The World of The Gunny

The Wasted World of Gunnery Sergeant DeShane
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 Post subject: The Armageddon War
PostPosted: 16 Oct 2008 20:03 
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Sergeant Major of the USMC
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PROLOGUE

Robert Deburgh, Captain of the UTC Yorktown stared intently at the woman still lying on the medical bed nursing a bad fracture and serious internal injuries. He'd known her for only a few hours, but he'd come to like this woman and what he had to tell her filled him with sorrow. However, Deburgh had every intention of telling her anyway, because it was necessary not only for him, but for the entire Terran portion of the Milky Way galaxy. The Captain had come to understand that this entire timeline, the war with the Karathan, everything he believed for the last twenty-two years was a lie.

The Saratoga had entered the sector through a very unstable temporal rift; a rift that literally appeared in front of the Yorktown for no apparent reason. It had been speculated that the occurrence happened when something similar to a Kerr loop of superstring material interacted with the energies from multiple anti-matter explosions, pushing the Revolution class ship into the future, exactly twenty-two years, three months and four days.

His heart filled him with sorrow, but he quickly hardened it for the task that he being was forced to perform. "Captain," Deburgh continued. "If your ship had stayed to confront those Dhonnchaidh warships, even if it were destroyed, that sacrifice might have averted twenty years of war."

"And you want us to go back to that?" Rebecca Gorman, Captain of the UTC Saratoga looked at him as though he was insane. Responding to a distress, call she and her crew had confronted four Dhonnchaidh warships in an attempt to stop them from attacking a defenseless Karathani colony. She lost and a savage barrage of torpedoes ripped into her ship and created a temporal rift in surrounding space that plunged her ship with its one hundred twenty-five survivors from the past. "We just barely got out with our lives and you want us to go back?"

Deburgh looked at her with a compassion that he thought that he'd lost after all these years of experiencing death and destruction. "I don’t believe that there is a choice in this matter.” He moved closer to the Captain, his voice going soft. “We are losing this war. We estimate that within four months we'll have to sue for peace. One more ship won't change the outcome here, but it would make a significant difference if a Confederation ship were seen to protect a Karathani outpost against the Dhonnchaidh. It would be considered a matter of honor."

Rebecca looked at him with a mixture of compassion and complete dread. She understood what was happening here in the future. She'd come to the same conclusion as he had. "To tell the truth, my crew hated running from that fight." She smiled slightly. "Help us get our ship together and we'll give them a fight that they'll long remember." She was resigned to her fate. Death was waiting and there was nothing she could do about it but face it with it with dignity... and of course spitting in its ugly face.

Deburgh looked deeply into the eyes of a doomed woman. He'd never seen anything braver in his life.


***


In the recreation room, the woman known as Gerri felt more uncomfortable by the moment. All she had to go on was her feelings; that this timeline, this existence they were presently in, was all wrong and she told an unbelieving Deburgh exactly that. The thousands of hardened soldiers crammed aboard this already overcrowded starship felt wrong. Then there was Heidi Ganz, an echo of a life that should not have existed. The woman called Heidi Ganz felt wrong, the actual word that came to Gerri was dead.

This should have been a ship of peace not a warship, she explained to a then disbelieving Deburgh. With her uncanny ability to perceive things, she understood this whole series of events should not have existed. But now something else was nagging the back of her brain. The United Terran Confederation was in a war with the Karathan and over one hundred and forty billion had died while the Dhonnchaidh were just waiting to pick up the pieces.

She told Deburgh that the Saratoga needed to return from whence it came, to its own time to correct the timeline, and after he understood, he agreed; but something was still wrong. Outside, the temporal rift fluctuated slightly, catching her attention. She felt a shifting; something about to begin, but she didn’t know exactly what was beginning.


***


"Captain," Heidi Ganz, Chief of Security, said, quickly confirming her findings on her tactical computer. "Two Karathan warships have de-cloaked."

"Red alert! Lock on and destroy them," Deburgh said instantly. There was no trying to disable engines or minimizing loss of life, as he would have considered in another existence. He simply wanted to kill them as efficiently as possible.

"C-Beams, lock onto the one closest to the Saratoga," Commander Roger Siskel added, his voice as cold as his Captain's.

"Fire."

Because of the Karathani insistence on attacking the smaller Revolution class ship, it remained visible a few moments too long. Yorktown's C-Beams slashed into and thru Karathani shields, causing significant damage. Life support had been obliterated and internal explosions could be seen erupting throughout the ship. At the same time, Ion torpedoes damaged the second Karathani ship just as it fired a devastating blow at the Saratoga. That vessel re-cloaked, barely able to escape the vengeful Starship.

The smaller Confederation ship rocked violently, its already weakened shields barely holding. Captain Gorman was knocked out of her command chair, a nasty gash in the center of her head where a piece of metal had hit but thankfully not penetrated. Lieutenant Heidi Ganz and Lt Commander Miguel Marquez prepared to defend the ship from the brutal attack on the already crippled ship.

The second Karathani ship moved off after firing and missing the Saratoga, vainly trying to avoid the Yorktown's responding salvo, its port shields damaged or obliterated. The Karathani ship itself now a death trap.

"Are there any survivors on that ship?" Deburgh demanded looking at the rapidly disintegrating Karathani hulk.

"Three," came the answer, from Lieutenant Commander Taylor.

"Beam them to the brig. I want prisoners," the Captain growled. Karathani prisoners were rare and he intended to make the most of it.

“Done."

"Captain, three more Karathani vessels are de-cloaking. They're Heavy Cruisers. ETA four minutes."

Three. He knew that they were coming. The Confederation’s long-range Intel had been tracking them, but their timing had been inaccurate. It should have been nine hours before the Karathani ships arrived not seven. They had gotten here before they were supposed to. Such were the fortunes of war.

That was too many for the Yorktown to handle and protect its weakened sister ship at the same time. Deburgh realized that the Karathan had forced his decision and he'd run out of options.

"Emergency power to the shields to protect the Saratoga. Tell them to head for the rift now!” This was the decision that he didn’t dare make. With the Yorktown traveling back into the past, the timeline would again be polluted, but maybe he could do something about it. “We're going into the rift with them. Commander Siskel, prepare to engage Dhonnchaidh warships as soon as we clear the rift. Inform Captain Gorman of our plans."

"Yes, sir," Commander Roger Siskel responded, relaying the orders immediately.

Both ships headed towards the rift and entered just as the Karathan battlecruisers fired a full salvo of disruptor class torpedoes at both ships. Their detonations would be seen for light years. The Yorktowns shields were obliterated.

"No!" Gerri screamed, falling to the floor. She was joined by many other people draped over tables and chairs from the force of the impact. She screamed again as the two Confederation starships were covered in the blackness emanating from the rift. "This is wrong!"

No one heard her.

The additional energy blasts from the Ion torpedoes warped the temporal rift. Both ships were pulled into a dark black, then red-blue tunnel, ripped apart at a quantum level and re-assembled. Hours later, both ships emerged from the rift nearly powerless and alone.

_________________
Benno the Mad Wrote:
man, you gotta realise that thor and bos fell out of the patriot tree (like the ugly tree, but instills patriotism instead of ugly) and hit every branch on the way down.


"Gone now, dispersed by the brutal destruction of this one day, was the belief that the Darkman and his army of the dead were so superior as to be invincible. By attempting to destroy the morale of the Marines, the Darkman had restored it to full vigor. Dia De La Muerto had failed in its objectives."
The Gunny: Stand of the 300

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war

Gunny's color #FF2400


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PostPosted: 17 Oct 2008 02:06 
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Chapter One


The two Confederation Starships re-appeared about two miles distant from one another near a G3 class star of unknown determination. It was discovered that almost everyone had been rendered unconscious, and only now were they just beginning to stir. Life support was functional, but precious little else. Half-dazed crews worked feverishly, unsure when or if a Karathan attack was coming. If the Karathan or Dhonnchaidh assaulted them now, they wouldn't stand a chance.

