Summary: Rewritten and expanded. Please see Tales From The Dosadi Imperium Book 1: Fugue.
A Dosadi fighter crew-chief and a Hydran Marine Colonel keep unknowingly encountering each other as they go about their duties. Honor, Duty, Courage and Love interact during the battle over Toulagai and the Dosadi assault upon the Gorn battlestation at Airdrie. (See Free For All At Toulagai and The Long Night for background) Reviews and suggestions requested!
Categories: Original Series Characters: None
Chapters: 9 Completed: Yes
Word count: 21756 Read: 10193
Published: 09 Dec 2012 Updated: 12 Dec 2012
Rewritten and expanded. Please see Tales From The Dosadi Imperium Book 1: Fugue.
NOTE: While the story takes place in TOS, the Dosadi and Hydrans were creations/modifications of races present in the game Star Fleet Battles as these stories exist within the context of several huge games we played back in the 1980's. TOS Canon Characters make only a brief appearance.
1. Chapter 1 by Orion
2. Chapter 2 by Orion
3. Chapter 3 by Orion
4. Chapter 4 by Orion
5. Chapter 5 by Orion
6. Chapter 6 by Orion
7. Chapter 7 by Orion
8. Chapter 8 by Orion
9. Chapter 9 by Orion
The Star Sailors' Story
Few things are brought to a successful issue by impetuous desire, but most by calm and prudent forethought â€“ Thucydides, Greece, Earth (Human)
Commodore Selek was watching the shifting patterns of individuals mixing at the annual Ambassador's Ball here at the Toulagai Starbase. He found the bits of order that appeared in the semi-random patterns fascinating. The fact that this year there also happened to be a major medical conference meant that there was a lot of Star Fleet blue mixed in with the more usual diplomatic tan or command gold. The conference had attracted a number of other races to this rather exposed outpost. Even non-aligned smaller powers such as the Gorns, Hydrans, Dosadi, Tholian, and Lyran's were present.
Although there was a cold peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire at the moment, the presence of a sizable Klingon delegation was definitely cause for care. As a Vulcan, he felt he was rather uniquely qualified to see this complex mix of races, interests, and activities through to a successful conclusion. Had he been a member of a more emotional race, he'd likely be seen as smug. After all, there were fleets from six different space-faring races in orbit around his starbase and all were co-existing quite peacefully. Truly an example of what logical pacifism could accomplish.
Scanning across the currents and eddies of people in the large ballroom, he raised his left eyebrow upon noticing a group made up of several different military factions. As he was calculating whether that should be broken up or not, his First Officer, Commander Jackson, interrupted his thoughts. A tall black man with close-cropped hair and a narrow mustache, he had a commanding presence, a trait that the Commodore had often made use of.
â€śHey boss, you see that little knot over there in the corner?â€ť he gestured with his cigar, an affectation that Selek found both curious and disgusting.
â€śOf course, Commander. They are in full view, after all.â€ť
â€śI think we might wanna go over there and break that up before trouble starts. I don't like the mix.â€ť
â€śI'm curious as to your reasons, Commander Jackson.â€ť Although he was following the same chain of thought, he wanted to know the Commander's rationale. His human intuition often reached the correct conclusion before logic would dictate the same course of action. And after years of successful teamwork, Selek had learned to trust that intuition like he trusted the starbase's library computer.
Jackson took a long puff on his cigar. â€śWell, the big Gorn there, Admiral T'Skay, he's been drinking a bit more than is smart. And you know the Dosadi, Ambassador Solyn, he's not exactly the calm and content type of pussycat. They've been sparring verbally all night and Solyn's been coming out on the short end of it. Admiral Kremble there, she's commanding that big new Hydran carrier, the Kingdom, she seems to be backing the lizard. Drake, the Klingon who brought that battleship here, he just seems to want to see a fight. He's been playing the 'let's you and him fight' game for a while. He'd LOVE to see these alliances go out the window.
â€śThen it may indeed be prudent to gently separate the group, Commander. How do you suggest we go about it?â€ť
Near the cluster of military men that was troubling Selek and Jackson, Lieutenant Christine Chapel was chatting with Gorlon, the Toulagai ambassador. The Toulagai were near earth-normal humanoids with a very slight empathic ability leading to comparisons to the Betazoids and endless theorizing about the spread of humanoid races throughout the galaxy. An utterly pacifist race, they welcomed the Federation's offer of a starbase as it meant protection and stability for their precariously placed planet.
â€śLieutenant, now that the conference is complete, will you be returning to your duties aboard the fabled Enterprise?â€ť the ambassador asked in Standard. By universal custom, the language spoken was that of the hosts, in this case, the Federation.
Chapel allowed herself a slight chuckle, â€śFabled? I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, and I'm very sure Dr. McCoy wouldn't. He'd probably make some complaint about the 'infernal gadgetry' and 'gallivanting across the cosmos'. But yes, I'm looking forward to it. I learned quite a lot here that I'll be presenting to the medical staff aboard.â€ť
The ambassador smiled, â€śYour presentation was also quite interesting. I don't believe anyone expected that a fleet-duty Star Fleet nurse would be sharing such advanced research on multi-phasic neural re-growth therapies for disrupted tissues. Perhaps a doctor from a research station, yes, but from a Starship? This is only one reason among many as to why I say 'fabled', Lt. Chapel.â€ť
The volume of conversation from the group near them was starting to attract attention. Chapel noticed the Starbase Commander and his First Officer heading across the ballroom towards the group. Gesturing towards a Dosadi in the uniform of a ship's captain, she commented â€śI know it's unprofessional and likely racist, but I always want to pet the Dosadi. They just look so cuddly!â€ť
The ambassador's eyes widened. He looked at the Dosadi officer she had indicated. He was slightly over 5' tall, and looked like nothing so much as a Terran cougar that had decided to walk upright and upgrade his paws for fur-covered hands. The uniform consisted of a beaded necklace with a jeweled pendant strung snugly about the throat, a black cloak with the four broad silver stripes of a Fleet Captain across the shoulders, calf-high black boots and dark blue trousers with a bronze stripe down each leg. The Captain wore a long sword and had a silver hoop earring in his left ear and a complex tattoo around his left eye. He turned back to Nurse Chapel, â€śThe Dosadi? Cuddly? Do you see the Warrior's Pendant around their necks? They earn that in a ceremony that involves going into the wild, naked and unarmed. Each competes to bring back the greatest trophy of their courage possible, and only those who are judged worthy by elder Warriors are allowed to wear the pendant. Many make several attempts before success. Many never achieve it. Many never return. They are a strict honor/shame society that reveres courage and valor in battle above all. They get along well with the Klingons and often engage in personal combat with them as a test of courage and honor â€“ a practice the Klingons encourage and participate in with great gusto. Raids between the two races are not seen as an act of war, but more of a sport. They recently nearly exterminated the entire planet of Romulus. They are allied with the Federation because it was a Star Fleet cruiser, the Defiant, that made first contact with them over a century ago and the Federation has provided much assistance to them in the years since. There is nothing about them that is 'cuddly'.â€ť
Chapel rolled her eyes, â€śYou don't understand. Anything that looks like a great big kitty looks cuddly. Give him a hat with a feather in it and he could have walked out of a fairy tale â€“ Puss in Boots.â€ť She smiled and in a conspiratorial whisper said, â€śThey'd probably enjoy being scratched behind the ears...â€ť
The ambassador was almost sure she was teasing him.
Admiral T'Skay was enjoying himself. Baiting Ambassador Solyn was very amusing. The big cat had been getting more and more angry as the night had gone on, and was a little past civil by now. He and Admiral Kremble had made something of a game of tormenting the diplomat. He leaned over to the short, chocolate skinned humanoid female and stage-whispered, â€śHow do you think he'd react if I pulled his tail?â€ť
Kremble giggled and pushed her bright pink hair back behind her ears again. The big cat looked like he was going to spit. Whatever the Federation stewards had been serving as drinks, it wasn't Synthahol and it was making her feel a little fuzzy. â€śI dunno. Maybe he'd like some catnip.â€ť
The ambassador pulled his lips back into a snarl and laid his ears back nearly flat on his head.
Admiral Drake, the Klingon, turned to his aide, Captain Gorek of the Imperial Klingon Corvette Assassin and said â€śStrange, I didn't think a warrior people would put up with this level of dishonor. Tsk.â€ť
Snarling, Ambassador Solyn spat out, â€śThere is no dishonor in being insulted by lesser creatures who are very likely mentally damaged besides. As an ambassador, it is my duty to maintain alliances, even with those who are despicable and beneath me.â€ť
T'Skay said, â€śWell, of course! After all, we all know why dead cats are fatter than live cats, right?â€ť Commodore Selek and Commander Jackson had just reached the group as T'Skay went on, â€śBecause the live ones run faster!â€ť
Solyn's eyes were slits and his ears were flat against his skull. Even Captain Nolin's ears were back. Commodore Selek moved to prevent an explosion, â€śAdmiral, that was neither an accurate statement, nor an effective joke...â€ť
T'Skay interrupted him â€śJoke? I wasn't making a joke. I'm sure all those Dosadi who fail their Warrior testing provide some very useful protein to a wide variety of species!â€ť
Jackson was barely too slow to catch Solyn as he leapt onto the eight-foot tall T'Skay, all claws and teeth. Kremble, realizing that T'Skay had gone too far, made a grab for the massive tyrannosaur-looking Admiral, her 75 lbs having absolutely no effect upon the quarter ton alien. Selek quickly stepped in front of Nolin and managed to keep him from joining the fracas. Although T'Skay was considerably more massive than Solyn, Solyn was faster and was swarming all over the Gorn, leaving bloody claw marks in his wake.
There was a loud hissing sound not coming from the Dosadi and the Ambassador slid off of T'Skay's back onto the floor, unconscious. T'Skay spun around, enraged, and Nurse Chapel held the hypo-spray up and said â€śThere's more than enough here for you too, Admiral. I suggest you cut it OUT...Sir.â€ť
Selek released Captain Nolin and spoke calmly, â€śExcellent timing, Lieutenant. I think it is time for you gentlemen to find other â€“ separate â€“ amusements this evening. You are behaving in a most undignified manner and are disturbing our other guests.â€ť
Nolin's fur was spiked out and as he was collecting Solyn he hissed at the now bloody Gorn, â€śThis is NOT over. We'll blow you out of space you dishonorable coward.â€ť
Drake could barely conceal his glee. Clapping his hand on T'Skay's huge shoulder he laughed, â€śHa! We've got you outnumbered better than three to one, pussycat!â€ť
Kremble was trying to decide if she wanted to play a part in this. Her ships were new, untried in battle. By allying with the Gorn and Klingons for a little scrap, she could give her ships a nice live-fire trial with little risk. She made her choice adding in, â€śDon't even try it, cat. My carrier is every bit the equal of yours and we've got a lot more firepower than you can even dream of.â€ť
Jackson tried to calm everyone down, blowing a cloud of noxious smoke into the group in an attempt to distract them from their posturing. â€śNow, why don't we all settle down. This is a party â€“ let's head back to our tables and have something to...â€ť
Nolin pulled out a small round communicator from his belt and hissed something in Dosadi. Indicating the three across from him he hissed â€śDefend yourselves, fools.â€ť and seconds later, he and the unconscious Ambassador dissolved in a transporter beam.
Selek attempted to regain some control over the situation, â€śNow, there is no need for you to return to your ships. The Dosadi will not attack vessels in orbit over the Starbase. We must allow time for the situation to stab...â€ť
No one was listening. In rapid succession the Gorn, Klingon and Hydran contingents beamed out, leaving the Federation officers staring. Commander Jackson took a long draw on his cigar and growled, â€śGod DAMN those cats are more trouble than they're worth.â€ť
Selek answered, â€śIndeed, Commander. I've often wondered how such a small empire can cause so much heartache for so many other governments. I've often questioned the Federation's wisdom in providing them with advanced technology and utilizing them as mercenaries.â€ť
Jackson said, â€śNo shit.â€ť as red alert klaxons began sounding.
The Star Sailors' Story
History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.
CICERO, Pro Publio Sestio â€“ Earth (Human)
The Dosadi had taken much from the experience of their Federation patrons, particularly the humans. Avid historians with a rich verbal history of their own, they were fascinated by the barbarities of Earth's past wars and the savage expertise the primates had in combat. The Federation professed to be a pacifist organization, but fought like demons out of hell at the drop of a hat. Many Dosadi gained advanced degrees at prestigious Earth universities studying the works and deeds of Leonidas, Sun Tzu, Giap, Mao, Patton, Washington, Nelson, Kirk and other famed warriors.
Dosad is a heavily forested planet orbiting an F-class yellow-white star in the constellation Cygnus (as seen from Earth). As their species evolved they focused more on predation than agriculture, staying nomadic long after other species had settled in city-states. Never as populous as humans, their cities were generally small, scattered clusters of structures embedded in forest. Even heavy industry was green-belted.
The Dosadi culture developed to revere valor in battle and with a drive to constantly test themselves. Their religion and philosophy focused more on how one lived life rather than what wealth or power one amassed. Death was something that came to all, and so rather than being feared or avoided, it was celebrated as the end to a great tale. Dosadi felt that how you died was at least as important as how you lived. This lack of interest in 'things' meant that they were somewhat slow to advance technologically. Although their species was perhaps a hundred thousand years older than Humanity, they developed their first primitive warp drive centuries after the humans.
