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Chapter 1

"We're here today in tragedy."

Jessica took in a deep, steadying breath, fighting every nerve in her being that wanted nothing more than to scream and rage. It wasn't right; it wasn't enough. This wasn't enough; a joke, a drop of water compared to the ocean of travesties that had befallen them.

Practically the entire crew had been summoned, leaving behind a small contingent to keep watch on the ship. It was the least they could do for the lives that had been lost.

She struggled to maintain her composure, and her voice cracked. "We've witnessed the loss of great people. Young, full of hope. They were our friends."

She flexed her hand, balling it quickly into a fist with a pop of her knuckles. She was glad for the small podium in front of her that hid the motion from her crew.

In front of her were her most trusted officers. Obruz, dutifully in front of her, his severe expression matching Jessica's own emotions. Nizeri, pale faced and silently crying into the shoulder of Wirstowx, who had wrapped a massive and protective arm around the woman. Seurer, who surprised Jessica by being equally as emotional, had allowed herself to lean on Wirstowx's other shoulder and cry as well, holding onto Nizeri's hand. M'Ral stood at attention; even the Caitian's tail had stopped swishing back and forth.

Jessica swallowed hard, looking up at the rest of her crew. "I won't stand here and say something...cliche. This wasn't a freak accident; our loss, our pain, hurts even stronger because we all know that one of our own did this."

It didn't seem fair to say it, but then again Jessica's patience was worn thin. She was beyond being the good captain now. She was hurt. She was angry. If Obruz would have let her, she'd be out for blood. Because nothing she could say or do would bring back the ones they had lost, or heal the ones that had been hurt, and all because of one of their comrades, another friend.

She shuddered with fury, looking out at the gathered crew, before turning her eyes back down to her senior advisors.

Two of them were absent, and she shuddered again in rage as she looked at their empty seats. S'Tel, who had stayed on the ship, was doing her best to save the handful of injured crew who could still be saved.

"This is hardly fitting for the ones that have been lost. But it's all we can do." She shook her head, stifling a sob. "I'm so...so sorry."

She needed her, now more than ever. The mane of bright blue hair, recently dyed to match hers. Her deep, get-lost-inside eyes, her calming presence.

But Justine was also absent from the ceremony. Jessica shook in anger again, and finally the sobs came forth.

"I'm so sorry."





Five Days Ago...

With a frustrated groan, she laid her head on the desk, the console monitor now blank in front of her. All she wanted to do now was sleep. Go back to her quarters, get out of her uniform, brush her teeth, and snuggle up close to Justine.

Justine. She was probably asleep by now, given that it was well after two in the morning on the ship.

Jessica St. Peter groaned again, hitting her head lightly on the desk a few times. "I hate performance reports."

For the most part, her job was simple; department heads and supervisors did all the hard work, actually writing about the accomplishments and general worth of the people that worked for them. All she needed to do was review them and attach her signature at the bottom.

There was only a handful she herself was responsible for writing. She had divided the senior staff in half, letting her First Officer - Lieutenant Commander Obruz - rate half the officers while she rated on him directly and only a few others.

Most of the crew had gotten onto a similar cycle in the year following the attack on Vega Colony. There were still a few interspersed throughout though.

The one she had finally just finished was the most frustrating for her. She tapped her head on the table one more time before sitting back in her chair, looking over her work and frowning sadly.

She hated being in this position, to be the one to cast a spotlight on all the failings and dirt of one of her officers, especially on a performance report. This would be a death sentence to the man's career, and she knew it.

That is, if Starfleet wasn't already hurting for experienced officers. And Seymour Sonia was certainly experienced enough.

Maybe they'll just recycle him. Transfer him off my ship to one with a captain more able to keep him occupied doing something worthwhile. She shook her head. If only they'd do that.

Her commbadge chirped, and the music in her ready room immediately paused. "Captain to the bridge."

She frowned, glancing at a console off to her side. The screens all bore the familiar shades of blue; no yellow or red to alert her of any mishap. She tapped her badge to reply. "Go for St. Peter."

"Commander, we just detected a faint warp trail, probably from a shuttle craft. We have the craft on long range sensors."

Jessica rolled her eyes, about to return to the report. "Right. Thanks for the heads-up, M'Ral." M'Ral was slowly becoming her new Operations officer, showing a similar talent for the job as Sonia had shown. The ensign, however, was much easier to work with, and much more willing to learn. Fresh out of the Academy, the Caitian had been part of the replacement crew following Vega, and his inexperience as a bridge officer often caused him to report more up the chain than Jessica was used to with Seymour.

God, I can't believe I'm actually preferring Seymour. Jessica grinned wryly. "As long as there isn't a distress call, I think we can afford to let it go."

