Friday, September 28, 2018

An Interesting Alliance

Drozana.  The name sounded like the place smelled: filthy, grimy and stale.  The station was almost one-hundred-fifty years old and had been battered over the years from its time within the neutral zone of Federation and Klingon space.  Decaying sections received minimal repair or inconsistent parts from various sources.  It was once a thriving center of diplomacy and legal commerce, now home to the dregs of the Beta Quadrant.  Smugglers, criminals, mercenaries and the desperate roamed the dark and dingy halls.   Famously, or infamously, Devidian ghosts were rumored to haunt several sections of the station and the unfortunate or lost were likely never seen again.

Kathryn pulled the hood of her brown cloak over her face further.  She felt confident the shades from dim lighting would conceal her face completely.  Entering a more populous section within the central habitat, she looked around the open bar to see a few others in similar attire.  A pair of Klingons in warrior armor on the other side of the room clinked thick metal canteens as they roared with laughter.  She found the designated table, slid into an empty chair and waited.

Within moments the table was covered in shadow and Kathryn looked up, but the hood prevented her from seeing the giant man’s face.  Seemingly made of pure muscle, he eschewed a shirt or tunic, leaving his green-skinned torso bare, showing off several tattoos.  He placed a massive flagon on the table and sat opposite Kathryn.

Kathryn sat back into her chair and looked around to see if anyone was within earshot before speaking.  “Bohtal Riztan?”

The Orion smiled as he lifted the drink and took a gulp.  “You have my attention.”  He smacked his lips.  “Only because my contact told me it would be worth the trouble.”

“Fair enough, I appreciate your contact communicating that fact.”

“She’s very handy … in many ways.”  Bohtal grinned.

Kathryn’s heart skipped a beat.  Orions had a reputation for their intimate handling of themselves.  The females were renowned for their more seductive persuasions.  Male Orions had a reputation for being brutal … no matter how one could look at it.  She forced herself to the business-at-hand.  “Did she convey the purpose of this meeting?”

Bohtal rested his enormous arms on the table and it creaked under the weight.  “You want my services to handle a problem and that is what we do best.”

Kathryn leaned forward.  “I have to say, the problem will not be easy to handle; Terrans have conducted raids within the Alpha Quadrant that resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths.  The Federation’s resources are stretched thin and she needs to be stopped.”

The Orion raised an eyebrow, and the then sat back while taking another swig.  “The fact you can pay the price means you want the impossible to be possible.  But there is the issue of probability.  We don’t just fly into Terran space like we can the Tholians.  It’ll be cheaper if you know where and when … she will appear.”

Kathryn recognized she gave away a detail not meant to be exposed and decided to risk an opportunity while trying to stay in control.  The mercenary could simply walk away if he wanted and since he had not left yet, suggested interest in the initial arrangement.   Still, strength embraces power, but honor rejects insults.  Kathryn opted to boost his ego.

“And that’s precisely why your services are needed, because you’re reputation puts you in the top of the class, so to speak.  I’m sure you can find them.”  She relaxed and opened her hands palm-up.  “To be honest, I’m grateful you showed up.”

The Orion grinned and he raised a finger to pause the discussion as he took another massive gulp.  “Honesty is important in my business, from a certain point of view.”  He licked his lips slowly.  “Tell me, why does the Scarlet Scorpion need a band of merry mercenaries to do her dirty work?”

Kathryn was hoping Bohtal would not know the nickname given to her by the Orion Syndicate.  It suggested her vetting did not reveal possible ties to the group.  With Bohtal Riztan being Orion himself, it was a risk she hedged on.   She started having misgivings to the meeting and felt on the defensive.  Gauging whether to try playing innocent and question his comment as if it was an assumption, or to reveal herself to achieve her goal to recruit a third-party clandestinely to track down a criminal to the Federation, Kathryn opted for the latter.  She pulled back the hood and tugged on pins to let burgundy hair fall over her shoulders.

“You’re right, honesty is important.”  She wore a stern countenance.  “My Terran counterpart is more dangerous than my superiors believe and personally she is also a nuisance.  The other facts are coincidental.”

Bohtal nodded.  “I appreciate you didn’t wax poetic about honor, duty and other boring words.”  He crossed his arms and looked around as if he were checking to see if anyone else were near.  “You’re not kind to the Syndicate, to say the least.  There’s a bounty for you, and I could easily earn that reward.”

Kathryn smirked.  “I appreciate your telling me there is a mark, although I shouldn’t be too surprised, and that you have not tried to collect.”

“Your proposal is more interesting, no offense.”

“None taken.”  She glanced around almost reflexively.  “So, how is this done?”

Bohtal raised a finger.  “This is more complicated than you could comprehend.  Once you agree to this, it cannot be withdrawn.”

Kathryn was surprised by the sudden seriousness.  “I … I understand.”

“No, I don’t think you do, Feddie.”

The slang was obviously intentional and Kathryn started to feel tense.  She moved a hand slowly to the Phaser pistol attached to her waist.

The Orion continued, “This is not simple at all because someone will die by your command.  You have done so out of duty, self-preservation and revenge, I’m sure.  But this time –“ he thrust his finger to the table.  “You are asking someone else to do it against the principles you rest your life upon.  You will change after this day: the way you breathe, the way you smell, how you feel when someone calls your name … your own reflection.  You will have eyes of a stranger and nothing will make you whole again.”

