The Zanderan Invasion

This effectively starts where “The Path from Vengeance” left off, and being a PBEM, it just continued on. So while the context feels like you’ve just stepped in the middle of the story (since posts from other people are absent) you sort of get the gist of it. I do recommend reading Path from Vengeance first if you haven’t already. Further on, I get through to my own story arcs again. Easier to write something that doesn’t require waiting for people to respond to.

Trivial Matters

“Personally, if it was me I wouldn’t have brought anything. Standard Onsite Procurement would have sufficed.” said Morias as he checked over the explosives shortly after Marcinko made the rather mediocre rousing speech to the squad members.
Velom’s expression remained impassive, even for a Vulcan. “However you did not. Captain Marcinko was.”
“I felt he was being generous. However I did notice several useful items being discarded.”
Velom raised an eyebrow, turning to Morias. “Standard field operations requirement for the bare minimum of items carried. How could they not be useful?”
“Bare minimum to me is nothing but the clothes on my back and a knife. The rations won’t be any good. Anyone not used to the field may leave them behind somewhere.”
“And the Starfleet markings would be a clear indication that we were present.”
“Socks could be quite useful too.”
Velom tilted his head then nodded. “Camouflage.”
“Not to mention detpack clustering. You add something like engine grease as a coating and you have your own sticky bombs.”
“The Captain wants a quick and decisive strike. There is logic in not bringing unnecessary items along with us.”
Morias just nodded. A few seconds later he looked back up to Velom.
“What does a Brikar need with socks? Certainly can’t use them for the conventional sense.”
“Only Doctor Dorden would know the answer to that.” said Velom, pulling on his reorganised pack.
“Hmm… maybe I’ll ask him later.” Morias glanced around and slid a slimline carry case into his pack with the demolitions gear.
Velom raised an eyebrow. “Where did you get that?”
Morias grinned. “I picked it up earlier. You never know.” He zipped up his pack tight and pulled it up on his back.
Later, assembled with the others, they were all going through a final gear check by Marcinko himself before he began the briefing.
“You’d better make sure it goes off when it has too, Lieutenant Morias.” said Marcinko.
“It will. Sir”
“You’d look like a fucking idiot if it went off prematurely.”
“Couldn’t say for certain, sir.” replied Morias. “We’d all be dead.”
Marcinko narrowed his eyes before turning his attention to Velom.
Morias turned to Dorden, who was standing next to him, checking his medkit. Even now it reminded him of Salden all those years ago. Just holding something else aside from a heavy weapon.
“So, Doc. What’s with those socks anyway?”

The Road to Purgatory

Morias was amazed that Dorden’s gravity compensator had worked against the strain of the drop. Dorden only had to step out of the hole he had made where they landed. Now, soundlessly covering the group’s six, it was quickly apparent that Dorden stuck out like a sore thumb. Crouching was not an option, so the best they could do was a makeshift ghillie suit to disguise the giveaway chiselled complexion of the Brikar.

The hairs on the back of his neck rose and he looked around suspiciously. Back on Bajor, his strange instinctual senses lead him to think that this signal was when an enemy was close or someone was watching them. But through the darkness, there was nothing he could see, nor the others that would pose any threat.
Something was out there, watching, waiting.

Velom halted the group a second time. He’d guessed the Vulcan sensed it too. Morias glanced behind him. Anywhere between the drop site to the objective was vulnerable to all forms of attack. Velom signalled left and once again Morias was sent to investigate. Unbuckling his knife, he ventured into the dense bush to confirm their suspicion.

What he found, a mere minute later was not what he expected.

Keeping his guard up, Morias investigated what appeared to be an obelisk. Angled stone slabs mounted on an obtrusive, yet decorative base. Centuries of ground movement and plant growth rendered the structure almost unnoticeable. There were no markings or glyphs of any kind seen on the surface. All that was visible was the remarkably intricate and undamaged statue of a strange looking animal. Like a gargoyle, it sat on the corner of the base. Barring its teeth like a carnivorous beast, its stance was not unlike an animal ready to pounce upon its chosen prey.

Morias sighed and glanced around once more, confirming there were no Zanderans around stalking them. Heading back to the group, he stopped to pick up a palm-sized rock. He didn’t think much of it as he pocketed it, signalling the all clear to the rest of the group and to continue as planned.

Despot’s Society

“Captain, we’ve got a situation.” Morias whispered under his breath as he turned to Marcinko. “I think you’d better take a look.”
Marcinko approached and grabbed the magnoculars from Morias’ grip.
“This better be good, Lieutenant.” said Marcinko as he gazed through the high resolution scope lenses.
They were still half a kilometre from the entrance that intel provided. For once they were bang on the money on the location. Despite the forest canopy giving excellent camouflage, the line of sight from the high cliffs of the canyon surrounding the facility enabled the curious onlooker a glimpse of troop movements beneath the sea of foliage.
“Now look dead ahead, Captain. Two o’clock.”
Marcinko saw nothing of interest at first. The low inland fog hadn’t dissipated yet as the dawn drew near. Fog made for good cover of anything, but orbital scans of any kind would pick up whatever tried to hide in there. In this day and age, not much could be hidden by sight alone.
“I’m not seeing anything useful, Lieutenant. If this is your meaning of a joke, it’s not particularly funny.”
“Wait a few seconds, sir. You’ll see it.”
Panning across with the magnoculars, he still saw nothing. Marcinko felt that this young lieutenant was going to have his career end very shortly. He didn’t have the time or the patience to go looking at fucking clouds all day.
And then he noticed a shimmer. It was very faint but it was there. Drawing back the magnification there was definitely a shape to it. Marcinko gritted his teeth.
“Fucking hell. Something’s out there…” cursed Marcinko.
Moss looked over from his watch post. “Is it bigger than a breadbox?”
“Lieutenant Moss.” said Marcinko, still watching the fog.
“Yes sir?” came a curt reply from Moss.
“Shut the fuck up.” Marcinko turned to Morias and Velom. “We’re still going ahead as planned. Maintain stealth cover all throughout the mission.”
“Yes sir.” said the two marines simultaneously.
Marcinko looked through the magnoculars again. “We’ll need to find out what the hell that is and what the fuck its doing here.”

On the other side of the canyon, someone watched the conversation through keen interest and a high powered sniper scope. The sharp static of a secured communications device brought the onlooker back into focus.
“Gemini report.”
Easing the stock slightly, roaming fingers found their way to the transmit button.
“Nothing much. They’re all still here. Right on schedule.”
“Excellent. So no problems?”
“Just a team of fleeters. They look like they’re going to try and enter the facility.”
“That might be a problem.”
“I can pick them off now. The Brikar might be a little trickier if I miss the eyes.”
There was an audible laugh over the comm. “When have I ever known you to miss?”
“When people piss me off by talking while I’m making a shot.”
“Do I detect a hint of resentment, Gemini? I do recall that you were the one who wanted to go down there.”
There was a moments silence; only slight breathing could be heard from the sniper.
“Anyway, I believe the fleeters could prove to our advantage. They’d make the perfect distraction.”
“Yeah, plus one of them is kinda cute.”
“Geez girl, can we do one mission without you flirting with every guy you encounter?”
Gemini smiled. She hadn’t smiled for a long, long time.
“I’m just doing it for the money. I’ll talk to you later. Gemini out.” she said as she packed up her rifle and headed down towards the facility.

Who Hunts the Hunter…

Morias ignored Velom.
He even ignored the whining fleeters.
All his attention was solely focused on their surroundings. And the fact he could feel someone watching over them. Like some bizarre sixth sense, he could feel the odd sensation he got whenever this happened.
Crouching low after leaving the river, he had checked and secured the perimeter from any wandering patrols that may have lingered. So far, the Zanderans had been lucky that night.
“How is he?” he asked Marcinko.
Marcinko closed his tricorder, taking a moment to reassess the situation. “His vitals are stable, Lieutenant. No major hypothermia set in. However, he will be thawing out on his own.”
Morias nodded, understanding the stakes involved. “We can’t risk lighting a fire to warm him, and time is not on our side tonight.” He looked over to Dorden then nodded to Marcinko.
The Captain rose to his feet and looked over to the unconscious form looked over by Dorden. It greatly annoyed him to see one of the men under his command stricken by hypothermia. But Marcinko knew that it would prove far more dangerous for the lieutenant to be with them during the mission than to be out here under the doctor’s care. If it was one thing he knew, no one liked a missed opportunity to prove themselves, but liked the idea of dying stupidly even less. The matter was settled.
“Dorden,” said Marcinko “Take care of the lieutenant while the rest of us resume our mission. And stay out of sight.”
“Aye sir. Will do.” Dorden said as he gently picked his patient up to find cover in the foliage.
Marcinko turned to Morias without hesitation. “We have little time to lose. We three will need to cover as much ground as possible and as quietly as possible.”
Morias nodded then turned to the third member of the now downsized team. “Wanna race? Or do you still have cold feet?”
Velom looked over to Morias, and in the true Vulcan manner his expression was not phased by the remark. “I do not race. For I will already be there waiting.”
“Can it you two.” Marcinko just shook his head and pushed between them into the forest. “I’ll be the one waiting at the finish line for you two ladies.”
The two Marines vanished into the forest seconds after Marcinko disappeared from view. The race was on.