After an hour of frantic repairs, both crews realized they were in a far worse situation than they had first assumed. In engineering, most of the critical systems were back online and now Commander Jeff Kinnick and his assistant were trying their best to revive Lieutenant Commander Taylor.

"Taylor? Taylor! Can you hear me?" Jeff asked. "Obviously not," he said to his assistant, Ensign Sherri Hendrickson. They had checked Taylor twice and both were bewildered. "He should be functional."

"Oh. I found the problem," she answered, pointing at a broken sub-circuit. "That left micro-lead has been severed. It's so small that you can hardly see it."

"Okay, I got it," he said while re-fusing the connection with the laser probe. Sherri's closeness and that perfume she was wearing was distracting him. Sherri was younger than he and absolutely beautiful, but she didn't even know he existed. He wished he could say the same. "There. That did it."

Taylor's eyes snapped open. He looked around. "Thank you, Jeff. I have been inactive for two hours, fifteen minutes twenty-eight seconds. What has happened during that time? Are we still defending ourselves against the Karathan or have we engaged and defeated the Dhonnchaidh?"

"Whoa, Taylor. Slow down. Sensors haven't detected any Karathan or Dhonnchaidh ships in the area. And that's the problem."

"Problem?" he asked with his usual interest. "In what way?"

"Slow down for a moment," Jeff advised again as Taylor attempted to sit up. "Perform an internal diagnostic first."

"Acknowledged." A few seconds later: "I am fully functional. Now what is the problem?"

"Well for one thing, we don't know where we are."


***


Captain Gorman, still recovering from her fresh wounds, Captain Deburgh, Commander Roger Siskel and acting first officer for the Saratoga, Lieutenant Commander Miguel Marquez and several other crewmembers waited somewhat impatiently for Taylor and Jeff to join them. As soon as they entered, Deburgh bombarded them with questions.

"Mr. Taylor, exactly what happened? Where are we? Why were we out for more than two hours?"

"When we attempted to enter the temporal rift with the Saratoga," Taylor began, "we failed to take into consideration that it may have been configured for only one ship, not two. In addition to the instability of the rift and its interactions with the energy excitation of the multiple Disrupter bursts, a series of micro-fractures in the subspace aether were generated. Both of our ships entered a micro-fracture and we ended up here. In essence, I believe that we are in another universe."

It wasn't just a question of distance or even time, but universal displacement.

"There's more," Jeff said, and then grimaced to himself as his additional comment created audible groans from multiples sources. He knew that this was the last thing they needed to hear right now. "To us, it felt like two hours were torn from our lives but according to the Yorktowns external chronometer, we've been traveling for more than a year. We're still in the Terran quadrant but we're having trouble trying to lock down exactly where we are. Both the Yorktown and Saratoga were taken apart at a quantum level and restructured. We're still running detailed diagnostics to make sure everything is in working order. With everything we've seen so far, it's going to take at least five days to get everything back to normal."

As per the usual SOP, his Captain cut that time in half. "You have two days," Deburgh said. "And start searching for a way back to Confederation space. Make sure the sensors are working. If they exist in this universe, I don't want the Karathan, Dhonnchaidh or whoever to catch us napping. Lieutenant Ganz, dispatch several probes, pattern Delta. I want to know what is going on in the surrounding area."

"Yes, sir."

The meeting continued for another half hour before being dismissed. There was a lot of work to do. The two Captains remained in the ready room to finish up.

"Captain," Rebecca Gorman said. "We should be able to take the time to work on my ship. Most of my crew is dead and your ship is crowded with marines. So I would like to suggest that you transfer some of them to the Saratoga. That would alleviate the pressure on your ship and bring mine back up to speed. If possible, I would like to see if we can upgrade my ship a little. You never know and I want to be prepared."

"Good idea," he said, thinking about the possibilities. "You're dismissed."

"You're dismissed?" she echoed. Was this man actually dismissing her like she was some kind of cadet? The look she gave him was a withering, brutal stare. Subconsciously, her hands went to her hips.

"Oh. Sorry Captain," he said, noticing the look, but not feeling sorry in the least.

"Captain, let me make one thing perfectly clear," she snarled in a way that commanded his full attention. "Don't patronize me or my crew. I understand the stress you must have being Captain of a warship," she added, waving her arm to represent the entire Yorktown. "You've been at war for your entire career. I am not your enemy Captain, but I'm not your subordinate either. In fact, I outrank you. I may be displaced out of time, but then so are you and my commission came a long, long time before yours."

"Captain," he snarled back. "Right now, our situation is an unknown quantity. We need to be prepared and supportive of each other until we can resolve this mess we're in. I will do everything I can to get us back to Confederation space. I trust you'll do the same."

Rebecca's eyes glared at him. "I understand my priorities. And I hope you remember what you're saying right now, Captain Deburgh, because from what I see now, you've been at war a little too long. My Confederation star fleet wasn't designed for that. We were explorers and I still am, even if you're not. I don't want you going all testosterone on me the instant we run into a situation. I don't want to hear how you 'accidentally' blew something up. Remember this: you are part of MY star fleet. And," she quietly added, "I'm part of yours."

Deburgh huffed, said nothing for almost a minute. Then he smiled, warmly this time. "I am sorry Captain," he said, taking his chair. "War does something to you. It destroys what we can be for what we have to be. You are correct in your evaluation of me. It's been a hard, brutal campaign."

Rebecca softened. "I understand. When we get back, if we get back, you're in charge."

He laughed softly. How nice of her. "It's been a long time since I've received such a dressing down. It feels different."

"At least you didn't have Vice Admiral Genda breathing down your neck," Rebecca said smiling at the distant memory.

"Heaven forbid," he moaned. "I'm authorizing your suggestions. Now since it appears we will be here for a while, let's bring both our ships up to speed. Your ship is about to be introduced to the joys of modern replicator technology. It's very convenient and very soon we can have more than simple MRE rations."

"At least we have real food on board my ship," she countered. Most of it had survived the Dhonnchaidh attack. A good two-year store was left untouched.

"But we have the state-of-the-art holo-decks. That, Captain, is something else that we will have to update. You will be surprised at the improvements."


***


Two days later both ships launched their probes, which began a slow trek towards what was tentatively identified as the Sol System. As they traveled slowly, the Saratoga's engines received a twenty-five percent boost using the new energizer coils installed by Jeff's engineering crew.

C-Beams were made hotter by about the same proportion and shields were increased by over forty percent. The ships compliment went from less than one hundred thirty to almost seven hundred fifty, balancing both ships with a total of seventeen hundred crewmembers and everyone was delighted by the extra space. Even Lt. Colonel Washington's three thousand Fleet Marines being transported on the Yorktown, didn't complain when split between the two ships. There was room enough to spare.

The Revolution-class starship was slower than the Terra class Yorktown, but those systems would be optimized as time permitted. Besides, unless the Yorktown was at full warp, the difference wouldn't really matter anyway. And the Yorktown had the opportunity to do something that rarely presented itself before, exploration.

On the other front, the news was all bad. There was no way to reproduce the conditions that brought them here to this unknown universe. And that was exactly what it was, a completely unknown reality. The quantum signature of this universe they were trapped in was nowhere near the home Terran Confederation's universe. Temporal-spatial anomalies aside, it was going to take some time in order to return to their universe, if it were even possible. In truth, Deburgh was secretly glad that he had his sister ship with him, even if its Captain was a pain in the backside. It was rough being alone and she was competent enough to do the job if he became incapacitated.

A class-one probe was sent ahead to make sure that they didn't run into any surprises. But Deburgh was still despondent from the news that Gerri delivered to him.

"When you made the decision to enter the temporal rift, it was a mistake," she told him. "Th Saratoga should have went in alone, even if it meant the destruction of our ship. Because that didn't happen, that aberrant timeline remains and we're stuck here."

"Exactly where is here, Gerri? Deburgh pressed.

"I can't say, exactly," she answered. "I've never been here before, but I can feel the danger surrounding us. This place is unbalanced and our presence will affect the course of events here."