Kathryn was mesmerized and didn’t respond as she remembered every step that lead her to this moment.  Under the cloak, her fingers touched the grip of the pistol.

Bohtal relaxed and grabbed his drink, but did not lift it.  “This will be an interesting alliance, I think.”

---
Cast for crew:
Kathryn Beringer - Katheryn Winnick
Bohtal Riztan - Dave Bautista

Monday, July 30, 2018

Off Limits

Looking out the window of an observation deck of Earth Spacedock, Kathryn watched the giant starship; it’s bright white hull showing graceful curves and angles.  She sighed, leaning onto the rail and continued to gaze at the Odyssey-class while it slowly passed orbiting the massive station.  An announcement was made over the intercom about a shuttle flight departure expected and a console nearby signaled some aspect of the station.  Various voices and footsteps were like whispers behind Kathryn.  It was easy to tune out all the ambient noise.

A pair of hands griped the railing to Kathryn’s left and she turned to see the visitor.  Instantly recognizing the female Captain, she couldn’t hide her excitement.  “Captain Carter!”

Monica Carter held her own smile and saluted to Kathryn, who quickly recovered and returned the salute.  Carter then opened her arms and two women embraced for several seconds.  Pushing away from each other, they held hands for a few more seconds before Monica signaled toward the stairs to another level.  “Care for a drink?”

Kathryn nodded, “I could use one.  How have you been?”

Captain Carter stood over ten centimeters taller than Kathryn.  Her dark brown hair fell in long waves to the middle of her back and billowed with each long step.  The younger officer had to quicken her pace to keep up.  “I’ve been very well.  The Retributor is keeping me busy.  With all the Hur’q attacks, we are being sent to help put out fires all over the Gamma Quadrant lately.”  Monica’s deep voice commanded attention and Kathryn remembered how cadets seemed enthralled by the seriousness of her sultry voice.  “What about you?  I see Solaris is flying strong.”

“I could not ask for a finer crew.”  Kathryn smiled.  “We are here for some R&R, besides the expected tune up and diagnostics.  Interestingly, I was almost ordered to transfer command to another ship.”

Monica scoffed.  “I heard about that.”  She looked over her shoulders and then leaned toward Kathryn to whisper.  “It seems becoming an Admiral makes you a bureaucrat as well.  Space me naked if I ever get promoted to that rank.”

Kathryn snickered before composing herself as they passed Admiral Quinn’s office.  Once clear, the pair of Captains giggled like playful children.  They entered the main lobby and casually turned toward Club 47.  “By the way, I want to thank you again for being an inspiration since my Academy days.  Your lectures are still the stuff of legend, or so I hear from new recruits on my ship.”

Captain Carter waved away the compliment.  “To think those were the peaceful years!”

The pair continued the small talk as they walked into Club 47.  The blaring music and strobe lights were cacophonous as they ordered drinks and once they passed through the audio shielding into the lounge did conversation resume.

After sipping from her drink, Monica sat back into her chair and looked through the giant viewport overlooking Earth.  “Do you recall my lecture on successful starship Captains?”

Kathryn quickly swallowed from her glass and nodded.  “Let me see:  never dwell on death, know your ship stem to stern, get hands dirty with the crew, orders without thought can kill, and love leads to loneliness.”

Monica was impressed.  “Not bad at all.”

Smiling, Kathryn said, “I’ve always wondered if that list was comprehensive.”

“Never, but for cadets, it’s a start.”  Captain Carter took a sip.

Kathryn leaned in as if to tell a secret.  “I’ve been curious; do you really believe people in our position shouldn’t be in a close relationship?”

Monica raised an eyebrow, leaned forward and smirked.  “Absolutely, the last thing you need to worry or think about is someone else who takes space in your heart.  Once you start caring intimately for another person, your judgment will be biased, no matter what discipline or training you have.”

“So, in your opinion, it’s a maxim?”

Shaking a finger and lifting her glass, Monica replied, “It sounds that way, but is really meant from a human perspective.   Generally speaking, the idea has merit and is logical.  Don’t get me wrong, love for family is mutually exclusive.  And as you may recall, the suggestion is your duties to the ship and crew are more important than yourself.”  She pointed a thumb to the large window.  “The black sea is unforgiving and conflict from without only makes it more dangerous.  Conflict from within increases odds of failure.”

Kathryn agreed.  “Sometimes there is enough drama on board.”

“As long as it doesn’t interfere with the function of the ship, then “drama” is expected.  But, as a Captain, all of that is to be segregated.”  Monica pointed at Kathryn.  “You are not to be a part of that.”

“But you can’t help falling in love with another person.”

Shrugging nonchalantly, Monica replied coolly.  “Too bad.”

Kathryn snorted with a smile and questioned before taking a sip, “A cautionary tale then?”

Monica turned her head and licked her lips.  “Tell me Captain Beringer, since taking the center chair … have you fallen in love with anyone?”

Surprised by the question, Kathryn gulped quick forcing a cough.  “I … what?”

“It’s a simple question, from a certain point of view.  You said it earlier: you can’t help falling in love.  So … have you?”