“Alright, I’ve lost them.”
“Funny, I can see them perfectly.”
“Laugh it up girl. They’ve practically vanished from the sensors. They must be wearing personal cloaks.”
“None that I can see. Still tracking them.”
“Why are you even following them anyway. You have access to the backdoor.”
“I’m curious, Lyla.”
“Yeah, and I guess the cute one has absolutely nothing to do with it.”
There was a moment’s silence. Lyla didn’t like it.
“Gemini, are you alright?”
“Just fine… I was just… thinking.”
“About what?”
“Come on, tell Me.”
“Its nothing. I never should have brought it up.” Gemini continued on, parallel to the Starfleet Three.
“Y’know, for an onboard, state-of-the-art, artificial intelligence, you sure are damn persistent.”
“Thank you.”
“It wasn’t a compliment, Lyla. If you must know I was just thinking about what my sister’s doing right now. Haven’t heard from her in years.”
“You have a sister? I didn’t know that.”
“There are a lot of things you don’t know about me Lyla. I prefer it that way.”
There was a sharp click and then a hiss. Seconds later Gemini reported back.
“Alright, I’m in the base. Tell me where to go.”

Access Denied

One hour previously…

Behind enemy lines as it were, the two marines were ignored like any other guard on the base. The plan was working. Morias glanced around for a moment down a long, deserted junction.
“Looks all clear…” Morias said with suspicion.
“Looks can be deceiving.” Velom replied. A frank discussion on the rhetoric wasn’t something Morias was going to let slide, especially to a Vulcan. Then again, now wasn’t the time as their mission was at hand.
The pair continued down the corridor, walking past several other guards heading in the opposite direction. So far so good, no one had even noticed. Entering the barracks, the counted half a dozen or so soldiers within. Some were resting, others were inspecting their gear. On the whole, the mood was oddly relaxed.
When they reached the check in, most of the guards had their headgear removed, showing the Zanderan behind the mask. But the fear and hatred of them momentarily passed as the visage of a fresh-faced young humanoid boy, barely in his teens grinned at the two. It wasn’t a grin of discovery of the two Starfleet Marines, but one of mischievousness. It was strange that such a formidable race would pit their very children upon their enemies. As more removed their headgear it became apparently clear. Like the one before them, the next was another fresh-faced boy. The exact same fresh-faced boy. They all were, every single one of them.
This base, this secret base of operations, housed an army of genetically created clones. Like the former Dominion, the Zanderans too had their Jem`Hadar.
Morias and Velom decided to move on, heading towards the nearest exit.
“Stop you two.” said a voice from behind them.
The marines turned to see one of the soldiers pointing a finger at them. The two said nothing as the mood shifted and all eyes were on them.
“Why have you not removed your headgear for inspection?”
Great… Now we’re in the shit… Morias thought.
The soldier, seemingly the leader of the pack, gestured to the others to move in.
“Remove their headgear.”
Then all of a sudden all hell broke loose. The klaxon alarms howled throughout the barracks. The attention on the Marines had dissipated as if nothing happened.
“Intruder in Research lab 8.” said a monotone voice over the comm. And Morias knotted his brow. Something was distinctly familiar about it.
The flurry of activity left the room at a quickened pace. No longer did they seem to be young adolescents. They were now the enemy of the Federation the Marines were sworn to protect from.
Morias felt that their cover was going to be blown any minute now and quickly ran out after them, Velom in tow.

“Yes what is it? I’m busy.” she replied, gritting her teeth.
“Just wondering what exactly are you planning to do now?”
“Whatever works, Lyla. Plan A usually works.”
“Err, I believe Plan A is screwed.”
Gemini grinned, leaping from her position behind a lab bench as she fired off shots from her pair of Romulan disruptors. Continuously laying down cover fire, she acquired a new position, closer to her objective, ready for another volley.
“Now why do you say that, Lyla?”
“Well, from the sensor readings, just about every guard on that level is converging on your position. Plus, that’s what you said when the alarm was set off.”
“Oh shut up.” said Gemini, looking around for another place for cover. Right now she knew that any hopes of leaving unscathed and unnoticed were right down the drain. But she’d been in worse situations and nothing, not even this little face off with the Zanderan lackeys was going to come between her and her prize.
“Gemini, there’s somethi-”
“Not now Lyla!” Gemini noticed one of the side doors slowly opening. She’d blown the actuators earlier to prevent any surprises, but if she didn’t do anything quick, her position would be exposed.
“But, Gem-” Lyla said insistently.
“I said Not Now!” Pressing her back against the bench, she made her aim at the opening doors and fired.

The viewscreens flared with green and blue bursts from the energy weapons. The light from them was the only thing illuminating the dark, quiet room. In the centre a large pulpit with various controls too numerous to note as the commands rapidly flashed off the consoles. Sitting inside was a heavyset man, studiously observing the many visual sensor displays shown all throughout the base. As the Security Intendant of the base, it was his job to watch and report all erroneous activity outside and in. Overseeing the soldier clones and researchers, his gaze was practically on every single one ever since the facility was created long ago.
But today, all his attention was on the new intruders. Certainly something had to be done about them. Death, torture, interrogation and capture. He never did think about where to start. Generally a result was concluded and a method was reverse engineered into the equation.
For the time being, he would leave the two Starfleet interlopers continue on about what they were doing, to determine their real reason for being here. As for the girl…
From what he’d seen so far it was obvious that she was nothing more but a thief. She could not steal what she wanted; even such an attempt would end in the same result. Her life was inconsequential to him.
Wordlessly, he uttered an order through the comm.
Eliminate the Threat.

About a Girl

Forty-five minutes ago…

The screams of many shot soldiers could be heard from the front entrance of the research lab. Two seemingly wayward soldiers moved past and headed to one of the side entrances. None had apparently tried to access this door as it was disabled from the inside, but there were ways of getting in aside from the conventional.
Morias made sure the corridor was clear before pulling out his quadcorder with trinary hack applications. Seconds later the actuators gave way and the manual release unlocked the door. Velom grabbed hold of one side as Morias pulled the other.
Morias quickly ducked out of the way as he saw the green blast head straight for him when the door opened. He looked over to Velom, who replied with a shrug of his shoulders. Despite the situation, Morias risked his head again to see just who fired on him. Certainly as the old adage goes ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’, it would be worthwhile to have an ally in this place.
Stealing a glance back into the lab doorway, the expression on his face quickly changed from stern suspicion to doubtless disbelief as he saw who was holding their own in the small room.
Returning back to his cover position, Morias just shook his head and muttered. “What the hell is she doing here?”
Velom looked to Morias, tilting his head in the true Vulcan manner. It was fortunate that they were the only two at this door, as their mannerisms were uncharacteristic of a Zanderan. They’d be killed without a second thought.
“Are you acquainted with the woman inside, Lieutenant?” Velom noticed a slight bewilderment in Morias’s expression.
“Uhh… Sort of, I guess. But something’s different about her…”
“We must continue with the mission. It would be advantageous of us to resume whilst the guards are indisposed.”
Morias stood up, hefting the Zanderan weapon. “No, she’s coming with us.”
“That would be ill-advised, Lieutenant. Besides, she currently thinks you are the enemy as well. How do you expect her to come along quietly without us being shot?”
Morias turned to Velom and grinned through the headgear. “Do these weapons have a stun setting? Actually nevermind.” He reached into his stolen uniform and pulled out a phaser. “You be the bait Velom while I stun her. Try not to get hit. Sounds like she’s a damn good shot.”
Velom just drew a breath of disdain, but Morias never noticed it as he looked over to Velom. “On the count of three, Velom. One. Two. Three.”
Velom exposed himself first, half a second later Morias popped out, aiming his phaser in. But like all good plans, there’s always a snag.
She was gone.
“Hey, Jackass. Lookin` for me?”
Morias couldn’t help but turn. Somewhere he remembers saying her name shortly before blacking out.

Gemini knew that they were Starfleet long before one pointed their phaser. The animated conversation they were having was clearly audible from her position, it surprised her that those two were still alive in this place. Dumb luck she surmised, and considering her current situation, she needed some of their dumb luck if she was to get what she came for. Gemini moved from her position to somewhere closer to the wall, yet still behind durable cover. She watched the two as they tried to ambush her, but she had the upper hand.
“Hey, Jackass. Lookin` for me?” she said coyly.
The one with the phaser turned to her first.
“Naomi Jaeger?” he said.
She was ready to let these two be her fodder, but the moment he said that name gave her an automatic reaction. So Gemini landed a kick to his head.
“Oh fuck. Sorry!” she said. Ducking as a hail of fire came her way, she dragged the man out of danger back into the corridor. Looking around, she nodded to the semi-conscious one’s companion.
“Sorry about that. Umm… when he wakes up can you tell him I’m sorry. Gotta run.” And with that she ran off down the corridor, evading pursuit.
Hiding in a storage bay, she paused to rest. Lyla started talking again.
“Gem, what was that about?”
“Nothing… I… I don’t know…”
“That man said ‘Naomi Jaeger’. Who is Naomi Jaeger?”
Gemini knew this conversation would be brought up again incessantly throughout the mission. She might as well get it out in the open.
“She’s my sister, twin sister actually.” Gemini sighed as memories came back. “Haven’t seen her in years…”
“So how did that guy know her?”
Gemini shrugged “How should I know? Maybe she knows him. I don’t know.”
“Maybe you should find out.”
Gemini thought about this for a second then shook her head. “No, I have to finish this first.”
There was a long pause on Lyla’s end, and this worried Gemini slightly. She’d never known the AI to ‘ponder’, but if she was busy, that might mean the ship was in trouble. A sigh of relief came as Lyla spoke again.
“Okay Gemini. We’ll finish this mission first.”
“Glad we agree.” said Gemini as she readied to move on.
“Oh and there’s one other thing.”
“What’s that, Lyla?”
“What’s your real name? I understand that Gemini is your codename, but I would like to know for future reference.”
Gemini smirked as she headed for the door. It was an amusing concept for a computer to be actually interested in a person’s life details.
“I’ll tell you when I get back.” she replied, leaving the safety of the storage bay.

Need a Hand?