As it happened, a Federation cruiser, the USS Defiant was passing through the sector about the time of that initial warp flight and made first contact. Naturally, her captain was immediately challenged to single combat. Fortunately for future Federation-Dosadi relations, Captain Heather Sterling was a student of military history and an expert in several different martial arts including grappling styles such as Hakko Ryu JuJutsu and striking styles such as Muay Thai . Lacking real teeth and claws, standing a good six inches shorter than her opponent and massing some twenty kilos less, the Dosadi were expecting a quick victory. Still, it was important to see HOW these hairless apes fought â€“ Were they honorable? Or cowards? Could they fight at all? Would they use their superior weapons to take vengeance after their Captain was slain? Much can be learned in the challenge ring.
Recognizing a warrior culture immediately, she knew the significance of this fight. â€śNo,â€ť she thought, â€śthis ceremony.â€ť Her security chief, Lt. Desoto-Cortez, nearly half a meter taller, twice her weight and muscled like a mountain gorilla, had begged to be allowed to represent the Defiant, but she refused. First Contact missions were the most challenging and delicate of any in Star Fleet and had effects that echoed through centuries. This fight was hers, and hers alone. Her opponent, five and a half feet of sleek fur-covered muscle, teeth and claws snarled at her as he stripped his clothes off. â€śWhen in Rome...â€ť she decided and followed suit, answering his snarl with a smile.
â€śLewtenant, if yon critter shuld happen ta kill me, take it wi' good graces. Tis' vital important tha' we show nothin' but honor an' style.â€ť she explained as she pulled her red hair back into a pony tail.
â€śI understand, Captain, but I don't have to like it.â€ť the massive Spaniard grumbled.
A howl rose over the crowd as several of the bagpipe-like instruments the Dosadi called 'trusk' began to play a driving beat with flute and drums providing the counterpoint. 'Och,' she said to her Security Chief, â€śDinna fret naow. I feel raht at home, lad.â€ť And with a laugh, she stepped naked into the ring. Several of the big cats surrounding the arena began to take up a song, a song which grew louder as more joined in and the fight went on.
Hith'an circled slowly towards Sterling's left, suspicious that the Federation Captain wasn't reacting at all. A quick feint likewise brought no more than that smile and a wink. Were they capable of fighting at all? He lunged in fast and low, going for a crippling slash at her legs only to be met with a stunning elbow across the side of his skull. Rolling away from her rising knee, he slid face first across the ring, scrambling away from her with new-found caution.
Again, she stood motionless. He regained his feet and faced her again. He laughed, a mix of a purr and a meow and dipped his head in respect, his ears erect. Clearly this was no fool. He closed in carefully, in a light-footed combat stance, his tail providing exceptional balance.
â€śAh, â€ś Captain Sterling thought, â€śThis one won't be suckered again. Time to play for keeps.â€ť And so began an epic battle between two expert combatants. Hith'an was one of the most feared fighters on Dosad and had never lost a challenge in his thirty years. Captain Sterling, though nearly a decade older had won many full contact tournaments against fighters from across the galaxy. At this level, fights are either over very quickly or they drag on endlessly until one person either makes a mistake, or injuries or bad luck simply overwhelm them.
Sterling's fight was one of the latter. After almost half an hour of combat, the two elected to take a rest break for water and to treat some of the more obvious injuries. The Dosadi mid-day sun and high humidity were brutal â€“ Hith'an was panting for all he was worth and Captain Sterling was dripping sweat and blood. Desoto-Cortez fussed as he tried to staunch some of the deeper gouges with a med-kit. Two of her fingers were broken and she was showing a stunning selection of bruises across her chest, belly and legs. Sterling chuckled, â€śHa, the lad's in nae better shape! But bugger, he knas wa' he's abou'.â€ť
Indeed, on his side of the ring, Hith'an's tail was hanging limply from a broken vertebra, one ear had been torn off almost entirely and one side of his skull was fractured, the swelling beginning to distort his vision on that side. Several teeth were missing and he was spitting blood.
Another 30 minutes and another break. And another. And another. The gathered Dosadi were nearly ecstatic â€“ no challenge had EVER gone on so long or at such a level of expertise! Both fighters had passed on strikes at their opponent after a slip and fall â€“ both had conducted themselves with the utmost courage and honor. The warrior cats were astounded that someone so small, so weak, and so lacking in natural weapons as Captain Sterling, could face their greatest champion at all, much less for such an epic battle! Stories of this match would be told for centuries.
Finally, an exhausted, overheated Hith'an made a mistake. His attempt at a grapple that would have held on a fur-covered Dosadi instead slipped neatly off the blood and sweat-slick Sterling, and she quickly took advantage, grabbing two fistfuls of forearm-fur and locking his arm into a painful bar while wrapping her legs around his throat and neck. As his other hand came up and began raking deep, bloody gouges in her legs, she leaned backwards with everything she had left, hearing the bones in his arm splinter and seconds later, he passed out from the choke.
Releasing him, she stood weakly and said, â€śBaws, I shouldna don' tha'.â€ť and collapsed across him.
A short while later, she regained consciousness in a Dosadi medical bay, next to Hith'an and a crowd of onlookers. Unlike the match, it was nearly silent â€“ she thought she heard purring. Lt. Desoto-Cortez was getting more nervous by the minute; The landing party was badly outnumbered and in close-quarters and he had no way of judging the aliens' mood. The Emperor had flatly refused his request to beam back to the Defiant to provide medical care for the Captain.
Trying to focus her swollen eyes she asked, â€śOch, Lewtenant, wa' happened?â€ť before he could answer, Emperor H'Rath asked, â€śCaptain Sterling. Why didn't you kill Hith'an? The victory was yours. The battle hard-won.â€ť
Even groggy, exhausted, and in pain, Heather Sterling was aware of the stakes. â€śNae. The lad fought better than any I've met on a dozen different worlds. With courage, honor an' skill ta spare. Were I ta kill 'im, I'd lose the chance to face 'im again.â€ť The howls were deafening and it took a moment for Desoto-Cortez to realize that the Dosadi weren't about to attack.
From that moment on, the Dosadi would be steadfast allies of the Federation. The names 'Heather' and 'Sterling' suddenly became popular names for Dosadi kittens. Over the years since that first contact, Dosadi units served with Star Fleet ground forces, aboard their ships, and often as mercenaries or proxies when the Federation needed force applied, but with political deniability. The Federation went to great lengths to maintain their image as the shining knights of the galaxy, but sometimes dirty work needed to be done.
Most of their technology was Federation supplied or derived from Federation designs, but with a unique Dosadi flavor. For instance, their starships didn't use Federation terms such as 'aft' and 'port' instead preferring directional referents such as 'north' and 'east'. While they did use colored uniforms to indicate a crewman's position and role, there were subtle differences. Wings of fighters were given colors and their maintenance crews wore coveralls with colors to match. Rank was indicated by symbols on the shoulders â€“ again taken from Federation patterns. Each step in rank went from no stripes to a single bronze colored broken stripe, to a solid stripe to one solid and one broken all the way up to the 5 solid gold stripes of an Admiral or Marshal. Crew stripes were in bronze, officers in silver, and overall commanders in gold.
The respect with which the Dosadi held the Federation â€“ especially the Earth-Humans (they never did quite trust the Vulcans) led to many Dosadi weapons systems being named after ancient human weapons or warriors. Some of that was calculated flattery of course â€“ but even that was based in respect and a genuine fondness for the tall, nearly bald primates.
The Star Sailors' Story
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. - Benjamin Franklin, Earth (Human)
Explosions are not comfortable. - Yevegny Zamyatin, Earth (Human)
Aboard the Dosadi assault carrier ISS Delos, Team Leader Corin was jarred out of a sound sleep by the alert siren. His mate, Team Leader Nollos laid her ears back and spat, â€śIF that bald rat Sethos is running another drill I'm going to rip his tail off.â€ť People were uncurling throughout the East Living Pod, and Corin allowed himself a fast chin-rub across the top of Nollos' head before jumping to the floor. The lights had gone from a dim blue-grey with simulated stars over the greenery to the heat and glaring yellow-white of a Dosadi mid-day in an instant. As he was pulling on his forest green coveralls, Corin searched through the groups of crewmen, using eyes, nose, and ears to locate the members of his Team and make sure they were on the move.
One face stood out from the sea of cream and tan fur and the red, white and green coveralls â€“ a lone human pulling on the red and black uniform of Star Fleet's Engineering crews. Corin had been impressed with Ensign Thomas Wilkes' courage and the enthusiasm with which he approached his assignment. He could only hope that Crew Leader Toralin was doing as well aboard the Federation heavy cruiser USS Hood.
Ensign Wilkes had adapted well to the Dosadi's very different patterns. Rather than individual quarters, the Dosadi preferred to sleep in a more open, natural setting, grouping with mates or friends or solo as one's mood dictated, but with many Dosadi in a given pod. The pod served as a lounge, mess hall, and barracks with soft platforms, slings, and convenient places to drape or climb. Full of greenery and with lighting calculated to resemble the Dosadi sky, they were a taste of home in the endless night of space. Until a few moments ago, Wilkes' had been curled up with a pair of females in a raised, circular hammock. During his six months aboard the Delos the twenty year-old human had stood his ground in several personal combats, even winning a couple. He had several new scars to prove his courage and his Force Leader had awarded him an honor tattoo around his eye. But before the gods he would never learn to speak Dosadi properly.
â€śWilkes!â€ť Corin called out in Standard, â€śMake sure your crew checks the a-grav units in Lieutenant Commander Delac's bird. He said there was a flutter the last time he launched and that's not acceptable.â€ť
â€śUnderstood, sir.â€ť Wilkes answered back, gathering up the four Dosadi that made up his crew and heading out of the Living Pod at a trot. Crew Leader M'Ralin and his crew were already gone. Corin caught Nollos' eye as she made her way out of the pod towards the hangar bays and twitched his whiskers at her. She rewarded him with a flick of her tail and a bit more wiggle in her hips as she jogged out of sight.
Endless drilling aboard the Delos was the standard. The big assault carrier was the pride of the Dosadi Imperial Fleet. But she was the third such vessel built â€“ at great cost â€“ and the only one surviving. The first, the ISS Thorin had been lost with all hands along with two corvettes the day she had launched, destroyed in a Romulon ambush. The second, the ISS Loreth had also been destroyed by the Romulons, but this time a single A-10 Thunderbolt fighter had survived along with her SWACS shuttlecraft and crew. Her death had been part of the Dosadi Razing of Romulus and had cost Corin one of his brothers, but the records brought back by the ISS Avric and the Eleth survivors were instrumental in advising design and training modifications for the Delos and her escorting corvettes.
Fleet Captain Nolin was determined that the Delos would have a long and valiant career and drilled his crew mercilessly. His First Officer, Commander Sethos was feared and respected throughout the crew. He thought nothing of staging drill upon drill and was an absolute terror in the challenge ring. However, as a result of this endless training, his crews could preform their duties in their sleep.
Ensign Wilkes was pulling the west a-grav unit out of the big Federation-designed F-14 Tomcat fighter as someone on the bridge began piping battle music into the hangar bay. The big cats liked music and used it throughout battles â€“ something he could never quite get used to after the austere silence of the USS Hood. The skirling bagpipe-like trusk, flutes, and drums sounded very Scottish to him. He had always heard bagpipes described as looking and sounding like someone had a cat under their arm with its tail in their mouth. Looking around him at the big, sentient cats preparing for battle, he couldn't help but smile at the thought. And as always, that led him to â€śA bunch of tom cats working on a Tomcat.â€ť and he stifled a chuckle, bending to his work making sure the bi-lateral anti-gravity units were properly synchronized.
As Corin reached the hangar bay, he saw the two crews of four and their leaders that made up his team already swarming over Lieutenant Commander Delac's bird. Battle music was being piped into the space, helping to motivate the crewmen. The hangar launch bays were in the two long, heavy pods that ran along the tips of the 'wings' of the Delos' squat, rectangular hull. Fighters recovered by flying through the big clam-shell doors on either end of the pod. The long, open deck allowing fighters to be recovered at much higher speeds than other carriers. Unlike most space-faring nations, the Dosadi placed their warp engines close to the center-line and put weapons pods out where other races' had their warp nacelles, trading improved fields of fire for higher shielding requirements and a slower maximum speed when traveling at warp.
He spared a moment to look down the length of the deck towards the bay where Nollos' white-clad form was working on Lieutenant Tam's F-18 Hornet. He sighed and mused â€śMore lost sleep and closeness wit...â€ť
His wistful thoughts were interrupted by the high-pitched whine of the waist phaser banks firing and the slight surge in ship's gravity that always rippled through the Delos when she went to maximum speed and he realized that this was NOT another drill. â€śWhat in the name of Loreth?! We're in orbit around a Federation starbase!â€ť Seconds later the aft phasers discharged and the ship rocked from incoming fire. Crew looked up from their work, realizing that this was the real thing. Suddenly, adrenalin lent new urgency to the familiar tasks.
Pilots in flight-suits came racing in to the hangar bays, pulling on combat helmets on as they ran. Tugs began to hook up to the fighters, ready to push them into the launch tubes. LCDR Delac strode up to Corin, â€śWe've got a good fight on our hands!â€ť
â€śWhat's the challenge, sir?â€ť he asked as he began helping the Wing Commander into his Tomcat. â€śWe're going up against three fleets at the same time! Another carrier to boot â€“ Hydran â€“ a battleship, a few cruisers and some corvettes. Klingons and Gorns along with the Hydrans. Should be interesting.â€ť
Corin glanced down at the anti-ship and anti-fighter missiles festooning the Tomcat's wings and the big phaser mount in her nose. Getting a whisker and ear flick from his lead weaponeer, he said, â€śYou're ready to go, sir. Honor above all!â€ť
Delac bared his fangs, â€śHonor above all!â€ť and closed the canopy on his fighter. The tug pushed the bird into the launch tube, Wilkes connected the quick-release computer, power, and coolant connections and Corin primed the systems to launch-ready. One of the kittens was making the rounds of the crews with energy drinks and he took one, giving the kit an affectionate pummel. He didn't recognize the little male, so he was evidently just learning his duties. Watching the kit hurry off to another crewman, he allowed himself to daydream about what his and Nollos' kits would look like. She hadn't been given leave to have a litter yet, but would be soon he was sure.
