the Republic Warbird Bloodwing, responding to your distress signal.  Do you require further assistance?”

There was a pause and then a trio of humanoids on a dim, somewhat ramshackle bridge appeared on the viewscreen.  At the center, a dark-skinned Talaxian.  Morgan tensed upon seeing a Hirogen in the background but the presence of a Haakonian confused her.  Based on Voyager’s records the Haakonians were conquistadors, the local equivalent of the pre-revolution Cardassians, and had taken over Talax and glassed its moon Rinax.  A Talaxian working with a Haakonian seemed strange at best.  “Uh, Republic Warbird Bloodwing,” the Talaxian said uncertainly, “we’re safe for the moment but we could use some re…pairs… I’m sorry, who are you?  I’ve never heard the term ‘Republic Warbird’.”  He turned and whispered something over his shoulder to the Haakonian, who nodded and walked out of the frame.

Morgan’s XO stepped into the picture, leaning his arm on the back of her chair.  Sarsachen i’Amriel tr’Sauringar was tall, stout and powerfully built, ruddy-skinned and blue-eyed, with boyish good looks marred by a scar on his face from an honor duel he’d fought against another Republic officer who had taken exception to the former’s fifteen years in Starfleet.  He came off needing stitches, the other guy spent a week in the hospital.  “We are Rihannsu, most of us, anyway,” he explained.  “We’re on an exploration mission and represent the Republic of ch’Mol’Rihan.”

“Nice to meet you, Mister Rihannsu.  I’m Saxis, that’s Bazor, and the other guy was Sil’Ta.”

Morgan nodded.  “I am Khre’Riov Morgaiah ir’Sheratan t’Thavrau, commander of this vessel.  We detected your distress signal and responded in accordance with mnhei’sahe and international law.”

“In accordance with what?”

Khoroushi broke into the conversation.  “Where we come from, international agreements require ships to answer any distress signals from groups we are not currently at war with.”

“It’s the same over here.  I was talking about the ‘naysay’ thing.”

“‘Mnhei’sahe’,” Morgan corrected him, pronouncing it carefully.  “It is difficult to explain to non-Rihannsu, but it is the single most important code of social conduct in our culture—”

Rekkhai!” t’Siedhri interrupted.  Morgan turned her head and glared at him, annoyed.  “Forgive the interruption but the Axiana is in contact with another party!”

“Explain yourselves,” Morgan commanded, calmly but forcefully.

The Haakonian stuck his head back into the frame, leaning backwards for the camera to catch him.  “Yeah, sorry about that.  I was apprising the Optricans that you didn’t seem to be hostile.  They should be here any minute.”

Rekkhai,” Khoroushi added, “unknown vessel coming out of warp, three hundred klicks off our port bow.”

“Tactical analysis, please.”

T’Khnialmnae answered, “Looks like a patrol vessel, unknown configuration.  Approximately 150 meters long and 180 meters wide.  Very powerful impulse drive, six fixed-position weapons emplacements comparable to the spinal mount of a Jem’Hadar attack ship, four omnidirectional turrets covering the after arc.  Secondary and tertiary shields, overall strength comparable to an early Ambassador-class Federation starship.”

“That’s a lot of juice.  How in the hell are they powering that thing?” Khoroushi wondered.

“These emissions signatures are consistent with a polaric ion power source,” tr’Yalu replied.

“We’re being hailed, rekkhai.”  Morgan acknowledged t’Siedhri and ordered him to put the other ship up on split-screen.

The other captain had a body configuration Morgan had never even heard of.  He resembled a picture of a Terrhain centaur she had seen once, except he had six legs and was bright purple.  “Khre’Riov t’Thavrau—I hope I am pronouncing that right—I am Senior Captain Shalbar of the Optrican Assemblage, requesting you to stand down.”

“Negative.  I don’t know you, therefore I cannot automatically trust you.”

“It’s all right, Miss Rihannsu,” the Talaxian said.  “The Optricans are good folk.”

Khre’Riov, I am not interested in fighting you.  Clearly we have a mutual enemy in the Kazon-Tarrik, and while their vessels are little match for our warships they are threatening civilian shipping.  This independent trader was fortunate.  Usually nobody arrives in time to do anything but collect the bodies.  We suspect they have a supply base in a nearby system but we don’t know where.”

Morgan nodded.  “We took some of them alive.  I may be able to acquire that information for you.”

Tovan ir’Hfihar tr’Khev, the Aen’rhien’s chief of security, greeted them by the cargo bay door.  “I took the liberty of putting the guy in charge in the cargo bay manager’s office.  Somebody named Third Maje Jal Tillih.”

“Very well, I’ll handle this,” t’Thavrau said.  “Make sure the interrogation is audible and visible to the others.”

Rekkhai, are you sure that’s a good idea?” tr’Sauringar asked.  He read off a datapad.  “‘Strongly patriarchal culture’, ‘women are second-class citizens’, et cetera.  I think your presence will just insult him.”

Khoroushi snorted.  “Sounds like my homeland four hundred years ago.”

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to hope that his sense of self-preservation overrides his chauvinism.”

The four of them stepped into the cargo bay, where a dozen heavily armed Rihannsu and Havrannsu in riot gear stood watch over about fifty Kazon sitting cross-legged on the floor.  They looked even more ridiculous in person than they had in the briefing materials.  “Is that all of them, tr’Khev?”

“No, we’ve got sixty-two hot-bunked in the brig and about two hundred more in Bays Four and Six.  I hope these ‘Optricans’ you mentioned have a transport handy; otherwise we’ll have to haul them off ourselves.”

Tr’Sauringar shook his head.  “No, we’re playing prison barge for a little while.  The ship they brought’s about the size of a Federation Defiant-class.”

Fvadt,” tr’Khev cursed.

Morgan approached the quartermaster’s office.  It was unused at the moment, since Cargo Bay Seven hadn’t needed to be stocked for this mission, and tr’Khev had put a folding table and two chairs in the empty room.  A particularly hairy Kazon in a drab green vest with fur trim sat handcuffed in one of the chairs, staring at her in what looked like a combination of abject surprise and utter disgust.  “They sent a woman?”

“I sent myself.  I am Khre’Riov Morgaiah t’Thavrau, commander of this vessel.”

He made a dismissive grunt.  “You lie like a fur rug.”

“Do I look like I make a business of lying, you mogai-faced buffoon?”

The Kazon launched into a rant of which her universal translator only bothered to translate about every third or fourth word, although the gist was pretty clear.  While she waited for him to finish she idly wondered if the length of their hair and the strength of their stench had some correlation to their societal rank.

He was at the point of a description of the various ingredients of which she was supposedly composed, none of them hygienic and some she wasn’t sure actually existed, before she lost patience.  “Are you finished?” Morgan interrupted in a disinterested tone, inspecting her fingernails.  “Let me tell you how this is going to work.  Your race has met people from my side of the galaxy once before.  But they represented the Federation.  I do not.  I am Rihannsu.  You will tell me the location of your base and the rest of your ships”—she suddenly looked him straight in the eye—“or I will take it from you.”

The Kazon began to tremble slightly.  Briefly Morgan thought she was having an effect, but then quiet laughter started to echo through the room.  She was decidedly nonplussed at this development.  “Ha ha ha!  Ha-hahaha!  Yet another woman far too small for the role she claims!”  Suddenly he stopped laughing and spat on the table.  “You dishonor your ship by claiming a position that isn’t yours by right—”

Morgan shot to her feet and before Tillih could do anything more than jerk backwards in startlement she had thrown the table aside.  As it hit the wall with a crash her left arm shot across the gap and grabbed hold of the Kazon’s neck, wiry muscles bunching as the furious Rihanha lifted the larger humanoid clear off the floor.  “You dishonor yourself,” she icily told Tillih.  “You prey on the weak and the innocent.  You kill for glory like the worst kind of Khe’lloann’na.  And now you dare to insult my honor?”  The Kazon grunted something inaudible.  “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear that.”

“Die … in a fire.”

Through the window Jaleh saw t’Thavrau’s hand twitch.  The human gasped and flinched away and heard a wet crunch through the speakers, louder than it actually was.  She looked back as the commander dropped the maje to the floor, where he landed in a motionless heap.  “Tr’Khev!” she barked.  “Dispose of him and bring in the second-in-command.”