T-minus Forty minutes…

Morias blinked his eyes and sat bolt upright, hitting his head on something hard and metallic.
“Ahh, shit.” He shook his head, scolding himself mentally for that short outburst.
“Relax, Lieutenant. We are safe for now.” Velom said calmly
“Where are we and why is it dark in here?”
“Storage B-7, Corridor 12, Sublevel 5. Three floors down from our previous position.”
Morias stood up slowly, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. “And the lights?”
“There are none. More specifically there are none on this floor and the last 2 above.”
Morias blinked his eyes again, seeing a faint outline of Velom over by the wall. Approaching him, he reached for his quadcorder.
“It is no use. There is an inordinate amount of shielding in this area. Most scans become scattered and unreadable.” said Velom, as if he knew what Morias was thinking.
“Well, we can’t stay here forever. We’ve got to set the charges somewhere.”
“The generator levels are two levels below. A charge on this floor would cause significant structural damage.”
“Alright then, let’s find a home for them. Is it all clear outside?”
“I have neither seen nor heard any activity since we arrived.” said Velom. “However, I would not take the overall security so haphazardly.”
Morias smirked in the pitch black. “Now what would be the fun in that?” Feeling for the door panel, he manually opened the door. His natural night vision adjusted better and he could see into the darkness.
“All clear.” said Velom, surveying the corridor before Morias took point.

The two silently moved through the darkness, checking the signs and listening for any movement ahead.
No words were spoken between the two for a while as they navigated almost blind, but each knew where the other was. One could call it a Corps thing, they just knew.
Velom finally spoke up after what seemed like ten or so minutes of walking. Morias was convinced that he led his partner in a full circle.
“This should be the place.” said Velom “The sign says ‘Main Research Lab’. The structural schematics I managed to obtain say that this is the focal point of the facility’s main core. Connected directly below are the reaction generators. This door however is locked.”
“Not for long.” Morias said as he pulled out his quadcorder and accessed his hacking programs. What came out on the display was a garbled mess. “Damn, the shields must be interfering with it.”
Morias sighed for a moment, before grabbing his phaser. “Oh well, looks like we’ll have to do this the old fashioned way.” Powering it up to level 10, he fired a white hot beam at the door console, melting a hole into the circuitry. The door’s locks compliantly disengaged.

They both entered a low lit circular room, shades of blue light shone on almost every surface, every console and every support beam. Steps cascaded downwards to the centre, where the blue light originated from. Its tall, ominous stature was reminiscent of a warp core, with its equally ominous pulsating thrum of energy coursing through it.
Of course, none of this entered through Morias’s mindset as a bright green disruptor blast narrowly missed his head again. Velom returned fire before finding his own cover.
“Hold your fire!” yelled Morias, calling out from behind a granite pillar.
“You first!” came a coarse, feminine voice.
“Naomi, what the hell are you doing here?!” Morias responded with a question.
There was a short pause before she responded.
“I’m not Naomi.” she said, out from behind her cover, barely a few metres away from Morias. “How do you know Naomi?”
Morias moved out from behind his cover and stood to have a good look at the assailant. “I work with her. Who are you?”
“My name’s not important.” she said, holstering her disruptor before turning over to a console.
“You look so much like her. Are you sisters?” Morias ventured further.
“Lieutenant, we have more pressing issues to deal with than estranged family matters.” said Velom
Morias just watched her as she pretty much ignored him and set about her work. He nodded to Velom to start setting up the detpacks before approaching the woman.
“Do you mind, ‘Lieutenant’? I’m trying to work here…”
“Maybe we can help.” He took a quick glance over at Velom before returning his attention back to the woman.
“No its fine.” she replied, not looking up from the display. Files upon files of information popped up. She was searching for something. “On second thoughts,” She turned to Morias “tell me, Lieutenant. We’re you just sent here to blow this place up?”
“Essentially yes. It’s our duty to stave the Zanderan forces by any means necessary.”
“Stave, eh? Bet you say that to all the girls you try to rescue, right?”
Morias’s expression changed suddenly and she picked up on this, deciding to change the topic. “Call me Gemini, though I can tell you already know my last name. I prefer my codename though.”
“Very well, Gemini. My name is Morias Aratos. The one with the bombs is Velom.”
“Nice to meet you, Morias.” She turned back to her work. “Sorry about the face earlier. I don’t know what came over me.”
“It’s fine.” Morias looked over to Velom who had almost set up all the explosives. “Are you going to be long? We’re going to blow this place up shortly.”
“What do you know about Human Hands?” Gemini asked.
“Uhh, nothing aside from they’re hands from a human? Why do you ask?”
“Because I was sent here by my employer to steal it. Unfortunately neither they nor I know just exactly what it is. Could be a biological weapon, could be a new type of computer virus. Hell I don’t know, it could be some freakish war trophy belonging to the commander of this base.” Gemini moved to the centre of the room towards the glowing blue column. “The answers here somewhere, I just know it.”
“Lieutenant, all the explosives are set. We have one hour to vacate the base.” called Velom from the other side of the room.

Gemini checked over the console in front of her, running a few key sequences over. “Damn, they must have changed the login codes because of what happened earlier. They cost me a small fortune too.” She thumped the console in frustration.
Morias turned back to Gemini. “Problem?”
“Yeah, can’t access the tertiary database without the codes. Most of the top level classified stuff is in there.” Gemini kicked the side of the console, denting the panel.
“Mind if I try?” Morias asked, gesturing to the console.
“Sure, go ahead. Not as if you’ll get anywhere. There are more access levels than there is the number of Zanderan worlds.”
“It’s been a while since I did it by hand. Here goes anyway.” At that moment his hands began to quicken pace, extraordinarily fast keystrokes flew faster and faster till they became a mere blur to the naked eye.
“Fucking hell.” Gemini blinked a couple of times in a mixture of disbelief and awe.
“He is showing off again, isn’t he?” Velom said with a hint of sarcasm that was bordering creepy.

Morias heard nothing of this conversation as he zoned out into his own world of numbers. After the Vega Outpost incident, things changed. So distraught was he, that vengeance, no matter the cost took control of his life. Minor augmentations to his body enhanced some of his previous abilities and more. But after he used them to obtain access to and subsequently kill the Vorta that brought back his vengeful manner, the Intel sanctioned modifications were removed.
But like most experiments, there are usually side effects.

Searching for keywords was the typical first move, but not Morias. Throwing stones at a barred gate won’t let you in. You have to look for a backdoor, and there always is a backdoor. Sifting through the remains of errant data entries and archives, he found what he was looking for, a node bypass. These are a rare thing to find on typical military grade database systems, but lately they’ve been cropping up on the old Dominion computer systems still operated by various factions. It didn’t matter much anyway. A way in was a way in. There’s no argument in that.

It all seemed rather easy to Morias as he entered the tertiary database gateway. A little too easy, one might say. He quickly looked around for anything unusual, maybe a stealth security program or data deletion vectors. But there was nothing around, just a straight path to the database. Cautiously, he entered the database unhindered, soon becoming suspiciously worried and decided to quicken his pace into finding what Gemini wanted. Leaving the gateway behind him, the area began to change into something dark and sinister. Tall arcing lines rose up from the floor, coming to an apex so high that it faded into nothingness. Walls jutting out like some great winged beast enveloping the corridor, the struts akin to the membrane webbing, but dark and slick like the rest of the interior. Ahead, a pulsating white light held something of interest and Morias ventured forth with magnified curiosity.

Morias entered the dark room, its walls reflecting the glow of the screens ahead. In front was a man on a high, black podium, his back to the newcomer. His attention was solely on the screens, showing cycling images too quick for the human eye to see. Then they stopped at something familiar. It was the room where he was before, Gemini standing next to him and Velom off to the side. Then the man turned and looked at Morias, the faceless expression leaving nothing to speculate.
Welcome home, Morias.
Morias was immediately blinded by wave after wave of information. A bombardment of technical data and intelligence reports hit him with such ferocity he lost his footing and was swept away. Words, numbers, images and patterns swirled into his field of view, enveloping his senses and distorting his orientation. When it all seemed to reach its peak, everything faded to black and he fell.

The tone was strange, but it was definitely Gemini’s voice. Morias looked to his right. “Wuh?”
“I said get down!” grabbing his shirt to pull him against some cover. All around was ablaze in weapons fire. It seems in his absence, the hosts had found the unwelcome guests. Pulling out his own weapon, he exchanged fire. With his senses returning, he could fight normally.
“Where’s Velom?!” he yelled to Gemini over the noise.
“Over on the left! He’s cornered, but holding his ground.” Gemini strafed out from behind the console and fired off half a dozen shots, each one hitting their mark.
“It’s no good. We’ll be overrun in a few minutes!” Gemini said, loading up a fresh power cell before firing.
Morias fired off a few more shots. “I got in.”
“Did you find it?”
“Hang on.” Morias reached up and tapped the console. Immediately the blue column rotated, sliding in an upwards direction which released the locking mechanism of the supposedly impenetrable safe. Inside, held only by the slight grasp of magnetic couplings, was a vial of dark red liquid.
“That must be it!” Reaching over, she grabbed it, mere seconds before it was wracked with energy blasts.
“So, now that you’ve got it, how the hell are you going to get out?” Morias asked, his words punctuated with the shots from his phaser.
“I’ll… think of something. Thanks Morias.”
“Just thank me when we get out of this hellhole.”
The fire-fight stopped abruptly and Morias peered out from behind the console. All was quiet.
Then the familiar clinking of metal against metal broke the silence. Rolling, it came to a stop by an adjacent console and Morias had precious seconds to react.
“Grenade!” He grabbed Gemini and pulled her to cover as the console exploded and shook the room.
As the smoke cleared Gemini had lost sight of Morias. She had been thrown clear whilst he took most of the impact. Several dozen boot steps drummed in from outside to secure the room. There was nothing she could do about them.
“Sorry guys. Hopefully they’ll be nice to you…” and then she slapped her personal transporter beacon, Lyla immediately beamed Gemini out.
Fifty odd phaser muzzles prodded Morias and Velom, escorting the prisoners away.
Don’t kill them yet. I want them alive…