Unlike other races, the Dosadi lived, fought, and died as families. Kits were given duties aboard commensurate with their age and abilities. Whether it was cleaning decks, scrubbing air passages, maintaining the many plants aboard, or helping keep on-duty crews hydrated and fed, there was always something that needed doing and youngsters were perfect for these unskilled tasks. There were those who said that was one reason the Dosadi fought so ferociously â€“ in every battle, they were defending everything they loved. The loss of a ship was a tragedy to a relatively small species, although they all understood the need to sacrifice few for many when the time came. There was great honor in such a sacrifice â€“ but only if it paid off. Only fools threw lives away without a commensurate gain.
In the years since Federation first-contact, the Dosadi had expanded their empire to nearly a dozen planets and three different sentient species. Taking their cue from the Federation and their own philosophy the members of the Dosadi Imperium were not slaves, but free partners. By now, even those who had been brought into the Empire through military conquest were willing members of a greater Empire.
Not for the first time, Corin thought that deck crews had a difficult job to do. They had to work frantically to get the birds ready, and then wait. Then when they returned, work even more frantically to get them repaired and ready to go again and then more waiting. It could be maddening. Corin brought up a small holographic copy of the tactical display in the Bridge so that the crews could keep track of what was going on. Other Team Leaders did things differently, but he felt that keeping his team informed lead to better understanding and better performance.
Sitting on tool boxes, they watched the two fleets beginning to maneuver, seeing the great number of enemy ships facing their small fleet. This would be a fight worth many a tale. Someone began to sing along with the music being piped into the bay and in moments, most of the crew were adding their voices to the mix.
Wilkes looked around him. This always gave him the shivers and today it was even more energizing. This would be his first real battle and he was terrified he would fail.
The Star Sailors' Story
Love can do much, but duty more. - Wolfgang Goethe, Earth (Human)
Colonel Sir Jons Seins, Knight Commander of the Royal Hydran (Sword Worlds) Marines was bored. At the moment, he was on the bridge of the light cruiser Succession. For this ship, the hour was very early morning, and his Marines were still in their sleeping chambers. Safely in orbit around the Federation starbase at Toulagai, there was really very little to do for Marines. His battalion, spread throughout the four ships of the task force, were certainly not going to be invading Toulagai and weren't terribly likely to be conducting boarding operations against any of the other ships in orbit either. Peace could be so dull.
Still, it was their duty to remain ready at all times and he was not one to fail at his duty. His normal command post was aboard the carrier Kingdom but he liked to make these little unannounced inspections, usually combined with a drill of some sort. It helped keep his troops on their toes and at their best. He would wait another few minutes and then see how this company performed.
The Hydrans were a small interstellar Kingdom made up of several humanoid races spread across half a dozen planets. All shared a few traits in common â€“ they were quite small in stature and inter-breeding had given them a genetic predisposition towards skin and hair in a wild mix of colors. One Federation wag, a fan of ancient entertainments, had tagged them with the nickname 'Oompa-loompas', an obscure reference to characters in a pre-atomic story who happened to look a lot like the Hydrans. Calling a Hydran an Oompa-loompa was a sure way to start a fight. - but the nickname had stuck.
Their culture was a very strict patrilinear feudal caste-system where women usually stayed home and tended to hearth and family. Seeing female Hydrans in any position of power was rare and meant an individual of surprising drive and capabilities, as well as powerful patrons. The Colonel wasn't too sure how he felt about being placed under the command of Admiral Lady Kremble Mika, despite her connections to the Duke he owed his fealty to. His own wife was at home, where she belonged, managing his estate and finances and seeing to their four children, as was right and proper, while the Admiral wasn't even married. He harbored certain suspicions about that situation.
As he inspected the various bridge stations aboard the Succession, he paid particular attention to the helmsman. Seated, Star Fleet Ensign Akemi Yoshida was nearly as tall as his 4' 2â€ť, and he was tall for a Hydran. As he scanned her workstation for flaws, he briefly wondered if the Federation was sending a calculated insult to his people by assigning a woman to their officer exchange program. He would make a point of inspecting her sleeping chamber and reviewing her Chief's reports on her efficiency and attention to her duties.
For her part, eighteen year-old Akemi was nervous. It was an honor to be nominated to the Federation's Officer Exchange Program, but she wished her Lieutenant had given her a few more months to get used to fleet duty aboard the USS Yorktown before she had to try to learn her duties and an entirely new culture as well. And why THIS culture? The Hydrans were so conservative they still treated their women like chattel most of the time. They lived aboard ship like monks, complete with daily rituals and strict codes of behavior. And now the Colonel she had heard was a total bear was standing right behind her, no doubt looking for any mistake. The bridge of the Succession was a small rectangular chamber with the Captain's station above and to the center rear with various stations around the edges and a holographic sphere projecting the space around the ship hovering in front of everyone. It felt even more cramped with the little Colonel looking over her shoulder.
Suddenly, all her nervousness was swept away by stark terror. Her hands flew across the helm controls and the Succession rolled into a tight corkscrew, her engines straining at the sudden override demand from the helm position. The gravity wavered slightly from the power surge and the Colonel opened his mouth to demand answers from this alien woman. Before he could speak a phaser blast lanced into the space where the Succession had been moments before, flashing green light into the bridge from the forward view-screens, and the alarm horn sounded its brassy notes.
â€śWhat in the seven hells is going ON?!â€ť the Colonel barked out. â€śWho is firing??â€ť
The defense officer spoke quickly as he began routing power to weapons, shields, and defensive fields, â€śSir, the Dosadi! They just started firing. They didn't even use targeting systems! They've also engaged the Kingdom and the Horval. Sir, they scored hits on both before they got their shields up.â€ť
Lieutenant Rals Orens, the watch commander spoke up â€śColonel, incoming message from the Admiral.â€ť and seconds later, the image of Kremble filled the front of the bridge. After a moment scanning the bridge crew, she spoke â€śColonel Jons, I'm afraid you're going to be stuck over there for the duration. The Dosadi have elected to attack us, the Gorn, and the Klingons for reasons that I'm sure make some sort of sense to them.
In any case, we massively out-gun them. Lieutenant Rals, you will keep the Succession in close formation with the Kingdom. I intend to use you as the anvil and our fighter groups as the hammer and crush them between our fires. The Gorn are taking the opposite flank while the Klingons hold the center. This should be quick and easy. By the numbers, Lieutenant.â€ť
â€śYes, Admiral. You can count on us.â€ť He stood and bowed, as did the Colonel.
When she had cut the connection, the Colonel turned to Ensign Yoshida with a frown on his violet-skinned face. â€śEnsign. You acted without orders and without authority. How did you detect the phaser fire? Sensors had no warning whatsoever of any targeting or shields being raised anywhere.â€ť
Sweating and sitting at rigid attention she said, â€śSir. As helmsman, it is my duty to keep the ship on a safe course at all times. That duty provides the authority to act in an emergency. As part of that duty, I have been maintaining a regular scan of all other vessels in orbit near us. I noted the Dosadi vessels' power-consumption curves going to emergency maximum. The Command Destroyer Shagrat rolled to present her starboard weapons pod to us while other Dosadi vessels were maneuvering similarly. I concluded that they would try a snap-shot and acted accordingly.â€ť
He studied the young Earth woman for a moment. Glancing up as the Succession's captain stalked into the bridge he continued, â€śWell done, Ensign. Continue your attention to your duty. As I must attend to mine.â€ť He headed off the bridge to the Marine command post. The Marines did double-duty as damage control techs during combat, but were always expected to be ready to conduct boarding or defense operations as well.
Almost a thousand kilometers directly beneath Colonel Jons, Commodore Selek and Commander Jackson gave up trying to talk to the now wildly maneuvering ships racing out of orbit.
Jackson gnawed at his cigar, â€śThat's done it then. They got hits on the Kingdom, the Horval, Tyrannus, Tooth, and the Devisor. Someone was awake on the Succession though. That was their only miss â€“ woulda hit 'em right square in the bridge too from the looks of it. I swear the Dosadi have 'relations' with their weapons. No one should be able to shoot that well without computer targeting.â€ť
â€śThere is no need to be crude, Commander. It is well known that the Dosadi drill extensively with their weapons both with and without targeting systems. Evidently, the prevailing wisdom that it is impossible to hit maneuvering targets at battle distances and speeds without computer assistance is incorrect.
â€śRaise shields and energize the weapons. I do not anticipate becoming involved, but there may be stray weapons fire. I do not want to see this situation spiral any further out of control. Also, make sure that all available sensors are tracking the battle and recording. If nothing else, this should provide excellent intelligence for Star Fleet analysts.â€ť
News nets throughout the Starbase and the entire planet of Toulagai were alive with reports of combat in orbit. Both ground-based and orbital sensor platforms began feeding live views of the battle across the nets. Starship combat in near-space when they weren't shooting at YOU was something that simply did not happen.
The Star Sailors' Story
"Cry 'havoc!' And let slip the dogs of war!" Chang (Klingon) aboard a Bird of Prey near Camp Khitomer
Corin got up from watching the maneuvering fleets in the holo-display and checked to be sure that the tools, parts, lubricants, coolants and other consumables were ready. The tune being piped in from the bridge was a slower song more suitable to waiting, but with a slowly increasing tempo. He smiled to himself; Whoever was in charge of the music today was matching song to events well.
All appeared to be in order. Med-kits, fire-fighting tools, emergency seals and patch-kits all in their quick-release housings. The sensors controlling the air-tight doors and last-ditch isolation fields were clear and their panels' self-tests indicated they were operating properly. In the event of a hull-breech too big for the smaller patches, the entire launch bay could be isolated and sealed off from the rest of the ship in a few seconds. You did not want to get caught on the wrong side of the door as the air would get rather thin very quickly.
Hearing the whhhooooof of fighters being fired out of their launchers, he turned back and rejoined his Team at the holo-display. LCDR Delac's fighter was in the lead of Green Wing, taking the lower portion of a pincer type formation. They could hear some chatter over the com circuits as the wings began targeting the Klingon fleet in the center of the enemy formation. When most of the other fighters launched their missiles, Delac and half of Green Wing held their fire and accelerated along with the seeking weapons. As the fighters closed with the Klingon vessels, Delac's three birds suddenly fired everything they had, performed a skew-flip turn and began applying a massive delta-vee to change their vector back to the carrier.
â€śOn your feet! Get reloads up from the storage racks now and get ready to re-arm and recharge.â€ť Corin ordered. â€śI want them ready to launch again in two minutes from when they hit the deck. You hear me now? TWO minutes.â€ť
As crewmen scrambled to get what was needed, the dots representing the Klingon vessels began scattering across the paths of the Gorns and Hydrans. A young weaponeer named S'Thor called out, â€śLook! They're running!â€ť Heads turned across the bay as the enemy formation dissolved into chaos. The bay doors on each end of the deck slid open and fighters began to recover, flying into the large space at high speed, from both fore and aft.
A cheer went up from the teams as weapons began to impact across the enemy fleets. The high-pitched sounds of phasers and torpedoes firing had become a normal background noise as had the occasional vibration from the impact of enemy weapons. Delac's Tomcat was the last into the bay, skidding across the deck as he backed the power and the retarding fields grabbed hold of the ship. As Wing Commander, he would expect to be the first ready to launch again and Corin's team raced to get the fighter into the bay even as crew were prepping weapons mounts and connecting power and coolant cables. Even while his bird was being pushed into the bay, Delac leapt out of the cockpit and grabbed Corin â€śDid you SEE? Did you SEE?â€ť The two of them laughed aloud as more Green Wing pilots ran up and joined in.
FOUR enemy ships out of action for several minutes at least and the enemy formation scattering to the skies! A spectacular result for what was, in reality, a fairly small strike. Corin disengaged from the celebrating pilots and returned to working on Delac's Tomcat. S'Thor was struggling to get one of the Countach anti-ship missiles hung on its launch rail. Corin yelled to a pair of kits, â€śYou two! Lend a hand! MOVE!â€ť and watched as the two, obviously brother and sister from their identical markings jumped to work, their small hands helping connect up the mount.
Checking the power couplings and charge rates for the F-14's phaser and shield capacitors, Corin made some small adjustments and ordered another kit to clean the canopy. They were still working on the bird as Delac clambered back into the cockpit and the tug began to push her nose back into the launch tube. Glancing up at the status board, he smiled to see that Nollos had Lt. Tam's Hornet in the tube first. She was hard to beat that woman, hard to beat...
Wilkes got his attention, â€śCorin, they're closing awfully fast.â€ť and he pointed at the battle display. The Gorn fleet had gone to flank speed and was making course directly for the Delos, coming in from behind. The sound of occasional weapon impacts on the Delos's shields was getting more frequent. Silently, they watched as the heavy destroyer Dosin arced up above the Dosadi formation, rolled onto her back and charged straight into the heart of the Gorn ships, weapons blazing, filling space with phasers, torpedoes, and disruptor bolts in all directions. In seconds, one of the Gorn corvettes was falling away, obviously out of control and the destroyer Tooth had felt some of her wrath as well.
