Summary: When Laria crash lands on a remote planet from Tigranian's past, she must find a way to contact the ship or be marooned for the rest of her life.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 9 Completed: Yes
Word count: 14106 Read: 13193
Published: 14 Feb 2016 Updated: 03 Mar 2016
1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
8. Chapter 8 by captaintigranian
9. Chapter 9 by captaintigranian
Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Guada System: Iron Triangle, Cardassian Empire
The jungle was quiet. The only sounds echoing through the warm, humid night air of the battalion assembly area were the chirping of insects, the slow trickle of the stream on the eastern edge of the perimeter, and the gentle splashing of waves on the beach a kilometer away.
Corporal Navallo checked the power pack of his heavy pulse phaser mounted on its tripod. In this atmosphere, the connections between the power cells and the receiver could corrode, rendering the weapon useless if not constantly maintained. His assistant gunner, Lance Corporal Unar, scanned the treeline across the stream with his thermal goggles.
“Can you see anything?” Navallo whispered.
“Not a damn thing…but I know Jem is out there…”
“Of course he is,” Navallo replied. This whole damn rock is crawling. But between the dolemite in the crust and their sensor scramblers, we won’t know where he is until those scaly bastards slit our throats.”
“Foxtrot 2!” a familiar voice came out of the darkness behind them.
“Tango 3,” Navallo answered in the proper battalion password format.
A figure jumped into the rear of their fighting position and slung his phaser rifle across his chest.
“How we doing, Gentlemen?” Commander Tigranian, the battalion commander, asked.
“Staying frosty, Sir,” Navallo asked, not taking his eyes off the sights of his pulse phaser.
“Unlikely, Corporal,” he said scanning the dark treeline with his eyes. “Not in this heat, at least. What do you think?”
“I think Jem won’t let tonight pass quietly…” Unar answered.
“He never does…” Tigranian said lying down in the prone next to him.
“Sir, is that subspace array really worth all this?” Unar asked.
“That’s not really our concern, Unar,” Tigranian replied pulling out his own thermal goggles. “We fight here because that’s where Starfleet tells us to fight.”
The brass certainly thought the array was worth it. Apparently, intelligence believed the most effective way to ground down the Dominion was to gain control of their communication network, one node at a time. Guada, at the edge of the Badlands, would be the first to fall. Then, the marines would hop from remote planet to remote planet until all the Jem’Hadar troops in the outer Cardassian Empire were completely isolated. Campaigns were already planned for AR-558 in the Chin’toka System and Veral II after that. Of course, Tigranian wasn’t authorized to share that information with his marines.
“Hey Sir, I’ve always wanted to ask you something,” Navallo said.
“What’s that, Corporal?”
“Is that Klingon knife you wear on your kit just for show, or do you actually know how to cut somebody with it?”
Tigranian glanced down at the d'k tahg strapped to his waist.
“Piss me off one day and I’ll show you…Do you guys need anything?”
“A couple of beers and a shot of leg from a Risian pleasure girl would be nice, Sir.”
“I’m afraid the only panties you’re getting into tonight, Navallo, will be Unar’s.” The two grunts laughed.
“Get some, Marines,” Tigranian said climbing back out of the fighting position.
“Hoorah, Sir,” they whispered back.
Tigranian had a vested interest in keeping his pulse phaser gunners alert. They anchored the edges of his entire triangular patrol base. If they went down, then the only thing preventing the columns of Jem’Hadar hiding in the jungle from completely engulfing them would be a couple hundred phaser rifles and the battalion’s four 100mm plasma mortars. It sounded like a lot of firepower, but not enough to stop an enemy as fanatical as Jem. All they needed to keep going was a couple of tubes of Ketracel White and the occasional pep talk from their Vorta.
The starship U.S.S. Triumphant had arrived in orbit that morning to drop off the supplies his marines required, but they weren’t able to stay on station more than forty hours before the Dominion Navy arrived to blast them out of the stars.
After checking the rest of the perimeter, Tigranian returned to the tent that served as his Battalion command post. Inside, two signal techs were monitoring a bank of comm systems. They had to make constant adjustments to keep information flowing through the planet’s natural interference. The rest of Tigranian’s frazzled staff went over reports and analyses of all the day’s operations. Another officer stood over a white slab on the table in front of him. He banged his fist on it and cursed under his breath.
“Problem, XO?” Tigranian said coming up behind Major Hancock.
“No, Sir,” he said rubbing his eyes. “The holotable went out again. Must be the all the interference from the damned dolemite…”
Tigranian pulled a folded paper map out from his jacket pocket.
“You know there’s a reason why these have been around for five thousand years…”
“Yes, Sir…” Tigranian unfolded the map on the table and Hancock began his update.
“All our patrols are in. No signs of Jem around Old Baldy, the Bullpen, or Porkchop hill,” he said pointing out various terrain features in their area of operations.”
“G2 thinks Jem might have gone south to 3-3’s AO to find another supply of White before they run out.”
“G2 is a moron…” Tigranian replied, adding a few more colorful metaphors to his description of the Division Intelligence Officer. “No, the communications array is the only reason this planet is important to the Dominion. This is where they’ll mass.”
“Why the hell are we still here, Sir? Why don’t we just photon this entire hell-hole from orbit and move on?” Hancock said angrily. One of the signal techs looked up from his comm unit. Tigranian motioned for the major to come outside.
They went through the tent flaps into the darkness of night. Tigranian pulled over a crate of field rations and took a seat. Major Hancock took a second to breathe in the clean air.
“Tyler,” Tigranian began quietly. “I know you’re exhausted, but don’t you ever say that in front of the marines again. Lower enlisted complain, we don’t.”
“Yes, Sir…” Hancock said. “It was a lapse of judgement.”
“It’s alright…When was the last time you slept?”
“I got about an hour this afternoon.”
“That’s not good enough, Man. I need you.”
“Yes, Sir…” Hancock said with a smirk. “When was the last time you slept?”
“I’m a Klingon warrior that runs off of raktajino, nicotine, and hate. I don’t need sleep.” Hancock laughed.
“You’re full of shit, Sir.” Tigranian laughed as well.
“Yes, I am,” Tigranian said pulling a small orange tin from his pocket covered with Klingon writing. He tapped his finger on the cover a few times, pulled off the lid, and placed a finger-full of ground leaves in his lower lip.
“That stuff will kill you, Sir.”
“yIvjebol is a filthy habit,” Tigranian said before spitting into the dirt, “but it works.” He looked up to see Hancock staring at the can. “You want a pinch, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do…don’t tell, Mary.”
“Secret’s safe with me,” he said passing the tin to Hancock.
Just as the XO placed the Klingon tobacco in his mouth, a growing whistle echoed across the Assembly Area.
“INCOMING!” Tigranian screamed as he dove into the dirt.
Bright blue flashes appeared in the sky and burst in brilliant white light over the marine positions. Plasma burning at over 500 degrees Kelvin poured out of the sky. Anything it touched turned to ash. A marine in a nearby position was hit and began shrieking with pain.
“Corpsman!” Hancock screamed running over to the hole. He pulled the marine out and dragged him over to the CP. The marine was clutching his seared left arm and shaking as the shock sent in. Two medics with a medical kit and litter rushed forward and began treating him.
Tigranian shouted back into the tent.
“Spin ‘em up! Jem’s here!”
The signal techs began shouting into their comm systems to the company commanders. The entire perimeter came alive, awaiting the coming storm.
“FSO! RTO!” Tigranian screamed. A lieutenant and an enlisted marine carrying a portable comm unit ran out of the CP and knelt down next to him. Tigranian pulled out a pair of electronic binoculars and started scanning the jungle two hundred meters away.
“Brian, I want fire in the tree-line. Jem is getting into his attack positions.”
“Yes, Sir,” the Lieutenant pulled out the hand-mic of the comm unit and punched in a frequency.
“Haymaker, this is Frontrunner 95, fire mission, fire mission! Immediate Suppression, Grid: Charlie Hotel 36298 45783!”
“Frontrunner 95, Haymaker Acknowledge. Message to Observer: 12 rounds Plasma Quick in Effect, over.”
“12 rounds Plasma Quick in Effect, out!”
Tigranian heard the mortar platoon in their pit 75 meters to his west.
“Hang it! Fire! Hang it! Fire!” Loud booms echoed through the entire assembly area. Tigranian raised his binoculars to his eyes and watched the jungle again.
“Shot, over,” the mortar platoon leader said over the comm.
“Shot, out,” the FSO replied.
The bright blue flashes off their friendly mortars shimmered in the treeline. The foliage caught alight in brilliant flame, casting a sinister orange glow over the entire valley. Light glistened on the water of the stream in front of their positions.
