USS WHISTON by TemplarSora
Summary: Part 1 of 3. When the USS Whiston stumbles upon a stranded freighter, chief of security Brian Mayfield feels firsthand the legacy of Nero’s genocidal rampage three months earlier.
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Categories: Alternate Original Series, Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Tragedy
Warnings: Adult Language, Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: After Darkness
Chapters: 6 Completed: Yes Word count: 13587 Read: 7803 Published: 19 Oct 2011 Updated: 20 Oct 2011

1. Act 1 by TemplarSora

2. Act 2 by TemplarSora

3. Act 3 by TemplarSora

4. Act 4 by TemplarSora

5. Act 5 by TemplarSora

6. Act 6 by TemplarSora

Act 1 by TemplarSora
"Acting Captain's Log, Stardate 2258.42. We have had no word from Captain Pike. I therefore classified him as a hostage of the war criminal known as Nero.

“Nero, who has destroyed my home planet and most of its six billion inhabitants.

“While the essence of our culture has been saved in the elders who now reside upon this ship, I estimate that no more than ten thousand have survived.

“I am now a member of an endangered species."

-Commander Spock, USS
Enterprise




STAR TREK
AFTER DARKNESS

USS WHISTON

ACT 1


Brian was only vaguely aware of the electronic beeping that had slowly filled the room. His eyes never opened; he just rolled over onto his stomach, extending an arm reflexively so that it would hit the top of the shelf next to his bed. His hand stung from the force, but it still wasn’t enough to wake him; he had hit his alarm like this since grade school.

Still the beeping persisted. He frowned and his eyes slowly opened, trying to adjust to the low light in the room. He smacked his hand on the shelf again before opening his eyes to stare at the clock display.

0446

Not my alarm, he thought. Dammit.


The door to the washroom opened, and a figure ran to the opposite side of the room. There was a dull beep as he tapped the control surface, and the alarm turned off. The figure let out a held breath, and turned toward his closet.

“Carl, so help me God, if you wake up before your alarm again…”

The figure stopped mid-step, then slowly turned around. Brian tapped a control on the shelf next to him; the light in the room increased so that he could better see his roommate. He had a sheepish grin on his face, and was rubbing the back of his head nervously.

“Oh, good morning, Brian! Yeah, I’m sorry, I really had to go and…” Brian’s glare stopped the other officer, who swallowed down the lump in his throat. “I forgot.”

“Yeah. No kidding.” Brian tapped the control surface to dim the lights again. He closed his eyes. “I’m going back to bed.”

“Ok.” There was more movement; Brian knew it was Carl working to get dressed for the day. The engineer was short and hefty, so quiet was not something he was good at. Brian turned onto his side, giving as much distance as he could between them.

Carl’s breath became ragged and quick, and he grunted a few times. More movement in the room. There was a loud pop, and then a sharp gasp of breath.

Brian flung himself upright in the bed. In one fluid motion, he had reached into the drawer under the shelf next to him and drew his phaser, sat up in the bed, and turned to face the noise. The phaser whined as it charged.

“Whoa! Mayfield, it’s just me! Morning exercise time!”

Brian cursed, powering off his weapon but keeping it pointed at the engineer. “The hell was that?”

“I stretched my back. I didn’t realize I needed a pop but man, did that feel good. You ever have one of those…”

“Enough!” Brian turned and flung the phaser back into its drawer. He grabbed his pillow and bunched it into a ball before falling back onto the bed. “No exercises in the room! Get to the gym!”

“So, you don’t want to-“

Brian was back up, the phaser drawn and powered again, leveled at Carl. “I will count to five; you had better be out of this room and in the gym by that time.”

“Mayfield, I don’t think this-“

“One!” He flipped the phaser mode selector; the center piece of the weapon rotated so that the red discharge area was now facing Carl. “Two!”

The burly engineer got the message; he bumbled quickly around the room, gathering up his red uniform and boots before running out the door. Brian smiled; he powered off the phaser again, remembering to reset the setting to “stun” before he stored it again. He lay back on his pillow and closed his eyes, satisfied.

There was a small chime, and then a boatswain’s call. Brian opened one eye.

“Lieutenant Mayfield, this is the bridge. Please report to the conference room immediately for a mission report.” There was a second chime and an audible crackle as the speakers in the ceiling turned off.

“Dammit to hell!” Brian flung his pillow across the room.

===


Lieutenant Mayfield stepped off the turbolift with a yawn, rubbing the stubble that he had left on his neck. It annoyed him that, in his rush to get ready, he had missed a spot while shaving. He just hoped that the dim lighting of the ship wouldn’t give away that fact. He strolled the narrow corridor to the bridge, already hearing the familiar pings and whistles that were present on every bridge in the fleet. He rounded a corner and stood at the edge of the heart of activity on the ship.

The bridge of the Whiston was circular, with half a dozen stations lining the walls, their operators facing away from the center command bank. On the far side was a sweeping vista of space, separated from the interior of the ship by a large pane of transparent aluminum. Various tactical and system displays cluttered the outer edges of the main viewer, framing the dark expanse of stars as the starship cut through the darkness; at the very bottom, the leading edge of the Newton-class starship’s saucer was just visible.

A railing separated the top level from the lower command area, where the captain’s chair and the navigation and helm console sat. A center chair was elevated so that the captain clearly sat above the rest of the bridge.

The chair turned around, and the balding man that occupied it looked up and grinned at Brian. Mayfield quickly straightened himself and brought his hands behind him, coming to a position he likened to being between at attention and at ease. “Captain Harrison.”

“Brian, hope I didn’t wake you up too early.” The captain winked, then stood from his chair. He turned to look over his shoulder. “Schmidt, you have the bridge. Senior officers, conference room.” He stepped down from the center platform and hopped over the railing so that he was on the upper level of the bridge. Brian pressed his back to the wall to let the other man pass first.

Harrison let out a slight chuckle. His arm flew out, smacking Brian in the stomach with the back of his hand. Brian coughed and staggered to the side, caught off guard. The captain just laughed more as he kept walking down the corridor. “How many times have I told you, Mayfield? Stop standing at attention for me.”

Brian coughed again, a small smile creeping across his face. No matter how many times he did it, Harrison always managed to get him. “Too many times, sir.” A few of the other officers began to snicker as Mayfield turned his back to the bridge and followed the captain.

===


Mayfield entered the conference room behind the captain, taking his usual chair on the left of the small table, next to the chief engineer. She gave him a small smile and a nod as he sat down. “Ho, Brian.”

He smiled courteously at the woman. “Ho, Rebecca.” He turned to look at the rest of the table; he knew the woman’s bright green eyes were quickly boring holes into the side of his head, eager to catch his attention again. The two had met years earlier, while she was a more junior officer and he was just finishing with college. It had been a fling, Brian admitted, and he hadn’t reciprocated any more feelings after that night. Still, Hadley had been obsessed. On more than one occasion, Mayfield had been sure she was watching him, hacking into a surveillance system or two just to see him. He was certain the computer-savvy woman had rigged his orders so that he would be on the ship with her.

Across the table from them sat Tyler and Ricky, the navigator and helmsman of the ship. The two were nearly inseparable, from what Brian could tell, always working out in the gym or eating together. They routinely finished each other’s sentences, and on more than one occasion coordinated without talking to each other to finish a task that was presented to them. There were rumors in the lower decks - as there always would be - about the two, but Mayfield had never seen them together outside of public places on the ship. Still, the bond between the two was enough to make them a formidable pair on the bridge when they worked together, a trait that quickly brought them to Captain Harrison’s attention. There had been no questions when he made them part of his command crew.

At the far end sat the first officer, Lieutenant Commander Raal. The Caitian had been recently reassigned to the Whiston when the previous first officer, Commander Kim, transferred to his own command following the bloody Battle of Vulcan. Mayfield didn’t miss Kim, who had spent his career as a security officer; the two had constantly butted heads about ship’s security, and on more than one occasion had come to blows (in the boxing ring, of course) over disagreements in policy. Raal was a science officer, and so he often trusted Brian’s judgment on matters of security. He was a likable man, and morale had improved significantly since he had taken up the position as Captain Harrison’s right hand; even Harrison, who was by nature a very laid back and casual individual, seemed to unwind when Raal came aboard.