But the Dosin was clearly out of the fight. S'Thor stood silently by. Corin spoke softly, â€śAren't your parents aboard the Dosin?â€ť
â€śYes, sir. Mother is a phaser Crew Leader and a father is a Master Torpedoman.â€ť
Seeing that the Gorn heavy cruiser Tyrannus had executed an emergency stop to reinforce shields against the Dosin's attack, Corin said, â€śThey bought us the time we needed, S'Thor. Let's make it count, right?â€ť
Being rattled about in the command chair aboard the Succession, Captain Lord Rince Del exclaimed, â€śGod's TEETH!â€ť Ensign Yoshida made no reply as she continued to force the light cruiser into maneuvers that stressed her hull and engines to the limits of their design â€“ and beyond. The Chief Engineer's loud complaints were getting no traction with the captain as the ship rolled, slid, skid, spiraled, and surged past Klingons, wild weasel shuttlecraft, plasma torpedoes, fighters, missiles, phasers and disruptor bolts. The artificial gravity struggled to maintain normal levels and vectors and people rocked in their seats or staggered across the deck in time to the groaning of the hull.
Captain Rince had long since decided to keep Yoshida in the helm position for this fight. Not a single shot fired at â€“ or even near â€“ the Succession had struck home. The woman was clearly a virtuoso at the helm with a sense of what the enemy were doing, seemingly before they even knew themselves. â€śEngineering shut UP! If you cannot meet my requirements I assure you that I can find someone who will. Now attend to your duties and be silent!â€ť and he slammed his hand on the control panel, cutting the circuit. â€śWeapons! Continue harassing fire at the carrier. Helm, get us out of this mess and away from those damn Klingons!â€ť
Mindful of the Admiral's orders to keep her ship in close with the Hydran carrier, Yoshida slid the cruiser around the bigger ship, almost as though she were in orbit around it, taking station where she could continue to provide fire support but was out of the path of the scattering Klingons and the remaining seeking weapons the Dosadi had loosed upon them.
Below decks in the Marine command post, which doubled as damage control, Colonel Jons was bracing himself against the gravity's surges. â€śLieutenant, if enemy fire doesn't damage us, I believe that the helmsman might!â€ť
The lieutenant laughed, â€śEither way, we're ready sir. My company is at battle stations in full equipment ready to fight or fix as required.â€ť The two of them studied the repeater-display of the tactical situation available from the bridge. The Gorn formation was scattering for their lives, one corvette out of action, a destroyer clearly damaged and a cloud of missiles streaking towards the heavy cruiser and the other corvette. A Dosadi heavy destroyer was curving slowly down and away from the Gorn, badly damaged. The Klingons were motionless and taking fire from three Dosadi Thunderbolt fighters. Their corvettes milling about aimlessly.
Suddenly, three new symbols winked into the display. â€śWhat the devil?â€ť Jons asked, leaning forward to get a better view of the display. â€śOh, there's going to be hell to pay.â€ť A Federation heavy cruiser and destroyer, the USS Hood, and USS Samurai, and a Dosadi light cruiser, the ISS Alisar had dropped out of warp near the Klingons and were already changing course to intercept them.
â€śLieutenant, I don't believe we're going to get much help from the Klingons.â€ť
â€śDoesn't look to me like they were much help anyway, sir.â€ť
â€śIndeed. However, that was the center of our line, and the Gorn on the opposite flank have been routed. The Admiral may have bitten off more than she can chew...â€ť
The display continued to get more complex as their sister ship, the heavy frigate Hydrus launched a plasma shotgun made up of eight type-F plasma torpedoes and the Delos launched all eighteen of her fighters. Seconds later, the Kingdom launched her own fighters. Again, space was full of twisting ships, beam weapons, missiles and plasma torpedoes.
The Delos' weapons were firing continually. The whine of the phasers, the thunk of missile launchers, the odd sounds of the photon torpedo and disruptor launchers firing, all intermixed with the ringing sounds of enemy weapons impacting on her shields. The gravity was surging in both direction and intensity as energy demands from weapons, shields, and engines argued it out in the ship's computers.
Corin steadied himself against a hull former and shouted to his team, â€śMake sure your tools are secure! It's going to get rough.â€ť Crewmen bent to pull netting across their kits as the music from the bridge swelled to a crescendo. â€śYES! We got a frigate!!â€ť A cheer went up and the Dosadi again began singing as the symbol indicating the enemy frigate began to spin slowly away from the Hydran fleet.
Wilkes was checking his crew, making sure everyone was hydrating, that their tools were secure, that they had what they needed to recharge and rearm the Tomcat when Delac returned. He had just decided that they were ready when weapons began to leak through the Delos' shielding, the sound of explosions echoing through the big hangar bay and vibrating through the deck plates.
A sudden shower of sparks and coolant doused him from above while the force of the impact drove him to his knees. Terrified, he tried to clear his eyes from the blue fluid and beat out the glowing embers that had landed on his red shirt. One of the kits was down, a heavy chunk of ceiling half-covering his small furry body and one of his crew was screaming in pain, obviously badly burned. There was a high-pitched shriek of atmosphere leaking from a hull-breech and he didn't know what to do! There was blood on the deck and people shouting, the screaming sound of a coolant leak and a strobe-light effect from flickering lights and arcing short circuits and the weird sound of Dosadi music behind it all.
Struggling to his feet, looking for where to run he saw Corin. The big cat's tail had been broken about half way down but he was grabbing a patch-kit from the wall recess and yelling orders. Wilkes had no idea what he was saying or who he was issuing orders to. How could he be so calm?! Time seemed to slow down for the young human.
He wondered what was going on. It was as though he had all the time in the world. Glancing at the holo-display, he saw the six Hornets from White Wing were engaged in a swirling dogfight with all eighteen of the Stings from the Hydran carrier while Delac's Green Wing was adding pot-shots at the fighters and attacking the Kingdom herself. The Lavet Cair was shooting her up as well. The Nareth had reduced the Gorn destroyer Tooth to a smoking ruin and the Shagrat had shot the Tyrannus up pretty badly.
He looked around the damaged bay in the strobing arc-light glare â€“ Everyone was moving in slow motion. He really wanted to get the hell out of there before the entire bay blew out. He looked again at Corin. He was close to the air-tight door, he could leave if he wanted to. The door was going to close. Why wasn't he leaving? It looked like he was yelling at M'Ralin, the other Crew Leader. Leader. And something clicked in Wilkes' sub-conscious.
Time snapped back to normal as he raced further into the bay, slapping controls to de-energize the bay circuits and yelling orders to his crew to recover the wounded. Now, instead of time moving slowly it seemed like everything was happening faster than it was possible. As he tried to lift the heavy panel off of the limp kit he knew he was too late. The air-tight door had started closing to isolate the bay and protect the ship and they were on the wrong side, he didn't have time. If he ran now, he could make it.
Instead, he bent his back again, giving one last effort to try to get the chunk of hull off from the little male. He thought to himself, â€śGod dammit, if I'm gonna die, at least I'm gonna die trying!!â€ť The plate lifted, but there was no way he could get the kit â€“ and he saw Corin's mate, Nollos had run into the fire, helping to recover the wounded. She grabbed the kit and he dropped the plate, the two of them laughing and racing for the door. As they got there, Corin urging them on, the hull took another hit and blew out, the hurricane force winds caused by venting atmosphere starting to drag them back. Corin grabbed both of them with one hand each and S'Thos grabbed Corin, the door inexorably lowering on the struggling group.
He and Nollos both had one of the kit's arms, and Corin had one each of theirs. Despairing, Wilkes looked into Corin's strained and anguished face â€“ It simply wasn't possible to pull three people against the force of the air blowing out. He could save one of them, and the kit, but not both. â€śIt's always the guy in the red shirt.â€ť Wilkes thought to himself, a bitter and oft-voiced complaint brought about by the far higher casualty rates suffered by Star Fleet's services branch. And with a desolate cry, Corin and Nollos let go of each other at the same moment, his free hand sweeping down, now with enough strength to haul Wilkes and the kit out of the bay as the door closed, sealing the breech.
Colonel Jons was furious. His battalion was being shot to shit and he was stuck on this cruiser, not where the troops who needed him were! Watching the Horval and Hydrus being cut to ribbons he knew that his Marines were being killed â€“ The little ships had no real protected spaces and as damage controlmen they were no doubt in the thick of things. He desperately wanted a status report from the platoon aboard each ship, but knew better than to interrupt their leaders during a battle. They would send word when they could.
On the bridge, Captain Rince gave rapid fire orders, â€śHelm! Close with that corvette! NOW! Weapons â€“ fire the missiles at the ship, phasers at those double-damned fighters! They're slaughtering our Stings!!â€ť Yoshida rolled the Succession around the back side and under the Kingdom and Captain Rince stood half out of his chair, â€śHELM! I said...â€ť and as the cruiser continued it's tight orbit around the massive carrier, it came up and under the Lavet Cair, her missile launchers firing immediately and her phaser crews attempting to engage the twisting Hornets,to little effect.
The Captain sat back down, straightened his uniform and said, â€śMy apologies Helm. Well done.â€ť as he watched the Dosadi corvette begin trying to limp away from his ships, clearly out of the fight, the burning holes from his missile impacts glowing across her warp engines. Noting three Tomcats rolling in on the Kingdom he continued, â€śWeapons, what have we got left? We need to get those fighters off the Kingdom!â€ť
â€śNothing, sir. We're recharging everything. Between engaging the Delos, the Lavet Cair, and the fighters we're completely discharged. Hydrus and Horval are out of it and the Kingdom's reporting they're out of battery power, all weapons discharged, shields badly damaged and beginning to take damage throughout the ship.â€ť
â€śDamn it to hell! What about the Gorn? Or the Klingons?â€ť
â€śThe Gorn are scattered, sir, all they've got left is the Tyrannus, and she's shot up. The Klingons are fighting for their lives, both corvettes out of action, the Devisor's damaged, and the Reaver's lost her entire forward shielding. They're fully engaged with the Federation vessels and the Alisar.â€ť
Looking at the Dosadi fleet in his battle-sphere, he shook his head, â€śHow in the hell do they DO that?â€ť
Admiral Kremble signaled a moment later, â€śCaptain, we are disengaging. Prepare for an immediate warp 4 jump at 315 mark 270 on my signal. Take the Hydrus under tow. We will take the Horval.â€ť
â€śYes, Admiral. What about the Gorn?â€ť
â€śThis really wasn't our fight anyway, Captain. There will be another day. Our duty is to preserve our vessels and our crews. On my mark, Captain.â€ť
He stood and bowed, â€śUnderstood, Admiral.â€ť
Colonel Jons would count the dead. He knew them all, by face, by name, by family. Of his battalion of six hundred Marines, he had lost nearly a third. He would spend much of the voyage back to the Sword Worlds preparing the funeral ceremony for his troopers. They had done their duty and done it well. The reports he had in hand indicated that without their valor, both frigates would have been destroyed and the Kingdom would likely have been crippled.
Right at that moment, there were very few creatures in God's universe he hated more than the Dosadi. He would have his revenge one day. For each and every troop they had murdered.
Shaking, in pain, exhausted, and in shock, Wilkes looked at his Team Leader. The big cat was looking forlornly at the air-tight door sealing off the destroyed launch bay. â€śWhy?â€ť he asked, his voice breaking.
After a moment, Corin looked at him and managed a sad little smile. â€śWhy what, Ensign?â€ť
A medical team raced up and began treating the injured team, one of the medics administering a hypo to the critically injured kit with a loud hiss.
â€śWhy ME? She was your mate!â€ť
Corin flicked an ear back and cocked his head. â€śYes? What does that matter?â€ť
â€śWhy did you save me? I'm not your mate! I'm not even a Dosadi! I'm nothing to you!!â€ť he was almost crying.
â€śYou really don't understand us at all yet, do you Wilkes? She was my mate, but my responsibility was to you. She knew that, as did I. There was no choice in the matter. She and I are Team Leaders. Our team is our first responsibility. Had I saved her, and allowed you to die, I would have dishonored us both so badly our only choice would be to kill ourselves in shame. Honor means doing what is right â€“ always â€“ even if doing so costs you everything you have or even dreamed of having.
â€śI would not be the man she loved nor she the woman that I loved had we both not known that basic truth before we were even weaned.â€ť
â€śBut...â€ť Wilkes tried to digest this. After a few moments he hung his head and said, â€śI hate those bastards.â€ť
Genuinely surprised, Corin asked, â€śWho? Why?â€ť
Wilkes looked at him, now almost angry, â€śThe Gorn! The Hydrans! Theyâ€™re the ones who did this!! We'll get them back.â€ť
â€śGet them back? For what? This was a clean fight and we all fought well and with honor. There was no treachery, no dishonor...what is there to hate them for?â€ť
â€śThey killed Nollos!â€ť
â€śAnd many others. And we killed many of theirs. Star Sailors with mates and children and mothers and fathers who loved them dear. They fought hard, and they fought well. We just fought better today. We'll tell the tales and remember the dead of both sides and light incense for them to honor their sacrifices.
â€śThere will be other mates, and other fights. Those of us who live now must live on for those who died. I will mourn Nollos in my own way, in my own time.â€ť
Wilkes was dumbfounded. A medic was treating his burns while another was waving a medi-scanner over Corin's tail. â€śYou did well, Wilkes. I think, perhaps, you understand more than you know. Why did you go back into the bay after the first torpedo hit?â€ť
Wilkes thought. â€śI guess because I saw you. You were so damn calm. Yelling orders and putting the patch-kit on the hole in the hull. And I couldn't leave the kit, I guess.â€ť
Corin watched him for a second. â€śYou are on the right path there, Wilkes.â€ť He stood and offered his hand to the young man, â€śWe've still got work to do. We've lounged here long enough.â€ť
Fighters, most of them damaged to some degree were flying into the bay, smoke, coolant, and energy scattering across the deck as the pilots struggled to recover safely. Wilkes tried to focus on his work as the fleet returned to orbit over Toulagai.