“Repeat…” Tigranian said not taking his eyes off the jungle.
“Haymaker, Frontrunner 95, Repeat, over!”
Frontrunner 95, Haymaker, Repeat, out.”
More booms and more flashes…then there was only silence.
“XO, get in the CP. Need to know the second the company commanders get a break in their lines…” Tigranian said trailing off.
“Yes, Sir!” Hancock said running back into the tent.
The fires in the jungle illuminated the stream bed. Six hundred marines took their fighting positions, aiming their phasers in a 360 degree perimeter.
A roar echoed through the entire valley.
“May the Founders rule ten-thousand years! VICTORY IS LIFE!”
“VICTORY IS LIFE!”
Then, the jungle came alive. Hundreds of Jem’Hadar rushed through the trees toward the stream. Blue disruptor bolts poured out of the foliage and into the marine positions. They were immediately answered by thousands of orange phaser blasts from the west side of the water. It didn’t slow them down at all. They just kept coming.
“It’s a wave attack!” Tigranian said observing the movement. “They must be running low on White. RTO, get a hold of Bravo on the command net. Tell him to get enfilading fire down the stream bed. Cut them down before they hit the west side or Charlie Company is gonna break.”
“Yes Sir!” The enlisted marine grabbed a second mic of the comm unit and relayed the message. A minute later, pulse phaser blasts began slicing across the surface of the stream. The Jem’Hadar were being cut down from the front and the side as they pushed across the water. Bodies began piling up in front of the marine positions, but despite the hellish amount of energy being thrown back at him, Jem still kept coming.
A few Dominion Soldiers made it across the water and began fighting hand to hand with the Charlie marines. The amount of phaser fire meeting their advance began to dwindle as barrels over-heated, power packs were emptied, and marines starting fighting for their lives.
“Sir! Chaos 6 is on the line! He says he’s getting overrun!”
“Tell Assassin and Bushmaster to push Chaos a squad each, but continue to hold their positions, Jem might try to get around the flanks.”
“FSO, get a hold of the Triumphant. I want naval phaser fire in that tree line, now.”
“Yes, Sir!” the lieutenant said punching in another frequency.
“Triumphant Fire Direction Center this is Frontrunner 95 on planetary surface! Authentication code: Whiskey Mike 67285, request immediate orbital bombardment 250 meters east our position, Four columns, Jem’Hadar in the treeline! We’re getting overrun!” A few seconds passed. “Sir, Triumphant FDC reports that they can’t get a lock. The dolemite under the surface is making it impossible to tell the difference between us and Jem!”
Tigranian turned around angrily.
“Then tell them to index manually!”
“Sir, the tactical officer is brand new. He says he refuses to conduct a manual mission because he’s not comfortable.”
“Qu’vath guy’cha baQa! Give me the Goddamn, hand mic!” The lieutenant handed the handset to Tigranian.
“Triumphant FDC , this is Frontrunner 6!”
“I got marines dying down here! You tell that piece of shit at your tactical station to put in exactly what I say: Index narrow band sheath, Level 3 steady burst, Starting grid: Sierra November 285 Charlie Hotel 36104 45650, 400 meter impact tract, azimuth 800 mils! Danger Close!”
“Frontrunner 6, Triumphant FDC, Acknowledged, standby.”
“Bring the rain, dammit!”
“Shot in ten seconds, over.”
“Shot in ten seconds, out!” He turned to the RTO. “Put me on battalion.”
“Battalion, keyed, Sir.”
“Frontrunners friendly incoming! Naval phaser fire coming in!”
“Chaos, Acknowledged!” Tigranian heard the sound of Jem right next to the Chaos CP.
“Frontrunner 6, Triumphant FDC, Splash over.”
A single beam of orange light flashed from the sky and slammed into the ground. The entire valley lit up as bright as day. Artificial thunder created by the phaser beam deafened them all. The air around the marines was instantly ionized and static discharges pricked at their skin.
The steady beam slowly tracked the course Tigranian had commanded. Trees, bushes, rocks: anything that came in contact with the beam was instantly vaporized. Everything else within a hundred meters was set ablaze from the intense heat. The eastern side of the stream was obliterated in a matter of seconds. Tigranian stood there, aghast at the power of the starship’s main battery. Then, the beam of light disappeared as quickly as it arrived, leaving a glowing trail of molten rock behind hit. The light of the burning trees casting a hellish red glow over everything.
“Frontrunner 6, Triumphant FDC, end of mission, over.”
That’s when Tigranian heard it. Screams…screams of terrible agony…Jem was screaming. Dozens of Jem’Hadar ran out of the inferno covered in flames. They threw themselves into the stream, collapsing into the water motionless.
“Frontrunner 6, Triumphant FDC, end of mission, what’s your battle damage assessment?”
“Triumphant FDC, Frontrunner 6…” Tigranian whispered in shock. “End of mission, four columns of Jem’Hadar destroyed…out.” He let the hand mic fall from his hands to the ground.
After a few minutes, the XO came out of the CP.
“Casualty reports, Sir,” he said handing him a pad. “Twenty-Five dead, 68 wounded. A lot of those are from Charlie…”
Tigranian scanned the list of his fallen marines. When he reached the bottom he stopped.
“CPL Navallo, Kenneth: KIA, LCPL Unar, Restig: KIA.”
Tigranian threw back his head and howled to Sto’Vo’Kor in rage to warn the honored dead of his marines’ arrival…
He bolted awake…alone in his quarters on the Pershing. The captain pushed aside his klongat fur and walked to the bathroom. After splashing some cold water on his face, he headed for the bottle of bloodwine he kept on his sideboard. He didn’t even bother with a tankard. On the nights when Guada came back to haunt him, he just wanted to be numb for awhile…
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Two lightyears from the Badlands: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space
“Chief Science Officer’s Log, Stardate: 53240.2. I have been invited to Vulcan to present my paper on ‘The Artificial Creation of Dynamic Subspace Folds to Increase Warp Field Efficiency’ before the Science Academy. Though it is a six day journey alone in a runabout, I’m very much enjoying the peace, quiet, and solitude of the trip. I have decided to use the opportunity to continue my personal survey of my favorite period in Earth’s musical history…”
Laria danced up to the replicator and grabbed her mug of hot tea. The strains of a piano and electronic drums boomed through the cabin of the runabout. She began singing at the top of her lungs as she twirled back into the pilot’s chair in the front of the ship.
“Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds? Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed? Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need!”
She placed her tea on the console and jumped back to her feet, spinning around the front
of the runabout, still singing towards the ceiling.
“I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night.
He’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be fast, and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.
I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light!
He’s gotta be sure, and it’s gotta be soon, and he’s gotta be larger than life…”
The music continued as she danced and jumped around the compartment. Suddenly, she dropped to her knees, closed her eyes, and pressed her fist against her heart.
“Up where the mountains meet the heavens above, out where the lightning splits the sea,
I would swear that there’s someone somewhere, watching me.
Through the wind and the chill and the rain and the storm and the flood!
I can feel his approach, like a fire in my blood!”
She jumped back to her feet as the music reached its zenith. She raised her hands above her head and belted out the chorus again.
“I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night.
He’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be fast, and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.
I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light!
He’s gotta be sure, and it’s gotta be soon, and he’s gotta be larger than life…”
The music faded out and she collapsed back into the pilot’s chair.
“Whew,” she said to herself. “Computer, pause playlist.”
“What’s our current ETA at Vulcan?”
“At present course and speed, will arrive at Vulcan in three days, nine hours, and sixteen minutes.”
“Nice, and we’re only on 1984!” she said resting her feet on the console and taking a sip of tea.
Suddenly, an alarm sounded and she sprang into action.
“Computer, report,” she commanded as she pressed several keys in front of her.
“Long range sensors indicate the presence of a Jem’Hadar fighter.”
“How is that possible? The war’s been over for almost seven months!”
“Please re-state your inquiry.”
“That was a rhetorical question, Computer! Shields up, arm phasers.”
“Have they scanned us?”
“Negative. There are no indications of any active systems on board the Jem’Hadar fighter.”
“Computer, activate sensors. Scan the vessel.”
“Sensors indicate that there are no life signs aboard. Negative indication of any anti-matter reaction, or power generation of any kind.”
“Ship is derelict and adrift.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that at the very beginning?” Laria said angrily.
“Please re-state your inquiry.” Laria sighed.
“Lower shields, alter course to take us to the ship. We might as well take a look and report its position.”
“Acknowledged. Altering course to intercept in five minutes.”