"Can you please be more specific?" He was exasperated. Sometimes talking to her was like speaking with your mouth full of syrup. The woman was incomprehensible when she wanted to be. "I need to know what I'm up against."

"I can't say because I don't know yet. When I know I'll tell you. The good thing is that there are no Beregor here."

"What are the Beregor?" he asked.

"It doesn't matter," she answered, dismissing his question as trivial. "What does matter is that you and Gorman beware of the dark entities that haunt this universe."

_________________
Benno the Mad Wrote:
man, you gotta realise that thor and bos fell out of the patriot tree (like the ugly tree, but instills patriotism instead of ugly) and hit every branch on the way down.


"Gone now, dispersed by the brutal destruction of this one day, was the belief that the Darkman and his army of the dead were so superior as to be invincible. By attempting to destroy the morale of the Marines, the Darkman had restored it to full vigor. Dia De La Muerto had failed in its objectives."
The Gunny: Stand of the 300

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war

Gunny's color #FF2400


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PostPosted: 17 Oct 2008 20:30 
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Sergeant Major of the USMC
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Chief of Security, Heidi Ganz, a tall no-nonsense young blonde with a fairly bad haircut, and Acting Executive Officer lieutenant Commander Marquez stood in front of the brig's forcefield, listening to the latest in a long string of Karathan curses from the male survivor of the destroyed warship. The younger female, about twenty years old or so, in the next cell, simply glared at them with hate and what Marquez could swear was hurt. He'd talk to her soon, but for now, he concentrated on the big male.

"I'll tell you nothing," the Karathan bellowed. "Kill me. Are you afraid?"

Heidi's eyes glared as she moved to within an inch of the energy barrier separating her from the Karathani Warrior.

"If I had my way," she began speaking so quietly that the warrior had to strain to hear, "I would teleport your stinking carcass into the middle of space." And she meant it to. "But the Captain ordered me to talk to you instead," which was something that she clearly did not want to do. "What I am about to tell you is true. I don't care if you believe me or not. We are in another universe, no thanks to your friends incompetence. So far we haven't been able to find a way back."

The Karathan bellowed heartily "And I thought Humans were the galaxy's best liars. I was wrong." He came to the very edge of the field matching her proximity. Neither budged. "I will kill you all."

"Do something useful. Kill yourself."

Glare. Glare.

For several moments the two of them glowered at one another. Marquez made a small movement causing both pairs of eyes to flicker in his direction. The Karathan eyed him with contempt. "My name is Lieutenant Commander Miguel Marquez," he announced evenly. The Karathan guffawed.

"Do you know what 'Mawquezz' means in my language?" He laughed again even more loudly this time.

"My ship is the UTC Saratoga," Miguel continued, ignoring the implied insult. "Twenty-two years ago we engaged four Dhonnchaidh warships near the Piturun III outpost. Our ship was crippled but we were pushed through a temporal rift and landed in the future, to this time. We tried to get back but your companions disrupter barrage sent us here instead of back into the past."

It was clear that those few words had an impact on the Karathani warrior. He'd seen the temporal rift, but at the time his crew had no explanation as to why both Confederation ships were trying to re-enter the distortion other than to escape. And the Yorktown was not a ship populated by cowards. His fool of a Commander decided to attack both Confederation ships and his small warship was destroyed as a result.

"Why did you run?" Despite his attempts at feigning disinterest, it was clear that he wanted to know desperately.

"We didn't. We tried to get back, to save the Piturun III colony and correct a timeline that shouldn't exist or least that's what I've been told... "

"To prevent the war," the Karathan finished. It was as though he knew exactly what had happened so many years ago.

"Yes," Miguel responded, somewhat surprised by the Karathani's awareness.

"We... we suspected. But we never had proof. The house of Dubhgain pushed for war with the Confederation. But we knew."

"So you started this war for nothing?" Marquez was stunned. Never in his wildest imagination did he expect the Karathan to respond like this.

"We started this war for honor. I was a survivor on Piturun when it was attacked," the warrior stated. "Mawquezz, I do not believe you, fully. But there is a way to submit proof. During the attack, when the Dhonnchaidh warships you battled what exactly happened?"

"Our ship was hit by a barrage of plasma torpedoes. There was a bright light and we wound up in the future, here," Miguel said. Then he added a few more details concerning the firefight.

The Karathan simply shook his head. "As a child on Piturun, I was told about the battle by my nursemaid. She told me exactly what you described, that it was a bright light that blazed in the heavens with long tail. The tail pulsated like a living thing. Then there was nothing. I told the others that story for many years, but no one believed me when I tried to pass it along. They did believe the Dubhgain clan. But I knew Cianáin spoke the truth."

"All this for nothing," Miguel said while Heidi looked at him and the Karathan in shock. He turned away.

"Wait, Human. You are still liars. But I am no fool."

Both of them turned around.

"I am Séadhna, son of Maolán, son of Cináed. Now tell me, what universe are we in?"

Explanations took about an hour and were summed up thusly. Nobody had a clue as to what happened or how to get back.


***


Leaving the prison section, the two officers sat at a table, which was a rarity, in the rec room. Heidi was attracted to Marquez the moment she'd seen him and even now her feelings were stronger than before, something that was very unusual for her, especially in such a short period of time.

"How did you know that the Karathan would respond to what you had to say?" Heidi asked him. "I have never known one of them to speak so easily and freely like he did."

"Your hatred of the Karathan is blinding you, Heidi," he answered. "They're not stupid you know. They've been out in deep space since before our people. Contrary to popular opinion, they can be reasonable provided you can press the correct buttons."

"Which you apparently did."

"Well, I can read people and what I saw in him was a need to understand his purpose in life other than this war. The first hint was that he didn't attempt to kill himself the instant he was captured," he added dryly. "That other Karathan male you captured did, but not him or her, for that fact."

"You must be part telepath then, because I didn't have a clue. Actually," she admitted with some reluctance, "I just wanted him dead."

"Some people have called me a pattern sensor," he said. "I can see patterns in a person's personality. Smiling, he added, "No. You don't have to be a mind reader to develop that ability."

Heidi was momentarily confused. She could detect, almost smell danger and dangerous situations, but she had very little understanding when it came to an individual's personality traits. She found that she didn't like the idea of being around a person that could read her so easily. "I think you could become very annoying, Commander."

"On the contrary, it allows me to get along with people very well. A case in point is well, you."

She was in a slight huff now. "I think I've just been insulted," she said in mock anger.

"No," Miguel replied quickly. "It's just that the warrior mode in you melts away as soon as we talk. I like that gentle side of you. It makes me want to invite you to dinner."

"Your treat?"

"Of course."


***


Both ships hadn't moved far from their original exit point since the incident that had brought them to this unknown place. Two weeks of attempting to reproduce the conditions necessary to return them to their home dimension, simply produced frustration on both sides. For now, it was impossible to get back. The only bright point was that the repair crews were able to bring both ships back to full specifications. Deburgh was frustrated and angry at being helpless like this. He had to do something. Captain Gorman, a person to whom he was beginning to feel more comfortable with, was becoming a rock that he could bounce his frustrations on. Siskel was good, but Gorman was his equal and that made all the difference. To his amazement, he found that he enjoyed 'hands on' work with his ship and the Saratoga as well.

Captain Gorman's satisfaction was clearly evident on her face as she looked once more at her restored bridge. She and her remaining original crew were in the process of learning about the capabilities of her newly installed equipment. Everything, twenty-two years updated, gave the impression of almost having an entirely new ship. The replicators were glorious instruments for the facilitation of much needed equipment parts that were almost impossible to make by her engineering staff without Starbase support. The weapons and defenses were far more efficient, but she didn't really concern herself with that. The potential for exploration was what intrigued her. With her talks earlier, she and Deburgh had decided to split the ships into two basic responsibilities. Hers would represent the exploratory half with the new crew wearing the older style uniforms, while Deburgh's ship would represent the full military branch complete with carrying the big stick, if necessary. They also decided to pass themselves off as part of a very distant, long lost colony trying to make it back home. The truth could be told, if the opportunity presented itself, at a later time. They had to tread carefully. What little signals they had received from Earth, made them cautious about a possible first contact situation. However, it was decided to move on and do a little exploring first.