The Star Sailors' Story
"Look at an infantryman's eyes and you can tell how much war he has seenâ€ť - William Henry â€“ Earth (Human)
Relaxing in the Delos' East Living Pod, Corin was enjoying a snack and some conversation with Ensign Wilkes and the two females the human had been spending a lot of time with in the months since Toulagai. At the moment, Wilkes was being mauled by four kits belonging to the older woman, roughhousing with them in mock battle. Their mother, Eletha, still nursing and therefore assigned to duties in the Delos' main nursery instead of her usual post as a disruptor targeting officer, had long since learned that she could trust the young human and that she genuinely enjoyed his company.
Like Corin, Eletha's mate had been killed during the free-for-all over Toulagai. A Thunderbolt pilot, he had managed to land his blasted ship safely aboard only to succumb to his wounds before his team could even open the damaged cockpit. His gunner still burned incense in his memory every day. Also like Corin, she had yet to find another mate and the two often spent time together talking. Wilkes had become something of a favorite uncle for her kits who had quickly learned that he had no claws, no fur, and a high tolerance for being used as 'prey.'
Shifting his gaze from the ferocious kits to the younger woman, Sooth, Corin wondered what the future held for her and for Wilkes. The pretty young Marine was purring and removing one of Eletha's kits from Wilkes' back while he was 'savagely' mauling two more. The two, or sometimes three, of them often spent their nights together which had led to more than one rumor floating through the crew â€“ rumors Corin did his best to squelch.
The Dosadi didn't have a body- or sexual-privacy taboo like the humans did. The clothing they wore was for its utility, not for modesty. Soft boots protected the feet, loose trousers provided pockets and a cloak had many uses, from hammock to jacket to tent. But Corin knew that the humans had both taboos; strong ones. So he tried to give Wilkes some privacy in both areas. But that didn't mean he didn't wonder. There had been quite a few jokes and stories spread about Wilkes and Sooth mating and the oddities involved in that coupling, some of which Corin believed, some of which he didn't. But it did lead to questions about whether the two species could successfully breed. It wasn't unheard of for two different races to interbreed but it was unusual. Vulcans and humans were a well-known, if uncommon hybrid and their biochemistries were much more different than humans and Dosadi. He tried not to grin as his imagination provided the image of a hairless pink Dosadi with Wilkes' face.
Eletha's quiet voice interrupted his thoughts, â€śWhat's so amusing?â€ť
â€śNothing, really. Just letting my mind run free.â€ť He smiled at her. She was pretty enough, he thought, and he enjoyed her company, so why couldn't he seem to spark any serious interest in her as a mate? Perhaps because every time he looked at her, he saw Nollos' smiling face, the delicate black markings across the backs of her ears and...He shook his head to clear the vision and she smiled at him,
â€śI know. It can be hard, can't it? Like an echo.â€ť
Flicking his ears back and drooping his whiskers he answered â€śThat obvious?â€ť
â€śOnly to one going through the same thing.â€ť She looped her tail across his and nodding towards Wilkes and Sooth asked quietly, â€śIs that pairing wise?â€ť
Clicking his jaw he chuckled, â€śI have no idea. What will they do when he returns to the Hood and to his own people?â€ť
â€śThat's a long journey yet, and the gods alone know its end. Let them have their fun while they can.â€ť
â€śThey've surely been doing that.â€ť he rubbed his shoulder against hers.
â€śMy point was that they are living now, not in the past as we are, nor in the future.â€ť she leaned back into him, purring softly.
As the dawn sun broke over the distant low hills that marked the edge of his holdings, Colonel Jons leaned over the balcony railing, watching as the first light crept across his fields. This was his favorite part of the day, a time of quiet and introspection when one felt the closest to God and one could hear His voice through the silence, setting the tone for the day to come.
When the sun was fully up, he turned and went down to breakfast. His wife, Marin, had the children setting the table and preparing the house for the working day to come. Truly there were few joys as great as home and family, he thought to himself. Though the sight of his two newest children provided just a hint of sadness and regret.
They were the biological children of two of his troopers killed over Toulagai. Both men had joined up to better their caste and were without family or patron. He thought back to that place, unimaginably distant from the Sword Worlds, and to that battle many months ago. Trooper Arens' damage control team had responded to a plasma fire caused by a Dosadi phaser hit in the heavy frigate Hydrus' warp drive. With no way to regulate the matter/anti-matter reaction the ship was minutes away from exploding. Without hesitation, Arens had picked up a conduit bridge and charged into the flames, reconnecting the damaged reactor regulation system and saving the ship. He died of his injuries, still holding the conduit bridge in place. His fifteen year-old daughter Sorral and his wife, Beton were now part of Jons' household. Duty demanded that he look after his men in life, and in death.
The same stern charge brought Trooper Tenon's wife and young son to his table. Tenon had been less fortunate â€“ or more, depending upon your point of view â€“ than Arens. Tenon's battle station aboard the heavy frigate Horval had taken a direct hit from a Dosadi disruptor bolt, leaving nothing but a ragged hole in the hull.
Marin gave him a kiss as he sat at the head of the table, indicating the family should sit as well. â€śMy lord, how are you this lovely morning?â€ť
â€śVery well, my wife. But I know that look â€“ what clever plan are you about?â€ť
She laughed, a musical sound, as she began serving the members of the household at her table. â€śI can never hide anything from you, can I Seins? And my plan is not so clever, just sensible. As are they all.â€ť
â€śHow well do I know it?â€ť he grinned at her, â€śSince we were wed, my holdings have more than doubled in size, I've advanced three grades in rank, and our treasury fairly bulges with the results of your skilled handling. My father knew what he was doing when he arranged our match!â€ť
â€śThe best matches advance both partners.â€ť she agreed, â€śDuty has its demands, but that doesn't mean one cannot have fun nor gain even more rewards for obedience!â€ť
She put her hand on Sorral's shoulder, â€śAs such, I believe I know of a good match for our newest daughter here.â€ť the pretty girl blushed, her bright pink skin turning a deeper red and her mother smiled broadly.
â€śSo soon? She's been with us but half a year!â€ť
â€śHer skills and charms are obvious to many young men. Lieutenant Sir Chon Tims has been spending quite a lot of time talking with young Sorral here. I think there is much potential for the two of them.â€ť
Jons thought about it. The Lieutenant was young and a bit impetuous. A member of a well-connected artisan-caste family, he was well known for his skill and valor in combat as well as his lack of sense outside of battle. He had been knighted after his first battle but had made little progress since. Sorral, from a peasant class family, had already shown that she had solid good sense and the ability to get people, especially young men, to listen to her. The match would advance her caste beyond her father's wildest dreams and provide the young Lieutenant the grounding he so sorely needed. Further, the alliance between his house and that of the Chon family would add to his influence in the business world.
â€śAs I said, wife, a truly clever plan. I will speak with his father this very day.â€ť
â€śYou are wise, oh Lord.â€ť she teased him.
Grinning back he said more seriously, â€śI'll need that wisdom. I'm to be posted to the Gorn battlestation at Airdrie for the next couple of months as part of a diplomatic mission.â€ť
By now she knew better than to ask for details. â€śWill it impact our holdings or dealings?â€ť
The reason for the posting was as a military liaison to the Gorn Confederacy. The Gorn and Hydrans had been stirring up the Avatan's frequent conflicts with the Dosadi and generally doing what they could to make life difficult for the cat people. A few months ago, the Dosadi had lost a major ground battle on the Avatan planet of Corlon. The Marshal responsible for the debacle had been well manipulated by agents of the Gorn Confederacy and had recently defected rather than accept his shame before his own people when the facts became known.
He considered the situation carefully before speaking, â€śPossibly. Investments in Federation munitions suppliers may be wise.â€ť
â€śI'll see to it.â€ť she said, reading between the lines. Conflict was possible, but unlikely to spread, so something local and far away. There was the chance for a lot of profit if the margins were played with skill. The future was tricky, but a wise planner could account for likely outcomes.
The Star Sailors' Story
â€śPity the warrior who slays all his foes.â€ť - Klingon proverb.
Admiral Nolin was addressing the crews of the largest fleet the Dosadi had assembled in some time. Two assault carriers, a battleship, two heavy cruisers, two destroyers, a frigate, four corvettes, and a pair of minesweepers. seven full Wings of fighters and a full battleforce of nearly a thousand Marines. In his formal uniform for this broadcast, he truly did look like Puss-in-Boots, but only Ensign Wilkes noticed the similarity, or indeed was familiar with the fairy tale.
â€śThere has been treachery.â€ť He began. To a Dosadi, this was beyond dishonor. â€śThe commander entrusted with the warriors at Corlon was the pawn of the Gorn. Rather than admitting his shame and paying the price, he has fled into their systems, no doubt hoping that he will find some sort of honor among the lizards.â€ť he paused, looking into the visual pick-up. â€śThis cannot stand. He has betrayed his family, his name, and all those who put their faith, their trust, their very lives into his treasonous hands.
â€śWe are going to get him back.â€ť Another pause, â€śWe know now where he hides. And we are going to get him back. The challenge is great! We must cross the Romulon Empire, sneak through the Gorn border patrols, breech a minefield, and defeat an entire fleet before we can even begin to crack open the hole he has hidden himself in â€“ an entire battlestation, covered in heavy phaser cannon, torpedo and missile launchers. But. - We are going to get him back.
There is an additional challenge. The Federation, our friends, our allies, are allied also with the Gorn. Out of respect for them and to avoid creating difficulties for the humans, we must apply the minimum of force needed to get Furball back. But we are going to get him back. I will be calling on all your skill in this battle, all of your courage.
â€śYour Captains have their orders. We leave immediately. The gods alone know when, or if we return! Honor above all!â€ť
Lounging together in a small clear area in the East Living Pod, Corin, Eletha, Wilkes, and Sooth looked at each other as the broadcast ended. The Dosadi were excited at the challenge â€“ Wilkes dreaded the coming battle. Since Toulagai, the Delos had been in a couple of smaller scraps and each time Wilkes was nearly physically ill from worry. What if the terror he felt at Toulagai hit him again? What if this time, he ran, like a coward?
What would Sooth think? Or Corin? OR Eletha's kits? The thought was almost more than he could bear. How could the Dosadi be so damn casual about combat? The Challenge Ring was easy compared to battle.
Sooth, draped across Wilkes' lap said, â€śAbout time we Marines got to do some real ground-fighting instead of all this damage control work. And against Gorn too! This is going to be fun!â€ť
Eletha, nursing three of her four little ones said, â€śFor you, at least. I'll be stuck herding kits in the nursery until mine are weaned and I'm finally free of these damn thingsâ€ť she indicated her six full breasts.
Wilkes, gently rubbing behind Sooth's ears asked â€śHow can you not be scared? Gorn are twice your size and you're going to be going toe to toe with them, with nothing to protect you.â€ť
â€śScared? I'm terrified! But that's part of what makes it such fun! I'll finally get to see what I'm made of â€“ to earn a true tale to tell my kits.â€ť she giggled, â€śassuming I ever have any.â€ť
Wilkes blushed at the implication and tried to reconcile feeling both terrified and excited at the same time. There was a slight ripple in the ship's artificial gravity as the fleet moved into warp drive and headed towards Airdrie, in a small outcropping of Gorn space, far from home.
Inspecting Gorn Marine positions aboard the Airdrie Battlestation in orbit around the planet of the same name, Colonel Jons walked alongside Admiral T'Skay. The eight-foot, quarter-ton and more Gorn towered above the four-foot two-inch, eighty-five pound Hydran with his violet skin and bright white hair and his severely cut black and silver uniform. The contrast against the towering, olive-drab colored Gorn in their glittering metallic uniforms could not be greater. â€śAdmiral, I do believe you are ready for any eventuality. Your commanders know their business well, from the electronic defenses to the more...â€ť he waved his hand at the assembled Gorn troops, â€śPhysical. I believe it would take a Division at least to overcome your internal defenses, and they would pay heavily for doing so.â€ť
â€śI don't really anticipate anyone trying it, Colonel. With our isolation here, the Romulons on one side and the Federation on the other, a massive minefield and our Fleet positioned to defend us, there is simply no way anyone could dream of trying to take this station.â€ť
As they moved away from the assembled troops, the Colonel looked up at the big lizard, â€śIt's not exactly 'anyone' we're concerned with here, is it, Admiral? You know what the intercepts are pointing towards.â€ť
T'Skay hissed in frustration. â€śYes. They've lost track of several Dosadi vessels, but 'cannot reveal which ships' to avoid compromising intelligence sources. And the idiot paper-pushing rats have delayed getting Furball deeper into the Confederacy at every turn. 'Delicate alliances with the Federation' they say. I've again been assured that Furball will be moved within a day or two â€“ for the third time this week. There are days I wonder how the Confederacy can manage to feed itself, much less conduct operations of any sort.â€ť
Jons smiled, â€śA hazard of any interstellar government, Iâ€ťm afraid. We men of action must endure the bureaucrats and pay the price for their folly. Still, you are well prepared. If the kittycats do show up, I expect once they see what's facing them, they'll turn right around again. At least if they've got any sense at all.â€ť
The big Gorn admiral paused, â€śThey're going to know what we've got, Colonel. The damn Federation has saddled me with a Dosadi ambassador to try to 'normalize relations'. We've done our best to keep him away from anything that can transmit further than the kitchens, but I'm expecting that he's found some way to get the word out.â€ť
The little Hydran hissed, â€śThen there will be hell to pay.â€ť
â€śJust so long as the damn cats are the ones paying the bill, I'll be happy. Will you be attending the party tonight? We're showing off Furball to the various diplomatic missions AND, to add to the fun, he'll be giving a speech!â€ť
Stifling a groan, Jons said, â€śAs the Sword Worlds military attache', I'm afraid I'm required to be there.â€ť
Later that evening, both military men were trying to drink enough to drown out the yowling coming from Marshal Furball's seemingly endless speech. Colonel Jons thought to himself, â€śThank GOD the Gorn continue to serve food and drink throughout these things or we'd all starve to death before he shuts up.â€ť Jons' dinner partner that evening was an attractive, if too tall, young functionary from the Federation. And of course, the humans had no real variation in skin color, which made their appearance rather bland to the Colonel's taste.