Kathryn blushed.  She felt compelled to be open about herself with Monica.  They met during Kathryn’s academy days and she considered Monica Carter a mentor more than a friend.  On occasion they shared messages over the years since Kathryn achieved her rank, even if it was an accelerated promotion due to the stress of war.  Such correspondence, and advice for Kathryn, was mostly about starship management.  Sometimes they ventured into personal matters, but this topic was new.

“Well … no.  Not really.  I admit my helmsman has a particular ‘look’ that’s hard to ignore.  He’s on the short-list for away missions and  I thought it was about his skill set.  But lately I’ve started thinking if it was more than that.”

Monica smirked.  “So, there have been interests one way or another, but nothing approaching a ‘date’ in the traditional sense?”

Kathryn raised her glass as if to sip and then looked out the window.   “It’s been a long time.”

“There’s a good reason for that; part of Starfleet training is to respect the space of others on a professional level.  Doing so builds trust and a crew without it is a ship without a crew.”  Monica pointed a finger to Kathryn and herself.  “We’re only human after all.”  She looked out the window.  “But if you want the stripes, if the chair is your home, then your crew is off-limits.”

---
Cast for crew:
Kathryn Beringer - Katheryn Winnick
Monica Carter - Claudia Christian

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Trade Not

Kathryn looked up from the PADD to see streaking stars out the window of her quarters.  Solaris had finished a supply run to Starbase 47 and was heading to Risa for some R&R at a comfortable Warp Four.

The PADD listed personnel that had perished while under her command within the last six months.  The list was longer than Kathryn wished.  The war with the Iconians and the recent conflicts with the Tzenkethi were taking tolls on Starfleet last seen during the Dominion War.  Yet some losses were due to otherwise peaceful exploration and research.  In that regard, her numbers were small, but they were still losses.

She tugged at the bun of red hair and long locks fell past her shoulder.  The streaks outside abruptly froze and Kathryn felt a slight gust of air from behind.  Confused, she turned and then fell back onto the couch from utter surprise.  Almost reflexively, she called for a Security Team to her quarters.

The intruder was impressively imposing.  Standing just under the height of Kathryn’s quarters, the giant male humanoid wore ornate black armor covering every part of his body.  The helmet, in the style of a human skull, was obviously meant to command respect and instill fear at the same time. 

Kathryn’s curiosity blended with concern.  His appearance in her quarters was sudden and unannounced.   Having already called for security, she doubted not much would stop him if he wanted to cause harm.  How did he arrive?  Where did he come from?  Why was he here?  Could she reach the phaser pistol in the cabinet?  So many questions locked her mind as she sat gripping the cushion.

Several tense seconds lapsed until Kathryn spoke, forcing calm and patience into her voice.  “Who are you?”

The giant’s voice was synthesized, menacing and slow.  “I have many names.  To you; Death.”  Kathryn could tell his armored backpack was either a power source for the suit or further ornamentation that added to his bulky appearance. 

Kathryn gulped and then pushed forward.  “What do you want?”

“One of your kind may return.”  One hand held a mace-like device with a winged-skull at one end.  Raising it, the space between them shimmered as a humanoid slowly arrived into existence.

She stood when the human male coalesced into full reality.  “Karl?!"  With a crisp clean uniform, Karl Melango also looked perfectly healthy.  He did not move nor acknowledge his former Captain. 

Death took a step forward, which thundered within the room.  "His return has condition: to have him, is to replace him.  Another will return with me.”

Kathryn stepped forward and reached out to touch Karl.  She remembered Camus II, the mission, the devastation, the mystery … and misery.  Her fingers passed through him.  Recoiling from the apparition, she then focused on the present and her confidence started to grow.  “A quid pro quo?  I must choose to have someone die, so that Karl may live again?”

Death nodded.

She was aghast.  “That’s not a choice anyone should have to make.  Karl is dead.”  Sadly, she looked upon the visage of her past friend.

”Hear his plea.”  Death spoke as if ignoring Kathryn’s logic.

Kathryn raised a hand to Karl’s face.  “No, I refuse.  For humans, death is final, even when it is not wanted or expected.”

Death leaned at the waist as if to scold as child.  “Humans negotiate with Time.  Do not preach to ME about the treatment of those that should be dead.”

Kathryn did not yield.  “You have come here, unbidden, to change Karl’s timeline.  To … negotiate.  His time ended and should not start again.  Especially at the cost of another’s life."

Standing straight, Death waved a hand and Karl disappeared.

Several seconds passed in silence.  Turning to look at the frozen star streaks, Kathryn crossed her arms.  “Many lives have been lost within my career and I remember them all.  War and exploration takes a toll on mortality.  I am not complacent in my commanding the lives of hundreds.  I do not know where you came from or why you came to me here and now, but-“

The stars streamed again and Kathryn spun on her heels to look into an empty room.

---
Cast for crew:
Kathryn Beringer - Katheryn Winnick
Karl Melango - Jeremy Renner
Voice of Death – Michael Ironside

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Gone Galatea

Early 2409 …

Galatea entered the system a short distance from the ringed planet.  Resting above the orbit of the icy rings was the focus for the Exeter-class ship and crew.

“Satellite in range of sensors, scanning now.”  Omazei, the Trill Science Chief, reported dutifully as her fingers danced upon the console.