Next to the purring Caitian sat Doctor Maria de la Reina. The good doctor was the oldest one at the table, seen as a source of wisdom and comfort to the rest of the command staff as well as the ship. The Martian had, very lovingly, been dubbed “Abuela” by the rest of the crew, a title she took great pride in. She smiled sweetly at the Captain as he took his seat at the head of the table; the two were often seen together. Unlike Tyler and Ricky, however, there was no question that Harrison and de la Reina were much closer than simple friends.

Harrison sat down with a sigh, looking around the table. He tapped one of the controls in front of him; the triangular monitor in the center of the table, which had three faces on its three sides, came to life with data. The gathered officers leaned forward to study the displays.

“About five hours ago, an Earth Cargo Service vessel, the Horizon, released a general broadcast requesting assistance. They are having engine problems, and asked for anyone in the area to just stop by and check on them, and see if we can render any aid.”

Hadley shifted in her seat, frowning. “That’s it? Engine trouble? If it’s an ECS, the thing is probably almost a century old. No wonder they’re having issues.”

Ricky laughed a little at that, nodding in agreement. Raal silenced him with a low growl in the back of his throat before tapping one of the controls in front of him on his side of the table. “They included a flight-path authorization number in their transmission.” The screens on the monitor shifted to show the extra information. There was a string of numbers and letters.

De la Reina covered her mouth with a hand. “Dios mio.” She looked around the screen to Harrison. “Do we know how many?”

Brian leaned forward, studying the data. He didn’t see what the doctor had, and voiced his confusion.

Captain Harrison shook his head. “Communication has been sparse since Command received this message. The last thing we want to do is announce to the quadrant the cargo that ship is carrying. But, from what information I could gather, anywhere from four to six-hundred.”

Mayfield raised an eyebrow. “Four to six-hundred what?”

“Vulcans, Brian.” De la Reina frowned sadly. “Refugees.”

An uncomfortable silence fell on the room as the officers paused in shock. After a minute, Harrison spoke again.

“Mr. Shipman, lay in a course to rendezvous with the Horizon. Mr. Crusher, you are clear to engage at maximum warp. We have orders to aid the Horizon and then escort her to her final destination. Doctor, have your staff ready to treat any injured or sick.” He looked around the table at his staff. “Any questions?”

No one moved or said anything. Harrison nodded. “Dismissed.”

===
Act 2 by TemplarSora
ACT 2


“Fifteen seconds.”

“All hands, prepare to drop out of warp. Raal, system scan the moment we’re out of warp; make sure we’re alone with the freighter. Mayfield, weapons on standby, and raise shields.”

“Aye.”

“Aye, sir.” Brian took his position at a console on the wall to the left of the main viewer. He worked the controls, quickly raising the shields and putting the weapons in standby mode; the moment the ship dropped out of warp, they would be activated and charge up in case the ship was flying into an ambush. He glanced to his right; one of the tactical displays on the edge of the viewer turned red, and then green, and finally blue to show that the shields had been activated. He checked his own console to make sure the readings matched. Satisfied, he faced the viewer again, watching the bright tunnel of light that was the warp effect scream past at unimaginable speeds.

“Five seconds. Three, two, one, mark!”

There was a flash; the warp effect was suddenly replaced with the vast darkness of open space, stars too numerous to count filling the black field. Brian lurched forward in his seat as the inertial dampers on the old ship struggled to bring it to a halt while not pasting her interior with her passengers. An unsettling scream of metal reverberated through the hull as the engines disengaged.

“Now reading all stop.”

“We’re at the rendezvous point, Captain.”

Harrison stood from his chair, gazing out the viewer. He searched a moment before turning to his right. “Raal? Where are they?”

Raal was bent over one of the science station’s displays, analyzing the sensor scans. He reached up on his panel and tapped a series of controls. The bridge crew turned back to look out the viewer.

The scene distorted as an image began to be projected on the transparent wall. It zoomed in, then panned right, and zoomed again. “There she is, sir,” the Caitian purred. A white square framed the small freighter as she continued moving off, slowly continuing her trek.

Harrison nodded, then turned behind him to the communications officer. “Schmidt, hail them. Let them know we’re here, and transmit code Victor-Uniform-Lima-five-three-niner.”

Schmidt nodded, pressing the communications device in her ear with one hand and opening the communications channel. “ECS Horizon, this is the Federation Starship Whiston. We are here to render aide - confirmation code transmitted. Please respond.”

Brian turned back to his console, taking the firing controls to manual. He liked to do what he called “floating the targeting”: he would keep targeting sensors tracking in a circular motion around a fixed point in space - in this case, the Horizon - so that if there was an ambush, there was a better chance of him locking on and firing quicker than the computer could. It had worked enough times in small skirmishes with the Klingons and their cloaking devices, so he utilized it as much as possible now.

The Horizon continued to steam ahead. “ECS Horizon, this is the USS Whiston, please, respond.” He heard Schmidt go out again. Another few, tense seconds passed in silence.

“Something’s not right.”

Brian turned his head enough to look over his shoulder at Tyler. “Way to jinx it, Shipman.”

“Just saying, sir.”

“He’s right.” Harrison stood from his chair and walked around to where the communication station was. He leaned over the console next to Schmidt, watching her sensors as she went out over the channel again. He frowned. “They’re definitely receiving. Mayfield, tactical scan of the freighter.”

“On it.” Brian stood to reach the controls that were above him. He glanced at the viewer; the screen was projecting a rotating image of the cargo ship. As it rotated, red lines began pointing at areas on the ship, and boxes with text appeared at the end of each line, describing what the tactical sensors were reading. “She’s got a lot of hull stress, nothing consistent with weapons fire, or at least not very recent weapons fire. There we go.” He stopped the rotation and highlighted a specific area. “Their comm system is old as sin; they can hear us, but I don’t think they can respond to us. We’re going to have to move closer.”

Harrison’s jaw dropped. “You have to be joking. How did they send the general broadcast?”

“Different comm channel. We’re broadcasting on short-range subspace right now. Their short range comms have a much shorter range, probably just large enough for a small convoy, but nothing substantial for cross-system communication like this.” Mayfield smirked a little. “False alarm.”

Schmidt sighed. “I’ll switch communication channels to something they can respond to.” She pressed a few controls on her panel. Then, pressing her earpiece again, she repeated her call. “ECS Horizon, this is the USS Whiston, now transmitting on medium range subspace. Please respond.”

“Whiston, this is Horizon, Mayweather here. We’ve been hearing you, glad we can talk now.”

Ricky began clapping, which brought some laughter from Tyler and a few other officers on the bridge. Brian shook his head, smiling; he noticed Schmidt’s ears go bright red, and he could only imagine how red the young woman’s face had gotten.

“We read you as well, Horizon. Confirm you received aide code.”

Confirmed, Whiston. Glad you made it. Not exactly the best place in the galaxy to break down with this cargo.”

“Mayweather, this is Captain Harrison. We can begin transporting over supplies and personnel to render repairs once we are within transport range.”

“Negative on the transport, Captain. Horizon’s been modified with transport inhibitors to prevent fast raids from pirates. You’re going to have to come along side and board.”

“Smart,” Brian said. “They’re not joking around with this.”

“Indeed.” Harrison turned to the helm station. “Crusher, bring us alongside the Horizon and begin boarding protocols. Captain Mayweather, we’ll be there soon.”

“Understood. We’re going to hold this position for now; I’ll get the drinks ready.”

Harrison laughed. “I might take you up on that. Whiston out.”

===


“Well, this should be interesting. I’ve never been on a freighter before.”

Ricky looked over at Tyler. “You’re joking. Not even at the museum above Earth?”

Tyler shook his head. “Come on. No one goes there for the freighters. You go there to see Enterprise or Phoenix, not some old cargo ship that -"

“That ‘pioneered our first steps into the great expanse of our destiny - outer space.’ You poor, poor -"

“Shut up, Rick.”