The second Kazon practically fell over himself in his rush to tell where the rest of the fleet was.  T’Thavrau told tr’Khev to hand the prisoners off to the Optricans when possible, then strode briskly out the door.

Jaleh followed her.  “Captain, what in God’s name was that for?”

“What was what for, Khoroushi?”

“What do you mean, ‘What was what for’?  He was an unarmed prisoner!”

Without breaking stride, t’Thavrau matter-of-factly responded, “He was guilty of piracy and attempted murder, and likely murder as well considering the honorific ‘jal’.  As an officer of the Galae s’Kreh’dhhokh Mol’Rihan I am authorized to deal with pirates as I like.  Moreover he insulted my mnhei’sahe and my ability to command.  One or the other, I would have let past.”

“You murdered him!”

“I executed him.”

Kire asbe abi too koonet!” Jaleh snapped at her in Farsi.

The commander rounded on her and shot back in Rihan, “Urru Areinnye!”  Her hands twitched again but she took a deep breath, visibly forcing them to remain still.  “Are you finished, Enarrain?”

“Yeah, I’m finished,” she answered, grudgingly.

“Good.  I’ll take the next watch.”  She stepped into the turbolift and requested the bridge.

Tovan came up behind Jaleh.  “Technically she’s right.”

“Tr’Khev, I may be elsaenen ch’temivhen on this ship but I’m still a Starfleet officer.”

“And I’m a cop, by training anyway.  I don’t always like what Morgan does, either.  When she’s acting as leih she’s a completely different person than the woman I knew on Virinat for ten years.  But I could tell you easy that maje was never going to break, and the penalty for piracy under just about everybody except the Federation is death anyway.”

Rekkhai, I’m not allowed to be judge, jury, and executioner.  It violates Federation law and it’s immoral.”

“This isn’t a Federation ship and Morgan isn’t Lloannen’galae, or Terrhaha for that matter.  And you didn’t kill him—she did.”

“I know that!”  She spun away and started studying the wall.  Finally she said, “I love serving with the Republic.  I get to actually use those Romulan Studies courses and I learn more every day.  I’m even putting out feelers with the Diplomatic Corps to see if they’d be interested in having me whenever I get out.  But every once in a while she does something that I can’t possibly ever agree with and it just hits me that she still thinks of me as a guest, not a full member of her crew.”

“That’s not true.”

“Isn’t it?”  She turned around and waved a hand.  “She actually listens to tr’Sauringar and he’s been in Starfleet almost as long as I have!”

“Okay, point, and I even think I know why.  Sarsachen’s Rihannsu, born and bred, and Morgan grew up pre-Shinzon, before the Havrannsu started pushing for equal rights and we all lost everything.  I mean, look at you.  I’ve studied Terrha’s history a little bit.  How long did it take before those last holdouts in your part of the world stopped treating women like property?”  She grunted noncommittally.  “See?”

“So, what, she doesn’t trust me because my ears aren’t pointy?”

“I wouldn’t go that far, but she’s not going to go out of her way to court your affection because she doesn’t think it’s worth her effort to try and convince you.  And ultimately she’s leih of this warbird and she’s going to run it the way she wants.  If you want to change her, you’re going to have to work at it.”  He reached out and touched her shoulder, hesitantly at first.  “You want a drink?  I could use a drink.”

Ie, rekkhai,” she said out of habit.

“Call me Tovan.  She doesn’t do it anymore and I kinda miss it.”

“All right, Tovan it is.  Ale?”

“Better.  I’ve got the last three bottles of the ’04 from Morgan’s winery on Virinat.”  The tanned Rihanha grinned.  “When we went back last year we managed to find some crates in her cellar that the khellids didn’t break.”

Jaleh laughed.  “So your crazy ex-girlfriend actually did some good?”  Tovan looked slightly crestfallen.  “Sorry.”

He grunted.  “It’s all right.  Come on, it’s in my office.”

Around them the warbird, largely oblivious to the turmoil inside it, thrummed with power as it tractored the Axiana and followed the Watchkeeper into warp.
Aen'rhien Vailiuri
Written for Literary Challenge #67: Delta Rising on the Star Trek Online forum.

I sort of envisioned the Axiana as the Delta Quadrant equivalent of Serenity.  Old, underpowered, crewed by a ragtag bunch of bickering misfits, but loved.

I’ve also decided to go with a bit of Idiosyncratic Episode Naming for short stories featuring Morgan’s crew.  Starting now, all the titles are in Rihan.

What Morgan calls a “t’Haramliu Turn” is the Romulan equivalent of an Immelmann.

The other thing I was trying to do here was get a little away from the "near-total white hats" portrayal of the Republic and play Morgan as more of an anti-hero than Eleya, and of a different sort than Brokosh. Eleya's a utilitarian pragmatist but she still basically believes in standard Western ethics, while Brokosh is a professional mercenary with a battlefield code based primarily on what makes good business sense (e.g. don't mistreat your prisoners because you might be a prisoner yourself someday, and don't kill anyone you don't have to because collateral damage is bad for your reputation).

With Morgan, though, I was trying to play up somewhat the Deliberate Values Dissonance that Diane Duane used so well in the Rihannsu books. She’s a Republican patriot, but she thinks D’Tan is naive and doesn’t agree 100% with his politics (reconciliation with the Vulcans is one thing, but she’s against unification). As you saw, she also doesn't really have a problem with murdering an unarmed man in anger (yes, I do actually consider what she did murder, even though she doesn’t). That’s where I found it useful to have the contrast of Commander Khoroushi, the outsider.

Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: violence/gore)

Legacy of ch'Rihan

A Day on the Farm

It was hot.  Damn hot.

Not unseasonably hot for Virinat’s southern hemisphere in early January, understand, but hot enough you don’t want to be out in it unless you have to be.

Morgan t’Thavrau had to be.  It was late in the growing season, almost time for the harvest.  The satla and kheh, analogs to Terran wheat and rye or so Morgan had been told, weren’t going to irrigate themselves, and she couldn’t handle the irrigation without being out on the tractor.  And she couldn’t be out on the tractor if the Elements-damned thing broke down on her on the other side of her 230 hectares.  It was hot enough that she’d probably end up with heatstroke if she had to hike back to the house.

And that meant a trip down to the garage.

Morgan parked the tractor under the overhang, cut the power, and hopped down, taking off her hat and wiping her sun-browned brow on her sleeve.  Luckily they had a strong wind coming off Mount Hyjal today so it was cool in the shade.  “Alatra!” she shouted into the machine shop.  “Get out here!”

“Alatra’s out sick,” came a gravelly baritone voice from inside and old D’Vex tr’Hllauyin came out, wiping his hands on a rag.

“Morning sickness again?”

D’Vex nodded.  “Mm-hm.”

“What’s she on now, number five?”

He nodded again.  “Mm-hm.”

“She sure didn’t waste any time.”

“No, she didn’t.  What’s the problem?”

“The blinkenlights are coming on.”

“The—”   D’Vex gave an angry grunt and glared at her.  “Could you be any less specific?”

“Hey, I’m a farmer, not a mechanic.  I can change the lube and the brake pads; that’s about it.  It’s the ‘check engine’ light, same as the last five times.”

The older Rihanha gave a heavy sigh.  “All right, let me have a look.”  He grabbed the railing and hopped up into the saddle.  Morgan tossed him the keyfob and he slid it into the ignition.  “Thought as much.  It’s that number two fuel cell again.  I keep telling you to get that thing replaced.”

“Well, if I replaced it I wouldn’t get to see your shining face every other week, now would I?”

“Flattery’ll get you nowhere, Morgan.  If you had any more Earth in you, you wouldn’t be able to move.”  D’Vex hopped down off the tractor and opened the engine compartment.

“Well, I have to have Earth in me, I’m a farmer.  Seriously though, I’ve ordered the part but it won’t get here until two weeks from now at the earliest.”

“Where in the name of Fire did you order it from?  Eight-mil hyperspanner.”

Morgan grabbed the tool off a nearby workbench and put it in D’Vex’s hand.  “Crateris.”

“Ow!  Crateris?  You ordered Havran?”

Morgan looked at the back of his head.  “You got a problem with Havrannsu, D’Vex?”

“Hrmph, I’m old-fashioned.  Bloody goblins are all right but I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one.”

“Be that as it may, I order Havran, I know it’ll work.  They know their machinery.”