Kathryn touched her rank pips absentmindedly and spoke without looking away from the viewscreen.  “Anthi, anything on tactical?  Being this close to Klingon-space I’m not in the mood to take chances.”

The Andorian First Officer tapped on her console and after a few seconds replied, “Passive scans within the system are negative.”

Anthi’s brother, Thel Ythysi, spoke from the Engineering section of the bridge.  “Captain, initial analysis of the satellite reveal it is fully functional within expected parameters.”  His tone was slightly incredulous.  From his unexpected report, the bridge crew became silent.

Kathryn leaned forward in her chair, visually inspecting the large machine in the void.  Slowly rotating on its y-axis, it was a remote research satellite that hosted a myriad array of sensors dedicated to the planet.  Several days ago, a request was made from Starfleet Corps of Engineers to investigate possible faulty bio-neural gel packs as telemetry was getting scrambled.  USS Galatea answered the call.  As innocuous as the situation should be, Kathryn started to feel uneasy about it.

The Captain turned to Omazei, whose face was highlighted by shifting colors from the console, waiting for additional confirmation.  Only the dim hum from the ship’s engines could be heard over the next few seconds.  She suddenly looked to Kathryn and shouted, “Vessel decloaking, port fifteen degrees!”

The viewscreen added a shimmer to the star field behind the satellite.  As the ship coalesced, dread washed over Kathryn and someone unseen gasped.  The Vor’cha-class battlecruiser drifted menacingly toward the Federation vessel.

“Open a hailing frequency,” Kathryn ordered.  After a few seconds she added, “Klingon vessel, this is Captain Beringer of the USS Galatea on a routine maintenance mission to a Federation satellite.  Are you here to assist?”  Kathryn swallowed, the query felt stale in her mouth, but she couldn’t invite hostilities as the Klingon ship clearly outclassed her own vessel in many ways.

After a few moments, the Comm Officer acknowledged no response.

An alarm rang from Anthi’s console, starling everyone.  “Weapons lock!”

Kathryn whispered a curse, then said, “Raise shields!”

Omazei followed, “Another contact, starboard one-three-five degrees.”

The viewscreen was replaced by a top-down tactical display where a second Vor’cha battlecruiser appeared behind and to the right of Galatea.  The screen changed back to the windowed-display view.   Green beams appeared from “behind” the camera and obliterated the satellite.

Kathryn spoke quickly. “Someone’s getting a bill; Helm get us out of here, dealer’s choice!”

At the controls, Ian McKinnon swiftly tugged on his gloves and deftly keyed in commands.  Galatea banked to port and impulse engines revved louder.  The Vor’cha to the front maneuvered to match the Starfleet ship’s vector and fired, disruptor beams belching from emitters until a few found their target.  The small ship shuddered from the attack and Kathryn clutched the armrests to keep from being thrown to the floor.

With the klaxon blaring, Anthi roared, “shields at 42-percent, hull damage multiple decks!”

Kathryn noticed the helmsman furiously stabbing the console.  Anthi called out, “Brace for impact!”

Multiple torpedo strikes rocked Galatea further, causing a console behind Kathryn to explode, showering her with sparks and small debris.  She turned to her Chief Engineer.  “Thel, how’s she holding?”

The bulky Andorian wiped sweat off his brow and shook his head, antennae stiff from worry.  “We need to get out of here.”

Kathryn jumped to the helm station and forced calm into her voice.  “Mr. McKinnon, toot sweet please.”

He pressed a key on the console and the stars on the viewscreen stretched as the ship limped into a Warp tunnel.

+++
Three Hours Later …

The Executive Team sat silently in the Ready-Room as they waited for Thel Ythysi to arrive.  Each officer’s uniform was dirty to varying degrees, depending on how much work they performed in the nooks and crannies of the ship.  Everyone looked tired as no one was above the paramount need to repair the ship.

The doors swished open and Thel walked in holding several PADDs, his own uniform tattered at the cuffs along with the ubiquitous smudges.  Sitting down he handed everyone a PADD.  “No need for a presentation, it’s all there and it’s obvious the situation is dire.”

Ian swiveled toward the Captain to get attention.  “We are currently in the Arucanis Sector.  Navigation is still out so it’s hard to get a precise reading.  We’re safe from the Klingons but that’s not a guarantee.  After three hours, if they really wanted a kill they could have tagged us.”

The Science Chief spoke up next.  “Deflector control will need a few more hours at the least.  The primary dish will likely need replacing.”  Omazei tucked her short hair behind ears, revealing Trill patterns along her neck.  “The damage to comms will take about four hours to fix.  Until then, we can only send tight-beam subspace transmissions.”  She crossed her arms as a sign she was finished.

Kathryn gazed upon the Chief of Operations, S’Rel.  The Vulcan sensed eyes on her and looked away from the PADD.  “Captain, considering the structural damage to the ship, I recommend reduced shift time for everyone aboard until we can reach a suitable Starbase to affect substantial repairs.  I have prepared a roster rotation and will affix it to Thel’s report.”

“On that note”, Doctor Annika Kramer punctuated, “we have three dead and forty-seven wounded beyond first-aid; twelve being out-of-action.  Other than the deceased, we can triage.”  She pulled a hair tie, releasing her bright blond hair to fall onto her shoulders without further attention.  “We are relatively lucky.”