Brian rolled his eyes as the trio reached the airlock, where Harrison and Raal were waiting for them. Hadley was walking up from the opposite corridor, an engineering kit slung over her shoulder for preliminary scans of the damaged systems. She caught sight of Mayfield and grinned; Brian couldn’t help but smile back, like he had always done, out of courtesy. One of these days, he thought, I need to just stop being so damn nice to her. The thought of being tossed into a plasma injector, or having a power conduit unexpectedly burst in his quarters squashed the idea in a heartbeat. As far as stalkers went, an engineer was a bad one to have.

“Are we all ready?” Harrison glanced around. “Where’s Abuela?”

Rebecca turned around, then back again, sighing. “She was right behind me.”

“I’m still right behind you, Becca.” The doctor came around the corner, smiling softly. “I could use a little help, though.” She was carrying seven medical kits, three slung over each shoulder and one in her hand.

Harrison glared at Hadley. “You didn’t think to help her?” He moved to the doctor, pulling three of the kits off one shoulder. Brian stepped forward as well to take the other three.

Hadley shrugged. “I brought my own equipment.”

“I can see that.”

“It’s ok, really. I actually went back for two more; I wasn’t sure how many I would need. That’s why I wasn’t right behind her.” De la Reina smiled again, her face betraying no hint of annoyance at the engineer. She looked past her at the navigator and helmsman. “Boys, why are you here?”

Harrison turned to face them. “Hmm, she’s right. I didn’t call for you to come.”

Crusher’s face fell. “I was just hoping to see the ship.”

Raal purred softly. “This isn’t a peep show, gentlemen. Let us establish contact first; you’ll get a chance to come over later, I am sure.”

Tyler nodded, then turned around and took Ricky by the elbow. “Back the bridge, kid.” He didn’t look at all disappointed in not boarding the Horizon. Ricky turned around without argument and followed his partner back down the corridor.

Brian watched them leave, then turned back to the assembly. Harrison gave Hadley one last glare as he turned to the airlock guard. He gave the man a nod.

The guard pressed a glowing red button on the wall next to the airlock. There was a hiss of air, and then a chime as the light turned green. He reached below the panel and pulled on a lever that was recessed in the wall. The large doors opened, sliding into the walls and revealing the passage from the Whiston to the Horizon.

The opposite doors opened, revealing the interior of the freighter. In the doorway stood three people. Two were smiling; the third simply regarded the Starfleet crew passively, a pointed eyebrow rising in curiosity.

“Welcome to the Horizon, ladies and gentlemen! I’m Captain Paul Mayweather the third; this is my brother and first officer, Jordan.” He motioned to the man standing next to him; it was easy to see that the two dark skinned men were related. “And this,” he motioned to the third man standing to his right, “Is Talak, the refugee ‘mayor.’”

Talak lifted his hand, separating his fingers in the traditional and familiar greeting. “Peace and long life. It is most fortunate for my people that you have come.”

Captain Harrison returned the salute to Talak. He turned to the side to introduce his officers. “This is my first officer, Lieutenant Commander Raal. My chief medical officer, de la Reina; chief engineer Hadley; and my chief of security, Lieutenant Mayfield.”

The Mayweather brothers smiled, perking up at the similar name. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Starfleeters. Come on, welcome aboard.” Paul Mayweather began waving them forward as he turned and began to walk down the corridor. “There’s a lot to talk about.”

The officers began to follow Mayweather. De la Reina paused for a moment. “If it’s alright, Captain, I would like to go see the refugees. I’m not very helpful in a briefing.”

Captain Mayweather nodded, turning to his brother. “Jordan, take her to the hold. You can meet us later.”

Jordan nodded, then motioned for the doctor to follow him. “This way, ma’am.” As they walked off, Brian could hear de la Reina laugh lightly, as she always did before correcting someone younger than her.

Sure enough, he heard her say, just before they rounded the corner, “Please, Mr. Mayweather, call me ‘Abuela.’”

===


“To be honest, my brother wasn’t big on calling for Starfleet to help. If we could have had it our way, I would have kept this in the ECS or with the High Command. As luck would have it, no freighter would have gotten here in time, and most of the Vulcan ships that are left are busy rounding up as much of the remaining population as they can find.” Paul Mayweather sipped from his mug. “The fact that my grandfather was Starfleet did help my decision though.” He winked at Harrison.

Harrison laughed, putting his own mug of beer down on the table. “I thought the name was familiar. Decided not to follow in his footsteps?”

Paul shook his head. “Even gramps had that longing to be a boomer again. Dad tried, for a bit, but it didn’t work very well for him. He bought this ship when he left Starfleet and joined up with the ECS. The Horizon-2; it was the name of the Mayweathers’ ship a century ago, before she was finally retired.”

Brian sipped his glass of water, listening. He knew the game the captains played; drink, establish a good camaraderie, and then get to business. He didn’t mind it; the fact that both captains seemed to be on equal levels of casualness helped the conversation not be awkward, as it so often did when Starfleet and the cargo service had to work together.

Mayweather finished his beer, putting his mug on the table. He motioned to Harrison. “Another?”

Harrison finished his own, then shook his head. “No, thanks.” He put the mug down as Mayweather stood to refill his own, then turned to Talak, who had been silently watching the exchange between the captains. “Sir, how many survivors are on board?”

“There are five hundred twenty-three of us on board.”

Hadley let out a slow whistle. Brian shook his head; it was hard to imagine there being five hundred people on the Whiston, let alone on a freighter a quarter of her size.

“We are some of the first ones who evacuated after the battle over our planet. Nero did capture a few of our ships, and destroyed many others that were attempting to flee. I believe, as you would say, we were the ‘lucky ones.’”

“How many families do you have in your city, Mayor?”

“There are thirty family units, as you would see them, of four to fifteen members. Many of us escaped in personal shuttle craft; the larger ships were easier for the Romulans to destroy.” Talak paused, and Brian noticed the stoic man seemed to shrink a little in his chair; it was the most emotional response he had seen for a Vulcan. “Why do you ask, Captain?”

“I can’t imagine a cargo hold has very good conditions - no offense, Mayweather.”

The other captain shook his head. “None taken. We’ve had to do a lot of modification to the Horizon to protect our guests, but the cargo hold isn’t designed to have gravity plating running 24/7. And it’s very close quarters in there.”

Harrison nodded. “As I said, I can’t imagine the quarters are good, even for your people. We can move most of your families to the Whiston; conditions will be spartan at best, and some families may need to share suites, but it’ll be better in the long run.”

Talak nodded. “Your hospitality is…appreciated, Captain Harrison. I can give you a manifest of the families, smallest to largest, in order to maximize room on both ships.”

“That would be good. Forward it to Lieutenant Mayfield here; he’ll be in charge of reassigning crew quarters.” Harrison looked over at Mayfield.

Brian nodded, standing up a little straighter. “Aye sir, I can get on it right away.”

Harrison grinned a little, and Mayfield could tell how bad he wanted to reach out and smack him for coming to attention; Brian was thankful they were in company.
Act 3 by TemplarSora
ACT 3


Brian wiped his eyes and yawned. He leaned back in his chair, pushing on the desk in front of him for extra leverage, trying to stretch as much as he could. The chronometer on the computer monitor in front of him showed 2206; he had been working to reassign as much of the crew to new quarters for the better part of three hours now, as well as trying to fit as many refugees onto the Whiston as was safe. It was exhausting and brain-numbing work.

Brian stood from his desk, walking over to where a coffee pot was staying warm on the small counter that made up the kitchenette of the room. He poured himself another cup - he couldn’t remember how many he had had so far - and walked back to his desk, taking the time to stretch out his legs.

Tellarites couldn’t bunk with Andorians. Males and females had to remain separate. Try to keep people on the same shift together. Try to keep people in the same departments together. Ranking officers can only go two to a room. Max of four people in one room except bunk areas. Only ensigns could go into the bunk areas with enlisted. Brian’s brain whirled with all the conditions he had to consider as he moved almost half the crew from one of the two under-slung secondary hulls that made the Newton-class unique to the other. His goal was to separate the refugees from the rest of the crew in the port-secondary hull; there were far fewer labs and working areas in that hull, the recreation area and gym were located there, and the shuttle bay was larger, allowing for a quicker and easier escape for them should the Whiston come under attack. The DV suites were also in that secondary hull, which made it easier for Mayfield to relocate the larger families into private quarters.

He yawned again, then shook his head, trying to clear himself from his tired state.