The runabout approached the fighter. Its hull was covered in micro-meteor impacts and its warp nacelles were dark. It had obviously been floating out here for a long time.
“What happened to you?” Laria thought out loud. She punched a few more keys.
“Computer, can we conduct a power transfer from our warp core and attempt to access the ships computer?”
“Affirmative. Activating power transfer beam.”
A blue beam projected out from the belly of the runabout. Another alarm sounded the cabin.
“Warning, sensors indicate activation of a tamper fail-safe mechanism about the Jem’Hadar fighter.”
“It’s booby trapped! Computer cut the power transfer beam and back us off!”
It was too late. A feedback pulse shot back through the beam and into the runabout’s warp core. The entire ship rocked and the console exploded in front of Laria. The explosion sent her backwards onto the floor. She was dazed, but still conscious. Another alarm.
“Warning: Damage to warp core. Warp core breach in one minute. Abandon Ship.”
“What?” Laria said in a panic. The alarm continued.
“Warning: Damage to warp core. Warp core breach in fifty seconds. Abandon Ship.”
“Computer! Eject the warp core!
“Unable to comply. Warp core magnetic interlocks are fused. Warning: Damage to warp core. Warp core breach in forty seconds. Abandon Ship.”
“Send out a general distress call to any other ships in the area.”
“Unable to comply. Communications systems are offline. Warning: Damage to warp core. Warp core breach in thirty seconds. Abandon Ship.”
“Oh, Prophets,” Laria jumped to her feet and pulled open a panel in the floor. She grabbed a bag of emergency supplies and a phaser rifle before heading to a small hatch located next to the transporter. She pried open a plastic panel and pulled a large red handle. The hatch slid open and she climbed inside the tiny space. Ironically, the dimensions were approximately identical to a coffin.
“Warning: Damage to warp core. Warp core breach in twenty seconds. Abandon Ship.”
With one last deep breath, she slammed the large red button next to her hand. The hatch sealed and the escape pod blasted away from the runabout. The acceleration pulled the blood away from her brain and she began to black out.
The warp core of the runabout breached in a brilliant flash of white light that quickly encompassed both Laria’s former ship and the Jem’Hadar fighter. The dual explosions produced a shockwave that slammed into the escape pod. Laria’s head crashed against the console next to her. Instantly, she was unconscious.
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Celtris System: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space
The door to Tigranian’s ready room chimed.
“Come in,” he said not looking up from his paperwork. Annabeth stepped inside and collapsed onto his couch.
“We can’t both be exhausted, Number One. Someone has to keep this ship running.”
“I haven’t been sleeping well,” she said with a smile. Tigranian looked up at her.
“But something tells me it’s not for a reason you’re upset about.”
“Nope…” Annabeth replied happily.
“So marriage is really treating you and Alex that well?”
“What can I say? Coming home to a wife at the end of the day has its benefits.”
“Are you just here to rub my non-existent love life in my face or does this little encounter have a point?”
“Somebody’s in a great mood,” Annabeth said leaning forward. “In fairness, your non-existent love life is completely your fault.”
Tigranian tossed his PADD onto his desk and leaned back in his chair.
“What do you want, Commander Geist?”
“Well, Captain Tigranian, Starfleet Command is requesting the first draft for the staff’s annual evaluation reports. You owe them mine and senior rater comments for the rest by the end of this week.”
Tigranian grimaced and covered his face with his hands.
“No…I hate writing crew evals. You said all of them?”
“The entire senior staff came onboard the same time…which means all their evals are due at the same time.”
“Nobody gets promoted. Not a single one. I’ll just write that in the block on the form.”
“I’m pretty sure Starfleet would see that as a reflection on your command style.”
“Then they can fire me…”
Annabeth leaned back.
“Ok, Dan, what’s wrong?”
“I just haven’t felt myself the last few days. That’s all.”
“Perhaps the last six days?”
“You don’t quit, do you? I said ‘no,’ Annabeth. I don’t date women under my command. Even if I did…she’s not my type.”
“You mean intelligent, well-read, and cute?”
“Well, thank you, Annabeth. You just wrote my senior rater comments for Laria’s eval.”
“As long as it gets her promoted…”
“You know, when I told you it was your job to stand up for the crew, this is not exactly what I meant.”
Annabeth stood up and headed for the doors.
“By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you, how was the the Battle of Klach D’Kel Brakt holodeck program she got for the two of you?”
“Get out!” he said picking his PADD back up.
Annabeth laughed as she walked back out onto the bridge.
“Do not go in there,” she said taking her chair.
“Hadn’t planned on it,” Katie said not looking up from Tactical.
“I don’t even know what the inside of that room looks like,” Phil said adjusting the Pershing’s trim.
Katie’s console started beeping.
“Ma’am,” incoming transmission from the Vulcan Science Academy.
“Must be Laria,” Annabeth said calmly. “On screen.” The image of an older Vulcan female appeared on the screen. Annabeth suddenly looked confused.
“This is Commander Annabeth Geist of the Federation starship, Pershing. How may I help you?”
“Yes, Commander. I am T’ren, Chief Lecture Coordinator for the Vulcan Science Academy. I am wondering, has Lieutenant Amira adjusted her flight plan and failed to inform us?”
“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” Annabeth said growing very concerned. “We thought that she had already arrived on Vulcan.”
“Yes,” T’ren replied. “She is over twelve hours overdue and our sensor stations show that her runabout is nowhere in this entire sector. All attempts to reach her on subspace have failed.”
“Oh my God,” Katie said from Tactical.
“No, we haven’t heard from her at all…” Annabeth said trailing off.
“Very well, I recommend that we execute missing starship protocols immediately. We will alert search parties in our sector. I recommend that you do the same in yours.”
“Yes, of course,” Annabeth said in shock. She sat back in her chair.
“If you have no further information, Vulcan Science Academy, out.”
Annabeth stared straight ahead at the blank viewscreen. Without looking down, she pressed her intercom.
“Yes, Number One?” Tigranian said still sounding annoyed.
“Please come to the bridge…"
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Two Days Prior
Guada System: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space
A heavy rattling caused Laria to stir. The turbulence was made even worse by the fact that her head felt like it was trapped in a vice.
Suddenly, there was a tremendous boom as the escape pod slowed down beneath the speed of sound. She bolted awake when she fully comprehended she was inside a planet’s atmosphere. She looked out the tiny window next to her head. All she saw was bright blue. Her breathing quickened.
“Ocean: I’m about to crash into an ocean.”
She looked at the controls. The shockwave that knocked her unconscious had also knocked out the escape pod’s computer, automatic landing system, and emergency beacon. She was flying blind, completely alone, and no idea where this place was.
The window showed she was no more than a thousand meters above the ground and going so fast that this entire craft would crush to pieces on impact. She had to find a way to slow down or she would die before she even had a chance to drown. Fumbling around, she finally found the manual release for the pod’s landing parachutes. She pulled the handle with all her strength and felt the two parachutes deploy. The pod nearly ripped apart as the parachutes deployed at three times the speed they were supposed to. She decelerated enough to survive, but just barely.
The escape pod slammed into the surface of the water with enough force to knock the transparent tritanium window screens loose in the mounts. Water began flooding in and the pod started to sink.
As she struggled to breathe, she fought to get the hatch open.
“At least this planet’s warm,” she thought trying to push the image of drowning while trapped in an escape pod out of her mind. The craft completely slipped beneath the surface of the water as she finally found the release handle for the hatch. As the water completely engulfed her, the pressure equalized and the hatch released.
She saw the glistening surface of the water about twenty feet above her and fast receding. She pushed herself out of the pod as it disappeared towards the bottom and kicked as hard as she could. After what seemed like an eternity she broke the surface of the water and sucked in sweet, fresh, and breathable air.
She looked around and saw green trees just a few hundred meters away. Laria started swimming with all her remaining strength, but her wet uniform and boots made it extraordinarily difficult. Finally, after ten minutes of the hardest exertion of her life, the waves started carrying her towards the shore.
She thought she could ride the waves the last hundred meters in, when suddenly, she felt her legs bump into something hard. Laria looked down to see razor sharp coral beneath her feet. A giant wave crested over the reef and shoved her underneath the surface. Her limbs dragged along the bottom, tearing her uniform pants and jacket to shreds.
When the wave passed, she kicked back to the surface and gasped for air again. Wave after wave started pounding her. Laria did her best to stay above the water, but she was completely exhausted. Finally, another wall of water slammed into her and dragged her along the bottom. She winced in pain as she felt her legs scrape against the sharp rock, but then there was only soft sand. The water spit her out onto the beach and she collapsed into unconsciousness again.