By this point Kathryn was pinching the bridge of her nose while listening intently.  A dull headache was in its second hour and she resolved to persevere without medication.   “Anthi, let’s pretend the Klingon’s are on the hunt, what are your chances?”

The proud Andorean First Officer sat straighter.  “Slim.  Two-beam arrays and the rear torpedo launcher are destroyed.  No offense to Galatea, but I don’t believe she could fight-to-win.  The sooner we get to a space dock, the better.”

Thel leaned forward.  “I agree.  Current speed capabilities are Warp two-point-four.  Don’t go that fast for more than an hour: the starboard pylon structural integrity is uncomfortably weak.  At our current estimated position, it’ll take us two weeks to get to a suitable dry dock.  The detail is in the report, of course.”

Kathryn sighed and nodded solemnly.  She looked over the PADD briefly before placed her hands on the table as if to fix the ship with her force of will.  “We will respect our dead when we reach port.  Time is of the essence now.  Galatea is beat-up, but not beaten down.  As cheesey as that sounds, it’s true.“

She looked to each of the assemble crew.  “Take an hour, if your teams do not need your immediate attention.  Although this looks bad, I’m confident she’ll get us home.”

---

Cast for crew:
Kathryn Beringer - Katheryn Winnick
Anthi Ythysi - Monique Ganderton
Thel Ythysi - Kevin Sorbo
Ian McKinnon - Ben Browder
Omazei - Gemma Arterton
S'Rel - Morena Baccarin
Annika Kramer - Abbie Cornish

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Simple Start

Starfleet Academy, 2405 …

The four cadets hunched over the digital map displayed on the table.  Each also had a PADD detailing the scenario: they were to portray a diplomatic effort to settle a city-wide dispute over where to construct a public transit system.  Each of the twenty districts had their own interests which either supported or contrasted to an adjacent district.  Paramount considerations were environmental impact and cost to the local government, yet other factors to the proposal were needed such as jobs and public safety.  Ultimately, the circuit needed to satisfy the population’s many needs and interests … or at least try.  The four groups in the class only had seven hours to analyze the situation and draft a proposal that revealed the most equitable solution.

+++
After the first hour …

Jebal stood straight and crossed his arms.  “This is impossible!  There are too many variables to consider.  No one would be happy with any proposal.”  His Bajoran ear loop swung vigorously as he shook his head with frustration.

“That’s the point,” replied the Bolian, Hurte.  She waved a hand over the board.  “We are not meant to please everyone, just most of the population.  The goal is to develop a cost-effective and efficient transit plan.  This is not the Kobayashi Maru, so there is a winning solution.  We just need to have a better plan the rest of the class.”  She looked over her shoulder to the other groups similarly hunched over tables, tapping furiously on PADDs and having muted discussions.

Kathryn watched the exchange and then continued entering calculations on her PADD.

Steve waved a hand to get the others attention while also tapping on his PADD.  “Guys, we need to start somewhere.  Seven hours can go by quick, so I’ll throw something at the wall first, so to speak.”  After tapping a few more keys, the city image added a golden-colored line that weaved around structures or ran parallel to roads.  “Obviously, we can’t use flying transportation: the safety risks are too great for transport capacity desired.  Ground vehicle transportation would require maintaining a fleet and scheduling which makes it inefficient.  That leaves electro-magnetic rail.  It’s faster, easier to maintain and schedule.  Frankly, it’s the simplest solution.”

He looked over each shoulder as if to make sure no one was spying on them.  “The other teams are likely to have the same consideration, so we just need to have a better route than they do.”

+++
After two hours, outside the classroom …

Hurte raised the cool cup to her forehead and patted a few times.  She looked to her group partner.  “You’ve been pretty quiet through this project, everything okay?”

Kathryn took a sip from her own cup and shrugged nonchalantly.  “I don’t want to come across as disinterested.  Really, I’m just listening to ideas and crunching numbers.”

“Well, Steve has grumbled about your lack of input a few times.”

“Oh, really?  Why didn’t he say anything to me?”

Hurte rolled her eyes.  “You know him; he’s a nest-poker.”

Kathryn looked confused, “a … what?”

The Bolian looked over Kathryn's shoulder toward the classroom.  “A nest-poker.  You know, he likes to cause trouble without being obvious.”

Realization came to Kathryn and she giggled.  “Oh!  Right, yes.  I suppose so.  If he says something again, please tell him to talk to me and I’ll settle it.”

“Of course, I apologize for not saying something earlier.”

Kathryn smiled and the two took sips from their drink.

+++
After three hours …

The Bajoran stood strait and stretched.  Jebal spoke through clenched teeth as bones cracked from changing position.  “Team, I think we are going to lose this round.”

Steve wore a frown as he rubbed weary eyes, “Only if we give up.  We’re not even halfway through the time limit.”

Hurte kept staring at the map.  “There are just a few districts where the simulations seem to falter.”  She looked up to the other groups and saw a Rigelian cadet suddenly tap at his PADD forcefully before throwing it to the ground with a growl.  It shattered, surprising everyone.  He apologized before exiting the room in a huff.  “At least we are not alone feeling frustrated.”