“How’d you afford the shipping?  Last season’s tomatoes weren’t exactly anything to write home about.”  As much as they tended to scorn anything not Rihan in origin, the Rihannsu had developed a definite taste for the Terrhain vegetable when the trade embargos were briefly lifted during the Dominion War.

“Well, you know Pel, that Feh’renga who runs the spaceport in Ahalris?  She owed me a favor from about a dozen years back.  Before you and Malem turned up in that old T’liss of yours.”

“You just better hope the part’s compatible with the old girl.  This tractor’s had so many parts replaced on it I think the only original piece is the chassis.”  He slammed the access panel closed.  “Try it now.”

Morgan clambered into the saddle and hit the ignition.  No harmonics, no blinkenlights, just the familiar reassuring thrum and whir of the fuel cells and gearbox.  “Thanks again.”

“That’s six you owe me, t’Thavrau.  You planning on paying me back anytime soon?”

“Just as soon as we get the harvest in, then we can crack a barrel of the ale from last year.  My treat.”

“Oh, no, no, no,” D’Vex said, waggling his finger.  “You’re not getting off that easy, young lady.  I’ve worked hard enough keeping that tractor of yours running this season I deserve the good stuff.”

“Wine from ’04?  I’ve still got a few bottles left.”

He nodded.  “Ie.  It’s a plan.”

“All right, then.  I have to get those crops watered in the south field or they might catch fire if it gets any hotter out here.”

“The aithaen vr’faeoh says it’ll cool off later in the afternoon.  It’ll probably even rain tomorrow.”

“The aithaen vr’faeoh says a lot of things.  I’ve noticed it tends to be wrong two times out of ten.   Y’hhau, D’Vex!”  She released the parking brake and hit the accelerator, gunning the tractor out onto the main thoroughfare through i’Haanikh, making a left turn towards her home and her fields.

No matter how many modern technological conveniences were applied to it, farming never really got any easier, and Morgan knew she looked older than a Rihanha of forty-nine standard years should have done.  Not much older—a few crows’ feet here, a few laugh lines there, a couple touches of silver in her obsidian hair, and the kind of weather-beaten skin that only comes from years of hard labor under a not-always-forgiving sky—but older than she actually was.

But it made her happy.  As hard work as it was, she loved growing things, and she loved the land.  This far from town on an early autumn day, she felt peaceful, at one with the Elements.  Earth was all around her.  As dry as it had been this week, Water was still in the Earth, making the lehe’jhme vines in her western pasture fragrantly fruit.  The Air was in the cool breeze coming off Mount Hyjal, carrying the scent of the fruit to her nostrils, making her mouth water in anticipation of jams, jellies, and wine.  Fire was in the blazing star 141 million kilometers over her head, and though it beat down horribly at midday it was bearable as long as the wind didn’t rob her of her hat.

She loved it all.  It made her feel a part of something again.  It was a feeling she’d lost in those terrible first years after …

It was just after midday, fourteen-fifty hours by local reckoning, when Morgan finally turned the tractor towards home.  Her cottage was Spartan even by Rihan standards, but it was the right size for an unmarried woman and four farmhands.  A cool shower, a light lunch of hlai’hwy and cheese, and an afternoon nap in her air-conditioned living room beckoned.

First Interlude

The bridge of the warbird is abuzz with activity as a huge ship, over two kilometers long, looms out of the blackness.  Dark-colored and shaped like an in’hhui nnea aehallhai, a nightmare fish from the darkest depths of ch’Rihan’s oceans, with dozens of spiny tentacles sweeping forward as no race anyone aboard knew of would ever build their vessels.

“Hail them again, Arrain,” Commander t’Ethian orders.

“Unidentified vessel,” Centurion t’Yalu says into her microphone, “this is the Imperial Warbird Albintian.  Identify yourself and state your intentions.”  She waits.  “No response, Riov t’Ethian.”

“Keep trying, but remember our priority is to get Fvillhu tr’Chulan and the survivors of the Deihuit across the Outmarches.  That ship is 10,000 kilometers out.  If they come within 4,000 kilometers you are to assume hostile intent and react accordingly.  Amnei’saehne, do you have a firing solution?”

Ie, rekkhai,” the tactical officer, Lieutenant tr’Khellian, confirms.

Ih’hwi’saehne, what’s the status on the rest of the escort we asked for?”

“I don’t think they’re coming.  The entire subspace relay network is a mess,” Subcommander Morgaiah t’Thavrau answers.  “We haven’t gotten a response from anyone since the USS Nobel two days ago.  Barring some miracle, we’re it until—”

Leih,” tr’Khellian interrupts, “target is changing vector.  They’re coming straight towards us.  Time to intercept, one minute twenty.”

“How long before tr’Chulan’s runabout can go to warp?”

“Two more minutes to repair the warp core.”

“Unidentified vessel has answered the hail,” t’Yalu announces.


The in’hhui nnea aehallhai vanishes from the screen and is replaced with a Rihanha who’s standing too close to the camera.  He’s smooth-foreheaded, a recessive trait that still occasionally makes itself known in the Rihan phenotype.  T’Thavrau thinks he can’t be older than a century, but he’s shaved bald, with dark eyes filled with bottomless sorrow and rage, and a huge pre-Imperial tattoo of mourning taking up the center of his face.  “This is Riov Saeihr t’Ethian of the Imperial Warbird Albintian.  Identify yourself, now.”

“Hello, Saeihr, I’m Nero.”

T’Thavrau quickly freezes the image on her console and runs a facial recognition search.  Perhaps there is something in the Albintian’s internal records.

And there is. “Riov.  Nero ir-Benheris tr’Sihalian, age 69, leih of Mining Guild vessel Narada.  Stationed at … at Hobus.”  She can barely bring herself to say the name:  The pain is still far too fresh.

Leih tr’Sihalian, what in the name of Fire happened to your ship?”

“A few upgrades.  The better to avenge our people with.”

“Missile separation!” tr’Khellian screams.

“Shields up!” t’Ethian barks.  “Dorsal disruptors to point defense!  Helm, interpose us between that abomination and the Deihuit’s transport, now!  Tr’Sihalian, self-destruct your warheads immediately and this incident will be forgotten.”

But the mad Rihanha has vanished from the screen already.  T’Thavrau hears the muffled thrum of the old Raptor-class warbird’s dorsal disruptor banks going into rapid fire.

Impact.  The noise is deafening and the entire ship bucks.  T’Thavrau is thrown from her chair.  A console detonates to her right.  The ceiling over tr’Khellian’s station shatters and pelts him with debris.  A structural member explodes out of the floor and the operations officer vanishes in a fountain of copper-green.

“Returning fire!” tr’Khellian shouts.  The wounded warbird wheels and lets fly a salvo of plasma torpedoes.

“Damage report!”

“Dorsal shields at 41 percent!” an uhlan yells.  “Hull breaches on decks one through four, casualties unknown!  Medical teams responding!”

The plasma torpedoes slam into the leviathan.  A few of the huge tentacles snap off but the core of the ship is largely unharmed.  The Narada won’t be dissuaded.  Another volley of missiles erupts as the two vessels close and trade disruptor fire.

The bulkhead on the left vanishes in a fireball and t’Thavrau, barely back on her feet, is thrown free and slams into the far wall at over eleven meters per second.  There’s an ungodly howl as air begins to rush out into space in explosive decompression, taking the screaming t’Yalu with it before the emergency force fields can raise.  “We’ve lost main engine power!” tr’Khellian yells.

The pain is incredible.
Lch'R Chapter 1: A Day on the Farm
Next Chapter: An Afternoon in the Hive

This was inspired by the prompt for Literary Challenge #42: I Am the Legacy of Romulus. And so we meet my third toon, my Fed Rom Morgan t'Thavrau.

I'm borrowing even more heavily from the Rihannsu novels' Romulan worldbuilding for this than Star Trek Online did.  Expect to see a lot of canon or STO-canon characters referred to using full Rihan names, e.g. Star Trek XI's Nero becoming Nero ir-Benheris tr'Sihalian, as well as a lot of gratuitous Rihan.
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: violence/gore)

Chapter 4: Big Damn Heroes

“Gul Morag!” Glinn Eldrin exclaims from sensors, “reading one Terran battlecruiser, Harbinger-class, off our port quarter, five minutes out!  Transponder decrypted as ISS Conqueror!”