The conditions on the Horizon hadn’t been nearly as bad as Abuela had feared, but they weren’t wonderful. There were multiple people who were very ill, and the doctor had them taken to sickbay immediately for treatment and quarantine; a disease could spread like wildfire in the close quarters of the freighter. Elderly Vulcans were suffering from Bendii Syndrome, and emotional transference was rampant in a few areas of the ship as a result.

As for the Horizon herself, Hadley had been hard at work finding the cause of the engine trouble. Brian was certain it was because, as Rebecca had said, the ship was almost a century old. Federation starships couldn’t last that long, even with an incredible maintenance and refit schedule. Already, Rebecca was planning on upgrading the communication system on the ship, and to rebuild and upgrade the jury-rigged transport inhibitors. Her engineers had jumped at the task; a new transport inhibitor-system was being built even now.

The door chime sounded, destroying the silence in the room and startling Brian. He glanced at the chronometer again. 2235. When did I doze off? “Come in,” he called out, stretching again.

The door slid aside, and Brian smiled. “sh’Aleen.”

The blue-skinned Andorian at the door smiled as she walked in, the door sliding closed behind her with a soft sigh. Her white hair spilled over her shoulders and down the front of her uniform; no doubt, Brian reflected, she had just gotten off shift. Two antennae curved forward from the back of her head, slowly bending towards him and then resuming their normal curve; it was her sign, as he had learned, that she was very happy to see him.

sh’Aleen grinned wider once the door was closed, kicked off her shoes, and hopped over to where Brian was sitting. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him; her antennae dipped lower, so that they were resting on the top of his head.

Brian returned the kiss, all exhaustion instantly disappearing as he wrapped his arms around her.

She released him, her face a brighter blue than normal. “Where were you, Brian? We were supposed to have dinner tonight.” She glanced at the computer monitor next to him, then looked back at him. “Captain?”

Brian winced; he had completely forgotten about dinner in the hours he had been working. He nodded. “Captain. I need to rebunk the crew and find quarters for the refugees.”

sh’Aleen frowned, and her antennae stood up behind her in annoyance. “I have to move?” She rolled her eyes, walking around to the other side of the desk. She plopped down on Carl’s bed. “What are the Vulcans coming on board for?”

Oh lord; here we go. “sh’Aleen. Now’s not the time.” Brian leaned back in his chair, rotating the monitor so that he could see her better. “You know why we’re doing this.”

“That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.” She swung her head to get her hair out of her way, then reached back to unclasp the neck of her uniform. “Whatever the green-bloods did to deserve this probably doesn’t even matter.” She stripped off her uniform top, revealing a black tank-top and more of her blue skin. “They can’t claim they’ve never been conquered anymore.”

“sh’Aleen!” Mayfield looked at her in disbelief. “I can’t believe you’re voicing this!”

Her antennae curled down low in an apologetic display, and she lay back on the bed. “I’m sorry, I just…I don’t trust them to begin with. Now I have to give up my space to them because some psychotic Romulan went on a murder spree for no apparent reason. It’s not my fault; why should it be my problem?”

“Because they are Federation citizens, and you’re a Starfleet officer,” Brian snapped, turning the monitor back in front of him to block her body from view. He pressed a button on the display to begin working again. He stopped, then turned the monitor again. “What if it had been Earth? Would you have the same thoughts?”

“Humans have always…intrigued Andoria. You were with the Vulcans, but you also stood up to them, proved them wrong, forced them into doing things they wouldn’t do.” She propped herself up and shrugged. “You pink-skins are a lot more trustworthy to us.”

“So ancient grudges prevent you from helping today?”

She rolled her eyes. “How poetic.”

“I hope to God the rest of your people don’t think like you do.”

“Obviously not; already a few colonies have offered to take refugees in.” She frowned. “Andoria even offered to allow P’Jem to be officially colonized, despite how close it would put the Vulcans to our borders.”

Brian hit the table with his open hand, causing sh’Aleen to sit up straight, her antennae going straight up in surprise. “What borders?” he asked. “The Andorian Empire ended when they joined the Federation almost a century ago, sh’Aleen!” He shook his head, frustrated. “What made you so hateful of Vulcans?”

“You can’t just flip a switch and expect centuries of animosity to just disappear! I can’t help the way I was raised; I’ve never had a good reason to trust them, or take them at face value, or not think that somewhere in those pointy-eared heads of theirs that they were plotting.” She stood up, grabbing her uniform. “Why are we even doing this; can’t they take care of themselves?”

“There’s less than ten-thousand of them, sh’Aleen! They can’t take care of themselves, not anymore!”

She frowned and huffed, like a child about to start a tantrum. “I’m sorry.” She walked to the door to leave.

“Wait.” Brian was on his feet, and he grabbed sh’Aleen by the wrist, pulling her back to him. She frowned and pulled her hand away from him, but not before Brian managed to wrap his arms around her. They stood like for a moment, neither of them saying a word.

Finally, slowly, sh’Aleen let her head rest on his chest, her body relaxing as she reached around and held him as well. “I’m sorry. I hate what happened to them, but I hate them just as much. I can’t change that.”

Brian sighed, and gave her a squeeze. “I wish you could.” He let her go enough to look down at her; she recognized the move and looked up at him. “I’m not asking you to like it; I’m asking you to do your job.”

She nodded. “I can do that, sir.” She winked playfully at him, prompting him to roll his eyes at her. “I’ll keep my comments to myself, too.”

“Thanks.” He leaned in and kissed her again, and suddenly the previous minutes’ argument melted in the affectionate display.

===


“If we enable this plan, I can have the ship’s crew in the primary hull as well as on the starboard side; the refugees will be able to move into the port-secondary hull and enjoy some privacy. We can move three-hundred over; any more than that and we won’t be able to evacuate everyone in the event of an emergency.” Brian handed a personal display to Harrison and a second to Talak. “I’ve taken the liberty of going through the list of refugees I was provided and choosing the best candidates for relocation to the Whiston. With your approval, of course,” he added, addressing the Vulcan.

Talak activated the personal display and scrolled down the list. “I will make a few changes to your list - there are some who deserve better accommodations for their status - however, this will work. I can begin the necessary preparations immediately. Will you require security checks for people coming aboard?”

Brian glanced at his captain before he replied, shaking his head. “Unless the captain has any issues he hasn’t voiced to me, I have no need for security checks. I’ll be posting security details to the access points to your side of the ship, as well as to any sensitive areas, but otherwise you’ll be left alone, if you want.”

“Thank you, Mr. Mayfield.” Harrison nodded his approval, indicating for Brian to take his seat. Rebecca stood up next, pressing a control in front of her to activate the triangular monitor in the center of the conference table.

“We’ve come up with a solution to upgrading the transport inhibitors on the Horizon. I also have engineers installing similar systems on the Whiston. The only issue now is installing the new inhibitors on the Horizon.” She motioned to the monitor. “In order to get around the massive jury rig the Horizon crew set up, I need to turn the entire system off, strip it down, and then re-install it with the upgrades.”

Paul Mayweather frowned, shaking his head. “No way. Not a chance. You need to find a way to do it with the system on.”

Hadley put her hands on her hips and frowned. “Then please, by all means sir, give me another way.” She pointed at the small display monitor again. “I don’t know who the hell you got to install this old-ass system, but it wasn’t designed for your ship to begin with. If I try to do anything to it, it’ll crash anyway, and then it’ll be offline for even longer than what I’m asking for.”

Raal growled softly in the back of his throat, in warning to Hadley. “How much time do you need, commander?”

Hadley shrugged. “Two, maybe three hours. Four max. If I’m not allowed to take it offline and the damn thing blows, it’ll take me two days to get a brand new system installed instead.” She crossed her arms. “It’s your call, obviously, but this is my recommendation. Sir.”

Mayweather frowned again and shook his head. “I can’t do that. Even with half the refugees protected on your ship, I can’t risk the inhibitors going off-line, not in this area of space.” He turned to Harrison. “I’ve made this run enough times to know where the Orions lurk. The moment they get a sniff that our cargo isn’t protected, they will raid us.”

Harrison looked at Mayweather, confused for a moment. “The Orions are neutral; they wouldn’t dare risk conflict with the Federation.”