“I’ve got an idea.”  Kathryn placed her PADD on the table.

“Oh, now she has idea?”  Steve’s mood darkened quickly.

Kathryn sternly glanced at Steve acknowledging the barbed comment before turning to the others and calmly replied, “I know I’ve not contributed much except to support suggestions –“.

“You think?”  Steve interrupted.

Hurte put a hand out as if to lower the tension.

Kathryn leaned on the table toward Steve and whispered, “We can either take it outside, or you can give me a minute.  After three hours, that shouldn’t be too hard for anyone on the planet.  Wouldn’t you agree?”

Jebal and Hurte looked to each other and silently agreed not to take sides.

After a few seconds without a response, Kathryn tapped a few keys on the table console and the map adjusted.  The proposed transit line the team had developed shifted and symbols appeared under the line.

The group looked at the transforming image and the tension seemed to dissipate.  Steve pointed at the table, “is that … do you mean to have an elevated railway?”

Kathryn smiled.  “Why not?  Instead of building a rail system through neighborhoods, how about over them?”

The other three looked to one another and then quickly grabbed their PADDS to key information as if to verify a new discovery.

Jebal looked up first.  “But that’s not a part of the project rules.”

Grinning, Kathryn asked, “are there any restrictions to the solution?”

Hurte answered, “No.  The only guide is for the districts and that we must negotiate an equitable solution to maximize benefit to the population.”

Jebal seemed to be stunned.  He looked to the other groups.  “So … we all assumed the mass transit system had to be built in the communities because we were given details to negotiate around them?”

Kathyn nodded.  “Consider this scenario.”  She tapped on her PADD, sending data to the table which started to run the simulation again.  Numbers crawled along the four corner edges for each participant to see.  Meanwhile, the image rotated and moved following design patterns from the data.

Steve’s eyes widened when the simulation ended.  “That’s … too easy.  There must be a problem with it.”

Kathryn shrugged.  “Maybe.  I’m not saying this is the best idea though.  Let’s take a break for fifteen minutes.  When we get back, let’s run some more numbers.  We’ve got the time, right?”

+++
The next day …

The instructor was reviewing the class project results.  Kathryn sat in a chair facing the grizzled veteran-turned-instructor and was naturally curious why she was called to his office.  Again.

He nodded without further inflection and lowered the PADD to the table.  “Let me get to the point, Cadet.  Your team’s solution to the problem, although not innovative, was also not expected, given the parameters.  I’m curious how your team came to that idea.”

Shrugging slightly, Kathryn answered, “It was a team effort, sir.  We brainstormed ideas and tested them until we found a solution that best fit within the goals of the project.”  She smiled demurely.

The instructor copied her smile and then countered, “According to your classmates, you were the one to propose the solution and developed the base code while also working with their ideas.”

“They give me too much credit, sir.”

“Maybe so, but when three other Cadets tell the same story, then I wouldn’t call that a coincidence.”

Kathryn sat silently, unsure how to respond or if she even should to that comment.

The instructor continued.  “Regardless, it was a good idea and resulted to the highest score for this project in three years.  Your leadership is a testament to that fact.  Well done, Cadet.  Dismissed.”

---
Cast for crew:
Kathryn – Katheryn Winnick
Steve – K.J. Apa
Jebal – Cole Sprouse
Hurte – Lili Reinhart
Instructor – Bill Murray
Rigelian cadet – Male street extra 1

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Quiet Fate

Solaris burst into the system and instantly traveled at a relaxed speed of sixteen thousand kilometers per second …

“Transwarp completed, Captain.”  Lieutenant Ian McKinnon tapped on the helm console preparing the ship to handle inter-system travel.  He wore thin gloves when on deck to pilot the ship.  It was a quirk Kathryn learned to appreciate over the years.

Interrupting her own musings, Kathryn turned her attention to the main view screen.  The tension on the bridge grew.  Standing, she queried, “how soon to Delphi Station?”

The outpost had been built on the outer fringes of declared Federation space toward the galactic rim.  It’s primary mission was meant to research the Galactic Barrier phenomenon.  Two days ago, Solaris received an automated distress signal through subspace.  Kathryn’s concern was that the time stamp on the message was two days older than when it was received.  With the station being so remote, Solaris was the closest ship to respond.  And with the message mysteriously being “old”, Kathryn redlined the Transwarp Drive.

The Science Chief responded, “At present speed, five minutes.”  Omazei, a female Trill, was the second-longest serving Senior Officer on the bridge with Kathryn.  She turned to look at the main screen, confident she would not miss new telemetry.  “Long-range visual is available.”

“View and magnify image,” Kathryn ordered.

As the scene shifted from a blurry star-field to the Starfleet outpost, everyone on the bridge gasped with surprise and terror.

+++
Two Hours Later, Deck 16, Cargo Bay 4

Four more bodies materialized on the transporter pad.  The cargo bay had transformed into a makeshift morgue as the station crew was too numerous to be housed elsewhere.  Chief Medical Officer Annika Kramer also wanted to preserve the dead in their already frozen state in order to conduct autopsies.  Wearing an environmental suit and waving a tricorder, she was crouched over a previously delivered crewperson.  A yeoman stood nearby with a PADD, entering information relayed by Doctor Kramer.