“Get us out of here, Lyla. We’re done.” Gemini said as she sat herself in the pilot’s chair.
“What about the others?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. Chart a course to the Acheron system.”
“Lyla. Please. Let’s just go.”
“Alright. Plotting a course.”
Approximately one second later the proximity alarms went off.
“What is it Lyla?”
“It’s a ship. It’s dropping out of warp 20 kilometres off the starboard bow.”
“ID codes?”
“Not sure, warp signature looks Starfleet.”
“Something’s not right about this…Oh my god.”
As the unknown vessel dropped out of warp, it became apparent that all was not well. Pitted from stern to aft with fiery breaches, very little of the Cheyenne class starship was recognisable amid the flames.
“It’s heading to the surface…” Gemini watched in horror as the burning disc angled its way steeply through the stratosphere. She sat back, frowning in disbelief.
“Get us out of here…”
“Yes, Gemini. Engaging engines.”
Gemini pondered deeply. About family, more importantly her sister. If she worked with that man, that would mean that she’d have to be on the Chin`Toka IV. She looked to the streaking star field as it raced by her window. She’d hidden her past well, as it was the one thing most precious to her. But given what happened today, her past won’t remain hidden forever.
“Yes, Gemini?”
“Just thought you should know. My name is Alli. Alli Jaeger.”

Zero Hour…

“So, everything’s ready?”
“Yes sir, the boy doesn’t suspect a thing.”
“And of the other two?”
“The plan was executed right on schedule. Everyone’s too concerned with the crash-site now.”
“Excellent. And what of the girl?”
“She doesn’t suspect anything either.”
“They will find out eventually. We’d best commence with Stage 3.”
“Already underway, sir.”
“Good work today.”
“Thank you, Admiral.”

I think Morias and co got rescued or something after this point. I was seriously lagging behind in the story so a lot of that, especially the ones with the time references, were me catching up. What follows next is rescue operations for the downed starship.

One Foul Zand and Twenty-Four – Part One

“Take us around Ensign.”
“We’ve been over this area half a dozen times.” replied Jaeger
Morias turned to her from his Ops console. “We need to check over the site again for more survivors.”

It was a mess. A goddamned mess. Morias had opted to go with the rescue teams and organise the underwater search parties whilst the ground crews did what they did best against the Zanderan insurgence.
He turned back to his scans and kept checking over the readings. There was too much interference from the volcanic activity that it was difficult to find clear life signs.

“I’m not getting much from this altitude. You’ll need to bring us down lower.”
“Bringing us closer, Lieutenant.”
Morias tapped the comm to the other rescue craft. “We’ll need to move closer to the crash site if we have any hope of finding survivors.”
”Are you crazy?” came a curt, obnoxious reply. “What if the volcano blows?”
“Then the shit hits the fan and we die. I’m not giving up. You can stay in the safety zone if you want, but I’m going to do my job.”

As Jaeger manoeuvred the craft closer towards the submerged wreckage, it was painful to see such destruction that had rained upon her. Pock-marked all over, the hull of the Poseidon was definitely Swiss-cheesed by someone who, judging by the handiwork, wanted them dead.

“I’m picking up movement at one of the docking ports. Looks like a couple of them in EVA’s.” Morias checked his readings again. “I’m sending you the coordinates now, Naomi. Be careful though, additional turbulence could weaken the structure more.”
“Who do you think you’re talking to, Aratos?”
“Just being cautious.” Morias frowned slightly. “I’ve had a… strange day.”
“Yeah I know, and you can’t tell me about it because it was some top secret special ops of some such. Heard it all before.” Jaeger rolled her eyes as she maintained a watch on her proximity readouts.
Morias just shook his head. More than you’d want to know, Naomi he thought.
“Still too much interference here.” said Morias, furrowing his brow.
“I’m picking up a visual.” replied Jaeger as she squinted her eyes to focus on the humanoid shapes ahead. She switched on the forward lights to see through the murkiness.
“They should be able to see us now. Try contacting them.”
Morias keyed into the comm and scanned for all localised EVA frequencies. “This is Sea Scout Orca to Poseidon EVA teams, do you copy?”

He waited for a response but none came. Jaeger shrugged her shoulders and looked over. “There could still be interference with the communications as well.”
Morias nodded as he kept a watch at Ops. “Edge in closer. Maybe they haven’t seen us yet.”
She shrugged again as she propelled the craft closer to the pair by one of Poseidon’s docking ports. Morias frowned slightly as he was still not getting much in the way of scans despite the boosted signal palettes. “I’m not getting anything here.” he said as he turned towards the forward canopy. Something wasn’t quite right. “They should have seen us by now… Stop the craft.”
Jaeger ran her hands deftly over the console, halting the Orca in her place. “What is it Aratos?”
Morias said nothing at first, just focusing on the two in the water. A school of fish swam by, disturbed by the warm undercurrents generated from the geothermal state of the sea. Rising bubbles vented from a narrow crevice, masking their view. When the bubbles cleared, Jaeger let out a mortified gasp.

There, barely a few metres in front of the craft floated one of the EVA team-members. It’s lifeless corpse suspended in the water, ignored only by errant fish swimming through the foot sized phaser blast to the chest. The other team member, their face darkened from a point blank shot to the helmet faceplate bumped along the hull of the Orca before dancing a deathly waltz in the warm ocean undercurrents with its murdered partner.
“This is bad.” said Morias. “Very bad.”

One Foul Zand and Twenty-Four – Part Two

“What do you think you’re doing?” said Jaeger, turning from her console.
Morias pulled zipped up the EVA suit he put on before securing the gloves. “I’m going outside.”
“No,” she said as she shook her head, “we need to report this to Ops first.”
“You do that. I’m going outside to access the remote docking mechanisms on the ports.”
“But…” Jaeger looked back to the two dead crewmembers outside. “What if whoever killed them comes back?”
Morias grabbed a couple of phasers, clipping them to the suit’s belt, and a compression rifle which he casually slung over his shoulder.
“I’ll be ready for them.” he said before fitting on his helmet. “Checking comm. Do you copy?”
“Loud and clear.” Jaeger looked at him for a moment. “Just come back, will ya?”
He smirked and nodded to begin flooding the compartment. Jaeger turned back to her console, erecting a force field between her and Morias before activating the vents to cycle in reverse. The water didn’t take long to fill up Morias’s area and equalise with the pressure outside. He gave her a thumbs-up before leaving out the side hatch and into the sea.

Using the small propulsion jets on the suit, he made his way over to the ship. All around, it was silently eerie. The fish were gone and from his point of view, the ship looked more like an enormous sea creature, laid to die after scores of predatory beasts savagely ripped it to pieces.
Reaching the port he began to work the manual controls. “Hmm…a hell of a lot of damage happened here. This may take a while.”
“Aratos! Behind you!” yelled Jaeger over the comm.
Morias didn’t think, just dodged as a bright blue bolt of energy hit the ship. If he was half a second too late, Morias would have ended up like the other two victims.
Activating the propulsion jets, Morias made himself a hard target as the assailant fired fervently at the marine. Morias angled himself around, coming to a halt behind some stalagmite-like formations to regroup.
“Naomi, where is he now?”
There was nothing but a whining static over the comm. Morias knew too well that they were being jammed. Grabbing each phaser in hand, he quickly said a quiet prayer to the Prophets before jumping out to cover closer to the ship. What he didn’t notice was a gloved fist barrelling towards his faceplate. He had half a second to react, but that wasn’t enough and turned over in the water from the momentum.

“Pathetic.” was the only thing he heard over the comm. Morias was sure that the voice was that of his opponent, but that didn’t matter, for shortly before Morias even did a half rotation, the jets were activated and he drove his helmet straight into the Zanderan.
Morias knew from the voice that he was a Zanderan. Dripping with cold cynicism, the arrogance and spite of his race was clearly obvious. Backing off a bit, he readied his hand to hand fighting stance. The Zanderan just stood there in the water, arms crossed as if he was waiting for something better, more worthy to fight.
“What’s the matter? Duranium rod up your arse?” Morias said flatly.
The Zanderan just smirked momentarily before rushing towards Morias at an impossible pace. He ran towards the marine as if he was running through air, not five and a half kilometres below sea level. Morias tried to dodge but to no avail. A hard punch landed squarely into his stomach, but Morias gritted his teeth and swung a reply.
If the Zanderan was hit, it went unnoticed. No sooner had the first hit come out, quite literally out of the blue; the Zanderan had Morias in a headlock. Choking on the pressure to his life support, Morias arched back and elbowed him in the gut hard. There was no discernable drop in the pressure applied which worried Morias slightly.
“Is this,” the Zanderan said in a collective voice, seething with superiority, “the best Starfleet have to offer?”
Morias just laughed, or at least tried to through the choking. “Fun’s only just started.” And then he slapped his wrist controls, activating the front retro-jets to full bore. Both Morias and the Zanderan slammed into a rocky edifice; the force was enough to smash a suit like an eggshell.
When Morias got his bearings back he checked his suit for leaks. Pressure was stable and life support was nominal. He half turned to see his opponent and already he could see the cracked open helmet of the Zanderan’s EVA suit. The cold unconscious face lay inside.
And then the eyes opened and looked straight at Morias.
“Oh Shit.” said Morias, shortly before receiving the pummelling of his life.