Shtel,” my commander mutters under his breath.  “Akira Sulu’s ship.  Helm!  Hard to starboard, emergency power to impulse drive.  Let’s polish off the Interceptor before they get here.”  On the tactical plot the Koranak banks right, bringing the bow around to target the Defiant-class destroyer dogging the Hurgh’ragh.  Fire hisses into our aft shields from the Wauja-class cruiser that was acting as bait, but we swiftly pull out of range of its damaged weapons.

“Target locked,” I report.

“Fire, main spinal mount,” he confirms.

I hammer my key.  A sun-bright stream of energy lances out at the destroyer from our spinal disruptor and collapses the aft shield, just as the pancake-shaped ship opens fire with its cannons and turns the bird-of-prey into so much scrap metal.  I curse, then boost power to the emitter and fire again, vaping the son of a bitch in a blinding flash, its warp core a momentary sun going nova.

We were on patrol on the border when we picked up a distress signal from a Cardassian freighter.  There was no freighter; it was a Terran trap.  I don’t think they were expecting a patrol as heavy as ours but we got shot up pretty badly anyway.  Now it’s just us and the Kang left.

“Additional sensor contacts!” Eldrin calls.  “One Terran heavy cruiser, Sato-class, one line-battleship, Galaxy-class, bearing one-two-seven by zero-three, approaching at warp 9.92!  Arrival times, two minutes and two-fifteen!”

“Sir,” Dalin Damar says from his station, “we can’t stay here!  There’s no way we can challenge a Galaxy-class battleship with this much damage!  If they take us alive—”

I snarl at him, “You move from that chair and you’ll learn I’m worse than any Terran!  We are staying!  Bak’rikan!” I finish in Cardassian.

“Helm, continue turn and prepare to take the cruiser and battleship head-on.  Ja’rod, where the shtel are you?”

“I’m on your wing, Morag,” the Klingon’s voice comes through the comms.  “And we shall die with honor!”

I always expected I’d die a flaming death in battle.  I check to make sure my suicide capsule is secure in the socket of the back molar taken by the Bureau of Identification in my childhood.  Despite my brave face to Damar, I know what the Terrans do to female prisoners.  Reassured that I won’t be taken alive if they board, I turn to Gul Morag.  “It has been an honor serving alongside you, sir.”

He turns and gives me one of his rare smiles.  “We die free, Dal.  And we die well, for Cardassia.  I would choose no other officer to share my last moments with.”

“What the—” Eldrin starts to say.

“Yes, Glinn?”

“Gul Morag, I just noticed something odd.  The course of the heavy cruiser and the battleship would have taken them past where we were.  And the Galaxy-class seems to be—” Suddenly he exclaims, “Sir, the battleship just opened fire on the cruiser!”

“What?” I exclaim, looking to the plot.  The Galaxy-class slams the smaller Sato-class ship with a dozen salvos of searing orange phaser fire from its forward emitters.  The cruiser returns fire but to no avail.  Its aft shields shatter under the unrelenting barrage and the vessel is swiftly cut to pieces.  Escape pods boil off of what’s left of its flanks, voles fleeing a sinking ship, as the huge battleship reshapes its warp field and changes course towards the Conqueror.

“Why would the Terrans destroy one of their own ships?”  Then it occurs to me that a standard Terran Galaxy-class can’t possibly manage the speed they’re pulling:  It’s too heavy for their current drives.

“Gul Morag,” the communications officer says, “we’re being hailed.”


“Vidcomm’s out.”

“Then take it on audio,” I tell him.

The voice is female, contralto like mine, but distorted by the aftereffects of the Terrans’ jamming.  “Alliance vessels, this is the Federation Starship Bajor.  Looked like you could use some backup.  We are moving to intercept ISS Conqueror.”

There’s stunned silence for a moment, then Gul Morag speaks.  “USS Bajor, this is Gul Kerim Morag of the Cardassian Seventh Order, CDS Koranak.  Your assistance is most appreciated.  Captain Ja’rod, coordinate your fire with the Bajor; we’ll handle the Punisher.  Strike now, for Cardassia!”

Even in other realities, some things never change.  “All right, Tess, that’s an Emissary-class cruiser, or whatever they call it over here.  Looks like basically the same as our side, maybe it’ll have the same weaknesses.”

“Aim for the pylons and the secondary shield projector,” she confirms.  Her console pings.  “Oh, good.  That was damage control.  Phaser One’s fixed.”

“Time to intercept?”

“One minute,” Wiggin says.  “Wait, reading change in Conqueror’s warp field.  They’re turning, coming at us head-on.  I think they figured out we’re not friendly.”

“Ensign Esplin, jam their transmissions.  Tess, you may fire at will.”

With the comms arrays filling local subspace with static, the Bajor comes streaking in.  The Conqueror drops to sublight, probably hoping we’ll overshoot, but Park crash-translates and we fall out of warp and open fire, a mighty lance of overcharged nadions rushing along the ventral array from both ends and whipping out into space, slicing through the chaos of the energy released from our shattered warp field and hammering into the enemy cruiser’s shovel-shaped prow.  A Vor’cha-class battlecruiser, this universe’s version of the IKS Kang I suppose, screams in from our starboard and sprays cannon fire and torpedoes.

The Conqueror returns fire.  Now that I’ve actually got time to think about it, I can see what Wiggin was talking about as far as cognitive dissonance—my brain is screaming “friendly fire”.  We flash past them and come hard about, crossing the T on their aft array and laying into them with a full broadside.  “Biri!  Tractor beam!”

“Locked!”  Pale blue streams of focused gravitons reach out and close an inexorable grip on the Emissary-class ship, tearing at their shields.

“Kanril to Ja’rod, concentrate your fire on this area!”

Kanril?  What?”

“Just do it!”  The Kang comes around for another pass and disruptor fire hammers into the enemy ship.  The Conqueror’s rear torpedo launcher fires a spread.  “Tess, point-defense!”

“Online!”  One of the phasers swats down three of the four in rapid succession and the fourth fails to acquire amid our ECM, streaking straight past our bow and into deep space.  Park holds us in their rear arc and Tess keeps hammering them.  “Enemy shields failing!”

“How are we doing?”

“Starboard shields at 72 percent!”

“Conn, come about!  Tess, load torpedo tube!  Full spread as she bears!”

She confirms the order as a message comes in from the Koranak.  “Target eliminated.  We are moving to assist you!”

“Yeah, don’t bother, I think we’ve got it under control.  Tess, fire.”  A final barrage of disruptor bolts from the Kang collapses the aft shields as five quantum torpedoes scream out of the tube and slam into the Emissary-class cruiser’s unprotected hull.  One smashes the starboard nacelle off.  The second and third blow craters amidships.  The fourth crashes into the hull between the pylons, and number five smashes right in behind it.  The warp core breaches and the entire back half of the kilometer-long vessel vanishes in a searing white flash, a radiation pulse washing over our shields.  “Wiggin, any survivors?”

“Negative, sir.”

“Captain,” Esplin says from her station, “Captain Ja’rod is hailing us.”


I remember being on the opposite side from this face a number of times in the Klingon War.  We left his ship dead in space twice that I recall.  Have to remember that they’re not the same person.  The first word out of his mouth when he sees me is a profanity:  “Ql’yah!

He looks like he’s seen a wraith.  I raise an eyebrow at him.  “Well, that’s not very nice.”  I gesture at Tess.  “She’s just an Andorian.”  She punches my shoulder.  “Ow.”

qatlhIj,” he apologizes.  “I did not expect… Ahem.”

eleya, torvo puqbe’ jIH,” I introduce myself.  “HoD bajor yuQjIjDIvI’ ’ejDo’.

“You speak my tongue well, Captain.”

“Job requirement, Ja’rod, son of Torg.”

QaHlI’ta’ jItlho’, eleya HoD.”  Another Klingon comes into view and whispers in his ear.  “Gul Morag wishes to speak with you in person.”

I look over to Tess, who nods.  “That can be arranged.  I have to go check in with damage control, but I can be there in, say, thirty minutes?”

I leave Tess in charge, and Gaarra, McMillan, K’lak, and I materialize in the transporter room of a Galor-class cruiser.  Looks about the same as the ones on our side of the fence.  A tall, slightly overweight Cardassian male with their typical short, slicked-back hairdo and a gul’s insignia on his breastplate stands there, flanked by a trio of armored guards with disruptor rifles leveled.  I glare at the fat one and icily tell him, “Gul Morag, I presume?  Why don’t you have Larry, Curly, and Moe point those toys someplace else?”