Standing in the cargo bay, wearing her own suit, Kathryn somberly looked upon the grim scene.  Forty-seven crew were found floating outside their remote outpost.  Initial scans did not reveal they were attacked from external sources and the station itself was not damaged, although the docking port doors were open, exposing the station to the vacuum of space.  With the four recent arrivals, the station’s crew was accounted fully in the cargo bay.

Behind Kathryn, the decontamination chamber cycled and First Officer Anthi Ythysi stepped into the cargo bay.  The tall Andorian stopped next to Kathryn and presented a PADD wrapped in a protective sheath.  Standing at attention to respect the dead, she reported, “The station team reports no structural damage to the station at all.  The team leader hopes to have more news within two hours.”

Kathryn accepted the PADD and scrolled through data already abridged by the XO, more to distract her from the scene in the cargo bay than to question Anthi’s summary.  “Out of curiosity, does any of the crew have family from the station?”

“No, sir.”

“Good news, I suppose.”

Anthi stood silent in response, which was typical for her, much to Kathryn’s esteem.  Andorians were not known to be verbose, and for moments like this, only duty would help solve the puzzle of the station’s demise.

Annika walked up to the pair of officers.  “Captain, I’m not finding definite answers here.  Although I have not examined the four that just arrived, it’s a sure bet they’ll have similar conditions as everyone else: extreme levels of Adrenaline, Norepinephrine and Cortisol.”

“Those are stress hormones,” Kathryn declared.

Nodding, Annika continued.  “Everyone on Delphi Station was under extreme duress of some kind.  My educated guess is that they were under fight or flight conditions.  There is no physical trauma like you’d expect from explosive decompression.”  She sighed.  “Unless a more immediate cause is determined, I’m leaning toward a dreadful conclusion: mass suicide.”

Kathryn looked to the report about the fully intact structural integrity of the station.  The equation was looking bad.  “Personal logs will need to be reviewed, if there are any of course.”

Annika huffed in her suit as she looked to the transporter pad.  “I’ll finish here soon and send my report.”

Kathryn turned her suit to face Anthi and nodded toward the decompression chamber as a sign to exit.  “Let us leave Annika to her work.”

“I’m sure she would enjoy not being watched, sir.”

+++
Several minutes later, leaving Cargo Bay 4 …

“Any news on why didn’t we receive the distress call in time?”

Anthi looked to Kathryn as they walked toward a turbolift.  “Omazei completed a level one diagnostic of the transceiver and subspace communication logs.  All systems are functioning as expected.  She does have a reasonably plausible theory and it involves the Tyrant Star Cluster.”

Kathryn abruptly stopped, clearly surprised by the comment.  “It’s due to return?”

Nodding, Anthi continued.  “It already did.  As you know, the stellar phenomenon appears randomly at the galactic rim every one hundred years.  Telemetry revealed the Cluster appeared approximately twenty light years away from the station … four days ago.”

Kathryn raised a hand to her chin as she collated information about the tragedy at Delphi Station.  “The time stamp on the distress signal was four days ago.”

“Indeed.  The graviton shock wave created from the Cluster’s sudden appearance in our reality also caused a time dilation in subspace.  This best explains that while the message was sent four days ago in real time, we received the message two days ago”

Saddened by the revelation, Kathryn decided to continue walking as the information swirled in her head.  “The crew asked for help, and no one would have heard them.”

Anthi followed her Captain in muted agreement.

---

Cast For Crew:
Kathryn Beringer - Katheryn Winnick
Anthi Ythysi - Monique Ganderton
Omazei - Gemma Arterton
Annika Kramer - Abbie Cornish
Ian McKinnon - Ben Browder

Seen but not heard:
Yeoman – Male street extra 1

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Patriot's Game

Kathryn stood straight while looking at the data scrolling on the display.  “No offense S’Rel, but are you sure, absolutely sure?”

The female Vulcan sitting at her Operations station on the bridge nodded at the screen.  “Yes, sir.  Verification protocols were followed along with my own diagnostic.  The worm was manually installed by attaché Motira, shortly after we departed New Romulus.”

Scanning the data, Kathryn whispered to herself, “holodeck, medical, a munitions locker and ... the engine room?”  She looked away feeling confused, yet some action had to be done to stop further hemorrhaging of data.  “Isolate and five-layer encrypt all records.  Use whatever resources you need to purge every nanobyte of that worm code from the core.  Then send this information to my ready room.”  She turned to the Andorian First Officer.  “Anthi, I need to speak with Ambassador V’Sar, immediately.”

“Aye, Captain.”

+++

The Romulan Ambassador finished reviewing the information from the screen, his face contorted with disappointment.  Spinning the desktop display toward Kathryn, he sat back into the chair.

Kathryn sat motionless wearing a determined countenance.  “I wanted you to see the evidence first.  I must admit, it was sloppy work for Tal Shiar agent.  Regardless, I trust you will allow me to detain Motira.”

V’Sar sighed uncharacteristically and nodded.  “I trust you believe me when I say this is a complete surprise.  How the Tal Shiar maintains effort to meddle in Republican affairs disturbs me.”