Mayweather shook his head. “That’s a load of bull. The Syndicate is heavily active in this area, and they’re pirates by every definition of the word. Can you imagine how lucrative a market there would be for Vulcan slaves?” He leaned back in his chair. “The system stays online.”

Harrison frowned, and then sighed as he turned to Hadley. “Be careful.” He threw her a warning glare. “This isn’t the time to prove a point; make it work.”

Rebecca sighed, the frustration apparent on her face. Brian knew what the warning meant to her; he had witnessed firsthand her “antics” to prove people wrong.

She had warned Harrison on an earlier mission that, in order to safely make upgrades to the plasma-injectors, the ship’s core would have to be offline for two hours. The task could be done with the core online, but it would be slower work and there would be more risk to her crew if something went wrong. In the end, Harrison had ordered her to make the upgrades with the core online. Three hours into the process, a warp core breach began; Hadley was “forced” to eject the core to save the ship, leaving them stranded near the Klingon border for three days before another ship could reach them and tow them back to spacedock, much to her satisfaction. The general consensus among the engineers was that, until Hadley joined in to help that day, everything was going fine. Nothing could be proven, but they were sure she had simulated the breach and ejected the core on purpose.

Harrison knew it too, and had busted Hadley back down to lieutenant commander because of it. Brian could only imagine what one of her tantrums would do to the Vulcans.

Rebecca took in a deep breath and nodded. “Aye, sir. We’ll begin as soon as the Horizon is ready.”
Act 4 by TemplarSora
ACT 4


“Looking good over here, Captain. We’re ready to go.”

“Mr. Raal, one more scan. Long range; make sure we’re alone out here.”

Raal purred softly, and laid his ears back on his head in frustration. Brian couldn’t blame the first officer; the captain had had him scan the system and surrounding areas five times already. After the briefing six hours ago, Paul Mayweather had a private meeting with Harrison. Brian wasn’t sure what had been discussed, but the captain had come out of it looking very troubled. After a private chat with Abuela, he had returned the bridge, ordering sensor scans for any ships approaching the system. Mayfield had no doubt he had seen what Mayweather had been talking about - Orion pirates, abducting crew to be sold off as slaves. It had happened a century earlier, Brian knew, when the NX-01 had encountered them; nine crew members had been abducted. Captain Archer had to buy one to save his life, and then arranged a jail break to free the others. Since then, the Orions had stayed mostly to the shadows, never overtly conducting business as long as the Federation was watching them. They even enjoyed trade with Earth from time to time.

Brian frowned, focusing on his own control console. He knew what he was doing; trying to analyze his enemy, be ready to understand them to try and counter them. They’re not my enemy. There’s no way they would do something so...so… Any number of words sprung to mind. Heartless; cruel; merciless. To prey on the Vulcans, after they as a race had lost so much already. Logic be damned; he had seen the faces of some of the older children, the ones who knew what had happened. All of them were afraid; not just the children, but the parents, the elders, the priestess and her aide - all of them afraid of what would happen not to them, but to who they were. Even Talak had trouble keeping his composure; when Abuela had informed him that two elders were suffering from Bendii and wouldn’t live for much longer, he had staggered and his eyes had widened. In a fraction of a second, he had shown the turmoil under his façade to everyone around him.

To lose more would be devastating, to the race and to the Horizon community.

“Scans are still showing no other ships in the area. Sector control reports no unauthorized ships in the lane.” Raal turned around from his station. “We are alone, sir.”

Harrison nodded and tapped a control on the arm of his chair. “Hadley, proceed with the upgrade.”

“Aye, sir.”

The channel closed and Harrison stood up from his chair. “Raal, the ship is yours. I’ll be in my office; update me on Hadley’s progress, and continue to scan for pirates.” Brian watched as he walked to the back of the bridge and entered the corridor, his gait uncharacteristically rigid.

Raal sat down in the captain’s chair, shifting a bit to move his tail out of the way and get comfortable. He growled a little. “I refuse to ever be a captain until they make a chair for my people.” The rest of the bridge laughed a little, and Raal purred as the corners of his mouth raised slightly in his version of a smile.

===


“Eleven!” Brian gasped, letting the bar drop on the rests above him. He sat up from the bench, wiping the sweat off his brow with his sleeve. “Eat that!”

The rest of the security officers laughed, and Brian stood up. “Jim, go for it.” A tall man stepped forward and lay down on the bench. Brian walked over and grabbed a water bottle, taking a large swig.

Raal had excused him an hour into the upgrade to go work out with his security team. His duties as a bridge officer often excluded him from joining the grunts in the weekly workout, but he made it as often as he could.

Sh’Aleen caught his eye from where she was standing in front of the dumbbells. He smiled a little and walked over to her, tossing a glance back at the bench press in time to see Jim finish his reps. The man hopped off and invited another to take the bench.

“How goes it?” he asked as he came up behind her.

She looked at him in the mirror and grinned, continuing her curls. “As well as I can be. Thanks for guard duty.” Her smile held firm on her face, but her words cut deep like ice.

Brian winced a little. “I put everyone on the rotation, sh’Aleen.”

“I know.” She finished her curls and began a new motion, putting her arms out straight to her sides and lifting. “And I’ll do my job.”

Brian nodded. “Good. It’s only for a little while. They’ll be off the ship in no time.”

“Won’t be fast enough.”

“Lieutenant,” Brian warned. “You’re treading dangerously close to crossing the line.”

The Andorian dropped her weights on the rack. She bent down to grab a towel and bottle, wiping her face off. “I’m not allowed an opinion?”

“Sure you are. Just don’t voice it to me.” He frowned. “I’m still your boss.”

Sh’Aleen opened her mouth to snap back, but was interrupted as the lights in the gym turned blood red, and the alert klaxon screamed. Everyone in the gym paused in surprise for a moment, and then they were all up, heading for the exit to get to their stations. Sh’Aleen reached out and grabbed Brian’s hand for a moment, giving it a quick squeeze before she turned to make her way to her post.

Mayfield headed to the nearest door and punched a comm. panel on the wall. “Mayfield to bridge, what’s going on?!”

“Mr. Mayfield, get up here on the double. The Horizon’s EPS is fluctuating dangerously, and we’ve just located five unidentified ships on sensors.”

“On my way!” Brian punched off the comm. channel with a curse, then ran out the door and into the corridor towards the turbolift.

===


“Status of the Horizon?”

Mayfield stepped onto the bridge as Harrison barked his question. The command center was alive with activity, and Brian had to avoid bumping into a few technicians on his way to his post. He sat down and activated his controls, then turned to the viewscreen. A tactical display on the left side showed the Whiston and Horizon side by side in blue; five red dots were closing in fast, surrounding the two ships.

“EPS is critical!”

“Whiston, this is Hadley! You need to break off from the Horizon now! The problem is in the computer itself, I think there was a dormant virus that was just remotely activated!”

“Shipman, execute undocking procedures! Crusher, get us away from the freighter and prepare a defensive flight path!”

“Aye!”

“Aye, sir!”

Harrison turned his chair to face Brian. “Can you get a clear reading on the incoming ships?”

Brian had been working his tactical sensors with no success. He shook his head, not turning from his console. “Not yet, sir. They’re using some kind of mask to block our scans. They’re not cloaked, so probably not Klingon. Can’t get a clear reading; when they get closer I might have more luck.”

Harrison turned to the other side of the bridge. “Raal?”

The Caitian was bent over his reader. “Inconclusive as well. I concur with the lieutenant; they are employing some type of jamming technology to mask their signatures.”

Harrison turned back to face the viewscreen. “Shipman, status?”

“We’re clear of the Horizon, sir!”

“Already started to take up a protective posture, sir, but with those ships closing in from all around-”

“Do your best, Rick.” Harrison leaned forward in his chair, staring at the screen.

Brian continued his tactical scanning, doing his best to cut through the jamming. Nothing about it was recognizable to the computer. He tried his targeting scanners. An error flashed on his screen, telling him that the contacts were still too far away for a successful lock. He breathed a sigh of relief; the jammers weren’t targeting his weapons. Distance wasn’t an issue, for now.