There was a pause. "Ma'am, the shuttle isn't Starfleet. Or Romulan. In fact, if we had to guess up here...it's more of a testbed than an actual shuttle. I think this is someone's first attempt at warp travel."

Jessica blinked a few times before leaning forward and tapping the control for her desk monitor. "M'Ral, connect me to Sierra Station, and have the senior officers report to the bridge."


Jessica bit the corner of her lip nervously. First contact. I'm actually getting a first contact...


Acoustic dampeners were a gift from heaven.

Seymour couldn't help but grin as he pulled away and sat back, still breathing heavily. He watched as the woman slowly slid forward, extending her body on the bed and further crumpling the tangle of sheets. She took a few deep breaths before rolling over, and blinked her eyes a few times as she caught her breath. She looked down at him with a small smile, reaching out to try and grab him, beckoning him closer.

Seymour slowly moved forward, letting a hand softly graze across her skin, feeling the muscles tense at the gentle caress as he neared her midsection. Finally, his hand found her throat, and he traced her jawline idly with his finger as he straightened out next to her, kicking a sheet up to cover their legs.

"That..." she breathed, still not fully caught up on oxygen, "was..."

"Incredible?" Seymour asked, leaning in and gently kissing her shoulder, sending another shiver through the woman's body.

She laughed tiredly and nudged him weakly in the chest with her elbow. "You're so full of yourself." She rolled onto her side, wrapping an arm around his body and putting a leg around his, kissing his neck. "Yes," she finally admitted, kissing him again.

Seymour gripped her tightly, wishing for a moment he could have just a little more stamina to be able to go another round. He decided he'd have to make do, letting one hand slip down beneath the sheets as the other held her close. He pressed his lips on hers, prolonging the kiss for a few extra moments as he felt blindly for her. They finally parted. "Trin," he breathed, slowly opening his eyes to look at her, "I think I'm in love with you."

The woman, Trinity, giggled a little, kissing him again. "Is that so?"

Seymour grunted in frustration, kissing her shoulders playfully again. "I say...I love you...and all you...can say back...is 'that so?' I'm hurt!"

Trinity laughed again, putting her hands on either side of Seymour's face and kissing him again. "We've talked about this already, Seymour."

Seymour nodded, not in the least put off. "Yeah, I know. Just figured it needed to be said." They began kissing again, and Seymour could feel her continue to tense and shudder as he fondled her.

Seymour and Trinity had had the conversation months ago, when they first began to see each other. Trinity was a civilian crewmember, an entertainment manager and bartender in Hurricane Hal's. At that time, she had jumped on board to get away from Deep Space Nine and an ex-lover.

"You're just a piece of meat right now," she'd told Seymour, and the admission hadn't offended him; if anything, it had made things convenient. That's all she had been that night, and the few nights after that.

The third "one-night stand" became a fourth, and finally Seymour had had enough. Trinity had been different, not just in the bedroom but outside as well. He began taking meals with her, taking her on proper dates on the holodeck when their schedules met. Their time in bed together slowly was dwarfed by time spent together chatting, or eating, or walking the corridors of the ship and stopping at a few of the observation decks and staring at the stars as the Rafale rode at warp.

He'd said he'd loved her once already and meant it. It had terrified Trinity, and the two didn't speak for almost a week after before Seymour finally broke into her quarters to talk to her. It had gotten him a night in the brig and another letter of reprimand in his file, but Trinity had finally talked to him. He agreed to go slower; she agreed to not push him away. Now it was said jokingly, but he knew he still meant it. Women came and went on the Rafale. Trinity made him want to stay onboard even more, made him want to do right by her. Even his work ethic had improved; he was never late for a shift, always doing what was asked of him. The last letter he had typed to command still lay on the desk in his quarters, unfinished and unsent, from the encounter they had had with the Wolf 359 and Franklin Drake three months earlier.

Trinity had begun moaning softly, pressing her small, nude body against his own as they worked faster, their movements more passionate.

"Senior officers to the bridge!"

Trinity and Seymour both groaned, holding each other tightly as they hovered just on the edge of climax. Seymour cursed silently.

"Dammit," Trinity muttered, still clinging to him. He tried kissing her neck again but she pushed him gently. "You...need to go..."

"Screw it," he replied, still trying to salvage the moment.

She pushed him away again, a little more forcefully this time, and he groaned, shaking his head. "Fine. You're right."

She smiled a little at him and shrugged. "I'll still be here when you're done." She kissed him, adding afterwards, "But you," she emphasized with a poke to his chest, "have a job to do. Besides, it'll be fun to get back into it."

He chuckled a little, rolling off the bed and searching for his clothes. "Well. For one of us at least." She threw a pillow at him then, causing him to laugh more. "I'll be back as soon as this is over."

"You had better, mister." She shook her head, grinning mischievously. "Things were just starting to get good."


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