Morag looks apologetic and tells his guards, “It’s all right, she’s not going to pull anything here.”  He looks to me.  “Right?”

I look at him askance and answer, “Believe it or not we’re on the same side here.  The Terrans have something that belongs to us and we want it back.”

“Do you swear that on your honor as a Starfleet officer?” Curly asks.  The other two already have their weapons at rest.

“Damn it, Ghemor, lower your weapon,” Morag angrily orders.  Curly complies, reluctantly.  “My apologies, Captain.”  He looks me up and down.  “Ja’rod said, and I didn’t believe it, but by Cardassia, you really do look like…”  He trails off.

“What are you talking about?”

“Eh, you’ll find out soon enough.  This way, please.”

“This one is Klingon, sir.  And yet he works with Terran scum.”  Moe is probably referring to McMillan.  What an incredibly astute grasp of the blazingly obvious.

K’lak says coldly, “I have sworn my honor to the service of the Federation.  I would suggest you do not make an issue of it, qarDaSngan.”  He spits the last word out like its very pronunciation tastes bad.  He’s never much liked the Cardies.  Almost as an afterthought he adds, “And if you call my parmaqqay ‘scum’ again, I will have your moQDu’ as a trophy for my quarters.”


We follow Morag out the door and down the corridor.  “Captain,” McMillan whispers to me as we go, “where in the hell did you hear of The Three Stooges?”

“Academy roommate was a fan.  Her payback for me dragging her off to a Serenity screening.”

“In here, please,” Morag says, gesturing to an open door labeled “Conference Room” in Cardassian.

We enter and all four of us freeze instantly.  “Sher hahr kosst!” I exclaim.

So does the person I’m looking at.  Sitting to the left of the place I’m assuming is reserved for Morag is… me.

Only not quite.  On a second look I can see the differences.  There’s no scar on her cheek, her hair’s cut short instead of long and in a ponytail, and she’s wearing a Cardassian Guard uniform.  And I hope to the Prophets I don’t have that expression on my face.

“Captain Kanril Eleya,” Morag announces, “this is my first officer, Dal Kanril Eleya.”

Captain?” the … other me says in a disbelieving tone.

“There was a Borg attack involved,” I answer.  “Dal.  That’s the Cardie version of a commander, right?”

“Your point being?”

“Just making conversation.”  I pause.  Wow.  I’ve got a counterpart on this side, and she’s Cardassian Guard.

“So, who are your friends, Captain Kanril?”

I catch her eyeing Gaarra and I recognize the little predatory glint in her eye.  Dammit, stay focused, Eleya.  “This is my ops officer, Lieutenant Commander Reshek Gaarra, and two of my security officers, Lieutenants Kate McMillan and K’lak.”

“So, do you still get to live on Bajor?”

“You don’t?”

“Never even been there.  Born and raised in Lakarian City.  My parents fled Bajor when the Terrans took Terok Nor.”

“Ahem,” Morag interrupts.  “Dal Kanril will be your liaison for this mission, Captain.”

Her:  “Oh, no, sir, I don’t think—”

Me:  “Gul Morag, we don’t need a—”

“This is not up for discussion,” he says with finality.  He glares at the other me and she subsides, then he turns his glare on me.  “Captain Kanril, let me be blunt.  While I do appreciate the assistance, that does not mean I in any way like you.  The last time we had dealings with someone from your side the end result was a new Terran Empire, as vile as the last but now they’ve got cloaking devices.”

“Oh, give me a break, you can’t hold me responsible for that.  My parents hadn’t even started dating when that mess happened.  Also, I recall from my briefings on this reality that your side started it?  Something about Intendant Kira enslaving one of our officers and trying to use the other for a body double-slash-phekktoy?”

“Oh, I accept that your Julian Bashir and Kira Nerys executed their duties as prisoners of war, and I personally don’t blame them.  Intendant Kira was a narcissistic psychopath, and her death appropriately horrific.  But the collateral damage from that and the various other … interactions between us has been horrendous.”

Captain Ja’rod, or his double anyway, crosses his arms.  “The Empire took heavy casualties in our last war ten years ago and we technically won, but our losses were heavier by all measures and they are regaining their strength and using cloakship raids to disrupt our attempts to rebuild.  We will fight and die with honor, but even our most optimistic projections suggest that the next war can at best be fought to a draw.”

“About that, I think we can help you even the odds somewhat.”

“Are you saying you can provide us with cloaks of our own?” Morag asks.

“No,” I tell him firmly.  “Even if I personally had that data I’d be breaking several regs and disobeying standing orders from my commander-in-chief, and I’d probably be in violation of the Prime Directive, too.”

“The what?” the other me asks.

K’lak answers for me, “The highest principle of the Federation.  We are not to interfere in the natural development of other cultures unless the potential harm from interfering is outweighed by the harm from not interfering.”

“I can’t tell you how to build a cloaking device, but I can tell you how to beat the ones the Terrans have.  They reverse-engineered their cloaks from one they got from the Klingon Empire on our side.  Now, the Federation and the Klingons are sort of allies at the moment—”

“That’d take too damn long to explain,” Gaarra interjects.

“—but we’ve had more than our share of—I’m gonna go with—less-than-cordial encounters and had to learn to beat their cloaks.  I can teach you some of the tricks we’ve learned.”

“What do you want in return for this data?” Morag asks with some suspicion.

I turn my head to him and jerk my head in the direction of Larry, the head of the Koranak’s troop contingent if I’m reading the script on his breastplate correctly.  My Cardassian’s a little rusty.  “How about we start with your friend over there not looking at my security officer like she’s something that got stuck to the bottom of his boot?  Call it a show of good faith.”

“And this doesn’t violate your so-called Prime Directive?” the other me asks.

“We’re not allowed to interfere in internal matters without invitation, and sometimes not even then,” Gaarra explains, “but if there’s damage done by an outside party we can step in to mitigate it, especially on humanitarian grounds.  The cloak the Terrans acquired and reverse-engineered was given to them illegally by our Ferengi.  Outside-context interference, ergo not covered by the Prime Directive.  And I would venture to guess the collateral damage from the Terrans’ raids has been pretty high?”

“They’re not picky about their targets.  Never have been.”

“Then we’ve got a humanitarian argument in our favor, too,” I confirm.  “Once the Terran raiders’ losses start to spike, they’ll work out that you can suddenly see their cloakships and pull back.  It’ll give your side some breathing room and reduce civilian casualties.”

“We could just take the data, sir,” Larry says to Morag.

“No, you couldn’t,” I icily reply.  “First of all, in your current state the Bajor outguns both of your remaining ships put together.  Second, our cyberwarfare tech is way better than yours so you’ll have to physically board us.  My XO has orders to erase the files if they pick up any unauthorized transporter signatures, and you’ll never get a shuttle docked in one piece.  Third, quit testing my patience, you moron.”

“Yes, do stop antagonizing our guests, Dalin Bastra,” the other me says in a condescending tone, before turning to Morag.  “Sir, it’s up to you but I’m inclined to take the offer.”

The gul pinches his chin for a moment, then nods once.  “Captain Kanril, on behalf of the Seventh Order of the Cardassian Guard, I accept your gift in the spirit it was intended.”

“I’ll have my people send you the data when I get back to my ship.  Now, can we talk about the reason I actually came over here in the first place?”
TWR Chapter 4: Big Damn Heroes
Previous Chapter: Best Laid Plans
Next Chapter: Hall of Mirrors

And at long last, Mirror Kanril.

This was actually the first chapter I wrote.  I had the idea for “Kanril meets her mirror version” way before I came up with doing a novelization of “The Other Side”, so I ended up making most of this chapter (the meeting with Dal Kanril and Gul Morag in particular) and then finding a plot to put it in.

The trick with this story is, because of the nature of Our Intrepid Heroes, the usual “same crew as the prime universe but EVIL” storyline for mirror universe stories just plain doesn’t work.  The Mirror Bajorans are part of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance, so the Terrans wouldn’t have built an ISS Bajor and Mirror Kanril wouldn’t join them (remember, in the mirror universe the power that occupied Bajor for 50 years was the Terran Empire, not the Cardassians).  Meanwhile Prime Kanril’s command crew are mostly species that are Terran-aligned (Andorian, human, and Trill), so there’s no sense in putting everybody on the Alliance side, either.