“Captain! The Horizon’s EPS just went offline! Secondary power is online, but-“

“Whiston, Hadley! The transport inhibitors are down, I repeat, the inhibitors are down over here! I’m doing what I can to get the power back up, but I can’t get the system back online before those ships get here!”

“Hadley, can the Horizon go to warp?”

“Are you kidding me?! There’s no chance in hell she’d outrun them at full power!”

“Do it, Becca! We’ll hold them off!”

“I’ll do my best, Captain.” Hadley started shouting orders before the channel closed to get the engines running on the freighter. Brian had to admit, Horizon was lucky she was stranded with them; she’d do everything short of getting out and pushing to get the old freighter moving.

He checked his tactical displays. That can’t be right. He repeated his scan, then turned his chair around and shouted above the noise, “Captain! Now reading warp signatures in system!”

“What?!” Harrison was on his feet, staring at the viewer. “We should still have ten minutes-“ He was cut short as two bright flashes of light appeared suddenly in front of him; next to the outside view, the tactical display showed all five dots now surrounding the two ships.

“Negative comms with all ships, sir!”

“Not reading weapons, captain,” Brian reported. “They’re circling us.” He began targeting the ships, preparing to defend the crippled freighter as it limped forward. “They’re moving in!”

“Defensive fire! Disable them, Mayfield!”

“Opening fire!” Brian fired phasers. Red bolts of energy sprayed out from the saucer, filling the viewer with flack. The unidentified ships flew through it, returning fire with green bolts of disruptor fire. Whiston shook as the shields absorbed the strike.

Raal called from his station, “Mayfield, target the smaller ships; their shields are down, and I’m detecting transporter activity!”

Brian switched his targeting to the smaller two ships. They were going straight for the Horizon. “Crusher, nose us down!”

“You got it!”

Brian waited a second, and then fired. Two torpedoes flew out from the weapons pod slung between the nacelles of the ship. The blue bolts of light appeared on the viewer as they flew from behind and over the bridge. One struck its target with deadly accuracy; the ship blew apart in a fireball as its core overloaded. The second ship evaded, and Brian watched as the second torpedo continued past, slamming into one of the Horizon’s nacelles; there was an explosion, and the nacelle was blown apart, tossing the crippled freighter into a spin.

“Watch your fire, Mayfield,” Harrison roared.

“Transporter engaged!” Raal stood up, looking at the screen. “The ship just relayed a transporter signal to one of the larger ships!”

“Whiston, Horizon! Who the hell are you shooting out there?!” Mayweather’s voice came across the bridge’s speakers. “We just got word from the refugees! The Orions just abducted a handful of them!”

“Raal, which ship?” Brian worked his targeting scanners, continuing to fire his phasers at the larger three ships.

“Sending you target information!”

Brian linked his targeting sensors with Raal’s. The ship was moving off, while the remaining three were closing in to block it from view. “Got you!” Brian fired another volley of torpedoes, aiming to disable the ship before it could escape.

The second smaller ship maneuvered again, this time right in front of the torpedoes. The small raider met the same fate as its partner, just as the three larger ships jumped to warp, disappearing from the main viewer.

“Shit! They’re gone.” Brian smacked his hand on his console. “Commander, do you have a lock on them still?”

“Affirmative. The smaller ships must have been the ones jamming; I can trace three distinct warp signatures, all Orion.”

“Whiston, Horizon. Twenty-three Vulcans are gone! We’re unable to go to warp now, thanks to your shooting.” Harrison shot Mayfield a glare as Mayweather said that; Brian sank in his chair. “We’re going to continue on at our best speed. You need to go after those ships!”
Act 5 by TemplarSora
ACT 5


“James, get off my foot!”

“Can’t exactly go anywhere, sh’Aleen.”

“Don’t make me turn this shuttle around, children,” Brian called over his shoulder. There were a few chuckles from the other security officers. A loud smack was heard, followed by some more laughing - Mayfield knew the Andorian well enough to know she had gotten Jim off her foot.

He turned to Crusher, who was sitting at his right and piloting. “How is it looking?”

Crusher didn’t turn to answer him. “Still no welcoming party; I’d say we’re either being ignored or everything is closed for business. No issues otherwise.”

Brian smiled a little, and then turned the other way to look over his shoulder. “How are you doing, Carl?”

Carl was slumped over his console, his head buried in his arm. He lifted one arm, giving a weak thumbs-up. Brian winced at his air-sick roommate. With Hadley still on the Horizon getting systems repaired, the small strike force had to take another engineer along. Carl wasn’t Rebecca, which was both a blessing and a curse for Brian. On one hand, he wouldn’t have to deal with his stalker, but he also couldn’t rely on his roommate to have the same aptitude for computers that he knew Hadley had. And on this rescue, the computers were going to be key - they controlled everything in the Orion slave market that the Starfleet strike team was infiltrating. Brian prayed Carl would be feeling better by the time they landed.

“Where should I park her, sir?”

Mayfield turned back to look out the viewport. “If we’re being ignored as normal traffic, then put us down with the other ships. Less distance we have to walk.”

Crusher grinned, nodding. “Understood. I’ll try to not to take a handicapped spot; don’t want any questions from the locals.”

The shuttle touched down with a small rumble. Behind him, Brian heard his team do their final checks on their weapons. To his left, he heard Carl doing the same for his phaser. Brian turned, picking up a backpack and handing it to his roommate. “Don’t forget these; we won’t have the room to bring too many back in the shuttle.”

“Don’t worry; I got it.” Carl slung the pack onto his back, and then charged his phaser. The rest of the security team’s weapons also hummed to life.

Brian drew his own weapon and turned to face the team. “Ok, check your targets; there’s going to be more than just Orions in there. Phasers on stun. Heinkel will work to get the security systems offline; once that happens, locate the Vulcans.” Brian motioned to Carl. “He’ll be carrying the transport enhancers as well. That’s the only way we can get all the hostages back to the Whiston because - as I’m sure you noticed - there isn’t room in here for the twelve of us and twenty-three more. Heinkel, get behind the team. Sh’Aleen, Tomas, take point. Crusher, Trace, guard the ship.”

The team took their positions in the formation. Sh’Aleen and Tomas knelt down at the back door of the shuttle, their rifles leveled. Brian turned to Crusher and nodded.

There was a hiss of air as the shuttle depressurized, and a grind of motors as the large hatch swung down. Tomas and sh’Aleen rolled out onto the ship landing pad, checking around the shuttle. When they were satisfied, sh’Aleen motioned for the rest of the team to exit and follow. The team ran together towards the nearest structure; sh’Aleen and Tomas lead them, turning to check behind and above the team at regular intervals.

There was an open doorway into the structure. Tomas went in first, quickly ducking around the corner and into a shadow behind cargo containers that were marked with Klingon symbols. He tapped twice on the container, softly, letting the rescue team know that it was safe to follow. They ducked into the building, taking cover behind an assortment of stolen alien cargo. Brian took out his tricorder and began scanning. “I’m reading a myriad of people in the next two rooms. Three Orions; probably guards.” He modified his scans, trying to pinpoint the hostages. There was a soft tone, and then a chime. “Found them; their life-signs are a bit jumpy, but stable. I think the next two rooms are the slave-holding areas.” He shut off the scanner and turned to Carl. “Heinkel, can you access that computer terminal on the wall to the right and disable the prisoner security systems?”

Carl peeked above his cover, then nodded. “Yeah, shouldn’t be a problem. Give me ten minutes.”

Brian sighed; was he actually missing Hadley right now? “You have two. After that, we’re going in to start freeing the hostages.” He turned away and nodded at the officer next to him, a dark-skinned man he knew as Gavin. The officer nodded back, and then worked the chronometer that was attached to his uniform at the wrist.

“Well, that wasn’t as hard as I thought.” Carl tapped the console a few more times. The white and green symbols on the screen turned purple, and then the console went dark. He turned from the terminal to Brian. “Security is offline. The holding cells should be unlocked.” He smiled.

Mayfield smiled back. “Good job, Carl. Stick behind us.” He motioned to the rest of his officers to get ready to storm the next room. The rescue team set up next to the doorway, readying their weapons. Brian motioned with his hand for sh’Aleen and Tomas to enter; they ducked around the corner into the room. There was a light tap on the wall from each of them, and the rest of the team followed them in.