* * * *
Two tall figures walked towards an unconscious woman on the sand. They were extraordinarily tall, well over two meters, but their bodies were rail-thin. Gangly arms hung low beneath their hips. They had no hair, and the only clothes they wore were simple skirts of woven kelp and palm fronds wrapped around their waists. Their dark brown skin glistened in the bright light.
Skinny shadows hung over Laria as they gazed down at her. The pair began speaking in their language.
“She must have come from the stars,” the first one said leaning on his fishing spear.
“She is Bajoran…” the second one said crouching down next to her. He held up his wide, four-fingered hand next to her mouth. “and she still breathes.”
“A slave of the Cardassians?”
“No…she wears of the coverings of the Federation.”
“Outworlders: they are all the same, Teewa. They come and take want they want, ravage the land and sea, and vanish.”
“Bajoran, Cardassian, Jem’Hadar, Federation…” the other one said wrapping his long arms around Laria. “It matters not…she is alive.”
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Two lightyears from the Badlands: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space
“Sir,” Scharr said from the science station. “I’m picking up a debris field approximately five hundred kilometers off our starboard bow.”
“Composition?” Tigranian said nervously.
“High concentrations of tritanium, polymer composites, and duranium alloys…it’s consistent with a Federation runabout.”
Tigranian closed his tightly and clenched his fists.
“I’m picking up something else, Sir…it doesn’t make any sense.”
“What is it?” Tigranian turning towards him.
“There’s more debris out there. I’ve only seen its composition in one place. It’s a Dominion Ship.”
“Yes, Sir. Confirmed,” the Andorian continued. “It’s definitely a Jem’Hadar attack fighter.”
“What are the Jem’Hadar still doing in this sector of space?” Annabeth said.
“I don’t know, Ma’am,” Scharr said shaking his head. “But it looks like both ships were consumed in an anti-matter explosion. Full warp-core breach. Most of the debris was vaporized. There’s not a lot left.”
“Do you think she was attacked?” Katie said from Tactical.
“It’s possible,” Scharr said, “the weapons signatures would have dissipated by now.”
“Scan the area for any signs of escape pods.”
“Sir,” Scharr replied, “I already have. There’s nothing out there.”
“Don’t you say that to me, Tren. There’s an escape pod somewhere and she’s in it!”
“Confirmed, Sir…” Katie said softly from behind them. “No emergency beacons, no subspace transmissions, it’s just empty space.”
Annabeth closed her eyes.
“Sir, I think we have to consider the possibility that Laria was attacked by a rogue Jem’Hadar ship and killed trying to defend herself.”
The captain turned his chair away from her.
“I refuse to believe that…there’s been no Dominion activity in this area for over eight months.”
“Sir, we haven’t received a single distress call or emergency ping…there’s nothing on long range sensors….”
Katie began tearing up at Tactical. Scharr’s antennae dropped.
“What about the Badlands, could she be in there?” Tigranian said, refusing to let go of hope.
“Sir, the shockwave from a warp core breach would have severely damaged that escape pod…if she made it to the Badlands, she wouldn’t last long in those plasma storms.”
“You’re right, of course,” he said climbing to his feet. “If she was killed in battle with the Jem’Hadar, we should not mourn, for she is in Sto’Vo’Kor. You have the bridge, Number One,” he said walking to the turbolift.
As he stepped inside, Annabeth called after him.
“I SAID YOU HAVE THE BRIDGE!” he screamed so loudly it shook the entire compartment. The turbolift doors closed and he disappeared.
* * * *
Tigranian was lost in thought. He was vaguely aware that he was moving through the ship, walking the corridors, not acknowledging anyone who passed by. Then, he stopped. He was in front of her quarters.
“Computer, override door lock, Authorization: Tigranian Omega 3-6 Tango.”
The doors slid open and he stepped inside. Everything was just as she’d left it. All her books, all her pictures, her non-regulation green and white bedspread…all of it, just waiting for her return. On her nightstand, a photo of the entire crew taken at Annabeth and Alex’s wedding just two weeks before stared out at him.
He walked over to her bed and sat down. Rijo, her stuffed pugabeast, leaned against the pillow. He picked it up and stared into its plastic eyes.
“I somehow knew I’d find you in here…”
He looked up to see Annabeth standing across from him. He looked back to the stuffed animal in his hands and ran his fingers over its fur. Annabeth walked over, took a seat next to him, and placed an arm around him.
“Before today, I’d lost 97 people under my command, Annabeth. Each and every one of them was difficult, but I was always able to justify it away. We were fighting for a cause, and they sacrificed their lives for a greater good. They were warriors, engaging in battle, and Kahless would reward them in the next life with eternal paradise…”
“Faith of any kind can be very comforting at times like this…”
“Then, today I lost my 98th…and the only thing I can think of is how I’ll never see her again…”
He started shaking and fought back tears. The captain clutched the pugabeast to his chest, threw his head back, and howled. Annabeth could feel the pain in its bone jarring force.
She pulled him into her arms. The captain broke down and wept.
“It’s alright, Dan…It’s alright.”
Through his sobbing, he started gently singing to himself:
Mi’ qul qar’a’ ‘ej Do’ QI’ la’
QI’ DO’ Sum, qarI’ Do’ QI’la’
Sutem pa’ rI’ tlho’ mara’ ‘e’ Laria…
“That was beautiful…” Annabeth gently whispered. “What does it mean?”
“See the fires burning clearly as I wish you good fortune…
I wish you only the greatest of luck as I hail you …
Though, you are silent now, I will always praise your name, my Laria…”
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Guada System: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space
Laria felt something strange covering her whole body. It felt cool and slimy, but also wonderful. She slowly opened her eyes and saw a giant, hairless woman, taller and skinnier than any humanoid she had ever laid eyes on, leaning next to her. In a bowl was a large, orange sea slug. The woman scrapped some slime off the creatures back with a piece of shell and moved closer to rub some on Laria’ face.
The Bajoran bolted awake and crawled backwards. Laria saw that she was in a palm frond hut. Sunlight beamed in from the open door and the cracks in the walls. Her uniform was gone, replaced with the same type of simple kelp and leaf wrap that the tall woman was wearing. She did not seem alarmed at all and gazed at Laria calmly with her huge, slanted eyes.
Laria then realized that she was covered head to toe with the sea-slug’s excretions.
“What is this!” she shouted involuntarily.
“It is alright,” the woman said with a smile. “The sun had burned your skin. This will make it feel better,” she said gesturing to the slug.
“Thank the Prophets,” Laria said extremely relieved. “The universal translator is still working…”
The tall woman put down the shell and kept looking at Laria.
“What are you called?” she asked still smiling.
“My name is Laria…” she replied nervously.
“I am Ytana. Welcome to my home,” she said touching one of her hands to her heart.
“Where are my clothes?”
“Your coverings were shredded by the coral. Besides, what you had is not good for the heat. You will like that much better.”
Suddenly, Laria started worrying.
“There was a badge…a pin…made out of metal on that uniform. I need it if you still have it.”
“You mean your device for talking to others. I saved it for you.” The large woman stood up and crossed across the hut. She opened a box made of woven palm fronds, picked out Laria’s comm badge, and then handed it to her. Her limbs were so long, she only had to fully extend her arm to reach.
“You know what this is?” Laria asked amazed.
“You are not the first person from the stars to visit Guada.”
“Guada? Is that what this planet is called?”
“Yes, it is our home. First the Cardassians came in the time of mother’s mother’s mother. Then, the Jem’Hadar came. Finally, your Federation came and made great battles here.”
“Is there anyone from the Federation still here? Someone, I can contact?”
“We have not seen any of them for many seasons.” Ytana pointed to the comm badge. “Can you use that to call your people?” she asked hopefully.
“No,” Laria replied dejectedly. “The range isn’t far enough.”
Suddenly, Laria realized what kind of guest she was being to the people who had probably saved her life.
Ytana just gently shook her head.
“It is our way,” she said kindly. “My mate, Teewa found you while he was fishing down the shore. He could not just leave you there. The jungle would have taken you eventually.”
Ytana stood up and walked over to a small fire burning in the center of the hut. She opened a clay pot resting in the coals and pulled out several small bundles wrapped in dark green leaves.
“Laria, you must be hungry. Eat and rest.”
She handed the bundles to Laria on a wide green palm frond. She took in the deep aroma and unwrapped one of the bundles. It was a small pieces of meat mixed with fish. It smelled amazing. It was only then she realized the last time she ate was on the runabout…whenever that was.
She began devouring the bundles while Ytana poured some white liquid into a ceramic cup.