Morias held his arms up in defence, taking the blows with excruciatingly pain. Amid the fighting he could hear someone yelling. It was Jaeger.
“Aratos, can you hear me!?!”
“Yea… you don’t need,” Morias managed to duck that time, escaping a sharp hit to the head, “to shout.”
“Are, are you alright?
“Just… dandy.” He managed to score a hit to the Zanderan’s face, taking the time to push him away with his legs. “Shoot him or something, Naomi!”
“I can’t, you’re too close.”
“If you don’t, then we all die.” The Zanderan by now had pulled out a knife and used sweeping movements to attack Morias. “Now Naomi!”
Dodging the blade, the water impeded his movement and a single slash made its way across the chest plate of the suit. The suit detected the damage and quickly sealed it, but for just one second, he felt the water spray on him.
He made a grab for the knife arm, and even he knew this was a mistake. The Zanderan continued about his arc, pushing Morias along with it. He found footing on an outcropping, locking the Zanderan’s body with his as they wrestled for control of the knife.
What was seconds seemed agonisingly longer to Morias as he fought to bring the knife away. He felt the Zanderan must have been tired because he could just barely keep up with him.
And then Morias saw it. Careening towards them, the unmistakable bright red light that could only be one thing.
A photon torpedo.
The Zanderan glanced over for just one second, but that was all Morias needed. Mustering all his strength, he balled a fist and sent his armoured glove into the perfect face of the Zanderan. The distraction worked and whilst stunned, Morias made his final move. Pulling down on the Zanderan’s arm, he jammed the knife through the foot, anchoring him to the rocky outcropping.
“Sorry pal. It was fun. Gotta run.” And then Morias activated his jets and got the hell out of there bare seconds before the torpedo impacted into its chosen target.

The explosion rocked the sea, shaking all and its inhabitants with noticeable results. When Morias came to, he was inside the Orca.
“Mmm… Naomi…?” he mumbled.
“Easy there, hero.” she said, walking over to him. “You need to rest.”
“What happened?” Morias said, trying to move his head. His entire body ached.
“Basically I blew you two up.”
Morias tried to laugh, but it hurt too much. “How’s the Poseidon?” he managed to say.
“It’s alright, I think. Didn’t detect any more breaches from that shockwave. Bet they felt it though.”
“God I feel like shit. Y’know I don’t-”
“Shh, just rest. The rescue teams are already on Poseidon, so I’m taking you to the Doc.”
“I’m starting to hate this hero shit.”
And then she leaned down and kissed him. A moment later they broke the kiss and they both smiled.
“Still hate it. Just a little less now.” said Morias.

Fast forward about a day.

Pending Death

“I’ve just been apprised of the situation.” said Morias as he left the field hospital. Escorting him back to the office was Kretzler.
“All units have been dispatched. The Colonel left a few forces behind to bolster colony defence.” said Kretzler “Captain Karinth has left with his platoons to face the Zanderan ground forces.”
Morias nodded, but with their forces spread out so thinly, the enemy may find a gap in the net. “So where’s the Colonel?”
“He left yesterday while the rescue operation was in progress. Intel had picked up on the incoming invasion and the Colonel led the 8th Company out to greet them.”
“Get on the horn. I need to talk to him.”
“Only one problem with that, Lieutenant.” said Kretzler.
“What?” Morias said, turning to him just short of entering the office.
“You don’t know?” Kretzler said with a puzzled look.
“I’ve been in hospital for a day. I haven’t read every single damned report yet.”
“The Colonel and 8th are missing.”

Morias stormed into Colony Ops and looked around. Fleeters were busy about their business preparing for war.
“Alright, let’s move people!”
He approached the most senior member there. “Commodore.” Morias stood stiffly, snapping off a sharp salute before continuing. “We need to talk sir.”
Commodore Vincent Allen Tepes looked at Morias with an expression of disdain and annoyance, which quickly faded to a more serious, almost business-like poker face.
“Lieutenant Morias. Good to see you’re up and about. I hear you blew a Zanderan spy up with a torpedo.”
Morias was surprised by the frankness of the Commodore, but it didn’t deter him from making a reply.
“Oh wait. It was your girlfriend that blew him up, wasn’t it?” Tepes quickly added before Morias had a chance to say anything.
“Sir, I have Norsemen.” called up the Chief Ops officer. “They’ve been updated of the situation and are now moving into position.”
“Excellent Kennett.” And then he turned back to Morias. “I’ve got a job for you, Kid.”
A moment of reminiscing brought him back to the days of the 13th Company. He quickly returned back to reality and replied. “Yes sir?”
“You and the 5th are to depart immediately and meet up with Norsemen.”
Morias raised an eyebrow, and then nodded once in understanding before snapping off another salute and leaving Ops.
Turning back to the viewscreen, the Commodore grinned devilishly.
“Hijacking one of their ships is the fun part. It’s the damn waiting that I don’t like.” said Tepes.

Suicidal Tendencies

Two days preparation and already plans were nearing completion onboard the Norsemen. Captain Loreli Tanner had been very cooperative in the Marines, despite the immediate refitting of a means of deployment where the captain’s yacht used to be. Morias stood on the deck with Tanner as he watched the engineers make the final touches to how the marines were going to board one of the Zanderan ships.
“It looks like a Puckaloo stain after too many jumja sticks…” said Morias, not sure of this plan.
“Well, it’s what we came up with on such short notice, Lieutenant. You try building a rapid deployment transport system in 48 hours.” retorted Tanner.
“I’m not doubting it’s effectiveness in battle, Captain. I’m just saying it looks fucking ugly.” Morias turned as one of his sergeants approached him. “What’s the news planet side, Tarkal?”
Master Sergeant Korv Tarkal gave a salute and sagged slightly. “I’ve got word from Command about the Colonel. He’s been killed in action.”
Morias just nodded. He didn’t know Kaufman that well, but respected him to be a great man nonetheless. “That means that Major e’Tinukai’i is now in charge. Forward any reports we make to her. This war ends today.”
Tarkal nodded. “Yes sir.” He then turned and headed back to organising the gear for the platoons. Tarkal was, right now, Morias’s first officer. He knew each and every marine belonging to the 5th Company like the back of his hand. Respected among all, Tarkal held the true grit of a Starfleet Marine with revered honour.
Captain Tanner turned and took the padd handed to her. She glanced over it before looking to Morias. “Intel on the Zanderan cruisers. Just a general deck description, but it’ll be enough for this job.”
Morias took the padd and looked over it, nodding in agreement. “It’s all we need, Captain. You’ll need to coordinate a firing solution if we want to get this right.”
“Well, we’ve built five of them. That should be enough.” Tanner motioned over and stabbed her finger on the padd’s display. “If we want maximum effectiveness, we should hit them here, here and here. The other two can be placed in other areas to cause confusion.”
Morias nodded then looked to Tanner. “I think its time I tell my Marines what we’re about to do.”

He’d chosen the best for this mission, because no one else would suffice. Filed in formation were fifty of the best. Teams made from each platoon that made up the company were standing at attention on the shuttle bay decking of the Norsemen.
“Alright ladies, here’s the deal.” Activating a screen behind him, Morias pointed out the massive cruiser that they were going to board and capture. “Here is our target. Simple board and capture op. Sergeant Brahms, you’re taking Foxtrot to the secondary command bridge.”
Dane Brahms nodded solemnly. He was a quiet man, but he was deadly and ruthless when it came to close quarters.
“Tych`n, you and Uniform Platoon are going to storm main engineering.”
“Yes sir!” said Gunnery Sergeant Ana Tych`n. Her fiery enthusiasm matched only by the micro-torpedo launcher she hefted in her firm, lean grip. Morias knew that Tych`n would make a big mess on her way to securing the objective.
“Curb the pyrotechnics, Gunny. We’ll need to move fast here.” Morias turned to the next team. “Serfayn, take Charlie Team to take control of the dorsal battery grid. We’ll need to stop those weapons firing ASAP.”
Draken Serfayn just glanced up to Morias before continuing to pick the container he was sitting on with his knife. For a staff sergeant, he was definitely someone who worked alone. Given that his mission was to disable the weapons operators, how hard could it be?
“Tarkal, you’re taking Kilo to the ventral batteries. Last but not least, Alpha’s with me to take down the primary command bridge. Any questions?”
“I’ve got one.” said Tych`n. “How the fuck are we getting there? If I’m looking at that schematic right, anything that would be coming in on an attack vector would get blasted before they’d even get there.”
“Good question, Gunny. That’s why we’ve got this.” Morias tapped at the screen to reveal a new type of craft. Slender and conical, it bore a resemblance to a tin can, and given the details of the schematics, it was just that. A giant tin can.
“Tritanium capsule capable of holding ten Marines including gear and heavy weaponry. Ablative armour lines the cone section.”
Brahms raised an eyebrow. “We’re going to float over there in the guise of space debris?”
“No you idiot.” It was Serfayn that spoke. His coarse throaty voice dripped with sarcasm and mockery. “Look at the shape of it. It’s a bullet and he’s gonna shoot us at the ship, aren’t you Lieutenant?
Morias knew baiting when he heard it, but didn’t fall for it. “Damn straight I am.” He tapped at the console again, pulling up a picture of the newly fitted, short ranged rail gun that was secured to the underbelly of the saucer section of the Norsemen.
“A straight, fast shot directly to where we want to go will eliminate the need for an escort, airlock and clamping. Inertial dampeners onboard will stop us from being plastered onto the walls and once the craft has penetrated the hull, the nose opens and we board.”
Brahms nodded “An element of surprise.”
“They won’t see it coming.” agreed Tych`n.
“It’s complete and utter suicide.”
Everyone turned to Serfayn who said the last comment.
Serfayn looked at everyone. “Well, it is. Being shot at close to warp one in nothing more than a metal coffin built for ten is suicidal. Fun, but suicidal.”
“Are you done, Sergeant?” said Morias.
Serfayn glared at Morias, and then smirked. “Yes, sir
“Good. Departure’s in one hour. Dismissed.”