So instead I went the Deep Space Nine route of changing practically everything.  Mirror Kanril is a career officer instead of a former enlisted crewman, and she’s first officer instead of captain.  I haven’t quite decided yet if any of the mirror versions of Prime Kanril’s crew will appear, though I’m leaning towards yes.

I also enjoyed getting creative with some of the ship classes used by the Terran Empire.  The Harbinger-class is, as stated, the Imperial version of Starfleet’s Emissary-class (the Mirror Assault Cruiser, in other words).  The Sato-class is an equivalent to the Excalibur-class (no playable counterpart), while the Wauja-class is equivalent to the Dakota-class (Mirror Heavy Cruiser).  The name on the latter refers to the Wauja people of Brazilian Amazonia.  Figured a South American indigenous people would be a nice counterpoint to the North American Dakota tribe.

And yes, I just killed off the mirror version of Akira Sulu.  So I guess we finally have an answer to that question. :P
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: sexual themes and violence/gore)

Chapter 3:  Best Laid Plans

We’ve been at battle stations for the last twenty minutes, with the Bajor’s attack wing positioned near the rear of the fleet.

“Fleet”, hell.  That implies there’s some kind of organization.  Despite Kree’s efforts it’s a hodgepodge of ships from four nations with wildly different protocols and doctrines.  The geeks spent the first eighteen hours of the trip just getting a shared battlenet set up, and our own element contains three escorts, a pre-Wolf 359 scoutship, and an under-armed science ship.  A Galaxy wing in the Dominion War would’ve had at least a couple midsize cruisers.

Oh, well.  As long as they can screen the Bajor properly so we can do the heavy lifting, I suppose the actual composition doesn’t matter.  I trust T’Var and Kurland at least to do their jobs; the rest is up to me and mine.  Still, it’s a little disconcerting that none of my flankers are even the size of my saucer.  But then again, the only other big ships in the entire fleet are Kree’s Hanson and Dominant, Km’prala’s Negh’Var-class, and that Zilant-class, S’Slee.  Hell, all Brokosh brought was his own Tor’Kaht-class BC and a couple birds-of-prey, and yet he thinks he can knock out those defense sats.

For now, it’s business as usual:  the bridge crew is playing musical chairs, trading off consoles getting their vacsuits on, and I’m chatting with T’Var and Brokosh.  Technically we’re supposed to be observing radio silence except for mission-critical communications, but realistically it’s impossible to intercept a tight-beam at this range.  The video’s a little distorted from passing through two warp fields but we can still hold a conversation.  “Captain, that is most impressive,” she says.  “Rear Admiral Tuvok was able to defeat the Cooper Undine at Spacedock but I have never heard of any non-telepath coming close to overcoming an Undine psi master.”

“I think I got lucky, actually.  I don’t think he, or she maybe…  T’Var, do Undine even have a ‘he’ and ‘she’?”

“I believe they have five biological sexes, Captain.”

“Whatever.  I think he was just trying to hurt me, not control me.  So I basically just held my ground until he was convinced I was worth listening to.”

“Ballsy,” Brokosh comments.  “Stupid, but ballsy.”

“Well, if it works…”

Tess touches my shoulder.  “All sections reporting secure and ready, ma’am.”

“Thank you, Tess.  How much longer?”

“Ten minutes.”

“All right, take over.  I have to go put my suit on.”  She nods and I look back to the screen.  “We’ll talk more later, T’Var, Brokosh.”  I get up and head to the back door of the bridge.

The doors close behind me and I walk around the corner to the locker room.  I find mine, pull my vacsuit out of storage, and unzip and shrug out of my new white-on-black “Odyssey” uniform jacket when suddenly strong hands, stronger than mine, grab me and pull me backwards.  I drop my suit and start to fight but then I hear Gaarra’s voice whisper in my ear in Kendran, “Gotcha.”

“Dammit, you scared the phekk out of me!”  He kisses my neck and my back arches instinctively, pressing my upper back into his pecs.  I break his grip and turn around and he captures my mouth and our tongues wrestle hungrily.

Then he pulls away.  “Something’s wrong?”

I shake my head and sit down on the bench facing him.  “Just pre-mission jitters, the usual.”

“You’re worried?”

“I’m captain of the ship.  It’s my job to be worried.”

He smiles and puts a comforting hand on my cheek.  “Don’t be.  We know our jobs.  Anything that can be done, we’re doing.”

I lean into his palm and close my eyes.  “I know.  But I’m still scared.”

He pulls me into a tight embrace.  “We’ll be fine.  We always are.”  He loosens his grip a bit and looks me in the eye.  “Did you sleep all right, at least?”

“No nightmares, no alarms.  Actually managed to get a full nine hours for once.”

He smiles.  “You’ve got it made.  Oh, by the way.”  He reaches into his locker and pulls out a jumja stick.  “My grandmother’s recipe.  Picked up the ingredients at that new gourmet store on DS9.”

I eagerly grab it from him and take a lick.  “Tangy.”

“That’ll be the moba juice.”

“You know just how to cheer me up,” I say, grinning at him.

“Wasn’t that hard to figure out,” he answers, grinning back.  I laugh, suck on the jumja stick for a moment, then lean in and kiss him.  “You taste nice.”

I break off the kiss for a moment.  “Computer, lock the door.  I don’t want any interruptions.”  Off his look, “Oh, come on, we’ve got a few minutes.”

The Bajor’s warp field gently collapses and we drop back to sublight speed, with the rest of the fleet fanned out before us.  “Contact, contact!” Admiral Kree bellows over the comms.  “Reading forty, repeat, four-zero, Terran capital ships and two squadrons of Peregrine-class attack fighters, point-nine light-seconds out!”

Captain Zell adds, “USS Marduk, launching Alert Five wing!”

“Tactical analysis coming in!” Esplin announces.  I look over the plot as the battlespace forms and the battlenet comes online.  It’s hardly ideal.  We have a slight numerical advantage but they’ve got the edge in tonnage—signals are coming in from thirteen heavy hitters:  nine Typhoon-class battleships, three Regent-class cruisers, and a Galaxy-class ship like mine.

Wait, something’s odd on the plot.  “Kanril to Kree, what the hell is Brokosh’s group doing?”  They came out of warp doing almost a tenth the speed of light and are now way out ahead of us.

“Watch and learn, Captain,” Brokosh answers instead.  “Strike package away!  Breaking off!”

“Strike package away!” Commander Alvek’s voice echoes.  I’m told Brokosh handpicked two non-Klingon captains for his unit:  Alvek’s another Lethean, Saurussa’s a Gorn.  The second bird-of-prey repeats the call and all three ships curve off in a turn that has to be hard on their inertial dampeners.

quv DaHutlh DuplI’, leHengan!” Km’prala yells at him.  Brokosh ignores her and Kree tells her to clear the channel unless she has something useful to add.

“Captain, look!” Tess points at the plot.  Suddenly both of the defense satellites and several of the enemy ships, including the Galaxy-class, flicker and vanish from the plot, and momentary stars appear on our forward viewscreen.

I open a private channel.  “Bajor to HoSbatlh, what the hell was that?”

“Kinetic attack.  Drop ten tons of material out of your cargo bay at a good percentage of the speed of light and watch the magic.  Rejoining formation.”

He’s evened the odds somewhat but it’s still going to be rough.  As our two fleets close, Kree calls, “Keep the Bajor in one piece, no matter what.  Forward elements at torpedo range in one minute.  All ships, weapons free.  Green light, repeat green light to engage.”

“Conn,” I order Park, “take us relative up so we can get a clear shot.”

A multicolored salvo of torpedoes lead the way in both directions as the lead elements open fire.  The two fleets clash, merge, and then it’s a general melee.  The voices on the comms echo and overlap:  “Cobra Two to Gold Seven, you’ve picked one up—”

Prakesh to Teghbat, come right so we can—”

“—he’s on me tight, I can’t shake him—”

“GHS Xrathis, launching aceton assimilator—”

“—switch to attack pattern Shran Omega!  Get a lock and pop that guy—”

“—quantum mines away!”