“Here…” she said handing it to Laria. She took a sip, barely pausing between bites from the bundles. Whatever it was, it was cool and sweet.
“This is delicious,” Laria said.
“The Great Creator provides, we only share his bounty with one another…”
Laria looked around with disbelief that a place like this could still exist in the modern galaxy.
“You said the Cardassians were here?”
“Yes…for many generations.”
“How did they not destroy this place?”
“Your people are called Bajoran?” Ytana asked. Laria nodded.
“Then you know of Cardassians. They took much, but luckily, we had much to give.”
“Did they have any cities, towns, any settlements? Anywhere where others from the stars might be?”
“They tried to build, but did not wish to stay.”
“Why?” Laria asked amazed that anyone would leave this planet undisturbed.”
“My grandmother told me stories that the Cardassians kept asking for things. They searched the caves, mountains, and seas but said that they could not find anything useful for them. The Guada people could not understand. We have everything we could ever need.
Besides, they must be weak. When their machines did not work well, they said that they could not live here.”
This last statement perked Laria’s scientific interest.
“You said their machines didn’t work well? Do you know why?”
“The Great Creator made our ground from something the machines do not like.”
“There something in this planet’s crust that creates a natural dampening field…”
Suddenly, a man walked into the hut. When he saw Laria, he smiled.
“She still lives,” he said relieved. “Welcome to my home,” he said with a bow of his long, graceful neck. He then repeated the gesture of his hand over his heart. “I am Teewa.”
“I’m Laria. Thank you very much for bringing me here.”
“The Great Creator brought you here. My mate and I merely care for you as he wishes…”
Laria smiled meekly and looked at the ground.
“Have you eaten and drank your fill?” he said pointing to her cup and the empty leaf bundles.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Then come, I will show you where you may call ‘home’ as long as you require.” He extended a massive arm out the door. Laria climbed to her feet and walked out into the sun. The bright light momentarily blinded her, but as her eyes adjusted, paradise came into view.
Twenty huts lay clustered on white sand on the edge of a bright blue lagoon. Coral reefs dotted the surface of the crystal clear water heading out into the calm deep blue of the sea. Behind her, lush green jungle grew wild and unchecked just a few meters away. The Guadans went about their daily business seemingly oblivious to the presence of an alien in their midst. An older man sat in the shade of the next hut weaving a fishing net out of dried seaweed. He looked to her with a happy, toothless grin. Laria was instantly relaxed and smiled back at him. Two other women sorted through fruits gathered from the trees of the jungle, laughing and joking in a way that seemed completely natural and undisturbed from the beginning of the universe. Several children ran around them playing some form of tag. Several men worked unloading fish from dugout canoes lay in the surf’s edge. The young Bajoran stepped onto the sand, her bare feet taking in the soft, almost life-like warmth of Guada.
The effect of the village seemed intoxicating. The breeze softly rushing through her hair, the kiss of the life-giving sun, and the sound of happy laughter from the villagers…Even the very air seemed to wrap around her like a reassuring blanket. She walked forward into the surf, feeling the warm waves rushing against her legs.
Teewa entered the water next to her, looking down with his grin.
“This is your home?” Laria asked in utter disbelief.
“Yes, since the beginning and until the end of time. It is a part of us, and we a part of it.”
Since she was a little girl, Laria had been taught about the Bajoran idea of the afterlife. What it would be like to wake up in the Celestial Temple, to live among the Prophets, and serve them in bliss for eternity. When she had regained her faith as a young woman, she believed that one day, she too would walk with the Prophets in their home watching over Bajor. For a brief moment, standing there in the warm water, the idea crossed her mind that maybe she had indeed died in the runabout explosion, and this place was the peaceful and timeless existence that she was promised…
* * * *
Three days passed and Laria had regained her strength. She had learned the names of everyone in the village, began helping the women with their daily chores and collecting the fruits of the forest, played with the children and learned their games. She swam in the lagoon, taking in the warm water and the nourishing sun, and even accompanied Teewa out on a fishing expedition to the reefs. However, this world, with all its beauty and tranquility was not her own. She knew that she would always be an outsider looking in.
After examining a rock outcropping on the far side of the village, she discovered the source of the natural interference. This planet had one of the highest natural concentrations of dolemite she had ever seen. It was no wonder that the Guadans still lived in the stone age. Anything that relied on the transmission of electro-magnetic waves would be degraded. Phasers would have to be continually retuned, subspace radios constantly recalibrated, and sensors almost useless.
As Laria saw it, she had two choices: wait for a ship to land near the village, which could take months…maybe even years…or find a way to generate a subspace wave powerful enough to get somebody’s attention.
On the evening of the fourth day, the sun set and the bright moons of Guada filled the sky. Laria gathered with the other villagers around a bonfire in the sand. Otano, one of the fisherman of the village, was telling a story about a large sea-serpent that helped lost mariners find their way home. Hearing that story made Laria ache to be find a way back to the Pershing. She had to come to realize in her time here they had all of them: Katie, Alex, Annabeth, Phil, and even Scharr were where she belonged.
Then, there was Daniel. She was surprised when she first thought of him by that name, but yes, in her mind he was no longer Captain Tigranian…he was Daniel.
Teewa and Ytana sat next to her, their long legs crossed in front of them. Suddenly, a thought crossed Laria’ mind.
“Teewa, you said you saw the Jem’Hadar and the Federation when they were here. Where did you see them?”
“The Jem’Hadar would appear from the jungle. They never spoke except to ask if anyone not loyal to them were here. We would say that we were loyal to all, and they would leave.”
“What about the Federation?”
“They came from the stars in flying canoes and landed on the beach one day…”
“Flying canoes?” Laria asked confused. “You mean drop ships?”
“We do not have words for such things in our tongue.”
“I’m sorry,” Laria said apologetically. “Please continue.”
“They stayed near the shore and set up large camps. They asked where the Jem’Hadar were. We would say the jungle and they would get frustrated. Eventually they moved further down the shore. We did not see them again until the dragon breathed fire from the sky.”
Laria’s curiosity perked again.
“Could you tell me about the dragon from the sky?”
“We would often hear the Federation’s thunder and see the Jem’Hadar’s lightning at night. That was when they liked to fight their battles. One night, the thunder and lightning was very bad. The children were scared and cried into their mother’s arms. The men stepped outside to watch the storm. Suddenly, a bright beam of light came from the sky and scorched the ground. We could see the fires burning from far away. Then all was quiet again.
We decided that we must see what this dragon was. If a new threat had come to Guada, we must know so we could act. I volunteered to go with three others. We paddled for a full day down the shore until we found the Federation’s new camp. Many of your people were there. There was also something that we had never seen tucked into the jungle; something that many of your warriors guarded.”
“What was it?” Laria asked enthralled.
“It was taller than twenty great trees, made of black metal, and the top glowed with a color of blue brighter than the sky at mid-day.”
“Was it a building, or a structure?”
Teewa furrowed his brow. It was difficult for him to describe with the words that he knew.
“The bottom of it was like a hut made of metal, but the top was not. It was like the trunk of a great tree.” Laria immediately gained hope.
“Did anyone from the Federation say what it was for?”
“One of them, a very young man dressed black and gold, tried to say it was for the Jem’Hadar to call on others.”
“A subspace array!” Laria shouted climbing to her feet. The other villagers around the fire looked to her. She bowed apologetically and sat back down. Otano returned to telling his stories. “Why would the Dominion put a subspace array on a planet with natural dampening field?”
“It was then the Federation said it was not safe for us to be there and we should go back to our village. We asked about the dragon, and they said it would not bother us, so we left.”
“Teewa, this is very important. Is that array still there?”
“If the Great Creator has not taken it back into the sea,” he replied calmly.
“Can you take me there?”
“It is a difficult journey. Would you not rather stay here?”
“Teewa, your home is an amazing place, but it’s not mine. I would always be your guest, and I have to get back to my family.”
“And this ‘subspace array’ will help you do that?”
“It very well could.”
“Then, kind Laria, we will leave at first light.”
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Laria was exhausted. She dipped her wooden oar into the water and paddled against the surf in the back of Teewa’s canoe. The sun beat down on them with its usual ferocity, and she had to take frequent sips from the water skin Teewa had given her before their departure. However, he seemed completely content to paddle forever. She had no idea how he was navigating, but he was just as comfortable at the head of his canoe as Phil was at the Pershing’s helm.
“How much farther?” Laria called out as the afternoon sun began to drop below the horizon.
“Not much farther,” he called back to her with a smile. Only another hour or so.”
“Another hour?” she called out exasperated. “I’ve travelled between planets in less time than this!”