The Dosadi ambassador was obviously in a foul mood, which only made Jons feel better about being stuck at the rather silly party. Continuing to engage the empty-headed woman in conversation, Jons noticed T'Skay following an aide out of the ballroom and wondered what was pulling the Admiral away from his triumph.
The Star Sailors' Story
Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won â€“ Duke of Wellington â€“ Earth (Human)
Corin checked the readouts on Delac's Tomcat again. Not for the first time he pitied the pilot, stuck inside the launch tube. At least the Thunderbolt pilots had a gunner aboard to talk to. Rejoining his team around the holo-display, he sat back down on his toolbox.
The Delos and her task force had dropped out of warp almost on top of the Gorn minefield and he could see the foggy space indicating the detected mines already beginning to clog up the display. Off to their left was the big Gorn battlestation and a lot of ships. This was not going to be an easy fight, that was for sure. His Team cheered at the loud whhhoooof of the fighter being launched. Minutes later, the com channels began to broadcast the usual chatter from the initial formations as the first orders were issued and acknowledged. The bridge's selection of battle music started out with an ancient Earth tune, slow and low, 'The Gael', matching the tempo of operations aboard ship. Corin thought again that whoever was the bard on the bridge needed some sort of award.
A volley of missiles streaked away from the fighter groups and Corin ordered â€śRight! Get the reloads up from ready storage now, make sure you're ready to re-arm and recharge as soon as they're back. We're still early on so take your time and do it right.â€ť As was his long habit, he glanced down the long bay towards where Lt. Tam's Hornet was berthed. The new Team Leader there was male and seemed to have things well in hand. Corin always felt that Nollos was still there, somehow, and always half-expected to see her white-clad form smiling back at him. But now, he also spared a thought for Eletha, attending to the kits too young to have regular duties. The nursery was well protected and for that he was glad.
His thoughts were interrupted by a squad of armored Marines jogging up in full battle-gear. One Marine approached him in his mottled blue-grey and tan armor, plasma rifle, and helmet in hand. The one solid, one broken bronze stripe across his shoulders marking him as a Team Leader. â€śTeam Leader Corin?â€ť
â€śThat's me.â€ť he noticed one of the most junior warriors was Sooth and that she was trying very hard to look as hard as steel. He was quite sure Wilkes noticed her as well.
â€śYour Team will be needed to prepare a boarding pad for assault transport.â€ť Different than standard transporters, the boarding pads were high-powered transporters and were send-only. They were designed for rapid evacuation of a ship, or to beam boarding parties through enemy jamming and were placed alongside some of the launch bays, each large enough to beam a standard team of ten and their leader at a single pass.
â€śUnderstood. What's the time-frame?â€ť
â€śGot it.â€ť he turned to his Team. â€śCrew Leader Wilkes, you will take charge of that duty. Can you get it done?â€ť
â€śYes, sir! I'll get them where they're going.â€ť
â€śRight. Go get the Team Leader and his team situated and prepared for beaming, then get back here as fast as you can run. You're going to have to juggle both duties, but when the time comes, the Marines take priority, right?â€ť
â€śUnderstood sir.â€ť Wilkes said, gathered up his crew and jogged off, leading the Marines to the pads.
S'Thor cheered â€śThey got one! A minesweeper just blew up!â€ť and the other Dosadi joined in. Corin spoke quickly, â€śWe're trying to keep casualties to a minimum, remember? This is more like the Challenge Ring â€“ we need to win without killing, to force them to give in, not to kill them.â€ť
Ears and tails drooped throughout the team, â€śYes, sir.â€ť S'Thor answered back. Neither of his parents had survived the battle at Toulagai when the weapons pods they were stationed in aboard the heavy destroyer Dosin had been savaged by Gorn fire..
The human woman...â€ťWhat was her name?â€ť Jons wondered to himself, oh yes, â€śRebeccaâ€ť or some such, simply would not be quiet. She seemed compelled to maintain a steady stream of chatter about the most insignificant happenings across the Federation. Had it not been for his experience with the truly exceptional Ensign Yoshida aboard the Succession, he would discount the entire breed. She suddenly stopped her prattle when a group of half a dozen fully-armored Marines came trooping into the ballroom and took up 'honor guard' positions around Furball.
Jons stifled a grin. Someone had screwed up. Had they been in dress uniforms, they might have explained it away, but in combat gear? Were they afraid Furball was going to run? He looked mad enough to spit and the look he shot T'Skay was pure rage.
Realizing that the woman had asked him something about the Marines he answered â€śNo, no, my dear, a guard of honor is not unusual at all for military men.â€ť That was true as far as it went, but in true diplomateese, it left much unsaid. Smiling to reassure her, he was further distracted by a bright flash outside the ballroom's truly massive crystalline windows, a small white blossom of death slowly turning an angry red against the black of space.
He frowned. That was a ship dying out there somewhere. T'Skay's leaving the ballroom earlier, the guards, the flash, it could only mean one thing. They were coming for Furball. T'Skay had run out of time. In fact, T'Skay was hustling out of the ballroom again, no doubt to get to his command post. The Colonel wished that he could accompany him rather than being stuck here out of the loop, unable to contribute. His duty was here, unfortunately.
Corin and his team were hustling. All 18 fighters had recovered at high speed and they were re-charging and re-arming them as fast as they could. The music reflected the frenetic pace with a fast tempo driving tune; even the kits were moving as fast as their much shorter legs could carry them.
They quickly cycled through their tasks, the tugs pushing the fighters back into their launch tubes, the leaders connecting the various lines and making them ready to launch. Crewmen panted while the kits ran about with energy drinks and small snacks or cleaned up the work areas. Moments after the last fighter was loaded into its launch tube, the loud 'whoooooouf' of them launching echoed through the bay again.
Catching their breath and catching up on the battle outside, they saw a Gorn corvette begin making a wobbly turn away from the other ships towards the battlestation, obviously grievously wounded. The fighters again deployed into wings, and again weapons streaked across space.
The tension in the bays increased with the music as the fighter groups held their fire, accelerating to their maximum speed and closing with the Gorn cruisers. Corin ordered, â€śGet battle damage kits now and make sure the medical team's ready to go.â€ť
His Crew Leaders jumped to carry out their orders as the tiny dots within the holo-display merged, and then split again. Counting the returning fighters, Corin was stunned to see them all on their way back while both the enemy battlecruiser and a frigate were staggering out of line. But...The entire team was shocked into silence. The huge Dosadi battleship Dorsai was clearly hit badly. Everyone aboard was friends with or knew someone serving on her and the fear everyone felt for their well-being was palpable.
But there was no time to worry about their friends as damaged fighters began streaming into both ends of the open deck, slamming into the retarder fields. Delac's Tomcat had taken a couple of light hits from enemy phasers, gouging melted tracks through her wing and hull plates, but nothing serious. Two of M'Ralin's crew began bonding patches and replacing damaged wiring and optical harnesses while Wilkes' crew struggled to reload the bird's weapons and re-charge her shield and phaser capacitors.
Corin spared a moment to glance into the next bay. Medics were hauling the pilot, Lt. Rrawl, out of her smoking cockpit. A replacement pilot was already standing by while the team struggled with replacing the Tomcat's canopy and bonding plates over the gaping hole in the hull. There was no time to worry about their friend. Others now had the responsibility for her. The bird needed to be ready to go again, immediately.
Colonel Jons could hardly be more disgusted. There was clearly a massive battle going on outside and he was stuck in a dress uniform at a dancing party. â€śMight as well be a dress.â€ť he thought to himself. Young Rebecca was pestering him for his opinions on what might be happening, and displaying a bureaucratâ€™s usual knowledge about military matters: None whatsoever.
â€śMy dear, starship combat is not quite what you've seen in the entertainment suites. There are no handsome, heroic pirates flying to the rescue in shuttlecraft, nor are things quite as clean as you see there. A ship is a team where everyone must play their part and believe me the casualties are very real, very bloody, and very personal.â€ť
She seemed to not believe him, â€śWhat I don't understand is how there's any sort of fight at all. Whoever it is must know that Star Fleet doesn't allow this sort of banditry. Do they think there's something to steal? Do they think they can get away with disturbing the peace and causing all this damage? It's not right.â€ť
Struggling to maintain his diplomatic composure, the Colonel tried to explain, â€śMadame, in the first place, we are a long way from Federation territory. In the second, Star Fleet allows, and in fact often encourages, a great deal of banditry in the name of maintaining the peace. Thirdly, if what I think is occurring is in fact occurring, they are not coming here to steal anything. No bandit possesses the firepower needed to seriously threaten this station, much less the Gorn fleet stationed here.â€ť
â€śWhy Colonel! You must not know very much about Star Fleet. They're the maintainers of peace throughout the galaxy! Why, they protect everyone â€“ they're a force for Justice.â€ť
Staring at the woman, Jons made one more attempt. â€śAnd do you think the Romulons, or the Klingons, or the Orions would agree that Star Fleet protects everyone? Or do you think that they would even agree with your definition of Justice?â€ť
She was clearly struggling with the concept, â€śWell, Justice is a universal, Colonel, everyone knows that. And yes, I think they would agree with me. The only times we've fought with them it was because they attacked US. Star Fleet is a defensive organization only.â€ť
He smiled, â€śBut of course. How silly of me.â€ť Another very bright flash outside the window caught his attention. Looking back down, he saw the Dosadi ambassador offering a silent toast across the room to T'Skay, who got up and quickly left again. â€śWell, in any case, Star Fleet is not here, but it appears that the Dosadi ARE.â€ť
â€śThe Dosadi? They're so cute! I don't think they would attack the Gorn â€“ we're all allies, it would be silly for them to attack an ally. If they were attacking us do you think the Dosadi ambassador would still be here? Look! He's having a great time! And the guest of honor is a Dosadi besides.â€ť
â€śMy dear child, the Dosadi are not whatever you think they are. They are vicious, blood-thirsty and utterly without fear. Their entire lives are dedicated to fighting anyone and anything that gets in their way. The guest of honor there, is an outcast who has, to their twisted way of thinking, betrayed their society and they are very likely coming here to get him back,whatever the cost.â€ť
â€śWell, I guess we'll see who's right, won't we, Colonel?â€ť she smiled brightly, utterly certain that she was correct and Jons, as a Soldier was just too ignorant and hide-bound to really understand the world as it was.
Jons rubbed his temple and reminded himself again that his duty was to be diplomatic, to be patient, and to be calm. â€śIndeed, we shall! If you are right, I shall buy you a bottle of your favorite wine as a prize.â€ť and he smiled at her.
The fighters had returned again, and again his team moved as quickly as they could, hauling 400 lb missiles, heavy cables, hull patches, parts, and tools up and down the birds. The exhaustion was starting to tell on his team. But the work needed to be done fast, and perfectly every time. Each time they returned, there was more battle damage to be repaired, more friends being hauled out of cockpits with burns, impact or shock injuries, and more parts to be replaced â€“ both living and mechanical.
They had damaged the enemy carrier though, with Delac leading White Wing in an assault that was followed by the destroyers and the heavy cruiser Thelet. Her fighters were airborne now though â€“ it was vital that the Delos' own birds be back up immediately or the Gorn fighters would do to them what they had just done to the Gorn. It seemed like an eternity before the fighters were finally back in their launchers and the familiar sound of their launching echoed throughout the bays.
Sitting on his tool box, panting and trying to down an energy drink, Corin watched the swirling combat outside his ship. The holo-display showed six Gorn Thunderbolts being annihilated by Delac's Tomcats before they could even get a shot off. Three of the Hornets from the heavy cruiser Dinen charged into six Stings from the Troy, and while the dogfight raged, six Gorn Tomcats launched their own missiles at the Delos moments before being obliterated by a plasma-torpedo shotgun fired by the Dinen.
Watching only a single Sting struggle away from the fight, Corin wondered about the Gorn. Three entire wings, destroyed. 24 pilots and gunners, gone just like that. The Gorn maintenance crews waiting for their birds to return, for their friends to jump out of cockpits with their tales to tell of valor and courage. But of course, they would never hear those stories. He knew one of the Team Leaders in Black Wing and wondered if one of the three lost Dosadi Hornets was his. They would have to tell the tales for those who no longer had a voice. The Gorn pilots were brave and fought hard. They deserved no less.
And again he found his thoughts returning to Nollos, her smile, the ferocity with which she did her job and drove her team, and how much he missed her. He hoped that Eletha was staying safe. But the empty fighters were returning again â€“ there was no time to waste on personal thoughts.
â€śOn your feet!â€ť he roared, â€śBreak time's over you lazy kits! Get the reloads up from ready storage NOW! You! Kit! Get that crap off the deck! Wilkes! You had better get those fucking tools where they belong or you're going to be eating them when Delac lands â€“ Secure that shit.â€ť
Colonel Jons had just regained his seat after safely maneuvering his much taller partner around the dance floor to a dance that had been popular on Earth before they even discovered warp drive. He was glad that he didn't have to try to dance with a Gorn. As he reached for his wine, he noticed T'Skay drench several people sitting across from him. He wondered what it was the aide whispering in his ear had said. Whatever it was, it obviously wasn't good as T'Skay almost ran out of the ballroom.