Norsemen, this is Alpha, do you copy?” said Morias, checking the comm systems in his craft less than ten minutes before launch.
“Hear you loud and clear Alpha.” replied Tanner from the bridge.
“All systems check, Norsemen. We’re ready for pre-fire sequence.”
Morias and his Alpha Team were strapped in securely inside the craft. A few seconds later the thrumming from the giant inductors flared to life and charged the rail gun. Morias could feel the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.
This was it. This was the moment of truth. To barrel at high speeds to certain death was not uncommon in the life of a marine, but to be inside little more than, as Serfayn put ‘a metal coffin built for ten’, tensions were higher than normal.

“Prefire sequence complete, Lieutenant.” said Tanner. She narrowed her eyes at the viewscreen and grinned. “Commander Carry, my firing solution, if you will. Helm, flight pattern Tanner Beta Five.”
“Aye captain. Targeting coordinates input. Successive launch mode activated. Remaining ships have proceeded to engage the enemy.”
Captain Tanner smiled and savoured the moment before issuing the order.

The first capsule tumbled from its chamber into the load. Less than half a second later it was propelled with great force towards the Zanderan cruiser at a remarkably high speed. The second was launched barely a second later, its vector slightly different from the first. The third, fourth and fifth followed suit. In the span of 3 seconds, fifty Starfleet Marines were headed on a collision course with the Zanderan cruiser.

Impact Zone

“Impact in Five… Four… Three…T- Ooof.”
And then they crashed. The sound of scraping metal made it nauseating to think. The penetration of the craft worked as the teeth fixed on the cone cut and mashed anything softer standing in its way. There was nothing in the way of brakes fitted to it. The engineers just hoped that the Zanderan’s built the insides of their ships from sterner stuff.
When everything stopped, Tarkal quickly reassessed the situation and regained his bearings, running through what happened. They’d hit two seconds early. The inertial dampeners did virtually nothing, and the only thing stopping Kilo Team from becoming a meat pizza on the interior of the tin can was little more than the straps of the safety harnesses that held them in their chairs.
“Alright, enough wanking around. We’ve got a job to do.” Tarkal released his harness and dropped out onto the floor. Opening his tricorder he scanned the outside. The corridor they crashed into was clear of life signs, but by god there were bodies everywhere. He turned behind him, seeing his small squad of ten getting their gear and loading their weapons. One second later his tricorder beeped red, indicating incoming Zanderan hostiles.
“We’ve got company boys and girls. Let’s give them a warm welcome.” Tarkal slapped the release button, the front cone ramp opening into spiked star and they greeted their hosts with open arms.

Morias leaned against a bulkhead as heavy energy blasts rained down on their position. Checking his pistol and rifle, he looked over to Corporal Park, one of his Marines in Alpha, on the opposite side of the corridor.
“Got any grenades left, Park?” Morias asked over the fire fight.
Park just shook her head in dismay something in her expression worried Morias. He left this filed in the back of his mind as now wasn’t the time to talk about feelings and other crap.
Morias leapt out and fired both of his weapons into the fray. Ducking behind new cover, he looked over to the rest of his team. Masters was down with a leg wound and Doc K`shyk was bandaging him up as fast as he could. They were pinned down, enemy coming in on all sides. It was a no win situation and they all knew it. And they also knew that this is what they were trained for: To fight the good fight and to never surrender to the enemy. The only thing that could save them now was a miracle.
Morias continued laying down fire to stop the Zanderan guards from advancing. On every sweep he would get two or three, but more would replace those moments later.
“Shit, I’m out.” said Kerrig as he ducked down behind the crates. Morias grabbed the last power cell and tossed it over to him.
“Thanks, sir.” Kerrig said as he loaded the fresh cell into his rifle.
Morias fired off another shot. “You can thank me later. Right now make every damn shot count.”
The Zanderan force just kept coming and coming. This situation was becoming grimmer and grimmer with each passing wave.
Morias took a glance at his power reading. It was red-lining and he sighed. The Zanderan force knew they were getting low and advanced down the corridor, arrogant pride oozing off their smug looking faces.
“May the Prophets guid-” started Morias.
His prayer was interrupted by a large ordinance blast barely fifteen metres in front of him. When the smoke cleared the veritable army that was encroaching on their position were incinerated before their very eyes. Exiting the left corridor was their miracle. It bore a cheesy smile and hefted a micro-torpedo launcher.
“Thought you could use a little help, sir.” grinned Tych`n.

“Honestly sir, I don’t know.” said Tych`n. She glanced around at the aftermath of the corridor. No more Zanderans had come and all was unnervingly silent. She turned her attention back to Morias. “All I know is that we didn’t arrive where we were supposed to.”
“The ship was moving when Norsemen launched us. This ship must have manoeuvred somehow to try and ‘dodge the bullets’, so to speak.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me, sir. No one could move that fast.”
“You’d be surprised at the things I’ve seen, Sergeant.” Morias loaded a fresh cell into his rifle and smirked. “Let’s go say ‘hi’ to the CO.”

Fly or Die

Commander Frank Jaeger entered Ops, marching directly towards Tepes. The commodore turned to acknowledge him.
“Yes, Commander?”
“You requested to see me a short time ago. Neraf’s briefed me on the situation.”
Tepes looked at him for barely a second before returning his attention back to the war table. “Where the hell have you been Commander Jaeger? You do realise there’s a War going on, don’t you?”
Jaeger walked over, standing next to Tepes. “Family matters, sir.” He glanced down at the war table. “Twenty-eight hostiles, looks like a scorpion manoeuvre.” Jaeger turned to Tepes. “Any word on more reinforcements, sir?”
Tepes just shook his head. “Five sabres and one constitution, not counting Norsemen.”
“Sir,” said Kennett, “we’ve got inbound traffic heading our way.”
Jaeger looked over to Kennett and tapped his own commbadge. “Jaeger to Flight Ops. Report.”
Ensign Sendar answered. “Sir, we’ve got a shuttle inbound. Communications have been jammed so there’s no way to warn them.”
Jaeger cursed under his breath. “All our fighters are out on air support with the Sixth Battalion. Alright, keep an eye on them until they hit the ground. Then send someone down there to get them the hell out. Jaeger out.” He shook his head. “God Damn it, there’s a war going on. This isn’t a tourist attraction.”
Tepes furrowed his brow as he watched the ships move into formation. “Maybe so, but it looks like someone’s having fun up there.”
Jaeger nodded. “How is the Marine raid going?”
“Can’t say for certain. They haven’t contacted back. Not surprising since the Zanderan’s have raised their communications screens. Once they have control, they’ll contact us.”
“You’re so certain of this young lieutenant, aren’t you, sir?”
“In these times, one has to trust your gut feeling. And I feel that we will win.”

Ensign Naomi Jaeger entered the busy Flight Ops hangar, walked over to one of the consoles and kicked it. Hard.
“You know, knocking on the door would have been enough.” said Chief Warrant Officer Valerie Bascomb. She walked over to Naomi, noting the expression on her face. “Hey girl, why the long face?”
“It’s… nothing.” replied Naomi, leaning against the wall in frustration.
“Naomi, you weren’t a good liar when I first met you, and you certainly haven’t improved much in that aspect today. What’s the matter?”
“It’s… Frank… We had a little disagreement earlier…”
Bascomb tilted her head. She knew not to get in the way of family disputes, but Naomi was her friend and she had to lend some support.
“You two had a fight? What about?” Bascomb asked, moments later realising her upfront curiosity and cursed to herself mentally.
Naomi didn’t notice this and just sat on one of the containers, leaning her head onto her hands. “I was set for my supply run to the front lines this morning. Then I see Andersen’s name there instead.”
“Maybe he’s just put you on another more urgent supply run.”
“My name’s been taken off all active pilot duties indefinitely!”
Bascomb raised an eyebrow. “Well, I suppose in this time of crisis, he’s being protective of you.”
“More like being an asshole.”
Bascomb gave an uncertain nod. “That too, I guess. But I’m sure he’s grounded you for another reason other than…” Naomi was looking at her with an ‘are you serious?’ look.
“Alright fine,” Bascomb continued, “your brother’s an asshole.”
Naomi stood up and stretched her legs. She walked over to flight control and looked over the roster. “Where’s Neraf?” Naomi asked.
“He went to confirm something with Command. Why do you ask?”
“His supply run to the northern blockade is about to leave in a minute.”
“Neraf’s irritatingly punctual. He’ll b-”
“But what if he doesn’t make it? What if he got delayed somehow? It’s up to us to get that run over there on time!” Naomi said with exaggerated movements. “It’s our duty, Val.”
“The duty would fall to the next officer in charge…” Bascomb turned to Sendar, but he was already leaving his seat.
“I was not here.” said Sendar as he headed into another room.
“Looks like it’s just us, Val. Come on.” Naomi grabbed Bascomb’s arm and headed over to Neraf’s runabout, Deep Blue.
“No way, Jaeger. You’re not getting me into trouble for this.” replied Bascomb adamantly.
“Would you rather be here when Neraf comes back?”
There was a moment of thought then Bascomb shook her head. “Alright, fine. But if we get caught I’m saying you kidnapped me.”
“Deal!” Naomi said as she headed into the runabout quickly.
“Damn that girl…” Bascomb muttered as she followed after her.