A blinding flash below us as somebody’s warp core goes, then a burning bird-of-prey swings past several kilometers ahead of us, pursued by a Defiant-class.  Tess announces, “I have a lock!  Firing!”  The Bajor hums with energy as the dorsal phaser strip goes into rapid fire and searing hot lances stab out into space.  One misses but the rest slam into the port shields, knocking the ship reeling.  It breaks off its pursuit, spins hard to starboard and comes about.

Olokun, engaging target.”  A stream of phaser bolts spits from the emitters on T’Var’s Ushaan-class, ripping open the forward shield arc as Tess fires a pair of torpedoes on a parabolic course, catching the pancake-shaped starship head-on.  Its torpedo magazine goes off and rips it to shrapnel.

Patrick Henry, requesting assistance!  We’re engaged with five, repeat five!  We’re in deep shit!”

“We’re coming in,” Brokosh’s voice answers.  “Meromi, scatter mode.”  Sickly green energy packets blast in from the bulldog-like Tor’Kaht-class as we add our full broadside to the beleaguered Freedom-class.

Dominant engaging Damar’s target!”  Not related to us; I ignore it.

“This is Jagul Macet!  Moving to assist Patrick Henry!”  Two Galor-class cruisers led by a Keldon-class battleship sweep in, main disruptors blazing at the Nova, Centaur, and Excalibur-class ships attacking the old scout vessel.  Engaged from three directions, they don’t stand a chance.  The Excalibur breaks in half amidships when we and Macet’s Seldyn both hit it at once, Brokosh’s fire shatters the Nova and sends two of the Centaurs into a core breach, and the third starts to flee but catches parting shots from us and the Henry and vanishes in a fireball.

Henry to nd’Ashalef.  I’ve got heavy casualties and I’ve lost an impulse engine and two phasers.  Requesting permission to withdraw.”

“Permission granted, Commander Gutierrez.”  The single-nacelled ship comes about and vanishes into the distance.

We fire, and fire, and fire some more.  An enemy Regent-class engages us but the Marduk sweeps past, forward cannons raking across its dorsal surface.  Our forward phasers smash down their shields and the Laporin and Olokun lay into it with torpedoes and guns.  A pylon rips off and the saucer breaks open, laying a dozen decks open to space.

The battle blurs.  I’m in the zone, absorbing information from four or more sources at once and simply reacting, barking orders on instinct.  A Hideki-class and a Danube-class violently explode off our port bow under fire from an Excalibur-class.  A Tuatara-class collides with an enemy Typhoon and the Terran ship cracks in two.  The Luna-class Jadzia Dax falls out of the fight with one nacelle shorn off and her mission pod leaking atmo and debris; part of Kree’s VFA-144 Spitting Cobras peels off to cover Captain Emyahl.  Tess blows a Centaur-class out of the sky.  Fighters dance among the dueling warships, hitting targets of opportunity and turning into miniature suns under fire.  A Steamrunner-class and an enemy Saber-class whip through the fight spitting cannonfire at each other.  Phaserfire hisses into our port shields and Tess pays it back with interest.

Late in the fight a trio of Defiant-class ships rush us, raking the saucer with their cannons.  We reinforce the shields and they hold, barely.  I hear part of a damage report; we’ve lost power to part of the main dorsal phaser.  Biri catches one with a tractor beam and the QarchetvI’ hammers it to fragments with her underslung heavy guns.  Another hits a still-active mine left by the Gorn.  Its engines flame out and it goes into an end-over-end tumble out of the battlespace.

Master Chief Wiggin hollers, “Captain, I lost track of the third one!  Playing back… Damn, he cloaked!”

Nd’Ashalef’s voice comes through the P.A., “All units near USS Bajor, configure main deflector for antiproton sweep!”

There’s a pause, then, “This is Gul Antos, I’ve got him!  He’s making another run at the Bajor—Kanril, on your port side!”

A salvo of torpedoes from an Armitage-class escort carrier hammers into us and the Olokun and the pancake-shaped Defiant decloaks and opens fire.  “Port shields at five percent!” Tess yells frantically.  “Locking weapons!”

“Conn, roll ship!”

Wiggin shouts, “They’re accelerating, aiming for the secondary hull!”

Damn it all.  I got sloppy.  Or nd’Ashalef did.  All our flankers except the Olokun were covering the other side.  And now this phekk’ta maktal kosst amojan has an opening for a ramming attack.  Gaarra hollers something about diverting power to the SIF and Tess opens fire but the damaged phaser isn’t working right and they keep coming.

Olokun to Bajor.  We will stop them.”

“T’Var, there’s nothing you can do!  Your forward guns are shot to hell!”

“There is one thing we can do.  I am sorry we could not continue our conversation from earlier, but the mission comes first.  All hands, abandon ship.  Live long and prosper, Captain Kanril.”  On the side camera the oncoming Defiant-class is eclipsed by T’Var’s larger Ushaan-class, now spewing escape pods.  The two ships meet at an angle and the viewer is washed out by a blinding flash of white light, like a small star going nova, and just as quickly there’s nothing left but debris.

“Wiggin, scan for survivors!”

He pauses.  “Reading seventeen life signs in the escape pods.  Ten humans, two Bajorans, three Bolians, two Trill—”

“Did T’Var get off, damn it?”

He quietly answers, “No, ma’am.  No Vulcan life signs detected.  I’m sorry, ma’am.”

“All units, all units,” Kree’s voice interrupts, “cease fire!  Repeat, cease fire!  I’ve just received an offer of surrender from an Admiral Dzhabrail Mahadeo.  Repeat, the enemy has surrendered.”


No, Captain,” she says with finality.

I start to say something but stop.  Damn it, Eleya, you’re better than this.  T’Var did her duty; so did the enemy.

Then Biri speaks up.  “Um, is this a bad time to say that we’re going to have to change the oplan?”

“How so?”

She shakes her head and hits her intercom key.  “Admiral nd’Ashalef, Commander Ehrob, Lieutenant Korekh, please come to the command deck conference room.”

“That bad?”

We head to the door at the back of the bridge and down the corridor to the conference room.  The Arkenite sits down in one of the conference room chairs, communications conferences Admiral Kree into the conversation, and Biri lays it out for us.  “Basically, we can’t send but one ship over there.”

“Why not?” nd’Ashalef asks.

“Because the Bajor’s too big.  If my calculations are correct, her passage will destabilize the portal in both directions for at least forty hours.”

“What if we—”

“Look, sir, we either send the Bajor by herself, or we send maximum two of the escort ships.”

“Two ships can cover more ground,” nd’Ashalef points out.

“Yes,” I agree, “but one warp signature’s harder to spot and the Bajor’s more likely to be mistaken for another Terran ship—they operate heavy units as independent commands just like we do.”

“And the Bajor has better science gear than the others, except maybe the Laporin,” Biri adds.  “I know for certain we’re harder to kill than the Laporin, and we can track the Orb’s energy signature better than the Defiant or the Dervish can.”

“I don’t like it,” Gaarra says.  “We’ll be behind enemy lines with no backup and no way back for almost two days.”

“Never stopped us before,” I point out, then turn to the admiral.  “Sir, you have the final word, of course, but I’m with Biri.”

He scratches the back of his head, then looks to Kree, who nods.  He looks at me again.  “You’re certain you can handle it, Captain?”  I nod.  “All right, you have a go.  We’ll unload my staff to the Dominant.”

Bajor to all units, we’re on our way.  See you in a few days.”

Brokosh’s voice responds, “HoSbatlh to Bajor.  Goddess walk with you, Captain Kanril.”

The portal grows to fill the sky on the main viewscreen, then there’s a slight jolt and then we’re through to the other side.  Park gooses the throttle to get us clear of the portal.  “Damage report?”

Tess answers, “Bynam reports a slight fluctuation in the warp coils but he’s got it under control.”

“Rear view camera, please.”  The viewscreen shifts.  Biri wasn’t kidding about us destabilizing the portal; even I can see the difference.  It didn’t exactly look safe before, but now it’s roiling and sparking.  The Terrans must’ve spent months getting the fleet we just destroyed through.

T’Var would’ve loved this.  Even though she’d never have said.

“I’ve got nothing on local sensors,” Tess comments.  “The Terrans must think this end is more secure.”