Teewa began laughing loud enough to be heard over the waves.
“We noticed that about your Federation and Jem’Hadar…”
“And what’s that?” Laria said a little insulted about any comparison between the Federation and the Dominion.
“Outlanders always want to get everywhere so fast, that you forget to enjoy the trek along the way…”
Laria paused. She looked out on the endless sea and sky, the white beaches, and the green forest. The warm breeze carried the scent of sea air and flowers, and the ever present sound of the waves countered the steady pulse of their paddling.
“Enjoy the trek…” she whispered to herself.
Time passed, and Laria slowly began to lose herself. She listened to the cawing of the birds plucking fish out of the water, she closed her eyes and breathed the pure air, and savored the rhythmic rocking of the canoe on the water. However, just when she had truly begun to relax, she saw a dark object on the horizon, it’s harsh artificially stood in stark contrast to the natural beauty around it.
“There it is…” she whispered. “A ticket home.”
It was indeed a communications array, and huge one at that. It had to be a central hub for this entire sector. No wonder the Federation was fighting for it here.
Teewa artfully maneuvered the canoe to the beach at the base of the cliff below the array. When he had tied the boat to a rock, he motioned for Laria to follow him. An artificial path had been cut in the stone from the sand up to the base of the tower.
At the top of the cliff, they found a small building built into the base of the complex.
“This was where we spoke with the Federation warriors,” Teewa said. When she saw the condition of the structure, Laria’s heart sank.
“How long ago was that?” Laria said. “This place looked like it’s been abandoned for years.”
“Nine seasons ago,” Teewa said calmly. The jungle on Guada had done quick work. Vines and leaves had covered everything. Corrosion had begun to take its toll, and disrepair was starting to overtake everything.
Laria pulled open a rusty access panel on the side of the door, and found a manual release lever. She pulled with all her might, but couldn’t get it to budge.
“Could you help me?” she asked. Teewa walked over, and with all their combined strength, they finally unlocked the building.
Pushing their way inside, they found themselves in a control room. When the Federation left, they had stripped out much of the Dominion equipment, probably to be sent to technicians in the Intelligence Branch for analysis. The remaining control panels were dark and overgrown.
“Is this what you were looking for?” Teewa asked hopefully.
“I don’t know yet…” Laria replied with a worried expression. She began tracing the remaining panels with her eyes. She finally found what looked like the main power juncture in a back corner of the room. She brushed off the dirt and leaves that had settled on it over the past two years.
“I’m a scientist, not an engineer. At this point, Teewa, your guess on how to operate this stuff is probably as good as mine…” He looked back at her concerned.
She pried off another panel and began resequencing some iso-linear rods.
“What are you doing?” Teewa asked curiously.
“Well, I don’t see any fusion regulators in here…anti-matter would have eaten through its containment pods by now and blown this entire area into orbit…so whatever power source this thing runs on…” she switched two final rods and pressed a series of buttons. Sparks exploded from a nearby console, but slowly the entire room glowed back to life. “…must still be here.”
Laria grinned from ear to ear. Teewa smiled as well.
“That must be a good sign,” he said supportively.
“We’re about to find out,” Laria said walking over to what appeared to be the main control panel. She pressed a few keys.
“Impressive, Dominion…” she said pulling up a design schematic on the computer. “This entire array runs on geo-thermal energy. Making Guada work for you…”
“What do you mean?” Teewa asked cocking his long neck to one side.
“It means that the Jem’Hadar were using the Great Creator’s power to make their machines work instead of having to bring some of their own.”
Laria kept examining the schematics. A lot of key equipment was missing from the array, but sending out a basic un-coded message could still be possible…if she was lucky.
“But what about the dampening field?” she muttered quietly to herself still pressing keys and buttons. If the message was interrupted in transmission, then even sending them the exact spatial coordinates to her position would still be worthless. That’s when she noticed a rather interesting modification that the Dominion had made to this array’s design. Her eyes grew wide.
“That’s genius!” Laria shouted. She started furiously pressing buttons. “The Dominion didn’t put this here in spite of the dampening field…they put it here because of the dampening field!”
“I do not understand,” Teewa said walking towards her.
“They’re transmitting their subspace carrier wave on the exact same resonance frequency as the dampening field generated by the dolemite! When they transmit with a sufficient signal booster, the wave is actually accelerated into subspace at a higher relative velocity to normal space-time! They can talk to half the quadrant with this thing instantaneously!” She smiled as she looked at Teewa. He was obviously happy for her, but comprehended nothing in her last statement.
“You have absolutely no idea what I’m saying do you?” Laria said a little embarrassed.
“No…” Teewa said with a grin.
“Ok,” she said trying to think of a metaphor he could understand. “What happens when you drop a rock into water?”
“It will sink.”
“Right, that’s what the rocks in the ground are doing to messages that people try to send from Guada normally. However, what happens if you throw that rock at the right angle to the water with enough speed?”
“The rock will skip off the water and keep going.”
“Yes!” Laria said realizing she had gotten through. “The Dominion figured out the exact right angle and speed they needed to throw their messages at the dampening field so that the message would get pushed out and keep going.”
Laria pressed a few more buttons before kneeling down and removing a small access panel at the base of the console. She reached into a pouch hanging on her hip and pulled out her comm badge. She attached it to a junction and then stood back to her feet.
“The connections are really corroded,” she said nervously. “Once we energize the transmitter, I don’t know how long they’ll hold.”
“Will you be able to contact your people?” Teewa asked sensing her concern.
“It won’t be a full message, but if they hear it, hopefully it will be enough.
She keyed the final sequence, and looked up at Teewa. “Wish me luck…” she said looking at him.
“There is no luck, Laria,” Teewa said placing his hand on her shoulder. “If the Great Creator wills it, they will hear your words across the stars.” She nodded.
“Then, may the Prophets will it…” she said closing her eyes and hitting ‘transmit.’
The loud hum of electronics echoed through the room, but then there was a huge boom as the main power junction exploded in a shower of sparks. Everything in the room went dark.
“Are you alright?” Teewa shouted.
“Yes, I’m fine…” Laria said dejectedly.
“Did your message fly?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “The power failed before I received a confirmation.” She tried pressing a few keys, but the console was completely dead. She walked over to the power junction and examined the iso-linear rods. It was just as she feared. “Everything’s completely fused. This array will never work again.”
* * * *
Teewa had built a large fire on the beach next to their canoe. They couldn’t paddle back to the village in the dark, so they would camp beneath the array until morning. Laria stared silently up at the stars, hoping that somehow she had been heard. As she looked across the crystal clear sky, she wondered which of those little bright specks of light the Pershing was near. In her depressed state, she almost wanted to yell upwards in the hope they would miraculously hear her.
Teewa walked over and took a seat next to her.
“What is it like to fly through those?” he asked softly.
“When I was a child, I wondered the same thing. That’s why I joined Starfleet,” she replied barely above a whisper. “Then I realized that it isn’t about flying through the stars, it’s about the people you meet along the way…”
He nodded in understanding.
“How about you? Would you like to fly up there?” His response surprised her. He just smiled and said one word.
“You mean, knowing all the different types of people throughout this galaxy, you still don’t want to leave Guada?”
“Why would I leave the place where the Great Creator chose to place me?”
“The reason why Starfleet exists,” Laria said looking up at him. “To explore, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where you have never gone before…”
“Laria,” Teewa said. “Since I have known you, I have seen you meet new life, and a new civilization. I have seen you be bold and go where you have never gone…and yet the greatest wish you have had is to get back to your home.”
Laria sat in stunned silence as she considered his words.
“The only thing we must explore in this life is always with us.” Teewa pointed one of his long fingers right at her heart. “Though we may travel long distances, hear beautiful sounds, and see great things, we inevitably wander right back to where we began our journeys…the place with those we love.”
Laria instantly thought of Daniel.
“But what if I can’t get back?” she said softly.
“Then, hold the precious memories in your heart and never forget,” he said with eyes full of kindness. She leaned in close to him and he gently wrapped his long arm around her.
Chapter 8 by captaintigranian
Tigranian had been dreading this moment for the past four days. It was a requirement as Laria’s former commander, but he knew it was also the right thing to do. He just didn’t know if he had the sheer emotional strength to get through it.
He sat in his quarters, elbows on the desk, hands on the sides of this head. He considered taking a couple of gulps of bloodwine, but decided against it. It wouldn’t be right on every level not to have his wits and composure at all times.
Rijo was on the desk next to him, staring with his giant unmoving eyes. He picked up the toy and felt it’s fur. She had spent almost every night of her short life with this pugabeast, and somehow having it near him made her feel less far away. The stuffed animal was becoming as comforting to him as it was to Laria, but only because it brought him to a place where he could imagine her still being there.