Neraf returned a few minutes later and looked around the empty hangar.
“Where… is my runabout…?”
Sendar entered back in from the side room and returned back to Control. Neraf approached him with staunch annoyance. “Where were you, Ensign?”
“I was running through the inventory checklist for tomorrow’s runs, sir.”
“Where… where is my runabout?” Neraf said again.
Sendar looked at Neraf, then at the empty hangar where the runabout was, then back at Neraf.
“I have no clue, sir.”

Bridge Game

“I don’t like the look of this Sarge…”
“What’s there to like about it, private?” Serfayn said, scratching his chin. Charlie Team had landed near the dorsal section by the weapons batteries without any obstacles so far. The problem was taking down the weapons came second to what they were watching from their hiding place high above.
Down below as far as the eye could see, rows upon rows of two metre high tubes, each containing a green, sickly liquid. The dark chasm of the ship’s belly gave a sense of the enormity of the situation.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” said the private.
“Told you not to eat the fish for lunch today.” said Serfayn as he stood up. Signalling the others to follow, they made their way across the gantry, stealthily masking their presence against the shadows.
Tapping Baker on the shoulder, Serfayn advanced to point, with Baker following not far behind. Ahead in the light, two guards were making their patrol rounds along the gantry, oblivious as to the presence of the seemingly invisible marines.
Serfayn slowly brought his knife to bear and stalked, his partner following suit. His prey in sight, he moved swiftly and soundlessly. The rippling flesh sliced cleanly without even a drop of blood as Serfayn came from behind and silenced the guard forever. Baker had struck too late as the second guard turned in alarm. A change in pose and half a second later was all that was needed as Serfayn’s partner rammed the knife to the hilt into the Zanderan’s forehead.
“Area secured. Move it or lose It.” said Serfayn with a cold calm voice of all business as he wiped his knife clean before shoving it back into his sheath. Surveying the area quickly, he narrowed his eyes as he approached a console.
“Hmm… Spiffy, get over here.”
Technician Corporal Alex ‘Spiffy’ Spfeiffer emerged from the group over to Serfayn. “What’s up Sarge?”
“Tell me what the fuck it is that I’m looking at.” said Serfayn as he looked over the display on the console.
“Hmm… well,” Spiffy tapped the console, looking over the menu commands and whatever was accessible “looks like this terminal is used to monitor the tubes.”
“What the hell is in these tubes anyway, Sarge?” piped up Lance Corporal Tim Aru. He leaned closer to one of the tubes as if to see something amid the swirling green contained inside.
“Don’t touch anything.” said Serfayn as he watched Spiffy do his work.
“What’s the matter Tim? Spooked out by some green slime?” said his rather cocky brother Oam Aru. He tapped the surface of the glass container with the tip of his rifle. “Kinda looks like what you puked up on that girl last Friday.”
“Ahh shut it, Oam.” said Tim, rather angrily.
“Man, she was ho-ot. Mmm-Mm. That was until she left smelling like vomit.”
“Can it you two. And I said no touching anything.” said Serfayn with an edge in his voice.
“Come on Sarge. There’s nothing in these tubes but Zanderan puke.” Oam turned back to the tube and went wide eyed, jumping back a few feet. “Jeezus!”
Pressed against the inside of the glass, swirling green hues outlined the remarkably stiff body of a Bolian man. It gently floated back, disappearing inside the green.
“Shit man! What the hell is going on here?!” exclaimed Oam.
Spiffy had automatically opened his tricorder and got readings from the tube. “Species Bolian. Male. Looks like he’s in suspended animation… Sir…”
Serfayn looked to Spiffy. “What is it?”
“I’m reading at least two dozen other various species in the other ones. Mostly Federation races.”
Tim looked over the tube with increased wonder. “What are they doing in there then?”
Spiffy ran his fingers over the console before consulting his tricorder again, and then shook his head.
“Not sure, but the green liquid contains a lot of unknown properties. There was one thing it was able to pick up though. Zanderan DNA.”
“You shitting me Spiff?” said Oam. “You telling me that they’re turning people into Zands?”
Spiffy looked to Oam. “I’m no doctor; I’m just reading what the tricorder’s saying. If you ask me then-”
“They’re hostages.” said Serfayn, loading up a fresh power cell. “I’m betting it’s their trump card until they pop them out. Then they’re the enemy.”
“So what now then Sarge? Are we gonna try and save them all?”
Serfayn thought for a moment. “I’m not that nice. We’re in a war and they are a casualty of war. Our first priority is to take this ship.” He looked to the tubes. “Maybe afterwards the med techs can try. For now, we do as ordered.”
Silence fell as they all took a moment.
“Show’s over kids. Let’s move on.” said Serfayn, continuing down the gantry into the darkness.

“Fire in the hold!”
The explosion ripped through the door, sending shrapnel, glass, plastic, circuitry and body parts flying everywhere. Tych`n peered out from behind the corner and frowned.
“Okay, probably a bit too much on the tricobalts. Let’s move.”
Morias stepped out and looked around at the carnage. “I guess subtlety isn’t your strong point, Gunny…”
Tych`n just smirked. “You said that about six doors ago didn’t you?”
Morias turned back and looked at the random piles reaching back down the corridor. Turning back ahead he just shrugged. “Can’t remember, too busy killing.” He checked the power levels on his rifle before heading on into the bridge. Keeping their aim up, Alpha and Uniform Teams moved in to secure the bridge.
“Is it me or is this some kind of trap…?” inquired Tych`n. “Where is everyone?”
Morias looked around the empty bridge, not daring to let his guard down just yet as he headed over to a console at the front section of the bridge. All around it was quite simply stunning. No viewscreens, just a long curved window reaching around the bridge in a semicircle. Punctuated by wall to wall consoles, ominously blinking on their own, panels with a reflective finish seemed to indicate that this place was rarely used. Not by anyone.
“Where the hell is the fleet?” said Park as she looked out the window. “All I see is seven of our ships.”
“No one else is coming, Park. We’re it.” said Morias as he accessed the console. “I’ll see if I can get in contact with Valhalla. Gunny, see if you can contact the other teams. No need for radio silence.”
“That will not be necessary, Lieutenant Morias Aratos.” came an unfamiliar monotone voice.
Morias turned around, but saw no one else but his own marines also staring around the room in bewilderment.
“Who the hell are you?” Morias asked sharply, nodding over to Tych`n and Lodin to check the perimeter.
“There is no use in searching for me, Lieutenant.” said the voice, as if they knew their every movement.
Morias moved warily as he checked around floor and ceiling panels. “So who are you then?”
“I would have thought that was obvious by now, Lieutenant. I am the ship.”

Sister’s Keeper

“She did what?”
“Ensign Jaeger stole my runabout without authorisation, sir.” said Neraf over the comm.
Jaeger sighed. He had learned to tolerate some of his crews’ distrust of one another, eventually letting them sort their own messes out. But from time to time, he had to step in, becoming the fatherly role amongst the squabbling children.
“Neraf, quit your whining. Maintain contact with them and the other supply runners out there.”
“But sir-”
“No buts, Neraf. It’s a war zone out there and I have neither the time, nor the patience to see to it now. We’ll deal with this later.”
“Later.” Jaeger repeated.
There was an audible puff of breath through the comm. Shortly after, Neraf replied. “Yes, sir. Neraf out.”
Tepes glanced over. “Still family matters, Commander?”
Still focused on the strategic map, Jaeger checked damage reports to the north-west quadrant. Several city blocks were reported sustaining heavy fire. “Just the usual, sir.”
Jaeger just narrowed his eyes at a lone marker amid the chaos on the map, heading towards the northern blockade.
It’s the brig for you this time, little lady… Jaeger thought.

“Naomi, why are you even doing this?” asked Bascomb, seated in the co-pilot’s chair.
Naomi just shrugged. “Dunno, first time I’ve actually done this to be honest.”
Bascomb looked up from the sensors. “And here I thought Grand Theft Runabout was a hobby of yours.”
“Ha ha, very funny Val. Look, I’m just doing this to prove to Frank that I can be a capable flight ops officer and not needing him to baby sit me all the damn time.”
“Yes, and stealing Neraf’s runabout is a great way to win the approval of the Chief.” Bascomb said, rolling her eyes.
“Okay, this was a spur of the moment thing, I admit. But I’m just going to do the run and fly back. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“I’m still claiming kidnapping, Naomi.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Naomi drew a sigh. “I never did like being on the ground for long periods anyway. Being up here, at the helm gives me a sense of control. And freedom, oh what freedom…”
“Sounds like you were born to fly, Naomi.”
Naomi smiled. “Yeah. Though I never thought about it much at the Academy. I was actually considering Engineering studies.”
“Really? So what made you change your mind?”
“Probably Frank, but mostly Alli.” Naomi’s expression had changed. Her thought’s drifting to a place far away.
“Who’s Alli, Naomi?”
Naomi turned to Bascomb. “She was my sister.”
Bascomb raised an eyebrow. “Was?”
“Yeah, she died in a shuttle accident three years ago”
“I’m… I’m sorry.” Bascomb said. “I didn’t know.”
“That’s alright. She had always dreamed of working in flight ops. So here I am, living her dream.” Naomi tapped at the controls, decreasing the acceleration as they neared the landing zone near the blockade.
“It’s what she would have wanted.” Naomi said, smiling slightly.