The first stop for the two Confederation starships would be the Epsilon Eridani star system, some ten days distant at warp three. The trip was uneventful and much of the time was spent mapping the surrounding star systems. There were several major discrepancies noted in this new universe when compared to their own. For example, the Horse Head nebula was non-existent and in its place was a singularity, the remains of a massive star that met its demise some three hundred thousand years past. The analog of the Akamarian homeworld didn't exist, the victim of a large planetoid that had turned that planet into a pile of orbiting debris.

The Saratoga, now nicknamed the Revolution by some of the newer crewmembers, entered orbit first around what would have been a major Confederation homeworld. What they found was a burned and scorched planet, one that had been caressed by a solar flare almost ten thousand years earlier. There had been life there once and scans indicated that there were trace remains of a civilization hidden deep within several caves. It was a clear attempt at survival by the beings on the planet, but in the end the battle with their sun had been lost. The surface was so hot that even bacteria had ceased to exist.

All of the Eridani crewmen were keenly aware of the fate of this planet could so easily befall theirs even now. The Eridani on the two Confederation starships chanted their homeworlds' funeral dirge for their lost brethren and the telepathically enhanced chant could be felt by everyone onboard both ships. Several more readings were taken and a small remnant, a memento of a long dead civilization was beamed aboard. The Eridani said it would be a treasure, a remembrance of things past, of things future and of things that could be. The small doll-like ornament was beamed up and placed under the care of the eldest Eridani. It would be protected forever.

Two days later, both starships tracked a local spaceship barely traveling at point two C, from a very discreet distance, to a certain region of space when the ship simply disappeared. Sensors detected an unusual object hanging some three light-months distant. It was an artificial construct consisting of an ornamental ring. No one had an idea of what this device was, although Jeff speculated that it was some type of subspace distortion device designed to give access to other star systems without a form of faster-than-light travel.

"I think that there must be another device, I'd call it a 'stargate'," Jeff said even as the Revolution's engineer agreed with the assessment. "That would allow the ship to safely exit in another star system. Evidently, these people haven't developed warp drive. But this form of travel may be almost as fast. I would need to study it more to be sure."

Intriguing as the idea was, Robert nixed that idea. There were too many variables and he didn't want the ships to be out in the open like this doing experimentation on someone else's stargate, or whatever it might be called. They move on at three quarters impulse towards Earth. Unknown to them, their presence triggered a hyperspace proximity signal that would eventually make its way back to the very planet they were traveling to.

_________________
Benno the Mad Wrote:
man, you gotta realise that thor and bos fell out of the patriot tree (like the ugly tree, but instills patriotism instead of ugly) and hit every branch on the way down.


"Gone now, dispersed by the brutal destruction of this one day, was the belief that the Darkman and his army of the dead were so superior as to be invincible. By attempting to destroy the morale of the Marines, the Darkman had restored it to full vigor. Dia De La Muerto had failed in its objectives."
The Gunny: Stand of the 300

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war

Gunny's color #FF2400


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PostPosted: 19 Oct 2008 02:48 
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Sergeant Major of the USMC
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Location: Wandering the Wastes
Chapter Two


The ship felt crowded to Rebecca. It was a good feeling, as good a feeling as being fully recovered from her injures. The advanced replicators from Deburgh's ship proved a godsend. And the updated technology for regenerating promethium crystals made her feel a bit giddy. The original members of her crew seemed to get along quite well with the newcomers and for that she was thankful. It had been only twenty-two years difference, and a couple of the crew found that they were closely related, first cousins once removed to be exact. But there was a problem beginning to threaten morale. The fear of being marooned forever was beginning to show its effects. She had a plan to fight this, but she needed to talk to someone first. Onboard her ship was an Eridani woman, Dr. Selmar, along with several staff members transferred from the Yorktown, who might be able to help. She walked into her newly transformed sickbay, smiling warmly.

"What can I do for you, Captain?" the Eridani asked. Like most Eridani, she was direct and to the point, but not obnoxious.

"We have a problem, here," she started. "More and more of our people are beginning to suffer from what can be described as homesickness. "We may be trapped here without the possibility of returning home and it is starting to grate on the crew.”

"I understand," the Eridani doctor answered. "Humans have a tendency to become depressed when faced with the possibility of the unknown, with little hope of returning home. Eridanis do not experience these problems, however many emotional species do suffer from it."

Typically Eridani, Rebecca thought. "And I believe that you are exaggerating, Doctor." There was always that touch of smugness present. But it didn’t really matter because she liked the woman. She was well, pleasant.

"I want to know if there are any of our people trained in psychology. We can use that resource to treat some of our people if it becomes necessary."

"A most commendable plan, Captain. We have several medical personnel that fit the description," she said after a moment's contemplation. "I have a staff member who could prove very useful in implementing your plan."

The two of them walked over to a young Medical Doctor. "Lieutenant Slàinte?"

"The lovely young lady turned around. "Yes, doctor. Oh, Captain."

"Ceana, I have selected you as the answer to Captain Gorman's problem concerning the crew," Selmar said. "Your training in psychiatry, and your empathic ability would serve the Captain's plan nicely."

The beautiful medic looked surprised as she heard the two officers speaking to her about a new type of position onboard.

"Empathic?" Gorman asked. "Are you Tau Cetian or Human?"

"Actually, my father was Human and my mother is Tau Cetian. My telepathic abilities are not as strong as a full Tau Cetian, but I can sense emotions quite well, better than most. It was thought that my abilities would mesh well with my training, but the war..."

"I understand," Gorman said. "What I would like to do is to set up you and two or three staff members; you can pick them, and set up sessions for the crew to help maintain our mental health. Are you up to the challenge? It's going to be a lot of work."

The young dark-haired woman, with the lovely eyes smiled. "Captain, I would love the challenge."

"Good because the first challenge will be having the Karathan as patients."

Astounded, Lt. Slàinte realized that the Captain wasn’t kidding.


***


Inside the brig Séadhna, growled at his companion in the cell next door. "I don’t care what you think. We are not in our universe."

"They are liars, all of them," the Karathan woman snapped back. "And you are a fool to believe anything that they say."

Typically Karathan, his temper flared but not as much as he had expected. "Bébhinn, I could kill you for daring to speak to me in that manner. Do you not believe your own eyes; do you not feel it in your bones? We are lost."

"They're lies!"

Séadhna didn’t even bother answering her. He heard the doubt and fear in the woman's voice. Unlike the Humans and the other aliens onboard, they didn’t fall into unconsciousness. Both had felt the tearing apart, the rearranging of their bodies during the transit from one universe to another. It was like being trapped in a teleporter gone mad for more than two hours.

How his sanity remained was a great mystery to him. However, survival was now upper most in his mind. If they were truly in another universe then this Captain would have no use for them. At the very least he would maroon them on some unnamed planet. If he were smart then he would just have them killed. And Séadhna had no intention of dying just as he began to get glimpses of the truth. If there was a possibility of returning home with the information he had of the Dubhgain clan, then it was his duty to try to survive to tell the tale.

His Karathani warrior spirit was torn between his hatred of captivity and his need to explore exactly what was going on. Did he have the strength to deal with the Humans, his blood enemies? He wasn’t sure. Rumor had it that the Eridani and Ackamarian homeworlds did not exist in this universe, that both had been destroyed by natural disasters. Were there other Karathan in this reality? What was their function here? Were they warriors or something else entirely?

"You can't trust them!"

"You're half Human," he retorted. "I trust you."

"You know where my loyalties lie," she spat.

"Yes, I do,” he snapped, responding as a typical Karathan would even if the words were wrong. “We may be the only Karathan left. Survive Bébhinn. Survive."