Training took over immediately; the security team split off into pairs, going down each aisle to clear the room. They ignored the sleeping prisoners, looking only for their targets - the three Orion guards that were huddled in the back around a computer display, laughing together every now and then. The team surrounded the three massive men. Bits of metal seemed to be bolted to their bare skulls, and muscle seemed ready to explode from their green skin. Still, they hadn’t noticed the security team as it proceeded to trap them against the wall.

Brian cleared his throat. “Excuse me, but I was wondering if you gentlemen could point me to the nearest toilet.”

The three Orions spun around in surprise, and were met with ten phasers pointed at them. They stopped, dumbfounded, unable to process what had suddenly happened.

“You’re holding some prisoners we’d like to take back now. Sorry, but we’re in a bit of a hurry.” Brian fired his phaser, as did Gavin and a third officer. The three massive guards dropped to the floor in a pile, unconscious.

“Mayfield, we’ve got a problem.” Brian turned to see Carl, who had opened one of the holding cells and was examining a Vulcan. He motioned for the rest of the team to start pulling the Vulcans out of their cells as he went to his roommate.

“What is it?” he asked as he approached.

Carl motioned to the Vulcan, who was shaking every now and then and looked visibly unsettled. At the base of the man’s skull, just behind his ear, was a small, copper-colored device with a small, red indicator light. Small wires were buried into his skin, holding the device in place. “Neurolytic restraints.” Carl shook his head. “This complicates matters. We can’t beam the Vulcans away until these restraints are shut off.”

“What’s going on?” sh’Aleen approached from behind Brian and peered over his shoulder at the Vulcan. “What is that?”

“A delay. Why do we need to shut them off?”

“The damn things induce seizures to ensure slaves don’t get out of hand.” Carl pulled out his tricorder, scanning the device. “If the slaves escape and manage to get out of the building, the thing kills them.”

“Can you deactivate them?”

Carl shrugged and nodded. “One by one, sure.” On cue, the device’s light went dark.

The Vulcan stopped shaking, and reached up. With a quick motion, he tore the device off his neck. Blinking, he took in a deep breath. “Thank you.”

Brian helped the man to his feet as he addressed Carl. “Give me a pattern enhancer.”

Carl took off his backpack and opened the compartment. He pulled out a device with an armband, which he handed to the Vulcan.

Brian pulled out his communicator. “Mayfield to Whiston, one hostage is ready to beam up.”
“Understood. Pattern enhancer locked on; energizing now. Don’t move.” There was a sound of chimes, and then a swirling pattern of light enveloped the Vulcan. After a minute, the light was gone, as was the hostage. “Mayfield, we got him here. Standing by for the rest of the hostages.”

“Copy, stand by.” Brian closed his communicator and put it back on his belt. “This is going to take too long, one at a time.”

“I know. Let me access that terminal in the back. I’ll try shutting everything down from -" Carl was interrupted by a loud klaxon, and all the security knelt down or jumped for cover.

Brian shouted above the din. “Carl, do it. We’ll hold them off.”

“Lieutenant! Incoming!”

“Check you fire, team! Don’t hit the hostages!”

The first Orions entered the cramped room, shouting above the noise to one another. Sh’Aleen and Tomas fired first, dropping the lead two in an instant. More phasers fired, and the six Orions were all lying on the ground, motionless.

“We’ve got more coming in, sir.” Gavin held his tricorder, reading off the display. “Both sides now. I think we just stirred a hornet’s nest.”

“Move those cargo crates in front of the doors to slow them down!” Brian went to the back to check on Carl’s progress. He tapped the engineer on the shoulder. “How’s it looking?”

Carl shook his head. “I can’t get a good isolation on the system. Five more minutes.”

“We don’t have five minutes, Heinkel.”

“Well, make five minutes, Mayfield.”

Brian returned to his team, who had managed to move a few of the crates in front of the door. He looked behind him at another entrance, where the other half of his team was doing the same. He turned to Gavin for an update.

“They’ll be here in three minutes.”

“You and Jim start getting the hostages to the back with Heinkel; as soon as those damn devices are turned off, I want them on the ship.”

“Aye.” Gavin tapped James on the shoulder and motioned for him to follow. Brian heard gates opening and hushed voices as his officers helped the Vulcans to the back of the room. He knelt down behind another container next to sh’Aleen, who had her rifle pointed down the corridor.

She glanced at him for a second with a smirk. “Well this is fun.”

“Which part?” Brian nudged her playfully, and then went back to watching down the hall.

“Think we’ll make it?”

“You think we won’t?”

She laughed once, humorlessly. “Not if we have to drag them out of here one-by-one.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe I volunteered for this.”

“Neither could I. I’m glad you did.”

She rolled her eyes. “It wasn’t for them. I was bored.”

Brian nodded. “Sure.”

A green bolt of energy flew over their heads, and the two quickly dropped behind the crate. “Here they come!” sh’Aleen popped back over their cover and fired two quick shots before she huddled back down. Behind them, Brian heard the other squad firing off shots down their hall. He looked at Carl, who was hunched over the computer terminal, working quickly. “He had better get these damn things turned off soon.”

Sh’Aleen fired over the crates again. “I can motivate him.”

“Don’t put more pressure on the poor man.” Brian popped out and fired as well; there was a shout and soft thud as an Orion was hit. More green disruptor bolts flew towards them, hitting their cover and flying overhead to connect with the now empty cages. “How much you want to bet they aren’t firing on stun?”

Sh’Aleen fired again. “I wouldn’t take that bet in a million years.” She took a knee beside him and pulled out the spent energy cartridge from the barrel grip of her rifle and dropped it to the ground. In a quick motion she reached behind her and pulled a fresh cartridge from her belt and slammed it into place on the rifle, then recharged the weapon.

“I got it!” Brian heard Carl shout from the back of the room.

“Good! Get them to the ship! Team, start falling back away from the entrances and take up position to defend the refugees!” Brian tapped sh’Aleen, who left their position to go to the back. Brian popped over and fired a few more shots down the hall, then followed her back.

The rest of the team was setting up new defenses around the crowd of hostages. Many of them were women, and most of them younger. One was very obviously pregnant, and two other women were helping to steady her as they all knelt. The five remaining males had joined the security team behind their cover; one had Carl’s phaser, which the engineer wasn’t using as he passed out pattern enhancers to the Vulcans. The other four had disruptors that the three unconscious guards had been carrying.

“Heinkel to Whiston. First six hostages are ready for transport.”
“Understood. Stand by.”

Brian frowned; six at a time would take longer than he liked. A disruptor bolt flew over his head. “Get down!” He fired around his cover, aiming at the doorway. Next to him, the rest of the squad began laying down suppressing fire. The air was filled with chimes, and the light brightened behind him as six of the Vulcans were transported up.

“All six are here. Ready for the next group.”

“Energize, Whiston!”

“Locked on, energizing.”

“NO!”

Time suddenly seemed to slow down, as Brian heard the shout behind him. He turned around to watch sh’Aleen dive, slamming into the pregnant woman and throwing her out of the way. She fired her rifle, and Brian turned his head to see her target: One of the first Orions they had subdued had grabbed his second weapon and was aiming at the Vulcan. He fired the disruptor.

Sh’Aleen seemed to hang in the air for a moment, and then she dropped to the floor as the green energy struck her.

She didn’t move.

Brian howled in rage. His phaser’s discharge unit flipped as he changed the setting and he fired at the Orion. The green alien’s body dropped back to the ground as the phaser bolt struck him in the head, killing him instantly.

The rest of the squad continued firing. Another six Vulcans were being transported to the ship.

Mayfield wasn’t aware of any of it; he crawled to the Andorian and turned her on her back. “Dammit, sh’Aleen, no!” Her eyes were wide open, unfocused. Her body was limp. Her antennae were curled forward. He checked for a pulse and found none. Tears streamed down his face.

“Lieutenant, we have to go now!”

“Mayfield, let’s go!”

Nothing was registering with him as more weapons fired, more people shouted at him. He clung to his dead lover and wept. His team tried pulling him off; he fought them back, tried to pick her up, he couldn’t leave her there.