“How you are certain this is about the Romulan Republic?  The worm was a digital recorder of specific sections on this ship, which is a well-known design.  Unless –,“  Kathryn had the thousand-yard stare for a brief moment, but long enough for V’Sar to look at her questioningly.  She tapped her combadge and stood.  “Security, locate Romulan Attaché Motira and escort her to the Brig, expect resistance.”

“Captain?”  V’Sar was clearly confused.

She moved around the desk and toward the door and then stopped to look at V’Sar.  “The Tal Shiar program was an old one, which is how we were able to find it, and Motira has explicit surveillance for a reason.  You can come with me, or you can stay here.  Either way, it may not matter unless we stop her.”

V’Sar stood and demanded, “What are your thoughts Captain Beringer?”

“I think Motira plans to blow up the ship.”

+++

Deck 15

Sitting at the bar of the Headsail Lounge, Motira was looking into an empty glass; the Tamarian Frost was very tasty and the spice flavor lingered on her lips.  Long dark brown hair fell to cover the sides of her face.  As people had been entering and leaving the Lounge, she did not realize the security detail enter the room.  Wearing traditional Romulan clothing made her easily stand out, even if she was the only one sitting at the bar.

Only when she noticed the bartender behind the bar back away from the direction of the main entrance, did she gather something was different.

I had hoped to have one more day, she thought to herself.  Casually turning in her seat, she took stock of the two human males; one dark-skinned and the other lighter, both bulky and tall enough to prove the intimidation they exuded.  Motira scoffed at the idea and then raised an eyebrow noticing they wore phasers at their hips.

The lighter-skinned one took a step forward.  “Attaché Motira, please come with us.”

She looked around the Lounge and counted six others, who were looking at the situation calmly and quietly, before responding.  “I am a representative of the Romulan Republic.  What is the meaning of this?”

“We have been ordered to escort you for safety reasons.”

“Is there an emergency?”

The officer’s hand moved halfway to the phaser.  “I do apologize for the inconvenience.  Please come with us.”

Motira shrugged and casually strolled past the security detail to exit the Headsail Lounge.

+++

Deck 9

The Turbolift doors opened and Motira stepped into the hallway, the burley security team quietly following her.  Turning a corner, she stopped as she noticed V’Sar and Kathryn waiting outside the doors to the Holding Cells several meters away.  “Amabssador, do you know what is going on?”

V’Sar’s sneered.  “Tal Shiar scum.”

The comment shocked Kathryn and Motria alike.  Kathryn raised her hands to calm the Ambassador.  “V’Sar, I think we-“

“For the Empire”, shouted Motira.  She balled a fist to backhand the security guard to her left, and then side kicked the guard to the right.  Both were thrown against walls, arms flailing from the shock attack.  She quickly reached for a phaser and swiveled toward the pair down the hallway, quickly pressing buttons to adjust the beam setting.

Kathryn recovered from Motira’s surprise assault on the security team.  “Motira, stand down!  Whatever you’re plans, it’s done.”

Motira looked to the guards and comforted with them incapacitated, she stalked a few steps forward.  “I just needed one more day,” she said aloud.

V’Sar stood motionless and relaxed even with the phaser trained on him.  “One day or a thousand years from now, the Star Empire is part of the history books.  New Romulus is the future.”

“Maybe so, but patriots like me will make every step to that future more difficult than the last.”  She gritted her teeth as she prepared to fire.

The Ambassador pushed Kathryn away, the counter-force propelling him toward Motira.  The phaser beam connected the two Romulans and V’Sar was wrapped in a cocoon of light.  Not expecting the Ambassador to wear a personal shield, Motira stood surprised.

Without stopping, V’Sar charged Motira.  He knocked the phaser out of her hand and then reached to choke the Attaché.  She gasped for air and buckled to her knees, struggling against his grip.

A phaser emitter touched V’Sar’s temple, forcing him to pause.  He looked to see Kathryn standing over him.  “That’s enough Ambassador; I think the Republic is victorious this day.”

V’Sar grinned and released his grip to stand.  Motira collapsed as she coughed in defeat.   He regained his regal poise before reaching into the folds of his diplomatic uniform.  Revealing a small device, he handed it to Kathryn.  “Thank you for your assistance, Captain Beringer.  I apologize to your crew for the inconvenience.”

Lowering the phaser, she replied, “indeed.”   Accepting the cube-shaped shield projector, Kathryn added, “neat trick.”

“A man in my position can make enemies very quickly, wouldn’t you agree?”

Kathryn lifted Motira from the floor.  The security team had recovered and escorted the Romulan toward the holding cells.  She watched them disappear before turning to V’Sar.  “What do you mean, ‘assistance’?”

The Ambassador became smug.  “I must apologize, Captain.  I knew there was a spy within the Ambassadorial coterie but was unable to discover who it was.  Our presence aboard this ship was not only for diplomatic reasons, but also as a vehicle, so to speak, to find, flush and neutralize the agent.  Or traitor, depending on who it was, of course.”

Kathryn's eyes narrowed.  "Of course."
___

Cast For Crew:
Kathryn Beringer - Katheryn Winnick
Anthi Ythysi - Monique Ganderton
S'Rel - Morena Baccarin
Ambassador V'Sar - Michael Fassbender
Attaché Motira – Priyanka Chopra
Security Officer 1 - Male street extra 1
Security Officer 2 - Male street extra 2