She didn’t know if she could. She chose the Karathan way simply because the Humans never accepted her Karathan half, especially with the war. They called themselves enlightened, she thought bitterly, but the instant the war began, they rejected her. The Karathan barely trusted her until she became a Karathan's Karathan, better, faster, meaner, than any other. That transformation had torn and macerated her soul and she cursed both races for it.


***


Lt. Colonel James Washington, a eight-foot three African-American male, sporting a well-tailored goatee that was now his favorite look, recently in charge of the ground forces detachment with the Yorktown, hadn’t decided if he liked being the tactical officer on the Revolution or not yet. These old-style uniforms, red-duty jacket with the turtleneck shirt, black trousers and a decent pair of boots were actually more practical than the modern day e-suits that challenged you each time you needed to use the restroom. And he was growing fond of Captain Gorman. True, he was third in command now but none of that really mattered. Here and now, he was more or less content, and far away from the hurt and pain of the most horrible of events that had happened in his life.

Recently, his wife and son had been killed in supposedly neutral territory while he was serving onboard the UTC Bunker Hill. That ship had been torn apart by a Karathan assault and he and the survivors of his command had been assigned to the Yorktown. There had been no time to mourn and he was still adjusting to that horrible reality.

While his friends and co-workers assumed that his brooding was the result of his hatred of the Karathan, they were wrong. Brooding was how he was dealing with the loss of his loved ones and now his ties were severed with all of those he still held dear. His father and his sister were at least still alive on Earth. But he knew, somehow he knew, that they'd never get back. He couldn’t explain it but he understood beyond a shadow of a doubt that they'd never return home. Why, and how, he wouldn’t know the answers for months, he told his fears to the Tau Cetian psychologists, but they were beyond understanding, but it helped him settle things.

For now, he frowned at the signals the picked up over the commlink. They were definitely Human in origin. For the last two days they'd been receiving transmissions from the direction of Earth. Amazingly it was broadcast in English, Russian, Spanish and several other earth-based languages. The transmissions were not being sent via subspace, and the information received was spotty. But from what little details that were picking up suggested that there was some type of major conflict happening with the planet’s government. A general paranoia concerning aliens appeared to be the main theme, evident throughout the transmissions. All evidence so far pointed toward a more repressive stance being initiated against its colonies, American colonies to be exact.

"...Reporting. The President has declared martial law and has activated the military to quell the Mars colony revolt by any means necessary. We have exclusive video showing..."

"Mr. Washington?"

So intent was he in viewing the contents that he and the Comm officer failed to realize that his new Captain was waiting patiently behind him for almost fifteen seconds. The Lt. Colonel turned around quickly. "Yes, Ma’am?”

“You seem very intent on those broadcasts. Anything interesting?”

“Yes,“ he responded. “It seems that this Earth may be experiencing a revolution of some type. The data is sketchy, but I believe that they have or intend to attack their Mars colony. Apparently there is some sort of rebellion going on there and the controlling American Government is trying to crush it. I think they're bombing them into submission.

“Their own people?” Her eyes looked strained. This type of information did not bode well for the Confederation ships and crew. No doubt the crew of the Yorktown was analyzing the same broadcasts. “We have a probe in the general area. Direct it towards Mars and see what we can pick up. We’ll set up a conference with Deburgh and figure out what we want to do,” she said quietly, her mind still digesting the information. “Meanwhile, I have a job that I think you’ll hate, but that I think you are uniquely qualified for.”

She was smiling, he noticed. That was always a bad sign when your Captain smiled at you in this way. He should know, because he smiled the same way to those under his command when he wanted something particularly nasty done. Wisdom told him to say nothing and look innocent, yet attentive.

“I have had both Karathan transferred over to this ship, I want you to acclimate them to this environment,” she ordered, smiling as though the full weight of what she’d just said hadn’t been fully realized in her brain.

"Oh, Lord. You want me to be a babysitter?” he asked, incredulous. “To those animals?”

"They're two living beings Lt. Col., with the same rights as you and I," she said quickly. "They're trapped here the same as we are and I will not have them abandoned on some planet and discarded like they were some kind of beasts, as you called them," she added. "'Do unto others', my mother told me more than a few times. Deburgh and I came to an understanding concerning this," she said cryptically.

"Now, I bet that was an interesting conversation," he said to her.

"Yes. It was." She took a breath remembering the heated, no, volcanic conversation with Robert over this.

"Twenty-two years of fighting against the Karathan has made its mark. You people don’t know anything else but war. The art of diplomacy has been thrown by the wayside. You've even made those planet cracker bombs," she murmured in disgust, "something never even considered just two decades ago." The Alpha mark-three, anti-matter planet cracker warheads filled her with loathing, even as she had two of her own now, donated by Deburgh. "Billions on both sides have died. If the Confederation decided to surrender, just how long would it be before the war started back up? Could we stand to be under the Karathan yoke? I think not. But, that's not the point here."

"The point is?" He needed time to think. This assignment was crazy. How could one implement something like this?

"The point is," she continued, "that we need to change directions and regain what we have lost because of the war. This means I start with my own crew both new and old. My hatred for the Dhonnchaidh is just as strong as yours for the Karathan. But we have to get past that."

"And that's why you want me to take a Karathan under my wing?" He looked at her as though she were as nutty as a fruitcake.

"Actually Lt. Col., I have at least two reasons why I'm picking you. The first is that I trust that you will do the right thing. I know this will be hard. You are going to be my example to both crews on how to overcome. The second is that you're as big as he is. He won't intimidate you and you won't make the mistakes that someone who is intimidated would. You've fought Karathani hand-to-hand before and that is something he will respect, even if he hates your living guts," she added, smiling just as innocently as he.

"Thank you for your confidence," he said somewhat surprised at her reasoning. "What if I have to kill him?"

"I will be disappointed with you, James. May I call you that?"

"Yes, Ma'am." She had never thought to call him that before. Now she seemed more comfortable to do so.

"I would then consider you not as imaginative as I believe you are."

"I'll try not to disappoint you, Captain."

She moved over to look at the incoming communications involving this unknown Earth. "There is another reason that I want you for this job."

"And that is?"

"I believe that they can make the adjustment on this ship, but I need an edge. Your historical background as a part of a minority group, as they called it before WW3, is exactly where these Karathan are at now," she answered. "You have had the background experience and will therefore have a better understanding of what they are about to go through with a crew populated mostly with Humans and a few other races that hated and distrusted them. This is my edge."

That surprised him somewhat. "Captain, racism has been eliminated from our culture for almost seven hundred hundred years, so I fail see where you're going with this."

"James, you may fool some of the people with this but not me," she said curtly. "A friend of mine explained it to me years ago. I am fully aware of what happened after Lao-Shi and World War Three."

He did the only thing he could do. He smiled. The woman was right, after all. There was a tendency before the ascension of Lao-Shi in China for many people of color to be the first ones placed under suspicion, no matter what the situation. The abuse was sometimes subtle, sometimes gross, but always present in one form or another, no matter how much it was denied or ignored by others. Things began to turn around when Lao-Shi's genocidal actions precipitated his Earth's third world war. In its aftermath, and the revival of the Gunnery Sergeant, people began to finally understand that skin color wasn’t the main problem anymore. But the experiences were remembered and the lesson 'remember whom you're dealing with' had never been forgotten.

"Point taken," he murmured. "You're correct. I will always remember who I am dealing with."

"Oh and in private," she said changing the subject completely. "Please call me Rebecca. I don’t want to stand too much on ceremony, not now. I suspect that we will all have to become far closer to one another in the near future. The prisoners will be transferred in one hour. I also scheduled you for another appointment with the ship's shrink to get some extra pointers." She saw the look that he gave her and laughed. "Relax. Everybody's going to get a turn."

_________________
Benno the Mad Wrote:
man, you gotta realise that thor and bos fell out of the patriot tree (like the ugly tree, but instills patriotism instead of ugly) and hit every branch on the way down.