However, as a warrior, he had a duty to perform and could not live in idle comfort any longer. He had to be a man, and put aside Rijo.
“Computer,” he said taking a deep breath. “Begin Recording.” He sat back in his chair and stared at the screen.
“Mr. and Mrs. Amira, my name is Captain Daniel Tigranian, and I am Laria’s commander on the U.S.S. Pershing. I express my deepest regrets, that on Stardate 53242.9 we discovered the debris of the runabout she was traveling in en route to a scientific conference on Vulcan.
The runabout had suffered a full warp-core breach. While the investigation is still ongoing, all the evidence suggests that Laria was killed in the explosion.
While I cannot pretend to imagine the pain of losing a child, I can say that her loss has been devastating for both me and my crew. Though we have only been together a few months, we have quickly become a family. Much of that was because of Laria’s loving personality, her amazing and gifted mind, and her beautiful soul.
I had grown very personally close to Laria since her arrival on board, and I am finding it especially difficult to cope with her sudden and tragic loss. She had helped me through some of my own difficult times with her kind words and expressions of her deep faith. I know in my heart that she now walks with the Prophets in their loving arms…”
Up on the bridge, Katie was working late again. Laria’s loss had brought many feelings back that she thought she had finally beaten. Every time she stood idle for a more than few minutes, anger started bubbling to the surface. She refused to accept that the Jem’Hadar had stolen someone else from her life. So, she kept working.
Ensign Gleeto, one of the engineering assistants, was on the night duty officer’s shift that evening, and was being tormented by her relentless attempt to recalibrate the starboard phaser array.
“Try to isolate the nadion frequency in the pre-fire chamber. The resonance is degrading the energy pulse before it hits the emitter stage,” she said not looking up from her console.
“Ma’am,” Ensign Gleeto said rubbing his eyes, “We’ve been at this for over an hour and we’re still not getting any increase in firing efficiency. We’re sitting at 98.2 percent already and that’s two full percentage points over the standard rating.”
“Did I ask for your opinion, Ensign?” she said angrily. “I don’t care if we’re at 99.9 percent. I want to get this system as damn near perfect as we can, are you tracking?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said not making eye contact.
A small, red light starting blinking on her communication control panel. She looked over and her legs nearly collapsed.
“The most difficult thing about this,” Tigranian said continuing his letter to Laria’s parents, “is thinking about all the things left undone by her passing….and all the things left unsaid.” He briefly looked away from the screen. “Laria and I had many discussions about the plans for her life, where she wanted to go, and who she wanted to be with. She spoke of you frequently, and the love she had for you. I am very sorry if this is presumptuous of me, but by the way she spoke of you both, I feel a deep connection to your family because…” he paused, drawing every last ounce of resolve to say the words without breaking down, “…I loved your daughter very much.”
“Captain!” Katie screamed through his intercom.
“Computer, pause recording,” he said angered at the interruption. “What is it, Lieutenant Stone?”
“We’ve just received a burst transmission on the Starfleet Emergency Band.”
Tigranian allowed the tiniest amount of hope to rise within him.
“Is it a distress call?” he asked quickly.
“No, the transmission cut out before I could try signaling back, but it contained just one thing…Laria’s comm badge locator signal.”
Tigranian leaned back in chair and exhaled like he had just burst through the surface of an icy river.
“Thank you, Kahless…” he whispered. “She doesn’t dine with you in Sto’Vo’Kor yet.”
“Were you able to locate the source of the signal?”
“Yes Sir, nine lightyears away on the edge of the Badlands. It’s coming from Guada.”
Tigranian froze. First the debris of the Jem’Hadar fighter at the site of her runabout’s destruction and now her comm badge signal from one of the most horrific battlefields of the war. He prayed it was a coincidence, because if the Jem’Hadar were holding her in those jungles, they might never be able to find her.
“Katie, cloak the ship. If there are Dominion holdouts around Guada, we don’t want them to know we’re coming. Set a course for Guada, maximum warp!”
As the stars outside his window flashed and then began to streak by, he rose from his chair to head to the bridge. He started for the doors, but then suddenly stopped and turned back towards his desk.
“Computer, delete recording.”
Chapter 9 by captaintigranian
Guada System: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space.
Laria and Teewa returned to the village. She was starting to resign herself to the fact that she might not leave Guada for a very long time, if ever, but Teewa’s words that night on the beach below the array still brought her some comfort. If she couldn’t get back home, she could still hold on to the memories of those she left behind and start making new ones with this remarkable group of people.
She lay on the sand staring out at the setting sun, the deep oranges and reds reflecting off the water in a brilliant, beautiful spectacle to behold. Ytana sat behind her, slowly braiding some white flowers into Laria’s dark curls. She had wanted try decorating’s Laria’s tresses since she had first seen them, as the bald Guadans had no experience with hair. Suprisingly, her long fingers were very adept at the task.
The sound of children playing the last games of the day, the smell of the cooking fires, and the sight of the waves bubbling against the shore mixed together into a soothing sensory menagerie that managed to set her mind a little more at ease. She just wished that the crew of the Pershing could somehow share this moment with her…
Two loud booms echoed across the lagoon. A flock of birds resting in the trees behind the village flew out of the branches, cawing in surprise. Ytana and Laria climbed to their feet.
“Could that be thunder?” Ytana said looking up at the clear sky.
“No,” Laria replied as she quickly scanned across the horizon. “That was something going subsonic in the stratosphere…” Ytana looked at her with confusion.
The sun’s fading light glinting off an object caught Laria’s eyes. She looked south over the lagoon at a rapidly growing dark speck. It quickly became larger and larger until finally its silhouette came into view. Laria dropped to her knees and started laughing with joy. It was a runabout and it was heading right towards them.
“You heard me!” Laria shouted. “You heard me!”
The rest of the villagers now saw the craft and walked out onto the beach to watch its approach. The runabout flew in low over the lagoon and gently touched down on the sand a few hundred meters away. Even before its engines shut down, Laria was running towards it.
The port hatch opened and Tigranian jumped down onto the beach. He saw a woman running towards him. Her skin was tanned by the tropical sun and her long dark hair adorned with white flowers bounced behind her. Before he could think, he was running towards her as well. They met right at the edge of the water and instantly were in each other’s arms.
Alex, jumped out of the runabout with a med kit and started heading towards the pair, but a hand from Annabeth on her shoulder stopped her.
“No,” she said softly. “Give them a moment.”
After a few wonderful seconds of happy silence, Tigranian and Laria finally looked into each other’s eyes.
“What took you so long?” Laria said with a smile. Tigranian couldn’t help but laugh.
“When we found the remains runabout and the Jem’Hadar ship, we feared the worst, but then we got your call. For my own sanity, you could have mentioned that you were on a tropical vacation and not being held hostage by fanatical remnants of the Dominion. I was prepared hit the beach with the marines to rescue you.”
“How valiant of you, Sir,” Laria said with a smirk. “How did you locate me on the surface through all the interference?”
“Luckily, my ship is equipped with the only sensor array in Starfleet sensitive enough to scan through a trillion metric tons of dolemite and find the only Bajoran lifesign on the entire planet.
Remind me to thank the woman who designed it. She made it so easy, even an Andorian could figure it out.” They both laughed again. Laria wrapped her arms around Tigranian once more and leaned her head on his chest.
“It’s good to see you, Sir.” Tigranian pushed his feelings down and replied with only.
“It’s good to see you, too.”
Back at the village, Teewa and Ytana stood together watching the reunion. Several more outworlders emerged from the sky canoe and joined Laria and the man together on the beach. Soon, Laria was smiling, laughing, and hugging several others who she seemed to know.
“It looks like she is very happy,” Ytana said.
“Of course, she is very happy,” Teewa said smiling back at his mate. “She has found the way back to the people she loves.”
* * * *
Saying goodbye to Teewa, Ytana, and the rest of the villagers was harder than Laria imagined, but they promised that she would always be welcome in their home. Tigranian had tried to leave them some supplies as a thank you for the care they gave his stranded crewmember, but Teewa had politely refused.
“Why would we take what is yours? We already have more than we could ever need.” Tigranian only smiled and said that they were as welcome on his ship as they had made Laria feel in their village.
Despite being given an initial clean bill of health, Alex still insisted that Laria be taken to the hospital on Starbase 371 to be seen by a specialist.
“You don’t know what kind of strange tropical diseases and parasites could be lurking in that jungle,” she had said concerned. As a Guada veteran himself, Tigranian obliged his chief medical officer over Laria’s objections.