Hand of God

“So, just who are you exactly? You seem to know all of us.” queried Morias to the ship. He felt odd talking to the ship in this manner, but any assistance in commandeering the massive cruiser would be welcomed.
“I am a TX-3212, Annihilator class battle cruiser. Crew compliment: 300, troop capacity: 60,000. Weapons status: Active. Energy weapons at full power. Total torpedo compliment currently at 5,328. Focused energy weapons include: defensive disruptor type variants, disruptor cannon, aft defensive disrupt-”
“Hold on, disruptor cannon?” interrupted Morias.
“Disruptor cannon Mark XII, Planetkiller variant. Maintains power output of up to 300,000 TeraWatts.”
“That’s enough to take out a sizeable chunk out of Chin`Toka IV…” said Tych`n, looking out the window. “So why haven’t they used them yet?”
“The massive power output can only be achieved when all other systems are shut down. A power up time of two minutes 21 seconds is required to reach maximum.”
“And obviously they’re too busy dealing with our ships right now.” said Morias.
“Exactly, Lieutenant.”
“So where’s all that power coming from then?” asked Tych`n.
“I think I can answer that question, Ana.”
They all turned to see Serfayn at the door. He looked worse for wear as did the rest of Charlie team, blood drenching their uniforms.
Morias turned to him. “So what is it then, sergeant?”
Serfayn limped over to a chair and sat down. “Thousands of people in the mid-section. Looks like there’s some transformation going about down there.” He pulled out a cigarette from his pocket and lit it. “Those mother fuckers are turning people into Zands.”
Morias furrowed his brow, turning to Tych`n, who only shrugged. “Doc, got a question for you.”
K`shyk walked over to the conversation. “Yes Lieutenant?”
“How much energy could be produced from, say a human to another sort of species?”
“Well, if you consider the possibilities, certain species don’t expend as much energy. Take changelin-”
“Doc, the short answer.”
K`shyk frowned, and then shrugged. “Given that the human body can generate well over 25,000 BTU’s, an average person could produce around 26 Gigajoules of heat energy. This isn’t much really.”
He got bewildered looks from everyone.
“One person could probably power up to 5 phasers on level 8 for around 3 seconds. They’d be dead from a heart attack though.
“Conversion to another species however, that would probably produce a substantial amount of exothermic energy. I can’t say for certain how much of an exponential factor it would increase by.”
“Well we could always turn this ship and fire on one of the other cruisers. At least that would give us a benchmark.” suggested Tych`n. everyone stared at her incredulously, except for Morias. He was watching the continuing battle outside.
“Do it.” Morias said simply.
Tych`n raised an eyebrow. “I was just joking, sir. I didn’t mean-”
“I know you didn’t mean it, Gunny.” He turned to her. “But the fact remains is that this war ends now, or it will kill us all.”
“Sir,” It was Serfayn that spoke up. “With all due respect, we don’t know what kind of effect it will have on the people held captive here. It could speed up the growth or something.”
Morias locked his stern gaze at Serfayn. “Ship, if we fire the cannon, what will happen with the people held in the midsection?”
“The bioelectric cells housed in the midsection will be depleted of 80% of the power reserves. The remaining 20% will be used to recharge the ship afterwards. Several hundred of the individual cells may cease to function if critical expenditure is achieved.”
“I don’t like to use them this way any more than you, Serfayn. We take out one of their capital ships then ours will have a standing chance out there.”
Silence took hold of the bridge as they all looked at each other. Serfayn narrowed his eyes. “If it was any other day, I’d agree with you. Today however, today is a different story.”
Morias could sense something was different with Serfayn. He wasn’t the sarcastic killer he knew a few hours ago. Something must have happened deep within the bowels of the ship. Morias looked to Tych`n, her pissed-off demeanour was starting to settle in.
“Ship, take us into the fray. Target any and all Zanderan craft that comes in range. Hold off the use of the cannon.” He saw sighs of relief from his Marines. “We may be marines, trained in combat and only combat, but we’re not murderers. I understand that now.” Morias turned to the fore window. “Now, battle stations people!”

Some intense space battle happened, narrated by the Powers that Be at the PBEM. Suffice to say, it was victorious, even though reading it here in this summary feels anticlimactic.

The Whole Package

“Any closer and we’d be scraping your asses off the hull.”
“No way,” said Serfayn, ignoring Brahms as he worked. “If you hadn’t hailed us sooner, we would have blown you to pieces, Dane.”
Morias looked over at the feuding platoon leaders. He was glad this day was over, and that most of his company survived the boarding operation. Foxtrot team had overshot their target and had the fortunate chance to land onto another cruiser. From Sergeant Brahms’ report, the crew were so confused from the distress calls from this ship; the other had thought there were several other teams running about on theirs. Brahms intercepted their comm and used this to their advantage, placing communications beacons in random places throughout the ship. The ship was captured easily with no losses to Foxtrot team. Morias put forth a commendation for Brahms’ and his team. A ten man squad whom secured and captured a Zanderan cruiser is a feat in itself.
But with gains, there are always losses. Kilo team had died valiantly on this mission. They had secured their objective and held their ground for as long as they could before being overrun by Zanderan forces.
As the company commander it was Morias’s job and duty to inform their next of kin.
Morias looked up from his padd to a young marine. His nondescript uniform made him look like every other marine, but Morias could tell from the technical gear he carried that he was a squad technician.
“Yes, marine?” asked Morias.
“Just wondering sir, what’s going to be done with the people?”
Morias nodded carefully then stood up. “What’s your name, Marine?”
The tech stood stiffly. “Corporal Alex Spfeiffer, sir.”
“Corporal… there comes a time when difficult decisions have to be made, and no matter what we may think, orders will and always be orders. Do you know what I’m getting at?”
Spiffy nodded. “Yes sir, I think. What’s this got to do with the people though?”
Morias looked around then handed a padd over to Spiffy. “I’ve sent Command a report on the mission, detailing the capture of the vessel as well as the discovery Charlie team encountered.”
Spiffy looked at the padd and raised an eyebrow. “Are they serious?”
“Seems that way, Corporal.” Morias stared out the window, its calm serenity a veritable mirror to what it was a day ago.
“Sir, they’re not really thinking about killing them all? Every single one of them?” said Spiffy.
Morias said nothing for a moment then spoke. “They deem them a threat. We don’t know the full maturation cycle for the Zanderan DNA to fully integrate itself into their systems, so they’re taking this precaution to prevent another Zanderan attack.”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
Morias nodded. “Granted, Corporal.”
“That’s bullshit! We’d be conducting mass genocide!”
“I know.” Morias turned to Spiffy. “I didn’t like it either, hell I even asked for a second opinion. They still wouldn’t budge. Frelling bureaucrats.”
Spiffy sighed and looked down at his feet before looking back at Morias. “So what about the ships then, sir?”
“They wanted them taken over to R&D for study. The USS DaVinci will be here in a day to drag them back.”
Spiffy tilted his head. “The people are hardwired into the ships operational mainframe. The entire ship practically runs on them, sir.”
“Sorry to interrupt sir,” It was Serfayn. “You wanted to be informed when we reached the coordinates.”
Morias nodded. “Thank you sergeant. That’ll be all.” He turned back to Spiffy. “Sorry, you were saying?”
“The people are a part of the ship? Don’t they know that?” said the exasperated Spiffy.
Morias brought his lip up to a half smile. “I knew I forgot to tell them something.”
Spiffy just raised an eyebrow. “Huh what? But…”
Suddenly Morias’s earpiece chirped. “Hold onto that thought, Corporal.” He stepped away a few feet. “Alpha, report.”
“Uniform, we’re all done over here. Just got word from Two that they’ll be done in ten.” replied Tych`n.
“Copy that, Uniform. Assemble your team in the launch bay. Two should beam back when they’re done.”
“I copy. Over and out.”
Morias looked around. “Alright people, pack up. We have fifteen minutes to get down to the launch bay, so move your asses.”
“Sir, yes sir!” chimed everyone in the room. Well, almost everyone. Spiffy was still lost for words.

Looking out the porthole of the Zanderan shuttle, Morias watched as they left the ship. Everyone was accounted for and no gear was left behind. Some of the more battle hardened veterans and trigger happy rookies took a few trophies home. It didn’t matter anyway. No one was going to come back to this place again.
“So we’re just gonna leave them here for them to pick up, sir?”
Morias turned around. It was Spiffy again. Biting his lip he looked firmly at Spiffy and nodded. “More or less, Corporal…”
Suddenly, a white light burst into the cabin from the porthole, seconds later followed by a shockwave. When everything was still again, Spiffy looked out the porthole. There was nothing left, save for a charred, molten wreck where the two ships used to be.
“…I’m leaning more towards ‘less’, though.” Morias finished. He stood up to address the platoon leaders. “It was so unfortunate that we couldn’t save the ships…”
“Yes… that self destruct activation came purely out of nowhere.” said Serfayn.
“Shame I couldn’t deactivate it in time…” concurred Tych`n.
“I was taking a leak when it happened.” mused Brahms.
The four nodded then sat back down. Spiffy looked at Morias, jaw wide open.
Morias glanced at Spiffy. “Might want to close that. A Puckaloo might make a nest in there.”
“You were never going to let them take the ships unless the people went with them, didn’t you, sir?”
Morias just held his gaze. “What do you think, Corporal?”
“So why blow them up?”
“Some people need to realise the importance of life over inanimate things such as weapons and ships. When they made their decision, it was clear that the lives onboard that ship came second to that of the technology it possessed. They deserved more than that.”
“So it was everything or nothing, sir? Why didn’t you tell them?”
“Because even if they did know, what could they do about it? Saving them would take too long, eventually turning against us as enemies and then the whole mess would start up again.” He looked to Spiffy. “They’re casualties of war, Corporal. They shouldn’t have been, but they were. So I bear the burden of their fate.”
“Approaching Chin`Toka IV orbit, sir.” said the pilot.
“Good, take us to Valhalla.” Morias leaned back. “By the Prophets, I need a drink.”
“I wonder how Leo’s is after this mess. Hope its still standing.” pondered Brahms
“It better be.” said Morias. “Alright Marines, the first order of business once we hit the ground; Head to Leo’s. Second; the last one buys. And that’s an order.”

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