There was a sharp pinch at the base of his neck, and then all was dark.
Act 6 by TemplarSora
ACT 6


“What the hell were you thinking, Mayfield? Of all the stupid things I’ve seen on this ship, I never expected you to act the way you did down there!”

Brian stood ram-rod straight in front of Harrison’s desk while the captain continued his barrage. His face, however, displayed none of the apathy he felt at the moment.

“You’ve got an angel or something watching your ass. If any of the hostages had been hurt…” Harrison left the threat open, turning his chair to the side and leaning back in it, catching his breath.

“Yes, sir.”

“Is that all you can say? ‘Yes, sir. Yes, sir.’” Harrison squeezed the bridge of his nose. “One of the refugees, the ones you had to rescue from that pit, had to get you out of there. You! My chief of security!”

“Sir, if I may speak.”

“Please, say something!”

“I can assure you, sir, it will not happen again.”

Harrison paused, then sat back up, turning to face Brian again. “Brian, sit.”

Mayfield didn’t move at first, not sure what the captain’s change in tone meant. He eventually sat down, like he had been drilled to at the academy his first year; front edge of the chair, back straight, eyes forward, feet planted, hands on your knees.

Harrison shook his head. “I’m done reprimanding you. Sit.”

Brian repositioned to accommodate him, though in truth he was more comfortable sitting on the edge of his chair.

The two sat in the small office for a moment in silence. Brian took the opportunity to stare at Harrison’s desk and his reflection in the well-oiled surface of the old wood.

“I’m sorry about sh’Aleen, Brian. I know how…” Harrison searched for his words carefully, unaccustomed to this part of his job. The Whiston had never been so thick in the action as it had been for the past week. Losing crew members due to crew transfers was common enough, but death was a rarity. Death in the line of duty was even more so. “She was special.”

Brian couldn’t help but scoff. “She was much more than that, sir.”

“I didn’t know her too well. She was one of your officers, right?”

It didn’t matter anymore who knew, Brian decided. They had done their best to keep their relationship hidden and professional, especially in the company of the rest of the security section on the ship. But, now that everyone had seen his reaction on the planet, there wasn’t much sense keeping it hidden.

“She was, sir. She was a solid security officer. Stubborn as hell.” Brian laughed a little, remembering. His eyes stung as the flood of memories threatened to overcome him again. “She always managed to surprise me, even in the end.”

===


“Brian, I’m glad you made it.”

Mayfield smiled at the doctor. “How are you, Abuela?”

She smiled back, beckoning him deeper into sickbay. “Someone requested a visitor. I hope you don’t mind.”

His heart raced for a moment, but he quickly quelled the excitement; he knew better than to think anything had been done for his dead love. But then, he couldn’t think of anyone else on the ship that would want to see him in sickbay.

They turned a corner to a more private area of the infirmary. There was a small gathering of refugees, and Brian immediately recognized the priestess who had come aboard from the Horizon; she was wearing a blood-red robe adorned with gold and unpolished gems. There was another woman lying on the bed, covered by a blanket; Brian recognized her as the pregnant woman his team had rescued on the planet. A Vulcan man was at her side, and Brian could see he was holding her hand, though his face showed no concern.

The priestess turned as they walked in and nodded to them. “Lieutenant Mayfield,” she addressed him, slowly and deliberately. “Saakiv wishes to speak with you.” She motioned towards the woman lying in the bed; instantly, the gathering of Vulcan attendants parted to allow Brian through to her. The woman’s husband, Brian decided, stood straighter as he approached, and Mayfield couldn’t help but feel like he had invaded a very private event.

The woman’s eyes opened, and she turned her head to the side to look at him. Her mouth twitched slightly at the corner, and then, to Brian’s surprise, a small smile spread out. “Mayfield. Your presence is appreciated.” She moved the blanket, and Brian gasped.

The woman was cradling a small baby wrapped up in blankets.

“Doctor de la Reina believes the…stress…from the neurolytic inhibitors your team removed caused me to enter labor earlier than anticipated.” The woman stared down at the child, then looked back at Brian. The small, private smile was still there, and Brian could see in his peripheral that the priestess and her attendants stiffened at the display of emotion. “We must name her.”

Brian wasn’t sure how to respond to the statement. “That would be…a good thing, certainly.”

“The woman, the Andorian. She died at the slave market.”

Brian winced, but did his best to keep his emotions in check. He swallowed the lump in his throat and coughed, causing the infant to stir a little, but she didn’t wake, so Brian continued. “Her name was sh’Aleen; she was a good friend of mine.”

“She was your lover.” Saakiv tilted her head to look up at her husband, who nodded once. “I wish to name my daughter for her.” Saakiv turned back to Brian. “It is not uncommon for our people to give names to our children to honor those who have stood out in history. I feel this is only appropriate.”

Mayfield looked from the woman to her husband. The man simply continued to stare at his wife, taking deep, even breaths. He turned back to Saakiv. “I…I don’t know what to say.”

“Lieutenant Mayfield, say yes. We must name her, and soon.” She looked past Brian at the waiting priestess, then looked back at him, locking her eyes on his. Brian could see them searching him, hoping for his answer.

Mayfield wiped his eyes, biting his bottom lip hard to keep from crying again today. He nodded. “It’s a very…beautiful name. sh’Aleen would be…” He paused, not sure of his next words.

For as much venom as she had for the Vulcans, her final sacrifice - protecting Saakiv and this child - surely negated everything. Didn’t it?

“She would be honored,” he said, hoping in his heart that somewhere, she was.

Saakiv nodded, then looked again at the priestess. “We choose to name her sh’Aleen.”

“So be it.” There was a firm hand on Brian’s shoulder, the priestess’, pulling him away. “You will leave now, so that the ceremony can continue.”

“I wish for him to be here,” the husband spoke suddenly, his voice deep and calm. “He will remain.”

===


The electronic beeps filled the room. Brian rolled over to quell the noise. When his first two attempts failed, he realized it wasn’t his alarm that was waking him up. His own chronometer showed 0445; much too early for him to wake up.

Carl.

The door to the head opened quickly, and Carl raced out to turn off his alarm, cursing under his breath. He smacked the console, then turned quickly to see if Brian was awake. His eyes went wide when he saw Brian sitting up groggily, a frown plastered firmly on his face.

“Brian, I’m sorry. I forgot…”

Brian waved him quiet; he didn’t care anymore. It didn’t matter. He grumbled a little, turning over and pulling his blanket further up and over him. After the previous week’s events, nothing mattered anymore. There hadn’t been a reason worth getting up for; he simply did.

Carl was doing his best to stay quiet for his roommate, but every little noise he made resounded in the uncomfortable silence that had taken root in their quarters.

Brian had found his thoughts travelling to darker and darker places since the death of sh’Aleen. If he had been able to, he’d sleep forever. The Vulcans’ show of gratitude had been beautiful, but now Brian purposefully tried to block even that from his memory. A selfish part of him thought it would have been worth losing a hostage or two, if it had meant his lover would still be alive. Those thoughts made him feel even more depressed and reclusive, and he wished he could find real alcohol somewhere on the ship to drown his sorrows. There wasn’t any on the ship, of course, so he had resigned himself to his quarters when he wasn’t on duty. When he was on duty, he focused only on the task at hand, trying to occupy his mind with less guilt-inducing lines of thought.

This is a hell of a way to live. Alone.

But, why?


The thought shook him to the core. He had come to that question numerous times, why he was allowing this to affect him in this manner, so that the once shining example of the Starfleet officers on the Whiston was in jeopardy of a formal reprimand for dereliction of duty.

But this time was different, because the voice that asked him wasn’t his.

Why are you doing this? Is this how you honor my memory, by wishing to drown your sorrows and be angry at everyone including yourself?

It was sh’Aleen’s.

I made my choice, and I’ll be damned before you throw your life away because of it. I knew my job. I did it. Do yours.

The door to the quarters opened, bringing Brian out of his thoughts. Carl was standing in the doorway, looking back at his roommate for a second. He turned around to walk out.

“Carl, wait.” Brian swung his legs over the edge of the bed and stood slowly. He stretched, and he heard and felt a pop in his lower back, sending waves of relief through his body. “Come on. I’ll join you in the gym.”

===
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