He tried to think how many ships the Dosadi could have brought with them â€“ it couldn't have been very many. The Romulons would never let a large fleet through their territory, they hated the Dosadi more than anyone after the Razing of Romulus.. Would they? What would it take for them to do so...?
The flashes outside the big windows were getting closer. That clearly meant that things were not going well for the Gorn. The green lines of phaser blasts were visible now and the streaks of missiles and fighters racing between invisible starships glittered against the deep black of space. What size fleet had the cats brought with them? The Gorn fleet was massive, with fighter support from both a carrier and the station. He began to wish he had brought his own battle armor and weapon with him. The closest thing to a weapon he had available was a steak knife. Rebecca interrupted his thoughts again.
â€śI said, thank you for the dance, Colonel.â€ť
â€śHuh, what? Oh, of course, I'm sorry, I was distracted. The pleasure was entirely mine, madame. The Gorn set an excellent table, do they not?â€ť
â€śYes, they do â€“ what is this wine?â€ť
â€śAh! It is actually a drink from my home-world. A fermentation of a vine-fruit that is close to your grapes but with a much crisper flavor, I think you'll agree.â€ť
â€śOh definitely.â€ť She glanced up as a number of rapid-fire flashes light up the windows. Colonel Jons recognized them as exploding fighters and grimaced at the deaths that represented.
â€śWell, battle or not, it's quite pretty from here.â€ť she said. â€śLike fireworks!â€ť
The Colonel made no reply, saying a silent prayer for the souls of the dead â€“ of whichever side.
Wilkes, dripping sweat and splattered with lubricant and coolant got Corin's attention, â€śCorin, we're down to our last reloads in ready storage, we've used up about half our total missile reloads and if they don't start giving us more power for re-charges, it's going to take a lot longer to get the birds ready to go again. We're running low on hull patches and coolant. They're pushing the birds harder then they were ever designed to go and they're getting shot to shit.â€ť
Corin studied the holo-display. The fleet was closing with the battlestation, and several more Gorn ships had been forced to disengage. The Delos staggered as several weapons struck home. Most of the ships had begun taking damage but so far Nolin was maneuvering his ships like a master, forcing the Gorn to continually engage different ships without the opportunity to concentrate their fire.
â€śCorin, they're on their way back again.â€ť
Sighing heavily, his tail drooping Corin replied, â€śGet the last reloads up from ready storage I'll tell the bridge we need more made available. Figure out something on the power, we don't have it to spare. Use the coolant and the patches until they're gone, and then piss in the damn tanks and cut plates off the hull if you have to.â€ť He turned to a comm-panel and began punching buttons.
As Corin finished his report to the bridge, the first fighters began to slam down the deck, the scream of displaced air matching the groaning of the retarding fields and the exhausted teams jumped to their tasks again.
The music was still playing throughout the bay, but the exhausted crews were too tired to sing. Pilots staggered out of their cockpits to lay flat on the deck while frightened, weary kits tried to give drinks and snacks to the sagging adults. Almost half of the pilots had become casualties to one degree or another and the Delos was out of replacements. Laying on his back next to his shattered helmet, his face bloody and trying to recover some sense of balance, Delac was still issuing orders through his com-set. â€śTell the medical officer that he needs to start triaging the pilots. We're all beat up. We need to keep the birds manned and flying, that's all there is to it.â€ť
Delac watched the holo-display while he tried to catch his breath. Another Gorn ship exploded. As thick, green lines raced across the display from the battlestation to their sister-ship the Eleth, he exclaimed â€śBy all the gods!â€ť as the phaser-IV's slammed into the carrier along with a cloud of weapons from the Gorn fleet. In return, the Eleth's fighter groups were shooting the hell out of anything that moved.
â€śWhat on EARTH?!â€ť Rebecca exclaimed as the lights in the ballroom dimmed and the entire room flashed bright green for a moment.
Furball spun around in his seat and looked out the big crystal windows, finally realizing what had been happening behind him.
Colonel Jons picked up his wine glass and admired the crystalline sapphire color of the drink. â€śThat, my dear, is a Federation designed heavy fusion-powered Phaser Cannon Mark IV, with an impact energy of about 20 megatons. The fact that the station is firing them means that the Dosadi have managed, somehow, to burn through a rather large minefield, shoot through T'Skay's massive battle fleet and get close enough to the station to be in range of those weapons. I believe your phrase for it is 'Guess who's coming to dinner?'â€ť and he smiled.
The young woman looked up, her mouth hanging open. â€śIt just can't be. There must be some other reason. Come, dance with me! It's still a party, right?â€ť The Colonel was stunned. Did this woman inhabit some other universe? He allowed himself to be urged onto the dance floor. They were still dancing when the lights dimmed to a battle-red and a full squad of twelve armed and armored Marines began to take up defensive stations in the ballroom. There was light applause from the bewildered diplomatic guests as six Thunderbolt fighters launched past the windows, angling up into space.
Corin was still watching the holo-display as he argued with the Manpower officer on the bridge. The Delos was still taking hits although it sounded like her shields were holding most of the time and the damage was minimal. The ISS Dinen in an act of valor beyond anything he had ever seen had undertaken a nearly single-handed attack on the battlestation, absorbing a constant pounding by the phaser cannon and managing to down the station's number-six shield in the process. She was now racing up and away from the station, her shields utterly collapsed and damage scattered across the entire vessel. Corin simply could not understand how the ship had not been destroyed.
But while they were shooting the heavy cruiser, they were NOT shooting anyone else. The Gorn fleet was essentially combat-ineffective with only one vessel still actively maneuvering against them. They had closed to within transporter range and the fighters were sitting in their launch tubes waiting for the next strike assuming their pilots didn't collapse from exhaustion while sitting in their cockpits.
â€śWilkes! Take your crew down to the boarding pad. Itâ€™s time.â€ť
Clearly exhausted, Wilkes got to his feet, gathered up his four crewmen and made their way down to the boarding pad. He approached the Team Leader, a big male named T'Awn. â€śTeam Leader, if you wanted to get your team ready, we're within range now. The order could come at any time.â€ť
â€śUnderstood Crew Leader. We've got a few minutes â€“ one of my crews is on a damage control call right now, but I'll signal them to return.â€ť He began to speak into his com-set as Wilkes caught Sooth's eye. They made their way a short bit apart from the rest of the Marines.
â€śAre you ready? Are you OK?â€ť he asked her.
Her blue eyes were wide and she was trembling slightly. â€śI think so. I can't decide if I'm more excited or terrified.â€ť she chuckled. â€śI think terrified.â€ť
He studied her for a moment. She looked supremely dangerous in her camouflaged armor, with a heavy plasma rifle in her hands, her armor festooned with ammunition, knives, and explosives and a combat helmet tucked under her arm. But what he saw was a beautiful young being, someone who had become more dear to him than anyone or anything in the universe. The fact that she looked like a large cat had nothing to do with what his heart felt. He wrapped her in his arms in a powerful hug â€“ not a gesture the Dosadi used but one Sooth was well familiar with by now and returned with gusto. A few of the other Marines chuckled at this odd display and exchanged knowing looks.
Wilkes turned away from her and began preparing the transport pad, opening sensor arrays and looking for weak points in the Gorn jamming fields designed to scatter transporter beams.
Rebecca was becoming irritated. The dim lighting was acceptable, but when the heavy fiber-coil window shields slid into place, cutting off the view of the stars and the Marines stationed in the ballroom began to flip tables over, it was simply too much. The gas-tight doors had come down, effectively trapping them all in here and was this really necessary?
Still dancing with Colonel Jons she whined, â€śI say, I don't see why they have to dirty up OUR party! Why, these Dosadi won't bother us! We're civilians! See? Even the Dosadi ambassador is still enjoying his dinner!â€ť
Disgusted, Jons glanced at the ambassador. He was digging into his steak with a huge, fang-baring smile on his face, chuckling every now and again. The Colonel would have sworn that the man was purring. Returning his attention to the empty headed Federation bureaucrat he said, â€śMadame, the Dosadi consider civilians to be a particular delicacy. If this station cannot fight them off, you may find yourself being served at THEIR next party.â€ť
â€śEek!â€ť she said, dumfounded. Sheltered her entire life by the power of the Federation Star Fleet, she had almost certainly never been in any physical danger in her entire life. The concepts she had been exposed to tonight had shaken her to her very core.
Moments later the station began to shake and ring as though the entire structure were being slammed by a giant hammer. Her eyes wide, she tried to grasp what was happening. Colonel Jons said â€śI'm sure that Star Fleet won't allow anything to happen. Shall we continue our dance? We should set the example, after all!â€ť and he urged her back into motion.
They continued to dance as the sound of distant explosions began to be heard over the music. The Colonel felt that things were getting a bit surreal. He could hear the sounds of infantry combat through the hull plates and knew that Marines were fighting it out. He hoped that the Gorn defenses were as strong as they looked. But, he noted, there were ragged gaps in the Phaser Cannon fire coming from the station and he was not hearing much, if any, anti-fighter fire from Gatling phasers. That did not bode well.
Wilkes held up two fingers to the Team Leader â€śTWO minutes! TWO!â€ť
The big cat signaled his team and they crouched into assault formations, each crew of four and their leader ready to clear their side of whatever space they materialized in. An assault transport was the riskiest possible military operation. Defenders would have a fraction of a second to see where they were going to appear, and another fraction of a second before the Dosadi could react. Training â€“ both quality and quantity - meant the difference between life and death.
Sooth tried to stop her hands from trembling as she knelt, looking through her close-quarter optics and covering what would be her sector as soon as they materialized.
Her mouth was dry and she desperately wanted to pee. Her heart was hammering in her chest. She could hear her teammates breathing in her ear-piece.
She reminded herself of her training, deep breaths to calm herself and steady her heartbeat. Scan your sector. Engage any targets. Her crew would move to the Crew Leader's right and clear that half of the room, then sweep around clockwise and meet up with the other crew. Easy.
â€śENERGIZING!!!!â€ť She felt the world turn inside out. Wilkes shamelessly stole power from any system he could find, working the slides on the console to find a weak-point in the timing of the Gorn jamming fields. There was a large open-space on the sensors with what looked like a low population density. He aimed for the center of that spot and slammed the beam down as quickly as the system could manage it, praying to a God he had long forgotten that this would give Sooth that extra fraction of a second and keep her team intact...and then everything was obscured by a new wave of jamming. Breathing hard and with a sick knot of fear in his gut, he stepped back from the controls and headed back towards the fighter bay.
Colonel Jons opened his mouth to suggest that the two of them return to their seats when he heard the loud hum of a transporter beam. The music would mask the sound from anyone not within a few feet, but to him it was like an alarm horn. Shoving the empty-headed young woman down and away, he dropped into a fighting crouch as a blue-grey and tan mottled Dosadi Marine appeared directly in front of him, the muzzle of a plasma rifle inches from his face.
With the lighting speed of the highly-experienced combat-veteran that he was, he grabbed the barrel of the Marine's weapon and dragged them towards him. In a gun fight when you had no gun, the safest place was right on top of your enemy.
Sooth blinked to clear her vision from the fastest transport she had ever been through and felt someone grab her rifle. As she pulled back, dragging the tiny violet-skinned humanoid towards her, she heard her team opening fire. The two of them tumbled, with the little man kicking into her belly and launching her up and away. Maintaining her hold on her weapon, she landed on her back and swung the barrel â€“ and the man, still clinging tightly to her weapon but seemingly crawling up it â€“ back down, firing several rounds towards what could only be Gorn Marines as she did so. She had no idea if she hit anything or not and the sounds of plasma rifles and rail guns were drowned out by her own cursing and by that of the strange little man in the black and silver uniform. As they struggled they rolled across a young human female who was screaming and crying in terror. Flat on her back, Sooth was finally able to slam the butt of her rifle up and under the man's chin and then followed with a smashing blow to his face, knocking him off of her. As she rolled onto her stomach and began engaging the Gorn on her side of the room she felt a searing pain go up her back as her armor slammed up into the back of her helmet.
It was an agony like nothing she had ever felt before. There was more noise, and screaming and it was getting hard to see. Probably the smoke, she decided. She continued to fire at the knot of Gorns across from her, unsure how many were still returning her fire. There was an explosion near her, people swearing in Dosadi, and she realized her helmet was gone and with it her com-set.
Struggling to reload her plasma rifle, she noticed the floor was covered in blood. That was going to be a serious mess for some kit to clean up. She finally got the magazine into the weapon, and decided that she should start to sweep clockwise. Her team was supposed to go clockwise. Raising to her knee, she shot several Gorn troopers who had been firing in a direction that made no sense to her. She felt good about her marksmanship; she saw them fall. The plasma rifle was a devastating weapon and she was quite good with it.
She tried to turn more to her right. It was getting very quiet in the room, perhaps they had got them all. Even the lights had been shot out, she thought. She felt another impact in her left shoulder but it didn't really matter. She had armor. She could barely see another pair of Gorn troopers in the dim light and engaged them both, wrestling with the heavy rifle since her left arm didn't seem to want to work any more. Probably because Wilkes was laying on it. Whenever he did that it always fell asleep like this. And sleeping with him was always so nice. He was warm, and she was so very cold for some reason.