"Gone now, dispersed by the brutal destruction of this one day, was the belief that the Darkman and his army of the dead were so superior as to be invincible. By attempting to destroy the morale of the Marines, the Darkman had restored it to full vigor. Dia De La Muerto had failed in its objectives."
The Gunny: Stand of the 300

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war

Gunny's color #FF2400


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PostPosted: 19 Oct 2008 12:40 
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Location: Wandering the Wastes
Gerri stood in her private quarters looking out her small viewscreen at stars that were at once familiar and completely alien at the same time. She stretched herself outward using the gifts she along with her people, the Dar-Slaan, possessed and her 'otherness' that few others barely suspected, and felt... life in abundance. Some of it was cold, cold and would bear close watching. And some of it was hot with life and passion. The Beregor never developed here and the Elysians were so isolated that they had no clue about mere mortals. So much the better in this strange universe she thought. One less unknown to deal with.

She understood that the timeline had been somehow altered when the Saratoga, the Revolution, she corrected herself, re-entered the future, but she didn’t understand why the Rigellians had chosen not to interfere, a direct violation of their promise. They should have prevented the war until cooler heads prevailed. If they didn’t interfere, then that meant the temporal distortion was more than simply a rip in time. There was nothing simple about that 'incident' what-so-ever. Something else, some other factor had been at work.

That made sense she mused. The fact that the Saratoga made it through a time warp appearing literally in front of the Yorktown couldn’t have been a coincidence. So what really happened twenty-one days ago? What engineered that distortion? She knew those were questions that may never be answered. But she did have a theory and it fit as to why the Rigellians hadn’t interfered. A soft ring echoed in the room. "Come in."

"I hope I'm not disturbing you, Ms future ambassador," Deburgh said standing at the doorway, looking things over before he went in. "I needed to talk."

"Please," she said offering him a chair. And don’t call me ‘ambassador’ in my private quarters. I know you,” she said with an amused twinkle in her eye. “You’ll start calling me that forever no matter where we are and I will not have it. Now, would you like something to drink?"

"Yes, please." This was a point he would never even consider arguing about. Gerri was Gerri.

The woman pulled out two glasses and filled them with a sparkling clear liquid. Deburgh drank deeply offered his glass out for more and repeated the process.

"It's called Elirian nectar, mixed with just a touch of Earth lemon."

The drink had given him a relaxed feeling. Now that they had more power expenditures allocated for the replicators, dining had improved by leaps and bounds. "I don’t know where to start," he said, as he now felt more comfortable. "As you may have seen, Captain Gorman and I haven’t been getting along as well as I'd hoped. She seems intent on fighting me at every turn. This problem with the Karathan..."

"She's trying to make a point," Gerri said, sounding like an elementary teacher, "which frankly I agree with. We have twenty-two years of memories of lives that didn’t exist, created by a force or forces unknown."

That caught his attention. "What do you mean forces?"

She explained her suspicions and watched Deburgh frown. "So, you believe we're the victims of some sort of temporal war?"

"I suspect so. It explains why the Rigellians chose not to interfere. There are so many unexplained temporal disruptions in our quadrant that the Rigellians wouldn’t dare interfere. The repercussions would be unimaginable." She took a sip of her drink, savoring every drop as though for the first time.

"Robert, can you imagine what would happen if Disrupters and Ion torpedoes destroyed and damaged normal space with such abandon? The whole multiverse would be a mess right now. It's not as tender as some people think it is. Fractures and temporal rifts and whatever, simply don’t happen with such chaotic abandon. There has to be a reason."

"There are a lot of things going on in the universe Robert, which most of us have never even known about. The war should never have happened but it did. Someone precipitated it and someone else sent the Saratoga into the future. It was probably assumed that the ship-out-of-time would be destroyed. But whether it was destroyed or not, wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because these unknown manipulators would have succeeded in their mission. I believe that that was to start a war between the two most powerful governments in the Terran quadrant. But someone else, a third party, directed it to us, in order for you to correct the timeline. Someone who knew I was onboard this ship exactly at this time, so that I could warn you and correct the flow of time. But it didn’t work and now..."

"And now, we're here," he finished. That was it, he felt. Game, set, and match, finished.

"But," she countered, "the good point is that we're alive and have the Revolution along with us. Her people and Heidi Ganz should not be here. But the point is, they are and Captain Gorman represents a living example of what the Confederation should have been. You need to follow her direction, regain what was taken away from us, and become that example again in this universe. Don’t fight her. Learn or should I say re-learn what you have lost. We need to learn from the people here also. They are far stronger that they may first appear. But whatever you choose to do. It has to be soon."

"We're lost, Gerri," he finally admitted.

"Yes we are, more so that you know. I have two sets of memories Robert. The life we should have led is like an echo superimposing itself on my present life. The 'echo' feels like decades while my current perceptions feels only about a month long. It's very confusing."

"I hate talking about temporal causality." He hated temporal mechanics. In fact, most people hated temporal mechanics, with the exception of Mr. Taylor.

"I hate psychic temporal mechanics," she said, adding to the confusion. "You're here and there and in between, all at the same time. And this has happened to me more than once. For example, when did your people first meet the Karathan?"

Deburgh thought for a moment. "There was a crash of a Karathani courier ship on Earth just before the first warp-driven Terran ship left for its legendary exploration of the Galaxy. If I remember correctly, Captain Perryman ferried the courier to the Karathan homeworld."

"Well, Robert, I remember it differently," she said. "The Karathan never landed on Earth, they were met, for the first time, in deep space and they didn’t look as they do now. They looked much more like Humans. Only later, did they change to become what we know them as today. But no one else noticed that difference!"

"But we have records of our first Karathani contact. The Karathan here are a perfect example of their species," Deburgh said uncomfortably.

"That is an interesting point," Gerri countered. "What you've seen is not a lie, but a rearrangement of the truth by altering reality. Originally the Karathan looked similar to Humans, but no one remembers. Karathani also had no concept of what they now call honor. But that's all you hear about."

"That's all one ever hears about them." He fidgeted in his chair.

"Reality has been changed at least three times that I can sense. For example your Earth's world war three happened when?”

“In twenty seventy-seven. Lao-Shi's genocidal war caused over nine and a half billion deaths.”

“Well, I thought it happened much earlier, near the end of the twentith century not the middle of the twenty-first. And thirty seven million died, not nine and a half billion.” She watched carefully as Deburgh turned pale.

"Here's another example. Who had first contact with the Romans?"

"Yes," he said, he knew this one. "It was Commodore Robert Schneider of the UTC Ranger One, ours was the second to contact that species."

"Again, are you sure?" she asked him. "I remember you being the very first Confederation Captain to meet the Romans, even though I wasn’t on the ship at that time." Then she added another stunner. "Suppose I tell you that I believe that the Karathani prisoner who calls himself Séadhna should have always been on this ship, by your side?"

Deburgh's mouth fell open. His look of contempt said it all.

"For some reason," she said. "I keep seeing him and grapefruit juice together." She thought for a moment. "Even the Dhonnchaidh look different from what my 'echo' remembers. Apparently, the Terran quadrant has been at the mercy of time-traveling fanatics whose actions changed reality whenever it suits them.”

There was silence between the two of them for a short while, while both of them digested the implications of what she'd just implied.

Deburgh felt uncomfortable approaching the next part of the conversation. "Gerri," he said softly. "About Captain Gorman, she's rather, rather..."

"Unusual," Gerri answered for him. "As in different? As in, she's less uptight than you appear to be? As in different command style?" She smiled slightly. He laughed. "As in all of the above," he admitted. He took another sip of the drink. "She's so different from what I'm used to. The woman plays music on her bridge!"

"You don’t like music?" Gerri asked.

"Yes, I like music," he yelled. Almost. "But it has no place on the bridge. The nerve center of a starship demands one hundred percent concentration. Music distracts from one's duty."

"It does?" Gerri asked.

"It's not just the music, but the kind of music that she plays. Her taste is well, almost provocative in a way. I suppose that if one had to play something it would be somehow soothing."