However, Laria currently had more important things to worry about now that she was back on board. She was tearing her own quarters apart, looking for another missing shipmate.
“I know you’re here!” she said on the verge of panic as she ripped her pillows off her bed for the tenth time. “I left you right here!”
Suddenly, her door chimed. She went over and opened it. Tigranian was standing there holding her oldest friend.
“Rijo!” Laria screamed as she grabbed her pugabeast and hugged him to her chest.
“Sorry, he told me he was lonely so he spent the last few days in my quarters.” Tigranian said with a grin. “May I come in?”
“Yes Sir, please,” Laria said allowing him to step inside.
She walked over and placed Rijo back in his place on her bed. Tigranian stopped in the center of the room.
“I wanted to thank you…” he said looking in Laria’s eyes.
“Why?” she said with a confused smile.
“Because before today, all the memories I had of Guada were ones I’d rather forget, but now whenever I think of that world, I’ll just remember finding you on the edge of that lagoon, the sunset…” he paused. “…and the way you felt in my arms.” Laria froze, not sure of what to say.
“No,” he said abruptly. “Don’t call me ‘Sir’ right now.” He moved forward, wrapped his arms around Laria, and kissed her. After about five seconds of pure bliss, he leaned back and opened his eyes.
“I thought I lost you, L. Now, that I have you back, I don’t ever want to lose you again.”
It was her turn to kiss him. They stood there in each other’s embrace, both wanting to take things farther. Without letting go, they moved toward the bed and fell onto it. Tigranian lifted Laria and laid her down, but as soon as his hands started moving to lift up her t-shirt, she stopped.
“Wait!” she said suddenly.
“What?” he said worried he’d done something wrong. Laria jumped out from under him and grabbed Rijo. She carried the pugabeast over to a shelf on the far side of the room and made him face the wall.
“It’d be weird if he watched,” she said running back over to the bed and squeezing under Tigranian again.
“You good?” Tigranian asked through his quickened breathing.
“Yeah,” Laria said with a quick nod before finding his lips again. Then they picked up where they left off.
* * * *
Tigranian awoke the next morning with a pile of dark brown hair in his face. Laria slept peacefully, still wrapped in his arms. He smiled and started running the tips of his fingers over her bare shoulders. She stirred with a content sigh.
“Good morning,” he whispered in her ear.
“Good morning,” she said inching closer to his chest. “You know, of all the ways I thought I’d spend my first night back on this ship, waking up naked next to you wasn’t one of them…” They both laughed.
“I hope you’re not disappointed,” he said with a grin.
“I’d say it was a solid performance on your part,” she said grinning back.
“Ouch,” he said feigning insult. “Computer, time?”
“The time is 0649 hours.”
“ghay’cha’, I better get back to my quarters. I’m due on the bridge in an hour…”
Suddenly, Laria got a worried look on her face and rolled away from him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked concerned.
“So, what now?” she asked not looking at him. “Is this gonna be, thanks for the nice night, Lieutenant, now put your clothes back on and don’t ever tell anyone?”
“Hey,” he said pulling her close again. “I told you, casual sex isn’t my thing. Besides, do you remember what you told me that night on Risa?” She rolled over and glared at him.
“Is that supposed to be a joke?”
“No,” he said reaching up and brushing a strand of hair from her face. “It’s just, I think I’m falling in love with you…and I just really want you to love me to.”
She kissed him again. He ran his hands down her bare back and she melted under their touch. Then, she collapsed onto the pillow next to him.
“So, where do we go from here?”
“I want to be with you, however, I don’t think we shouldn’t tell the others for awhile…at least a couple weeks. You know, show them that we can still be professional while on duty?”
“Alright,” she said nodding her head. “As long as I get to have you.”
“L, you already have me,” he said before planting one more kiss on her lips. She relaxed and lay her head back on the pillow.
“Well, I’m ok with that arrangement…” she said running her fingers over the brand of the House of Torlek on his left arm. “…but on one condition.”
He raised his eyebrows.
“And that is?”
“If we’re gonna be spending a lot of time in your quarters…you’re getting a real mattress.”
Down the corridor in Annabeth and Alex’s quarters, the entire staff had assembled.
“Alright, everybody,” Annabeth said addressing the crew. “Thank you for showing your support for Laria. I’m sure she’ll appreciate a nice home-cooked meal that doesn’t come out of a replicator.”
Alex was putting the finishing touches on a tray that contained a breakfast in bed for Laria. Everyone had woken up early to cook part of the spread.
“Katie, great job on the bacon, Phil thank you for the fresh squeezed Kava Juice, However, Tren,” Annabeth said turning to Scharr. “Why are the eggs blue?” His antennae perked up.
“They’re Andorian eggs,” he said matter-of-factly. “Everything on Andoria is blue.”
“Ok…” Katie muttered. “Hey, where’s the captain?”
“I don’t know,” Annabeth said shaking her head. I dropped by his quarters last night to tell him about this, but he wasn’t in. He was probably training late on the holodeck and I know he doesn’t like to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.”
“Plus, he’s been really ground down lately,” Alex said placing a single Bajoran lily on the tray. “Probably could use a nice night of quiet sleep now that he doesn’t have to worry about Laria.”
The entire crew assembled and walked down the corridor. They stopped outside of Laria’s quarters and hit the chime.
“Hey, Little Castaway!” Annabeth said speaking into the intercom. “We’re all out here and we made breakfast for you! Open up.”
“Hey, Laria!” everyone said. There was no answer.
“Laria?” Annabeth said growing concerned.
Suddenly, there was huge commotion from inside her quarters. Everyone looked at each other. Then, they heard a familiar man’s voice whispering loudly.
“My shirt! Where’s my shirt?”
Everyone’s jaw dropped. Annabeth and Alex looked at each other with massive grins.
The doors parted and Captain Tigranian and Laria stood next to each other. He was dressed in uniform pants, no shoes, and a grey undershirt. She was only in a t-shirt and shorts, and her hair still showed signs of amorous activities.
The captain looked out at the rest of his senior staff and cleared his throat.
“Good morning, Everyone,” he said trying to sound sure of himself.
“Good morning, Sir…Good morning, Laria…” Annabeth said trying not to laugh at the situation. As usual, Katie cut right to the point.
“Laria, you…are…a…GODDESS!” The Bajoran’s cheeks grew bright red and she looked down at the ground. Tigranian took a deep breath. He put his arm around Laria and pulled her next to him.
“Everyone,” Tigranian began. “We were hoping to keep this quiet for at least a little while, but Laria and I have decided to…enter a…relationship.”
“Well, you definitely entered something last night, Sir…” Phil muttered under his breath with a chuckle. Laria buried her head in the captain’s chest and he gritted his teeth.
“PHIL!” Alex shouted at him.
“I got it,” Katie said before punching him hard in the gut.
“OW!” Phil screamed as he nearly collapsed to the ground with the wind knocked out of him.
“Thank you, Katie…damn fighter pilots…” Tigranian said.
“You’re welcome, Sir.”
“Anyways,” he said lifting Laria’s chin. “It’s obvious the secret’s out now. So, I promise that we will be professional while in the workplace and I ask the same from all of you,” he said looking down at his helmsman gasping for air.
“Not a problem, Sir, utmost professionalism,” Phil said still trying to catch his breath.
“Sir,” Annabeth said. “I think I speak for all of us when I say we’re all very happy for you both and you too are adorable together…”
“Adorable is not a word I usually use to describe myself, but thank you,” Tigranian replied.
“That’s why I chose it, Sir,” she grinned. “Anyways, this tray is getting cold, but I think we have enough food left in our quarters to make a second plate since it looks like you’ve both…” she paused to clear her throat. “…worked up an appetite. Why don’t you two get showered and dressed and we’ll have this up in the ward room.”
“Thank you, Annabeth,” Laria said smiling.
“Yes, thank you, Number One.”
“Our pleasure, now everyone let’s give these two some privacy.” Annabeth led the group back down the corridor. Katie grabbed Phil’s ear like a petulant child’s and started dragging him away.
“Ow! Ow! Ow!” he repeated as she nearly ripped it off his skull.
“You come here! What the hell is wrong with you? I can’t take you anywhere,” Katie said scolding him before looking back over her shoulder. “You’re a goddess, Laria! A goddess!” she repeated as they disappeared around the bend.
“Guess it won’t be as quiet as we hoped,” Tigranian said finally relaxing a bit. Laria hugged him close to her.
“I’m glad they know because they’re family, and I hate keeping secrets from family.”
“In that case,” Tigranian replied softly. “I’m glad they know too…”
They kissed again.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.