“Might say something about the status of the Alliance,” I comment.  “Our side, this is Cardie territory.  This side?”  I let the question dangle, giving her a meaningful look.  “All right, let’s see if we can get any location on that Orb.  Master Chief?”

Wiggin nods and turns to his console to enter the parameters.  “Nothing on the Orb’s signature yet, but there’s something else.  I’m picking up multiple warp signatures, mix of Klingon and Cardassian, headed to the third planet of the system.  Call it five birds-of-prey, three cruisers, and that one’s definitely a Keldon-class.  We’re about two hours out at warp 8.  Also reading some Terran ships heading that way.”  He stops for a moment, then adds, “Spooky.”

“What is?”

“Just, their warp fields look exactly like ours.  Cognitive dissonance, you know?  They look friendly but you know up here”—he points at his temple—“that they aren’t.”

“I guess.  I never thought about it.”

“Well, you’re not a sensor technician, ma’am.”

I ignore that.  “All right, Park, set a course for the Alliance ships.  Tess, stand us down from battle stations but keep us on yellow alert.  And take over, I need to handle something.”


“A personal matter.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You have the bridge, Tess.”

“I have the bridge,” she confirms.  I get up and walk to the turbolift.  “Deck 8.”

“Hold that,” Gaarra says behind me.


“I didn’t know T’Var, but I know you, Captain.”

I smile.  “Thank you.”

Because my crew has a larger-than-average percentage of Bajorans, I had one of the undeveloped rooms on this deck turned into a chapel.  I don’t use it very often but it was a popular idea.  We’ve even got a chaplain, Simene Jyn’fossy, a Foundation Reformist prylar from our colony on Dreon VII.  She’s not a member of Starfleet, of course, just a contractor.  At the moment she’s keeping watch over the Orb of Possibilities.  She’s got light brown hair and a face that is perpetually calm and peaceful, and she reaches out to me.  “Captain.  What happened?”

“I lost a friend.  I lost a very good friend.”

“I’m sorry.  How can I help?”

“I wanted to borrow a duranja lamp.  If that’s all right; I mean, she wasn’t an adherent.”

“The Prophets won’t mind.”  She grasps my ear, but she’s gentle.  “Your pagh is in turmoil, Captain.  Talk to me.  How do you feel?”

“I feel … guilty.”  I’m a little surprised, but that’s the best description.  “She sacrificed herself to save the mission and me, but I’m focusing on her when probably a thousand or more of our people just died.  Hell, at least two of my own crew in Phaser One bought it.”

She nods.  “Nothing to be guilty about.  You knew T’Var.  You didn’t know any of the others.”  She goes to the closet and removes a bronze oil lamp and frame.  “Do you know how this works, the rituals?”  I nod.  She opens a panel in the base and plugs a cable into the base and turns it on.  It’s a hologram, of course.  Can’t have an actual open flame on a starship, but it’s the thought that counts.

I face the flame and close my eyes.  “Raka-jen ut shala morala… ema bo roo kana… uranek… ralanon T’Var… propeh va nara ehsuk shala-kan vunek…
TWR Chapter 3: Best Laid Plans
Previous Chapter: Storm Before the Calm
Next Chapter: Big Damn Heroes

See?  I can be cruel.  I can write a decently characterized supporting character, make it clear Eleya cares about her, and then kill her off.  At least T’Var got to go out taking one for the team instead of being a straight redshirt.

Translating ‘Lethean’ into tlhIngan Hol (where Km’prala calls Brokosh ‘leHengan’) gave me some trouble.  The language lacks a ‘th’ diphthong so I had to come up with a substitute and I figured the phlegmy ‘H’ was about as close as I could get (‘tlh’ is more of a tongue-click).  “Lethe” became “leHe”, followed by the suffix “-ngan” for “inhabitant of”.

I've rediscovered an old love in video games, the real-time strategy genre.  First one I ever played was StarCraft.  Oh so fun.  Right now I'm working my way through the campaign in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.  I find the Space Marines are pretty good at turtling up to the enemy, just like the Terrans in StarCraft.  I've also tried my hand at Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, but it's really different from anything I've ever played and I'm having some trouble.

Still working slowly on the Balcrusian planets and systems.  I find it fun coming up with historical details of future cultures (hence "pre-nostalgia", a term I borrowed from Tom Lehrer).  Take these for instance, the DESCs for Orzanacruz and Dlakacruz.

This planet was formerly the Orizian border world Vorash, a major exporter of computer components for industrial concerns and the Orizian National Fleet.  Starting in 845 GSD, the Balcrusian Empire began to encroach on Orizian territory, culminating in Vorash's forcible annexation in 858.  Renamed Orzanacruz, the planet's industrial capacity was put to work for the Empire despite continual sabotage and resistance efforts from the native Orizians.  During the Balcrusian Civil War, the Orizio Union attempted to drive out the occupiers, and for a period of ten years the planet nominally returned to Orizian control.  It didn't last:  after getting itself sorted out, the new People's Republic counterattacked and handed the ONF its most lopsided defeat ever, taking both the Orzani and Edos Systems in one fell swoop.

The name "Vorash", incidentally, is a shout-out to Stargate SG-1.  It's the planet the Tok'ra had their headquarters on for seasons two through four.

When the Balcrusian Civil War broke out, the airless planetoid Dlakacruz was a barely established mining colony, and was quickly captured by the leftist rebels for use as a supply base.  Ten days later the Imperial Space Force counterattacked, but the rebel ground forces dug in and held them off for almost a month.  The battle ended when the ISF admiralty ordered them to withdraw and reinforce the fleet defending the Anorok System; the admiral in charge chose to deny the rebels the base and tractored a 25 kilometer asteroid into the planet.

Last but not least, I've got a job, and I've been accepted to UNC Greensboro for the fall semester!  Overall, it's been a good month.
  • Mood: Happy
  • Listening to: The Greatest Video Game Music (London Philharmonic
  • Reading: Space Wolf Omnibus by William King
  • Watching: Babylon A.D. (Vin Diesel FTW)
  • Playing: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
  • Eating: lamb tikka masala
  • Drinking: Negra Modelo


Aaron J. Davis
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United States
I play D&D 3.5E, I write sci-fi and fantasy, and I'm learning to wire houses and build motor control circuits.

Right now I'm working on two main projects. The first is a plugin for an old computer game called EV Nova. The mod advances the timeline over a thousand years to my own version of that universe. The title of the mod is EV Nova: United Galactic Federation, named for one of the dominant star nations in this universe. The time is approximately 4.7 millennia from now.

Most of the images posted here are from the mod, models I've made using Google SketchUp 8.

The second project (more or less on hold at the moment) is Justice By Any Means, a sci-fi novel set in the same universe.

External Links:
♠ My storefront:…
♠ My page on ForgottenRealmsWiki:…
♠ The EVN:UGF progress log, at the Ambrosia Software boards:…
♠ The EVN:UGF website:

Current Residence: North Carolina, USA
deviantWEAR sizing preference: Large
Favourite genre of music: rock
Favourite style of art: manga
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium x64
MP3 player of choice: iPod Classic 80GB
Favourite cartoon character: Himura Kenshin from "Rurouni Kenshin"
Personal Quote: "Getting into a secure facility is as simple as giving yourself a good reason to be there."

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madcomm Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Happy birthday :)
davbla Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
If you'd like to get published, send me a note.
Devastator200 Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Will your many warriors join Dark Star, as we conquer my dimension, and many you have never seen?
And will you take command of Starsaber, one of my most powerful weapons?
tombruceclayton Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2011  Professional Interface Designer
Hey man, was looking at your progress log on the ASW forums and couldn't help but notice you paying your respects to the long departed

I used to be massively active there and went by the name 'Ravenheart'. Was my first ever forum and have many fond memories of the place. Was sad to see it go, I have to say. What was your username there? I remember Guest, David Arthur, Iced_Plasma but the rest escape me now.. sigh

Hope the plug-in is coming along well.
StarSword-C Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I was StarSword. I'd be StarSword here, too, except it's apparently taken.

Plug's ... coming along. I won't say "well". Just don't have as much time to work on it as I'd like.
madcomm Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Very interesting, if not educational 3D works.
You are now on my watch list.
StarSword-C Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for watching!
diasmon Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2011
"...a Special Hell!" damn i love that episode :D
StarSword-C Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
... Come again?

You've lost me completely. What are you talking about?
diasmon Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2011
Firefly, episode "Our Mrs Reynolds"...

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