"Soothing enough to make one fall into unconsciousness?"

"You're trying to twist my words around, Gerri." He was irritated now, but not enough to stop the conversation.

"From what I understand," she said, "her taste is as classical as yours."

"Oh, no," he countered deadly serious. "Not like mine. I love the classics. Bach, Handel, Vivardi, Tethra of Eridani, not..."

"John Doe? Trankers of New Mars? India Arie? Eric Jackson, before he had the breakdown?" she asked. "Those are the classics, classic rock and roll. I admit that I like the change. It's less, how can I put it... oppressive?"

"What?" Deburgh snapped. "My bridge is not oppressive. It's the command bridge!" He took a violent slurp of his drink. "Did you know that that woman actually dances on her bridge?"

"She dances?" She smiled and said nothing more.

"Well, actually she gyrates slightly to the music," he admitted. "It's very unseemly for a Captain to do that, on his or her bridge."

"Maybe she enjoys her work, her life?" Gerri suggested.

"And she expresses it by dancing in front of her crew? How could the people who place their lives in her hands ever respect her command decisions? The more he thought about it, the more he agreed with his own assessment. “Impossible."

Gerri smiled and took a last sip. It went down slowly. "Oh, Deburgh," she whispered. "You have it bad, don’t you?"

_________________
Benno the Mad Wrote:
man, you gotta realise that thor and bos fell out of the patriot tree (like the ugly tree, but instills patriotism instead of ugly) and hit every branch on the way down.


"Gone now, dispersed by the brutal destruction of this one day, was the belief that the Darkman and his army of the dead were so superior as to be invincible. By attempting to destroy the morale of the Marines, the Darkman had restored it to full vigor. Dia De La Muerto had failed in its objectives."
The Gunny: Stand of the 300

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war

Gunny's color #FF2400


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PostPosted: 19 Oct 2008 21:37 
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Chapter Three


Lt. Col. Washington had been sitting in front of Séadhna’s cell for the last hour simply looking at him, examining him as though he was some type of rodent. The large Karathani male returned the stare and both of them had eventually gotten comfortable simply looking at one another.

The Karathan had at first assumed that this was some type of Human challenge ritual and had determined that he would not be the first one to flinch in this strange form of battle. And at first he was angry. Other than to mention his name, the Human hadn’t spoken to him directly and seemed to be trying to look into his soul. But there was no overt challenge, so Séadhna was at a loss to explain this bizarre behavior. Finally the Human spoke.

"Is it true that the Karathan have honor?"

Séadhna was surprised at the question. Humans understood that a Karathan's life was honor. It was impossible for them not to understand that point. Maybe this one was especially dense. "Karathani live for honor," he answered.

"I don’t believe you," Washington responded. "If the Karathan have honor why do they take pleasure in the destruction of helpless people? Tau Ceti was no threat to you."

"It was part of the Confederation and as such a target, just as our farming community of Kast'ka was to you. You destroyed that world without a second's thought."

Tau Ceti had no defenses," Washington countered. "Kast'ka was an armed fortress."

"Then you were fools to allow it to remain so defenseless."

"And that 'foolishness' caused you to destroy ninety percent of the population?"

This was one of the great sore points of the war and a source of dishonor to many, many Karathan.

"If I had been in charge,” Séadhna announced, “I would not have ordered its destruction." That one mistake changed the course of this conflict and he hated that fact. "Karathani warriors do not wage war on defenseless people."

"But one of your ships did explode an anti-matter weapon into the atmosphere of Tau Ceti."

"The captain and crew were executed for their over zealousness." Séadhna had been ashamed of that Captain’s actions. Not only was it unnecessary, but also it escalated the brutality of the war. It precipitated the use of planet-destroying weapons on both sides. Hundreds of billions were being killed instead of simply uncounted millions. "The war took on a life of its own."

"Do you know why you are here?" Washington asked him changing the subject.

"We were transferred to this ship, in preparation of being interned on some unknown planet in this universe."

"Do you know why I am here?"

"You talk to me to build courage." Séadhna didn’t believe that for a second, but it did have a nice ring to it. "You are here to carry out that duty."

"Captain Gorman wanted you on this ship," Washington said, completely surprising Séadhna. “It’s the same ship that sacrificed itself for the Piturun III colony. She respected the Karathani people and didn’t have twenty-two years of hatred built up in her, unlike us. She wanted me to let you know that if you had honor she would let you have freedoms on this ship."

"Then she is insane."

"No," Washington said. "She has honor. The question is, do you?"

"What do you want me to say?"

"What your honor compels you to say." Washington went silent. The ball was in Séadhna's court now.

The Karathan thought for a second. "I have honor. My word is my honor. My war is over and we are lost in a strange unknown place. Your Captain understands this more than we do. On my honor, I will not do anything that will cause damage to the ships or the crews while we are trapped here. But if we make it home then remember, I am Karathan. Now what will you and your honor offer in return?"

"Freedom on this ship. The attempt at a working understanding of each other, a swift death if necessary, sights never before seen by anyone from our universe ever. And maybe the truth of what's out there and why we're here."

"You are an optimist."

"No. I'm a pessimist,” he corrected. “I don’t think that this will work. But I will try. I guess that makes me more of an optimistic pessimist than a true pessimist.”

He would have to think about this. "What about Bébhinn?" he said changing the subject.

"She stays where she is for now." By the scream that threatened to short out the forcefield, Washington understood that she'd heard him. "Excuse me, Mr. Séadhna," he said as he placed his hands behind his back and strolled over the yard or so to face her cell. "Were you trying to get my attention?"

She threw out a long, long string of curses. He especially liked the comment about his crippled mother and a Terran dog. That one he made a note to remember for future use.

"That is why you're still in this cell, Ms. Bébhinn," he whispered to her after she was spent.

"You Humans are all alike," she moaned.

Although his faced remained a mask, that statement had surprised him. All this time there was nothing but anger from her. This was the first time he detected despair. Interesting. "If we were all alike Ms Bébhinn, then you would be floating out the nearest available airlock. Don’t presume to understand me. Don’t presume to like me. And don’t presume to insult me and expect to get out of this cell within the, let’s say, next fifty years."

"I hate you."

"You hate yourself, woman." He watched as her defiance turned into pure fear and something in his heart softened-just a little. "You're keeping yourself a prisoner, Bébhinn." Then he turned away.

Returning back to Séadhna's cell he called to the security guards. "Release him." Then to the large Karathan," follow me."

Freedom! The Karathani cautiously moved away from the cell. Washington stopped him.

"Your honor keeps your freedom. As a Human, my word also means honor. If you violate your honorable word, I will kill by any means necessary. The Captain believes in the Karathan. I don’t. But I do want to see Karathan honor in action. Are you worthy?"

"As you Humans would say 'anything is possible'." His smile was predatory, matching Washington's.


***


Two light years distant from American colony Epsilon Indi Three:

"The stealth probe that we launched should enter American-space within the hour. In fact, captured communications have already been quite fascinating. Now, we’ll get detailed information concerning the situation going on in that region of space."

"Good. We need to find out what's going on over there."

Onboard the bridge of the Yorktown, Commander Siskel, sporting a beard and a touch of prematurely gray hair, took one last look at the communications from what the American government portrayed as an alien influence attempting to subvert Humanity into what amounted to slavery. "Lies," he muttered. What he'd seen disgusted him. "How did these people wind up in charge of Earth?"

"Unknown Commander," Taylor answered, even though the question was rhetorical in nature. "However the circumstances, the fact is that the Earth Government authorized the bombing of Mars' domed city. The death toll was significant."

"Yes," Siskel agreed. This entire situation made him livid. He'd fought for the safety of Earth, his Earth, ever since he was drafted into the Confederation navy and now they had a dilemma on their hands. Both Confederation ships were capable of functioning independently for several years, if necessary. But if they couldn’t get back to their home, they would have to settle somewhere and more and more this Earth wasn’t looking too inviting at this point. "And they won't stop there, not until all of their colonies are back under their control. The question is what are we going to do about it?"