Wilkes was trying to hurry back to the fighter bay. He had heard them launch again and knew he and his crew would be needed there within minutes. He saw Corin and M'Ralin manhandling a Countach missile out of the ready locker and then a Gorn phaser sliced through the hull and into the bay, splitting the 20' missile in half and throwing both men into the bulkhead like rag dolls. Firefighting gas was discharging into the bay as burning coolant, lubricants and propellant sprayed in all directions.
It was the nightmare all over again, except now, Corin wasn't there â€“ Corin was hurt, his head a bloody mess. It was all Wilkes. He was the only Leader left. Everyone in the bay was down and the fire was spreading fast. And finally, Wilkes understood. He understood the Dosadi philosophy, he understood his own life, and everything made sense in one blinding shock of clarity. Our lives are a story, a story that always ends for everyone. What mattered was when you came to the end of your tale, how you wrapped it up.
Yelling over his shoulder as he ran, â€śFOLLOW ME!!â€ť he led his crew into the burning bay against the smoke, the flames and the venting atmosphere. â€śGet them out of here! MOVE!â€ť The ready-locker was open, its ballistic door blown off by the phaser blast, a half-dozen missiles exposed to the flames. If those went off inside the bay, there wouldn't be anything left of anyone. He grabbed a fire-fighting kit and began blasting the flames away from the locker, his back to the warheads.
But he was running the Red Queen's Race â€“ having to run twice as fast just to stay in one place. If he could just hold the fire off long enough for his crew to get the wounded out of the bay, they could blow a hull-plate and vent the fire into space or something. But there was no time â€“ the door was closing to isolate the bay and it was getting so hot. His uniform was beginning to scorch and blister and he could feel his face burning. God it was hot. The fire-fighting kit wouldn't last forever and it felt like the flames were getting closer. If only he could see if they had gotten everyone out, he could leave and they could let the door close. But it was too hot, he couldn't even keep his eyes open and god it was hurting so bad. He hoped Sooth was OK. He coughed as he inhaled a lung-full of toxic smoke and that was the last thing Wilkes knew.
The Star Sailors' Story
â€śWhat we leave behind is as important as how we've lived. After all, Number One, we're only mortal.â€ť - CPT Jean Luc Picard (Human) aboard USS Enterprise
â€śSpeak for yourself, sir. I plan to live forever.â€ť - Commander William Riker (Human) aboard USS Enterprise
Colonel Jons came back to consciousness with a start. The first face he saw was that of Consular Officer 4th Class Rebecca Roberts. â€śColonel? Oh, please be OK. Please!!â€ť
He tried to sit up but gave up on that idea almost instantly. When he tried to speak, he found that was nearly impossible, producing a mumbled groan. From long experience he realized he had taken some fairly massive facial trauma. That meant weeks in regeneration, but it was certainly better than being dead. He struggled to make her understand that he needed to know what had happened, what the situation was and she finally got some glimmer of what he was after.
â€śOh! It's terrible! Everyone's dead and everything's blown up and it's horrible and we're all going to die!!â€ť
Since Jons could hear people moving around and wasn't hearing weapons fire, he was reasonably certain she was incorrect. He managed to gargle out â€śDottthadi?â€ť
â€śThey left. It was so awful! You almost crushed me when you grabbed that one! She shot a bunch of Gorn. She was terrible! I thought the Gorn were going to win and then she just started killing all of them!â€ť
His eyes bugging open despite the pain, he struggled to ask â€śWwooman?!â€ť
â€śYes, it was a girl. Her helmet got blown off when something exploded near us. It's a good thing the Dosadi were all around where it blew up, it HURT!â€ť
Grenade, he decided. And it would seem he was continually underestimating the females of other species. That was a habit he was going to have to break. â€śwwoooman.â€ť he slurred again, slowly shaking his head back and forth.
â€śOh it's OK, Colonel. I think she died. They shot her a lot because she was killing them.â€ť
Slowly turning his head to one side, he could see large chunks of Dosadi battle armor scattered around the floor, big pools of congealing blood and a shattered blue-grey and tan combat helmet as well as several empty plasma rifle magazines. Bits of medical kits, and bits of people were mixed in with the scorch marks and other debris. He could also see the bodies of over half a dozen Gorn Marines laying grotesquely where they had fallen. His eyes welled up at the losses. â€śFucking Dosadiâ€ť he thought to himself. Trying to speak clearly he gurgled out â€śWwheere?â€ť
â€śI said already. They left. After they killed everyone they talked to the ambassador and a few minutes later they all left. Even the ambassador!â€ť
Struggling with his damaged mouth he gasped out â€śbodieth?â€ť
â€śAll OVER!â€ť Seeing the expression on his face a small, dim light went on in her brain and she said, â€śOh. The Dosadi, They took them with them. I think there were seven of them killed. I know three were. You could tell. Some of them got on me.â€ť She shuddered and then vomited at the memory and began weeping uncontrollably.
Finally a medic made his way over to them, â€śSorry to take so long , Colonel. There were heavy casualties.â€ť He relaxed. At least he would live to see his home and family again.
Eletha sat nursing two of her kits, listening to the soft whirs and beeps of the medical equipment attached to the diagnostic beds. The other two were playing quietly around the equipment, but being good. The deeper thrum of the pulse monitor began going faster and she leaned over the form in the bed, still covered in healing-gel, the burns visible even through the disgusting blue-green of the gel.
Wilkes' eyes opened and darted left and right, struggling to make sense of what they were seeing, struggling against the restraints. Eletha said quickly, in Standard, â€śShh! You're going to be OK. Don't fight. You're in the hospital and immersed in gel. Your lungs and skin were badly burned. This will help you heal but you must relax and let it work. It's going to feel very strange, but don't try to breathe â€“ your lungs are full of gel. But you don't need to breathe. It's OK. You're going to be fine.â€ť
His mouth opened and closed again, his eyes puzzled.
Eletha pulled a small circular communicator out of her belt and spoke into it. Wilkes was clearly struggling to say something but there was simply no way that was going to happen.
A few minutes later, Corin came into the room sporting a rakish eye-patch and with a sizable chunk missing out of his right ear. He leaned into Wilkes' field of view and smiled. â€śWell, it looks like there's something left of your tale after all! I'm glad I'll be around to hear it, thanks to you as I understand it.â€ť
Wilkes struggled again and Corin said â€śBe still, Crew Leader. I know â€“ you want to know what happened. Relax and listen to the tale and each part will be in it's proper place.â€ť Corin hitched his butt up on the edge of the bed so that Wilkes could see him through the gel. Having been in the gel himself once before he knew how distorting it was to both sight and sound. He hoped they'd be able to regenerate his eye and ear without another trip into that horrible muck.
â€śI'll begin where my memory ends. The phaser hit came from the battlecruiser Zion and cut straight through the Delos' east hangar pod. It was just our bad luck that it hit when we had the ready-locker door open. In any case, the explosion knocked myself and M'Ralin and his entire crew out of the fight. M'Ralin didn't make it, I'm afraid, but the rest of his crew did, thanks to you. Your crew was able to get everyone out before the door closed, even those that were buried under debris.
â€śAnd there you were, standing in a plasma fire like one of the gods themselves, forcing the flames away from the ready-locker while the air-tight door came slamming down like Loreth's blade. Now let me just say that you are the luckiest being that I have ever encountered. Apparently one of the hull plates let loose right after the door closed and blew you â€“ and the fire â€“ and a bay full of atmosphere out into space. Directly in front of Lt Voreth's crippled Thunderbolt on recovery. He said he almost ran you down, but instead, his gunner had the forethought to snag you with their grappler beam on the way past and into the landing deck. You were exposed to vacuum for about 15 seconds is all. Which, of course, is plenty long enough to give you more scars than anyone should be allowed!
â€śThe reports I got back from the Marine party you beamed down were also astonishing.â€ť Wilkes eyes were narrowed, focusing on Corin with everything Wilkes had. â€śAccording to them â€“ and the transporter logs - that was the fastest transport on record. Speaking of which, Admiral Nolin wants to speak with you personally about an unauthorized redirection of power from the fighter bays to the boarding-pad. However, they were also the only team that materialized in an intact formation until we took out the Gorn jamming fields so I wouldn't worry too much about that.
â€śThere's some hard news though, Wilkes. The Marine team materialized almost in front of Furball â€“ how you managed to find him none of us will ever know, but they were surrounded by no less than eighteen Gorn Marines. A bunch of the Gorn grabbed the traitor and ran, but engaged our team on the way out while the remaining dozen shot it out with the team. They were getting slaughtered when Sooth, who had been grappling with some Sword Worlds diplomat clubbed him like a baby seal and just started picking the Gorn off like she was on a shooting range. The Gorn seem to have taken that personally.
â€śThey shot the hell out of her, Wilkes. When the team recovered wounded, her armor had been almost completely shot off. But while they were shooting her, she just continued killing them one after another. Battle records show that she was directly or indirectly responsible for killing eight of the twelve and wounded two of the six guarding Furball. They fought with great honor, Wilkes. Not a single civilian was hit by our fire, but they paid the price. Five dead including the Team Leader and six injured, three massively.â€ť
Seeing Wilkes struggling in the gel, Corin finally realized what he had failed to say â€śNo! No! Ahh! I'm a fool, Wilkes, she's alive. She was one of the critically injured! I said when they recovered wounded they got her.â€ť
Wilkes' eyes were still wild and Eletha said quietly, â€śTell him.â€ť
â€śShe's not conscious, Wilkes. The medics don't know if she ever will be. She lost a massive amount of blood and they're having to regenerate a good size chunk of her shoulder and a lot of her back. Her skull was fractured in several places, one ear was shot off...â€ť Wilkes eyes were closed. It was impossible to really cry immersed in healing gel, but it was obvious to the two aliens that that was what was happening with his mouth open and his chest struggling against the gel. The Dosadi believe knowledge is power and have no culture of breaking bad news gently. There was a faint hissing sound as the bed administered an anesthetic and Wilkes lapsed into a drugged sleep.
Finally healed and back on his own holdings, Colonel Jons was indulging himself with a glass of wine by a roaring fire as a winter monsoon doused the fields. Thanks be to GOD he was done with regeneration and able to again enjoy his wife's cooking and little creature comforts like this.
Sorral was safely married off to her young Lieutenant and his wife had already taken advantage of the new influence that pairing had brought them. Truly the woman was a marvel. He allowed himself to gaze into the fire and thought about that. He knew women â€“ the good ones at least â€“ were capable managers of house and purse. But he was forced, now, to accept that there was much more to the gender than domestic pursuits. That young human aboard the Succession for instance. He had never in all his 75 years encountered someone able to helm a starship like that.
Rubbing his hand along his newly regenerated jaw, he remembered the Dosadi Marine who had crushed his face. He had reviewed the ballroom sensor logs that T'Skay had sent him and she had been very young. Her battle armor had no stripes of rank on it whatsoever â€“ she was a raw Troop but had reacted flawlessly, beating him fairly and then carrying out her duties with a single-minded focus like none he had seen in many bloody battles. He recalled watching the tapes as she calmly fired her weapon despite repeated hits from Gorn fire and then reloading and continuing to fire even after a grenade hit and one shoulder had been blown nearly off. He had actually wept when she finally toppled forward into a pool of her own blood, but then, the Colonel was a very emotional man.
It was a pity she had died, but the Federation woman was right. There was no way anyone could survive that many wounds. He would have liked to have met her under different circumstances. Woman or no, she had been a Warrior and definitely worthy of the title Marine.
Corin walked along with Wilkes as they headed towards the Delos' launch bays. â€śSo, you're returning to the Hood?â€ť he asked. His new eye itched and the new skin on his torn ear was still hairless and left it feeling cold.
â€śWell, it's time, Corin.â€ť he laughed, â€śMy orders were to the Delos for a year, not forever. That's not how the Exchange Program works. They had to extend it to allow me to recuperate here.â€ť
â€śYes, but you're not seen as a Federation officer any more, Wilkes. You've proven yourself. You're a Dosadi â€“ just an uncommonly ugly one.â€ť He smiled at the human, â€śLook at yourself! A Warrior Pendant, an Honor Tattoo around your eye and an earring. I've seen Federation entertainments â€“ they'll think you're a pirate.â€ť
Wilkes laughed, â€śI've already cleared being able to continue to wear both as a 'Foreign Decoration for Valor'â€ť But I'll tell you this, it's not forever, Corin. We just wanted her to get a taste of MY culture before we settle someplace. Captain Karmes was fine with taking Sooth on as a Security Officer, despite her injuries â€“ and you'll get another human in exchange!â€ť
Corin groaned as they entered the shuttle bay. â€śHopefully THIS one can learn to speak Dosadi. Your accent is still atrocious.â€ť
Wilkes and Sooth both laughed as Wilkes took the handholds on Sooth's wheelchair and began to push her into the shuttlecraft. She was still a patchwork of fur, scars, and bald new skin. She turned her head towards Corin and said, â€śOnce I get out of this damn thing and we get back here, I hope to hear that you and Eletha are mated.â€ť
â€śIt's too soon for that, yet, Sooth.â€ť Corin said and as the shuttle door slid closed he said more softly, â€śBut in a year's time? Who knows? That's a long journey yet.â€ť and he turned to go back to the East Living Pod.
I would like to acknowledge the heavy influence of the following works:
The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert (the name mostly)
The series of Star Trek books by James Blish
Dreadnought by Diane Carey
Battlestations by Diane Carey
Uhura's Song by Janet Kagan
The Belgariad by David and Leigh Eddings
Second Hand Lions (New Line Cinema)
Images used in creating the title pages:
Graphics are from Wikipedia, NASA
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the original movie.
Cougar warrior on The Star Sailors' Story:
The Dosadi vessels are my own creation in the game Spore.
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.