Deburgh's voice ranged over the comm system. "All senior officers to conference room one in ten minutes."

Decision time," Siskel said as he and Taylor finished collecting the last of the information filtering in.

Captains Deburgh and Gorman, Commanders Siskel and Marquez and Lt. Col. Washington, Lieutenant Commander Taylor and Kinnick, and Lieutenants Ganz and P'tvon of the Revolution, took their seats just as Gerri walked into Conference Room One onboard the Yorktown. Several of them looked up in surprise at her presence here. She just smiled and sat next to Deburgh.

"Everyone knows why we're here," Deburgh started. "A decision that will affect our futures is about to be made be made in this room. We have intercepted several communiqués from Earth. It seems that the Sirius and Epsilon Indi Three colonies have broken away from the totalitarian American government and that government has decided to bring them back into the fold by, as Lt. Col. Washington would say, any means necessary. All ready the Mars colony has been attacked and thousands of innocent people injured and killed. Also, several warships have been dispatched to other colonies as well, to persuade them by force of arms, that resistance is futile. The question is what, if anything, should we do about it?"

Captain Gorman began. "The Non-Interference Directive applies here in this universe. Make no mistake, I hate playing fast and loose with the Directive. We shouldn’t interfere with this government. But because of our unique situation, our choices like our resources are limited. Either we ally ourselves to the Earth government, or to the colonies, or just simply leave and find somewhere else to live and try to get back home on our own.” She looked around at everyone for emphasis. “People, we're only two ships. Looking at the big picture, that's nothing. But I will not ally myself to an Earth with the state that it's in."

"I agree," Siskel said. "Our people would be in danger if we did that. I am referring to how these Terrans would react to our non-Human crew. With their attitude, who knows what they would do? At the same time, I hate running from a fight like this."

"Their leader, a President DeShane, has just declared Marshal Law. Their INN, Interstellar News Network, was more or less blown up just as they were trying do an 'expose' on the what's actually happening." Lt. Col Washington grew even more sober. "We may not be able to help the planetary colonies," he said. "But there is one place that they seem to be saving for last. It's a place called Earth Two. They’re the ones spouting the most rhetoric about the illegal activities going on, on Earth. Evidently this space station has more firepower than the other colonies and the Earth Government is going to have a fight on its hands, which is why it's last on their list of targets.”

"Secure everything first, cut off any possibilities of rescue or support, then surround and capture." Deburgh looked at Jeff and P'tvon. “What is the state of our ships if we go into battle?” He all ready knew but wanted it confirmed anyway. Besides if there were something new he wanted to be aware of it before committing his and Gorman’s ships into a conflict.

“We’ve done a lot of repairing and upgrading to both ships and they’re up to specifications,” Jeff replied. The only good thing about our situation is that we had a chance to really go over both of them with a fine-toothed comb. Life support, propulsion, weapons, even the meal replicators are back to producing real food instead of those god-forsaken R-rations.”

Almost everyone smiled at that revelation; even the Eridani representative’s eyes twinkled.

“In addition,” P’tvon stated,” the Saratoga's engines will maintain an increased power output and cruising speed consistent with warp eight point seven, two points above specs.” The Yorktown, the more powerful of the two starships had a cruising speed of warp nine point two however, since both ships would most likely fly together, the slower speed wouldn’t be a problem. “Two of our shuttles have been retrofitted with heavier shields, C-Beam and Ion torpedo launchers. And two of our eight starfighters have been transferred to the Saratoga. But the Yorktown still has the UTC Yeager."

The Yeager was the new Rapier-class gunboat with a tiny crew compliment of twenty personnel, who would reconstruct the ship at the completion of its journey. It was being transported to Corai two, in pieces, before the unscheduled universal stop. "The engineers are in the process of putting it together as they have the time. It’s actually longer than the old Wasps, although not as large. If we start reconstructing it now, it should be ready in about three weeks."

Deburgh stood up. “The crews seem to working well together. They’re just waiting for a decision, by him. It is my opinion,” Deburgh said, “that our best way home may be by allying ourselves to this Space station. It will be beneficial for the survival of us both.”

“Agreed.” Rebecca sat back, obviously concerned about this stretching of the Non-Interference Directive but definitely weighing the choices available to them.

Gerri took all of this in. They had essentially agreed that the Earth Two O'Neill colony appeared to be their best hope under the situation. They were right. They just didn’t know it yet. "You all seem to be in agreement," she said. "The question is, will you get there in time?"

"In time for what?" Rebecca pressed. Deburgh placed a lot of confidence in this woman. Why, she didn’t know yet. But she did seem to be aware of a lot more than she should be.

"To keep it from falling into the hands of its enemies, and to make new friends, of course," she replied cryptically. Rebecca noticed the way this woman was smiling...

"Let us hope it actually works out that way." Turning to Taylor: "What do we know about this Earth Two?"

"Very little, so far. The station is located in the Eta Cassopiea star system, nineteen point four light years from Earth relative. That corresponds to our universe's coordinates exactly. It is a binary system whose primary is a G0V class star, luminosity one point two nine Sol standard with an apparent visual magnitude of plus three point four-five. The companion is a K7V class star, with an apparent visual magnitude of plus seven point five-one."

"Very close comparison to ours," Marquez murmured. "At warp six, we can be there in nine hours." At warp six, both ships would be traveling at three hundred ninety-two times the speed of light.

"Commander Siskel, direct the closest probe to that area," Deburgh ordered. "I want to make sure what we will be dealing with." The dynamics of the meeting continued on for another twenty minutes. The bottom line was that they were ready.

As the officers left, Deburgh requested that Taylor and Siskel to remain behind. "Ensign Reynolds to Conference Room One."

A few moments later, a young man about seventeen years old, entered nervously looking around, unused to being summoned by the Captain.

"Yes sir?" he asked, trying his best not to shake.

"Relax, Ensign," Commander Siskel told him.

"Yes sir," the young man gulped. He wasn’t nervous he told himself. Not really. He was seventeen years old now. He could handle it.

"Ensign Reynolds," Deburgh began. "You're here because we want to acknowledge your exemplary performance of your duty. The pressure you've endured and your ability to continue work under extreme stress throughout your tour on the Yorktown has not gone unnoticed."

"Thank you sir," the boy said beaming. A touch of praise from the Captain was worth everything to the young man.

"We're going to assign you to Mr. Taylor," Siskel said. "You've shown an aptitude for science and engineering and now that we have a little respite from the war we're going to concentrate more on your education."

"However," Deburgh added. "There will be some changes."

"Sir?"

Deburgh pulled out a small box, handed it to Jack. "Congratulations Ensign Jack Reynolds. You are now a full bridge officer, Ensign, with all the duties, responsibilities and benefits thereof."

"Congratulations," Siskel said smiling. “You’ve more than earned it.”

"Congratulations, Ensign," Taylor echoed.

"Well, I suggest you prepare for your new duties."

Jack smiled, saluted and left, almost running out the room.

Deburgh sighed. "I wish I could do that more often, Commander. I wish that he wasn’t here on this ship. He should have been in school, worrying about girls, not here on a warship fighting to keep us alive."

"He'll do well enough. And then he has you as a father figure."

Deburgh looked at his smiling XO. "Rubbish. I'm his Captain."

"Yes sir."

"It's time we moved on and deal with the situation at hand,” Deburgh said briskly. Siskel’s smile was irritating him, to say the least.

"Yes, sir," Commander Siskel answered, still smiling.

_________________
Benno the Mad Wrote:
man, you gotta realise that thor and bos fell out of the patriot tree (like the ugly tree, but instills patriotism instead of ugly) and hit every branch on the way down.


"Gone now, dispersed by the brutal destruction of this one day, was the belief that the Darkman and his army of the dead were so superior as to be invincible. By attempting to destroy the morale of the Marines, the Darkman had restored it to full vigor. Dia De La Muerto had failed in its objectives."
The Gunny: Stand of the 300

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war

Gunny's color #FF2400


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